Announcing the DIY / Local Swap!


Bookish Valentine was 98% fun. Folks received good gifts and most of the response was over overwhelmingly positive. HOWEVER, I did have to spend some time chasing people down and one person was screwed out of getting a valentine (ahem, me). Being a perfectionist I considered throwing in the towel on swaps. I wanted everyone to be 100% happy with no bumps of grumpiness. Well, that’s not life. In my resolve to focus on more joy and less grump I’m going ahead with my swap plans.

My I humbly present the DIY and Local swap.

Attention: Please read on EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT CRAFTY… TRUST ME

Who Can Participate?

Please sign-up only if you are able to send a package. I will not be able to send replacement packages to those who do not receive their swaps. Also, since I’d like to keep this small and inexpensive this swap is for the United States only. If you did not send your package for the last swap you will be unable to participate in this swap. Sorry not sorry. This swap is not just for bloggers this time. I am opening it up to any participant who has a blog, tumblr, twitter, or instagram account. I will cap the event to 50 people, but you just need to have some method to share the swap you receive with others.

What Do I Send?

Multiple folks have said that they will not participate because they are not “crafty”. You seriously don’t need to be a person who crafts to participate. Hence the “local” part. Please avoid Etsy, and seek out the DIY in your community. I’d like to take this time to share some swap ideas for folks who are skeptical:

The “You are More DIY than You Know” box: do you make a mean chai-spiced granola? Include a bag of granola with a recipe card. Maybe you like making your own cocoa or spice mixes, too. That can go in as well. Oh yeah…. and you have a packet of seeds because you love to garden… throw it in. And you did make crafty bookmarks with your kids last week, maybe one of those will work. Oh HAI, look at that cute handmade lip balm thing I pinned ages ago and never made. Let me make that and put it in the box. WHAM… you have a box.

The “Locals Only” box: I’m going to use local businesses in my community as an example. A journal made from vintage books from the local charity bookstore, a bag of coffee from the independent coffee shop, a bar of goat milk soap from the farmer’s market. Oh yes, and then there is stuff I can get from my FRIENDS who are crafty: a small sketch from my husband, a handmade card from a friend, a crocheted coffee coozie from a coworker. BOOM… you have a box.

The “I Want to Support my Swap Partner’s Craft Hobby” box:  Let’s say you discover your person loves to sew softies and scrapbook. Make a box of supplies! Cute buttons, vintage bed sheets from the thrift store (washed and dried, of course), stickers, ephemera, glue. VIOLA… you have a box.


Boxes should be about $25 in value and have roughly 1 to 5 items. You may only get one item, but that item must be of a $25 value. Five items would allow you to pick up small local creations or supplies.

When: The goal is for everyone to have their swap items mailed by Thursday, April 30th so that folks will receive packages by the first or second week of May.

How do I sign up? Follow the steps below!

1. Email figandthistlebooks (at) gmail (dot) com by Wednesday, April 1st at 11:59pm with the answers to the following questions:

  1. Full Name and Address (I will be storing all information in my gmail account and emails will be deleted by March 1st. I promise to not share your information and to respect your privacy. However, I – obviously — will share all information sent with your valentine).
  2. Blog URL, twitter handle, instagram account, etc…
  3. List your favorite crafty hobby (painting, scrapbooking, knitting, sewing, etc….). If you don’t think you are crafty, then put that down. Personally, I think everyone has a least one artistic or crafty talent hidden away, but no pressure.
  4. List a few things about you that would help your person shop. For example if you like coffee or prefer tea, or you don’t like chocolate, or if you have an allergy or are vegan. Pretty much a free for all of how little or much information you want to share.
  5. Lastly, include any questions, comments, or important information.

If you do not include the first four items you will not be in the book swap. I’m not chasing people down for info. I am a lazy.

2. You will receive your assigned Valentine by Saturday, April 11th if not sooner. Get to shopping and packing and aim to have your packaged shipped no later than Thursday, April 10th. After you mail your present, email me at figandthistlebooks (at) gmail (dot) com with delivery confirmation.

Social Media: When you receive your box let me (and everyone else) know! Rather than emailing me that you’ve received your swap I want you to use your favorite social media (Instagram, Twitter, etc…) with #DIYSWAP15. Also feel free to blog or vlog about your swap. Don’t forget that I’d love to see what you’re sending your valentine as well. Maybe snap a pic or tweet with #DIYSWAP15 to show any boxing, wrapping, shopping, and fun you are having with the project.

Okay, I think that is everything. Feel free to put the image up top on your blogs or various social media outlets. Let’s make this an awesome DIY swap!

Readerly Rambles: 23 March 2015

readerly rambles

What I Read: I finished Susan Higginbotham’s historical fiction novel Her Highness the Traitor at lunch. The novel is herhighnarrated by Frances Grey – mother of Jane Grey the nine-day queen – and Jane Dudley — wife of the Duke of Northumberland. The novel traces the Duke of Northumberland’s rise to power and his installation of his daughter-in-law, Jane, as queen of England, many executions, and Mary Tudor’s claiming of the throne of England. There have been many fiction and non-fiction accounts of the Tudor’s history, but I liked that this book was narrated by the two mothers. The women had very little power and instead had to rely on letter writing, flirtation, flattery, giving gifts and being a good hostess to enact any change or to advocate for their loved ones. I will say that the first half of the book felt a little muddled; the chapters switch back and forth from Frances Grey and Jane Dudley. Their “voices” are so similar and found that I often had to look back and refresh my memory on which narration I was reading. After a hundred or so pages I was familiar enough with the household and characters to determine the speakers. By the end of the novel, both women are fully realized and beautifully constructed characters and their sorrow and loss are felt. Although not my favorite Higginbotham novel, this is a good one and I recommend it to Tudor history lovers.

~~~ Stats ~~~

Started: 16 March 2015

Finished: 23 March 2015

Pages: 319


Owned/Borrowed/Library: Borrowed from interlibrary loan

Stars: 3.5 out of 5 stars


What I’m reading: I’ve already dipped into a new memoir called It was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell. I think I will either really like it or really hate it. It is a memoir about a woman coming to peace with her body and food after weight loss. I placed a request for it through interlibrary loan because I thought it was about a woman who lost weight and was still unhappy and realized it was her unhealthy relationship with food that was the problem. The back cover blurb is from the host of The Biggest Loser and I *hate* that show with every ounce of my tubby self. They perpetuate eating disorders, but that is a post for another day. I’ll let you know what I think next week.


What’s up Next: More Galsworthy and a Virago novel. The next Forsyte book is To Let and my Virago read for this month will be Mr. Fortune’s Maggot by Sylvia Townsend Warner. Let’s see if I can get both knocked out before the end of the month.

Spring Bloggiesta Time!

Bloggiesta-S15Time to spruce up the blog! A few weeks ago I set up a schedule of sorts for my blog; it isn’t set in stone, but it is to help me when I am stuck and need to write. I find I have to manage my blog time very carefully (I blog like an old lady drives). There are so many other things I’d like to do to make Fig and Thistle shine.

  • Update my badges on my sidebar
  • Figure out / Design a badge for Food Friday
  • Dust off the Fig and Thistle Facebook page and figure out what I want to do with that space
  • Gear-up for some Readathon posts and plans
  • Spend at least an hour or so visiting other folks online or participating in twitter chatter
  • Make a decision on the Fig and Thistle swaps and prepare accordingly.

Let me know if you’ll be participating. I’d love to here your suggestions and to see your spiffy blog!

Food Friday: Am I Hungry? and Getting Ready for Spring

This Week in Mindful Eating

Last week I admitted that disordered eating had reared its ugly head again and I decided to actively and relentlessly give up dieting and fat-shaming myself and work to be healthy in mind and body. I weighed myself for the last time and confirmed that since I began actively dieting in October of 2014 I have gained nineteen pounds. The cycle of obsessing over food, restricting food and then going binge crazy took a toll. I no longer own a scale and I’m already incorporating some of the coping mechanisms I learned ages ago to get things in check.

First of all I think I’ve found a therapist. She doesn’t take my insurance, so that’s a hurdle to get through, but I think she may be the right one. She is a board member for the domestic violence shelter and specializes in counseling women with anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, and self-harm. I’m calling next week to at least get a consultation. I’ve also ordered a book and work-book targeted towards folks with binge-eating disorders and it should be delivered tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it looks once it arrives.

The main thing I’ve been focusing on is asking myself, “am I hungry?” before I eat. Sometimes the answer is “yes” and sometimes it is “no”. If the answer is no then I follow up with “why am I eating?” and decide what to do. I may still eat, but I try to identify why. Here are a few of my victories:

  • after a stressful day of work Tuesday I had some time to kill before picking up Sam and the kids. I thought I wanted fast food, but I wasn’t hungry. I decided to make an extra cup of coffee and read instead.
  • We had pasta for dinner one night. It was delicious. I wanted seconds, but I wasn’t hungry. I had seconds, but only about a 1/3 of a cup of pasta because I just wanted it for the delicious factor.
  • I didn’t eat breadsticks from my favorite pizza place because I wasn’t hungry.
  • At Walgreen’s I noticed Andes Mints on sale four for $1. I picked up four and then I put three back. I wasn’t hungry, I only wanted it for taste and a little bit would suffice.
  • For some reason I’ve been getting the “biggest” food when I go out: a foot-long sub, a large fry, the bigger ice cream cone. I broke that habit this week. I had my free Dairy Queen cone on Monday and I didn’t buy a second one because the first was free. I had a six inch sub. I passed up hash browns I really didn’t want. My cafe au lait was medium instead of large.
  • I only ate food I liked. In the past I would binge on stuff I don’t even like. I was eating just for the sake of eating. I’ve been much better about saying no to foods I don’t want and finding something to do besides eat.

This was a good week for me, but I need to keep it up. I’m hoping when my book gets here I will have more ideas for ways to slice through the binging!


I’ve started switching out my meal plan system for the spring and summer months. I don’t enjoy cooking so much in the summer months and soups, stews, and oven casseroles are out. I like quick, light fare for the sunny months. I didn’t get a chance to work on my meal plan too much, but I did start create a general meal plan for the week:

Sunday:  veggie burgers (black bean, portobello, sweet potato, etc…)

Monday: grains — this could be a stir-fry, risotto or a pilaf.

Tuesday: nachos, quesadillas or tacos

Wednesday: pasta

Thursday: salad night

Friday: sandwich night — grilled cheese, egg salad, chickpea salad, or old-fashioned PB&J

Saturday: alternates between pizza night or a veggie plate. Veggie plates usually consist of beans or tofu and then a whole lotta veggie sides. Or sometimes it will be stuffed peppers or potatoes

I’ll be spending a lot of time making up some meal cards and searching for new recipes. If you have a vegetarian recipe you think I’ll like, send it my way!

Thursday Thoughts: On Telling Stories and Balancing Perceptions


My work day was done ten minutes ago. I should be out of my office and headed to the daycare to pick-up the kids. The rain is pouring outside, Sam is painting in the campus art studio and I haven’t written. I’ve decided to stay for one extra hour and write.

I keep thinking on how I want to shape this space on Thursdays. I have thought about a million topics and have several drafts floating around. Part of me wants to write about plagiarism, racism, feminism, and my continued struggle with religion. When I encapsulate those thoughts into little “-ism” bubbles those topics seem safe. The problem that happens is I begin to write specifics: news stories, life stories, stories ripping through hundreds of blogs faster than I can clumsily form a tweet. In order to maintain some sort of balance and distance I have decided that anything I write about has to be part of my story. I decided long ago that this wasn’t a mommy blog, a baking blog, a book blog, a craft blog…. this blog is me. It is my space. My story. Not one dimension of my life. On one hand this feels arrogant. Who am I to assume that folks would care about Amanda and her life? There are so many other stories and perspectives in this great wide world. I want everyone to tell their stories. I don’t want others to be silent, but I also don’t want to push them out of the way in my fervor to speak for them. I think trying to say that I can speak for other people is the error. In other words, I’m looking to get back to the idea that the “personal is political.” That the stories I tell (or don’t tell) impact me as an individual, but by sharing my story others may find the companionship, permission, strength, or whatever impetus they need to tell stories of their own. I’m hoping that tiny changes like this can help chip away the big hulking systemic problems of the universe.

There is one problem with this… I have to tell my stories. This blog thing is really odd. If I write a recipe, do a book review, share photos of my kids then I get a handful of comments from people I “know” (friends and regular readers). If I write about rape, drug abuse, self-harm or disordered eating then I get gobs of hits, shares, and comments. I’m so glad my experiences can resonate with others, but it is very scary if only the bad parts of my life are popular. It skews perceptions. I’m not a fat, depressed, anxious drug-addict who is barely surviving. I’m not the sum of my bad experiences, poor choices, or mental illness. I am a thriving and vibrant human. I am surrounded by people I love and who love me. It takes so very little to fill me with joy: a deep breath under an old oak tree on a rainy day, starting a new yarn project, losing myself in a book, feeling the cat purr on my chest, feeling the arms of my children hug me and their sticky little kisses on my cheek. I have so much happiness, comfort, and stability in my life. One must look at all of me to truly see me. For every post about the hurtful and difficult there are at least fifty about the good in my life.

I have so much good in my life, but I feel it is so important to speak of my own darker experiences. I spend most of my blog cataloging the wonderful, but it feels disingenuous to not mention the shadows. I can across this cartoon today and I think it aptly expresses why I am so driven to write about the nitty gritty.

eat shit & die 233

So yeah. I write about my shit because it helps me, but it also can be a light to others. If you read about an unpleasantness or struggle at Fig and Thistle know that it is shadow. This light is burning bright.