“The LEGO Movie” Mini Review

Just got back from “The LEGO Movie” and I was pleasantly surprised at the great plot, and at the beautiful theater we saw it in. 

I’m used to living in suburbia. I grew up in the sprawling “suburbs” (how can you call something 50miles away a suburb!?) of Chicago. I watch the farms turn into best buys, and condos, and libraries. Everything there was MEH it was all OKAY. Nothing was really nice or really bad. 

Here in the city, in Portland, there are lots of really scary crappy places, but even more beautiful places. Places I only used to see when I would visit “The City” (Chicago). Here I drive 10 minutes to Hawthorn Boulevard to check out the “Bagdad” theater. I tried to do this theater justice thought my typed language, but I can’t so I’ll quote the website to help you get an idea of its magnificence. 

“This marvelous relic of Hollywood’s Golden Age is a movie palace full of wonder and surprises. For nearly four generations now, the Bagdad’s Mediterranean/neon persona and daily films have made it an icon of Portland’s vibrant Hawthorne District. The interior is an attraction in and of itself, with barreled arches, ornate wrought-iron fixtures, brilliant mosaics and painted Mediterranean designs and characters.”

Before the movie even started I was happy just to be in this beautiful building from another time. I’m so glad McMenamin’s does what they do in preserving these fantastic historical buildings. The Bagdad is also a “Brew and View” meaning you can purchase a lot more than your standard concessions. It was too early (for me) for alcohol so I got a burger. It was delivered right to my seat! There also wasn’t a bunch of fluff before the movie like at the other chain theaters. There was one preview, and it was for the next family movie coming to the theater. Awesome! 

The movie itself started strangely as you just jumped right in to the action. I was unsure if the movie had even started! Being right in the action was pretty much the rest of the movie. t was very fast paced and action packed, I’m sure Mark only picked up the very very bare bones of the plot. At some points the non-stop action was hard even for me to follow. 

The plot was fantastic and, without any real spoilers, I can say that it was a very unschooling friendly movie. The LEGO Movie pits conformity and creativity against each other and of course creativity is what becomes the most valued by the end. The cast is incredible with many of my favorites including Liam Neeson, Chris Pratt, and Will Arnett (I vote he plays every batman ever from now on). It also included some appearances by some much love cult-icons (I won’t spoil it). 

I do have one other criticism besides the non-stop, overwhelming to small children action. That is the lack of female characters. There are three, in the whole movie, and more men that you can count. One of the females is a kitty-unicorn-thing with obvious anger issues and another is wonder women who gets all of 3 lines. Why can’t movies have, oh lets say, approximately HALF female charters, you know, like life? I would really like it if they just took some of the exact characters they already had and just made them female, change the look just a smidge and change the name. Thats it. Ok my little “almost feminist” rant is over.

The twist at the end movie ended up being better than I expected and even Mark was moved and had to hug me several times. It will hit all the families right in the feels and make all the unschoolers silently applaud their own awesomeness (don’t go thinking you’re above doing that). 

In short, go see it! If you have kids who are overly sensitive to high action films maybe wait for the blue-ray. I loved it and we are already talking about seeing it again when it hits the second run theaters around here. This is probably going to be one of the top family movies of the year, if you like movies, you’ll love The LEGO Movie!


I’m finally getting started on growing my own food! Last week Mark and I planted a few seeds in some old strawberry containers. We did one on of spinach and one of early cherry tomatoes. In the processes I accidentally got ALL the tomato seeds wet! In an effort to save some I put a bunch in a wet paper towel in  plastic zip lock bag (like in grade school). If they sprout, then my first plants in my aquaponics will be a TON of tomatoes!


This is my very simple seed starting set up. Old (well washed) strawberry containers filled with fresh clean seed starting mix placed on plastic (water proof) plates. With this set up you can water from the bottom without needing to buy a seed starting tray from a graden supply, and you can’t beat free (well almost, I bought the seed mix).


Here are the extra tomato seeds I’m trying save. :(


Here are our two little spinach seedlings that have sprouted!

Tomorrow I need to move my grow lights and get that set up so I can get these guys under them! At the same time as the seedlings are maturing I plan on fish-less cycling my tank so in 1-2 weeks its ready for plants and fish all at once.

New Years Resolutions

I don’t like New Years Resolutions, but I do them anyway. But to me its more of an “After Christmas Resolution” as I LOVE Christmas. I spend all year waiting for Christmas, and then when Christmas comes I eat whatever I want and do whatever I want “Because its Christmas!” This year this was compounded by a vacation 2 weeks before Christmas. Christmas + Vacation + a well intentioned Mother in Law giving you way too many sweets is a bad combo! 

Anyway, Christmas is my time to fall of the bandwagon, on EVERYTHING (well, at least I didn’t get drunk). So this is the week I pick myself off, dust myself off, and think “How am I going to fix this?” This year as a family we really have one major focus, becoming more self-reliant. We want to earn our own money, grow our food, buy our own stuff, take care of ourselves. There are two focus, finances, and health. 

Financially we are better off than most of the world. I realize this. We are in a good place. But we want to take better care of what we have, and make our money go further, so that we can do more, and help more with what we have. Ace has the goal of either doing music full time or opening his tea shop. My goal is to actually outright own our home, both take a lot of money.  I am working on a budget, and keeping track of ALL our spending. Our biggest waste by far is eating out, followed by entertainment and buying stuff we plain old dont need. 

Our second goal is to take better care of ourselves. I’m going to hit this one from many angles (most of which will benefit the first goal). First, we plan to grow as much of our own produce as possible. That means we have lots of healthy (organic, heirloom)  choices we will be excited to eat. We have a long growing season here, with lots of plants that do well. Our yard already has 2 kinds of fruit. Soon I will be starting, lettuce, tomatos, cherry tomatos, watermelon, strawberries, and peppers. I hope to add to those as the season goes on. I am also building an aquapoics system to grow fish and food together in a soiless medium (more on that in my next post). 

Second we are taking more walks and bike rides. I try to take Mark out everyday to walk or bike for a half hour (or more). I take one of the dogs along and we all get some good free exercise. So far, this has been really great! In the summer I hope to find some parks and hiking areas and bring lunch with. Its a great way to wear out Mark for his nap and help me stay active. 

Finally, we are tracking our weights. I made a chart and every sunday we are going to weigh-in. In 6 months we are going to take a little 1-2 night trip and who ever loses the biggest percent of weight is going to pick where we go. I’m pretty excited. 

Steps Towards Self-Sufficiency: Sustainable Urban Farming

I’d love to be able to be completely self-sufficient someday, in case of an emergency or disaster,  but that day is a long long way off. In the time being I can take steps to get us closer. My hope is have a healthier, more frugal, more sustainable way of life that we can keep up even if the rest of the world was to fall apart.

There are several things I’d like to do eventually, they include; learning and buying firearms, buying and installing solar panels, harvesting and re-using rain water, stocking up on basic necessities and food that can be stored long term (dired and freeze dried, canned, frozen), and of course, growing our own food.

I was going to wait till spring to start a garden, we have an area planned for raised beds that is currently coved to kill the grass and keep the soil warm through the winter, but now I’m thinking I may try a different approach much sooner (we’ll still start a summer garden as well). In fact if I didn’t have a sick toddler who’s been sleeping most of the day, I’d be out in the garage figuring out what supplies I have and what I need right now!

I’m going to try my hand at aquaponics. In short aquaponics is growing plants and fish in harmony in a relatively low maintenance environment that yields very high amounts of fish and plants for the food and energy put in. I’ve read that aquaponics uses 1/10th the water of traditional gardening in the soil, and the only food you put in is whatever you are feeding the fish (which I’ve read of many creative ways to feed your fish for cheep or free). I’m hoping to start a small system using either a fish tank or a plastic bin and ordering a few fingerling fish to start. The waste water from the fish tank would be pumped up into a medium sized growing tray where the plants can use the nutrients naturally created by the fish and the bacteria, creating clean water for the fish to grow in. The water would then flow down back into the fish tank. Some people use siphon system, but I think I’m just going to go ahead and use a fish tank pump on a timer to start. I plan on trying indoor and using grow lights. Even if I can just grow enough lettuce for Ace’s sandwiches and a few salads I’ll be pretty happy.

I have bigger dreams too. I got my hands on a free pool last fall that I planned to set up for Mark to swim in, but it may turn into a much larger fish tank. If I can get a few other people on board to help. I’d love to set up a large aquaponics system and share the fish with other families that help maintain and build the system with me. If I can figure it out on a small scale, why not a large scale? If we grow enough plants we could even sell them and make money. Currently selling homegrown aquaphonics fish is illegal, but you can sell the plants.

As I’m dreaming of this I think of all the things I wanted to do and haven’t, that’s why I decided to blog it. If I put it out there you guys can keep me accountable (all 3 of you that will read this). Either way it will motivate me to actually do it. If I can get this going along with a traditional garden we will be rolling in produce this year and it will save us LOTS of money!

Screen Free?

The last week or 2 or 3 or 4… not sure how long. I’ve been feeling pretty low. Not sure why, I look around and things are ok. But, I’m not motivated, I don’t feel well, I’m just… meh…. Its one of the reasons I haven’t been blogging, its just doesn’t seem to matter.

So next week I’m going to try to go screen free M-F (though I may need to post about how amazing Rush is, its pretty much all I’ve been looking forward to for over a month). I’ll take some pictures of our adventures, and get back to you next weekend. As of monday I will be shutting my laptop for a week. I’ll update the music on my phone before then, and I’ll check my e-mail from my phone. But my goal is to keep the TV off and the laptop closed as much as possible.

It Is a Windy Day, Fall is Here.

It is a windy day, fall is here. The leaves blow across our path and make a wonderful crunch under my feet and the wheels of the red wagon. We meander slowly through our neighborhood taking the time to look at everything we want to. Mark says “Hello” and “Bye-Bye” to every person, dog and motorcycle. Three little dogs chase us along the fence line and we laugh at them.

As we walk my short brown hair stick out from under my black cap and Mark’s wispy red hair blows in the wind. We take our time enjoying the warm sunshine and the cool breeze. We find an end of a 2×4 in the road and bring it home, who knows what it may someday become. Our path is unplanned and we find ourselves on a dirt road on a windy day. The dust blows around us, but doesn’t bother us too bad. We say hello to two more dogs and continue towards our house. This is just another day, but its special, it’s the first day it feels like fall. It is a windy day, fall is here. 

School Daze

Why do kids grow up thinking school is this amazing wonderful perfect place? I’ve noticed this in my nephew  He’s 3.5 and thinks school is the greatest idea ever (right next to the cow that gives you ice cream), that is until he really thinks about it…

First he starts with “School is so fun, I can learn and play with friends!” Then I ask, “But what if you want to learn about dinosaurs and its time to learn math?” And he gets a puzzled look… I say, “At school you have to do what the teacher says.” He says, “What if I’m hungry?” And I tell him, “Then you have to wait till the teacher says you can eat.” He looks upset and thinks for a while.

Long before they are old enough for school the media is already indoctrinating kids to how great school is. Its like the magic school bus! Everyone is happy and you always learn interesting things, all your needs are met, and no one is mean (except maybe long enough to learn not to be mean)! But its not like that… Or this wonderful picture below…. Its not like that at all.

The “Perfect” teacher, clean and smiling.


As he thinks a little more my young nephew say, “But if I’m gone all day I’ll miss my Mama! And I like to play, I don’t want to sit.” And I respond, “That’s why some kids don’t go to school, then they can do what they want during the day! They can eat when they are hungry and see their Mom’s all day! They can learn about whatever they want!” Then I go on to tell him we are going to meet some kids who do exactly that tomorrow and he gets excited. I ask “Would you like to meet some new friends who don’t go to school?” “I would like that.” he responds.

School isn’t what the media portrays it to be (when they decide to portray in a perfect unfailing light). Its a place of confinement, breaking up families more than building them. It puts labels on children (Gifted, Mainstream, Special Ed) and keeps them categorized the rest of their lives. Kids must do what they are told, they must study for the test, not for the love of study. No learning about dinosaurs till we get to the dinosaur unit young man.

The schools aren’t flawed, they are doing exactly what the are designed to do; create consumers. I could go deep into the German history of our compulsory education, but I’ll keep it short by saying that the schoolers were designed so that only the elite could really succeed. They are designed to keep the masses the masses. The schools keep the “average joe” (95% of the population) from becoming above average. They create factory workers (now mostly office workers), people who will consume and who won’t ask too many real questions. People with unwavering loyalty to the elite that controls them, employees them, and sits back and makes millions selling products to them. There are very few schools (and certainly no public schools) that truly allow children to live and learn. That’s why I’m choosing to say no to the system, I’m keeping my son (and my sister is keeping my nephew) out of school.

For more information on the history and real purpose of our school system read “Weapons of Mass Instruction” by John Taylor Gatto, and Long time public school teacher and even “Teacher of the Year” for New York he reveals what most people choose not to see that the schools we grew up in did us a disservice, and continue to hurt our children more than help them.