"Winters are long in Iowa. By the time the middle of February comes around, Mother Nature begins to tease us with bright sunny days. ButFrom Beth F.:
"Winters are long in Iowa. By the time the middle of February comes around, Mother Nature begins to tease us with bright sunny days. But look at a calendar and you’ll see that we are still more than a month away from Spring.
If you’re itching to get your hands in the garden there is something you can do now that might make it feel like spring – get a new houseplant! Tovah Martin’s new book “The Indestructible Houseplant – 200 beautiful plants that everyone can grow is “for all the windowsill-gardener wannabes… For all the folks who hankered for houseplants but didn’t know where to start, and for all the people who picked up the wrong houseplant and thought its hasty demise was their fault, this book is for you.”
The Idestructible Houseplant is both a good reference book and a fun read. (Yes, books can be both.) If you’re looking for a book on houseplants and you want to look up just one plant, hit the index in the back and it will tell you where to turn. Or hit the table of contents for her list of 200 plants and go from there.
But if you’re looking for a fun read, start at the very beginning. Tovah Martin is an entertaining writer. Her snappy style and entertaining storytelling will get you hooked. She’ll tell you the story of how she got hooked on houseplants, how the idea for this book came to be, what her home is like and how she tested plants to come up with her 200 surviving “indestructibles.”
The 200+ page “Gallery of Indestructibles” lists her choices in alphabetical order. Each new plant begins with an entertaining page or more describing the plant, a beautiful color photograph, and half-page table listing the plants features: it’s common name(s), Latin name, a rating (easy or easiest), size range, foliage description, other attributes, desired light exposure, water requirements, optimum night time temperature, rate or growth, soil type, fertilizing, issues and ideal companions.
The last 40 pages take you through what she calls “The Details” – choosing a plant; general cautions about plant toxicity; light, humidity and temperature considerations; choosing and preparing a container. The list of sources are mainly in Connecticut, but all have websites.
There is one thing I was surprised by. The groupings called “Ferns” and “Ivy” are examples of when the author groups plants into a family. The information is general rather than specific to any of the individual types found in the index. Not that the information isn’t good, but it might not be appropriate to ALL the different plants in either family.
This is a great gardening book, and I’m definitely adding it to my wish-list."...more
Refrigerator cookies are my go-to cookies. Cookie connisseur Elinor Klivans once had one of those moments that makes you say ‘doh: most any kind of coRefrigerator cookies are my go-to cookies. Cookie connisseur Elinor Klivans once had one of those moments that makes you say ‘doh: most any kind of cookie can be made using the slice and bake method. It’s something most experienced cookie bakers have discovered on their own… you can stash a batch of dough in the fridge and bake them later. Slice & Bake Cookies contains 47 cookie recipes in four categories: Chewey cookies; Stuffed & Sandwich cookies; Crisp cookies: and Savory cookies. She leads off with an 8 page “Ingredients, Equipment, and Techniques” section that is worth a read. I tend to be more of a “dump it in the bowl and mix” so the mix/chill bo’kind of cookie maker – but I did learn some things by reading her introduction....more
If you’re a fan of Good Housekeeping’s cookbooks, you’ll have seen many of these before. All of the recipes in this book come from the many hundreds If you’re a fan of Good Housekeeping’s cookbooks, you’ll have seen many of these before. All of the recipes in this book come from the many hundreds of recipes in the Good Housekeeping collection. \ The more than 200 cookies here are the best of the best! COOKIES! is divided in to four sections: Drop Cookies, Rolled & Cut Out Cookies, Shaped & Icebox Cookies, and Holiday Cookies. Just glancing through the index brings back Holidays past when I see Biscohitos, Pfeffernusse, Browned-butter Shortbread, and Sally Anns. Seems like every woman in my family knows at least one of these recipes by heart....more
The cover art says it all. This is a book for those who love to spend time creating decorated cookie masterpieces. The 19 page introduction includes t The cover art says it all. This is a book for those who love to spend time creating decorated cookie masterpieces. The 19 page introduction includes three basic cookie recipes (vanilla, chocolate, or gingerbread) and the recipe for Royal Icing; a explanation of tools and equipment; 8 pages of techniques. Patterns for 100 animals follow, in six sections: Farm & Pets; Garden Critters; Woodland Creatures; Ocean & Ice Animals; and Prehistoric Animals. Each one page pattern contains a full color picture, list of necessary supplies and step by step instructions for creating the cookie creature. Tips and tricks are included when needed. An index and a list of 16 suppliers are included....more
Sometimes I wonder who chooses the cover art for books. The feathery image on the cover of this book does not even hint at the collection of fun zanySometimes I wonder who chooses the cover art for books. The feathery image on the cover of this book does not even hint at the collection of fun zany patterns inside. From mustaches, and scrabble tiles, to Volkswagen buses and instamatic cameras, this is a collection of really great ideas. Each project contains a materials and treds list, as well as a pattern that contains not only symbols but colors, making them very easy to follow....more
The 25 cute and colorful crochet projects in this book are divided into three sections: Living, Giving and Wearing. The book starts with a 26 page intThe 25 cute and colorful crochet projects in this book are divided into three sections: Living, Giving and Wearing. The book starts with a 26 page introduction covering the materials and tools needed, well photographed introductions to each of the three basic crochet stitches, as well as other things needed to complete the projects in the book. Unfortunately, while introduction is full of photographs, each of the projects themselves has only one photograph of the finished product. The step by step written instruction seem clear, and might be enough for an experienced crochetist, however....more
Are you looking for a craft that doesn’t require a sewing machine? A bit of fun hand sewing? Jeanette Lim has put over 70 of her “feltie” patterns inAre you looking for a craft that doesn’t require a sewing machine? A bit of fun hand sewing? Jeanette Lim has put over 70 of her “feltie” patterns in this sequel to Big Little Felt Universe. Divided into 10 fun and unique sets – from cupcakes and dinosaurs, to pets and bowling pins, there is bound to be something here that entertains you. Everything is hand sewn so really all you need is some felt, scissors, a needle and thread to get started....more
It’s official: Spring is coming! How do I know this? I found my first seed catalogs in my mailbox this week! I had to knock the snow off the mailbox t
It’s official: Spring is coming! How do I know this? I found my first seed catalogs in my mailbox this week! I had to knock the snow off the mailbox to open it, but the catalogs were there waiting for me.
Yes, I admit it. Rather than bleed black and gold like many in Iowa City, I have mud in my veins. I’m a gardener, and I’m ready for winter to be over and done so I can get back to playing in the dirt!
But for now I’ll be content with my new seed catalogs and the new gardening books at ICPL. So far this one is my favorite:
Midwest Gardener’s Handbook: Your Complete Guide by Melinda Myers. Nicely organized and illustrated, this guide to Midwestern gardening is just that – a general guide. It covers a bit of everything: annuals, bulbs, groundcovers & vines, lawns, perennials, roses, shrubs, trees and vegetables & herbs. It sounds like a lot to cover in a 256 page book, but Myers does it well.
Each of the nine sections of the book are laid out the same, beginning with a discussion of things to think about – from soil prep to choosing seeds or established plants, proper planting techniques and pest management. Then there are page after page of suggested plants – including a short but thorough descriptions of each plant (hardiness, bloom period etc), a “Why it’s Special” description of why the plant was included in the list, and “How to Plant & Grow” and “Care & Problems” sections. Each chapter ends with a month by month calendar that includes things that need to be done each month of the year (including the winter months).
The last 20 pages of the book are so packed with information they should be their own book. The 10 page appendix includes charts on how much mulch, soil or how many plants to buy given your space, four pages on proper pruning, pages on creating beds or designing and building raised beds, dealing with tree roots, and twelve state zone maps showing individual counties. A glossary, bibliography, common name and Latin /botanical name indexes follow. Myers book is definitely worth a look if you’re new to gardening, new to the Midwest, or someone who just likes concise, well written basic gardening books.
Living next door to Oakland Cemetery, the nights in my neighborhood are usually pretty quiet. Unless the Great Horned Owls from Hickory Hill Park areLiving next door to Oakland Cemetery, the nights in my neighborhood are usually pretty quiet. Unless the Great Horned Owls from Hickory Hill Park are out and about after dark. Then things get interesting. Their calls are enough to send my two indoor cats running for cover under the nearest piece of furniture.
Not knowing much about Owls, I turned to the ICPL catalog and found a fantastic new book: The Complete Book of North American Owls by Dr. James R. Duncan.
This man really knows and loves his owls. The first 47 pages are an introduction to all things owl, from well known adaptations like silent flight and the ability to rotate their heads 180 degrees to each side – and what this adaptation has to do with their eyeballs – to the lesser known but no less amazing ability to rotate one of their three front facing talons almost like a thumb so that they can grip prey with two talons in front and two in back to increase their grip strength.
The second half of the book is a guide to the 46 species of owls living in North and Central America. Between 3 and 6 pages are devoted to each species. Each essay discusses the species specific nesting habits, hunting techniques, courtship rituals, and calls. A range map and chart containing length (height), weight, wing chord length, and tail length is included.
For me the best part of this book is the collection of photographs of each species. Owls in flight, in their habitats, hunting, or just glaring back at the photographer, these images are amazing.
The book is full of great trivia facts too: One of the worlds largest owls (now extinct) was 42″ tall and weighed 20 pounds! And the Great Horned Owl can grip prey with a force of between 300 to 3,000 psi. (A human grip averages about 20 psi.)
The only thing that could make this book any better, would be an included CD with owl calls, but there’s always The Owl Pages for that.
There’s just something about listening to a story read aloud. Especially when you find a magic combination between author and performer. And I’ve founThere’s just something about listening to a story read aloud. Especially when you find a magic combination between author and performer. And I’ve found that in Elizabeth Lowell’s Blue Smoke & Murder, performed by Carol Monda.
I’ve never read Elizabeth Lowell before. I was heading out on a 4 day road trip and I wanted something to listen to. A friend suggested Elizabeth Lowell, so I grabbed the first book on cd I found on the shelf.
And off I went – into the high stakes world of Western Art and Art Auctions. Jill Breck is a white water river guide, who was raised in the west in a family full of strong women. When her great aunt dies in a mysterious fire, Jill inherits all that’s left of the family ranch – including 12 mysterious paintings.
Paintings she remembers seeing once in childhood – but was told never to ask about or talk about again. Paintings that have been hidden her whole life. Paintings that just might be the works of one of the most famous Western artists who ever lived. But someone wants those paintings to never see the light of day. And they want Jill dead too! Jill calls in a favor and turns to St. Kilda Consulting for help.
Zach Balfour is a “consultant” at St. Kilda Consulting. His areas of expertise cover the art world, art auctions, information analysis, fire arms and muscle cars. Acting as a “bullet catcher” is not his favorite assignment – but he’s more than qualified for the job.
I don’t know which was better – Lowell’s writing or Monda’s performance. But together they were magic. And since this book is #4 in the Lowell’s series featuring St. Kilda Consulting, I have more new books on my list of must reads!
Well, ok.. she didn’t write it JUST for me, but this book is my new guide to life!
I Like You: hospitality underAmy Sedaris wrote a book just for me!!
Well, ok.. she didn’t write it JUST for me, but this book is my new guide to life!
I Like You: hospitality under the influence by Amy Sedaris is almost impossible to classify. Technically is supposed to be a guide to entertaining. But it’s also a cookbook (with over 100 recipes), a guide to parties and social occasions (from entertaining in-laws to blind dates), and so much more.
In case you’re wondering just who Amy Sedaris is, or why that name sounds familiar, then either you know of her older brother David, or you’ve seen her on Comedy Central or in movies like School of Rock. Look her up on Wikipedia they”ll tell you shes and actress, comedienne and and author.
So why is “I Like You: hospitality under the influence” such a great book?
Where else can you find gift wrapping ideas, a variety of mixed drink recipes, menu ideas for dinner for one, multiple recipes for pie crusts, a guide to the right hairstyle for your face shape, a photo essay on putting on pantyhose (as well as uses for old ones), and silly craft ideas for all ages, just to name a few. Every page in this book is a delight.
Now if you like your books neatly organized with lots of white space and outlines and things, this book will probably hurt your eyes. It does have chapters – sort of. And an index – kind of. But it reads more like some eclectic person’s journal. Someone who doodles a lot and has ADHD.
To me, that’s at least half the fun. But then, like I said, she wrote this book just for me, and I’m getting my very own personal copy (and a stack of little post-its to mark specific pages!) But the library has a copy you call all fight over. --Beth
I’d like to blame my father for my addiction to James Bond. But even more than an affinity for tall dark men with English accents, thanks to Bond I’veI’d like to blame my father for my addiction to James Bond. But even more than an affinity for tall dark men with English accents, thanks to Bond I’ve always secretly wanted to be a spy. So when I came across "Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy" by Lindsay Moran I couldn’t resist.
I was expecting some kind of Valerie Plame memoir about a CIA cover gone bad, but I was wonderfully surprised. This is more of a "CIA approved" version of Lindsay Moran’s daily journal about what its REALLY like to work for the Central Intelligence Agency than some tell all book. I was hooked from page one.
As the daughter of a Defense Department employee and a childhood fan of Harriet the Spy, Lindsay had dreams of some day working as a covert operative for the CIA. She graduated from Harvard and then graduate school, and spent a year teaching English in Bulgaria before applying to the CIA.
After jumping through all their many application hoops, which include a variety of tests ranging from a federal background check to polygraph and psych tests - Lindsay ends up being offered not only a job with the CIA – but only after she has already accepted a Fulbright in Bulgaria! Never one to do things the easy way, Lindsay asks to defer her start date with the CIA for a year so she may do research abroad, and amazingly the CIA agrees – with the caveat that she not mention to anyone what she’ll be doing when she returns to the US, and that she retake all the entrance tests upon her return.
How does a woman in her mid 20′s who is naturally outgoing and social succeed in a career that requires her to lie to everyone around her, be secretive about what she does, where she lives and even she knows? And even more important, how will she make it through all the training required to get the job she thinks she wants?
It’s a secret. But if you read the book you’ll find out.
And for fun, read the small print at the bottom of the back of the title page that begins with "The material in this book has been reviewed and approved by the CIA". Makes you wonder what didn’t make it into the final draft. Check out the CIA Publication Review Board if you’re curious. --Beth
Life would be so much easier if it came with an instruction manual. Or so laments Scott Hudson in Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar. Scott anLife would be so much easier if it came with an instruction manual. Or so laments Scott Hudson in Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar. Scott and his best friends Patrick, Kyle and Mitch are looking forward to High School. But Scott’s world is about to change in more ways than one.
Not only is he in honors and college prep classes when all his friends are in “normal” classes, but he finds himself falling head over heels for Julia – a girl he’s known since kindergarten who seemingly overnight turned into a beautiful high school girl. Only problem is that Julia doesn’t seem to know he’s alive.
And things are changing at home too. Scott’s mom is going to have a baby! The spare room that he and his dad were going to set up with a big slot car track and other “guy toys” has suddenly become a nursery, and his mom is acting weird and having all sorts of strange cravings. The more his parents world seems to revolve around the baby, the more Scott comes to resent it.
Scott has lots of things he’d tell his little brother about high school and about life – if he were around. But since he hasn’t even been born yet, and even though Scott’s still not too happy about his eminent arrival – Scott decides to write it all down so he won’t forget.
“Listen, you microscopic intruder. Guys don’t keep diaries. No Way. At least, not any of the guys I hang out with. So this is NOT a diary. Okay? I hope we’re clear on that… Right now I can sort of cope, because you’re not real. After you’re born, I’ll probably hate you. So it’s good that I’m doing this now. Maybe it’ll make up for all the rotten things I’ll do to you later…"
I really hope Lubar writes a sequel to this. This book had me laughing out loud. --Beth