If you truly want to know and understand a garden, you need to walk the garden with the owner, the creator, the designer or the head gardener. They caIf you truly want to know and understand a garden, you need to walk the garden with the owner, the creator, the designer or the head gardener. They can show and tell you small things that you might not notice on your own or explain grand themes and plans which are only subtly visible in the garden but underpin everything.
Books like The Bold Dry Garden are the next best thing to walking the paths with the owners and hearing the stories of how the garden was created, how this plant or the other was acquired, the grand successes and dismal failures. You get a sense for all these in The Bold Dry Garden.
The author and photographer seek to make the garden accessible to anyone no matter where they might be in the world. Even though I only live 5-6 hours drive from the Ruth Bancroft Garden I had not heard of it and, of course, have never visited. This book has changed that th0ugh. Now I am intimately familiar with creator Ruth Bancroft’s history, the evolving garden design and even particular specimen plants included in the garden.
The Bold Dry Garden begins with “Meet Ruth”. This recounts Ruth’s early history from her childhood to the point where, at age 63, after most of the surrounding farmland had been sold off for subdivisions, she started to build the garden. From this start in 1971, the garden grew and changed until it became part of the Garden Conservancy in 1991. This addition helped to preserve and maintain the gardens for generations to come.
The bulk of The Bold Dry Garden is the section entitled “Signature Plants of the Dry Garden.” Here you find detailed accounts and photos of many of the plants in the garden including agaves and aloes, echeveria and sempervivum, euphorbium and crassula. This is a veritable encyclopedia for succulents lovers and an excellent reference book, as well as one to simply read from cover to cover as if you were walking through the garden itself. The descriptions and photographs can give you both interesting ideas and detailed information for seeing how these plants might fit into your own garden.
Now that I have read The Bold Dry Garden, I plan on visiting the next time I am in Northern California. In fact, I will probably go out of my way to visit, even if I am just passing through. A garden like The Ruth Bancroft Garden is always a treat to visit and my appetite has been whet with this amazing, written and photographed, introduction.
Exactly what it says on the cover, A Botanist’s Vocabulary defines and illustrates 1300 botanical terms from abaxial (lower surface) to zygomorphic (hExactly what it says on the cover, A Botanist’s Vocabulary defines and illustrates 1300 botanical terms from abaxial (lower surface) to zygomorphic (having a single plane of symmetry). The definitions are short, clear and to the point while the excellent line drawing clearly illustrates many of the terms.
It was fun as I randomly flipped through the book, learning new things on every page. In fact, though, this book shines as a reference book — a gardening dictionary — that sits close to where you do your other reading. Having it at hand as you flip through plant and seed catalogs and other gardening books, gives you an instant resource for those unknown and/or unusual terms you sometimes come across in your reading. Sure, you can always “Google it”, but there is something to be said for the convenience of reaching out and having the answer at your fingertips.
A Botanist’s Vocabulary is for anyone who wants to expand their botanical knowledge beyond a few, well known, Latin names and dig deeper into the world of botany and horticulture. It could also be of great use when you are trying to identify or “key out” an unknown plant both in your garden and in the wild. I know that for myself, reading and working through plant identification keys is fraught with unknown and unusual terms that often stop you in your tracks, so adding A Botanist’s Vocabulary could certainly ease your way to figuring out just what that new plant is.
As usual, I checked out my copy of A Botanist’s Vocabulary from my local library — my typical way of reading new books and deciding whether I want to add them to my own personal collection. There is, after all, a hard physical limit on how many books you can have in your living space. You might be able to find a “review” copy there, too. Regardless of how you read it, though, I highly recommend you give it some of your attention. I think you will be amply rewarded by the new knowledge you find there.
When reading a cookbook I don’t tend to make grand proclamations that this book is good and that book is bad. Cookbooks are all about what you take awWhen reading a cookbook I don’t tend to make grand proclamations that this book is good and that book is bad. Cookbooks are all about what you take away from the book and one person’s favorite is another’s failure. For me, my like or dislike of a cookbook directly relates to how well it works for me. Does its message resonate? Are the recipes actually something I would consider making? Can I put my new found knowledge to immediate use? With those criteria in mind, Small Victories certainly worked for me on a variety of levels.
First, even though I am a bit of a fussy eater, I found many recipes I want to try out as soon as possible. Each recipe is well described and also includes several variations you might want to try. Turshen includes old standards like her take on biscuits (Everything Biscuits), roast chicken (Roast Chicken with Fennel, Rosemary + Lemon) and desserts (Berry + Buttermilk Cobbler) while also exploring further afield with Roasted Salmon with Maple + Soy, Jennie’s Chicken Pelau, and Crisply Hominy + Cheddar Fritters.
In Small Victories, you’ll find sections dedicated to Breakfast, Soups + Salads, Vegetables, (maybe even a few that I would eat) (LAUGH), Grains, Beans + Pasta, Meat + Poultry, Shellfish + Fish, Desserts, A Few Drinks + Some Things To Keep On Hand and Seven Lists — which gives some great ideas on small bites to serve with drinks, 7 Things To Do With Pizza Dough, Leftover Roast Chicken and more.
Another reason I found Small Victories so enjoyable are the excellent stories attached to each recipe. Even when I wasn’t particularly interested in a recipe, I still made a point of reading each of these descriptions almost like I would read a regular book. These descriptions also contain the “Small Victories” which are the namesake of the book. These are small tips and hints are a great addition to the cookbook and provide yet another level of value.
As Turshen writes, “Think of small victories as the corners of the puzzle, the pieces that help us become inspired, relax cooks who know how to fill in the rest.” I found my copy of Small Victories at my local library and you might find it there, too. It’s always a great place to start when looking for new books in your life. However you get your hands on Small Victories, I highly recommend you do. I think you’ll find some interesting recipes, tips and maybe even the next step in your cooking adventures.
How, in 1961, did an unimposing, middle-aged man from Newcastle commit a crime that no one has accomplished before or since — stealing a painting fromHow, in 1961, did an unimposing, middle-aged man from Newcastle commit a crime that no one has accomplished before or since — stealing a painting from London’s National Gallery? How then did this man, with the somewhat Dickensian name of Kempton Bunton, hold the painting — Goya’s Portrait of the Duke of Wellington — for ransom for 4 years, only to return it — unpaid — and turn himself in to the authorities? How could this story — which dominated the headlines for years — be lost to history until new information — and an unpublished memoir by the thief himself — arose in 2011?
How big was this crime at the time? Even the early James Bond film, Dr. No, paid homage to the story’s power. While only 1 person supposedly knew the location of the painting for 4 years, the writer’s and set designers of the film placed the missing painting on display in Dr. No’s villainous hideout — drawing a nice double-take from Bond as he walks by. The story was so well known at the time that it was expected that viewers would easily get the reference.
With all these questions, and my general love of mystery stories, I avidly dove into The Duke of Wellington, Kidnapped and completed the book in just a week or so. Kempton Bunton seems like something out of fiction — a 1960’s version of Don Quixote. Ostensibly he took the painting in order to further his campaign for television licenses for pensioners. After the British Government paid 140,000 pounds to retain the painting after an American collector had purchased it, he saw it as a target apt to catch the eyes and ears of public, as well as something valuable enough to ransom with promises of free TV licenses for all the old people in Britain.
Really? Was this really the reason for the theft and the 4 years of running ransom demands? As with many fictional stories, you always need to think deeply about how reliable your narrator might be. Many things don’t add up in this story, but it would take decades for the truth to be fully known.
Alan Hirsch has done an admirable job with this tale, using tons of contemporary news accounts, reports and other documentation from those directly involved in the search for the painting, including museum staff, Metropolitan Police reports and an unpublished memoir, written in the 1970’s by Kempton Bunton, yet only unearthed in 2011, nearly 50 years since the crime occurred. He takes us through Kempton’s version of the tale and tries to square it to what was known by police and other authorities at the time. Step-by-step we follow the painting to its hiding place, read the ransom letters sent over those 4 years and witness the sad, ludicrous and ultimately futile end of the caper with the return of the painting and Bunton’s self-submission and confession to authorities.
Hirsch details the court case against Bunton as it plods through the courts, including accounts from the defense lawyers and their troubling thoughts of how they were going to defend a man who willingly admitted to taking the painting and writing the ransom notes. A quirk in British Common Law gave them a loophole to play with, but would it be enough? Unfortunately, the book loses a bit of its forward momentum during these courtroom chapters. With countless quotes from court transcripts and the pondering over the legal loophole, the reader might feel a bit like the jurors themselves — overwhelmed, tired and a bit bored with all the legal wrangling.
Still, continue on brave reader and you will be rewarded with a twist, a turn and perhaps, the true story of The Duke of Wellington, Kidnapped finally revealed. There is more to this story than meets the eye and threads, once pulled, might never be stitched back together again. Just what did happen on that night in 1961? How did it happen and who knows the whole truth of the story?
If you like a bit of mystery, a bit of true crime and, sometimes, a bit of farce that seems to odd to be true, you’ll enjoy this romp through one of the biggest UK crimes of the 1960’s.
I I was able to get the eBook on loan from the LA Public Library. The eBook availability isn't always the greatest, but I got lucky in this case. HereI I was able to get the eBook on loan from the LA Public Library. The eBook availability isn't always the greatest, but I got lucky in this case. Here is the description from Amazon.com. I read it in about 2 hours on this Thanksgiving Eve, taking a break from other tasks and simply luxuriating in the process of reading a book.
I would describe this as a "pre-bbok" if there is such a beast in literature. By reading this short treatise, you are being prepared for the larger task of facing "The White Whale" which could describe the book itself as well as its namesake. Moby-Dick has defeated many readers, but perhaps with this introduction others might attempt it again, or for the first time, and discover some of the magic it has to offer....more
Would have liked to seen a bit more depth to the writing. Kids can handle more. Final scenes made for a good ending but I would have liked a little moWould have liked to seen a bit more depth to the writing. Kids can handle more. Final scenes made for a good ending but I would have liked a little more "story" on the way there. ...more
The Starfish and the Spider by Orj Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom
This book was published back in 2006, but I only discovered it recently. The main topicThe Starfish and the Spider by Orj Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom
This book was published back in 2006, but I only discovered it recently. The main topic is a discussion of decentralized (starfish) organizations versus centralized (spider) organizations. While I have been living with decentralized organizations for a long time, it is nice to see the differences, and the usefulness, of decentralized organizations laid out in such a clear fashion with some great examples.
From Napster to AA tto British Anti-Slavery groups to Al Qaeda, decentralized organizations take many forms, but they all share some common linkages. Firstly, it is about a catalyst or a champion that spearheads the effort while not being a centralized, command and control, leader in the usual sense. They start the ball rolling. They develop local groups to take action in their local areas. They provide support, cheerleading, persuasion and inspiration more that they provide office space, money or workers.
In my own experience with CareerCamp International, I have had direct experience in being part of a decentralized organization. Each camp is locally organized and managed. I help where I can, usually by sharing my passion for CareerCamp and unconferences in general. People new to the concept of an unconference need to be shown a vision for what can be and I paint them a picture that, hopefully, encourages them to join us in helping people build their careers. The Starfish and the Spider led me to new thoughts about what I am trying to accomplish and how I am going about it. It clarified some of my personal experiences and gave me a few ways to make my own work more useful and productive. It even gave me some warning signs to be aware of when developing a decentralized group and I can see where I had been ignoring those in some ways.
If you want to better understand the power involved in decentralized organizations and how they compete directly (and well) with more centralized groups, take some time with The Starfish and the Spider. You probably instinctively understand many of the issues involved, but having them laid out in such a clear fashion can help you develop a much deeper understanding.
Well-known blogger (gapingvoid.com), back-of-business-card cartoonist and advertising copywriter, Hugh MacLeod, leads us through his list of "What I BWell-known blogger (gapingvoid.com), back-of-business-card cartoonist and advertising copywriter, Hugh MacLeod, leads us through his list of "What I Believe" in his book, Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity.
Like other books I have read recently, this is what I consider a "real world example." Every aspect of the book draws on his experiences in advertising, blogging and cartooning. It makes you think. It make you stop sometimes and glance up at the ceiling to take stock of what you have just read. Some of the sections may seem contradictory to others that you have read, but that's ok. Life itself is pretty contradictory, too, and the best advice is often to look at a problem from all sides.
Some sections feel like MacLeod is getting in you face and telling you how he thinks the world really operates. You can chose to believe him, or not, but you can't ignore him. I think this is one of the marks of a good author. Mediocre authors can be be ignored, but good authors force you to pay attention, whether you agree with them or not.
Ignore Everybody is based on a blog, so it is divided into distinctly blog-like sections. Each has a beginning, middle and end, but also ties together nicely as a whole. MacLeod even recommends blogging for others who want to share their creativity with the world -- something I often recommend myself to my clients. Those unfamiliar with blogs might find the style a big choppy, but even someone older like me can find it enjoyable and informative if you keep an open mind.
If you need a recharge in your creative life, are looking for the next step in your career or just trying to make sense of the world around you, Ignore Everybody could be an interesting and enjoyable read.