Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dirty Chick: Adventures of an Unlikely Farmer by Antonia Murphy

I received Dirty Chick: Adventures of an Unlikely Farmer as an Early Reviewer. It's the true story of a couple that moves from San Francisco to New Zealand, evolving from part-time sailors into full-time artisanal farmers.

Antonia Murphy shares funny, cute, and foul stories about the animals they collect to farm. As they add chickens, goats, alpacas, lambs, turkeys, and cows to their farm the stories get crazier and grosser. I appreciated the amount of profanity the author used to accentuate her frustration. Meanwhile, they also raise 2 kids and search for a permanent home because they are renters. It's not only the story of farming and family; as the story progresses there is the sense that the family is becoming a part of a community.

Dirty Chick is the book to read if you have a good sense of humor and a strong stomach.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Eclectic Reader Challenge 2015

In the past 3 years the Eclectic Reader Challenge has challenged me to explore genres I may not normally be drawn to and get unread books off my shelf, so I am going to sign up again for 2015.

Here are this coming year's categories and some of the books I have on hand that fit:

Retellings (of fairytale, legends or myth) - Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire, The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy

A book set in a country starting with the letter S - Spain: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, Sweden: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

PI Crime (fiction featuring a private investigator) - When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

A novel published before you were born - I have a ton of these (since I'm so young ;)

Contemporary romance - Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook, Angel Landing by Alice Hoffman, Last Chance Saloon by Marian Keyes, Lost Highways by Curtiss Ann Matlock

Fiction for foodies (fiction featuring food/food related business) - The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, Julia's Chocolates by Cathy Lamb, By Bread Alone by Sarah-Kate Lynch

Microhistory (Non Fiction) - A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman,

The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg,

Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City by Nelson Johnson,

The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened the West by Lesley Poling-Kempes

Science Fiction set in space - Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Sports (Fiction or Non fiction) - Gold by Chris Cleave, Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon, The Black Lights: Inside the World of Professional Boxing by Thomas Hauser

Featuring diversity - Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel by Tom Franklin

Epistolary Fiction (fiction written in the format of letters/emails/diary entries) - I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Middle Grade/YA Adventure - Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Crows and Cards by Joseph Helgerson

Do you recommend any of the books on my list? Do you want to join with me?

P.S. Strange Days is by Maggie Taylor.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge is a book of short stories all tied together by some connection to Olive. She is mostly an unloved, unliked, feared, or hated woman, yet she has made an impact on people all over her town and in her family.

The stories were interesting but mostly I could some them up with one word: sad. Sad, sad, sad. I'm looking forward to the mini-series on HBO because of Bill Murray and Francis McDormand, but would never reread this depressing assemblage of Pulitzer sorrow.

P.S. This book counts as my Award Winning book for the Eclectic Reader Challenge.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The City by Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz might have to go back on my favorites list after The City. It's the coming-of-age story of a musical prodigy named Jonah, taking place in the 1960s.

It's hard to share much of the plot without diminishing the pleasure of discovering the power of music, art, love, and friendship through Jonah's eyes. All you need to know is that poetic writing, twisting plot, magical realism, and unmitigated terror made this book hard to put down.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

I read I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with my book club earlier this year. It's the memoir of a girl from Pakistan whose refusal to be bullied by the Taliban into not attending school led to being shot in the face.

One part of her story is an education about the history of Pakistan. I was surprised to learn that Pakistan used to be a Buddhist country where many monks lived. Sunni or Shia? Explained. How did the Taliban get its hooks into Pakistan? Recounted. I joked with my book club that this book is Pakistan for Dummies, to which they laughed and agreed.

The other part of the book champions the value of education for everyone. Malala's father is a teacher who opened a school for boys and girls. She says:

Education had been a great gift for him. He believed that lack of education was the root of all of Pakistan's problems. Ignorance allowed politicians to fool people and bad administrators to be re-elected. He believed schooling should be available for all, rich and poor, boys and girls. The school that my father dreamed of would have desks and a library, computers, bright posters on the walls and, most important, washrooms.

My book club consists of a speech pathologist, school psychologist, occupational therapist, reading interventionist, and primary grade teachers. As educators, this touched us to be reminded again how fortunate our students in America are to have public education available to every individual. If the Taliban wants to blow up schools just for educating girls, it is easy to see how important education is and how much it threatens them. "Though we loved school, we hadn't realized how important education was until the Taliban tried to stop us."

The last quote is the one I had to read aloud to my friends and so I have to share it here too. "The Taliban could take our pens and books, but they couldn't stop our minds from thinking."

Many best wishes to Pakistan and their struggle to educate their children.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Animal Wise: How We Know Animals Think and Feel by Virginia Morell

The author of Animal Wise, Virginia Morell, compiles in this book many recent studies done on animals demonstrating that they are not purely driven by the need to eat and procreate. There is a level of cognition in these animals proving that they indeed think and feel.

Although not all of the studies are complete and some have not yet been peer reviewed, they show what anyone who has spent time with animals already knows. From ants to elephants, there is a level of intelligence. What we sometimes thought was anthropomorphization was actually a hint at what lies in the animal mind.

Written in a way that makes the studies easy to understand while also entertaining, I recommend Animal Wise if you have ever wondered what animals are thinking.

P.S. I made a Pinterest board of my favorite facts from each chapter here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day!

Reduce, reuse, recycle!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

long weekends

We got a lot of yard work done on our long weekend. It's looking good back there. Final project is a mini grass patch for the spoiled mini pack!

P.S. Cha Cha Chia Chihuahua is by Mike Holzer.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Taste of Apple Seeds by Katharina Hagena

The Taste of Apple Seeds takes place in Germany and has been translated from German.

A 20-something girl named Iris is shocked to learn she has inherited her grandmother's house. After her grandmother's funeral, she decides to stay in the house for a week to see if she should stay there or go back to being a librarian in another town.

As she explores the house she relives memories and unearths some family secrets. Iris didn't know she was going to inherit the house and winds up wearing her aunts' and grandmother's old gowns because she didn't bring a change of clothes. She then rides her grandfather's bike around town and continues to run into her friend's little brother, now grown up into a hottie, whenever she leaves the property.

This was a cute story, but forgettable. Marketed as magical realism, I would classify it as romance.

P.S. This book counts as my Published in 2014 book for the Eclectic Reader Challenge, and my Book That Has a Connection with the Number "14" for the Take It or Leave It Challenge.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Hooray it's Opening Day!

Too bad the Dbacks lost though. :(

But yay! I get to watch baseball again!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Everything I Need To Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book by Diane E. Muldrow

Everything I Need To Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book by Diane E. Muldrow is a little montage of Little Golden Book illustrations through the years paired with words of wisdom.

Although I had a lot of hand me down books from my sisters, most of the illustrations were from stories older than the ones I had. It still put a smile on my face. You will really like it too if you enjoy cute vintage illustrations like these:

This would make a good gift and would also be a good coffee table book.

P.S. This counts as my Book That I Discovered on an LT Thread in 2013 for the Take It or Leave It Challenge.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Darwin: Portrait of a Genius by Paul Johnson

I read Charles & Emma in 2011, and although I learned some of Mr. Darwin's life, a lot of the focus was on his family and their reactions or connections to his work. This year I read Darwin: Portrait of a Genius for Darwin Week to learn a little more about his scientific life.

I really liked how the information about Darwin's life was laid out in this book. It wasn't too dry and it seemed to hit all the high points and spaces between concisely. One interesting fact was that he was a wealthy man, and if he had paid someone to read and gather other scientific papers from the time, Darwin would have had the crucial missing piece of his theory of evolution. "Darwin showed the what of evolution and the why, natural selection. Now Mendel had produced the how, genetics." The irony is that Mendel was a priest! Yes, a priest completed Darwin's theory of evolution by trying to grow the best peas for the other priests in his monastery. Mendel's Laws, that rang a bell.

The other big aha for me in this book was the chapter about Social Darwinism. I had heard that term before but never put too much thought into it. Darwin loved using the term "struggle" when referring to how living things adapt to survive. ("Survival of the fittest" is actually Herbert Spencer's term, which Darwin liked and added in his fifth edition of On the Origin of Species.) As time went on, people chose to misinterpret and misuse his scientific work and apply it incorrectly to the economy or sociology. Hitler's a good example of using Darwin's theory of evolution in a terrible way. Mein Kampf...My Struggle. Yikes. Or others who believe poor people deserve to be poor because they are obviously not fit enough to survive like rich people. Poor Darwin. If he knew how people misused his work he probably would have been horrified, although the author suggests that he was somewhat culpable by, "...always [carefully steering] clear of politics as such."

Reading about the true genius of Charles Darwin was fascinating. I recommend this biography if you love science or are in a creative rut. The man is an inspiration, and born on the exact day as another great thinker of the time, Abraham Lincoln.

P.S. This counts as my Book You Received as a Present for the Take It or Leave It Challenge. (I got it for Christmas from my nephew Kyle.)

Friday, March 21, 2014

quote of the week

Even though I'm on Spring Break this week I still got my first grader fix when my friend, Tanya, brought her daughter, Maddie, to lunch. Maddie loves sci fi just like me so I think we'll be BFFs.

Maddie talked about how she likes to dress up like Princess Leia so her mom asked, What's your favorite scene in Star Wars?

Maddie thought for a moment and said, "When Princess Leia met the mini-Chewbaccas...the Ewoks!"

I love it! The force is strong with that one.

P.S. Ewok Star Wars Poster was made by Glenn.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Happy 1st Day of Spring!

Today I'm reading Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King. The stories are pretty horrific so far, quite in contrast to this photo.

What are you reading?

P.S. Wild Flowers is by Su Blackwell.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I celebrated by day drinking with my friend Erin and watching Leprechaun's Revenge. Good times!

P.S. Grumpy St. Patricks Day came from Grumpy Cat.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Snowy Owl Classroom Fun

Tuesday on my way to school I heard a cool story on NPR about how all these snowy owls are suddenly showing up in the USA, which is uncommon. Why? the biologists wondered. Climate change? No. Crazy weather? No. The answer is a plethora of delicious lemmings.

I was excited to share the story with my class. We were reading a fiction story about a bird learning to fly this week, The Story of a Blue Bird.

I sat my students down at the rug and started summarizing what I had heard, our luck in having snowy owls visit our country. I was just about to tell them the reason why they are here and stopped myself. Instead I asked, Can you figure out why they're here all of a sudden? Think about what you know about living things. (In first grade we learn that living things need food, water, air, and shelter.)

My little sassy girl raised her hand and said, "Maybe they're here because there's a lot of food, like, I don't know, a bunch of mice or something?"

Take that biologists! I have a future candidate for you!

P.S. 1920s GIRL SCIENTIST Looking into a MICROSCOPE came from sandshoevintageprint.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Project Life May 2013 continued

I really like how this week turned out. It includes Corey meeting Grumpy Cat, a pack walk, buying flowers for 2 of my favorite people, 2 students watering our class garden, Mad Men, Star Trek Into Darkness, a funny hat bike ride, and The Preakness Stakes.
A closer look...The Born in the USA thing came from the packaging Corey's flowers came in. I also wanted to note that Corey meets celebrities constantly at his job and rarely takes pictures of them for himself, but he couldn't resist when Grumpy Cat came to the station.
Another post card saved from advertising days used for finishing season 2 of Mad Men, mounted on a junk mail card:
Vellum and patterned paper:
Star Trek pic printed off the internet, and Liberty Market sign pic taken by me:
The sign pic goes with a bike ride my friend Stephanie organized with her bf. I added a sticker to the pics on the left and used part of their invitation for a caption on the pic on the right:
Here's the whole page, mostly about the bike ride but I fit the Preakness from the previous day in too:
Again I used the invitation as my background here. Saved me from journaling the who, what, when, where...
Coincidentally the canal we rode along was constructed exactly 100 years before. It says, "WATER FROM THE SALT RIVER RUNS THROUGH THE CITY":
This pic from the Preakness is from the newspaper. I just added journaling and a sticker:
Again, you can be creative with the materials you find around you to scrapbook with. The only traditional supplies I used were 3 stickers, 4 scraps of patterned paper, a post-it note, and a vellum die cut.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

The Interestings is the very first book selection in the A Beautiful Mess Book Club and since I'm obsessed with Elsie and by default her sister I thought it would be fun to join in. At the time this book was only available in hardcover and I almost always wait until books come out in paperback but I had a gift card from my nephew so I lived large and got it.

The story is about a group of kids who become friends at a summer art camp and dub themselves "The Interestings." OMG I love coming of age stories and these are artistic kids too! I was pumped. After we meet them they grow up and...don't do very many interesting things. The story dragged on and on but I have a pretty strict finish-it-if-I-start-it policy because I'm an optimist and always think the story can come around at the end. Not the case here. In addition, one of my favorite characters didn't even get a wrap-up at the end. Boo.

But one part made me laugh. Jules, one of the main characters, was about to have sex in a bunk bed with her boyfriend and didn't want to climb up the ladder first because she was self-conscious about him watching her from behind. So she goes:

"After you, kind sir," she said--oh God, had she really said that? And why? Was she pretending to be a Victorian prostitute?--sweeping out her arm.

LOL! It just seems like a dorky move I would make.

Here's another quote I liked:

"There was this Grimms' fairy tale that our mother used to read us," she said. "A brother and sister run off into the woods to get away from their evil stepmother. It's always a stepmother, never a stepfather; even fairy tales are sexist."

I wanted so badly to like this book but I just didn't.

P.S. This book counts as my Work of Fiction from the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2013 book for the Take It or Leave It Challenge. Is there something I'm not getting here?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Project Life May 2013

It's been awhile since I shared my pages but I'm still doing Project Life and loving it. I'm almost done with November.
This week documents a card for Teacher Appreciation Day, watching Dbacks baseball, Survivor, and Mad Men, rereading The Great Gatsby, having a clean-a-thon in the bedroom, and Captain enjoying the backyard.
Angi remembers me on Teacher Appreciation Day every year with a card mailed to the school. So thoughtful. Glad I have this Project as a place to display this super cool card and remind me of one of the many special things she does for me.
The Dbacks logo on the base is from some junk mail, and the Survivor sticker came with a Buff we bought. Reduce, reuse, recycle!
I have a postcard book featuring women in advertising through the years. I tore out this ad from 1962 which is when this season of Mad Men took place. I'm more likely to look at it in here than in the postcard book.
I saved the Chipotle bag, cut out the talk bubble, filled it with brown cardstock, and filled in my own journaling from the night (a run-on sentence but really this is for me right?). More waste saved from the recycle bin!
Spoiler alert from 2 Survivor seasons ago! Cochran wins, and Corey and I were very happy about it. I printed this pic off the internet.
Captain Skippyjon Jones loves relaxing in the "creepy crawly" and it makes for a nice photo op, don't you think? I just added a little scrapbook paper at the bottom.

Just a reminder for people who say scrapbooking is too expensive...on this entire page I only used 3 scraps of scrapbook paper, a post it note, and some letter stickers. The rest of the materials are things I had on hand or scavenged from my life that week, + photographs. You can do it too!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Something Missing by Matthew Dicks

I just read Something Missing with my book club. It's a good example of why I love my book club: I probably never would have picked out this book on my own, but it has exposed me to an author that I think is going to be a favorite!

Martin is a thief. He's different from other thieves because he breaks into the same houses repeatedly to steal things he thinks the owners won't notice are missing, such as a roll of toilet paper or a scoop of laundry detergent. It was fun for me to read about how he methodically catalogues the items in his "clients'" homes and the thing he takes. A part of me wishes I could be as OCD as him.

One member of my book club disliked Martin because she said he's just a criminal, but I grew to love Martin because he believed to have relationships with the homeowners even though he never met them, and he even cared about their lives. I love a story that makes you root for the bad guy.

This was truly a unique and exciting story. You should read it if you're ready for Something Different.

P.S. This book counts as my Book with a Walking or Standing Figure on the Cover for the Take It or Leave It Challenge.

Monday, February 17, 2014

VNSA Book Sale

Yesterday I went on my annual trip to the VNSA book sale with my friend Alana and her mom. It didn't seem like there were as many books this year, but I still managed to bring home 18 books for less than $30, and the money gets donated to Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation and Literacy Volunteers of Maricopa County!

I was most excited to find Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks, one of my new favorite authors, and Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan and The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, both highly recommended on LibraryThing. I also needed a book by an author from Sub-Saharan Africa for a challenge and found The Granta Book of the African Short Story by Helon Habila.

Time to get reading...

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

We read My Robot by Eve Bunting this week, so when I went to Target to get pencils for Valentine's Day I was psyched to see they had robot pencils and robot stickers. I also gave my first graders The 100th Day of School From the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler. The kids proclaimed me the best teacher ever. Yay.

P.S. Peace, Love and Robots is by Raina Gentry.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Year of the Horse

Happy Chinese New Year! I bet 2014 will be awesome because it's the Year of the Horse and I love horses!
My horoscope based on the Chinese zodiac for the year is: Don’t be discouraged and follow your dreams. Sounds like good advice.
More gratuitous horses:
My gramma riding my horse Thunder:
Corey's grandma riding her horse:
I'm hoping on Sunday we will see it's the Year of the Horse for another reason:
Go Broncos!

P.S. I found the first picture on Pinterest but I can't figure out where. The second pony silhouette, "Memory Bird," is by Art&Ghosts. The Blythe dolls posing with their horses was photographed by Danielle Thompson. The watercolor white horse is by JK Lamkin. I found the pic of Thunder the Broncos horse here.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

2013 Silly Book Quiz

Time for end of the year book quizzes! Yay! On this one you're supposed to answer the questions with titles of books read in 2013.

Describe yourself: Beloved

How do you feel? On the Edge

Describe where you currently live: The Kitchen House

If you could go anywhere...? Into the Wild

Favorite form of transportation: From a Buick 8

Your best friend is: The Midwife

You and your friends are: Witches of East End

What's the weather like? Ten Thousand Heavens

Your favorite time of day is: Dragons of Winter Night

What is life for you? Wicked Business

You fear: World War Z

Best advice: Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

Thought for the day: Beat the Reaper

How you would like to die: A Good Fall

Who else wants to play?

P.S. I found this quote on Private Arts.