Sunday, June 27, 2010

Weekend Update

We've been camping in Michigan for one week and we made it out alive.  I love camping but I kissed my [dirty] carpet so thankful  am I to be home!! Camping makes one appreicate home so much...the indoor plumbing, the kitchen sink,  baths, wifi, the ice box, a roof!   We went to Michigan so teenage son could fish and so sweetheart husband could run the Charlevoix Marathon [his 10th].  I planned to have some marathon reading sessions in-between adventures.  My reading dreams are always bigger than reality.  I did spend a fair amount of time with my lovely  in-laws and enjoyed a wine-tasting with them (quietly, just the 3 of us).

What I did read:

Maggie's Door by Patricia Reilly Giff (yes, I started off easy but it was good and I love Giff)
Serena by Ron Rash (oh, my)

What I'm still reading:

Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs (lighter reading after Serena)
Singing for Mrs. Pettigrew by Michael Morpurgo (still, I know, V and A)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (I'm on chapter 10 with peaceful girl-oh what joy to be rereading this aloud for another child!!)

What I carried  all the way to Michigan and back without reading:

 The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alen Bradley (even though I'm really looking forward to this one)

I also did a little knitting and worked a large crossword, which are both easy activities to do while riding in the passenger's  seat so I can talk to driving husband.   I'm so grateful for his driving abilities!!  Love you. 

We had very sporadic cell and wifi service and it was refreshing to be off the grid.  I did have two posts pre-written before our departure last Saturday and I was thrilled with how well my Father's Day tribute turned out.  It is difficult for teenagers to be without their technology but I love to watch my son fish much more than play FIFA soccer on his ipod.  Stepdaughter is still waiting to hear about housing assignments at Oberlin so had to check email each time we landed at a cafe.  Please...she wants the new green choice available only to freshman!!!  [waving magic mama wand]

I have several posts to write about camping and knitting as well as the books I finished.
As I browsed through other blogs tonight, touching base with many on my blog roll, I saw lots of challenge up-dates (woe is me!)  I need to get my reading in gear!! 
Now that our major vacation is done and checked off my summer to-do list and number one son is off for a month camping with grandparents I may have tiime to read a few  many days away~in my hammock. 

Now since I am very sleep deprived [how much sleep do you really get in a tent while it is downpouring?] I need to get some rest.  No alarm.

What about your week...what fantastic and marvelous adventures did you have?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Picture Book Frenzy

     I have a stack of beautiful books checked out from my public library.  I love the library but I struggle with their return on time policy.  I dislike paying fines for overdue books.  I'm much better with Netflix's return policy (keep it as long as you like-you'll get more when you return it)-that is within my power.  On the other hand the library lets me take out stacks and stacks.   Hmmmm.

Since these are due back before I return from camping-I'm going to review them in batch and return them tomorrow before we leave so I skip out on the hefty fine.

Lucky for me I've read them all:

First up, About Habitats; Mountains written by Cathryn Sill; illustrated by John Sill (2009)

Peaceful Girl and I loved this book.  It is the perfect kind of nonfiction for elementary students....not a lot of text!   It begins:  "Mountains are places that rise high above the surrounding land." and a glorious illustration of Mount McKinley (Alaska Range).  Each page has one or two descriptive sentences matched with a mountain scene.  The afterword gives greater detail to each mountain illustration and a glossary is included.  Highly Recommended-Elementary Nonfiction

Stuff! Reduce, Reuse, Recycle by Steven Kroll; illustrated by Steve Cox (2009)

Stuff!  tells the story of Pinch, a pack rat (how perfect)who looks like a cute big-eared mouse.  Pinch has trouble getting rid of anything and his house and yard are overflowing.  Bumper Bunny and Heddy Hedgehog come knockin' one day to ask for donations and he turns them down!  Yes, he's a hoarder!  He tells them he just can't part with any of it.  He finally has a change of heart and loads up a wheelbarrow to sell at the town tag sale.  He does it at first to make money (more money means I can buy new stuff) but ends up enjoying his newly clean home!  This is a great story to help children understand how important it is to buy responsibly-a good lesson for many adults.  Recommended-Elementary Fiction

What Bluebirds Do by Pamela F. Kirby (2009)
This book has fantastic photographs of a bluebird family-it's a play-by-play of their relationship, which takes place in Kirby's backyard.  My peaceful girl is fascinated by the bird activities in our own backyard and so loved this book.  It shows such clear detail of what the birds look like compared to other blue birds, their mating flirtations (the male flaps his wings and offers her food-sounds easy enough) and how the beautiful eggs fare in the nest.  The sentences are easy to read with the photographs taking center stage.  It has a ton of useful information in the back as well.
 Highly Recommended (if I were to buy any of these three it would be this one)elementary nonfiction.

Enjoy these three lovely books.  Hopefully I will have a chance to review three more tomorrow before my library trip.  My husband should love that.  "Sure honey, I'll be right there to help you load the car-right after I finish this blog post!"  Can you picture it?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Dad

     I'm not a fan of Father's Day  because I miss celebrating it with my Dad.  What's a hallmark holiday without the person?  I do celebrate that I had such a great dad and that really he was always there for me.  Even when I was mad at him for a few years he still welcomed me.  Even when I made bad choices he grinned and loved me anyway.  The bad choice list is long (tattoos, long-haired boyfriends, lack of studying...) he still opened his arms and hugged me.  I'm glad I spent many years after my teens and twenties fully appreciating him and his love for me. So in celebration of Father's Day I'll share my dad (Roger)with you.

Ten Facts about my Dad:

1. He was a writer and worked most of his life in the newspaper business.
2. His parents came from Russia just before WW II.
3. He wasn't afraid to cry and often did as he aged, especially when talking about his 4 children.
4. He always told me I was his favorite daughter; I have 3 brothers!  He loved this joke.
5. He was a good photographer.
6. He once severed a finger working in a factory; he asked them to sew it back on as he wouldn't be able to type.
7. He was a computer geek from way back and he ended up loving his Apple.
8. He smiled and laughed a lot.
9. He loved holidays especially Christmas.  He had a game he liked to play involving gift-giving and it had a set of rules!
10. Boating was his favorite leisure time activity.  He loved Minnesota lakes and took us on many water adventures.

I miss him immensely but am so very thankful for the time we did have.  My peaceful girl doesn't have clear recollections of her grandfather except through photos (he was the first one to feed her Newman's ice cream) but she loves to say "I sure miss Grandpa Roger, don't you mom?"  She usually says this as she rocks in his family's old rocker.I'm happy my other two children do have great memories and that my husband and my dad had a fantastic bond.

Happy Father's Day Dad! Love you and miss you!
(and as usually dad, I need help; new tires and your extra $100.00 you always seemed to save for me and I have so much to share with you...)

The photo is a late 1950's publicity photo. Someday I will share a newer photo but doesn't he look stylish!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fablehaven Part Two

(great cover...)
Rise of the Evening Star
Brandon Mull

Jana from Milk and Cookies; Comfort Reading made a comment on my review of Fablehaven #1 that this  "series just keeps getting stronger with each book"-and with this second one I agree.  It built nicely on top of the solid groundwork Mull created in the first.  While I was reading I kept thinking oh, I'll have to include that part in my review-you know like the part where:

  • Kendra sees new student, Casey for what he really is-a disgusting, decidedly not human creature. 
  • Or how her brother, Seth breaks into a mortuary in the middle of the night to steal a treasure with nothing more than a dog biscuit for help.
  • How that same treasure ends up eating something very, very important (can't say-don't want to ruin it). 
  • And then getting whisked away to Fablehaven by the super sleek Vanessa Santoro in her light-speed, ultra-chic vehicle.
  • Oh, they meet Warren, Dale's brother, scared by something so bone-chillingly awful that he's nearly catatonic.
  • You'll want to know how Coulton Dixon and  Tanugatoa Dufu save the...well, I really don't want to give too much away.
  • Oh, Grandpa and Grandma Sorenson are locked away and to save them, Kendra and Seth change into...(shh, I can't say it).

You're going to have to read this series and find out how all these events connect to each other...

Suffice it to say this book is filled with a suspenseful, page-turning plot with an intriguing cast of multi-dimensional characters (you never know who's the traitor...).  Whoops, I've said too much! Kendra's new magical abilities and Seth's antics will keep kids totally enthralled.   I will seek out the third book in this series (from the library) when I return from fablehaven-ah, I mean camping.  If Jana is correct then I'm in for a another treat. 
Counts toward my 2010 Support Your Local Library Challenge featured at Home Girl's Book Blog.

Highly Recommended
Middle Grade Fantasy

Read my review here of the first Fablehaven.

Other reviews are here:
What...more books
What to read
Rhiannon at The Diary of a Bookworm

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Chicago then and now

(Kalila and her dad-my peaceful husband)
     My step-daughter Kalila graduated from Northside College Prep on Monday night.  It was a grand and lengthy event but filled with many tears and memories.  Long ago when I met Kaylee's dad we used to road-trip back and forth to pick her up from her mom's Chicago home. She was already an avid reader-she was reading Julie of the Wolves as an 8 year old.  She didn't really care that I had also read it-years ago.  Now Kaylee drives herself to us-a time-saver-but I worry every trip.  We no longer plan her days, coordinate time with friends-she is a very independent being and soon she will head off to Oberlin in Ohio where she will learn and grow even more.  She already is an exceptional person, an economic whiz, a writer just waiting to be published and a humorous yang to her 15-year-old brother's yin and her little sister's heroine in her own family's story.  

     Kaylee and I had trouble from the beginning forming a relationship and I know this is not unusual but I expecteded it to be different.  I wanted too much and she didn't want anything.  I thought I had things to offer her (the hip stepmother) but again, she was so not interested.  She loved her mom and made it clear there wasn't any extra for me. I wish I had acted more like I didn't matter.  She regretted ever thinking it was a good idea that her dad and I marry.  It was a hard stretch and we generally battled about at least one thing every time she came to visit.  At some point I stopped trying so hard and at some point she hugged me by choice.   She and I have formed, just in the last few years, a more permanent relationship and I feel blessed to be let in just a little bit to this inner love circle.  We both love reading but as I've explored a variety of genres we have crossed over into similar territory.  She turned me on to Sarah Dessen and I gave her the Anna Godbersen series.  

    I look forward to her visits as I know we will find common ground in books, blogs and writing and someday there will be more.  I especially love to watch the relationship expand and change between her and  her two siblings.  Life is ever evolving and we never know what amazing relationships might grow if given the time.   I am so thankful for her wit and wisdom and what she brings to our family.   Congratulations, Kalila!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bloggiesta complete

The Finish Line

Here is what I accomplished:

1. Finish post for Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony (check)  2 hours
2.  Finish reading The Greengage Summer and review started (check-started not posted)  2.5 hours
3. I still do not have my post done for the Dalai Lama-I am overwhelmed by this task obviously.

    In trade though I did accomplish two other ideas-

4.  I closed out one email account, transferring my friends and
family to my gmail account.  Simplifing my life, just a bit.  I then plan to open a seperate gmail
account just for blogging.  I have half this project completed.  (check)   2 hours

5. I applied for an indiebound account and now will be able to link directly through them and earn tons of extra dough (??!!!)  selling books through my reviews!  My true master plan is revealed!!   1 hour

6.  I spent another 4 hours reading other posts and commenting on my regular blogs. 

11.5 hours spent Bloggiesta-ing!  Fantastico!

I loved the community of participation.  I would have loved to do more exploring but I failed to figure in the 2 hours spent chatting with friend and the library and the 5 hour drive to Chicago for stepdaughter's H.S. graduation.  The five hour trip did give me new post ideas and a chance to read the second book in Brandon Mull's Fablehaven series.  Peaceful girl and I are reading the first Harry Potter and what a joy it is to reread this, relishing in how well-written it is.  Such a true gem, J.K.!

That's it folks!  My first foray into Maw Book's Bloggiesta!! Thanks Natasha for hosting such a fun event!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Restoring Harmony


     Never has a book  made me want to pull up my American roots and transplant myself in Canada.  Restoring Harmony did!  Anthony, a Canadian, has done an amazing job of highlighting the U.S.'s decline against the more agrarian and successful Canadian landscape.   This is a dystopian novel for a middle grade audience and a glimpse into a future that I can imagine much more readily than the worlds created in Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games or Michael Grant's Gone series, both more shocking and scary societys. 


     Molly  McClure lives with her family on a secluded Canadian island where they grow their own food, rely on solar panels for energy, and  horse-drawn wagons and boats for transportation.  It's a simple life with a happy family where Molly begins her days playing fiddle on the front porch. Through a cyberspeak conversation (skype-like) Molly's mom, who happens to be pregnant, has reasons to believe her own mother may have died.  Molly's dad and siblings hold a meeting in the barn and elect her to be the one to travel to Oregon and bring her grandfather back to the safety of the island.  Along her travels she meets a cast of very interesting and likable characters, including a  handsome ruffian nicknamed Spill.

My thoughts:

     Reading the inside jacket cover of this book inticed me so much I read it within days of opening the envelope it came in.  I loved how the title and the cover illustration matched so well.  I was drawn to Molly's character and the way she handles her adventurous trip to the states after the Collapse of  2031.  I love having a book in my hand that keeps me reading and commenting (out loud) as I progress.  While the U.S. of 2041 is not in great shape (I loved how train travel was slow and erratic but really the only means to get anywhere) it still has vestiges of community.  It shows, without being overly didactic, how important simple skills might be: like tending your own garden.

    Molly's ability to adapt, improvise and think made her a true heroine of the future and in this way she did remind me of the great Katniss (The Hunger Games).  I loved how it dealt with real problems of today-oil is gone, the infrastructure is crumbling and big cities are in greater trouble than small communities.  Even though there are easy solutions within the story structure I think Anthony raises very real issues born from our own self-centered, enviormentally -abusive ways.  Our dependence on  crude oil will eventually get the better of  us.  I hope Anthony has a sequel in the works so I can read more about Molly and her extended family.

5/5 stars
highly recommended
for middle grade and above

Other reviews to enjoy:
Jen of Devourer of Books
S. Krishna's Books
Jessica at Shut Up!  I'm reading
***I won this book in a giveaway hosted by Joelle Anthony at The Debutante Ball. Thank you, Joelle, for personally signing and sending my copy!  I'm glad to have my own copy because I think I'll  reread this one, even though I'm not a rereader.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Natasha at Maw Book's is hosting this blogging party.  Click on her link for more information.  I spent most of tonight siesta-ing on the sofa from a massage/acupressure session that was incredible.  I'm still downing tons of water to flush out those nasty toxins.  Okay, yeah  (enough of that) but for the rest of the weekend I will be hard at work with chips, salsa and a proverbial margarita!  Ole!

I plan on finishing and posting  my reviews for Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony, The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden and my trip to see the Dalai Lama.  I also plan to visit a lot of blogs for some fresh ideas-Natasha has a nice list up of help topics available written by a variety of wise bloggers. 
I want to spend some reading time as well-finishing the parenting book I've been working on for 3 weeks and start something new and exciting from either my library bag or my own book shelves.
Let the bloggiesta begin!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Two days in...

and this is what I've accomplished:

1.  Watched my Netflix movie, The Holiday, which has been sitting around my DVD player for about 2 weeks.  The movie was okay but the highlight was Jude Law-he is seriously handsome albeit a bit of a cad.  Now I can send it back.  Our turnaround on Netflix movies is slow! 

2. Took my son for a short summer haircut.  He will be fishing and camping from late June through July and needed one good cut to get him through.  He'll still come back with his long curly locks framing his face. 

3. Got up early to do the mom thing with my daughter.  Generally, she is still sleeping when I leave for my school and her and dad struggle through breakfast, hair brushing, etc. on their own.  I feel extra special when I get to help.  This morning my husband and I biked her to school.  She still fits on the tandem bike so it takes only about 4 minutes to get to her school by bike!  (it's mostly downhill)  Today is her last day of school so I'm also going to have lunch with her for the last time as a second grader.  (tears dripping just a little)

4.  I've done tons of loads of laundry and after daughter left for school I putzed in her room, putting laundry away, making her bed, picking up a few toys-doing all the gentle things I imagine most stay-at-home moms do (but I'm sure they don't really as I know they have full agendas as well). 

5.  Here's the grossiest thing I did so far on my quest for a cleaner house-I cleaned out the bottom drawer of our freezer, which has had a fozen blueberry melty stuff all over it for quite a while-I don't want to get into specifics but it has been a year ago that the big storm knocked out our electrictity for 3 days and I'm just saying maybe...)  I know it makes me shudder to think I did not take the 10 minutes to get it up months ago but it wasn't hurting anyone:)

6.  My plan is also to write every day, not necessarily blogging but actually writing.  I did that yesterday and plan to do it today also.

7.  I have two books to finish and three posts to write and I'm participating this weekend in Mawbooks Bloggiesta festival to do some clean-up blog stuff!  I'm thrilled to participate in this event for the very first time.

8.  I made brownies for son's soccer banquet this evening.  The recipe is from my King Arthur cookbook.

Hurrah to summer for giving me the time to catch-up on my own life!!!
Now if I could manage to get up just a little earlier so I could start my early morning yoga routine again I would be completely happy!

and's your day shaping up?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Summer is here and the time is right...

I'm done with school as of today at about 4:39!!  I'm not planning on going back tomorrow either!  I'm not on the beach but this is just how I feel.  Whoop Whoop!!  I have a serious agenda for this summer and only some of it includes playing and reading.  My day was jammed packed with finishing up three huge projects and now the bliss begins!  I hope  your day is ending well and you can think cartwheels if not do them!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Nonfiction Saturday

Well, all my great library books are due today so here is my quickie review of the top three fantastic nonfiction books peaceful girl and I picked out.

What's Inside? Fascinating Structures Around the World by Giles Laroche (2009)
Includes a great glossary of each structure.

This is such a cool book for any child who loves to explore.  Each page opens the door to the amazing discovery on the next page.  Like this:  King Tut's tomb is hidden underground(shown on the opposite page),  but this brightly painted building was constructed on the rocky crest of a hill so it could always be seen silhouetted against the sky.  Monumental rows of Doric columns support triangular pediments at each end and surround a sanctuary that shelters a statue of this Greek city's namesake.  What's inside?  Turning the page you discover an ivory and gold statue of the goddess Athena!  Along the left side of the page are specific details about each structure.   The Guggenheim Museum in NYC, a Shaker dairy barn in Massachusetts, and the Sydney Opera House in Australia are just a few shown.   Wild Rose Reader has a more extensive review-click here-as well as an interview with Giles Laroche.

If Stones Could Speak; unlocking the secrets of Stonehenge by Marc Aronson with the generous cooperation of Mike Parker Pearson and the Riverside Project. (2010)  This is as much a story of the mysterious Stonehenge structure as it is a look at archaelogist Mike Parker Pearson.  Aronson tags along with Pearson as he guides a tour around Stonehenge.  I would love to see these boulders placed in circle formation more than 4,500 years ago but in case I don't make it this book gives a really close look at the types of rocks used, where they came from and the many theoriesof  how it all came to be.   This is a fascinating detailed look for budding archeologists.  Includes glossary and timeline as well. Another review is here at  Shelf-Employed .

Circle of Rice, Cycle of Life; A Story of Sustainable Farming by Jan Reynolds (2009)

This is a very detailed and lovely look at the cultural and environmental aspects of traditional Balinese rice farming, a model of sustainable food production.  Everybody eats rice-every culture-but this book shows how the island of Bali has coordinated life around the rice cultavation.  Because the Balinese were so adept at sharing water and growing rice, the Indonesian government decided (red flag) Bali should produce more rice.  They provided Bali farmers with a hybrid rice-set to grow faster and produce higher yields and the farmers were told to ignore their ancient water schedules and integrated systems of field rotation.  Bali's rice production suffered under these new practices.  "This type of chemically enhanced agriculture was not sustainable.  It could not maintain healthy, abundant crops of rice year after year, even with the aid of chemical pesticides and fertilizers."  Eventually farmers were able to go back to their system with the help of anthropologist, L. Stephen Lansing from the University of California.   This book is a wonderful tool to build understanding on how sustainable agriculture affects every form of life.  Fabulous photographs are included as well as a glossary and pronunciation guide.

Have fun exploring these interesting and informative titles.

Friday, June 4, 2010


(what a great cover)
by Brandon Mull

     I picked this one up from my book fair about a year ago and it's been sitting on my shelf just waiting for me.  My husband has even tapped it,  saying things like..."why don't you read this one-it looks good."  Even with that sales pitch from a man who hasn't read it, I still didn't take the bait.  Then I read on someone else's blog that the fifth book in the series was out and my mouth hung a little.   So much for being behind the times-I have plenty of excuses but I don't need to share them-you've heard them all before!

     Fablehaven is a mysterious safe haven for magical creatures.  You know here in the 21st Century we tend to shun all things odd-we like butterflies but not fairies.  I'm sure there would be quite an ebay bidding war if ever a fairy were to be found.  So all magical creatures have been moved to a variety of large farms.  Kendra and Seth's grandfather happens to be caretaker of one of the largest and most secretive (off the map) of these sanctuaries.  The siblings end up staying with their grandfather while their parents are  away on a cruise.  Grandpa Sorenson gives Seth and Kendra a  list of rules they are to abide by and it doesn't take but about 10 minutes for Seth to start breaking the rules; as most 11-year-old boys would do.  He goes exploring in the woods-right where his grandfather has asked him not to-and naturally, he meets a witch.  Kendra is more cautious but even she gets lured in by some of Seth's wanderings.  Seth had an excellent sense of humor and it is a joy to watch him test the waters of this new world to explore. 

     I was fully engaged in Seth and Kendra's story and the land Brandon Mull has created and I loved living vicariously through Seth's escapades-except when he looked out the window.  I was cringing then, like a typical mother, thinking "oh, no, you've gone too far this time"-knowing there would be serious consequences.   Now I've got a lot of catching up to do to get to book 5!  If you haven't read this one, give it a try!

4/5 peaceful stars
highly recommended-midlle school
plan on reading the rest of the series, soon.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Baked Goods

    My family loves baked goods and I'm not talking about the kind you get at the big box bakery or even the small local bakery, although they do eat those if you put them within reach.  The kind of baked goods I'm referring to are the ones whipped up in our own kitchen.  My family feels "cheated" if there isn't something freshly baked.  I'm not even a pro at baking but they don't seem to mind, at all.

     The question every week is do I actually make them something sweet to eat or do I get by with a package of Matt's Cookies?  What do you do?  Do you bake, buy or completely abstain?

     Tonight I was in the process of making a long time family favorite, Alice Bachman's Chocolate Cake.  Yes, it has always been called that-even growing up-my mother made it and we always referred to it as Alice Bachman's CC.  Alice was a family friend and while I don't think she "invented" the cake she brought it to many potluck functions thus the cake became hers.  My older brother, Mike uses it for many of his own family celebrations.   I tend to just make it on a whim.  I do make it with as many organic ingredients as I can-a change from the original but it is not exactly "healthy"-it has two sticks of yummy butter.  Hmmm!  Good thing I have an active family!  Click on Alice to find the recipe.

Trader Joe's shopping spot.

Singing for Mrs. Pettigrew-Teaser Tuesday

What a lovely holiday it has been. Something  very special about having an extra day off. Tomorrow is Tuesday and back to school.Ugh!   Graduation project must be done-check.  Inventory and state reports need to be done.  No more classes to brighten my day. Reports cards need to be done.  Lots of quiet time with paper work will fill my day!

Without further ado Teaser Tuesday is waiting...Should be Reading has all the rules posted so you too can play along.

Cherry sat with them by the fire till it died away to nothing.  She longed to go, to get home among the living, but the old man talked on of his family and their little one-room cottage with a ladder to the bedroom, where they all huddled together for warmth, of his friends that used to meet in the Tinners'  Arms every evening.  There were tales of wrecking and smuggling, and all the while the young man sat silent until there was a lull in the story.  "Father," he said.  "I think our little friend would like to go home now.  Shall I take her up as I usually do?"  (44) 
 Singing for Mrs. Pettigrew; Stories and Essays from a Writing Life by Michael Morpurgo

Why is it I can never just pick two sentences.. the whole quote works so well for me.