July 30, 2009

Why Evolution Is True by Jerry A Coyne: Review

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Confession: I've always wanted to read Darwin's Origin of the Species but I'm too intimated. I attempted it once but after reading the first couple of sentences, I panicked and ran. So when Chris said he was going to read Why Evolution Is True by Jerry A Coyne for Amy's 50 Books Challenge, I saw it as an opportunity to read about evolution.

Turns out, while Origin is the book that started it all, it is just a drop in the bucket of information about evolution. Since Darwin's time science has grown in knowledge through breakthroughs in genetics and paleontology. Coyne explains how these discoveries add validity to the theories of Darwin. Could he have imagined the mapping of the genome or the images of a baby growing in utero?

I had a hard time reading the chapters in fossils (yawn) but Why Evolution Is True's chapters on human beings were fascinating. I had to talk about it with someone. My husband asked me, "Why do you keep talking about appendix?" accompanied by strange looks. But I thought that information was just too interesting to keep to myself. The book is fairly easy to read and I recommend it.

So why is Why Evolution Is True important enough to have made it on the 50 books for Our Times list- one of the books that "open a window on the times we live in, whether they deal directly with the issues of today or simply help us see ourselves in new and surprising ways."? I think that can be answered in the Preface. Coyne fears that the Darwinism is at risk of becoming an endangered species, that the politics of Creationism will interfere with scientific study in the classroom. Although Coyne shows his disdain for Creationists, he points out the barbs they have made toward Darwinism. I see it as a really nasty game of "Red Rover."

Coyne isn't out to convert the believers of Creationism nor is he preaching to the choir:
"For those who oppose Darwinism purely as a matter of faith, no amount of evidence will do- theirs is a belief not based on reason. But for the many who find themselves uncertain, or who accept evolution but are not sure how to argue their case, this volume gives a succinct summary of why modern science recognizes evolution as true."

He doesn't exactly have to twist my rubber arm but he does give a thorough explanation of evolution. For me, the best chapter is the last "What About Us?" where he tells us that believing in evolution doesn't lead to cats and dogs living together.
"Evolution is simply a theory about the process and patterns of life's diversification, not a grand philosophical scheme about the meaning of life. It can't tell us what to do, or how we should behave."

And most beautifully: "Evolution tells us where we came from, not where we can go." That is in our hands.

Recommended.

July 29, 2009

Upcoming Bookish Movies

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There are a couple of great looking movies with a bookish element coming out soon. I thought I'd share a couple of trailers with you all.


First up is Bright Star directed by Jane Campion (in theatres Sept 18). Bright Star is about the love affair between poet John Keats and his neighbour Fanny Brawne. It looks so romantic!



The title comes from Keats' poem of the same name.

Bright Star, would I were steadfast as thou art -
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature's patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors-
No-yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever-or else swoon to death.

Another one I think looks interesting is The Picture of Dorian Gray. This is one of my favorite books by one of my favorite writers, Oscar Wilde. The story is about a young, good-looking man who has his portrait painted by a friend. That portrait ages and becomes uglier while Dorian retains all his outer beauty.

There is an old black and white film adaptation. I can't believe it's taken so long for someone to make an updated version. I hope it isn't changed too much though. This one will hit theatres Sept 9th.



Any movies with a bookish theme you're looking forward to?

Wordless: Tall Ships

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Here are a few scenes from the Tall Ships this past weekend (Friday evening). We saw this ship arrive, Mist of Avalon, a schooner.


Theodore Tugboat at the Terminal. The Big Fiddle and Mist of Avalon in the background.


Canon fire. This was the first time this canon was fired outside of Louisbourg.

These photos were taken by my husband. Great job!

July 28, 2009

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese: A Review

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Alright, put your faces on stunned, because Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese is about the lives of mirror twins born of the illicit affair between a surgeon and a NUN. *shock, awe* Marion and Shiva came into the world very dramatically. Their father, Thomas Stone, didn't know their mother Sister Mary Praise was pregnant with his sons. In fact, he can't even remember doing the deed. And it's all too late to talk about because she dies in a scene of blood and gore. Thomas has a breakdown and runs away from Missing Hospital in Ethiopia leaving his sons to be cared for by two other doctors.

Hema and Ghosh raise the boys like they were their own blood. The boys have a fairly happy but unusual childhood growing up in a hospital serving the poorest people. Although the twins often function as one being (ShivaMarion), they are opposites in personality. Though quiet, Shiva is a genius and doesn't quite understand relationships. Marion, who narrates the story, often doesn't get his brother.

When Marion falls hard for Genet, a beautiful Ethiopian girl, he vows to have her even though she's awful to him. She does some nasty stuff to him that causes a rift between brothers and ultimately has Marion fleeing to America.

In the US, Marion works hard honing his surgical skills and trying to forget his past. As fate would have it, his past will catch up with him in a couple of very BIG ways.

There is a lot going for Cutting for Stone. The setting of Ethiopia is exotic, interesting and beautiful. Every character is well created, you can't help but love them (except for one or two). The story is both entertaining and engaging. I enjoyed so much of the book, but... it was a massive book. I like big books and I can not lie but I felt a lot of it could have been edited down- the medical parts especially. If you are bothered by blood, you better pass because there is a LOT.

There is one aspect of the story that bothered me: the relationship between Marion and Genet. I just didn't understand why he loved her so much. Sure she was beautiful but she treated him like dirt. What she does and how he reacts to her has terrible consequences. Ugh.

It was a great book, for sure, but there was something about it that just didn't float my boat the way it did for other reviewers who thought it was awesome.

Thanks to Random House for the review copy.

Recommended

July 27, 2009

Summer of Hitchcock: The Man Who Knew Too Much

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The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

Which should be title The Couple Who Knew Too Much since it revolves around a married couple and their young son on vacation in Morocco. James Stewart, Dr Ben McKenna, and his wife Jo, played by Doris Day, encounter a Frenchman who befriends them. Unbeknownst to them their new friend is a spy. When he is murdered in the marketplace, he shares some information with Ben that will put his family in danger.

This isn't my favorite Hitchcock film although I thought there were some great parts. The scene with Doris and the orchestra was pretty dramatic. One part that I thought would never make it nowadays is when the Ben makes his wife take a pill before he tells her their son has been kidnapped. Like, keep the woman from getting hysterical (hello, her kid was taken!) and then later he gets annoyed with her because she can't focus! Don't drug her then!

I thought Doris was the actor who stole this show. She was really good and her character pretty sharp. The assassin dude was so creepy- he looked like a mummy!

This was the second time Hitchcock made this film. The first time was in 1934. He once said that the first version was "the work of a talented amateur and the second was made by a professional." Ha!

July 26, 2009

Strawberry Fields Forever

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No this isn't about Sir Paul (I didn't get to see him in Halifax but I heard he was awesome). This is about my strawberry picking adventure. I wish I had brought my camera with me. Some pics of the field would have been fun. My friend and our girls found a U-pick farm and had to drive waaay up into the woods. Good thing she had a truck because I would not get my car up there! It was the end of the season so the pickins were slim but I still managed to get about 8lbs of strawberries.

Here's what I did with them.


Jam


Cupcakes
These came from the Martha Stewart Cupcake cookbook. These are Strawberry Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue frosting. Yum!

July 22, 2009

Back In (Blogging) Business

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Yep, I've been a lazy blogger. Summer activities with my girl have taken up most of my time. Even my reading is suffering. I've been reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese and although it's really good, it's taking me forever to read it. I did manage to read Why Evolution Is True by Jerry Coyne and I'll have that review up soon. In the meantime, I have some blogging business to which I must attend.

First, some great folks have given me blogging awards. Jules and Michael gave me

I'm supposed to list 7 of my favorite things:

1. My girl's funny antics
2. The hubs
3. Coffee
4. Chocolate
5. A really good book
6. A day when I can sleep in
7. A soft kitten

TexasRed,I'm ashamed to say, gave me The Literary Blogger Award back in June. Sheez, talk about lazy! I need to get faster at acknowledging these awards. On a side note, I need a cartoon version of myself the way that TexasRed does.

The Literary Blogger Award acknowledges bloggers who energize & inspire reading by going the extra mile. These amazing bloggers make reading fun & enhance the delight of reading!

Thanks guys! You guys are awesome to think of my blog for these awards.

So we've established that I'm lazy so I'm just going to pass these awards onto anyone who is reading this post today because I appreciate anyone who still reads my blog- especially over the summer! My blog stats are below sea level.


Secondly, I joined The 3rd Canadian Books Challenge but neglected to post my book list. I'm taking a relaxed approach this year and leaving lots of room for additions and changes.

1. The Year of the Flood
2. Generation A
3. If You Live Like Me
4. Not Wanted On the Voyage
5. Travels With Farley
6-13. Unknown

I just had a look at my bookshelves and it makes me sad to see all the books I want to read. I need to clone myself or at least get a housekeeper.

Now I must read. Later people!

July 21, 2009

Nasturtium 2009

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This is my favorite summer flower. I love the yellows, oranges and reds.

More Wordless.

July 20, 2009

Coraline DVD: I Want

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My friend informed me that Coraline will be released on DVD on Tuesday. Yipee! I didn't get a chance to see it in theatres so I'll be buying it to watch whenever I feel like it.

July 15, 2009

The Penny Pinchers Club by Sarah Strohmeyer: Review

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Kat thinks she has the perfect life. Her daughter is graduating soon. She and her husband Griff, a professor of economics, will be empty-nesters ready to start a new chapter in their lives. Or maybe her husband is ready to start one with his young assistant instead.

When Kat finds evidence of infidelity- condoms and a secret bank account, her sister steps in and insists she get a lawyer and get prepared. Divorce, it turns out, is an expensive undertaking. Kat has a bit of a shopping problem and the debt to match. The lawyer suggests a massive change in lifestyle in order to save money for the inevitable.

Kat needs cash fast and even after cutting out her Starbucks habit and trading in her Lexus, it's not enough. She joins the Penny Pinchers Club, an eclectic group of people who trade coupons and money saving advice. The group holds her hand as they help her buy in bulk and bully cranky store managers. Things may have gone too far when a foray into dumpster diving lands in her jail.

As Kat waits for Griff to announce he's leaving, an old flame reappears. Should they start back up where they left off 20 years ago? Or should Kat fight for her marriage?

Although The Penny Pinchers Club by Sarah Strohmeyer is a funny and entertaining read, it carries a serious message. Kat wouldn't be in the situation she's in if she wasn't a mindless spender. And while some of what the Penny Pinchers do is extreme, they do have some good ideas. Kat, herself, learns to take a good hard look at her finances, something I know we should all do (gulp!). For Kat, it takes a shocking event to prompt her to do it. Hopefully, it takes a little less for the rest of us.

The Penny Pinchers Club was a fun, summer read. The pacing was good and the characters well written. The only problem I had with it was on the very last page. It was an eye roller.

Recommended

July 14, 2009

Guest Post: Karen E Olson Author of The Missing Ink

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Yesterday I reviewed Karen E Olson's latest mystery The Missing Ink and today I'm happy to have Karen guest host here on book-a-rama. Karen is not only the author of The Missing Ink but also the Annie Seymour mystery series. The Missing Ink is the first of The Tattoo Shop Mysteries with Pretty in Ink to follow. Just yesterday, she signed on for two more books in the series. Congrats, Karen!

Now here's Karen.

When my editor told me that she wanted me to write a new series, I had a
panic attack. I’d never thought about writing another series. I thought
I’d grow old with Annie Seymour like Sara Paretsky has with VI Warshawski,
like Sue Grafton with Kinsey Milhone, like Marcia Muller with Sharon
McCone.

Suddenly, my world — or at least, Annie’s world — was gone.

I brainstormed with my agent about what sorts of characters I could
create. I came up with a house sitter, a bus driver, a political blogger
(it was during the presidential primaries and I was obsessed). I even went
as far as to write a first chapter with the political blogger, but my
editor said her people wanted something totally different from me. So I
asked her, what were they looking for?

A tattoo shop mystery.

I think I laughed. Me? Write about a tattoo shop? I have no tattoos. I
don’t really know anything about that world; I never even dated a guy with
a tattoo. I’d certainly never been inside a tattoo shop.

My editor told me she had faith in me. That she knew I could do this.
After some soul searching and reading a book about the history of women
and tattoos, I sat down to write what’s called a series bible, a
description of the characters and setting, which just so happens to be Las
Vegas.

So I started thinking about it. Brett Kavanaugh would be the name of the
tattoo shop owner. She’s from New Jersey and moved to Vegas when her
brother’s fiancĂ©e moved out of the house and he needed help paying the
mortgage. Her brother, Tim, is a Las Vegas police detective.

I needed tattooist employees, so I created Joel Sloane, a 300-pound man
who is perpetually on Weight Watchers, and Ace van Nes, an incredibly good
looking man with perfect hair and perfect tattoos who is a frustrated
artist. Bitsy Hendricks is the shop manager. She’s a little person and
drives a Mini Cooper. She’s also tough as nails.

As I wrote about these characters, filling in details and descriptions, I
found myself drawn to them. Granted, there were characters included in the
series bible who never made it into the book. And there are characters who
weren’t in the series bible who just showed up and demanded their own page
space. I created a whole different world from the one Annie inhabited.
And I found it to be just as fun. Maybe a little more fun, actually.

But don’t tell Annie.

What do you like about series books?

Karen

Thanks Karen! The thing about series I like is being able to revisit favorite characters in a new situation. They become almost like old friends. We get to see more of their personalities as the series continues.

July 13, 2009

The Missing Ink by Karen E Olson: Review

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Brett Kavanaugh left her life in New England behind to open a high-end tattoo shop in Las Vegas. The Painted Lady serves a classy clientele who want a permanent souvenir of their visit, so Brett isn't surprised when a stereotypical rich girl asks for a devotion tattoo. She arranges an appointment but never shows. Brett doesn't think too much of it, until the girl turns up missing. Even more intriguing- the name in the tattoo wasn't her fiance's.

When a large tattooed man starts following Brett around, she wonders just who this girl is and what happened to her. A little investigating leads her to a millionaire, a competitor, a dead body and an Englishman. What do these things have in common? Brett, with a little help from her loyal employees, is determined to find out and find the girl.

I can't say enough how much fun The Missing Ink by Karen E Olson is! Many of you know Karen wrote the Annie Seymour series, but in The Missing Ink she tries something different. Brett is a softer touch than Annie but she's still a strong female protagonist. She's an artist with a needle. I love her style (I think I want a tattoo now- a little bit). And the Vegas setting was a riot. Where else can you find a bar full of karaoke Elvises?

A quirky mix of secondary characters adds a bit of humour to the story: Joel is a big lovable guy who has a love for haute couture, Bitsy is a tiny seductress and nosy to boot, Ace never met a mirror he didn't like. Tim, Brett's cop brother, is fed up with her meddling ways but they have to share living space. To add a little romantic interest, Brett meets a suave hotel manager with piercing brown eyes. I can't wait to see where that's going to go.

The Missing Ink isn't so much a whodunit as a whydunit. As usual, Karen leads us around in circles leaving clues here and there until it all comes together at the end. I'm already looking forward to the second book in the series, Pretty in Ink.

One more thing- I love the cover. I don't know who the artist was but it's really beautiful.

Highly recommended.




Stay tuned for a guest post from Karen E Olson tomorrow on book-a-rama!

July 9, 2009

Weekly Geeks: #25 Patriotic Reads

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We just had Canada Day last week. It was a pretty soggy one this year but usually the day is celebrated with picnics, bbqs and fireworks. Like Americans, we celebrate our country's birth by "blowing up a small part of it." Although people around here like fireworks even more on Halloween. The air is blue from gunpowder on that night. On Canada Day, we become very patriotic and cover everything in red, white and maple leaves. I'm particularly fond of temporary tattoos.

Anyway, Canada Day celebrates Confederation, when Upper and Lower Canada joined the Maritimes to become Canada. Later the other provinces and territories joined this union. Unlike the US, there was no revolution (a few revolts here and there), mostly it was a bunch of guys lobbying the Queen for independence. I guess the squeaky wheel gets the grease because on July 1, 1867, we became The Dominion of Canada (Canada Day was originally called Dominion Day).

As for books, I know Pierre Berton wrote tons of books on Canadian history. I haven't read any yet but I hear they are very accessible. An idealized look at Canadian life at the end of the 1800's would be the works of L.M. Montgomery, like Anne of Green Gables. For a humourous look at Canadian life, there is How to be a Canadian: Even If You Already Are One by Will & Ian Ferguson.

More Weekly Geeks

July 8, 2009

Wordless: Peony 2009

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More Wordless

July 7, 2009

The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns by Elizabeth Leiknes: Review

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Lucy Burns hates her job. Sure, it has some perks: eternal youth, beauty, the power of mind control, but leading people to their damnation isn't what it's cracked up to be. Lucy is a facilitator for the devil. A job she got after making a pact with him years ago.

The loneliness is the worst. Lucy has to give up her family- too many questions. Her relationships are shallow one night stands. Relationships make her sick, literally. The people closest to her are her neighbours: Maggie, the stay at home Mom, her son, Finn and her husband David.

Although her job sucks, she knows there is no way out. Or is there? When her childhood idol reveals his own secret past to her, he offers her the chance to get out and have a normal life. Of course, it won't be easy. There is a price to be paid.

I enjoyed The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns by Elizabeth Leiknes much more than I ever imagined. I didn't know what to expect when I started reading but it drew me in right away. The book is very short, I read it within a couple of hours, but it has so many layers. It's clever and quirky. Although it is a funny book, it is essentially a modern morality tale. We all have choices in life and they aren't always black and white. It was quite the page turner near the end.

I only had two issues with the book. One, the thought of a child inadvertently making a pact with the devil gives me the heebie-geebies. And two, the end wrapped up too quickly, although I was still all choked about it.

I want to give a HUGE thanks to Harrison Demchick from Bancroft Press who sent me the most awesome email. He read my blog and found the right book to offer me for review. Great job! I think The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns will be a viral hit with book bloggers. A hidden gem.

Highly recommended!

July 6, 2009

Summer of Hitchcock: Psycho

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Psycho

In Psycho, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is a single woman in love Sam Loomis (John Gavin). He is too poor to marry her, so when Marion has the chance to steal $40000 she takes it. Marion drives all night and day, trying to get to her lover but the weather is bad and she has to stop at a motel for the night. The motel owner is a young man named Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) who has loud arguments his invalid mother. Marion never sees 'Mother' but while in the shower she is attacked by someone.

Marion's sister Lila (Vera Miles) is determined to find her after everyone learns she's taken the money. She heads to Sam's town where she meets him and a PI. The PI becomes suspicious of Norman. A nervous Norman makes some strange comments and the PI sneaks into the Bates house where he has a run in with Mother. Now it's up to Lila and Sam to find out what is going on at the Bates Motel.

Back in high school, I had this friend who couldn't take a shower if she was home alone. When she was a kid, she had seen the movie Psycho. The shower scene disturbed her that much.

Nowadays with movies like Saw, Psycho seems pretty tame, but when it was released in 1960, it was shocking. It is considered the first slasher film. Hitchcock filmed the movie in black and white even though colour was becoming the standard because it would have been too gory otherwise (according to TCM).

There are so many memorable lines in the film, like "A boy's best friend is his mother" and "She wouldn't hurt a fly." I think everyone is familiar with the 'shreech, shreech, shreech' music in the shower.

I was surprised at how attractive Norman is when we first see him. He's clean cut, young and smiles a lot. Slowly he becomes creepier. By the end, he's super-creepy. So, what about Mother? If you haven't seen the movie, I won't spoil the fun!


July 5, 2009

Don't Call Me a Crook by "Bob Moore": Review

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I tried reading this a few weeks ago but got so fed up with it I put it aside. I figured it would be on the DNF list. In the meantime, I read a couple of other books. Then publicist Lisa Roe asked me for my review and I thought I'd end up explaining to everyone why I didn't finish it. However, I gave Don't Call Me a Crook another go. I must have needed a palate cleanser because I found it to be more entertaining the second time around.

From the very beginning, Bob Moore tells us he's not a crook. Then why the pseudonym, Bob? My definition of a crook must be different from Bob's because he commits every crime from arson to murder throughout this book. He says he would not choose to live a life of crime and this is the difference between him and a crook. He only takes advantage of opportunities as they present themselves... sure...

Bob, having trained as a marine engineer in Scotland, sets out to travel the world. First stop, America where he immediately steals, pardon me, swipes diamonds and lives the high life until the money runs out. From there, he gets involved in every kind of scheme imaginable, rum running, fraud and occasionally honest work though this always seems to end badly. He also gets married just to see what it's like but since it isn't for him he deserts her and his child.

Bob is either the most charming guy in the world or he manages to find the dumbest people to hang around with because they are practically begging him to rob them. He gives many people "a lesson" after he leaves them penniless. No matter what happens Bob always comes out smelling like a rose.

There is an entertaining interlude where he works on a millionaire's yacht and for once he's not the crookedest person around. I think this is my favorite part of the book. The last section is about his adventures in China and these are the hardest to stomach. I think I could have done without it. He quickly loses my sympathy as he goes from simply idiotic to repulsive.

Don't Call Me a Crook is like an accident on the highway. You don't want to look but you do it anyway always afraid of what you'll see. There's no doubt that Bob is a storyteller, possibly a tall tale teller. I've known guys who could spin a yarn around the kitchen table drinking a beer but luckily not the stomach turning kind that Bob tells. He never makes apologies though. What's done is done and there is no sense in dwelling on it. He's a misogynist, a racist and a criminal but don't call him a crook.

The writing style is difficult to get used to but once you do it's not so bad. Bob's adventures are the money maker here not his prose. Though sometimes horrific, sometimes unbelievable, it is an interesting look at the 1920's. Just put your indignation aside while reading.

books i done read
Bookfool

July 4, 2009

Stolen Feed

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If you are reading this on another blog than book-a-rama, you are reading a stolen feed.

Visit book-a-rama

July 2, 2009

Eco Reading Challenge Update: #3

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Here we are, already on our third update for the Eco Reading Challenge. Are you learning anything about the environment? Have you made any big changes? How about small ones? It all adds up!

I finished my 3rd book for the challenge. I think I'm not going to read the Suzuki guide. I'm all guided out. I'll find another book instead.

So did I tell you about my garden? It exploded! Things have gotten so big. I've already made salads from lettuce, spinach and radishes. Everything is so much more tasty than store bought. My carrots are getting bigger as well. I'm still waiting for my peas to flower. We've been having a lot of rain. It's miserable. My spinach is really suffering.

On the tomato front, I have 2 little green Window-Box variety ones. So exciting! I also bought 3 Heritage tomato plants from the Tomato Lady at the Farmers' Market. She calls them Yellow Canary, Tiger Striped and Latka (?). She grows something like 200 varieties, including a fuzzy pink. I wasn't that brave.

The Ecoholic guide was useful for something. Vasil recommended Terra Cycle fertilizer- diluted worm poop. I love telling people that. It has gross out value. Worm poop is a great natural fertilizer. It has helped my garden. You can spray it all over everything and it doesn't do any damage. Terra Cycle uses recycled pop bottles so that's another point in their favour.

So now for some pics:


July 1, 2009

The Finish Line: The I Suck at Challenges Challenge

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Well folks, that's the end of the challenge but I've had requests to keep the updates going. So, every month we'll do updates on our challenges here at book-a-rama. I'll come up with a snappy name and a button ;)

So, how did you all do? Surprisingly, I managed to keep on track and finished quite a few- even the Canadian Reading Challenge! Yay!

So here's how things look:

Just for the Love of It: 3/5 (uncompleted)
The 2nd Canadian Reading Challenge: 13/13
Dewey's Books Reading Challenge: 5/5
The Eco Reading Challenge: 3/5 (ongoing)

Now for the winner of my surprise package:

Bookfool

Here's what I collected.



*A variety of bookmarks
*Some bookplates
*Notebook
*I<3 reading button (plus bonus)
*Anne-Julie mirror


Congrats Bookfool! Email me your address and I'll get it out to you.

My thanks to everyone who left comments and links to updates. I really appreciated your participation!

Any final thoughts?

Happy Canada Day!

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Happy Canada Day!!!!


Here's a cute video. Enjoy!

nrelate