February 27, 2010

Weekly Geeks: Commenting on Comments

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Commenting has been on my mind lately, which is why I chose the topic for this week's Weekly Geeks. You may have noticed that I've installed Intense Debate as for my blog. Back when I participated in Bloggiesta, I began looking into a new system for comments. I looked at a few but ended up chickening out. Then a few other bloggers installed Intense Debate and I decided to take the plunge. I'm crossing my fingers that people will like it and use it.

Spam has been an awful problem for me the last month. Every night I'd go to bed with an empty inbox and wake up to a dozen messages- all of them spam. It's disheartening to see all those comments and realize they aren't legitimate commenters. And some of them are just bizarre or head-scratching. As much as I hate word verification, I had to enable it. I'm not the only blogger frustrated with spammers. Heather from The Library Ladder wrote a letter to her spammer this past week.

Other than spam, I haven't had many problems with commenters. Everyone who comments is polite, even when disagreeing. The couple of authors who've visited my blog have left lovely comments. So far all my experiences there have been positive (knock on wood).

I try to reply to my comments here on my blog. I'm much better at replying on the day I published the post. I tend to get lazy after that. I apologize for that. 

If you have any comments on my commenting system, please comment!

February 26, 2010

100 Mile Fitness Challenge: Month 2

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That's my cat. She really likes the Wii Fit board- not for exercising though.

The 100 Mile Fitness Challenge continues on. I was happy with my progress until this week. I don't know if I was fighting off a virus or if I hurt myself exercising, but I was achy all over for about 3 days. I seem to be over it now. 

Here's an update

Week 5:  12 miles
Week 6:  11 miles
Week 7:  10 miles
Week 8:  8 miles
______________
Total This month:   41
Last Month:           32
__________________
Total:                      73


27 to go! One month left. I can do it! I really kicked it up this month. I hope I can keep it up.

And I did finally get to go skating. It was so much fun. I really enjoyed myself. 

February 25, 2010

Fish for Dinner by Paul O'Neill: Review

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Sometimes you need a book that makes you smile. I was lucky enough to find Fish for Dinner by Paul O'Neill on display in the library. Even though I had an armload of books already, I took this one out too. I just couldn't resist a book where the author is compared to the Brothers Grimm.

Fish for Dinner is a collection of stories written by Paul O'Neill but taken from the oral traditions and folklore from around the world. They are fables and fairy tales with a distinctive Newfoundland flavour. O'Neill has taken these tales peopled them with Newfoundland characters and placed them in Newfoundland settings. The result is magical and charming.

The stories reflect the numerous cultures that have lived in Newfoundland and Labrador over thousands of years from the Paleo-Eskimo and Beothuk to the Irish and French. Among the stories you will find a pretty Inuit girl kidnapped by water spirits, a French girl in love with a tree and a Viking with a bad temper. Then there are the animal tales: a Newfoundland dog outwits a fox and a weasel finds a human wife. All whimsical tales.

Although I was reminded of Hans Christian Andersen's stories as I read, O'Neill's tales are upbeat and happy. The good are rewarded and the bad are punished. That's not to say there is not some sadness, that's necessary in the some of the stories. I came away feeling that O'Neill succeeded in entertaining his audience in much the same way his father entertained him as a child. I did find that I enjoyed the stories at the beginning of the book more than the ones toward the end. I especially liked Fish for Dinner (of which the book takes it's title) where a captain turns into a fish and is nearly served up for dinner!

Each story is illustrated beautifully by Tara Fleming. They set the tone for the stories perfectly.

 

If you love fairy tales and folklore, I highly recommend Fish for Dinner.

February 23, 2010

Lessons Learned by a Volunteer School Librarian

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I've been volunteering at my daughter's school as a parent librarian now for two years. I really enjoy it since I get to know the school, kids and teachers my daughter sees everyday a little more. She also loves it especially when her and my library day coincide.

The school serves a couple of small communities so the library isn't huge. We don't have a computerized system so there is often a lot of guess work involved. Since the library is organized by volunteers, they all have their own ideas about how things should be shelved. Some things are easy: books on horses go in the animal section but what do you do with a book about tanks? Military or machinery? Finding something for a student can be a bit challenging.

Then there's the kids. Here's a few things I've learned.

Kids Don't Know Authors

The older children have a fair sized novel section but it is alphabetized by author. Guess what? Kids never know the names of authors. They know the titles but names... forget about it. Unfortunately, neither do I. You think I would, doing what I do, but I have the worst memory for names. Most of the time I end up when a kid asks for a book I end up scanning the shelves for them. It's a good thing we don't have a lot.

Kids Are Curious

A couple of weeks ago, I had the grade ones in the library. There was a girl who was not at all shy. She walked right up to me. "You got a kid in this school, lady?" Yeeees. I told her who. "Oh yeah, I know her." I guess I checked out. She reminded me of Junie B Jones. It was so funny.

Kids Might Be Too Curious

Sometimes I get a request that surprises me. I'm not really surprised by young girls looking for Twilight books, even though it seems we do not have them in the library. The school has kids ages 5-12 so I imagine the school only gets books for that age group. Twilight might be a little old for them. What did surprise me was a request for The Lovely Bones. I can only assume that the girl asking for it was unaware of the brutal rape and murder scene at the beginning of the book.

No One Names Their Kids 'John' Anymore

Part of the check out process involves writing down what child took out what book for the teacher. This is always challenging. There is a healthy immigrant population and as expected they have names I've never heard before. However, there are the other kids with run of the mill names. That should be easy. It's not. I think I've spelled Kaylee about a dozen different ways now. Even when you think you got it, they'll throw in an extra letter or two to keep it interesting.

Kids Like Hamsters

I get many, many requests for the same books from kids. Spongebob and Pokemon are at the top of the list but they are second to the most requested book. It's a book on taking care of hamsters. Everybody wants it. It's always out. My daughter has had it out twice. We don't own a hamster! We have no plans to get one either.

When They Like Something, They Stick With It

I notice that some kids take out the same book several times, but one little guy takes the cake. He took the same book out (sports related) six times in a row.

Kids Are Adorable

Like this is a surprise. A while ago, a little red haired boy came up to me and whispered. "Miss?" I bent down, thinking he wanted me to find something for him, "Can I help you, Bud?" He looked at me. "Um, no, I just wanted to say I love the library." Aw! So cute.

I'm sure I'll learn a lot more as the year continues.

February 22, 2010

The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson: Review

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On Twitter, I happened to mention that I was thinking of reading Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson when Eva told me to read The New Moon's Arms. Why? Because it has (wait for it)...

Mermaidz!

I was sold.


In The New Moon's Arm, Calamity Lambkin has just buried her father after years of caring for him. Their relationship was strained. When Calamity was a teen, she got pregnant after an afternoon of experimentation with her gay best friend. Calamity raised Ifeoma on her own in Cayaba but she wasn't always a good mother. Now a grandmother, she just can't accept that she's getting older even though menopause is staring her in the face.

The recent hot flashes aren't just a precursor to the Change, they are bringing a past talent with them. Once when she was a little girl, Calamity could find anything that was lost. Now, once again she's finding things with a vengeance; lost childhood objects are falling from the sky. After a storm, she finds a little boy washed up on the shore. He's no ordinary boy though. Calamity suspects that he's one of the "sea people," creatures a part of the mythology of the island.

Calamity is determined to keep the little boy to herself which only causes more tension between herself and Ifeoma.

The New Moon's Arm is a layered story; it's partly fantasy, but Calamity's personal life feels quite real. Her life is pretty complicated without supernatural powers or creatures. There were times I just wanted to strangle her. She's prickly to say the least. At times, it's very hard to like her. She just can't stop herself from saying the most hurtful things. Mostly, what she says is to protect herself. She's had a very hard life. She's a much more fragile person than she let's on.

I didn't find the supernatural elements too odd, in fact, they fit in nicely with the Caribbean setting. You'd expect mermaids swimming around down there! It was the perfect blend of fantasy and reality. I was somewhat confused about a few things at the end and wished that those things were better explained. However, I enjoyed the writing style which made for easy and quick reading.

I'd definitely read more of Nalo Hopkinson. Recommended.

February 21, 2010

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: Review

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It's not often I find a book so good that I think about it when I'm not reading it. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Heale Hurston is one of those books. I knew of the book because of Oprah and even watched the TV movie but until The Classics Circuit never considered reading the book. I'm so glad I finally did.

Janie had a fairly happy childhood being raised by her grandmother. However, after Janie is caught kissing a boy, her grandmother marries her off to a farmer out of fear that Janie needs protecting. For Janie this is an unhappy situation. She is looking for true love and life on a farm hauling manure isn't the place to find it. Then one day Joe Sparks walks down the road and offers her a better life. Janie takes the opportunity.

She soon discovers that she's just traded one life of drudgery for another. Joe sets himself up as the mayor of the new town of Eatonville and as an important man, he expects certain behaviour from his wife. That is to say Joe wants meekness and gentility. Janie finds the pressure to bend to his will crushing and over the years she loses a part of her soul.

When Joe dies, Janie feels free and at first attempts to hide her feelings from the judgmental townspeople. Suddenly single men from everywhere turn up at her door telling her, "Uh woman by herself is uh pitiful thing." But as Janie points out to her friend Pheoby, they just want to marry her bank account. Janie enjoys her freedom until a younger man named Tea Cake shows her how to live. Janie no longer hides behind a facade of false grief which shocks the whole town. They are even more disapproving when she runs off with Tea Cake.

Written in 1937 this is a surprisingly modern piece of women's fiction. Their Eyes Were Watching God was unappreciated, to say the least, by her contemporaries. To the black male writers Hurston's writing wasn't serious enough. They just didn't get it. Maybe this is because Hurston was a woman writing a woman's story and like it or not a woman's story is just not the same as a man's. It wasn't until Alice Walker wrote an article about Hurston in the 70s that the masses discovered just what a great writer she was.

The book opens, with Janie walking back into town and through telling Pheoby the story of her life, we find out what happened to her and just what the relationship is between her and Tea Cake. The narration is an interesting combination of southern vernacular and some of the most lyrical prose I've ever read. Here is just the first paragraph:
Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever in the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.

It's the kind of writing you can sink right down into. Hurston creates an atmosphere where you feel that Florida is the only place in the world, that nowhere else exists. You see the pear tree, hear the bees, experience the hurricane.

What I liked the most about the book was how Janie finally starts to please herself after 20 years of marriage to a bully. She doesn't let the ideals of the townspeople, who think they know what's best for her, dictate her life. They think they know Janie but all they know is the person Joe wanted them to see. That wasn't the real Janie. I thought it was funny how they blamed this new behaviour on Tea Cake, like she couldn't make any decisions for herself. Afterall she was 'just a woman'.

Even though times have changed, some things stay the same. When Janie hooks up with Tea Cake, the people of Eatonville are shocked. "She's 'way too old for a boy like Tea Cake." People still make a big deal about an older woman with a younger man. They call them Cougars like they are predators and make fun of them on TV and in movies. Meanwhile, old Hugh Hefner prances around with girls old enough to be his granddaughters and everyone treats him like a stud.

I'm actually glad to have just read Their Eyes Are Watching God at this point in my life. Since Janie and I are near the same age. I wonder what I would have thought of it 10 or more years ago. I can appreciate Janie's desire to please herself and not let other people's opinions matter to her. I'm starting to care less about what other people think, although it is hard to let go of those old habits.

While Their Eyes Were Watching God might have been dismissed when it was written, it is certainly is being appreciated now. This would make an excellent selection for The Woman Unbound challenge or a book club pick. There is so much to discuss in this book. There is also a Zora Neale Hurston website.


Thank you to the Classics Circuit for the opportunity to review this book. Please visit the Classics Circuit blog for more books on the Harlem Renaissance.

February 20, 2010

What's in them Scones?

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I was in the mood for scones but wanted to make them on the healthy side. I used this recipe for Honey Whole Wheat Scones from Canadian Living but added 1/2 cup blueberries at the end of mixing. They were so crumbly and good.

Ingredients can make or break a recipe. This one uses a lot of baking powder. I once used baking powder that had previously gotten wet and then dried in a recipe. It didn't come out quite right. The baking powder had lost it's "magic". I didn't know at the time that moisture causes it to lose it's effectiveness.

I'd like to talk about a few of the ingredients I used in these scones.


Flour: The whole wheat flour I used was organic Red Fife flour which I discovered a few months ago. It's become a favorite of mine.

Butter: I'll use butter in just about any recipe. This one did call for butter but I use butter for margarine even though it might change the end result. I used to use hard margarine in everything but then all those reports came out about how really bad it is for you. I haven't been able to use It's Nearly Plastic since.

Honey: I try to buy local whenever I can and honey is something I can get year round. I get my Wild Flower Cape Breton Honey from the "Honey Man" at the Farmer's Market. I use it in my Chai tea all the time. It's so good!


Wild Blueberries: The last few years I've been too lazy to pick my own blueberries. When I was a kid, my brothers and I would pick them behind our house. We had the "one for the bucket, two for me" method down to an art. The trees have grown up around the old house quite a bit so the picking isn't as good as it once was. This year I bought a couple of liters at the Farmers' Market. It was worth every cent. Blueberries freeze very well so you can have them throughout the year.

Do you have a favorite ingredient (or two) that you love to bake with?


February 17, 2010

Puntcuation Humour: Kicking the Habit

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Exclamation marks

That lady is me. I know I have a problem with exclamation marks. It's an illness really. I'm especially bad for it in comments. For example, Great post! or Awesome job! This might give people the impression that if you met me, I'd be jumping up and down like an overexcited golden retriever. I'm quite calm in real life. So why the exclamation problem?

When I leave a comment, I try to stop myself from doing it but can't seem to stop. I guess I'll trying to tell the person, "I'm happy about this" or "I'm with you on that." It's very hard to express enthusiasm on the internet without them.

The first step in stopping an addiction is admitting you have a problem. Okay, I admitted it. Let's see if I can conquer it. Maybe I just have to go cold turkey.

Do you have a bad grammar habit? Want to talk about it? Grab a cup of coffee and pull up a chair.

February 15, 2010

The Adventures of Blanche by Rick Geary: Review

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The Adventures of Blanche by Rick Geary is a trio of previously published stories in one graphic novel.

In the first, Blanche, a pianist from the west, heads to New York City to train with a prominent professor. She witnesses the building of the subway as she arrives and later finds there is more to the New York underground than just tunnels.

Blanche moves on to Hollywood and the movie business where she gets involved in the union movement and sabotage in the air.

Finally, Blanche sets sail for Paris and befriends an electrical engineer. He's working on a way to harness the power of the earth. However, his work attracts the wrong people and he ends up dead.

Rick Geary based The Adventures of Blanche on his grandmother who did play piano and did travel to New York. When I first started reading, I thought, "How sweet" but as I read further I got a feeling that this wasn't totally based on fact. Unless there are huge monsters living in the New York subway.

It turns out Geary used his grandmother's life as a jumping off point to tell fantastic, imaginative stories. Geary illustrates his grandmother's "letters" home to her parents during her travels. I loved Blanche's voice. A strong independent woman at the turn of the century. She keeps a level head in the face of all these odd goings on.

Now here's the hard part for me because "I don't know nothing about graphic novels", discussing the illustrations without sounding like an uneducated boob. I loved the old fashioned style, the way he drew the period backgrounds and Blanche's clothing. They're all so cheerful and a joy to look at.

If you are looking for great storytelling and charming illustrations, then I highly recommend The Adventures of Blanche.

February 14, 2010

Blog Luv Fest: Week 2

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Happy Valentine's Day!!

I hope you have a Lovin' Sunday today. Hug your partner, your kids, your pets or give yourself some much needed "me time."

This last week of Bloggy Luv, I gave you a review of the romance novel Lessons in French, told you where to find Love Birds, made heart treat boxes and cookies with my kid.

Let's see what other people did.

Amanda from A Bookshelf Monstrosity gave us a list of some favorite love stories.

Feel like a romantic movie tonight? Writergal from Steele on Entertainment has a list of her favorites.

A romantic story is not always the main part of the plot. Andrea's Book Nook provides a list of unexpected love stories.

Valentine's is for the little ones too. Andi reviews a couple of sweet Valentine picture books.

And if you're looking to score points with your partner, how about reciting a little poetry? Naida posted a beautiful one.

Thanks to everyone who participated in my mini-carnival!

If you have a Blog Luv Fest link, please leave it in the comments.


Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

February 13, 2010

Valentine Cookies

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For my daughter's class Valentine party, we made some sugar cookies. I used this recipe from Intimate Weddings. I don't like shortening so I doubled the butter. It might have made them spread out more.



After mixing up my icing recipe (mix butter, icing sugar and water until it resembles icing), my daughter decorated them. Smarties, pink sprinkles and dragees from my pantry helped make them look Valentine-ish.
 

February 11, 2010

I Never Liked You by Chester Brown: Review

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After reading Chester Brown's Louis Riel, I decided to give another of his graphic novels a try. I Never Liked You has a completely different tone as it's an autobiography of Brown's teen years in Quebec.

In the book, Chester deals with bullying from kids because he doesn't swear (though Chester the author has no problem writing swears about a million times), girls and his mother's mental illness. Chester has a number of female friends but only a couple he'd like to see naked. Still, he's awkward and even after he blurts out "I love you" to one of them, he can't get it together to form a kind of relationship with the girl. Then there's the wide eyed girl next door, oh dear lord, I think that was my doppelganger. Sad, sad girl.

If you've ever been a teenager I Never Liked You will make you squirm in sympathy. It's all angsty and awkward. No wonder I never understood boys in high school, they didn't even understand themselves.

Even though it's not an uplifting story, the upside is Brown survived it, like we all did.

Recommended.

Thank you local library.

February 10, 2010

Chris Vs Martha: Heart Treat Boxes

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These are so easy to make. They can be made in about 5 minutes. Martha has the instructions on her website. I skipped a whole step by using double-sided printed cardstock. I also didn't use a craft knife because I like keeping my fingers.

The box holds a small amount of candy which is just fine if you are making treats for kids. You don't want them all hopped up on sugar.

February 9, 2010

Love Birds

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Lion Brand Yarns newsletter brought this pattern for Love Birds to my inbox last week. I knew I had to make them. They are really easy to make. Great for beginners and anyone who wants practice 'working in the round'. I made them with a smaller hook than recommended. The only thing is they don't sit up very well! Hence the basket.

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February 8, 2010

Lessons In French by Laura Kinsale: Review

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Callie has no intentions of marrying. After three disappointing engagements that left her a spinster at 27, she's officially 'on the shelf'. This suits her just fine. No more parties. No more awkward conversations. She can spend more time with her prize winning animals.

Then Trevelyn, the duc de Monceaux, returns after nine years in France. Callie remembers the day he left. Her father found them in a compromising position in the carriage house. Now she wonders if he still feels the way he did all those years ago.

Unbeknownst to Callie, Trevelyn hasn't lead a exemplary life in France. In fact, the lower profile he keeps the better. He wouldn't even be back if it wasn't for his poor sick mother. But now that he's returned, those old feelings for Callie are coming back just as strong as before. How can he give her what she deserves when he's on the run?

Lessons in French by Laura Kinsale is a Regency romance with more cowbell. Literally. There's a big beast of a bull involved in the plot and it's not Trevelyn. Hubert the bull and his adventures not only add humour to the story but give the lovers a reason to run around in disguise. Because running around in disguise is Zexy.

I've never read any books by Laura Kinsale but from the comments of other reviewers this is lighter than her other books. It is a really sweet story of old lovers rediscovering each other. The chemistry between Callie and Trevelyn was believable and I enjoyed their banter. I loved Callie. She has this complex after being dumped three times but it doesn't make her change herself. She's still true to who she is.

Kinsale doesn't shy away from reality though when it comes to the life of a spinster. Callie's life changed for the worse after the death of her father. She was no longer the mistress of her own home. Instead, her cousin's wife takes her place and makes her feel like a burden. Yet Callie can do nothing except bite her tongue. The new mistress of Shelford Hall could toss her out anytime she pleases and Callie would have no legal rights to stay. Even her farm animals she loved and cared for weren't her own.

Even though I enjoyed so many aspects of the novel, I found parts near the end of the story dragged and wanted Kinsale to wrap it up. 400+ pages was a bit too much. Still, eventually everything came together and a happy ending was achieved.

Recommended for romance readers.

Thanks to Sourcebooks for the review copy.

February 7, 2010

Blog Luv Fest: Week 1

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Just a week until Valentines' Day. Have your kiddies picked out their cards for their classmates yet? If not maybe they'd like these free vintage Valentine cards.

This past week I showed you how to make crayon hearts, gave you a Valentine reading list, and discussed Austenland with Kelly.

Lets' see what some other people came up with this week.

Emma posted a recipe for these yummy looking cupcakes. Just looking at them makes me hungry. She also posted a review for Sea Change.

Julie intends to read Pride and Prejudice. Good luck to her. I hope she falls in love with Mr Darcy.

April discusses her admiration for the great 80's classic Say Anything. I loved that movie.

I hope you've nominated your favorite Literary Couple over at Michelle's blog. She's been discussing her favorite couples all week and let me tell you she has great taste.



Can't wait to see what you come up with next week. I got a few things planned as well. Hope you come back to check them out.

February 4, 2010

Austenland by Shannon Hale: Review

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Continuing with my Valentine theme for the week, Kelly and I buddy-read Austenland by Shannon Hale.

In Austenland, Jane Hayes is bequeathed a special gift from her great-aunt, a trip to an exclusive Austen themed resort. Jane finally gets to live out her Austen inspired fantasies but is she up for it?

To read the first part of our discussion, visit The Written World:
________________________________________________________________

Kelly: Yeah, I think Hale was trying to make the ending romantic, but I thought it was a bit overdone... It was also supposed to prove a point to Jane, but that didn't interest me. What do you think of characters in novels, like Jane, that are always talking about 'giving up on love'? Also, what did you think of how Jane numbered every guy she had dated as a boyfriend? Did you like that Shannon Hale included info about each of them at the beginning of chapters?

Chris: I did like the info on the guys. It showed how all those disappointments at the beginning of her life affected her relationships later on. I felt for her when the guys were such jerks to her but later she had unrealistic expectations. No one can be a Mr Darcy, there are more Trailer Park Boys than Mr Darcys around here! It kind of reminds me of those girls crying over Rob Pattinson. He's just a a guy who plays a romantic character. He's just a person. Jane herself is rather intense. Not every guy is "the one" maybe just "the one for now." As for characters who 'give up on love,' you know as soon as they say that a guy conveniently falls in their lap.

Are you much of a romance reader? Would you recommend it to someone who isn't?

Kelly: Nope. I am not much of a romance reader at all. If there is romance in a book I am reading, that's fine, but it is rare to find me in the romance or chick-lit department of my bookstore. The only reason I gave this book a chance was because of the author. I liked it, though. It wasn't the greatest thing ever and I probably will never read it again, but it was a nice, quick, fun read for the time that I read it during. I was also worried because I am getting so sick of Jane Austen fan fiction. That is one of the reasons that I didn't rush out and read this book when it was released, but it was done well. I am still sick of Jane Austen fan fiction. I wish they would move on to something else, or heaven forbid, write an original novel for a while! Not to say that there are not good ones...

That makes me wonder, what do you think of the Jane Austen fandom? I know it has existed for years, but it is really popular the last couple years. If you could put yourself into Jane Austen's shoes, what do you think she would think about all of this?

Chris: What Would Jane Think? ha! I don't know. I think she'd have a snarky reply to all the fan fiction writers. She always had a cynical look at society and this is a rather peculiar facet of ours. I don't read a lot of Jane Austen fan fiction. I ordered this one from Bookcloseouts with several other books just because I had seen good reviews on blogs. It is becoming overdone but I guess there is a market for it. I think Austen fascinates people, not just because of her writing talent, but because of her life. She never married though she might have had a few romances and died young. Her sister burned a number of her letters after her death so people like to imagine all kinds of things about her. Too bad she never got to cash in on it.

Kelly: I know. She is so famous now, but that wasn't the case when she was alive. I do admit I am curious about those mystery letters, too! It's a shame we will never know what they contained because if they are worth burning, they are probably pretty interesting... This was a fun review!
_______________________________________________________________

Thanks Kelly for reading Austenland with me!

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February 3, 2010

Valentine Reading List

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It's Valentine's season and what will you read?

Not any old love story will do. It has to be a Luv Story. It has to be epic for Valentine's Day. Here is my recommended reading list:
  • The Far Pavilions by MM Kaye. At first it doesn't seem like a love story but keep reading. Ash, an English boy raised as an Indian, meets Juli, an Indian princess with Russian ancestry, and he risks his life to save her.
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. This is the first and best in the Outlander series. The rest are just gravy. In book one, Claire and Jamie meet and begin their epic romance, despite being from different centuries.
  • The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Most people have relationship issues to overcome and obstacles to conquer but how about a spouse who spontaneously travels through time? Poor Henry up and disappears without warning and ends up in another time and place. Kind of makes life challenging for Claire as well.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. You could put any Jane Austen on the list but Pride and Prejudice is probably the best known of her work. If you've seen a romantic comedy, you're familiar with the plotline.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Victoria Holt and Harlequin Romance have been ripping off this story for years: poor plain girl marries her rich boss.
  • Silas Marner by George Eliot. Okay, stay with me here. This isn't a romantic tale but one of parental love. Silas must make a difficult choice in regards to his adopted daughter. Grab the Kleenex.
 Thar's my list of favorite Luv Stories. How about yours? What books would you include on the list?

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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February 2, 2010

Grow Great Grub by Gayla Trail: Review

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Oh winter! Why are you so long? Doesn't matter if the groundhog has seen his shadow or not today, it will be months before we see anything green here.

After reading Grow Great Grub by Gayla Trail, I'm itching to get my hands back into the dirt. Last year was my first try at vegetable gardening and I was pleased with the results. I can't wait to do it all again. Grow Great Grub isn't just a pretty looking gardening book. It's a practical how-to book for gardening in small spaces. You don't need acres of land to have your own yummy fresh veggies. In fact all you need is a sunny windowsill and you got yourself a salad.

Gayla Trail is an advocate of urban gardening. The first chapter is called "Growing Anywhere and Everywhere." That should tell you something. She believes that if you can stick a plant in it, it's fair game. You just need to know what you can grow successfully where and you're all set. She also believes you can do it all without the use of chemicals.

Gayla Trail gives tips on how to improve your soil, grow in containers or raised beds, choose and start your seeds and take care of them from seedling to harvest. To make sure your veggies get to the table, Trail tells readers how to defend plants against disease and pests with companion planting and encouraging predatory insects. And for you DIYers, there are projects like building your own compost bin and "Upside-Down Tomatoes" rated with a difficulty scale.

And then there are the plants. Who ever said vegetables were boring? Not these babies. Cranberry beans, Mexican Sour gherkins, Mascara leaf lettuce, Violetta Italia cauliflower to name a few. They all sound so exotic and interesting. I'm already looking for seeds. (There are sources for US and Canada in the back.)

Once you've grown all this great grub, what do you do with it? There are recipes for preserving and canning your veggies so you can enjoy them all year long.

So except for making me long for spring and causing a bad case of cabin fever, I loved reading Grow Great Grub.

Highly recommended for anyone considering growing their own organic vegetables (really, it's not that hard, if I can do it you can).

You can find Gayla Trail on her site You Grow Girl.

Thanks to Random House Canada for the review copy.


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February 1, 2010

Chris Vs Martha: Crayon Hearts

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This is more like Chris and the girl vs Martha. This was a fun project we did together. It's easy simple but requires an iron so adult supervision is needed.

Martha has the instructions on her site for crayon hearts but I'll take you through the process.

First, we made the crayon shavings with a pencil sharpener. A bit of a messy job.

 

Then I melted the crayons between 2 sheets of wax paper. Remember to put a towel underneath the wax paper or you will have crayon melted to your ironing board (ask me how I know this) and brown paper between the iron and the top sheet. If I was to do it again, I'd spread out the crayon more- a little goes a long way.

 


Then we made up heart shapes with regular paper for templates and used those to cut out the hearts from the wax paper. Next I used a needle and embroidery floss to string the hearts. To show them in the window, I used a short piece of wire hiding strip- it has an adhesive strip to hold it in place.


And viola! An easy Valentine's Day decoration! 





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