Shameless Book Plug


I want to be a paperback writer….paperback writer….

About a year ago, I entered a short story in a contest put on by John Michael Greer, author of The Archdruid Report, (link in the sidebar) He had been hugely influenced by reading science fiction as a kid, and wondered about the visions for the future that are part of pop culture.
It is something I worry about- there are many middle grade novels depicting distopian futures where kids kill each other, or teens are dismantled for spare parts, or teens fall in love with sparkly vampires. I guess the sparkly vampire one is a distopian present.

Greer asked the question: what would the future look like once the oil runs out?
So, I envisioned a time around 80 years in the future, in the old age of a woman born in this “final year” of the Mayan calendar, and a young family who comes to live with her. There are no zombies. Sorry.

I entered the story, and to my surprise, it was selected as one of the top dozen. Greer shopped the dozen around to publishers, and added his own, and it was published on November 2. here’s an Amazon link

I’m proud of my own story, but now that I’ve read all of them, I like all of them. Still no zombies- but alternative histories of potential civil wars, and small-town justice, and climate change. My favorite is “The Going,” which depicts the tough choices families have to make about medical care and letting go.  It’s very moving.

I confess that promotion is tough for me- I told very few people that I entered the story, told one or two that it had been selected as a winner, just a couple that I had signed a book contract. Now, I’m telling you all, and here’s where it’s awkward…here’s where I’m supposed to seal the deal and tell you to buy the book. Um…buy the book. Please? If you want.


These Seven Pieces? Really?

At the bookstore the other day I flipped through Good Bones, a book about the seven essential pieces of furniture that you should buy and keep for a lifetime.

I was pleased to see a demilune table- I have one in teak, that I paid too much for, probably, but that I really love.

But the rest of the stuff threw me off. A dresser, obviously.

Wait…You have to write a book to tell people to buy a chest of drawers?

Slipper chairs…really?

A loveseat? ummm…I want a big couch that several people can flop on, especially as two of my favorite people to flop with get bigger and taller.

Bookshelves, a necesity for me, don’t get a mention in the book. Entertainment center… likewise not in the book. Coffee table? No. Rocker/recliner? Not in there.

So, what are your 7 essential pieces of furniture- if you were starting over, what would be the 7 first things you would get?

Book Review: Growing Tasty Tropical Plants

I decided I needed a vanilla plant….never mind why… and did a little research on how hard it would be to take care of. I found a very discouraging website that told me vanilla orchids are vines that won’t bloom until they grow 20 feet tall, and that a person needs a large greenhouse to even think about having one.  I was sad. Cue the Charlie Brown music.

Then I went to the Denver Botanic gardens, and found hope. As we were getting ready to leave, at the greenhouse in the children’s section, I saw an employee wrapping a vine around  a structure that appeared to be made of chicken wire and sheet moss. I asked him what it was, and when he said, “Vanilla,” I did actually squee. I told my wonderful mother in law that this meant her son didn’t have to build me a two story greenhouse. (he could, and I wouldn’t mind…but he doesn’t have to).  Vanilla can grow wrapped around a trellis, with bright indirect light, and with the right conditions will bloom in a couple of years.

I discovered the book “Growing Tasty Edible Plants” at the library, and it covers vanilla, as well as citrus, which I have had for a few years, as well as coffee, pomegranate, tea, passion fruit, which I am always tempted by when I see the plants in catalogues, as well as stuff I’ve never heard of before. Peanut butter fruit, anyone?

The authors are Laurelynn Martin and Bryon Martin, and they are co-owners of Logee’s Tropical Plants. Logee’s has a tropical fruit catalogue and nursery, and they’ve apparently appeared on Martha Stewart. I wouldn’t know, I’m much too cool to watch Martha…  The book is informative- it is obvious that these people know their stuff about plants. The writing isn’t stellar, but it is obvious that these guys have lived with the plants they are writing about, they have grown them inside regular houses and greenhouses, and they have eaten the fruit. I get tired of researching plants and finding people who are writing articles about plants they haven’t grown.  The Martins seem to know what they are talking about. 

I went ahead and ordered a vanilla orchid from eBay, and I’ll use the info in this book to help me keep it alive. We should be able to make homemade ice cream in about 2015. You’re all invited.

Book Review- Ratio

My only objection to the book is that the cover is yellow, but the spine is pink, so it is hard to find on the shelf. A small quibble.

I’ve mentioned this book before, and as I break it out to use to make cream puffs for my friend’s Oscar party on Sunday, I figured I’d write a full-blown review.
This isn’t like other cookbooks: it explains the why of cooking as much as the how. It does have recipes in it, but they are very simple ones, almost foundation recipes, and then you can vary them from there.

The chapter on roux has transformed (transformed, I say!) my relationship to gravy. And soup. The chapter on cakes has finally taught me the difference between sponge cake and pound cake, and the girl and I are now able to whip together a perfect little 2-layer-easy-bake-oven cake. It still takes forever to bake, because of the whole “cooking with a lightbulb” thing, but we can whip it up pretty fast.
There is a whole chapter on sausage making, which I can’t see myself ever delving into. Also, it’s fairly Eurocentric- no salsa, no rice, no stir-fries.  On the other hand, the 5 pages on making mayonaise is one of the reasons I asked for a stick blender for Christmas.

Michael Ruhlman is the author, I haven’t read his previous books, but this one is readable- he is a journalist who wanted to learn how to cook, rather than a chef who was hired to write a cookbook. One kooky detail is the blurb on the back,  by Alton Brown. It identifies him as author of “I’m Just Here for the Food.”  I didn’t realize he was an author, I thought he was a TV personality.

So, the recipes I’ll be using for Sunday are the pate a choux, which is a cream puff dough, and creme patisserie, from the chapter entitled “The Custard Continuum.” I love this book.

edited to add: the cream puffs were amazing- we brought about 30 to the Oscar party, and they disappeared instantly.

First grader’s reading goals

I joke that we home school in our family, and then in August we send our kids to the neighborhood public school. Truth comes out in a joke- I am a teacher and general know-it-all, DH is a journalist and general know-it-all. Our kids are becoming know-it-alls. It is nice that we have separate but overlapping fields of knowledge. Actually, you could draw a Venn diagram

Plants, food, language, linguistics, literature, mythology, show tunes, food, plots of old movies, history of Tudor and Stuart dynasties

Weird pop culture references, 80’s sitcoms, the time travel paradox, Star Trek

Astronomy, geology, geography, physics, music, pop hits of the 80’s, obscure college bands of the 90’s, Star Wars, AP style, computers


This shows precisely how nerdy I am, that I would draw a Venn diagram about my nerdiness, but not know how to make the Venn diagram show up on the web.  It looked okay on Word.  I’ll have to figure out how to do it in an illustration….

            Our kids have interests and knowledge areas of their own, including Legos, art, dinosaurs, insects, zoology, the Littlest Pet Shop ‘verse, but I don’t know how to make a Venn diagram for the 4 of us, even in Word, much less make it show up on the web. 

            All summer we read, talk, go to museums. There is a lot of lying around, playing with Legos and riding bikes, too, but just by the nature of who we are, there is a lot of learning going on.

            The girl started reading before kindergarten, and hasn’t stopped. She reads, and re-reads, she complains about movies that get the book wrong. She cruised through the Harry Potter series in about 6 weeks, came up for air, then started at the beginning again.

            For a while, the boy seemed to think that reading meant sounding words out, and he hated it.  Last summer, he was recognizing words on packages or on signs, and I would compliment him. I would say, “Good job reading!” and he would say, “I wasn’t reading, I just saw the word and I knew it.” He sounded so disgusted with me, but it was just that he didn’t know that is the definition of reading- seeing the word, and knowing it.

            Going into first grade, he thought he was a bad reader, because his sister is so good, and the books that he is most interested in, like “The Dinosaur Encyclopedia” are too hard for him to read on his own (I have learned a ton about dinos, because I have read the stupid thing aloud to him so much, but it doesn’t really stay with me, so I didn’t put it in the diagram as an area of expertise)

On the first day of first grade, when they were testing him in reading, the tester had to go find more books to get one at a challenging enough level.  He is mostly bored by the books at his level- he wants me to read the dang dinosaur encyclopedia again. or lately books on Greek myths that I have brought home from my middle school.  He thinks he can’t read because he can’t read those, and he already knows everything in the first grade books.

9 weeks into the year, we have our first conferences this week. I wonder what we’ll learn. What are your thoughts about homeschool, public school, unschool?