Czech it out

I’m researching the Czech Republic and using bad puns. [Have you read that China has banned puns?]

I’ve found Czech Republic: Recommended Books and Movies by Rick Steves and Honza Vihan useful.

The Twelve Little Cakes by Dominkika Dery

The Twelve Little Cakes by Dominkika Dery

I gulped down The Twelve Little Cakes by Dominika Dery. Dery’s telling of her father putting the secret police to work restoring the yard after a flood in the chapter “The Little Coffin” is wonderful. This recommendation came from ‘Czech Republic: Recommended Books and Movies’.

Another memoir, Under a Cruel Star: A Life in Prague 1941-1968 by Heda Kovly speaks of Nazi horrors and communist mistrust. This recommendation came from ‘Czech Republic: Recommended Books and Movies’.

References

‘Czech Republic: Recommended Books and Movies’. Czech Republic: Recommended Books and Movies | ricksteves.com, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ricksteves.com/europe/czech-republic/books-movies&gt;.

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Just the right size

The title says it all: Just the Right Size: Why Big Animals are Big and Little Animals are Little.

Just the Right Size by Nicola Davies

Just the Right Size by Nicola Davies

This great science picture book explores the size of living things from microbes to whales and the factors that influence their size. There is math (length, surface area, cross section, volume, and mass) to explain the Big Thing, Little Thing (BTLT) rule, but wait, there’s more! Flight, surface tension, walking on walls, strength, digestion, respiration, circulation, habitat, temperature, and migration, and communication all come into play. I recommend this book for everyone, especially those who can share it with nine to twelve year old children.

If this book sounds too serious, read it for the superhero debunking, giant spiders that break their legs, and whale guts.

My Shelfies

It has been written “Shelfies: Like Selfies, But for Book Nerds“. Since I fit in the book nerd category quite comfortably, here is one of my shelfies.
Sue shelf

This is one of my favorite spots in the house because everything in it has a special meaning to me. The bookshelf was built by my dad for a nook at mom’s house. At that time, the green recliner sat near it and my dad would read in it after school. I could snuggle in dad’s lap before bed. Now that mom has a built-in bookshelf in that nook that holds a small portion of her photo albums and art books, dad’s bookshelf lives with us. Identification guides live in the upper right (flowers, birds, and fossils). Vintage books are found below them. Beautiful Joe: An Autobiography by Marshall Saunders includes this inscription:

Dec 1896

The book is from George’s family and the book was just published in 1896, the year it was given as a Christmas gift. Can you tell who the book was for? Irvy? Orvy? The shelf below holds paperbacks, along with a reprint of Beeton’s Book of Household Management, which strangely enough, George likes. Other books on the shelf include those of travel stories; Alaska and other cold places; and Pat McManus humor.
The blue heron carving was handcrafted by Arnold Rasmusen of Withee, Wisconsin and once lived at Aunt Anita and Uncle Carl’s home. The batik lily original by Christine M. Huffman (1989) was found at a neighbor’s garage sale. Kay gave me the frog crock, made by Jim and Gina Mahoney (1998). Jack built the ash shelf from lumber that was harvested on mom’s land. He gave it to me last weekend and I haven’t decided what to put in it yet. As you might guess, not just anything gets thrown in this corner. The chair was purchased, along with a sofa, recliner, book shelf, and table lamp, from our friend Pat when we moved last year. Mom says the fabric reminds her of the print fabric of her grandmother’s dresses. The chair is of the type that was at George’s family farm and one that my parents received from Uncle Arno when I was young.

fish tank

Around the corner is George’s new toy, an aquarium from his colleague Bill. Ellen provided us with a few guppies from her tank yesterday and they haven’t died yet, so it seems that fish are in my future. How did I ever get involved with a man who loves domestic animals so much?
Besides the fact that this corner contains many things I love, it also doesn’t have any of that stuff that is essential around the home, but doesn’t have any internal beauty. Those are the magnetic knife strip, notes on my refrigerator, and toilet brush that will likely never be photographed or blogged about.
Back to the shelfie theme, here is George’s shelfie. It is the pile of books that he is reading. Is it coincidence that the spines are all facing the wall, or is he hiding what he is reading?

George's shelf

Autumn reads

One of the thing I love about early autumn sunsets is more reading time.

Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins

Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins

Rickshaw Girl focuses on the life of Naima, a Bangladeshi girl with a talent for alpana patterns. Perkins writes that “Girls and Women paint these geometrical or floral patterns on the floor during celebrations and holidays. They used crushed rice power to outline the design, and decorate with colored chalk, vermilion, flower petals, wheat, or lentil powder. Some designs are passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years.” In this fictional, yet realistic, story for children Naima no longer attends school because her family can not afford it. As a girl, her options for earning money are very restricted. Beautiful charcoal illustrations are accompanied by a glossary and author’s note that complement the text.

Based on my limited understanding, alpana is equivalent to rangoli. Many beautiful rangoli designs can be seen in southern India.

Rangoli design for Pongal harvest festival

Rangoli design for Pongal harvest festival
Bellary, Karnataka, India
January 2010

Rangoli design for Pongal harvest festival Bellary, Karnataka, India January 2010

Rangoli design for Pongal harvest festival
Bellary, Karnataka, India
January 2010

Painted concrete near Gudur, Andhra Pradesh, India January 2010

Painted concrete
near Gudur, Andhra Pradesh, India
January 2010

Many readers choose books that reflect themselves: similar cultures, activities, or dreams. I challenge you to read something outside of your normal scope. One of the greatest pleasures of reading is being able to experience the life of someone or something different that yourself.

Reading

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver by Lois Lowry

When I first started working as a librarian, about nine years ago, I read 1994 Newbery Award winner,  The Giver by Lois Lowry. It was my way of reintroducing myself to children’s literature and reading a book that is often classroom reading. This dystopia is suitable for children, about grade five through adulthood. Over time I read the companion books Gathering Blue and Messenger. The recognition of adversity, use of primitive techniques, and escape appealed to me. In 2012 the fourth book of the quartet, Son, was published. Of the four books, it was least appealing to me because it too neatly tied up the story lines. In addition, the narrator of the audiobook had a “whispery” voice that I found off putting. What it did do, was make me want to re-read The Giver, to revisit it and regain the details. My recommendation: if you haven’t read The Giver, do so. It fits in well with the current popularity of dystopias such as Divergent and The Hunger Games. By the way, if you are a Divergent fan, the conclusion of the trilogy, Allegiant will be released on October 22.

One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath

One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath

The children’s book, One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath, recently caught my attention because the cover features a girl sitting in a tree stand. I do judge books by their covers. The book is set in the Pacific Northwest, one of my favorite regions! It is the second book in the Primrose Squarp series, which lead me to read the first book, Everything on a Waffle, which is good because it is a funny story but has an unappealing cover.

Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath

Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath

I was going to quote a funny passage from the book right here, and thought that it would be easy, however the funny passages have simply disappeared now that I’m looking for them. You will just have to read the book yourself. The funny stuff is in there. Even though the Pacific Northwest setting isn’t featured as much as I would hope, the book is a good one. It features a hopeful girl, her community, and imperfect but lovable characters. Now I’m looking forward to the book with the appealing cover!

Happy reading!

Summer

Here it is summer and I’ve been sampling a little of it all, so I don’t have a concise post to write. Here is some of my stream of life.

Four-year-old Henry spent the night with George and me. It was his first night away from home alone and he was absolutely blissful to be an only child. He saw the truck and equipment quilt on a bed and declared “That’s my bed!” We visited my childhood by reading two of my favorite picture books. I think Carol gave me I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew. As a child I had ambiguous feelings about the book because while I knew that a perfect world didn’t exist, wasn’t a book just the place to explore one? Professor Wormbog in the Search for the Zipperump-a-Zoo has always delighted me with its detailed drawings. Professor Wormbog leaving Island Joe’s Rentals is one of my favorite illustrations. Henry and I listened to Bob and Louise De Cormier perform Woody Guthrie’s Children’s Songs on the way to Henry’s house. Take You Riding in my Car-Car is one of my favorites.

Childhood memories

Childhood memories

Mom's inscription in the book

Mom’s inscription in the book

We also picked peas in the garden.

Me: [Offering Henry peas in the pod]
Henry: I will stick my gum on my shirt to keep it clean.
Henry: Do them [these] need to be fried?
Me: No, you can eat them as they are.
Henry: I don’t like them. But they got rid of the cookie-ness in my mouth. [Not sounding displeased, just interested.]

Henry shares my enthusiasm for plants. He points out mullien (even as a wilted leaf on the road). He jumps off his bicycle to point out asparagus in the ditch (too big to eat, he correctly declares). While zooming by on his bicycle he says “I see strawberries!” and then corrects himself that he doesn’t (it was Virginia Creeper). That boy is learning the best stuff!

Henry: [Arriving in the living room using my electric toothbrush.] I didn’t brush my teeth yet so I thought I should.
Me: Okay. [The horse was already out of the barn.]
Henry: Where is your toothbrush?
Me: [Indicating the brush in his mouth] That’s it.
Henry: Oh.
Henry: I thought it was George’s.

Each of Jack and Jenny’s boys has had a night alone with us now.  It is busy enough when they are here that I haven’t gotten any photos of them yet. Robbie, Charlie, and Henry are such great kids that I hope that they can come again soon!

Purple loosestrife would be a beautiful if it wasn’t a non-native and invasive plant. We are growing some to raise biocontrol beetles.

Purple Loosestrife blossom

Purple loosestrife blossom

Invasive St. Johnswort has shown up on our farm within the last few years. We have been pulling it by hand, but it has expanded its range. It is also more prominent in ditches and roadsides. We also have the native, non-invasive St. Johnswort in our wet meadow.

St. Johnswort

St. Johnswort

George has been crazy busy cutting and dabbing invasive buckthorn.

In the garden, eggplant and tomatoes are growing.

Eggplant blossoms

Eggplant blossoms

Future sauce?

Future sauce?

Carol gave us thimbleberry to plant and it is doing well in our yard and woods.

Thimble berry

Thimbleberry

Mom and Larry shared raspberries with us. Just like puppies, they look very appealing to me when they are small!

Raspberries

Raspberries

The yucca in our prairie is crazy pretty.

Yucca

Yucca

Prairie plants with yellow blossoms fall into the yellow flowers category for me. If you can ID them, let me know!

Yellow flowers

Yellow flowers

Other yellow flowers

Other yellow flowers

The wild quinine looks happy.

Wild quinine

Wild quinine

The toad was not interested in being photographed and kept hopping away.

Toad

Toad

We have spiderwort in our prairie and flowerbeds. This one is in the flowerbed.

Spiderwort

Spiderwort

Monarda is a nectar species for the Karner blue butterfly.

Menarda

Monarda

Milkweed is competing for space among our tomatoes.

Milkweed

Milkweed

Luckily I can pull it out since there is much of it in our prairie.

More milkweed

More milkweed

Deer eat the seed pods from our cream wild indigo every year.

Cream wild indigo

Cream wild indigo

The compass plant in the prairie hasn’t grown upward in the prairie for the last ten years because of deer browsing. It is crazy big in the composted flower bed though! Here it is blooming above George’s head. The redbud next to it is happy too.

Compass plant

Compass plant

George and I visited Tellock Woods State Natural Area in the Town of Union. It is adjacent to a proposed silica sand mine site.

Tellock Woods

Tellock Woods

We saw several small frogs (wood frogs, from what I could see before they hopped away). There is a nice grove of hemlock, but the area is so heavily browsed by deer that there is no understory in much of the woods. We will be back to visit after the frost when the leaves are pretty and mosquitoes dead.

George, Meg, and Mosquitos

George, Meg, and Mosquitos

Summer reading has started!

Summer reading for me has started with a book hangover.* Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein was almost a one-sitting book for me. The focus of the book is a friendship between daring young women in England during World War II. Men have been shipped out to fight and women have new opportunities, including becoming pilots to move aircraft and crews into position in England. Since the book focuses on war secrets, I won’t revel any more.

Would I recommend it? Yes… for adventure loving young adults and adults, this book will keep you on the edge of your seat. No… for those who don’t want to (or can’t) read about the atrocities of war. Mom, this is not a book for you.

Book "Code Name Verity" on a shelfIn other news: I wish I had possession of an evil-eye to kill buckthorn with a glance, rather than cutting and dabbing it. June is Invasive Species Awareness Month. Go kill something invasive and unwanted.

*Book hangover: The groggy, bleary-eyed feeling the day after staying up way too late reading a book that just can’t be put down.