Sunday, March 31, 2013

All That Jazz

April is both National Poetry Month and Jazz Appreciation Month. Jazz A-B-Z melds both themes in a stunning volume spotlighting an alphabetical list of jazz giants. Each letter combines clever poetry crafted by jazz artist and composer Wynton Marsalis with perfectly stylized pop-art posters by award-winning illustrator Paul Rogers.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Inside of a Dog

My daughter has a dog.  My daughter is a teenager -- so really -- I have a dog. I grew up with dogs and have had dogs most of my adult life.  (Please note that I like cats too.)  And in spite of how busy I am I have often taken the time to be amazed at how Chihuahuas and Great Danes can both be dogs, descendants of the same animal.  I have wondered about their noses and what it would be like to have that sort of smelling power and I have certainly wondered why they must pee on every little thing when outside.  And why do dogs sometimes take food to a special location to eat -- and then eat the rest of the food from the bowl?  If you too have dogs, like dogs or are just curious about dogs, then I have a book for you.

Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz is a very interesting non-fiction book that is about just what the title suggests.  The author, Alexandra Horowitz, became curious about these things when she was working on her doctorate in cognitive science.  The book is one of the results of the research that Horowitz has done since then. The book explains the point of view of the dog based on research the author and others have done.  Horowitz believes that to understand an animal a person has to know how the world looks to that animal.  How does the world look based on, in this case, the dog's point of view.  I must say that the book is leading me to think about my daughter's dog differently.  It may do the same for you.  Now if I could just get the dog to quit chasing one of the cats and quit digging up a houseplant in order to bury her bone...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Piecing Together a Project

What's the skeleton in your closet?

Come on. All of us have one. I'm no exception, but the skeleton in my closet happens to look more like a stack of boxes. You see...I have a fabric problem.

Fragments of vividly-hued feed sacks from the 1930s, kimono silk in slender sections, remnants left over from thrifted dresses that have since been upcycled into aprons or dinner napkins--I've kept it all. I can't help myself! Over a lifetime of yard sales, antique fairs, and late-night eBay splurges, my fabric stash has grown from one well-mannered, neatly-folded shelf into something with a mind of its own. Recently, I was forced to confront the situation when moving apartments required an extra trip across town just for fabric retrieval. All of these scraps that I've lovingly tucked away just in case have become an albatross--a multicolored, floral-printed albatross.

Clearly, something must be done. After much soul-searching, I've come to terms with the fact that a lot of my beloved collection needs to either make itself useful or hit the road. So I was delighted to find Joan Ford's 2012 book Scraptherapy cut the scraps! : 7 steps to quilting your way through your stash.

This book is a no-nonsense guide to turning your misfit odds and ends into something beautiful and practical. Experienced quilters may find that the patterns included are more timeless than novel, so if you're on the hunt for new and exciting advances in the field of quilt design, you should probably look elsewhere. However, if you're like me and are looking for a book to help you formulate a functional project that makes good use of your favorite, impractically-tiny fabric tidbits, you're in luck. A wide variety of projects (with clear, helpful instructions) are included. As a bonus, tips on how to work with irregular fabric sizes and plan quilt themes that make the most of what you're working with help to make scrap projects less daunting. Ford also imparts some really useful tips for organizing and managing the fabric that you do keep.

If you're a fabric collector in need of an intervention--or just a new project--I suggest giving this book a whirl.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Litigators

Most of us have days when we simply do not want to go to work. We usually manage to eventually pull ourselves together and go, albeit we might be a little late. Now imagine that your heart is pounding, your stomach is churning, the world is spinning around you, and you think you will die if you walk through the door of your office. Could you do it?

This is the situation confronting attorney David Zinc in John Grisham's book, The Litigators. David just snaps one day and cannot make himself go to work at the prestigious law firm  he has worked at for five years. His head spinning, heart pounding condition goes away when he rushes back into the elevator and just leaves the building. He spends the work day drinking Bloody Marys and beer at a rundown bar until the bartender calls a cab to send him home. While riding in the cab, he sees

Sunday, March 17, 2013

So Many Muffins

Gingerbread Crumble. Cafe Mocha. Whole Wheat Banana Pecan. Brown Butter and Oat. Garlic Chive Buttermilk. Peppermint White Chocolate. Maple Bacon. It is time to put muffin liners on your grocery list and check out Moufflet: More Than 100 Gourmet Muffin Recipes That Rise to Any Occasion by Kelly Jaggers. This cookbook has dozens of unique muffin recipes divided into Sweet Escapes and Savory Sensations as well as chapters on "Sensational Spreads" and "Crumbles and Glazes". I have not yet attempted any of the spreads as my Chocolate Chip Overload muffin tasted just fine without an addition of Cinnamon Walnut Cream Cheese. I had trouble even getting to the Savory Sensations section. You may be overwhelmed by the number of flags necessary to mark every interesting recipe. It's ok. Just stop bookmarking. Enjoy browsing, looking at the pictures, and deciding which muffin to make first...Peanut Butter Butterscotch Crumb? Sharp Cheddar Ale? Spiced Nut?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

It's Magic!

Even as an adult, I enjoy kids' chapter books that feature smart, spunky, funny kids--and just a tiny bit of magic. And the following three books fit the bill. Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, and a Very Strange Adventure by Lissa Evans tells the story of a boy named Stuart who sets out on a quest to learn what happened to his mysterious Great Uncle Tony, who disappeared years earlier--and to unearth his secret workshop. Uncle Tony was an inventor and a magician, and Stuart wants to learn his tricks. He stumbles upon a handful of of gold coins and with them, begins to unlock clues all over town.

Bliss by Katheryn Littlewood describes the chaos and hilarity that ensue when Rosemary and her siblings (Parsley, Sage, and Thyme) discover the magic cookbook their parents use in their bakery while Mom and Dad are out of town. When they try their hand at Love Muffins and Cookies of Truth, it becomes a recipe....for disaster. With the unexpected arrival of their exotic Aunt Lily (whom they've never met), they aren't sure whether to 'fess up and ask for help or to try another magical recipe to repair their mistakes.

Finally, The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman by Meg Wolitzer features a boy named Duncan who's ordinary in every way--except for his ability to "read" any kind of text with his eyes closed, just by touching it. This talent gives him a special advantage when playing Scrabble because he can select the tiles he wants, without anyone knowing. And it's up to Duncan to decide how to use, or not use, his magic fingertips. What follows is a fascinating look at the world of competitive Scrabble, told from the alternating perspectives of three different players.

~Queen of Books

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Feeding my manic, experimental, information junkie soul

As a journeyman foodie, fan of all things delicious and all around information sponge I was intrigued when the 4 Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life by Tim Ferriss came across my desk. Learn anything, Mr Ferriss? Challenge accepted. There is a lot of information in this book on everything from cooking an amazing date steak to learning a new language in a matter of weeks.

The 4 Hour Chef is less of a cookbook and more of a look into Tim Ferriss' manic interest in all things learning, a sentiment that I greatly appreciate. He touches on making everything from homemade sauerkraut ( have my first batch going right now) to turning a metal garbage can into a cooking pit for a clam bake, to learning how to memorize a deck of cards. So, if you are a little weird like me (okay, maybe a lotta weird) and are the kind of person who tends to find yourself saying "I have no idea what I'm doing, but that's not going to stop me from trying" then I highly recommend you pick up this book and give it a whirl.

I was so charmed by Mr. Ferriss' inquisitive nature that I ordered another book of his, The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman as, like many people, one of my New Year's resolutions was to get in better shape. My husband and I agreed to do a little experiment on ourselves in true Ferriss style and are trying what it recommends for a month to see what happens. It's still too early to tell and I'm skeptical of many of his claims, but the read is interesting in and of itself and, like the 4-Hour Chef, there is a TON of information in this book about all sorts of random things and it's interesting to see the kind of experimentation Mr. Ferriss comes up with to put his body through. I will put in a caveat that this book is much less polished than the 4-Hour Chef and can be quite disjointed, but Ferriss' enthusiasm and the intriguing nature of the information contained was enough to keep me going.
All in all, I have become a fan of Tim Ferriss and recommend his books and blogs to those adventurous souls who approach the world with an "I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm going to try it anyway" attitude.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Mystery Writers at the Tucson Festival of Books

I'm planning my schedule for next weekend's Tucson Festival of Books and I can see it will be a massive organizational challenge attend every panel I'd like to see. We are certainly spoiled for choice! There are many of my favorite mystery authors that I have followed for years, but there are also many authors that are new to me, just waiting to be discovered. Here are a just a few mystery panels that look too good to miss.

The Doyennes of Southwest Mystery with Nevada BarrJ A Jance and Margaret Coel. I have always enjoyed Barr's Anna Pigeon series set in various National Parks. The settings are so well described that I feel like I have already been to the parks or would now like to visit. A few of the magnificent parks, used almost as another character, include Guadalupe Mountains, Mesa Verde, Yosemite and Big Bend and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. There are several chances to see all three of these authors, so you can see which time slot fits with your plans.

Killing Me With A Smile with Craig Johnson and Dana Stabenow. A friend just recently got me hooked on Craig Johnson's series featuring Wyoming Sherriff Walt Longmire. I enjoyed the self-deprecating hero for both his humor and his outlook on life. I'm looking forward to making my way through the series. Johnson also will take part in a solo presentation Longmire & Me and another panel Death in the Desert. Stabenow is also scheduled for Who Dunnit? Plotting the Mystery.