Friday, December 25, 2009

How to Seduce a Ghost How to Seduce a Ghost by Hope McIntyre

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was a fairly intricate mystery, but there was one annoying thing that the author kept doing: telling me what just happened. One character would say something and then the author would explain EXACTLY what that just meant. There was the problem of infidility. The heroine has a long term boyfriend, but has a brief affair and instant attraction with what ends up being the husband of her client. Her guilt and remorse is something that she has to deal with, but she really doesn't feel all that guilty and her feelings for her boyfriend are not clear cut either making the affair a huge albatross around her neck. Giving a heroine whom the reader has not decided she likes yet such a fault is definitely risky. If you keep reading the plot eventually evens out and the mystery takes over and becomes more engrossing. However, Lee doesn't ever become someone who grows on you enough to make you buy into the series.

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Beat the Reaper: A Novel Beat the Reaper: A Novel by Josh Bazell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I bought this book on impulse at the buy one get one half off Border's table before we left on a flight. It said it was a mix of Tarantino and the Coen brothers, which intrigued me. The storyline has Dr. Peter Brown interning at Manhattan's worst hospital where he meets someone from his very bad past: his hit man past. Then the book takes a quirky turn.

Yep, this book is a mix of Tarantino and the Coen brothers. It was so awesome that I finished it in one day, read it nonstop on the plane. It is a page turner and so wild that it defies description.

So if you like Carl Hiaasen, Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers and you don't mind a little blood and gore, pick up this crazy, wonderful read.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Basket of Chocolates and MUN

This morning on my desk was a large basket of chocolates and the following Christmas card:

Mrs. McLean,

I'd like to wish you and your family a happy holiday season. If it wasn't for you, I would have been totally lost at MUN, and it probably wouldn't have been such a great experience! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


I'll leave the student anonymous, but she did make my entire day and start my week off with quite a bang. Who says kids don't love research? MUN kids really love country research. They are a wacky bunch, but I love them.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Gift of the Season

For the last 18 or so years, Fred and I have thrown a holiday party. When we lived in Arizona, it was a New Year's Eve party. Arizonans were not afraid to stay out on NYE and stayed out late. It was a great party in Arizona and since we had a small house, it was all tables and chairs. When we moved to Florida, we tried a NYE party, but almost everyone we invited said no. They stayed home on NYE. "Hmmm," we thought. "This is throwing a wrench into our holiday party plans."

So for the Florida people, we changed to a Christmas party, with a white elephant gift exchange. It started out fairly small: 10-12 people and has grown to its current size of 24. Fred and I have perfected a Mexican themed menu with one or two new recipes a year. We follow a pretty strict regimen or 30-45 minutes of appetizers, then a soup course, then sit down dinner, then more chatting and mingling then dessert or white elephant gift exchange or vice versa and coffee. It usually takes me about two weeks to prepare for the party as the house needs to be completely decked out in Christmas decorations. The tree needs to be up. The tables need to be set up (two tables of twelve: I head one, Fred heads the other, no couples sit together). I've been collecting Christmas china, flatware, and crystal for about 20 years. I have a complete set for 24. I am totally nuts. I acknowledge that. 8-)

Above is my table.
But what I have also acknowledged in this massive labor of love of cooking, decorating and hosting is that we invite the friends we love. We invite the friends we socialize with, with whom we want to spend time. We invite the people who are important in our lives and while they may not mix on any other occasion; once a year for the past 12 or so years they have gotten together at our house and they have become friends for our sakes.

This is Fred's table.

So I thank them all for their gift of friendship, for making it possible to have such a party. For if we didn't have such wonderful friends, it would be me and Fred and Bingo and Willow watching TV and wondering what happened.

So thank you all. And for those of you who came late to the party after the 24th seat was filled. I am working, working, working on Fred to get an addition built so I can invite you to the party too! Fred has a plan. See, Fred assures me he can do it! 8-)

The White Elephant Gift Exchange

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Memory and Friendship

Went to a Celebration of Life today. Rather, a funeral service without the body or ashes of a colleague and friend. She had passed away last Friday from leukemia and there never was any good moment to have a great big all out cry. Either we had guests or there was school. The timing just never seemed right.

So, I waited for today. My friend Eileen said that these Celebrations never really allow her to get her cry on and for that reason she dislikes them. She said it was a purely selfish reason. I was able to introduce myself and my husband to her son and daughter in law (although I had met them before in the hospital). As we were walking to the actual Celebration, I started talking with a former teacher who is a friend I haven't seen in quite a while. She held out her arm and said, "I wore our wristband." I nodded. And then I realized I hadn't a clue what she meant by that. So I asked, "What wristband?"

"Don't you remember? From Bok Tower? When we went with Mo on a road trip?"

And all of a sudden I felt so happy because here was a memory that I had completely forgotten. One great day when the three of us took a summer road trip and meant it to be just a morning lunch thing, but we didn't get home until after 5. Earlier in the week Fred had asked me what stories I had of Mo and I couldn't come up with a really good one. Now I had one whole day.

Of course there were many moments with her. Lots of memories. Lots of wonderful times and times when she was exasperated with kids during retreats or at graduation. And it will be very strange now to go to our graduation and not have her there to run it. To not have her there to sing the march for us to walk to our places. To not have her tell US to be quiet. 8-)

And when the pipe and drum corps played Amazing Grace I had my good cry, even though it was a Celebration of Life. So Eileen was wrong.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Tears

I'm watching the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with my husband, which is interesting because he has completely different likes and dislikes in music than I do. But we do find some common ground.

It is kind of cute for him to say, "Oh man!" when Crosby, Stills and Nash start singing, meaning they sound so good they gave him a chill. 8-) But they didn't sing the song he wanted them to sing. Right now Bonnie Raitt is tearing it up. Makes me wonder why I haven't played her CDs in such a long time. We went to her concert and she was simply wonderful. That must have been ten years ago and she looks exactly the same, sounds exactly the same. For that matter, so do CSN, sound the same that is. They look quite a bit older.

Jackson Browne, with Crosby and Nash as backup singers. Oh, man! Indeed. This show rocks!
Fred says that Stephen Stills not having grey hair is suspicious. Would he dye his hair? Seriously, there's not one grey hair on the man. Just look at Crosby and Nash: ALL GREY. In fact they are shining beacons of grey hair. James Taylor has decided to just hide his head under a hat. Stupid. Show your head. We know you are old. The hat isn't fooling us.

Is Smokey wearing colored contacts? No matter, he still sounds great. They've got a photo of young Smokey, no blue eyes. I think he was trying to match his outfit. Tracks of my tears was the song, so maybe he wanted to emphasize his eyes.

Stevie Wonder's tribute to Michael Jackson was poignant.

Monday is going to be a rough day at school. One of our beloved teachers has passed away from a long bout with cancer. Monday will be the first day back. The funeral will be sometime this week. I imagine that most of us will be trying to just get through the day, like Stevie Wonder was trying to get through Michael Jackson's song. He did it. I now we can too.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Just Do Your Job GOP

Well, Sen. Whitehouse brought Harry Potter into the health care debate and as a librarian I just can't help but throw in my own two cents. Seriously, GOP, you're complaining about the length? Just do your job. Read the bill and object to the merits and facts of the bill. Objecting to the length is specious. No matter who we voted for, we voted for you to do your job and that job includes reading all the bills, no matter how long they are. So man up, GOP, and read it. And if any of you Democrats are thinking about whining about the length of a bill, shut it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Perils of Team Teaching

The Veteran's Documentary Class that I am team teaching has been a great learning experience for me. We are creating a curriculum that is cutting-edge, using web 2.0 tools and also giving our students some real world social connections with older generations that they may not otherwise experience. In that sense, I think we have been successful. The team teaching has been a bit of a mixed bag. Vanderbilt's Center for Teaching says "experienced teachers often recall team teaching experiences as their best and worst experiences in a classroom." I would have to agree.

Team teaching is a bit like choosing a roommate in college. Usually you chose a friend, which can be a good thing or bad thing. Sometimes, you pick a person because they have the expertise you need and find that they are wonderfully pleasant to work with and a mentor to boot. Sometimes things work out, you have chosen a friend and you remain friends, your friendship grows deeper and you have a wonderful year.

Whatever happens, before you go into a team teaching environment, I think it behooves you to take a look at the following Ten Commandments from two Stanford professors. The key to a successful team teaching endeavor is to have EVERY member on board as a fully participatory member. That means that Commandments 1-7 are followed without fail. You all have to function as a team. You all have to be on board and understand every lecture, every assignment. You support each other and are able to add your different opinion to the mix.

Team teaching is not two or three teachers teaching separate things in isolation, which is often what administration thinks. It's important to educate your administration that all members of your team are teaching all classes.

Another thing that I have found that is important is that the students come first. So, if you have a disagreement about something, you need to sublimate your ego and put the student's needs in front of your own. But remember, I'm a librarian and this is my first class. All you teachers know this already! 8-)

Team teaching: it's worth the effort!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Why won't you give me a biscuit?

Are you wondering why Bingo has that quizzical look on his face? He's wondering why you haven't added to his biscuit meter. See, Southeastern Guide Dogs has one big fundraiser every year: their Feb. Walkathon, held this year on Feb. 27, 2010. Fred and I have pledged to raise $1500 for the walkathon and we are hoping that all of our blog readers, twitter friends, facebook friends, friend friends, coworkers and relatives will help us reach that goal.

We have a personalized biscuit meter that tracks our fundraising, which is kind of cool to watch fill up. If you want more info on the walkathon, you can click the link above. If you want to donate, you can click on our biscuit meter or this link: $1000 covers the medical care of a litter of puppies like Bingo. We figured medical care and a little for toys and leashes and harnesses.

Please help us reach our goal. We'll have the link on the right hand side of the blog. Your donations are tax deductible and ANY amount is a wonderful gift.

Bingo will thank you. Actually, he would just lick you and wag his tail vigorously, but that's quite something, don't you think?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tales from Outer Suburbia Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A mix between graphic novel and short story collection, this odd little book is a real charmer. It is my new favorite book. It is so compelling both visually and textually. The stories are fascinating and the accompanying drawings are a hoot. Clearly Tan has an imaginative and twisted (in very delicious and wonderful Roald Dahl ways) mind and is a gifted artist.

I would recommend this book for middle and upper students and adults.

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Skim Skim by Mariko Tamaki

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Amazing graphic novel. Beautiful story about a high school girl named Kimerly Keiko (Skim) Cameron, a would be Wiccan goth and how she is trying to make it through the day, the month, the year. Her best friend is really not so good, she thinks she has found love, but it breaks her heart. There is a suicide at school, drama in the hallway, drama at home and through it all Skim is trying to figure out who she is. This story is beautifully drawn. I highly recommend it.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Enchantment Emporium The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Great urban fantasy book! Made me want to run out and find her other books and read them. She has a marvelous way of setting up characters, creating relationships, setting a plot into motion and telling a tale. If the details can get a bit murky, I can live with it. The exact nature of the Aunties and the relationship with the Gale men and wizards is left a bit vague and a bit distrubing, but nonetheless, this is a great read. It has liberal amounts of humor, great characters, awesome dialogue and action.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Kindle in Every Backpack?

Recently I did some research for my headmaster on the feasability of using the Kindle instead of textbooks for our students. I came across a nice white paper that Thomas Freedman on the idea calling it A Kindle in Every Backpack. Freedman, a former Clinton policy wonk and a wonk for a short time in 2008 for Obama/Biden on technology issues, isn't particularly advocating the Kindle, but is saying the eTextbook idea is one that has merit.

Back when the Kindle first came out, I was very excited about it and bought one for my school library. Then I realized that I would be breaking all kinds of laws and contracts if I were to use it in a library setting as a library ebook delivery system. I wrote a column for YALS castigating Jeff Bezos for his shortsightedness in ignoring the school and library market.

Amazon seems to finally be making some strides in that direction with their new Kindle DX. This larger, more expensive version was created specifically for the eTextbook market. Amazon is working on a pilot program with the Kindle in conjunction with the following six colleges and universities: Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve University, Princeton University, Reed College, University of Texas at Austin and Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.

I have several teachers who swear by the Kindle for all their reading. I do have to confess, that for traveling, it seem like a guilty pleasure, a toy a librarian should have on her Santa list. But, as for eTextbooks, I'm not sure the Kindle is the device.

From what I read, Stanza for Iphone is making great leaps, but it still is leaps and bounds behind the Kindle feature-wise. The major drawback seems to be that laptops are still the better delivery system for eTexbooks. However, for Freedman's argument, they don't make economic sense, therefore, something like a Kindle is more fitting in his economic model. Also, given the whispernet technology of the Kindle, the device doesn't depend on Internet access, which a laptop does. In a poor neighborhood, some parents couldn't afford to have Internet access, so what does it matter if you have a laptop? You won't get connected!

It's a puzzler. There does need to be something done. We can't continue to load down our 60 pound students with 70 pounds of books. We do need to consider the environmental impact.

And if you want to read a charming account of one man's descent into a reading hell (the Kindle) and how he came to understand its appeal, read Nicholoson Baker's Can the Kindle Really Improve on the Book?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Librarian Moment

I had a warm the heart librarian moment on Friday. It was our school pep rally and the day was quite filled with activity. Among the many things I had to do was meet with a donor for lunch so she could meet Bingo. I also had a Model United Nations club meeting that I had to attend midway through lunch, which made lunch a little rushed and harried.

I was very excited about MUN because I was going to unveil my Libguides for MUN, which I had spent a couple of weeks over the summer putting together for the kids. Libguides was created by Springshare and is a web 2.0 way for librarians to help students organize their research online.

MUN can be very difficult and scary for the first-timer. There are all sorts of rules to follow, dress codes, procedures. It is also a ton of fun with a very low work threshold. If you can get kids interested, they can really do well and it isn't a burden on their academic course load.

When I presented the Libguide for MUN, one of the head delegates turned to me and said, "This is amazing! You've put together what I would have spent 10 hours trying to find." My other teacher sponsor was delighted with it as well. It warmed the cockles of my librarian heart.

Ah, libguides, you are wonderful.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Daughter of the Flames Daughter of the Flames by Zoë Marriott

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Very solid young adult read. Tells the story of Zira a scarred, young novice with a hidden past. It is also a charming romance, adventure story. Zira is a leader and she learns some hard lessons. She also is able to take control of her life and make wonderful things happen. I, personally, would have liked more detail and more in depth character development, but since this seems to be geared to a younger audience, say middle school to 9th grade, it will do just fine.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Veteran's Documentary Film Class

Last year I proposed a course to have students interview and film WWII veterans and then make documentaries from their interviews. The class was approved and I am teaching it now with the chair of the history department chair and an art teacher.

We have a class of 14 and we have 7 WWII vets who we have paired them up with. Last Friday we went out to their senior center to have lunch with them so the kids could meet them (they all had sent them introductory letters) and get to know them a bit better. Our kids are so impressive. They really are. They had no problem conversing with the vets and we had some very cool coincidental matchups that worked out so nicely. For instance, one student's grandfather was in the 106th battalion and his vet was in the 106th battalion. Another student's grandfather was a POW in Borneo and his vet served in an operation on Borneo.

This semester we are concentrating on getting the interviews and preparing them for inclusion in the Veteran's History Project for the Library of Congress. Next semester will be all about making the documentary and pulling together the seven stories into one cohesive theme. I'll post some photos from the luncheon next week.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Second Skin (Nocturne City, #3) Second Skin by Caitlin Kittredge

My rating: 1 of 5 stars
This third book really was a disappointment. Luna needs to do something. She needs to progress and actually move forward. She needs to figure out something about herself and then she needs to change her life. It's called character development. She keeps making the same mistakes over and over again. She keeps doing the same stupid things again and again and the same people tell her not to do it and she does it.

We get no details about anyone else. Most of the other people are mere window dressing. What is the big deal with her family? Why after three books do we still have no details? This mystery should not be coming out so slowly. We don't know enough about the characters to care to keep reading the series. We aren't invested. At least I am not.

I need more detail. I need real development and growth. There is a great world here. There is great potential and it isn't being realized. It's depressing.

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Night Life (Nocturne City, #1) Night Life by Caitlin Kittredge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I thought this first book was pretty good. It had a nice set up. It was inventive and had a much different werewolf world than any I have read before. It is dark and a bit poverty stricken. But the character is a scrappy cop and has backbone. The love interest is not all warm and sexy, but is realistic and honest.

There were some flaws, but the magic and the story were quite compelling.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009


Last week we put into action what we had spent five months planning: a unit on Twitter, Iran, the media, media bias and the 24-hour news cycle. It was part of what our school called the one-unit challenge, a call for collaborative teaching that included revamping units and incorporating new technology into them. The AP Comparative Government teacher and I had been team teaching for a couple of years a unit on media bias. We realized that the AP Language teacher also had a curricular overlap that would work perfectly with what we had in mind.

When we first started putting the unit together, we had an idea of maybe using blogging, or a ning or something else. We hadn't settled on the new technology. But when the Iran election protest broke out and Twitter became a focal point for the protest, we knew we had our technology and we knew we had something that would really interest the kids. We could teach information literacy, history, argumentation and logic and use Iran, Twitter and the media as a focal point. We would have the kids sign up for Twitter accounts (with parental permission) and we would arrange a Twitter interview with a leading social media journalist so they could ask her questions on the Twitter environment and journalism today. (To see their interview search #bps on

So it was with great disappointment that during our Twitter interview, our students were logging on to their newly created Twitter accounts only to find out that their accounts had been suspended for suspicious activity. Seems that if you create many accounts from one domain name, that is considered spam and abusive AUTOMATICALLY and they suspend your account. I emailed them immediately, but received an automated reply telling me the problem was solved, I wasn't suspended and that I should check again. I told our kids to reply individually, which some they did and they were not reinstated. I increased my irritated emails to support and asked for a human to read them. Nothing.

So I started sending out tweets with the hashtag #twitterfail because they failed the classroom litmus test. If your classroom can't sign up, you can't use it. There has to be a way for educators to sign up their students for school use and that means mass sign-ups at one time, Twitter. Wake up and smell the accounts.

Oh, Twitter, BTW, we are presenting our unit at multiple conferences. Just an FYI. I would love to blog about how you solved the problem. If twitter fixes this mess so my kids can do their research project, then I will be their biggest fan. Right now they haven't and I am uber-irritated.

Thanks, Twitter.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sick, but not the flu

I started with a scratchy throat last Saturday, with what I thought was a little cold. But as the week progressed and my throat got progressively more sore and I got a bit more of a cough, by Friday I stayed home and called the Doc and got antibiotics.

I know that there is a huge panic out there with the swine flu and flu in general. I saw it in my library when one of the librarians came down with the regular flu. Another person at school immediately panicked and wanted to go to the doctor to get tamiflu, but I didn't see the urgency since no one had any symptoms of the flu. Now we have one confirmed case at our school and there are confirmed cases in all 50 states. So you can't really escape it.

My feeling is why take the drug if you don't have symptoms? Why take it if it might take it away from someone who might need it as there isn't a lot of the drug to go around? But perhaps I am unnaturally unconcerned and should be more upset, but I don't think so. Being upset isn't going to help. My cold turned into something that needed antibiotics. It wasn't flu related at all. I think a calm temperment is better for one's health than the other option. Statistics show that we are all probably going to get some form of the flu, especially those of us who work in a school, so a healthly dose of fatalism goes a long way as does excessive use of antibacterial wipes and gel, which we have lots of in the library.

I also had a moment last week when it all seemed too much, when it all seemed like I was working too hard and couldn't keep it going. But then the next day came and I realized I could keep it going and I was whining. Sure, that day was a 12-hour work day and I got home at 7:30 pm, but I got done what needed to be done.

Point being, some days we need to panic. Some days we need to whine. People need different things to get through the day or to get through a particular crisis. For me, the flu didn't seem like a crisis, but for that teacher it obviously struck them as a crisis. Let people have their crisis moments. We were both over ours the next day. 8-) If they last more than 24 hours, then you might have to do something.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

First Day of School

The first day of school was a delight. I found that my new parking space was in a surprisingly close proximity to the building where I worked! With all the construction there were terrible rumors that we would all be shunted out to the hinterlands and of course we believed all the rumors. But frankly, I thought, that is not a battle I am going to fight. I didn't make a peep when lower division kicked us to the fence several years ago in an effort to get their people closer to their lower division building. There are just some battles that you know are not going to win. That was one. Well, actually, I did peep quite a bit. I just peeped to myself and to my friends sotto voce and stomped around on occasion.

But back to the first day. It went very well. There was the madness. People rushing around. Children crying, missing classes. Schedules were read wrong. Some parents actually sent their children to school without a book back, without sharpened pencils, without their schedules. These weren't high school kids, this one in particular was a 6th grader. That wasn't a bright spot on the day. Poor little guy. But other than that child's really stressful day, which the warm and fuzzy middle division took care of, my day was a relative oasis of calm.

So yea!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Stress Times Ten

Well, I did ask for it. I did ask for a puppy to raise for the Southeastern Guide Dogs for the Blind. I did ask to teach a class on interviewing WWII vets and filming those interviews and turning them into a documentary to be turned into an end of the year premier event. Go Web 2.0 and new technology! I did ask to continue all my current job responsibilities and library director and department chair, and lead the book club, advisory, sponsor four clubs, be on the board of a professional organization and be the technology director. I did offer to write an article for a library journal. I did offer to do a one unit challenge with two colleagues on the media and new technology and its affect on the 24 hour news cycle.

I did ask for it. So I shouldn't be surprised that I am a bit stressed by it all. School starts today.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Freeform Continued

I decided to do my freeform ruffle in Noro Aurora
#8, which is a really cool yarn that has a metallic bit to it (you can see a little bit of sparkle to it in the close up). I thought that two hanks would be plenty. But I underestimated the amount of yarn that freeform takes.

By the time I had done the chain stitch and about a third of the ruffle, I had gone through most of the two hanks, so I figured I needed about 6 more hanks. Problem was, Noro had discontinued the color! Say hello to Ebay. I found this yarn store on Ebay: A Yarn for All Seasons. They had the Noro I needed and they had it for a GREAT price.

I wanted to show you all how it was coming along. I also wanted to give you a feel for what you can do for your freeform projects should you ever choose to do any. At one time, I was fascinated with flowers and was doing lots of them just for the fun of it. I ended up with bowls of crocheted flowers and no place to put them. I think I have found a place for them!

So here are some photos of the ruffles, of the ruffles with some of the flowers and an overview of the ruffle with the flowers plopped down on them.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Freeform Project

I made a purple shawl quite awhile ago and it needed a bit more to it. So after reading Myra Wood's book, I decided to add some freeform embellishment. She calls it a surface crochet ruffle (p. 55). I think it is a form of doodle lace. The first thing you have to do is set your guide line out on the shawl, scarf or whatever piece you are working on. I used a black thread and pinned it onto the shawl. Here's an overview of the squiggle and then I also have a close up shot of the black thread being pinned down. The pinning was a bit of a pain and they did fall out. I'm wondering how to do that in a better way next time. It didn't seem to be very efficient. It also didn't seem to facilitate crocheting the yarn to the shawl, but I am getting ahead of myself.

The next step is to start chain stitching and to randomly attach the chain stitches to the shawl so that it will resemble the shape that your guide thread has picked out. You can incorporate your guide thread into the look or plan to pull it out later when you finish (I pulled it out).

If you look at the top photo again, you can see in the lower left hand corner that there are some chain stitches starting. The process was not an efficient one, as I started to say. There was a lot of turning the shawl this way and that trying to get the right angle. But perhaps that is just a quirk of freeform.

I have now finished the entire chain and pulled out the guide thread and have started on the ruffle and am now getting really excited about the whole project. I've looked through the basket of crocheted flowers I have made in the past and there are quite a few that will work for this shawl. I am using a lovely Noro yarn for the ruffle and I think it will be quite a piece of work when it is done.
Creative Crochet Lace: A Freeform Look at Classic Crochet Creative Crochet Lace: A Freeform Look at Classic Crochet by Myra Wood

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Excellent book for the crocheter who wants a guiding hand to explain how to freeform. Myra Wood explains the technique behind freeform crochet and gives you some sample patterns to try out and venture forth. She breaks it down into five forms: funky filet, doodle lace, tossed salad, wild Irish crochet, and organic lace scrumbling. She shows you major projects she created with each type of freeform along with a basic outline of how it was done. She then talks about embellishment.

She goes through some more projects that vary in difficulty and then profiles different freeform masters and shows examples of their works. This is a must have book for anyone interested in freeform crochet.

View all my reviews.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Finished Scarf Present for a Friend

Bernat has a wonderful free pattern for a long, crocheted scarf out of
one skein of their alpaca yarns that I have used several times to great
effect. It is also quite a quick scarf to make. Here is the Bernat photo to the right.

I used a hand dyed yarn from Nova Scotia that I picked up in Toronto. The yarn is a lovely shade of blue green, and is very soft. It has alpaca in it, which will make it a very warm scarf as well. It is also a bit of a novelty yarn, almost an eyelash yarn, but not quite. An eyelash yarn has yarn that sticks out like little eyelashes, but this yarn has little circles of yarn, small circles, kind of odd, but very pretty. It just makes it hard to work with as the pattern is mostly double triples with a picot. When I took the photos, I am not sure if color came out quite true. But it is close enough for you to get the idea. You can see the end of the scarf on the photo to the right. That's the closing circle. It's very fuzzy. Then the whole scarf veers off into the half circles and is quite charming. The whole scarf is quite long and wraps around several times. I like a long scarf.
My friend Sandy is off to Alaska to visit her son for two weeks, so she really needs a warm scarf as living in Florida, we don't have much call for cold weather clothing. The thing about this scarf is, it is surprisingly warm. You wouldn't believe how warm an alpaca scarf can keep you, especially, this one! It rocks! Try it. Makes a great gift and I kept one for myself.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Where I was when I first heard about our SEGDI guide dog puppy!

On Thursday at 2:45 pm at Bok Gardens and Tower in Lake Wales I saw that I had a voice mail message, so I listened to it while I was waiting for our 3 pm tour of the Pinehurst Estate, a lovely Spanish-style house from the early 1930s that is also part of the Bok Gardens. It was from Chuck Heitala, the SEGDI area coordinator for Pinellas county, who had left a very casual message asking that I call him back. I thought he might need a puppy sitter and since we had my parents visiting and were already sitting a friend's pug (Kaia, see earlier post) I thought briefly about not returning the message since we couldn't puppysit, but then realized that wouldn't be polite. So I called him back.

When I got him on the phone he got right to the point and wondered if I might be interested in taking home a male, black lab puppy! OH MY! He said that he would be ready for us to pick up on July 21st if we were interested! WOOT! Talk about doing a happy dance out in public. That was me. In the Bok gardens, in front of Pinehurst, doing a happy dance.

So the next step is to call SEGDI and to set up an appointment to sign the papers. Once we sign the papers, we can start visiting our puppy for private puppy hugging sessions. Yep, that's the ticket! Earlier this week I went with mom and dad on a secret puppy scouting mission to see what kind of puppies they had and to hug some of the puppies, but was bitterly disappointed by the puppy hugging: see photo at right. There were four puppies and about 30 people in a circle all vying for puppy time. It was awful. I felt really bad trying to get a puppy's attention from a child. I mean, what kind of person does that? So, I didn't. One of the volunteers, brought a puppy down to our end and gave one of the black labs to the lady next to me (could it have been my black lab? Perhaps?! ;-). She kindly passed him to me for a cuddle. I passed him to the person next to me. Then stood up and looked in the kennels and told mom and dad we were leaving. I really just wanted to find out the types of puppies that they had: mostly labs and goldadors and one litter of collies. So I just crossed my fingers and hoped for a lab or goldadore as that is the kind we have the most experience with and lo and behold that is what we got! And a black lab at that! The kind we love the most! How fabulous.
Buddha and Thud and Matt and Bear would be so happy.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Hazards of Pet Sitting

This is Kaia the Wonder Pug. She's 10. She's staying at our house for a week because her mom is coming off a hospital stay and is a bit too weak to run up and down some flights of stairs to handle all Kaia's bathroom needs. Kaia is giving me the "the look". It says, essentially, "Lady, I've been in a couple of houses, and let me tell you house this is going to work..."
For the most part, she's got it right. I will do anything to make sure that she makes it through her week with me unscathed, fat, happy and healthy and back to her mom's arms in one piece. In fact, I went to take a nap this afternoon and Kaia was making an infernal racket on the wood floors with her nails so I let her out of the room and went to lay back down. Then I had visions of all sorts of bad things happening, so I leaped out of bed, ran downstairs, got on the couch with Kaia and we both took a nap on couch very comfortably.

We have had three guide dog puppies in training to puppy sit and only one of them didn't go into the yarn room and root around in the yarn. Kaia shows no interest in the yarn. YEA! JC fell into the pond twice. Kaia seems to be aware that that pond is filled with water and should be avoided.

This is me with Willow and Kaia. She is making us do her bidding.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Young adult doesn't mean stupid.

I was a really looking forward to reading Kim Harrison's first YA (young adult) novel Once Dead, Twice Shy as she is one of my favorite authors of all times. She writes the Hollows series and it is fabulous. But I think that sometimes authors have this idea that YA books are somehow easier than adult books. They aren't. Of course, the review on Booklist did warn me. It did say that the world's architecture is confusing even after several explanations, but that the story is engrossing. It is an exciting story. The characters are interesting. But it really irritates me that she doesn't do them justice. I've read what she can do. I know how she can take a minor character like the guardian angel Grace and turn her into someone you cry over over. I know that her villians in this book are not only paper cutouts, but of paper so fine you can almost see through them. Madison barely even has dialogue with them. How can the reader create an emotional connection and fear for Madison's safety when she doesn't understand the villian? Doesn't understand what drives the villian?
Teens are scary smart. They will smell out the little nods to Twilight on this book (the divorced parents, girl shipped off to dad, girl trying to fit in at school). They will see that the world's construction doesn't make sense, but that with thought and time it could have. That it could have been amazing!
There are some great characters here. Don't get me wrong. I still read it in a day. I still plan on reading the next in the series in hopes that Kim wises up and gets smart and writes for her YAs like she does for everyone else: fully and completely.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Things to do when mom and dad visit

I have a list of things I think that mom and dad might be interested in going to see (and places we haven't seen and sound cool to us as well) when they come to visit on Saturday. Here they are:

1. Florida Southern College in Lakeland. The only college campus designed entirely by Frank Llody Wright Watch this cool video:

2. SEGDI is the Southeastern Guidedogs for the Blind organization in Palmetto. Mom and Dad have never been and it is an amazing operation. Very impressive. Of course, if we go on a Mon, Tues, Wed. or Friday from 9-11 am then I can check out what breeds of puppies are available as we are currently on the waiting list for a guide dog puppy. Of course there is no guarantee that we would be getting one of those puppies, but it wouldn't hurt to go look! 8-) And the outlet mall is near by and St. Armands is only another 30 minutes away. Woot.

3. Bok Tower Gardens I went here once a couple of years ago and I wasn't able to tour the house or go to the famous restaurant for lunch. I want to go back and do both of those things! the tour of the Pinewood Estate historic home tour is at noon and 2. Chalet Suzanne is the famous restaurant and they do serve lunch from 10 to 2 Tues. through Sat. although it is a bit pricey. It has been written up by all the specialty magazines and has a bunch of golden spoon awards. We would have to get there for an early lunch and make it for the 2 pm tour. and then walk the gardens. It is really cool. Or just skip Chalet Suzanne and eat at the tea room at Bok, which was ok, if memory serves, and tour around.

4. Dade City is a cute little town and Lunch on Limoges is an excellent restaurant in this quaint little town. Dade City also has some cute little shops and artist galleries.

5. Cross Creek, Fl. Home of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings author of The Yearling and Cross Creek. It is now an historic state park, but a very interesting place. the neighboring town of Micanopy is pretty cool as well. It is chock full of cool shops and antique stores. I haven't been for several years and would like to go back. Tours only on Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun. It's a full day trip there. About 2, 2.5 hours up to Cross Creek. It might be combined with Lunch on Limoges for a split trip, but a long haul back. Something to think about.

Anyway, there are some ideas for things to do when Mom and Dad come to visit. If anyone else has an idea or a new restaurant or something else we should do, just chime in.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
There's no question why this book won the Debut Dagger Award of the Crimewriter's Association. Flavia de Luce is charming and delightful and snarky and intelligent. She doesn't follow the rules and she definitely isn't a girly girl.

It begins with Flavia tied up in the closet. But things are not as they might seem and the wicked deed has not yet been committed. Flavia has just been preyed upon by her siblings Ophelia and Daphne (or as we come to know them Feely and Daffy). But the sibling rivalry is just a counterpoint to the soon to be main mystery of who killed the man in the cucumber patch? Was it Flavia's father? Is her father protecting faithful servant Dogger? Is Flavia more on the ball than Inspecter Hewitt? And why does Mrs. Mullet keep baking custard pies when ALL the de Luces abhor them? And if the de Luces hate custard pie, who ate that one slice?

I am happy to say that this book does answer your questions in the most well written and engaging manner. There are several passages that are so expressive. Here is one of my favorites (page 49):

"It was at this very moment that Mrs Mullet pushed open the door with her ample bottom, and waddled into the room with a loaded tray.

"I've brought out some nice seed biscuits," she said. "Seed biscuits and tea and a nice glass of milk for Miss Flavia."

Seed biscuit and milk! I hated Mrs. Mullet's seed biscuits the way Saint Paul hated sin. Perhaps even more so. I wanted to clamber up onto the table, and with a sausage on the end of a fork as my scepter, shout in my best Laurence Olivier voice, "Will no one rid us of this turbulent pastry cook?"

End quote. Oh my. What imagery. What word choices. I love Flavia. I wish she went to my school so I could have her in my advisory. She rocks. This is the perfect summer book.

View all my reviews.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Exercise should be amusing.

I did mean to say amusing, not enjoyable. I've tried to find an exercise that I find enjoyable and I just don't seem to stick with it. I enjoy yoga. I find it relaxing and the corpse pose at the end is especially fabulous, but I don't really crave it. All through school I never did any organized sports, although there was that brief foray into gymnastics that my growth spurt put the kabosh on. (You know you aren't destined for a sport when they measure your spot on the uneven parallel bars as "two fingers past the last number"!) In high school, Kathy Phelan and I did say we were going to try out for the cross country team, only she kept that promise and I weenied out (I am truly not a hot weather sports person as my husband will attest to: ask him to tell you the story of my 2000 Disney marathon and hospital stay. He took photos of me in the emergency room. But I finished the damn marathon!).

So it was with a bit of trepidation that I went to my first Zumba class. It was at the local YMCA and I have to say that our teacher Mary was one of those rare people who are enthusiastic without being annoying and perky. She was funny. Zumba is a follow the leader class and there aren't many instructions. Let me clarify that. There aren't ANY instructions. So, get over yourself and dance. Hence, my amusement. I had no clue WTF I was doing. Fortunately, half the class was new. So most of us were wandering around and looking at each other and flinging our arms up at odd moments. And laughing.

There was a Latina girl next to me who was a really good dancer and I tried to watch her for most of the class because she could really move. That salsa move is pretty cool and I haven't got it down yet and there is something that she was doing with her shoulders, evidently genetically, I might not ever be able to do. But I'll keep trying. It will keep me amused for quite a while.

Here's a little video of a zumba class that gives you a feel for what a class is like. Not everyone is doing the steps correctly and not everyone has a perfectly shaped body. They seem a bit more serious than my class. But then, my class was also in the front of the Y and we also had these big ass windows and all these people were all looking in the windows laughing.....but I'm sure they were looking at someone else. Someone who was actually following the steps.....that's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

I would rather be dragged to hell than to IKEA!

Please God. Hear my prayer: Strike me dead, shoot lightening from the sky directly onto my skull severing it from my spine causing my legs to cease walking and halting any forward progress I might have been making toward a return trip to the nightmare and nausea-inducing, hyperventalation-producing, crowd-infested, insane blue and yellow box from hell that is IKEA!

Last night I was all snotty superciliousness with Fred when I said I wanted to go to IKEA. IKEA was the apex of modular Nordic furniture. Clean lines and cheap prices. What's not to like? We will find lots of ways to store our stuff. There will be oodles of frames and boxes and modular Danish things. Yes, yes, honey, I will look it up on the web and confirm that there is actually stuff there I like. So I went to the web. And I did a search. And I found stuff that I liked. And Fred and I spent this morning on a very exciting measuring conversation about exact and ideal heights and depths and widths. I should have known better. It was too good too be true. I could see all the cabintry. I could see the wonderful modular framing on the walls for my perfume bottles. It was so pretty.

Then we got to IKEA. It was packed. People were pouring into the parking lot, jamming up to find a spot. We found one right away. Like it was meant to be. More people were pouring out of IKEA with packages and trundling carts filled with boxes to be assembled at home. Many wore glassy expressions, but I didn't pay attention to that small detail.
We walked through the door and as we did I was chattering away happily vomiting up all the IKEA hype, "Fred, they have a day care center here. Fred, they have a restaurant here. Fred, you can find a your one true love here." OMG. Where did I leave my brain? Inside the door you are assaulted with signs everywhere, telling you 50 different things. Evidently there are different ways to buy things. Like, what? You have different ways to buy things in IKEAland? Can't I just say I want it? Why do I have to fill things out? Why do I have do decide these things now? I'm confused now and I haven't even gone 5 steps in your frigging store!!!!! So we go up the escalator. I get a map and a pencil. I figure it's a good start. I want bathroom cabinets. But the map shows the label for bathrooms and then the map doesn't show a place for bathrooms. So I ask the great yellow shirted one, "Where is the bathroom area?" Blank look. "See this label here, Bathrooms? It doesn't have a corresponding place on the map. I want to know where the bathroom cabinets would be." Blank look. Followed by. "Probably downstairs." She's standing by an elevator. So we go to get into the elevator. She says (and I swear to God this is true), "That elevator doesn't go down." I look at her. "Ok." She points to the stairs. So we take the stairs. I look at Fred. "Unless we are in an alternate universe, that elevator is going down." Fred said, "Perhaps it is on a really big loop."
Once we get downstairs, I consult the blue maze map of the first floor and determine the strange zig zag pattern we need to walk in order to find the bathroom cabinets. We find them and not a one of the bastards is suitable. I am near tears. The entire store is filled. FILLED. FILLED to the FRIGGING brim with people stuffing crap into bags and carts. They are all crowding the maze path and impeding the exit. I am finding it very hard to breathe. I start to walk very quickly through these pokey people. Then we turn the corner to what seems to be the exit, but it isn't. It isn't the exit. Where is the exit? HOW DO YOU GET OUT OF THIS NIGHTMARE BUILDING? I actually said that in a rather loud voice. One of the yellow shirt people had to point me to a door. A door that didn't have exit plastered over it, I might add.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Dammit! I thought I was so clever!

Here I thought I was so very clever, looking at Kate Gosselin's hair and thinking OMG reverse mullet! How horrible! What Were You Thinking Kate? Not that I ever watched Jon and Kate. No really, reality tv makes me queasy. Literally queasy. I have to stop my husband from watching to many political screaming shows where they just pick two sides to yell at each other. It makes me ill. The show Big Brother made me sick, all those people being awful to each other. And Survivor seemed too awful as well. Amazing Race seemed like it might be watchable, but I never did try it. The thought of it made me tense.

But one of the odd things I do (among the many odd things, I'm sure, if you ask my friends and family) to destress, is look for haircuts and then copy photos of them into a word document to take to my hairstylist. So I was looking at Kate Gosselin's hair because I do love a good bob and I was curious about the back of her hair. When I realized that she had two haircuts: party in the front, business in the back. OMG. A Reverse Mullet. Was I the only one to realize this? Well, evidently not. Capital Hill Style pointed it out on May 18, 2009 and since I didn't immediately document when I figured this out I can't claim it was me. Poo. But I CAN claim to have gotten my hair cut and to have AVOIDED the dreaded reverse mullet. So yea me! Score one for fashion sense.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bathing Thoughts

As it is summer, one has to have a swimsuit for the beach. Since I live in Florida, this isn't just a two-week vacation requirement, it is a year round requirement as we can walk on the beach at any moment, given a 5-minute lead time to get there.

Talk to any woman about bathing suit shopping and you will hear one horror story after another. First there is the abysmal fact that most designers only design for women who wear up to a size 12. Any larger than that and you are relegated to what I refer to as the Italian widow's weeds' bathing suits (black being the only available color) or the bathing suits by Helena of Minnesota who never saw a swimsuit without sleeves that she didn't like. Or there are those designers who seem to think that even though you are a size 14 or 16 or whatever, you might still want a thong, with a gold circle that is silver dollar sized to connect the top to the bottom and let the rest hang out. We're a bit larger, we haven't lost our friggin' minds!

So I've been trying on suits and bemoaning the fact that once you get above size 12, most everything is black: unrelieved black. Boring black. I was bringing anything back to the dressing room that had a bit of color just to have a bit of color (but not that thong thing, I do have a brain!). Anyhoo, I decided, the only view to be worried about is the front view. Forget about the side and back view. There isn't anything you can do about it now. Summer is here. You're buying the suit. Just don't look back there. If it looks great in the front. Go with it.

So with that said, I marched forth again with a new plan. Look only at the front. Look for color. Shop at TJ Maxx. Success! A two-piece tankini! Bright red, halter top, with a flirty, ruffled, short skirt. Looks really good from the front and not so bad from the the other directions (ok, I peeked). And I don't look like a 70-year old Italian crone. No child will run screaming at the sight of me.

All I have to say is I love Ralph Lauren. He is my new favorite designer. If I ever meet him, I will not kiss him. That would embarrass him. But I will tell him he made me one very happy woman. One very, very happy woman.

Salad Days

Last night we had a very tasty shrimp salad and I was thinking about what makes a good salad and how sad it is that very few restaurants bother to have innovative salads on their menus. It is pretty darn easy to make a salad interesting. All you have to do is four things:

1. Add a nut, any nut. I would avoid pecans or walnuts just because I am allergic to them and find them personally distasteful. Pine nuts can be toasted and are inoffensive and crunchy. Almonds are always good. Cashews are even a good choice. You just can't go wrong with adding a nut to your salad. It gives it that good crunch that a salad needs for mouth variety.

2. Vary your lettuces. And by that I mean DON'T USE ICEBERG! Really. Iceberg? Get over it. There are so many lovely lettuces out there. Use them. Try them all. Do an arugula salad or toss in some watercress with your romaine leaves. I personally love butter lettuce. MMMMMMM. Butter lettuce. mmmmmm.

3. Add a fruit be it dried or fresh. I personally think that the dried cranberry is the perfect salad fruit as it is tart yet sweet and in a tiny package perfect for a salad with no chopping necessary. I have tried dried raspberries and found them nastily chewy. Avoid dried raspberries. Use them in cereal instead. Dried apricots are nice in salads. Fresh mangos and strawberries are great in salads as are fresh raspberries.

4. Add a protein. I guess this one is optional since the nuts are technically a protein. If you are on a diet you could skip this one. I prefer shrimp, but you could add grilled chicken or salmon. Even steak if you are so inclined. You could even go really avant garde and throw in a blue cheese or gorgonzola or cambazola. Woohoo!

There you have it. How to make a more exciting salad: nuts, interestings lettuces, fruits and a protein. Get wild.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Summer Bloggin'

I've been giving a lot of thought to why my huband's blog is so much more interesting to read than my blog. And I think it is because he has a theme. One of the librarians I worked with at YALSA, Amy, also has a very cool blog about her vintage cookbook collection. I follow her via an RSS feed and am always cheered by the way food can make you happy and how people go nuts with food. But, Amy, brownies, are not the new cupcakes! Pie is the new cupcake. Pie trumps all!

Anyway, back to my problem. 8-) Perhaps my blog is about too many things. Perhaps I need a theme. We have been accepted in the guide dog puppy raiser program and at some time in the future we will get a puppy. I was considering starting a new blog just about that. But do I really want another blog? Seriously? Can I handle updating facebook, twitter, this blog and another blog? Or will I just explode. When is it too much?

Until I can come up with something better, I will power on with things as they are. To the right is JC, the smooth coated collie that we puppy sat this weekend. He was really cute. Collies are very barky. Barky but charming. I liked him alot. We were not able to get one of the 12 goldadores that were available June 1st. We are keeping our fingers crossed that we might get one August 1st.

In crochet news I suffered from a bit of crochet performance anxiety. I always am deeply suspect that anything I make is not really well received because I don't have much confidence in my abilities as a crocheter. Consequently, I usually wait until someone says they like something and then I just give it to them. Or make them another one. So, my confidence took a several week beating when I showed a shawl to the friend for whom I was making it for a gift and I asked if she liked the colors. She said she would prefer blues. Stupid me for being crushed when my brave and honest friend gave me a truthful answer. I was in a funk for a week or more. I solved it by getting her something else for her birthday and finishing up the black and red that I had started. To the right is a close up of the medallion in the center. Here is a shot of the mostly fnished shawl. The cynic in my says if I made it in white it could be a table cloth. 8-) I did learn some things on this particular shawl. Some very important things. One was why they tell you to crochet in in the chain three (or whatever) space rather than crochet into each chain: because crocheting into each frigging chain is a MAJOR FRIGGING PAIN IN THE A**!

I found this out to my sadness when I started
triple stitching into each chain and there were HUNDREDS of chains. Literally hundreds of the mothers. Here is a close up of the triples that I delicate put into each chain. I did it. I sat there and did them all. At that point, I was pissed off and it was a point of honor to finish it that way. No one will ever know the amount of time it took to do that one row. But I will.

Here you can see that when you just go over the chain loop, it is much easier. Or maybe you can't see that. Maybe only I can see that. But trust me. It's easier. Much, much easier!

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Dragons of Babel The Dragons of Babel by Michael Swanwick

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I just shut the book of this delightful gem of a dark fantasy, steampunk novel. What a kicker of an ending. It appeared on the Alex Award winner list and sounded like something I would like as the Starlog likened it to Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere and Mirrormask. Mention Gaiman's name and I am your girl, so it was a no brainer to grab this one up off the YALSA picks display.

Recommend this book for any of your older teens who like dark fantasy. It definitely has a steampunk sensibility, but I wouldn't necessarily reference Gaiman. Swanwick is his own man and this book has its own very lively and gritty reality. There are ethnicities of faerie that one just has to read over and imagine as nothing is explained. The set up of the world is not explained and you are just along for the ride. It is a wild ride, but so very enjoyable. The plot is twisty and the road is long and dark, but swift is the journey. I gobbled down this book in a weekend. Best of all is the tricky ending. I won't say more lest I spoil it.

Highly recommended

View all my reviews.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day One) The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Yeeee-haw! This is epic fantasy at its best. This book is a very clever piece of writing. It is the real story of Kvothe, Kingkiller and hero of the realm, who is living now as a humble innkeeper under an assumed name. He is found out by the Chronicler, who finagles Kvothe into telling his story and this book is only day one of the tale.

What a day. It takes us into Kvothe's childhood, describes the tragic event that leaves him an orphan and introduces the Chandrian into the tale. From there we hear of Kvothe's journey to the city, life as a beggar and then year later his finding his way to university.

The Name of the Wind is amazingly broad in scope and yet the reader is drawn into the action at every turn. Sort of like Harry Potter has Voldemort as the ultimate evil, but has Draco Malfoy as a more closer at hand evil, so Kvothe has Ambrose to dog his every step at school, but the Chandrian loom over all as the ultimate evil. There are triumphs at school, setbacks, love found, lost, friendships made and broken. The story goes back and forth in time between the inn where present day Kvothe is telling his story and the tale of his childhood. And yet, there is great suspense in the present day story as well. There is something looming. Kvothe has had a horrible setback and we don't yet know what. We're going to need him at full strength if the world will survive, so while the background story is gripping, there is the very real and happy hope that once the three days of the story telling are over (and the three books have been written), that the story will continue in the present day.

Highly recommended.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

New Meds for Migraines

I've switched to a new neurologist who specializes in migraines and he seems to be quite good. He's got me on a couple of new medications, which also seem to be working. No headache/migrain on Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Slight headache today, but took an NSAID and it seems to be mostly taken care of.

I'll be keeping a headache diary. He said that he wanted to try these meds first before progressing to other options, which is fine with me. I just want the migraines to stop.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I have a pretty cool post on the visit by her excellency, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of the Republic of Liberia. But it is on my laptop. And my laptop is at home. So I will post it later.

For now. I will have to talk about something else. I am thinking about starting a separate blog on getting the guide dog puppy. Since I will have it at school, I was thinking it would be kind of cool to have the students write in and have info about the puppy there. Then they can follow what he did during the day. That might be totally sweet.

What else is going on? Well, school is almost over! Thank the sweet lord. I swear this has been the hardest year ever. We started the year with a flood on the mezzanine, which threw everything out of whack and then we had such a huge enrollment (good for the school, but bad for the library classroom) that the library classroom had to be used as a regular classroom, which threw off all of our library classes. But Dave and Katie and I soldiered on and managed to have quite a fine year in spite of the changes. We were able to go into the classrooms and teach there and also on the floor of the library. It was a year of required FLEXIBILITY and we all did wonderfully.

But I am anxious to get my summer started, start reading books and crocheting. I will be having a stitch n bitch session at my house every Friday (except for those Fridays when Mom and Dad will be in town, as they don't crochet haha!). I also plan to teach Beth how to crochet. I need to find something to do with Jaime as well. I don't want him to feel left out if I take Beth off to crochet.

I had a great day of finding books for students today. Wonderful day. I found dystopian books, "ah, the humanity" books, thick tomes of Ayn Rand, tragic romances, and fun happy books. And I still have students and teachers coming in with requests. Woohoo! It's my most favorite thing to do. Imani checked out 12 books! Yea, pat me on the back! Go books!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Nate Redux

So we take Nate to the monthly guide-dog in training meeting at the Symphony Under the Stars. Nate has not been trained very well and proceeds to show out.

Here is Fred trying to get Nate to sit down. He didn't want to sit down or lie down. He wanted to walk around. All the other dogs are being very quiet. Not Nate. He was the only barking dog. Sigh. And he isn't our dog. But they don't know that, so we look like the puppy raisers from hell.

Then he proceeds to expose himself, but he was lying down, so I didn't really care.

Finally, he fell asleep. He's a very sweet dog, but a knucklehead. He doesn't know the stay command, or the down command. And he only sits about 50% of the time. He's a nut.

Speaking of Nuts. There was this lady at the symphony in front of us. Too bad for her! They really got shafted when we sat down with Nate the Wonder dog. Anyway, Nate starts shifting around and wagging his tail, and his tail is just barely touching her hand.

So she gets up and moves her stuff way far forward to get away from him. I felt a bit bad, but then I though, jeez, have a sense of humor lady. We've got guide dogs in training. Lighten up. I put my bag in front of her so Nate wouldn't get near her again.

Turns out that Nate is a good dog at restaurants. Here he is sleeping on the ground next to our table. He was excellent at the restaurant. Final verdict is I am glad to see him go, but he was sweet and I will miss him just an eentsy bit.


This guide dog puppy in training is from hell. He is sweet, don't get me wrong, but he is certainly fromt he nether regions sent to test my patience. He is a stealth ninja dog and his job is to steal yarn and ruin it. He is so quiet he can lift a ball of yarn out of my basket when it is right next to me and I don't even notice. Then he sits in front of me and starts to chew. I managed to get 4 balls of yarn out of his mouth, but one of my yarn leaves has bit the dust. Grrrr.

This is a shot of Amy and Nate. More on that later.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Thirteen Reasons Why Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
On March 10, 2009 in the New York Times, there was an article titles: A Story of a Teenager's Suicide Quietly Becomes a Best Seller. I checked our catalog to see if we had a copy. We was checked out. So I went and bought another copy and began to read and was enthralled. This book by Jay Asher is mesmerizing. It is about a boy, Clay Jensen, who comes home to discover a package with no return address on his porch. In side are audio tapes. Tapes with the haunting voice of Hannah Baker, a classmate of Clay's who just recently committed suidice.

On the tapes, Hannah says she will reveal the thirteen people who played a part in her deciding to kill herself. She tells of being the new freshman, of bullying, gossip and sexual harrassment. She sets the scene so descriptively that you are there. You are there with Clay as he tries to figure out why he is on the list, what he did to bring Hannah to that point. You are concerned for Hannah even knowing the outcome and you are very concerned for Clay.

The book doesn't pull any punches and as a high school librarian, I can say that it seems pretty realistic and I will be recommending it to our school counselor for an all school read and author visit. The only reason that it doesn't get five stars is the ending is a bit hokey and screams at you. Not the overall resolution, which is superbly done, but the little hook at the end. That is a bit cheesy and unnecessary.

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Eye of Night The Eye of Night by Pauline Alama

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
It starts with a prophet, a fool and a priest. While you might think that is the start of a joke, it isn't. I first heard of this book from author Ann Aguirre (Eye of Night book club discussion). Her high praise was deserved indeed! Pauline Alama has created a stand alone epic fantasy that is quite enjoyable.

The Troubles have come and people are fleeing the North. All except Jereth, Hwynn, and Lady Trenara. One is a prophet, one a fool and one a former priest. These three have in their possession a mysterious orb that may be a living organism, is definitely powerful, but is the power for good or evil? Is their quest a fool's errand or a quest to save the world?

What made this especially lovely was the blooming romance between the prophet and the priest. It isn't your usual romance, but it does give a nod to those fairy stories where the old crone is asking for water at the well and the kind girl who helps her is rewarded. So often it is tiring and unbelievable to read about the excessively attractive lead characters. Here, the characters are flawed, hurting, and not perfect and their humanness is so compelling that when you near the end it is positively aching to read on. But do read on. You will be rewarded

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Infidel Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a book that everyone should read. It is the story of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and it quite simply is unbelievable, especially to an American who has had a very gentle life and upbringing. I could only read a little at a time because it is so heartbreaking and sad. In spite of the anguish one has at reading about her childhood in Somalia, Kenya and Saudia Arabia, where she endured genital mutilation and was beaten by her mother, grandmother, religious teacher and others, one comes to admire her for her stubborness in achieving great things. For her indomitable will and desire to learn and educate herself, to open her eyes and see what is in front of her and question what appears wrong and false. She was raised Muslim, but ends up renouncing it. The renounciation is not easy, quick or simple. It comes about over time, after abuses in the name of her former religion, at the hands of people who should be protecting her. Her life in the Netherlands shows her a different way to live. While she ends up as a member of the Dutch Parliament, the controversy over her renunciation is such that she must give up her post and flee to the US, where she is today.

If you know nothing of the situation in Africa or of how madrassas indoctrinate muslim youth, this book will give you one person's personal story of those things. It will inform you so that you do not just shake your head at genetial mutilation or at angry immigrants, but hopefully it will give you a small understanding of the confusion that exists in their countries and in their minds so that it clouds their thoughts and actions.

This is a tough book to read, but I challenge everyone to read it.

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Silent On The Moor Silent On The Moor by Deanna Raybourn

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is the third in the Lady Julia Grey series. I read the first two books as audiobooks and they were very good, even if it was annoying for them to change narrators. the reviews for the new narrator for the third book were so universally bad that I bought it hardcopy instead. Great decision! Raybourn brings this third book in at 465 pages and I loved every one of them. Lady Julia has determined to go visit Brisbane, uninvited (oh horrors!8-), in the deeps of Yorkshire only to find another mystery centered in the estate he now owns: Grimsgrave.

Raybourn is a master of the gothic romance mystery. This book oozes atmosphere and you can almost feel the cloying moist fog as you try to cipher out the whodunnit. The chemistry between Lady Julia and Brisbane is electric, my only complaint being he has a very small role for the book taking place in his estate. There are some interesting developments between Lady Julia's siblings, but I don't want to give anything away. Suffice it to say, everyone grows and learns from this experience, even Mr. Pugglesworth.

This series is excellent for high school libraries because of the very Austen-esque romance (still to be consumated) and the high vocabulary level. I hope it hasn't ended with this book. While the book came to a satisfactory conclusion, I am still waiting for more.

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Gardens and Spring Cleaning

Here is Willow outside on our patio looking very pleased with herself. It is good to have her outside, because, frankly, she is a shedding machine! That girl could still shed if we shaved her bald.

So some spring cleaning is in order. Fred finished the window project so that means that we are moving on to the cleaning and painting of the moulding.

Fred has outlined all the window panes in painting tape. I went over every pane and used a toothbrush to get out the dirt for everyone knows you can't paint over dirt. That leads to flaking and messiness! So, we are scrubbing and cleaning all the moulding. Fred cut and put in the quarter round, finishing the baseboard moulding. When we bought this house, the previous owners had started many improvement projects, but hadn't finished them all. One of the things that really bothered me was that there was quarter round on some walls and not others. This doesn't bother Fred at all. However, usually once a year, he will add some quarter round to a wall to appease me. I'm hoping that we can finish the downstairs before my parents come to visit. We just have the kitchen and garden room and the east side of the family room to go. Oh and the living room. Keep your fingers crossed!

Evidently the USF botanical garden is spring cleaning as well. We found this bird's nest on a bench. I'm not sure if the bird got tired of it or the botanical people felt compelled to remove it from its home. I'm sure it was not built on the arm of the bench!

I think this is a wood stork. He was HUGE. There were also some Mallard ducks at the gardens. While the USF gardens are small and untidy, they are also calm and relaxing and must be a place of peace for stressed out students. They have a native plant sale coming up in June, which I plan on going to.

I also recommend Bok Tower and Santuary and Selby Gardens if you are in a mind to go to gardens. They are magnificent.