22 November 2012

Thankfulness

I am thankful for a roof over my head, oil in the tank and food in the fridge and cupboards. The last three weeks we have collected food for fines at the library, and I know that these are things that not everyone has.

I am thankful for my family: parents that have supported me no matter the twists and turns my life has taken, a sister who inspires me, relatives who have made a difference through the years.

I am thankful for my friends: near and far, present and past. I am blessed by those who have given me a piece of their minds, hearts and souls.

I am thankful for the men who shared my Path for me, for blessing me with my two niblets, for breaking down the box I have lived in.

I am thankful for the women who have shared my Path with me, for showing me the truth of my soul, for turning me in the direction I originally feared to face.

I am thankful for my beautiful daughter, who pushes her boundaries every day, testing mine, and showing me the excitement she will show the world one day.

I am thankful for my loving son, for his humor, his sensitivity, his drive to connect with those around him.

I am thankful for my girlfriend, who brings me laughter and love very day.

I am thankful for my kittens, for their energy and their reminder of simplicity in life.

Plus, I am thankful for this space, for those who I have met online through a form of communication I would never have believed in. It is as real as you are.

Thank you.

05 September 2012

Somewhat Shameless Self-Promotion

I am not usually one who likes to toot my own horn, however I did want to share a couple of things that I am really excited about:

  • I have been a reviewer for Library Journal this last year for e-originals - books that are published in ebook format only. This year I was presented the opportunity to actually write full articles for the publication, and being the genre junkie that I am I definitely jumped at the opportunity.

    My genre spotlight for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror was the cover story for the August issue. You can read it online here. (I also wrote the Mystery Preview in April.)
  • I finally fell down the Tumblr rabbit hole. You can find quick snippets about the books, yarn, and other exploits in my life at Tales of a Genre Junkie.

23 August 2012

In My Hands

I spent the last week on vacation. My niblets were off to their grandparents' home, and I was off once again to Saco, Maine and the In The Company of Women conference at Ferry Beach.

I began attending three years ago to find myself, and my Self. I was struggling in my marriage, knew that I was interested in women but not sure what to do about it, and all in all not in the best place I could be. It was at Ferry Beach that I found a mental respite, a spiritual home. Not necessarily in the UU (Unitarian Universalist) sense, but wrapped in the guise of understanding women all on different paths than I, but still in the same place. It was here I could hit the boundaries I knew existed in my soul and mind, and decide whether I was ready to challenge them or accept them. I could also play, and remember how to have fun.

Last year I was the coordinator of my morning track, and found myself starting another journey, which has led to being the co-coordinator of the ITCW Conference this summer. After three years, I am still a relative "newbie" and could not have accepted stepping into this place without the support of a lot of women that I had met the last couple of years. I am grateful that I had time to play once again, in ways I had not tried before.

This week found me surrounded by the opportunity to make art in many different medias. While I have enjoyed crafts at various times these last decades, I cannot remember the last time I could "create art". On a chance, I decided to drop into the Spirit Doll session offered on Monday. It was there I faced holding a ball of sculpy in my hands, and allowing myself to create, to reach into my soul and manifest something without any reference except what was contained inside me.

My Autumn Lady in spirit doll form


That was hard. To reference: I loved art when I was young. I would spend hours creating stories in my head and illustrating them on scrap paper, reams of paper. Drawing and painting in school, sketches and clay. Art was part of my life the way that reading and eating were. Then I grew older, and when you are a teen, you do not always see yourself through a clear window. My art was still there, but there were challenges. My strengths were in the literal - I was great at copying line drawings, adapting sketches of superheroes and changing their clothing. Those who surrounded me - in my mind - created. I could not do what they did, and in that, I found myself lacking.

I had lost faith: in my art and in my self. The fire that I could easily feed through my childhood was gone, doused by doubts and low self-worth.

This week I found that fire again. I found the mediums in my hands, clay and sculpy, fabric, felt and wool, all finding the visions I created in the moment. Where it really manifested itself was in needle felting.

I had heard of this project before, but seeing all the three-dimensional sculptures that seemed to be the result, I never really found myself drawn to it. This lesson ended up being "drawing with felt". At least, it felt (see what I did there?) that way. I determined that I was going to make a tree. I love trees, but as my needles pushed the wool into the fabric square, I realized it was not looking like a tree anymore. As I pulled more colors of fiber from the various balls and bags, it became something else entirely.



And like a phoenix, my faith in my artistic ability burned alive once again. Of course, the discovery of a new medium can do that to anyone, and with my obvious love of fiber crafts, this seemed likely. However, it was more than that. The images that came across the felt were more than just ideas from my head. Here, I did not set down with any real idea of what was going to end up on my wool canvas, I just knew I wanted to paint it...in fiber.


I did make a tree (or two) eventually.

No tie-dye this year, but the spray batik was just as fun.

I even did some knitting!
Another summer of discovery at Ferry Beach for me. It feeds my soul in ways I never expected - the ocean, the sand, the art, the spiritual, the acquaintances and friends I have made there - and I cannot imagine my life without it now.

13 August 2012

@ The Library: Shifting Collections

One of the things I first noted when I interviewed for my current job is that the library is a small space. We have about 1000 sq. feet of usable space in the library on the main floor, another 1100 sq. feet down in the Youth Department. Obviously, when you have stacks, computers, sitting area, circulation desk...thing get tight pretty quickly.

The library itself is quite old and sits in a historic district. Of course, age has its charm AND its issues, but I am sure most librarian will agree that you want to make the best of what you have. For me, that meant making the collection more browseable for patrons, have books go together cohesively, and create some more display space.

While I have been using the rolling cart as temporary display area, of course I wanted something more permanent. We have been doing a massive weeding project on the main floor, starting with non-fiction.

I have been ruthless, I admit it. However the statistics on the books showed that more took up shelf space than circulated, so out they go. There are definite holes in the collection that will need to be filled, and sections like computers and travel need to be updated. Quickbooks 99, anyone?

With this weeding we ended up opening up a couple bays in non-fiction, which got me thinking. Originally, our biography section was clear on the other side of the library, and faced the young adult collection, which filled up shelving facing the main sitting area. I decided to move biography back to the end of non-fiction, and shift young adult around to give that collection its own space.

The previous shelving for part of YA. Now the back section is all YA,
and biographies have been moved to non-fiction.  

We moved the tilting bookcase behind the circulation desk, to replace a small-yet-awkwardly-placed table that we kept whacking our hips on. Then it was time to shift the New Titles.



Our patrons love browsing the New Titles, so we can combine it with displays throughout the year, satisfying everyone.

There are more collection changes to come in the library as we finish weeding and shifting some other areas. I hope that our patrons will find it easier to browse!

08 August 2012

ARC Review: Ironskin by Tina Connolly

The Book:

It has been five years since the Great War ended, but its tragic victims remain. For those marked by fey curses, the only way to protect others from harm is by encasing the damage in iron. For Jane Eliot, that means wearing an iron mask and having to get by on the remnants of her skills. When she applies for a governess job that alludes to a fey-cursed child, Jane is sure that she can help. What she cannot seem to help is the growing feelings she has for her young charge's father, or her concern about what is happening inside his studio...

The Yarn:

Alternate reality fantasy is a fun read for me, as it can be a terrific look at history through a different lens. In Ironskin, a Great War between humans and fey has dealt damage to England; the country still struggles in its aftermath of lost technology, and war victims try to live their lives with the damage that the fey bombs inflicted.  Jane Eliot has dealt with the fey curse that mars her cheek by doning an iron mask, protecting others from its twisted power. Taking a job as governess to one that is also afflicted, Jane works to help both young Dorie control her powers, as she has worked to control the rage that can course through her -- and others -- without her iron shield. Dorie also works to stifle the feelings she has for Dorie's father, Edward Rochart. It isn't difficult at first, as both Jane's shame at her scars, and concern about Rochart's work, make it difficult to trust him. Rochart's studio is closed to most, but as ugly women walk in, beautiful women walk out. Women as beautiful as fey. Questions abound, not just about Dorie's power or Rochart's studio, but in the truth of how far Jane will go to find true love - and true beauty - again.

Ironskin has been touted as a "Jane Eyre retelling", and I will have to presume that comparison as favorable as I have never actually read Jane Eyre myself - bad librarian!  Even without that, I felt drawn into this Victorian fantasy where fey and human used to work together and where technology existed before the Great War and humans must rely (once again) on coal and steam to power things. Jane's character developed through the entire book, and while sometimes she was frustrating (as heroines in love are wont to be) there was a thread of strength and caring, not only in her relationship with Dorie, but with her sister Helen as well. I will say that the story took turns I was not expecting, and I am intrigued to discover what will happen in the next book.

The Ink:

Title: Ironskin
Author: Tina Connolly
Publisher: Tor
Date: October 2, 2012
Read: Print Advance Reading Copy Provided by the Publisher

01 August 2012

Review: Black Blade Blues by J. A. Pitts

The Book:

Sarah Beauhall is a blacksmith, but since that kind of work doesn't really make ends meet, she also works nights as a props manager for her friend's low-budget fantasy film. When the lead breaks her favorite sword on set, Sarah agrees to reforge it so the shoot won't stretch on longer. One of the dwarf extras offers his help, but it seems he has a lot of incredible news for her, like the fact he is an actual dwarf. And her blade is magic. And she is supposed to kill a dragon. Before Sarah can say shape-shifter, things really start to get weird, and fantasy becomes fact as Sarah must go from behind the scenes to playing a very real role of heroine charged with saving the world.

The Yarn:

I was impressed with Black Blade Blues on a couple different levels. Pitts brings Norse elements into the storyline very cohesively. Sarah is a very fleshed-out character from the beginning, strong and sure in her work, but a bit hot-headed and struggling with her feelings. Being told that the fate of the world is in your hands would be difficult for anyone to handle. As a young woman who is a SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) member and who creates weapons for sale at fairs and cons, it would seem logical for Sarah to be a believer off the bat. But she doesn't buy in -- and that resistance mirrors the other thread of her story that goes through the book.

Sarah is a not-out-of-the-closet lesbian in a relationship with Katie, who is quite comfortable with her orientation. Sarah's outward life -- her work, her relationship -- is diametrically opposed to the her childhood belief system. Obviously this creates tension and clashes between Katie and Sarah. So, not only do we get to see Sarah work to believe in her role in the world's salvation, to believe that dwarves and dragons exist, but we also see her struggle with caring for another woman and the feelings she has to process to believe in her relationship with Katie.

Ultimately this is a story about being the heroine who is charged with "slaying the dragon." Sarah has more than just the live one threatening her world to deal with, however, she also has the one created from her fears. Pitts does a good job balancing this urban fantasy with Sarah's struggle to find her sexual identity, and neither storyline overshadows the other's importance. The book is the first of a series, and I have the sequel, Honeyed Words, sitting on my TBR Pile. Probably not for long.

The Ink:

Title: Black Blade Blues
Author: J. A. Pitts
Publisher: Tor
Date: April 2011
Read: Library Mass Market Paperback

18 July 2012

@ The Library - Summer Reading Crafts for Adults

It's been another busy couple weeks at the library! Summer Reading is underway, with both an Adult and Youth Program available. I have never overseen summer reading before, and taking on the adult program was challenging and fun at the same time.

I definitely believe in not "recreating the wheel". There has been an Adult Summer Reading Program at my library for a few years, and I did not want to change it entirely - but I did want to make some changes to the events, which was introducing crafts.
I admit it - I like to make things. I am a knitter, always loved art projects when I was younger, and I completely support the notion of "Why should kids have all the fun?" Of course, I didn't want to overlap with the Youth Department, so I went to the internet for inspiration, mainly Pinterest

If you haven't used Pinterest for inspiration in any part of your life, go take a look. I have my own set of boards, but know that libraries are starting to use them for collection highlights. Our library system, MLS, has a set of pin for the MA 2012 Summer Library Program, which is where I found my idea for Glow Jars. The Collaborative Summer Reading Program, which MA is part of, had resources for adult programs and I was inspired to try out lavender sachets.

We had the Glow Jar craft a couple weeks ago. Supplies were simple: clean glass jars of different sizes (having a dishwasher at home, along with Goo Gone, made this easy), glow in the dark paint (from the local big box store) and paint brushes.



The jars were a combination of ones already being saved down in the Youth Department and ones I had collected at home.



My sign - with a couple of samples I made. One I splattered the paint inside with the paintbrush, the other I painted in patches.









We had about a dozen patrons drop-in for this event, which being the first adult craft, I count as a success! This afternoon is the lavender sachet craft, so I will let you know about that next week.

11 July 2012

Review: The Taken by Vicki Pettersson

The Book:

Griffin Shaw was a P.I. back in the day -- fifty years ago. Now, he's an angel who has been helping souls cross over to the Everlast. Griffin is forced back into a mortal body to bring the soul of one Katherine Craig over, due to his interference with her friend Nic Rockwell. Yet Griffin has skirted the rules long enough to know that the gorgeous journalist may just be able to figure out the one case he never solved: who killed him and his wife? Protecting Kit may be more than this gumshoe can handle, especially with his growing attraction to her and the forces working to stop them.

The Yarn:

Those who are thinking "oh, another fallen angel story" should think again: this book has all the elements of a hard-boiled mystery, layered with urban fantasy. The Taken introduces Griffin Shaw, a "Centurion" angel who assists souls that died violent deaths into the Everlast -- or wherever else they may be going. Fifty years ago Shaw met his own untimely demise in Las Vegas and has been trying to figure out who killed him, along with his wife, Evie, while safely - if not always kindly - guiding souls to their own everafter.

This time his actions with journalist Nicole Rockwell change Fate, which earns him a ride back into mortality and back to Sin City, along with the task of bringing Katherine Craig's soul over before he can have his wings back. Kit is a rockabilly gal working at her family newspaper and never expected that her best friend would be killed while investigating a prostitution ring. With her sleuthing sights set on finding her friend's killer, Kit and Griffin team up, discover a conspiracy far larger than they expected, and find themselves targeted by souls both mortal and not.

There is just something about this book: its genre-bending premise should please both mystery and fantasy enthusiasts. The added details of Kit's rockabilly lifestyle bring an interesting twist to the developing personalities, especially because Griffin was actually alive and in his prime during that time.  Both characters are smart, and a little damaged, and all the more believable with their stubborn focus on the cases at hand. While some of the angel-born vs. bred trope is a little over the top, Pettersson envisions a Heaven that seems as complicated as life on Earth. I was drawn into the plots, both the immediate one and those hinted to come.

As I noted in my last Pettersson review, I was not as pleased with the ending of her last series as I could have been; those who wanted a smoothly wrapped-up ending didn't get it with Joanna and her story. It was raw and real and made me shake my head and wonder "Is this it?" Pettersson is just the kind of writer that will leave strings dangling, but that tendency will certainly keep me waiting for the next in this series.

The Ink:

Title: The Taken (Celestial Blues, #1)
Author: Vicki Pettersson
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Date: July 2012
Read: Library Trade Paperback 

09 July 2012

Everything's Coming Up Veggies

Sadly, part of moving back to western Massachusetts meant giving up my garden beds I had created and used the last couple of years. I am still renting, but now in a duplex and I have not been able to address any sort of planting over the last months, except to place my various houseplants out on the shared porch.

However, I am very lucky to have a girlfriend who owns her own place, and graciously gave up side yard space to veggies! I admit I had been eyeing the space as it gets great sun through the day. We both agreed that raised beds would be best, and since we weren't sure where we wanted to start, we would start small.





Really. This time I meant it.



Look, it takes a lot of dirt, people. Yards and yards of it. I swear. This is not even all of it. 




We decided to cut out the sod, which was moved to other areas in yard that were grass-deficient. We also stacked two kits together, to give us a raised bed that was 4 ft. x 4 ft. by about 14 inches deep.


These kits were easy to put together, and stacked like Lincoln Logs.


All complete with soil, manure and compost that was already accessible.

Then it was time to decide what we would actually use to plant this season. We finally decided on tomatoes, basil, and jalapenos. We like to make salsa and use basil and tomatoes on a regular basis, so it was a pretty easy decision.



In they went! We went with standard Genovese Basil, jalapenos and four kinds of tomatoes. We did San Marazano Paste and Brandywine for full-size and Supersweet 100s and Black Cherry tomatoes.




Needless to say, with the sun and heat they have been thriving! I am so, so happy. While the initial cost for the soil was a large investment, the rate of growth has been worth it. We have had to do little for pest control, only one application of neem oil about two weeks after they went in. The surface leaves are still a bit chewed, but no major outbreaks.


This is how they look as of yesterday. I have not had plants that have done so well in my previous years of gardening. We are already making plans for next year, like knowing the tomatoes will need their own bed. There is only four of them, but we still crowded them a bit.



The San Marazanos are adorable with their shape. These are supposed to be great paste tomatoes, and will add them to our canning endeavors the next few weeks.


The cherry tomatoes are coming along well too! I am not as much of a tomato snacker, but we definitely have kids that are.


Jalapenos ahoy! These actually mature to red, but we are thinking of pulling some now to try out. Guacamole anyone?


02 July 2012

@ The Library

So, I have now been in my new town and new job for almost three months. When I decided to take the job as a library director, I knew that I could be setting myself up for a lot of things I was not expecting. I have a diverse enough background - my librarian path has covered cataloging, acquisitions, reference, circ desk, technology, digitization, ereaders and ebooks, my other experience in finance, bookkeeping, municipal work, and book retail helps for sure. 

There has been a lot of administration - budget, meetings, scheduling, mail, invoices, vendors - tasks I have not had to deal with a lot before, but are now mine on a daily basis. Some days I feel like I do not get up from my desk, but I have been able to work the desks (upstairs on the main adult level and downstairs in the Youth Department) and start seeing some of the regular faces that come in. However, there have been some interesting and unique things I have worked on also.

So, let's take a look at some of the things I have done since I started...




While I admit I am a wannabe beekeeper, this is not the route I was planning on going with it.

The library has had carpenter bees up in the eaves for the last few years, so when my custodian said he would spray before the library opened, I came to help. Of course, I had to suit up to protect myself!

I also replaced the flush valve on the running staff toilet my first week in. No, I didn't take pictures of that.


My library has very limited display space, but I really wanted to find a place to highlight titles each month, beyond the New Titles Bookshelf. So, I moved a printer cartridge recycling bin, found a rolling cart that wasn't being used, and bingo - instant (and portable) display space. We highlighted gardening titles to start, but also had a display for Ray Bradbury, and now it holds titles for the Adult Summer Reading Program.

I have ideas - big picture, pie-in-the-sky ideas - but I have tried to spend the last weeks getting to know my staff, the patrons, and make sure we all feel we are on stable ground before moving forward. These people have been here longer than me, and they know the library inside and out. I need to learn from them as much as they will look to me for support and guidance.

And they will get it for a whole next year, as I signed my new contract last night! :)

29 June 2012

Update Your Link!

...because Books, Yarn, Ink and Other Pursuits finally has its own domain!

I finally caved in and decided to purchase it, as there will probably come a time where I will want full control over the site to do with what I wish.  For now it stays in Blogger, but my new URL is:

www.booksyarnink.com


Thanks to everyone for sticking with me! A new post is coming on Monday.

11 June 2012

I Am Back!

Really I am!

I am sorry I left all of you for so long. As I mentioned in my last post (oh so long ago), I ended up leaving my job at the library network for a director's job back in western MA. This meant within about four weeks I needed to find a new place to live, pack, get moved, transfer my niblets' schools, start a new job. It has taken me the last month (and more) to really get my feet under me. However, this blog is important to me, and I plan to get back in the swing of things with posts about the new digs - am I growing anything? Have I picked up needles in the last few months? How about a book?

Also, the job is so interesting! I have been a manager before, but this is really my first job where I am THE PERSON in charge. My library is in a small city and privately owned. It has had its share of news dealing with previous people associated with the library, but I feel that since I stepped in at the beginning of April, I am starting to place my own stamp on things. It is amazing how many ideas are coming forward on how "I would do things", but things have been done wonderfully, and my great staff and I are working on ways to make it all blend together.

I am also getting back into reviewing, but between reviewing and writing for Library Journal and my reviews at The Lesbrary, I may not have as many review posts here. However, I will make sure to link to them as I can, and still share about the books I care about.

Is everyone else getting ready for a good summer?


22 March 2012

It's Been Quiet

Too quiet, I know. However, things right now are kind of crazy for me. Why?

I am changing jobs! Starting early April, I am going to become a Library Director for a library in Western Massachusetts, so this also means that we are packing up and moving.

This is a large shake up to my normal routines, as I work on getting things together. It's all new: new job, new town, new home, new schools for the niblets. I am excited, and sad. I have had this wonderful house for more than two years, and while it has seen a lot of ups and downs contained within its walls, I have made it *my* home. I will miss my kitchen and my porch and my garden. Oh my garden! (sniff)

I will admit that I am thrilled to be moving to a city that DOES allow urban chickens, although I will not have them in the place I am renting. (BUT, plans do include them, eventually.) I will also be closer to WEBS, which makes my yarn stash grow just by thinking about it.

So, things will probably stay static here and at The Plugged-In Librarian for a little while until I can get Life sorted and my feet firmly on my Path again. Do not fret, dear readers. I shall return!

14 March 2012

Review: The Lavender Lover's Handbook by Sarah Berringer Bader



The Book:

Fragrant and beautiful, lavender has been a part of gardens for decades. Whether you are just looking for a new variety for your bed, or needing more information on its many uses, The Lavender Lover's Handbook will show you the way.

The Yarn:

I love lavender. As my gardening skills have grown these past years, this is one plant I always make sure to have. While my planter at my old apartment thrived with huge blooms, the plants that are now in my flower bed are small and woody. Needless to say I was thrilled to pick up this title so that I could learn more about it.

Sarah Berringer Bader has turned her her own passion for this herb into a successful career growing and selling them through her business, Lavender at Stonegate. I knew there were a lot more types than the Grosso I have picked up at the local nurseries, but Bader highlights 100 varieties, giving details on how the plants deal with weather and planting conditions. Other practical notes such as recipes for culinary use and dried crafts show that Bader has a broad understanding of this versatile plant. Terrific photos throughout showcase landscapes and herb gardens, where lavender adds a more than just its namesake coloring: dark blues, bright pinks and white all intermingle with a full range of purples. You can even find lavenders that are bi-color, green or silver.

A field guide, growing guide and craft guide all in one, The Lavender Lover's Handbook has something for anyone who loves this plant.

The Ink:

Title: The Lavender Lover's Handbook: The 100 Most Beautiful and Fragrant varieties for Growing, Crafting, and Cooking
Author: Sarah Berringer Bader
Publisher: Timber Press
Date: April 2012
Read: NetGalley ebook provided by publisher

22 February 2012

Review; The Chicken Encyclopedia by Gail Damerow



The Book:

Do you know where the "alula" is on your chicken? Do you have an Andalusian or an Aracuna? Are you trying to figure out if you chicken has "omphalitis"? Do you even know what any of these words mean? With The Chicken Encyclopedia, you will have the definitions to all of these and more at your fingertips.




The Yarn:


Gail Damerow is a well-known name when it comes to chickens, having written the Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens and The Chicken Health Handbook. In The Chicken Encyclopedia, Damerow gathers an A to Z guide for chicken owners and enthusiasts. At over 300 pages, this book is a comprehensive reference to terms used for breeds, anatomy, disease and more. Special highlights on some topics, such as "beak trimming", "droppings" and "self-sufficient breeds",  plus color illustrations provide an expansive overview to everything chicken.

While maybe not a book that you will spend leisurely reading cover to cover, The Chicken Encyclopedia is a must for those owning chickens. There is always something to learn, and Gail Damerow has provided a bright, accessible and informative reference.

The Ink:

Title: The Chicken Encyclopedia: An Illustrated Reference
Author: Gail Damerow
Publisher: Storey Publishing
Date: January 2012
Read: NetGalley e-ARC (provided by publisher)

15 February 2012

Review: The Fresh Egg Cookbook by Jennifer Trainer Thompson


The Book:


With the prevalence of backyard chicken owners, farmers markets and local farms, having access to fresh eggs is much easier than it has been. In fact, if you own chickens, sometimes you wonder what you can do with all of them. Fear no more, as The Fresh Egg Cookbook will take you "From Chicken to Kitchen" and give you a wealth of recipes to choose from.





The Yarn:

The Fresh Egg Cookbook comes at a time when more and more people are becoming chicken owners and finding themselves with a surplus of eggs. In her introduction, Jennifer Trainer Thompson details her journey to becoming a chicken owner in Western Massachusetts. Before launching into recipes, Thompson discusses good breeds for eggs and other questions about eggs that others may have.

The chapters outline the "Classics" of egg use in condiments like mayonnaise and Bearnaise sauce, then onto the meals. The ranges of soft- to hard-boiled eggs to the Tex-Mex migas, fried egg sandwiches to a wild mushroom ragout with poached eggs will please many. Thompson also gives ideas for what to do with those big excesses, with recipes for deviled eggs and pickled eggs. Chapters on vegetarian dishes and desserts round out the recipes. Interspersed in the chapters are vignettes about her own experiences with raising chickens. Colorful photographs of both family and food provide a great backdrop to the text.

The Fresh Egg Cookbook is a welcome addition to specialized cooking manuals. By no means exhaustive, a nice range of recipes is included. While most of the text is devoted to the meals that can be made, the personal stories are fun and make a great addition to an already lovely cookbook.


The Ink:

Title: The Fresh Egg Cookbook: From Chicken to Kitchen: Recipes for Using Eggs from Farmers' Markets, Local Farms and Your Own Backyard
Author: Jennifer Trainer Thompson
Publisher: Storey Publishing
Date: February 2012
Read: NetGalley e-ARC (provided by publisher)

08 February 2012

Review: Free-Range Chicken Gardens by Jessi Bloom



The Book:

It would seem that chickens and gardens should go hand-in-hand (or leaf-in-wing?) but of course you do not want your flock to eat every piece of bounty that will come through the seasons. In Free-Range Chicken Gardens, Jessi Bloom addresses how to create a space where both your flock and your vegetables can co-exist peacefully and beautifully.



The Yarn:

Free-Range Chicken Gardens is, at its essence, a how-to book both for managing a small flock of chickens in your backyard and make your backyard gardens chicken-friendly. Free-ranging provides a healthy diet for chickens, but there are a lot more plants than I realized that are poisonous or otherwise detrimental to chickens. Bloom gives coherent lists on both those and the best kids of plants to have with your birds. Chapters such as "landscape materials for chicken gardens" and "plants with purpose" will give a broad overview for any gardener ideas for their garden beds. Integrating your chickens into the backyard garden takes more than just plants, and her chapter on "innovative chicken housing" not only gives the basics, but does extra duty on how to install a greenhouse chicken coop and other garden-friendly ideas. Beautiful full-color photos of Bloom's backyard space, along with several others, gives support and inspiration to readers.

Jessi Bloom is an experienced landscape designer and chicken owner, and her knowledge comes across in a accessible and easy way in this book. While free-ranging chickens may not be practical (or in some cases legal) for many backyard gardeners, Free-Range Chicken Gardens provides a comprehensive overview and I believe will be a great addition to any urban homesteader or gardener's shelves.

The Ink:

Title: Free-Range Chicken Gardens
Author: Jessi Bloom
Publisher: Timber Press
Date: January 2012
Read: NetGalley e-ARC (provided by publisher)

07 February 2012

Barnheart Winner

Congratulations to Jessica! You will be receiving a copy of Jenna Woginrich's book, courtesy of Storey Publishing. I will be in touch with you today with further details. To all who know they have Barnheart, keep pursuing your dreams!

02 February 2012

Giveaway: Barnheart

If you long for the days that will get you back outside in the sun, digging in the garden, looking at chicken coop plans, then it is likely that you have heard of Jenna Woginrich.



Author of the popular Made From Scratch and Chick Days, her latest book is Barnheart, which I reviewed on the blog yesterday. I was looking forward to this one so much I leaped at grabbing a copy from the store as soon as I could last month. Little did I know that Storey Publishing would be sending me a review copy also. This means I have a copy available for my readers!

This giveaway will be a little different than the others. Just leave a comment below about your Barnheart (if you have it!). How do you express it? What are you still hoping to do?

I have my garden space in back, and try to can and preserve through the seasons. I have spearheaded a campaign to allow chicken hens in our fair city, and right now it is in committee. One day, I hope to have the land and space for more, but until then I will fulfill my Barnheart the ways that I can.

The Rules: Giveaway ends at 9 PM Monday, Feb 6. Winner will be announced on the blog Tuesday morning. One comment per person; please make sure that you include your email one way or another on the comment so I can contact you! The book will be mailed directly from me, so I will get your information that day.

Good luck!


01 February 2012

Review: Barnheart by Jenna Woginrich

The Book:

While many people are content to dabble in gardening, maybe raise a few chickens, there are some that find it just scratches the farm itch. Being able to act on those desires can take a great leap of faith. Jenna Woginrich made that leap, from Idaho to Vermont to New York. For all of those who feel the same way, the author admits this is an illness that can only be cured by sun, dirt and the sounds of the barn. This, my friends, is Barnheart.

The Yarn:

I first heard of Jenna Woginrich with her first book, Made From Scratch, and have been reading her blog, Cold Antler Farm, since then. Farming has become chic to a lot of people; urban homesteading is growing by leaps and bounds, as you can see from any bookstore or libraries' shelves. However, there are many who are not doing it to just be part of the culture that it has become, but because their lives need it.

Barnheart chronicles Woginrich's journey back to the East Coast and her time in Vermont, plus her acquisition of the homestead she has now in upstate New York. Farming is not an easy life, and Woginrich does not back away from the lean times, the solitude, the mistakes, the fear that came with her decisions. Failure is always a possibility; failure happens. (Anyone who has followed Neysa's journey on Homegrown.org will know it does.) Beyond this, there is success also, and Woginrich shares the joy of walking the path to achieving her dream, her life goals, one step at a time.

What I really enjoyed was the changes in writing from her first book to this one. There is an amount of self-revelation that Woginrich has given her readers which was not evident in the first book. While this would definitely not be considered a Photoshopped version of farming, there is a depth of self-awareness and analysis in Barnheart that I do not remember from Made From Scratch. What Barnheart emphasizes is the perseverance, even knowing the failures and downsides. Because as Woginrich points out time and time again, Barnheart is not about a pastime - it is a way of life.

The Ink:

Title: Barnheart
Author: Jenna Woginrich
Publisher: Storey Publishing
Date: December 2011
Read: Purchased copy

30 January 2012

Garden Dreams


January in New England?

When my backyard looks like this, it is hard to believe it is approaching February. Sure, we have had snow, but it has still come back to this not-quite-winter-looking winter view.

Just a few of my seed catalogs

However, I definitely know it is January when the mailbox gives me these.

This month is always the time when the seed catalogs start coming in. When I dream that my 60+ square feet of garden beds will provide the bountiful produce that I always dream about.

Of course, it also makes me want another hundred feet of garden space and spring weather. I guess one out of two isn't bad?

10 January 2012

New Additions

Just a note - I promise I will stop playing with the blog design! I think I have it about where I want it...

You may have noticed on yesterday's post that I had a couple of "helpers" in my kitchen that had a lot more fur than my children usually do. If you have been a reader of this blog for the last year, you may have seen the mentions of the passing of both of my cats last winter. Juniper was 16, my little girl I raised since she was a kitten. She had a growth under her leg that she was able to fight for several years before succumbing to it. Mookie was almost 20, my shelter cat - my "first child". We had been together since college, in a relationship longer than any other besides immediate family. My daughter took him on as her own the last couple of years, and she was as devastated as I when it was finally time to say goodbye.

I knew I needed a hiatus from pets. Almost half my life as a caretaker, and I admit it was nice to not deal with vets, litter boxes and hairballs for a long time. But I missed having pets. I was raised in a home with pets: cats, dogs, parakeets, hamsters and rabbits have all passed through the doors of my family home at one time or another. I admit to looking at the local shelters websites every so often, just to see what was available. Every time I began to lean towards "maybe", I weighed the expense and the time - and the niblets' clamoring for a dog, which I am still not ready for now - and was able to keep excuses coming up.

Then in mid-December I was doing my usual perusal and found a listing for a Siamese at a shelter near where my parents live. He was gorgeous, a couple of years old, and just staring into the camera like he owned it. I would stare at the listing, then go on my merry way. Then checked the next day, and the next. Then I thought I would just call to see if he was still available. If not, no harm.

He wasn't. But of course by then any willpower I had for ignoring my inner voice was gone, and I knew that I had to go look (just look, I swear, yeah right) at the cats at the shelter over the holidays. Since this is a no-kill shelter, I knew that there would be so many more than listed on the website. So, after Christmas my girlfriend and I traveled to the shelter to "look". There were so many cats. Hundreds. We became landing pads at times, and it was a petting zoo and playtime for those around. The volunteers were wonderful, and I know it is a full-time job to house and care for these animals. after about an hour and checking out some specific cats, I ended up with this kitten settled into my arms, purring like a motor. White with a couple black hairs on the top of his head. I knew this boy was it, however I did not like the thought of a solitary cat, and especially at his age a playmate would be better. While talking about this I ended up feeling a weight land on my back and head over my shoulder. A young tortiseshell kitten had come to join the party.



When I inquired about the two, it turned out they were cage mates, siblings in caretaking, if not blood. The male was the only one left from his litter, even his mother had been adopted. The female's sister was adopted the previous week. If the Universe wasn't clear before - She was now.


Look at me!

Renamed for two of my favorite gemstones, Jasper (eases stress) and Jade (confidence & protection) have made themselves quite at home. A holiday surprise for the niblets, they are pleased to have young cats in the house that enjoy both play and sleep, and I feel like a piece of my heart has healed with these new additions.

Are you finished yet?

When they aren't knocking over plants and climbing on the table, that is.

09 January 2012

Taste Test

So, I knew this weekend would be a baking weekend for me, and I had some overripe bananas sitting in the fridge. My usual go-to recipe is banana bread, which is all well and good, but I had a hankering for some scones.

I had never heard of banana scones before though, but of course the trusty internet did not fail me. The recipe I chose only needed one banana, which left enough to make the banana bread also. My banana bread recipe of choice comes from my Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook. That trusty three-ring binder that many a mother had sitting on her shelf. Mine does, and this one was gifted to me by her many, many holidays ago, I think the year after I graduated college. It's been with me ever since.

One thing I love about scones is that they have a large range from sweet to savory, tart to laden with onions and bacon. They are so versatile, and are a wonderful snack to have on hand. Plus, I adore bananas and bringing two of my favorite things together is always a plus.


My kitchen helpers. I think they were waiting for me
to spill the heavy cream.

The recipe I used was from a blog I discovered called Cook With Sara. I cannot wait to check out more of her recipes.

The dough comes together nicely.

Getting ready to head into the oven.

Delicious!

I had found another banana scone recipe on The Kitchn site (another fave site for this wannabe foodie) and while I didn't make the scone recipe (this time) I was intrigued by the brown sugar glaze. The original recipe has a peanut butter glaze, and I just could not decide which one to make.

Which is why I made both. What else is a woman to do?

So, I halved each glaze recipe and made them both, figuring I would subject myself and my niblets to taste testing. Each is a powdered sugar based glaze, so they are quite simple. The brown sugar glaze has butter in it, which seems a little more decadent, but as noted in the recipe, you want to eat the ones you glaze immediately, otherwise they could become sticky as they sit.

Like they would last that long.

Brown sugar glaze underway.

Peanut butter glaze is mixed!
After making the glazes, I made up one scone with each and while my daughter would not try them my son was all in for it.


Banana scone with peanut buter glaze


With brown sugar glaze
The results? Well, we loved them both! I think these scones would also be great with a sprinkling of turbinado sugar on the top also before baking, like I will do with muffins. I am sure there are other glaze choices too - like maybe chocolate?

Enjoy!