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Sunday Book Review — What’s On My Nightstand: “Tricky Twenty-Two,” by Janet Evanovich; “The Time of My Life,” by Patrick Swayze & Lisa Niemi; “The Room-Mating Season,” by Rona Jaffe; “Quest Study Bible/New International Version”; “Left Neglected,” by Lisa Genova; and “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant,” by Anne Tyler

September 22nd, 2019

So many photos ❤️

(“Yeah, read a book.” Photo by Nancy Ellen Row)

Here’s everything, everything, everything I’m reading at the moment. The stack is toppling over:

* This Janet Evanovich is a lot of fun, I must say. I’ve been reading the Stephanie Plum, New Jersey Bounty Hunter books for awhile now. They’re great. I’m reading the fifth one, “High Five,” and the 22nd one, “Tricky Twenty-Two” at the same time, and that is total OK in the land of Ms. Plum. Book swap! Little Free Library! Take advantage, y’all.

* I found Patrick Swayze’s autobiography, “The Time of My Life,” in the same book swap shelves where I found five or six Stephanie Plum books. People, chances like this do not come along every day. It’s not just his story, though, although it’s definitely an autobiography. This one, co-written with his wife, Lisa Niemi, is one long love letter to their marriage, and that is just what this jaded divorcee needed.

Sometimes people tough it out. He did. She did. They did. They tried and were so strong and committed, to each other, to their careers, to fighting his health issues. And to have lost him so young seems like just a really shitty trick to me, God. I’m just saying.

* Now that I’m thinking about it, I think all of these books came from the free shelves. Rona Jaffe, my goddess, my hero, my inspiration on all-things-female since I found her at age 14, snuck one by me. “The Room-Mating Season” was published in 2003, but starts out in 1963, hello, “Mad Men.” And women. I just started it, so can’t say, but I do see it got some rotten reviews on Thee Internet. I don’t care, I love Jaffe. I just re-read “The Best of Everything” awhile back, and man, that book has aged well. Just like me!

* “The Quest Study Bible/New International Version”– lost and found. Pretty, pretty good.

* “Left Neglected,” by Lisa Genova — just started this one, too. Do you think I read too much? I think I don’t read enough.

* Anne Tyler’s “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant.” I’ve been a fan of Tyler’s since I read “The Accidental Tourist” in a contemporary lit class in college. This one doesn’t disappoint. I bookmarked a bunch of pages with torn-up bits of grocery lists, but now that I’ve finished the book, and it’s captured me? I don’t feel like sharing. So there. It’s probably my favorite work of hers now.

Bon appetit, darlings.

WM

My Life with Chickens, or The Eggs & I

September 22nd, 2019

Keep Fucking Going

This life...

This life...

(Photos by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

I’m tagging this one “advice column,” even though after a year-plus with chickens, I know less than I did before I started keeping them.

It’s true, people.

Chickens will break your heart, but they do provide eggs. I read a blog post, advice from a chicken expert grandma, who said something along the lines of: If they can be eaten by it, drown in it, get trapped under or over it, get electrocuted by it… you get the idea… a chicken will. It’s like constant luck of the Irish, as far as fowl go.

We inherited our first flock of chickens about a year and a half ago, February or March of 2018, from a woman who lived in an apartment complex, kept eight big birds in a too-small coop, and was told by her landlord that they had to go. They were an older flock, with some health issues. Two weren’t laying anymore. They were a combination of Rhode Island Reds, Cuckoo Marans, and Buff Cochins.

We lost one right away to health problems — she had a bad foot and internal problems, as well. She was a Buff Cochin and so lovely.

We lost another two, within weeks, to our blonde Labrador, a female, who was hell-bent on destruction. It was horrible. I saw the whole thing happened, it happened so fast, and she was so much faster than I was. I still have nightmares about it. We secured the gate, which was flimsy, and she hasn’t been able to get in since. We lost one to the neighbor’s dog — she offered to buy us two to replace her (a beautiful Olive Egger who had a friendly, sweet personality) and never did.

We lost Mae, our big, gorgeous, black and gold Cuckoo Maran, to a raptor. And another one, Ackerman, who was a fierce and funny velociraptor of a bird, to a real raptor. Two more to natural causes — old age, peaceful deaths — and now, typing this, I’m getting depressed as fuck. We live in the country, it’s vicious out here — mountain lions, bobcats, skunks and raccoons.

Snakes. Mostly garters, but my son, his friend, and the dog (the lab, who wanted to fight it) saw a rattlesnake down the street a few weeks ago.

Yeah.

We live in the Willamette Valley, in Oregon, on the West Coast. #westcoastbestcoast I have been *told* that rattlers only live in the desert, and high desert, but apparently they like college towns as well.

Jerks.

I’ll go read Lisa’s blog for awhile, Fresh Eggs Daily, she always brightens my day. She’s the go-to girl for tons of stuff, not just chicken, geese and ducks. She has a real farm. I’m just faking it here, aight? Aight.

OK, let’s switch to bullet points:

* Fresh eggs, daily, as Lisa says.

* We don’t wash them — we keep in paper egg cartons in fridge, and let people we sell/gift them to know that they should wash them twice, lightly with soap and warm water, before using.

* They last a long, long, long time, this way. You don’t have to refrigerate them, but we do. Some of our customers don’t though, and that’s fine. (Farm fresh eggs are great for college students — especially if you keep them unrefrigerated in your dorm room, so they don’t get swiped from the communal fridge in the communal dorm kitchen).

* I love my damn chickens. I figured they’d be good company, that they would enjoy the roomy garden and chicken run we provided them with (we’ve repurposed our old garden shed to be a coop, by mounting nesting boxes and two perches, one low and one high). They are. They do. I was hoping that the kids and their friends would enjoy having them around, and they do, more than I ever could have hoped.

* My son has taken the lead on raising the chickens. I bought a small flock of Silkies for him, for Christmas, from a farmer in the country who needed to rehome them. Such a hit, and one of the best (and strangest) Christmas gifts ever. Silkies are fussy — they get broody to the point where they won’t eat, sleep, drink or stop nesting. We have two that we have to gently take out of the nesting boxes two or three times a day. They’re both named Peggy. We name most of our chickens Peggy, or Tiny and Dell, for my late, beloved great-aunts, Luella and Ludell. The rest? Who knows. Zini is the tiny caramel-colored Silkie; Henna is a huge Olive Egger, and along with Dell one of the two remaining birds from the original flock.

* “The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest.” — Henry David Thoreau

* They are sociable, funny and earnest, my birds. We have 16 now — 3 or 4 roosters, plus 12 or 13 hens. (We let the Silkies hatch some eggs, and ended up with mostly boys. Attitude. We need to rehome a few, but they’re getting along OK for now.)

* They help me stick to a routine. They enjoy the smallest things in life — fruit yogurt parfaits (in an egg carton, yogurt, sprinkled with a bit of raw oats and a handful of berries); they love watermelon. Not fond of green beans (unless they’re picking them themselves off the bush I planted?), broccoli, or honeydew melon. They like cantaloupe and leftover macaroni and cheese.

* I feel like a failure every time we lose a bird, but apparently that’s life with chickens.

* They start laying at about four months. If they get egg-bound, I pick them up, carry them around, and rub their tummies.

* Yeah, I know that sounds weird, but it works.

* No, we don’t eat ours, once they stop laying. They’re livestock, but they’re also pets. It’s a situation.

* Especially with these roosters.

All for now,

xo

Wacky Mommy

Benton Co. Fair 2019, Corvallis, Oregon, USA

September 7th, 2019

Benton Co. Fair 2019

Benton Co. Fair 2019

Benton Co. Fair 2019

Benton Co. Fair 2019

Benton Co. Fair 2019

Benton Co. Fair 2019

Benton Co. Fair 2019

Benton Co. Fair 2019

Benton Co. Fair 2019

(Photos by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Saturday Book Review, for the kids: “Boy Mom: What Your Son Needs Most From You,” by Monica Swanson; “The 47 People You’ll Meet in Middle School,” by Kristin Mahoney

September 7th, 2019

Benton Co. Fair 2019

(“Fleurs,” by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

You might know Monica Swanson from her blog, and her most well-known post, “What a Teenage Boy Needs Most From His Mom.” She has four boys, a happy marriage, her faith and God, she lives on Oahu and grows tropical fruit. I wanna go over to her house right now, drink smoothies and hang out.

Her new book, “Boy Mom: What Your Son Needs Most From You” was just released. It’s great. (Waterbrook/Multnomah, 2019, $15.99, 228 pages.) She takes on healthy eating, boundaries/freedoms, prayer and faith, technology and freedom and lots of other stuff. Engaging talk-talk, insight and stories.

Oh, I know Kristin Mahoney. She wrote “Annie’s Life in Lists,” the young adult novel I reviewed a while back. So here’s something new from her, that’s equally fun. “The 47 People You’ll Meet in Middle School,”(Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, Random House Children’s Books, 2019, $16.99, ages 8-12, 304 pages). What are the 47 types? They include, but are not limited to, the scary teacher, the gooser, the cackling eighth-grade boys, Officer Perry, Keira, all as described by Augusta “Gus” to her little sister, Louisa, “Lou,” who is wondering about middle school.

It’s a challenge, Lou. But you can do it.

The advice is going to be helpful for anyone heading into middle school, or already there.

Have a great weekend, y’all. Talk soon.

WM

Friday Book Review — Kids’ Books: “Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood,” by Marjane Satrapi; “Thurgood,” by Jonah Winter & Bryan Collier

September 6th, 2019

Silver Falls, Oregon

Silver Falls State Park, Silverton, Oregon, USA

(Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Of course I want to hear a story from someone who has a strong (and/or sad, intense, funny, moving) story to tell.

This is one heck of a story.

“Persepolis,” by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon/Random House, Inc.; translation by L’Association, Paris, France; 2003; ages young adult and older) is the first in the series of four graphic novels, Satrapi’s account of growing up in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. This is an astounding work of art.

We have another outstanding story in “Thurgood,” a new biographical picture book written by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Bryan Collier (Schwartz & Wade Books, Random House Children’s Books, 2019, ages 5 and up, 40 pages, $17.99). Award-winning writer Winter has written a number of titles, including a biography about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the extraordinary “Lillian’s Right to Vote.”

Collier is, simply, one of those most gifted artists of our time. He has won four Caldecott Honors, including an award for “Rosa,” a book about Mrs. Parks, and one of my favorite picture books ever, which he collaborated on with poet Nikki Giovanni.

Thurgood Marshall, American hero, Civil Rights activist, and the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, was born in 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland, and died in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1993. What he did in the years in between is inspiring, incredible and intense. The book doesn’t pull any punches. He was the star pupil of civil rights attorney Charles Houston, who took him on a road trip to the Deep South to study white vs. black segregated schools.

“FACT: Unlike the white kids’ schools, the black kids’ schools had dirt floors and no restrooms. The students were malnourished and sad. ‘Separate but equal’? Yeah, right.”

Don’t ever think that kids can’t handle books like these, that pack so much honesty, violence, unfairness and truth between the covers. Kids are aware how unfair life can be, and they need tools to change their world for the better.

Enjoy these titles, and have a great weekend.

WM

Smashed Potatoes a la my friend Kay

July 23rd, 2019

Keep Fucking Going

(“A Few of My Favorite Things,” photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

SMASHED POTATOES a la my friend Kay

* Yukon potatoes, sliced up to 1″ thick
* 6 tablespoons melted butter
* Fresh thyme

Mix spuds, butter and herbs in a cast iron skillet or metal pan.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes; flip; bake another 15 minutes.

Add some smashed garlic and some chicken or vegetable broth to the pan; put back into the oven for 15 minutes more.

(Adjust the temp/time as you see fit, cuz I freestyle this one, as always.)

Bon appetit, babies!

WM

Summer Roses, Corvallis

July 13th, 2019

Avery Park, Corvallis

(Photos by Nancy Ellen Row)

Keep Fucking Going

Keep Fucking Going

Keep Fucking Going

Keep Fucking Going

At last… Saturday Book Reviews: What’s On My Nightstand — Janet Evanovich, Jeannette Walls, Curtis Sittenfeld and Jonathan Safran Foer

July 13th, 2019

Keep Fucking Going

Just wanted to say hey and tell you — I love summer. I’m reading all summer long, and finishing a new manuscript (memoir, first draft is done, ready to send to agents, woooooooooot!), gardening, hanging out with my kids and the pets, eating as many nectarines/peaches/plums/grapes/cherries and as much watermelon as I possibly can.

Also back to writing letters and cards to friends, and that just feels good. Cuz you gotta send a letter to get a letter.

How’s it with you? :)

* Reading through Janet Evanovich’s “Stephanie Plum” series, about the New Jersey bounty hunter; her best friend and assistant, Lula; her granny and family; and her sexy, problematic boyfriends, Morelli and Ranger. These books are so much fun.

* “The Glass Castle,” by Jeannette Walls, is a whole different kind of read. Gritty, poignant, funny memoir that everyone else has read but me. It’s great, but it did take awhile to hook me. Books, that’s the way it is sometimes.

* “American Wife,” by Curtis Sittenfeld, is just a knock-out. I nabbed it from a Little Free Library, score! I’m really liking this novel, and it’s one of those reads where I just study the scenes, the characters, and re-read sections. So good.

* “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” by Jonathan Safran Foer, is one that I’ve been wanting to read for awhile. Glad a friend recommended it and put it back on my radar.

So what are you reading?

xo

WM

Thursday Book Review: Here I Am, Baby! “Baby Astronaut,” “Baby Oceanographer,” “Except When They Don’t” & “Dibs!” — all by Laura Gehl, with illustrations by Daniel Wiseman, Joshua Heinsz & Marcin Piwowarski

May 16th, 2019

March 2019

“Sky High,” by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley

May 2019

(Photo by moi)

What’s on the menu today?

Writer Laura Gehl and illustrator Daniel Wiseman have just released a pair of board books for the littles, the first in a new series: “Baby Astronaut” and “Baby Oceanographer,” HarperFestival/HarperCollins, ages 0-4, $8.99 apiece). So cool. Baby Astronaut and her friends have their suits, their helmets, and a big sense of adventure. Off they go! Baby Oceanographer studies the Atlantic, the Arctic, the Indian, the Pacific and the Southern oceans like a geeky rockstar. Great art, lots of colorful drawings and fun stories.

“Dibs!” is the first word baby Clancy learns from his big brother, Julian. Pretty soon he’s saying “dibs!” on everything at the bakery, an entire airplane, and… the White House? But what is he going to do if aliens show up? Laura Gehl wrote the words; Marcin Piwowarski did the astounding illustrations that are almost 3D, the way they pop full-color off the page.

“Except When They Don’t,” by Laura Gehl, charmingly illustrated by Joshua Heinsz, takes a whole bunch of stereotypes about girls/boys/boys/girls and turns them upside down. Gehl is a fun writer, I’m enjoying this crop of her work.

Bon appetit, babies! Basketball game is starting…

WM

Sunday Book Review: “Magic Tree House #37: Dragon of the Red Dawn,” by Mary Pope Osbourne & Sal Murdocca; “One-Third Nerd,” by Gennifer Choldenko & Eglantine Ceulemans; and “Dragons in a Bag,” by Zetta Elliott

March 17th, 2019

March 2019

March 2019

March 2019

(Pix by N. Row Rawley)

“Magic Tree House #37: Dragon of the Red Dawn,” by Mary Pope Osbourne, illustrated by Sal Murdocca (A Stepping Stone Book/Random House, 2007, 108 pages). Ah, the genius of Mary Pope Osbourne. My kids loved this series, the fiction and non-fiction titles alike.

It must be rough, I’m thinking, having a librarian as a mommy. One minute, you have this amazing set of Magic Tree House books, the next minute, she’s given them all to one of her third-grade classes because why? Because I said so. Lol. “Because they needed them more than you two did.” (In my own defense… they really did. They only had a few of the titles, and they were tattered and worn.)

But the other day, going through boxes containing Nerf darts, random coasters for the coffee table, misplaced board games and Tonka trucks, what should I come across? My daughter’s pretty necklace, for one. And an overlooked Magic Tree House book — “Dragon of the Red Dawn.” Such a great series. If I’m ever blessed enough to have grandkids, I’m buying the whole series all over again. (I won’t give it away this time. Promise.)

Check out some of Osbourne’s other work, too — the mythology books and science titles are great.

Next up: new releases.

“One-Third Nerd,” written by Gennifer Choldenko, illustrated by Eglantine Ceulemans (Random House Children’s Books, 2019, ages 8012, 211 pages, $16.99). Loved this book. “One-Third Nerd” introduces us to a cool cast of characters: Cupcake, the dog that won’t stop peeing on the carpet; a family that has recently gone through a divorce, but are dealing; a big brother, Liam, who doesn’t want any extra attention called to himself; Dakota, the middle sis, a science geek who struggles making and keeping friends; and Izzy, the little sis, who has Down Sydrome and is the huggingest kid in America.

This is an awesome chapter book. Reviewers have compared “One-Third Nerd” to Judy Blume’s books, and it is that good. The drawings by Eglantine Ceulemans remind me of Hilary Knight’s work, they’re very sweet.

“Dragons in a Bag” is the latest from author, playwright and poet Zetta Elliott. (Her books for young readers include “The Girl Who Swallowed the Sun” and “Melena’s Jubilee.”) Geneva B. did the charming, detailed illustrations. This is a cool book, and a lot of fun, with some seriousness added to the mix.

Jaxon’s mom, worried that they are going to lose their apartment due to eviction, drops him at his Ma’s house. Only… she’s not really his granny, she’s kind of a witch.

Not a mean old lady — a witch. And she needs Jaxon’s help with some baby dragons.

Well-written, engaging, and go, Brooklyn!

xo and bon appetit,

your girl,

Wacky Mommy, aka Nancy

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