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Sunday Book Review

January 10th, 2021

Woof and meow 💜

(“Oh, Puppy” — photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

“Fern and Otto: A Story About Two Best Friends,” by Stephanie Graegin (Schwartz & Wade Books, New York, 2020, $17.99). Introducing a bear and a cat who are friends, and go for a walk in the woods. This is a book within a book within another book, as Fern writes a story, Otto helps, and away they go. They find a tortoise, racing a hare; a cool girl wearing a red cape; a little chicken “hit on her noggin!” and some other friends. Creative and fun, and the art is mesmerizing, with lots of tiny details and big splashes for the kids to study.

It has come to my attention that many of you are still remote distance learning with the big and little kids at home. Bless your hearts. It’s not going to last forever, I promise, but we’re in the weeds for now.

Time to get creative and think outside (or inside, in this case) the box. Random House Children’s Books just released “The Reading House,” a new box set reading program for ages 4-8 ($14.99 apiece). An instruction guide for parents is included. The series starts with letter recognition, moves into phonemics and stretches out into full reading comprehension. Keep them engaged however you can, give yourself some grace, and stay hydrated, people. Don’t forget to get out for some fresh air every day, too.

Here’s a sweet new picture book: “Wonderful You,” written by Lisa Graff, illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki (Philomel Books, 2020, $17.99). This one made me miss being pregnant, miss my husband playing the guitar for the babies while they were growing inside, miss the love you can only get from a grimy, smiling, sweaty toddler. My goodness. This is why older folks smile at you so wistfully, new parents, and say, “Enjoy every minute, it goes so fast.” And you… you haven’t had a shower or eaten a decent, real meal in days, and you don’t know what you’re doing, and you’re feeling frantic…

It all gets easier, and harder, and better, and scarier. These moments become the sweetest moments ever and will bring you to tears. You’ll have plenty of other beautiful moments, but those early ones? Ahhh… I know. The days go slow/but the years go fast.

Now where was I, with my misty-eyed self? From “Wonderful You”:

“When you were a mango, we worked while you grew — we fixed and we folded and waited for you.”

All of the different stages of a baby’s growth are compared to the sizes of fruits and veggies — peas, lemons, an eggplant — and a variety of different parents and families are represented. Just a sweet book — enjoy.

Stephen Johnson hits it out of the park with “Music Is…” a great big fancy picture book, all about the different genres of music. “Every music has its own soul… It doesn’t matter what style it is, just be true to it.” — Ray Charles

Classical, Latin, jazz, country and heavy metal, hip hop, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, electronica! and pop. You can read this one forwards, backwards, and opened up — the design is really user friendly.

Splash, bang and pop. (Simon & Schuster, 2020, $24.99). Be sure you share this one with the kids, and don’t just keep it for yourself.

Bon appetit, stay safe, wash your hands and wear a mask. Try not to cough or sneeze on people. That’s all I got. :)

Leave a note if you stop by, I’d love to hear from you.

WM

Sunday Book Review

December 6th, 2020

Woof and meow 💜

(photo by my son)

“Revenge of the Living Ted,” by Barry Hutchison, illustrated by Lee Cosgrove (Delacorte Press, 2019, 192 pages, $9.99). Have you ever been to a Build-a-Bear, perhaps for a little kid birthday party? All of those little shoes and boots and fancy bear slippers? The overalls and biker outfits and pink tutus? The accessories and the little red hearts that you jam inside before they blow stuffing into your creation? Kinda creepy but kinda fascinating, am I right? Am I the only one? Nope, I’m not. Because here come those little rascals, step-sibs Lisa Marie and Vernon, in the sequel to “Night of the Living Ted.” Yes, it’s hilarious. Will the kids find it scary? Maybe the little-littles, probably not ages 6 and up. (Book 3 in the series is “Invasion of the Living Ted.”)

“Decoding Boys: New Science Behind the Subtle Art of Raising Sons,” by Cara Natterson, M.D. (Ballantine Books, 2020, 232 pages, $27). Is this even possible, to “decode” boys? Hmm. Alternately: Sure, why not?

“There’s No Manual: Honesty and Gory Wisdom About Having a Baby,” by Beth Newell and Jackie Ann Ruiz (Avery/Penguin Random House, 2020, 262 pages, $18). They lost me at gory. Back labor, 65 hours of it, left me a little twitchy. Looks like an interesting book, though. Pick it up for a preggo girlfriend or relative. Here’s the advice one of our ultrasound techs gave us when we were pregnant with our first kid, and I will now impart it to you:

  1. It’s not the terrible 2’s, it’s the terrible 3’s.
  2. “Would you like the blue sippy cup? Or the yellow one? The red shirt? Or the green shirt?”
  3. After you have your baby, your dog will just be a dog.

Yeah, that’s all I’ve got, still, after 21+ years of motherhood. Ha! And bon appetit.

WM

Sunday Book Review

November 29th, 2020

Pandemic 2020, Corvallis (plus old shots of Beaverton)  💜

“Light Through the Trees” (photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

I received a review copy of an exquisite picture book called “Digging for Words: Jose Alberto Gutierrez and the Library He Built” (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2020, $17.99). Angela Burke Kunkel is the author, and Paola Escobar illustrated the book. It’s a beautiful, true story (beautifully true!) about a  garbage collector in Bogota, Colombia, who finds a copy of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” while he is doing his rounds, and starts collecting books for a public library. Meanwhile, young Jose waits for Saturday to roll around so he can visit big Jose’s library. Cool online resources, if you’re interested…

La Fuerza de las Palabras

“Lord of the Books”

“‘Trashy’ Books: Garbage Collector Rescues Reading Material for Colombian Children”

I found another prize with “Night Walk to the Sea: A Story About Rachel Carson, Earth’s Protector,” by Deborah Wiles and Daniel Miyares (Schwartz & Wade Books/Random House Kids, 2020, $17.99). In this imaginative tale, pioneering environmentalist Rachel Carson and her great-nephew/adopted son, Roger, ride out an ocean storm together in their cabin, then journey down to the beach to explore.

“‘Listen to the voices of the living things,’ said Rachel. 

A screech owl softly called to its mate

from an old woodpecker hole:

tremelo-tremelo-thrum-thrum-thrum”

I’m enamored of this picture book: the fireflies, the storm, the cabin in Maine. Sweet illustrations and a cool story. More resources:

RachelCarson.org

Smithsonian/Ocean Life

NOAA Ocean Exploration Facts

Scientific American/Fireflies

Once upon a time, a singer/songwriter/novelist by the name of Andrew Peterson came up with his own fantasy version of a series something like “Lord of the Rings” or “The Chronicles of Narnia.” He called it “The Wingfeather Saga,” and released the first two books. Now we have in hand “The Monster in the Hollows” (Book 3) and “The Warden and the Wolf King” (Book 4) (Waterbrook/Multnomah, 2020, $13.99 each). New illustrations and hand-drawn maps by Joe Sutphin (who also illustrated the graphic novel “Watership Down” and Sheila Grau’s “Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions”). For more info, check Peterson’s website.

Friday Book Review: Happy, Happy Holidays!

November 27th, 2020

Pandemic 2020, Corvallis (plus old shots of Beaverton)  💜

Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley

 

Here we are, holidays 2020, which are turning out to be different from any holiday season any of us have ever experienced before. It’s brutal, this year. 2020 is brutal and heartless. But I have faith and hope that someday the pandemic will be over. 

I knew we’d start out strong, confused and panicked, but then pulling together, pitching in, “We can all get through this together!” Yay, team. But that before too long (it took a few months, as it turned out), people would start back-biting and snarking, hoarding supplies and circling the wagons. “You can’t tell us what to do!” The bitter politics. Etc.

We’ll get past that, I know. We’ll push right into sorrow and additional devastation, we’ll emerge from it jaded but stronger. We’ll know our neighbors, at the end of it. We’ll be there for our families in a way we maybe haven’t been before. 

I have hope. I have faith. We are going to be OK. We had Halloween, and Thanksgiving was yesterday. Now onto Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s and then it will be a full year since this hell began.

It will be one year, I am guessing, possibly two, and I mean worldwide, before we get through the woods, the darkness, and out to the other side. It will happen. Don’t give up. Hold onto each other, and if you can’t do that, pick up the phone and call. Someone needs to hear from you. Peace.

And now, books. I have stacks and stacks of them waiting for review. Short shrift for all, but they’re all good. Makes me happy to know that books are still being published, art is still being made, music is still being created. My chickens and my house, my garden and my creek, my kids. Our friends. All doing our best to keep going.

All you a quilter? My friends, paternal grandmother and aunties are (were) and I admire the art. Learning to quilt is on my bucket list. In the meantime I’ll keep knitting scarves, baby snugglies and little scraps for the kittens to play with. Lizzy Rockwell’s new book, “The All-Together Quilt” (Random House Kids/Alfred A. Knopf, 2020, $17.99) is just a blast of beauty during these bleak months.  The author has based it on her real-life quilting group that meets Monday and Friday afternoons at the Senior Court Housing Complex in Norwalk, Connecticut. Neighborhood kids, seniors from the complex, adult volunteers, families from the neighborhood, all kinds of people gather and quilt. 

The simplicity and elegance of their work shines through in Rockwell’s illustrations. So much love, beauty and care. Great book. I appreciated the guide to classic quilt blocks she included in the back, and descriptions of the fabrics that were used. A work of art about works of art. Peace.

“Curtain Call (Babymouse: Tales From the Locker),” by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm (Random House Kids, 2020, 179 pages, $13.99) is the latest installment in the Pink Princess series. (It’s not really called that, but she’s always been a princess to me. I (heart) Babymouse.) The covers are permabound, a librarian’s dream, and the books are just the right combo of novel, fantasy, and graphic novel. Buy a set for the age 7-year-old – middle school chicky in your life.

“Christmas is Every Day,” by Isabel Otter, illustrated by Alicia Mas (An Every Day Together Book, Rodale Kids New York/Random House Books, 2020, $10.99). Don’t save the spirit of Christmas for just once a year, the authors say. Try these ideas: “Embrace happiness,” “pass on a treasured possession,” “share the things you have,” “remember to be kind.” The colors and characters are sweet, the sentiment is pure. This is a cool little book.

Sometimes when a book comes out, you know it was written with you in mind. For me, that book is “A Very Quacky Christmas,” by Frances Watts and Ann James (rhcbooks/Random House Kids, 2020, $17.99). Introducing… Samantha Duck, her tortoise pal Sebastian, the sheep, the hens, the cows, the donkey… many decorations, many presents, many, many big ideas. This is a lovely picture book that will be a welcome addition to any collection.

Bon appetit, babies. Much love and happy 2021.

 

 

Sunday Recipe Club: Seven-Layer Salad

April 5th, 2020

Woof and meow 💜



Recipe of the Day — Seven-Layer Salad with Creamy Salsa Vinaigrette

– For the Dressing
1/2 cup Greek yogurt or coconut milk
1/2 cup mild or med salsa
2 tablespoons mayo
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon chopped green onions
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

– For the Salad
1 to 2 heads romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 med red onion, sliced or chopped
1/2 cup green olives, sliced
3/4 cup corn kernels (thawed from frozen or fresh from the cob – no need to cook)
fresh mango.
1 avocado, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, dill, and/or basil, chopped

Bon appetit!ReplyForward

Getting through Pandemic 2020, one damn recipe at a time

March 28th, 2020

Do you know how long the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918 (102 years ago) lasted? About three years. That’s right. From January 1918, approximately, til December 1920. That is insane. Three years.

Let’s not do that, okay? Please.

My great-grandmother, Miz Pearline, died in the epidemic, the story has been passed down to us. “I know,” my daughter told me yesterday, “She was my age. I know, I know, Gma told me. She was my age, Mom!!”) (Thanks, Ma. Now my baby is worried.) She left behind my then 3-year-old grandfather (Mom’s dad) and his 1 1/2 year old sister. They never got over the loss, understandably, and the rest of us really haven’t, either. That kind of grief cuts deep.

So let’s hope we get out in front of this soon. Do everything you can, in your power, ok? Start by calling, e-mailing or IM’ing some friends and family and telling them you love them fiercely.

I’m going to re-run a recipe a day, alright? Alright.

Let’s start with Chocolate Chip Cookies (I usually do them as a 9×12 pan of bar cookies) and some Lemon (or Orange) Snaps.

Xo and I love you.

WM

What’s on My Nightstand, the Good Friday Edition: “The Gumamazing Gum Girl! GUM LUCK,” by Rhode Montijo; “How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves,” by Dr. Sophia Yin; “Vampirina at the Beach,” by Anne Marie Pace & LeUyen Pham

May 11th, 2017

I stashed this away and just found it :)

wm

blog post
4/14/17

How’s about some books, kids? Turn off the computer. I mean it. Power that tablet down and leave it to charge. Hide your phone in the drawer and grab something to read that doesn’t require a battery, just your brain.

“The Gumamazing Gum Girl! GUM LUCK” (by Rhode Montijo, with Luke Reynolds; Disney-Hyperion Books; on sale June 13, 2017; ages 6-8; 160 pages; $14.99.) Gabby Gomez is here to take you with her on some adventures. Are you ready? We’ll start with the scratch-n-sniff cover. Yum. Now, on to the adventures… Last time with Gabby, she saved a passenger plane with her bare hands. (“The Gumazing Gum Girl: Chews Your Destiny.”) This time? A school field trip is involved, and perhaps a trip to the dentist for Gum Girl. Did I mention that the dentist is her father? And he doesn’t know that his daughter is a superhero? Dun, dun, dun… The pink/black/white color scheme is great, the illustrations are pretty much perfect, and the story is lively. The villain? Hates gum. Spanish and English? No hay problema, there is no problem, we go back and forth between the two languages. I think you’ll like this one.

Next up:

“How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves” (by Sophia Yin, D.V.M.; T.F.H. Publications, Inc.; 2004; 244 pages). OK, I haven’t actually finished reading this one yet, this amazing, well-written how-to book. (I’m a few chapters in.) I have tried, valiantly, and failed, miserably, to get through it. Actually? I gave it to my friend Max, who doesn’t even need it because his dog is super well-behaved. I left it for my kids to read (before I gave up and gave the book away). They ignored it, too. We are bad dog owners at our house. It’s true. For example, I just put poor wild dingo in her crate (after taking her outside, bringing her back in… four times… feeding and brushing her, loving on her), just so I could write.

Her’s a good girl, but a little nutty.

She won’t come when we call. She slips her leash, collar and halter like she’s canine Houdini. She growls at everyone. She thinks Chase-the-Cat is the best game she’s ever invented. We watched that movie, “Marley & Me”? She makes that dog look like a damn amateur. Every night, she’s sprawled out in the middle of my bed, snoring and being adorable. She bats her eyelashes at you. She is pretty.

She looks like a deer, with those long legs. “Is she a polar bear?” the kids ask. “A dingo? A monkey? A cow? A little lamb? Or… a wolverine?”

Who knows.

I might take a nap after this, though, because having a dog in the house wears me the hell out. She’s a puppy, she just turned a year old. She’s a yellow lab/golden retriever mutt. She weighs a lot so far. Sixty-five pounds or so? Most likely due to the fact that she likes to eat, oh, how she likes to eat, just about anything. Oyster shells, an entire plate of brownies, anything from the garbage/the floor/the counters. As much Purina One as we’re willing to dole out. The entire drip line irrigation system from the back yard, her toys (especially the rope pulls. She will eat an entire one of those, no problem).

I love her. Dog, I promise to borrow the dog book back from Max, I promise to try to figure out how to behave. Let’s keep working on it.

And last, but certainly not least:

“Vampirina at the Beach,” written by Countess Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by Mistress of the Night LeUyen Pham. (No, I did not make that up, it’s what they put on the cover.) (Disney-Hyperion Books, 2017, 40 pages, ages 3-5, $16.99.) (Sequel to “Vampirina Ballerina” and “Vampirina Ballerina Hosts a Sleepover.”)

This one is dedicated to Kevin: “…the werewolf who taught our vampire girl not only to dance, but to fly.”

I kind of have a soft spot for book dedications, and that one is particularly nice.

Vampirina’s family looks a little like the Munsters, or the Addams Family, so that’s cool. They drive around in a hearse. They head to the beach! It’s a full moon, and they’re going to make a night of it. I’m enamored of this book, it’s pretty adorable. The colors are bright and pop off the page; the story is engaging; our heroine is a darling.

Bon appetit, babies! More reading, more, I say. Just do it.

xo

wm

scary music boxes

February 27th, 2011

ok did you watch that? did you traumatize your children with it? it is scary!!! here is what is even scarier: being a teenager, living at home (really scary!), then your sister’s boyfriend says, Was it that scary music box music? when you mention you slept in the basement and had nightmares all night.

me: How did you know?

he just shook his head.

seriously. I never mentioned to anyone that i nightmared about music box music. know why? because it was always this vague, slippery horror, and as soon as I woke up, it just slid away and i would be thinking, What the hell was that? But he used to stay at our house all the time, and I always wondered why he stopped crashing in the basement and insisted on sleeping on the living room floor. It was that music.

too many nightmares.

grrrrrrrrrrrrrr…

May 25th, 2010

that’s all.

— wm

Monday Morning Book Review: “Breaking Dawn,” “Drink This: Wine Made Simple” and “The Edible Woman”

December 21st, 2009

On review for today:

Speaking of blood, I’m on page 483 out of 756 pages of “Breaking Dawn” (by Stephenie Meyer, 2008, Megan Tingley Books, Little, Brown and Company, $22.99). I am facing the wrath of my 10-year-old writing this but I have to say it: This book sucks. I mean, sucks. (Edited at 4 p.m. to say — just finished the book. Am standing by this review. wm.)

The vampires, the werewolves, the sex, the drinking of blood… it outdoes “Rosemary’s Baby” and I’m not meaning that as a compliment. I frickin’ love “Rosemary’s Baby,” both the Ira Levin novel and the film version and no, I do not care to discuss Roman Polanski. Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer are just brilliant in it, and I’ve seen it, I dunno. Twenty times?

“Breaking Dawn” does not give me the satisfaction of, say, Rosemary spitting in Guy’s eye when she realizes she’s been set up. I don’t know what else to say about this book, but it is not the book to read, or attempt to read, when you’re recovering from surgery. Or any other time. Who said this about “Twilight,” Neisha? That her favorite part of the book was the blank pages? No. When asked what her ten least-favorite books were, Neisha said, and I’m quoting here, “Can I just say ‘Twilight’ ten times?” Ha. Ha. Ha. I think it was Susan who said that about the blank pages. Anyway. You were so right.

OK. Enough about blood. Next topic: Wine! I am no wine snob, but I do like my pinot grigio (or gris, or what have you) and I like the fizzy stuff, prosecco — prosecco a la Brian Boitano (see? I told you I am low-brow here) with the grapefruit juice and the sugar cube. Well. This book, “Drink This: Wine Made Simple” (by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, 2009, Ballantine Books, 348 pages, $26) did not make me feel like an idiot for not knowing my wines. Also, she devotes a brief page or two to pinot grigio, which apparently is the Slut of White Wines (my words, not hers) and she also mentions the Ponzis and I love the Ponzis. They are such a nice family, those Ponzis, and they’re local.

She discusses all that you need to know about wine:
1. Type of grapes.
2. Where the grapes were grown.
3. How the grapes were turned into wine.

Also she discusses decanters, glasses, yadda yadda. I liked this book — it would make a good gift or purchase for your own self.

“The Edible Woman,” Margaret Atwood’s first book (1969) is just fantastic and you should just go buy a copy and read it right now. (Why does it fit so nicely into this round-up? You figure it out, I cannot.) You should especially read it immediately if you’ve been unfortunate enough to have read something like, say, “Breaking Dawn” or any of the other “Twilight” books. You need to get that taste out of your mouth and head. Wacky Cousin is right — it’s like you just ate a big bag of Cheetos and feel sick to your stomach once you’ve read Meyer.

The End. You vampire fans can just start throwing stuff at your screen now, I don’t even care. (More randomness: I actually liked the 2nd “Twilight” movie, we just saw it a couple weeks ago. Hmm.)

Love,

WM

PS — I just heard that one of the best editors/writers/reporters I’ve ever known, Mr. J, is moving on to some new projects. Good for him. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. In his honor, and because this post, in particular, fucking really needed an editor, I will leave you with a quote:

“You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.” — Arthur Plotnik, editor and author (b. 1937)

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