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19 The Fruits and Fruit Trees of Monticello | Douglas E. Welch Holiday Gift Guide 2017

November 27th, 2017 Comments off

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19 The Fruits and Fruit Trees of Monticello

I was doing some research for my wife’s next book today and came across this book as a source. While I had only planned on mining it for the information I needed, I found myself reading entire sections. It is an amazing history of the agricultural side of Thomas Jefferson and Monticello as a vast agricultural research center, long before anything so called was even imagined. Not everything was successful, of course, and the book lays out all the failures along with the successes.

We visited Monticello many, many years ago (October 1994, according to my notes on the back of the prints) and visiting it again, through the pages of this book, reminded me of how striking the home, the gardens and the farmland all were.

Photos from our trip to Monticello in 1994

Monticello 1

Monticello 2

Monticello 3

Monticello 4

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17 Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott | Douglas E. Welch Holiday Gift Guide 2017

November 23rd, 2017 Comments off

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17 Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott | Douglas E. Welch Holiday Gift Guide 2017

I first read Bird by Bird a long time ago and often recommend it to people who have a desire to write. After talking with a friend about the book recently, I thought it time to revisit and re-read the book and see what new things I might take away from it.

Unlike Big Magic, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, Bird by Bird is more of a traditional book on writing — offering direct advice, exercises and support to help you write and write better. That said, Lamott has a great way of interjecting the realities of being a writer along with a strong dose of humor to help you cope with the ups, downs, sideways and convolutions of writing a being a writer.

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”

On the concrete side of the writing equation, Lamott details her advice on writing using “Short Assignments” — committing to only a few hundred words detailing a particular character or scene. Just enough to get your writing — something — which can often be the most difficult part of any project.

Next is allowing yourself to write, in her words, “Shitty First Drafts. This is Lamott’s way of saying that sometimes you just have to write. We can all get tied up in trying to make every word we write perfect — the first time. Almost anyone who has ever written will tell you that this is a sure road to madness, writer’s block and worse.

An entire essay on Perfectionism follows to give some reasons and some tools to combat it and continue writing, no matter how bad you might think your project is right now.

Lamott then follows with chapters on other important aspects of writing including Set Design, Plot, Dialogue and more.

Part II of Bird by Bird, The Writing Frame of Mind is a series of in-depth essays on “Looking Around” or how better to see the world around you and use it in your writing, “The Moral Point of View” which explains how it is very difficult to complete any writing project that you don’t care passionately about — at least in some small way. You have to have the thread that drives you through your project. Something important you want to say. There is also an important section on “Jealousy” that I think is required reading for any writer. Jealousy is something we must all learn to deal with if we want to have a happy life and a successful (or at least, fun) writing career. Otherwise the “green-eyed dragon” will gobble you up with a moment’s thought.

In Part III, an essay on “Calling Around” explains how important it is for a writer to find sources for their writing — those people who can call on with specific information about world’s you may not move in, but still want to use as a setting in your writing. Lamott also details why it is so very important to find a trusted friend to read your early drafts and how you may go about finding them. Writing groups might be one solution and Lamott shares her thoughts on how important a good (and functional) group like this might be for you.

Part IV deals with the nasty bits of being a “professional”, “published” writer. It isn’t an easy life and there are a few things you need to know before you head down that road. It can be unforgiving. It can be crushing to your ego. It can also be exhilarating and dramatic and a host of other feelings.

I read Bird by Bird essay by essay in most cases. Taking time to think and digest the lesson in each section before moving on. You might also turn to (or return to) individual sections were you need a bit more support and a bit more thinking to use the lessons in your own writing.

After this re-read of Bird by Bird, I still think this is one of the foremost books for writers of all levels, but especially for those just beginning their writing journey. There is a lot of great advice, guidance, and truth in this book that can benefit everyone.

 

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15 The Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices by Lior Lev Sercarz | Douglas E. Welch Holiday Gift Guide 2017

November 20th, 2017 Comments off

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15 The Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices by Lior Lev Sercarz

15 The Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices by Lior Lev Sercarz | Douglas E. Welch Holiday Gift Guide 2017

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** This book is available from the LA Public Library in print and ebook format

There comes a time in every cook’s life when you start to move beyond simply following recipes and begin to experiment more and more within those recipes. After that, more advanced cooks will reach for the next level — the graduate level, if you will. It is books like The Spice Companion that become part of your graduate food studies. Instead of dealing in the generalities of a specific cuisine or specific dishes, you go into the details of specific ingredients in your food. You dive deeper into more and more detailed levels of knowledge, so that, at the end, you emerge with a deeper understanding of how those ingredients come together in a recipe. With this deep knowledge, you can begin to create our own unique recipes.

The Spice Companion begins with some extensive and excellent information on the author’s personal spice philosophy, the history and origin of various spices, and how to source, blend and store spices. At its heart, though, The Spice Companion is an amazing reference book for spices of all types. A few random flips through the largest part of the book turned up spices I knew — like cinnamon and cloves — spices I had heard of but never used — like za’atar and wasabi — and spices entirely unknown to me — like Urda chiles and Sansho.

The detailed spice sections are amazing in their depth and include a photo and/or drawing of each spice, a description of its flavor and aroma, it’s geographic origin, its harvest season, which parts of the plant are used — like leaves, stems, seed pods, etc –, and an extensive About section that provides even more information about typical uses and dishes that can be made with the spice.

The author then uses a graphical icon-based system to show which dishes might use this spice, other spices that can be paired with it, recipes for spice blends with this ingredient and finally, a recipe that uses this spice blend. Wow! It is almost overwhelming.

There is so much information to be found within the pages of The Spice Companion. I can foresee reading in a random fashion, jumping from one spice to another, but also then revisiting it later for a full cover-to-cover read to deeply enhance my spice, blends and overall food knowledge. This is a book that should find a place alongside your regular collection of cookbooks to offer more specific information on spices while also giving your great ideas on how recipes might be “dressed up” or enhanced by the use of alternative spices

This is a book that should find a place alongside your regular collection of cookbooks to offer more specific information on spices while also giving your great ideas on how recipes might be “dressed up” or enhanced by the use of alternative spices. It is the equivalent of a writer having a great dictionary or encyclopedia at hand when they work. There are times when you simply NEED to look something up and The Spice Companion would be a great place to turn.

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12 Show Your Work by Auston Leon | Douglas E. Welch Holiday Gift Guide 2017

November 17th, 2017 Comments off

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12 Show Your Work by Auston Leon

 Do It 2017! #: Show Your Work by Austin Kleon: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered [Book]

My reading copy of this book came from the Los Angeles Public Library in eBook format

Reading Show Your Work was like listening to my own frequent talks on career topics. Much is exactly the same message I have preached to people for years. That is, the only way to get your work noticed is to share it as widely as possible. Music must be heard. Art must be seen. Writing must be read. Otherwise, it is a wasted effort. Share, Share, Share One message I share deeply with the author is the utmost importance of sharing your work via blogs and social media. As the author puts it, “It sounds a little extreme, but in this day and age, if your work isn’t online, it doesn’t exist.” If your work can’t be discovered, stumbled upon, ran into, seen in passing, found in a Google Search, etc, you are severely limiting the exposure and discovery of your work. I don’t frequently use the word “MUST”, but I will on this occasion. You MUST make your creativity discoverable, through social media or other methods, or it simply doesn’t exist. Of course, you can ignore this if you are only creating for yourself, but most who create want their work to be seen, to be cherished, to be sold, to be understood, to be an important impact on the world. Don’t let your work languish. As the Bible says, “Don’t hide your light under a bushel.”

While your at it, check out Kleon’s other book, Steal Like An Artist (see my previous blog post on this book). I think you’ll find it enjoyable and greatly useful, too. What do you have to share? What should you be showing off to your friends, family and the world? 

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10 Do the Work by Steven Pressfield | Douglas E. Welch Holiday Gift Guide 2017

November 15th, 2017 Comments off

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10 Do the Work by Steven Pressfield

I have read — and re-read — and would highly recommend you do the same. In fact, I am thinking that I will make it (and Pressfield’s earlier book, The War of Art) required reading before I will work with any client. Both books have helped me tremendously in my life and work. We all have to start somewhere on our creative adventures and Pressfield’s books are like an experienced guide that can help to lead us through the creative forest. Revisiting them on a regular basis reenergizes me to face the fight that all creatives feel.

Of course, creativity isn’t just the domain of some specialized class of people. We are all creative in unique ways and we all experience the haunting voice of resistance, as Pressfield names the monster that frightens all of us away from big, transformative changes in our lives. Pressfield reminds us of the nature of this beast and gives us the tools we need to defeat it — again and again.

In my work, I meet so many people who don’t realize their own potential. They drastically underestimate their power to change their lives and change the world. They face the resistance dragon and allow it to eat them nearly every time instead of emerging, triumphant, like St. George. It is often my goal to give them the tools — the horse, the lance, the sword — to help them slay the dragon of resistance just as I have to fight against it everyday. Sometimes I can bring them along with me — at other times, not, but I will never stop trying.

So, to repeat my unasked for advice — get these books, read them and then start on your own creative adventure. You can overcome resistance and create something new, something unique and something great!

The War of Art is also available from Amazon and your local public library. Add it to your creative toolbox today!

 

Do the workWar of art

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08 The Bold Dry Garden: Lessons from the Ruth Bancroft Garden | Douglas E. Welch Holiday Gift Guide 2017

November 13th, 2017 Comments off

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08 The Bold Dry Garden: Lessons from the Ruth Bancroft Garden by Johanna Silver (Author), Marion Brenner (Photographer)

If you truly want to know and understand a garden, you need to walk the garden with the owner, the creator, the designer or the head gardener. They can show and tell you small things that you might not notice on your own or explain grand themes and plans which are only subtly visible in the garden but underpin everything. Books like The Bold Dry Garden are the next best thing to walking the paths with the owners and hearing the stories of how the garden was created, how this plant or the other was acquired, the grand successes and dismal failures. You get a sense for all these in The Bold Dry Garden. The author and photographer seek to make the garden accessible to anyone no matter where they might be in the world. Even though I only live 5-6 hours drive from the Ruth Bancroft Garden I had not heard of it and, of course, have never visited. This book has changed that th0ugh. Now I am intimately familiar with creator Ruth Bancroft’s history, the evolving garden design and even particular specimen plants included in the garden.

The Bold Dry Garden begins with “Meet Ruth”. This recounts Ruth’s early history from her childhood to the point where, at age 63, after most of the surrounding farmland had been sold off for subdivisions, she started to build the garden. From this start in 1971, the garden grew and changed until it became part of the Garden Conservancy in 1991. This addition helped to preserve and maintain the gardens for generations to come. The bulk of The Bold Dry Garden is the section entitled “Signature Plants of the Dry Garden.” Here you find detailed accounts and photos of many of the plants in the garden including agaves and aloes, echeveria and sempervivum, euphorbium and crassula. This is a veritable encyclopedia for succulents lovers and an excellent reference book, as well as one to simply read from cover to cover as if you were walking through the garden itself. The descriptions and photographs can give you both interesting ideas and detailed information for seeing how these plants might fit into your own garden.

Now that I have read The Bold Dry Garden, I plan on visiting the next time I am in Northern California. In fact, I will probably go out of my way to visit, even if I am just passing through. A garden like The Ruth Bancroft Garden is always a treat to visit and my appetite has been whet with this amazing, written and photographed, introduction.


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** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out!
† This book is available at the LA Public LIbrary

06 The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings by JRRTolkien  | Douglas E. Welch Holiday Gift Guide 2017

November 11th, 2017 Comments off

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06 The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings by JRRTolkien

After visiting the Weta Workshop in New Zealand last August, and inspecting all their artifacts, props and tools used to make the epic movies, I realized that it was time — now 21 years after the first movie — to re-read the novels once again. My well-worn paperbacks still sit on my shelf. Some were first purchased as a textbook for a high school English class. After reading The Fellowship of the Ring, I immediately purchased the other two volumes and devoured them. After that, I usually re-read them once a year or so, until the films brought the stories to life on-screen. Here is a lovely hardbound, one volume editions that you can curl up with on long Winter nights and revel in the joy of reading and the wonders of an amazing story. — Douglas

06 The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings by JRRTolkien  | Douglas E. Welch Holiday Gift Guide 201706 The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings by JRRTolkien  | Douglas E. Welch Holiday Gift Guide 2017


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02 The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life – Douglas E. Welch Holiday Gift Guide 2017

November 7th, 2017 Comments off

Since so many people order their gifts online and ahead of time, I’ve decided to start my annual Gift Guide fairly early this year. This should allow you to find your favorite gifts — and perhaps recommend a few of your own wish list items to your friends and family — with enough lead time to assure they arrive in time for your holiday celebration, whichever holiday it might be!

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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

Could the positive thinking philosophy that is so popular be the wrong way to approach happiness in life, work and career? Maybe.

I wouldn’t have believed it myself until I read this book. Excellent writing challenges some of our greatest preconceptions about happiness. Read it and share it! — Douglas

02 The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life - Douglas E. Welch Holiday Gift Guide 2017

In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be “positive” all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.

For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. “F**k positivity,” Mark Manson says. “Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it.” In his wildly popular Internet blog, Manson doesn’t sugarcoat or equivocate. He tells it like it is—a dose of raw, refreshing, honest truth that is sorely lacking today. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is his antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected American society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up.

Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Human beings are flawed and limited—”not everybody can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of it is not fair or your fault.” Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek.

There are only so many things we can give a f**k about so we need to figure out which ones really matter, Manson makes clear. While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience. A much-needed grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-look-you-in-the-eye moment of real-talk, filled with entertaining stories and profane, ruthless humor, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is a refreshing slap for a generation to help them lead contented, grounded lives. — Amazon

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The One Ring via Instagram

October 5th, 2017 Comments off

 

The One Ring via Instagram

The One Ring

“One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.”

You can even buy your own at the Weta Cave. 🙂

See this entire collection of photos on Flickr

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* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out!

Rosanne emerges from the Wardrobe to continue the tour at Stanborough Mill

September 20th, 2017 Comments off

Rosanne emerges from the Wardrobe to continue the tour at Stanborough Mill

Rosanne emerges from the Wardrobe to continue the tour at Stanborough Mill

“Daughter of Eve from the far land of Spare Oom where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe”

Stansborough LTD Woolen Mill, Petone, Lower Hutt, New Zealand.

This small and unique mill produced fabric for costume for The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Narnia and more. They raise their own unique sheep herd that produces naturally colored wool in a a variety of shades from black to gray to white.

You can get an overview of what they do and see their turn of the century looms working on their factory tour.

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You can get an overview of what they do and see their turn of the century looms working on their factory tour.

Stansborough ltd


Learn more about New Zealand with these books

 

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
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