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Gift Guide 2013: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

November 8th, 2013 Comments off

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I keep returning to this book, year after year, as one of my favorites and always recommend it to others whenever I can.

This magical fantasy novel pulls you through the years at the turn of the last century and wraps you in the lives of Celia and Marco, two pawns in a lifelong game that they themselves don’t even realize they are fighting. The Cirque de Rêves attracts us, the reader, as much as the characters in the book. Were there only a place like the Cirque, I might run away and never come home.

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead. Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

More 2013 Gift Guide Items:

Categories: Announcement, Books, Recommendation, Special Tags:

2012 Gift Guide: The Great Potato Book

November 22nd, 2012 Comments off

The Great Potato Book

A serendipitous look though the sorting shelves at my local library led me to The Great Potato Book, which can only be described as raising food fetishism to a new height. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing.

Beautifully photographed and printed on glossy stock, The Great Potato Book presents the humble potato’s history, recipes and an index of potato varieties you have probably never seen. Each description offers appropriate users for the particular variety as well as possible substitutions if you can’t find a certain type in your area. Several recipes caught my eye immediately, including the Italian Potato Pie, Potato-Onion Focaccua and Bacon-Potato Cake.

If I were a collector of food books, The Great Potato Book would certainly find its way onto my bookshelves, or more likely, onto my coffee table, since it is so beautifully designed. Of course, owning this book would make it clear to all your friends that your truly are a “foodie” to the highest degree. For the gardener’s among us, the book gives us images of perfection to strive for in your own garden. You may never reach such heights, but it is always good to have something for which to strive.

Despite its glossiness, the book brought back some pleasant memories of planting and harvesting potatoes with my grandma, many years ago. She planted a half-acre of garden until she was well into her 70’s and taught me most everything I know about gardening.

Each year we would take seed potatoes left over from the previous year and cut them into sections, each containing an eye, These were loaded into peck baskets made of wicker and carried out to the back of her property, where the garden existed. The soil would have been prepared until it was deep and soft, and a dark, chocolate brown. We would then create a long straight row, using the ancient hand cultivator that seemed to belong to a previous century. It looked like a miniature plow with a large metal wheel at the front and wheelbarrow-like handles at the rear. Each of us would then heft a basket and begin walking down the row, dropping potatoes at regular intervals, then stepping on each one to seat it in the soil. Then we would carefully “hill up” each row, giving the new potatoes plenty of room to grow.

Later in the Summer, and into the cold Fall, we would make regular trips out to the garden to gather potatoes for our usual Sunday family supper. It was always amazing to put the garden fork into a seemingly dead part of the garden and turn up a hidden bounty.
Despite the typical attacks of potato bugs, dry weather, wet weather and more, I have no memory of Grandma ever buying potatoes. I guess her garden, and her gardening knowledge, made it relatively easy to provide more than enough for everyone.

Food as fetish, food as art and food as memory. Any book that can serve in all these ways is certainly worth a look.

More 2012 Gift Guide Items:

  1. Do the Work by Steven Pressfield
  2. Bulb Planting Tools
  3. Blue Snowball Microphone
  4. Seagate Backup Plus 500 GB USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive
  5. Logitech C920 HD Web Cam
  6. We Are All Weird by Seth Godin
  7. Sunset Western Garden Book – New Edition for 2012
  8. The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings
  9. Garden Mysteries by Anthony Eglin
  10. The Creative Habit/The Collaborative Habit by Twyla Tharp
  11. Moleskeine Journals
  12. Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening (3rd Edition): Month by Month
  13. Podcasting for Dummies/Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies
  14. Wacom Bamboo Splash Pen Tablet
  15. Radical Careering by Sally Hogshead
  16. The $64 Tomato
  17. Blue Yeti Microphone
  18. BioLite CampStove/HomeStove
  19. Getting Things Done by David Allen
  20. The Curious Gardener
  21. Anything You Want by Derek Sivers
  22. GoPro HD HERO 3
  23. Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart
  24. The Starfish and the Spider by Orj Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom
  25. Microphone Boom Arms
  26. The Information by James Gleick
  27. Handy Farm Devices And How To Make Them (1909)
  28. Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas
  29. Apple iPhone 5
  30. Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh MacLeod
  31. Killer Ratings by Lisa Seidman
  32. Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon
  33. Zoom Portable Recorders (H1, H2, H2n, H4n)
  34. Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds
  35. My Teenager’s Favorite Games
  36. The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness
  37. In a Mexican Garden: courtyards, pools and open-air living rooms
  38. Fields of Plenty: A farmer’s journey in search of real food and the people who grow it
  39. Apple iPad/iPad Mini
  40. The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam
  41. Cucina Rustica
Categories: Books, Food, Garden, Recommendation, Tips Tags:

Books from Friends: Why Read Moby-Dick and The Story of the Essex

November 22nd, 2012 Comments off

Since I am an avid reader, I have lots of friends and family who are also avid reader. This often leads us to recommend books to one another. Here are two books that were recommended to me recently.

Why Read Moby-Dick?

I was able to get the eBook on loan from the LA Public Library. The eBook availability isn’t always the greatest, but I got lucky in this case. Here is the description from Amazon.com. I read it in about 2 hours on this Thanksgiving Eve, taking a break from other tasks and simply luxuriating in the process of reading a book.

I would describe this as a “pre-book” if there is such a beast in literature. By reading this short treatise, you are being prepared for the larger task of facing “The White Whale” which could describe the book itself as well as its namesake. Moby-Dick has defeated many readers, but perhaps with this introduction others might attempt it again, or for the first time, and discover some of the magic it has to offer.

The New York Times bestselling author of seagoing epics now celebrates an American classic.

Moby-Dick is perhaps the greatest of the Great American Novels, yet its length and esoteric subject matter create an aura of difficulty that too often keeps readers at bay. Fortunately, one unabashed fan wants passionately to give Melville’s masterpiece the broad contemporary audience it deserves. In his National Book Award- winning bestseller, In the Heart of the Sea, Nathaniel Philbrick captivatingly unpacked the story of the wreck of the whaleship Essex, the real-life incident that inspired Melville to write Moby- Dick. Now, he sets his sights on the fiction itself, offering a cabin master’s tour of a spellbinding novel rich with adventure and history.

Philbrick skillfully navigates Melville’s world and illuminates the book’s humor and unforgettable characters-finding the thread that binds Ishmael and Ahab to our own time and, indeed, to all times. A perfect match between author and subject, Why Read Moby-Dick? gives us a renewed appreciation of both Melville and the proud seaman’s town of Nantucket that Philbrick himself calls home. Like Alain de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life, this remarkable little book will start conversations, inspire arguments, and, best of all, bring a new wave of readers to a classic tale waiting to be discovered anew.

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

This is the true story that partially inspired Melville to write his epic novel.

From Amazon.com…

The ordeal of the whaleship Essex was an event as mythic in the nineteenth century as the sinking of the Titanic was in the twentieth. In 1819, the Essex left Nantucket for the South Pacific with twenty crew members aboard. In the middle of the South Pacific the ship was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale. The crew drifted for more than ninety days in three tiny whaleboats, succumbing to weather, hunger, disease, and ultimately turning to drastic measures in the fight for survival. Nathaniel Philbrick uses little-known documents-including a long-lost account written by the ship’s cabin boy-and penetrating details about whaling and the Nantucket community to reveal the chilling events surrounding this epic maritime disaster. An intense and mesmerizing read, In the Heart of the Sea is a monumental work of history forever placing the Essex tragedy in the American historical canon.

2012 Gift Guide: Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas

November 18th, 2012 Comments off

Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas

by Dan Zarrella

Want to learn how to maximize social media? When to do it, what words to use, who to tweet at? Look no further than Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design and Engineering of Contagious Ideas. Social media master Dan Zarrella has amassed years of experience helping people negotiate the often mystical place of social media marketing. Now, he has condensed those well-tried ideas into this concise and conversational book. Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness demystifies and deconstructs how social media works, who it benefits and why we all depend upon it to help our good ideas spread.

More 2012 Gift Guide Items:

  1. Do the Work by Steven Pressfield
  2. Bulb Planting Tools
  3. Blue Snowball Microphone
  4. Seagate Backup Plus 500 GB USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive
  5. Logitech C920 HD Web Cam
  6. We Are All Weird by Seth Godin
  7. Sunset Western Garden Book – New Edition for 2012
  8. The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings
  9. Garden Mysteries by Anthony Eglin
  10. The Creative Habit/The Collaborative Habit by Twyla Tharp
  11. Moleskeine Journals
  12. Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening (3rd Edition): Month by Month
  13. Podcasting for Dummies/Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies
  14. Wacom Bamboo Splash Pen Tablet
  15. Radical Careering by Sally Hogshead
  16. The $64 Tomato
  17. Blue Yeti Microphone
  18. BioLite CampStove/HomeStove
  19. Getting Things Done by David Allen
  20. The Curious Gardener
  21. Anything You Want by Derek Sivers
  22. GoPro HD HERO 3
  23. Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart
  24. The Starfish and the Spider by Orj Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom
  25. Microphone Boom Arms
  26. The Information by James Gleick
  27. Handy Farm Devices And How To Make Them (1909)

2012 Gift Guide: Wacom Bamboo Splash Pen Tablet

November 14th, 2012 Comments off

Bamboo splash

Wacom Bamboo Splash Pen Tablet

One of the least expensive of Wacom’s digitizing tablets. This is great for creating digital artwork, tracing  hand-drawn artworks and I also use it to create virtual “white board” video presentations on my computer. My 14-year-old son has been getting into digital artwork — for both artistic and video game design — so this looks like a good match for both of our uses. This is on my own personal wish list this year. A perfect reason to get out there and draw something! (SMILE)

 

More 2012 Gift Guide Items:

  1. Do the Work by Steven Pressfield
  2. Bulb Planting Tools
  3. Blue Snowball Microphone
  4. Seagate Backup Plus 500 GB USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive
  5. Logitech C920 HD Web Cam
  6. We Are All Weird by Seth Godin
  7. Sunset Western Garden Book – New Edition for 2012
  8. The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings
  9. Garden Mysteries by Anthony Eglin
  10. The Creative Habit/The Collaborative Habit by Twyla Tharp
  11. Moleskeine Journals
  12. Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening (3rd Edition): Month by Month
  13. Podcasting for Dummies/Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies

2012 Gift Guide: Bosmere K676 11 Cubic Foot Composter

November 12th, 2012 Comments off

I have had 2 of these bins for the past 8-9 seasons and they are going strong. I was lucky enough to get mine at a discount via our local recycling and composting program, but I see them listed here on Amazon.com and you might be able to find them locally, too.

Assembly was easy and fast and they have had held up very well to the weather, our beating Southern California sun and even the critters. I have added a large rock on top of each one to help keep the critters out, but that is all.

I am not an active composter — turning and tending my bins — but these composters continue to produce an almost continuous supply for my garden. Every so often I open the bottom door and take out the finished compost. The rest of the material then sinks to the bottom, leaving space on top for more material to be added. Couldn’t be easier!

More 2012 Gift Guide Items:

  1. Do the Work by Steven Pressfield
  2. Bulb Planting Tools
  3. Blue Snowball Microphone
  4. Seagate Backup Plus 500 GB USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive
  5. Logitech C920 HD Web Cam
  6. We Are All Weird by Seth Godin
  7. Sunset Western Garden Book – New Edition for 2012
  8. The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings
  9. Garden Mysteries by Anthony Eglin
  10. The Creative Habit/The Collaborative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Categories: Announcement, DIY, Elsewhere, Recommendation Tags:

2012 Gift Guide: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

November 10th, 2012 Comments off

Before the Peter Jackson movies came out, I usually read the entire The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings series about once a year. LIke the change of seasons each year, I would get an itch to read these books once again. The movies seemed to have quelled this desire over the last several years, but with the release of the first Hobbit movies only about a month away, the “itch” has struck again. I went searching for a new set of books, as I have basically destroyed the copies I have from too much reading, and this complete box set showed up at Amazon.com.

There is a lot to recommend these stories to nearly everyone. There are excellent lessons to be learned about courage, friendship, loyalty  and more within its covers. For me, the Winter seems the perfect time to hunker down with a good book and lose yourself in Middle Earth for a while.

 

More 2012 Gift Guide Items:

  1. Do the Work by Steven Pressfield
  2. Bulb Planting Tools
  3. Blue Snowball Microphone
  4. Seagate Backup Plus 500 GB USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive
  5. Logitech C920 HD Web Cam
  6. We Are All Weird by Seth Godin
  7. Sunset Western Garden Book – New Edition for 2012
Categories: Announcement, Books, Recommendation Tags:

2012 Gift Guide: Blue Snowball USB Microphone

November 9th, 2012 Comments off

 

Blue Microphones Snowball USB Microphone

This is one of the first microphones I recommend to anyone looking to begin audio podcasting or looking for a step up in the audio for their video podcasts. As a USB microphone, it doesn’t require a mixing board or cables to use. You simply connect it to any USB port on your computer and start recording. It has a great warm sound that makes almost anyone sound better in their recordings. In fact, if you regularly think you don’t like the sound of your own, recorded, voice, a microphone like the Blue Snowball might just change your mind.

For even better recording results with this or other microphones, add a pop filter to reduce the sounds of your “popping P’s”

 

 

More 2012 Gift Guide Items:

  1. Do the Work by Steven Pressfield
Categories: Announcement, Recommendation, Subscribed Tags:

Video: The Story of Science – excellent 6-part documentary from the BBC

June 3rd, 2012 Comments off

My Own Private Master’s Degree: Shakespeare’s Restless World podcast By BBC Radio 4

May 7th, 2012 2 comments

Bbc shakespeare web

I have been focusing on Shakespeare of the last several weeks — reading books like Will in the World and The Lodger Shakespeare — and now, listening to his amazing podcast by BBC Radio 4 — Shakespeare’s Restless World. The show is currently being broadcast in 20 – 15 minutes episodes and is available in Apple’s iTunes Store Podcast directory as well as from the companion web site

Link: Shakespeare’s Restless World Web Site

Here you can find even more information about Shakespeare see photos of the objects mentioned in the podcast and links to even more Shakespeare information.

The shows uses a similar structure to another great BBC Radio 4 show, A History of the World in 100 Objects. Each episode focuses on an object from extensive museum collections throughout the world to highlight a particular aspect or topic. This has included a fancy fork found inside the grounds of the Rose Theater, an amazing Elizabethan-era musical clock, swords, Communion cups and more.

Dive in and learn more about Shakespeare’s world so that you can better enjoy his plays.

 

Bbcshakespeare logo

Shakespeare’s Restless World By BBC Radio 4

British Museum Director Neil MacGregor presents Shakespeare’s Restless World. The 20-part series looks at the world through the eyes of Shakespeare’s audience by exploring objects from that turbulent period.


Bbc history world logo

A History of the World in 100 Objects By BBC Radio 4

Here you can find all 100 episodes in the series. Although the series has ended, you can continue to listen to the episodes on this page or download them to keep on your computer or mp3 player.

 

 


I also subscribe and listen to these other podcast series from BBC Radio 4.

In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg and Thinking Allowed with Laurie Taylor

Inourtime logo Bbc thinking allowed logo