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Monday, April 4

Books for Spring : Gardening

We've put together some of our favorite gardening books for you today.  Each book contains something special (centered in bold) that caused it to make the cut!  We also have a few freebies for you...

A Most-Pressing Issue
The Bee-Friendly Garden (Kate Frey)
In The Bee-Friendly Garden, award-winning garden designer Kate Frey and bee expert Gretchen LeBuhn provide everything you need to know to create a dazzling garden that helps both the threatened honeybee and our own native bees. No matter how small or large your space, and regardless of whether you live in the city, suburbs, or country, just a few simple changes to your garden can fight the effects of colony collapse disorder and the worldwide decline in bee population that threatens our global food chain. There are many personal benefits of having a bee garden as well! Bee gardens:

· contain a gorgeous variety of flowers
· bloom continuously throughout the seasons
· are organic, pesticide-free, and ecologically sustainable
· develop healthy and fertile soil
· attract birds, butterflies, and other beneficial insects
· increase the quantity of your fruit and vegetable harvest
· improve the quality, flavor, and size of your produce

Illustrated with spectacular full-color photos, The Bee-Friendly Garden debunks myths about bees, explains seasonal flower progression, and provides detailed instructions for nest boxes and water features. From “super blooming” flowers to regional plant lists and plants to avoid, The Bee-Friendly Garden is an essential tool for every gardener who cares about the planet and wants to make their yard a welcoming habitat for nature’s most productive pollinator.

This is the most beautiful gardening book that I’ve seen in many years!  It has a great introduction on why you should make a bee-friendly garden, and talks about several different types of bees and their uses.  When folks are out there spraying and killing as many bees as possible, I think they often forget that no bees means (eventually) no food.  We have to live peacefully with the bees!  Deeper in the book, we learn about the different plants that bees gravitate toward and away from.  It talks about how to grow healthy plants, and both the practical and aesthetics of your choices.  There’s even a section at the back about becoming a ‘bee activist’ and teaching others about the importance of bees.  There are resources at the back to help you make regional choices so that you can plant the best bee-friendly garden for your area.  If you purchase seeds from a larger retailer (online), they will typically throw in a mix of bee-friendly flower seeds that is appropriate for your region.  But can I just say that what I honestly loved the most about this book were the stunning photographs of flowers, bees, and the gardens?  It was beautiful!  The book stands on its information alone, but the photographs are what will pull in those that aren’t quite as granola.
Simple, Vintage Knowledge
Home Cooked (Anya Fernald)
Anya Fernald’s approach to cooking is anything but timid; rich sauces, meaty ragus, perfectly charred vegetables. And her execution is unfussy, with the singular goal of making delicious, exuberantly flavored, unpretentious food with the best ingredients. Inspired by the humble traditions of cucina povera, the frugal cooking of Italian peasants, Anya brings a forgotten pragmatism to home cooking; making use of seasonal bounty by canning and preserving fruits and vegetables, salt curing fish, simmering flavorful broths with leftover bones, and transforming tough cuts of meat into supple stews and sauces with long cooking. These building blocks become the basis for a kitchen repertoire that is inspired, thrifty, environmentally sound, and most importantly, bursting with flavor. Recipes like Red Pepper and Walnut Crema, Green Tomato and Caper Salad, Chickpea Torte, Cracked Crab with Lemon-Chile Vinaigrette, Veal Meatballs, Anise-Seed Breakfast Cookies, and Ligurian Sangria will add dimension and excitement to both weeknight meals and parties. We all want to be better, more intuitive, more relaxed cooks—not just for the occasional dinner party, but every day. Punctuated by essays on the author’s approach to entertaining, cooking with cast-iron, and a primer on buying and cooking steak, Home Cooked is an antidote to the chef and restaurant books that leave you no roadmap for tonight’s dinner. With Home Cooked, Anya gives you the confidence, and the recipes, to love cooking again.

The author tackles cooking from a traditional standpoint – not just her Italian background, but other traditions as well.  (eg, Puerto Rican sofritos…we love our PR food!)  Because of this, there are many recipes from other cultures that I have never heard of, but the recipes are simple and look easy to try.  We made Cracked Crab with Lemon-Chile Vinaigrette for dinner last week, and it was yummy!  The best thing about this book is that it focuses on sound and thrifty principles, many times using every piece of the food.  Meat bones are used for broth; tough cuts of meat become hearty stews; and it’s all done with step-by-step instructions and beautiful photographs to help you create the same dishes.  Extras include the author’s history and cooking journey, a primer on cast iron cooking, and a section of cuts of steak.  Getting back to traditional cooking is one of the first steps on a journey toward better health, and this book aims to help you do just that!

Another one of our favorite books to use in the kitchen is the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  This is a great resource for preserving what you've grown, the old-fashioned way.

Beautiful Flower Garden Designs
The Lifegiving Home  (Sally & Sarah Clarkson)
Does your home sometimes feel like just a place to eat, sleep, and change clothes on the way to the next activity? Do you long for “home” to mean more than a place where you stash your stuff? Wouldn’t you love it to become a haven of warmth, rest, and joy . . . the one place where you and your family can’t wait to be?  There is good news waiting for you in the pages of The Lifegiving Home. Every day of your family’s life can be as special and important to you as it already is to God. In this unique book designed to help your family enjoy and celebrate every month of the year together, you’ll discover the secrets of a life-giving home from a mother who created one and her daughter who was raised in it: popular authors Sally and Sarah Clarkson. Together they offer a rich treasure of wise advice, spiritual principles, and practical suggestions. You’ll embark on a new path to creating special memories for your children; establishing home-building and God-centered traditions; and cultivating an environment in which your family will flourish.

What a perfect book to have found its way into my hands right now!  As an extremely busy mother (and let’s be honest, what mother isn’t very busy?), I’m constantly juggling and trying to find a balancing act between work, home, kids, marriage, and life…and it seems like nothing is ever accomplished to everyone’s happiness.  I’d like a big bowl of busyness with a side of guilt, please!  This book puts it out there straight – forcing you to come to grips with the things that are truly important, and which ones can wait until another day.  Which is not to say that I’m going out to quit my job because, after all, food and heat are important!  The book helps to determine what is important in your world, and helps you figure out how to make it happen.  It also helps to keep Christ at the center of those decisions, and you become the home maker (not to be confused with a housewife…they are two different things) that you crave to be.  I really like the duel perspective, from both mother and daughter, that alternate throughout the book.  Falling somewhere between their two ages, both of their perspectives resonate with my own life.  The chapter on technology, by the daughter, is one of the topics that has been pressing on my heart for several years now.  It’s a necessary evil, but most days it just feels evil.  In that chapter, we are given suggestions and ideas for accountability and responsibility of technology as it relates to the home.  I also love how the book is laid out with each month being a chapter.  Based on the season, different suggestions are touched on for implementation into your own home.  While we won’t adopt all of the ideas covered, there were many great small things that could go a long way toward uniting all members of the family and creating  a more home-y home.  This book is a must-read for all moms out there, or for anyone that just wants to invest into their home as a sanctuary for themselves and others.

Fits of Giggles...and Reminiscing
That's Not Hay in My Hair (Juliette Turner)
New York City life had crammed sidewalks, gasoline-filled puddles, and angry taxi drivers, but Juliette enjoyed the towering sky-scrapers, the half-block walk to school, and the restaurant smells wafting into her bedroom. She had never cared for a horse, let alone a long-horn, when her mother announced their imminent move to a 300 acre ranch in Texas, where they would be caring for three horses, five dogs, twenty-five longhorns, and a cat…all by themselves. Juliette couldn’t help feeling excited, even though she’d have to climb a hill to get a bar of cell-phone service. Soon she was running from bats and snakes, rescuing a calf from a twenty-foot ditch, medicating ponies, and having adventures so crazy it’s hard to believe they’re for real—but it all did, exactly how it’s written.

This book was much better than what I expected from a teenage author, and I look forward to seeing more from her in the future.  It was very entertaining, and the characters were lovable and believable.  The biggest issue that I had with the book was that it jumped around, sometimes as much as several months, without really saying that it was jumping forward that much.  Chapter titles that included dates, or something throughout the story that indicated a date shift, would have been very helpful.  The stories are in chronological order, but there needs to be a little bit more direction for the reader.  That said, it was fantastic, and I laughed out loud most of the way through it.  It’s good, clean fiction, which can be hard to find these days, and has a story that is appealing to teens (my kids loved it, too).  She demonstrates how she overcame some of the challenges of being a new girl at school, dealing with mean girls, and handling an entirely new environment.  Being a country-transplant from a big city, I really related to her experiences.  It reminded me of the book 500 Acres and No Place to Hide, or even the tv show Green Acres.  It’s a steep learning curve, but they make it through.  And the ending was not at all what I expected!  Looking forward to another installment in the future.

Stress-Reducing Coloring Pages
The Time Garden (Daria Song)
Journey through the doors of a mysterious cuckoo clock into its inky inner-workings to discover a magical land of clock gears, rooftops, starry skies, and giant flying owls—all ready for you to customize with whatever colors you can dream up.  Cuckoo . . . cuckoo . . . cuckoo . . . When the clock strikes midnight, you’ll wonder, was it all a dream? The Time Garden features extra-thick craft paper, ideal for non bleed-through coloring, and the jacketed cover with flaps is removable and colorable. Special gold-foil stamping on the cover and spine and a To/From page make it perfect for gifting to adults and kids alike.

This would make a wonderful Christmas gift for children and adults alike!  This book is the story of a little girl and her journey through a clock integrated into an intricately designed coloring book. The words of the story are intermingled with the designs, but don't distract from them. What is really fun about this book is that you get to color the story as you go through the book, and you can make the story what you see of it by the way color the pages! The book is printed on both sides of the good quality paper, which seems to be the normal for the "story book" style of coloring book. (Soft color pencils are good, to be sure you don't have any ink bleed through the book onto the backside of the page.) The designs in this book include a number of intricate details, and I am sure I will need to keep my magnifying lamp nearby for those bits and pieces!  

I received some, but not all, of these books in exchange for an honest review.
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