Review: What Color is your Parachute?

What Color is Your Parachute 2017

What Color Is Your Parachute? 2017: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers By Richard N. Bolles

Readers will find what they expect in this updated version of the long-popular career book. It has been updated and includes information on now-standard practices such as managing web results featuring your name. It has the usual Christian bent which is especially apparent in sections such as Finding Your Mission in Life, but the bulk of the book remains focused primarily on how to figure out what you want your career to be.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: The Secret Language of Dogs

The Secret Language of Dogs

The Secret Language of Dogs: Unlocking the Canine Mind for a Happier Pet by Victoria Stilwell

First up: I haven’t seen any episodes of the author’s TV show, so I don’t have any previous experience with her or her style. She takes the approach that we should try to understand our dogs and where they’re coming from and maintains that punishment isn’t effective (because dogs’ brains don’t work the same way humans’ do), both of which I think make sense. She also notes that if a person tries to be the dominant “pack leader” (as espoused by some other TV dog trainers), they end up as the “socially incompetent bully” rather than fostering a healthy environment within their house. This also makes sense! She also encourages each person to figure out what works with their dog and go with that type of training. Not every dog will respond equally well to clicker training, problem-solving exercises, shaping, or any other type of training; it makes sense to figure out what works in each case and go with that. Above all, “no matter how we choose to humanely and effectively change our dog’s behavior and teach necessary life skills, we should always respect the dog’s autonomy.” I heartily agree!

Stilwell covers some history and gives a brief overview of the basics of dog behavior, body language, emotions, motivation, sensory learning, aging, and more. A few tips are included here or there, though this book is primarily informational rather than overtly instructional. Plenty of references are provided at the end of the book and though I don’t feel qualified to judge the science included here based on my own (lack of) knowledge, the sources cited seem to be legit. If nothing else, dog-lovers will enjoy the super adorbs dog photos throughout this book.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: Punderdome

Punderdome

Punderdome: A Card Game for Pun Lovers by Jo Firestone and Fred Firestone

It’s a game! Not a book! I’ll start by saying that I LOVE PUNS. I am a fan of dad jokes, groaners, and knee slappers, so I was really looking forward to this game being super fun.

This game gives you two stacks of cards – you choose one from each pile and then everyone tries to make a pun that connects the two concepts/things featured on each of those cards. For example, your two cards might have the words ‘cats’ and ‘laundry’ on them, and each player has to write down their best pun related to both cats and laundry in 90 seconds. We played this game with seven people earlier this week and while it was a fun time and we had some good lols, it was definitely not a game that I will pick to play on a regular basis. Making puns is the bread and butter of pretty much everyone who was playing, but making them in conversation is a different thing than trying to come up with them totally out of context and possibly about topics that you have no knowledge of/interest in. There were many rounds where one or more of us did not come up with anything within the 90 second time limit and had to pass for that turn. We also found that the examples provided were often super long and seemed almost impossible that you’d be able to actually write it all down in 90 seconds, let alone have time to come up with it. Our answers were much more likely to be one short sentence or even just a phrase.

The physical game is attractive, but there are some design choices that we questioned. The two stacks of cards have a different color on one side (and thus need to stay separate), but that side needs to remain hidden as the keywords are on the face. Easy, except that on the reverse of the card is the warm-up question for each round, which theoretically also needs to remain hidden until the start of each round. How do you hide both sides of both stacks? Not impossible but kind of annoying. It would have been easy to put both the warm-up and the key word on the same side of the card, or make a third stack of cards containing the warm-ups (which were not related to the key words on the flip side, at least that we could tell). Another weird choice is to require a 90 second timer but not to include it. We ended up using the timer on a smartphone, but it was kind of irritating to have to keep waking the phone up throughout the game, and would it have been that difficult to include a timer in the game itself? It just feels odd to have a required element of the game not included. The box claims that this game will replace Cards Against Humanity, but none of us felt that this was likely. It was entertaining but the flaws make it one that we probably won’t pick up again anytime soon.

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of this game from Blogging for Books

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Review: Sew Happy

Sew Happy by Karin Ziegler

Sew Happy: Stitch yourself stylish with 25 step-by-step projects by Karin Ziegler

This book has a great introduction to sewing garments but also features a lot of patterns and instructions for smaller items that may be an easier place to start for those unaccustomed to sewing apparel. Most of the patterns in this book use knit fabrics, which may also be new or seems challenging for a lot of sewists. Ziegler includes a fun brief description of each of her own favorite sewing machines which also includes some advice for those making decisions about future sewing machine selections (and reinforces my own desire for an overlocker, though I don’t think I really have room or a serious need for one!). Most of the projects here have a distinctly retro feel, though they could be made to look more contemporary with different fabric choices or by adapting the patterns (instructions for which are included! Many of the patterns could be combined with one another for more options). I’m looking forward to trying at least one of the smaller projects where fit isn’t a huge challenge!

full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from a pal

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Review: I Draw on Cats

I Draw on Cats: A Connect-the-Dots Activity Book by A.R. Coffelt

I Draw on Cats

If you love cats, pictures of cats, connect-the-dots of cats, cats who look like they’re a gangster/vampire/doctor/fill-in-your-character-of-choice-here, or instagrams that have been turned into books, this book will not disappoint! It consists of 48 pages of cat photos with dots ready for you to connect, as well as some lines already drawn in for you. It’s a cat-filled book for those who love cats!

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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Review: Sweeter Off the Vine

Sweeter Off the Vine

Sweeter Off the Vine: Fruit Desserts for Every Season by Yossy Arefi

Organized by season, this book offers recipes for using fruit – and the herbs and vegetables that go well with them – to make delicious sweet dishes. Within each season, multiple recipes are provided for each of the author’s favorite ingredients. Spring features herbs, rhubarb, strawberries, and cherries; summer highlights apricots, berries, melons, stone fruits, raspberries, and figs; fall includes grapes, persimmons, pomegranates, apples, pears, quince, squash, and pumpkins; and winter wraps up the year with cranberries, citrus, and dates. The book concludes with a list of essential recipes and components that are perpetually useful, such as pie crust, crème fraîche, and puff pastry. As we have planted two apple trees already and will be planting peach, pear, and plum trees in the near future, I am super excited by these recipes. Many of them appear to be fairly complicated (baking usually is, at least from my newb perspective) but the instructions read clearly and seem quite straightforward. I’m so excited to have our own fruit growing right in our own yard. I have visions of bushels of fruit dancing in my head, and now some lovely images of pear pie with crème fraîche caramel to go with them!

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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Review: Paris Street Style

Paris Street Style: A Coloring Book

Paris Street Style: A Coloring Book by Zoe de las Cases

The grown-up coloring book trend means that there is a coloring book for every interest these days, and this one will appeal to those who love fashion and Paris. The coloring pages feature garments, street scenes, buildings, and floral patterns in a style reminiscent of fashion design sketches. The book itself is petite compared to a traditional coloring book, and has a stylish gold-printed black cover – with elastic band to keep it closed and a satin ribbon to mark your page. The coloring pages are printed on both sides, so a non-bleed-through medium is recommended – colored pencils or pastels would be a perfect fit for these outlines.

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: The Water-Saving Garden

The Water-Saving Garden: How to Grow a Gorgeous Garden with a Lot Less Water by Pam Penick

The Water-Saving Garden

Though we haven’t experienced much if any actual drought in this area, I’m still always concerned about how much water my garden will require. This is probably 90% out of pure laziness – I want the rain to provide virtually all of what my plants need so I don’t have to do as much work. I also feel like plants that thrive without extra water are stronger than those that rely on me to coddle them. With climate change, though, I do feel that it’s likely that we will have more dry spells and other unpredictable weather, so I want to design my garden with that in mind. This book is a perfect resource for this! It also made me think of my friends who live in California and are faced with actual serious drought conditions on the reg.

This book runs the gamut of topics related to water-saving gardens, including examples of low-water-need gardens, info on xeriscaping, rain barrel how-tos, basics of designing and maintaining a rain garden, how to use landscaping to reduce your water needs (berms, swales, terraces, hardscaping, etc.), using grey water, irrigation options, adding shade and windbreaks, reducing lawns and other water hogs, using native and other well-adapted plants, the best timing for planting to reduce water need, low-water-use container gardening, creating a lush look despite low water use, and a list of 101 plants recommended for water-saving gardens. Whew! There’s a ton of info in less than 250 pages, and that includes clear full-color photographs of many of the materials and techniques described.

There are definitely a bunch of things from this book that I’m going to incorporate into my garden planning for Firefly Cottage. I was already planning on lots of native plants and we added two rain barrels when we had the roof and gutters redone last fall, but there’s so much more to think about. Have you used any water-saving techniques in your yard or garden? I’d love to hear what’s worked for you!

Full disclosure: I received this book from Blogging for Books.

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review: The Bee-Friendly Garden

The Bee-Friendly Garden

The Bee-Friendly Garden by Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn

This book promises to help you “design an abundant, flower-filled yard that nurtures bees and supports biodiversity.” That sounds pretty good to me! The book lives up to its promise. Filled with easy-to-digest information and lovely photos of flourishing gardens, The Bee-Friendly Garden provides a wonderful start for a new gardener as well as inspiration and ideas for someone more experienced. As I am embarking on the design of the gardens at Firefly Cottage, I am sort of both – experienced but starting a brand new project pretty much from scratch. Throughout the book, the authors emphasize that a bee-friendly garden is a healthy garden and offers info on all the types of bees that we depend on and all the many things that we depend on them to do. I often think that the best plants for bees are perennial native plants, but there is also information here about annuals and using flowering bee-friendly plants in the vegetable garden. Reading through this, I can’t wait to work more on my garden plan. I am really excited about establishing a healthy, pollinator-attracting space!

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books.

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Review: Owls by Matt Sewell

Owls by Matt Sewell

Owls by Matt Sewell
Do you like owls? Do you like cute things? Do you like tiny semi-surprising facts? Do you like charmingly twee illustrations? This book might be for you! From the size (slightly larger than 5×7″) to the design to the color palette, everything about this book is totally adorbs in a refined, carefully thought-out way.

There are illustrations for each of the fifty types of owl featured. Who knew that there were tropical owls? Each illustration is accompanied by a brief description of the bird including delightful bits of history and lore. Did you know that the Little Owl (Athene noctua) has been known as a symbol of wisdom, good fortune, and sobriety? FASCINATING. Seriously, these little descriptions of each owl are perfect bite-sized nuggets that seem bound to be referenced in literature, movies, or at the very least pub trivia. They’re so lovingly written that the author‘s passion and adoration for these birds is clear. The illustrations are deceptively simple – they appear classic and are un-fussy, and the character of each owl really comes through.

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this from Blogging for Books.

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