This post has absolutely nothing to do with being poor or anything else that’s depressing

Nah, still not talking about money issues. Instead I’m going to tell you about books & reading I am doing and want to do.  Ok? Just this once. I’ll get back to talking about being poor tomorrow probably.

True to my polygamist style of reading, I’m currently reading a few books at the same time right now.
The Nix by Nathan Hill
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman
and
Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O’Neil .

I always sign up for way too many reading challenges and while I probably do end up meeting the challenges, I end up losing track and don’t update anywhere online. So, this year I’m scaling back my reading challenges to just Book Riot’s Read Harder 2017 Challenge ,and What’s In A Name?, a challenge I’ve done every year since it began (I don’t know when. Years now). I guess I’m off to a good start, at least with the Read Harder challenge. The Nix  works for “#2. read a debut novel” and Speak is “#10, read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location”.

I might sign up for the Books N’ Tunes Challenge, too but this is how I read every single book so I guess it’s not much of a real challenge. I sometimes make an entire playlist based on the book I’m reading.

 

Image result for monster knits for little monsters

I also picked up this Monster Knits for Little Monsters book yesterday at the library and I want to knit all the things in it. I’m having a hard time narrowing it down to one or even five. It looks like squishy little grandbaby will have a solid hat collection for next winter (planning on knitting a size up for him to grow in to).  Lucky boy.

I wonder if I can find a reading challenge that involves crafty books? Hmmm…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: Our School Garden!

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Our School Garden! by Rick Swann, illustrations by Christy Hale

I read a lot of gardening books. It is very rare that a gardening book gives attention to food accessibility for low income families and food banks yet here those things are in a kids book. It’s not a standard story with typical narration although it does follow one story of a boy named Michael who is feeling alone in a new city and school but finds a home and connections through the school garden. The story is told through poems and standard narration with pages that also teach other concepts. There’s a lot of good information about basic gardening (like using the example of Three Sisters Gardens to talk about companion planting) and also great inspiration.

The illustrations by Christy Hale  are wonderfully warm and engaging and show a lot of diversity that is often lacking in children’s books.

Here’s some photos I took of a few pages that give a feel of what this book is like…

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I got this copy from our local library but it’s also available at readerstoeaters.com . There’s a lot of other titles there I am SO excited to check out (a kids book about Will Allen!)

 

 

Recommend to me….

  
I do this every year as winter approaches on my personal social media but I thought I’d do a version of it here. I have a terrible time in the winter and having some new & different things help me get through.

This blog needs a little fluff sometimes. 

Recommend to me 1 or all of the following: 

  1. A book
  2. A movie or documentary
  3. An art or craft blog 
  4. A food blog…or maybe a specific recipe 
  5. A podcast 
  6. A song, album, or music artist
  7. A topic you’d like me to write about

Some things about me:

  • I read every type of genre. I often am reading a few books at once- usually something fiction, something non-fiction, and an assortment of others things like graphic novels/comics, cookbooks, young adult novels, etc
  • Same w/ movies… for the most part. Not a fan of gory horror. It’s hard to pick my favorite favorites.It might be Bladerunner. Or Arsenic and Old Lace,maybe. It’s hard to say.
  • I’m all about neat things to make and pretty things to look at. I’m a knitter, upcycler, sewer, general artsy person. I love stuff I can do with the kids  inside on school breaks and snow days. 
  • Ugh,to be poor and be a foodie, so I’m always looking for inspiration for low cost recipes. Or sometimes I just like to take a gourmet recipe and challenge myself to make it frugal.
  • My fave podcasts are bookish/writerish,current events, social commentary, music related, some pop culture. But I am certainly open to expanding into other topics.
  • I love music. All of it. 
  • And I always welcome input here!

Best Food & Gardening Books of 2014

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My personal picks with one caveat: these books may not have been published in 2014 but that’s when I got around to reading them.

1. Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal by Ava Chin – At first, I was disappointed that this was more memoir than how-to forage guide but I quickly got over that. Ava Chin uses her childhood, love for18144094family and traditions, and coming to terms with her past quite beautifully as a backdrop to how her love for foraging and food fits into the whole scheme of things. This was one of my favorite and more memorable books I read in 2014, not just among food and gardening type books.

2. Backyard Winter Gardening: Vegetables Fresh and Simple, in Any Climate, Without Artificial Heat or Electricity – The Way It’s Been Done for 2,000 Years by Caleb Warnock

16235813 I struggle with winter in NY for many reasons ,one being that it’s a sad time for gardening. So very sad. I’ve been looking for low cost ways to extend our gardening season and this book covered all I needed to know. Even though a lot of methods seem to be more practical for traditional large scale/ large space gardens, it would be quite easy to adapt to fit alternative garden spaces. There’s also good info on food storage for the winter. Can’t wait to put some of the ideas in this book  into practice.

3. The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook: From Lamb Stew to “Groosling” – More Than 150 Recipes Inspired by the Hunger Games Trilogy(The Hunger Games Companions) by Emily Ansara Baines

I took this out of the library thinking it would be cute -neato to have a Hunger Games themed dinner some night (I have kids,you know) but I ended up legitimately loving this book as an actual practical cook book for anyone who is a fan of11206339 foraging,hunting, and frugal meals. There are some more decadent recipes,too, but they aren’t complicated or require much in the way of ingredients that would be hard to come by.  As far as book tie-ins go, this was genuinely well thought out and a perfect compliment.

4. The Forest Feast: Simple Vegetarian Recipes from My Cabin in the Woods
by Erin Gleeson – This is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen.  It’s a little like holding a well designed food blog in your hands  but it’s more creative than that. It has an art journal feel to it.
The recipes are all truly simple vegetarian recipes. Nothing fussy or elaborate. One of my biggest criticisms of v18405511egetarian cookbooks is that they are often way too complicated and require ingredients you have to go on gourmet supermarket hunt for (after you’ve googled what the hell it is you’re looking for). Not the case with this one,thankfully.

5. One Acre Homestead by Sara Simmons McDonald – The author assumes that if you’re reading her book , you probably know how to garden and homesteading basic ,so this isn’t really a beginner’s guide but more of a “This is how I did it and all the ways I screwed up and what I learned,too”  . Inspiring for someone who has an acre of land who wants to achieve self-sufficiency and food sovereignty.

I don’t really do resolutions but maybe for 2015, I’ll try to do more complete book reviews on a regular basis. I was thinking about doing a Cook the Book series, maybe. That could be fun.
I do manage to update my Good Reads when I’m done reading things. You can follow me over there: Goodreads!

Review: Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm

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Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm by Mardi Jo Link 

 

To set the background: Mardi jo Link lives on a sort-of farm in Northern Michigan with her three sons. I say sort-of farm because she has horses and a veggie garden. (Horses!  Do you know how expensive horses are to have?!) She has 6 acres, which sure… that can qualify  as a small  farm but it’s really more like backyard homesteading.

Mardi has her “dream life” with her horses,kids,and husband and then, the husband isn’t so dreamy and they get divorced. This is the basis of the entire memoir : Divorced,single mother,broke, raising 3 kids on a farm by herself. Not a unique story. It’s one that comes through my inbox a few times a week from readers of this blog. I probably compared way too much to those personal stories because I kept thinking, “This lady doesn’t have it so bad.” I mean, there are people who only contact me through email because they can’t leave any trace of themselves online for fear of their ex-abuser tracking their activity and somehow finding them. Some of them are living in shelters. Even without the domestic violence element, there are a LOT of newly single mamas struggling to get through. So, Mardi jo isn’t alone,no, but I appreciate there being a narrative out there like hers that explains this reality.

But Mardi Jo has some advantages. She has a $300,000 house with property to grow food and keep animals. Her ex husband rents a house across the street, so although it’s not mentioned, I’m assuming he’s available to co-parent and lend that support. Her boys are all in school so she doesn’t need daycare.  She has a vehicle. Her ex actually pays the child support he’s ordered to pay her.

The disadvantage is that since she stubbornly refused to sell the farm, she had to be responsible for the mortgage while her only real source of income is an editing job and the child support. In Internet land, we poor people would be told this is a stupid choice.
(And STILL with the horses! At least in the beginning…)
Just read any thread online where a poor person is telling what it’s like to be poor and house downsizing is always given as one of those “helpful pointers”. One of the readers of this blog was even told once that she should build a shed and rent out her double wide trailer.

And I truly understand Mardi jo’s desire to keep the house. Having the land gives the opportunity to be self-sufficient, which is money in the bank, so to speak.

She was raised like I was: You DO NOT ask for help. That’s a sign of weakness. On this point,I can DSC_0559relate.  She refuses to apply for assistance because that’s not what “her people” do. Yeah, I was like that once and literally could have starved because of it . It was SO frustrating for me to hear that credo repeated over and over again ,while she and her boys were hungry.

But FINALLY, she at least applies for free school lunch, even though she’s mortified at being judged by the school.

Of that experience, Mardi jo said this in an interview:
“Yeah, I was pretty resolute that I would never ask for government assistance. Not that I’m against that; I know that there are people who need it. But I always had this idea that that was for other people. I was educated. I had been raised in an intact family. I’d had advantages that other people probably didn’t, so I certainly didn’t think that I should take advantage of any public assistance. And yet nine months into that year, I had signed my kids up for  reduced lunches at school. That was a line that I thought I would never cross. I think the only reason I did was that it wasn’t for me, it was for them; it was important that they have a nutritional meal every day. It was temporary, only March and April, but it was pretty hard to step over that line. It made me realize things would have to change pretty soon or we would have to sell or just let it go to the bank.”

She mentions her advantages there in that interview but all through the book, I kept waiting for that acknowledgment. There was gratitude and feeling blessed for her sons and when something good happened. I probably would have been less irritated consistently if there had been more of that.

The parts I was least inclined to be irritated: any and all gardening talk, DIY stuff, and chickens (even though…who orders chickens through mail order and expects to get full grown chickens?). She  has one horribly heartbreaking food loss that I could relate to. During a power outage, she lost most of an entire butchered pig because the freezer wasn’t on. ( For me, it was because I couldn’t pay the electric bill nor buy ice to keep the food until it was turned back on). Losing food when you have no grocery money is one of the worst things.

I was thoroughly prepared to hate this memoir based on the title alone. Oh, the myth of the bootstrapper …hard working people who pull themselves out of poverty all on their own because they tried hard enough and wanted it bad enough.  So,maybe I went into this with some presumptions and ready to be overly critical. While I ended up not hating this as much as I thought I would, it wasn’t my favorite “getting through the struggle and ending up ok” memoir.

Also, in the end…she met a man and didn’t have to worry so much anymore, anyway. Yay for happy endings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Library Loot: Feb 26th to March 4th

On a fairly regular basis on my personal blog, I used to participate in a  blog hop called Library Loot a weekly event co-hosted by Claire fromThe Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.  I think I’ll start doing it here from time to time because I do think libraries are very relevant to poor folks. We’ve already talked here about how the library is a valuable resource for Internet services but obviously, it’s great for other stuff ,too.

I used this  How Much Money Does Your Library Save You? calculator  . Now, “save” isn’t exactly correct because I don’t usually have money to spend on books,movies, classes,and any other things the library offers. But according to the calculator, if I were purchasing or paying for these items or services, it works out to be about $20,000 a year. Not just for me by myself,of course. That accounts for our whole family of 7.

Yeah, we use the library a lot.
We pay it forward a little by donating our used books to the bi-annual book sales and in the past, I’ve helped out with some of the children’s programming. I literally visit my library 5 days a week. As a treat, my son goes there after school sometimes to play the wii (we don’t have game systems at home) or just to hang out with his friend and play Pokemon or do lego builds at one of the tables.  Plus, they have a magazine exchange shelf that I frequently check and contribute copies to. I really love magazines but don’t have money to subscribe to my favorites. It’s like winning the lottery when I find copies of Brain, Child , PasteMother Earth News (and all sorts of other gardening/homesteading mags), Mother Jones, and on and on. I end up reading a lot of magazines I would have never even thought of reading before just because they’re there.

I just love my library,ok?

So, this is a sampling of what we have out right now from the library:
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I intended to do reviews for all of these that we read on Goodreads (if you’re there, you can follow me here ) but considering I started the draft for this post on Monday evening… yeah, I haven’t gotten to it yet.
There’s a few not in the picture because they were in different rooms of the house and I forgot about them. Poor excluded books.

I will probably do a review separately of the Sweet Potato Lovers Cookbook with gratuitous food & recipe pics.

The one huge disappointment here was Sherlock. It’s Season 3, which I haven’t seen yet. But silly me wasn’t paying attention and grabbed the Bluray copy. We don’t have a Blu-ray player, so that didn’t do me much good.
Well, we do have a Blu-ray player but it’s way old and doesn’t play blu-ray discs anymore, only dvds.

My little guy’s favorite book this week was Nino Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales.   

 

 

 

 

Here’s a video of the author reading it. She reads it MUCH better than I do. My Spanish is quite awful, even though I took 4 years of it in high school and Spanish is my step-children’s native language, so it’s used often around me. Something tells me my 3 year old will speak better Spanish than I do before too long.

So, that’s just a quickie look at some of our Library Loot this week. Yay, libraries!

 

parting shot from my little "helper"
parting shot from my little “helper”