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Cross-Stitch #13: Rhubarb

Since I finished the Miffy / Nijnjte line for my shop, it was time to think of a new one! I knew I wanted to do something to pay homage to New England, both where I grew up and my current home.  It’s a truly beautiful place.  The spring weather and planting my (incredibly tiny) container gardening got me to thinking about plants.  Then it struck me.  I could make a line about the plants you can forage for in New England!  Foraging is the act of gathering plants that grow wild to eat, as opposed to gardening.  My grandmother on my father’s side was incredibly knowledgeable about foraging.  She passed her knowledge on to my dad, who passed it on down to me.  Of course, my father knows more about it than I do! I consulted him some on the new line on everything from which plants to choose (there are so many edible wild plants in New England!) to getting the look of each plant just right.  I decided that I would include with the plant itself the common name and the scientific name.  The line is intended both to decorate and educate.

The plant I chose to stitch up first for the new line is: rhubarb!

Cross-stitch of a rhubarb leaf. The word "rhubarb" is above it while the words "rheum rhabarbarum" are below it.Rhubarb features in my favorite pie, strawberry-rhubarb pie!  It can also be used in everything from breads to jams to drinks.  It has a savory, bitter flavor, so it generally is combined with something sweet to bring out its underlying sweetness.  The pattern is stitched on oatmeal aida with the common name (rhubarb) above the plant, and the scientific name (Rheum rhabarbarum) below it.  This is done to reflect older hand-drawn plant guidebooks.

Both the completed item and the pattern are available in my shop!  Completed items ship to the US and the European Union.  Patterns ship worldwide.

Use the coupon code INSTARHU1ST today or tomorrow to get 10% off either item!

ETA 3/5/15: I have now closed my Etsy shop, but I’ve made my patterns available on my Cross-Stitch page.

Book Review: The Summoner by Layton Green (Series, #1)

April 27, 2011 3 comments

Shadow of a man on a brown background.Summary:
Dominic Grey is a rogue US government agent currently assigned to Zimbabwe when a friend of the US Ambassador disappears in the middle of a tribal religious ceremony.  Grey finds himself investigating the disappearance under the watchful eye of the beautiful Zimbabwean government official, Nya and with the aid of a religious studies professor aka cult-buster, Viktor.  The investigation soon leads them deep into the dark world of Juju–the religion from which Voodoo originates–not to mention the seedy underbelly of Harare.

Review:
Take Raymond Chandler, transplant him to Africa, update mores to modern liberal ones, toss in some African Juju, and you have Green’s first entry in the Dominic Grey series.  If that combination doesn’t make detective mystery fans sit up and say “yes please,” then I don’t know what will.

Dominic is the classic wounded and dark but ultimately has a heart of gold detective hero.  He broods.  He has far more energy than is logical.  He is missing the classic addiction to alcohol of yore, but the side-kick Viktor has that (to absinthe no less), so that is easily forgiven.  His backstory is unique, yet relatable, plus there’s Japan and jiujitsu tossed in, which is never a minus.

The love interest is, refreshingly, a bi-racial, self-reliant woman with her own issues and priorities.  She is smart, yet not lacking in vulnerabilities.  Nya was a refreshing depiction of a female character in a detective mystery, and seeing an inter-racial relationship develop in a book that is not a romance novel was fresh and exciting.

The plot is complex and actually fairly terrifying, even for this hardened horror fan.  I did figure it out before it was revealed, but only just barely.  I did not, however, predict the ending, which is a definite plus.  Those who like some horror and torture in their mysteries will certainly enjoy the plot.

The one draw-back is that Green’s writing struggles a bit on the sentence level.  Sometimes the sentences are too simplistic, or he tells the reader a bit too much instead of showing.  There are also times when his descriptors are a bit off.  For instance, at one point the reader is told that the room smells of  vivisection.  Most readers do not know what vivisection smells like (thank goodness), so that kind of leaves a blank for the scent in the room.  Instead, Green could have said something like, “The room smelled of vivisection–a dark musk mixed with the unmistakable scent of blood.”  These issues are less of a flaw than weak characterization or bad plot, though, and I have no doubt that Green’s writing on the sentence level will improve with time and exposure.

Overall, this is an excellent first foray into the world of modern detective mysteries.  Grey is an intriguing main character, the plots are unique and modern, and I’m already anticipating the next entrance in the series.  I highly recommend it to fans of Raymond Chandler and detective mysteries in general.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Free kindle copy from the author in exchange for review

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Book Review: Naturally Clean: The Seventh Generation Guide to Safe and Healthy, Non-Toxic Cleaning by Jeffrey Hollender

Images of a clean home and trees.Summary:
An introduction to the green concept of natural cleaning, this book gives an overview of why chemical cleaners are bad for people and the environment.  Summaries of the scientific evidence are followed by introductory advice on all-natural cleaning and keeping your home as unpolluted as possible.

Review:
Although the concept of cleaners polluting the home seems at first glance like a non-issue, the scientific evidence presented in this book clearly demonstrates that it is an issue.  For example:

“Ordinary household products such as cleansers, cosmetics, and paints are now the Los Angeles region’s second-leading source of air pollution, after auto tailpipe emissions, air quality officials say.” Location 182

Ok, but we don’t want to live in dirty squalor, right?  The book goes on to clearly point out various natural, safe cleaners that work just as well as regular cleaners, although perhaps requiring a bit more elbow grease.

Although at first I was concerned that the fact that the book was written by the founder of the Seventh Generation cleaning company would lead it to bias or to essentially be an ad for their products, neither was the case.  Where products are listed, natural cleaning competitors are included.  Further, instructions are given on cleaning your house with products as cheap as vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.

Be cautioned, though, that this is definitely an introductory book.  It reads more as a pamphlet to get you headed in the right direction than as a change your entire life guide.  As such, I recommend it to those who’ve never considered the benefits of cleaning with natural products before.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Environmentalism’s Impact on Books

Environmentalists have their good points and bad points, just like any activist group.  I agree with some of their points and disagree with others.  However, there seems to be the stirrings of a new target for environmentalists–new books.  A blog example is this post detailing how you should only buy used books whenever possible as studies show they are better for the environment.  Then there’s the new Netflix-style business called BookSwim, which claims that it’s more environmentally friendly to have their stock of “rentable” books shipped to you in recycled packing materials than it is to buy new books.

What these people seem to be missing is that if people stop buying new books, at some point there won’t be any more new books being published.  It is important that avid readers support the publishing of new books by currently writing authors, as well as the classics.  If the publishing industry encounters a distinct lack in demand for their product, they aren’t going to make it anymore!  Environmentalists need to grasp the fact that we’re talking about books here.  Literacy.  Education.  Possessing an educated public.  That’s a bit more important than a few trees in the rainforest.  They really need to set their sights on something else.  I’m all behind finding alternative energy sources, but we need books to keep being published.

Another point that ye olde BookSwim seems to miss is the low environmental impact of borrowing books from your local public library.  I know in rural areas people have to drive there, but it is often possible to bike or walk.  No books are being shipped, plus you get the chance to meet and encounter people from your neighborhood at the library.  Not to mention the fact that the library is free.  What BookSwim cites as its most popular plan costs $29.97 a month.  They heavily push the idea of no late fees and no due date, but let’s consider this for a moment.  The most popular plan is 7 books at a time, send back 3 and hold 4.  A book is not a movie.  A movie may generally be watched in 1 1/2 to 2 hours, which leads to a rapid turnover.  This is part of what makes Netflix worth the money.  Even the most avid reader generally takes more than 2 hours to finish reading a book.  My friends who read the most avidly finish around 10 books a month.  That means they would have paid $3 a book.  Most libraries charge 10 cents a day for a late book, and allow you to have it for anywhere from a month to two months.  You would have to keep the book an extra 30 days in order for the late fees to equate the cost of the book from BookSwim.  Anybody with half a brain can see that BookSwim isn’t worth the money.  One of the major selling points of BookSwim is the ability to take as long as you want to read a book, but if you do that then you won’t be getting your money’s worth.

Come on, people.  Use your heads.  Utilize your local public library for older books or books you know you will only want to read once, and buy new books from your local independent bookstore to support the future of the book industry.  It is really not that complicated.  Environmentalists should stick to their solar panels.