Dec 29, 2009

All I Want for the Holidays is...

Faces have been stuffed, candles lit, carols sung, and all other manner of holiday traditions, whatever your winter holiday of choice, have been perpetrated. It is now time to take stock and think of those things you actually wanted for the holidays.

Here are the big ticket items on my wishlist for this year:

First and foremost (dru
m roll please):

The Spice Kitchen: Everyday Cooking with Organic Spices
by Sara
Engra & Katie Luber, with Kimberly Toge
Andrews McMeel Publishing (Simon & Schuster),
9780740779725, $29.99

New Year's Resolution: Learn how to cook more varied foods with more varied spices. I'm not bad with most of the Italian-persuasion spices (basil, oregano, etc.) but I'm not at all aware of when turmeric and coriander and cinnamon (oh my!) can be used. Despite my love of Indian food, and years of international family cooking, I'm still a novice spice user. Luckily, I received loads of lovely spices from my mother, and I live in an area where fresh, organic spices abound. This book is perfect to help me on my way to spice-using heaven. Sorry, in advance, to my housemates, as I test my recipes out on you!

Here is a link to p
urchase it from the Odyssey.
Here is a link to McMeel's website review.
Here is an in-depth review of the book on a cooking blog.
Here is a link to a great spice company on my way to work, for all of you who live in the area.

That's for my tummy, now for my creative side:

French General: Home Sewn: 30 Projects for Every Room in the House
by Kaari Meng, photographs by Jon Zabala
Chronicle Books,
9780811864039, $24.95

What's wonderful about this book - in addition to the stunning photographs of vintage French fabrics - is that almost all the projects are things you might actually need or use. There's no rule that because something has a utilitarian function, it can't also be beautifully designed. I'm not a fabric collector - not enough time, space, or money - but I certainly enjoy a good-lookin' fabric when I see one. The next time I do, I'll grab a swatch and sew myself one of these projects.

Here is a link to purchase it from the Odyssey.
Here is a link to Chronicle's website review.
Here is a wonderful review of this book on a great sewing blog.
Here is a link to Kaari Meng's French General store's website.

One Yard Wonders
by Rebecca Yaker & Patricia Hoskins, photographs by John Gruen & Raina Kattelson

Storey Publishing (Workman), 9781603424493, $20.95

I know, here I said I don't collect fabric, and yet I have two books about sewing projects. I couldn't pass them up! Plus, if I do find fabric somewhere it's usually only about a yard anyway because it's from a salvage bin, vintage store, garage sale, my Babci and/or mum's attic, etc., so this book is really perfect for my needs. With 101 projects in here, patterns, instructions, and bright photographs detailing everything, it's the perfect thing to keep me busy over the summer when I'll finally have a moment after grad school's over.

Here is a link to purchase it from the Odyssey.
Here is a link to Storey's website review.
Here is a great review on a blog I'm going to have to check out again.
Sadly, Valley Fabrics in Northampton closed, so the nearest local fabric store is Calico Fabrics on Main Street in Florence or Glorious Fabrics, also in Florence.

For artistic inspiration:

Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life
by Todd Oldham, illustrated by Charley Harper
Ammo Book
s (IPS), 9781934429372, $49.95

This book fuels my obsession with Charley Harper to the point that it reaches almost a fever-pitch of adoration. His illustrations are so clean yet delicately detailed. The animals, bugs, and backdrops simultaneously pay homage to geometric considerations while producing child-friendly images. His attention to overall design is
masterful, and this book shows you how and why.

Here is a link to purchase it from the Odyssey.
Here is a link to Ammo's website review.
Here are one, two, three links to different websites with lots of Charley Harper information, as well as prints for sale.
Here is a link to an earlier post where I mention other Charley Harper books.

Last but not least, I can't help but look ahead to the summer when I will be able to make use of my gorgeous backyard! I love my new apartment; the backyard is only one of its many perks. I couldn't help but pick up this last book as I dream of scavenging through yard sales, flea markets, and thrift stores for backyard decor.

Junk Beautiful: Outdoor Edition
by Sue Whitney, with Kimberly Melamed, photographs by Douglas E. Smith
Taunton Press (IPS),
9781600850578, $21.95

Not only are the photographs a great inspiration for how I can use all my freecycle and other "junk", but there are even DIY projects with step-by-step descriptions, if anyone wants to get particularly crafty.

Here is a link to purchase it from the Odyssey.
Here is Taunton's website review.
Here is the JunkMarket Style website.

Luckily for me, one of my Christmakah (yes, I said it, multi-faith family here) requests was a gift card to my own store, so a big Thank You to Uncle Paul for making my wish come true! Now, after spending weeks shopping for everyone else, I can settle down and enjoy a couple of books just for me. I highly recommend all of you do the same. Happy New Year!

Dec 17, 2009

The Only Thing That Could Make Me Want an iPhone

In my post a few weeks ago, Now I Know My ABCs..., I neglected to mention that the first two books discussed focused on a certain construction known as a Calligram.

A very basic definition of a calligram is "a poem, phrase, or word in which the typeface, calligraphy, or handwriting is arranged in a way that creates a visual image. The image created by the words expresses visu
ally what the word, or words, say" (according to Wikipedia, which I don't hold as the gospel truth, but in this case, I think it's safe enough).

This delightful confection of characters was introduced to me by a friend with the words, "Google it. You'll thank me." So here I am, thanking her for bringing this to my attention. In Googling it, I stumbled upon all sorts of delicious websites to spend hours drooling over.
  • PantheonDesign has a heartwarming story to tell about artist Laura Ruggeri's calligram work.
  • There is an iPhone app where you can create your own calligram (oh, how this makes me long for an iPhone or iTouch, something no other app has done before!).
  • Here is a blog of Calligram Designers. Don't miss The Royalty Series in older posts on the blog - A calligramed Prince? Yes, please!
What's wonderful about the calligram, in addition to its very existence, is its ability to be used by many languages. For instance, Arabic calligrams make use of serene Arabic script, while this website showcases Assyrian Calligraphy, and this website shows off Georgian calligrams. You can even make a calligram out of musical notes!

It's a lot of fun, and hard work, to make one yourself. I may post an attempt or two if I ever finish one of my own. In the meantime, I'll just admire everyone else's.

Dec 16, 2009

Ode to Miroslav Sasek

One of the perks of my job is that I'm often introduced to new authors, illustrators, and their books through customer requests and recommendations. This holiday season in particular has been one scavenger hunt after another for new treasures. Today was no exception.

A customer came in requesting a book she thought was entitled This is London. A quick search revealed an entire series of This is... books, written and illustrated by Mr.
Miroslav Sasek.

"M. Sasek was born in Prague in 1916 and died in Switzerzerland in 1980. He worked as a painter and illustrator for most of his life. Starting with This is Paris published in 1958, the books he wrote painted a delightful and evocative picture of some of the world's great cities (and countries!). Having delighted children and adults for more than 50 years they are now being reissued." - according to his website, which has lots of other cool information you should check out.

Lucky for us who did not live through the 50's, almost all of his books in the This is... series are now back in print (other books of his can be found doing a rare and out-of-print book search - this is a good website for that). In addition to ordering 3 titles for the customer, I also ordered a complete set for the store - and am really hoping I have enough self-control to not buy them all myself!

Dec 10, 2009

Recognize that voice?

Dear friends,

I'm excited, proud, and slightly embarrassed to present my voice on the air! This is the answer to those days when you say to yourself,

You know what I've been missing? A little of Rebeca's voice in my ear. Now that would really perk up my day. I'm gonna have to give her a call. But that's going to take too long! And what if I don't get her, she's busy all the time. I'll have to wait til she calls back, or til the next time I see her. Sigh. No shot of Becca with my coffee today. Sad.

Well, wait no longer, my friends. Now you can hear my voice from the comfort of your home, office, or car (as long as you have an iphone) - just go to this link:

or if that doesn't work, try going to, click on "News & Information", click on "Roundtable", scroll down til you see on the right-hand side "Roundtable Weekly Book Picks", then click "Audio", then find "Book Picks - Odyssey Bookshop" for December 09, 2009 (2009-12-09), and presto! Click play, and there you'll hear the dulcet tones of my voice.

In case you're wondering what this is all about, well, let's just say the world was finally ready to know me, and they've given me my very own talk show!

That's a joke/lie.

The Odyssey Bookshop gets invited every few weeks to talk about books on the air during the WAMC Roundtable discussion and this week I was, by default, invited along to speak about children's books.

Thanks to everyone for their continued support as I blaze new trails for myself with my children's book career. I've heard my small 20-minute segment may be up for a 2010 Radio Award - there was some talk of "never having heard such an erudite, articulate, melodious female voice on the air since Rachel Maddow". (This could just be a rumor. Or another joke/lie I made up.)

Easy listening!