Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Lazy Person's Book Group Reconvenes!

Seeing as I can’t remember when the last session of The Lazy Person’s Book Group was , I’m pretty sure it’s time for another installment.

And just what, you may ask, is The Lazy Person’s Book Group?

Well, if you occasionally long to toss the phrase “My book group…” into casual conversation, but you balk at the notion of regular book club meetings, assigned titles, and/or discussing literature with others, this is your no-fuss alternative.

To participate, simply nod at your screen.  Then pick one or more of the books from the suggestion list below, and read it or them at your convenience.

That’s it!  All of the benefits of a book group.  None of the hassle.

Now that we’ve cleared up the complicated membership requirements, let’s move on to your reading options.

The list below is longish, to give you plenty to choose from; but remember you only need to pick one to be in.

Here goes:
  • A book by someone who shares your name.  Could be an author with your same last name, or your first name, or, heck, your middle name, or your nickname, or even your codename with the FBI witness protection program.  Whatever works for you works for us at Book Group HQ.
  • A book that was a childhood favorite of yours but that you haven’t gone back and re-read as an adult.  Until now.
  • A “hot” book – something that’s showing up on lots of summer book lists and/or that’s getting scads of good reviews.  Or, a book that has “hot” somewhere in the title.  Or, a book that you forgot about and left in the car in the sun for too long.
  • A book written in a century you know next to nothing about.
  • A book recommended to you by one of your kids.  If you don’t have kids, a book recommended to you by someone else’s kid or kids.  Incidentally, my own kids are very opinionated, so if you need some proxy kids for a book recommendation, holler; I’ll send them over and pick them up within three or four days, promise.
  • A book about a skill or hobby you’ve always wanted to learn but haven’t gotten around to yet.  Doesn’t have to be a how-to or even nonfiction (though it can be if you’d like it to), as long as the book has some connection to your interest.
  • A book by a debut novelist.
  • A book currently popular with that other kind of book group (you know, the let’s-all-read-the-same-book-and-meet-in-person-to-talk-about-it kind (aka the who’s-bringing-the-corkscrew kind)).  This gives you the opportunity to crash one of their meetings:  “Hey, my book group read that, too!  Pass the Merlot!”
  • A book with a color somewhere in the title.
  • A book with a connection to Michigan.  I know, I know, always with the MichLit agenda.  But truly, Michigan has great writing talent, and I like to encourage folks to discover Michigan’s authors if they haven’t already.
  • A book written by an octogenarian.  Or, a book written about an octogenarian. Or, heck, a book recommended to you by an octogenarian.  Or, if you’re an octogenarian, pick any book you want (but maybe make it a short one?).
  • A book by a celebrity. (I’m including this option because I secretly want to read Steven Tyler’s autobiography and need an excuse to do so.)
  • A book with an intriguing cover.
  • A book you’ve openly scoffed at, and/or mercilessly made fun of, but have not actually read. Or, a book you once wrote a paper about for a high school English class but did not actually read. Also acceptable: that book you faked reading for the book group you recently got thrown out of. (In any case, it’s OK to skip the middle 100 pages if they’re just not working for you.)
  • A book with the word “beach” or “sand” somewhere in the title.
  • A book that’s really, really funny.
  • A book that doesn’t fit into any of these categories but that you were planning to read anyway
Once you’ve decided on your book choice(s), you’re welcome to comment here with your selections, and/or to list your reading selections on your own blog.  And if you'd like, you can share your thoughts on the books after you’ve read them.  But these are totally optional actions and are not required.

I'll teach you the secret handshake later, but in the meantime, Welcome to the Group, and Happy Reading!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Joplin Public Library

On Jumping The Candlestick, I occasionally profile libraries that are recovering from disasters or difficult circumstances.

The Joplin Public Library building was not damaged by Sunday's devastating tornado, and throughout this past week the library has been open and serving the community as a place for information, internet access, and cell phone and laptop charging.  But two library staff members were injured in the storm, and eight lost their homes.  The Kansas City Public Library has an article about the Joplin library, as does ALA.

If would like to make a donation to help the library staff members who were affected by the tornado, you may mail a check, payable to "Joplin Publib Staff Relief Fund," to the Joplin Library Foundation at 300 South Main St., Joplin, MO 64801-2384.

To donate to general Joplin relief, please visit the Missouri American Red Cross page.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Michigander Monday: Lesley DuTemple

I'm pleased to welcome author Lesley DuTemple to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Tell us a little about yourself.

Lesley:  I live year round in the Keweenaw Peninsula, right on the shore of Lake Superior. In the summer I get to kayak just by stepping out my front door, and in the winter I get to plow our road. I've been writing children's books for more than 20 years, with more than two dozen books in print, and before that I worked in marketing and advertising. So most of my post-college career has been spent working with words. I'm married, have two children, a cat, and a three-legged dog.

Debbie:  Please tell us about your latest book.

LesleyStars in the Water: Three Tales of Magic and Nature is a children's book that's actually suitable for all ages. It's three legends that are based on First Nation oral traditions. In a nutshell, the book tells you why coyotes howl, why deer have black knees, and how water lilies came into existence. Preschoolers love having it read out loud, anyone over the age of eight can read it for themselves, and adults get caught up in the stories. When I was writing it, I wasn't really thinking of a particular age level with the vocabulary, so it just sort of happened that way. It's turned out to be a kids book where one-size-fits-all. And the illustrations, by Jack Oyler, are gorgeous. They're three dimensional woodcuts that have then been photographed for the book.

Debbie:  Lesley, do you have other books and projects on the horizon?

Lesley:  For me, it's usually a case of too many ideas, too little time. My next book, which should be out spring 2012 is a children's Christmas story and it's also being published by Mudminnow Press. And I'm working on an adult mystery with a paranormal bent. I entered several chapters of that manuscript in a literary contest (first time I've ever done that) and it won first prize, so I keep chipping away at it. My agent is representing that manuscript and I'm not yet sure who will be publishing it.

Debbie:  We'll definitely watch for that!  Lesley, do you have upcoming appearances?

Lesley:  I'm doing a lot of book signings and story hours for Stars in the Water this coming summer. The best place to check the schedule is on the Mudminnow Press web site: www.mudminnowpress.com

Debbie:  Favorite Michigan bookstore?  And favorite Michigan library?

LesleyGrandpa's Barn, in Copper Harbor, is my favorite Michigan bookstore. It's charming, well-stocked, and in a beautiful location. You can sit on the porch and watch hummingbirds. As for libraries, my two favorites would be the Peter White Public Library in Marquette, and the Portage Lake Library in Houghton. One's old, one's new, but they're both great libraries.

Debbie:  Favorite places in Michigan?

Lesley:  I really love the Keweenaw Peninsula and the upper peninsula in general. I live in the most beautiful place in the world. Eagle River, Eagle Harbor, and Copper Harbor are all spectacular and I love being part of this community. And Isle Royale is amazing. I've been going to Isle Royale since I was a kid, and every year a high school friend and I go out there and spend a week kayaking. We've been going to the island since high school, so this is now a decades old tradition. All of Michigan is amazing.

Debbie:  Agreed!  Lesley, do you have a favorite Michigan event or happening?

Lesley:  I usually attend both the Eagle Harbor and Copper Harbor art fairs. They occur on consecutive weekends in August. I actually miss a lot of Michigan events because so many of them occur in the summer and early fall and I'm frequently traveling during that time. But I like jazz, so one of my goals is to attend some of the great jazz festivals that take place in the state.

Debbie:  A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Lesley:  Oh geez, way too many to count! Laura Smyth, in Copper City publishes two beautiful magazines (Further North and Adventures in the U.P.), Joe Kirkish runs Club Indigo, a great dinner-and-a-movie affair that occurs monthly in the Calumet Theatre. Suzanne Van Dam, at Finlandia University, is always organizing interesting events. Rolf Peterson does the wolf-moose study on Isle Royale. There's the Raptor and Migratory Bird Study that's been taking place on Brockway Mountain. The Keweenaw is geographically remote and a lot of the time you have to make your own entertainment. It seems like everyone's adept at that, and there's no lack of talent up here.

Debbie:  What's something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about our state?

Lesley:  It's not always winter! Our summer's are amazing and our Great Lakes alone are worth the trip. And Michiganders are friendly people. I think Michigan embodies the best of the midwest.

Debbie:  I agree with you on that!  Finally, some resident of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others prefer Michiganian.  For our ongoing vote tally, are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Lesley:  Oh, I am definitely a Michigander.
Debbie:  Lesley, thank you so much for being with us today!
To learn more about Lesley DuTemple and Stars in the Water, head over to Mudminnow Press.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bike Rides, Comics, and More

A few things going on you might like to know about:

Sue Stauffacher's Tillie Ride is underway!  Children’s book author Sue Stauffacher, accompanied by her husband, Bob Johnson, and various groups of school kids along the way, is bicycling from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Chicago, Illinois, to deliver donated copies of her Tillie the Terrible Swede the Chicago Public Library. In Chicago, they will stop at the Swedish American History Museum and the Sulzer branch of the library.  She's visiting schools along the way.  What a ride!  Follow her progress on her blog or her Facebook Page.

This coming Saturday, May 21, many Michigan children's book authors and illustrators plus other midwest children's book authors and illustrators will be at Claire's Day in Toledo.  Claire’s Day is a free family book festival held annually in honor of Claire Lynsey Rubini, a young lady who loved to read, tell stories, dance and make crafts, and who died suddenly at the age of ten as a result of a heart condition.

On June 18 and 19, the Kids Read Comics event will again be held in Chelsea, MI, at the Chelsea District Library.  There's also a mobile mini tour; click here for details.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

From The Rooftop!

I ran across this YouTube video recently, of The Pout-Pout Fish being read from the rooftop of an elementary school....

Follow this link and then scroll down about 2/3 of the way.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wednesday Workout DVD Review: "Xtend Barre Lean & Chiseled" by Andrea Rogers

I'm drawn to ballet-inspired workouts, but I find that many of them move too slowly and methodically for my attention span.  Andrea Rogers' Xtend Barre Lean & Chiseled doesn't fall into that category:  the pace is  fast and energetic.  The full workout, a combination of ballet, Pilates, and general toning, runs 55 minutes, but it definitely doesn't seem that long, because you're moving quickly through a lot of exercises.  Segments within the workout make it possible to do a shorter session (e.g. skipping the Arms segment shaves off 11 minutes and allows me to fit the workout in my morning timeslot).

The instructor is Extremely Cheerful.  I generally find this be a grating trait, but somehow, she pulls it off; perhaps because her exercises are effective and unique.  Her Barre segment (23 minutes) has some challenging moves that really get at your calves and your hips; and her Core section (10 minutes) does a fine job with your obliques.  The overall workout, though not cardio per se, will keep your heart moving at a good clip.

More reviews here , here, and here.  There's a Q&A with Andrea Rogers over on the Acacia site, and her Xtend site is here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

It's been a while since I've posted a random recipe, so I thought it was about time for something food-related.  Here's a bit of baking that's quite popular around our house.  It's an adaptation of a recipe I originally found in Pillsbury's The Complete Book Of Baking.

Pumpkin Bread

3/4 c. flour (all-purpose flour or bread flour)
1/2 c. whole wheat flour (traditional whole wheat or white whole wheat)
1/2 c. quinoa flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 eggs
1/3 c. water
1.5 cups sugar
1 c. canned pumpkin
1/2 c. oil

Preheat the oven to 350.

Grease a 9x5 pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flours, baking soda, salt, and spices.  (You can experiment with your spice mix -- I've used up to 2 tsp. cinnamon along with the nutmeg; sometimes I also add ground ginger and/or ground cloves.)

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, water, sugar, pumpkin, and oil.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.  Stir to combine well.

Put the batter in a greased 9x5 pan.  Bake for about 70 minutes.

Let cool 5 to 10 minutes in the pan.  Remove from pan (run a knife around the pan edges first, so the bread doesn't stick to the pan).  For best results, let the bread cool a while before you slice it (it will slice better that way) -- but it does definitely taste particularly wonderful when it's still warm!