Thursday, April 22, 2010

What I'm Reading Now: The Book Thief

The Book Thief
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak-This is another one of those books that I've been hearing great things about for ages now, but I was still hesitant to pick it up.  Something about it just didn't seem like it was going to be quite what I was looking for, even though it takes place during WWII, even though it's about a girl who loves books.  I need to get over that and start trusting y'all.  I really loved this story and the way it was told.

Liesel Meminger is a child who has just been delivered to her foster parents in Nazi Germany.  She has caught Death's eye on a few occasions-her status as a survivor made her stand out-and Death is our narrator for the duration of her story.  This is a point that you will pick up in almost any review, followed immediately by some form of, "but don't let that turn you off," and rightfully so.  Death as a narrator isn't gimmicky, but it allows for some interesting use of language and perception that might not come off quite right with a "normal" narrator.  In fact, I loved Death's voice.  Death is a story teller who has been around long enough to pick and choose the best descriptions, the most interesting turns of phrases, all while ferrying the souls of those who have passed.  Death, as you might imagine, has a slightly different perspective of the world, often offering little asides like this one about war:

I've seen so many young men
over the years who think they're
running at other young men.
They are not.
They're running at me.

Ah, so true.  And when they come, Death will take them because that's the job, but it will be done with as much care and respect as possible.  As you can also imagine, Death's job can be a bit hectic at times, but that doesn't mean he doesn't notice the individual souls in his charge.

He was tall in the bed and...[h]is soul sat up.  It met me.  Those kinds of souls always do--the best ones.  The ones who rise up and say, "I know who you are and I am ready.  Not that I want to go, of course, but I will come."  Those souls are always light because more of them have been put out.  More of them have already found their way to other places.  

*sniff* (am I the only one who went into the ugly cry in my bathtub when I read that?  I mean, I hope no one else went into the ugly cry in *my* bathtub because that would be creepy, but...never mind...)  So, anyway, Death is a sympathetic narrator, but also objective and to the point, and I loved the writing in this book.  Also, Liesel receives a book from a friend that is about a girl in a tree, complete with illustrations and everything, so you know I liked that! 

Do you have any book finds like this one, ones that you resisted for so long for one reason or another, and when you finally read it you couldn't figure out why you waited so long?  What are some of your "Phew, I'm so glad it lived up to the hype!" books?

Other reviews:
Martha Caldero, Filling My Patch of Sky, and Word Lily all reviewed this book as part of the Social Justice Challenge 
Books on the Nightstand (Podcast discussion of this book starts at 8:08)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Product Review-Debbie Meyer Green Bags

My husband and I own a FoodSaver®, which we LOVE.  Seriously, it's an excellent investment.  We've had ours for about 12 or 13 years and we use it all the time.  Well, we've had *a* FoodSaver® for the last 12-13 years, not *the same* FoodSaver®.  We did have to replace our first one...I don't remember why.  Anyway, we were buying some replacement FoodSaver® bags the other day, and stocked alongside them were the Debbie Meyer GreenBags® (As Seen on TV!).  While we love the FoodSaver® products, there are some uses for which the Debbie MeyerTM GreenBags® (DMGB) might be a better choice, like fruits and vegetables, which, coincidentally, is exactly what they are marketed for.  So, having seen the infomercial and being suckers for advertising, we thought we'd give them a try.  I figured I wasn't the only one out there who wanted to know whether or not these things really worked, so I thought I would share my results with you here, limited though they are.

I bought a bunch of bananas on April 6, and I put half of them in the DMGB and left half out on the counter.  I ate all but one from each group, and, in the name of research, I let the remaining two languish well beyond all food safety recommendations.  After 12 days, here are the results:

As you can see, the top banana did not go quite as brown, but there are some mold issues.  To be fair though, the DMGB instructions do say that if any moisture builds up inside the bag, you should wipe it out with a paper towel.  I did this for a few days but then got lazy and didn't.  So, that's probably my fault.  Also, it should be noted, that when I first separated the bananas, the ones in the bag were actually a bit more brown than the ones that I didn't put in the bag, even though they came from the same bunch.  

Conclusion:  Overall, I would say the Debbie MeyerTM GreenBags® do make a difference.  Obviously, I think the recommendation about keeping the bag dry is one that needs to be heeded.  Also, if you go through produce in a reasonable amount of time, this product probably would not provide much benefit, but if you buy in bulk or are just slow consumers of produce, like me, this might be a helpful way to save some money.  

I have some baby spinach in the fridge that I also separated around the same time as the bananas.  I put half in a DMGB, half in the bag that it came in (which I resealed with my FoodSaver®-very handy!).  So far, there doesn't seem to be a noticeable difference between the two bags, but I will let you know if anything changes.    

Disclaimer:  I have not received anything in exchange for this review.  I'm just sharing information.  The product links above are to  I am an Amazon Associate, so if you decide to purchase any products through my link, I will receive a small referral fee.  The FoodSaver® device that I linked to is the model that we own, and as far as I can tell, it is no longer available on the FoodSaver® site.  

If you would like to go directly to the source, please visit the FoodSaver and Debbie Meyer FoodFresh SystemTM web sites.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day-April 2010

Once again, I don't have too much in particular blooming in my garden that isn't well past its prime (we've been getting hit with some dry, windy weather over the past couple of months) or something that you haven't seen a hundred times before (not that that's going to stop me entirely), so I thought today would be a good "then" and "now" day.  All of the "then" pictures are from April, 2009.  If you'd rather just see what's actually blooming today or if you'd like to show off your blooms, please visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens, our monthly host of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

Please forgive all the pruning/raking/weeding/sweeping that needs to be done!  The up side of living in Hawaii is that everything grows like crazy here.  The down side is that everything grows like crazy here!

Then: Featured plants:  Puakenikeni (tree on left, by the blue pot, not to be confused with the  Nicole Scherzinger song), variegated ficus (tree on right), Cordyline terminalis or red ti plants (um...the big clumps of red leaves)


Then:  Featured plants:  Puakenikeni (tree on right, near the troll), lime tree (the other one), Euphorbia Leucocephala (the ones that look like dead sticks along the wall), and Monstera deliciosa (the ones that are covering the wall in the bottom picture)


Then:  Featured plants:  Euphorbia leucocephala (the dead sticks), plumbago (blue fowers in the middle),  Cuphea hyssopifolia or false heather (plants bordering the plumbago, with the pink/purple flowers), spider lily (blooming in the pot).  Both the plumbago and the spider lily were given to me by a friend who was leaving the island.  Unfortunately, things were a little hectic at the time, and they spent about a year hanging out in a plastic bag until I was able to get them properly planted.  Fortunately, they are, apparently, super hardy.


Then:  Featured Plants:  Monstera deliciosa (left), spider lily (the one with the sword-like leaves [has never bloomed]), red ginger (on right), Mocha (the furry one with the legs)


Then:  Featured plants:  Hibiscus tiliaceus or variegated hau (atop the wall), Strelitzia (nicolai?) or bird-of-paradise (large, leathery leaves toward right-not sure of the variety, but I suspect this may get monstrous-it hasn't bloomed yet either, but I can't wait until it finally does!)


And now for some actual bloom photos:

Potted miniature rose

Orchid-No I.D.

Den. Pam Tajima (altroviolaceum 'Pygmy' x eximium) just beginning to unfurl

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Read-a-Thon Hour 24!: The Wrap Up

I made it!  I feel like I accomplished virtually nothing from a reading standpoint, but that's OK-that just means there's more for me to read later!  I want to give a big, big thank you to everyone who put this event together!  I thought everything ran great, and I was impressed by just how much stuff you had going on!

Some final tallies:

Total time spent reading: 7 hours 3 minutes
Total pages read:  270
Mini Challenges completed:  6
Posts posted:  16 (counting this one)
Snacks Eaten: 4 (add popcorn to the list of previously enumerated snacks)
Items Fished Out from Under Stove by Cat: 1
VH1 Top 20 Countdowns Watched, Wherein I was Pleasantly Surprised to see Lady Antebellum topping the chart:  1
Naps Taken:  1
Merrie Monarch hula Performances Watched:  2
Teeth Brushed:  29
Minutes Spent Conversing with the Cat and the Dog:  Lots.  But to be fair, they are both serious talkers.
Books read:  3
Books finished:  1

So, Jennifer wants to know:

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?  Probably the ones where I was sleeping.  No, wait, actually those were pretty calm and restful.  OK, I'd say right around the halfway point.  So probably around hour 10 I started to hit the wall.  I broke down and took a nap during hours 11-12, and convincing myself to get out of my big comfy bed to come read and sit in front of the computer was haaaaard!

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? I think any of the Fables would work well-they go quickly and you feel like you are making progress.  That was the only recommendation I really have from my reading today.  Recent reads that I could recommend though would include The Maze Runner, The Book Thief, The Hunger Games, The Sparrow, even The Pillars of the Earth, which is a total chunkster, but if you can actually devote the time to sitting down and reading it, it goes pretty quickly.

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner Trilogy (Hardback))  The Book Thief  The Hunger Games  The Sparrow  The Pillars of the Earth (Deluxe Edition) (Oprah's Book Club)

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?  Move the start time up so that it starts a little bit later, (just by an hour or two!) but I'm not sure how everyone else would feel about that!  Barring that, could we have a personal scribe on hand so that we can just tell them what to write while we keep reading?  No?  OK, so maybe just the time thing then?
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?  I think the hosting was great-there was always something to do, and it seemed really well-organized.

5. How many books did you read?  Read 3, finished 1

6. What were the names of the books you read? The Best of The Best American Science Writing The Cellist of Sarajevo, and Fables Vol. 2:  Animal Farm

The Best of the Best of American Science Writing (The Best American Science Writing)The Cellist of Sarajevo (Hardcover)Fables Vol. 2: Animal Farm

7. Which book did you enjoy most? Fables Vol. 2:  Animal Farm

8. Which did you enjoy least? The Cellist of Sarajevo

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? I was not a cheerleader.

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?  I'm sure I will probably participate on some level again. Next time I think I might like to host a challenge or two and then just sort of read along on my own.  That way there's no pressure either way-I can be on line as much as I want or I can read as much as I want and I won't feel like I'm not spending enough time, or too much time, on one or the other.  I realize the pressure is totally self-inflicted, but it takes away from the fun a little bit.  


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Read-a-Thon Hours 16-20

Hours 16-20:  6:00PM-10:00PM
Time Read: 1 hour 20 minutes
Pages Read: 48
Mini Challenges Completed:  1
Snacks Eaten:  1 ( Cream Cheese Pound Cake topped with Citrus Cream and blueberries)
Merrie Monarch hula performances watched: 2
Teeth brushed:  29 (that's all I have-I counted).
Currently Reading:  The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

The Cellist of Sarajevo (Hardcover)

So far, the prologue has reminded me of The Unthinkable and The Book Thief.