Amie as Spider on Halloween 2007 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Amie had a blast as a spider yelling “trick or treat” and “boo!”. She insisted that the day was called “Halloween Party”, not plain “Halloween”.

I managed to keep her exposure to candy to a minimum, and she still thinks it means just chocolate. Someone offered her a lollipop and she looked at it with amazement – she had never seen one before, and probably even its unnatural neon-ish color came as a shock. I succeeded in wisking it away as “never mind, something for older kids”.

For those of you who want to learn more about Halloween, over a year ago I wrote a whole series of articles on Suite101.com about its origins, its place amongst the Fall Festivals of Death, the European take on Halloween and European alternatives. It was a fun topic to research.

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Cover of The Trouble with Henry (c) S.D. Schindler, Candlewick Press, 2005.

Cover of Henry David’s House (c) Robert Fiore, Charlesbridge Publishing, 2007. Cover of Into the Deep Forest with Henry David Thoreau (c) Kate Kiesler, Clarion Books, 1995.Cover of A Mind with Wings: The Story of Henry David Thoreau (c) Gerald & Loretta Hausman, Trumpeter, 2006.

Not content with an article on D.B. Johnson’s wonderful Henry series, I published another article today, on Suite101.com, about five more children’s books about Henry David Thoreau:

  1. The Trouble with Henry, written by Deborah O’Neal and Angela Westengard and illustrated by S.D. Schindler (Candlewick Press, 2005).
  2. Henry David’s House, words by Thoreau (gleaned from his books by editor Steven Schnur) and illustrated by Robert Fiore (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2007).
  3. Louisa May and Mr. Thoreau’s Flute, written by Julie Dunlap and Marybeth Lorbiecki and illustrated by Mary Azarian (Dial, 2002, no longer in print).
  4. Into the Deep Forest: With Henry David Thoreau, written by Jim Murphy and illustrated by Kate Kiesler (Clarion Books, 1995, out of print).
  5.  A Mind with Wings: The Story of Henry David Thoreau waswritten and illustrated by Gerald & Loretta Hausman (Trumpeter, 2006).

Read it here!

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  Cover of (c) D.B. Johnson’s Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, Houghton Mifflin Cover of (c) D.B. Johnson’s Henry Climbs a Montain, Houghton Mifflin Cover of (c) D.B. Johnson’s Henry Builds a Cabin, Houghton Mifflin Cover of (c) D.B. Johnson’s Henry Works, Houghton Mifflin

We love Thoreau around here.  Ever since our visit to Walden Pond, Amie often asks to be read her books about “Henry David Thoro-ow”. We have several children’s books about Henry, but the core of our collection is the series written and illustrated by D.B. Johnson:

  1. Henry Hikes to Fitchburg
  2. Henry Climbs a Mountain
  3. Henry Builds a Cabin
  4. Henry Works

We love these so much, I wrote a raving review about them for Suite101.com. Go have a look-see!

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It’s rare that one comes across a book of essays that grips you so tightly that, even though you’re a WAHM running after a toddler, you can’t put it down – or at least, you reach for it immediately once the toddler is asleep.

Cover of Lucia Perillo, I’ve Heard the Vultures Singing

I had never heard of the poet, Lucia Perillo, though she won many awards. I let most poetry come to me, through recommendations and lucky finds in bookstores and libraries. Perillo never crossed my path, until I was sent a review copy (unasked) of her new book of essays, called I’ve Heard the Vultures Singing.

Being a bit of a, uhm, pessimistic, no, uhm, okay, glum (sometimes) person, I was intigrued by the title. Two sentences into the book, I was hooked. It certainly lives up to its title: Perillo writes about how she lives with disease (in her case, Mutiple Sclerosis), and she does so with the darkest sense of humor I have ever seen on paper. I laughed out loud, I wowed an insight, and in the end came away with great uneasiness.

I hope I got all of that, in more detail, in my review of the book on Suite101. You can read it here. Enjoy!

I am going to scour the second hand bookstores for her poetry books.

Mama and Amie reading a bedtime story

  • The Sam and Stella Books

We love Marie-Louise Gay’s Sam and Stella books. Amie loves the repeated “Stellaaaaaaa!” or “Saaaaaam!” exclamations, Stella’s red hair, and Sam’s funny dog, Fred.

And, o yes, the stories – always surprising, uplifting and subtly wise – and the illustrations – delightful watercolors and pencil works of art (colorful, but easy on the eye) of adorable characters and settings.

Oh, and those settings! Stella and Sam venture mostly outside, into nature. There Sam asks and Stella answers, to the best of her capabilities, which are extensive, especially in the area of imagination.

- “Stella, can dogs read?” asked Sam

- “Yes,” said Stella. “But they need glasses.”

Even when they’re inside, they are getting ready to go out, or the outside is subtly present.

cover of What Are You Doing, Sam? by Marie-Louise Gay

  • What are you doing, Sam?

In “What are you doing, Sam?”, Stella keeps an eye on her little brother’s increasingly alarming indoor activities – that is, alarming for us, reading parents: the kids don’t worry, since there are no parents, not even a hint of them, in the Sam and Stella books.

Stella is more occupied with studying leaves and trees. My favorite illustration shows her sitting at a desk strewn with paints, tape, brushes and inks, leaves taped onto paper, and a jar with a ladybug. She is painting a tree on the right page in abook - on the left page there are notes.

Stella is my kind of girl! And the place where she lives – the rooms, the house, the natural worLd outside – is my kind of place!

The window behind her reveals that it is raining. Brown leaves are falling to the ground. It is Fall and the feeling that has been growing throughout the book – of homeliness, warmth and safety – magisterially comes together.

In the next illustration, Sam is also painting (on the wall!): in his painting the sun shines brightly, and the grass and trees are green.

In fact, I am so enamored with these books that I went ahead and wrote them up in an article on Suite1o1! Be sure to have a read!

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I just published a review of Najmieh Batmanglij’s wonderful cookbook, Silk Road Cooking. A Vegetarian Journey on Suite101.com. You can read it here.

cover of Batmanglij Silk Road Cooking, Mage Publishers

It did occur to me that the Silk Road and many of the other ancient trade routes that Batmanglij travels in this book are about as non-local as you can get! How does this fit with One Local Summer, for instance?

Well, I’ve found that most of the ingredients used in the recipes are grown locally: eggs, spinach, cauliflower, squash, honey, apples… Even many of the spices are or can be grown here (saffron might be a problem). The only major trouble is the rice.

So – surprise! – you don’t need to live in Turkey, Iran, India or China to enjoy these recipes locally! This is a relief to me, because I adore this book, for all the reasons elaborated in the review.

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I published a review of A Handmade Life, by William Coperthwaite, on Suite101.com.

Bookcover of A Handmade Life by Bill Coperthwaite  

It took me a long time to write this review, simply because I wanted to do the book justice. And 700 words are not enough to do it justice.

There was, for instance, no space to treat Coperthwaite’s fascinating views on education and childrearing. I will be probably write a separate article on that (UPDATE: did so, you can read it here). Food for thought, definitely, for the home and unschoolers! I did manage to reproduce, at the end of the article, Peter Forbes’ touching photograph on p.109, of Bill carrying a very young child: there is such protection in his stance, and such an outlook for the child…

Neither could I do justice to Coperthwaite’s self-sufficient and sustainable life in nature. I’ll try to devote an article to that too, for the homesteaders!

I still hope you will go and read the review: I did get some things said! There is also some criticism. However unwavering my championship for this book, I couldn’t in all honesty withhold that one reservation…

But most importantly, I hope you will read the book. It was written by a thoughtful and kind man, about lives that are possible for all of us – lives that are for that reason “democratic” in Coperthwaite’s sense. And the photographs by Peter Forbes are simply gorgeous.

It’s time to come clean, lastly, about my “Manifest“:

What do I have to do?

Preserve, not things,

But skills to make things

And skills to make the tools to make things

And the resources to make things

And the skills to preserve these resources

Etc.

Of course Coperthwaite was the one who brought home to me: the need to preserve our skills and tools so we and our children can survive in a difficult future. I am sure I will reflect more and often about A Handmade Life.

Enjoy.

Bookcover of Gaia’s Garden, by Toby Hemenway 

Just published a review on Suite101.com of Gaia’s Garden, the book that led me to Holmgren’s Permaculture. I  tremendously enjoyed reading Hemenway’s book and I hope the review does it justice.

I also hope that, once we have some land, I can put the permaculture way of gardening into practice. I might have to revisit the review at that point.

We found a house for sale, quite a whiles west of Boston but close to the commuter rail, that we might go and take a look at. It’s 1500 sq.f. (too big, really, but maybe we could close some of it off during winter) and 0.95 acres of land. With that plural, “0.95 acres” sounds like it is more than “1 acre”. We can’t afford it, really… but it would be so sweet.

This blog has been taking on a rather schizophrenic aspect:

  • here I am, writing blissfully about my daughter’s drawings, about her funny and embarassing first attempts at public speaking, and so forth,
  • while lamenting the destruction of her future and my sometimes rational/sometimes panicked efforts, small and drastic, to make and plan for a better one.

Probably this schizophrenia is par for the course for anyone who has children and has at least some sensitivity to what we are doing to our planet and to what is happening with oil. We live with such hope and such despair: are we the “Torn Generation”? Or do we already have a name? I forget…

Well, in any case, to stop this blog from splitting at the seams, I’m moving some of my reflections about the earth, nature, self-sufficiency and sustainability and the like, to Suite101, where I am a Writer.

And my first article is up:

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What and Who is Self-Sufficient? Self-Sufficiency, Reciprocity and Self-Sustainability

  • People

As the title suggests (huh!), it is a basic article introducing the concepts of self-sufficiency, reciprocity and self-sustainability. The article focuses on the people-aspect of the issue: who comes to mind when we hear “self-sufficient”, what do these people do to merit this label, what are their aims, motivations and desires?

  • Community and Reciprocity

I also take care to stress the community-aspect. No one can be 100 self-sufficient, and such a thing might not even be desirable. One is always dependent on a community, and any action toward more self-suficiency inevitably involves that community.

  • Self-sustainability

The discussion of degrees of self-sufficiency naturally leads to another concept, which is often confused or equated with self-sufficiency: self-sustainability. Does more self-sufficiency guarantee more self-sustainability? What is the right balance between self-sufficiency and dependence or reciprocity, so that our lives can be sustained?

Check it out!