25 Aug, 2016

Jackson Forest

/ posted in: CTRPhotostravel

I headed out to California over the weekend to judge a trail ride.


I was wooed with promises of the ocean and redwoods.  I didn’t see any salt water but there were trees.


I kept the truck in the picture for perspective.

Here’s me in front of the redwoods.


Even the stumps are huge.


Of course there were horses.



We ask horses to do strange things in the woods just to see if they will humor us.


Mostly they do



24 Aug, 2016

Painted Hands

/ posted in: Reading Painted Hands Painted Hands: A Novel by Jennifer Zobair
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on June 11th 2013
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: Massachusetts

“Muslim bad girl Zainab Mir has just landed a job working for a post-feminist, Republican Senate candidate. Her best friend Amra Abbas is about to make partner at a top Boston law firm. Together they’ve thwarted proposal-slinging aunties, cultural expectations, and the occasional bigot to succeed in their careers. What they didn’t count on? Unlikely men and geopolitical firestorms.”

Zainab is getting a lot of attention as the very stylish spokeswoman for a candidate known for speaking her mind without checking with her advisors first.  This makes her a perfect target for a rising star in conservative talk radio.  A Republican’s advisor is Muslim?  Chase Holland doesn’t even have to think hard to turn his audience’s outrage on.  He doesn’t count on liking Zainab when he meets her though.

Amra works long hours to secure her promised partnership at a law firm.  When her family surprises her with a reintroduction to a family friend’s son, she is outraged.  However they hit it off.  She hides her workaholic tendencies from him and this leads to difficulties as the relationship gets serious.

This book also features Hayden, a white woman who converts to Islam and is convinced that the South Asian Muslim women she knows aren’t following the religion correctly.  She is influenced by a very conservative Muslim woman and enters into an arranged marriage with that woman’s son.  The author is a convert too so it is interesting to get that perspective.

An attempted terrorist attack brings these women’s carefully balanced lives to the brink of chaos.  Zainab is feeling the political pressure of being forced to apologize for something she had nothing to do with.  Amra’s conflicted desires for her job and her family lead her to the breaking point.  Hayden realizes that she may have been lead astray by those who she has been modeling her new life on.



Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

23 Aug, 2016

Forever on My TBR

/ posted in: Reading

I’m pretty good at purging my Goodreads TBR lists of books that I haven’t gotten to in a reasonable amount of time.  In fact, writing this post made me get rid of a lot of books on the lists.  Here are some of the books that have survived the cut several times.

The Time It Snowed in Puerto RicoThe Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico by Sarah McCoy

I’ve liked the author’s other books. I’d probably like this one too. What am I waiting for?



The GreenlandersThe Greenlanders by Jane Smiley

I like her other books. I’ve never read a book set in Greenland. Need to read this one.




Empress of the Night: A Novel of Catherine the GreatEmpress of the Night: A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak


I loved the first book in this series. I was very impatient for this one to come out but I haven’t gotten to it yet.


A Stranger in OlondriaA Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

Everyone loves this book. They rave about it.



Behind the Gates of Gomorrah: A Year with the Criminally InsaneBehind the Gates of Gomorrah: A Year with the Criminally Insane by Stephen Seager

This one just sounds interesting. Maybe this would be good on audio for me.




The True History of ChocolateThe True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe

History. Chocolate. It is perfect for me.



The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet NationThe United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation by David Kamp

This is the oldest book on my Foodies Read TBR list.



After AliceAfter Alice by Gregory Maguire

Gregory Maguire’s take on Alice in Wonderland? Totally a book for me.



7 Things To Do Before You Die in Talgarth (Shades of Grey, #2)7 Things To Do Before You Die in Talgarth by Jasper Fforde

The first book in this series is one of my all time favorites – Shades of Grey. There is a cliffhanger ending. He hasn’t written the sequels. He’s killing me.



Chaotic Goddess Swaps

I’m signing up for another swap so maybe I’ll put a few of these on my swap list.

19 Aug, 2016

National Zoo

/ posted in: Photostravel

There were more than just trashy animals at the National Zoo.


Of course the main draws are the real animals.

The National Zoo is famous for their pandas.


It was hot.   They were sleeping inside.

It was so hot that touching this statue was a bad idea.


It was so hot at the #zoo today that the donkeys were melting. #donkey

A photo posted by @dvmheather on

We followed the panda’s advice and spent a lot of time inside.  We really liked the huge aviary.



Everyone was having a nap.


Or staying inside in the air conditioning



Outside was nice though if you found a cool shady spot to sit.



My best advice for visiting the National Zoo

  • Take the Metro from Washington D.C. to the Cleveland Park stop on the red line which is one stop past the stop labelled Zoo.  If you get off at the zoo spot it is a long walk uphill to the zoo.  If you get off at Cleveland Park it is slightly downhill.
  • The food available isn’t very vegan friendly on the menu but the paninis seem to be made on site so you could ask for them to be made without cheese.  They weren’t very appetizing looking though.  I just had a pretzel.
  • The zoo is large and is on a hill so be prepared to hike.  To go from the back of the zoo to the exit is an uphill climb.  Maybe head to the back of the zoo first and gradually make your way to the front while seeing the animals so you gradually work your way back up the hill.
18 Aug, 2016

The Other Einstein

/ posted in: Reading The Other Einstein The Other Einstein: A Novel by Marie Benedict
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark on October 18th 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 304
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: Switzerland and Serbia

“What secrets may have lurked in the shadows of Albert Einstein’s fame? His first wife, Mileva “Mitza” Marić, was more than the devoted mother of their three children—she was also a brilliant physicist in her own right, and her contributions to the special theory of relativity have been hotly debated for more than a century.
In 1896, the extraordinarily gifted Mileva is the only woman studying physics at an elite school in Zürich. There, she falls for charismatic fellow student Albert Einstein, who promises to treat her as an equal in both love and science. But as Albert’s fame grows, so too does Mileva’s worry that her light will be lost in her husband’s shadow forever.”

Albert Einstein and his wife Mileva Maric

This was one of the books that I was most excited about after BEA. It is a book that seems designed just for me.

  • Historical fiction ✔️
  • About women’s history ✔️
  • Science ✔️

So why did I delay reading this until now?

Every time I picked it up I couldn’t quite bring myself to read it.  I knew what it was going to be.  It is yet another story of a woman who was forced to give up her own ambitions to fit in with the mores of her time.  Honestly, the thought exhausted me.

The book is a well written story of the life of Mileva Maric.  She was a Serbian woman who attended university in Zurich in physics.  She was Einstein’s classmate.  She finished her coursework but failed her degree.  She had a child with Einstein before they married.  That child either died young or was given up for adoption.  Nothing is known for sure.  After their marriage they had two sons.  They divorced when he was having an affair.  His mother didn’t like her because Mileva was an inferior dark-skinned Slavic person.  (I don’t know.  She looks pretty pale to me but I’m Slavic too so Mama Einstein probably wouldn’t have cared for my opinion either.)

It isn’t known if she helped him with his scientific work.  There are some letters from him to her where he refers to “our work” but it is earlier in the relationship.  This book imagines that she had the idea for relativity and worked on the math.

What follows is a story of erasure.  Her name isn’t on the paper because it wouldn’t look good that he needed the help of a woman.  He stops asking her for advice.  She feels like he sees her as just a housewife.  He spends more and more time away and blames her for being selfish if she questions him.  He tries to impose a bizarre contract on her in order to keep the marriage together for the sake of the children.


A. You will make sure:

1. that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order;
2. that I will receive my three meals regularly in my room;
3. that my bedroom and study are kept neat, and especially that my desk is left for my use only.

B. You will renounce all personal relations with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons. Specifically, You will forego:

1. my sitting at home with you;
2. my going out or travelling with you.

C. You will obey the following points in your relations with me:

1. you will not expect any intimacy from me, nor will you reproach me in any way;
2. you will stop talking to me if I request it;
3. you will leave my bedroom or study immediately without protest if I request it.

D. You will undertake not to belittle me in front of our children, either through words or behavior.”  Source

This is the part that was hard to read.  I wish I was more surprised by it but my feeling as I was reading this was, “Yeah, same ol’ same ol'”  This is the story of ambitious women from the beginning of time.

I was thrilled when she was awarded the proceeds of any future Nobel Prize in the divorce settlement.  You go girl!  She got it too.  That’s actual historical fact.  Actually she got to live on the interest from it which she invested in rental properties.

I’d recommend this book to any historical fiction fans.



Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

17 Aug, 2016

Truffle Boy

/ posted in: Reading Truffle Boy Truffle Boy: My Unexpected Journey Through the Exotic Food Underground by Ian Purkayastha, Kevin West
Published by Hachette Books on February 7th 2017
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: New York

“Ian Purkayastha is New York City’s leading truffle importer and boasts a devoted clientele of top chefs nationwide, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, David Chang, Sean Brock, and David Bouley. But before he was purveying the world’s most expensive fungus to the country’s most esteemed chefs, Ian was just a food-obsessed teenager in rural Arkansas–a misfit with a peculiar fascination for rare and exotic ingredients.
 The son of an Indian immigrant father and a Texan mother, Ian learned to forage for wild mushrooms from an uncle in the Ozark hills. Thus began a single-track fixation that led him to learn about the prized but elusive truffle, the king of all fungi. His first taste of truffle at age 15 sparked his improbable yet remarkable adventure through the strange–and often corrupt–business of the exotic food trade.”

 This book starts with the admission that it is weird for a 23 year old to be writing a memoir.  It’s good to get that out there early because it is a bit presumptious but you’d be forgiven for forgetting that he’s only 23 while reading this.

While still in high school, Ian Purkayastha started an exotic foods club to make meals with strange ingredients for people in his Arkansas school and raise money for charity.  He used his vacation time to travel to trade shows and meet up with people in the exotic food community.  He set up his own business importing truffles from Italy for chefs in his area. This led to a job after high school graduation importing truffles in New York.  This is where he started to see the problems in the industry.  As he spends the next few years starting his own business, he travels around the world sourcing ingredients and meeting the people who hunt for mushrooms in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Did you know:

  • A lot of “Italian” truffles come from eastern Europe
  • Truffle oil usually doesn’t have truffles in it
  • U.S. chefs prize the appearance of truffles so much that the vast majority of harvested truffles aren’t sent to the U.S. market because they aren’t the “correct” shape
  • There are attempts being made to raise truffles in specially planted orchards but it will take decades to see if it works

This book tries to dispel some of the snobbery around high end foods.  It shows the work involved in finding and harvesting.  It also points out how markets are kept artificially tight and how some countries become known as the best source of ingredients for reasons that may not be true.

This ARC of Truffle Boy is one of the prizes up for grabs this month for people who link up with Foodies Read.  If you like reading books featuring food, link up your reviews with us!


Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

16 Aug, 2016

What I Learned From Watching Olympic Weightlifting

/ posted in: Fitness


What I’ve Learned While Watching the Weightlifters at the Olympics

I’m a Superheavyweight woman

If I lost enough weight to be down to my imaginary mental ideal weight and then lost a little bit more, I might still be a superheavyweight.  Women’s weightlifting categories start at 48 kg (103 lbs) and end at 75+ kg (165 lbs).  They need more categories.  In the 75+ category the competitors were between 89 kg and 141 kg.

On the other end of the scale, the 48 kg women lifting 100 kg was seriously impressive.

I don’t have a proper support staff for my lifting

These guys have people who hit their muscles before they lift.  I have never wanted anyone to hit me before I lift but maybe that’s why I can’t lift as much as these women.  I ran this theory past the husband.  He doesn’t want any one to hit him either, it turns out. He didn’t even volunteer to hit me before my lifts.

They get smelling salts after lifts

I’ve never been close to passing out after lifting.  Obviously, I’m not working hard enough.  Slacker.

I haven’t been showing proper respect

A lot of the Asian lifters bowed to the judges before the lift.  I’m more impressed by the people who bowed to the weights or to the woman who dropped to her knees and hugged the plates after a good lift.  I’ve never hugged the plates.  Obviously, I haven’t been friendly enough.

I love the announcer

There is a female British commentator for the weightlifting and I love her.  I have no idea who she is.  They have never introduced themselves.  They are never on camera.  The NBC website lists a team of Americans who are supposedly announcing weightlifting but that isn’t who is actually on.

So, how have my workouts been going?  Pretty good.  I’m definitely lifting more often now that we have a closer gym.  I’m still working on my meal plans from Meal Mentor.  I’m usually making 2 or 3 of the meals a week.  I miss a lot of meals it turns out.  I don’t eat much after my late days at work because I get home about an hour before I go to bed.  Usually I just have some fruit or something then.  The last time I weighed myself I was down a few pounds though.  I think having the meal plan is making me more aware of what I’m eating.

15 Aug, 2016

African Monsters

/ posted in: Reading African Monsters African Monsters (Fox Spirit Books of Monsters, #2) by Margrét Helgadóttir, Jo Thomas, Nnedi Okorafor, Dilman Dila, Tade Thompson, Joe Vaz, Vianne Venter, Chikodili Emelumadu, Nerine Dorman, Toby Bennett, Joan De La Haye, Jayne Bauling, Sarah Lotz, Dave-Brendon de Burgh, Tendai Huchu, Su Opperman, James Bennett, Nick Wood
Published by Fox Spirit Books on December 15th 2015
Genres: Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology, Fantasy
Pages: 198
Format: Paperback
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: Africa

Speculative fiction, art and graphic stories from African authors, based on African folklore, myths and legends about monsters. African Monsters is the second in a coffee table book series with dark fiction and art about monsters from around the world. 

Monsters should be scary

African Monsters is a collection of stories where the monsters aren’t misunderstood or easily turned to the side of good. These are the stories of monsters from sub-Saharan Africa who prey on humans.

The locations of some of the stories in this collection.

Reviewing a collection can be difficult because not every story resonates with every reader. Here are few of my favorites.

On the Road by Nnedi Okorafor – An American policewoman returns to Nigeria and her grandmother but is confronted with a mystery surrounding an injured child.

Severed by Jayne Bauling – A camping trip to a remote lake goes horribly wrong

That Woman by S Lotz – A policeman investigates reports of witches dispensing punishments in the countryside.

After the Rain by Joe Vaz –  A man who left South Africa as a child returns and finds himself trapped in a bar in his old neighborhood by werewolves.

Taraab and Terror in Zanzibar by Dave-Brandon de Burgh – A man is brought from South Africa to Zanzibar to clean up a monster problem that he thought he had handled before.

A Whisper in the Reeds by Nerine Dorman – Water spirits tempt a man

Acid Test by Vianne Venter – After Johannesburg is evacuated due to an environmental catastrophe a team returns to monitor the recovery.

Thandiwe’s Tokoloshe by Nick Wood – A girl is put in a fairy tale and refuses to be satisfied with the typical endings.


A photo posted by @dvmheather on

This is a wonderful chance to familiarize yourself with some African authors.  I’m already a huge Nnedi Okorafor fan but I’ve added some of Nerine Dorman’s books to my TBR list too because they sound amazing.



Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

12 Aug, 2016

Outcasts United

/ posted in: Reading Outcasts United Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town by Warren St. John
Published by Spiegel & Grau on April 21st 2009
Genres: Nonfiction
Pages: 320
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: Georgia

“Clarkston, Georgia, was a typical Southern town until it was designated a refugee settlement center in the 1990s, becoming the first American home for scores of families in flight from the world’s war zones—from Liberia and Sudan to Iraq and Afghanistan. Suddenly Clarkston’s streets were filled with women wearing the hijab, the smells of cumin and curry, and kids of all colors playing soccer in any open space they could find. The town also became home to Luma Mufleh, an American-educated Jordanian woman who founded a youth soccer team to unify Clarkston’s refugee children and keep them off the streets. These kids named themselves the Fugees.
Set against the backdrop of an American town that without its consent had become a vast social experiment, Outcasts United follows a pivotal season in the life of the Fugees and their charismatic coach.”

Luma Mufleh came from a wealthy Jordanian family.  She was disowned when she decided to stay in the United States after college.  Several years later, she was coaching a girls’ under 12 soccer team and running a failing business in Decatur GA when a chance trip took her to nearby Clarkston.  She didn’t understand why she saw so many non-white residents.  After investigating, she decided to coach youth soccer teams for refugee boys.

This is the story of the Fugees’ 2006 season.  Luma is very demanding of her players.  They have to adhere to a code of conduct and soccer practice starts with mandatory tutoring sessions.  There are three teams – under 13s, under 15s, and under 17s.  Each has their own unique sets of challenges.

The overarching problem is finding a place to practice.  They are stuck on a dirt and gravel field frequented by drug users.  There is a fenced field in a local park but the mayor has declared that NO soccer will be played there because the field is for use only by Clarkston’s Little League baseball teams.  It doesn’t matter that there are no Little League baseball teams in Clarkston.

The players come from all over the world.  Liberia, Congo, Sudan, Iraq, Kosovo, and many other countries are represented.  Most of the children have seen horrors.  Now they are in a town that isn’t friendly to them and they just want to play soccer.

The book tells the story of the town also.  How did it become a popular place for refugees?  How is the town adapting or failing to adapt to a changing population?

The book was published in 2009 and contains an afterword that discusses what happened after the 2006 season.  One of the things mentioned was that when the author, who was a newspaper reporter, published some articles the Fugees started to get donations.  He mentioned that Luma’s goal was to buy some land so they could have a dedicated place to practice that was safe.  She also said that she dreamed of having good facilities for tutoring times.

I went online to see what had happened since then.  Look at this!

Fugees Family

They don’t just have practice fields.  They started a school!  The middle school serves to teach English as a second language and to get kids whose formal schooling has been interrupted up to speed to go to American schools.  They also have a high school. It is now coed.  They accept donations so the kids don’t have to pay for this private education.

It was great to see that the program prospered after all the abuse they endured.

I’d recommend this book to everyone.  The stories of the families fleeing from war zones around the world are heartbreaking.  They put a personal touch on events that we hear about on the news and then forget about.  Would you be able to survive what they did just to come to a new country where everyone seems to hate you?


Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

11 Aug, 2016

Trashy Art at the National Zoo

/ posted in: Photostravel

When we went to the National Zoo in July there was an exhibit of animal art made out of trash that was found in the ocean.

These were scattered throughout the zoo.  There were several near the entrance.  I heard one kid ask her father tentatively if there were any animals in this zoo that weren’t made out of trash.

Jelly fish close up

It is a good reminder that our oceans are drowning in trash.  Want to find out more about that?

Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of ThemMoby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them by Donovan Hohn




10 Aug, 2016

Preppy the Whale Baby Quilt

/ posted in: Quilting

I finished another quilt.

That’s 2 in less than 30 days.  I know, I’m shocked too.

Of course this one had a hard deadline or it wouldn’t have happened so fast.


The pattern for the whales is Preppy the Whale from Oh Fransson.  It is a hard pattern to design with if you don’t want to make a zillion whales because it is long and narrow.  I added the black and white checked stripes because the top was too boring without something else.

I used the last of my Tula Pink yardage for the back.  I couldn’t pass up the thematic opportunity to put the octopi on the back of the whale quilt.

09 Aug, 2016

The Immortals Series

/ posted in: Reading

I kept going on my chronological listening to Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books.  To sum up:

  • The Beka Cooper series – Loved it!
  • The Song of the Lioness series – Eh, entertained me but problematic if you think too much about it

Moving on

Wild Magic (Immortals, #1)Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

“Young Daine’s knack with horses gets her a job helping the royal horsemistress drive a herd of ponies to Tortall. Soon it becomes clear that Daine’s talent, as much as she struggles to hide it, is downright magical. Horses and other animals not only obey, but listen to her words. Daine, though, will have to learn to trust humans before she can come to terms with her powers, her past, and herself.”

You know I got excited when I read that description. I loved Daine and her ability to talk to animals. I loved her pony Cloud who in the way of mares everywhere knows best about everything and isn’t shy about giving her opinion.

This book takes place a few years about the Song of the Lioness series and the characters from that series are also in this one. Now you are seeing them as adults through the eyes of a teenager. This teenager doesn’t think that she is special though. That makes her much more interesting to me.

Wolf-Speaker (Immortals, #2)Wolf-Speaker by Tamora Pierce

“When humans start cutting down trees and digging holes in peaceful Dunlath Valley, the wolves know that something is wrong. They send a messenger to the only human who will listen — Daine, a fourteen-year-old girl with the unpredictable power of wild magic. Daine and her closest companions heed the wolves’ cry for help. But the challenge they are about to face in the valley is greater than they can possibly imagine…”

This was an interesting premise. Daine and her magic teacher are sent to answer a summons from a wolf pack that Daine knew as a child. There are bad humans and now monsters in the valley and the wolves want it stopped. For most of the book Daine is trapped alone in the valley with the wolves, her horse, a baby dragon, and monsters. The big message of this book is to look past surface appearances and see the person or monster underneath.

Emperor Mage (Immortals, #3)Emperor Mage by Tamora Pierce

“Sent to Carthak as part of the Tortallan peace delegation, Daine finds herself in the middle of a sticky political situation. She doesn’t like the Carthaki practice of keeping slaves, but it’s not her place to say anything — she’s just there to heal the emperor’s birds. It’s extremely frustrating! What’s more, her power has grown in a mysterious way.
As the peace talks stall, Daine puzzles over Carthak’s two-faced Emperor Ozorne. How can he be so caring with his birds and so cruel to his people? Daine is sure he’s planning something. Daine must fight the powerful Emperor Mage, knowing that the safety and peace of the realm depend on stopping Ozorne’s power-hungry schemes.

Life would be so much easier if Gods weren’t so cryptic and just said what they meant. That’s what I took from this one. I like the growth of Daine’s character over the series. She’s finding out more about her powers and about her history.

For the series so far I would rate it:


And then this happened:

The Realms of the Gods (Immortals, #4)The Realms of the Gods by Tamora Pierce

“During a dire battle against the fearsome Skinners, Daine and her mage teacher Numair are swept into the Divine Realms. Though happy to be alive, they are not where they want to be. They are desperately needed back home, where their old enemy, Ozorne, and his army of strange creatures are waging war against Tortall.

Trapped in the mystical realms Daine discovers her mysterious parentage. And as these secrets of her past are revealed so is the treacherous way back to Tortall. So they embark on an extraordinary journey home, where the fate of all Tortall rests with Daine and her wild magic.”

The story isn’t bad. My issue with this book is the relationship that Daine enters into. I don’t think I’ve ever actually physically recoiled so much as when listening to this book. Every time there was description of passionate kissing I was yelling, “Ew, ew, ew” in my car and wishing I could fast forward. She’s 16 and the man is almost twice her age. He’s a powerful figure in her life. She pretty much hasn’t ever spent any time with any males around her age. She’s been isolated for most of her time in the books. He acknowledges once that this sets up a potentially abusive power dynamic in the relationship but that concern is ignored.

There is an interview at the end of this audio with the author who says that she tried to lessen his power over Daine so the relationship didn’t come off as so icky. Didn’t work for me.

Overall, I loved the series with the exception of the relationship in the last book. The audio production was Full Cast again and I used to Tamora Pierce’s weird phrasing now as the narrator.

I do have one overarching question this series though.

There are monsters called Stormwings. They have human heads and torsos with bird wings and legs. Their feathers have razor edges. They are described as having hair with bones braided in. They are fairly antisocial and live only with other Stormwings.

Who braids the Stormwings hair?

08 Aug, 2016

Books for Olympic Equestrian Event Lovers

/ posted in: Current EventsReading

My favorite Olympic sports are the equestrian events.  These are the only Olympic events were males and female compete against other.  They are the only events where you can reasonable expect have competitors over 60.

The three Olympic equestrian events are:


Horse and rider teams perform a set pattern of maneuvers emphasizing grace, athletic ability, and teamwork. They also perform a ride of their own choreography set to music.



Show Jumping

Horse and rider jump a course of obstacles in an arena. The fastest time with the least number of rails knocked down wins. (This photo is actually from the Modern Pentathlon which includes show jumping.)

Eli Bremer in 2008 Summer Olympics modern pentathlon show jumping event 2

Three Day Eventing

Teams compete in dressage, a cross country jumping course, and show jumping

Badminton horse trials open ditch jump

Want to read more about them?


White Stallion of LipizzaWhite Stallion of Lipizza by Marguerite Henry

“A young boy named Hans dreams of one day working with the famed stallions of Lipizza. But coming from a family of bakers, Hans is discouraged from ever becoming a rider. That is, until the day he is invited to watch the extraordinary Ballet of Lipizzaners — from the Imperial Box! — and his life is changed forever.”

I am highly skeptical of fiction about horses because so many authors just don’t get it right. But, Marguerite Henry was amazing. She wrote historical horse fiction for kids. I grew up on all her books.

The Perfect Horse: The Daring American Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the NazisThe Perfect Horse: The Daring American Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis by Elizabeth Letts

“As the Russians closed in on Hitler from the east and the Allies attacked from the west, American soldiers discovered a secret Nazi effort to engineer a master race of the finest purebred horses. With the support of U.S. general George S. Patton, a passionate equestrian, the Americans planned an audacious mission to kidnap these beautiful animals and smuggle them into safe territory—assisted by a daring Austrian colonel who was both a former Olympian and a trainer of the famous Lipizzaner stallions.”

I just found out about this one and preordered it. The Lipizzans of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna are national treasures. The mares and foals live on a stud farm in the countryside. The Allies went in and rescued the horses from the Nazis. This was the subject of a Disney movie too.

Show Jumping

The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a NationThe Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts

“November 1958: the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Into the rarefied atmosphere of wealth and tradition comes the most unlikely of horses—a drab white former plow horse named Snowman—and his rider, Harry de Leyer. They were the longest of all longshots—and their win was the stuff of legend.”

This is going to be a movie too.

Unrelenting: The Real Story: Horses, Bright Lights and My Pursuit of ExcellenceUnrelenting: The Real Story: Horses, Bright Lights and My Pursuit of Excellence by George H. Morris

“A horse lover, rider, carouser, competitor, taskmaster, dreamer, teacher, and visionary, George Morris has been ever-present on the rarified stage of the international riding elite for most of the 70 years he’s been in the saddle. He has represented our country as an athlete and a coach and, at one time or another, instructed many of our nation’s best horsemen and women. His carefully chosen, perfectly enunciated words are notoriously powerful. They can raise you up or cut you to the quick. His approval can be a rainmaker; his derision can end a career.”

Ooooh, this could be good. He’s been chef d’equipe (coach) of the U.S. international teams for a long time. He’s got all the stories.

Unbridled Passion: Show Jumping's Greatest Horses and RidersUnbridled Passion: Show Jumping’s Greatest Horses and Riders by Jeff Papows

“A thrilling look at the Olympic sport of show jumping and its superstar horse and rider pairings, including McLain Ward and Sapphire, Ian Millar and Big Ben, Beezie Madden and Authentic, and many more. Utilizing his own experience as an amateur show jumper, Papows brings together personal interviews with the biggest stars, owners, support staff, and caregivers, to give readers an inside look at the personalities behind show jumping. With a foreword by Olympic team coach George Morris, each chapter features a different internationally celebrated horse and rider and their intimate stories of success, struggle, and sacrifice.”

I got to see Millar and Big Ben compete in Canada at the height of their fame. It was absolutely magical. If you aren’t a horse person, trust me. They were HUGE. They have statues of them in Canada. Big Ben got his own stamp.  How many human athletes get their own stamp?

Three Day Eventing

Second Chance: The AutobiographySecond Chance: The Autobiography by Mark Todd

“Mark Todd’s eventing career is the stuff of legend and encompasses one of the greatest sporting comebacks of all time. When he ‘retired’ from competing in eventing in 2000, he had already been named ‘Rider of the Century’ for his natural empathy with a horse and his extraordinary success, which included back-to-back Olympic gold medals, five Burghley wins and three Badminton victories. The story of his progress from dairy farmer to world renowned sportsman is told with typically laid-back humor, but it reveals the fierce determination, discipline, and personal sacrifice that lies behind Todd’s calm exterior.”

You have to be flat out insane to be an eventer.  Injuries, up to and including death, are common.





05 Aug, 2016

Song of the Lioness Series

/ posted in: Reading

I have been working my way through Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books on audio in chronological order. I started with the Beka Cooper series and now we jump forward 400 years to the first books that were written in the series.

It is a jarring transition. I really loved the Beka Cooper series. Pierce is a much better writer when writing that series than when she wrote her first books. The Cooper series is also written for a much older audience and then Alanna is middle grade.

Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, #1)Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“From now on I’m Alan of Trebond, the younger twin. I’ll be a knight.

And so young Alanna of Trebond begins the journey to knighthood. Though a girl, Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Thom heads for the convent to learn magic; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page.”

Ah, the old girl pretending to be a boy trope. Why does that always work? At least Pierce gives more thought to the practicalities of it. She considers how to deal with menstruation and physical maturity. I wasn’t a fan of Alanna’s constant harping on how much she hates being female. I get that it limits her options in her society but it got to be a little too much. Happily she grows out of it in the series.

She also has a magical cat named Faithful. He is also a character in the Beka Cooper series – because magic, that’s how. He is so much more powerful in the Cooper series and is a more integral part of the story that it was weird to see him as a much more minor character here.

In the Hand of the Goddess (Song of the Lioness, #2)In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Disguised as a boy, Alanna of Trebond becomes a squire, to none other than the prince of the realm. But Prince Jonathan is much more to Alanna; he is her ally, her best friend, and one of the few who knows that she’s really a girl. Now it will take all of Alanna’s awesome skill, strength, and growing magical powers to protect him from the mysterious evil sorcerer who is bent on his destruction, and hers!”

In this book we cover the rest of Alanna’s teenage years and becoming a knight. Everyone finds out she is female. There’s a love triangle for some reason. I didn’t get it. I’m not sure why the one guy even likes her but he goes around declaring undying love to her. She’s with the other one because he’s convenient. They live in the same rooms. There’s a bad guy too but he sort of seems like an afterthought in the series. It is mostly about Alanna’s life.

Alanna and Jonathan also go off and save a desert tribe from some creatures that have been a problem for them for hundreds of years because they are special little magical teenagers who can fix everything.

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (Song of the Lioness, #3)The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce

“Newly knighted, Alanna of Trebond seeks adventure in the vast desert of Tortall. Captured by fierce desert dwellers, she is forced to prove herself in a duel to the death — either she will be killed or she will be inducted into the tribe. Although she triumphs, dire challenges lie ahead. As her mythic fate would have it, Alanna soon becomes the tribe’s first female shaman — despite the desert dwellers’ grave fear of the foreign woman warrior. Alanna must fight to change the ancient tribal customs of the desert tribes — for their sake and for the sake of all Tortall.”

Ok, so Alanna goes wandering off to prove herself. She manages to get into trouble with the same tribe that she helped in the last book. And then, cue the white savior trope, she manages to become a shaman in the tribe and liberate the girls who want to study magic. I mean really, how have these poor people survived all these years without a teenage white girl telling them the correct way to live? Soon both of her love interests start showing up randomly. I thought this was a far away place with minimal contact with outsiders but these guys are treating it like a quick trip down to the corner market to pick up some milk. To make it even better, ol’ Prince Jonathan ends up as the mythical center of the entire tribe because why turn your civilization over to one white teenager when you can have two?

Lioness Rampant (Song of the Lioness, #4)Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce

“After achieving her dream of becoming the first female knight, Alanna sets out to find the Dominion Jewel, a legendary gem which possesses limitless power for good. But the evil Duke Roger has returned from the dead to wreak havoc on the kingdom, and only Alanna has the power to prevent utter destruction.”

You know what is a good idea? Let’s go looking for a powerful magical artifact that has been hidden for centuries because it made rulers too powerful and give it to our ruler. That’ll work out just fine! Oh, it belongs to someone else? No worries. It is totally ok to steal it and bring it to our land for our use because we are GOOD, don’t you know? No ethical issues there.

Alanna finally finds her one suitor another wife and then she goes off with the other one. She doesn’t seem to love him all that much but he’s been hanging about so she goes with him.

Obviously I had some problems with parts of these books.  Some of it is relying too much on classic fantasy tropes.  This was the first series and Pierce’s writing has branched out since then.  It was also written for a young audience who might not notice a lot of the things that bothered me.  Overall, it is a good story that entertained me on audio.

These are quick on audio.  Most were 5-7 hours.  It was a Full Cast Audio production so there was a new voice for every character.  I had a hard time with the narrator’s phrasing.  It was like she was putting the emphasis on odd words in each sentence.  It wasn’t until the end of all four books that I realized that the author was the narrator.  I guess that gives her the right to emphasize however she wants.



04 Aug, 2016

United States Botanic Gardens

/ posted in: Photostravel

I never even realized that there was a United States Botanical Garden until the torture/interrogation scene in Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol that takes place in the middle of the jungle room.  I’m not sure what that says about me that I:

  1. Read a scene like that and think “I bet that’s a nice place to visit. “
  2. Never noticed a huge glass building sitting next to the Capitol

There are outside gardens but we were there in July and it was roughly 10,000 degrees outside with no shade so we didn’t look at them.  We headed straight inside.

I wanted to throw myself headlong into this fountain.

I loved this fountain’s tiles. It wasn’t running but it was located in the blessed air conditioning (or maybe it was just cooler inside from all the plants) so that was ok.

It is a typical botanic garden where you move through rooms with different ecosystems or organized by use of plants like the medicinal plants room.

In the Jungle Room. I did consider taking a picture on the bench from The Lost Symbol but decided after much deliberation that I’m not quite that weird yet. Actually, that’s not weird at all but I didn’t want to have to explain it all to the husband.

Orchids are always good for close ups.

Water everywhere kept it much cooler than outside.

03 Aug, 2016

Locally Laid – Why is a Vegan Reviewing a Chicken Book?

/ posted in: Reading Locally Laid – Why is a Vegan Reviewing a Chicken Book? Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm - from Scratch by Lucie B. Amundsen
Published by Avery on March 1st 2016
Genres: Nonfiction
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Setting: Minnesota

“When Lucie Amundsen had a rare night out with her husband, she never imagined what he’d tell her over dinner—that his dream was to quit his office job (with benefits!) and start a commercial-scale pasture-raised egg farm. His entire agricultural experience consisted of raising five backyard hens, none of whom had yet laid a single egg.”

I laughed when Lucie Amundsen wrote about finding out that one of her first social media followers was a vegan.  After all, here I am, a vegan wannabe reading and reviewing her book.  To understand why people like me would be interested you have to understand that farm animal welfare is a huge issue.  A lot people become vegan because  of it.

Animal Welfare on Chicken Farms

On conventional farms chickens are kept in battery cages where they don’t have enough room to stretch their wings.  Because of this, a lot of people like to buy eggs that are labeled as cage-free.  However, just because they aren’t in cages doesn’t mean the chickens are living a happy life.  A lot of farms keep thousands of birds in large barns crammed together on the floor.  They aren’t in cages but they may not have much more room either.  They may have access to a concrete outside area.

Pasture-raised birds spend part of the day outside on grass.  This is the type of farm that Locally Laid is.  And no matter how nice of a life the chickens have there comes a time when they are no longer laying.  Chickens don’t get a pension plan.

The Amundsens had no farm experience prior to starting a chicken farm so things that I saw as glaring problems they went blissfully into.  For example, there was no water in their rented barn.  They would be getting water from a garden hose and transporting it to the barn.  In winter.  In northern Minnesota. Oh, honey, no.  I’ve had to do that for a few horses for a few days when there have been barn plumbing issues and it sucks.  I can’t even imagine trying to water 1800 chickens that way.  They soon realized that this was a major issue.

Another issue was that Lucie was not on board with this venture.  The stress on their marriage is covered honestly. Is it fair to ask one spouse to (repeatedly) give up her life and goals for the other spouse’s strange dreams?

The book gets into lots of other hot button food production issues like encouraging local agriculture, the role of mid sized farms, and the difficulties of getting organic certification.  Their successes and failures are told with candor and humor.  If you have read a lot about food issues or watched any of the documentaries on this then this isn’t going to be anything new to you but it is interesting to see how it plays out on one farm.

The husband is reading this book too.  He came running out to me one day and was mock crying with his head on my shoulder.  “I just read chapter five!” I couldn’t remember anything sob worthy.  “The birds came.  Myron’s an asshole!”  Oh, yes, Myron.  There is a big difference in caring for an individual bird and caring for a large flock where deaths are seen as the cost of doing business.  Myron was their supplier of the first flock and he wasn’t as into chicken welfare as they were.

The husband proudly showed me the pasture-raised eggs that he bought at the store too.  See, even vegans reading the book and passing it on can help make a difference.







Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

02 Aug, 2016

July Wrap Up

/ posted in: Reading

In July I read 14 books.


  • There were 2 male authors and 9 unique female authors.
  • There were 3 Indian authors and the rest were white.

About the books

  • 3 were audio books
  • 8 were fantasy
  • Only 1 was nonfiction


  • United States – Virginia, New York, California, Minnesota
  • India
  • England
  • A made up Middle Eastern country
  • Fantasy lands

Overall it was a pretty good reading month.  I have good feelings about each of those books (with only a few complaints.)  If I had to pick, I’d say nope can’t do it.  I’ve rewritten that sentence a few times with different books I can’t settle on an answer.

My most popular bookstagram picture this month was:

Happy #socksunday! Here’s some of my July TBR. #sammyreadsjuly16 #turtle #bookstagram

A photo posted by @dvmheather on

I’m sort of proud of this one taken to represent Goblet of Fire.

Bookish Adventures

I went to the Library of Congress, which was amazing.

I also went to a Harry Potter festival that was ultimately disappointing because of the crowd was HUGE and you couldn’t see anything.




01 Aug, 2016

August Foodies Read

/ posted in: Reading



Welcome to August’s Foodies Read

We had 21 entries in July!  The winner of the drawing for her choice of books is Amy from Read a Latte.  She’ll be able to chose from Death, Taxes, and a Chocolate Cannoli, Hometown Appetites, and My French Family Table.

All of the entries in August will be in a drawing for your choice of:

Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice: Exotic Flavors to Wake Up Your BakingSweet Sugar, Sultry Spice: Exotic Flavors to Wake Up Your Baking by Malika Ameen

“A diverse and accessible collection of spice-enhanced recipes that will transform your baking and awaken your senses–from a classically trained pastry chef. Welcome to a world of exotic spices and flavorings from the warm embrace of clove and ginger to the fiery touch of peppercorns and chiles, from the sensual kiss of cardamom and rose to the surprising sensations of sumac and za’atar.

With encouraging language, invaluable tips, and a passionate approach to flavor, Malika Ameen seeks to push spices beyond the realm of savory to the world of sweet where they can add everything from a delicate whisper to a surprising punch to cakes and tarts, cookies and bars, ice creams and sorbets, barks and brittles, and more.”


Truffle Boy: My Unexpected Journey Through the Exotic Food UndergroundTruffle Boy: My Unexpected Journey Through the Exotic Food Underground by Ian Purkayastha


“Ian Purkayastha is New York City’s leading truffle importer and boasts a devoted clientele of top chefs nationwide, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, David Chang, Sean Brock, and David Bouley. But before he was purveying the world’s most expensive fungus to the country’s most esteemed chefs, Ian was just a food-obsessed teenager in rural Arkansas–a misfit with a peculiar fascination for rare and exotic ingredients.

The son of an Indian immigrant father and a Texan mother, Ian learned to forage for wild mushrooms from an uncle in the Ozark hills. Thus began a single-track fixation that led him to learn about the prized but elusive truffle, the king of all fungi. His first taste of truffle at age 15 sparked his improbable yet remarkable adventure through the strange–and often corrupt–business of the exotic food trade.”

 Loading InLinkz ...
29 Jul, 2016

Library of Congress

/ posted in: Readingtravel

I don’t know why I’ve never been to the Library of Congress.

The building is beautiful.

Some of Thomas Jefferson’s library remains on display and there is a copy of Common Sense.

You can see the reading room but lowly tourists can’t get in there and disturb researchers.

There are quotes painted all over the place.

Even the window shades are fancy.

28 Jul, 2016

Vivian in Red – Historical Fiction and a Ghost Story

/ posted in: Reading Vivian in Red – Historical Fiction and a Ghost Story Vivian In Red by Kristina Riggle
Published by Polis Books on September 13th 2016
Genres: 20th Century, Historical Fiction, Occult & Supernatural
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: New York

“Famed Broadway producer Milo Short may be eighty-eight but that doesn’t stop him from going to the office every day. So when he steps out of his Upper West Side brownstone on one exceptionally hot morning, he’s not expecting to see the impossible: a woman from his life sixty years ago, cherry red lips, bright red hat, winking at him on a New York sidewalk, looking just as beautiful as she did back in 1934.
The sight causes him to suffer a stroke. And when he comes to, the renowned lyricist discovers he has lost the ability to communicate. Milo believes he must unravel his complicated history with Vivian Adair in order to win back his words. But he needs help—in the form of his granddaughter Eleanor— failed journalist and family misfit. Tapped to write her grandfather’s definitive biography, Eleanor must dig into Milo’s colorful past to discover the real story behind Milo’s greatest song Love Me, I Guess, and the mysterious woman who inspired an amazing life.”

In 1999 Milo is the recently widowed patriarch of a high achieving family.  He lives surrounded by children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  He still goes into his production company even though his son is the running the place now.  The business isn’t doing as well as it used to and his son wants to do a revival of the last musical Milo wrote, The High Hat, along with commissioning a biography of Milo as a tie-in.  Milo is opposed to both.

He’s leaving the office after telling his son that when he sees a woman he knew in the 1930s.  She looks exactly like she did then.  She looks at him and he collapses.  When he wakes up he is unable to speak or use his right hand.  Robbed of ways to communicate, he has to figure out why Vivian Adair is haunting him without looking so confused that his family insists on a nursing home.

Now that Milo can’t voice his objections, the plans for the revival go ahead.  His granddaughter Eleanor is chosen to write the biography.  She is the only person who seems to understand that Milo is still lucid and aware and she doesn’t talk past him.  In her interviews with the son of his writing partner she hears the name Vivian and starts to investigate why that family thinks that this Vivian ruined everything.

I loved Milo and Eleanor! 

Milo’s mind is fast, as fits a lyricist, and he has a great sense of humor that comes through even when he is locked inside himself.  Eleanor has always been seen as the family misfit because she is quiet and she isn’t ambitious.  The rest of the family feels like they need to manage her life for her since she isn’t doing it up to their standards on her own.  She feels bad about being handed a book deal that is both a charity project for her and something that she knows her grandfather doesn’t want.  Now she’s gone and uncovered a scandal so everyone will be mad at her.

The author writes both time periods well.  There are little details from each era that anchor the writing firmly in that time.  Some of the social attitudes of the characters are jarring to modern thinking but seem accurate for the time and the place.

I stayed up past my bedtime to find out more about Vivian role in Milo’s past.  The mystery was well done with no easy easy to guess answers.

I would recommend this to any historical fiction fans even if you aren’t a fan of ghost stories.  The ghost aspect is just a way to get Milo to start focusing on this aspect of his past.  It isn’t written as a scary or horror-type story.  Ghost Vivian mostly just makes sarcastic comments that only Milo can hear.




Reading this book contributed to these challenges: