All posts by pestyside

In Houston it's often all about the heat and humidity. For me it's all about getting out of Houston and back to Colorado but also I identify as a book person, a labrador parent, a gardener and a long-distance cyclist. Give me chocolate or good red wine and I'm a happy camper. Many of my book reviews can be found at my website, https://sites.google.com/site/overstuffedlibrary/home
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The Practical Optimistic Long Distance Cyclist’s Essential Gear – Seriously

Camelbak M.U.L.E Hydration Pack Rain Cover


camelbak-rain-cover-mule

(5/5)

Pros: lightweight, easy to attach, rainproof, pack specific for good fit

Cons: not one-size-fits-all, pack specific


When clouds routinely pop up and cover the sky threatening outdoor recreationists with brief but heavy rain it’s wise to prepare for the eventual rain. As a long distance cyclist who easily rides 30 plus miles in a day, it’s not unlikely to experience riding through some of those occasionally pop-up storms. The smart thing to do is find temporary shelter until it passes over but those planned stops can be a mile or two away – we’re not supposed to take shelter under a large tree. Our miscellaneous collection of electronic devices aren’t designed for exposure to rain and my M.U.L.E. Camelbak pack can only handle light showers.

 

Consider carrying a very lightweight rain pack provided by Camelbak specifically for the M.U.L.E. hydration pack. It’s secure in wind, easy to fit, bright and visible, and waterproof.


 

Several days ago I was out for a long ride that ended short of my camelbak-rain-coverintended goal of 35. Three intense pop-up storms forced me off the road and under shelter of a porch, a carwash canopy, and then a picnic pavilion. (Intense is when you look at the approaching rain and the path is completely obscured by a nearly black rain screen.)  A forth storm to threaten looked more intense than the pop ups so I headed full speed to my parked car barely making it in front of the approaching squall line. I protected the pack before the first pop-up storm hit and was pleased to discover that the contents of my pack remained dry thanks to this “raincoat”.  If only there were windshield wipers for my glasses and rain covers for my cycling shoes.

 

The Camelbak Rain Cover is a rainproof rain cover. 
  • Only available in bright, hi-vis yellow for high daytime visibility (drivers certainly don’t expect to see a cyclist when it’s raining)
  • Velcro loops attach to the harness straps
  • It has a pull cinch at the bottom to help tighten the cover for a more secure fit
  • The M.U.L.E. cover fits the M.U.L.E. hydration pack as well Camelbak’s L.U.X.E. and Lobo packs (They have other bright yellow rain covers specifically designed for other hydration packs.) The design for specific packs improves the fit.
  • Made of coated nylon
  • Weighs 3 ounces
  • Measures 20 x 15 inches
  • Easily rolled and compacted into a small space in your hydration pack’s pockets
  • Affordable, easily found at $10

 

As a cyclist forced to ride on roads more than on paved off-road paths, I appreciate the bright color. My M.U.L.E. is a bright orange and it’s tempting to wear this on cloudy days simply to enhance my visibility.

High Tech Recreation

The Camelbak Rain Cover is a necessity for anyone who carries a hydration pack and who is serious about spending time outdoors, whether they are hiking, walking, running or riding regardless of the weather. Once upon a time we accepted getting wet, we knew it wasn’t any worse than sweating, we knew our packs might get wet and we protected items inside our packs with zipper-style bags but today it’s different. Today we carry a collection of expensive electronic devices that suffer, often fatally, when they get wet. This extremely very lightweight Camelbak Rain Cover has become a necessity in the reality of long distance exercising in climates with pop-up storms.

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Sequoia Trees – Our Best Antiques

Sequoia by Tony Johnston & illustrated by Wendell Minor


sequoia

(5/5)

Pros: illustrations, book design, content, notes at end, introduction to sequoia trees

A fossil cradled in your hand connects the holder with a piece of ancient history, from perhaps the time when dinosaurs walked the planet, or even before, and while this awesome experience impresses young people it doesn’t hold a candle to the impression felt while standing at the base of an ancient sequoia or redwood tree.  As someone who has professionally studied forests and trees, a zillion thoughts and memories surfaced while reading Tony Johnston’s Sequoia. As someone who has stood at the base of some of these giant trees I also felt familiar emotions tugging at me.


sequoia 2

 

Sequoia, however emotional it is for this adult, was destined to be a children’s picture book elegantly illustrated by the talented Wendell Minor. Some might argue with the  third-person voice but that made it possible for the tree’s story to be told – its very long story in a picture book length.

 

He tells of woodpeckers tapping and firs conversing in the wind, he tells of winter and how he gathers snow to him, he smells the rain in storms and enjoys listening to choirs of singing frogs. He tells of the cycles that have existed around him for centuries and through the seasons. He often throws wide his ancient arms with joy and gathers something to him – sometimes stars, snow, owls, or a crow.

 

The voice of the tree, aided by Johnston’s imagination and research, combines with Wendell Minor’s detailed, yet soft, brilliantly painted illustrations. Suitably, some images require rotating the book to enjoy the double-page image of the tall tree. When the story concludes I strongly urge readers to sift through the last page’s brief notes about sequoias that compare the tree to the other tall California tree – the redwood.

 

The tallest giant sequoia is 311 feet and the tallest redwood is 379 feet and both are ancient. However, Johnston points out that sequoia trees are the oldsters who live up to 3200 years while redwoods are “young whippersnappers” that live maybe 2200 years.  The book builds an appreciation for these rare trees and the notes, supported by research, also describe climatic threats to these tall giants.

 

The notes include an acknowledgment to one of my all-time favorite TheWildTreesbooks, Richard Preston’s that gave Wendell Minor insight into the tree’s upper-story environment and canopy. It shows in his paintings.

 

Written as an introduction to the habitat of a giant sequoia for the purpose of fostering an appreciation for this amazing tree species the author’s approach is intended for children. It does, however, tug at the conscience of adults who currently value the tree and share concerns for the tree’s future. Minor’s illustrations conjure up sensual trees-a-new-visionmemories that let me imagine feeling the morning air, smelling the heat rising from the forest duff and hearing the wind converse with the trees. All said, this trip down memory lane for me will be one enjoyed by children who are meeting these large trees for the first time. If possible locate a copy of James Balog’s book, , and continue the introduction through its incredible photographs.

 

Johnston and Minor partner to provide a memorable introduction to an awesome tree in Sequoia. While indigenous to California, perhaps this tree will encourage searching locally for equally amazing trees. Thanks to both of you.


 

 

Adventure, Suspense, Intrigue without Romance – Summer Reading for 6 to 10 year olds

Turtle Summer and Carolina’s Story

Inspiration from Sea Turtle Rescues

loggerhead-turtle

(5/5)

Pros: photographs, format, facts, loggerheads

Cons: these two need to be packaged together

Sunshine, blue skies, sandy beach and on-shore breezes combine to create perfect moments for light summer reading, especially when enjoying a vacation along North and South Carolina’s white sandy beaches. While most readers look for epic sagas or sumptuous short stories that transport us into our imaginations, young readers might opt for inspiration and curiosity rather than the newest epic fantasy novel. The combination of Carolina’s Story and Turtle Summer become an ideal youthful combination for fostering beach exploration.

 

If in 2021 the numbers of students graduating with master’s degreesloggerhead-turtle-trtle-sto in Marine Biology and thesis work in Sea Turtle biology increases 500%, the finger can be pointed directly to Mary Alice Monroe’s book, Turtle Summer A Journal for My Daughter (published 2007). This photographic journal compiled by a mother and daughter does more than watch turtles – it inspires a lifetime passion for carefully patrolling beaches watching more than flotsam. It’s a how-to-watch book for endangered loggerhead sea turtles.

The unusual format naturally inspires any child to replicate the process for watching sea turtles, owl families, or hatching monarchs. In this case the scrapbook format inspires discussion, teaches observation skills and offers an artistic way to organize thoughts.

It begins…
It is May and the loggerhead sea turtles are returning to our island to lay their eggs.”

 

It continues into August, from the incubation period of the turtles through to their return to their marine home when they follow the light of the stars and moon.  Along the way readers learn how female turtles swim to shore, lay their eggs and return to the ocean leaving the eggs and baby turtles to fend for themselves.

In contrast a loving mother sits on the dunes and watches with her daughter, waiting and wondering if the sea turtles will return this May. They watch the waves for signs of the female turtles. They talk about the plants, animals, shells, and the beach – mother hoping that her daughter (her young assistant) will one day not only know nature but also intuitively feel nature.

This journal to her daughter collects memories of their time on the beach, the mother and her helper, and the turtle’s time on “their beach.”   Actual snapshots (provided by nature photographer Barbara J. Bergwerf) that document their observations appear as pages in a photo album. Handwritten notes, pressed flowers, sketches, and images of sea shells personalize this scrapbook – everything that’s included preserves the memory while providing educational content.

 

As a complement to Turtle Summer I recommend Barbara Bergwerf’s other book from time spent with the South Carolina Aquarium.

loggerhead-turtle-CarolinasAlong the Carolina coast a beached sea turtle was found barely alive. Volunteers recognized the need for immediate help and the Turtle Rescue Team was called to assist. Carolina’s Story Sea Turtles Get Sick Too, also a photographic journal, documents the endangered loggerhead sea turtle’s recovery at the Sea Turtle Hospital located at the South Carolina Aquarium. She is nursed back to health in much the same way as a hospitalized child complete with x-rays, shots, blood and IVs. The four-month recovery process and procedures are depicted through photographs and brief narrative – text is designed to help young elementary school readers relate to the treatment but it’s the photographs that captivate both the child and adult readers.

Author Donna Rathmell German has written 16 cookbooks including four New York Times best sellers. That doesn’t necessarily qualify her to write Carolina’s Story but as a volunteer exhibit guide at the South Carolina Aquarium she became immersed into the world of sea turtle rescue and rehab. She equates, through parallel experiences with her own daughter’s emergency surgery, the turtle’s care and draws associations to something familiar to many children. Barbara Bergwerf provided photographs for this book as well as for Turtle Summer. She contributes her wildlife photography skills to the Island Turtle Team.loggerhead-turtle-carolina2

 

The quality of Barbara Bergwerf’s photos barely needs any text, but it’s Donna Rathmell’s text that enables young readers to anthropomorphize and understand vicariously and through their own experiences what can happen to a turtle in a hospital stay.  It also opens opportunities for children to discuss their own experiences – if working with five year olds they’ll be eager to share as any teacher will attest. My only concern is that the text occasionally relies  heavily on anthropomorphizing. The two, in tandem, provide a photographic journal of this loggerhead sea turtle’s rescue and recovery from the potentially deadly Turtle Flu.

 Create Summertime Memories

While these two books from Sylvan Dell Publishing offer a lot of educational content and numerous activities that support classroom goals, the two books also offer surprisingly delightful reading experiences for 6 to 10 year old readers who just happen to be spending some summer time along a coastal beach.  Some of the best memories from these summers are rooted in the discoveries and observations of the indigenous critters and these two books (both available as e-books as well as traditional books) just might have families searching for simple field guides that assist with further identifications. If looking for summertime and beach books for older readers, check out more from Mary Alice Monroe.

 

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As a word of caution, always respect the need for isolation and care when observing nesting turtles and if beach areas are roped off to protect them, don’t cross the line but watch from a distance with binoculars!

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Harry takes on Hades, Butcher holds readers until he’s done with you

Jim Butcher’s #15 in The Dresden Files – Skin Game

Skin-Games

(5/5)

Pros: Harry is back, Favorite Characters, New Characters, Pace

Cons: This was just released and book 16 is far away

When Mab says “I want you to perform a task for me” Harry knew it was something despicable and that he had no choice and all of his objections would go unheard. As her knight the consequences for refusing would be dire and she wouldn’t hesitate to wreak havoc on both his mortal world and him. “Mab was a serious bad guy” but she was a bad guy sort of on his side and as such, in her own way, protected the world from worse bad guys. In Jim Butcher’s 15th book in the series, Skin Game, Harry Dresden, wizard, warden of the White Council, and Winter Knight, works with a shape-shifter, Denarian, several mercenaries, a fire-flinging wizard and a wanted warlock as well as a former police detective, an angel and a former Knight of the Cross/Sword to enter the underworld and steal from Hades.

 

If this sounds too contrived and ridiculous then you haven’t read many of Jim Butcher’s books and you’re unfamiliar with . Dresden, a wizard turned Winter Knight, loves his magic. He has an unrealistic tolerance for pain and super-human endurance. In Skin Game he returns to the Mortal World after living on the island Demonreach, just outside of Chicago, to pay off a debt for his boss, Mab.  He doesn’t have a choice in this.

 

Mab requires him to partner with one of Harry’s least favorite Denarians, Nicodemus Archleone, to rob a powerful artifact from Hades. Again, Harry has no choice and Mab has her own version of trackers on him to keep him focused – but as is always the case Harry has his own agenda and loosely woven strategy. At least we think it’s loosely woven.

 

Butcher makes the weird  believable.

In my opinion this is possibly one of the best of the series. For one reason, Harry has returned. He gets beaten on but his clever magic and logic pulls him through some tough situations, as do his friends. Butcher brings back some favorite characters in this good vs. evil adventure. He brings back Michael. He introduces some great characters, mixes in a bit more humor and some seriously awkward moments (Harry has been living on an island alone for too long.). He’s a bit of a rascal as well as a renegade in Skin Game. He seems accepting of his role as the Winter Knight and less mopey about the situation – he’s far more intent on getting the debt paid and coming out through the other end alive. He also has a strong incentive to survive.

 

Of course, there’s always some doubt about ending up alive. He could manage to get himself into serious trouble while protecting females on the team, or he could embarrass himself while drooling over a female, or he could end up killing female members of the team. What he never does it get completely blindsided and, as always, he has a plan of his own.

 

Harry is no longer Chicago’s awkward, magical private investigator in Skin Game but an intimidating and deadly force as the Winter Knight. He’s confident and his darker (and yes colder) side as Mab’s knight has altered Harry in obvious ways. He stumbles less and his magic, as well as his physique, is considerably stronger.

 

So you plan on putting this down occasionally? Bet you won’t.

Readers (a.k.a. fans)  should prepare for a fast-paced adventure with some new ghouls as well as some familiar ghouls. While reading this I commented on this being typical of Butcher. He does a very good job of grabbing your attention at some point in the book–in this one the grab happened in the early pages. He often says “let’s get to work.”

 

For a second, I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. It was just two mounds of writhing purple-grey flesh mottled with blotches of other colors. And then they just sort of unspooled into writhing, grasping appendages and a weird bulbous body, and suddenly two creatures that looked like the torso of a hairless, gorilla-like humanoid grafted to the limbs of an enormous octopus came scuttle-humping over the floor toward us, preceded by a wave of reeking, rotten-fish stench and followed by twin trails of yellowish mucus.

‘Hells bells,’ I swore. ‘I told her so. Nothing’s ever simple.’”

 

PLEASE

I truly want to see this book made into a movie, but not animated. Anyone unfamiliar with this story line REALLY needs to start from the beginning. Fans will have a lot of fun but plan on not putting it down until Butcher’s finally done with you.

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Love IS the Best Medicine

Two Dogs, Two Owners and One Veterinarian = One Very Readable Book

Highly recommended for dog owners

 

[Rating: 5/5]

 

love-is-the-best-medicine

 

Pros: Insight, Helen,  Cleo, Engaging style of writing, Chocolate Labrador

Cons: Wish all Veterinarians were like Trout

Unlike in , Dr. Nick Trout doesn’t share recollections of thousands of animals in Love is the Best Medicine. Instead he peppers it with a few minor stories but frames them with two heart-warming experiences – the ones that provide life-changing moments. The best moments in our lives come without warning, without preparation, and without regrets.  It is for this reason that I have another book from this veterinarian/author on request.

My current veterinarian has a soft spot for Labrador retrievers. Patti-looking-goodSomewhere around my current yellow Labrador’s six-month visit she announced that our dog was special. Each time we return she asks very specific questions about her allowing our girl to snuggle with her and entertain her. She always schedules extra time for us. I appreciate her attention to a dog we consider very special (no bias here) but have often wondered if she was like this with all well-behaved Labradors.  After reading Trout’s Love is the Best Medicine I’ve considered reconsidering that skepticism.

What passes for understanding requires commitment, patience, and granted, an occasional leap of faith, but every so often the cynic can decipher our pets’ messages and appreciate a simple yet indelible message. For me these particular cases spoke loud and clear, giving me an unforgettable lesson in hope, generosity, and the incredible capacity for humans and animals to open their hearts to each other.”

As the reader quickly realizes, the stories take place over a period of time and provide Trout with a soul-searching journey and occasional self-doubt brought about by both two specific dogs and their humans. The pet owners share some valuable insight into their dogs, insight into courage and compassion that serves as a reminder that the pet and human become a package. Consider them bonded in a unique way when they allow their hearts to open and be receptive to the personalities of each other.

The two dogs that taught

While a few other dogs fill in the gaps, the stories that keep readers flipping pages are Helen, a neglected older cocker spaniel, and Cleo, a miniature pinscher. Helen had been abandoned and selected to adopt Ben and Eileen one wintry evening outside a restaurant. Helen came with some serious health issues that limit her life expectancy. She returns every ounce of love that her humans provide and they look for a miracle.

Cleo doesn’t match the stereotype of the breed. She’s compassionate, seems to have a sixth sense as to the needs of other dogs and humans and how to satisfy them, and she has an owner who has a strong belief in hope, humility, and grace as well as in the special quality of her dog. We meet Cleo because she keeps having problems with broken bones and they’re looking for an underlying cause but it becomes intriguingly more complex – and emotional.

Both sets of humans become linked through the dogs and both the dogs and humans teach Dr. Trout lessons that remain with him today. As I reflect upon my current veterinarian and some special ones from the past years I can’t help but consider the lessons taught Nick Trout and wonder if mine have ever affected their doctor in a similar way. Our previous yellow lab endured cancer that when initially diagnosed we were told that even after surgery she had maybe six months left. She lived several years more and demonstrated remarkable resiliency and spirit. Her oncologist emailed me several times over the following years just to touch base. An earlier oncologist emailed me over the years just to follow her progress. She was the dog who broke out of the hospital’s kennel just hours after surgery. They called to say she apparently wanted to come home – they couldn’t keep her in the kennel.

Final Thoughts

I can’t answer my own questions about the influence of our dogs on kopi like tobytheir vets, but I can attest to the influence of Love is the Best Medicine on my heart. There are special pet/human relationships and there is a veterinarian/author who has left an indelible mark on my soul. (His comments about chocolate Labradors, while not part of the primary story, had me in stitches while remembering the antics of my wonderful chocolate lab who passed several years ago—they were so right-on.) While many of his patients consider him a highly qualified vet surgeon, his readers will tell him it would be OK to quit his day job IF his patients would allow.

 

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Monkey Hook Drywall Hanger

An As-Seen-On-TV Product Keeps Big Stuff Hanging Around on Drywall

Monkey-Hook

(5/5)

Pros: Weight-transfer system, No tools required, Confidence

Cons: Overkill for small, lightweight wall hangings

A recent dilemma, hanging a display case filled with collectible miniature cars, had me re-visiting an earlier dilemma — hanging a 29-pound, 44 x 50 inch framed horse print on drywall. To resolve the earlier project I pulled out the Monkey Hook Drywall Picture Hangers recommended by an elderly, experienced clerk at a local Ace Hardware store. He said it works and didn’t leave huge holes. He said people loved it and returned to let him know how much.

I Love Strong and Easy to Use

Monkey-Hook2The Monkey Hook is a picture hanger for drywall and it’s unlike any product I’ve ever seen. It’s somewhat reminiscent of a very large, heavy gauge fish hook. This thin-gauge, springy-steel hook fits through a self-made small hole in your drywall. The hook is worked through the drywall and secures against the back of the wallboard using what they describe as a weight-transfer process. You can feel it catch.

No Tools Required

Intrigued I was eager to give it a try. My lines on the wall were drawn and my level reassured me the lines were level. I had marked where the two hooks would be inserted on that line. I resisted the temptation to initially punch a hole in the wall with a small nail and instead pushed the tip of the steel hook into the wall.  It required minimal wiggling and back and forth twisting but with a little effort before the tip slipped through the wall. Then I continued working it through until only the exterior, small hook remained visible and the small “cradle” behind that hook rested on the drywall. I also felt the slanted tip curve around and securely push against the drywall on the inside.

Nervous, it took two of us to raise the framed print high enough (ten feet off the floor) for the hanging wire to slip over the two Monkey Hooks.  I waited, truly apprehensive about this delicate-looking hook, but nothing slipped, fell, dropped, or shifted. Several years later the print is still in place.

I weighed the picture first—it seemed much heavier than 29 pounds. monkey-hook3This Monkey Hook had been tested and rated for 35 to 50 pounds so that made me feel somewhat reassured. It’s made with “high-carbon spring steel.” The hook is not visible behind the framed object and the low profile doesn’t make it hang at an odd angle—the hook is flush against the wall. The “self-boring tip” allows easy installation without the use of tools and it wasn’t necessary to locate a wall stud. When we move from this house it’s possible to just pull this out, fill the tiny hole, and paint over it with a fingernail polish brush.

Even Humans Can Do It!

Packaging claims this “As Seen on TV” product is “so easy…even humans can do it!” The online site for Monkey Hook claims the response from consumers has been “Wow” and I might add my wow to their list of responses. This cost less than some of the other options. This is available with two, four, ten or more packs. A pack with 50 hooks costs $45 and a pack with four costs $3.99. If I had students going to college, either in a dorm or apartment, I’d send a package of these for hanging anything framed and relatively heavy. I wouldn’t go to the expense for small wall hangings and I will continue to use standard picture hooks for lightweight objects. However, if considering heavy framed objects, mirrors, or unique artifacts this will win out over trying to find a stud and drilling in a larger hook. Tiny holes are so much easier to patch than those of the destructive traditional dry wall hangers.

This works and this human could install the Monkey Hook. If you’re moving or redecorating, check it out. My display case holds nostalgic cars from my recently deceased father and I certainly don’t want to risk this falling.  If you’re worried about the cost, these hooks are removable and reusable.

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Measuring a Life in Dog Years

My Life in Dog Years by Gary Paulsen

My-Life-in-Dog-Years

(5/5)

Pros: Dog stories, Insight into author’s life

Cons: Some stories deserve an entire book.

…as I dropped I had time to yell—scream—and the last thing I saw as I went under was Cookie’s head swinging up from sleeping and her eyes locking on mine as I went beneath the surface.”  When author Gary Paulsen dropped through the ice he grabbed the rope that was attached to his dog sled and dog team. He clutched it and Cookie, his lead sled dog, responded immediately. When she saw him drop through the ice she quickly assessed the situation and made their dog team rise from their rest and pull the rope and  him from the icy water. Paulsen dedicates this book about the dogs in his life, those that followed this icy dunk, to his lead dog. He owed his life to Cookie.

The exciting introduction to his book, My Life in Dog Years, leads into a collection of short, memorable, and often heart-warming or bittersweet stories, about the dogs in his life. We, as dog lovers, often measure our lives through time spent with our dogs. Mine have shared the high and low moments of my life, getting me through sorrows but they also danced during the celebrations. They’ve traveled tens of thousands of miles with me exploring windy and cold high mountain peaks as well as narrow, hot and dry desert canyons. We’ve ducked to avoid and then watch as a giant great horned owl swoop several feet above our flattened bodies and we’ve switched lead on an intimidating narrow bear-country trail. (The “brave” dog decided dad was alpha and opted to walk behind him in the role of back-up.)

 

Gary Paulsen’s familiar, unpretentious and honest style of writing shares memories of eight dogs that he loved. While far from being his only dogs, these eight played significant roles in his life.  Through these stories we learn even more of his tough childhood and we can’t help but suspect that not only does he measure his life in dogs; his life was in formed, in part, by the character of these dogs.

 His life goes to the dogs

My Life In Dog Years is about Snowball, the first dog; Ike who became a good friend; Rex the farm dog; Caesar the giant Dane; and Quincy the wild dog of the Alaskan north. He begins with Cookie, a dog sister who was also his lead dog in his first Iditarod sled dog race and he finishes with Josh the smartest dog in the world. The story of Ceasar, the Great Dane, became so funny I had to read parts to my husband.

 A Dog that Talksmaia-1

His border collie, Josh, the last in this collection was so smart that when he spoke to the dog it talked back and participated in the conversation. I’ve recently had the pleasure of meeting a Doberman pinscher who exceeded my expectations on intelligence and sweetness. Her humans told me this dog talks to them and I said ha! to that. My yellow lab is smart and uses telepathy but doesn’t talk. Well, the dog proved me wrong and carried on numerous, lip-moving conversations in a very human way. I’ve no doubts that Josh also carried on these conversations with Paulsen.

 Final Thoughts

This book was a joy to read.  Simple line drawings of each opens the chapters and these enhance our appreciation for each dog. The intended audience was older elementary school readers but anyone who treasures their memories with special dogs will enjoy this easy-to-read collection of reminiscences. One warning though, this will cause readers to re-visit their own dog friend memories.  While it really is possible to tire from reading too many dog stories, My Life In Dog Years wants to be re-read.

fitbit-zip

The Bluntly Honest Personal Activity Tracker – Calories In/Out Oh My

Fitbit Zip

Available in black, white and three bright colors.
Available in black, white and three bright colors.

(5/5)

Pros: Honest, Accurate, Snug fit, Online interface, Works with other apps

Cons: Will challenge non-tech users

One of the newest accessories appearing on active people keeps them fit and opens conversations with strangers. The Fitbit plan has caught on nationwide and in my opinion, if used to its fullest and respected for the information that it provides, users will drop weight. I believe this so much that I recommend it to everyone – the only caveat is that they need to be capable of using the software and maintaining their content. Sitting at Buena Vista winery in California recently I opened an animated conversation with two Fitbitters from Vancouver, BC.

Riding, walking, jogging and wogging, swimming, and dancing burn calories and contribute to feeling confident in how many were burned. Consuming extra calories when very active seems justifiable. Friends brag that they run to eat and they eat more because they run. My Fitbit Zip Wireless Activity Tracker is more than a pedometer. It is a bluntly honest personal tracker that syncs with a computer program that stores the results and converts them into intake and output comparisons — sometimes with disturbing results. It exposes the reality of our “justifiable” consumption.

I consumed many more calories than what I just burned!?! That couldn’t have  been possible – yet it was and that explains why my weight wouldn’t drop even when exercising hard. It also explains why I rarely eat out now.

Fitbit’s Zip captures daily activities better than any previous pedometer. It captures the results and syncs them on my computer. The steps are converted into calories burned, they accumulate over time. It’s difficult to say what I like most about wearing the Zip. This is a two-step process. The Zip pedometer tracks both distances and steps. The program interprets the stats with eye-opening results.

The Zip on my Hip

  • Is powered by an accelerometer and battery.
  • Measures two inches long and 1 ¼ inches wide when stored in the color-coordinated, protective clip.
  • Is enclosed in a silicone-covered rain-, splash- and sweat-proof case
  • Case is color coordinated and available in black, white, but also bright lime, blue and magenta.
  • Has a snug fit when hooked to my pocket or exercise bra. I wear this everywhere.
  • The half-inch square screen is easy to read. Toggling between the displays requires only a finger tap minus any danger about accidentally resetting the display.
  • The digital screen displays current time, distance, number of steps, and calories burned.
  • Automatically syncs with an assigned computer when within 20 feet. The “dongle” is plugged into one of the USB ports to receive Zip’s input.

Continue reading

If you saw stars in the mouth of an angel would you believe?

Angels of Destruction by Keith Donohue

 

angels-of-destruction

(4/5)

Pros:Believable, Powerful writing, Characters,

Cons: Unanswered questions

In 2006 The Stolen Child surprised readers and critics. Keith Donohue’s compelling story did a remarkable job of blending fairy tales with reality and magic. He created chills that haunted readers for years. Anyone familiar with deep grief will recognize the need to fill the void left behind with something real or imaginary, and with Donohue’s elegant crafting of his book Angels of Destruction we experience some of the manifestations that result from loss. was an impressive first novel.

I read this while sitting with my own father who is now under hospice care recognizing that the story takes on a different meaning than what it would have less than a month ago. As Donohue does in Angels of Destruction I’m linking the past and future and coming to terms with grief and acceptance both as the adult child and the youthful daughter of a special dad.

Angels of Destruction begins when Margaret Quinn finds a young girl at her doorstep on a cold winter night. She allows this lost nine year old into her house and life, initially for the night but quickly as a Continue reading

An Elixir to Keep the Cramps Away

CamelBak Orange Alert Elixir – Electrolyte Powered Hydration Tablets

camelbak-orange-elixir

 

(4/5)

Pros: Refreshing flavor, Helps maintain electrolyte balance, Encourages hydration

Cons: Expensive,  Sorbital could cause digestive distress

It’s early May and Texas heat is coming. The full-bloom of Texas 120+ temperatures with heat waves rippling up from the road separates the hardy or well-prepared from novices (or fools). It defines who can ride on hot, sunny afternoons.  Necessity often requires riding under less than optimal conditions when fitting rides into work and family schedule. Only the tough and well-conditioned survive summer heat, but don’t expect to have natural, organic supplements and clothing. Nature never intended for us to ride bikes over hot pavement – nature intended for us to snooze in the heat of the day in a shady location.

When it gets really hot…

I use Camelbak’s Elixir tablets and carry a 100-ounce CamelBak. The two help keep me hydrated – it takes more than just water for anyone training or performing at higher levels.

CamelBak’s Elixir Electrolyte Powered Hydration Orange Alert tablets have been my favorite mostly because of flavor and lack of mess. They are sold in plastic tubes with tight-fitting lids and 12 Continue reading