Saturday, April 30, 2011

YA Sci-Fi

My friends, this isn't a list. I've been dealing with a nasty mix of pneumonia & asthma for two weeks now, and just haven't been up to doing much of anything.  My apologies.

Meanwhile, to tide you over, a quick link to one of the best resources for great science fiction: .  I'm specifically linking to their Recommended Young Adult Reading List.  Mind you, some of these are favorites of mine, and I first encountered them as an adult. I think the Young Adult label is primarily because they're "safe" when it comes to relationships between the genders. 

Note: my other favorite section of the Baen website is the Baen Free Library.  That's right, free, downloadable (in any format) full-length books that you'd otherwise have to pay for. They're usually the first in a series, so that you can have a nice taste to see if you're going to want / need to read the rest.  Enjoy!

And now, back to the couch.  My kleenex and breathing machine miss me. 

Love to you all,
Mrs. Turkey.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Key to the Vorkosigan Saga

Focus for this List: The title for this list was nearly, "How to Avoid Insanity While Chained to the Couch by Pneumonia."  Yes, this is a series that is so grippingly well-written that you'll forget that you're coughing up substances of quite repulsive color and consistency. The characters are so real that I'd recognize them anywhere, even in a highly-medicated fog. (Miles would appreciate that one!) 

That said, this is also one of the most frustrating series in all of sci-fi, simply because of its publishing success. Lois McMaster Bujold wrote the series as a set of independent, yet linked, books. Then when the rising popularity intersected the difficulty of finding the older books in the series, they started republishing them in omnibus editions. These editions are actually quite well thought-out, and yet, if you're not careful, you'll end up buying books you already own. Thus, with my sweet husband's help, I present to you the cheapest, most efficient way to get to know Miles and the gang. Mind you, we used several of the very well-written lists out on the internet as resources. The difference in this list?  Fewer spoilers! 

1.  Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold
This book is QUITE independent from the rest of the Vorkosigan series, but I present it in this list as it's set in the same universe. It's much more serious "hard" science fiction, than the space opera that the rest of the series can lean toward. NOTE: before you buy this one, read my note down at #8.

2.  Cordelia's Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
This includes Shards of Honor and Barrayar, and tells the stories of Mile's parents and a bit of his boyhood.

3.  Young Miles by Lois McMaster Bujold
This includes Warrior's Apprentice (one of my favorites!), The Vor Game, and the short story, "The Mountains of Mourning."  Yes, you should read the short story before you read the Vor Game. 

4.  Miles, Mystery & Mayhem by Lois McMaster Bujold
This includes Cetaganda, Ethan of Athos, and "Labrynth" from Borders of Infinity. I love the gender issues these bring up, and recommend them highly to everyone. (Pssst, Shannon, Baron, I'm talkin' to YOU!)  Still, I really believe that while you'll enjoy each of these stories individually, you'll find them MUCH more amusing if you read them in order. That said, I view either Cordelia's Honor, or Young Miles as suitable starting points. Or Falling Free.

5.  Miles Errant by Lois McMaster Bujold
This includes Brothers in Arms, Borders of Infinity, and Mirror DanceAhh the sibling issues, eh?  *grin*

6.  Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold
This one is a stand-alone book, at least for now.  I'd tell you more about it, but it's been a while since I read this one and I can't remember much. Heh.

7.  Miles in Love by Lois McMaster Bujold
This includes Komarr, A Civil Campaign, and Winterfair GiftsAbsolutely delightful reads.

8.  And here's where we run into trouble.  You can either buy Diplomatic Immunity as a stand-alone book, OR you can buy it as part of an omnibus, Miles, Mutants and Microbes, and also get a copy of Falling Free and "Labrynth" from Borders of Infinity.  If you've been following along, you've already gotten a copy of "Labrynth" from Miles, Mystery, and Mayhem.  So, yeah, chrononlogically, you really need to separate Falling Free and Diplomatic Immunity, and thus, my preference for separate books rather than an omnibus. Still, if you're new to the series, it would be more cost-effective to go ahead with the omnibus. The three stories could certainly be read, and enjoyed, as a packaged set. 

9. Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold
This is her latest book, and it's wonderful. The fact that I could buy it for my Kindle for $5 from the Baen website, or wait another week or two for our local Barnes and Nobel to bring in the hardcover so that I could pay $25 for a book I don't have room to store decided me, and this was the first book I ever read on the Kindle.  It was absorbing enough that I eventually adjusted to the technology.  And yes, the ending made me cry -- for a Long Time.

10.  She can't possibly stop the series here, so I'm leaving this space open and looking longingly in her general direction.  *Big Grin*

Final Note: M'okay, so this list helps you get over 18 novels in a series that contains three Hugo-winning novels, one Nebula-winning novel, and a number of Hugo- and Nebula-winning short stories and novellas, while only buying 9 books.  Nifty, eh?  For those of you who like to read via electronics, I've got an even better deal. Rather than clicking and following the Amazon links, just go to and buy the electronic versions of the books there. It's cheaper, and best of all?  SOME OF THEM ARE BEING GIVEN AWAY FREE AT THAT WEBSITE!  Yep, Baen is so strongly in favor of people being able to "borrow" books, that they offer an entire library of free books!  Go, run, check out the Baen Free Library and do it NOW!  You'll thank me!

"Power is better than revenge. Power is a live thing, by which you reach out to grasp the future. Revenge is a dead thing, reaching out from the past to grasp you."
– Miles Vorkosigan, Borders of Infinity

Friday, April 15, 2011

Books for Those Who Teach

Focus for this List: I've been a teacher for 12 years now. Most of that has been in a rather non-traditional setting. For 7 years, however, I taught in various private schools. In my last year of teaching, I found a book that, had I found it earlier, might have kept me in the classroom. Here's a list for everyone still in the trenches (and for those looking to join the lonely horde). 

1.  The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher by Harry Wong, & Rosemary Wong
Despite the somewhat cheesy title, this really is a very factual guide (and collection of lists) of what you need to do to get ready for your first year of teaching. Remember, as M. always says, your first year at a new school is still a first year of teaching, so hold on to this one and be ready to pull it out and use as needed.

2.  The Teacher's Survival Guide: Real Classroom Dilemmas and Practical Solutions, by Marc Major
This is the book that I wish I'd found earlier. This is a fabulous mix of good philosophy, and brutally practical advice. The sections on classroom management should be required reading for everyone.  If you buy only one book, this is the one. 

3.  The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life, 10th Anniversary Edition by Parker Palmer
This is a book to read over the summer. It focuses on the idea that you can only teach effectively from a position that is true to who you are at the core. In other words, if focuses on that unpopular notion that not everything can be prescribed and that teachers are individuals who may find different solutions to the same problems. A very thoughtful book that can help you articulate why things work or don't work well for you.

4.  Tongue Fu! At School: 30 Ways to Get Along with Teachers, Principals, Students, and Parents by Sam Horn
Ok, I'll admit it, I picked this one up initially because the title made me giggle. Still, having read it, this is a guide to the snappy come-back and thoughtful response that calm situations down and keep things managable.  It's a delightful read.

5.  Coloring Outside the Lines by Dr. Roger Schank
This is aimed more at parents than at teachers, and yet, I found it quite an enjoyable read. The author talks about some specific ways to raise kids who are more verbal, creative, analytical, and inquisitive, and who have more gumption, and ambition. Yes, that list is straight from the table of contents. This would be especially helpful for those with younger kiddos.

6. The Students Are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract by Theodore Sizer and Nancy Sizer
This is another summer read for teachers (when else would you have time?).  It's an interesting discussion of how our small, everyday actions impact the kids and the culture of the school.  Aimed primarily at those dealing with the middle and upper grades, I think this would be a good book for parents to read as well.

7.  Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56 by Rafe Esquith
This is the 5th grade teacher we all wish we'd had. He's had a while to work out some elaborate (and really cool) systems, but I'm not sure how well they would work if you don't have the same group of kids all day.  Still, as an inspirational read, it's wonderful.

8. Teaching with Love & Logic: Taking Control of the Classroom  by Jim Fay & David Funk
Another summer read, when you can sit down and read it all the way through, this has become one of the standard ways to deal with classroom discipline.

9. Fair Isn't Always Equal: Assessing & Grading in the Differentiated Classroom by Rick Wormeli
This is a really thoughtful analysis of how we grade the work, and how to structure our classroom so that it can be truly fair to all of the little ones. The analogy that always strikes me?  How is it fair that I get to wear glasses and someone else doesn't? Well if someone "needs glasses" in order to "see the board" then, isn't it fair that we make sure the student gets what is needed in the way of support?

10.  Chronicles of Fairacre by Miss Read
For when all the books of theory, advice, and rhetoric about rubrics have just been too much, escape to the 1955, beautifully imagined world of Fairacre. A peaceful sanctuary, and an enjoyable read.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Gender Neutral Wedding Resources

Focus for this List: Some dear friends of mine are just beginning their wedding planning process. I'm delighted that they are being married in a state that recognizes the fundamental issue of marriage equality -- fairness. This then, is my list of resources that I hope will prove useful to those planning their happily ever after.

My Main Advice?  Before you start planning ANYTHING, sit down and discuss what is really important to each of you. Pick one or two CORE things, and make the rest of the decisions in such a way that they support that core purpose.  Our core ideas were that we wanted to be surrounded by friends and family, and that we wanted all of our guests to be comfortable. We were also determined to stay within our budget. Our key words when it came to the ceremony were Serious & Joyful.  Once you make those decisions, the rest fall in line. Bright yellow flowers for everyone, some grown at home? Joyful, and good for the budget!  :) 

1.  Reality check first, my friends: How Much Will It All Cost?  This is an interesting calculator that may or may not be helpful. Our favorite game was to go through the list and see what expenses we could chop!

2.  Next? Organize all your data.  We used This Workbook, but a dear friend recommends The Google Document System.  Looking back, I wish we'd used Google Documents as it would have been easier to upload / download all of our (laboriously entered) pile of addresses. That said, my favorite part of the entire wedding planning process remains the evening that we shopped through 5 stores in search of the perfect address book in which to merge our lists of family and friends. 

3.  Figure out what you'll promise. I spent a LOT of time thinking about the ceremony, the readings, and the vows. After all, they're what make it a wedding, regardless of what you're wearing.  My most frequently visited resource were the IndieBride discussion boards.  (Yes, I know it says bride in the name, but it has info for everyone!)  My biggest worry in recommending this website is that it seems to be nearing the end of its active life. That said, the depth of the discussion boards is quite helpful, and the tone is generally positive and inclusive. And hey, maybe posting it here will help revive it!  (The Offbeat Bride seems to be an offspring of the IndieBride site.  Enjoy!)  3.5  About those readings, here is another good resource:

4.  Mind your manners.  Weddings tend to exacerbate the inner etiquette maven we all try to deny we possess. So, knowing that this is the biggest party you'll likely ever throw, go ahead and educate yourself. That way, when folks start nattering on about "You should . . ." you'll already know what is considered "proper." Then go ahead and do what you want to do!  Here's a great book: Wedding Etiquette Hell: The Bride's Bible to Avoiding Everlasting Damnation, and the equally wonderful website

4.5   Addressing the invitations: despite my best intentions, we ended up sending double-enveloped invitations, with all the drama that entailed. Here's your reference website.  Yes, people notice. Take the time and do it right. You'll feel good in the morning! 

5.  Now, what will you wear?  I recommend that you buy a good suit or a tux if that's what you're planning on wearing. Everyone needs a good, well-fitting suit. Here's your best resource for doing so without breaking the bank. We've ordered from them, and the quality is good.  If you're going to be wearing a dress, I recommend looking at all the drool-worthy websites, and then contacting for a price quote. They've got fabulous customer service, and truly simplify the buying process. 

6.  Let's party!  Now, on to the stuff that most folks think of when they think of wedding planning: the location, the reception, and the decorations.  The location is so specific to you, that I'm not getting involved. Good luck. Go see places in person -- website photos can be deceptive.  The reception, again, is wildly specific. Now, on to decor and all the millions of DIY projects in which you can easily become enmeshed.
  • Do It Yourself  Massive site.  Enjoy!
  • Ruffled Blog (but if you choose to do the project the link will take you to, I'll smack you. I really will!)
  • If you find yourself needing ink or stamping supplies, these folks won my eternal gratitude for going above and beyond when I was searching for just the right yellow! 

Mind you, this is where my (now) husband's dictum that we would not have piles of "wedding stuff" after the event really saved us some drama. Our main DIY project?  Drinking a lot of wine and beer, and then saving the bottles for flower centerpiece vases! Jam and pickle jars work too, but aren't quite as much fun to empty!

7.  On to Dessert: Cake?  Surely everyone knows about  When you have a great idea for a cake, check here first to see if it's already been covered!  Yes, this is how we knew NOT to try and find a turkey cake! 

8.  The Emotional Side: This may or may not be you, but I've found both of these books to be helpful:  What No One Tells the Bride: Surviving the Wedding, Sex After the Honeymoon, Second Thoughts, Wedding Cake Freezer Burn, Becoming Your Mother, Screaming about Money, Screaming about In-Laws, etc.  Yes, it talks about all the strangeness that is so hard to articulate. Enjoy!

9.  Drama, drama, drama: There will come a point when all you want to do is vent to someone else who is also planning a wedding. Perhaps several someone elses. is the most active discussion board I've found, and it would be a great place to post questions / rants / ideas.  I will, of course, also mention IndieBride again, as their discussion boards saved me, several times, if only by reminding me that it could always be worse!

10.  One Last Piece of Advice: Don't Open a Gift Unless You're Ready to Write the Thank You Note!  (pen, note, stamp, and time all ready!) Yes, this may mean a pile of un-opened gifts may accumulate, but that's ok. Opening a gift is always fun, and that makes the note painless to write. The more traditional route of creating a list of who gave what and opening everything at once may seem efficient, but I guarantee it won't be as much fun, and it'll take a LOT longer.  We started out following our system, and then ended up being pushed into opening a large stack without taking the time to write notes as we opened.  It was fun at the time, but dealing with the list of notes to be written was *ahem* not as much fun. Note: when you get stuck, freshen up your phrases with a google search.  It'll help keep you from feeling like a robot!

Have fun!
Mrs. Turkey

Monday, April 4, 2011

Transatlantic Crafting, by Doro!

Focus for this List:
My good friend, Doro, an avid musician, and English teacher in Germany, is also a passionate crafter. She makes gorgeous marionettes (puppets) and I've been lucky to receive one as a gift. Her list gave me some interesting insight into her life, and I hope you enjoy it as well!  Her website is HERE, if you can read German, and HERE if you prefer English! If you have a question for her, feel free to post it here; I'm sure she'll be watching! 

From Doro:
Some suggestions for books on crafts and hobbies  – if you speak German...but also some in English.  For those who like to do all sorts of handcrafted stuff – or would like to try out something new, I have some books I particularly like. Maybe you will like some of them, too.

1)   Zauberhafte Marionetten by Margot Koetzle. -- This is actually NOT a really good book on marionettes, but it got me into making them and I still make the controllers the way this book taught me. Good instruction for beginners, and even less talented artists can have fabulous results!
(PS: This is the one she sent me as a wedding gift . .. isn't she gorgeous?!)

2)   Creative Cloth Doll Collection: A Complete Guide to Creating Figures, Faces, Clothing, Accessories, and Embellishments, by Patti Medaris Culea. --  Looking for books on dolls clothes I came across this and had to order it. It took ages till I finally got it, but the waiting was worth it. Gorgeous dolls, and step-by-step guides for unskilled and skilled artists, instructions for embellishments, dresses, etc, recommendations for materials etc. And at the end of the book there's a gallery of dolls by different artists. This is one of the nicest books I've ever bought, seriously!
3)   PraxisWissen Filzen: Geschichte, Material, Nassfilzen, Nunofilzen, Trockenfilzen, Tipps & Tricks, Galerie, by Monique Rahner -- I'm just getting into nuno felting, but would also like to try out some other techniques, so I looked for a book that would give me a good introduction to materials, techniques, and give me inspiration. This book is awesome and explains everything nicely!
4)   The Dolls' Dressmaker: The Complete Pattern Book, by Venus A. Dodge. -- If you have kids who play with dolls, or make dolls, this is the book for you: rather easy patterns for different sizes from basic clothes to accessories, well explained. Unless you are looking for specific pattersn, e.g. medieval dresses for dolls, there won't be a better and more complete book for doll dressmaking. Best thing is: you get it for a fair price.
5)   Falken Lexikon der Seidenmalerei, by Karin Huber. --  While doing a lot of silk painting, I got this encyclopedia a couple of years ago and I still look things up every now and then.
6)   Hausschuhe stricken und verfilzen: Das Verfilzen übernimmt die Waschmaschine, by Friederike Pfund.  - I love knitting, so we decided to give away felt slippers for christmas last year. I got this book to get some ideas. It's not really inspirational, but it helped me a lot to find the right sizes and get an idea about the material. For those who know how to knit it's quite helpful, the rest is up to your imagination then. By the way: A pair of slippers can be finished in about 4 hours – and they are really nice and warm! Just in case you have cold winters...
7)   Falten, Färben, Faszination. Effektvolles Shibori leichtgemacht, by Annette Kunkel.  --  Working with silk every now and then, I just had to try out shibori at some point and found this book a good step-by-step guide for getting into that technique. I'm sure there must be millions of books like that in the US and elsewhere. Shibori is a teachnique for beginners as well as for pros – they go for the more complicated knots and effects then. After you know the basic patterns, you try out your own ideas anyway.
8)   Das Neue Handarbeitsbuch -- Everyone who does some kind of needlework has a book that introduces to the basic techniques. This is mine. My mother-in-law has the same and it's at her place where I first saw it. It's old, from the 70s – so old that the patterns it provides are the latest fashion again. For all of you who are planning to take up a hobby – and those who are already an expert in their field agree: get a compendium which gives you an overview right at the beginning. It gives you an idea of what you need to know, it often has some useful advices, and it's usually good inspiration."
9)    Fabric Dyeing and Printing, by Kate Wells. -- I got this book from my mother-in-law for my birthday (she used to work as a textile designer before she retired) at the time when I was experimenting with shibori and other techniques a lot. It provides a good overview if you're interested in that topic. I found it quite interesting, even though I just use it as a source of inspiration. I have it in German, of course!

10)  Modelling and Sculpting the Human Figure, by Edouard Lanteri. --  Not too long ago I got frustrated with my sculpting skills. Lacking the time (and the money) to attend a class on it, I got this book. It's a bit dull, that's true, but invaluable. It helps me to understand the anatomy of the human body, especially faces, and shows some basic techniques. It's probably too abstract for a beginner, but for those who have already worked with clay, it can be a good help.

 from Mrs. Turkey:  I hope you've enjoyed this tour through Doro's craft room, and bookshelf!  I'm linking this post to the following linky parties: 

 Join in the fun!!!