Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators Book Review



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Review:

Veteran science writer William Stolzenburg’s first book Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators is a passionate call for large predator conservation.

Stolzenburg’s enthusiasm for his topic is infectious, and aided by a talent for clearly explaining the complicated relations between predator and prey.

The book begins with a short disclosure of the author’s biases, then launches into a history of scientific research into the ecological effects of the predator-prey relationship, in the course of which Stolzenburg delivers an extremely convincing case that predators are not only part of biodiversity, but actually necessary to maintaining it.

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The Apple Pip Princess Book Review



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Review:

The Apple Pip Princess, by Jane Ray, is a beautiful book in pretty much every way possible. It tells the story of a “little and shy and quite ordinary” princess named Serenity. Her father the king decides to choose which of his three daughters will inherit the kingdom when he dies by asking each of them to do “something to make your mark – something to make me proud.” Serenity’s proud and vain older sisters set about creating tall towers to reach the heavens. Serenity plants an apple seed.

I won’t spoil the rest of the story for you, but suffice to say, it was so lovely it literally brought tears to my eyes the first time I read it. The book is beautifully illustrated and touches on many valuable moral lessons without ever being preachy. In fact, as a feminist and a lifelong tree hugging, bleeding heart liberal, I’d have to say this is a nearly perfect book, on par with Miss Rumphius, another personal favorite about women making a difference in the world. To wit:

  • The story revolves around the critical role that planting trees plays in restoring degraded environments, providing food for people and habitat for wildlife, and beautifying the landscape.
  • The princesses, their father, and their subjects are all characters of color.
  • The two older princesses try to dazzle their subjects with magnificent and beautiful monuments built by taking the very roofs from their heads. It doesn’t work.
  • The two older sisters try to force their subjects to obey by threatening them with the “dark and crumbling” royal dungeon. Serenity befriends a commoner and the two work side by side with the whole kingdom to replant the orchards.
  • The two older princesses learn from their mistakes and are welcomed back with open arms and forgiven, instead of being punished with banishment or worse. The story ends with the three sisters together, happy, and at peace with each other, enjoying the beautiful song of the nightingale under the trees.

In short, this charming little fairy tale quickly became a family favorite at my house, both among the adults and the children. I hope other families will enjoy it just as much.

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My rating: (5 / 5)

ERGOBaby Original Carrier Review



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Review:

Without a doubt, one of the best baby products we own. I only wish we’d bought it sooner.

We have an inexpensive Snugli front carrier that we used for both kids when they were young, but as they got heavier, it was absolute murder on the shoulders and back. We also have an expensive Kelty frame carrier we used on camping trips for longer hikes, but although it distributed weight really well, it was large and bulky and therefore impractical for everyday use.

The ERGOBaby is the perfect compromise. The wide waist belt and padded shoulder straps distribute weight well, making the ERGOBaby much more comfortable for extended use than the Snugli. At the same time, the child is carried closer to your body than the Kelty, so it doesn’t affect your natural balance as much and is much more practical in crowds or other tight situations.

Getting it on and off and positioning your baby or toddler without assistance requires some practice, especially in the back, but is totally doable. With two people, the process is simple and easy.

Like other baby carriers, taking a walk in the ERGOBaby is a great way to lull a tired baby to sleep, and the hood helps provide extra head support (and sun protection) for your little one while sleeping. There’s a large zipped pocket that you can use to store keys, phones, wallets, or other necessities while walking.

We bought the ERGOBaby when our son outgrew the Snugli, so we never tried it with a newborn and I’ve heard complaints about the insert used to convert it into a carrier for very young infants. Therefore, I’m a little skeptical of claims that the ERGOBaby is “the only baby carrier you’ll ever need” and recommend getting a cheap Snugli like ours (or a similar one) if you have problems with it when your baby is young, and trying the ERGOBaby again in a few months, probably starting around 12-15 pounds.

We also never tried it with our daughter, despite the fact that we could have until quite recently. (The ERGOBaby carries up to 45 pounds.) However, it still works great with our son, who’s now nearly 2 1/2 and over thirty pounds.

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My rating: (5 / 5)

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The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible Book Review

Review:



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Disclosure: My parents received a copy of the original edition of The Vegetable Gardener's Bible, 2nd Edition: Discover Ed's High-Yield W-O-R-D System for All North American Gardening Regions: Wide Rows, Organic Methods, Raised Beds, Deep Soil free of charge due to an acquaintance in the author’s family.

My parents get a significant amount of their produce every year from their large organic vegetable garden, and they’ve been gardening for a combined total of something like 70 or 80 years, so they didn’t expect to learn much when they were given a free copy of this book and I wouldn’t say that they did. However, the information in the book is so clear, comprehensive, and well organized that it’s become one of their go-to reference books, and they gave me a copy when I moved out of the house and started a garden of my own. As a relative beginner (I helped with bed preparation, weeding, watering, and harvesting growing up, but not so much with planning, seed starting, or pest control), this book was absolutely indispensable.

If you are a beginning vegetable gardener, The Vegetable Gardener's Bible, 2nd Edition: Discover Ed's High-Yield W-O-R-D System for All North American Gardening Regions: Wide Rows, Organic Methods, Raised Beds, Deep Soil is the single best book I know of to get you started. Even if you don’t intend to follow organic methods exclusively, it will teach you a lot about how to prepare and plant your garden to reduce the labor and cost of fighting pests and weeds and build healthy soil (which in turn produces more nutritious vegetables). If you are already experienced, like my parents, maybe check it out from the library first to see what you think, and get it if you think it will be a good reference for you

My rating: (5 / 5)

Tropico 4 Review

Tropico 4 [Download]

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3.8 out of 5 stars (154 customer reviews)

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Review:

This game edges out Civilization for my favorite PC game ever, primarily because it’s easier to avoid combat. I prefer the economic, social, and city building elements of games like this to the combat, so Tropico works better for me since I can set political difficulty to low and economic difficulty to hard and end up with a fun challenge, yet few or no annoying problems with being attacked. That said, if you do enjoy combat, it’s totally possible to end up with it:

I don’t currently have any of the expansion packs and got bored with the missions partway through and switched back to just playing on custom islands, which was my favorite way to play the original Tropico as well. Can I eke an economy out of a barren wasteland? How about steep slopes? All tourist? No tourist? Strong environmentalist faction?

My rating: (5 / 5)

Note: Tropico 5 will be coming out in June 2014, so if the game looks interesting to you, you may want to wait for a couple months to get the latest version.

Tropico 5 - (PC)

Price: $13.10

3.0 out of 5 stars (52 customer reviews)

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Salmon With Feta and Capers Recipe Review

Ingredients:

  • one salmon filet
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 large lemon
  • lemon pepper seasoning
  • fresh chopped garlic
  • feta cheese, crumbled
  • capers

For directions, please visit The Sisters Cafe.

Review:

To die for. I like to shake up my standard baked salmon preparation (dill with black or lemon pepper) sometimes and this was a fantastic addition to my repertoire. The combination of salty and sour from the capers, feta, and lemon juice is like a little explosion of flavor with every bite. I often serve it to seafood-loving guests and it has been a big hit every time.

My rating: (5 / 5)

Roasted Cauliflower With Cumin Seeds Recipe Review

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Plain yogurt, for serving
  • Chopped fresh mint leaves, for serving
  • Pomegranate seeds, for serving

For directions, please visit NPR.org or check out:

Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can't Wait to Make (Hardcover)
by Melissa Clark

Price: $16.89
133 used & new available from $1.99
4.3 out of 5 stars (50 customer reviews)

Recipe Notes:

I don’t bother to measure when making this recipe. I most likely use somewhat less salt and pepper than the recipe calls for and slightly more olive oil and cumin seed.

Review:

I’m going to be honest. The roasted cauliflower is so damn good that I’ve never even made it to the part with the yogurt and pomegranate seeds. The combination sounds good to me, but I really have no idea if it is, because I start popping the florets in my mouth as soon as they’re cool enough to not burn my tongue (and sometimes earlier) and have been known to demolish almost the entire head before I even get it to the table. It is that good. I’m fond of whole cumin seeds in general and they add the perfect touch to the already incredible deliciousness of roasted cauliflower.

My husband and the kids also like it, though not with quite the same passion as I do.

My rating: (5 / 5)

The Mask and the Mirror Album Review



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Review:

I don’t remember exactly how I discovered this album. I think it was playing in some store while I was browsing for something else. Regardless, I was so entranced, I bought it on the spot (with my own money – I was 13 at the time) and have been a fan ever since.

Loreena McKennit masterfully blends historical and ethnic influences, including Celtic, Arabic, and Spanish, ethereal vocals, and instruments ranging from the piano and harp to the uillean pipes, dumbeg, tabla, and oud to create music that is almost literally transporting. Listening, you only have to close your eyes for your imagination to whisk you off to Morocco or Spain or Celtic Britain.

My rating: (5 / 5)

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Domingo/Milnes: Great Operatic Duets Album Review

Plácido Domingo: Great Opera Duets

Price: $4.56

4.9 out of 5 stars (23 customer reviews)

9 used & new available from $4.56

Review:

Another album I grew up listening to on vinyl and love. Domingo and Milnes were in their prime when they recorded these duets together, and they’re a perfect match. The gorgeous duet from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers (“Au Fond du Temple Saint”) is simply sublime and the album’s standout for me, with “Solenne in quest’ora” from La Forza del destino and “Sì, pel ciel marmoreo giuro” from Othello close behind.

My rating: (5 / 5)

Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto In E Minor, Op. 64 / Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto In D Major, Op. 35 Album Review



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Review:

This album is the reason the violin is my favorite instrument. My mom had it on vinyl when I was growing up (her album actually had two other violin concertos in addition to these two, but the Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky were my favorites). Isaac Stern’s performance of both is brilliant – both technically correct and passionate. I’d be hard pressed to choose which I love more.

My rating: (5 / 5)

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