Tag Archives: books

Starry Gems and Starfish

boivin_starfish_broochAmethyst is February’s traditional birthstone, so despite Valentine’s Day swooping in with its pinks and reds, it’s always purple that comes to mind for me this time of year. (Of course, I’m a purple fan, so it’s an all year ‘round color for me!)

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Book Review: Stoned by Aja Raden

For the most part I really enjoyed this book. It’s a fun read with some excellent lines.* y648


I appreciate her efforts to clearly explain things as vastly different as the geological and biological processes that create gemstones and pearls, and different concepts of value to the psychology of want and envy and their roles both in marketing and the shaping of the political world.

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Why Fit in When You Were Born to Stand Out?

Fantastic Green Eggs and Ham inspired manicure.

Fantastic Green Eggs and Ham inspired manicure.

While I was looking for Doctor Seuss themed craft ideas the past few weeks I kept stumbling on Seuss inspired manicures. I love nail polish. I can admire these wholeheartedly, but they are way out of my scope. Continue reading


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Bats on the Brain

Perhaps since I still had bats on the brain, I ran across a children’s/YA book on bats. It’s called The Bat Scientists. The author is Mary Carson and the photographer is Tom Uhlman.


I was really impressed with both its information and photography. The updated edition came out just this month and has the latest information on WNS and conservation.


Even though it’s a children’s book, it seems like a great quick introduction for adults and teenagers, and has materials in the back for further research.


A few facts from the book, some I knew, some were new to me.


Batty Facts


  • Bats aren’t blind-they see fairly well.
  • They aren’t going to get tangled in your hair-bats avoid people and fly too well to get in hair.
  • Bats are often called flying rats or mice, but they aren’t rodents. Some scientists think they’re primitive primate relatives.
  • They’re the only mammal capable of true flight. (As opposed to gliding.)
  • For their size, bats are the longest lived mammals on earth-even the small ones can live for 40 years! (With mammals generally the larger the size the longer the life span.)
  • Since people associate them with the short lived and fast breeding mouse, they assume bats work the same way, but bats breed very slowly-most have at most one offspring a year. The author quotes biologist Barbara French “One lost baby bat is a lost generation.”
  • Less than one half of one percent have rabies-they’re not crazy flying animals out to get you.


It also mentioned an interesting project I’d not heard about. The Bellamy Cave Project. Apparently Bellamy Cave in Tennessee is a major hibernation cave for the endangered gray bat. Last year the Nature Conservancy is mad a concrete cave nearby. The idea was that a concrete cave could be cleaned out and disinfected come spring, hopefully slowing the spread of WNS.


They had limited time last year and finished construction after hibernation started, but they did have a few guests. They’re hoping to see more visitors this year since the precast/prefabricated concrete cave will be ready and the proper temperature in time for hibernation season.


Filed under Books, Natural Science


A slightly late happy Banned Books Week!

Celebrate by reading books that cause a stir and make people think. I will admit that I didn’t care for a lot of the banned classics. Guilt. Guilt. Though if anything that makes me want to keep them in schools all the more–if I had to suffer through them then they should too! 😉

It’s amazing what will get a book challenged or banned. (I mean, Judy Blume, really? I grew up on those… And Bridge to Terabithia, basically for a sad ending?)

Check out Y.A. Love for a Banned Books Week Giveaway. We know the classics, but there are also a lot of excellent modern young adult books getting challenged what seems like every week. There’s also more information on banned reading over there, so swing by for a visit.

And check out this treasury of crafts inspired by banned books and authors.

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Lord, what fools these mortals be! Or Happy Maximum Tilt Day…

The image that first got me hooked on Arthur Rackham and his Shakespeare illustrations.

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.

And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends


Puck’s speech from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 5, scene i


In honor of the summer solstice (and to pair with my previous Tempest post) I decided to be a little bit brave and post an old poem I wrote in college in response to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I don’t remember what the assignment was, but I chose to play with Titania’s character. I always felt kind of bad for her at the end of a Midsummer Night’s Dream. All she was trying to do was take charge of the child of an old retainer and yet her husband chose to make an absolute fool of her.


Titania’s Promise

(a response to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

Malicious sprite, darkly dancing,

shadow cast under a quicksilver moon.

Oh yes, these shadows have offended.

Spiky foxgloves stand and hiss.

Whispering falsehood and deceit

from full, rainbow-spotted throats.

Beware, beware. Capricious Robin

plays with truth, and breaks his toys.

He knows his herbs and potions—

houndstongue and hellebore,

wolfsbane and rosemary,

the bitter bite of wormwood—

He serves his lord and master well.

He made me a fool before my court,

My ladies laughed behind their hands.

He bathed my eyes in purple poison—

made me love unwillingly

and waste my favors on a hairy beast.

My eyes were cleansed,

I see truly now.

Do they?

I can wait, I shall bide my time.

I can counterfeit a proper wife.

In their arrogance they believe,

that I, like some green willow,

would bend my will so easily.

Playful Puck, Oberon’s steward,

Robin not-so-Goodfellow,

though it take me centuries,

I will be avenged.

Like The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is believed to have been written to celebrate an important wedding and is a mostly original story. (The play within a play is based on Greek mythology, as are the names of the rulers.) The super short version of the story is “Mix-and-match couples in the woods near Athens.” as Shakespeare for Dummies puts it! It’s a play about many things but basically all the ways love messes with people’s heads.


Filed under Art, Books, Historical Facts and Trivia, Poetry

Something rich and strange

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell

Ariel’s song from The Tempest Act I, scene 2

Creepy, but beautiful images all the same. And the English-geek reason why I love using pearls and fossil coral elements together.

I finally found a copy of Rackham’s illustrated Tempest! I found a lead online in the wee hours of the morning and sped out on the hunt the next day. Found a great bookshop, oggled many books, picked up a few. I enjoy the old fairytale illustrators a great deal more than I do their contemporary storytellers… Hence the hunt for Shakespeare editions from those eras.

I read The Tempest my senior year in high school after my teacher vetoed every other option I’d put forward. (This was after we got into an argument over the meaning of Frankenstein- she insisted that I missed the point and that it was all about Shelley’s anxieties attending motherhood; I thought it was more a fear of science outpacing humanity’s ability to deal with it…)

I remember discussing the play with a woman while we were waiting in line at a book signing. She told me how it was sometimes considered a problem play, since it didn’t fall into the normal divisions of histories, tragedies and comedies. The Tempest is fantasy and romance with elements of tragedy and comedy as well.

It was fun my freshman year in college, because all of my English major friends were having serious issues with the play and I was able to help them. (And lend out my Shakespeare for Dummies book-those scorecards were useful.)

The Tempest is terribly quotable. You can practically trip over references to it. I’ve a print of the painting by Amy Brown called Something Rich and Strange, there’s a beautiful comic towards the end of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman using The Tempest as a chance for Shakespeare to look back at his life. Gaiman also uses it more subtly in his short story Sea Change.

“Those are pearls that were his eyes:” Pearls are one of the birthstones of June, so this part of the Tempest seemed particularly appropriate. Pearls are one of the few organic materials considered to be gems. They’re formed when something gets into a mollusk and it secrets a fluid called nacre to coat the irritant. The traditional example is a grain of sand, but more commonly pearls form around internal damage or parasites sucked in during the mollusk’s feeding. The more (and thinner) layers of slightly translucent nacre, the better the sheen and color of the pearl. Luster and iridescence are created by light breaking up as it goes through or bounces back on the layers of nacre. Most pearls nowadays are cultured, with large irritants being ‘seeded’ into species most likely to produce pearls. So they are yet one more thing that is quite beautiful, but a little creepy upon closer examination…


Filed under Art, Gems, Poetry