Category Archives: Foo4's Favs

It’s a Merry Steampunk Christmas

My Christmas isn’t exactly running like clockwork. Actually, clocks do seem to fit in with my Christmas as they represent the inevitable, unstoppable passage of time as I race to finish everything. Christmas will always arrive precisely on schedule. I just might not be ready for it. I’m pretty sure I’m doing something wrong. Oh well. My family knows all about my tendency towards tardiness, and they love me anyway.

I was looking for something fun but pretty to decorate my blog today when I decided to try googling “steampunk Christmas”, and I rediscovered a great website called Urban Threads, which offers unique and fun embroidery designs (mostly machine embroidery, but some hand embroidery patterns as well). I already have a couple of their designs. (Not any of the ones below, though.)

clockwork reindeer

clockwork bird

clockwork snowflake

Steampunk Dirigible

Steampunk Santa

I think my favorite is the snowflake. And the bird. And Santa’s dirigible. And…

If you’re into embroidery, whether by machine or by hand, you should definitely check them out. They do more than just steampunk. However, if steampunk is your thing, they have plenty of that.

I’m thankful for…books!

reading is magicalYeah, I know it’s the day after Thanksgiving, but writing this post took longer than I thought it would. My inspiration came from my wardrobe. I didn’t have any Thanksgiving themed shirts when I was choosing what to wear yesterday, so I picked out my “Reading is Magical” t-shirt because Hey! I am thankful for books. Why not extend my love of reading to this post? In a previous year, I listed Foo4luv’s Illustrated Thanksgiving ABC’s, so this year I am giving you an alphabetical list related to books.



A is for Aslan

AslanI love C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. I can remember my dad reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to us when I was a kid. Aslan rocks.

B is for (the) Bard

The BardI enjoy a good Shakespeare play. Once we moved to Missouri and encountered Forest Park’s annual Shakespeare Festival, we were hooked on seeing them performed live. BB has seen over a dozen of them and loves watching different versions/interpretations. Her current favorite is also one of mine: Much Ado about Nothing. She can’t choose between the Kenneth Branagh version or the more recent one done by Joss Whedon. I can’t say that I blame her. My first exposure to Shakespeare, however, was through books.

C is for (The) Count of Monte Cristo

Count of Monte CristoThat is one meaty, kickbutt book — unabridged or not.

D is for Denouement

denouementThere is a wonderful feeling of satisfaction when you finish a really good book.

E is for Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan PoeThe man was a master. I’m currently leaning toward The Cask of Amontillado as my favorite.

F is for Fairy tale

Scott Gustafson fairy taleFor most of us, the first stories we heard were fairy tales. There’s something for everyone — whether you prefer Disney, Grimm, or something more modern like The Princess Bride. (The illustration is by Scott Gustafson.)

G is for Green Eggs and Ham

Green Eggs and Ham

This is the first book that BB read to us. Merkin had purchased a Latin copy, and BB had to get the English version and correct him. Yep. Worked like a charm.

H is for Humor

Hidden Magic

I have a deep admiration for writers who can make me laugh. You should always have at least one standby book guaranteed to make you chuckle when you need cheering up.

I is for Irony

ironyA good, ironic plot twist can be exciting.

J is for Jane Eyre

jane-eyreThis is one of my favorite books. I just adore Jane and how she handles Mr. Rochester.

K is for Kira

KiraThough not my favorite character in Tsugumi Ohba’s Death Note series, Kira (AKA Light Yagami) is the one I find most interesting. Given the power to kill simply by writing a person’s name in the death note, Kira believes his motives are pure enough to keep him from becoming corrupted by that power.

L is for L

LA brilliant, socially awkward sugar addict with chronic bad posture, L is the biggest threat to Kira’s reign of terror. Despite his puzzling habits and his tendency to be blunt to the point of rudeness, he is the most likable character in the Death Note series.

M is for Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak

Sendak is one of my favorite illustrators. The above picture is from his book What Do You Say, Dear?: a book of manners for all occasions.

N is for Nom de Plume

Mark TwainSamuel L. Clemens’ pen name, Mark Twain, is a term used by riverboat crewmen to denote whether or not water is deep enough for safe passage.

O is for Oscar’s Book

Oscar's_BookThis is one of my favorite Little Golden Books. Oscar spends the entire book trying to find ways to get people to leave him alone. My favorite of his many tactics is pictured above.

P is for Percy Jackson

Percy JacksonPercy makes a very entertaining hero. He’s witty and genuine.

Q is for Quiet Books

quiet bookThey’re great for keeping kids occupied in the more adult oriented church meetings, and you can find/make all kinds.

R is for (A) Room with a View

Room with a ViewThis is one of my favorite romance novels. Will Lucy marry the proper (stuffy) Cecil, or will she defy convention and choose George?

S is for Satire

Screwtape lettersSatire can be a great teacher.

T is for (J.R.R.) Tolkein

jrr-tolkienHe’s the creator of Middle Earth. What more need I say?

U is for Umpteen

what was I scared ofWhich is the number of times I read this book to my daughter. Surprisingly, it never lost its charm. Go Seuss.

V is for Vocabulary

vocabularyYou’d be surprised how many new words you can learn just by reading a lot of books.

W is for Watership Down

watership-downMy absolute favorite book — and not just because it’s about bunnies.

X is for Xylophone

x is for xylophoneEven Uncle Shelby (Shel Silverstein) couldn’t come up with anything else.

Y is for YA books

YA sectionI get a lot of my books from the teen section of the library. In fact, on my Goodreads account, my YA shelf is far bigger than any of my other shelves.

Z is for Zoo

Good Night GorillaThere are lots of books that involve zoos. This picture book just happens to be my favorite. There are very few words, but the pictures that tell the actual story are fantastic.

Been there. Read that.

A friend sent me a link, and now I’m building an impressive “library” at  It’s sort of like a virtual card catalog for all the books I’ve read.  That I can remember.  I also have a list (or “shelf”) of books I want to read, a list of books I’m reading now, and I can post reviews of what I’ve read.  Sometimes I find new books for my reading wish list there, but I usually don’t need the extra help with that.  All of my book reviews will be on there, but I’ll still post the really good ones here, too.  I can’t review everything I’ve read, but I try to review all the five-star reads (or at least the first in a five-star series) and all the one-star reads (gotta tell you why it sucked, don’t I?) and quite a few of the more recent reads in between.  Anyone can view my bookshelves/reviews.  I’ve got a link for the website’s homepage in the vegetable garden and the one under “whatcha readin’?” is for my personal bookshelves.

If you do a lot of reading, I recommend signing up.  There’s nothing worse than getting a book and then finding out that you’ve not only read it before but hated it.  (Well, okay, there are a ton of worse things, but not in the category of selecting books.) I’m sure there are a lot of people who just list stuff they’ve read since signing on, but I’ve gone through the database and tagged any book I can remember reading — as far back as I can remember.  I guess it’s sort of like the people who are totally into building up their number of  “friends” on facebook. I have 974 friends and counting. 🙂

Apparently, there’s another similar website called Shelfari that’s affiliated with, but I have no intention of setting up two reading databases.  Besides, I don’t want spamming me even more because of all the posting I’d be doing on Shelfari.  I have no idea if reviews there are as accessible as my goodreads shelf.  (I have it set on “anyone can read”, but there are more selective options.)  Every time I’ve tried to check it out, it keeps insisting I log on through my amazon account.  Forget that.

So what are you reading?

A few things to be thankful for:

This isn’t a belated Thanksgiving post.  I’m just counting some blessings.

  • BratzBasher says “I love you” multiple times a day, and she’s not doing it for the purposes of manipulation.  No “I love you, Mommy.  Can I have…?” or anything like that.
  • I have never heard Justin Bieber sing.  (Although I have heard Princess Zurg’s Bieber impersonation, and BB says it’s pretty accurate.)
  • As someone who will never own a cat, I never have to clean up any hairballs.  (I saw my first hairball while in CA visiting my dad, and it was not pretty.)
  • I’m an adult, and I can color in my Sesame Street coloring book if I want to.
  • I may not be a preschooler, but I can still use jumbo Winnie the Pooh crayons.  (I usually don’t, though, because jumbo crayons don’t offer a whole lot of color options.)
  • Madhousewife reminded me that cra**y Christmas music on the radio and in the stores should not deter me from enjoying the good stuff at home.
  • Trader Joe’s has roasted, UNsalted sunflower seeds for cheaper than the salted kind at other stores.  (I love me some low/unsalted snacks.)
  • Since I joined one of her online book clubs, Suzanne Beecher sends me an email five days a week that includes a short excerpt from the featured book and her latest Dear Reader blog post.  Even when I’m not interested in the book, I always read the blog post.  When I saw yesterday’s, I smiled and thought That Suzanne is a hoot.
  • No matter how lame most comics are, Ballard Street will always make me smile — if not giggle outright.  I just love the ones with dogs in them.  Here’s one of my favorites:

What’s on your latest blessings tally?



While we’re waiting for the tie-breaking vote for what my next blog will be, I thought I’d do another Foo4’s Favs.  This one isn’t listed among my links, but then I can’t list all my favs there, can I?  Mila’s Daydreams is a photo blog done by Adele, a copywriter from Helsinki who is on maternity leave.  During Mila’s daily nap, Adele creates a dreamscape using various other things around the house and then places sleeping Mila in the middle for her photo.  The results are beyond adorable, and Adele has a wonderful imagination.  She claims she isn’t a photographer, but I prefer her pics to Anne Geddes.  I think my favorite so far is Imaginary Friend.  Too cute for words.  So I’ll shut up now.

Auntie Heather

So far I only have one YA author link on my blog, but I doubt it will remain so for long.  Heather Brewer is the author of the Vladimir Tod Chronicles — a five-book series beginning with Eighth Grade Bites and ending with yet-to-be-released Twelfth Grade Kills.  Don’t ask her why she hasn’t written a [Blank] Grade Sucks.  She’s still miffed that the publishing company thinks it’s too offensive a title.

Vladimir Tod isn’t your typical vampire.  He was born, not created, from his vampire father’s forbidden marriage to his human mother.  Since his parents’ death in a house fire, he’s lived in Bathory with his Aunt Nell, a good friend of his mother.  He can eat human food, but his very rare steaks are usually drenched in donated blood that Nell (a nurse) swipes from the hospital blood bank just before it expires.  He also prefers his Hostess cupcakes with blood capsules hidden in the cream filling.  Hey, he’s got a sweet tooth, and Nell is very resourceful about sneaking vampire nourishment into his school lunch.

Vlad’s best friend is Henry, the coolest dude in school and Bathory’s resident chick magnet.  Henry has also been Vlad’s drudge ever since Vlad bit him when they were small children.  Hey, Henry asked him to, and Vlad didn’t know it would bind Henry to him as his trusted servant.  Shortly after the start of eighth grade, Vlad learns there was a lot more to his father than he ever suspected, and now Vlad is in very serious danger from the local vampire council merely because he exists.

Vladimir Tod is a thoroughly enjoyable series.  The  books may be quick and easy reads, but readers willing to dig deeper will find a story that speaks to teenagers (and adults) who are looking to find their own sense of self in spite of pressuring preconceptions from family, friends, and the world at large.  Vlad is a decent kid fighting to hold onto his own values that seem to be in total opposition to his perceived destiny.

Heather Brewer, known as Auntie Heather to her adoring fans (referred to as the Minion Horde), is just as cool as her books.  I’ve met her at numerous author events and am always impressed by the way she relates to her fans on their level while offering them a role model that won’t make their parents cringe.  Her language and attitude are exemplary, her books are clean — and as wholesome as vampire books can possibly be, and she doesn’t talk down to her minions.  She recently lost a very noticeable amount of weight and was quick to explain to readers that she did it by following a plan of dietary reform and exercise set by her doctor, not through surgery or fad diets.  She’s currently working on a new vampire series called Blood Bound.

You can visit Auntie Heather here.

What is my kid really listening to/watching/reading?

Today’s Foo4’s Favs features the perfect website for parents who want to know the good, the bad, and the ugly about the media their kids are exposed to.  Want to know if there’s foul language in a book/song?  Is the message a good one, rather than a glorification of sex/drugs/Hannah Montana?  Common Sense Media is the place to turn to for ratings and reviews from a parent’s perspective.

The best part about CSM is that they don’t just say if something’s good or bad.  They’ll give you two ratings — one from parents and one from kids — as well as specifics on questionable content.  There are eight categories they look at:

Educational Value: What’s the risk of my kid actually learning something (history, politics, science, etc.) without realizing it?

Message: Is the overall message of the story/song positive — or even something I want my kid exposed to?

Role Models: Are the heroes of the story (or performing artists) good role models that promote positive characteristics?

Violence and Scariness: On a scale of 1-5, 1 being a slap-fight between a couple of weaklings and 5 being murder and mass destruction, how would you rate this?

Sex: Is this a kissing book?  What base are we talking about here?  Will there be any naked bummies?

Language: Is anybody dropping the f-bomb or taking the Lord’s name in vain?

Consumerism: Are there product placements?  Will there be mega merchandising (action figures, lunchboxes, breakfast cereals, etc.) surrounding this?

Smoking, Drinking, & Drugs: Is there any?  If so, who’s doing/talking about it — the good guys or the bad guys?  Is it portrayed as something bad or cool?

If you register and become a member, you can offer your own media reviews.  The more people who contribute, the wider the database gets.  You won’t find everything, but most of the stuff that appeals to kids/teenagers is on there.  I used this site extensively when helping a friend find suitable reading material for her tween.  This is the one site I’ve found that will give honest reviews of content as well as quality.

Oh, and they do games, websites, and TV, too.  Check it out.