My Latest Photos

Recently my husband and I went to the local botanical garden. It is a large, emerald compound with shady gardens, ponds of koi fish, and endless fields and rows of flowers. It is one of my favorite places to visit when the weather permits. South Florida gets brutally hot once spring arrives — I prefer to visit during “cold snaps” and cloudy days.

The Autistic Brain by Temple Grandin

 

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Synopsis (from the back of the book): Temple Grandin may be the most famous person with autism, a condition that affects 1 in 88 children. Since her birth in 1947, our understanding of it has undergone a great transformation, leading to more hope than ever before that we may finally learn the causes of and treatments for autism.

Weaving her own experience with remarkable new discoveries, Grandin introduces the advances in neuroimaging and genetic research that link brain science to behavior, even sharing her own brain scan to show which anomalies might explain common symptoms. Most excitingly, she argues that parents and teachers of kids on the autism spectrum must focus on their long-overlooked strengths to foster their unique contributions. The Autistic Brain brings Grandin’s singular perspective into the heart of the autism revolution.

 

My Rating: 5/5 stars

 

My Review: The Autistic Brain by Dr. Temple Grandin and co-author Richard Panek is a brilliant overview of the science of autism, and a look into the mind of an autistic woman who is also what she calls a picture thinker.

In this book, Dr. Grandin focuses on how the minds of autistic people might work, and what their potential strengths are. According to Dr. Grandin there are potentially three types of thinkers: picture thinkers, like her, pattern thinkers, and word-fact thinkers.

The book is full of relatable individual experiences (if you’re autistic) and up-to-date summaries of autism research. Dr. Grandin even includes her own brain scan compared to that of a neurotypical (non autistic) persons, and she explains in detail how the very shape of her brain may play a role in her autistic symptoms.

Dr. Grandin emphasizes autism being in your brain rather than in your mind. Here is a quote from the book explaining why: “When something is ‘all in your mind,’ people tend to think that it’s willful, that it’s something you could control if only you tried harder or if you had been trained differently. I’m hoping that the newfound certainty that autism is in your brain and in your genes will affect public attitudes.”

At the back of the book Dr. Grandin includes a few lists with jobs that will suit the various kinds of thinkers. Examples include photographer for picture thinkers, historian for word-fact thinkers, and computer programmer for pattern thinkers. This is a practical way to get people thinking less about what an autistic person can’t do, and more about what they can do.

The book also includes an AQ test, or Autism-Spectrum Quotient created by Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues at Cambridge’s Autism Research Centre. While this tool is not suitable for making a diagnosis, in the first major trial using the test 80% of those diagnosed with autism or a related disorder scored 32 or higher (out of 50). For those who are wondering if they are on the spectrum, taking this test could help lead someone to seeing a specialist to rule out, or diagnose, autism.

Overall I enjoyed the tone of the book. I found only one typo (at the very top of pg. 194 “How do you that?” Presumably should be “How do you do that?” It’s well formatted with frequent breaks, and intelligent use of bullet points, and images. The notes section is full of references for further reading.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in autism.

 

Type of Reader Suited For: Autistics, friends, relatives, spouses of autistics.

 

Additional Notes/Links: Dr. Temple Grandin has a TED talk that is informative and inspirational. It is a must-see.

 

 

 

Butter: A Rich History by Elaine Khosrova

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Butter: A Rich History by Elaine Khosrova

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

It’s a culinary catalyst, an agent of change, a gastronomic rock star. Ubiquitous in the world’s most fabulous cuisines, butter is boss. Here, it finally gets its due.

After traveling across three continents to stalk the modern story of butter, award-winning food writer and former pastry chef Elaine Khosrova serves up a story as rich, textured, and culturally relevant as butter itself.

From its humble agrarian origins to its present-day artisanal glory, butter has a fascinating story to tell, and Khosrova is the perfect person to tell it. With tales about the ancient butter bogs of Ireland, the pleasure dairies of France, and the sacred butter sculptures of Tibet, Khosrova details butter’s role in history, politics, economics, nutrition, and even spirituality and art. Readers will also find the essential collection of core butter recipes, including beurre manié, croissants, pâte brisée, and the only buttercream frosting anyone will ever need, as well as practical how-tos for making various types of butter at home–or shopping for the best.

My rating: 5 Stars

My Review:

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I read a book about butter, and I liked it.

On second thought, “liked” is too mild a word.

Butter: A Rich History by Elaine Khosrova is a tale brilliantly spun about a food, and ingredient we likely don’t give much thought to unless we’re crying about health risks associated with it. I’m a fan of Michael Pollan’s books – I own several of them. And I daresay Elaine is on par with Michael.

Elaine takes us across the world, and shows us how butter first met the light of day, and how it eventually came to rest in our refrigerators (or on our counter tops). I’ve learned that butter has played a key role in the spiritual rituals of other cultures, that milk maids were cool, and that people had to pay the Church to consume butter, a forbidden food on fasting days. Do you know what a “pleasure dairy” is? I do!

Elaine also covers the war on butter. I admit, the war on butter is one of the reasons I was hoping so badly to get my hands on this book. If I was wary of butter before, I now consider it a dear friend, and am eating it on toast as I write this review.

Favorite points:

  • The author’s voice is that of a proper story teller. If you fear an info dump style book, lay that fear to rest.
  • There are recipes in the back of the book, so you can recreate, and taste the recipes you read about.
  • The book gives the big picture: You learn about yak butter in the mountains, and ancient rituals, and later, the science of butter!

Butter: A Rich History is, hands down, one of my favorite food history books, and I -will- be re-reading this.

Type of Readers Suited for: Foodies and food history lovers.

If you are a food history lover, the book is worth full price. I recommend this book for those who are just getting their feet wet in the realm of food history as well, as it’s an easy, fun read.

Mastering Census & Military Records – W. Daniel Quillen

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Synopsis (from Goodreads): 

This book covers the use of two of the most effective sets of genealogical information available to genealogists: Census and military records. Quillen’s Essentials of Genealogy includes: what they are, how to use them, pitfalls, and issues concerning the information found.

My Rating: 3 Stars – Good reference material, but vexing formatting issues

My Review: 

This short, though useful, reference by Daniel Quillen is full of pertinent information, especially for the beginner genealogist. The book largely reads like a stream of consciousness, which doesn’t detract from it. The author uses examples in his own family to illustrate potential problems and their potential solutions, so readers can more readily apply the tips to their own family searches.

One thing that did throw me off about the book is the apparent formatting issue. It may be something that slipped past during editing, but sometimes the last sentence of a paragraph on one page will end up smack in the middle of the next!

So if one paragraph is about Daniel Quillen, and the next is about Daniel Quillen’s mother, and the next after that is about Daniel Quillen’s grandmother, the last sentence of the paragraph on Daniel himself will end up sandwiched in between the paragraphs about his mother and grandmother!

It’s quite vexing while reading, truth be told. It wasn’t an issue throughout the entire book, but I did notice it several times during the first third of it.

All in all, I think this is a fine resource, and will likely be reading it again to brush up on census and military record tips.

Recommended for: Beginner genealogists

Scrapbooking Your Family History – Maureen Taylor

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Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Readers will learn how to:
– Choose items already in their family’s possession for presentation in a scrapbook
– Find and identify family photographs
– Locate and interpret historical documents about their ancestors
– Discover new information from old postcards, keepsakes and other family artifacts
– Put their ancestors in historical perspective
– Tell the story of their family in different ways
– Take their research beyond the limits of a heritage album
My Rating: 4 Stars – Worth re-visiting
My Review:
The book is beautifully put together, as you might hope for a book about scrap-booking. The illustrations are relevant and pleasing to the eye, and the design echoes that of a scrapbook.

However, while the book does carry a heavy scrap-booking theme, there are quite a few tips and how-tos in regard to genealogy research as a whole. There’s a timeline of the history of handwriting, of genealogical milestones, instructions on how to care for your documents and photos (archival materials only, acid free, and keep your newspapers, paperclips, and staples away from your photos and documents!), and commands to double-check and cite your sources.

I would say this book is largely a very visual, entertaining “getting started in genealogy book.”

However there are sections dedicated to picking themes for your books, how to organize them prettily and properly, what paper to use, a section on rubber stamping, stickers, and ways to save money during your family history scrap-booking journey.

The book stretches beyond the promised subject matter in a pleasant way. I would say it’s a worthwhile read for beginners, as well as those vetted in the world of genealogy, who are ready to begin scrap-booking as a way to showcase their years of intensive research.

Who Would Benefit: Beginning genealogists, and experienced genealogists interested in a new way to showcase their years of intense research, as well as those non-genealogists who want to make family scrapbooks and make sure their books last for their children, and great-grandchildren to enjoy.