Book Pumpkins – Thank You Reader’s Digest

Readers’ Digest Condensed Books –  They were published for 47 years (before being rebranded) and it has been estimated that about 10 million copies were sold per year. That’s a lot of books that are still living in boxes in the attic or displaying a pleasing shelf full of books with similar spines!

The current value of these books, however, seems to be about $0. They are not rare and the fact that the stories are condensed reduces the value to today’s readers.

What should I do with a box of Reader’s Digest Condensed books?
– Make Door Stops…
– Just don’t leave two of them alone in a box in a dark room or you end up with a whole ‘litter’ of them.

I recently inherited a box of these books from a relative who knew I was not adverse to ‘mutilating’ books.   I thought I would try making them into Book Pumpkins. There are quite a few sites on the web that tell you how to do this. Usually they say you cut the pumpkin shape with scissors but I found that quite time consuming and not so kind to arthritic fingers. A better tool, for me, was The Car Guys Scroll Saw!

The finished Book Pumpkins – top view.

Here are the my instructions for this project. For more detailed photos, see the photos below.

Trace and Cut: I traced a half pumpkin shape on the book cover, cut the shape out with a scroll saw, then took the cover off.

Prepare the Spine: I removed some of the binding material off the spine to make it more flexible.

Make the Center of the Pumpkin: I cut a piece of dowel that was a few inches longer than the height of the spine and the right diameter such that the spine would wrap around it. The front and back edges of the spine should meet.

Hot Glue – OUCH: I hot glued the spine around the dowel, leaving about an inch of dowel above and below the spine.

Make the Base for the Pumpkin and Spray Paint: The Car Guy cut a circle from some scrap lumber. He drilled a hole in the middle of this base. The hole was slightly larger than the diameter of the dowel. We mounted the bottom piece of the dowel into the circle, leaving a slight gap between the top surface of the circle and the pages of the book. This leaves the pages free to fan out nicely. I spray painted my pumpkins with Rust-oleum Hammered Copper.

Make a Pumpkin Stem and Decorate: I used a piece of tree branch that was a larger diameter than the dowel. I cut the branch into ‘stem’ lengths and drilled a hole in each that was slightly larger than the dowel. Then I glued the stems onto the dowel, making sure the pages were still free to fan out unhindered. I decorated the pumpkins with wood shavings and crinkly paper.

Pumpkin shape. Ready to cut with a scroll saw.
This is where the dowel will be glued when the book has been cut and the covers removed.
This is the base with the dowel inserted.
The twig stem and decorations.

Do tell – how many Reader’s Digest Condensed Books do you have on your book shelves!

This and That – Fuel Prices are So High…

$200 and Change

The Car Guy informs me that it cost him just over $200 to put fuel in his truck this week. That’s the bad news. The good news is that he can  make about 80 trips to the lumber store before he has to refuel again.

Are You Listening… or Waiting to Talk?

It took my husband less than a minute to tell me about the cost of gasoline. It will take me over 20 minutes to write this post about gasoline (and other things), which is why I think this next visual is true!

I Like the Bunny Slippers

This was apparently taken at a branch of RBC Wealth Management – a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Canada.

Dress like you own the bank. Not like you need a loan from it.
— Louis Raphael –

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.
—Mark Twain –

If men can run the world, why can’t they stop wearing neckties?
– Linda Ellerbee –

The Jumbo Jet

Do you know why the Boeing 747 (the Jumbo Jet) has that hump on the top? Apparently Boeing felt the 747 would be quickly rendered obsolete as a passenger carrier, so they designed the plane so that it could be converted into a freighter. A cockpit up in the hump would make the conversion easier.

This, and so many other interesting facts can be found in Bill Bryson’s book, ‘Made in America – An Informal History of the English Language in the United States’. Though it was written in 1994, many of Bryson’s observations about social and cultural change read like current events. His writing is, as usual, peppered with wry humour.

Until 1916, New Hampshire had a stream called the Quohquinapassakessamanagnog, but then the cheerless bureaucrats at the Board on Geographic Names in Washington, D.C., arbitrarily changed it to Beaver Creek.
― Bill Bryson, Made in America –

The Cone of Uncomfort

The Grand-dog, Ghost, had to have a lump removed from her leg. She was spared the ‘white plastic cone of misery’ because of the mental anguish it causes her. It renders her immobile – so while it stops the licking, it stops her from doing anything else too. She just stands there.

The vet put a flexible cone on but it was too small  –  it didn’t prevent Ghost from investigating her owie. Fortunately the bandage did the job.

Literary Origami Heart and Best Titles for Book Folding

If you think you’d like to try book folding, but don’t want to damage a good book, then you might want to choose one from the online lists of ‘The Worst Books Ever Written’. The following books seem to be particularly unpopular:
– The ‘Twilight’ series by Stephanie Meyer;
– The ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ series by E.L. James;
‘The Eye of Argon’ by Jim Theis;
– anything written by or about Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Pamela Anderson, Sylvester Stallone, etc.
Valley of the Dolls – Jacqueline Susan
You’ve Been Warned by James Patterson
– any book with the word ‘Inconvenient’ in the title;
– books with however many Steps to Living a Better Life.

Asking a decent editor to save this book would have been like asking a doctor to help a corpse that had fallen from the top of the Empire State Building.
— The New Statesmen –

I ‘summarized’ this out of date self-help book about boundaries in marriage by folding a heart within a heart. I made a two layer paper quill heart to fill the inner heart.

Can you suggest any other books that would be suitable for craft projects?

Local Libraries, Books and the Guerrilla Librarian

The QuipperyIn ‘The Alphabet and Good Intentions’ I explained the rather unique book filing system that our local librarians use. On occasion, this drives me to distraction – so last week I kind of refiled all the John Grisham’s. Now his books are in two locations instead of four.

I suppose I could ask to be a volunteer at this library, but I’ve met a few of the other volunteers, and they are not a very flexible group of women, (either in the way they run the library, or in their ability to reach to the top and bottom shelves – they are quite a bit older than me…).  I have decided I am much more suited to being a guerrilla librarian.

I found other references to just this kind of activity: “…Maxwell had also found a vocation of sorts, unpaid but satisfying, even addicting. He moved library books.” Though the author of this story isn’t stated, the blog post with the rest of the story is here, and it is quite fun:  Swiss Army Librarian.

Have you ever been a Guerrilla Librarian?


Pets – The World According to Dogs – Purina Puppyhood (Video)

Have you read ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain‘ by Garth Stein? Garth’s website explains the story: “Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.”

I am confident Enzo would want you to watch and read the following!

Here’s why I will be a good person. Because I listen. I cannot talk, so I listen very well. I never deflect the course of the conversation with a comment of my own… For instance, if we met at a party and I wanted to tell you a story about the time I needed to get a soccer ball in my neighbor’s yard but his dog chased me and I had to jump into a swimming pool to escape, and I began telling the story, you, hearing the words “soccer” and “neighbor” in the same sentence, might interrupt and mention that your childhood neighbor was Pele, the famous soccer player, and I might be courteous and say, Didn’t he play for the Cosmos of New York? Did you grow up in New York? And you might reply that, no, you grew up in Brazil on the streets of Tres Coracoes with Pele, and I might say, I thought you were from Tennessee, and you might say not originally, and then go on to outline your genealogy at length. So my initial conversational gambit – that I had a funny story about being chased by my neighbor’s dog – would be totally lost, and only because you had to tell me all about Pele. Learn to listen! I beg of you. Pretend you are a dog like me and listen to other people rather than steal their stories.
― Enzo the Dog in ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’ by Garth Stein –

What dog wisdom would you like to add?

Texas, Washington, France – Fifty Shades of Grey in Photographs

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ – I wish I had thought of that title for my blog. Can you imagine how many visitors I’d get every day? Disappointed visitors, of course, when they discovered that fifty shades of grey described my hair colour and not my review of a hugely successful erotic novel – which I haven’t read.

No, to me fifty shades of grey describes the colour of the headstones in  an old cemetery. (This one is in Rodemack, France.)

Headstone inscriptions don’t usually refer to the deceased person’s steamy sex life, but this one in Moultrie, Georgia did (assuming it is true):

Here lies the father of 29.
He would have had more
But he didn’t have time.

Fifty shades of grey also describes the rocks and sand on a beach. (This one is at Deception Pass in Washington.)

Beaches are thought to be very romantic places, though spring break in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida isn’t so much about romance as ‘Sex on the Beach’.

An early morning fog at Lake Conroe, Texas. A comfy Tete`-a-tete´ chair waits for the couple to sit and enjoy their morning coffee. The air is warm, the fog creates an intimate envelope of fifty shades of grey.

I have many more photos that are fifty shades of grey and I suppose human intimacy could have taken place at one time or another in many of them. But I really don’t want to know about it, any more than I want to read erotic mommy porn. So, look somewhere else for a review of “Fifty Shades of Grey!”

Gray hairs seem to my fancy like the soft light of the moon, silvering over the evening of life.
– Jean Paul Richter


Scott Feschuk, a sometimes very funny writer for Canada’s MACLEAN’S magazine, wrote a single chapter of a book he called Fifty Shades of Eh. Here is an excerpt:

I gaze upon him with my intrepid eyes. My mouth, which is also intrepid, curls into a sly smile. ”
Did you remember the clamps?” I ask.

“Canadian Tire was closed. But I found a bunch of clothespins in the garage.”

I swoon. My breathing quickens. My heart beats a frantic tattoo as I surrender myself to the anticipation of languid erotic pleasures and several hours of splinter removal.
– Scott Feschuk –

How to Improve Your Cell Phone Manual

170-cell-phone2A 91 year old Moncton New Brunswick man by the name of George Williams owns two computers, an iPhone, and a new BlackBerry Playbook. “It’s always been a challenge to me,” he says “to sit down with the owner’s manuals to figure them out.”

The Owners Manuals – some people read them, and some people don’t. Even the best manuals can be a challenge to decipher. Several years ago I bought a simple Unsmart Phone. It came with a 37 page manual of tiny print that was best read with a magnifying glass. The first 11 pages were filled with preliminaries, including the advice “do not use the phone when blasting is in progress”. It also suggested that the phone should be used in “normal position” and “not to touch the antenna unnecessarily.” There were health cautions too. The handy little Scroll Key could be hazardous because it “may contain nickel.” And if it does, it “should not come into prolonged contact with the skin.”

I wasn’t aware of how dangerous these little devices could be, and that was before I had even turned it on and exposed myself to the so called effects of radiation! Turn it on – yes, that was next. I suppose I should have known that the button with the red phone on it was the on/off key. But red symbols usually indicate caution or danger, so I went back to the manual for confirmation. I finally found it on Page 11. The Red Phone button was the “End key and power key.” The Green button, which I had optimistically thought was the on key, was the “Send key.” Okay, good to go!

On Page 13 I learned how to Make a Call. That took a whole paragraph, and included directions about how to enter numbers, how to initiate the call, and how to end the call. I pretty much knew that already, but it was nice of the manual to include that information.

Text Messaging, which I didn’t have a clue how to do, was considerably briefer: “Select Menu – Messaging – Create Message – Text Message.” Then there were brief instructions on how to turn on Predictive Text, how to add a space and how to add a number. That was it for instructions. I tried to text The Car Guy (who was on a business trip in Aberdeen). It took me several hours to figure out how to do it. His phone didn’t get a text, just a message that I had called. By then it was late at night his time, and he got worried that I had called him, so he phoned me…  I crossed Texting off the list of things I would use this phone for.

The User Guide got shoved into the filing cabinet and I got out a pen and a piece of paper and wrote my own little manual. It is about 1.5 by 3 inches, and has 6 handwritten pages. It tells me everything I will ever need to know about my phone should I need a refresher course. I keep it in my purse, right next to my address book and a small pad of paper and a pen. I jokingly refer to this little cache of items as my PDA!

Forming Opinions in “Idiot America”

There is no better way to spark debate than to question a person’s beliefs and opinions. These grow from what we see, hear, experience, read and think about.  Charles P. Pierce is convinced that carefully thought out opinions, those derived from science and logic, are being trampled by a zealous, poorly informed opposition. He presents his reasons for thinking this in his book, Idiot America – How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free.  Pierce believes that this vocal opposition  springs from ideas that in the past wouldn’t get any further than a soapbox on the corner of a city street.  But today,  Pierce thinks these ideas are able to gather a large following because “Idiot America” believes:

– Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.

– Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.

– Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough.

Pierce presents a significant number of examples of  what he defines as gullibility in both the public’s perception of events, and in decision making by politicians. A few of the issues his book addresses: the Creation-Evolution debate, Artificial Life Support, The War on Terror and Climate Change.

In a 2014 post in Esquire, Mr. Pierce continues to discuss Climate Change. He is passionately anti-anyone who doesn’t believe as he does.

The political viability of climate change denial gets more preposterous by the day, which is not to say that it doesn’t remain effective. We are gradually coming to a consensus of denial in which we see the effects of climate change as a series of random phenomena, to be studied individually, but never to be linked effectively enough to require national action.

Ironically, he doesn’t discuss the fact that it is the Climate Change supporters, and their fear mongering claims of random phenomena, that fuel the fire of climate change denial.

If you believe that the Dinosaurs lived peacefully with humans, and that all living things arrived on the earth about 6000 years ago, you might not like this book. If you are a fan of Rush Limbaugh you also may not like this book. At the very least, however, you should read the book and then peer inside your head to see what you base your opinions on.

Magic in December at the British Museum – 2010

December could be a mournful month if I let it be so. Certain days certainly can be difficult. My mother died on this day (15th)  in 1987.  Every December 15th throws me a bubble off plumb all day – not half a bubble, a whole bubble off.

I had an equally bad December in 1991. That was the year cancer visited our house. My Christmas letter that year started out with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself -I lived through this horror, I can take the next thing that comes along. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”  Then I talked about our child and leukemia.

Richard Halliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels

The first few weeks of December 2000 weren’t great either. We had completed two years of assignment in England, and were being transferred to the Middle East. It wasn’t a move I was looking forward to. The first half of the month was consumed with packing and movers. On December 15 I locked the door of our rental house for the last time, and caught a train into London. With half a day free to do as I wanted, I started walking, and eventually found myself in front of the British Museum. I went inside, and just kept walking. I went from one display to another without any thought about where I was going, and not really paying much attention to what I was seeing. I just knew it was warmer than being outside.

That was when the Magic of December kicked in. I suddenly I found myself in the Egyptian Mummies room. Standing in front of a display of grave goods, I  remembered that it was December 15th. I  thought about how interested my mom had been in archaeology. I remembered a book she used to show me when I was a kid – Richard Halliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels – which included pictures of Egypt’s pyramids.  I thought about how she had never travelled outside of North America, and never seen most of the things that she showed me in that book.

I spent the rest of the afternoon looking at the British Museum through my mothers eyes.  I thought about all the foreign places I had visited – places that my mom only saw in the Complete Book of Marvels. I thought about how ironic it was that I was travelling, which I never intended to do; and she didn’t travel, which she always wanted to do.

The truly magic part of December, for me, is that it doesn’t matter what December dishes out, I still simply love the whole month. I love the music and the lights and the stories and the decorations. I love the magic thought of Santa Claus. I love the prospect of one day a year when most of the world is united in peace, just like that Christmas Day in the trenches in 1914. December is a Magic Month if you let the good bits guide your sleigh…

See Spot. See Spot Run – Old Words, New Meanings

In the early goings of Grade 1, my teacher hung up a large piece of heavy construction paper with the words “Books I Have Read” printed across the top. The paper was ruled off in boxes, with the top row listing each student’s name, and the left column listing the names of all the books. Once a student had successfully read a book, a piece of colored paper, with the book’s name printed on it, was glued in the appropriate box under the student’s name – glued with that clear LePage’s mucilage in the bell shaped bottles with the pink rubbery tops.

Dick, Jane and Spot © Addison Wesley

The books came from the Dick and Jane series. Though the words weren’t overly difficult and the stories not particularly exciting, the illustrations were warm and friendly.

We learned to read using both whole word recognition, and phonics. Both techniques have been employed over the years, sometimes one more than the other. Today, however, the material that is available in the early years of reading is far more varied and interesting than what we had. Teachers likely have more sophisticated methods of keeping track of the progress of a child’s reading too! Instead of a construction paper chart on the wall, there is likely some computer generated report that looks much more professional!

With the advent of computers, a whole bunch of new words have entered our vocabulary (RAM, megahetrz, gigabytes). And old words have gained new meanings. The sentence from the Dick and Jane reader that said “See Spot. See Spot Run. Run Spot run.”  showed up many years later in this slightly altered sentence –


If a person is not somewhat fluent in “computer” it is entirely possible for them to read a sentence, understand all the words, and have no idea what it actually means. As in:

Who is General Protection Fault and why is he reading my disk?

Back up my hard drive?  How do I put it in reverse?