Entropy Academy: READING ALOUD #homeschool

Are you suddenly homeschooling? Maybe you’ve made the choice to do it long-term. We’re here to make sure it’s a joyful and fun experience—it doesn’t have to be daunting and overwhelming. We’ve created a four-part series of easy homeschooling tips and inspiration for anyone starting out (and for veterans too!).  These tips are from Entropy Academy, a homeschooling parent’s memoir full of guidance and inspiration for anyone educating their kids outside of the institution of public education, temporarily or otherwise. In this memoir, Alison Bernhoft recounts how she discovered that she could train her messy home to do half her teaching, while much of the other half unfolded “entropy style”—in the natural process of everyday life. You can homeschool too!

Reading Aloud

One cupboard in the kitchen was devoted to puzzles, current read-alouds, and building toys. A jigsaw puzzle would often fill that difficult “arsenic hour” before dinner, while building spatial discrimination and fine motor skills. Building toys of all descriptions were a regular hazard in negotiating safe passage across the floor. As tempting as it was to confine the mess to a computer screen and purchase virtual Lego, I’m glad I didn’t. Manually manipulating real objects in three dimensions plays a vital role in brain development, and besides, it’s a lot more satisfying to show off colorful 3-D creations to an admiring audience when they can be tripped over.

This cupboard was raided at reading-aloud time, which usually happened twice a day and formed the backbone of the children’s education. I tended to gear the books to the eldest, and the younger ones were free to sit in. It was amazing to me how much they understood, even in difficult books. Rather against my better judgment, I found myself reading Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations when Sheila was only two, and I wondered if the book meant anything to her at all. Right on cue, she removed her nose from her drawing to ask why Pip’s sister was so unkind to him. Apparently she was following the action quite well. Given a steady diet of difficult books, she would undoubtedly have lost interest—but one thrown into the mix here and there seemed to whet her appetite for more. 

The price of finding good books to read aloud was eternal vigilance. Notebook in hand, I scoured books such as Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook, listing unfamiliar authors that looked promising and hoping their output was not marred by the unevenness that seems to plague some writers.

Reading a variety of reviews helped. I tried to select a variety of books, not just fiction. I regret now not having read more biographies—for some inexplicable reason I thought they would be boring. How wrong I was! It is both fascinating and inspiring to read about the hardships and obstacles most great people have had to overcome. We tend to think that life should be easy, and strive to make it so for our children, but the truth is that most famous people have had to struggle, often against overwhelming odds, to become who they are.

I am reminded of a story about a butterfly enthusiast who witnessed a very rare butterfly struggling to emerge from its chrysalis. Only the tip of one wing remained trapped. Seeking to help, the man took a small pair of scissors and carefully snipped the chrysalis to free the wing. The butterfly spread its wings in the sun to dry. To his horror, the man saw that the part of the wing he had freed remained crumpled; it never became strong enough to fly. Apparently, struggle was necessary for the creature to be properly formed. The same seems to be true of humans. I’m not saying we should deprive our children or deliberately cause them hardships—no doubt life will provide them plenty—but by all means read to them about those who have faced difficulties and disappointments and overcome them. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

It seems I was not alone in my suspicion of biographies: when Lorna selected a volume on the life and times of Franz Josef Haydn, she was thrilled to discover she was the first person to check it out in sixty years! The discovery gave her interest in music of the Classical era a considerable boost. I never minded my children being busy while I read to them: listening to books is a predominantly left brain activity, so keeping the right brain occupied actually helps the child concentrate on what she is hearing. She might color, do a puzzle, or build quietly, my only rule being that the noise of her rummaging through the box of Lincoln Logs must not drown out my voice. If she preferred, she could simply daydream—there would be no comprehension test. Indeed, none was necessary: I found each morning that when I reviewed the previous day’s reading before embarking on the next chapter, the children were invariably the ones helping me recall the action, not vice versa.

At some point in their development, all the children—boys included—enjoyed embroidery. I picked up Christmas ornament kits for next to nothing in July, and by late November we had several gems to add to the tree. Knitting too was highly popular. In liking to knit, Evan takes after the English grandfather he never knew, who used to relax by knitting fantastically intricate baby clothes whenever a close friend of the family gave birth. We probably looked like a scene from Little House on the Prairie, knitting and stitching while Mother read, but those were some of our happiest homeschooling times—and although Robin didn’t play the violin like Pa, at least he wasn’t moved to substitute the bagpipes.

I wondered if my tolerance for extraneous activity was hampering the children’s concentration. Seeing Lorna intent on her jigsaw puzzle, seemingly oblivious to the world around her, I asked her if she was able to follow the story. She looked up, surprise written all over her face. “Well of course,” she replied. “Why wouldn’t I?” To her, it was incomprehensible that the puzzle might be considered a distraction. 

As the children grew older, their listening activities included tracing maps of the countries we were reading about, as well as coloring photocopied pages from historically appropriate Dover and Bellerophon coloring books. Tracing maps was the mainstay of their training in geography, apart from the hours spent at the kitchen table admiring the world map.

Over the years, we made salt-and-flour maps of the US, Israel, and Egypt, and once we fashioned the Far East out of mashed potato. I’m not particularly proud of this shortfall in geography education, but it worked for us, and the children’s knowledge of the countries of the world is better than many. At least they’ve never asked if you need a passport for New Mexico, or wondered if you can drive to Hawaii, as did one applicant for the position of receptionist in Robin’s office. And she was a college graduate!

To keep track of the books we read, I drew a rudimentary bookcase on a large piece of poster board, stuck it on the wall, and cut a generous supply of book spines of various heights and thicknesses from construction paper. Every time we finished a book, one of us wrote the title and author on a spine and stuck it on the bookcase. We all enjoyed looking over the books we had read—it gave us quite a sense of accomplishment.

Excerpted from Entropy Academy by Alison Bernhoft, full of easy and comforting homeschooling guidance and available here! Looking for more tips? See “Visual Materials,” “Science in the Kitchen,” and “Bath Time.” An excellent read-aloud option is Doniga Markegard’s young adult memoir Wolf Girl, which can be ordered here.


Entropy Academy: SCIENCE IN THE KITCHEN #homeschool

Are you suddenly homeschooling? Maybe you’ve made the choice to do it long-term. We’re here to make sure it’s a joyful and fun experience—it doesn’t have to be daunting and overwhelming. We’ve created a four-part series of easy homeschooling tips and inspiration for anyone starting out (and for veterans too!).  These tips are from Entropy Academy, a homeschooling parent’s memoir full of guidance and inspiration for anyone educating their kids outside of the institution of public education, temporarily or otherwise. In this memoir, Alison Bernhoft recounts how she discovered that she could train her messy home to do half her teaching, while much of the other half unfolded “entropy style”—in the natural process of everyday life. You can homeschool too!

Science in the Kitchen

All the growing of plants and sprouting of seeds that went on both in and out of the kitchen taught the children worlds about science, as did cooking. Especially bread. I never lacked for an enthusiastic helper when it was time to bake, and each child in turn learned that yeast needs three things to thrive: water, food, and warmth. What do people need to thrive? Water, food, warmth—and love. Studies in Russian orphanages found that even when babies were kept warm and adequately fed, they failed to thrive in the absence of a loving touch. Maybe a little TLC wouldn’t hurt the “yeasties” either: water just the right temperature, a pinch of sugar for food, and being left to rest undisturbed in a warm place (sounded pretty idyllic to me). We chose strong bread flour for its high gluten content, and noticed how stretchy the dough became as our vigorous kneading strengthened the gluten. One year, I ran out of strong flour to bake my traditional huge recipe of Christmas bread. A special trip to the store seemed far too much like hard work, so I made do with what happened to be on hand: low-gluten all-purpose flour. Never again! Even after the dough was kneaded the regulation 150 times, and a half-dozen stiffly beaten egg whites folded in, the yeasties were evidently on strike. The loaves were as sorry a sight coming out of the oven as they had been going in.

The only means of transporting live yeast across the continent during the Westward Expansion was sourdough. As part of a history unit, Fiona and I mixed together a cup of flour, one of water, and a quarter teaspoon of yeast, leaving it to sour for several days, loosely covered, on a counter. A second batch was made without commercial yeast, and left uncovered to be colonized by naturally occurring, “wild” yeast. The image of us lassoing wild yeast, rounding it up, and herding it into our bowl of starter had Fiona and me in stitches.

We baked loaves from both starters, after taking out enough dough to start up the next batch of bread, five days down the trail. I wondered if our family’s appetite for bread could possibly keep pace with two sourdough starters, but the wild yeast batch soon turned rancid, and was summarily discarded.

Quick breads are leavened not by yeast, but by baking powder. This combination of an alkali (usually baking soda) and acid (typically cream of tartar) gives off carbon dioxide when mixed with a liquid. The gas bubbles introduce air into the bread just as the yeast bubbles do, the main difference being that yeast takes some time to work, while baking powder works instantly. “Double-acting” baking powder keeps working longer, but even so, without the strengthened gluten of yeast bread, quick breads are crumbly when cut. To demonstrate how acid and alkali combine in a chemical reaction, I had the children make three small piles of baking soda. To the first we added water, which is neutral. No bubbles. To the second, we added water and a solid acid such as cream of tartar, and noted the resulting fizz. In the third pile, the addition of an acidic liquid—buttermilk or lemon juice—caused an equal exuberance of bubbles. We deduced that if a recipe for biscuits contains buttermilk, some of the acidic baking powder needs to be replaced by alkaline baking soda. We also realized that if, in the course of making buttermilk pancakes, we found we were out of buttermilk, we could “sour” the milk with a little vinegar or lemon juice.

A child who has helped cook chicken at 350°F and at 500°F will not be surprised to learn that heat accelerates rate of change, nor will one who has watched potatoes cook at a hard boil versus a gentle simmer. Those same potatoes can demonstrate osmosis: we left a potato in a bowl of water tinted with food coloring for a few hours, then cut the potato in half to see how the color had been absorbed.

While we had the food coloring out, I put a stick of celery in a jar of red-tinted water. Once the color had tinged the leaves, Evan carefully cut across the stalk and found that the vesicles carrying water up the plant were dyed bright red. One Fourth of July we made a white carnation patriotic by splitting its stem three ways and putting each end in a jar of red, blue, or clear water. Capillary action never looked prettier.

On Tuesdays, we enjoyed a snack that reinforced our knowledge of the Earth’s structure: Earth Balls. A chocolate chip formed the core, and this was surrounded by peanut butter play dough representing the mantle. (To make the play dough we smooshed together one cup of peanut butter, half a cup of dry milk powder, and honey to taste—about 1/4 to 1/2 cup.) Each ball was then rolled in finely crushed graham cracker crumbs, which approximated the Earth’s crust. Looking at a cross section diagram of the Earth, we realized that our “crust” was about one hundred times too thick, but it tasted good, and we never forgot the sequence: core—mantle—crust.

The center of the Earth is both liquid and solid: liquid, because the heat is so extreme that it melts even the hardest rock; and solid, because the pressure is so colossal that matter is super-compressed. How can something be at the same time liquid and solid? We never tired of answering that question with cornstarch and water. Made into a paste that could be thick or runny according to the whim of the moment, the cornstarch feels solid when tapped with a finger; but let that finger rest on the surface awhile, and it sinks into a pure liquid. All five fingers together can pull up an angular chunk, but once that chunk is airborne it will slip between the fingers and pour back into the bowl in a steady, liquid stream.

Excerpted from Entropy Academy by Alison Bernhoft, full of easy and comforting homeschooling guidance and available here! Looking for more tips? See “Bath Time,” “Visual Materials,” and “Reading Aloud!”


Entropy Academy: BATH TIME #homeschool

Are you suddenly homeschooling? Maybe you’ve made the choice to do it long-term. We’re here to make sure it’s a joyful and fun experience—it doesn’t have to be daunting and overwhelming. We’ve created a four-part series of low-stress schooling-at-home tips and inspiration for anyone starting out (and for veterans too!). These tips are from Entropy Academy, a homeschooling parent’s memoir full of guidance and inspiration for anyone educating their kids outside of the institution of public education, temporarily or otherwise. In this memoir, Alison Bernhoft recounts how she discovered that she could train her messy home to do half her teaching, while much of the other half unfolded “entropy style”—in the natural process of everyday life. 

Bath Time

Turning our bathroom into an Automatic Learning Center was as easy as—well, turning on a faucet. I capitalized on the fact that I had, as it were, a captive audience (show me the person who doesn’t spend any time in the loo and I’ll say you have a freak of nature). Up on the walls went my favorite calendars: one invited the children to tackle a daily math problem, with a small financial incentive to be the first with the correct answer, while in a different bathroom, guests were regaled with natural disasters—hurricanes, tornadoes, and lightning storms. It became quite a talking point.

The pile of books that lay within striking range of the seating area included random books of jokes, puns and oddities, crosswords, anagrams, the always inspirational Book of Heroic Failures: The Official Handbook of the Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain (currently available, I am thankful to say, through Amazon), and Brush Up Your Shakespeare! by Michael Macrone. The latter offers “an infectious tour through the most famous and quotable words and phrases from the Bard.” Through its pages we became familiar with several plays, as well as phrases that are in (semi-) popular use today, from the well-known “If music be the food of love, play on” (Twelfth Night) to the ever-handy, “Hoist with his own petard” (Hamlet).

But it was in the bathtub itself that things became truly exciting. A set of graduated stacking beakers encouraged the children to discover that a smaller receptacle could never hold as much as a bigger one, no matter how often they tried. Plastic measuring cups informed them that a half-cup measure would always hold two quarter cups. We held air under water using a clear plastic disposable cup, tilted the cup slightly, and laughed at the noise of the bubbles surfacing. Which is heavier, water or air? That’s right, water. Is it always? Yes. What would happen if it weren’t? Where would the ocean go? The rivers? What would happen when we turned on the tap and put a glass underneath to catch the water? 

Bath time was a good time to introduce the children to the three states of water: they’re sitting in the liquid form, they can see the steam (gas), and the freezer usually had some (solid) ice cubes handy. We’d guess which would melt more quickly, an ice cube in the tub or one in a pitcher of cold water. How about if we have another ice cube in a second jug and stir the water? Does the ice cube melt any quicker, or do we just get cold fingers? We noticed that ice always floats, and thought about how disastrous it would be to aquatic life if it sank instead.

Clear plastic tubing was a great discovery, and considerably increased our arsenal of bubble-blowing techniques. We inverted a plastic cup underwater, so it was full of water, then used the plastic tubing to blow the water out, replacing it with air. Now we have air under water; does that mean it has stopped being lighter than water? What happens if we tip the glass just a tiny bit? A tiny bubble comes out! What happens if we tip a glass a big bit? A big bubble comes out!

 A sieve in the bathtub steadfastly refused to hold water. What happens if we line it with a dry washcloth and slowly add 1/4 cup of water? Where does the water go? Into the washcloth! How much water can one washcloth absorb? Let’s find out. Suppose we line the sieve with a plastic bag: how much water goes through? None! It is all still in the sieve; plastic is impermeable to water. Even the tiny water molecules cannot penetrate the plastic. 

Possibilities for educating in the tub are numerous, and as enjoyable as they are manifold. Books with titles like Science in the Tub gave me a much fuller idea of the scientific potential of the evening bath, and these days, Googling “science in the bathtub” reveals a wealth of tricks to try. It’s a softcore way of teaching some hardcore science.

Excerpted from Entropy Academy by Alison Bernhoft, full of easy and comforting homeschooling guidance. Paperback available from Chelsea Green and e-book via Amazon! Looking for more tips? See “Visual Materials,” Science in the Kitchen,” and “Reading Aloud!”


Entropy Academy: VISUAL MATERIALS #homeschool

Are you suddenly homeschooling? Maybe you’ve made the choice to do it long-term. We’re here to make sure it’s a joyful and fun experience—it doesn’t have to be daunting and overwhelming. We’ve created a four-part series of low-stress schooling-at-home tips and inspiration for anyone starting out (and for veterans too!). These tips are from Entropy Academy, a homeschooling parent’s memoir full of guidance and inspiration for anyone educating their kids outside of the institution of public education, temporarily or otherwise. In this memoir, Alison Bernhoft recounts how she discovered that she could train her messy home to do half her teaching, while much of the other half unfolded “entropy style”—in the natural process of everyday life. 

Visual Materials

I began with the kitchen, which was where we spent most of our time, and purchased two large maps: the world map went on the kitchen table, the US map on the wall. I was scandalized to see that the world map cut Asia in half so that America would be in the middle of the map. Fuming quietly (well all right, fuming noisily, as my children will tell you), I cut the map down the International Date Line and stuck Asia back together with Scotch tape. I put it on the table and covered the whole thing with clear contact paper. It wasn’t heatproof, but it lasted a while—somewhere between two and ten years, depending on my tolerance for singed and melted bits on the kitchen table. Over the years we tried out different maps; our favorite was one that showed all the flags of the world at the bottom. Periodically we would turn the table around so everyone got to admire the flags; it amazed me how many the children knew. And that map didn’t cut Asia in half! 

The map was there, undeniably, and the children saw it every day. But there is a world (literally) of difference between seeing and noticing, and I was thrilled to find a game that had them examining the map most carefully: one person takes the first two letters of a country and the last two letters of a neighboring country, makes a four-letter word, and challenges the family to name the countries. For instance, SWeden and NorwAY make SWAY, while BRAY is a “two-fer,” Brazil and either Paraguay or Uruguay. To my knowledge, the word BURE exists solely to draw attention to Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire, two small countries of West Africa that might otherwise be eclipsed by their larger neighbors, Mali and Niger.

The map of the States on the wall was primarily for reference, but Iain used it to learn his states by pinging rubber bands at them from across the room: “This one’s for Tennessee…watch out, New Mexico, here I come!” 

As the children grew older, and particularly when they started driving, road maps jockeyed for position on the wall: Washington State, Everett, and the greater Seattle area were all readily available for trip planning or simply browsing. These maps helped us develop a strong sense of “north,” which a reliance on today’s GPS technology does little to cultivate.

Excerpted from Entropy Academy by Alison Bernhoft, full of easy and comforting homeschooling guidance. Paperback available from Chelsea Green and e-book via Amazon! Looking for more tips? See “Bath Time,”Science in the Kitchen,” and “Reading Aloud!”


PP’s Holiday Gift Guide 2019

If you’re rushing around this holiday season, trying to find gifts for everyone on your list, we’d like to help you out a bit! There’s no better gift than a book, and at Propriometrics Press we have health, fitness, and nature-focused books that will be a hit with all!

Looking for a gift for…

The new mom? Katy Bowman’s Diastasis Recti focuses on an issue that is common post-pregnancy: diastasis recti. This book will help strengthen your core and explain the underlying habits that are causing abdo

The eco-lover? The collection of essays in Movement Matters, also by Katy Bowman, will pique any eco-lover’s interest as it delves into connections between the body, nature, and your greater community.

The Goldener? Dynamic Aging is a must-have book for those 50+ who are looking to either regain or maintain their mobility and agility throughout their Golden Years.

The goal-setter? Roland and Galina Denzel’s Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well is an actionable guide with 275 “take-action-now” tips and a checklist at the end of every chapter that makes it easy for someone to stick to their New Years resolution to become healthier in 2020.

The wilderness lover? Doniga Markegard’s lyrical memoir Dawn Again will take you along on her journey through the Pacific Northwest and beyond—tracking wolves, herding cattle, and becoming connected to the natural world around her.

The exerciser? Move Your DNA is one of Katy Bowman’s most well-loved books, as it provides corrective exercises, habit modifications, and even simple lifestyle changes that will all help you to become more movement-rich in your day-to-day life.

The scientist? Though you certainly don’t need to be a scientist to read, understand, and enjoy Katy Bowman’s Alignment Matters, her essays on the biomechanics of movement, optical alignment, and “troubleshooting the human machine” will definitely be appreciated by someone with a love of learning about the science of the human body.

The office worker? Is there someone on your list who is worried their 8+ hours a day sitting in front of a computer is wrecking their health and bodies? Get them Katy Bowman’s Don’t Just Sit There, which will show them how they can keep moving throughout the day, even when at the office.


Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well Cracker Recipe for National Bake for Family Fun Month

Galina Denzel, co-author of Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well, knows a lot about nutritious eating. She creates fresh recipes for each month’s unique theme through their program at eatmovelive365.com! February is National Bake for Family Fun Month, so we have a cracker recipe from Galina to share that is both nutritious and fun to make.

Perfect Crackers
It may sound less than humble, but these have crunch, flavor, and protein and provide a solid base for a spread or mini hipster toasts—who wouldn’t call these perfect?

In the pictures we have served them with avocado, hummus and cashew cheese, ricotta and sprouts, but please make them your own and make your own stunning delicious display! These also work great to take to work as snacks and are easily portable for hikes and outings.

For 4-8 servings
1/2 cup flax seeds, ground
1/2 cup flax seeds
1 cup water
1 cup unbleached almond meal
1/2 cup hemp seed
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp sea salt
1 tsp dry oregano
1 tsp dry thyme
Substitute your own choice of herbs for different flavors

Directions
Start by mixing the flax and water and let it sit a while—an hour minimum, but overnight is best. The flax will soak up the water perfectly. Combine the other dry ingredients: hemp, almond, sea salt, and dry spices, and add olive oil. Use your fingers to work the ingredients
together into a thick paste. Combine with the two kinds flax, soaked from before. Once you have your mixture, spread and press into a non-stick baking dish or cookie sheet and cook at 360F for 25-30 minutes or until golden. The thickness should not be more than 5 mm. When you pull them out of the oven let them rest until cooled and cut carefully so they don’t
crumble. Enjoy the lovely crisp end pieces! You can serve these as they are or with dips and spreads on top. I imagine they last long in a cool dry place, but we never let them sit around more than a couple of days.


National Green Juice Day

Emily Hagenburger January 25, 2019 No Comments

January 26 is National Green Juice Day! Get the most from the day with this advice from Galina & Roland Denzel, authors of Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well.

We see more and more of our readers and students opt for a green drink in the morning. The reason? Convenience for most! It’s much easier to tip back a delicious liquid while putting one shoe on and sending a child out the door to school than sitting with a crunchy spinach and kale salad, isn’t it? While there is nothing inherently “bad” in a green drink, here is how to ensure you make the most of your green habit:

  1. A green drink is not a complete meal. While electrolytes and water abound in green drinks, sodium and potassium will only get your body going so far. A complete meal for an average size female may contain 500-700 calories with a combination of protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates, including fiber. A green drink, even when large, will provide mostly carbohydrate in the form of simple sugars, no fiber and none of the other macronutrients. Consider having your juice and still adding protein, healthy fats, and fiber to create a complete meal.
  2. Remember to chew. Juice is extracted from an actual plant, and before juicers came around, we relied on our teeth to get the liquid from inside the plant cells. This allowed time to mix the food with saliva, and since carbohydrate digestion starts in the mouth, the process of carbohydrate breakdown could begin properly. When we drink juice, there isn’t enough time for saliva and carbohydrate to mix, so it’s key to remember to “chew” your juice. Hold and swish it in your mouth for a while before swallowing.
  3. Chew other food. Chewing is key for keeping your teeth and jaw healthy, mineralizing bone and exercising your facial muscles. If you drink all your vegetables, you are missing on the natural movement of chewing –often wanting to catch up with crunchy foods like chips and pretzels – which make the loud noises you are missing, too! Believe it or not, making noise is a part of the food experience and we do miss it! If you don’t want to have one of those days that starts off with a green drink and ends with a bag of chips, remember to have enough raw and cooked veggies at your other meals and keep juice as a special occasion a few times a week or when you are really in a hurry.
  4. Make your own juice if you can. It takes effort and time to select, wash and juice your own veggies: I like to mix kale, spinach, green apple, celery, cucumber, lemon, ginger, turmeric, and a bit of pineapple. There are several benefits of doing this. First, you have complete control of the quality of the veggies, how they are grown and washed. This keeps your juice clean and free from contaminants, as well as parasites and viruses that can hop on food when it’s not properly handled. Washing, chopping and juicing gets you to
    touch and get in contact with your food – leading to better digestion, connection with the food, and satiety. The process of mindful eating starts well before we’ve taken the first drink. Last but not least, the physical work that it takes to wash and cut the veggies and fruit is movement our bodies need and can use – so many of us feel the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, and outsourcing juicing to someone else means missing out on a great movement opportunity.
  5. Discard of your pulp in a smart way. I have friends who work it back into meatloaf or creamy soup in order to increase their fiber content or even make dog treats. We use juice pulp to feed our worms in the worm compost outside. They say they love it!

Spring loaded

As a company of book lovers, we equate any change in the season with an opportunity to talk about the books we are reading, planning to read, or have recently read. Here in the northern hemisphere, spring is springing, bringing days of longer light, chirpier birds, and a feeling of excitement about the coming weeks and months of warmer weather and beach days.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

For me, any spring read is one I can take out into the garden with me, but since I live on the east coast of Canada, and spring is being quite pokey this year, I have to content myself with reading near a big window, supervising the slow melting of the snow that currently covers my garden. To that end, there are a couple of old gardening books my parents, both avid gardeners, passed down to me. I page through them every early spring, dreaming of getting my hands dirty when the big melt finally comes. I’m also digging in to Baseball Life Advice by Stacey May Fowles as that season once again heats up. And lately I’m finding I really want to prioritize the voices of women. To that end, Penelope by Sue Goyette always has a place on my shelf, as does anything by Alice Munro, in this case the amazing Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage. And I’m loving dipping into Startle and Illuminate, a book of writing advice from Carol Shields.

 

 

Rounding out this stack are reference books that feel luxurious. I want to eat everything that Deb Perelman cooks, so I love reading—and cooking from—her book Smitten Kitchen Every Day. The Hidden Lives of Trees I am slowly making my way through, a pace I’ll likely pick up as the leaves return outside my windows. And then there is Lists of Note, a perfectly odd compendium of lists by people like Sylvia Plath and Jack Kerouac, Edith Wharton and Captain Beefheart. As a lifelong lover of lists of all kinds, I am infatuated with this book. The thing about lists is that they can reveal much more than mundane details—everything from love to grief, to writing advice, to notes on how to be a good person are detailed here. And finally, an Italian translation of The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I don’t read this one so much as dream of being able to read it. Still, I like to open it and practice my pronunciation and challenge my comprehension.

 

Publisher and author Katy Bowman‘s stack


What are “spring reads”? To me they are those books that are grounded in the season OR they are books that help you do some deep cleaning. I read Animal Vegetable Miracle every year as I try to remind myself why I want to get out in the garden. Gathering Moss, Mind of the Raven, and The Home Place are books about an aspect of the natural world—and spring is where you’ll find me watching more birds, sitting on bare earth trying to pick things apart with my hands and eyes. Eat Well Move Well Live Well—while this is “52 Weeks of” book, I’m going to pick just a couple small chapters (“Fermenting” and “I Have Needs,” if you must know) and make that part of tidying house. Along those same lines, How to be a Better Person is like Spring Cleaning for my soul. “400+ ways to make a difference in yourself—and the world”, and I seem to need reminders for about 395 of them!

 

Co-author of Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well Roland Denzel’s stack

That big book is by Seth Godin, and it’s called What does it sound like when you change your mind? It got it when I attended one of Seth’s talks. It’s really heavy. Fifteen pounds, and because I didn’t know I was going to get it, walked to his talk. That meant I had to walk back. With the book. A couple of miles. That, my friends, is nutritious movement. The perfect spring workout. By the way, the book is so big and heavy that we put if on a book stand like it’s the Bible or a unabridged dictionary. We read it every day. It’s all kinds of big.

Next up is Orient Express, by Silvena Rowe. It’s our second cookbook of hers. It’s like if Mediterranean and Bulgarian cuisine had a love child that was extremely photogenic. Totally worth it. The book is filled with amazing fresh vegetables and vibrant spring colors that will probably look brown on Instagram.

Dawn Again was hidden on my wife’s side of the bed, and our ‘spring clean’ brought it forward, so now I can finish it. Good timing, because there so much about the outdoors in there. Spring is the perfect time for the inspiration.

Tacos, by Mark Miller. This gift from Galina has an amazing recipe for Tacos Al Pastor. I love everything about tacos, Galina, and al pastor.

Fifth Avenue, 5 a.m., by Sam Wasson. This is all about Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The making of, the angst of, Audrey, Truman, Fred. All of it. In Truman Capote’s book, Holly is a prostitute, and I’m reading this book and I’m like “OMG, I was so blind…” How embarrassing.THEN… we watched again, and I wasn’t blind. Holly is not a prostitute in the movie at all. They made her a ‘society girl’ or something like that. Something that doesn’t really exist, like the fun, jazzy cocktail parties that we wish actually went on all the time in the early ’60s. I’ll probably watch it again soon. I love that movie.

That thing on the top is my kindle. That’s where I keep most of my science fiction and vampire stories. Vampires prefer winter, so for spring, I’ll be focusing on the stars.

Debbie Beane keeps the wheels moving at our sister company Nutritious Movement, but she’s just as big a word nerd as the rest of us.

 

All of my books right now are centered around growing and exploring, which are often put on hold as the snow piles up around here. We’re still waiting for it to melt (to stop falling, really) so some vicarious living through books is in order. Words for the Wild is my trail-side inspiration, and I’m re-visiting the essays with my kids as we get closer to backpacking season. Closer to the Ground is one I’ve been meaning to read for over a year now, but it starts in the spring (or rather, as the author is Ready For Spring To Start), so now’s the time to begin. California Field Atlas: exploring my home state anew with this beautiful inspiration to travel and be outside. Robbing the Bees is a cool history of humans and honey, as I try to decide whether this is the year we try again with bees. The Earth Speaks is a childhood friend, also re-reading with my kids. Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate is about gardening both the earth and the mind, apropos of spring, and July and Winter is to help me figure out how to grow more than just lettuce and peas in my short Tahoe growing season.

 

Co-author of Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well Galina Denzel’s stack

 

My spring reads are the books that point me back to what is wanting to be born or be renewed. Right now, my spring reading shelfie looks like this: Blue Horses by Mary Oliver and The Chaos of Longing by k.y. Robinson—I read and write poetry, and the more writing wants to emerge, the more I find inspiration and company in poetry. There is a discipline in being available to the writing that wants to happen and reading others’ poetry helps me stay open to it. The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo, as there are beautiful daily encouragements to keep looking out, yet staying connected to looking in. Belonging by Toko-pa Turner is one of the most moving reads I’ve held in a while, and invites us to embrace our deepest nature, and re-remember the skill of belonging and find our way back, both rooted and free. The archetypes in the book, like spring, are eternal and repeating, and invite what is eternal in me to show up. Standout 2.0 is my reminder that I have practical strengths in the world, and is a great teacher in how to show up at work and in the marketplace, with ease and grace, showing my greatest talents. It’s very affirming and has been a great professional companion for me and our work online. And last, but not least, I am re-reading Dynamic Aging—as I have committed myself to support my goldener students and create a local book club for them. I am inspired by the stories and women in the book and am preparing to pass on the spirit of Dynamic Aging—if there is a message of continuous renewal and hope through movement, this book is it.

Co-author of Dynamic Aging Lora Woods’ stack

My reading this spring is Rick Steves’ Portuguese Phrase Book and Dictionary + his Portugal.  Fado music is in my immediate future as my brother and I are backpacking (and driving) around Portugal for 30 days. My most common phrase will be Fala ingles? or Do you speak English?

Propriometrics Press designer Zsofi Koller’s stack

 

Spring is a time of expansion and movement, and these are all titles, that to me, explore pushing the edges of our current realities. Be it against our social and mental constructs (Fight Club), our gendered boundaries (Women Who Run with the Wolves), our own natural settings and movement (Wild) or the fantastical explorations of the imagination (The Space Trilogy), I love how spring creates new growth and fresh possibilities.

What about you? Are there books  to which you return each spring? Or is there a stack of new-to-you reads just waiting for your attention? Drop us a line in the comments and let us know!


Practice What You Publish: How to Start a Walking Book Club (and Why You Might Want To)

STEPHANIE DOMET January 9, 2018 2 Comments

This special guest “practice what you publish” edition of the Propriometrics Press blog is written by our publisher and best-selling author, Katy Bowman. Keen on getting us all moving more, here’s one idea to help you #stackyourlife for more movement.

 

A walking book club allows us to address multiple needs—movement, community, idea development, and the exchange of perspectives—all at once (#stackyourlife). If you work as a movement teacher, it’s also an excellent way to connect with more students and expand the types of movement you’re offering. Starting one is simple–there are so many ways to go about creating one!

  1. Choose a book that’s going to be accessible to a wide range of people. Make sure it’s at the local library, for example, and consider checking if it’s available as an audiobook or ebook (giving font size options) too.
  2. Contact the author or publisher and see if you might be able to obtain a discount code for a bulk purchase.
  3. Announce the book to the people you’re inviting to join, giving people about a month of lead time to read it, and include the discount code if you received one.
  4. Choose your route. You want to have about two or three hours of time to properly discuss a book, so choose the route accordingly.

Note: I suggest having your first walking book club route be over quite simple and accessible terrain, so that all bodies feel comfortable joining. Once you have your club established and have an idea of the varied abilities of those involved, you can decide if you want to increase the complexity of your route, with inclines, natural terrain, etc. Ideally you could make the walk a bit harder over the course of the book club (so over six months, for example).

  1. About two weeks before, send out another note about the book club, detailing the route and asking for RSVPs. Also ask those interested to flag sections of the book they’d like to discuss more.
  2. On the day of the walking book club, facilitate the discussion in a way that gives space for all voices. Hearing different perspectives and ideas is the best part of a book club! Our editor Penelope Jackson (who’s participated in tons of book club sessions) suggests: “Make sure to create space for people who hated the book but might be too shy to say so. An easy way to facilitate this is with an ‘I see most of us loved the book! Were there any criticisms? I personally felt that the book was a little X.’ You can formalize the discussion by taking turns, or you can ask everyone to start by giving the book a star rating and a quick explanation.”

 

There are countless books out there—and we want to read most of them! You don’t have to read books about movement for a dynamic book club (I’m currently reading sci-fi in preparation for an upcoming walk and talk), but if you’re trying this idea out because you’re in a movement mindset, a book about movement might be a good choice.

We really love #indiebooks, so below here are some you might not have heard of, as well as some compilations of books on trekking long distances and books that make you feel like being and moving in nature! Do you have a book you’d suggest? Please leave it in the comments below!

10 Great Outdoor Adventure Books for Hikers

National Outdoor Leadership Skills “Favorite Books About Leadership by Women”

Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit

The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor

Off Trail by Jane Parnell

Yak Girl by Dorje Dolma

Honouring High Places by Junko Tabei

Dawn Again by Doniga Markegard

 

 

 


Shelf expression

Long, hot, summer days such as we are having here on the east coast of North America produce in me the desire to do several things: go to the beach, with a stack of books in tow, lounge in the backyard, with a stack of books in tow, go to a cottage and laze on the dock, with a stack of books in tow, relax by the pool, with a stack of books in tow…yes, there is a theme emerging, you clever reader, you!

 

 

This time of year, my eyes are generally bigger than the space available in my schedule for such prolonged bouts of reading, but I have managed to start a handful of good looking reads, finish one or two, and dip into several others to take what I can from them in the short bursts I have for such pursuits. This summer, I’ve been taking Baseball Life Advice, by Stacey May Fowles, with me everywhere I go (reading an essay on the beach while my brother listened to a Blue Jays game on his transistor radio and my niece and nephew frolicked nearby in the cold north Atlantic was one recent summer highlight), and then coming home to a pair of books by Elizabeth Strout on my bedside table. She is an amazing fiction writer and I am trying to figure out how she does what she does, so these are both re-reads for me. Speaking of re-reads, I’ve been hosting some special episodes of Katy Says, the excellent podcast by our author Katy Bowman. The episodes are focused on each of Katy’s books, so I’ve been re-reading her backlist this summer in preparation. Whole Body Barefoot is on the docket for the August 29 podcast, with Don’t Just Sit There coming up for discussion in September. You can subscribe to the podcast here. I could go on and on about my own stack of books, but of course, we’re a company of book lovers.

Roland Denzel, co-author of Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well, has a list as aspirational as my own:

“Wired to Eat The last five years of so I’ve been interested in the less obvious whys when it comes to why we eat and overeat. I mean, I know why, of course, so I’m just checking Robb’s work. 😉

Sleep Smarter Allowing ourselves to sleep better is one of the hardest things for us to do, so I’m down for the latest info on getting in more (and better) sleep.

Movement Matters I’m a long-time believer in habit-stacking, even when each habit is tiny. Especially when each is tiny! Whether it’s health, the environment, or someone else’s welfare, things add up, and we can all do a little better. Movement Matters introduces us to small ways to make a big difference in all three areas—health, environment, humanity.

Word by Word A gift from Mom, who gives the best books! We (Mom and I) love words, trivia about words, the history of words, wordplay. As a writer, I can always improve, and this book is a fun way to do it.

Throne of Glass Guilty pleasure. I’ve had it for a while, but when my friend Lou’s daughter talked it up, I moved it to the top of the pile. Don’t tell anybody, but it’s basically research for my next novel. Shhh….

I don’t know how I’ll get through all these books by the end of summer, since I also have audiobooks for my walks, but I’m going to try!”

Roland’s partner and Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well co-author, Galina Denzel, takes her stack on the go as well:

“Here is my summer list on the go as I travel in Europe 😉 In the background you can see that I took the pictures in our home office in Sofia, where the colorful books on the shelves in the background are the collection of the Art of Real Food recipes, which I authored alongside photographer and designer Diana Shingarova. The home office is where we both work and cook, shoot new recipes and keep a large collection of dishes, silverware and backgrounds for the food sets, hence books and cups are everywhere.

The Hungry Brain I am fascinated by how we make choices and what it is about human behavior that intersects dangerously with the way the food supply has changed. This book is helping me gain a deeper and more compassionate understanding for the many ways in which our ancient brains have to navigate supermarket aisles and restaurant menus.

Character Styles More text-booky, and a classic in the field of human personality research. I have spent the last few years learning how early childhood experiences shape our character and how marvellously humans adapt to difficult circumstances and survive. I am halfway through this amazing resource and can’t wait to read more on my vacation.

It’s Time to Eat Inge Sengelmann tells of her own experience with emotional eating, how autonomic nervous system dysregulation is at the core of our distorted relationship with food and offers incredibly helpful self-inquiry at the end of each chapter. This is my third time through this book as I am also preparing to teach a retreat on the subject of eating and emotions and I keep finding gems of self-discovery and self-activation and empowerment. I think understanding and normalizing how we relate to food and pleasure is the fuel of hope for anyone dealing with emotional eating. It took me many years to heal from emotional eating and there just aren’t enough honest and scientifically valid books on the subject. This is definitely one of them.

Katerina Evro – memoirs and recipes This white and red book you see is a beautiful collection of memories and recipes by one of the most inspiring, gorgeous and feminine Bulgarian actresses. The book is a mix of old black and white family photographs and head shots of the actress, close ups of mouth-watering recipes and many pictures from more recent adventures and trips. My partner in photography and cooking Diana Shingarova was the designer and photographer of the project, and I am so happy to finally see the book here in Bulgaria.

Letting Go I got this book as a gift from the lovely Lucy—a colleague and friend in the Netherlands where we just went to teach a certification week for Nutritious Movement. Lucy knows if anything concerns emotions and unraveling what they are here to tell us, I am all ears—so she got me the perfect gift. I love the work Hawkins has brought in the world and the entry points for working with emotions he offers deserve attention. I didn’t own this one, so it was both serendipitous and plain cool to get it as a gift.

Moroccan The cuisine of Morocco attracts me like a magnet. This time in Bulgaria we are creating and photographing 25 healthy and nourishing recipes from around the world. Reading a book on Moroccan food was my inspiration to make cous cous with young almonds and dried fruit—mouth watering and satisfying in every way. Can you have too many recipe books? 🙂

As you can see, these books are both study, work, and creative inspirations for my six weeks in Europe, and I am happy to carry them along with me. Luckily, audiobooks weigh next to nothing, so I am set for my long drives across the country, too.”

Our designer Zsofi Koller always posts the loveliest shelfies—no surprise when you consider the design-star eye she brings to all her book design work for us. She says: “My favourite reads always involve a combination of cookbooks, humour, fantasy, and self-help—with a little bit of designer know-how tossed in there too. Plus, I really love just having beautiful, inspiring books around—and the winner on this score is definitely Salt Fat Acid Heat, which is a gorgeously put together book.”

Lora Woods is a co-author of Dynamic Aging. Here’s her stack, and a bit about it:

“The Fugitive Gesture allows me to stare at, examine and marvel at the gestures of people like Nijinsky and Gene Kelly.  It’s thrilling to see their invention and clarity.  The photos go back to the 1800s and include Inuit to Martha Graham: photos taken before I was born yet inform me of their feelings and power.

 Joseph Campbell (Thou art That ) transforms religious metaphor and includes the Gospel of Thomas. And like Jung, reconciles the seeming dichotomy of feeling and thinking, sensation and intuition.

 Imagery in Healing unifies and mystifies at the same time; another enigma.

 Sanskrit Keys helps me understand ancient constructs through the meaning of Sanskrit words. Freud was very late to the psychological table compared to the rich meanings of many Sanskrit words.”

Michael Curran does all the indexing for our books, so it’s no surprise to see Dawn Again in his stack.

He notes: “I read at the pace of one book every two months, so I have to make them count. The Man Who Quit Money is going to be one of those books that, as Liz Gilbert blurbs on the cover, I’m going to be thinking about every day of my life. And I’m indexing Dawn Again, but this book is exactly what I needed now, as a person who wants to learn more about permaculture. But also one is a set up for the other: Suelo’s book is a non-angry expose on why a money society needs to be quit. If you’re not willing to quit a money society, Doniga’s book is a prescription for how to see all that is unsustainable and yet positively move forward versus moving toward despair. To me this is huge, as I haven’t seen this in other books before.”

 

Penelope Jackson is our editor-in-chief, so she is awash in books pretty much all the time. She says: “I’m always working on four or five books, and I’m always reading at least that many for pleasure. These are just a few of the books I’m spending time with this summer. Elizabeth Peirce’s Grow Organic is my gardening bible—a fantastically useful, encouraging, award-winning resource I had the pleasure of working on. Ocean by Sue Goyette is my constant companion, as are her other collections of poetry, and she lent me Son of a Trickster, which, up to page 47, at least, is gorgeous and funny and rich. We take Be a Beach Detective to the ocean with us to help my 6-year-old decipher the nature clues around us, and my 9-year-old and I both love Brandon Sanderson’s ridiculously funny fantasy series Alcatraz Vs. the Evil Librarians. Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass changed my life; Gathering Moss would have if I’d read it first (and I got to do a moss workshop and walk with her recently; pinch me). Romeo and/or Juliet, a choose-your-own-adventure-style approach to the classic, is whip-smart and RIOTOUSLY FUNNY and creative and deep; I dip in and out of it and I still don’t think I’ve read every page. Alice Munro and Lawrence Hill are perennial favourites. Nature Anatomy is both beautiful and very useful to have around the house, and it taught me about stinkhorns, which is a very funny mushroom I accidentally grew in my garden, which was the highlight of my very excellent summer so far and which I wouldn’t have otherwise identified. Building With Earth feeds my daydreams. As do all books, I suppose.

Stephanie asked me for just a few lines about this stack, but honestly all I want to do is talk about books while I swim in the ocean. And lakes. Rivers, too. Let’s go for a book swim! Don’t actually bring any books; that’s a terrible idea.”

You can tell Penelope and I have similar approaches to summer living.

And finally, author and publisher Katy Bowman writes: “I read a lot during the summer, often outside (see some of the positions I frequent here).

These are what’s on my plate for the next eight weeks: A Woman’s Guide to the Wild (I’ve skimmed it and it seems like it’d be good for someone without ANY experience camping as a way to ease them into the great outdoors), Brian’s Winter (This is part two of Hatchet), Ill Nature (I used a snippet of this book in Movement Matters), Naked (I’ve read this book of essays so. many. times. Favorite essay: Island of the Damned), Dawn Again (sorry, this is an Advanced Reading Copy—it’s not available yet, but soon!), The Natural Navigator (I have the other book in this series and it’s a fun and easy one to skim and feel like you’re getting little tidbits of knowledge), On Trails. ”

Speaking of Dawn Again, by Doniga Markegard, its publication date draws ever closer! Check out this gorgeous cover:

We’ll be sending it off to press this week, and we’re making lots of plans for launching it into the world November 1. Meantime, it is available for pre-order through our website. As a thank-you for ordering this title in advance, we’ll give you access to an exclusive audio file called Tracking for Beginners, in which Doniga Markegard guides you through some of the first steps in tracking wildlife, guaranteed to help strengthen your relationship with nature, no matter whether you are in the middle of a big city, in small town, or in the wilderness. Order your copy of Dawn Again here—pre-sale closes September 22.

Meanwhile, if you need me, I’ll be on the beach, or the dock, or the poolside, or in the woods, with a stack of books in tow. Hope your own summer days are similarly stacked!