Monday, December 28, 2015

Product Review: Are Adult Coloring Books Worth the Money?

A pencil-colored owl with decorative acorns and greenery
An Owl from the Enchanted Forest Adult Coloring Book

Although I had the inclination to get myself an adult coloring book as soon as I saw them hit the shelves, I stubbornly passed them by, thinking "If I want to color I can just draw a picture, right?" 

I continued to see them at the craft stores, at the big box stores, at the grocery stores, and at my in-laws, even!

The next time I saw them, I was weak. I purchased Johanna Basford's Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest and Coloring Book.  It's right up my alley with its forest and castle theme.

The Pros

To begin, I am happy I purchased this book.  First and foremost, the book is quite beautiful to flip through, whether or not I'm choosing a page to color in it. The pictures are expertly drawn, featuring both elements of design in entire scenes and the repetition of patterns.  Furthermore, the act of coloring in this book has its intended effect; I have spent a few hours coloring in it, and it feels very much like a meditative practice.  Coloring in it effectively helps me clear my mind and gives me something stress free to pass a little time between other tasks.  On a more personal note, coloring in it also gives me a chance to use my fairly large collection of Prismacolor colored pencils, especially the numerous shades of green I've accumulated.

The Cons

On the other hand, despite my overall "gladness" of having purchased this text, I recognize it may not be for everyone.  For example, the detailed drawings might be a bit off-putting to some folks who may have shakier hands, poor eyesight, or who lack a decent pencil sharpener or tabletop workspace. In that case, a book with less detailed drawings may be better.  I do find myself leaning close and stopping to sharpen my pencils fairly often.  I also recognize that although I already had several pencils, others may not be so prepared; starting a collection of colored pencils adds to the expense of the coloring. All in all, however, the overall cost is quite low when compared to other artistic hobbies.

Final Assessment

Because of the low cost of this hobby and the beauty of the book (whether or not you color in it), I recommend it to anyone who may be on the fence.  If you remember fondly your days of coloring as a child, pick it up and give it a chance to work its magic, again.

Want to read more about arts and crafts?  Try

How to Use Beautiful Buttons
Yarn as Memory and Memory as a Gift
Arts and Crafts and Healing

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Experimenting with Quince Fruit

Half peeled quince fruit
Preparing a Quince 

Until I moved into my new home here in Georgia, I had never heard of quince.  There is a quince tree in my yard, however, and although neither my real estate agent or I could identify the tree, my neighbor could: Apparently, the tree was planted by her father-in-law more than 60 years ago!

Early this fall, I rescued 2 large quince fruits from the critters; bugs, squirrels, and birds. After a little research online, I learned the fruit was completely edible, and I was able to prepare the two quince fruits like an applesauce. The quince sauce I made was definitely a bit grittier and a lot more sour than applesauce (like a green apple), but with ice cream and crumbles on top, I hear it made an excellent dessert cobbler.

Cutting a Quince

These are not the pretty quince slices I saw online.
First and foremost, know that quince are hard; they are really hard.  Cutting the quince was harder than cutting a winter squash.  I attempted to use a chef's knife, but I resorted to something serrated to saw through the fruit.

In all honesty, I wanted to have beautiful slices like some other online recipes show, but it was all I could do to even get the knife through it. I settled for a good peeling and getting as much of the fruit away from the core as I could.

Preparing a Syrup

While I was hacking away at the quince, I was also creating a syrup over low heat.  I used 1/4 cup of sugar and 2 cups of water seasoned with star anise and a cinnamon stick.

Once I added my two hacked-up fruits to the syrup, I brought it all to a boil, lowered the heat and let it simmer for a few hours.  I checked in on it every so often since I wasn't sure how long it would take.  Some of the slices started getting pink and soft within the first 15 minutes, but others took the two hours.

Finishing and Serving

Star Anise and Cinnamon
After I tasted the quince the first time, it took me about 20 seconds to unstick my face from the "pucker" it caused.  Once I unstuck my face, I added 1/2 cup brown sugar and let it cook for another 15 minutes or so.  The brown sugar brought the power of the sour to a reasonable and refreshing level.

I served the quince cold to my family, but my mother-in-law bumped it up a notch by creating a dessert with the container I delivered to them.  From all family reports, preparing the quince sauce with crumbles and ice cream made it a lovely dessert.

And with that,  ooh la la, I see another quince has fallen from the tree . . . .

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Diagramming the Past Perfect "Had Had Had Had"

To create the past perfect of a verb, English speakers add "had" to the past tense of a verb. The past tense of the verb "have" is "had." That means the past perfect tense of "have" is "had had."

Thinking about "had had" long and hard at 3 a.m. this morning, because that's the sort of thing what keeps English professors up at night, I came up with an example sentence that uses the past perfect of "have" twice in a row and once more for good measure.  I then diagrammed that glorious sentence, added a few prepositional phrases to it, and diagrammed it again. Although this exercise might be the kind of thing to help most people fall asleep, it just excited me, and here I am writing about it four hours later.

Here's today's past perfect sentence diagramming challenge sentence:

He had had the special training, but the special training that he had had had had no effect on his ability to perform his job duties under pressure.

Step One: Separate the Clauses

Clause One (Independent): He had had the special training
Clause Two: (Independent): but the special training [that he had had] had had no effect on his ability to perform his job duties under pressure.
Clause Three: (Adjective Clause): that he had had

Step Two: Diagram the First Independent Clause

The subject of the first clause is "He," and the complete verb is "had had."  "The" and "special" modify the direct object, "training."

Step Three: Diagram the Second Independent Clause

Connect the first and second clauses at their verbs using the coordinating conjunction, "but."  The complete subject of the second clause is "the special training [that he had had]," the complete verb is "had had," and the object is "effect."  "No," and the string of phrases, "on his ability to perform his job duties under pressure" are modifiers (with modifiers).

Step Four: Diagram the Adjective Clause

"That he had had" modifies "training" in the subject of the second clause.  Therefore, as with all modifiers, it is diagrammed under the word it modifies.  Because it is a clause connected to a clause, it is connected with a dashed line.  Before it can be diagrammed, however, it must be rearranged.  The subject should appear first.  The rearranged clause, in standard subject-verb-object (SVO) order, reads "he had had that."

Do you have another challenging sentence that needs diagramming?  Give it a try or present it in the comments below!

Want to read more about diagramming sentences?  Try

Silly Sentence Saturday
Diagramming Pangloss: All Is for the Best in the Best of All Possible Worlds

Want to learn more about diagramming sentences?  

Take my complete online course, "Sentence Diagramming: From Beginner to Expert in 12 Lessons" on Udemy, or purchase my text, Diagramming Sentences: A Playful Way to Analyze Everyday Language (affiliate link) on Amazon.

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.