Category Archives: DIY

Vertical Vegetables by Amy Andrychowicz

cover artVertical Vegetable: Simple Projects that Deliver More Yield in Less Space is a great book for everyone interested in gardening, if you have a balcony, a small yard or even if you have a large garden but want to grow more with the same size garden. Many of the ideas are not only functional, they are very decorative.

Vertical Vegetables is wonderfully illustrated with very detailed instructions. Some of the projects are very simple others would require some construction skills. I love that each project has a detailed material list, a list that shows the exact length of each piece of material needed, also pictures of each step of the building process. Andrychowicz also goes into selecting the right plants and the maintenance required.

This is the author’s first book. She has had a website,, for some years and she has many followers and encouragement to write the book. Her website is nice with good ideas.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Shelley Clark
Rating:  Recommended

The Foodscape Revolution by Brie Arthur

The book is a somewhat different take on the edible landscape concept, mixing ornamentals with edibles, instead of rows of raised beds with vegetables separate from ornamental gardens. The author is mainly writing for people living in suburban subdivisions with homeowners associations, whose rules they must follow. I live in a heavily wooded rural area and have never lived in a subdivision, so I have never had that problem, but I can see that it would be a problem for many people. I still found some interesting ideas in the book.

Foodscape Revolution is a easy to understand step by step gardening book. It covers different zones in your yard and what to plant there. I believe the book is a good resource for beginning to moderately experienced gardeners in a suburban area, and some great ideas for others also.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Shelley Clark
Rating: Recommended

The Clean Eating Slow Cooker by Linda Larsen

This is a good starter cookbook for someone wanting to cut back on processed foods and artificial ingredients. It also has the convenience of using a slow cooker. The recipes have ingredients that are easy to find. One drawback might be that the recipes are for 6 to 8 people, although there is section where the author does give directions for adjusting for different quantities.

The book has a nice introduction with easily understood information. It is divided into 10 chapters, Clean and Slow/ Stocks, Broths, and Sauces/ Beans and Grains/ Breakfast and Brunch/ Sides/ Soups and Stews/ Vegetables and more Vegetables/ Seafood and Poultry/ Pork and Beef/ Apps and Sweets. Each recipe is labeled as to whether it is “Dairy-Free”, “Gluten-Free”,
“Nut-Free”, and “Vegetarian-Vegan”. I did see some interesting recipes like Savory Basil Oatmeal, Tex-Mex Kale with Garlic, and Nutty Baked Apples.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Shelley Clark
Rating: Recommended

Grow Something Different To Eat By Matthew Biggs

grow something different to eat coverGreat book, a must read for beginning and experienced gardeners or anyone interested in strange and different foods. I have grown some of the plants listed in the book, like Shiso, Hyacinth beans, Goji berries and a few others. But there are many plants that I have never heard of, like spelanthes, and Turkish orange eggplant.

The book is laid out well, and begins with very simple general growing instructions. Each plant has a “Quick guide” and step by step instructions. Also included are cooking tips and how to preserve them. Gardening levels are given for each plant, so if you are a beginner you can choose level 1 plants.
The book has a nice supplier section at the end, but it does have one drawback. There is no reference in the plant section to let you know which plant comes from which supplier. Yes, I’m
planning on growing some of the plants like strawberry spinach and Oregon grape, but I
had to do an internet search to find the sources. But I still love the book.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Shelley Clark
Rating:  Must Read
Challenge: a book published in 2018

Mason Jar Nation by JoAnn Moser

Mason Jar Nation

Mason Jar Nation: The Jars that Changed America and 50 Clever Ways to Use Them Today is very well researched with an extensive history of canning jars. Who would have thought that canning jars were invented because of a challenge issued by Napoleon. The history is great. Mason jars really did do a lot to change America, amazing.

The craft section of the book is great, recipes are included, each with their own individual history. The crafts range from very simple children’s crafts and easy ideas for adults to more complex and requiring some skills with tools. There are very cute gift jar ideas and crafts like Moonbeam Stakes, Moroccan Lantern Trio, Sparkling Outdoor Chandelier and many others.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Shelley Clark
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: A book published by a small press


Fishing the Chesapeake by Lenny Rudow

Fishing the Chesapeake

I tend to stick to novels and books of short stories in my reviews, but in light of an impending move to Maryland I have been a) really busy and can’t binge novels, and b) have been obsessing over fishing the Bay once more. It is in that context that I have poured over Lenny Rudow’s Fishing the Chesapeake with the same level of rigor and belief a conspiracy theorist brings to dissecting the illuminati symbols in Beyoncé’s “Lemonade.” I’ll be posting two other fishing-book reviews, but I’m starting with Rudow because this is the all around best book on fishing the Chesapeake I’ve found.

Rudow’s guide is a wealth of information about any and everything related to fishing the Chesapeake. Part I gives a detailed overview of all the different MD and VA tributaries and bay-proper waters from the Connowingo Dam south to the CBBT. Pat II is an impressive breakdown of tips and tricks surrounding various tactics– from trolling to chumming to jigging. Part III adds some filler by describing the various species of fish. I found this last section a bit tedious– nothing too eye-opening, but still fun to read once you’ve read and re-read all of Parts I and II.

The most useful aspect of this book, by a country mile, are Rudow’s detailed “hotspots” for each and every section of the bay. These are labeled on reproduced depth charts and then narrated in the descriptions. For example, I’m dying to get out to “The Puppy Hole” to the west of Janes Island in the Tangier Sound. The maps are a bit hard to read and the labeling system is downright confounding— but if you’re willing to squint and cock your head to the side, you’ll figure it out. You’ll need more accurate and recent charts to safely navigate the waters— I wouldn’t rely on the book for that.

Tight lines, as the fisherfolk say–

Availability:  USMAI, COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Shane D. Hall
Rating:  Highly Recommended

Crocheted Scoodies by Magdalena Melzer and Ann Thiemeyer

Crocheted Scoodies
A scoodie is a combination of a scarf and a hoodie. They are very cute. This book was originally written in German and translated into English.

US and British instructions are included in the book. It lists German yarn, and doesn’t include the US weights, but there are very good pictures in the book so you can tell by the pictures that most of the scoodies are done in bulky or super bulky yarn, a couple are of medium weight. Most of the patterns are rated at a difficulty of 1 or 2. Don’t let the fact that the book is translated from German or doesn’t list US yarn weights from trying some of these beautiful projects.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Shelley Clark
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: Book published by a small press. A translated book.