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Amelia’s Picks Archives

Aroma Kitchen: Cooking with Essential Oils

Aroma Kitchen: Cooking with Essential Oils

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you can tell a lot about something by the way it smells! Pleasing aromas attract us. Foul-smelling fumes repel us. (I sure hope my brother Ellwood is reading this!) And that’s never truer than when talking about food. The sense of smell works paw-in-paw with the sense of taste to complete the eating experience (best finished with a long nap in front of a warm fireplace!). The authors of Aroma Kitchen: Cooking with Essential Oils understand this and will show you how to use fresh, local ingredients to incorporate scent in the form of essential oils, vinegars, butters, salts, syrups, honey, and sugars in your cooking. It’s a great way to optimize your meals without adding additional chemicals or fillers to your food. Set the olfactory senses to overdrive with recipes for appetizers, soups, entrees, desserts, and even drinks. These 78-plus recipes are so easy to follow, even I was tempted to try them. But then I realized I could break a nail or dirty my coat! Safer just to wait and see what falls from the table.

Chesapeake Play Day

Cathedrals Built by the Masons

I've never been to Europe, despite my pitiful, hinting whines whenever I see images of Paris on our TV. I dream of walking along the Seine, gazing up at Notre Dame and its glorious stained-glass windows and delightful gargoyles. This big, beautiful book is a little bit like a trip across the pond, as it showcases, in more than 240 photographs, thirty magnificent Old World cathedrals, all built by the Masons. I didn't know much about the Masons before I began my reading, but I quickly learned the Master Builders and I have something in common, despite the years that separate us: We love digging! While I like to dive right into dirt using my sturdy but elegant paws, these men used all sorts of simple but effective tools, which are also shown in the book. As one of my many accomplishments, I once supervised the building of a new house down the road. I'd march over every day to check on the progress. The men there used huge, scary and loud trucks and a bunch of high-pitched electrical instruments to get the job done. (Honestly, it was somewhat annoying as all the noise often interfered with my beauty naps.) But not these old-school builders. They just used axes and hammers and all sorts of interesting looking tools that I'll bet smelled good, too. Some of these tools had really great names: Log dogs and bench dogs! I only have one bone to pick with this book: Never did the author mention any dogs on the construction sites. I can't imagine that all that great work got done without a canine watching over things. But the author does say that many of the arches had what was called a "dog tooth" design, so it's clear the Masons did appreciate man's best friend, and gave us a nice architectural nod. Pick up this book for the architecture lover in your life, a friend who's a modern-day Mason, or anyone who appreciates traditional European style. I think you'll dig it, too!

Chesapeake Play Day

Chesapeake Play Day

While generally I prefer something a little meatier than a children's book, there are times when I feel compelled to read to my (far less intelligent but nonetheless dear) brother Angus, and he loves a good rhyming book–especially if it features dogs! This one is about two frisky puppies who set out for a day of adventure in Chesapeake country. They run all about, looking for new friends, but it seems everyone is busy either fishing, or catching crabs or heading out onto the water on a boat. Nobody has time to play with the puppies. Without spoiling the ending, the pups do find one place at last where everyone seems to be having a good time and is happy to see them. Zora Aiken is the book's author, and this is her sixth Schiffer book. I have all of them in my collection and turn to them regularly when I think Angus could use a little culture. The watercolor illustrations by David Aiken, her husband, are lovely, and I am hoping someone realizes that perhaps one of them would be a nice addition to the wall behind my crate. And please ante up for a nice gold frame.

Chesapeake Play Day

The Contemporary Art of Nature: Mammals

If there's one thing I'm sure about, it's that dogs and humans have more in common than they like to admit. Besides the fact that we've gotten along like BFFs for thousands of years, we're actually pretty closely related. Along with cats, squirrels, rabbits, fish...wait, I'm not sure about that last one...we're all mammals! If you too are a bit uncertain about classifying a particular species, and admire beautiful nature art, this collection of all-mammal paintings, bronze sculptures, wood carvings, mixed media, and more is the perfect addition to your art book library. Find creatures of the forest, farm animals, jungle cats, monkeys, whales—oh, we can't forget people!—in this unique, international survey. Together, nearly 100 artists strengthen the argument for placing, and keeping, "animal art" in the same category as high art. Enjoy images of giraffes, bears, and of course many gorgeous canine species (these folks have definitely done justice to my beautiful fox and wolf cousins), as well as stories of how a love and respect for animals has influenced the artists' style. (Hey! If anyone needs a model, you know where I live!) There's more to this book, though, than an overarching subject and amazing art work; a philosophy exists among this set of artists that animals and humans are all part of the same kingdom—Amen!—and that little guys and gals like me should be treated with respect. The artists featured in this book go above and beyond the call of duty in that regard; animal conservation (good!), animal exploitation (bad!), anthropomorphism (you can guess my feelings on that!), and just plain love of animals are all consistent themes. More than 500 pieces fill this important work. Show your support for fine art and even finer subjects by adding it to your collection.

Dare to Bake!: Cupcake Recipes to Awaken Your Sweet Tooth

Dare to Bake!: Cupcake Recipes to Awaken Your Sweet Tooth

The one time I walked by Ady Abreu’s bakery, there were a lot of people lined up, and the line was coming out the door onto the sidewalk. Those people were excited—their feet were twitching and dancing as they waited. I could smell that it was all about cupcakes. Guess what: thanks to this book, I can now enjoy that cupcake excitement right here on my own kitchen floor! Ady won the Cupcake Wars show on TV, you know. And her cupcakes are delish. There are 34 kinds here to make. One thing I like is that the recipes look easy to follow. (Which means even my people can make these.) Some of the recipes use my favorite foods, like the Peanut Butter Apple cupcakes, or the French Toast cupcakes. Others use things I don't eat as often, like coconut, mango, or basil, but Ady’s advice in the book is &rsquot;Be creative,&rsquot; so I’ll give them a try. I now keep this book right in the middle of the kitchen floor, to remind the people around here that they need to get baking. Maybe the Ham and Pineapple cupcakes...

Exit Wounds: Soldiers’ Stories—Life after Iraq and Afghanistan

Exit Wounds: Soldiers’ Stories—Life after Iraq and Afghanistan

If there's one thing that every red blooded American dog appreciates it's the fine men and women who serve in this county's military. So, I couldn't wait to see the images and read the interviews that Jim Lommasson has in his new book: Exit Wounds: Soldiers’ Stories—Life after Iraq and Afghanistan. Now I'm a deep feeling pooch and some of the stories made me just want to cuddle up to a veteran and let them know how much I care, because at the end of the day they do what they need to keep this country safe and I know that. So will anyone who picks up this book and takes the time to study the pictures that Jim and even some of the veterans took. When you pair them with the heartfelt and poignant interviews, it all makes for a book that anyone would be proud to add to their library. I know it will always have a special place here at the Book Farm and in my little heart.

Olly Explores 7 Wonders of the Chesapeake Bay

Olly Explores 7 Wonders of the Chesapeake Bay

When I first saw the cover for Olly Explores 7 Wonders of the Chesapeake Bay, I thought Olly the Oyster looked like a tasty snack. Then, when I opened up the book, it was like looking at a seafood menu! Inside the book I saw a blue crab, sand crab, rockfish, sea skate, and a yummy-looking snail! I almost chewed page one right from the spine, but when I got up close I saw a sentence that said: "I want to go on an adventure." I licked the slobber from my chops and thought I like adventures! I read the rest of the paragraph: "Olly couldn’t wait to find the wonders of the Chesapeake Bay." That’s when I remembered going on a car trip to the Chesapeake. My head hung out the window as my tongue lapped in the salty wind. I loved the Chesapeake Bay! I realized that Olly and I had a lot in common. So naturally, I wanted to learn more about the Chesapeake Bay from him. And let me tell you, I learned a lot! Olly is a really brave and smart oyster! Still, he’s also probably really delicious. I think I’ll...um...just take this book over here, and um, re-read it.

Paper Jewelry: 55 Projects for Reusing Paper

Paper Jewelry: 55 Projects for Reusing Paper

As a self-proclaimed bibliophile, I enjoy a fresh batch of paper—doesn't matter if it's a newspaper, magazine, or a well-worn book. But sometimes, my instincts get the better of me and the paper quickly turns to confetti via yours truly. That's why I am so happy with the new book Paper Jewelry: 55 Projects for Reusing Paper. Not only can I channel my energy into art, but I can also do my part to recycle paper into beautiful jewelry. The author Barbara Baumann did an excellent job providing detailed instructions and templates, along with colorful photography. She offers 55 nifty projects that range from necklaces to brooches and earrings to bracelets. My only guff is that I didn't find any projects for dog collars. I guess I'll just have to settle for a handmade necklace made of Reese's Pieces' wrappers.

Philadelphia Perspectives

Philadelphia Perspectives

If you’ve ever had brunch in Old City and seen the pampered pooches, nearly outnumbering the human patrons, luxuriating under umbrellas and enjoying the choicest scraps then you know Philadelphia is my kind of town. I scampered right up close when I saw that some of my favorite spots—Penn’s Landing, Rittenhouse Square, and Fairmount Park—are included in Antelo Devereux, Jr.’s Philadelphia Perspectives. Plus he photographed all the must-attend local events like the Thanksgiving Day and Mummer’s parades, and historic revolutionary war re-enactments. That cute rainbow-colored k-9 in the pride parade caught my eye, too, but I may not be his type. All in all this book highlights everything I and other locals love about Philadelphia and everything a visitor would want to remember about this warm, festive community.

Pinelands: New Jersey's Suburban Wilderness

Pinelands National Reserve

To tell you the truth, I’ve been getting a little bored lately with the parks my owners take me to. I mean, how many times can you mark the same trees? After you figure out the smelliest spots to roll in, like the edge of the pond where the wild geese land, it’s all downhill from there. That’s why I was thrilled to discover Pinelands, a slipcovered photo monograph of New Jersey’s distinctive Pine Barrens. Apparently it looks and feels (and smells) strikingly different from other forests, with its peculiar combination of sand, reddish-black streams, pines, oaks, orchids, and stream-side savannahs. Photographer Albert Horner documented this vast place over many years and in all seasons to “spark curiosity and desire.” Oh yes, I can almost taste it. I wasn't quite sure about a few of the quotes from people like Edward Abbey and Ralph Waldo Emerson that accompany some of the full-page photos. Like one by John Keats that says, “The poetry of the earth is never dead.” What does that even mean? But there is one Shakespeare quote I can relate to: “I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.” That’s what I’m talking about.

The Psychic Workbook: Tools and Techniques to Develop Reliable Insight

The Psychic Workbook: Tools and Techniques to Develop Reliable Insight

Everyone knows that dogs are psychic, and we take every opportunity to practice our skills on our human companions. The problem with this effort is that most humans are not practicing natural, every-day gifts given to them from the psychic world! They just don't know how to communicate back to us (or to anyone else) beyond what they think they know! Now I ask you, how many times do I have to project my need for a treat before a human stops asking me, "Do you want a treat? Do you want a treat?" Short answer: YES! Give me that darn treat! Well, this book is for everyone out there who wants to take his or her communications skills to the next level—the psychic level—turning hunches into real psychic awareness. You will learn all about psychic seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling, tasting, and knowing! (Tasting is one of my personal favorites.) But it doesn't stop there: you don't only learn about; you learn to do. This book is made for you to write in, use the charts, make special notes, and go from step to step until....well, until you're there! The author tells stories so that you can relate to each part of the mind she will be training you to understand. There are exercises to complete, tips to think about, tools and techniques to move you forward...and games to play. Everyone likes a good game! So get out of your rut. Use your mind to its fullest capacity. Start with The Psychic Workbook! Oh, and in case you've forgotten: Yes, I still want that treat!

Seeking Bigfoot

Seeking Bigfoot

To begin, let me say that this book has a hard cover, so it won't be as easy to chew up. That can be a problem for some of us. But I'm afraid there are concerns that are even more disturbing to any self-respecting dog (or person). I thought this would be a good comfy story to hear my brothers tell me on a stormy night. It's worse. It's not a story. This book talks about the creature called Bigfoot and how the evidence stacks up about him being real or not—with lots of sightings suggesting that he's not only real, but he is all over North America—even right here where I live in Pennsylvania! Bigfoot can be found in almost every state, so don't think you are safe. The book is not a rehash of historic sightings—it's contemporary from the years 2000 through 2015 in 47 US states and 6 Canadian provinces. I've never personally seen him and I can't find his poop, but after reading Seeking Bigfoot, I'm thinking that's a good thing. People are out there hunting this guy (if you want to know who, you'll find out in this book)—crazy, right? And guess what else? He's big (thus Big-foot). I'm thinking his feet might be big, too, but that's just me taking a guess. I'm not usually afraid of anything, but this guy is part of that whole "tear your head off" group of monsters—at least that’s what some say. Others think he is a teddy bear...I'm holding judgment. People call him lots of things, Skunk Ape being one. I don't like the sound of that one bit. I've found skunks to have...issues with me. I think I'm going to start with the huge section in the book that talks about all the fictional films or the TV documentaries on this guy. I'm much too young to be out there as lunch meat for this hairy thing. So all in all, I suggest you read Seeking Bigfoot, but be wary as you read this book—I mean, what if...

The Signs of Lancaster County: A Photographic Tour of Amish Country

Signs of Lancaster County: A Photographic Tour of Amish Country

I'm always up for a car ride, preferably with the windows down and my nose pointing into the wind. That's why I like Signs of Lancaster County, a photographic journey through the fragrant farmland and quaint villages of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania's Amish country. The idiosyncratic roadside signs tell a colorful story of the region's cottage industries, local trades, and one-room schoolhouses, not to mention seasonal treats such as homemade root beer, blueberries "fresh from our own patch," free-range eggs, and artisan cheeses. Yes, I hear my owners using those words—but wait, what's this? Horse wash? Mom's shoe garden? Silo doors for sale? Author Tana Reiff's commentary is amusing, too. As she explains a sign, "In case you're wondering, a fry pie is a deep-fried, hand-held pastry with icing on top. While you're here, you could also pick up a bunny." For me, I think I'll follow my nose to the farm where a sign tacked onto a telephone pole promises homemade soft ice cream and soft pretzels. If your sense of smell isn't as keen as mine, you could always check the book's map showing the area where the photos were taken. Bon appetit!

The SFP LookBook Atelier to Runway

The SFP LookBook Atelier to Runway: New York Fashion Week Spring 2015

It took me a while to get into The SFP LookBook: Atelier to Runway. Literally. I kept getting distracted by the glitter falling from the sky on the cover! It looks so fun, I wanted to play with it! Which actually isn’t that different than the book itself. If you’re a human who gets as excited about the runway as I do about the koi pond, this book is going to get you amped up to play with fashion. All the clothes and makeup coming up and down the runway, which, let’s be honest, looks like a really slow, fancy game of fetch, can inspire you to get creative with your own wardrobe. You know, if you like to wear clothes. Plus, you really get to spend time with the designers, makeup artists, and hair stylists as they work. The only down side of this book was that all the shoes made me really hungry.

Southwestern Indian Bracelets: The Essential Cuff

Southwestern Indian Bracelets: The Essential Cuff

I love shiny things, and I love jewelry, so I was especially excited to see this new book on cuff bracelets created by American Indians of the Southwest. In the introduction, the authors note that the bracelets are prized because they are beautiful and make their wearers look and feel good and because they signify prosperity, status, and taste. I mean, "Hello!?" These are all things that appeal to me even more than a night watching Animal Planet with a good bottle of Evian. Honestly, I think I actually started drooling (like my gross brother Angus!) as I was pouring over the more than 360 color photos that show the history of this art form and how it’s changed since it all began way back in 1868. I can only ask: "Why hasn't someone figured out a way to turn a cuff into a collar?" Think of how that silver and turquoise would pop off my black and white coat. Wait. I’ve got it! I’ll just use this book as a handy reference guide and order up some vintage cuffs from eBay next time everyone’s out for a walk and then I’ll bury them in the backyard in my secret stash! Diva-lightful!

 Stars & Stripes: The American Flag in Contemporary Art

Stars & Stripes: The American Flag in Contemporary Art

The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. Summer sun, burgers on the grill, and a very special red, white, and blue collar and leash splashed with stars and stripes that, if I do say so myself, look splendid against my glossy black and white coat: Yarrooo! It's great to be an American canine. So I was particularly inclined to spend some time with this book, packed with about 350 images of the American flag. Works from sixty-four artists from all across the world are featured, and, even better, the artists tell us the stories behind these works—what inspired them, and what their processes were. I consider myself a bit of an artist, too, with a bent toward organic contemporary abstracts in the mediums of sand, mud, and grass, and I really loved digging into the ideas in other creative minds, even if those minds happened to belong to humans, who as a species generally tend to be just a little bit too restrained for my tastes. These artists delightfully surprised me, showing an almost dog-like freedom to express themselves clearly and with unguarded emotion. A couple of my faves included a fun peace symbol made with tons of little painted toy soldiers glued to a wood panel (Pax Americana by Steven Gagnon) and a sculpture using hockey sticks and pucks titled Oh Say Can You Scream (Victoria Fuller). Artist Jamie McCartney made a sculpture called Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of War—I don't think I need to tell you why that one had special appeal. Another artist, Keith Norval, who grew up in Zimbabwe and became an American citizen in 2000, had some whimsical and colorful works featuring an occasional adorable head of a dog. The whole thing just makes me want to run out and find a flag flapping in the breeze so I can bark up a storm of enthusiasm. Go Old Glory, and let freedom (and the dinner bell, please) ring!

Stills, Skulls & Skeletons: Medical Photography and Symbolism

Stiffs, Skulls & Skeletons: Medical Photography and Symbolism

Okay, so I admit at first I wasn't completely excited about the idea of looking at photos of dead people, but I just have a thing for bones of any sort, so I couldn't help myself. Plus, I also admit that I am just a tiny bit addicted to watching The Knick on Cinemax because I just love anything with lots of drama and especially any show that takes place in New York City, my favorite spot for a day of shopping (thank goodness Polo Ralph Lauren and Bergdorf are both "pet friendly"!). The book is by Dr. Stanley Burns and his daughter Liz, and I knew, because I met him at our company picnic, that Dr. Burns is a historical consultant for the show who also has the biggest collection of early medical and historical photography in the world. So I took a peek. My peek turned into an afternoon of wide-eyed exploration. With more than 400 rare photographs, this book took me straight into the nineteenth century's fascination with the dead body and body parts. I studied postmortem and dissection photos, autopsy images, and X-ray studies. I pondered all the silly humans who used to have their photos taken with skulls for a variety of reasons. Did you know when people graduated from medical school they used to have their photo taken with a dissected corpse just for fun? I didn't either. My only complaint with this book is it left me feeling a teensy bit hungry. Maybe someone could throw me a bone?

Tigers in the Ardennes

Tigers in the Ardennes: The 501st Heavy SS Tank Battalion in the Battle of the Bulge

One of my favorite activities is chasing vehicles, but I rarely have the time with my exhausting schedule. Now, with our new book Tiger’s in the Ardennes: The 501st Heavy SS Tank Battalion in the Battle of the Bulge, though, I can at least read and then dream about chasing the ultimate vehicle. Greg Walden has written a vivid account of how Tiger tanks made their way through the Ardennes region in Europe...so many trees...oh, sorry... during one of the pivotal battles of World War II. I was amazed to see all the great photos which have never been in a book before and read firsthand accounts of what those in the 501st went though. The books is really so good at helping even dogs (or people) who don’t know a lot about that time in history or tanks understand what a big role they played and how they operated, too. So if I’m sleeping and my legs are moving you can bet I’m dreaming of chasing one down!

Two Scoops of Hooah!: The T-Wall Art of Kuwait and Iraq

Two Scoops of Hooah!: The T-Wall Art of Kuwait and Iraq

I must admit I was a bit disappointed when Two Scoops of Hooah! had nothing to do with a new brand of dog food. However, when I started looking inside, I realized that I knew some of the canines that were over there and had served the US and defended our troops! I was sad to hear that all of these walls are now gone—I would have liked to have sniffed a few, get some history—but it's great that George Hauer has collected all of them here for the world to see a part of what it was like to be in the Gulf War. I also like that he’s giving a portion of the money to his wonderful charity for veterans called Operation Music Aid.