Square Foot Gardening

If you've ever wondered how you're going to be able to grow vegetables, flowers or herbs in the tiny bit of your yard that has sun this book is pretty darn good.

I live in a forest and have fought with trees, roots, weeds and critters for years. Finally a solution that meets my needs. I had already been gardening in boxes for some veggies, but this book takes it all a step further with recommendations for soil that holds moisture, provides good nutrition and easy made covers to protect the plants from critters, sun and cold.

The plant spacing section alone has helped me plant more in my existing boxes. It all sounds so obvious when you read it, but in truth it would probably have taken me another few years to realise I could plant this way. I almost bought the previous issue of this book, but talked myself out of it. A dopey move, but at the time I didn't realise how good it was. Even the kids have got behind this, I think in part because they can see themselves making the boxes thanks to the step by step pictures and understandable shopping lists.

This book really empowers you no matter how hard up you are. Simple clear language makes it an easy read, which is really important to me as I don't have a lot of time between training dogs homeschooling 2 teens and running a couple of home businesses.

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Artistic Fitness

I found this book whilst helping my son look for Manga drawing books. Both of us are avid artists, but just lately I've found myself with an artistic block on pencil drawing. This little book has helped get me over that hurdle by taking away the need to look for inspiration in the things around me.

A bit like a physical fitness workout routine the exercises are laid out for you with just enough guidelines that it leaves you with a free will to make mistakes that you can correct by going back over the exercise and not having the pressure that the squirrel moved at the crucial point. I can take this book anywhere with just a couple of pencils and a small art pad. I've taken it to the hospital waiting for an appointment, to my kids soccer games, waiting rooms, even to bed and completed a drawing just before going to sleep. OK, it's my way of relaxing.

It has all sorts of subjects for different personalities fruit to cars to mythology. I've actually drawn things I would never have touched and surprised myself at how much I liked drawing fantasy creatures. And that block, well it's not gone yet , but it is fading slowly.

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The Photoshop Elements X Book

If you have a digital camera, you need Adobe Photoshop to get the best from it.

But if (like me) you can't afford the full version of Photoshop, Adobe's Photoshop Elements is the next best thing.

And if you use Photoshop Elements, then you should look at this book. It will definitely change the way you think and use Photoshop.

Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski provide a comprehensive how to guide which unapologetically does not waste space covering the basics of digital photography (as covered in too many other books). Instead it starts from the assumption that the photograph is taken, and that your mission is to turn that photograph into a masterpiece. It provides straightforward and easy-to-follow instructions on how to correct and crop your photographs, perform digital darkroom techniques such as dodging and burning, fix colors and flesh tones, remove blemishes, compensate for distortion and vignetting, and so on.

Adobe's online help files and tutorials were good, but they really didn't help me figure out all the things I could do with Photoshop Elements. This book has saved me countless hours and helped me get the best out of the product.

(These books get updated with  every version of Photoshop Elements - they don't change much so if you don't mind slightly out-of-date screenshots, getting one for a previous version is significantly cheaper.)

(Click on the image for more information about this book.)