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Booklight: "Llamas and Sheep and Duct Tape - Oh My!"

It's January, and stores are overflowing with books professing to help with a fresh start in the new year, including inspiring and hilarious regional titles by quirky authors who understand that laughter is the best way to warm up on a sub-zero m...

by Kathryn Sletto
Publisher: Minnesota Historical Society Press 2010 Hardcover - $24.95

It's January, and stores are overflowing with books professing to help with a fresh start in the new year, including inspiring and hilarious regional titles by quirky authors who understand that laughter is the best way to warm up on a sub-zero midwinter day.

This month is the perfect time to unpack the trunk full of "maybe some days" and dust them off. That's exactly what author Kathryn A. Sletto and her family did, a story chronicled in her memoir "Keeping Watch: 30 Sheep, 24 Rabbits, 2 Llamas, 1 Alpaca, and a Shepherdess with a Day Job." Kathryn and her husband Terry were happily employed at a non-profit organization and a 3M plant, respectively, when Kathryn talked her husband into letting her purchase a few sheep in order to produce wool for spinning. At the time, the couple and their young son lived on a small hobby farm in Alexandria, Minn., but the idea of keeping animals as more than just pets was still a dream. Kathryn's love for adopting and caring for animals helped convince Terry to bring an entire herd of sheep into their lives, an

undertaking that eventually led Kathryn to quit her grant-writing job in order to be a full-time "shepherdess." The Sletto family's story is told in Kathryn's witty and descriptive voice. The memoir begins with the laugh-out-loud anecdote of "Gidget, the giddy camel" and delves into the joys, difficulties and humor that goes along with accumulating and caring for a family's motley menagerie. In a generation that has all but abandoned the family farm, the Sletto family shows it's possible to plant a dream and reap the harvest.

For self-improvement ideas a bit less dramatic than acquiring a herd of

livestock, pick up a copy of "How to do Everything: From the Man Who Should

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Know" by Red Green." Written in the random and conversational style familiar to fans of "The Red Green Show," this book is a mix of invaluable advice and hilarious solutions to life's most perplexing problems. In his "Use This, Not That" section, Green advises the use of a rubber mallet for car dent removal rather than a bowling ball. He gives detailed instructions for building a "bad gift weather station" using a men's suit rack, a moose thermometer, a hula girl tie, a singing fish, hair-restorer pills and a whoopie-cushion. He lets his readers in on what he calls important life lessons" such as "never drink hot coffee without your pants on" and a reminder that "nose hair is flammable." According to Green, following his useful advice can make for an all-around better you. "If you succeed in fixing the problem," Green writes in his introduction, "you gain a sense of accomplishment and self-reliance and are ready for the next obstacle. If you fail, you are willing to pay an expert without suspicion or remorse."

Both books make for a good read while snuggled under the warmth of winter

covers. On your next trip to the bookstore, pick up a copy of each and delve into a world of new (and sometimes hilarious) ideas.

by Red Green
Publisher: Doubleday Canada, 2010 Hardcover - $25.95

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The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.