Friday, June 30, 2017

June 2017 in Books

Space Case - Stuart Gibbs - Juvenile Fiction - four stars - This is another of Ellie's battle books.  It's set in the future, and the main character is a boy named Dash whose family is chosen to be one of the first families to populate a moon colony.  One of the team members dies, and he's convinced that it was murder vice an accident.  He sets out to prove that he's right and adventure follows.  This was a fun one and a great book for boys.  It's also the first in a series, and the author has published a number of other books too that we'll be checking out.

The Orphan's Tale - Pam Jenoff - Historical Fiction - five stars - I really enjoyed this one, it's another WWII story about two women who are thrown together, one a Jew named Astrid, the other, Noa, rescues a baby from a train car filled with Jewish babies in a transport.  Much of the story takes place in a circus as Astrid is an aerialist and must teach Noa to perform.  It was a wonderful story, a lot of sadness, but also hope and some surprises too.  Really enjoyed it and will be reading more from this author.

The Last Days of Cafe Leila - Donia Bijan - Fiction - five stars - The story of a woman who returns to Iran after many years having been sent away by her father when she was a teenager for the United States.  Her marriage has just ended and he daughter is pushing her away, but she brings her anyway.  When she returns, she finds her father is dying and she learns the story behind her mother's death.  It's a story about reconnecting with your roots, finding yourself, healing past hurts and relationships, and friendship.  While I wasn't crazy about the ending, I loved the story and the journey.

The World of Yesterday - Stefan Zweig - Nonfiction - four stars - This book took me FOREVER, and I really debated what rating to give it.  It's the autobiography of an Austrian Jewish writer/playwright who lived 1881-1942.  It was referenced by Astrid Lindgren in her war diaries, and I thought it sounded interesting, so I borrowed it from the library.  This book is not for the faint of heart, it is downright boring for the first 100 or so pages when he's describing his youth.  It gets much more interesting once he starts working and as Europe progressed through pre-WWI, WWI, and WWII, but it is basically source material.  As I said, I was torn because while it was a slog and at times bored me to tears, there were all these fascinating accounts and facts, things that you'd never hear about when you are quickly studying WWI in school, but just as we in the US go very in depth into U.S. History, he knows all the details about Austrian history.  This took me about three weeks to read, and I always had another book going because I needed the break from it.  The codicil to this tome is that shortly after he finished it, he and his wife committed suicide, so viewed from that lens it's even more interesting.

Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of Room 11 - N. Griffin - juvenile fiction - three stars - This is another of Ellie's battle books.  This one was just OK.  It's definitely geared towards the rising third graders (the battle is for fourth and fifth graders), definitely not my favorite, but for kids in the age range, it will keep their attention.

Forty Autumns:  A Family's Story of Courage and Survival on Both Sides of the Berlin Wall - Nina Wilner - Nonfiction - five stars - I really enjoyed this one.  It's the story of the author's mother and her family.  Her mother fled East Germany and it's a great look at the repercussions for her family who remained behind, their communication, or lack thereof, during the ensuing years, and how things changed in East Germany throughout that period - good times and bad times.  This was very readable, lots of facts, but not at all boring or hard to get through.  Highly recommend it!

Tentacles - Roland Smith - Juvenlie Fiction - five stars - This is the sequel to one of Ellie's Battle Books from the last round (Cryptid Hunters).  We both loved that book and this is just as enjoyable. Marty and Grace, along with Marty's friend Luther set out on an expedition with their uncle to catch a giant squid.  Of course they are being chased by Noah Blackwood, and there are saboteurs on board as well.  Plenty of twists and turns, and we're both looking forward to the next book in the series.

Rich People Problems - Kevin Kwan - Fiction - five stars - This is the third book in the Crazy Rich Asians series, and just as good as the others.  It's a look into the world of very elite and wealthy Asians.  I know no one who even closely qualifies for this category so I have to take the author's word, but it sounds crazy enough to be true.  In this book, the matriarch of the family suffers a heart attach and is near death, so back home come all the relatives, some to make amends, some to ensure their stake in the family fortune, some to say goodbye.  Very funny and very entertaining.

A few folks also indicated that they were interested in a full list of Ellie's Battle Books, so here you go.  I think the librarian at Ellie's school does a really good job picking these.  He balances the level of reading so that the reading level spans fourth to fifth grade, makes them interesting for both girls and boys, and also chooses books in a variety of genres (poetry, historical fiction, detective, science fiction, etc.).  I also love that many of the books are parts of series, so there's lots of opportunity for further reading.

Operation Redwood, S. Terrell French
Einstein the Class Hamster, Juliet Blackwell
Benjamin Franklinstein Lives!, Matthew McElligott
Jack Strong Takes a Stand, Tommy Greenwald
Heartbeat, Sharon Creech
Dash, Kirby Larsen
The Liberation of Gabriel King, K. I. Going
The Terrible Two, Mac Barnett and Jory John (at least one sequel to this)
I, Q., Roland Smith (we love this whole series)
The Batboy, Mike Lupica
Sea of Trolls, Nancy Farmer (This is the first in a trilogy all of which were good)
The Red Blazer Girls, Michael D. Beil
Silverwing, Kenneth Oppel (Also a trilogy and all very good)
How They Choked, Georgia Bragg (this is probably my least favorite Battle Book)
Redwall, Brian Jacques (A series with many books, I’ve read a bunch more and enjoyed them all)
The Map Trap, Andrew Clements
First Light, Rebecca Steed
The Secret Box, Whitaker Ringwald (Also a series, Ellie has read the second one, but I haven’t gotten to it yet)
Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief, Wendelin Van Draanen
Iron Thunder, Avi
Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld (also a series)
Moonshadow: Rise of the Ninja, Simon Higgins (I think this one has sequels too)
Travel Team, Mike Lupica
Pugs of the Frozen North, Philip Reeve
Roller Girl, Victoria Jamieson
Lowji Discovers America, Candace Fleming
All the Answers, Kate Messner
Cryptid Hunters, Roland Smith (Also a series)
Home Sweet Motel (Welcome to Wonderland, #1), Chris Grabenstein (Also a series)
Gregor the Overlander (Underland Chronicles, #1), Suzanne Collins (Also a series)
Space Case, Stuart Gibbs 
Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of Room 11, N. Griffin 
Dream on Amber, Emma Sheva
Oliver and the Sea Monkeys, Philip Reeve
A Whole New Ballgame, Phil Bildner

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Altenew June Inspiration Challenge

Hey everyone!  I've got another challenge card to share.  I don't get to play along with challenges as much as I'd like these days, so two in two days is pretty darn good.

This time I'm playing along with Altenew's June Inspiration Challenge.

I've been eyeing the Floral Shadow stamp set for a while, and finally picked it up this month and just had to use it right away.

I stamped and clear embossed several of the images on a watercolor panel, and then added watercolor.  This was done with just three colors, really mostly two, a brown a purplish pinkish color, and then later a darker purple just for some accents.  In terms of application rather than a lot of brushing, it was more light dabbing and touching color to the panel and then adding water to soften if needed.

I worked in layers, adding color, letting things dry or soften and then going back and adding more.  When you build up the color in layers you can get a really rich and still luminous effect.

Once I was happy with the overall color, I added some splatter using the two main colors.

The sentiment is from label love, and I popped it up over a bit of thread and added some sequins for some sparkle and texture.

Hope you like it!

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ellen Hutson Pin-Sights Challenge, Beyoutiful

Hey guys!  Summer is underway and it's been a bit crazy here as I've been prepping for camps and vacation and release week at Neat & Tangled (which is next week!).  BUT, I really wanted to find some time to play along with the current Ellen Hutson Pin-Sights challenge, I really loved the pinboard.

I had a whole other idea, but it turned into a hot mess that just wasn't salvageable, so I went back to the basics and created a very CAS card instead.

I really wanted to use my new Wonky Backdrops background that I picked up during the recent summer sale.

To get the gradient effect, I used my MISTI and several colors of Altenew inks (Mango Smoothie, Peach Perfect, and Frosty Pink), inking the background stamp with each and then softening it by dabbing my ink blending tool against it so I achieved a soft transition.  This was repeated a few times with each color until I achieved the right amount of coverage, then I switched to the next color and repeated.  I also had to move the background down halfway through to continue the pattern.  At the very bottom I wanted a bit of a brighter pink, so I added just a hint of Picked Raspberry Distress Ink, using the same technique as previously described.

The sentiment was cut from adhesive black foam, and I finished it off with some clear sequins.

That's all for me today, hope your week is going well!

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

End of the Year Cards

Hi everyone!  I've not been the greatest blogger this month.  Life has definitely gotten it's claws into me.  I know a lot of you are done with school, but we here in Arlington, VA are holding on to the.very.last.minute.  We'll be done on Friday, so we're in the thick of end of school events.  Spring sports concluded this past weekend so we get a bit of a breather from that, but Ellie goes away to her very first sleep away came on Sunday (eek!!!) and then we'll have a family vacation, and the July Neat & Tangled release is just around the corner so I'm working that too.  Needless to say, it's been busy.

Luckily, one of the things I needed to cross off my list are teachers cards, so I actually have something to blog.

Since I've been pressed for time, I kept things very simple.  I really love this Altenew teacher set, and using the MISTI I was able to knock out both cards quickly and easily.

I didn't want to spend too much time, so I picked a subtle grid pattern to stamp on, this allows me to basically lave the panel blank without it looking too stark.  The size and boldness of the main image balance the white space.  I also cut the panel a little smaller than I normally would and added a coordinating cardstock mat and patterned paper mat to cut down on that white space and make the card seem 'fuller' if that makes sense.

For a little extra interest and dimension the teacher sentiment was embossed on black cardstock and popped up.

I only made two, but this is an easily mass producible design when you have the MISTI on your side.

That's all for me today.  Hope your end of school/summer is going well!

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Masking and Faux Masking - One Card, Four Ways

Hey everyone!  I'm sharing some cards over on the Neat & Tangled blog today.

I set out to make a really simple card using my new Welcome Home set, and ended up making four.

I started by stamping the sign image on masking paper and then fussy cutting it to place over the stamped image on my actual panel.  I also added masking tape (I'll link to it below) around the edges of the panel.  Then I did some simple blending.  Once that was done, I added the sentiments, adhered it to the base and done.

Then, I thought I would try a different method of masking that I haven't done in a while, using Frisket masking fluid.  The image was stamped on watercolor paper using Versafine, then I added the Frisket and waited for it to dry.  Once dry, I added some simple watercoloring.  After that was fully dry, I carefully rubbed the Frisket off and popped the panel up on the card base with foam tape.

Not everyone has Frisket, and there's a lot of waiting around for things to dry with the prior technique, so I thought I would try to fake it with watercolors.  In this next card, I simply watercolored around the image.  Before I started, I wet all the background areas with water and then worked quickly to add the watercolor making sure that the edges stayed wet as I went.  You do need to work quickly with this method which is why I stuck with just one color.

Once it was dry, I felt like it needed a pop, so I carefully traced around the image with a Copic marker to set it off from the background, and then I popped the entire panel up on the card base.

Finally, I wanted to try and recreate the crisp cleanness of the initial masked image with Copics, but I thought that it would be too tough to do the blending in the middle of the panel, so I opted for a simpler look, blending to a lighter color on the edges of the panel.

For this one I also went in with that slightly darker shade of color around the edges of the image to make it pop.

So four different ways to achieve that masked look.

One more thing, just wanted to let you all know that there's a great sale happening over at Ellen Hutson right now, 15% off the store through Saturday using code summerfun, so if there's something you've been wanting, now's a great time to pick it up.  This is my affiliate link if you feel so inclined:

Thanks for stopping by and hope you are having a great week!

Affiliates Links to Ellen Hutson below and to Neat & Tangled in embedded links in post.