Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February 2017 in Books

This month is kind of up and down in terms of books.  I read some really fantastic books and some that were a disappointment and a slog to get through. Here's the recap:

We Are All Made of Stars - by Rowan Coleman - fiction - 5 stars - I loved this book.  I picked it up off the new shelf at the library on a whim and I'm so glad I did.  There are lots of interweaving stories going on, but the linchpin is Stella, a nurse at a hospice who befriends the patients there, helps them write final letters to loved ones, and is also dealing with her crumbling marriage to her husband who came home from Afghanistan wounded.  There is a lot of sadness here, but also healing and hope.

The Secret Keeper - by Kate Morton - fiction - 4 stars - While her mother is dying, Laurel returns home and tries to unravel a mystery about her mother's past regarding a violent incident she witnessed when she was 17.  I've read several of Kate's books.  Usually they are 5 stars, this one dragged a little for me.  It just seemed a bit more plodding in terms of the progression.  I think it was the real time interactions with Laurel and her siblings.  I kind of just wanted to get back to the story and that mystery more than present day.  Definitely still worth the read, but just not as great as her other books.

Moonshadow:  Rise of the Ninja - by Simon Higgins - juvenile fiction - 4 stars - This is one of Ellie's Battle Books.  I thought it was a good story, it's about a boy who is raised by an order of Ninjas and must complete a mission.  I liked that it talked about the hero having to make choices/follow his gut, and that even under difficult circumstances he allowed the good in him to prevail.  This one wasn't Ellie's favorite, but I think if you have boys they would like it.

Once We Were Brothers - by Ronald H. Balson - historical fiction - 5 stars - Such a good book.  About a man in Chicago, present day, who recognizes a boy his family took in who then betrayed the family during the Holocaust, and his quest to see that man brought to justice.  It was a really interesting look at how someone who started off good, was corrupted by the Nazis and turned on those he loved.

The Paris Architect - by Charles Belfoure - historical fiction - 5 stars - Another WWII story about an architect who designed hiding spaces for Jews during the war.  He starts off being in it only for the money, but along the way changes.  I really enjoyed the descriptions of the hiding places, and where he put them, and his transformation.

Chickens in the Road - by Suzanne McMinn - non-fiction - 4 stars - This was a random book I picked out of one of those Free Little Libraries.  It's about a woman who, after divorcing her husband of many years, goes back to her roots, buying a farm in West Virginia with her then significant other and tries to make a go of living on a farm.  She collects all sorts of animals, learns to milk, make cheese, can, etc.  It was a really interesting story about totally changing the way you live, and remaking yourself.

Travel Team - by Mike Lupica - juvenile fiction - 4 stars - Another of Ellie's Battle Books.  About a boy named Danny Walker who is an amazing basketball player, but also very short.  He doesn't make the travel team, and his famous (also short) dad who is somewhat estranged comes back into town to reconnect, and ends up coaching a second travel team for others who didn't make the team.  Obviously this one is more geared towards boys, but Ellie seemed to really like this one too.  She tried out for the hockey travel team in the fall and didn't make it, so I think this resonated with her.  I also liked how much the boy worked at getting better and being better, something I feel like is a great message for kids these days, and also how he learned responsibility and good sportsmanship.

The Baroness:  The Search for Nica, the Rebellious Rothschild - by Hannah Rothschild - biography - 3 stars - I really wanted to like this book.  I've heard a lot about the Rothschilds from other books and thought this would be interesting.  It was a little bit.  I enjoyed the part about her growing up and what she did during the war, but most of the books seemed more centered on her life after the war.  She leaves her husband/children, moves to New York City, hangs out with jazz artists, one dies in her suite.  I don't know.  It really just dragged for me.  

Pugs of the Frozen North (A Not So Impossible Tale) - by Philip Reeve - juvenile fiction - 4 stars - One of Ellie's Battle Books, this was a very short read, kind of a fantasy story about a boy who gets trapped near the North Pole with 66 pugs.  I know, sounds weird.  I feel like this one is a good level below many of the other Battle Books, and maybe is on the list so that students that are less into reading can participate.  I feel like it is more suited to Carina than Ellie, but it's a cute story.  

Roller Girl - by Victoria Jamieson - juvenile graphic novel - 4 stars - Another of Ellie's Battle Books, this one is a graphic novel, so a really quick read.  It's about a girl who goes to see a roller derby and then decides she wants to learn how to do that.  It turns out to be a lot harder than she thought, meanwhile she is also dealing with issues with her best friend.  I liked that it dealt with the friendship stuff....we are starting to deal with girl drama with Ellie, so it's nice to have points of reference for discussion.  I also like how she thinks roller derby will be so easy and she can pick it up quickly, but it's really hard work and perseverance that makes her better.  There were a couple things I didn't care for, including that a mean girl calls Astrid (the main character) Ass-Turd.  It's kind of minor, but it's one of those things where I feel like they could have used some other mean term that isn't so edgy and it would have been fine.  Anyway, overall it was a good book with some really good messages.

True Believer:  Stalin's Last American Spy - by Kati Marton - biography - 3 stars - Another big disappointment.  I have read Kati's other books and have really enjoyed them.  She is a wonderful storyteller, and that is what I really felt was missing from this book.  It's the story of Noel Field, and American who spied for the Communists before, during, and after WWII, part of which time he worked for the State Department.  He was a very idealistic communist, and after the war was jailed by Stalin for 5+ years accused of collaborating with the Americans.  Anyway, this was just so dry and boring, I found myself falling asleep at times.  It was more more encyclopedic than storytelling which is sad as it's a fascinating story, but the book was such a slog.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Yay! Using up the Old Stuff - the Maggie Holmes Edition

I'm working with my stash again today.  This time I chose to pull out some Maggie Holmes Ephemera, using a tag as my focal point and sentiment.  I mixed some die cuts from the ephemera pack (leaf with gold accents and the polka dot leaf) with some dies that are also from Maggie Holmes/Crate.

The papers are from some of my older Maggie Holmes 6x6 paper pads.  I used my MFT fringe die to with one of the papers to create the borders on that base piece of ephemera and added some machine stitching as well.

The tag was finished up with some Maya Road natural and gold twine.

It's so fun to use up some of my stash as well as pull out some dies that haven't been used in a while!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Beautiful Day

I picked up this Hero Arts stencil a while ago, and finally got to put it to use.

I love the bold design, and really didn't want to detract from it, so I kept this fairly simple.

The stencil was inked up with a whole bunch of yellow and orange distress inks.

Then I used a sponge dauber to ink up just the center and added some gold embossing powder there.  I actually started with clear, and did a couple layers of clear embossing before the gold....this gives it a bit more body and texture and puffs it up a bit more.  You'll see some sparkles in the embossing, that's because I was at my friend JJ's when I made this and she had a home brewed embossing powder which mixed two types of gold and some clear.

The sentiment is from a previous My Monthly Hero kit, and I added a bit of woodgrain paper to frame the sentiment.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Topography in Black and White

I pulled out my Topography set over the weekend.  I wanted to create a really clean and simple, one layer card, so before I stamped the background, I masked off the center using a post-it note that was cut down to 2 1/2" x 2 1/2".

Originally I was going to just color in a few of the areas in black, but I decided I wanted a mid-tone, so I added a dark gray, and then I decided I wanted a lighter gray too, and I went with it.

This is fun to color because you don't have to worry about shading, and for the most part the areas are pretty big and easy to color.  The trickiest part was creating a straight line around the center masked area, but again, because the areas aren't too far apart, it was relatively easy to do.

To make the sentiment pop a little bit more, it's stamped in Versafine and then clear embossed.

This really is a lot of fun to color in a relatively short amount of time, and you could definitely mass produce these.

Oh one more thing!  There's a new release at Ellen Hutson.

Some great goodies there....I'm thinking that these might just jump into my cart before the day is over.....

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by!

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Papertrey 10th Anniversary Challenges

Hey everyone!  I had some time this weekend, and managed to create a couple cards for the 10th Anniversary celebration happening over at Papertrey Ink.

This first card is for the 2014 challenge.  One of the featured sets is Embellished Elegance, which I had to have (let's remember that this was back in 2014) and then never actually used.  Guilt-ridden, I pulled it out, it really is such a pretty set and wonderful for framing a sentiment.

I kept this very CAS, in terms of the stamping, the real interest come from the stitching.  I used two strands of DMC floss for the stitching.  Stitching always adds such great texture and interest and really elevates a card.

This next card is for the 2009 Challenge.  One of the sets being highlighted is Giga Guidelines, which I don't own, but I thought that my Fancy That set would fill in admirably.

For this card I was really inspired by Laurie Schmidlin's creation.  The medallions in the Fancy That set are significantly larger than Giga Guidelines, so it's not as delicate and open as that card, but I love the background pattern you can create.  For this card I alternated between black stamping and gold embossing.

The sentiment is also from that set, and I added some sprigs from my all time favorite Leafy Branch die cut from both black cardstock and vellum to frame the sentiment.  I also added a few clear sequins for some extra sparkle.

That's all for me today.  Hope you are enjoying the long weekend!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Prayers to You and Your Family

I've got another card featuring a previously unused set from my stash.  I picked up this floral stamp set from Hero Arts several months back.  I've been eyeing it since it came out, and finally pulled the trigger, but does that mean that I actually used the stamp set I had been coveting for nearly a year?  Of course not!

Anyway, this set finally got it's day in the sun.

I stamped the flowers and leaves along the top of the panel using Altenew inks,

I wanted some extra depth/dimension for the flowers, so I just went in with a Copic marker and added a little line on the inside of each of the petals.  It really makes the image pop and almost gives it the look of a multi-step flower.  Super easy to do!  

To set the stamped images off even more, I used some gray Copics for a shadow.  I used C3 just next to the flowers and then added C1 as a second layer as well as around the leaves.

The card was finished off with sentiments from Hero Arts' Prayers stamp set.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Take Heart - Using the Old Stuff

I hate to call it a 'series' because I want to just do it when I feel like it and I don't want pressure, but as the regulars here know, I'm making an effort this year to get out the old stuff and use it.  

For this card I pulled out well aged package of ephemera from Pink Paislee, this was from the Portfolio collection, and just started playing around.

I started started by layering a bunch of pieces together to create the stitched piece, I wanted a little bit of a medallion and I liked the look of it on the tag.  The layers were machine stitched together and then I popped up the halves of the heart for some extra dimension.

Then I thought, why not use tags instead of patterned papers to kind of frame the tag?  So I played around with placement a bit, and came up with this combination.

I thought about placing the tags directly on my card base, but decided that some patterned paper might soften it a bit and goodness knows it's not like I don't have any patterned paper (this one came from an old Studio Calico card kit pad).  

It's also been ages since I actually used my washi for anything other than holding down a die in the Big Shot, but I wanted something to define the corners of the patterned paper as well as add a little more of a graphic punch to the card.  

Finally, I pulled out my Gardenia Blooms Journaling Card stamp set for the sentiment which was stamped on one of the banners from my Scalloped die set and popped up with foam tape.

Some Lawn Fawn Lawn Trimmings finished this off.

This was such a fun card to put together and it really came together quickly.  I'm loving diving back into the stash and seeing what happens!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Everything Will Be Okay

Hey everyone!  Happy Valentines Day!

I'm popping in with a card I made over the weekend.  I bought this sentiment die from Altenew a while back and haven't used it, and it was time.

The stamped images are from my favorite Altenew stamp set, Beautiful Day.  I wanted a soft sketchy feel, so I stamped the outline image with WPlus9 Fairy Dust ink.  Then I went in with Copics.  I had three shades of green.  I sketched in a bit of the leaves using the middle tone, then used the lightest tone to really soften the color as well as color the rest of the outline.  The darkest was used to redefine the lines a little bit as opposed to actually coloring with it.  Finally I went in with a fine journaling pen to sketch in some of the lines.

For the flowers/berries, I just added a dot of a dark red, and softened that with a pink and then used the journaling pen for definition.  This isn't an exact technique, your image won't look exactly like the stamped one, with this technique you're really using the image as a jumping off point/guide.

Once the stamping/coloring was complete, I adhered my die cut.  I also cut one in red so I could use the heart here for a little pop of red.

Thanks for stopping by!

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