Wednesday, April 1, 2020

March 2020 in Books

Lots of books this month, and I suspect with the ongoing social distancing/stay at home orders this will be the way it is until I run out of books.  Thankfully I was able to run into the library before it shut down and borrowed a LARGE stack of books that I'm working my way through.  A lot of historical fiction and memoirs this month.  My favorites were The Fountains of Silence and A Star for Mrs. Blake.  Here's the full rundown:

The Making of a Miracle: The Untold Story of the Captain of the 1980 Gold Medal-Winning U.S. Olympic Hockey Team - Mike Eruzione - memoir - five stars - As a big hockey fan, I love the story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team.  When I saw that Mike Eruzione had a memoir out, it went right on my to be read book.  This is a great story that really focuses on hard work, and the fact that it's not just about hard work, but there's a bit of luck that plays into success as well.  It was really interesting to hear about these incidents and how they led to his success.  I also liked how readable it was, and that it was appropriate for a younger audience.  I handed this one off to Ellie and she's finished it already as well.

Home: A Memoir of My Early Years - Julie Andrews Edwards - memoir - four stars - I have always loved Julie Andrews, so I enjoyed reading more about her.  This was a great look at how she got started - she was actually pulled into the business by her stepfather (whose last name she uses), and for many years, even as a child star, she was the main breadwinner for her family.  Although her writing reads a bit slower, I liked the her voice and how candid she is about her life.  This books takes you right up to where she heads to California for Mary Poppins.  Andrews has another memoir out that picks up where this one left off.  I'll definitely be picking that up once the library opens back up.

All for Nothing - Walter Kempowski - historical fiction - four stars - Translated from German, this is a story that tells about the last days of WWII.  The von Globigs, a well to do family with a manor house and estate, are waiting for the inevitable.  Refugees are fleeing from the occupied territories, and the von Globigs don't know whether to go or stay.  Eventually they also load up their most valuable possessions and flee.  The time span of this book is probably only a few weeks, but much happens, and you get a glimpse of the different personalities, what they are hiding, how they deal with the pressure, etc.  While it was a slow read, I found it a really interesting character study, and while the book doesn't have a happy ending, I appreciated how it tied up the stories of the characters.

House on Endless Waters - Emuna Elon - historical fiction - five stars - Famous Jewish author Yoel Blum long ago promised his mother that he would never return to Amsterdam, the city of his birth.  Long after his mother's death he's pressured to go there by his agent while promoting a book.  While there he is startled by seeing images of his family in the Jewish museum, and starts to unravel his family's story, which he is writing as a new book.  He becomes fully immersed in his surroundings and the story, almost as if he is living it and watching it occur around him.  I thought it was a really interesting literary device, as opposed to flashbacks, and I really enjoyed the story and how he became so enmeshed that he was floating between past and present. 

The Fountains of Silence - Ruth Sepetys - historical fiction - five stars - This was another of my favorites this month.  I love Septys books, and was excited to see another historical fiction work from her.  This one is focused on Spain, post WWII, when Franco was starting to open the country up.  I confess that I know very little of the history of Spain, and this book was an education for me about the Spanish civil war and Franco's dictatorship.  The story centers around the visit of Daniel Matheson, an aspiring photographer, to Spain, his mother's country of origin, in 1957.  His father is a Texas oil man and is trying to negotiate a deal with Franco for oil rights, he brings Daniel and his mother along for the trip.  While there, Daniel develops a relationship with Ana, the maid assigned to clean his family's hotel rooms.  She opens his eyes to the realities of life in Spain at the time.  This is a love story, but it also exposes one of the most egregious crimes of the dictatorship.  A must read.

Such a Fun Age Such a Fun Age - Kiley Reid - fiction - two stars - I was so disappointed by this book.  It was one of Reese Witherspoon's book club picks and I just didn't like it at all.  There was no one in the book that I actually liked.  All the characters were annoying or just so self absorbed and ridiculous.  It's about a girl Emira who babysits for a well to do family.  One evening, while at the local store, she's accused of kidnapping the family's daughter, which leads the mother to over compensate.  She becomes obsessed with being Emira's friend, to prove that she is not racist.  Meanwhile, another customer in the store befriends Emira and they become romantically involved.  Eventually everything comes to a head when her new boyfriend and employer meet and realize they have a history from years before.  Skip it.

One Light Still Shines: My Life Beyond the Shadow of the Amish Schoolhouse Shooting - Marie Monville, Marie - memoir - five stars - The story of the wife of the man who killed and injured multiple girls in the Amish school shooting in 2006.  Monville details her story, how she met her husband and their life together, and tries to make sense of what occurred and how it could occur.  This is very much about grace and forgiveness and how the Amish community forgave and blessed her family despite those horrible events.  The story details Monville's healing journey and how she found love again.  This is definitely a faith story and so inspiring.

A Star for Mrs. Blake  - April Smith - historical fiction - five stars - One of my favorites from this month.  In 1929, Congress passed legislation to fund travel for mothers and wives of soldiers killed in Europe in WWI to go there to visit their graves.  This book follows the story of one mother in particular, Cora Blake, and her party of mothers as they travel to Paris and then the Meuse-Argonne cemetery.  I love how as the story progressed, Smith peeled away more and more layers of Cora's story and personality.  This is another example of why I love reading historical fiction, you learn so much about things that you wouldn't know about otherwise.  This one is a must read.

I Should Have Honor: A Memoir of Hope and Pride in Pakistan - Khalida Brohi - memoir - four stars - The story of Brohi, a women's rights activist from Pakistan.  When she was young, a cousin was killed by an uncle as an honor killing, this spurred Brohi on to make a change in her society.  She was blessed with an extraordinary set of parents in that culture.  They valued education, even for daughters, and despite great hardship ensured that their daughters were afforded an education.  They also supported Brohi in her work to educate and provide skills to women in the hopes that as their value in society increased, traditions such as honor killings would cease. 

Cheese - Sarah Weeks - juvenile fiction - four stars - This is actually two books in one - Oggie Cooder and Oggie Cooder, Party Animal.  Carina and I have been reading this book, and I'll say that I love it mostly because she loves it.  She loves reading, but mostly loves graphic novels, so whenever there is a chapter book that captures her attention and that she wants to read daily, I'm all for it.  Oggie Cooder is a kid that marches to the beat of his own drum.  This means that most kids don't appreciate his quirky style and he's a bit of an outcast, until he becomes famous for his amazing ability to charve - carve cheese with his teeth.  This hidden talent could be his ticket to Hollywood and suddenly he is much more popular.  I love how Oggie stays true to himself and is a good friend to everyone, even when they are not kind to him.  Cute and quirky, we're planning to read more from Weeks.

Girl with a Pearl Earring - Tracy Chevalier, Tracy - historical fiction - five stars - This was one I picked up in my mad dash through the library before it closed.  I remembered when this movie came out, but never actually saw the movie.  I really love the premise of the book - a story based on an iconic painting by Vermeer.  Chevalier imagines who the girl is and her connection to Vermeer.  Griet is the daughter of a tilemaker who has fallen on hard times, as a result she must become a maid for Vermeer.  It's a difficult situation in which she has to tread carefully, over time she becomes a trusted assistant to Vermeer and eventually finds herself the subject of one of his works.  I love how Chevalier wove this story together, highly recommend.

The Stowaway: A Young Man's Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica - Laurie Gwen Shapiro - biography - three stars - Billy Gawronski dreamed of adventure and going to Antarctica with his hero William Byrd.  His determination paid off, and eventually he was able to join Byrd's expedition (after stowing away on one of his ships for the THIRD time).  Gawronski's enthusiasm and hardworking attitude made him friends on the crew and also made him a minor celebrity.  This book had such potential, but is was written in such a dry and boring manner.  It was hard to get through, but at the end of the day Gawronski was really a very remarkable man and I'm glad that I know about him. 

Next up for me is Cold Mountain, and after that, I'll just look at my big pile and see what I'm in the mood for.  I ended up picking out a lot of non-fiction from the library, so I've been trying to rotate between those and fiction/historical fiction.  I'm also planning to throw in some books that Ellie has been on my case to read, so there'll be more juvenile fiction in the coming months too.  Please share what you've been reading!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Quick and Easy Christmas with WPlus9

I thought I would use some of my quarantine time to get a jump on this year's Christmas cards...maybe this year I won't be scrambling at the end of the year!

I pulled out this sweet retired set from WPlus9 called Holiday Trimmings, it's perfect for quick and easy stamped one layer cards.

I started with the ornaments.  

These were stamped with Altenew inks:  Citrus Burst, Sea Glass, Wisteria, Pink Diamond, Mountain Mist and Jet Black.  I did use the oval image to fill in the openings in the elongated ornaments, stamping with a very light ink, WPlus9 Fairy Dust Ink.

I also added some very light marker accents using an N1 Copic marker.  I also used a Wink of Stella pen to add sparkle to the colored portions of the ornaments.

Next up, those cute trees!

I again went with Altenew inks:  Frayed Leaf, Forest Glades, Parrot, and Olive.  These were stamped in a pattern, rotating between the inks, and stamping the large tree, then the small one twice and repeat.

To add some shine and sparkle, I stamped and embossed the tree accents on every other tree with WOW Metallic Gold Sparkle embossing powder.  

I added the sentiment (don't you love the font in this set?) and that was it.

These were super easy to do and could very easily be mass produced.  It's nice to have a couple Christmas cards done already!  

Thursday, March 26, 2020

You've Got a Friend in Me

I inked this sweet VW Bus image by Stacey Yacula for Purple Onion Designs up ages ago, and then set it aside without coloring it.  I just found it and decided now was the time.  

I colored it with Copics, keeping the color scheme very basic, I really think the image stands on it's own and doesn't need a ton.  

Once the coloring was done, I fussy cut the image and adhered it to a Studio Calico journaling card.  The sentiment is from my Clearly Canine set for Neat & Tangled.

I added a patterned paper mat from an old BasicGrey 6x6 pad to finish things off.

Short and sweet today.  Hope you are all staying safe and  healthy!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

When a Poppy is not a Poppy

This Pretty Poppy stamp set (along with the coordinating die set) was something else I picked up in the recent Concord and 9th Inventory Reduction sale.  

I wanted to color this in kind of a sketchy/artsy way, which ended up not being very poppy like.  I started by adding some yellows, but then added some bolder colors, reds that look more orange with the yellows.

I colored the leaves in a similar style, although sticking with the green family, and then I added some blue shading around the flower.

The sentiment is also from the set and was stamped with Versafine.  

I then popped the panel up on my turquoise card base.

How are you all faring with social distancing?  It's definitely not for the faint of heart!  We found out yesterday that schools in Virginia will stay closed through the end of the year!  

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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Concord and 9th Hey There Bundle

I was so good about not spending money on crafty supplies, and then the Concord and 9th Inventory Blowout Sale happened and I could not resist.  I picked up a bunch of really great deals.  This Hey There Bundle are the first products I decided to work with.

I really love C9's turnabout line, they are so clever and easy to work with.  When I pull out a turnabout I tend to make multiple cards at once because it is so easy to mass produce.

This time I created three cards.  I start by picking out the inks I plan to use, so when it's time to stamp it happens pretty quickly and easily.

I usually use at least one full ink family from Altenew when I use a turnabout just because it's so easy and I love the monochromatic look.  For this card I used the Deep Blue Seas family of inks.

To finish it off, I used the banner and banner insert from the bundle.  The banner was cut twice, once from white and once from blue.  I then die cut the inset words out of the blue banner and layered that over the white so that the words show up in white.  This was popped up over my background.

Next I went for a more colorful look, using Sea Breeze, Sweet Leaf, Pinkalicious, and Warm Sunshine.

I added a thin white strip of cardstock across the card, and added the hello die from the bundle over top.

Finally, my favorite look, which is white on kraft.  For this panel, I stamped with white pigment ink each time.  Actually, for each of the four 'turns' I stamped in white pigment ink three times because the pigment seems to just soak into the kraft.

Then I used all three of the dies in the bundle.  The hello was stamped three times and layered together, and I again layered the banners together so that the Hey There shows in white, although I offset the banners slightly.

Super quick and easy.  I'm looking forward to trying out the rest of my new goodies as I socially distance myself from my family in my craft room.  ;)

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Pinkfresh Studio Folklore Die

This card is one of those projects that kind of evolved and changed as it went along because things just weren't quite working the way I planned.

I started out by wanting to do something a little different for Kathy Rac's coloring challenge.  I've been wanting to use this Folklore Die from Pinkfresh Studio for a while.  It's so pretty and detailed, so I thought it would be fun to color it.  To do so, I dry embossed it on a piece of cardstock, and then used those embossing lines as my coloring lines.

Because the spaces are relatively small, instead of using my normal three colors for shading, I just used two.  I colored the flowers and greens, and then I colored the background black. 

The black coloring wasn't looking as crisp as I wanted it to, so I decided to die cut a panel of black cardstock, and inlaid those background pieces into my outline die. 

This worked OK, but because of all the detail in the die, and the fact that I wasn't inlaying the entire thing, I couldn't adhere the die/pieces the way I normally did, and as a result things weren't sticking as well as I wanted them to.

What to do?  I decided to spread Nuvo Glimmer Paste over the entire piece.  Once the paste dried, everything was stuck firmly in place, and I also got some SERIOUS sparkle.

I added a simple sentiment to finish things off.

This is definitely not the card that I set out to make, but I think I like it.  What do you think? 

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Ellen Hutson Mondo Peony and Paper Cutting

We're already almost halfway through the current 30 Day Coloring Challenge, and I haven't managed to participate, so I pulled out the Mondo Peony set from Ellen Hutson and got to work.

Normally I like to color my flowers in very bold colors, I think light tones scare me.  I decided to try my hand at some light colors for this one, using R000, R00, and R02.

Once I had my flowers colored, I fussy cut them.  I do have the coordinating dies for this set, but wanted a really crisp clean look without the little halo that comes with coordinating dies.

I paired this first flower with a really gorgeous print from an old Studio Calico paper pad.  The print was trimmed down so it was centered on my panel.  To add a little interest, I used a cutting knife to trim out portions of the pattern.

The patterned paper was adhered to a white panel, and then to my card base.

The flower was popped up with foam tape, and I added a sentiment from my Lovely Lotus set for Neat and Tangled which was also popped up.

For this next card, I used some patterned papers from Pinkfresh Studio which was fussy cut with scissors.

The background paper with the elongated hexagons was cut around the pattern to create a dynamic edge.  I added a strip of another patterned paper from the paper pad at the bottom to ground the panel, and then used foam tape to pop up the fussy cut piece.

The flower was then adhered to the panel, and another sentiment from Lovely Lotus was added.

It's been quite a week here!  Hope that everyone is staying safe and healthy!

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Sunday, March 8, 2020

Spellbinders Modern Essentials Collection

Hi everyone!  Today I'm sharing a few cards created using some of the new Modern Essentials dies from Spellbinders.  

There are some wonderfully versatile dies in this line, including a number of sets of basic nested shapes which include dies that cut both your basic shapes as well as ones which cut inlaid dots in those shapes.  There are also word sentiments that cut both the word as well as the word with textured lines.   

Today I'm showing off the Squares Etched Dies as well as the Bold Type Smile Etched Dies.

For this first card, I wanted to use the dots for stitching.  I used the second smallest dot square, cutting it four times on a panel, lining it up with the square next to it each time to create a grid.

Then I used embroidering floss to stitch a very simple basic pattern.  I used the solid sentiment die for my primary sentiment and added a secondary sentiment from an old Studio Calico set.

Next, I nested all of the dies together on a panel and ran the whole thing through my die cut machine.  This created a series of frames with a square of dots in the center of the frame.

I cut four squares of colored cardstock, which I layered underneath the squares in succession.  For some extra interest, every other frame was popped up with foam tape.

For this card, I used the textured sentiment, but I inked my paper with Versamark and heat embossed it with gold embossing powder before I die cut it. 

Finally, I used the dies to add some great background texture to a card.

For this card, I cut a panel of kraft cardstock, and then dry embossed it using all of the dies.  I didn't place them perfectly, but left them a bit wonky.  You see the texture much more clearly in this detail shot:

The card was finished off with some of the dies from last year's October Large Die of the Month kit, and I added clear Nuvo drops to the the little berries for some additional texture.

That's all for me today.  Be sure to check out the rest of the new Modern Essentials dies over at Spellbinders.