Monday, December 4, 2023

November 2023 in Books

November was a pretty good reading month.  A nice mix of books with some old and some new authors.  Here are the recaps:

The Door-to-Door Bookstore - Carsten Henn - fiction - five stars - Carl has worked for the bookstore for years, he delivers books to special clients, walking along a regular route.  The bookstore owner retires, his daughter inherits the store, but she has very different ideas for the business.  She's prefer to discontinue Carl's services, but he persists, and one day a nine-year-old girl named Sasha invites herself along on his delivery route.  They grow to be friends, and she also befriends those on his route and opens his mind to how to reach and help each of those individuals.  It's a really sweet story.  There were a couple things that bothered me about the plot line in terms of how things were resolved with Sasha's father and the bookstore, but overall this was a great book full of very likable characters.  Highly recommend.

The Prospectors - Ariel Djanikian - historical fiction - five stars - I really liked this one a lot.  It's the fictionalized story of the Bushes, one of the very few families to actually strike gold and make it in the Klondike Gold Rush.  They parlayed their earnings into an empire that later included oil.  The story focuses on the relationship of Alice Bush with her sister and brother-in-law, who were the ones who really found the gold.  Alice went along on their second expedition to help, ended up marrying her brother-in-law's brother, and the two families were linking in good and bad forever.  This one bucks the trend for me in that I really didn't like the main characters in the book, but the story itself was so compelling I could get past that.  It's one of those dual storyline books although the second, present-day, timeline is definitely not the focus of the book and I could definitely have done without it since it was more on the apologetic side.  

Sisters Under the Rising Sun - Heather Morris - historical fiction - five stars - Another great historical fiction novel based on a group of women fleeing the Japanese from Singapore during WWII.  Their ship is bombed and sunk and they make it to land only to be made prisoners of war.  The women survive years, moving from camp to camp.  They are blessed to have been shipwrecked with a group of Australian Nurses who help create more sanitary working conditions, care for them, and keep morale up.  It's a pretty amazing story.  I loved that the author provided details about what happened to each of the women following their release from captivity also.  

All My Knotted-Up Life: A Memoir - Beth Moore - autobiography - four stars - So I've heard about Beth Moore for years, but have never actually read any of her books or done any of her studies.  I picked his one up on a whim because I thought it might be interesting and in general I always find biographies kind of fascinating.  Anyway, I enjoyed reading about Moore's growing up life, and this covers how her ministry got started which was also pretty interesting.  What I really thought was lacking was her more recent adult life - parenthood, etc., particularly given the emphasis on her formative years.  I could have understood if the book was really focused on the ministry portion of her life, but it just seemed a little unbalanced in that regard.

From a Far and Lovely Country (No 1 Ladies Detective Agency #24) - Alexander McCall Smith - fiction - four stars - I can't believe there are already 24 Mwa Ramotswe books!  This one was focused on a couple of cases, one in which someone is trying to find the family of someone who was like a father/uncle to her in Canada, and the other trying to stop or put out of business a company advertising dances where eligible men and women can meet where the men solicited are often actually married.  This wasn't my favorite of the books.  This one was OK.  I thought that it was a little less compelling than some of the other more recent books particularly because I feel like Violet Sephotho can't always be the culprit when something bad is happening, but still quite enjoyable and I like that Charlie is getting more credit at the agency.

Enola Holmes and the Mark of the Mongoose (Enola Holmes, #9) - Nancy Springer - juvenile mystery - four stars - In this book, Enola gets involved in the disappearance of Wolcott Balestier, an American publisher visiting London.  Of course her brother Sherlock gets involved as well and they embark on a somewhat competitive, somewhat cooperative investigation.  I enjoyed that the characters in the book were actually real people which is different than the other books in the series.  I do like the relationship that is developing between Enola and Sherlock also.  I will say that I feel like more so than the other books there was way too much description of Enola's outfits.....made worse by the fact that she changes A LOT.  I found it distracting from the book, a minor nit, but it was noticeable.

Birnam Wood - Eleanor Catton - thriller - three stars - This was an interesting premise.  A kind of hippie collective of folks who plant crops on other peoples property or public land and then sell the crops to sustain the community/organization decides to try planting on the property of a wealthy couple whose house is somewhat inaccessible because of a landslide.  They are not the only folks interested in the land though, a wealthy entrepreneur is also interested for reasons he is not fully disclosing.  This could have been a really great book, but it was so preachy.  Long monologues about the purpose of the collective and what they do and don't stand for and why the entrepreneur is bad and on and on and on.  The story also took so long to set up.  It was 400+ pages and could easily have been 100 pages less and would have been much tighter and more effective.  There were several twists that I did not expect at all so from the plot line sense it was good, but just a slog in parts.

Favorite this month was probably The Prospectors, and least favorite was Birnam Wood.  I'm currently reading and really enjoying The Postcard and I have a whole bunch of library holds that just came in, so I really need to pick up the pace of things.  Would love to hear what you have been reading!

Saturday, December 2, 2023

SSS DieCember, Blog Hop

 *This post contains affiliate links to Simon Says Stamp.

Hi friends!  Today I'm participating in Day 1 of a two day blog hop celebrating the Simon Says Stamp DieCember release.  You should have arrived here from Mindy Eggen's blog.  I will have the full blog hop list at the end of the post in case you need it.

All good blog hops involve prizes right?  Well this one is no exception.  Simon is giving away a $25 store credit to one commenter at every stop along the hop.  AND you can get the die pictured above free with any purchase for the next week using code FLURRY.

My projects today feature my latest die set, Bold Scandinavian wafer dies.  I love the Scandinavian aesthetic and have designed numerous Scandinavian products over the years.  These dies are so much fun to play with and today I'm sharing several different ways to use them.

First up, some basic cards.

For these first cards, I challenged myself to create flowers only using scraps.  For the card on the right, I created a couple of flowers by layering the various die piece over each other.  The flower on the right is adhered directly to the card base, while the flower on the right was popped up for some dimension.

The sentiment, from my previously released Plant Sentiments set was popped up with foam tape.

For the card on the left, I wanted to create an inlaid card.  Once I decided which layers/colors to use, the individual pieces were die cut.  Then, starting with the largest/outside layer, I die cut the next smallest piece from within that die cut until each of my pieces nested within the outside layer  I then die cut the largest piece from a piece of printer paper, covered it with adhesive, and assembled my fully inlaid flower.

Similarly, for the leaves, I die cut the smaller leaf from within the larger one.

Next I cut a basic panel of white cardstock and die cut the flower stem from it.  A small piece of printer paper covered with adhesive was placed behind this area, and then I inlaid a die cut stem.

Next, I die cut both the outside layer of the flower as well as the large leaves from my panel.

Then I cut a large panel of printer paper to cover almost the entire panel, covered it with adhesive, and adhered it to the back of the card.  The flower piece as well as the leaves were then inlaid into the panel.

The sentiment, also from the Plant Sentiments set was added and the entire piece was adhered to my card base.

My next card steps things up a bit.  Years ago my sister visited Japan and brought me back some really lovely papers which I have been hoarding, but I thought this would be the perfect project to use them on.

I cut a bunch of different pieces from the papers and then mixed and matched the layers until I got a combination that I liked.

I wanted some texture for the background.  Looking through my scrap papers, I found this piece of kraft cardstock that I had stamped with white pigment ink ages ago.  I thought it was perfect for my background.

The background was stitched to my card base, and then I arranged my flowers and leaves over top.  The largest flower was adhered with one layer of foam tape, while the smallest was adhered with two layers.  

The sentiment was popped up with foam tape as well.

I really loved how this turned out.  The patterns remind me of fabric, which got my brain turning in another direction.

Years ago the girls had some really fun barrettes created with patterns kind of like the ones above.  I've got limited amounts of fabric, but I have lots of felt, so I pulled that out to create some barrettes.

The layers were cut from felt and tacked together in the center.  To finish my flower, I used a large sequin at the top which I stitched around/through several times.

The completed flower was then stitched to one of those snap type barrettes.

I talked my daughter Ellie into modeling the barrettes for me.  

These were really quick and easy to put together, they would be a great gift for kids to make for siblings/cousins/aunts or a project/craft for Girl Scouts or a Sunday School class.

That's all for me today.  Your next stop on the hop is my good friend Cheiron Brandon.  The full list is below if you need it.  Don't forget to leave a comment to be entered to win the $25 credit to the Simon store and good luck!

Simon Says Stamp Blog
Laura Bassen
Nichol Spohr
Cathy Zielske
Barbara Tarayao
Emily Midgett
Keisha Charles
Mindy Eggen
Miriam Prantner
Cheiron Brandon
Heather Ruwe
Bobbi Lemanski
Barb Engler
Jean Doeringsfeld

Friday, December 1, 2023

SSS DieCember, Joyful Greetings

*This post contains affiliate links to Simon Says Stamp.

Happy first day of DieCember!  Have you checked out the new DieCember release from Simon Says Stamp?  I've got a couple of items in this release including the Joyful Greetings stamp set that coordinates with the Joyful die released last month.

This bold sentiment is the perfect focal point for a card, and when used with stencils creates nice flat mailable cards.  I've got a few examples to share with you today.

This first card features the Village stencils.  The house layers were inked with Bubblegum, Morning, Sweets, and Twilight.  For the windows, I just placed the stencil over my panel, and used a white gel pen to fill in the windows.  

I then stamped the main sentiment along with a couple of secondary sentiments with black Versa Clair ink in the center of my panel.

These next two cards feature the previously released Berries and Leaves stencil, one of my favorites!

I did this two ways.  First, very clean and simple.  The stencil was placed over a blue panel and inked with Royal ink.  I did add just a bit of additional Royal inking around the edges of my panel, but not a ton.

I used my heating to make sure all of the ink was dry so I wouldn't have any issues with stray embossing powder, and then embossed the sentiment in gold in the center of the wreath.

For the green version of the card, I started by inking a panel in greens using Fairway, Field, and Pine.  I was not trying to get a very deep rich color for this.

Once that was done, I placed the stencil over the panle, and using the same colors, inked through the stencil.

After again ensuring that the panel was fully dried using my heat tool, I embossed the sentiment in gold.

I added a bit of gold splatter to finish things off.

This last card features the Holy City stencils.

There are two 'sets' of stencils here, one which adds the buildings and trees, and a second that adds the windows.  I offset these two sets vertically and VERY lightly inked each, lighter for the one that is higher on the panel, and slightly darker one that is lower and in the foreground.

It's hard to pick up in the photo, but I also used the fourth stencil, the starry sky, at the top of my panel.

I used Cadette for the card on the left, and Royal for the one one on the right.

The sentiment was then embossed with silver ink.

These were really very quick and easy to create.

Be sure to head over to Simon to check out the full release. lots of good stuff in there!

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Tim Holtz Festive Print Card Set

 *This post contains affiliate links to Simon Says Stamp.

Super quick post and set of cards today featuring the Festive Print stamp set from Tim Holtz.

I started by inking up several panels with Distress Oxides.  The upside of a crafty weekend with friends is that you get a lot done.  The downside (at least for me) is that you write nothing down, so I'm honestly not sure exactly which colors I used on these, except there is definitely some Twisted Citron and Lucky Clover, but the rest of it gets a little hazy.

Anyway, I did not actually mask off my inked areas, but rather used the large opening from the Printmaking Houses stencil.

Usually I prefer my regular Distress Inks over Oxides because they are more vibrant, but for pure blends where you want a really even blend, Oxides are definitely better.

Once my inking was done, I spritzed each of the panels with a bit of water, and then stamped the snowglobe images and sentiments with Versa Clair black ink.

Each of the panels was adhered to the card base with foam tape.

Really clean and simple, and you can definitely make a bunch of these in a hurry.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Waffle Flower Crafts, Postage Collage Christmas - Can You Spot the Error?

 *This post contains affiliate links to Simon Says Stamp.

As I'm preparing for the upcoming Simon Says Stamp DieCember release, I'm continuing to share cards from my recent crafty weekend.

I've been wanting to try out the Waffle Flower Postage Collage collection since it came out, and my friend JJ just happens to have all the products as she's on the Waffle Flower design team.  

I first die cut the Postage Collage die from white cardstock, and then added stenciling using the Christmas Stencil set.

I made liberal use of JJ's Shader Brush collection - those little babies are key when you're stenciling something with a lot of small areas and you want a little more control.

There are four stencils in this set, and I used ink with the first three, and then gold paste for the last accent layer.

I finished things off with a simple gray mat and a sentiment from Waffle Flower's Subsentiment Christmas Tree set.

OK, you've made it to the end of my post.  Have you figured out the error on my card?

If you said that the bottom two stamps are reversed, then you are correct!  When I pulled these stencils out, I didn't realize there was another set in there.  This was actually the initial prototype set.  Before the design went final, they swapped the bottom left images with one's a fun little peek at how products evolve during the design/production process.

That's all for me today.  Much more to share this week so stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

The Greetery, Big Beautiful Bow

I have been eyeing the Big Beautiful Bow die from The Greetery since it's release last month, so I was pretty excited that my friend JJ owned it and I could try it out.

This bow does not disappoint and is now at the top of my Greetery wishlist.

This die definitely lives up to it's name.  It's absolutely beautiful and looks so real and dimensional.  It's also incredibly easy to put together.  

I kept these cards very simple.  I wanted to go for the look of a kraft wrapped package, so simply arranged the bow over top of my kraft card bases.  The 'ribbon' pieces were adhered directly to my card bases and the bows were popped up with foam tape for some extra dimension.

For the card on the left, I placed the bow in the top left quadrant, and then added a simple sentiment that was stamped on an elongated hexagon die.

For the card on the right, the bow was more centered, but I added a few die gut green sprigs and then a sentiment in the bottom right corner stamped directly on my card base.

The bow really is a star and you don't need much else to go with it.  You could very easily mass produce these. 

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a great Black Friday sale at The Greetery so I can add this die to my collection!

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Tin Holtz Colorize Trim a Tree

 *This post contains affiliate links to Simon Says Stamp.

The great thing about getting together with crafty friends is that you get to use all their stuff.  I was able to craft with friends a couple of weekends ago and that is exactly what I did.

This Colorize Trim a Tree die set was calling my name.  I will admit that I have a bit of a love hate relationship with Tim Holtz dies.  I love how the look and the results, but sometimes the process makes me a little crazy because there are so many pieces.

I was actually pleasantly surprised at how quickly the tree itself came together.  It's just five layers (I used three shades of green cardstock) and it was a breeze to create.

The rest of the pieces on the other hand were a bit more fiddly.  This was mostly because they were on the smaller side, especially those little ornaments.  It probably took me ten times as long to put together all those pieces as it did the tree itself, but overall they were pretty easy to create.

Because of the size of the tree, my card is a bit larger than normal - 7 1/2" x 4 1/4".  I adhered the tree itself to a panel of soft gray cardstock, popping the star up with some foam tape and tucking the trunk under the bottom branches.  Then I adhered all those little ornaments.

I added a little snow drift to the bottom to ground the tree and a subsentiment from Waffle Flower's Christmas Tree Diecut set, both of which were popped up with foam tape.

The background seemed a little stark, so I stamped the little cluster of stars from the Festive Print set with Fawn ink all over the background.

That's all for me today.  I'll have some more Christmas cards to share tomorrow!