Saturday, December 31, 2016

December in Books

Happy New Year's Eve!  I'm finishing off this year with my list of December books.  It's a good way to finish off the year since this is one of the goals that I've actually achieved this year - to do more reading.  Without further ado, here are my December reads:

Water for Elephants - by Sarah Gruen - fiction - 5 stars - The story of a boy whose parents die just as he is about to finish Vet school.  He runs off and joins the circus working with animals, and falls in love with one of the performers who is unfortunately married to another performer, who is not a nice man.  It's told as a series of flashbacks.  I love the depiction of circus life as well as the ending, a really good read.

Shelter - by Jung Yun - fiction - 4 stars - A really difficult book/story about a first generation Korean with a difficult relationship with his very well-to-do parents.  When a violent crime drives them together he struggles to let go of the past.  There are several twists, that I really was not expecting.  This was a compelling story, but definitely not a feel-good one.

Three Wishes - by Liane Moriarty - fiction - 4 stars - Normally Liane Moriarty is a 5 star shoe-in for me.  This book was a little harder to get into.  It was just choppier, and a little more fragmented, I found I really had to concentrate in the beginning to figure out what was happening.  I also liked the characters less than in other books by her.  Still a good read, but not the best.

They Dared Returned:  The True Stories of Jewish Spies Behind the Lines in Nazi Germany - by Patrick K. O'Donnell - 4 stars - A bit dry, but an interesting look at a group of Jewish men who escaped Europe and became U.S. citizens, and were recruited by the OSS to go back and conduct espionage during WWII (Operation Greenup).  This also discussed how they increased their numbers by identifying sympathetic German prisoners of war in Europe, and recruiting them to assist their efforts.  They are credited with helping to end the war early, and negotiating the surrender of Innsbruck.

Sunwing - by Kenneth Oppel - juvenile fiction - 5 stars - This is the sequel to Silverwing, which was one of Ellie's Battle Books.  It tells the continuing story of Shade and his search for his father.  Another really great story.  I really enjoy how he weaves together several narratives/threads and I'm looking forward to reading the third book in the series soon (Ellie got the box set for Christmas from my sister).

The Secret Box - by Whitaker Ringwald - juvenile fiction - 5 stars - The first book for Ellie's second Battle of the Books!  We had a great time sharing these books together.  Ellie's class did really well in the first battle coming in second, and she's determined that they'll win the next battle, so we've been furiously reading away.  This was a great book to start with.  Jax gets a mysterious present from an aunt that she has enver met.  It sends her on an adventure with her cousins to determine how to open the box.  As a result she saves her aunt and learns about her mysterious father as well.  I'm excited as this is the first of a series and I'm sure we'll be reading them all.

Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief - by Wendelin Van Draanen - juvenile fiction - 5 stars - Another Battle Book.  If you like detectives/mysteries this will be a good find.  It was a fun read, and it's a series of books.  Sammy and her friends are funny and clever, we'll definitely be reading more of these.

First Light - by Rebecca Steed - juvenile fiction - 5 stars - Another Battle Book.  This was such a good story, about a boy named Peter who is going to Greenland with his scientist parents to study global warming and group of people who fled England many years ago because they were considered witches.  The way these two groups/stories intersect is really wonderful and I loved how it all came together.

Mossflower - by Brian Jacques - juvenile fiction - 4 stars - This is the second book in the Redwall series (which was one of the books from the first Battle of the Books).  The first book referred to Martin the Warrior, whose sword Matthias had to locate in order to save the Abbey.  This book tells the story of Martin.  It was a little slower than Redwall, but still very enjoyable, and I'm looking forward to reading more from this series.

Spring Fever - by Mary Kay Andrews - fiction - 5 stars - Another great read from Mary Kay Andrews.  She has such great characters, they really make you love them.  This is the story of Annajane Hudgens who is ready to move away from her hometown to start a new life, but is drawn back into the affairs of her best friend's family, which is incidentally also her ex-husband's family.  Fun, funny, and very satisfying.

Crossing to Safety - by Wallace Earle Stegnar - fiction - 5 stars - The book traces the friendship of two couples, the struggles in their marriages, and how they help one another through time and really become family to one another.  It's uplifting, and sad all at the same time, and definitely worth reading.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - by J.K. Rowling and Jack Thorne - fiction - 5 stars - I'll say that the format of this book (a play) is not my favorite.  It took a while to get used to it, and I feel like it breaks up the story/flow as you're reading, but what a great story.  I love the lesson about changing the past as well as the fact that there is good in everyone, that the person you think must be very bad can actually be very good.  I'd love to see this on stage someday.

What Was Mine - by Helen Klein Ross - fiction - 5 stars - Such a thought provoking book.  About decisions and consequences and right and wrong.  It's about how Lucy abducts a baby and raises her as her own and the repercussions once this is discovered 20 years later.  The difficulty is that you like each of the individuals involved, in a black and white situation, you feel a whole lot of gray.

Iron Thunder - by Avi - historical juvenile fiction - 5 stars - The story of Sam Carroll, who is part of the crew of the Union ship the Monitor during the Civil War.  Sam is first part of the group building the vessel and then serves on the crew.  Sam's back story is compelling and this is a great way to introduce some history to kids.

That's it for this month.  I went to the library the other day and was all kinds of out of control....I've got a stack of eight books already for next month.....

Read something good this month?  Please share!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Year in Review - Favorite Projects from 2016, Discount Link

Hey everyone!  Hope that the holidays are treating you well.  We are definitely enjoying our time off!  

It's always fun to look back over the year and today I'm doing that creatively.  It's been a really busy year for me, starting off with my trip to Colorado in January to shoot my Craftsy class that was released in March.  What a lot of work, but what a lot of fun, you can read about it here.

Turns out this year I posted a lot less than in prior years.  A lot of this has to do with all the work that went into the Craftsy class, but also because I spent a lot more time designing stamps/dies/stencils for Neat & Tangled, and cut back on my design teams.  I'm hoping to be more productive in 2017, particularly on the scrapbooking side of the house.

Normally for these posts I pick my favorite project from each month, but I had a really hard time deciding for some months this year, so there are several with multiple picks.  Go figure, make less stuff, like it more.  You can click on the link above each photo to be taken to the original post.  So here we go!

March - Using my Hexastar cover plate for N&T release week

May - Layout for a National Scrapbooking Day challenge - so much fun to make, using watercolors to extend the photo.

May - Another NSD layout, really CAS, but focusing on the geometry of the one photo to add interest.

June - featuring the MFT Etched Flowers background, one of the bonus cards for my Craftsy class.

June - For the Tic-Tac-Toe Challenge

July - Hello for the N&T release featuring my Pentagon stencil and a really simple Copic technique

July - Peace - another Craftsy bonus card - using woodgrain to make water.

July - Creating a card using bits and pieces, rather than stamps and dies as the focus.

August - Bold and geometric for Ellen Hutson release

August - Showing off my Doily Tag for the Neat & Tangled birthday release

September - CAS one layer card for the Ellen Hutson Challenge

October - Stained glass effect for the October N&T release using my Maple Thanks stamp/die

October - So much die cutting, but I love this Christmas card featuring Tim Holtz's Snow Globe dies

November - Set of tags for N&T November release featuring Journaling Numbers and May Your Holidays be Stamp/die

 November - Gold, gold, gold, featuring stamps/dies from Concord and 9th

December - Tag for EH 12 Tags of Christmas with a Feminine Twist combining N&T and EH products

I mentioned a discount link, right?  All this retrospection often leads to new resolutions.  I for one would love to do a better job with my scrapbooking in 2017, and I'm always looking to learn some new things too.  If you're in the same boat and are interested in taking my Craftsy class, here's a link for 50% off (so it will be $14.99):

It was a great year.  I've been blessed with so many opportunities and I'm so thankful for all your visits and comments.  I'm really looking forward to 2017 and what it holds!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Celebrate Everything

I created this card a while back, but haven't had a chance to post it, and figured now would be as good a time as any.

I won't be going to work for the rest of the year, and today we're celebrating a late Christmas with my Mom and sister and her family who just got into town yesterday, and of course New Year's is coming up too, so lots to celebrate!

The star of this card is the Honeybee Layer die set from Birch Press Designs.  These cover plates are so cool, although pricey as they are essentially three cover plates you combine to get the design.  I am ridiculously cheap, so I didn't actually buy them, just borrowed them at a crafty get together.

I went for a bold mix of colors, so I really needed something simple to finish the card off.

The Celebrate stamps/dies from N&T were perfect.  The little banner is also from N&T, from the Scalloped die set.

Short and sweet today, but hope your week is going well!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Hey everyone!  We are in the final throes of the holiday season.  Today is the last day of school for the girls, all of the presents have been purchased/wrapped, and cards have been sent.  We're getting ready to hunker down and do some serious celebrating and bonding.

I'll be back next week with some end of year posts, but I wanted to pop in and wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and I thought this cute snowman couple from Paper Smooches and sentiment from Neat & Tangled were the perfect way to do so.

For those who are traveling, be safe, and for everyone, treasure the time you have with friends and family.  See you soon and Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Advent Calendar Extravaganza with Taheerah Atchia

Hey everyone!  I'm excited to be part of my friend Taheerah's Advent Calendar Extravaganza once again this year.

Advent Calendar Extravaganza is -the- festive event of the season! This ‘hop with a twist’ was dreamed up by Taheerah Atchia and features surprise destinations each day! Joining in the fun with Taheerah are ONE HUNDRED special guests - each serving up some fantastic Christmas inspiration! Just like an Advent Calendar, you’ll never know where you’re going to be visiting next until you ‘open the door’!

And that’s not all! With 25 *amazing* sponsors taking part as guests as well, your crafty wish list is bound to get a boost with a chance to win a prize EVERY SINGLE DAY!!

Join in the fun every day at to see what special surprises await behind the door!

I was excited to learn that today's sponsor is Ellen Hutson.  I'm a big fan of the company, and pulled out one of my favorite EH Christmas sets, Tis the Season.

I love this little car image.  It's stamped with Memento and colored with Copics.  There are coordinating dies for the set, but I don't actually own them, so I did some 'faux diecutting' with my scissors.  

That tree patterned paper was actually created with two of the images from my Scandinavian Prints Christmas set. 

The sentiment is from another EH set, Christmas Scribbles.

When I get into my Christmas card making mode, I'm looking for designs that aren't particularly bulky or complicated, things that can be created in quantity, and this fits the bill.  You could easily stamp a full sheet of cardstock with the trees for patterned paper and have a set of four cards.  There's a bit of foam tape, but not much, and you could certainly omit it if desired.

Hope that this gives you some ideas if you're madly trying to finish up your cards!

It’s not a party without a prize - and with prizes every day there are several chances to win! As I mentioned, today’s prize is generously supplied by Ellen Hutson so you’ll definitely want to win! Simply leave a comment on this post - then head back to and leave a comment there too! You must leave a comment on Taheerah’s blog as well as mine in order to be eligible to win! Don’t forget to grab the other surprise destinations from Taheerah’s blog and head over to them to leave comments there as well to improve your odds even more! You have until 23:59 EST on 31st December 2016 to enter.

Don’t forget Advent Calendar Extravaganza runs from 1st-25th December inclusive so make sure you visit every day for fabulous inspiration and amazing prizes every single time! Merry Christmas!

Also, just a reminder, today is the last day of the Overstock sale over at Ellen Hutson.

There is still lots of stuff in the overstock category as well as in the Clearance section.  This link will take you directly to the Overstock category.  Happy browsing!

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Sale Alert

Hey everyone!  Just wanted to pop in and give you guys a heads up about a great sale over at Ellen Hutson.  There is a ton of stuff in the overstock category, and personally I ended up having to make a few purchases.  (Small gelli plates for the girls for Christmas since they like using mine so much, and maybe a couple things for me too ;))

You'll also want to check out the Clearance section while you're there.  If you love mixed media, lots of great items and a whole bunch of retiring product from Tim Holtz/Ranger/Sizzix.  This link will take you directly to the Overstock category

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wishing you a merry little Christmas

Just in case you didn't notice, the Neat & Tangled store was restocked this week.  A bunch of holiday stamps, including this one (Beary Merry) are back.

I love this guy, he's just so sweet!  He's stamped and colored with Copics.  Although there is a coordinating die, I wanted to keep this card nice and flat, so I used a craft knife to cut around his hands and slip that little gift in.

The sentiment is from an older Neat & Tangled set, Merry Little Christmas.

I was trying to keep the card simple, but it felt like it needed a bit more of something, so I used some Scrapbook Adhesives photo corners.  I like the way it sets the stamped panel apart.

That's all for me today.  Still chugging away at the Christmas stuff, but enjoying the season as well.

Come back tomorrow for a special post!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Merry & Bright - Ellen Hutson's 12 Tags of Christmas with a Feminine Twist

Hey everyone!  I'm a big fan of Ellen Hutson's 12 Tags of Christmas feature, and when I saw this inspiration image last week from Carly Tee Minner's post, I knew I had to play along.

The challenge theme from Carly's post was watercolor, and that's exactly what I did here.

I used one of the solid trees as well as the coordinating outline stamp from my Scandianvian Prints Christmas set.  The solid trees were inked up, spritzed with water three times, stamped off on a scrap piece of cardstock, spritzed two more times, and then stamped onto a panel of watercolor paper.  That sounds kind of complicated, but it's necessary to achieve that watercolor look.  If you use the first inking, it's too solid.

After stamping all the solid trees, I went in with the outline image.  This I just inked and stamped, no spritzing.

The sentiment and the stars are from Ellen's Brushstroke Christmas set.  I stamped the sentiment first (with Versafine) and clear embossed.  I actually added the embossing powder several times to get an extra glossy/puffy look.  I didn't bother embossing the stars, I really wanted the sentiment to stand out a bit more.  I did add some gold Wink of Stella coloring into the non-solid stars.

Finally, the tag was finished off with some gold and black Color Shine splatter and mist.  I started with the splatters, but wasn't getting the really fine splatters I wanted in the black, so I ended up adding a very fine mist in the bottom left and top right corners.

This was a lot of fun to create, just a bit of messing around.  I needed a fun little challenge and was glad to be able to take the time to get inky this weekend!

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