Monday, July 31, 2017

July 2017 in Books

Lots of books this month and interestingly no juvenile fiction.  We were on vacation, so I did a lot of reading then, and I actually do have a couple of books from Ellie queued up, so you'll see some more of that next month.  Overall my favorites were the Guernsey Society and Whistling Past the Graveyard, but I've got the full rundown for you below.

Girl Waits with Gun - Amy Stewart - detective - four stars - I have mixed feelings about this book.  It had been on my to read list for a while.  I liked the story (which turns out to be based on real events) about a woman (in 1914) who is drawn into a mystery after confronting an unscrupulous factory owner who runs into her carriage with his car.  I thought the characters were good, but the writing style wasn't my favorite.  I'm not sure why, I just thought the prose itself was kind of choppy and not smooth.  This is actually a series, so I'm thinking I'll give it another chance as I did like the story itself.

Whistling Past the Graveyard - Susan Crandall - fiction - five stars - I can't recommend this one enough.  I loved it.  The story of a girl who runs away from her grandmother to go to her mother in Nashville.  Along the way she meets a black woman traveling with a white baby.  This is the era of segregation and she learns a lot about what it means to be black during the journey as well as what a family is.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows - fiction - five stars - This was such a good book.  It's set just after the end of WWII, and Juliet Ashton, a writer, is looking for a subject for her next book.  She begins a correspondence with a man from Guernsey, which then grows to include many of the people in the town eventually causing her to go there.  Guernsey was occupied during the War and the book discusses the occupation, POWs brought to work there, as well as some beloved islanders who were sent to camps during the war.  The book is funny, sad, happy, and just so good.  Unfortunately the author became very ill as she was finishing the book up, and passed away but not before her she asked her niece Annie Barrows (who wrote the Ivy and Bean books) to help her finish it.  This is her only novel, which is a shame because it's so good, and I would have loved to have read more from her.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards - fiction - three stars - This was kind of a miss for me  The story was interesting enough, a doctor ends up having to deliver his twins during a snowstorm.  One is born with Down's Syndrome and he gives her to the assisting nurse to take to a home and tells his wife that the baby died.  The nurse is unable to leave her and takes her and raises her on her own.  The story deals with the aftermath - how it affected the doctor, his wife, and their remaining child.  Aside from the nurse, I ended the book just not really liking any of the characters.  

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn - fiction - five stars - The story of a man whose wife disappears, and all signs point to him murdering her, but it turns out she's framing him (sorry if that is a bit of a spoiler, but since there is a movie out based on the book I figured most folks know the general plot).  It's kind of a fascinating look at some very messed up people, but it was interesting to see how she went about doing it and the ending was just kind of mind blowing and left me shaking my head because these people are just messed up.

The Boy Who Runs: The Odyssey of Julius Achon - Julius Achon - autobiography - five stars - The story of a runner from Uganda.  He was taken by soldiers in the LRA for a brief period as a child, but was able to escape and return to his family.  After that, he decided he wanted to do better, and set a goal of becoming an Olympic runner.  He did run in several international races and was recruited to attend George Mason University in Virginia where he set records and won a championship.  After many years of running in road races in order to send his winnings home to his family in Uganda, he ended up working for the Nike organization where he met a man who helped him set up a charity to help those in Uganda.  What I really love about this story is that his heart for his country and family was constant, while he could have stayed in the U.S. working to raise funds here, he is living and working in Uganda and making a huge difference.   

A Matter of Inches: How I Survived in the Crease and Beyond - Clint Malarchuk - autobiography - four stars - So I used to read a ton of hockey books (our family likes hockey), and this is one of the books I picked up for Andrew for Christmas this past year.  Malarchuk was a goalie for our team (the Washington Capitals) for a while, and the incident in which his throat was slashed by an opponent's skate in a freak incident during a game in Buffalo is pretty well known.  This book is pretty comprehensive dealing with childhood as well as career after his playing days were over.  The main theme is depression.  Malarchuk suffered from it as a child, as a player, and later as a coach, and how he was able to deal with it throughout life.  He's very candid, he talks about relapses, arrests, alcohol, rehab, etc. which I appreciated.  

The Life We Bury - Allen Eskens - fiction - five stars - Another great book.  About a boy in college, Joe Talbert, taking a writing course.  He needs to outline and write parts of a biography.  Since he doesn't have much family, he decides to go to a local nursing home and see if there is someone there he can interview.  He is introduced to a convicted murdered who has been released to the nursing home because he is dying of cancer.  As Joe talks with him and meets his friend Virgil, he begins to question whether he actually was the killer.  Really well written, and you don't want to put it down.  I'm definitely planning to read more from this author. 

The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan-American Highway - Teresa Bruce - memoir - four stars - I enjoy reading about the crazy things that other people do, because I'm just not that crazy.  When Bruce was a kid, her brother was killed in a tragic accident.  Her father's response was to take the family on a car trip (with a camper) down the Pan-American highway.  To be honest, I didn't know that such a thing existed, but it runs down the eastern edge of Central/South America.  You drive through a lot of countries where there are a lot of problems/violence/crime, there are severe elevation changes and extreme weather conditions.  Eventually their truck/camper broke down and they sold it and flew out of there.  Now years later, Bruce is recreating the journey and attempting to see if she can locate the camper.  Conditions are not that much better in some countries than they were previously, for example, they avoid Columbia altogether, and she and her husband deal with illness, theft, riots, etc.  But along the way she is able to reconnect with people who helped her family during their original trip as well as meet new 'angels'.  Just a very interesting read about a part of the world I don't know much about.

Did You Ever Have a Family - Bill Clegg - fiction - four stars - The story of a June Reid, whose daughter, fiance, ex-husband, and boyfriend are killed in a tragic accident the evening before her daughter's wedding.  She leaves everything behind and starts driving, ending up on the west coast after finding a journal from her daughter referencing a small motel there.  Told from different points of view of individuals affected by the disaster and who meet June on her journey.  Very much about loss and coping and healing.  It was at times a bit slow for me, and I thought some things came together a little too neatly, but overall very good.

Leaving Berlin - Joseph Kanon- fiction - four stars - The story of a German Jew who left/was deported from the U.S. because he wasn't willing to testify in the McCarthy hearings.  He makes a deal with the CIA to spy in East Germany in order to be able to return where he has a young son.  He is quickly mixed into society in East Germany, being recruited by both the Russians and East Germans to spy on those around him.  It seems like, and maybe it actually was, the wild west in terms of espionage.  The writing wasn't my favorite style, it took me a while to get acclimated to what was going on, and the level of backstabbing and intrigue seemed a little over the top.  I could have probably used a few less double agents, but a decent story.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

So Good to See You

We have been having a GREAT summer, lots of fun on vacation, hanging out with friends and family, staying up late, all good stuff, which translates to not a ton of time for me in the craft room.  Yesterday I was really feeling like I wanted to create, so I challenged myself to pull out something I hadn't used in a while and make a quick card.

The something I hadn't used in a while was my Ornate Frames stamps and dies for Neat & Tangled.

I love this set, and I don't use it nearly enough.  The frame was stamped with some Altenew inks, I wanted it to really stand out, so I went with a brighter color.  To me these frames serve as a type of ephemera piece that might come with a paper collection.

Since I wanted the frame to really pop, I paired it with some more neutral prints, from Maggie Holmes/Crate Paper, and then added a fishtail banner die cut from some Studio Calico paper.  To set the banner off from the background, I cut another from black cardstock and offset it at the bottom.  To give some emphasis to the top of the banner, I added a bit of washi to the top left corner, and then stitched the two banners onto that yellow striped print with gold thread.

For my sentiment, I used the So Good To See You set, also from Neat & Tangled, and my MISTI.  I lined the frame up on the banner where I wanted it, and then used the magnets to hold both pieces in place.  The sentiment was stamped first with the frame in place and then without, this allows me to pop the frame up over the banner and have the sentiment align exactly.

A few gold sequins and some black splatter finished this off.

Thanks for coming by, I hope you are having just as great a summer and finding a little time to do some creating as well.

*Affiliate Links Below to Ellen Hutson, in text to Neat & Tangled

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Miss You and a Sale

Sometimes you find a stamp or die that goes perfectly with a cut of paper.  That's what happened with this card.

I really wanted to use this die cut from Waffle Flower crafts and as I was flipping through some patterned papers, this print from Pinkfresh just jumped out.  Perfect, right?

I did add a tiny stamped image to balance things on the right side of the card.  It was a little image from Altenew's Floral Shadow set as there was a space in the print that needed a little something in it.  I stamped it with some light ink and then used some cool gray Copics to soften/blend it.

The sentiment is also from that Floral Shadow set.

I could have left the card at that, but I added a couple strips of patterned paper at the bottom and some stitching.

I love it when the products do the work for you!

I also wanted to let you know that Danielle is running a big sale this weekend over at Neat & Tangled.  She doesn't often put the whole store on sale, but right now it's all 25% off.  If you've been eyeing something, it's a great time to pick it up!  And if you're inclined, this is my affiliate link to the store.  Happy shopping!

*Affiliate Links Below

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hooray Cats

When we were on vacation I was able to get together with my friend Jocelyn.  We hung out with our families and also snuck in a little crafting time.

I really wanted to use this set from Mama Elephant, but there are so many cats and I was feeling lazy about the coloring, so I opted to color just their accessories and stripes and the one cat.

There is a coordinating die, but I wanted a crisp edge, so I fussy cut the piece.

The sentiment die is also Mama Elephant and the stamped sentiment is from Neat & Tangled's Itty Bitty Welcoming Committee set.

Thanks for visiting!

*Affiliate Links Below

Thursday, July 13, 2017

True Friends

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

I am just back from vacation, our family went out to South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming, a totally different part of the country.  We saw the Ingalls Homestead, Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, the Black Hills, Little Big Horn, Devil's Tower, caves, rocks, trees, lots of climbing and hiking.  It was a great time, and I'm still in an outdoorsy soft of mood which spilled over into today's card.

I pulled out my Calathea set for today's card, I created a similar card a while back for the A Blog Named Hero Anniversary hop, with softer more nontraditional colors, but today I went with the greens.  Just random stamping, trying to balance things, using a mix of first and second generation stamping.

One little trick, when using inks that are good for solid stamps because they will kind of soften and blend a bit (think Altenew or Hero Arts), I will run my heat gun over my panel after each layer of stamping.  I feel like this gives you a crisper image so that the layers don't bleed into one another.

I wanted a softer, more earthy and warmer look to the card, so I used a cream rather than white panel.

Once my stamping was done, I used the recently released Together stamp and my MISTI for the sentiment.  I love a good one layer card and the Calathea set is perfect for this.

A cream mat and kraft based finished this off.  Hope you are having a wonderful week and thanks for stopping by!

*Affiliate links to N&T store in text and to Ellen Hutson below

Friday, July 7, 2017

Giveaway Winners Take Two

Hey folks, I'm actually on vacation this week, so all my posts were pre-scheduled, but somehow I couldn't edit the winners section of my last post, so here are the winners for you.

@greenwdgirl (from IG) wins the Together stamp set

mandalj (from the blog) wins the Modern Triangles Cover Plate

@peppermintpatty42 (from IG) wins the Modern Triangles Stencil

Congrats to everyone, shoot me an email with your mailing address,  and I'll get your goodies sent out.

If you didn't win, but you must have something from the release head on over to the store, everything is now available.

Happy Friday!

Neat & Tangled July Release Recap and Giveaway Winner

Hey everyone!  The Neat & Tangled July release is now available in the store!  Here's a recap of my projects for this week:




I also have some winners to announce!

____ wins the Together stamp set

____ wins the Modern Triangles cover plate

____ wins the Modern Triangles stencil

If you didn't win, never fear, August is just around the corner and there will be more chances to win.  If there's something you must have, head on over to the store, Danielle is going to be doing some discounted stamp/die bundles this month, so you'll definitely want to check that out!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Neat & Tangled July Release and Giveaways - Day 4

Today is the final day of our July release reveals!  All products will be available tomorrow at 8 AM EST in the Neat & Tangled store.  Today we're showing off my new cover plate and stencil, Modern Triangles.

I teased the cover in one of my Monday cards and I have a couple more cards to share with you featuring the cover plate.

For this first one, I cut the cover from cream cardstock, and then randomly inlaid some of the gold pieces I saved from my Monday card into the triangle shapes.

The sentiment is from the You're a Gem set and was embossed using Princess Gold embossing powder.

For this next card, I dry embossed the cover plate, I love this look, it almost looks like one of those WRMK 3D embossing folders.  Normally, I take my photos head on, but this angled view gives a much better look at the dimension from the embossed piece.

I finished this one very simply using my Together stamp/die set that we highlighted on Monday.

There's also a stencil in this design.  For this card, I first inked over the stencil with Evergreen Bough Distress Ink.  Then I used three Prismacolor colored pencils to add a bit of shading to the three parts of the triangles.  This is not fancy shading, just to give the parts a bit of dimension, but as a whole it really makes those triangles pop.

I wanted to keep the focus on the background and stick with a one-layer look, so I added another sentiment from the You're a Gem set which was stamped in Versafine and then clear embossed a few times to give it a puffier/glossier look.  I thought the sentiment needed some grounding, so I added those dots from the Good Vibes set.

OK, time to head over to the Neat & Tangled blog to check out what the rest of the team created and to enter to win today's featured products.

I'm also going to be choosing some winners from comments this week here on the blog and on Instagram for my new release products, so be sure to leave a comment here and each day this week, and then head over to Instagram (@mprantner) for details on how to win there.

Winners will be announced tomorrow!