Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January 2018 in Books

What a great way to start the reading  year!  So many good books this month.  I read a lot (15) but 6 of those were juvenile fiction and really quick reads.  Here's the recap:

Before We Were Yours - Lisa Wingate - historical fiction - five stars - Such a good book!  It's inspired by actual events and the Tennessee Children's Home Society which functioned in the early 19th century and was run by a woman named Georgia Tann.  She was basically selling babies to wealthy couples.  She resorted used methods like kidnapping (as in the case of the kids in the family in the book) to working with the police or hospital personnel to have kids taken from their parents 'legally'.  It was such a sad story, and really has me wanting to read more about the topic.

One for the Murphys
 - Lynda Mullaly Hall - juveline fiction - five stars - Ellie checked this out of the library for me to read.  She had read it earlier and thought I would really like it.  It's about a girl who is placed in temporary foster care while her mother is in the hospital and her step father is in jail.  The circumstances in which this occurs are a bit murky but become clear during the course of events.  She goes to to live with the Murphys, a new foster family, and reluctantly becomes part of their family.  She grows a lot and she in turn makes a real difference in their lives.  Another great book for helping kids learn about foster care and what it is about.  It's probably a very rosy picture of it, but I thought it was great that the story resonated enough with Ellie for her to want to share it.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman - fiction - five stars - A modern twist on a fairy tale.  A man goes home for a funeral and ends up at the home of an old friend, and then he remembers a chain of events from his childhood - a tale of good and evil, responsibility, sacrifice and friendship.  It's not a long book, but left me thinking for quite some time afterwards.  Loved it.

Short - Holly Goldberg Sloan - juvenile fiction - four stars - I was drawn to the title and the cover of this book, and it's written by an author that Ellie and I read last year (Counting by 7s), so I thought I would give it a try.  It's about a girl who is short.  Her mom signs her and her younger brother up to play munchkins in a summer stock production of the Wizard of Oz.  She's not enthusiastic and is also dealing with the loss of her beloved dog, but she goes and gets drawn into the world.  She becomes friends with older cast members and the director, she learns about the theater and she loves it.  I realy like this book for kids because it deals with trying something new, putting yourself out there, dealing with loss, and becoming comfortable with who you are.

The Misfortune of Marion Palm - Emily Culliton - fiction - three stars - I really thought I was going to like this book, but I really didn't.  Basically there was no one to like in the book.  It's about a woman who runs away because she has been embezzling from her daughter's private school and they are about to do an audit.  Her husband thinks it's because he has been cheating on her (again) and the kids are really not particularly likable.  There's an interesting twist in the end, but the book really left me feeling unsympathetic towards any of the characters.  The only book from this month that I would skip reading.

Home of the Brave - Katherine Applegate - juvenile fiction - five stars - Basically you should read everything Katherine Applegate writes.  This is another book that Ellie forced on me, literally, she kept asking me if I  had started it yet.  Her class read it together and she liked it so much she used some of her Christmas money to buy her own copy.  It's the story of Kek an African refugee who is sent to the US to live with his a aunt and cousin who previously emigrated after he is separated from his mother in a refugee camp.  The transition and uncertainty about his mother is difficult as is the transition from Africa to the mid-west in the middle of winter.  But he is such a positive person and a great role model for young readers.

Seven Days of Us - Francesca Hornak - fiction - four stars - The whole time I was reading this book I thought someone should make it into a movie.  It's kind of perfect for a Christmas movie because of the compressed time frame (a week right around Christmas) and the kind of larger than life personalities involved.  It's the story of a family forced into quarantine together during the holidays when the older daughter returns from treating an epidemic in a foreign country.  It's extremely predictable.  There was one major twist at the end, but the rest was very expected.  Not in a bad way, but like I said kind of in a movie way where you see all these story lines converging. 

The Fourth Stall Part II (The Fourth Stall, #2) - Chris Rylander - juvenile fiction - four stars - The sequel to one of Ellie's Battle Books.  This time someone is messing with Mac's school and there's a danger that it will close.  He has to find out who is sabotaging the school.  Just as enjoyable as the first book, I like the quirkyness of the plot and characters and situation in general.  It's a great read for guys.

The Guise of Another - Allen Eskens - fiction - five stars - The second book by the author of The Life We Bury which I read, and loved, last year.  The main character is Alexander Rupert, the brother of Max Rupert the detective from the first book.  Max appears in this book as well, but it is a stand alone work and you don't need to have read the first book.  Alexander is under investigation by internal affairs for possible theft of evidence (money from drug busts).  He's relegated to missing persons, but picks up a case that might be (and is) big.  A man dies, but he was impersonating another man.  Who is he and what happened to the other guy?  Lots of twists and turns, so good I couldn't put it down.

Daughters of the Dragon - Williams Andrews - historical fiction - five stars - I remember reading about this book when it was first published and thinking I needed to read it, but promptly forgot about it.  When I saw it in the library the other day I immediately put it in my bag.  It's the story of a Korean woman who was taken to China by the Japanese during WWII to work at one of their 'comfort stations'.  Such a hard story to read, she went through a lot, lost so much, and prevailed nonetheless.  There's an overarching mystery about a comb that she has as well.  Apparently this is the first in a trilogy that the author has planned and I'm really excited to read the coming books.

A Man Called Ove - Fredrick Backman - fiction - five stars - This one has been on my list for quite some time, but I kept putting it off.  Probably because while I did enjoy his book My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She's Sorry, it took me a long time to get into, and I wasn't sure if would be the same kind of slow burn and I haven't been in the mood for slow books.  I'm so glad I finally read it though.  It progresses much faster than the other.  It's about Ove who has had a hard life, and unfair life, and is ready to be done with life.  And then a new family moves in next door and everything changes.  He's slowly drawn back into community, it's a wonderful story about renewal, family, forgiveness, roots.  Loved it.

Lady Cop Makes Trouble (Kopp Sisters, #2) - Amy Stewart - detective - four stars - I read the first book in this series last year.  It was OK, but not as good as I thought it would be, but I thought I would give it another try.  I really did like this one better.  I feel like you probably needed all the character development and back story in the first book, but I liked the focus on the mystery/cases in this book much better without all the background stuff.  In this book Constance inadvertently loses a prisoner and must find him or else the Sheriff will lose his job and may himself be incarcerated.   

Wishtree - Applegate, Katherine - fiction - five stars - Remember when I said you should read everything from Katherine Applegate?  Well after I finished Home of the Brave we were looking at her books online and talking about how we needed to read this one, so Ellie went and got it from the school library for us.  Did you know that trees can talk?  They can, though they are not supposed to.  Wishtree tells us his story, of all the things he has seen in the past.  In the present day, a new family has moved in, an immigrant family who many in the neighborhood don't want to have around.  Wishtree tries to help the daughter find a friend, to preserve a sense of community and peace.  It's a lovely, sweet, welcoming story.

The Heavens May Fall
 - Allen Eskens - fiction - five stars - I had to read the next book after finishing The Guise of Another (don't be surprised to see the fourth book on my February reading list!).  Again, this book stands alone.  Max is involved in the murder trial of the wife of a defense attorney who he has clashed with in the past.  One of his good friends is defending the man who Max believes is guilty.  Their friendship is strained, add to that the mystery of Max's wife's death, and this one really had me guessing.  

Rise: How a House Built a Family - Cara Brookins - memoir - four stars - I love perusing the new books at the library because you never know what you'll find there.  This one looked really interesting.  It's the story of a family traumatized by emotional/physical abuse, that is starting over.  With very little money, they decide the only way to afford a house is to build it themselves.  With some help from family, good samaritans, and the internet, they manage to get it done.  Kind of amazing, I can't even fathom attempting this.  The only part I didn't like about the book were the parts where she talks about meditating.  She has visions of these two characters who talk to her/center her/encourage her.  Could have done without those interludes.

Next up in my stack:  The One in a Million boy, Give a Girl a Knife, Spies in the Family, and The Confusion of Languages. 

How about you?  Would love to know what you read this month!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Thistle be the best day ever!

I had a little time to stamp over the weekend and pulled out this Thistle set from Ellen Hutson that I picked up a while back and haven't had a chance to ink up yet.

Sometimes it's fun to just play a bit with no plan in mind.

For this card I inked up my images, spritzed with water, stamped off once and then onto a watercolor panel.  I used a lighter green for the stems and pink for the flowers.

Then I inked the stamps a second time using a darker green for the stems and a purple for the flowers.  This time I used a very light spritz (highly recommend the Tim Holtz sprayer as it gives you a lot of control over the amount of water being spritzed) and did not stamp off.  

After the flowers were dry, I thought it needed a little something else, so I added some quick sketch marks using a journaling pen.  I also added a simple strip of stitching to the left side of the panel and sentiment from the Snailed It set.

That's all for me today.  I'll be back tomorrow with my January reading recap!

*Affiliate Links Below

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Simon Says Stamp Love Release

Hey everyone!  Have you checked out the latest release from Simon Says Stamp?  Today I'm featuring a couple cards created using the Cupid's Heart die.

For this first card I created a faux cover plate panel by just die cutting repeatedly, turning the die each time to get a different orientation.

This piece was layered over a cardstock panel and I added a patterned paper mat as well.

The sentiment die is from the Neat & Tangled Love Notes die set, and I created the secondary sentiment using my typewriter.  I added a bit of vellum behind the sentiment die to make it pop and some staples and sequins for extra texture.

Next I die cut a piece of scrap cardstock to create a stencil.  Then I used two shades of ink to softly ink the negative space, repeating to get a pattern.

That little peep is from an older Simon set that apparently was retired.  I used Copics to color him/her as well as the hugs sentiment.

That's all for me today.  Be sure to hop over to Simon to check out all the new products!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


Hi everyone, I was so fortunate to be able to attend Creativation this year.  It's been something I've wanted to do for forever, and being able to go this year was so exciting!

I definitely saw some new things that are on my crafty wishlist, and also met some really interesting people and artists who are doing amazing things both in the papercrafting world as well as in other mediums.  Although I mostly paper craft now, I've done lots of knitting and crocheting, sewing, and painting in the past, so having so many craft companies from all those disciplines under one roof was kind of amazing.

I didn't take a ton of photos (and these are all iphone photos so not the best quality), but here are a few of my favorite things:

Although Neat & Tangled didn't have a booth, we did have some goodies in one.  Found some of our latest release on display in the Notions (one of our wholesalers) booth.

New stencils from the Crafter's Workshop, they have always been my favorite stencil company, loving these gorgeous new designs!

The One Canoe Two collaboration with American Crafts might be the best mash up of companies ever.  The new collection is so pretty and there are some of the cutest accessories too, including a sweet little house shaped box with mini cards and envelopes inside.

These mini Thickers from Paige Evans' Pick-Me-Up collection are a must have.

The Altenew booth had SO MUCH good stuff!  That giant rose background, swoon!

And there are some new stitching stamps and dies that make the most amazing stuff.

And this display piece created using all of their 3D floral dies, just wow.

The new turnabout from Concord and 9th is so cool, and the center comes out so you can stamp it with a circular opening if you want.

A super cute mini collection from Simple Stories.

A must have cutting plate from Sizzix.  You can see where the cut is, but it's smooth to the touch, so you don't get that weird texture on the back of your die cut pieces from the surface of your cutting plate.

And a couple new paper lines from Webster's Pages!  They've been focused on planners and traveler's notebooks of late, so I was so excited to see some paper lines.  Their paper quality is so good and I have always been a fan of their collections.  In general, I'm over the unicorn fad, but I'm making an exception for the caticorns!

These are just a few looks at things that caught my eye, next time I am going to be better about documenting!

I was also thrilled to see Alexandra Renke exhibiting.  They are a German company that I follow on Instagram, they have the most beautiful and delicate paper and die designs, and I'm a little giddy that they might be in stores in the US soon!

By far the best part of the weekend was getting to meet and spend time with people I've 'known' in the ether for years and years.  Scrolling through my photos I was struck by the fact that I didn't actually take as many pictures as I thought, there are so many other people I met and spent time with, but apparently we were having too much fun to stop and take a photo!

It was so refreshing to spend some time with these and many other ladies.  The stamping community is filled with so many generous and welcoming individuals which was proved over and over again during the course of the weekend.

Last but not least an incredibly bad and dark photo of the Neat & Tangled team at the show.  Danielle, myself, and Sarah who deals with all things customer service and wholesale for Neat & Tangled.  Can you believe that although Danielle and I have been working together for over three years and we live only two hours away from one another we had to go to Phoenix to meet?

Such a fun weekend!  I'm still a little bleary eyed as we took the red eye home, getting in around 7:30 yesterday morning.  Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Cherish This Day

Another one of my recent purchases was this stencil from Hero Arts which I have been ogling for ages.  Isn't it gorgeous?  I love all the detail!

I thought it would look gorgeous with this gold embossing paste from Dreamweaver.

The finished background was so pretty I didn't want to cover it up, so I kept things very simple.

The sentiment die is from Sizzix.  I cut it once from black cardstock and then clear embossed it three times.  I also added clear embossing to the edges of the black mat for the panel and the sentiment strip.

The secondary sentiment was created using my typewriter.

Short and sweet today.  I'm off to Creativation tomorrow.  I'm so excited to meet in person so many of the people I've online (that sounds so weird doesn't it), but nonetheless, very excited.  If you're going to be there, let me know!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Altenew Fantasy Floral Dies and Blog Hop Winner

Hey everyone! 

I had so much fun working with the latest Altenew die release that I was inspired to pull out the Fantasy Floral 3D die set.  I picked this set up late last year, but hadn't gotten around to using it yet and it was time!

For the bottom layer of both flowers I didn't have the 'right' shade, so I used a lighter shade and added a bit of ink blending.  There are only three layers to these flowers so it's quite easy to put together.  

The leaves were both cut from a lighter and darker green color and then I assembled the pieces in a grid design over a piece of cardstock that I had dry embossed using the new Watercolor Stripes cover.  It's hard to see in the photos, but adds just the right bit of texture to the card.

The sentiment is from the Wild Hibiscus set.

A gold mat finished this off.  

Now, I owe you all a blog hop winner.

The lucky lady is....  

Melissa Fredrichs

Congratulations Melissa!  Please email with the subject line Altenew January Release Blog Hop Winner from Miriam's Blog to claim your prize.

*Affiliate Links to Ellen Hutson below and to Altenew in above text.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Altenew January 2018 Release Blog Hop + Giveaway

I'm excited to be participating in Altenew's January release bog hop today!  Altenew is releasing a whole slew of dies and I had a blast playing with them!  You should be arriving from Vicky Papaioannou's blog.

The first thing I wanted to try out when my package came was this Cube Cover Die.  I love cover plates, and anything geometric, so this was an obvious choice for me.  I cut it from Persimmon cardstock layering it over a dark teal.  I also cut it from a very light peach.  I used the cut out diamonds from the peach for the tops of the cubes, adhering them with Tombow Mono.

The sentiment dies is actually the you from the Thinking of You die that is releasing, i just trimmed out the you and added to a secondary sentiment from the Teachers Rule set which was embossed on black.  

I love the retro mid-century vibe this one has!  

I wasn't done with the cover plate yet though, I still had the insides of the Persimmon as well as plenty more diamonds from the soft peach, so I picked another orangey/peachy color, mid way between the two, and cut it again.

This time I inlaid the pieces to create a dimensional cube effect.  The sentiment was creating using the new Caps Bold Alphabet Set.  (The lowercase set is one of my favorites so I was thrilled to see that it was coming out in caps!)  To add some extra dimension/interest I overlapped the letters and popped some out.  

The secondary sentiment is from the Floral Shadow set.

Next up I just HAD to try out the Peony Dream 3D Die set.  I love peonies and I love the look of layered floral dies, this did not disappoint!  It's a bit tricky the first time around, but it comes with a guide which makes all the difference!

It's just such a wow effect!  There are five layers to the flower not counting the center piece.  I didn't have that many shades of yellow, so for one of the layers I just re-used one of the yellows, but made it a bit darker using a blending tool and Warm Sunshine ink.  You can also always cut these from white cardstock and color them.  

I again used that Cube Cover Die for the background, embossing it onto the white panel to create some texture.

The sentiment is from Magnolias for Her.

For my last card, I had all the dies out!  Well not really, but this one incorporates five of the new dies.

I started with the Watercolor Stripes cover die which was cut in white and layered onto my card to create a great tone on tone background.

I used leaves from both the Peony Dream and Rose Flurries 3D sets and those little twigs are from the Create-A-Wreath set.  Finally, I used the Thinking of You die for the sentiment.

The sentiment die was cut four times, twice from red and twice from dark gray, used for the bottom two layers, which I think helps set it off a bit more.  I also added some very subtle Copic shading to the sentiment.

This is a packed release and you're going to want to keep hopping because there is so much to see and so many prizes to win!

To celebrate this release, Altenew is giving away a $50 gift certificate to SIX lucky winners! Please leave a comment on the Altenew Card Blog and Altenew Scrapbook Blog by Monday, January 15th for a chance to win. Six winners will be announced on the Altenew blogs on 1/17/2018.

In addition, I have a $30 gift certificate to give away.  Just leave a comment and you'll be entered to win!

Your next stop on the hop is Enza Gudor, and I've got the whole list below in case you get turned around.  Good luck!

*Affiliate links in text to Altenew and below to Ellen Hutson