Wednesday, February 28, 2018

February 2018 in Books

Hey everyone!  Some really good books this month, several that were slower reads, but worth it.  Here's the recap:

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern - fiction - five stars - The story of a magical duel between two opponents who are actually the surrogates of 'masters' who trained them. This one took me a while to get into.  It was told from multiple viewpoints in multiple time periods so it was a bit circuitous and difficult to follow at times, but purposefully I think just as the circus was kind of a maze and a puzzle.  I loved the two protagonists and how they turned out despite how they were raised, and the supporting characters were also likable and interesting.  All in all a really good read, complex, rich read that kept me on my toes.

Give a Girl a Knife - Amy Thielen - memoir - four stars - Amy Thielen is a professional chef who has a television show - Heartland Table.  I had actually never heard of her or her show, but I actually really enjoy reading books about chefs/cooking/the food scene.  Anyway, I really liked this one, but it was a slow read.  Her writing is detailed, specific, plodding isn't quite the right word, but it's not a fast read.  It tended to read more as informational and less as story.  Still a really interesting book about how she got into the food business - from living off the grid in Minnesota to bouncing around restaurants in New York City, and then going back home.  If you are into this genre I think you'll like it, if not there are a lot of more readable foodie books that I'd suggest.

Spies in the Family: An American Spymaster, His Russian Crown Jewel, and the Friendship That Helped End the Cold War - Eva Dillon - non-fiction - four stars - The story of the author's father, a CIA agent during the Cold War and one of his assets Soviet general Dmitri Fedorovich Polyakov, code named TOPHAT.  Eva starts to research her father's life well after his death interviewing many of his co-workers as well as Polyakov's son. Fascinating look at the life of a handler, tradecraft and the development of those tools, and the repercussions of US spies Ames and Hanssen.

Spy School (Spy School #1) - Stuart Gibbs - juvenile fiction - four stars - I was actually a little surprised that I only had one kids book on the list this month.  Ellie passed this one onto me, and it was a cute book.  We both read Space Case by this author last year and enjoyed it. This one is about a boy recruited to a Spy School to help catch a mole in the organization.  It's kind of a fun premise with likable and irreverent characters.  I think this would be another great series for boys.

The Deep Dark Descending - Allen Eskens - fiction - five stars - This is the fourth book from Eskens about this particular group of characters.  I like that this series rotates the focus of each story from character to character although the overall cast tends to remain the same. In this edition, the focus is on Detective Max Rupert who finally tracks down his wife's killer and learns the full story behind her murder. Really well written using a series of flashbacks, it really kept me guessing as to what would happen in the end.

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir - Jennifer Ryan - historical fiction - five stars - This was my favorite book this month.  I actually almost didn't borrow it because I'm shallow and the cover art was kind of granny to me (as was the title of the book), but I read the inside cover and it sounded interesting, so I brought it home and I'm so glad I did.  This kind of reminded me of the Guernsey Library and Potato Peel Society as it's told through a series writings - letters to others, journal entries, etc.  The events in question take place during a relatively short time span at the beginning of the war.  Interestingly enough when I first started reading I found very little redeeming in any of the characters, but by the end of the book, I was rooting for them all.  That was the beauty of the story for me, the transformation and growth in the characters, how they become better people. This is a must read.

My Italian Bulldozer 
- Alexander McCall Smith - fiction - four stars - I'm a big fan of McCall Smith's Number One Detective Agency series.  I've read some of his other books as well and I always find his characters likable and his plots unexpected with a good dose of humor.  This is a cute little story about a food writer whose girlfriend breaks up with him just before his next book is due.  He's in a bit of a funk, so his editor sends him to Italy to get away and finish up his book. When he gets there, his car reservation does not actually have a reserved car (shades of Seinfeld) and he ends up with a rental bulldozer.  I loved the characters, the plot, just a quick, enjoyable feel good read.

The Woman Next Door - Yewande Omotoso - fiction - three stars - The story is about two women in post-apartheid South Africa. One is white and the other is black and they enemies.  Neither is remotely likable, I was not cheering for either woman at any point.  I did find it interesting from a race relations perspective.  Obviously this is a difficult problem in the US, and there are really interesting parallels in South Africa where they are even closer to the end of segregation/apartheid than we are.  It makes me want to read a little more about the current state of race relations there.

After the Fire - Mankell Henning - fiction - two stars - Basically don't read this book.  It's a bout a grumpy and pretty skeevy old man who lives on an island in Sweden. His house burns down and he eventually becomes the chief suspect.  There are no likable characters in this book, and is just a slog.  There were s many random tangents, descriptions of dreams that he had, long and rambling memories. I found out later that this was published posthumously.  It definitely needed more editing. 

The Confusion of Languages - Siobhan Fallon - fiction - four stars - Margaret Brickshaw is a recently married wife of an American soldier stationed in Jordan during the Arab spring. Cassie Hugo, another wife already in Jordan, is assigned to help her acclimate.  Cassie and her husband have been trying to have a baby without luck for many years, Margaret comes to town with an infant. Their friendship is complicated - needed and wanted, but there is jealousy.  Margaret goes missing and as Cassie waits with her son, she finds Margaret's journal and sees both their lives in a different light. I found both the women somewhat annoying and needy, but I really enjoyed the mystery of the book and how the story was revealed. 

What's next?  I'm currently reading Sisters First by the Bush daughters, and waiting in the wings are Lion,  Lenin, Hitler & Me, Beartown, and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

What did you read this month?  Would love to hear if there's a must read in there!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Simply Amazing

I have a strong affinity for background stamps.  I feel like they don't often get the credit they deserve.  A good background stamp can be a background, but it can also be the star of your card.

When it comes to background stamps, Hero Arts makes some of the very best. Today's card features their Snowflake Pattern Bold Print background.  Doesn't really look at all like a snowflake does it?  When I saw this pattern it reminded me of a kaleidoscope.

I stamped the background with white pigment ink on kraft, and the proceeded to selectively color the pattern with colored pencils.  The great thing is that you could color this 10 times 10 ways and get very very different looks.

I didn't really have a plan, I was just having some fun coloring.  Once I was done, I trimmed it down following some of the natural lines in the pattern and used it somewhat like patterned paper.

The sentiment is from an oldie but a goodie from WPlus9, Quite Like You.

That's all for me today.  I'll be back tomorrow with my February book recap.

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Monday, February 26, 2018

Technique Tuesday Winner and Sale

Hi all!  Just popping in to announce the winner of my Technique Tuesday giveaway.

The lucky lady is....


Congratulations Marianne!  Please shoot me an email with your address and I'll have the Chicken Family set/dies sent out to you.

For everyone else, Technique Tuesday is having a birthday sale, and today is the last day.  You can take 20% off your order with the code HB2U, so if you had your heart set on something now is a great time to pick it up!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Winnie & Walter Guest Post

Hi friends!  I'm sharing over on the Winnie & Walter blog today as part of their birthday month festivities.

Here's a little sneak peek of my card, head over their for all the details!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Technique Tuesday One Layer Cards & Giveaway

Hi everyone!

Today I'm sharing a couple cards created using some products from Technique Tuesday. 

One layer cards are not necessarily in my wheelhouse, but I enjoy making them from time to time.  I love the simplicity you can achieve and I feel like they are often the most sophisticated looking cards I create.

For these cards I'm featuring both the Sweet Succulents and Perfect Picture stamp set (unfortunately this stamp set appears to be sold out right now).

For the first card, I first stamped the frame image in a light tan color (this was Crumb Cake from Stampin' Up).  Then I created a mask for the frame itself by stamping the image on a large post it and cutting out the inside of the frame.

Once that was done, I placed the mask over the frame and stamped the succulent image in the same ink.  Then I colored the succulents with Copics and added a sentiment from the Picture Perfect set.

For my next card, I stamped the same succulent image in black twice, at the top and bottom of my card to fame the area for the sentiment.

I added subtle accents using C1 and C3 Copics - basically just adding a bit of color where shadows would be.  This was really quick and easy, but I think it has a big impact.

The very kind and generous folks at Technique Tuesday are also sponsoring a giveaway.  One lucky someone will win a stamp and coordinating die of their choice from Technique Tuesday.  To be entered to win, simply be a blog follower and leave a comment with what you would choose if you won.

A winner will be announced on Monday.  Good luck!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

No Stamping or Die Cutting featuring Simple Stories

Sometimes you just want to make something quick and easy without pulling out of ton of supplies and getting dirty.

That's what I did for today's card.  I pulled out an old Simple Stories SN@P pack called Fresh.  The good things is all this stuff is supposed to go together so you don't really have to worry about finding matching/coordinating pieces.

I started with a 3x4 journaling card featuring striped triangles at different angles.  I loved the design, but wanted to customize it a bit, so using my cutting knife I carefully cut out some of the triangles.  Then I layered that card over another and used a third 3x4 card for a mat.

The entire piece was then layered over a mat created by trimming down a 4x6 journaling card.

For the sentiment I layered three pieces of ephemera that come in the SN@P pack, a round piece, a floral cluster, and then the sentiment piece.  To add some balance, I fussy cut a second floral cluster from another journaling card. 

Really quick and easy, and so nice to be able to use some older products in my stash!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Winnie & Walter 4th Birthday Bash Blog Hop

Happy Friday!  I'm excited to be helping Winnie & Walter celebrate their fourth birthday today.  You should be arriving from Taheerah Atchia's blog.

I was lucky enough to be able to meet and hang out a bit with Shay last month at Creativation.  She's the real deal, down to earth, fun, and supportive.  I was also able to meet Evelin T - who designed the stamp set I'm featuring today.  So sweet and kind.  I could hang out with those girls all day!

Anyway, I thought it would be fitting to create a birthday card for this hop, and this little puffin from the Winter Wishes set looks to me like he is just partying and having a great time, so I thought I would make him the focus of the card.

I started by stamping him on my panel and coloring him with Copics.  Then I created a mask for him and also masked off the bottom of the card to create a ground line.

There are four blobby dot stamps in this set which I used to create the background, I wanted almost a lava lamp effect.  I used the Sea Shore ink collection from Altenew and did both first and second generation stamping of the inks as well as varying the shades.

The sentiment is from the Happy Birthday to You set from Winnie & Walter.

All good hops need prizes right?  Well there are four up for grabs on this hop.  Four people will win $40 credits to the W&W store.  You have until February 28th to complete the hop.  Your next stop is Keren Baker, and I'll put the full list below in case you get turned around.

Good luck and happy hopping!

*Affiliate links below to Ellen Hutson and in text to company stores

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Stamp Sale at Ellen Hutson

Hi folks!  Just popping in quickly to let you know that Ellen Hutson currently has 20% off stamps!  Good through tomorrow with code HEARTSTAMPS18.  If you've been eyeing something, now is a great time to pick it up.

The good news is that the code works on clearance items too.  I've linked a few clearance items below (including a couple of my older N&T sets), a few things on my current wishlist, and my latest So Many Sentiments set from Neat & Tangled if you are in the shopping mood.

And if you just want to browse on your own, feel free to use/not use my affiliate link:

Be back tomorrow for a fun blog hop!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Leafy Hello and Leaky Copics

Hey everyone!  I don't know about you, but I'm ready for a seasonal change!  While nature ping pongs us in Northern Virginia back and forth between winter and spring (we're getting a lot of 20 degree temperature shifts from day to day), I thought I would throw it back to fall.

This is the time of year I try and get to some of the sets that have been languishing in my stash and today I'm working with the Thistle and Snailed it set from Ellen Hutson.  For this card I wanted to focus on the foliage sets.

They were stamped with Altenew inks and I added some accents to the stamped images with Copics.  Nothing complicated or really shaded here, just an accent line on the 'shadow side' of the image with a slightly darker tone.

That's where the trouble began.  This was originally supposed to be a full sized card, but I ran into some trouble with one of my Copic markers.  Have you ever had one of those leaky Copics that basically drops a giant blob of color onto whatever you're coloring?  Yup.  It happened to me.  TWICE.  The first time I was all, yeah I can hide that, but the second time it was in a totally different area of my panel and I had no choice to trim it down to a square piece.  The other blob is hidden behind the sentiment.

Anyway, my friend May is the master of creating backgrounds and filling them with these cute little dots of color, so I thought I would try it here.  What do you think?  I think I like it.  I feel like it's probably a little more effective with small images, but it works pretty well here.

The sentiment is from the Mondo Magnolia set, also from Ellen Hutson, and was just embossed in gold on some dark brown cardstock.

That's all for me today, and if anyone knows how to make those leaky Copics unleaky, I am all ears!

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