Tuesday, July 31, 2018

July 2018 in Books

A really long list this month, mostly because we were on vacation which means a lot of extra reading time for me.  A couple of duds, but some really great reads too.  Here's the recap:

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena - Anthony Marra - fiction - four stars - An eye opening book about Chechnya in 2004 and the first Chechen war It starts with the abduction of a young girl's father. His friend takes the girl to a hospital to stay with a doctor he has heard of only tangentially. The doctor isn't particularly welcoming, but accepts the girl if he will help in the hospital. The book weaves together the past stories of each of the characters and how they came to be in this place at this time, and the many ways in which they are connected. I also really liked how the author tied in tidbits about the future. He might mention a passing character who in 10 years would be living in Romania as a nurse helping immigrant children - not an actual quote from the book, but just an example. It was neat to see that this person or that person survive and thrive, or don't as the case may be.

River, Cross My Heart - Breena Clarke - historical fiction - three stars - I picked this one up at a Free Little Library. It looked interesting, and it takes place in the DC area which is always fun as I like to hear about places familiar to me in fiction. The books starts with the tragic drowning death of Johnnie Mae's (10) sister Clara (5) while she was supposed to be watching her. This just fell flat for me. I kept waiting for something to happen, but really the drowning death was it. I feel like it was all character development and in the end nothing really happened. It was kind of a random series of occurrences with nothing really to tie it together. The characters were interesting enough, but at the end of the day you still need a story This one I would skip if given the chance for a do-over.

The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying - Nina Riggs - memoir - four stars - A series of sketches/musings/writings written by a woman who is dying of cancer. She has two young boys and the pieces deal with both how she is reacting to things/treatment as well as her hopes and fears for them and others important to her. I found it an honest dialogue especially as she definitely knew she was not going to survive and indeed the book was published shortly after her death. I found her conversations with her kids to be the most interesting, not sure that is the right word, part of the memoir - how they reacted to things, the language they used, their perceptions etc. For someone dealing with terminal illness, I think this would be a very helpful book.

Little Bee - Chris Cleave - fiction - four stars - This was a hard one to read all around. It starts with the release of Little Bee, a refugee from Nigeria in London. She travels to the home of some acquaintances she met while in Nigeria. The story flashes back between past and present and eventually you hear about the terrible events that linked Little Bee and this couple. This was a difficult story to read on a number of levels from her life (and the lives of the other girls) in the refugee center as well as the events that led her to flee Nigeria - there is not much good there. I wasn't crazy about the back story of Sarah, the woman she goes to see, and I found the resolution of the story weak and unbelievable. Still the life of Little Bee herself was eye opening and hard, but I thought an important one to read.

Moloka'i (Moloka'i #1) - Alan Brennert - historical fiction - five stars - This one was such a good book, and so sad. It's about a little girl named Rachel who is diagnosed with leprosy at the age of 7 and is sent to the Hawaiian leper colony at Moloka'i to live. Having a seven year old, I just can't imagine the trauma for both her and her family. She has a milder case than many, which in some ways is good as she survives and is strong enough to try numerous experimental treatments, but sad because she literally sees all of her friends die around her. Eventually she marries, and even has a child - but again, so sadly, children born on Moloka'i are immediately taken from their parents and put up for adoption. Eventually the medicinal cure for leprosy is discovered and she is eventually able to leave, but so much has changed, and there is still great stigma attached to carrying leprosy. This was a heartbreaking story to read, so much sadness, but Rachel is so resilient, she and the other children are able to thrive and find joy despite their circumstances. There is actually a sequel to this and I will definitely be picking it up soon!

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes - Jonathan Auxier - juvenile fiction/fantasy - five stars - One of the books I selected for Ellie for our vacation (each year I get the girls two new books to take on vacation - this year she got this and Fellowship of the ring). It's the story of an orphaned boy who is blind because a crow pecked his eyes out as a baby. Because he is blind, his other senses are heightened which leads him to a life of crime as a very successful thief. He has a good heart though, and is eventually befriended by a couple of strangers who send him on a quest with an unusual creature as his companion. Ellie loved this one, it's a little on the 'easy' side for her, but it was fun to see her make deductions about the book and kind of unpack it. She liked it so much when we got home we immediately borrow the sequel/companion which she tore through as well.

The Wizards of Once (The Wizards of Once #1) - Cressida Cowell - juvenile fiction/fantasy - four stars - This is one of the books I got for Carina for vacation (her other book was Mr. Popper's Penguins).  It's also one of the books for the fall Battle of the Books at our school.  Carina can't participate yet since it's for 4th and 5th graders and she is entering 3rd, but I thought she would enjoy reading some of the books anyway.  In this land there are were once Warriors, Wizards, and Witches.  The Warriors have wiped out the Witches and continue to do battle with the Wizards.  The main characters are Wish (daughter of the Warrior Queen) and Xar (youngest son of the head wizard).  Neither is quite living up to their parent's expectations.  They are both out doing what they're not supposed to, when they happen upon one another.  They end up being drawn into an adventure in which they discover that the Witches are still about, and dangerous, and they must work together to defeat one.  Carina and I both enjoyed this one and are looking forward to release of the second book this fall.

The Ship of Brides - Jojo Moyes - historical fiction - five stars - Can you believe this is the first of Moyes' books I've read?  There are definitely others on my list, but I love historical fiction and was really interested in this one when I read the description.  During WWII, there were many British troops stationed in Australia, many of these men ended up marrying Australian women.  After the war brides were authorized free trasnportation to be reunited with their husbands.  According to my internet sources (lol) 1944 and 1949, 110 ships made 177 journeys...that's a lot of brides, in fact though this occurred in other countries as well, for example, the US government relaxed immigration rules following the war to allow immigration of war brides.  Anyway, this story follows four women assigned as roommates aboard the ship as well as the ship captain, their paths each follow different trajectories and over the course of the journey you learn their back stories.  In addition to just being a great book from the perspective of the individual stories, I learned a lot about the ships, how they ran, and this period in history.  Thoroughly enjoyable.

Dumplin' (Dumplin', #1) - Julie Murphy - young adult - So several people I follow raved about this book, and I'll say that I read a few chapters and almost didn't finish it.  Maybe I'm a bit of a prude, or it's because my daughter is just entering middle school and fast approaching her teen years, but I was really not interested in sophomores/juniors contemplating and talking about having sex.  I stuck it out, and it did get better, but overall I just didn't enjoy it that much and if I had to go back, I probably wouldn't have borrowed it.  I didn't find the main character, a self-declared fat girl who decides to enter a beauty pageant to prove a point (although I'm frankly not sure what that point was) that likable.  Granted she is dealing with a lot of self-image issues, and the death of her beloved aunt, but I just didn't really appreciate her attitude, how she dealt with things, etc.  Frankly the supporting characters were far more likable. 

A River in Darkness: One Man's Escape from North Korea - Masaji Ishikawa - biograpy - five stars - Masaji is a half Japanese, half Korean who was born in Japan.  His father was conscripted by the Japanese during WWII as they needed more labor.  Koreans weren't treated particularly well in Japan and they lived a hand to mouth existence exacerbated by the fact that his father was abusive and drank away much of their money.  Following the end of WWII, they, like many Koreans, were lured back to Korea with tales of good jobs, wealth, prosperity, etc.  In reality, once they returned they were treated more poorly than ever and even considered the lowest class because they had questionable background being born in Japan.  Masaji's family suffered greatly, with many family members dying young from ill health and starvation.  He was able to escape Korea through China with the help (unofficial) of Japanese officials.  This is a short book, but I learned a lot.  I had no knowledge of the Korean conscription or mass repatriations, and his descriptions of life in North Korea, how you traveled, sought work, etc. were fascinating.  Highly recommend.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane - Lisa See - historical fiction - five stars - I've read pretty much all of Lisa See's books (the historical fiction ones - I need to try the mystery series).  One of my blog friends last month alerted me to the fact that she published a new book last year and I had to go get it.  This is the story of a girl from one of the Chinese 'ethnic minorities' called the Akha.  I'd never heard of the Akha and so I learned a lot about them in this book, they live in the Yunnan province (very close to SE Asia, and this ethnic group in fact has extends into many SE Asian countries). They are quite insular and have many different superstitions/rituals/beliefs that are explored, some of which are heartbreaking.  The main character is a girl name Li-Yan whose family produces tea.  She stands out in her tribe and this eventually causes her to leave, become educated, and thrive in modern China.  Still, she is tied to the Akha culture, and becomes a link between the Akha and the outside world.  It's a wonderful story about loss, sacrifice, the tension between old and new, family and self.  I loved it.

Next up on my list are The Coincidence Makers, The Astonishing Color of After, The Forever Girl, Stalin's Meteorologist, and What You Did Not Tell - a mix of non-fiction and fiction, and I just got a few notices from the library that some holds are in, so I have to get cracking!

How about you guys, please share what you loved (or hated) this month.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Simon Says Stamp Friendly Frolic - Plantiful Puns

Hi all!  Have you guys seen the latest release from Simon Says Stamp?  They just revealed a whole lot of new products including the stamp set I'm featuring today, Plantiful Puns.

I had all sorts of fun playing with this set and created three cards to share.

For this first card I stamped and colored the terrarium with Copics and then fussy cut it.

For the background I layered three pieces of patterned paper adding a bit of splatter and the sentiment on the top piece, and then adhering the terrarium.

This next card is super clean and simple.  The pot and aloe plant were stamped, colored and fussy cut and then layered over a very simple background created by simple placing a strip of post-it tape to my card and adding a bit of inking.

The sentiment was then stamped directly on the card base, and done!

Finally I used the mint leaf stamp to create a simple background.  I stamped the leaves using Versafine Smokey Gray ink.  Then I watercolored the leaves using two colors of Kuretake Gansai watercolors in a very loose style starting with the lighter color and then going back with the darker after the lighter layer was dry.

I then added a whole lot of splatter using the darker green and brown.

The sentiment was embossed in white on s trip of brown cardstock and then popped up with some foam tape.  I wanted to add a bit of something, so I used my Wink of Stella pen to add a bit of shine to the sentiment strip as well as the leaves.  It's a little hard to see in the photos, but adds just the right bit of shimmer.

That's all for me today.  There are all sorts of lovely things in the release, so head over to Simon to check it out!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Hero Florals Rose Stem

Hi everyone!  Today I'm working with some new goodies from Hero Arts.  I've been eyeing this Tribal Shapes stencil for a while.  While it's definitely got a tribal feel to it, it's very versatile.

For this card I very lightly misted it with some Brushed Pewter Distress Spray Stain.  Once that was dry, I added of big of splatter using Dylusions Slate Gray spray.

The flower is from the Hero Florals Rose Stem set.  It was stamped with Simon Says Stamp Intense Black Ink and colored it with Copics.  I left the stem and leaves mostly black and white, but added a bit of gray coloring to make it pop.

The flower was fussy cut and popped up with foam tape as was the strip of black cardstock at the bottom of the panel.

The sentiment is also from the Rose Stem set.

I wasn't sure about using red for a sympathy card, but I think it works.

Thanks so much for coming by!

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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Pinkfresh Modern Mandala

A fantastic package of Pinkfresh goodies landed on my doorstep this week and this Modern Mandala die was screaming to be used first.

I love it when a product transcends styles and can take myriad forms.  This one is so versatile, it can be bold, elegant, soft and pretty, folk, etc by simply changing up the colors and papers, and there are so many ways to create designs/patterns just in how you use it or fill the spaces.

For this card, I cut the mandala from white cardstock, removed most of the negative pieces, and adhered it to a panel of soft gray cardstock.  

I then cut the die from three different shades of cardstock - teal, maroon, and dark gray, and created a pattern by inlaying select pieces into the die.  This is where the magic happens.  There are so many ways you could choose to fill the die back up - the whole thing, leaving some portions empty, more colors, fewer colors, there are so many possibilities.

Once I was happy with my design, I cut another mandala from white cardstock, this time removing all of the negative pieces and then adhered it on top of the first mandala.  This is an extra step that you could certainly skip, it doesn't change the pattern or design at all, but I really love how it finishes things off and adds some extra texture and dimension.

Since the mandala itself is quite modern and geometric, I wanted a bit of a softer sentiment/font, but something that could hold it's own.  This Thank You is from PTI's Fancy That set (retired) and fits the bill perfectly, I think it really balances the mandala.

That's all for me today.  Thanks so much for visiting!

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Monday, July 16, 2018

So Very Grateful Oak Leaf

Hi friends!  I'm sharing this card on the Neat & Tangled blog today.  

It's been so hot here that I thought I'd channel some cooler weather and pull out my Oak Leaf stamps and dies.  

I started by cutting some thin strips of cardstock and coloring them with Copics in autumnal colors (RV69, RV66, Y38, YR07, R37, and E15).  I opted for Copics because I couldn't find just the right shades of actual cardstock. 

The strips were adhered to a white cardstock panel and then using the outline die from the die set, I cut an oak leaf shaped opening in the panel.  The sentiment was then stamped using the help of my MISTI, and I added some gold splatter as well.

Meanwhile, I used the detailed oak leaf die to cut three leaves which were stacked/adhered together.  The entire piece was then adhered to the card base and the striped panel was popped up over the card base.

That's all for me today.  It's going to be another scorcher here - hope you're staying cool wherever you are!

Friday, July 6, 2018


Hi folks! Super quick post from the road (I’m on vacation).

I have several winners to announce from release week and my Technique Tuesday post (which is way overdue).

Life’s A Game stamp set: Lagene (from the blog)

Snake Scales Cover Plate: @racheyjcrafts (from IG)

Snake Scales Stencil: @hjeannie1 (from IG)

Technique Tuesday Winner: Marjorie Dumontier

Congrats ladies! Please email me you mailing information (Marjorie I will also need your stamp/die choice) and I will get these sent out!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Neat & Tangled July Release - Day 4 and Giveaways

Happy Thursday!  Today is the final day of release reveals AND all products are now available in the Neat & Tangled store.

Today is a very special reveal because today's set, Celebrate You, is a fundraising set.  Here's a little bit about it in Danielle's words: As many of you know, my dad become very ill unexpectedly last year. You can read much much more about his story HERE. The gist is that after a routine knee replacement he developed and was diagnosed with a condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), which is an unimaginable disease. Sadly, it has earned the nickname "The Suicide Disease", as the physical, mental, and emotional pain that it brings often becomes too much to bear. Here is a video sharing the story of 2 CRPS sufferers that paints a clear picture of life with this disease: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2_5dTBIrhw&feature=youtu.be

It has been on my heart to pay this forward. I have designed a stamp and die set, Celebrate You, that we will use the sales of (both wholesale and retail) to help families of CRPS in financial need. Customers will also have the option to just make a straight donation without purchase on our website.  Donations we collect will be made to the Burning Limb Foundation, a non-profit created by a former patient of Dr. Katinka's.  Dr. Katinka and the Burning Limb Foundation will work together to distribute the funds to families at the Neurologic Relief Center that are most in need, some will be patients already at her center, others will be those that have not had the funds to begin treatment. I am calling this campaign "Crafting with Compassion", as the definition of compassion is the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it, which sums up my mission with this.  

I'm really excited about this set and the challenge that we're unveiling tomorrow that coordinates with it.  OK, here is my card for today:

I thought the Balloon Duo stencils would work perfectly with this set.  I used two colors of Distress Oxide - Twisted Citron and Salty Ocean.  The colors aren't totally clean since I didn't clean the stencil off as I was working.  I don't mind the cross contamination although I know some folks do.

Once that was done, the sentiments were stamped with Versafine.

I wanted to add a bit of texture and shine, so I added some clear Nuvo drops to the card.  I might have gone a bit overboard with those....once you start it's hard to stop!

And with that, the July release is a wrap!  We're also doing things a little differently this month since we are starting our challenge tomorrow.  All the products are now available in the Neat & Tangled store!  You have through today to enter the giveaways here and over at the Neat & Tangled blog though.

Here's a recap of the rest of my projects from this release:




Thanks for all your kind comments this week!  I'll be announcing winners for my giveaways tomorrow, but if there's something you HAVE to have, head on over to the store (if you win, and you ordered already, you'll receive a refund).

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Neat & Tangled July Release - Day 3 and Giveaways

Happy Fourth of July and Happy Third Day of the July release!  Today's featured set is Later Alligator, from Elena.  So fun! 

I love these cute alligators and of course this sentiment we have all been using since childhood.  My card is super clean and simple.

The alligators were stamped, colored with Copics, and then die cut.

I added just a tiny bit of inking to ground them, stamped the sentiments with Versafine, and adhered the crocodile/alligator.

So cute!  This one will get snatched up by my girls if I leave it out! 

OK, here's the deal with giveaways.  I'm giving away my new products to some commenters this week.  To be entered, be a follower and leave a comment.  

Also, Danielle is giving away this set/dies on the Neat & Tangled blog today, so be sure to head over there and leave a comment to be entered.  

FINALLY - there's something different happening this week.  We're kicking off our latest throwdown challenge on Friday, so instead of the release going live Friday morning, tomorrow will be the last day of reveals AND the release will be live in the shop.  8 AM EST.  Set your clocks!  

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Neat & Tangled July Release - Day 2 and Giveaways

Welcome back for Day 2 of the July Neat & Tangled release!  We're showing of a bunch of products today including my latest stencil and cover plate design, Snake Scales.

To create the background, I inked the stencil with three colors of Distress Ink: Salty Ocean, Evergreen Bough, and Dusty Concord.

While this design was inspired by snake scales it works perfectly for anything scaly really - mermaids, fish, dragons, etc.  For this first card I knew I was going to pulling out this mermaid from the Mermazing stamp set.  It's a match made in heaven!  

She was colored with Copics and die cut, and then I added sentiments from Danielle's newest set which you'll see on Thursday.  To give them some extra oomph, they were stamped in Versafine and then embossed with clear embossing powder.  I repeated this a few times to get a glossier look.

Next up, a look at the cover plate.

I started by giving a watercolor paper panel a wash of color starting with a yellow green and ending with a blue green.

Once that was dry, I die cut the panel with my cover plate and then adhered the entire thing to my card base.

I loved the soft look of this and wanted folks to see as much as possible, so I went very minimal with this card adding a couple colored/die cut critters from Elena's set that you'll see in full tomorrow. 

The sentiment is also from that set and was stamped on one of the banners from the Scalloped die set.

OK, here's the deal with giveaways.  I'm giving away my new products to some commenters this week.  To be entered, be a follower and leave a comment.  For extra chances, head over to my Instagram (@mprantner) and follow the directions there.  Full disclosure, I am currently on vacation and there is a 6 hour time difference, so it's entirely possible that the IG post might not be up yet...just check back.

Also, Danielle is giving away this set/dies on the Neat & Tangled blog today, so be sure to head over there and leave a comment to be entered.  See you back here tomorrow!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Neat & Tangled July Release - Day 1 and Giveaways

Hi friends!  It's time for the July Neat & Tangled release!  Can you believe that it is already July?  Today we're showing off my newest stamp set Life's A Game. 

The set has a board game theme with a bunch of different sentiment/icons you can use in the game spaces as well as for inside the card.  I tried to make this an all occasion set, and it's one that you can easily use for those folks you might not know as well or are colleagues.

I created three really simple and mostly one layer cards to give you an idea of how this set can be used.

This first card is purely one layer.  I used Altenew inks for the colored tiles and Versamark for the black stamping.  Really easy, and I love that this is kind of a forgiving stamp set - the blocks/spaces were all stamped without the use of the MISTI, if your placement isn't perfect it's fine, I think it goes with kind of the retro vibe of older board games. 

My next card creates a longer, more windy path which goes along with the sentiment I chose.

There are coordinating dies that go with the set which cut out the LIFE letters in case you want a bit of a bolder look with the inside letters filled in like on this card.  (There are also coordinating cuts for all the game spaces and a few of the icons.)

Next up a quirky baby congrats card.  I had so many ideas for things to put in the game spaces, but I wanted to keep the set at 4x6, so I really had to narrow things down, but this Bun in the Oven sentiment was definitely staying in.

I sometimes get tired of very cute baby cards and this is a fun way to celebrate an impending arrival in a non pink/blue cutesy sort of way.

OK, here's the deal with giveaways.  I'm giving away my new products (there are two more) to some commenters this week.  To be entered, be a follower and leave a comment.  For extra chances, head over to my Instagram (@mprantner) and follow the directions there.  Full disclosure, I am currently on vacation and there is a 6 hour time difference, so it's entirely possible that the IG post might not be up yet...just check back.

Also, Danielle is giving away this set/dies on the Neat & Tangled blog today, so be sure to head over there and leave a comment to be entered.  See you back here tomorrow!