Wednesday, October 31, 2018

October 2018 In Books and a Halloween Sale

It's the end of the month which means it's time to share what I've been reading!  Lots of really good books this month, this was a bit heavier in terms of subject matter, but some really good ones in here.  My favorites were Us Against Them and The Lido - read on for the full reviews:

French Rhapsody - Antoine Laurain - fiction - five stars - I love Laurain's little novelettes.  They are so rich and full you feel like you read a full-length novel.  In this one Alain, a middle-aged doctor, receives a letter lost by the post office for decades.  It's from a recording studio responding to the demo that his band sent in years earlier, saying they would like to hear more.  Of course the band never went anywhere and he's lost touch with all the members.  He starts to reach out to them and you learn a bit about each of them, what happened to them, who they became, etc.  This story surprised me in a couple ways - more than Laurain's other books, and again I love how rich and deep a story he is able to convey in such a small form factor.  

The House of Unexpected Sisters (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #18) - Alexander McCall Smith - detective - five stars - Of the more recent books in this series, this one is my favorite.  I think because it focuses a bit more on Mwa Ramotswe and a little less on Mwa Makutsi who tends to annoy me.  I thought it was a great look into Mwa Ramotswe's back story and her character and who she is.  I also think it was a bit more focused on a single story arc as opposed to some books where there are multiple cases going on at once.  I will say I'd love for one of these books one of these days to not include Violet Sephotho though, I mean she can't possibly be the culprit of everything bad in Gabarone.  Still, one of my favorite in this series.

Britt-Marie Was Here - Fredrik Backman - fiction - five stars - The sequel to My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She's Sorry, this book focuses on our OCD friend Britt-Marie who has left Kent and is trying to sort out what to do with herself.  She gets herself a temporary job managing the recreation center in a dying town.  Despite her total lack of social skills, she manages to endear herself to the local populace, becomes the soccer coach for the local youth team, and helps to rally the towns people and give them hope.  Funny and sweet and multi-layered.  Backman is so good at providing the right details and developing his characters.

She Regrets Nothing - Andrew Dunlop - fiction - four stars - Laila Lawrence finds out at her mother's funeral that her father's estranged family (he died years before) is one of the wealthiest families in New York City.  Two years later she moves there after a divorce to start fresh.  As she inserts herself into the lives of her cousins and tries to unravel what occurred years before there's a tension between what she wants, what she feels she is owed, and who she wants to be.  If I went by half stars, I probably would have given this more of a three and a half star rating.  She's not particularly likable, but you feel like she's a character that might be able to be saved/salvaged into someone good, and that if circumstances had been different she would have been different.  

Us Against You (Beartown, #2) - Fredrik Backman - fiction - five stars - So, so, good.  After I read Britt-Marie, I heard that the sequel to Beartown was out and had to get it right away.  This picks up where Beartown ended, with most of the players defecting to Hed and the Council deciding to disband the team.  Politics comes into play as machinations occur to save the club, but at what cost.  You see how people are played against one another causing rifts and division within the community.  I love the way Backman weaves together the overall story as well as the characters and the stories of the individuals, and I'm hopeful there will be additional Beartown books as he alludes at one point there are more stories to tell.  As with Beartown, there is much heartbreak and loss, but also hope and forgiveness and healing.  A must read.

The Only Girl in the World: A Memoir - Maude Julien - memoir - three stars - This one could have been really good.  It's the memoir of a girl who grew up with a pretty messed up life.  Basically she was part of a cult of three in which her father was the leader and she and her mother (who he adopted at a young age in order to later father the perfect child) are the subjects.  There are some very interesting parts - her 'training' to make her into basically a superhuman who can withstand anything, but for me it got bogged down in the intricacies of her father's convoluded beliefs.  Also, it takes you up to where she is able to leave the life, but has very little about how she recovered and her life afterwards, which I think is needed.  It leaves you hanging with a lot of questions.

Tangerine - Christine Mangan - historical fiction - three stars - I was really disappointed by this book.  The cover said something about how fans of Donna Tartt and Gillian Flynn would love it, and for me it was a poor comparison.  It's the story of a Alice, newly married woman living in Tangier with her new husband. Her marriage isn't great and she really isn't doing well in the environment when her college roommate Lucy turns up. The story unravels what happened between the two estranged friends and what Lucy's real motives are.  This was a bust for me.  It didn't have the edge that Tartt and Flynn's books have and it was predictable to boot.  I feel like whereas I didn't really like any of the characters in Gone Girl it was suitably appalling and just crazy, and this one was just meh, plus I could kind of see it all coming.

The Lido - Libby Page - fiction - five stars - I loved this one.  It was just such a sweet story about Rosemary, an older lady whose local outdoor pool is going to be shut down, and Kate, an aspiring journalist who gets assigned the story.  The two form a friendship and work to save the pool with the rest of the locals.  Kate who suffers from anxiety and panic attacks and loneliness begins to deal with her issues and finds a new family at the pool.  There is nothing profound or particularly extraordinary about this book, but it's just a great story with characters you cheer for.  I really loved it.

In The Shadow of 10,000 Hills - Jennifer Haupt - fiction - four stars - The story of Rachel Shepherd who travels to Rwanda to try and unravel the story of her father and why he left years ago. It weaves in the story of two other women who lived through the genocide in Rwanda. Because my husband Andrew has been on several missions trips to Rwanda, we try and read as much about the country as possible - mostly non-fiction, but I do pick up fiction books about the country from time to time. This one was good. I thought the story of the survivors was compelling as well as her father's story, and there was definitely a twist I wasn't expecting, but I wasn't crazy about Rachel's back story and what drove her to Rwanda in the first place (marital/personal issues), I feel like it was character development that kind of fell flat and detracted from the rest of the story.

Next up in my pile are Dear Mrs. Bird and The Shortest Way Home.  I've got a bunch of books on hold at the library, but I'm hoping those don't show up for a while as I also have a whole stack of books Ellie has assigned for me to read, and for a while the holds were coming in fast and furious and I couldn't work any of them in.  I've missed the juvenile fiction and am hoping to report on a bunch of those books next month.  If there's a must read (or a must not read) you have to share, please let me know!

I also wanted to let you guys know there's a one day sale happening over at Ellen Hutson today (affiliate link) in case there are some things you need to pick up. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Tiny Trees from The Stamp Market

I'm showing off a set of cards today featuring the small but mighty Tiny Trees stamp set from The Stamp Market.  

These simple one layer monochromatic cards came together in a snap, especially since I used ink sets from Altenew (I used the Green Meadows, Rock Collection, Sea Shore, Cherry Blossom, and a combination of the Red Cosmos and Red Sunset ink (I wanted more mid/dark tones vs the light tones on the red version)), so I didn't have to think hard or match inks.  

I did plot this out on a scrap piece and then used it as a guide as I stamped the rest of them.

These would be great to reproduce as sets for gifts too.

That's five more for my Christmas card pile!

*Affiliate Link Below to Ellen Hutson and in text to Altenew

Friday, October 26, 2018

25% off Holiday Stamps and Dies!

Hey all!

Just wanted to pop in and let you there's a sale on over at Ellen Hutson!

Today and tomorrow (October 26-27) you can get 25% off everything in the Holiday Sale category using code holiday18.

There's some good stuff in there.  A few of my favorites are pictures below (some of which I own and some of which I want to own).  Most of these are available in very limited quantities are are likely to sell out, so you probably want to shop early.....or not if you're trying to save money, lol.  To see the whole category, use this link.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Hello Fall

I am loving the changing leaves, and i was channeling that when I stamped the background for this card using Tim Holtz's Nature's Wonder set from Stampers Anonymous.

It's such an easy set to work with, and because of the delicacy/transparency of the leaves, easy to layer.  I selected several leaves and assigned each a Distress Ink color, and then random stamped my panel.

The created print was so pretty that I didn't want to cover it up, so I finished it off using Neat & Tangled's Hello Fall stamps and dies.

The good news is that the panel I stamped was big enough that I've got another full background to use on another card.

Have a great Thursday and hope you're enjoying the beautiful fall colors!

*Affiliate Links below to Ellen Hutson and in text to Neat & Tangled

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Ellen Hutson Merry & Bright Mondo Holly

I am a big fan of Ellen Hutson's 'Mondo' line, and their latest Mondo Holly set is no exception.  

I love these images because I'm kind of lazy and I really like it when my product does all my work for me.  The size of these carries the card and there's not too much thinking you have to do in terms of framing, making a scene, achieve balance, etc.

For this card I simple stamped the image on some watercolor paper with Versafine, and then used my Kuretake watercolors to paint the image.

I kept my painting very loose - wetting the areas and then dabbing the color on, and going back one one layer was dry and adding additional 'dabs' of wet color.  I like the looseness and brightness you get this way.

Sometimes you might take a look and say, that's TOO bright, which is what happened to me.  Here's an easy fix:  white splatter.  I just used a white mist - I take the top off the bottle and use a pencil or something like that to hit the end of the mister and splatter the mist on my panel.  I did this multiple times until I was happy with the look.  It really softens things, or cuts the sharpness without detracting from the colors themselves if that makes any sense.

A simple sentiment, also from the Mondo Holly set, embossed in white on a black pennant completed the look.

I'm still in great need of Christmas cards, but I'm no longer in panic mode!

*Affiliate Links Below

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Spellbinders Cut & Emboss Folders

The very kind folks over at Spellbinders sent me a couple of their new Cut & Emboss folders to try out.  These are really pretty cool.  I love the extra depth and dimension you get when you combine embossing and die cutting.  

I feel like most of the time when I use dry embossing it's tone on tone, to create some dimension/texture, or to soften my background, but for today's cards I wanted a more dramatic/focal effect.

I started by inking a couple panels with Distress Ink.  For this first card, I used Carved Pumpkin, Picked Raspberry, and Dusty Concord.

Then, before placing my panel into the Rose Flourish Cut & Emboss Folder, I spritzed the top of the folder (which would sit directly on my inked panel) with water.  The combination of the reaction of water and Distress Ink as well as the embossing adds extra emphasis to the embossed pattern...the pressure from the embossing pushes the ink/color to the embossed areas, helping them stand out even more from the background.

The panel was popped up over my card base, and I added a simple sentiment embossed on a black strip of cardstock as well as some sequins to finish it off.

This next card features the same technique, this time using Antique Linen and Salty Ocean Distress Inks, and the Regal Swirl Cut & Emboss Folder.

These folders really stand on their own, so all that was needed here was an embossed sentiment.  I did pop the panel up again as I think that adds some extra drama to the cut openings.

This is a really easy technique and I think you get a great impact.  Thanks so much for stopping by!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Mama Elephant O' Tiny Tree

Sharing another Christmas card with you today.  This one features the O' Tiny Tree set from Mama Elephant that I got shortly after Christmas last year and am finally inking up.

This is such a cute image.  There are lots of different ornaments and things you can hang off it, but I opted to go just for the lights.  This image gives me all the Charlie Brown Christmas feels!

I stamped the tree image on kraft with Versafine using my MISTI, leaving the stamp in place.  

Using the other half of my MISTI, I stamped the pine needles.  I started by stamping them with white pigment ink and then followed up with dye ink.  This allows the dye ink to stand out a bit more on the kraft.  I also employed a couple of shades of green, using an ink dauber to add darker color to the portions of the needles closest to the branches.

Once I was done with that, I stamped the string of lights, and then colored those and the tree/base with colored pencils.

Remember how I left the original tree stamp in place?  Once I was done with the pencil coloring, I placed my panel back in that corner and re-stamped with Versafine.  This serves to sharpen up the image where you might have gotten a bit of colored pencil on the stamping.

I added the sentiment, and ended up using a journaling pen to connect the end of the light string to the a in falalala.

So fun!  

A couple mats from Lawn Fawn's 6x6 knit prints paper pad finished things off.

That's all for me today!  How are you guys doing on your Christmas cards?

*Affiliate Links Below