Thursday, January 31, 2019

January 2019 in Books

Hey everyone.  Sorry that it has been so quiet around here lately.  January has really thrown me for a loop.  I've had some big unexpected changes at work, and at the end of the day just haven't felt like crafting....reading hasn't been a problem though.  Books are such a great way to escape and take your mind off of other problems aren't they?  Overall it was a really good month for reading.  There were a couple of duds in the bunch, but I also found several new authors that I will definitely be reading more from.  Here are all the recaps:

The Bookshop of Yesterdays - Amy Meyerson - fiction - four stars - This was a cute book, although I thought it was pretty obvious from early on and you were just kind of waiting for the main character to figure it out for herself.  It's about Miranda Brooks, whose eccentric Uncle Billy passes away, leaving her his bookstore in Los Angeles.  They used to be very close, but he disappeared from her life after her twelfth birthday.  She inherits the bookstore along with a series of clues that explain why Uncle Billy stopped coming around.  I enjoyed the story and the characters, but as I mentioned it was pretty predictable.

The Room on Rue Amélie - Kristin Harmel - historical fiction - four stars - A WWII story of an American woman married to a Frenchman who is in Paris during the war.  She finds herself widowed in the course of the war and become involved in the resistance, part of an escape line for downed pilots.  It hadn't read about the escape line before, so I thought that piece of it was really interesting, and the storyline was good, but I thought that it lacked some of the richness and depth of some of the other books in this genre.

Deviation - Luce D'Eramo - memoir - three stars - So I thought this would be way better than it was.  It's a memoir of a fascist Italian girl who volunteers to go to work in Nazi Germany during the war. She starts off working in a factory, at some point ends up in a detention camp, escapes from there, and later just after the war is over is paralyzed in a freak accident.  The timeline is confusing and somewhat mixed together because she writes the memoir in pieces at different times, some decades apart.  She also refers back to previous passages to correct or clarify, which tends to confuse even more.  The story itself is quite fascinating in terms of her path/experiences, but there is so much mixed in about her reasoning, beliefs, philosophical arguments etc that it was a very slow slog.  I would skip it if I had the choice to read it again.

The Weekenders - Mary Kay Andrews - fiction - four stars - So January was a tough month here for a number of reasons and I really needed a diversion/light read.  Mary Kay Andrews is always good for that.  Her characters always make me laugh and I love her stories.  This one is about Riley Griggs who is on her way to her summer island place when she's served with process papers, her home is being repossessed.  Then her husband, who ran the family business which is apparently floundering, and who she was planning to divorce turns up dead.  What is going on with the business, who killed her husband, and a series of other mysteries are expertly woven into the story.  Entertaining and enjoyable and just what I was hoping for when I picked it up.

The War Below - Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch - juvenile historical fiction - five stars - I promised Ellie that I would do better keeping up with her assigned reading this year, so I'm trying to work more of her books into my routine.  This is another WWII story about a Ukranian boy named Luka who was taken from his home to a German work camp.  He escapes from the camp, and much of this story details his flight from the camp.  His goal is to return home and in doing so he needs to avoid both German and Soviet troops.  He ends up being taken in by the Ukranian underground who fight both the Soviets and Nazis.  I had really not heard much about the Ukrranian People's Army, and found that really fascinating.

The Air You Breathe - Frances de Pontes Peebles - historical fiction - five stars - I loved this book. Such a rich sweeping story.  The main characters are the daughter of a sugar baron Graca, and the orphaned servant who kept her company, Dores.  Graca and Dores grow up together and the run away together to Rio De Janiero where they pursue their musical dreams.  The characters are rich and deep, you both love them and hate them.  The book touchs on themes of love, friendship, loyalty, ambition, co-dependency, etc.  So good, and I'm looking forward to reading more from Peebles.

Half a World Away - Cynthia Kadohata - juvenile fiction - four stars - This was one of Ellie's Christmas books.  She really likes Kadohata, and has been wanting to read more from her.  It's about a boy named Jaden who was adopted.  He's now eleven and his parents want to adopt another child.  Jaden feels like it's because he is messed up and not enough.  The family travels to Kazakhstan to pick up their child, but the one they were expecting to adopt has been given away to another family.  They're given a choice of a number of different babies, but Jaden is drawn to a toddler named Dimash.  He also develops a relationship with their driver Sam.  I liked how the book sorted through Jaden's feelings/concerns and also helped him to mature.  I thought that the story wrapped up a little too quickly/neatly, but other than that a good read.

Educated - Tara Westover - memoir - five stars - This one has been on my list for a while now.  I'm always a little nervous when everyone raves over a book because it raises my expectations and a lot of times they aren't met, but this one definitely met the mark.  It's the story of a woman growing up in a fundamentalist family who leaves, in many ways to survive.  I thought it was quite even handed...she loves her family and much of how she great up, but she also suffered a great deal of abuse and details both.  It is both inspiring in terms of what she was able to achieve in the difficult and even heroic act of leaving, but sad in terms of what she lost and how she has now been ostrasized by most of her immediate family.  She remains in contact with a number of her siblings as well as extended family.  A really fascinating look at life off the grid as well as the strength of family bonds and how difficult it can be to sever them.

Sophia: Or the Beginning of All Tales - Rafik Schami - historical fiction - five stars - This was such a good book.  It spans a generation and bounces back and forth from past to present.  The chapters are on the shorter side, and while a lot of times this would make the plot convoluded/confusing, I felt like it was done masterfully here.  After fleeing Syria years ago as a revolutionary who was involved in the death of a policeman, Rafik returns to Syria to visit his family and friends.  While there he becomes the chief suspect in a homicide.  He's forced into hiding and must flee the country with the help of his relatives and a friend of his mother who she helped rescue many years before.  So good, I am planning to read the rest of his books.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis - Patti Callahan - historical fiction - three stars - I was really excited to read about this.  I'm a huge C.S. Lewis fan and thought this would be a great way to learn about him from a different angle as well as to read about his wife.  Note, I have not watched the Shadowlands movie, so I was going into this kind of cold knowing nothing really about their relationship.  Overall this fell flat for me.  I just didn't enjoy it, I wasn't a huge fan of Davidman.  I had a hard time with the fact that she was willing to just take off for England, leaving behind her kids with a husband who she knew was an alcoholic/abusive without plans for a return.  The author wanted you to really kind of crawl into her brain, used a lot of letters/correspondence, but it just wasn't that compelling for me.

Varina - Charles Frazier - historical fiction - five stars - I really loved this one.  It's about the life of Varina Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis, who I knew existed, but knew nothing of beyond that.  Varina is looking back at life, relating it to a boy (African American) that she rescued during the war and who lived with the Davis family who has come to reconnect with her.  The focus of the retelling revolves around her flight from Richmond at the end of the war, but it also covers her early years, marriage to Davis, and what happened following the war.  It was fascinating, and more than once during the reading, I stopped to look up the people she referenced in wikipedia.  To me that's the mark of a really great historical fiction book, where it's a wholly readable and enjoyable story, but it also sends you off on different paths to learn about other people/events.  I've got a list of several individuals that I would love to read more about now.  Highly recommend this.

The Paris Seamstress - Natasha Lester - historical fiction - five stars - Another WWII story and this one was so good I read it in two days.  Estella Bisette becomes accidentally involved in the French rescue line and is sent by her mother to America to ensure that she is not implicated.  She's able to go because she has American papers - she was born there, much to her surprise.  When she gets to the U.S. in addition to learning the culture and working in the fashion industry, she tries to unravel the mystery of her past.  I loved how Lester connected her to historical personalities.  The book moves back and forth between the WWII story and present day as Estella's granddaughter untangles the mystery of the past as well.  This is another author that I definitely plan to read more of.

What were my favorites this month?  There were a lot actually - Sophia, Varina, The Paris Seamstress, and The Air You Breathe were all so so good.  Right now I'm in the middle of and loving The Dinner List and on tap is another book from Peebles called The Seamstresses.  How about you guys?  Please share what you loved and what I should stay away from.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Let Your Faith be Bigger Than Your Fear

Hi friends.  I'm sharing a really quick and easy card today.  I picked up the You Got This sentiment set from Jane's Doodles a couple months ago and wanted to create a card for this sentiment.

I reached for my Floral Shadow set from Altenew.  This is one of my very favorite Altenew sets.  It's so versatile.  It can be the star, but also makes gorgeous backgrounds in a jiffy.  For this card, I simply random stamped the different images around the border of my card using my MISTI and Altenew's Industrial Diamond ink.

The sentiment was then stamped with Versamark and embossed in gold.

I wanted to add some additional gold accents, so I used a gold Wink of Stella pen similar to what I did on these tags.  For this card though, I used a darker shade of gray ink, so the gold pen didn't stand out the way I wanted it to.  So, I used those lines as a rough outline, and used a Versamark pen to emboss gold accents.  I wasn't trying to follow the lines exactly.  I like the extra bit of depth/variation you get when you see the shadow of the Wink of Stella. 

That was it.  Really very simple and quick.  Thanks so much for visiting, here comes the weekend!

*Affiliate Links Below

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Wintry Window Card

We had our first major snowfall this weekend as well as our first snow day, so I had some time to do some crafting.  The weather inspired me to pull out the Ellen Hutson dies I recently ordered.  

This card uses the Alpine Window and Alpine Snowfall dies.

I started by die cutting the house layer from my card base.  This is a window layer in that it cuts a window into a piece.  The tree layers is also a window layer, but for this layer I first die cut a circle that was just slightly larger than the diameter of the tree layer, and then placed the tree layer die within it and die cut.  This created a very thin frame around the top of the opening which allowed me to adhered that layer to the back of the opening created by the house layer.

The next two layers are on the inside of my card.  I cut a panel of dark blue cardstock and created the snowy sky using the Alpine Snowfall die.  Over that, I added the mountain layer from the Alpine Window die set - this die cuts the actual mountain piece out.

When you close the card you get the full scene.

To finish things off, I added a mat of patterned paper and then popped up the top layer of white cardstock.

I thought long and hard about making this a Christmas card, but decided to go with a winter themed card.  I used two sentiments from my Scandinavian Prints Christmas set, one on the outside and one on the inside.

Thanks for visiting!  

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

Friday, January 11, 2019

Neat & Tangled January Release Recap and Winners

Hey everyone!  The Neat & Tangled January release is now available in the store.  Here's a look back at my cards this week (clearly I really love that love you sentiment!). 

I also have a couple winners to announce.  Congratulations to:

@craftybee34 from IG who wins the Wonky Chevron cover plate


Kelsey Thomas from the blog who wins the Heart Duo stencils

Ladies, congratulations!  Please shoot me an email with your mailing information and I'll get these sent out.  

And if there's something you've got to have, head on over to the store.  Have a great weekend all!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Neat & Tangled January Release and Giveaways - Day 4

Hey everyone!  It's the last day of release reveals, and today we're showing off my newest stencil, which is actually a set.  You guys have been big fans of the balloon duo stencil, and I thought a similar heart set was in order.

Instead of having hearts all the same size like the balloons, I've varied the sizes and I really love the effect you get.  I'm amazed at how quickly you can create a background with these.  

This first card is essentially a rehash of my card from Day 1, but on white cardstock, and I'm using regular Distress Ink instead of the Oxides.  The colors I chose were:  Worn Lipstick, Festive Berries, and Shaded Lilac.  I really like how this color combination turned out!  

Once the background came together (in a snap), I heat set, and then stamped the sentiment from Just Because with Versafine and then clear embossed.  I also added the small xoxo from that set.

So quick and easy, but such a big impact.

For this next card, I was just kind of messing around.  I haven't done much in the mixed media genre of late, and it's always fun to do a little experimenting.

I started by using a rubber brayer to add some areas of red, blue and yellow to the background (Candied Apple, Squeezed Lemonade, and Peacock Feathers).

Then, using the stencils, I inked some layers of hearts in using Candied Apple, Black Soot, and Wilted Violet.

Another layer of hearts was added using translucent and copper embossing paste - this was done in two different sessions as the paste needed to dry between.

I also added some gold and black splatter.

The xoxo sentiment is from the Just because set.

What do you think?  Two totally different cards, but both a lot of fun to put together.

You'll want to head over to the Neat & Tangled blog to check out what the rest of the team created as well as the other featured products for today.  You'll be entered to win those by leaving a comment there.

Leave a comment here also, I'll be picking a couple winners for my new release products (announced tomorrow).  For some extra chances, see my post on Instagram (@mprantner).

I'll be back tomorrow for a recap of the release which will be live in the store at 8 AM EST!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Adoring You Stamp of Approval Instagram Hop

Today I'm participating in an Instagram hop showcasing the Adoring You Stamp of Approval box.  If you're on the waitlist, you can order these products now (9 AM), if not, the box will be available for general ordering at 6 PM.

There are two $25 store credits up for grabs in the hop - you have to comment over on Instagram (@mprantner) to be in the draw, but I thought I would share the card as well as the details on how to create it here.

I started by clear embossing the Love Note Background on a piece of Hawaiian Shores cardstock (PTI).  I then inked the entire pice with Juniper Mist ink and set it aside.

The wreath images are from the Sweet Home Wreath stamp set.  The twig image and the first layer of the wreath were stamped with Green Tea ink and the second layer with Eucalyptus.  I added some berries using Juniper Mist ink, and a bit of texture using a Versamark pen and Verdigris Antiquities Embossing Powder from Ranger.

To finish the card off, I die cut a circle in my background panel and stamped the sentiment, from the Sweet Home Wreath set in Juniper Mist on the card base.

The background piece was then adhered in place, and the wreath was popped up around the opening.

This wreath might be my favorite image from this entire box.

If you haven't already, be sure to head over to Instagram to check out the hop!

Neat & Tangled January Release & Giveaways - Day 3

Hey everyone!  It's Day 3 of the Neat & Tangled January release and today we're showing off my latest cover plate, Wonky Chevrons.

This cover is perfect for bold backgrounds and masculine cards.  It's designed much like my Inlaid Squares and Squares and Chevron cover plates, where part of the design is the webbing, so the individual pieces aren't all separated by webbing.

One of my goals this year is to incorporate more patterned paper into my cards.  For this first card, I cut the cover plate from two patterned papers - black and blue.  The black webbing piece was adhered to a piece of white patterned paper.  The blue pieces were then inlaid into the piece.  

Because there isn't webbing for all the different piece, you've got more options, so for example, the large blue chevron piece lowest on the card is supposed to nest right next to the black with a second piece sitting next to it in that open space.  Instead, I left one of the pieces out, and centered the blue piece in the opening to create a different pattern.  I also moved the second blue piece up just a tad so that it covers a bit of the black above it and leaves some more white exposed below it.  Finally, I altered the top blue piece, cutting 1/8" off the top edge so that I could see some more of that white below that.

The cover plate is just smaller than a full A2 card, but I trimmed my card base down a touch so that there isn't a margin.  I use the Love You dies featured on Monday for the sentiment, cutting the sentiment three times from red cardstock to get some dimension, and adding the xoxo from the Just Because stamp set.

As I mentioned before, I love this cover for simple, bold, masculine cards.  I thought that the chevron was a bit reminiscent of mountains, when pointint upwards, so for this card, I die cut three different green patterned papers and then inlaid them.

The sentiment is from my Topography set and I placed it just above one of the chevron points so that your eye is drawn directly to it.

This is a really quick and easy card to create and you can get three for the price of one.

Be sure to head over to the Neat & Tangled blog.  Danielle is giving a cover plate away to one lucky commenter.  Leave a comment here too as I'll be choosing a random commenter to win this cover plate.  For extra chances, head over to my Instagram (@mprantner) and follow the directions there.

See you back here tomorrow for our last day of reveals!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Neat & Tangled January Release & Giveaways - Day 2

Hey everyone!  Ready for Day 2 of the N&T January release?  Today we're showing off a new set from Elena called Piece of Cake.  The main image and one set of sentiments is in a 4x6 set, and there's a second 3x4 set with additional sentiments you can use (the sentiments I'm using are from that mini set).

I love the size of this image.  Sometimes it's nice to just be able to stamp something and be done with it as opposed to creating a scene, background, etc.  

The only problem for me with an image this large is there's so much coloring, and there are so many decisions you have to make in terms of different colored outfits for all the figures and the cake, and the hair...all that hair!!!  Lol.  I decided to make things easy and go with a monochromatic sepia toned scheme.  I stamped the image and the sentiments with MFT Hybrid ink in Hot Fudge.  The entire piece was then colored with three Copics (E70, E44, E59).

I did add a ground line with my Copics, and then adhered the panel to a natural cardstock card base.

OK, head over to the Neat & Tangled blog to check out what the rest of the team created.  You can also enter to win this set/dies there.  Leave a comment here as well as I'll be selecting a couple winners from comments this week for my new release products.

See you back here tomorrow when we debut my newest cover plate!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Adoring You Stamp of Approval Blog Hop

Hi everyone!  I'm really excited to be helping showcase the latest Stamp of Approval box, Adoring You, from Catherine Pooler Designs today.  You should be arriving from Lea Lawson's blog.  The Stamp of Approval box is a hand-picked collection of exclusive stamping supplies delivered right to your door. Released quarterly, these supplies (greater than $100 value) are designed to go perfectly together. 

This really is a packed box! It includes five stamp sets, one of which is a red rubber background and another of which is a 6x8 set, and one cover plate sized die.  

For my cards today, I set out to create a couple cards that use the products in unexpected ways.

This first card features the large sentiment from the Happy Together stamp set.  It was stamped in the center of my panel in Peppermint Scrub ink.  Using a MISTI, I actually double stamped it to get a darker look.

I thought that the branch from the Happy Together set could also double as a vine, so I stamped it repeatedly around the the sentiment in Green Tea and Eucalyptus ink.  I then went back and using the leaf image from the Sweet Home Wreath stamp set added leaves to the ends of some of those vines.  I also added some hearts to the ends of some of the vines using the small heart stamp from the Happy Together set in Peppermint Scrub.

I also used a few Prismacolor penciils to add a bit of shading to the stamped images to give them a bit more depth/shading.

My second card focuses on the Adore die.  As mentioned previously, this is a cover plate sized die that evokes a paneled door with a fan light.  For this card, I cut the die five times: twice from black cardstock, and once each from three shades of green.  

I trimmed the outline/webbing of the black die cut pieces down to just the fan light portion.  Using a piece of black cardstock as a base, I adhered the outline and then inlaid the green pieces with the lightest green in the center progressing to the darkest on the outside.  These were then adhered to a square card base.

The sentiment is from the Congratulations Sentiments set.

I couldn't resist making a third card because the stamp set that initially caught my eye when I opened the box was The Key stamp set and I really wanted to ink it up, so I whipped up a really quick and simple card using the set.

The set has a variety of keys and lock images.  I random stamped the different lock images with Versamark on some dark blue cardstock, and then clear embossed.

One of the keys was stamped with Versamark on the same colored cardstock, embossed in gold and fussy cut.

The sentiment, also from The Key set was stamped with Juniper Mist ink on white cardstock. and popped up over the background and a strip of gold mirrorboard cardstock.  The key was then popped up slightly over the sentiment strip.

Be sure to leave a comment here and at each stop along the hop.  Two lucky winners will receive a gift certificate for $25 to spend in the Catherine Pooler shop.  Winners will be announced on Catherine's blog January 14th.  Your next stop on the hop is Ingrid Blackburn, but I have the whole hop list below in case you get turned around.  If this box is something you've got to have, head to this link to get on the waitlist.  Waitlist members get first crack at the box when it's available for order on January 9th.

Good luck and happy hopping!

Ilina Crouse
Kristie Goulet
Tracie Pond
Karen Baker
Susan Powell
Nanette Tracy
Allison Cope
Laurel Beard
Jen Carter
Daniel West
Lea Lawson
Miriam Prantner
Ingrid Blackburn

Neat & Tangled January Release & Giveaways - Day 1

Hey all!  It's time for the first Neat & Tangled release of the year!  Today we're showing off a new handlettered set/dies from Danielle called Just Because.

I love the size of the main sentiment and that you can use it solo, or with the secondary sentiments.

I started by creating a background using my new stencil set that we'll be featuring on Thursday.  I wanted to try out my Distress Oxides on a dark background, so I cut a panel of dark gray cardstock (Coal Mine from WPlus9), and used three shades of oxides (Candied Apple, Spiced Marmalade, Picked Raspberry).

Since Distress Oxides take a while to dry, I heat set the panel, but I also set it aside to dry overnight just to make sure I didn't have any issues with my embossing powder.

I also did mist the panel with water to kind of set and bring out the more opaque nature of the oxides.

Using the MISTI, I stamped and embossed the sentiment with white embossing powder.  I did this a couple times in order to get fuller/puffier embossing for the sentiment.

That's all, really pretty simple, but I love how the sentiment pops against the darker background, don't you?

Be sure to head over to the Neat & Tangled blog to check out what the rest of the team created and enter to win today's featured products.  I have a couple of items in this release and I'll be giving some away to a couple lucky commenters this week.  To be entered, just leave a comment here and on any release post this week.  Winners will be announced on Friday.