Monday, September 30, 2019

September 2019 in Books

Hi all!  I can't believe we are already at the end of another month!  I very wide variety of books this month.  I need to do a better job keeping up with Ellie and her recommendations, so there are a couple of those on this month's list and I have a few set aside for next month too.  Here's the rundown:

Mother-Daughter Book Camp (The Mother-Daughter Book Club, #7) - Heather Vogel Frederick - juvenile fiction - four stars - This is the final book in the Mother Daughter Book Club series.  Ellie has now read them all, and I've read most of them.  She found this last one in the library and insisted we both read it, and I'm glad we did.  In this final installment the girls are working as counselors at a camp the summer before they head off to college.  It was a sweet way to end the story as they navigate being nervous about college and being apart from one another all while being in charge of little kids many of whom are also homesick.  As a way to assuage some of the homesickness, they start a book club at camp.  This was a fun end to the series and a great little palate cleanser of a book.

The Redeemed ( The West Country Trilogy, #3) - Tim Pears - historical fiction - five stars - Another last in a series, this book finds Leo in the Navy as WWI is just beginning.  Lottie, meanwhile, is covertly studying/apprenticing as a veterinarian.  As the war ends, they both find a way to make a living and eventually are reunited.  The pace of this is a bit more slow and languid, like the first book, but not necessarily in a bad way.  I love the detail and process that is described, from loading cannon, to salvaging ships, to performing veterinary procedures.  A fitting conclusion to the series, one I highly recommend.

Evvie Drake Starts Over - Linda Holmes - fiction - five stars - I really liked this one.  It's about a recent young widow who is trying to sort out what to do with her life now that she is newly single.  While most people think she's grieving, she's actually feeling guilt about the fact that she was in the process of leaving her husband the morning he was killed in an accident.  Enter a former professional baseball player, friend of her best friend, who is looking for a place to lie low and find his own way after flaming out and losing his arm.  I really enjoyed the banter and the personalities of the characters, and that while it was a little predictable, there was unpredictability too.  For those of you who are up-lit fans, you'll enjoy this one for sure.

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth - Sarah Smarsh - memoir - three stars - This one was a disappointment.  It's kind of a mid-western version of Hillbilly Elegy, but not nearly as good.  It was hard to follow, partly because her grandparents had so many different marriages/spouses, and because she sometimes called people by their actual names and sometimes referred to them as her grandmother, mother, father, etc.  There are some really strong characters in her family and it is a really fascinating look at those who are just on the fringe of lower class, but the continual skipping around as well as the overt political messaging made it a bit of a slog for me.

Where the Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens - fiction - five stars - I think when I put a hold on this at the library originally I was 500-something on the wait list and it finally came in.  I wasn't disappointed.  It's the story of Kya Clark who lives whose mother leaves when she is a child (after being abused by her father for many years), slower the rest of the children leave also, until only Kya remains.  She lives with her father for some time until he also drifts away and she needs to survive on her own.  She does so with the help of some kind locals and a friend of her brother's who teachers her to read.  Kya is actually incredibly intelligent and a born naturalist.  She studies her surroundings, recording what she sees/learns of the flora and fauna and wildlife of the area.  To those in town she is called the 'Marsh Girl' and something to be avoided.  Years later, when the former high school quarterback and golden boy of the town is found murdered, Kya is suspected and taken to trial.  It's a wonderful story of survival, friendship, and love.  I will say that I feel like the ending was too abrupt, things were wrapped up a little too quickly at the end after the pace of the book itself, but I really enjoyed this one overall.

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street (The Vanderbeekers #1) - Karina Yan Glaser - juvenile fiction - four stars - This book reminded me a bit of the Penderwicks.  The Vanderbeekers are a boisterous and friendly family who live in Harlem.  They learn that their grumpy landlord will not be renewing their lease and they will have to move just after Christmas.  At this point the Vanderbeeker children initiate a campaign to save their home, which of course involves numerous failed schemes.  This one had actually been on my Amazon list for Ellie, but she beat me to the punch and found it herself at the library earlier this year.  There are now two more in the series, so she insisted that I get started and catch up.

The Second Worst Restaurant in France - Alexander McCall Smith - fiction - three stars - This books follows My Italian Bulldozer which I really enjoyed.  Three stars is pretty low for an Alexander McCall Smith book for me.  I'll say that I did like this book, but it got a bit circuitous in the middle with a lot of chatter that really didn't move the plot along or develop the characters much.  All the action seemed to occur in the first and last few chapters.  That said, I did enjoy the story as well as a couple little plot twists.  I liked how things ended, but wish that there had been a bit more editing.

The Perfect Nanny - Leila Slimani - fiction - four stars - A quick and compelling read.  You find out right away about the terrible consequences of the story, and then rewind to how it occurred.  Myriam decides to return to work and needs to find a nanny to care for her children.  Louise seems like a godsend, she does it all, soon the family can't function without her, but as the family and Louise grow more dependent on one another, things take an unhealthy turn.  It really like how the story delved into Louise's back story, so you could see what shaped her.  Engrossing but very disturbing.

My favorites this month were Evvie Drake and Where the Crawdad's Sing.  I'm currently finishing up Small Fry (the biography of Steve Job's eldest daughter), and after that I have Indian Horse and Where I End on tap.  Would love if you shared what you are reading!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Get Well Soon

STAMPtember is almost over, and I wanted to pull out this Healing Hugs set before the month ran out.

This was the quickest and easiest card to make!

I started by cutting a 2" x 3" mask using some basic printer paper.  This was adhered with removable adhesive to a kraft panel.

Then I placed the Simon Says Stamp Folk Dance stencil over the panel and applied white Dreamweaver embossing paste.

Both the stencil and mask were immediately removed, and I let the panel dry.

Once it was dry, I stamped and embossed the sentiment and adhered the entire panel to my card base.

It's not the fastest card to make, but that's really only because you need to wait for the embossing paste to dry, otherwise it's basically a two step card.

Thanks so much for visiting, and enjoy the last few days of STAMPtember!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Stamping on Patterned Paper, Christmas card set with N&T Foliage Frame

Hi everyone!  I thought I would continue working on Christmas cards this week, and pulled out my Foliage Frame set for Neat & Tangled.

The majority of the time when I'm stamping, I end up using cardstock.  Often this leaves me feeling like my stamped panel is kind of flat, so I'll add inking, splatter, or a watercolor wash.

Another great way to add some texture and depth to your background is to stamp on patterned paper.  The papers I'm using today are all from an old BasicGrey Christmas collection called Evergreen.

For this first card, I used a blue print that looks like it's been painted, and stamped the background using Altenew Silver Stone ink.  The berries and sentiment were stamped with Grapevine.  So quick and easy, but it's got such a pretty rustic feel.

On this next card, I stamped the background first with Forest Glades ink, and then, using a sponge dauber, added some darker areas around the insides/bottoms of the foliage pieces in Evergreen ink.

More red berries and a sentiment stamped with Grapevine ink complete the look.

Finally, I mixed things up a bit and stamped the frame tone on tone, but used a Hero Arts Lime to Forever Green Ombre ink pad to add additional depth.  I could have left it as is and simply added the sentiment as in the other cards, but this time I die cut the center of the frame using the Foliage Frame coordinating dies to create a window.

Using a darker piece of patterned paper from the same collection, I stamped some of the leaves so they peek out of the opening, using Evergreen ink. The sentiment was then stamped and embossed in the center of the second piece.  I also popped up the initial panel with foam tape for some extra dimension.

I really love the extra oomph you get when stamping on patterned papers and really need to do it more.  Those first two cards were so quick and easy to create too, this set is perfect for mass production.

Hope you are having a wonderful week!

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Wishing You Peace with Hero Arts

In a matter of months I'll be sending out Christmas cards, so I figure I better get on the ball and get creating.

Today I'm sharing a set of cards created using Hero Arts' Color Layering Peace set.  I really love the fun Typography and simple layering of the sentiments.  

I also pulled out my Snowflake Pattern Bold Print background from Hero Arts.  

I started by stamping the background tone on tone on both a dark green and red piece of cardstock.  Those pieces were trimmed down to A2 size and adhered to my card bases.

Then, with the assistance of my MISTI, I stamped the sentiments using two shades of Altenew ink.  For the red, Crimson and Velvet, and for the green, Just Green and Evergreen ink.  (For the tone on tone stamping on the backgrounds I used the darker shades of these colors.)

The swirly flourishes were stamped in the darker shade as well.

I added a cardstock mat to each of the sentiment panels and adhered those to the card bases.  Super easy.

To mix things up a bit, I stamped another pair of sentiment panels, but this time I used the darker ink for the base, and then stamped the accents in Versamark and embossed with gold.

I had originally stamped and embossed the background in gold too, but it was a little too busy, so I opted to use a plain card base instead.

These cards really did come together very quickly and are perfect for mass production.

Four more cards for my Christmas card pile....slow, but steady progress!

*Affiliate Links Below

Thursday, September 12, 2019

More Birthday Cards!

I was in the mood to create some more birthday cards after inking up that MFT set from my last post, so I pulled out another new MFT set that I had picked up, Stacey Yacula's Sending Sweet Celebration Wishes.

I love Stacey's work and have some of her designs for Purple Onion Designs, but truthfully they don't get inked up much because they are rubber and I like clear better, so I was so excited to see MFT pick up some of her designs in clear stamps.

Anyway, I wanted to go with kind of an vintage picture book feel, so I stamped a few of the images on some watercolor paper with Versafine Smokey Gray ink.  I then die cut the images using one of the ovals from the Stitched Mini Scallop Oval STAX Die-namics, also from MFT.

The images were then painted using my Kuretake Gansai watercolors.

I experimented a bit with some mats, patterned paper and cardstock as well as twine for an accent but in the end decided that I like the simple look best.

The ovals were adhered to a kraft base, and then I added a sentiment banner using sentiments from the same stamp set and a banner die from the Neat & Tangled Scalloped set which was then popped up with foam tape.

Three more birthday cards for my stash!  I kind of want to make some more, but I think I need to do some focusing on Christmas....

Thanks for visiting!

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

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Happy Birth-Yay!

Hi all!  My sister, who peruses my card stash when she comes into town and selects her favorites to take home with her, was bemoaning my lack of birthday cards the last time she was here.  So, I thought I should reinvigorate my birthday stamp stash and picked up a couple cute sets from MFT including this one from Birdie Brown.

Nothing crazy here, just straight stamping and Copic coloring.  

I used GinaK Black Amalgam ink - it's my favorite ink to use with Copics.

Aren't these critters so cute?  I think my favorites are the toucans.

I'm hoping to get some more birthday cards done soon - with this set and the other one I picked up.  Stay tuned!

*Affiliate Links Below

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

August 2019 in Books

I'm a little late with my book recap this month.  It's been a crazy weekend here!  Ellie turned 12 on Friday, we had a birthday party for her on Saturday and then one for Carina on Sunday (her actual birthday isn't for a couple weeks yet), and school starts today!  So needless to say, a lot of extra running around and prep.  Anyway, a slightly shorter list this month.  Some really good ones and a few disappointments in the bunch.  Here's the rundown:

The Flight Portfolio - Julie Orringer - historical fiction - three stars - You know how I said last month that I thought I needed to lay off the historical fiction, particularly WWII stuff?  Well sometimes you are just foiled by when the holds come into the library.  This one had been on my list for a while and if finally showed up.  I was well and truly disappointed.  It was SO LONG.  Now, I have nothing against long books, I read a lot of them, but this one was long for no reason.  It reminded me of some of the movies I've seen recently where someone needed to really leave some of the footage on the floor in the editing room.  There was just so much that really didn't contribute to the story itself, not the least of which is the fictional relationship between the main character, Varian Fry, and his friend/lover.  It could have been so much tighter and more effective because Fry's story is fascinating and well worth telling, but seemed to take a back seat in the book.  A frustrating read, but I did learn about Fry's operation, and pointed me in the direction of some more non-fiction books to read.

Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler - Lynne Olson - non-fiction - five stars - I really enjoyed this one.  While I'm a big fatigued when it comes to WWII historical fiction, I still love learning about it, and this was a very detailed and in-depth look at the work of Marie-Madeline Fourcade whose Alliance network lasted from 1941 through the end of the war.  It's pretty amazing that she was able to keep it together for so long, and that she survived when so many did not.  She was captured multiple times and after the war worked to determine the fate of those in her network.  Definitely worth a read.

We Hope for Better Things - Erin Bartels - fiction - four stars - The story of journalist Elizabeth Balsam who loses her job after a failed expose on a local politician.  She heads to the rural home of a great-aunt to lick her wounds as well as investigate the request of a stranger that she return a camera and photographs to said great-aunt.  As she gets to know her great-aunt and her story, she also examines herself, what brought her to that place, and unravels the story behind the photographs and camera.  This was a bit predictable, but an enjoyable story.

Undaunted: Surviving Jonestown, Summoning Courage, and Fighting Back - Jackie Speier - memoir - four stars - This was a book that I plucked off the new bookshelf because it looked interesting.  While I knew about the Jonestown massacre, I really knew nothing about Speier, who was part of Congressman Leo Ryan's delegation, and who barely survived.  I really enjoyed learning about her, her childhood, how she got involved in politics, and how she continued her involvement after Ryan's death eventually being elected to years later to the same seat in Congress that he held.

White Like Her: My Family's Story of Race and Racial Passing - Gail Lukasik - non-fiction - three stars - This books was another disappointment for me.  Lukasik, a mystery writer, began researching her mother's background after her death.  She appeared on Genealogy Roadshow as part of her quest to find out more.  She learned that her mother, who had an African American background left Louisiana when she married her father to pass as white.  There were parts of this book that were so interesting and then parts that were not at all.  Those parts were very heavily focused on her genealogy research, but were quite in depth and for someone who just wanted to know the story of her family, it was a bit too much.  If you are a genealogy buff, you'd likely find those parts fascinating, but for me they were a bit of a drag.

The Wanderers (The West Country Trilogy, #2) - Tim Pears - historical fiction - five stars.  I read the first book in this trilogy, The Horseman, last month and loved it.  That one had a very deliberate pace which you really had to kind of adjust to when reading, but was a great story, and by the end I was totally sold on the story and characters.  This book moved much more quickly it seemed, although maybe I was prepared for it, but it follows Leo's journey as he leaves home and tries to find his way in the world.  He meets all sorts of different people, some good, some bad, but also continues to grow his knowledge and skills.  Really enjoyed this one, even more than the first.

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune - Roselle Lim - fiction - three stars - This one was another let down.  I love books about restaurants/cooking, but this one fell flat for me.  Natalie's estranged/reclusive mother dies and she returns home to settle affairs and bury her mother, and becomes enmeshed in her dying street in Chinatown.  She decides to stay and try to reopen her grandmother's restaurant to save the street.  This was just predictable, there were some weird plot twists that I just didn't care for, and the characters were only so so.  If I had to do it again, I'd skip this one, just not a lot of substance there.

The Spies of Shilling Lane - Jennifer Ryan - historical fiction - four stars - I really liked this one.  It's another that had been on my hold list for a while, and I was not that enthusiastic about it given my recent WWII historical fiction reads, but I really enjoyed this one.  It was more of a light and fluffy historical fiction book if that's a thing.  It didn't get into anything really deep and heavy, but was more of a mystery that took place over the span of a week, at the most two.  It's about Mrs. Braithwaite, a woman who's hit middle age, her husband divorced her, and she goes to London to talk with her daughter to whom she needs to reveal a long held secret.  The problem is, when she gets there, her daughter is missing.  She enlists the help of her daughter's landlord, and they embark on a series of adventures and misadventures searching for her daughter.  In the course of the book, Mrs. Braithwaite rebuilds her relationship with her daughter, and also comes to understand herself better.  Quick moving and entertaining.

Favorites this month were Madame Fourcade and The Wanderers.  I'm currently reading the final book in Tim Pears' West Country Trilogy, and after that I have Evvie Drake Starts Over as well as a couple non-fiction books.  I found that the non-fiction were drawing my interest a bit more this month, so I moved a few of those up on my TBR list.  As always, please share what you're reading!

Monday, September 2, 2019

Simon Says Stamp Stamptember Blog Party

Hi friends!  I'm participating in a blog party celebrating Simon Says Stamp's Stamptember event/kickoff today.

What's a blog party?  Well unlike a blog hop where you go all the way through and comment to win prizes, there are no prizes, but there are party favors.  In this case some fun codes that you might want to take advantage of in the Simon store.  I've got a code to share that you'll see at the end of my post.  There are a ton of people participating in today's blog party, so I'm going to keep my remarks to a minimum.  ;)

My card today features the new Healing Hugs set.

I started by stamping the floral frame image on some Neenah White cardstock with Gina K Whisper Amalgam Ink.

The image was then no-line colored using Copics.

Once that was done, the sentiment (from the same set) was stamped with Versafine.

There is a coordinating die set for this stamp set, but I don't have it, and it was pretty easy to fussy cut around the image.

Originally I was going to make this a square card, but in playing around with the mats, I decided that I liked it in an A2 size better.  I went with an 'uneven' matted look in the background, and popped the stamped piece up with foam tape.

Now how about that special code I promised you?  Here it is:

Thanks so much for stopping by, be sure to stop by the Simon blog to see who else is participating in the party and to get some more inspiration!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Spellbinders September Large Die of the Month

Hi all!  I'm popping in to share a card using the just released September Large Die of the Month kit from Spellbinders.

As always, there are so many different dies in the set.  The largest is the big mushroom I'm featuring here, but there are also some smaller mushrooms, a gnome, etc.

I love the detail on this big mushroom and thought it made the perfect shelter for my little squirrel.  There are several pieces to the mushroom cap itself, there's a die that cuts the main cap, and then another that cuts the holes/speckles, and then another for the underside of the mushroom. There's also a thin piece that defines the break between the cap and underside, but for my card I left that off. 

I wanted to get an inlaid look for the mushroom, so I started by cutting the cap itself, then I cut another, but also die cut the speckles on that one (that piece just cuts out the little holes and not around it).  Then I placed the piece with the detailed underside onto the second cap (with the speckles) and die cut.

These pieces were all die cut from white cardstock, and I added color using simple inking.  Once I had all the pieces for my mushroom cap colored/inked, I adhered it together.  Then I took the die for the top of the mushroom stem, placed it on the finished mushroom cap, and die cut.  This created a negative space where the cap nests.  I did the same thing with the bottom of the stem, so the entire mushroom is one layer that is pieced together.  You can get see a close up of that below:

After my mushroom was done, I die cut the squirrel and acorn adding inking to them, and also inked up a panel with some greens.  From that, I used my scissors to cut a simple gently sloping ground line, and also used some of the excess to die cut the grass pieces.

For the background, I cut an extra mushroom cap and then used some post its to mask off the center of the card.  Then I stamped the rain with a light gray ink.

Then it was time to assemble the card.  The sentiment is from My Favorite Things.  As a finishing touch, I used a black liner to color in the squirrels eye, and then added a drop of glossy accents over top.

Thanks for visiting!  Be sure to stop by Spellbinders to see more samples using this new kit and to check out the rest of this month's offerings.