The Art of Reading with April from Flourish Cafe

More Books, More Miscellaneous, The Art of Reading

“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” –Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll.

Okay, it’s no surprise that I am passionate about books and reading, but I am also a huge fan of art and great quotes.  I have a journal where I write down all of the best quotes I come across.  I love looking at it from time to time for a little inspiration.  That’s why I absolutely fell in love with the designs of April Starr from her Etsy shop, Flourish Cafe.  Take a look at her stunning artwork, photography and sweet quotes, and I dare you to choose just one that you can’t live without!  All it takes is one visit to her shop to tell that April is also a lover of books.  I’m sure you will enjoy her interview as much as I did!  Happy Reading!

Meet April….

Find April Here:  FlourishCafe: a place for those who love food, books and art

What creativity do you share with the world? I love to create illustrations and graphic design pieces based on things that inspire me – especially food, cooking, books, writing and reading. I sell these art prints in my shop,, along with some recipes and select vintage items. On my blog, I share a wide variety of creative projects, from upcycling old records into side tables, to recipe ideas for serving tea, to my free illustrated planner printables. Basically, I like to explore a lot of different areas of creativity! Some day I hope to share my fiction writing with the world … but I’m not quite there yet.

  • Book OR e-reader? Book!
  • Buy OR lend from the library? Library, unless it is a book I or my family will read multiple times.
  • Hardcover OR paperback? Hardback all the way!
  • One book at a time OR several? One fiction at a time, but I may be reading one fiction, plus some non-fiction.
  • Skip ahead and read the last page OR be patient and wait? Wait!! As a writer myself, I know the work and skill it takes to craft a story leading up to the end and I want to enjoy the story as the author intended it. Don’t take a shortcut, the joy is in the journey!
  • Bookmark or fold over the page corner? Hm, does random scraps of napkins count as a bookmark? Anything but bending the pages!
  • Abandon a bad book OR stick with it no matter what? Abandon. There are too many other worthwhile things to accomplish and other great books to read to stick around in a book that I have no more desire to read.
  • Laugh OR cry? Laugh!
  • Cover Love:  I love the cover of antique books by just about anyone.

What is your favorite place to read? When I was a kid I came across an old poem that I simply fell in love with (and have since made into a print in my shop – it is my single most popular print, in fact) that I think answers this question pretty well:

“Oh for a book and a shady nook,
Either indoors or out,
with the green leaves whispering overhead,
or the street cries all about.
Where I may read at all my ease
both of the new and old,
For a jolly good book whereon to look
is better to me than gold”
-John Wilson 1785-1854

Do you have a book that you love so much that you re-read it periodically?  I don’t really re-read books very much, personally.  Much of the reason I like to read is the discovery of the journey of the characters. Once I read their journey, I rarely go back and read it again.  It’s not that I don’t love the book, it just feels rather like going to visit a friend and having the exact same conversation with them that you had the last time you visited.    This is probably why I am so drawn to books that are in a series, so that I can “visit” again with the characters, without repeating. So that being said, when I DO re-read a book, it has to be a very special book. One that I have read at least 2 or 3 times is Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.  Marianne and Col. Brandon remind me very much of my husband and me.

Do you have a childhood favorite? Oh, I had so many childhood favorites. Perhaps my very favorite was Anne of Green Gables. Anne (with an E) is probably the literary character I have identified with the most. I loved her vivid imagination and her ability to have great intentions but still be able to make a complete mess of things. I seemed to do that type of thing a lot, too. I also have a very special place in my heart for Dr. Seuss. I still remember that the first book I ever read completely on my own was Green Eggs and Ham.

Do you have a favorite genre or genres?    I tend to dance around through a few different genre phases.  Every few years I seem to go through a stage of reading a lot of mystery, especially Agatha Christie.  Then I might go through a while where I read a lot of young adult novels, especially fantasy or dystopian pieces.  Then I’ll have period of time where I prefer to read classics and historical fiction. But usually I’m in one of those three categories, and they don’t really overlap much while I am in each one.

Do you have a favorite author or authors? In terms of fiction, Jane Austen, C. S. Lewis, Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, Agatha Christie, Edward Lear, Louisa May Alcott, O. Henry, Lewis Carroll.  What I love is how they can vividly take you into their imagination, simply and cleanly.

I’m stranded on an island, and I get to have five books.  They are:

The Bible

How-To-Survive-Being-Stranded-On-an-Island (or some such similar title)

How-To-Build-a-Raft-and-1001-Other-Ways-to-Escape-an-Island (or similar)

– A blank book (so that I can write)

– Something lighthearted and humorous to keep up my spirits, like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

I vividly remember being read aloud to… My Dad used to read aloud to our whole family in the evenings.  One of my favorites was when he read to us from the “Little Britches” series.  It’s very similar to the “Little House on the Prairie” series in that it is based on a true story of a child in the wild west, but this series is about a boy, and happened about 50 or 60 years after Laura Ingalls Wilder’s time. It’s a well written and fascinating series about hard work, adventure, family and history. Plus my dad is really good at doing great voices for the different characters!

One of my favorite quotes from a book is:   Ahh, this is so hard to choose. My shop is full of prints I have made from different book quotes!  But perhaps one of my favorites is: “Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” –Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll.

I love Lewis Carroll’s book Through the Looking Glass. For my senior project in high school, I adapted the book into a script, and directed and acted in our simple production of the book.  It may not have been ground breaking, but it was a lot of fun!

Thanks April for sharing your beautiful artwork and your love of words and books with us. Happy drawing, happy writing and of course, happy reading!

Summer Reading List, Oh How I Love Thee!

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“I was born with a reading list I will never finish.”  –Maud Casey

Okay, I’ll admit it…. I’m spoiled.  I have an amazing job in public education, and while teachers don’t go into education for the money, we do get some other enormous perks = SUMMER!  The two months that I have off are filled with many activities which include a lot of “catching-up” with home tasks, chores and the little things that I neglect during the school year.  However, it is a huge priority for me to sit down and read as often as possible during my time off.  As an avid list-maker, I have made several summer lists, but the most important one is my reading list.  Here it is!  I would love to hear your feedback on my choices!

First of all, I LOVE magazines!  I will be reading many!  My favorites:

Of course, I have more books to read than I can count, but these have risen to the top of my stack!

Wicked by Gregory Maguire has been highly recommended on a couple different posts from “The Art of Reading” series that  I publish on this blog (Katie and Jennifer), and it’s time to see what the buzz is all about!  I have not seen the play version, so I am going in completely “blind.”

I can’t believe how long I have been meaning to read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski!  It has literally been “on the stack” for years.  A few of my good friend really loved it, and I hear it is a dog story, so I’m anxious to finally enjoy it!  The time has come!

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley was a thrift-store find, and the title is so enticing! I don’t always read mysteries, but every once in awhile I really crave a good one! This is apparently the first in a series of mysteries featuring a young sleuth named Flavia de Luce.  I’m hoping that I love it, so I can get lost in the rest of the series.

It’s won several accolades and has turned up on recommended lists for both adults and teenagers, so I want to read Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward for its potential for my high-school library.

A fellow co-worker told me that The Bride’s Farewell by Meg Rosoff was one of her best reads last year, and I love Meg Rosoff.  I see on her blog that there may be movie-rights in the future…  I love to read books and “cast” them in my mind with the actors I would see in the roles!

I have a new puppy!  In my mind, this should probably be the first book I read!  I have never read a Cesar Millan book, but I figure, he must know what he’s doing!  I have high hopes that after reading this book, my little Arlo will be sitting-up, rolling over, and sleeping through the night!

I am going to be taking a stitching class via Big Picture Classes from the talented Amy Powers, and I spotted these two books at my local library the other day.  The class is called “Happy-Go-Lucky Stitchalong.”  Doesn’t that sound fun?  These books are full of inspiration and published by my favorite craft book publisher Lark Books!  I have already found some great inspiration for my project with Amy!

Have you made your summer reading list, yet?   What was the best “summer book” you can remember reading?  I would love to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by… happy summer, and happy reading!

The Art of Reading with Marissa from “Rae Gun Wear”

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“May the odds be ever in your favor.”  Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

Today, I’m going to introduce you to Marissa from Rae Gun Wear, an Etsy shop where she makes the most adorable little outfits for babies and children.  Seriously, these are the kinds of outfits you want to have for your little one, so everyone around will say, “Oh my, that is so adorable!”  She shares her love of handmade, sewing, cooking, fashion and reading on her blog, Rae Gun Ramblings.  As a high school librarian, I love that Marissa is a fan of young-adult fiction, and I have had so much fun watching all of her recent, very creative, posts leading up to the recent premiere of The Hunger Games.  (I just love the way good authors are writing YA fiction that crosses-over to an adult audience.) I hope you enjoy reading about Marissa’s love of books and reading, and I hope you check-out her fun, online shop soon!

Blog:  Rae Gun Ramblings  Etsy Shop:  Rae Gun Wear

What creativity do you share with the world?  I work full time on my Etsy shop       Rae Gun Wear. I make handmade baby and toddler clothing. I absolutely love it! I sew anywhere from 5 to 13 hours almost every single day, but I love other kinds of crafts and cooking types of activities — although I admit I’m not as well practiced
in them.


Book OR e-reader? Book
Buy OR lend from the library? Lend, and then if I love it, I buy a copy!
Hardcover OR paperback? Hardcover
One book at a time OR several? Usually one at a time
Skip ahead and read the last page OR be patient and wait? I must go in order.
Bookmark or fold over the page corner? Bookmark                                         Abandon a bad book OR stick with it no matter what? Abandon. there are
too many good books to waste time!
Laugh OR cry? Come on, I can’t pick between these! I did both today with my book. Cover Love: I love the cover of Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

How do you choose the books you read?  I’m a addict. I tell everyone I meet that shares my love for reading to get on it, so I can befriend them and get more ideas. I love seeing what other people are reading, having them see what I’m reading, and just being able to interact in that way.

What is one of your early reading memories and why is it special?
My earliest reading memory is of being on vacations in Thailand, sitting in the back seat of a Jeep, reading Little Women as the sun set, and my available light was quickly dwindling, and I was trying to squeeze out as much story as I could.

If I could step into the setting of a book, and experience it first-hand, it would be…  A midnight dinner in The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I am such a night-owl and a fan of good food. I would love the chance to dress up fancy, meet some interesting people, have some fantastic food, and do it all at midnight! In fact it’s 12:37 a.m. as I write this, and I’m wide awake.  I’ll probably work a few more hours until I crawl into bed with a book to settle down.

Do you have a favorite genre or genres?
YA dystopian, fantasy, sci-fi that sort of stuff. I like it because I think having main characters that are old enough to take adult problems seriously, but young enough not to be burned-out by the real world work (i.e bureaucracy, politics, etc.) is refreshing. These kids have a unique position where nothing is tying them down from being great. No mortgage, no family to support, and most of all, they have their whole future full of possibility before them. They make you remember that we can all strive to be better, help others, and make a difference.

What book have you read in the past year that stands out to you?

Divergent by Veronica Roth. I actually finished it and promptly moved it to my favorite books list. It lives there with the Harry Potter Books and the Ender’s Game/Shadow series by Orson Scott Card.   The characters are real to me. While they are admirable, they aren’t perfect, and I love that. More than that, I appreciated the mature love story. It is full of action and interesting concepts to think through. I feel like reading it made me want to strive to be a better person.

What are the characteristics of your favorite books?  I’m a sucker for kids with powers whether magical, mystical or just some developed skill or talent. I also really like school and dorm-like settings. More than that though my main characters have to be people worth admiring and respecting. They don’t have to be sugar-sweet, but this is my entertainment, and I want more than what I get from turning on the news!

One of my favorite biographies / memoirs is…

Escape by Caroline Jessop. I found the story to be fascinating and very moving. The author experienced some amazingly awful things, but instead of taking it out on the religion as a whole, which would be easy (and in my opinion totally fair) to do, she just told her story, and I found that to be even more compelling.

How do you fit reading into your busy life? I read while I do cardio. It’s like a bribe. I get to read if I get off my butt! I also read to calm my mind almost every night before I go to bed. Some nights I read for a few hours –some just a few minutes. I enjoy the escape, and I feel like I’m always learning and growing as I read.

By the way, Marissa shares some really yummy recipes on her blog!

It’s Finally Here! Amy Powers’ Inspired Ideas: The Spring Issue

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“Spring has returned.  The earth is like a child that knows poems.”                          – Rainer Maria Rilke

I am so excited to announce that the spring issue of Amy Powers’ Inspired Ideas has finally been published!  If you’ve never had a chance to experience her beautiful, inspiring online publication, it’s time to head on over to her website to take a peek!  Once you start looking at this issue, as well as back issues, you will become enamored and will want to read them all! This publication is a unique mixture of handicraft ideas and tutorials with a vintage feel that is strong on whimsy. This latest issue is quite possibly her best yet!  Easter is right around the corner, and I know you will be heading to the craft store right away so you can whip-up an adorable Easter bow tie, some springy pencils or a whimsical little bird to tuck into an Easter basket. All of the directions, along with fantastic pictures, are provided to make it a piece-of-cake to create something delightful to usher in spring!

So why am I so excited to share this issue with you?  Well, I was lucky enough to meet Amy at The Creative Connection (by Jo Packham) last fall, and she was kind enough to ask me to contribute some book reviews for this issue.  I had so much fun writing the reviews, as well as editing many of the articles (a great way to use my English degree!) Amy is a class-act and one talented designer and artist!  I am honored to be a part of this issue.

To experience some inspiring springtime craft ideas, as well as introductions to some adorable new products — and of course, read my inspiring book reviews — hurry over and take a look! If you read (or have read) any of the book titles that I recommend in my article, I sincerely hope that you will stop back and leave me a comment with your thoughts.  It’s so much fun to talk books!

Happy spring, happy crafting, and happy reading!

Book Review: “Craft Activism” By Joan Tapper and photography by Gale Zucker

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“We make to provide.  We make to give.  We make to share.  We make because we love.  Making is marketable, it’s “green,” it’s local.  And when the fad passes, we will still be making.  Because making things by hand has never stopped, and it will never disappear.” –Craft Activism (Foreward.)

The increased popularity of handmade is touching all age and economic groups. Young and old… at home and abroad…  People are turning to craft to create beautiful and meaningful items.  For some, it’s a way to express themselves creatively, as well as connect with others.  However, for some, crafting is used to make statements and promote change within their communities.

Craft Activism pays a joyous tribute to this growing movement.  In this fantastic new book, many talented artists reflect on their passions, provide insight in what motivates them, and encourage others to find their creative voice.  Their message seems to be, “Take something you love to make, and let it touch others in a more meaningful way.”

This book will give you ideas, it will provide you with inspiration, and it will challenge you to try something new.  Why not use your talent to think a little more “green”, beautify your community, join a group of like-minded folks, pay tribute to your past or make a statement about what matters to you?

Get a copy of this book to find out a little more about:

  • Knit Bombing (or crochet!) … See an amazing bench-warmer pattern by the Jafagirls!
  • How to connect with the women of our past… After all, aprons and Granny Squares are back and here to stay!
  • Organize a craft night… Make a Bella Brooklyn house-dress (so cute with skinny jeans and boots!)
  • Get excited about helping a cause… and support the The Red Scarf Project.
  • Protect the earth… and make vibrant art from plastic bags.
  • Ravelry!… This is one great online hub of crafty-connectedness!

This is a book that I will be turning to again and again.  It perfectly honors the grassroots movement that has become a crafting revolution.  It provides a generous amount of practical ideas along with a dose of sentimental tribute to those who have paved the “crafty- highway” for us.

Check out the Craft Activism website at:

The Art of Reading with Katie of “Gadanke”

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To be a person is to have a story to tell. —Isak Dinesen

I’m so excited to introduce you to Katie, a fellow Montana girl, whose blog “Making This Home” introduced me to her fantastic line of writing prompt journals that I know you will fall in love with! They’re creative; they’re eco-friendly, and they have that handmade quality we all can appreciate. Katie has the most fascinating story which includes:  falling in love with a man from Germany, creating a unique dwelling in the loveliness of Montana, and a lesson learned about the importance of saving our stories. Katie is a kindred spirit, as she is a also book lover and avid reader. I hope you enjoy Katie’s “reading story”, and then I hope you will visit her blog and shop to find out how you can preserve your stories, as well as your loved-ones’, in the most enjoyable and creative way!

Blog or website: Making This Home (blog) OR  Gadanke (shop) OR Facebook  (We chat a LOT about story!)

What creativity do you share with the world?  Howdy! I’m Katie – writer, adventurer, and storycatcher. I believe an incredible thing happens when we pause to celebrate our stories. IT GIVES US MEANING. The ordinary starts to feel downright awesome. That’s why I help people capture memories and express themselves by writing their stories in my line of eco-friendly writing prompt journals.

  • Book OR e-reader? Book
  • Buy OR lend from the library? It depends on where I’m living. It’s hard to find the books I want to read in rural American libraries or to find English books in the libraries of Berlin, Germany (my German isn’t at a read-for-leisure level).
  • Hardcover OR paperback? No preference
  • One book at a time OR several? Several. I like to have some fiction or memoirs along with nonfiction within reach.
  • Skip ahead and read the last page OR be patient and wait? I don’t like knowing how a story would end. It takes away the adventure of the character’s journey.
  • Abandon a bad book OR stick with it no matter what? You know, with remodeling an old airplane hangar into our home and growing my journal business, I haven’t had the amount of reading time I prefer. So when I get the leisure to read, I have to be picky and make sure that it’s a book I absolutely want to be with.
  • Laugh OR cry?  The best stories have a little of both.

Cover Love:  Evelyn Cameron: Montana’s Frontier Photographer by Kristi Hager

What is the next book on your stack of books to read?  Once I tried meal planning. I sat down with a cookbook and figured out all the meals we could eat over the next week. When I finished, it was time to get ready for dinner. I looked at the plan for that meal and instantly thought, “Well I don’t want to make that.”  Out the window with that plan!  It’s the same with books.  What calls me at the moment? What stories and information am I drawn to?

How do you acquire the books you read?  I used to live in a town with a really good used bookstore. I’m still working on the little stash.  Now we live near a small town with a bookstore that opened way back in the 1800s; I try to give them my money.

Do you have a book that you love so much that you re-read it periodically?  I try to look back through the journals that I have written over the years. It’s incredible the memories we forget, the passions we feel, and the moments that make life so good.

What is one of your early reading memories and why is it special?  My dad used to read to my siblings and me. He was really animated and happy. It was like hearing the drummer boy in his voice or being lost at sea with the characters. When the story was over, he’d slam the book shut with both hands.  Needless to say, his storytelling never put us to sleep!

What is your favorite place to read? I like the couch under the quilts. It’s beside my husband’s desk where he’s finishing up schoolwork late at night. We’re sort of together but still doing our own things.

Who have been your reading role models, mentors, or companions over the years? I have a cousin who always has the coolest book suggestions. She was giving me things like Wicked and The Time Traveler’s Wife far before they became so famous. I’m still baffled by her knack at finding awesome stories.

 Do you have a favorite author?  I actually really like Christopher Paolini’s work (Eragon and such). Christopher and his family have a really inspiring story, and I love how he and his character grow together through childhood to adulthood.

Have you ever read a book at exactly the right time of your life?  I was finishing up my college business degree while reading Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper. Our professor handed us this huge assignment on business and life ethics. I dove right into it.

I am proud to say that I have actually read… The entire Bible. I went cover to cover; it took so long that when I finally finished, I didn’t know what to do anymore. It had been my breakfast companion for over a year.

Reading is important to me because….It makes you think of life in different ways, takes you to new places, and opens your heart to new ideas.  I think Gregory McGuire creates excellent examples of how we think we know exactly what happened… but then we hear the story from a different perspective that we never would have thought. Really? Dorthy from The Wizard of Oz isn’t cute and angelic?

Simple “Pots of Gold”

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‘Tis better by far at the rainbows end to find not a pot of gold but the heart of a friend.’ — Irish saying

I hope you will enjoy a peek at my latest thrifty finds.  I don’t often see cute, vintage St. Patrick’s Day treasures, so this was a true “pot-of-gold” that made my day. I also love to gather up vintage books with retro graphics such as this little story-book and the Reader’s Digest Condensed edition peeking out from below.  They are so much fun to use in decorating because of their great colors and patterns.

St. Patrick’s Day is about celebrating a few little fun things:  a bright-green scarf, a tasty plate of corned-beef and cabbage, and perhaps the lucky little “pots-of-gold” in your life: a cozy home,  a shelf full of good books, a hot mug of tea and a faithful companion with whom to share the blessings.  Wishing you nothing but luck this week and all the year through.

The Art of Reading with Jennifer Rodriguez

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Art + Books = Bliss

Welcome to the “Art of Reading.” I’m so glad you could stop by to see a talented artist and hear about her love of reading and the books she adores.  I’ve said it before, but artistic, creative women are very often avid readers!  Hopefully, you will be able to add a few books to your “List of Books to Read,”  as well as visit her beautiful blog and see some  inspiring designs!

Stop by soon for another reader profile, and in the meantime, “Happy crafting and happy reading!”

Let me introduce: Jennifer Rodriguez

Blog or website:  All Things Belle (blog)  and Etsy Shop

What creativity do you share with the world?  I am passionate about art and creating. In the quiet wee hours of the night, when my precious daughters and husband are sleeping, I design quilt and crochet patterns as well as create mixed media art. I love playing with color in just about every media form: fabric, paint, fiber, and more. It is my dream to inspire people to take the time to create. Art and creating have an amazing way to free our spirits as well as brighten our worlds.

  • Book OR e-reader? Book
  • Buy OR lend from the library? Library
  •  Hardcover OR paperback? Hardcover
  • One book at a time OR several? Several
  • Skip ahead and read the last page OR be patient and wait? Skip
  • Abandon a bad book OR stick with it no matter what? Abandon
  • Laugh OR cry? Laugh…always
  • Cover Love: I love this cover of Wicked by Gregory Maguire

How do you acquire the books you read?  As a librarian, it is important to me to support my local library. A majority of the books I read come from my local library. In addition, I’ve recently joined an online site,, and love it! It is an amazing way to swap books with other readers across the nation.

Do you have a childhood favorite?   My childhood favorite books were the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I remember my father reading them to us at bedtime. I didn’t always listen attentively, and my mother and I tended to tease my father while he read, but it sparked my interest in books and history.

I actually DO have a favorite book!  My all time favorite book is Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I’ve had an obsession with the Wicked Witch of the West since I was a toddler. I am fascinated by the general perception that beauty equals good and unusual equals evil. I simply love that Mr. Maguire has changed the way we see Elphaba. I don’t think I could read this book too many times. And yes, I adore the musical as well.

One of my favorite quotes from a book is:                            “Don’t ever tell anyone anything. If you do, you start missing everybody”   The Catcher in Rye by J.D. Salinger

A book that changed my life is…  The book that has played the most significance in my life so far is The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. I recommend it to each and every person who is considering going into business for themselves. I’ll never forget reading it in an airport and spontaneously crying. It is extremely hard to start your own business, and this book pinpoints every reason why. I can not recommend this book highly enough.

If I could sit down for dinner with a fictional character it would be…. I would love to have a martini with Scarlett from    Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I have to know what happened after the story ended! I am not a huge fan of the modern sequel and didn’t think it ran true to her character. She has always been one of my favorite heroines; she was resilient, independent, and didn’t give a hoot about what anyone thought of her.

The last book that made me cry….  I bawled for most of  A Thousand Splendid Suns by Kahled Hosseini. As a mother, this book touched and broke my heart so many times. It is extremely well written and I highly recommend it. Just get the Kleenex ready..

 One of my favorite art/craft/how-to books is…. Sew Wild by Alisa Burke because I love the idea of using your sewing machine as an art tool. As an art quilter, I see my sewing machine as more of a creative companion rather than a utilitarian tool. Alisa gives amazing inspiration and techniques with free motion sewing.

For the Creative Book Club….

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Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience:  this is the ideal life.        ~Mark Twain

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a book review for Keeping the House by Ellen Baker.  If you’re looking for some creative ways to make your book club discussion of this book fun and interesting, I have gathered some ideas to make it festive!

As a member of a book club that has been meeting for 15 years, I know that sometimes finding a good book for discussion can be a challenge.  So, that’s why I’m suggesting this book as your next selection.  You will be talking about a wide variety of things…. The role of women in the early-to-mid 1900’s; the impact of both World Wars at home and abroad; the way small town life can be a blessing as well as a curse; the importance of communication in a marriage; and the way things have changed as well as how they have stayed the same!

First of all, head over to Ellen Baker’s website for some excellent background of the book including great discussion questions as well as some fun recipes from the book.  I think the recipe for Dolly’s Lacy Raisin Wafers would be perfect! In fact, take a look at these free recipe-card printables. Wouldn’t it be fun to print out the recipes on these cards and give them as favors to your guests?

Dolly brings these cookies to her first Ladies Aid gathering to try to make a good impression…

¾ cup sifted all-purpose flour
½ teasp. baking soda
½ teasp. salt
¼ teasp. nutmeg
¾ cup light or dark raisins
½ cup salad oil
¼ cup water
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teasp. vanilla extract
1 ½ cups uncooked rolled oats

½ cup chopped nuts

Sift flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg.  Rinse and drain raisins; mix with salad oil, water; mix in sugar, vanilla, oats, nuts, then flour mixture.  Refrigerate 1 hr.  Start heating oven to 350 degrees F.  Drop dough by teaspoonfuls, about 2” apart, onto greased cookie sheet.  Bake 10 to 12 min., or till crisp around edges.   Makes 3 ½ doz.
From the Good Housekeeping Cook Book, 1949

Are you feeling extra crafty?  Perhaps you could get some of these cute clothes-pins from Etsy, or make some using this tutorial,  and add a magnet to the back so your guests can display their recipe cards at home. How darling would these be, holding your recipe cards nestled next to your table settings?

When it comes to setting the table, there are so many great options. Aren’t these dishes great?  You can pick up lots of retro dishes at thrift stores, of course.  Perhaps your relatives have some to borrow. I know my mom has some really great pink melamine coffee cups and saucers. (I wonder where they are….)  These lovely ones are available online.

I have a co-worker who collects vintage tablecloths, and once in awhile I run across one at a thrift store for a good price, but they are a little hard to come-by.  Maybe you have one waiting for a good excuse to show it off!  (Since Dolly is a member of the ladies’ sewing circle working on a quilt throughout the novel, you could also cover the table with a quilt!)  One of my favorite bloggers, Dottie Angel, is a master when it comes to finding and re-purposing vintage linens.  I wish I had this one for book-club!  In fact her blog is full of inspirational ideas that would be perfect for this book-club gathering!  Her dishes, her linens, her aprons… Go visit her site now!

I can’t think of anything more fun than having each book-club member join-in the theme by arriving in a vintage-inspired apron.  The cover of paper-back version of the book, with its colorful apron, is so charming!  Most ladies will have a lot of fun finding an apron to wear to book-club.  Check out the inspiration for vintage aprons like this one.

Finally, I adore the idea of using graphics for display that include cover images of the magazines and journals quoted in the book.  If you can get color copies of covers from Ladies Home Journal or Good Housekeeping, place them around the house along with some of the quotes from the book that you type-out and print on vintage inspired paper. I just love this picture of a ladies sewing circle from a vintage magazine.  It looks almost exactly how I envisioned it in the book.  Or how about this picture of a wife happy in the kitchen?  I found it on an article entitled: From a 1950’s high school home economics textbook, teaching girls how to prepare for married life.    Take a look at the suggestions given, and find a way to print them out and incorporate them into your creative book-club gathering!

My favorite?  #7 Make him comfortable: Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soft, soothing and pleasant voice. Allow him to relax and unwind.

Finally, in the novel, Dolly was so determined to be the perfect wife that she ended up resenting the fact that she couldn’t follow her dream to fly an airplane.  By the end, we are happy that Dolly will fulfill that wish.  Encourage your book-club members to follow their dreams and “fly” by giving each one a mini-charm to remind them that they have wings!

The sky’s the limit (no pun intended) with your creative book-club for Keeping the House!  If you try some of these ideas, please send me a note and a few pictures of your festive gathering!

The Art of Reading with Brigid Devney-Rye

More Books, More Crafts, The Art of Reading

Art + Books = Bliss

Here’s what I think…. artistic, creative women are very often avid readers!  When I get together with kindred-spirits who like to make things and get crafty, we inevitably turn our conversation to what books we’re reading… we can’t help it.  One of my favorite things in the world to hear are the words, “Have you read….?”  That’s why I want to share  “The Art of Reading” with all of you.  Here’s how it goes:  from time to time (hopefully once a week!) an amazing, talented, creative friend of mine will share with you a little about her art, and a little about her reading.  It’s a little sneak peek inside the bookshelves of someone you might like to know! Hopefully, you will be able to add a few books to your “List of Books to Read,”  and you will also check out a new blog and see something beautiful and inspiring. Stop by soon for another reader profile, and in the meantime, happy crafting and happy reading!

Let me introduce:  Brigid Devney-Rye

Blog or website:

What creativity do you share with the world?  I love making knitted and felted handbags, and this is the focus of my business. I sell my bags on my website and at the occasional craft fair, but the major part of my business is custom orders. I started knitting just a few years ago and started my business six months later when I realized I had enough knitted handbags and people would pay me for doing what I love.

  • Book OR e-reader? E-reader
  • Buy OR lend from the library? Lend
  •  Hardcover OR paperback? Hardcover
  • One book at a time OR several? One fiction, one non-fiction
  • Skip ahead and read the last page OR be patient and wait? Oh my goodness, I would never skip ahead!
  • Abandon a bad book OR stick with it no matter what? Abandon if not enjoying in 50 pages
  • Laugh OR cry? cry

Cover Love:  I love the cover of Isabel’s Daughter by Judith Ryan Hendricks

How do you acquire the books you read? I get most of my books from the library. I love the library! I always have. I usually request what I want, and I love that feeling of seeing my name on the shelf with the book I have been wanting waiting for me. It’s like a free gift. During the summer when we travel, or when I have run out of something to read, I read books on my Kindle.  My Kindle has solved that anxious feeling of “I have nothing to read!”

How do you choose the books you read? I lay in wait for authors I like to publish new books (Harlan Coben, Jodi Picoult, Emily Griffin, Meg Cabot and Mary Higgins Clark among others); I take recommendations from blogs I read—these blogs are lifestyle blogs but bloggers, like crafters, are also readers; I love walking through book stores. I then write down the titles and request them from the library, AND I roam through the library aimlessly and pick up what appeals to me

What book have you read in the past year that stands out to you?  The Tale of Halycon Crane was my favorite book of 2011. It is written by Wendy Webb, the promo reads: A young woman travels alone to a remote island to uncover a past she never knew was hers in this thrilling modern ghost story.”  Doesn’t that just sound good?

Do you have a childhood favorite?  I loved The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe series, by C.S. Lewis– such an escape and fairytale for bigger kids. (The British television series is really true to the books).

What is one of your early reading memories and why is it special?  I loved reading stories with my mom, dad and sisters in the evenings before bedtime. The memories of this time became all the more special because my dad died when I was nine years old.

Who have been your reading role models, mentors, or companions over the years? I grew up with a mom that always had her nose in a book. Reading for fun was part of our daily life and I regretted having to put reading for pleasure on the back seat during college.

Here are my top ten favorite books of all time:      I have been keeping a list of books I have read for the last 22 years (I’m 50, so almost half my life). It is impossible for me to choose only 10 books but these are ones that really stand out:

  • Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
  • The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter
  • A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris
  • The Return of Jonah Gray by Heather Cochran
  • Love Walked In by Marissa de los Santos
  • The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst
  • Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner
  • The Boy Next Door by Meg Cabot
  • House of Fog and Sand by Andre Dubus III

Do you have a special book that you like to give as a gift to others?   I have given Creating a Charmed Life by Victoria Moran out countless of times, it looks like a cute little book but has great advice.

The last book that made me cry….  I just finished wiping the tears from my eyes from reading Home Front by Kristin Hannah. This is a book about a woman who is a mom and a helicopter pilot who is sent to Iraq and returns home changed. I really loved the way this book gave me insight into what war life is like. This is what I love about books, you get to experience all sorts of things without actually doing them. It gives you deep insights into other people.

What is your favorite place to read? I usually read in bed before going to sleep. No matter how late I might get to bed, I can’t fall asleep until I’ve read at least a few pages. Since I do read in bed I am often motivated to go to bed quite early. My daughter usually joins me in bed for a bit before she goes to bed. She’s 14 now and we have been doing this forever, it’s so cozy. But my absolutely favorite place to read is on our boat during the summer. We are fortunate to be able to get away from Phoenix for quite a bit over the summer and spend time on our boat in Canada. When the boat us underway is my favorite time to read, I curl up on the settee in the galley where I have a great view of the ocean, with an ocean breeze coming in and a blanket on my feet I feel truly at peace with my book.