Book Review: “I Just Like to Make Things” by Lilla Rogers

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As the sun colors flowers, so does art color life. ~John Lubbock

lillarogersbookDo you find your bliss in the process of creating? For some, our little crafty corners serve as a way to unwind from the daily grind, but for others, the dream of turning their art into a career remains constant. Either way, this practical new book by successful artists agent, LIlla Rogers, provides advice that will help aspiring artists focus their creativity and find the courage to pursue their passion. Rogers shares invaluable insight into focusing one’s style, finding the best outlet for specific talents, and ultimately working with an agent to earn an income. She also encourages readers to complete a series of exercises that help identify one’s own unique talents and style. From the samples of artists’ work, to the photo collages, the entire book is eye-candy! So, jump in, read the inspiring interviews by some of your favorite artists, complete the activities; and be delighted by the fresh new direction your artwork takes. (Oh, and don’t forget to send her a thank-you note when you receive your first contract!)

Happy Reading and Happy Creating!

(This book review originally appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of Amy Powers’ Inspired Ideas magazine.  Check out my other book reviews and some beautiful crafts here.)

Oh Christmas Tree….

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“The perfect Christmas tree? All Christmas trees are perfect!”
-Charles N. Barnard

Inspired by all of the wonderful book trees on Pinterest, we decided to try our own at school this year.  We think it turned out wonderfully!  (Yes, that’s a taxidermy wolf in the background– a donation to our school whose mascot is the Wolfpack.)

May your Christmas holiday be filled with hours of uninterrupted reading time and LOTS of good books!

IMG_0401Merry Christmas and Happy Reading!

Time to Get Inspired!

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“Christmas isn’t a season.  It’s a feeling.” – Edna Ferber

The latest issue of Amy Powers’ Inspired Ideas is now available online!  You are going to LOVE this latest treasure trove of crafty holiday inspiration!  I am proud to be a part of putting it all together.  From writing the book reviews to editing the copy, every bit of it was a pleasure!

cover-1One of my favorite projects was Noodle and Lou’s Gift Toppers.  I mean, how cute are these?  Time to start gathering the vintage papers and get to work!

jennsflowersI also have a soft spot in my heart for these adorable vintage ephemera letters by Ashlee Park!  Seriously cute, don’t you think?

ashleeslettersAnd I can’t help but mention the book reviews.  Among several craft-book reviews I wrote for this issue, I also included some great “snow-themed” fiction books – perfect for a cozy afternoon by the fire.

bookclubHurry over to Amy’s site to get this incredible online magazine for only $3.99.  It’s a great bargain for so many great ideas!

christmas2013promoHappy Holidays, Happy Crafting, and of course, Happy Reading!

Book Review: “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

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“I would far rather have two or three lilies of the valley gathered for me by a person I like, than the most expensive bouquet that could be bought!”    –Elizabeth Gaskell

 

The Language of Flowers book cover

A foster child for all of her life, eighteen-year-old Victoria is emancipated from the system with few social skills and a bad attitude.  Now all on her own, Victoria can’t help thinking about Elizabeth, the loving woman who once wanted to adopt her – who took her in and taught her the beautiful language of flowers. After a heartbreaking chain of events separates them, Victoria copes by focusing on flowers, and using them to communicate her pain, until a chance encounter brings her face-to-face with her past – challenging her to move forward as she bitterly clings to the past. This beautifully written novel leaves the reader haunted by Victoria’s choices, but hopeful for the second chance she deserves. After taking this journey with her, you won’t look at a yellow rose or a cherry blossom in the same way, and you’ll find yourself thinking about the characters, again and again, wishing them well as if they were old friends.

Check out the website for this lovely book and learn more about the author here.  Happy Reading!

 

Book Review: “The School of Essential Ingredients”

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“Life is beautiful. Some people just remind you of that more than others.”
― Erica Bauermeister, The School of Essential Ingredients

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My book club read this lovely title a couple of years ago, and it still stands out as one of my all-time favorite “foodie” novels.  Today I learned that the author has recently published its sequel, and it reminded me of how much I enjoyed it, so I thought I would share a little bit about it with you.  I hope you’ll grab yourself a copy and when your done, please send me a note and share your thoughts.  Happy Reading!

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister  (Putnam Adult)

As a young girl, Lillian learned that by combining certain ingredients in the kitchen she could make a connection with her wounded and withdrawn mother.  As an adult, Lillian uses this gift to run a first-class restaurant as well as a weekly cooking class. On Monday evenings, students are allowed to conquer their fears in the kitchen as well as create delicious, simple food.  In doing so, each of them discovers what “essential ingredients” will not only improve their culinary skills, but also bring flavor to their lives. Told in a series of vignettes, readers will step into the personal struggles of each character and delight in the way stirring, slicing, smelling and tasting can inspire friendship and renewal. This tender novel will seduce your senses and inspire you to create loving menus with enticing ingredients. More importantly, through its tender glimpses into challenges of each character, it will encourage you to embrace your own abundance of small pleasures.  With captivating language and believable characters, this insightful novel will leave you as satisfied as a delicious meal.

Book Review – “Microcrafts: Tiny Treasures to Make and Share”

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“For the person for whom small things do not exist, the great is not great.”
~Jose Ortega y Gasset

 

Microcrafts:  Tiny Treasures to Make and Share  compiled by Margaret McGuire, Alicia Kachmar, Katie Hatz and Friends (Quirk Books)

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Take a regular item, make it smaller, and what do you get?  Something that’s just plain adorable!  Miniatures have always been popular for their “cute-factor” and this book is BIG on cute.  Prepare yourself for the dilemma of deciding which of the twenty-five unique and completely different projects you will want to make first.  Will it be the scrumptious looking candy charms, the adorable little spool dolls, or perhaps the itty-bitty houseplants and terrariums?  Whatever you choose to make, you will have something to decorate your dollhouse, give as a gift, wear as jewelry, or simply add some charm to a darling little shelf.  Each project comes with simple, easy-to-follow directions as well as diagrams and illustrations that will make craft-time a joy.  The photographs are lovely, and the overall feel of the book a blend of sophisticated whimsy.  You will want your own copy of Microcrafts to turn to again-and-again– if for nothing more than to get your daily-dose of cute!  We want to extend a big thank you to Quirk Books for sharing the “Book” and “Deer Head” projects from Microcrafts with us for this issue.  Go ahead, give them a try, and don’t be surprised if you start dreaming up your own microcraft ideas!

(This review was first published in the Christmas issue of Amy Powers’ Inspired Ideas.  The publisher, Quirk Books, was generous enough to share two amazing projects from the book with readers of the magazine. The images below come from the magazine, not the actual book.  Hop on over to Amy’s site to check them out, and then grab yourself a copy of the book to see all of the other amazing projects!)

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“Inspired Ideas” Spring Issue – It’s Here!

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No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.  ~Hal Borland

covernoshadowI loved working on the spring issue of Amy Powers’ Inspired Ideas.  Once again, I helped edit the articles and wrote several book reviews.  This issue includes several more book reviews for craft titles as well as three amazing fiction titles. This time I chose three novels with a flower “theme.”  All of them are very different, but very good!  Isn’t this the perfect time of year to settle in a sunny window and crack open a good book?bookclub

My favorite non-fiction book review this go-around was a fantastic little book by Lilla Rogers called I Just Like to Make Things.  This book is just a treasure-trove of advice and inspiration for those of us who want to maximize our creativity.  It’s especially for those who want to turn their creative passion into a career.  Pick up a copy soon.  You won’t be disappointed!lillarogersbookHowever, it’s really the crafts that make Amy’s publication so special.  Each unique craft idea is full of cheer and whimsy.  You’ll have a hard time deciding which project to try first!  To be honest, Amy’s bird nests are at the top of my list, as well as the sweet little Easter cloches designed by Ashlee Parkashleecloche2 nests

If you’re in the mood to bust some of the stashes in your craft closet, head on over and check out all of the great ideas in this issue.  It’s quite an amazing deal for so much loveliness!  Be sure to stop back by and let me know if you read one of the recommended books or whip up something special for spring!

Happy crafting and happy reading!

My Ideal Bookshelf

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“A man’s bookcase will tell you everything you’ll ever need to know about him.”
― Walter Mosley

Lately, I have become enamored by the ideal bookshelf artwork of Jane Mount.  I stumbled upon her website on a Pinterest binge and suddenly became obsessed with trying to decide what books would go on my ideal bookshelf!  I love the slightly whimsical quality of the paintings, and I could browse the site for hours admiring the “shelves” that have been created for others.

idealbookshelf2I’m thinking I would want to choose books that had important meaning in my life, but of course, I would try to avoid being a book snob and choosing books simply to impress others.  I mean, most folks would know that War and Peace wasn’t really one of my favorite books!

So, off the top of my  head here are a few of my picks:

1.  Where the Lilies Bloom (Cleaver):  I read this book numerous times in my childhood and was enthralled by the way a group of siblings took care of themselves after their parents died.

2.  The Master Butchers Singing Club (Erdrich):  I can’t remember many books that draw me in the way this one did.  When it ended, I felt sad that my time with the characters was over.

3.  Autobiography of a Face (Grealy):  This sad story was written with such honesty and some of the most beautifully crafted language I’ve read.

4.  A Thousand Splendid Suns (Hosseini):  One of the most moving friendship stories I can remember.  This book touched me deeply.

Oh, it’s so hard to pick, but I’m going to keep brainstorming.  I just worry that there will be too many books on my shelf!  I really look forward to having one created just for me, and I think I know exactly where it will go!  Happy reading!

Illustration Eye Candy

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“Who ever converses among old books will be hard to please among the new.”
-William Temple

Of course, I adore everything old.  I love the patina, the layers and the story seemingly contained within anything that had a life before it entered mine.  My love of vintage is especially strong for books.  I cannot stop collecting beautiful old books.  However, I am most enamored by vintage storybooks of a certain era.  I can’t get enough of the graphics from illustrated children’s books from the 60’s and 70’s.  There is just something about the artistic style of the time that reaches out and grabs me.  Here’s one I picked up last weekend.

Cover

This lovely book is about a number of things that float and fly in the wind.  Here are a couple of my favorite illustrations. Aren’t they beautiful?

Feathers

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Take a minute to search your attic and old boxes of books.  I’ll bet you have some treasures.  Of course new books are wonderful, but the style of illustrations just can’t compare with some of the gems I find hidden in the dusty corners!  Happy Reading!

Book Review: “Bliss Remembered” by Frank Deford

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“I think that when you’re falling in love you see everything brighter and clearer.  Everything is more vivid.  That’s what love does to the whole world around you.”  –Bliss Remembered, Frank Deford

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“Bliss, Remembered is the saga of Sydney Stringfellow’s life from 1934, when she was a lonely 16-year-old innocent growing up in the Depression in a small town on The Eastern Shore of Maryland, until 1942, when war with Germany has begun and she finds herself personally caught up in it in a way she could never have imagined.” (excerpt from Frank Deford’s website.)

If you’re looking for a great book to start off the year, here’s your next check-out or download!  I recently finished this gem of a novel that incorporates history, love, mystery and a whopping twist at the end to keep you turning the pages.

As Sydney reaches the end of her long, eventful life, she chooses to tell her son, Teddy, the secret of her trip to Berlin to swim in the Olympics.  Almost by accident, she discovers the incredible talent she possesses for swimming as a sixteen year old girl mourning the death of her beloved father. As she follows her bliss, she finds herself crossing the ocean and wrapped-up in a whirlwind romance with a handsome German. This is a turbulent time in world history, and the implications of this love affair shape the rest of her life…as well as history.

I know you will love this book as much as I did.  It’s a perfect book to while away a long January afternoon.  Don’t forget your blanket and tea!

“A natural.  Is there anything better anybody can tell you but that you’re a natural?  I don’t think so.”   -Sydney Stringfellow, Bliss Remembered