“The Art of Reading” with Joan Tapper

The Art of Reading

When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.  ~Enrique Jardiel Poncela

Photo credit: Gale Zucker

Recently I had the pleasure of reviewing an incredibly beautiful and absolutely inspiring book…. Craft Activism by Joan Tapper and Gale Zucker. This amazing book was selected in Amazon’s Best Books of 2011! (You can check out my more complete review here.)   After posting my review, I was delighted to hear from Joan, herself, and was not surprised to learn that as a writer, she is also an avid reader.  I thoroughly enjoyed her book, but I especially enjoy stopping by her blog from time to time to see some of the amazing projects that have been inspired by her book. (Seriously, it looks like she has the most interesting life!)  I know you will enjoy some of these fantastic creations as much as I do!  Among other topics, Joan has written about creativity, travel, and interesting places,  and is a sought-after editor who lends her skills to a wide variety of genres.  Check out her website to learn more about this talented writer.

Website:  Joan Tapper        Blog:  Craft Activism

What creativity do you share with the world?  I believe in the written word, and as a writer and editor have tried to promote excellence.

  • Book OR e-reader? book
  • Buy OR lend from the library? Often the library, but I’ll buy books I can’t find there or those I want to keep, especially books written by friends of mine
  • Hardcover OR paperback? both
  • One book at a time OR several? Usually one
  • Skip ahead and read the last page OR be patient and wait? Patience is a virtue
  • Bookmark or fold over the page corner? bookmark
  • Abandon a bad book OR stick with it no matter what? To the bitter end
  • Laugh OR cry? Why choose
  • Cover Love:  I love the cover of …….. sorry too many choices

What is the next book on your stack of books to read?  I’ve got Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder and Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters (both passed along by a friend), Janna Malamud Smith’s My Father is a Book and Cynthia Ozick’s Dictation (courtesy of a book giveaway at the community college where my husband teaches) and Katherine Stewart’s The Good News Club, written by a friend and bought at a book-signing event.

How do you acquire the books you read?  I’ll reserve a book at the library when I read a promising review; that extends to popular mysteries and thrillers and literary novels. I’ll pick up a book at Chaucer’s, my local indy bookstore, for an upcoming book group meeting. Occasionally a friend will pass along a book. Online? On rare occasions.

How do you choose the books you read?  I follow certain authors, but I’m interested in many subjects, both fiction and non. When I read a review that sounds interesting, I’ll make a point to find and read it. But I also am delighted when members of my book group choose something I would never have thought of…a classic, science fiction, a science topic. I like being introduced to new writers and ideas.

Do you have a book that you love so much that you re-read it periodically?  You can put me in the Jane Austen club. I could read and reread Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion every year. Austen is sharp-eyed and precise in her use of language. And of course, you always know things will turn out well for the heroine. What a comfort!

What are the characteristics of your favorite books? I think I tend to like books whose authors exhibit a wry sense of humor and a generosity toward their characters, as well as an acute sense of place. That could mean Ann Taylor’s works, those by Alexander McCall Smith, Larry Shames’s Key West mysteries; it could mean Tolstoy’s War and Peace or Anna Karenina. Even a nonfiction work like Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks shares those qualities.

How do you fit reading into your busy life?  It’s not an issue. If reading is important – and it is – you find time to sit down for a few minutes and do it. I’ll start with newspapers at the breakfast table, a magazine story over lunch, and a book for at least a few minutes (and often more) at bedtime.

I am proud to say that I have actually read… Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past and Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time – both brilliant multivolume sagas. I took them on lengthy vacations many years ago and they filled the hours wonderfully.

I am in a book club and it goes something like this….  There are about 13 of us and we meet each month (first Wednesday) at a different house, which goes in alphabetical order. Hostess provides dinner (often memorably keyed to the book.) We eat and discuss. Everyone gets to have a say uninterrupted, then it’s a lively free for all. It’s a fairly literary group, with several writers and a publisher included, so opinions are strong. Then the hostess gets to choose the book for two months down the road, which gives us time to get it from the library and actually read it.

One of my favorite craft books is…. My own two, of course, with photographer Gale Zucker: Shear Spirit and Craft Activism.

Thank you, Joan, for sharing your love of reading with us!  Here’s to good books, good writing, and new friends!

The Art of Reading with Holly from “Life as a Thrifter”

The Art of Reading

“Thrift is not an affair of the pocket, but an affair of character.” –S.W. Straus

I look around my house and 90% of what I see came from a thrift store or a consignment shop.  I glace at my closet, and I revel in the number of items that I got for a fraction of the cost at my favorite second-hand store!  In fact, I no longer gain much pleasure from buying an item that is new, because I haven’t experienced the reward of searching and discovering.  Those of you who are fellow thrifters understand the thrill of the hunt!

Recently, the news headlines were filled with the story of a large national lottery prize. I was chatting with some friends about what we would do if we would win a huge cash award (I do know that I actually have to buy a ticket in order to win!)  I was adamant about one fact –  if I suddenly became a millionaire, I would not give up my guilty pleasure of shopping at thrift stores!  While I am always interested in saving money, I just love the vintage, kitchy goodness that can only be found at the “second-time-around!”  That’s why I absolutely devour the blog “Life As a Thrifter.”  Holly Marsh has the most unbelievable eye when it comes to spotting the best thrift-store items and turning them into pieces of art!  Her home is the kind of creative, happy, colorful place we all wish we could have, and she does it all on a dime!  So, as a big fan of her blog, I noticed that many of her gorgeous photos include BOOKS!  Like many of us, she loves to cozy up with her handmade pillows, wrapped in a crocheted blanket (found for a song), surrounded by colorful and creative decorations, and retreat into a good book.  No doubt, she is re-charging her batteries for a whirlwind trip to the flea market!  I hope you will check out her blog and be inspired by all of her unique and creative ideas!

Blog:  Life as a Thrifter

What creativity do you share with the world?  I’m a thrifter! I love the thrill of the hunt…searching out fun finds and then transforming them into something new!

  • Book OR e-reader? Book
  • Buy OR lend from the library? Either
  • Hardcover OR paperback? Paperback…it feels good.
  • One book at a time OR several? One
  • Skip ahead and read the last page OR be patient and wait? Be patient!
  • Bookmark or fold over the page corner? Bookmark
  • Abandon a bad book OR stick with it no matter what? Abandon
  • Laugh OR cry? Laugh

Cover Love:  I love the cover of Flea Market Style by Emily Chalmers

What is the next book on your stack of books to read?  I’m probably the last person on earth to read it, but I’m super excited to start reading The Hunger Games.

How do you acquire the books you read?  Although I borrow many of the books I read from friends and family, I love going to the bookstore to search out a brand new book. It so beautiful and always smells so good!

How do you choose the books you read? My sister is a HUGE reader. I go straight to her to find out the latest and greatest read.

Do you have a childhood favorite?   I have so many favorites as a child…it’s hard to choose only one. There was one, however, called Baby’s Birthday…an old Golden Book that I used to read over and over as a little girl. I still have it, and read it to my daughter all the time.  She seems to love it just as much as I did.

What is one of your early reading memories? I remember as a child building a little reading nook in the corner of my room. I thought it was the finest place…and every day, after school, I’d run home to that little nook with a book in hand.

What is your favorite place to read?  My most favorite place has to be balled up on the couch…even better, on the couch while it’s raining…with a blanket…and maybe a glass of wine…

Can you think of a particular book that has meant something significant to you in your life?   The book Heaven is For Real was a real eye-opener for me. Of course, I’ve always believed in God and in heaven, but to have the opportunity to now clearly visualize it’s appearance was pretty incredible. I’m always recommending it to people.

I love to display my books…. based on color. The rainbow of colors is beautiful!

Reading is important to me because…. It takes me to another place. I can stop thinking about all the things going on around me for a minute and immerse myself in a whole new world.

Thank you, Holly, for sharing your love of books with us!  Happy thrifting and happy reading!

The Art of Reading with Mandy from “Little Maison”

The Art of Reading

“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.”   –Jane Austen

What I love about visiting blogs is that I can connect with like-minded folks with whom I never would have met otherwise.  Case-in-point…. my new friend, Mandy.  Mandy’s blog, Little Maison, is a lovely feast of art, photography, fashion, decorating, and more.  I love absolutely everything she hunts and gathers for her readers! How lucky I am to be able to admire her work, as Mandy lives in Queens, New York, and I live in northwest Montana.  While I have been appreciating all of her inspiration –  from vintage wedding attire, locally-made chocolate bunnies, eclectic artwork, beautiful interiors and more… it was her love of books that caught my eye.  Mandy is another creative soul who also loves to read, and like me, collect and display beautiful books.  It’s all about home for Mandy…. as it is for many of us (from Montana to New York, and everywhere in-between!)  I hope you will drop in to visit her “little maison.”  I know you will be as enamored as I am!

Blog:  Little Maison                                                      Facebook:              http://facebook.com/littlemaison

Twitter:                       http://twitter.com/mylittlemaison

What creativity do you share with the world   I have been in the event planning and marketing industry for 14 years, which is creative but has limitations.  I just recently started the blog and it’s been the best thing I’ve done in years!  It satisfies my love of writing, photography, fashion and home!

  • Book OR e-reader?  Book – but I am a new Nook owner as well!
  • Buy OR lend from the library?  Buy.  Perhaps it’s the “collector” in me, but I just love purchasing and displaying books for my home.
  • Hardcover OR paperback?  Paperback.  Hardcovers are too heavy for subway reading in New York City!
  • One book at a time OR several?  I was always a one-book-at-a-time gal until recently when I dabbled in a few memoirs at once and loved it!
  • Skip ahead and read the last page OR be patient and wait? Oh, I would like to say patient, but I totally skip ahead!
  • Bookmark or fold over the page corner? Folding corners, always
  • Abandon a bad book OR stick with it no matter what? Abandon.  I can’t sit still for a book that won’t hold my interest.
  • Laugh OR cry?  I’d much rather laugh with a book, but a good cry from time to time is okay too.
  • Cover Love:  I love the cover of Bohemian Modern: Living in Silver Lake by Barbara Bestor.  It’s a vibrant yellow and blue line drawing.  It was the first of my design book purchases and still a coffee table favorite.

Do you have a favorite genre or genres?  I always pick up memoirs first.  For years my motto was:  the crazier the author, the more attractive.  These days, I am reading lighter more inspirational memoirs. 

What is the next book on your stack of books to read?    I just ordered Tout Soul by Karen Wheeler.  I fell in love with her memoirs (Tout Soul is her third) over the summer and had the pleasure of interviewing her for my blog.  She’s very Bridget Jones but in rural France.  Love her!

What book have you read in the past year           that stands out to you?                                     Slow Love by Dominque Browning stands out the most.  It was a beautiful memoir on how losing her job helped slow down her life, in a good way.  It made me laugh out loud, and I literally mailed it to my mother to read the day I was done.  She loved it as well.

What is your favorite place to read? I typically read in bed. There is something about being cozy in the comforter that makes me speed through pages.

Have you ever read a book at exactly the right time of your life?  I read Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser exactly at the right time.  It was about change, moving on and personal growth.  I was letting go of a bad relationship, and the timing and importance of that book was priceless.  Right after I read it, I passed it on to a friend who had just lost her mother.  She found the book comforting.

Do you have a special book that   you like to give as a gift to others?   I always buy my favorite childhood book as a gift for my friends’ children, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett.  I still remember my father reading it to me, and when I was old enough, I read to him.

Do you have any books that are special keepsakes?  I have 3 hardcover Hemingway books from my Grandmother that are special to me.  She always would put a label on the first page which read “from the library of” and she signed her name.  I have never read the books (they are on my list) but having the books with her signature is such a wonderful memento.

I love to display my books…. Before I moved in with my fiance, George, I had too many books!  I had books literally spilling out of every cabinet and closet.  I knew I needed to cut down, and I purchased a vertical bookshelf to help organize the mess.  I promised myself that I would not exceed the space on the bookshelf, and if I had books that didn’t fit, I’d need to give them to fellow readers.  Nowadays it’s a fun thing to rotate out books and give away favorite reads to friends.

Thanks, Mandy, for sharing with us your art of 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 goodreads.com 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!

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”

More Books, More Decorating, More Treasures

‘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, paperbackswap.com, 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.

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: Makeitbe.net

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.

Book Review: “Keeping the House” by Ellen Baker

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“A house, exactly like a dog, must be loved before it will show the best side of its nature.” -Popular Home Decoration 1940 (from Keeping the House by Ellen Baker)

First  of  all, I selected this novel because I liked the cover (yes, I am prone to do such things) and I really have a little bit of a house-fetish. I love houses!  I love looking at them, dreaming about them…. Just like the main character of this novel, Dolly Magnuson.     Dolly is a young housewife in the conformist 1950’s and the details of her life are most-likely accurate, but absolutely entertaining in their “antiquity.” Readers will be amused at how drastically expectations have changed for married women, yet will be shocked at just how many things have remained the same.  Like many modern day wives, Dolly wishes her husband were more complimentary of her cooking; she wishes he would paint the bathroom like he promised, and she yearns for him to spend the day with her instead of going fishing with the guys.

Dolly’s sense of angst in her role as wife and member of the Ladies Aid Quilting Circle only fuel her fascination with the beautiful, grand home perched on a hill overlooking her small town.  She imagines that if only she could live in this house her life would suddenly be different.  The object of her desire is the former home of the wealthy Mickelson family. Now, however, the house sits abandoned and neglected.  Slowly, Dolly learns snippets of the Mickleson’s story as she suffers through afternoon quilting sessions at the home of the town busy-body who has lived next to the Mickelson home for decades.  Dolly’s boredom compels her, via a broken window, to enter the home and begin uncovering not only its secrets, but also its faded glory.

Woven alternately with Dolly’s story are chapters highlighting the plight of the Mickelsons. We see the arrival of Wilma Mickelson as a new bride to her lovely new home on the hill, and we marvel at how Wilma’s story closely parallels that of Dolly.  We follow the heartbreaking stories of the Mickelson children and grandchildren as they endure war, betrayal, and ultimately love.

A few moments are slightly over-done and mildly far-fetched, but are forgivable in what ultimately resonates as a compelling family-saga. The shift from past to present is done well and adds to the story, while small moments of suspense kept me eager to find out more.  Furthermore, there were times when I was particularly captivated by Ellen Baker’s writing.  Notably at the end of a chapter, she would sum up the situation or events in a way that was strikingly beautiful, and I found myself re-reading small sections just to enjoy her words and descriptions.  This book feels like a slice of small town America.  If you’re craving a wholesome book that is not all fluff, you will enjoy entering the complicated, yet hopeful, worlds of these characters.

Happy Reading!

Book Review: “Decorate” by Holly Becker and Joanna Copestick

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“Your home should tell the story of who you are, and be a collection of what you love brought together under one roof.”  Nate Berkus

Rooms That Tell a Story:

I have always been captivated by design books. Just like going on home tours, or glancing in an open window while driving by, reading books like Decorate lets me peer, if only briefly, into the world, and stories, of others.  Pick up this amazing new book and find yourself transported into some of the most visually interesting and inspiring rooms you have seen in a long while.  Decorate is a visual feast of the kinds of rooms we want to live-in today. The author, Holly Becker, is the creator of the enormously popular design website Decor8.  Gone are the matchy-match furniture groupings from the local furniture store.  Gone are the impersonal, super-modern, sterile rooms that represent “status”.  This book brings to our attention the inspirational designs of those who recognize our need to tell a story with our homes.

Here are  my “Take-Away’s” from the book:

Take-Away #1:  First of all, I love that the rooms look specifically “undecorated” and more amassed over time with meaningful objects.  I am in awe of the current trend toward purposeful mixing of patterns and layering textures.  In one room, a pastel floral watercolor painting hangs next to a mount of deer antlers; which is  flanked by a geometrically patterned, Victorian-inspired sofa; all of which is accompanied by a modern, clean-lined coffee table.  The message is:  There really are no rules!  A quote from the book that communicates this idea:  “Enjoy the hunt—it’s worth waiting for something special… and you’re bound to find other bits along the way.” – Emily Chalmers (inside cover)

Take Away #2:  How liberating it is that you can mix all of the following in a very beautiful and visually interesting room: architectural salvage, flea-market finds, family heirlooms, your daughter’s crayola drawing, high-end pieces mixed with thrift store finds…All of which embrace the patina of objects that have had a story.  “Decorating is an extension of your personal style.  Finding your decorating style depends on knowing what you love at a gut level.” –Carrie McCarthy, author

Take Away #3: From reading this book, I have determined that my style leans toward “Flea Market Style”  I absolutely swoon for things like clocks taken from warehouses, industrial metal shelving units, collections of vases and old advertising signs.  Love, love, love this section of the book!  I also identify with the section: “Eclectic Style.”   It is amazing to me that modern decorating will let you pair your parents’ cast-off lounge chairs (recovered, of course) from 1970 with a funky bohemian wall hanging and your grandmother’s needlepoint pillows.  Toss in some bright shiny metallic vases and anything else you have collected over the years and suddenly you have a room that sparks conversation!  This kind of decorating lets you tell a story and honor your past as well as your present.  Thank you, Holly Becker, for showing us that we can fill our rooms with affordable, sentimental items and that we don’t have to go to an expensive furniture store and buy an entire room at once!

Take Away #4:  If you’re reading this, perhaps you know I’m a huge fan of books.  For reading, for decorating, for crafts…. for everything.  Decorate is filled with pictures of rooms in many different styles, but something I notice is that most of the rooms contain BOOKS. On tables, piled high, stuffed on shelves… The message is clear, books are the staple that completes a room’s story!   On page 97,  I am inspired by the picture of books…. the combination of colors and the mood it inspires. It says,  “Vintage books with distinctive dust jackets are delightful objects in their own right, whether used for reading, displaying, or as sosurces of inspiration for decorating.”  I couldn’t agree more!

Without a doubt, I have been coveting this book since I got to hear Holly’s keynote at The Creative Connection Event in St. Paul. Her presentation was my favorite of the weekend, and when I returned from Minnesota, I blogged about my favorite quotes of the weekend; one of which was from Holly (You can check out this post here.)  All of her books were sold-out, so I was very disappointed that I couldn’t get a signed copy.  However,  at the end of the weekend, I had the opportunity to meet Holly, and she couldn’t have been more lovely and down-to-earth… just like her book!