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: “Rosette Art” by Cathe Holden

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“It is deeply satisfying to win a prize in front of a lot of people.”
― E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

I wholeheartedly agree with the above quote by E.B. White.  Each of us should have a chance to win the big prize, shouldn’t we?  Well, there’s no better way to give a fantastic “prize” to someone you love than to make something from Cathe Holden’s recent book, Rosette Art (Chronicle Books).

Rosette-Art-Cover-470We’ve all got them… stashes, boxes, bags and drawers overflowing with simple treasures we can’t bear to part with.  Vintage fabric, ribbon and buttons; lovely papers, pretty pictures and tiny trinkets.  Well, Cathe Holden presents the perfect project for using up some of our beloved scraps…. Rosettes!  Such a simple, but versatile idea! This one-of-a-kind book is more than an assortment of unique rosette crafts; it’s also a collection of lovely papers to incorporate into the designs. For many, the traditional rosette reminds us of the elusive first-place ribbon.  However, with inspiration from this book, you can make a loved-one, or even yourself, feel like the grand-prize winner! The endless list of suggestions will start your own creative juices flowing, and soon you will be hooked-on dreaming up your own clever rosette patterns.   Try a garland, mobile, ornament or wreath.  Whatever you choose, you likely won’t be able to stop with just one!

Head on over to Cathe’s website, Just Something I Made to get started on one of my favorite projects from the book — the Money Rosette.  Wouldn’t this be a perfect “prize” for someone’s special birthday?

cathe_holden_dollar_rosetteShe also shares the directions to make these amazing shelf-paper rosettes.  Can’t you just imagine all of the possibilities?!

CatheHolden-shelfpaper-rosettes-01Pick up a copy of Cathe’s amazing book– complete with papers to get started.  You’re sure to win first place with all of your friends when you whip-up some unique, and thoughtful, gifts!

(This review was originally published in the Spring 2013 issue of Amy Powers’ Inspired Ideas.  For one of Cathe’s projects, as well as some other “prize-winning” crafts, be sure to check out this fantastic issue!)

“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!

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

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I am so excited to announce that the Christmas 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 craft ideas and tutorials with a vintage feel that is strong on whimsy.   Christmas 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 vintage mesh stocking (just like the one you got as a kid!), some shiny tin ornaments for your tree or perhaps a miniature deer mount as a gift for the friend who has it all!  All of the directions, along with fantastic pictures, are provided to make it a piece-of-cake to create something delightful to get into the holiday spirit!

I was thrilled to contribute to this issue by reviewing some heart-warming holiday reads.  Furthermore, I served as the editor of this issue, and was able to lend a scrutinizing eye for typos and other small nit-picky details that perhaps only someone with an English degree would even bother to notice!

To experience some unique craft ideas and be introduced 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 Holidays, happy crafting, and happy reading!

“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!

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: http://www.craftactivism.com/

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?

LACY RAISIN WAFERS
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!

True Grit – for the creative book club!

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“They tell me you are a man with true grit.”  -Mattie Ross, True Grit

Okay, is your book club like mine, and ready to try something unique, different, and not the typical “chick-lit?”  Look no further than True Grit by Charles Portis. This book has had a surge of popularity since the recent movie was released, but if you didn’t see the movie, and even if you did, this is a book not to be missed.  I can’t stress how thoroughly enjoyable it is!  My initial reaction was that it was easy to read, adventurous, and surprisingly funny.  Mattie Ross has to be one of the spunkiest, well-spoken and utterly fearless heroines in literature.  Another bonus of this book is that it’s relatively “tame” when it comes to content and language, and when you’re done, the feeling is that you’ve read something of a classic filled with good old-fashioned Americana. You would be surprised at how many people read this book when it was published in 1967 and describe it as one of their all-time favorites.  Get your book club to think outside the box and choose this book for its next read.  You will have tons of fun talking about Mattie and her unbelievable sense of justice, as well as Rooster and how completely un-refined, yet compulsively likeable, he is.  If you are a structured book club who follows a more rigid discussion format, there are lots of online discussion lists for this book.  One question to ask each guest:  “When in your life did you have to display, “True Grit?”  If you’re like my book club, you let the talking happen, and enjoy the food!

How do you get creative?

1.  Serve your guests hot coffee and if you can, get some old-fashioned blue enamelware dishes that look like you’re sitting around a campfire.

2.  Recipe ideas:  Grits! Chicken dumplings, cornbread and candied bacon.

3.  Use red bandanas for napkins to further enhance the “western” theme.

4.  The rooster motif can also be used in a creative way, as the main character is named Rooster.  Maybe include a rooster image on an invitation, or on handmade coasters.

5.  Can you find some horse decorations or imagery for decorations?  This would be appropriate, as Mattie and the men ride across the countryside in search of the outlaw Tom Chaney.  I found this one on Etsy (http://www.etsy.com/shop/ManateesToyBox?ref=seller_info)

6.  Spurs and rope figure predominantly in the book.  Use these as charms and/or decorations.

7.  Do you want to send your guests home with a favor?  How about a red bandana tied with rope-like string and filled with individually wrapped taffy, as that is one of the ingredients in Rooster’s pack when they embarked on their mission.  Embellish it with a U.S. Marshall charm. I found this cute little one on amazon.com.

8.  Find some empty whisky bottles and set them on the table filled with wildflowers.

Perfectly Pumpkin

More Crafts, More Decorating, More Nature, More Treasures

“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”   -Henry David Thoreau 

I’ve had a lot of fun lately, enjoying some fruitful thrifting, some bountiful fall blooms in the garden, and some happy crafting for Halloween.  First of all, let me say that two years ago, when I toted home a small Chinese Lantern plant from my farmer’s market, I had no idea that it would spread so eagerly.  I has literally taken over my front flower garden.  So, what’s a crafty girl to do?  Find a way to use them for fun fall decorating, and to make cute decorations to give away! I found this cute idea in the Martha Stewart magazine for turning Chinese Lantern pods into small pumpkin favors.  I’ve also had some exceptional luck at the thrift store lately.  The orange pot in the background is McCoy (I’m kind of a pottery snob!) and the pumpkin is a vintage Haeger planter.  I found these things just hiding among all of the other Halloween “crappity-crap.” (thanks for the term, Dottie Angel, it’s perfect!)  Fall decorating is my favorite, and I only wish the season wasn’t so short.  Right now I’m pressing some leaves for another crafty idea I saw on Martha’s website… I’ll be sure to share the results.

Crafty Team Spirit…. Princess Lasertron Style!

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“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  -Helen Keller

So, I work at a high school, and this week is Homecoming Week.  I don’t care how old you might be, you probably remember the buzz and energy of Homecoming.  The team building, the buzz, the energy, the traditions…..  It’s about theme inspired dress-up days, and class competitions, and parades and of course, the game!  That’s why I’m so excited about the prize ribbon I made at The Creative Connection Event.  I was so fortunate to be able to take a class by Megan from Princess Lasertron.  We all made these enormous, over-the-top, but oh-so-cute, prize ribbons.  In my daily life, I just don’t see myself donning it for groceries or the mall.  However, Homecoming is the perfect occasion to sport some extra big team spirit.  I was so excited to choose my school’s blue and green, as well as embroider a big “G” on the center button.  All of the ladies who attended this class were so much fun, and we truly enjoyed each others’ company.  It reminded me of what old-fashioned sewing circles must have been like.  I’m going to stock up on some more felt and ribbon, some fabric covered button kits, and I’m going to make some more of these beauties to share with my colleagues for next year.  Who says that team spirit can’t be crafty? Go Team!!