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

More Books, More Crafts

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: “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!

My First Article….Thank You Mary Jane!

More Books, More Crafts, More Miscellaneous

There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen and writes.  ~William Makepeace Thackeray

In addition to reading and crafting, I particularly enjoy writing.  In earning my college degrees, I’ve written more research papers than I can even count.  However, lately I’ve had the urge to “flex” my writing skills and try some new genres.  I was thrilled when the editors at Mary Jane’s Farm asked me to write an article for their January/February issue.  I had the opportunity to interview an accomplished quilter, Jennifer Rodriguez, of All Things Belle.  My article tells her story and encourages readers to try their hand at paper-piece quilting.  I hope you will check out her blog as well as her Etsy store and perhaps try one of her quilt cards.  They are a miniature work of art and a little package love that anyone would be honored to receive. The magazine is a lovely mix of organic and green living ideas, crafting, recipes and personal essays.  I didn’t realize that the magazine had hit stores until I saw it on the rack at the grocery store this evening. ( I absolutely adore the cover! Isn’t it gorgeous?)  I can’t describe how thrilling it was to see my article in print, and I hope it is the first of many more writing opportunities to come.

If you’re visiting my blog today as a result of seeing my article in Mary Jane’s Farm, I hope you’ll come back to get a sneak peek of the latest books I’m reading, as well as my latest crafty endeavors.