Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Book Series

I've enjoyed several book series recently - some new, some old, but all very good.


I discovered The Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mysteries at the library and completed the first three of these easy-to-read cozy mysteries very quickly. Gemma Doyle owns The Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium on Cape Cod and finds herself involved in a variety of murder mysteries. She also has the innate ability to notice things that other people often overlook. Her best friend, Jayne Wilson, runs Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room, which is adjacent to the bookshop, and is often an unwilling "assistant" in Gemma's investigations and their run-ins with Detective Ryan Ashburton, Gemma's ex-boyfriend.

In Book 1, Elementary, She Read, Gemma is actually one of the suspects because she discovers two bodies that are mixed up with the disputed estate of a wealthy Bostonian. I have to admit that I did not figure this one out until it was all revealed at the end of the book! In Book 2, Body on Baker Street, an author drops dead while doing a book signing in Gemma's store. There are several suspects - the author's assistant, the publisher, a Sherlock Holmes collector, an overly enthusiastic fan, an unpublished author wanting credit for the book idea, etc. The lively characters make for a good read as Gemma attempts to help her friend Donald (the collector) clear his name by finding the murderer. In Book 3, The Cat of the Baskervilles, Jayne's mother is actually a suspect because she knew the actor who was killed at a tea party for the cast of a local production of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Again, there are lots of suspects, as well as the question of whether this was a murder or a suicide. I definitely recommend these books for some easy reading and lots of Sherlock Holmes references.


The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley was one of this year's book club selections. This is an excellent hard-to-put-down story told from the perspective of Ada, a ten-year-old who was born with a club foot. Ada's mother treats her like an illiterate cripple and won't let her walk or go outside. The story is set during World War II, and when children are evacuated from London, Ada sneaks off to the meeting place with her little brother Jamie. When they arrive in Kent, none of the townsfolk pick them and they are taken to Susan Smith. At first, Susan doesn't want them, but she takes good care of them and they settle into a routine. Because Ada had never been outside her mother's apartment in London, there are many words and situations she doesn't understand, causing frustrations for everyone.

This is a beautiful story of one girl's fight to better herself. Ada says, "there are all kinds of wars," and in this book she is fighting the war to be treated like a normal person. Of course, the war is also going on around them, so there are historical elements that play a large part in the story. When survivors from Dunkirk arrive in town, Ada helps out by passing out water for the men. It's the first time she's felt like she could be useful and realizes that there is a "before Dunkirk Ada" and an "After Dunkirk Ada." I really enjoyed this feel-good story and couldn't help but root for Ada and Jamie and Susan as they all learned and changed and grew.

Then I discovered there was a sequel! The War I Finally Won picks up the story with Ada in the hospital to have surgery on her club foot. She and Jamie are living with Susan in a cottage on the Thorton's property. Maggie Thornton is Ada's best friend. When a Jewish girl from Germany joins them at the cottage, there's conflict among the inhabitants as some question whether or not she is a spy. The war continues and Ada continues to figure out who she is. Horse riding and helping tend the Thorton's stables are like therapy for her. She receives the gift of a dictionary and uses it often to look up words that she doesn't understand. This is another well-written book.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is a series of books about four high school friends who spend their summers apart. When they discover a pair of jeans that fit each of them perfectly, despite their varying dimensions, they devise a plan to share the pants so each of them has them for a short time before sending them on to the next one in line. Each book covers one summer of the girls' lives. There are lots of story lines - friendship, losing a friend, boyfriends, jobs, family secrets, grief, blended families, sex, misunderstandings, etc. I first read these books when they came out in the early 2000s and enjoyed re-reading them as part of my goal to re-read all the children's and young adult books in my collection.

I own all the books in The Mitford Years Series, and I recently re-read book one (At Home in Mitford) on a day I just wanted to read something wholesome and uplifting. These stories center around Father Tim, a small-town rector surrounded by wonderful characters in the town of Mitford - "an American village where the grass is still green, the pickets are still white, and the air still smells sweet." This is a great series that I'll return to again when I've completed some of my reading goals for the year.

What series have you been reading lately?

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Europe Trip Srapbooking #1

I've finally made a start on scrapbooking our trip to Europe last fall! This 14-day trip will fill an entire album!

I began by choosing a few elements to use throughout the album - kraft cardstock, cork letter stickers, and small wood veneer embellishments. My plan is that every page will begin with a kraft cardstock background and each new location or main attraction will have a title with cork letter stickers, The small wood embellishments will be on various layouts throughout the album. The title page will be created last using pieces of the other papers I'll be including in each section.

The first section begins with the itinerary I created for the trip, then showcases photos, memorabilia and journaling as we set out from Dallas and arrived in London. In addition to the kraft, I used a cream cardstock on the pages in this section.

On several of the pages, I drew a border with the brown pen that I'm using for my journaling.

I have a variety of travel themed stickers (some newly purchased, some from my stash) that I'll be including throughout the album as well.

When you look at the next layout, you'll see that the handwriting is different - I'm having Robbie add journaling at various points to ensure his perspective is included.

I've had all these little wood veneer embellishments (stars, cameras, arrows, hearts, keys, etc) in my stash for some time, so I'm excited to be using them to bring some cohesiveness to this album.

Other than the papers and travel-themed stickers that I've purchased specifically for this project, I'll be utilizing items from my stash as I go. On the page below, I used four Project Life cards for journaling and embellishments.

So, two days of memories recorded … twelve to go! Have you scrapped any big trips lately?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Two-Page Digital Layouts

As I'm slowly (very slowly) processing photos from our trips this year, I'm creating some digital layouts.

After sharing about our somewhat disappointing tour of Seattle's Underground, I used a page template and papers from my digital stash for a two-page layout.

I chose the colors in this layout because they coordinate with the brochure for this tour.

I'll use some attach-me stickers to add the brochure into my 3-ring album in between these two pages.

The only memorabilia from my ride in the Ballon de Generali was the ticket stub, which I added to our travel journal, so I created another two-page layout with those photos.

I used another page template from my digital stash, but rather than digital papers, I simply recolored the various elements to coordinate with my photos.

I like the way these digital page templates allow me to add and re-size quite a few photos.

I'm planning to continue this trend as I complete each batch of photos where I don't have additional memorabilia that I'd like to include on a layout.

Have you created any digital layouts lately?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

In Everything Give Thanks

Sometimes it's hard to follow the direction in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that says in everything give thanks. There are times in life when it seems we have nothing to give thanks for; however, the scripture doesn't say give thanks for the things you like, it says in everything give thanks.

My page was inspired by Tamara LaPorte's tutorial in the Life Book Creativity and Wellbeing Summit.

This scripture always reminds me of the story that Corrie ten Boom shared in her book The Hiding Place. When she and her sister Betsy were in a concentration camp during World War II, Betsy insisted on giving thanks for the fleas that were in the barracks. Corrie was dumfounded and simply prayed that God would listen to Betsy because she could not bring herself to give thanks for the fleas.

The two sisters began holding prayer meetings and Bible study in the barracks every night, and not once did the guards come in and stop them. Many weeks later Betsy learned that the reason they were never discovered was because the guards refused to enter the room . . . because of the fleas!

What are you giving thanks for today?

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

More Pulitzer Progress


As I mentioned in my last update on the Fiction Pulitzer Prize Winners, I got a little bogged down in the 1955 winner - A Fable by William Faulkner. This was a very long, very slow read! The chapters are divided by days; however, I was several chapters in before I realized that the several Tuesday and Wednesday chapters were actually about the same day, just told from different perspectives. There are many (many!) characters in the book referenced by their military rank - general, corporal, sergeant-major - without any names, and the stream-of-consciousness thoughts run on for pages and pages (and pages and pages). It was not a book I enjoyed; I'm not even sure how to describe it, so here's a description from the jacket cover: Faulkner's recasting of the Christ story set during World War I "to try to tell what I had found in my lifetime of truth in some important way before I had to put the pen down and die."

The Town by Conrad Richter, the 1951 winner, was easier to read despite some difficult topics. The story focuses on Sayward, a wife and mother of eight (living) children, and focuses on the changing ways of America during the first half of the nineteenth century.

Sayward is from a family of American pioneers and owns quite a bit of land in and around the small town in Ohio where the story takes places. She is somewhat wealthy in the area. Her youngest child, Chancey, is much quieter than the others and causes her the most worry. He is a sensitive youngster with frequent health problems and often retreats into daydreams of belonging to another family who will understand him better. Despite being told not to talk to her, Chancey befriends Rosa, a young girl in town, and their friendship leads to long kept secrets and dire consequences.

I read this story on my Kindle. It was an enjoyable book, which I discovered is actually the final book in a trilogy called Awakening Land.

Philip Roth's 1998 winner, American Pastoral, starts out OK as a story about "The Swede", a high school athlete who meets up with a high school friend who has become an author. The Swede describes his great life - a wife and three sons. However, at a High School reunion, the author discovers that The Swede actually had a really rough life before this second marriage.

The remainder of the book tells The Swede's story about his first marriage to Miss New Jersey and their daughter, who at the age of 16 blows up the local post office (killing a  man) to protest the Vietnam War. Up until that time, The Swede was living the American Dream - a successful business man and lovely family, but all that changes in the years that follow.

This is a fairly good story that is well told with lots of detail and characterization, although another slow read. There are a few sexually explicit scenes that I thought were overdone and didn't add to the book. Unfortunately, the story doesn't really end and left me wondering what happened next. Then, I discovered this is book one of a three part series.

When I checked out the 2001 winner, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, I discovered that it was almost 700 pages long! However, it was a fairly good read with lots of details and history as it follows the lives of two Jewish cousins, Sammy Clay & Joe Kavalier, through World War II and into the mid-1950s. Sammy lives with his mother and grandmother in New York. When his cousin Joe arrives after escaping from Prague in 1939, they pitch an idea for a comic book to Sammy's employer.

There were several storylines involving the lives of these two cousins:
*The birth of The Escapist (superhero and comic book) and it's evolution, which included lots of interesting history about comic books during and after the war.
*Joe's attempt to fight the war through the comic book stories as he tries to secure Visas to get his family out of Prague. A heartbreaking story of how families were torn apart during the war and the difficulties of not knowing what was truly happening overseas.
*A disappointing storyline as Sammy realizes he is a fairy (the word used throughout most of the book for homosexual) and makes various difficult choices throughout the book.
*As the story progresses, Joe eventually goes off to war and one section of the book details his time serving in Antarctica.
*During that time, Sammy marries Joe's girlfriend Rosa and we re-enter their lives when their son Tommy is in fifth grade.

Fortunately, the plot moved along at a steady pace; however, I was glad when I reached the end!

The 2018 Pulitzer winners were announced this past April, and I was able to check out a copy of Less by Andrew Sean Greer from our local library. The story of Arthur Less, a gay not-very-well-known author, is told from the point of view of another gay man. When Arthur learns that his ex-boyfriend is getting married around the same time that he is turning 50, he decides to take a trip around the world by accepting several offers he's received  - to speak at a conference (in Mexico), attend an awards ceremony (in Italy), teach a five-week course (at a German university), celebrate a friend's friend's birthday (in Morocco), and visit a writing retreat (in India). Honestly, I did not enjoy the book and am very glad it was a short quick read.

Currently, I'm still on track to finish all the Fiction Pulitzer Prize Winners by the end of the year! How are you doing on your reading goals this year?

Friday, October 5, 2018

A Personal Shopper & A Photographer (FUN Field Trip)

The day after our educational field trip, I planned a FUN field trip for my 13-year-old twin nieces - we went shopping! To be perfectly honest, I am not much of a shopper (unless I'm looking for crafty supplies, of course). However, each of the twins has chosen an elective area of study this year that worked perfectly into a shopping field trip.

Paige is interested in being a fashion designer and is studying and improving her sewing skills with plans to create her own designs. Laurie is interested in photography and is studying and learning photo basics and how to use a dSLR camera. I was in need of a few new wardrobe items, so I proposed that Paige act as my personal shopper and Laurie as our photographer. They thought it was a great idea, and (along with their mom, my sister Brenda) we headed out to a local Dillards.

While Paige & I wandered around, I had Laurie snap photos of some of the store displays.

She also caught Paige doing her "job" of finding things for me to try on.

Then I tried on a lot (a lot!) of clothes! Some of them I really liked (and added to my wardrobe), others were ok, and some were definitely not me. But I had FUN trying them all on.

The lighting in the dressing room hallway wasn't all that great, yet Laurie was able to capture some really nice shots. When we reviewed the photos together later, we decided it would be FUN to try another photo shoot with mirrors after we've both learned more about aperture mode!

Brenda also tried on some clothes during our trip. Despite not having a personal shopper like I did, she was able to find a few things to add to her wardrobe, too. I love this photo of the two of us!

My personal shopper was wonderful - not only did she choose outfits, she assisted me with all the trying on and ran back and forth for different sizes and hung things back up and kept our dressing room organized!

And our photographer was fabulous! She even captured this wonderful photo of herself.

My favorite photo of the day isn't technically perfect (with that tricky mirror and all), but it's a great representation of our day - there's me with a perfect braid that Brenda styled before we headed out for our adventure, there's Paige checking out the outfit ready to offer an opinion, and there's Laurie in the mirror snapping away.

I have to admit, I might be more of a shopper if it was always this much FUN!

Do you like to shop? Have you ever tried a personal shopper?

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Take Three Thursday - Calendar Additions

The purpose of Mary-Lou's Take Three Thursday meme is to take notice more of the ordinary in our lives. However, today I'm sharing something out of the ordinary that no one has noticed.

Robbie has a scenic wall calendar hanging in his office at work, and each month he adds a little something to the scene. He does a great job of blending these additions into the photo, but it's still surprising that no one has caught on yet.

Here's a look at three recent months - can you spot the addition?

Have you noticed anything out of the ordinary this week?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Elephant FUN

I can't remember ever drawing an elephant before; however, inspired by Tamara LaPorte's Day 1 session in the free Life Book Creativity & Wellbeing Summit, I drew a whimsical elephant in my art journal!

This was such a FUN page to create! I had a great time playing with lots of supplies - watercolors, watercolor pencils, water brush, gelatos applied with daubers, paint pens, acrylic paints, torn paper scraps, etc.

Robbie said just looking at this page makes him smile … so much so that he's going to frame it to hang in his collectible toy room! (Now that's the best compliment I could possibly receive!)

How about you? Have you drawn an elephant lately?

Monday, October 1, 2018

Lush Lilac Cards

Have you ever noticed how many little flowers are in a beautiful lilac cluster? I'm sure the number varies in nature; however, on each of the cards I created in the Lush Lilac Card Class at Personal Scrapbook last week, we used 28 individual flowers!

The flowers were created using the Heartfelt Creations Lush Lilac Stamp, Die & Shaping Mold Kit. The class instructor had already stamped & die cut the lilacs, so our first task for each card was to color the flowers using inks and daubers. This simple step made quite an interesting collage on my working paper (which I've kept to use on an art journal page).

Next we ran the flowers through the Lilac Shaping Mold & attached them to the stem and swag bases.

We assembled the cards, then added accents to each flower. For the first card, I added pearl centers, then used Stickles to add shimmer to the flowers and leaves.

The flowers on the second card also have pearl centers; however, I used Wink of Stella pens for the added shimmer (clear on the flowers & green to outline & add veins to the leaves).

For the center of the flowers on the final card, I used Nuvo Crystal Drops, and used the Wink of Stella pens again for the additional shimmer.

Did you notice how the flowers have a little different shape on the final card? That's because we ran them through the Lilac Shaping Mold face up instead of face down, which is an easy way to create a different look. It was so much FUN learning little tips like this in the class! We even received a 5x7 canvas for those who wanted to display the "Have a Beautiful day" as a mixed media home d├ęcor piece (rather than using it as a card front).

As you can see, these cards have a good bit of dimension and turned out beautifully. I've already sent two of them off to special friends! Have you tried any of the Heartfelt Creation products? Do you have a favorite?