Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September Book Reviews

As usual, the books I read this month are quite the eclectic mix and were chosen for a variety of reasons.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen was recommended by one of the members of the library book club and chosen as the book to discuss in October. This was a easy, quick read that I thoroughly enjoyed. The title comes from the work of Rebecca Winter, the central character in the novel, who is a well-known photographer. Her photograph, Still Life With Bread Crumbs, brought her fame and fortune, however, as the book opens, she is having financial troubles and has moved to small cabin a couple of hours outside New York City. The story focuses on her life in this small town as she tries to get her finances in order. Other characters include her mother, who is in a nursing home, her father, who lives in an apartment with the family housekeeper, her son who works in NY, and Jim Bates, a roofer who tracks eagles for the government on the weekends and has a psycho sister. There's a sweet love story mixed in with the still life photographs Rebecca snaps of crosses she finds scattered around the woods behind her cabin.

The Winter of Red Snow was in the to-read pile beside my bed and is one of the books in the Dear America series that Robbie picked up for me on our trip to Pennsylvania earlier this year. The story centers around the winter of 1777 when Washington's troops camped at Valley Forge and is told in the form of the diary of a young girl, Abigail Jane Stewart, who lived near Valley Forge. I've enjoyed all the Dear America books I've read, and this one is no exception. I particularly enjoyed reading this one since we had so recently toured Valley Forge and seen inside the house that Washington stayed in (which the fictional protagonist visited to pick up and deliver the laundry that her mother did for the Washingtons).

I checked out Mark Divine's book, The Way of the SEAL: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed after reading his article Learn To Take a Stand in a summer issue of Reader's Digest. The author is a former Navy SEAL and the article encourages individuals to define their values, discover their passion, and uncover their purpose. The book provides good information for leading and succeeding in life and includes exercises at the end of each chapter. Many of the exercises focused on visualization, which I agree is very effective, however I thought his focus on it was somewhat excessive. The book discusses five mountains that individuals must master to succeed - physical, mental, emotional, intuitional, and spiritual. There were lots of great quotes in the book - here are a few of my favorites:

*After risk aversion and fear of failure, indecision is perhaps the most common reason for that innovation-killing standstill we call inertia.

*Make a new routine out of shaking things up. This will forge new pathways in your brain, help you to avoid blind spots and rutted thinking, and spice up your life in general.

*...as with any high-functioning computer, the output of your mind is shaped by what you put into it.

Blood of Heaven is one of the Christian fiction books in our collection that I had not read before. This is an intriguing story involving a death row prisoner who is chosen for a genetics experiment, the GOD gene created with DNA taken from blood adhered to a piece of the crown of thorns (which was somehow preserved in candle wax that had melted then solidified around it), a young greedy scientist who deviously alters the DNA, and a police officer's widow and her son. I thought this was a great read with a satisfying, although sad, ending. (I didn't realize until I pulled the book out to read that it was the first in a trilogy.)

I hadn't really heard of the Gone Girl book (or the upcoming movie) until a couple of my blog commentors recommended it. This is the story of Amy, who disappears on her 5th wedding anniversary, and her husband Nick. The story alternates between Amy and Nick's point of view and involves deceit, intrigue, mystery, murder, infidelity, suspicion, drugs, psychosis, etc. I had very mixed feelings about this book. It's an extremely interesting story line, the plot moves along at a nice pace, and there are several unexpected twists along the way. However, there's a lot of profanity throughout the book and I did not like the strange ending because there was no justice, the story was not all neatly tied up, and the psychotic-ness of it all continues as the book ends. I definitely won't be seeing the R-rated movie.

Robbie brought me an interesting article about a new book several weeks ago. The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee is advertised as a book about Harper Lee, the author of To Kill A Mockingbird. However, it is basically just a memoir about the times the author, Marja Mills, spent with the Lee sisters; first as she worked on a magazine article, then as she lived next door to supposedly gain information on a book about the area that inspired Maycomb County in Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize winning novel. The memoir really didn't have much information about Harper Lee, other than revealing that she's just a normal person, she liked feeding the ducks at a local pond with her sister, and now resides in an assisted living facility.

Honestly, as I read this book, I came to dislike the author (who was on disability as a journalist but was somehow able to do the research for and write this book). I may have disliked her because in her descriptions of the differences between the southerners in Alabama and the Yankees she was accustomed to there was an underlying current of disdain for the south [seriously, what's wrong with saying "ma'am" and "sir" and enjoying a good game of football or a mess of grits with breakfast! :>)]. Also, in the book, she states that she ... pulled out  my tape recorder and began the slow, deliberate, and often enthralling project of recording oral histories of Alice Lee and her friends and neighbors in Monroeville. However, the book contains very few of the stories that were supposedly shared during hours and hours of time spent with Alice Lee and a variety of friends and acquaintances.

Profiles in Scrapbooking: Inspiration, Wisdom, and Advice for Your Memory-Keeping Journey by Lain Ehmann and the True Scrap 6 instructors is a VERY short eBook that I downloaded to my Kindle because it was offered free when it was released a couple of weeks ago. Honestly, it was not very informative and I didn't find it interesting; it seemed more like a promotional pamphlet for the upcoming True Scrap event.

Which of these books have you read? Please share your reviews in the comments.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sunshine Mail

It's been a while since I've created cards for the Sunshine Mail Foundation, however I pulled their current requests list last month and made a card for each of the children on the list. The description of the recipient helped me pull items from my stash for the cards - two of the little girls liked the color pink, one liked horses, and another one's favorite character was Minnie Mouse.

I had seen a card in a magazine that had shapes punched out of a paint chip, so I borrowed that idea for cards for the two boys on the list.


The Sunshine Mail Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides children in need comfort, support and joy through free Sunshine Mail Care Packages. Sunshine Mail is filled with handmade cards and postcards, a new stuffed animal, a coloring book and crayons. Packages are delivered to children in need including hospitals, homeless shelters and foster care.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Five Miscellaneous FUN Things On Friday

1. Chevrons have been popping up everywhere - in scrapbooking, in fashion, in home decor . . . but I simply had to laugh out loud when I saw that they're also now appearing in the health and beauty aids department! Of course, seeing those happy colored chevrons every day would make brushing and rinsing so much more FUN, don't you think!

2. I enjoyed Nick Offerman's article, Make Your Own Darn Gift, which makes a case for giving handmade gifts.

3. Speaking of handmade gifts, I had FUN creating a couple of mixed media canvases as gifts for friends.

4. I haven't even begun to think about Christmas, despite the fact that it's only 89 days away. However, I noticed that Christmas arrived at Hobby Lobby over a month ago!

5. A brand new Michaels craft store opened up just 3 1/2 miles down the road from us! Robbie and I stopped in during the Grand Opening week. We dropped our names in the door prize drawing . . . and later that evening, I got a call that I had won!! Robbie drove me back to store to pick up my prize basket of mixed media goodness!

What FUN things are happening in your life?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

One Little Word - September

This month's theme in Ali Edward's One Little Word class is STORY; in this case, the story that we tell our selves about our word and the REAL story of our word. As always, Ali encouraged us to review our intentions and action items, then to complete our reflections for August.

The main prompt for the month was to reflect on our word and the story of our word so far this year. Ali used photos, printed cards, and handwritten journaling to fill a 9-pocket page protector. I chose a similar format using Project Life cards, which I cut down to fit in the pockets.

I enjoyed the reflection exercise and feel that overall I'm doing great focusing on FUN! What's the real story with your word so far this year?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book Review - Olive Kitteridge

The latest book I completed as part of my goal to read all the Pulitzer Prize winners in fiction was actually a collection of 13 short stories by Elizabeth Strout.

The book is titled after the character who appears in each of the stories, Olive Kitteridge, however she is the central figure in only a few of them. The remaining stories focus on other characters - her husband Henry, their son Christopher, and various friends, neighbors and acquaintances in the small town of Crosby, Maine.

I'm not a big fan of short stories, but I enjoyed this book and the way the stories showed progression of time and how the cast of characters changed yet often overlapped in the various narratives. The thing I didn't really like was that most of the stories were downers [WARNING - spoilers ahead!] - a young girl with an eating disorder who dies despite attempts to help her, Henry's stroke that leaves him blind and speechless, Christopher's divorce, the young boy who wanted to shoot himself because he had seen the aftermath of his mother's suicide. Somehow the author wove all these tales together so that by the end of the book I felt that I knew Olive and sympathized with her despite her rather stern and irrational personality. This was an easy read and a well crafted selection of stories.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Goodbye Summer - Hello Fall

As I wave goodbye to summer today, I'm sharing one final find for Rinda's Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt. At the beginning of the hunt, I noticed lots of participants posting photos of #2 - a garden gnome, but this is actually the last one I found! Well, actually Robbie noticed it as we were walking into the grocery store after returning from our trip to the Canadian Rockies.

I only found 16 items on this year's list, but I had lots of FUN hunting and seeing everyone else's photos. Thanks Rinda for encouraging us all to be more observant and snap lots of photos this summer!

While it's not yet cool enough to pull out the long sleeve shirts and sweaters here, I did officially welcome fall today by adding some autumn color to our front porch.

Happy Fall Y'all!

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Scrapbooker's Blog Tour

I am thrilled to be participating in The Scrapbooker’s Blog Tour! Sue Althouse tagged me last Monday. Sue was one of my very first blog readers and is a fabulous scrapbooker. She consistently posts colorful, well-designed layouts that share the stories of her life and often showcase her husband's wonderful photography skills.

Now it's time for me to answer the blog tour questions:

1. What am I working on right now?
I'm having lots of FUN finishing up layouts for our 10th Anniversary Cruise albums. Here's a page I completed as part of the Scrappin' Goodtime Design Team using papers from the We R Memory Keepers Indian Summer collection along with Project Life cards.

2. How long does it take me to create a project?
The time it takes me to complete a project varies, but I would estimate a couple of hours for each layout.

3. What are my favorite things to create with at the moment?
I enjoy using a variety of products, so I'm not sure that I have a favorite. However, Robbie recently bought me a box of Project Life cards, and I'm enjoying using them on layouts and greeting cards.

4. How does my writing/creating process work?
Lately I've been working through online class materials and am typically inspired by an assignment or challenge in the class. I'll choose a story and/or photos to begin a layout, then choose papers and begin putting it together. Once I have the basic design of the page, I pull out washi tape, embellishments, and letter stickers/Thickers to complete the page.

5. How do I become inspired and stay inspired?
I enjoy inspirational outings on occasion, however there's so much inspiration that my problem isn't staying inspired, rather it's choosing which inspiration to follow - an online class challenge that inspires me to create a layout, a magazine advertisement that makes me want to take some still life photos, a story I want to tell, photos that I love waiting to be scrapped, or simply a stamp that calls out to be used on bookmarks.

6. What is my signature style?
I'm not sure that I have a signature style, although I do tend to use lots of color in everything I create!

Now I'm supposed to tag some of my favorite scrapbookers to continue the tour, however most of them have either already been tagged or were not able to participate due to other commitments during this busy time of year. I hope you've enjoyed reading my answers. I'd love for you to share in the comments the things that are inspiring you this week.

Happy Scrappin' Y'all!

Monday, September 15, 2014

50 Things Mini-Album

Even though I created a page here on my blog where I can share progress on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list, I knew I also wanted some sort of album to track my completions of these goals. I decided to create a 6x12 album using the We R Memory Keepers Indian Summer Paper Pack, which contains 48 pieces of double-sided patterned paper . . .

. . . six sheets of cardstock, and several matching embellishments.

I printed my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list onto 8 1/2 x 11 patterned paper, then created a sketch of how I wanted to set up the pages of the mini-album.

After creating the 6x12 pages by adhering two pieces of the patterned paper back-to-back, I cut out the remaining elements (4x6 pieces for photo mats, punched circles to hold the Cricut cut numbers, small journal strips, and punched circles for the date).

Then it was simply a matter of assembling each page . . .

. . . which took a lot longer than I thought it would because I had also decided to ink the edges of every single piece of paper and mat each of the printed items on cardstock!

It was well worth the time as I am thrilled with the result. Here's a look at some of the pages.

I included an introduction page explaining how I'd put my list together and my goal to complete the items in five years before my 50th birthday. . . 

. . . and left room at the end for my reflections at the end of the five years.

Since I've already completed one item on my list, I filled in that page by adding a couple of lines of journaling, the date, and a photo. To keep some consistency in the album, I've decided to use all black and white photos.
I added the title, a photo, and some embellishments to the cover, then propped this album up in my craft room where I'll see it regularly and be inspired to work on the items on the list!

I'm looking forward to filling in each page over the next several years!