Tuesday, January 31, 2012

{read: tough choices} Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

I read Those Who Save Us for a book discussion group about two years ago. When I finished it, I thought it was good but not fantastic and gave it three stars. But over time, it was surprising to me how often the characters and situation kept coming back to me, and I've upgraded my rating to four stars and I want to re-read it. It's about the choices you make to keep yourself and your children alive and safe -- in this case, a sort of deal with the devil. Those choices may have an unexpected price that you were unaware of when you made them. It's also about the relationship between a daughter and her mother many years after this deal - of which the daughter is entirely unaware - since the story alternates between current day and World War II. This is another book that shows a different perspective on the war and how it affected everyday people caught up in its path.

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004)
My rating: 4 stars

Monday, January 30, 2012

{crafts} gorgeous bouquet

Do you have someone special who deserves a Giant Paper Rose? These are gorgeous, and if I had come across this before I was married I would have done this for my wedding flowers. This Giant Paper Rose tutorial was posted at Greenweddingshoes.com. Enjoy!

DIY: Giant Paper Rose Flower

diy-giant-paper-flower tutorial
If you loved the beautiful DIY wedding this morning and Nata’s gorgeous paper flower bouquets, you are in luck as Nata is sharing how she crafted them with us! She was inspired by a template created by Morgan Levine on Martha Stewart (as was I in the flowers I created for this styled shoot). I just love that this basic idea has inspired different brides to create their own version of giant paper flowers – you might remember these equally awesome giant paper flowers from this wedding I shared last year. :) Thanks so much Nata for sharing how you created your giant pink paper rose + special thanks to Studio Castillero for the photos of the DIY + her wedding!
Materials (to make one giant rose):
• 1 Roll of floral tape
• 6 18-gauge floral stem wire (can find it here)
• 4 Doublette crepe paper folds for petals (can find it here)
• 1 Doublette crepe paper fold in green for leaves, calyx, stem
• 1 round pencil
• Craft Glue (we used this kind)
• Crepe paper templates (download from Martha Stewart)
• 3 copies of teardrop template
• 8 copies of the heart-shaped template
• 2 copies of the leaf template
• 1 copy of the calyx template
Step 1: Cut the petals
Cut 5-6 teardrop petals and 15-6 heart-shaped petals from the petal colored crepe paper.
VERY IMPORTANT: Crepe paper is directional so it matters which way you’re cutting the paper. Make sure the grain is vertical when you’re cutting the flower pieces.
Stack 2 pieces of crepe paper on top of each other then place 1 copy of template over the crepe paper and staple. I don’t recommend cutting more than 2 layers of crepe paper at a time since the edges won’t be cut as cleanly.
Repeat until all of your petals are cut
Step 2: Cut the leaves + calyx
Cut 3 leaves and 1 calyx from the green crepe paper.
Step 3: Make the rose stem
Take 3 pieces of stem wire and wrap in floral tape.
Step 4: Shape the petals
DIY paper flower rose
With both hands, pull from the center of the petal outward. This will create a cupping of the paper (which is what gives it the petal-like quality)
DIY paper flower rose
Turn petal over and use the round pencil to curl the top of the petal.
Step 5: Create the rose bud – the inner part of the rose
DIY paper flower rose
Take one teardrop shaped petal and wrap around the taped floral wire from Step 3. Use more floral tape to secure. Repeat working your way around the floral wire until all of the teardrop shaped petals are use.
Step 6: Make the rose bloom –the outer part of the rose
Take one heart-shaped petal and wrap around the rose bud, secure with floral tape. Repeat until all petals have been used.
Step 7: Make the leaf-stems
Take 3 loose pieces of floral wire and using craft glue, wrap each one with green crepe paper. Take one leaf and 1 crepe paper wrapped floral wire from step 10 and glue together. Repeat 2 more times.
Step 8: Add calyx to rose
Wrap the calyx around the base of the rose bloom and secure with floral tape.
Cover the floral tape area with more crepe paper.
Step 9: Add leaf-stems to rose
Using craft glue, secure each of the 3 leaf-stems to the rose stem. I found it helpful to use binder clips to hold the stems together while the glue was drying.
And there you go! It might take a little time, but a great (and pretty awesome) alternative to real flowers for your bouquet – plus you can keep these forever!
big thanks to Studio Castillero for the photos + to reader Nata for the DIY created for GWS

Friday, January 27, 2012

{give books away} World Book Night: April 23

Give away 20 copies of one of your favorite books to nonreaders on April 23 as part of World Book Night! Did you love Little Bee? The Hunger Games? A Reliable Wife? There are 30 books on this list to choose from. Sign up NOW for this great chance to hook others on reading at http://www.us.worldbooknight.org. The books are free - you just have to find a place to give them out to people who are nonreaders or light readers.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

{a thought for Thursday} Opposing ideas

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise." – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

{read: recent history and collateral damage} The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

Wally Lamb explores the collateral damage from the Columbine shootings in this expansive novel that stretches forward through the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina. Caelum, an English teacher, and his wife, a nurse, work at Columbine High School. Caelum still can't quite forgive Maureen for cheating on him or trust her entirely and is busy immersing himself in his own life and keeping her at a distance. Then his Aunt Lolly in Massachusetts has a stroke. He flies back to see her in the hospital, and while he's gone, Maureen ends up in the library on that fateful day. She survives the shootings but they take a terrible toll on her and what remains of their marriage.

In his usual expansive yet compulsively readable way, Lamb explores human nature, the role and nature of God (if there is one) and how we deal with tragedy and keep taking one step forward even when it seems that everything is against us. I was surprised and delighted to see cameo roles by Dominick Birdsey and Dr. Patel from I Know This Much is True; they're like old friends. One of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much is that I experienced all these events and remember the shock and the outrage so many people felt when they happened. I also enjoyed 11/22/63 by Stephen King, which has a similar tone and narrative feel to The Hour I First Believed,  but I'm too young to remember the years leading up to the JFK assassination so I didn't have the personal connection to it that I did to this novel.

My only criticism is that, in typical Lamb fashion, he delves expansively into Caelum's past through the letters and other document left by his ancestors. I dislike the "story within a story" mechanism because it diverts too much from the main story and doesn't tie into it enough in the end to make it worth all the pages Lamb spends on it. To be fair, I had the same reaction to I Know This Much is True but still liked it so much that I've read it twice, and this is probably one I'll re-read down the line.

The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb (Harper, 2008)
My rating: 4 stars

Thursday, January 19, 2012

{a thought for Thursday} Faith and steps

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.
"  Martin Luther King Jr.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

{crafts} Valentine Garland By Oh So Crafty

This Valentine Garland crafted by OH SO CRAFTY is amazing, and pretty easy to do. Enjoy:

My house looked very barren after taking down my Christmas decorations, so I whipped up this heart garland using a my trusty paper punch and a stack of old magazines.

I wanted my hearts to be in shades of red and pink, so I found pages with those colors and in no time I had a pile of paper hearts.

I took the hearts to my sewing machine and just started sewing them together to make my garland.

{read: priests and abuse} Faith by Jennifer Haigh

In Faith, Sheila McGann tells the story of her brother, Father Art, who is accused of sexually molesting a boy in the early 2000s in Boston, one of many priests whose abuse came to light during this time. Sheila and her brother, Mike, want to know if Art is guilty of this crime, but they don't get a definitive answer until it's too late.

This is a complex exploration of the Catholic priesthood and the many things that have gone wrong with it told through the story of an Irish Catholic family in working-class Boston. As a young priest, Art struggles with how to counsel young families when he has no experience in relationships or with raising children. How can he offer any advice worthwhile? He's also deeply lonely, isolated, and bullied by fellow priests. But when he finally makes a human connection, it ends up leading to his downfall. Is his fatal flaw the human need to connect with others?

While some of the plot is predictable, I enjoyed this novel and it had a few twists that I wasn't expecting.

Faith by Jennifer Haigh (Harper, 2011)
My rating: 3 stars

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

{read: through a dog's eyes} The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

I read this for a book club and am glad that I picked it up again. I had tried it a few years ago but couldn't make it through the heartbreaking first chapter. This time, I skipped chapter one and while the ending chapter and epilogue were sad and perhaps predictable, the book was worth the read.

Enzo the dog wants nothing more than to be human and a race car driver in his next incarnation, and he spends his days observing humans and preparing for his next life as his owner, Denny, applies the lessons of the race track to his own challenges with his wife, daughter, and a resulting legal situation. Enzo wonders at the end of the book if he's wasted his life by not enjoying his dogness and spending all of his time anticipating the future, but I don't think that he did. Part of what makes dogs themselves, in my opinion, is their acute interest in humans and our activities.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (Harper Collins Canada, 2008)
My rating: 4 stars

Thursday, January 5, 2012

{a thought for Thursday} Summer in winter

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer." — Albert Camus

Monday, January 2, 2012

{crafts} 365 days of crafts

With the new year here, imagine doing a craft each and every day of it!? That is what the blog 365 Days of Crafts by Bronwyn Kay Bowerman is all about. Have a look at her 2011 archive of 365 days of crafts: