Thursday, March 29, 2012

{a thought for Thursday} Language

Language tethers us to the world; without it we spin like atoms. -- from Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

{read: Another look at Sept.11's collateral damage} Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

I started to read Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close several years ago when it came out and just couldn't get into it, but I picked it up again after some of my friends said how much they liked it. This time, I loved Oskar and all his inventions. His voice is refreshingly honest as he struggles to grieve for his father, who died in the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001. As he says, that would give anyone "heavy boots" and people should be more worried if he wasn't sad. Oskar was home when the towers fell and had just listened to his father's voicemail messages when his father called back one last time - but he didn't answer. This haunts him, as does the exact way his father died. He just wants to know so he can stop inventing different ways he died. In a quest to bring his father closer, he embarks upon a quest to find out who owns a key found in an envelope marked "Black" in a vase in his father's closet and what the key opens.

The storytelling style, which switches between Oskar and his grandparents, reminds me of The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, also published in 2005. (I didn't realize it when I was reading Foer, but he's married to Krauss.) Although I was confused at first about who the adult narrator was (and then there were two of them), it began to make sense as the book went along.

I found the final pages of the book, with the image of the body lifting back up through the sky into the tower, very powerful. The first time I came across the image of the tower, I didn't know what it was and flipped the page impatiently. When I got to the end and realized what it was, I was ashamed I hadn't recognized it.

I haven't seen the movie version and I'm not sure if I want to. I like Oskar the way he is in the book, and I don't want him to be overwritten by the movie.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2005)
My rating: 5 stars

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

This is the second time I've read Bel Canto, and it was even better than I remembered. It's a quiet story about what happens when terrorists take a dinner party full of diplomats and business leaders hostage in an unnamed, poor South American country. The terrorists' goal was to capture the president, but he stayed home to watch his soap opera. Yet they do have one prize: Roxanne Coss, the best soprano singer in the opera world.

You might think the story would be plot-driven and action-packed since it features terrorists and hostages, but it is really more about the passing of time and the relationships that develop among the people. It has beautiful language and although almost nothing seems to happen, many things change as everyone slowly starts to forget that this isn't normal life and it won't last forever. As one of my book club friends said, the author tells you in the first few pages that something will happen, but by the time you get to the end you can hardly believe that it will. It's a testament to Patchett's power of storytelling that you even begin to think maybe it won't. The epilogue was shocking to me the first time I read Bel Canto and I paged back through the book trying to see what I had missed, but upon reflection and a second reading, it makes sense. This is a beautiful book, and I highly recommend it.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (Harper Perennial, 2005)
My rating: 5 stars

Monday, March 19, 2012

{crafts} Orange Stud Bracelet

I love these bracelets, and if I can find the beads I will definitely be making some. I originally saw them on pinterest, and the tutorial can be found here:

DIY Orange Stud Bracelet

Loving this bracelet by the way, but I guess you got that since I only share my very favorite pieces with all your amazing selves! 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Featuring Friday: Good Books "Metamorphosis"

This amazing animation, Loaded with visual references to the writing of Franz Kafka and Hunter S. Thompson, was featured on It was created by Brookyln-based Antfood for online bookseller Good Books International that donates 100% of its profits to Oxfam.  (via vimeo)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

{read: story and war} No One Is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel

In a small Jewish village in Romania on the eve of World War II, the residents decide to reimagine the beginning of the world and create one with only themselves in it in a futile attempt to protect themselves from the war. The story is told by 11-year-old Lena, who thought this might save them from the atrocities of war. But she is soon struggling with her own problems when her parents give her to her aunt and uncle, who have been unable to have a child. In this new world, they figure, why shouldn't they have a child? After all, Lena's mother has three. Surely she wouldn't miss one. This is also a coming of age story and an exploration of what it means to be yourself, as within the space of a few years, Lena is first herself, then another family's child forced to grow rapidly from an infant to an adult, and then a wife and mother. Yet in the outside world, war has continued and the soldiers eventually find their tiny village. Lena has to decide what survival means and what she will do to protect herself, her family, and their stories.

The language and storytelling in this novel are beautiful, and while the beginning requires a suspension of disbelief, the premise kept me reading and I wasn't disappointed. Fans of The Tiger's Wife will like the way Ausubel weaves stories of the past throughout the main plot and explores storytelling as the essential element of life.

No One Is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel (Riverhead, 2012)
My rating: 5 stars

Monday, March 12, 2012

{crafts} Musical fun

My son loves music and loves to play with all of his instruments. Here is a great tutorial showing how to make a simple homemade instrument. The original tutorial can be found at

Tubular (cardboard) bells!

This is really easy. Get a sturdy cardboard tube. Pierce holes at regular intervals round the outside. Using a needle and thread attach bells to tube. Hey presto…a cheap and very cool little instrument.
I got my cardboard tube from inside a roll of binbags. I reckon you could do this with a toilet roll tube but it may not last as long. Wrapping paper tubes would also work pretty well.
If you are handy with a pair of knitting needles then make some knitted ankle cuffs too!
I used a fairly thick thread to attach the bells to the tube. Please bear in mind they do come off from time to time so take care around little ones.
Keep your eyes peeled because I am doing a guest post over at in the next week which is very exciting.
I also want to do a big shout out for Michelle at Michelle used mycrocodile design to make some edible art – check it out!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

{a thought for Thursday} Purpose

This is the true joy in life -- being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. -- George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

{read: Envisioning the Rapture} The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

This book has an interesting premise but failed to deliver on it. After a Rapture-like event in which a large number of seemingly randomly selected people disappear, families and friends are left to carry on. Many of those left behind are shocked that they weren't selected as paragons of goodness and light, and one man, a priest, goes so far as to dig up the dirt on all those who were taken and publish it. A group called the Guilty Remnant starts up, filled with people who wear white, don't talk, and smoke cigarettes. They follow people around and stare at them so that they don't forget about the Rapture-like event. While these things were funny and interesting in the beginning of the book, they wore thin as the book went on. I had a hard time getting involved in the stories of Nora, a woman who lost her husband and two small children, and Kevin, whose family didn't lose any people but suffered collateral damage when his wife went to join the G.R., his son went to join another group led by a fanatic, and his daughter shaved her head. To me, this was just another book about the quiet desperation of suburbia. I almost didn't finish it, but I was hoping for a great ending to make it all worthwhile. While the ending wasn't quite what I expected (in a good way), it wasn't enough payoff for the rest of the book.

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta (St. Martin's Press, 2011)
My rating: 2 stars

Monday, March 5, 2012

{crafts} Paper Gems

Here is a fantastic tutorial for paper gems. How fun would it be to make these for display in a pirate's treasure chest! With minimal supplies (paper + glue) you can create beautiful jewels. If you have a little helper, glitter might be a fun addition. 

Paper gems (+ templates)

This has got to be one of my favorite projects to date…which is a good job because I nearly broke my brain putting the templates together!! I’m not so good at maths and figuring out angles (my lovely Mum is a retired maths teacher so I should know better!). By the way this project is quite fiddly so more aimed at grown-ups or older kids.
Paper gems
My paper gems were very influenced by these wonderful crayons (via Deborah’s Pinterest board).
Paper gems
You can use these paper gems as hanging decorations (for your Christmas tree) or you can incorporate them into a mobile or garland. I would love to make about a hundred and string them up in front of my window…however there is a limit to my patience!!
Paper gems
If you spray them lightly on one side they look very pretty and a bit more crystal-like! (Not very eco-friendly but I found it hard to resist). Skip below the jump for pdf templates and instructions.
Paper gems
If you love crystals and gems as much as I do then check out these cool projects:
Edited to add: Check out this great advent calendar idea using my paper gems. Thanks Marta!
Kids craft coming up next week…I absolutely promise this time!
Off topic:
Huge thanks to Kathreen from for choosing one of my images for her 2012 calendar. Be sure to check it out!
I’ve been a total slacker on email lately…but intend to catch up over the next week. So if you have emailed, sorry, you will hear from me soon!


You will need:
♥ Paper
♥ Scissors
♥ Cutting board (optional)
♥ Glue stick
♥ Silver/gold spray (optional)
1. Download the minieco-paper-gems.pdf
2. Print template onto a sheet of coloured A4 paper
3. Cut out the templates. (Cut along solid lines. Score and fold the dashed lines).
4. Stick together using a gluestick. (There is probably a better kind of glue to use…I would love to hear recommendations from any paper-crafters out there!)
5. If you want to spray the gems, lie them on an old piece of newspaper and lightly spray the top-side of the gems. (I think they look better sprayed on one side only).
!!If you want to hang your gems then thread a piece of cotton through before sticking the pieces together!!
Due to it’s fiddly nature, this project is not really suitable for kids.
Any problems then leave a comment!
Paper gems