Tuesday, June 26, 2012

{read: war fiction} Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

This is a war story, which is fitting with the Fourth of July holiday coming up. What price will we pay for freedom? Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk tells the story of a 19-year-old Iraq war hero (Billy Lynn) and his squad. After an embedded Fox News TV crew catches a firefight on tape and Bravo Squad becomes an American hit on TV and YouTube, its surviving members are flown home for a Victory Tour. Concluding with tickets to the Cowboys football game on Thanksgiving Day, this tour whisks the war veterans through America, coincidentally (or not) taking them through the swing states during an election year. What's not mentioned to the adoring public is that after this two-week tour ends, the heroes have to go back to Iraq for another 11 months.

This is an introspective, somber novel told through the eyes of Billy Lynn. I cringed but also nodded in recognition at the descriptions of some of the tactless and insensitive people Bravo Squad met.

Billy struggles to reconcile what he's seen and done with the lives that these "ordinary" Americans are living, finally asking, "To learn what you have to learn at the war, to do what you have to do, does this make you the enemy of all that sent you to the war?"

There are several other insightful, sometimes funny, observations like this that caught me, including a comparison to the WWII Greatest Generation fighters, saying (paraphrasing) that today's generation of warriors is at least the top of the bottom third.

This is not quick or easy reading, but I'd recommend it if you're interested in exploring modern-day war and its costs from the teenage soldier's POV.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (Ecco, 2012)
My rating: 4 stars

Monday, June 25, 2012

{crafts} Tissue Paper Pom-Poms How-To

MarthaStewart.com has become one of my favorite site for crafting projects. This Tissue Paper Pom-poms are beautiful and would be a cheap way to create a festive theme for any party.


These dahlialike pom-poms appear to float in the air; in reality, they are hung from the ceiling with monofilament, imparting a cheerful radiance to any party.
You can also buy a Tissue Paper Pom-Pom Kit from Martha Stewart Crafts.

Read more at Marthastewart.com: Tissue Paper Pom-Poms How-To - Martha Stewart Crafts 

Step 1

Stack eight 20-by-30-inch sheets of tissue. Make 1 1/2-inch-wide accordion folds, creasing with each fold.

Read more at Marthastewart.com: Tissue Paper Pom-Poms How-To - Martha Stewart Crafts 

Step 2

Fold an 18-inch piece of floral wire in half, and slip over center of folded tissue; twist. With scissors, trim ends of tissue into rounded or pointy shapes.

Read more at Marthastewart.com: Tissue Paper Pom-Poms How-To - Martha Stewart Crafts 

Step 3

Separate layers, pulling away from center one at a time.

Read more at Marthastewart.com: Tissue Paper Pom-Poms How-To - Martha Stewart Crafts 

Step 4

Bend wire into a loop to fit around napkin, and twist end around loop to secure.

Read more at Marthastewart.com: Tissue Paper Pom-Poms How-To - Martha Stewart Crafts 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

{a thought for Thursday} Incompetence

It is one of the essential features of such incompetence that the person so afflicted is incapable of knowing that he is incompetent. —William Ian Miller

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

{read: psychological thriller} Never Tell a Lie by Hallie Ephron

This psychological thriller will keep you turning the pages. It opens with a garage sale, two very pregnant women, and an old house. But one of the women is harboring a grudge from high school, and she'll go to any lengths to get the justice she thinks she deserves.

Never Tell a Lie is a quick and enjoyable read, even if the plot is somewhat predictable. I still wanted to pick it up to see what happened next and if I had guessed correctly. Ephron does a good job of keeping the characters believable, and she resists the urge give the book an unreservedly happy ending and tie everything up with a neat bow. Just like in life, the characters realize that people make mistakes and you'll never know if they're telling the truth, but you still have to go forward.

Never Tell a Lie by Hallie Ephron (Harper, 2009)
My rating: 4 stars

{crafts} Reversible Purse from Martha Stewart

Everyone loves a new bag. Here is a tutorial from MarthaStewart.com for a simple reversible bag, which could be a fun summer day project.

This simple reversible purse is a wonderful project for beginning and advanced sewers alike.
Tools and MaterialsBag template
Heavy paper or cardstock
1/2 yard of patterned fabric
1/2 yard of solid fabric
Fabric scissors
Sewing machine
Coordinating machine-sewing thread
Needle and thread for basting stitch
Reversible Purse How-To1. Download, enlarge, and print template on heavy paper or card stock. Trace template twice on each fabric and cut out.

2. Align and pin the two solid pieces together, right sides facing. Do the same with the two patterned pieces.

3. Using 1/4-inch seam allowance, sew along the top of each handle and along the bottom curve of each pinned piece, leaving both sides of both handles open.

4. Turn the solid piece right side out, and insert the solid piece into the inside-out patterned piece. Line up seams, raw edges, and handles.

5. Pin the edges of the "neckline" of the bag and sew with a 1/4-inch seam.

6. Going through the longer handle, turn the entire bag right side out (patterned fabric on the outside). Press all seams.

7. Fold raw edges of "armholes" in 1/4 inch and press. Baste together. Topstitch 1/8 inch around bag handles to finish.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

{a thought for Thursday} Fathers and revenge

"Hello," he said. "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." -- The Princess Bride

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

{read: chick lit, less shallow} Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon

This was a quick, light read with just a hint of something deeper in it. Many have said this follows in the footsteps of Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding and I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson, and I couldn't agree more. Those books tell the story of a single woman (Fielding) and a woman who's married with young children (Pearson). This novel continues the chronicle of the beleaguered woman searching for love and happiness with the story of Alice Buckle, who's been married for 20 years and has two children in their teens.

In Wife 22, Alice signs up to take a series of surveys about her marriage, anonymously, after she searches for "happy marriage" on Google and then gets an email invitation in her spam folder. She corresponds with the researcher by email and then on Facebook, but she finds that this chance to reflect on her marriage brings up some unsettling questions in her own mind. In the meantime, her husband loses his job, a friend's daughter moves in, and her own two children have some problems, both real and imagined, that she tries to solve. Alice's voice is refreshing and easy to read, and I enjoyed the mix of email and social media with the traditional narrative. As in the Fielding and Pearson books, many women will be able relate to the universal questions she poses about marriage, love, and raising children in today's world.

Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon (Random House Publishing, 2012)
My rating: 4 stars

Monday, June 11, 2012

{crafts} DIY Kite

Here is a great kite tutorial by Neverland Nook. This could be a great craft for a summer day! Enjoy...

It’s that time of the year again! Time to break out the sunblock, bubbles, and kites!!! You can make a fun kite at home with your kids with supplies you probably already have! Leslie and I had a blast at a kite festival in my neighborhood this past weekend and I made a fun kite for us to fly!

What you’ll need: scissor, 2 sheets of tissue paper, light string (I used baker’s twin, you could always use kite string), straws (that don’t bend), scotch tape, pencil, ruler, scratch paper

Put a long piece of string through three straws and knot together making a triangle, leaving excess string for later use. It is easy to get the string through the straws by sucking it through (I wouldn’t let the kids do this part) I left part of the string still attached to the roll of string before I cut it, this way I didn’t have to knot another piece of string onto one of the corners.

With the long piece of string left over, put two more straws on it forming two triangles attached to each other with one straw as the base in the middle.

Place a long piece of string through one straw and then attach to the tops of each triangle forming a pyramid shape.

Now you’re going to want to make a template on your scratch piece of paper that measures like this:


Next, fold a piece of tissue paper in half long ways (like a hot dog bun) and then fold 2 more times - right side in and then left side on top of that, like so:
The folded ends should be closest to you. Place your template on top of the tissue paper and trace it. Cut the template out.

When you open the tissue paper you will have three shapes. You’ll want to cut them apart from each other.

When you open one of your patterns you’ll want to lay one of your pyramids on one half and then fold the excess pieces over the straws and tape down.

You’ll want to tape down on four sides of your pyramid to make each piece look like this:

*You’re going to want to make 4 of these for a smaller kite and 10 for a larger kite.*

Now you will want to connect three pieces of your kite for the base of the kite (6 if you are making the larger one). Use the excess pieces of string on each corner to attach them together.

After you’ve attached the three on the bottom you will add the fourth piece on top. (For the larger kite you will put 3 on top of your base and then the last one on top).

The last thing you’ll have to do is take a piece of string and knot it at the point of your kite and attach it to bottom of that same piece (easier said with the picture that follows). This piece is important because it is where you will attach your kite string to fly your kite.