Saturday, June 26, 2010

"101 Snappy Fashions: Oodles Of One Piece Designs For Babies" by Cathie Filian

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I am so far behind on my reviewing. It feels as though the time since I had the surgery has happened in warp speed - and yet, paradoxically, I have just been mostly watching the world go by. Thanks to the generosity of some lovely folks at one of my favorite publishing houses I have a wealth of books to choose from to review.  

As almost everyone on the planet knows babies go through a LOT of these one piece things called "onesies" when they are new, sweet smelling (most of the time)round armfuls of pure joy. Lets face it too these onesies are really boring and generic unless you shell out big bucks to buy the haute varieties at places that might remind me of Rodeo Drive for infants - you get the idea!

Cathie Filian begins this book with a wonderful dose of the basics - what sizes equate to how many pounds of the most perfect baby alive - things like that. She has an excellent section on dyeing; prepping he fabric to take the dye, mixing the dye (she uses simple cold water packets), how to make more than just one color of dye using only one color packet, and how to care for the garment after it is dyed and before it is worn. Well thought out and well written - this is an excellent section  - even for those who may have some experience using  dyes.

What follows are 101 ways to change the dull white look of onesies. There are so many ways that these utilitarian, necessary baby wear can be altered in small, inexpensive ways. Each section in this book offers a very well done set of basics on the particular technique. Who could have thought that there were so  many ways to to makes these garments fun?! 

Some of the listed ways to alter onesies to suit included in the book are: Dyeing, Painting, Embroidery, Applique, Ribbons and Trims, Iron-Ons, Patches, Cutting, Ripping, Tearing, adding Bling, special holiday motifs and a special section for bathing. There is even a section on how to throw a "snappy Baby Shower". Each section includes approximately 10 ideas for making a special onesie for the cutest little you know.  The books has a great section of applique and stencil like design so that you don't have to start from the beginning.

I was not sure what I would think of this book when I had a look at it because I am not around babies much but I have to say that I was, simply fascinated and wowed by the great ideas in this book. This is a book that will appeal to mother's of infants of course, but also to friends and relatives of babies. It's a fun book, crammed with information and ideas. This is one well thought out book that is really sure to please all of us who love babies - babies who are stylin' !

Note: this book was generously provided to me by the publisher for review purposes only. No other remuneration was either received or anticipated

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Book Lust - Is There Any Cure?

Books. Piles of books - piles of books everywhere and I still want more. I have been a compulsive book addict since I was a child. As an only child (and very happy to be one thank you) I spent a lot of time escaping into the pages of books. Between books and paint and crayons I was set! I can't say that I remember my parents reading to me - but I am sure they did. I'm not sure that Mother was an avid reader, but my Father was. He too had the "pile of books everywhere" addiction. My favorite Uncle - James - one of mother's brothers, had entire small outbuilding, complete with wood stove, fitted with shelves an there were filled to overflowing with books. Of course, there were piles of books on the floor in front of the shelves too. I loved that small room - the smell of the books, the quiet of the place - all intoxicating to me as a youngster.

At one point in my life, as I climbed the career ladder that I once thought was so important, I moved a lot. Every move groaned under the weight of the boxes of books, but whenever I unpacked in a new place I felt more at home because my books on the shelves. Like good friends they were there to comfort me and help me to escape any reluctance I might have had adjusting to a new city, new job and new people.

A couple of years ago, through some odd quirk of fate, I began to become a book blogger. I needed another blog - or another commitment for that matter - like I needed a hole in the head. I tend to over-extend my obligations and then run around like a headless chicken when one deadline or another approaches. Oddly enough I have found a surprising amount of comfort and enjoyment reviewing books. I find the community of like minded tome addicts very appealing. It used to be that I had a plan. I always borrowed fiction from the library and only bought non-fiction titles - arts, crafts, history - books that would always hold appeal and inspiration. Now I find that when a favored author publishes a new book I simply "have to have it" to read and review; I cannot wait to get my hands on the book, to feel the paper and smell the ink. Those words, I am sure, make DH cringe - hopefully, he never looks here!

I am so grateful to the authors and publishers that graciously provide me with review copies of books now. It's like Christmas whenever one arrives at my door. I am honored that they feel confident enough of my reviews that choose to send me books to add to my piles. I review books that I buy too of course - they are all worth the time it takes to recount one;s enjoyment of the book and to honor the author's time in writing the book. I enjoy being able to send books on to other people that I know will enjoy them as much as I have. That helps assure me of not feeling TOO guilty about my giving in to my passionate book hoarding tendencies! 

The saving grace for my embellished book budget (ohhh bad word that!) is that I can be sure of 'trading' the book in for another by various means now. I can, of course, give it to a friend whose passions run as deeply as mine do; I can trade it on one of the various 'book swap' sites like PaperBackSwap; or I can re-sell the book through a seller like Amazon. Someone these options seem to assuage my conscience just a bit. 

I have also relatively recently discovered the huge joy of audio books! I NEVER thought that I would enjoy audio books. Never in a million years. This is another good example of why one should never say "never". I SO enjoy audio books now - they have taken the place of music for me at many times. I love them at work when I am doing some boring, routine task that allows for split attention. I love listening to them in the car rather than to the blare of the radio. I even have favorite narrators now. The right narrator can make or break the enjoyment of a good book!

Recently, DH gifted me with an IPad for my birthday and I am enthralled with how lovely it is to read books on this super cool device. It's great to tote books this way to read on the ferry when I go to "America" to shop (I live on an island and going to the mainland is an all day outing sort of thing). I had previously tried a Kindle and just could not fall in love with it. I thought at the time that perhaps the DX model would have made me happy - but I thought it imprudent to spend upwards of $500. on a JUST a book-reader. The IPad , on the other hand, is just so much more - it's really a tablet computer, albeit light on regular computer type programs. I have already proudly added title to display on my IPad's "book shelf". Now I get to also have virtual piles of books! Some people think that book lovers will, ultimately, turn away from what they call "dead tree" books but that won't happen to me I know. Never. I love the smell of the ink and slick or sticky feel of different papers. I like to judge the typeface choices and run my fingers over the raised portions of some beautiful covers. No, virtual books will never change my love for 'dead tree' books - it's just one more way for me to enjoy piles of books.

After all of these years I am still enthralled by piles of books - whether virtual or real they all make me smile. 

Do you love piles of books?
Can you think of your life without piles of books?
Could you ever adjust to a virtual pile of books rather than a real life pile?
Have your tried Audio book? What do you think of them?
Do you own a reader? If so which one? What do you think of it?
If you don't own a reader wold you ever consider buying one?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Royal Harlot" by Susan Holloway Scott

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I seem to be a serial reader. When I find an author I like - especially one that writes of a time period that I am exceedingly fond of - I seem to try to read every book written by them! This same propensity holds true for Susan Holloway Scott - whose novels never cease to please me. Her books transport me  and I am always sad when I come to the end of one of her books. That's high praise from mew and is, perhaps, why I go on the hunt for the next title right away.

Since I generally read so much about the Tudors I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about the reign of King Charles II, the "merry" king.  "Royal Harlot" follows the life of Mistress Barbara Villiers, later Lady Castlemaine, as she becomes Charles' II maitress-en-titre - better know as Charles' "head honcha" mistress. Barbara Villier's family, the second Earl and Countess of Anglesea had been staunch Royalists during the reign of Charles' father, Charles I, but after the government was overthrown ,and Charles I beheaded, the family fortunes had turned. Necessity brought the young and beautiful Barbara to an an arranged marriage to Roger Palmer, the Earl of Castlemaine. Barbara become Charles' mistress while she still married to her Palmer, but ultimately he was, it is believed, paid off in one manner or another leaving free Barbara to devote her energies to Charles alone.

The story chronicles the many flirtations and mistresses that Charles had during his relationship with Barbara. She gave the King five children that he acknowledged as well as a sixth girl who Charles adopted as his own but who most likely was a product of Barbara's own affair with the dashing military officer John Churchill (who ultimately married Sarah Jennings - the topic of the book I am currently reading be Ms. Holloway).

What I enjoyed the most about this book is that it effectively takes you the the Court of Charles II. One can so easily 'feel' the pique and jealousy of Barbara as Charles wends his way through affair after affair. One glimpses the life of Charles' wife as well - the tolerant and lonely Catherine of Braganza who, it seems, was unable to provide the King and England with an heir.

In the end, Barbara leaves the English Court and Charles. By this time Charles has taken Louise de Kerouelle, Duchess of Portsmouth, as his maitress-en-titre. Barbara moved to France in 1676 and returned to England only in 1679 to attend the marriage of heir son, Henry to Lady Isabella Bennett. Surprisingly, while she lived in France she became reconciled with her former husband, Roger Palmer and they maintained a friendly relationship hereafter. Charles died at an early age, 55, of a presumed stroke. Barbara lived to a relatively ripe old age of 68, dying of edema (dropsy) in 1704.

Susan Holloway's books about the many mistresses of Charles II are all, in my opinion, exceeding well done, highly entertaining and well worth reading. I am currently reading another of her "mistress" books, "Duchess, A Novel of Sarah Churchill" which is also a terrific read! I have already read her two other "mistress" books - "The King's Favorite : A novel of Nell Gwynn (a must read I think!) as well as "The French Mistress" (about Louise de Kerouelle). I don't think any of the  excellent titles would disappoint in any way !

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"Masters Collage-Major Works By Leading Artists" Curated by Randel Plowman

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 When I was young my step-mother's 'thing' was decoupage. For some odd reason I always equated decoupage with collage and, as such, was never that interested in the process. A turn in my artistic path has led to me to become besotted with art journaling however - and with art journaling has come an interest in collage. Yes! Collage. I never saw it coming. Collage has not been an easy thing for me to do - I tend to over think a page, but it is becoming easier and more enjoyable for me as I do more of it - as with anything in life - it's all easy when we know how - and it;s all a bit intimidating when we don't know how!

Lark Books has a fabulous series that I love - the 'Masters' series. I was fortunate to have been able to review their 2008 publication "Masters -Art Quilts".  I don't know how they manage to get the quality photography and gorgeous paper in these books and still offer them at such reasonable prices, but I am glad that they do! I tend to 'feel' the paper quality of books - and I am also particular about type fonts. I love everything about the Master series of books! I was therefore, thrilled when I was given the opportunity to review this book, the latest in the 'Masters' series.

"Masters Collage" is veritable treasure trove of work by leading collage artists that was thoughtfully curated by collage artist and teacher Randel Plowman. Of more than 200 entries he distilled his selections down to the work of 40 artists. Randel's introduction is excellent; very informative and well written. The styles of collage that are represented in this book vary from minimalist work to jam packed hi voltage pieces.  The represented works include styles that are comic-esqe, fine art, humorous, thoughtful, inspirational - indeed, so many styles are represented that my mind is boggled at how many varieties of art can be included in the term 'collage'. I look at the work in this book and become  inspired. That, to me, is the mark of a great book - a book that moves you to create more of your own art! The artists include men and women. A variety and several examples of each artist's work is preceded by a short, well done biography. 

As you look through this book you just can't help but think about the process that was used,  the content of the image and what you might want to do with a similar subject matter. This is an inspirational and informative book that I think that anyone who enjoys art, collage,  or mixed media work will find it to be thoroughly engrossing. Looking at the work presented in this book is like creativity fodder. I highly recommend this book  - and indeed I think any book in this "Masters" series will not disappoint. Buy this book - I don't think that you will regret it for a moment!

Disclosure: The publisher provided a copy of this book to me for review purposes only. No other remuneration was received. My reviews are strictly my own opinion - and are not tainted by any expectations or hopes for monetary gain.