Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts

December 13, 2015

'Tis the Season...

While I haven't posted on here in a month (!) I can assure you, I haven't forgotten about the blog. But after the hectic month of November, and writing an entire novel, I promised myself a few weeks of calm in December. 

My fingers also cramped up at the thought of hitting the keyboard again after NaNoWriMo

Years ago, when I worked onboard a Mercy Ship off the coast of West Africa, crew members got off an entire week for Christmas break. Now, of course, we didn't all have off 24/7, as the ship still needed to function. So we took turns helping out in reception, or the galley (the kitchen) or even gangway watch. But it was still a more relaxed pace than the usual frantic Decembers we often think about with the holidays. 

I still like to have a calm December, so I try not to go crazy (ie, I avoid the mall). Around the apartment, I've decorated with a few white twinkle lights, a tiny tree, some Christmas music, gingerbread cookies and a few minutes of knitting when the Peanut finally goes to sleep, or sits quietly 'reading' all of his books. 

That's my kind of holiday.

In between writing 50,000 words, I did a knitting and crochet photo-a-day challenge on Instagram in November, which helped me at least keep up the visual creativity. My camera is still kaput, but I have a plan to get it fixed in the next month.

In the meantime, here are a few highlights from the past month via my phone: 

Amazing weather when it's not raining: totally conducive to playing on the porch and knitting outside. 

Chickens! This kid is totally into chickens at the moment. And I'm loving Susan B. Anderson's Spud and Chloƫ at the Farm book. Let's face it, I love all of her designs and I have almost most of her books. Super cute kid stuff and I'm excited that the Peanut has so much fun playing with the things I've made for him.

This pattern is the Mother Hen and Chicks. Every night the Peanut and I put the chicks to sleep, and then in the morning, he finds them under the Mother Hen. (The little bluebird is also one of Susan's patterns: Egg to Bluebird. I told you I love her stuff.)

More chickens! I also found this cute crochet pattern on Ravelry for a chicken and egg coaster set, and I sent it to a good friend who has her own flock of birds. 

Sunrise/Sunset: Shorter days mean less daylight, but I have still been working on this sunrise sunset blanket, one square at a time. I finally finished it and it's en route to a friend now for her birthday. 

Cardigans: It is December after all, so a cardigan is occasionally in order. The Peanut can now wear this, which makes me thrilled and a little sad all at the same time. I remember finishing this over a year ago, wondering when the Peanut would be able to fit into it and he's already rapidly outgrowing it. 

I'm going to need to knit him some new cardigans soon, which is an excellent excuse to go yarn shopping. The Peanut is a wonderful helper in the shopping cart... he loves to hold the yarn and basically anything else I'm trying to purchase.

Christmas cards: Apparently some of my Christmas cards didn't make it to their destination until FEBRUARY of last year. I'm on the ball this year (well, at least more than last year!) and I've been working on getting my cards in the mail. Our family photo, however, is still goofy. I'm using the broken camera as an excuse. One of these days we'll either invest in a professional photographer or a selfie stick. Recipients, enjoy the laugh when you see how hilarious our 'selfies' are. 

Finally, I managed to 'win' NaNoWriMo

(Now, for you novel novices, that simply means I made it to the 50,000 word count within the month of November.)

The novel itself needs a TON of work, but I mainly did it to simply challenge myself creatively for the month of November and to get out of my writing rut. 

The whole experience was far more fun than I thought it would be! I got a mini thrill watching my word count increase throughout the month and I felt like I had an entire virtual team cheering me on. 

I have been writing non-fiction for so long, that it truly was freeing and fabulous to simply make stuff up and write it down. I'm thinking that I should keep writing fiction for fun. 

I hope I can write a bit more on here before Christmas. With the energy level of the Peanut these days, it might not happen (although he has miraculously been napping the entire time I've worked on this post!) 

Just in case I don't get around to posting more this month though, for more non-fiction holiday writing, see 2013's Christmas post here, and 2014, here

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season, wherever and however you celebrate! 

November 13, 2015

Falling Fast

This NaNoWriMo is throwing me for a loop, albeit a fun one.

I'm writing whenever the Peanut decides to give me a free moment, which, let's be honest, isn't often. And after a day of chasing him around the apartment, porch, playground, mall (insert any location here!), I find myself plopped on the couch after he's asleep to DVR my way through an hour of television, with a crochet or knit project. 

Then I'm back to writing for a bit. 

I'm only 12,000 words in, and not quite panicky about the fact that November is nearly half over. Sometimes I do my best work at the last minute, on a tight deadline. At this point, I'm not even sure if I care if the novel is any good. I just want to finish it and have a 50,000 word story with a beginning, middle and end. I can always rewrite and polish it later. 

In the meantime, Fall is here in full swing and I don't want to miss it. Some years it's over in one cold and windy night, and when you wake up, the leaves are all on the ground. So I'm still looking up from my laptop and even my crochet hooks every once in a while to see something like this. 

Do you know that feeling when you look at something and the light hits it just right... and you marvel at nature? 

Yep, me too. Whatever you're working on, don't miss what's right under your nose. Or up above it, as the case may be. Sometimes we all need a little fresh air and a break. 

October 30, 2015

A Novel Idea

I'm happy to report that things have improved since my last post. The blender is still kicking... our finances got put back in order, and although my camera still needs to be repaired, I think it might be a sign that I need to focus more on writing and less on taking photos. 

A decade ago (Really? Ten whole years ago?!) I stopped whatever I was doing at the time and gave myself permission to complete a three month photography course in South Africa. I learned a lot, both about photography and myself, and it gave me three busy yet full months to focus on visual creativity. In the past, I had always taken photos for an organization and had to work around their parameters. During the photography course, I was able to take photos for myself — a welcome change. 

I also discovered that I could never be a full-time photographer. I realized I needed to write as well, no matter what I ended up doing. As much as the photography projects filled me up creatively... something was still missing. 

I needed to write. I still do. 

When we moved south a few years ago, I was able to nab mostly freelance photography jobs. I also acquired a number of proofreading jobs, of which I am more than competent, but I still prefer to write rather than edit.

For whatever reason, the few writing jobs I pursued never came to fruition. Then the Peanut came along and I barely seemed to have time to breathe, let alone write. 

I still feel like that some days, but as he gains his own little independence, I find a few quiet moments here and there during the day to myself. 

Writers write... so they say, and it seems I haven't been doing enough of it lately. I have a dormant book about my travels to Ukraine on my laptop at the moment. So much of it is done — yet I'm not happy about the ending. Something is still missing and I feel like I need to return to the country to get the book done. 

For a while, it seemed like multiple obstacles blocked my path. The year I had a trip planned, I didn't feel peace about going. It wasn't the right time, I told myself, and instead I spent the summer in Latvia and Scotland. Then, my brother got sick and I cancelled my trip to Ukraine two summers later. Then a war erupted there... and then I had the Peanut. (And while I am all for traveling with babies, heading over to Ukraine soon after the Peanut was born probably wouldn't have been the wisest choice.) Soon after, my former boss and editor died. He was one of the few people championing my writing at the time, and even though he told me candidly, after reading a few chapters, what needed work, I felt like I had someone in the ring with me. 

I will still finish the book. But in the meantime, I need to let go of the details of it that I keep getting bogged down in, and I need to write something fresh and fun and maybe just for me. So I'm signing up for NaNoWriMo.

During the month of November, I'm going to write a 50,000 word novel. The last time I wrote anything of fiction, I was in high school. The last time I made such a rash decision, I was in college. I decided to ride in a 150 mile MS Bike-A-Thon from Texas to Oklahoma only two days before the event. I spent the day before asking everyone in the cafeteria for $1 so I could come up with the entrance fee. I spent the entire ride wishing I had better biker shorts. And I spent the week after, recovering. 

This novel might be a masterpiece. It might be awful. But, like that bike ride, I'm going to do it, regardless. Because sometimes, we all need a proverbial kick in the pants to remind ourselves of what we're capable of. I know I'm perfectly capable of finishing and eventually publishing that book about Ukraine. 

But first, I have a novel to start on November 1st. 

April 4, 2015

Books to Read Again (and Again)

I have always been an avid reader. I have my mother to thank for that. I know she read to me when I was little and I remember she always had what seemed to be a War and Peace sized book on the back of the loo. (Now that I think about it though... those brief bathroom breaks were probably her only time to read when we were little!

I'm hoping the Peanut reads a lot too. He's on his way to loving books... he gets super excited when I ask him if he wants to read Little Blue Truck. Plus my friends threw me a book baby shower last year, so he is well-stocked for reading material!

I don't have quite as much time as I did before to read for myself, but I still manage to make time in between everything else going on. However, I don't keep a lot of my books because I pass so many of them on to friends or else I donate them to libraries or thrift stores. But there are a few that I have actually purchased multiple copies of because I realized once I gave them away that I wanted to reread them.

I try to read both Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle and Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh at least once a year. I haven't gotten to them yet for 2015, but the year is still young. 

I first read The Hiding Place (by Corrie ten Boom and Elizabeth and John Sherrill) when I lived in England and I remember staying up until the wee hours of the morning to finish it because I couldn't put it down. I discovered an old copy recently and I found myself just as engrossed in it. I was reading it every spare moment I had. I think it took me a whole two days to finish it this time. 

And finally, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is the perfect coming-of-age story, to be enjoyed at any age. I really need to reread this one soon. 

What are you reading or rereading these days? 

October 18, 2014

Little Golden Books

Thanks to the Literary Library Baby Shower, I haven't had to purchase any books for the Peanut.

Until today.

The antique stores beckoned -- and even though I have plenty of Pyrex, I thought it would be fun to head out and at least browse. 

Browsing at antique stores is a bit like going to a museum without having to pay an entrance fee. As an added bonus, you don't have to wait for the gift shop at the end of your tour to make a purchase -- everything is for sale.

Today's trip yielded these Little Golden Books. 


They will go right on the shelf next to The Sailor Dog

I loved it when my mom read to me and I hope the Peanut grows up with a fondness for books like his Mama and Grandma. 

I think we're off to a good start!

July 14, 2014

The Literary Library Baby Shower

Summer definitely seems to be both wedding and baby season. I'm not sure if it's the heat (and thus less layers of clothing, revealing bumps...) but I've certainly noticed more pregnant ladies out and about in town.

A few weeks ago, I shared with you my Skype non-shower baby shower. This week, I'd like to tell you about the Book Shower my local friends threw me here: B is for Books, Babies and Brenda! 

The hostess knew I didn't want a traditional shower with goofy games, although we made an exception for the 'game' part and actually watched the US play Portugal in the World Cup during the shower. How non-traditional is that?! Sadly, none of us managed to get a photo of the TV in the background as proof! 

The invitation asked everyone to bring a book, and specified that thrifted ones were absolutely fine. In fact, several thrifted books were used to create super fun vintage-like bunting, and many of the thrifted books were classics that are difficult to find these days. 

In keeping with the theme, the food spread matched the books.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit inspired veggie crudites, complete with hummus on bottom of the 'planters'. 

The somewhat infamous Orange Marmalade Poppyseed cake even made an appearance. This has been my no-fail cake for years now and I agreed to make it for my own party. (I'm hoping to finally share the recipe with you if I can get permission from the magazine publisher!

And Blueberries for Sal gave way to a delightful blueberry drink concoction! (I'm super excited about this book. I loved Make Way for the Ducklings as a child and I never knew that the author, Robert McCloskey, wrote this one too!) 

Of course books were also involved... 

I loved the library as a child (and I still do!) but there are a number of these books I'd never heard of or read, so I'm excited that the Peanut already has quite a stash of reading material for the years to come! 

I don't remember ever reading The Sailor Dog -- a Little Golden Book about a dog named Scuppers who wants to sail on the sea. 

But as soon as I got home that evening, I read this one aloud to the Peanut before bedtime. And as silly as I felt reading a book to my belly, I'm pretty sure this might become one of my favorite books to read to the Peanut, especially when the Sailor is away to sea. 

I'm super thankful for friends far away for the Skype Shower, and the local ladies who know me well enough to host a Book Shower for Baby. 

(And an extra special thank you to my friend and the evening's hostess, Tianna, for making the latter happen! She and I shared creative spaces together while working onboard a hospital ship many moons ago... and it's super fun to live in the same city as her now. Most of these photos were taken by her.)

June 10, 2014

A Winning Streak

I've had a lucky few weeks on a winning streak. No, I didn't bet on the Triple Crown... in fact, I'm not much of a betting person. But free raffles and giveaways? I'll take 'em! 

Several months ago a local hospital offered a 'mommy-to-bee' event (complete with baby shower bumblebee decor...) For a small fee, a bunch of us pregnant gals got lunch, a tour of the labor and delivery rooms, photos with our bumps, and a chance to chat with vendors selling all manner of baby goods (most of which I was blissfully unaware of before I discovered I'm having a baby... many of which I'll still stay blissfully away from.) 

Bees I knit for a friend's
baby shower a few years ago.
However, in the whole process of meeting and greeting and chatting with the vendors I was actually interested in, I managed to win myself a gift certificate to a local baby consignment sale, as well as two free weeks with a diaper service! 

That same week, I also won a digital copy of this neat 'Knit the Alphabet Book' through a giveaway on iMake's blog

(I hoped that my winning streak would continue with one of the Pioneer Woman's many Kitchen Aid mixer giveaways that she often offers on her site. Alas, I still haven't won one, perhaps proving that I need diapers more than a giant mixer at this point in my life in any case.

Nevertheless, the alphabet knit book got me a little excited about making something personalized for the Peanut. When I first learned to sew, I made myself bed cushions in a weird pink floral print that spelled my name. I loved those cushions. And I loved the fact that they were personalized because I got to sew my own name AND I got to pick the fabric (I only wish I could find the photo to show you how tacky the fabric was.

But since we're not sure yet if the Peanut is a boy or girl... I'll refrain from knitting any names. I may have to start on some ZZZs though, simply to put on my bed in the meantime to remind me to stock up on sleep while I can.


January 24, 2014

Scrapbooking on the Cheap: Part II

Earlier this week I mentioned that I'd be sharing some tips on how to keep scrapbooking without breaking the bank. I have been 'scrapbooking' for as long as I can remember. Even when I didn't have a scrapbook, per se, I used my journal to store as much as I could in there, besides words. 

For years, I didn't go anywhere without my journal. It became my personal scrapbook, and one that I wouldn't share with anyone. After I got married, and perhaps as a way to reminisce about the years before, I did a whole 'official' scrapbook on my 12 years of World Adventures: The Solo Years

I did it mainly for me -- for something creative and fun, but along the way, I realized that I could share it with friends and family who had never before seen photos or heard stories from the places I'd traveled, because I had kept my journals so secretive.

In an era before email became the norm, people were lucky to get a postcard out of me for months at a time. My scrapbooks helped to bridge the gap once I returned to the States. Once I started, there was no stopping me -- especially in the months while the Sailor was gone to sea, I'd cut and paste all manner of life events.

They are not your typical run-of-the-mill cookie-cutter scrapbooks. They are messy, bulging, mismatched, and full of luggage tags and adventure... a little bit like my life sometimes, I suppose. 

I found it all so creative that once I finished a book, I didn't really care whether I or anyone else ever looked at them again. I just had fun with it. I never really planned anything -- I'd just cut and paste and the whole process became very organic. Even after I glued something that didn't quite look right, I'd challenge myself to fix it without ripping the whole thing apart. 

Although I still splurged on some things (and still do), I've discovered a few ways to stay within my budget for my paper passion, besides simply waiting for stuff to go on clearance.

1. Look for inspiration everywhere. 
You don't always need something encased in plastic with a UPC symbol on the back to get the job done. One of the most amazing pieces of art I've ever seen in my life was by a little Belorussian girl who created a scene with a horse out of tree bark and twigs. TWIGS. You may not have to go that far, but think of the fun things you could make out of those throwaway cardboard coffee sleeves and a bit of leftover ribbon from an old wreath. 

Like a wood fire, for instance.

2. Save everything. 
I'm not talking about turning into a hoarder, but you know those handmade wedding invitations and Christmas cards you're about to throw away? See what you can salvage first! Torn wrapping paper? Paste it as a layer on one of your pages. Used stamps? Extra photos that accidentally got printed? Magazines with creative flair or neat type? All of these items can be turned into bits and pieces for your scrapbook pages. 

I'm quite partial to stamps, myself. 

3. Don't be afraid to use everyday objects. 
This kind of goes along with #2, but sometimes I actually buy stuff that I know I can get a secondary use out of later. I've used sandpaper on several pages, food labels and calendars, and I purposely buy tissues that have neat designs on them, so I can reuse the cardboard later. 

Besides sand, I have a whole garden of flowers currently growing in my scrapbooks. 


4. Look for items in unconventional places. 
My recent addiction to SMASH Books has been fueled by the fact that I just found a bunch half off the normal craft store price, at TJMaxx. Those, coupled with vintage sewing and knitting magazines from the thrifts, and I had half a book finished in no time. Scour thrift stores and flea markets for old ephemera like maps, magazines and even sewing patterns, to add a vintage touch to your pages. 

Vintage is very in vogue at the moment and what better way to recycle? 

5. Swap and share with a friend. 
One of my childhood friends is an avid scrapbooker, and she regularly sends me extra paper or bits that she eyes as my 'style'. Personally, I swoon at those giant stacks of brand new paper. If you can't find them on sale, find a buddy who will split the cost with you. Most of the stacks contain multiple sheets of the same design, so you can easily share. 

And even when you can't think of a way to use the stuff, 
stick it on an inspiration board in the meantime. 

6. Find your own style!
Even though I've just given you my tips on crafting cheaply... find what works for you! The creative process will be null and void if you do all of the above and gain no satisfaction out of it. The same friend who mails me paper has a very different style from me, but I absolutely love looking at her scrapbooks. She has a neatness and meticulousness to her layouts that I envy. But if I tried to do things her way, I don't think I'd find the process as fun. Likewise, if she tried my style! 

So find your own style and have fun with it. And if you decide to do things on the cheap and save some cash, you have all the more reason to splurge on something later. 

January 19, 2014

Scrapbooking on the Cheap: Part I

Ever since my mom bought me my first journal, I have had a love affair with paper and everything related to it: books, magazines, scrapbooks, cards and even office supplies. It's not easy for me to walk past a store that sells paper without at least having a look inside.

Before 'scrapbooking' was a household term, I collected bits of ephemera from road trips and pasted them into a plain spiral bound notebook, labeling it something like 'Brenda's Scrapbook'. (Clever, eh?!) The only thing I paid for were the photos and the actual notebook.

When stickers arrived on the scene in the 1980s, I couldn't contain myself. Unicorns, My Little Ponies, and anything that resembled a horse somehow ended up in my sticker collection. My friends and I traded them, we wore them, we spent money on them. 

Only I didn't have a lot of money in elementary school. I got an allowance, but that certainly didn't go far in the sticker realm. The sticker albums were something else -- I don't remember what they cost, but I do know they were way beyond my budget. 

My mother came up with a plan so that I could still swap stickers at school -- she somehow amassed a bunch of those clear plastic sheets and we put construction paper on the inside. I had a little binder to put the sheets in and suddenly, I had my own sticker book. The stickers still came off easily, and even though I didn't have an 'official' sticker book, I still had a fully functional, and personalized one to carry around.

When craft stores like Michaels came on the scene, I was well into adulthood, but I still about died when I first set foot in one. So much creativity and craftiness under one roof! And all of those stickers! 

I didn't revert to childhood with the unicorns, but I did start to collect bits and pieces for my modern-day scrapbooks.  But I soon discovered that this little hobby of mine was starting to add up. It had never cost me much before... and suddenly, I was out more than just pocket change.

There was still something about paper, scissors and a glue stick that I couldn't resist though. I started looking for ways to continue with my hobby, but I tried to creatively come up with ideas that were cheaper than simply buying all new supplies at a craft store. 

Later this week, I'll share some of those secrets with you. In the meantime, head over to Doris Sander's blog, meanderings and check out her fantastic scrapbooks and photos. I discovered her just a short while ago and she has again inspired me to start scrapbooking again (ever since we moved, I have hardly touched a glue stick). Her scrapbooks make me want to hold them in my hand and turn the pages myself!

November 25, 2013

Betty Wason

This week, there will be a lot of cooking going on. I've seen so much yummy goodness already posted in the blogosphere that I think I'm starting to sniff my computer screen some days. 

I won't be cooking the turkey this year -- I'll leave that one to my mother. (Let's all give pause to the women -- and men -- who will be cooking up a storm this week. Let's also give thanks for shared recipes that get passed down through cultures and generations.)

Eons ago back in July, I made German Sauerbraten and I mentioned The Art of German Cooking author, Betty Wason. I also promised to tell you more about this fascinating lady.

I picked up this book at a thrift store for a whole dollar -- I have a thing for old cookbooks (especially bargains) and figured this one could actually come in handy with some practical recipes. 

I perused the anecdotes to the stories and was a little transfixed. This woman could write. I mean it's one thing to write a recipe... it's quite another to offer the reader the added bonus of an entertaining story to go along with it. I just assumed Betty Wason was a great cook who also had a talent for writing. 

Her name sounded so familiar to me though. 

I delved a little deeper, and then discovered, amongst many other talents, that she had been a war correspondent between 1938-1941. She country-hopped through various invasions, but despite finding the stories on the ground, her employer, CBS, asked her to find a man to read her texts. 

Wait, what?! 

Apparently they thought the audience wouldn't be receptive to a woman's voice on air. Later, the man who read her texts was offered a contract. (There is so much more to the story here and here.)  

Eventually, when Betty returned home to America, where she was rebuffed by CBS (!) and turned her attention instead to writing books. Her cookbooks are by far the most numerous. 

She has also been featured in one of my all-time favorite books: The Women Who Wrote the War by Nancy Caldwell Sorel.

So, as we all gorge ourselves on American goodness this week, let us also give thanks to the amazingly brave and talented women like Betty Wason -- who not only gave us some fantastic recipes from around the world, but who more importantly, reported on events that changed the world forever -- even if they didn't always get the credit.   


August 3, 2013

Books and Burgers

One of the first things I try to do whenever I move somewhere new, is get a local library card. Libraries are a wealth of knowledge -- for FREE! I credit my insatiable book appetite (as well as my obsession with the Titanic at the age of 9...) with my mother's willingness to haul me to school library sessions over long stretches of the summer. 

Understandably, I have a new library card already and I was excited to see this library stocked full of crafting books I'd never read or even heard of before. I grabbed this one off the shelf and promptly made the crocheted amigurumi cheeseburger from leftover yarn from these sheep as soon as I got home. I added the pickles myself, because really, what's a cheeseburger without pickles? 

Back to school sales are upon us here, but I do believe there are quite a few grilling weekends left in the summer season. And if the weather isn't cooperating, whip up a batch of these crocheted burgers and order a pizza, instead. If you're in need of grilling tips, check out the Sailor's Braai Rules, here. Better yet, head to a library and check out a barbeque cookbook.