Archive for the 'Book Reviews' Category

400 Knitting Stitches

I don’t even know how to start this entry. I am looking around my room at the stacks of books I have to revie and thinking to myself…this blog is about to become a book review blog. Only, not really, because the books are all crafty in nature, and hey, ya gotta get ideas somewhere! Since I have no idea where to start, I’ve picked up the closest book, and it happened to be 400 Knitting Stitches, which I received awhile back from Potter Craft.

400knittingstitchesNow, if you have been reading for more that 2 minutes, you know that I am in love with knitting. I love the colors, I love the fibers, I love the feel of the tools in my hands and I love the textures of knitting. That’s what this book is about–texture. It’s not a book you necessarily sit and read through, although I could while away quite a few minutes (and have) thumbing through it. This is more a book you pick up when you wanna make something and design it yourself. Like, a cabled sweater, for instance. Or some pretty little dishcloths. Or perhaps a block blanket in shades or rose and pink to match your princess bedroom, which is probably what I will end up doing first.

There are chapters in the book with patterns based on simple knit and purl combinations, crossed stitches and cables, slipped stitches, lacy stitches, double stitches, twisted stitches and fancy stitches. There is even a section on different cast-off stitches, so you can get just the look you want for your edges. The paperback copy has flaps on the covers to help you hold your place, but I recommend a stack of post-its beside your coffee cup, because you aren’t going to be able to just mark two of these patterns.

I guess it’s time to crank out some more knitting. We all know I can’t justify going to A.C. Moore for one ball of every pink they have in the store until I work up my current stash. But after that? I really think I need a new blankie!

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Book Review: Socks From The Toe Up

I know it’s not Tuesday, and so it’s not quite a Tue Review like I used to do, but a girl’s got to climb back on the wagon somewhere, right? So here we are!

51GGWaZAL9L. SL500 AA240 Some months ago, I received a preview copy of Socks from the Toe Up by Wendy Johnson of Wendy Knits. I’ve been sitting on it while life was crazy, but I decided that today was the day, mainly because I need to gift it to someone next week. And, folks, it’s a good thing I made that decision before I cracked the cover, because otherwise….I’d be keeping it.

I’ve used Wendy’s site to make socks before, as I am sure many of us have. The patterns and techniques she covers in the book are as well thought out and illustrated as her blog always is. One thing that was new to me was the heel-gussetted sock from the toe up. I’ve never knit that one before, and I think I will have to give it a try before I part with the book. It doesn’t seem overly difficult and it’s very visually appealing.

The sock patterns themselves are pretty cool, with several I’d like to make. The “ribbed ribbon” and the “serpentine” appeal the most, and since the serpentine is done in sportweight, I might just have time to whip out a pair before I part with the book. If I actually had time to knit in the next few days, which I probably won’t. Sigh. Soon people, very soon. Really.

The TueReview: Katie’s Basics of Beading by Katie Hacker

“Oh, so that’s how you do that!” That was my first thought as I read through this little Basics of Beadingimg.php book of Katie’s. I’d been curious about several things, including how to use memory wire, and what exactly to do with those fabulous wire-wrapped beads I had to buy not to long ago, and I finally sat down to find some answers. Now I know, hehehehe. But of course, I’ll need to buy more stuff: memory wire and jump rings for starters.

I really enjoyed looking at the macrame section in the middle. My boys will need a necklace from me eventually, and I was having a real hard time envisioning how to do a more masculine design for them. Call me old fashioned, but pink pearls are just not a good look for the boys of Chez CassKnits!

And the seed bead section–breathtaking! I admit I have a thing for seed beads. The tiny perfection of them just gets to me. I love, love, love working with them, even as Mama laughs at me about it. I love them so much, that I pick them up with my sore, arthritic fingers and place them one by one onto the wire that I prefer over string. That’s love, now!

The TueReview: Beading with Pearls

51 1ogdFROL. SL500 AA240 Ok, I admit it. I am no longer satisfied to just string beads. I want to actually create jewelry. You know, with wire and beads, and dangles and yeah, all that. And I blame my dilemma on this book right here. Beading with Pearls has totally been my undoing! I want heavy gauge wire, and I want spacer bars, and I want. more. pearls. too, LOL!

Victoria and Chlorophyll (multi-strand pearl bracelets) demand to be made and I also want to try my hand at Cyclone ( a ring) and Pearl Bouquet (ear rings), and of course, I’m already riffing off of the pieces as presented in the book, seeing something inspired by, but different than, these pieces. That’s the mark of a great pattern book, isn’t it? One that inspires you to not only make what is in the book, but move beyond that and design your own pieces?

The book, combined with the calendar ought to be enough to keep me beadily busy this coming year. And I haven’t even cracked the cover on the seed bead book!

The TueReview: Rachael Ray’s Big Orange Book

9780307383198Did I ever tell you about the time my husband’s friend brought his Jewish girlfriend over for dinner and I served cheeseburgers? Yeah, then I went one better and the next time she came I served (wait for it)

ham. Yeah. I would say I don’t know what I was thinking, but clearly I wasn’t actually thinking at all, right? Well, next time she comes over, I will be ready, because Rachael Ray’s Big Orange Book contains menus and recipes for kosher meals, in addition to some new 30 minute meals and holiday menus.

Now, I have been a fan of Rachael for a while. What’s not to love about a woman who can teach you to make a whole meal in 30 minutes? That’s like… making a magic trick every day, ykwim? I stop when I see her on tv, and I subscribe to her magazine, and I read that thing cover to cover, and I drool over the pictures too!

What I most enjoy about Rachael’s recipes is how she puts a twist on basic dishes. For instance, she takes the BLT to a new level, the BLTT: bacon, lettuce, tomato jam and tuna. And I absolutely relish the way this woman treats the lowly hamburger! In Rachael’s world, the hamburger is an art form! This particular book has an entire chapter devoted to them! And burgers don’t just mean beef, either. She’s got them made with turkey, lamb and salmon, too!

And heaven help me! A chapter full of meals for one. So I can have something delicious to eat when I can’t have what the family is eating. Think they will believe that Seared Salmon Fillet with Cucumber Dill Sauce is a sacrifice? No? Me either.

Oh my, but the chapter on meals that tale longer than 30 minutes has me hungry! I mean, I like quick, but sometimes, longer just …it’s a good anticipatory time, ykwim? It smells better longer, LOL!

And as usual, her appetizers look so good that I want to have them for a meal. Which I have done before. Just sayin’

The TueReview: Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

9781400054350 So, who is this Barefoot Contessa? I’ve heard her name often enough, but I’ve never caught her on tv or read one of her books until now. I picked a great one to start with, I’ll tell you that! And can I say from the outset that this woman looks like she can cook? She’s just got that look, like I’d love to go into her kitchen and sip wine and dish, ykwim? And the fact that her Back to Basics cookbook has recipes for drinks with and without alcohol helps a bit, LOL. And also, she serves cheese. Without apology. I think I could marry a woman like that.

One thing I really enjoyed about this book is how each chapter starts with a page of tips. One chapter tells how to arrange flowers, another how to use the tools in your kitchen to cook like a pro.

But lets get to the recipes! I have been wanting to try Cucumber Yogurt Sauce for a while, and there are a couple of recipes in here that remind me of that, only different. The Creamy Cucumber Salad promises to be good with fish or chicken and the Chilled Cucumber Soup with Shrimp looks like just the ticket for a hot day, or a holiday party.

Speaking of holiday dishes, she has a Stuffed Turkey Breast in here that looks scrumptious. You make the stuffing with figs, cranberries, onions, stuffing mix and sausage (among other things) and then put it in a butterflied turkey breast and roll the whole thing up like a jellyroll. THE END of dried out turkey!

And a Dinner Spanikopita made with phyllo. Oh my word. I do love Spanikopita! Is there anyone who doesn’t? I mean, spinach, cheese, buttery layers of air and flour, yumm!

Hahahaha, oh yes, I knew I would like her. Look here in the vegetable chapter: the woman has a recipe for Creamy Cheddar Grits. You know it, baby! Oooh, she adds scallions to hers! Please excuse me while I mop drool off my chin. I think I could make a meal off these grits and the Pan-Roasted Root Vegetables. Seriously. And maybe some of this French Apple Tart. *cough*

And listen, just when you think the book is over……….breakfast. Including Date Nut Spice Bread with Cream Cheese Spread. Yeah. I think I have to keep this one under my pillow for a while.

The TueReview: Martha Stewart’s Cooking School

9780307396440How can this woman that I love to hate keep coming out with such awesome books? It’s craziness I tell you, pure craziness! And also very, very delightful. I think most cook’s can learn a thing or three from Martha Stewart’s Cooking School Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook. In fact, Country has asked me (!!) to assign her some lessons from this book for school. Yes, seriously.

And you know, she’s not kidding when she calls it cooking school. Each “chapterette” is listed like 1.2, 1.2, 1.3, like…well, like Country’s math book! And they are are called “How to…whatever”, and most of them include a recipe. But there is so much in this book that isn’t even in the table of contents! For instance, in the meat chapter is a section on the different cuts from different animals and

how to truss a chicken
how to cut up a chicken
how to tie up a roast
how to fillet a fish

and so on and so forth. Good handy stuff to know!

And look here, varieties of potatoes. I didn’t know what they were all called, and I’ve been cooking for…umm, a long time. And she finishes with a chapter on desserts! The back says this book is for beginners and experts and everyone in between, and after looking at it, I agree.

It’s definitely a full service cookbook, and Country will get her wish for school assignments from it. She can work right through it with me, and we’ll study the parts that aren’t in the table of contents, too. It’s taking it’s place on the school shelf for now, instead of the cook book shelf!

The TueReview: It Girl Knits

9780307396341So, when I got ready to review this book, my first thought was…what exactly is an It Girl? Can I be one? Do I know one? Do I know a someone who isn’t an It Girl, but could be? Well, according to the cover, the designs are for the young and fabulous. Hmm, well. I’m not old yet, and I like to think I’m fabulous, so let’s see what’s in here! Oh, one more thing. The It Girl, Phoenix Bess? The one who write the book? She’s 16, ya’ll. Sixteen. When I was 16, I was still writing bad poetry and being mooney. Just sayin’. And I certainly didn’t have anything nearly as cool as It Girl Knits up my teen-aged sleeve.

Now then, the patterns. There is actually cool stuff in here that I would make and wear! There’s a handkerchief hem skirt in bamboo, and a short jacket. I’d put these two pieces together with a stretchy, skinny tee-shirt in 2 beats. I’m thinking a bright solid skirt, a white tee, and a variegated jacket that would pick up the skirt color.

There are several bottom patterns in here, too: pants, capris, leggings and shorts, all customizable in length, and with short row bums. If you’ve seen one of my soakers or bought my pattern, you know I am all about the short row bum! Now I have to wonder if I still have the legs for knitted pants!

Seriously, I liked most of the patterns in this book, though I would not wear all of them. I’d wear several as written, and there are a few more I’d wear if I altered them just a bit to cover more skin. But that’s just age and wisdom talking; part of looking great at any age is knowing which parts of you it might be better to keep hidden. I’m pretty sure that any teen girl on your knitting list would like most anything out of this book, and ………….. hey, she just took my book! (j/k)

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