Archive for the 'Book Reviews' Category

The TueReview: The Gingerbread Architect

Are you one of those moms who thinks about making Gingerbread houses and then makes regualr cookies instead, because it just looks so difficult? I am. I’ve even toyed with the idea of making one with graham crackers, just so I can say I’ve done it, ykwim? But I still haven’t done it. Nope, nope, nope. Until this year. THIS YEAR, I am in charge of making a Ginger Bread Hose with my extended family. *Gulp* It’s not just my kids, this time– it’s the cousins’ kids, too. I’m a wee bit nervous, but… I’m also the little crafter that could, right? I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, and here’s why:

That’s right, ya’ll. Muhahahahahahah! I have re-in-force-ments! I am ready. The houses in this book are based on actual houses! There is an adobe Pueblo house, a Cape Cod and several others. There are templates and blueprints and very detailed instructions. And pictures, lots of pictures and diagrams. There’s even an Antebellum Plantation in here! Yes, seriously!

Now, the creation and decoration of these houses take a while. The authors suggest up to a week from shopping to finished, unless you want to kick your family out while you do it. Since that’s not possible for me, I’ll probably tone it down quite a bit. I don’t want the younger kids to get frustrated (or the older ones to feel like they have to do things perfectly), but I do want the fun to last more than 30 minutes, and for there to be enough to do so that everyone who wants to help can do so.. The Cape Cod looks like it would make a great “first house”, and there will still be plenty of small pieces to go around. And also, the roof, it is made of mostly black licorice. Black licorice is my favorite.

However, if you have the time and inclination, some of these houses are just amazing It’s hard to believe from the pictures that they are made of gingerbread. See that house on the cover? That’s the Victorian Farmhouse. There’s also a Carpenter Gothic, and made from sugar and spice, that might be worth kicking the fam out for, at least long enough for them to go caroling.

The TueReview: Twinkle’s Town and Country Knits 1Ahem. This book is subtitled “30 Designs for Sumptuous Knitting”. After double checking that this particular book was really for me, since I am about as far from what I presume to be sumptuous living as it is possible to get and still live, I cracked it open. And inside, I discovered lots of stuff that even plainer Janes like me can enjoy knitting and wearing. I do have to tell you that Twinkle loves her some chunky knits. It is her signature. Now, you know me, and you know I am just not that in to chunky. It’s ok now and again, but not for my every day, all the time knitting. Nonetheless, I have teenage daughters who knit/might knit if they could find cool projects to make, and ya’ll, Twinkle’s Town and Country Knits fits the bill easily.

And after all that, I did find something I’d like to make. It’s the BookBrowser’s Sweater. Three guesses what color it is! And also, maybe the Stockholm Sweater, even though it’s not that same color 😉 All jests aside, this book is full of trendy designs that quick to knit and intricate at the same time. That’s a difficult combination to pull off, but Wenlan Chia does it, and she does it well. Again!

The TueReview: Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol Cookbook

9780307407559As you may remember, I found out earlier this year that I have high-cholesterol. I’ve been watching my fat intake since then, and while I have found out in the interim that this is a family trait, and will most likely not be fixed through diet alone, I am still interested in tasty recipes that can help keep my cholesterol levels in check. That’s why I was so excited to get a chance to look at this book, and let me tell you, this is absolutely NOT boring tasteless low fat food.

First, the whole front section of Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol Cookbook is about how to achieve a healthy balance in your eating, including recommendations for calorie intake and total fat grams. And it’s built on real food, including a *gasp* doughnut. Yeah, yeah, they do tell you that doughnut is not an ideal snack, but the fact is they include it. This book is reality based. It’s based on what real people actually eat, unlike some healthy cook books. It’s kinda like……Survivor versus Swiss Family Robinson. Which, by the way, Country read for school recently, and we still can’t figure out exactly where that island is, because tigers and lions are not indigenous to the same places, ykwim? Back to the book at hand!

The thing I like most about this book is that the nutrition information is given for each recipe. Do you know how tired I am of whipping out my calculator every night to see what I can eat? Really tired! I also like the appendixes. There’s one with healthy shopping tips, one with healthy cooking strategies, and another for healthy ideas for dining out. The one thing I don’t like: no pictures. As you may recall from a previous review, that’s how I tell if I want to try a new recipe, by looking at the photo/ Looks like I’m gonna have to break down and read, because…….who could resist names like Garlic Chicken Fillets in Balsamic Vinegar and Cumin Roasted Turkey Breast with Raspberry Sauce and Jamaican Jerk Tuna Steaks? Yeah, see?

There’s good news for you though! I plan to try some of these recipes, and I will be taking pictures when I do, LOL!

The TueReview: Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines

9780307381705Okay, you had to know this was coming, right? Surely I am at least that predictable after all this time, LOL! Today’s book is indeed the companion to last week’s book! I have to say from the get-go that Ann and Kay have done it again, ya’ll. Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines is as quirky and delightful as the original.

Once again, I had to pop open Rav as I leafed through the book. Have I mentioned that I love garter stitch? Like, maybe last week, when I reviewed the other book, did I say that? Because I do! It’s just so soft and squishy. And comforting. And easy. Just knit, knit, knit. Love it. But I also like stockinette, so uniform and smooth. Just a field of v’s marching away to become something beautifully useful. Love it! Sorry, please excuse that aside. Moving on now.

When you get your copy of this book, and I SINCERELY hope you will do so, I want you to flip immediately to page 55 and look at Jane Eyre The Margaret Sweater. Seriously, I know the draw is supposed to be the mystery words, but look at the flow of that sweater. It’s just so darn graceful. I want it!

And then just as I had almost decided to cut my knitting recipient list to one person (me), I flipped the page and saw “Covering the Small Human”. Sigh. Betrayed by cleverness and beauty! Because, how can I NOT make sk8r in each of my boy kids’ signature colors? And the Jane Austen Dress, which I promise I did not see until after I had dubbed the sweater above, how kah-yute is that? And that shrug! On my list. And Fern. Will I ever have enough time to knit that before my girls are too big for it?

And then there is he dishcloth cotton chapter, complete with a swiffer rag pattern. Oh my goodness! I am totally NOT knitting that, but, what kind of mind can come up with that?

For all that knitty goodness, I have to tell you that the most profound thing in this book, for me, was on page one. It’s involves the concept of “decorating yourself”. Ann says, in part, “She’s (Madame X) not tracking down her least-bad-fitting pair of blue pants the way I do. She’s operating under the same impulse that leads a person to hang stuff on a Christmas tree. It’s not profound, or important, or efficient. It’s fun. It’s pretty.” See? Even as she’s saying “it’s not profound”, she’s saying something profound. Thanks, Ann. I plan to spend less time dressing and more time decorating myself!

The TueReview: Mason Dixon Knitting by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne

9780307236050yeah, I know. You’ve seen it before. What. Ev. Er. I just got my grubby mitts on it, and this is my blog, and today! The topic! Is Mason Dixon Knitting. Now, in truth, I saw this book briefly when it first came out, but I have forgotten most of it, except that I really wanted a copy. And now I have it. As usual, I’ll take you along with me as I leaf through the book for the (almost) first time. And I’ll keep Ravelry open in another tab, too, so I can add stuff to my queue.

Oh, the dishcloths. You know, that reminds me of how I knit dishcloths to take to my dear Sister in Law in Texas. My mama thought I was slap crazy when I announced my intention to deliver a basket of five dishcloths and a bottle of Dawn as a hostess gift for a week long stay. My mama ought to read Ann and Kay. My SIL, she was delighted. And I was glad, as it took me the entire drive to knit them. I only have one kntted dishcloth myself, and it’s in the repair bin. But I can see it’s time to get another cone of cotton.

And look at the little felted boxes! How cute are those? And those huge -squared log cabin blankets. Those would be the Moderne Log Cabin Blankets. Yes, with an E. I feel a sure and certain need to creat one of these before a certain young family member makes an appearance. Here in just a couple of weeks. *Gulp* Queued.

And the Nina Shawl! A shawl for me has been on my must be knit list for so long, it’s pitiful. Since I gave TheClone the one that hung on the back of my rocking chair, so it must be about 3 years, at least. Queued.

Ok, guess it’s time to go to Wal-mart for the dishcloth cotton to make myself some dishcloths. I’ll need to go to ACMoore to get something good enough for the baby blanket (dishcloth cotton would be way too heavy), and I’m thinking svale for the shawl. Too bad I am on a yarn fast, huh? The most I’ll be able to talk myself into is yarn for the Moderne Log Cabin for the new baby.

Continuous Cables by Melissa Leapman

9780307346872I was pleased to receive a copy of Continuous Cables to review the other day, and I have to tell you this is one luscious book. When I opened it, I was pleased to see, right in the front, instructions with lots of pictures. I like instructions, and I especially like ones with plenty of pictures! Various knitters have assured me in the past that cables were not that difficult, and now I am actually considering whether or not it might be possible to believe that. It seems odd to have knit all this time and never cabled, but, well, there ya go. I’m still quite intimidated, but I actually think it might be possible. In fact, I could maybe start with the aptly named “Simple Hat” which seems marginally less frightening than inserting my leg into a meat grinder. Yeah, I know, it is usually not like me to be a timid knitter. But umm, ya’ll. I tackled kitchener without blinking. I’ve written and sold my own successful soaker pattern. I can knit whatever you want to order with no pattern at all. But cables scare me.

However, there are some pieces in here that may make me overcome my fear. I like the Honeysuckle Sleeveless Shell and the Quick to Knit Bulky Pullover. I’d have to tighten up the armholes on the shell, but that wouldn’t be overly difficult. And the Tweed Hoodie, in my favorite RED might be a possibility. I could kill two new skills with one project there, since it needs a zipper and I have never put one in a knitted project before.

In the back is a stitch dictionary for like a bazillion of the closed figure cables that star in this book. Yeah, it’s not called Continuous Cables because it’s a big fat book. It’s called Continuous Cables because the figures all close. I’m embarrassed to admit that I was a LONG way int0 book before I realized that. Hey! Quit laughing. I told you cables intimidate me!

After looking through the book, I though the designs looked vaguely familiar. Not in a bad way, like all the same, just familiar as in comfortable. Sure enough, Melissa Leapman has published patterns in Interweave Knits and Knitter’s, and that’s where I recognized her from. She also authored Cables Untangled.

Continuous Cables goes on sale October 8th.

Kaffe Fassett is a color genius!

9780307451507 Now, I know that most of you knew that already, but I sat down this afternoon with his new book, Glorious Patchwork, and I have to tell you I was enthralled. Enthralled. I had heard the name in knitting context often enough, and read what others had to say about his work, but this was my first experience with Kaffe, and as I turned the pages, I kept thinking, ooh, wow, ahh, wow wow wow wow wow wow.

Did you know that in addition to quilting, which is the subject of this book, and knitting which is all I thought he did until today, he also designs for crochet and needlepoint AND he paints? The man is seriously intimidating. Not that the book had that effect on me *ahem*.

The photographs in this book just explode. The are riotously colorful. So many times, I looked at a picture of a room, and if you had just described it to me, I would have said, “oh that would just be too much”, but then as I studied the picture, it wasn’t too much at all. One example is a room decorated in that blue and white Delft china. The slipcovers on te couch and chair were in that pattern, the fireplace mantle was a mosaic of it and there was a huge column of flat Delft pieces on the wall above the fireplace, and a plate border at the top of the wall. The accent color was a bright yellow and it was just a wonderful. Here let me show you:

IMG 1082

Isn’t that fabulous? I would love to be that colorfully courageous! I know that I will look at this book again and again for inspiration. There are chapters, each dealing with a different color family: Soft Pastels, Circus, Leafy Gardens, Antique Stone and Renaissance. Each chapter has exquisite quilt patterns, plus great photos of those quilts in totally amazing (and coordinating) rooms. This is not a book to keep hidden on the shelf. This one needs to be on the coffee table, maybe under glass, but definitely on display.

Wednesday Bead Report 9/24/2008

So, here we are with another Wednesday Bead report. I really had not intended to create a regular weekly segment the first time I typed that title, but I had great feedback on it, and it does keep me from talking about beading every day, so I guess it’s here to stay, at least for awhile.

First up, I need to show you some recent acquisitions:
IMG 1033
I have plans for all of these, and I won’t go into them any further beyond saying that the blue set is mine.

I don’t have any finished things to show you, because that’s just the kind of week it’s been, so we can skip that, but I do have a book to tell you about. You know I love a good book, right? My mom recently joined a craft book club, and so she’s ordered a few things that I thought we might all enjoy. This week, I want to talk about The Beader’s Handbook by Juju Vail.

31VNfU1CXjL. SL500 AA180 The Beader’s Handbook is a very thick book, with a plethora of detailed pictures. There are all kinds of techniques in here, from different stitches to to beaded pillows. The descriptions of the tools alone make the book invaluable, but she also tells you how to use them to make your own findings. And then there is a 60+ page photographic bead dictionary in the back!

It would truly take a year at my current crafting pace to work through this book and master each of the concepts in it, but I am surely tempted to try. I think I want to start with the memory wire bracelet on the credits page.

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