A world in a book

I love to read.  Always have.  It’s a little vacation that requires no luggage, no driving, no flying, no stressful packing and unpacking within certain weight limits.  It’s purely mental.  A trip inside your own mind, where all the world may lie at your feet in seconds, take you far beneath the sea, soar above the clouds, travel to distant places or even some that don’t exist.  Yet.

Even when we were little, Dr Seuss gave a tiny, early glimpse of what we could do if only we are open to the opportunity when he wrote “Oh the Places You Will Go!”  And we spent the rest of our lives finding the answer to that question.

Where did you end up?  Was it where you’d hoped to go or somewhere else that was a surprise, a shock, a disappointment?  Did you take that road less traveled or one well rutted by time and travelers before you?

So with World Book Day here, let’s think about the places you will go within the covers of a book or on the screen of an eReader device. A ‘thumping, good read’. One that’s transforming.  One that’s informative, one that excites you, intrigues you, makes you think.  Keeps you awake all night flipping the page to see what happens next.  Where do you want to go?  What type of reading do you like to do when the day is rainy, cool, and thoroughly a misery outside?

I’ll confess to you now, while I love to collect as many textbooks as I can on math & science, a day like today brings out the lazy brain side of me.  I like a cozy read, or book with a twist, one that’s by some author no one’s heard of yet.  I delved deeply into the listings in Amazon, scored a series, Wisteria Witches by Angela Pepper on this occasion.  The two primary characters are like a cross between Gilmore Girls and a Stephanie Plum adventure.

The humor is sharp, sarcastic, thoroughly enrapturing to read while the story line is fun, just enough adventure to keep you turning the page into the wee hours of the night/morning.  I’m currently on the third book in the series, Wisteria Wonders.  I started the series only about 4-5 days ago, which is indicative of how engrossed I’ve become in this series. (Ask the guys at the auto service department how many times they called my name before finally walking over and tapping me on the shoulder to tell me my car was finished!)  I’ve laughed out loud at many of the things said and thought of in each book and now with the fourth in the series coming out in July, the fun continues.

So tell me all the places you will go on World Book Day.  I’m happily residing in Wisteria where no one ever gains weight from a diet of doughnuts and cupcakes and wishing I could find this magical place.  Meanwhile, I’d love to know where you are in your reading adventures.





Change is good. Right?

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time you’ve probably noticed the theme changes. One of my many personality flaws is my need to change things up.  Frequently.  Well it’s been a lifelong thing with me.  I was one of those kids who rearranged my room practically on a weekly basis.  There’s no telling what condition the floors were in by the time I moved out!  But I had to.  I loved to change things up, breathe fresh air into a part of my world that heretofore had lain hidden, dark and gathering dust bunnies and forgotten or lost items.

My web site’s theme also suffers the same fate.  The theme has changed several times, only to evolve into a cleaner layout each time.  Like this blog.

I started out with homey, rustic or cozy looks, thinking it should make you want to put your bunny-slippered feet up, tuck your legs beneath you and read, read, read.  Then time passed and I realized I wanted something sweet, appealing to that feminine side in many of us that loves a good movie, good book or a creative past-time that yearns for exploration.  Shabby Chic lives in my heart, but it doesn’t always allow me to emote on every level.

Then I leaned towards clean lines, orderly layouts, easy-to-read fonts. This one has been the hardest to stick with.  I’m a font hoarder.  I’m sure there’s an intervention or 12-step program out there or perhaps there should be for people like me but I’d never attend.  I’m happy to wallow in my wealth of typographical largess. It’s my happy place.  Still, not everyone finds it easy to read some of them even if I can. So, here we are.  In a clean, orderly layout with a  basic font that’s easy to read.  And surprisingly enough, I like it!

This organized place, theme-wise and life-wise, is where I reside now.  It’s not always going to be cabbage roses and sun-bleached colours of shabby chic, but they still exist in my world, just not everywhere.  Only on those very special things I reach for when I need a lift. Being tidy with the ecommerce and literary world is a good thing as it’s about growth.

People are not static creatures.  They perpetually grow, change, evolve, morph into someone else until they finally land on their feet solidly with a confidence that will carry them through to their golden years, or at least they’ll attempt it with all they have to do so.  That is human nature.  Yours.  Mine. Everyone’s.  So growth is good and change makes it real. A palpable thing. A tangible image you can place a time and date stamp on for all to see.

Literary Inspiration

Being a former employee of a library, former homeschooling mom of four for 9 years and the crafter of cupcakes and designs for my daughter’s baby shower for her then-pending delivery of daughter Kenzie, children’s classics are familiar territory and a wealth of artistic inspiration for many things in various channels of my current life. I mentioned the baby shower specifically because the theme was Alice in Wonderland and the decorations and packaging for many things on the food table related to elements of the story.

These flags on the left for the cupcakes were printed onto a sheet of cardstock, a background of antiqued with aged edges printed on them and cut out to fold around a cut bamboo skewer using two-sided tape.  They rose to only about 1″ above the top of each cake from the bottom of the flag to the surface of the frosting.  The blue gradient was also printed onto cardstock using a background from PicMonkey, also cut out then punched with a hole punch, strung onto 1/8″ ribbon wrapped around the threads of an 8 oz Mason jar (no lid), and the tag would hang along the side of the jars tempting the guests to “Drink Me”.

Cupcakes on the stand

Drink Me all in a row

These decorations were so much fun to do that I decided to keep them stored in a file for future use with other events or for use as ideas or springboards for other projects.  I’m also a huge font hoarder and found a font that resembled Alice In Wonderland type of style used in other media outlets. That font is the one you see on the tags in the images above for the cupcakes and jars.It was done in bold to be easier to read.

With that design style in mind, this approach was pulled from the archives to use for labeling the samples of body lotion and liquid soaps done for the web sites.  I often send out several samples with each order but had no sample sized bottles until recently.  The liquid soap samples were done last night with a hang tag using the Alice in Wonderland-inspired packaging idea – each tag is tied it around the neck of a bottle.  The tags are hand-printed. One side reads “Wash with me!” and the other gives the scent name and weight in each bottle plus the “Body Wash” product name.  Inserts are printed out with the ingredients of samples in bottles or jars as they are very small, often oddly sized or shaped and hard to label. Sample tagsFinding inspiration is always possible, it just sometimes lies just beyond our line of sight.  Close your eyes and let your imagination take over when you hit the wall.  I’ve hit it so many times we’re now on a first name basis.  It happens all the time.  Push come to shove, hit Pinterest and live in there for a little while until you have enough great ideas to last a long while.  Just don’t do it too often.  It can suck you in and you’ll not come back out for days.

The Fifth Petal

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry wrapped me in a warm blanket of mysticism, mystery, intrigue, history, jealousy, love and a thousand other feelings for about a week as I devoured the story of four young women that are descendants of four girls hung as witches in 1692 Salem, Massachusetts.  The story stand on a firm foundation of historical fact as the original young women were quite real as was their dark fate.  Were they really witches or innocent young women with an enemy that had more power and held the right ear in the community?  This story takes that line of thought and gives it a turn or two along the way and in the end you find yourself feeling heartache for their loss regardless of your opinion of their leanings in faith.

Having never read the Lace Reader despite having my eyes drawn to it repeatedly shortly after its release, I now know I MUST read that one to gain more insight into these richly drawn, deeply flawed characters.  They are like family now which made leaving their circle all that much harder to do. Only a few of the characters from book one are carried forward into this book but that doesn’t make it any less captivating for the reader as these characters have a story of their own to tell.

The Fifth Petal can definitely be read along without the preliminary story from book one, but why would you want to when such fascinating people exist in both?  If you have read The Lace Reader then you really should read The Fifth Petal though how much closure it will bring is hazy at best.  Perhaps with a couple of the characters, it may bring some, but with others, well, let’s leave that open to debate.

“Girls Waits With Gun”, by Amy Stewart

Allow me to introduce you to the sisters Kopp – Constance, Norma, and Fleurette. What makes them so special? Well, for one thing, these spirited ladies were real.  It’s a book of fiction, yes, but many of the characters are people who truly existed, but the story that swirls around them is somewhat fictionalized.  Ms Stewart aimed at accuracy in certain aspects of her telling of the high adventures of the Sisters Kopp, starting right at the beginning with a smash up between the rowdy new invention,the motor car and a horse drawn carriage by a beloved equine of the family, Dolley.

The year is 1914.  The surly, spoiled Henry Kaufman, gin smuggler of ill repute hurls his motorcar headlong into the carriage of the sisters three and Dolley, and refuses to pay for damages, which they feel is his responsibility,  What ensues is a twisting tail of stalking, harassment, and gun shooting lessons with the local sheriff.  Everyone knows of Mr Kaufman’s reputation for too much booze, too much privilege, a misplaced sense of entitlement and low morals.  This mix becomes dangerous as winter sets in in earnest and the spoiled boy and his band of thugs begin a campaign of terror against the sisters who are relying on dwindling resources to get them through the winter in a remote homestead with little going for it.

The beginning of this story was seeded from the research of a previously published book by Ms Stewart, The Drunken Botanist, which introduces us to a ne’er-do-well  by the name of Henry Kaufman.  A story in a newspaper of that day splashed the headlines of a collision between a fellow of the same name and three sisters on a horse-drawn buggy. This story was so intriguing, thanks to those indomitable sisters and the outcome of that fateful day, the story had to be told.  Of course Amy Stewart’s telling was spot on for suspense, capturing the essence of the three very different women as they struggle to get through one of  the worst winters they’ve ever experienced made worse by the kidnapping threats, arson attempts, and harassment from the Band of Surlies lead by Kaufman.

This story was a fun, intriguing and captivating read top to bottom.  It’s definitely captivated my inner suffragette’s heart with these feisty women working with little and gaining so much in return.  They’re independent and remain so throughout their time in this story though now I’m curious to hear more of their adventures. The next in this series (yes, there’s more) is entitled Lady Cop Makes Trouble, which I can’t help but feel it’s both a play on words and a teaser of things to come.  Let’s just say Constance finds her calling and runs with it.

Grab this one and you’ll be hooked to join them as they sure0footedly march along through their lives and grow into their own presences in just after turn of the century  United States.  You’ll love their quirky lovable ways, laugh with those attention-grabbing, obscure headlines Norma is so fond of and the fashion stylings of Fleurette making her mark on society as it matures into the industrial age.

Witchy Sour #2 in theMagic & Mixology Mystery series, by Gina LaManna

Witchy Sour (The Magic & Mixology Mystery Series #2)Witchy Sour by Gina LaManna
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What fun! And this once mainstream young woman turned resident of a secret island witch has learned a lot but there’s far more yet to discover. Of course there is always chaos when others conspire to eliminate her from her inherited post as Mixologist. For fans of fantasy characters – witches, vampires (who suffer from blood intolerance) and a very sexy Ranger that keeps Lily’s head spinning and her pulse racing, this is a vacation in book form. I read at night and it’s frequently a problem to keep quiet when giggling at the antics Lily, her cousins and Grandmother Hettie get up to every day of the week. It’s a non-stop romp from start to finish and you’ll be racing to find part 3 Jinx & Tonic right away.

View all my reviews

Doing my own thing

Soap challenges are fun, yes, no doubt about that.  It gives soap makers a chance to broaden their horizons, spread their creativity into distant corners of the crafting world and find a new way of doing something they already do everyday, just with a twist. An aesthetic, if you will.

I’ve never actually joined one, though I’ve joined a page or group or two in Facebook in the past.  Still I’ve yet to step into the creative circle and say, “I’m in. Let’s do this”!

So why, you ask, did you join, if you didn’t participate?  Well, sometimes we join things to appreciate the attempt vicariously through others.  I respect the skill, the talent, the willingness to step outside one’s comfort zone to try something altogether new or just a twist on an old ideal.  It’s always a moment of wonder to see what others can come up with when offered the opportunity to spread their wings.

I’m not averse to trying new things, in fact I love to learn something new, but I like how I work now.  I have a rhythm, a style, a look, a method and an approach to how I create the products in my web site and am very happy with it now.  When I decide to try something new it isn’t because it was required in order to qualify forsomething, but because I wanted to find out what would happen if I do that instead of this.

I’ve seen so many soapers create those dips and swirls on the tops of their bars with a spoon’s convex back that gave it the appearance of choppy waves on a deep blue-green sea, some even complete with whitecaps.  Others have the Taiwan swirl down to an artform.  Yet another sculpts tiny figures, fruits, constructions, from a dough-like consistency soap to place onto her soaps, making a soap without any need for melt & pour embeds.  This is a magical world, with talent equal to the skill of a truly gifted wizard, artist or designer and you never know what’s coming next with any one of these incredibly gifted people.

Pinterest has pushed our belief in our own inner artist to venture further than many generations before ever thought to cross into, providing a place for inspiration to flow like Niagara Falls.  Of course many a good intention  has fallen down that DIY craft board’s rabbit hole to be neither seen more heard from again for hours at a time.  Enjoy it, but go in with the plan to stay only a short time.  Maybe employ the use of a timer.  Might help anyway.

I digress a bit here.  What I mean to get at in my own weird rambling way is that after all of the  Facebook posts, the group challenges, the Pinterest eye-candy temptations, I’ve slowly yet carefully stepped into my own pair of comfortable creativity shoes.  The joy of a challenge comes from within my own self.  A new mica colour, a new fragrance, requires research  (yes, maybe through Pinterest) that would represent that new colour/scent as I perceive it. What design do I want to create with this glorious thing?  How will I achieve it?  What colours would look best – high contrast or sun-bleached tints, vivid primaries  or gentle pastels? What technique in swirl – hanger, spoon, chopstick, dividers, drop swirl, or a variation on one or more?

I go where my heart leads now.  I travel a road of my choosing and find the journey far more gratifying that the one that I followed along with hundreds of others.  I don’t like imitating others just as I wouldn’t want others imitating me regardless of how the old saying goes. The pressure to produce something of equal or greater beauty in a similar design done by dozens of others has been lifted and with that freedom, I can slide through the production of my designs with ease, comfort and far more joy than I did in previous years.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t join those group challenges. Far from it.  If it gives you joy to try that, needing just that gentle nudge to try it, go for it! You’ll never know what you can do until you try.  Possibly something amazing or even far different from what you’d expected will result.  Soapmaking is just that way. But if you go into them only occasionally, only wanting to do so just for fun, that’s the way it should be.  Many of them offer very nice prizes, too, by the way, so there’s nothing lost.  Either you win, or you don’t, but you gained the experience, you could possibly gain a very nice prize, but best of all you gain confidence.  In your craft.  In yourself.

But for me, I’m happily following the beat of my own drummer.  Content to know that I’ve created something I like, it makes me happy, it makes others happy.  It brings smiles to friends, family, customers and that’s all I need.  Well that and income.  Still, I’ll carry on, making soap my way, be happy with my job, my life, play around with the pictures of them, and hopefully others are okay with that, too. Find your inner drummer, then keep calm and carry on, everyone!