March, April, May, June…

24 Jun

… are all the months I haven’t written about books! How dreadful. I apologize for my disappearance. Life got in the way of things, as it does. So, here’s a catch up post on what I’ve been reading:

 

Rebecca Skloot – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Goodreads stars: five
I don’t typically read a lot of nonfiction, but this was a wonderful book. Skloot managed to worm her way into the lives of Henrietta Lacks’ family members and she became good friends with her daughter, all for the pursuit of information for this book. I thought the story was compelling and Skloot did a wonderful job of presenting scientific information in a way that anyone can understand and enjoy.

William Landay – Defending Jacob
Goodreads stars: four
Mystery and detective novels are other genres I also don’t delve into much, but I thoroughly enjoyed this. The ending was a little drastic but I think it fit well enough. The juxtaposition of narrative with court records worked very well.

Gillian Flynn – Gone Girl
Goodreads stars: five
I liked the other mystery novel so well that I read another one! This book was intriguing. I liked that it used more than one point of view. At the end of every chapter I just wanted to keep going.

Pittacus Lore – The Rise of Nine (Lorien Legacies, #3)
Goodreads stars: three
I think three stars is generous on this one. Here’s my review from Goodreads: “I’m not sure why I thought this series was a trilogy but it definitely impacted how I read it. It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t great either. Keeping up with whose POV it is gets rather tiring and I hope they don’t do that in the next (and hopefully last) book.”

Rick Riordan – The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #5)
Goodreads stars: four
This wasn’t my favorite book in the series but it was a really great conclusion. On Goodreads I stated that I wished I could have given it a 4.5 but now I can’t recall why. This is what happens when I wait this long to do book reviews!

A. C. Gaughen – Scarlet
Goodreads stars: four
The premise of this book is about a girl and her merry band of thieves; it’s the story of Robin Hood told from a female’s perspective. It was a fun, YA adventure book and it was really interesting to read it from another POV. I’m on a fairy tale retelling kick right now and this was a great way to start it. It’s a bit gruesome though, which I enjoyed, but it might be too graphic for younger readers.

Suzanne Collins – Gregor the Overlander
Goodreads stars: five
This is Collins first novel, before she wrote The Hunger Games, which I absolutely love. And here’s my Goodreads review, “what a wonderful book! it reminded me a lot of the Percy Jackson books. it’s a great adventure and the characters are so likable, especially adorable Boots. I would recommend this to anyone of any age.”

David Benioff – City of Thieves
Goodreads stars: five
I had little interest in reading this book at first, as it was chosen for my book club, but two chapters in and I was hooked. The story is about a young Jewish man (Lev) in Leningrad who becomes unlikely friends with an aspiring writer (Kolya) while they go on a journey to find eggs for a high-ranking officer’s daughter’s wedding cake. I found myself picturing Benedict Cumberbatch as Kolya and I believe it’s because of his snark, wit and humor. I thoroughly enjoyed this book because it was amusing, graphic and sad all at the same time.

Rick Riordan – The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus, #1)
Goodreads stars: three
I had high hopes for this book. It’s the continuation of Percy Jackson but the main characters are new campers. The multiple POVs were interesting but it made the story far longer than it had to be. I felt like 100 pages could have been cut and it would have been miles better. Sometimes it felt like a wild goose chase and some of the dialogue felt forced. I’d like to see how the story turns out but I won’t be buying this series like I did the last. Unfortunate.

And currently, I’m reading Beastly by Alex Flinn. This is another retelling of a classic fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast to be specific. It’s from the POV of Beast, specifically. I’m eight chapters in and so far it’s a quick read. It’s mildly enjoyable but I don’t have high hopes. I’m not in love with the writing style, to start with, so we’ll see how it goes.

 

What are you reading lately? Any great, quick summer reads that you’ve enjoyed?

Wicked Strong

23 Apr

Nearly one week ago today tragedy struck Boston. My favorite city. A place I consider home (so much so that I have a tattoo of Massachusetts inside my left arm). I sat at my work desk Monday after the news came in and I was glued to any major news network that was reporting (which were most) or had a live feed. I was also texting my three best friends who are from the area as well. One of which still lives in the area. She is safe and well, as are all of my friends and family, including those that attended the marathon and live in Boston.

I was stunned, to say the least. Patriot’s Day in Boston is a day of celebration. I’ve been to the marathon. I’ve watched and cheered on the runners. It was surreal seeing people’s faces full of terror and first responders jump into action in the streets of a city I’ve spent so much time in.

I’m still having trouble, a week later, putting how I feel into words. I feel so much for the families directly affected. The mother who lost her 8-year-old boy. The professional dancer who lost a foot. The officer who lost his life. It’s so difficult to comprehend.

But in the face of tragedy, so many people have responded to their call of duty, like the police officers that immediately jumped into action. The random passers-by who supplied drinks to those who needed just a little help. The runners who finished the marathon and kept running to the nearest hospital to give blood.

It’s so hard to deal with this from across the country (and let me say that being 3,000 miles away doesn’t mean I feel the hurt any less) but the people who have offered so much help have made me feel just a little bit better.

In the face of this unspeakable act, Bostonians have shown how strong they we are. Wicked strong.

How to Transfer Weird Animal Pictures onto Wood Blocks

15 Apr

I’m finally here to tell you about one of my DIY projects that I did a couple weekends ago!

I got this idea from Pinterest, and didn’t really think about it for a while… until Todd and I bought a new kitchen hutch and had to cut off some excess wood to get it to fit between the fridge and the wall. And then we had about 12 random pieces of nice, light wood that would be great for photo transfers! Each one was about 6”x3” and worked perfect for the pictures that I found.

wood

wood

Which were of kind of creepy Victorian people with animal heads. One friend took a look at the finished project (already hung in the bedroom) and said, “I’m glad those are in your bedroom and not mine, because I wouldn’t be able to sleep.” And that seems to be the general consensus, but Todd and I like that kind of weird stuff, so we’re okay with it in the bedroom.

creepy animals, anyone?

creepy animals, anyone?

So, how’d we do it?

First, it started with a trip to Staples. The directions I found online, which I link in this post, say to use pictures from a laser printer (say that like Dr. Evil, by the way). And we have an ink jet at home, so I went to Staples. Either the guy working thought I was cute or he really hated his job, because he gave me the prints for free for having to wait a few minutes. It cost Staples roughly $0.10 to make them so it wasn’t a huge loss. I graciously thanked him, of course, and then we proceeded to spend over $160 on other things. Of course.

(Note: if there are any words or things that will not turn out right if you don’t print them backwards, make sure to use a photo editing tool to turn your pictures around. Mine didn’t need this step to look normal.)

The next step was to go to Michael’s and get the two items listed in those instructions. What I didn’t know is that combined, they would come out to close to $25 (not including brushes, just the mediums). No, thank you. Fortunately a lovely Michael’s employee told me about Mod Podge’s photo transfer medium. Yes! Exactly what I needed!

Mod Podge!

Mod Podge!

The directions on the back are for transferring photos onto fabric, but it will work on most surfaces that are somewhat porous.

Next, we went home and Todd cut off pieces of the already small wood chunks to make them closer to the photo size. Four of them were 3”x3”, one was about 3.5”x3” and two others were about 4”x3”.

I made sure to follow the directions on the back of the packaging as closely as I could. I had pretty much abandoned the directions I found online at this point.

I put enough of the medium over the picture and then moved it around with the sponge brush (which the Mod Podge came with!) so that I could barely see the picture through it.

always put something down so you don't get Mod Podge all over your boyfriend's work table! er...

always put something down so you don’t get Mod Podge all over your boyfriend’s work table! er…

Next, I laid the picture down onto the wood (goopy side down). There was enough wiggle room that I could position it better if it wasn’t right the first time. Then I used the edge of the cardboard packaging (a bone stick or credit card would work too, anything with a hard, long edge), smoothed out the picture and removed any excess that squooshed out the edges. Yes, squooshed. (When you’re done, make sure to clean out your sponge brush thoroughly! Or buy a new one. I don’t care what you do. But you’ll need it later.)

they look so blank, but hang on for a day or two!

they look so blank, but hang on for a day or two!

Once I did all of them, I let them sit. The instructions say to wait 24 hours. I’m not sure if less would be fine, so you should probably follow the instructions like a good little doobie, like I did. I think I waited about 36 hours though since I went out of town with Todd.

When I came back, they looked pretty much the same. I got a bowl of water (just room temp, not hot) and my handy dandy sponge brush. I moistened the side of the wood piece with the picture on it. Some things I noted: too much water made some of the picture come off. I wanted this to happen, because I wanted the pieces to look old. You might not want that to happen, so I would suggest tipping the wood piece back over the water bowl so the excess drains off.

wet vs. dry

wet vs. dry

Next, I used my nail to rub the edge off a little bit. I found this to be an easy way to get it started, but it was a lot of work to do each piece, the whole piece, like that. I ended up using a piece of a paper towel to rub off the rest of the paper. This worked really well and gave a good shine to the picture. It managed to get almost all of the paper gunk off in just a few good scrubs.

rub away that paper!

rub away that paper!

Instead of wetting them all at once, I did one at a time. I found if they sat for about 30 seconds to a minute, they were fine. But if they soaked too long or too little, I had issues. If you’re doing a large piece, I would recommend wetting it in stages.

paper towel method.

paper towel method.

Because my pictures looked aged, I decided to let some of the picture itself come up off the wood. In some cases, I used my nail to pick off the edges a little bit. It doesn’t come off that easily, but the edges might peel up a little if you’re not careful. Of course, I wanted it to look this way, so I made an effort to peel it up.

"vintage"

“vintage”

Couth Cat

After I finished all of them, I let them dry. Then I applied about 5 very thin, even coats of clear spray paint in a glossy finish to give them a nice shine and to seal them.

glossy

glossy

Then they sat in the garage… for a while. So I didn’t put them up for more than a week. I had good reasoning though! I had nothing to put them up with! I went to Tar-jhay and got some simple sticky squares that were safe to use on painted walls and easily removable.

I took them inside next and laid them on the floor in different arrangements to see how I liked them. Once I settled on a pattern, I put a sticky piece on each back and stuck it up on the wall.

And here you have the final product! I realized once they were up how small they looked on the wall. I might move them in the future, or add more, but at the moment I think they look good since we have zero artwork up in our room besides these.

on the wall (ignore the hideous yellow that's going on, our walls are NOT yellow)

on the wall (ignore the hideous yellow that’s going on, our walls are NOT yellow)

up close (again, ignore the weird color, I tried to fix it)

And here are some better pictures of the transfers:

Couth Cat

Couth Cat

The Elephant Man

The Elephant Man

Lady Antelope

Lady Antelope

Miss Kitten and Kitten Twins

Miss Kitten and Kitten Twins

I am the Walrus

I am the Walrus and  a Foxy Lady

So that was my first foray into the world of photo transferring! I want to do something much bigger next time, like a map of something cool. California, or maybe the road to Mordor :) What are your big DIY plans?

Let’s talk about fresh, baby

8 Apr

Listen, this is my blog. So of course I’m going to talk about things I want to talk about. I’m hoping that my things will help you with your things, though. Like armpits. Or underarms if you want to be classy.

Why are we talking about armpits? Because I recently switched deodorant. In my efforts to be more green and be nicer to my body, I thought I’d switch to Tom’s of Maine, which I’m now seeing was a mistake, and you’ll see why soon.

I used to use this deodorant, by Suave:

sauve

I liked it well enough. It kept the smells at bay, but it didn’t do a whole lot for antiperspirant. It’s also full of chemicals.

So I switched to Tom’s antiperspirant:

toms

What I didn’t realize until later is that you have to buy the specific Aluminum-free Tom’s if you want to get the supposedly non-cancer causing deodorant.

Now, there are some pros and cons to this antiperspirant.

Pros
– it has a nice smell.
– it has alleviated my sensitive skin issue so that when I shave, it doesn’t get as irritated.
– it’s more natural than my previous deodorant.

Cons
- it has nearly 30% aluminum (the Suave had less than 9%!)
– it is not a very good deodorant; I find myself pretty obnoxious by the end of the day.
– because it’s made from a lot of natural oils, it has a more solid consistency than most deodorants.
– IT HAS NEARLY 30% ALUMINUM! the more I think about it, the more I need to switch to the aluminum-free version.

You never realize how much research you have to do until later when you realized that the chemicals and harmful products you were trying to get away from are the ones that are pumped right into the products you thought were best!

Also, I would like to apologize for the lack of a post about my recent DIY projects. My poor 6-year old MacBook is too ancient to want to let me use WordPress. So uploading a post FULL of pictures can get very tedious. Along with that, the battery in our garage door opening died, leaving us shut out of the (detached) garage for a couple of days, so we only just got the spool inside as of yesterday. I promise to share pictures and how-tos this week!

February and March Book Reviews

3 Apr

Happy Wednesday everyone. The week is almost halfway over. Huzzah! And for that, I’m giving you the gift of book reviews. I haven’t posted any since January, so I’ve got a good chunk of literature to talk about.

I am Number Four (Lorien Legacies #1), Pittacus Lore
Goodreads stars: four

This was a super fun read. I had some issues with it though: first, it was written by a collaboration that includes James Frey. I hate James Frey (in a literary capacity, of course). Secondly, there were quite a few noticeable inconsistencies that makes me wonder how well it was proofread. But, this book was exciting. It’s a great teen adventure read and I think it was adapted into a movie, which I haven’t seen. One of the major pieces of this book is a romance between the main character, John (or Number Four), and a girl he meets at school, Sarah Hart. The language and interactions between them are too contrived. Having already read the second book, I can see how Sarah is an integral part of the story, but I think it could have been written better. Having said all this, if you go into this knowing it’s just going to be a fun read, you’ll be fine. I wouldn’t use it to write your grad thesis or anything (unless you were writing your thesis on authors that like to sell “memoirs” that are 95% untrue and are really not that great at writing).

The Titan’s Curse and The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3 and #4), Rick Riordan
Goodreads stars: five and four, respectively

I’ve posted about these books here before. I love them. They are part of one of the most fun adventure series I’ve ever come across. Riordan’s humor is what really makes it, because there are multitudes of teen adventure books out there, but his wit really sets him apart. I think these books are great for any age. The Titan’s Curse is probably my favorite out of the first four, but they are all super exciting and hilarious and I can’t wait to finish the series!

The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam Trilogy #2), Margaret Atwood
Goodreads stars: four

This is the second in a trilogy by Atwood, that began with Oryx and Crake, one of my all-time favorite dystopian novels. I discovered Atwood in undergrad and have mostly been a fan. The Handmaid’s Tale is a classic but The Tent left me wondering what the hell I just read. The Year of the Flood was a great sequel and I enjoyed learning about the parallel stories that match up with the plot lines in its predecessor. What I love most about Atwood is that she takes problems that we have today, say, medical corporations exploiting the sick, and she exacerbates the issues that they create, and bases a dystopian afterworld on it. She is very creative, and I’m already itching to read the third, even though it has yet to be written.

This is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz
Goodreads stars: four

This book was chosen for the book club that I’m apart of, The Reading Rainbow Society (I know, we’re super cool, right?). The lot of us had some trouble reconciling who was who and who was telling what story and when, but for the most part we were able to come to a concession on what was going on. Diaz sets up this novel as a set of stories about immigrants, mostly based around love and relationships, between lovers, friends and family. There’s a good amount of Spanish slang in it, so if you don’t understand Spanish, you might miss some of the biting cuts, but you will still understand the book overall. Some parts are rather graphic but it was a great read. I would definitely read another book by Diaz.

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline
Goodreads stars: five

I’m going to go ahead and say it… this is my favorite book so far this year. The Goodreads summary starts as such: “Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.” Sounds super cool, right? It’s like the SIMS but there are entire universes you can explore. But when the creator of OASIS dies, he leaves Easter Eggs behind in the simulation for one lucky boy or girl to win his entire legacy. Wade is the one that plans to win it. Throughout the novel, Wade has to find ways to discover these eggs. The creator was an avid fan of the 1980s and Wade must wade (pun definitely intended) through hours upon hours of movies, music videos and other research from the 80s to get leverage against other players. I had so much fun reading this book, even though I’m not a big video game player. I highly recommend it!

Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2), Deborah Harkness
Goodreads stars: three

Only three? Yeah, only three. I love Harkness’ writing style. She knows how to bring history to life. But this novel was just so long-winded. It took me awhile to get through it because I found myself not caring whether or not I picked it back up. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the story, because I did. It just felt like there were a lot of unnecessary detours. I still plan to read the third, whenever she writes it.

A Game of Thrones (Song of Fire and Ice #1), George R. R. Martin
Goodreads stars: five

I’ve heard all the hype. I’ve heard this series is amazing. And it is. It absolutely is. It starts out a little confusing, considering how many characters there are, and how many POVs Martin uses to tell the story. I printed out a character map that I actually kept notes on. But it is such a great story. Martin gets your hopes up, dashes them, and then breaks your heart; he stomps on your heart until you don’t think you can go on… and then you do, because you need to know how it continues. I can’t wait to continue reading the series, even though I know I’m going to keep getting my heart broken.

The Power of Six (Lorien Legacies #2), Pittacus Lore
Goodreads stars: four

Basically everything I said about the first book. This one was a little more action-packed though, and had less inconsistencies. I’m glad that there was less interaction with Sarah, but John’s sometimes near-constant droning on about her gets annoying. Learning more about the other Garde was interesting though. I’ve requested the third book in the trilogy from the library, and I expect that once I get it, I’ll finish it in a couple days like I did with the others, and then move on with my life, never looking back.

A Fixed Neklace

2 Apr

Hello, friends! Good news… the DIY fairy sent me all kinds of motivation this weekend. I not only did both of the projects I told you about, but a third one, too! Unfortunately, the spool is not quite finished yet, and the photo transfers that I did on the wood blocks are not hung.

But I know you all were waiting with bated breath for a post all about my weekend DIY adventures, so I’m going to share my other DIY ish with you! It’s a small one, but it still makes me happy.

There are three things you should know about me: 1. I like necklaces. I might not wear them very often, but I have a lot. 2. Edgar Allan Poe is my favorite poet. And 3. I like things in multiples of three. So now you know I’m weird.

But back to the necklaces. For my most recent birthday (yes, 7 months ago), a friend of mine, Kat, was super stealthy and deduced what my favorite Poe-m (ha, get it?) is. She then had a friend of hers make me a necklace of a miniature book with “The Raven” inscribed on the inside. The pendant, of sorts, also had a little tiny black bird dangling from beneath.

When she gave it to me she apologized and said she thought the chain was going to be longer, and for some reason, I waited until more than 6 months later to do something about it.

So, here’s what I started with:

the "ingredients"

the “ingredients”

- the original necklace
– a longer chain
– some pliers (not pictured)
– super glue (also not pictured, because I’m on top of things)

And here’s what I did:

 

handy dandy pliers

handy dandy pliers

 

It was a pretty simple process. I took the new chain and put it around my neck to figure out how long I wanted it to be. Then, I used the pliers to remove the book from the old chain, as well as the clasp. And then I put it all back together on the new chain! Also, not pictured, I had to glue the pages back into the book. They had somehow come unstuck so I … restuck them together, if you will.

And, voila! The finished (fixed) product:

a fixed necklace

a fixed necklace

Isn’t it pretty? I’m wearing it today with an adorable sleeveless shirt with lacy collars.

Sometime in the coming days, I’m going to hang up my new picture blocks, and Todd is going to add casters to my spool, and I’m going to bring it inside and add some books and funky knick-knacks to it. I can’t wait to show you all!

A goal without a plan is just a wish

29 Mar

Maybe that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry quote will give me the kick in the butt that I need this weekend to get some crafting done!

Because I have some big plans for this weekend. That spool that I posted about? I’m finally going to paint it. Todd is going to craft a middle shelf and add some dowels to make separate areas so it looks more like a bookshelf. I decided to just paint it black and add tons of colorful accessories, like a round cushion and colorful books. I’ve already started compiling some books that I plan to stash there, like the super cool, really old Nancy Drew books with the yellow spine. I found those beauties at a used book store for $0.50 a pop! Steal!

I also plan to try to do some picture transfers onto wood! I found a tutorial that looks pretty easy to follow (not to mention how snarky it is and I love snark) and I’m going to hunt down some pictures tonight. I found these really cool platters that had weirdo Victorian pictures on them of animals dressed in formal attire and I love them with my entire being. If anyone knows where I can find pictures like that to print, LET ME KNOW, because I want that in my house. Forever.

I’m hoping to at least get these two projects done, since we have Monday off from work.

What are you doing this weekend? Any big projects, or Easter plans? I can’t wait to get my craft on!

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