Book Review: The Edge of the Earth

the-edge-of-the-earth

I don’t usually read historical novels, but I was eager to read The Edge of the Earth by Christina Schwarz because I have always had a fascination for lighthouses, and the cover of this book drew me to it immediately.

The book tells the story of Trudy, a young woman who abandons the life that is expected of her, to marry Oskar, a man who is ambitious and determined to invent something that will bring him fame and fortune. Keen for adventure, Trudy leaves her comfortable life behind to accompany her husband to a remote island off the coast of California where he has taken a job as assistant lighthouse keeper. There, Trudy must learn to adapt to a difficult life on the island, which is home to only one other family, and which feels like living on the edge of the earth. While struggling to maintain a relationship with her increasingly distant husband, her life suddenly becomes more interesting when she discovers something hiding among the rocks, and she sets out to uncover the mystery surrounding the strange presence.

I loved the atmospheric setting of the story, and the depiction of life as it would have been for lighthouse keepers at the end of the nineteenth century. A wonderful story with interesting characters and richly detailed writing that draws you along to a climactic ending.

~  ~  ~

A few years ago Nick and I visited Castle Point Lighthouse on the Wairarapa Coast of New Zealand. Although we weren’t able to go inside, it was a wonderful experience to walk up to it and explore around it. The lighthouse was built in 1913 and was one of the last attended lighthouses to be built in New Zealand. It became fully automated in 1988 and the lighthouse keeper was withdrawn. Although we set off to drive there early in the morning, unfortunately we got there too late to see the light shining.

These are some photos that Nick took of the lighthouse.

Castle Point Lighthouse

Castle Point Lighthouse

Castle Point Lighthouse

Castle Point Lighthouse

We saw many fur seals basking on the rocks surrounding the lighthouse.

fur seals

One day I hope to return and see the light shining.

Books by my Favourite Mixed-Media Artists

 

As a book lover and a crafter, I have quite a large collection of art and craft books on my bookshelves. I love browsing through them. Each one provides me with inspiration for my own craft projects, as well as teaching me new techniques. These are a few books by my favourite mixed-media artists.

Mixed-Media Girls with Suzi Blu: Drawing, Painting, and Fanciful Adornments From Start to Finish

Mixed-Media Girls

www.suzibluart.com

Suzi Blu was the first mixed-media artist I ever discovered. I fell in love with her charming mixed-media girls and her gypsy boho style of art. When her book came out I immediately bought it, keen to learn her techniques and to see more of her lovely creations. It was her book that provided inspiration for my first foray into the world of mixed-media art. She also introduced me to the wonderful world of art journaling. I took one of her art journaling courses and discovered a whole new way of expressing myself creatively. She has many videos on YouTube and offers lots of courses on her website.

Mixed-Media Girls with Suzi Blu includes instructions for drawing and shading a pretty face and folk art body, lots of step by step projects, and a gallery of artwork by her students. It also comes with a bonus DVD on which Suzi guides you through drawing, painting, and finishing one of her mixed-media girls, presented in her fun, quirky style.

Creative Girl: Mixed Media Techniques for an Artful Life by Danielle Donaldson

Creative Girl

danielledonaldson.com

This is the book that began my love of watercolour painting. Danielle Donaldson paints lovely whimsical watercolour illustrations and her distinctive style of art includes a range of mixed-media elements. Her book teaches basic watercolour techniques and fun ways to incorporate mixed-media elements such as stitching, collage, and layering, into your projects to tell visual stories. At the back of the book there is a small gallery of some of Danielle’s work.

Collage Couture: Techniques for Creating Fashionable Art by Julie Nutting

Collage Couture

julienuttingdesigns.blogspot.com

As a young child I loved playing with paper dolls and was so excited whenever I received a new one for my birthday or Christmas. I would spend hours cutting out the clothes, folding the paper tabs over the cardboard dolls, and making up stories for them to act out. I still have all of the paper dolls from my childhood and take them out every now and then when I am feeling nostalgic! Naturally I was thrilled to discover Julie Nutting’s two books, Collage Couture: Techniques  for Creating Fashionable Art, and Collage Couture Studio Paper Dolls. It was a chance for me to rediscover those magical childhood memories, and to combine two of my favourite things, paper dolls and pretty scrapbook papers.

Collage Couture: Techniques for Creating Fashionable Art teaches you how to sketch fashion figures and create stylish dresses  from patterned papers, and it has step-by-step projects for creating mixed-media backgrounds for the dolls. Great fun!

Collage Couture Studio Paper Dolls: Design, Collage, Cut & Play by Julie Nutting

Collage Couture Studio Paper Dolls

Collage Couture Studio Paper Dolls has five paper dolls from around the world, each with their own little story and a page of clothes in their own style, which can be photocopied or scanned and cut out.  There is also a template for designing your own paper doll, and step-by-step projects for building mixed-media backgrounds and settings for the dolls.

Taking Flight: Inspiration & Techniques to give your Creative Spirit Wings
by Kelly Rae Roberts

Taking Flight: Inspiration & Techniques to Give Your Creative Spirit Wings

www.kellyraeroberts.com

It was through this book that I first discovered Kelly Rae Roberts. In Taking Flight, Kelly Rae shares her personal journey towards becoming a full-time artist and inspires you to rediscover your dreams and live a more creative life. She shows you through step-by-step projects how to create mixed-media backgrounds, using collage and other techniques, and how to draw and paint faces. As well as teaching through her own recognizable style, the book also includes techniques from contributing artists, which Kelly Rae incorporates into her projects. At the end of each chapter is an interview with the contributing artist.

Layered, Tattered & Stitched: A Fabric Art Workshop by Ruth Rae

Layered, Tattered & Stitched: A Fabric Art Workshop

ruthrae.blogspot.com

As well as having a love of scrapbook papers and embellishments, I also adore fabrics, lace, beads and buttons. This book indulges my love of all those things. Layered, tattered & Stitched: A Fabric Art Workshop by Ruth Rae is full of inspiring small projects with step-by-step instructions for making fabric cards, books, journals and albums, art dolls, wall art, and much, much more. The book explores a range of sewing techniques combined with collage, photo transfers, dyeing and staining fabric, using wire, and more. At the back of the book there are pattern templates for some of the projects. A lovely book for anyone interested in fabric art.

Book Review: 101 Easy Homemade Products For Your Skin, Health & Home

I have always tried to live a healthy lifestyle, conscious of what I put both into and onto my body, and the effect that household products have on us and on the environment. For many years I have used cleaning products that have no nasty chemicals, and body care products that are natural and organic.

Recently I bought a book called 101 Easy Homemade Products For Your Skin, Health & Home by Jan Berry. I have followed Jan’s blog The Nerdy Farm Wife for a while now and was excited when I saw that she had written a book. It is full of projects for making skin and hair care products, household cleaners, health remedies, and pet care products using natural ingredients and common herbs, flowers and oils. The book is perfect for the beginner with easy-to-follow directions and lots of lovely pictures.

101 Homemade Products

So far I have made three projects from the book. The first one I tried was a lip balm. Jan teaches you how to make a basic lip balm, then gives lots of ideas on how to customise it using different herbs and essential oils. The first one I made I used avocado oil infused with lemon balm from my garden, and the next one I used olive oil infused with lavender flowers. It was so easy to make, I will never buy lip balm again!

lavender lip balm

Next I made the calendula lotion, which had a few extra steps and ingredients, but it turned out really nice. I didn’t have any calendulas flowering in my garden, so I bought a packet of dried calendula flowers from a health shop and infused them in organic avocado oil. I’ve planted a load of seeds in my garden so that I will have some on hand for using in creams and lotions when I need them. Now that I know how to make a lotion, I can’t wait to try out some different recipes. There are recipes in the book for face cleansers, face creams, eye creams, body butters, soaps, and much, much more.

Calendula Lotion

I made the orange pine floor cleaner, using pine needles collected on our walks, and oranges from our garden. It cleans the floors well and leaves a lovely refreshing scent.

orange and pine floor cleaner

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in making their own herbal products and in living a natural, chemical-free lifestyle.

A New Favourite Author

Don’t you love it when you fall in love with a book by an author you haven’t read before, and then find they have written several other books, and you can’t wait to read them?

I discovered Susan Branch while browsing on the Internet for a calendar for 2016. Her Heart of the Home calendars feature recipes, quotes and her charming watercolour illustrations. Then I discovered that she had written a book called A Fine Romance: Falling in love with the English Countryside. It immediately caught my attention as I have always dreamed of travelling to England and exploring the picturesque country villages. I bought the book and it is just amazing, not only to read, but there is so much to look at, too!

The book is Susan’s account of her and her husband’s trip to England to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. Based on the diaries that Susan kept of the trip, the book is handwritten and tells the story of their voyage from America to England on an ocean liner, and then of the two months they spent exploring the English countryside, visiting historic homes such as Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm, and the tea rooms, pubs and antique stores they discovered along the way. The beautiful hardcover book with a red ribbon bookmark is full of photographs, recipes, and Susan’s delightful watercolour illustrations. Her warm, friendly prose makes you feel as though you are right there with them on their journey.

Susan has also written two prequels to A Fine Romance. Memoirs of her life, The Fairy Tale Girl and Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreamsare also handwritten, with lots of photographs and watercolour pictures. These beautiful hardcover books recently arrived in my mailbox and are eagerly awaiting to be read and devoured!

Susan is an amazing watercolour artist. As well as her memoirs and calendars, she has a Heart of the Home series of books that celebrate cooking, gardening, homemaking and entertaining, and a range of products that feature her watercolour illustrations including greeting cards, journals and recipe keepers.

You can learn more about Susan, her books, and her life on the beautiful Isle of Martha’s Vineyard at her website www.susanbranch.com.

Favourite Books of June

My favourite books this month include two non-fiction books and another young adult apocalypse novel.

Laura Ingalls Wilder
Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography
Edited by Pamela Smith Hill

As a child I loved watching the TV series, Little House on the Prairie, and I enjoyed reading the Little House series of books. This new book, edited by Pamela Smith Hill, includes Laura Ingalls Wilder’s never-before-published autobiography, Pioneer Girl, which she completed in 1930 at the age of 63. Her story, with much help from her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, was later rewritten as the Little House series of books for children.

This is a beautiful, large format, hardcover book that contains not only the manuscript for Pioneer Girl, but lots of information and insights into Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life. It also includes many maps, photographs and records from the period, and is a book that I’m sure all Laura Ingalls Wilder fans will love.

The Pioneer Girl Project blog, which I began following in the months leading up to the publication of the book, has lots of extra photographs, interviews and interesting information about Laura Ingalls Wilder, her family and friends, and the communities in which they lived.

The Secret Language of Flowers by Samantha Gray

I know there are many books on the language of flowers, but this one is a particularly lovely one with beautiful illustrations. It discusses the hidden meanings of over 50 flowers and includes a lot of interesting flower folklore and myth. A small, hardcover book, it is perfect for browsing through on a rainy day, or reading while sitting in the garden, drinking tea, surrounded by flowers.

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

What would you do if you knew the world was going to end in two months? An asteroid is hurtling towards Earth and there is a sixty-six percent chance that it will collide with the planet and destroy life as we know it. This is the story of four teenagers and the choices they make with the knowledge that they may have only two months left to live. The chapters alternate between the characters – the athlete, the outcast, the slacker, and the overachiever – who each have very different personalities, backgrounds, dreams and ambitions. Through the impending disaster, their lives intertwine in ways they could never have imagined. This is one of those books that I couldn’t put down, anxious to see how it would end and whether or not our planet would survive.

Tommy Wallach is a singer-songwriter as well as an author, and he has written and recorded an album to go along with the book. It is available on iTunes, and you can listen to one of the songs on his website tommywallach.com.

Favourite Books of May

Favourite Books of May

Three books I have enjoyed reading this month include a magical story from one of my favourite authors, a companion book to another of my favourite books, and a post-apocalyptic novel.

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

Nightbird

Alice Hoffman is one of my favourite authors and I have been gradually working my way through her extensive backlist. I love the magical realism genre, which Alice Hoffman writes so well for both adults and children. Nightbird is her latest novel for middle grade readers. I love the cover!

Twelve-year-old Twig lives in a small town, with a mysterious brother, and a mother who bakes irresistible apple pies. Twig’s family are reclusive, distancing themselves from the rest of the town to protect a family secret. Twig dreams of one day having a friend and when a new family moves in next door, her dream becomes reality as she befriends Julia and her sister, Agate. When rumours abound throughout the town of a winged beast, accused of theft and vandalism, Twig and her new friends set out to solve the mystery surrounding the myth before the townsfolk hunt the beast down. But first they need to break the witch’s curse that keeps Twig’s brother a prisoner in his own home.

Nightbird is a story filled with magic, mystery, a touch of romance, and those delicious pink apple pies. There is even a recipe at the end of the book so you can make your own. I have tried it and it is very good!

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy

One of my favourite books I read last year was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, which is an endearing and entertaining story about a  man who recieves a letter from Queenie Hennessy, an old friend whom he hasn’t seen for many years, explaining that she is dying of cancer. On a whim, he sets out on a pilgrimage to walk the length of England to reach her before she dies.

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy is told from Queenie’s point of view. As she lies in the hospice, waiting for Harold Fry to arrive, she decides to write a second letter revealing her true feelings for him and telling the truth about the events that led up to her sudden departure from his life all those years ago. As Queenie tries to hold on until Harold arrives, she forms some unlikely friendships as the staff and patients in the hospice follow Harold’s progress through postcards he sends along the way.

In this book we learn a lot more about Harold’s past, and the mystery surrounding his son. As Rachel Joyce says, this is not a sequel to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, nor a prequel, but a companion.

It is a story of unfulfilled love, atoning for one’s past, and making peace with the present, and although it is set in a hospice, it is not at all depressing.

The Sky so Heavy by Claire Zorn

The Sky so Heavy

The Sky so Heavy is a post-apocalyptic novel set in Australia. After nuclear missiles are detonated on the other side of the world, entire cities are wiped out and a nuclear winter descends upon the earth. With their father missing, and their mother in the city, seventeen-year-old Fin and his younger brother Max are left at home to fend for themselves. With no power, bitterly cold temperatures, and dwindling food supplies, their lives become a daily struggle to survive. When their neighbours start getting sick from radiation poisoning and society collapses around them, with no relief in sight, they decide to leave their home in the suburbs and head for the city in search of their mother. Along with two friends, they make the perilous journey, unaware of what they will find when they get there.

I found this story very plausible, thought-provoking, and unnerving. It made me wonder how I would survive after a nuclear war, or if I would even want to when every day becomes a battle for survival. The story is a real page-turner, but it is not only a story of survival, but a story about the unbreakable bonds of family, and the importance of friendship.

Book Review: An Altered Existence

An Altered Existence

There is something about vintage photos that sparks the imagination, drawing you into a bygone era, imagining what life was like for the subjects, who often looked solemn, dressed in all their finery, posing for the camera. I love to use old family photographs in my heritage scrapbooking and mixed-media art, telling the stories of my ancestors through pictures and journaling.

In An Altered Existence: Fictitious Stories About Faces from the Past, Melody M. Nunez has taken vintage photos, also known as cabinet cards, which she collected from flea markets and antique stores, and created fictional short stories about the people in them.

Each chapter begins with an “altered” photograph, embellished with stitching, buttons, lace, an old key, followed by a story woven around the subject of the photo. The stories range from historical to contemporary fiction and cover a wide range of subjects from family, relationships, and the language of flowers, to ghosts, hoarding, and a man obsessed with time. I love Melody’s style of writing. It is easy to read, with each story an imaginative glimpse into a life that could have been.

Melody is an artist and a writer. Visit her website at www.melodynunez.com to see illustrations from the book, and to view more of her artwork.

 

In This Garden

As someone who loves both gardening and mixed-media art, I was thrilled to come across the book In This Garden by Angela Cartwright and Sarah Fishburn. The book is a collaboration by 12 mixed-media artists on the theme of gardens. They were each given 4 panels to form a miniature garden, to decorate in any style they chose. The result was a wide variety of wonderfully imaginative gardens, including a New Orleans Junkyard garden, a community garden, Marie Antoinette’s garden, and The Prairie Rose & Sagebrush Garden. There are notes from each contributor on the techniques they used, and also favourite memories and observations about their own gardens. I love this book. I keep picking it up and seeing different things in it each time I look.

In This Garden

Angela Cartwright is one of my favourite mixed-media artists. When I looked up her website, I was interested to learn that before getting into art and photography, she had an acting career. As a child, she played Brigitta in the movie The Sound of Music.

This book has inspired me to make a mini album of my own dream garden to include pictures of my favourite things – foxgloves, birdbaths, scarecrows, herbs, butterflies, dragonflies, birds, sunflowers…

I’ve made the cover so far.

The secret garden

Favourite Christmas Books

Leading up to the holiday season, I love to read books with a Christmas theme. I adore everything about Christmas—the decorations, the food, the music, and the stories, and a good Christmas book is guaranteed to put me in a festive frame of mind.

There are a multitude of wonderful Christmas books out there, but these are a few of my favourites. They include novels, short stories, a children’s book, and a book on recreating a vintage Christmas.

Paper Angels by Jimmy Wayne

Paper Angels is a story about the true spirit of Christmas. After fifteen-year-old Thomas, his mother, and his younger sister, Sara, escape from Thomas’s abusive father, they struggle to survive with no home and no money. Too proud to ask for help, Thomas’s mother must work all the hours she can just to put food on the table. When Christmas comes and she can’t afford to buy Thomas and Sara any presents, she swallows her pride and signs up for the Salvation Army Angel Tree Program.

When Kevin Morrell, a husband and father with his own problems, comes across a big tree in a shopping mall, covered in paper angels, each bearing the name of a child in need, he has no idea that the name he picks from the tree will have far-reaching effects on his own life and that of a fifteen-year-old boy he has never met.

Written by Jimmy Wayne, an American country music singer and songwriter, Paper Angels is a story that tugs at the heartstrings and encourages you to think of those less fortunate during the holiday season.

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg

A Redbird Christmas, like all of Fannie Flagg’s books, contains a colourful cast of characters. When Oswald T. Campbell, aged fifty-two, is given only months to live, he decides to move to a town with a warmer climate; somewhere peaceful to end his days. Ending up in the small Alabama town of Lost River, he doesn’t count on getting caught up in the the lives of the residents, including a young, crippled girl called Patsy, who lives in a trailer in the woods, and a wounded red cardinal called Jack, who lives at the local village store and wins the hearts of everyone he meets. A Redbird Christmas is a sweet story, just the right length for a holiday read, that leaves you believing in the miracle of Christmas.

The Christmas Scrapbook by Philip Gulley

Philip Gulley is a quaker minister, who writes the Harmony series of books about the small quaker community of Harmony, Indiana. Although the books revolve around the lives of a central group of characters, each book can be read as a stand-alone story. In The Christmas Scrapbook, Pastor Sam Gardner secretly attends weekly scrapbook classes to make his wife a scrapbook for Christmas. However, his weekly absences begin to arouse Barbara’s suspicions and rumours soon spread through the community as Sam struggles to complete the scrapbook. This is a charming little book, a quick read, and as an extra bonus, it includes a sheet of Christmas stickers.

This Year it will be Different by Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy has always been a favourite author of mine. With richly woven themes of family, friendship and love, her stories are always heartwarming and leave you feeling satisfied. This Year it will be Different is a collection of fourteen Christmas-themed stories set in Australia, England, and Maeve’s homeland of Ireland. They explore the relationships between family and friends, and the stresses, but also the joys, that the holiday season brings.

Sadly, Maeve passed away earlier this year. Beloved by her millions of fans, she left behind a legacy of 16 novels and several short story collections. This holiday season I will be re-reading this delightful Christmas treasury in honour of Maeve and the wonderful story-teller that she was.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

The Velveteen Rabbit is a classic children’s story by Margery Williams, which was first published in 1922. The edition that I have was republished in 1997, a lovely hard-covered book that tells the story of a stuffed toy rabbit given to a little boy at Christmas, and how love can make a toy become real. The illustrations by Don Daily are as magical as the story.

Have Yourself A Very Vintage Christmas by Susan Waggoner

Have Yourself A Very Vintage Christmas is a lovely book that explores Christmas traditions, decorating and crafts from the 1920’s to the 1960’s. It is full of vintage decorating tips, and step-by-step instructions for craft projects. There is also a section with recipes for homemade candy, and at the back of the book there is an art portfolio that includes pages of vintage images to use on greeting cards or papercraft projects. This is a great book for anyone who loves Christmas, vintage, and crafts.

Gypsy Rose

Although I have been scrapbooking for several years, I have only recently fallen in love with mixed-media art. One of my favourite mixed-media artists is Suzi Blu. Suzi teaches online workshops, has tutorials on You Tube, and recently published her first book, Mixed-Media Girls with Suzi Blu. Before I discovered Suzi, I never believed I could draw and I had no confidence to pick up a paintbrush. She has taught me how to let go, have fun and create, that it doesn’t have to be realistic, it is okay to be flawed, and you will get better the more you practice.

The book takes you through the steps of drawing and shading a face with coloured pencils and paint, then drawing a folk art body and incorporating it into a mixed-media layered and collaged background using paint, papers, stamps, textured paste, fabric, fibres, dimensional embellishments and beeswax. The book is full of Suzi’s whimsical creations, with detailed instructions for each project. At the back is a gallery of her students’ work, and the book is accompanied by a DVD of Suzi demonstrating her techniques in her unique and fun style.

After spending some time practicing drawing faces, I launched into a mixed-media painting, inspired by The Gypsy Girl project in Suzi’s book.

Okay, so my dog looks more like a rat, but that’s okay. Like I said, it’s not supposed to be realistic. He’s part of Gypsy Rose’s world, she loves him, and that’s all that matters.

Coincidentally, the same weekend that I finished my painting, the gypsy fair came to town, so while I was in a gypsy frame of mind, I went along and absorbed the atmosphere. While I wandered around looking at the housetrucks and the wonderful crafts, I got to thinking, maybe I could become Gypsy Rose from my painting. I wonder if I could talk Nick into selling up, buying a housetruck, throwing caution to the wind and seeing where life takes us. Nick can turn his hand to anything. He could make things and fix things. I could write and make crafts. We could go apple picking in the summer. But then I thought, what would we do with all our books? And how would our beloved Cody adapt to life in a housetruck, at 14 years old with her stiff joints and kidney problems? And so I returned home with my colourful wind twisters and lovely handmade soaps and decided that maybe I will just continue dreaming for now, at least until the gypsy fair returns next year and the romantic notion of a gypsy life is rekindled once again.

Between the Lines

As an avid Jodi Picoult fan, I was keen to read Between the Lines, which Jodi co-authored with her daughter, Samantha van Leer. Although it is a departure from Jodi’s usual novels, I was not disappointed. Between the Lines is a classic fairy tale with a modern twist. When Samantha approached Jodi with an idea for a young adult novel, Jodi knew immediately that the idea was a great one. “What if the characters in a book had lives of their own after the cover was closed? And what if one of those characters desperately wanted to get out of his book?”

In the story, Oliver, the handsome prince, lives his life over and over again, each time the fairy tale is read. But once the covers are closed, he secretly yearns to escape the story and live in the real world. When fifteen-year-old Delilah discovers she can communicate with the characters in the book, she plots to help Oliver escape his repetitive life.

Together, Samantha and Jodi have created a delightful imaginary world that co-exists alongside the modern world. With many twists and turns, the story is entertaining, charming, and highly imaginative. The book has beautiful colour illustrations at the beginning of each fairy tale chapter, as well as amazing silhouette drawings scattered throughout the chapters that alternate between Oliver and Delilah.

I hope Samantha continues to write. She has a real talent and I look forward to reading more of her stories.

Vintage Scrapbooks & The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt

When I was young, I had a scrapbook, as many of us did, in which I used to paste pictures from magazines and calendars, stickers, birthday and Christmas cards, shiny chocolate wrappers, pieces of ribbon, bubble gum cards, and leaves and flowers from the garden. I once spent months buying bubble gum just to collect the Abba cards inside—even though I didn’t like bubble gum! I’m not sure what happened to that scrapbook. I never used to be sentimental about keeping things from my childhood. Now I wish that I had been. I would love to be able to look back on the things that meant something to me back then, to take a retro trip back to my seventies childhood.

These days, scrapbooking has taken on a whole new life and is vastly different now to what it was back then. Billions are spent worldwide every year on embellishments, beautiful papers, and scrapbooking tools and products. But there was something special about those cheap scrapbooks we had as children, filled with bits and pieces that cost nothing (apart from the bubble gum cards), a time when we were happy with the simple things in life.

I always feel sad when I see a vintage scrapbook for sale on trademe or eBay—sad that someone’s treasured collection of memorabilia has been lost to the family. One day a grandchild or great-grandchild may love to have had a glimpse into their ancestor’s past.

As an avid scrapbooker, I was excited to come across Caroline Preston’s novel, The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt. It is a novel told through pictures in the form of a vintage scrapbook. It tells the story of Frankie Pratt, from her high school graduation in 1920, through her journey from Greenwich Village to New York and Paris in pursuit of her dream to become a writer.

The author, Caroline Preston, has collected antique scrapbooks since she was in high school. She has drawn from her vast collection of vintage ephemera to describe Frankie’s journey through the Bohemian culture of the 1920’s using vintage postcards, fashion cut-outs, tickets, newspaper cuttings, fabric swatches and much more. The book provides a delightful glimpse into life as it was for a young woman in the 1920’s, and contains so much memorabilia on each page that you just want to keep going back to it time and again.

Handmade Decorative Books

I am constantly adding to my collection of craft books. There are so many great ones out there. Not only are they lovely to look at, but each one provides new inspiration for things to make and create. If only there was more time to try everything! I recently bought Handmade Decorative Books by Sue Roddis. It is a wonderful book with guides and techniques for making your own albums and embellishing them with collage, stamping, and stitching.

I decided to have a go at making the heart album, shown on the cover. Although there is a template at the back of the book, I chose to make my own as I wanted to make the pages larger. I had great fun embellishing the pages with some of my favourite photos, and beautiful papers from my stash. A book of nature and garden quotes from Sarabooks Hot Off The Press Inc. provided some lovely additions to the pages.

This photograph provided me with an opportunity to use one of my favourite quotes. Without change, there would be no butterflies – anon.

Memoirs of an imaginary friend

Budo is Max’s imaginary friend. Max needs Budo because he doesn’t have any other friends. Budo needs Max, because if Max didn’t imagine him, Budo wouldn’t exist. When Max is in danger, Budo must help him, but he is unable to touch the real world and must enlist the help of other imaginary friends.

Although I never had an imaginary friend when I was young, reading about Budo made me wish that I had. It was a compelling read that takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions, and though I didn’t want the story to end, I couldn’t wait to find out what happened to Budo and the other imaginary friends once they were no longer imagined. I really enjoyed this book. A fantastic read!

The Language of Flowers

Now and again I read a book I enjoy so much that I want to share it with everyone. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is one of those books. It had me hooked right from the title. I love anything to do with plants—flowers, herbs, vegetables—and have always enjoyed reading about the meanings of flowers and their medicinal and magical properties.

The Language of Flowers tells the story of Victoria Jones who spent an unhappy childhood growing up in foster homes until she was sent to live with a woman who truly cared for her and taught her the language of flowers.  Peppermint Blossom – warmth of feeling, Holly – foresight,  Heliotrope – devoted affection, Lavender – mistrust. The chapters alternate between Victoria’s childhood and as a young woman after she has left the foster care system, damaged and distrusting of everyone around her. Finding solace in her beloved flowers, she gains a job in a florist shop, but when she meets a mysterious young man at the flower market and they begin to communicate through the language of flowers, Victoria is forced to confront a secret from her past, a secret that may ultimately destroy everything she has come to love.

I love Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s writing style, her imagery of the flowers that dominate Victoria’s life, the seamless way she writes about the past effecting the future. The Language of Flowers is a beautiful novel of secrets, love, trust and family. This is Vanessa’s first novel. I can’t wait to read her next!

The Language of Flowers