Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Little Syllables

I recently realized that most of my blog post ideas these days are book recommendations and reviews, so I decided to start a separate blog dedicated entirely to literature. While I get this new blog up and running, Hot Commodity might be a little neglected. But I hope you'll hop over and check out my new literary blog Little Syllables and follow along.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Easy & Versatile DIY Holiday Decor

My family has a lot of Halloween decorations. We also have a lot of Christmas decorations. But we don't have any Thanksgiving decorations. I have always loved Thanksgiving, mainly because my birthday is generally the same week as the holiday, but also because I love food and family.

So I felt it was high time that I remedied this "no Thanksgiving decor" problem. I found my inspiration via Pinterest (pin found here) from a pin without a link or tutorial. Obviously, this was not a complex project and I knew I could figure it out myself. I believe the original version is done with vinyl lettering, but I used paint. Here is my version of this project:

To create these reversible blocks, I purchased two bags of wood pieces from Hobby Lobby. If you have the tools handy, you could make this using a 2 x 4 cut to various lengths for much less than I paid. I chose wooden squares in three different sizes for my letters. I measured the blocks and laid out my text in Illustrator first, so that I could choose my fonts and see how it would look to scale.

I painted all my blocks using craft paint in a variety of colors. This required several coats of paint, especially on the lighter colors. This was the most time-consuming part of the project -- waiting for the paint to dry between coats.

For the larger letters, I created a stencil. I printed out each letter, then cut them out. I laid the paper that I cut the letter from on top of the block, then used a sponge paint brush to dab the paint on unevenly.

For the longer block with smaller letters ("Give" and "Bells"), I laid the printed word on top of the block and, using a ball-point pen, traced around the letters, indenting into the wood below. Once the outline is indented on the wood, I used a small paint brush to fill in the letters.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What I Read This Month (& Beyond)

Though I have been slacking on blog posts, I have not been slacking on my reading. Here are a handful of reviews of the books I have read over the last six weeks:

Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman

Since I enjoyed reading Hoffman's first novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, this was a natural addition to my reading list. I also enjoyed this novel. Perhaps because the protagonist in this one is an adult, this seems like more of a grown-up book. I love some of the themes this book explores, including dealing with aging parents, learning to let go, and recovering from tragedy. This is a great story of family, loss, self-discovery, and love.

Would I recommend it? Yes!

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

It could be that I did not know exactly what I was getting myself into, but I found The Road to be a difficult read. I generally like dystopian settings, but The Road feels so terribly hopeless throughout. Plus, the two main characters are a small boy and his father, struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. I think the mother in me found this too much to swallow. The book is well-written and heart-wrenching. I finished it because I had to know how it would end, but I did not enjoy it.

Would I recommend it? Hesitantly.

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Unseen Guest by MaryRose Wood

This is the third installment in The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series and it was a lot of fun to read. These are children's books, but they are intelligently written. The premise is ridiculous and the plot is even more ridiculous, which makes these books a pleasure to read. For this series, you really do need to start at the beginning of the series to understand what is going on.

Would I recommend it? Yes, to those who like reading juvenile fiction.

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley

The second children's book on the list, this is also part of a series. The "Flavia de Luce Mysteries" are fun, clean mystery novels with a strong female protagonist. Flavia is a smart and capable girl who always seems to be a step ahead of the adults around her. These would be great reads for older girls and teens, as well as adults like me who love well-written juvenile fiction.

Would I recommend it? Yes!

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

This is a book that I first heard of from The Modern Mrs. Darcy. This is a wonderful blog that is full of reading recommendations. Rules of Civility is a smart and surprising read about a group of friends in New York, circa 1938. It is a great read about social hierarchy, morality, redemption, but most of all, self-discovery.

Would I recommend it? Yes!

The Darkening Field by William Ryan

Another installment in a series, this is a mystery/thriller set in 1930's Russia. The protagonist is a detective, forced to walk a fine line between solving a mystery, protecting political leaders, and protecting himself. Some of the political subplot was over my head (as I'm not terribly familiar with the political climate of 1930's Russia), but it is not essential to understanding or enjoying the story. Like most adult detective novels, these do contain a fair amount of violence.

Would I recommend it? Probably.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Another recommendation from The Modern Mrs. Darcy, this was a surprising and heart-warming story. The book follows a small-town bookseller as he works through the grief of his wife's sudden death and the events that follow. This is a wonderful book about love and loss, marriage, parenthood, and friendship.

Would I recommend it? Yes!

Have you read anything interesting lately? I'm always looking for recommendations to add to my ever-growing "to read" list, so leave a comment. Come and be my friend on Goodreads by clicking here.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Emperor's New Clothes Craft

As mentioned in my last post, I am in charge of "Fairy Tale Friday" in my son's first grade class today. For this activity, I was told to choose a fairy tale to read to the class, then come up with a craft project for the kids to do to help them re-tell the story. Here is what I came up with:

I found a basic boy paper doll template online through a Google search. I printed him out the size I wanted, placed a sheet of tracing paper on top, and traced around where his shirt and pants would go. I scanned the tracing and printed many copies (enough for each kid in the class to have 2) on card stock. After cutting out all the paper clothes, I gave my fingers a rest for a while.

Then, I started cutting clothing shapes out of fabric scraps. I used every type and print of fabric I had on hand so that the kids would have plenty of variety. I traced shirts and pants, then cut them in half so the kids can mix-and-match their patterns. Then, my prep work was done!

For the actual craft, the kids will be able to choose their fabrics to create outfits for the Emperor. This is why I used card stock clothing as well, so the Emperor can have a change of clothes. The kids will glue the fabric onto the card stock shapes so that as they re-tell the story, they can change the Emperor's clothes (or leave them off as the story requires).

You could also use clear plastic to create an "invisible" outfit, but I didn't have any on hand, so I skipped that part.

{Linked on Happy and Blessed Home, Truly Lovely Blog, Sincerely Paula, The Jenny Evolution, Love Bakes Good Cakes, One Project Closer}

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What I'm Working on Wednesday

It seems I've taken a bit of a blogging break -- quite unintentionally. I have been keeping quite busy, but not finishing anything worth blogging about! Today, I have several projects in progress:


I'm currently working on some custom embroidery for a Christmas stocking order for my shop. I do all my embroidery by hand, so it is time consuming, but I love the way it turns out.

Fairy Tale Craft

I am in charge of this week's Fairy Tale Friday in my son's first grade class. I'm doing The Emperor's New Clothes and I'm cutting all the pieces they'll need to create some new outfits for the Emperor. I'm planning a more detailed post about this in the near future.

Days for Girls

In preparation for my upcoming Days for Girls Sewing Day, I am cutting as many pieces as I can. If you're interested in finding out more about my Sewing Day, check out this post. If you want to know more about Days for Girls, check out their website.


And of course, I'm always reading whenever I find (or make) a spare moment. I just finished up The Darkening Field by William Ryan. This week's selection is Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. Another book review post will be coming next week!

What are you working on this week?