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August 2015

Review: Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom by Syne Mitchell #Weaving #RigidHeddleLoom

23705565Having just purchased my first loom, a Schacht Cricket Rigid Heddle 15”, I was very pleased when I was asked to review Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom by Syne Mitchell. At its most basic, and historical, weaving is simply pulling fibers in an over and under pattern to create cloth.

In 2009, a team led by two Harvard professors working in the Republic of Georgia uncovered the oldest remnant of woven cloth found thus far: a 34,000-year-old piece of linen.

With such a long and amazing history, weaving has captured the imaginations of artists the world over, just as it has captured mine. Of course, at its very basics, fabric can be woven using sticks tied together with bits of grasses or strips of leather. And very early on weaving fibers could be simply reeds from the banks of the Nile. But as time went along, systems for weaving became more sophisticated, leading to the industrial age’s massive weaving machines through to today when artists and craftspeople have a variety of looms to choose from.

The rigid heddle loom is a great ‘beginner loom’ for anyone who wants to learn weaving and produce beautiful, usable fabrics. Less expensive than a floor loom, and quite a bit smaller, it allows you to start with something simple, like a scarf, then work your way up to creating fabrics that can be cut and sewn together to make incredible custom clothing. What you learn when using a rigid heddle loom is also transferable to more sophisticated looms, and is a wonderful way to begin the learning process. Why do I love weaving? Like knitting, weaving relaxes my brain and my body. The soothing, repetitive motions allow me to sink into the peace of the movements, while watching the colours and patterns both engages my brain and allows me to walk away from anything ‘outside’ of the process and simply relax.

Of course, weaving does require information, a how-to base when it comes to what materials you need, how much, and how you want your final product to look. Even though you may have expectations of exactly how your cloth will look, weaving can still surprise you, as the warp and weft come together, creating something that even experienced weavers may not expect. Something new, different, and wonderful.

Syne Mitchell has written a lovely book, starting with information on the history of weaving and continuing on through the different types and brands of rigid heddle looms. Mitchell describes the different ‘pieces-and-parts’ of the loom, and then goes on to describe the different type of weavers. While some are “scientific” weavers, meticulously detailing the how and why of their weaving, others (like myself!) are “intuitive weavers” who approach weaving with a grand sense of play – a “Stick your hand in the yarn bag and see what you come up with next” method that allows a sense of whimsy in their work.

Then, of course, there is the designing. Choosing your yarn, your colour palette, the feel of your work when you complete your project – all of these are important, and fun, parts of the weaving process. Of course, running out of yarn is no fun L when you have an idea of what you want your finished project to look like. Loom waste (the ends that are necessarily not part of the finished product, but are needed to ‘fix’ your warp to the loom), draw-in (the ‘shrinkage’ as you are weaving) and take-up (the over-and-under of weaving) will need to be calculated. An then, you have to decide the “face” of the project – are the warp or weft threads going to stand out as the pattern?

Yep. There. Is. MATH. Sigh. The thing is, Mitchell gives you a format for your calculations, making it quick and easy to find out how much yarn you need for any particular project based on factors like length, width and, yes, the size of the yarn you are using… I blew it on a wonderful hand painted yarn I had designed – I painted on sport instead of worsted yarn and, yep. Ran out of yarn! Duh. Mitchell helps with that, giving you a simple form you can print out and fill out for each project. Stick that into a plastic cover sheet with samples of your yarn and you can go back and recreate any project. From using a warping board to setting up your warp and rigid heddle, there are step-by-step directions to make everything easy. And we all love easy, right? Oh, and I really LOVE the parts that address “fixing your boo-boos!!”

Then there are the patterns! I am a complete color junkie, so the section on Using Painted Skeins Cleverly was quite a thrill. From the most simple ‘flat weaving’ to tapestry-like weaving designs and pickup patterns, it is all her, all laid out logically, and presented with beautiful photos. This is going to be my go-to book for weaving – I just wish I had been offered the book before I used all that gorgeous hand painted alpaca, and then ran out before my project was finished!

I received Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own. If you are a weaver this books covers the basics for beginners, up to information even an experienced weaver will find useful!

This book will be released on November 3, 2015.

 

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Review: Pure Soapmaking by Anne-Marie Faiola #Soapmaking #HobbyBooks

Publisher’s Description

The pure luxury of soaps made with coconut butter, almond oil, aloe vera, oatmeal, and green tea is one of life’s little pleasures. And with the help of author Anne-Marie Faiola, it’s easy to make luscious, all-natural soaps right in your own kitchen. This collection of 32 recipes ranges from simple Castile bars to intricate swirls, embeds, and marbled and layered looks. Begin with a combination of skin-nourishing oils and then add blueberry puree, dandelion-infused water, almond milk, coffee grounds, mango and avocado butters, black tea, or other delicious ingredients — and then scent your soap with pure essential oils. Step-by-step photography guides you through every stage of cold-process soapmaking.

Image result for beautiful handmade soapsReview

My first thought? Pretty!!!! The photos and the soaps themselves are absolutely lovely. My second thought? Yummy!!! These soap recipes sound delicious. Rose and Champagne Peaks. Coconut Milk Sideways Swirl. Dark Ale Loofa Bars. Coffee Swirls Layered Cubes.

A feast for the senses, for sure. What is better than hopping in a hot shower and enjoying lovely scents from soaps you made yourself that leaves your skin feeling silky smooth? But how do you make soap yourself that won’t dry your skin, and how do you choose the right ingredients? As we become more and more knowledgeable about the effect our actions have on the world’s ecology, how do we choose products that are sustainable and don’t destroy the environment, like cutting out palm oil, the harvest of which causes deforestation and loss of habitat for some of the most wonderful, and most endangered, species in the world? Not to mention cutting GMO products out of your life.

Soapmaking doesn’t require a painter’s eye or a sculptor’s hand, but it can still turn out as beautifully as a sculpture and a painting all rolled into one. It is also a ‘science project’ in a way, as you learn cold-process (no outside heat source used) soap making. Anne-Marie Faiola takes you through the science of the process – why and how soap is soap – through the curing process that turns the base formula ((triglicerides (fatty acids) + sodium hydroxide = Soap + Glycerin)) plus various natural oils, herbs spices, etc. into luscious handmade soap. She is also very thorough when it comes to safety instructions – you are, after all, using lye in the process.

From choosing ingredients and molds to cleaning up, Faiola takes you through the steps meticulously to ascertain that you have the most fun, and work in complete safety.

When I was asked to review this book for the publisher, I spent some time looking over other soap making books at the library and I have to say – this one is better. Not only is it absolutely lovely to look at, and the recipes are luscious for your senses, the level of detail is better than the other books I have looked over. I have never made soap before, but I would feel quite comfortable starting out with this book. For an experienced soapmaker, the recipes are new, fresh, and use all natural ingredients. Faiola also spends a lot of time describing different oils and why you would use one over the other, as well as why you would or would not want to make certain mixes. Wine soaps, coffee and tea, lavender, my mouth waters at the idea of enjoying these fragrances in soap I made myself! Faiola even gives you tips on designing color palettes for your soaps based on whether you use green tea or black, chardonnay or merlot!

The book is coming out on February 9, 2016. I am putting it on my wish list to get a paper copy. Some books you simply have to hold, touch . . . and be able to lay out by your mixing bowls, of course.

I received Pure Soapmaking from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.

 

 

 

 

My fir

Review: Pane and Suffering by Cheryl Hollon #HobbyRead #StainedGlass

Pane and SufferingIt hurts, so much, when you realize that you should have spent time with your loved one – and now it is too late. That is what happened to Savannah. She thought she had all the time in the world to catch up with her father, to spend time with him. She was so caught up in her life in Seattle, working as a glass blower, setting up her two-person show, and spending time with her friends that she never really paid attention to what was going on in his life – to the warnings she didn’t catch until it was too late.

And now, it is too late. Her father is gone. And when Savannah comes back to Florida to turn his stained glass business over to Hugh, her father’s long-time friend and coworker, suddenly Hugh is dead as well. Heart attacks? At first it seems so. But when Savannah receives a threat, and things start going sideways, suddenly things aren’t what they seemed. Savannah is in danger, her father’s business is being fought over by two slimy men, a property developer and a rival of her father’s in the glass business, and Savannah has to rely on new friends to help her find the truth.

Her father left her clues. A former Cold War senior cryptographer for the US government, he was all about paranoia and secrets, games and puzzles. And unless Savannah can solve this last puzzle, she may not survive to return to Seattle. And she certainly can’t depend on the cop who the police department sends around – he just pats her on the head and condescends. Pft.

“Pane and Suffering” is very much a “hobby read.” As someone who enjoyed stained glass for many years, I truly enjoyed the story as Savannah spends her time teaching a beginning stained glass course while trying to find out who might have killed her father and Hugh. Ms. Hollon’s knowledge of the craft shone through and took be back to when I was first learning. Her characters are funny and believable, her ‘slimy’ men creeped me out, and young Jacob, her father’s apprentice who has Asperger’s Syndrome, clutched at my heart. Add in a palette of colorful students, a handsome Brit pub owner next door who seems to have an agenda of his own, and a fairly fast moving story and it kept me interested through the whole book. This isn’t some romantic “HEA” book – the ending was very good, as Savannah learns and grows, and there is an hea – a quite interesting, funny one.

If you like hobby reads, cozy mysteries, and interesting female characters, check this one out.

I received Pane and Suffering from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own. And it has a nice cover too!

Shards of Murder (A Webb's Glass Shop Mystery #2)

The next book is Shards of Murder, the second book in the Webb Glass Shop Mystery Series.

A Tiny Bit of Morning Garden Bounty

20150830_062113A bit of what came out of the garden this morning. Back left, Zapotec Tomato, a “ruffled” tomato from Mexico. Back right, Green Zebra, a green tomato with darker green stripes. Next row, left, Pablano Pepper, tiny unnamed sugar tomatoes, a partially dried Pimento Pepper, Marmande tomato from France, Spanish Spice Pepper (from Spain, of course!) Then two tiny pimento style peppers from Germany, unnamed heirloom, and a green tomatillo still in the husk.20150824_201830

Koda decided to pull his Taz slipper over beside his bowl and take a nap after breakfast. . .

And now he is “helping” me work.

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Review: Handcuffed to the Bear by Lauren Esker #ParanormalSuspense

“Those that much covet are with gain so fond,
For what they have not, that which they possess
They scatter and unloose it from their bond,
And so, by hoping more, they have but less;
Or, gaining more, the profit of excess
Is but to surfeit, and such griefs sustain,
That they prove bankrupt in this poor-rich gain.”
― William Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece’

Handcuffed to the Bear: BBW Paranormal Bear Shifter Romance (Shifter Agents Book 1)First, don’t look at the cover and think, “Oh, BDSM.” That isn’t what this is. What it is, is a great story. It is advertised as a “Paranormal Romance” – which I find to be a shame, as it is more than that. If you are looking for a simple story, boy shifter meets girl shifter, immediate mating occurs, stuff happens, tons of sex happens, HEA, well, this isn’t that. Though the ending is sooo good, I have to say – can we all say kickass Casey?

Being cuffed together and dumped out in the forests of the American Northwest, neither Casey nor Jack can switch to their animal forms. The handcuffs are Jack’s – as a federal agent, the handcuffs are designed to hold the strongest shifter. If Jack, a grizzly, shifts, he will lose a hand/paw. And it doesn’t do Casey any real good to shift, even though her wrists/ankles are small enough to get away with it. As a lynx, her paws are huge, designed to allow her to race over deep snows. So they must retain their naked human forms as they flee from a lion pride. A lion pride gone bad, who hunt and slaughter terrified shifters for fun. Staying alive means running, hiding, and when necessary, fighting for their lives. Stuck on a private island off the British Columbia coast, there is no help in sight. Not unless Jack’s backup can first find them, then rescue them before the pride closes in and the slaughter commences.

If this weren’t a shifter story, it would fall under the suspense or romantic suspense genre without a doubt. So I will call it “Paranormal Suspense.” The focus is on Casey and Jack staying alive long enough to be rescued. For Jack, being handcuffed to a tiny lynx shifter civilian is, well, frustrating to say the least. He is an admitted ‘bad team player.’ But Casey isn’t just any civilian. After her best friend Wendy disappeared Casey was determined to find out what happened to her. No one would listen to her, would believe that Wendy didn’t just move away to Colorado without a word. Wendy and Casey are both orphans, Wendy brought up in “the system” and Casey by her grandmother. Wendy wouldn’t just take off. The only clue Casey has is that Wendy was a programmer for Lion’s Share Software, a shifter owned corporation owned by the local lion pride. So, Casey works, hard, for two years to put herself into a position to find out what happened to her friend. From waitress to mail room, up through the ranks to executive assistant to the head of Lion’s Share, Roger Fallon. It was a brutal slog of long days and nights, school and job, total focus and hard work. But she is there. And when asked to the company’s yearly yacht tour around Puget Sound, Casey sees it as an opportunity to watch, to listen, and to find out if her suspicions are correct – that the Fallons had something to do with Wendy’s disappearance.

Agent Jack Ross of the “Shif uh, – Special Crimes Bureau” or SCB, is working undercover. Shifters have been disappearing. Females, small breeds, easily picked off and with no families, or families who can’t afford to mount a search. Young single mothers, single women with little or no family. The SCB knows that the Fallons are involved, but to prove it they need more evidence. Jack’s assignment with the catering company on the Fallon yacht was supposed to be information gathering only. But when he sees tiny Casey’s unconscious body being stuffed into a crate, something must have happened – because he finds himself waking up from a deeply drugged state handcuffed to Casey in the middle of a forest. To survive they are going to have to work together, to help one another, to save one another from a horrid death at the teeth and claws of the pride. Not an easy thing for two self-sufficient people with teamwork and trust issues to handle.

Again, I completely enjoyed this book. I picked it up as a Freebie – and it is still free, so even if you can’t read it right now, pick it up and read it when you get a chance. If you like suspense, you will like this. Casey never wimps out. She gets hurt, battered, shot at, shot, and she just puts her head down and keeps right on going. She is believable, she isn’t an idiot, and she is one gutsy lady. And I really liked that she had to actually kick the big bear in the butt a couple of different times to get his fat backside moving when he would have simply laid down and died. Awesome! They learned to work together, and Casey’s part in the story was never minimized. Yep. Totally awesome.

The next one coming out is “Guard Wolf on Duty” coming out in October. I have it on my “order when available” list. And we will hopefully get to see Casey kicking backside and taking names again…. Cool!

“Community is the Best Legacy”

Marcy will be so missed. Thank you to those who shared her final voyage with those of us who couldn’t attend.

livingly dying

1.3.2On August 23rd, as wildfire smoke cast an apocalyptic haze over the state, more than 200 mourners gathered to celebrate Marcy Westerling’s life, grieve her death, and commit to living her legacy. For those unable to join us, we’ll share elements of that love-filled five-hour gathering here on her blog. In the presence of Marcy’s legendary bicycle and flowers picked from gardens across the state, we eulogized her, viewed slideshows of her life and her death, listened to her words, shared a meal together, and danced, danced, danced.

We talked much of the sisterhood Marcy formed around herself. Our closing speaker was the man we claim as our brother for life, her husband Mike Edera. Marcy was well pleased with the life she’d built. Her greatest regret at her early exit was that she wouldn’t be able to grow old with Mike. “We’re such a good team,” I can hear her saying to and…

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Review: Spiral of Need by Suzanne Wright #ParanormalRomanticSuspense

Spiral of Need (The Mercury Pack, #1)“Nothing like being accused of attempted murder to complete a girl’s Friday evening.” What a great opening line to a new series by a favorite author!

I have been a fan of Suzanne Wright for quite some time – since I first found her “Phoenix Pack” series. The stories are well written, have great backstory and, within a paranormal romance setup, speaks to issues we all face today. Prejudice, hatred, all the nasty habits of humanity. But her works speak of the good as well – love, duty, honor. All the things that, if we would only concentrate on those instead of hating one another, we could become better, stronger, and more worthy of our presence on this beautiful planet.

Now, Ms. Wright has a spin-off that melds the Phoenix Pack with the newly created Mercury Pack. Led by Nick Axton and his mate, Shaya Critchley, a previous member of the Phoenix Pack, this first book is just as strongly written, and just as filled with wonderful characters and situations as the Phoenix series.

We first met Derren, the unwilling Beta of the Mercury Pack, in “Carnal Secrets,” book three of the Phoenix series. Broken and bitter from years imprisoned as a 14-year-old for a crime he didn’t commit, Derren is tough, introverted, and brutal. And the one thing he hates, more than anything else, is a Seer. But when Cain Holt calls, Derren can’t say no. He owes Cain, another shifter juvie prisoner, a favor. And he can’t turn down Cain’s request to rescue, and protect, Alyssa “Ally” Marshall from an intolerable situation in her present pack. Of course, Derren has every reason to hate Seers. Not only was he betrayed by a Seer, whose son committed the rape Derren was accused and sent to prison for. His Alpha and best friend, Nick, and his enforcers Marcus and Roni were also betrayed by Seers. Yep. Having a Seer in your pack can be a wonderful thing – but a bad Seer can be as bad as a bad Alpha – deadly and destructive.

Suzanne continues her wonderful world-building and character building, her story telling strong and well designed as usual. Betrayal, hatred, back-stabbing and murder are all part of the story – and yet the strong bindings of family and pack are intertwined, pulling the story forward and drawing me into Suzanne’s world once again. Suzanne, like Eve Langlais, is a strong writer of paranormal romance without the ridiculousness of so many other paranormals. Her female characters, both the good and the bad, are truly strong characters, whether you love them or hate them – and some of them you really, really hate! My ‘go-to’ authors for nights when I need to read strong women, complex plots and a great world so close to our own.

I received “Spiral of Need” from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own. The only thing I would change is the title – in my opinion it doesn’t really ‘fit’ the book, but otherwise, I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes strong characters and well written storylines. I would call it more “Romantic Paranormal Suspense” than simple “Paranormal Romance.” It is stronger than simple PR.

Publishing TODAY!

Review: Proving Ground by Stanalei Fletcher #RomanticSuspense

Proving GroundCaitlin Malone is one tough cookie. Oh, she doesn’t realize it yet. Not when her first assignment as a Northstar Security agent winds up getting her partner shot. Just a simply tracking job, but Caitlin’s inability to follow orders, and her impulsiveness, nearly gets Sloan dead. Disgraced, she is sent back to Oregon by her boss to talk to her father, a former Northstar partner, and to get her head on straight. But arriving at her father’s house in Oregon she finds he isn’t there. When her old flame and long-time friend, John MacAlistair, walks in the door she meets him with a shotgun, while he greets her with the news that her father is in the hospital. The bullet in his back that was too dangerous to remove when he was shot has moved.

Shocked, Caitlin is forced to accept that she may lose her father. Their strained relationship over the years after she lost her mother at seven years old, and her father lost his wife, was exacerbated by her father’s inability to understand his young daughter resulting in him dropping her in a small town in Oregon and extending his business trips over longer and longer periods until she saw him only rarely. It finally reached the breaking point when they fought, two years ago, over her taking a job at Northstar and moving to DC. Harsh words flowed, and Caitlin walked out the door. Of course, it was all made worse when John’s grandmother, who had been like a mother to Caitlin, dies and John took her to bed for her first time the night of the funeral – and then walked out the door and didn’t return.

Betrayals. First from an icy and distant father who taught her to be a hardass then pitched a fit when she followed in his footsteps, cutting her out of his life. And then her best friend John takes her and then leaves her. What else was she to do?

When a bike rally leads to Caitlin’s attempted murder and a massive forest fire set as a distraction so terrorists could rob a biotech lab for deadly pathogens, Caitlin has to drag her badly injured body across the mountains to reach safety. When John, a forest ranger, hears from his uncle that Caitlin is missing in the fire he has himself dropped into the fire zone to find her. What follows shows that, while Caitlin may not always be centered and focused, she is, as previously stated, one tough cookie.

Terrorists, a fire that has blown up out of control, and a mad rush across rugged territory makes this a fast moving, exciting tale. The characters are well written and believable. Besides the high-tension suspense we also watch as Caitlin learns to tear down the walls around herself and push back at a father who she wants desperately to love, but simply doesn’t know how. I can’t say that I completely agreed with the author’s take on the relationship and how the blame for the relationship issues between her and her father and her and John were handled, but I am sure there are those out there who don’t have such a brittle relationship with the concepts of love and family who will find it quite rewarding. Caitlin is immature in certain ways, but that immaturity is understandable and made me like her more.

I received “Proving Ground” from Reading Alley in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.

Review: Catalina and the Winter Texan by Hebby Roman #RomanceOver40

Catalina And The Winter Texan“Stop this attitude that older people ain’t any good anymore! We’re as good as we ever were – if we ever were any good.” – Dolly Parton

I’m going to tell you a secret. Young people don’t get it, I know, but just because you are older, that doesn’t mean you can’t fall in love. It just means you have a lot of history behind you – and sometimes working out the details can be a real pain in the backside.

Catalina and Manny both have histories. Some good, like their grown children, and Manny’s grandchildren. And they both have a lot of pain in their backgrounds, as well as all the good stuff. Both are widowed, both have been alone for quite some time. But when Manny shows up on Catalina’s doorstep, literally, to rent a space in her run-down RV Park on the beach on Padre Island, they soon find that finding someone again can be sweet. But it can also be harder than either expect.

Catalina and Manny are great characters. Both over forty, “Why did young people think everyone over forty had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel?” both with families, his in Chicago, hers in Houston, they both have their own lives, far from one another. Neither think they should explore the instant attraction. But when Catalina is being harassed on all sides, by quadrupled taxes, storm damage, and a development company who wants to take her little piece of heaven, her dream, away from her, Manny steps in to help.

The story is realistic in ways I completely understand. Trust is difficult. And with both their families extremely important to them, can they find a way to be together? Do they even want to try?

I got a huge kick out of this book. It was lovely not only reading about people who are older than twenty, it was also interesting to watch two Hispanic people as they fight their own cultural biases about family, dreams, and what it means to be together. Very happy making for me.

I received Catalina and the Winter Texan from Reading Alley in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.

About this author

Hebby RomanSince the young age of ten years old, Hebby Roman has known that her true calling is literature. Although her desire was evident, she took a slightly roundabout route of achieving those childhood goals. Raised on the border between Texas and Mexico, Hebby graduated with highest honors from the University of Texas in Austin with a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. She applied her skills as a financial analyst in industries as diverse as television, national airlines, and oil and gas companies. The success Hebby found in this field resulted in her selection for inclusion in the first edition of Who’s Who in American Women.

Thankfully for romance readers, Hebby eventually turned her attention back to writing. Strongly influenced by the culture of her hometown, her novels centered around Latino characters. After she met and married her husband Luis, a native of Puerto Rico, her interest in Latino heritage expanded to include the rich mosaic of Hispanic tradition in the Caribbean. Her books, such as Midnight Promise, have enjoyed great success and Hebby was awarded Romantic Times Magazine “Texas Author” award. When Hebby finds spare time, she enjoys having romantic dinners with her husband, travelling, reading, playing duplicate bridge, and being a baseball mom. She is also a member of the national organization, Romance Writers of America, as well as two local author’s organizations. Arlington, Texas is where Hebby makes her home with Luis and their two sons.

 

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