Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Big-A** Book of Crafts, by Mark Montano

Description:  The Big-A** Book of Crafts is packed with ideas for sprucing up your living space; concocting fabulous, all-natural body products; designing your own unique stationery; and creating countless other crafts that will convince your friends and loved ones that you're the secret love child of Martha Stewart (only much, much cooler).

Forget crocheted doilies and itchy knit sweaters -- TLC's While You Were Out top designer Mark Montano has created stylish and imaginative projects that range from a Warhol-esque Ultrasuede iPod case to photo-adorned boxer shorts to African mask patio chairs to wooden night-light boxes. Divided into sections that include Outdoorsy (ideas to enhance your backyard), Dishing It Out (decorating plates using different techniques), You've Been Framed (innovative picture framing ideas), and Can I Have a Light? (creating and decorating lamps, lanterns, and chandeliers), it's as entertaining to read as it is endlessly inspiring. With more than one hundred and fifty inventive and fun projects, The Big-A** Book of Crafts is the perfect activity book for readers of every mood, budget, and skill level.

My Thoughts:  I love to upcycle...that means take unloved things and make them useful to be loved again.  This book is full of ideas to upcycle things into usable home decor and gifts!  My husband and I poured over this book and decided we need a very large house to accommodate every idea we liked in, The Big-A** Book of Crafts.

There are great templates that you can use, humor and some projects...are just strange.  I cannot say that I am a fan of every project, but overall, there are far more projects in this book, that I like, than I will be able to tackle in one full year!  Simply put, if you craft...get this book.

See an excerpt of this book, click here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Presentations: A Passion For Gift Wrapping, by Carolyne Roehm

Description:  With her brilliant sense of style, designer and bestselling author Carolyne Roehm makes the case in Presentations that there’s just as much pleasure in wrapping gifts as in receiving them—and that beautiful packages guarantee memorable celebrations.

For everyone who loved At Home with Carolyne Roehm, one of America’s premier style-setters now offers her ideas for creating breathtaking gift wrappings using readily available paper, tags, rubber stamps, ribbons, artificial flowers, and other inexpensive materials. Arranged seasonally, and taking inspiration from Roehm’s love of nature, travel and collecting, and fine art, the book focuses on holidays as well as on ways to make children’s gifts look unique and adorable. As Roehm shows, with creativity and care any present can be made an exquisite offering.

More than two hundred dazzling photographs provide inspiration, and a clear and detailed how-to section gives readers the step-by-step tools they need to create beautiful gifts. And for those who would like to create stunning packages but have little time, the book also offers wonderfully distinctive—yet simple—gift-bagging ideas. To coordinate with these eye-popping wrappings, there are the author’s original theme-party ideas and distinctive table settings.

With Carolyne Roehm’s advice, anyone can elevate a special occasion to the realm of the unforgettable.

My Thoughts:  Presentations is a spectacular book!  With every page there is a new rush of creativity and ideas that flow through my brain!  The photography is amazing and many of these ideas are very easily created on a budget!

For the Shabbat hostess, she has several ways to incorporate gifts for the guests as part of the table setting...that alone is stunning and ingenious!  As you read this book a person is inspired to reach new heights of personal excellence.

For anyone that finds satisfaction in the details of life, Presentations is the book for you!  I rate this with an unequivocal five stars.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dress Your Best: The Complete Guide to Finding the Style That's Right for Your Body, by Clinton Kelly and Stacy London

Description: The 8 million fans of TLC’s hottest show, What Not to Wear, know it as the place to go for real-life fashion advice. Now the show’s hosts, Clinton Kelly and Stacy London, offer spot-on fashion wisdom—with an attitude—in this fully illustrated, authoritative, and irreverent fashion guide to dressing your best for every occasion. Clinton and Stacy’s surefire method for boosting appearance rests on their belief that we can all win admiring glances by selecting clothes that play up our positives and create a balanced body shape. In Dress Your Best, Clinton and Stacy match a wide range of female and male body types with the perfect work, casual, and evening attire, showing you exactly how to make your best parts “work” for you.

Dressing tips for 26 body types!
Features 18 women and 8 men: bigger on top, bigger on bottom, a little extra in the middle, not curvy, extra curvy, small-framed, athletic, and more!

Whether you’re searching for a way to accentuate your assets, puzzling over the right print pattern for your frame, or just looking for a solution to the dilemma “What do I need to wear to look fabulous?” you’ll find here the universal tips, dos and don’ts, seasonal alternatives, and must-haves that will deliver the answers. Dress Your Best is certain to become the standard by which all other fashion guides are measured.

My Thoughts:  This book is so necessary for the Shabbat dinner hostess!  After you have poured so much love into making the meal, decorating the table and adding all of those finishing touches and need to look the part as well!  Trust me, it is not in how much you spend on your clothes that matters, but rather how much time you have spent researching your figure and how to wear the clothes you have or look for the right clothes when you are able to shop.

I will say that there are some immodest ideas, but with creativity, you can easily make the clothing ideas and suggestions in Dress Your Best work for you.  Don't settle for frumpy when you know you can be fabulous! 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Weekend Crafter: Gourd Crafts, by Ginger Summit

Description:  A guide to using the Cucurbita and Lagenaria siceraria (a sort of hard shelled pumpkin), for a range of decorative uses in the home and in the garden. No special tools or equipment are needed, standard craft materials such as a scalpel, paints, leather dyes, shoe polish, varnish and stains. The projects include cups and bowls, bracelets, carved vase, duck-shaped birdhouse, stamped and woodburned earrings, masks, candle holders, ornamental flowerpots and an African musical rattle.

My Thoughts: I don't know that I would recommend this book for the beginner, but there are people with talent that can easily pull it off!  Outside of being more than my own skill level, this book is fantastic!  The photographs bring a rather ugly looking dried squash into the realm of beautiful and artistic.

The various crafts that are shown are beautiful and can easily be changed to reveal your own personal style and taste level.  I love all of the different uses for the sustainable gourd and what a great opportunity to grow your own craft from scratch!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gourd Crafts For The First Time, by Marilyn Host

Description:  Most ancient cultures used gourds in every aspect of life. Decorating gourds is everybody's favorite craft, as you'll see from the more than two-dozen varied projects shown here. A handy guide tells you where to find or buy gourds, and how to prepare them. Then use your easily-learned skills with leather-dye, egg-dye, spray and acrylic paint, wax shoe polish, d├ęcoupage, airbrush, waxed linen, dyed raffia, and beads. Select your projects: storage containers for food, medicine, herbs, seeds, oils, jewelry, and even sacred objects. Turn dipper gourds into ladles, bowls, and cooking utensils, or create musical instruments such as thumb pianos, harps, banjos, drums, and rattles, as well as a variety of masks, earrings and necklaces, piggy banks, bird feeders, birdhouses, toys, candleholders, and luminaries.

My Thoughts:  I was not exposed to decorating with vegetables most of my life and was not very interested in Native American art which did use alot of gourds in the area I grew up in.  However, with some life changes that have been made, I am very interested in sustainable crafts projects and growing your own gourds for a craft project...that is very sustainable.

This book has a wealth of information for the beginner!  Tools, techniques, repairs...everything seems to be listed that one needs to get started in crafting with a gourd.  There are uses for gourds that really never crossed my mind and I look forward to growing some this coming spring in my little container garden!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Vegan Challah Bread

This recipe is kid approved every single Shabbat!  The second I start to mix the yeast and the water, the kids begin smiling and it is the motivation they need to finish their chores and homework.  By the time my husband says the blessing over the bread the kids are practically swooning for a piece of the challah.  Try this on your family...just maybe it will become a family favorite in your home too!

Vegan Challah Bread

1 package of Red Star Yeast
1 cup of warm water
1 small pinch of Florida Crystals

  • Whisk together till foamy on the top, I mix this bread recipe in my Kitchen Aid Mixer using the dough hook.
  • Add:

8 TBS. Bob's Red Mill Organic Whole Flax Seed,Ground + 12 TBS. water mixed together.

  • Mix together till blended.
  • Add, 1 cup at a time:

  • Knead for about 5 minutes, give or take.  If the dough is too dry add a tablespoon of olive oil.  You are going to want the dough elastic, but not too dry.
  • Transfer to an oiled bowl and cover for 60-90 minutes depending on the temperature of your home.
  • Knead the dough and separate into two sections.  Separate each of those sections into three equal parts and roll into three ropes.  Braid them together and then tuck the ends under.
  • Place on a baking sheet and brush more olive oil over the top.  Let sit for 60 minutes for the dough to raise again.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Before putting the loaves into the oven, brush the loaf again with olive oil.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, then brush with olive oil one more time.
  • Pop back into the oven for about 20 more minutes.  Transfer to your bread board or bowl and serve hot and fresh!

Adapted from Holy Cow Vegan.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bread With Dinner


"Breads are passed in a flat dish or a basket.  A guest helps himself with his fingers and lays the roll or bread on his butter plate.  Whenever a guest has not bread left at his place, more should be passed to him.  Except at formal dinners, bread and other condiments are usually passed around the table by the guests themselves.  If there is a choice of two or three sauces or other condiments, placing them together in a divided dish, or on a small, easily managed tray, ensures that they are passed together and all guests are aware of the choices.  As with other service, dishes are passed counterclockwise, and all should be passed in the same direction."

Emily Post's Etiquette, 75th Anniversary Edition
by, Peggy Post (pg. 392)

Bread basket@hotel Sofitel

It is traditional for a Jewish Erev Shabbat meal to include two loaves of Challah and then say a blessing called the Ha-motzi.  Basically, we are giving thanks to God for bringing sustenence from the earth for us to stay alive.  There are so many factors that go into one loaf of bread starting with weather and soil conditions...things that we are humans cannot always control.  We take a moment, pause and give thanks to an Almighty Creator for a seemingly simple, yet intricate blessing.

"Blessed are You, Lord our God, Creator and King of the Universe who brings forth bread from the earth."

Bread on the market - pick one if you like