Monday, May 16, 2016

Book Report: May 2016

It's been a good reading month for me. I abandoned several books (mostly because they were due back at the library and couldn't be renewed) but I still managed to read eight books this month, and for the most part I enjoyed them all.  I was also pleasantly surprised to discover that I'm well ahead of schedule on my reading goal for 2016.  Here's what I've been reading lately:

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

This middle-grade verse novel sucked me right in.  I love the precision and intention necessary to write a verse novel.  No wasted words, no long explanations, which makes the story stronger.  Yes, it's about basketball.  But you don't need to know anything about basketball in order to love it.  (Trust me!) It's mostly about family relationships and growing up.

Pieces of my Mother by Melissa Cistaro

I found myself thinking of this book as a milder version of The Glass Castle (which is one of my all-time favorite books).  The author details her life with a rarely-present mother: the lengths she went to as a teenager to find love and acceptance, the effect of her history on her relationships with her own children and eventually her reconciliation with the life she was given.  Heartbreaking and fascinating all at once.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Fun, light and maybe a little silly.  I loved going back to the late nineties and re-experiencing all of the newness of email and technology as well as Rainbow Rowell's references to music, movies and TV shows from that time period.  Just plain fun with a love story thrown in.  (Warning: one minor character has quite a potty mouth.)

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

I remember reading this as a pre-teen and loving it, so I was excited to share it with my kids.  Jason read this aloud to the older kids (11 years old and 7 years old) and me in the evenings after Elijah (2) was in bed. I still enjoyed the story, but was so struck by the fact that the many adults Sam Gribley came across in the year of living on his own in the wilderness did nothing to stop him .  They all trusted his ability to survive too much to make this a very plausible story.  However, we enjoyed the adventure as a family and loved all the details about what Sam ate and home and contraptions and clothing he made.

81 Days Below Zero by Brian Murphy

I am fascinated by survival stories and often find myself in a survival book phase (Into Thin Air, Left For Dead, Miracle in the Andes, Into The Wild, Between A Rock and A Hard Place, 438 Days,  and The Long Walk are a few favorites). 81 Days Below Zero fits well into that category.  It takes place near a military base in Alaska near the end of World War II and details the incredible survival of one member of a test plane that crashed well off course and deep in the Alaskan wilderness.  A fascinating look at the power of determination.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

Love, love, love.  I highly recommend listening to the audiobook version if you have the chance.  Cary Elwes himself reads the book and it includes many cameos from beloved cast members of The Princess Bride. My husband and I listened to this together on a recent road trip and we both loved it.  It's funny and sweet. And full of behind the scenes stories, interesting details of movie making, the relationships that developed between all involved, and a glimpse of the countless hours of work and training that went into making one of the most beloved films of our time.  I can't wait to re-watch the movie with all my insider information.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

I've heard of this book and seen it on book lists for years, but only just picked it up.  As with many books of its' type, it moves slowly and is very detailed.  But once it got going I just fell in love with the story.  I don't feel like I can say very much without giving away major plot lines.  But this is not a cozy Jane Austen-type novel, as I judged it to be at first. (Don't get me wrong, I love Jane Austen!) The hardships experienced are much deeper than the threat of embarrassment or the possibility of not achieving an advantageous marriage. The book deals with difficult themes: injustice, faith, judgment, forgiveness and love.  I was surprised by how much I loved it and immediately begged my sister to read it so I'd have someone to talk to about it.

Also, there's a miniseries!

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

I fell in love with curmudgeonly Ove and his neighborhood cast of characters.  This was a funny, entertaining read with brief moments of tears. The sadness is well balanced by the power of friendship and love and service to others.

Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy for a lot more book recommendations.

What have you been reading lately?

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What To Do With Ripped Picture Books

Do you have a book ripper at your house?  We do.  He's adorable and so fun, but just can't seem to help himself if any books are left in his room during naptime.  This began several weeks ago and I was completely shocked the first time it happened.  I went in to get our bouncing baby boy after his nap and one of his all time favorite books (The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats) was completely in shreds, scattered all around the room.

We've never had a book-ripper before.  So I hoped it was a one-time incident, picked up the pieces and made a big show about how now we had to throw the book away because it was ruined. If just one or two pages had been ripped I would have salvaged it, but so many pages were ruined beyond recognition that I know we couldn't fix it.  I was hoping Elijah's sadness about losing his favorite book would keep him from ripping up any more.  Turns out, that's not what happened.   A few days later he ripped another favorite (I Want To Be An Astronaut by Byron Barton).  I promptly removed all the books from his room and we are now extra diligent to make sure none are left in with him after reading at naptime and bedtime.  He loves books and being read to, but ripping is also one of his favorite things.

Because I adore the illustrations in both books Elijah destroyed, I wanted to put the undamaged pages to good use.  I picked a couple of favorite pages, specifically avoiding those with text on them (though you certainly wouldn't have to do that) and used them to make decor for his room.


Illustrations from picture books that have been ruined by a toddler. (Of course you could use a book that hasn't been torn apart by a toddler, if you're cool with mutilating books yourself)

Acrylic Paint in colors of your choosing

Mod Podge.  I used matte finish.



Remove the pages you want to use and trim the sides with a paper cutter so they are straight and square.

Paint the canvas board the color you chose and let dry.

Adhere pages to the center of the painted canvas with Mod Podge.  Add a good coat of it under the page and then place the page on top. Then and add a coat of Mod Podge over the top of the whole canvas/ book page to seal.  You may experience some wrinkling as you apply the Mod Podge, but you can smooth it out while the page and canvas are still wet.

Let dry.  Apply another coat of Mod Podge, if needed.

Hang and enjoy your beautiful new decor. (I used command strips)

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Friday, May 6, 2016

A Finished Sketchbook

Earlier this week, I completed the final spread in a sketchbook.  It took me about 6 months to fill the book, though I wasn't working exclusively in the same book during that time. It's so fun for me to look back through my sketchbook and rediscover the pages I love.  It's very much like a visual journal because the feelings I was experiencing while I drew or painted each spread come flooding back to my mind as I look at them: pages are dedicated to influential people who passed away over the last few months (and goodness, it seems like there have been so many!) such as Harper Lee; the page I made the day of the Paris terrorist attack; and the one I made the day we discovered we are expecting a miracle baby (ps--IT'S A GIRL!).  As I flip back through my sketchbook, it's like I'm flipping back through time.

Over the past couple of years, as I have been working daily in a sketchbook, I've discovered that I love this size.  It's the perfect amount of space to do the work that I love to do, which is filling entirely a two-page spread with color and/or inspiring words.  I have a larger sketchbook that I've all but given up working in because it's just too big.  I don't enjoy feeling the need to fill that entire space.

The paper in this particular book was a little too thin, but in instances where pens, paint, etc. bled through to the other side, I just glued two pages together (the pages where glue was applied were blank) to make them thicker.  It worked well and I didn't feel the need to work in a different book, but when I filled the sketchbook, I purchased this moleskin with mixed media paper for my next sketchbook. The pages are much thicker and can handle a lot more abuse without bleeding (huh...that sounded a little cruel).  They are not good for very wet watercolor, but can handle some watercolor without issues.

It's so interesting to me to see the progression my work has taken over these past few months. I can see the seasons change from fall (when I started the book) to winter and spring in the themes and colors I used on my spreads.  It includes everything from collage and geometric patterns to florals and lettering. I can look back and see the benefits of a daily practice.  Improvements in skills take time, but with dedication and specific goals, progress is definitely made.  I love that I have this record of the many hours I've put into my goals.

Follow along on Instagram as I share my daily pages.

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Mother's Day Printable Bookmarks (and a Giveaway!)

I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
"Blackbirds" stowed in the hold beneath.
I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.
I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.
I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings--
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!
You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be--
I had a Mother who read to me.

Years ago I came across this poem by Strickland Gillilan and fell instantly in love with it.  It reminded me of my own lovely mother and the kind of Mama I wanted to be for my own children.  I talked to my mom about it one day, mentioning how it reminded me of her and a beautiful smile spread across her face.  She explained to me how much she loved that poem and how she'd decided decades ago (during my childhood) that she wanted to base her own mothering on those powerful words, "Richer than I you can never be--I had a mother who read to me."

How grateful I am for her intentional decision to pass on her love of reading to my five siblings and me. She was definitely successful, as many of our family gatherings turn into conversations about books we've read recently and we all pull out our to-read lists and add recommendations while we chat.  I've since made the same pledge, and I think often of the poem above as I gather my little people around and read aloud to them each day.  One of my main goals as a Mama is to instill in them a love for learning and reading.  So far, so good.

As Mother's Day is approaching quickly, I want to share with you a little gift.  Print out these bookmarks to color as a fun gift for a reading Mama in your life (or for yourself!). Or give them to her without coloring. She can take a break from reading to color in the designs.  These bookmarks were inspired by the Strickland Gillilan poem above, as well as a cliche Mom tattoo and some designs I just thought would be fun to color.  Snag the free bookmarks by clicking add to cart below.

  Add to Cart

You can also find other coloring pages I've designed in my shop.

I'm excited to team up with to offer you the gorgeous printable Mother's Day cards above.  (Click on the image above to download the cards). I am also happy to be able to offer one reader a $30 Mother's Day Giftcard from LDSBookstore.comIn order to enter to win the gift card, just leave a comment below telling me about a woman who has influenced your life.  I'll choose the winner Wednesday May 4th.

I had a blast dreaming up ways I would spend this gift card, so I could make some suggestions for you. Here are my top choices:

The first thing on my list was this intricate coloring book.

I also loved this gorgeous book from Scott Jarvie

I'm a journal-lover, for sure.  And this beautiful journal is definitely on my list.

I know I'm probably not supposed to dream of spending my Mother's Day giftcard on my kids, but this book looks perfect for my 7 year old, and this one might actually keep my toddler quiet during church.   Stress-free church time is totally a gift to myself, right?

This lovely bag would be perfect to replace my current thrift-store, falling apart, 40 years old temple bag.

In order to win the gift card, just leave a comment below telling me about a woman who has influenced your life.  I'll choose the winner Wednesday May 4th.

Happy Mother's Day!

* This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks for supporting A Lively Hope!
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Monday, April 25, 2016

Watercolor Sketchbook With Kids

The kids and I made simple, but high-impact sketchbook pages this week.  This project is excellent for playing with watercolors. Use it to practice blending colors, or try out other watercolor techniques on a small scale. (Sprinkle salt over the squares after you've painted them, color with white crayons before you paint, etc.)  We kept our pages simple and didn't use any extra techniques and they turned our just lovely.

Materials Needed:

Sketchbook or loose watercolor paper (non-watercolor paper can be used, but be prepared for it to wrinkle) My kids each have this sketchbook and I have a bigger version.
Watercolor set.  This is an awesome one for kids to start with but I'd recommend using a different brush than the one that comes with the kit.  We've been happy with this set.
Paintbrush (es)
Water in cups (I like to use separate cups for cool colors and warm colors.  It keeps the water from turning brown and changing the color of your paint.)


Lay out the masking tape on your sketchbook page or watercolor paper in your desired pattern.  Ellie and I chose to make diamonds and Ethan did an arrow pattern. We used a mixture of washi tape and masking tape because that's what we had on hand. Play around with thin and thick tape for different outcomes.

Make sure the tape edges are pressed down firmly to ensure a nice clean line.

Paint in each open space.  Have fun with this! Mix colors and see what happens. The results are always beautiful.

Let the paint dry for a few minutes and then remove the tape.

Enjoy your gorgeous creation.  

I'd love to see your beautiful sketchbook pages!  Tag me on Instagram so I can see your work.
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