Thursday, October 24, 2013

Good Reads

In today's post I thought I'd share, quickly, the books that I've read recently that made it up to snuff.  None of these I did particular back flips over, but each of them was a good, solid read that I would recommend.

First of all, Sharp Objects.

This was Gillian Flynn's first novel and it's the last one I've read.  You can definitely tell this was her freshman novel if you've read the other two.  However, it was still pretty creepy and I "enjoyed" it as much as you can say that you enjoy a thriller like this.  I definitely want to read whatever else Gillian Flynn writes in the future, she's quickly become a book club least in our little book club.

Another Agatha Christie is next, Murder at the Vicarage.

This was another good, solid Agatha Christie mystery.  It wasn't my favorite of her books thus far, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit.  And yes, I do still get that old lady feeling when I pick up one of her books.

And lastly for this post, Beautiful Ruins.

While I don't participate in my church's monthly book club, I did notice that this book was their selection a few months back.  When I read up on the blurb about it, I was intrigued. 

The premise of this novel is that in present day an old Italian man, Pasquale, shows up at an old school movie producer's lot looking for an actress that stayed in his hotel back in the 1960s when the movie, Cleopatra, was being filmed.  It is Pasquale's understanding that this actress had cancer and he wants to know whatever became of her.  This novel then follows Pasquale, the film director, his assistant, a young man trying to pitch a movie...and the actress from long ago.  This is a book where most everyone has a major flaw in their character, but the dynamic and how things unfold is extremely interesting.  I enjoyed it and would definitely recommend!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Crystal's Still Here!

 Things have been pretty busy around mi casa as of late... 

This past Saturday was my birthday and I got to celebrate with most all of my favorite friends and family.  In case you're wondering, it was pretty fantastic.  I got to see both of my grandmas, all three of my parents, both of my "extra moms" aaaaand got to pick my husband up from the airport (after he had been away on business multiple states away for the previous 8 days).

In addition to getting presents, my favorite homemade cake from my auntie, I also got these beautiful flowers.  The pic on the left is when they first arrived, the one on the right is today.  They just keep getting prettier and prettier. 

On another note, I made a big stride since my last book review post.  You know how my goal is for all of my to-read books (not borrowed, though) to fit on my bookshelf nightstand?  As of a week or so ago, all of the ones I have to read by the end of the year fit!  We won't discuss the borrowed pile (partially on top of and mostly below the shelf) or my stash that I've already purchased for next year.  Hey, it's baby steps, right?  And yes, I know I have a bookish obsession.  But, everyone has their thing, right?

Also, I've been working a little bit on the long arm.  Yesterday I was able to start and finish quilting this balloon quilt.  It still needs to have the binding attached (it's in that plastic bag to the left), but the majority of this quilt is done!  I'll share what the end result looks like soon!

In the meantime, I'm in a mad dash to finish all of my Halloween projects.  I have a couple of table runners that I'm making out of the fabric in this pic, which you might have already seen on my Instagram.

Plus, I loaded up my mom's Halloween quilt on the long arm before I went to bed last night.  I'll hopefully finish it either today or tomorrow...fingers crossed!

We're getting ready to enter the busiest time of the season!  Here's to hoping we all make it through unscathed, haha!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Halloween Blossoms

Yea, so I made these cookies yesterday.

I love making cute stuff.  And my husband is a sucker for cute sweets too.  These cookies are actually inspired by these cookies, which I think everyone and their dog has pinned on Pinterest.  Including myself.  No lie though, I did make those cookies at Christmas time as our presents for our neighbors.  We got lots of praise all around for them.  So, basically I'm telling you that I knew this recipe was proooobably going to be a success yet again. 

Halloween Blossoms
adapted from Candy Cane Blossoms, cookie recipe is from Hershey's

1 bag Hershey's Pumpkin Spice Kisses
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons milk
Seasonally appropriate sprinkles or colored sugar

Preheat over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Beat butter, sugar, vanilla, and egg in large bowl until well blended.

I have a confession to make.  When a recipe calls for "softened butter" and I don't feel like waiting around for an hour or so...I just nuke it for a tiny bit. 

I totally did that for these cookies.  OK, great.  Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; add alternatively with milk to butter mixture, beating until well blended.

These sprinkles were actually the reason why I decided to make these cookies.  I found them in the dollar section of Target.  Can we just pause for a second and talk about how wonderful that little part of the store can be?  It totally sucks me in every time.  But anyway, both of these sprinkle containers...a buck each.  How awesome is that?

Shape dough into 1 inch balls...I scooped mine out with my handy, dandy cookie scoop, then rolled them up into a nice little ball.  Then, rolled them around in one of the two sprinkle containers.

Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 8 - 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and cookies are set.

While the cookies are baking I unwrap the necessary number of Hershey's kisses.

Remove from oven; cool 2 to 3 minutes.

Press candy piece into center of each cookie. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

This recipe supposedly yields 35 cookies...I got 22.  But, that's all dependent on how big you scoop out your cookies.

Enjoy!  We sure have!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Classic Catch-Up

So, I've been doing relatively well with keeping up on my fiction, non-fiction, classic rotation...except for the non-fiction part.  But, we won't focus on that in this post... 

The three books I'll review for you today are all being quite old, one a little older than me, and the third being a modern classic.

First, Madame Bovary.  The quite old classic.

Ugh...I cannot even tell you how much I disliked this woman!  I know that you weren't supposed to and that you're supposed to focus on the writing style on this one...but, I just couldn't get over it.  I, literally, wanted to throttle Madame Bovary multiple times throughout this book.  I kept calling her a twit, which is an understatement.  And to top it all off, this book has a horribly sad ending.  Two stars from me...sorry, the writing style just didn't make up for the storyline.

Next, a modern day classic, The Historian.  This book is on every to-read list concocted within the past ten years.  So, I thought I'd give it a go.  It's only been sitting in my book club borrowed pile for about a year.

My sentiment?  Eh.  Do you remember my review about The Swan Thieves?  I kinda felt the same way about The Historian that I did about it.  In other words, it's OK...but, when I'm going to read a huuuge book like this, I want to LOVE it at the end.  And that didn't happen.  It was good, just not fantastic and worthy of all the hoopla.

Lastly, a Judy Blume classic from the 1970s...Blubber.  This one is also a favorite on the most controversial and banned books lists.

I'll be honest and say that I haven't read a lot of Judy Blume.  This might be only my second or third.  And when Becky and I went to Kansas City to meet Maggie Steifvater, this was one of the books we listened to on the way.  Wow...have you seen the movie Mean Girls?  This is like that, only grade school.  Those girls were mean, including the narrator!  This is not a feel good YA by any stretch.  Becky and I discussed it and both of us agreed that the bullies didn't even really feel bad about what they did in the real closure. 

When the book was done, thankfully, there was a commentary with the author at the end.  And Blume explained why she wrote this book.  Back in 1974 when this book was originally published, bullying wasn't the headline news story on the evening news like it can be today.  So, her point with this book was to open the door for conversations about bullying.  I'm glad I learned this before rating the book, because I was fully prepared to give it somewhere between one and two stars...but, knowing that, I went ahead and gave it three.  Because this book would be an excellent way to kick-start that conversation with your kid(s).

So...what classics have you read lately?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Gray and Yellow Baby Blanket

I finished yet another baby blanket this past week!  This one will probably be the last for a little while...simply because I don't know anyone else who is pregnant.

This is the same pattern that I used for this blanket, just different colors.  This particular blanket I crocheted for David's cousin, whose wife is expecting later this month.  They're decorating their nursery in yellow and light gray...hence these colors.

Love how this blanket turned out! 

P.S. In case you're interested, I offer this blanket as a custom order in my Etsy shop!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Someone Cry For the Children

Prior to reading this book, I might be one of the few people that lives in Oklahoma that was not aware of this story.  Someone Cry For the Children is the true story about the investigation and trial of the suspect involving the brutal rape and murder of three Girl Scouts at a camp in northeastern Oklahoma in 1977.  The book, written by OSBI agents involved in the investigation, is gritty...most definitely not a book to read before you go to bed. 

I was horrified by the murder scene (and a detailed rape scene later on)...I'm telling you that this book is like reading an episode of either CSI or Criminal Minds.  Or both combined.  Only more detailed.  There were parts that, literally, turned my stomach.

This book is a solid piece of literature, detailing the ins and outs of this investigation and trial.  I felt like there was no stone left unturned, no detail left unsaid.  With that being said, are you interested in my opinion regarding the fact that this case has been left unsolved?  For, literally, longer than I've been alive... 

I don't know. 

You leave this book still unsure about whether or not Gene Leroy Hart is guilty.  There were points where you think he's most definitely guilty...other parts where you think he most definitely had to be innocent.  And after finishing the book...I don't know.  The friend who recommended this book to me, Becky AKA the other Becky, said she felt the same way.

I'll tell you what really affected me about this book though.  I remember going to Girl Scout camp as a young girl in the mid-1980s.  And I remember bunking up in a wooden-structured, screen-surrounded type of building...not the tents the girls in this book used.  And I remember the camp counselors vehemently ordering the girls in each structure to lock the door, which only locked from the inside, each night and refusing to open it for anyone (even another counselor) until the next morning when we were to come outside for breakfast.  After reading this book, I realized that this case had to be why this strict rule was enforced.  Scary stuff.

It's not often that you read a book detailing events that took place and affected events in your life.  And to not have been aware of this story at the time (my mother wasn't aware either because she lived in Dallas at the time of the murders), but to know now 20+ years later.  Freaky!

This book is extremely rare...Becky had to pay a pretty penny for it.  But, if you can find it, I highly recommend reading it.  Most especially if you're an Okie resident...and even more so if you're a northeastern Okie resident like me.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

My First...

If you follow me on Instagram, you might already kinda sorta know about this quilt.  A few weeks ago, I posted this picture of the finished quilt top, complete with Molly's bored expression in the background.

This is the first time I have ever completed a real, normal-sized quilt from start to finish. 

I've been playing on the long arm quite a bit and I felt comfortable enough to try a real quilt, though only one either I or my mother would keep.  I'd muuuuch rather screw up my own stuff than someone else's.  For sure.

So, I did a mixture of meandering (on the neutrals, center section) and swirls (on the colorful, border section).

I learned a ton more about my machine, the rolling, the tension...pretty much everything...while finishing this guy.  I like how it turned out, even though this type of quilt isn't my normal "style."  I'm more girly than this, in case you didn't already know.

I don't think I'll actually use this one, rather I'm planning on hanging it in my craft room to look and ponder from time to time.  The more I do this and get the hang of it, the more I think I'll enjoy looking at this quilt.  My first, complete with all the errors and learning curves only I can really see.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Light and Fun Reads

OK, so back to playing catch-up.  I thought I'd try to catch up a little on the reads I have finished recently.  Here are just a few, all grouped into this same blog post because they are all (did you read the post title?) light and fun.

The Last Original Wife

This book is a fun, summery read.  Leslie Anne Greene Carter is the last original wife of her husband's middle-aged, upper class, golf-playing, country-club livin' co-worker and friends group.  This story tackles some serious issues and includes a douse of humor along the way.  It was a good, solid chick lit that would be ideal for a vacation read.


I'm not sure I'd truly classify this book as light and fun...simply because there's a car wreck, a fair amount of death and infidelity in this book.  However, this wasn't really a book that bogged me down at the same time, which is why I'm including it in this grouping.  This book explores the reality of what a tight-knit community can be, especially during a tragedy.  It was well written and I enjoyed it all the way up until the end.  The girl that dies in this book I could never really understand or connect with...therefore, I only gave it two stars...sorry Elin!

The Secret Life of Bees

Yes, I've read the book and seen the movie now (though, not in that order).  This was another book that was in the massive pile from my great-great aunt's house.  I'm glad I read it because it truly is a wonderful story.  I won't explore this book any more because, unless you've lived under a rock, you're aware of the story.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

This book is in rotation in my book club.  A very whimsical, cute read that, again, tackles some serious topics (miscarriages, mental health, infidelity, etc.).  I really enjoyed this one, though about three-quarters of the way through it, I wasn't sure where the author was taking the story...  No worries, it ended up well (even if I was rather perturbed with the father by the end).  Give this one a go!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Busy, Busy, Busy Bee!

I've been a little MIA lately...sorry about that!  The truth is that I've been really busy with this that and the other.  Wanna play catch-up?  Here we go!

First friend, Becky, and I drove to Kansas City to meet Maggie Steifvater!  This was a super fun girls' trip for Becky and me.  We listened to a couple audiobooks on the way, hung out on the Plaza, met up with her sister who lives nearby and I got to see an old high school buddy...not to mention the obvious fun of meeting a much beloved author!

Next...not this past weekend, but the one before was my dad's birthday.  So, we went down to Texas for his favorite birthday celebration: NHRA Drag Racing Finals in Ennis.  Got a great pic of me with my dad actually smiling (he usually only does that when a grandkid is in the frame) along with a cute pose of my aunt/uncle's Australia Shepperd, Toby.  Love how Toby's tongue is lolling out to the side.

Come race day the brothers found matching baseball hats that fit!  I have to explain the wonderfulness of this feat.  My dad wears a XXXL motorcycle helmet.  So yea, finding a hat to fit him borders along the lines of ridiculous impossibilities. can't tell they're brothers at all, can you?

These flowers in my back yard are currently making me happy.  I have nooooo idea what they are, but I transplanted them out of my grandma's yard last year.  I was already taking some tiger lilies (which reproduce like crazy in her yard) when she told me to take some of these too.  She said they reproduce like mad as well and I have to admit that she's right; they've already doubled in quantity.  I can't say the same for the tiger lilies though...the bunny rabbits that get into our yard seem to think they're too tasty to let bloom...bastards.

Almost last up, I got a shock of hot pink (technically the color is labeled magenta) in my hair.  A close friend of mine has a couple of pink spots that I thought were cute, so I thought I'd give it a try.  The verdict?  I'm still undecided...what do you guys think?

Speaking of do you like my cute cards that I'll enclose with my Etsy orders? 
Love the mud splatter on the bright pink!

I'll try to get more in the swing of blogging again this week.  I've got a couple of craft projects to share, not to mention quite a few book reviews.  Stay tuned, I promise I'll be back soon!


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