Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Very Retro Supper Club

December is the time for Christmas traditions and at our house that means the supper club progressive dinner. This year the main course was at our house--Vegetable Beef soup, green salad, and crusty rolls. It was really good, but you'll just have to take my word for it. I was so busy being the hostess with the mostess that I didn't get any pictures taken.

Each year we exchange small gifts and here's what I gave this year--festive boxes filled with Warm-Spiced Pecans with Rum Glaze from America's Test Kitchen. (I know, right?!) The pecans were from G&W Family Farms. (This Miss Holly's farm.) And the boxes that I cut with my Silhouette machine are from Jamie Crips.

I love these boxes. So easy to cut and assemble, and when made with double-sided cardstock, the tops are especially cute!

I also gave my friends these very retro ornaments featuring book spirals made from RDCBs.

And featuring book snowflakes from RDCBs.

And book hearts.

These dandies are one of the first things I've ever designed myself on my Silhouette machine.

When I catch up from the holidays, I'll try to post a tutorial for them. If I can ever figure out how to do them again. :)

So I didn't get any pictures of the food, but when I saw Captain America and our friend, Captain Bob, actually doing dishes, I raced for my phone to snap that photo.

The dishwasher was loaded before we even left for dessert. Merry Christmas to me!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Santa Got Run Over By a Birchbox

It's December and you know what that means...Barb's cookie exchange!

My contribution this year started out looking like this...

...and ended up looking like this.

These beauties are called Easy Salted Caramel Turtles and I found them on A Pumpkin and a Princess. Note that the Easy part of Easy Salted Caramel Turtles is a relative term. There are only four ingredients, so how hard can they be to make, right? Well...

Everything started out all Food Network-y. See how nicely the little gobs of caramel and pecan fit on the spoonfuls of melted chocolate?

But word to the wise...let them dry before you try to move them and make sure that you have enough room on your countertop at your final destination or they will slide off your parchment paper like a toddler at the kiddie park. 

I wonder who the lucky recipient of that extra crunchy turtle was?? 

Just kidding!

(No, I'm not.)

(Yes, I am.)


And you want to know what a really talented cook I am? Check this out. 

I fashioned all this deliciousness while wearing a full body Santa apron. It covered me in red and fur from my neck to my knees. When I finished, I went to change clothes, and there was a spot on my white shirt! 

What, you say, didn't you just tell us you were wearing an apron over your shirt?
I know, right?!?

So I whipped off my shirt, looked into the mirror--and I kid you not--I'm staring at a big spot of chocolate on my belly.

What, you say, you mean there was chocolate on your belly that was under the shirt that was under the apron?
I know, right?!?

I would have taken a picture of it, but 
a) that is one selfie you don't need to see. Trust me. And
b) you know me well enough to know that it's true.

I kind of remember when I was breaking the turtles apart a piece of Ghirardelli went flying down the front of my shirt. 

Yep. I'm that good. 

Oxyclean, if you're looking for a spokesperson, I come with my own testimonial.
Me: Are you plagued by belly chocolate ruining your good white shirt? Oxyclean will get it clean!

Anyway, I realized a couple of years ago if your cookies are suspect, the best guarantee of getting people to grab your goodies at the exchange is to put them in a cute package.

So I was browsing my favorite papercraft blog, All Things Paper, and Ann Martin pointed me to Kate's Creative Space where I found the cutest, easiest Santa bags ever. I made them just like Kate says only instead of watercolor paper, I used book pages, of course!

Word to the wise: Anytime you see cutest and easiest in the same sentence--make that craft!

The fun part of these bags is they involve make-up! I used my "How 'Bout Them Apples? Cheek and Lip Cream Palette" that showed up in a Birchbox that my kids got me.

A little dip here...

...and a little dab there...

And ta-daaaaah!!! The cutest, easiest, delicious-est Christmas cookie combo ever. 

Make that craft! And those turtles! (Just watch out for belly chocolate.)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving With Scissors

It takes a long time for fall to make it all the way to Houston, but it's finally here. How do I know?

Because the big trees in my front yard turned a glorious gold this week.

Because it's hard to see my front walk for all those glorious gold leaves...
and there are pansies waiting for me to get busy and put them in the ground.

And because this turkey is on my dining room table.

Thanksgiving Day will mean lots of love and calories with my family. And Dallas Cowboys football. Because we like the Cowboys, of course, but mostly because my very famous brother is producing the halftime show again. Don't miss it!

Wishing you and yours a day of

And go Cowboys!!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Wedding With Scissors

Remember when my baby got married? Well, guess what! My other baby got married. Like my baby baby.

It was a glorious wedding and Miss Holly, my new daughter-in-law, is a jewel. Beautiful inside and out.

And speaking of beautiful, the venue was a breathtaking slice of Texas Hill Country. I'm still glowing a week later.

The wedding went off without a hitch--at least that's what we told everyone. Actually there were plenty of hitches, but very few knew about them, because hiding hitches is our best thing. 

The wedding was in Dripping Springs, a sleepy outpost just outside of Austin. I think it is sleepy because there is only one hotel there, so some people can't find a bed. The wedding just happened to be the same weekend as the Formula 1 race in Austin, so there were even fewer beds than normal. What Dripping Springs doesn't have in hotels, however, they make up for in bed-and-breakfast establishments. Luckily, all guests seemed to find lovely places to rest their heads.

It was quite a search, however, to find a place to have the rehearsal dinner. We ended up at Pecan Street Brewing in Johnson City. That's Johnson as in Lyndon B. Johnson. Some family had a chance to tour the Texas White House and check out LBJ's boyhood home.

Captain America and I would have liked to do some sightseeing, but we were too busy trying to get the AV equipment at the restaurant to play nice with the video I made for the evening. We went to the restaurant around noon and found that the projector and all the attendant cords were lashed to a pole about 18' above ground level. (I'm not exaggerating.) The DVD player was only 12' above ground level, so the staff brought us a ladder and up we climbed. We stuck in my DVD. The DVD player sucked it in, took a breath, and then spit it out like a baby spitting back mashed peas. Dang it!

So the next three hours we fiddled with everything trying to get the silly thing to work. I had brought the video on DVD, on a USB stick, and on my computer, but nothing we did seemed to work. We tried another computer; we bought new DVDs at Dollar General and re-recorded the video; we downloaded applications and converted formats; we plugged and unplugged cords--and then did all of it again. Nada.

The rehearsal was scheduled to start at 5. I wanted to be back at the hotel to dress at 3:30. At 3:20, Tim, the owner of Pecan Street came out and said, "Maybe if we plugged this cord into here..." And voila! It worked! So if you are doing the math, we spent 3.5 hours on a ladder for a 2.5 minute video. What we do for love!

We went racing out the door for the hotel, got dressed, and hurried to the venue. The rehearsal went off just as planned and the rehearsal dinner was a big success. Great food! Great friends! When it was time for the video, Captain America climbed on the ladder and pressed the button. It still worked! Yay! (Note how we had to balance the computer on two pizza boxes so the cord would reach.)

If I had anything to do with this party there had to be paper involved, right? And there was. Here are the favor boxes I made with my Silhouette machine. They were stuffed with yummy pecans from G&W Family Farms, which just happens to be owned by Miss Holly's family, and sealed with wedding logo stickers printed by the wonderful Babette at Print Me Prim. If you need pecans or printing this holiday season, click these links!

So first hitch successfully hidden we were ready for the big day. Months and months of planning were at stake. The next morning I was trying to stay calm and out of everyone's way in my hotel room when the next hitch arrived. 

Phone call from the groom: "Mom, I think I left the keys to my car in the cart at the golf course this morning. There's a lot of stuff for the wedding in my car. We need to get it open."

Really? Really?

There were several frantic calls to aunts and cousins who were staying near the golf course, but even if we had found someone to retrieve the keys, the staff at the course couldn't find them.

That was followed by...

Received text: "We may have a problem here at the venue. The wedding planner just fell and may have broken her ankle." 

Oh no! And what the text didn't say was that the wedding planner was also Miss Holly's Aunt Kathleen. Long stories short--someone from Miss Holly's family was able to maneuver a coat hanger through the window to unlock the car, and Miss Kathleen had done such a bang-up job with the advance planning and rehearsal, that we all walked down the aisle at the right time and in the right order--even Captain America got to be charming on his way in.

Hitches got nothing on us!

The bride looked absolutely radiant walking down the aisle.

She carried a gorgeous bouquet. And if you look closely...

Photo courtesy April Skinner

...very closely, you'll see it included flowers made by yours truly.

I call them Holly flowers, and she was so sweet to include them.

Photo courtesy April Skinner
The ceremony took place under a canopy of live oaks and gauzy linen complete with chandelier. And if you look closely at the top of those corner pillars, you'll see more and larger Holly flowers.

She promises to keep my son fed and uses my flowers in her wedding, too?? The woman sure knows a way to her new mother-in-law's heart.

Dinner and dancing followed and I didn't trip over my dress--which had a lot to do with taking some scissors and a needle and thread to my hem earlier in the afternoon. (Thank you, Barb, for reminding me to bring a sewing kit!) Hitch avoided.

All in all a wonderful, hitch-free evening. Congratulations, Brian and Holly! And the golf course called. They found your keys!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Geometry With Scissors

Mathematics textbook + Reading With Scissors = x.

Solve for x.

Ah, here ya go!

Thank you, Pythagoras.

Available for your favorite math lover at the Woodlands Fall Festival and Market  at 
Christ Church United Methodist
this Saturday.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sneak Peek 2 - Woodlands Fall Festival and Market

Hands up. How many of you remember textbooks like this from your high school or college days. Yep, just about all of you.

Books like this remind me of some of my favorite people. I was lucky to have been taught by some wonderful English teachers. They have made me a life-long reader, which is a gift indeed.

If there's a language arts teacher on your gift list, here's a great addition to his or her bookshelf.

Available this weekend at the Woodlands Fall Fair and Market at Christ Church United Methodist. Come and get it!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sneak Peek - Woodlands Fall Market & Fair

It's craft fair time again.

On Saturday, Oct 26, Reading With Scissors will have a booth at the 2014 Woodlands Fall Market & Fair at Christ Church United Methodist and to whet your appetite, here's a sneak peek of a book I just finished.

Normally I don't leave dust jackets on books, but this time I made an exception. Here's what the book looks like on the outside.

and here's what it looks like on the other side.

C'mon. You know it's funny.

The show starts 9 a.m. Christ Church UMC is at 6363 Research Forest Drive, The Woodlands, TX 77381.

Come see me!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book Review: Roots

Title: Roots
Author: Alex Haley
Format: Audible
Reading Dates: 30 Apr 2014 - 24 Aug 2014
Rating: *****

I am a saver, and I try to capture everything. I’ve got boxes and boxes of old letters and my notes from college. (Have fun at my estate sale, everyone! The treasure you’ve been waiting for!) I bought an extra hard drive to save all of our pictures. I’ve started digitizing all my old home movies. And I like to save TV shows, too.  It’s funny for me to think that my kids have always lived when it’s possible to record what’s on TV. I still have tapes from their childhood in a drawer somewhere with old shows on them sitting next to VCR to play them (More treasures!). These days changes in technology have made it so easy to record TV—click a single button on your phone(!) to record a show—that you can imagine why the To Watch list on my DVR is perpetually growing.

But there was a time, young friends (and all my old friends here can attest to it), when the only way to see a program was to be sitting in front of your TV when one of the three networks played it the one time they would ever play it. If you missed it, you missed it. And there wasn’t a Wikipedia or an IMDB to go to the next day to read the episode recap. If you wanted to see a show, you scheduled your life around it.

So it was in the summer of 1977 when Roots, the mini-series aired. You knew it was an event because everyone I knew—without exception—made certain they were in front of their TV while it was on. Meetings got rescheduled and lessons postponed so we could all watch.
It was that big of a deal.

The times probably had something to do with it. I was sixteen that year. I was a baby when the Civil Rights marches were happening and only a few years older during the horrors of 1968. Growing up in an all-white town, those events weren’t something that really seemed to affect me that much. We were a patriotic crowd. During the bi-centennial the year before we ate from bi-centennial plates with bi-centennial forks that we bought with our bi-centennial quarters. America was the grandest place on earth! Slavery was a word I had learned in school, but it was a word I knew in order to pass a history test, nothing I had really thought about deeply.

Roots was the first time the truths of slavery became real to me—the fetid horror of the slave ships, the ever-present brutality, the rending of families. I was living in the era of women’s liberation when the mantra we girls were cutting our milk teeth on was that we could be anything we wanted to be, and that message was brought into stark contrast by the total lack of control a slave had over her life and her body was stunning.

The last several years I’ve been in a race to read as many books as I can in 365 days, but this year I decided was going to be the year of the long books. I wanted to read epics that I had skipped previously because they simply would take too long to read. I had purchased Roots from Audible.com much earlier, but now it was time to pull it off the virtual shelf and give it a listen.

Simply put, Roots is a great audiobook. Tremendous story by a really terrific narrator. His voices were so right for each of the characters that sometimes I felt like I was listening to a play instead of a book. I still had flashes of the story from nearly 40 years before rolling around my head and I was surprised at how much I did remember—Kunta’s horrific sail across the Atlantic (and Ed Asner’s bad wig), Kizzy’s separation from her family, and of course Chicken George, but reading the book brought new details and insights that I had never known or forgotten, especially the details of Kunta’s life in Africa before he was stolen away.

One of the parts I do remember was at the end when Alex Haley went to Africa. I wondered how it would be handled in the book and his whole explanation of how he fit into the story and how he had come to write the story was any genealogist’s dream—true satisfaction with a healthy dose of humility as you realize all those stories—real lives and heartaches—that had come before you.
If you want to listen to a good book that will entertain you and make you think all at the same time, download Roots and start listening. You won’t be disappointed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: The Goldfinch

Title: The Goldfinch
Author: Donna Tartt
Format: Kindle
Reading Dates: 14 Jul 2014 - 23 Aug 2014
Rating: ****1/2

There’s this weird thing that happened to me when I read The Goldfinch, and I don’t know how much I’m supposed to tell about the beginning of the book, so, let’s try this. There is this part near the start when the protagonist, Theo Decker, as a young boy, has a chance encounter with an old man. The old man starts to mumble away about long ago times and asks whether Theo remembers them. Then the old man says something about knowing the boy’s mother when she was young.

So immediately I started thinking that this book was going to be some kind of fantasy novel with perhaps time travel or something similarly magical involved. Theo goes away from this unexpected meeting and the rest of the novel starts. Theo has to deal with some trauma early, but no magic appears. I was reading quickly through that part of the book because I knew the magic part had to start happening soon after. Then the next big thing happened and but that didn’t bring magic either. I was literally halfway through the book when I realized that there’s no magic happening here. It was all going to be real. (Although somewhere deep down inside me even at the very end I kept waiting for at least one of the other characters in the book to finally admit s/he was a witch/warlock or a werewolf or a vampire or something other than a regular person.)

The hard part about reviewing this book is that it never met my expectation of what it was going to be and so there was this bit of me that was disappointed even though this was a really good book. It was one of those books that I wanted to grab whenever I could because I couldn’t wait to read more. The story was well-drawn and suspenseful and the characters complex and dimensional.

But the thing that was most striking about the book was the literary flair that xxx brought to the table. Every sentence was jam-packed with insights, similes and metaphors that I found myself reading over and over again because they were so good. And when I say jam-packed, I mean jam-packed. Every sentence. Every paragraph. If I had highlighted all the ones I wanted to remember later, most of the book would have been bright yellow. It was as if Tartt turned on the firehose in the first chapter and didn’t turn it off until the last sentence.

So I recommend this book—entertaining story, great writing—with only one caveat. If you’re looking for magicians or time travel, this isn’t that book.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Book Review: Dr. Mütter's Marvels

Title: Dr. Mütter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine
Author: Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz
Format: Paperback
Reading Dates: 04 Sep 2014 - 28 Sep 2014
Rating: *****

Watch out Erik Larson, you've got some serious competition in Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz. I thoroughly enjoyed her new book, Dr. Mütter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, an excellent example of narrative non-fiction.

Although well-known in his time, I had never heard of Dr Mütter before reading this book. Aptowicz's story, however, made him jump off the pages. She followed the familiar pattern of short chapters with punchy endings that make you want to jump to the next chapter as quickly as possible. While many others have tried this formula and can make it seem tiring, Aptowicz really nailed it. The cliffhangers never seemed contrived and really did move the story along.

I'm not sure I would characterize this story as one of "intrigue," but "innovation" definitely! And though mentioned briefly at the beginning, the "Marvels" of the title aren't really discussed until the end, but I enjoyed Aptowicz's narrative in her acknowledgements as she described how she learned about Mütter and his marvels. Now I think I'd like to see them, too--and that's how you know you've found a really good author. I'm looking forward to more, Ms Aptowicz!

Monday, September 1, 2014

My New Obsession: Part 1

Houston, we have a problem. My house is being overrun by book pages. See, look. There are some on the steps up to my craft room.

And upstairs these two tubs are full of them.

And there are more stacked under the two tubs...

Ok, I lied. There are four tubs. And there are pages stacked under all of them.

And also in those plastic drawers...Don't judge.

It really is getting out of hand, so last week I did what any paper crafter with half a lick of sense would do in a similar situation. I went out to Pinterest and started poking around for ideas.

Hey, what did I just say about judging??

Anyway, like I said, I was out on Pinterest and ran into this thing called Zentangles. It's just the doodling on paper that we did as kids taken to a whole new level. Some people draw Zentangles on plain paper, but others draw them on book pages(!). 

Ding! Ding! Ding! Thank you, Internet gods, for solving another of my seemingly unsolvable problems--like when you taught me how to shuck corn and peel garlic.

I decided to give this whole Zentangle thing a try. The cool beans part about using book pages instead of plain paper when you doodle is you've got words you can play with in addition to the doodles. 

I picked up the nearest page I could find and started looking for interesting words and settled on Paul.

Why Paul? I don't know. Why not? Paul Newman. Paul McCartney. Paul Simon. It's a good name, Paul.

Then I started looking for designs to make and about a half a gel-pen later I got this:

OK, not perfect, but not bad for a first effort either, I thought. So the next day I grabbed another page and came up with...

A little better! And the rumor that I chose Paul for the first try because if I screwed up I didn't want to screw up Stephanie is not true.

OK, maybe a little bit true.

OK, true. Geez, you guys are a tough audience. But let's face it. Stephanie is screwed up enough already.

Back to the action...

So on my third try I found a phrase to highlight...

and after I tangled it and mounted it, ta-da!

Here's the close-up, Mr DeMille.

I decided to keep the torn edge when I mounted the page. It reminds me that it had a life before I reimagined it.

And then....and then...and then on the next day...I discovered...


Can you believe it? They make such a thing as 


I think I'm in love! But for that story you're going to have to wait for the next installment. Stay tuned!