Not Martha

What I’ve Been Reading

I read almost exclusively on the Kindle app on my iPhone these days which makes it much more difficult to insert the photograph of a stack of these books:

Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries
By Jon Ronson, obviously. I’m a fan of Ronson’s from hearing his stories on NPR but this is the first book of his that I’ve read, the sample chapter on Juggalos pulled me right in.

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal
By Mary Roach. This is a nonfiction book about the human digestive tract, it’s entertaining and so fascinating.

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened
By Allie Brosh. I read this one on my iPad because it’s full of her signature illustrations. Her stories about childhood and depression and things in general are hilarious and touching.

By Seanan McGuire writing as Mira Grant. It’s about a future where engineered parasites are used to keep us thin an healthy, what could possibly go wrong? I’m a fan of Seanan McGuire’s Feed trilogy (Feed, Deadline and Blackout) which is about bloggers and zombies and government conspiracy and I really love the novellas she’s released that are set in the same world (see: San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats and Apocalypse Scenario #683 among more). I’m also really enjoying her Indexing serial about fairy tales invading the modern world and her book about what superheros might really be like, Velveteen vs. The Junior Super-Patriots. Can you tell I’m a fan? I’m a fan.

Someday, Someday, Maybe
This was written by Lauren Graham, yes Loreli Gilmore, and it has the sparkling, funny, bumbling character that you would hope for. It’s about a struggling actress living in New York in the 90s when a show called Friends was just starting to air. Utterly enjoyed it.

The Cuckoo’s Calling
By Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling. I liked the first part so much I saved it for travel reading.

Knight School
By Andrew Mayne. A YA novel about a secret society of battling teens between two high schools. Does love get in the way? Yes, of course. I also really liked Mayne’s two The Chronological Man novels (it’s steampunk Dr. Who, The Monster in the Mist and The Martian Emperor) and his spin on zombies called Public Enemy Zero. (His books are also nicely inexpensive.)

Daring Adventures of Lucy Smokeheart
By Andrea Phillips. This is a year-long monthly serial and each new addition contains a puzzle, the answer to which unlocks a page on the Lucy Smokeheart site. At the end of series there will be a real treasure hunt (!!!). I saved these for some serious puzzle solving time on trains while on our trip. Each part is available to download and she’s also collected parts 1-3 and parts 4-6. Here are links to each she’s published so far (and she’s not done yet!): Book of Secrets, The Mermaid’s Crown, Port St. Never, Lizards of Skull Island, Ice Storm, The Governor’s Ball. These are all short and very fun.

By Hugh Howey. This is a series of books about an apocalyptic society living inside a bunker for generations and the first set, Wool, kept me really engaged but I don’t find myself quite wanting to revisit the story in the follow up books called Shift and Dust. Still, I didn’t know how the original story ended and it was one of those times when I was glad to be free of spoilers, it was fun. Has anybody read Shift and Dust? Should I keep going?

By Peter Stenson. I feel like I’ve read my way through all the zombie novels and am quick to abandon any that don’t keep me. This one I read and enjoyed. It mixes drug addiction and zombies and, well, the end isn’t the happy sort.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette
By Maria Semple. I don’t know if I’d have liked this book as much if it wasn’t set in Seattle and I didn’t recognize some of the character types. That said, it started in Seattle and ended up very far away and I liked the journey.

And Another Thing
By Eoin Colfer. I was a huge fan of Douglas Adams (I listened to the original Hitchhiker’s radio series on road trips over and over again) and I’m also a fan of Eoin Colfer but for some reason I cannot bring myself to read past the first few pages of this book that is an extension of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. I feel like I am cheating on my celebrity crush with an imposter, even though I know that Adams’ widow chose Colfer to write this. Give me encouragement? Did you read it and love it? What am I so afraid of?

Your turn – what are you reading? What have you really enjoyed lately? Tell me because I’ve completely run out and my eyes need more words to consume!

· comments [33] · 01-21-2014 · categories:books · shopping ·

thing I like: comics by Lucy Knisley

Lucy Knisley is a comic book artist who writes about her food, travel and her life. I’ve been a fan for a number of years so I was extra excited for her newest book, Relish to come out. (And I was excited to meet her when she came to Seattle on her book tour which is now, sadly, over.)

Relish is a memoir of how food has shaped her life as she was growing up and she tells funny and touching stories, ending each chapter with an illustrated recipe. I love this and now find myself wishing I could get illustrated versions of all recipes. I especially like the way she laid out the Huevos Rancheros, shown above. I made her Spaghetti Carbonara and it was the best I’ve ever tasted.

She’s got a bunch of other books as well as a collection of what anthologies she’s done work for. I really must check out her book French Milk, and I have been meaning to get myself her Cheeses Is Love poster for a while now. Relish, by the way, is the perfect thing to have to read on that electronics-less period of time during airplane take off and landing. I have to admit even when I could pull out my iPhone I kept reading the book. I’m looking forward to seeing what she is up to next.

· comments [7] · 05-6-2013 · categories:books ·

A Hip Handmade Holiday (and a giveaway!)

My friends Freshly Picked and The Alison Show got together as The Craft Pack and made a book full of delightful and easy (really, seriously) DIY holiday gifts. The book is called A Hip Handmade Holiday: Gifts For Everyone On You List For $10 Or Less and I super duper love it. It’s a PDF download and includes nine how-to videos, pro tips and lots and lots of printables.

Susan and Alison gave a presentation at Camp Mighty last month and Alison said (to applause) that if your idea of crafting is printing something onto sticker paper and slapping it on a jar, then this book is for you. There are also project with great instructions that teach you a technique and give some room to improvise if you’d like.

There are projects for women, men, pets, the house, things to treasure for years and those gifts for last minute print-and-glue moments. Susan and Alison have curated their offerings incredibly well so the book offers just a few projects for each category but every single one is gorgeous, clever and well explained. If you want to follow each project by the numbers they’re great, but there is also room to use the technique as a starting point. There are pro tips and how-to videos scattered throughout the book. The printables include every holiday card you could wish for, all the stencils you need and stickers to cover treats served in jars, paint cans and bottles.

I’m highly impressed with the balance they’ve struck here and if this is the type of quality that can come through non-traditional forms of publishing I clearly need to be paying closer attention. Susan and Alison have labeled this book “No. 1” and I hope there are many more to come.

I’m a little obsessed with the Ho Ho Ho pillows.

Just so you know: If you buy the book through the link here I get a percentage. That percentage goes right back into hosting costs for this here website which are doubling due to higher traffic. This isn’t something I’m complaining about. Just, you know, noting. So thanks.

As a way of saying hello The Craft Pack is offering a $50 Michael’s gift card to Not Martha readers. Yay, thank you The Craft Pack!

If you’d like to enter just leave a message with this post, and if you want answer this question: Have you ever sent a DIY gift to a family member? What was the most successful or the least? (My answer: a trio of candied nuts were beloved, but the hand knit scarves mostly got a polite thank you.) You’ve got until next Tuesday, Dec. 18th at 12 noon Pacific (my) time to enter, at that point I’ll close comments. The fine print applies. Good luck! Closed, thanks to everybody for entering!

· comments [180] · 12-13-2012 · categories:books · christmas ·

Drinking In The Summer Garden

My friend (and old conference roommate) Gayla Trail has published a delightful book called Drinking In The Summer Garden which is available in both paperback and e-book format. If you’re in the midst of gathering what has grown in your garden, or if you are like me and a little clueless on where to start, this book will be incredibly helpful. It is full of recipes for alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, infusions and syrups and a spread of both sweet and savory foods. You can take a peek at some pages over here.

Gayla’s site You Grow Girl keeps up with her gardening and she’s published three books that make even me think gardening and container gardening is something I might be able to handle: You Grow Girl, Grow Great Grub: Organic Food From Small Spaces and Easy Growing: Organic Herbs and Edible Flowers from Small Spaces. She’s pretty awesome.

· comments [0] · 09-6-2012 · categories:books · food ·

book I like: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

the cover of Lets Pretend This Never Happened featuring a Hamlet mouse

I read in bed before going to sleep and usually Scott falls asleep before me so I have to be quiet which is a problem because this book makes me laugh out loud. I insist you go read it. And if you don’t already read Jenny Lawson’s site, The Bloggess, I insist you go read that too. Also she’s on her book tour and, yay!, she’s going to be here in Seattle this Thursday and Friday. See you there, yes? Yes.

· comments [9] · 08-14-2012 · categories:books · seattle · shopping ·

book I like: Sprinkle Bakes

Sprinkle Bakes cover

Summer hasn’t quite arrived here yet but this book has been brightening my overcast afternoons. I’ve been a devoted reader of the Sprinkle Bakes site for ages and am completely delighted by her book: Sprinkle Bakes: Dessert Recipes to Inspire Your Inner Artist. It’s filled with basic recipes and instructions to for incredibly charming and creative desserts. I am completely in love with everything inside.

meringue how-to photos

The instructions are all clearly photographed and explained so you can feel like a rock star while you’re working.

spiral slice cookies

The projects are all so cheerful and unexpected. She provides templates in the back of the book for those things which are a bit more complicated.

glittery mini cookie tree

mehndi hand cookies

These Mehndi Hand Cookies are amazing, right?

chocolate mousse beautifully presented

I am so very in love with these glittery snow apples. I’m going to make these the moment leaves start falling off the trees.

white and glittery candy apples

· comments [8] · 06-20-2012 · categories:books · food ·

Savory Sweet Life cookbook

Huge congratulations to Alice on the release of her cookbook Savory Sweet Life!

cover of Savory Sweet Life

I love the way the chapters are divided by occasion, but not necessarily special occasions. “Lunch Between Friends”, “Snow Day”, “Block Party” and “Summer Fun in the Sun” are all chapters.

contents page

The recipes are droolworthy but not intimidating, it’s all crowd pleasing food made extra special. There are useful tips for preparation, storing and variations. The photos are bright and clear and not only make me excited to make the food but also to get to the part where you get to share it with people you love. And there are lots of recipes you can prepare ahead of time (including two breakfast casseroles that you assemble the night before, I adore those) so you get more time to spend with people.

strawberry spinach salad

This is a salad I’ll be making tonight.

gingerbread waffles

These waffles were inspired by a now-closed restaurant here in Seattle called the Jitterbug which was a block away from the first house Scott and I lived in when we moved here. We miss those waffles too so extra thanks for this recipe Alice!

daiquiri popsicles

· comments [2] · 06-6-2012 · categories:books · food ·

Cookbook Club: Gourmet Game Night

dishes from Gourmet Game Night

My cookbook club met last weekend and our book this time around was Gourmet Game Night: Bite-Sized, Mess-Free Eating for Board-Game Parties, Bridge Clubs, Poker Nights, Book Groups, and More by Cynthia Nims. I made pretzel sticks with three mustard dipping sauces. I lack proper serving bowls so I went with what I know, jars. Transporting dips in jars is ideal and even better is that at the end of the night you can take the dirty dishes home easily by simply putting the lid back on. You might recognize the jars above from some of my other projects: mug wraps I made for Real Simple, these held the optional cocoa mix, cobbler baked in jars and the big is from grapefruit tarragon infused vodka.

The pretzel sticks were made from scratch and while time consuming were worth it. I couldn’t find pretzel salt on short notice so I used chunky sea salt and it worked great. The mustard dips were easy as could be:

    Herbed Mustard

  • 1⁄2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons minced tender fresh herbs (chives, flat-leaf parsley, chervil, tarragon, and/or basil)
    Roasted Garlic Mustard

  • 1⁄2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons puréed roasted garlic (for me this translated into one head of roasted garlic)
    Smoke and Spice Mustard (my favorite)

  • 1⁄2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

You can find the full recipe for the pretzel sticks as well as the recipe for the Green Pea and Mint Spread with Crispy Pancetta over at Dishing with Cathy Casey and find a few other recipes over at the Gourmet Game Night website.

dishes from Gourmet Game Night

Green Pea and Mint Spread with Crispy Pancetta and Artichoke-Stuffed Mushrooms. The mint spread was surprisingly delicious.

dishes from Gourmet Game Night

Olive and Cheese Crakers which I couldn’t stop eating, they are savory but tender like a cookie, and Pickled Grape and Blue Cheese Skewers.

dishes from Gourmet Game Night

Stuffed Large Pasta Shells with Kale-Ricotta Filling and Roasted Red Potatoes with Bacon-Chive Creme Fraiche which I really loved, like itty bitty potato skins.

We also tried Aged Cheddar with Dried Cherry-Almond Chutney which was great and Polenta Squares with Spicy Sausage and Spinach. Everything was easy to eat with fingers and little fuss, which was fantastic. I didn’t try any of the desserts and I forgot to get photographs of the drinks we tried, Manhattans with Spiced Cherries, Pomegranate-Mint Fizz and Key Lime Gimlets, all of which are made in pitchers making less fuss for the host or hostess. Looking through the table of contents I think I’ll also be trying the Spicy Meatballs with Yogurt-Cucumber Dip and Mini Shepards Pies in the future.

Did we play games? Nope, our group was too large and we knew we would be have plenty to talk about. Instead we used this night as an excuse to put on our fanciest dresses and sparkliest jewelry which we all agreed we don’t get enough chances to wear. It was a huge amount of fun, thanks ladies! I highly recommend doing something similar, wearing your fancy clothes without necessarily needing to be on your best behavior is a huge amount of fun.

· comments [17] · 01-30-2012 · categories:books · food ·

book I like: A Practical Wedding

A Practical Wedding book cover

Last week I had the huge pleasure of rooming with Meg Keene while we were attending the Altitude Design Conference. Meg was there to speak and she had just started on her book tour for her shiny new book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration.

I wish this book existed when I was planning my wedding. It wish it a lot, and that is a sentiment I’ve heard from a bunch of people. Meg’s site A Practical Wedding, had just started and at that point it was just her writing and starting to figure out how to navigate this big life event that so many industries have their claws into. Her site quickly became one of my favorites as it worked as a place to go get my head straight after looking at sites and magazines that were trying to sell me perfection at a huge cost. And that is exactly what this book is, a thoughtful look at what a wedding should and can be. She works through tradition (and which things these days appear expected but aren’t actually traditional), intention for your self, intention for your family and community and how to navigate all the freaky emotional stuff that appears out of seeming nowhere. It’s like having a very cool older sister who went through all this already to help guide you on what is and what isn’t important. It doesn’t look down on weddings in general, and it doesn’t discount expensive weddings but also helps you create a rocking smaller affair. It helps you anticipate things you might not focus on and tells you that you’ll need help (you will) and how to ask for it. The book is sprinkled with essays from brides (Team Practical) telling about their own experiences, good and bad. The book is written with humor, grace and perspective and never stops feeling like she is talking right to you. If you or someone you know is getting married soon I cannot tell you enough how much you need this book. And get one for the moms involved too. And the bridesmaids. Oh heck, let’s just say all of the wedding party and everybody attending should read it too.

Meg is currently on her book tour! If you are at one of the stops you simply must go see her, she is funny and engaging and awesome. She is traveling across the country on Amtrak and reporting about the trip. It’s giving me serious train envy. Also, she’ll be interviewed on NPR’s Talk of the Nation on Thursday and she lists a few other radio appearances (including Martha Stewart Radio!).

· comments [3] · 01-24-2012 · categories:books ·

book: The Bust DIY Guide to Life

Bust DIY Guide to Life

This is The Bust DIY Guide to Life and I desperately wish I had this book when I was around high school age. They’ve collected things from the magazine and included a whole bunch of new stuff on everything from decorating to beauty to savings and lay it all out in clear way that makes me feel like I could take on the world. The book is thick, over 360 pages, and is like a nice heavy textbook. I appreciate that the projects include real life needs like how to lower the front of a waistband of an a-line skirt and how to cut your bangs so that you won’t regret it. There is information on sewing, cooking, gardening, financing a small business and even a nude paint-by-numbers. Debbie and Laurie, I love the book!

Bust DIY Guide to Life

Bust DIY Guide to Life

Bust DIY Guide to Life

Bust DIY Guide to Life

Bust DIY Guide to Life

Bust DIY Guide to Life

Bust DIY Guide to Life

· comments [5] · 12-15-2011 · categories:books ·

Make and Takes for Kids

Make and Takes for Kids

Marie of the fabulous site Make and Takes recently came out with her first book (yay Marie!) called Make and Takes for Kids. It covers 50 weeks of seasonal projects easy enough for kids, and you too, to take on. Each is clearly explained and photographed and they all have a bit of cleverness that makes me want to make them myself. This would make a great gift for any crafty family and would give them a year full of activities while reflecting on holidays and seasons. If you’d like to read more about it go visit the Make and Takes for Kids book page.

Make and Takes for Kids

Make and Takes for Kids

Make and Takes for Kids

Make and Takes for Kids

· comments [6] · 12-12-2011 · categories:books ·

The Colette Sewing Handbook

Colette Sewing Handbook

I got a copy of The Colette Sewing Handbook by Sarai Mitnick and I think I swooned a little. I’ve been a fan of Colette Patterns and her tutorials for a long time. The book contains five principles (a thoughtful plan, a precise pattern, a fantastic fit, a beautiful fabric, and a fine finish) and five patterns (a scalloped-hem skirt, flutter-sleeve blouse, sweetheart neck sheath dress, asymmetrical flounce dress, and a lined dress with gathered sleeves). Each section of the book takes you through creating each garment, teaching you techniques as you work.

Colette Sewing Handbook

The book has my favorite spiral binding so it will stay open while you work, as well as a set of patterns in the back.

Colette Sewing Handbook, page showing needle and thread types

The book takes you through the basics, showing tools and techniques very clearly explaining the benefits and uses for each kind.

Colette Sewing Handbook, page showing how to lay out a pattern on a table top

Each section of the book uses one of the patterns in the back and acts as a complete lesson in sewing a garment from start to finish. This is how I learn, I need a real project to work all the way through, so I adored how this book was arranged. You build your knowledge with each project.

Colette Sewing Handbook, page showing draping on a form

She gives very basic and practical tips so you don’t have to struggle. Every step is clearly displayed and explained.

Colette Sewing Handbook, page showing a model wearing a flutter sleeve top

And of course all the items in the book are things you definitely want to wear. Easy enough to take on, with just enough clean detail to be super cool. Just look at this top, gorgeous. If you want to learn to sew your own clothes and need a set of lessons to start you off this book is perfect.

· comments [15] · 11-28-2011 · categories:books · sewing ·

me and Jack Bishop and Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook!

Guess what? I get to interview Jack Bishop tomorrow! You know, from Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen:

He’s in town talking about the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook, 2,000 Recipes from 20 Years of America’s most Trusted Food Magazine. I’m totally geeking out over this. So, do you have any you’ve always wanted to know? I’m your girl. Post questions here and I’ll bring back answers.

· comments [24] · 10-25-2011 · categories:books · food ·

CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life

Today I’m happy to be a stop on the blog book tour for CakeSpy‘s new book: CakeSpyPresents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life. Yay Jessie! I live in Seattle and feel very lucky to know Jessie and see how she has grown her business into a real life shop how she manages to spread bits of joy wherever she goes. The book is filled with her sometimes silly and always awesome baked goods reflect her certain style. Cadbury Creme Eggs Benedict? S’moreos? Cupcake stuffed cupcakes? Deep-fried cupcakes on a stick? All these wonders can be found inside along with her illustrations. It’s more awesome in one place than you could hope for.

· comments [7] · 10-17-2011 · categories:books · food ·

blog book tour: Weekend Handmade

I’m so happy to let you know that my friend Kelly Wilkinson, Make Grow Gather has a new book out! Congratulations! It’s called Weekend Handmade it’s it’s full of useful and fun projects. Congratulations Kelly! And with her book tour stop here today she is sharing some thoughts on Saturday afternoons, enjoy:

Hi everyone! I’m so thrilled to be here at with Not Martha as part of the
blog tour for Weekend Handmade. Over the course of the tour, I¹m breaking my
ideal weekend into its different parts, and posting about each part on a
favorite blog of mine. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a leisurely weekend
afternoon with Megan so it only feels natural to be here for the tour ­
thanks Megan!

Saturday Afternoons

An ideal Saturday afternoon for me is equal parts action and leisure. And
nothing embodies that more than being in the garden. There are plenty of
weekends that require errands or full days of work, but if I can being
completely indulgent and moving at my own pace, you¹ll find me in our little
vegetable patch in the fresh air, with dirt under my fingernails, planting
or weeding or harvesting.

I created a whole chapter of projects inspired by the outdoors, including
decorated planters and a tea towel apron that¹s equally at home in the
backyard as the kitchen. If I feel particularly ambitious, I¹ll even set up
some sunprint cloth to ³print² while I¹m out back. But inevitably, I get
thirsty. Megan and I both love a good shandy ­ and I happen to think they
taste best sipped out of a big Mason jar. This requires some planning ahead
for me, because I live in a San Francisco apartment. Our garden access is
out the kitchen door, down two flights of stairs, and through a little
alley. My husband and I like to mix half ginger ale (or lemonade), half
beer, and a lot of freshly-squeezed lime while we¹re up in the kitchen, and
bring it downstairs. But if you ­ like me ­ don¹t regularly keep lemonade or
ginger ale, here¹s a quick little trick so you¹re never without shandy

Quick Shandy:
Squeeze 1-2 lemons or limes into a Mason jar
Add a couple tablespoons of sugar, fill halfway with water, screw the lid
closed and shake to dissolve the sugar. Open back up, fill the rest of the
way with beer and you have yourself a homemade shady!

Photo credit: Photos by Thayer Allyson Gowdy.

· comments [2] · 10-6-2011 · categories:books · craft ·