Not Martha

giveaway: Crafting A Meaningful Home

cover of Crafting A Meaningful Home

I’m so pleased to be holding a book giveaway for Crafting A Meaningful Home by Meg Mateo Ilasco as part of the virtual book tour today. The book is full of projects for your home (created by people whose names I am familiar with!) and each craft has a story about family behind it.

I’m squeezed for time and didn’t get a chance to do my usual photos of a few pages, but there are plenty of page previews over at Amazon. I’m glad they included pictures of the oversized crocheted area rug, the Doily Rug, as I think it’s amazing. You can also read more about the book and view the video made to celebrate the launch of the book right over here at Design*Sponge.

If you’d like to enter to win a copy please leave a comment with this post, the fine print applies, I’ll have the Random Number Generator choose a winner on Friday at 4pm PST. Updated: Yikes, I didn’t realize that would leave less than two days to enter, so I’m moving the deadline to Tuesday Dec. 14th at noon PST. Time is up! Thank you so very much to everybody who left comments, the stories have been heaps of fun to read!

To give you something to actually say in your comment I’ll ask you this: Do you have an item, handmade or not, in your home that has a family story behind it? I’ll go first, though I don’t have one here in my house (but intend to get one when I next visit my parents) my favorite thing growing up were the pot holders I or my cousins made on that little square loom while on the long road trip to Oklahoma. I remember giving one to an aunt when we arrived and having her pull out older and well used ones to show me. She said they were always better than any other pot holders and she was happy to have more to add to her collection. I think those pot holders were one of the first times I was aware of being able to design something to my liking within the constraints of what I had available, that being my choice of six colored loops. I remember figuring out how to make a gingham-like pattern and being so excited at discovering how it was done.

Your turn, good luck!

· comments [480] · 12-9-2010 · categories:books · craft ·

giveaway: Cake Pops!

Cake Pops book cover

Last week Maggi and I took a little trip out to see Bakerella at a book singing for her best selling (yay!) book Cake Pops here in Seattle. It was so great to finally meet her in person (hi!). Delightfully we bumped into Jessie of Cakespy and Carrie of Bella Cupcake Couture while we were there (hi!).

And, hooray, I have an extra copy of Cake Pops to give away. Want to win? Please leave a comment with this entry, the fine print applies, US and Canadian entries only this time please. Winner chosen by the exalted Random Number Generator. You’ve got until this Friday, Oct. 15th at 12 noon, Pacific time.

page showing pictures of how to form cake pops

I adore this book. Everything is clearly laid out, all the photography is charming, but of course, and the directions are very clear.

visual index of for each project

I love this photo index.

ghost cake pops

jack-o-lantern cake pops

mummy cake pops

And obviously I love all the Halloween cake pop options.

Ok, you can enter now. Good luck! Contest over, thanks so much to everybody for entering!

· comments [948] · 10-13-2010 · categories:books · food ·

Creative, Inc. blog book tour (and giveaway)

Creative, Inc. blog tour

I’m so happy to be part of the Creative, Inc. blog book tour today. Creative, Inc. is written by Meg Mateo Ilasco who wrote Craft, Inc. and does a lot of things, and Joy Deangdeelert Cho who is a prolific designer and whom you might know best as the person behind the blog Oh Joy!.

The description on the back of the book reads: “Packed with real-life advice from freelance superstars who have excelled in their industries (and made mistakes you can now avoid!), this book is an essential resource for all creatives — from illustrators and photographers to graphic designers, animators, stylists, and more — who want to succeed and doing what they love.” The book covers topic on how to promote your work, set fees, license your artwork, deal with taxes and hire and manage. Each chapter goes into depth on what you need to know, offers examples of working out fees or invoicing, and includes an interview or two with a creative professional that gives up a huge amount of great information. They are realistic about when you should charge more or less depending on the advantage, how to look at a licensing deal, whether you should expand a business or close it, whether you should hire (or fire) an agent. Most all of this information is mostly new to me and presented in a way that makes me feel like somebody has my back.

Creative, Inc. book cover

Sound like information you need? Lucky you I have a book to give away! If you’d like to get it please leave a comment with this post. The Fine Print applies. I’m going to do a shorter than normal deadline for this one, you’ll have two days to enter and The Random Number generator will be picking a winner on Wed. Sept. 1st at 4 p.m. PST. Good Luck! Winner randomly chosen and is being contacted, thanks for entering!

· comments [222] · 08-30-2010 · categories:books · shopping ·

what I’ve been reading

Scott and I have spent most of the summer with colds (he started it). As a result I’ve been reading a lot more than usual. I’ve come to really love reading on the iPhone, largely for the backlighting so I can read without disturbing Scott with a bedside light. But I also love being able to read while laying on my side and not struggling to keep a book open, and not having to fuss over pages that have too small a margin in the center and cause that wavy line effect, and not having to reach out my other arm to turn pages because, let’s face it, I’m lazy. It’s like watching tv in bed but it’s reading and I should probably stop typing right now shouldn’t I?

Apparently when I need to be soothed I read fiction that is about the end of the world as I know it, in one way or another:


Daemon (for Kindle). I originally bought this as a paperback to read on airplanes. I found it in a drugstore and with blurbs by Craig Newmark, Stewart Brand and William O’Brien (Former Director of Cybersecurity and Communications Policy for The White House) I couldn’t not get it.

Freedom (TM)

Freedom (TM) (for Kindle). Daemon comes to a sudden end, a downside of the Kindle for iPhone is that you have no idea how far you are into a book. So I used the upside of the Kindle and immediately downloaded the sequel and kept reading, all around 2 a.m. Now I cannot remember where one book ends and the next begins, which is bad since I keep accidentally giving Scott spoilers when we talk about Daemon.

The Passage

The Passage (for Kindle). I kept coming across reviews of this book so I downloaded it next, and it’s glorious length kept me company through many long nights of keeping myself awake coughing.

Going In Circles

Going In Circles (for Kindle). This book by Pamela Ribon (whom you might know better as Pamie) is a story about a woman knocked over by a divorce, and picked back up by roller derby.

The Breach

The Breach (for Kindle). This was a short book when compared to my earlier science fiction books, but I kept wishing I had a beach to sit on while I was reading it. It was fast paced and fun.

The Stand

The Stand (for Kindle). Reviews of The Passage kept comparing it to this so I figured I might as well finally read it.

If you’re looking for something to read I recommend heading over to What’s In Rebecca’s Pocket? and see all the lists of reading lists that she compiles in the summers. (Thank you Rebecca.)

· comments [16] · 08-4-2010 · categories:books · shopping ·

what I’ve been reading: The Butcher and the Vegetarian

cover of The Butcher and the Vegetarian

I recently got done reading The Butcher and the Vegetarian by Tara Austen Weaver and I really, really enjoyed it. It was one of those books I stayed up late into the night reading, and couldn’t wait to pick it up again the next day.

Tara takes us through the time in her life when she, raised a vegetarian, is advised to take up eating meat to help solve some chronic health troubles. The stories of her trying to figure out how to buy and cook meat are both hilarious and filled with a thoughtful exploration of how to balance the personal and environmental ethics of eating meat. She gets very close to the subject, visiting ranches and farms that are gentle to both the land and the animals, going through some of Michael Pollen’s arguments and spending a day at Meathenge. She finds some very good food and people. Tara doesn’t take any more virtuous than thou stances, and approaches each question looking fairly at all sides. That makes it sound boring, I admit, but I assure you it’s not, the book takes a journey that moves along briskly. I love it when I find an author whose words ring very clear in my head, and Tara is one of those.

for the sake of full disclosure: I consider Tara a friend, which is awesome because she holds gatherings like this one. Her personal site is Tea & Cookies.

· comments [9] · 04-26-2010 · categories:books · food ·

Sweater Quest

Sweater Quest book cover

I just finished reading Sweater Quest by Adrienne Martini and today I’m happy to be able to ask her a few questions. Sweater Quest is the story of knitting Alice Starmore’s Mary Tudor sweater pattern within one year. If you’re a knitter you might understand why that sounds far easier than it actually is. If you’re not a knitter you should know that it’s an insanely complicated sweater for which the pattern is out of print and difficult (and expensive) to find, the yarn hasn’t been made for years, and the knitting technique is intricate. It was an interesting read, I learned all about Alice Starmore and why she has the reputation she does, there are meetings with lots of the biggest knitting celebrities, trips to knitting meccas, historical facts about Mary Tudor, and musings on why we knit.

One of the things you ponder in the book is whether your sweater is really an Alice Starmore design since you didn’t use the original Alice Starmore yarns. I do not knit with wool and one of the first things I learned to do was substitute yarn so this concern about authenticity was something I’d never considered before. Did you have any further feelings on the this in general or about your Mary Tudor in particular after the book was wrapped up?

For most designs, substituting yarns is no big deal. You might wind up with an object that doesn’t drape or feel like the original but who cares? You’ve made something that pleases you. With Starmore, it makes a huge difference what yarns you use because she is a master at color. Swap out any one skein and you’ll wind up with a mess — and I know this because I tried to do just that. I saved the swatch from that misbegotten disaster and it is hideous.

I’m still not certain is my Mary Tudor is a true Starmore, frankly. I used a yarn (Spindrift) that is very, very close to the original Starmore yarns but isn’t identical. I substituted one color in the blue background bands. It might be close enough to a Starmore to fool the non-connoisseurs. But I wonder how it would fare if put next to the original.

So tell us, did you hear from Alice Starmore or her people once this book came out? Did you ever consider writing to her during your project?

I haven’t heard from Starmore or her official people at all. I have been vigorously taken to task by a few people on Ravelry who claim to be her bosom buddies. But, given the nature of such things, you can be almost anyone you want on the internet. So, really, who knows?

Frankly, I’d love to hear from her and wished that I could get her side of the story directly from her mouth. The publisher’s lawyers were twitchy, however, and I was firmly advised to not make contact. I’m not thrilled with this, mind, but will abide by their advice, even though I wish the world were a different place.

After finding how carefully and how well Alice Starmore uses color, if you were to do another Alice Starmore sweater would you seek out the specific yarns called for? If somebody else was going to tackle a Starmore would you recommend they get the particular yarns?

If — and it’s a big if, given how many other things I want to knit — I ever take on another Starmore sweater, I would get even more obsessive about it, which is hard to imagine, I know. I’d track down all of the original yarns, just to see if it really does make a big difference. For those who aren’t quite as compulsive as I can be, I’d say to just do what you feel is right. To get the best result, you have to use wool, I think, and swatch like a mighty knitter who swatches. Other than that, just do it – because if you can manage a decent knit stitch, you can do Starmore’s Fair Isle.

Do you ever get requests from people who would like to see your Mary Tudor in person? (I have to admit I would.) Are you taking it on your book tour with you?

The Mary Tudor is my constant traveling companion. She doesn’t eat much but does take up a lot of room in my bag. I still get a little thrill when the audience at a reading makes appreciative noises, even though I know it’s wrong to take such pride in a sweater. There are some pictures online, if you can’t make it to where I am, see it here.

Is there any significance to the knitted border design on your book jacket?

Not that I know of. I’ve been working on getting the jacket designer to confirm that the yarn in the main picture is Lamb’s Pride. The designer thinks it’s hilarious that anyone would ask that sort of question about stock art. Clearly, he doesn’t know knitters.

Indeed, thank you Adrienne!

Adrienne will be at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA on April 15 if you’d like to see the Mary Tudor for yourself, and you can keep up with her on her website, martinimade.

· comments [10] · 04-6-2010 · categories:books · craft · knitting ·

the books on my desk right now

a pile of books, listed below

Looking at this reminds me that I seem to never have received my copy of The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman) that came as part of last year’s BlogHer Food conference, bummer. I spent some summers in Oklahoma on my uncle’s farm, nothing as large as the ranch Ree and her family live on but there were fields, cattle, chickens, a barn with a loft (and soft hay below to land in when you jumped off), a swimming hole, very hungry greyhound dogs to feed dinner scraps to each night and a huge, endless sky. The farm was just outside a small town and checking Google maps now I can tell you the town has all of six streets. I’ve been joking with Scott that our next house needs to have neighbors that are further away, as in blocked from our view by the curvature of the earth. Bet those summers in Oklahoma influence my desire for a bit more breathing room.

a 1.5 inch corona bean after an overnight soaking

Wish I had a photograph of endless sky for you to put right here but instead this bean will have to do. For Easter weekend I made the Giant Crusty and Creamy White Beans recipe from Super Natural Cooking that I first made for cookbook club. This time I managed to track down some corona beans at ChefShop. Holy rhinoceroses people, these beans are huge and only get huger when you soak them, then they puff up quite a bit more when cooking. It was like eating magic beans. They are delicious, I highly recommend you track some down sometime. And taste one half way through boiling, they taste like chestnuts.

· comments [13] · 04-5-2010 · categories:books · shopping ·

Repro Depot designs on CD for Chronicle Books

Repro Depot for Chronicle Books

This is cool, as part of the new Repro Depot stuff for Chronicle Books they are releasing two different surface pattern books with a CD containing patterns you can use to make your own stationery, crafts and anything you can think of. They have Folk and Flora, both with a foreword from Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge. The collection also includes stationary, notecards and a journal.

· comments [10] · 09-18-2009 · categories:books · craft ·

Bend the Rules with Fabric

Bend the Rules with Fabric

Yay, Amy Karol’s second book, Bend the Rules with Fabric, is officially out. I have a copy and I really like it.

Bend the Rules with Fabric

The book talks about all the things you can do to decorate and personalize fabric for purposes of clothing, accessories and toys. The beginning of the book talks about supplies and techniques, and I was especially pleased to find that none of them require you to buy a huge amount of expensive equipment.

Bend the Rules with Fabric

She covers things from dying fabric to printing on fabric using your home computer printer. One of my favorites is using freezer paper to put silk screen like effects on fabric. I like these sheets:

Bend the Rules with Fabric

The book is full of simple but stunning ideas for decorating everyday things including undies:

Bend the Rules with Fabric

and shoes:

Bend the Rules with Fabric

and some simple stitching to make a plain shirt into something that looks very nice indeed:

Bend the Rules with Fabric

I’ve focused on the projects that appeal immediately to me, but the book is full of projects for kids and ones you can do with kids, including transferring drawn images onto clothing and making custom printed dolls.

Amy Karol’s blog is Angry Chicken where she documents life and gives instruction all sorts of great projects. Her first book, Bend-the-Rules Sewing, is equally as awesome. I talk about more here.

· comments [8] · 08-28-2009 · categories:books · craft · recipes ·

giveaway: Creature Crochet

Creature Crochet

I’m happy to let you all know that Kristen Rask (she who owns Schmancy and curates the annual Plush You! show) has a new book (it’s a kit too) coming out in mid-September called Creature Crochet. To celebrate she is giving away a copy to one lucky reader. I got a look at the copy she brought to the summer UCU but, sadly, wasn’t able to rip it own and play with the yarn inside.

To enter simply leave a comment with this post. If you want you can tell us the creature-centric crochet project you’ve ever taken on, or if you’ve never crocheted in your life. The Fine Print applies. I’ll be closing comments and letting the random number generator choose a winner around 10 am on Wednesday, Sept. 2nd, PST, so you’ve got a week to enter, good luck!

Creature Crochet

· comments [374] · 08-26-2009 · categories:books · craft ·

the books in my dining room

a stack of books

From top to bottom:

Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlingham. I got this one at the Small and Special Conference, both the book and conference had been recommended by Lauren of The Boss of You when she was in Seattle to speak to the Grassroots Business Association. I know this one has nothing to do with food, but I’ve been reading it while cooking rice instead of obsessively checking Twitter. Or at least I’ve been trying.

The next four books I got at the International Food Blogging Conference here in Seattle, which was excellently put together by Foodista:

Not Becoming My Mother by Ruth Reichl. I have not started reading this yet, but I’m eager to after listening to Ruth Reichl talk about it twice while she was here in Seattle.

The Devil’s Food Dictionary: A Pioneering Culinary Reference Work Consisting Entirely of Lies by Barry Foy. Scott reads to me from this while I’m cooking (our kitchen is a tiny one person sized space). My favorite is this description of modern day food: “there is both medical and social pressure to favor health-promoting foods at the expense of those that actually make life worth living.” It is followed by a table that gives lists Healthy on one side and the equivalent Tasty on the other. My favorites are “1/2 c. chopped parsley = 2 croissants + 1 1/2 pains au chocolat”.

Memorable Recipes To Share with Family and Friends by Renee Behnke. Everything in here looks fabulous and might actually get me to attempt to do some fancy cooking.

The Art & Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet. Droolworthy, heavy and full of things I want to make right now. I especially appreciate the little tips includes in the corners of the pages.

These are the ones I use often and keep nearby:

How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. Shortly after I bought this book a newly revised and updated version was released (with a red cover), I’m forming a strategy on how to get the new one for Christmas even though this one has not let me down.

Baking Illustrated by Cook’s Illustrated Magazine Editors. Though I’m a much better baker than a cook, I really appreciate all the detailed why information given here. This book was worth the price for the calzones alone.

· comments [14] · 07-13-2009 · categories:books · food ·

It Sucked and Then I Cried

book cover for It Sucked and Then I Cried

Heather Armstrong will be signing her book It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita tonight at the Lake Forest Park Third Place Books, 7 p.m. I’ve been reading her site, Dooce, since before she was fired (?) so I am feeling a little protective, like I should be ready to punch anybody who is the real life equivalent of one of her comment trolls. Just try it, punk.

· comments [7] · 03-31-2009 · categories:books · events · seattle ·

Cook’s Illustrated Make-Ahead Recipes

Cooks Illustrated Best Make-Ahead Recipe book

We’re lazy about weeknight dinners (too cranky to chop!) but find we’re really happy if we cook a bit on the weekends and have things like bolognese, prepped kale and pot pies in the freezer. In an effort to expand this I just picked up the Spring 2009 Cook’s Illustrated issue of Make-Ahead Recipes but I note with interest that there is also a The Best Make-Ahead Recipe book which I’ll have to add to my wishlist.

· comments [9] · 03-19-2009 · categories:books · food ·

books on my desk

five books

The books on my desk right now:

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table (p.s. Molly is signing her book in Portland at Powell’s tonight)

Button It Up: 80 Amazing Vintage Button Projects for Necklaces, Bracelets, Embellishments, Housewares & More, by Susan Beal of West Coast Crafty (due to a little shipping mix up I have an extra book so expect a giveaway of it next week). Congrats to Susan!

Linen, Wool, Cotton: 25 Simple Projects to Sew with Natural Fabrics, by Akiko Mano, gorgeously simple projects with well explained diagrams.

Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Home: No-Nonsense Advice that Will Inspire You to CLEAN like the DICKENS, I’m hoping this will inspire me to get a little spring cleaning done.

Weekend Knitting: 50 Unique Projects and Ideas, this is a classic that has recently been released in paperback.

· comments [5] · 03-6-2009 · categories:books · craft · food ·

A Homemade Life – book signing

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table

Orangette’s book A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table is out, and her first book event is tomorrow, 7 p.m. March 3rd at the University Book Store. Huge congratulations Molly!

· comments [2] · 03-2-2009 · categories:books · events · food · seattle ·