Category Archives: adventures at the library

March & April Book Report

My reading has slowed down…partly due to April’s wacky schedule, but also Souls for Sale may not be the book to get me over my reading hump.

Souls for Sale by Rupert Hughes
I’m halfway into this…when I’m reading it, I like it, but I’m not excited to pick it up. I will report back in May, unless I give up on it.

As it Was & A World Without End by Helen Thomas
These two memoirs…just beautiful, and perfect for spring. It is Helen Thomas’s telling of her marriage to poet and writer Edward Thomas who struggled with depression and died in World War I. Helen and Edward had three children and lived in poverty most of the time, since Edward was something of a struggling writer. He was also a nature lover, so their explorations of the wilderness and the descriptions of flowers and birds and the forests are gorgeous. He may have been a published writer, but her talents for writing are extraordinary.

The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner
This was our April pick for book club. The writing was beautiful and there was a lot of marital strife and family drama. (The book is semi-autobiographical so that made it even more interesting because it was as if Stegner was working out his childhood trauma in the book.) It wasn’t an easy read, but everyone in book group appreciated it.

The Man Who Lived Underground by Richard Wright
Written in between Native Son and Black Boy, The Man Who Lived Underground was just published last year. I read both of those books and a lot more Wright in college so I was really interested in this one that Wright called one of his best. We read it for book club in March. Wright is a very effective writer, and this book could have been written this year, sadly. I can’t say I enjoyed it–it was definitely a tense read with a sad ending, but I’m glad we read it. If you’ve never read Richard Wright, I would suggest this as a good place to start.

Spring Came On Forever by Bess Streeter Aldrich
This was my first Streeter Aldrich but hopefully not my last! This one was written in 1935 and follows two families moving from Illinois to settle Nebraska. It’s a family saga that covers three generations of both families. There’s love and heartbreak, pioneer struggles, marital strife, and beautiful descriptions of scenery in this book–it was a good spring read that I stayed up way too late to finish.

My April was bananas with Easter at work and a ton of volunteer stuff to manage. I am hoping I can slow down in May and get back into my habit of dinner reading and doing more things for myself this month.

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Letter Writing Presentation with Lake Villa District Library

Have you been celebrating National Card & Letter Writing Month? I’ve been trying to work through my to-be-returned pile and get back into the habit of writing, but I’m a little bit behind my goal. I’m determined to finish strong next week!

Tonight I’m joining the Lake Villa District Library for a discussion about letter writing. It’s an online session and if you’re interested in joining us, here’s the link.

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Origami Heart Valentines

Last year I taught a Valentine workshop online with the Forest Park Public Library. These origami hearts were some of my favorites. They are super easy to learn and they’re so versatile! You can tuck them in with a letter or a card or you can use them to build your own DIY Valentine.

I used this short video to learn the folds:

I folded a ton of hearts to prepare for the class. I used some thin, cheap origami paper and also some really fancy washi, like this purple one above. (Can you see all of the fibers in the washi paper?) Washi makes really dreamy hearts, but the thinner stuff is easier to work with, especially if you’re folding with kids.

For some of the Valentines, I tucked a little message inside the front where the two halves split. I just used thin strips of scrap paper leftover from another project.

I don’t have a better picture of the origami heart card I made because I mailed it last year! But if you wanted to send something more substantial than a tiny origami heart, you could always glue it to a fold-over card. I made a little banner for my message and adhered it with foam squares for some dimension.

I had most of these hearts packed away from last year since we were closing on the house and packing up to put our condo on the market. It felt good to find them again and release them into the mail world along with my cards for this year.

Have you sent any Valentines out this year?

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You’re Tweet Valentine

Last year, I taught a Valentine card making class with the Forest Park Public Library. It was my first zoom workshop and it went way better than I feared! All of the participants got a little kit with supplies and then they followed along at home as I talked them through paper crafting. It was so weird for me to make cards that didn’t involve rubber stamps but since we couldn’t share supplies, I was challenged to use only paper, scissors, and glue!

One of my favorites from the workshop is this bird. It’s based off of one of the first Paper Source kits I ever bought.

You’re Tweet Bird Valentine

Supplies:

A variety of colored card stock, including orange for the beak
Heart cards (or you can cut your own hearts using your card stock)
Scissors
Hole punch*
Pencil
Glue stick
Brads* (Michaels and Amazon have a nice selection if you want to get fancy colored brads.)
Googly eyes (or you can draw eyes with a marker)
Something about 2″ round to trace or a punch that makes 2″ circles (or you can freehand)

*If you don’t have a hole punch or brads, you can still make this card–it just won’t have moveable wings.

Take two hearts, ideally different colors but the same size, and cut one in half vertically. These hearts are from Paper Source but you can cut your own.

Next make a two inch circle and cut it out. It doesn’t have to be exact. Just find something in your house that is round and about two inches in diameter and trace it onto some colored card stock. You can also freehand a circle.

Glue your circle onto the bottom heart (the un-cut one.) Remember this is the head, so eyeball it to see how it looks best.

Next, lay your cut heart on top of the bottom heart and head and punch a hole at the top of each side, as shown above. This hole will go through the top heart, the bottom heart, and the head. (If you don’t have brads, you can skip this step.)

Poke your brads through the holes to make the moveable wings. (If you don’t have brads, you can glue the wings on. Remember to consider your envelope while deciding how wide to make your bird’s wingspan!)

Glue on your googly eyes (or draw on some eyes if you don’t have googly eyes) and then cut a beak out of some orange card stock. Glue on the beak.

Finally, write your message. I typed up some messages on the Royal Safari, but you can hand write a message on the bottom heart too!

Isn’t he so cute and easy? And for real, if you don’t have a hole punch and brads, a bird with glued wings is still very cute! You could also rubber stamp or glitter the wings to make him extra fancy.

If you make one, please tag me on Instagram or share on Twitter!

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Recap of the Workshop at Forest Park Public Library

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I taught a winter card making workshop at Forest Park Public library last month. It was a drop-in class so people could come at any time and make a card or two. I have taught in-person card making classes, and I’ve taught a card making class on zoom, but I had never taught a card making class where everyone wasn’t working on the same card at the same time. I was a little bit nervous, but while making my samples, I figured there were several places in each card where independent work would give me a chance to help someone else. And it all worked out just fine. I even got the highest compliment from a women who makes cards all the time. She said that she learned some new things at the workshop. Goal achieved.

I had six card options–two origami, two with other paper folding, a layered card, and a shaker postcard. The glittered vintage paper trees were by far the most popular, and the most challenging. It’s really hard to get the hang of the folds, even though it looks so simple.

It was especially fun to see everyone making the cards their own. This is an example of a snowcat card based on my snowman card. I love how Michelle used the little gems to make a holly accent on the hat and just the whole concept of a snowcat!

Has anyone started thinking about their Valentines? Too soon?

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Winter Card Making with Forest Park Public Library

I’m teaching a card making class at the Forest Park Public Library on Thursday! If you are local, you can sign up here. It’s a drop in class, so people can come and make a card or two and leave, or they can stay and make all five. I have a couple of Christmas ones, but also some general winter ideas so if Christmas isn’t your thing, there will be something for everyone.

I am bringing a typewriter, rubber stamps, vintage papers, some origami, and glitter…plenty of glitter. (‘Tis the season after all!)

This is my third library event. (I don’t think I told you about the week I presented about letter writing with Schaumburg Library, did an online Valentine making workshop with Forest Park Public Library, and closed on a house, have I?) Library events are a lot of fun–a very relaxed way to learn, and free!

I’ll be back with more Christmas posts–holiday parties, workshops, and wholesale orders are keeping me busy these days!

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Forest Park Public Library’s Grand Re-Opening

Forest Park Public library, Forest Park, library, grand reopeningFor the past several months, our library has been under construction and finally, last month, it was officially re-opened. There was a huge celebration with food and activities and Shelly the Library Turtle. Forest Park Public Library grand reopening, Kettlestrings bandThe library, in its current form, had been around since 1995 so some changes were due. They moved offices downstairs and opened the main floor up so the patrons could enjoy the light and they built study rooms for patrons who need a quiet space to work and community rooms for programming. They also gave the carpeting and furniture a face lift. We were clearly there to see Shelly the Library Turtle. Oh, and the cupcakes.

Almost 600 people came to the library re-opening party, which is pretty amazing in a town of 15,000. I’m super excited that regular programming is back at the library. I’ve gone to small business planning workshops, cooking demos, a yogurt making workshop, screen and block printing workshops, letter writing meet-ups, and so many other great programs there.

Does your library have great programming? I always love to hear what other libraries are doing. If you don’t go to events at your library, goooo! It’s a fun, free way to get out into the community and to support your local library so they can continue providing great services and events. And really, how many things are free these days? (I know, I know…we pay for it with our taxes, which is all the more reason to use the library!)

P.S. I still have quite a few Japan posts in the works so we’ll return to those soon!

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July Books

I had a very good reading month in July, which is great because I haven’t read anything since! Yikes!

“The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood

This short story was recommended as one of the scariest stories ever, and as you know, I love a scary book. I found “The Willows” to be really intense and a really great read. There is looming doom through the whole book. Definitely one to read in October if you have a chance. I am going to request this collection again this fall to see if I like any of his other “weird” short stories.

Howard’s End by E.M. Forster

This is supposedly Forster’s “masterpiece” but…I didn’t love this. Maybe it was over-hyped? While I appreciate Forster’s writing and I liked the story, it wasn’t a book that I was eager to pick up every day. I appreciate the social commentary–a modern, bohemian woman married to the conservative older man, and refusing to adapt to his old ideas–but this book just didn’t grab me the way that A Room with a View did. I do wonder if I would like it better after a book club discussion. (Fun fact: most of our book club reviews get better after the discussions!)

Stationery Fever by John Komurki

I borrowed this for the eye candy and ended up reading it. It’s full of pictures of vintage and new stationery, divided by topic. At the end of each chapter, there are a few pages highlighting stationery shops around the world. It was a good overview of the history of the most useful stationery supplies, and delves into classic companies that make them. It left me wanting more…not in a bad way…in a I’ve had a taste, now I want more details kind of way. Also, now I want to travel the world seeing the best stationery shops.

Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett 

This was for book group. If you don’t know, Hammett wrote The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man Series which were turned into some of my favorite old movies. In our group, the book got mixed reviews. It is about a detective hired to clean up a town that is out of control with corruption. The characters and alliances are very confusing…I actually made a character map to try to figure things out. As someone in book club said, once you give up trying to figure things out, it’s an enjoyable read. Hammett is a really sharp writer and there were so many quotes that I marked as perfect descriptions or things that made me laugh. I really love Film Noir and this book made me feel like I was reading an old movie. Supposedly The Glass Key is one of his best, so I’ve added that to my list for later this year.

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury 

I can’t remember ever reading Bradbury before. This one came up in a discussion as a great summer read and I love a seasonal book so… It was really lovely. I just notice the library stickered it as Science Fiction, but it wasn’t sci-fi at all. It was a coming-of-age story (How many of those have I read this year?) about a boy growing up in a small town in Illinois. Basically, he realizes his mortality this summer and learns to appreciate the moments of life, especially the making of dandelion wine with his grandfather. The wine will be enjoyed over the winter and remind them all of specific happenings on these summer days. Supposedly the book is semi-autobiographical. Dandelion Wine was just a beautiful summer reading experience.

Bright Center of Heaven by William Maxwell

Have I mentioned how much I love William Maxwell? This was his first novel, and it definitely wasn’t as developed as Time Will Darken It or Song of the Lark or The Folded Leaf, but Maxwell already had honed his perfect ways in describing relationships and feelings. The story revolves around artistic guests and the lonely owner of a boarding house in the early 1930s. It takes awhile to get to the “conflict” which is the tension between the black lecturer who was invited to stay at the boarding house and the other guests, but even though the conflict is imperfect, the rest of the story is engaging and beautifully written. (But I may be biased…) I have one more Maxwell to read and then I’ll be finished with his novels…it feels bittersweet. I might save it as a Christmas present to myself.

This Saturday is book club and we’re reading an autobiography…looking forward to finishing my first book for August!

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June Books

 

I squeezed in a short story on June 30th, but I’ll talk about that next month. I had to take my book stack picture early because No Surrender was due and I wanted to be a responsible library patron.

I was pretty pleased with my reading in June. Each book was really different, but let’s not get too crazy! They’re all old!

No Surrender by Constance Maud

This one came highly recommended by Persephone Book fans but I thought it read like a made-for-TV movie about the suffrage movement in England. It was good…but not great. I definitely felt like a learned a ton about what those women went through and what sacrifices were made for the right to vote, but I never really connected with the characters and it sort of slogged midway through. Still, I’m glad I read it, especially since I just happened to be reading it during the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment passing here in the US.

Letters of Arthur George Heath

This one was for book club and is really different than the books we usually read, but it was universally loved by the group. It’s a non-fiction book of one soldier’s letters to home. Arthur George Heath’s family published his letters after he was killed early in World War I. The letters were both ordinary and moving. In some, he asks for mundane details about his family’s new home and he requests a new pipe, books, and pajamas. In others, he’s telling his mother that if he dies, she should still enjoy places that he loved at home and not let them cause her pain because he is gone. He’s also very funny, suggesting that his fellow soldiers shouldn’t start War & Peace because “if one makes ambitious plans like that, one certainly gets killed in the middle.” It was a pretty easy read, and of course I loved that it was letters. A book club member shared this article after our discussion and it was really great for filling in some of the historical gaps about war letter writing.

Time Will Darken It by William Maxwell

This is my third Maxwell book of the year and I absolutely loved this book. It’s a story about a couple, Austin and Martha King, who have visitors staying with them for an extended period of time during a summer. They are Austin’s relatives and his foster cousin, Nora, is in love with him and the other relatives take advantage of Austin’s community connections and make some bad business deals. These two things create the slow downfall of Austin’s relationships, both with his wife and with his small community. (Oh did I mention the story, like most of Maxwell’s books, happens in a small Illinois town?) While there is not a ton of action in most of the book, I just love the way Maxwell is able to explain the human experience. I loved every minute of it.

I think I’m going to try to read the other two Maxwell novels that I haven’t read yet. I just finished my first book for July and haven’t decided what’s next, but I think my plan to read back-to-back E.M. Forster may be a mistake…

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May Book Report

I’m back with another tiny book stack.  I’ve decided if I can read two books and a short story per month this summer, I’ll be doing pretty well!

Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom by Sylvia Plath

This one came out earlier this year, but was written by Plath when she was a college student in 1952. It felt very Shirley Jackson-ish, like a Twilight Zone episode. You know Mary is on a train trip to somewhere and it slowly becomes apparent that she is going to an ominous place. I loved it, but you know I love a good, dark short story.

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I tried to love this book. I loved The Great Gatsby. I enjoy books about women with mental health issues who are being cared for by their doctor/husband. (Hello, “Yellow Wallpaper!”) I enjoy books about affairs and beach vacations and lots of drinking. This book had it all, but seriously…it was the worst. I really wanted something juicy to happen at the end (perhaps a drunk car crash off a cliff?) but sadly, that didn’t happen. (If you liked this book, I’d love to know why! I feel like my entire book club and I must be missing something! It was the lowest rated book in a long time!)

To Bed with Grand Music by Marghanita Laski

The book starts with married couple, Deborah and Graham in bed, Deborah promising fidelity while Graham is gone to war. Graham isn’t making any promises (because he’s a man, obviously…) I just knew I was going to love this wife and all of the trouble she gets into. Deborah has many, many, many escapades and she works the system and is able to create quite a rich life for herself while her husband is gone to war. Her standards get lower and lower as the book goes on, and her justifications get more wild. I had such a good time reading this book, which was written in 1946 and in some ways explores how different wartime expectations were for women compared to men. I love that Deborah is “bad.” She definitely made this book a different kind of wartime novel. The descriptions of the cocktails and the dinners and the gifts were also amazing and really just made this a great read! It was good to enjoy something after that book club book…

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