two great biographies

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(Hey, I’m back! Did ya miss me?)

I think I might’ve said before that sometimes biographies are more interesting than novels. I love reading about important people in history. I think it makes history come to life and seem a bit more real. Two great biographies I enjoyed and recommend (and actually got through in a reasonable amount of time, unlike some other bios I’ve attempted to read).

First up: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie.
I don’t really know much about Russian history, aside from what I learned when I was on a World War 1 and 2 kick a few years back. (It was kind of an obsession.) This was a great book. In good biographies, they give you the life of the person as well as a historical backdrop of what was going on in the country or world at the time. Catherine’s life spanned decades of change, both in Russia and the world. Honestly, I don’t think I knew anything about Catherine before I picked this book up. Kings and queens intrigue me, except when the author decides to tell you a little too much about the monarch’s private life. Yeesh, I’ll pass, thanks.

Next: Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician by Anthony Everitt.
Another obsession: Roman history. Yeah, I think I won’t ever grow out of it. Rome and its Empire are so much more fascinating than say, the Greeks. No offense, Greeks. Julius Caesar, Brutus, and Augustus all kind of steal the limelight when it comes to famous Romans. Cicero was pretty amazing. He managed to survive revolution after revolution, only to fall after Caesar. Mr. Everitt was able to quote from many of Cicero’s letters in this biography, which is neat. There are all the principle players in the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Empire. (That sounds like the name of a Star Wars movie.)

(I’m not going to post on Wednesday, seeing as it’s Ash Wednesday. I will be back on Friday for YarnAlong.)

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The River Cottage Family Cookbook~ review

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The River Cottage Family Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Fizz Carr

If I could only use one cookbook for the rest of my life, I would pick this one. Not only is it a cookbook, but it is also a comprehensive book about food. And there’s just so much of it! I’ve used the River Cottage cookbook for years now. Crunchable food, pretty pictures, and not just how, but why. Food is good and I love it. 😀

If I’m being honest, I would buy this book for the Macaroni and Cheese recipe. It is THAT GOOD. Okay, the white bread recipe, too. Those two would make it worth it! I made the M&C several years ago, burned it, and vowed never to make it again. Fast forward five years, (literally!!), and I finally worked up the courage to make it again. And now I can’t go a month without making it. 🙂 Again, food is good.

Look up this book! It comes highly recommended by me. I’m in no way a fancy cook but the River Cottage Family cookbook isn’t fancy. It’s for families. And me. 😉

Handmade Home~ review

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Handmade Home by Amanda Blake Soule

This book + me = LOVE.

Seriously. I love reading the SouleMama blog on a daily basis. I think her blog was one of the first I started following. And this book is like her blog in print form. I love the style and thought that went into all the projects. And I’ve made quite a few of them over the years.

The premise of the book is similar to ImprovSewing that I reviewed on Monday: reusing old materials to make something new and useful. One thing I appreciate in craft books or cook books is having a little blurb about the project/recipe above the pattern/recipe. Amanda Blake Soule has a way with words that is so powerful and profound but still approachable. That’s a good word for Handmade Home: approachable. Everything is handmade, repurposed, and beautiful. Of the six essays Amanda wrote for the book, I think the one that speaks to me the most is Comfortably Worn. I feel like that is my philosophy with materiel goods, well worn and well loved.

So far, I’ve made the paper-mâché bowls, a towel rug out of the wildest fabric in the world and a purple towel, the pillowcase dress into a shirt for myself, a fiber garland, and the Broadturn bag, which make wonderful library/knitting bags. I want to make almost everything in here! Have I gotten around to it yet? Uh, no. Do I want to? Uh, yes!

improv sewing ~review

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Improv Sewing: A Freeform Approach to Creative Techniques by Nicole Blum and Deborah Immergut

I’m a sew-er (stitcher? sewist? not a seamstress!). I don’t really like following patterns all that often, unless I do. I’m also thrifty (read: cheap) and don’t have access to a good fabric store nearby. That’s probably why my knitting gets more of my attention. However, I recently got my first sewing machine, a Singer that I named Miss Singer, which has rekindled my love of sewing.

This book makes me want to sew all the things. Seriously! Improv? Fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants sewing? Yes! That is how I sew. Of course, I don’t love every single pattern, but I would love to make many of them. I don’t know how many times I’ve checked it out from the library…. I like flipping through the book simply for inspiration. Oooo… I like the way they did that, but what if I did it this way? How about adding some buttons? Or rick-rack? Or just doodling all over the fabric? Yeah, I like that!

I’ve made a few different projects from the book, like the super jersey bags my own way and a few bracelets. Most of the projects are made out of jersey, which I have had baaaaaddddd experiences with. *ahem, sewing machine chomping the jersey and NOT LETTING GO!* Yeah, stuff like that. I would like to make myself a jersey tunic using this book. I keep checking it out to do so, but then three weeks go by. The book is due and where is the tunic you were planning on making, hmm? If only I was so diligent with my sewing as I am with my knitting.

I really recommend this book, maybe not to just-starting-out stitchers, but to those with a smidge more practice. It’s a great book. 🙂

rainbow spines

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When you look at books, the first thing you see is the spine of the book. Sometimes the spines are very pretty. Sometimes they’re really ugly. I searched through my favorite books to find ones with pretty, rainbow spines. Here they are in order. I hope this cheers up your dreary day!

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Red

Alice In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll~ I just had to include this book. My blog is named Alice In Bookland, after all! And the book itself is stunningly pretty. I love the vintage spine. And the White Rabbit on the front? Darling!

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Orange

Theodore Boone: The Accused by John Grisham~ The third of the Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer books by John Grisham. The spine looks more red than orange, but whatever. This is a really good book, great for boys. And girls!

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Yellow

Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne~ I think this book was printed in the 1930s or so. It is gorgeous!

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Green

Tiger’s Destiny by Colleen Houck~ Number four in the Tiger’s Curse series.

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Blue

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall~ Can I say how much I love the Penderwicks? The sisterly love between them is wonderful. The story is sweet. Skye trying to be the OAP (oldest available Penderwick) is hilarious. This is the third in the Penderwick series.

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Indigo

Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery~ My favorite of all the Anne books. I like it because Anne is older (but not too old), and it has romance. And Gilbert! Oh, I have such a literary crush on Gilbert…

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Violet

The Quiet Light- A Novel about Saint Thomas Aquinas by Louis de Wohl~ Louis de Wohl is one of my favorite authors ever in the history of authorship. His books are so well written, so detailed, and the subjects are wonderful. This one, about Saint Thomas Aquinas, is one of my favorites. And it’s one of the only books I have that has a purple spine!

Care to share your favorite rainbow spine books? Comment below!

The Joyful Beggar~ book and movie review

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The Joyful Beggar- by Louis de Wohl

St. Francis of Assisi is one of the most well-known saints of all time. He’s popular among Catholics as the patron saint of animals, and even non-Catholics know who he is. The Joyful Beggar is the story of Francis’ life, as told by one of the greatest Catholic storytellers.

The Joyful Beggar follows Francis as he goes from being the spoiled son of a wealthy merchant to the founder of the Friars Minor, or Franciscans. Born in Assisi, he was named Francis after his father’s love of all things French. There are other storylines that add to the richness of the story. The lives of St. Clare of Assisi, Frederick, King of Sicily and Holy Roman Emperor, St. Dominic, and Pope Innocent III are woven in with ease. Mr. de Wohl is a master of detail. He described the Italian countryside, the sands of Egypt, and the Italian society of the 1200s in amazing detail.

The Joyful Beggar was made into a movie called Francis of Assisi. I actually watched the movie not that long ago on the feast of St. Francis, October 4. It seems to be pretty typical of a movie made in the 1950s or so, (I didn’t see the actual date). It has a very grand, sweeping style, but plays around a bit with the novel. That’s understandable, as it’s rather hard to cram a 370 page book into an hour and a half movie!

I enjoyed the book and the movie. The Joyful Beggar was the first de Wohl book I ever read and I have been hooked ever since. 🙂

Have you read any of Louis de Wohl’s books? Which is your favorite? Tell me in the comments!

favorite children’s books: part 4

Today is the last day of the favorite children’s books posts (for now!). Ending with religious books that mean a lot to me is a good way to finish off, I think. All of the titles I’ve selected are either Christmas, Christian, or Catholic books.

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Tapestries: Stories of Women in the Bible by Ruth Sanderson- I love the look of this book. All of the more well-known women of the Bible are in here.

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The Donkey’s Dream by Barbara Helen Berger- The little donkey has a dream that he carries a ship, a city, a rose and a fountain. He is carrying Mary, the Mother of God, on his back. All those symbols are symbols of Mary. A sweet, gentle book.

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A Small Miracle by Peter Collington- There aren’t any words in A Small Miracle, but it forces you to really look at the images and absorb them.

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Saints: Lives and Illuminations by Ruth Sanderson- Ruth Sanderson did an amazing job on this book and its companion. The saints in here are from the 1st century to about the 11th. St. Catherine of Alexandria is on the front cover.

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More Saints: Lives and Illuminations by Ruth Sanderson- St. Francis of Assisi is on the front of this book. The saints in here are from the 12th century to more modern days. (I just realized as I was writing this post that I have three books on here by Ruth Sanderson! That’s half of the ones in this post. I must really like her books.)

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The Weight of A Mass by Josephine Nobisso, Illustrated by Katalin Szegedi- The Weight of A Mass is a beautiful way to show children how precious the Mass should be to them and to us as adults.

So, there you have it! Many of my favorite children’s books in no specific order. I’ll be going back to my regular review posting on Monday. Thank you for bearing with me and for sharing some of your favorite picture books. 🙂

Do you have any favorite books you’d like to share?