Tuesday Reviews-Day: Happy: The Journal

Tuesday Revews-Day

Happy New Year!

At this annual calendar flip we often declare resolutions, goals, or intentions for the new year. While it’s completely arbitrary, it feels good to have direction with the yawning year ahead of us, and I’m just as prone to ascribe hopes and dreams to the beginning of the calendar year or the beginning of a new birth year as anyone else.

Which is probably why I accepted a copy of Happy: The Journal for review. And since it’s a daily, dated journal that starts on January 1, today seemed the best day to share it with you.

On its own, it can be a book to put happy thoughts of each day. Or, you can use the prompts that accompany each entry, usually following a theme each month, to direct your journaling a bit more. The pages are pastel and the lines are spaced wide, which I think makes the idea of daily journaling and introspection a little less daunting.

Perhaps the one detractor to this journal is the binding. When will publishers think of how a book will be used and bind accordingly?! A lay-flat binding, like actual notebooks and journals, would have been preferred, but lacking that a spiral binding would make the journal much more user-friendly.

Reading the introduction, I realized that there is a book that preceded the journal, and I thought it might be useful to read that, as well. (The Kindle edition is only 3.99 as of this writing, so it’s an easy pick-up if you’re so included.)

Happy: Finding Joy in Every Day and Letting Go of Perfect was written by Fearne Cotton, a UK television and radio personality. While I’m not a huge fan of self-help books as a general rule, I found many feelings and passages in Happy that resonated with my own, far less public, experiences. The book has quite a number of activities in it, and the worksheets are printable from the publishers website. There are a bunch!

Overall, the point of both the book and the journal are to concentrate on the choices we have in our lives to concentrate and react to the events and people we encounter and encourages us to choose happy, joyful options over the negative alternatives. Because Fearne doesn’t set herself up as having all the answers, instead is quite frank about her struggles over the years and the ongoing ones of today, she’s a far more relatable source, like sitting down to a cup of coffee (or wine) with a good friend.

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of Happy: The Journal in exchange for a review; no other compensation was received. All thoughts, opinions, and errors are solely my own. Affiliate links have been used throughout this post.

Tuesday Reviews-Day: Crochet Animal Rugs

Tuesday Revews-Day

This is a sponsored post. I was provided a copy of the book for purpose of review. All opinions are my own and any mistakes are mine, too. Amazon affiliate links may be included.

I first learned to crochet when I was 7 or 8 years old while visiting family on the holidays. But all my grandmother taught me were granny squares. It wasn’t until I taught myself to knit almost 20 years later that crochet patterns started making sense.

Lately I’ve been splitting my time between knit and crochet projects, so when I was offered a copy of Crochet Animal Rugs  by Ira Rott for review, I was very interested. Even more so when I saw there was a monkey set included in the patterns!

I had so much fun working on the monkey rug and companion pillow. They kept my hands busy during Hurricane Michael and the three day power outage afterwards as well as while watching over Todd after his gall bladder removal the following week (October was a busy month for us). And thanks to the yarn-bombing project a couple years back I had almost all of the materials I needed to complete both the rug and the pillow in my craft stash (I didn’t have the right size hook, so I ordered a set that had L, M, and N hooks).

The patterns in the book are clearly written, well-illustrated, and quite fun, to boot! Because the rugs use three strands of yarn at a time, the individual pieces work up pretty quickly, so they definitely give you that instant gratification feeling that I love about crochet in general.

The pillow pattern only uses one strand of yarn and, yes, the base shape is slightly tedious to construct, but even that’s not so bad. I’m the girl who detests garter stitch in knitting because it’s so incredibly boring, so 25 rounds of single crochet isn’t going to get rave reviews from me, but the end result is worth it. I love the ruffle on the monkey pillow and the big and small bows were so fun and quick to crochet that I may need to make some to wear!

Of course, if the rugs and pillows (each animal set also comes with a third project–toy bags, security blankets, a stool cover, and a placemat, for example) are adorable in their normal scale, how much cuter would they be miniaturized?!

That would be very, in case there was any doubt! For the mini version of the panda rug, I used a single strand of lace-weight and sock yarns and 1/2.75mm steel hook. For the pillow I dropped down to crochet thread (No. 10) and a size 7/1.65mm steel hook. This scaled the finished projects down to roughly 1:3 scale, making it perfectly proportioned to 18″ dolls.

Not that this stops my 12″ dolls from enjoying the rug and pillow. The rug just takes up more floor space and the pillow becomes a big cushion–I don’t hear her complaining!

Working through these patterns I picked up some new skills (like popcorn stitch and crab stitch) as well as discovered useful gems in the form of the bows and even the star element from the panda–I can just see those stars worked up in metallic thread as ornaments (or even thin-gauge metal itself).

Sure, the projects in this book are intended for the joy of kids, but I’m a big kid at heart and I look forward to finding just the right spot for the monkey rug and pillow in my own home. I’ll also be set for any upcoming baby showers on the horizon!

Feeling Bookish & the Senses Project: Killers of the Flower Moon

Tuesday Revews-Day

Not too long ago our local bookstore, The Bookshelf, hosted a Book Club Fair–an inspired way to connect readers with other readers and, specifically, book clubs in the area. I signed up for a few of them (whether I stick with all of them every month remains to be seen, but I’m giving them all a fair shot before I decide).

One club is one I’ve been meaning to get to for months, Stitches and Stories. It’s a joint effort with The Bookshelf and Fuzzy Goat and it’s such a low-key book club meets Knit Night that it’s just too awesome to pass up. They play the beginning of an audiobook (via Libro.fm, an audiobook distributor that allows a portion of your purchase to go to the independent book store of your choice) while you knit, crochet, etc. and then there’s a discussion of the story so far, whether people think they might read or listen to it on their own afterwards, etc. They also ask if anyone completed the previous month’s book, but it’s still super low pressure.

There are two more traditional book-clubs that I signed up for, as well (and a third that specializes in YA books but it’s on hiatus still), and they’re both reading the same book for March:

Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
by David Grann

I’ve finished the book and, as the first of the two clubs meets tonight, I thought I’d share my own thoughts on the book, for good or ill, before meeting with the group(s). I’m also revisiting the Five Senses project I came up with a while back and maybe I’ll be able to keep that going since I’ll be reading more meaty books for the clubs 🙂

First impression: The title filled me with a tiny bit of dread that the book would be heavy and depressing. I mean, yes, I read a lot of murder mysteries and frequently go through WWII-era kicks, not exactly laugh-a-minute stuff, there. But there’s something about the prospect of reading about the many and varied ways our forefathers attempted to eradicate yet another indigenous people was not a thrilling one. Murder mysteries (and even WWII narratives) have a common thread of justice being served, the bad guys caught/punished, etc. Would the same truly be the case in this book, I wondered?

Yes and no. Without going into too much detail, it wasn’t the genocide that I’d feared from my first impression, but it was pretty heavy. I knew pretty much nothing about the Osage Nation before reading this book and, as a white, middle class woman I’m struck by the guilt of privilege reading how depraved the men and women of that time and place were to go to such levels (poisoning, execution, or even the systematic disenfranchisement that went on) to strip them of their mineral rights, the one “consolation”–if you can even look at it that way–of being forcibly uprooted and relocated as so many other tribes were before being winnowed out.

And while some were caught and prosecuted, the author (a reporter) goes into the murders that were not solved (often covered up by those in power at the time, if they were even reported) and develops a theory as to which parties might have also taken part in the events that all come down to one thing: greed.

So, yeah, that was a fun read…. not. But there’s always something to be gleaned, and this is where the Five Senses project comes in.


One of the first connections I made while reading Killers of the Flower Moon has little to do with the Osage and more to do with the Cherokee, namely the Land Run of 1823, which took place after the lands the Cherokee had settled on went through the process of allotment: the government parcels out the land to each tribe member in 160-acre parcels and the unassigned lands were (simplifying the process here) opened to settlers to claim. A similar thing was proposed to the Osage but they, fortunately, had better representation and the territory was divided equally among the Osage and there was a provision about while the land could be sold, the mineral rights could only be acquired through inheritance.

At any rate, the land run made me think of the movie Far and Away (Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, 1992) where a similar land run is featured at the end (the movie is 26 years old, I think we can dispense with the spoiler warning). I wondered it if was, by chance, the same one and yes, it indeed was. Of course no mention is made about how the land came to be available, so watch it with a fresh perspective if it’s been a while since you last saw it.

Another option is The FBI Story (Jimmy Stewart, 1959). This one I haven’t seen but was mentioned in the book as it was a bit of a puff piece and love letter to J Edgar Hoover, it does at least mention the Osage murders as it was this investigation that helped solidify support of a federal branch of law enforcement.

Finally, in the latter part of the book an Osage ballet is mentioned–Wahzhazhe–and it’s actually available to watch online through the Osage Ballet website.


Cherokee by Europe–no, sorry, that’s a poor attempt at a touch of levity for a book that really had so few (if any?!) light moments.

On a more serious note, if you’re at all interested in learning to pronounce the Osage names correctly, I’ve found an Osage Pronunciation Guide that may be of some help in the front.

Also, any oral history projects out there–Osage or otherwise–would be an illuminating listen if you can find them.


Find either a class or online project sheet to create something in the Native American style. Be it weaving, leatherwork, pottery, or basket-weaving, there are plenty of options out there.

Case in point, and a bit of coincidence or serendipity at play, my local History Center is hosting a Cherokee Double-Bottom Basket workshop in a couple of weeks and I’d signed up for it before I even started reading this month’s book. I’m quite looking forward to it!


Like a lot of Americans, I have a sliver of Native American ancestry a few generations back. I don’t know which tribe she was a part of, but my great-great-great (I think that’s right) grandmother on my mom’s side was named Lottie Youngblood, for whatever that’s worth. The only shred of relevance that has, here, is that growing up, we’d go home to visit family, and PawPaw would make us Fried Bread at least once a visit as a treat.

I’m fairly certain that his Fried Bread (a sort of biscuit dough fried in hot grease) is actually a take on Fry Bread, for which there are plenty of recipes online.


This one is tough because smells didn’t figure heavily in the story. So for smell I’m going to suggest using bundled sage as incense or to smudge your home. You can find sage bundles in crystal or New Age shops, some natural health care sorts of shops, and (of course) online. One of my local shops, Smith Collective, offers smudge bundles online.

Arctic Fire Could Use Some Warmer Characters

Everyday Adventures

(this post includes affiliate links)

In this book’s defense, I’m pretty sure I’m not the ideal market the author had in mind.

Also in it’s defense, the macho, daredevil, lady-killer, completely unapologenic character we meet in the very beginning of Arctic Fire (which elicited much side eye from yours truly) was probably meant to appeal to the stereotypical male media consumer of the fast cars and buxom babes ideal.

And it occurred to me, as I rolled my eyes yet again (dangerous, since I was driving at the time), that were it not for growing up with Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan (my two favorite Bonds, in that order) as the playboy secret agent and just picked up one of the 007 novels fresh, I’d probably be less than thrilled with that main character as well.

So all those caveats aside, I still had major issues with the characters in this book, which means I had issues with the book itself. I mean, you don’t want heroes that are too goody-goody and shiny, they’re boring and unrelatable. But if the warring factions of a story are only distinguished by the fraction of a smidgen of less bad one is compared to the other, it makes cheering for one side over the other a bit confusing and can make any ending unsatisfying.

So why did I spend the last 8-10 hours listening to Arctic Fire (Book 1 in the Red Cell Series, by Stephen W Fray)? Because I knew it would have enough action and tension to keep me interested during my drives without the excessive navel-gazing or moony romance.

From the “back cover”

Troy Jensen could do it all: he conquered the Seven Summits, sailed solo around the world twice, and even fought a bull in a Mexican slum on a dare. So when word comes that a rogue wave has swept Troy off a crab fishing boat in the Bering Sea and into a watery grave, his brother, Jack, doesn’t buy it.

Against his better judgment, Jack decides to quit his job as a Wall Street trader and head to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to investigate. Minutes after revealing his plan in his father’s New York City office, Jack is nearly run down in the street. He doesn’t think much of it at the time, but as he digs deeper into Troy’s disappearance, Jack unearths information about RED-CELL-SEVEN (RCS), a super-secret American intelligence group that has operated for forty years in almost total secrecy and with complete impunity—and its leaders intend to keep it that way at any cost.

An adrenaline-pumping tale of one man’s descent into a hellish underworld populated by terrorists, assassins, and very bad “good guys,” Arctic Fire explores the disturbing difference between doing what is good and doing what is right when it comes to protecting America from her greatest enemies.

Jack was a semi-likable character, flawed but open-minded compared to his more extreme father and brother (and friends). Okay, sure, he had the emotional maturity of a teenage boy, but still, he was attempting to do something akin to the right thing.

There was a chuckle when he told his pal he was going down to Florida to pick up a bartending job in The Keys to get away from his troubles–a little too much like Cocktail for me (which made me want to watch said movie again, except that I was afraid the nostalgia wouldn’t live up to the reality of a rewatch). And the love interest (obvious from the beginning), despite being a former cop, was more than willing to let a not-so-successful stock trader take the lead in their madcap race across the country with a rogue intel assassin on their tail. Yeah…

But the story also brought up some valid points. Most thrillers of this sort have their horrors safely removed from the reader by several degrees of not being in those professions, etc. that would put you into said dangerous situations. But as Jack asks his best friend, what about when it’s you they pick up to interrogate, even if you had nothing to do with anything, just because you know someone who might know something, not that you’d know, you know?

Where’s that line of right and wrong then?

The brutality of the scenes was bracing, but not unbelievably so. But the author stops short of gratuitous violence and gore, which I appreciate.

So while I’d probably give this story a 2 out of 5 (with 0 being couldn’t even finish it and 5 being oh-my-gawd-I-need-more-where’s-the-sequel), I sure as anything downloaded the next book in the series because yes, I wanted to know what happens next. With that said, had the story not been available as an audiobook on Kindle Unlimited (click here for a 30-Day Free Trial) I wouldn’t have spent actual money on it to find out. So, yeah, casual read okay, but not more than that.

Heard any good books, lately?

Oh Dear, Oh “Dearie” Me


My poor Kindle has been feeling quite neglected this past month as my bedtime reading was restricted to an absolute doorstop of a book, Dearie, the Julia Child biography by  Bob Spitz.

Biographies are one of those hit-or-miss things for me. I’ve picked up random tomes on people I know nothing about and been utterly engrossed, re-reading them over the years (Galina being a prime example), whereas books on subjects I’m somewhat familiar with have left me cold. The voice of the writer matters quite a bit, and Bob Spitz–who admits a bit of a crush on the grande dame of French cuisine–does an excellent job of narrating her life and the times that helped shape them.

We open with her first stint on public television, and Spitz turns such phrases as

“The shows were dry as toast,” but plans were afoot to inject a little jam into the equation. (p5)

Cooking, like sex, was practiced privately–and, some might say, without much enthusiasm–in the home. (p8)

you never forgot that this was the story of a food revolution but he didn’t hammer away at the point unmercifully. I appreciated his delicate use of imagery as well as his complete picture of Julia Child’s life. Even before, really, as the early chapters go back to the lives of her forefathers, the men who would eventually settle in Pasadena, California, in answer to restless Midwest spirits looking for a respite from their harsh winters–and the gold that California was full of.

While I already knew Julia was no great cook in her earlier years (I’ve seen Julie and Julia, of course), there was so much left out (of my personal knowledge) of how she came to her love of food, French food in particular, and how much Paul had to do with that. She was positively aimless until she met and married Paul Child after many months abroad with him during the war, and even then cooking was something she took up only after many other failed attempts at filling her time when she refused to go back to secretarial work. (And while much is mentioned of how Julia was “a spy”, Spitz is careful to point out that when the opportunity came for Julia to move out of the Registry office she commanded in several foreign locations and actually become a spy, the war would have been over by the time she would have been trained, and it just never happened.)

We also learned much more about Julia’s husband, Paul Child. Any romantic notions I had of him from what was portrayed in the aforementioned movie were mostly dashed as we learn about his struggles with inferiority and his lack of confidence leading to a lack of ambition, but oh did he redeem himself as we learn how integral part  he played in her early television success–his attention to detail rivaled only his wife’s, I’d say, and he really helped her get her TV-legs and keep things running behind the scenes.  (By the  by, did you know Julia was not a fan of Meryl Streep’s back in Streep’s activist days? Julia was, sometimes misguidedly, in favor of the technological advances being made in agriculture, including certain pesticides and Streep’s protest of the use of Alar–later banned–put the actress on Julia’s shit-list.)

And if you’re alarmed by my use of common vulgarity, above, you should realize that to have said it any different would be untrue to the late doyenne’s nature–she who possessed the most mercurial spirit and cursed like a sailor when the mood took her, who pulled no punches with her opinions, would appreciate my turn of phrase, I think.

The entire book was a wile ride of ups and downs, relocations and set-backs, struggles to stay in the public eye against failing health–both Paul’s and, eventually, her own. I respect the hell out of the woman who stopped certain medications because they robbed her of her sense of taste. Who went out of her way to avoid the appearance of sponsors “buying” her good opinion. Who knew when to say enough was enough.

And even though I knew how the story ultimately ended, that the book would more than likely close with her death, the way the author phrased it–with the toast at Olio e Limone…

“Our dear friend and mentor Julia Child passed away today,” she said. A chorus of gasps and cries sifted through the room. “So we invite all of you to raise a glass in her honor.” With great vivacity, she sang out: “Cin cin! Salute, Julia.”

Someone had the good sense to shout, “And bon appétit!”

And damn if I didn’t cry. And teared up again as I told Todd about it the next night over supper. Just as I’m tearing up now, typing out those same words, more than a week after their first reading.

That, my friends, is the mark of a well-written story. One that grabs you, involves you in the subject’s life, and touches you more, now, with their death than you felt at the time in history when it actually happened.

Even though I’d done “the chef thing” by then and was still marginally connected to the food world, her passing was a blip on my radar. Now I grieve that I didn’t grieve more, then. It’s a peculiar feeling to realize what the world “lost” that day, and that more wasn’t made of it.

Last month would have been Julia’s 100th birthday, and much fuss was made over that fact. At first, I admit, a part of me saw it as just another PR move, just another hashtag campaign in the making. But after more fully digesting Julia’s impact on food and cooking, the effects of which are still being felt, I humbly apologize for such a jaded opinion and encourage you all to dust off that copy of Mastering… and cooking something in her memory.

Bon appétit!


I was provided a copy of Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child, by Bob Spitz for purpose of review. All of the above opinions are my own.