Friday, December 09, 2016

Mason Jar Nation: The Jars that Changed America and 50 Clever Ways to Use Them Today by JoAnn Moser

I have a weakness for collecting glass jars. Some are very small. Baby food jars with hand painted lids housing tiny shells I picked up on the beach. Others are large vintage Ball jars, teal colored like the one on the cover of Mason Jar Nation. Jars are very useful for storing things, but they are also a part of Americana, according to Joann Moser, the author.

I like this book because it is a combination of history and DIY projects. For starters, Moser describes herself as “a writer who likes to make things.”Color, she found, is a good way to determine a jar’s age. From this book I learned that around the turn of the century, people wanted clear, not colored glass. Glassmakers could add manganese to the sand, soda and lime used to make clear glass, but in WWI, Germany was the source of manganese. Glassmakers used selenium instead which made the glass have a light yellow hue.

Did you know the first modern day fruit jar and the technique of canning began in 1795 with a chef-pickler-presever- baker-brewmaster in France, named Nicolas Appert? He was awarded 12,000 francs from Napoleon for coming up with a way of preserving food for the military. Moser shares this information in her book, also.

You can find out more of the history of glass jars and if the jars you own are valuable from Mason Jar Nation's section entitled Collecting Jars.

Some of the projects in this book require special equipment such as a metal hole punch or a bottle cutter. The author gives instructions on cutting the jars and goes into more detail about the process on, an online design community. A few are ambitious and require purchased supplies. It would be a good idea to read through the supply list before attempting to make those such as the Music Box Memory Jar or the Sparkling Outdoor Chandelier.

But, the Homemade Butter in a Jar project in Mason Jar Nation doesn’t require much! Just a quart sized Mason jar with band and lid, a strainer, large spoon, water, plastic wrap and heavy whipping cream. Put the whipping cream into the jar and shake it for about 20 minutes and voila! you have butter.

With the holidays coming up you could use Mason jars to make a variety of food gifts from the ideas in Mason Jar Nation, such as Dark Forest Trail Mix or make a Gardener’s Gift Jar.

For lots of tasty jar fillers and creative gifts to eat try: Mason Jar Salads, 50 Layered Lunches to Grab and Go or The Mason JarCookie Cookbook: How to Create Mason Jar Cookie Mixes. All of these books are available at the Virginia Beach Public Library.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art by Claire Wellesley-Smith

There are so many things I like about this book.

The cover, for instance. It’s a hardcover book, but the surface is velvety.

The introduction. I learned I am not the only one who wants to wants to slow things down. An entire movement originated in the 1980’s in Italy with Carlo Petrini. The Slow Movement began as a protest against fast-food companies and expanded.

The author’s story. In the About Me section, author, Claire Wellesley-Smith describes her interest in textile arts and community based projects. Her seed to fabric project began with a garden of plants used for dying fabrics. She includes examples of her own work as well as that of other artists. I am inspired by a photo of one of her works in progress, a log-cabin sample made from a variety of white fabrics pieces sewn on a white handkerchief.

The beautiful close-up photos of details in hand sewn pieces. A number of artists are represented in this book, all are experimenting with textures and materials, upcycling and reusing fabrics and threads.

The idea and information about dying threads naturally. Before reading this book, I had dyed fabric, but had not thought of natural dyes for the threads for sewing.

Textile art as a cross-cultural activity. The author describes the kantha quilting technique which originates in Indian Bengal and Japanese boro.

Stitch journals. I like this idea and would like to try it. Rather than writing in a journal or sketchbook, Wellesley-Smith uses thread, needle and fabric to practice technique and record seasonal observations. She collects  found fabrics on her daily walks and incorporates them into her journal.

If you want to be a part of a cultural revolution, or just want to contemplate your next sewing project, check out Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art and find out how you can enjoy the process of hand sewing and making.

Here is another book to inspire: Lena Corwin's Made by Hand: A Collection of Projects to Print, Sew, Weave, Dye, Knit, or Otherwise Create. It includes illustrated instructions for different techniques. Or, you might like Drawn to Stitch: Line, Drawing and Mark-Making in Textile ArtAll are available at the Virginia Beach Public Library.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Sun and Moon by Lindsey Yankey

Sun and Moon by Lindsey Yankey

Who would you be if you could trade places with someone for a day?  Whose shoes would you choose to walk in? What if you had to be that person forever? Now, that’s a different story.
In Sun and Moon by Lindsey Yankey, the Moon desires to be the Sun, just for a day. Sun agrees, conditionally—Moon must spend an entire night looking closely at the earth, not just looking, but seeing.  If Moon still wants to trade places, it will be eternally.

Yankey's picture book captures the majesty of nocturnal beauty: a family of raccoons trailing through a forest, a quiet field of fireflies, the flowers of a baobab tree. This exotic tree grows in Africa and is known as The Tree of Life. The story is a calming one; a good read aloud at bedtime for young children. Adults who enjoy picture books for their artistic merits and lyrical text, will appreciate Sun and Moon, a Kansas Notable Book winner for 2016. 

Illustrations in this book, mostly two page spreads, are filled with colorful patterns from linoleum prints. The cover design is dramatic which makes the book stand out among other children’s picture books. The bright orange organic shapes of two foxes with luminous patterns in the background contrast with a dark sky and off centered moon.

As a child on a long family road trip, I was fascinated when my parents told me the moon would follow us throughout the night. I stared at the bright orb the entire car ride and was not disappointed. Every time I looked out the window, I could see the moon. It you or your children are captivated by the moon's magic and stories about the moon, check out Sun and Moon or Max and the Tag-Along Moon. Both titles are available at the Virginia Beach Public Library.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The Year without a Purchase: One Family's Quest to Stop Shopping and Start Connecting by Scott Dannemiller

Scott Dannemiller pokes fun at his own book, The Year Without a Purchase, One Family’s Quest to Stop Shopping and Start Connecting. It’s a book about not buying anything, so anyone who buys his book, he points out, is automatically a failure. As an alternative—you can check it out from the Virginia Beach Public Library.

The quintessence of Dannemiller’s faith-based book is that experience builds relationship and as such outlives material goods. His account is thought provoking and inspirational. I like the idea he picked up from President Obama, a family dinnertime game called Thorns and Roses. Each person shares a good moment from his day and a not so good moment. As the Dannemiller family incorporates the game into their challenge, they begin to treasure their daily experiences. They also learn  a deterrent to buying more: gratitude, for what they already own.

To align with their original mission to live life on purpose, with purpose, the Dannemiller’s set three rules. They allow themselves to buy groceries, gas, and hygiene products, get broken stuff fixed and give gifts as long as they are in the form charitable donations or experiences. Gabby, the author’s wife, calculates the family’s charitable donations at the end of the year. To the young couple's surprise, they have given more, while simultaneously reaping more togetherness. In the long run, the family gets creative. When their young child is invited to a birthday party, they brainstorm and put together the contents of a science experiment they find online along with the instructions as a birthday gift. The gift is a hit!

This is a very funny and honest book. The author is forthright about his personal challenges—realizing at one point that he is eating to make up for not being able to buy things.

Want more ideas on how to do less shopping, but still enjoy life?  Try this book from the Virginia Beach Public Library collection: Living Well, Spending Less : 12 secrets of the Good Life by Ruth Soukup.

Review by Sandi H

Monday, December 05, 2016

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp

My first experience reading to a dog was not in a library. My older sister couldn't make it to her Friday night babysitting job when we were teenagers, so she enlisted me. She gave me a heads up about caring for the children, but left out the part about the family's new dog. . . a Great Dane.

My stomach was in knots at the thought of spending the evening with such a huge animal. After the children were asleep, I sat down to read, but the dog started barking. Every time I moved, he barked. I didn't want him to disturb the children so I decided to read aloud to him. To my surprise, he settled right down!

Now, flip that picture. Instead of a nervous teen reading to calm a noisy dog, witness a small child struggling to read aloud. A dog as big as a snowy polar bear calmly listens while the child slowly sounds out words. In Madeline Finn and the Library Dog,  Madeline visits her library and reads to a big, white dog named Bonnie every Saturday. She participates in a program similar to the Virginia Beach Public Library's Pawsitive Reading program.

Lisa Papp's picture book is comforting to reluctant readers. On the dedication page she writes: "For all my furry friends and those who love them, thank you. And for libraries, where the real magic happens." 

Do you know a young reader who is a little shy about reading aloud? Check out Madeline Finn and the Library Dog and read it together! The cover, as well as the surprise ending will capture the heart of any reader.

If you like Madeline Finn and the Library Dog, try Amy and Ron Schmidt's book Back to Dog-Gone School. It combines photography (I love the photo inside of a dog wearing a backpack) with poetry. Also, its a level 2 book for Beginning Readers, which means it uses short sentences and basic vocabulary.

Friday, December 02, 2016


The Boov are an alien race looking for a new planet; they find Earth. After they arrive, they quickly relocate Earth’s entire population and begin moving in. One enthusiastic Boov, named Oh, is so excited about his new home, that he sends out (what he intends to be) a planet-wide party invitation. Unfortunately, what Oh sends is a galaxy-wide invitation… effectively informing the Boov’s greatest enemy of their new location. Oh is banished and begins life on the run from his own people. But with the help of a young Earthling girl named Tip, Oh might be able to save his people and our planet.

This is one of those movies I watched, “just because.” I wasn’t sure I would love it, but it looked cute enough; and it was! This space invasion based movie is funny and heartwarming. I came to feel sympathy for Oh, who is already an outcast among his people, prior to his big mistake; and Tip, who missed being relocated and is desperately searching for her mother. Together, these two characters grow and learn not only how to get along, but what family, love, and home really mean.

If you enjoy Home, look for the book that started it all, The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. Or, if you’re in the mood for another heartwarming animated movie about finding family, look for The Good Dinosaur by Disney and Pixar. These and much more can be found at your local Virginia Beach Public Library.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Spread Volume 1: No Hope by Justin Jordan

In a dystopian future, the world is overrun by an aggressive and overwhelming growth known as "the spread." The spread is a red, alien-like monstrosity that devours everything in its path and reworks life as we know it into something grotesque and dangerous.

The hero of our story is a man of few words, known only as, "No." No is a loaner who wanders the bleak remains of the world we used to know while destroying as much of the spread as he can. When No unintentionally rescues a baby named Hope, he quickly discovers that she holds the answer to defeating the spread and reclaiming humanity.

Spread is an amazing adventure full of interesting characters that will leave you wanting more. I enjoy the way the author reveals the origins of Hope, No, and the spread slowly, through flashbacks and memories, giving the reader just a little at a a time and leaving the you to speculate the rest.

If you enjoy Spread Vol. 1, I recommend continuing to Vol. 2: The Children's Crusade. You might also want to check out The Walking Dead series by Robert Kirkman or Locke & Key by Joe Hill. These graphic novels and more are available at your local Virginia Beach Public Library location.