review: The RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants

The RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants

The Royal Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants (4th edition)

If you are looking for a garden book to keep you busy for awhile, this one may hit that target. It is a tome, and at over 1000 pages, it has information galore. In addition to the individual plant entries, it also includes a guide to using the book as well as some botany information that will make reading the book easier (as well as understanding the relationships between plants and how they grow). Color photographs are included throughout (though not for every single entry) and show either a close-up of the leaf, fruit, or blossom, or a full photo for larger plants like some trees. With over 15,000 entries, this book includes a really large number of the plants you might want to know about.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the University of Michigan via the MeLCat interlibrary loan system

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Live Lagom

Live Lagom

Live Lagom: Balanced living, the Swedish way by Anna Brones

Does the word hygge ring a bell for you? If so, lagom will sound familiar. While hygge is focused on coziness, lagom is more about balance, living with the ‘just right’ between extremes. It is both a personal thing and a social understanding: it’s good for the individual and for society. This is, to be sure, an oversimplification of a complex concept, but for the purposes of this review, you get the gist. This book hopes to convey the concept of lagom as an alternative to the ‘go big or go home’ attitude that pervades so much of western (especially American) culture. How much better would the world/environment/society/our health be if we weren’t so focused on being the biggest and best? This book lays out the concept and then addresses it in the specific contexts of work, home, health, and the environment in the form of things to think about, DIY projects, recipes, and more.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: The T-shirt Quilt Book

The T-shirt Quilt Book

The T-shirt Quilt Book: Create one-of-a-kind keepsakes, make 8 projects or design your own by Lindsay Conner and Carla Hegeman Crim

Most of us have a bunch of old t-shirts kicking around, many of which we probably don’t wear anymore but we don’t want to let go of because of their sentimental value. This book starts with the techniques you’ll need to master in order to sew your own t-shirt quilt and offers 8 projects you could make with your own tees. Most of the techniques will be familiar to those who have sewn a quilt before, though some may be new if you haven’t worked much with knit fabric before. For instance, the use of interfacing is critical to making t-shirt fabric cooperate in a medium where exact measurements matter. There are many more options here than just the ‘bunch of squares sewn together’ look that you’ve probably seen – not that there’s anything wrong with that design, there are just a lot of other ways to go about it!

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Cadillac Wexford Public Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system

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Winter Celebration Blythe Swap

In November, we did a Winter Celebration theme for the Blythe Swap Group, and sent our packages by the first of December. I’ve now received mine, as has my partner, so I’m excited to share!

My partner sent me a terrific package! It’s so many lovely things that she clearly picked out or made just for me – perfectly tailored to my taste.

And I made her a bunch of things – as usual I got carried away since I loved her desired color palette so much and made a ton of things. She had mentioned on her blog that one of her favorite colors right now is mustard yellow, and that was all the inspiration I needed!

There are more photos of both what I received and sent on Flickr.

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review: Build a Better Vegetable Garden

Build a Better Vegetable Garden

Build a Better Vegetable Garden: 30 DIY projects to improve your harvest by Joyce Russell, photography by Ben Russell

As I’ve mentioned, my raised bed veg garden has not been my garden priority the last couple of years. I’ve just not been paying as much attention to it, part of the reason is that the trees nearby it have grown and are now shading it more than desired part of the day. I really need to relocate it next summer (although I’m also toying with the idea of trying to grow veggies in among the ornamental plants throughout the garden – I have a feeling that critters will eat more than I will with this approach, though). This book has 30 projects for growing veggies in the garden, ranging from plant supports to planter boxes and raised beds, to tool containers and organizers. Each project is rated for difficulty and includes a complete list of required materials and tools. A series of in-process photos are also shown, though not every step is fully illustrated, so some ability to interpret instructions without a visual is required. Ideas for using each item are also given, such as tips for growing particular crops on a plant support. Several of these have me dreaming about the future – I look forward to the day when our trees bear enough fruit to require the apple storage trays!

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Van Buren District Library via the MeLCat interlibrary loan system

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review: All New Square Foot Gardening

All New Square Foot Gardening

All New Square Foot Gardening: The revolutionary way to grow more in less space by Mel Bartholomew

Growing more edibles in a smaller space – who doesn’t want to know more about that? The SFG system, updated in 2013, aims to allow gardeners to make the most of the cultivated area and get more produce for their hopefully reduced efforts. All the designs here fit into a 4×4′ square, so you have a growing bed where you can still reach everything but never have to walk on the soil. The 4×4′ square is then divided up into 16 squares using a grid overlaying the soil. There are instructions here for the whole process: building garden boxes, planning what to plant and how much you’ll be able to harvest, creating an ideal planting mix (soil), seed starting, growing, and harvesting. The lengthy appendix also has a handy chart of types of plants and their basic stats (height, spacing, weeks from seed to harvest, and more), planting schedules for continuous harvesting, and plant profiles. My raised bed has gone from mostly full sun to now being partly shaded by a maple that is expanding in that direction, so I’m going to need to move it next year. I think instead of just moving the 8×8′ bed I have now, I’ll use this method to create a couple of 4×4′ beds instead.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Grand Ledge Area District Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system

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sweet Clover

Clover Sweater for Middie Blythe

I really need more clothes for my Middie Blythe, and I keep seeing other folks say the same thing. I designed this sweater while putting together a Blythe Swap that was Middie-specific and I’ve also made it for my own collection. It’s a simple cardigan with a little placket detail and ribbing at the hem and cuffs.

Get the clover sweater on Ravelry, Etsy, LoveKnitting, and Craftsy.

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new freebie for August!

Happy new month! I’ve got another freebie here, and it’s another thing that I found I needed so I made it. I like to have a glass of ice water with me at pretty much all times. I take allergy medicine that dries me out so I’m almost always thirsty and a refreshing glass of ice water is the best. The only problem is that in the warmer months, my glass of ice water sweats copiously, which either soaks my coaster (if it’s a porous one like a beer deckle) or temporarily adheres the coaster to the glass and it falls off after I picked up the glass (leading the sweated-off water to splash all over and the coaster to fall to the floor). Either way I am annoyed.

So, here we have the Cotton Coaster! It’s just as simple as it sounds – it’s a coaster made of cotton yarn. It is super absorbent and soaks up the glass sweat without getting the surface underneath it wet and it doesn’t stick to the glass.

Cotton Coaster

It works well for other things like La Croix, of course, or a mixed drink or a glass of chocolate milk or whatever suits you. It’s astonishingly simple and quick to knit and takes a very small amount of yarn.

Cotton Coaster

Grab this free pattern on Ravelry, LoveKnitting, and Craftsy.

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review: Fix Your Garden

Fix Your Garden

Fix Your Garden: How to make small spaces into green oases by Jane Moseley & Jackie Strachan, illustrations by Claire Rollet

This cute book is designed as a guide to creating your garden, whether it be a big yard, balcony pots, or something in between (most of the information is written to an audience working with an in-ground garden plot, though). It starts with the basics and features homey illustrations throughout, providing inspiration and occasional chuckles (such as with adorable depictions of pests like ‘Mrs. Earwig’). The goal of creating a cottage garden is referenced several times and fits well with the design of the book. As this was published in the UK, resources listed are UK-based.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Baldwin Public Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system

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review: Colored Pencil Painting Portraits

Colored Pencil Painting Portraits by Alyona Nickelsen

Colored Pencil Painting Portraits: Master a revolutionary method for rendering depth and imitating life by Alonya Nickelsen

I have not done much in the way of colored pencil art myself, but I am a fan of picture books and some of my favorites use colored pencil (among other media). This book focuses on realistically rendered portraits, though, so it’s quite different from those picture books. Nickelsen focuses on using colored pencils to achieve the look of painting and starts with a discussion of some of the other tools that can be used (solvents, blenders, fixatives, and such). She then moves on to discuss portraiture techniques while integrating specific tips related to using colored pencils throughout. The book closes with a focus on five portraits she created, detailing the tools she used and steps she took to create them. An appendix rates various brands of colored pencils when used with different types of papers.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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