Review: The Curated Closet

Curated Closet

The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees

A simple system for discovering your personal style and building your dream wardrobe

This book starts from the assumption that you look in your closet and think, “I have nothing to wear.” This will likely resonate with many readers and the author encourages us to rethink how we choose the clothing we buy. Much like the Kon-Mari method, we are directed to only add/own items that we “love 100 percent.” Folks who are looking for A Project (including paperwork) will find their needs met here – Rees suggests taking a photo of every outfit you wear for a two week period and then answer a series of several dozen questions leading to the formulation of goals. There are many other activities recommended throughout the process of determining one’s personal style and what is important to have in the corresponding wardrobe. Provided that one has a budget for clothing that allows for purchasing quality (read: not cheap) pieces and the time to search them out (along with doing all the activities), this method appears to have thought through all the possibilities. A few references are made to women of different shapes, but disappointingly all the models pictured appear to be tall and rail thin.

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

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review: Photographs from the Edge

Photographs from the Edge photo photographs from the edge_zpscn9kirew.jpg

Photographs from the Edge: A Master Photographer’s Insights on Capturing an Extraordinary World by Art Wolfe with Rob Sheppard

Each of the photos contained in this book was shot by Wolfe and is described in a few paragraphs. The camera and lens used is also detailed and a photo tip is offered related to the way that shot was taken. Each also includes a sentence or two in a section called the nature of the photo, many of which relate to the specific content of the photo, be it the location, an animal or person featured in the photo, or some other aspect. These are very much the type of photos you’d expect to see in National Geographic magazine and many seek to enlighten the reader about an environmental or other conservation-related issue. When I see photos like this that include people, I always wonder what permission the (Western, white, male) photographer had to be there, to be taking photos, and to publish those photos in a book that they will be making money from. Are the people being exploited? Some photos are taken in what appear to be very remote and in some cases environmentally fragile areas and I wonder what care was taken not to exploit the land. I didn’t find any answers to those questions here. Maybe it’s fine, but it would be nice to see more information about how those arrangements were made, or at least to know what protocols were followed. The book takes a more artistic approach so it’s not surprising that these details aren’t included, and it’s undeniable that the photos are stunning and expertly executed.

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

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review: Natural Color

Natural Color

Natural Color: Vibrant Plant Dye Projects for Your Home and Wardrobe by Sasha Duerr

The concept of making one’s own dyes from plants is as appealing as ever (at least to those so inclined) and Duerr likens the process to the slow food movement – she gathers dye sources seasonally as they’re available and finds comfort in the changing palette throughout the year (of course, she lives in California where plants are more plentiful/alive during the winter months). As such, the book is organized by season with projects and recipes that utilize commonly available plants (again, at least commonly available in some places). A section on mordants and other modifiers (some plants will produce different colors if another element is added) is followed by a guide to the techniques used in the recipes. Most of the recipes seem pretty doable, though collecting the proper equipment might take a while (you need to use stainless steel vessels to avoid any interactions with the vessel material itself) and I definitely wouldn’t be able to find some of the plant ingredients locally at any time of year. It is a gorgeous book, though, and just looking through it is inspirational even if not wholly achievable.

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

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review: Lessons in Classical Painting

Lessons in Classical Painting

Lessons in Classical Painting: Essential techniques from inside the atelier by Juliette Aristides

This book is outside the realm of my expertise, but it appears to be a thorough guide to the elements of painting in the classical style. Throughout the book, concepts are tied to specific examples, and the print quality is excellent so it’s a treat to flip through just for the sake of admiring the art. Each chapter is supplemented with several step-by-step lessons. The book assumes that you know how to paint already but are looking to develop your skills in this specific genre of painting.

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

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review: Punderdome

Punderdome

Punderdome: A Card Game for Pun Lovers by Jo Firestone and Fred Firestone

It’s a game! Not a book! I’ll start by saying that I LOVE PUNS. I am a fan of dad jokes, groaners, and knee slappers, so I was really looking forward to this game being super fun.

This game gives you two stacks of cards – you choose one from each pile and then everyone tries to make a pun that connects the two concepts/things featured on each of those cards. For example, your two cards might have the words ‘cats’ and ‘laundry’ on them, and each player has to write down their best pun related to both cats and laundry in 90 seconds. We played this game with seven people earlier this week and while it was a fun time and we had some good lols, it was definitely not a game that I will pick to play on a regular basis. Making puns is the bread and butter of pretty much everyone who was playing, but making them in conversation is a different thing than trying to come up with them totally out of context and possibly about topics that you have no knowledge of/interest in. There were many rounds where one or more of us did not come up with anything within the 90 second time limit and had to pass for that turn. We also found that the examples provided were often super long and seemed almost impossible that you’d be able to actually write it all down in 90 seconds, let alone have time to come up with it. Our answers were much more likely to be one short sentence or even just a phrase.

The physical game is attractive, but there are some design choices that we questioned. The two stacks of cards have a different color on one side (and thus need to stay separate), but that side needs to remain hidden as the keywords are on the face. Easy, except that on the reverse of the card is the warm-up question for each round, which theoretically also needs to remain hidden until the start of each round. How do you hide both sides of both stacks? Not impossible but kind of annoying. It would have been easy to put both the warm-up and the key word on the same side of the card, or make a third stack of cards containing the warm-ups (which were not related to the key words on the flip side, at least that we could tell). Another weird choice is to require a 90 second timer but not to include it. We ended up using the timer on a smartphone, but it was kind of irritating to have to keep waking the phone up throughout the game, and would it have been that difficult to include a timer in the game itself? It just feels odd to have a required element of the game not included. The box claims that this game will replace Cards Against Humanity, but none of us felt that this was likely. It was entertaining but the flaws make it one that we probably won’t pick up again anytime soon.

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of this game from Blogging for Books

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Review: Home Sewn

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Home Sewn: Projects and Inspiration for Every Room by Cassandra Ellis

This is a book that you can totally judge by its cover – what you see is a solid representation of what you’ll find inside. That is to say, a lot of linen, cotton, and other organic undyed fabrics; plenty of unfinished rustic fabric edges; and a healthy serving of billowing material in neutral-heavy rooms. Solidly inspired by Martha Stewart but with a more limited palette, these projects all fit into the trendy look that relies on light earth tones and a pride in doing it yourself (with materials you carefully purchased from curated sources). You’ll find brief instructions for each project, but none include in-depth detail – the joy here is in doing it yourself and in figuring out how to make it work for you. The tone suggests that whatever result you end up with is what you are supposed to have and that you can appreciate the beauty of your own unique creation (the degree to which it matches the photos may vary). I can definitely appreciate this aesthetic (being a relatively privileged white woman, I am its target market) but it is a bit too neutral for my own taste. That said, one could easily make any of these projects using a more colorful range of fabrics.

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

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Review: Doodletopia Manga

Doodletopia Manga.jpg

Doodletopia Manga by Christopher Hart

Manga is super popular, as are cute things in general, and the drawing instructions contained here definitely qualify. Specific details are provided for aspects of each drawing, so the reader will notice the small details that make each picture work. A few specific character types (girl in a sun hat, goofy boy, funny girl with swirls) are outlined as well as cute creatures such as pandas and bunnies. The author encourages the reader to engage with the drawings in the book, leaving some incomplete and ready for the reader to fill in. Blank space is also provided for practice. The drawings definitely play into gender stereotypes inherent in manga style, but fans of manga looking to learn to or practice their drawing will not be disappointed with the lessons and activities.

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

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Review: Something to Food About

somethingtofoodabout

Something to Food About: Exploring Creativity with Innovative Chefs by Questlove

Anyone who’s watched some episodes of Jimmy Fallon’s show will be familiar with Questlove, drummer and band leader of the Roots, and chances are you may have seen one of his food-related segments. In this book, Questlove has conversations with ten chefs about food, geography, music, and plenty of other topics. The photographs are beautiful – many feel like fine modern art museum pieces – and feature much more than just food. The book concludes with a modernist cuisine meal, including Questlove’s thoughts and descriptions as well as photos of the 13 dishes. Even the way this book is designed and bound feels like an art book more than a food book – it’s beautifully curated and feels good in one’s hands. The thing that gets me, though, is that all but one of these chefs are white men. I feel like someone with Questlove’s wherewithal ought to be able to do better than that.

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

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Review: I Draw on Cats

I Draw on Cats: A Connect-the-Dots Activity Book by A.R. Coffelt

I Draw on Cats

If you love cats, pictures of cats, connect-the-dots of cats, cats who look like they’re a gangster/vampire/doctor/fill-in-your-character-of-choice-here, or instagrams that have been turned into books, this book will not disappoint! It consists of 48 pages of cat photos with dots ready for you to connect, as well as some lines already drawn in for you. It’s a cat-filled book for those who love cats!

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

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plated

Plated

Plated: Weeknight Dinners, Weekend Feasts, and Everything in Between by Elana Karp & Suzanne Dumaine

This is a cookbook designed to work as building blocks as you improve or develop your cooking skills. It was written by the purveyors of a food-delivery company (also called Plated), which was founded with the goal of helping anyone be able to create meals they could be proud of without having to do the meal planning and shopping themselves. These building blocks start out with the equipment one should have on hand (with second and third lists detailing nice-to-have and awesome-to-have items), lists for stocking one’s pantry, info on knife skills, and a short list of rules for the kitchen. After that, the book moves on to basic recipes for components including spice rubs, marinades, dressings, sauces, condiments, and infusions. I can see these component recipes being quite handy. Finally, we hit the actual recipes for meals, starting with weeknight dinners. These ostensibly take less time to prepare. Then comes a chapter called Great for Leftovers, which gives not only the initial recipe but instructions for how to use the leftovers. We move on from there to make ahead meals, weekend feasts, dishes appropriate when serving a crowd, side dishes, and desserts. There are a lot of great-looking recipes here and the book itself is put together to be aesthetically pleasing. It reminded me a little of theĀ Mana Fast Slow Food restaurant, with their many colorful dishes. Not every recipe however includes a photo of the finished product – many offer an artful photo of an ingredient instead. This may be frustrating for some cooks but it makes for a cookbook that feels different from many others.

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

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