Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Jan. 9 - Small Craft Haul

I haven't bought too many craft things lately.  I was waiting to see what Santa might bring, and then waiting to see what year end sales there might be.  I wasn't in the mood for crafting for a while anyway, and there is also the whole 'gotta save money to pay off the barn debt thing.'  BUT!  I'm starting to get a crafty itch again, and I did get a few little things, so I thought I'd share.

Lawn Fawn started a new thing towards the end of 2017 where you can get a free mini stamp/die set and 10% off your order in your birthday month.  Each month features a different set.  Since my birthday was in December, I made sure to grab that deal.  The set for December was this cute little panda.

They also had a Valentine's themed release around Christmas but nothing about it really called to me except these two new ink pad colors.  The lighting was horrible the day I took this pic, so the colors look quite off compared to real life.  Bad blogger, I know!  They are actually a really nice, soft peachy-orange, and a much softer yellow that what it looks like here.  I have ALL of the other Lawn Fawn colors so it was just a no-brainer to add these to the collection.

The only other thing I grabbed was this pack of Vanilla Malt.  It's just a basic, off-white color.  They had several new cardstock colors in this release that will be perfect for when fall rolls around again, but for now I'm just starting with this one.

And then of course there are the samples you get when you order directly from the Lawn Fawn site.  My stamp this time says Happy Birthday since it was my birthday month order.  Yay!

And then I grabbed just a couple things from the Simon Says Stamp site.  I'd seen a YouTuber use this kit for colored pencil coloring and was so intrigued I had to have it.  You get the end of the white blender stick wet with the Gamsol (mineral spirits) solution and then go over areas you've used colored pencil on.  It breaks down the waxy-ness of the pencil and makes the color more even and moveable to give it an almost marker-like effect.  The brown/blue thing in the middle is a small tablet of sandpapers to sharpen the tips of the blender sticks.  Anyway, of the cards that *I* do, colored pencil is my favorite look but it also takes the longest to do.  I'd love to someday own and master the art of Copic markers but for now I'm still learning with the cheaper mediums that I have on hand.  If this can make the colored pencil coloring process move along faster, well heck yeah!  I have not tried it yet, but am anxious to!

I also saw this gnome set and just had to get it.  Not only is hubby big on gnomes, but it seems Julie has become gnomish herself these days.  And hey, gnomes are quite popular.  I'm sure all kinds of cards can be made with this guy and his super cute house.  That fairy in the set is cute too but I totally got it for Mr. Gnomey.

I'd had that Gamsol kit in my cart for a couple days and then got an email saying I had a free gift waiting.  What?  Well alrighty!  Order placed!  My free gift included that colorful pillow box container on the left, a sheet of washi stickers, and the Friend Balloon die set on the right.  They must have just been clearing out random, leftover inventory at the end of the year because I don't see the Friend Balloon dies on the site and can't find any stamp set to go with it either.  Not sure what I'll do with it.  Maybe offer it up for grabs to whoever has the stamp set?

That's all I've bought recently.  Newton's Nook had a decent sale at the end of the year but I know they're having a new release the third week of January so I took a chance, passed up the sale, and am waiting to see what goodies might need to be snatched up next week.  Fingers crossed it's all super cute and inspiring!

Are you into gnomes?
Do you have any crafting spark in this new year?

Monday, January 8, 2018

Book Review - The Last Tudor

The Last Tudor
by Philippa Gregory
513 pages

'The latest novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory features one of the most famous girls in history, Lady Jane Grey, and her two sisters, each of whom dared to defy her queen.

Jane Grey was queen of England for nine days. Her father and his allies crowned her instead of the dead king’s half sister Mary Tudor, who quickly mustered an army, claimed her throne, and locked Jane in the Tower of London. When Jane refused to betray her Protestant faith, Mary sent her to the executioner’s block, where Jane transformed her father’s greedy power grab into tragic martyrdom.

“Learn you to die,” was the advice Jane wrote to her younger sister Katherine, who has no intention of dying. She intends to enjoy her beauty and her youth and fall in love. But she is heir to the insecure and infertile Queen Mary and then to her half sister, Queen Elizabeth, who will never allow Katherine to marry and produce a Tudor son. When Katherine’s pregnancy betrays her secret marriage, she faces imprisonment in the Tower, only yards from her sister’s scaffold.

“Farewell, my sister,” writes Katherine to the youngest Grey sister, Mary. A beautiful dwarf, disregarded by the court, Mary keeps family secrets, especially her own, while avoiding Elizabeth’s suspicious glare. After seeing her sisters defy their queens, Mary is acutely aware of her own danger but determined to command her own life. What will happen when the last Tudor defies her ruthless and unforgiving Queen Elizabeth?


Okay, I'm starting to think author Philippa Gregory hates Queen Elizabeth I.   Her other book, The Virgin's Lover (reviewed HERE) portrayed her as a whining, helpless ninny who couldn't rule a room much less a country.  This book also presents her as someone not fit to rule, as someone so vain and petty and consumed by jealousy . . . just a monstrously horrible woman.  I do realize that this book is a version of Elizabeth as seen through the eyes of three women who were greatly wronged by the Tudors, but still, it does nothing to help Elizabeth's overall character as portrayed by this author.

And yes, I'm well aware that Philippa Gregory is constantly slammed for historical inaccuracies and weak writing style.

This book is sort of three stories.  It follows the three Grey sisters: Jane, Katherine, and Mary.  Most people know of Jane but I'm pretty sure not many people know about her two sisters.  I certainly didn't.  The first 107 pages follow Jane's story.  She was the 16 year old who became the Nine Days Queen when her overly ambitious family forced her into marriage with another overly ambitious family and then forced her onto the throne as Queen of England after Henry VIII's ruling son Edward died.  While she did technically have a claim to the throne, Henry's daughter Mary I was none too pleased when she came to town and took that throne for herself, and had Jane executed.  This story fills me with heartbreak and rage.  It's just like with the story of the Boleyn girls, how their overly ambitious family pushed and plotted and sacrificed their daughters in greedy hopes of power and glory.  The movie I've seen about this (Lady Jane, starring Helena Bonham Carter) has Jane as more of a clueless teen, acting as teens do.  This book shows Jane as a religious fanatic.  This book's version of Jane is almost scary.  You want to just shake her and scream some sense into her, but she's so convinced this is all for a far greater calling and accepts what comes to her.  She gets very preachy at the end, which leaves her sister Katherine furious.

And then, upon Jane's execution, the story switches to younger sister Katherine's story for the next 243 pages.  I knew absolutely nothing about Katherine before reading this book so it was interesting in that aspect.  After Mary died and Elizabeth took the throne, Katherine technically did have a claim to it as well.  This book keeps harping on the fact that Elizabeth would not name an heir to the throne and that Katherine was the obvious choice.  Okay, we get that.  It got sooooo SO annoying to be reminded of this fact practically every other sentence of Katherine's part of the story!  This is where the author's weak writing style comes in.  We don't need to have every person's full name and title presented to us every time they are mentioned, and we don't need the same facts explained to us over and over and over again.  As for Katherine's actual story, she was a beautiful young lady in Elizabeth's court who fell for a handsome young man from a noble family.  They wanted to marry for love but feared Elizabeth would never allow it because she'd see it as a threat to her place on the throne.  Katherine and Ned marry secretly and she ends up pregnant.  They try to keep it all a secret but, well, when you're eventually showing hugely pregnant someone is bound to figure it out.  Queen Elizabeth is furious and has them arrested, making it like they were plotting to overthrow her.  They were imprisoned apart from each other in the Tower, and Katherine gave birth to a son there.  This angered and threatened Elizabeth even more because now Katherine, who already had a claim to the throne, has presented a male heir and has a noble husband.  To make matters worse, sympathetic guards let Ned visit Katherine often and, oops, she ends up pregnant again.  And oops, has *another* boy.  Elizabeth splits the family up, sends Katherine and one son to live under house arrest in one place, sends Ned and the other son to live under house arrest somewhere else.

Then the story moves to Mary's life for the remaining 156 pages of the book.  Mary is the youngest of the sisters, of little threat to anyone.  Some historical accounts call Mary a dwarf, while others say she was just a very petite little lady.  This book takes the petite route.  She also served in Elizabeth's court but was usually overlooked because she was so small.  It was assumed she'd never amount to anything, never marry or have children, and that her small claim to throne was nothing to even worry about.  She saw her sister Jane thrust into the situations that eventually got her killed.  She watched her sister Katherine think she could stay out of the spotlight and simply marry for love, only to be thrown in prison and ripped away from her family.  Mary has learned from watching these events, but apparently hasn't learned enough, or had a little too much faith in the fact that she appeared to be harmless.  She too quietly marries for love, and marries far beneath her rank.  She figures this is fine, but no, Elizabeth is once again angered and once again has a happy couple arrested and torn apart.  Mary's part of the book becomes more of an overview of what was happening in England during these years, because there just isn't much about Mary's story to write about.  Still, hers is probably the most heartbreaking in this book.

Some survive their imprisonment.  Others don't.  Are any of them reunited?  Are there any happily ever afters in these three life-stories?  It really makes me wonder why Elizabeth did these things.  While a lot of this book might be weakly written drama the fact is Queen Elizabeth I *did* do these things, imprisoned these people, tore these families apart.  Was she truly that fearful and paranoid about being overthrown?

I ended up Googling things quite often while reading this book, just to see what was real, what was known historically.  It seems that maybe Katherine really was a 'dumb blonde' type who liked sex and pretty things a bit too much, and never really understood there were consequences to actions.  There isn't much at all about Mary, just some facts that yes she was small, yes she married a quiet man, yes she was imprisoned for it.  Katherine was in prison for seven years!  Mary, for eight!  These are actual facts.  I feel I really need to delve into some actual history or Elizabeth now because it's baffling to me that a woman so seemingly great and powerful did such odd and awful things.

Or maybe I just need to stop reading Philippa Gregory books.  LOL

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Dec. 30

It is freakin' cold here.  Gah!  We've been single digits or below zero for about a week now, with another week of it coming.  Luckily, there isn't much snow to deal with on top of it.  I did manage to go get my weekly shopping done but didn't bother doing much else once I got back home.  Seriously, even in the house it gets cold in between cycles of the furnace running.

I returned the two books Santa had gotten me that I already had, and picked up this as one replacement.  The back cover reads, 'The first time my shadow spoke to me, I was a mere infant in the cradle.  They say on the night I was born that even the stars fled the sky and the moon hid under a dark cloak.  That I was a quiet thing, with a shock of black hair and eyes like glittering onyx.  I did not scream like other newborn children.  And I did not reach for my mother like instinct should have instructed me.  Instead, I held out my tiny arms and smiled at the shadow in the corner of the room.  And it smiled back.'  Well alrighty then!  It's just a middle-grade book but still, I'm looking forward to seeing what this is all about!

I played a lot of Wizard101 yesterday, huddled in my blanket here in my computer chair.  My main character hit level 45.  I'm almost done with the Mooshu quests.  I've decided to focus on fishing first for my extracurricular activity.  I still have not bought my house yet, probably because I know I'll get all preoccupied with decorating it and will quit working my character.  It's been fun though, just relaxing and losing myself in the game for chunks of time.

How is your year winding down?

Friday, December 29, 2017

Dec. 29

Tried watching that Gunpowder mini series today.  Couldn't get into it.  I thought it might be a good way to learn a bit about King James I of England but he was just such an unlikable character, along with many of the others, that I just didn't care.  I thought Kit Harington (Jon Snow from Game of Thrones) was playing Guy Fawkes.  I was wrong.  Oops.

I spent a good chunk of the day clearing out half of my curio cabinet and packing up my Cherished Teddies collection.  This is how they'd looked, all crammed into the cabinet.
I'd run out of room years ago.  I actually have more in storage that have just never come out of their boxes because I haven't had anyplace to display them.  The past six months or so I've been considering selling the collection.  On Christmas, we were talking about clearing the bears out of the cabinet and replacing them with other figures I've been accumulating, figures from games and movies.  So that's what I did today.
Ginny, Harry, and Luna figures, along with Harry's wand and Snape's wand.

The little busts along the front are characters from Lord of the Rings.  The red bearded guy, second from the left, is a World of Warcraft character, and the other three are old UO (Ultima Online) characters.

This is also from UO, an ancient wyrm, I believe.  It takes up the whole dang shelf.

I don't think I like my cabinet this way.  Hubby laughed and said it's my 'Change is bad!' way of thinking, but I don't think it's that.  I think I'd always imagined these things more on shelves in my eventual library or something, not in a fancy curio cabinet by the living room doorway.  Bah, we'll see how long they last before I bring the bears back.

And that's about all that happened around here today.
How was your Friday?

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Dec. 28

Finally got over to my mom's today.  It was a bit warmer today, so took advantage of it and got the errands done.  I looked through Walmart's Christmas leftovers a little bit, hoping a really cool nativity scene I'd had my eye on might be available for 50% off but alas, those were all gone.  Bummer.  I ended up not getting anything.  We have plenty of paper and bows and cards left, and don't need any ornaments or decorations either.  Still seems so weird that Christmas has come and gone already, and that I was so detached.  Weird, weird, weird.

I'm in the middle of reading The Last Tudor, in the section of the book about Katherine Grey.  I knew nothing about her before this and was quite interested.  According to this book there was quite a rivalry between Katherine and Queen Elizabeth.  I decided to haul out my two Elizabeth movies (the Cate Blanchett ones) and watch them again, since I am more informed about these Tudor stories now than I was when I first watched the movies years ago.  I wanted to see if there was anything about Katherine.  Nope.  Nothing.  I also found that the first movie seems verrrrry inaccurate to everything I've read about the relationship between Elizabeth and Robert Dudley.  The second movie covers later years, well after Katherine was there and gone.  So, hmm, is it just Philippa Gregory playing up the whole Elizabeth-Katherine rivalry for a more dramatic 'historical fiction' story?  Now I want to read an actual historical biography of Elizabeth.  Ha, like I don't have enough books to read already!

Tomorrow I might watch the three part mini series called Gunpowder.  Hubby had recorded it but I'd ignored it, thinking it was about the wild west or something.  Turns out it's about Guy Fawkes and his plans to assassinate King James I, who ruled after Elizabeth.  I know pretty much nothing of this story, so now I'm quite curious!

Do have any favorite times or stories from history?
Are you a Tudor fan at all?

Dec. 27

Spent a good chunk of the day puttering around with an app to keep track of dvds.  I'm trying out another free one before resorting to a paid one.  This one seems much better than the first one I had tried.  We'll see how it goes.  According to the app, we own 352 dvds.

I'm starting to feel anxious about going back to work.  This always happens with my big end of the year break, but it doesn't make it any easier.  I go back on Jan. 2 and will be charging into the new year with the main goal of getting debt paid off . . . again.  As you know, 2017 added a new yard tractor and a completely rebuilt barn to our debt.  Good things to have, but a bugger when we were down to only having the house to pay off at one point.

I placed a couple small orders yesterday with some Christmas money/Amazon gift card I had.  Got a couple more dvds and some craft things.  I'm starting to get quite and itch to make cards again.  That's exciting, I guess.

Hubby was back to work yesterday and it was so quiet and lonely here, and so empty with no decorations of any kind.  I mean, think about it.  From September 1 on, there have been decorations of some sort all over the house.

The wind chill advisory continued till about noon.  I'm so sick of this cold snap!  Gah!  I think we got up to maybe 4 degrees.  I used to handle this crap much easier but I just plain old hate it now.  At least we don't have tons of snow to deal with on top of it all.  I did venture out of the house for the first time in two days though, went to get the mail and fill the bird feeders.  I figure that while the cold might be an uncomfortable inconvenience to me, those poor little birds out there *need* food to keep up their energy to stay warm.  So yeah, I tolerated the cold for a few minutes and filled their feeders.

Other than that I just kinda lounged around and watched true crime shows on TV.
Yay for days off!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Dec. 26

We took our tree down and packed all the Christmas decorations away today.  I almost didn't do it, was feeling guilty about it, but in the end it was done.  Now, later in the day, it seems weird to have everything back to normal.  It seems like Christmas never even happened.

I mentioned in yesterday's post that I'd mainly gotten books and wax for my birthday and Christmas this year.  Here are the books I got.  Unfortunately I already have the two Cassandra Clare books on the left, so I'll be returning those and picking some others.  I showed the red and white Scythe book in another post.  And then the other three new ones are Shiver, which I've been wanting to read forever, Moth and Spark, which I know nothing about but it sounds interesting, and Three Sisters, Three Queens, another Philippa Gregory book.  I'm very much into a Tudor phase again so this last book is really exciting to me right now.

The wax I got made me chuckle because it's mostly candles.  The four small candles on the left are from hubby.  I have no idea why he chose candles instead of melts?!  They are just a no-name Kmart brand in basic scents (Northern Woods, Cinnamon Spice, Gourmet Cookies, and Cherry Delight) but they all smell really nice and it might be fun to burn small candles here on my desk for a change.  The two Bath & Body Works candles on the right are Spiced Apple Toddy and 'Tis the Season, and both smell awesome.  And the three chunks of wax in the front are some Vintage Chic that Julie shared with me.  They are You'll Never Walk Alone, It's A Wonderful Life/Cookie Baking At Mom's, and Cookie Monster In Salem.  I like them all but Cookie Monster In Salem is my favorite.

Other than taking the tree down and packing decorations away, today was spent just puttering around the house.  It's SO freakin' cold here that my mom and I decided to wait until later in the week for me to go over there and help her with the normal weekly things.  I don't think we ever got above zero degrees today.  There is a Wind Chill Advisory still going until noon tomorrow.  It's pretty miserable.  I used to tolerate this stuff pretty easily but, man, not this year!

Hubby used up his last vacation day today.  We chatted about Achy Joints plans and whatnot.  I placed a tiny crafty order today and have a bit more of a creative urge stirring in me, but I'm not rushing into it.  He's back to work tomorrow and I have no plans so maybe I'll putter around with coloring some things while I watch some Tudor era movies and try to stay warm.

How was your day after Christmas?
I know Lush always has a Boxing Day sale, right?
And the BBW semi annual sale is going on right now too, right?  I might need to take a look at the site for that one.

Okay, I'm off now!