Gettin’ Some Read On

Cooking, art and home design. All this pile is missing is some history and Sedaris, and it would be book heaven.
Cooking, art and home design. All this pile is missing is some history and Sedaris, and it would be book heaven.

Nursing a new baby has a lot of ups and a lot of downs. I have found it really aggravating with both kids how much it limits what I can do. I don’t love just sitting and watching tv, but it happens a lot. Especially when my little Q man was new new…he would nurse for two hours every night. Holy hell is that a lot of sitting around. I did get some reading and sketching done, but even that was limited because of the awkward art of holding things while nursing. And now that he is big and very aware of what is around him, even reading is pretty much out the window. He is too much of a grabber. But in the past few months, I did manage to go through some pretty interesting books, and I wanted to share them with you today.

Undecorate: The No-Rules Approach to Interior Design
By Christiane Lemieux

The big reason I love this book is it follows the design mentality that also attracted me to reading all the Apartment Therapy and Design*Sponge books. The pervasive idea in all of these is that you can be your own decorator. While I have nothing against interior designers (I actually would love to be one), I think they serve a certain crowd of people. People who either have no idea what their style is or who don’t mind having it dictated to them. Also, people who have a bit of extra cash to toss around. Undecorate profiles six homes and the lives of the families within. I love it because in its picture-heavy pages, there are so many ideas, it can be reread to no end, and the ideas keep coming.

That is not to say I love everything. There are more than a few fuuuuugly pieces of furniture in those pages, but I love the confidence and personality every rooms expresses. I also found it very reassuring to read about other people who treat their homes as I would love to: an evolving canvas that grows with time. This book is extremely accessible because it appeals to a very wide crowd. If you already have a beautiful home you love, Undecorate can give you ideas on how to shake things up or use furniture in new and interesting ways. If are new to interior design and have no idea where to start, you are quite likely to find inspiration in these pages.

The Family at Home: Love, Life, Style
By Anita Kaushal

When you walk into a home, you can nearly always tell if there are kids living in it. With toys and clothes and mud to be tracked in, it’s pretty hard to cover their presence. And, really, why would you want to? It is nice to keep things stashed in their place (no one wants to step on a toy car) but I feel like when you over-clean and over-organize, you suck a lot of fun and happiness out of a space. Kids bring a while different life to a space, and The Family at Home celebrates that.

This book covers how to create a space that gives everyone just what they need. Adults have enough order to keep their sanity, children have a sense of security and everyone gets to express their style. I will admit that most the spaces as a whole don’t appeal to me, but I love the ideas I have found in those pages. The ideas for decorating walls in ways that are friendly to people of all ages are wonderful. I also love the section on outdoor spaces. Who doesn’t want to play in the mud, have a tea party in the grass and nap in a big swinging nest? Crazy people, that’s who.

Man with a Pan: Culinary Adventures of Fathers Who Cook for Their Families
By John Donohue

I can’t recall where I first read a review of this book, but when I stumbled across it at the library a few weeks later, I knew I had to grab it. The title exactly spells out the content for you. It is real, straightforward stories about guys who cook. Some are super skilled, some are less so, but they all have a different wonderful spin on why they love cooking and what it means to them.

I found all of the stories really relatable. Stories about botched meals and special trips to the store for one ingredient all rang true. It was also really encouraging to learn more about how people like Mark Bittman really got into cooking. Without a doubt the best part is it’s not all stories from chefs. There are reporters, carpenters nd a lot of writers. Real people with real lives to lead who also happen to love cooking. It’s very reassuring to read about other people who want to have the fun and not the pretense about food.

Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun!
By Carla Sonheim

No matter how long you have been creating art of any kind, there are dry spells. You hit a wall, you think you are out of ideas, or you are just burned out. When you are stuck in a creative rut, this book may be just the tool for you. If you ever took a beginning art or life drawing class, a lot of these exercises will have a familiar echo. But instead of the same try skill-building techniques, these add a twist. One of my favorite exercises in the book is number 33, Doodling on Steroids. Without telling you every tiny detail, it pretty much involves doodling and doodling without thinking until the page is completely saturated with little lines, dots and other patterns. Other exercises are called Numbers Game and Nature Walkabout.

It may sound silly to go back to creative roots when you are stuck, but it really makes total sense. It’s so easy for your brain to get bogged down in information. A recent trip to the museum, an awesome project you saw on someone’s blog, all the inspiration you are soaking in…it adds up. By getting back to the roots of your skill set and basic knowledge, you can unclog that mess of ideas and get back into the flow of things again. This book can be a great tool for that, whether you are a new artist or have decades of creation under your belt.

Everyday Harumi: Simple Japanese Food for Family and Friends
By Harumi Kurihara

I love, love, love this cookbook. I should just buy it. But for now I will stick with hogging it once every few months from the local library. All sorts of Asian inspired foods are always being made in our house. Stir fry happens at least every other (if not every) week. Luckily, my husband is equally enamored with this wonderful cuisine, so he loves expanding our recipe list right alongside me. When he flipped through this book, he marked eighteen different recipes to try.

If you want to try Japanese cooking and have no experience or knowledge, this is a great place to start. Full disclaimer: I know veeeery little about “real” Japanese food. However, since the author of this book is Japanese, I feel pretty comfortable saying this food is at least Japanese enough. The recipes are simple and user-friendly. Also, if you know nothing at all about Japanese food and ingredients, have no fear. In the front of the book, she explains all the basic ingredients you need to get started. Not just what they are, but the role they play. There is also a table of contents by ingredient. So if you are ever stuck with a surprise stock of eggplant (thank you, Bountiful Baskets), you can find something to make a bit faster.

Be warned, I am about to make you drool. Her recipes include Sirloin Steak in a Miso Marinade (so yum), Onigiri Rice Balls with Ground Chicken (a great thing to make or potlucks) and Potatoes with a Sweet Soy Dressing. I have yet to actually try that last one, but I have faith that it will be decent. And I am always willing to try something else that might make potatoes actually taste good.

Acrylic Innovation: Styles and Techniques Featuring 64 Visionary Artists
By Nancy Reyner

I have pored over what feels like a million different art technique books. For whatever reason, this one sticks out in my head. As you could probably gather from my above review of drawing lab, I really dig anything where the author talks to a variety of artists. Hearing the perspectives and lessons of people from really varied backgrounds always keeps my brain churning with ideas. Staying in your own discipline is a sure road to letting your own work fall flat.

Acrylic Innovation has samples from photorealists, minimalists, assemblage artists and more. There are simple tips from featured artists, many of which include words of encouragement. If you find yourself particularly drawn to a certain piece in the book, the author includes lists of other artists in the same style, making it easy to expand your appreciation. But the real meat of the book (in my mind anyway) is the technique lessons. She offers a variety of simple ways to reimagine your work. Embedding painted forms, layering with text and the power of horizon lines are all covered. All along with beautiful examples, of course. This is one I will be checking out over and over again for sure.

Okay, so that may have been crazy long. But I do love a good book, and good books are meant to be shared. So hopefully one of these will be loved by one of you.

Happy Tuesday, and I will see you all tomorrow!

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