Mini Book Reviews: Recent Crafty Finds from the Library

by Wendy Copley on July 22, 2015

One of our weekly activities this summer is a visit to the library. The kids load up on books (picture books and EZ readers for Augie, comic compendiums for Wyatt) and I like to check out craft books and cook books. (I do most of my fiction reading on the Kindle, so my books are borrowed online.) I’ve really enjoyed some of the books I’ve checked out, so I thought I’d do a few mini-reviews for you. (This post contains affiliate links.)

Idiot’s Guides: Zen Doodling by David Williams

Zen Doodling I loved this book! I’m a long-time doodler and I especially like drawing patterns so I’ve been interested in the zentangles I see online for a while. This book features many step-by-step tutorials showing how to draw some  complicated patterns and additional ideas that you can copy and adapt for your own doodles just by looking at them. I particularly liked the instruction for drawing braids and Celtic knots. I’ve been doodling these for years and I was please to see a few techniques for drawing them that were different — and easier — than my own in this book.

Here’s an example of one of the zentangles I put together after reading this book:
An example of zen doodling

Cool, right? I’m brimming with ideas after reading this book!

Martha Stewart’s Favorite Crafts for Kids by the staff of Martha Stewart

I’ve always been a big fan of the kids’ crafts Martha Stewart puts together and this book is filled with some really excellent project ideas. They’re surprisingly simple for a book from from Martha Stewart, but that’s  good because it makes you feel like you could actually do some of them with your kids. Some of the ideas I wrote down to try: popsicle stick houses, a basic recipe for cornstarch slime, ridiculously cute customizable cross stitch family portraits, and a fun baking soda/vinegar balloon experiment. The only project we’ve managed to knock out so far is an animated flip book. When I was a kid I used to make these by carefully drawing each picture (not easy!) but the suggestion in this book was to use rubber stamps so you don’t have to draw on every page. This was much faster and even 6-year-old Augie could manage it on his own. The next one I want to try are the popsicle stick houses. I love them!

Craft stick houses from Martha Stewart’s Favorite Crafts for Kids
Don’t you want to move into one?

The Lunch Box by Kate McMillian & Sarah Putman Clegg

I’ve had this book on my Amazon wishlist for years now, but it’s never quite made it into my cart so I was excited to see it on the shelf in my local library. This book isn’t revolutionary or anything, but it is filled with good, solid lunch box knowledge and flipping through it will spark some ideas about what to pack for yourself or your kids. A lot of the ingredients used in the recipes wouldn’t go over very well with my boys so it is probably not worth adding to my permanent lunch book collection, but I did really like the ideas and combinations suggested in the wraps section and I’m inspired to try some of those with my kids.

Craft-a-Day by Sarah Goldschadt

I really wanted to love this book, but I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed by it. Look how cute those projects on the cover are! Aren’t they cute? I also wanted a lot of easy ideas that the kids and I could execute quickly so they didn’t wander off before they were finished. And I wanted the project to be made from items I would likely have on hand. The book does deliver all that along with clear instructions and gorgeous photos.So what’s the problem? The problem is that the projects are extremely repetitive! Basically, the book is broken up into 52 weeks and each week gets a theme, along with a template for that theme. Think robots, gnomes, circles, stars, bugs, birds, etc. Then the author uses the provided motif on seven different projects. The problem is with the projects themselves. There are only about 10-15 different projects in the entire book! So during “whale week” (or whatever) she’ll give you instructions to make a greeting card with a paper whale on it, a stuffed whale made from felt, a garland of whales and a whale cupcake topper. Who needs 52 individual cupcake toppers? Well, someone who makes a lot of decorative bento boxes might, but that’s pushing it even for me!

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

Finally, we have my favorite of all the books I’ve checked out: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I have visited the Smitten Kitchen website in the past but I’ve never cooked anything from it and now I’m wondering why the heck not! This book is filled with interesting recipes. I guess Perelman is known for taking basic recipes and putting a twist on them because this book is filled with them. Some of the recipes I want to try:

  • gingerbread spice Dutch baby
  • chocolate chip brioche pretzels
  • black bean and spaghetti squash tacos
  • balsamic and beer braised short ribs with brown butter mashed potatoes
  • chicken and eggs salad toasts with lemon aioli

One recipe I have already made (and will be making again): Popcorn Cookies!

Smitten Kitchen's Popcorn Cookies

Popcorn and cookies are two of my favorite foods (cookies are #1, popcorn is somewhere in the top 10), so combining them into one cookie? That is nothing short of revolutionary, my friends!

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook is definitely going on my wish list.

What are you reading? Have you found any great craft or cook books lately?

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