More Summer Reading, Shanghai Girls

Blogged under Good Books by Tammy on Monday 31 May 2010 at 9:21 am


Last Monday, I gave my 25 cents about Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa Lee. After reading that novel, which I really enjoyed, I decided to go ahead and keep with the China theme and read another See novel, Shanghai Girls: A Novel. This book, like most of See’s, is also a fictional story woven with historical references and set in China’s past, but it also expands to America as well as two sisters, Pearl and May, are forced to leave China during WWII and find themselves in Los Angele’s Chinatown in 1938.

The historical background included in the book is impressive, and this is obviously something the author uses in most of her work. If you look at some of the reviews of her other books, like Peony in Love, this historical weaving with narrative is her “thing,” and she does it well.

As far as this book goes, I can’t say I liked it as much as the first one I read, but it was a good read, just not a great read. Most of the storyline I found to be predictable, but unfortunately, that is something I find is the case for me when it comes to most contemporary fiction and one reason I tend to stick to the classics. Without giving away details of the book that would ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read it, let’s just say there were multiple times that an event or incident would happen in the book, and I would think, “oh, I bet x, y, z.” Then two or three chapters later, I’d discover that my assumptions were correct. Once or twice isn’t a big deal as many books will have predictable events, but it happened a little too much for me in Shanghai Girls.

Other than the historical backdrop, the other strength of this novel is characterization, especially when it comes to the sisters. Pearl is the oldest sister by just a few years and tells their story. May is her baby sister, BFF, and lifelong partner. It is a complex relationship, you want to know what happens to these women, and all kinds of stuff happens to them. The story reads pretty fast because a lot is going on.

Finally, my only other issue with this novel is that I felt a little let down with the ending. I almost wonder if this is supposed to be part one of a two part story. It does end, and many issues are resolved, but not all of them. There is more to Pearl and May’s story, and I felt a little cheated that I didn’t get it all.

If you have enjoyed any of Lisa See’s other novels (and it looks like she is pretty darn prolific), then I think this is a good summer read.

Memorial Weekend Links

Blogged under Around the Web by Tammy on Sunday 30 May 2010 at 10:42 am


Happy Memorial Day weekend to everyone in the US, and hey, even for those who don’t live here. It is still a good time to think about those we have loved and lost or generally reflect on your life. I’m thinking about my grandmother today. Here she is in 1944. She drove a truck for the Army. She is easy to pick out because she’s the tiniest person in the photo.

Cross Stitch at About.com
Read loads of great tips on Cross Stitch and then share your own - what tips and tricks have you learned that keep you out of tight spots?

Margot Potter The Impatient Crafter
Madge shares her Zen Master Slacker Mommy’s Guide to Letting Things Ride.

Mixed Media Artist
Can you ever have too much fabric? Cyndi thinks not! Come and add your favorite link to Cyndi’s favorites.

Stefanie Girard’s Sweater Surgery
How to make a recycled sweater gearhead hot pad inspired by the book- The Journal Junkies Workshop.

The Artful Crafter
Find some advice here on selling large lots of craft supplies.

About Family Crafts
Is getting to be that time of year when people get out more whether it be day trips, camping trips, or gathering with friends and family and having picnics and barbecues! Find out how you can incorporate crafting into your camping and picnic fun.

Aileen’s Musings
Aileen’s excited to share her first how to video called Ribbon’s & Lace. Take a quiet moment, grab a cuppa and stop by and see what its all about.

Craftside-A behind-the-scenes peek at a crafty world
Craftside’s got a hot new Look. Learn and Create video featuring Barbe Saint John showing us how to make a Steampunk hair pin, a free bow graphic download, how to add words to a journal page and a bow, and an inside peek into 1000 ideas from 100 Fashion Designers.

Etsy Info Overload!

Blogged under etsy by Tammy on Saturday 29 May 2010 at 1:32 pm

One of my summer goals is related to my Etsy shop, if you haven’t already figured this out! And, I have to say that the more I read over there, especially information on the Etsy forums, the more I feel overwhelmed with information, much of it conflicting. For example, I finally got the nerve up and asked for a shop critique in the “Critique” folder, and well, it was a mix.

On the helpful side of the mix, a number of people who gave me feedback were confused about what I was actually selling over there. Is it supplies? Do I make some of the supplies? Is it finished jewelry, or what? That has been something I have been also struggling with. What kind of direction do I want to take?

To have a few people voice this made me realize that I need to clarify this issue for myself as well as for customers. I’m going to stick with supplies, put all the finished jewelry in one category for now, and as their listing expires (or something sells, hopefully), phase that part of the shop out. To make sure the “supplies” is idea more obvious, I have invested in a new banner, which I’ll be uploading hopefully very soon.

On the confusing end, I had a number of people tell me that my photos weren’t good enough. I realize that photos are really important and that is something I’m continuing to work on (for example above and below are photos of a pair of earring just made using some tiny vintage lockets I got from another Etsy seller, Bunny Sundries); However, the consensus about backgrounds is all over the road. One person will say to use an all white background, another says use a patterned background, a third will say don’t use a patterned background because it’s too busy.

To make things even more confusing, I did a lot of surfing around recently and discovered that there are plenty of successful shops that don’t adhere to any of the advice I was given or have read on the forum in other posts. There are shops using all white backgrounds, shops using a wide mix of backgrounds, shops that don’t even post more than one picture of whatever it is they are selling, and the list goes on.

So what have a learned from all this Etsy information overload? I’ve learned that I need to cull what I read and what I’m told. Pick what I like and what I think will work for me, continue to experiment, and in the end, go with my gut as far as what I want to do with my shop.

Boom! Shuttle Atlantis Time!

Blogged under My Crafty News by Tammy on Wednesday 26 May 2010 at 4:20 pm

This is a picture I took of the launch of the Shuttle Atlantis a few weeks ago. I was on the ship that was getting ready to take us to the Bahamas, so I got a pretty good view over the ocean before we left.

This morning as I was getting another cup of tea and trying to wake up, Boom! The sonic boom hit. My house is about 50 or 60 miles from KSCU, but of course, as the shuttle enters the atmosphere, it flies over us, so that’s why I heard it at such a distance. Needles to say, I was awake after my whole house shook!

This may be the last flight for the Atlantis, and there are only two more possible launches for the other shuttles after this one. I was raised a “rocket girl” so to speak since my dad is ex-NASA, and my first job out of grad school was as a technical writer for Lockheed. It’s in my blood.

Though the Space Shuttle program has been finishing up for some years now and the new administration is not to blame for this, its attitude towards the space program in general is really disappointing. I have already lamented about this on here before (see “It’s the Economy, Stupid“), so I won’t rehash it. But just remember this day, folks, years from now when you look back and realize how the space program started to erode. This is just the beginning to a sad, sad future for the US space industry and the nation.

Sea Theme Jewelry

Blogged under etsy by Tammy on Tuesday 25 May 2010 at 8:31 am

I have been working away on my Etsy shop, adding new items and working on the technical side of things like tagging better and expanding the descriptions. Much of my Etsy education has come from reading through the forums over there, and one point that comes up a lot is the number of items in your shop. Most seem to claim that you need anywhere from 50 to 100 pieces in a shop to start getting noticed, so my goal is to go for 50 and see how that goes for awhile. I’m also working on photographs, which I think are getting better, and trying to work on a more cohesive look for the shop.

Right now, I seem to have stumbled into a sea or ocean theme.

Summer Reading, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Blogged under Good Books by Tammy on Monday 24 May 2010 at 8:38 am


My summer reading list is monstrously long, and I know that in reality I won’t be able to read all the books I’d like to during my summer break. However, I have gotten off to a promising start with this first book by Lisa See, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel.

It is the fictional story of Lily, a 19th century Chinese woman, and her lifelong friendship with “her same,” Snow Flower. Lily is probably considered lower-middle class. Her family is not educated or rich, but they are not so poor that she has to work in the fields either. She lives in a world where there is a clear “man’s world” and a clear “woman’s world,” and traditions must be kept above all else. These traditions clearly outline her role as a woman, and this role is extremely limiting and many times physically and mentally painful to fulfill.

The story is told in an autobiographical first person format, very similar to another book I’ve read (and loved), Memoirs of a Geisha. In fact, there was a great deal about See’s book that I found to be similar. Both start when the female Asian protagonists (one from China the other from Japan) are young girls, then moves on throughout their lives until they are elderly. As they tell their stories, historical and cultural details are woven through the narratives. Granted, we are talking about two totally different cultures, but I enjoy a good story that includes these types of details, and I know that See spent a great deal of time researching Chines culture and traditions. The research definitely paid off.

Now I will say that Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is probably not up to the level of Memoirs of a Geisha, but it was pretty darn close in my opinion.  As far as the connection goes between the two books, they have similar flavors, and think if you liked one, you would like the other. If you haven’t read either of them, well, you should.

I have another Lisa See book on my list, Shanghai Girls: A Novel. Hopefully, it will be as enjoyable to read as this book.

Lovin’ Some Craft Links

Blogged under Around the Web by Tammy on Sunday 23 May 2010 at 9:56 am

About Family Crafts
I know at this time of year many people are trying to think of ideas for graduation gifts, but how about making a special end-of-the-year gift for a special teacher?

Aileen’s Musings
Aileen’s offering some fabulous fractal freebie backgrounds for you to download and use!

Beading Arts
Rubber glass? Rubber glass?!? What the heck is rubber glass?

Cathie Filian
Seed packets are the inspiration for sprucing up your garden. Pop by Cathie’s to see how.

Craftside-A behind-the-scenes peek at a crafty world
Craftside’s got a chance to win a free copy of The Complete Photo Guide to Textile Art, and we are off to Maker Faire with our new roving reporter Stan. Stan is an Amineko (crocheted cat), see how to make his Steampunk business card holder made Sweater Surgery style, learn how to make a 4-ply braid, and to relax try this honey cucumber skin toner recipe.

Cross Stitch at About.com
Got a great source for free Cross Stitch patterns? Check out Connie’s list and then share your own.

Farm Girl Roots, City Girl Style
And it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out… check out Linda’s baseball quilt.

Margot Potter The Impatient Crafter
Turn a vintage tie into a stylish tampon case with Madge in this week’s Teen Craft project for ILoveToCreate!

Stefanie Girard’s Sweater Surgery

Enter to win a copy of Sweater Surgery!

The Artful Crafter
Make a travel art journal for when you want to jot or sketch ideas on the go.

Snuggly Buggly Crochet

Blogged under Fiber Fun, Yada, Yada, Yada by Tammy on Saturday 22 May 2010 at 5:30 pm

This is Rocky Boo-Boo Powley giving you his googlie-eyed look. He is also silently testifying that pet blankets are much more snuggly buggly when they are made out of baby yarn.

While this blanket has a few, shall we say, well, it’s been “tasted” a few times, it has stood up much longer than another blanket I made for him and his bro (Jasper). I think between the holes (it was a granny square) and acrylic (OMG!), it just did not cut the puppy mustard (or ketchup) in our house! However, this first blanket (which I originally made to give away to babies in need but it didn’t turn out that great so I gave it to our “boys”) has been enjoyed daily. I guess the babies in need lived in my own house, and I just didn’t realize it.

Obviously, this has me pondering the notion of making dog blanket number 3, this time using baby yarn scraps. Oh, and double crochet will be used this time versus granny square.

Free Crochet E-Book from Crochet Me

Blogged under Fiber Fun, Free Craft Projects by Tammy on Friday 21 May 2010 at 8:29 am

The site Crochet Me has a free e-book available. You have to be a member of the site, but membership is free. Once you sign up, you can download the book which is pdf format. It includes 6 crochet patterns for babies: a stuffed toy, toddler poncho, shell and posies stitch dress, matching dress and hat, cardigan, and a nursing wrap.

My Island Craft Purchases

Blogged under Jewelry Designers/Artists by Tammy on Thursday 20 May 2010 at 9:33 am

While my cruise experience was not that pleasant, walking around the streets of Nassau next to the port was at least something to do. I was surprised at how many designer shops (Carter for example) were scattered among the little mom and pop stores. I didn’t even think about going into the fancy shops. Other than the fact that my purse wouldn’t allow me to buy anything in there, I wanted to buy items that were more suggestive of the Bahamas, not stuff I could buy at a department store in the states.

Of course, I bought the usual t-shirts, tropical shirts for my hubby, and other items that I know are imported. However, as we walked along the streets we managed to discover a few home-grown crafters selling their work.

The wood fish above was hand-carved and painted by Celestine Albury. She had a spot under an awing, a simple table full of her beautiful carvings. With the leftover wood pieces, she made jewelry, lots of earrings which I totally regret now not buying a pair of.

Speaking of jewelry, another vendor I purchased from was a young woman selling jewelry. I didn’t catch her name, but she so reminded me of myself when I first started out. She had all kinds of gemstone jewelry along with some made of wood and shell. Granted, some of the parts and pieces she might have imported, but she assembled the final pieces for the most part. I purchased some shell earrings, wood earrings, and a tiny conch pendant.

I only saw a tiny portion of Nassau, but I was disappointed that I saw so many imports and so few crafters. I was really lucky to find these two artists among all the imported merchandise.

Next Page »