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Four Favorite Books

Four Favorite Books for December

By | Four Favorite Books

Picking Favorites isn’t easy! I thought I knew which books I was going to choose a month ago but now that I’m actually composing my post I’ve completely changed my mind. The fiction in particular was difficult because the book I thought I wanted to suggest was just too dark. It had a definite December orientation, but there was too much bitter with the sweet. So, I have a different book which has more sweet than bitter. Let’s start with it:

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A lanky redheaded magician with a crinkly smile named Adam, and his talking dog Mopsy, travel to the walled city of Mageia in order to apply to the Guild of Master Magicians. There’s just one problem. Adam is truly Magic and that causes the other magicians to be jealous and fearful and to rise up against him in a murderous riot. What ever happened to peace, love, community and collaboration? Anybody?

The Man Who Was Magic, by Paul Gallico, was written for young adults, though I would extend to it the “children of all ages” categorization. It was written in 1966 and unfortunately it is now out of print. My friend Allison tracked down this used library edition for me (a First Edition, well loved). Yeah, she’s a little magic too. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s available on Kindle though, or you might find it at your local Library!

This book is sweet, sentimental, and even while reading the worrisome parts you know how it will all turn out. That may make me a sap for liking it. So be it. It’s any easy “Feel Good” on a wintery afternoon.

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My favorite book of Interior Design is Calder at Home, The Joyous Environment of Alexander Calder by Pedro E. Guerrero, published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang in 1998.

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The author first met the Calders in 1963 when Alexander Calder was 64 and Guerrero was assigned to photograph the Calder kitchen for a House & Garden article. The Calder’s house wasn’t exactly the sort of house the magazine was at all used to showing. Maybe not exactly H&G’s cup of tea, but for Guerrero it was “complete happiness and heart-stopping clutter.”

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One of the many reasons I love this book is because it shows not only the interweaving of art-making and home-making which I am so keen on, but you can also see so clearly what a wonderful pair Alexander and Louisa were and how they inspired each other.

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My favorite Art book is really just a bit of Christmas fluff. It is Greetings from Andy (Warhol) – Christmas at Tiffany’s, by John Loring, published by Harry N. Abrams, INC. in 2004.

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I’ve always preferred Warhol’s early advertising artwork from the 1950’s to his later work. What I didn’t know was his process. He liked to create the look of a print by doing a wet offset image with lots of ink splotches and then pressing two sheets of paper together. Later he would tip in watercolor loosely, purposely not worrying about staying inside the lines to give it a childlike feel.

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And finally, my favorite cookbook(s) for December are two tiny books inscribed from my mom to my Gramma Dottie: To Mother, Christmas, 1954.
They are Holiday Punches, Party Bowls and Soft Drinks, and The Holiday Cookbook, both published by Peter Pauper Press in 1953 and 1950, respectively.

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I’m actually having a cup of Hot Mulled Cider as I write this. It’s a little recipe from the Holiday Punches book, just cider, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. Very nice as it is currently 21 degrees and partly cloudy according to my weather app. Might as well enjoy it!

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I hope you take some time to enjoy a cup of something hot and sweet and a good book or two this month as well. My horoscope keeps reminding me this is the time of year to slow down. My guess is that would be a good idea for everyone!

My Four Favorite Books for November

By | Four Favorite Books

Today I’m introducing a new feature! Every month I’ll post four of my favorite books: one house book (Interior Design), one novel, one cookbook, and one book of art or design. All of them will be from my bookshelves and will be books which I use and love.

These are my picks for November:

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The house book this month is HAND and HOME, The Homes of American Craftsmen by Tommy Simpson and William Bennet Seitz. Published in 1994 by Little, Brown & Company. I bought this book soon after it came out and I have poured over it with a magnifying glass literally in hand, completely absorbed in the detailed work of the craftsmen and women who live in the houses featured.

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The homes in the book belong to some serious heavyweights in the craft world: Tommy Simpson and Missy Stevens, Bennett Bean, Thomas Mann, Sam Maloof, Lenore Tawney, Leo Sewell, and Wendell Castle. My knees are raw from genuflecting.

What inspires me the most about their houses is that they make, or alter, or embellish, or simply decorate with their own designs all the parts that make up their homes. Gee, I wonder if that’s had any affect on how I approach my own interior design?

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My favorite novel this month is Happy All the Time, by Laurie Colwin, copyright 1978. Laurie Colwin is my favorite author.

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I have every book she ever wrote. Every novel, book of short stories, and cooking memoir. Laurie was a Domestic Sensualist. Her stories are familiar, homely, bittersweet. You don’t want them to end, which is why I read them over and over and over. Laurie Colwin died in 1992, but her books are a refreshing pause on the continuum. Do yourself a favor and take a break with one of them. Happy All the Time is a great place to start.

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My favorite cookbook for November is: New Mexico’s Prized Recipes from The Albuquerque Tribune’s GREAT GREEN CHILI COOKING CLASSIC, copyright 1974. I inherited this cookbook in a book purge from my mom, after a cookbook purge from her mother. Thank you Gramma Dottie!

I have made many recipes from this book over the years but the one that gets made over and over, especially this time of year when you want a big pot of something hot and spicy steaming up the kitchen, is GREAT GREEN BEAN CHILI….

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This is one of those recipes that’s easy to adapt. Make it meatier, or beanier. Add more cumin, chili powder or garlic. Throw in some hominy. Whatever you want, just make a lot of it because it’s even better the next day. Duh.

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My fourth favorite for the month is the art book, and my pick for November is JUXTAPOZ HANDMADE, published 2010 by Gingko Press, Inc.

JUXTAPOZ is an art magazine we subscribe to and this is a book they’ve published of established and emerging artists who have “dedicated their careers to preserving the “hands-on” method to creating fine artwork and commercial products…both 2D and 3D works that use materials and methods such as paper, fabric, wood, fiber arts, sewing, embroidery, collage, papier-mache, clay and ceramics…both functional and non-functional.” Can’t imagine what I would find to relate to in this book either. Yeah, I’m pretty much an enigma wrapped up in a conundrum today!

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And now, as much as I’d truly love to sit down with a big bowl of green bean chili and reread Happy All the Time for the umpteenth time, I think I better get back to my house rearrangement. I have a Sewing Studio to outfit and Big Ass closet to fill. Action Girl: Activate, and Awaaaay!