Friday, December 23, 2011

"Hers: Design with a Feminine Touch" by Jacqeline de Montravel~ Puts Womanly Back into Our Spaces

Published by:  Crown Publishing Group
Pages:  225
Genre:  House and Garden/Interior Decorating

Gorgeously, fully realized photos of feminine style in decor harkens back to the essence of being a woman without censure in this lush and liberating book.

Sensuous shapes and styles, delicate to firey colorings and a notable eye for art and accessories give life and light to this book. You may think you've read and seen all there is to know about decorating and design, but you'll be surprised!

There is so much to this book that it's difficult to summarize the best of it, but I'm going to try by giving you a highlight I loved best:

The Boudoir:
The French called it...boudoir meaning "to sulk" which in our day-and-age could easily mean our "meltdown" parlor! Our place to escape from the stresses of the world that call on our resources, sometimes more than we have to give.

Virginia Wolff called it "A Room of One's Own," and Jacqueline deMontravel calls it "a state-of-mind" place; one that should be inviting and reflective of who we are at our feminine core, and full of those things that we take particular pleasure in and gain peace from.

After studying this beautiful book, I designed my own perfect place and these are a few of the features:

A huge, ornate mirror framed in mirror pieces and resting on the floor; a button-tufted, large ottoman in blue and champagne silk; a 1700's reproduction chaise, down-filled cushions in washed linen decorated with winter white, blue and pink silk pillows; Louis XVI side chairs in a scrubbed finish; a silver vase of blue hydrangeas and roses...etc...

Does this tell you anything?  ;]

In addition to helping find our feminine center in decorating for our "boudoirs," this beautiful book leads us to rethink such other places in our homes as the living room, garden spaces, bar (even stocking and recipes) and entertainment areas, office and collection displays...including book cases.

I highly recommend this gorgeous book. The pictures alone make it very desirable, of course, as a coffee table book, or for your interior design library collection. But, more than that, it holds a trip back into the vast history of where we've come from and where we're headed as women in design.

Author Profile:

Jacqueline deMontravel is the editor of "Romantic Homes" and oversees publication of "Victorian Homes."  Former editor of "Country Magazine," she's been in the business  of decorating and publishing for more than two decades.

5 elegant stars


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Martha Stewart's Handmade Holiday Crafts: 225 Inspired Projects for Year-Round Celebrations

Published by:  Crown Publishing Group/Random House
Pages:  369
Genre:  House and Garden/Crafts

Here's the Scoop:

There is no question that Martha Stewart has long been the reigning queen of DIY home crafts and decorations.  In this holiday-centered book, she has gathered the best of her ideas, giving us up-close and fully realized directions on how to create extraordinary crafts and gifts for home, family and friends. Martha doesn't disappoint her fans, and anyone is bound to find something beautiful to create in this holiday crafting book.

Major holidays are segmented and ideas for crafts, home decorating and gift giving are shown for each one:  New Year's, Valentine's Day, Easter, July 4th, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas...and all others in between!   The large spread photographs are lovely, the ideas are not expensive, but are easily accessible; and, the resulting crafts present bright, festive, magical, and even enchanting pieces.

Here's What I Liked:

Valentine's Day
Red tulips in double glass vases with red cinnamon candy hearts were vibrant, beautiful and made an easy presentation for a dinner arrangement.
Also, a carnation heart made of multiples of pink carnations on floral foam to make a centerpiece is quick and gorgeous!

Easter :
Fabulous egg-dyeing techniques using natural formulas made from coffee, cabbage, blueberries, beets and spices made incredibly beautiful and exotic eggs.  And, Martha gives specific directions for marbleizing eggs!  Actually, most of her egg crafting was exceptional.

Thanksgiving :
Gourd candles made from hollowed out mini gourds with colored, melted candles are just amazing little jewels!  Pumpkin carving is fabulous!

Christmas :
I loved the cookie cutter ornament ideas made from various paper goods, family pictures and such.  The gilded, and verdigris Polish inspired eggs, and the ribbon poinsettia wreath was just to die for.

Hanukkah :
Paper packages, a menorah, and satin stars are glowing and sparkling in Martha's hands.

Here's what I found lacking:

Often the crafts are more complex than one would want to become engaged in. 

The directions are not clear cut; that is, they are not in a "recipe/materials" format, but are listed in text, which I found to be more difficult to follow.  I needed to break it down for myself on my own paper.

Diagrams sometimes took too much for granted, or at least seemed to expect the more experienced crafter could "fill in the blanks."  I wasn't up to some of that!

Several projects were quite time-consuming for very little return or impact.

And, finally, I found the pictures too small in the working segments.

Overall Rating:  3 stars ~ I can't hightly recommend it, but it's a good book to check out of the library...


Monday, December 19, 2011

"Christmas at Pemberley~A Pride & Prejudice Christmas Sequel" by Regina Jeffers

Published by: Ulysses Press
Pages: 350 with Afterward
Genre: Fiction/Regency Romance




Very quick Summary:

Darcy has invited the Bennets and the Bingleys to spend the Christmastide’s festive days at Pemberley. But as he and Elizabeth journey to their estate to join the gathered families, a blizzard blankets the English countryside. The Darcys find themselves stranded at a small inn while Pemberley is inundated with refugees seeking shelter from the storm.

Without her brother’s strong presence, Georgiana Darcy tries desperately to manage the chaos surrounding the arrival of six invited guests and eleven unscheduled visitors.

But bitter feuds, old jealousies and intimate secrets quickly rise to the surface. Has Lady Catherine returned to Pemberley for forgiveness or revenge? Will the manipulative Caroline Bingley find a soul mate? Shall Kitty Bennet and Georgiana know happiness?

Written in Regency style and including Austen’s romantic entanglements and sardonic humor, Christmas at Pemberley places Jane Austen’s most beloved characters in an exciting yuletide story that speaks to the love, the family spirit and the generosity that remain as the heart of Christmas.

Pemberley from the Dame's Perspective :

I only wish I had 10 more days of Christmas and 10 more books written by Regina Jeffers about the Darcys and clan to fill them! This is my very favorite of the Christmas books I've read for review this year. And, I'm so happy to bring it to your attention just in time for your Christmas rush!

If there is ever a time to get one more book for yourself in that "one for her/him~and one for me" pile; this is the ONE!

Jane Austen would love Regina Jeffers's perfectly Pemberley story that unites not only Elizabeth and Darcy in further intimacy around their soon-to-be first child, but also begins to be-ribbon some family relationships that have kept us aching for more closure.

Regina is the reigning queen (name is rightfully hers) of the sequels to Miss Austen's books, in my humble opinion. She takes care to keep her characters in perfect unity with Jane's intentions, it seems to me. This makes the books all the more close to authentic in nature, and all the more desirable for Austen aficionados.

I lost myself in this wintry novel as it danced among the characters and their longings for connections of heart, purpose and mind. Jane Austen's books are of this quality; not just fluff, but of the substance of true life and its mysteries, if a reader will take a moment to look beyond the surface, as Lizzy would have us do.

The story of a coming home to Pemberley at Christmastime brought me such pleasure this weekend as I put the last trimmings and touches on our holiday. While I went to church, heard the last of the pre-Christmas sermons and remembered things from past holidays with husbands (yes, there have been a couple--I was widowed very young) and children; "A Christmas at Pemberley..." lifted my heart even more.

This is a beautifully, thoughtfully written book. Perfectly in keeping with Miss Austen's tone of characters. A positively on-target treat for Darcy and Lizzy fans. If we can't have Jane, at least we have Ms Jeffers! Thank God!

A Christmas in Regency style that is up-lifting, heartwarming and centered on the things that matter most in life: Love and Family.

The Best of Christmas Books in 2011