Posts Tagged ‘book nook’

Atypical-Type-A-book-nook--Young-House-Love

 

I already gave you a sneak peek at some of my books that I’ll be reviewing over the coming months. It seemed apt to begin with Young House Love since that’s my first daily must-read when I’m tucking into my brekky.

My impressions

I am a total fangirl of Sherry & John’s blog so I was very excited when I heard they were publishing a book, but it did mean my expectations were pretty high.

Unfortunately my first impression was that the quality of the book itself was not great: the cover is printed on a dull uncoated stock and the background printing on some of the pages doesn’t go all the way into the seams. However I know they were trying to keep the price point down in keeping with their budget ethos so I am happy with that compromise.

Happily, they didn’t suddenly seize up at the words ‘book deal’ and suddenly change their writing style to suit the different medium. It reads just like their blog, full of puns, funny anecdotes and even commentary from their pet dog.

The projects themselves are mainly quick and/or cheap, which I love because I’m all about doing little tweaks that over time will make your home beautiful. Oh and when they say ‘cheap’ they do mean cheap, as in less than $25 (some are even free), which makes it so accessible and achievable for anyone. Big thumbs up for that.

As well as the price guide, the handy project key indicates the amount of time and effort involved so you know what you’re getting yourself in for. Best of all, the book is not just a compilation of ‘best of’ blog projects. There were tons of new projects that even a YHL tragic like me hadn’t seen before. The photography and styling were lovely, but there were a couple of images that were obviously provided by suppliers and they stuck out like a sore thumb.

The projects ranged from the perennial favourites (such as painting furniture) to ingenious new ideas (like the I-never-would-have-thought-of-that ways to repurpose an Ikea table). Mixed in were great tips like how to style a bookcase and how to hang curtains. I like that they took care to point out that these ideas were not necessarily new or theirs, but that it was their take on it.

That said, there were some ideas that seemed like filler content (macaroni art, really?!) and I would not have minded if there were fewer projects if it meant losing some of the not-so-hot ones.

There was plenty of specific advice – for example, furniture brands and paint colours – that would be really helpful to novices (at least those in the US anyway). Likewise the tutorial tips would help beginners with technique to give the best results.

Summary

As someone who’s tackled quite a lot of home improvement projects over the last five years, most of the ideas were not necessarily new to me. But they are all affordable (tick!), achievable (tick!) and in an aesthetic that is similar to my own (tick!).

Having a whole house full of ideas in one book (with a chapter dedicated to each room) will make this book a go-to resource when I am feeling stuck or need a quick intro to a new technique.

Buy this book if you:

  • Are a beginner DIYer or decorator. 
  • Love Sherry & John’s style and personalities and want more YHL in your life.
  • Are looking for an excellent housewarming present for first time homeowners.
  • Have seen some of these project ideas around but need specific advice on techniques.
  • Are looking for rental-friendly decorating ideas.
  • Are stuck in a decorating rut.
  • Are always looking for budget-friendly home updates.

This book may not be for you if you:

  • Are experienced at home improvement. 
  • Are looking for advice on finding your decorating style or more extensive renovations.
  • Don’t share John & Sherry’s design aesthetic.

Buy the book here!

Have you read Young House Love? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

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stack-of-decorating-books

A big stack of books that I ordered (forever ago) on Amazon finally arrived! It has been pouring for days and days here so I’ve taken that as an excuse to spend some time curled up with a hot drink and my new reads.

Now, to choose which one to review for the August Book Nook

Kind Regards by Liz Williams

I run a stationery company, so it should come as no surprise that I love handwritten letters. I loved writing to friends in my childhood and teens – even the dreaded post-birthday thank you notes.

But somewhere along the line, between the advent of email, a bigger workload (first at school, then uni, then work and now a business) and a swag of other grown-up activities, I admit my letter-writing habit has slipped off the radar.

I’ve been conscious of wanting to change that, so when I spotted Kind Regards: The Lost Art of Letter-Writing in one of my fave local gift shops, I was instantly intrigued. Could reading this book inspire me to pick up the pen again?

I certainly hoped so.

Part One: From paper to post

The first of three sections outlines the history of letter writing, from the fourth century BC through to pigeon post and couriers to the invention of the postal system and postage stamps. It gives some good advice about preserving letters (I never knew it was a bad idea to store them alongside newspaper clippings) and even a recipe for making scented ink if you are so inclined.

It was a comprehensive and interesting introduction, if a little fact-heavy.

Part Two: Letterquette

The second section was more practical and explains different types of letters and the formats and conventions of each. Particularly useful is the sample letters for tricky correspondence such as those for condolence, sacking or resignation.

The author provides wisdom such as ‘Write to express not to impress’ and ‘Never write a letter when angry’. She also makes a case for why the thank you letter is so important, which left me nodding in agreement.

She explains that letters may have gone out of fashion but they have not lost their impact. I would argue that they have more impact since they are so rare.

Part Three: What we can learn from letters

While not as useful as the etiquette advice, I found the final chapter to be the most interesting and poignant.

It included fascinating letters from Samuel Pepys describing the Great Plague and an open letter to a Nazi. There were telling excerpts from Marie Curie recommending a promising young scientist called Einstein and a letter to Emperor Trajan warning of a wretched little cult called Christianity.

Summary

Kind Regards was well laid out and contained many interesting facts, but at times it felt like just that: facts. It read more like one long Wikipedia entry rather than a lighthearted book by a single author.

The dust jacket tells us that Liz Williams is a lifelong keen letter-writer, yet sadly none of this passion – or even personality – came through, which is a real shame. The ‘soul’ of the book came from the many fascinating excerpts of letters and from direct quotes.

The etiquette chapter would be particularly practical and useful for anyone who’s ever struggled to set out a letter or express themselves in writing.

It was an interesting – if a bit dry – read. But ultimately it didn’t particularly inspire me to rush and take out my letter-writing set.

Buy this book if you:

  • Love writing and receiving letters.
  • Love the romanticised notion of letter-writing.
  • Are confused by different letter types and how to set out and write each of them correctly.
  • Love quotes by famous people.
  • Enjoy interesting historical facts.
  • Want to grasp what we have lost in this digital age.

This book may not be for you if you:

  • Are looking for a humorous read.
  • Want in-depth advice on how to find your own writing style.

Support your local bookseller (I bought mine here) or buy online here!

Have you read Kind Regards? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

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Atypical Type A Book Nook: The Happiness Project

Alright, it’s time for the June book nook!

I had been following Gretchen Rubin’s blog on and off for quite a while and enjoyed her bite-sized morsels of food for thought so I was really looking forward to digging a bit deeper in her book The Happiness Project.

So what’s it all about then?

The premise is that Gretchen decided to undertake a year-long experiment to see if she could improve her own happiness. She established 12 resolutions, starting with one in January and adding a new one each month until she was practicing all 12 by the year’s end. Each resolution was paired up with a relevant Commandment (such as ‘remember love’ for the marriage month).

Gretchen then shares her own experiences, punctuated by the wisdom of philosophers and snippets from her blog readers. She also weaves in so-called Secrets of Adulthood and Splendid Truths as additional guiding principles.

Personal highlights

I won’t analyse each chapter individually since there are so many (it’s a much longer and denser book than what I would typically be reviewing here). Instead, I’ll share a few of my personal highlights.

  • I found it funny that the opening chapter recommends getting enough sleep and uncluttering your home as the first step since I was in this process before I started the book. She is right: it has decreased my stress levels and given me more energy during the day.
  • Tackle a nagging task – left undone they drain your energy and make you feel guilty (don’t I know all about that!). I had been thinking about implementing a semi-regular Get It Done Day so this gives me more motivation to do so. Oh, and I have a dentist appointment tomorrow.
  • One of her Secrets of Adulthood is ‘act the way you want to feel‘. You know what? It works. After weeks of unsuccessfully trying to drag my arse out of bed early I changed my attitude this morning and bounded out of bed looking forward to getting a head start on my day. (Okay, I lied, there was definitely no bounding but I did get up at 6.20 without hitting the snooze button.)
  • Happy and unhappy are not two sides of the same coin, they are independent. You need to work on increasing happiness and also reducing unhappiness. I have never thought about it like that before but it’s true for me that if I minimise the negative (stress, clutter, money worries) there is more opportunity for happiness.
  • Be a treasure house of happy memories by keeping photo albums, stories and keepsakes. Note to self: need to get on to updating those photo albums!
  • Find more fun in your life – and be honest about what you actually find fun as it may not be the same as what others enjoy.
  • Buy some happiness by directing your money (within reason of course) toward things that bring you joy, strengthen bonds with others or reduce unpleasantness in your life. (We already do this with things like travel and socialising but totally need to take her advice of treating myself to a decent pen!)
  • Practice gratitude and mindfulness in everything from food to spiritual matters.
  • Make time for your passions (if you don’t know what you’re passionate about, ask yourself what you did in your spare time when you were 10 years old).
  • I need to try to forget about results and enjoy the process.
  • Growth is more important than achievement. I am constantly growing in my professional life but I need to cultivate the same atmosphere in my personal life.

Summary

I’m not into the woo-woo meditating brand of finding happiness so I was delighted to discover someone tackling this big topic on a practical, every day level. Her Happiness Project was not about running away from her life to some exotic locale on a soul-searching mission; it was about finding the pleasure and joy in the moments of daily life.

Like Gretchen, I’m not unhappy, but I often find myself losing patience easily, being too hard on myself and focusing too much on ‘getting things done’ at the expense of enjoying the moment. Most of all, I am such a goal oriented person that I have trouble enjoying the process.

I have a lot of similar personality traits as her so I found her struggles very relatable (almost uncomfortably so at times!) but she does share other people’s experiences too to give a broader relevance.

I didn’t necessarily agree with everything she advocates (e.g. keep an empty shelf and a junk drawer) but everything is presented in a non-preachy way that encourages readers to find what works for them.

The only minor issue I had was that there were a few too many Lists of Things in Title Case (12 Resolutions, 12 Commandments, Secrets of Adulthood, Splendid Truths, True Rules…). The wisdom in these were great but there are so many I can’t possibly remember them all which loses some of the effectiveness.

It was gratifying to find that some of the recommended actions I was already doing (maintaining relationships, getting enough sleep, fighting right, asking for help, making time for passions) however there is still a lot of room for improvement in a bunch of other areas (ahemexerciseahem).

While I don’t have any plans to do some kind of formal, documented Happiness Project, I’ve been given some great ideas to try as well as the methods and motivation to get me there.

The Happiness Project was one of those books I can see myself re-reading year after year gaining something each time.

Buy this book if you:

  • Find yourself just ‘going through the motions’ and want to experience more joy.
  • Know that you want to improve yourself but aren’t sure how to go about it.
  • Are going through an upheaval or transition in your life (e.g. bereavement, graduation, career change, break-up, empty nest, retirement, children, marriage).
  • Are generally happy but want the best out of life.
  • Are a person. Any person. Read it.

This book may not be for you if you:

  • Are looking for a book with advice about depression.
  • Are looking for spiritual guidance to find happiness.

Buy the book here!

Have you read The Happiness Project? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

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Book Nook - Things I Love

Well it’s only month two of our book club and I’ve already slipped on the schedule – oops! I hope you can forgive me for being a day late since I was flat out working over the weekend (on my birthday no less).

Excuses aside, let’s get into it!

While I love being immersed in the whole blog/Pinterest world, I do find that too much time online makes me stressed and unfocused. Plus sometimes I do want to dig a little deeper than the online personas of my style icons and find out more about their philosophy.

This is why I’m so happy about this new column, so I can actually spend a solid amount of time delving into one author’s mind.

The author in this case is Australian stylist Megan Morton. Her name kept popping up everywhere at once for me so I resolved to check her out. I immediately loved her refreshing quirkiness and use of colour and was keen to see more.

Here’s my take on her book Things I Love.

Chapter 1: Houses I Love

Right from the opening page there started to appear a few snippets that I found myself saying ‘Amen!’ to. I 100% agree with her advice that before starting any project you need to be honest about your lifestyle and budget and that you should work with the home’s existing personality. She also has you ask yourself, ‘If your house were a person, who would it be?’ which sounds like a worthwhile exercise that I should try.

The homes themselves ran the decorating gamut from ramshackle cottage to grand designer home. To be honest none of the homes really resonated with me as they were all a bit extreme in their own way. I suppose Megan was trying to show the ultimate in each style, but I prefer more realistic and livable. Perhaps if there had been more of a description about why each space worked, I would have found it more useful.

What I did love was the (sometimes hilarious) personal anecdotes that introduced each homeowner.

Chapter 2: Things I Love

This was a really quirky and fun chapter that featured a set of themed items on four tear-out sheets per page. You could use them as postcards, on your pinboard or clip them all together for a kind of inspiration Roladex. I admit I won’t be doing this as I hate damaging books (even magazines I can’t bear to tear out pages!) but it’s certainly a cute idea. A bit like the grown-up version of tearing the song lyrics from your issue of Smash Hits, remember that?!

The cards feature vintage items and found objects to inspire you to mix these into your home decor for a look that’s truly unique. The chapter also includes quick lists such as ‘Rules to break’ and ‘Brave decorating moves’ which I’m sure I’ll be referring back to when I need a boost in decorating confidence.

Chapter 3: People I Love

What immediately struck me in this chapter was Megan’s humbleness. She begins by acknowledging that a stylist’s result is only as good as the sum of its parts, then introduces some of her most talented creative collaborators.

I always find it fascinating to peek inside the lives of creative people and find out how they think, work and live. It was an interesting mix of people – not just people like decorators and photographers as you might expect – but sculptors, button merchants and colour scientists. It did go on for a wee bit too long though – maybe try reading that section in more than one sitting.

Chapter 4: Things I Love to Do

Tucked in the back on the non-glossy pages is where I found the really juicy stuff! It included insider tricks from the mundane (‘How to fold a fitted sheet’) to the sublime (‘How to antique a mirror’). I always appreciate when stylists go beyond the visuals and discuss practicalities, such as Megan has done here with a traffic flow plan and seasonal cleaning chart.

I adored the Homelove Manifesto which was not (as it sounds) a wordy document, but rather a set of rules (some to follow and some to break) displayed in a fun, visual way in a fold-out spread. ‘When in doubt, go for bentwood chairs’ made me smile and ‘Something old, something new, something rough, something smooth’ is a worthwhile rule of thumb.

Summary

I adore that Megan’s philosophy is centred around loving your home and making it personal. You can incorporate trends but make sure you look elsewhere too, in the form of vintage, handmade or found objects too.

I loved her witty writing and personal stories, but I still wanted more of her advice throughout the book, not just sectioned off at the back. Especially since Megan is a styling teacher, I felt there could have been more specific lessons to be learnt.

Similarly, the tear-out objects were visually appealing, but what would have been more useful is how to style them into a vignette or examples of vintage/found objects in various settings.

It was great to find a book featuring some Australian homes and language, but with an international outlook. Her Homelove Manifesto is a charming concept and the book itself is presented beautifully.

The handy ‘Things I Love to Do’ chapter was my favourite because of all the practical advice I can actually apply to my own home. There are some tricks for colour schemes in particular that I need to consider!

Buy this book if you:

  • Are looking for inspiration on beautiful, daring homes.
  • Need some practical tips, how-tos and rules of thumb.
  • Want a glimpse into the lives of rock star creatives.
  • Want inspiration for incorporating vintage and found objects into your decor.

This book may not be for you if you:

  • Prefer a traditional or minimalist decorating style.
  • Are looking for a step-by-step guide on how to style your home.
  • Are a beginner home decorator looking for basic ideas and sources.

Buy the book at your local bookseller (I bought mine from Presence) or online.

Note: Australian version of cover is featured in the image above.

Have you read Things I Love or do you have any questions? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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I am super excited to announce a new column on Atypical Type A: a book club. Yay!

On the first Monday of each month I will be reviewing a decorating / organising / cooking / craft / lifestyle / creative business book. Some will be new release and others old favourites, but either way they’ll be titles I think you’ll really dig. I’ll share my thoughts on it and invite you to do the same. Let’s get started!

First cab off the rank is Mom, Inc. by Meg Mateo Ilasco and Cat Seto.

Mom, Inc.

Like many people, I first discovered Meg Mateo Ilasco through her first book a from few years ago Craft, Inc. and was impressed with her practical, easy-to-read style. I’ve been a keen follower of the Incorporated series since, buying the first three and currently awaiting shipment of the most recent.

For the third book in the series, Mom, Inc., Meg collaborates with Cat Seto to share their knowledge about what it takes to juggle a home-based business with parenthood. It might seem strange that I would buy this book when I don’t have children, but I was hoping the advice would be applicable to anyone seeking to find a balance of personal life with a business.

Chapter 1: The Entrepreneurial Mom

The opening chapter covers what it takes to be a business mum and suggests the idea of writing a ‘Mom Statement’, like a business mission statement. It gives advice on choosing the right business for you, finding time to start your new enterprise and how to stay focused – all of which are useful for anyone starting a home business, not just mothers.

Chapter 2: Starting a Blog

There’s no assumed knowledge here: it goes right back to the basics of explaining what a blog is and has a great description of post types and earning strategies. Having had a blog for nearly three years myself, I appreciated the ladies giving starry-eyed newbies a reality check with the line “It’s a low-risk, low-investment venture that can only pay off with a high level of commitment and patience”. Well said!

Chapter 3: Offering a Service

Service-based creatives such as writers, designers, illustrators and photographers will find practical information in this chapter, such as what to put in your portfolio and how to find clients. Having struggled with the trickier issues of freelancing myself such as setting your hourly rate and what to include in your contract, I can vouch for this section being particularly useful.

Chapter 4: Creating a Product

Chapter four opens with an absolute gem of a tip: go trendspotting on blogs, Pinterest, magazines etc… this will tell you what NOT to do. Awesome advice since so many businesses (new or not) seem to take the exact opposite approach. The rest of the chapter guides you through prototyping, market research and production, plus the all-important wholesaling.

Chapter 5: Opening an Online Retail Shop

The section on opening an online store covered topics such as sourcing stock, pricing and setting your terms and conditions. It will help you weigh up the pros and cons of an Etsy shop vs. a your own branded shop – an important consideration. The part about shipping was explained particularly well.

Chapter 6: Business Basics

I think it was quite clever to put the ‘basics’ chapters later in the book, after it had already guided the reader through the process of deciding what type of business was right for them. I found myself nodding through the section on ‘establishing an original brand’ – it was only a single page but explained so clearly. The ladies give their experienced advice on financial, legal structure, taxes, trading names, goal setting and productivity. The advice about keeping your mission statement visible at all times is something I should do myself.

Chapter 7: Getting the Word Out

Marketing is crucial to any business and there’s some great info here, whether you decide to DIY or outsource it. I found the guide to writing press releases and creating a press kit invaluable and will be referring back to it.

Chapter 8: Surviving the Juggle

The final chapter is the only one that is actually dedicated to balancing parenthood and business, but even then plenty of the advice is useful regardless of your home situation. This chapter will help you to deal with guilt, organise your day, learn to say ‘no’, find support and hire staff.

Summary

From my description you may be thinking “Where’s the ‘mom’ in Mom, Inc.?”. While it’s true that the chapters are laid out in business terms, the examples and inspiring case studies weaved throughout are all from the ‘mompreneur’ perspective.

Like the others in the Inc. series, I found it to be a realistic and practical guide that walks you through the process of starting a business step-by-step. Its friendly tone and bite-sized nuggets of wisdom would be easy to read while baby naps.

Some of it was quite basic for me since I’ve already been in business for three years but I still learnt a lot and it does cover some more advanced topics such as trade shows and finding an agent. Each topic is clearly laid out and explained concisely, rather than going into depth. It’s more of a primer to guide you in the right direction and from there you may need to do some more thorough research on the areas that particularly pertain to the type of business you decide on.

Mom, Inc. would be an indispensable guide if you want to start a family-friendly business from scratch or an imminent stork delivery will require you to make some changes to your existing creative business. I’m sure I’ll be lending to my girlfriends and re-reading it in the future.

Buy this book if you:

  • Know you want to run your own business but aren’t sure what type of business would suit you and your lifestyle.
  • Are just starting out in business and need a practical guide to help you through each step.
  • Need an all-in-one resource for handy tricks of the trade, lists of professional organisations and tech tools for the new small business owner.
  • Want to continue your creative career (or start a new one) once you start a family.
  • Want to launch a small business that feeds your creative passions on the side of your current job.
  • Want to learn how successful women balance their family responsibilities with their growing businesses.
  • Already run your own business but are looking to branch out into a new product or service offering.

This book may not be for you if you:

  • Have already been in business for some time and are happy with your income and life balance.
  • Require more advanced or in-depth business guidance.
  • Are looking for parenting advice.

Buy the book here!

Have you read Mom, Inc.? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

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A collection of pretty meets practical ideas to inspire a happier home

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