March Book Club: The Year of Living Danishly

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Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russel for Lars Book Club

As you might recall, I lived in Copenhagen, Denmark for 3 years with my Danish husband. It’s where we met and lived when we first got married. As you might guess, I was pretty interested to hear another take on a foreigner’s experience in Denmark. I’ll have A LOT to talk about! Stay tuned for our mid month check in! 

According to the UN World Happiness Report (yes, that is a thing), and many other surveys, Denmark is the happiest country on earth! What makes Danes so happy? Surely not their location, with those long, dark winters… Is it their infrastructure? Their amazing pastries? All that amazing, minimal Danish designer furniture?? Find out this month as we read The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country. Author and journalist Helen Russell sets out to the find the secret to their famed happiness as she and her husband leave their hectic London life and move to Denmark. Russell chronicles their lives month by month for a year in rural Jutland, learning local customs, traditions, and getting help (or being chastised!) along the way. Russell’s down-to-earth writing style and sense of humor will make you laugh, and we’d love to hear your thoughts as you read, especially if you have lived in or visited Denmark yourself! Follow along on the @larsbookclub Instagram account, and tag your own book photos with #larsbookclub ! Enjoy!

Photo by Anna Killian for The House That Lars Built  |  Lars Book Club is led by Julie Richardson

Dreaming in Cuban printable quote and bookmark

Team Lars just returned from a trip to Cuba! And I can’t wait to share our experiences with you. Going along with the cuban theme, here’s an update on the book we read for #LarsBookClub for February. 

Have you enjoyed Dreaming in Cuban?? Reviews of this book are such polar opposites, so we’re curious to hear what you thought! Have you been to Cuba? Or after reading Dreaming in Cuban, is this intriguing island now in your travel plans? With questions in the back of the book, it was difficult to come up with some new ones, but here are a few. I recommend reading Garcia’s discussion questions and also the interview with her (which sheds LOTS of light on the main female characters) in the back of the book!

For this month’s printable poster and bookmarks, I used photos that I took in Cuba. The trip was endlessly inspiring and I can’t wait to share all the magical photos. One element that really caught my eye were the ornate tile work. There were so many beautiful combinations (including this one that our photographer, Chaunte just so happened to match!). These patterns inspired me to create so many other beautiful things. 

Lars Book Club: Dreaming in Cuban

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Lars Book Club: February 2017

We shared our mantra for 2017 with you (see here) so we took our own advice and booked tickets to Cuba! That’s right! Team Lars is going to Cuba at the end of this month! We are anxious to explore the sights, crafts, architecture, and colors of this beautiful island country and look forward to meeting other artists and artisans. We are assembling our itinerary now but we’d love to hear some of your suggestions particularly rad artists and artisans? I’d love to hear them! 

Since the Lars team is headed off to explore Cuba this month, we figured as a book club we’d venture into Cuba too! So for the Lars Book Club: February 2017 we will be reading Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia. It is a novel about a country led by dreamers and schemers in power for several decades, an impoverished, one-party island run by rationing and government distribution, its starving people fed instead by mystical beliefs and religions. Innovation and enterprise are quashed, and dissenting opinions lead to hard labor, imprisonment, or worse. Garcia introduces us to the life of a Cuban citizen through three generations of women in the del Pino family. Through different points of view, you’ll piece together their histories, discover what they love and despise about their country, whether they support the revolution or not, and how the oppressive political climate has affected their lives. Garcia writes in such beautifully descriptive language, you can almost feel or see what it’s like to live in tropical Cuba!

Follow along with us on our @Larsbookclub Instagram account and show us your pics by sharing to the #LarsBookClub tag. Tell us what you think, ask questions, or share your favorite quotes or happenings in the book!

The Lars Book Club is spear headed by Julie Richardson  |  Photo by Anna Killian  |  Wallpaper by Justina Blakeney for Hygge & West

The Art of the Handwritten Note and printable bookmark

The art of the handwritten note How’s the reading going?? Margaret Shepherd’s book, The Art of the Handwritten Note, may be tiny, but we hope you’ve realized that it’s FULL of helpful tips and advice on the etiquette of handwritten notes. Has it inspired you to start writing more? Have you found some pretty pens and stationery? Personal cards and notes are always a joy to receive in the mail, but as Ovid said, “While writing, the very pleasure gives toil.” We hope this book helps YOU enjoy the writing, giving, and sending aspect of handwritten mail.

And to go along with this month’s book we have guest illustrator, Leah Goren, who created a special illustrated bookmark with a quote from the book that reads “Letters mingle souls” from John Donne. Leah is one of my favorite illustrators and I was so pleased to have her join us this month. You can download the bookmark below! 

Lars Book Club: January

The Art of the Handwritten Note Happy New Year, Lars readers! So glad you’re here to join us for another year. And if you’re just joining the Lars Book Club, welcome! We’ll have some lovely, artistic, enlightening, fun, and thoughtful reads throughout the year.

Lars Book Club: December

 Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk free printable bookmark from The House That Lars Built by Michelle ChristensenThe holidays are here! And with that, an inspiring but easy book to curl up with! Are you enjoying Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk?? That really is such an accurate title – we put labels on ourselves, we make excuses, we get intimidated, and we let that jerk of an inner critic take over. Well, I hope Danielle Krysa’s book is picking your brain about why you may be stuck in a creative rut and how to get out of it. Or maybe you thought you weren’t the creative type at all, but were wanting to be…only to realize that that one skill or hobby you love really IS your creative outlet! Whatever stage you’re at, take notes from Your Inner Critic and push yourself to try something new. Below are some questions for you to think about, and some further reading suggestions as well.

Our guest illustrator for this month is Michelle Christensen of My Little Belleville who created a quote from the book and corresponding bookmark FREE to download! Michelle is a friend who has done lots of rad illustrations for Lars in the past. (You must be familiar with her famous faces by now…I have bought so many things from her!). We were lucky to get her for this month’s book club read! Enjoy! 

Lars favorite design books of 2016

Best diy design books of 2016I am convinced that there are few things better than cozying up with a good book on a cold winter day. Add some hot chocolate, a fuzzy blanket, and snow falling lightly outside and you might as well call it heaven. Hence why I created the Lars Book Club (Check out this months book here!). Not to mention, they make ideal gifts because you can customize it to anyone’s tastes. In case you are scrambling to find the perfect gift for a creative art-loving someone, we rounded up the best DIY and Art books of 2016 to help you out! They are all crazy beautiful and are sure to please the pickiest of recipients. Make sure to snag one for yourself while you’re at it!

Lars Book Club: December and giveaway!

Your Inner Critic is a JerkI hope you enjoyed Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner for the month of November. Were you able to get some reading in? We’re on the last book of the year and have a bunch of fun things planned for 2017!  Take it away, Julie…

We all have an inner drive and inclination to create. Painting, printing, drawing, writing, composing, crafting, or even creating a home, an atmosphere TO learn and create…there are endless ways to shape and form the amazing ideas that generate from a creative mind! BUT, as any creative person knows, there are often stumbling blocks – the most notable one existing in your own head. Your own inner critic. And what a jerk it is, right?? Author Danielle Krysa will tell you how to use it and lose it! Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk: And Other Truths About Being Creative is a book to guide you, prompt you, and spark ideas to overcome blocks as you navigate and strive to accomplish your creative goals. As an artist, graphic designer, writer, and curator, Krysa herself has had lots of experience! I’ve followed her blog, The Jealous Curator, for years now, and love her collage work. Make sure you check it out!
Grab a warm drink, sit by the fire, and enjoy Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk  (I just like repeating that title…). It’s an easy, fun, and inspiring read during the holiday season. Hopefully you can find a few moments to read about how to keep your creativity alive! Feel free to comment and follow along on our Instagram feed @larsbookclub . Show us how you’re reading along, and tag your awesome photos #larsbookclub !

Stay tuned for our mid month questions along with our guest illustrator of the month who will create an original bookmark and quote from the book.

And this month we partnered with the publisher, Chronicle Books, to give away a copy of the book as well as a mug. 

Secrets of a Charmed Life quote and bookmark

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Secrets of a Charmed life printable quote and bookmark

**First of all, if you’re not finished with the book yet, I must say that these questions have spoilers!** Have you enjoyed Secrets of a Charmed Life?? This is a story that I think many readers can relate to. We’ve all made decisions we might regret, or small decisions that changed our lives immensely – “Big doors swing on little hinges,” says W. Clement Stone. You’ve probably heard that before! It’s very, very true, and Meissner’s story centers on this truth and the characters’ abilities to bear the brunt of their choices. Here are a few questions for you to think about, but do read Susan Meissner’s questions in the back of the book (hello, they are far superior – it was tough to come up with more!). Secrets of a Charmed life printable quote and bookmark

This month’s featured illustrator one of my favorite fashion illustrators, Samantha Hahn, who handlettered a quote from the book as well as a classy lady and a bookmark. You can download the quote and bookmark below!

Lars Book Club: November

Secrets of a harmed Life Lars Book Club

After lots of nonfiction reads this year, books about art and artists, a memoir, and a classic (Frankenstein), we thought it was again time for an engrossing, poignant fiction (our last was Before Green Gables!). Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner is a book that will keep you turning pages as you read about the lives of two sisters during a tumultuous time – the London Blitz in the early 1940s. The decisions made by the characters in Secrets of a Charmed Life become extremely critical to the course of their lives (as with ours), something we can, at times, only see in 20/20 hindsight. Meissner is a master storyteller, weaving past and present together in a touching story about choices, our motivations behind our choices, and who they ultimately affect. Be sure to follow along on our Instagram feed @larsbookclub , and tag us with #larsbookclub to show us how you’re reading Secrets of a Charmed LifeEnjoy!

Lars Book Club: October

frankensteinBook club frankensteinWhat do you think of Frankenstein so far? Can you believe a teenager wrote this story?? And as part of a contest, too! On a dark night near Lake Geneva, Switzerland, in 1818. Lord Byron challenged his closest friends to create a ghost story. Shelley’s was published two years later. It was revised and printed again in 1831 (the version we are reading). Pretty amazing! If you’re reading it for the first time, has it surprised you?? This is my second time around, and I’m paying more attention this time. 🙂 OK, the tricky thing about a classic book like this is that you can find discussion points and questions just about anywhere. Coming up with some original questions was not easy, but we’ve thought of a few.

We partnered up with Emily Isabella as this month’s guest illustrator to create a lovely printable bookmark and quote that adds a little bit of beauty to the creepy! Download it below!

October Book Club: Frankenstein

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Lars Book clubYou’ve seen him before: a towering, grunting creature, doing little else besides staggering around with arms outstretched. Maybe he’s…green? This is most likely the Frankenstein you know. And I’m here to tell you this mental picture is nothing like the original creation. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is one of the most famous horror stories ever written, yet subsequent film attempts have virtually left out the story of this unnamed “creature”, abandoned to fend for himself in a world that repeatedly shuns him. This is a heartbreaking story of scientific experimentation, creation, destruction, and ultimately, the need for love and acceptance. So, though this may seem to be a classic thriller, a creepy Halloween story, it might surprise you. The REAL, unforgettable story will still make your skin crawl, but it will also get your wheels turning and your heart aching.

There’s lots to discuss here, you stalwart readers! Follow along on Instagram @larsbookclub as we discuss Frankenstein, and also here on the blog for a mid-month post with in-depth discussion questions. Find the book here and then find a cozy spot on a chilly October evening. 🙂