It’s been a while since I saw a book I felt compelled to feature here, but then a copy of “A Year Between Friends” landed on my desk the other day. Do you remember 3191 Miles Apart? (If not, that link won’t help!) It was the blog of two friends — Maria Alexandra Vettese (“MAV”) and Stephanie Congdon Barnes (“SCB”) — that took the form of missives between them about their lives in Portland ME and Portland OR, 3191 miles from each other. They stopped blogging a couple of years ago to concentrate on this book, and while I haven’t exactly read it cover to cover, it appears to have been well worth it.
Just like the blog, the book is a combination of short letters, casual photos, craft projects and recipes, but in this case, it’s organized by month. January, for example, contains a letter from each of the friends; a few pages of scene-setting photos; recipes for buttermilk scones, a Good Luck Frittata and Warming Up Tea; musings on a winter home; a tutorial for making and using beeswax spoon oil; another for felted patches for mending socks; and a winter day trip from each of the Portlands. Whereas June contains the letters and photos, recipes for Summer Strawberry Pie and Raspberry Ripple Yogurt Pops, an essay about solstice in Maine and a tutorial for sun-printed napkins. There’s a lot of natural dyeing, some hand-stitching, even thoughts on cleaning out closets and cabinets. Perhaps the most valuable tutorial of all, though, will be the pinecones. Do you remember when I posted about their leather pinecone keychain way back when? I still get inquiries about how to make it, four years later. While the version in the book (complete with templates) is written for silk-backed wool with a ribbon instead of a lobster clasp, I feel like it could be easily adapted for leather (and might have to give it a try).
There have been a lot of very formulaic craft books lately — a series of project tutorials in a nearly identical presentation, some better than others. This book is much more intimate: smaller and thicker, paperback, filled with the personal photos and personalities of these women, and I look forward to spending more time with it.
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