Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Books: Three Great Books!

The Round House by Louise Erdrich recently won the National Book Award... richly deserved! I LOVED this book. The story takes place on a reservation in North Dakota. A woman is brutally attacked. The story follows her family as they all reel from the trauma and shock and try to deal with the ordeal of the investigation. The story is told through the eyes of a 13 year-old boy.

I fell in love with all the characters (all but one). They were funny, quirky, charming, intelligent, in short - they embodied all the gifts and foibles of human beings, so beautifully described.

This one gets five stars, added to my favorites list, and is now my new number one Favorite of the year, bumping "State of Wonder" into second place. I highly recommend it.

My online book group recently read and discussed Wingshooters by Nina Revoyr. The story takes place in a small town in Wisconsin in 1974. The town contains an all white population except for the main character, a 9-year-old girl who is half white/half Japanese. She lives with her grandparents. Because she is "different," she experiences bullying and discrimiation. When an African-American couple moves into town, the entire population is very upset, openly and blatantly spewing racist and bigotted comments, bullying them even worse than they had the little girl. The main character's grandfather is the worst of all.

My first thought was that the blatant racism portrayed here was too overly exaggerated. But after discussion with the book group, I am thinking that my view through rose-colored glasses, from my white privilege status, made me blind to some of the racist behaviors that people of color experience. I try not to be oblivious to what is going on, but maybe I have been. We had some great discussion about the book, and I've once again had to face my own failings and admit that perhaps I have not been as sensitive to racism happening around me as I think I am.

Good food for thought. I have increased my rating for this book from 2 to 3 stars due to our thoughtful discussion. Really enjoying my book group which I found at goodreads (dot) com!

It has been a fabulous week of reading. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is truly excellent. Definitely five stars for this one. Wow! I might have to have a three-way tie for my choice: Best of 2012 (Fault in Our Stars, Round House, State of Wonder). This little book is jam packed with wisdom about life itself, about why people suffer, and about love and joy. An amazing book. I stayed up late reading this, because I could not put it down. It brought me to tears. Absolutely loved loved loved it!! The story is narrated by a 16 year-old girl. She has cancer, she is very intelligent and witty, she is clever beyond words. I fell in love with her and with the other characters in this wonderful book. Please read it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I'm Thankful For...

What did I tell you? I tried to resume posting a gratitudes list, and after one posting, I already forgot!!

Therefore I decided to do a post that is just the gratitudes list, so it won't be forgotten when I get to the end of whatever-else-is-on-my-mind.

I'm thankful for:

1. the book group I joined online

2. superb workshop offered at work this week. Great instructor and fun co-learners.

3. sister and brother-in-law married 41 years as of yesterday.

4. carrots in Ranch dip.

5. the joy of seeing sad friends be refreshed with new happiness

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

This is Why I Love Blogland

Over at Quilts are for Giving blog I posted a photo of some doll blankets. Friends and I had made them for a local social service agency. They had asked for doll blankets to give kids for Christmas. Many baby dolls are donated, but usually no blankets. We got busy sewing and knitting some doll blankets. I posted a picture at the other blog, and lo and behold, I got the nicest response!

Debbie from Stitchin Therapy blog offered me some doll quilts. I gladly accepted, and she sent me a box of 33 gorgeous doll quilts, saying "such blessings flow from our abundance." These were extras from her collection for "Get Your Mrs. Claus On" project. She wanted to share the love. Isn't that wonderful??

The families these are going to are people who have trouble making ends meet for various reasons: unemployment, layoffs, work hours cut, major illness, death in family, loss of housing, you name the reason... more and more people are relying on food shelves and social service agencies to help them support their families and get through the holidays.

I am so happy we have been able to help several little kids get some quality blankies for their dolls. I'm sure they will be sooo happy. The quilts are just beautiful. Some are tied, some are free motion quilted, some are straight line quilted, some are even hand quilted. I am very excited to hand deliver these to the agency in the next couple of days.

Here are pictures of the beauties, along with a small doll I bought for a little girl who is nearly one year old (including here for scale). See the Love:

Debbie, thanks so much for sharing the blessings! I love that this was all made possible through Blogs!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

This, That and the Other Thing

Sky on Fire on Thanksgiving Eve

I was very disappointed this week. Hubby and I went out for dinner; that was nice. After dinner we did our usual routine: stop at McDonald's on R Street. They're the only one left that we know of that still serves chocolate ice cream. We always order two twist cones at the drive-up. It's our own little fun tradition at the end of a date.

Well, doomsday has arrived. I should have known it was coming. They no longer have chocolate ice cream at the McDonald's on R Street! Arrgghhh! I have been following chocolate ice cream at McDonald's for several years. There was one near where I used to work, on M Street, that served chocolate. When they stopped carrying chocolate ice cream, I asked the drive-through person to tell the manager how utterly disappointed I was.

There is a town on the way to Grandma's house. McDonald's is right off the freeway. They served chocolate ice cream. A twist cone was just the right little treat when we were on our way back home and needed a little break. They stopped serving chocolate about a year ago.

I was so hoping that R Street knew they had a loyal fan club who went there just for their chocolate ice cream, and would never let us down. Alas, the day has come. I am without a chocolate-serving McDonald's in my life. (And don't suggest a dip cone. Those are nowhere near as good as twist cones.)

We can still get twist cones at Dairy Queen, but they're not as good. I probably won't even waste a trip to DQ to get one. Well... we might have to give it a try, to see if it's up to our twist cone standards. I have my doubts.

As you can see, life is pretty tough around here.

We had a very nice Thanksgiving. I didn't over-eat as much as I could have. I certainly didn't go hungry. The food was wonderful, and all 27 of us gobbled it up. There were no leftovers! Can you believe it? My 91-year old mom made four pies which didn't last long. She's the queen of superb home-made pies.

Hubby helped get some junky gunk programs off my computer, so now it runs much better. Yay for computer-savvy husbands!

Haven't had much time for sewing or knitting. I'm coming up on a busy week.. so won't have much free time. Oh! I did manage to make two house blocks and found/assembled a couple other orphan blocks which I will send this week to Love Laugh Quilt. I forgot to take a picture of the blocks before I wrapped them up for mailing! Darn.

Today at church, Pastor P. reminded us to be grateful for all the little things (and the big things). I remembered that I used to do this gratitude list at my blog. It helps me remember how great life is and centers me a little. So I'm going to try to run this list again on my blog. Prediction: it'll be sporadic. It's there when it's there.


1. Pastor P. and M&M who helped S. with communion today.

2. comfy, happy times at home with Charles, watching football or just hanging out

3. great books! I'm currently reading The Round House by Louise Erdrich. LOVING it and already mourning that it must eventually come to an end.

4. skylight above my desk. I sometimes can see the beautiful moon in the sky as I work or play on the computer.

5. my good job. I love it there. Nice people, nice management, nice environment. Lucky me!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday Books: Almost Ready

No book review today! I am almost done with a book, but I don't yet want to review it publicly. My book group is reading it; I will post my review after we have discussed the book next week.

Meanwhile I have been having fun buying books! What a joy it is to go to bookstores! Someone at work is collecting children's books to donate to a literacy group, and I have had fun buying some excellent kid's books. Yesterday when we were at my sister's house for Thanksgiving, we also got a private shopping trip to her bookstore. I bought another book for donation and a couple of excellent ones for me, myself, and I.

Today at work, where we have a loose book exchange/free library, I found a new donation to the shelf and picked it right up.

So I am swimming in books and loving it. Gotta go do some reading right now....

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Few Things

There's a neighborhood party going on over at Love Laugh Quilt. Here are the rules, in brief: make two house blocks. Send them to LLQ. Someone (or more than one) will win a pile of house blocks to make your own quilt. LLQ will keep the extras to make quilts for charity. These days there are so many people in need of quilty hugs.. there are always people in need, and lately there seem to be so many more: wildfires in the Southwest, hurricane in the Northeast, and we're coming up on the cold time of year when no one should be without a warm blankie. If you agree, go over to LLQ and see if you want to play along with the neighborhood party.

Here is my first house block. It has a long name: House of Leaves in Low Volume Neighborhood on the Beach. It's hard to tell, but I did a bit of curved sewing of the blue on the bottom, trying to make it look "beachy," but I was only slightly successful. Tonight I plan to make another couple of house blocks to send for the charity quilts.

Now I am sure you are wondering why I wore these crazy socks, and even more.. why photograph them? Well, there are sad things going on. A colleague of mine at work had brain surgery last year. They were hoping that would solve her problems, but it did not. She had brain surgery again this week. I'm not even sure what her condition is, except she experiences a lot of pain, and they are hoping the surgeries will relieve the pain and give her a bearable existence. On the day of her surgery we wore crazy socks just to celebrate HER and to keep her in our thoughts while we worked. She is out of surgery and recovering, but she has a long road ahead of her.

I also wore the socks to keep my friend, D., in mind. She had a hysterectomy and they found that she has cancer, and it had spread to the lymph nodes. This scares me, and I am praying for a full recovery for her. I hope wearing crazy socks will help these two wonderful women who have serious health concerns right now.

Isn't this a pretty Barbie dress?? I bought it on e-Bay. (I added the piece of lace to be her shawl.) It is going into our collection of Christmas gifts for families in need (at church). The agency asked for Barbie doll clothes and for baby doll blankets. I have been making the blankets, and I bought a few cute outfits on e-Bay. This one was my fave.

The last photo shows some boys who were out riding bikes today. It was a beautiful, warm day here... unseasonably warm. People were golfing, playing in parks, riding bikes, and behaving as if it were summer! I made sure I got our outdoor Christmas lights put up, because tomorrow the North Wind is going to swoop in here and remind us that winter is right around the corner. It'll be about 30 degrees colder by tomorrow evening. Brrr!

Stay warm, enjoy a happy Thanksgiving if you are celebrating the day with us in the USA, and if you can, make a couple of house blocks to play the Neighborhood game.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Retreats Rock!

I have been to two retreats in the last two weekends. How fun! First was the annual retreat that my quilt guild organizes. Since I retired a couple of years ago, I have been able to attend all four days of the retreat. It starts on Thursday at 10:00 AM and ends on Sunday at 3:00 PM. That's a lot of time for sewing! I love it!

We also play games, teach classes, work on mystery quilts, take meal breaks, eat lots of yummy snacks, talk, laugh, and win door prizes. I'm usually among the few crazies who stay up until the wee hours of the night. Friday night I stayed up until almost 3:00 AM, but the other nights I was reasonable and went to bed by about 2:00.

Previously I showed you the 8 Christmas stockings I made and also the quilt I finished and then slept under. Here are a few more retreat treasures:

a friend working on her beautiful quilt.

another beautiful quilt made by the woman on the left

teaching a class

a gorgeous quilt made by someone I didn't previously know

our beautiful work room

After the retreat I was exhausted and slept like a hibernating bear. Then, when I woke up, it was time to do the next retreat. This one was at my church and ran from 10:00 AM on Thursday to 10 PM on Saturday night.

On Day One there were two of us who knitted, crocheted, and sewed into the evening, then went home to sleep. Day Two there were about five of us. Two of us slept overnight at church, quite cozily, in the church library. In fact, we didn't wake up until the Saturday group arrived, hungry, at 10:00 AM. We had to jump up and make breakfast in a hurry. There were about seven of us who stayed until Saturday night. We all got a lot done, and had loads of fun. It was the first crafters' weekend ever at our church, and I think we may do it again. What fun to be retired and have the time and possibility of going on quilting and crafting retreats. I'm lucky! But I'm still catching up on sleep after all this "retreating" -- exhausting at my age!

knitting supplies

the result of an impromptu decision to make a doll blanket from leftover yarns

She finished a prayer shawl that took over a year to make!

a collection of doll blankets, quilted and knitted

another knitted doll blanket, this time for Barbie

I found out a friend was going to deliver hats to a shelter, and they needed more, so I whipped up this hat to add to her pile. (She delivered 16 of them two days later.)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Books: Buddha

Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka won the Pen/Faulkner Award for fiction. This is the story of girls who came by boat from Japan to California in the early part of the 1900s as "picture brides." They arrived in America to meet their "husbands" whom they had only seen in photographs and met via letters.

The book begins with the girls on the boat, wondering about the life they were heading toward and remembering what they had left behind in Japan. It follows the girls as a collective "we," telling their various stories simply and almost in list style. Most of them experience very hard lives, but persevere, swallow their emotions, and eke out a successful life for themselves.

Many face poverty and pain while others manage to find happiness despite prejudice, limited choices, and an incomprehensible culture surrounding them. This is a simple yet profound and beautiful book. Five of 5 stars.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tutoring - Fun!

This year I signed up to do a tutoring volunteer position. I attended some trainings, and then waited for my assignment. I finally got started yesterday. I had so much fun! I really like the student I'm working with (8th grade). I'm tutoring in reading and writing, and I'll be with this student for the whole year until June.

The program is excellent and the training I received was also excellent. They have some great options for kids these days that didn't use to exist. I'm glad to be a part of it. Every Tuesday 'til June I'll be having fun tutoring!

Here are the November blocks I made for Sunshine block lotto. The theme is fall colors.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Catching Up in Pictures

Whew! Last night I returned from a 4-day quilt retreat. As always, I had a blast. I came home and took a 2-hour nap. Later I went to bed and slept for 10 hours. Now that I'm 60 (my new excuse for everything) I get more exhausted by simple things, I guess. :-)

I have made various things lately that I did not yet post here, so here goes the onslaught of pictures to catch you up on my projects. I'm sure you're thrilled. So here goes. (And remember - I'm 60, so I may have forgotten that I did post these earlier, and you're seeing them again. Deal with it.) LOL

baby quilt for Bundles of Love

blocks for Sunshine Block Lotto

prayer flags for a woman from church, struggling with breast cancer (inspired by Victoria at Bumble Beans)


older project on which I finally attached borders

blocks for quilts to survivors of Hurricane Sandy

Barbie doll quilt for Christmas gift

Barbie begged to test it out and sleep under it that first night. She loved it.

quilt that I completed at the retreat

then slept under all 3 nights

Christmas stockings for a family of 8 - made at the retreat

older project; I finally got all the rows sewn together

the saddest part of the retreat - leaving

That's all the past-done stuff that I needed to post; now I need to turn my brain around to the present and future and start getting some more things and more planning done. Tata for now!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Friday Books: Orphan Train and Glaciers

I read an Advanced Readers Copy of Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. It will be published in April 2013. This is an excellent book!

The two main characters are a 91-year-old woman (same age as my mother)and a troubled teen girl (similar to the students I used to work with, while they tugged at my heart.) I instantly felt an affinity for the characters; loved them from the start, and they did not disappoint.

The story line captivates. The characters experience present-day turmoil as well as re-living past traumas, and work to sort it all out. Great character development; realistic scenarios and variety of reactions/interactions. I could not put this book down. I loved this book and give it 5 out of 5 stars!

I finished another book, so I'm adding it to today's post: Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith. This is a small, sweet book. The language is very beautiful. It has a poetic flow to it and yet is not complicated. the main character goes through her day, remembering her youth in Alaska and pondering the people and events that occur around her (in adulthood she lives in Oregon). She develops a crush, she goes to a party. No monumental events (well, maybe some are monumental - but not shockingly so), yet it's a thoughtful and poetic, beautiful book. 5 of 5 stars.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The Costume That Wasn't

Last week I showed you the loopy-doopy scarf I bought at our church boutique. I told you it would be my Halloween costume, hinting that it would reveal something... well, here is how I had intended to wear my scarves:

This costumne reveals some of my pant legs. Nothing scandalous, if you were thinking that's what I meant.. no way!

I work in a video call center, and we have to look professional in our video view. But the video does not show our legs, so we decided to have a Fancy Feet contest on Halloween. I went to work and saw that very few people were participating. A couple people were wearing slippers, and that's all I saw.

I felt too conspicuous walking around in these flashy leggings, so I took them off and just wore my mismatched socks, shoes, and some old political buttons.

Turns out I was the chicken in the group. I should have gone with my original plan. I forgot that our place is open 24/7 and that some of the costumes had appeared during other shifts when I was not there. Pictures were taken of them all, and prizes bestowed on winners. Since mine ended up being blah, I only made it to Honorary Mention (nice words for "participation prize" which equalled nothing).

I'm not saying these fancy scarves on my legs would have been a winner, but just that I ended up losing by falling prey to peer pressure.

Just thought I should finish this story that I started when I hinted at my "revealing" Halloween costume made of scarves.