Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Little More Sewing

Joe Tulip suggested that I make a mug rug for my sister, since I decided to keep the larger quilt that I had intended to give to said sister. (See my post of 8/28/13.) Great idea!! That's what I did.

Joe has the best ideas! Sister can use this as a mug rug or just as a tiny quilt, whatever she chooses. It measures about 8" by 8.5".

Did a bit of other sewing this weekend, too:

Blocks for Bumbles Beans. She hangs onto these, then uses them to make a quick quilt when she finds out a special someone has cancer. She's able to do a quick turn-around with blocks she has stock-piled.

I already sent in my September Lotto blocks for Sunshine. Here they are:

Each one uses a small bit of my own hand-dyed fabric.

I'm hoping to get more sewing done since I still have two more whole days to my weekend. Hooray!

Happy Labor Day to my USA readers.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Books: One Lobotomy, One Accursed Book

My Lobotomy by Howard Dully and Charles Fleming -- 4 stars

This is a fascinating memoir written by a man who received a lobotomy when he was a 12 year-old boy (in 1960)! His life was hell from the age of five when his mother died, and through the abuse he suffered from his step-mother and his father. The lobotomy was his step-mother's attempt to "cure" him of being rambunctious and difficult. In reality, he was just a regular 12 year-old boy against whom, for some reason, she had great animosity.

Dully spends his entire life trying to understand what happened to him and most importantly, why. Finally in his 50s he begins to do some research to help get the answers; it eventually led to the writing of this book.

I suffered heart-stabs of pain on behalf of this boy who was so badly mistreated. All he needed was love. It was sometimes difficult to read, but always captivating and enlightening.

An Accursed Race by Elizabeth Gaskell -- 1/2 star

What is this book?? It was written in 1855. I think I got it free, thank goodness. Also, it was blessedly short.. really is a short story. It describes a group of people who are an "accursed race" and grossly discriminated against. The whole story explains what makes them an accursed race: this group of people has a terrible smell, they have a tendency to have leprosy. If they don't appear to have leprosy, it's because they have the invisible kind. They do some awful ceremony with the blood of Christian babies, (even though they are said to be faithful Catholics.)

They can only walk in these areas, they can only do these professions, they can only own so many pigs and sheep. To attend church, they can only enter through this very small door on the side. On and on. It ends abruptly. I think the author was trying to show why people should not hold this group of people in contempt, but her effort was futile. Her attitude was still paternalistic and condescending.

P.S. After writing this review, I read a bit about Elizabeth Gaskell to see what was up with her. Apparently she wrote quite a bit and felt it important to speak out against oppression. This little snippet of a book does not get her message across successfully, I'm afraid. Don't waste your time on it.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Grammar Gaffes

I'm a grammar snob. I will post quotes at Facebook when newscasters use incorrect grammar. Spelling mistakes bother me.

And suddenly I realized I have made two spelling errors in the recent past, here at my blog. OOPS! I'm red-faced.

Recently I said, "without further adieu..." I know it's supposed to be "without further ado..." Why did that happen?? (Rationalization: I majored in French, and French was on my mind.)

Yesterday I posted a photo of my quilt made of "selvedge" edges. I meant selvage!! At least in this case I used the British-English spelling for the word, and it carries the same meaning. I can't say the same for my "adieu" mistake.

Just wanted you to know, in case you were thinking 'oh, we caught her!' that I am aware I was in error, and I humbly apologize.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Bookshelf for My Sister ... no, for Me

For several years I saved fabric selvedge pieces that had names and designers that sounded like they could be book titles. Examples: "Garden Tales" by Tracie Lyn Huskamp; "Annalee" by Jane Dixon.

My plan all along was to make a quilt to give to my sister, thinking she would want to hang it in her bookstore. She does have a quilt spot behind the cash register.

Finally this year I found two big chunks of fabric on sale. They were good options for the book shelves and frame. I have been working on the quilt this week. It has been a lot of fun, but also a lot of putzy work. I managed to finish the main part, and I love it! I decided that I want to keep it, because... I just do. I will definitely let my sister borrow it for extended times, to hang in her shop, but I'll want to get it back.

Here's what I have done so far:

I have more ideas in mind for how to finish it off, more additions that will improve its believability as a bookshelf. I can't wait to see it as a completed quilt!

My sister didn't know I had this in mind for her all these years, so I don't think she'll mind that I will keep it. After all, I'm saving her the problem of storing the quilt when she doesn't want it on display. Aren't I a great sister??

Monday, August 26, 2013

Our Turn

We haven't had a bad run of hot weather this summer, yet; I figured our turn would come. Well, it came. Uffda. It's HOT! Today's high was 97 F or 36 C. It's going to be this horrible all week. Two groups I feel sorry for:

(1) anyone stuck going to the State Fair every day (like, if one works there). The entire run of the fair is going to be beastly hot. (I don't like the fair and don't attend.)

(2) my former colleagues in the school district from which I retired. They returned to work today, mostly into buildings that are not air conditioned. Triple ugh. At least the students aren't there yet. I'm crossing my fingers that it'll cool down by the time students arrive on Sept. 3.

Wish I could do this:

Think I would look that cute?

Oh! Playing in water -- that reminds me. I forgot to show off my talented nephew. He recently won Nationals in Trick Skiing!! Here's a pic, just to prove how talented he is. Amazing, eh?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Movie, Dinner, and 38 Years

Today is our wedding anniversary! We were married 38 years ago today. It has been 38 years of FUN and happiness.

After our vacation was aborted due to high heat and humidity, we decided going to a movie would be a nice, cool thing to do. We saw "The Butler." It was good! After the movie, the entire audience in the theater must have been feeling moved... only one solitary person got up right away and left as the credits began to roll. I have never seen that happen before. Usually most people get up pretty quickly and leave; hubby and I tend to be the last folks, still sitting there and watching the credits to their bitter end. (Why? We just like to... it doesn't feel finished until we get to that very end.) Anyway, I took it as a sign that everyone had to sit and let it soak in for a few minutes before they could get themselves out of their seats to go back out into the world.

The movie made me feel incredibly sad about all the people in our world whose lives have been trampled, or they never had a chance, or their lives were snuffed out by violence or war. (No, it wasn't news to me; just a painful reminder.)

We liked the movie, but... (just a warning -- we'll probably be in the minority with this opinion) ... we wished it hadn't been so dramatically fictionalized to include every important, historical event that occurred during those years. According to what we have heard about the real-life butler, he was always very respectful and kind, making all the presidents love him and feel as Reagan said, "you feel like part of the family." We would have liked the movie to be more about that... the guy himself, the work he did, the interactions he had with the presidents and others in the White House.

It was very Forrest Gump-ish in the way it tried to include every meaningful historical event. We would have liked a more focused story about the Butler.

Oh, well... we still liked it and are glad we went.

So today is our anniversary, and we plan to go out for dinner. I have a coupon for Restaurant "B", so I guess we'll go there. Should be yummy. It always is.

Isn't 38 years of marriage amazing? I think so. I have been so lucky. My husband has been so patient and has put up with a lot! My advice for a happy marriage: find a patient partner who loves you despite your egregious faults. Like each other, and have a sense of humor.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Books: Three Reviews!!!

This week while on vacation I managed to read three books and start a fourth! FUN!! Also, I have decided to post my full reviews here at my blog, instead of referring you to my goodreads page. I'm back to posting them in both places. I did this because my friend, K, told me she doesn't follow the goodreads link. Which means... she was missing out on my fabulous reviews! Disastrous! So I'm posting them again and continuing to attempt to have at least one review for you each Friday.

Without further adieu, here are my three reviews for this week (don't you just love vacations?) --

(1) Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 by Madeleine Albright - 4 stars

It took me three weeks to read this book. Nevertheless, I really liked it, and learned a lot! The first half was slow-going. It was almost like reading a history text. Albright set the stage in order to explain the build-up and context of her early life. The second half of the book was much more readable and personal. The reader learns about Albright’s relatives and of her own personal saga, touring sites in Europe where her ancestors had trod.

Albright was born in Czechoslovakia in 1937. Her father worked in politics; the family moved around as he was appointed ambassador here and there. Her family socialized with historical and political figures of Europe before, during and after WWII. She grew up in London (during WWII), Prague, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, and ultimately her family was granted political asylum in the United States. As you probably know, she was the U.S. Secretary of State under Pres Bill Clinton.

Albright was ignorant of the fact that she had Jewish heritage and that many of her relatives had died in the Holocaust. She grew up Catholic, and was very young at the time of the war; she was a typical self-absorbed child who didn’t remember having any grandparents, and her parents never talked about that part of her past. It wasn’t until relatively recently that she discovered the truth about her past.

This book was written as part of her own painful probe into her ancestry, the terrible fate that 25 of her relatives fell victim to, and her analysis of the history, events, politics, and people who helped shape who she is while also shaping our current world.

I found this book fascinating. One thing I loved was the over-riding philosophy of Albright’s family of origin – be honest, truthful, ask questions, learn as much as you can, care about your fellow human beings, help as much as you can to speak up for good and optimism; be a moral, decent human being. This philosophy is what drove her father in his work and continues today in Albright’s life work as well.

(2) Y by Marjorie Celona - 4.5 stars

This well-written book is about a girl who, as a newborn baby, was abandoned on the front step of a YMCA. The story follows her life as she is placed with foster families and ultimately adopted. It also follows her birth mother, starting before the birth, and tells her story of what led to the abandonment of the baby. The two stories grow together and intertwine as the plot unfolds.

It was a page-turner. I read this book in one day. The characters are so well-developed and diverse. They all seemed like real (flawed) human beings; I was interested in them all and didn’t have a favorite. I was also very interested in the theme of adoption. It has always fascinated me. As a young girl I only thought of it in the romantic sense of “saving” the life of a poor child who is without a family. As an adult, of course, I know the experience is much more complex. This book delves into those complexities. Other themes in the book are family, the “luck of the draw” that life hands you, and what we do with what we are given.

(3) The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan - 3 stars

This book had more potential than was realized. It sounded like it would be great, but something was odd about this book. The main character, Grace, was unlikeable. The mix of personalities in the lifeboat was interesting, but I didn't always understand what led people to do what they did. (Would you jump overboard to your death just because someone told you to??) I was able to finish this book out of semi-interest and curiosity, but I don't highly recommend it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Read Three Books, Knitted a Dish Cloth

Our August vacation story: It started out great! We went to a state park and stayed in this camper cabin:

We expected to stay from Sunday to Thursday, but found out we had paid for more nights than we remembered, so we could stay through Friday, if we wanted to.... we thought about it. In the right circumstances, who would not want to extend a vacation by an extra day?!

This particular cabin was in a beautiful setting... lots of woods around, so we couldn't even see the neighbors in the farther-down cabins. Plus, the deck/porch faces to the back (woods) instead of to the front (road), making it more private than some. Really nice.

We used an antique quilt which I bought in a bakery (!) some years ago, and we have never used before. It is a good summer-weight quilt, has no batting; it is hand-quilted. Isn't it pretty?

These are called camper cabins, because they are glorified camping.. a step up from a tent (depending on one's perspective, of course). It has beds, and a table at which to eat, write, or play games. It has a screened-in porch and then the front deck. Outside is a picnic table and a fire pit. Cooking must happen outside, although crock pots are allowed inside. There is heat (in some), electricity (in most), but no plumbing. And no air conditioning in the Minnesota cabins. In South Dakota, all camper cabins have a.c.

Anyway, they are sort of like camping in that you use outdoor fire pits, and outdoor biffies, although most also have close access to the shower room with regular "facilities."

Now that we are both in our 60s, we prefer this to tent camping. It's more fun to have a space where we can stand up, walk around, and have lights on, protected from the rain and bugs.

Day One was only half a day; we just stayed close by the cabin, relaxed and read books, and looked at maps, deciding what to do the next day(s).

Day Two, we took the River Hike. It was beautiful, but was hot and muggy.... and guess who forgot to pack the mosquito repellant -- BOTH OF US!

Who's she?! Don't you hate it when some lady jumps into your scene and wrecks the picture?

Day Three was even hotter and muggier than before. Ugh. We both hate hot, muggy weather. We drove over to the Visitor Center to see what was there. We found these:

a beautiful wild flowers/grasses prairie with several bird houses...

..poison ivy...

..and a grand view of the river.

Next we drove into a small town nearby for lunch. Even though it was super hot, we ate at this outdoor café, because -- well, there wasn't a lot of choice in this little town, and the breeze was OK at first. I had a bison burger. Yum.

Then the breeze died down, and it was just hot and yucky.

One of our plans for the week was to rent a canoe and diddle around in the river, including jumping in to cool off. But it was just so steamy and hot, that even paddling a canoe sounded like too much work!

We went back to the cabin, and guess what we did... decided to go home! So much for extending our vacation. Instead, we cut it short! We stayed that night.. it was really miserable even into the night. It did finally cool off slightly, but never really got "cool." Just "sort of bearable."

Day Four: we packed up and went home. Just walking and packing and sweeping out the cabin turned us into sweaty, wet dish rags.

Speaking of dish rags, I did manage to finish knitting this one:

Husband and I each read three books, and started a fourth. (Different books - he has a Nook, I have a Kindle.)

Now we're home, and we're vowing that we are still On Vacation. We are sooo happy and thankful to be here with air conditioning. It's even muggier today than yesterday. Unbearable.

Tomorrow we'll probably go to a movie and maybe out for lunch. Can't do anything more taxing than that in this heat.

Stay cool, dear readers! I'll have a couple book reviews for you on Friday!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Books: a Visit to a Bookstore

It's Friday already! I have not finished Prague Winter yet; I'm into my third week with that book... but I made a surprise visit to a bookstore today. Friends and I had lunch on a pretty lake in the western suburbs and then walked to the little town nearby and shopped a bit. I wasn't expecting to buy anything, but there was a cute little bookstore, and I fell victim. I can't go into a bookstore and come out empty handed!

The book I bought is The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan. I have read the first few pages, and it looks very interesting. When I finish, I will let you know if I like the whole thing.

Meanwhile I shall share some pictures from our fun day (weather was perfect!!!)

the view from our table.. perfect!

Can you see the fish under the Canada goose?

farmers' market.. and food truck.. I liked the name of this food truck

and liked the gorgeous flowers from the farmers' market

And on a final bookish note, today is my husband's birthday; I am giving him a gift card for buying books for his e-reader. Keep reading!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Quilting and Sewing, Sewing and Quilting

Friday night and all day and night on Saturday I was at a small sew-in/retreat with a few members of my guild. We got a lot done and had fun talking and eating while we worked.... the other joy of being a quilter (the camaraderie). We stayed 'til 10 PM each night. This is some of what I got done.

quilted a long time ago, I finally got the binding on

This one has been waiting for borders for a long, long time. Finally got that done.

a new project, started from scratch and all assembled, used The Road Trip pattern again from cluckclucksew

a doll blanket in progress

I worked on bag handles. My fellow quilters kept me sane ... do a boring job while others tell funny stories -- the only way I could manage to get handles on these bags. There are 41 finished bags here! Hallelujah!

The Minnesota Quilt Shop Hop is underway; I wasn't sure I was going to participate, but decided to today. I went to only three shops but put plenty of miles on my car and then just wanted to get home. I have a week to finish the 6 others in my section. Got a few "essential" beauties.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Friday Books: It's Saturday Night!

I have had a busy weekend so far. I realized this morning that I had not posted my Friday book review, and I was away from home and knew I wouldn't get to it until tonight. I don't suppose I've ruined anyone's life by delaying my book discussion. If I did, you needed a more exciting life anyway.

So.. I am still reading Prague Winter by Madeleine Albright. I have made only slight progress, because I interrupted myself by reading Falling Into the Fire by Christine Montross. I am reading it on my new smart phone. Had to try a book on the phone to see how it compares to my Kindle. Kindle wins, hands down. I don't like the light on the phone (it bothers my eyes and I often have to squint), and because I'm still so new at it, I don't know what I'm using up by reading on my smart phone.. speed? minutes? internet/wifi access? I'm still a smart phone rookie, so I can't tell you other than that I prefer reading on my Kindle.

Falling Into the Fire is quite interesting. Christine Montross is a psychiatrist, and each of five chapters centers on a particular type of patient, how they come into contact with the doctor through emergency room admittance or other ways. She talks a lot about the disorders, how she goes about determining a diagnosis, how cloudy the diagnosis can be because it can resemble so many others, yet with quite different treatment needs. I'm interested, and I like the doctor and her kind approach to her patients along with her probing of the illness and how it affects the patient.. she attempts to see the world from the patient's eyes in order to really get a hold on their experience and how to help them.

I'm not done with either of these books, but am nearly done with Falling Into the Fire. I like it well enough so I know I'll give it 4 out of 5 stars. The only drawback is that sometimes she repeats or goes on a little too long (at least for this lay person with a non-medical background) in her analysis of the particular psychosis at hand. Otherwise I'm finding it to be a very interesting read.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

If I Can't Sew, I'll Dye!

I've been on a creative streak lately. After I finished the Top That Has a Deadline (it is now in the hands of the machine quilter), I was happy that my sewing time was my own to play as I wanted. I managed to make a few tops. Most of these will be quilted by others... at least I hope so. I also did more ice dyeing, and hubby was a big help with the rinsing and wringing-out process.

pot holders for a friend

borders on a pre-printed panel

leftover pieces from a much bigger piece that I dyed myself - this will be backing for the panel quilt, above

orphan blocks joined together to make "Delicious Leftovers"

pattern is "The Road Trip Quilt" from cluckclucksew(dot)com tutorial - quick, simple, and cute -- and a confession: it really isn't sewn together yet; this is the rows up on the design wall, waiting to be assembled

I did more dyeing and had fewer big white spots this time around.

These are so pretty, I'm not sure I want to use them as quilt backs, which was my original plan.

I can't believe it's already August, and some schools are already back in session. Uffda! Once again, I thank my lucky stars that I am retired. (Gives me more time to sew and dye.)