Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sew & Tell: Christmas Table Runner & Baby Quilt

I'm already forgetting what projects I've finished lately, so I'm going to plug them in here. Back in December a nice Canadian lady asked me if I could make her a table runner with bright Christmas fabrics. She bought a runner from me a year or so ago and she wanted another one. As soon as I was over the intensity of Christmas, I got to work. I used Kate Spain fabrics (her Christmas lines are always so cheerful) and a double wedding ring pattern.
Carmen quilted it for me, so of course that looks amazing. I didn't get to spend much time with this one - as soon as I posted it in our etsy shop, the lady who requested it bought it.

I have quite a few things in the works, but I'm only going to "show" the finished stuff. I bought some of the newest Lake House line of fabric. They have a print that looks like a scrappy grid. This baby quilt was lickety-split since I didn't piece anything together. I even quilted it on my machine.
Finishing stuff really gets my creative juices flowing. I also like not feeling the pressure of a hard deadline... like Christmas. :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

February 2015 Book Reports

Bridget and I have had a marathon reading month in preparation for Battle of the Books at her school. We've known about it for a long time (since last September), but Bridget got distracted with reading Harry Potter with her Dad. (We only got through The One and Only Ivan and A Lion to Guard Us before her interest was lost. I blame that stinkin' A Lion to Guard Us. So grim!) I thought that meant she'd given up on the list of 20 books we were supposed to read by March 1st. Then she came home and announced she'd been made captain of her team! This was about February 15th or so. We had two weeks to read 12 books. BAH!!!! (She'd read three or four at school and we read three of them with her old book club.) I left off the longest ones (Phineas L. MacGuire...ERUPTS! by Dowell and Little House in the Big Woods by Wilder), ordered hard copies of some on Amazon.com and on my Kindle. We found ONE at the library (COME ON). I even found two of them cheap on Audible, which meant I could give my voice a rest. (Bridget can and does read on her own, but her favoritest thing is to have me snuggled next to her reading with her. What can I say? I like it too.) So here are eight of the books Bridget and I read in February for Battle of the Books:

1. My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett - one of my favorites. 100% fantasy, fun, and short.

2. Tornado by Betsy Byers - dog stories while a family waits out a tornado in a cellar.

3. Tricking the Tallyman by Jacqueline Davies - also a favorite of mine. Davies somehow made the first census-taking in the United States kind of awesome.

4. Molly's Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen - Russian Jewish immigrants are pilgrims, too!

5. Muggie Maggie by Beverly Cleary - all the adults lose their minds when a 3rd grade girl doesn't care to learn cursive. The worst.

6. Knights of the Kitchen Table by Jon Scieszka - modern trio of boys are magically transported to Camelot. Meh.

7. The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy - a grandmother teaches her granddaughter the value of honoring family through quilt-making.

8. Sheep by Valerie Hobbs - another dog story. Meh.

I made Bridget flash cards because the word on the street was that it was important to know the authors as well as the name of the book. Then I signed up to be a judge yesterday morning to see what this thing was all about. (Very little paperwork came home about Battle of the Books.) I had so much fun! They were in teams of 3 to 5 people, all from the same class. Two teams (3rd and 4th graders play each other and 5th and 6th graders play each other) would go up against each other, then move on to the next round. I was one of two judges for Bridget's first round. She could answer almost every question and she always knew the author's name. The questions were about plot points in the book, so the answers were always the book title and author. I was sitting behind that tiny desk trying not to cry because I was so proud of her! One of Bridget's great learning strengths is her memory (mine too), so having the flashcards was right up her alley. (That's Lola on her team! And those two boys were just for show.) Her team didn't do as well against the 4th grade teams (experience counts!), but now that I know what's up, she and I are going to be much better prepared next year.

9. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
I listened to this on my own last month. Extraordinary kids are tested to see if they have the goods to save the world from an evil genius. Once the team is assembled ("Oceans 11" style), the four children head off to infiltrate the school the Evil Genius is using as a front to build his mind control weapon. Each child on the team was extraordinary in their own way, and therefore they solved problems very differently. I liked that - I was married before I realized there are at least two ways to do everything. 

There were hints and near-misses for truly terrible things happening, but for the most part it was pretty low-key action. The message seemed to be to work together, use your gifts to contribute to solving the problem instead of trying to solve the problem on your own. Fun for a 10 year-old, but kind of old news for a 41 year-old. 

10. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
That's right! I listened to 35 hours of Dickens in February! I know, right? I love the way Dickens writes each character so distinctly - every person speaks differently, has their own set of values and quirks. It's remarkable. On the other hand, there are SO MANY CHARACTERS that I quickly lost track because I was listening instead of reading a hard copy. I was a quarter of the way in when I decided to watch the BBC mini-series from 2005 at the same time as I was reading. As soon as I'd hit the spot on the show where I'd left off in the book, I'd turn it off so that I was reading ahead of the show. So, I was immersed in Bleak House for a couple of weeks. Fun for me! And probably no one else.

Every character in Bleak House has a connection to a Chancery (court) case known as Jarndyce and Jarndyce. Years and years ago, there was a squabble over a family will, the family took the case to court and thus began the ruination of all the lives. There are lawyers, clerks, plaintiffs, defendants, wards, cripples, orphans, liars, crooks, doctors, saints, moochers, crazies, housekeepers, soldiers, friends, enemies... Everyone! Whew. One way Dickens helped me keep track of people was by giving them a name that described their character. For example; Krook, Flite, Dedlock, Guppy, Simpole, Smallweed. You get the idea! 

Since there is too much, I'm only going to highlight a few things that delighted or enlightened me. First, Esther Summerson (if there can be one, she is the main character), a kind and generous saint of a woman, gets small pox from taking care of an orphan (natch). She comes very close to death, but survives, her body and face marked by scars. She wasn't a beauty before, but this is still a blow. Esther brings herself to look in the mirror for the first time after recovering and sees the same eyes looking back at her. Those who loved her before love her still, and more.

“I found every breath of air, and every scent, and every flower and leaf and blade of grass and every passing cloud, and everything in nature, more beautiful and wonderful to me than I had ever found it yet. This was my first gain from my illness. How little I had lost, when the wide world was so full of delight for me.” 

When her guardian, John Jarndyce, and her dearest friend, Ava, don't hesitate to hug and kiss her, she wonders if she'd "magnified" her trouble. I parked my car so that I could write that down. Yes! We do choose what we magnify, don't we? Whether it's our trouble or our blessings. I absolutely love that.

One of my other enlightening moments was Sir Leciester Dedlock forgiving his wife, Lady Dedlock, immediately and without reservation when he learns of her secret. She didn't think he would forgive her, so she took off before she gave him the chance. Anyway, no matter our prejudices, when it happens with someone we truly love, our knee-jerk reaction is to forgive immediately. That is always God's reaction to anything we do - to forgive us immediately. We do have to come to him, though.

Last, since this post is taking forevah, Smallweed (the cripple) complaining about his BONES and shouting at his poor granddaughter, Judy, "SHAKE ME UP, JUDY!" Delightful. Smallweed was also a terrible person, so the image of him sliding down in his chair and needing to be "shaken up" to a sitting position is awesome.

Okay, one more, Charles Dance is the scariest guy ever! He played the evilest lawyer in the Bleak House TV series (Mr. Tulkinghorn). My hat is off to that guy. He nailed it.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Shannon Hale and The King's English

Over the weekend I had a great time reminiscing while looking through my 2009 blog book. I was reminded of my adventure with Bridget and my friend, Angie, at The King's English book store in Salt Lake. We went there to meet The Pioneer Woman and get my cookbook signed. Suddenly I wanted to go back to that book store (I'm always on the lookout for a happy place). I looked them up and noticed that Shannon Hale would be there that very night! Bridget and I have read Princess Academy and I've read Goose Girl, at the Sisters' Retreat I watched "Austenland." The book Shannon was promoting was Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters, third in the Princess Academy trilogy.
We invited Annie to come with us - she's a Kindred Spirit Book Friend. :) We went into the book store to get our copies of the new book, then over to the Gallery to listen to Shannon Hale talk.
They handed everyone a little alligator. How cute is that?! Shannon (or "Sister Hale," as I almost called her to her face) was fantastic. She talked about writing and embarrassing stories and having confidence. Bridget and Annie were pretty quiet, but I loved that they were hearing all that great stuff. :)
Here they are in the Gallery getting photo-bombed. That guy warned me that they'd photo-bombed us when I sat down. I thought that was hilarious, so we're keeping it. After the talk and the question-and-answer session, we went back to the The King's English to wait in line to get our books signed. I hurried the girls over since it was a school night and we couldn't afford to be in the back of the line like I was for The Pioneer Woman. I bought the second Princess Academy book (we don't have that one) for Shannon to sign as well. 
There we are! So much fun. I am inspired. Three cheers for independent book stores and Shannon Hale! 

Off I go to finish laundering everything in my room because Colin peed in our bed last night. WAST NIGHT. Still inspired. ;)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Odds and Ends

The boys are in that wonderful stage when they have a rich fantasy life and they can say lots of words. Things that are normal (and still hilarious) won't be in just a few short months. I'm going to try to record some of the funny stuff they do and say.
Everything is a contest to Emil and Colin. EVERYTHING. Someone wins at Milk or Juice at every meal. When I'm driving, Colin and Emil both like to inform me who is gaining on us and which vehicle I need to catch up with and beat. One day Colin was encouraging me and said, "We're going to WIN!" I told him I was glad he's on my team (I really am). A few seconds later Emil said, "Bwidget and Daddy are on my team." Since then, the "teams" have been set in stone. Colin and I are a team. And we're going to WIN.
Anything that happened more than one minute ago is designated as "wast night" by Colin. If I ask him to finish eating his breakfast (which I do, every day) he says, "I ate that WAST NIGHT." Translation: I ate part of that 10 minutes ago.

Every morning Emil gets out of bed and gets dressed all on his own. If he can find it, he always puts on the green monster truck shirt and "jeans pants." Most mornings he gets every cereal box out of the pantry and puts it on the bar, as well as juice, milk, bowls, spoons, cups and the box of yogurts with scissors. This is why we're putting our money on Emil to take care of us. Bridget and Colin walk into the kitchen, sit on a bar stool and wait for stuff to happen.

Colin and Emil both love to say prayers. Colin's is exactly the same every time: "Our Fathah, thank you. Thank you family; Mommy, Daddy, Bwidget, Cahnin, Emo... Gus, Henry, and Max [Emil's carpool friends]. Christ, Amen." 

Emil's prayers have a little more variety, but they usually start the same way and include the most important event that he's thankful for: "Helly Faddah, good day. Daddy, Bwidget, Emo ride the TRUCK get BUNK BEDS..."

The pictures from the park are from Monday. Bridget and Daddy went skiing and the boys and I went in search of adventure. I try to have one with them every day. At night Emil and Colin like for me to lay beside them and talk about stuff before they fall asleep. Since they are in bunk beds, this is something Daddy can't do for the one in the top bunk. They have told him to beat it, they want Mom to come in. (Bridget would rather have Daddy, so it usually works out.) Emil always wants to talk about cars and trucks. One time I asked him what color truck Daddy should have, "Lellow, wed, bwack, bwoo, pink." From the bottom bunk Colin shouted, "Those are Power Wange-ohs! Daddy no want pink!" Emil shouted back down to him, "My turn, Cahnin! I can't hear that!!!" I had to bite the inside of my cheeks to keep from laughing. Because it's not funny. :)

My favorite from this week was Emil at the fabric store. He was the lucky (?) one to accompany me on a few errands yesterday. While my fabric was getting cut, he played with the bucket of toys. One of the ladies came back and cut some of my fabric right by him and she asked him some of the usual questions. "Do you have a sister?"

Emil: "Yes. Bwidget."

Lady: "Is she bigger or smaller than you?"

Emil: "Bigger."

Lady: "So is she pretty bossy and mean?" Sidebar, what the heck kind of question is that?

Emil: *disgusted snort* "No!"

Never even TRY to say something bad about Bridget! :)

In other news, the boys and I went out to breakfast with Aunt Melissa on Thursday morning. They held her hands as we walked into and out of the party store after breakfast. She is a delicate flower. :) Melissa was on her way to Pocatello for some high adventure. Speaking of, I finished this quilt on Tuesday:
On Friday we had the pleasure of a visit from Uncle Aaron, Aunt Lori, and Cousin Macey. Aunt Lori was coaching volleyball and we missed getting a photo of her (and her new hair!) on the porch, but here are the other two:
Did I mention that Emil dresses himself?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Sew & Tell: Rainy Day

My lovely quilting mentor (of course I have one), Carmen Geddes, has her very own printed interfacing for her grid quilt patterns. She's working on a book with patterns for at least ten different quilt designs. Last fall I pieced one of those designs for her:
This is before the seams were sewn - I just ironed on all those 2 1/2" pieces. When I laid it out I realized it needed another row of panels (the grid is 9 squares by 14 squares) to look right. Anyway! While I was piecing this for Carmen, I was making plans for my own grid quilts. I did a few table squares and then I used seven mini charm packs (42 2 1/2" squares packaged together, including every fabric in a line) to make this baby quilt:
The corners match up perfectly! I think this line of fabric was made for me. It's called April Showers. I got all the mini charm packs at The Gathering Place in Jerome, Idaho, after our retreat at the monastery. 
It's a baby quilt, so I put minky on the back. Check out the sweet umbrellas in the quilting.
My signature stripey binding... and minky fuzz on the binding that I didn't notice when I was taking the picture. Tradition! The grid pattern is addicting - there are so many different designs. I'm working on another one right now. I'm getting in the mood for some curves, though. Hmmmm.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

January 2015 Book Reports

1. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

I reconnected with a friend from the Missionary Department a few months ago. She is the smartest person I know and a big reader. We're now Goodreads friends and I checked her All Time Favorites list for something to read. I was in such a rut! I only wanted to watch TV, so it had to be good. I chose Peace Like a River because she said she'd read it multiple times. The only books I've read more than once are Les Miserables and To Kill a Mockingbird. Short list.

I really enjoyed Peace Like a River. Thanks to Brian, I know the pattern for Westerns and this book follows that pattern pretty closely. My favorite character, Swede, is the youngest sister in a family that consists of Dad (Jeremiah), brother Davey, and brother Ruben (narrator). Swede is a talented writer and she knows every Western by heart. Anyway, there will be a violent act against a woman, justified revenge-murder, an escape from the law, and a shoot out. Check, check, check, and check. This one takes place in the early 1960s in the Midwest.

To me, the unique thing about Peace Like a River is its spirituality. I love it when authors can write Christian characters without making them cartoons. (That goes for TV and movies, but I've yet to see a Christian character on TV or in the movies who wasn't awful. Maybe Dave Rogowski on "Gilmore Girls"? I'm digging pretty deep here...) Jeremiah Land (the Dad) has performed miracles - Ruben has been a witness of some of those miracles. This quote is from the first chapter (amazing first chapter):

“Real miracles bother people, like strange sudden pains unknown in medical literature. It's true: They rebut every rule all we good citizens take comfort in. Lazarus obeying orders and climbing up out of the grave - now there's a miracle, and you can bet it upset a lot of folks who were standing around at the time. When a person dies, the earth is generally unwilling to cough him back up. A miracle contradicts the will of the earth.”

When Davey kills a couple of guys who deserved it, he escapes from jail and Jeremiah, Ruben, and Swede set out to find him. A federal agent is also after Davey. There is a fantastic scene where Jeremiah wrestles with God when the "putrid fed" asks for Jeremiah's help to find Davey. Davey is guilty - he's broken the law, but he's also Jeremiah's son. What do you do when someone you love is guilty and wrong? 

“Someday, you know, we're going to be shown the great ledger of our recorded decisions-a dread concept you nonetheless know in your deepest soul is true.” 

Toward the end there is an epic miracle. It was a pleasure to read and I was fine until it was revealed what Swede did during the shoot-out. Then I cried and cried. I heartily recommend Peace Like a River.

2. The Home-maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

My dear friend, Brittany, gave me a Persephone book for my birthday in December. It had been a while since I'd read one and I forgot what a pleasure they are. Even down to the space between the words and the binding of the book. All perfect.

The Home-maker takes place in the Knapp household in a small-ish town in the United States before 1920. The opening scene is Evangeline Knapp viciously scrubbing her kitchen floor where meat grease has been dripped from the dining room to the kitchen sink. Eva is so VERY BUSY. She can never get all her work done. Her three children; Henry, Hannah, and Stephen, are totally in her way. They each create subterfuge at her every turn. Henry is always sick, Hannah is too quiet and emotional, and Stephen is a wee devil. Lester Knapp is a dreamer and a poet who is working as a miserable accountant for an emporium in town. He always has an upset stomach and his wife's silent disappointment is crushing him. Everyone in town admires Eva's style and perseverance - she has to endure sick children all the time, a husband who makes no money, and that devil of a child, Stephen.

Lester gets fired from his miserable job and decides he needs to die and give his family the insurance money. It has to look like an accident, though. Luckily his neighbor's house is on fire as he's coming home from getting fired. He rushes to the back of the house with a ladder as though to help, but really to throw himself off the steep roof. Just Lester's luck, he's only paralyzed from the waist down, not dead.

To make ends meet, Eva goes to the emporium and gets a low-level job in the ladies clothes department. Within a few days, Eva proves to be The Most Valuable Employee Ever. She's thriving! She knows her stuff and she appears to be born to sell. She comes home happy every evening and the family plays whist every night.

What about Lester? It turns out that parenting is his calling. A few months after his "accident," Lester has an opportunity to observe Stephen as Stephen plays near Lester's bed. 

"...he had never seen Stephen except in active conflict with authority. 'I never saw one of my children just living before,' he meditated. As he lay in bed, a book was usually open before him, but he looked over it at the far more interesting spectacle of his undiscovered little boy."

Lester begins to study his children to discover their gifts and how he can nurture the best parts of them. Henry is healthy and steady with his father's attention - and he gets a dog to care for and love. Hannah learns how to cook with her father and they talk poetry and writing while they work. Lester discovers that Stephen is the greatest of them all - so determined and strong. There is a wonderful scene when a nosy neighbor comes in to tell Lester what he should be doing with Stephen - taking him in hand, that's what! When the woman finally leaves, Lester can see the black storm brewing in Stephen and Lester has to come up with something before the tantrum breaks. Lester hands Stephen an egg beater (the hand cranking kind) and Stephen spends the rest of the afternoon figuring out how to use it. 

I've been in the position of seeing the storm gathering in one of my children and having to use all the power I possess to divert it. Parenting is a demanding job in every single way. Toward the end of the book Lester has a choice to make about going back to work.

"Could he do any better than before his miserable, poorly done, detested work? Could he hate it any less? No, he would hate it a thousand times more now that he knew that it was not only a collboration with materialism fatly triumphant, but that it kept him from his real work, vital, living, creative work, work he could do as no one else could, work that meant the salvation of his own children."

This is a fantastic book. It fit so neatly into what I've been thinking about lately. How about that? The perfect gift.