Sunday, February 16, 2020

Smile!

Today was the day!






PH had a big year.  He turned one of the "0" numbers on his birthday, he officially sort of retired so I thought it would be fun for him to mark the end of his big year with a sitting for a portrait with James Brandess, an artist we've admired, followed and had the good fortune to commission for a work for us more than 20 years ago.   Now it was PH's turn to have his image interpreted by James in his impressionistic style.  It isn't finished yet, so you'll have to wait for the unveiling.  We've seen it in its 'this-is-it-so-far-just-in-case-you-want-a refund' stage. You will have to wait.
    

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Channelling

     I think I'm channeling my mother-in-law.  You see, if she was having company and she didn't think everyone would like one thing, she'd make another something so everyone would be happy.  When our son was going through his fussy eating years the roast beast or her amazing fried chicken would be offset for him with some smoky link sausages. We were all delighted with OUR meal - especially her chicken - but in some convoluted way, he was happy with his meal, too. 
    My favorite story was the time we arrived for dinner and whatever she was serving, I don't remember what it was now,  didn't require a gravy.  But the day before she roasted the beast so she would have drippings to make gravy "just in case someone wanted gravy."  The roast was in the refrigerator in the basement waiting for another day, another meal, but not the one we were having that day.
    I love to bake and as old as I'm getting, and as much as I prefer eating them, pies do give me pause.  It isn't the crust as so many fear, it's that the pie will, well, just turn out.  Especially if it's something I don't make hardly ever.
    Tonight we are going to friends' for dinner.  I said I'd bring dessert.  Just the other day I took a book out of the library called Everything Chocolate and the chocolate pecan pie kind of jumped out at me.  
     The thing that gives me more pause than any part of pies baking is the pre-cooked crust.  The kind you line with foil, weight with pie weights and bake for awhile before the filling is added and then baked some more.   But I read the directions carefully (something I don't need to do anymore with a fruit pie) and proceeded. 

   This crust is make with butter.  All butter.  Nothing else to sully the taste.  I made the dough the day before so it had optimal time to chill.  I rolled it out this morning, lined it with foil, added beans for weight and baked it.   You are supposed to bake with your nose.  If it smells then check it. 
    You KNOW butter makes a beautiful smell don't you?  I checked it.  Directions said at this point take the foil out and bake for longer.  Now, this is the nervous part, but I did it.  After half the time directed, I checked it again and it looked too done.  Take it out, add the filling, pray, and put it in the oven to cook.
    This is the part where I started to channel mother-in-law. 
   Just in case, just in case the chocolate pecan pie crust is burnt, too done, or whatever,  I made another pie.  I wasn't afraid of this crust and I took from the freezer the black raspberries I picked last summer and at that moment remembered I told these friends I'd use them in a pie for THEM so I knew the channeling was working.  I put together this pie to be ready to slip into the oven the minute the chocolate pecan pie was finished.  I know the filling is leaking.  That's how I know a pie is done.  It bubbles and leaks and I love that look on a pie. It means there's LOTS of filling.
When PH saw there were two pies he looked at me like I was crazy until I told him, "I'm just channeling your mother."   "Ah," he said, and walked away.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Into the Light

I've been on a clean-up-the-stuff kick lately.  That includes finding the very lost and finishing them somehow.
   
    Back in 2004 when I went to guild meetings there was something called a block exchange.  I took the instructions for these cherries, cut most of them out, planned it, and then put it down. Everything was there, cut and ready but I just tucked them away.  I found them this week.  One had been pinned, none of them appliqued.  So, simple as they are, I worked them up in one evening and today, an unexpectedly snowy day, I'll add the checkered border and they will make a nice little summer table top. 
And 16 years after the fact, they'll be something other than scraps in a box.

 There were also these antique squares floating around in a box.  What do you do with independent antique blocks?  How long will I continue to move them from place to place?   One afternoon last week I layered them and while watching tv in the evenings I've begun to just quilt them independent of each other.   When old pillowcases wear out, the ones others have thrown out or I find in estate sales all raggedy and forgotten, I cut the crocheted edges off and save those hand worked edges.  I added a little piece to the bottom of the square on the lower right.  Two pieces seeing the light of day once more.


I've left the edges raw,  just tucked the backing over the batting and stitched it down.  I'm not overthinking this, I'm just bringing little things out into the open once again.

 I don't know what I'll do with them. 
Maybe a little gallery on the wall?  Maybe, but they won't be in a box anymore, either.  They'll be remembered as someone's work.

     Lately when I get together with quilt friends the conversation wanders to wondering what will happen to our quilts when we die. None of us is getting any younger and we are entering the decade where today is as good as it gets. Arthritis and eyesight and mobility are making things seem real and urgent.  We are talking about who to will our stashes to.  Whoever is left is usually the answer.
      Some of us have found treasures in estate sales, some beauties.  If a quilt makes it to a shelf in a garage at an estate sale it means the family has picked over the deceased relative's belongings and rejected the quilt.  Notice that gorgeous star quilt hanging from the balcony.  That was found by a friend at a garage sale with a  $20 price tag.  No one in the family wanted it.  Linda grabbed it.  When she gave it to me for the quilt exhibit at church last summer I gave it pride of place and made sure it was noticed when I showed people around the exhibit.  Someone put a tremendous amount of work in this quilt.  It is completely hand pieced and quilted, and the family rejected it in the end. 

      I feel confident that when it's my turn my daughter and daughter-in-law will not let my quilts end up in the sale of my life.  There are enough grandchildren who will want them, and maybe, hopefully, great-grandchildren.  I hope.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Things in Jars




















  
Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

      Sometimes you just know you’re going to like a book. I’ve read Jess Kidd’s books and fell for her writing voice. She is the kind of author that makes you stop and re-read a paragraph, a sentence, a whole page, just to hear it again in your head. And then maybe you smile and dog ear the page so you can go back to it and read it again later. Well, I did something with Things in Jars that I just don’t ever do. I finished the book and then read it all over again. I just wanted to hear it in my head again. So, is it the author’s style, is it her language, is it the story itself? All of it.
       The story takes place on the dark side of Victorian London, the body snatching for medical knowledge side of London. The fascination with oddities in nature including oddities in children side of London. Bridie Devine was a street child brought to London from ireland and then sold by her caretaker to a doctor who was impressed with Bridie’s lack of “eewww” factor around a bloody dead body especially in a child who guessed her age at about seven.
       When we meet Bridie she is charged by Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick to find his kidnapped daughter, Christabel. Sir Edmund tells Bridie that only three people know of Christabel’s existence. One would think this narrows the focus of her search for kidnapper but it turns out Sir Edmund’s background isn’t sterling and his Christabel is an oddity and she isn’t his, as it turns out, he acquired her.
       The story is cast with the misfits, the overlooked, those whose body would be stepped over in a gutter. But to Bridie they were hers. We are led through dark, dirty, smelly alleys and the author tells us exactly what those smells are. She invites us to close our eyes while making our way through the streets so we can identify the stench. This is one of the pages I turned down to read again. Who does this the way she does???
       This story is set in a time when curiosities are collected and stored in bottles on shelves. The race is on to put Christabel in one of those jars, to make a few coins off her or for Bridie to liberate her and maybe vindicate herself from the failed attempt to save a young boy recently. Oh, and did I mention her ghost accomplice?
       I’ve read this book twice in a month. You’d be doing well for yourself to read it once and savor every single word.




Tuesday, January 28, 2020

When We Were Vikings

When We Were Vikings When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald


 
      Zelda feels there is no greater way to live your life than as a Viking. A Viking legend, no less. And if you are going to aspire to be a Viking legend then there needs to be a code of conduct, rules to live by. Zelda and her brother Gert are trying to make a go of life in less than comfortable circumstances. Their father is gone and their mother is dead and living with Uncle Richard was not a viable option anymore. Armed with a code of conduct taped right to the wall, Gert and Zelda share an apartment and their lives. Gert would die for Zelda and vice versa.
      Zelda has fetal alchohol syndrome. She is twenty-one years old, has a boyfriend and she really feels like she needs to get on with her own life, to not be needing people telling her what to do anymore. Gert is so protective he can’t quite agree to that yet. He worries about her but things are tough and in trying to make things better for himself and Zelda Gert falls in with the underbelly of life and finds himself in a lot of trouble.
      Zelda is armed. She is armed with the Viking code of conduct and that means she must be more than a fair maiden, she must be a fierce warrior – a female fierce warrior – a legend. Zelda’s list of things a Viking legend needs include: a hero skilled in hand to hand combat – check; a powerful weapon – check; the love of a fair maiden in danger – check; a wise man – check; pillaging for treasure – check; defeat the villain – check. It takes some doing and she is put to the test more than once but Gert would die for Zelda and vice versa and oh, yes, she’s one determined young woman. Zelda is a legend.
      Let this be your first feel good book of the new year.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Hello out there!


    Well, I'm back.  I wasn't ignoring blogland but sometimes I just wander away-kind of like when PH and I enter a store and I wander off in a direction he isn't looking in and we spend a goodly amount of time searching for each other.  That's kind of what happens.  I wander off and think there's nothing of worth to blog about, certainly not something that warrants a photo.   But this week I caught myself telling a group of school kids that keeping a diary or journal doesn't have to have the big events listed.  People will want to know how you spent your day...someday....because the future days will be so different from the now days.
     Already you can hear your voice echo in blogland as everyone runs to Instagram and I have to say I do miss the friends I've made through blogs.  They've moved on to instant gratification on Instagram-all pics, no talk.  Yes, I have an Instagram account but use it rarely.  
    So, I'm back.  You don't have to listen to my rant about those two books.  But I stand behind my rant.  JoJo Moyes books is absolutely everywhere and it's the inferior book.  Enough.

     This has been my evening project.  I do love looking at people's beautiful quilts but for me, I'm just drawn to the grandma quilts.  The old patterns, old styles and scrappy look. As Friend Marilyn said, "not art quilts but the Little House on the Prairie quilts."  Until she said that I hadn't put a name on what I gravitate to.  So, this simple blue and white nine patch is quilted in big stitch perle cotton, and the binding is almost completely sewn down. And it's very pretty.
    Because we put corn out for the squirrels to keep them away from the bird feeder, we have now attracted these cuties.  They're cute but come spring when nature greens up, they're very hungry and destructive.  For now, I can't help it.  I put the scoop of corn out for the squirrels and somehow these young deer send out the word.  We have to be so very still or they bolt.  Sometimes there are as many as seven out there.

      My birthday is coming up and yesterday we celebrated with the family.  We went to a Chinese restaurant on Chinese New Year but they knew we were coming and were prepared for us so it was all good.  I sat down at the end of the table with the kids as I always do.  I miss out on the conversations at the adult side of the table but I don't mind, these guys are the sprinkles on my cake.
  
 Chopsticks were challenging but Ceci gave it the ol' college try.

 Adelaide uses chopsticks often at home when eating noodles so she knew the tricks. 

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Book wars





     The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Novel    VS         The Giver of Stars: A Novel
    Since I was an adolescent I have been fascinated with the Appalachian culture.  I have many books in my personal library and like to keep them on the shelf by subject. My interest in the area started with Catherine Marshall's book Christy and never left me.  A particular part of the region's history is really fascinating.  During the Depression of the 1930's Eleanor Roosevelt worked hard to promote getting books to people who lived deep in the hills and hollows of the mountains. The people were desperately poor and didn't have the means and opportunity to access books.  Enter the book horse librarians.  These women would pack saddle bags with books and by horse or mule, get reading material to book starved people. I have some picture books for children about these women, I have some photographic books and I was very excited to hear of and receive an advance copy and do a blog post of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson.
  The historical record in her book was fascinating, I learned a lot about how the system ran,  I learned about the blue people,  and that the book women carried more than reading material into the hills.  They also carried medicines, messages, food, and seeds between the families.
   Not long after reading that book I saw publicity for a book called  The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes.  I haven't read one of her books before but was, at first, excited to see there was another book on the subject of the book women.  I put the title on my bulletin-board-for-remembering-things.
   And then, because I read book reviews and trade journals I started hearing things about Moyes' book.  Things that I didn't like.

 There was this:
https://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/books/1202348/Jojo-Moyes-Giver-of-Stars-Book-Woman-of-Troublesome-Creek-books-kim-michele-richardson

and this

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/tomiobaro/jojo-moyes-the-giver-of-stars-kim-richardson-bookwoman-of

    I took Moyes' book off my bulletin board, not planning to read something that was so questionably presented to the readers.  A book I had planned to purchase and add to my library was now persona-non-grata in my life.      Until.  Until I started to see her book everywhere.  Absolutely everywhere...grocery store book shelves, bookstore feature displays, features on internet selling sites, in warehouse book sections, magazine features, newspaper articles and then Reese Witherspoon chose it for her book of the month.
      I was both curious and upset.  A book I had decided on moral principles not to even read was sitting front and center at the library, available.  I checked it out, and immediately, immediately saw what the hub bub was all about.  In my opinion, I don't think there was a way in the world Ms. Moyes didn't know what was in Ms. Richardson's book. You don't write an "original" book and put the same people in it from another book. 
     I was disappointed, too, because I didn't see Ms. Richardson's book anywhere.  Not in bookstores, not in libraries, not featured anywhere.  If you knew it existed you could order it or get it online but you had to know it was there to ask for it.  Not so Ms. Moyes' book.  You couldn't help but trip over it everywhere you went.  Quite obviously the publisher's marketing department was doing its job and Ms. Moyes' name was an asset.    I was also disappointed in Reese Witherspoon.  Clearly the controversy was out there before she chose the title, which gave the book even more attention and publicity, recognition and acclaim.   It makes me suspect all of her choices.  It made me suspect her respect for us as readers.
     I also felt a little insulted as a woman.  Ms. Moyes' book made me feel like I was reading fluff, the kind of thing you see featured on display tables for Mother's Day (  I'll tell you another time about THAT.)  This was a "girl book" set in 1930's  Appalachia featuring women who rode horses and mules to deliver books to the far flung.  It barely skimmed the surface in character development. I didn't learn anything and I didn't care.  The only feelings I had was anger, disbelief and disappointment at this story and author for thinking her story was all I was capable of understanding.
     But you know what?  If you got this far in this little tirade of mine, I want to tell you, this dissing a book publicly is new for me. Once publishers started sending books to me for my opinion I decided I was not going to post negative reviews.  If I couldn't find something I liked I wouldn't post.
      If you are out looking for something and you trip over JoJo Moyes' book, skip it and go to the help desk and order The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. It's written better, it is researched with purpose and depth,  it teaches us more,  the characters are people we want to know.  Give your reading time to a book and author who respect YOU as a reader.