Friday, February 27, 2015

This week's children's books

This week a little guy in Elizabeth's class came up to me and said, "I like Tuesdays best because you come in and read to us."  Holy cow!  Go ahead, make my day!

 This is a new book.  I liked it immediately for the art work but when I got to the end I had a big smile on my face.  Anytime a book does that, it's mine.  Imagine catching a little one out and hearing a far fetched excuse about how the thing really went down.  We are being told this story by someone who is explaining why a sandwich is gone.  We are told bear ate it and just how bear managed to do that.  The ending is a surprise. 
 This is one of my all time favorites.  The author has gone on to write several more books featuring the Good Knight and the three little dragons but I like this one the best.  First, though, we talk about the two different kinds of night/knight and how they sound the same but are spelled differently and mean something different.  The good knight is standing guard at the top of a crumbly, tumbly tower when he hears a very loud roar.  He goes to investigate and finds a cave with a dragon dressed in jammies asking for a glass of water.  He doesn't know what to think, but because he is a good knight he gives a drink to the dragon.  And so on with dragon two wanting something and dragon three wanting something.  Just picture your little dragons stalling bedtime and you get the picture. Very cute.
Anytime David Catrow illustrates a picture book you just have to take notice.  Molly Lou Melon stands just taller than her dog and is the smallest girl in first grade.  She has buck teeth she can stack coins on and sings like a frog and is fumble fingered. But her grandma told her to "walk proud and the world will look up to you." "Smile big and the world will smile right alongside you." "Sing out clear and strong and the world will cry tears of joy." "Believe in yourself and the world will believe in you too."  So she did.  But then Molly Lou Melon moved to a new city and a new school and had to confront bully Ronald Durkin everyday.  Oh, my, you will love Molly Lou Melon, too, when you use her to illustrate self esteem or bullying. 
 Oops, here's another with David Catrow illustrations.   This one is written as a letter from Dad to the kids who are visiting Grandma.  It's a tribute to the very large tree in their yard.  A tree saved when the new house was going to be built and then endeared itself to the family through the years. Picnics beneath, swings and hammocks, shade, clothesline holder, hiding place, third base, you get the picture.  It's also the story of endurance, noticing the things that hold a family together,  appreciation for a good friend, and understanding.
 This is another new book this season.  Mr. Panda has a box of donuts and he asks his friends, one by one, if they would like one.  Not liking how they respond, he tells them they can't have one and walks away.  But one, just one animal answers correctly and is rewarded for having good manners.  Very simple pictures, very simple story with a very big message about manners.
The children of the village gather for stories on Babba Zarrah's knitted story blanket. Babba Zarrah notices one day that one of the children has a hole in his socks, but because the winter snow is deep she can't get out to buy wool. She unravels a bit of the blanket and knits socks then anonymously  leaves them for the little boy.  One by one as she sees the need, the villagers and children receive knitted scarves, hats, mittens, etc. but no one knows who they're from until one day the children notice there's no blanket left.  Everyone decides to repay an anonymous kindness with more anonymous kindness. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Shadows over Paradise

Product Details

Shadows over Paradise by Isabel Wolff 

Lest you think by the title and cover this is a carefree beach book, guess again.  Shadows over Paradise goes deep. 

Jenni Clark is a ghost writer. Her name is never on the cover, yet she’s immersed herself into the lives of many people and presented them to the world.  When Jenni is approached to write the memoir of Klara, she accepts but with reservation after she finds out where Klara lives.  Klara lives in a town Jenni never wanted to go near again in her life.

Klara’s memoir is a difficult one for all of us.  We are well aware of the Holocaust and the horrors of war and genocide in Europe but we are maybe not so familiar with the atrocities the Japanese delivered on prisoners and residents in occupied territories during World War II.  Klara was one of those people and her story brings it all to the surface again for herself and ultimately for her family. It isn’t pretty but finally just telling the story helps Klara finally understand it.  

While spending time with Klara in this town Jenni wanted to forget, her story, too, comes to the surface and is revealed not only to us but to the people in Jenni’s life who were completely unaware of the burden she carried.

We who don’t know as much as we should of the war’s affect in the Pacific should take note.

This book was provided by Edelweiss Above the Treeline


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

To read or not to read...

You're all wondering aren't you?  Wondering why it seems this blog has turned into a book review column and whether I've abandoned quilting.  I know this works on your mind causing you to toss and turn all night.  Well, truth is, I have  been reading a lot more lately and the adult books I post about are ones I've received in advance of publication with the promise that when I finish them I would post a response on my blog, on Goodreads and send one back to the publisher showing I'm making good on my promise. Ideally, these are supposed to be posted no sooner than two weeks before publication.  I kind of hold to that line.  Kind of. The list is long and life is short!  But I won't apologize for book posts. Reading is a huge part of my life. 

But it isn't all I've been doing.  The quilting is a little stagnant right now but not entirely.

The Santa quilt was ready to be pinned but first I noticed the stripe fabric needed to be cut away from his face because you could see it. 

Then I pinned him.  It was tricky because while making the front and back I measured and measured and measured to make sure the figures lined up perfectly.  It worked,  but put the batting in and suddenly I couldn't feel the bottom Santa.  So it took awhile but I think I got it.  He's a simple quilted answer to a problem.  I think it will be good.

Remember the much loved quilt whose binding had gone raw?  The consensus after inspection in person from friends Marilyn and Jan was to go over the old.  I'll trim away the raggedy strings.  But then the challenge was finding something that worked for a new binding.  The quilt is faded from use and washing and I had to find something that looked like it belonged to the quilt.
 I searched - without having the quilt with me - and found this.  The store kindly gave me a strip to bring home. I thought it was good.
So I went back to the store and bought it.   

I am going to scissor fussy cut it so the border design will be absolutely straight.  I think I did a pretty good job finding something that fits!

Our weather has been brutally cold and today it's snowing yet again. I think tomorrow is the meteorological first day of spring.  Well, looking out the window now there's a long, long way to go.  No pansies this March.

 Today on the way to read at the grandgirls' school I passed these two barns.  Cold and windy and bitter as it was I stopped.  It's hard to see the highland cow ( in Scots it comes out sounding like "highlun coo" ) standing just outside the barn door but the snowbank between us was too tall to climb to get closer and the gale force wind just didn't play nice.  Now that I know where the cow lives I'll come back another day.
 I took a different road to the school and found this!   I screeched on the brakes when I saw the apple trees perfectly framed in this door.
 This might be my favorite barn so far.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Picture books

Can't believe I did this.  Monday Friends Marilyn and Jan were here for a playdate and I didn't take any stitching pictures to show!!!  I blame the weather.  We're a little numb right now with cold.  Very cold.  Lots of snow last weekend and this week.  This whole winter thing has overstayed its welcome.

So today I will show you more of the books I've read to the kids in my grandgirls' classes.  The first four I read yesterday, the last two are from a few weeks ago.  If you have little ones in your life, you can truly be safe choosing these for your lap times.  They are kid tested and approved.

 The kids always like hearing that a story is true.  Who hasn't heard of Winnie-the-Pooh?  This is the story of the man who bought a bear cub at a train station in Winnipeg, Canada during World War I and when he was deployed to England, Winnie went along.  Because Winnie was raised as a pet she was remarkably tame.  The war continued and Winnie had to be somewhere safe so the London Zoo was chosen.  As time went by it was decided the zoo should be her permanent home.  She was so tame children were allowed to ride her and hand feed her!  One of those children was Christopher Robin.  
It doesn't take much to set us apart from others.  In this case Salma and Lily, inseparable best friends,  make the mistake of commenting on each other's sandwiches at lunch one day.  A nasty food fight is the result - along with a visit to the principal's office.  When things calm down the girls timidly ask each other if they might like to TRY each other's sandwiches.  The result is a collaboration that involves opening the palates of everyone in the school.  This is such a simple way of inviting us all to be a little more tolerant of differences in cultures.  
 Adelaide wanted me to read this one.  The King of Little Things is in charge of the small objects in our lives that we don't think about but wouldn't want to live without.  Buttons, forks, screws, coins, spools of thread, keys etc.  King Normous wants everything in every kingdom to be his and sets forth acquiring.  When he thinks he's finished and everything is his to control he is informed of the existence of the King of Little Things.  Off to the dungeon!  But the little things are loyal to their king and rebel.  King Normous discovers the little things really are very important.
I use this one to talk about using your imagination.  Pretend play.   Elizabeti's mother has a new baby and Elizabeti wants a doll.  But there are no dolls.  She finds a rock that is just the right size to be her doll and names her Eva.  She takes good care of it, mimicking the things her mother does for the baby.  But unwittingly, Eva is lost!  In resolving the story the kids also see what other children do for toys when no stores are available.  After I read it, always a dozen hands go up with examples of how someone pretends. 
 This title is a show stopper.  I remember the look on her face the first time I told Elizabeth about this book.  It was during a fussy eating spell when she decided what she ate yesterday she didn't like anymore.  It never fails to stop the clock and you will, within minutes, find yourself with a child on your lap reading this.    Momma Crocodile fixes all good things for Achilles to eat but this particular day none of his favorites will do.  "I'd really like to eat a child," he says.  And nothing she can offer him will do.  Not even breaking her own rules and plying him with chocolate cake for breakfast.  He goes off to find a child.  And he does find one.  But he discovers she is much bigger than he is and she does a little too much cootchy coo.  Achilles, embarrassed, goes back home to eat the good food his mother has for him so someday he will grow big enough "to eat a child."   This one never fails.

This is one of those books that starts on the inside front cover.  Don't skip to the first written page (in fact, never skip to the first written page.  All picture books start with the cover.  Start there when you read.) because the things happening on the inside cover are important to the story.  A huge wheel of cheese falls from a wagon and goes rolling down the hill and off a cliff, landing on Squirrel's branch.  He thinks the moon landed in his tree and his first thought is fear that someone will think he stole the moon.  He sets off to fix this predicament.   This story is very funny, beautifully illustrated and the end will put a smile on your face.   This story is told very much through the pictures.  You talk and observe your way through as much as you read.  There are very few words.  I like this.  I like that a child can pick up a book and 'read' the story for themselves by spending time with the pictures.  If you spend lap time observing and picture talking your way through books your little ones will learn 'slow time' is important and their observational skills will be all the better for it.  Lap time vs. screen time....hmmm.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Quilty question

Yes!  A quilty question, not a book review!  

My DIL asked if this binding could be fixed.  It's the quilt Friend Marilyn and I made for her when she and my son were engaged.  It's been a much loved and used quilt and she's washed it a lot.  A lot. Now the binding all the way around has frayed and split.  I know I can put a new binding on, but the advice I need is which way is better?  Do I take the old binding off or put the new one over the old?   I have Friend Marilyn's advice and it's not that I don't like or believe what she said, I just wonder if there is a general consensus out there about the right way to do this.  Take it off or go over it?  What do you say?

I absolutely love seeing this quilt so used and loved.  They were not afraid to make this quilt a part of their lives. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Novel Interiors by Lisa Borgnes Giramonti
Novel Interiors – Living in Enchanted Rooms Inspired by Literature  by Lisa Borgnes Giramonti  Photographs by Ivan Terestechenko


The back cover of this book says "You don't just read a good book you inhabit it."  And oh, goodness, from the front cover to the end we inhabit this book!
Would you, if you could, build a room for your home, for yourself, inspired by your favorite piece of literature? 

The author of this gorgeous book offers us interiors that classic authors like Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, George Eliot would be comfortable in. The formal elegance of Evelyn Waugh, Henry James and Edith Wharton, the glamour Fitzgarald’s Gatsby and the tribute to the earth found in the works of Lawrence, Cather and Bronte and Hardy.

The pages are scattered with quotes from the works of these authors and many, many more, the design style is such that we would expect to see one of our favorite authors sitting at the table or coming round the corner into the room, startled that we were there, much as the quotes made me feel when poring over the pages and finding a tidbit from one of their books or the author themselves tucked into a spot on the page. ‘Oh, hello!  You’re home today?”

We are given gorgeous photography, explanation of style and design tips if we want to try to create the style of our author and those wonderful affirming quotes everywhere.

I can’t even imagine being able to replicate the charms of these rooms but that would not have stopped me from purchasing this book just to look over and over again at the photos. I did find several ideas that I certainly can incorporate into my home or create a corner that makes me feel like these rooms do. It’s lush, it’s beautiful, it’s delightful. Yum!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, February 9, 2015


I am a slow quilter.  I move quickly, think quickly, jump to conclusions quickly. But I quilt slowly and by hand.  I have given over to the machine for long straight things like binding or the obvious sashing but I find needle turn applique my go to choice so I work by hand.  I even discovered my points meet much nicer if I piece by hand rather than by machine. I hand quilt my quilts so it takes a LOOOONNNGG time to finish one.  But that's ok, I'm not in a race.  What's this got to do with anything?   Because I'm a slow quilter I don't always have much to show and tell on the blog.  If I showed what I'm working on it would be like watching a snail crawl.   I started this blog to meet quilters around the world, and that has and continues to happen and that's made me very happy.  But sometimes I don't have much to show.   When I don't post for awhile I have Friend Laurie sending emails that say, "Blog more!!!!" 

So, you've probably noticed, I decided to share more books.  Reading is like breathing for me.  I would no more leave the house without a book than I would leave the house without my lungs.  Can't happen.  And just in the very remote chance that should happen, there is a book of short stories tucked into each car.  Just in case.

Retirement, I have discovered, is a process.  All those things put onto the list headlined: Things I'm Going To Do When I Retire  turned out to be sedentary, solitary things.   I live in a place that is solitary.  I am by nature are quilters.  Even though quilting CAN be a team sport, it is still sedentary. And you know, you can sit just so long.  Retirement, living in a solitary place, can be quite lonely.  The reason for getting out of bed has been  replaced with a pension check and an empty square on the calendar.  That isn't always a bad thing!

So, if you're still with me, where am I going with this?  Doing something about the solitary part.  The part of working in a library in an elementary school that was the absolute best was the kids and the books and putting those two together.  This is my second year of retirement and I decided to put the kids and picture books back onto one of those empty squares on the calendar.

Once a week I read to Elizabeth's and Adelaide's classes at school.  I am once again making choices from my bookshelves,  wandering the children's section at the bookstores, and making piles of good stuff to share with kids.  I'm also greeted in the halls, zipping jackets, tying shoes and having the door held open for me by a little kid.  Heaven.

Periodically, on a slow quilt day I'd like to share some of the picture books I've been reading.  There will be more as we go along, and you can trust they are some of my favorites or some Elizabeth or Adelaide especially loved.  Some new ones, too, that they didn't know about first.

In honor of Valentine's Day this weekend, I'll begin with today's books. 

 This is one of my favorite Valentine stories.  Gilbert, the little guy on the cover, manages to make choices that are unwise.  Of course he always figures a way out or it wouldn't be a story.  But I love to hear the gasp from the kids when they see what he did.  In this book he is making his valentines for his class and as instructed by his teacher, he must write a poem for each valentine. He isn't happy with Lewis, who tweaked his nose, or Margaret, who made fun of his glasses, so he wrote poems that weren't very nice and signed Margaret's name to Lewis' and signed Lewis' name to Margaret's (gasp!)  Of course he is found out and shunned by his classmates for being mean.  Gilbert figures out a solution and it works out fine.  But oh, the kids get all kinds of concerned when they see what Gilbert did.

 I tell the kids Valentine's day isn't about boyfriends and girlfriends.  That's kind of yucky.  It's about remembering to be nice.  Maybe noticing someone who especially needs some niceness.  Sometimes that niceness can be just a small thing.  Mr. Hatch is a lonely man with no friends and not much of a life. "He keeps to himself, Mr. Hatch."  One day the mailman delivers a candy filled heart to Mr. Hatch with a note that says, "Somebody loves you."  And it changes his life.  I love, love, love this story.

 This isn't a valentine story.  It's a story about a first crush.  A lasso the moon crush and it's simple and perfect and you will not resist smiling through it.

In Kindergarten are you looking for that first crush or boyfriend?  I hope not! But you are  learning to make friends.  In this story, written and illustrated by an author that lives right here in town, Alfred is two days into being six years old and he wants adventure!  Real adventure! He is, after all, King Arthur's very great grandson!  So he goes off to slay a dragon, battle a Cyclops, or griffon or leviathan - anything!  He wants to prove himself (fierce!) Each monster is encountered and subdued but not according to plan. Or is it Alfred who is subdued?

Valentine's day is about making friends not love, right?  I hope you find and enjoy these as much as the kids and I do.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Hearts overseas

I sent this baby quilt off to France Tuesday.  I quilted it lightly so it has a soft drape. You can't tell the color in this picture but the background is a light green.  It was a fun quilt to make.  Simple, feminine and sweet.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

My Sunshine Away

My Sunshine Away

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana in the summer of 1989 Lindy Simpson is living her normal life.  She is a track star, she is popular, pretty, and a good kid.  Her life is predictable. She rides her bike every day to the track to train and everyday she rides home at the same time. But one day things don’t go according to plan and on the way home she is attacked and raped.

Across the street and two doors down our narrator lives with his adolescent obsession with Lindy.  He has had a crush on her since elementary school.  Back in 1989 kids could still be innocent of the ways and cruelties of the world and our narrator is.  He doesn’t know what the word rape means, he asks of the street wise kids “what does that mean?” and is laughed at a lot. He doesn’t know what the locker room and street slangs mean, and suffers for it.  His family is normal and upstanding and he doesn’t have to deal with the underbelly of life so he doesn’t understand it.  But this summer, he is learning.

As the story progresses, as our narrator tries to help Lindy, tries to understand this thing called adolescence, we can’t help but see his obsession with her and begin to wonder a little.  Even though we know he didn’t do it, no one in the neighborhood is above suspicion.  Sometimes he makes things worse for her.  Sometimes there is a crack in her new armor. 

As I read I kept wondering whose story this was.  Was it Lindy’s?  She is the focus of our narrator, certainly, and what happens to her propels the story but the narrator is holding the steering wheel.  I thought it was HIS story.  Other reviews think it’s hers.  Our narrator is given to us perfectly.  His reflection on this time of his life, his memory, his reason for telling us this story, M. O. Walsh got it and gave it to us.

And as I read, and by the way, I couldn’t stop reading, I was so flooded with memories of the clumsiness of adolescent life.  The sorting out of the world and our place in it, our families, our friends, ourselves, our bodies, thinking with that adolescent malleable brain.   What a mess that time of life is. I can’t imagine any adult wanting to live those years over again.  So, prepare yourself.  In this book you do.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Barned surprised!

 Last week

This week
What a difference a week makes!!

Monday, February 2, 2015


Saturday Michael and I celebrated our birthdays together.  He will be two this Wednesday and I was a lot more than two last Wednesday.  Our birthdays will forever and always be a week apart and hopefully celebrated together.  DIL asked if I minded having a Paw Patrol cake.  Paw Patrol is Mikey's favorite thing right now.

 He helped his mommy make the cake and then burst into tears when the candles were lit. All he could think was we were setting his cake on fire!
 But he calmed down when he was given a spoon and told to eat it.
 Mike, as I said, is two years old and thus a moving target.  Here he spent a quiet moment with Grandpa and I was able to get a picture that wasn't blurry.

Yesterday we were on the receiving end of a snow storm.  We have 8 inches on the ground but depending on where you live some got as much as 14 inches.
 These little guys look so pretty and innocent sparkling in the snow...
until you back up and get the big picture of their team effort.  When the street plow comes much of this shoveling will have been for naught.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Dress Shop of Dreams

Product Details

Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna VanPraag

 Oh, dear.   I’m not comfortable with calling this completely a romance novel because I don’t read those.  But it is.   It’s also a little bit of a murder mystery and a little magical.  Not enough of either of those to turn me away. 

Cora Sparks ( when you get into the story you’ll realize along with me the last name is a bit of a pun)  is an academic.  Before her parents died, Cora’s playground was a laboratory and her playmates her parents.  So it was only natural she would grow up to continue the work her parents began.

Cora’s grandmother, Etta, runs a dress shop.   A bit of a magical place that announces each customer with appropriate music, giving Etta a little heads up about the wants and needs of the customer.  In this shop the dress chooses the woman and with a little help from Etta a little red star is stitched somewhere inconspicuous in the dress to help guide the woman in the right direction.

Walt owns a little bookshop across the alleyway from Etta and has loved Cora since they were children.  Almost from the first time he saw her.  But Cora didn’t have time for anything that wasn’t real and scientific when she was growing up and now that she has,  it’s silly to change, especially silly to notice someone who’s always been there.

Try as she might, Etta’s magic stitches aren’t working for Cora and Walt.  The stitch she put in Walt’s shirt backfired and he’s decided unrequited love can wear a guy out and he’s off looking elsewhere.  Cora is hot on the pursuit of proving her parents didn’t die accidentally.  This part of the story was too easily solved but if you look at the story as a romance then we can’t spend too much time on the mystery, can we?

Uncharacteristically for me, I did enjoy this story.  If you’re looking for something to take along on vacation or just need something light, refreshing and fun then why not let a dress choose you?