Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Gentle Art of Quiltmaking

Imagine my delight yesterday when, after a morning spent shopping for groceries, I returned home to find Jane Brocket's newest book, The Gentle Art of Quiltmaking in a box on my back porch. Thank you, Mr. UPS-Man and Amazon!

Like The Gentle Art of Domesticity, this book is filled with gorgeous pictures and lots of encouraging words and inspirational ideas (is that redundant?) I took the afternoon off from my normal wifely/mommy work to read it, but I think I won't be able to put any creative urges into action until summer comes.

I have friends who quilt beautiful works of art, and while I admire their work I know it's beyond my capabilities and my time and money limits to do what they do. But this book makes me hope that I can make quilts for my family that we will use and enjoy.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The return of the Fern Fairy

The Fern Fairy visited my front porch a few days ago and left four baskets of ferns. He even hung them up for me! I have never seen this elusive creature in action, but very year he comes and quietly beautifies the front of my house.

(Thanks, Dad!)

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

In the last week I've read three first novels by three different authors. In order of my preference: The Postmistress was good; The Help was better; but Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson, was the best.

Each of these novels is set in different times and different places, but all to some degree deal with prejudice based on ethnic background.

In Helen Simonson's novel, the setting is a present-day English village where 68-year-old Major Pettigrew lives. As the novel opens, he is mourning the death of his only brother when he begins to forge a friendship with the Pakistani woman who runs the little convenience shop. Both are widowed, both are readers, and both feel alienated by the rest of their extended families.

As the story progresses, Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali grow closer and find themselves in situations where their friendship meets with disapproval from everyone. They have to decide whether to conform to the socially acceptable standards of their peers and family members, or ignore the gossip and unkind attitudes and be true to each other.

I'll be waiting impatiently for Ms. Simonson's next book.


Little Orphant Annie

Sam is reading a book of poetry now and sharing his favorites with the rest of us each day. His favorite poem of all is James Whitcomb Riley's poem, "Little Orphant Annie." He rereads it every day. I'm not surprised - all of my children have loved this poem, and I can't tell how many times I've read it to them all.

Little Orphant Annie

Little Orphant Annie's come to our house to stay,
An' wash the cups an' saucers up, an' brush the crumbs away,
An' shoo the chickens off the porch, an' dust the hearth, an'
An' make the fire, an' bake the bread, an' earn her board-
An' all us other childern, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an' has the mostest fun,
A-listenin' to the witch-tales 'at Annie tells about,
An' the Gobble-uns 'at gits you
Ef you

Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn't say his prayers, -
An' when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an' his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An' when they turn't the kivvers down, he wuzn't there at
An' they seeked him in the rafter-room, an' cubby-hole, an'
An seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an' ever'-wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an' roundabout: -
An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you

An' one time a little girl 'ud allus laugh an' grin,
An' make fun of ever' one, an' all her blood-an'-kin;
An' wunst, when they was "company," an' ole folks wuz there,
She mocked 'em an' shocked 'em, an' said she didn't care!
An' thist as she kicked her heels, an' turn't to run an'
They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin' by her side,
An' they snatched her through the ceilin' 'for she knowed
what she's about!
An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you

An' little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
An' the lamp-wick sputters, an' the wind goes woo-oo!
An' you hear the crickets quit, an' the moon is gray,
An' the lightnin'bugs in dew is all squenched away, -
You better mind yer parunts, an' yer teachurs fond an' dear,
An' cherish them 'at loves you, an' dry the orphant's tear,
An' he'p the pore an' needy ones 'at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you


Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Help

There was so much hype about The Help for so long and in so many places that I thought it couldn't possibly live up to all that was said about it.

But a several women in the book club and a friend (who reads a lot and reads good books) recommended it. So I put my name on the request list at the library.

And I waited.

Earlier this week my turn for the book arrived and I started reading it. The story was good! I found myself carrying the book around with me so I could read it whenever a had a free minute. I even read it in the car (while Steve was driving) - and I rarely read in the car.

Kathryn Stockett has written a very good book - her first novel - and I'm glad I read it. It did live up to all the hype.

(Dana read and reviewed The Help. Her review tells more about the content of the book, and she compares the characters and the story to her own experiences. )


Getting organized

My corner of the playroom is slowly coming together. I hope to be organized and ready to spend lots of time there when we finish with school.

The playroom is upstairs, but I spent most of the day downstairs, so I'm trying to be realistic about what to put up there. I'd like to put a table for cutting fabric and an ironing board and iron there, but that may have to wait until someone else moves out, and I'm in no hurry for that to happen!

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

May/June socks

No, I have not yet finished the other Southwest Diamonds sock for April. However, I have grown a little tired of it and wanted something new and different. I asked Marley to grab another skein out of the sock yarn pillowcase and the one she got was Harry Potter yarn by Opal in the "Tonks" colorway. My planned pattern for that yarn was just a basic stockinette sock.

It's not an exciting knit, but the colors are pretty!

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Practical pieces

Last week I took several bags of clothing and miscellaneous items to the thrift store. After I dropped off the donations I decided to look for plates and napkins.

There was one plate I liked for everyday use, and half-a-dozen linen napkins we'll also use daily.

Bonus finds were a lap-sized afghan, a small tin of cookie/pastry cutters, and a full set of measuring spoons, which were desperately needed since several of ours have gone through the disposal and are no longer usable.

All practical, in constant use (except for the cookie cutters), and my total cost was $6.50.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Mornings on Horseback

About fifteen years ago I got on a Theodore Roosevelt kick and read several biographies of him and about his wives and children. Somehow I missed David McCullough's book, Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life, and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt. I'm so glad Sherry at Semicolon recommended it as the March Book Club selection.

The subtitle tells it all, but the most appealing element of this book to me was the portrayal/biography of the family from which Theodore Roosevelt came. It's easy to forget that one's family plays an important role in shaping one - and David McCullough does an excellent job of showing how T.R.'s parents, siblings, and extended family helped to make him who he became.

I loved it.


The Postmistress

I was so excited when the library called and told me they had Sarah Blake's book, The Postmistress, on hold for me. I immediately walked over and got it and started reading it.

It was a good read, but not what I was expecting. Of course, I hadn't really read much about the book - just enough to know that it sounded interesting.

And it was interesting. The story was about three women: a young newly-wed doctor's wife; a "Postmistress" (who tells another character that she is the "Postmaster" because the United States Post Office does not have Postmistresses, only Postmasters, and seldom in the book is referred to as anything other than the "Postmaster"); and a radio journalist. The novel takes place in Massachusetts and in England and Europe over the period of about a year at the beginning of World War II, but before the U.S. was involved.

I liked it, and thought it a very good first novel, but I wished the author had made more of the story of the doctor's wife and the Postmaster/Postmistress than she did. The interview of Sarah Blake by Kathryn Stockett on the Amazon page explains a lot.

Still, I'll be looking forward to reading the next book Sarah Blake writes.


The last squares

All the purple, blue, and green squares for Tom's Trip Around the World blanket are finished. Now I have to knit the black squares. I've been dreading this part. Maybe I'll knit these very quickly, because they aren't colorful...

One can always hope.

It will be nice to finish this project and move to a different one.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Using up leftovers

Most of my potholders and hot pads are tattered, frayed, and burnt. Thankfully, I had lots of yarn bits left over from my recent bib-knitting binge, so last night I crocheted two potholders. I'd like a few more, but I'm willing to wait for more leftovers.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

March sock

Here is one finished sock - the sock for March. The mate is to be completed in April. But I have not yet cast it on the needles. Too many other projects to work on right now.

This is the Southwest Diamonds pattern, but I knit it cuff down instead of toe up. The pattern is lovely, and the designer continued the diamonds down the foot, but I decided to knit the foot in plain stockinette, as I know I will be wearing these socks with clogs and the pattern on the foot won't show.

I love those Noro sock yarn colors! (I am using color #180.)

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Yellow thrift

Someone at the thrift store must enjoy grouping dishes by color, because these pieces were together on a shelf, even though they are not a set. The white and yellow cup is from Japan, while the two solid yellow cups are from the USA. The little cream pitcher might be from the same maker as the yellow cups, but maybe not.

At any rate, they look nice with the yellow teapot I found at the antique store a few months ago.

And the tatted doily they're sitting on will look nice on a tea tray.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Baby shower gift

Once in a while I have a good idea.

While I did knit a few bibs for my niece's baby, I wanted to give her something else that would last longer and be useful for more than a year or two. I also wanted it to be from the entire family, and not from just me.

Knowing that my niece is a reader, and that she is very sentimental, I decided that we would give books to her baby. That way, both she and her husband could enjoy reading to the baby and the books would possibly be read for years. (I still have books I received when I was an infant and toddler.)

Each family member bought one or two books that were favorites. Then each person wrote inside the front cover a short note to the baby telling why that book was a favorite.

I hope the parents and baby enjoy the gifts. We had so much fun together as a family selecting books and talking about what to write to this little cousin/great-niece that I think it's an idea we'll use again when we have another family member baby on the way.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Best Baby Bib o' Love

This is the best Baby Bib o' Love ever. Do you know why? Because it's an Auburn Baby Bib o' Love! Knit in orange and blue, my niece's baby will be ready for Saturdays on the Plains in this bib.


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Friday, April 09, 2010

Seldom Disappointed

Seldom Disappointed is Tony Hillerman's memoir/autobiography.

I kind of fell into this book by accident. This autumn, Lord willing, I hope to go to New Mexico with Penny for a few days. We're looking forward to checking out the Taos Wool Festival, and doing a bit of sightseeing in several other locations. In order to get myself ready for New Mexico, I've been reading a few books to get me "in the mood."

A few months ago I reread Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. I also read a cookbook - The Feast of Santa Fe by Huntley Dent. Then I remembered Tony Hillerman's mysteries, and checked out Skeleton Man from the library. It was a reread, and I enjoyed it this second time around, enough so to check out a couple more of his books, and to request his memoirs through PaperBackSwap.

I really liked this book. Hillerman seems to have been a very amiable man. His childhood memories of growing up in Oklahoma during the Depression were realistic, but kind. His family was poor, but they did what they could, and always looked to help others even worse off than they were. His father died before Tony finished high school, and by then World War II was in progress. Tony enlisted in the army and served in Europe. His wartime memories made up a good portion of the book. After he got home, he married, and he and his wife had a baby girl. As time passed and they became aware that they were not going to have any more children, he and his wife adopted five other children.

He worked as a journalist, and that's when he began saving scraps of memories for his later books. People, places, events - all were collected in his mind as he covered various stories for the newspaper. The last third of the book tells how those memories worked their way out into novels, biographies, non-fiction, and his Indian mysteries.

Hillerman was funny, descriptive, and grateful. No whining in this book. He sums it all up like this:

"...a final summary look at my seventy-five years is required.

They've been far better than anyone deserves, two thirds of them brightened with Marie, who rarely saw a disaster in which she couldn't find something funny, and a lot of them made tense, nerve-wracking, interesting, and joyful by the bringing up of six children. My three fourths of a century has been notable for fortunate outcomes and rare disappointments.

There are two primary reasons for this. First, Mama and Papa sent us out into life knowing it was just a short run toward that Last Great Adventure, and understanding the Gospels Jesus used to teach us were the road map to make getting there a happy trip. That covers the first years. The last fifty-two years have been filled with love, joy, and laughter by a wonderful wife, partner, and help-mate named Marie."

Tony Hillerman died in 2008 at the age of 83.


Six bibs for six days' worth of meals

One of my nieces is having a baby next month. I am giving her these six bibs - one each for Sunday through Friday. She'll like the fact that the bibs have buttons that once belonged to her great-grandmother. There is one more bib - a very special one - for Saturday.

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Sock yarn in place

Yesterday I moved all my sock yarn out of the plastic bins and into the cabinet I got from the antique store. It's so nice to be able to see what colors I have instead of having to dig for them!

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

My corner

With the economy like it is, and our large family in various stages of growth and personal development, I have realized that it is best NOT to renovate the old servants' quarters for my sewing and fiber crafts. Someday we will probably finish that space, but for now and the foreseeable future it will remain our storage shed.

In the meantime, another child moved out and the remaining four reshuffled rooms. Marley told me I should move all my yarn, spinning wheel, sewing machine, etc. into the empty bedroom, but David decided it would be perfect for him. So I'm moving a few items into a corner of the playroom and I think I'll be quite happy there.


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Pink thrift

The thrift store had a few pink items I couldn't pass up. The plate joins our other mismatched plates for everyday use. The tea cup and saucer go in the hutch with the other tea cups to be used when I make a pot of tea. The Steubenville bowl in the Fairlane pattern will be for me to use upstairs in my corner of the playroom.

And the unfinished crocheted runner? I haven't decided where it will be used - possibly on our dining room table. It's a very long runner and I like it a lot.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Bowie got a haircut

Bowie had his last bath and shave back in October. His fur gets so long and so hot, he needs it cut three to four times a year.

Now he's clean and shorn and ready to enjoy this warm weather!


Monday, April 05, 2010

Green squares - nearly done

The green squares for Tom's blanket are almost all finished. I have five more to make, then I'll be knitting black squares. As you can see, my greens run the gamut from yellow-green to blue-green, with a few green-green in between.

And I have a lot of mixed green because I had a lot of green Noro Kureyon leftover bits.

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Blue and brown bibs for baby boy

The baby boy whose nursery is decorated in blue and brown will get bibs to go with his blue and brown blanket.

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Friday, April 02, 2010

Towers in the Mist

Elizabeth Goudge's novel, Towers in the Mist, is a sort of historical fiction depicting a place, rather than a person. The place is Oxford, and the time is the Renaissance - during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. This book was one I chose for my reading list for 2010.

The main characters are the Leigh family: Canon Gervais Leigh, his elderly aunt, and the eight Leigh children. The events that take place in the life of the family during a year carry the story and the description of Oxford, but appearances by poets of the time (Philip Sydney, Fulke Greville, and Walter Raleigh) are dexterously woven into the main story, and a stanza or a few lines of poetry mark the beginning of each chapter. Poets whose poems are represented include Thomas Campion, Philip Sydney, Thomas Nashe, Walter Raleigh, Thomas Churchyard, Edmund Spencer, and Robert Southwell.

It was a pleasant book, and was well-written, as so many of Elizabeth Goudge's books are. However, it is not one I'll ever reread, although the poetry did get me ready for National Poetry Month and the 100 classic poems survey at Semicolon.

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Kitchen Essays

I bought Kitchen Essays by Agnes Jekyll because I liked the title. The essays were originally printed in The Times from 1921 to 1922, and have many references to post-war (WWI) life as it impacts food.

Lady Jekyll has a friendly and approachable attitude in this book. I loved her comments and small anecdotes, as well as the quotes from classic writers. The recipes, while somewhat dated and sometimes using ingredients and measures that are very British (and therefore might be difficult to reproduce in my home in Alabama), are still delicious to read. I do plan to try a few.

Here is a recipe I like from the chapter, For Men Only:

Clear Tomato Soup

Cut in slices 1 lb. fresh tomatoes, and put into enough ordinary clear soup for, say, six people; simmer gently for 1 hour, strain through a clean cloth, re-boil, and serve with fried croutons, about two-shilling-piece size, piled with stiffly whipped cream, one to each person on a separate plate. The cream softens the acidity of the tomatoes and greatly improves the flavour.

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Time for iced tea

Yesterday the temperature climbed up to 80! Sam and I walked to the post office, then to the antique store. We saw these glasses and thought they'd be great for iced tea. We bought them and carefully carried them home, then I made a pitcher of sweet tea for the children and a pitcher of unsweetened tea with fresh mint for me.

Warm spring days are finally here!

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Stuck in the 19th century

Alas! We cannot get phone jacks upstairs! The telephone company would have to run the line on the outside of the house, leaving it to the mercy of foul weather, birds and other creatures, and - as the friendly, helpful, local employee of the phone company pointed out - making the front of the house (and the back) look ugly.

Okay. So now we are back where we started. The upside is that the second floor will remain blessedly quiet.

And if anyone REALLY needs to talk to us, I suppose they'll "leave a message at the tone."


Land lines

I know that telephones are rapidly becoming anachronisms in this day of cell phones and other types of communication. Three of our grown children prefer to rely on cellphones and do not have telephones in their homes.

When our house was built in 1876, I'm sure it did not have a telephone. Later they probably had one - and only one. When the downstairs was remodeled in 2000 they added several more phone jacks downstairs, but there were none upstairs. If the telephone rings and you're upstairs, you can forget about answering it in time.

Tomorrow the phone company will install two telephone jacks upstairs: one on the landing at the front of the house, and one in the current playroom at the back of the house. This will bring us up to the 20th century in terms of convenience!

The 21st century will have to wait.