Friday, 31 July 2009

Happy Birthday Julie Ann

My best friend Julie Ann would have been 47 today. Just as last year, I decided to remember her with a cake. This year I chose a pink Maraschino cake with a cherry frosting.

The recipe is from this 1987 cookbook by Jim Fobel. It's full of wonderful family tried and true desserts.

Rotary cutter safety reminder

I thought that I would start the next sashing unit, 2 rows of flying geese. These are a really odd size so they have to be paper pieced. I was cutting squares for the corners and my rotary cutter slipped. I now have a gash across the side of my finger and through the nail. oh it bleed and it hurts, but my neighbour who is a nurse said it didn't require a stitch.

The good side is that its not serious and it could easily have been worse. Remember to give complete attention when you are operating this piece of equipment. And no, I didn't get any blood on the fabric.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Needlework Tuesday

Its hard to admit that I didn't work a stitch on the bird quilt last week. Let's just call it a vacation.

With the viewing of the latest Harry Potter movie by my daughter, she was again asking me to knit a 'Slytherin' scarf. I sewed her one previously alternating rectangles of green and of grey fleece. She wore that to the movie viewing. Now she wants the version with the broad strip alternating with the two narrow ones.

I said yes of course, though I'll be doing it 'in the round' on her little knitting machine. I can tuck the ends inside and not have to worry about working them in. At the ends I'll knot it closed with a fringe. Son has also asked for a scarf, but wants his in black and white with the odd red accent. Both should be fun and will knit up in no time on that machine.

There are lots of lovely items in the HP knitting book, though I rather doubt I will ever get to any of them. They are fun to look at, specially Mrs. Weasley's sweater with the wild sleeves.

I do intend to work on the bird quilt this week even if only to post you a photo update next Tuesday. So until then...

Monday, 27 July 2009

A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff

Her best friend has died, she's broken her engagement, and now Phoebe Swift has opened a vintage clothing shop.
Shortly before her shop opens, she is interviewed by Dan for the newspaper 'The Black & Green'. He is an interesting fellow, though Phoebe notes that he has a rather poor sense of colour for a man writing a fashion article.
While attending a textile auction she meets Miles Archant, who is bidding against her for a Madame Gres dress.
A fourth major character to enter the story is Therese Bell, a 79 year old French woman, from Avignon, who calls Phoebe to sell her some of her own vintage clothing.
These 4 characters: Phoebe, Dan, Miles and Mrs. Bell form the basis of the story. I loved learning their personal histories, particularly that of Mrs. Bell and her little blue coat.
Dan's odd sense of colour endeared him to me further. To me it spoke wonderful volumes about his honesty and goodness. Each time Phoebe went to visit Mrs. Bell, I wanted to run and make tea and hug the book to me so that I could feel as though I was part of their conversation. Having lost my best friend a while back, I desperately wanted something good to come from their friendship.
I loved this book. Phoebe's loss of Emma was heart rending, but her finding solace in her new business and new friends rang true with me as was her continuing avoidance of her ex-fiance Guy. Isabel Wolff has written a lovely book that will appeal to a wide range of women and their best friends.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks

" Music, uniquely among the arts, is both completely abstract and profoundly emotional. It has no power to represent anything particular or external, but it has a unique power to express inner states or feelings. Music can pierce the heart makes one experience pain and grief more intensely, it brings solace and consolation at the same time."

Almost all of us listen to and enjoy some sort of music, but we do not all experience it the same or interpret what we hear in the same way. Dr. Sacks considers many of the varied ways in which people hear music. I was fascinated to learn that there really are people who do not hear music, called amusia. To them it is noise similar to the banging of pots and pans.

Musicality or musical sensibilities vary from person to person. There are people who are highly talented with their music and seem born to perform. Then there are people who can't carry a tune in a bucket. Of course most of us fall somewhere in between. This section included a discussion of perfect pitch and its impact.

Much of the information in this book is presented as case studies of various clients Dr. Sacks has met with. As a Neurologist he has provided very understandable explanations of the impact of music on the brain. He looks at blindness, amnesia, aphasia (speechlessness), Tourette's Syndrome, Parkinson's and more.

This is a very readable book. Case studies are presented in all sections and they clearly illustrate the impact of music regarding each ailment/injury. I was most interested in the the musical retention by people with severe amnesia and certain types of dementia. It was amazing to read about people who had lost so much of their contact with the world and to see them come alive and interactive with their music.

I'm not a musician or singer myself, but I do enjoy listening to a variety of musics and have tried to play several instruments, but alas, I can't carry a tune and I just don't get it when it comes to playing. I don't really have the feel for the music. Yes, I've had the lessons and understand the techniques, but its not there for me. I can sing and even stay in tune if I stand next to a strong singer, but you really don't want me to solo. Even with this pedigree, I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it if you have any interest in music or in how the brain works.

Website for Dr. Oliver Sacks

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

I listened to this book on audio over the course of 3 weeks while driving my children on various outings. I am working for memories as I couldn't very well make notes while driving.
At the onset of the story, our narrator is horrifically injured and burnt in an automobile accident. He was drunk and high and thought he was doing a superb job of his driving. He wakes in the hospital approximately 2 months later.
This introduction to the story left me feeling blank. I had empathy for the narrator, yes they are truly awful injuries, but no sympathy as it was through his own mis-adventure that he was injured. I was hoping that the plot would pick up other wise I was going to erase the file and find something better to read.
Then we met the mysterious and un-predictable Marianne Engle. I loved her from the first moment. Sitting in a hospital bed for hours and days on end, I would want almost anyone to walk in. Right from that first visit I knew that Marianne would be different and enjoyable. I loved the various stories that she told the narrator (we never do learn his name???). While she told stories of different people with different names, I got the feeling that we were really hearing the same story being retold generation after generation. I felt that these were the lives that Marianne had travelled through and touched as she was trying to right some 'karmic' wrong.
I could picture her lost in her work of carving while the narrator wandered the rooms of her house up above. I for one could not tell when she crossed from her artistic passion into her manic mode. Perhaps it would be when she could not be roused from her work even for food or for caring for her precious dog.
Would a person such as Marianne really be able to affect such profound changes of outlook and perspective in such a person as the narrator? He had lead such a debauched life prior to his accident that it was doubtful that he could reform. It was those stories. At first he only listened to them to humour Marianne, after all he couldn't protect himself should she become violent. Then he started to look forward to them and finally he asked to be told more. Myself, I wanted the rest of the current time story to go away and just tell me the 'stories', I needed to know what happened in the past. By telling these stories Marianne was able to help heal her demons as well as those of the narrator.
I was hooked on this book from the point where Marianne entered and didn't want to turn it off. I am glad I stuck with it and will gladly suggest it to my fellow readers.
PS. I loved the way the narrator kept referring to Marianne by her full name. I found that endearing.
This is my 2nd book for the 3rd Canadian Book Challenge.
Thanks to Random House for the cover picture.

Needlework Tuesday on Wednesday

In the winter my daughter started a scarf using the smallest of the circular 'Nifty Knitter' looms. She is using one strand of Fun Fur Prints by Lion Brand Yarn and one strand of Heirloom Sport Weight by Mary Maxim. I noted that it had been sitting untouched for ages so I picked it up the other day and started in on it. It works up very quickly and I find it quite relaxing to do while watching TV. At present I am on the 4th ball of the Fun Fur and the scarf is over 5 feet long. Still have a 5th ball, though don't know if we'll use that.

As you can see in the second picture, I have finished the birdhouse blocks. Each one measures 3 inches finished. The pattern showed all the houses of the same fabric, though I found that a bit boring, so I used bits left over from the blocks and from my stash. Much more interesting in my opinion.

I thought I was finished with this one when I realized that there is some applique required. Will keep you in suspense...

I haven't decided which block to work on next. I am still working on the embroidery and holly berries for the 'Cardinal' block.

I have to admit that I am finding it hard to sew these days. I have stacks of books that are calling to me and I really do want to bury myself in them for hours at a time. I am having to contend myself with listening to "The Three Musketeers" by Alexandre Dumas.. Being a fencer, I am loving the book, specially the duals. I would get in heck from my coach if I ran someone through with my sword, but here I can enjoy it vicariously.

I am also reading "Musicophilia" by Oliver Sacks. Am in the final chapters. It is an excellent book as it delves into all sorts of musical phenomena. such as those earworms (when you have a song that keeps running through your head). Should have a review for you within the next week.

bye for now.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Dead Until Dark: a Sookie Stackhouse Novel by Charlaine Harris

I've finished my first novel for this challenge. Borrowed it from the library.

Sookie is a waitress in a bar in a small town in Louisiana. Not much happens there, that is until Bill, a vampire, arrives in town. Sookie is attracted to him immediately. She can't read him, can't get any vibes off him and for her, that's amazing, you see, Sookie can read minds and always has been able to.

I don't know how a vampire who is almost 140 years old can walk into a deadly trap, but Bill does just that and Sookie is compelled to come to his rescue. It was at this point that I became hooked on this book. Between Sookie, her brother Jason, Bill, and her boss Sam, we are provided with a wonderful set of characters that promise to take us through many odd adventures and crisis. I can't wait to read more. In fact I have asked my hubby to buy me the 7 part boxed set. Daughter has already said that she is claiming them after I'm finished.
I am left wondering whether Sookie's wonderful grandmother will show up in future books as a ghost? Anything is possible when considering the talents of the above mentioned characters.
I thought that human society could be tough to figure out at times, but Vampire society seems much more complicated. I didn't imagine that they would have conferences and committees and all such. Who knew.
It's not too late to join in this fun reading challenge. You can visit Beth Fish Reads and sign up for the Sookie Stackhouse Challenge.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lional Shriver

HarperCollins is offering the full text of this novel free online via their Browse Inside Feature for the next month. I have decided to give it a try . I am on page 33 and so far so good. Other members of the HarperCollins group on Facebook are also reading it.
Thanks to HarperCollins for the photo.

Dragon Seer by Janet McNaughton

14 year old Madoca has travelled with her Master's family to the yearly Gathering on West Mainland Island in the Scottish Orkneys. Tonight the dragons will chose a new Dragon Seer. Madoca hopes it is Annoc, her Master's daughter, but in a twist of fate, she is chosen. Her life changes from that day and in a few short months it becomes clear that the very fate of the Dragons and that of her people is held in her capable hands.
I was captured into this story from the first pages. I could imagine the flight of the Dragons and the hush that must have fallen over the crowd when the choosing of the new Dragon Seer was happening. Even now, I can imagine the mist lifting from between the standing stones as the morning sun began to burn through. I didn't develop a detailed picture of the dragons, but more of an impression of what it would feel like to be in their presence and to be communicating with them.
I enjoyed the contrasts of the two older Dragon Seers. Eenna had a motherly comfort and wisdom which made Madoca feel at home from the first day. Nechtan, being a man had the physical presence that made the various leaders want to look to him for advice. Turns out that the differences of the three Dragon Seers became an asset for them in dealing with the demands of their future.
The Dragons were at a critical point. There were no longer enough genetic diversity for them to perpetuate their species. They knew this as did the Dragon Seers. Madoca's solution was drastic, but necessary. She was 15 by this point in the story but had matured enough to realize that she didn't have any other choice. Another character who had to grow was Annoc. We don't hear about her for the better part of a year, but when we met her again she has changed and in many good ways. So even the most spoiled of brats can learn and grow.
While this is a teen novel, there is enough development of the main characters to keep an adult enthused and reading. With magic and Dragons, this book is sure to be a hit with the young teen crowd.
1st selection for the 3rd Canadian Book Challenge

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Needlework Tuesday on Wednesday

I am very happy. I managed to keep to my stitching last week and did at least a little bit each day. I have most of the holly leaves stitched down, with the exception of the ones that overlap to the neighbouring block. Next will be to embroider the vein on each leaf and then I think there are 18 holly berries to stitch on.

I asked my daughter which boarder to start on next and she picked the bird houses. There are 12 to do and they will go on two sides of the hummingbird block . There are two types of holes in the bird house. One is square and the other is a diamond. The diamond is much more fiddly. I has 4 extra pieces (square in a square technique). Oh well, only 6 more to piece. These finish at 3 inches and are paper pieced. I am trying to use as many scraps from piecing the birds, but there isn't that much left over in some colours so I do have to add from my stash.

Sorry to be late this week. My son is spending part of the summer at my sister's house, so I am continually travelling back and forth to pick him up or deliver him . Its about 1hour 45 minute drive in the country. Nice route. I have been using the time alone to listen to an audio version of "The Gargoyle" by Andrew Davidson. I finished it this morning so will be posting a review of it in the next few days. Then i will get back to listening to "The Three Musketeers".

Friday, 10 July 2009

Afraid by Jack Kilborn

A helicopter has crashed near sage Haven, Wisconsin and firefighters have arrived on the scene to find the pilot and co-pilot dead. They appear to have been decapitated. The five passengers are missing and Josh and Erwin (the fire fighters) worry that they may be wandering injured in the dense forest.

I started this book late at night on June 30, and put it down firmly after reading 2 pages. I knew that this was a book I had to read in one day, that I would not be able to sleep if I wasn't finished. I awoke early the next morning and plunge ahead. I did have to take some breaks during the day to feed the family etc and celebrate Canada Day, but I did finish reading before I crept up to my bed.

Turns out that the missing passengers aren't just anybody, they are secret government 'Red Ops' personnel. These are the most nasty of people that you never want to meet. But what are they doing in Safe Haven?

This book is scary and its clearly meant to be. I didn't run and grab my comfort blanket or a cuddly, but I knew that my dog with nearby and that hubby would be home at some wee hour after his fireworks show. I didn't want to put this down. I had to know how a soon to be retired Sheriff Arnold Streng was going to stop these killers. And how did waitress Fran Stauffer and her son Duncan fit into all of this? And more to the point, who is Warren?

This was edge of the seat reading. The events and their descriptions were just one word away from being terrifying. I can't tell you anything else without revealing more of the plot. I can only warn you to be sure to read it in a safe location and definitely not on a stormy night.

Jack Kilborn is a pen name for JA Konrath author of the Lt. Jack Daniels thrillers. Be sure to visit his website for a peek at his free novella "Serial" written with Blake Crouch.

Read Marie's review at Daisy's Book Journal

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Map Addict: A Tale of Obsession, Fudge & the Ordnance Survey by Mike Parker

This book had me excited as soon as I laid eyes on the cover. Orange contour lines sketched on the surface of the hills, topographic symbols appropriately scattered, just a promise of what the book held inside.

Having studied mapping at university and having worked at several mapping positions I felt I was fated to read this book. I don't sit with a dictionary at my side when reading, rather I have my favourite atlas at hand, and a larger scale one nearby should that level of detail be needed.

It was quickly obvious that the author knows and loves maps. His early experiences with the British Ordnance Surveys maps and the Paris "Little Red Book: only whet his appetite for further explorations. I loved his story of when he is 12 and of finding a unique feature on a map and pestering his uncle to take him to see the location in real life. It's the Stott Hall Farm where the M62 veers around both sides of the farm.

Mr. Parker shares quite a bit of British map history including that of John Bartholomew who was the first to add shading to represent elevation or depth, Henry Beck for his map of the London Underground (which was simplified to provide only the required details) as well as Alfred Wainwright who is re known for his maps of the Lake District. The greatest amount of attention is given to the Ordnance Survey maps. While they were originally made for the military, they appear to have become the favourite for anyone wanting to find their way around Britain. I wish that Mr. Parker had included part of one of these maps within the book as I have never seen one and being on the other side of the ocean, its not likely I'll come across one, so much of what he was referring to I'll have to take on faith. You can visit the Ordnance Survey website for further details.

I enjoyed the discussion of how maps have been used through history as political tools. since they are but a representation of reality, they can be modified to show what ever is needed or to hide what you don't want to show, such as military installations, safe harbours etc. The influence of Religion on mapping has been apparent with Jerusalem appearing at the centre of some of the earliest maps.

I didn't really understand the section that talked about women and maps. Who is it that thinks women don't understand maps? The majority of the students in my university level mapping courses were women, they sure knew what they were talking about. I worked with lots of women in my mapping jobs, several of which were my bosses.

One of the final topics covered is the future of mapping. Will paper maps survive the onslaught of the GPS unit. As Mr. Parker points out, satellite navigation does have its limits, but as I have found out, you can go to a distant country, pull your GPS out of your luggage, turn it on and away you go. My family travelled around New Zealand for 10 days using our GPS and a small paper map (and driving on the wrong side of the road) and rarely had to make any directional corrections.

I knew from the start that I was going to enjoy this book and I was not mistaken. It was a fun but also informative read. There was new information for me as well as interesting stories. I'll be putting this book on the shelf beside my favourite atlases.

If you can't wait to get started to reading you can find "Map Addict" at the 'Browse Inside' feature on the HarperCollins website.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Needlework Tuesday

After cleaning off the dining room table last week, I decided to stay focused and only brought the bird quilt back out. I am going to try and keep to it and work on the sashing. Each block gets a unique treatment, almost like doing 12 little quilts and then butting them all together.
The chickadee was quite straight forward and I needed that to make me feel like I had accomplished something. I cut strips 1 1/4 inch wide of both the blue (which was the background from one of the other blocks) and the light (which is really 3 different mostly white/cream prints). The strips when then sewn together and re cut to 1 1/4 x 2 3/4 inch bits that were sewn together to make the two sashing units. Then I had to add a 1 inch strip of the dark mottled looking print to make the measurement for the final unit fit.
The cardinal block is next. The 3 trees and the 2 little cardinals were paper pieced using scraps from the bird blocks. The sashing to the left and to the bottom will feature holly leaves and berries. These will overlap with the neighbouring blocks. For now all you can see are their embroiders vines/branches. I have the holly leaves basted to freezer paper and have pinned them in place and am ready to start the hand applique. Will show you my progress next week.
Tomorrow I meet with my local bee for stitching and coffee. I'll update them on this project. I showed them the blocks last month and they really enjoyed them.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Summer Reading Prospects

Summer reading time. I have a bunch lined up already and expect to add more over the next few weeks. Have a Bookcrossing meeting next week and usually come home with a few.
I finished "Afraid" by Jack Kilborn yesterday and will post a review in the next few days. Also finished "Map Addict" by Mike Parker and was writing that this evening, though it needs work.
I am also listening to "The Gargoyle" by Andrew Davidson.
I did view a Nova program the other evening that looked at the Musicophilia book by Oliver Sacks and I realized that I had read his earlier book "Island of the Colourblind" and had really enjoyed it.
Be sure to check back for my progress on this stack of books. Let me know what you're planning to read this summer as I am always curious to learn what others are reading.