Thursday, 28 February 2013

Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru

There are many places around the world that people consider special.  Some are visual, such as Niagara Falls.  Others have been build by man, including the great pyramids of Egypt.  And then there are places of power, Stonehenge being the one that leaps first to my mind.  According to this work of fiction, there is one such place found in the Mojave Desert known as the Three Pinnacles. Author Hari Kunzru begins Gods without Men by relating some of the events that have been occurring in that vicinity for centuries. 

Lisa and Jaz Matharu and their young autistic son Raj, are drawn there at the same time as British punk musician and singer, Nicky.  When Raj disappears, the three adults lives are pulled together in a parent's worst nightmare.

This is not the first strange occurrence or disappearance in the area.  There are written records of such events that stretch back at least 200 years, and the local Indian tribes have stories, perhaps myths that reach even further back.

Much time is spent detailing these past events.  While they were interesting, I kept feeling as though they were keeping me from the real story, the story of Raj.  I wanted Mr. Kunzru to just get on with it and tell me about that little boy.

We learn very quickly that this is a special place, but that it means different things to different people.  Some view it as a religious place, for others has an 'other worldly' pull and for others yet, it is just an excuse to 'drop out' and do as they please.

It was an entertaining read, particularly the parts about the Matharu family and how they dealt with the situation, but the ending left me confused, as though I missed the bigger part of the story.  I'm not disappointed that I read it, though a little less ambiguous ending would have pleased me.

Thanks to Random House Canada for use of the cover image.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Needlework Tuesday - Birds of a Feather are in Flight

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where  I share my progress and thoughts on my current needlework projects.  Readers are invited to leave a comment with a link to a recent needlework post.  I find it most encouraging and inspiring to share with you and to read about your projects.
After several years of intermittent work, I am finally able to share with you the finished bird quilt top.  I have name the quilt "Birds of a Feather".  It was a block of the month program, titled Exquisite Birds,  from a now closed shop, Jillybean's Pride located in Oakville, Ontario.    The individual bird patterns are by designer Brenda Groelz of Gray Wind Publishing.
Canada Goose



As you can imagine, I am thrilled to finish this quilt.  It measures 61 1/2 inches wide by 76 inches long.  I am not doing the quilting, but I will send it along to my friend's mom, with pieced backing, binding all cut and pressed, a hanging sleeve, quilt label with space for the quilter's name and a matching pillowcase for storage.  I have also completed a quilt identification form for my records.
Thanks for all the encouragement I received while working on this quilt.  It is not my usual undertaking, though I will admit that I did learn while working on it. 
A long time friend of mine has just started quilting.  When she was visiting recently, I went to show her the labels on a few of my quilts, and oops, the first two quilts I pulled out didn't have labels.  Before I move on to another project, I will be adding labels to them and ensuring that I have documented them.  Years ago I found a documentation form from the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum.  I can no longer find the file on their website, thus I keep photocopying the one I have.  To each form I attach at least one photograph of my quilt.  Sadly, I haven't managed to document every quilt, though as I find gaps, I complete a form at that time.   There is a good article and link to a form at Lost Quilt Come Home.
Do you document your quilts?
Rikki over at Rikki's Teleidoscope has finished a lovely crocheted  tote/shopping bag.
Tami at Just One More Thing has already finished a project for Christmas 2013.  Way to go Tami.

Friday, 22 February 2013

First Nations Friday - The Shadows that Rush Past by Rachel A. Qitsualik

First Nations Friday is an occasional post that features books by Aboriginal authors.

Mythology plays a large role in many cultures around the world, it is no different with the Inuit of Canada.

 In this book, author Rachel A. Qilsualik tells the story of four mythological creatures: Amautalik, Akhla, Nanurluk and Mahaha.  Each of these creatures is big and scary, some more human in appearance and some more animal.  Each is a threat to the neighbouring Inuit who must find a way to escape the threat to them or to defeat the beast.

These stories were totally unique to me.  They were not a typical 'feel good' tale where the strong man of the village goes out and easily slays the monster.  It took cunning and intelligence to be victorious.

The art work by Larry MacDougall and Emily Fiegenschuh brought these tales to life.  I spent as much time looking at the art work as I did reading the stories. 

While I did enjoy these tales, I do think I would have enjoyed them more had I read them with a child.  A child who would have asked questions and made guesses about the nature of the creatures an how they would have defeated the beast. 

This would appeal most to children ages 8-12. 

This book is a nominee in the 2013 Ontario Library Association,  Forest of Reading program at the Silver Birch Non-fiction level.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Tiny Sunbirds Far Away by Christie Watson

I was looking for something a little different  to read when I picked up Tiny Sunbirds Far Away by Christie Watson.  A coming of age story of a12 year old girl is nothing new, but when it is happening in far away Nigeria, to a girl who is ripped from the comfortable Christian city life she knows and is thrust into a rural Muslim compound with almost two dozen people she doesn't know, that is new.  Blessing thought her life was almost perfect, she adored her father and brother, loved her apartment, her school and her life in general.  She even liked Zafi, the one eyed, one footed driver of the family car. 

Every thing is new in Warri.  Blessing doesn't know her grandparents, nor does she understand why there are none of the physical comforts that she is used to, even the food is different.  She is worried all the time about her brother Ezikiel with his peanut allergy and his asthma. 

One aspect of her new life that she is drawn to, are the stories her grandmother tells.  When she tells a story, all the children in the compound along with their mothers, gather round and listen.  This is when grandmother entertains but also educates her charges.  As the weeks pass, Blessing has many questions for her grandmother, but she has to wait until grandmother feels the time is right for them to be told.   She uses this same approach, using stories to introduce Blessing to her future career as a midwife.  Grandmother has been a birth attendant for decades and had been waiting for the right girl to come along to be trained.

I enjoyed watching as the group of strangers became a close family.  Soon after Blessing and her mother and brother arrived, grandfather decided that he needed a second wife, one who could give him a son.  The new wife, Celestine, was equally an outsider to this family.  It was a touching moment when I realized that grandmother had accepted her as a sister.

I was frustrated by the story line of the oil companies in Nigeria.  Not that I felt it was  a poor choice of plot line, rather that it is such a huge injustice to the people of the country, and as a reader I felt helpless. 

I read an ebook version of this novel.  At times, the story seemed to jump from place to place or leap in time.  I don't know if it was due to the electronic format.  One moment I'm reading about one thing, and then in the next paragraph I was reading something at a much later time frame about some unrelated event.  I don't know if the paper version had an extra space between those paragraphs or some other means of indicating a change in time or setting.  Yes, it was a bit unsettling, but I got used to it after a while and it didn't much interfere with my enjoyment of the story.

website of Author Christie Watson

419 by Will Ferguson also touches on the issues of the oil companies in Nigeria.

Thanks to Stu at the blog Winston's Dad for directing me toward this book.

Thanks to for use of the cover image.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Needlework Tuesday - Six Birds in Flight

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress or hopes for the needlework projects that I am currently working on. I invite my readers to leave a comment with a link to a post of their current projects. I find this a great way to encourage each other.

In Ontario, yesterday we celebrated Family Day.  Two sets of friends joined us.  One I have known over forty years and the other for at least 35 years.  They have both been considered family for many years (decades really).

Earlier in the week, the members of my quilting bee visited, and I surprised them with a small projects.  They all made tea wallets.  That certainly was a hive of activity. 

Before I get to my progress on the bird quilt, I have a few winners to announce.

In celebration of International Book Giving Day, I decided to give away a copy of Blueberry Rapids by Rene Andre Meshake. 
Using, the winner is Petty Witter from Pen and Paper

The final contest from my 1000th post celebration was two fabric postcards.

The winner of the embroidered card, made by my mother . Well, the first winner selected didn't leave a means of me to contact her, so I had it/them select another.
The winner is Roslyn of Ros-The-Quilter.

Winner of the piece post card, yet to be made by me, is Kate of Arts and Socks.

Work progresses well on the bird quilt. I can now see the light at the end of this very long tunnel.  The first four blocks are together.  This is the upper right corner.

Close-up of  the intersection of these four blocks and the overlapping applique.

The next step was easy as the first two blocks were ready to be added to the left of the four.  This is the top half of the quilt.  Much of the sashing for the bottom half was previously completed, hoping to get the rest finished this week for a big unveil next Tuesday.
One of my visitors yesterday, is the son of the owner of the quilt.  He said that she is quite excited that this will soon be finished.  He hadn't expected it to be so large, but that's not a problem.  I had told him the dimensions, but it's not always easy to visualize size, especially when you don't happen to know the dimensions of various mattress sizes off the top of your head.
Thanks to all for sticking with me and encouraging me through this project.  It had been hard to work on this quilt.  Each time I pick it up, it makes me think of my friend, daughter of the owner, who had asked me to finish it long before she passed away. I will rest easier knowing I have honoured her request.

Friday, 15 February 2013

A Valentines Quilt

These blocks were pieced for a charity request.
 The patterns were all free on the internet, though I no longer have the links.
These were made by special request for some one named Michelle.
I believe it was for a lady who was in need of comfort.  Pattern was supplied to me.

In 2007 I took an applique class at my local quilt shop.  Each month we learned a new applique technique.  Around each block, I used a marker and wrote details of the technique so that I could refer back to it at a later date.
I submitted this quilt for Show and Tell at Quilting Gallery.  This week's theme is "Hearts a Flutter".  If you wish, please visit their site and view the 34 quilts on display.  You have the option of voting for your four favourites and then scroll to the bottom of the page and leave a comment to be entered to win a prize for yourself. I would appreciate if you vote for me, but don't feel that you have to, I would much prefer that you vote for the quilts you love most.
Voting open till 12pm Monday February 18, 2013.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

International Book Giving Day Giveaway

February 14 is International Book Giving Day. 

I am giving away one copy of Blueberry Rapids by Rene Andre Meshake.   Click the link to read my earlier review.

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment.  Open to international participants.  Contest closes first thing in the mornning February 15, 2013.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Needlework Tuesday - Fabric Post Card Giveaway

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress or hopes for the needlework projects that I am currently working on.  I invite my readers to leave a comment with a link to a post of their current projects.  I find this a great way to encourage each other.
After I finished and pressed 'publish' on last week's post, I realized that I forgot to add the final contest for my 1000th post celebration.  Some of my readers might recall the wonderful embroidered fabric postcards that my mother makes.  She has traded them with collectors around the world and has a very sizeable collection herself.  Below are just a few that she has sent to my family.

All are approximately 4 x6 inches.  They can be sent through the postal system for the cost of a basic stamp.  My mother has donated one card to be sent to one of my readers.  I don't know what it will look like, though she says she has several ready and I can take my pick on your behalf.
To increase the odds, I am adding a second card, though my style is very different than hers.  Below are a few of my cards.

To enter, leave a comment.  Two winners, one postcard each.

A short update on the bird quilt. 
I attached the floral applique to the side of the oriole block and added another flower.

To the right of this lies the Robin block.  That bird needed feet, an eye and even a worm.  Add some sashing to the top and side.  Then to keep with the tulips that were appliqued along the oriole, some were needed here are well.
These are 3 1/2 inches each, and there really are five of them.

Will be back next week with an update.
Now for a small tease.  Started a new 'leaders and enders' project.  So far, I've done a bit of cutting and stitched a few very short rows.

Remember to leave a comment to be entered to win a fabric postcard.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Somebody is turning 50

I'm not blogging today as some one in my house is turning 50 and I have a wonderful meal and day  planned for him and his family.  Photos later.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

1000th Post Celebration - winners galore

Thank-you to all my followers and visitors for joining me to read the various posts during my 1000th post celebration.  I was fortunate to have several very generous sponsors donate a variety of prizes.

from my Dec 4, 2012 post, I was giving away 3 fabric gift bags that I made.

Winners of one bag each are:
Linda at Scrapmaster

On January 15, 2013, I talked once again about quilt designers Barbara  Haworth-Attard and Judy Ann Sadler of Babs 'n' Jas Designs.   They donated 4 very different patterns. 
winners are:

On January 26, 2013, I introduced you to the cookbook Eat Raw, Eat Well, by chef Douglas McNish. This is an innovative cookbook that makes eating raw a most tasty experience.  His  publisher, Robert Rose, donated 3 copies of their recent release, 150  best grilled cheese sandwiches by Alison Lewis.

Winners of the cookbooks are:
On January 29, 2013 I featured crochet artist Kelly Lynn Smith, my first Needlework Tuesday interview.  I am blown away by her detailed crochet sea animals. Kelly donated a copy of her newly completed pattern Wings of the Morning.
Once again, thank-you to my many visitors for encouraging me in these blogging adventures.  I am in the process of contacting the winners.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Needlework Tuesday - UFO attacks

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my current needlework projects.  The encouragement I get from my readers, in the form of comments, encourages me to keep working.  You are welcome to join in, add the cute little mouse to your needlework post and leave me a comment with the link.  I'd love to see what you're working on, and encourage you along they way.
Last week, I had a special interview with crochet artist Kelly Lynn Smith.  It was a real treat getting to know her and her amazing work, both her re-birthed dolls and her crochet designs. You still have time to enter the contest to win her sea animal pattern booklet. Will end February 5, 2013 when I'm enjoying my morning coffee.

Two weeks ago, I introduced you to the mitts I started for my sister.  I am using the magic loop method in the hopes that they will turn out the same size.  So far so good.  I am now at the top decreases, only a few more rows to go.  I am a bit nervous that the thumbs are going to be too narrow, but if that happens, I'll re-knit them on a slightly larger size needles.  The fronts are different on both mitts, so you'll have to wait till the final unveil to see the complete image.

Can a UFO really drive a quilter crazy.  Perhaps, is the best answer I have come up with.  I have been working on this off and on for the past three years.  There are a whole bunch of earlier posts detailing that progress.  The history of the bird quilt is described there as well as the pattern source.  Scroll thought those posts for additional close-up photos.   This first photo shows the state of this UFO two weeks ago.  Arg, all the sashing is different, pieced, paper pieced and appliqued, even a bit of embroidery thrown in.  I decided that I would start in the upper left and allow the design to dictate my path from there.

I am not the biggest fan of paper piecing, but I do love the detail that you can get by using it.  I took a methodical approach and worked on all of the blocks at the same time, same step on each one, press, trim, next step.  It went a lot faster than I imagined.

The loon is now fully sashed and waiting for a neighbour.

I forgot to take photos while working on the french braid.  It used 1 1/2 x 5 1/4 inch strips.  The checkerboard used 1 1/2 inch squares.  This fellow will nest below the loon.

To the right of the loon, we find the favourite branch of the oriole.  He wanted flowers.  Lots of applique tulips and some red flower.  There are still some details missing on the flowers, but they are almost ready to be attached.  While many people were watching sports on Sunday, I sat under a bright light and made what seemed like a million tiny stitches.  It is getting harder to do applique.  I have to hold the work far enough away to focus, but then it's too far to actually see in detail.

oh darn, I keep forgetting to add the little butterflies. 

It's really hard to stay focused on just one quilt at a time.  I did take a wee break and work on the mystery quilt that my local guild is doing.  I don't have a photo this week , but I am not finished with that step of the mystery, so stay tuned.

Are you one of the many who resolved to complete ufo's this year?  Share it one your blog, then leave a comment here and I'll  come by and encourage you along the way.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon

The Story of Beautiful Girl is one of those books that you can't wait to read more of, but at the sametime you don't want it to end.  I read a paper copy when the book first came out, and just recently listened to the audio book read by Kate Reading.  I loved both versions.
As a young girl, Lynnie's family decided that she was too much to handle at home and they took her to an institution to live.  After a few uncomfortable visits, they stopped coming to see her.  The institution housed hundreds of people who were deemed 'feeble minded' and determined as not suitable to live in normal society.  Their families were told that they would receive and education and training, in reality, they were warehoused out of sight and given menial work to help run the facility.
In 1968, Lynnie and her boyfriend, a deaf African-American named Homan, escape from the institution. While they are outside the grounds, Lynnie gives birth to a perfect little girl who is obviously not the child of Homan.  Shortly after the birth, they find the house of Martha, a retired school teacher, who takes them in and provides comfort and shelter.  She soon realizes that the two of them have a baby and that they need help to provide for her.  Almost at the same time, staff from the institute come to apprehend Lynnie and Homan, but they don't know about the baby.  Lynnie entrusts the care of her newborn to Martha.
For the next four decades we follow Lynnie, Homan, Martha and the baby.  Love, heartbreak and hope feature large in their daily lives.  I felt that the portrayal of Martha was very realistic. Yes, she did question what she was doing and was she capable of raising a child at her age, but at the same time, she knew she had to attend to the day to day needs of an infant and leave the rest for later.  She ultimately accepted that there are some things you know in your heart are right and you just have to do them.
I couldn't help wondering how many deaf people have been treated in a similar fashion as Homan, looking only at his disability and not his many other abilities. 
Lynnie was fortunate that she had Kate,  a caring staff member at the institute, who saw the person and not the label.  It was interesting to watch Lynnie live up to her capabilities and blossom under Kate's tutalege.
I've heard it said many times that it takes a village to raise a child, what it takes is a village working together toward the same goal for the best of the child.  In this case, the institution was a village and it was  raising the children, but it's goal was one of hiding them from the rest of society.  I'm glad I read this book and learned about this shame of society.
Website of Jennifer Mendenhall, also known as Kate Reading, narrator

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Weekend Cooking: Egg Bhurji

Breakfast remains a challenge for me.  When I wake, I want to eat right away and not fuss with recipes and and noisy appliances.  When I found this recipe for Egg Bhurji  in my inbox, I thought it was worth a try. (it was in an email from EatRight Ontario)
Egg Bhurji
3 whole eggs
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp red chili powder (optional)
1 tsp canola oil
1 green chili pepper, chopped (I used a jalapeno)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped tomato
1 cup frozen peas
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp chopped fresh cilantro
Beat Eggs and egg whites in a bowl.  Add the chili powder, if using.  Set aside.
In a fry pan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add the chili pepper and onion and cook until soft.  About 3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, peas, ginger and garam masala.  Cook for 3 minutes.
Add the egg mixture and stir while cooking for 3 to 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with cilantro and serve immediately.
Visit the EatRight Ontario website for a printable version.
 Last week while visiting the various posts linked to Weekend Cooking, I found a recipe for Garlicky Tortellini with Shrimp and Arugula.  I had not tried arugula before, but didn't let that stop me.  I made it just as described in the recipe with the exception that I only put in about 3 1/2 oz of the arugula.  It was wonderful and will become a regular dish at my house.  Thanks to Caite at A Lovely Shore Breeze for the recipe.
For more foodie fun, be sure to visit Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking meme.  You are invited to add a link to your recent food related post.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Temptation of a Highland Scoundrel by Sue-Ellen Welfonder

A viking berserker and Scottish highlander, Kendrew Mackintosh is both of these rolled into one.  Most of the time his is a fiercely proud highland warrior, but when his clan is threatened he calls upon his Norse ancestry to ensure their victory and ultimately their survival.

Lady Isobel Cameron can  see beneath this brutal exterior to the passionate man hidden inside.  It is that part of him that Isobel seeks.  In the past year, she and her two friends, Catriona MacDonald and Marjory Mackintosh have sworn a pact to bring peace to the Glen of Many Legends, but each marrying a high ranking male from a neighbouring clan.  The other two see heartbreak for Isobel should she continue with her desire to win Kendrew's heart.

The story begins on Midsummer's Eve 1397, a night of wild revelry and unbridled lustful activity.  Isobel views this as her chance to observe Kendrew and learn the secrets to winning him.  Unfortunate for her, she underestimates the skills of her adversary and falls even further under his allure.

As I've said before, what's not to love about a bunch of highlanders parading around in kilts.  It doesn't get much better than that.  It was fun watching the story unfold and anticipating some of the barriers that would stand between fulfilling Isobel's desires. 

One thing that gave me pause, was the size of The Glen of Many Legends.  Were the castles really that close together than Isobel could easily walk most of the way between them in the early part of midsummer's eve?  This was not such a large concern, as I was able to put this aside and believe that she was just a very determined woman in love.

While this is the second part in a trilogy, you can read it as a stand alone novel and not feel that you are missing any of the back story.

Visit her website to learn more about author Sue-Ellen Welfonder and her writing.

Highland Warrior Trilogy:

1 Sins of a Highland Devil
2 Temptation of a Highland Warrior
3 Seduction of a Highland Warrior - released January 29, 2013