Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Needlework Tuesday - Even Tiny Finishes Count

 Thanks to all my wonderful readers who have left encouraging comments I have been able to move myself into finishing mode. It didn't take all that long to finish up these little mug matts, they are about 6 x 8 inches.  As you can tell, they should have been completed in December.  Guess I could say I am early instead of late.   I'll add the link to the pattern I worked from once I find it again.  Mug mats my be all the rage among online quilters, but when I showed them at my guild last night, it was a totally new items to them.

update: the pattern is by Connie Kresin at the blog Free Motion by the River.

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you
As proof that I really did finished that baby quilt I showed last week, I am revealing the label.  I titled it "what little boys are made of..."  Next time he visits his grandparents, he'll receive his new quilt.

I am going to keep working on finishing up projects, but it is so hard not to cut into a new piece of fabric and start the process.  I did attend the Creative Festival in Toronto on the weekend, and bought bits and pieces for several up and coming projects.  I even washed the fabrics...  Must stay the course and finish, must not start new, arg, this is hard.  Are you one of those people that can stick with one project start to finish or do you have several ongoing at the same time?

Mr. Linky is waiting below.  Please leave a comment so I'll know you've been here and then I can visit back with you.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Every now and then I want a book that will creep me out a bit.  Not so creepy that I can't walk through the house with the lights out, but just eerie enough that I'll second guess that odd seeming thud.  The Winter People filled in that need perfectly.  It has parents mourning their lost children, a long dead midwife/herbalist who might also have been a witch, a missing parent and it's all set in a small town where every body knows every body's business just as they have for past decades.

Ruthie can't wait to leave town, but now that her mom has gone missing, she can't leave her little sister alone , nor can she betray her parents' trust and call the police.  Turns out that Ruthie's mom isn't the only person to go missing, in fact several people have gone missing over the years.

In another part of town, Katherine, a new resident, is trying to come to terms with why her husband had travelled to West Hall to have lunch with an unknown woman and then died in a crash on his way home. 

The clues that Ruth and Katherine uncover in their quest for truth just seem to cloud the issues even further.  Things aren't really what they seem.  Each step forward pulls these two women closer together.

Author Jennifer McMahon has skillfully woven the past and present together in such a way that one could no longer exist without the other.  I needed to keep them both alive to me at the same time and living with someone who you know has been dead a long time is just plain creepy. 

When you're ready to read this book, ensure that you have everything you'll need at hand, cuddly blankets, tissue, a drink or two and lots of time.  You won't want to stop once you get into the thick of the plot.

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

Friday, 25 April 2014

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

The premise of the book was very appealing to me, a white woman marries a man who appears to be white and then gives birth to a coloured daughter.  Lots of possibilities begging to be explored.  Unfortunately, I didn't like the main character Boy Novak.  Beyond being pretty and fair, there just wasn't anything to her.  I couldn't relate to her in any way.  She had no convictions, nothing that she believed in , nothing she championed, nothing to like about her.  She was just as transparent as the mirrors and shiny surfaces she kept gazing into.

Boy's in laws were only concerned with image, what other people saw them as.  Not my kind of people in the least.  So very careful about everything they did so as not to rock the false boat that they found themselves living in.  I can understand why they choose to live that way, but to not have included Boy in their secret, that was wrong.

I did enjoy the character of Bird.  She seemed like a delightful child who was able to be herself, though she was conflicted by the obsessions of her family.  Of all the people in the book, she struck me at the one most capable of being truly happy.

I do think that I would have enjoyed this book more if I'd been reading it with a group and been able to discuss the whats and whys and the historical context of the events.  It would be a wonderful selection for a book club.

Also reviewed by:

guest Sara at Books Galore

Cover image used courtesy of Penguin Canada.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Tangled Thursday - Mookas are Sprouting All Over


If there is one tangle that doesn't speak to me, it's Mooka.  I have used it several times in drawings, but to me, it doesn't seem to play well with others.  A quick online search shows that many others don't have this same issue, it's just me.  All the more reason for me to keep playing with it.  In this first drawing, I have paired it with Knightsbridge.  I feel the background does a reasonable job of isolating the fronds of the Mooka.  drawn on a standard size square of 3 1/2 inches
Welcome to Tangled Thursday.  A few of my local and online friends have joined me in an occasional Zentangle challenge.  We'll take turns choosing a theme  and them post our drawings in about 2 weeks time.  All are welcome to join in the fun.  If you are new to Zentangles, then visit the website for a complete explanation and all sorts of online resources.  I'm also a big fan of TanglePatterns.com.

This little bookmark is just mooka and measures about 1 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.
To start this drawing, I lightly drew a cross from mid-side to mid side in both directions.  Then I turned the tile on point and drew a mooka in each quadrant. Finally, I filled in the side gaps with smaller mooka.  If I had drawn a stem at the bottom, it would have reminded me more of a shamrock.

When Elaine issued this challenge, it was after seeing that some of her plants were starting to sprout.  I took that as my inspiration to see if I could make my mooka sprout.  Add a few flower pots and some additional 'bedding' plants and I have my own little garden.  Bricks, Square in square and Yincut were used for the pots.  The lobes of the mooka on the far right have me thinking of bunny ears.  hmm, should have used mooka in my Easter drawings a few weeks ago.

All visitors are encouraged to pick up a fine marker and give any of the tangles a try.  Remember, they are made up of lines and we can all draw lines.  Don't consider the entire finished project, start with just one pen stroke, then add another, and another, before you know it, you will have created your first drawing.

Mr. Linky is waiting below.  Add your link and then leave a comment, I look forward to visiting with you.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Needlework Tuesday - How to crochet a cupcake

It feels so good to have all the quilting complete, excess fabric trimmed and washed and ready for binding.  A recap for those who haven't been following the slow trip of this quilt.  It is a pattern called "Flying Stars Sampler" from the book Knockout Blocks and Sampler Quilts by Judy Martin.  This is my all time favourite quilt book, and am slowly working my way through all the baby quilt patterns.
Welcome to Needlework Tuesday, a regular weekly post here at Books and Quilts.  Knowing that I write this post each and every week without fail, keeps me stitching through the week so that I'll have something to share with my readers on Tuesday.  Usually it's a bit earlier in the morning, but life happens.  This past week I was getting ready for the holiday weekend, which meant clearing off the dining room table, which is where I keep my sewing machine.  For the next few days, I'll get to pretend that I don't have any unfinished projects.  Oh what a lovely feeling.  Though I will admit, while I was putting 'stuff' away, I did find quite a few that would benefit from an hour or two of sewing to finish them off.  Am I the only person that keeps around almost finished projects?  Instead of continually moving them around and out of the way of my current stitching, I should exhibit a bit more discipline and just get them finished.

  How do you keep yourself on track to finish a project?  Any tips would be most appreciated.  I thrive on the encouragement I get from my readers and fellow needleworkers.

This year I have challenged myself to stitch a tea cosy each month.  For years, I have said I wanted to make them, but never seemed to get started.  Last evening I started number four.  This cupcake tea cosy pattern is  free from Patons.  The piece shown at left is the' cupcake paper'.  A great stitch using double crochet front post and double crochet back post stitches.  it makes a somewhat firm and quite thick fabric. 
Single crochets make the 'cake' cap.  It is rather flat, but in the pattern photo, it shows the cap slightly gathered, so perhaps that will give enough ease for it to fit on the high lid of my tea pot.  Not really a problem, as I do intend to share these tea cosies with my family at the end of the year.  I don't really need more that a dozen of them myself.

I'm still on the look out for more tea cosy patterns, send me links to any notable patterns you come across.

Mr. Linky is waiting below for a link to your current needlework post.  I'll be sure to visit with you and leave a comment.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Needlework Tuesday - Getting Close to a Finish

Yesterday we were concerned with the melt water, rain and flooding, and today I was back outside clearing several inches of snow off my solar panels.  That just about sums up the predictability of Canadian weather.  I will admit that it keeps us on our toes, but also keeps our winter parkas handy well into May and even later in to June if you decide to go camping.  I even put my kids in their snowsuits one year when we went out to watch the fireworks on Canada Day, June 1.  In light of the weather, I guess it's timely that I have been working on afghans this week.
I am determined to fnish the salmon coloured one I am stitching for my younger sister.  I have three of the seven rows stitched together.   I think it looks terrific.  So warm and snuggy.  She's going to love it.

I love it when my friends visit for Needlework Tuesday.  I find the comments they leave are so very inspiring that I can't wait to get back to my latest project.  I visit back with each and every one who leaves a comment and do likewise with them.  I only hope that the comments I leave are just as encouraging.    Feel free to grab the cute little mouse button and add it to your current needlework post.  Mr. Linky is waiting below for your link.
The crochet along for Red Heart is at the half way part.  I'm stitching the fifth pattern block; it alternated treble and single crochet stitches in the same row.  They are much more subtle than the popcorns of a previous pattern, more like a blackberry. 
Here's what I have so far for this afghan.  It's not to late to start, all the blocks can be found at Red Heart, from their Facebook page or their blog. 

I'm thinking that once I finish these two afghans, I'll move to smaller and lighter weight projects for the summer.  Each year I aspire to working in my garden and perhaps planting some vegetables and some gorgeous flowers, but it doesn't happen.  I pull the minimal amount of weeds, cut my asparagus  and maybe a little of the rhubarb.  I am curious, do you stitch all summer or do you take a gardening break?

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Imitating My Egg Lady

I love to visit with my friend Janet at Stone Meadow Farm in Maryhill, Ontario.  It's a short distance from my house, but with life being what it is, I don't get there often enough.  Last week I was able to get out for tea with her and her sister Karen.  A visit to the farm wouldn't be complete without and interrogation from the pygmy fainting  goats.  this one might be Zoe.  There are two of them, and they aren't much more than knee high, but they do have sizable horns which they aren't shy about using.   If you want to learn more about the farm, visit the blog, Seasonal Ontario Food and check out their article.  Janet does have a facebook page of the farm.
My all time favourite activity at the farm is to collect eggs.  Farm fresh, warm from under the birds, colourful, eggs.  This is the late afternoon haul.   The variety of colour and sizes are wonderful.  The Easter Bunny couldn't leave a better assortment.  These aren't the ones I brought home, I selected a few more of the blue/green eggs.  It makes me smile when I reach into my fridge and pull out speckled or beautiful green eggs (no green ham mind you).

A walk down to the low level bridge on Thursday showed the rive in flood stage.  It appears to be running over a foot higher than usual, and with the warm weather we are having, it's going to get worse before it gets better.  Hopefully it won't flood the road at the far side of the bridge, but it was getting awfully close.  We live at the high point in town, and it would take a flood of biblical proportions to reach us.    I do extend best wishes and blessing of safety to those further down river.

Thanks for joining me for Weekend Cooking, for more foodie fun, be sure to visit Beth Fish Reads, there you are invited to add a link to your recent food related post.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Tangled Thursday - Easter, Any way you draw it

Spring finally seems to be moving into our region and with it brings thought of Easter. Reflecting back over past Easter weekends, I recall playing outside in light sweaters, yet on other years, being bundled in heavy parkas.  This year, I am planning on hiding eggs outdoors for my youngest nephew.  I don't think these eggs will be part of the stash.  Tami, from Just One More Thing, drew on eggs a few weeks back, so I had to take up the challenge.  The first one I did, the mauve with Hollibaugh was difficult.  That egg is a flexible plastic which really didn't want to take the ink of the Sharpie marker.  It kept rubbing off on my hand.  The second egg, bright pink, is a hard plastic and it went much better with Intersection.  More details below on how I did the pink egg.

Welcome to Tangled Thursday.  A few of my local and online friends have joined me in an occasional Zentangle challenge.  We'll take turns choosing a theme  and them post our drawings in about 2 weeks time.  All are welcome to join in the fun.  If you are new to Zentangles, then visit the website for a complete explanation and all sorts of online resources.  I'm also a big fan of TanglePatterns.com.
How did I draw those lines.  When I tried drawing free hand on the first egg, those lines wobbled all over the place.  For the second egg, I used a little trick.  Place a rubber band around the egg where I want the line, the trace along side.  Move the band to the next place I want a line and draw.
All the main lines are in place and ready for freehand completion.  I found it much easier to place the egg down on a surface (a pillow on my lap) and then draw.  When I held it in my hand, the lines tended to get messy.  Always test your marker on the surface you want to use.  In my case, a Sharpie brand marker worked, but on others I use the Sakura Pigma markers.
From Easter eggs to a cross.  A classic symbol of rebirth and renewal during this season.  It is about 6 inches high by 4 1/2 inches wide.  Tangles used: Window Grills, Papyrus, Floating Disks, Hollibaugh, Frond and Static.  To make the cross shape, I folded a piece of paper top to bottom and cut a pleasing shape, then laid it on my paper and lightly traced with a pencil.
To finish up this theme, I had to include a cute little bunny.  She was drawn free hand.  She's about 4 inches tall.  Tangles used: Queen's Crown, Mumsy, Intersection (can you tell that I really like this one), Weave and Betweed.  For the face, I drew the eyes on first, though it would have been easier if I hadn't. I drew the rest of the face on after ward with a thicker marker

I hope that my friends and I have been able to encourage you to try your pen at Zentangles.  I do it for the relaxation and to help me with my machine quilting.  It's working.  I do find it hard to fit everything into my day, but it's worth the effort.  Even a few minutes spent doing a tangle helps to relax me.  If you've been thinking of giving it a try, please do, you might surprise your self and find it enjoyable.  ps, it's also something you can do with your kids and/or grandkids.

Mr. Linky is waiting below for a link to your Zentangle post.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Hollow City: the Second Novel of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

1940s London, England was not a safe place for children, specially for children who had no safe place to stay nor an adult to watch out for them.  Jacob and the other Peculiar children have fled their previously safe haven on Cairnholm Island and are headed toward London seeking help for their teacher/guardian Miss Peregrine.  Aside from dodging bombs, they have to avoid the hollows and wights who are pursuing them.  Having had little contact with the outside world, the children don't know who to trust.

I was kept on the edge of my seat as I followed their adventures.  After having led such an isolated existence, I thought they would have few survival skills.  But, I forgot, they are old, many decades older than their appearance would suggest.  They have learned much over that time and it has come in useful in their travels.

Looking back on the story, I am amazed at how readily I accepted the peculiar children and their unique skills.   That whole time period  is fantastic to me; I couldn't imagine living day to day with bombs dropping around me every evening.  Why should these children be more outlandish that the bombings.

Authentic photos are scattered throughout the book.  I found myself captivated by them and wondering that they must have been set up, posed to match the story.  But no, that is not the case, they are all actual photos that the author and his acquaintances have collected.  They really do help to bring the story to life.

This book will appeal to a wide range of readers from young teens to adults and to seniors who lived through those turbulent years during the war.

Website for author Ransom Riggs

Read my earlier review of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

Thanks to Quirk Books for use of the cover image.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Needlework Tuesday - Experimenting with Yarn

Winter is still holding us within it's icy grip and I'm getting tired of being kept indoors.  Yes, I know, I can bundle up yet again and head outside, keep my chin tucked in and trudge along in heavy boots.  That's not what I want.  I want sun and warmth and new life in the yard and skies.  Not happening.  I guess I need to make my own newness. 

For a while now, I have been planning to crochet a floor matt.  Why not now.  A new project that I can complete in a short time, and the bonus is using materials I already have at hand.

I started with a doily pattern called "Morning Mood" by Masumi Pechet from Magic Crochet Magazine June 1988 Number 54.  I used two strand of chunky weight yarn(less than 800 grams) and a 7 mm hook. 

Needlework Tuesday is a fun time to get together with my friends and share our various needlework projects and to gather inspiration for our future ones.  I enjoy visiting with each of you and you really do help to nudge me along toward completing the many items I start.  You are welcome to grab a copy of the cute little Mouse and add her to your post.  Mr. Linky is below waiting for your link.  Please leave a comment and I'll be sure to visit with you.

I started this on Saturday and was able to finish it late Monday evening.  It only has 16 rounds.  Measures about 30 inches across.  I don't know where I'll use it, but it will find a place in my house, possibly on one of those cold tile floors (as long as it doesn't slip and slide around under foot.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

350 Block Challenge - March update

Along with my other projects, I have continued to work away at the 350 Block Challenge hosted by Shelly at Prairie Moon Quilts.  I achieved the challenge of 31 blocks this month, 30 fabric postcards and 1 paper pieced block. Brings me to a total of 66 blocks for the year.

This is giving me lots of leeway to explore the variety of techniques I can use to make the cards. There are no rules, leaving me free to do as I please.  While I enjoy using the fabrics, I do love the thread work ones.  When I was doing them I got lost in them and the time flew by.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Needlework Tuesday - Keeping the Stitching Going


Thanks to a nudge from Shelley at Red Quilts, I have finally started the quilting on this lovely yellow and blue baby quilt.  at times, I find I get stalled on a project and for whatever small reason, I can't move ahead.  I had a vision of what I wanted to do on this quilt, but couldn't commit myself.  What if it didn't turn out like I imagined.  Oh the horror, the wee baby that it is going to might outright reject the quilt if the blue onlined images weren't perfect.  What was I thinking, this is for a baby, as if he'd even notice for several years that a line has a wobble.  I had also thought to do some fancy quilting in the other areas, but when I laid it out on the floor with the blue outlines already stitched, it hit me that what it really needed was a very sturdy quilting design that would stand up to repeated washing.  One of those ah-ha moments. A simple diagonal grid was exactly what it needed.  There are additional photos of my progress below.

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you.

Before layering with the batting and backing, I used a disappearing marker to trace on the children's images that I wanted to quilt in the blue thread.  After layering with lots of pins, I quilted those motifs first using a variegated blue cotton thread.  Next step was to stitch diagonals across the entire quilt including the blue motifs.  I would have preferred not to quilt through them, but that would have left about 100 thread ends which would have come loose in the washing eventually.  Following are close ups of the motifs.

It took me a while and few false starts, but I did finish the popcorn block for the crochet along afghan with Red Heart yarn.  I generally don't mind working with this yarn, but I will admit to having trouble with it splitting.  I don't know if it's the new hook I am using, or my lack of expertise with crocheting in general.  I can live with the difficulties though.  The colours are so vivid and exciting.   Six more of the pattern blocks to go.
Progress on the temperatures scarves is proceeding at what seems a snails pace.  I do have to wait for each day to happen to find out what colour to use next.  Waterloo, Ontario temperatures are portrayed in the left hand scarf.  The mystery location had a very cold day at the beginning of March but then it really warmed up. That's a 35 C range in the course of one week.  I'll be revealing that location when I am finished at the end of September.  At that time, there will also be a contest to guess the length of the scarves.  They are different lengths as I am using different size needles.   And no, the prize won't be the mystery scarf.
The weather here is finally starting to behave.  Today we might make double digits, 10 C would be most welcome.  We still have mounds of snow in the back yard, though we can see the promise of grass soon.  This weekend is the annual Maple Syrup Festival in Elmira, Ontario.   It is the world's largest one day maple syrup festival.  My one day of the year where I happily stand outside in the cold waiting for pancakes sloshing in maple syrup, eaten in a frigid tent with a cup of hot, steaming black coffee to wash it all down.
Did you get any stitching done in the past week?  I'd love to see what you're working on, any Easter projects out there?  Mr. Linky is below and he's waiting for you to add a link to your post. Be sure to leave a comment so I know you've been by for a visit .