Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Needlework Tuesday - Stitch by Stitch, I'm getting there

 I'm stitching away and the end is in sight.  I'm on a rust colour section and then one pattern repeat of all three colours left to go. I should be able to get it complete before the wedding. Yippee.

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.

I have been focusing on this project and not straying too much.  It sure does take discipline.  Well, I did take time away to sew one border row for that quilt I am working on.  I did take another couple of hours to cut pieces for some of the mini churn dash blocks for that other quilt.  Happy to say that I now have  only about 8 more blocks to cut. Another Yippee. Then there is the sashing to cut and sew.  Yes, it will end, at some point, but there will always be another project to start ....

Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your current Needlework post.


Thursday, 24 September 2015

The Gardener by S. A. Bodeen

After a brief stop at his mom's work, Mason had intended to spend the weekend with his life long best friend.  While waiting for his mom, he plays the video of his father reading a children's story and the audio has a startling effect on one of his mother's charges at the Haven of Peace nursing home.  After awaking from her catatonic state, Laila asks Mason to help her flee.  So much for a peaceful weekend.

What's a young man to do when the most gorgeous girl he's ever laid his eyes on asks for his help.  He helps her of course.  He didn't realise the events he'd set in motion.

This is a coming of age story unlike any other.  Mason has struggled with social issues since at the age of five a neighbour's dog savaged his face. He knows his mother keeps secrets, but he can't imagine what they might be and how big an impact they might have on his life.

I enjoyed the developing relationship between Mason and Laila.  From the moment he felt her need, he shifted into the role of protector  and didn't falter.  A worthy quality for a young man.

The scientific research in this book is fascinating.  I haven't the slightest idea whether it has even the remotest possibility of success in the real world, but it is understandable why some might want to see it succeed.  It prompted me to ponder limits for scientific research.  Just because we can do something, it doesn't mean we should.

I listened to the unabridged audio version  from Brilliance Audio as read by Luke Daniels. 6 hours.  Mr. Daniels did an excellent job of portraying the characters and bringing them to life, particularly Mason's father.

This is a well told story and should appeal to a wide range of YA readers.

Ms. Bodeen latest book The Detour is due out in October 2015. 

Cover image courtesy author S. A. Bodeen.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Needlework Tuesday - It's not a UFO if you are still working on it

I have been stitching this little churn dash blocks for several years. I need 128 of them and my original plan was to use all unique fabrics and not repeat any.   Each time I started a new fabric, after I had completed cutting for the pieces required, I used the left overs to cut a churn dash block and stored it in the project baggie.  A great way to assemble the materials for a scrappy project.

A few cutting mistakes and a project dragging out way to long has changed that idea.  I want to finish this sooner than the next decade.  I just don't use that many lights compared to mediums and darks.  I currently have 102 blocks pieced, more cut out and have fabric on the cutting board for the rest of the pieces. Each block is supposed to finish up at 5 1/2 inches.  Now I want to motor through this and get to the top assembly.  Sine the pattern is so traditional, I'd like to send it out to a hand quilter.  I could machine quilt it, but I'd like it done this decade....

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.

 At the same time as I was cutting and stitching the churn dash blocks, I was cutting tumblers for the next border on my current scrappy project.  Remember the one I showed last week that started with the little 4 patches.    I now have oodles of 3 1/2 inch tumblers cut and sorted.  To keep the colours balanced, I sorted the fabrics into four stacks, one for each side.  I am in the process of laying out the first side and figuring out how many I actually need.  I have a feeling that I way over cut.  Oh well, I'm sure I'll find a use for the extras.

 During July, a bunch of shops in this area of Ontario held a shop hop.  The theme fabrics were all white and blues.  Very pretty.  I managed to make it to 5 shops so have five kits to jump start my quilt.

This lovely star was made using paper templates.  I was pleased with how accurately it was designed. I only had to unpick one seam. 
 I like the simplicity of this lattice style block.  It went together easily and looks great.  I think the selection of fabrics had a lot to do with that. 

Three more blocks to go and then I'll reveal my plans for the setting.  I wonder how far I can stretch 5 blocks....

It's always a pleasure to spend time chatting with my needlework friends even though you aren't here with me in person.  I'll admit that i have been a bit lax in visiting your blogs this past month, life happens.  

Currently I am getting ready for a trip out of country to visit relatives and it has me distracted.  Yesterday I went to the travel clinic for vaccinations.  I have no intention of getting sick while away or bringing back any nasty tummy bugs.  I'd say that I have so much to do in such little time, but that's not really the case.  Get my shots, pack a bag and go. Well, I do want to make a little thank-you gift for my aunt as I'll be staying with her family.  I am considering another item or two as well.  Ok, maybe I do have a bit more to get ready than I thought, but it's manageable. 

With that in mind, I'd better get back to it.  

Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your current needlework post.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Forgotten Time: Ravenhurst Series #1 - Lorraine Beaumont

It would be a blast to be invited to attend a work event at a Victorian era mansion and be required to dress in period clothing.  Katherine received such an invitation late one Friday evening as her shift at Biddle and Bailey auction house was coming to an end.  Attending the ball was magical, and wearing the gorgeous dress borrowed from the textiles department and the red pendant from the distinguished gentleman made it even better. 

Some one hundred years earlier, Sebastian de Winter, the Earl of Ravenhurst, the very estate where the ball was being held,  was still struggling with the disappearance of his betrothed on the day they were to wed.

 Katherine and Sebastian are intriguing characters. Neither are who and what they seem on the surface.  Katherine is a knowledgeable but naive young lady while Sebastian has much responsibility and a wide variety of experiences.  They are complement by his aunt Isabelle and her young husband Devlin, both of which are playing fast and loose with the other person's affections. 

I love time travel romances.  It is always a feat for the author to introduce the travelling character to the new time stream in a believable manner.   Author Lorraine Beaumont did a good job of transporting Katherine. Just the right amount of confusion and indignation rolled up together. I do think she went a bit far in being cryptic about why Katherine is really there and she lost me for several pages.  Once I got past that part, the plot was really moving along and I was settling in for a late night read and then it ended abruptly.  What, if I had been reading a paper copy I would have been looking for missing pages or perhaps a mis-print that skipped some chapters.  Alas, a most serious cliff hanger.  Nothing to do but move on to the next book, Shadows of Yesterday.

Thanks to author Lorraine Beaumont for use of the cover image.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The Returned by Jason Mott

This is a book that will haunt you with possibilities long after you finish the last words.  The dead have started to return to the world of the living.  They are ready to pick up their lives from the moment when they passed.  At first, they don't even realise they were, or is that are, dead.

The living, the true living - those who haven't died- don't know what to make of this change.  Are these really their departed loved ones or just shadows of them.

As I read this novel, I was struck cold by the possibility of this happening.  As much as I love those who have passed from my life, how could I want and ill person to live again in such a state, how could I welcome back a person who I have lived longer without that I did with.  Is this a miracle sought by many, or is it something else entirely.  These and many other questions confront the people and society as a whole in The Returned.

As much as I wanted to rush through this story to find out what happened, I had to keep putting it down to consider my feelings about the event and how I would react.  Would I accept this situation as a miracle and  be patient and let it play out, or would I be spurred to some sort of action. Author Jason Mott has handled this topic with a restrained hand. He gives just enough information to move the plot forward, without revealing too much.

A most thought provoking read.  I have been somewhat haunted by these questions since I first read this book and I still have no answers.  This would make a good Book Club selection.

Cover image courtesy Harlequin Mira Books.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Needlework Tuesday - Playing with Marti Michell Templates

My favourite way to make a quilt top, is to start with an assortment of fabrics and a thought.  Not a full plan of what the quilt will look like in the end, but a starting point.

In this case, I started with a package of 2 inch squares from Moda. They have a country feel, sort of greyed out colours. Not really my style, but what I had on hand.  They are mostly red, blue, green and beige/gold. Four patches would be perfect.  Problem, what to do with ten small blocks. Add more of course.  Now I have 24 small blocks.  If I add one more and then set them with the little blocks i made last week, here's what I get.   Marti Michell templates used: from set A piece 1 and piece 6

I like that it's assymetrical.  Using common fabrics for the alternate blocks helps to calm down the busyness of the scrappy four patches.

I can't do much with a 21 inch square, so time to add borders.  a one inch dark green and a 2 inch light green brings it up to 27 inches.  It doesn't seem so dark now.  it needs to be larger.
As I work on quilts, there are lots of scraps.  Large pieces get folded and stashed, small pieces are cut using which ever Marti Michell template is at hand and fits.  I had lots of pieces from template 17 from set C.  It's the tall skinny right angle triangle.  I sorted out the colours of pieces that would work in this quilt, cut a few more.  Then I used template 16 to cut the triangles.  All the little corners are trimmed so the pieces line up perfectly for sewing.  I quickly was able to piece these borders.

 For the corners I used template 18, which is a sort of kite shape.

Now the quilt top is up to 33 inches.  Next on will be two more single fabric borders, not sure of the colour yet, and then I'll use another template to add a six inch wide border.  Still cutting that one.

The only problem with working this way, is that if I get side tracked, I lose my train of thought and never seem to get it back.  That means I need to keep going on this one till it's complete.  not a bad thing.

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.

Do you design either for yourself or for the use of others?  Do you have a set approach, or do you let it happen as you go like I do.  

Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your current needlework post.


Monday, 14 September 2015

Locked In by John Scalzi

A great flu has struck the world with over 2.75 billion infected resulting in over 400 millions deaths.  The survivors are divided into three groups: those who suffer no lasting symptoms, those who appear and function normally though have experienced significant changes to their brains, Integrators, and those who's brains are fully aware, but their bodies are not responsive,  they are locked in. 

As a result, the worlds technical resources are directed to deal with the locked in.  Advances neural nets are developed, as are  PTs, personal transports, these are artificial bodies that the locked in person can link with via their neural net, allowing them to have a life outside their non-responsive body.  Going one step further, the neural nets can be used by the locked in people to share the bodies of the Integrators.

This story takes place about twenty five years after the original onset of the 'flu' which is now named Hayden's Syndrome.  It is common place to work and socialise with locked in people via their PTs.  Rookie FBI Agent Chris Shane (locked in) and partner Leslie Vann (former integrator) are called to the scene of a crime where a working integrator has killed someone.  Who is at fault, the integrator who is unaware of the actions of his client, or the unknown locked in client.

Running parallel to the investigation are social unrest and protests by the locked in to drastic cuts in their funding. Some are also against research to find a cure to the flu which is still virulent.  A cure could spell the end of this new culture.

This is a fascinating story.  Mr. Scalzi has created a complete world that is well adapted to the post-flu reality.  He has striped away that which is irrelevant.  Agent Chris Shane functions well in a PT, it never is an issue of whether Chris is male or female, either way, the agent is most capable of completing the investigation.  Likewise, cultural heritage is not an issue.  The PT suits are function based and haven't been described as fashion conscious.   I applaud a world where gender and race  take a back seat to ability.

Before reading Locked In, you might want to read Unlocked: An Oral History of Hayden's Syndrome at TOR.com.  This free story, written as an investigative report.

Also by John Scalzi:

Red Shirts

Cover image credit to TOR.com

Friday, 11 September 2015

Where the Streets Had a Name by Randa Abdel-Fattah

This is a story of hope in a land beaten down by fighting and hatred.  Where people are evicted from their lands and forced into refugee camps possibly to  languish for years.

It is also the story of a Hayaat,  13 year old girl who wants to travel to Jerusalem to fulfil her grandmother's dearest wish.  It is on this day long trip that we experience the hope for a positive future.  Throughout the day, Muslims, Christians and Jews together having peaceful conversation, helping each other even at cost to themselves.

Hayaat may young, but she has suffered much due to the strife in the West Bank of Bethlehem.  While this has made growing up difficult, it has played a major role in helping to shape the woman she is becoming.

I listened with rapt attention to this story.  A family of seven living in a small apartment.  While I couldn't imagine sharing a bedroom with my grandmother as well as siblings, I did envy the closeness that it brought them.  In our western society, it is more unusual for grandchildren to have such closeness with grandparents and I feel that is a shame.

Before reading this novel, I knew nothing about Palestine and the West Bank.  It has made me want to learn more.  This would be a good book for parents to rad and discuss with their children.

Kellie Jones did an excellent job reading the audio version.  Her use of accents and Arabic words brought the characters to life.  The written descriptions combined with the dramatic voicing left me feeling that I had truly stood on the hillside looking toward their ancestral home and feeling the wind that was blowing through the olive trees.

This is a five star book and I encourage you to find either a paper copy or the audio, read it and learn about a culture other than your own.

Author Randa Abdel-Fattah

Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

The Cutting Season is set on Belle Vie Estate, formally part of a larger sugar cane plantation located in rural Louisiana.  It is now a tourist attraction and event facility.  After a life crisis, Caren Gray and her young daughter return there and she finds work as the estate manager (sort of a present day overseer.).  When the body of a migrant worker is found on the grounds, it disrupts daily life and re-opens old wounds. Caren can no longer ignore the unsolved death of Jason,  her several times great grandfather.

The first time I read this book, I really felt the injustice of slavery in the United States.  My thoughts on this overwhelmed the real story.  I let time pass till I felt ready to read it again.  The second time, I  listened to the audio book ready by Quincy Tyler Bernstine.  Listening again, I was free to get involved in the current story and in Caren's struggles. 

Even when she left  the plantation for law school, she was never free of the strings that tied her to Belle Vie.  Until she resolves Jason's death and the secrets long shrouding the truth , she won't be able to move on with her life. 

There is so much happening in this novel, that it is well worth reading more than once.  The vivid descriptions of the plantation grounds had me wanting to stroll through them on an early morning walk with Caren.  I could feel her envy of the closeness of the rest of the staff.  Regardless of their skin colour or background, they had formed a family in which Caren was not included even though she had grown up there. 

I enjoyed this book more the second time and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to others, particularly those interested in American history.

Author Attica Locke

Thanks to HarperCollins Canada for my review copy and for use of the cover image.
Audio book by Dreamscape Media

Also by Attica Locke

Blackwater Rising

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Prey by Linda Howard

Chad Krugman has been stealing from his boss for a long time and finally it's caught up with him.  He plans to kill his boss while on a hunting trip lead by guide Angie Powell.  What he doesn't plan on  is a bear with a taste for human flesh and a guide who is much tougher than he imagines.

Angie has one last bear hunt scheduled before selling her property and moving her business elsewhere.  She is scared of bears and is taking all precautions to ensure the safety of both herself and her clients.  Almost from the start, things don't go as planned.

Not too far away on the mountain is guide Dare Callahan. He has been attracted with Angie since he returned to town yet she keeps turning down his requests for a date.

Most of the story is set in the wilderness of Montana, in bear country.  The descriptions made me want to be there.  Even the never ending storm was alluring.  The details of coffee making, much needed when camping, had me looking to purchase a small peculator the other day.

I enjoyed watching Angie and Dare's relationship change and grow.  Together they met many challenges that might have been overwhelming individually.  What I didn't like was the voice that reader Abby Craden used at times with Angie.  Usually she portrayed Angie as strong and competent but a few times, she came across as a whimpering, defeated damsel.

Prey was a good read with two likable main characters and another that I felt justified loathing.

Cover image courtesy Penguin Random House Canada.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Needlework Tuesday - Another type of Quilting Template

 I'm playing around with some bits of fabric and wanted to make some stitch and flip corners.  In the past I had seen that you could cut the triangles instead of squares.  I started with a 3 1/2 inch square of the floral print.  I cut the corner triangles using template 6 from Marti Michell set A. Ideally, i should be able to position the triangle with the little cut edges lining up with the larger square and then sew with a quarter inch seam.  Only problem is that I'm not a perfect cutter.  I ended up with real wonky placed triangles.  Hmm, what to do.
 I tried lining up the triangles with the lines on my cutting board, but that was still very inaccurate.  I needed a placement template.  A simple square of cover stock cut the same size as the square.  I nipped off the corners and then cut out the 2 inch square to place the triangle.
 Perfect placement.  Carefully remove the template, lift the fabric to the machine and stitch with a 1/4 inch seam.
In most cases the blocks turned out well.  A little trimming was required.  I'll be able to trim the extra fabric away behind the triangle.  I am making 24 of these little blocks.  Next week I'll show you how I'm using them.

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.

Daughter has now left for school and that means I should be able to get on with some of my projects that have been stagnating most of the summer.   It's been fun this morning browsing my Facebook feed and viewing my family and friends back to school morning photos.  Oh my, those kids are getting so big.  Some of these kids I only see online in photos from their parents and others are near by and I visit in person.  Regardless of how I know them, it did bring tears to my eyes seeing them all so happy and proud to be starting a fresh school year.  My best wishes to all of them.

Do you tend to start new projects once the kids go back to school, or do you pull out an old one and plunge back into it?  Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your blog post.  Feel free to leave a comment as well.


Monday, 7 September 2015

Welcome to the Jungle : The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Graphic novels are hot and are now considered mainstream reading among many age groups.  I'd been thinking of trying one, but didn't know where to start.  When browsing an online list for author Jim Butcher, I found that he had created a comic book/graphic novel for the Dresden Files.  I love that series; this would be perfect for my reading in this format.

Welcome to the Jungle is  a short story set prior to the events of Storm Front, the first book in the series. A violent death has occured at the zoo, and Harry is called in  by the Chicago police to consult on the investigation.  Characters I've grown to love in my imagination are introduced here in vivid colours.  Harry is almost as I expected, though I had imagined an older version, I didn't realize he was only in his mid twenties. 

I did have to change my frame of reference while reading/looking.  I'm used to books that take hours to read, this I could power through in an hour or so.  I felt that if I read it that quickly I would somehow be cheating, that I needed to spend more time with it.  Daughter cleared this up and told me to get with it and let it flow, that it's totally acceptable to read a graphic novel in one sitting.  With this new perspective, I was able to settle in an thoroughly enjoy the story. 

This is a fun format.  The drawings by Ardian Syaf capture all the action and details that the limited text can't . I particularly enjoyed the images of Harry's basement office and his confidant Bob.

I'm looking forward to reading more of the series, both the books and the graphic novels.

Graphic Novels
Welcome to the Jungle
Ghoul, Goblin
War Cry
Down Town

The Dresden Files - novels
Storm Front (also available as a graphic novel)
Fool Moon  (also available as a graphic novel)
Grave Peril
Summer Knight
Death Masks
Blood Rites
Dead Beat
Proven Guilty
White Knight
Small Favor
Turn Coat
Side Jobs - short stories
Ghost Story
Cold Days
Skin Game
Peace Talks  - forthcoming

Friday, 4 September 2015

FIrst Nations Friday : Peace Pipe Dreams: The Truth about Lies about Indians by Darrell Dennis

First Nations Friday is an occasional post where I review books written by First Nations, Metis and Inuit authors.

Who are these people we live amongst. They live in towns, in cities and on reserves.  I say that we, the foreign arrivals to this land, live among them even though they are  the smaller population.  We used to call them Indians but now they are referred to as First Nations, Metis and Inuit, or by the proper name of their Nation.  They were here first and choose to share their  land with us, the newcomers.

With this being true, why is it that so many Canadians know so little about our neighbours and much of what we claim to know is wrong.  What little I learned in school was from fourth grade and comprised the role that some un-named Indians helped Laura Secord carry word to General Brock about an invasion across the Niagara River. Wow, not much.  Probably something was discussed about teepees and long houses and buffalo, but that was the end of it.

Talk about inadequate.

As an adult, I'm much wider read and have learned quite a bit, but still feel that I am missing the majority of this significant history.  Darrell Dennis's book Peace Pipe Dreams: The Truth about Lies About Indians has cleared up a lot of mis-information and gaps that I had.  This book should be required reading in all Canadian civics classes as well as for all persons desiring to become Canadian citizens.

It is well written, with clear explanations and examples where required.  Topics that could have been heavy and sleep inducing are kept to manageable bites of information. The depth of details should be suitable for most readers.  Source information is cited for those wanting further information.

Peace Pipe Dreams answered many questions I had about the First Nations and many more that I didn't even know I needed to ask.  It also had me laughing at un-expected points; who knew that Darrell is such a funny guy (he is a comedian when he's not a writer).

I highly recommend this book for all Canadians who love their country. It's important to learn the truth about where it came from.

 Thank-you to Douglas and McIntyre for use of the cover image.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Needlework Tuesday - Amazing what you can accomplish

After last weeks lament of me not accomplishing much, you probably thought I skipped out on yesterdays post because I hadn't sewn a stitch.  Oh, you are sew wrong.  I spent the day with daughter helping with the final prep before she leaves for her next year at university.   Last  week she kept me busy sewing gifts for her friends, who are/were busy getting ready for their next year of schooling.

This cute purple one is quilted and measures about 6 x 5 inches.

 First I made the panel with alternating rows of two purple fabrics and quilted as I went.
 I trimmed it up nicely and stay stitched around the outside.
 Add a zipper, seam and box the ends and voila. Finished.  How I love small, easy to finish projects.

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.

Not to be complacent, daughter had me back to the cow print fabric.  Several of her friends fell in love with the little bags I made earlier and had hinted that they'd like one each.  How could I say no.  They are the same size as the purple bag.

To round out the bag sewing for the week, I finished up six more of these cute little ones.  Details and pattern links are found way back in a post from mid July.

 One last project for daughter.  My mom gave her a little buggy for grocery shopping, but it has such wide spaced framing, that I knew from experience, things would poke out or fall through.  Since I had this wicked rubber backed nylon fabric, I offered to make a liner with flap.  I even made and extra layer for the bottom for added security.

I'd say she is all set. It could use a Minnon eye painted on the front, but that's up to her.
Do you have a favourite small project that you come back to time and time again, or one that you wish you did.  Mister Linky is waiting below. I've enjoy reading all about and possibly even making one for myself.