STITCH LINES...... Ramblings on life as a quilter, stitcher, traveler, photographer, gardener and lover of books, cats and fine chocolate....

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

I just want to wish everyone a Happy New Year! May 2014 be filled with good health, happiness, peace and love. Just think how much better off the world would be if we could carry the Christmas spirit throughout the entire year, if we were all more thoughtful of others. If we were more helpful to those in need, and kinder to all, wouldn't the world be a nicer place? If we all could take the time each day to do one small thing for someone else, to "pay it forward"....

Peace and Love,

"Let our New Year's resolution be this: We will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word." ~ Goran Persson

Friends are what it's all about...

December 31st!  Last day of 2013. I can hardly believe it - where did the year go? The days and weeks fly by waaay too quickly. Christmas is over for another year, I will likely take down the tree this afternoon, while watching the World Juniors hockey game- Canada vs. USA.  Currently, at end of first period, no score. (Edit, 2:50 p.m. Final score - Canada 3, US 2. Yay!!!)
It's always a bit of a letdown for me, when Christmas is over. You prepare and look forward to it for so long, the anticipation grows, and then in a flash, it's over. You pack it all away for another year, with mental notes to be more organized next year, stress less and enjoy more...
One of the things I enjoy most about the Christmas season is hearing from friends. I reach into the mailbox each day with anticipation of a card or two. Last year there was a noticeable drop in the number of cards and letters, and again this year, even fewer. More people are sending greetings by email, and I don't mind that a bit, as long as I hear from people, I don't care the method. But it saddens me to lose contact with friends. I send about 55 cards and letters- about half by mail and the rest by email. I received about 30 this year. Those who I am in fairly regular contact with during the year, I don't mind not hearing from at Christmas, but those who I only hear from at Christmas - I miss the contact with their news. I know people are busy and yes, I know, other things become a priority. But it still makes me sad to lose touch with people. Our postal rates are going up to $1.00 per card/letter very shortly, so I can only imagine what that will do to the flow of Christmas cards next year. I expect many folks will drop the tradition altogether. Sad.
I want to share one special card I got this year- and it was the first, hand-delivered on Nov. 30th. That should have been a clue... It's from my good friend Barb, who spent three weeks in Europe this fall, on a river cruise. She picked up this advent card in Germany. I had never had one before, and I have to admit- I looked forward each day to opening the numbered window to see what was behind it. I guess we are all children at Christmas! Thanks Barb!
And so, as the year draws to a close, I want to thank you all for visiting my blog, listening to my ramblings and leaving me your kind comments. I have made so many wonderful new friends through blogging and I treasure each and every one of you. I hope you will continue to follow the antics here at Stitch Lines in the coming year... God Bless you all!

Peace and Love,

Friendship means understanding, not agreement. It means forgiveness, not forgetting. It means the memories last, even if contact is lost.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Red, White and Blue....

Today I thought I'd give you a slightly different look at the ole "red, white and blue" theme. No, I haven't moved stateside,  I'm still right here in wintery white Canada. But red, white and blue is what I'm looking at these days. The white is on the outside - and it's piling up - snowing yet again tonight as another nasty storm system moves in. The red and blue are on the inside - I have a red amaryllis blooming, and my Blue Mystique Phalaenopsis orchid is still showing off, with all buds now open. So, take a moment to enjoy the beauty. Red, white and blue. A great combo, at any time of year....

This red amaryllis is a new one this year. After the bulb I purchased in November showed no signs of life after more than a month, I returned  and exchanged it for one already potted and growing. There were two stalks, the first stalk with five blooms is done and this is the second stalk- 4 blooms currently with  two more buds still to open. It is more of an orangey red and is called "Sovereign".

Outside, the snow is accumulating. These photos were taken several days ago,when we had a brighter day - the last two days have been very grey - yep, another storm system moving in... We're supposed to get up to 25 cm. overnight- that's about 10 inches for those of you not familiar with the metric system. I can't remember a December with this much snow, not in a long time... Makes you wonder what things are going to look like in another month, if it continues like this...

My Blue Mystique orchid is still blooming. I've had it for about 6 weeks now, I think, and today was the first day that a few withering petals have dropped. This is my first ever orchid, so I am amazed that the blooms are this long lasting. Would that all blooms lasted so well! I loved the rich deep blue of the first "infused" blooms but now am enjoying the "two-tone" effect as the natural purple color has appeared with the last opening buds.


"Colors speak all languages." ~ Joseph Addison

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Reading, reading.... is there a better pastime?

I'm here to confess. I've done nothing much the last few days but read. Did I get out to take lots of snow pictures to share with you? Nope. Do I feel guilty? Not one bit! (Not to worry- I'm quite sure the snow will be with us for a while!) It has felt good to indulge in this guilty pleasure of curling up with a good book and pretty much ignoring the world. (I have made meals and done dishes. But not much else.)
I have had The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley on hold at the library since early November. I was only third in line, when I placed the hold. Clearly the others ahead of me were not fast readers, or they just held onto the book for the full three week loan period with no hurry to return it... I waited, and waited, and waited. Several weeks ago after finishing March, I returned it and went looking for something else to read while I continued to wait for The Firebird. I brought home A Different Sun, A Novel of Africa by Elaine Neil Orr and The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng. And of course- you know what happened several days later.. The Firebird was now ready for pickup! By this time I was well into A Different Sun so I finished it (379 pages), and have now finished The Firebird too (455 pages). So you see- I HAVE been lazy busy!

So I'll save a review of The Firebird for another day, and tell you about A Different Sun, A Novel of Africa. Set in the mid 1800's, it takes us on a missionary journey to Africa, inspired by the diaries of the first Southern Baptist missionaries, as well as the author's own experiences as the daughter of modern day missionaries in Nigeria. The story focuses not so much on the whole religious missionary experience, but more on the cultural experience of a white couple in Africa. Emma, the young newlywed is the main narrator, although sometimes she is joined by her husband Henry or their African assistant Jacob. Emma not only has to deal with the usual struggles of being a new wife to a headstrong husband who has some mental health issues, but also to adjusting to a new way of life in a country very different from her own. Cultural differences, language barriers, very limited resources and ordinary daily struggles in a foreign land push Emma to question her faith and why she has come to Africa. She learns far more than she has come to teach, and perseveres against the odds. Orr has written beautifully, a story of love and faith, strength and survival. Emma grew up in Georgia, the daughter of slave-holders, and a parting gift from Uncle Eli, an old slave, is a treasure and leads her to an interesting discovery near the end of the book. I will not spoil things by telling you any more.... It was not a quick or an easy read, but definitely an interesting one...
And now I'm off to start The Garden of  Evening Mists. Are you enjoying a new book this Christmas?


To read or not to read... that is a silly question.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Boxing Day Lazy

Well, it's all over but the groaning... yep - turkey overload! lol It's been a very lazy day here, I think the most energetic thing I've done, other than make supper (leftover turkey of course) was to have a few long chats on the phone with good friends and a faraway cousin. I have my nose right into a very good book and that's where you'll find me for the next few days if I'm lucky. I'm usually pretty exhausted by the time Dec. 25th rolls around so there's not much on my agenda for the next few days, except lots of R and R (with good book in hand.) I came across a new word not long ago that pretty much sums up how I'm feeling: exhaustipated - that's  "too tired to give a sh*t".

Looking across the street this afternoon
We are still getting snow!! Can you believe it?! I think it has snowed or "precipitated" in some form every day now for well over a week. The snow is piling up like crazy- the banks where areas have been plowed are as high as they usually are by winter's end. If this is an indication of what we're in for all winter, we are in big trouble. You're all going to have to come here with big shovels in hand to dig us out!! I haven't left the house today, except to stand at the back door onto our deck to snap a few quick shots. I will get out tomorrow with camera in hand, so you can see what I mean... And we have yet another storm system moving in for the weekend..  joy oh joy. Well at least maybe I'll get this book finished! We did see some sun yesterday for awhile (see photo above), I'm wondering how long before we'll see it again...
Backyard late this afternoon
Oliver has been his usual entertaining self this Christmas- he is just like a child- he gets SO excited! He pushes the limits on being naughty too... snooping in gifts, pulling off bows and chewing on the ribbon and  the odd corner of a wrapped gift here and there... He located his hidden catnip ball with no trouble at all.. He has a VERY good "sniffer"... I tried to tell him Santa Paws would not come to kitties who snoop and find their gifts but he paid no attention... I think after all the excitement yesterday, he too has enjoyed the quiet restful day today.. he's been napping (and snoring!) most of the day. Just call us "Boxing Day Lazy".

It's been great to have the kids home - Ollie loves all the extra love and attention!! Laura has gone back today, as she returns to work tomorrow. Mark is home for a while yet. Merry Christmas from our "three" kids!

And "my" two girls..  Laura with cousin Mallory


"What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace." ~Agnes M. Pharo

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!!

I don't know where the days go to... How can it be December 25th already?! I had plans for several posts leading up to Christmas, but.. well, they didn't happen. Things seem to ramp up and get busier every day, the kids arriving home, three days of continuous bad weather- snow, ice pellets, freezing rain, more snow, more ice pellets... So many people had their travel plans messed up with cancelled or delayed flights, poor roads, etc. We feel so lucky that both our kiddos made it home "on schedule" with no troubles...
And now the big day has arrived. We woke to the most beautiful still morning of freshly fallen snow, sunshine and blue sky. The trees are frosted  with soft fluffy whiteness and all is peaceful and quiet. And now... the croissants have been eaten, the gifts are opened and the smell of turkey is starting to fill the house... we are so blessed. Wishing all my blogging friends and followers/readers a wonderful day filled with the peace and joy of the season. Whether you are enjoying the day with loved ones, or having a quiet day of peace and contentment, I'm sending you all my best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a new year full of happiness, good health and prosperity. Thank you for reading my ramblings - I truly appreciate each and every one of your visits and comments.  Merry Christmas!!

Peace and Love,

May the spirit of Christmas bring you Peace, the gladness of Christmas give you Hope, and the warmth of Christmas grant you Love.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Small Stitching Finish...

Here is my latest small stitching finish, picked it up late Wednesday afternoon from the framer. It's a quick and easy Snippet design by Lizzie Kate, called A Good Night - Santa '04. I think it will fit nicely in a spot in our upstairs hallway. It was fun to do, especially with the Whisper fiber used for the beard and hat trim. This is a fuzzy fiber and after you finish the stitching, you "rough it up" with a piece of Velcro- this "raises"  the fibers and makes it even more fuzzy. Cute!! Hopefully you can get an idea of the fuzziness in the closeup shot below. And take note of the chocolate chip cookie (button) in Santa's hand. Ah yes- he's a man after my own heart.  
I have recently finished another Lizzie Kate Christmas design, but it's a gift so I cannot show you.. someone might be watching... lol

I was sad to learn that my framer is closing her business. She and her partner both require knee surgery so they'll be out of commission for a while and just decided it was a good time to give up the business. I will miss them because they have always done an awesome job on any of the needlework I have taken to them. I've never found anyone who did a better job of stretching a piece of needlework and getting it so perfectly straight. Thank you Beryl and Shirley for all the wonderful framing you have done for me!! I will surely miss you!


"Nothing gives quite the satisfaction that doing things brings." ~ Sherwood Anderson

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December Notecard Party

It's time for Vee's December Notecard Party. The months seem to be flying by too quickly! Didn't we just do the November Notecard Party last week?!!
Each month participants select up to four photos that they feel would make  good choices for notecards. At least several of the choices should have been posted on your blog previously. Why don't you join in the fun? You can "find all the particulars" here.

So, without further ado, here are my selections for this month.


And the boxtop...... 

Be sure to visit Vee here so you can enjoy all the other participant's Notecards too.


"A little smile, a word of cheer, A bit of love from someone near,
A little gift from one held dear, Best wishes for the coming year.
These make a Merry Christmas."
~ John Greenleaf Whittier

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Big Dig

Today we are digging out after yesterday's blizzard hit us with over a foot of snow. Hubby figures we got at least 15"-16" here on the hill. When things are blowing and drifting it's hard to get an accurate measurement, but looking at the path he cut across the backyard with the snowblower, I'd say that's a conservative estimate. We got a few more inches overnight, just in case someone was not yet tired of shovelling... This is what it looked like yesterday about noon, looking out into the backyard.

And this was the view looking out the front window to the house across the street and down the 3rd fairway of the golf course. Can you feel the cold and the wind? It was not a very nice day... but a good day to be inside looking out...

But here's the same view today at noon- much nicer! Blue skies and sunshine! And it's somewhat warmer... "Warmer" being the operative word there. What I mean is the temps of last week, -20°C and below  are now up to around -10°C. That's an improvement of about 20 degrees on the Fahrenheit scale.

Even though it meant the cancellation and rescheduling of our Ladies Choir Christmas Concert, I have to say I rather enjoyed the storm day. It was one of those old-fashioned rip-snortin' storms where you just hunkered down and gave thanks for being safe in a warm house (and not losing power). I made a big pot of spicy chili for supper, did some stitching, a little more decorating, watched a couple of good movies... just basically "took the day off". Today I'm back to the frantic pace of Christmas "things to be done". I'm making good progress, but still have a daily to do list.
Our Concert will be held tonight at 7:30. If you are a local reader and have not heard our 110 voice choir, why not treat yourself to the wonderful gift of music tonight? There will be tickets at the door of St. Dunstans, doors open at 6:45.  I guarantee you will enjoy our selections.
So- we're into the final full week before Christmas. Laura is working the last 5 days of a 15 days straight stretch! She has worked the last two weekends in order to get a few days off to come home. I'm praying for good weather on Friday for her drive. Mark is into his exam period- has his two hardest ones today. At least they'll be behind him. He finishes Wednesday and will likely come home Thursday. I'm still busy stitching and sewing but can't show you much as these are Christmas gifts. I will have one small piece to show this week, assuming the framer calls to say it's ready.
The sun is shining and the sky is blue, at least for now. All is well in our world. Hoping yours is the same.


"Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas." ~ Calvin Coolidge

Friday, December 13, 2013

December Photo Challenge - Let There Be Light

This month's theme for Donna's Personal Photo Challenge is Light - "Let There Be Light". I have been so busy with Christmas preparations I didn't think I'd find time to participate. You know what it's like in December - too may things to get done and never enough time... I always feel "behind"...
But I couldn't bear not taking part in the fun, so I decided even if I didn't have new photos to share, surely I could dive into the archives and find a few photos which would be worthy of sharing... Here's what I came up with.

This first one is a favourite winter shot (you can see I've used it in my December header.) It was taken on Christmas Eve morning two years ago in Odell Park, a park here in our city popular with walkers and cross-country skiers. It was a crisp cold morning after a fresh snowfall, a beautiful sunny blue sky day. The sun was not yet too high in the sky, making for nice long blue shadows. Although I have some lens flare in the upper part of the photo, I rather like it. What do you think? Would it be a better photo without the flare? I love the sidelighting on the snow on the little bridge. I think the sidelighting from the winter sun really "makes" this photo.... The scene would not have looked the same at all on a cloudy day.

Exposure: 1/250 sec.
Aperture f/8.0
Focal length 26.3mm
ISO 100

This next photo was taken in my backyard last January. We have a fence behind a long angled perennial bed and I love the shadows we get through that fence during the winter. I have taken a number of photos over several winters of the shadows being cast across the snow. Depending on how the wind has drifted the snow between the house and the fence, sometimes I get some pretty "wonky" lines. This is far from a prefect photo - I probably should have angled the camera up a bit to get more of the fence boards - but I do like "the shadow lines". Again the sun was low enough in the sky to pick up a little sparkle in the snow which makes it a bit more interesting too... 

Exposure 1/350 sec.
Aperture f/8.0
Focal length 93mm.
ISO 100

My last photo is an indoor shot of my faithful companion Oliver. He is a sun worshipper in the winter, following the sun around the house and basking in its warmth. His favourite spot is in the family room in the afternoon as the windows face south and there is often sunshine for most of the afternoon. Here I caught him with just a portion of his face lit by the afternoon sun. I love how it shows up the detail of his fur and his beautiful light green eyes. It is perhaps more interesting than if his whole face was "fully exposed". 

Exposure 1/60 sec.
Aperture f/5.6
Focal length 50mm.
ISO 100

All photos were taken with my Pentax K20D.

Please visit Donna's Challenge here to see what other participants have done this month with the challenge.


"The light in winter is most varied; there are days when it's clear and bright, carving the earth into light and shadow like a razor. Yet, at times, the light can be soft and quiet as a whisper...."
~ Peter Fiore 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Another Book Finish and Favourite Author

I have just finished March by Geraldine Brooks, the fourth book of hers I have read. (I forgot to take a photo of the cover before returning it to the library, so you'll have to put up with this image from Amazon...) If you have not read Ms. Brooks then you really must add her to your list of authors to check out. My friend Barb introduced me to her with Year of Wonders, a fictional novel based on a true account of a small village in England hit by the bubonic plague in 1666. Not just a tale of disease and death, it is also a story of survival, compassion and the inner strength of a young woman who battles to save her fellow villagers. This story was so well written, I went on to read People of the Book, which I enjoyed equally, if not moreso. Also inspired by a  true story, it tells of Hanna, a rare book expert, who takes on the "job of a lifetime"- the analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah - one of the earliest Jewish manuscripts ever to be illuminated. (You can see some of its incredible illustrations here and learn more about it here.) When she discovers tiny artifacts in its binding - a fragment of an insect wing, a white hair, wine stains and salt crystals, she sets out to unlock the mystery and history of the book. I found it a fascinating read - yet another book that was so difficult to put down. After these two, I knew that Ms. Brooks would be going on my "Favourite Authors- I'll read anything she writes" list... (Do you have a list like that?)
Which brings me back to March, winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It is the imagined story of Mr. March, the "absentee father" in Louisa May Alcott's  Little Women. March leaves behind his wife and four daughters in Concord as he heads south to help the Union cause as a Chaplain during the American Civil War. March, an abolitionist, soon has his faith and idealism tested as he deals with the grim realities of war, and sees the difficulties of transitioning freed slaves into society. He is a kind and gentle character who struggles with his responsibility for the brutal treatment of slaves he is trying to help, and the devastating consequences for their lives, not to mention the sad consequences for his own. He encounters the horrors of war yet protects his wife and family from the gory details in his letters home. But when he suffers serious illness and ends up in hospital in Washington, his wife travels to be by his bedside and discovers this broken man is radically changed. He has harboured secrets and has come home a changed man. Will their lives ever be the same?
Brooks' meticulous research and wonderful imagination combine to give us a riveting look at the Civil War and the attitudes towards "freed" slaves. She weaves together history with an imagined character and story, blending her brilliant writing skills with the ability to bring characters to life. Her descriptions are vivid, her plot richly layered, her eloquent use of mid-nineteenth century language "spot on".
One need not have read Little Women to enjoy this book. It's gripping. Beautifully written. Worth. reading. every. word. One of the best books I've read this year. If you have not yet read Geraldine Brooks, you must.


"You can be too rich and too thin, but you can never be too well read or too curious about the world." ~ Tim Gunn

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Beauty in Blue

We've had two grey dreary days - no good at all for taking photos of my Blue Mystique orchid. Finally today we've had some sunshine and my kitchen was bright enough to attempt more photos. I much prefer photos outside with natural light but of course in our frigid Canadian winters, this just won't work. My tropical orchid would not be at all happy to be taken outside in below freezing temps. So I did the best I could. Actually I finally had a brainwave and got my Ott light out to shed more "natural light" on the whole situation- I think it worked fairly well! So here are a few more photos of my Blue Mystique Phalaenopsis Orchid. Isn't she a beauty?

I am still trying to lose the remnants of my cold. It seems to be hanging on for dear life. I feel much better, but don't sound a whole lot better.... still coughing. Our Ladies Choir Christmas Concert is just a week away - Dec. 15th - this cough had better be gone by then!! If you are a local reader, there are tickets available at Westminster Books, and there will be a small number at the door. I still have a few left but will be turning them in on Tuesday night at our last Dress Rehearsal. It's going to be our best Christmas Concert yet - 110 voices singing in six languages - English, French, Spanish, Hebrew, Latin and Mi'kmaq. AND - our very first CD will be launched at this concert. We will be singing three selections from it, as well as the Christmas music so the audience is in for a real treat! Why don't you give yourself the gift of music and plan to attend on Sunday afternoon, Dec.15th?


"Music is to the soul what words are to the mind." ~ Modest Mouse

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Winter Gardening...

It seems I may have lost my touch..... Maybe I should just stick to gardening in the summer. I purchased an Amaryllis bulb almost a month ago now, and followed the potting directions to a "T". I am not a "first time Amaryllis grower"... I have had many of these beauties before, (see header photo) and indeed still have a number of bulbs, in various stages (although, sadly, none looking like they will bloom this month). This year I bought "Minerva".

She has not budged. Nope, not one sign of growth. The bulb looks the very same as the day I potted it up, weeks ago. I think maybe I got a dud? Has anyone else had this problem this year? I keep telling myself to be patient, that she is just growing enormous roots and then will have a humongous stalk and multiple blooms.... But I'm beginning to doubt. I know, I know, I shouldn't be a doubting Thomas... "Oh ye of little faith" and all that... But I'm getting anxious!! Christmas is coming, after all.... Any suggestions from those experienced with growing Amaryllis would be appreciated. Usually these bulbs pop up pretty quickly. I'm hoping she is just a slow starter...

So it's a good thing I treated myself to another "special" plant this season. I could not resist this beautiful orchid at Sobeys several weeks ago. It has been "color infused"- in other words the blue color is not natural, and subsequent bloomings (if I'm lucky enough to get it to bloom again) will revert to the plant's natural bloom color which in this case is purple. (In fact, you can see the smallest blooms- the buds which have opened in the last week - have little blue and are mostly the natural purple color.) But isn't this electric blue, on top of the purple, gorgeous? (Kinda like those beautiful overdyed fabrics!!) Being a blue-lover, I just could not pass it by!! I have no experience with orchids at all, but I'm going to give it a try! This Phalaenopsis orchid has been named "Blue Mystique"  and comes from Silver Vase Orchids in Homestead, Florida (southwest of Miami). You can read more about Blue Mystique here.  I'll have more photos of my Blue Mystique tomorrow...

Do you treat yourself to any special plants at Christmas?


"Learn the art of patience. Apply discipline to your thoughts when they become anxious over the outcome of a goal. Impatience breeds anxiety, fear, discouragement and failure. Patience creates confidence, decisiveness, and a rational outlook, which eventually leads to success." ~ Brian Adams

Friday, November 29, 2013

Another Book Finish

Well this week has been pretty much a write-off.. no sewing happening here...  :(  I've been laid low by a sore throat and now a miserable cold. I'm sniffin' and snuffin', coughin' and shiverin'. NO FUN. I had to cancel both the classes I was to teach this week. I hate cancelling, as it is so hard to re-schedule and find dates that suit everyone.  Wednesday's class cancellation was the result of the storm that blew through- we had freezing rain overnight and road conditions early in the morning were not great. Schools were closed too, so I know we made the right call. Freezing rain, rain, snow in some areas and high winds made for a good day to stay home, warm and dry. That's the day my cold started. Ugh. I've been spending a lot of time horizontal, on the couch, wrapped up in a  quilt, Kleenex box and throat lozenges handy. Oliver has been very sympathetic and frequently jumps up to check on me - his 14 pounds, sitting on my chest (ooof!) doesn't do a lot for me, but his purring and kitty cuddles make me feel loved.

The up side to all this time spent horizontal is that I've finished another good book. The Painted Girls by Canadian author Cathy Marie Buchanan is set in Paris, 1878-1881. This historical fiction is a story of opposites - wealth vs. poverty, weakness vs. strength and beauty vs. ugliness. The beauty and glamour of the French Opera and Ballet stage hides behind it the truth - the ugliness of the extreme poverty of the Paris slums, post revolution, and the struggles of young girls to make it as dancers, against seemingly insurmountable odds. Buchanan weaves together the story of the van Goethem sisters who are struggling to survive after the death of their father and their mother's alcoholism, and the work of painter and sculptor Edgar Degas. Marie van Goethem is accepted to train for the ballet and her meagre earnings go to help pay their monthly rent. She is soon modelling in the studio of  Degas, who eventually immortalizes her in the sculpture Little Dancer Aged 14.   Marie's older sister Antoinette finds work for a short time, also on the stage, but before long her association with a dangerous young man is her downfall and her life seems to spiral out of control. She is torn between her responsibilities to her two younger sisters and her love for Emile.
Buchanan, herself a ballerina and teacher of dance, long admired Degas' portraits of dancers and  after research on the van Goethem sisters, the Paris ballet and the social climate of the times, she was inspired to write this novel, mixing in several notorious crime cases of the times. Her writing is rich, emotional and heart-breaking, her characters real. The story of the sisters is captivating, their circumstances heart-wrenching, their sisterly love hopeful.  You will be engaged from beginning to end by this richly painted study of poverty, crime and the harsh realities for poor young women in Paris at this time. If you like historical fiction and have an interest in ballet or art, I'm sure you would enjoy this book.
I have picked up several new Followers in the last few weeks. Welcome all! I hope you'll enjoy following along with my crazy life! I appreciate your visits! Please feel free to leave me a comment so I know you've stopped by.


You know you're reading a good book, when you have to cover up the next page so you don't read ahead...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Longest Book Title Ever?

I have just finished reading The 100 -Year- Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. What an entertaining read! The story is as "unique" as the book title. You have to admit- that title piques your curiosity, doesn't it?? I immediately thought- what's a one hundred year old man doing climbing out a window? (He could hurt himself!!) Why would he? And was it a first floor window? Was he trying to escape from something? Or to something or somewhere? And where did he disappear to? And why?
The author "had me" from the very first chapter with the hilarious exploits of the main character, 100 year old Allan  Karlsson who does not wish to attend his own birthday party at the Seniors Home. He's a bit of a Forrest Gump type, and his adventure is as amusing as it is unpredictable. The author certainly has a vivid imagination and a broad knowledge of world history and events. You could never predict, or even guess what will happen next...  His current month-long escape/adventure is paralleled by the story of past events in his colorful life, when he met leaders and influenced events of the past century.  Harry Truman, Churchill, Mao Tse-tung, and Stalin all "have dealings" with Allan.. (I learned  a lot about past events of historical significance!!) This parade of characters is almost as improbable as the current "colorful friends" he gathers along the way. The zany story holds your interest right to the last page.
A serious read? No. Entertaining? Absolutely!!


"If a book is well-written, I always find it  too short." ~ Jane Austen

Friday, November 22, 2013

Tutorial - Easy Placemat Finish

A few days ago I showed you a set of four placemat tops here. The pattern was quick, easy and fun! What more could you want? The pattern directions for finishing off the placemats suggested either binding the mats (who wants to spend time doing binding for placemats!!? Not me...) or pillowcase style where you leave an opening along one edge and turn through that opening. Yeah.... well, you know how hard it is to then close that opening and get it totally straight and smooth so it's not noticeable. I prefer to use another method and thought I'd share it with you here. I find it gives a better looking product- all edges are even, straight and smooth. It's as easy as a seam across the backing of your placemats, leaving an opening in that seam and turning the mat through it, then hand-stitching the opening closed. Who really cares if there is a seam on the back- seriously, who would even notice??
First of all I should tell you that I have trimmed down these placemats slightly to "fit" the request from Meals on Wheels - they like the mats to be about 12" by 16". The Take Four pattern will give you placemats larger than that, but the pattern  does not give an exact size, as what you get will vary depending on the size of your four fat quarters. (Yes they should all be pretty much the same size, but they're not... just sayin')

This method does requires purchasing a few more inches of fabric for the backing IF you are laying the mats lengthwise on your backing fabric. (If laying crosswise on your fabric, no worries.) I like to make this backing seam a 1/2" seam, so I cut the backing at least 1.5" longer and about 1" wider than the mat. I chose a dark green from the Moda Marble Swirls line.

Then cut it in half - crosswise, not lengthwise. Stitch a 1/2" wide seam, beginning with normal stitch length for several inches, then backstitch and switch to a basting stitch. Don't even cut your thread, just continue stitching/basting across to within a few inches of the other edge, then switch back to normal stitch length, backstitch, and finish seam at normal stitch length.

I then press this seam open - press it well so you get a good crease. Then the choice is yours whether to press to one side or leave it pressed open. The well defined crease will come in handy when hand-stitching the opening closed.

Now lay your placemat top on top of backing, right sides together, smooth out with your hands, and trim the backing to fit your placemat exactly. Leave these two right sides together, and place on top of your batting with wrong side of backing up. Your "stack" should be in this order: batting on bottom, placemat right side up and backing right side down. You can trim the batting to fit now, or trim after stitching. Pin around the edge so that nothing will shift.

Let me tell you about this new product I tried for the batting. It is called Stiff Stuff and it's made by Sew Lazy - Lazy Girls Designs. I. LOVE. IT. (If you're a local reader you can get it at our new local quilt shop- The Christmas Crab Quiltery.) The label describes  it as a "firm flexible sew-in non woven 100% polyester "interfacing" - it is PERFECT for placemats.  It is firm but not stiff and it yields a perfectly flat placemat ( no wine glass wobble! ha). It is not bulky at the edges where it is in the seam either. LOVE IT. It's my new go-to for placemats and runners from now on.

Stitch a 1/4" seam all around the placemat - no need to leave an opening along the edge. I chose to round the corners. I like the look of rounded corners, and it's easier than trying to get four perfect square corners- seems one is always too pointy! pffft! I found a small Tupperware lid in my kitchen to draw the curve at each corner. Once I have sewn all around the mat, I trim the curved corners a bit, to reduce bulk and ensure a smooth corner edge.

Now you are ready to remove the basting stitches along that backing seam. If you backstitched at each end of the regular stitching, it's easy to pick out the basting and stop when you reach the backstitching. Now reach through the opening and turn the mat right side out. Smooth out the mat and take it to your ironing board. Press carefully all around the mat's edge, being careful that the backing fabric does not show on the front. (Again- the Stiff Stuff gave a beautiful edge. No, I don't work for the company. I'm just a new fan! lol) Once your mat is well pressed, you can hand-stitch the opening closed. I use matching thread of course, and small invisible stitches. I slide the needle along inside the fold - that nice creased edge you got from pressing that seam open - then take a small stitch of the fabric below if you pressed the seam to one side. If you left the seam pressed open, you'll be sliding your needle inside both creased folds, going back and forth from one side to the other. The trick is to keep your stitches small so the seam will be fairly strong.

The final step is to quilt your mats. I just did stitch in the ditch with monofilament thread. Some choose to also topstitch around the edge, about 1/4" from edge.

I am so pleased with  this set of placemats, I sorta hate to part with them, but they will be going to Meals on Wheels for the Christmas dinners. Hopefully they will brighten the day for four clients. I'll be making another set for myself one of these days, and I'll be using this method for turning them. Easy Peasy. Merry Christmas!
If you have found this tutorial as a result of a search for "placemat finishing," please leave me a comment and let me know how you like my technique. Better still, send me a photo of your finished placemats!


"Some people choose not to donate their services because they believe that it somehow devalues them by 'giving them away.' In truth, there is nothing that demonstrates the value of your skills more than putting them to good use for a cause you believe in." ~ Scott Allen
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