Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July Reading

It's summer and I'm busy so my reading is lighter this month.  I finished "Love In The Time Of Cholera" which was my book club book for this month.  We universally disliked it and had a hard time working out why it is considered a classic!  Here are the other books I have read or am reading.

"The Book Of Life" by Deborah Harkness
This is the third in a trilogy of vampire stories for grown-ups and I'm half way through.  I have loved reading these books(more than once) and I enjoy the characters and the pace of the writing.  The stories are complex with a lot of historical references, for example in the second book Diana and Matthew travel back in time to Europe in the 16th century where they meet a lot of people familiar to us from history books.   The stories are full of drama, passion, fascinating characters and impossible situations.  It's pure escapism and a great summer read.  

"Written In My Own Heart's Blood" by Diana Gabaldon is the most recent in her "Outlander" series.  It took me a little while to settle into this book because it has been quite a while since I read the previous one.  In the first book, Claire travels back in time 200 years by accident while looking for plant specimens at a stone circle in Scotland.  She meets and falls in love with a fearsome Scottish warrior and the rest of the books follow their story and those of their family members, in Scotland, France and America both in the past and present day.  The books are pretty steamy but the most recent one less so.  There is a lot of historical detail which I have a tendency to read but not really take in.  What I enjoy is the interaction between the characters and the way the Scottish characters speak!   I also love the idea of stone circles being portals to other times, and that Claire and Jamie meet and recognize other time travelers, in one instance recognizing someone from the present day by their vaccination scar.  These are swash buckling historical adventure stories. This is not the only genre I read!  It just happens that this and the book above were just published at similar times!

"The Forgotten Seamstress" by Liz Trenow
This book is the second by this author and is set in England in the area where I grew up.  Her first book is called "The Last Telegram".  In The Forgotten Seamstress we find Maria growing up in an orphanage in the early 1900's.  Maria is taught to sew and finds that she is good at it.  She and a friend are selected to go and work as seamstresses for the Royal Family where she is seduced by the then Prince Of Wales.  When she becomes pregnant, she is committed to a mental institution and subjected to the treatments of the day.  There are several threads in this book. There is the mystery of a beautiful quilt, the tangled situations that modern, unemployed Caroline, a main character, finds herself in and the moving story of Maria herself and her friend Nora.  I found myself drawn into this story, anxious to find out the truth of what happened.  

"Pride, Prejudice And Cheese Grits" by Mary Jane Hathaway
I first saw this book on Pinterest and was attracted to the pretty cover, a women in a beautiful red gown (red is my favorite color).  It is a modern day Pride and Prejudice tale, fun to read and a breath of fresh air after reading Love In The Time Of Cholera!

"Maisie Dobbs" by Jacqueline Winspear
The first in a series of books, Maisie Dobbs introduces us to Maisie just as she is opening her own business.  Nothing special you might think, but this is set in 1929 so it is indeed a big deal for a women to be opening a business, especially as a private detective.  A bit later in the book there are flashbacks to Maisie's childhood and how when she was in service as a maid she was discovered reading in the library of the big house.  The Lady of the house decides to find a way to educate Maisie and as a result Maisie finds herself at Cambridge University, until the war intervenes and Maisie becomes a nurse.  These books are beautifully written, thoughtful detective stories which explore the grey areas of human behavior.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

On My Worktable, notebooks and dragons!

I am so enjoying my new workspace.  It is wonderful to finally have a place for everything.   I'm loving the counter height worktop where I can stand to work on paper projects, like the notebooks pictured below.  It is also great to be able to leave work out so that the next time I have some time, I'm all ready to go.  


I got these notebooks finished up today, photographed and added to my shop here.  This week I've been mostly working on some more dragon pincushions in new color combinations.  I like to use some sparkly metallic thread on these but it is horrible stuff to sew with!  When I first designed these, I wanted to make them breathe fire, but my daughter said they looked too friendly to be doing that so I have put some flames on the side band instead, along with the phrase, "Here there be DRAGONS".  I wrote about the history of this phrase in this blog post back in April.

The blue and green dragons have metallic thread and the teal dragon has a variegated satin thread on it's wings and chest.  This is a little easier to work with than the metallic thread but still seems to have a mind of it's own!  I also got these finished pincushions photographed and listed in my Etsy shop today.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Whale Watching, An Awesome Day Out

Earlier this week, we went on a four hour whale watching cruise out of Moss Landing in the Monterey Bay.  We've done these trips before but usually out of Monterey itself.  This time, since we'd recently seen whales close to Moss Landing, we decided to try a different company.  We went with Sanctuary Cruises.  They have a great website, with tons of information and stunning photos from their trips.  The Captain is a photographer and seemed to be having just as much fun as we were!  The boat was smaller than we've been on before and the Captain kept reminding us that the whales were larger than the boat we were on!  It was an unusual summer day, no marine layer and a calm ocean in fantastic shades of silver, blue and deep green.  Best of all, there were humpback whales in every direction.  We have never seen as many whales as this on one of these trips.  The whales were close enough for us to feel the spray from their blows and smell their whale breath!  

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Shoot Like A Girl

When she was in 7th Grade, my daughter took an elective called Physics Of Sports.  It was taught by a teacher who also taught math and physics.  The elective wasn't very high on her list of preferences and so initially my daughter was not very impressed about being the only girl in a class of sport obsessed boys.  However, the teacher was wonderful and the class turned out to be interesting and full of practical experiments.  It ended up being one of her favorite middle school electives.  At the end of the year the class spent a morning at a local archery range learning the basics of shooting a recurve bow.  She found she loved to shoot, and persuaded us to buy her a recurve bow which came with some free lessons from the shop owner who competes and is successful in international competitions.  It wasn't long before the rest of us wanted to learn too and archery has become a family hobby.  We discovered two archery ranges in local County Parks.  There are practice ranges and then there are targets set up in the woodland so it becomes a hike and a challenge to shoot on different terrain.  It is beautiful in the trees, quiet, with dappled light, and you can imagine yourself in a different time, that of Robin Hood perhaps.  The whoosh of the arrow as it leaves the bow, the thwack as it hits the target, these are very satisfying.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Let Them Eat Cake

A couple of weeks ago my daughter had her 15th birthday.  On Saturday she had her best friends over for a sleepover for which we had to make another cake, I know shame about that right?!  The preferred cake for birthdays in our house is chocolate but this wasn't the actual birthday cake so we decided to go for something new.  This cake was fun to make together and all the more special because usually I won't have food coloring in the house (I just don't like to think about all those chemicals in our bodies!).  We made a three layer vanilla cake and separated the mixture into seven cereal bowls which we then colored using gel food colors.  Wow those colors were vivid!  The mixture got put into disposable piping bags and we piped colored rings in the pans.  Each pan had a different combination of colored rings.  My daughter did most of the work, it was sticky, colorful fun.  Then we simply baked, oohed and ahhed, frosted and sprinkled.  Done.  Perfect giggly girl food.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Slight Boot Obsession

I love boots.  Here are some that I'm drooling over right now

I have these boots and some shoes from this maker in my favorites list on Etsy.  They are just gorgeous!
You can see them HERE.

I've always loved Dr.Martens!  I find their sizing a bit difficult but the designs are so cool.  I've been eyeing THESE pink patent ones for a long time!  And then there are these rain boots.  It doesn't rain much here in California but when it does, it really rains hard with resulting flooded storm drains and much drama.  I think I could weather any storm quite stylishly in THESE!  Way cooler than wellies!

These beauties are another Etsy favorite.  They would be completely perfect if they were ankle boots.  I love that outrageous color and they come in red too, sigh!  Gorgeous pink boots.

And another pair of Dr.Martens.  THESE BOOTS remind me of lovely Liberty fabric.

Sadly this brand of boots and shoes is hard to find here in the U.S.  It seems no-one sells them online and they are only available in small independent shoe shops.  I did see a pair once in a very cool little shoe shop in Santa Cruz.  I know the ones below are shoes but I had to include them because of the ribbons.  They are so pretty, I especially love the heel shape!  

So many lovely things!

Friday, July 18, 2014

An Impromptu Picnic by the Lake

Saturday July 19th 2014

Yesterday at about 6.30pm my daughter and I decided to pack up a picnic and take it to a local reservoir.  It was a beautiful warm evening and the early evening light was soft and golden.  The light breeze was ruffling the water but not enough to prevent us from skipping rocks successfully.   We don't often do spontaneous things like this and it was perfect. There were only a couple of boats left on the water and they were getting ready to call it a night.  We had a family of mergansers, some terns and a few elegant grebes for company.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Homemade Craft Show Display Board

Friday 18th July 2014

We have been working on a display board for my booth at the Quilt Show.  It is designed to hold my notebooks and some hanging items, owls probably.  My husband built it using just what he could find in the garage.  Since he makes a lot of things, he has a pretty good stash of wood and lots of offcuts.  He made the pegs using branches from trees at our cabin in the Sierra Nevada and a special router bit.  He bought the router bit to make pegs for hanging things at the cabin, towels, sweaters etc.  The pegs are beautiful.  Sometimes he varnishes them and sometimes they get left plain.  They are simple and rustic.  

I used this paint for the first time after seeing it at my local scrapbooking store.  It is a thick paint, containing clay and chalk.  It is completely non-smelly and dries in a flash.  It has a nice flat (matte) finish and the brush was easy to clean afterwards. I like that the paint has some texture, it's not perfectly smooth.  The finished piece has a rustic feel that goes well with the natural pegs.  We did two coats of the white paint and then I put on a coat of a protective finish by the same manufacturer to prevent scratches.  

A Handful of Pegs

Thursday July 17th 2014

A handful of wooden pegs made by husband for a project I will share tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

On My Worktable

Wednesday 16th July 2014

It has been a really busy few days.  Last week we had two family birthdays, mine and my daughter's.  So there were two days out and two baking sessions!  It was a lovely week but it was hard to find working time.  We are several weeks into the summer vacation (the stores are sadly full of Back to School Stuff already!) and I'm still struggling with the different routines!  With a teen and a college student in the house and sleeping in late, I'm finding the early mornings are the best times to get things done.  I finished the TARDIS pincushions I was working on just in time as a couple of orders for them came in!  I've started making some of the designs four at a time so I still have a couple more!  I enjoy making this design, especially embroidering the colored lines.  

I also got lots of printing done.  I am very happy with how the prints came out and posted about them here.  I printed a small log slice and used it as a cool letterhead for a page with a couple of paragraphs on my process to include with the prints when I mail them out.  Then there was the batch of hedgehog pincushions I posted about yesterday.  

I've also been working on a custom design.  One of my lovely Etsy customers, and fellow Whovian, asked me if I could make a pincushion featuring an Ood.  Just in case you are not a Dr. Who fan and unsure what an earth an Ood could be, here is a picture and there are lots more here.

Now I know that the Ood are not very attractive(!!) but they are a peaceful race and they sing the most beautiful, haunting songs.  In preparation for this project I watched the Dr. Who episode, "Planet of the Ood" and I had also recently watched the David Tennant regeneration episodes  so I felt well prepared!  The customer chose the quote to be embroidered around the sideband, "We will sing to you, Doctor" from "The End of Time" part 2 which is the episode when David Tennant regenerates and where he has the classic line, "I don't want to go..."  This episode always makes me cry!   All my designs start with lots of drawings.  Then I make paper templates followed by the actual design.  I am still working on this pincushion but am making good progress.  This is my first custom design and the customer has been a pleasure to work with.  

When I have finished this I plan to start thinking about some Fall themed items and before you know it, it will be Thanksgiving and Christmas!  

Stitch-along part 6

  Stitching the ridge tiles to finish the ornament Take one ridge tile and wrap it over the ridge of the roof as shown below.  Using two str...