Sunday, August 31, 2014

August Reading

"The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien
This is not an easy book to read.  The author writes candidly about the war in Vietnam.  He describes, in the form of short stories and snippets of stories, the things the men carried with them into battle both physical and emotional.  I"m finding it hard to read because it's real and raw.  In some ways it reminds me of the tv series "Mash" which was humorous one moment and desperately sad the next.  It's a book I won't forget.

"Maisie Dobbs" by Jacqueline Winspear
I love these books and I'm re-reading the series.  This is the first book in the series and we are reading it for Book Club this month.  With the "upstairs downstairs" stories of life in a big house and Maisie's uncanny ability to get to the truth, it is part Downton Abbey, part Sherlock!  The book is set between the first and second World Wars and when we first meet her, Maisie is a psychologist and private investigator just starting out in her own practice.  Later in the book we are taken back in time to Maisie's childhood, learn about the loss of her mother and Maisie's subsequent job as a maid in a big house. WW1 interrupts her education and she enlists as a nurse.  This book is a detective story, a mystery, a love story and a war story.  I enjoy the depth of the characters the descriptive settings.  The exciting storylines keep me turning the pages!

"Birds Of A Feather" by Jacqueline Winspear
This is the second in the series and once again the author weaves together multiple story threads to form a wonderful tapestry.  

"The Giver" by Lois Lowry
I have been meaning to read this book since my son read it in elementary school (he's in college now!).  The release of the movie reminded me and since I don't like to see a movie if I haven't read the book, I thought I'd better just do it!  In the Communities there is sameness, everyone has an assigned career path and there is no violence or crime.  At the same time, there is no color, no emotion, no choices and no love.  In the book Jonas discovers he is different from his friends, he can see beyond what is.  In the ceremony where all the twelve year old children are assigned a career, Jonas is left till the very end and is assigned the job of "Receiver of Memories".  He has to train with the man who previously held this title and who is now the "Giver."  Jonas now begins to see in color and to experience the memories of the ages both good and bad.  I couldn't put this story down, I wanted to know how it turned out for Jonas.  I could see how someone might find the book depressing, there are some parts which are disturbing, but I thought the ending was full of hope.  I also thought the movie captured the feel of the book very well.

"The Prime Minister's Secret Agent" by Susan Elia Macneal
In this book Maggie Hope is back, changed by her war experiences and at the mercy of her "black dog" moods.  We find her in Scotland training would be government agents.  After her friend is almost murdered, Maggie investigates and finds disturbing evidence of experiments with chemical/biological weapons.  The author also weaves in clues about the up coming attack on Pearl Harbor.  The book is suspenseful and exciting.  If you haven't read the other books about Maggie Hope, though, you should start with those first.  

This is a steampunk teen fiction book.  Finley Jayne is a girl with a dark side, powers of strength that take over her body when she becomes upset.   Clearly she is different to everyone else until she meets some other "different" young people.  It is a fairly predictable good vs evil story set in Victorian London but is a fun read.  

I bought this book for inspiration.  It is full of bright colors and beautiful folk art designs for sewing projects that use appliqué.  I probably won't make any of the projects as they appear but I like to read about different processes and take inspiration from the beautiful photos.  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

On My Worktable This Week

This week has been another busy week at home with all the usual chores plus a few extra events(not chores!) like a riding lesson for my daughter after school and Back To School Night.  It is a holiday weekend this weekend and I am in the mountains with my daughter and two of her girlfriends and there is much happy giggling, a wonderful sound.  Today we spent time at the lake, playing in the water and sunning ourselves on the warm rocks while enjoying the antics of two ospreys and the occasional appearance of a bald eagle.  Tomorrow we plan to take the kayaks out.

I worked on a few things for my shop this week and also for the Quilt Show which is coming up quickly (it's the last week in September).   The tags are stamped and embossed with white embossing powder and then shaded with distress inks and a foam applicator.  The tags were a yellowish cream color to begin with and this has affected the color of the inks, making the blues more greenish than I like.  I will probably re-do them with some white card.  They came with basic string ties but I was planning to replace those with narrow ribbon.

I started off working on some cherry blossom pincushions but got a bit distracted by the idea of doing one tree that shows all the seasons with the quote from the old testament book of Ecclesiastes  "For everything there is a season".  The cherry blossom pincushions which you can find in my shop here get a lot of views and "favorites" so I am trying to stock up on a few for the quilt show.  I haven't decided whether to list this new version in my shop or wait till after the shop. 

I'm off to sip a cup of tea on the deck and watch the squirrels!  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Embroidered Cushion

Some time ago I wrote about this piece of embroidery in this post.  I pulled it out again this weekend and decided to make a cushion cover.  I had been procrastinating because I forgot to wash the linen before beginning the embroidery and wasn't sure what to make with it because of this (linen shrinks significantly).  If it needs it, I will have to carefully spot clean it. For the back I used a piece of lime green fabric with a woodgrain print on it.  I've had this in my fabric stash for a long time and I love it.  I think I've used a little bit of it in nearly all my quilts!  

It didn't take long to make the cushion cover.  I didn't have a zipper the right size so I made a simple envelope closure.  It looks pretty cute sitting on a vintage beechwood chair in my dining room. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Handful Of Carrots!

On the Saturdays that we are here and not in the mountains, I go to our local farmers market.  I stock up for the week on wonderful fresh local produce.  In this part of California there are several different climate types close by (coastal, inland and mountain) resulting in an incredible variety of produce.  From mountain blueberries to lemon grass and ginger, goat cheese to strawberries and greens.  I truly am very fortunate to live here with this abundance.  I got these carrots today.  They are almost three inches in diameter at the top and they are some of the sweetest carrots you could hope to taste!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Thank Goodness It's Friday...

It's been a week of early mornings now that my high schooler is back at school.  I'm tired!  It's time for a cup of tea, a snack and my latest "Mollie Makes" magazine.  

The Drought Goes On

I try and fit a walk into my morning routines and one of the places I like to go is our local recharge ponds.  These feed into our underground aquifer and are filled from local reservoirs.  Except, at the moment, they are not.  They have been allowed to dry up, causing the birds that called them home to move on.  There are no ducks, geese, herons, egrets, wading birds, or coot left.  When I walked there this week, early in the morning before the marine layer had burned off, the only birds I saw were turkey vultures and a shrike.  It was dusty, smelled of dry grasses which made my nose run, and the tall dry grasses rustled in the light early morning breeze.   It could be a while yet before we get any significant rain.  It often doesn't rain much until after Christmas.  I wonder how this will impact the migrating ducks and birds that rely on this place later in the year?  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Back to School and New Routines

My apologies for the radio silence!  Last week we went back up to the mountains for a few days of hiking and kayaking again.  It was gorgeous weather and we had a great time.  On Monday, however it was Back To School!  My daughter is a high school sophomore this year and although she was looking forward to seeing her friends and meeting the new teachers, she had all the usual first day of school anxieties.   School starts at 8am so for my "not a morning person" daughter this is always hard!  This week the mornings have started with a thick marine layer which is keeping the temperatures more comfortable.  It was strange for me, being without her, and I missed her.  This summer was very precious, we spent a lot of time doing things together.  It's going to take me a while to settle into my different routines!  

The first day of school, I spent the day doing laundry and cleaning after being away but yesterday I spent the day sewing and working on my Etsy shop.  I finished up various pumpkins.  I have been working on two styles.  One set of pumpkins is more primitive, using beautiful hand dyed wool with hand embroidered flowers and the other set is more quirky!  When I finished and photographed the quirky ones, I realized they reminded me of Wallace and Grommet, I think it's the teeth!!  

Some of these pumpkins have been added to my Etsy shop and you can see them here.  The rest I am keeping for my booth at the Quilt Show which is coming up next month.  I can't believe how much Fall stuff is in the shops.  Our local Hobby Lobby store (a big craft supply store) is full of Fall and Christmas items.  I tend not to stock a lot of seasonal things in my Etsy shop because I don't really want any left over.  I love pumpkins though so I thought I would make these and I expect I will make a few Christmas ornaments too. This will be my second Christmas on Etsy.  Last year I was new and didn't really know what to expect.  This year I will be more prepared!    

I am very happy with how these pumpkins turned out.  I enjoyed picking out combinations of wool fabric and flower colors.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Scrapbooking Weekend, Scrapbook Expo Santa Clara

Each August, my daughter and I go to Scrapbook Expo in Santa Clara.  We spend Friday and Saturday scrapbooking together, shopping for the latest products, searching out bargains and snacking!  We reserve a table for both days and meet friends there.  The Expo is in two parts.  In one area are the vendors and in the other, the crop space where you can scrap from 9am till midnight.  We enjoy being able to work on our pages and then pop over to the vendor booths for specific things as needed.   We stay overnight at the hotel which is connected to the convention center even though it is only a 40minute drive from where we live. This means I only have one really late night drive home when I'm tired and all the crazies are out and about.   

This is us ready to go, what you can't see is a big bag of assorted yummy snacks hiding behind my rolling tote bag!

This is a terrible (taken on my old iPhone) photo of the crop room.  The space is huge with ferocious air conditioning.  It is fun to wander around and see what everyone is working on. 

This is the new stadium in Santa Clara taken as the sun went down.  It is the new home of the San Francisco 49'ers.  This photo was taken from the 11th floor of the hotel where we stayed, from the ground the stadium looks incredibly tall.  It reminded us (avid Harry Potter fans that we are) of the stadium in Harry Potter where the Quidditch World Cup was played!  

Here are some of the pages I got done.  You will probably recognize some of the photos from this blog!  I was able to get the albums for both my son and daughter up to date so I was pretty happy with myself!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

On My Worktable, Embroidered Pumpkins

It's still summer here, hot, desperately dry and dusty but school goes back in a little over a week and the stores are full of Fall colors.  I love Fall and Winter.  They are my favorite seasons.  I love the warm colors of Fall and the holidays that happen during these months.  I enjoy decorating my mantlepiece with leaves, acorns and pumpkins, then later with faux berries and always with candles (I can't burn candles in the summer because the ceiling fans make them spill wax everywhere!). I am thankful for the respite from the unforgiving glare of our California summers and the promise of frosty mornings, cool weather hikes and ski season.  But we are not there yet!  In anticipation of all this, however, I began to play with some small pieces of hand dyed wool felt in shades of orange and red that I purchased recently.  They were crying out to be made into pumpkins and I am very happy with how they are turning out.  

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Yesterday I finished up two mermaid pincushions that I had been working on over the weekend while we were away.  As usual I began with drawings and then made a paper template.  I picked this aqua felt for the background because that is the color of the Pacific Ocean on a sunny day.  Last time we were at the beach it looked like this and we saw dolphins playing in the breaking waves.  As the waves rose up we could see the dolphins inside the wave, it was awesome.  No mermaids though!  Around the sideband I have embroidered ocean waves in shades of blue/green with some white on the tips of the waves.  For her tail, I embroidered rows of tiny chain stitches using a variegated thread.  She also has a pearl necklace and little pet fish.

I have listed this mermaid pincushion in my Etsy shop.

The inspiration for this pincushion came from a picture my daughter gave me for my birthday.  She has so much talent and has spent countless hours drawing and exploring the possibilities of her lovely Copic markers.   Copic markers are different from regular markers because they contain vibrant alcohol inks.  This makes them beautifully blendable and favored by illustrators and manga artists.  

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...