Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Woman, Her Dogs, and The Iditirod Trail

The Iditarod is nothing I would ever, ever, ever want to be a part of. I don't like the cold, or discomfort, or pain, or sleep deprivation. I don't like risks and venturing into the unknown. Which is perhaps why I love to read about people who do such amazing things.

I enjoyed reading this book about Moderow's journey from Manhattan Paralegal to twice taking on the hardest journey of 1,000 miles across Alaska, over frozen rivers and through cruel, blasting snow storms. Moderow's love for her dogs is central, even when they jeopardize her win. Each musher is described personally, central figures in the story.

The brutal conditions and privations of the trail, the vagaries of weather and canine willfulness, are described in sure, flowing prose.

Moderow attempted the Iditarod in 2003 and finished on her second try in 2005.

I received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Fast Into the Night: A Woman, Her Dogs, and their Journey North on the Iditarod Trail by Debbie Clarke Moderow
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication February 2, 2016

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Marshall Field's 100th Anniversary Handkerchief

I found this handkerchief on eBay. I knew it had a story and I wanted to know what it was. (It dated to the year of my birth--1952!)

The words "The Clock Strikes 100"appear next to a clock face-- a very specific looking clock-- in a field of repeated 100s. Around the border are drawings of buildings, people, and modes of transportation dated 1852, 1901, and 1952.

I goggled the motto and discovered that the clock is the famous Marshall Field clock at their Chicago flagship store. It was installed in 1871 as a beacon to the store which Field envisioned as a meeting place. (Which reminds me of the saying, "Meet Me At the Eagle" for John Wanamaker's in Philadelphia! Another large downtown store with an atrium--and pipe organ! See a souvenir hanky with the Eagle here.) 
The Clock Mender by Norman Rockwell features the Marshall Field Clock; Saturday Evening Post, 1945
You can see photos of the store and the clock here.  The Marshall Field & Company building is a Chicago landmark and is the second largest store in the world. The original building was lost in the great Chicago fire. Marshall Field moved into a new store in 1871. Additions were continuously made until 1914 and it reigned as the largest store in the world, covering 73 acres! 

I found many more Marshall Field 100 years handkerchiefs shared on Handkerchief Heroes.

I had no idea what I was going to learn when I bought this hanky! 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Valentines and Romantic Quilts

For February our local library has a display of vintage valentines and 'romantic' quilts have been hung.


 Shirley L. made this vintage handkerchief quilt embellished with machine embroidery.
 My handkerchief/pillowcase/embellished wall hanging.
I used an embroidered pillow case as my surface
I love that handkerchief so much when I saw another I snatched it up!

And my Vintage Rose is there, made from an embroidered doily, vintage quilt pieces, and embellishments.
I have some vintage valentines in my collection. I made turned several images into embroidered patterns; one has handkerchief points in the border. I sell the patterns at Rosemont Needle Arts on Etsy.

Some of my vintage valentine cards:

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Quilts Presidential and Patriotic by Sue Reich, Including My John Quincy Adams Contribution!

Sue Reich's book Quilts Presidential and Patriotic is out! In 2015 Sue asked for people to take on making a 24" x 24" quilt for a president to be part of a traveling exhibit of President quilts. I jumped at the chance to do John Quincy Adams, having just read a biography of his wife Catherine Louisa. I proceeded to read books about JQ in preparation, including The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams by Phyllis Lee Levin;  The Stranger and the Statesman by Nina Burleigh about JQ's championing the Smithsonian legacy being used to institute a national museum; and Mr. Adam's Last Crusade by Joseph Wheelan The last was the most exciting, telling of his post-presidential career in congress and his Supreme Court win for the freedom of the Amistad kidnapped Africans. When I read thank you letters to JQ from the Africans I knew I had discovered the 'hook' to make JQ appealing and relevant.

The quilt exhibit has been traveling the country this year and Sue will present a paper at the American Quilt Study Group in September 2016.
John Quincy Adams by N. Bekofske
Quilts Presidential and Patriotic includes the President quilts, information about each president and quilt, including quilt styles of their administration, an artist's statement, and quilts, textiles, and news articles relating to the president's time in office. There is a whopping 330 photographs and illustrations in the 192 page book! I was thrilled when Sue asked to include my original Redwork quilt of the First Ladies, Remember the Ladies. Laura Bush from my quilt is featured on her husband's pages.
Hilary Clinton and Laura Bush from Remember the Ladies by N. Bekofske
Sue is the author of World War I Quilts, World War II Quilts, Quiltings, Frolics, and Bees, and Quilting News of Yesteryear.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Wuthering Heights Revisited: Nelly Dean by Alison Case

NetGalley sometimes lists books not available but with a button to tell them "I Wish it Were." I clicked on that button for Nelly Dean: A Return to Wuthering Heights by Alison Case and a few days later was surprised to find my wish had been granted--I was given the ebook to read!

I immediately opened the book up and started reading. Just for a taste, since I had two other books I was reading already, plus my book club books. But I didn't stop reading it. I was hooked.

In Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, Mr. Lockwood tells the story of  Cathy Earnshaw and Heathcliff as told him by housekeeper Nelly Dean. In Case's novel,  years have passed and Nelly Dean decides to reveal all her secrets to Mr. Lockwood in the form of a long letter. Nelly tells of her relationship to Hinton Earnshaw and his son Hareton, her binding ties to the troubled and violent family, and the unexpected revelation that was the root cause of all her sorrows.

I enjoyed the novel as it stands on its own, and for another view of the classic Bronte story. Readers do not have to be experts on Wuthering Heights to enjoy this book.  I would have liked Case to have offered a little more than references to important scenes Lockwood already knew, to make it richer for those who don't know Emily's book. There are some sections that could be trimmed to advantage, especially concerning breastfeeding. The Big Reveal stretches credulity. Then, probability isn't a feature of the original novel.

I have gone back to reread Emily Bronte's novel once again after reading Nelly Dean.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte was published in 1847. Emily's book was anti-Victorian in every way! I first read it in my 20s, when I found it quite romantic and sexy. Twenty years later and found it Gothic and improbable. In 2012 I read all the Bronte sisters works while reading a biography on the family, my post found here.

I thank the publisher and NetGalley for the free ebook in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Nelly Dean
by Alison Case
Pegasus Books
Publication February 8, 2016
$25.95 hard cover
ISBN: 9781605989617

"A gripping tale of familial turmoil and thwarted passion...Alison Case has created a world so real, so grounded in visceral detail, that no prior knowledge of the Bronte classic is required. However, I suspect her debut Nelly Dean will entice many (including this reviewer) to reread the original, with fresh and knowing eyes." Irish Independence.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Aunt Carrie's Quilt & New Finds

My Aunt Pat Ramer had three of my Great-Aunt Carrie Ramer Bobb's postage stamp quilts, which my grandfather wrote about in an article for his hometown paper. One sadly met its end in a washing machine mishap. The other two were were coming unsewn and some fabrics had shredded. Aunt Pat took one quilt apart to repair it. And there it sat in her closet.

I brought the quilts home with me to see what I can do.
Aunt Carrie made the quilts in the 1960s with fabric scraps. 1" squares of fabric were sewn by hand into nine-patch units. Colors are repeated to make larger "x" patterns.

 Below is the top of the quilt Aunt Pat took apart. There are several more pieces as well.

Read my article on Aunt Carrie's quilt making and Chive Dumpling recipe at
See more about Aunt Carrie, including more of her quilts owned by Sidney Bobb at

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Lit Up: One Reporter, Three Schools, Twenty-four Books that Can Change Lives

Does teaching literature to 10th graders make a difference in their lives? How do we instill an appetite for serious reading in an age of smart phones, graphic novels, social texting, and computer gaming?  Does economic class, home life, school district, environment, or teacher effectiveness, make a difference? Can literature impact the lives of young people?

In Lit Up David Denby set out to explore these questions by visiting three classrooms in three schools. He chose Tenth Grade because fifteen-year-old's minds are still plastic, they are grappling with identity and their future, and are still 'reachable'. An age, perhaps, when it it not too late for them to learn to read literature for the sheer pleasure of it and perhaps begin to see literature as art.

Denby visited Sean Leon at Beacon High in Manhattan whose reading list was heavy on existential classics; James Hillhouse High in inner-city New Haven, a public school with many troubles; and a Marmaroneck, wealthy New York City suburb school. Each class differed in books and teaching practices. We follow the classes through the reading lists as Denby reports on how the works are taught and student's responses as individuals and as a class. Denby interjects his own opinions and thoughts about what he observes. I don't always agree with Denby, or the teachers, but was drawn into formulating my own ideas in response.

Sean Leon's class emphasized good writing and independent thinking. His reading list was grim, rooted in "the fears and disasters of the last century," as Denby notes. Leon pushed his students to totally engage with life and evaluate societal expectations, their addiction to social media, and the fast food diet of Internet fodder. Denby describes Leon as "a radical in spirit, a conservative in values."

Jessica Zelenski taught at the worst performing school in the state. Social Justice was the theme that year. Her book choices also precluded 'feel good' books. She instituted "Read Around"; students were to chose one of four books: A Long Way Gone: Memories of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nagisi, Night by Elie Wiesel, and Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club. The students at first rejected the selections. Zelenski explained what the books were about and read from each before asking a volunteer to continue reading. Most students decided to read Beah's book. Zelenski bought extra copies with her own money. The kids soon requested silent reading period to work on their books. These kids understood troubled families, poverty, trust and safety issues, and had a deep sense of justice. Yale University had a college promise program but Hillhouse had no office to help kids navigate college entrance. Zelenski knew that studying literature might not get them into college, but it could help them live. When the students demanded reading time it was a huge leap. Not only were they enjoying reading, they enjoyed reading together. At the end of the school year students were able to meet Beah who was in town. They knew his journey, they knew he had come through and flourished, and now they actually met

The best part of the book are the students. I enjoyed meeting them, hearing their words, watching them grow. There is nothing more amazing than watching a young person's understanding blossom and burst open like flowers in spring.

Reading this book I felt my inadequacies as a writer and as a reader. These 10th grade students were prodded to levels of critical thinking I had only experienced in honors and 400-level classes. I spend hours writing a book review or blog post. Have I become self-satisfied and lazy? It's been nearly 40 years since I graduated university. Have I settled for 'good enough?'

This was an interesting and thought-provoking book.

The Reading Lists

The 10th grade reading list at Beacon, taught by Sean Leon, included A Rose for Emily by Faulkner and Hawthorne's The Minister Back Veil, poems by Sylvia Plath, Brave New World by Huxley, Siddhartha by Hesse, Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, Notes from the Underground by Dostoevsky, No Exit by Sartre, and Beckett's Waiting for Godot. (As a teen I read Brave New World, Siddhartha, and Man's Search for Meaning and saw Waiting for Godot performed. Slaughterhouse-Five I encountered in a college course on Black Humor. I didn't read Plath until I was post-college.)

At Beacon, Mary Whittemore's 11th graders read Middlesex by Eugenides, excerpts from Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman, The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne, Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Morrison's The Song of Solomon, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Kesey, The Things They Carried by O'Brien, Ceremony by Silko, and Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. ( I read Kesey in the Black Humor college class, Gatsby on my own as a teen, And Eugenides and O'Brien as an adult.)

At Beacon, Daniel Guralnick's 11th graders read Rip Van Winkle by Irving, Hawthorne's The Birthmark, Poe's The Cask of Amontillado, Twain's The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, Daisy Miller by James, Crane's The Open Boat, Capote's In Cold Blood, The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald, The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway, and Invisible Man by Ellison. (I read Hemingway, Capote, and Poe as a teen, and later Crane and James as an adult. I never read any of these in a classroom setting.)

James Hillhouse 10th teacher Jessica Zelenski taught To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee, Ursula LeGuin's The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas, Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros, Shakespeare's Sonnets, Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron, and Hemingway's the Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. Students chose to read Beah's A Long Way Gone, Tan's Joy Luck Club, Night by Wiesel, or A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. To prod students to actually finish reading one book was victory. (I only read the Sonnets in a classroom. I read Lee, Tan,  and Wiesel as an adult. My son read Beah in college.)

Mary Beth Jordan at Mamaroneck high taught 10th graders Wall's The Glass Castle, Night by Weisel, Macbeth by Shakespeare, East of Eden by Steinbeck, The Flowers by Alice Walker, Cheever's The Reunion, Saunders's Sticks, and poetry by Shelley, Frost, Eliot, Roethke, and Kumin. Students chose to read Orwell's 1984 or Bradbury's 451, and The Kite Runner by Hosseini or King's The Body. (Again, I read none of these in a classroom setting. I read Wall, Hosseini and Eliot as an adult, and Night, Steinbeck, Orwell and Bradbury as a teen.)

Denby, a movie critic, wrote Great Books in 1996.

I received a free ebook from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Lit Up by David Denby
Henry Holt & Co
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
$30.00 hard cover
ISBN: 9780805095852