Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Year End Review

This is my 182nd blog post in 2014. Yikes. That's pretty good, considering we retired, downsized from two houses to one small one, moved, and have been working hard on our "forever" home. We have a new range, a new tree, a new garage roof, and cellular shades for all the bedrooms. I got a cool retro hutch for my vintage fabric, and a 1958 Saga bedroom set. For Christmas I received a craft table that folds down and has an pad that will make it into a big ironing board.

It has been exciting to see the President Quilts as Sue Reich receives them. She has already had one venue interested in the traveling quilt show. I am so honored to be a part of this project. And so pleased I chose John Quincy Adams. Plus they will be in Sue's forthcoming book on Political and Patriotic Quilts!

This year I reviewed about 50 books, including classics, new fiction, non-fiction, quilt related, children's, and new adult books. I read several more that were not reviewed.

The books I read and blogged about that impacted me the most include:
  • Rereading The Great Gatsby: So We Read On by Maureen Corrigan. I did reread The Great Gatsby again.
  • War Wounds: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  • John Quincy Adams: The Last Crusade and Portrait of the President as a Young Man
  • Nora Webster by Colm Toibin: A Novel About Grief...
  • Quilts and Quiltmaking in The Invention of Wings by Susan Monk Kidd
  • Acts of God by Ellen Gilchrist
  • White Noise Thirty Year Later: Remembering 1984
  • Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper. Etta is 83 and decides to walk from Saskatchewan to the Atlantic Ocean. She carried a paper with her name written on it. 
I have also read books with reviews that will not appear until close to their publication in 2015:
  • Land of Enchantment by Liza Wieland, a novel about artists and 9-11. Loved this one.
  • West of Sunset by Stewart O'Nan, a fictionalized account F. Scott Fitzgerald's final days in Hollywood. Poor Scott.
  • Amherst by William Nicholson, about a screen writer researching Austin Dickinson's fifteen year affair with a married woman. 
  • Madison's Gift by David O. Stewart, exploring James Madison's career in context of five political and personal relationships.
  • How To Be A Heroine by Samantha Ellis, how fictional females impacted her ideals and self-image.
  • Abe and Fido by Matthew Algeo, about Abraham Lincoln's relationship to pets and animals.
I am currently reading:
  • The Big Seven by Jim Harrison; not my usual fare; about a retired detective whose fishing cabin is surrounded by an unlawful clan. Should violence be the 8th deadly sin?
  • Rodin's Lover by Heather Webb, a historical romance about Camille Claudel, the sculptress who studied with Auguste Rodin
  • The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Godwin. Nuf said.
  • All Points Patchwork by Diane Gilleland showing how to do traditional paper piecing patchwork
On my NetGalley bookshelf to be read soon are:
  • The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg, a novel about George Sand
  • The Children's Crusade by award winner Ann Packer who wrote The Dive from Clausen's Pier
  • Behind Every Great Man by Marlene Wagman-Geller about the little known women behind some great men
  • The Given World by Marian Palaia about the Vietnam War's effects on a family
I am always surprised to suddenly see a post soar in the number of views. Obviously someone shared the link. The biggest surprise was seeing my most viewed blog post (around 1000 hits) was on the 1954 Sealtest Recipes! My Pride and Prejudice quilt post used to be number one...now it  is number two. I have been selling the patterns for the appliqué and Redwork patterns on Etsy.  "Quilts and Quiltmaking in The Invention of Wings" by Susan Monk Kidd has been on the top posts. "Modish Fifth Avenue Styles for Spring and Summer 1927" has suddenly appeared in the top posts. Anything about handkerchiefs and vintage fabric have also been popular.

My personal favorite blog posts were those that shared information that was new or at least not well known.
  • The Bible of John Riley, Indian Chief : A family bible legend reveals the incredible story of early Michigan history
  • Operation Hanky: The Uncommon Story Behind a Common Handkerchief: How an American Priest helped Korean women by establishing a cottage industry
  • Gruesome Recollection from a Hundred Years Ago: Hog Butchering: was written by my grandfather about his early life on a Pennsylvania farm
  • The Shipwreck Coast: "Girl," and a Lamp: more family history about my husband's grandmother's time along the Lake Superior shipwreck coast
  • 1928 Presidential Campaign Hanky: my 'circus' elephant hanky from eBay is a political artifact
  • Lucy Bloss' Sunbonnet Sue Pyrographic Box: genealogy research behind a flea market find
Quilts I worked on or finished this year included:

  • The Gridlock Political Quilt, inspired by Dustin's Giddyup quilt block and incorporating linen towels from 1952 and vintage handkerchiefs
  • My embroidered 'Green Heroes" quilt, ecologists, nature writers, park makers and more
  • Completed the Charles Dickens quilt top featuring embroidered images from his books
  • Creating and sending off my John Quincy Adams quilt to tour with Sue Reich's traveling President Quilts show
  • Working on Austen Family Album quilt blocks along with Barbara Brackman's blog
  • Working on Love Entwined, a 1796 Marriage Quilt along with Esther Aliu's Yahoo group
  • Several small quilts for the quilt guild auction and for family
Laura's Flower Garden: a block made by my mother-in-law turned into a small quilt
My works in progress include:
  • I have been researching and sketching for a new Literary Story Book Quilt based on The Great Gatsby. It will be great fun.
  • I need to set my original Wizard of Oz embroidered blocks into a quilt.
  • I have memory quilt blocks from my father-in-law's shirts to make into a quilt
  • I need to pick up Love Entwined again, and finish the last few Austen Family Album blocks
  • and deal with a dozen more UFOs lurking in drawers...
Best wishes for a wonderful New Year to you all!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Zelda by Nancy Mitford

Books seem to appear before I even know I wanted them--serendipity in action.

When I was researching John Quincy Adams for my quilt that is part of the Presidents Quilts exhibit to tour in 2017 I stumbled across two JQA books; one amongst a thousand in a thrift shop and the other in a small town library sale.

At the time I was reading  Maureen Corrigan's book And So We Read On about The Great Gatsby--which I then reread. At that same small town library sale I found The Last Tycoon, Fitzgerald's novel in process when he died. I read that. And a few weeks later at a church used book sale I found Zelda by Nancy Mitford, her 1970 biography on Zelda Fitzgerald. And I discovered the NetGalley offering of Stewart O'Nan's novel West of Sunset, a novel about Fitzgerald's last years in Hollywood--That review will appear on January 5, 2015.

I had not planned to read all these F. Scott books. I had read his "Gatsby Girls" stories and The Beautiful and The Damned about the time the Gatsby film came out and thought I was done. But since these books threw themselves at me, I have read them. And am glad I did.

An INTERNET search about Scott and Zelda will bring up everything you want to know about them. They were the 'it' couple of the Flapper age: charming, beautiful, carefree, talented, free spirited, young. And for a while rolling in money.
Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald and F. Scott Fitzgerald 
"Sometimes I don't know whether Zelda and I are real or whether we are characters in one of my novels." F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Named for a gypsy queen in a novel, Zelda was golden haired, athletic, fearless, and undisciplined. She chaffed against the Southern Belle expectations, drinking, and smoking, and "boodling" in cars. She was voted the prettiest in her high school senior class. Then she meet the living image of the Arrow Shirt man: Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald. Scott had the whole package: charm, looks, a Princeton education, and he was already a writer. They had in common great confidence and romantic self-images. Scott seemed worldly to the small town Zelda. He was on his way to financial success and fame. He wanted her along for the ride. And she hopped on the train.

Zelda was Scott's muse. His heroines are versions of Zelda. His stories hearken back to their own stories. Their triumphs and tragedies became fodder for their fiction.

The 1920s high life style caught up with them both. Scott was an alcoholic, and a mean one when drunk. His short stories sold like hot cakes. The lived in the moment. But Zelda wanted something of her own. She thought about an affair. She revived her girlhood dream of becoming a  ballet dancer. She became obsessive about her ballet, and insisted they move to Paris for her studies. They fought. Zelda had a break down and was hospitalized and eventually was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Zelda and Scott never lived together again. He supported her, loved her for their shared past love, but they were unable to live together. Scott was furious when Zelda wrote about her life, using the same "material" he was working with in his book. He encouraged Zelda's painting. Scott fell in love with Sheila Graham and died in Hollywood of heart disease. Zelda died in a horrible fire. People forgot his books.
"They imagined things about themselves, then forgot the thread of the current romance and disintegrated through the fumes of the night in search of the story of their lives." Zelda Fitzgerald in "Caesar's Things"
Until the Armed Services Edition of The Great Gatsby created a buzz among the soldiers of WWII. And the high school and university literature courses took the book up as a good short read. I wrote about that on my post about When Books Went To War by Molly Guptail Manning.

Scott wondered if Zelda were already exhibiting mental instability when he married her. Had he fallen for an insane woman? And if he did, what did that indicate about HIM?

I still have to read Tender is the Night, the book Scott was written while Zelda was showing the early signs of her illness.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Mixing Memory and Desire: Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

I have read at least 50 books this year. It is a rare occasion at the book's end to find tears swelling in my eyes. Rarely do characters step out from behind the veil and take you traveling with them for some hundred pages so that at the journey's end you mourn the loss of what was shared.

Emma Hooper's Etta and Otto and Russell and James is that kind of book.

When I first saw the book on NetGalley and read it was about an 83 year old woman on a trek across Canada accompanied by a coyote I was not sure I wanted to read about old people.

For one thing as a pastor's wife I have spent my life, starting in my twenties, mostly around old people. And for another thing I am getting old myself. Later I looked at it again. I read the reviews:

Hooper’s spare, evocative prose dips in and out of reality and travels between past and present creating what Etta tells Otto is just a long loop. This is a quietly powerful story whose dreamlike quality lingers long after the last page is turned."– Library Journal (starred review)

"Etta and Otto and Russell and James is incredibly moving, beautifully written and luminous with wisdom. It is a book that restores one's faith in life even as it deepens its mystery. Wonderful!"– Chris Cleave, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of Little Bee

"Hooper’s debut is a novel of memory and longing and desires too long denied…To a Cormac McCarthy--like narrative--sans quotation marks, featuring crisp, concise conversations--Hooper adds magical realism…. The book ends with sheer poetry…A masterful near homage to Pilgrim’s Progress: souls redeemed through struggle. " – Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

This time I requested to read it.

I read it in 24 hours. I did not want to stop reading for meals. Or to go to a family Christmas gathering. Of course, I did stop, but some part of me was always tugging at the leash, eager to resume.

Plot? Here is what you need to know: everything is revealed in its time through the action of the story and the memories of the characters. It is about growing up in Saskatchewan during the dry and destitute years; about young people who dream of another life. It is about old people who fulfill long held desires. There is love and heartbreak, war and death. And, the way it is in old age, we do not always know the present from the past, or the imagined from the real. Scenes are impressionistic, insight is oblique, point of view shifts between persons and time.

Brilliant writing shoots forth from the page in stunning recognition: this is true. Hooper is a musician and the rhythm and lyricism of her language is pitch perfect. I can't wait to see what Emma Hooper pens in the future. If this her first novel is such high literature, of what will she be capable over a career?

Read this book.

I thank NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the e-book in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James
by Emma Hooper
Simon & Schuster
Publication January 20, 2015
ISBN: 9781476755670

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Pummychug Christmas

Clawson was originally called Pummychug. Its historical museum is in a 1920 home. The house has enjoyed a long and varied history, including being used as a speak-easy and as a morgue! Now it is outfitted with items from the 1920s and 1930s. It was decorated for Christmas.

 This Christmas tree is made of  feathers.

 All the cats in the house were manikins, like the figures displaying vintage clothing.
 An old radio that ran on a battery, and a pipe stand.
The phone works for incoming calls. As there is no dial...or telephone operator...outgoing calls are problematic.
 A little oven for a little kitchen.

 The ice chest.
 The Hoosier cabinet was stocked with vintage tins.
Including this vintage Sanders tin, Sanders being a local chocolate shop since 1875..

 The doll quilt is made of embroidered wool pieces made from men's suiting samples.

 I love the fox spool holder!

 In the late 1970swe lived near the empty Stetson hat factory in Philadelphia.
The medicine cabinet was filled with patent medicines....mostly alcohol and laudanum and other things now outlawed.
 Sweet handkerchiefs!
 A banjo was on the bed in the summer sleeping room.

Water pipes made of wood are still being found in Detroit. Hopefully ours have all been upgraded in the last century...
 The Button Family has button faces on this little bag.
 Please Go Away and Let Me Sleep! says this owl printed souvenir pillow from Petosky, MI

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Enjoy An 1860 Christmas

I hope you enjoy these Godey's Lady's Book illustrations from my bound 1860 set. I found it in an old book shop in Maine about 30 years ago.

An 1860s bride in white, a fashion style set by Queen Victoria.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Hometown Christmas Shopping

We have a wonderful store in town called Leon & Lulu that offers home decor, furniture, gifts and books galore. It is in the old Ambassador Skating Rink and the wood floors and snack stand (offering coffee and pop corn) are still there. I have visited the store several times in the past few months. 

Furniture, art, lamps, rugs; modern or industrial; chandeliers of wine glasses or tea cups--it's all here.

 Animal items are big. Leon & Lulu are the names of the owner's dog and cat.

 Either you laugh or shudder at the thought of these target prints in your living room.
 There are cute handcrafted gloves and hats, socks, purses, wallets, and clothing.
 There are a lot of message pillows. This is my favorite.
 These rusted metal signs are really cool. But we sure don't need a sign to tell us to 'eat' at our house!
 Do you need a dinosaur in your living room? At five our son would have said "yes!"
 I love the pottery tiles, including Charlie Harper designs.
 There are fox and reindeer dolls.
There are reminders of the building's roller skating days, like these vintage skates.