Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Year With The Fairies: June

June's Visit

My Beetles in trappings of green brushed with gold
Bring with joy all the treasures my carriage can hold.
And thousands of flowers for the children I strew,
With plenty for brides and sweet graduates too.

Attended with strains from Sir Cricket's wee band
I scatter my posies with prodigal hand;
I regret that my sojourn on earth must end soon,
But each year you may look for a visit from June.

from A Year With the Fairies by Anna M. Scott, 1914

Friday, May 29, 2015

South Meets North in Hell's Kitchen

Hell's Kitchen is home to Donna Bell's Bake Shop with its Southern style baking. For Mother's Day I received the new cook book Donna Bell's Bake Shop: Recipes and Stories of Family, Friends and Food.  The recipes, each with a photo, will bring on a bad case of sugar craving and an itching to get into the kitchen. (Or a sudden desire to visit New York City.)

The bake shop was started and is owned by friends Pauley Perrette, Darren Greenblatt, and Matthew Sandusky. The store name honors Pauley's mother Donna. "Cooking and baking down South were a part of every day and every experience," Pauley writes.

Essays by the three friends are interspersed between the recipes. We learn about Pauley's family, her career, and the friends she made along the way.

Darren Greenblatt grew up in Philadelphia and was designing jewelry when he meet Pauley in New York City. "I felt like I had found my long lost sister," he writes. Meeting Donna he helped her in her kitchen and became obsessed with Southern cooking. Matthew Sandusky came from Pittsburgh and meet Pauley in LA where she was breaking into acting. Each of the friends sacrificed something to make the bake shop become a reality. It is a labor of love.

Pauley Perrette is one of the most recognized and beloved media figures in America. She plays Abby Sciuto in the television show NCIS. I first watched NCIS when my dad was in the hospital during his last months and I was staying across state to be with Dad. At the end of the day my brother and I would go back to Dad's house and chill out watching NCIS reruns. After dad's passing I returned home and introduced my husband to the show.

Recipes include biscuits, muffins and scones, quick breads, bread pudding, bar cookies, cookies and cakes. Some that I can't wait to try include:

  • Hummingbird Bread Pudding with Cream Cheese Glaze made with crushed pineapple and coconut
  • Champagne Cake with Strawberry Buttercream Frosting, yes it uses champagne
  • Cranberry White Chocolate Rise Krispies Treats; this is not your kiddie's cookie
  • Strawberry Scones with Lemon Glaze, yum!
The book from Simon and Schuster can be found in hard cover at your local bookstore or online shop. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Anne Eliot VS the Modern Perky Heroine

Last night I attended a book club I have joined. This month's book was Jane Austen's Persuasion.  The book was chosen because some of the members thought they should read an Austen book and because was a shorter novel.

It was a diverse group. Several members were great Janites, while other had never read Austen before. The format for discussion consisted to each member rating the book and explaining why they did or did not like it, bringing up aspects that appealed to them or that gave them problems.

I was surprised by how many enjoyed the 'historical' aspect of the book illustrative of a specific time period. I had never thought about Austen as 'historical fiction'. Quite a number were impressed by Austen's writing quality, the perfection of her language and word choices. Several thought the story line could be easily updated: a girl's parents don't approve of her boyfriend and separate them; they meet later each thinking the other is already engaged; everything is cleared up and they get back together. And quite a number couldn't cope with the exposition, the arcane manners and social observances, the number of characters and how to tell them apart.

A comment that came up over and over was that they wished Anne Elliot showed more pluck. Why didn't she stand up for herself? Why was she so passive? They wanted  Anne Elliot to be more like Austen's Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice, or even Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre.

On the drive home I thought about how few plucky heroines were around when I was a girl and how today they predominate books and screen. My husband was re-watching The Hunger Games yesterday. Today we want a Katniss. a gal who steps up to the plate and uses her head and stays in for the win. Is Anne Elliot, or Fanny from Mansfield Park, too passive, too archaic, to appeal to the post-modern world changed forever by feminism?

I think that Anne won back her former lover's attention by being what she always was, demonstrating her good sense and willingness to help others--even when they are not deserving. She has a moral integrity that does not require acting out or getting even; she never feels superior; she accepts the foibles of other. She is well spoken, socially intelligent, sensible, and consistent. Captain Wentworth finds Anne unchanged.

"Her attachment and regrets had, for a long time, clouded every enjoyment of youth, and an early loss of bloom and spirits had been their lasting effect."

Anne is as low as a gal can get. Anne was nineteen when her surrogate mother Lady Russell persuaded to break her engagement to a man she was attached to, but whose future was uncertain. Unable to forget the man she gave up, she has become thin and listless and resigned to spinsterhood.
"She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older: the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning."
Anne is insignificant in the eyes of her father and elder sister Elizabeth. After their mother's death Elizabeth took over the role of female family head, but has none of their mother's good sense. She like their father is shallow, vain, and full of the 'Elliot Pride' of self-importance. Anne is taken advantage of by her hypochondriac married sister who relies on Anne's good sense to solve all her problems.
"How was Anne to set all these matters to rights? She could do little more than listen patiently, soften every grievance, and excuse each to the other; give them all hints of the forbearance necessary between such near neighbours, and make those hints broadest which were meant for her sister's benefit."
Their father, with Elizabeth complicit, has mismanaged his money. They are in debt. It is decided that they have to rent out the only home Anne has ever known. They are to move to Bath, a resort town of leisure where society's shallow values, based on rank and connections, reign.

Jane understood Anne. When Jane lost her father the family had to vacate the vicarage. They moved to Bath for a while, a place she hated, and where she did little writing. Luckily her brother Edward had been adopted by a childless relative and was able to offer them a little cottage in the country.

As Jane was writing Persuasion she was suffering from the mystery illness that killed her and which left her listless, with back pain, fever, and destroyed her looks, leaving her 'black and white'. Persuasion was the last book she wrote.

Dr. Toby Olshin taught us that Persuasion was 'wish fulfillment.' It has a fairy tale ending. Anne gets her second chance. (Which Jane would never live to get.)

The war is over. Captain Wentworth returns holding all the aces; on top of looks, wit, and self-confidence he now has wealth--and is looking for a wife. He tells thrilling tales of life at sea. The Musgrove girls throw themselves at him. He is vain enough, and angry still about Anne's backing out of their youthful engagement, to lord it over Anne.
"He had not forgiven Anne Elliot. She had used him ill, deserted and disappointed him; and worse, she had shewn a feebleness of character in doing so, which his own decided, confident temper could not endure. She had given him up to oblige others. It had been the effect of over-persuasion. It had been weakness and timidity. He had been most warmly attached to her, and had never seen a women since whom he thought her equal; but, except from some natural sensation of curiosity, he had no desire of meeting her again. Her power with him was gone forever. It was now his object to marry."
Captain Wentworth is enjoying being the center of all this female attention. Until he realizes that these silly young girls lack the maturity and constancy and good sense Anne still shows.Louisa Musgrove proves that being too head strong, and not persuadable to a better judgment, has disastrous consequences.

Anne's looks have improved since the Captain's return. The fresh Lyme air restores her color. Being near her love makes her eyes sparkle. And she is suddenly noticed by other men again--in particular her cousin Mr. Elliot, heir to her father's estate. And Anne knows she is admired, and it adds to her restored beauty.

The Captain has understood that Anne is engaged Mr. Elliot, who is interested in her for all the wrong reasons--none of which include love and esteem. Luckily Anne has taken up a girlhood friend whose fallen on hard times, but who has connections into the Bath rumor network. If you have ever lived in a small town you will recognize how it works. Knowledge is power. Anne learns the truth about Mr. Elliot.

The Captain overhears Anne in a conversation about constancy in love and learns that Anne's heart is true. He slips a letter for Anne to find. Oh my, what passion!
Captain Wentworth leaves a letter for Anne, proclaiming his love

"You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you."
So what kind of Anne Elliot do women want today? Had Anne stuck to her guns and married Captain Wentworth against her family's advice what would her life had been like?

She would have been alone with her husband away at sea during the Napoleonic wars, capturing prize ships and getting rich. Perhaps she would have become pregnant, raising children alone. She could have died in childbirth. Her husband could have died at sea. These scenarios are partly what caused Lady Russell to persuade Anne to break off the engagement. Dread of a new war carrying off her husband is the only pale on the happiness Anne finds at the end of the novel. Austen had two brothers in the British Navy. She was well acquainted with the fears and concerns of having a man at sea.

What if Anne had married her cousin Mr. Elliot, heir to the estate, as her family had hoped many years ago. She would have been exceedingly unhappy with an unworthy husband who did not love her.

What if Anne stayed single and fought for living on a budget, paying off their debts, and retaining the family estate? What if she said, I'm going to do the dancing and not just play the piano? And told her sister Mary to stop whining, she was as healthy as any of them? Would this Anne have won back her true love? She would no longer be the Anne that Captain Wentworth had fallen in love with--amiable and sweet natured.

What she has to offer the Captain are stellar qualities. She offers no real money. No estate. She is not a raving beauty, a clever conversationalist, a wit. She is not sexy. He loves her for the very qualities that make her unappealing to today's reader.

I very much appreciate the modern perky heroine, so lacking when I was a girl. There were precious few female writers or heroines around back then. and truthfully they are still a minority today.

But let's not diminish the other qualities that can make a heroine. Moral sense, compassion, wisdom, tenderness, and constancy are needed as much today as ever. Perhaps they are needed now more than ever.

Persuasion can be read free:

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Restoration Love Story: Exit the Actress by Priya Parmar

Nell Gwynn
When I was reading Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar I noted that many marked it as 'want to read' because they enjoyed Parmar's previous book Exit the Actress about the Restoration actress Nell Gwynn.

I had read about Nell in Samuel Pepys' Diary. At university I kept hearing about this Samuel Pepys dude. I bought an 1890s three volume set of Pepys Diary edited by Henry S. Wheatly and read it; later my husband gifted me the complete diary published by University of California.

"And so to bed." (how Samuel Pepys ends his diary entries)

I went to bed with Pepys for years. And it was my husband's idea.

Pepys loved the theater (read excerpts of his diary about his theater going here.) Under Oliver Cromwell's government the theaters had been closed. With the restoration of the monarchy, and Charles II on the throne, the country made up for all those years of enforced Christian perfection. Bawdy and sexy and profligate things were happening. (Starting at the top with Charles, The Merry King himself!)

Men had traditionally played female roles. One famous actor, Edward Kynaston, or Teddy in Parmar's book, was complimented by Pepys as being 'the loveliest lady that ever I saw in my life." Now females were pushing their way into the theater. Of course they were all prostitutes. Why, Nell Gwynn danced on stage and SHOWED HER LEGS. Scandalous!

"Creed and I walked out to see what play was acted to-day and we find it "The Slighted Mayde"...we saw it well acted, though the play hath little good about it, being most pleased to see the little girl dance in boy's apparel, she having very fine legs, only bends in the hams, a I perceive all women do."
Samuel Pepys Diary, Monday, February 23, 1663

On March 2, 1667 Pepys and his wife went to see the Mayden Queen by Dryden. Pepys wrote, "there is a comical part done by Nell, which is Florimell, that I never can hope ever to see the like done again, by man or great performance of a comical part was never, I believe, in the world before as Nell do this, both as a mad girle, then most and best of all when she comes in like a young gallant,; and hath the notions and carriage of a spark the most that ever I saw any man have. It makes me, I confess, admire her."
Charles in 1653 when in exile
Nell Gwynn was famous for being rising from an orange seller in the theater to becoming one of its stars. Nell was also admired by theater lover Charles II and she later became his mistress. Catching the eye of Charles II was not the hard part. He had seven mistresses and they bore his only living children. Nell remained a favorite and on his death bed he remembered her and hoped they didn't let "poor Nell starve."
Charles II. The model for Captain Hook.
Parmar's version of Nell's rags to riches story is full of ambiance and details about the 17th c.
The book is written in the form of diary entries by Nell, interspersed with letters, recipes, and gossip columns. The reader 'hears' Nell's voice first person. (It was during this time period that personal 'closets' allowing privacy became fashionable--leading to diary writing.) Letters between Charles II and his sister offer readers some insight into the royal world. Readers will enjoy the camaraderie of the theater denizens and their lively antics. 

I had so much fun with Nell and The Wits. They are better company than Vanessa and Virginia could ever be. I suddenly want to revisit Pepys and Fielding and Restoration drama. 

Exit the Actress
by Priya Parmar
Simon & Schuster
Publication 2011
available in ebook, paperback, and hard cover

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

And Still We Rise: Race, Culture, and Visual Conversations

"As an artist, I strongly believe art has the capacity to touch the spirit, engage, educate, and heal in ways that words alone cannot." Carolyn L. Mazloomi
The origin and use of quilts has always been about warmth and protection. Quilts have also always been about art and expression. Quilts have been created to express political affiliation, to raise funds for causes, and to communicate the ideals and goals of various groups and social causes.
(For an overview see:

And Still We Rise consists of 97 quilts by 69 artists that express the totality of the African American experience. In her opening essay Carolyn Mazloomi explains the genesis of the quilt exhibition: using the accessible and visual medium of quilting, artists explore 400 years of history, from 1619 when the first kidnapped and enslaved Africans landed on American soil to Trayvon Martin's murder.

Each quilt merits a full page and a detail illustration accompanied by the artist's statement. Unlike many "coffee table quilt books" this is not a book to flip through lightly. The quilts incorporate diverse techniques that merit study. The subject matter and story behind the quilts are thoughtful and passionately presented. The diversity of the subject matter is extraordinary, and very personal to the quilt artist.

The quilts are presented in historical order beginning with 20 and Odd  concerning the 1619 arrival of the first enslaved Africans in America. The Dutch ship The White Lion battled a Spanish ship and captured "20 and odd" enslaved Africans. The White Lion landed at Jamestown, Virginia and traded the Africans for food and supplies.  The quilt by Carolyn Crump shows the ship hull made of African bodies.

The quilt subjects include the expected: Crispus Attucks who died in the Boston Massacre; enslaved first American poetess Phillis Wheatley; Nat Turner rebellion organizer; the Amistad case; Harriet Tubman; and John Brown. Other subjects appear that are not covered in typical American textbooks: Griot Lucy Terry Prince; Levi Coffin who established the Underground Railroad; political activist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper; political activist Ida B. Wells; the first black U.S. Naval ship captain Robert Smalls; Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks; and the first African-American Brigadier General in the U.S. Army Benjamin O. Davis Sr. Iconic African American achievements in music, athletics, and the arts appear.

The artists address the dark side of the African American experience. Ironic by Sandra Hankins portrays the three men murdered in Mississippi in 1964 whose story was central to One Mississippi, Two Mississippi  by Carol V. R. George which I reviewed at the beginning of the month. The Scottsboro Boys: The Arrest by Patricia Montgomery commemorates the nine Negro young men who were wrongfully arrested and condemned to death. Other quilts present The Freedom Riders, Martin Luther King, the bombing of the Birmingham 16th Street Baptist Church, and the signing of the 1968 Civil Rights Act.

There are quilts to celebrate achievements and firsts: the first all African-American flight crew; the election of President Barack Obama; the appointment of Condolezza Rice; Brigadier General Hazel Q. Johnson-Brown; and astronaut Mae C. Jemison.

Reading the book, confronted by the quilts, brings a roller coaster ride of emotions. One is educated, one remembers, one mourns, and one hopes. Arriving at the 2012 Trayvon Could be My Son by Dorothy Burge brings a heavy awareness of current turmoil and the inequalities of our society and justice system.

The last quilt Visionaries of Our Freedom: Quadricentnnial: The First Four Hundred Years of African Presence in America by Sherry E. Whetstone-McCall is a crazy quilt collage in the shape of the continent of Africa. The artist states, "Let that anniversary be marked by the telling of stories that recognize and celebrate the perseverance and triumph of the African-American people. Let the stories inspire the world to take courageous steps for freedom today and for generations to come."

I received a free book from Schiffer in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

And Still We Rise: Race, Culture, and Visual Conversations
Carolyn L. Mazloomi
Schiffer Publishing
$34.99 hard cover
ISBN: 9870764349287

Monday, May 25, 2015

1945 V-Mail From France and Germany

My mother-in-law kept letters from her nephew Aurthur Kenneth (Ken) Perkins (b. 9-27-1926) who was a private in the 118th infantry. The unconditional surrender of Germany occurred May 7, 1945--a few days after this first letter. Ken was about 18 years old. I have transcribed the V-Mail and letters as Ken wrote them.

'Ken" with Grandma O'Dell and his Cousin Phyllis 
Ken's mother Edith Lila May O'Dell Perkins (1906-1968) was sister to my mother-in-law Laura Grace O'Dell Bekofske.

Edith married John Franklin 'Frank' Perkins (1889-1962) born in Ontario Canada. Frank was 21 when he came to the US in 1921 to "better his condition." Frank was married at that time, last had lived in Flint, MI when in 1919 he took the ferry from Sarnia, Ontario to Port Huron, MI. His occupation was 'laborer'. Frank had $8. He was going to his brother's home.

Ken's parents 'Frank' Perkins and Edith O'Dell Perkins
Their son Ken married Audrey Lee on May 13, 1944 when Ken was seventeen years old. The first letter from Europe was written near the time of his first anniversary.
May 5/1945

Private A. K. Perkins
4th Plat. Inf Co I
Somewhere in France

Dear Aunt Laura,
Well I've finally gotten around to catching up on some of my correspondence. About time too I guess. We weren't able to mail any letters en-route so thats why you haven't heard from me lately. I got a letter from Audrie saying that Uncle Herman was turned down by the draft board. I'm very glad for both of your sakes. It's pretty tough sometimes to be so far away from home. Sometimes it seems like I can't even remember what some of you look like. I still like the army as much as ever but there's a lot more to it than that. Well I'm somewhere in so called Sunny France. Don't let anyone kid you, the only sun there is shines in Canada. Its pretty cold here at present and it looks like rain too. Well I guess this is about all for this one so bye for now and write soon The very best to all of you and Grandma.
As ever.
Laura O'Dell and Herman Bekofske on Honeymoon, 1940
May 21/1945

Dear Aunt Laura,
I guess its about time I got off a few lines to you so here I am. Its been raining all last night as so far all day. Its about three in the afternoon so I hope it stops pretty soon. We're living in tents now and when its dry around here its terribly dusty and now with all this rain the place is like a big mud hole. The R.A.F. bombed the devil out of Jerry when he was here so there isn't much left. Just parts of about six buildings still stand. The Limeys must have had quite a party. I had a swell time in Paris a week ago. I saw Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe, Napoleon's Tomb, Marshall Jack's Tomb, the Garden of the Tuileries, the Palace de Concorde, the Prison of the Conciergere, the Avenue Champs de Elysees and the Eiffel Tower and many other places including the famous Opera. Well must close for now. Say Hi to Uncle Herman and love to Grandma.
As ever,
May 11/1945

Dear Aunt Laura & all,
How are you all keeping? I'm fine but I guess I haven't done enough work lately. I'm getting terribly lazy. Its awfully hot here now and that makes me even lazier but I am getting a swell sun tan. I'm stationed in a place called Fontainebleau just south of Paris. The most notable thing about the place is Napoleon's Castle which is about five minutes walk from here. Its realy a monstrous and beautiful place and I'm told there are over four hundred rooms in it. I was on pass last night and went to a street carnival in town with one of my buddies. Had a pretty fair time there too. Boy you can realy tell the French people are happy the was is over here. There are all kinds of flags everywhere. Well, I must close now. Please write soon.
As always, Ken.
June 15/1945
Mannheim, Germany

Dear Aunt Laura & all,
Well people, I guess its about time I wrote to you again. I received your V mail letter today and according to that I have got all of your letters so far. So Grandma is going to go live in a trailer house this year. Well maybe a good outing will do her good. but she is going u to one of the lakes to fish a summer, I remember gong up to Reverend [E. A.] Smith's cottage to fish one evening last year. That was real fun even if we didn't catch any whale. A fisherman can always talk about the one that got away anyhow. There are a couple of good fishing spots here but I don't have the time. Well, just as you said, these thing are too short and I'm running out of space. I'll write a letter soon so tell them, love to all. Hows your Holstein?
September 27/1945
Auxonne France

P.F.C. A. K. Perkins
Co. H 118th Inf. A.P.O. 513

Dear Aunt Laura, Grandma & all,
Well I supposed you all guess I've forgotten you. I realy haven't I've been away three weeks on a furlough to England. I realy had a grand time. I saw all the sights of London and spent one day in Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland. I was in Southampton, Bromley, and Cheshunt too in England. It would take me ages to tell you all about it. Maybe some day when I have more time. Its nearly midnight now and I gotta get to bed. I just though I'd let you know I'm still kickin'. I spent eight and a half days in England and six in Paris. The rest of the time I was traveling. I saw St. Paul's, Buckingham Palace, the tower of London, the Tower Bridge, the British Museum, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and many other very famous places.

I had my picture done in London and if it turns out half decent I'll try to send you one. My cousin Frank's intended wife in London (England) is going to forward them to me. I have a small taken in Paris that I'll enclose now. I realy must close now. I know this is terribly short but I'll write more soon.
Love to all,
As ever,
October 29/1945
Camp New Orleans (near)Troyes, France

Dear Aunt Laura, Grandma & Co.
Ken's Grandma O'Dell and Aunt Laura
I received you're joint letter today and was realy glad to hear from both of you. I've been too busy to do much letter writing lately. Boy this is some place. One day I do guard duty on a prison of ware compound and the next day I do M.P. road patrol in a jeep and half the time I work nights. But I guess the toughest part of it is over because I expect to be transferred out of the 188th any day no. Boy thats going to be a blessing. I detest the way this unit is being run. We have a devil of a time getting our post exchange rations, blades, ciggarettes, writing paper etc. and I haven't been paid since July. Now they say we aren't going to get paid again this month. The reason being that the staff of the paying section have mostly been sent home from this section of France. So now there are no clerks o do paper work and so we didn't get paid. I'll bet if Uncle Herman didn't get paid for three months he'd quit and go job hunting. But at present I haven't much chance of doing anything as drastic as that.

I think Grandma will like living in Flint again. It will be so much more convenient for her. Somehow I can't hardly visualize selling the farm because you have been there so long but of course I can see the advantages. I hope everything works out alright.
The O'Dell Farm
Honestly Aunt Laura, I can't give any sort of an excuse why Audrey hasn't written to you. She isn't much of a hand at letter writing. Sometimes I get a little but angry when she doesn't write very often. But she usually writes to me pretty regularly. She very seldom every writes to her mother or any of her relatives, I think I have almost soul claim to the products of her pen. So please don't think its because she is ungrateful or unthoughtful. She is realy very considerate, i guess writing is just her weakness.

Gee, I sure would love to be there to go pheasant hunting. I bet I could show you how to get one. Maybe. I haven't done any shooting for pleasure since I stayed with Aunt Phina and then I was trying to shoot pheasants out of season with a 22. Aren't I a smart one. But I'm going to try to fix up that rifle I sent home and do some realy honest to goodness sportsman like hunting some day. Perhaps I could persuade Uncle Herman to go deer hunting. He could show me how because the army didn't teach me to hunt that kind of animal. is it a date?
'Aunt Phenie' and husband Hiram O'Dell
I received the stamps you sent me some time ago Aunt Laura. I was sure I wrote and let you know that I got them. Perhaps I just thought I did. Anyway they were very welcome and they're a thing I always find good use for as long as I'm over here. I'm the guy who jeeps the post office in business you know. I write to no less than 37 people by I guarantee you there are a H of a lot less than that that write back to me. Sort of a one sided affair is what.

I had my picture done in a studio in England and hey were to be sent on to me when they were ready. So far I've not received them, but when I do you have a first rate priority on one of them. I may have to send it to Audrey and have some copes made but get one to you somehow.

Well I'm all out of gab and this is my last sheet of paper of this kind so that adds up to quitting time. So until next time, I remain,
as always,

Love & kisses
(or do I dare)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A New Rose

 We fell in love with this rose and had to bring it home!

All My WIPs: Quilts, Books, Kitchen...

I can read a book in two or three days but hand quilting a bed sized quilt....takes me a lot longer! I am finally on the border of my Charles Dickens quilt. 

I usually work on it every Tuesday with the Clawson quilters and evenings at home.

I forgot about this Redwork project! It was hiding in a dough boy end table! The free designs from Mirkwood Designs were based on the original illustrations.

 I added a little more to Vintage Rose, but she is finished.
I found a fabric butterfly pin at a craft fair and bought it for my wall hanging I made a little while back. So perfect!
As you can see from the photo below that pin was really necessary. If only she had two in that color!
Every now and then I get out Love Entwined to work on the fourth border...

I also joined TWO local book clubs! For next week I have reread Jane Austen's Persuasion. For next month I will read Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins and Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.

On my NetGalley shelf I have:

Daisy Turner's Kin: An African American Family Saga by Jane C. Beck
Wings in the Dark  a retro style mystery involving Amelia Earhart by Michael Murphy
Circling the Sun, a novel about Beryl Markham by Paula McLain
The Marriage of Opposites, a novel about the mother of Impressionist artist Camille Pissarro, by Alice Hoffman
Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman who Captivated C. S. Lewis by Abigail Santamaria
Song of My Life: A Biography of Marilyn Walker Carolyn Brown (author of the novel Jubilee) by Caroline Brown.

Forthcoming book reviews include:
House of Hawthorne, a novel about Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife, by Erika Robuck
The Great Detective about Sherlock Holmes by Zach Dundas
Exit the Actress about Restoration actress and mistress of Charles II Nell Gwynn, written by Priya Parmar whose Vanessa and Her Sister I reviewed last year
Donna Bell's Bake Shop, a cook book and story behind the store by Pauley Perrette and friends
Shoot the Conductor: Too Close to Monteux, Szell and Ormandy, a memoir by violinist and conductor Anshel Brusilow
Worthy by Catherine Hyde Ryan whose Language of Hoofbeats I reviewed last year
The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows who wrote the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Language Arts by Stephanie Kallos who wrote Broken For You which I had enjoyed

Today we bought a lovely yellow rose and some herbs to plant this week. I am preparing sleeves for the quilts that will be in my guild's show June 5 & 6. And that kitchen remodel? We decided on a cork floor, the back splash for over the stove and behind the hood, and bought a hood.  (Jen said she bought one after she saw the great price!) Jen has bought my sink and has ordered the cabinets. The Wilson Art Betty laminate is available! Time to pack up the kitchen!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy

Thirteen children were raised in the house on Yarrow Street in Eastside Detroit. In 2008 it stands empty. Their father Frances had come North for work and spent his life driving 18 wheelers for Chrysler. He struggled with alcohol, held his children in speechless love, and was buried in his Hudson's suit. Their aging mother Alice is living with her oldest son. The money owed on the house is more than it is worth, but to save it will cost $40,000. The kids can't agree what to do. Each has their own memories of the house, and their own demons.

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy is a story Detroiters will recognize as 'theirs': black migration from the South to Detroit hoping for work and the rewards of a home of their own, then watching the city fall into the slow ruin caused by white--and black flight to the suburbs, job loss, city mismanagement, crime, drugs, and the lure of easy money at the casinos. The author's father was from Detroit, and his stories informed and inspired her book.

It is the Turner family that makes the novel impelling and universal; Flournoy's wise and compassionate portraits of complex people struggling with human issues.

The Turner House iis featured in the Spring 2015 Paris Review. Flournoy says on her blog,
"There's an excerpt of my novel that I'm very excited about! It's called "Lelah," and on top of the obvious feelings of joy and humility I ahve for being in such an illustrious publication, I'm also happy that The Paris Review selected "Lelah" in particular. She is the first character I "knew," the one whose story came to me when it was well underway. She challenged me to figure our how she got to where she was in her life, and to develop where she needed to go next."
Trip Around the World; found at a flea market; by an Eastside Detroit quilter

I received a free e-book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

The Turner House
Angela Flournoy
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: May 21, 2015
ISBN: 9780544303164
$23.00 hard cover

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

All Points Patchwork: English Paper Piecing Beyond the Hexagon for Quilts and Small Projects

I have only made a few hexagon florets for my Charles Dickens quilt border. But after reading this book I look forward to trying more paper piecing projects in the future. I am impressed by how complete and well organized this book is, loaded with step by step photographs, and full of tips for successful paper piecing.

This is not a pattern book; it gives you the knowledge base for creating your own projects. This is my favorite kind of book, one that teaches you a technique to add to your quilting skill set. 

I recommend this book for beginners AND for experienced paper piecers. I belong to a quilting group with several gals who have done hexagons for projects. They were unfamiliar with some of the tips I had read about.

This book is also perfect for quilt guild libraries.

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

English Paper piecing Beyond the Hexagon, for Quilts & Small Projects
by Diane Gilleland
Storey Publishing
Publication June 2, 2015
ISBN: 9781612124209
$19.95 paperback

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Reverence for Engines: The Thomas the Tank Engine Man

I did not request Brian Sibley's reissue of his 1994 biography The Thomas The Tank Engine Man because of nostalgia. Our son was too old to be a fan of  The Thomas the Tank Engine cartoon series and we read the books. I requested it because the description said Rev. Awdry was a pacifist pastor who during WWII was removed from his curacy because of his stance. I wanted to know more about this man.

Rev. Wilbert Awdry's deep love affair with steam engines began in childhood because of his father's deep interest. Awdry passed this love on to his son Christopher-- a three generation obsession.

Awry made up the stories about train engines who acted like little children to entertain Christopher when he was ill. Awdry then made model trains based on the characters. He was encouraged by his wife to publish the stories. They were beloved by children. When he gave up writing--after over 100 stories--his son later took up pen and wrote more Engine books.

Sibley has a deep knowledge and love of his subject. We learn how each story was conceived and developed, the artists who illustrated the book, Awdry's insistence on accuracy, and reader's reactions to the story. The stories were based on real incidents and verisimilitude was foremost, both in story and in illustration.

The book starts with a detailed genealogy. Awry is given no psychological treatment, his spiritual concerns are not explored in depth. But if one reads between the lines one can imagine another layer.

Awdry was uncertain of a career until his time at Oxford when he decided to follow in his father's footsteps. After earning his theology degree he spent three years teaching in Jerusalem where he met his future wife. After his return to England he was as assistant pastor. Awdry's older brother had been killed in the Great War and Awry was a pacifist. When WWII came to Britain and Awdry maintained his pacifist stance he was asked to leave his position.

The Church of England does not have a call system (where a church seeks and employs a pastor as they desire) but an appointment system (pastoral assignments made at discretion of the Bishop). Awdry had a wife and child to support and no job. The Birmingham Bishop was also a pacifist and offered Awdry a parish. It became the birthplace of Thomas the Tank Engine.

In 1946 the Awdrys moved to Elsworth and Knapwell. The vicarage was sadly neglected. The family split up for months while the house was made fit for their habitation. They were not pleasant years in Awdry's ministry and writing the Engine series was a saving grace. Seven years later he moved to Emneth.

Sometimes Awdry had to do everything himself, from lighting the stoves to heat the church to clearing the chimney of a parishioner. His wife Margaret taught in the Sunday school. Wilbert loved children and started a Junior Church. He rounded up children in his 12-seater van and brought them to the Vicarage for instruction. The morality of the Engine books was based in his theology. He gave responsibilities to the children, explained faith and church with stories--imagined and true-- that were accessible to the children. He always demonstrated that faith was part of every day life.

After twenty years in the parish ministry Awdry retired in 1965. The income from his 26 books was finally enough to live on, about 1000 pounds a year.

Having lived in a parsonage for well over 30 years I am quite intimate with the trials and challenges of pastoral ministry. Pastors are under constant scrutiny and criticized for things done and things undone. Expectations are unrealistic. There are no office hours. It is a round the clock job. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and finding my husband gone, the car gone. He had gotten an emergency call to the hospital and bedside of a dying parishioner. I am amazed that Awdry wrote 25 books while working in the parish and raising his family.

When Sibley asked Awdry about his personal philosophy he replied that this is God's world and disobeying His rules brings trouble on ourselves and others. His characters willfully erred and had to accept the punishment, but where never "scrapped." Forgiveness and redemption and another opportunity to become a "really useful engine" is always available.

Awdry said he wanted  his epitaph to say, "He helped people to see God in the ordinary things of life, and he made children laugh."

This was the man I was hoping to discover.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Orson Starr House Mystery Quilt

The Mystery Quilt of The Orson Starr House

My Mother's Day visit to the Orson Starr House of Royal Oak, MI made my day when I saw a very interesting quilt.

A second floor bedroom displays this pieced quilt. It was noted as made about 1900 by Anna O. Greene of Royal Oak. The sign said she lived at 325 W Harrison in Royal Oak and in 1928 moved to Texas and gave this quilt to Helen Clees, whose daughter Elizabeth inherited the quilt; Elizabeth donated it to the Royal Oak Historical Society.

The quiltmaker's use of fabric is just wonderful. With only two fabrics she has given the illusion of a more complicated quilt.
I thought it was much older than 1900 and shared the photo with the Facebook group "Quits-Antique and Vintage." Quilt appraiser Teddy Mc Mahon Pruett and quilt collector and quilt maker Pepper Cory agreed that the quilt was closer to 1845 than 1900. 

Detail of print

The stripped center blocks are composed of  a square of Prussian Blue ombre printed fabric. The same fabric plus a solid light fabric is used in the pieced Wild Goose Chase sashing. Prussian Blue was popular between 1830 and 1850, especially in ombre prints. 

Ombre is French for 'shaded', referring to the gradual shading of color; here the dark blue fades into a lighter version;  a beige and blue print appears between the blue stripes. The print seems to have a floral motif. That part of the fabric is badly decaying, likely because the brown dye used included minerals that have eaten away the fabric. Read more about ombre prints at Barbara Brackmans' post here.

The blocks are bordered with pieced Wild Geese. You can see another quilt in this pattern at Tim Latimer's log post here. and samples at The Quilt Index here  and here.  This type of quilt block is called Sash and Block. 

Learn more about Prussian blue fabrics at Barbara Brackman's Civil War Quilts blog post here  and her blog Material Culture here;  look at the second antique fabric sample for another Prussian Blue stripe.  According to Roderick Kiracofe in The American Quilt  Prussian Blue, or Lafayette Blue, was a mineral dye first used in America in 1832. Brackman notes the dye formula was developed in 1770.

The quilt bock pattern is a Wild Goose Chase variation. Kiracofe also writes that pieced quilt patterns became commonplace during the second quarter of the 18th c, including Wild Goose Chase. 

The quilt is beautifully hand quilted. Cotton batting can be seen under the decayed parts. 

Who Was Anna O. Greene?

I went to to learn more about Anna O. I discovered her husband was Orville W. Greene.

On March 20, 1862 Orville W. Greene, age 21,  enlisted as a private in the army and was in Company 1, Michigan 16th Infantry Regiment and mustered out July 8, 1865 at Jeffersonville, IN. He appears on an 1890 veterans list.

In 1870 Orville W. Greene appears on the Ann Arbor, MI census boarding with a chemistry professor and attending university. He attended University of Michigan in 1869-70 but did not receive a degree. 

On October 16, 1872 Orville, age 28 and born in Hulla, MI, and Anna O. Wright, age 20 and born in Wrightstown, WS, were married in Greenville. Orville was a banker.

Orville and Anna appear on the 1880 Greenville, Montcalm MI Census. Anna, age 28, and Orville, 36, had children Mabel, age 6, and a two month old unnamed son. Orville was a "jeweller" [sic]. 

The 1900 Census of Greenville, Montcalm, MI shows they lived at 510 Clay. Anna was born January, 1853 in Wisconsin. Orville W. was born February 1845 and was a bookeeper. They had children Otto, born January 1878, and Edwin W., born October 1883. A sister-in-law Ida E. Abbot, born October 1856, and a domestic servant lived with them. 

The 1920 Census shows that Orville, 77, and Anna, 66, Ida, 63, and grandson Willoughby,11 were living together. 

By 1924 Anna and Orville had moved to Royal Oak. 

By 1930 Anna, 77, was living in Royal Oak with her son Otto, 52, who worked in an auto plant. 

Anna's death certificate shows she was born January 23, 1853 in Wisconsin and died of apoplexy on March 9, 1933 in Alamo, TX. Anna Orilla's parents were Lucien Wright and Marietta Thompson both of Wisconsin. Her burial was to be in Royal Oak. 

Anna's Ancestry
Anna's parents were Marietta "Etta" Thompson (1844-1860) and Lucien L Wright (1870-). 

Lucien L. Wright's parents were Margaret (1822-) and Lucien B. Wright(1825-1868); Lucien B. appears on a Civil War Draft Registration in Wrightsville, WS. 

Marietta's parents were Orilla Tabitha Palmer (1844-1860) and Delanson Thompson (1817-1860). 

Orilla Palmer's parents were Elias Palmer (1789-1825) and Anna Haven (1778-1864). Anna Haven's ancestors date back to Richard Haven who was born in England in 1590, arrived in America in 1644, and died in Plymouth, MA in 1703; he was a carpenter, a deacon in the church, and served in King Phillips War.

Did Anna Make The Quilt?

Now the problem is this: If Anna O. Greene pieced this quilt, lets say at age 14, then it would have been made around 1867. And yet some believe the fabric is older than that time period. SO...who did piece that quilt? Did Anna's use fabric from a dress belonging to a family member? Pepper Cory suggested the quilt could have been made for Anna's birth. Or did Anna's mother make the quilt? Or even her grandmother?

It is a mystery.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Our Kitchen Remodel Choices & Update

We have signed off on a kitchen layout, cabinets, counter tops, sink, hood, and flooring. Whew! We are finalizing back splash options. We put down a deposit. And May finds us, one again, packing up! At least this May it is not to move--just relocating a kitchen in prep for demo.

Here is what we decided on doing:
Quarter sawn natural cherry slab cabinets. The quarter sawn wood has a more even grain texture. We really fell in love with these cabinets when we saw a display kitchen in the Ludington, MI Home Depot. It was 10 years old and the color was so pretty. We saw a 20 year old cherry model kitchen at Kurtis Kitchen in Warren. We have never had cherry cabinets before. I look forward to watching their color become richer. The soffits will be out and cabinets will run to the ceiling.
The quarter sawn cherry cabinets

Yes! Wilson Art "Betty" laminate in soft teal and gold and gray on off-white is their 2015 retake on a retro 70s pattern. Jen said it has caused quite a stir with her co-workers. How did I find out about it? Retro Renovation. Thanks, Pam!

We thought we had to decide between an apron front sink or the laminate counter top! But I found Kohler had a sink designed for this issue: the Vault top-mounted stainless steel sink can be used with laminate counter tops. O, the cleverness of me!(To quote Peter Pan.)

We bought a Hansgrohe faucet at Costco.

We loved this Evora cork flooring for its "Canvas" color and 'stone' look. Turned out to be a high quality floor as well. It will be installed in the kitchen and the adjacent family room. The family room is on a cement slab so the insulation quality of cork will be a real plus.

We have ordered a Akdy European stainless steel wall mount hood from Houzz. I don't have a photo. There will be a pot and pan drawer and will feature two 18" glass front cabinets. I will have more counter space than I have ever had around a stove. We preferred counter space over a pantry. That wall ended up looking like this:

Completed Kitchen photo

Instead of how it looks now.
old kitchen
We already have a Samsung convection five burner convection oven and a Whirlpool bottom freezer three door refrigerator. (Bought on sale over the past few years.) We bought a Bosch dishwasher with a third rack. We wanted a quiet one as the family room is open to the kitchen and the bedrooms beyond the doorway into the kitchen seen above.

The refrigerator was moved to a wall where Mom had a hutch. We  built it in with a utility cabinet. A two step ladder is stored in the cabinet.

In process: built in refrigerator
There is still room for a dining area in front of the window wall or centered in the room. We have three table options.
 The $40 1950s tulip red and gray Formica table I found a year ago.
 My childhood 1950s table. (Shown with our retro chairs bought at Target many years ago.)

The Chromcraft 1950s table with crushed ice gray Formica top.

The Chromecraft Table in our kitchen

We loved the retro vibe of this spun aluminum pendant light fixture from Elk Lighting. I bought it from It will hang over the counter between the kitchen and the family room. In drawing below you can see the half wall into the family room. I love the little open shelf at the end of the cabinet.

Completed kitchen photo
The kitchen has a sink on that peninsula now. It will be moved to the stove wall. Dad's stained glass pendent will go to my brother.
old kitchen photo
We are not installing pot lights. Under counter lighting, a light over the sink, and the lighted hood over the stove will supplement existent outlets. For over the dining area we ordered this Percussion 3-light flush mount polished chrome fixture from Houzz.

We considered a stainless steel sheet behind the stove or metallic look tiles. We loved this tile!

stainless metal tile backsplash

We will get paint samples later and pick up a color from Betty.

I have lots of dishes to choose from.
 The Ben Seibel 1958 Iroquois "Blue Diamond' is a set I love.
 Both of our parents had the Cornelle Harvest Gold butterfly set.
Gary's folks good china. I also have an amber Diana set of Depression era dishes.

This has been a lot of work. It was over a year ago we first talked to someone about a remodel. We looked at a lot of online and print information, visited numerous retailers, and spoke to three contractor/designers. When we saw something we liked I shopped around for the best deal. Prices change constantly, so if we saw a deal we bought it right away. As the flooring is going into the family room we will have to clear it out as well.

In the end we will have finished remodeling two rooms!

Now we have to pack.

Update: I found this great fabric for curtains! I liked the retro look with two tiers. It offers a lot of options for privacy and, as a western window, for when the sun is setting.

 They are lined and hanging on rings.