Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Too Good To Be True: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

What are you willing to give up for security? Would you give up your free will?

Margaret Atwood's new novel The Heart Goes Last  is part of her Positron series, the first I have read. It has twists and turns that swept me into the plot line, and even when things got very icky I kept reading to discover what the heck was going on.

The novel is about Stan and Charmaine, a couple who have lost everything in an economic collapse. They are living in their car, fearful of night time attacks for theirs is a society were murder is common in the struggle for limited resources. Charmaine sees an advertisement for the Positron Project in the town of Consilience, offering full employment, a home, and work. They attend the marketing session. and are accepted. Charmaine buys into the dream world and Stan wants to let her have it.

The society is based on people willing to work one month in 'prison' for one month of normalcy.

The reader knows something is not right here and we want to find out what is behind this ideal society. It involves a complete loss of personal control, smarmy and immoral business practises, and scientific marvels that benefit the rich and powerful.

I warn you that there are very seedy things going on. Sex is used for control, and sexual desire and addiction is the motivation for some amazing technological developments.

Our couple learn they are pawns in a convoluted and bizarre scheme that will impact the future of Positron. Murder, threat of 'termination', loss of will, posing as robots--what these poor people endure!

In the end Charmaine and Stan get their just rewards, find peace, and learn how to love each other and enjoy what the heart has to offer.

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

The Heart Goes Last
Margaret Atwood
Penguin Random House
Publication Date Sept. 29, 2015
Hardcover $29.95

Monday, September 28, 2015

Cafe Curtains for my Retro Kitchen!

It took months for me to find the right fabric or curtains for my new kitchen. When I saw High Tea by Michael Miller I ran and got my hubby, who was reading on the quilt shop's husband chair. Was I crazy, or was this 'the one'? I found the fabric at Sew Elegant in Port Huron on our trip 'up the St Clair River' last month. I bought a yard of the fabric, took it home, loved it, and the shop shipped me more yardage.

I had determined to made old fashioned tiered cafe curtains on rings. Finding the hardware was another long search. I wanted the rings, and I wanted a white or silver colored rod. And the rod holder had to extend out past the sunshades already on the windows. The windows are 70" wide and I wanted two long rods. Who'd a thought it would be that hard? Well, I could have bought something right away...for over $70. And I couldn't bring myself to buy the set, it was too much money and too fancy.

Two nights ago we dined at a local Greek Street Food restaurant (I had a hankering for Spinach Pie). We went to W*****t, a store I never shop at, and they had the rods I needed. For under $35. Sold.

I had wanted to do scallop topped, lined curtains but gave up and just did simple, lined cafe curtains. I like the ability to close or open the top and bottom as this is a west facing window and also faces the neighbor's deck.

We finally have the final touch to the kitchen!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

American Export: Contemporary Quilts in Japan

Japanese Contemporary Quilts and Quilters: The Story of an American Import by Teresa Duryea Wong shows how the American quilt revival sparked a revolution in Japanese fabric arts, and presents contemporary Japanese Quilt Artists who transformed the quilt world.

American quilters well know that quilts from Japan display remarkable technical and creative skills. Wong explains the rigorous and exacting Iemoto system of education. Students learn in a classroom setting under a master teacher. A long term commitment is required as students master the craft, progressing from basic to instructor level. Emphasis is on hand workmanship, a highly valued skill with a long tradition in Japan.

The result of this traditional form of apprenticeship is evident by the many awards taken by Japanese quilters at international venues.

Alternately, some quilt instructors, not certified in the Iemoto system, teach in the 'American' way, allowing students to work at their own pace, acting as a mentor. Long-arm quilting is more prevalent in these schools.

Part One of the book covers:
  • Japan's Quilting History: A Heavy Dose of American Influence, including the Whitney Museum pivotal quilt show in 1971 to the American television show "Little House on the Prairie" which showed quilt-making and quilts
  • Learning to Quilt in Japan: Two Schools of Thought, the Iemoto system and quilters like Noriko Endo who are 'outsider' artists
  • 1990: The Year of the Quilt, the year of Quilt Nihon and the first All-Japanese quilt show
  • Japan's Gross National Cool and the J-Quilt
Kabuki by Katagiri, winner of 1st Quilt Nihon Show
Part Two presents eight contemporary Japanese quilters representing various styles:

  • Yoko Saito and her Japanese Taupe color theory
  • Yoshiko Katagiri who uses kimono silks in her appliqué quilts; see her quilts at Quilt Inspiration
  • Noriko Endo who uses 'confetti' fabric scraps to make amazing quilts like those seen here
  • Chiaki Dosho whose fiber art pushes the boundary of 'quilt' as seen here
  • Yoshiko Kurihara, anime artist turned quilter uses the iconography of Harlequin clowns as seen here
  • Keiko Goke whose colorful interpretations of traditional blocks are delightfully 'off kilter.' See her DoubleWedding Ring here

The book is oversized with 200 full color photographs on every page. It is an elegant book, down to the type font and layout.

Altogether, it is an informative and inspirational book that quilters and art lovers will enjoy.

Visit Wong's blog here.

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

Japanese Contemporary Quilts and Quilters: The Story of an American Import
Teresa Duryea Wong
Schiffer Publishing
$34.99 hard cover
ISBN13: 9780764348747

Thursday, September 24, 2015

1963 Advice For Decorating Small Rooms

The September 1963 Woman's Day "How to Decorate" was about 
A Small Room
Dining room, light and open as a terrace, looks cool and airy. Sunny yellow walls, see through iron furniture and glass topped table, flagstone, patterned vinyl floor and growing plants relate the room to the outdoors.

Study-Guest room with a window wall of built-ins to frame a studio couch, is modern and streamlined. Wood lattice is decorative, engages rather than stops the eye; maps bring in the whole world. Fresh colors against white and light rattan furniture are visual space-makers.
 Bedroom keyed to a matching narrow-striped wallpaper and ticking, is delightfully feminine. The strip is good because it is lively but not insistent. The sheer curtains, painted chest and lacy white wrought iron and glass wall console and mirror are suitably delicate.
Sitting room arranged for adult conversation, has a quiet elegance. Two reasons: colors are rich, glowing, closely related; furniture is graceful, small in scale. The one heavy piece, the chest with mirror above, fits neatly into recess formed by built-in storage cabinets.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Lady Fall, Pumpkin Pie Complete, and Book Reviews to Come

Lady Fall
When Lady Fall makes her debut,
Jack Frost in adoration
Tints trees and vines with every hue,
Adorns the whole creation.

Bids ripened nuts fall down to earth,
Gives grapes an added flavor,
Bids welcoming fires illume the hearth, And all to win her favor.

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

It is Autumn, once my favorite season of the year due to the glorious colors of the changing leaves.
At my age, it is a bittersweet reminder of the coming winter, with all its hazards that keep me inside. I haven't been sewing much. I'd rather be near the window listening to the birds and seeing the daylight and feeling the cooling air. I can spend my time under artificial light later when the skies are cloudy and dark.
I finished my Pumpkin Pie quilt and it adorns the living room wall. It is from Bunny Hill and such a cute pattern!

My walking foot is defunct. I was not happy sewing on the borders and binding without one. I know better, but was lazy and didn't take my time. And I didn't quilt the polka-dot border either. I may go back later and take it apart and fix it. I should have ironed it, as already it creased from sitting folded on a chair for a few days.

I am lazy because yesterday my husband underwent his second cataract surgery; both were successful and he can see again. I am still recovering, lol, unused to being on the road at 7:30 am to drive in rush hour traffic. It's been many a long year since I had to do that. And my Suki wakes me up every night about midnight. Our apple trees produced hundreds of apples again this year, and all the critters in the neighborhood come to feed. Suki knows they are out there and needs to check things out.
I have been reading and reviewing like crazy. I asked, and received, loads of ARCs. Coming up are:

Seven Women and the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Mataxes
The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

A Place We Knew Well by Susan Carol McCarthy
The First King of Hollywood: The Life of Douglas Fairbanks by Tracey Goessel
Wilkie Collins by Peter Ackroyd
The Rilke of Ruth Speirs
The Magic of Beverly Sills by Nancy Guy
Corrupted by Lisa Scottoline
The Year of Lear by James Shapiro
Brand Luther by Andrew Pettegree

The Remarkable Rise of Eliza Jumel by Margaret Oppenheimer
The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild
The Last Words of the Holy Ghost by Matt Cashion
Hear My Sad Story by Richard Polenberg
White Eskimo by Stephen R. Brown

PLUS, still on my shelf to read, most to be published early next year, are:

  • Lady Bird and Lyndon by Betty Caroli
  • My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Stout (author of Olivia Kitteridge)
  • The Longest Night by Andrea Williams
  • A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin
  • From Stray Dog to WWI Hero by Grant Hayter-Menzies
  • Brooklyn by Colm Toibin 
  • Radioactive! By Winifred Conklin
  • All of Us and Everything by Bridgit Asher

AND, I am still reading Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Kathleen Boos for the new library book club.

NOT TO MENTION...I have Japanese Contemporary Quilts and Quilters sitting next to me! That review should be up in the next few days as well. AND, I took advantage of C&T's big sale and bought four quilt books, and there is the one I got at Grand Rapids AQS..

It's gong to be quite a fall.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

September 1963 High Fashion Knits, Aprons, and Dresses for Girls

The cover article for the September 1963 issue of Woman's Day was on "new" knit dresses, suits and coats.
Cable Shift features one long cable, front and back; balance done in stockinette stitch. 
"As more and more women have discovered the marvel of knits, they have become as basic and indispensable as the proverbial little black dress."

Skirt quilt in a novelty ribbed stitch, set-in sleeves with button cuffs. Chanel checked quilt with 10% mohair.
Pleated shift in mohair and Orlon
Shetland and wool jacket dress; White wool dress with 10% mohair; Sweater dress of waffle stitched mohair.
Cobble tweedcoat of 100% wool with matching fringed scarf.
Sports coat of mohair and nubby tweed yarn. 
  It was about this time that my grandmother knit a suit.
My grandmother in her knit suit; Mom with the cigarette. 
Even aprons had gone 'high fashion'. "Bib aprons take on a new look with embroidery, appliqué, ribbons and buttons in a variety of colorful, washable fabrics ranging from organza to hopsacking.

 It was a time when even little girls were fashionably dressed.
Jumper dress with 'new low waisted look.' Simplicity 5133.
French Smock Simplicity 5045
Classic Alpine dress Simplicity 5132. Basque dress with Bertha collar, Simplicity 5137. 
A very elegant blouse.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Balancing Act: A Window Opens by Elizabeth Egan

Alice realizes the question is not whether it’s possible to have it all, but what does she—Alice Pearse—really want?

Elizabeth Egen's debut novel A Window Opens finds the fine line between melodrama and humor. We watch Alice's life go from a perfect balance of life and work to losing control. The story could have become tear-jerking sad, or it could have become humor, a satire on choices women have to make today. I felt it hit the right, life-like mix.

Alice in nearing forty, married fifteen years to a corporate lawyer vying for partnership, and mother to three kids (and a dog). She works three days a week at a job she loves: reading books. When her husband discovers he isn't in line for partner, he quits his job and decides to open his own law office. To help finances Alice takes a full time position with a new company, Scroll. It seems like a dream job. She is lucky that her babysitter can work full time, and the kids love her, and her husband can fill in when needed. All seems well. For a while.

As her job demands more of her time and energy Alice has less to give at home. Things happen and Alice feels out of control. Her father finds his cancer has returned. Her husband isn't taking his career change well; he is drinking to excess. Her kids are changing and Alice isn't there to notice. Her coworkers and bosses are not really friends; it's all about the money at Scroll.

I understand Alice's life. My dad died of cancer, and Mom too; I know all about that. After Mom died, Dad couldn't face the empty house and took to having a few drinks when he came home from work. My husband lost a job, has struggled with job changes. I tired to juggle a 30 hour a week, home office job while homeschooling.

Egan gets things pretty accurate.

And I liked Alice. She tosses around books and quotes and I get them. This is a book about a reader and readers will love Alice. Her kids go to the local bookstore and bring home piles of books. But they are not allowed to play video games. She is an optimist with a can-do attitude, a gal who wants to make her daddy proud. That attitude also means she holds out hope while ignoring the warning signs.

I like that Nicholas and Alice struggle with their life changes. Neither do so great; Alice allows her job to take over her life and Nicholas seeks escape from the pressures. Like real people. Communication breaks down. After the death of Alice's father she forgets that her husband is also grieving. And I like that their love is able to slog through until they can find themselves again.

Egan saves her satire for Scroll founder Greg, a man who is chasing the big bucks and changes his mind about what Scroll is according to the latest research reports. Scroll is big on going paperless; hence the preference of ebooks over 'carbon based' books. Greg doesn't consider that electron devices need power, and power means a need for fossil fuels. So it's not about being Green. Scroll looks for individuality, then insists on conformity. Alice's  boss Genvieve tells her, "I've got your back" then sends an email warning Alice about what behavior is acceptable at Scroll.

I agree with the review by Tabitha Blankenbiller at Bustle when she writes, "Although the situation in A Window Opens feels grim, the novel remains true to Alice's spirit and refuses to become dreary. The book could have easily fallen to the predicable trope...women has all, women loses all, woman starts over....It's easy to write about families that totally fall apart and relationships that implode; it takes much more tact and skill to write about strain and ultimate resilience."

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

A Window Opens
Elisabeth Egan
Simon & Schuster
Publication date August 26, 2015
$26.00 hard cover

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Laura Heine's Original Applique

Among the many vendors at the American Quilt Society show in Grand Rapids was Fiberworks  in Billings, MT, owned by designer and Laura Heine, Her enchanting animals made of floral appliqués brought us back to her booth for another look.

 The patterns are available alone or in kits with the fabrics required for the quilts as shown.
She layers fussy cut floral fabrics to make the bodies of the animals, paying attention to how design elements in the fabric can suggest details such as fur, feathers, and facial features.
 She has patterns for wall hangings and bed size quilts.

Her designs are fresh and modern, suitable for children of all ages.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

30 Hours Without Power

The day started by Kamikaze leaving a dead rat at the patio door. Our apple trees are heavy with fruit, and all the varmits in town are coming to feast on them. I had brought in dozens of apples the day before, intending to cook up something. But seeing that brown rat I was ready to cut the trees down and replace them with a pergola! I can take the black squirrels and the birds and the opossum coming to eat the apples. Rats are another thing.

I went to my quilt group, ran an errand. Our son was making dinner, his white chili crock pot meal. I only had to make the cornbread. Dinner was delicious and we had another meal's worth left over.

It was a beautiful evening. The weather was fine, there were no storms, nor were a.c. units maxing out the system. Still, the power went out. The dishwasher was running and then stopped. The fan blades slowed to a still. the lights went dark. It was 7:00 p.m.

We had a six hour Internet and phone back-up power source. We reported the outage to Detroit Edison. After a while the website said the expected the problem to be solved by 1 a.m. We lit candles and used up the last juice in our tablets to read our books then retired early.
Our Kamikaze enjoying the power outage.
It was dark! No school parking lot lights. Most of our little 'burb was affected. The night orchestra of insects buzzed loudly, but didn't drown out the roaring generators at neighbor's houses. I woke a few hours later; DTE had no idea what was wrong or an estimate of when power would be restored.

When we retired we assumed it would only be 6 hours before power was restored. We awoke knowing that after 12 hours without power all our food would be lost. We had just filled up the 'fridge. There were leftovers, pasta and potato salads, grated cheeses, milk, sour cream, yogurt, cream cheese, farm fresh eggs, and coffee creamer inside. Also greens from the farmers market.

First there was denial. Could we save it yet? Then there was  anger. Then finally acceptance. All the stages of grief.

We let our son use up the last of the hot water for his morning ablutions. He has a job. We are retired. he grabbed coffee and breakfast at work. We went out to a locally owned diner then came home.

The elementary school across the road was quiet and empty. We read outdoors. I finished up an appliqué project of a fish and thought about the book review I had planned to write. I finished another book. I looked at the apples I had planned on making into applesauce and a crisp.
Fishy, Fishy from Guildcrafter's Quilt Shop in Berkley, MI
We went out to Biggby for our afternoon tea/coffee and used the WIFI. Then went to the Blair library to plug in our tablets and finish our online business.

We dined at a local restaurant then took the dogs for a walk. People had gathered outside, talking and sharing and questioning. Parents were playing with the kids. Kids were playing with the dog. People sat on the front porch and I stopped to talk to a couple down the street. They told me they had bought a generator several years ago, tired of the outages. And that there was a skunk in the neighborhood!I expect he'll be looking for our apples, too. I sure hope Kamikaze or Suki don't run into him.

The loss of television and computers had brought some families and neighbors together. Perhaps it is a good thing, once and a while, to be forced to give up all the things that divide us.

The power came on 30 hours later at midnight. We have no idea what went wrong. There is nothing on the news or online from the City, nothing on Facebook.

This morning we cleared out the food, cleaned the fridge. Leftovers, pasta and potato salad, dairy, anything with eggs, dairy or mayonnaise, cooked veggies, veggies that had browned or wilted, grated cheese had to be tossed. Luckily the freezer was full and only the frozen fruit bars had melted.

The To Be Tossed Pile
Time to head back to the store.

And time to price generators in preparation for the next time we lose power.