Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Review

In 2015 I read 118 books, according to my Goodreads list! I went a little crazy with all the NetGalley offerings. I now get most of the books I request. I also joined two book clubs and started a book club at the local library, too.

I read 47 literary books and short story collections, 21 biographies or memoirs, 15 nonfiction, 10 genre fiction, 10 quilt books, 6 classics, 6 books for young readers, and 3 poetry books.

I was part of my first blog tour (A Place We Knew Well by Susan Carol McCarthy) and had my first author interview (Jacopo della Quercia author of License to Quill).

I was thrilled when authors 'liked' my Goodreads review of their books or commented on my blog thanking me for my review. Nine reviews were chosen by the publisher to be featured on the book's NetGalley page. Two publishers reached out to offer any book I wanted from them. I have shared my quilt book reviews with my local guild newspaper.

In 2015 I did some themed reading: Shakespeare, frozen climes, animal stories, music, art, biographies, African American related, historical fiction, fiction about writers, and Michigan based novels.

Book reviews scheduled for the coming months include:
  • My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Trout who wrote Olive Kitteridge
  • Radioactive! by Winifred Conklin, about Irene Curie and Lise Meitner
  • The Longest Night by Andria Wiliams, fiction based on a real nuclear reactor accident
  • Lay Down Your Weary Tune by W. B. Belcher, fiction about a recluse folk singer
  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson, a British travel book
  • Nelly Dean: Wuthering Heights Revisited by Alison Case
  • Fast Into the Night by Debbie Clarke Moderow, about the Iditarod
  • A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin, a powerful family drama
  • All the Winters After by Sere Prince Halverson, an Alaskan romance
  • When We Are No More: How Digital Memory is Shaping Our Future by Abbey Smith Rumsey
  • Will's Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way you Talk by Jane Sutcliff
  • Lit Up by David Denby which looks at how literature impacts the lives of 10th graders 
  • The Early Poems of Ezra Pound
  • Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave, a powerful novel about WWII
  • The Books that Changed My Life: 100 Remarkable People Write About Books by Bethanne Patrick 
  • The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith, a novel about a forged painting
  • The Queen of the Heartbreak Trail about Harriet Smith Pullen, a family history
I did accomplish a tidy amount of quilting, too.

My John Quincy Adams quilt is traveling in a show of Presidential Quilts arranged by Sue Reich, and will be in her January 2016 book Quilts Presidential and Patriotic, as will my quilt Remember the Ladies, a Redwork quilt of the First Ladies.

I made Gridlock, made with vintage political linens and handkerchiefs. It won Most Humorous ("humerous" according to the ribbon) at the CAMEO quilt guild show.
I made Pumpkin Pie from Bunny Hill and adapted a pattern for a  pumpkin vine  table topper.

I finished my Charles Dickens quilt and completed Barbara Brackman's Austen Family Album quilt top.

I advanced a bit on Love Entwined, Esther Aliu's remarkable pattern based on a antique coverlet. I am nearly done with the fourth appliqué border around the medallion center.

I collected twenty some Rows X Row patterns or kits and made a whole slew and completed two, a wall hanging and a table topper. I am machine quilting another Row X Row quilt.

I made two small Dragonfly wall hangings, a Hawaiian appliqué quilt block from Creating Hawaain Inspired Quilts, and took a hexagon workshop with Mary Clark. I made four little quilts with vintage linens, doilies, and embellishments inspired by Quilting with Doilies. Mary Kerr's Recycled Hexie Quilts sent me looking for vintage Flower Garden Quilts. I found some but haven't started a project. Yet.

AND... I have started putting together appliqué blocks for my long awaited Great Gatsby story book quilt, and I am hand quilting a small Tree of Life Medallion quilt started in 1995, and am gathering fabric for future quilts. I have to live forever to complete it all. Start praying, please!

I was thrilled when several of my articles were picked up by other bloggers and shared with a larger audience. It was obvious some publishers or authors shared my review of their book. Very cool!
  • Retro Renovation shared about my choosing Wilson Art Betty laminate for our kitchen remodel. 
  • My article on Operation Hanky was shared by embroidery guru Mary Corbett and became one of my all-time highest read posts. 
  • Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi shared my review of her book And Still We Rise and it is on my top ten most read posts of all time.
I shared from antique math books, vintage magazines, local visits, quilt shows, and art museums. And most amazing my post 1954 Sealtest Recipes stood as the No. 1 most read post for most of 2015. A lot of people wanted that Creamed Eggs in Bologna Cups recipe I suppose.

2016 Plans 
I am planning to participate in a Pickwick Papers read-a-long through the Behold the Stars blog.
I found A Year with Rilke and will read it daily this coming year.
A quilt blogger has suggested a quilt-a-long recreating an applique sampler quilt. If it goes, I'm in!

I already have NetGalley books on my shelf to be read:

  • Marooned in the Arctic:The True Story of Ada Blackjack, the 'Female Robinson Cruosoe' by Peggy Caravantes
  • Lit Up by Dennis Denby which considers how literature impacts students lives
  • Chasing the North Star by Robert Morgan, about a runaway slave
  • Smoke the Donkey: A Marine's Unlikely Friend by Cate Folsom about an Iraqi donkey
  • Just Another Southern Town: Mary Church Terrell and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Nation's Capital by Joan Quigley

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Four Years with Charles Dickens

The Bicentennial of Charles Dickens' birth was in 2012 and I decided to make him a quilt which I have just finished hand quilting and binding!
I designed and hand embroidered blocks representing his novels. Some images are based on the original illustrations and some I designed. The book titles are in Dickens own handwriting as found on his manuscripts.
being quilted
Novels included are Pickwick Papers, David Copperfield, Barnaby Rudge, A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, The Mystery of Edward Drood, The Old Curiosity Shop, Oliver Twist, Little Dorrit, and Bleak House.

The Inimitable himself appears over his signature. I used fusible appliqué and embellished him with thread work.

I made my first Hexie blocks for the borders. The fabrics are mostly reproduction or just look old, and the piecing is inspired by early 19th c British quilts. This was one of my design-as-you-go quilts. I had no plan when I started, so that will explain it's design weaknesses.

I may have finished the quilt sooner but life got in the way: my husband was assigned a new church in 2012 which meant a move, my husband retired in 2014 which meant a move. We retired to the house my folks bought in 1972. We remodeled the kitchen this summer and are still settling into our permanent, 'forever' home. (Which is half the size of the parsonages we lived in for 38 years!)

While designing the embroidery I reread several Dickens novels and read for the first time Little Dorrit and watched the BBC series Bleak House.

I was sorry I had not finished this one because it was the Bicentenary of Anthony Trollope's birth this year and I love his Barchester novels about the church and have watched The Pallisers BBC series many times. Sorry, Anthony, no quilt for you. Yet.

But he has to get in line. I have my Austen Family Album quilt waiting to be hand quilted next! Austen's bicentennial of her death is in 2017 and I may need that long to finish her quilt!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas, Community, and Changed Lives

This month I read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg for my book clubs. Carol has been a favorite story of mine since I was Martha in our third grade play. I memorized everyone's lines during rehearsal!
The Christmas Carol play presented by my third grade class!
I grew up watching all of the televised movie versions. In Junior Great books I read the story for the first time. My husband and I used to read it aloud during Christmas time and watch all the movie versions. What new could I learn? Turns out plenty.

I encountered Fannie Flagg when her Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe was made into a movie. I read the book at least twice. A Redbird Christmas was not my favorite read. I found the characterization thin, the relationships sometimes unconvincing, but most readers will enjoy the upbeat, positive message of a small town coming together to change the life of an unloved and abandoned girl. I've lived in a small town, albeit not a Southern one, and the part of the story that I saw most real was the grudges that divided people on opposite sides of one river. Flagg's story finds ways to bridge that gap.

Redbird is about a Chicago man on a self-destructive road to early death who takes the advice of a doctor to winter in the south. He ends up renting a room in a dinky town, making friends and creating new and healthy habits. The townspeople have two pets: an injured Cardinal that lives in the General Store doing tricks and pecking open packages, and an impoverished and crippled girl who is unwanted and unloved. The bird becomes the girl's best friend, and the town adopts her and helps her to family and wholeness. Meantime our Chicagoan finds not only health but purpose and community. A Christmas 'miracle' wraps up the story.

We all know about Dickens's Scrooge, that money-grubbing, cold hearted man. He had a sad childhood, worked his way to wealth, and cut himself off from everyone and everything to nurse his grudges in dimly lit and hardly heated rooms. His business partner Marley returns from the dead with a warning to alter his life before it is too late.

Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past  who shows him that he was loved by his sister Fran and Mr and Mrs Fezziwig and his betrothed Beth. It was Scrooge's choice to alienated everyone by putting capitalistic gain and security over friendship and love.

Christmas Present takes him into the homes of loving families and shows that even the most abject poor and isolated men celebrate Christmas with their fellow men.

And Christmas Future shows Scrooge what the outcome of being separated from humanity brings. The wealthy and successful man of business dies alone and uncared for, while the poor crippled child Tiny Tim leaves a legacy of love behind.

What is Christmas about then? One lesson is that we are to live in community, to share each others burdens and bridge the gaps that divide us. That without relationships with others our lives are nil. That it is only through love that we reach our full humanity, and it is only the legacy of love we leave behind that remains after we have departed.

God bless us, everyone!

A book club member told us about The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford. The book is a little gem. In a few hundred pages we learn about Dickens's life, his career, influences on the book, influences of the book, and the pirating of creative property before copyright laws.

Dickens's comfortable childhood ended when his father's indebtedness landed him in prison and Charles in a humiliating and job. The experience haunted him all his life.

Shortly before writing Carol, along with Disraeli, Dickens appeared before the government to argue for support of the financially failing Manchester Athenaeum. The free institution housed a library and offered classes, lectures, music, and exercise facilities. Dickens had toured Manchester and saw abject poverty, houses unfit for beasts, and streets mired in refuse and ordure. It was a "hellhole". Fifty-five percent of children born in working class families died before age five. Dickens said the children in the free school displayed "profound ignorance and perfect barbarism," were filthy, and resorted to thievery or prostitution to survive.

Dickens was eloquent about education as a way for workers to rise out of poverty and become better citizens. "He proclaimed his belief that with the pursuit and accumulation of knowledge, man had the capacity to change himself and his lot in life," the author tells us. "The more a man learns, Dickens said, "The better, gentler, kinder man he must become." And more tolerant.

Dickens's career was floundering and bankruptcy was a real possibility.  He considered a career change. Instead he worked incessantly and in six weeks wrote the ghost story known as The Christmas Carol. Its influence was huge. Peter Ackroyd credits Dickens for creating the Modern Christmas. Standiford says at least Dickens reinvented it.

For centuries, conservative Christianity had rejected Christmas revelries as pagan. It was a minor holiday at best. Prince Albert brought German traditions that were making their impact, like the lighted tree in the illustration at the beginning of this post. Victorians imitated all the 'Christmas' trimmings described in the tale. Turkey was in, goose was out, for Christmas dinner.

The book is a nice introduction to Dickens through his most well known story.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2015 Book Title Answers Meme

Bibliophilpolis blog shared this fun meme: Answer all the questions with the title of a book you have read in 2015.
  • Describe Yourself: The Queen of the Heartbreak Trail
  • How do you Feel: Sometimes I feel Worthy, sometimes Corrupted
  • Describe Where You Currently Live: I've moved a lot: Brooklyn, The Turner House, House of Hawthrone, A Place We Knew Well, The Given World
  • If you could go anywhere, where would you go: At the Water's Edge, or perhaps Station Eleven or even Black River 
  • Your favorite form of transportation: I'm usually The Girl on the Train, but sometimes I prefer flying and Circling the Sun
  • Your best friend is: The Dream Lover and my Everything, Everything
  • You and your friends are: 7 Women, All of Us and Everything
  • What’s the Weather Like: The Color of Water in July can turn to All the Winters After in a snap here in Michigan
  • Favorite time of day: The Longest Night 
  • What is life to you: Same old Same old Five Night Stand; Repeat; Hear My Sad Story
  • Your fear: The Improbability of Love and When We Are No More
  • What is the best advice you have to give: We all must follow The Truth According to Us
  • Thought for the day: The Heart Goes Last
  • How I would like to die:  Fast Into the Night
  • My soul’s present condition: Everybody RiseAnd Still We Rise, Joy!
Into the Woods by Nancy A. Bekofske

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmases Past: 1956 and 1957 Photos

Looking at old photographs brings back memories, shows us the world of our past, and reveals things we took for granted.
I had forgotten that Mom decorated the doors and windows with stenciled 'snow' paint. I love the hat with the balls on the ties. The over the shoes snow boots had loads of clasps which I still couldn't manage in kindergarten.

Christmas 1956. My hair was in pigtails. I was five years old. Here I am coloring with stencils. Coloring was one of my favorite activities. The flannel nightgown was a must; our 1830s house had no heating in the upstairs bedrooms!
Skunk and Mouse get an education with my new chalk board. This is one of the few photos that still has good color. Most I converted to black and white. The television was our 'new' one.
Mom was twenty-six years old.
A doll bed. I wonder what doll I put in it? Perhaps the skunk and mouse? Santa on the closet door was Styrofoam with flocked red hat and nose. Mistletoe hung over the door into the kitchen.
Here I am with Dad, aged 27. I have a board game set. A metal doll house is next to Dad. On the left is a 'modern' table holding the creche.
What a mess! I was still an only child and Mom loved Christmas. The toys weren't expensive, but it didn't matter to me.
Mom painted the Tole painted magazine rack next to the chair. Yep, that's real tinsel on a real Christmas tree.
Christmas 1957
I was five years old.

I see a toy ironing board and iron on the right. Next to the chair is a pink suitcase with Tiny Tears and all her clothing and baby things, sitting on a box holding a tea set. Under the tree is my new dress. I am holding my first 'fashion doll', a Miss Revlon. She came with underclothing and two dresses, a belt, a hat, and a purse. I rearranged and made my own style. I liked her in the bra, crinoline, and the belt in her hair, which was perhaps my idea of a ballerina.

A vintage Little Miss Revlon doll with original box
In the photo below you can see Tiny Tears and the tea set.

Miss Revlon and Tiny Tears.
I really liked that fashion doll. Here she has a Pill box hat.
I took the doll with me to visit my aunt and uncle and cousins who lived in the upstairs apartment. Note the old wallpaper border at the top of the wall.
My first dog Pepper sits next to me. I loved that dog! 
Add caption
The little modern coffee table of metal and Formica would be very in demand today. Mom's wedding candy dish sits in the middle of the table. There is a heavy white, scalloped edged, glass dish with green interior to the left, and a clear plastic Christmas tree on the right.
Here I am in the new dress. It was brown print with a white bib. Mom and I had matching permanents in a "Bubble cut" so my straight hair was very Shirley Temple curly.
I see a pile of games and books next to the chair. You can see the Tiny Tears in her pink suitcase on the right. The bottom of my stocking can be seen on the wall.
Dad supported us by running the gas station his dad had built in the 1940s. We didn't have much money. But when I saw the ads on television showing poor children of the world I felt very guilty for having so much. I knew I didn't need, or deserve, it all.

Friday, December 18, 2015

What Mom Wanted For Christmas in 1957

What did our mothers want for Christmas in 1957? Lets look at the ads from the December Good Housekeeping magazine.
I shared this Toastmaster electric fry pan ad on Facebook and quite a few remarked their mom had one, and several people still have one today! My mom made almost all her meals in one. I wish I had it today! It kept the heat so even.
Automatic toasters didn't arrive until the 1940s. What made the Sunbeam special was it's heat sensor that gaged the temperature of the bread, not the toaster. This Sunbeam toaster  was in production from the 1940s until 1996 when its $89.95 price tag couldn't compete with Wal-Mart toasters sold for $9.99. What a shame.
When I shared this Electrolux ad on Facebook I had another rash of people remembering their mom having one. So did my in-laws, but theirs was on gliders and dated before 1955 when the wheels came in.
 Everyone had a Cosco step stool chair. I'd like that rolling table today.

 Well, if you had to have a bathroom scale get one with 'jeweled movement.'
My husband's grandmother had a console stereo like this! But look at those prices! $169.99 was a lot of money in 1957!
 Floristic Telegraph Delivery! That's what FTD stands for!
 Lovely Lenox china in 'West Wind" was made from 1953 to 1980.
This Eureka looked like what my mom had. That $49.95 price tag was about a half week's income for us.
I love the idea of baking right at the table! Hopefully the kids or guests didn't touch it and get burned. See more photos and the original pamphlet here.
"Golden Foliage" glasses were the most successful hostess set created by Libby, sold from 1956 until 1977.

The top right ad is for Melamac dishes, which I know Mom had for many years. The fashions on the left are bed jackets. So pretty.  I didn't remember Hawaiian Punch before the classic 1962 ad, "Hey, how about a nice Hawaiian punch?" It was invented in 1934 though.

What did your mom get for Christmas in 1957?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas Quilts at the Library

We may have green grass here in Metro Detroit but the local library is helping the community get into the Christmas spirit with a display of holiday quilts! Snowmen and Santas have come to town!
Here Comes Santa Claus by Shirley Leja
by Linda Brown

Counting the Days by Shirley Leja

by Linda Pearce