Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Strip Quilting Gets Sophisticated with Susan Ache

Quilters love precuts and Jelly Rolls of 2 1/2" strips have become very popular. Several of my friends have made scrappy quilts with strips sewn by sewing the strips together. Susan Ache's new book Start with Strips offers 13 sophisticated quilt patterns utilizing Jelly Rolls that go way beyond just sewing them together!

Susan shares her method of sorting and preparing jelly rolls, so all you have to do is grab and sew! The patterns shared are gorgeous. My favorite is Pumpkin Maze, seen below, an Irish Chain variation with a pieced pumpkin. It consists of two blocks. The Irish Chain block is made with 2 1/2" strip sets. The pumpkin also uses strip sets for the body of the pumpkin and stitch-and-flip units for the stem and leaf.
Four Square is a nine-patch block with a Church Dash variation block. Susan used a soft green ground. The pattern includes half-square triangles made from the strips as well as strip sets, with blocks laid out in diagonal rows.
The Guest Room pattern is a Dresden Plate variation. You make 20 blocks with Dresden corners set with the pink sashing and borders.
Airboats needs a good contrast in values to work. It is constructed by making wedge units and adding a triangle at the point, then setting the wedge units with sashing in a kind of nine-patch unit. The block is then cut to 10 1/2" squares. This is one of the more complicated patterns in the book.
Citrus Grove was inspired by Susan's native Florida orange and grapefruit groves. The luscious oranges and pinks glow against the lime green. Strips are made into half-square triangles.
Sea Glass is so easy with strip sets to make the pieced blocks and border. Susan used romantic pastels, but the pattern could be made with brights. Or imagine the quilt with white switched out for black or navy with solid pastels in the piecing!
The instructions and illustrations are top-notch, as can always be expected from Martingale!

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

Starting with Strips
by Susan Ache
That Patchwork Place
On Sale Date: December 19, 2017
ISBN 9781604688719, 1604688718
Paperback $25.99 
80 pages

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley Hay

This book called to me with its story of a new mother starting over in a new house while the woman who had lived there for sixty years is learning to let go of the life she had. Having moved so often, settling into a new place and home, I connected to the story right away.

This is a book that delves underneath the surface of a life, past the mundane externals to hopes and dreams and fears, to memories and how they are skewed over time, and to the losses that come with age.

It is a story of mothers and daughters, of expectations and the misunderstandings that drive them apart. And of fathers who, amazed, suddenly realize everything has changed and that a child can turn their life upside down with love. And all the lessons that we learn about who we are and who we thought we were.

Author Ashley Hay was pregnant when she and her husband moved from Sydney to Brisbane, Australia. She found herself in a world where the landscape itself was alien as was her new role as mother. This influenced her to explore the theme of motherhood in her new novel, "imagining one woman (Lucy Kiss) arriving in motherhood, as another woman (Elsie Gormley) prepared to leave it."

Lucy, her husband Ben, and their child Tom have moved into Elsie's home of over sixty years. Elsie at age 89 had a fall and her children moved her into a senior home. Ben's work keeps him away, and Lucy becomes overwhelmed with motherhood's fears and concerns. She is curious about Elsie, hyer-aware of her legacy in the house, and she finds mementos left behind that give her a glimpse into Elsie's mysterious life. Lucy is convinced that Elsie, or someone, has been entering the house.

Elsie loved being a mother, putting other's needs first, but her daughter Elaine wants a different life. And yet a young Elaine marries and has a child, her life choices chaffing like a manacle. The love of Elsie's life and Elaine's father, Clem, never aspired to be more. Neither parent could help Elaine find her wings.

Scenes that allowed me into the character's inner lives stunned me, such as when Ben suddenly understands his wife's obsessive fears about protecting their child and when he thinks he sees an intruder in the house, his worst fears arising. I loved that Hay explored Clem, Ben, and Tom as well as the women.

The title of the novel comes from a poem that Lucy had once read to Ben, and reads to Tom, The Story by Michael Ondaatje:

For his first forty days a child
is given dreams of previous lives.
Journeys, winding paths,
a hundred small lessons
and then the past is erased.

I think that Hay's novel will be appreciated by readers who enjoy connecting with characters and the slow revelations that come with experience.

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

A Hundred Small Lessons, A Novel
by Ashley Hay
Atria Books
Pub Date 28 Nov 2017 
Hardcover $26.00

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Life in a Resort Town: Two Years in Pentwater and Retirement

View from downtown Pentwater, MI
We moved into the Pentwater UMC parsonage in late June 2012.

Parsonage, Centenary UMC Pentwater, MI
July 4 was the beginning of the summer tourist season. The village of about 900 became bloated to 1,5000 with summer people--people with summer homes, or who lived on sailboats in the marina, or who camped at the state park. And it was the first Sunday the church held summer worship service on the city green, using the gazebo with the congregation sitting on lawn chairs on the green.
Downtown Pentwater; the church at the left

The Gazebo at the village green
It was a daunting first Sunday in the pulpit! Surrounded by strangers in shorts and sun hats, talking into a mic from the steps of the gazebo. After the service, the pastor had to move quickly for the second service in the church for the older or more traditional folk.
The Pentwater beach
When our son was growing up we had attended the conference Family Camp at Pentwater. Chris loved the beach. I would go into town to look at the antique stores and shops. One day I remarked to a teen that it was a beautiful place to grow up. He just scowled at me.

I have severe dry eye from Sjogrin's syndrome and an autoimmune reaction to sunlight. I avoid a lot of direct sun. We went to the beach at day's end a few times.
The Pentwater lake opens to Lake Michigan
photo by Thomas Gochenour
It wasn't until the end of summer and the summer folk left that we could find out who the year round folk were, the folk who ran the church.

In the fall, a series of meet-and-greets in private home was set up for us at a rate of two a week for about a month. Each gathering had a dozen or so folk. It was, for introverts, frankly exhausting. Some folk we met were gone to winter homes before Thanksgiving, not to be seen again until spring.
Lake Michigan during Hurricane Sandy
We left with sand in our nose and ears
As winter closed in, the last of the downtown shops closed. Remaining open were some bars and the grocery store near the marina, stocked with small sizes of products and loads of booze, but with a minimum of stock. A very minimum.
The Pentwater marina in early winter

The lake in early winter
We drove down the expressway to Ludington, or Hart, or Norton Shores for essentials like groceries, vet care, doctors, or a mall.

On our way to Ludington we went past a large wind farm 
I spent most of my time in the family room!
The parsonage was huge, built in the 1970s for a large pastoral family. But it was cheaply made and needing TLC. Early on my dog and I both tripped on the back door steps. Suki would never again go in that door. If I let her out the back door to do her business she ran to the front door to get back in! When I tripped and fell I asked the Trustee chair about safety improvements. The entry steps were all too high and the basement stair rail was inadequate.

A man volunteered to improve the basement railing. I asked the trustee if there was paint and painting supplies so I could first paint the wall that would be covered by the railing. It had not been painted since the house was built and looked pretty sad. The man exploded and yelled. I was shocked. He said I 'wanted everything' and he resented that pastors got free housing, and because they got free housing they should pay for the upkeep out of pocket. He had me crying.

It was like I had PTSD, the hurts from past church experiences just below the surface. I called the Staff Parish chair and told her what had happened. They knew the Trustee had a short fuse. He later called to apologize but said we were both in the wrong. I said no, he was in the wrong, he attacked me and made me cry and continued to vent at me after I was crying. I said I would not work with someone who was abusive.

His behavior changed for the rest of our stay and he and his wife was very friendly.

A new trustee chair came on. He was just wonderful to work with. I talked him through the concerns we had, and he systematically addressed them. Some were dealt with after we left, but they were dealt with.

We joined Chris in Clawson for holidays. We had also brought Gary's dad from Grand Blanc to spend holidays with us in Clawson. In January 2013 Herman passed at age 96. Now all of our parents were gone.

I joined a Sunday school class and made friends with the teacher and several other ladies. I spent a lot of time on genealogy in these days and began my blog. Gary and I went on a vegetarian diet, too, and we both lost weight. There was no fenced yard and I walked the dogs every few hours. They liked to go a block away where there was a woods. In the winter when the roads were sheets of ice, Gary walked the dogs with cleats on his boots. I could not take the bitter cold; I would walk with my eyes squinted or closed and had to wear double thickness mittens.
Downtown Pentwater in winter 2014
Winter in Pentwater! Yikes! We looked out the windows at empty houses. The roads were not salted, only plowed, and the snow packed down and became treacherous. I could not even walk to the mailbox. We shoved a path in the snow for our dogs to use.
January 2014
We could hear the waves on the beach, we were so close to Lake Michigan. The windows would shake and rattle in the wind.

I got such cabin fever! Getting to the expressway on back roads could be treacherous. There was a reason so many only live in Pentwater during the summer! Our second winter there was 196 inches of snow in Ludington just a few miles up the road. Gary had to shovel out the mail box every day.

Gary shoveling out the mail box winter 2014

Trillium in the yard of a local summer home
Spring was very welcome! Morel mushrooms sprouted up in the yard under the pine trees.
Morel mushroom that grew in our yard
And the people returned. Every weekend there was some special event to draw tourists. Some weekends people were parked on all the streets across town.
Centenary UMC church
I designed a quilt for Charles Dickens. Embroidered scenes from his books have titles based on Dickens own handwriting in his manuscripts. I used fabrics and a quilt style reminiscent of 19th c British quilts. The center features Dickens with his signature.

Charles Dickens quilt by Nancy A. Bekofske
Prince's Feather by Nancy A. Bekofske

I organized a quilt display held at the church. A mostly older congregation of retirees, they had a lot of heirloom quilts.

We displayed the quilts on the pews. Some beautiful quilts came out of the closets! A man who was in the marina that weekend, on his sail boat, heard about the show and was eager to see it. He turned out to be the organizer of the Coopersville Farm Museum show, Quilts and their Stories, which I had attended and had quilts in. He was also the brother of a well known quilter! He was excited to find a Gees Bend quilt in the show, owned by a member.
Detail of Gees Bend quilt
The church held a free midweek dinner for the community. Oceana County is very poor, and Pentwater was a rich man's playground. Those who could donated much and those who had not ate free. People came from all over the county.

The head cook wanted a better oven. A committee was formed. They studied other kitchens, investigated, and wrote up a report with suggestions. The problem was they had Cadillac tastes that were too expensive for the church's budget or need. The committee felt slighted. They wrote a letter of complaint, and mentioned the pastor.
Gary and I, 2012
Well, that PTSD thing I mentioned? It hit Gary hard. He hated what was going on, people leaving the church over, in the big picture, what was a small thing.

Gary wanted to retire in February when he turned 65. The Bishop said no, he could only retire July 1 when the usual pastoral appointment started. We had a choice: leave in two months or fourteen.

The prospect of another Pentwater winter was daunting. It took us 4 to  4 to 4 1/2 hrs to get to Clawson on a good day, traveling with two dogs and stopping several times to stretch all our legs. Christmas 2013 it took over five hours. Gary had a Christmas Eve worship service so we did not leave until Christmas Day--in a blizzard. We did not drive out of the snow until Lansing.
Our car was covered in snow on Christmas Day 2013

Trees broken by the icy snow storm of Christmas 2013
Gary checked with the investment manager. He said we could afford to retire right then. Gary gave his notice: he would retire on July 1, 2014.
The Clawson house; my brother gifted a tree at Gary's retirement
We had to scramble! We had a big garage sale in Pentwater and gave away all our kitchen stuff, bedsteads, mattresses, and a couch to an organization that helped people with household needs. Then we went to Clawson and held another big sale at giveaway prices, gave away things on Freecycle, and carted truckloads to the Salvation Army. We left the doggies with Chris and returned to Pentwater to pack.

A week before we moved in I was in Clawson getting a basement crack repaired. It was providential.
The basement stuffed with our boxes, June, 2014
In late June we moved to Clawson. The house was stuffed with boxes, especially the basement with all of our books, my quilts and fabric, and photographs and files. In August heavy rains caused area-wide flooding. Our son and I looked out the window at the street like a flowing river, pooling into a lake at the low spot in the road a block away.

Neighbors lost everything in their basements in the August 2014 flood
Over the next weeks we counted ourselves very lucky for having fixed that cracked basement wall before moving in. Our block, on a hill, was not flooded. But everywhere else people lost everything in their basement, from the furnace to their furnishings. One gal we talked to even lost her brand new truck when the garage flooded and said the water reached her front doorstep.

Our son had been living in Clawson since his college graduation. He had a good job at Kelley Services and was being prepped and promoted by his boss. On Sundays young men  came to the house for role playing games. At first we vacated the house for them, but as they got to know us we hung around and just gave them space. Last year our son bought his first house.

John Quincy Adams by Nancy A. Bekofske
In 2014 I responded to a call for quilters to contribute to a Presidents Quilt traveling exhibit; I asked for John Quincy Adams. The quilt traveled for a year and appeared in Sue Reich's book Quilts Presidential and Patriotic..
 The book also shows my quilt Remember the Ladies.
Remember the Ladies in Quilts Presidential and Patriotic
I joined the local quilt guild and a weekly quilt group, and Gary and I helped start a book club at the local library. Over the last three years our doggies health declined. They became blind, and then cognitive disorder set in. We lost them both this past summer.
Suki and Kamikaze in their last months
My son told me about NetGalley which connects publishers and book reviewers. Then I learned about other sources for books for review. I have read 160 books a year these past few years!
My writing desk, with one of Mom's paintings
I keep busy with blogging, reading and reviewing, quilting, my weekly quilt group, and two book clubs.

As a girl I wanted to work in the library and help people find books to read, and now I am as a book reviewer.

As a girl I wanted to write a newspaper, and now I blog.

As a Christian I wanted to promote justice and peace, and now by choosing what books I review I do that, too.

As a teen I became interested in environmental protection, and again, choosing books I can promote that interest.

And of course, my love of books and art and music has been with me since Philip Sheridan Elementary School in Tonawanda, NY. Quilting has allowed me to use my creativity as art and as comfort.

All that I have seen and read and been feeds into this blog. Thanks for sharing my journey with me.

Nancy as a baby
Nancy age 3
Nancy, age 8, with brother Tom

Nancy, 7th grade
Nancy, age 15
Elina Salmi, my Finnish exchange student sister, and me 1969
Nancy's high school graduation pic
Nancy and Gary, 1971
Nancy and Gary, 1972

Gary's graduation, 1975
My graduation, 1978, with my parents

Nancy and Gary about 1979
Nancy and Chris, 1987

Chris, Gary and Nancy about 1990
2005, Gary, Chris and I, Hillsdale MI goodbye

Kili and I 

Nancy, Chris and Gary, Lansing MI
Nancy, 2011
Nancy 2014
Nancy and Gary 2017