Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Austen Finishes

This month I finished my Austen Family Album quilt, a sampler pattern of the month offered by Barbara Brackman. I took me two winters to hand quilt it! It was too big and warm to quilt in summer.

On the same day, I also finished Jane Austen the Secret Radical by Helena Kelly.

Brackman's quilt block patterns represented members of Jane Austen's family, her friends, and her society. There was a Flickr group where quilters could share their versions of the blocks. Everyone had such brilliant interpretations. And I made several friends in the group.

Here are some of the finished blocks. I had a stack of MODA fabrics in deep red, a gray-green, cream, and pale gray. I added a few other fabrics from my stash.

 I added some applique bits to the block above.

 And fussy cut now and then, like the corner pieces in the star block above.

Austen Family Album by Nancy A. Bekofske
I did not use all of the blocks shared by Brackman, but added my own touch with silhouettes of the Austen family, made in reverse applique. I embroidered the name of the person each block represented.

The Jane Austen silhouette I used is used on the cover of Kelly's book.

Kelly shakes our view of Jane up...a lot! Jane's younger family members grew up in the Victorian Age and tweaked Jane's image to fit the ideal of a pious, quiet, unassuming, Christian woman.

Through a deep reading of Jane's novels, Kelly concluded that Jane was a secret radical whose books addressed issues that her first readers would have recognized: slavery, poverty, enclosure, war, feminism, changing societal values, the hypocrisy of the church.

One might think it is a matter of seeing what one wants to see in a book, but I will warn you that Kelly builds her case based on the texts and family letters and a thorough knowledge of Austen's life, time, and place.

In Northanger Abbey, published after Austen's death and years too late for the audience it was intended for--readers who were well versed in the Gothic novel of the 1790s--Kelly sees "The Anxieties of Common Life."

"The Age of Brass" finds Kelly's reading of Sense and Sensibility as a book about "property and inheritance--about greed and the terrible, selfish things that families do to each other for the sake of money."

In Pride and Prejudice, that sparkling and delightful novel so beloved today, Kelly finds a "revolutionary fairy tale, a fantasy of how, with reform, with radical thinking, society can be safely remodeled" without the revolution that had wracked France.

Mansfield Park is about "The Chain and the Cross," referring to Fanny's amber cross from her brother and the chain gifted her by her cousin Edmund. (Inspired by Austen's own amber cross from her sailor brother.) It also refers to British wealth from slave plantations in the Caribbean and how the Christian church profited from them.

Enclosure was the turning of common lands into privately held lands for use by the rich only. "Gruel" is Kelly's chapter on Emma, in which Jane references how wealth was concentrated into the hands of a few while workers starved, unable to afford British wheat. The Corn Laws kept the price artificially kept high; good for farmers and disastrous for the working poor.

The Lyme cliffs hold a treasure chest of fossils. The characters in Persuasion make a visit to Lyme where a series of events change their lives. "Decline and Fall" places the novel in perspective of Jane's personal life and the alteration in British society. The book takes place in a brief moment of peace with France, just before Napoleon escapes from Elba.

After reading this book, you will realize that Jane is not the person you thought you knew.

Austen Family Album by Nancy A. Bekofske, 2018

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World

Joshua B. Freeman's Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World was more than an intellectual experience, for I was reading about the forces behind my personal family history.

My Greenwood ancestors were cotton mill workers in Lancashire, England, at least going back to my great-great-great grandfather.

My grandfather worked at Standard Steel in Burnham, PA as a teenager to money for college. During WWII, Gramps and his family lived in a 'temporary' housing project when he worked at  Chevrolet Aviation Engine Division of GMC testing airplane struts. He later relocated to Detroit to work for GM.

My dad's mother worked at Remington Rand in Tonawanda, NY, as did my mom. My brother is a Ford engineer.

While in college, my husband worked summers as a welder at Buick. His father worked for Fisher Body in Flint. And his widowed grandmother worked at GM, the only female on the factory floor. When she was wanted, the men called out for "Girl" and that became her family nickname. She brought food to strikers during the famous GM sit-down strike and was a proud union member.

When Dad was hired by Chrysler in 1963, about 24% of American workers were employed in manufacturing, but only 8% today. How did we evolve to now, with overseas mega-factories paying abysmal wages and the struggle for young adults to retain their parents' middle-class status?

What happened? Once factories were associated with progress, modernity, and social betterment. Today we think of empty ruins in the Rust Belt, or overseas cheap labor turning out Apple iPhones and expensive running shoes with logos.
Like the empty Quaker Lace and Stetson Hat and other factories in Kensington, Philadelphia where we lived in 1980.

The book left me overwhelmed, in a good way. Each chapter sent my head spinning with information and insights. Some things I knew about, like the Lancashire mills where my Greenwood ancestors worked, or the New England Mills that many quilt historians write about. And of course, Detroit's auto factories and war effort manufacturing, and the Detroit Institute of Arts famous mural by Diego Rivera of Detroit Industry.

It was satisfying to know more details about these aspects of the history of the factory. But what really caught me by surprise was how interesting the later chapters were on issues such as how America helped the Soviets build factories after WWI and how mass merchandizing's demand for cheap products led to the growth of factories in countries with cheap labor sources.

The book brought together information in a narrative that helped me to better understand the Modern world.

I thought this would be a fascinating book when I requested it from the publisher through NetGalley. It kept my interest to the end.

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

Joshua B. Freeman
Publication Date: February 2018
ISBN 978-0-393-24631-5

My Family and Factories

I live in my childhood home, a modest suburban ranch home, made possible because my Dad worked in the auto industry.

In 1963 he sold the gas and service station his father built in the 1940s to move to Detroit. He found work at the Chrysler road test garage and later he worked at the Highland Park plant as an experimental mechanic in the Windshield Wiper and small motor labs. Overtime pay, health benefits, and a good retirement offered my family a comfortable working-class life.
Dad at work at Chrysler

Dad's mother Emma Becker was working in the North Tonawanda, NY Remington Rand factory when she met my grandfather Al Gochenour. After graduating from high school my mother worked a comptograph at Rand.

Mom's father worked at Standard Steel in Burnham, PA before he went to college in 1923. He wrote about how as a child, nearby textile mills dumped dyes into the local creek, which ran different colors on different days. Burnham was a town built around the steel mill to house workers.

During WWII Gramps tested airplanes at the Chevrolet Aviation Engine Division of GMC in Tonawanda-Kenmore, N.Y. After the war, he was a stress engineer of frames, suspensions, brakes, etc. on Chevy trucks in Warren, Mich. His son worked on the line for GM, as did one of my cousins.
My grandfather at the Chevrolet Aviation Engine Division of GMC in Tonawanda, NY in 1952.

In fact, three generations of my family have worked for the Detroit auto companies, for my brother is a Ford engineer.

But my family roots as factory workers go back even further. At least three generations of my Greenwood ancestors worked in the cotton mills in Lancashire, England.

The 1891 Census for Newchurch, Lancashire shows my great-grandfather Cropper, age nine. (A Cropper in the textile industry was a highly skilled worker who used hand shears to cut and even the surface on woven wool.) His father William, age 48, was a warper; that meant he set up the long parallel warp yarns on the looms. The eldest son, David H. (Hartley) at age 15 was a weaver; he later ran a garden. When older, the girls had jobs as machinists in factories.
William Cropper and family
Cropper's grandfather Hartley Greenwood (b. 1803) also worked in the mills. In 1851 he was a cotton warp sizer; the census shows at age 74 he was a cotton twister living up in the Union Workhouse. The 1861 census shows his son John was also a cotton warp sizer, daughter Sarah was a cotton power loom weaver, and sons Hartley, age 12, and Cropper, age 10, were cotton mill operatives and scholars. Cropper's great-grandfather John Greenwood (b. 1762) was a cotton weaver.

My father-in-law had a white-collar, non-union job with Fisher Body in Flint; after his retirement, the factory closed and then was torn down. His widowed mother worked for GM. The family called her Girl, a nickname she picked up when she was the only female on the factory floor. The men would call "Girl" and give her orders. She was involved with the famous sit-down strike, delivering food to the strikers. She was a proud Union member.

Even my husband worked as a welder at the GM factory summers while in college. The men encouraged him in his studies. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Learn How To Make Landscape Art Quilts, Step-by-step, with Anne Loveless

Michigan quilters are proud of our own Ann Loveless who won the 2013 Grand Rapids ArtPrize for her Sleeping Bear Dune Lakeshore landscape quilt (seen on the book cover) as well as a viewer's choice award. The dunes quilt is constructed in 5 'x 5' panels. But Ann's techniques also create smaller quilts, and in this book she shares her methods.
Ann Loveless with her prize-winning quilt
Most of Ann's quilts are inspired by Michigan scenes, places, forests and flora: Trillium, sand dunes, Pictured Rocks along Lake Superior, lighthouses, the Mackinac Bridge, birch forests, quiet ponds.

The book is in three parts:
  • Planning, designing, and preparing to make your art quilt
  • A Photo Gallery of Collage Quilts
  • Constructing and finishing your art quilt
Ann also shares her quilt story and resources.

Ann's own quilts help to illustrate basic concepts of color theory and color value, and she covers composition, selection of inspiration photo, and photo transfer methods. She covers fabric choices and threads, supplies, and quilting options.

Ann's approach is improvisational. She does not create patterns, but freeform cuts fabric and places her pieces. The raw edge applique is machine quilted. The result is an "impressionistic" look. She also creates "confetti" quilts with pre-fused fabrics on a fused mosaic background.

Now, for many quilters that sounds impossible. But it is how I created my Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe portrait quilts. I hand drew the face, cut out the background face fabric, and free hand cut and placed pre-fused pieces. You have to trust your instinct.
Detail of William Shakespeare by Nancy A. Bekofske

from Landscape Art Quilts by Ann Loveless
Many of the Gallery quilts include her inspiration photographs and details of the quilt. At her website you can see her small mosaic, collage, impressionistic, and large fabric mosaic quilts currently for sale at her shop State of the Art Framing and Gallery in Beulah.

In Part Three, Ann walks you through duplicating one of her art quilts. Lake Collage, 14" x 18", is a typical Michigan view of the lake seen from a sandy lakeshore framed by trees. Photographs and text explain every step in great detail, right through making the binding and rod pocket. It is the best step-by-step guide I have seen.

I highly recommend this book for quilters who want to learn how to make landscape quilts.

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

Landscape Art Quilts, Step-by-Step
Learn Fast, Fusible Fabric Collage with Ann Loveless
Ann Loveless
Kansas City Star Quilts
ISBN: 978-1-61169-145-0
 Book ($27.95)
 eBook ($19.99

Monday, February 19, 2018

How Democracies Die: How Elected Leaders Subvert Democratic Process and How To Stop It

My photo of How Democracies Die  by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt may be a visual joke, but this book is a sobering consideration of how democratic governments have, through subtle and even legal steps, evolved into authoritarian states. If American norms--political interactions not legislated but tacitly agreed upon--continue to be eroded we, too, could quickly find ourselves watching the last days of a democratic America.

The authors present the histories of countries that were democracies and became authoritarian, highlighting the strategies used by populist leaders to bring the system into their control. Later chapters consider the history of our political parties as gatekeepers as well as the source of conflict. A sad reality is that consensus has only occurred in America when the racist elements have been appeased.

And I am not just talking about slave owning states bulking up their political power by making slaves 3/5ths of a person, or the later repression of voting rights. As my readings in late 20th c political history have taught, the repression of African American, and the poor, is active to this day. I was a young adult when I heard our politicians call for 'law and order' and the end of 'welfare queens' and 'young bucks' drawing the dole. If after the mid-century Civil Rights protests we could not be above board with racism, it morphed into new language.

I was shocked not to have noticed before that recent anti-immigration movements are rooted in a desire to weaken the Democratic party, since most immigrants, along with people of color, vote Democratic. I knew it was overt racism, just missed that connection.

After leading readers through history the authors turn to today's political situation, evaluating the administration's tendency toward authoritarianism. As by the end of 2017, the system of checks and balances appear to be working. BUT, if the Republican party is complicit, the breakdown can and happen here.

In the end, the authors offer how the Democratic party should respond to the crisis--not by imitating the Tea Party methods, or by giving up 'identity politics' and letting the disenfranchised flounder, but by committing to consensus politics, forming a broad coalition, and restoring the basic norms that worked in the past: mutual toleration and forbearance.

I think this is one of the most enlightening books I have read recently. I highly recommend it.

I received a free book through Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

How Democracies Die
By Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt
Hardcover $26.00
Published by Crown
ISBN 9781524762933

Read an interview with the authors, excepts which appears below, at

 We think two norms in particular carry a lot of weight in the American political system. The first is “mutual toleration”—not treating political rivals as existential enemies, but rather as fellow loyal Americans. The second is “forbearance,” or restraint—by which we mean that leaders don’t “play politics to the max,” using all the legal power you have a right to in order to destroy your rivals.
But there is something else that ordinary Americans must do: Try to build broader coalitions in defense of democracy. To ensure democracy’s survival, we must build alliances that extend beyond traditional party lines.

Hear an interview on Fresh Air at

Read an excerpt at New Republic at

Read a review at the Wall Street Journal at

“We live in perilous times. Anyone who is concerned about the future of American democracy should read this brisk, accessible book. Anyone who is not concerned should definitely read it.”
—Daron Acemoglu, co-author of Why Nations Fail

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve by Stephen Greenblatt

I found great enjoyment in reading The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve by Stephen Greenblatt.  He examines the stories humans have created of our first parents, from prehistory's myths to the challenge of scientific evidence shaking a literal reading of the Bible.

Adam and Eve is one of the great stories in Western literature, a tale that has morphed from folklore to Christian canon to inspiration for artistic and literary masterworks and finally become relegated again to myth--a story with meaning--it's historic veracity disproved by science.

In the beginning we humans created stories to explain the world and our place in it. Stories from societies immemorial have come down to us via clay tablets, the Enuma Elish and the epic Gilgamesh. These known four-thousand-year-old tales are but 'later' contributions in human history.

In the Western world, the biblical story of Adam and Eve had its roots in the earlier myths but soon displaced them with the spread of Christianity. Early theologian St. Augustine insisted on a literal reading of the story. Renaissance art focused on Biblical stories, bringing Adam and Eve come to life as real people. John Milton, a radical in many ways, wrote his masterpiece Paradise Lost, which consolidated Christian's vision of the 'real' Adam and Eve.

Greenblatt contends that this very elevation of the story of Adam and Eve from a story with meaning to 'historic truth' was in fact its downfall. There are too many questions that arise. I recall, back in the early 1980s, when a man asked, "Where did Cain get a wife? " He told me he figured that Cain took an ape as wife and that is where people of color come from. This is the awful kind of problem that literalism leads to!

Darwin's observations during his time on the HMS Beagle led to his life's work proving and testing the theory of evolution. Theologians scrambled to reconcile science and the literal reading of the Bible.

I was taught (auditing a seminary class) that a myth is a story with meaning, humanity's endeavor to put into words the unknowable. It is not diminished because it is not literally true. Science holds the Theory of Evolution as a theory, the best understanding that scientific evidence and observation and testing can offer us at this time. Oddly, DNA evidence offers us an "Eve"-- a common first human ancestor.

I enjoyed how Greenblatt brought everything together into a rich narrative.

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve
Stephen Greenblatt
W.W. Norton
Hardcover $27.95
ISBN: 978-0-393-24080-1

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Lynne O. Ramer Memories of Teachers 100 Years Ago. And Recipes!

Today I am sharing my grandfather Lynne O. Ramer's letter published May 3, 1961 in the Lewistown Sentinel column We Notice That by Ben Meyers. Gramps talks about Milroy, PA teachers 100 years ago.


Dear Ben and Dave Yingling: I got your message via courier (Gilbert McKinley Shirk). So here’s the answer: That other Ramer school teacher at the turn of he century you were inquiring about was Clyde Oliver Ramer, my uncle.

Note the Lynne “O” in my name. It stands for “Oliver,” as both my uncle and I were named after his uncle, Oliver Reed, who was grandmother Rachel’s brother.

I don’t know where Uncle Clyde taught school. He was the last Ramer boy to leave Rachel’s nest.  When I was 4, he taught me how to spell Kishacoquillas. That was followed by such eye-blinders as Popocatepetl, Aurora Borealis, Schenectady, Armagh, Schuylkill, Tuscarora, etc.  Oh, yes, and Susquehanna!

He also taught me the ABC’s backwards---XYZ’s.  And it took Miss Cora Lewis, my first grade teacher, quite a while to unscramble my memory.

Thus it came to be that Uncle Clyde flexed his pedagogical talents on me. Then we’d go to the barber shop or to the restaurant over Laurel Run, Milroy, and the fees I collected were roughly one penny per word or a nickel for the “reversed alphabet.” With the “take” I got for correct spelling, I got myself a “poke” of candy.  On second thought, maybe it was one penny for five words.


Esther Mae Ramer and baby Lynne Oliver

Mental Giants

Uncle Clyde and Aunt Ida Ramer took me to raise when my mother, Esther, and my grandmother, Rachel, both died in 1912. He further exercised his teacher talents on me in arithmetic and geography. He “thimble-pied” fractions into my thick skull and taught me to name all the counties of Pennsylvania, starting at Erie and eastward around the border, spelling inward to arrive at Centre County. Then for a review, start at Centre County and spiral outwards back to Erie. If you asked me real quickly nowadays I couldn’t name the county in the northeast corner. Or indeed in any other corner!

As added exercises in those days at school we had to learn the county set and principal towns of all the Pennsylvania counties and the capitals, principal cities and products of every country in the world.

There weren’t so many nations in 1915, so ‘twas an easier job than school kids have today. Besides we had to learn the names of every town, township and county officer, and know the requirements for their offices, and the length of their terms.  They called it “CIVICS”!

Lynne's school photo when he was six years old

Tribute to Orrie

One exercise required of us (1916) by Prof. John Benjamin Boyer was to make a census of Milroy.  The “big count” was roughly 1,400.  I was amazed to see a current Pennsylvania road map say the count is 1,403. Where did those extra three come from? Perhaps this has been revised since the census taken in 1960.

We had a subject called “Agriculture,” in which class we would calculate balanced diets of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, etc. for beasts and fowls, even though a lot of us were riding bicycles.  I guess the “horse count” is not as great in K. V. as it was in 1915-20.  But even then there were some Maxwells and Fords, i.e., “tin lizzies.”

Now I had only intended to answer Dave Yingling’s question, just to tell you the name of that Ramer who was his contemporary teacher.  But the pen rambles on!

So here goes for a slight more ramble to pay tribute to another living grammar school teacher, Orris M. [sic] Pecht, who taught thousands of boys in his 30-plus years as an Armagh Township pedagogue?

Most of the older boys and older girls should remember him. I missed out on “Orrie,” since I attended Mr. Manwiller’s seventh-eight grades in Reedsville.


Last Dinkey Ride

Oliver Reed’s last trip from Lewisburg to visit Milroy and to see his sister Rachel was made on the day that the last dinkey-and-logger’s trip was made on Reichly Brother’s railroad. I remember it so well, since the dinkey broke an axel and we had to hoof quite a way to get home and I stirred up every hornet’s nest on the right-of-way. We had gone up huckleberryin’ atop Long Mountain.

Ben, I got your batch of clippings from WNT columns.  Many thanks.  To old eagle eye Gilbert M. Shirk and Reed W. Fultz go my thanks too for similar favors.

My wife Evelyn is going to make us a pot of greens done in the style found in the WNT recipe. Get someone to put in the recipes for schnitts and neff and chive dumplings. They are palate twisters.  Aunt Carrie Bobb of Potlicker Flats was a specialist on dandelion, schnitts and dumplings.  She will be 86 this coming June 14. Nammie [his grandmother Rachel Reed Ramer] was the one to concoct the stuffed pig’s stomachs thought!

Lynne O. Ramer
Royal Oak Mich.



Cyrus Oliver Reed

When Cyrus Oliver Reed was born on November 5, 1855, in Kelly, Pennsylvania, his father, Jacob, was 44 and his mother, Susannah, was 41. He married Emma M. Dieffenbach in 1885. They had one child during their marriage. He died on March 1, 1925, in his hometown at the age of 69.

from We Notice That column, Lewistown Sentinel, July 16, 1961. Submitted by Lynne O. Ramer to Ben Meyers: "Dave Yingling and my Uncle Clyde Ramer went to teacher's training together in 1899. Then they each taught in rural schools for $30 monthly--and find your own keepins! Ten times $30-- how does that sound for a year's work? Of course this isn't the daily national teaching standard today, but it was a month's pay only a half century ago."

The 1900 Census shows Clyde, age 22, was a teacher. He lived with his family: father Joseph, age 67 operated a planning saw mill with his son Howard helping; mother Rachel was age 59; sisters Annie, Emma J. and Esther worked in the knitting mill factory; son Charles Perry was a day laborer, and daughter Marcia, 15, was at school. Annie's child Charles, age 4, also lived with them.

The teacher's salary couldn't support a wife and the 1910 Census for Lewistown, PA shows Clyde Oliver, age 31, married to Ida, age 25,  and working as a machinist at the steel mill. In 1930 the Finleyville PA Census shows Oliver Raymer, age 51, owned a garage and Ida worked as a schoolteacher. In 1940 Ida is still teaching, and the census shows she had a four year degree.

Professor John Benjamin Boyer

The 1900 Northumberland, Lower Mahanoy Census shows John age 17 living with his family Benjamin Boyer, farmer b, 1853, mother Lizzie born 1849, and sibling Charles b. 1875. 
The 1910 Mifflin County Census shows he was a boarder and teaching in the high school.
The 1920 Census show he was teaching and living with his mother Elizabeth in Lower Mahanoy, Northumberland, PA
John B. Boyer in 1908 Bucknell University yearbook
History of Northumberland County, Floyds 1911: John is a graduate of the Bloomsburg State Normal School and Bucknell University. He is a highly successful teacher, and at present is principal of the High School at Milroy, Mifflin County, Pa.

When John Benjamin Boyer was born on July 24, 1882, in Lower Mahanoy, Pennsylvania, his father, Benjamin, was 29 and his mother, Elizabeth, was 33. He was living in Northampton, Pennsylvania, when he registered for the World War II draft. He had one brother.

His death certificate shows he was Assistant Superintendent of Northumberland Schools. He died in 1948 at age 65 after suffering an accident with farm machinery.

John's family tree goes back to his immigrant ancestor JOHN HENRY BOYER
born 13 AUG 1727  in Flomersheim, Frankenthal, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany and who died January 24, 1777 in the Revolutionary War in Amityville, Berks Co., PA

Orris Wilmot Pecht (born in 1873 in Siglerville, PA and died in 1966 in Lewistown, PA) appears on the 1920 census as a teacher with wife Sarah Eva Barger (1883-1971)  and children Katherine, Bertha, and Unice [sic, Eunice]. His father was Isaiah (1839-1914) and Katherine Barger (1845-1920). Another child was Dorothy E. (1921-2012). Orris's death certificate shows he was an elementary school teacher. His family tree in America goes back to Frederick Pecht born 1795. His daughter Eunice (1911-2003) was also a teacher.

Orris and wife Sarah were cousins. Jacob (1812-1901) had children James (1860-1935) and Kathleen (1845-1920) Jacob was father to Sara Eva; Kathleen was mother to Orris.

Lloyd Raymond Manwiller (1893-1989) was a career teacher and school principle. His time at Reedsville must have been short lived. The 1920 census shows Loyd [sic] R. Manwiller, age 27, a boarder in Summerhill, Cabria, PA working at the public school. In 1921 he appears in the Hazelton, PA directory as principle at the "Hts Sch".  His parents were Newton H. Manwiller Lizzie Kutz Schlegel. He married Stella Gibboney. He is buried in a Reedsville, PA cemetery.

Reed William Fultz (1904-1962) appears on the 1930 Juniata, Mifflin, PA census as a lumberman married to Bessie M with a child Olive. His death certificate shows he was born in Milroy to parents Harry R. and Bessie Jane Fultz. Reed married Jessie Shotzberger.  Reed died in Juniata and is buried there.

Aunt Carrie Bobb's Chive Dumplings Recipe

  • Take two parts chives and one part parsley. A big colander full. Wash and cut up into small pieces. Fry a few minutes to soften with small amount of shortening and salt.

  • Then break three eggs over it. Cook till eggs set. Take off stove. Put in a pan to cool. Then make dough as for pie crust only not as short.

  • Roll out dough in squares about six inches long and three or four inches wide. Put the chive mixture in between two squares. Then turn and pinch the sides together so no water gets in. Make them kind of flat till they look like an oversize ravioli.

  • Drop them slowly, one by one, into pot of boiling water, but not on top of one another. Like you do in dropping squares of home-made pot pie into the pot.

  • Boil four or five minutes. Then remove from pot and fry them in a pan with shortening till both sides are nice and brown. When they are browning, you can refill the pot with another round of dumplings and be ready to repeat the process. After they are browned, the chive dumplings are ready to eat.
They may be eaten hot or cold. Some like ‘em hot, some vice versa. If you like ‘em hot and there are some left over, warm them in a pan over slow heat and a little shortening and a small sprinkling of water. Makes them as good as new!

Pennsylvania Dutch Schnitz in Knepp

6 oz. dried, skin-on and cored apple slices
3 lbs. smoked ham with bone
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 pinch ground cinnamon
2 cups flour
4 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
1 egg, well beaten
3 Tbsps. melted butter
1 cup whole milk

Cover the dried schnitz apples with water; soak overnight. In the morning, cover ham with water and simmer for 2 hours. Then add the apples and water in which they have been soaking and continue to simmer for another hour. Remove ham from the pot and use a slotted spoon to remove the apples. Add the sugars and cinnamon to the remaining liquid. Reserve this juice in the pot until you're ready to cook the dumplings.

To prepare the dumplings, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and white pepper. Mix together in a separate container the beaten egg, melted butter and milk and quickly stir this into the flour mixture. Stir just until blended (over-stirring will make the dumplings tough). Let dough rest 30 minutes. Drop the dumpling mix by tablespoonful into the simmering cooking liquids. Tightly cover the kettle and cook for 20 minutes. Serve hot on large platter with cooked schnitz apples and sliced baked ham. Makes about 8 servings.

Here is another version:

3 pounds ham
1 quart apples, dried
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup milk
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 egg, well beaten
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt

Pick over and wash dried apples. Cover with water and let soak overnight or for a number of hours.
In the morning, cover ham with cold water and let boil for 3 hours. Add the apples and water in which they have been soaked and continue to boil for another hour. Add brown sugar.

Make dumplings by sifting together the flour, salt, pepper and baking powder. Stir in the beaten egg, milk (enough to make fairly moist, stiff batter), and melted butter.

Drop the batter by spoonfuls into the hot liquid with the ham and apples. Cover kettle tight and cook dumplings for 15 minutes. Serve piping hot on large platter.

Recipe Source: "Pennsylvania Dutch Cook Book: Fine Old Recipes," Culinary Arts Press, 1936.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

I was very pleased to have listened to the audio book of George Saunders novel Lincoln in the Bardo

I read that Saunders was inspired, in part, by Thornton Wilder's play Our Town. Which play always leaves me in tears. This novel lends itself extremely well to being read as a play. 

The plot, in short: President Lincoln's dear son Willie has died. The Civil War has been going on for a year and 3,000 young men have just lost their lives in a Union defeat. On the day of the funeral, the President returns to the crypt to hold his son once again. Willie cannot leave his father but remains with other shades in the limbo of the graveyard.

The story of Willie's death on the day of a magnificent party at the president's mansion and the day of his funeral is told through snippets of historical writings that link into a loose narrative, sometimes contradicting each other.

The denizens of the Bardo are rooted to their old lives, wrapped up in self-centered concerns. They include all kind of folk from various times past, class, and race. Some are unable to accept they are dead. Some are vulgar, some giving over to sin. There is a clergyman who fled from the judgment place in fear. Into this motley crew comes this blessed, innocent, boy. Several shades make it their concern to help the child move on.

I was so moved by the scene where the shades enter President Lincoln to inspire him to tell his son to leave this place for the home of glory Lincoln imagines for him. And in this community of shades and living man they feel each other's pain and understand each other's burdens. They realize that Lincoln is president and filled with doubt, staggering under the immense weight of a nation and all the deaths of war, other families also grieving over sons.

Willie realizes his truth and in excitement and understanding, shouts out his readiness to move on. The shades begin to understand, and forgetting their worldly concerns, let go and move on to the afterlife.

Now I want to read the book again, pencil in hand to mark it up and note the passages that move me and make me sigh. This novel of grief is also a celebration of life.

I thank the public library for the audio book through Overdrive.

Missing Isaac: A Story of Family, Community and Faith

Missing Isaac is a vivid portrait of a community in the 1960s South, concentrating on the story of a boy growing up and learning about class, love, family, faith, and community.

In the opening scene Pete's father has died in an accident; his field hand Isaac tried to save him. Isaac befriends Pete; later he disappears.

I expected Isaac's story to be the main one, but instead it is placed on the back burner while we watch Pete grow up. Looking for Isaac, Pete meets a girl from an isolated family group who stay away from town folk. The children secretly meet, but when found out their parents cooperate to monitor the children's relationship, expecting that come puberty it will blossom into something more than friendship.

In the end, the mystery of missing Isaac is revealed. He did not fall victim to the KKK, but to something more insidious.

The novel is nostalgic and idyllic, showing the best of the community but also revealing the evil that hides behind careful facades.

I am not used to reading Christian books and the scenes in church worship seemed uneventful. The vilification of town youth culture and the division between the Hollow folk and town folk were definitely us vs them territory. Racism was barely lurking in the background, as Pete's family respect all people, regardless of color or class, as equals.

Pete and Dovey are too sweet and their long courtship is very respectful--but they marry ASAP.  I had friends who believed in courtship and whose children married too young; one was divorced within a year. The problem, of course, is that young adults want more than pristine kisses, lust into marriage, and discover they are not prepared for reality.

Still, for readers who want old-fashioned values and a story with no graphic violence, sex, profanity, this is a lovely book. It is what my mother-in-law wanted to read when she was in her 90s.

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

Missing Isaac
by Valerie Fraser Luesse
Feb 16 2018
ISBN: 9780800728786

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy by Val D. Greenwood

I became involved with genealogy after inheriting my grandfather Lynne O. Ramer's personal papers, including genealogy research on the Ramer family by Grant L. Schadle.

In the early 1990s I began my own research through the Internet and Family Tree Maker. I already had Robert Evan's published book on Jacob Gochenour and His Family and Grant Schadle's Ramer family tree research. I wanted to find out about my British roots and my husband's ancestry.

Looking back, my early work was shoddy. I relied on family trees that lacked supporting documentation and my record keeping consisted of saved "Favorites" on the search engine, saved files to my computer, and printed off copies of documents, trees, and other sources.

I later committed to World membership with and the family tree I have created there is my main source of records keeping.

What I needed at the beginning was a better understanding of family history research. A 'researcher's guide.'

Val D. Greenwood's first published The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy in 1973, selling over 110,000 copies. Because of the huge impact of the Internet in research, he revised the book for the 4th edition published in 2017.

It is massive in size, nearly 800 pages. It is a comprehensive reference book that covers every aspect of family research. Part I addresses Background to Research and Part II Records and Their Use. Greenwood has included illustrations and charts.

The 4th Edition specifically is updated to reflect the new sources available in research provided by the Internet. Greenwood includes overviews of  all the major family history websites, including Ancestry, Family Search, Find My Past, and My Heritage, explaining what they offer and how to use them.

As he notes in his Preface, "though it is a great boon to this work, it [the Internet] is still an imperfect tool. Many important records...are not on the Internet." I know this for a fact! I have been the gracious recipient of help from researchers who have visited places I could not and shared their findings with me. A researcher who visited my grandfather's hometown courthouse shared information with me through Ancestry. In this way I discovered my great-grandmother on the 1910 census under a married name--a marriage I was ignorant of!

Greenwood separates family research as a compilation of another's work and true scientific, systematic, documented research. Of course, my early work was merely compilation of other's findings.

I can at least feel good that I have created family trees that includes not just my direct ancestors but their families. Greenwood promotes a complete family as most important. He also urges researchers to consider all the spelling variations.

"Family a "marriage" of sorts between history and genealogy--what seemed like a most unlikely union in years past....Family history also includes...demography, geography, psychology, sociology, and literature." --A Rearcher's Guide

My interest in family history is rooted in my lifelong fascination in history and biographies and understanding the past. When I learned that my great-grandfather Greenwood's nephew died in the Ranua death march during WWII it brought to life a history of which I had been ignorant. When I learn about ancestors who immigrated across Europe to Volyhnia, and note the social and political conflicts they were leaving behind, I realize the root causes of immigration have always been a part of population migration.

There is so much information in Greenwood's book I realized it was not meant to be read it cover to cover. It is a remarkable acheivement.

I received a copy of the book through Book Review Buzz in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Good instructional guidance is critical to the success of family history research, and this is where The Researcher's Guide is unsurpassed. It is both a textbook and an all-purpose reference book, designed to help the present generation of family history researchers better understand the methods and principles of family history research, and learn how to utilize all available resources. As Val Greenwood writes, "These are our ancestors we are talking about here; we owe it to them to get it right." from the publisher
"Recommended as the most comprehensive how-to book on American genealogical and local history research."—Library Journal

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Allie Aller's Stanied Glass Quilts Reimagined: Fresh Techniques & Design

I have enjoyed following the Allie's in Stitches blog and thought it was time I looked at Allie Aller's book Stained Glass Quilts Reminagined.  The quilts are gorgeous. Black makes colors pop and its use as 'leading does something wonderful to colored fabric.

The three approaches used to make stained glass quilts are:

  • Couched leading, sewing a thick fiber thread down around applique or pieced blocks
  • Appliqued leading, sewing ribbon or trim along the seams
  • Iron-on leading, using bias fabric treated with fusible web

Modern Rose Window by Allie Aller
 Allie offers ideas for pattern idea sources to develop and create an original pattern. There are practise exercises with photographs showing the steps to help quilters master the skills needed.

Silk fabrics will give the quilt luminosity, but batiks and solid cottons and even wool will also work for stained glass quilts. The fabrics must have a tight, fine weave.

Six beautiful projects are included in the book:

  • Windy Sunshine, a summer throw made in pastels and an abstract block pattern
  • Leaf Vine, a bed quilt with green vines on white
  • Mondrian's Window, a geometric pattern  'couch quilt' 
  • Window for Frank, an improvisational couch quilt inspired by the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Welcome Wreath, a wool and cotton applique floral wall hanging
  • Tiffany's Peacock, a classic stained glass wall hanging, seen on the book cover

The Parish Farm by Allie Aller
Allie's quilt gallery illustrates stained glass technique applied to applique, printed fabric, and pieced quilts. I had never considered couching or stich-in-the-ditch leading on a quilt before. I was pleased to see her made her own fused bias; the one stained glass quilt I made used purchased prefused bias tape, which was costly.

I recieved a free ebook from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

This book is available now fro C&T Publishing.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World

Jeff Goodell traveled the world to report on how rising sea levels are impacting human society across the globe. His new book The Water Will Come takes readers to shrinking Alaskan glaciers with President
Obama and into the flood-prone homes of impoverished people living in Lagos, Nigeria.

"By that time, I'll be dead, so what does it matter?" Quote from a Florida real estate developer, The Water Will Come 

I long wondered how bad it would get before people broke down and changed how we live and do things. I consider how Americans gave up comforts during WWII rationing, all pulling together for a great cause we all believed in. I don't see that happening today.

As Goodell points out, "fossil fuel empire" Koch industries money has swayed government. Private citizens can recycle and lower the heat and ride bicycles but the impact is small. As long as governments are more worried about big business than national security endangered by climate change we can't alter what is coming.

What? you ask; national security?

Well, consider that military bases across the nation and world are located in areas that WILL FLOOD. Like the Norfolk Naval Base, the Langley Air Force Base, and NASA's Wallops Flight Facility! Along with the financial district of New York City and expensive Florida beach front homes, we will be losing the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site in the Marshall Islands, where 12,000 Americans operate space weapons programs and track NASA research.

So if the loss of Arctic ice and habitat and the Inuit way of life doesn't concern you, perhaps this information will.

So many issues are raised in the book. Consider: We have not established how to deal with climate change refugees. Where are these people going to go? Countries in Europe, along with the U.S.,  are closing borders--the same countries whose fossil energy use is the primary cause of climate change behind rising sea levels! What is their responsibility?

There are a lot of ideas of how to deal with rising sea levels, including the building of walls and raising cities. It seems, though, that people are more interested in coping with the change than addressing the root cause of climate change. We just don't want to give up fossil fuels.

The book is highly readable for the general public. Although the cover photo made me think of an action disaster movie, the books is a well-researched presentation of  "fact, science, and first-person, on-the-ground journalism."

I received a free book from the publisher through Goodreads.

Hear an interview with Goodell with NPR at

The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World
by Jeff Goodell
Little, Brown & Company
ISBN-13: 9780316260206

Sunday, February 11, 2018

As Bright as Heaven: Surviving And Thriving

In 1918 the Bright family leaves a tobacco farm in Quakertown, PA to move to center city Philadelphia. The father is to work for his uncle's funeral parlor, which he would then inherit. They have suffered the devastating--but at that time all too common loss--of a baby. Their grief travels with them into their new life.

In the autumn of 1918 the Spanish Influenza hits Philadelphia, leaving over 12,000 dead in its wake. The mortuary fills and the uncle dies. When a daughter falls ill, the mother keeps her alive but, worn down, succumbs and dies of the disease. Friends die, and a beloved neighbor leaves for the trenches of France. Amidst all this loss, one of the daughters rescues an infant in distress in a house full of the dead, and the child becomes the family's heart and reason to go on.

The women, the mother and her four daughters, speak in alternating chapters, their unique personalities and perspectives revealed through their own words. Philadelphia has a distinct presence, although fictionalized and geographically ambiguous at times. (The cover photo shows Logan Circle with City Hall in the background.) The time period, between 1918 and 1926, covers the flu and the war but also prohibition and the rise of the speakeasy.

The story is about people who suffer great loss and live through horrible times, who carry their ghosts and demons with them, until they are able to see that life goes on and somehow the world can be bright again.

My Goodreads friends have rated this a four or five star book and found it very engaging. So I will safely say that readers of historical fiction and woman's fiction will enjoy Meissner's book.


I had several issues with the writing.

I lacked emotional connection to the characters. It could be the multitude of voices, but I think it was because the story is too much told and not enough shown. For instance, one daughter develops a crush on an older man who goes to war. He is gone for the bulk of the novel, and returns at age thirty-eight and the girl is still "in love." There is not enough interaction between them to make me believe she is "in love" with him for life. It seems contrived.

I found the book preachy and full of clich├ęd lessons. The ex-soldier, once returned home, consoles his now grown-up lover that the war was horrible and he had to heal. All this healing happened off camera and lacks emotional impact; he is just telling her a lesson he learned. Make peace with the past, he advises. Later, the foundling brother's family is discovered to be alive. The father forgives the Brights, saying that he was angry for a long time by his losses and is finally seeing there is good in life, ending with the old chestnut of 'we are all doing the best we can with what we have'. Nothing new here, kids.

And the story wrapped up with far too many predictable and implausible outcomes. I won't even go into them. There is talk of fate and destiny and finding patterns.


Consequently, although I had looked forward to reading As Bright As Heaven, especially for its setting and the time period, I found the book an average read. For those who are not familiar with the Spanish Influenza, who like feel-good endings, and who want the horror of history softened by wish fulfillment romantic endings, this is the book for you. It was not my cup of tea.

As Bright as Heaven
by Susan Meissner
Berkley Publishing Group
Pub Date 06 Feb 2018
Hardcover $26.00
ISBN: 9780399585968

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Favorite New Classics: Stoner by John Williams and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

I was thrilled to find John Williams' novel Stoner on my library book club list. Soon after I had bought a Kindle I purchased the ebook and it became one of my favorite discoveries.

Stoner is one of literature's great characters, an Everyman/Job/Willie Loman who endures life's bitter realities, often dejected but with bursts of resistance and empowerment.

Stoner was the child of uncommunicative, distant, Midwestern parents, observing their joyless life fighting the barren land to survive. His father was convinced to send him to agricultural school to learn modern methods that would perhaps make their farm successful.

Stoner is disconnected and passive until he faces the big unknowns and questions posed by literature. He struggles to understand, switching his major to English. His mentor realizes Stoner had  found something he loved.

When he learns his son will not return to the farm, Stoner's father merely replaces his son with a hired hand.

During WWI, Stoner's mentor convinces him not to enlist and abandon his studies; his duty is to keep the world from snuffing out the flame.

Stoner falls in love with a woman who 'doesn't mind' and seems to be more interested in escaping her father than desiring a marriage. Their relationship is a disaster and a disappointment to Stoner.  His wife punishes him every way imaginable, even interfering with his writing and career. He carries on, accepting rejection and isolation.

He never leaves his Alma Mater, eventually becoming a good teacher. Then a new department head promotes a gifted student who relies on charm and blarney while neglecting true scholarship and mastery of his subject. Stoner and his boss clash over the student's dissertation when he insists the student is unworthy. He will not lower his standards. Stoner is punished for not playing the game with the loss of his specialty course and only given freshman level classes.

There are moments of glory in Stoner's life.

His wife got the idea of having a child but found no joy in motherhood. She became an 'invalid', so Stoner had to care for the infant and child, cook and clean. His daughter bonds with him, and in vengeance's Stoner's wife separates them.

A graduate student falls in love with him and their relationship is carried on behind closed doors for a year. When the department chair learns of  their relatiobship, Stoner is pressed to make a decision; he cannot abandon his wife and their daughter. The love of his life moves on to her own career.

Depressed and feeling his age, Stoner plods on until one day he throws away his freshman texts and instead teaches the upper level material he has been denied. His freshman class finishes with higher scores than their peers.

One book club member used the word miserable for Stoner's life. We discussed his fatalism and acceptance, his inaction to better his life, and the reasons behind his choices and lack of action.

I drew attention to his achievements: he held to his values at any cost. He was, as a college friend pointed out early in his life, a Quixotic dreamer out of joint with the world. At the end of his life he understands and accepts his life with unexpected contentment. In his last moments, there is a clarity to his life. Stoner and his wife forgive each other, and a strange comfort envelopes him.

The book group filled the entire hour with our discussion. And that is the sign of a great book--it made us think and reflect and endeavor to probe the mystery of the human experience.

Read the New Yorker review here.

“A masterly portrait of a truly virtuous and dedicated man” —The New Yorker
This month I was also thrilled to reread another of my favorite 'new classics', Marilynne Robinson's Pulitzer Prize winner Gilead. I read it nearly ten years ago, then reread it for a book club. I believe this is my third reading of the book. It is an affirming book that inspires us to pay more attention to the wonder of human existence.

Yes, being married to an ordained pastor who spent 30 years in the pulpit does impact my love of John Ames, a third generation pastor living in a small Kansas town. His grandfather came to Kansas from Maine during the Bloody Kansas days, a vehement abolitionist who knew John Brown. The image of his sainted grandfather was Biblical in size.

But when he returned to his pulpit with a gun and bloody shirt, preaching abolition and taking up the sword, his son went to worship with the Quakers. His pietism was also strong, and lived on in his son, John Ames.

John lost his wife and newborn baby early in life. In his years of sadness and isolation, he resorted to his books for consolation. His dear childhood friend Broughton is a neighboring pastor, once a vigorous man and remarkable preacher, now crippled with arthritis. Broughton named a son after his friend, a child to 'share.' But John Ames Broughton, known as Jack, was a troubled child prone to pranks and deviltry, culminating in an act that drove a wedge between him and John Ames.

A miracle happened to John in later life. A woman wandered into his church. He noticed her sad and quiet face. She asked to be baptized, and in time proposed that he marry her. They had a son. The joy they brought into his life is profound. But John Ames is now turning seventy-six. He has heart disease and knows his days are numbered.

The novel is John's letter to his son, to be read when he reaches adulthood. In the letter he writes about his love for his son and tells stories of their family history, his personal life, his personal theology, and Jack's story. 

Each entry is gorgeous and moving. John has suffered and struggled. Love comes late. But he is in awe and wonder at the beauty of existence. "I love this life," he writes to his son while watching him blowing bubbles with his mother.

Gilead is the story of fathers and sons. John Ames loves the son of his late life, and is concerned for what his life will be like growing up without a father.

John returns again and again to the journey he and his own father took during the Depression to find his grandfather's grave. The journey took many weeks across dusty roads. They were thirsty and people along the way had little food to spare them, even for cash payment.

He talks about his father's troubled relationship to his grandfather. During the days of Bloody Kansas, Grandfather was a supporter of John Brown, and perhaps had even killed a man.

Then there is Broughton's son Jack, named for John Ames to compensate John for his lost child. Broughton's children, Glory and Jack, have returned to help their elderly father. John knows Jack's failings and sins. He is distrustful of Jack. As a pastor, this causes a crisis of conscience and calling and he struggles with his inability to trust and forgive Jack.

Jack has been friendly with John Ames wife and son. He plays catch with the son while John watches, his heart too frail for activity. Should he warn his wife and son against Jack?

In his journal, John writes about his morning sermon on Abraham and Isaac, Hagar and Ishmael. John notes that Abraham, who is too old to father more sons, must trust the Lord to watch over them both, one sent into the wilderness and the other intended to be a sacrifice. And he continues,

"...any father, particularly an old father, must finally give his child up to the wilderness and trust to the providence of God. It seems almost a cruelty for one generation to begat another when parents can secure so little for their children, so little safety, even in the best circumstances. Great faith is required to give the child up, trusting God to honor the parents' love for him by assuring that there will indeed be angels in that wilderness."
At one point, John Ames spends considerable time mystifying the Fifth Commandment, honor your mother and father, as related to our relationship to God more than to community. He contends that we must see the spark of God in every human, and learning to see God in our parents is the beginning.


Can people change? Is Jack a changed man? John's wife is sure that people can change. She has not shared her secret past with anyone, but John has seen the sadness in her face and known she had a hard life. What did she need to do to survive all those years before they met? She had no family, and lived through hard times. She and Jack seem to 'understand' each other; unlike John and Broughton, they have been out in the world beyond Gilead.

In the last pages of the novel Jack finally tells John why he has really returned to Gilead, the sorrow and pain of his inability to believe, and the secret heartache that has worn him down.

It happened that the book club members who most loved the novel had all settled next to each other. Most wish there was a stronger, linear story line, or less theology and religion, but most appreciated the beautiful language describing the simple joys of existence and fatherly love. One woman hated the book, hated Jack, and said she hated the Prodigal Son parable he seemed based on. And another could not read about fatherly love, having been denied the opportunity himself.

It is always interesting in a book club to hear how one work of art affects people is such diverse and personal ways.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Self Portrait With Boy

Art is rooted in experience, and artists plumb their lives for their art. I think of F. Scott Fitzgerald and how he appropriated Zelda's letters and diaries and story for his work, or Thomas Wolfe whose first novel Look Homeward, Angel caused a ruckus in his hometown that was so thinly veiled in the book. And I think of Elizabeth Strout's recent novel My Name is Lucy Barton whose character is told she must be ruthless in her art. Artists are faced with telling the truth or protecting others.

On the first page of Self Portrait With Boy, we are told the main character,  photographer Lu Rile, is described as "ruthless," single minded. Lu, looking back on what happened twenty years previous, talks about the trauma behind the work that catapulted her into the limelight.

The novel begins with Lu admitting that at age twenty-six "there were so many people I had not yet become." I loved that line because it reflects how I have seen my life since I was a teenager: life as a continual process of growth and change, so that we become different people as we age.

Lu was a squatter in an old factory inhabited by artists. She worked several low paying jobs and barely scraped by. She felt like an outsider, a girl who grew up poor and does not understand the world of the well-off and well-known artists around her.

Because she can not afford anything else, Lu became her own model and every day takes a self portrait. One day, she set the timer on her camera and jumped, naked, in front of the large windows in her unheated apartment. When she developed the film she discovered that in the background she has captured the fatal fall of a child.

The child's parents became alienated in their grief, the successful artist father moving out while the mother, Kate, leaned on Lu for support. It had been years since Lu had been close to anyone. She is unable to tell Kate about the photograph.

Weird occurrences made Lu believe the boy was haunting her and she became desperate to get rid of the photograph. Lu's father needed money for surgery, and she was pressured to join the others in the building in hiring a lawyer. Lu knew her photo was an amazing work and she struggled between reaching for success and the love she felt for Kate and her admiration for Steve.

Rachel Lyon's writing is amazing. I loved how she used sights, sounds, and aromas to make Lu's world real. This is her debut novel.

Self-Portrait with Boy: A Novel
by Rachel Lyon
Pub Date 06 Feb 2018 
ISBN: 9781501169588
PRICE: $26.00

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Intuitive Color & Design: Adventures in Art Quilting by Jean Wells, Updated 2nd Edition

Jean Wells started one of  America's first quilt shops in 1975, which she runs with her daughter, quilter and author Valori Wells. She has published thirty books, including the updated, second edition of Intuitive Color & Design.  

Wells begins with the basics of design and its application to quilting then teaches how to design and complete an original quilt. Assignments throughout the book offer readers a chance to learn through experience. The book is heavily illustrated, showing inspiration photographs, finished quilts, and line drawing showing the processes.

Inspiration for Quilt Design explains how Wells uses photographs, inspired by light and lines, for the basis of her abstracted interpretations. In her chapter on Journaling she illustrates how she uses journals and sketchbooks.

In Elements of design, she shows how to create abstraction from life, and use scale, shape, pattern, texture, value, and color.  Principles of Design explains balance, center of interest, repetition, variety and proportion, unity or harmony.

Color Through My Eyes considers inspiration, palette choice, color and pattern, principles of color, value and contrast, intensity, contrast, and volume. Palettes can reflect seasons, places, or personality.

The Design Process in the second part of the book leads quilters through tools and techniques used in art quilting, including piecing techniques, choosing batting, and finishing the quilt. Piecing techniques include intuitive angle piecing, rulerless butting and piecing, narrow-insert piecing, straight-line insert, detail piecing, and corner-curve piecing. Piecing techniques used for art quilts is very different from traditional piecing. Wells offers assignments to help quilters to master them.

Finishing the edges of art quilts include raw-edge finish, using a facing, creating a fabric 'matting' behind the art quilt, and creating 3-D quilts.

Wells offers Advice on What To Do When You Get Stuck and the critique process.
Fields of Provence by Jean Wells 
This is an essential book for serious art quilters.

from the publisher's website:

Jean Wells gives you the assignment of your life: put away your ruler and use your inner vision to design and piece spectacular, free-form quilts you'd never have guessed you could create. In this updated edition of best-selling Intuitive Color & Design, Jean’s workshop assignments get your creative juices flowing, giving you challenges to expand your quilting horizons. Start by learning to see line and color; study the nuts and bolts of design; develop your color work and composition; and when you get stuck, there’s expert advice on problem solving. You will never see quiltmaking in the same way again.

• Creative exercises take your use of color, line, design, and piecing in dramatic new directions
• Use photographs and journals to find inspiration and develop your ideas with Jean’s updated, expert guidance
• Learn innovative finishing techniques to show your quilts at their best
• Classroom-proven techniques make the adventure easy for any quilter

Available now from C&T Publishers in soft cover and ebook.