Saturday, June 30, 2018

We Are Gathered by Jamie Weisman

If you think We Are Gathered by Jamie Weisman is a soppy or romanticized novel about the perfect wedding you are wrong. No, Jamie Weisman's amazing novel is about the people who have been invited to the wedding, friends of the bride or the bride's family. Their stories are told one by one, each darker and more soul-wrenching than the previous, until I was almost fearful to read the last entry. But that was the story of True Love--not the bride and groom's true love story, but that of a haunted elderly lady and the broken man who saves her.

The bride's father is a ruthless man. "Every man wanted Ida, but I was the one who got her," he thinks about his wife; "A man is judged by the woman with him, and Ida's beauty made me more powerful." A stroke leaves him unable to communicate as he watches his business crumble and his daughter marry a non-Jew. He sees life as a "brutal and exhausting gallop through a desert populated by predators and parasites."

A mother's life work is to care for her son who was born with Muscular Dystrophy. He once spent a week at a camp where the bride was a counselor.

A woman wears her birthmark proudly although she resents not having been born beautiful. "There is no justice in this world," she begins, despairing at the bride's beauty. "What am I without my birthmark?" she questions, dismissing the makeup that can make her look perfect.

A college roommate of the bride's father has drifted in and out of addiction. Drafted during Vietnam, he "didn't love my life enough to make it worth avoiding" the war. "People who go to war are different from everyone else," he thinks.

A man who once got the bride drunk and didn't take advantage of her, but also did not protect her from the other frats, was going to be a heart surgeon before he had a breakdown. The bride disdains him. He wanders from the ceremony.

An elderly lady survived the Holocaust but can't forget the loved ones who did not. She married a kind man and had a decent life, but is still haunted by the past.

Weisman has written so many sentences and pages that I fell in love with and which I wanted to read out loud to anyone in earshot.

I loved the mother of the bride's musings on a life given to her family.

"My friend Rita once said that your children come to you perfect, and the best you can hope for is not to allow too much damage, from yourself first and foremost, and then from the world."

I shuddered at that line. It rang true. I had the same thought when our son was a preschooler, an awareness of all the scars life would lay on his unblemished soul and skin moving me to tears. The mother thinks, there are limitations and childhood wounds which we parents bring with us, inadequacies, and actions that result in regrets.

"They intend to have it all, careers, families, creativity, at least for the lucky few who can afford it," she thinks. The bride appears to be one of those lucky ones.

I am grateful to have won the book on #FridayFreebie on The Quivering Pen blog by author David Abrams.

from the publisher:

One afternoon in Atlanta, Georgia. Two people heading to the altar. One hundred fifty guests. The bride, Elizabeth Gottlieb, proud graduate of the University of Virginia and of Emory University School of Law, member of Atlanta’s wealthy Jewish elite. The groom, Hank Jackson, not a member. Not a Jew. The couple of the hour, however, is beside the point, because We Are Gathered belongs to the guests. 
Among them, Carla, Elizabeth’s quick-witted, ugly duckling childhood best friend turned Hollywood film scout, whose jaundiced view of the drama that is an American wedding provides a lens of humor and its corollary, deep compassion for the supporting actors who steal the show; Elizabeth’s great-aunt Rachel, a Holocaust survivor from Germany who is still navigating a no-man’s-land between cultures and identities decades after escaping from the forests of Europe; Elizabeth’s wheelchair-bound grandfather Albert, who considers his legacy as a man, both in the boardroom and the bedroom; and Annette, the mother of the bride herself, reminded now of her youthful indiscretions in love and motherhood. 
 Balancing razor-sharp humor with a blunt vision of the fragility of our mortal bonds, Jamie Weisman skillfully constructs a world—and family—that pulls you in and carries you along with its refreshing, jagged beauty

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Landscaping Is Done! And a New Quilt Project

The landscaping project was done today! We have a crab apple tree, hydrangea bushes, and various flowering ground covers including roses, a kind of Coneflower, and a kind of geranium. The gutter at the end of the house now runs underground with the water dispersing into the garden and yard.

Our exterior work is done for now. We still want to replace a 40-year-old fence in the backyard...another year.

My weekly quilt group decided to have a group challenge using a fabric. Joanne and I went to find a fabric for the challenge and decided on this multicolored print.

The pattern on the fabric looked like mushrooms to me. I decided I wanted to do an applique with pixies painting mushrooms.

I looked around for vintage illustrations of fairies or pixies painting mushrooms and found just what I wanted. This illustration is by the British artist Margaret W. Tarrant (1888 to 1959) who popularized fairy illustrations.

I adopted the illustration to make my applique center. I used hand applique, fusible applique, and created details and shading with fabric markers, Pigma pen, and oil color pencils.
I will use the challenge fabric in a pieced border. I have until October to figure the rest of the quilt out!

I am glad I have lots of blog posts scheduled and have been reading ahead because my husband just underwent knee replacement surgery. I will be a busy gal for a few weeks! I have to water that new garden twice a day.

First, my hubby made bread for the freezer! He is our bread maker.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Red Thread by Ann Hood

The Red Thread in Ann Hood's novel title refers to a Chinese saying that an invisible red thread links people who are destined to be connected.

The novel is about a group of American couples who hope to adopt a Chinese child, as well as the stories of how those children came to be relinquished by their mothers.

After Hood lost her own child she and her husband adopted a Chinese child. The novel was inspired by the experience.

I first read Hood when the publisher sent me her memoir Morningstar: Growing Up with Books, which I devoured in one sitting. 

Hood creates amazingly realistic characters. I thought about a couple I know who went through years trying everything to get pregnant before adopting two children, one from Korea.

Maya runs an adoption agency to connect American parents with Chinese orphans. Beneath her professional and competent veneer she hides a painful past that won't allow her to move on, a guilt so deep she can't share it with her closest friends.

Chapters explore the couples who have come to her, each with their personal needs and fears, with strong or fragile relationships. Some have step-children and natural children who are disappointments. Their lives become emotional roller coasters of expectation, second thoughts, and marital stress.

Poignant stories of the Chinese children imagine mothers unwilling to give up their girl children; they are heart-breaking. China's law allowing families to have one child became relaxed to two children. It still meant that families could only afford to have one girl child.

Knitting figures into the stories; Maya knits as therapy, expectant mothers knit for their imagined children.

The Red Thread would make a wonderful book club pick.

I purchased a book at my local bookstore.

The Red Thread
by Ann Hood
W. W. Norton
$14.95 paperback
ISBN: 978-0-393-33976-5

Sunday, June 24, 2018

A Boy in His Winter by Norman Lock

In the year 2077 Huck Finn reflects back on his life, beginning in 1835 when he and the escaped slave Jim began their raft journey down the Mississippi River. Somehow they became time travelers until Hurricane Katrina shipwrecked Huck back into passing time.

Along the way, they saw America caught in wars, the marvel of electric lighting, and how racism kept its grip on society.

Jim got off the raft in 1960, finding a lynch mob waiting for him. In 2005 Huck meets James, who tries to keep him from harm. As an adult, Huck falls in love with Jameson, who becomes his wife. She writes a novel, The Boy In His Winter. Like Jim, James and Jameson are African American.

What Huck realizes from his vantage point of 85 years is how badly he treated Jim, how he accepted his society's values unthinking, diminishing Jim as a person and as a friend.

"I was bothered that I had come to hate him, bothered even more that I had loved him. I'm not sure that I regarded him then as a man. Not entirely. That broad view of humanity was alien to a mind that had been formed haphazardly, like a shack put together out of old lumber, warped and ill-used.(...)We'd wasted much time when we might have understood what was happening on the raft while we were close in on the river's end, which as not to be the journey's end, as I learned later." Huck Finn, A Boy in His Winter

At the end of his life, Huck returns to his hometown to play act Mark Twain, telling his own life stories. Huck calls his story a comedy, having seen enough for 'three or four lifetimes."
"Haven't you learned by now how fantastic a business it is to be alive?"-Huck Finn, A Boy in His Winter

The novel is episodic, meandering as the Mississippi River, but I was charmed by Huck's narrative, although there is nothing of innocence to be found. Huck is deformed by societal values, pursuing wealth and conspicuous consumption as an adult as thoughtlessly as he accepted slavery in his youth. With a broad overview of American history distilled into one lifetime, and grappling with memory and how the past is altered with our storytelling of it, Huck's tale shows the darkness behind what we remember as Twain's story of boyish freedom.

I received a book from the publisher as part of a LibraryThing giveaway.

The Boy in His Winter
Norman Lock
Bellevue Literary Press
ISBN: 978-1-934137-76-5

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Patchwork Loves Embroidery: Small Quilts and Gifts

I had been quilting for about fifteen years when I decided to relearn embroidery. I had learned the basics as a Brownie, but that was the last time I put needle to floss. 

My first project was The President's Quilt by Michael J.Buckingham! George Washington looks pretty sad, but by the time I got to Bill Clinton I had embroidery down pat.

I have enjoyed mixing quilting and embroidery ever since. And so do many of the gals in my weekly quilt group.

Australian quilter and embroiderer Gail Pan's new book offers fourteen projects that will win your heart. Many are perfect for gifts. Some you won't want to five up. Like this adorable sewing theme collage that includes vintage buttons, supplies, and trim with embroidery.
Memories of Sewing, 12 1/2" x 13 1/2", framed. 
Bees have become a favorite theme in recent years as a reaction to the environmental threats they face. This sweet wall hanging has an attractive appliqued frame. 

Beautiful Bees, 17 1/2" x 20 1/2"
Needlecrafters will love this needlecase with a butterfly. The folded case, when open, has pockets for your small scissors and supplies and a piece of wool to slide your needles into for safe keeping. It closes up with a ribbon. So simple!  

Butterfly Stitches, 4" x 4"
The quilters I know love to make totes to carry their projects in. Gail's tote has sweet flowers and simple patchwork, a nice long handle, and boxed bottom.
Pretty Floral Tote, 18" x 14 1/2" x 3"
Can you ever have too many pouches? I have one in my purse with my essentials. I keep my jewelry in them. I use them to carry sewing supplies for my projects. Gail's version features a bicycle with a floral basket, a beloved theme that is so popular today. In the pocket she has a thimble and other supplies.
On the Go Pouch, 7 1/2" x 7" folded
This small wallhanging has a 'sampler' theme, which Gail has made in bluework.
Love and Dreams Wall Hanging, 16 1/2" x 19 1/2"
I have a friend who just loves rabbits. You will love this bouquet-carrying rabbit with its oversized floppy ears. Skip the wrapping paper and put your gifts into this delightful bag.
Bunny Delights Bag, 8" x 10"
Another popular theme is snowmen. You can decorate with snowmen all winter long. Gail's table topper has snowmen and snowflakes with a simple patchwork pattern in reds. You can use blue, too, or even whites printed with snowflakes.
All Around the Snowmen Table Topper, 26 1/2" by 26 1/2"
Other projects include Pretty in Blue Pincushion, Pumpkins and Sunflowers pillow, Wildflowers Table Runner, Just Sew Sewing Keeper, Teatime Table Runner, and Delightful Dresdens Wall Hanging--with embroidered Dresdens.

General instructions for embroidery and quilting are included, along with lots of photos and pictures. Links to online patterns to print and how-to instructions are provided in the ebook.

Learn more about Gail and see her other patterns at her website Gail Pan Designs.

Patchwork Loves Embroidery
Gail Pan
That Patchwork Place
ISBN:v9781604689006, 1604689005
$25.99 USD, £22.99 GBP

from the publisher:
Best-selling author Gail Pan returns with a new collection of designs that are a dream to embroider and a delight to admire! Inspired by Gail's daily walks, an abundance of sweet motifs includes bees and bunnies, houses and hearts, and her signature bird, leaf, and vine stitcheries. New to embroidery? Learn just eight simple stitches to create any project in the book. Choose from a pillow, pouch, pincushion, and tote, plus wall hangings, table toppers, and sewing-related items. Enjoy your finished projects at home or give them as gifts--you'll want to make them all!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Dependents: Wisdom in Grief

Something was keeping me from writing a review of The Dependents by Katharine Dion. I loved the book. I found it thoughtful and moving and surprising, and somber and soulful. Why was I wordless?

It came to me that I identified too much with Gene, the protagonist, a recent widower who can't move beyond the loss of his wife of 49 years.

I have been married for 46 years. I was a month from my 20th birthday when I married. And for all our ups and downs, good times and bad times, my husband has been my best friend. I could feel Gene's loss and knew it might someday be mine, or my husband's.

"In some mad inversion of time, grieving his wife's death resembled falling in love."-The Dependents

After Maida's sudden death, Gene learns that his wife was in many ways a stranger to him. Who truly knows and understands another? We are like locked chests, filled with treasures and terrors we can not share. Gene depended on Maida, saw only her best, assumed she was happy. But now he wonders, did she love him? Was Gene her 'one and only' or merely a comfortable compromise?

In college, the shy Gene latched onto the more worldly Ed. Ed pairs with Gayle, who Gene also liked, and introduced Gene to Maida. It took Gene a long time to make a move to make Maida his girlfriend; he fell in love with her first. He was elated when she agreed to marry him. He was lucky, he thought. The two couple's friendship has remained central to all their lives; they vacation together at the lake every year, raising their kids together.

Maida's dad set Gene up in his own shoe store business. Gene thought there was something honorable in fine footwear. But shopper's values changed, and the store closed. Maida had her work at the college child care center. Gene went to his old office out of habit.

Maida and Gene had a daughter, Dary, who has a daughter Annie. Dary is no comfort to her grieving father; she insists on an understanding of her mother that evades Gene's ideal. Dary insists Maida had other lovers before him and needs outside of her work as a childcare provider, wife, and mother. That she had given up some better version of herself to be Gene's wife.

As Gene begins to see who his wife truly was, he doubts everything he took for granted, struggling to understand how love was not enough, how he had failed the women he loved.

Gene must come to terms with the meaning of his life when so much had eluded him. When our life is nearing completion, should we second-guess our choices, regret the life we lived? Or realize it's what we wanted, after all.

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

by Katharine Dion
Little, Brown & Company
On Sale: June 19th 2018
Price: $13.99
ISBN-13: 9780316473880

Monday, June 18, 2018

A Gifted Quilt, My WIP, and Garden Views

Last week at quilt group Theresa shared her redwork quilt wall hanging. I told her it needed to be in my kitchen--and she gave it to me! We have a teapot and teacup theme in the kitchen. so it looks great.
I have been working on A Tisket, A Tasket from Anne Sutton. I have a few applique pieces to do, and then will be embroidering. Shabby Fabrics included the pattern in their latest catalog!
When I was putting the blocks together I pulled out all my polka dot fabrics!

 The embroidery will add loads of details.

 My poor birdie will get a beck soon when I start the embroidery!

The apple trees are loaded with fruit! And one has a Robin's nest in it. The male Robin is keeping the squirrels out of the tree, so perhaps fewer little apples will be stolen.
My husband's rose garden is blooming. 
He always wanted a rose garden like his mother had, and started one after we retired into our 'forever' home.

He has been moving the Stella d'Oro lilies from the front yard in preparation for the landscaping that will be done in a few weeks. We are getting a Crab Apple tree and hydrangeas and roses and other lovely plants! Below is the designer's plan!
Soon my hubby will be out of commission for many weeks. He is having knee replacement surgery! (Guess who gets to water that new garden...) His orientation with the physical and occupational therapists was at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. It was my first time there.

There is a lovely area with comfy chairs and tables. The photo below shows the living green wall of vegetation.
 I saw art in the hallways, including this painting of the Mackinaw Bridge.
 Strait Groovin' by Lind K Shinkle Rodney and Theodore M. Shinkle.

I was surprised to see this art with all kinds of dogs!
 It is a tribute to Josephine Ford.
 It was a hazy day but we had a nice view of Detroit.

Father's Day was also my 46th anniversary. Yikes! I am feeling old!
I will soon be sharing photos of my Bronte sisters quilt which I finally began working on a week or so ago!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

How to Walk Away: Finding a Perfect Life When Perfection Fails You

My husband read How to Walk Away through BookishFirst and raved about it. Publisher's Weekly gave it a 'thumbs up, buy it' rating. I grabbed my hubby's ARC and dove in.

Katherine Center's novel begins with Margaret living the dream: she has the perfect boyfriend, Chip, and the perfect job lined up.

Except Chip isn't so perfect. He knows Margaret is terrified of flying when he decides to get his pilot's license. And he is positive he can cure her fear by proving his skill as a pilot. Chip cajoles Margaret into joining him on a surreptitious night flight before he passes his last test, intending to propose to her during the flight. Margaret gives in.

But perfect fiancee' Chip can't handle the plane during a gust of wind and the plane crashes.

Chip walks away with some scratches. Margaret is trapped in the plane, her legs pinned, the jet fuel burning.

I would call the novel a romance and women's fiction, a page-turning beach read, except for one little thing: the theme is really about overcoming life's challenges, rolling with the punches, and flourishing when you have lost everything.

For Margaret, it is her disability and scars and the realization that Chip can't commit to 'better or worse.' Margaret's estranged sister Kit shows up to be her cheerleader. Kit must hash out some unfinished business with their mother, which leads marital stress for their parents. Love blooms and is repressed and blooms and, well, there are happy endings for all.

I found Margaret to be a little too chipper and perky in light of her injuries, and her attraction to a new man in her life suspect. Because I would be depressed and mean and hating all men in her shoes. But that is the point: Kit finds research proving that we are happy or unhappy regardless of what life throws at us, according to who we are. If we have courage and spirit and attitude we make it through anything. The rest of us get drunk, like Chip, or depressed and suicidal, or mean and angry.

How do you walk away from a crushing defeat?

Read a sample from the book at

How to Walk Away
Katherine Center
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 9781250149060
Hardcover $26.99

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Welcome to Our Sit and Stitch Group

When we retired and moved to Clawson almost four year ago one thing I was eager to do was to join the weekly quilt group which meets at the community center. On any Tuesday you might find a dozen to over 30 gals enjoying socialization, sewing, and sharing their projects.

Several ladies volunteer to take photographs of our projects which are sent out to all members, so snowbirds or others who can't be there every week get to see all the wonderful work being done.

Today I thought I would share some of the recent quilts made by this talented group.

Betty  is one of our most productive members! She is trying to use up her large stash of fabric. The back of her quilts are always interesting.

Last year Betty made this amazing quilt.
One of our newer members, Cheryl, has made quilts for all her nieces and nephews. She is working on some smaller projects now.
Joanne made this wall hanging for a gift. She forgot to give it. So, the question is...will she give it up?
Joanne also makes lots of BIG projects, like this colorful king size quilt!
Joyce created this family album of handprints for an annual gathering. It will be auctioned off and the high bidder takes it home until next year when it will be auctioned off again.
Karen's opus magnum has been a work of love for years. It is FINALLY finished and looks amazing.
 This week Kay brought a quilt from her closet to share. Too cute!
Theresa is passionate about creating. She makes more quilts in a year than most make in a lifetime! The quilt blocks were made by the woman who taught her to quilt. She put them into this setting and hand quilted it all winter.

 AND she put together a Michigan themed quilt top.
 And finished her Sue Spargo wool applique' which she has worked on for weeks.
Over the years I sometimes share the quilts in the library, which mostly come from this group. Last winter Linda had several quilts with real 'wow' factor. Like this Christmas houses one!
Linda loves to use preprinted panels, as in this wintery horse quilt.
 Another wonderful quilt from winter is and embroidered and pieced quilt featuring 'over the river and through the snow' by Sandy.

Judy makes a lot of lovely quilts, too like this one from last year.
 Everyone loved Verna's version of this gardening theme quilt.
 Another spring themed quilt is Linda's birdhouses.

Shirley's Redwork embroidery and pieced quilt from several years ago represented a lot of work.
Sunetra loves all kinds of needlework. She made several versions of this Fiona quilt block pattern.
Our newest member Sue is making her first quilt, a memory quilt for her husband. She used his shirts and is including mementos including badges, ribbons awards, and even a drawing he made.
 Anna's Church Dash is a beautiful example of a traditional quilt.
Alex is new to sewing but is doing wonderful projects such as her stuffed zebra.
Barb is a professional long arm quilter. She is showing her beautiful wool applique quilt top.
Cathy is a teacher but joins us during summer and her breaks.
 Verna shared her colorful houses quilt.
Lucy is working on a Millefilore quilt. 
This year Lucy had her quilt Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds at the American Quilt Society show in Paducah.

I haven't found photos from all the gals, these are just some samples. I am lucky to be a part of the group and to be inspired by them.