Thursday, December 31, 2009

More purple blocks

I've been working on my All Purple, All the Time quilt, making blocks from the latest Quiltmaker's 100 Quilt Blocks magazine. It's fun to mix up all the purples in the box in new ways. Some of the fabrics were in a little bag left over from last spring's round robin I did with the Heart of Vermont guild. Quilting that quilt is on my list, but I need to mark the scallopped edge before I layer the "sandwich". Yesterday, I used some fabric that used to be curtains in the George Mackie Room of our former B&B. The Mackie tartan is green with purple, so those curtains were washed and folded back into my stash when we moved.

So here are the latest blocks, and this makes 12 done so far. There will be a solid-ish grape border between them. There are two more all prepared for applique. A big snowstorm is predicted for tomorrow, so it will be good to have something to do while I watch those flakes come down. I plan to bake an apple tart tomorrow with some of our delicious Harry & David apples. Got some vanilla gelato to go with it. But the main course menu is still up in the air. Life is short - plan dessert first!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

All purple, all the time

I'm working on a new quilt. I have a long list of UFOs but, since I finished the pink and lime baby quilt, I have given myself license to begin a new project.
My purple box is overflowing due to the kindness of my once-secret pal Karen. I also have more beiges than I really need, so I got a copy of this year's Quiltmaker's 100 Quilt Blocks and am working my way through it. I will put a plain grape border between the blocks. It's fun coming up with different color combinations, and I am astounded by the number of purple scraps and fat quarters I have. Last year's round robin didn't really put a dent in my stash.
So far I have made nine 12" blocks that I have sashed in the purple and beige fabric I got from Mary this fall. She closed her quilt shop so she could concentrate of the Machine Quilters Expo and sold bolt ends at the state guild meeting. I got four yards of purple print for $5 and 10 yards of a blue and yellow plaid for $10. The blue will be great for a back or two.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Day after Christmas

We had a very nice Christmas Eve and Day - good company, cooperative weather, plenty of goodies, nice music, and great gifts. Here we are, Paul sporting a new scarf and me in a shawl, both gifts from Jacqueline. We've been busy reading things that were under the tree and making plans to spend gift certificates to book stores. I'm going to start U is for Undertow this afternoon - can't wait!

Today was our day to play with toys we received, beginning with the new "atomic" clock Pat gave us. It forecasts the weather, tells the temperature outside and in, and projects onto the ceiling. Once we figured out that the lithium batteries had little pieces of plastic between them and the contacts, everything worked just fine.

Next, I went to the post office and back, testing out my new GPS that Chris gave me. You know you have reached "a certain age" when your child feels it is his duty to keep you on the technological cutting edge. At any rate, I made a turn the GPS didn't like but it was very pleasant about recalculating. I think it will be very helpful when we go south to Alabama and Florida later this winter.

On Christmas Eve, I finished a baby quilt that was on my list for 2010, so I am feeling smug. This one's for Paul's greatniece Lexi, expected in early March by the Hilton Head Hills. It was fun to make and has a lovely pink and lime flannel polka dotted back.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Quilting in 2009, plans for 2010

'Tis the season for taking stock, and, having already listed my favorite books read in the past year, it is time to list big quilting projects finished during 2009:

Retirement/siggie throw
7-pocket bag
Bathmats for us and Yve
10 tea totes
Red and beige split nine patch quilt
"Incense and Peppermints" quilt for Evelyn
Curved waves tote bag
Woven star table runner
Blue and white strippy baby quilt for auction
Yellow and green baby quilt for Audrey
'30s Dear Jane baby quilt
Quilted Paula's homeless veterans quilt
"Life is Good" t-shirt quilt for Nancy
Pink and green snowball bed-sized quilt
"Firefly" red, brown, teal bed-sized quilt
2 rugs made of jeans
pink, black and white quilt for Camp Agape
Friendship stars quilt for Camp Agape

Say, that's quite a list! In 2010, I hope to finish the following:
- Purple round robin made with guild members - ready for quilting
- Asian Dear Jane - all blocks made and ready for sashing and assembly
- Pink and green baby quilt for Lexi - ready for quilting
- Basket Case blocks of the month, quilted "as you go"

I also hope to:
- make more Sylvia's Bridal Sampler blocks until I get tired of them and put them together
- make a set of 12" purple and beige blocks, both appliqued and pieced for a quilt of indeterminate size

Monday, December 21, 2009

Best books read in 2009

One of the tasks I enjoyed most during my 35 years as a librarian was buying books. It wasn't just the fact that I was using someone else's money to buy the books. I enjoyed guessing what books would be hot for various age groups, especially identifying sleepers. Here's a list of my favorite reads from 2009 (many published before this year):

Loving Frank - Nancy Horan
A fictionalized biography of feminist Mamah Borthwick whose affair with Frank Lloyd Wright scandalized the world. An excellent, albeit sad story.

Mozart's Sister - Rita Charbonnier
Somewhat sad story of Nannerl, a child prodigy before Mozart was born, who was discouraged by her father and forced to work to support the family. Dovetails nicely with Stitches in Air by Liane Ellison Norman, a novel about Mozart's mother, that I also read this year.

Prayers for Sale - Sandra Dallas
Sweet history of Colorado mining as told by an older quilter to a younger one, a newcomer.

The Lost Quilter - Jennifer Chiaverini
A southern slave's exciting escape, recapture, and escape during the Civil War era. One of the best of the series.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
By far my favorite this year, this sweet epistolary novel is set in 1946 when a young English writer receives a fan letter from a reader on Guernsey which was occupied by the Germans during World War II. The warm humor and interesting characters make this a good recommendation for almost anyone.

The World Before Her - Deborah Weisgau
Stories of parallel lives of Marian Evans a/k/a George Eliot (1880) and Caroline Spingold (1980 - a fictitious sculptor) are set in Venice.

South of Broad - Pat Conroy
A meaty book full of painful details, quirky characters, and an obvious love of Charleston.

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguru
Almost everyone else in my book group hated this story of clones set in 1970's England, but I found it powerful and very well written.

A Thread of Grace - Mary Doria Russell
An heroic story of Jews hidden by northern Italians between 1943-45: "no matter how dark the tapestry God weaves for us, there's always a thread of grace." Russell is one of today's most compelling and skilled writers.

And my most disappointing read for 2009 - drum roll, please! - Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, a long, drawn-out ego trip by a 30-something divorcee who spent a year traveling to Italy, India, and Bali.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

'Tis the season for giving books!

There are so many good, new books that come out at this time of year, but people hesitate to give me any as gifts for fear I have read them already. So I try to tell each person who asks a different title. However, I do sometimes forget what title I've told whom, so it is always a surprise when Christmas rolls around. But I do love sitting down with a crisp new book on Christmas afternoon! This year I am looking forward to reading new books by Sue Grafton and Jennifer Chiaverini. Maybe more, too!

Sarah Statz Cords, in her "Readers Advisor Online" blogpost today, mentioned five Rules for Book Givers:
1. Only give books to people you know very well, or whom you want to know very well.
2. Don't just give books YOU love, give books you think others might love. Ideally, a book gift should be both.
3. Once you give a book, let it go. If the recipient loves the book, they'll let you know when they're ready to talk about it.
4. If you know someone who's a believer in "buying local," buy their book at a local indie bookseller and don't be afraid to put a bookmark in it from the store.
5. Don't be afraid to use library staff and readers' advisors as your personal shoppers! Describe what your friend typically reads to a readers' advisor and see what they suggest.

Well, several people on my gift-giving list are receiving books this year (as almost always), and I do hope they like them. I always send my three nieces books and am thankful that they are "good readers" (as we librarians call them). This year, my mother isn't getting a book from me since I saw something on vacation that I just had to get her. But she is my most appreciative audience.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Time for cookies!

Always watching my weight but not always too carefully, I have been baking for the holidays. It's pretty silly with just the 3 of us and one of those not even living here, but it is fun to do. Last week, I made fruitcake using King Arthur Flour's fruit cake blend. I love fruitcake and, luckily for me, Paul likes just a little and Chris doesn't like it at all. Last year's 3 fruitcakes lasted well into February. I got my recipe at but made a few changes. I left out any "secret ingredients" and substituted cherry-flavored Craisins for candied cherries, chopped walnuts for pecans, and apple juice for rum. Can't wait to try some.

Yesterday, I made Karen's ginger cookies, and today I'll be baking Taste of Home's coconut macaroon kisses. Later in the week, it'll be Sharon's Oh Henry Bars and maybe some oatmeal chocolate chip/cranberry cookies. I ordered some Speculaas, an almond pastry, and a box of Droste chocolates from All Things Dutch. Then I'll be ready for company or just a cozy tea while gazing at the tree which I hope to put up at the end of the week. Think I'd better plan on a few more laps around the mall or neighborhood every day!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friendship stars and basket blocks

The Friendship Star quilt turned out quite pretty, and I will be glad to turn both it and "Good and Plenty" (Dec. 7 post) in at the guild meeting on Tuesday night.
We'll be having a gift exchange, social hour, show and tell, and a session of stuffing the stockings we made for needy kids. Should be fun!

The December basket of the month blocks are done, too, primarily because we had a good old fashioned snow storm earlier this week. Besides making fruitcake, I got caught up on a variety of projects and made plans for more. Here are the two blocks for the month.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Finishing projects

I have been feverishly finishing up a variety of quilting projects. First was the Life is Good t-shirt quilt for Nancy. I put the final stitches on the binding yesterday and threw it into the dryer to remove some fuzzies this morning. I still need to go over it with a lint remover, though, and then I'll sew the label on when Nancy brings it.

Then I started quilting the two quilts I made for Camp Agape. Both are an odd size, 39 x 79, presumably to fit the camp cots. The first is pink, black and white shoo fly blocks, with pink plaid sashing and binding. That's all done. I only have a few more rows of quilting for a Friendship Star quilt in brights, black and white. The binding will be a bright colored polka dots on a black background. I should finish that tomorrow.

Yesterday, because I couldn't go to the Jane Austen tea due to a flat tire (a loooong story), I also finished a bathmat for our bathroom. It has been sitting around, waiting for binding for weeks. I used a Dresden Plate "orphan block," and surrounded it wth strips of denim from Paul's old jeans. It's very sturdy yet brightens up our beige bathroom nicely.

Next on the list: begin quilting the purple round robin quilt I made with quilt guild friends this year. The batting and the back are all ready to go. But I do have some holiday baking and shopping to do also...