Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Farewell, Marybelle

One of my favorite librarians passed away over the weekend.  Marybelle was 90 and lived an amazing life as a writer, a back-to-the-lander, a food coop founder, a community organizer, and, since 1984, the librarian of the public library in Alburgh, Vermont, a summer community on Lake Champlain.  I will never forget the day we met.  She had called the day before to ask if I or someone from the Dept. of Libraries could come up and give her a hand.  She felt the community needed a public library, and theirs had been closed for at least ten years. 

I sat in the sun on the steps of the Town Clerk's office/library building watching lazy foot and car traffic until she arrived.  I was surprised that the energetic voice on the phone came from a lady whose rheumatoid arthritis made me hurt just looking at her hands.  But that never stopped Marybelle for a moment.  Together, we got the key from the Town Clerk and entered the library room for the first time.  As she reminded me over the years afterwards, I said, "it was like entering the catacombs."  Every surface was covered in dust, and the books, piled willy nilly, were representative of the 1940's and '50's.  I can't remember how many times I returned that summer to help her sort through and organize them (writing broad Dewey numbers inside in pencil so they could be shelved).

Marybelle attended every workshop we offered and recruited a bunch of dedicated volunteers to help her run the library.  Pretty soon, the place was teeming with customers, especially kids looking for something to do in the summer.  Every Friday night was family movie night, with popcorn and fun.  Ideas just flowed, and pretty soon other librarians in the region were adopting them, too.  Grant money, a Friends group, publicity, computers, and more came their way.   As use increased, so did the hours and budget.  The library's space kept oozing beyond its one room until pretty soon it had taken over the whole building.

Because I helped her in the early days, Marybelle called me her mentor, but I always felt she was a role model for me and all librarians.  She took a number of local women under her wing and encouraged them to get jobs, educate themselves, and broaden their views of the world.  "No" was not in her vocabulary, and she was always open to new ideas and to her customers' needs.   I have thought about her a great deal since I retired because the library and the town were surely the beneficiaries of her retirement.  Alburgh is lucky that she chose to retire there.  Her love for the library and presence will always be felt here in the library and throughout the community. (from the library's website)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

My Classics List, a work in progress

A couple of days ago, I decided to accept the challenge of reading 50 "classics" in five years.  The first step is to make up a reading list, which I have been working on.  I found several lists online and started to note which ones I haven't read or want to re-read.  Since I will be exploring "classics," I want to make sure I include a variety of genres, fiction and nonfiction, and non-western literature.  It's fun to think about what a classic truly is, also.  Right now I'm reading Prague Winter, a new book about the history of the Czech Republic by Madeleine Albright.  A departure for me, it's really interesting.

So far, my classic list looks like this:

1.      I Promessi Sposi

2.  The Grapes of Wrath – Steinbeck

3.  Of Mice and Men – Steinbeck

4.  Slaughterhouse Five – Vonnegut

5.  Things Fall Apart – Achebe

6.  Madame Bovary – Flaubert

7.  The House of Mirth – Wharton

8.  If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler – Calvino

9.  Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl – Jacobs

10.  The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas – Stein

11.  Animal Farm – Orwell (reread)

12.  A Midwife’s Tale – Ulrich

13.  Pygmalion – Shaw (reread)

14.  Our Town – Wilder (reread)

15.  Complete poems Dickinson (reread)

16.  Complete poems – Frost (reread)

17.  The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – McCullers

18.  Howards End – Forster

19.  Native Son – Wright (reread)

20.  Pilgrim at Tinker Creek – Dillard

21.  The Rest is Noise – Ross

22.  A Prayer for Owen MeanyIrving

23.  The Handmaid’s Tale – Atwood (reread)

24.  David Copperfield – Dickens (reread)

25.  The Assault – Mulisch

26.  Autobiography of a Javanese Princess – Cartini

27.  The Wind-up Bird Chronicles – Murakami

28.  The Education of Henry AdamsAdams

29.  The Book of Abigail and John – Addams

30.  The Strange Career of Jim Crow – Woodworth

31.  Mornings on Horseback – McCullough

32.  The Making of the Atomic BombRhodes

33.  Silent SpringCarson

34.  The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat – Sacks

35.  Ceremony - Silko

If you have a recommendation, please don't hesitate to comment!

Friday, May 25, 2012


Whenever I can this week, I've been hand stitching bindings from fronts to back.  First finished was a Stack and Whack "leftovers" quilt, using the triangles at the beginnings and ends of the rows I cut my Lemoyne Star pieces from.  It's about 36" square.  Next was the "ocean" throw, using batiks my mom gave me for Christmas.  I used orphan blocks in pink and brown on the back, and Lisa quilted it in waves and swirls.  I finished sewing down the binding this afternoon.

I pushed ahead and sewed a label on the Christmas Stars quilt I made with swap blocks.  Lisa quilted leaves and berries throughout, and it looks lovely.   I started on the binding and will probably be working on it for a few days because the quilt is a "generous throw" size.   I'm expecting my brother and his daughters tomorrow, so my sewing/guest room has been vaccuumed and cleaned up a bit.  So has the banjo repair area (a/k/a the guest bed) in the basement.  Paul seemed surprised that he filled up a whole trash bag in the process, but of course I wasn't.  :-)

Monday, May 21, 2012

State Quilt Guild meeting

Saturday I won the mother lode of fabric pieces in an auction at the Green Mountain Quilters Guild spring meeting here in Barre.  I have been washing and folding like crazy but haven't reached the end yet.  Chris asked me to make some curtains for his apartment, and I offered up the kelly green fabric with black tractors (with John Deere trademark on the selvage).  I was going to put it on the "free" table at guild, but he said that would be fine.  Green is his favorite color, and I can probably add a little black to tone it down. 

I had been worried about the meeting arrangements since it was the first time we've held it at our Knights of Columbus Hall.  But everything went fairly well.  People pitched in to move furniture as needed, and although we couldn't hang show and tell quilts from the ceilings as we can at Whitcomb High School, people were good sports about holding them up and carrying them around the room while we voted.

The main speaker, Joanne, told about how she became entranced with crop circles during a trip to England several years ago.  She showed slides of several of these phenomena and then also showed some quilts that she made based on them.  They are amazing!  You can read about Joanne's talk at Sonja Hakala's blog - there are some great photos there, too.  She sticks to greens and grain colors since those are the colors of the crop circles.  I don't think I could do that, though, since I love color far too much to restrict my pallette. 

All in all, it was a good day, and about half of the people said it was a good location.  So we booked the hall again for the November meeting.  :-)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Classics Club

I just heard about the Classics Club in which people promise to read and blog about 50 classics from a list they devise themselves within five years.  I signed up for the group on Goodreads even though I haven't yet created my list of 50 classics.  I always have a hard time picking classics, even though years ago I wrote two bibliographies for Vermont librarians on this very topic.  This point in my life is a good opportunity to read some books I have never read and always thought I should, and also to re-read some old favorites.

One of the resources for building the list of 50 books is a website called 100 Essential Reads for the Lifelong Learner, organized by broad topics and including history and biography along with fiction.  I really should read more nonfiction and hope this activity leads me to do so.  Another resource is called The Well-educated Mind which has some more unusual titles on it.  I'm making a note of these lists here so I don't lose the links.

I think my personal list will be a mix from a number of resources and, probably, my own mental "wish I had read that" list.  For example, a priest who used to read widely and came to the library frequently always recommended I Promesi Sposi.  It's been on my "list" for nearly 40 years!  I have never read Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, nor have I read The Grapes of Wrath.  Both seem appropriate for a lifetime reading list.  When the list's ready, I'll publish it here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A fabric diet

Phew!  I bought some fabric for the back of my red and white quilt the other day, and it cost nearly $100.   I love it, though, and hope I'll have some left over to add to the row-robin I hope to put together later in the summer.  I have a Joann's coupon that I plan to use this week on batting so I'll start quilting the red and white flimsey soon.  I will also have to get some white thread.

Meanwhile, I've decided to go on a few months' fabric diet.  My Calico County guild is planning a trip to Keepsake in NH for June, and I may bow out.  A Quilter's Garden offers a discount half a person's age during the five days before and after one's birthday, so I'm going to wait until the end of July for a big shopping spree at 32% off.  Until then, I'll shop my stash for the scrappy quilt I'm making for a friend and to finish that row-robin and the square-robin that's been going around to guild members.   I'll need to keep an eye on the Joann's coupons for batting since I have come to the end of the useable big pieces in my closet that I can piece together.  Of course, I am always telling myself to start making smaller quilts but that doesn't seem to happen!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Block Lotto

I signed up for a block lottery recently.  This is the first 12" block in the set, which features black, white, and brights.   Each month, someone in the group wins the whole bunch, and we mail our block(s) to her.  We can make up to four, but this month, I only made one in the prescribed royal blue and another in red to go along with the black, red, and white rows I received from guild members.  I am hoping to use the rows as borders for a medallion.  Obviously, I'm not in a hurry to finish this one because I have lots of other projects going on at the same time.

I am pleased that I finished three quilts in the last month - the guild raffle quilt, a baby string quilt for Paul's niece Meg's new baby, and the guild mystery quilt.  Hope I can keep this pace up because I have just too many UFOs for comfort!  Next up:  the red and white quilt in three sections.  I'm planning to wash the backing early this week.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Flimsey Friday

I've been machine quilting that "flimsey" (the guild mystery quilt top pictured in my last post) all week, not just today.  After stitching in the ditch around all the center blocks, I worked on the borders for a couple of days.  Now I'm back working on a grid in the center.  It's tiring because each line of stitching is fairly long and requires a bit of measuring before I lay the painter's tape down.  It doesn't always stick, so I pin it, too.  But it's coming along, slowly but surely.  Yesterday, a friend from guild called to commiserate about the mystery quilt.  I told her it took me about a week to put the borders on, and that seemed to make her feel better because it had taken her that long, too.  It's always nice to have a friend to whine with!

Since I have to take regular breaks from machine quilting, I went to the garden center and planted some perennials in the new flower bed in the front yard.  It's very shady, so I got two kinds of hosta and an astilbe.  Someone in the garden group gave me a wild geranium which I hope lives in the deep shade.  After the daffodils finish blooming, I'll put in some impatiens for a load of color under our living room windows.  The crabapple tree out front is blooming and the guys just cut the grass, so it looks really nice outside.  And it's going to be a sunny weekend!

Monday, May 7, 2012

And here's another one...

Members of one of the guilds I belong to have been working feverishly on monthly clues for a mystery quilt.  I finished my top a few days ago, after much moaning and groaning!

It turns out to be Bonnie Hunter's "Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll" in Christmas colors.  The instructions used other fabrics, but we were told this would be a stash-buster, so I decided to use up my Christmas stash.  I ended up needing more of a few things, and I threw away some things that I didn't use and hated.  So now I can close the box.  I made too many pieces for the border (can't count!) and had a few loose Christmas blocks hanging around that I will put on the back.  Now that it's done I like it a little better, and I hope I still like it after I quilt it.  The guild has its "reveal" in June so I have a little time to get it quilted.

Heart of Vermont raffle quilt

This lovely quilt will be raffled off during the summer in support of the Aldrich Public Library!  Last summer, an area quilter/author gave me several bags of scraps, one of which was full of solids.  I washed a bunch of them, and my quilting friend Betty gave me several yards of Amish black from Keepsake Quilting.  I made up kits and distributed them to members of the Heart of Vermont Quilt Guild at our September meeting.  Each person could make any 12" block using solids and black, and early this winter, I put them all together.  I quilted the quilt in three sections and finally finished binding it in a nice burgundy a few weeks ago.   I love the graphic quality of Amish-style quilts, and despite the variety of blocks, it really turned out pretty.  It's a great reflection of the variety of tastes in our guild. 

Before posting it on the guild Facebook page, I wanted to show it to our librarian who is thrilled with the result.  I'll take it to the May guild meeting, held at the library, and then it will be ready to raffle off.  This summer, there are author programs every Wednesday night, so I'll be selling tickets then.  Of course, tickets will be available at the library circulation desk every day and at the annual summer booksale during Heritage Days.  I am hopeful that this will be a good fund raiser for the library; it's a good way for our guild to thank the library for free use of its space during the year.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"A Natural Woman"

I spent a good part of last weekend reading Carole King's autobiography which is on the best seller list.  As another reviewer said, "she wrote the soundtrack of my life."  It is amazing the number of songs she wrote the music and some of the words for - Up on the Roof, songs by the Monkees and Carpenters,  and much more besides her familiar songs from the Tapestry album.  While I was reading, I got out that album and two CDs from a boxed set I had.  So we've been having a Carole King fest around here.

Tonight Paul and I are going to hear Judy Collins at the Barre Opera House and I'm looking forward to more trips down memory lane.  I used to love to play Send in the Clowns on the piano.

The last few days we've had a houseguest, so the day before he came I was careful not to make too much of a mess in my sewing/guest room.  Of course, while he was here, I didn't go in either except to retrieve my checkbook.  Yesterday, I worked on an appliqued piece in the living room, which was good because this project has been neglected for quite a long time.  It was good to make some headway with it.

Dennis left this morning, so I got the room back to "normal" rather quickly - the bed is made with clean sheets, but it's covered with boxes and bags of quilting stuff.  I have been cutting charm squares for a swap and, at the same time, cutting other squares for an autograph quilt I'm planning to put together for our librarian.  I'm planning to make it very scrappy, using a block called "Ribbon Star" from Quilters Cache