Sunday, July 24, 2016

bookshelf - The Smell of Other People's Houses

I will freely admit I was taken in by the title of this book.  I grew up associating the smell of people with their houses - stale cooking fat, concentrated pine-scented solvent, the stale dust of closed-in homes, the faint goldenrod of open windows.

The title may have pulled me in, but it's the characters that kept me there.  To borrow a sentiment from  Miss Buncle's Book, these characters are 'real live people.'  They are deftly drawn, open and honest in all their value and flaws.  There's not a gross caricature in the lot, no wicked villain or heavenly angel, yet each character is compelling.  There's no major external conflict, either, yet the story never crosses the fine line between meandering reflection of life into boredom.

Set in Alaska in 1970, with a quick flashback to the statehood conflict a decade before (which could be the dystopian external conflict that started it all) the main conflicts are the common everyday anger, violence, and despair that afflict people everywhere.

There's love, loss, disappointment, betrayal, hope, fear, and despair; rage, anguish, and misdirected self-sacrifice; inability, or unwillingness to communicate; greed, poverty, and hopelessness.  Lessons are spoken, unspoken, or simply illustrated with the smooth hand of a narrator telling a tale with no judgment.  The reader is left with a journey of broken lives stitched together with a waxed thread of coincidence, tenacity, and good luck, even if they don't see themselves as lucky at the time.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

TBT - Texture!

Throwback Thursday!  Heavy texture keeps quilts from being as warm, but makes them so much more delightful to pet!  From the way-back machine, a close-up of a baby quilt that I wanted to keep for myself. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

National Readathon Day - 21 May 2016

National Readathon Day is coming again, which means it's time to bookstagram your edited-for-tidiness book nook, complete with elegantly draped vintage pashmina and perfeclty poised cuppa . . .

Or you could use it as an excuse to blow off your chores and lounge around reading all day, or browsing bookshops all day, or hitting the 'big' library and shutting it down.

In the spirit of encouraging your latest forage efforts, be they second-hand or library based, my favourite marathon reads (in no particular order):

Waiting for Godot  - - All I learned about life I learned from Estragon.  That's a painful oversimplification, but Gogo is everything I aspire to be in life - as a friend, as an unobtrusive member of society, as someone with the simple kind of life where you don't need to know what day it is, ever.  You are never too old or too young for Samuel Beckett - frankly the younger the better, although I will concede that at certain ages you may not want to have to explain to your young what crablice are . . .
This takes only a few hours to perform, and so, only a few hours to read - read it aloud with a few friends and gain a whole new insight into who you all are.

A Christmas Carol  - bear with me, I know it's May, but remember the full title is A Christmas Carol: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, and nothing is more appropriate for late summer evenings by a campfire than a ghost story.  It only takes a few hours to read aloud, making it eminently suitable for a readathon, and the words - dialogue and description alike - are worthy of being spoken aloud.  And that cover?  Old Fezziwig and Mrs. Fezziwig, who "was worthy to be his partner in every sense of the term."  A cleverly crafted scene, jovial warehouse camaraderie in stark contrast to the office he left that day, loving couple in contrast to the split he is about to relive.  This book makes an excellent marathon read at a party, with different guests taking a chapter a piece, all the better if you hot chestnut or smoking bishop to lubricate the social gears.


The official mantra of my life is that you should recycle and be nice to people.  Perhaps I read Dr. Seuss' favourite propaganda piece, The Lorax, one time too many as a callow yute, but it still resonates and makes my heart sing, weep, and hope.  It takes no time at all to read this, and so is perhaps not entirely perfect for a readathon, but if you are sharing many books with young readers, please consider including this in your day.  These are words we can't hear ourselves say enough.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mental Health Awareness Month - Knitting

I think we can all agree that the Craft Yarn Council may be a little biased towards anything that encourages the consumption of yarn, but in this article from the NY Times we see both a first person experience and supportive research about the value of knitting for mental health.

Paul Rogers via
The short notes that any knitter can attest to are -
 - knitting helps improve focus; paradoxically it improves focus on both the project and outside forces.  Any student who doodles can attest that often the practice of letting your hands work, frees your mind to focus on the lecture, in the same way knitting can make a movie, a TED talk or a conversation with friends more memorable
- knitting, at least when you finish a project, boosts self-esteem.  The act of creating something that wasn't there before is both incredibly fulfilling and life-affirming

Whether you are looking to distract yourself from crippling social anxiety or improve your memory and mental acuity, seek out a local shop, grab a beginner's kit, or checkout a YouTube tutorial and break out the sentimental needles and yarn you inherited and get to knitting and purling!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Mental Health Awareness Month - Quilting

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which is a subject near and dear to my heart - I am a big fan of healthy minds and healthy bodies, and all the unique ways the mind can heal itself and be kept healthy.  From music to dance to modern art, we have it in our power to stave off the effects of dementia, short-circuit the stimulus-response of depression and overcome anxiety.

Every few months there's a new story out about the value of quilting and other practical arts for mental health and this month seems like a great excuse to share some of my favourites:

From Science Daily, an accessible review of a report released in the Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience journal that focused on the quantifiable benefits of challenging leisure activities - rather than equally enjoyable, but passive activities - to improve mental acuity. The study referenced sorted participants into three groups: to learn quilting and photography, to engage in social travel and cooking events, or placebo groups.  In both the quilting and photography groups, one learning a vary hands on activity with needle and thread and the other learning a more spatial activity with a greater emphasis on use of a tool, participants enjoyed greater memory performance and more efficient (quicker!) activity in the brain.

So get out there and grab a begginer's or more advanced quilting kit (or take your camera to your local guild meetings!) and enjoy the benefits of youthacizing your brain!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

National Sibling Day 2016

It's National Sibling Day, so it's once again time to be grateful to your parents for giving you your first and best friends, or being grateful that you have gone through life without constantly having to fish your toys out of someone else's closet.

Having spent much of my youth as an only child, I waffled between a crushing feeling of missing out when I witnessed an inside joke between my friends and their siblings and being ever so grateful that I was never expected to share what I wanted to keep for my own.

When it comes to tales of siblings, my two favourite books for young readers feature the common elements of an absentee father, an inattentive mother, and a younger sister for whom the oldest has to give up everything she knows:

All the Blue Moons at the Wallace Hotel is one of the first five-star books I read as an adult - a book I gleefully used my Barnes & Noble employee discount to purchase by the armful so I could give out willy-nilly to any who showed the slightest interest in my evanglical expostulations.  The story is, at it's heart simple: a tragedy, a family cast out from their chosen society, the conflicts of a child who wants desperately to belong and another who wants desperately to be, and the fierce love they have under their differences.  The pacing is brilliant, the dialogue cutting, and the scenery as lifelike as if it were outside your window.  The conflicts are so realistic as to make your heart hurt with worry, fear, anguish and loss.

I will freely admit that, as a wee human, this was not my absolute favourite Maure Sendak story - that honour and privilege was (and still is!) held by Mickey in the Night Kitchen.  But what I knew of a sister's love, that I would recognize much later in All the Blue Moons . . .  I learned in Outside Over There.  In this tale the lack of responsible parents leave the older child with no choice to but to grow up and get on with the job.  Of course, the job of rescuing a wandering tyke from goblins, is not something one can really prepare for, but there's no time to be afraid when your Da's gone off, your mum's paralyzed by depression, and your sister's about to be forced into an arranged marriage.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Ships, Ahoy!

These quilts are for a pair of siblings, and are made with the Ahoy! pattern by Christine Stainbrook for Project House 360, available here

The finished pattern is roughly 48" x 60".  In the pictures below, one is made with Blast Off! Collection fabrics from Connecting Threads, the other with fabrics from the Splash! Collection by Alex Anderson for RJR Fabrics. 

Center Panel, Blast Off! fabrics

Center Panel, Splash! fabrics
I really rather thought if there were any difference between the two, the quilt with the Blast Off! fabrics would be the slightly larger of the two, but thanks to the wonder of shrinkage, it wound up being smaller.  There are a couple of hiccoughs in the pattern design worth mentioning:
- the 'wave' applique template measures 18" wide, as does the kelp fabric selection in the pattern fabrics selection, however the center panel is written to measure 18.5" wide
- all applique pieces are reversed, with the exception of the boat hull, you will need to reverse it yourself for it to line up with the wave properly.

If purchasing fabrics based on the pattern list, add an inch or two to the kelp (or don't worry about it if you have a fat quarter with a 'wave' on the 22" length).  You will have plenty of leftover fabric to make coordinating pillow cases.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.