Monday, May 31, 2010

Reading for the start of summer

Here it is Memorial Day already, which is officially the start of summer, yes?  Which means it's summer reading season!  I thought I'd share a few books I've really enjoyed recently:

The Book of Air and Shadows
by Michael Gruber

      This isn't a new release, but it's one I bought some time ago and finally got around to reading.  What a delight!  It's about the discovery of a manuscript that hints at the existence of an undiscovered Shakespeare play, with a lot of wonderful stuff about old books and Shakespeare himself.  This was quite well-written and with a fair amount of humor -- the narrator never took himself too seriously, which I liked.  So think literary mystery/thriller, vaguely in the DaVinci Code style but without the sap, the improbable religious stuff, or bizarre demonic villains.

A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents
by Liza Palmer

  Admittedly, the title may be a bit off-putting (especially, if like me you're dealing a death in the family).  But truly, don't let that stop you.  It's worth getting past that.  This is the story of a smart-alecky woman, long estranged from her family and avoiding the pain of a childhood in which her father left them.  Required to reconnect with her siblings when her father suddenly becomes ill, she has to face all of the family drama she's been avoiding.  This story is beautifully written, and I loved the humor in this.  (And don't we all have family dysfunction that allows us to appreciate other families' dysfunction?)  It was a different sort of book, but just lovely.  Very worth reading.

No! I Don't Want to Join a Book Club: Diary of a Sixtieth Year
by Virginia Ironside

I stumbled on this at the library last week and I loved this book.  It's the diary of Marie, just turning sixty, and her delight in finally being "old" so she has the excuse to just do what she wants.  No, she won't start learning a foreign language or take a cooking course or join a book club.  She's honest and very funny and struggling with aspects of getting old that (I'm afraid) I'm starting to relate to -- feeling stylish and then catching a glimpse of oneself in a mirror and seeing reality, discovering a disconnect with what the "young people" like these days, etc.  It's quite charming.

What's on your summer reading list?  What have you read lately that is worth finding?

Monday, May 24, 2010

The rose and its thorns

I sure have been a neglectful blogger lately, but once again life is getting in the way.  We've had a few weeks of more ups and downs, but I'm hoping that this week we'll get back to some semblance of normalcy around here.  This photo -- taken in the garden last summer -- seemed appropriate to life recently.  The beauty of roses, and some painful thorns, too.

The thorns?  My dear uncle, among my favorite relatives, died last week.  We knew it was coming, and in reality we'd lost him a few years ago as the result of  Alzheimer's.  Still, his passing has been sad, and I will miss him.  He had a big impact on me, and I'll always treasure how proud he was that I became a lawyer.  We spent this past weekend visiting with my aunt and cousins, attending a memorial service for him, and generally gaining some solace from being together.  On the heels of my mother-in-law's death, this has plunged me into a lot of thinking about what it means to be at this stage of my life.  I am grateful every day for my parents' good health.

But the roses have been sweet!  My sister has just moved into a new home, an adorable house in a great neighborhood with beautiful hillside views.  I've spent a few days driving between her old place and new place with carloads of her stuff.  It has made me remember that delicious feeling of moving into a new space and organizing everything tidily -- and that has caused me to engage in a few closet-cleaning and purging binges.  It's always satisfying to get more STUFF out of the house!

And, after bringing stuff out, I'm going to bring something new in -- I've been in the process of buying a new sewing machine!  Gosh, they sure make fancy machines nowadays, and the machine I think of as my "new" Bernina is well out of date, not to mention the fact that there are things about it that I've always been dissatisfied with.  So I've been exploring and trying machines and reading online and I've made a purchase -- but more on that soon!  Very exciting! I swear, it's like buying a car -- there are so many choices and features.

So, this week is about getting my sewing room organized, and catching up on household stuff, and doing a few City and Guilds exercises, and doing some fun stuff with Caroline.  I'm ready for a boring, no drama week!

Oh, I forgot to add: I had a nice surprise today!  I was out running errands today, and stopped into a store and came across this lovely little book, Spirit Animals:

This is just the sort of thing Caroline loves, so I grabbed it (thinking Christmas stocking) and as I flipped through it, I came across illustrations by the talented Lisa Congdon, my friend and daughter of my friend Gerrie Congdon!  What a delightful surprise!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Field Trip!


Yesterday, I had a very fun field trip with my buddies Janet and Pam.  (Another friend, Sandy, was supposed to join us but she was home with a bad cold.  Hope you're feeling better, Sandy! We missed you!)  We headed south to San Francisco to see the exhibit of Amish Quilts at the DeYoung Museum.  

And what a gorgeous exhibit it was.  (Is -- it will be there through June 6 in case you haven't seen it yet.)  Who doesn't love Amish quilts -- the bold colors, the graphic designs, the perfect meeting of simple design with complex quilting?  It is one thing to see gorgeous pictures of Amish quilts, but seeing them in person was a different experience.  The colors just glowed.  I couldn't help thinking of the unknown quilters whose hands had created those beautiful quilts.  Imagine what they'd think to know that their work was hanging in a museum as art! 

 This particular quilt was one of my favorites from the exhibit.  Funny, it doesn't look as gorgeous in photo form, but in person it had a stunning glow.  I'd never seen this quilt block or pattern before, and it seemed unusually complex for an old Amish quilt.

Of course the exhibit made us want to gather up solid fabrics and make one or two.  Or five.  I went through an Amish quilt making phase when I was first learning to quilt, before I understood the connection between bias triangles and getting a ripply mess of a quilt top at the end of the process.  Sigh.

If you can't get to San Francisco to see this exhibit, you might be interested to know that the museum store has a beautiful hardback book (90 color photos) available for online ordering and ON SALE for $19.95!  Bargain!

After a lovely lunch at the museum cafe, we headed to Union Square to visit Britex, the famed 4-story fabric store.  Pam and I had never been there, which Janet couldn't believe.  And it was extremely impressive, I must say.  It's a dress-making fabric sort of store, but the sheer quantity of fabrics was wonderful to see.  I was especially taken with the notions floor, which had every sort and color of trim you could ever want.

And the buttons!  Cases and cases of all colors of buttons!  I had this urge to pull out a box or two and just sit on the floor and run my hands through them. 

But we headed home without making a single purchase, overwhelmed by the selection as we were.  But we were happy nonetheless.   Having a quilt-filled day with good friends is a wonderful thing.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Putting Pieces Together

I go through periods of time when I crave the simplicity of sitting at my machine and piecing bits of fabric together.  Usually it's time when my mind is occupied by difficult or stressful things, and sometimes, I notice it's when I'm just feeling overwhelmed by life stuff.  The zen of sitting at my machine, feeling fabric under my fingers and hearing the hum of the machine is my meditation, I guess.  And, for whatever reason, I seem to be in one of those moods right now.

Today, cruising through my favorite blogs with my morning coffee, I came across a link...which led me to another link... which led me to another... I'm sure you know how that happens!  I stumbled down a bloggy rabbit hole of delightful yet simple pieced quilts that, today, just speak to me.  It started with this quilt, "Chocolate Stars," designed by Vicki E. of Spun Sugar Quilts:

Turns out it's a Moda Bake Shop quilt (you know, where they use their jelly rolls and "cake squares" and charm packs). so the Moda site has the full directions for this one.

So then I had to go cruise the Moda Bake Shop site, where you can sort (under "recipes") their offerings -- with full directions -- by quilts, stuffed things, home dec, etc.  Very handy.  When I went to "quilts," I came across this gorgeous thing, "Welcome Spring," designed by Cherri House:

I need to make that TODAY.  You could be looking at my afternoon's activity, people.

But I kept going, and found this cutie, "Let Your Imagination Bloom," designed by Natalia of  Piece N Quilt :

And this one, "Sunday Squares" wallhanging by Charlie of It's Just Me:

And another, "Candy Buttons," back around to Vickie E of Spun Sugar Quilts where I started!

I tell you, I feel happy just having found these.  That Moda Bake Shop is almost as good as a real bakery for cheering a girl right up!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

No Small Peanuts

Seems like my days have been occupied with all sorts of mundane errands, and nothing exciting enough to warrant a blog entry.  Amid the usual family stuff, I've been trying to weed out some of the stuff that accumulates around me.  As I write this the back of my car has a few bags and boxes for Goodwill, and the garbage bin is half-full.

In my closet-tidying, I came across some packets of pre-cut quilt squares that my local guild puts together for assembly into charity quilts.  And yesterday -- a gray, rainy day -- I had a peaceful afternoon stitching up three (count em!  3!) quilt tops to be donated to a community charity.  I enjoyed the rhythm of feeding squares through the machine and am pleased to have another thing out of the closet.  And of course the Peanuts fabric was fun to work with, even if it wasn't anything I would ever have chosen.  Very satisfying! 

And speaking of Peanuts, I just learned about a program in California organized by the California Association of Museums to get a California license plate with Snoopy on it.  You may recall that Snoopy was born in Petaluma (about 30 miles north of San Francisco -- about 30 minutes south of where I live) at the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm.  His creator, Charles Schultz, lived in Santa Rosa which houses the Charles Schultz Museum (which is totally fun) and Snoopy's Home Ice Arena.  So it makes me happy to think that one of these days I could have Snoopy doing his original happy dance on my very own car.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Sophisticated Clothing -- the good old days

In my working lawyer days, I wore a lot of scarves.  Actually, I took pains to learn how to wear scarves, because it seemed to me that women who wore scarves seemed so professional and pulled-together.  I discovered that it's not an easy thing to do, wearing scarves.  When it's done well, it looks effortless.  But it's all too easy to end up having a wad of fabric hanging inartfully around your neck. When I got comfortable with wearing scarves, I felt like I'd truly grown up.

So here I am, years later, not dressing up to go out in the working world, and still I have all those scarves.  Today, in purge mode, I decided to clear out the scarf drawer and make room for some other things.  It's not like I wear them any more.

But oh, how hard it is to get rid of some of them, and I finally end up with a small assortment of the ones I couldn't bear to part with.  This one, for example, I bought at the actual Liberty of London's on my one and only trip to England.  I love that scarf -- not just because it's gorgeous, but because it makes me remember standing in Liberty's fondling the silk and feeling so cosmopolitan, and all the times I wore that scarf after that too.

And the scarf my friend Mela gave me for Christmas, that went so beautifully with the winter white wool suit I had.  I'd sewn the suit myself, in my just-out-of-law-school days when I didn't have much money to spend on buying clothes.  One of the few female judges complimented that suit when I wore it to court early on, too, and asked where I'd gotten it.  The suit is long gone, but I adore that scarf.  I could wear it with jeans and a turtleneck.  And the one another friend brought me back from Paris... how can I get rid of that?

Each scarf I pulled out reminded me of the dresses and suits I'd worn it with, and where I was when I got it, and how I'd hunted for something with just that color combination before I found it.  And each one reminded me of the life I had as a single working woman, when I took great pains each morning to dress carefully and match my handbag to my shoes.  Ah, it's a far cry from now, when I throw on jeans and my most active clothing decision is whether to wear the Merrill clogs or the Ugg boots.  I wasn't just sorting through scarves: I was sorting through memories.  

So I'm keeping a few that I've not worn in years, with the vow that I will try to wear them.  I love them!  And they hardly take up any room at the bottom of the drawer now.  The rest will go off to Goodwill.  I had a brief moment of wondering whether I should keep them to use them as silk fabric in a quilt ...  Hah -- another way to keep them -- see how sneaky my mind is at resisting the need to clear stuff out of the house?  But I put them in the give-away bag, and this way there's the chance that someone will wear them to work, or give them to their little girls for dress-up, or otherwise give them a new life out in the world.

Oh dear, I'm contemplating the new lives my scarves will have once they escape from my home.  It's no wonder I have a hard time getting rid of things.  But I'll carry on with my sorting -- have to stay a few steps away from those Hoarders folks, you know.  And besides, I need to make room for fabric.  

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The colors of Kilauea

Today is reveal day over on our Twelve by Twelve blog!  Our theme this month, designated by Hawaiian resident Kristin, was the colors of Mount Kilauea.  It presented a veritable challenge but the results are amazing.  Go see what everyone did!