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TransAtlantic – Book Review

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TransatlanticWhat was a life anyway? An accumulation of small shelves of incident. Stacked at odd angles to each other. The long blades of an ice saw cutting sparks into a block of cold. Sharpening the blades, seating them, slotting them into handles. Leaning down to make the cut. A brief leap of ember in the air. – from TransAtlantic -

Frederick Douglass was born in 1818 on Maryland’s eastern shore. He lived enslaved, beaten, and abused…but becoming literate and finally escaping slavery in September 1838. Douglas went on to become a lecturer and speaker, seeking to end slavery forever. He went on a three year speaking tour of England, Ireland, and Scotland. He worked closely with Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War to recruit northern blacks for the Union Army, and later went on to support the rights of women.

Douglass canceled a tea in Sandymount to get there on time. He arrived along the teeming docks. He could not believe the size of the crowd: as if the whole sponge of Dublin had been squeezed down into a huge sink. So many dishes, so many rags, such a riot of human cutlery. – from TransAtlantic -

Jack Alcock and Teddy Brown made the first non-stop transatlantic flight in June 1919. They flew from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Galway, Ireland – crashing their plane on landing, but surviving.

Floating icebergs below. The roughly furrowed sea. They know there will be no turning back. It is all mathematics now. To convert the fuel into time and distance. To set the throttle for the optimum burn. To know the angles and the edges, and the spaces in between. - from TransAtlantic -

Democrat George Mitchell served as a United States Senator from Maine from 1980 to 1995 and as Senate Majority Leader from 1989 to 1995. He played a pivotal role in negotiating peace in Northern Ireland as an appointee to the United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland (1995–2001).

They carried their sorrow – not with photos under their arms, or with public wailing, or by beating their chests, but with a weariness around the eyes. Mothers and daughters and children and grandmothers, too. They never fought the wars, but they suffered them, blood and bone. How many times has he heard it? How often were there two ways to say the one thing? My son died. – from TransAtlantic -

These four men take a central role in Colum McCann’s sterling novel, TransAtlantic. McCann introduces them all separately, and then weaves their lives together against the backdrop of the history in Ireland and four generations of extraordinary women. Lily Duggan is an Irish housemaid and it is from her that the women in this novel spiral out across the decades.

McCann is a poet with the English language – he pares down his words to deliver a story steeped in history, yet lyrically captured. When George Mitchell, exhausted, sits in Prime Minister Blair’s office, so close to an agreement and yet so far away from a document that will end the bloodshed…McCann captures the moment perfectly:

The Prime Minister’s shirt open to the second button. They are stuck now on a point of language. The British and their words. The Irish and their endless meanings. How did such a small sea ever come between them? - from TransAtlantic -

He also just as succinctly and beautifully captures the senseless loss of thousands during the Civil War:

They lifted the soldiers as gently as they could and placed them in the grass in the imprints of others who had been there just hours ago. All around, the grass was exhausted by the shape of the war. - from TransAtlantic -

McCann never loses his way in this novel about history and the men and women who played such a pivotal role in it. Large in scope, yet made personal by the characters who people it, TransAtlantic is a luminous story of courage, family, love, and loss.

I loved McCann’s novel Let the Great World Spin (read my review) and I was certainly not disappointed by his newest work. Once again, McCann pulls off an ambitious, yet wholly readable work of literary fiction that stays with the reader long after the final page has been turned.

Readers who appreciate extraordinary literary fiction laced with history, will find much to love in TransAtlantic.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review on my blog as part of the Library Thing Early Review Program.

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Scrappy Churn Dash Tablerunner

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*Click on any photo in this post to enjoy a larger view

I made this sweet table runner as part of Sherri McConnell’s celebration of the little things this year.  Every month she posts a new project on her blog. If you make the project for that month, you will get the next project pattern for free. All the patterns are also for sale in her shop on Craftsy.

This churn dash table runner is charm pack or mini charm pack friendly (1 charm pack or 2 minis) I used a charm pack of the new collection by Zen Chic: Sphere. The pattern did not call for the outer border that I put on (I wanted my runner to be wider than the 9.5″ which was how the pattern was written). I used Modern Basics II Robin’s Egg (by Alissa Haight Carlton for In the Beginning Fabrics) which is a luscious cross weave which I bought at Cuts of Cotton (love that shop!)


I used up the whole charm pack by piecing the back and also making a scrappy binding.



The white in this runner is Bella bleached white (PFD) which is my go-to white these days.

I did straight line quilting with my walking foot and simply echoed the design using a turquoise thread (which shows best on the back).

This runner measures 48.5″ X 13″.


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Pillow Pop Round-Up: March

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BlogButtonHave you checked out the Pillow Pop group on Threadbias? We’re making pillows from the fabulous book Pillow Pop all year long.

We currently have 50 members in the Pillow Pop group and would love to have you join us. If you’re not already a member at Threadbias, why not join – it is free, and it is a great community of sewists.

We chose Life Aquatic (easy) and Cosmos (challenging) as the pillows for March…and here are the wonderful finishes with links back to each sewist’s project page. I hope you will click through to see the entire projects as the backs and quilting on each pillow are also fabulous.

Life Aquatic: Uses complimentary colors to create the pop.


Erica’s vibrant pillow uses bold Kaffe Fassett fabrics and Essex linen


Karen chose different values of turquoise and added a punch of tangerine to create a beachy feel

LifeAquatic.Wendy LifeAquatic.CarolMarie

Both Carol and I decided to add a little surprise in our pillows – mine has a gnome and a sweet butterfly flutters it wings in Carol’s.


Terry’s pillow uses subtle grays with a bold pop of red to create a beautiful modern feel.

LifeAquatic.Cathie LifeAquatic.SewBusy

Cathie’s use of golden yellows and modern grays evokes a sunny day; while Sewbusy chose some beautiful low volume fabrics as the backdrop for her cheerful raspberry cross


Marsha put a wholly original modern spin on her pillow with a double cross against a neutral background


And Belinda’s Spider Man theme turns this into a fun pillow for any child


Jo’s pillow evokes a night sky with pops of black and blue.


Terry used a soft gray and neutral palette to make the purple in her pillow take center stage.


Sue used Bonnie and Camille fabrics and a gorgeous Wickerweave fabric to create a stunning version of this pillow.

LifeAquatic.Kathie LifeAquatic.Margaret

Kathie used some wonderful Tula Pink fabric and fussy cut a bunny for the cross, while Margaret framed her low volume prints with a bright splash of red.

Cosmos: Layered hexagons gives a modern feel to a traditional pattern.


Valerie’s pillow evokes wildflowers with a beautiful yellow and gray-plum palette


Karen created a textured pillow with a fabulous gray wool as the background for her hexie flower


Margaret used a variety of violet and raspberry fabrics to give her pillow a sweet feel


Erica softened her bold colors with super silky voile by Anna Maria Horner

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Summer in the South – Book Review

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SummerInTheSouthWho knew what baggage Charlie might have brought with him from New Orleans? What demons he might have battled? It was so difficult to ascertain a man’s true character glimpsed only through the eyes of others. – from Summer in the South -

Ava Dabrowski finds herself reeling from a failed romance and the death of her mother when she decides to accept an invitation to spend the summer in Woodburn, Tennessee at the home of an old college acquaintance, Will Fraser. Ava has a dream to write a novel, but she finds it hard to get started once she arrives in Tennessee. Woodburn is a classic small Southern town and Will and his family take center stage. Ava moves into Will’s aunts’ home – a rambling, historic house that is haunted by the ghosts of the past. When she unearths a family mystery – that of the death of Charlie Woodburn – the story consumes her and her novel comes to life. But things are not always as they first appear, and the mystery of Charlie and his untimely death have been kept secret for a long, long time. As Ava becomes embroiled in the lives of the Woodburns, she discovers that truth may be more compelling than fiction.

Cathy Holton’s Summer in the South is a well-written novel about a young woman caught in a dark mystery from the past. It explores the Southern culture, family loyalty and the difficulty of untangling fact from gossip and community lore. Ava Dabrowski is a strong, “Yankee” woman who finds herself unsettled when she moves to a small Southern town where the rules of society are anything but clear. When she begins to dig into the history of the Woodburn family, she finds herself confronting shadows and ghosts and the tricky maze of high class Southern etiquette.

There is a bit of romance mixed into the mystery in Holton’s novel, but it doesn’t overwhelm the plot. I found this book highly readable, and the ending took me a little by surprise as the reader finally uncovers the truth behind Charlie’s death.

Readers who love novels set in the South, and for those who like women’s literature and a bit of mystery in their reading, will find much to enjoy in Summer in the South.


I’ve read one other novel by this author. Read my review of Beach Trip.

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Quatrefoil Block Tutorial

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I am sewing as part of a Quilting Bee group on Threadbias, and April is my month to be “Queen.” After lots of thought, I’ve decided to ask my hive-mates to make me Quatrefoil blocks using tangerine/orange and turquoise/teal. Although I found a tutorial on line, I didn’t like one part of it and decided to write my own tutorial to help make this block come together in a snap!

All seams in this tutorial are a scant 1/4″.

Fabric Requirements and Cutting

This tutorial results in a 12.5″ X 12.5″ block.

You will need fabric in two colorways (in this tutorial – tangerine and turquoise) and background fabric (in this case Bella Bleached White-pfd). Cut the following:

1 – 4.5″ X  4.5″ square (for the center)
4 – 4.5″ X  4.5″ squares (for the petals – this should be a different colorway than the center. You can use all the same fabric, or different fabrics if you want a scrappier flower)
1 – 2.5″ X 11″ strip of one accent color
1 – 2.5″ X 11″ strip of a second accent color
2 – 2.5″ X 11″ strips of the background fabric (white)
8 – 2.5″ X 2.5″ squares of background fabric (white)


Constructing the 4 Patches which make up the corners of the Block

Match one 2.5″ X 11″ white (background) strip with each of the 2.5″ X 11″ strips of accent fabric and join them along the long sides, right sides together.


Open each strip set and press toward the patterned fabric (away from the white fabric). You will then have two strip sets, one in each colorway:


Square up one end of each strip set, and then sub-cut each of your strip sets into four 2.5″ X 4.5″ rectangles:

QuatrefoilTutorial.SquareEnds0001 QuatrefoilTutorial.SubCuts0001

You should now have 8 two patch units, 4 of each colorway:


Match each 2-patch with its opposite colorway and layout in a 4-patch layout with the patterned squares diagonally opposite each other. If you have pressed correctly, you will now be able to nest the seams when you sew these together.



Join each pair, sewing right sides together. You will now have four 4-patch units which should measure 4.5″ square. Use a clear, square ruler to make sure your units are 4.5″ square (trim if necessary).


Constructing the Petal Units

Select your four 4.5″ squares of petal fabric, and your eight 2.5″ squares of background fabric. Draw a diagonal line on the backs of each of the background fabric squares and then place one background square on top of each of the 4.5″ squares of petal fabric (in one corner, edges lined up), right sides together. You will then sew just a smidge to the right of the drawn line.


Trim off the corner after stitching (1/4″ from the stitch line), and then open the block and press



Place another 2.5″ square of background fabric on an adjacent side of the petal fabric (right sides together) and again stitch just to the right of the diagonal line, trim the corner, and press open.

QuatrefoilTutorial.PetalConstruction40001 QuatrefoilTutorial.PetalConstruction50001 QuatrefoilTutorial.PetalConstruction60001

You will now have four petal blocks, each measuring 4.5″ square – measure and trim if needed.


Layout your block in rows (as below), with the center square in the middle surrounded by your petal blocks, and the 4-patch blocks in each corner.

NOTE: Each 4-patch block has two colorways. The same colorway should occur in each outer corner. It does not matter how you position your 4-patches, as long as each is positioned the same. In my example, I have chosen to make the colorway which matches the center be the inside corner squares of the block. But, you could just as easily flip these around so that the inside square matches the petals which would give  the flower a more monochromatic look.


You will next join the blocks in each row together, left to right. And then join each row together, top to bottom, to complete the block.

A Note about Joining the Petal Blocks to the 4-Patch Blocks

This can be a little tricky if you have never done it before. But there is a trick to getting the seams to match.  Lay a 4-patch block on top of a petal block (right sides together). Insert a pin at the seam line (where the background fabric and a patterned piece come together on the 4-patch block) a 1/4″ from the stitch edge and straight down so that it intersects the diagonal seam of the petal block:



This is the correct placement for the seams to be joined. Pin the blocks together in this position and stitch them together and your seams should match when opened up.

When all the rows are joined, your block should look like this:


Have fun!!!!

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Is This Tomorrow – Book Review

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IsThisTomorrowShe watched Jimmy sprint out of her house. He tore out across her lawn, crossed the street, and veered to the left toward his home, two houses down, a yellow ranch house with white shutters. When he got to the door, he turned and waved with both hands, grinning. Later, that’s what she told the police. How happy he was. How he smiled. - from Is This Tomorrow -

Ava Lark and her twelve-year-old son, Lewis, are living in a Boston suburb in 1956. Ava is divorced and works hard to provide for Lewis whose father is no longer in the picture. She tries to make friends in her small neighborhood, but the fact that she is Jewish and unmarried isolates her. Jimmy and Rose are the kids next door and they and Lewis have formed a solid friendship. But one afternoon, Jimmy goes missing and suddenly Ava and Lewis fall under suspicion. Despite Lewis and Rose’s strong bond, when Rose and her mother move out of state, the two close friends lose contact with each other.

Years later, Ava still lives in her little neighborhood, Lewis has moved to the midwest where he is working as a nurse’s aid, and Rose has created a new life for herself as a teacher in Michigan. The mystery of Jimmy’s disappearance has touched them all. When something happens that reunites Rose and Lewis, the trauma of that dark day is reignited and forces both young adults to answer some hard questions: What happens when someone you love disappears? Are some mysteries better left unsolved? Should we go back to our pasts to find healing for the future?

Is This Tomorrow is a novel about love and loss. And it is about navigating the rough waters of adolescence and growing up after a heartbreaking tragedy. Caroline Leavitt creates memorable, empathetic characters and sets them down in mid-century America just outside an iconic city.

Ava is a woman who grew up in an era of stay at home mothers and the pressure of being the perfect wife. She is forced to evolve and change when her marriage fails and must rely on her courage to care for her young son and make her way in a society which is largely judgmental about her ethnicity. The kids in the story – Rose, Jimmy and Lewis – represent the innocence of kids growing up in a time when neighborhoods felt safe.

The cataclysmic event of a missing child is the conflict which blows apart relationships and challenges each character’s view of the world.

Leavitt is skilled at creating a novel filled with tension, but also allows the characters to drive the plot. Is This Tomorrow is a haunting tale of literary suspense with a bit of a surprise ending that will break the reader’s heart.

Readers who love family centered stories with well developed characters will enjoy this book.



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Pillow Pop Round-Up: February

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BlogButtonValerie from Quilt Cafe and I are hosting a really fun sew along over on Threadbias. We’re making pillows from the fabulous book Pillow Pop all year long.

To learn more about the group, visit this post.

We currently have 48 members in the Pillow Pop group and would love to have you join us. If you’re not already a member at Threadbias, why not join – it is free, and it is a great community of sewists.

We chose Chevrons (easy) and X’s and O’s (challenging) as the pillows for February…and here are the wonderful finishes with links back to each sewist’s project page. I hope you will click through to see the entire projects as the backs and quilting on each pillow are also fabulous.

Chevrons: A modern interpretation of a classic pattern, the Chevrons pillow relies on the judicious use of “value” (lights and darks) to give it its “pop”

 Chevron.ReaderOwl.Sunshine Chevron.ReaderOwl.Snowman

Karen made two of these great pillows: one with a bright yellow pop of color, the other with a neutral palette and some snowmen


Marsha used some great neutrals and text fabric and gave her pillow a splash of blue


Gardencrafter picked lovely blue and violet fabrics to coordinate with last month’s Metro pillow.

Chevron.Kathie Chevron.Skynme

Kathie went bold with solids of white and teal, while Erica used a bit of gold to surprise us.


Jo used Basic Grey’s PB&J line to create a warm and inviting pillow

Chevron.Mary.GardenPath Chevron.Caribousmom

Mary evoked a garden with her lovely pillow, while my pillow used a variety of grays and taupes with a splash of yellow to give it a modern flare.


Taryn chose beautiful fabrics by French General for Moda to create a timeless version of this pillow.

 Chevron.CapetownGirl Chevron.ArloDean

Capetown Girl gave us a fab British interpretation, and Belinda’s pillow dazzles with a metallic shimmer

X’s and O’s: A detailed pillow with applique and covered buttons which showcases special fabrics


Margaret put a great scrappy spin on her pillow using fabrics from V&Co. and lots of great low volume prints


My pillow captures the feel of a garden, but uses a low volume yellow to soften the bold colors


Cathie’s version of this pillow uses soft blues and taupes for an elegant feel.

 Come back next month to see the next wonderful round of pillows from our group!

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A Little Project…

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I made this little mini quilt (table topper) using a pattern by Sherri McConnell. Sherri is celebrating the little things this year, and every month she posts a new project on her blog (if you subscribe to her blog, you will have the opportunity to get these patterns for free for a very short period of time, and then they are for sale in her shop on Craftsy).

I love these little flower blocks. I decided to use a mini-charm pack of Savonnerie by American Jane (Sandy Klopp) for Moda. Despite the size of this quilt (17″ X 17″)…or maybe because of its tiny size, this quilt took me longer to make than I thought it would. I took my time to be precise in cutting and stitching and in the end, everything matched up! Yay!

I bound this with some navy fabric from the Glimma collection by Lotta Jansdotter, and used some gold, checked fabric for the back (not sure where I got that).

I quilted straight lines on the diagonal in both directions and was really pleased with the pattern that developed (you can see it best on the back).

You could easily hang this one, but I’m planning to use it on my bedside table as a nice splash of color!


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Aquatic Life Pillow

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I made this pillow as part of the Pillow Pop Sew Along (why not join us?). This is a super easy pillow to make and I love the colors of aqua and orange together. It finishes at 18″ X 18″.

I used only scraps to piece the front (with the exception of the border) and had a lot of fun choosing value to help move your eye around the design. And I just could not resist that little gnome as a surprise.


I used orange thread to quilt narrow straight lines across the plus sign and carrying the design into the borders.

I should mention that the borders are a wonderful (relatively new) solid by by Alissa Haight Carlton called Modern Solids (the color I chose is Metal) which actually has a bit of a blue sheen to it.


For the back I cut into some silky organic fabric by Cloud 9 Fabrics (Across the Pond). I used a small piece of orange fabric to give it a little pop on the back. Because of feeling a little stretched for time, I decided to forgo the hidden zipper back that I usually do and instead did an envelope back.

This fun little pillow has found a great spot on my bed so I can enjoy it every day!

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Burial Rites – Book Review

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Burial RitesThey said I must die. They said that I stole the breath from men, and now they must steal mine. – from Burial Rites -

Natan Ketilsson and Petur Jonsson were murdered in Iceland in 1828. Within a short period of time, three people were tried and convicted of the murders – two women (Agnes Magnusdottir and Sigridur Gudmundsdottir) and one man (Fridrik Sigurdsson). All three were condemned to die by beheading. Hannah Kent’s debut novel, Burial Rites, is the fictional story of Agnes immediately after her conviction and in the subsequent months leading up to her execution.

Kent supports her novel with real documents including letters from the District Commissioner, Bjorn Blondal, as well as poems written by the famous Poet-Rosa (who had two children by the murdered Natan although she was married to another man), and public notices. The use of these documents help establish the tone and historical significance of the story. The characters who people the novel are actual historical characters, including a priest who is sent to counsel Agnes before her death.

The novel opens immediately after the crime while Agnes is imprisoned in horrible conditions at Stora-Borg. Mysteriously, the District Commissioner contacts a local farmer and demands that he take Agnes in to his home to live until her execution. The family is understandably discontent about this prospect, but when Agnes arrives she is not the vicious predator they have expected. Before long, Agnes develops relationships with Margret (the farmer’s wife) and her two daughters Steina and Lauga, and facts about the murder come under question as Agnes gradually reveals her story about what happened.

Burial Rites is a haunting portrayal of a woman who has been disenfranchised for her entire life having been raised by various families after her mother abandoned her. Agnes’s work as a servant leaves her with no real rights. She is dependent on the kindness of others, and is powerless in the face of a paternalistic and class-driven society.

Kent writes beautifully with regard to place – setting the reader firmly in the cold and unforgiving land of Iceland in the middle of the nineteenth century.

The book is not without its faults. At times the story drags a bit and Kent seems to lose her focus by moving between narrators. I was most captivated by the voice of Agnes, who at first appears not only guilty, but cold and distant. Kent does an admirable job of developing Agnes’s character, but falls just short of making her fully empathetic through much of the novel.

Despite these minor criticisms, I did enjoy the book and felt it captured the plight of poor woman living during this time in history. In writing Burial Rites, Kent has given a voice to a woman who found herself facing the death penalty for a crime she may or may not have committed.

In October 2013, it was announced that Jennifer Lawrence is expected to play Agnes Magnúsdóttir in the film of Burial Rites  based on the novel. There is no information yet regarding its release date.

Readers who enjoy well written historical fiction and those who have an interest in women’s rights, will find Burial Rites a fascinating read.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review on my blog.

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