Monthly Archives: October 2010

Bloggers Quilt Festival

Welcome to Amy’s annual Quilt Festival where bloggers are encouraged to share the quilts they have made. Here is how to play:

Write a new post (old posts will be deleted).  Share one quilt, and it’s story.  Why you made it, why it is special to you, what you learned about quilting/yourself while making it.  The quilt doesn’t have to be brand new, never seen before on your blog – show what you like!  Also, please respect Amy’s efforts and the efforts of the event sponsors, and do not offer giveaways in your Quilt Festival post.

In your post, link back to the festival.  You can do this with a button, just copy and paste the code into your post, if  all else fails.

Share a permalink to your post, in the linky, then leave Amy a comment to be entered in a fantastic giveaway.

Finally, visit all the other quilters sharing their quilts and be inspired!

I’ve made quite a few quilts over the last year and half, but I decided to feature one which is especially near and dear to my heart right now.

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know I have spent the last two months in New Hampshire with my sister Paula who recently underwent surgery for metastatic colon cancer. She has started her chemotherapy, and although that is a rough road, she is handling it very, very well. I left her house on Tuesday to begin driving back to California with Kip and Raven…and it was a hard good-bye! So I’m honoring her today by showing you the quilt I made for her.

I used Kaffe Fassett fabrics for this 56″ X 56″ lap quilt, and chose a traditional pinwheel design. Each block is framed in batik fabrics, and then sashed with a cream solid. I quilted around each block and then quilted a big X through the middle of each pinwheel.

The backing is a big piece of one of Kaffe’s fabrics which is bright and happy.

This quilt is special because of who I made it for, and why I made it. Because I live 3000 miles away from Paula, it has been hard for me to watch her battle against cancer and not be able to be by her side for every step of the way…stitching this quilt and giving it to her was like giving her a little piece of myself…and so on the roughest days she could look at it and know I was there in heart.

One of the things I learned while making this quilt was how fun it is to sew with bright, vibrant fabrics…and that when you are making something for someone else, every stitch is a joy!

Be sure to check out the other quilts entered into Amy’s quilt festival…they are all amazing!

Red Hook Road – Book Review

Maybe, Ruthie thought, now more than ever some kind of statement was required, a refusal to submit to loss, to let it work its mischief on them. And maybe it was that kind of stubbornness in the face of grief – about which Mr. Kimmelbrod knew more than anyone, the art of which, even more than music, he was virtuoso – that could, in the end, redeem them all. – from the ARC of Red Hook Road, page 292 –

Set on the coast of Maine, Red Hook Road follows the lives of its characters through four summers after a horrible tragedy. When Becca Copaken (a talented musician whose family summers in Maine) marries John Tetherly (a local boy whose heart lies in boat design and restoring an old wooden sailing vessel), two disparate families are joined. But only an hour after the wedding, both John and Becca lose their lives in a terrible accident, leaving behind parents, siblings, and a wise old grandfather to figure out how to move forward without them.

Ayelet Waldman captures the tension between the summer folks “from away” and the locals who populate the small fishing village of Red Hook, but more importantly, she exposes the raw wound of grief which does not discriminate between socioeconomic and class differences. Waldman’s writing is intimate and observant. It would be easy with a book about loss for an author to immerse the reader in sadness, and so I was delighted that Waldman chose to show how time heals grief, that there is still room for joy in the midst of sorrow, and strength is ultimately found in our connection to others.

My favorite character in this book is Ruthie – Becca’s younger sister – who struggles to find her identity in the shadow of her sister’s death. But, all the characters ring true…Mr. Kimmelbrod, the taciturn grandfather whose serious nature belies a sensitive heart; Jane Tetherly, John’s matter-of-fact mother who hides her grief with anger; Iris Copaken, Becca’s mother whose obsessive organization and need for control nearly destroys her marriage; Daniel Copaken, Becca’s father who finds himself longing for his younger days as a boxer in order to escape the sadness of his daughter’s death; Matt, John’s brother, compelled to restore the boat his brother left behind; and Samantha, a young Korean girl who finds her talent in playing the violin. The characters in this novel are rich, well developed and captivating. Their individual journeys to find meaning in their lives after John and Becca’s deaths were haunting and real.

I was surprised how much I liked this book – a book whose plot revolves around grief and loss, but somehow becomes more about living than about death. Waldman writes effortlessly, capturing place and character with ease. Readers who enjoy family sagas will undoubtedly like this novel.


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

Clicking on the link below will take you to Indiebound where you can find a link to purchase Red Hook Road from an Indie Bookstore. If you chose to purchase the book in this manner, I will earn a small commission based on the sale.

Shop Indie Bookstores

Sunday Salon – October 24, 2010

October 24, 2010

10:00 AM

Good morning, faithful readers. I missed you all last week – it was just one of those weekends when there was so much going on, I had no computer time to sit down and fashion a Salon post. My sister’s house was full of nieces (and a couple of their boyfriends), along with my other sister from Rhode Island (so I got to give her the quilt I made her). We had a wonderful weekend together, including attending the 20th anniversary celebration of the Keene Pumpkin Festival (which inspired my post over at Weekly Geeks).

Kip arrived on that Friday, along with Raven, and it was so great to see him after having spent six weeks apart! This past week Kip and I (and Raven) headed over to my parents’ home for a visit and to pick up a furniture and other “stuff” which has been cluttering up their basement (we’re heading back to California on the 26th with a trailer loaded up with everything).

We also got some time to visit with my 97 year old Nana – she enjoyed seeing Raven (she is a big dog lover) and she kept me on my toes during two games of Scrabble.

So, you can see why my blog has been rather quiet these days.  My sister, Paula is doing well (my thanks to all of you who have been praying and keeping her in your thoughts over these last few weeks). She has started her chemotherapy and although it is a rough road, she is managing it as well as can be expected.

So now that I’ve updated you on why I have been more silent than usual here, let’s talk books! Since my last Salon post I have only completed and reviewed ONE book…but it was a great one. Stranger Here Below by Joyce Hinnefeld was probably my most anticipated read from the BEA – and it did not disappoint. I love Hinnefeld’s writing and her gift of story is amazing. This novel centers around three generations of Southern women living in the Appalachians. If you haven’t already picked up a copy, I highly recommend you do!

My current read is one I had in my stacks for July, but am just now getting to. Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman is set on the coast of Maine (one of my favorite spots in the world) and covers four summers in the lives of two families. The fact that it is taking me days and days to finish this book should not discourage you from reading it – it is a good book and if I could just carve out a little more time in my schedule, I would breeze through it. I hope to get it finished in the next couple of days and have my review up by Tuesday before Kip and I hit the road and head west.

I am hopelessly behind in my reading right now – I have a stack of the most amazing books to read and I will do my best to read and review them…BUT, you can also expect some travel updates here on my blog over the next two weeks.

What are YOU doing today? Whatever it is, I hope it involves a great book!

Bumble Bee Lap Quilt

Here is my latest quilt which I made for my sister Donna. She recently remodeled an upstairs bedroom into a black, yellow and white craft room…and I thought these colors would be perfect for that room. It is a simple four-square pattern using Dab of Jazz (yellow and black colorways) by Gail Fountain (Maywood Studio).

The quilt is 43″ X 53″ in size and I free-motion quilted it with a large, free-form daisy in the center of each block, and a loopy pattern in the border which looks like the flight of a bumblebee. I don’t have a photo of the bottom right corner…but I also quilted a bumblebee in that corner!

I pieced the back and placed a smaller four square block in the center. The label is fussy cut to show one of the cute flowers from the black fabric.

The binding is also pieced using scraps of left over yellow fabric.

Donna came up this past weekend to New Hampshire to visit, so I was able to give her the quilt in person…and she loved it!

**All Photos are “clickable” to enjoy a larger view

Stranger Here Below – Book Review

Her daddy told her, the night before she left, never to slip. He needn’t have said anything; by then she was already expert at it. Live where they live, eat where they eat, learn where they learn – but keep your eyes down. Do it all well, but not so well they think you’re uppity. Let them know you aren’t a threat. – from the ARC of Stranger Here Below, page 49 –

Mary Elizabeth Cox, a young black woman, is gifted academically and musically. Her fingers float over the piano keys and bring forth amazing classical music. When she arrives at Kentucky’s Berea College in 1961 she soon discovers that her talent with music will bring her unwanted attention from the white professors and their wives, people who decide she is an exception to the common black student.

They reported on her perfect grade-point average before she began, every time. She was exceptional! A remarkable exception! Proof of something, surely of the rightness of the school’s mission. Virginal and pure to boot. Studious. Accomplished on the piano, on which she played not race music, but the classics. – from the ARC of Stranger Here Below, page 125 –

Mary Elizabeth’s college roommate is the outspoken and open-minded Amazing Grace Jansen (“Maze”) from Appalachia. Maze is a talented weaver whose rich tapestries reflect her own unique personality. Although they differ in temperament and skin color, the two young women share a deeper connection. Both are daughters of damaged women – Maze’s mother Vista fights a crippling loneliness, and Mary Elizabeth’s mother Sarah carries the scars of a childhood trauma which have forever disabled her. Both Maze and Mary Elizabeth are drawn to Sister Georgia who is the last remaining member of a small Shaker community, and whose history includes a short tenure as a professor at Berea College.

The name she signed on the Covenant was her new Shaker name, chosen, she said to remind her, always, of her place there at Pleasant Hill. It was the name of a renegade state and the home of an unnamed soldier, a child lost in the senseless battles of men, resting forever on the ground of these peaceful, God-fearing people. She would honor him and, at the same time, always remember her wayfaring status. Like him, she was a lost child, now home: Sister Georgia. – from the ARC of Stranger Here Below, page 170 –

Stranger Here Below is the story of these women – three generations growing up in the South from the late nineteenth century through the turbulent Vietnam years of the late sixties. Joyce Hinnefeld tells their inter-linked stories in a nonlinear fashion, moving back and forth through time and from the multiple points of view of each character. Music plays a large role in the novel and serves as a backdrop to the each of the characters’ lives: the hand-clapping, foot stomping dance of Sister Georgia’s worship; the complex and challenging notes of Mary Elizabeth’s classic compositions; and the country simplicity of Maze’s hymns. As the threads of the novel come together, there is a rhythm and balance to the narrative which results in a rich, contemplative story of human connectedness.

Hinnefeld explores the unique beauty of women’s friendships against the larger themes of race relations in the South and women’s rights. Her prose is lush and lyrical; her characters tightly drawn and sensitively portrayed. As the novel unfurled, I was drawn into the lives of these extraordinary women more and more – finding myself thinking of them even when I was not reading. Stranger Here Below is a sad novel, but one that is also filled with hope and renewal. It is a reflective and thoughtful book which demands quiet attention. Readers who are looking for a exquistitely written, literary novel with an exceptional cast of characters will not want to miss this one.

Highly recommended.

Read other reviews:

Have YOU reviewed this book? Please leave me a link to your review and I’ll add it to the list above.

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

Clicking on the link below will take you to Indiebound where you can find a link to purchase Stranger Here Below from an Indie Bookstore. If you chose to purchase the book in this manner, I will earn a small commission based on the sale.

Shop Indie Bookstores

Adopt-A-Dog Month Giveaway Winner

Thank you to those who stopped by to enter this five book giveaway courtesy of Hachette!

As promised, I used Random. org to select five commenters…then I picked one lucky winner whose comment touched my heart the most. Here were the five commenters selected randomly:

You all told me wonderful animal stories (many which made me cry!) and the choice was REALLY difficult…but ultimately I related the most to Jennifer’s comment where she wrote:

Well, to start off, I must admit that we just lost our beloved dog Maggie, so this comment is really difficult to write. Maggie came to us when I was desperately lonely, trying to learn to be an adult, and before a real job, kid, and hobbies. I had just graduated from college, and I had moved back home. I kept telling my mom I wanted a dog, but she was hesitant to add yet another one to her home. One day I accompanied her to the dog store to get treats and supplies for all her beautiful mutts when Maggie walked by. I was drawn to her immediately-this was my kind of dog. A German Shepard mix, she was about 45 pounds and ready to run. After a long conversation with the rescue group I agreed to adopt her.

Maggie had a lot of issues. She came to us when she was a year and a half, and she was taken from her previous home because of excessive abuse. She frequently had accidents and the fourth of July was a terrible time for her. But somehow, she was wonderful! So full of life, so full of caring…it was my Maggie who sat with me when we learned Matt had cancer. Maggie sat with me when our fertility problems hit home. Maggie sat with me when our first adoption fell through. Maggie helped us through it all.

I can’t help thinking that Maggie left us now, only after she knew that we had finally grown up and not that we could even think about handling things without her. I am beyond thankful that we still have another dog, but I know that I will miss my Maggie for the rest of my life.

Congratulations, Jennifer, you’ve won the package of five books which include:

I’m sending you a private email to get your mailing information!

Mailbox Monday – October 11, 2010

Welcome to Mailbox Monday – hosted this month by Avis at She Reads and Reads.

Each week readers share the contents of their mailboxes and then link up in one place.

This week I only got one book – but it looks like a good one!

Other Press sent me a copy of The Witness House by Christiane Kohl (translated from the German by Anthea Bell). Due for release tomorrow, this non fiction book looks at the autumn of 1945 at the start of the Nuremberg trials, in which high ranking representatives of the Nazi government were called to account for their war crimes. Witnesses for the prosecution and the defense were housed together in a villa on the outskirts of town. In this so-called Witness House, perpetrators and victims confronted each other in a microcosm that reflected the events of the high court. In her book, Christiane Kohl focuses on the guilty, the sympathizers, the undecided, and those who always manage to make themselves fit in; and in so doing, reveals the social structures that allowed a cruel and unjust regime to flourish. Read an excerpt.

Christiane Kohl has worked as a correspondent to the Cologne Express, a press officer for the Environment Ministry in Hessen, and an editor with Der Spiegel. She worked for several years in Rome for Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung and is currently the newspaper’s correspondent for eastern Germany. Her book, Der Jude und Das Mädchen (2002), was the basis of Joseph Vilsmaier’s feature film Leo and Claire. She lives in Dresden.

Don’t be surprised if you don’t see a Mailbox Monday post for several weeks now – Kip is arriving in New Hampshire at the end of this week, and then we’ll be eventually heading back west again which means books that arrive in California won’t be cataloged until we get home!

What great books arrived at YOUR home this week?

Sunday Salon – October 10, 2010

October 10, 2010

9:00 AM

Good morning and welcome to this week’s edition of Sunday Salon. It is a bright, clear and cold October morning here in New England…the perfect day for me to bake an apple pie and make some roasted butternut squash soup to eat with a crusty loaf of good bread. Yum!

I have enjoyed a week of great reading…I love when that happens! On Monday, I posted my review of Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver which I talked about last Sunday. Great book – loved it!

I then found myself thoroughly enjoying the gorgeously written memoir Hiroshima in the Morning by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto (read my review). Rizzuto is an amazing writer…and her memoir is so brave that I found myself completely engrossed in the book. If you haven’t picked up a copy, I highly recommend you do. Although Rizzuto includes some of the experiences of survivors of the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, the book becomes more about the personal journey of the author. I liked that – it was unexpected and surprisingly moving in the context of the larger historical record.

This morning I finished Free to a Good Home by Eve Marie Mont (read my review) which turned out to be a light, enjoyable, and quick read for me. It seemed to fit perfectly in a week where I am giving away five books to celebrate Adopt-A-Dog month! Which reminds me – if you want to enter that giveaway, the time is NOW. The contest closes at 5:00 pm EST today. Visit this link to enter…I’ll be picking one winner later tonight.

I can’t wait to pick up my next book: Stranger Here Below by Joyce Hinnefeld. I hope to zoom right through this novel and have a review up in the early part of the week.

What are you doing this fine autumn day? Whatever it is, I hope it involves at least one great book! Oh, and although I was unable to participate yesterday in the 24 Hour Read-A-Thon, I hope that for those of you who DID participate, that you had a great event and managed to make a dent in the ever increasing stack of to-be-reads!!

Free to a Good Home – Book Review

It may not be earth-shattering, but it’s something. And I think to myself, if dogs can be rehabilitated, can learn to love and trust again, maybe we can, too. – from Free to a Good Home, page 288 –

Noelle Ryan finds herself mourning the loss of her husband who leaves her for another man, and aching for the child she is unable to conceive. She lavishes love on her huge, Great Dane Zeke, and throws herself into her work as a veterinary technician at a Rhode Island animal shelter – raising funds for the shelter’s expansion and finding homes for abandoned animals. When her ex-husband, Jay, manipulates her into caring for his mother Margaret who has been recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, Noelle wonders how she will manage this new responsibility – especially since Margaret has never tried to contain her dislike of Noelle. But what begins as a year of sadness, evolves into a year of healing…and the discovery that love is still possible if you just keep moving forward.

Eve Marie Mont’s debut novel explores infertility, homosexuality, animal rescue, disability, women’s friendships, and the ambivalent nature of familial love. Structured to take the reader through the twelve months of one year, the story revolves around Noelle’s conflicted feelings toward her ex-husband, and her torturous journey from heartbreak to recovery. Noelle is a character who typifies many women: the nurturer who is unable to say “no” when someone needs her, the dreamer who longs for children and the perfect home, the betrayed who is afraid to become vulnerable again. There were moments when I found myself wanting to reach into the pages of the book and shake her. Luckily, Mont has a wry sense of humor which she puts to good use in the novel, and she rescues Noelle from becoming the stereotypical female.

Free to a Good Home is an enjoyable read. Many of the issues central to the book are serious, yet Mont keeps things fairly light. My favorite character was Margaret, Noelle’s ex-mother-in-law, whose sharp tongue and sharper wit made me like her despite her difficult personality. I found the sections dealing with Margaret’s physical decline believable and heart-felt. I also liked the push-and-pull relationship which develops between Noelle and Margaret.

Despite the minor progress we’ve made in the past few months, I have to keep reminding myself that our relationship is like that of two former rival nations that have entered a truce for the purposes of their mutual benefit: we don’t really trust each other; we try to meet somewhere in the middle but usually end up miles apart. – from Free to a Good Home, page 104 –

Free to a Good Home will appeal to readers who enjoy women’s fiction and light, fun books; as well as for those readers who love animals (specifically dogs).

Other blog reviews:

If you have reviewed this book, please leave me a link to your review in the comments and I’ll add it to the list.

FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me by the publisher for review on my blog.

Clicking on the link below will take you to Indiebound where you can find a link to purchase Free to a Good Home from an Indie Bookstore. If you chose to purchase the book in this manner, I will earn a small commission based on the sale.

Shop Indie Bookstores

Hiroshima in the Morning – Book Review

In Brooklyn, in 2001, I was making a list. I knew I was leaving, but if I had known how thoroughly my life would shatter over the next six months, into gains just as astonishing as the losses; if I knew I was saying goodbye to the person I was that night, that decade, that lifetime, if I understood I was about to become someone new, too new, someone I was proud of, who I loved, but who was too different to fit here, in this particular, invisible narrative that I was sitting in but couldn’t feel, would I still have gotten on the airplane?

This is the question people will ask me. The question that curls, now, in the dark of the night.

How do any of us decide to leave the people we love? – from Hiroshima in the Morning, page 15 –

When the bomb drops, our lives must change: utterly, and forever. The only question is, will we look up or not? Will we recognize that moment when it happens, or only long after it has past? Will there be many moments – a procession, a spiral, a cloud – or only one, one we will live over and over again, until we can feel the world we knew slip out from under our feet and a new one come up to catch us, for good or bad, before we fall? – from Hiroshima in the Morning, page 286 –

In the Spring of 2001, author Rahna Reiko Rizzuto packed up her bags and moved to Japan on a six month research grant, leaving behind her husband Brian and her two young sons. At the time, her intent was to gather interviews and information for a new novel revolving around the 1945 US bombing of Hiroshima. What she did not know, is that her journey was to open doors to much deeper issues: her marriage, her role as mother, her memories of her own family…and ultimately her own vision of herself.

Early on, Rizzuto faced difficulties with the Japanese language and culture. It was hard to get interviews set up and when she did talk to the survivors of Hiroshima (the hibakusha) the stories felt rote and practiced. Something was missing. And then September 11, 2001 arrived, and everything changed.

How we tell our stories makes all the difference. They are where we store our tears, where the eventual healing lies. If “we” are talking, then we are safe in our group perspective; we do not have to own our experience alone, nor do we have to feel it. What September 11 gave to the hibakusha, and what they gave in turn to me, is a way to re-enter memory. As scary, and painful, as it is to claim our pronouns, “we” cannot inhabit our own lives until “I” begins to speak. – from Hiroshima in the Morning, page 239 –

Hiroshima in the Morning is a stunning, deeply felt, and brave memoir. Rizzuto was drawn to Hiroshima from a very personal place – her aunt Molly lived in Hiroshima shortly after the bomb dropped, working for a government organization whose public goal was to assist the survivors, but whose actual role was to research the effects of the atomic bomb; and members of Rizzuto’s family had been interned in the United States as part of the knee-jerk reaction to imprison U.S. citizens who were of Japanese descent. Rizzuto thought that what she was seeking was a question of how war impacts individuals; about how Japanese-Americans had no home after the bomb – they were not welcome in the United States, and those who returned to Japan quickly discovered they were not considered Japanese either.

I want to know what war is. What happens? Not who fights, or who dies, or how does the amputated family rise from the ashes, but: What is the subtle effect of fear, uncertainty, aggression, starvation? How do the things we can see and name, even when we think we’ve survived them, change the people who we are? – from Hiroshima in the Morning, page 77 –

It is the shadows I am thinking of. The past should cast a shadow on who we are now. If there is a puzzle, then here’s another piece of it: my mother, who forgot that she was interned long before she began truly forgetting; my family, who never mentioned it, who hid the photographs, for whom to heal was to forget. I am the descendant of a group of people who built a wall down the center of their lives, between the internment and their future, and thrived on the disconnect. – from Hiroshima in the Morning, page 109 –

What makes Hiroshima in the Morning special is not the questions which Rizzuto first set out to answer, but the very personal growth and discovery that becomes the central theme of the book. Woven through the narrative are Rizzuto’s memories of her mother – a woman who was without question a wonderful mother, and who now was losing her memories to dementia. As Rizzuto struggles with her own role as mother, she begins to see her mother in a different way. The journey for Rizzuto becomes that of uncovering her own identity, separate from her role as mother.

How, in a life that always seemed defined by all she didn’t do, could my mother have also been a woman? And what kind? How can it be only now, at age thirty-seven, that I am learning that a mother is also a woman? A female adult, with her own name? – from Hiroshima in the Morning, page 190 –

By the time I had turned the last page of this elegant memoir, I had grown to respect the author…especially because of her brutal self-honesty and her courage to reveal things about herself which many people would not. Here was a mother who had left behind her three and five year old sons in order to pursue her dreams, who must have recognized she would be judged by others for that choice. Yet, Rizzuto bravely puts forth her experience, showing us that perhaps there are multiple definitions of what it means to be a mother…that identity is more than a role which we play, but instead is something that evolves and changes and is made up of many aspects: our heritage, our common experience, the choices we make, our view of the world.

Rizzuto’s prose is breathtaking, poetic, and insightful. I loved this book on so many levels, but especially for its wisdom. What Rizzuto does in Hiroshima in the Morning is to place the individual within the context of the community, to show that we are all connected through our stories and experiences, and that self-discovery is to be found in our relationships with others as well as through our unique view of the world.

Hiroshima in the Morning is a book which I highly recommend. Women, especially, will be drawn to Rizzuto’s story. This is a story which transcends the average memoir, a story which is both personal and universal.

Other reviews of the book:

Have YOU reviewed this book? Please leave me a link to your review in the comments and I’ll add it to the list above.

FTC Disclosure: This book was provided to me through the publisher for review on my blog.

Clicking on the link below will take you to Indiebound where you can find a link to purchase Hiroshima in the Morning from an Indie Bookstore. If you chose to purchase the book in this manner, I will earn a small commission based on the sale.

Shop Indie Bookstores