Monthly Archives: July 2012

“Explored” Quilts on Flickr

1. CompanionStarFriendship.Front, 2. Swoon.Front, 3. Swoon.Front, 4. RockinRobin.Front, 5. SummerSampler.Front, 6. Collaborative Quilt Front, 7. SummerSamplerQAL.TopSashed0001, 8. SummerSamplerQAL.FinishedBlocks10001,

9. P2ModernQAL-Front, 10. FriendshipStarQuilt.Front, 11. ChocLollipop.Zigzag.FRONT

These are my quilts which were “explored” on Flickr (click on the photo above to see a larger view…or click on the itemized links to see each quilt individually). What does “explored” mean? It means your photo was  picked that day to go onto pages of “interesting” photos.  Photos that are explored tend to be those that have had an initial rush of interest when they’re first posted.

Cool, right?

Mailbox Monday – July 30, 2012

Welcome to this week’s Mailbox Monday which is hosted this month at Mrs. Q Book Addict.

Go to the dedicated blog for the meme to see the complete tour schedule in the right sidebar.

Here is what showed up at my house this week:

For a TLC Book Tour next month, Harper Perennial sent me a copy of The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar (July 31, 2012). I’ve read The Space Between Us which I loved, and so I am eager to read this newest novel from Umrigar. The World We Found centers around four university students in who meet in the late 1970s in Bombay. “Spirited and unconventional, they challenged authority and fought for a better world. But over the past thirty years, the quartet has drifted apart, the day-to-day demands of work and family tempering the revolutionary fervor they once shared.” When one woman, Armaiti, becomes seriously ill…the four will reunite, “offering an unforgettable portrait of modern India while it explores the enduring bonds of friendship and the power of love to change lives.

Thrity Umrigar is the author of three other novels—The Space Between UsIf Today Be Sweet, and Bombay Time—and the memoir First Darling of the Morning. A journalist for 17 years, she is the winner of the Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University and a 2006 finalist for the PEN/Beyond Margins Award. An associate professor of English at Case Western Reserve University, Umrigar lives in Cleveland. Learn more about Umrigar and her work by visiting the author’s website.

The Mirrored World by Debra Dean arrived from Harper (August 2012). Debra Dean caught my attention with her stunning and beautifully written debut novel The Madonnas of Leningrad (read my review). In her sophomore effort, Dean transports readers to 18th century Russia (St. Petersburg) during the reign of Catherine the Great. Here she reconstructs and re-imagines the life of St. Xenia, one of Russia’s most revered and mysterious holy figures.

This is an exploration of the blessings of loyal friendship, the limits of reason, and the true costs of loving deeply.

Debra Dean’s bestselling debut novel, The Madonnas of Leningrad was a New York Times Editors’ Choice, a #1 Booksense Pick, a Booklist Top Ten Novel, and an American Library Association Notable Book of the Year. It has been published in twenty languages. Her collection of short stories, Confessions of a Falling Woman, won the Paterson Fiction Prize and a Florida Book Award. A native of Seattle, she lives in Miami and teaches at Florida International University. Learn more about Dean and her work by visiting the author’s website.

Did any wonderful books arrive at YOUR home this week?

Sunday Salon – July 29, 2012

July 29, 2012

Good morning! It is hard to believe we are closing in on August. My reading for July practically ground to a halt…but the books I did read were really good.

This past week I finished two books:

The Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg (which was the featured book this month on the Chunkster Challenge blog) is a real doorstopper at well over 600 pages (read my review). It took me most of the month to finish this book – not because it isn’t beautifully written, but because it is so heartbreaking. I found myself having to take long breaks from the narrative because of the emotionally draining aspect of the book. This novel won the August Prize and it is easy to see why. The volume of research that went into the writing of the book is vast. Readers who love historical fiction and want to gain a better understanding of what happened in the Lodz ghetto during WWII will not want to miss this one.

I read The Personal History of Rachel DuPree by Ann Weisgarber for Orange July (a special event which parallels the Orange Prize Project). This book has a quiet, understated feel to it, but I ended up really appreciating the story (read my review). I enjoyed gaining a unique perspective into pioneer history through the eyes of a courageous black woman in the beginning of the twentieth century. If you enjoy historical fiction, I can recommend this book.

I think I will be reading Gold by Chris Cleave next – it looks like a good book and one I hope I can finish before the end of the month.

I continue to find myself mostly overwhelmed with keeping up on my Google Reader as well as answering comments on my blog. I’ll be trying something new beginning this week – instead of commenting in the comment section of my blog, I’ll be responding with an email to anyone who leaves a comment. I hope this will help me to keep up and continue the conversation. Without going into too much detail, I’ve been dealing with some pretty serious health issues within my family…and because of that I’ll be heading to New Hampshire mid-August for a ten day visit. I expect that my reading will continue to suffer.

That said, I find myself spending more time in my sewing room these days – finding comfort in creating and designing quilts and bags and tiny mug rugs. I have been discovering a vibrant sewing community on line and enjoying making connections with friends who share my love of fabric. This sinking into the creative aspect of my life feels right…so if you follow my blog, you can expect to continue to see posts about my sewing which will be interspersed with book reviews, and book related posts.

I hope this summer day finds you enjoying a good book, or conversation with a friend, or exploring some undiscovered part of your creative side.

The Personal History of Rachel DuPree – Book Review

I wanted Isaac to say that I meant something to him, that he’d be proud to take me as his wife. Instead, I felt cheap. This wasn’t how I wanted it to be. I had sold myself for a hundred and sixty acres of land. But it didn’t have to stay that way. I’d work hard. I’d prove myself. Isaac wouldn’t be able to do without me. – from The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, page 57 –

It is the early part of the twentieth century and Rachel is a black woman working as a housekeeper in a Chicago boarding house when she meets Isaac DuPree. Isaac is a Buffalo Soldier fighting Indians in the West and he dreams of land ownership – something that is now possible through the Homestead Act (a Federal law which gave an applicant ownership of free farmland called a “homestead” – typically 160 acres of undeveloped federal land west of the Mississippi River). Rachel is instantly attracted to Isaac, but Isaac is not looking for a wife…until he realizes that marrying Rachel means he will have 320 acres instead of just 160. They strike a bargain that Rachel will turn over her land to Isaac and he will marry her for one year. Fourteen years later, the couple is still together living on the unforgiving plains of the South Dakota Badlands with their five children.

The Personal History of Rachel DuPree is written in the first person narrative of Rachel, a woman who had dreams of her own wooden home but now finds herself barely surviving a drought, and desperate for the contact of other women. Fearful for her children and at odds with her husband, Rachel begins to hatch a plan to escape the Badlands and return to Chicago.

Ann Weisgarber’s novel is the story of one woman, but it takes a broader look at the struggle of blacks to break free of inequality and become landowners. Weisgarber also touches on the plight of Native Americans during the early part of the twentieth century…and about the rigid racial stereotypes which were typical at that time.

Through vivid descriptions of life in a barren and harsh environment, Rachel Dupree lives and breathes in the pages of this novel. Rachel is symbolic of the many women who ventured from civilization into the wilds of the west, helping their husbands to settle the land and facing drought, starvation, accidents and even the dangers of childbirth with courage.

The writing in this novel is unsentimental, Rachel’s voice often matter-of-fact, yet it is surprisingly moving. I found myself deeply engrossed in this very American story of a strong woman’s quest for a better life for herself and her children. Readers who love Pioneer history, will be drawn to Weisgarber’s novel which was short-listed for the Orange Prize’s New Writers Award in 2009.


The Emperor of Lies – Book Review

When does a lie begin?

A lie, Rabbi Fajner would say, has no beginning. A lie runs downwards lie a rootlet, branching an infinite number of times. But if you trace the rootlets down, you never find a moment of inspiration and vision, only overwhelming desperation and despair.

A lie always begins with denial.

Something has happened – yet you do not want to admit that it has.

That is how a lie begins. – from The Emperor of Lies, page 25 –

The Lodz ghetto was established by the Nazis in 1939 and was home to over a quarter of a million Jews. Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski was its leader – a business man and the director of an orphanage who was chosen by the Nazis to rule the ghetto.  Rumkowski thought by establishing the ghetto as a productive center for the Nazis, he (and likewise the ghetto) would become indispensable to the regime.

Was his dictatorial rule really designed to save Jews? Or was Rumkowski motivated by greed and power in his collaboration with the Germans? This question has been debated by scholars and students of history. Rumkowski was surrounded by controversy. Although he attempted to make the ghetto a community, he also worked hand in hand with the Germans as they began to “resettle” the Jewish inhabitants in concentration camps where they were systematically murdered. Many survivors remember Rumkowski as a tyrant. However, many scholars have pointed out that the Lodz ghetto was the last ghetto in Eastern Europe to be liquidated and nearly 7000 Jews from that ghetto survived the war – although Rumkowski himself was murdered in Auschwitz. For me the question is: Does the end justify the means?

Steve Sem-Sanberg’s novel is a mesmerizing, albeit disturbing, look inside the Lodz ghetto and examines the life of its most controversial member. The book is a door-stopper at over 600 pages and introduces dozens of significant characters – many who are historical figures.The narrative focuses on several central characters as they struggle for survival in the ghetto.

Sem-Sandberg has done a vast amount of research for his novel and there were moments when the book felt more like nonfiction than fiction. Readers who are hoping for an answer as to whether or not Rumkowski was a villain or hero will be disappointed because the author does not really answer that question. Rather, he lays out the facts through fiction and allows the reader to come to her own conclusions.

This is not an enjoyable novel. Often the realities of life in the Lodz ghetto are horrifying, dark, depressing and overwhelmingly sad. The Emperor of Lies reminds the reader that the Holocaust is a very real part of our recent past. Despite the passage of years, it still feels acutely painful to re-live.

Steve Sem-Sanberg won the August Prize for The Emperor of Lies and it is easy to see why. The book is magnificent in its scope, painstakingly researched and an astonishing accomplishment. That said, readers should be warned that this is an emotionally difficult historical novel.

Highly recommended.

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

Bags of Love – A Charity Auction

*Photos in this post may be clicked on to enjoy a larger view.

A couple of months ago, my husband and I spent several wonderful days in Oregon. We traveled through Eugene and ended up visiting a lovely quilt shop called Piece By Piece Fabrics.

I ended up on their mailing list and so was alerted to a fantastic charity event which will benefit an organization called Bags of Love, Inc which helps children in crisis. This from their website:

Children are fragile when they are removed from their normal lives, especially if it is a case of domestic violence, sexual abuse, or the arrest of Mom or Dad or both. Custody of the child is undetermined and it creates an apprehensive situation that is truly scary for the children. The only mission of Bags of Love, Inc. is to provide our bags to the various community agencies that serve the needs of these children in those scary days between being taken from their own homes and being placed in more permanent foster care.

Piece by Piece Fabrics is calling for artists and crafters to donate handmade bags for auction or sale with the proceeds going to support the mission of Love of Bags, Inc. Sounds like an excellent cause, right? I emailed the shop and asked if it was acceptable for me to mail a bag for the event since I lived out of state…and the response was instant: YES!

The event is September 7th as part of First Friday Art Walk in downtown Eugene…but entries must be mailed by August 1st. So over the weekend I crafted another Tahiti Tote bag…this time using Michael Miller’s Giraffe Garden in Grey:

The front pocket and top accent is from the Fresh Paint collection by Michele D’Amore for Marcus Fabrics. And the front pocket trim and inside pockets uses the Freckles fabric by Free Spirit.

I lined this bag with the incredible grey Mingle fabric by Monaluna for Robert Kaufman. I thought it captured the idea of giraffes well!

I used the Tahiti Tote pattern by Pink Sand Beach Designs. The bag measures 15.5″ wide at the top X 11.5″ tall X 4″ deep and sports a double front pocket (one with zipper) and six fully lined inner pockets. I hope it will bring in some money to help more children in crisis!


Star Friendship Companion Quilt

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

It has taken me more than a year, but I finally completed this quilt which is a companion to the one I made for Laura. The basic star blocks are the same in both quilts, but the layout is a bit different. In this quilt, I turned the blocks on point and used large squares of the primary fabric to offset the star blocks. The borders on both quilts are the same scrappy construction although Laura’s quilt has a wider border than mine. The backs are also similar but slightly different. Here are the two quilts side by side First the fronts:

Now the backs:

This companion quilt is a large lap size: 54″ X 64″ using Denyse Schmidt’s amazing Hope Valley collection of fabrics. The white fabric is Kona white.

I free motion quilted this one making loopy, organic stars all over with some pebbling in the half square triangle edges and corners:

The binding is the same raspberry fabric as the back:

I also hand embroidered a label:

I have to say, this is one of my favorites to date. I love Denyse Schmidt’s vintage inspired fabrics against the crisp white…and there is something about blocks on point which makes my heart beat a little faster:

I am also really happy to finally finish this quilt which represents a friendship. I’ll be thinking of you Laura when I snuggle beneath this quilt with a good book in my hands!


This quilt counts toward the third quarter of the 2012 Finish Along (visit my pre-quarter post to see all the quilt projects I hope to finish this quarter).


Girls Sewing Day

*Click on any photo to enjoy a larger view

Today Conni, me, Cathie and Beth all got together at my house for a long awaited day of sewing, chit-chat, laughter and good food. We’re all at different stages of our quilting life which made it really fun to share ideas and tips, and work on our projects!

I decided to move things around and convert our great room into a sewing room for the day (and luckily I’m married to a very tolerant man who did not seem to mind one bit).

I opened up our dining room table and put the extra leaves in it so that we could all sit around one space and sew. I also wheeled my cutting table out into the room and opened it way up. The ironing board fit perfectly up against the island.

I pushed the couch and coffee table over by the computer and pulled out all my quilt magazines and books … but we were so busy sewing, we didn’t spend any time browsing!

Beth cutting fabric for her marvelous snap purse:

Conni stitching away on her first quilt …

Which she got completely pieced today!!

And Cathie with a little steam heat to help get those tiny four patches to lay flat:

And what is a party without some party favors? Three mug rugs to match personalities:

Would you like to see those a little more up close?

I worked on another bag – this one will be donated for a charity auction…and I’ll post more about that when I get it done.

Today was a fantastic day with friends…and I hope we’ll be able to do this again SOON!!!

A Birthday Modern Mug Rug

*All photos in this post may be clicked on to enjoy a larger image.

My sister, Paula, is celebrating her birthday this month and although I had already bought her a present, I decided to make her a little “mug rug” to enjoy as well.

Mug rugs are little mini quilts (usually between 6″ and 9″ in size) which can be used to rest one’s mug of coffee (or tea) on. Some people call these “snack mats” and, I suppose, you could also use them as a mini place-mat for a snack.

This mug rug was made using orange and turquoise scraps from my ever increasing scrap bin. I used a clean white background to set off the colors and quilted it with straight diagonal lines. The design is my own, but it is inspired by a couple of patterns in the Modern Quilting book by Jacquie Gering and Katie Pederson. It measures 7″ X 7″ which is perfect for a mug.

The back is a large scrap of Kaffe Fassett fabric that I love. And of course, I could not resist stitching a tiny label.

This was a fun project that took me less than two hours to complete start to finish. Happy Birthday, Paula!!!

Mailbox Monday – July 16, 2012

Welcome to this week’s Mailbox Monday which is hosted this month at Mrs. Q Book Addict.

Go to the dedicated blog for the meme to see the complete tour schedule in the right sidebar.

Here is what showed up at my house this week:

Random House sent me a finished copy of Chris Bohjalian’s latest novel: The Sandcastle Girls (July 17, 2012). I have loved some of Bohjalian’s previous work including Midwives and The Buffalo Soldier which still resonate with me, so when I was given the chance to review The Sandcastle Girls I could not turn it down. Moving between Aleppo, Syria, in 1915 and Bronxville, New York in 2012, the book is described as a “sweeping historical love story steeped in the author’s Armenian heritage.” As the first World War spreads across Europe, Elizabeth Endicott has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian genocide. There, she befriends Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. When Armen joins the British Army in Egypt, he and Elizabeth exchange letters. In present day New York, readers meet Laura Petrosian, a novelist with an Armenian heritage. Fate has Laura embarking on a journey back through her family’s history “that reveals love, loss—and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.

Chris Bohjalian is the critically acclaimed author of twelve novels. His novel, Midwives, was a number one New York Times bestseller and a selection of Oprah’s Book Club. His work has been translated into more than 25 languages and twice became movies (Midwives and Past the Bleachers). He lives in Vermont with his wife and daughter. Learn more about Bohjalian and his work by visiting the author’s website.

The wonderful Caitlin from Unbridled Books sent me an Advance Readers Edition of Love Slave by Jennifer Spiegel (September 2012). This debut novel is set in 1995 and features Sybil Weatherfield, an office temp. In her jobless hours she writes a confessional column for the alternative weekly, New York Shock. Along with her friends (a paperpusher for a human rights organization and the lead singer of a local rock band called Glass Half Empty), Sybil searches for  “something real and lasting.” Described as “richly funny and wincingly specific,” this novel promises to be a “bittersweet and ironic look at what it means to be enthralled by an idea—by even the most ragged possibility of love.

Jennifer Spiegel has an MA in Politics from New York University and an MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) from Arizona State. Also the author of the story collection The Freak Chronicles, She lives in Phoenix with her husband and two children. Love Slave is her debut novel. Learn more about Spiegel and her work by visiting the author’s website.

The folks from Tor/Forge sent me a finished copy of The Formula for Murder by Carol McCleary (July 17, 2012). This is the third book in the Nellie Bly mystery series. From the publisher: “History, mystery, murder, and mad science accompany plucky Victorian newspaper reporter Nellie Bly when she travels to the haunted moors of England to investigate the mysterious death of another journalist.” During Nellie’s search for the truth she travels “from foggy Londontown to the ancient Roman ruins at Bath and the eerie landscape of Dartmoor,” all while being stalked by a killer.

Carol McCleary was born in Seoul, South Korea, and lived in Hong Kong, Japan, and the Philippines. She now lives on Cape Cod in an antique house that is haunted by ghosts. McCleary is the author of The Alchemy of Murder and The Illusion of Murder. Learn more about McCleary and her work by visiting the author’s website.

I also received two books and a book bag  from William Morrow in a giveaway for The Armchair BEA:

The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman (August 28, 2012) centers around midwife Patience Murphy. Working in Appalachia during the Depression of the 1930s,  Patience takes the jobs that no one else wants. Patience is struggling against disease, poverty, and prejudice … and her own haunting past. Described as “honest, moving, and beautifully detailed,” this debut novel promises to be “uplifting.

Patricia Harman, CNM, got her start as a lay midwife on rural communes and went on to become a nurse-midwife on the faculty of Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University, and West Virginia University. She lives near Morgantown, West Virginia; has three sons; and is the author of two acclaimed memoirs. This is her first novel. Learn more about Harman and her work by visiting the author’s website.

The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen (May 2012) is a debut novel based on the true story of a freed African American slave who returned to Virginia at the onset of the Civil War to spy on the Confederates. This is an historical novel that “celebrates the courageous achievements of a little known but truly inspirational American heroine.” When Mary Bowser is offered not only an education, but freedom in the north, she travels to Philadelphia. There she discovers new friendships, a courtship, and a far different education than she ever expected which leads her into the heart of the abolition movement. Posing as a slave in the Confederate White House in order to spy on President Jefferson Davis, Mary deceives even those who are closest to her to aid the Union command.

Award-winning author Lois Leveen’s work has appeared in the New York Times, on NPR, and in literary journals and anthologies. A former faculty member at UCLA and Reed College, she lives in Portland, Oregon. This is her first novel. Learn more about Leveen and her work by visiting the author’s website.

Did any amazing books arrive at YOUR house this week?