Monthly Archives: December 2015

What Will 2016 Look Like?

I have gone through immense loss and tremendous personal growth in 2015. It has been a difficult journey and, truthfully, one I am still traveling. The thing about grief is that it provides a rich environment for reflection. Yes, it is painful. But with a little help, I decided to dig deep, feel those emotions, and thus work on healing in a way which would leave me stronger and more complete than before my loss. I will always grieve for my sister – that goes without saying – but, I want to honor her life by living my life to the fullest.

LavenderFarm.WP012009-07-02For those of you who visit this blog, you will have noticed some changes. I barely posted in 2015 and I stopped reviewing all the books I was reading. I needed my space. I needed to think about what I wanted to share and how I wanted to share it. I knew that I did not want to feel like my reading was linked to the obligation to review. So the first big change in 2016 is that I will no longer accept any books for review. And I will not be reviewing every book I read. If the spirit moves me, I will post my thoughts on reading…but I have decided to release myself from the obligation to do so.

The creative life is something I have always loved. I started knitting when I was in Junior High School – my first project was a Lopi sweater. I spent hours doing counted cross stitch for many, many years. I dabbled in jewelry making. I tried scrapbooking. I hooked rugs. But in 2009, Paula and her daughter, Abby, came for a visit and I made my first quilt with Paula’s help. I loved it! I loved working with texture and color and watching fabric turn into a warm and comforting quilt. Thus began my quilting journey.

When Paula died, I inherited most of her fabric stash, and all of her unfinished quilts. I intend to finish all those quilts someday (it may take me awhile!) and I am using and loving much of Paula’s fabric. At first I was afraid that quilting would bring me sadness – it was one of the things Paula and I shared and loved. So much of what I learned about quilting began with her. We would talk several times a week on the phone, and 75% of those talks revolved around quilting and fabric and our next or ongoing projects. The photos below document our jump into collaborative quilting.

CollaborativeQuilt.Process30001CollaborativeQuilt.W&P.W'sQuiltTop0001Surprisingly, instead of feeling sad when I went to the sewing machine, I felt buoyed by Paula’s spirit. I felt closer to her. Creating became a “Zen” place for me, a place where I could work through emotions and heal from my pain. I experimented with Improv Quilting and my first improvisational piece reflected so much of my journey (you can read about that here).

Improv.HeartBeat.Label0001So the next big change you will see here on my blog is there will be more posts about the creative life and quilting. I want to share my experiments – the successes and failures, the ups and downs, but mostly the joy of “making.” I do not intend to have a “schedule” for blogging. I will write when I feel there is something I want to share. I hope you will stick with me even if there are days or weeks when I do not post!

When I first started my blog, it was a personal space to share stories and thoughts. It morphed into a book blog eventually, and although I still shared some personal stories, it was mostly a place to talk about literature. It seems right that things have come full circle and it will now be a personal space again, a place of reflections and creation and a glimpse into my life.

Thanks for taking the journey with me!

creativeliving quote

Hello Darling – A Frivols Quilt

Frivols1.HelloDarling.Front0001What are Frivols? They’re a series of collectible tins from Moda. Each tin measures 4.5” x 7.5” and includes 42 7” squares, a new Moda quilt pattern, a new block pattern and a Frivol surprise.

Hello-Darling-TinThis is Frivol #1 and features the Hello Darling collection by Bonnie and Camille. I love their fabrics, and this is a cute pattern. I enlarged it somewhat by using the left over fabric in the tin to make a scrappy border and then bordering the entire thing in white. It ended up being a nice lap size!

Frivols1.HelloDarling.DrapedOutside0001I pieced a very simple back with a solid turquoise and white (Bella solids) and quilted it with a meandering, tight stipple design.


Frivol1.HelloDarling.BackReveal0001The binding is from Bonnie and Camille’s Daysail collection – who doesn’t love a striped binding?

Frivol1.HelloDarling.Binding0001I decided to put the label on the front of this one because it was so pretty – I used some of the special “Handmade” ribbon that came with the Frivol.

Frivol1.HelloDarling.Folded0001This quilt was gifted to my sister, Donna, for Christmas…and so I added three free-hand quilted hearts right next to the label in the border. Can you see them?

Frivol1.HelloDarling.QuiltedHeartDetail0001Everyone needs a cheerful lap quilt to wrap up in for those cold winter days and nights!

Frivol1.HelloDarling.DrapedInside0001And my sister loves this one! Love to you, Donna!!! xo

Reading Since August…

Hello Peeps!

Yes, I have been reading, just not reviewing!

The best books of my fall/winter reading:

OurSoulsOur Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015, 179 pages)

What do you do when your spouse dies and the years are ticking by and you are aging and lonely? For Addie Moore, the answer is to take a risk on love. Set in Colorado, Haruf’s novel is a beautiful meditation on love, loss, and aging.


SonThe Son by Phillipp Meyer (ECCO, 2013, 561 pages)

I never read Rust by this same author (although I have it on my bookshelf) and now I am feeling very motivated to pick it up. The Son is classic western historical fiction that follows three main characters in one family and spans decades. Vivid, and arguably “the Great American Novel,” Meyer’s novel is transporting and gives the reader a deeper understanding of America’s violent past and the demise of its Native American peoples.  5stars

GodInRuinsA God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson (Little Brown & Company, 2015, 468 pages)

The companion novel to Atkinson’s Life After Life focuses on Ursula’s younger brother Teddy as he moves through the dramatic days of World War II. It is not necessary to read Life After Life to appreciate Atkinson’s original prose (although reading the first book will certainly add depth to this one). Intelligent and ingenious, this is a book that will stay with me. 4hStars

MarriageofOppositesThe Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman (Simon and Schuster, 2015, 365 pages)

Camille Pissarro was one of the greatest artists of Impressionism in the late 1800s.  Born in St. Thomas to Jewish parents, he eventually moved to Paris where he made his name. Alice Hoffman’s historical novel recreates the life of Camille’s mother, Rachel. Married off to an older man when she was just a teenager, Rachel becomes mother to this widow’s children, and later has several more children of her own. When her husband dies unexpectedly, his handsome nephew Frederic arrives…and Rachel finds true love, although their marriage is frowned upon, catapulting her and her family into scandal. Camille was Rachel’s favorite son by Frederic – a boy who grew into an artist with amazing vision. Luminous and historically intriguing, The Marriage of Opposites is a book to savor. 4hStars

Some good reads:

AmongtheTenThousandAmong the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont (Random House, 2015, 322 pages)

Julia Pierpont’s debut novel opens with a package sent to Deb Shanley from the woman who is having an affair with Deb’s husband, Jack. But instead of Deb, the box is opened by her child, 11-year-old Kate. Filled with hundreds of printed emails chronicling the affair, the box sets in motion the destruction of a family. Tense, occasionally funny, and starring the fictional world’s biggest narcissist (Jack), Peirpont’s novel is mostly successful if not a bit uneven. 3hstars

TheRisingThe Rising: Murder, Heartbreak and the Power of Human Resilience in an American Town by Ryan d’Agostino (Crown, 2015, 288 pages)

Dr. William Petit suffered an unspeakable crime on July 23, 2007 – armed strangers broke into his home and bludgeoned him, then raped, tortured and murdered his wife and two daughters before setting their house on fire. Journalist d’Agostino takes readers into Bill Petit’s life to bring us face to face with loss, grief, faith and recovery. The power of the human spirit to survive horror and then elevate beyond it is a compelling story. 3hstars

Disappointing books:

InsectFarmThe Insect Farm by Stuart Prebble (Mulholland Books, 2015, 308 pages)

This novel had an interesting premise – two brothers with their own obsessions – one of whom is “slow” and meticulously organizes a universe of insects in the garden shed. Touted as a tight psychological suspense novel, I was ready to be scared. But the secrets in this novel are easy to figure out, and then ending fell flat for me. 3stars

GosetawatchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (Harper Collins, 2015, 278 pages)

There was so much hype about this early novel of Harper Lee’s, that I suspected I might be disappointed with it. Regardless, I picked up a copy to read. Go Set A Watchman takes readers forward into the future of “Scout” as a young woman who is returning to Maycomb, Alabama to visit her father. Much of the novel feels unedited and lacks the depth of the characters which entranced me in To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee explores racism in the South during the 1940s, but it lacks the punch that her Pulitzer Prize winner had. This one won’t be a classic. 3stars

HeartGoesLastThe Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood (Nan A. Talese, 2015, 308 pages)

Anyone who reads my blog must know how much I love Atwood’s work. I had so much hope for this novel…but I walked away from it feeling disappointed. Set in the future, The Heart Goes Last examines a married couple trying to stay afloat in an economic and social collapse. I believe that Atwood wanted to write a satire – and she does…but the plot is weak and the characters silly and unbelievable. Instead of being horrified by a future controlled by psychopaths, I found myself merely grimacing. Don’t bother with this one. 2stars


What She knewMy last read for this year is in progress – What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan (William Morrow, 2015, 470 pages) is a fast paced psychological thriller that features a mum out walking with her eight year old son…and then he disappears. It is a “who dunnit” and has my attention!


Improv Therapy

Improv.HeartBeat.Front00012015 is gradually coming to a close. It has, perhaps, been the most difficult year of my life. Earlier this year I lost my sister, Paula, and her death rocked my world. Everything changed. The world looked completely different to me.

Grief has many faces – anger, profound sadness, loneliness, confusion. It is complicated. It does not have a linear path. Through this difficult journey I have been turning toward my creative side, playing with color and fabric. Relaxing in the “zen” which is quilting.

I have often longed to make an improvisational quilt, but I think I was always a little scared to start. There are no rules, no patterns, no right or wrong choices. There is imperfection and indecision. It felt like stepping off a cliff.

And then I discovered Sherri Lynn Wood’s fabulous book: The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, A Guide to Creating, Quilting & Living Courageously. Exactly what I needed – a little push towards courage! You will not find patterns in Wood’s book – instead you will find “scores” – a framework for flexible patterning that supports “improvisatory exploration.” Because I can’t quite get rid of the organizational self which sits on my shoulder, I decided to start with Score #1 in the book: Floating Squares. Wood suggests setting limitations such as amount of fabrics and sizes of squares. She also encourages the sewist to put aside rulers and cut freehand. Scary indeed!

The palette was an easy one for me to choose – I love orange and I thought that might best express my story. I also was thinking of Paula and knew I would include pink (her favorite quilting color). I have quite a collection of peppered cottons and other textural solids that I thought would be perfect. I decided on a “background” of low volumes as well. Here was the initial fabric I pulled:

Improv.MyHeart.Selectingfabric0001You notice that green and purple at the top? Initially I thought I would use it, but as my piece came together, I pushed it aside. I also decided to throw in a little yellow – the light that has to be inside oneself when traveling a difficult road. The low volumes included a text which was like a story, and also one that had sewing words on it. I decided that the orange pieces would be larger than the pink because they represented ME, and I wanted this to be an exploration of myself. Things got messy very quickly…

Improv.MyHeart.scrappymess0001And then it started to take shape…

Improv.MyHeart.StartingOut0001As I worked, I decided I wanted to add some red and charcoal to the piece. I didn’t consciously know why, I just decided to follow my gut…

Improv.MyHeart.heartevolution0001I was surprised when I realized I was making an improv heart! I had no intention to do this, but I think I unconsciously knew that the center of my quilt should be my heart.

As this quilt came together, I began to see and feel some of the themes that were being created. The quilt was bright and bold, colors that represent the external me that everyone sees, and then I decided to bring in some quiet colors, and some low volumes that represented trees and nature…that felt like the internal part of myself that needs alone time to contemplate. It felt right to have those lighter fabrics wrapping around the more bold colors.

Improv.HeartBeat.Label0001The pink is everywhere in this quilt – small pops of it that connect the yellows and oranges, and even some in the center of the heart. Paula is a big part of who I am today, and she will always walk beside me.

I decided to quilt this one with one giant spiral circle which is best seen on the back as I used a wonderful silver gray Minky (we all need comfort and softness sometimes).

Improv.HeartBeat.BackReveal0001Life is circular (at least it is to me). As I began the quilting, I discovered my circle was less than perfect, it wove around a bit, it got wonky in places. All okay because isn’t that the nature of life?

Improv.HeartBeat.BackQuiltDetail0001I’ve named this one “Heart Beat…”

Improv.HeartBeat.Label.CloseUp0001Because I am listening to my heart these days, flying by the seat of my pants, letting go of the “small” things and finding new meaning in a life that is changed.




Sherri Lynn Wood encourages readers to evaluate their process when working on improvisational pieces. She asks some basic questions to think about…and here are my responses:

What Surprised Me?

I did not start out to make this a “story,” but unconsciously, I did just that. Many of my choices throughout were impulsive or instinctual…and it wasn’t until later that I began to see how they all worked together. This is perhaps the most personal quilt I have ever made.

What Did I Discover or Learn?

Don’t be afraid. And perfection is not all it is cracked up to be. Let go of fear and perfection and allow yourself to be led by the process.

What Was Satisfying about the Process or Outcome?

There was a lot of freedom and joy in creating this piece. I loved the surprises that evolved as the piece came together. I found that I really enjoyed cutting without a ruler! I loved using a variety of solids, some quite textural, as it gave the piece a different feel. This turned out to be a really warm, drapey quilt that I can’t wait to wrap up in.

What was Dissatisfying?

I chose to make “sections” of the quilt and then connected them together – but I didn’t like how there were two long lines of low volume across the quilt – it felt too obvious and not enough improv. I wanted it to be unclear where things were joined, but I ended up being too methodical and the quilt captured that…

What Can I do Next Time to be more Satisfied?

I think if I worked with different size sections, or if I pieced sections as I went (instead of waiting until the end to join them) that the connections would be less abrupt.

Where Do I want To Go From Here?

I want to keep doing some improvisational work and see where it takes me.