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A Medallion Quilt for a Friend

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If you have one true friend you have more than your share. -Thomas Fuller-

Carol.10001*Click on any photo in this post to enjoy a larger view

I feel immensely lucky to have my friend, Carol, in my life. We met two decades ago when I was living in Marin County, California and our friendship has never wavered in all those years. We’ve laughed, celebrated, cried and commiserated together. We share a profound love of animals (for a long time Caribou and Argus, and Carol’s dogs, Sarah and Kodi, were the best of friends too…and now Raven and Leah are developing their doggy friendship). We have a friendship filled with honesty and love which has stood the test of time.

I’ve been wanting to make Carol and her husband Gregg a quilt for some time now. Several months ago, I finally settled on some fabric by Bonnie and Camille and found the perfect pattern for it.

AntiquetoheirloomMedallion quilts gained popularity in America from the late 1700s to mid 1800s. They are constructed around a center design and grow larger with the addition of pieced borders. The one I selected for Carol and Gregg is a modernized interpretation of a traditional design and uses a Jelly Roll of fabric along with solid yardage (a Jelly roll is made up of 40 strips of fabric which measure 2.5″ wide by WOF long). The pattern I used comes from the fabulous book: Antique to Heirloom Jelly Roll Quilts by Pam and Nicky Lintott.

This is one of the more challenging quilts I have constructed. Medallion quilts require very precise piecing and cutting in order to have everything line up. I made some minor changes to the pattern to fix some cutting errors on my part – but if you think I’m going to tell you what they are, forget it! I ended up adding on two more borders to make this quilt large enough to fit on Carol and Gregg’s bed (the outside white and coral solid borders are my additions). I also cut the pretty turquoise print fabric an inch wider than the pattern called for. Here is the front of the quilt (it is actually square, although it looks wavy in the photo – it is only because I had to hang it off my porch to capture the entire quilt):


The quilt measures a generous 96″ X 96″ which fits a king bed. The primary fabric used is from Vintage Modern by Bonnie and Camille for Moda – but there is also some of their other lines in there, too, including Marmalade. The solids are Bella Unbleached White and Kona Coral.

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I pieced the back – making “piano keys” with some left over jelly roll strips so that when the top is folded down, there is a nice design. The rest of the back uses a large piece of fabric from Bonnie and Camille’s collection Scrumptious.

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Quilting this monster took some time and I did it on my home machine. Here is what it looks like when one quilts a huge quilt like this on their home machine:

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I used Tuscany Cotton batting which is lighter weight than other 100% cotton battings, and makes it a lot easier to quilt such large quilt. I did a meandering stipple pattern throughout the quilt.

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The binding is a sweet peachy-pink fabric from the Snippets collection by American Jane (Sandy Klop) for Moda.


I decided to use the special settings on my sewing machine to make a custom label:


I was so excited to give this quilt to Carol and Gregg. My husband and I made a trip down to their home in Marin County so I could hand it to them in person and see it on their bed…and it just so happened that it was Carol’s birthday weekend which seemed like perfect timing!

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I hope they will enjoy it for many, many years to come…and that it will remind them of a very special friendship.



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The Bat – Book Review

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BatDarkness had fallen before they reached Sydney, but the TV mast stood like a massive lightbulb in the center of the town and showed them the way. Andrew drew in at Circular Quay, not far from the Opera House. A bat hirled in and out of the car headlights at great speed. Andrew lit a cigar and motioned for Harry to remain in the car. “The bat is the Aboriginal symbol of death. Did you know that?” – from The Bat -

Harry Hole is a detective from Norway, but when a Norwegian native is murdered in Australia, Harry must get on a plane to help solve the crime. The Bat is the first novel in the Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbo and it is an introduction to Harry as well as an interesting and twisty mystery. Harry Hole is a chick magnet (and he finds plenty of women who appreciate his good looks in Australia), but he also carries some significant emotional baggage and a history of alcohol abuse. In Australia, he is paired up with an Aboriginal detective named Andrew who also harbors some dark secrets. The plot initially appears simple, and then begins to veer along unexpected paths.

Nesbo explores Aboriginal history and lore, as well as revealing some of the racism that is apparently present in Australian culture towards the Aboriginal people. His characters are well developed and he inserts some black humor into the narrative (although there were times I wondered if the humor I was seeing was real or due to the translation from Norwegian).

The Bat is an engaging first in a series novel that was not without its flaws. At times I found the pace slow, and some of the twists at the end felt a bit contrived. Despite those faults, I did enjoy the book and look forward to picking up the next novel in the series.



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Iron House – Book Review

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Iron HouseAbigail stood at the window of the narrow room, dark sky outside, snow still loose on the wind. Frost rimed the glass and everything was damp and cold: the furniture, her clothing, her skin. She saw movement on the drive, a boy, and could no longer bear the thought of children in this stark and bitter place. A coat flapped as the boy ran, and she wondered why he was outside in the storm, to what place he was running. She closed her eyes, and asked God to watch over these children, to keep them safe; and when her eyelids rose, she saw that night had come in its fullness, black and shuttered and alive with wind. She looked for the boy, but he was gone. - from Iron House -

Michael and his brother, Julian, find themselves orphaned and growing up behind the imposing gates of Iron House, an orphanage where the children must often fend for themselves. Decades later, Julian is living with the Vanes, a political family with loads of money and power…while Michael has found his place among criminals in New York City. But Michael wants more in life and thinks he has found it in Elena. When he tries to leave the crime family, his life … and Elena’s… is threatened. Julian, a boy who has grown into a fragile and sensitive man, also seems in danger and Michael takes Elena and flees to North Carolina to protect his brother. When bodies begin turning up on the Vane estate, Michael is left to wonder if his brother has slipped over the edge, or if something more sinister is brewing. Deep secrets must be uncovered to solve the mystery and give Michael (and Julian) a second chance. When Michael returns to Iron House, he discovers not only the ghosts of his past, but the answers to his future.

John Hart’s latest literary thriller is edge of your seat reading. As in his previous books, Hart creates memorable and well-developed characters who drive the plot. The dark family secrets and brutal violence of the mob make for some gruesome reading at times. Michael is clearly the character to watch in this novel about family, love, and the ties that bind.

I’ve read two previous novels by this author: Down River (read my review) which was gritty and atmospheric, and The Last Child (read my review) where Hart explores good vs. evil and supernatural power. Iron House, in my opinion, is the best of the three with strong characters, a twisty plot, and plenty of action.

Readers who love literary fiction but crave the excitement of a good thriller, will find much to love in Iron House. With this effort, Hart has become one of my favorite authors in the genre.

Highly recommended.


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


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The Book Thief – The Movie

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*click on any photo to enjoy a larger view

Oh how I loved The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak when I first read it way back in 2009 (read my review). And so when this amazing book was made into a movie, I could not wait to see it. But I had to wait, because it only just now arrived in my area (the movie was actually released in November). My husband and I went to see it Saturday and it was powerful and wonderful.  Not only did it follow the book (I hate when the movie is different from a book I’ve loved), but the actors chosen for the characters were perfect.

LieselFirst let me talk about Sophie Nélisse (a Canadian teen actress) who plays the part of Liesel. She is stunning with huge, expressive eyes…and she nails Liesel, capturing her vulnerability, but also her feisty nature and love of words. This young actress stole my heart on many levels and was the perfect choice for Liesel.

The actors for both Rosa and Hans (Liesel’s adoptive parents) were also perfect. Geoffrey Roy Rush, AC, is an Australian actor and film producer and he embodies the warm heart and caring nature of Hans. As soon as he walks on screen, he creates the fatherly chemistry needed for the part. And then there is Emily Margaret Watson, an English actress, who plays the part of Rosa. Initially tough and biting, she manages to show Rosa’s soft heart as the movie progresses.



Outstanding performances were also given by Ben Schnetzer as Max Vandenburg (a Jewish man who takes refusge in the basement of Rosa and Hans), Nico Liersch as Rudy Steiner, and Roger Allam who narrates the story as Death.



Director Brian Percival has done an astonishing job at capturing The Book Thief on the big screen – from setting, to music, to the actors he chose to play the various characters, the effect was brilliant. Poignant, and with a wonderful message of love and the power of words to overcome evil, The Book Thief movie is well worth your time. Go see it.


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Pillow Pop Round-Up – January

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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.

So each month Valerie and I will be do a round up of the pillows for that month.

We chose The Metro (easy) and Gumdrop (challenging) as the pillows for January…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 wonderful.

The Metro: This pillow celebrates bold modern fabrics against a neutral background.

*Click on each image to take you the project page for the pillow.

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 Michelle celebrated the blues with her pillow, while Belinda gave us a classy version in black and white.

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Carol Marie made a pillow in the colors of the sea for her daughter and Sue also created a beachy, fun pillow.


Margaret’s pillow used warm colors and artistic prints


Karen chose to celebrate owls in her fabulous interpretation of this pillow

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drnic2c chose a beautiful golden palette, while lavenders were Gardencrafter’s choice


I made one too – and went with golds and black for a modern feel.

The Gumdrop: A fun, bright pillow which uses curved piecing

Gumdrop.True Gumdrop.Terry

Mary used some wonderful text print while Terry used jewel tones to give her pillow a pop

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Erica and Fork and Needle both took us on the road with some great Sweetwater fabric


Margaret chose a smaller version of the pattern with a Christmas theme.

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Valerie’s pillow came alive with purples and grays; while Jo celebrated her inner child with some fabric from Bungle Jungle


Marsha took us to the far East with an Asian flare

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Sue’s beach theme and Karen’s woodland theme coordinated with their Metro pillows.

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Candice celebrated all things British with her fun pillow, while I channeled autumn with some bright oranges and reds.

While not everyone completed a pillow for the month, several members of the group managed to piece their tops. Please visit the group page to see all the gorgeous pillows and tops!

February brings two new pillows – a pretty X’s and O’s pillow to celebrate Valentines Day, and a modern chevron style pillow which uses low volume fabrics. Hope you’ll join us!

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Hugs and Kisses for my Sister

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

I never close an email or a text to my sister, Paula, without inserting an “x” and “o” – it is my way of telling her I love her. So it was a no brainer to gift her this pillow I made as part of the Threadbias Pillow Pop Sew Along. The pattern is called X’s and O’s in the Pillow Pop book, but I’ve renamed it Hugs and Kisses.

I used some fabric from the amazing Art Gallery collection Florescence, along with a pink oval elements by Pat Bravo and some Candlelight solid by Cotton Couture – that makes for an incredibly soft pillow which takes a 16″ insert.

I learned a new skill for this one – machine appliqueing a circle!

The pillow includes flanges and pretty covered buttons.


The back of the pillow is sewn with two pieces of fabric to make it substantial…and I quilted a giant “X” on it.


I hope when my sister looks at this pillow, she knows just how special she is to me…and that it gives her a jolt of good feeling on a cold winter morning!

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The Sentry – Book Review

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SentryExperienced investigators referred to the site where an abduction took place as ground zero. It was the intersection where the paths of the victim and perpetrator converged, and merged into one. It was an ambush zone of abrupt furious violence or quiet threat where two paths led in and only one path led out, but these paths weren’t made in a vacuum. The physical world was disturbed – a fish rippled the water; a gliding bird cast a shadow. Pike knew this better than most because he spent most of his life trying to move without being heard or seen, or leaving a trail that others could follow. – from The Sentry, page 111 -

Joe Pike is back in The Sentry, the third book in the Joe Pike series by Robert Crais.  When Pike stops to fill his car with gas, he becomes witness to a brutal beating. And Pike, being Pike, inserts himself into the crime scene. The victims – Wilson Smith and his niece, Dru Rayne – are transplants from New Orleans who have come to Los Angeles after Hurricane Katrina and are trying to build a restaurant business. Pike is immediately smitten by Dru, and allows himself to become vulnerable to the possibility of love. But when the violence escalates, Pike begins to uncover information that throws everything he knows about Dru and Wilson into question. A dark shadow is following the two – a man who hears voices in his head that tell him to kill…and to save Dru and her Uncle, Pike must put his own life on the line.

The Sentry is Crais at his best – fast paced, twisty plot with lots of violent interactions. Pike is the super hero – quick on his feet, aware of the smallest sound, able to predict others’ behaviors before even they know what they will do. It is very good fiction in the suspense-thriller genre, a book whose pages practically turn themselves.

Out of the three, I liked The Sentry the best in this action-packed series which pits Pike against the most evil plots and villains imaginable. Readers will have to suspend some reality to buy into Pike’s exceptional crime fighting abilities, but those who do will be rewarded with an entertaining ride. Once again, Crais allows readers to get a glimpse into Pike’s vulnerable side which allows him a likability that might otherwise be missing.

Readers who like rapid-fire page turners, will want to pick up a copy of this book. Although The Sentry could be read as a stand-alone novel, I recommend reading the first two books in the series before reading this one.



Read my reviews of previous books in the series:

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A Table Topper with Moda Candy

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

Sherri over on A Quilting Life is celebrating the small projects this year – and she is generously providing some great patterns to use the amazing Moda precut- Moda Candy. Moda Candy consists of 40 – 2.5″ squares of a complete collection of fabric. And it probably won’t come as a surprise to all of you that I have quite a few of these darling precuts in my stash!

This project makes a nice sized table topper (you can purchase the pattern on Craftsy here). I chose the wonderful Avalon collection by Fig Tree and some Bella unbleached white for this whimsical mini which measures 23.5″ X 23.5″.

CandyTableTopper.Top040001The border is Heidi Pridemore’s Whimsical Workshop (in navy) for Blank Quilting.

CandyTableTopper.Border0001The quilting is straight line diagonal lines in both directions.

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The backing is a low volume print from the Sew Stitchy collection by Aneela Hooey for Moda.


I bound this table topper in some solid Kona Coral which gives it a nice pop of color.


I’m sending a photo of this adorable mini quilt to Sherri so I can be in the drawing for some prizes. If you want to make some small projects this year, make sure you subscribe to Sherri’s blog so you don’t miss out!

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The First Rule – Book Review

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firstruleVory p Zakone. What they call the thieves code. These people live by eighteen rules, Pike – actual written rules, kind of like a guidebook for assholes. The first rule – rule number one – is that their families don’t matter. Mom, dad, the brother, sis – those people do not matter. They are not supposed to have wives or children. – from The First Rule -

Frank Meyer is living an idyllic suburban life with his wife and two young children. But not too far in the past, Meyer existed in a much more dangerous space working as a mercenary with Joe Pike and his men. He has put that behind him. Or has he? When armed men break into Frank’s home and murder him and his family, Joe Pike gets involved, bent on uncovering the perpetrators and bringing them his own unique form of justice. Pike calls in his friends, Elvis Cole and Jon Stone, and they begin to dig deep into the crime. But was Frank somehow involved in running guns? Was his death related to illegal dealings he had with an underworld of cold-hearted criminals?

The First Rule, which is the second book in the Joe Pike series, is a fast-paced, edge of your seat thriller. Joe Pike is a character who is almost supernatural in his abilities to take down criminals. But under his tough guy exterior, is a man with a huge heart…and in this novel, Robert Crais reveals the sensitive side of his adrenaline-fueled super hero.

Like all good thrillers, The First Rule is a page turner – a book I had trouble putting down. Crais spends some time fully developing Pike’s character which I appreciated. In fact, I found this second book in the series much more effective and enjoyable reading than The Watchman (read my review) – although they are both good books for those readers who appreciate this genre.

Robert Crais writes with authority about law enforcement and special ops. He gives readers a strong protagonist in Pike, but one who has some humanity too. Readers who like dark, well-paced, and superbly plotted books, will find much to love in The First Rule.



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Perfect – Book Review

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perfectBesides, the big things in life do not present themselves as such. They come in the quiet, ordinary moments – a phone call, a letter – they come when we are not looking, without clues, without warning, and that is why they floor us. And it can take a lifetime, a life of many years, to accept the incongruity of things; that a small moment can sit side by side with a big one, and become part of the same. - from Perfect -

Byron Hemmings is an eleven year old boy whose life, on the surface, looks perfect. And then one day as he and his sister and mother are driving through a summer fog, something happens. Something that changes everything. And it appears his mother is unaware of what has happened, and only Byron can make it all okay again. He consults his best friend, James, and together they work out a plan.

Rachel Joyce revisits the themes of loss, grief and redemption which she explored in her amazing debut The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. In many ways, the two books are similar – they both are peopled with ordinary characters, there is a surprising turn of events, and the characters must confront their pasts in order to move forward into their futures. But although there are deep parallels between the novels, there are also marked differences. In Perfect, the protagonist is a child who is burdened with hard truths that no child should have to be burdened with – and it is perhaps this innocence in Joyce’s primary character which adds to the sadness within its pages.

Rachel Joyce has a knack for taking the ordinary and twisting it into the extraordinary. Her prose is rich and insightful, her characters surprisingly complex beneath their veneer of simplicity. Byron is a vulnerable and naive child who yearns to fix the cracks in his family. His mother is a bit clueless, fumbling in her role as mother, trying desperately to fit in a marriage which is stifling and cold. Byron’s father is largely absent – a man who spends most days far from his children and wife, and yet expects to come home to perfection.

There is a parallel story in Perfect, one which gives the reader a glimpse into the future of one of the characters and alternates chapters with the summer of Byron’s eleventh year. In a prologue, Joyce hints about the fate of the character whose story takes place in the future – but it is not clear until the end what will happen.

It was all because of a small slip in time, the whole story. The repercussions were felt for years and years. Of the two boys, James and Byron, only one kept on course. – from Perfect -

I was eager to read this novel because I adored The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (read my review). Joyce did not disappoint me, although I didn’t love Perfect quite as much as her debut novel. Readers who enjoy British literary fiction, will want to read Joyce’s sophomore effort.



tlclogoFTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher as part of a TLC Book Tour. Please visit the tour page to get links to other reviews.


Joyce-Author-Photo-199x300Rachel Joyce is the author of the international bestseller The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. She is also the award-winning writer of more than twenty plays for BBC Radio 4. She started writing after a twenty-year acting career, in which she performed leading roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company and won multiple awards. Rachel Joyce lives with her family on a Gloucestershire farm. Learn more about Joyce and her work by visiting the author’s website.

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