Flying Rainbow Pillow

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

Are you getting sick of seeing pillows? I hope not, because there are a few months left in the year and I am still Pillow Popping with my group over on Threadbias!

The “challenging” pillow for September is Flying Rainbow – a scrap friendly project that uses lots of white and clean quilting lines.

PillowPop.FlyingRainbow.Front0001I used lots of my Bonnie and Camille scraps – mostly from their collection Scrumptious – and decided not to worry that I would not have a yellow and purple goose…instead I substitute with pink and gray and am very happy with how it turned out!

PillowPop.FlyingRainbow.Side0001I quilted this per the recommendation in the book which echoes the geese and then has varying width straight lines moving horizontally across the pillow giving the illusion of the geese flying.

The back is pieced (I found a nice big piece of some Happy Go Lucky fabric for the bottom) and sports a hidden zipper.

PillowPop.FlyingRainbow.Back0001This pillow fits on an 18″ insert and makes a nice match with the Don’t Be Square pillow I made earlier this year.

PillowPop.FlyingRainbowWithSquaresPillow0001I could see a whole bunch of these scrap happy pillows with their cloud of white on a bed, couldn’t you?

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas – Book Review and Giveaway

2AM Not today, Philadelphia. Bring your sorry shit back tomorrow. – from 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas -

Madeleine Altimari is only nine years old, but don’t let that fool you…this is one brave, independent-minded kid who doesn’t let reality get in the way of her dreams. Madeleine has been practicing singing all her life. She just needs the chance to prove her voice to others.

Sarina Greene is the kind of teacher most fifth grade  kids wish they had, and she’s back in Philadelphia after a divorce wondering what it will be like to meet up with her old high school crush again. Insecure and disappointed by what life has so far dished her way, Sarina wonders if everything could change if she just took a chance.

Lorca is dealing with an estranged girlfriend and a teenage son (who only wants to play guitar) when suddenly he is faced with the possibility of losing his business unless he can come up with $30,000.

All three of these characters come together on the Eve of Christmas Eve at The Cat’s Pajama’s, an aging jazz club whose history seeps out into the smokey atmosphere and captivates its audience. Coincidence and maybe a little magic unite to open up a world of possibility and joy for this novel’s protagonists.

Marie-Helene Bertino has written a charming story about bad luck, human kindness, and the dazzling lure of possibility. Witty and surprising, the novel celebrates the little things in life which can lead us to inner change and happiness. Madeleine is the star of the novel, a kid who has lost her mother and is forced to care for her grieving father, but never gives up her dream of singing. She’s tough, has a mouth like a sailor and has a way of always coming out on top no matter what life throws her way.

Mixing literary fiction with a bit of magical realism, Bertino has crafted a fine first novel that will captivate readers.

Highly recommended.


About the Author:

MH BertinoMarie-Helene Bertino is the author of the story collection Safe as Houses, which won the 2012 Iowa Short Fiction Prize and The Pushcart Prize, and was long-listed for The Story Prize and The Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize. An Emerging Writer Fellow at New York’s Center for Fiction, she has spent six years as an editor and writing instructor at One Story.

tlclogoFTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review as part of a TLC Book Tour.

Book Giveaway:

I am happy to be able to offer a copy of this book to a lucky winner living either in the US or Canada. The winner will receive a new book from the Publisher (Crown) after the conclusion of the tour (the end of this month).

  • To enter to win please complete the survey at the bottom of this post.
  • Comments left on this post do not enter you in the contest – you must complete the survey
  • Contest will run from August 17th through August 26th, 2014 at 5:00 pm PST.
  • I will draw one winner randomly from all entries and announce their name here on my blog on the 27th of August. I will also contact the winner via email.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

8Wikipedia: Year 8 was a leap year starting on Sunday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Camillus and Quinctilianus. The denomination 8 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.

Stitching for Charity

There are many reasons I quilt, but one of them is to bring joy to others. I’ve made a lot of quilts over the last five years, and I’ve given away many of them: to friends, to family, and to charity.

My first charity quilt went to Quilts for Kids in June of 2010. That same year, I made a special quilt for Green Fairy Quilts which was delivered to a child in Romania. I’ve also donated a bag to an organization in Oregon to help kids in foster care.

But three items in five years doesn’t seem like a lot. So lately I’ve been thinking about making charity quilts more routinely. I’ve joined a group on Threadbias and have been working on a charity quilt which is slated to be finished this fall:


I’ve also joined a group on Flickr (do. Good Stitches) which makes quilts for children in need. I am part of the Cheer Circle (we donate our quilts to Project Linus) and have volunteered as a “stitcher” … which means I’ll be making two blocks a month to contribute to a quilt.

This was my first month with them and here are the two blocks I made per the request of the “quilter” for August (one “warm” block and one “cool” block which are made with half-square triangles):


DoGoodStitches.August2014.CoolBlock0001Quilting is an art that can bring happiness and peace to others. There is nothing quite like wrapping oneself in a quilt made especially for you.  Which is why donating quilts to charity is important to me.

Stay tuned for more posts in the future about charity quilting!

A Scrappy Swell Quilt

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

Swell.onswing020001I’ve been busy finishing up some quilts lately. I don’t know why I waited so long to get this low volume scrappy quilt bound and quilted because I really love it.

The Swell pattern is from Camille Roskelley’s latest book: Simply Retro…and it is a super easy quilt to make. It is Jelly Roll friendly and (obviously) scrap friendly.

Swell.Pattern0001I had a Jelly Roll that I created by cutting 2.5″ strips WOF from left over scraps. When I do this, I try to color coordinate the roll as best I can (so I have a couple other self-made Jelly Rolls that have different color schemes).  I decided to use this scrap happy roll of fabrics to make the Swell quilt.

The quilt finished at 58″ X 70″ – an oversized lap quilt.

Swell.Draped010001I used fabric that I snagged for $2 a yard for the border and backing – amazing! And even pieced left over batting to sandwich the quilt.

Swell.BackReveal0001The quilting is free-motion loopy curves:

Swell.QuiltingDetail010001I made a small label just so I would remember when I made this one:

Swell.Label0001I really love the softness of this sweet quilt – and it is perfect for summer.


Fourth of July Creek – Book Review

FourthofJulyCreekThe cop flicked his cigarette to the dirt-and-gravel road in front of the house, and touched back his hat over his hairline as the social worker drove up in a dusty Toyota Corolla. Through the dirt window, he spotted some blond hair falling, and he hiked in his gut, hoping that the woman in there would be something to have a look at. Which is to say he did not expect what got out: a guy in his late twenties, maybe thirty, pulling on a denim coat against the cold morning air blowing down the mountain, ducking back into the car for a moment, reemerging with paperwork. - from Fourth of July Creek, page 1 -

Pete Snow is a social worker in the Montana wilderness of Tenmile, a small town in the middle of nowhere outside of Missoula. He is divorced, fighting with his ex-wife and his surly teenage daughter, and trying to steer clear of his troubled brother who has recently beat up a parole officer and taken off to parts unknown. When a bedraggled boy is picked up in town, Pete decides to hike up into the wilderness to return the boy to his family. He has no idea that the boy’s father, a radical man named Benjamin Pearl, might just not want to be found.

Fourth of July  Creek is about the unraveling of family and community as Benjamin Pearl becomes more paranoid and unpredictable and Pete’s personal life slides out of control with the disappearance of his daughter and an FBI investigation.

Smith Henderson’s first novel (he has published numerous short works and won the 2011 Pushcart Prize) is a bit of a doorstopper at over 450 pages, and there were times I thought it could have stood a little editing. Despite this, Henderson’s prose is gritty and mesmerizing as the story unspools into chaos. Pete is not terribly likable, and yet I found myself hoping he would sort out his problems and find a happy ending, not only for himself, but for the damaged people he is trying to help.

Henderson reveals the struggles of rural Americans including poverty, illegal drug use, homelessness, and broken families. Benjamin Pearl becomes symbolic of a modern America where fear of government intrusion and paranoia about losing freedom spirals into a madness that would be funny if it were not so terrifying.

Fourth of July Creek is a dark commentary on the problems facing our country. Pete Snows struggle to save the families of Tenmile, while losing the fight to save his own family, becomes a compelling story about one man’s quest to find meaning in a disconnected world.

Readers who enjoy novels set in the rural Pacific Northwest which are literary in style, will want to give this one a try. Smith Henderson is an author to watch.



A Round Robin Quilt with Friends

*Click on any photo in this post to enjoy a larger view RoundRobinMedallion.front0001Way back in May of 2013, a group of quilts began their journey. They started with one block – a center block designed by the quilter who would claim that quilt as their own when the journey was completed. They carried with them a journal – a place for contemplation and explanation and expressions of friendship. No one really knew what they would look like after a year of travel…so it was a leap of faith to send them out into the world.

The quilt at the top of this post is my quilt. It started with that colorful center that I created…and passed through the hands of seven other quilters, each one adding a border of their choosing. In June of this year the pieced top arrived back in California – and I was in love!

RoundRobinMedallion.drapedonswing010001Round Robin quilts are not a new idea (there is a rich history of women working together collaboratively to make quilts), but they have evolved with the onset of the Internet and social media. No longer does one have to be constrained by geography. I met the group of women involved in this Round Robin through a site called Threadbias. But there are other on line avenues to meet up with like-minded people, including Flickr, Facebook and blogs.

Our group allowed for a generous 6 week turnaround from when we received a new quilt top to when we had to send it on to the next person. I was really happy to have that extra time as we followed no set patterns when constructing our “rounds” and sometimes I needed more time to come up with a plan.

A couple of weeks ago, I quilted and bound my quilt which measures approximately 76″ X 76″ – a good size for a double bed.

I backed the quilt with some Bella solid turquoise, and a large piece of my favorite fabric from the Happy Go Lucky Collection by Bonnie and Camille for Moda:

RoundRobinMedallion.backreveal010001I did a meandering stipple quilt pattern and then crafted a special label with everyone’s name and state on it:

RoundRobinMedallion.label010001I really love this quilt – not only because it is whimsical and beautiful and warm … but because it reminds me of the friendships I forged over the last year and the dedication of a group of quilters who overcame challenges to create an amazing bunch of quilts.

Many thanks to my friend Mary from Maine who allowed me to use her photo collage of all of the finished quilt tops together (you might notice that there are only six quilts represented here…over the course of a year we had a couple of changes in our group – some people dropped out for a variety of reasons – so these are the quilts that made it through the entire year and got completed):

RoundRobinCollageAren’t they gorgeous?

And just a couple more photos of my treasured quilt:


RoundRobinMedallion.quiltingdetail0001One of my favorites to date!

All Our Names – Audiobook Review

AllOurNamesI had lost too much of the heart and all the faith needed to stay afloat in a job where every human encounter felt like an anvil strung around my neck just when I thought I was nearing the shore. - from All Our Names -

Isaac is a young black man living in Uganda in the 1970s during the cruel reign of Idi Amin. He is a man with dreams of revolution and freedom, a man whose charisma draws others to him.

Helen is a white social worker living in the Mid-West and is assigned to help Isaac acclimate to a new life in the United States – a challenge given the underpinnings of racism and intolerance still rife within her community.

Neither Isaac nor Helen are prepared when their relationship moves from formality into intimacy. Passionate, secretive and ultimately life-changing, the connection between Helen and Isaac fuels the narrative of a man struggling to come to grips with his identity in the aftermath of terror.

All Our Names is a compelling story that is haunting in its truths, but also in its secrets. Who is Isaac? What has brought him thousands of miles from his home in Africa to the relative safety of the United States?

As the novel moves back and forth from Helen’s point of view to Isaac’s, and from the past to the present, it becomes clear that a man’s name does not reveal who he is, nor what his future holds. Helen struggles to understand her feelings for this man of secrets, and she begins to challenge the unspoken taboo against mixed-race couples.

The fact that we chose to sit there and linger when every part of me wanted to run was proof of the sacrifices we were willing to make. When we left the restaurant and were back in the car, he said to me, “Now you know. This is how they break you, slowly, in pieces.” - From All Our Names -

All Our Names is about the history of a conflicted nation during a time of great unrest, but it is also about the importance of family and our connections with others. Dinaw Mengestu takes the reader into the slums of Kampala and into the hearts of men who refuse to accept tyranny, even when it means they may lose everything. And in lyrical prose he shows how those hearts can be healed through the power of love.

I listened to this novel which was narrated by Saskia Maarleveld (as Helen) and Korey Jackson (as Isaac). Although it began slowly for me, the narration pulled me into the story and left me breathless at the end.

Highly recommended.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book through the Library Thing Early Review Program.

Pillow Pop Round-Up: July

BlogButtonThe Pillow Pop group is 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’d love to have you join us. If you’re not already a member at Threadbias, why not join – it is free, and it is a great community of sewists.

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

Crystalized:  A scrap friendly project that uses value to create a sense of vibrancy and movement.


Michelle chose some gorgeous fabrics from Denyse Schmidt’s Chicopee collection to create a pillow with plenty of movement.


Carol’s pillow evokes sunshine and happiness with her use of orange, yellow pink and low volume grays.


Marsha decided on a patriotic color scheme for her July pillow.


Valerie’s pillow evokes summertime with its pretty nautical theme

Union Jack: Muted tones and a smart design gives an intelligent feel for your favorite “hipster.”


I made the Union Jack pillow, using soft tones and gray to give this one a more sedate feel.

The Painted Veil – Book Review

Painted VeilHis lips moved. He did not look at her. His eyes stared unseeing at the whitewashed wall. She leaned over him so that she might hear. But he spoke quite clearly. “The dog it was that died.” - from The Painted Veil -

Kitty Garstin, a spoiled young debutante living in 1920′s England, makes the choice to marry Walter Fane so that she is not left without a husband. Walter is smitten with Kitty, in fact, loves her fiercely. But Walter’s work as a bacteriologist and his quiet demeanor leave Kitty indifferent. The couple move to Hong Kong where within weeks, Kitty meets the much older and charming Charlie Townsend. The fact that both Kitty and Charlie are married, does not dampen their attraction to each other…and very quickly they begin a passionate affair. When Walter discovers the affair, he confronts Kitty and threatens to divorce her (something which would leave Kitty disgraced) unless she agrees to travel with him to the cholera-ridden town of Mei-tan-fu.

British author W. Somerset Maugham published this novel in 1925, but it was first serialized in Cosmopolitan beginning in November 1924. The novel was adapted for the screen in 1937, 1954 and 2006.

Maugham attempted to demonstrate personal growth in the character of Kitty – from a frivolous and shallow young woman to someone with an awakened conscience and a more open heart. I’m not quite sure that was accomplished. Kitty is not a terribly likeable character and I turned the final page wondering how much she had truly changed. Although life in Mei-tan-fu forces her to grow up, she remained a character who was rather self-centered.

I read this book for a book club, and the group was split as to whether or not Kitty ends up being a changed person. You will have to read the book yourself to decide!

Maugham captures the flavor of Hong Kong in the mid-1920s. As with many classic works, the women in the book are not presented in a very positive way. Kitty is flighty and looks to men to solve all her problems and Dorothy Townsend seems to be just fine with her husband cavorting with younger women as long as he never leaves her. The only female character in the book who I felt portrayed inner strength, was the Mother Superior at the convent.

The Painted Veil gives readers a look at the prejudices of the time – Kitty sees the Chinese children as “hardly human” and is shocked when she learns that one of the gentleman in the settlement lives with a Manchu woman.

Somerset Maugham achieved great popular success, ultimately penning numerous plays and novels, along with several short stories. He is perhaps best known for his novel Of Human Bondage (first published in 1915).

Despite my criticisms of the characters in The Painted Veil, I did appreciate this novel as a piece of classic literature. It is a short work (less than 250 pages) which I read in just a few days. Readers who enjoy classic books will want to give this one a try.


reading a good book with a furchild by my side