Friday, December 27, 2013

And The Winner Is . . .

It's that time of year again.  Time to reflect on what we read during the past year.  Time to create lists of what we liked, what we didn't like, what we'll re-read, and what we wish we hadn't.

2013 was a slow book year for me.  Between switching from part-time to full-time work in June, learning to Zentangle and increasing my sewing, my reading time dropped dramatically.  This is just not acceptable, so there will be a rearranging of priorities in the new year.  But even in a slow year, there are a few books that I loved (including links to my reviews, if I wrote one.)

Best Books Published in 2013:

A Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg
Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman
The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb

Best Books I Overlooked When They Were New:  

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd - 2003
The Ha-Ha by Dave King 2006
Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg 2006
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn 2007 

Book Bummers, or There's some reading hours I'll never get back!:  Three big names that disappointed me. I still can't believe I put a Stephen King book in the DNF pile! 

The Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin 
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaimin
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Death of Norman Rockwell . . .

 . . . Not the death of the actual artist - he died in 1978 of emphysema - but the death of my Rockwell-esque Christmas dreams.  Mr. Rockwell's paintings depict heartwarming moments of every day life - life in a simpler world, where every one gets along and every story has a happy ending.  His Christmas paintings are especially touching.  Happy families gather for the holidays . . .

...smiling faces, warm embraces . . .

. . . humerous moments and treasured traditions.

Our children are coming "home" for Christmas this year.  Well, actually, a few days after Christmas.  They arrive on Sunday the 29th - the New Mexico clan's train reaches Topeka at 5:30 a.m.  The college kids (and significant others) will be waiting to load them up and all make the 90 minute trip to Green Acres.  Dave's father, sister, niece and aunt arrive a little later to spend the day.  The kids will be here until New Year's Eve or New Year's Day - depending on job schedule. 

Every time we plan a get-together like this, my Norman Rockwell fantasies kick into high gear and I have visions of the ten of us gathered around the table, eating delicious, calorie-free, home-cooked meals.  Or gathered by the tree, reading the Christmas story, singing carols, and exchanging artfully wrapped gifts.  All children are well-behaved, all conversation is pleasant, and all dogs snooze quietly in the corner.  On New Year's Day we brunch while watching the Rose Parade and marveling at the beauty and intricacy of the floats.

In reality, we don't even have a table that would seat ten.  Nor do we have a dishwasher, so we will be eating from paper plates on the kitchen table, TV trays or coffee table - wherever we can find an open spot.  Our grandsons are amazing young men but, on occasion, they are a bit loud, rowdy and - gasp! - disobedient.  The dogs - our two, plus one visitor - wrestle in the living room, growl over food bowls, and knock things over with wildly wagging tails.  Some of us can't carry a tune in a bucket.  My gifts are hastily wrapped with those cheap stick-on bows. And no one gives a hoot about the Rose Parade except me.

And that is when Norman Rockwell dies - again.

But we will laugh and chat and do jigsaw puzzles. We'll watch A Christmas Story, read books, play board games and have target practice in the pasture. Occasionally we'll disagree and speak harshly and hide in the bathroom for a minute of alone time. We'll eat bbq wings, drink sparkling grape juice, and blow noisemakers with the grandsons as we welcome in 2014.  We'll be a family - not the idealistic families in the paintings, but a real family with highs and lows, disagreements and celebrations.  With apologies to Norman Rockwell.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tangled Thursday: Words

The theme for Tangled Thursday this week is "Words".   I love working words and calligraphy into my tangles.  Once I got started, I couldn't stop.  First I made the word part of the tangle:

Then I tried tangling around the word:

I even grew a garden of zen-flowers around words:

But my favorite Zentangle words are these "Ho Ho Ho's" hiding in Santa's beard:

Tangled Thursday is  hosted by Heather @ Books & Quilts.  Stop by to see what others are drawing this week.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Tangled Thursday: Monotangle

This week's theme comes from Marie at Daisy's Book Journal.  

Create a monotangle.  Your whole creation should contain one tangle pattern.  That doesn't mean you have to start with one shape and fill it in the same way.  You could start with numerous shapes or a string and do many variations on the same tangle in each of the spaces.
Being in the Christmas mood, I started with a star ornament design.  I penciled in a grid over the entire star, then added a string to create sections.  Each section is filled with a variation on the W2 pattern.  W2 (which stands for warp and weft) looks like weaving and is probably my favorite tangle to draw. 

The center space is the original W2 pattern and the five points are filled with variations. As with most of my tangles, this was drawn on standard off-white sketchbook paper.  The pinkish edges are merely bad lighting and photography.  

I couldn't resist adding some Christmas tree details.

It's my turn to select the challenge for next week - December 12th.  The challenge is to incorporate a word into your tangle.  This can be done by drawing/printing block letters and filling them in, by drawing/printing block letters and filling in area around the letters (leaving letters blank), by working handwriting or caligraphy into a pattern, or in any other way you dream up.

Tangled Thursday is hosted by Heather @ Books and Quilts.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Virtual Advent Tour

Greetings, Virtual Advent Tour!  Thanks for stopping by.  This is my fourth year participating in this fun event.  Unfortunately, due to the death of my mother-in-law and traveling for her funeral, I don't have time or computer access to write a complete post.   Rather than miss out completely, I am sharing a song that has been special to her.  She had a beautiful voice (read about it here) and sang in many community and church concerts.  Oh, Holy Night was one of her favorites to perform so, in her honor, please enjoy this flash mob version.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

I'll Fly Away . . .

I was so excited about this week's Tangled Thursday theme.  Heather chose "ornaments" as the idea to inspire us.  Being a Christmas Freak, I had all kinds of wonderful ideas.  I started two different large drawings, only to decide about 80% of the way through that I didn't care for them.  But it was still early in the week.  Plenty of time to try again. Then came the phone call.

In May of 2012, I wrote this post about my mother-in-law who had recently moved to a nursing home.  The last year-and-a-half has been a slow decline that had picked up serious speed in the last few weeks.  Our plan was to make the 90-mile trip on Saturday, but late Friday evening we received a call.  Perhaps we should come sooner.  We spent most of the next 36 hours sitting vigil as she slipped away, and the next few days making funeral plans, catching up at home and preparing to travel this weekend for the services.  Last night I finally took time to sit down and concentrate on the theme and see what I could come up with.  My thought process ran along the lines of "ornaments --- Christmas ---peace on Earth --- doves."   

And doves took me straight to one of the songs chosen for the memorial service:  "I'll Fly Away"
Some glad morning when this life is o'er, I'll fly away
To a home on God's celestial shore, I'll fly away.
I started looking for images of dove-shaped ornaments but eventually just settled on an outline of a dove that I copied freehand and embellished - my interpretation of "I'll Fly Away."  I know - the connection to the theme is pretty vague, but that's where my head is this week.    

Tangled Thursday is hosted by Heather of Books & Quilts.  Visit her blog to join in or see what others are tangling.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights . . .

Image courtesy of
 Time Management Ninja
Twitter . . . blogging . . . reading blogs . . . Facebook . . . Words with Friends . . . Candy Crush . . . Pinterest . . . TV . . .

The list of things that can distract me just keeps growing.  I get up early with plans to start the day with Bible reading and devotions, but first I should make sure I didn't miss a text from the kids overnight . . . and then while the phone is in my hand, I should just check Twitter - just quickly . . . and before I know it, I have five minutes left before time to get ready for work.  I'll do better after work.

When I gather my belongings to head to work, I always make sure I have a book to read during my lunch hour . . . just as soon as I flip through some Pinterest ideas . . . and catch up on my Words With Friends - I mean, people are waiting on me.  How did I only get two pages read?

No worries - it's 5:30 and I'm home from work with five hours to accomplish all those things on my list . . . but I'm tired.  I'll just sit down for a couple minutes . . . wonder what's on TV tonight?  I'll just take a quick browse through the guide . . . That detergent commercial reminds me - I should throw a load of towels in the wash . . .Wow, it's 7:00 already!  What's quick for supper? 

8:00 -  That's ok - I still have two and a half hours to sew or read . . . I should pick up this sewing room a little before I start a new project . . . hey, here's that apron I made a couple weeks ago.  I was going to send Teri a picture of that.  Where's my cell phone?. . . 

No wonder I feel like I never get anything done.  My age and lack of focus may be part of the problem, but I'm putting 90% of the blame on the number of distractions that technology provides.  Too much time staring at a screen means too little time focusing on the real world.  My sister, Teri, started a feature on her blog called "I Noticed . . . " in which she notes the surprising things around her that she hadn't noticed before.  I want to join in, but first I have to look up long enough to notice something.  

Candy Crush has been deleted from my phone.  Facebook, Pinterest and Words With Friends have been restricted to one (brief) visit per day.  Twitter is allowed at work, though there's rarely time to pay attention, but outlawed at home.   TV limits itself because, though we own three televisions, only one is actually connected to satellite at the moment, so when Dave turns on TruTV (otherwise known as the Stupid People Channel), I leave the room.  That leaves blogging and reading blogs.  Those I refuse to give up.

I'm devising a plan to keep up with your blogs and post on my blog on a regular basis.  I know what you're thinking. . .  "I have deja-poo - the distinct feeling that I've heard this s*** before." :)  But really, I mean it this time!    As a matter of fact, I'm going to sit down right now and make a calendar with a color-coded schedule for blog reading and writing.  I'll need markers ... I hate digging through this bag for the right color of Sharpie.  I really should make a container for storing them . . . maybe I can find an idea on Pinterest...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tangled Thursday: Thanksgiving

For the fourth week of Tangled Thursdays, it was my turn to choose the theme.  Since next week is Thanksgiving in the U.S., I chose that as our inspiration:  Create a Zentangle inspired by the idea of thankfullness, in whatever shapes, designs or patterns you choose.  

My favorite form of Zentangling is to use a copied or traced shape as a starting point.  This theme was the perfect opportunity for me to get to do that.  I selected one of the definitive symbols of Thanksgiving - the cornucopia or "horn of plenty".  The base design was from a coloring page.  I went all out and drew my tangle on 8 x 10 sketch paper.  

Tangled Thursday is a weekly feature hosted by Heather @ Books and Quilts.  Visit Heather to see what everyone is tangling or to join.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tangled Thursdays

For this weeks Tangled Thursday theme, Elaine chose "hearts".  I like tangling using a shape as a starting place, so drawing a heart and filling it wasn't pushing me to experiment. Instead, I decided to do it backwards and fill all the negative space, leaving the hearts blank.  I was very pleased with the outcome, but I really need to work on my lighting and photography.  The designs at the top are a little fuzzy.
I also drew a tangle inspired by a design I saw on-line - a heart featuring the "cancer ribbon", and it seemed only appropriate to add some touches of pink.  

Inspired by a design by  metacharis
Tangled Thursday is a weekly feature hosted by Heather at Books and Quilts.  Visit her blog to see what others are tangling or to join the fun.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Needlework Tuesday - Christmas Gifts

It's time to start sewing Christmas gifts!  Each year I like to pick a couple projects to make in bulk.  This year's choices are aprons and fabric bins/baskets.  

I have posted several pictures of the child-sized aprons I'm making.  This week I completed my first adult-sized.  Like the smaller versions, they are reversible.  It's hard to display an apron for a picture without a human form on which to hang it.  And since no other human forms were handy, an un-named resident of my house agreed to be my mannequin as long as I didn't show his face.

I also posted earlier about the quilted fabric basket I tried.  This version is larger (it's holding 3 apples and 2 pears in this shot, with lots of room to spare).  This is the mid-size pattern from Christina McKinney at Birch Fabrics.  This size required two coordinating fat quarters and some extra-stiff iron-on interfacing.  The larger size needs two cuts of fabric slightly larger than fat-quarter.  There is also a smaller version.  It required less than an hour to assemble.  My two notes to add to the excellent tutorial are: 1.  Be precise!  Even slightly varied cutting or seam allowances keep the lining from fitting snugly (as you can see in the pic.)  2.  I'm serious about STIFF interfacing to give the sides their strength.

These would be adorable on a bathroom counter for guest towels or makeup; in the kitchen for quick-grab snacks; in the craft room for fat quarters or any small items you need to corrale.  Since mine matches my kitchen, it will remain on the table to catch keys, notes, and the other miscellaneous things that get tossed there.

Needlework Tuesday is a regular feature hosted by Heather @ Books & Quilts.  Stop by to see what others are stitching this week.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

My Frightful Sewing . . .

Last week I mentioned my sewing had been mostly Halloween costumes that were unfinished - and promised pictures this week.  Well, that is not to be.  Here's the deal:  

Dave is registered to legally perform weddings, so he was asked to marry some friends ... on Halloween ... in costume.  For his costume, he chose to be Alice Cooper.  He found a tailcoat on ebay and we added sequins on the lapel, replaced fabric-covered buttons with flasy gold and silver, and added red leather cuffs,  chains and other bling.  A "bedazzled" top hat and some make-up and he was good to go.  

The Bride & Groom
For my costume, I planned to make myself a red faux-leather tailcoat and a gold brocade vest to be worn over a straight black dress, black tights and boots - a steam-punk rocker to compliment Alice.  I haven't sewn clothing for many many years, but I figured it was like riding a bike.  So I purchased a pattern and all the necessary notions and jumped in.  I cut the pattern one size larger than I usually wear, just for good measure.  When I got the first couple pieces together and tried it on, it was obvious;y too small, so I took it apart and re-assembled with the narrowest seams I could manage and it was much better . . . until I put the sleeves in.  I was actually proud of the coat - lining, tails, etc - and proud of the finished look - but I couldn't raise my arms. 

I scrapped - literally - the jacket and threw together a "fortune teller" costume which was passable, if not elaborate.  And my costume was the least important part of the evening.
 This wedding was undoubtedly the most original I've ever attended, but also one of the most fun.  It was exactly what the bride wanted - she's as nutty about Halloween as I am about Christmas.  The decorations, cake and music were wonderfully spooky and everyone had a blast.  

Friday, November 8, 2013

Vintage Mystery Bingo Challenge

This time of year, the reading challenges for the new year start popping up everywhere.  I over extended myself on challenges a few years ago and it took some of the joy out of reading.  So, I haven't participated in any the least two years, but  Vintage Mystery Bingo was just too good to pass up.  

The Vintage Mystery Challenge 2014: Silver and Gold Edition, is hosted by Bev @ My Reader's Block.   The challenge offers two bingo cards - gold for books originally published before 1960; and silver for books published between 1960 and 1989.  Each bingo card has 36 squares, so a Bingo requires reading six books. 

This challenge fits perfectly with my other reading goal for 2014 - to follow C.S. Lewis' advice:   "It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between."   I am going to be adventurous and try both the silver and gold cards.  My three favorite mystery authors - Christie, Gardner and Stout - published most of their work before 1960, so they'll fill my gold card.  There are also plenty of more recent works that I will fill my silver card.  I'm looking forward to a year of Vintage Mysteries!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tangled Thursday: Tangle Your Name

This week's assignment for Tangled Thursday comes from Marie @ Daisy's Book Journal.  She asked us to divide a tile into the same number of sections as there are letters in our first name and fill them with patterns whose names start with those letters.  She also suggested that we not use a specific shape - but create a free-form string.  And that's what I like about the loose set-up of this weekly feature - there are no rules, just ideas.  And I chose to disregard that one. :)  

My aunt passed away last week and my father's family was weighing on my mind, so I chose to use a capital letter A - which is the initial of my maiden name.  The patterns I used to spell Tami are Ticking (the center triangle), AA's (lower center), Miasma (background) and Insydout (leg of the A).  Some are official Zentangle patterns and some aren't, but they all came from Tangle

I had plenty of time left in the week and began to rethink my choice, so I created a second tangle with the same four patterns, but this time in a free-form style.  I can't decide which one I like best, but it was a great challenge, Marie.  Thanks

To see what others are tangling, or to join in, visit our hostess, Heather, from Books and Quilts.

Friday, November 1, 2013

An Elizabeth Berg Double Header

Elizabeth Berg has become one of my favorite authors.  I have read two of her books lately - one originally published in 1994, and her newest, released in April.  Both books deal with a tender subject - the death of a best friend.

My closest friend was a lady named Wanda.  When we met in 1990, she had already been battling cancer for several years.  Our friendship grew as I drove her to weekly chemo treatments.  She passed away in 2004.  These books hit close to home for me - so close that I'm amazed I actually finished them.  But I"m so glad I did.  Ms. Berg has a way of encapsulating exactly what I'm thinking and feeling into a few, beautiful words.

Talk Before Sleep
 Only best friends understand devil's food cake for breakfast when nothing else will do.  After years of shared secrets, guilty pleasures, family life and divorce, they face a crisis that redefines the meaning of friendship and unconditional love.
A wise and funny novel about two women who share the closest bonds of friendship. When one is diagnosed with cancer, their conversations begin to go deeper into the truths of women's lives.

My favorite quote:  
How is it that we dare to honk at others in traffic when we know nothing about where they have just come from or where they are on their way to?

Tapestry of Fortunes

Cecilia Ross is a motivational speaker who encourages others to change their lives for the better. Still reeling from the death of her best friend, and freshly aware of the need to live more fully now, Cece realizes that she has to make a move.  She downsizes her life, sells her suburban Minnesota home and lets go of many of her possessions. She moves into a beautiful old house in Saint Paul, complete with a garden, chef’s kitchen, and three housemates: Lise, the home’s owner and a divorced mother at odds with her twenty-year-old daughter; Joni, a top-notch sous chef at a first-rate restaurant with a grade A jerk of a boss; and Renie, the youngest and most mercurial of the group, who is trying to rectify a teenage mistake. These women embark on a journey together in an attempt to connect with parts of themselves long denied.

Favorite quotes:
I like friendly people like this who immediately make you feel welcome and quite pleased to be yourself.
There's a flat-screen TV, a fireplace with a blue stone surround that looks like lapis lazuli, and an overcrowded bookcase, my favorite kind.
Two books by the same author, dealing with the same theme, yet very different stories and perspectives - Talk Before Sleep takes the friendship through diagnosis and the process of loss. Tapestry of Fortunes focuses on recovering after the loss of a friend.  For me, it was a coincidence to pick them up so close together.  I am curious if Ms. Berg made a deliberate choice to return to the subject nearly twenty years later.  And if so, why?

Both books get my biggest thumbs up - plus a 2-hankie warning.  

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tangled Thursday: Daisy

Background by Heather @ Books & Quilts
Today is the kickoff of a new weekly feature created by Heather @ Books and Quilts.  Zentangling has become a favorite passtime for several bloggers, so Heather came up with the idea of a weekly "challenge" - not in a competitive way, but in an inspirational way.  We will take turns selecting the weekly theme.  Each member draws their own variation on the theme and we share by posting pictures on Thursday.  We will take turns selecting the theme for the next week.  If you are interested in joining us, please feel free.  Visit Heather's blog and leave her a comment so she can add you to the rotation.  

The theme for the inaugural week is "daisy".  My first thought was the "flower child" daisies of the 60's.  I used a Google image search to gather ideas and and here is my interpretation of daisies:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pin It/Do It: Quilted Basket

Seaside Stitches
"Quick and simple" seems to be the theme for my October Pin It/Do It entries.  This adorable little basket was done in less than an hour.  The original pin has easy to follow instructions.  This would be a great project for beginners of any age.  I plan to make more as Christmas gifts - fill with snacks, lotions, note pads and pen . . . lots of ideas for teachers, neighbors, co-workers, etc.  

My little coral box is on my desk at work, holding sticky notes.

The Pin It/Do It Challenge is hosted by Trish @ Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity.  Stop by and see what everyone is pinning and doing.  I signed up to do 8 pins this month, but I don't think I'm going to make it.  Only one evening left to craft and it will be spent completing my Halloween costume. The challenge may be over, but there will be plenty of crafting and sewing between now and Christmas.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Needlework Tuesday

The majority of my sewing this week was working on Halloween costumes.  I'll post pictures of them later in the week because they aren't quite complete, but here's a preview:  Some friends of ours are getting married . . . on Halloween . . . in costume.  Dave is performing the ceremony dressed as Alice Cooper.  Stop laughing, your tears are getting in the keyboard!  The bride loves Halloween, so this is her dream wedding.  I have "bedazzled" a tuxedo tailcoat and top hat for Dave.  I couldn't come up with a costume for me, so I decided to do the obvious and be "Mrs. Cooper".  I am making myself a red and black leather tail coat and gold brocade vest.  If they turn out to be wearable, I'll post pictures.  If not, I'll be scrambling for a backup costume.  I'll let you know on Friday.

In the mean time, the only other stitching I've done is to make a Pumpkin Pincushion that I posted about on Sunday.  But in sewing-related news, I have a new sewing machine. Make that a new, OLD sewing machine.  An early 20th century Montgomery Ward treadle machine.

We haven't been able to locate a serial or model number, but the machine was patented in 1886 and the cabinet mechanism in 1903.  I have a 1947 Singer machine and by that time machines had switched to electricity.  My amazing powers of deduction tell me that the treadle machine likely dates between 1903 and 1940.  All parts seem to be in working order, but the belt is missing.  A friend (a librarian, naturally) knew of a site to buy vintage parts, so we may get it functional, but it's really just for decoration.  My friend, Julie, described it as one of those things that just make you squeal when you see it.  *squeal*

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pin It/Do It: Pumpkin Pincushion

Things we know about me:
Original Pin from
  • I don't like Halloween.
  • I really likes Christmas (Seriously, a Christmas blog theme in October?).
  • I tend to skip over decorating or crafting for Autumn and go straight to Christmas.
But this little pumpkin pincushion was so cute, I had to try making one.  Turned out to be a very quick and simple project.

The instructions for curling the ribbon require starch, and I didn't have any, so I simply wound the ribbon around a pencil and steamed it several times with my iron, let it cool completely and slid off the pencil.  We'll see how long the curl holds.  Here's my version:

This project was under an hour - including time to dig through the scrap box for orange fabrics.  The original calls for two alternating prints, but I used four prints to use up some small scraps.  This is a great idea for a quick gift, or make them assembly-line style and whip up an entire pumpkin patch to use as table favors or craft fair items.  

Friday, October 25, 2013

Book Bummers

Blood, gore, demons, and demented characters . . .  These are themes that abound this time of year, but I am not a Halloween fan - in fact I pretty much skip the whole thing now that I don't have kids at home.  Thanks to two highly anticipated novels, I've had way more than my share this October, starting with Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall.  Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones. (from book cover)

The friend who recommended this series said "Prepare to be addicted."  I slogged through 27 cd's waiting for the addictive part, but all I found were throat slashings, stabbings, severed bodies and heads on spikes.  True, there were a lot of plots and counterplots, but none of them made me wonder "what's next"?  This series is now a hit TV show, which I haven't watched, but I can't image how it translates to TV.  Not a hit with me.

Next was Stephen King's Doctor Sleep.  I pre-ordered my copy months before it's release and, when that copy was back-ordered, bought the Nook version because I couldn't wait to start. I even joined a read-along group so I could discuss it with other readers.  
Stephen King returns to the character and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance and the very special twelve-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.
On highways across America, a tribe of people called the True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, the True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the steam that children with the shining produce when they are slowly tortured to death. (from book cover)
 I read Section I, just over 100 pages, and had to give up.  I'll admit, I read The Shining over 30 years ago, when it first came out, and maybe my memory isn't what it should be, but I recall it being psychological terror - the effects of isolation.  When this story involved kidnapping and torturing a child, I called it quits.  There is so much real-life horror in the world, I just can't fill any more time, space and energy with imagined carnage. 

Recovery from alcoholism also played a large part in at least the first section of this book.  I can't begin to get inside Mr. King's head (thank heaven) but I assume that writing about Dan's battle with alcohol was in some way therapeutic for his own struggle with alcohol.  One of my other favorite authors, Lawrence Block, attempted a similar catharsis through writing alcohol recovery into one of his popular series.  I couldn't finish that book either.  Somehow, one person's experience with AA and their inner demons doesn't translate to the page - or perhaps it just doesn't translate to me.  Either way, it translates into too much work to read.  I can't believe I put Stephen King in the DNF pile!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

How to Shop a Library Sale, or You Can't Judge a Book By It's Cover

Dave and I stopped by the library during our lunch hour today and stumbled on a used book sale - $2/bag.  My eyes glazed over as I grabbed a bag and began digging.  Dave sifted through a couple tables and deemed them all "fuel for a giant book burning".   I'll agree, there were a lot of  less-than-bestsellers there, but there were also gems among the dross, if you dug deep enough.  Here's what I discovered on the Mystery table:

It's a mystery-lovers bonanza:  Gilman, Christie, Rinehart, Gardner, Stout - and that plain brown book underneath is Westlake.  Throw in a copy of A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines and a collection of Christmas stories and it's a pretty good haul.  

C.S. Lewis once said, "It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between."  I intend to try to follow that rule in the coming year.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

I Can Do It Myself!

Dave and I have been car shopping.  We aren't car buying because we can't agree on the specifics of what we're shopping for.   This is the only vehicle we come close to agreeing on:
Nissan Juke
But I only want it if it's Cayenne Red with black leather interior . . . with the red stitching on the seats . . . and the red console . . . and costs less than we paid for our first house.  I don't think that's out of line, but car dealers seem to, so we're still searching.

 The search has confirmed something I've really known for years:  some of the standard features on new cars annoy me.  I'm tired of cars that think they know best. I am an adult, capable of making my own choices.  If I want my doors locked, I will lock them.  If I want my headlights on, I will turn them on.  If I want to wear a seat belt, I will put it on.   And - here's the biggie - I absolutely hate having the radio continue to run after the car is shut off.  I hate that moment when the car noise stops, but the radio continues to blare at what is now, in the absence of car and road noise, a jarring volume.  If I want to listen to the radio, I can do it myself! 

Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for luxury and pampering.  Heated seats are good.  Climate control heating/cooling is a must.  And those cool back-up cameras might have prevented the little fender-bender I had the other day.  But I want to choose when I use these features.  I don't want my car to be in charge. 

More and more, technology seems to be taking over life. I don't have proof, but my personal theory is that it started in the 1950's.
Electric stoves, refrigerators, toasters and kettles revolutionized the kitchen, and vacuum cleaners and washing machines shaved hours off time spent cleaning. Women could enjoy more leisure time while still creating a clean, comfortable home for their families.  -
Of course, you can't stop progress  - or so they say - and the appliances that revolutionized the 1950's have continued to evolve.  Appliance manufacturers continually add features that promise to do more so we can do less.   A microwave - unheard of when we got married - is now a standard kitchen feature.  Dishwashers not only wash our plates and cups, but will now scrub our pots and pans.  Washers include cycles for even our most delicate items - no more hand washing.  But to what end?

Automation and technology are meant to make life easier; to free up more time -- time we can use to go to the gym because, since machines do our work, we aren't getting enough exercise.  We continually increase the physical and mental jobs we hand off to machines.  Calculators have replaced the need to know multiplication tables.  MP3's and iPods have freed us from having to stack records on the stereo or turn the pages of a book.  Cell phones have nearly made watches, calendars, and address books obsolete,  We don't even have to make the effort to remember our best friend's phone number. 

In our cars, automatic transmission makes it unnecessary to shift and clutch.  Radio seek and scan features free us from the strain of turning a knob.  Windows glide down, and out-of-reach rear doors lock with the push of one finger.  These are all convenient and/or helpful ways to make life just a little easier. 

However, we have become so accustomed to our automated lives that physical work seems daunting when we have to do it ourselves. Just suggest to a farmer that he bale his hay in hundreds of small square bales and stack them by hand, rather than in large round bales moved and stacked with a tractor.  Or ask a young lady who has always "Swiffered" her kitchen floor to scrub it on hands and knees.  Baking and sewing are no longer mandatory subjects for high school girls because everything they need is available on a Wal-Mart shelf.  These once-mandatory skills have been changed to "crafts" by the convenience of technology.

The features in new cars that annoy me, however, move beyond convenience.  They think for us - or at least the engineers who design them do.  Locked doors, buckled belts and blaring radios are no longer optional.  Someone, somewhere has decided that their preferences are right for everyone, and I can not be trusted to make my own choices.  I want to yell, "I can do it myself!"  I know, I know - it's just a car radio. It's not life and death.  And you're right - in the end, it probably won't stop me from trading cars.  

But these annoying features are a microcosm of bigger issues; of the growing list of opinions that are forced on me.  The message is clear: "These are the opinions you must hold in order to be an upstanding, clear-headed, politically correct citizen of this world.  All those who disagree are not only wrong, but obviously subordinate."  What about personal choice?  What about open-minded debate?  What about agreeing to disagree at times?  Those things are rare in the 2013 world - largely because our easy lives have made us lazy and apathetic.  Instead of putting out the effort to fight, we watch our glorious nation slide faster and faster down the slippery slope toward the attitudes and oppressions our ancestors have repeatedly gone to war to escape.

Overly dramatic?  I hope so.  But I'm afraid not. It's time to remember that "progress" is meant to make life better, not just less demanding.  It's time to stop accepting the "standard options" just because it's easier than taking a stand.  It's time to stop conforming just because we're too lackadaisical to protest.  It's time to stop taking the easy road and put our country back on the right road.  It's time to stop allowing the government to do for us and say "I can do it myself."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pin It/Do It: Christmas Table Topper

This post is doing double-duty for October Pin It/Do It and Needlework Tuesday.  I pinned this project quite awhile ago, but was undecided on fabrics.  I also had a collection of 5 Charlie Brown Christmas fat quarters that I wanted to make into something that didn't require cutting them up too small or the prints would get lost.  Behold the perfect combination.

The original pin called for a plastic wedge template for cutting the pieces but, because of my self-imposed $5 spending limit for this challenge, purchasing one was not an option.  Instead, I printed a Dresden Plate template off the internet, enlarged to the proper size on the copier, and squared the outside edges to get rid of the scallop.  It would be cute to leave the scalloped edge if you're talented at finishing. Not I!  My pattern called for 16 wedges rather than 20, as in the video.  This went together very easily and quickly.

The video shows a slick trick for getting the center piece perfectly round. 

Tip:  Be very (I mean VERY) consistent with your seam sizes.  A little too big or too small and your circle won't lay flat.  Of course the video calls for finishing the outside edge with bias binding.  And of course I didn't do it.  I hate binding.  I layered my finished top with cotton batting and the backing fabric and stitched the outer edge, leaving a space to turn.  If you look close, you can see that my circle puckers just a little bit in places - proving my point about consistent seam sizes. 

Also, don't try to sew as a distraction when upset.  I had just received news of the death of a co-worker who had been battling cancer and my mind was wandering.  The finishing isn't as good as it should be.  I'm debating ripping it out and restitching the outside edge, but most likely I'll just use it as is.

Here is the original Youtube video by Missouri Quilt Company:

If you missed yesterday's post, back up and check out my other sewing project this week.

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather at Books and Quilts.
The October Pin It and Do It Challenge is hosted by Trish at Love, Laughter and a Bit of Insanity.