Saturday, November 30, 2013

Scrapbook of Secrets

I've had Scrapbook of Secrets (Cumberland Creek) by Mollie Cox Bryan on my to-read list for a few months now.

When a young mother commits suicide and the members of the local scrapbooking group see that all of her albums and pictures have been dumped on the sidewalk next to the trash can, they rescue them with the intent of putting together albums for her children. None of them knew Maggie Rae well, and it turns out that all of their assumptions about her were completely false. She was living a secret life and, it turns out, she was murdered.

And then there's the mystery of who stabbed Vera's mother at the grocery store and how the older woman made it all the way home without knowing that there was a knife protruding from her neck.

The writing is really, really good. The characters are all three dimensional women with their own lives and back stories. It reminded me of all of the things that I loved so much about the earlier Elm Creek books.

But I hated the character of Annie. She's unhappy as a stay at home mom. The sticky juice her small children leave behind for her to clean up is about to push her over the edge, and apparently she's not smart enough to figure out that she could eliminate the problem by not letting her two young boys roam the house with cups of juice. Either stop buying it or limit it to meals when they're sitting at the table with adult supervision. Even my kids don't dribble juice all over everything. She also doesn't like her new home in Cumberland Creek and can't believe that "in this day and age" people do anything that she disagrees with. The straw that broke the camel's back for me was when the demanded of the other scrap bookers "Haven't all of you ever slept with other men besides your husbands?" Really?!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Let's Make Baby Quilts! {week 48}

Did you hit the Black Friday sales this morning to stock up on quilting supplies? I'm writing this in advance and I think I've decided to stay home. I can get the few things I do need for decent one of Joann's regular sales without standing in the dark and freezing my toes off.  There are a couple of things I want for the kids that I'd go out in pursuit of, but the prices would have to be really fantastic to make it worth the stress.

Let's Make Baby Quilts Linky Party Rules:

Link directly to your post or specific Flickr photo. Your post can be about a baby quilt that's finished, or in progress, or you can be writing about what you have planned, but it's got to be about baby quilts. While we're still gathering steam, you're welcome to link to baby quilt posts that aren't brand new, but please don't submit the same post or picture more than once. I'd love it if you linked back to my site, either with a text link or the Let's Make Baby Quilts! button

By linking up, you're giving me permission to feature your quilt in a future Let's Make Baby Quilts! post -- with a link back and full credit, of course.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Our "new" New Cook Book

For our wedding, someone gave us a copy of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. We used it, a lot, over the next twenty-two years. I can't remember the last time the cover was attached. The last pages of the index were next to go, followed by the pages  for all of my favorite recipes.

Hubby and I both agreed that it was time to replace it, but the recipes have changed in the different editions and we wanted this one!

A couple of months ago, when we were roaming antique malls in Arizona, we spotted this one:

The publication date was 1991, which got my hopes up. It didn't look quite like we remembered our battered copy, but for four bucks, we figured it was worth a gamble. Turns out it's not the right book. Of course the copyright page in our wedding copy went the way of the cover and index, so we'll never know which one we're looking for (wouldn't that make things just too easy?), but at least it's got the recipes I was hoping for, the ones which aren't the same in my mom's 1970s era edition.

My favorites? Cream Puffs and Chicken Paprikash.

So what's your go-to cookbook? Got a favorite dinner from this one that I should try?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Blog Hop Giveaway results

The winner of  Quilt It with Love: The Project Linus Story: 20+ Quilt Patterns & Stories to Warm Your Heart is Sally, who wrote:

I make baby quilts for grandchildren, friend's children and grandchildren and premature infants in the neo-natal care center (those quilts are quite small!) I'm a follower too!

Thank you to everyone who entered. I loved reading all of the comments and wish I'd had more books to give away!

{Yarn Along} The Strange Birth, Short Life, and Sudden Death of Justice Girl

Remember that knit star I was working on last week? I've been knitting more of them  in the evenings while we watch TV and now I've got a whole pile.

I'm fascinated by old radio shows and the early years of television, so when I saw The Strange Birth, Short Life, and Sudden Death of Justice Girl by Julian David Stone, I knew I was going to want to read it.  I wasn't disappointed.

On the verge of being fired from Hermie's Henhouse for refusing to sign a loyalty oath, Jonny Dirby makes some last minute changes to that night's script, transforming a costumed sidekick with no lines into Justice Girl. His creation  is a runaway success and the next morning, Jonny finds himself rehired by the network with complete control over the new Justice Girl television series. He seizes the opportunity to funnel work to fellow writers who have been blacklisted by the industry. Felicity Kensington, the young woman who find herself thrust from a minor role in a comedy sketch into the starring role in her own series, isn't an actress at all. She's working under an assumed name, secretly trying to find proof of the blacklisted writers and provide their names to her father to use in his political campaign. I enjoyed the book and found myself emphasizing with both Jonny and Felicity, who could have easily come across as a  poor little rich girl.

For more pretty knitting projects to drool over, check out On the Needles at Patchwork Times and Work in Progress Wednesdays at Tami's Amis

Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an electronic ARC. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

29 days 'til Christmas...

I've been making more stuff to hang on the tree, singeing my fingertips and shattering any illusions I might have had about making a cathedral windows quilt anytime soon.

There are a whole slew of fabric Cathedral Window ornaments out there.  I started with this tutorial from Constantly Quilting, which tells you what size to cut the squares and directs you to a tutorial on another website. I was disappointed with my results --

Then I looked at this one, over at Crafter Without a Cat, and got even more confused. It's a more  complex pattern, but the tutorial that it steered me towards was better than the first one I started out with.

I don't know if I'd get better results if I tried again, now that I understand what I'm supposed to be doing, but for the moment I'm giving up on these.

Take a look at these ornaments that I found on etsy. I can't make one block, and she can put that many into a single ornament and have them look that good?! I'm awed by that level of skill.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Bow Tie Butterflies?

I've been playing with the new Bowties die that AccuQuilt sent me.  These aren't the traditional bow ties that the die was intended to make, but I've got an idea...

When I started cutting scraps for my Cheddar Bow Ties, I was desperately wishing I had a die to do it with. Squaring up the edges and then trying to be sure I could get all four squares that I needed before I started cutting took time -- a lot more time than just layering the fabric over the blades! Too bad this die doesn't make 3" blocks. With the quilt top 2/3 done, I'll finish that one the old fashioned way. And the 2" blocks for the Temecula Quilting version.

The AccuQuilt die makes 4" Bowtie blocks from 2 1/2" and 1 1/2" squares. To get the most out of my pinks scraps and the black fabric (which I'm supposed to be using for Hocuspocusville and keep stealing for other projects), I'm starting with strips just under 3" wide. Cutting the print pieces is about as straightforward as it could be.

To cut the smaller squares, I had to get a little more creative. If I let the end of the fabric run off the die in the other direction, I was afraid I'd cut it on the blades for the larger squares. So I position it just over the blades that I'm cutting with. 

And, to avoid extra wear and tear on my mat, I place the mat just over the portion of the die that I'm using. (I do this any time I'm only using a portion of a die.)

If I was cutting these pieces from yardage, I think I'd use my 1 1/2" and  2 1/2" strip dies to cut the squares. But for small or oddly shaped scraps, this die is just what I'd hoped for.

I'm linking up to Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Free Kindle Mysteries

A couple of times a week, I browse Amazon's mystery pages looking for freebies to download onto my Kindle. This morning, the pickings were good so I decided to share them with you. All italics are from the book's descriptions on Amazon.

Poison Pen by Sheila Lowe

Before her body is found in her Jacuzzi, publicist to the stars Lindsey Alexander had few friends, but plenty of enemies. Yet, police are willing to accept the words scrawled on crumpled piece of paper nearby as evidence of suicide.

When handwriting expert Claudia Rose is called onto the case, she has a different opinion. And when her instincts push her to investigate further, Claudia finds herself entangled in a far darker scenario than she could have imagined.

Darkness and the Devil Behind Me by Persia Walker

In December 1923, Esther Todd was a lovely young pianist, a rising star. One month later, she was on the Most Wanted List. She had vanished along the snowy streets of a stormy night in Harlem and thieves had hit the home of her society patron, pulling off a million- dollar heist.

Were the disappearance and the robbery coincidence or conspiracy? Somebody knew, but nobody was talking. Three years later, the puzzles remained unsolved.

As a crime reporter, Lanie Price covered the initial case. Now a frustrated society columnist, she's ready for a change. It comes in the form of Esther's sister, Ruth.

Desperate for closure, Ruth begs Lanie to dedicate her Christmas column to the case. Maybe someone, somewhere will remember something. Seeking fresh material, Lanie starts asking hard questions, dangerous questions, the kind just about guaranteed to get her killed.

Strong Spirits by Alice Duncan

It's the 1920s and Daisy Gumm Majesty is doing her part to support her family as a medium by holding séances and interpreting tarot cards for the rich and famous.

When the wealthy Mrs. Kincaid comes to Daisy to help solve her husband's disappearance, Detective Sam Rotondo isn't far behind.

Sam isn't fooled by Daisy's choice of "vocation" and blackmails her into spying on the Kincaids.

Then Daisy reads Sam's cards... and the tables turn.

Note -- All of these titles were listed as free when I wrote this post. The prices on Amazon change quickly, so please double-check the prices before you order them. You can find Amazon's currrent top 100 free mysteries here.

Just What I've Been Wanting!

I bought yarn for the Christmas ornaments. Hubby is hiding presents in the shop, which means I'm not allowed out there until he moves them...and the sewing room is above the shop.  It's a situation that can't last long, since the chest freezer is also out there, but I got tired of waiting. And I wasn't going to try explaining why I can't use the sock yarn that's in the house for Christmas tree ornaments, because it's the wrong color and weight and if I use it for ornaments there might not be enough left for socks. 

And check out my new knitting box! For a while now, since someone broke the ugly shoe box I was keeping my shawls in, I've been wanting a decorative cardboard suitcase like the ones Teenage Daughter uses to store her nail polish in. The ones I found were okay, but didn't make my heart skip a beat. I knew I wanted one, but I didn't want the ones I was seeing in the stores and I was getting just impatient enough to think about buying one anyway and recovering it with scrapbooking paper or fabric I did like.  

This one makes me happy. I love the chalkboard art look, and and the lettering, and all of the inspirational little quotes. It's a good size to keep a larger project in and the top fastens with Velcro (I don't love Velcro near my yarn, but as long as the yarn isn't spilling over the sides of the box, it should be okay.

Sometimes, it's a good idea to wait until you find exactly what you want. And sometimes it's best to just buy the cheap yarn at Walmart!

Weekly Stash Report

Fabric Used this Week: 2 3/4 yards
Fabric Used year to Date: 69 3/4 yards
Added this Week: 0 yards
Added Year to Date: 251 1/2 yards
Net Added for 2013: 181 3/4 yards

Yarn Used this Week: 40 yards
Yarn Used year to Date: 2990 yards
Yarn Added this Week: 2206 yards (8 skeins)
Yarn Added Year to Date: 9486 yards (about 47 skeins)
Net Added for 2013: 6496 yards

I'm linking up to Patchwork Times and Finding Fifth.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

{Whatcha Reading?} History Lessons

I just finished reading Don't Hurry Me Down to Hades: The Civil War In The Words of Those Who Lived It by Susannath J. Ural. Instead of including complete letters, which is what I expected after reading the book's description, the author weaves quotes into the chapters. It works well, providing a context for the letters that I probably would have missed otherwise.  The book exposed me to a lot of  details about the Civil War that I'd never heard about before.

I've also been reading Quilts in Everyday Life, 1855-1955: A 100-Year Photographic History.  It's a collection of previously unpublished photographs, providing information about the history of both quilts and photography. All of the photographs are in black (sepia?) and white and many of the quilts are hidden in the background.  Some of the photos are easier to make out than others, but considering their age and the fact that many were found in estate sales and antique shops, I'm not sure we can complain.

My favorite pictures are the ones of quilts hanging on clotheslines between buildings and the one (on page 29) of a family standing in front of their old farmhouse. Through an open upstairs window, you can just glimpse a folded quilt.

It's an interesting book to browse through, but I don't think you'll find any antique quilts to copy. There are a lot of postmortem photographs of young children and adults (more in the earlier pages, since the book is arranged chronologically) that might be unsettling for some readers who aren't expecting them.

Disclosure -- Don't Hurry Me Down to Hades was provided by the publisher. Quilts in Everyday Life came from the library.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Let's Make Baby Quilts! {week 47}

As part of the Quilter's Gallery blog hop, I'm giving away a copy of Quilt It with Love: The Project Linus Story: 20+ Quilt Patterns & Stories to Warm Your Heart. My youngest two sons both spent time in the NICU and each of them was given a quilt. I still can't explain how those quilts made me feel -- but they're why I make baby quilts now. They letters in this book from quilt recipients are just amazing. If you ever want some inspiration to keep making charity quilts, this is where to look.  If you want to enter the giveaway, leave a comment on yesterday's post.

Has anyone else noticed that we're quickly running out of year? Instead of making myself crazy trying to meet my goal of fifty baby quilts, I'm going to just do what I can and try it again in 2014. I know I can do it. I've done it in previous years. This year, I've had less time.

I've set up a Let's Make Baby Quilts Facebook page. I'm better at making baby quilts than navigating Facebook, but I'm hoping this might make it easier to share news with you. Everything on the blog will stay the same, but I'll post links over there when I add new baby quilt tutorials.

Let's Make Baby Quilts Linky Party Rules:

Link directly to your post or specific Flickr photo. Your post can be about a baby quilt that's finished, or in progress, or you can be writing about what you have planned, but it's got to be about baby quilts. While we're still gathering steam, you're welcome to link to baby quilt posts that aren't brand new, but please don't submit the same post or picture more than once. I'd love it if you linked back to my site, either with a text link or the Let's Make Baby Quilts! button

By linking up, you're giving me permission to feature your quilt in a future Let's Make Baby Quilts! post -- with a link back and full credit, of course.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Blog Hop Party

It's time for another Blog Hop Party With Giveaways, sponsored by the Quilting Gallery.  I love these events -- it's so much fun to explore new blogs, and if I win something, that's an extra bonus!

Blog Hop Party with Give-Aways

If you haven't been here before, I'm Michelle and my project for the last three or four years has been making baby quilts for local pregnancy centers. After making twenty quilts for my own family of six in one year, I had to do something different! Twenty quilts we can use, but multiply that by years and years...

I love making baby quilts. They're instant gratification. They're great for using up scraps and playing with new blocks or color schemes or quilting techniques. This year, I decided that it would me more fun if I had other quilters to make the baby quilts with, so I started Let's Make Baby Quilts.  Every Friday I host a linky party to share our progress and finishes. I also share tutorials for easy baby quilts. You can find a list of those over in the sidebar.

I'm giving away a copy of Quilt It with Love: The Project Linus Story: 20+ Quilt Patterns & Stories to Warm Your Heart. To enter, just leave a comment below letting me know who you make baby quilts for. I'd love it if you followed my blog or liked the new Let's Make Baby Quilts page on Facebook.

On November 27, I'll use the random number generator to choose a winner. (And yes, I will ship internationally.)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Meet Garnet!

I made a baby quilt from someone else's pattern this week. Meet Garnet --

The pattern  is Sapphires and Rubies from Needyl. I didn't use her technique for four-at-a-time flying geese and my attempt to recreate the measurements didn't come out quite right, so I've lost the points on my gems and they don't line up the way hers did. I also left of a row of gems to make the quilt a bit smaller. If I make it again, I think I'll follow the directions better. Or make the gems scrappy by piecing them from 2 1/2" squares. Wouldn't that be cute? 

The fabric I used for the brown gems is left over from the backing of the turtle quilt. I thought I had enough to back this quilt too, and I did. If you consider 1/2" extra around each edge to be "enough."  I pinned and quilted very carefully and it worked. 

This post is linked to I Gotta Try ThatSew Much AdoFinish it Up FridayCan I get a Whoop Whoop?Get Crafting FridayPinworthy Projects, and Freedom FridaysWonderful at Home, and Inspired Friday.

{Yarn Along} The Doris Diaries

I'm knitting a star for the Christmas tree, following a free pattern I found over on Ravelry. It's knitting up quickly and I like the way that it's all one length of yarn with none of the cutting and rejoining yarn that I expected when I first saw the pattern. 

As soon as I heard about The Doris Diaries, I added the first book, I've Got Some Lovin' To Do: The Diaries Of A Roaring Twenties Teen, 1925-1926, to my Amazon cart along with my Christmas shopping. It came along with the rest of the presents and I tucked it away in a safe place, then forgot about it completely until I got the chance to review the second book, Reaching for the Moon: More Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen (1927-1929) for the blog. Even though I try not to pay full price for books that I don't intend to read right away, sometimes good intentions aren't enough. (And sometimes I just pay $1.99 for the Kindle edition instead of ransacking the entire house to find a book I put away a year ago. I figured that my time and sanity were worth it and that I'd find the paperback as soon as I spent more money to read it. It didn't happen.)

I read the second book first, while I still thought I knew where my copy of the first one was tucked away. It's probably my less favorite of the two because the entries are shorter.  This isn't a polished memoir. The entries were written day by day and reflect whatever was going on in Doris's life at the time.  She buys a lot of clothes and goes on a lot of dates and falls in love with just about every set of male eyes she looks into.

Doris kissed just as many guys in the first book, but she's also going for canoe rides and horseback riding...and having no end of trouble with the family Ford, making me wonder if minor fender benders were more common back then. The entries in this book are longer and more detailed. I loved her description of a late night ride to visit and abandoned house that they'd been told was haunted.

It amazed me how much freedom and lack of supervision a teenage girl in the 1920s had. Now I'm wondering if it was typical of the time, or how much her parents knew about what their daughter was actually up to.

Both books contain detailed footnotes, appendixes, and glossaries of Doris's slang terms. I did find myself wondering if it was "right" to publish her diaries after her death. In an early entry in the second book, she comments that she would "hate to have the public know all my thoughts." But I don't think that will stop me from reading the next book in the series when it's released.

For more pretty knitting projects to drool over, check out On the Needles at Patchwork Times and Work in Progress Wednesdays at Tami's Amis

Disclosure -- I was provided with an electronic review copy of Reaching for the Moon by the publisher and bought my own copies (two of 'em!) of I've Got Some Lovin' To Do

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What's in your first aid kit?

I was absolutely tickled when I found this for $3.75 at the thrift shop a couple of weeks back: 

It's metal and extremely sturdy. There's a fold up piece at the top so I can hang it on a wall. And, except for some dust along the top, it was surprisingly clean. I scrubbed it myself anyway, but if it had been filthy I probably wouldn't have been so excited to bring it home to store our Band Aids in.

Now, I'm on a quest to put together the perfect first aid kit for our family. We've got a real one out in the van, and a less fancy version someplace in the bathroom cabinet, but neither ever has the things I actually need in them. Those five adhesive bandages and two alcohol wipes just aren't going to do much for a family of six. 

I've got a brand new tube of antibiotic ointment, tweezers, regular bandages, bigger bandages, gauze and tape (not that I've ever used those, but they seem like something I should have on hand in case of I-don't-know-what) and a brand new thermometer. For seven years, the most accurate on I've had in the house was the one they sent home with us from the NICU, which only gives the temperature in Celsius. For a while, I had "normal" memorized, but it was time to get a new one that would eliminate the late night math quizzes.

Now I'm wondering what I've missed, besides the extra bottle of Benadryl for bee strings. Honestly, when something big and bloody does happen at our house (like dropping the chef's knife onto my foot just about the time my blood thinners should have been really working), I dive for a clean dish towel and never even think about the first aid kit.

If I'm prepared and know exactly where everything is, maybe we'll have less opportunity to use it.

I'm linking up to WFMW over at We are THAT Family.

I'm finally quilting the turtles!

From the beginning, I've had big plans for the quilting on my Drunkard's Path Turtles. I want to custom quilt designs for the shell and legs of each turtle and do a tight stipple in the blue background.

A couple things were holding me back. If I'm going to do quilting like this, I want to use my Janome. I do better work on it than the long arm, probably because I have lots more practice on that machine and can seize perfect moments of opportunity when the boys are asleep or totally absorbed in a project and no one is likely to go tearing through the room and distract me.

Doing big quilts on the Janome presents its own series of problems, especially when it's time to baste it. The assembled quilt top is wider than my largest expanse of bare floor, even if I move furniture. And I really really don't want pleats in the back of this quilt. I don't mind a few itty-bitty ones in a utility quilt, but I've grown more and more attached to these turtles.

The solution was easy. I hauled it up to Mom's house and basted it on her long arm. Now that all of the layers are together, I can take my time and do a turtle when the mood strikes, instead of rushing to get it all done in one afternoon.

If you have a long arm, or access to one, have you ever basted a quilt to do on your DSM?  I've heard of quilters having projects basted to hand quilt later. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Hunter Star with the AccuQuilt Go!

Hunter Star is one of the traditional blocks that I've been fascinated (and intimidated) by ever since I started quilting. Trapezoids and diamonds scare me, a fact that I promptly forgot when I saw the new AccuQuilt dies and dreamed up a baby quilt that would use the Hunter Star Block.

But this is going to work out. One of the things I love about die cutting is that it gives me accurate pieces so, instead of worrying about cutting and piecing, all I have to worry about is the piecing. That's the only way I ever had the courage to tackle my two color Drunkard's Path quilt, Cabbage Roses. And by the time I had it done, I was comfortable with curves. 

I really like the layout of this die. One layer of fabric gets you all of the light or dark shapes needed for a pair of 6" squares. It's laid out to cut both the "A" and "A Reversed" pieces without using a double layer of fabric, and the pieces are tightly clustered together, which will make it good for cutting scraps. Now all I've got to do is remember which way those pesky diamonds go!

To see what other quilters are up to, head over to Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times.


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