Thursday, January 29, 2009

oh, no, not my magazines!

The faltering economy has hit my magazine addiction: Cottage Living (I've been a subscriber since the first issue) and Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion (also a subscriber since the first issue) have both ceased publication. Sigh. Since my subscriptions still had time, I am now a subscriber to Southern Living and Martha Stewart Living. Sigh again.

Unhappy magazine addict here. Nothing better happen to all of my quilting magazines....

Monday, January 26, 2009

the reader as quilter

One of my manias is collecting fabric (I have over 40 neatly labeled and sorted boxes of fabric in my quilting stash). Imagine my joy, when the world of children's books invaded the world of fabric design! I have a box of "The Wizard of Oz" prints; have just ordered prints inspired by The Jetsons, The Flintstones and the chocolate factory episode from "I Love Lucy"; I've cut out a jacket using 7-8 different Winnie the Pooh prints; have several Olivia (from the imagination of Ian Falconer) prints as well as a panel of The Very Hungry Caterpillar (courtesy of Eric Carle and Bill Martin, Jr.) for a wall hanging.

Two days ago, I was spending a little quality time at (fabric for quilters) when I discovered the latest: Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? by Eric Carle and Bill Martin, Jr. The chase is now on and I will be visiting every quilt shop I know looking for it. I can't wait!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

the joy of memoirs

I was talking to a friend in church about what he was reading (a biography of Lincoln) which made me think about memoirs, my chosen biographical reading. I love the quirkiness of memory and the intimacy of someone sharing such a private part of themselves (something I have great difficulty in doing...).

My first experiences with memoirs were Tracy and Hepburn: an intimate memoir by Garson Kanin and By myself by Lauren Bacall. Being a movie-besotted teenager (and woman of a certain age), I loved reading about Kate and Spence and their friendship with Garson and his wife, the fabulous Ruth Gordon (die-hard Harold and Maude fan here). And Lauren Bacall's can-you-believe-this-happened-to-me tales of Bogey and Jason Robards...sigh, sigh.

As a children's librarian, I really and truly enjoyed The moon and I by Betsy Byars, a combination of a treatise on writing and a memoir of her writing experiences. The Moon is a black snake that hung in the rafters of her writing studio which was rather like a playhouse in her backyard. I laughed until I cried when she wrote of finding a black snake dead by the road and, convinced it was her Moon, decided to take the body home for a proper burial. (It was not her Moon, by the way).

In my past, I was a season ticket holder for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. At one of the concert previews, violist Evelina Chao read a chapter from her memoir of her first trip to China to meet her family: Yeh Yeh's house. It was funny and touching and made me run to the library and request the book as soon as I could. The wonder that she felt in meeting the family that remained in China was palpable, as well as her feeling of being so different because of her American upbringing. A wonderful book.

Since my first viewing of The Sound of Music as a kid, I've worshipped and idolized Julie Andrews. While snowed in at a hotel in Park Rapids (at the end of April, no less!), I spent many a happy hour reading her Home: a memoir of my early years and falling even more in love with her. Can she really be so warm and wonderful and perfect? (In 2004, I spent a week in New York City celebrating a landmark birthday (50) and got to be in the same theatre as my idol when she hosted a gala concert honoring Kitty Carlisle and the memory of her husband Moss Hart--the thought that I've breathed the same air as Julie Andrews just makes me shiver!)

While I appreciate a well-crafted and well-researched biography, give me a memoir every time!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

what would have happened if...?

Because I always have so many books I want to read, I have reluctantly started reading two books at once--one book I carry in my purse, the other book is on my bedside table. The two books I'm reading now are turning out to be very similar: they are both a revision of history as we know it. Both books are really gripping, very enjoyable reads and very intense.

The explosionist by Jenny Davidson is set in Edinburgh, Scotland in the late 1930s. Europe is completely reorganized due to the fact that Napoleon won at Waterloo. England is a dangerous wasteland, to be avoided at all costs. The Scandinavian countries have formed a Hanseatic League which is currently allied with Scotland. The heroine is Sophie, a fifteen year old student living with her great-aunt, the founder of a program called IRYLNS (pronounced "irons") which produces the perfect secretary/assistant. Training with IRYLNS is considered to be a high status future for a young woman. Sophie has become involved in the murder of a medium who warned Sophie of a frightening event in her future. There are so many convolutions and secrets in this book--I'm worn out trying to keep up! A big thumbs up on the first 200 pages of the book though.

I absolutely loved, loved, loved the Gregor the Overlander books by Suzanne Collins and have had huge success recommending them to reluctant boy readers. Her new series has just begun and it couldn't be more different! The Hunger Games is set in a future America, completely changed since the South won the Civil War, lost their power and destroyed the states completely. The country (now known as Panem) is now organized into 12 districts, ruled by the Capitol. The Hunger Games is a fight to the death, with a male and female representative from each district, televised to inspire the people. I've only read 25 pages or so but I am liking it (though I am a little concerned about all the 3rd and 4th grade boys who loved Gregor who will want to read this intense and, I think, disturbing novel).

A past read of the same genre is The year of the hangman by Gary Blackwood, the story of what happened to America when they lost the American Revolution. Read it, it is really good.

Monday, January 5, 2009

ah, the creative life

Yesterday was Sunday and, lucky me, I got to spend most of the day in my lovely new hibiscus pink sewing room. I hemmed an ABC wallhanging (to add to the literacy-rich environment of storytime) and made a rainbow: bright blue fabric with red/orange/yellow/green/blue/violet grosgrain ribbons and rickrack hanging down (think of a very colorful grass skirt!). I had seen a picture in a decorating book and decided I could make something similar...and I did! It is such fun to experiment with my sewing machine. This morning I made the binding for a Laurel Burch Christmas cat table runner which is waiting to be quilted...I need to make the "sandwich" (backing-batting-pieced top) and quilt it before adding the binding, the last step in the making of a quilt.

So what does this have to do with books? Whenever I quilt, I feel like I'm moving ever closer to making the quilt of my dreams: polka dots in many colors, sizes and patterns held together with lots of black and white. My inspiration is Freddy Moran, a quilter whose mantra is "red is a neutral." She has a wonderful book, heavily illustrated, written with Gwen Marston (another quilter who sews to her own drummer) called Collaborative Quilting. Just thinking about the book makes me smile...and want to run home to my sewing machine and create! The interplay of color and pattern in Freddy's quilts make me happy (I can hear my mother from the next world talking about my gypsy taste...which I inherited from her, the woman who mixed plaids and florals) and I can't wait to make my own brightly colored and patterned quilt.

Now, honestly, looking at Freddy's quilt, isn't it absolutely gorgeous? (The image is taken from by the way.)