Sunday, June 30, 2024

End of June

The last day of June finds me in a happy place 😄 tallying-up fabric use through the month. 

Though I made a fabric purchase - a total of four yards of Painter's Palette: Aruba, Oyster, and French Blue - on sale from Heather Black at Quiltachusetts....

...I still used-up more fabric than I took in! Yay! I used 8.93 yards, for a net of 4.93 yards OUT of my stash.

Fabric used went into:
  • Like Totally BOM blocks
  • 10 selvedge blocks for the Bibliography quilt (I do not count selvedges as yardage out)
  • a 3.2 pound bag of snippets for pet beds
  • and 50 blocks for my 100-day Quilt Your Life project 

Whoo-ee! Yes! I made 50 five-inch blocks this month that represent ten different activities in which I regularly engage. They're related to faith, friendship, fitness, and fun.

It seems that this month I was most engaged in line dancing - 9 times. Those are blocks with black and white striped fabric. Line dancing is not only good exercise, but learning different dance patterns is great mind exercise. I've been on a search for more challenging line dances (closer to level 4 dancing, out of 5), so I've been visiting different instructors' classes. 

Book Recommendation
It Ends With Us
 by Colleen Hoover tells Lily's story beginning with the death of her father, a man who physically abused Lily's mother. Growing up in this situation, always aware of her parent's fights, Lily finds friendship and understanding from an unlikely source: a young man living in an abandoned house behind Lily's home. 

Now Lily has met Ryle, a man who claims to be a "one night stand" guy with no intentions of marrying or having children. As they slowly fall hard for each other, Lily comes to know a side of Ryle that's difficult to accept. Faced with impossible choices, compounded by an unexpected situation, consequent decisions will not be easy to live with. 

Initially I thought this would be a "girl meets boy and falls in love story," but it's more than that. Some moments between Lily and Ryle are flat-out pornographic, but that part of the narrative is understandable in light of the point of the author's story - abuse of a woman by a man, and how difficult it is to get out of such a relationship. 

Linda's score: 4.0/5.0

It Ends With Us gives me a total of eight books listened-to in June. Those are reflected in the "book blocks," lower right, of my Quilt Your Life photo. 

Here's my June book recap, in score order:
  1. The Women, Kristin Hannah, 4.8
  2. Someone Else's Shoes, JoJo Moyes, 4.5
  3. The Cutting Season, Attica Locke, 4.3
  4. This Time Tomorrow, Emma Straub, 4.2
  5. It Ends With Us, Colleen Hoover, 4.0
  6. Twist of Fate, D.L. Mark, 3.7
  7. The Last List of Mabel Beaumont, Laura Pearson, 3.0
  8. The Holy Spirit, John Bevere, (no score)
Half way through 2024, my Book Bracket looks like this. Obviously, The Women is my runaway favorite!

June also means we've now lived in Florida for 12 years! It's incredible to think we've been away from Iowa, and living in this "new" house for so long. Time really does fly. Linda

Friday, June 28, 2024

Cedar Key, and Making

It's not like me to go a week in between blog posts, but we were away from home for a few days, on a mid-week get-away. It's especially good to go on these during the off-season - no extra winter tourists or snowbirds. So, we pick a place and head that direction without even making overnight (or two) reservations.

This week we went to Cedar Key, an island on the Gulf side of Florida that was hit by Hurricane Idalia last August. Even ten months after the storm, not everything has been restored. A few restaurants and shops haven't yet reopened. A few rental houses, townhomes and motels sit unrestored,

A couple docks haven't yet been (or maybe will never be?) rebuilt. 

Cedar Key is small and quaint with most of the main street buildings (back and up from the waterfront) built in the 1880s. The best modes of transportation are by foot, bicycle, or electric golf cart which usually comes with a rental.
a wind-surfer

We stayed on the second floor of a two-story townhome on stilts (about 40-feet above sea level), right on the Gulf front - Daughtry Bay - with a wonderful 200-degree view of the ocean and outlying islands. My phone captured this panoramic view, though the picture is an illusion. It seems like the view bowed away,  outward from us. In fact we were "outward" and our panoramic view went over our left and right shoulders.

We watched fishing boats come and go; leaping bottlenose dolphins, and mullets; and enjoyed some great seafood - clam chowder (the area is known for clamming), and the best fish (haddock) and chips I've ever eaten. Not being much of a seafood-lover, that's saying a lot!

Even on a cloudy day, the sunset was lovely. 

Before our get-away, some of the sewing I accomplished was to begin making blocks for Amy Friend's (duringquiettimeBibliography quilt, a pattern of 12" blocks made with selvedges surrounded by a foundation paper-pieced frame. 

Painter's Palette French Blue is my background fabric of choice. I'm six blocks in now, and plan to make 42 blocks. I surely have enough selvedges to accomplish that... and then some!

I also finished chicken scratch - hand-embroidery stitched on checked fabric - on the linen bodice and sleeves of the "Irina" dress I'm sewing along with Bernina. The Irina dress pattern was free during the month of May. We're on week four of the sew along (I've just sewn pockets to the skirt) and expect to finish in a total of eight weeks, by July 22.

I'm still reading the print book Ringling: The Florida Years, 1911-1936, and am about half-way through. John Ringling's character, as a circus man (Ringling Bros. Circus) and business man (oil, ranching, property development) and the mark he made on Florida (Sarasota in particular) is most interesting. Did you know he was born in McGregor, Iowa?

I also listened to two more audiobooks.

Book Recommendations
The Cutting Season
by Attica Locke takes place in present day Louisiana at a plantation, Belle Vie. It's surely a made-up place, but descriptively almost matches Oak Alley Plantation where our daughter was married - right there in front of the house, on the brick path under the canopy of trees.

Even the book cover picture looks like Oak Alley.

Caren is a single mother, living at Belle Vie where generations of her family slaved and worked. Now she's managing the place and is responsible for making it a profitable venue as an educational site for school children, and a beautiful location for conferences and weddings serving delicious Southern food.

A woman's body is found along Belle Vie's fence line that abuts a sugar cane farm. Questions are asked. Where was each Belle Vie staff person at the time of the woman's death? A local detective is particularly interested in the whereabouts of each actor who performs a drama depicting Civil War era life on the plantation. When Caren's former partner shows up, ready to allay concerns about their daughter's strange response to blood found on her school uniform, he, now a lawyer, becomes embroiled in the situation. 

For several reasons, Caren suspects the killer is a young man she knows, but she's determine to think the best of him, and find out what really happened. The more she uncovers, the more she realizes that stories she's been told about her ancestors have not been truthfully revealed.  Linda's score: 4.3/5.0

Twist of Fate
 by D.L Mark is a story that's a little bit demonic, a little bit overzealous religion, and a little bit drug-induced hallucinations. 

Claudine is a self-made, successful communications expert living in London, removed from the odd, psychotic lifestyle of her highly intelligent brother, Jethro. Our of the blue, Jethro comes to Claudine's place of work, urgently talking and making no sense to Claudine. When Jethro is attacked by a madman, right in front of Claudine, she forces herself to return to their home in the marshes to search Jethro's effects, and try to make sense of what she witnessed. 

What she finds appalls her. Yet meeting Jethro's care-giver, Peg, somewhat assuages Claudine's guilt, and makes her feel vulnerable too. Stories arise about Jethro's activities, and how his fervent beliefs about God and the "disciples" he influenced, triggered actions that were anything but "Godly."

This book was far-fetched enough that it wasn't enjoyable. One of the characters wanted everyone to understand that belief in Jesus was intentionally induced by feeding particular hallucinogenic herbs/drugs to congregants in the early church. Sheesh. Linda's score: 3.7/5.0

One more interesting bit about our townhouse at Cedar Key... 

Seeing this on the dining table made me exclaim, "Kantha!" when I walked in the door. But then I flipped it over to realize the stitching doesn't go through the piece. So is this a manufactured table runner? Or a piece of Kantha that, after the fact, was sewn into a table runner? The hand stitching sure looked genuine. 

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Irina Dress, and Pot Luck

I'm a reader/follower of Bernina's "We All Sew" website. In May, a free pattern was offered to make an "Irina dress" designed by Anna Hicks. A Sew Along was offered, starting June 3, and I joined, even though the whole event, and prize-winners, is for makers in Australia and New Zealand. 

Still, lovin' the idea of having a new loose-fitting, casual dress, I'm sewing along. I bought linen checked fabric from Fabric Wholesale Direct, luckily managing to make my online purchase during the Memorial Day Weekend sale. 

After printing the pattern, taping together pieces, marking my size (converting cms to inches), adding ⅝" seam allowances and cutting out pieces - so much prep work - I'm following each weekly assignment.

Week 3 focused on adding decorative machine embroidery designs to the bodice. Not having an embroidery feature on my Bernina 770QE (though I have lots of decorative stitches), I decided to hand stitch chicken scratch on the bodice. It's been decades since I've done this type of embroidery - an apron made as a 4-H project in junior high school - but it proved easy to pick up again. 

I backed the bodice front (and back) with white muslin which is a nice lining and provides stability for stitches. Thread is three strands of DMC embroidery floss.

I'll add chicken scratch to both sleeve hems too. Though I considered putting it on the skirt hem, I won't. I don't have enough DMC embroidery floss color 826 for that, and who wants to drive 15 miles to a JoAnn's for a skein of embroidery floss? Not me.

Other handwork has included moving forward on the Pot Luck modern potholder group quilt. About two weeks ago I completed hand-stitching together the blocks. Then I entertained the idea of adding more to this 48" X 48" quilt. 

I first tilted the design to audition different color possibilities. I didn't want all the colors, but needed to see them to decide which I liked best. 

A few days ago I settled on the Painter's Palette color Aruba. It hasn't been easy to work out the angle to cut, and how large to make the pieces. The smaller ends of the wedges are going to be a bear to bind... if I even figure out how to do that! But, I've plunged in by cutting approximate wedges, and piecing inserts of Pewter solid to connect the quilt center to each wedge. 

I've sandwiched and hand-quilted the top wedge. It's ready to be bound, but I've been putting off actually doing it, feeling very uncertain about the outcome. (Deep breath.) But I'll try. 

I'm also adding, bit-by-bit, more hand quilting to the Minimalist, Ha! quilt (Could I really give it that name?!) 

So far his month, with so much quilting and hand-stitching happening, I'm not using-up fabric as I try to do. In fact, I'm adding to my stash due to a recent purchase from Heather at Quiltachusetts who has a sale going (through the end of June) on Painter's Palette solids - my favorite! I'm restocking four yards: Oyster, Aruba, and French Blue - the latter color is to make Amy Friend's newest pattern Bibliography - a design with selvages. I have a few of them to use!

Book Recommendations
This Time Tomorrow,
by Emma Strauss follows 40 year-old Alice who's single, working in the same private school she herself attended, and living among many of the same people she's known her whole life. Alice is still close to her best girlfriend, and Alice's daily routine includes visiting her 73 year-old dad who's hospitalized, in a coma.

As she observes friends with families, children, and different lifestyle choices than hers, Alice wonders how her life might have been different. One morning she inadvertently finds herself back in her 15 year-old body, in the home she shared with her dad, still retaining what she knows about the past 40 years. Confused, yet wanting to see where her younger-self opportunities might take her, she experiments to change her future, and especially that of life for her dad.  

I've always enjoyed reading books about time travel. The Time Traveler's Wife was the first time-travel book I read. This is one I thoroughly enjoyed too. Linda's score: 4.2/5.0

In The Last List of Mabel Beaumont, by Laura Pearson, Mabel and Arthur are in their 80's. Having been married for more than 60 years, they're comfortable with one another, even if love has never felt real to Mabel. When she unexpectedly finds herself alone, she begins to wonder whatever became of her best girlfriend, Dot. As Mabel thinks she must adjust to living by herself, a caregiver comes into her life. Their friendship develops and Mabel determines that with the help of several new friends, she will find Dot.

While the story seemed pleasant, I don't care to read about this subject.
Linda's score: 3.0/5.0

For those who are interested... I have not been making Quilt Your Life blocks on a daily basis. As of today, I've made 25 blocks, and I'm 10 blocks in arrears! Sheesh. You know what I'll be doing this weekend. Linda

Friday, June 14, 2024

Piecing, Quilting, and Sarasota

I'm 14 days into my 100-days of Quilt Your Life, and I've made 22 blocks! Jiminy!

It feels like I've spent hours making blocks, and I have! But I'm committed! I had to revise my spreadsheet to make it easier to track and count blocks. Besides this spreadsheet on my computer, it's also available on my iPhone through the iCloud, making it easy to record while I'm beside my cutting table and sewing machine.  

I've made a little progress on quilting the "minimalist - ha!" quilt. I've gotten into a pattern of machine quilt for a while, and then pausing to add hand quilting with size 8 perle cotton. I'm very happy with how it's looking.

Unfortunately, it hasn't been easy to quilt by hand. I'm guessing it's the batting that's making it a little more difficult. This is the first time I've tried to hand quilt through Hobbs Cotton Wool. I'll remember that the next time I'm choosing a batt. My favorite, go-to batting will always be Quilter's Dream Cotton Request. 

Book Recommendations
Last week I listened to The Women by Kristin Hannah. I've been unable to stop thinking about it.

The story begins in 1966 and follows Frances (Frankie) McGrath, a newly-trained nurse living a wealthy lifestyle in California. She has idealistic dreams about helping people, and in spite of her parent's' desires for her, what better place to begin than as an Army Corps nurse on a tour of duty to Vietnam?

Frankie becomes a combat nurse, learning quickly by trial, while forging enduring friendships. She's a "good girl" who experiences first-time love, yet each day faces severe injuries and death caused by war. The toll is both physically and emotional.

After her tours of duty, Frankie returns home to a country that literally spits on veterans, and refuses to acknowledge the critical role played by women who served. Even when Frankie seeks help, she's turned away. Living through Frankie's experiences with her was more than frustrating. 

Perhaps this story is fascinating because, though I lived through this time, I didn't know anyone in the Vietnam conflict. Years later hubs and I were in a Bible study group with a couple who became good friends. He, Larry was a P.O.W. at the Hoa Lo Prison ("Hanoi Hilton") for seven years. Larry was always open about his experience there, even to describing the tapping code prisoners developed to communicate with one another. So I felt Larry's story through Frankie's experiences.

Admittedly, I have been naive about this sad time in our country, but through Ms. Hannah's book I have a better understanding of it. This book is a must-read for anyone who can't imagine what it was like to experience war, and the return from Vietnam. I have never been more moved by a book, and the score I'm giving it reflects that. Linda's score: 4.8/5.0

Another book I recently finished is The Holy Spirit by John Revere. I chose it to provide me with a greater understanding of who the Holy Spirit is, how He is present in my life, and how to communicate better with Him. I don't want to score a book that's meant to edify one's faith, so I'll just say it was a very worthwhile read. I'm already revisiting particular chapters.  

We took a side trip this week and spent two nights in Sarasota, Florida. We enjoyed eating out - seafood one night; Amish food (Der Dutchman, a chain based in Ohio) the next - did a little shopping, and enjoyed going to The Ringling.

The Ringling estate abuts the Gulf of Mexico, and is where John and Mable Ringling - he of the Ringling Brothers/Barnum and Bailey Circus fame - built their winter home called Ca' d'Zan. It's now owned by the State of Florida, and valued at $200 million.
Banyan trees cover the U-shaped drive to the front door of Ca' D'Zan

Ca' D'Zan

Inside, from the main living area looking toward the ocean.
Light in this room, reflecting off the ocean and through the glass, was amazing.

From the side of the house, see the outdoor spiral stairs that leads to a viewing cupola on the roof?

Oceanside patio with stairs and dock

Also on the property is a 21-gallery museum Mr. Ringling had built to house his extensive collection of huge-sized 15th century paintings, as well as two rooms of the Astor mansion he purchased in New York City before the home was demolished in 1912. He had those rooms - including enormous fireplaces - moved and installed in two custom-designed galleries of his museum! Words can't begin to describe the art he amassed. and the special building he had designed to house it all. Incredible! It was all bequeathed to the State of Florida in 1936, when he died, though the art was stored in warehouses while the estate was held in probate for 10 years!
Note the Gulf of Mexico at the back of the property. 

The museum also offers special art exhibits. These two pieces were in the "Skyway" exhibit, and caught my eye.

Time and Place: Egmont Key - Indian Territory - LA - Oklahoma by Tony Tiger, 2019. It's "acrylic on panel." I see modern. And transparency. 

I don't know the title of this curtain but it was made by Rachel de Cuba of Sarasota. It's knitted white plastic bags! 

There's also a circus museum on the grounds. Among other items, you can see the 1896 custom-built Pullman railway car - The Wisconsin - that the Ringlings often traveled in between New York and Sarasota. It is totally luxurious with wood paneling throughout, plush furnishings, and toilets in several of the sleeping rooms.

We spent about 4½ on the grounds, but I would love to go back and peruse it again.  

The advantage to going to a place like this at this time of year is that we practically had the museum of art to ourselves - just us and a docent in each gallery. And not many people were touring the circus museum, mansion, and property. The disadvantage is that it was hot outdoors (90+F), between buildings, and we had to do a little rain-dodging.

But gosh, the place is so amazing. Mr. Ringling is a story himself. His financial downfall came during the Depression, and when he died in 1936, he had only $311 in his bank account. From the museum shop I bought a book about him, and look forward to learning about the impact he made in Florida. 

A midweek get-away is nice. I'm feeling refreshed and ready to return to my usual activities. Linda

Thursday, June 6, 2024

100 Days Blocks

It's funny. Now that I've committed to making quilt blocks for 100 days (beginning June 1), and one of the 10 activities for which I make a block is posting to my blog, I'm thinking twice about posting. 😊 Ha! Writing this post means I need to make another block. 

But I also want to document the 5" X 5" blocks I'm making. After spending several days making them by trial and error, I've made notes about fabrics, how to cut them, and machine settings. I decided not to put any handwork into these blocks. 

If you recall (last blog post), the 4 F's I'm making are Faith + Friendship + Fitness + Fun

These are the two yellow/gold Faith blocks. 

On the left is the scrappy block I'll make each time I attend Bible study. Because we meet on Zoom, I thought this 25-patch represents us when we're on-screen. Each time I attend worship at Lutheran Church of Hope I'll make the block on the right. 

My worship block design was inspired by the "o" in Hope's logo.

Two orange-ish blocks represent Friendship.

Since many of my friends (but not all!) are quilters, Big Cypress Quilters, a chapter of Quilting Guild of The Villages (QGOTV), is represented by Flying Geese found in the QGOTV logo. 

Likewise, I spend time with quilty friends in Central Florida Modern Quilt Guild and the Orange Peel design, made with a Classic Curves Ruler, represents that logo.

Three pink/raspberry Fitness blocks represent (top) power walking which I do along curved streets, so it's improv-pieced; (left) doing aerobics with hand weights that look very similar to this one; and (right) line dancing in straight lines which is mostly how line dancers move. 

And lastly, these are my aqua/green Fun blocks: (left) represents my ukulele's sound hole using the same print that's my ukulele case; (right) is my blog; and (bottom) is a book read. 

In case you didn't noticed, the color bar is in my custom-designed blog header. 

I would have preferred to piece a long bar of patches like this, but just couldn't work out how to make it fit in a 5" space. So, the six colors are stacked.

I intentionally decided to create a cluster of colors for each of the four F's. Hopefully they'll be cohesive when it comes time to design the layout. 

Faith + Friendship + Fitness + Fun

Now to keep up! As of today, day 6 in June, I should have nine blocks made!

Book Recommendation
My ukulele-playing friend, Laurie, recommended Someone Else's Shoes by JoJo Moyes and she didn't steer me wrong. Previously I've read other books by Moyes, so I shouldn't have been surprised about how much I enjoyed this one. 

It all begins in a women's locker room, in London. Two seemingly identical bags - one haute couture and the other a knock-off - are mistakenly picked up the wrong women. Samantha, a Brit whose presentations to clients are crucial to keeping her job, finds red, four-inch Louboutin heels that she must wear. Nisha, a snobby American, picks up the bag with discount store slacks, and worn flats.

What follows are a series of situations and incidents that are funny and sad as each woman's real lives become apparent. We learn that Sam's husband has fallen into depression since the death of his father; and Nisha's wealthy, influential husband has, after years of marriage, blocked her from her clothes and money. When the two women meet there's going to be hell to pay! Moments of connection and understanding, and a twist that takes everyone by surprise, make this an engaging story. 

It's been a while since I enjoyed a book this much. Put it on your must-read list!  Linda's score: 4.4/5.0


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