Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Smiles and Hoots - a 2015 Sewing Bucket List Project to donate

I've finally spent a little time in the sewing room and have finished another project from the 2015 Sewing Bucket List Project Challenge, the challenge I found on  and  I believe the original challenge is following a specific order, but I am moving through the 17 projects as I see fit.

Smiles and Hoots is a baby quilt that will be DONATED.  Made of scraps I followed an adapted version of Jera Brandvig's Rainy Days, a quilt as you go block shown in Brandvig's book QUILT AS YOU GO MADE MODERN.  Scrap rectangles 7.5" by 10", are centered on 10" batting squares, then are framed with 2" strips of solid fabric, creating a quilt as you go piece.  Each piece is then squared up to a 9.5" square.  This is the fun part because you create the squares by placing your 9.5" square template slightly askew on the larger, rough square.  The trimmed squares are sewn together in rows, creating a quilt of what look like rectangles and alternating squares.  Really you have sewn perfect squares together.  Here is a link to directions for an earlier version of Rainy Days which Brandvig posted on her blog The dimensions of the squares are different from the pattern in the book, but the directions here are much clearer than my summary.Image result for jera brandvig rainy days

When I started my baby quilt, I knew that I did not have enough large pieces to make 7.5" by 10" rectangles, so mine are 6.5" by 5".  I surrounded each rectangle with strips of pink which were between 2 and 2.5" wide.  Then I trimmed them to make 7.5 inch squares.
Before trimming the squares, I quilted a design of either stars or swirls on the block using my embroidery machine The embroidery machine did the work quickly while I sewed new blocks.
Because I thought the quilt needed to be a little bigger and I was out of my pink scraps, I added borders around the outside.  Once this top was done (remember it is already quilted to batting pieces) I just pin basted the backing on and stitched in the ditch along the seams.  Very easy to do and to handle.  Last step was adding binding.
Quilted star design on "smiley flower"

Pin basted, ready to sew along seam lines

Finished "Smiles and Hoots quilt, named for the Owls and Smiley Flowers

Backing which shows the quilting through all three layers.

If you have lots of scraps to deal with, I suggest either getting Jera Brandvig's book or checking out her website.  Her ideas are super easy and give you an alternative to working with huge batting pieces.  Her ideas are unconventional (modern) and you may have some issues with a little bulk at the seam lines, but read her suggestions and you will do just fine.  I feel very happy that I have a finished quilt made entirely out of scraps (except the backing).  I can see all kinds of further adaptations of this simple pattern.   I love the skewed look.  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Image result for the rosie projectIt took Australian author Graeme Simsion five years to complete his novel THE ROSIE PROJECT, a bestselling romance novel, called warm and humorous by critics.  While our book club readily agreed that the book had a warm element and a happy ending, we were not ready to label it as humorous. It will take readers only a few pages to identify that Don Tillman, a college professor of genetics, is more than just eccentric. As Tillman delivers a lecture on Asperger's Syndrome, one will see clear similarities to his extreme intelligence, profound lack of social clues, and his rigid habits to the information he shares about Asperger children.

Tillman's "project" to find the perfect wife (one who never arrives early nor late, among a myriad of other qualifications) gives the reader plenty of exposure to Simsion's wit.  When Tillman meets Rosie, a young bartender who is about as far from his perfect mate as possible, Don puts aside his project for THE FATHER PROJECT, a plan to identify the young woman's biological father. Becoming a bar tender, swabbing drink glasses, flying across the world to New York City, crawling out a bathroom window to escape an irate potential "dad" are just a few of the preposterous actions Don willing does to help Rosie.  Could he be emotionally attached to her?  Could feelings help him break out of his confined life?

Our book group includes several retired teachers and our discussion quickly moved away from the comments of humor, quirkiness, and delight that seem to dominate most reviews.  Having worked with or been around real people who are "wired differently" (as one reviewer describe Don), leaving them always on the fringes of social acceptance, we saw so many of Don's revelations about his life in a different light than other readers.  While the quirky narrative read like a happy ending, fun to witness romance, a few members of our group just could not get beyond the reality of what life for an Asperger Syndrome person or their family can be.  Those who had never heard of the Syndrome appreciated being exposed to the condition through this novel, but we mostly felt it was handled in too light and silly of a manner.  That said, I like to think that everyone can fall in love.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Catching up on Challenges

As February comes to a close, I realize I have not made much progress on any of my 2015 Challenges.  I have read 22 books so far this year, but have only marked two items off the
challenges (One off the 26 Books to read in 2015 and one off the Bethany Challenge.  Looking over the categories again, I am listing CRIMSON CORD by  Jill Eileen Smith as my book published this year for the 26 BOOKS TO READ IN 2015 CHALLENGE. I am also listing THE ROSIE PROJECT by Graeme Simsion as my book by an author unknown to me for the BETHANY HOUSE CHALLENGE.  THE ROSIE PROJECT is our book club choice for February and I will blog about it after our discussion tonight.

Even though I have done a little sewing, including making some homemade valentines, I really don't have anything to check off the 2015 SEWING BUCKET LIST.  Guess I will need to get busy.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Crimson Cord: Rahab's Story by Jill Eileen Smith

JRahab Cover Jill Eileen Smith is known for her Biblical fiction featuring the women of the Bible.  Liz Curtis Higgs, one of my most favorite authors, has also made a career of retelling those Bible stories which feature women, but Higgs changes the settings to another historical time period.  When I read Higgs's personal review praising Smith's version of Rahab, I knew I wanted to read the book.  I was NOT disappointed.

Smith  paints Rahab with sympathetic strokes, making it clear how few rights a woman had in Old Testament times -- an arranged marriage at a young age, a foolish and greedy husband, a deceptive "friend"  who twists his own lustful desire into slavery, plus the shame of barrenness.  All these details lend plausibility to Rahab position as a prostitute willing to help the enemy, the Israelites, who promise safe asylum for her family. The early part of the book makes Old Jericho comes alive with-- the excesses, the false gods, the emptiness. Soon even the powerful are crippled with fear of Israel's God.  Later readers are given a glimpse of what challenges Rahab would have faced once she joined the victorious Israelites.

Mercy and forgiveness are key themes of this book, and I loved the way Smith works the parable of the man who was forgiven much who then turns around and demands payment of a lesser debt from another into the story of Rahab's husband. This is the first book I have read by Jill
Eileen Smith but I will reading more of her Old Testament retellings.  I received a review copy of this title from Revell Reads.  All opinions are mine.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

 Jacqueline Winspear has been writing Maisie Dobbs's mysteries for over ten years, but I have just now stumbled upon these quiet thoughtful mysteries set in Post-WWI England.  Maisie, who had served as a very young nurse during the Great War, has now hung out her shingle as a psychologist and investigator.  Quite the combination, isn't it?  Well, Maisie, herself, is a unique combination, as the first novel, which bears her name, reveals.  With a father who works as a vegetable seller, Maisie's modest upbringing and entry into servitude reminds me of the downstairs of Downton Abbey.  When her keen observation skills and compelling intelligence are noticed, and she is given a chance to study, it appears that the lines of class distinction may indeed be erased for Maisie.  More opportunities arise, but then the war arrives. Life after the war in England is a time of great adjustment and change.  

Winspear has wonderfully revealed in this first novel the back story which led to Maisie's education and her relationship with hercherished mentor Maurice at the same time immersing the reader in Maisie's first solo investigative case.  What seems to be a possible infidelity case instead leads Maisie into an investigation of a  remote country refuge for wounded war veterans.

That decade of great social change that followed Great Britain's painful sacrifices of WWI must continue to interest readers as shown by Winspear's successful series which now numbers ten titles.
If you think that the setting may be a little too old fashioned and slow for you, I encourage you to give at least one book a chance.  Good writers always seem to be able to make us think about our own world, no matter what the setting.  Winspear did that for me, with this observation, meant to describe England in 1929, but certainly fitting for today:  ...we only like our heroes out in the street when they are looking their best and their uniforms are 'spit and polished,' and not when they're showing us the wounds they suffered on our behalf. 

I found MAISIE DOBBS through our library system and plan to read more of the series.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Remember the Lilies by Liz Tolsma

Remember the Lilies Liz Tolsma's two earlier books, SNOW ON THE TULIPS and DAISIES ARE FOREVER, blended war stories told by her family members with just enough fictional details to create stories that captured what life was like for those who lived in the path of Europe's WWII devastation.  When her son encouraged her to write a third novel set in the Pacific arena, Tolsma accepted the challenge.
REMEMBER THE LILIES tells the story of Rand Sterling and Irene Reynolds and their time in the Santo Tomas Internment Camp in the Philippines.  Before the war, Rand, the successful owner of two nightclubs, spent his days womanizing and plotting how to increase his business.  Once confined at the camp, his plots change.  One, how to smuggle stores of food to augment the supplies  which were provided by the Red Cross, but often held back by the Japanese.  Two, how to escape the camp so he can visit his servant Armando who has been more than a father than anyone he's known.

It is that planned (and failed) escape that brings Irene and Rand together.  Two people could hardly seem less alike.  Irene, abandoned by her father and mother, was raised by her aunt, a missionary in the jungles of the Philippines. Irene assumes the responsibility of caring for her aunt, now blind and emaciated from malnutrition, spends hours with the orphaned children within the camp, but still must work assigned hours for the Japanese as a censor of messages sent to the American speaking detainees.  When she reads a message meant for Rand, she censors the last few words, thinking she has not deleted anything of importance.  Later, when she rethinks the message, she is sure he must hear it in its entirety, so she risks her own safety to tell him the blackened words.  

REMEMBER THE LILIES, like Tolsma's first novels, shows that it was not only the soldiers on the battlefields who suffered in World War II.  She also shows that perseverance and courage were not the sole domain of generals or officers. I really enjoyed her realistic portrayal of Rand and Irene. Irene, who professed a strong faith, found she really struggled when asked to forgive others. Rand, who had always put himself and his luxurious lifestyle first, finds within the restrictions and cruelty of the camp, a better way to be.

I received a copy of REMEMBER THE LILIES by Liz Tolsma for review purposes from LITFUSE PUBLICITY.  Thank you.  It is always great to promote the work of a talented writer from Wisconsin.

You can go here for information about winning a Kindle Fire.

Remember the Lilies


Remember the Lilies (Thomas Nelson, February 2015)
Can Irene and Rand stave off starvation until the American troops bring freedom?
Interred by the Japanese, missionary Irene Reynolds comes across a mysterious note while working at the censor’s office. She memorizes the parts she must black out and delivers it to wealthy nightclub owner Rand Sterling. Before she knows what’s happening, she’s drawn into a web of secrets and danger.
Rand Sterling wants nothing more than to reopen his nightclubs once the war ends. But slimy Frank Covey wants his hand in the till—and has news that could threaten Rand’s reputation if it became public. More importantly, beautiful and intriguing Irene Reynolds cannot discover this information if he expects to persuade her to become his wife.
When Irene is attacked by a sinister Japanese guard and their secrets are exposed, they must learn the true meaning of forgiveness—if they can stave off starvation until the American troops bring freedom.
Liz Tolsma


“New York Times” best-selling author Liz Tolsma is the author of “Daisies are Forever,” “Snow on the Tulips,” and the contributing author of “A Log Cabin Christmas.” When not busy putting words to paper, Liz enjoys reading, walking, working in her large perennial garden, kayaking, and camping. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and children, all adopted internationally.
Find out more about Liz at

Sunday, February 15, 2015

WHERE RIVERS PART by Kellie Coates Gilbert

Juliet Ryan knows that she has let her strained relationship with her father color most of her adult life. Refusing to forgive mistakes he has made, Juliet stays as distant as she can, fully knowing that her decisions hurt her mother.  To add to the friction, both Juliet and her father have risen to places of national recognition in their careers as scientists in the food safety arena.  When Juliet chooses to take a position within the corporate world, her father is quick to criticize her decision, citing industry's pattern to take shortcuts and place profit over safety.  Juliet takes another view, knowing that policies and procedures put in place by scientists like herself can keep the public safe.

When an e-coli outbreak hits the community of San Antonio, Juliet never believes she or the bottled water company she works for will be involved, especially since she has recently instituted even more rigorous protocols.  Soon, in the midst of a complicated subterfuge, Juliet will realize that the only person she can trust is her father.

I think that Kellie Coates Gilbert is ready to take a spot among the best Christian legal suspense writers. Her characters are well drawn, she manages to keep readers on edge throughout, yet there is a realism that can be lacking in suspense books.  This book reads like a Grisham novel with a message.   I love this description from late in the book; it is Juliet's wake up moment.

She'd entered the lobby doors of Larimar Springs for the first time believing she'd landed a job fit for a queen, never realizing the kingdom was filled with fire-breathing dragons.  Or that she'd walk out months later nearly burned.  She glanced in her rearview mirror, making sure the dragons had turned around to follow her.  p. 265

If you like legal suspense stories, then give Gilbert's latest a chance.  I found it a fast, entertaining read.  Gilbert's personal background as a legal investigator and a trial paralegal brings a realism to her writing.  I received a copy from Revell Reads for review purposes.  All opinions are mine.