Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review of novel: Small Town Lies by Charlie Hudson


We all have our own taste in books and read for a variety of reasons – mostly to learn and grown and be entertained, I suspect. As one who has reviewed books and made my living as a writer, I am perhaps more critical than some. That said, AQS sent me a review copy of Small Town Lies written by Charlie (Charlotte) Hudson.

Set in a small Georgia town that is ‘stuck in time’ as the Baltimore-born-and-raised-deputy Justin, described it, the story unfolds around a murder, thus I would suspect this to be a murder mystery. Gabe, the town lothario, is dead. The women all have fond memories of how Gabe gave them back their womanhood and the men all hate him for interfering with their women…. We are led to believe that Gabe is actually an insatiable romantic and a good guy. But some jealous husband probably had enough and finished him off. We follow this premise through three-fourths of the book as Justin who married Helen Crowder’s daughter (as the town folk refer to him) leads the investigation.

Much of the book is filled with senseless details. It is much like a tour of a museum. In this room, Helen has decorated using furniture that she purchased from an estate sale. Or we are told that the placemats were part of a hope chest collection. Helen Crowder, by the way is the ‘Steel Magnolia’ and hometown woman who knows ALL of the gossip and history and tales of the community. She is the main protagonist and she is practically a saint. So loved and so generous and so wise....

Virginia (Gabe’s mother) made a Celebration of Gabe quilt with all kinds of details included in it and we are privy to each detail. Now most mystery readers would be piecing together these details, trying to find their relevance. Let me put your mind at ease – there is no relevance. They are just self-indulgent ramblings from an author who thinks her audience would like to know every detail of the d├ęcor….

And if you think this is a murder mystery – you would be wrong. After wading through most of the book it is revealed that viola there are details we were not privy to.

The writing does not sing, but is easy to follow. The plot is rather vague. And the story line takes a decided leap off of a cliff instead of tying up the loose ends into a satisfying conclusion. The characters never quite come to life and the quilting aspects are quite superficial and not at all satisfying.

I’m sorry to say that when I discovered the cause of death, I wanted to throw the book across the room. I felt so cheated! I have read worse books, but I have most definitely read better. Apparently it is more difficult than I would have believed to write an engaging and entertaining and well-written book that involves quilting. Still, I live in hope.
 
I can't recommend investing in this book. I wish I could.

Friday, May 31, 2013

May is busting out in hexies!

Gladys Guyton Stump's Flower Garden Quilt
pieced in the 1960s.
May always seemed the month of anticipation and it lasted forever. When I was a student (and even as an adult), May signified the end of school. I loved learning and for the most part the school experience; but freedom called so loudy on the first day of May that I could not hear anything else.

Each day was one day closer to an idyll time of sunshine, swimming at the stone quarry with all of my friends and classmates and neighbors. The 'old people' of 30 or 40 congregated close to the snack shack and restrooms. Those with little kids staked out the shallow end. But us teens took over the 25-foot deep lake where we dove and laughed and kissed and swam and climbed out to lay on the raft until the horse flies bombarded us. Then we'd head to the trampoline and do some flips and cannonballs.

Upon returning home Mom would have chores and food, not necessarily in that order. Fresh fruit and veggies from our trees and vines and garden. Nothing like standing in the garden munching on a tomato just picked from the plant.

And summer meant sewing -- 4-H projects and getting together with females who shared my love of the stitch and the fabric. In my secure little world I moved freely and joyfully and with purpose.

Memorial Day was about reunion. I equate it to what I expect heaven to be. People who had moved away, former classmates who had graduated and gone on to college or marriage -- they all returned and even those who remained congregated along the parade route. Greetings and hugs and oohs and aaahs over new babies or kids who were sprouting like weeds. There were some faces missing -- those who couldn't make it back and those who had moved on to their community in the hear after.... We listened to the Barbershop chorus and quartet sing patriotic songs. Fred Sumney in black top hat and his own homegrown beard would give the Gettysburg Address by the Civil War monument in the center of town. It was a perfect moment. The fire department had their trucks all shined and leading the parade, right behind the grand marshal's car. One year Mom was grand marshall -- for more than 50 years she was the dispatcher for the volunteer fire department.

The parade route ended at the local cemetery and we would honor those who sacrificed for us. Then we'd return, pick up our barbecued chicken dinners from the fire department and went to Mom's house to chow down. Our little family reunion that grew more raucous with each new grandson.

I think of these things, more so this year perhaps, because I've recently been delving into Mom's favorite quilting shape and quilt -- the hexagon and the flower garden quilt. Receiving a copy of Peggy Rhodes and Julia Wood's "Quick and Easy Hexie Quilts" (published by AQS), started my march down memory lane. Seeing their cute patterns of long stemmed flowers or rail fence backgrounds reminded me that I had the pieces and unfinished body of a flower garden quilt that Mom started when I was still in high school and living at home. When confronted with how to finish the edges (straight or scalloped) and a shortage of yellow centers, she put it away to 'finish later.'

Her method of piecing hexies was by hand, right sides together and seaming two together. She did an excellent job and I'm hoping to finish what she started.

Until seeing her quilt, she'd felt far away. It has been several years since we were together. Since she died, I've rather let myself believe that we were only separated by distance, not by death, of course the truth was always at hand. But seeing the quilt, Mom was alive and well and sitting in her favorite chair with the quilt covering her lap as she concentrated on each stitch. I felt younger just looking at the quilt and remembering that time.... And then as I looked at the brightly pieced flowers I began seeing my life flash before me. The 4-H projects in the green print, my favorite culottes outfit in the pink print, her house dresses and a blouse I made for her. I am so blessed with this unfinished quilt top. I relish the beauty, the fact that each piece of fabric has been touched and caressed by the hands that soothed and cared for me.
Our Theo photo bombing my effort to show you my
hexies and the book with the innovative technique.
I want to finish her project and I want to do it right, so I did some research on sewing a quilt using hexagons (Here's a tutorial) One popular technique involves foundation piecing. Another is cutting hexies from squares. One that seems intriguing is reversible hexies.

Another is innovative and seems more like origami than quilting. And instead of basting all around the piece, you just tack down each side with one stitch. It begins with circles and folds them into hexagons and whipstitch the individual hexies together. This is the technique developed by Peggy and Julia in their 'Quick and Easy Hexie Quilts' book. I don't feel like I should give you step by step for this technique, since it is in the book and they really would like to sell some books....

I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process and made a small flower for my kitchen table. I may add to it as I didn't finish the back. The technique is so perfect that the back looks almost as good as the front. Maybe more interesting with its multiple folds. I have included a link here for a pillow top that would be perfect using the Quick and Easy folded method, although the link includes a tutorial (not the greatest) for foundation piecing. Here's a link to a host of inspiring projects and use of hexies that had me drooling on the keyboard!
My little folded hexie flower. I added another row
alternating the light and the red fabrics. Even
my husband likes it!
But this would not be the technique Mom used and I couldn't use it with her quilt. So next I will take her cardboard template and try cutting each hexagon -- one at a time -- and then stitching them together.

May is giving way to June. And here in Florida, we will become more house bound or more addicted to air conditioning as the humidity and temperatures rise to a smothering height. The perfect quilting environment -- as long as the AC stays on!

Happy Hexies and hope you enjoy this summer and sewing!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Post Mother's Day Reminisce

Nick's First Grade photo
Our youngest son, Nick, all grown up, with his lovely wife Casandra
on his graduation from college
Mother's Day never quite lives up to expectations placed upon it by advertisers and those hawking their wares and trying to make consumers think that motherhood has anything to do with diamonds, flowers, chocolates or spa days.

I'm in that no-man's land where my own mother has died and my sons are grown men leading lives a continent away from their old Mom. While making the morning coffee, I looked out of the window and across the green yard of our Florida home. Now, our boys were raised up North, and yet, I could see my babies clinging to our hands and raising their feet off of the ground to keep the grass from tickling their bare feet. The trust that their dad and I would hold them safe. Hold them while they lifted off from this earth....

My big he-men sons will always be my sweet babies. One who couldn't say 'feet' changed our vocabulary forever and those appendages at the ends of our legs will forever be 'peet.' Thank you Nick.

Or my darling first born who has a prodigious vocabulary (at an early age) because his chattery mother talked to him nonstop throughout the day. He helped me pass words and love of them to his brother.

He was with me when I cooked. His carrier sat on the counter beside me while I rolled out dough or stirred up casseroles and all of the time I explained what I was doing and showed him utensils and named them and gave him big wooden spoons to wave around. And when bigger he learned to take that spoon and bang on the pots and pans.

Everywhere I looked I could see them bringing me handsful of dandelions that Grandpa helped them pick in his retirement goal of eradicating his yard of those darn yellow flowers. The grins, the arms
Dave (our first born) with his little cousin Lizzie


reaching for me. The hugs. The slobbery kisses. The heads resting on my shoulder as the body went limp in sleep, trusting me totally to hold and protect. The why stage. The potty training. The 'eating bushes' introduction to broccoli and Bill Cosby. Later listening to the Disney albums of their blockbuster musicals such as Robin Hood. And the boys insisting that they must listen to the Hobbit album during lunch because it was about food.

"Blunt the knives, bend the forks
Smash the bottles and burn the corks
Chip the glasses and crack the plates
That's what Bilbo Baggins hates!"

But they particularly liked the song that included bones and blistering skin and goblins....

Dave and his lovely wife Shell
We sat together and read. In fact the first photo of our newborn firstborn involved reading a book to him. Throughout the years we learned about Dooley and the Snortsnoot and The Giant Jam Sandwich, and every dinosaur, Curious George, and Dr. Suess book ever written. Trips to the library were a treat and seeing them curled up in the most uncomfortable ways with a book propped in front of them....

Their Easter photos with cropped pants and slicked back hair and sweet smiles spreading across faces under which big bow ties bobbed.

I miss my babies, I miss my boys, but their memories are always right here with me, tucked safely in my heart. And I am so very proud of the men they have become. Genuine original strong determined, funny and kind, thoughtful and caring, unselfish and driven by conscience rather than gold. I am so blessed. So very blessed. And thankful that they forgave me for those Easter outfits that I made for them so many years ago. (Sorry, I need to dig out those Easter photos. Maybe another post....)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Another To-Do List But I Need a How-To List

Hunter Stars and Pinwheels using HSTs, my
latest obsession... And note the coffee theme. My
latest addiction....
I seem to spend more time making To-Do lists than actually doing the things on the lists.

This morning I decided that this is the list I will use. I will print it out and post it and look at it and take great delight in crossing things off of it. Major projects, not just -- brush my teeth (check); wash the dishes (check)....

I would put things on my list such as:

  paint the wall in the entryway

  clean out the garage

  organize the things in the garage
 
  finish the table for the patio

  clean up the office and make it less cluttered

Notice the fancy lettering? The symbol/bullet before each entry. Yes, I took great pains to spruce up this To-Do List. I filled a page with major projects I needed to accomplish and some had to do with quilt making and charity quilts and sharing with others.

But the last entry is perhaps the most difficult for me.
 
  give myself permission to have nice things and to have things the way that pleases me…
 
I see my husband losing his battle. An inch here, a breath there. Everyone who sees him these days say, "Looks like you've lost weight." I'd be pleased if they said that to me. But for Derrol, it means that he's losing the battle. More muscle has faded from his frame and with it his strength. By evening each day he quietly says, "I wish I could stop hurting."

And yet we are so fortunate. At least he can still talk, unlike too many of our friends who are dealing with ALS that hit them in the throat and stole their voice, their ability to swallow and their joy of food and eating. We still have food, although choking and dropping food sometimes interferes. And we have a kind of communication that begins with him mumbling something. I respond with a, "I didn't understand a word of that." And him making great effort to enunciate or do hand movements o
r roll his eyes or point until I understand. Every movement, every word is laborous and he quickly becomes short of breath.

He's most comfortable in bed with a ventilator helping him breathe.

Theo, our dear kitten, has adapted well to our strange lifestyle. Better than I have, because I seem to always be on pause. He snuggles and cuddles and keeps his claws tucked away. He seems to enjoy the afghan I knitted almost as much as Derrol...

I start a quilt project and wander away from it, feeling like there is something else I SHOULD be doing.

I begin a strenuous project such as painting the floor of the screened porch and see in his eyes the pain and anguish. He was the one who did such things -- before the ALS. He was the power and strength. WE worked together on all things. But now he watches and sees me struggle and do things 'not quite right' and frustration and anger builds. He has no way to escape his demons. No way to make his body do what he wants it to. He's trapped in this flesh and bone overcoat that may as well be cement.

So I tend to make To-Do lists and sneak around to do things that will give him pain and make him feel his disease even more -- not just feel it in the cramping muscles and weakness and choking and inability to breathe -- but in his soul. How can I take pleasure in creating a beautiful quilt, the joy of creating. How can I enjoy the symmetry of a room cheerfully decorated and inviting when I know that he will never see it because his power chair will not fit through the doorway or make the turns from hallway into the room?

So, before I can accomplish the long string of projects on my To Do list, I must first find a way to shake off the lethargie and survivors' guilt and continue living. How does one even consider life when all around me are the signs of dying? How indeed. I need a To-Do list to show me what things I can do, steps I can take to join the living again and stop waiting to die. A How-To List.  How indeed....

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Please Help: Chance to Create and Help Find a Cure for ALS

Sorry for the short notice. Just received this today:
Here's a Disappearing Nine-Patch Quilt I've been
working on to donate to Hopes and Dreams Quilts
HOPES and DREAMS QUILT CHALLENGE FOR ALS

MONTH-LONG QUILT SHOW AND CELEBRATION
OF MOMS IN MAY

We have some exciting news to share with you, and while it is quick notice, we think you might want to participate. The Hopes and Dreams Quilt Challenge for ALS has been given the opportunity to have a month-long celebration of moms and the special women in our lives beginning the first weekend in May - just in time for Mother’s Day! The Richard Stravitz 30th Street Gallery on Pacific Avenue at the beach will feature quilts sent in from all over the United States to benefit people living with ALS (known by many as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), as well as raise much needed funds for ALS Research In addition to the quilts, there will be artwork capturing the loving essence of women in the form of oil paintings, watercolors, jewelry, mixed media, hand blown glass and sculpture.

We know this is very quick notice – but we thought it would be nice to have an array of small quilted art to sell with 100% of the proceeds benefiting ALS Research. In particular we thought it would be nice to have a selection of fabric postcards that visitors to the beach area could purchase and mail to their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and even best friends.

If you are interested in participating in this opportunity and would like to donate a small quilted item and/or fabric postcard(s), we would love to have them by April 28. For every small quilted item and/or fabric postcard received, you will be entered to win one full case of assorted Quilters Dream Batting.

You can drop off your fabric postcards and small quilt items at the following locations:

A Different Touch Fabric Hut - give to Shilo on Mon – Thurs; Saturday (no Friday)

1107 S. Military Highway 2340 E. Little Creek Road

Chesapeake, VA 23320 Norfolk, VA 23518

Nancy’s Calico Patch SEW EZ What’s Your Stitch ‘n Stuff

21 Hidden Shopping Center 2858 Airline Blvd. 5350 Kemps River Drive Ste. 104

Newport News, VA 23606 Portsmouth, VA 23701 Virginia Beach, VA 23464

Quilters Dream Batting

589 Central Drive

Virginia Beach, VA 23454



Hopes and Dreams for a Cure

Art, Jewelry and Quilts Celebrating Moms



Entry Form

We thank you for participating in this opportunity to help find a cure for ALS by providing small quilted items and/or fabric postcards that will be on display and for sale during the month of May at the Richard Stravitz 30th Street Fine Art Gallery in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Please attach this Entry Form to the back of your donation so that we may have a complete list of individuals who are graciously giving of their time, talents and treasures to help raise much needed funds for ALS Research (known by many as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Each donation will be entered into a drawing for one full case of assorted Quilters Dream Batting.

Item Donated: _____________________________________________________________________________________

Name: ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Phone: ___________________________________________________________________________________________

Address: __________________________________________________________________________________________

City: _________________________________________________ State: ________________ Zip: _________________

Email: ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Description of your quilt or postcard: ___________________________________________________________________

 

I agree that my quilt and/or postcard become the sole property of the Hopes & Dreams Quilt Challenge and may be photographed, displayed and sold for the purpose of raising much needed funds for ALS Research:



Signature: _____________________________________________ Date: _________________________________
More about the disease:

It was in the summer of 1939 that a rare disease called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) was given a national voice. Baseball legend, Lou Gehrig, stood on the field at Yankee Stadium on July 4 and delivered one of the most memorable speeches in American history, announcing to the world that "today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." Less than two years later, at the age of 38, Lou Gehrig, died of ALS.

Seven decades there is still no treatment or cure and even though ALS is one of the most common neurological diseases, the cause of ALS remains a mystery. What is known is that ALS is on the rise… with as many patients being diagnosed with ALS as MS, but ALS is considered 100% fatal. USA military veterans, particularly those deployed during the Gulf War, have been especially vulnerable to ALS. Our veterans are approximately twice as likely to develop ALS, a disorder that affects and destroys the function of nerves and muscles – while usually leaving its victim’s sense of touch/feeling and intelligence intact.

"Studies show that there is approximately a 66%-percent greater chance of our military veterans being diagnosed with ALS," says Kathy Thompson, founder of the non-profit Hopes & Dreams, Inc., and mother to son, Josh Thompson, who is living with ALS. "Our brave men and women of our military fight on the battlefield yet way too often come home to fight an unbeatable enemy known as ALS. Not only are more military veterans being diagnosed with ALS, we are seeing so many more athletes and younger men and women, including children, being diagnosed with this cruel and devastating disease that has no known cure," adds Thompson.

 
Thompson knows all about ALS. Her 32 year- old son Josh was diagnosed with the disease in 2007. In an effort to honor her son and to keep any other mother from witnessing the daily devastation of this disease that progressively destroys all muscle movement in the body, Thompson created Hopes and Dreams, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit focused on funding ALS Research.

In May, the Richard Stravitz 30 Street Gallery in Virginia Beach will host a month-long exhibit and sale to help Thompson find a cure. The Hopes and Dreams for a Cure for ALS art and quilt exhibit will celebrate moms and the women in our lives by featuring a collection of fine art, jewelry, and quilts that expresses the beauty and nurturing spirit of moms everywhere.

The Gallery will showcase works by master artists in watercolor, oil painting, hand blown glass, sculpture, textiles and jewelry. Gallery owner and award-winning sculptor Richard Stravitz will be donating a portion of the sale of the artwork and jewelry to ALS Research.

"I have had the unfortunate opportunity to witness this cruel disease first hand in the lives of friends and loved ones who are struggling to walk, talk, eat and breathe on a daily basis," says Richard Stravitz. "Having been touched by their strength and will to live, I want to honor them and thousands of others by helping to raise funds so that a cure can be found through research."

The Gallery will also be filled with colorful, exquisitely detailed quilts donated by women across the USA to raise money for a cure for ALS. The Hopes and Dreams Quilts are a national exhibit of hand and machine quilted wall hangings and bed quilts, many made and donated by family members and friends of people living with ALS.

"Quilters are an extremely generous community and the Hopes and Dreams Quilts are a present to all of us fighting for a cure, " says Thompson. "This exhibit is an opportunity to find a lovely gift for moms and the women in our lives knowing that 100% of the proceeds from the sales of quilts, as well as lovely artist painted cards and fabric postcards specifically made for this month-long celebration, benefits ALS Research."

The Hopes and Dreams for a Cure for ALS exhibit and sale opens Saturday, May 4 and runs through Saturday, June 1st at the Richard Stravitz 30th Street Gallery, 30th & Pacific Avenue in Virginia Beach. The gallery will be open on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 12th.

For more information, visit 
or call the Richard Stravitz 30th Street Gallery at (757) 961-7509 or Quilters Dream Batting at (757) 463-3264.
###

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Theo, Yes I Do Adore This Sweetie!

Note that dear Theo is helping me at the keyboard and is
pointing to a DVD made by Kathy McNeil regarding
applique. A really good and easy to follow DVD, by
the way!
Yes, I am rather obsessed with our new kitten. We haven't had a kitten in the house for almost a decade! So this is almost like being a grandma! He can do no wrong. (Almost).  He comes running and jumps in my arms. He cuddles against my neck and purrs, relaxing and totally trusting me. He noses me and pats me and comes toward me rather than running away. He listens. He minds! (Most of the time.) He really likes to be with both of us and has assigned himself a long list of responsibilities (3 a.m. wake up call -- we're working to change that one). Also he wrestles my husband's shoes into submission, oversees the getting up and getting to bed process for him, and stands guard at the sink to make sure he properly brushes his teeth. I don't know how we ever got along without Theo!

Theo also knows when I need a hug, when I'm nodding off at the keyboard and need wakened up, and although a very quiet cat, he will meow if he has lost track of me.

Theo is a sweetheart and I've posted several photos of him on Facebook.

Today I posted a favorite photo of him in his sweet little basket with, yes, it is hand knitted, blanket. It is rather nostalgic because I fear that he's moving into a new phase of his life where he will be spending more time in his clubhouse.

Theo in his little basket on the fireplace mantle (BIG mantle) with
his handknit blanket (same pattern as I used for Alexa)
Yes, my little man has decided that he really REALLY likes a box in the laundry room and has adopted it as his own.


Here's the laundry room club house.
 
And in reference to last night's blog about the missing ball... it is still missing! Not a sign of it! Tonight I will try to make an even better ball for him, maybe I'll tether it to something. I wonder if I could put some microchip in it, a GPS device so I could track it down.... Maybe a bit extreme....


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Theo and the mystery of the missing ball

Between my quilt adventures as a writer, fiction writer, and even making a few things of my own, I knit.

Here's a photo of my new great great grand niece Alexa wrapped in the blanket I knit for her and modeling the crocheted rose I made to decorate the gift box.

Tonight I crocheted.

It has been awhile, but with hook in hand, I carefully followed the directions to make a little single crocheted ball for our new little cat, Theo. It took me a few starts to get it right and then I'm not sure I kept accurate track of the rounds. But on final inspection it was mostly round. I need to stuff it, but I couldn't wait to show Theo.

He was excited!

I threw it on the bed where my husband was lying. Theo quickly made his way to the bed and made a beeline for the little ball. And then with it firmly in his jaws he jumped off the bed, batted it around the room and then carried it off to another part of the house.

I truly think Theo was a soccer star in another life. And perhaps a cat burgler because he burgled that ball and I have not seen a hint of it since he took off with it.

Perhaps it will show up tomorrow and I can take a photo. But, in the meantime, if you go to Ravelry and plug in crocheted cat ball, they have free instructions to make your own. The gold ball by Emily Premise Conclusion. I used the instructions for the smallest ball.

I also am moving forward with my half-square triangles project. And I am determined to make an easy-peasy quilt for the guest room. I'm terrible at picking out colors to use, so I am using black and white prints in a very easy eight-inch square nine-patch design for about 3/4ths of the quilt. Then I plan to applique (probably fuse) a giant yellow flower on the lower right corner of the bed that will cover almost all of the remaining quarter of the bed. That's the plan. Hopefully I can actually do it. Especially since I sent for more fabric today. Eh-hem. No need to mention that to my husband. He'll find out soon enough when the credit card bill arrives.....

I have a couple of items to mention, but it will be in the next blog. It is almost midnight now and I'm fading fast.