Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Tour de Fleece - Week 2

I'm pretty happy with my progress for the Tour so far this year!  I've been trying to have a goal of 15 minutes of spinning a day, or 30 if I can make that happen.

I finished up the Two If By Hand Polwarth roving, dyed in the "Calavera" colorway and LOVE how this one came out!


I wound up with 204 yards of a super squishy 2-ply worsted weight; final skein was 4 oz.  No specific plans for this one yet, but the little bright pops of jewel tones are so pretty.

Next up, which I just started yesterday is a braid from deep deep stash. This was part of a co-op type dyer's club where a different dyer sent out a braid each month based on a "nature" theme.  I can't remember what the inspiration for this one was, but it's 80/20 merino/silk and reminds me of fall leaves. 


This one went on the wheel yesterday, so not much in the way of progress to show yet. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Stitching Progress

I used late June to do a bit of a check-in on my stitching projects to see where I was with regards to my goals for my yearly stitching resolutions:

I am trying to get my active WIPs down to 12 by 2019.  Good progress on that front, as I am down to 13 as of this week. I finished the stitching for the Mill Hill Buttons and Beads "Believe" Santa. It needs a press and to be fully finished, but I'm counting it as done.  Super fun to stitch, but whew - a lot of work as it has tons of beads and is basically full coverage.  I did switch out the perforated paper that came with the kit to put this on a 14-count hand-dyed Aida.  I've got some blueish-green batik fabric to back this with.  Undecided on a flat fold or a little pillow, but since I'm waiting on the fabric, I've got time to decide.


Also got my The Winter Garden back from the framer and they did an amazing job - I absolutely LOVE how this one came out.  The combo of that antique barn red mat with the slightly distressed, whitewash-looking frame absolutely delights me!  I couldn't wait until the cold weather to display this, so it's out on my sideboard already. 


My other goal was to get a page finish on all of my full coverage pieces this year too.  I've currently got 4 in progress: Winter's Encounter, Six of Swords, A Stitching Shelf, and Witch Way.  All but Witch Way have had a page finish, so I'm tackling that one next.  Here's the current progress:


I'm going to work on this for the remainder of July or until I get this page done, whichever comes first. 

I'm looking forward to taking a bit of a break from monogamous stitching to participate in Arbitrary August.  That'll be a randomly-generated WIP to work on each day in the month (minus a few days I'm on travel), so I'll be able to at least put a few stitches in multiple different pieces and should be a nice way to work towards my final goal of the year which is to touch all of my pieces at least once. 

Still on the fence about a new start for my birthday this month.  I'm so close to reaching my magic number of 12 active WIPs, I sort of hate to bump that number up again - and since I've got a couple of weeks until my birthday, I 'm going to mull it over a while longer. 



Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Tour De Fleece 2018

The annual Tour de Fleece is always great fun and a really nice way to focus on some spinning over the summer.  The Tour officially kicked off on Saturday, July 7th, and will run through Sunday, July 29th.  I'm a bit late getting started since I was in DC until Tuesday, but I did get home with enough time on Tuesday the 10th to at least put the start of a spin on my wheel.  (If you're a spinner and you'd like to come join Team Wooly Wonka, we've got a lovely small group of like-minded folks here.  Very casual - you can spin anything you'd like!)

My first spin for the Tour is another one out of stash.  This is Calavera from Two If By Hand, on Polwarth wool.


I decided I would try to get through a couple of braids in the next week or so at a DK-ish weight before I knuckle down and try to work on a thinner-grist spin.  I've got 2 Two If By Hand braids earmarked for the heavier-weight items and I think I'm going to tackle a small amount of a 50/50 angora bunny/silk blend I've got as my lighter-weight yarn - but that is subject to change based on my schedule of things around here. 

I've started the first half of the singles and hoping to get the first half finished up tomorrow.  Here's where that stands so far: 


I'm really looking forward to working on some more deep stash fibers for the Tour!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Book Review: Dreamer's Pool

I finished up another book this week.  This one is for week 39, a book with a form of punctuation in the title:  Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier.


Book Summary: Award-winning author Juliet Marillier "weaves magic, mythology, and folklore into every sentence on the page" (The Book Smugglers). Now she begins an all-new and enchanting series that will transport readers to a magical vision of ancient Ireland...

In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear. Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada. There she'll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help. 

Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, has waited anxiously for the arrival of his future bride, Lady Flidais. He knows her only from a portrait and sweetly poetic correspondence that have convinced him Flidais is his destined true love. But Oran discovers letters can lie. For although his intended exactly resembles her portrait, her brutality upon arrival proves she is nothing like the sensitive woman of the letters.

With the strategic marriage imminent, Oran sees no way out of his dilemma. Word has spread that Blackthorn possesses a remarkable gift for solving knotty problems, so the prince asks her for help. To save Oran from his treacherous nuptials, Blackthorn and Grim will need all their resources: courage, ingenuity, leaps of deduction, and more than a little magic.

My Review/Rating: 4 stars.  Another one by this author I loved.  I had actually read the second book in this series, and backtracked to this one which takes place before the other one I had read.  I love how this author skillfully combines Celtic mythology and fairy tales, and breathes life into the characters set in this time period.  Her characters are beautifully created and one of my favorite tidbits is that she can so nicely slip back and forth between Blackthorn's voice and Grim's voice as the story unfolds.  I loved having more of their back story, and the tale of Prince Oran and Lady Flidais is everything you'd want a classic fairy tale to be.  A recommended read and I plan to pick up more of this author's work in the future.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

I finished up this book last week for my Around the World in 52 Books challenge: A Court of Thorns and Roses. 



Book Summary: Feyre's survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price ...

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre's presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

My Rating/Review: 4 1/2 stars.  I really enjoyed this book - I think would have enjoyed it even more if I hadn't read An Enchantment of Ravens more.  They are similar in many ways - human female, Fairie courts who are brutal, and a bit of romance across the human/fairy boundaries.  The main character in this is a great, strong female lead.  There's a tiny bit of Katniss and The Hunger Games in there as well.  I liked the plot twists - there's a lot going on and of course, quests of an epic nature.  I think a very good read for the YA genre.  I also liked the retelling/reshaping of the classic Beauty and the Beast concept.  A few positive points taken off for my current pet peeve - a book within a series that leaves some unanswered questions, but overall, one I'd recommend if you like this sort of fantasy genre. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

WIPocalypse June Check-In

I've worked on 3 projects since my last update.  First up, Six of Swords with artwork by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law.  I'm happy to report I finished up page 1!


This is a (relatively) smaller full-sized piece.  I think it has a total of 36 pages (as opposed to 94 or some insane number in A Stitching Shelf), so 1 of 36 done!  I'm stitching this 1 over 1, full crosses on 25-guide Magic Guide with DMC.

I then decided to tackle one of my older WIPs, The Winter Garden, with pattern by the Drawn Thread. The original supply list called for NPI and Dinky Dyes silks, but I opted for Gentle Arts and Colour and Cotton hand-dyed cotton threads and I think it turned out really beautifully.  This is stitched 1 over 2 on 32-count Belfast from Wichelt in the Smokey Pearl colorway (which is the called-for fabric).   It's DONE!  So happy with how this turned out!



Right now, to finish out this last week in June, I'm working on my Desert Mandala from Chatelaine.  This shows the finished upper center landscape vignette.  I'm currently working on the upper border and the bear totem section.  I want to get the bear done before put this away for the month.  I've got backstitching in his body left to do and the backstitching that outlines the cacti and adds in the thorns on those.  Then whatever time I have left, I'll keep working on the upper right-hand border(s).  It's nice to have gotten to the upper edge of the piece so I can sort of feel like I'm now just working to complete things rather than continuing to make the piece bigger!


Friday, June 22, 2018

Spinning Friday - June 22, 2018

I haven't done a Spinning Friday update in eons and since I finished up a spin yesterday, I'll count this as perfect timing.

I pulled out a roving I had been gifted in a swap from the Alaska Yarn Company, a 70/30 wool/alpaca blend, pin-drafted roving. The colorway was Silver Blues (a handpaint colorway).  Dyed over the natural gray of the roving, I really liked how the jewel tones were softened and made a bit more subtle.



There were only 3 oz of this, but I divided it evenly.  (Or so I thought - turned out I was actually pretty far off and I lost about a half an ounce when I got to the end of one bobbin while plying).


This is a 2-ply, fingering weight yarn with 200 yards and 2.4 oz in the finished skein.  It is lovely and soft with a nice gentle halo from the alpaca.  I plied it a bit loosely to maintain the drape, and I think, with the limited yardage, it'll likely grow up to be a cowl or something I can wear and still feel the softness of it.  It also nicely fit the "blue" prompt for the June Wonkapalooza craftalong, so I'm counting it for that too!


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

WIP Wednesday

Still working on a whole bunch of sekret knitting right now - so not much actual knitting that I can show you.  How about I share a few teasers of things I am swatching and playing with in lieu of "real" knitting?

This was iteration number 4? 5? for this gray/neutral palette combo, but I'm finally super happy with how it looks.  I'm working on multiple different yarn/colorway options for the designs in the Santa Fe Collection, upcoming in November.


Another colorway swatch - also in a gray/neutral palette combo.  I really like how the blues sing against the more neutral background.  Almost like a gemstone-decorated bracelent around this cuff.



A quick gauge check swatch for a new project - and to make sure I liked the beads with the yarn color (I do).  This one is heading out to a sample knitter to get started this week.  I'm all about the summer roses colors right now.



And since several of you have asked about how I get inspired for a new design, here's a sample of some inspiration pages for the above colorway/project theme.  I tend to stay away from knitted designs with online photos - I don't want to be too influenced by someone else's concept, even if it's by accident, so I try to look for things like an overall mood, colors, details in photos (via Google and/or Pinterest searches) that will set a general vibe for me.  From there, I do some sketching and playing around with colors and see what emerges.  This project is related to the Summer Faery Court in the book An Enchantment of Ravens I read earlier this year.  Stay tuned for more details on this one - but it'll be released sometime late summer.


I'm so excited to be able to eventually share all of these designs with you - I've been really inspired this summer to tackle some ideas that are speaking loudly to me and hope they will resonate with you too!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Weekending

We had a lovely, quiet weekend here - with actual RAIN!  We definitely could use a ton more, but every drop helps at this point and hopefully kept the fire up in the Caldara quieter than it would have been with higher temps and lower humidity.

Lizzie and I took several long, 4-5 mile walks this weekend and it was lovely to be up early and enjoying the cooler temperatures and cloudy skies.  We mostly puttered around the house, although I did meet a friend for coffee Sunday morning to celebrate her birthday, which was really nice.

This weekend I put in a fair amount of time working on a WIP that's one of my older cross-stitch works in progress: The Winter Garden.

Here's a photo of what it'll look like when it's finished (not my image - from Stitching Bits and Bobs):


On Saturday, I finished up the central house and most of the cedar tree to the right of it:


Sunday, I powered through the snowflakes in the cedar tree (which I think are getting washed out, but they are there), and then finished the two hellebore plants.


That'll leave me with the pine tree and the holly plant, and the speciality-stitch snowflakes up at the top border on this right-hand side, so I'm in the home stretch!  Still planning to try to get this finished before the end of the month! 


Friday, June 15, 2018

Reading Challenge Update - June 2018

A quick reminder, especially if you are new to the blog here, is that my entire year of Around the World in 52 Books Challenge list has it's own page here.  I have been keeping this up-to-date even if other things aren't as much so!

I've finished 2 books to report on this week.  First up is The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip.


Book Summary: Young Sybel, the heiress of powerful wizards, needs the company of no one outside her gates. In her exquisite stone mansion, she is attended by exotic, magical beasts: Riddle-master Cyrin the boar; the treasure-starved dragon Gyld; Gules the Lyon, tawny master of the Southern Deserts; Ter, the fiercely vengeful falcon; Moriah, feline Lady of the Night. Sybel only lacks the mysterious Liralen, which continues to elude her most powerful enchantments.

But when a soldier bearing an infant arrives, Sybel discovers that the world of man and magic is full of both love and deceit—and the possibility of more power than she can possibly imagine.

My Review:  I initially felt that this book was a little stilted after reading the first couple of chapters.  I was never so happy to be wrong before! I LOVED this one.  It's magical and mystical, has a wonderful heroine who has all sorts of layers, as well as a romance, lost and found, in the loveliest troubadour-worthy tradition.  And the beasts!  Such a wonderful collection of personalities and traits.  I fell in love with Ter (her falcon), who is everything you might want in a protector.  While there is a human love story (which is not an easy path for either of the lovers), this is also a love story of Sybel and her animals.  If you haven't checked this one out, go grab is and read it.  All the best bits of fantasy and epic quests in one book.  Another highly recommended read from this year. 

Next up is Amy Tan's Where the Past Begins.


Book Summary: n Where the Past Begins, bestselling author of The Joy Luck Cluband The Valley of Amazement Amy Tan is at her most intimate in revealing the truths and inspirations that underlie her extraordinary fiction. By delving into vivid memories of her traumatic childhood, confessions of self-doubt in her journals, and heartbreaking letters to and from her mother, she gives evidence to all that made it both unlikely and inevitable that she would become a writer. Through spontaneous storytelling, she shows how a fluid fictional state of mind unleashed near-forgotten memories that became the emotional nucleus of her novels. 

Tan explores shocking truths uncovered by family memorabilia—the real reason behind an IQ test she took at age six, why her parents lied about their education, mysteries surrounding her maternal grandmother—and, for the first time publicly, writes about her complex relationship with her father, who died when she was fifteen. Supplied with candor and characteristic humor, Where the Past Begins takes readers into the idiosyncratic workings of her writer’s mind, a journey that explores memory, imagination, and truth, with fiction serving as both her divining rod and link to meaning.

My Review:  I have read a couple of Amy Tan's fiction works and enjoyed them - maybe not loved them, but enjoyed them.  This nonfiction book, I'm going to be honest, was a bit of a slog for me.  It's subtitled "A Writer's Memoir", but it's more of an amalgamation of bits and pieces from journals and emails and reminiscences about her mother (whose very strong and fairly unpredictable personality and behavior were the model for several characters in her fiction books).  Some parts I found interesting; her thoughts on how she tackles the job of writing and things that affect her (like music and how she uses it as a creative vehicle) I found interesting.  The first chapter in the Linguistics section near the end of the book was just downright painful to get through.  (I skimmed most of it.)

A very mixed bag of information here.  Recommended, I suppose, if you are an ardent fan of her work, but I think there are other better books on the market about the creative process of being a writer and how they pull fiction from reality and incorporate it into their writing.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

WIP Wednesday - 06/13/2018

Lots of WIPs (works in progress) going on right now.  I'm busily working on my Santa Fe Collection samples.  I got the final sweater, a cardigan, up to the point I can start on the sleeves as of last night.  This one will feature some pretty colorwork patterning at the yoke and on the sleeves, but is otherwise a fairly easy knit with lots of soothing stockinette.  It's been very fun to revisit some of the Southwest themes that didn't make my book a few years' back.

I've also been busy doing some swatching for the "up next" project ideas I've had banging around in my head for a bit.  I've got 2 different sets of items I want to work on next - one will be a shawl collection based on locales from the book An Enchantment of Ravens which I read about a month ago and absolutely LOVED.  I won't have these on a specific roll-out schedule, but I do want to get going on the one related to Summerland.  I've created a 5-skein palette for this one on a brand-new yarn base (merino/cashmere/silk fingering weight).


This design will have lace and beads and LOTS of gorgeous color to it.  I wanted a color group that reminded me of summer roses, so I went with pinks and roses and just a hint of a grape-plum color for a bit of contrast.  I ordered a whole pile of beads to play around with, so I can see which ones work best with the yarn colors.  I plan to work on charting and an initial draft for this one on Friday.

I've also been mulling over some ideas for a menswear group (with unisex sizing), and I've decided on yarn and color palettes for the first two.  Sweater #1 will feature some fall colors in a colorwork patterned pullover.  Yarn will be the classic Finullgarn from The Yarn Guys.  I swatched a half dozen or so options this past weekend using this color palette.


But finally decided on a color combo I think will be perfect for fall but not too bright to be guy friendly. 

I am not quite as far along on the other sweater, which will have cabled textures on it, but that will be in a heathery gray in a DK-weight.  I can visualize what motifs I want to use and how to put them together, but I'll wrestle with that swatch once the yarn arrives later this week. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Weekending - Mid-June 2018

I puttered around the house this weekend, finally getting some yard things taken care of I had been wanting to get done.  I watered our big trees in the front yard (although I've been keeping up with that each weekend during our current drought, as I really do not want to lose our two big ponderosas), put mulch down around the stairs to the back deck, replaced a few numbers on our mailbox post that had fallen off and did a bit of weeding.  I think the plan for the terraced section by the back deck stairs will be to put in a large raised bed with some perennials (herbs maybe?), and then plant daylilies around the base of that to have a 2-height feature back there.  I'd love to have a little fountain as well but I suspect we'd have the mule deer standing on the back deck trying to drink out of it if we did.

Otherwise, I hung out with this pretty girl - went for a couple of runs together, and then holed up in the nice cool downstairs of the house.


I did a bunch of knitting, none of which I can show you since it's all deadline/design knitting, but I did put a WIP stitching project back onto the frame to work on.  This is one of my older WIPs - The Winter Garden, design by The Drawn Thread.  I was just shy of the halfway mark when I quit working on it - and I don't think I've put any stitches into it in about a year.  Here's my starting point on Friday night. (Please ignore the wrinkles.  I had it just loosely put on the scroll rods at this point.)


And my progress on the house at the end of the weekend.


I finished up the front door, added some more windows and the ivy, started the roofline with snow and the smoke from the chimney, as well as the topiaries flanking the front door and the cardinal on the roof.  I'm out of both the Chalk (the white) and Blue Spruce (dark green for the roof and windows), so I ordered another skein of each of those yesterday, but I'll move on to finishing up the Heath plants under the empty windows and keep moving to the right while I wait for those to arrive.  I have 4 plant/trees to complete on the right to finish this one up: Heath, Cedar, Pine and Holly, and my plan is to just keep working on this one until it's done!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Habits

Habit: A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.  Synonyms: Custom, practice, routine, wont, pattern, way, tradition.

I am out of the habit of posting on my blog (obviously).  While I have been doing my monthly check-in WIPocalypse posts, I've not been very good about updating anything else.  I've been taking a really recharging, creative and inspiring online "camp" class, and one of the things that's stressed in it is not to feel like we're behind.  The whole point is to enjoy it and find inspiring moments tucked into our days, so despite the fact that the control-freak aspect of my personality is finding it hard not to feel behind and then having the need to feel like I have to catch everything up, I'm just going to start here, in the middle of things, and try to just re-develop my blogging habit.

One of the things we've done while at "camp", is build a journal of inspirations - images, quotes, lists, notes to self, about things we are interested in.  I fell down the (very deep, very dark) hole of bullet journaling and I've been immersing myself in all things BuJo - Instagram, YouTube videos, blog posts, etc.  I've also been playing around with some different types of page set-ups and I think I finally have something that's working for me that will function as both a daily/weekly/monthly planner AND an inspiration/note-taking/collections repository.  One of the things I'm including in my journal pages is a habit tracker (you see now how this all ties in).

The hope is to remind myself on a daily basis that blogging is a to-do task multiple days of the week, and then actually... you know... DO.IT.  I've got tons of things I'm working on right now in the crafty world, as well as reading, so it's not like I don't have topics to write about and things to say.  Mostly it's getting back into the habit of actually posting!

I've also been reading and working through The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron. If you haven't read this book, it's just had it's 25th anniversary of publication and was a really groundbreaking book exploring ideas about creativity and artists (not just fine artists - writers, crafters, etc), and how those things work together in successful artist's lives.  I'm in week 3 of the book (each chapter is a week's worth of exercises) and writing a few pages each morning of random thoughts and tidbits; these are suggested by Cameron as Morning Pages, to do each day. I am finding just dumping the crazy monkey brain thoughts out onto paper does actually free up some bandwidth in there, so that's another habit I'm trying to really solidify as a daily task to do going forward. 

Interested in more info about bullet journaling, here are some sites I found helpful (no affiliation, just ones I've referenced in the last month, although there are literally thousands of videos and blogs out there, as well as Instagram feeds full of beautiful journals):

BulletJournal.com - the original website and start of it all.

BohoBerry (on YouTube):  Kara also has a blog and an Etsy store, but lots of great info in her
YouTube videos.

TealNotes.com:  Some great set-up ideas at her site.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

May 2018 WIPocalypse check-in

I attempted to have a (mostly) monogamous May project month, and I'm actually pretty pleased with my progress.

I finished up A Bowl Full of Scaries.  Pattern by Plum Street Samplers.  Stitched on 36-count linen in the Legacy colorway from Picture This Plus, using Colour and Cotton hand-dyed threads.


Super happy with this finish since it puts me firmly with 3 out my hopeful 6 finishes this year.  I have also FFO'ed it, but I need to get a photo of that apparently.  That finish only took me until May 5th, so I switched over to working on A Stitching Shelf next. 

Also very happy to have achieved a page finish on this one.  (Page 2 done out of a gazillion).  Artwork by Aimee Stewart and charted by Heaven and Earth Designs.  I'm stitching this 1 over 1 full  crosses on Magic Guide 25-count. 


Finally I tackled my Desert Mandala Chatelaine.  I started and finished the first landscape vignette, which is at the top center - Monument Valley, I think?  I've got three days left in May to put in a few more stitches on this one, so I will probably tackle the triangular shaped section just above the landscape before I put this one away until June.  Absolutely LOVING working on this one!


On deck for June, I'm looking at trying for a page finish for Page 1 of my HAED/Six of Swords project, as well as trying for another page finish (or other small item finish) before moving back to the Chatelaine at the end of the month. 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

April 2018 WIPocalypse Update

April was full of a lot of travel and work stuff - but happily, I think those are going to slow down for at least a couple of months.  Here's what I got accomplished:

I spent 3 five-day sessions on A Stitching Shelf.  (Artwork by Aimee Stewart, charting by Heaven and Earth Designs in the "regular" color but large format layout - purchased before I realized I wanted to use a PDF reader to work off of.)  I had page 1 finished and I've been working on page 2.... slowly... like a glacier.....



I have this on tap to work on in May for at least 10 days as well in the hopes I might be able to get a page finish (unlikely, but hey! you never know.)

I put in almost no stitches on a travel project - A Bowl Full of Scaries from Plum Street Samplers.  Seriously - I finished up the tree and started the second one, and started the snake border.  I'm not sure why I think I'll be able to have the mental focus to work on stitching projects after a day on the trade floor, but I haul one along every.single.time.  Clearly, however, I do not. 


Nicely enough, my random number generator felt I should get a second crack at this one, so it's also on tap for next month for a 5-day rotation. 

As usual, I did put in 5 days on my Desert Mandala from Chatalaine.  I'm concentrating right now on the upper landscape section.  I got the border mostly worked for that and started filling in some of the rocks - absolutely LOVING the colors in this one!


Finally, my handy-dandy random number generator picked Shoot the Moon for me to work on for the remaining 5 days of April.  This is another Heaven and Earth charted piece, a mini with the background removed.  I'm stitching it on a gradient hand-dyed evenweave using all the same color - 310 - for the stitches. 


The fabric color is a bit washed out but I did get the central figure started this time around.  Very happy with the progress on this one!

In May, I plan to work on: 
  • A Stitching Shelf (two 5-day rotations)
  • A Bowl Full of Scaries
  • Welcome Autumn
  • Desert Mandala
  • 12 Days of Christmas



Friday, April 20, 2018

2018 Reading Challenge: Week 16

Woefully behind in updating the blog - it's been crazy busy with travel and shows and work, but I have been reading.  I'm just going to do a truncated "Here's what I read" post and not a full review in the hopes I can then get caught back up going forward.

For week 38: A science book or science fiction book, A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.



I read this in high school originally - my high school boyfriend was very into this series - but it had been a while, so I picked it up as a re-read.

For week 30: A short book, I read Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree.


And finally, for week 24: A book with a map, I read Life in a Medieval City by Joseph and Frances Gies.



Wednesday, March 28, 2018

March 2018 WIPocalypse Check-In Post

March was a busy month for me - and while I did get some stitching done, I didn't get as much done as I would have liked.  (I think this is a recurring theme for many of us!)

March 1 thru 5: I worked on my Mill Hill, Buttons and Beads piece - Believe.  Here's the current progress.


I put in a lot more of the cross-stitches, and I also added a few beads to his cloak/coat in the red underskirt.  This is a deceptively dense stitch - basically full coverage, albeit not a huge full coverage piece.

March 6-10 and 16-20: I worked on my Six of Swords project from Heaven and Earth Designs.  Artwork by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law.  (I'll also be working on this for the next couple of days left in March too).  Still not quite at a page finish and I don't think I'll probably be able to get that accomplished this month, but at least there's some progress on this one. I worked on this for the Air Quarterly Elements SAL in the Full Coverage Fanatics Facebook group.


March 11-15: I worked on my Desert Mandala Chatelaine.  This go-round found me working on the Deco interior border as well as the border for the top-most landscape image.


This go-round found me working on the Deco interior border as well as the border for the top-most landscape image.  I started the first of the feather motifs as well. Fabric is 28-count Lugana from Picture This Plus in Calypso with the called for DMC and various silk threads and beads.  My plan is to work on this top section until it's completely finished.

March 21-26: I worked on Tempting Tangles' design - Key To My Heart.


I am stitching this on Briar Rose from Fabrics by Stephanie, with Black Currant floss from Colour and Cotton.  This is the first page and a bit more finished up.

And... the Question of the Month:  What newer designers and product creators out there have you discovered and recommend?  I highly recommend any of Angela's hand-dyed floss or fabrics over at Colour and Cotton.  I'm a member of both her monthly clubs and they never disappoint! 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

2018 Reading Challenge: Week 12

Three books finished to update my list - and kind of a mixed bag.

Flow Down Like Silver by Ki Longfellow for week #12's theme of a book set in Africa of South America.


Summary: From the dawn of history, countless women have marked their times in extraordinary ways. Women have been warriors, Pharaohs, popes, queens and kings, philosophers, poets, mathematicians, composers, painters, writers, revolutionaries and "witches."

But there was only one HYPATIA.

Brilliant, beautiful, accomplished and free, Hypatia of Alexandria was the last of the great Pagan teachers. Her brutal death at the hands of a Christian mob foretold the death of reason, of questioning, of reverence for nature, of the Goddess herself.

My Rating/Review:  3 out of 5 stars.  I loved the concept and focus of this book but I was hoping for a whole lot more.  The book opens well with the chaos of the burning of the library at Alexandria.  It went downhill from here for me.  Hypatia of Alexandria was an amazing women - she would have been amazing in any era, but certainly for 400 AD she was beyond 99.9% of the women of her time.  I didn't enjoy the writing in this book.  It felt stilted with odd lapses into a weird stream-of-consciousness kind of thing in all of the characters.  I slogged through it, hoping I would grow to love it, but that never happened.  

Next up, Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls for week #16, a narrative nonfiction.



Summary:  Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did." So begins the story of Lily Casey Smith, in Jeannette Walls's magnificent, true-life novel based on her no-nonsense, resourceful, hard working, and spectacularly compelling grandmother. By age six, Lily was helping her father break horses. At fifteen, she left home to teach in a frontier town -- riding five hundred miles on her pony, all alone, to get to her job. She learned to drive a car ("I loved cars even more than I loved horses. They didn't need to be fed if they weren't working, and they didn't leave big piles of manure all over the place") and fly a plane, and, with her husband, ran a vast ranch in Arizona. She raised two children, one of whom is Jeannette's memorable mother, Rosemary Smith Walls, unforgettably portrayed in The Glass Castle

Lily survived tornadoes, droughts, floods, the Great Depression, and the most heartbreaking personal tragedy. She bristled at prejudice of all kinds -- against women, Native Americans, and anyone else who didn't fit the mold. Half Broke Horses is Laura Ingalls Wilder for adults, as riveting and dramatic as Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa or Beryl Markham's West with the Night. It will transfix readers everywhere.

My Rating/Review:  4-1/2 out of 5 stars.  You'll note this technically was supposed to be a nonfiction book, but this one is written based extensively on the author's mother's remembrances of her mother (the main character), so I'm making it count here.  Lily Casey Smith was a force of nature.  I absolutely loved this book - from the opening sentence, you immediately KNOW who Lily is.  She reminded me a lot of my own grandmother, a spunky, no-nonsense kind of woman who could work a 20-hour day without blinking, was resourceful and capable, and a larger-than-life personality.  I especially loved the fact I know most of the places where Lily grew up and was an adult (since they are here in the Southwest).  An engaging portrait of a remarkable woman.  Highly recommended read. 

Finally, Silver Birch, Blood Moon, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, which I read for week #51 - an award-winning short-story collection.
 


Summary:  The four previous volumes in Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's anthology series of fairly tales retold with a distinctively modern edge have been hailded by reviewers as "brilliant," "provocative," and "disturbing." In this triumphant new collection of original fiction, twenty-one of today's leading writers spin the cherished fables of childhood into glittering gold--offering magical tales for adults, as seductive as they are sophisticated.A jealous prince plots the destruction of his hated brother's wedding by inventing a "magic" suit of clothing visible only to the pure at heart...
A young girl's strange fairy tale obsession results in a brutal murder...
An embittered mother cares for her dying son who is trapped in a thicket that guards a sleeping beauty...
In a bleak and desolate industrial wasteland, a group of violent outcasts lays the tattered myths of one Millenium to rest, and gives terrifying birth to those of the next.

Erotic, compelling, witty, and altogether extraordinary, these stories lay bare our innermost demons and desires--imaginatively transforming our youthful fantasies into things darker, slyer, and more delightfully subversive.
 

My Rating/Review:  4 out of 5 stars. I absolutely loved this updated collection of fairy tales - definitely not for kids!  Contributors to the collection include Tanith Lee, Neil Gaiman and Robin McKinley to name a few of the fantasy greats.  I loved the creative and imaginative twists on old classics.  Some were updated to the contemporary setting while others still retained a Medieval kind of feel, but all of the updated tales reflect a much more Grimm portrait of the stories.  Another highly recommend read. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

2018 Reading Challenge: Week 10

This week I've finished up 2 books.  First up, The Seduction of Water by Carol Goodman, for week 28's topic - one of the 4 elements (water).


Summary:  Iris Greenfeder, ABD (All But Dissertation), feels the “buts” are taking over her life: all but published, all but a professor, all but married. Yet the sudden impulse to write a story about her mother, Katherine Morrissey, leads to a shot at literary success. The piece recounts an eerie Irish fairy tale her mother used to tell her at bedtime—and nestled inside it is the sad story of her death. It captures the attention of her mother’s former literary agent, who is convinced that Katherine wrote one final manuscript before her strange, untimely end in a fire thirty years ago. So Iris goes back to the remote Hotel Equinox in the Catskills, the place where she grew up, to write her mother’s biography and search for the missing manuscript—and there she unravels a haunting mystery, one that holds more secrets than she ever expected. . . .

My Rating/Review:  4/5 stars.  I enjoyed this book quite a bit.  I loved the tie-in between the fairy tale Iris's mother has written and the back story that slowly unfolds about who her mother really was.   A sort of hybrid historical fiction and historical mystery, but one with lots of little details that kept me engaged.  I think I had mostly figured out the details of the whodunit by the end, but I liked how the story was wrapped up and it wasn't too easy to figure out.  Recommended for mystery lovers.  (It's not a cozy mystery, but not much violence or suspense either.)

I then picked up The Gardner Heist by Ulrich Boser at the recommendation of my new friend, Lance for week #23's topic - a medical or legal thriller. 


Summary:  One museum, two thieves, and the Boston underworld—the story behind the lost Gardner masterpieces and the art detective who swore to get them back.  Shortly after midnight on March 18, 1990, two men broke into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and committed the largest art heist in history. They stole a dozen masterpieces, including one Vermeer, three Rembrandts, and five Degas. But after thousands of leads, hundreds of interviews, and a $5-million reward, not a single painting has been recovered. Worth a total of $500 million, the missing masterpieces have become the Holy Grail of the art world and one of the nation's most extraordinary unsolved mysteries.  

Art detective Harold Smith worked on the theft for years, and after his death, reporter Ulrich Boser inherited his case files. Traveling deep into the art underworld, Boser explores Smith's unfinished leads and comes across a remarkable cast of characters, including the brilliant rock 'n' roll art thief; the golden-boy gangster who professes his innocence in rhyming verse; the deadly mobster James "Whitey" Bulger; and the Boston heiress Isabella Stewart Gardner, who stipulated in her will that nothing should ever be changed in her museum, a provision followed so closely that the empty frames of the stolen works still hang on the walls. Boser eventually cracks one of the biggest mysteries of the case and uncovers the identities of the men who robbed the museum nearly two decades ago. A tale of art and greed, of obsession and loss, The Gardner Heist is as compelling as the stolen masterpieces themselves.

My Rating/Review: 4-1/2 out of 5 stars.  I read a fiction book (The Art Forger) last year about the Gardner Heist so when Lance recommended this as a good read, I decided to grab it for week #23.  An interesting, in-depth look at the possible suspects and motives behind the theft of priceless artwork from the Gardner Museum in Boston.  Still unsolved, the author cites numerous primary sources and lays out some theories culled from many years of research into the theft about who was behind the original heist and where the artwork might be now.  How the thieves managed to keep the theft a secret and the myriad of possibilities where the artwork might be make for a compelling read - that almost sounds like fiction, except it's true.  

Friday, March 2, 2018

2018 Reading Challenge: Week 9

More book finished up over the last couple of weeks.

For week 7's topic, A Gothic Novel, I read Carlos Ruiz Zafron's The Prince of Mist.


Summary: In 1943, Max Carver's father - a watchmaker and inventor - decides to move his family to a small town on the coast, to an abandoned house that holds many secrets and stories of its own. Behind the house Max discovers an overgrown garden surrounded by a metal fence topped with a six-pointed star. In the centre is a large statue of a clown set in another six-pointed star.

As the family settles in they grow increasingly uneasy: Max’s sister Alicia has disturbing dreams while his other sister, Irina, hears voices whispering to her from an old wardrobe. With his new friend Roland, Max also discovers the wreck of a boat that sank many years ago in a terrible storm. Everyone on board perished except for one man - an engineer who built the lighthouse at the end of the beach.

As they learn more about the wreck, the chilling story of a legendary figure called the Prince of Mist begins to emerge.

My Rating/Review:  3-1/2 out of 5 stars.  Good but not as good as The Shadow of the Wind, which I read last year.  Similar themes, but this felt more like a YA book to me.  A mix of fantasy, magic and some historical fiction centering around a young boy whose family has left the city due to the war (WWII) and moved to the coast. Lots of creepiness in the house they are renting, including a cat who isn't what he seems, and a mystery known only to the local lighthousekeeper.  A quick, fun read - but fairly lite reading at that. 

Next, I read It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini for week 8, an "Own Voices" book.



Summary: Like many ambitious New York City teenagers, Craig Gilner sees entry into Manhattan's Executive Pre-Professional High School as the ticket to his future. Determined to succeed at life—which means getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job—Craig studies night and day to ace the entrance exam, and does. That's when things start to get crazy. At his new school, Craig realizes that he isn't brilliant compared to the other kids; he's just average, and maybe not even that. He soon sees his once-perfect future crumbling away.

My Rating/Review:  3 out of 5 stars. The author of this book, Ned Vizzini, also spent a week in a NYC hospital being treated for depression in his teens - just like the main character.  While not an autobiography, the author drew heavily on his experiences both in and out of the psychiatric ward to write this book.  (And wound up committing suicide in his 20s after this book was published.)  Here's what I've come to realize about my personal reading tastes.  I don't actually like reading first-person or first-person inspired therapy sessions.  I can sympathize with how awful mental illness is, and the struggle folks have to just get out of bed in the morning and try to live their life without dragging around the added difficulty of depression (or other psychiatric illnesses) with them.  I just don't necessarily find reading about that particularly interesting to me.  So.. just 3/5 stars for this one - it was just an okay read. 

Finally, I finished The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson for week 10's topic - an author's debut book.


Summary:  The narrator of The Gargoyle is a very contemporary cynic, physically beautiful and sexually adept, who dwells in the moral vacuum that is modern life. As the book opens, he is driving along a dark road when he is distracted by what seems to be a flight of arrows. He crashes into a ravine and suffers horrible burns over much of his body. As he recovers in a burn ward, undergoing the tortures of the damned, he awaits the day when he can leave the hospital and commit carefully planned suicide — for he is now a monster in appearance as well as in soul.

A beautiful and compelling, but clearly unhinged, sculptress of gargoyles by the name of Marianne Engel appears at the foot of his bed and insists that they were once lovers in medieval Germany. In her telling, he was a badly injured mercenary and she was a nun and scribe in the famed monastery of Engelthal who nursed him back to health. As she spins their tale in Scheherazade fashion and relates equally mesmerizing stories of deathless love in Japan, Iceland, Italy, and England, he finds himself drawn back to life — and, finally, in love. He is released into Marianne's care and takes up residence in her huge stone house. But all is not well. For one thing, the pull of his past sins becomes ever more powerful as the morphine he is prescribed becomes ever more addictive. For another, Marianne receives word from God that she has only twenty-seven sculptures left to complete — and her time on earth will be finished.

My Rating/Review:  4 out of 5 stars.  I'm not even sure where to begin to try to describe this book. It's got some fantasy and magic components, some historical fiction, some fairy tale, some magic realism, some... other.....  The lines between reality and fantasy are blurred to the point it's hard to tell what you, the reader, believe, and what the narrator himself believes.  Things I liked: The past stories Marianne tells the narrator, the magic that encircles all things she touches, and many lyrical passages in the text.  Things I didn't like: There's a lot more gratuitous description of things than I felt the book needed - I got it - the narrator is a horrible person who has to be at rock bottom in order to move through the narrative to a redemptive status.  I also thought there were some points of disconnect, almost as if the author had written a chapter ahead of time, and then wrote other chapters to string events together but doesn't follow up on certain points crucial to the plot.  I felt like I was missing pages or something occasionally.  

This is a really tough one to review.  I'm not even sure why I liked it as much as I did - it certainly doesn't fit neatly into a genre I normally would say I liked.  The main character is very hard to like, but he's intriguing nonetheless, which perhaps is what kept me as interested in the book as I was.   Recommended with reservations (and definitely not a YA type of book.)




Tour de Fleece - Week 2

I'm pretty happy with my progress for the Tour so far this year!  I've been trying to have a goal of 15 minutes of spinning a day, o...