It's the last blog day of July so let's take a break from pebbling and mosaic to talk about books. It's interesting that my two favorite books this month are the first and last. They are listed here in the order I read them because I write the reviews in a draft post right after finishing each book. Otherwise, I'd forget what I wanted to say about them. There was a sufficient amount of mediocre writing this month but nothing that I absolutely hated. But if I could only give one recommendation it would be this first book.
Don't forget to leave your book recommendations in the comments and you are welcome to offer a differing opinion on any of my reviews.
by Adam Minter
If you can tolerate non-fiction books at all please read this one. Adam Minter grew up in the scrap business and later became a journalist who writes about environmental issues. The way we deal with our garbage is is passion. I know that sounds weird, but it's true.
You will learn so much about how trash is gathered, sorted, recycled, reused or dumped in a landfill and, in the end, you will be a much better consumer and dumper. We think that filling our recycle bins every week will "save the planet". While it's a fine effort it's pales in comparison to recycling old cars, appliances, electronics and Christmas Tree lights. Yes, Christmas tree light recycling is big business. Underlying it (and everything else in the world) is money and labor costs.
This book would be a great book for high school students to learn about economics, environmental issues and the importance of engineering all in one place.
by Christine Carbo
In May I read The Wild Inside, the first in her Glacier national park series. Well, I think it's a series. This one was definitely a follow up to The Wild Inside because it references that story and the main character is in both.
The problem is that the main character in this one is not Ted Systead. Instead it's about Monty Harris, the park police officer that helped him in the first book. Now Monty has been to a "few investigative refresher courses" and fancies himself an ace detective. He's incredibly self-important and, frankly, clueless. Fortunately, his "intuition" sends him in the right direction to help him solve the case. You will be very impressed at the the level of deep thinking he can do in stressed situations. (Sarcasm alert!)
This book includes every modern PC talking point available: neo-Nazi, endangered species, global warming, mental issues and Neanderthal men. They aren't necessary at all to the plot of the novel so it comes across as just so much propaganda.
Please pass this one up if you see it at your library.
The Edge of Lost
by Kristina McMorris
Do you like Kate Morton? If so I think you will love this. I expected this to be a light read but found myself completely immersed in the story and wanting to meet the characters.
It opens in Alcatraz in 1937 in the middle of an escape attempt. We are immediately taken back almost 20 years to Dublin where a young boy dreaming of coming to America.
by Don Weber and Charles Bosworth, Jr.
Well, this one isn't for everyone. It's a true crime story about Paula Sims who was arrested in the late 1980's for murdering her infant daughter...after being suspected of murdering another daughter 3 years earlier.
Do you watch Discovery ID frequently? If so, you will "enjoy" the book. You can Google Paula Sims if you want the quick story but if you want to know the details of how these investigations were run and how the prosecution case was put together, then you will want to read this. It wasn't boring at all but you have to avoid getting emotionally into the story because Paula and her husband are vile people.
Building a Better Vocabulary
The Great Courses
Professor Kevin Flanigan
Weeeellllllll, I got this book because my husband has a massive vocabulary, making me and my Bassett education feel inferior, and I thought this would be interesting. It truly was. Outside of teaching lots of vocabulary words, the value in this book is in the methods that he introduces for learning and retaining new words. It presents a profusion of words and you will need to treat it as a course, taking lessons incrementally to remember the new words. He goes through the lessons teaching words in related groups. Many of them, like Procrustean, are words you would never use unless you are actually trying to be a pilgarlic. But it was fun to learn even the useless words, especially the entymology.
If I had children I'd do the book as a family with a lesson a week. Honestly, it could be fun. Taking the lessons metered, instead of all at once, would make a couple of his habits much less annoying. He over-emotes words like "weeeeelllllll", "soooooooo", "becaaaaaauuuuse" and at the end of each lesson he give some situations for the words but he pronounces it as "siduation" and that drove me batty.
But it's still a great book.
By Vince Flynn
There's a word that I learned in the vocabulary book that I thought I'd never use but it kept coming to mind as I read this book. I kept thinking that this book is agitprop for the Special Forces. Several members of congress have been murdered over the budget legislation (I kid not) and they are making demands on the President and remaining members of congress to fix the budget or more will die.
I love Vince Flynn and especially the Mitch Rapp character. I'm not sure when this was written but it's pre-Mitch but does introduce some of the characters, like Irene Kennedy, from the Rapp series.
Yes, most books are a lot of fantasy and you have to let go and flow with the story. But I do not accept that a member of the press knows exactly what's happening and who is doing it and stays quiet about it FOREVER. It's ludicrous.
I like the word ludicrous. I knew it but didn't use it much. I'm going to use it more often thanks to the vocabulary book.
by Winston Groom
Term Limits gave me a good break from the cerebral vocabulary study but, after reading it, I was ready for serious again. The Aviators was the right choice because it didn't require studying. It only required the ability to be amazed.
The Aviators are Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle and Charles Lindbergh. We've all heard their names and know some of their stories but this book fills in all of the gaps. The book tells the life stories of all three me. They don't necessarily overlap, although they all served in WWII, but you get a sense for the unique contributions of each and how they contributed to the great technical advances in flight and the edge it gave the Allies to win the war. This is how I like to study history, through the individuals that are remembered as key contributors.
If you like reading history, you will enjoy this book and these men.
The Black Country
By Alex Grecian
This is the second book in "The Murder Squad" series about Scotland yard detective in Victorian England. I read the first one, The Yard, 2 months ago. I liked that one well enough but I'm not as enthusiastic about this one. Detectives Day and Hammersmith, along with Dr. Kingsley are sent to the Midlands, aka Black Country because of the coal industry, to investigate a case of a missing family.
The story is quite disjointed. No one in town will talk. Is it because they are superstitious (because it's always fun to throw in a superstition storyline) or sick. The whole town is built on top of abandoned mine tunnels so they have periodic earthquake-like tremors from the buildings sinking into the tunnels. And, oh, by the way, half the town is sick. And, oh, by the way, there's a person stalking the woods that looks like a monster. And, oh, by the way, the 3 remaining children know what happened so they are lying to everyone AND they refuse to drink the water.
Ultimately, it was a good plot but it suffered in the telling. The whole superstition angle could have been completely left out because it contributed nothing to the story line.
by David C. Taylor
This is the 1st book in a noir mystery series by David C. Taylor. He was a screen writer for years and published this, his first novel, at the age of 70. Michael Cassidy is a cop in 1950's NYC and he finds himself on a case that puts him in too close to the KGB, FBI and the McCarthy hearings. As you would expect, the writing and dialogue is excellent and the story keeps you hooked. I enjoyed this one and see that his second book in the series is available.
The Short Drop
by Matthew Fitzsimmons
Hmmmm, what to say about this one.
This is a political thriller about a 10 year old case of the missing daughter of the, now, Vice President, Benjamin Lombard. Gibson Vaughn was the son of the Lombard's former chief of staff (until his suicide) and Gibson grew up with Suzanne. After his father's death Gibson hacked into Lombard's political files and ended up convicted and serving out his punishment in the Marines. It's 10 years later and Lombard's former security adviser says there's new information in Suzanne's case.
Got all that? It sounds like the basis for a very good thriller and it has great reviews. But I did not like it. Of course the politicians are completely unlikable and I'm grateful to the author for not using this as a political vehicle. You never know which party the VP is aligned with. But I don't know if the story is too contrived, or the characters are completely unlikable across the board, or what my problem was but I almost didn't finish because I just did not care how it ended. I just wanted it over. There's sequel coming out soon. I think I'll skip it.
The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World
by Robert Garland
All in all, this was an interesting perspective on history and one we always miss in traditional history lessons. I was really looking forward to hearing about the lives of everyday people in ancient societies. It was presented clearly and covered pre-historic to late middle ages. However, Robert Garland's affected tone got to me after a while. I forgot just how pompous some professors sound. I also got tired of the worn out Beatles references and his blatant liberal comparisons to modern society were unwarranted and, frankly, mistaken. He would have been much better not to editorialize but seemed exceedingly anxious to prove that he is a feminist and stands strong with the modern woman. For example, when talking about women as having no rights or identity he compares it to colonial America implying that it was the last bastion of female inequality. There are plenty of societies with this exact same view of women today and they operate basically the same as they did thousands of years ago. There's no mention of that though.
Another example was talking about infanticide in Spartan and other cultures and talking about it as if it was a bad thing. He doesn't mention that this practice was government sanctioned in China not that long ago and all Western cultures willing abort children every day. What makes ours "right" and theirs "wrong"? That would have been a more interesting (and accurate) comparison and discussion if he's so intent on making comparisons. Either both situation are acceptable or they are not. But you can't place shame on the Spartans (they abandoned any babies that were deformed or deemed non-viable for "the good of the community") and not apply the same logic to us who do it for the good of the woman and her choices.
He misses some great opportunities to show that we haven't evolved as much as we think but was too focused on bashing modern Western (particularly American) culture.
The subject matter was very interesting but it suffered in the telling and editorializing. He should have told it from the contemporary point of view without comparing it to modern civilizations.
Say You're Sorry
by Michael Robotham
This is the 6th book in the Joe O'Loughlin series. This series is set in contemporary England and Joe is a clinical psychologist who keeps getting pulled into horrible situations.
This one opens with a fire and 2 deaths at a house and the disabled handyman is initially blamed. They bring on Joe to assess the handyman. Meanwhile a dead girl is found in a lake and it's determined that she is one of 2 girls that have been missing for 3 years.
I pebbled feverishly throughout this book. In fact, I recommend it for any tedious repetitive work you are doing. It will keep your mind very occupied while your hands do whatever boring task they need to. Plug in this book and you could have every window in your house clean in no time. I couldn't put it down.
I finished the ruler work on my quilt 2 days ago and have started all of the background fills. After some trials, I decided on the swirled pebble. It's slow going and I have to do it in short sessions but I'm making progress.
Nibbling little by little, I got 2 of the green corners finished by last night. I pebble for about 40 minutes and then I do something else. I don't get bored because I have a good audio book and, besides, you know that I love tedious things. During breaks I work on the wall a bit and I have a new section about half done.
I think I mentioned that I have some sort of nerve issue with my wrist so this part of the post is going to be a bit of advertisement. My wrist problem probably stems from when I was 8 and broke it. Then about 20 years ago I bought a knitting machine and way over-used it for a few months. I started having problems then and they have been recurring ever since. It's definitely a nerve thing because three of my fingers go numb and when it gets really inflamed my arm aches from my fingertips to my elbow. Tiny quilting, hand knitting (which I don't do anymore) and typing are 2 of the worst things for it.
I also happen to deal with a lot of tendinitis. It's just one of my genetic oddities. It seems to be inflamed somewhere in my body at all times.
KT Tape to the rescue for both! I do use a lot of ice but for all day help, I found KT Tape a few years ago and it's amazing. If you watch athletic events you will see these brightly colored tapes on the athlete all the time. The website has videos for application on pretty much every part of the body. I've used it on my wrist, shoulder, back, knee and ankles. It really helps provide support and cuts the healing time in half....for me. The tape is stretchy and that is what makes it better than other sports tapes. I'm really sensitive to adhesives and this tape doesn't bother my skin at all and these things stay on for at least 3 days....through showers. I did add a little strip of Gorilla Tape to hold the ends down since this one is likely to get wetter than usual. Just a little redneck touch. If you have any kind of muscle, nerve or tendon pain you might give this a try. You can find it at Wal-Mart and it's only about $10 a box. I keep it stocked here.
Back to pebbles!
Glass work is suffering because of the heat but that's good news for the wall. Here's the latest block.
"Virginia Is For Lovers" is probably the most recognized tourism slogan ever. It was coined in 1969 to represent that Virginia is for lovers of.......beaches, mountains, history, cities, sports.....
I wanted to represent Virginia on the wall since Chris and I are both Virginians and we still call Virginia home. We love Virginia and can't imagine living anywhere else.
The red marble at the top represents Chris' hometown of McLean, The one at the bottom is my hometown of Bassett and the one in the middle is for Montpelier, where we live now. I even included the Eastern Shore. This block would have taken half the time if we lived in Colorado or Wyoming.
Today is fabric dyeing day and I've decided that this week will be ice dyeing (plus a few custom Shades Packs). I got the fabric folded and soda soaked yesterday. Today comes the messy part.
After getting the fabrics ready and before meeting college friends for drinks, I was able to do the last of the ruler work on my quilt. Tonight, hopefully, I'll start the Sysyphean task of filler work. This quilt won't be done for the August UFO report but it will surely be done for September.
One day I was perusing sky photos in a group on Facebook and ran across several photos taken just at the last light of night. That's what inspired this piece that I created for my art quilters. Shown here the selvages are left and right.
But if I turn it so that the selvages are top and bottom I think you can see the effect I was after. You know that I just love using black dye. I hope some of you are as excited about this one as I am!
But if black isn't your thing maybe you will be inspired by these gradients that are back in stock.
I had an incredibly productive weekend. It's hot enough outside to make me stay inside all day with my quilting, my wall and an audiobook. I finished the border quilting on my quilt and am ready to start the green spikes. But I can only quilt for about an hour at a time. I have some sort of nerve damage in my left wrist that probably has roots in the fact that I broke it almost 50 years ago. It became an issue when I first got a knitting machine (around 1990) and pushed the carriage back and forth so many times that my wrist eventually went nuts. It causes numbness in my pinkie and ring fingers. Since then I have to be careful and I try to remember to tape it when I'm doing a lot of quilting or whatever. It's just another welcoming aspect of aging and my body saying "Stop, you idiot, you are aren't 20 (or 30 or 40 or 50) anymore.
So in between quilting I worked on the wall. It's way too hot to do glass work and fire the kiln so I'm going to try to power through the wall over the next few weeks until I can fire the kiln again.
This section is my tribute to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. It was cool that I had 2 blue pottery plates with actual ridges in them. I think this leaves me 9 full blocks to do.
Last night I worked on this corner block. The shards are from a platter from our wedding china. Chris' Dad was a Navy Captain and in their day, Chris' Mom had to do a lot of entertaining. She regularly hosted parties for 60 or more and she did all of the cooking herself and served everyone on china. She told me that I was lucky to become a Navy wife when I did because the social requirements were basically gone.
She was right. I would have been a complete failure in her Navy.
When Chris and I got married she gave us this china set. It has 12 7-piece place settings and a myriad of serving pieces. It's called Frederick The Great by Rosenthal. It's absolutely beautiful and we used it exactly once in 28 years. Why? Because it had to be hand washed and I have 2 other sets of china that can go in the dishwasher. I recently took the whole lot to Greensboro, NC to Replacements and sold it all, except for this platter. There were several pieces that they did not want (wouldn't pay for) but I gave them everything except this one platter so I could add it to the wall. I hope the gold edging holds up to grouting, but, if not it's too late!
I have the next section started and will try to spend this week focused on the quilt and the wall. I might also work on the border of the vintage flower quilt too. But nothing else. I hope.
About Replacements. A lot of people complain that you do not get much for your china when you sell to Replacements. We were paid the most for the plates (about $25 each) and they sell them for $70. But, for some other pieces, like salad plates, were were paid about $6. Most serving pieces were about $15. Considering how they have them priced, that doesn't seem like much. Well the reality is that they don't sell many of the serving pieces and if you are buying from them you rarely pay full price. I've seen sales as deep as 60%. They ALWAYS have a sale so you can't base the offer you receive on the list price on the web site.
The truth is that people just don't buy china much anymore so it's a buyers market. I know that my MIL paid $300 for this whole set of china when she bought it and it cost us nothing. The important thing is that I decluttered and, instead of it winding up at Goodwill, we got a little coin. I was happy to just give them the extra pieces because it saved me a trip to the thrift store.
I didn't get as much quilting done yesterday as I wanted. Anne and I hung out for a while in the afternoon and I only got one more border section done on the quilt last night. I love ruler work but I'm slow at it because it inflames some nerve problem (or something) in my left wrist. I can't do it for more than an hour at a time. I'm hoping to get the border done this weekend working in 3 sessions; one for each of the remaining border segments.
Fortunately I received an email from a customer yesterday so I'm excited to have a second piece to share this week.
Sue Kelly of Sebastopol, CA made the piece on the left inspired by the image on the right. It's 12" x 17". She made this in a class called Broken Color by Denise Oyama Miller. Denise teaches mainly on the West Coast, but based on the art in her gallery, a class with her would be awesome if yo have the opportunity.
The best part about Sue's piece (for me) is that she used some of the fabrics that she won in my March drawing. I think the hand dyed textures really add to the stained glass look of the piece and they were free!
The good news for all of my readers is that another of my week-long giveaways is coming up in August. I'm feeling a big clean-out coming on and you will get the benefit.
I'm not sure what happened to most of yesterday but I spent the afternoon running errands. I was reminded that it takes a very long time to select mats and frames for artwork. There's a wonderful frame shop here called Beveled Edge (in Innsbrook) and they do such a beautiful job that I take all of my stuff there. But sometimes I have to negotiate with myself. I had my grandfather's diploma and other college stuff that I wanted framed together. It was going to cost over $900 so now it's just the diploma and a football team photo. It's still going to look great but it won't have his football pendant in a shadow box.
But after errands and washing out yesterday's dyed fabrics, I got back to quilting and have half the border done. Here's what a corner looks like.
Here's what the whole corner looks like. That area under of big arc will be quilted with some sort of curvy fill to soften the whole thing up a bit. After I finish the border I only have the star spikes to do ruler work in, The rest is free motion fill.
I just have to mention these oval rulers from Quilter's Apothecary. I'm not affiliated in any way. I just have all of his circle and oval rulers. I am getting a lot of use out of the oval rulers. I used the flattest one to help quilt the wide arc that is the base for the border quilting. I can't use his rulers with the handle. I have problems with my left hand and the handle exacerbates it, but these flat rulers are fantastic.
Yesterday was "dyeing day" and it was a late one because I got a late start. I had to finish up some class submissions for Birds of Feather so I didn't get to dyeing until after lunch. I finally got the last fabrics in to batch about 7:30. I had a quick dinner (that Chris prepared, of course) and a shower and then headed to FloMo. We haven't quilted together in a couple of weeks.
This quilt has to be done by mid-August so, clearly, the logical thing to do is a 1/4" bead board border around the whole thing. I still have all of the green spikes to quilt and lots of free motion fill work.
I've added the wide arc as a border demarcation and will do the bead board all around. I've only finished 1 of eight sections so far. This is what I'll be doing for the rest of the day and, probably week. But since I turned off the TV, especially the news, I have so much more time!
The "news" is really counterproductive now. It's all designed to agitate us. There's absolutely nothing constructive coming out of it. Facebook is another place where I've really cut down. ALL of the political post are either biased, mean spirited or both. I unfollow everyone that posts anything political and, frankly, my days and metal being are happier and healthier. Here's an example from yesterday: The post was titled "I'm not voting xxxx because I'm smart." That's just downright obnoxious. It was intended to be funny but let's call it what it is: low brow bullying.
That's my mantra these days and it leave me more time and better energy to
Listen to Books
You'll not see a political comment of any kind on my blog or Facebook page. I promise.
The Appalachian Sunset gradient is back in stock! This one is is inspired by sunsets over the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
The Forest Stash Pack is a set of 10 fat eighths that are perfect for your woodland themed quilt. This one was designed to coordinate with the Woodlands Gradient.
Finally, my favorite hand dyed fabric, "solid" black! You've heard the story before but I'll share it again. When Dharma Trading discontinued their Jet Black dye I was stuck. No other black dye blend is truly black.....at least it's not black in my dye method. I spent about 9 months and 60 tries and developed my own black and this is it. Best of all, it will never go out of stock. It's the only fabric in a solid color that I sell by the yard and it's now back in stock!
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I'm Vicki Welsh and I've been making things as long as I can remember. I used to be a garment maker but transitioned to quilts about 20 years ago. Currently I'm into fabric dyeing, quilting, Zentangle, fabric postcards, fused glass and mosaic. I document my adventures here.