I finished 10 books this month. I'm not reading as many as I used to because I'm listening to a good number of podcasts and watch several YouTube channels (mostly crochet and, weirdly, chateau restorations in France).
This month was a big non-fiction month and my 2 favorite books were non-fiction. Cobalt Red is a must read and The Soul of an Octopus is just a great read all around. In non-fiction The Sorority Murder and The Round House were my favorites.
I'd normally take a few minutes to share some of my favorite podcasts but I've had a cold for 3 days and my energy has run out for the moment. I'll catch up with podcasts next month.
What have you been reading? Share your recommendations in the comments.
Back to the Garden
By Laurie R. King, Read by Vivienne Leheny
I have kind of a love/dislike relationship with this author. I've read several of her books in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series and some I like and some I do not. This book is a stand alone murder mystery not at all related to the series.
The Gardener Estate is another grand estate mostly abandoned by family and turned over to a trust but during its heyday it was a magnificent estate with beautiful gardens. When young Rob Gardener inherited the estate in the 70's he turned it into a commune. Now the trust is trying to restore the estate and during relocation of a statue in one of the gardens, human remains are found under the concrete base.
Raquel Lang is a detective from another district but she is allowed to investigate this long ago crime because it might be connected to a string of serial murders at the time that were attributed to The Highwayman. A lot of people disappeared from the commune around that time because many people came and went without notice. She needs to find out where they all are now.
It's a pretty good plot that seemed to heat up quickly and them simmer a little too long before a quick wrap up. I didn't hate it and I didn't love it. I just found myself losing focus a few times.
The Round House
By Louise Erdrich, Read By Gary Farmer
Joe Coutts is 13 and living on a reservation in North Dakota in 1988 when his mother is attacked. Joe's father is a tribal judge and Joe becomes frustrated with the delays in identifying his mother's attacker. He sets out with his friends, Cappy, Zach and Angus to try to find answers on their own.
This is a true coming of age story about a boy who was forced to rush from childhood to young adult. Having grown up with 3 brothers I think I know a thing or two about teenage boys and how they think. I admire the author for her ability to truly portray events in the book from a young boy's perspective. It reminded me of some of William Kent Kreuger's books but with more profanity.
The book is narrated by Joe in current day, when he's in his 50's and the narrator has the perfect voice and intonation for a storyteller. Some people complained about the narration so if you are considering an audio version, go to Audible and listen to a sample.
I will read more fo Edrich's books. She's an exceppent writer.
Every Man A King
By Walter Mosley, Read By Dion Graham
This is the second book in the Joe King Oliver series. I love Walter Mosley as a writer, especially his hugely successful Easy Rawlings series. This series centers on Joe Oliver, a former NYPD police officer who was framed for a crime and found himself in Rikers. This series begins years later and he is now a private investigator. The first book is Down The River Unto The Sea. I read that one in 2019 and liked it. This one didn't hook me the same way.
Billionaire Roger Ferris is asking Joe to investigate the arrest of Alfred Xavier Quiller. Quiller is a white nationalist and Joe isn't interested in investigating but he takes the job because Ferris is in a relationship with Joe's 91 year old Grandmother. Joe doesn't understand why Ferris would care about Quiller at all.
There's another parallel case involving Joe's ex-wife. There are a ton of characters and rambling storylines. Honestly, I had trouble keep up with all of it.
The Sorority Murder
By Allison Brennan, Read By Amy McFaddin
This is the first in the Regan Merritt series and the second book by Brennan that I've read.
Lucas Vega is studying criminology and has proposed a podcast for his senior project. The podcast will be an attempt to crowdsource information relating to a 3 year old unsolved murder of a sorority member, Candace Swain. Candace was his writing tutor at the time of her death and Lucas thought she might have information related to an even earlier murder.
Lucas' advisor introduces him to Regan Merritt, a former US Marshall, and she agrees to be a guest on his podcast to talk about investigative techniques. She is intrigued by the case and agrees to assist him.
As an avid podcast listener and true crime fan, I was really intrigued by the premise of this story and I really enjoyed it. Occasionally the narrator annoyed me but then I had to remember that she was narrating college girls and felt that it wasn't that far off.
I've already put the second book in this series on hold at the library. It will be focused on Regan and the reason that she left the Marshall service.
By Siddarth Kara, Read By Peter Ganim
I try to read at least one non-fiction book each month and this month I chose this new book about the mining of cobalt in the Congo. It's a difficult read because it's so hard to read chapter after chapter about the suffering of the Congolese people at our hands. But it's a very important book and I recommend that everyone read it, especially if you are considering purchasing and EV or buying a solar array with battery storage. The people of the DRC are powering our transition to green energy and it doesn't seem so green when you read this book.
If you want to read a little about it before committing to the book check out this NPR article where the author said this:
"We shouldn't be transitioning to the use of electric vehicles at the cost of the people and environment of one of the most downtrodden and impoverished corners of the world," he says. "The bottom of the supply chain, where almost all the world's cobalt is coming from, is a horror show."
If you want to see an interview and see images from the mines, he was on with Joe Rogan a couple of months ago. It's an excellent interview. Don't like Joe Rogan? There are other interviews on YouTube.
The Paris Apartment
By Lucy Foley, Read By a cast
Jess needs to leave London quickly so she decides to go to Paris to stay with her half-brother, Ben, while she starts a new life. Only when she gets to his apartment he's nowhere to be found. Fortunately she can pick locks and lets herself in.
Now she needs to solve the mystery of missing Ben and there seems to be a lot of strange things happening in his apartment building.
I read one other Lucy Foley book and I enjoyed it. I cannot say the same for this one. None of the characters are likable and the story is slow and plodding. The narrators were good and that helped this dull book a lot. It did get interesting in the last hour or so but it seemed to take forever to get there. However, a screenwriter could make this into very good movie and maybe that's what she's fishing for with this one.
By jennifer Saint, Read by an indistinguishable cast
There have been lots of books recently that are new versions of Greek Mythology. The hook with this one is that it's told from the women's points of view.
This is the story of the fall of the House of Atreus. The story is told from the points of view of Clytemnestra, Cassandra and Elektra.
Clytemnestra has married Agamemnon and on the eve of the Trojan War he sacrifices one of their daughters for good fortune on the voyage. Clytemnestra is devastated and her hatred blooms during his absence from the long war.
Meanwhile, Cassandra, is able tp prophesize the threat to Troy but no one will listen and Elektra, Clytemnestra's daughter, suffers from her mother's long obsession and grief.
It's an interesting take on myth, but it didn't really hold my attention the way Stephen Fry's books do. There was a lot of introspection and angst and that doesn't necessarily make for interesting reading. The narrators were each good but they were hard to tell apart so when each chapter began it took a few minutes to figure out who was talking. That could have easily been dealt with through chapter titles.
If you like mythology, I think you will enjoy this book. If you casually like mythology, start with the Stephen Fry books.
The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness
By Sy Montgomery
Back in November I read Remarkably Bright Creatures, a novel about an octopus in an aquarium near Seattle. I loved that book and still recommend it to lots of people. In that post, Kristen F. told me about this book and I'm so glad she did!
I love reading non-fiction on vacation so I decided to take this one to the beach with me and it was the perfect book to read while hearing waves crashing in the background. It's fun non-fiction.
Through her experiences with several octopuses (not octopi), Sy Montgomery has learned that they have different personalities and great intelligence. They recognize people, can play pranks, open puzzle boxes and are masterful escape artists. In this book she recounts her experiences and relationships with several Octopuses. The book is serious, touching, funny and sometimes sad. It's an easy read. It would be a perfect book for any teenager or young adult interested in marine science specifically or animal relationships in general.
It did not make me want to pet one.
The Song of the Cell
By Siddhartha Mukherjee, ready Bu Dennis Boutsikaris
This is a hefty book on a hefty topic and, if you are interested, I'd recommend reading a paper copy. Audio worked OK for me but I feel like I missed a little. It wasn't the narrator, I like him a lot. It's jsut a deep topic. This is the third book by Mukherjee I've read and my favorite is still The Gene.
In this one he explores a wide range of topics on cell biology. It's very informative and he always writes for the non-medical reader. This book has a lot of personal antidotes. Sometimes they helped illustrate a point, sometimes I felt he just wanted to talk.
I felt that sometimes the information on a topic was a bit dated (HIV/AIDS) but mostly it seemed to be current knowledge and research. If you like books on medical topics, you will enjoy this one too.
The Stationery Shop
By Marjan Kamali, Read By Mozhan Marno
I was underwhelmed with this book and I had really high hopes going onto it.
The story is set in the 1950's in Iran. Roya and Bahman meet in Mr Fakhri's bookshop and fall in love. Roya is just graduating high school and Bahman is a political activist. Within a few months they decided to marry. They are supported by everyone except Bahman's mother.
They agree to meet at the town square and elope but Bahman never shows up. Eventually she discovers that Bahman has married someone else so she decides to accept a scholarship to study in the US. She finds a new life there but spends the next 60 years wondering why Bahman didn't show up that day.
I thought this would be a good book to get some background on what Iran was like at that time but I don't really feel it did such a good job of that. It could have been any country in the middle of some sort of political turmoil. Roya seems to spend her entire life in depression. She desperately needed therapy. Her husband seems like a saint and, yet, his character is like a cardboard cutout.
I guess I don't buy into the theme of carrying a torch for 60 years. That seems like an unnecessary burden.
Heirloom Bear is done!
The teddy bear is done and ready for delivery! I'm very happy with the end result and I think my cousin will appreciate it for her new grandchild. I decided to create a separate page just for this project so if you want to see more photos you can go here.
A new baby blanket for donation
You thought you would see a finished bear today didn't you? Well, it's close! Mom and I had dentist appointments yesterday morning. I came home from that and procrastinated for a couple of hours and then buckled down to get working on it. I will finish it tonight because I have to deliver it tomorrow!
Meanwhile, I've worked on this blanket some at the beach and have been working on it each evening since I got home. I finished it last night after I got tired of the bear.
I got the pattern for this one on Etsy from Nancy Said. It's a nice one to work on because there are 2 sections that alternate so I didn't get bored doing row after row of the same pattern. There's a sedge stitch section and a section with alternating SC and DC2TOG/DC rows.
The yarn is EYB Babe Freckles that I got on sale at a shop on Maine last summer. It's a 3 weight and very soft.
The border is two rows. One is alternating DC and CH1/SK1. I did the final row different from the pattern alternating DC in the DC and DC2TOG in the CH1 spaces. It worked out OK but I think it needs to be blocked.
It finished about 29" x 35". I'm going to wet it and block it before I send it off for donation. I will probably make this one again because it was so fast and easy.
I have almost a full skein of yarn left so I'm going to use it for some baby hats before I start a new donation project.
Tomorrow will be bear day!
A new project - Heirloom Bear
If you remember back 2 weeks, you will recognize and remember this little bear that I made. It was a "muslin" for the project that I'm introducing today and that needs to be finished by Thursday. It's very doable if I can get over my fear of messing up and if no big problems arise. I learned a lot about doing the Ultrasuede bear that will help me on this one.
The project starts with this quilt. It was made in 1957 for my cousin by her paternal grandmother, Eva Young. We share a maternal grandmother and because she is an only child of an only child, her Grandma Young was at all of our family events and I think I was 8 or so when I realized that she wasn't also my grandmother. Who says you can't have 3 grandmothers?
The quilt is hand appliqued, embroidered, pieced and quilted. There isn't 1 machine stitch on it. Of course, Sunbonnet Sue was very popular at that time.
In 1960, my aunt passed it on to my mother to use for me and it's been in our family since. I've had it at least 20 years. It's been in my sewing fabric cabinet just waiting for my cousin to have a grandchild. My plan was to replace the binding, wash it and present it to the new parents. The news came a few months ago that she is finally having a grandchild and I dug out the quilt to get it ready.
On closer inspection, it was clear that this quilt isn't sturdy enough to be a baby quilt again so I started to think of other things I could do with it to give it a new life for future generations. I've seen stuffed animals made of old quilts and settled on making a teddy bear.
My plan is to try to keep this block in tact to serve and a blanket for the bear. I'll buy some binding or a Kona solid to match for the binding. That way they can see what the quilt would have looked like and I will add the description label to the back of this square.
Here's another block for you to see the applique and embroidery. I've never seen the arm "wrinkles" embroidered on one of these blocks before but, admittedly, I've also not studied the infamous Sunbonnet Sue either.
I did a rough layout just to make sure all the pieces fit and that I'd have a block leftover. Then I reminded myself that no one expects anything from this quilt. My cousin only barely knows of its existence. So if it fails I have a very pretty backup crochet blanket I can give them. If I don't cut into it the blanket is just going to stay in my cabinet and one day, after I'm gone, it will end up in the landfill. There's nothing to lose.
There will be only 1 "foreign" fabric, this turquoise, for the nose.
Those scissors made my fingers numb but, after a couple of hours, I had it all cut out. I was able to save the one block for the documentation and there's still a chunk in case I need to recut anything. I'm saving all the little bits for now and plan to put some of it in with the stuffing. I'll put one large chunk in the belly in case someone needs to do a repair in the future.
Today, after a visit to the dentist, I start sewing. Wish me luck!
Saturday I was totally focused on getting the quilt top done and I finished it right before lunch. My camera would do the magic reshaping thing this time. It kept wanting to crop to the inner black border. You'll have to just look at this skewed version.
I don't know when I'll get around to quilting it. I need to dye a backing first but it will be done before August for sure. It will finish about 75 x 85.
After lunch I went for a walk to the other side (sound side) of the island and found a lovely little park with a hiking trail. At one corner there was a pier that provided a beautiful view of the sound.
You can even walk right off the pier into the water for a swim.
On the way back I came across my first beach bunny.....
After my walk I was about to pack up my sewing stuff but started thinking about what to do with the leftover bits. I really don't want to add these to my stash.
Within an hour I had a table runner. I think there's just enough fabric left to make a hanging sleeve for the quilt. I have to go back to Hobby Lobby this week and get some more of the red fabric for binding for both projects.
We packed up and headed home Sunday morning. I spotted this house on the way out. I bet some really nice people live here!
I have so much dyeing to do this week and will get to start a new crochet garment project. But the most important project is the bear that I'll be making from a vintage quilt. That has to be done by Thursday!
The day a miracle happened...
The miracle isn't about finishing my quilt. The miracle is that I woke up early enough to see the sunrise! This NEVER happens. I'm not an early morning girl but yesterday something woke me and I'm glad it did.
I spent most of my creative time yesterday working on the quilt and I made great progress. I only have 3 borders left to do and there's no reason I can't get them done today. There's a 2" black, 1" orange and 6" print. No block piecing required.
I also learned that my new cell phone camera has a wonderful trick. I took this photo with the quilt on the floor and me standing above at an angle. The camera popped up a yellow rhomboid outlining the quilt so, just for fun, I clicked that to see what would happen. This happened! This little feature is going to save me a lot of editing time in the future!
Today is our last day and my goal is to finish this quilt top and take a walk.
Off and on, all week, I've been working on the baby quilt. It was all I had to work on last night and I'm close to the body of the blanket being done. Then I just have to do the border.
FYI, this is an awful photo. The blanket is white.
Here's a close up of the stitch pattern.
Kim and I have also spent a lot of time looking for my next crochet garment project. I think I have it narrowed down to a couple of projects. I'll figure it out when I get home and can peruse the yarn options.
The weather word for yesterday and today is WINDY which you can see from the surf. When I went for my walk I walked into the wind so that the walk back would be easier. I walked farther than I planned because I wanted to see the wind surfers that were way ahead of me. I haven't decided it I admire them or if I think they were crazy. Maybe both!
We're leaving tomorrow so I'll have a final update Monday. It's been a great week. We've both relaxed a lot and have had a great week finishing procrastination projects.
The sweater is done!
I was so close to finishing the sweater that I just had to power through and get it done yesterday. I'm really happy with the way it turned out. It fits well and I know I will use it a lot next fall and winter. It's too late to use it now because this is a very warm sweater.
Here are a few notes:
Pattern is a YouTube tutorial from LaDria LaVey. The hexi cardi is very popular right now and there are dozens of version on YouTube and other sources but I thought hers was a little more stylish than some of the others. The yarn is Jeans from Lion Brand. It's a 4 weight acrylic and very soft. It's a little splitty and this dark mottled colorway is a little hard to see stitches. I tried a couple of other patterns with this yarn first but got frustrated trying to see stitches. A granny style cardi was a perfect solution. I used a J-6mm hook.
I made a number of adjustments as I went along to alter for size and sleeve length. With this pattern, changes are easy to do on the fly.
The front edge has bobbles and I used my trim stitches to draw the front edge up a little. Again, it was easy to adjust on the fly.
Now I can go home this weekend and look through my little stash of garment yarn and pick something new to make. While here, I have the baby quilt to get back to.
But that's not all!
I also made some good progress on the firefighter quilt. The pinwheel borders are together. I need to do some measuring and make some coping borders so that these will fit. It was late enough last night when I finished these that I thought it was a little late to be doing math. This will be my project for today.
But it wasn't all inside work. I didn't take as long a walk yesterday but we did get out for a walk on the beach once and went out other times just to feel the sand. It was warmer, about 70 but the wind has really kicked up. For exercise, it was yoga day. Today it's supposed to be about 72 with pretty high winds. I am planning for a long walk in between quilt sewing sessions.
It was a great day!
Overcast but warmer
Yesterday we had a high of 69 but not so much sun. It still made for a more pleasant walk. I headed east this time toward the pier. It was about an hour to the piece and back. There were lots of shore birds and gulls out today. I love watching the fast moving shore birds on the surf. I was a little surprised that my camera caught this one as well as it did because it was really booking.
If this guy looks annoyed it's because he should be. There were 3 young women on the beach who thought it would be a good idea to offer one of the gulls a chip. Of course about 15 of them flew in, scared the women and they screamed and chased the gulls away. This one landed right in front of me without a snack. He was indignant.
It was a great sewing and crochet day as well. I got all of the pinwheel blocks made so today I will cut the background pieces for the pinwheel border. After the pinwheels there will be a narrow black border and a narrow orange border before the last border of the fabric at the top. It's coming together nicely I think.
The hexagon sweater is making great progress! I got the back seam done and wove in a couple dozen ends and I've started the bottom hem. I am going to really love this sweater and look forward to wearing it in the fall. I know I'm a little lates to wear it this season.
I would say that I'm confident that I can finish both of these before I leave Sunday but I don't want to jinx myself. So I'll just say that it's possible to finish both of these before Sunday.
A beautiful and productive day
Depending on whether you are following Kim's weather app or mine, the high yesterday was either 59 or 63. It was a beautiful day and I got in a long walk to the West end of the island and from here I could see over to Hammocks Beach State Park, which, I think, is only accessible by kayak or boat.
I probably looked ridiculous on the beach because I decided that a 2 hours walk was the perfect opportunity to test out my new hiking boots. But at the beach no one really cares. The boots performed great with no rubbed spots on my feet or ankles. I'll need a few more test runs before we go to Maine in August.
Most everyone was bundled up pretty good on the beach but there was one family in shorts and swimsuits. I'd bet money that they were Canadians. I cheered them on.
I thought I'd share a couple of photos of our set up here. This is the place where we are staying. On Emerald Isle, about half the houses are duplexes and ours is one. We are in the unit on the West side, closest to the camera. The couple on the other side is from Massachusetts. It's a very comfortable house with great natural light. Being West facing I expect that this unit is pretty hot in July and August.
We picked this house because it had such a nice sewing table! Yesterday Kim finished the red jacket that you see hanging on the back of one of the chairs and she undid the ribbing and a few rows on her white sweater, to shorten it. The raveled yarn made a pretty wool waterfall.
She helped me fit my hexagon sweater Monday so I finished off the body yesterday morning and will seam the back and start the ribbing today. It's very possible that I can finish this sweater before we leave. That would be really nice. I've decided that this is my before breakfast project.
After breakfast I got back to the quilt and made the 4 corner pinwheels. Here you can see the firefighter themed fabric that will be the background for the pinwheel border. The 14 small pinwheels are cut out and I've start sewing them together. I should be able to finish those blocks today.
On my walk yesterday I decided to "shop" for the house I would want and I picked this one. I love all the big windows and I can't imagine what it would cost. Certainly more than we could afford! But a girl can dream.
Started the fire fighter quilt
I've been putting this quilt off for a couple of years mostly because I just don't like working with panels. It drives me batty that they are never printed even close to square. But now I have a deadline (August) to get this one done so it's the only sewing project that I brought on vacation.
After several tries, this is the layout that I decided on. The fabrics in this rendering are just random ones from EQ. You will see the real ones as the week goes on.
Yesterday I got started with the center of the quilt and today I'll start making the pinwheel blocks.
So far, so good.
It was pretty gray and quite cold all day yesterday but the son came out in the evening just in time to get this photo. Not a bad way to end the day!
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In Bloglovin you need to search "Colorways By Vicki Welsh" to find the blog.
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.