Monday, March 29, 2010

Look Mom! I'm Machine Quilting!

So, remember the quilt that I started making several months ago?  Ya, I forgot about it, too.  Ok, I didn't really forget about it.  I avoided it.  Like the plague.  I was terrified of having to actually machine quilt my beloved top.  I did get a walking foot, and then I pinned the quilt, and then I rolled it up and we moved, and then it sat on my floor under a bunch of crap for two months.  This weekend I finally decided to suck it up and get it finished. 

As you can see, I had to use some blue tape to keep my lines straight.  I'm sewing on the diagonal and the tape helped a lot.  I wish I would have matched the thread a little better to the material, but that's OK.

Only problem is I got lazy when pinning and I have a bit of puckering on the back.  Not a huge deal--but I'm afraid that when I start sewing on the cross-diagonal I'll get even more puckering.  I've sewed half the quilt so I'm just going to suck it up and re-pin.  Grrrr!    But after that I just have to figure out how to bind. 

One step closer!!  I hope to make major progress this weekend so that I can start on a new quilt!

PS - Anyone using the new blogger editor? Not sure I like it and I can't figure out how to spell check! How lame is that!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Blog Changes - Massive Overhaul of the Bookish Kind

Ok, maybe "Massive" is a slight exaggeration.

I've been thinking about this for a while now and I'm about 95% sure I'm going to stop blogging at Trish's Reading Nook and just transfer all my book stuff over here. I don't know what will happen when I transfer 366 posts, but I haven't really been a "book blogger" for five months and to simplify things in my life I think I want to just blog in one location (although I do still want to blog about books and yes, start being interactive on some book blogs again--Miss you guys!!).

Letting go of the Nook does make me sad. I've put a lot of time and effort into the blog over the past two and a half years, but I think it will reduce some stress. Let's face it--most of you guys are book bloggers anyway. :) I do fear this will turn off the few family members who visit, but just like I worry about book bloggers not wanting the personal stuff I just have to trust that people will take what they want and leave the rest...or...why do I even worry about such things?

Anyway, just wanted to give you guys a heads up as to what might happen.

In terms of Non-Fiction Five Challenge--any suggestions? I thought about maybe until the end of September just changing the name of Trish's Reading Nook to "Non-Fiction Five..." I don't really want to bring it over here or build a new blog for it but don't know what else to do.

Reassurance? :P

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show - Frank Delany

Venetia Kelly's Traveling ShowTitle: Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show
Author: Frank Delany
Published: 2010 Pages: 427
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

Venetia Kelly came into the world in a fashion of mythic proportions: "She sprang from the womb and waved to the crowd. Then she smiled and took a bow" (3). What do you say about a book that begins with such oomph? Set mostly in 1930s Ireland during a tumultuous political period, Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show is one man's attempt the understand how his world all of a sudden tumbled upside down. Writing the story as an aging man, Ben looks back to when he was eighteen years old and met the wondrous and compelling Venetia Kelly.

This book is so many things that it is difficult to capture in a short synopsis. It is a book about a young man who is asked to do things he should have never been asked to do; political development and upheaval during a time when the world was spinning faster than it was turning; young but forbidden love of two people who so belonged together but didn't; storytelling--how can you have a book set in Ireland without storytelling? Ben is a wonderful narrator who spares no details in his stories, and even though he is a self-proclaimed digressor (one who digresses?) every bit of his story is intriguing.

I have very little complaint about Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show. I did have troubles getting into the story at first, much like I did with Delaney's novel Ireland*, and I can't quite put my finger on why. The writing, though sprawling, is very dense and detailed, and I found myself having to pay close attention to the story as small bits and pieces would resurface. But once immersed into the writing I found I wanted to read one more chapter and then another and then cursing that my lunch break was over and I'd have to wait to read more (the chapters are generally short and usually cliffhangery).

I think my 4.5/5 rating shows that I would highly recommend Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show, but I'll say it again. This book is a perfect blend of plot and characters and I was sad when I came upon the last page of the book. I was so caught up in the story and felt so much emotion for the characters that I even got misty-eyed over the ending. Narrator Ben explains at the beginning of the book that the story isn't over and that was a tough pill to swallow, but in the end this was a very satisfying read--a read that satisfied my love of literature and beautiful writing but also my love of a good story that had me at the edge of my seat wanting to know more until I turned the last page.

*Back in my first week of blogging I wrote some thoughts of Ireland. It's actually pretty funny to read now as I mention my tendency to ramble which has only gotten worse (?) as the years have gone on.

A big thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for inviting me to participate in this tour. And a big thanks to Frank Delany for sharing the lives of Ben, Venetia, and even Blarney.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly - Connie May Fowler

Title: How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly
Author: Connie May Fowler
Published: 2010 Pages: 276
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4/5

Clarissa Burden, a writer in her thirties and married to a strange and mildly abusive South African man Iggy, lives as a bystander in her own life. She allows people to walk all over her, including the gorgeous women Iggy brings to the house to parade around nude while he photographs them (for art, of course), and she suffers from a terrible bout of writer's block. Set during one hot summer day in the northern Florida town of Hope, Clarissa , through a series of unpredictable circumstances, takes a hard look at her life and finally learns how to fly.

At first How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly is a little strange. Written in a kind of stream-of-consciousness, the writing can be a little choppy and abrupt (or it could have been my 10 page at a time reading) but as the pieces of the story come together it was difficult not to fall in love with Clarissa and cheer her on with every self-discovery she made. This is my second Fowler novel (the other Before Women had Wings), and Fowler has a keen sense of characterisation. Clarissa is a woman that many can relate to--unsure of herself, unaware of the small abuses she puts up with, lost in her own self.
"For the last fourteen years, she had lived with an ordinary face: no underbite, no overbite, no buckteeth, nothing to prevent her from operating in the world as if she had every right to be treated with the same respect as any other person. On that hot solstice day--one that had already proven to be extraordinary for Clarissa--she gazed into Olga Villada's unblemished mirror and realized that the person she was in her head was not the person whose reflection stared back at her" (177).
As I got further into the story I loved watching Clarissa discover how she truly was the beauty she saw staring back at her in the mirror and how she determined that despite the cruel words that came out of her husband's mouth she did have worth.

I'd recommend this one to those who like character-driven novels, but also because there is so much that happens within the one day (or so) those who like more plot-driven novels would enjoy this one as well. Again, stylistically this one did take some getting used to and the lack of chapter breaks my own "here and there" reading a little difficult. The stream-of-consciousness can be distracting but I think it also helped portray how conflicted Clarissa was. In many ways this book actually reminded me of Mrs. Dalloway and as I was reading I wondered if Woolf might have been an influence on Fowler. In the end, though, I think you'll find yourself applauding Clarissa and eager to see her learn to fly.

Big thanks to Connie May Fowler for sending me this book! How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly is available April 2, 2010.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Good Things - Spring Edition

Several blogging friends (Ana, Debi, Amanda, Chris) have been doing "Good Things" posts for this year and I'm finally going to join them today.

Despite a hectic day at work, I came home to gorgeous weather and experienced all sorts of good things.

1. Daylight Savings. It's a pain in the ass to get up (ironically this week I've gotten up 45 minutes earlier every day than I normally do), and it's pitch dark when I leave for work, but I LOVE having that extra hour of sunlight.

Daylight Savings
2. I finally went for a ralk/wrun outside for the first time since we moved (it's been about three months since my last outdoor run). Although I did more walking than running, it felt GREAT to get outside and move around. Plus it was so wonderful to get out in our new neighborhood. Everyday I'm reminded of how much I love it over here. Even though we're only about a mile from our old house it's a completely different world. Our neighborhood is about 15 years old with beautiful, mature trees and landscaping; miles and miles of roads and jogging trails; so much to look at. Ahhhhh--such a great feeling to love where you're at. And speaking of exercise, check out the guest post my mom wrote for the 100 Mile Fitness Challenge. She's so awesome!

3. SPRING. We came back from Salt Lake to all of the Bradford Pears in full bloom. I can't stop looking at them! Even though we're far from being green again, the blossoms have continually cheered my spirits since we've been back. I can't wait for the Crepe Myrtles to start blossoming (my favorites). Hello Spring--I've missed you!

Bradford Pear in Bloom
4. The Orchid plant I gave to Scotty for Valentine's Day continues to bloom and bloom. When I brought it home it only had one and a half blooms but now it is almost fully bloomed and I love it. I'm awful about house plants but this one is pretty low maintenance.

Orchid Plant
Fully in love with Spring (and trying not to think about the rain in forecast for Saturday),

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Easy Cheesy Tortellini

I can't remember where I originally found this recipe--somewhere on the food network (maybe Giada de Laurentiis?). And through my own laziness I've dumbed it down a bit and made it super easy. But goodness is it yummy! I'm not a big spaghetti sauce fan, but this I love. And great leftovers.

Easy Cheesy Tortellini
1 package tortellini
1 container mascarpone (use maybe 1/3-1/2 cup)
1 jar spaghetti sauce
Spices to taste (oregano, parsley, etc.)
1/2-1 cup mozzarella cheese
(original recipe calls for sliced smoked mozz which is great but hard to find)

1. Boil tortellini

2. Mix mascarpone, spaghetti sauce, spices in baking dish
3. Toss in cooked tortellini
4. Top with cheese

5. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melty

6. Enjoy.

Picture taken in Lubbock 2006 when I still made Scott eat dinner at the kitchen table (now we are in the bad habit of eating in front of the TV...when we have kids, I say, that'll change). I told Scott that he needed to make a "happy plate" which is kid-term for clean plate. What a smartass! And boy does he look young!!

Bon Appetite!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Those Days

Ever have one of those days? Today is one of them for me. One of those days when *I* don't even want to be around me! What do you do on those days?

I usually turn on the music and thanks to Scotty I finally got my computer speakers hooked up. Yay! A little Patty Griffin always solves the problem--at least solves the problem of feeling alone, even when you are alone.

I can't remember now how I learned of Patty Griffin but she's been a comfort to me for several years. Some of the most beautiful folk music I've heard. I wish I could find a video but all I could find is this--at least the song is complete. The song is called Forgiveness. Her whole Living with Ghosts album is gorgeous (if you like the folky type of sound).

What do you do on those days?

Edited: This post is kind of whiny and I was in a kind of whiny mood. Nothing is wrong, nothing happened. Just one of those days. Today is a bright sun-shining day (it's actually raining, but metaphorically speaking). Although I could use more caffeine!
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