Wednesday, February 15, 2012

2012 - The Year of the Quilts

So, you may have wondered why I've not been posting lists of books. The answer is a bit odd. Ever since January, I've found myself quilting rather than reading. I'm still reading, of course, but it's mostly rereading comfort books. Quilting is where I've really been pushing my own boundaries.

Thus, with that in mind, here are list of my Works In Progress, 2012 edition!

NOTE: please do NOT put these on Pintrest.  I'm not ready for that kind of attention just yet. Thanks!

1. It all started with a trip to Jo-Anne's with my sister . . . I found this gorgeous fabric, and then couldn't think of an excuse. So, I called my best friend who is engaged to his sweetie, and a decision was born. Since these were our wedding colors too, I'll be making TWO quilts out of this stash!  (Yes, I bought 3 jelly-rolls, is that bad?)  :D 

Here's where I'm at with the first quilt: strips, squares, and then arranged into a basket weave pattern!

2.  Then I realized how close spring was, and hurried to work on a baby quilt for a friend in Germany. She's due in March, and I've just GOT to get it in the mail! It lacks 3 inches of binding being sewn down and then it's done. The issue with this one is that I didn't really have a plan for how all of those panels were going to fit back together. Would you believe I ended up going online to see how they'd been on the yard of fabric to start with???  What a mess!  Still, I think it turned out nicely! (The binding is the same wood-grain black as in the shadow-boxing.)


3.  At that point, I got distracted again, this time by K's quilt.  I decided on a large couch-quilt that she can snuggle with her hubby under in the evenings. She recently redecorated her living room to be neutral and dark red. Ahhh, did that light a fire under me! I had a box of dark red fabric that I'd moved with 5 times in the last decade. At last, a use! 

The second picture is of what I WAS going to use for the back (she loves cats and orange) but then I decided it was just too insane and went out and got some different fabric. Still cats, but cats at the beach in a calm palate.  All I've got to do is piece that into a back and we're golden!

4 & 5 (double-sided). Then my sweet husband and I decided to try out long-arm quilting. There's a machine about an hour's drive away that you can rent for $50 / day, and all the instruction you'll need is included. That's too good a deal to miss. So then he suggested that I make a "practice quilt" for our first attempt at the machine, before we got on to the meat of the matter and worked on the Cat in the Hat quilt. So, I raided my stash and tried to get rid of fabric that I just wasn't feeling in the mood for . . . orange leopard print, anyone?  :D

The one side is "Citrus Surprise" and then the other side is "Froggie Symphony in Blue."  Don't ask.  It made sense at the time.
Then, just as I was wondering what in the world I was going to do with the silly thing, I got a call from J. a friend of mine who lives just north of San Francisco. She was feeling down and sad with all the grey stuff.  Ahhh, did I have a quilt for her!  :D  She's the one who inspired the pretty star-border. I'd been saving that for a special occasion, and here we were!

  Imagine then my delight when I got to the end of the quilt and realized I could WRITE with THREAD!!!! Oh, I found myself wishing I'd paid better attention during 3rd grade cursive lessons!
And yes, we got TWO quilts done in one day! Such a good deal, and SO much fun. It really brought a whole new dimension to the way I think about quilts. In fact, I made a list of all the things I learned.  Hmmm, perhaps a follow up post?

6. Then my mother came to visit. And she brought her quilting stuff . . . as well as a purple project that we'd decided on for my cousin who is due in May. Mind you, purple is NOT my color. Mom, on the other hand, has a MASSIVE stash of purple. So, S. picked out 20+ fabrics, and here's what we came up with:
It started as a strip quilt and then acquired two parallel stripes, and a pale purple border. That border nearly killed me -- 5 seams in 5 days -- but it's done now and off to be approved! I've got a machine-quilting date with a friend in mid-March and I'll see if I can't get it done then.
BTW: the new quilting rule for purple in my house?
No seam-rippers allowed! If it's wrong, just cut it off!  :D

7.  While mom was here, she of course wanted to try out the long-arm quilter too. So, while she quilted a flannel quilt for my newly-married brother and his wife, I shopped. (Penguins!!!)
Then she finished earlier than I thought she would, and the heavily hand-embroidered quilt that I'd been planning on turning over to the professional to quilt, ended up on the machine with ME at the needle.  *gulp* 

Mind you, this top has quite the history. I finished the top sometime before 2004, because there's some embroidery on it with that date. Then I moved. Mom wanted to try some machine-quilting, so the top went to her to play with. Time passed. In 2007, I found a picture of it on my computer, wondered what had happened with it, and it was unearthed from the box where she'd been keeping it safe. I then took a Victorian embroidery class and needed something to embroider. You see where this is going, right?  Oh those lovely ladies at the senior center. My fabric / thread choices certainly were cheerful!  In any case, I ended up quilting the silly thing, and now all it needs is binding and it's done. Such a voyage!
8.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my eldest niece called. She's newly 9 and just got her first serious doll. I of course inquired as to whether the doll needed a quilt. She did! Thanks to facetime, H. even picked out both the fabric and the pattern (thanks, pintrest!).  Yes, the jellyfish were her idea. (They were in my stash because my husband fell for them!)

Overall, I think it's charming!  I need to put the back on, sandwhich it, flip it inside out, quilt it and put it in a box to be mailed!  :D
Yes, those ARE owls on the back. She clearly takes after me, right?  :) 

 9.  Then it rained. No, really. And this was the state of my quilting area:  
Clearly, something had to be done. Right? I thought so too!

I'm not quite sure where it's headed, all I know is that it's cheerful, and I've decided on 10" squares. We'll see how this one ends up
10.  Ten?  I have TEN projects in process? Well, not really. Still, I did mention the Penguins, right???  :D  Sneak-peek then!
Yes, they DO all have metallic silver accents! I'm a magpie, and I'm proud of it! 

Love you all,
Mrs. Turkey.

PS: What'cha think? :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Favorite Longer Poems (with video links)

Well, this list is a bit different, in a lot of ways.  First, and most obviously, it's not a list of 10.  Mind you, I'm going ahead and publishing it because really, I've got a lot more than 10 links in here, and I'm eager to hear what you think!  Do please check out them all out and leave a comment below!

Ahhh yes, the criteria for this list?  Longer poems that I love to recite aloud.  It's not a comprehensive list, merely a list of the ones that sprang first into my mind.  Enjoy!

1.  "The Cremation of Sam McGee" by Robert Service

2.  "If" by Rudard Kipling

3.  "Ulysses" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

4.  "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

5.  "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night" by Dylan Thomas
Trust me, that's the only link you'll need.  Dylan Thomas does an amazing job with this poem.  Just think of all the English class video responses I'm saving you from, and click (only) that link!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Books I Mention in Class

Today's list is a bit odd, and yet I find that when I teach, I frequently mention several books.  In case you weren't in class, or you couldn't write fast enough, here's the latest list!

Nonfiction: (NOTE: for this list, the links embedded in the titles of the books lead to authors' websites, the links embedded in the pictures lead to Amazon, where you can read further reviews!)

1.  Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina
This is an easy to read and easy to remember summary of the latest research into how your brain actually works.  It's packed with research results that you'll find yourself quoting extensively.  You can click on the title of the book to go to the author's website which has lots of supplemental information.  Enjoy!

2.  Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
This is a summary of the latest research on child development.  It's amazing how much has been discovered in the past few years, and yet, because of the speed of our news cycle, it's hard to see that the overall picture has changed dramatically.  I really do recommend that everyone who comes into contact with kiddos read this book as a reality check.  Delightfully, the website associated with the book (click on the name) has a LOT of information both from the book, and information written after publication.  Go, read, learn, and enjoy!

3.  Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales
I've been recommending this book for years.  In fact, one year I gave away 15 copies as gifts.  Combining great storytelling with hard science (occasionally dense), the author takes us on a search for the common elements that allowed folks to survive all kinds of situations.  By the time you finish the book, you'll have a set of survival skills to develop now, while you're safe, that will help you no matter where, or in what kind of survival situation your find yourself.  I discovered this book when I was lost in an internal wilderness and it really helped.  Mind you, he spends more time talking about external wildernesses, but the insights are valid for both. 

4.  Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman
As discussed in Malcolm Gladwell's book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, this (rather poorly-titled IMHO) book is the result of Dr. Gottman's years of research that allow him to predict with stunning accuracy the likelihood that a couple will split up or stay together.  It's a well-written book, with lots of mini-checklists and questions as well as stories and data supported by scientific research.  Fun!

5.  Don't Shoot the Dog: the New Art of Teaching and Training by Karen Pryor
Of all the books I've ever read, this slim volume has had the greatest impact on how I teach. My classes are now more relaxed and more fun for everyone, both for me and for my students. (Evidence? Attendance figures are much improved!)  Mind you, this is theoretically a book about how to train animals, written by a dolphin trainer. That said, it's also a beautifully clear explanation of exactly how to shape behavior. For each section she explains how to apply that concept to a pet, a child, a spouse, a boss, and yourself.  With knowledge comes power. Read this book and use your powers wisely!  :)

Fiction: I often don't get as much time to spend recommending fiction as I do nonfiction, unfortunately.  Also, because I teach all age levels, this list may not suit everyone.  Still, these are books that I mentioned in several different classes.  Enjoy!  (NOTE: Yes, I do teach ALL age levels.)

6. Starting with my top recommendation for the toddler set: ANY board book by Sandra Boynton. She's fabulous!  My favorite? Your Personal Penguin, which I bought when engaged. NOTE: most of her books also have songs.  Here's the link for the Penguin one.

7.  I Am Going! by Mo Willems
The author of the (deservedly) famous Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, has begin a series of wildly entertaining first readers. The Elephant and Piggie series of books is designed for kids who are just starting to try and read on their own. Kids get a lot of help from both the pictures and the delightful typography. Best of all? The stories are fun for the adults to listen to, as each has a twist at the end.
I'm willing to go out on a limb for this author and state for the record that I think his books will be as enduring and as genre-shaping as the Dr. Seuss books are for the Level 1 readers!  A bold prediction, I know, but one I'll stand behind as a reading teacher with a LOT of experience.

8 & 9.  Skipping several levels of development as a reader, my favorite Robert Heinlein novel, as mentioned to my older classes, is either Friday or The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.  Please, don't make me choose just one!

Friday is a one of the strongest female protagonists out there, and I just love listening in on her life. Sadly, I think this vision of Earth is increasingly accurate, and that worries me. 

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress features one of the more unique narrative voices in all of sci-fi, and is basically a handbook on how to run a revolution.  When Luna City is finally built, I hope everyone will have read this book!

10. John Ringo's series that starts with There Will Be Dragons is thought-provoking, well-written, wild adventure. It's sci-fi mixed with ren-faire folk, mixed with the best of the fantasy realm, while also discussing deep philosophical and ethical issues.  Ahh yes, and there's Bast the wood elf.  I won't spoil any more of the story, just go get a copy and get lost reading! 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Disguised Literary Classics - with pictures!

The Picture Books:
Saint George and the Dragon1.  Saint George and the Dragon, retold by Margaret Hodges, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
A retelling of Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene, this book really helped when I finally sat down to read the original.  Granted, convincing Dr. M. that I really had read it as a child was a bit on the difficult side!

Gilgamesh the King (The Gilgamesh Trilogy)2.  Gilgamesh The King, retold and illustrated by Ludmila Zeman
A retelling of Gilgamesh, and apparently one of a series.

Merlin and the Dragons (Picture Puffins)
3.  Merlin and the Dragons, by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Li Ming
A King Arthur story, Jane Yolen has (again) created a new story that feels like an old one we should have known. 

Canterbury Tales4.  Canterbury Tales, selected, translated, and adapted by Barbara Cohen, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
A retelling of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, in clear but poetic language, and beautifully illustrated.  I think she's also published some posters of individual characters, taken from this book.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner5.  The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, illustrations by Gustave Dore, editor Anne Rooney
A picture book version of this famous narrative poem, the illustrations are just gorgeous, and quite helpful in providing context. 

Childrens Classic Poetry6.  The Children's Classic Poetry Collection, compiled by Nicola Baxter, illustrated by Cathie Shuttleworth
It may look like a picture book, but it reads like a Norton!

The Novels:
The Sea of Trolls (Sea of Trolls Trilogy)7.  The Sea of Trolls, by Nancy Farmer
What happens after Beowulf?

The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel (Thursday Next Novels (Penguin Books))
8.  The Eyre Affaire, by Jasper Fforde
*Wicked giggles*  When you take getting lost in a book to the next level . . .

The Firebrand
9.   Firebrand, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
This is the retelling of the fall of Troy that brought it to life for me - told from Kassandra's viewpoint.

Goddess of Yesterday10.  Goddess of Yesterday: A Tale of Troy, by Caroline Cooney
Another story of Troy, this one from a different viewpoint.