Friday, May 30, 2014

May Reading

May 31st 2014

I've been making a conscious effort, lately, to go back and re-read some of the books I already have.  I have a lot of books in my house but I only keep the ones I know I will read more than once.  The books I don't care for so much get donated to the local thrift store.  I consider my books as old friends and new friends.  I am a printed page person.  I cannot read books on a screen, I've tried and it just gives me headache.  I need to hold the physical book but it's about more than just holding the book, it is the smell and feel of the paper.  I enjoy how the book feels in my hands.  Covers feel so different and some have raised fonts or a beautiful dust jacket.  Others have a fabric cover with an embossed design which is begging to be touched.  The paper used for the pages can be so different too.  I like the ones which have a deckle edge that looks like an old book.  This month has been a great mixture of old friends and new!


At the bottom of my pile, are my two new Japanese crafting books.  One is about embroidery and the other about making small creatures from felt.  I don't know the titles or authors because it is all in Japanese but they are beautiful, inspirational books!

Next up is "The Supreme Macaroni Company" by Adriana Trigiani.  I have loved this author for several years and have read all her books.  This one is the final book in her "Valentine" trilogy.  The focus is on family, love and work and how these fit together in real life.  The characters are mainly Italian and there are great descriptions of trips to Italy.   The first time I read this, I was totally unprepared for the tragedy that overtakes Valentine, I had been sucked into the chaos and joy of her extended family and cried hard with her when the bad times came.  It's a great story though and I do like books that have a real plot and a proper ending!  

"Lost Lake" by Sarah Addison Allen is also a book I have had for a while and this was my second read.  Sarah's first book "Garden Spells" is my favorite of her books.  All her books are whimsical and quirky.  The characters are real though and I like to lose myself in their worlds.  I become attached to them!  I enjoyed this book better second time around.  I think I read it more slowly.  I have a tendency to devour new books by my favorite authors and sometimes that isn't a good thing.   Sometimes  you have to slow down and let the story do it's magic and this book, like her others has plenty of magic woven through it.  This book also has a layered story and a satisfying ending.  

"The Aviator's Wife" by Melanie Benjamin was a new book.  It is historical fiction about the wife of Charles Lindbergh.   I didn't come to this book with any real knowledge about the characters or events.  I found it fascinating.  I couldn't believe how devoted she was to him even though he was an unpleasant husband, at least in this portrayal.  In her obsession with him, she reminded me of Bella in the Twilight series!  It was interesting to observe the development of their relationship through all the difficulties they faced with the Press and the Public.  It made me sad to see how Anne Lindbergh behaved and the choices she made but I realize reading her story now with the time lapse and changes in society since then makes a big difference.  It was a story with much sadness in it but I'm glad I picked it up.

"The Fault In Our Stars" by John Green was my book club book for May.  It is a teen book and I don't think I would have read it otherwise although my daughter is a big fan of his books.  There is a lot of back story to this book and John Green and his brother are very interesting guys.  They have several educational YouTube channels.  John Green also started the "NerdFighters" because of bullying he experienced at school.  It promotes the message that it is ok to be different, to be a nerd or geek.  The NerdFighter motto is "Don't Forget To Be Awesome" or DFTBA.  The book follows two friends with terminal cancer and their blind friend.  It sounds really depressing but I found it uplifting just as I did "The Book Thief".  It was witty and devastating at the same time.   I was not at all prepared for what happened while I was waiting for Hazel to die.  The movie opens here next week and I will be seeing it and taking a box of tissues!   

"The Girl In Hyacinth Blue" by Susan Vreeland was another re-read.  I found this book disjointed the first time and no better this time.  It follows the history of a Vermeer painting backwards in time to the painter and his subject.  Each chapter is like a short story and the end of each story is the beginning of the one before it.  I like the concept of the book I just found it difficult to read and keep track of.

And Finally....  "Beauty" by Robin Mckinley.  This book was recommended to me because one of my all time favorite books is "Wildwood Dancing" by Juliet Marillier.  It was a light read, a re-telling of the story of Beauty and the Beast.  I loved that it was so different to the versions I've come across before and certainly bore no resemblance to the Disney version! I don't think "Beauty" has the depth of Juliet Marillier's books.  It seemed simpler somehow but it was a satisfying story and my daughter and I both enjoyed it.  







On My Worktable

May 30th 2014

I don't really know where this week has gone!  It was the first week of the Summer break for my high schooler so we have been finding a different routine.  She is a late riser so I am sewing in the early mornings when the house is quiet.  It has been cool enough to have all the windows open in the morning so I have been able to sew to the music of birdsong - lovely.  I am working on building stock for the quilt show in September.  


I have been enjoying using my little dish I got at the Japanese store recently.  I have promised my daughter a trip there soon, it is just the kind of shop she would love too.  The bunny pincushions actually have fuchsia side bands and not red as they appear here.  It is such a difficult color to photograph.  





I also like to make jewelry.  I made this necklace to go with a very pale lilac t-shirt that I bought recently.  My daughter enjoys making things too.  She has a very individual and steampunk inspired style.  The picture of all the stuff on the table is when we were both working at the same time!  The pendant on my necklace came from a local craft store.  I love how it looks like a vintage piece.  I added the wire wrapping and pink bead.  I have also used a variety of glass and crystal beads, amethyst, garnets and some labradorite.  It is about 16 or 17 inches long and very comfortable to wear.  






Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

May 26th 2014

Today is Memorial Day here in the U.S.   It is a public holiday and remembers and honors those families who have sacrificed so much.  As we drove today, almost every American flag was flying at half mast.  What a glorious day it was here, warm, sunny and clear making all the colors vibrant.  We drove to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve which is a State Park just south of Carmel here in California.  This is one of our favorite places to visit and it is majestic at any time of year and in any weather.  Today was a sunny day with no hint of the marine layer that is usually so prevalent in the summer.  The summer is not the best time of year to visit the beach here because there is usually a thick mist that creeps in off the ocean.  It reaches many miles inland.  Inland, it clears up pretty early but at the beach it can hang around all day.  In this first photograph, you can see the marine layer out on the horizon.



There were hundreds of cormorants nesting on "Bird Island".  We also saw a lot of pelicans flying.  Our favorite little beach, China Cove, was closed because it was being used by the harbor seals as a nursery.  Young seals and their moms were laying on the sand and playing in the emerald water.  It was wonderful.  We didn't see any otters today, usually we see several.  




The tide was low, so we were able to observe the tide pools close up.  




The route to Point Lobos, takes us through fields growing artichokes, strawberries, raspberries, cabbages, and all kinds of salad crops.  Workers are hard at work in the fields picking and boxing up produce.  I like to see all the different crops growing, it reminds me of our dependance on the land.  The last two photos are of a field of artichokes and fields of red and green lettuce - what fabulous stripes!







Friday, May 23, 2014

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Over-run with mice!

May 22nd 2014

Last week I shared some photos of some mice I was working on.  I've spent the last few days working on more.  They are quite addictive, each with their own quirky personality!



This is where I was at last week.  


This is where I am with them now.  Each mouse takes about 45 minutes to make once I have cut out the felt which I try and do all at the same time, ending up with multiple piles of tiny felt pieces!  Each mouse only stands 3 inches tall so they are pretty fiddly to sew.  








I imagine these little characters being good quiet toys for small children.  They are a nice size to hold and just right for little hands.  I have started to list them in my Etsy shop.

You can see my happy little mice here.....






Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Drought

May 20th 2014

I often walk at our city recharge ponds.  These large ponds are part of our water supply system, they feed our underground aquifer.  I think there are six actual ponds, they are about 20 feet deep and pretty big.  It takes about 20 minutes to walk a loop around the edge of the ponds so it must be close to a mile.  I try and walk two laps if it is not too hot.  There is one pond which is always kept full, the others vary depending on the weather and time of year.  It is a haven for migrating ducks and birds.  In the Winter there are always interesting ducks, sometimes unusual or rare ones.  There are always wading birds, herons and egrets.    The ponds themselves are fenced and the trail is gravel.  It is a great place to walk and well used by local birders and dog walkers.  Today I went because we are having a break from the 100 degree temperatures of last week.  The ponds were completely dry and the grasses bleached from the sun and heat.  Even the reliably full pond was nearly empty with a small pool in the centre.  I was sad to see it like that but the mud had attracted some avocets which I don't normally see there so despite the bleakness of the situation there was some beauty.  








The hills around us are almost completely golden now, with only faint traces of olive green.  I always think they look like crushed velvet that someone has gathered up and put down in a large heap.  All the ripples in the ground reflect the light differently.  I miss the green of Spring but these Summer hills have their own loveliness.  

Today I also picked our first raspberries, blackberries and tomatoes.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

On My Worktable

May 17th 2014

I'm working on some small felt mice.  I think these would be ideal "quiet" toys for church or anywhere where small kids are supposed to keep their voices down - never an easy task!  I'm working on several different designs and also have drawings for rabbits and bears.  Because they are so small, they are a challenge to stitch but it's fun to work on something new.





Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Japanese Shopping Trip

May 15th 2014

After reading this blog post http://www.andstitches.blogspot.com/2014/05/love-japanese-embroidery-books.html  on one of my favorite blogs I found that I did indeed have one of the Japanese book stores mentioned about 25 miles from where I live.  I decided it was time for an adventure, after all the house was clean and there was nothing that urgently needed attending to.  It was a horrible drive, the freeway traffic was a nightmare and it was nearly 100 degrees out so the air-conditioning was working hard to keep up.  But when I arrived, I was rewarded with a whole plaza of Japanese shops.  Now, I've been up that stretch of road many times, how did I never notice?????   The shops were blessedly cool, and frankly it was like being abroad which was awesome.  There were unfamiliar smells and sounds and most of the signs were in Japanese.  I loved it all.  I went in a shop that seemed to have a bit of everything, from flip-flops to dishes, from gorgeous wrapping paper to needle felting supplies and best of all, nothing was very expensive.  




This was my haul.  The dishes, tray and wrapping paper all came from the above mentioned shop.  Then I walked across the hot carpark to a large Japanese grocery store with a bookstore attached.  I am a total sucker for bookstores.  I love them all, the large chain stores with tables everywhere, comfy chairs and a good coffee shop, and the small independent ones where the employees know everything there is to know about the books they sell.  This bookshop was a cultural experience.  I knew, of course, that it would be full of Japanese books but I wasn't prepared for the feeling of not understanding anything that I was looking at.   In a weird sort of way it was vaguely frustrating and I felt slightly intimidated.  Thankfully there were a few general signs in English and the lady at the counter was very helpful.  I headed for the section labeled "crafts".  Wow, there were so many craft books, mostly in the traditional Japanese format (which is the equivalent of starting at the back cover of a western book), and covering all manner of crafts.  Of course I couldn't understand the titles so I passed a very happy hour browsing and enjoying the universal language of photography!  I accidentally strayed into the parenting section at one point, which was right next to the craft books, but found my way back.  I found two wonderful books that I couldn't leave without.  The books have lots of beautiful photographs, so real looking that it looks like the pages have actual embroidery on.  How do they do that?  The instructions are very well laid out with lots of very simple and clear illustrations so that the language doesn't seem to be barrier at all.  










In addition to the books, I got a little wooden doll, a cat stamp and some stickers.



I will definitely be back.