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Etta and Otto and Russell and JamesEtta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My reaction to this novel wavered: sometimes ho-hum, sometimes put off by a stylistic decision, sometimes drawn in and fascinated. I remained puzzled throughout. There are two kinds of puzzlement (at least): 1. puzzled, confused, annoyed and 2. puzzled,intrigued,pondering–willing to reread. My experience was mostly the latter.

This is not a realistic novel, so that opens the door to the question of Why? What reality beyond reality can be conveyed through non-reality? My first answer to that was a feminist one. Etta had so melded with Otto that she needed something dramatic to regain her own identity, so she left, at age 82, on an unrealistic trek across the whole of Canada, on foot. And Otto, understanding, let her go. How else to explain his not pursuing her? Or her dreaming his war dreams? That held up for the first half, then data no longer fit. (view spoiler) I don’t yet have a second answer.

I found it interesting that she always had enough money, that her shoes wore out only once. I began to wonder if the whole novel–in spite of being told from three points of view–was all taking place in one mind. In some ways, the end supports that. (view spoiler)

Early on the pacing was tedious. I kept waiting for a revelation of why Etta left; I kept waiting for the story of a juicy triangle. Neither happened. The triangle was real, but very low key. No more reason was given than we got in the first line of the novel. Normally I like a novel that moves meaningfully between past and present. This one didn’t seem to move meaningfully, but arbitrarily. And the portions were too short. So I found it annoying, at first. I even wondered if in fact there would be no story if it were told chronologically. Gradually, however, the segments of each portion got longer, and I got more attuned to the characters, and I got to caring more about them the more I learned. I pondered who loved Etta more, Otto who let her go or Russell who pursued her.

And is it significant that the talking animal is coyote, and Coyote is a known trickster? And if so, what was the trick?

Yes, I will most likely read the novel again someday.

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Toy and Joy

Some deadlines work for me–real ones. I’ve tried making fake deadlines to convince myself to work ahead. It is no use because myself knows better. Somewhere in October I had three of those self-made deadlines. Then I convinced myself that the coupon for a small discount on long arm quilting wasn’t enough to make me say, No, to events I wanted to attend. I convinced myself that the project with a real due date of January 31 had plenty of time. And I didn’t finish the Toy and Joy quilts in time to get them to last month’s meeting just in case the weather was bad this month. Luckily the weather is fine.

The meeting is tonight and the last baby quilt is now quilted. Five hours ahead of time.

Back in August, you saw most of the tops here. And earlier, the story of most of the blocks here.  There was a joke in one of my Indiana quilt guilds that a quilt could be shown at show-n-tell seven times. The history of the “rule” was that one member had actually shown seven stages of one quilt–that was before my time, so I didn’t get to see it. Thus, ~3 posts is showing restraint.

The first three are from the guild’s block of the month last year–I won three times. Only two (red-blue-gold, totally scrappy) made it to Toy and Joy quilts. The third (pink) is awaiting quilting.

The pastel block wasn’t bright enough to go with the other ‘totally scrappy’ blocks, so it became a doll quilt all by itself. (The doll quilt is about 20 x 20, the infant quilts 36 x 36.)

The doll quilt back was made from minkie scraps.

tj-doll-back

Yep, that stuff stretches.

And I had to extend one of the three other backs.

tj-infant-back

Silly me, I’d bought 3 yards of flannel for 3 36-inch tops. Then prewashed the flannel. Lesson learned. At least I had that cream strip to finish the third one off.

I did a big meander on all the quilts–the batting required quilting only every 8 inches.

tj-red-blue-gold-detail

Although plan A is to practice FMQ on charity quilts, sometimes quilts just need to be finished. So I don’t really call meandering practice. However, I am getting better at starting and stopping without a zig zag in the line, and my stitch is getting more even, so it isn’t wasted on the practice front.

The other quilt comes from Lotto blocks that I’ve won in the past. I love that heart block; however, it created an interesting design issue.

tj-heart-horizontal

When I planned it, I had it laid out horizontally. However the heart looks better on point.

tj-heart-on-point

Had I been thinking ahead, I’d have made the tans parallel and the blues parallel for this orientation. Lesson learned. Think of the final orientation when designing.

11 pm, ETA: At guild tonight it was announced that our year’s contribution to Toy and Joy is 1889 doll and infant quilts.

I will be linking with Oh Scrap! and Let’s Make Baby Quilts (buttons in sidebar) and Scrap Happy; welcome visitors.

Shall I read a book or get to one of those other two projects?

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Vision and Vigilance Candlelight Vigil

Around 200 people gathered in Waterfront Park at the Japanese American Historical Plaza/Bill of Rights Plaza to say, “Never Again.” The memory of the Japanese incarceration during World War II is much more vivid here in Portland than anywhere else I have been. The experience is more real–people have family who were sent away; others knew people who were sent away and imprisoned. One of my friend’s neighbors was sent away; her family managed to keep the farm for them to return to–many were not so lucky. The occasion for today’s vigil was to say, No, to President-elect Trump’s attempt to use the Japanese imprisonment as precedent for making a list of Muslims.

stone

In this memorial space, the stone to the left has engraved on it the names of the places where the Japanese families were herded and kept behind barbed wire and guarded. Another significance of the space was mentioned in the invocation: We gather here on land ceded by the Tribes of the Grande Ronde.

The vigil opened with Taiko drumming.

taiko

Speakers represented many religions–Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Native American–as well as city and state government and human rights organizations.Overall the message was of unity and solidarity: if they come for one, we will all be there.
I learned of a resistance to the Holocaust, an Imam in Paris had quickly registered Jews as Muslims to protect them.

The city councilman reminded us of Portland’s non-discrimination policies and assured us that Portland would remain a sanctuary city.

An Asian high school student told how important it was for her to learn of various ways Asians had been active in the Civil Rights movement and other crisis situations.

We closed singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

candle

Edited to add link to Oregonian article and professional photos.

 

 

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Wordstock

Among Portland traditions is the all day event called Wordstock, an event currently presented by Literary Arts and held in several venues near the Portland Art Museum. After last year when the crowds were twice the number expected and disgruntled people stood in line but still didn’t get in to sessions, it was a relief to have the six added venues. Large auditoriums were almost filled, but a few empty seats remained, so I’m guessing that most people got in to sessions of their choice.

Several of my choices were sessions recorded for later presentation on Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB)’s Thinking Out Loud, starting with Sherman Alexie in dialog. He read his first picture book, Thunder Boy, Jr., interspersing many observations and anecdotes. In addition to enjoying his humor, I appreciated his observation that laughter, in addition to making harsh reality bearable, functions as prayer.

Last year I came home with a list of 12 books, mostly all novels, to add to my to-read list. This year there were fewer books and novels for later. One session was a dud–bad acoustics, bad diction. Who knows, I might have been interested in one of the books had I heard what was said.

I did come away wanting to read two memoirs from teachers: Michael Copperman’s Teacher: Two Years in the Mississippi Delta, for a more realistic look at what a teacher can accomplish than the Hollywood myth, and Nicholson Baker’s Substitute: Going to School With One Thousand Kids for some of his observations about meaningful education.

Baker and an afternoon presenter, Sallie Tisdale, made similar observations from their childhoods and recommended their freedom: each had been allowed to read anything they wanted to.

From the session titled “Tales of Two Americas,” I came away with novels (Richard Russo), essays (Karen Russell) and poetry (Kevin Young) to read. Don’t hold your breath, but someday there will be posts reviewing these various readings.

 

 

 

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Sketching

No, I’m not stalling on the ocean top. But I have to think interesting thoughts while doing repetitive tasks like trimming HSTs. As often happens, I have an idea for a motif, but not for a whole piece. And I have difficulty expanding.

A while back, Mary of Zippy Quilts sent me some fabric.

fabric

She was decluttering and had decided she had no idea to go with this piece. She thought I might like the challenge. (I had mentioned enjoying making something out of what others thought ‘ugly’ fabric, and while this wasn’t considered ugly, it prompted the thought to send it.)  I found two coordinating pieces.

fabric-plus-coordinate

The motif that had immediately come to mind: a big diamond (to finally use that ruler that I bought so long ago) with a circle cut out the floats somewhere. But what else?

I started sketching.

fabrics-sketches-1

My first idea had been partial Lone Star as in 1,3,and 4. But I wasn’t thrilled. So I thought forget the star and tried #2. (Numbering doesn’t reflect order of drawing.) I also was asking the question: Do I really need odd numbers of items?

I tried some more.

fabrics-sketches-2

Number 5 looks too much like PacMan, #7 looks blah, but I almost like #6. Is it detailed enough?

Those ideas can cook for a while while I get back to trimming. Meanwhile, I’d like to hear what you do when you have a partial idea that doesn’t a whole quilt make.

ETA corrected spelling. Always shows up better the day after.

Linking with Let’s Sew and  Nina Marie’s Off the Wall Fridays.

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Fall Quilt Retreat

It was time for quilt retreat, and I wasn’t about to take the ocean quilt.  I need lots of time and space to design as I go. Luckily I had three kits left over from the last retreat, so I didn’t have to think much, just grab.

I finished this child sized charity quilt top.

6-in-squares

40 x 60 inches

A couple years ago I was making kits for a friend’s project. I kept out some to finish myself, the ones that needed more arrangement than alternating matching blocks . This is the last of them, so I’ll have to start cutting again. It took about half a day to assemble at retreat pace. For me that is slow because I stop to talk a lot. Others power along and finish up way more. Still others think more and are slower. We each have our preferred pace.

And I finished the third of my last year’s leader-ender block tops.

l-e-blue-sashing

~42 x 60

The blocks were pieced and arranged and the sashing cut. And I had labeled the rows clearly enough that I could remember my plan even after a year. This one took about a day, retreat pace. This one is the same setting as the inspiration quilt (here). The first two are here and here in case you missed them.

ETA: It is amazing how much difference a sashing color can make. Mishka used black (in the inspiration link above)  and Deanna at Wedding Dress Blue used white (here). I needed a color because the group I donate to prefers less white, but black would not do for a child quilt.

With all the people at the retreat, I should have asked someone to hold it for a flat shot, but I didn’t think of it, so back to the sofa shots.

Remember the Sunny Lanes block? (here, if you forgot) One of the quilters was doing just what I had been thinking would work well with scraps. Here is her top.

sunny-lanes-top-with-red

This is what it can look like in a top.(Yes there are a couple blocks that need repair. It was an exchange and a couple blocks didn’t follow directions.) I really like the red, but I haven’t decided on what color I’ll be using for the stabilizing colors. Meanwhile, the 4-patches will make a good leader-ender project, and I need another.

I also pieced the blocks for a Rail Fence twin size quilt. You’ll see it when it is together. And when that was finished, I knitted on a pair of socks. It was a totally good retreat–I’d packed exactly the right amount of projects, always a challenge.

ETA: Linking up with Oh Scrap!

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A Book Instead of a Quilt

The OrchardistThe Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This amazing book caught my interest with the first paragraph, and that without the ‘in medias res’ beginning. Oh there was back story, but the actual plot began in Chapter 1 with two girls stealing fruit.

The pace is leisurely for the first two thirds, then speeds up, the style descriptive and immediate. There were few characters, though towns and other activities were implied. The characters were well developed with flaws and virtues–all but one, who had no redeeming qualities.

Much of the book was about ideas never stated (the Orchardist himself, Jane and Della, sometimes Caroline Middey, though she was the most likely to speak) or about inability to speak (Clee). Angeline was more the one who wanted to know than one not communicating. Each had their own type of isolation, though there were also relationships.

The novel deals with aging, birth, the growing up of children, and the diminished abilities of the elderly, always matter of factly, sometimes understated. Never heavy handed philosophizing.

This is a rare book that remains excellent through the ending. (view spoiler)

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