Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Amy Butler book signing

My LQS sponsored a trunk show and personal appearance by fabric designer Amy Butler last night. Lucky me--I had time to go and meet this extremely friendly, charming, and talented woman. Her fabrics and designs have had a major impact on quilters. Here's a shot of one of the displays of her projects:

This one is a shot of her latest line, Daisy Chain, on the middle shelf:

Here she's talking to one of the people who came to talk to her. She was generous with her time. She explained a little about her design process and answered all kinds of questions:

She's signing one of her books:

Finally, here's what I came home with:

I got a packet with 2 (two!) free patterns, autographed by Amy; a free fat quarter; and 2-1/2 yards for a new purse. Although upon reflection, I'm thinking of doing a messenger bag instead for my laptop.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Sugar Queen / Sarah Addison Allen. 2008

Sarah Addison Allen’s first book, Garden Spells, was one of my 5 Phaves for July. I eagerly looked forward to her 2nd book, The Sugar Queen, and I was not at all disappointed. This is a wonderful novel of a woman shut off from life who comes into her own. Along the way, issues of love, sisterhood, familial responsibility, forgiveness, food, and living life on your own terms are explored. Somehow, Ms. Addison manages to weave all of these themes into this relatively short book while telling a delightful story with warm, engaging characters.

Aside—I wish I belonged to a book club. Either one of her books would make a terrific book club selection. There’s a lot to talk about.

Josey is the sugar queen. She’s a 27-year old woman very much under her mother’s thumb. She still lives at home and spends her days doing whatever her mother asks her to do. Josey has virtually no life of her own, except for her very secret stash of sweets, romance novels, and travel magazines that are all hidden away in her closet. When Josey needs to escape the confines of her life, she finds comfort in the food and reading material in her closet. One day Josey comes home to find a strange woman in her closet. Della Lee is everything Josey isn’t—bold and opinionated—and she threatens to expose Josey’s secrets if Josey doesn’t let her stay for a few days. Soon, Josey finds herself running a few errands for Della Lee and in the process Josey makes a new friend. One thing leads to another as Josey finds her wings. She finds herself getting to know her mailman, Adam, someone she's secretly been in love with for years. She also begins to explore the truth of her relationship with her long-dead father, and standing up to her domineering mother. She also learns more about who Della Lee is and why she's in Josey's closet. It’s hard to say more without venturing into spoiler territory.

Since this book is primarily about Josey’s journey of self-discovery and emergence, the romantic relationship is just one facet of this story. So this is not technically a romance novel. But it does have strong romantic elements and is just so charmingly and creatively written that it’s as satisfying as one could wish for. The chapters are named for various candies (e.g. Sweet Tarts, Mr. Goodbar) and cleverly reflect the themes of the chapters.

There’s just enough information at Ms. Allen’s website to indicate that her next book is about BBQ. Clearly Ms. Allen is using food and our love of it as an enduring theme to run through her books. As someone who loves food as much as the next person, I’m all over that. Meanwhile, I highly recommend this one to you.

Friday, September 19, 2008

ADD part 2

Those 3 projects I have had going apparently weren't enough to entertain me. I saw a version of this basket quilt in Fons & Porter this month. I had been thinking I'd like a project I could hand quilt, and this seemed good for that. It's almost done. It's called Williamsburg Basket because in the magazine it used a reproduction fabric collection. But I pulled some stuff out of my stash. All those half square triangles were a good reminder of the importance of an accurate seam allowance. I did a fair bit of re-sewing, LOL!

Meanwhile, a friend purchased a Halloween kit in July and asked me to make it for her mother who was born on Halloween. They make a big deal about every year. So, when we were at the Sisters show where there were several Halloween quilts for sale, I told her that I'd make a quilt for her mom if she could pick out a pattern or kit that would go together quickly. This is from a fabric collection called Midnight Mischief from Clothworks. Sorry about the small picture. You can go here to get a good view of the individual fabrics and the (free!) pattern. Anyhow, I've started cutting this and I'll be piecing it over the next couple of days.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

TBR Day. A Matchmaker's Christmas / Donna Simpson. 2002

A Christmas book? Yes, well, Hurricane Ike literally blew through Ohio on Sunday, knocking out our power and pretty much ruining my plans to use an ebook that's been sitting on my hard drive for over a year for this month's TBR read. Things still aren't quite back to normal (The Kid is off school for the 3rd day in a row), so I needed something that wouldn't take long to read. A traditional Regency fits that bill, and the first one I grabbed was this one:

Donna Simpson is the author of about a dozen traditional Regencies, including one of my favorites, Lord St. Claire's Angel. She writes paranormals now as Donna Lea Simpson. I must admit that I haven't read any of those yet, but I certainly enjoyed the half dozen or so of her Regencies that I have, including this one.

A Matchmaker's Christmas is actually 3 romances for the price of one. The primary romance is between Beatrice Copland and Sir David Chappell. Beatrice is the companion of elderly Lady Bournaud. Lady Bournaud realizes that she's nearing the end of her life and decides to do a little matchmaking--she'll pair her long-time companion with her godson, David. What sets this pair apart is the fact that they're older than your typical romance h/h. Beatrice is nearly 40, and David is 47 with a grown son. Another unusual feature of this book is that it takes place far from London--on the edges of the moors of Yorkshire. Lady Bournaud throws a Christmas house party in order to bring Beatrice and David together. To add to the numbers, she also invites a pair of young people that she wants to throw together. A second couple also arrive separately and unexpectedly, creating a bit of a tangle.

The primary story between Beatrice and David turns out to be complicated by the fact that the two of them share a past, although David doesn't recognize Beatrice at first. Beatrice had been the friend of David's long-dead first wife. Beatrice has carried a boatload of guilt around for 20 years over the circumstances of the wife's death and is actually relieved when David doesn't know who she is. Meanwhile, the four young people are busy pairing off, in part to the dismay of Lady Bournaud who wants to see a different pairing. All of this comes together nicely in this sweet, rather gentle story that epitomizes the traditional Regency--manners and mores of polite society dictate how the characters can relate to one another.

I have to commend Ms. Simpson for making all of this work within the shorter format of the old trad. The author manages to adequately describe the house, the nearby village, and the moors, without going into long descriptive narrative. Her characters are individuals and not cookie-cutter members of the haut ton. For example, we have a curate who is about to become vicar in his own parish, and a young woman of good family who happens to have grown up on the frontier of Upper Canada. Miss Allen has been sent to her mother's family in England specifically to make a good marriage. She has a hard time fitting into the polite society she's ill-equipped to deal with. All of the characters are likeable and we get a good look into who they are and what they want.

I can definitely recommend this book (if you can find a copy of it). With shorter days, cooler weather, and halloween candy on sale at Kroger's--you just know Christmas isn't so far away after all.

Friday, September 5, 2008

I think I have ADD

I'm one of those people who constantly moves from project to project. I do finish things, but midway through one project I'll stop and pull out fabric to start another one. Or something will come up that makes me start in on something else--a challenge, a class, a need to make a gift, or a new fabric purchase. All of those things change my focus. I don't want to admit how many UFOs (UnFinished Objects) I have here, but if I were totally honest, it's probably at least a dozen. Here are 3 I started this summer. And I'm not including the one I started the other night because I couldn't get a decent picture of it.

This first one is from a class I took in June with 2 friends. I still have 4 more flowers to add to it. This is funky and fun, but it's large and appliqueing down the flowers is awkward at times.

A while back I posted a picture of some flower blocks that I'm doing as part of an exchange with the same 2 friends. I had another set of blocks to finish and I got those done last week. I'm looking forward to doing the exchange because I have some fabric picked out for the background and borders and I'm hoping it'll work out the way I expect.

Then there's this very busy-looking quilt top that's in progress. While shop-hopping in July I found a pack of the new Boy Scout fabric collection. I brought it home and used the ever-popular Yellow Brick Road pattern to make a throw for my Boy Scout. It's so busy that I wasn't sure I liked it after I put it together, but it began to grow on me and it certainly appeals to a boy. The kid is anxious for it to be finished.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Phyl's 5 Phaves from August

I read quite a few good ones last month and it was hard to narrow it down to just 5. So as a bonus here 3 honorable mentions that didn't make the cut: The Last Rake in London by Nicola Cornick, Flashpoint by Jill Shalvis, and Your Mouth Drives Me Crazy by HelenKay Dimon. Fun reads all. But the 5 best of the month were:

5. Never Lie to a Lady by Liz Carlyle. This one came out last year, but I waited for all 3 books in the trilogy to be published before starting in on it. It was worth the wait. I liked this story of two people who felt very much on the outside of the society in which they lived. They had much in common and their story was very believable. The plot involves some interesting intrigue that pits the hero and heroine against one another at first and I enjoyed the way it was resolved. And I swear, Liz Carlyle gets the best covers.

4. The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran. This is the author's first book. It was the winner in a first chapter contest held by gather.com. It is set against the fascinating history of the 1857 Sepoy rebellion in India. I confess I know little of this era or area of the world, and that made the story all the more fascinating. For a first book, it is very well written, although some of the pacing could have been improved. Nonetheless, I sure hope Ms. Duran will be published again.

3. Letters to a Secret Lover by Toni Blake. This contemporary has an unusual setting--a small town in Montana. Having been to a few small Montana towns, it was easy to imagine the setting and some of the quirky characters who lived there. This was an extremely entertaining read with a handful of twists that kept it interesting. The dialogue is smart and funny and I had a great time reading it. I'll be looking for more books by this author.

2. Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. This book seems to be iconic among online romance readers. I frequently see references to this book and when I ran across it at the library I figured I really should read it. What a brilliant book. Really. The dialogue is snappy and funny. The heroine is overweight and cannot believe the gorgeous hero is really interested in her. I love the way Cal breaks down her defenses, almost against his own will. The secondary characters are equally brilliant. It's excellently plotted and paced. Now I get why this book is so popular.

1. Tapestry by Karen Ranney. Well, I think I already said enough.