Saturday, March 28, 2009

March Madness

Back if February, in preparation for our annual retreat, the organizers passed out the first page of directions for a mystery quilt. Like I don't have enough projects already to work on? You can download these things for free from Judy Hopkins here and so I cheated and took a look at what the completed mystery would look like. It looked attractive and called for 15 different fat quarters.

Hmm. I have a few thousand of those. I should use some up.

And then last week I got a new one of these. You should know. That's a "big deal" to a quilter.

So now, here's what I'm working on. Lots of little seams to iron.
Sadly this does not count as a UFO.
Definitely ADD.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I've been busy!

This baby quilt with the cute monkey fabric was basted together last week and is all ready to quilt. I should get it started this weekend. My goal is to have it done by my next guild meeting in mid-April. It doesn't count as a UFO, though, as I started it after I created my UFO list.

And set up in my basting frame is the 9-patch musical instrument quilt for my son. It matches the pillowcase he made himself last year. Since the basting frame is all set up, I will probably baste another large quilt from my UFO pile when I'm done with this one. I hate basting.

But here are some pictures of "Springing Up Fun." I am getting so excited about how this has turned out. I had to quilt clouds in the sky. Here you see my first stitches on the first cloud. Then you see just the sky portion. If you click on the sky picture you can see the cloud stitching. And finally the whole thing is quilted. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that there are a total of 20-24 hours of quilting alone on this project. I still have a little finish work to do, including the binding. But I am practically blinded by the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. I have also officially entered this quilt in Brenda Novak's online auction for diabetes research. The entry isn't posted yet, but it will be soon.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

TBR Day. Regency compare and contrast : Truly Yours & The Bride Price

Today's post was supposed to be about this month's TBR read which turned out to be Barbara Metzger's Truly Yours. I no sooner finished reading TY when this review prompted me to dash over to the library on Monday and give Anne Mallory's The Bride Price a try.
I found it interesting to read these two very different Regency historicals back-to-back and found myself comparing and contrasting the two. So rather than try and write a traditional review of Truly Yours I'm going to talk a little about RegencyWorld as it is used in each book.
Like many romance readers of a certain age, I was introduced to the Regency era by reading Georgette Heyer in my teens. I have a small collection of her books and over the years I have re-read my favorites many times over, such as The Grand Sophy or Frederica. There was a part of my life when I didn't read much romance (although I loved when books in other genres had romantic elements in them) until I discovered Mary Balogh. From there I found other authors (like Barbara Metzger) and for several years I'd say that 90% of the romance I read was set in the Regency era.
There's a certain comfort in returning to this world again and again. Authors don't have to do a whole lot of world-building--in a way that's been done already by other authors writing in this subgenre before them. Names like Sally Jersey or Prinny; places like Almack's, Grosvener Square, and the Rotten Row are the same from one book to the next. And thanks to readers' groups on the Internet I learned who out-ranks an Earl, how an entail works, and what a young society girl really would or wouldn't do. All of these things were mysteries to me as a 17-year old American girl, but that didn't stop me from enjoying Heyer's books. Now I like to think that I "get" it when I'm reading Regencies and it does matter to me how well the author uses the Regency world for her story. FOR ME, the Regency world has to be more than a backdrop for the story; the Regency world has to govern the way the characters act. If the author doesn't get that, then it's a major fail in my eyes. I guess that makes me a bit of a snob, but there you have it.
Barbara Metzger has been writing Regencies successfully for over 20 years. She has a unique voice and a wonderful sense of humor. I continue to seek out her backlist and I'm delighted that more and more of them are now available as ebooks. From time to time her books have even had a small touch of the paranormal--before it became fashionable to do so. In Truly Yours, the hero comes from a family where all of the males are able to discern whether someone is telling the truth. This book is the first in a series of 3; each hero is one of the males in this family. At the request of his mother, Viscount Rexford goes to the aid of Amanda Carville who has been accused of a murder she did not commit. When Rex is able to talk to her, he knows right away that she is indeed innocent and he sets about finding the real murderer. As the story opens, Amanda is in prison, living in appalling conditions. Rex uses his rank and status to remove her from prison and take her to the family home. Unfortunately, his mother is in Bath and with no respectable female currently residing in the house, there is no one to chaperone Amanda. Even though she's sick, all of the characters (except Rex of course!) insist that he'll have to marry Amanda because she's been compromised. This becomes an important plot point--because such a circumstance would have really been important in that era. Metzger uses the mores of the time as a significant part of the conflict in the book.
In a similar way, I think relative newcomer Anne Mallory also uses the mores of that time quite successfully in her latest book. In this book, part of the conflict revolves around the place in society that illigitimate sons had/didn't have. This book has the hero, Sebastian, taking part in a competition that frankly reminded me a bit of many reality TV shows, like Survivor. Obviously, reality TV would be anachronistic for any historical, but Mallory takes this mythical contest she created and gives us realistic characters who are fully aware that power and status are held by those who are not only wealthy, but titled. Sebastian is offered an opportunity to receive wealth, a title, and an aristocratic bride if he wins the competition. There are several other contestants, who, like Sebastian, are the bastard sons of the men arranging the competition. The rest of the contestants are younger sons who, as "spares" are often beneath the notice of their own fathers. One of those spares is Sebastian's half brother, Benedict. Their father, a duke, is a rather dispicable figure, who manipulates his sons by pitting them against one another. Throughout the book, we are given opportunities to see how society operated in that era. Society's dictates help drive the plot and I think Mallory did a fabulous job of using the era to drive her story. Near the end, Sebastian has a conversation with the heroine, Caroline, where she points out that for a woman, being a bastard daughter is a great deal different than being a bastard son. I loved it.
These are really two very different books. TY is much lighter in the sensuality than TBP. The plot of TY revolves around the murder mystery while the plot of TBP revolves around the contest and Sebastian's drive to win the things he's always been denied. TY is much lighter period and a fairly typical Metzger book. This is only the 3rd Mallory book I've read and had Gwen not been so enthusiastic, I probably would have skipped it. I'm glad I didn't.
When I read TY, I was in comfort zone with an author who is tried and true. When I read TBP I was in that comfortable Regency world, but reading something that was much more subtle, was full of sexual tension, and much more emotional. Both were highly enjoyable, as different as night and day, yet as familiar as can be, because I still love Regency World.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Some progress--we have grass

I finished with the grass section tonight. There are a lot of open areas and it took awhile.

Clouds are next. I get nervous everytime I start a new section and have to work myself up to it. I know how I want to do the clouds but I'll need to practice first by doodling on some paper and then on some scraps.

Here's a look at the 3/4 of it that is quilted. Boy is it dense. And heavy. For the grass alone I used most of a 500-yard spool of thread. That's a lot of thread!

I've also made a little more progress on that baby quilt. Fortunately, it doesn't get borders. I should get it sandwiched soon.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Phyl's 5 Phaves from February

February was not only a productive sewing month, it was also a good reading month. And so far, March hasn't been too bad either! Finally, here are my Phaves:

5. Instant Attraction by Jill Shalvis. Told with lots of humor and genuine emotion, we have the story of Katie who craves adventure and Cameron who has had so much adventure he's burned out. This book has some great secondary characters as well and left me eager for the next book in the series. I should add that I'm a regular reader of Jill's blog and this book, set in the Sierra's in the middle of winter seemed to have many elements of the area Jill describes every day. I enjoyed the connection between the two.

4. A Rose at Midnight by Anne Stuart. This was my TBR Challenge book for February. I thought this was just a marvelously constructed book and it stuck with me for days afterwards.

3. Scandal by Carolyn Jewel. Another book I reviewed and one that has been well received around the 'net. This, too, was well written and emotional. I loved the backdrop of Napolean's final 100 days--as the showdown nears between France and the rest of the world, so does the showdown between Banallt and Sophie. Terrific book.

2. Hot Night by Shannon McKenna. I'm working my way through SM's backlist and found this while browsing at the library. Abby and Zan are caught in the middle as a manipulative sadist attempts to rob the museum where Abby works. Zan comes across at first as an under-achiever, but he's a very smart man who has pulled his life together despite some unfair set-backs. This is a tightly written suspense novel that moves quickly. I had it with me on the retreat and took several treadmill breaks so I could read it. Zan had some brothers who could use books, but SM seems to be focused on the McCloud brothers, which is just peachy by me.

1. First Comes Marriage by Mary Balogh. This is the first new book by MB since A Summer to Remember was published in 2002 that doesn't have a Bedwyn in it. Not that I minded the Bedwyn's all that much, but frankly, it was nice to read some new characters. I loved this marriage of convenience story that gently tells the story of Elliott & Vanessa falling in love. It was my discovery of Mary Balogh that drew me into reading romance and I celebrate still every time a new book of hers is released. The next 3 months means there will be much to celebrate!

Monday, March 2, 2009

February UFO report

I am way behind on some posts. Here's how the work on my UFOs went during February:

First, I finished a quilt! This is a gift for a family friend. This was a "quick" 9-patch. It's about 5' x 5'.

One of my UFOs is a floral sampler. I finished another block and now have 4 of 9 blocks done.

This is identical to the finished quilt above. This one is for my son, just made from fabric he picked out. I took it to the retreat and got the borders on. 

This is another quilt for my son. Again, I just got the borders added while at the retreat. It's made from Boy Scout fabrics.

Now here are a series of pictures of "Springing Up Fun". I got started on the quilting. I quilted rocks.

I quilted water.

I quilted grass.

I got about 2/3 of the quilting done. All of this was done on the retreat.