Saturday, June 23, 2012

Moss Garden Quilt and more

Time for a quilting post! I've done a fair bit of sewing lately. As usual, multiple projects going at once seems to be the way I've been working. And after several months of no finishes, I have 3 projects I can show off.

This first quilt was mentioned here just over two years ago. It's called "Moss Garden" and the top was made by my late mother-in-law. It was made from a kit she purchased to go with a pattern in a book called Inspirations from Japan by Maria Tamaoka (no web site found). The fabrics are a combination of Japanese wovens and American commercial cottons. I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing my mother-in-law finished the top in the 6-12 months before she died. She usually had someone else quilt her tops on a longarm, so I imagine only her final illness kept her from sending it off to her favorite quilter. So, after basting it into a quilt sandwich two years ago, I finally buckled down in the late winter and quilted it. I bound it in May and sent it off to my nephew, her oldest grandson, who had not previously received a quilt from her.

Here is a close-up of my quilting and some of the interesting woven fabrics used in the kit. Click on the picture to get a nice view of those fabrics. They are really interesting.

Every year the NQA Show has a challenge involving a pre-selected quarter yard of fabric from the SewBatik company. Entrants make a 20" x 20" quilt using a recognizable piece of the challenge fabric and a specified theme. This year's theme was Mariner's Compass and the fabric was a medium sky blue. I decided to make a mosaic quilt and here is the result. The mosaic pieces of fabric are fused to a white background and I quilted around all of the pieces. There are three blue fabrics used between the compass points: a dark blue, a purple blue, and the sky blue challenge fabric.

Here is a close-up of the free-motion quilting I did around every single piece of mosaic.

Finally, it had been a while since I'd made a purse! QBFF A birthday-gifted me with a purse pattern. The side pocket is the perfect size for my Kindle. I started this on Sunday and finished it last night.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

TBR Day. Once a Cowboy / Linda Warren. 2007

This month's TBR theme is Westerns (historical or contemporary), a sub-genre that I enjoy, but don't go out of my way to collect. I wasn't sure I'd even find any in my collection, but as I scrolled through my Kindle I did run across this one. As I recall, Harlequin made a number of its e-books available for free in celebration of its 60th anniversary, and this was one of them. It's the third in a series of connected books, but it stands alone quite well, except for the cheesy baby-filled epilogue which seems pretty standard for this sort of book. It's a contemporary romance set in and around Dallas, TX. This Philadelphia Phan will try hard not to hold that against it.

Linda Warren's Once a Cowboy is the story of Brodie Hayes, a retired rodeo star who now lives on a small ranch near Dallas. Private Investigator Alex Donovan works with her father Buck at his agency, and occasionally takes on missing persons cases. She is approached by Helen Braxton who believes that Brodie is her son. Helen's son had been stolen out of the hospital nursery and never found. Brodie's resemblance to Helen's husband is remarkable and Alex agrees to seek out Brodie and see if she can get a DNA sample.

Alex's initial attempt to retrieve the DNA is unsuccessful, and rather devious. When she finds herself needing another sample, this time she comes clean. Brodie cannot believe that this Helen Braxton could possibly be his mother, but eventually he agrees to be tested. Of course the test is positive, turning Brodie's world upside down. Alex is drawn to Brodie immediately and after he learns the truth she keeps turning up to help him cope with the news. She also wants to talk him into meeting the Braxtons.

The romance in this book is fairly subtle as it's mostly about Brodie dealing with his altered perceptions of who he is. Alex herself also has family issues to deal with. Alex's father is a gruff, no-nonsense character who doesn't like seeing Alex get personally involved in their cases. Alex also watches over her grandmother, Naddy, who is a fun and quirky secondary character.

All in all this was an interesting, fast read that I enjoyed, but I'm glad it was free. The heroes from the previous books make appearances as Brodie's friends and their interactions seem natural within the context of the story. There is a little info-dumping though about those friends' romantic stories that was kind of spoiler-y if I were inclined to go back and read the other books. There's also a twist at the end regarding Alex and her father that was just too coincidental. I could have done without that. Still, I like Warren's writing and I may just seek out another one of her books. I see she's up for a RITA next month. Maybe I'll check that one out.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Phyl's 5 Phaves from April

Hi all. I have been seriously AWOL lately and I am sorry for that. Unfortunately I had some minor, nagging health problems that had me just sitting around much of the time feeling lethargic and sorry for myself. I'm hopeful that the worst of it is behind me now and I can catch up and show off some recently completed quilts!

Meanwhile, let's see if I can remember what I liked about these books:

5. The Christmas Child by Linda Goodnight. This book was listed as a RITA finalist in the Inspirational category and when I saw it at the library I decided to pick it up. It's about a couple who are brought together when a lost, mute, 6-year old boy shows up in the small town of Redemption, OK. Kade is a big-city undercover cop recuperating from a tough assignment when the little boy is found huddled in the back of a dumpster. Sophie is an elementary school teacher who takes an interest in both the boy and the man. This is a sweet story about love and faith that is told with a light hand. It was a very quick read and I really enjoyed it. Shortly after I read the book, someone tweeted a link to this touching story about Goodnight's RITA nomination.

4. About That Night by Julie James. James' books are such fun. I wish we got more than one a year. Anyhow, the book begins when Kyle and Rylann first meet while in graduate school. Their opportunity to have a real date is interrupted by the death of Kyle's mother. The next time they see each other is years later in court just as Rylann's beginning her new job as a government attorney and Kyle is being released from jail. A lot has happened to each of them in the intervening years and both Kyle and Rylann are making new beginnings. I enjoyed watching their relationship develop, the clever dialogue that James excels at writing, and the legal setting. I remember this being a book I breezed through during one of my "down" times.

3. If You See Her / If You Know Her by Shiloh Walker. Bonus double coverage! These are books 2 and 3 in Walker's Ash series that continue the search for a serial killer in the small town of Ash, KY. As in the first book in the series (If You Hear Her) there's a perfect blend of suspense and romance. If You See Her is the story of Hope, a woman building a new life for herself after escaping an abusive ex-husband, and Remy, the local district attorney. In If You Know Her, Nia is the cousin of the murder victim whose story runs through the series. She's come to Ash seeking answers about her cousin's death and there she meets Law Reilly, a reclusive best-selling author. These were very satisfying stories and it's well worth reading all three books if you like romantic suspense.

2. A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare. Dare has become a popular author and it pains me to confess that I have not felt the same love for Dare's previous books. In fact I haven't even read her most recent ones. But the description of the story, some very positive reviews, and the reasonable sale price combined to convince me to give in and buy this. I'm awfully glad I did. This was just a wonderful story about a young woman determined to show a bunch of men that she's made a scientific discovery worthy of their attention. And as much as I loved the character of Minerva, I loved Colin even more. He's not the shallow rake Minerva takes him for and I love how her quest becomes important to him, too. Funny and poignant, this book hit all of my favorite buttons.

1. The Witness by Nora Roberts. This is Roberts' latest single-title romantic suspense story, although I think it's a misnomer to consider this a true suspense story. It lacks that hint of danger lurking nearby. However, that doesn't mean that I liked it any less. In fact, I really think Roberts hit it out of the park with this book. Abigail has quietly built herself a very safe and secure life on the outskirts of a small town in the Ozarks. Abigail's reclusive habits pique the interest of the police chief, Brooks. And his attraction to her has him slowly and persistently breaking down the physical and emotional barriers that have kept Abigail locked up in her home. There are wonderful scenes between these two. I will mention that Abigail is a genius and she has a way of talking literally. As a friend of mine commented to me after she'd read it too, we could just hear the character of Abigail in our heads with the voice of Emily Deschanel (Bones). It was great. Anyhow, wonderful characters, typical sparkling dialogue, and a satisfying conclusion to Abigail's situation made this an absorbing read.