Sunday, January 27, 2013

Focus on UFOs (again)

Four years and four days ago, I published a blog post about all of my UFOs (UnFinished Objects) and my tendency to flit from project to project. I'm always attracted to the shiny new project. Or someone decides to have a baby and they need a quilt (and by the way, I learned of a new baby on the way just this past Friday). Or I sign up for a guild or QBFF challenge. I'm full of excuses. Meanwhile, the UFOs are still patiently waiting for me.

Today I'm looking back on some of those UFO posts from 2009 and 2010 because I've decided to enter a UFO challenge at my local quilt shop. The rules are simple: during the next six months finish one project per month. Bring the completed quilt to the shop and get entered to win a $25 gift card. If you finish all six projects you get entered to win a $50 gift card. Hey, that's a nice incentive! Anyhow, it's rather gratifying to realize that a few of those quilts from that first post in 2009 are actually finished.

In the above picture only two projects were even worked on; they're both on the right. I did the piano in 2009. The daffodil flag I made last February at my annual retreat.

I still have all of those other kits and patterns waiting to be worked on. For my new 2013 UFO challenge I've chosen one of those projects and added 5 others. The quilt shop's rules say that I have to specify which month the project will be finished. For February through April I've picked 3 quilt tops (shown below) that are not only finished but are pin-basted-- meaning all that I need to do is quilt and bind them.

On the left is a green monochromatic quilt that was a mystery project at the 2009 retreat. I wrote about it here in June of 2009. This will be my February entry. In the middle is my table runner from the QBFF paint chip challenge we did in 2011. I'm the only one of the 4 of us who hasn't finished her quilt yet. Mine is also the smallest. So I should be able to finish this by March. (An aside--"paint chip challenge" is the most frequent search phrase that causes someone to land on my blog.) And finally a quilt I don't think I've ever posted here before. On the right is a lap throw (larger than crib, smaller than twin) made from this space fabric that I fell in love with. I will finish that one by April.

Below are three kits that I have not started. They need to be done May through July:
On the left is a bundle of four fat quarters and a pattern to make a set of four placemats. This is a souvenir from my 2012 vacation and was purchased at a quilt shop on the Olympic Peninsula that my step-MIL took me to. The middle project, for June, is a full-sized quilt that was on the far left in that original picture from 2009. It's a grouping of six Japanese prints that will be made up into a pattern called "Just Zip It." I originally bought the pattern and fabrics at the shop sponsoring the UFO challenge in 2008. The pattern has a beautiful color gradation and I think these fabrics will work very nicely together. I plan on making this the primary thing I piece at my guild retreat in late February. If I get the quilt top done there, I should have plenty of time to quilt it by June. And finally, the fabric bundle on the right will be made into a crib quilt for July. I'm sure I'll know a baby who needs it.

So there you go-- six quilting goals for the next six months. I'll also be finishing the book cover quilt for the winner of the 2012 Brenda Novak auction for diabetes research. That quilt should be done by the end of February. Also, (I need to confirm it with Brenda) I will probably offer another t-shirt quilt for the 2013 auction. Fortunately I won't have to have that done until the end of August. I hope these prove to be reasonable goals. I refuse to stress about them. If I have to drop one or two to get the auction quilts done or deal with other life issues, then I'll drop them. At most, I miss out on an opportunity to be entered into a drawing I'm not likely to win. But I do like the incentive of turning these UFOs into CEOs (Completely Executed Objects).

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Chocolate Kiss / Laura Florand. 2013

Until today I'd never tried a macaron. It's not as if these French pastries are readily found in local bakeries here in flyover country. But what do you know? There they were in my local Whole Foods when I was shopping this afternoon and I figured that even if it turned out to be a poor imitation of the real thing, I should at least try one. Because after spending the last 2 days reading Laura Florand's latest, The Chocolate Kiss, I had macarons and chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) on the brain. The verdict? Pretty good! I got a passion fruit and chocolate-flavored macaron. The best part was the chocolate center. I think it was a little overly sweet for my taste, but I loved the textures and the chocolate combined with the tart fruit flavor.

A-hem. This is supposed to be a book review. Back in August, Florand's The Chocolate Thief was one of my Phaves. I said then how much I enjoyed the way Florand made Paris come alive and how engrossing I found that story. The same can be said about this book, which I thought was even better. The Chocolate Kiss has wonderful characters, is set in the (to me) exotic backdrop of Paris, and includes some serious food porn.

Magalie Chaudron is a young woman living with her two aunts on the small Île St. Louis in the heart of Paris. Here's a link to Google maps for the island, which I found quite helpful when I wanted to follow Magalie around Paris. Anyhow, she works in her aunts' charming tea salon and makes a very special chocolat chaud. They have a small but steady stream of customers. One day Magalie finds out that the famous pastry maker, Philippe Lyonnais plans to open a shop down the street from their salon. Magalie is fearful that his shop will put her aunts out of business and she instantly goes on the offensive toward Philippe in a vain effort to get him to open his shop elsewhere.

Philippe is instantly drawn to Magalie and he spends months trying to get her to taste his macarons. Out of pride, Magalie refuses; meanwhile Philippe won't try Magalie's chocolat chaud either. Philippe's frustration and Magalie's unwilling attraction to Philippe are really just the tip of the iceberg. Magalie is battling some huge insecurities that have caused her to put up emotional walls that Philippe has to battle through time and again. Eventually there's a wonderful scene where they each agree to try the other's specialty. And from here Magalie's carefully constructed walls begin to come down. It's not easy, and it's not instant. And that's what I think makes this book stand out (no, really, it's not just the chocolate). A person doesn't spend a lifetime walling herself off, only to let the walls crumple in a day. It takes time for Magalie to trust that Philippe truly does want to be there for her.

This is a book that is charmingly quirky in spots (the aunts and their tea salon, especially), funny, emotional, and so well-written. Florand's prose is amazing--almost poetic in its descriptions of her characters and their situations. I loved it. And bonus! The end of the book includes Magalie's recipe for chocolat chaud. It's supposed to turn quite cold here tomorrow and there will be football to watch. I'm going to give that recipe a try.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

TBR Day. Table for One / Ros Clarke. 2012

This month's theme is something short. Thanks to all of the $.99 ebook bargains to be found, I have quite a few shorts waiting for me on my Kindle. Then the other day I read Mean Fat Old Bat's review of Table for One by Ros Clarke and SNAP! I have that book. So I came home from work, got on the treadmill and half an hour later I'd finished the book and my workout. Nice, huh?

And so was the book. Nice. It was a sweet little read that made my half hour on the treadmill fly by and well worth my $.99. Table for One is the story of Claudia, a food critic, who winds up unexpectedly dining alone on Valentine's Day at Ward's, a trendy restaurant named for it's chef. Claudia had planned to eat there with her boyfriend, but he breaks up with her just before their date that evening. Claudia goes to Ward's anyway and Ward finds himself curious when, on Valentine's Day of all days, an order comes back to the kitchen for a meal for someone dining alone. Ward changes the menu just for Claudia and the two have a brief battle of wills as Claudia wants what everyone else is having, but Ward wants to feed her something that will make her feel better about dining alone.

One thing quickly leads to another and at the end of the evening Claudia accompanies Ward upstairs to his apartment. However, Claudia needs to own up to the fact that she's a food critic and when she finally does so Ward goes ballistic and kicks her out. At home Claudia digs a little into Ward's background and she begins to understand why he reacted so strongly to the fact that she's a journalist.

Eventually Claudia goes back to Ward with an apology and Ward, who had been having a hard time forgetting her, accepts her apology and the book ends with two people who sense that they are at the start of something special.

What I think made this book especially engaging is the way Clarke used food to set the mood, enhance the sensuality, and give us a deeper look into both characters. For example, after Ward kicks Claudia out of his apartment, he goes into his kitchen to bake some bread. He uses kneading the dough as a way to physically work through his anger. Food permeates the story in all kinds of ways. Don't read this on an empty stomach!

But do read it. So, is it lunch time yet?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Quilts finished December 2012

This is a picture of a spread from the Spring 2012 issue of Quilt Sampler. I saw this quilt and instantly fell in love. The pattern was designed by Kathy Thomas and Jo Thomas of Suppose Quilt Boutique of Preston, Idaho. While the shop offers a kit, I decided to use that over-abundant stash of mine and make my own version. About the same time I was deciding to make it, I learned that my niece and her husband were expecting their first child. Baby gift!
So below is my version of the quilt. You can see some variation in color based on what I own in my stash. (I need to collect some brighter yellows!) There are some great memories for me in the fabrics in my version. I used a couple of fabrics that are at least 20 years old. There are remnants from other quilts that I remember quite well. A few of those purples were in this pinwheel quilt I made last winter.

And here is a close-up of my quilting. I did these half-moon shapes up and down the pencils to simulate the roundness of a pencil. I used over 3/4 MILE of thread in the quilting alone. Add in the piecing and I probably used a full mile of thread.

And this is a wall hanging made from a pre-printed fabric panel for my sister-in-law who loves wolves. She bought the panel and the paw print fabric and asked me to make something for her. 

Next up will be the quilt I owe the winner of the 2012 Brenda Novak auction. The winner is an author who gets a small quilt that incorporates 3 of her book covers. She asked me to wait until she had the cover for her 3rd book and with all the work I had to do on the colored pencil quilt I was more than happy to wait!