Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Color Wheel Challenge

The president of my guild issued a challenge last fall. Make a quilt that displays the 6 main colors of the color wheel. The quilt has to show the progression of the colors, although it doesn't matter which color you begin with. They were due at our April meeting. Here are a few of them:

That one above is made of yo-yos, appliqued to a black background. It is simply stunning in person and was voted favorite quilt by the members of the guild.

As you're about to see, it's clear I have a thing for squares. I was inspired by some colorful, whimsical artwork at the local children's hospital. I decided it would be fun to go through my stash and see how much variety I could find. This was my entry. 

Below is a close-up of the quilting. I made a fundamental mistake with my straight-line quilting, going back and forth rather than starting each line of quilting from the same end. It caused some tugging on the fabric and distorted my squares. I almost ripped out all of the quilting, but what the heck. It's not as visible from further away.
  Sometimes it's all about what you learn along the way.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

TBR Day. Monsoon Wedding Fever / Shoma Narayanan. 2012

This month's TBR theme is "new to me" author. I was surprised, looking through my stuff, to see how many of my older books were by authors I've already read. Maybe that just says something about my buying habits. Anyhow, I decided to go with something that hasn't been around all that long, but I have been rather anxious to read. Monsoon Wedding Fever is Narayanan's first book, so she's pretty much new to everyone.

The most notable fact about this book is it's setting, which is India. I confess to a whole lot of ignorance when it comes to Indian culture. So it was really rather fun to  learn some new words and enjoy something a little different.

The romantic elements of the story were a little less satisfying, though. Riya and Dhruv were college sweethearts. Dhruv's upbringing in a dysfunctional family had given him a dim view of love and marriage. He got cold feet one day and abruptly disappeared from Riya's life. Six years later he abruptly re-enters her life when they're both guests at his cousin's wedding. The attraction is still strong; in fact, Riya quickly realizes that she is still in love with Dhruv. Dhruv's feelings for Riya are colored by his family background. He actually wants to find someone to marry, but he doesn't want to have strong feelings for that someone. Still, he's enormously attracted and he wants to pursue a relationship. Yet despite her feelings for Dhruv, Riya keeps trying to put Dhruv at arm's length. She relents, they have hot sex, then she pushes him away. And then she does it again. The conflict felt manufactured.

Dhruv's actions throughout the book made a lot of sense. He had grown up with a warped understanding of marriage and relationships, after all. But Riya came across as less likable to me. She blew hot and cold, was preoccupied with what other people thought of her, and was unwilling to be totally honest with the people around her.

Ultimately I'm glad I read it and I will be reading the author's next book which is due in June. But I have to be honest and say that this was, at best, an average read.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Quilts Finished in March

My 6-month UFO Challenge continues and another success. This was an easy month since I only needed to quilt this small table runner. This little quilt is special as it was the project I made for a paint chip challenge that I did with the QBFFs. (You can click on the "paint chip challenge" label in the sidebar to see previous posts about it.) The picture below should probably be re-done, although I sort of like the effect of the light coming from behind it. It was a very windy day when I took it down to the track for the picture, so I had to pick an area of fencing where the wind would blow the quilt against it. Now that it's done I really like having this on my kitchen table.

My other finished quilt for the month was Dorothy St. James' book cover quilt, which I wrote about here.
Two relatively small quilts, but two more finished. My total for the year is up to five!

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Year Without Summer / Klingaman and Klingaman. 2013

Here's something a little different that I read last month. I'm highlighting it because I'm one of those long-time readers of Regency historicals who actually prefers some real history in those books, not the "wallpaper" kind that all too often shows up. For years I've been a member of the Regency Yahoo loop, although I pretty much just lurk there now. Anyhow, one of the members posted a link to this book review and I was intrigued enough to check it out from the library. While I thought parts of it dragged toward the end, I found this to be a fascinating look at a year that suffered some of the most dramatic weather patterns in modern history.

Over the years I've read a number of Regencies that have referenced the cold summer experienced in England in 1816. Sometimes those books will even refer to the food shortages and the depressed economy. Between the end of the war with France, which saw a decline in manufacturing and an increase in unemployment, and the failure of many crops, England was in a bad way during the winter of 1816-17. And so was most of the rest of Europe, as well as Canada, the United States, and parts of Asia.

The cause of all of this misery was the massive eruption of Mt. Tambora in Indonesia (then called Java). The volcano erupted in April 1815, directly killing over 10,000 people. In the region it's estimated another 70,000-80,000 died due to starvation from the ash fallout. The volcano also sent into the air an aerosol cloud just dense enough to reflect sunlight back out into space and slowly cool the earth's temperatures. The full effects weren't felt until nearly a year later, but when it happened, it was devastating.

Using modern analysis of weather patterns (the younger Klingaman is a meteorologist) and quotes from newspapers, journals, and letters (the older Klingaman is a historian), the authors put together an interesting account of how bad the weather was in 1816 and how it influenced the economy, politics, and even literature in Europe and North America. The extreme cold brought snow to New England in late June and killing frosts in August. Few crops survived. In between there was a drought, and forest fires swept the region. The authors say that this fueled the westward migration to Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. In Europe it rained incessantly. There were terrible floods in Switzerland. Byron and the Shelleys spent the summer there and the rain kept them indoors all the time. To pass the time, they told ghost stories which led to Mary Shelley's creation of Frankenstein. It makes you wonder if she would have written that book had they been able to do the hiking and boating they'd planned to do. Religious revivals were common as people sought an explanation for the unusual extremes.

I would have liked to read more about how the weather affected Asia and the southern continents, but in many cases it's fair to assume records don't exist. In other cases there is probably a language barrier. Still, I found the book interesting, although heart-breaking. So many people suffered. 

If you like this era of history and enjoy non-fiction, this might be a good book to try out. The weather explanations were not overly technical and the history portions gave me a nice background for all of my Regency reading. So reader beware! If you see the date 1816 used in a novel, the author better mention the cold.