Saturday, January 20, 2024

November/December Reads

 November ~ 

The Tea Planter's Wife - Dinah Jefferies.  I almost put this one down.  Something I have a history of NEVER doing, but lately have decided that if it's not worth my time - it is not worth my time!!  However, it was mildly diverting in a Harlequin Romance sort of way, though I think some of those are better written.  Sorry, but MEH.

Clock Dance - Anne Tyler.  Willa, 61, gets a phone call that her son's ex-girlfriend needs help taking care of her child (no relation to Willa's son) due to a hospitalization following an accident.  Against everything that seems reasonable, she goes to help out.  And seems to realize that her sons and second husband are not really part of HER real life.  While I disliked many of the characters, which then makes liking the book difficult for me, many were compelling and it made you recognize the importance of seeing your life and the people you choose to share it with as they really are.  

Small Things Like These - Claire Keegan.  The story of a man, who grew up never knowing his father's identity, makes several discoveries about himself, his marriage, his community, a convent, and the strength require to do what he believes is right.  Reminded me a great deal of  The Haptic and Hue podcast, Fabric and Foundlings that I spoke of and quoted from in this post as it related at that time to Little Fires Everywhere.  Much to think about - How we treat others.  What are we willing to risk in taking a stand for those in need?

The Alice Network - Kate Quinn.  Based on the true story of a ring of female spies who did incredible work and experienced the horrors of war during World War I was hard to read but even harder to put down.  A true testament both to the depravity and cruelty of man but also an ode to bravery against all odds and the love, loyalty, and strength of the human spirit.

Lessons in Chemistry - Bonnie Garmus.  Well written, but not (for me) quite up to the hype it has been lauded.  I love a true love story.  I love mothers who come in all stripes who adore their children.  I love strong women with focus.  All of that was there and demands the praise it has been given.  However, much like the actress who plays Elizabeth Gott in the film mentioned in an interview, I wish the main character had had just a tad more humor and emotion as it would have made her more real and relatable.  But, maybe that's just me.

December ~The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton.  Meh.  Trying to give Rebecca and Jane Erye vibes but not getting there.  A diversion.  Not much more. 

Foster - Claire Keegan.  Beautifully touching story of foster care.  And the sad truth, that some 'parents' are better than the ones to which you were born.

These Silent Woods - Kimi Cunningham Grant.  Cooper and his daughter Finch have lived 8 years off the grid fleeing his past.  Keeps your attention well enough.  But, just okay as the story often falls beyond the plausible.

Biography of X - Catherine Lacey.  Almost didn't finish this one and probably shouldn't have.  However, sometimes distractions are needed.  After the death of her wife, the narrator seeks to discover and share the story of who her wife really was...though we never really know and by the end, I didn't really care!  Plus, the imagined historical events from the south were just weird.  The true history and current reality is more than enough.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo - Taylor Jenkins Reid.  While much better than the prior two, it didn't quite live up to what I had been led to believe by some reviews.  Still, it was well written and did include some human moments, though by the end the final 'twist' was rather clear.

Some months of reading are better than others, but stories can almost always offer us something!!

Read and love chaotically!  ~ les

Friday, January 12, 2024

Blessed with fun makes and lovely holidays ~

Holidays are so very special when shared with dear ones.  Over the past few weeks I was blessed to experience multiple visits and festivities with those very special people in my life.  Thanks for sharing you with me - one and all!  These magical occasions are even more incredible when you are granted a view from the eyes of a child.  My dear Jam you are a joy and a blessing to all of us.  Your beautiful spirit, big heart, incredible memory, bright intellect, gigantic winsome smile and sheer enthusiasm for life brighten my every minute. I love you ever so much, lil bug!!! 

It was a lot of fun for all of us to enjoy our old traditions and ornaments while adding a few things that were new.  It was such a pleasure to add the ornaments Roo and I made last year using Jam's handprint and our thumb prints to a new, smaller tree, while still using the crocheted snow flakes Granny made and ornaments the kids used and created over the years. It was Jam's tree! He helped decorate it and thoroughly adored every bit of it.

 And sew - that brings us to stockings!!!!!

Stockings have always been a big deal in our family.  Over the past few years I've been a bit lazy and used bags to contain the "stocking presents"!!!  But this year I made Irina and Jam their own to match the more than 30 year old ones that the rest of us have always used!

Then, using fabric Irina gifted me some time ago, I put together stockings for Roo to use for her and Jam in her home.  Plus, she had another brilliant and fun "stocking" plan!!!

Rather than put up a Christmas tree at her house this year, since Jam was getting to experience one at mine, she envisioned a decorative garland and stockings across the entry to his playroom at her place.  She crocheted a lovely garland (unfortunately obscured by the tinsel one) to which I attached little socks Jam has outgrown that were stuffed with fabric scraps and stitched closed across the top.  Such a clever and sweet idea!!

Then, Christmas baubles were added.  It turned out so well.  I just love it!!

I hope the holidays were times of joy for each of you.  May 2024 bring you many vibrant and quiet days and adventures, while I carry on with my dear ones who understand and allow me to embrace the chaotically precise nature of my existence.  Much love, les

Friday, December 8, 2023

Sew Chaotically! ~ A bit of embroidery for my Dear Danita...

I have never known a sweeter soul than my dear Danita.  Seriously.  She is kind even when one could argue she shouldn't be!!!  But, no one has been a greater recipient of her gentle heart than me and mine.  She was a fabulous nurse to work with as no job was too hard, too menial or too time consuming.  As a friend she is ALWAYS there - a compassionate, caring soul who is forever in my corner.  I treasure the many serious and laughter filled talks we have shared.  The many covert texts over lunches!!!  Just thinking of her laugh makes me smile as I write this.  

Plus she is game for any adventure we (I!!  HA!) come up with!!!!

There she is. At the mountain top.  Smiling right across from me!

When I learned she was redecorating some bedrooms in her home, I got her to send me some color info and a snap of the quilt she would be using. I came up with this, as a bit of my love for her new space.  

The design is from Freesia Embroidery, but I changed up the colors and stitches to try to coordinate with her quilt as much as possible.  The background fabric is a pale gray quilting cotton to match her newly painted walls.

This is how it looks along side her quilt!!

And here she is on her beautiful side table.  

My dear Danita, you are truly a steel magnolia. I am blessed to have you in my life.  May your freshened rooms bring you joy and peace.  

Love always my sweet friend, celeste

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Sew Chaotically! ~ Quilt #7!!! A 9 patch for dear Tam-bo!

You probably remember my dear bestie, Tammy!  She is one of the best nurses I have ever known.  She has stuck by me through thick and thin - work and play - sickness and health.  Her generosity and kindness combined with her wit and love are nothing short of amazing.  Her potty pics brought me laughs when struggling through crazy melanoma treatments.  She's wonderful!!!

On top of all of that, she is a self made woman who has seen her own way through all manner of things including home ownership!!!!  Bottom line, she was well overdue for her very own quilt!  Sew....  I quizzed her on fav colors.  Roo helped design several 9-patch options...

Once Tammy made her pick - I got to work, cutting and piecing

Finished quilt top....

Ready for quilting on the rack...

She's DONE!!!!

Decided some pillows would be fun!

And FINALLY!!!  Despite being finished for a bit - she made it to her new home with Tam-bo! Dallas seems to like her, too!

Cheers, dear friend, raising a glass of local cider!  Thanks for being you and all your many kindnesses to me and mine.  May this little quilt keep you (and Dallas) warm and cozy with a big hug from me.

Much love, les

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Sew Chaotically ~ Jam Fits for fall and winter!!!

The Jammer has grown so much and is such a blessing to our lives.  He is such a joyous loving soul.  But the busy lil man needed some new togs for fall and winter, so Les les had to get busy!

I started with these little pants from a bizarre print a neighbor had pawned off and some nice stretchy denim that had unfortunately faded when stored.  Still they worked out well for wearable toils!  The pattern is Simplicity S9023.  While the pattern does not call for elastic at the ankle, I added it to be able to provide extra length without Lil Man tripping over it.

Three knit pairs followed, then two cords and a denim.  Though the knits were purchased with Jam in mind, the others were made from remnants in my stash. 

Next up were some tops.  This Brindille &Twig (19) lap neck tee goes together perfectly!

Little rugby tops made from scraps using the Brindille & Twig (127) henley pattern were next. I've found that the snaps I have used before on his baby clothes that are pressed in place with snap pliers do not hold very well.  So for these, I used buttons for cuteness with sewn-on snaps beneath.

More scrap busting here using McCalls M7827 for a little comfy cozy jacket!

I used the last bits of his knits combined with corduroy used in his pants to create a little jacket and vest using the Brindille & Twig (98) retro cardigan pattern.  I thought they turned out really well and he likes wearing them as they are easy and comfortable getting off and on.

And finally in this set, I had fun making this little sweat shirt, using knits I had left over from some batch sewing of circle skirts using my tried and true pattern, the Veronika Skirt from Megan Neilson, for Roo.  The sweatshirt pattern (along with a little dress) is included in the S9023 pattern.  I thought it was pretty cute with the addition of some embroidery!  So happy with how his little duds turned out and glad to find ways to have them all mix and match!

So much fun!!!  Live, sew and love chaotically!! - love, les

Thursday, November 9, 2023

September/October - Two months blessed with worthy reads!

September ~  

Demon Copperhead - Barbara Kingsolver.  Very well written and brave story telling to show a sad but very real - esp in my neck of the woods - (though likely across this land) and honest telling of the drug abuse that is rampant.  Thanks to the desperation in human's lives, the Sackler family, Big Pharma, and hospitals/medical corporations/providers/JCAH who were all so complicit in accepting the pharmaceutical companies' insistence that we were not following and addressing our patients' pain adequately and appropriately.  The pain scales that were adopted as a requirement in daily patient evaluations were, and continue to be, completely BOGUS!!!  They provide no real information and all reasonable providers were already accessing and treating pain in far better ways and continue to do so with little help from said pain scales though insurance now requires that they be completed.  Back to the story ~  Bit of a tough read to say the least, given the vivid portrait of the down hill spiral created by drug abuse and foster care, especially coming to my reading on the heels of  Young Mungo, but with important characters you care about - even when you want to ring their necks.

Clytemnestra - Costanza Casati.  "Human lives are based on pain.  But to have a few moments of happiness, lightnings tearing the darkness of the sky, that is worth it."  The story of Clytemnestra, sister to Helen and wife of Agamemnon. While it did not reach as high as Circe did for me, it is well written and demonstrates the lives of strong women who faced motherhood, abuse, love, horrible choices, and unfaithful partners/friends with resilience, strength, and grace.

Afterlife - Julia Alverez.  Unlike old me who would read any book I started, or finish any movie - somehow believing it would get better, is not how I roll these days.  The blurbs made this sound like a book I would enjoy.  Was interested in the topic of undocumented immigrants from an author who immigrated to the US from the DR at the age of ten, but I just couldn't get past the start.  Probably my mood at the time, but there you have it.

The Covenant of Water - Abraham Verghese.  I loved Cutting for Stone so very much!  It probably falls among my favorite top ten of all novels I have read!  Sadly, for me, this work did not reach those heights.  Ranging from 1900 to 1977 from Scotland to Kerala.  Topics ranging from medicine (including historical surgical techniques, untreated neonatal hypothyroidism, leprosy, difficult childbirth, deafness, depression, drug addiction) to Indian culture (including marriage practices, caste system, clothing, farming, politics) - WHEW!!!  It was a lot.  Most characters were well drawn and interesting.  I guess my biggest problems with the book were the occasional preachy dissertations regarding Indian life, politics and history, while important, combined with the fact that some important events occurred far too easily and conveniently, while others were too complicated - all conspired to burst your bubble of happily suspended disbelief which I found to be unsettling.  So, while there were characters and stories here that I shall never forget, and therefore a very worthy read, it did not rise to the level of Cutting for Stone for me.  Sorry, Oprah. Yet, with appreciation, Mr. Verghese.

October ~

This Must be the Place - Maggie O'Farrell.  Along the same lines - LOVED Hamnet, so... perhaps unduly high expectations were in place here.  A good read, with well drawn characters.  However, none I particularly connected with.  Kudos for addressing eczema in a well informed way.  Events were often a bit too far fetched for me.  And while I dealt with it - the seemingly excessive and unnecessary jumping back and forth in time and between characters was not particularly appealing.  The hopping from one character, in different times to others in other moments made the story line somewhat needlessly difficult to follow (from one who has never published a book much less several excellent ones!!!) and made the similar presentation utilized in Fried Green Tomatoes and Cloud Atlas a walk in the park!

There There - Tommy Orange.  While the topics (the treatment of American Indians, drug use, alcoholism, gun violence, marginalized communities) are so incredibly sad, relevant, important, in dire need of recognition and redress - I had a hard time loving the way this book was written.  I wanted to get to know and understand the characters better and had trouble doing it in the way they were shared in snippets that came and went.  Still, there was lots to think about within.

The House by the Cerulean Sea - T.J.Klune.  I loved this book, though this sort of fantasy (children with strange/magical/unworldly gifts and abilities) is not my usual jam, the writer made them such real children (who to my mind all possess amazing gifts and abilities - though some have had them beaten out of them, forgotten them, or simply abandoned them as adults) that it was simply a beautiful tale of what love and support can do for all of us.  Definitely recommend!

Happy chaotic reading! - les

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Ocean waves and true love ~

Life is like the ocean's waves.  Beautiful. Dangerous.  Sparkling.  Mysterious.  Far larger and deeper than any part we may play or space we can really comprehend.  As likely to rock you gently in her cerulean arms as to cast you onto rocky shores.  Our joys and sorrows wax and wane much like the tide.  Yet, despite the complicated and meandering currents of life, I have been blessed with a constant beacon.  Love from the kindest, most generous soul has kept me strong when I was weak.  Brought me smiles when I was sad.  Shared my joys and lifted me higher.

Even today, there was this ~

For reference:

The vase:  The most romantic date....EVER!!!!

The red bug:  Driving toward the park

Thanks for loving me, my dear sweet B.  I am forever your girl.  Love, les