Monday, December 12, 2022

October/November Reads ~


The Night Portrait - Laura Morelli.  The story of Leonardo Da Vinci's painting Lady with an Ermine shared in two story lines:  In 1492 Milan, sixteen year old Cecilia, newly positioned as mistress of the Duke, sits before Da Vinci to be painted.  In 1940's Munich newly engaged Edith, who cares for her ailing father while working as an art conservator, is retained by the German government to assist in the capture and cataloguing of art for the Nazi regime.  The lives of both women, along with the true story of the painting and the efforts of The Monuments Men, come to life despite the occasionally stilted writing and wholly unnecessary contrived links between chapters in which the last sentence of one may be - "the paper flutters from Da Vinci's hand..." while the first sentence of the next reads "the paper flutters from her hand as Edith ..."  Oh well.  Who am I who has never written to write a critique?

The Lost Apothecary - Sarah Penner.  I REALLY enjoyed this book!!!  It was a quick engaging read but still had lots to say and provided much to think about.  Set simultaneously in current and 1790's London, through Nella, Eliza, and Carolina we face the reality of the lives of women across the centuries.  The pages are filled with history, fate, friendships, and poisons.  I wish Dame Agatha could have read it.  I think she would approve.

The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah.  While clunky in places, the flow developed and the story of occupied France during World War II, along with the efforts of the French resistance, many of them women - leading downed Allied airman to safety in Spain and protecting Jewish children from being deported to concentration camps - becomes clear and heart rending.  Hannah's characters shine a bright light on the best of human impulses ~ and the worst.

The Last Bookshop in London - Madeline Martin. This time, World War II, the British perspective, particularly from London.  Through the story of two girls who moved to London just before the war we experience blackouts, the blitz, nights spent sheltering in the tube line (reminding me of Lady Clementine, by Marie Benedict - the story of Churchill's wife), the power of small kindnesses and unknown strengths, as well as the value of words and stories to get us through.


All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr.  Probably the best juxtaposition of both sides of the participants/victims of World War II that I have read.  Marie Laure, blind, living in Paris near the Museum of Natural History where her father works, flees with him to Saint Malo as the Germans occupy France, to the home of her uncle who remains traumatized by his experiences in World War I, when she is 12.  Meanwhile, an incredibly bright child, Werner Pfennig, lives with his sister in an orphanage in a poor mining town in Germany.  His fate is dramatically changed when recruited by The Hitler Youth where his talents are used as a radio builder/operator during the war, ending up on Saint Malo as it was bombarded by the Allies once occupied by the Germans.  Perhaps, not entirely worthy of the hype, but a valuable read.

Mixed with pages and pages of articles covering everything from encephalopathy, child abuse, SIADH, refugee children, blood transfusions, racial disparities, myocarditis, the needs of homeless children as well as those in military families, food insecurity, care of adoptees and foster children...  Whew!  Important stuff!  Plus, recertification accomplished.

Read and live chaotically! ~ les

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Fall in my little corner...

 All the seasons come with beautiful blessings here on the mountain ~

Perhaps fall's beauty is so poignant because it requires that we simultaneously let go of the past, enjoy what we can in fleeting moments, and look to the future with hope ~ much like life.  May your days be filled with joys and golden light!  But even when they aren't, know that brighter days will come. ~ les

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Sew Chaotically! ~ Fall Linen

In further sewing room clean up, I found a remnant of this lux linen, purchased from B&J on a lovely trip to New York a few years ago and partially used creating this Japanese Sewing Pattern top, I never got around to blogging about almost a year ago ~  The top is nice and has had good wear.  The material turned out to be a little thick for the gathers along the collar and I would make the placket differently were I to sew up another.  Also, beware the narrowness of the arm cuffs.  They are close to being too tight on me and I don't think I have particularly large arms!!!

The material is almost iridescent, with a bronzy brown thread running through several shades of green.  I found I had just enough to stitch up the Teddy Top from Style Arc.  I made a size 10 with no modifications.  

The pattern went together well.  I had no trouble with the collar or front neckline as some reviews had mentioned.  However, the instructions are SPARSE!!!  Because of this, these patterns may not be the best choice for a beginning sewist!

I like that there is a graceful swing to the back of the garment without a lot of extra fabric in the front.

Speaking of linen and patterns perfectly suited for it ~ there are many free and really great patterns available from with good information on their blog, The ---------- Thread, not to mention their selection of incredible linen!!!  I have loved their Mariana Jacket, both in the wearing and the making, that I stitched up back in 2019.

Check that welt pocket detail! Pretty impressive for a free pattern, no?
Early last spring I made two Paola Workwear Jackets, another of their free patterns.  One in a very durable medium weight linen and another in a rather odd brocade (?) that for reasons I am now a bit unclear about, caught my eye when shopping in Walthamstow back in 2017.  As per their name, these jackets are more of a Worker Jacket style.  I adjusted the size and placement of the pockets to suit my fancy.  They stitched up easily.  In fact, the instructions for both these patterns, which include plenty of clear pictures on the blog, are aces!  Much better than anything offered by Style Arc, for which you pay $14 to $18.  Just say'n!!!

Happy chaotic fall sewing! - les

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Fall on the mountain and in the valley!

 Sharing a bit of my weekend...

My photog, always part of my view!

Ridge along Lookout Mountain.

Color, sneaking in.

Getting ready for next year...

Drying sage, thyme and basil before the first freeze.

Mise en place!  A little effort now to keep the week easy.

Sneaky kitty testing out Fred's quilt while the binding is being attached!

Be yourself...

...while having a buddy alongside! 

Happy Fall Y'all!  Don't forget to get your flu shot!!!! ~ les

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

September Reads ~

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock - Imogene Hermes Gowar.  A very strange tale!  The story of Jonah Hancock, a shipping merchant, intertwined with the life of Angelica Neal, a famous courtesan, and the spell of a mermaid.  Though fickle and flawed, the characters get under your skin, causing you to believe and root for them. The historical vision of London whose modern streets I have walked was a bonus.

Castle Shade - Laurie R. King.  Had put this one of King's stories of Holmes and Russel aside due to a concern that it would be marred by vampires.  Didn't feel that Sherlock would fall for such.  No need to fear!  It was fun and a nice break from some of my heavier recent reads.

Lincoln in the Bardo - George Saunders.  The most original and strange format for a historical novel (or any novel really!!!) I have EVER read, capturing at least some of the horror and pain of America's Civil War, but mostly - through an incredible cast of characters whose lives (and deaths) - confirm the beauty that is life and love.  (Made B read it!)  Thinking about it still...

Sherlock Holmes - various stories - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Re-reads.  Just needed a little Sherlock.  He never disappoints!

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows - Balli Kour Jaswal.  Brilliant.  Yet another incredibly different format for story telling (a theme this month???) but extremely effective and perfect.  Nikki, daughter of Indian immigrants, born in London - law school drop out, working as a bar tender - takes a job teaching creative writing at the local community center in the heart of London's Punjabi community.  It turns out that neither the job nor the students are what they at first appear.  However, through erotic tales, the Punjabi widows share the stories of their lives - or the lives they wish they'd had.  In doing so, revealing their true selves and their community, becoming a threat to the secrets and authority of the Brotherhood.  Incredibly well written with lots to say about community, women, and religion.  The fact that I have been to and enjoyed a wonderful day on Goldhawk Road and Shepherd's Bush made it even more special.

Book Lovers - Emily Henry.  A bit clich├ęd, but a fun and absorbing read of star crossed lovers who are a bit uptight and stand in their own way - for a minute.  Henry's characters are real and multifaceted.  I immediately wanted to read another of her books, but paused, fearing it might simply be a rerun.  Unfair assumption not having read them.  I am sure I will capitulate in time.  As always, books about books are forever fun. 

A good month of reads - slightly frivolous but engaging stories that still had wonderful well developed characters combined with more thoughtful and important works.  Perfection. 

Read and live chaotically! ~ les

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Read and love and live - chaotically! ~ How to be Perfect, by Ron Padgett

 I did not write this.  I do not even have permission to publish it.  Which is wrong.  But, I love it and wanted to share it with you:

How to Be Perfect

                             Everything is perfect, dear friend.

Get some sleep.

Don't give advice.

Take care of your teeth and gums.

Don't be afraid of anything beyond your control. Don't be afraid, for
instance, that the building will collapse as you sleep, or that someone
you love will suddenly drop dead.

Eat an orange every morning.

Be friendly. It will help make you happy.

Raise your pulse rate to 120 beats per minute for 20 straight minutes
four or five times a week doing anything you enjoy.

Hope for everything. Expect nothing.

Take care of things close to home first. Straighten up your room
before you save the world. Then save the world.

Know that the desire to be perfect is probably the veiled expression
of another desire—to be loved, perhaps, or not to die.

Make eye contact with a tree.

Be skeptical about all opinions, but try to see some value in each of

Dress in a way that pleases both you and those around you.

Do not speak quickly.

Learn something every day. (Dzien dobre!)

Be nice to people before they have a chance to behave badly.

Don't stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don't
forget what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm's length
and look at it, as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass ball

Be loyal.

Wear comfortable shoes.

Design your activities so that they show a pleasing balance
and variety.

Be kind to old people, even when they are obnoxious. When you
become old, be kind to young people. Do not throw your cane at
them when they call you Grandpa. They are your grandchildren!

Live with an animal.

Do not spend too much time with large groups of people.

If you need help, ask for it.

Cultivate good posture until it becomes natural.

If someone murders your child, get a shotgun and blow his head off.

Plan your day so you never have to rush.

Show your appreciation to people who do things for you, even if you
have paid them, even if they do favors you don't want.

Do not waste money you could be giving to those who need it.

Expect society to be defective. Then weep when you find that it is far
more defective than you imagined.

When you borrow something, return it in an even better condition.

As much as possible, use wooden objects instead of plastic or metal

Look at that bird over there.

After dinner, wash the dishes.

Calm down.

Visit foreign countries, except those whose inhabitants have
expressed a desire to kill you.

Don't expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want to.

Meditate on the spiritual. Then go a little further, if you feel like it.
What is out (in) there?

Sing, every once in a while.

Be on time, but if you are late do not give a detailed and lengthy

Don't be too self-critical or too self-congratulatory.

Don't think that progress exists. It doesn't.

Walk upstairs.

Do not practice cannibalism.

Imagine what you would like to see happen, and then don't do
anything to make it impossible.

Take your phone off the hook at least twice a week.

Keep your windows clean.

Extirpate all traces of personal ambitiousness.

Don't use the word extirpate too often.

Forgive your country every once in a while. If that is not possible, go
to another one.

If you feel tired, rest.

Grow something.

Do not wander through train stations muttering, "We're all going to

Count among your true friends people of various stations of life.

Appreciate simple pleasures, such as the pleasure of chewing, the
pleasure of warm water running down your back, the pleasure of a
cool breeze, the pleasure of falling asleep.

Do not exclaim, "Isn't technology wonderful!"

Learn how to stretch your muscles. Stretch them every day.

Don't be depressed about growing older. It will make you feel even
older. Which is depressing.

Do one thing at a time.

If you burn your finger, put it in cold water immediately. If you bang
your finger with a hammer, hold your hand in the air for twenty
minutes. You will be surprised by the curative powers of coldness and

Learn how to whistle at earsplitting volume.

Be calm in a crisis. The more critical the situation, the calmer you
should be.

Enjoy sex, but don't become obsessed with it. Except for brief periods
in your adolescence, youth, middle age, and old age.

Contemplate everything's opposite.

If you're struck with the fear that you've swum out too far in the
ocean, turn around and go back to the lifeboat.

Keep your childish self alive.

Answer letters promptly. Use attractive stamps, like the one with a
tornado on it.

Cry every once in a while, but only when alone. Then appreciate
how much better you feel. Don't be embarrassed about feeling better.

Do not inhale smoke.

Take a deep breath.

Do not smart off to a policeman.

Do not step off the curb until you can walk all the way across the
street. From the curb you can study the pedestrians who are trapped
in the middle of the crazed and roaring traffic.

Be good.

Walk down different streets.


Remember beauty, which exists, and truth, which does not. Notice
that the idea of truth is just as powerful as the idea of beauty.

Stay out of jail.

In later life, become a mystic.

Use Colgate toothpaste in the new Tartar Control formula.

Visit friends and acquaintances in the hospital. When you feel it is
time to leave, do so.

Be honest with yourself, diplomatic with others.

Do not go crazy a lot. It's a waste of time.

Read and reread great books.

Dig a hole with a shovel.

In winter, before you go to bed, humidify your bedroom.

Know that the only perfect things are a 300 game in bowling and a
27-batter, 27-out game in baseball.

Drink plenty of water. When asked what you would like to drink,
say, "Water, please."

Ask "Where is the loo?" but not "Where can I urinate?"

Be kind to physical objects.

Beginning at age forty, get a complete "physical" every few years
from a doctor you trust and feel comfortable with.

Don't read the newspaper more than once a year.

Learn how to say "hello," "thank you," and "chopsticks"
in Mandarin.

Belch and fart, but quietly.

Be especially cordial to foreigners.

See shadow puppet plays and imagine that you are one of the
characters. Or all of them.

Take out the trash.

Love life.

Use exact change.

When there's shooting in the street, don't go near the window.

                           Source: Collected Poems (Coffee House Press, 2013)   

Yes.  May your days and weeks be filled with these things and whatever makes you smile and makes sense for you. ~ les

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Sew Chaotically! ~ Burnside Bibs

I stitched these Burnside Bibs, by Sew House Seven back in early spring.  They had some fun outings then and are back in action this fall!  I made Version 1 - the more fitted style with a side zip - and the scoop neck bib.  The material was a mystery woven (sort of a light weight denim?) I picked up in NYC's Mood in October of 2020. It was perfect for this pattern as it was stable, but had enough drape to be soft and easy. 

I stitched up size 8 with little modification other than taking in the sides and back darts a bit.  I did create the snap situation below in order to keep the zip nice and comfortably closed

Because the fabric had this nice selvedge, I used it on the outer aspect of both legs from hem to hip so a turn-up gives you a cute peek!

The way these bibs work in both versions is that the straps run through the belt loops and then either tie in the back or front as you like.  This fabric stitched up and took top stitching so nicely that before I really thought it through I added the belt loops.  But, on trying them on, I found that I didn't want to tie the straps.  I had made the fit just as I wanted!  The ties either gathered it up in a way that wasn't attractive or hung too loosely.  Sew!!!  Rather than unpick the loops and attach the straps, I just threaded them through, folded the ends over and stitched them down!  This did necessitate adding a cross piece to the back to keep them from sliding off my shoulders.  Given that I cut a length off the straps, I had a piece ready to go.  Thanks for the idea, Roo.  It worked a treat!!!

They have been a fun and oddly useful addition to my wardrobe!!  Happy Fall, Y'all!  Sew and live chaotically! ~ les