Monday, July 23, 2018

Book reviews

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” 
― Stephen King

     I think the last time I did a book review, I was just starting to read "A Gentleman in Moscow" ***** by Amor Towles.  Well, I am here to tell you it was one of the best books I have read in a long time!!! I loved every page of it!  It begins in the early days right after the Russian Revolution.  Count Rostov has come before the Tribunal to be sentenced for having written a subversive poem several years ago. We discover he didn't really even write the poem but took the blame for a friend who would probably end up in the Gulag, whereas, the Count's sentence is to live the rest of his life in the Metropol Hotel where he had been living anyway!  The book takes us through 30 plus years of his life in the hotel...wonderful characters, fascinating historical  tidbits and quite a bit of intrigue especially towards the end!  Did I mention that I liked this book immensely!!!

      Another book I did enjoy was "What She Left Behind" ***** by Ellen Marie Wiseman...the story of a foster girl who is working with her foster parents who work in antiquities and restoration  cleaning out a now closed Insane Asylum...trying to piece together some of the stories of the inmates from their personal possessions left behind....I also gave this five stars, because it really kept my interest and tells a great deal about those institutions of the early 1900s...warning...not for the faint of heart!

     "Burnt Mountain"**** by Anne Rivers Siddons, a mystery taking place in the Appalachian Mountains in Georgia...not a hillbilly thing, but in the areas where the wealthy girl falls for boy parents don't approve of, etc..I found the story to be pretty intriguing.

     "The Cuckoo's Calling"*** by Robert Galbraith (actually JK Rowling under a pseudonym)  but nothing like Harry Potter and I didn't know it was hers until I did little research on the author for this blog! Her detective Cormoran Strike is a one-legged large man, who is full of angst but likable, compassionate, struggling to make ends meet.  He is Rowling/Galbraith's newest character and this is the first of the series written in 2013.  There are three more out and I will probably try to read them all as Cormoran is a pretty interesting character. A good audio book.

     "To Capture What We Cannot Keep"**** by Beatrice Colin...a historical novel about the building of the Eiffel Tower and the men who had the dream.  Very enjoyable...I found the descriptions of the development  and the moods/opinions of the tower as it was being built very interesting.

     "Night Woods"*** by Charles Frazier...another mystery taking place in the Appalachian Mountains. This time, murder and intrigue involving more poor folk! A good audio book.

      "The Chalk Man"***  by C.J. Tudor... a murder mystery/ intrigue reminiscent of "Stand By Me".  A murder took place when these kids were young; now as adults, it comes back to haunt.  A good audio book.

     "Laura and Emma"* by Kate Greathead  I am not alone in saying this book leaves a lot to be desired...the original premises is not girl wants to be independent, has a baby, but always knows she has her family wealth to fall back on...whine, whine...and then just as I am kind of beginning to think we are getting somewhere...the baby is now a teenager...the book ends...and the poorest, dumbest ending ever!  Did I mention I did not care for this book???

     "The Family Next Door"**** by Sally Hepworth. I liked this book.  It takes place in Australia; four lady neighbors living in probably a cul de sac. We get to know them and their problems; post partum depression is one of their concerns..a bit of hanky panky for another...past wrong doings coming to the surface!  A very good audio book.

     "A Is For Alibi"*** by Sue Grafton I had never read a Sue Grafton and when I read that she had died awhile back, I thought I would give her a try....she has written soooo many books!  I listened to this as an audio book and would listen to others.  Her protagonist is a lady detective, Kinsey Millhone who is your typical tough gal, get 'er done, kind of character.  This first novel was written in 1982 and Grafton's last was "Y Is for Yesterday" in 2017.  She died of cancer before she could get to her last one, "Z Is for Zero". It will be interesting to listen to  a more recent one to see if her style changed through the years even though Kinsey remained her lead.

     And my last book to review is "Ruthless Tide"***** by Al Roker (yes, THE Al Roker!) Again a very good read...although I did listen to it as an audio.  This is non-fiction about the the Johnstown flood which happened in Pennsylvania in 1889, one of our countries worst disasters.  A spellbinding account of what happened.  I didn't know Al Roker was an author; I'll need to see what else he may have out there!

     So that sums up what I've been reading or listening to lately.  I have learned to really like audio books to have on hand when I am busy doing other mindless, laundry etc.  I don't turn on tv until evening and I practically never listen to the news any more so audio has become my new entertainment!!  I still like a good ol' fashioned paper book, too, though!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

NTAQ Meeting

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” 
― Edgar Degas 
     This past Monday, my most favorite art group met.  And as usual we had a great time! Our challenge for this month, presented to us by Michelle, was to choose one of the artists of the School of Bauhaus and create a quilt with one's choice as inspiration. The Bauhaus was the most influential schools of art and design in the 20th Dessau, Germany from 1919-1933.  The school was populated with many  well known artists on the faculty...Kandinsky, Josef Albers, Paul Klee and others.  Josef Albers' wife Anni was one of the prominent artists who started there.
     After researching several of the  artists' I chose Otti Berger.  Otti, as well as many of the others was a weaver.  She was very talented and innovative; but unfortunately she was living in very dangerous times.  Many of the school left Germany for England then on to  America when Germany fell under the spell of Nazism.  Being of Jewish ancestors, Otti did go to England, but being unable to  get a job...not being able to speak the language and being hearing impaired...she returned to her home and there in 1944 with her family she was arrested and taken to  Auschwitz where she died. If she had been able to stay in England, if it had been a year later, her story would have ended differently!

Her story as well as her talent is why I chose her as my artist for the challenge.
    I decided to make a quilt to honor Otti.  The first thing I did was to write her story, then to print it off on fabric.  This is accomplished by ironing fabric to freezer paper, cutting it to the size of computer paper and run it through the printer.

Step one

Step two

     Then I printed off a picture of one of her weavings on fabric, and added her picture onto the fabric by running it through the printer a second time.
Step three
    I then began to sew together strips of fabric, somewhat emulating the weaving I had printed off. And step four was to put it all together.  It is approximately 14" x 33"  in size.

Step four
       Here are some of my NTAQ buddies' challenges:

     And here is a picture of all of them together.  Most chose Anni Albers for their inspiration. Heather  chose Gunta Stolzl and my choice of Otti Berger were some of  the other artists at the Bauhaus as well as many others.
The Bauhaus inspired quilts by NTAQ

     We usually have some activity when we meet...sharing new techniques, etc.  so in keeping with the idea that many of the students/artists at the Bauhaus were weavers, I got some little cardboard looms, yarn,  needles, together to do a small weaving project.  We plan to bring them back to our next meeting to show what we did with our weaving!
Rhonda, Heather and Kay working on their weaving!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Interfaith Service

"My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness." 
The Dalai Lama

Program for the Service
     Last night I attended the Interfaith Prayer Service for the Children at the University Christian Church, Fort Worth, Texas.  UCC is a very large church and the sanctuary was filled!!  Several members of my church, Westside Unitarian Universalist, were there with me.

Westside UU
There were others at the service also, just not around when I took the picture.  We were pretty close to the front; before the service began I looked back and was amazed to see the that the church had filled up!  As I sat there....this guy came up to me to say "Hi"...I had to give him a big hug.  Kevin is the SIL of a friend of mine and is the minister St. Alban's Episcopal Church at 305 W. Main, Arlington. He was one of the organizers of the service.  It was good to see him!
Rev. Kevin Johnson, 
     This very special service was great in so many ways....the crowd, the music, the sincerity of all.  And most of all the diversity of the presenters and attendees...Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Atheist, NONs, and probably more that I am not aware of!
      Now, as many of you know, prayer is really not in my vocabulary, per se, but I do believe in the power of numbers and positive thinking.  Seeing all these various faiths together, all striving for the same goals...helping the children caught in the maelstrom of politic chaos. I like the quote I found by the Dali Lama (above). And there is another one I found by Walter Cronkite.  " Never before probably has the need for interfaith commitment been nearly as great as it is at this very moment."
       I don't know when he said this but he has been gone for over nine years so  for him to have said this at another interfaith service many years ago, means we haven't gotten there yet so we have a lot of work to do to get there!  
        One young lady read one of my (and I am sure everyone's) favorite poems: "The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus -1883....

The New Colossus 
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" 

     At the end of this beautiful service, a two page list of "how to help" was handed out.  If anyone is interested, let me know and I will scan and post the list....either respond by email or leave a comment here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.” 
― Ă‰mile Zola

     Monday, my North Texas Art Quilters held our monthly meeting.  We met at Kay's house to do some dyeing.  She had set up her garage  for us to work with Indigo dye.  Indigo is a bit different than other dyes.  If interested, you can go to the link here to find out more about it.
Hanging up dyed fabrics
     Our challenge this month was to choose a favorite work of art from a museum, gallery, book, etc. and be inspired to create a quilt.  My friend Heather is also a blogger and did a great job showing all our pictures of our challenge so you can go to her blog from this link to see what everyone did.
      What I am gong to blog about is some other pics of our meeting as well as my process of my challenge for this month
Kay, our hostess, had been dyeing with her niece.
This is a duvet cover they indigo dyed.
Kay had also done some printing with different objects.
Michelle, wearing a necklace she made with kitchen strainers!
Michelle showing a quilt she made with dyed cheesecloth
Heather showed 25 yards of fabric she had dyed at home.
Wendy showed a new quilt she had made, some of the fabric
from men's shirts she had bought from Good Will
Wendy had also just returned from a design class
where she worked with painted paper with the
plan of recreating the design out of fabric.
       And now, my process for our June challenge which I described earlier.  I had chosen "Interior of the Buurkerk, Utrecht" by Pieter Jansz Saenredam 1645. This is one of my favorite paintings at the Kimbell in Fort Worth.  I love the clean lines, the perspective and the subtle colors.

I first sketched out a very abstract drawing of some of the shapes.  Then I cut out the paper and traced each onto the back of fused fabric.  I decided to create a somewhat stained glass look so, after cutting out the fabric, I placed it on a black satin background. (One of my personal goals for our monthly challenges is to use only fabric I already have...not to buy any new!!) The fabric I used was some upholstery scraps I had as well as some raw silk I had picked up somewhere!

After doing the first section, I decided it was too small so I added another section at the top.

Then I auditioned two similar fabrics for the border...light on dark or dark on light?

I use my iPhone camera a lot to see the various steps.  It really helps to get a look through the lens.

After fusing it all down on the background fabric, and stitching the borders on, I quilted around each section with a tight zigzag stitch then quilted most sections, leaving a few unquilted for emphasis.

And here is a picture of all our quilts from our individual choices.
     Our challenge for July is to choose one of the artists' from " The Women of the Bauhaus School", a German school of art including weavers, industrial designers, photographers, etc. which existed between 1919 and 1933....more info to come in a future blog!!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Artsy Saturday

Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions.” 
― Albert Einstein

     Last Saturday, North Texas SAQA met at Must Love Fabrics, a fabric shop in Grapevine Texas which has space for us to meet and  occasionally make stuff or have demos.  We had several new members/visitors and lots of "show and tell". At our last meeting, we decided to share with everyone our quilt/art beginnings!  Most of us started out as traditional quilters and branched out into becoming  fiber artist in different ways.
Andrea with her first quilt      
Andrea's first class- a Lone Star Quilt
A more recent art quilt of Andrea's from a class
Jenn showing some  of the fabric she dyed at our last meeting 
Jenn -with one of her art quilt

Natalie has always made art quilts and has a love
of all things Japanese
Natalie created a very graphic quilt-"Just One"
Diann with the help of Andrea, shows her two related
quilts, representing herself and  her identical twin.
Rhonda- showing one of her winning quilts
Dorene started out as a painter

Dorene now says she paints with fabric! Here
an incomplete work of hers.

Donna has always worked with art quilts,
creating her own patterns.
Donna shows a more recent work of her art in fabric
Cheryl, always working in fiber art, shows a
humorous quilt of a former workshop teacher.
Jessica shows a large piece of fabric she also dyed
at our May meeting
Jessica with an early work.
Carolyn, who works in fiber arts, shows her self portrait
Heather shows one of her early traditional quilts
One of Heather's most recent art quilts
I took the same class Andrea did...Lone Star,
my first quilt-traditioinal
And my first art quilt from a class at Arrowmont 
A fun meeting learning about our personal art journeys!  Then of course, a ver important part of our meetings....going to lunch. For July, we are going to the Dallas museum of art to see the Laura Owens exhibit.