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Friday, November 25, 2022

How did November Go by so Fast?

 I feel like I have nothing to show for it; my stitching has focused on two Christmas gifts, one of which I'm not entirely sure will be ready in time.

But I did do a little bit more. Like this sugar skull from Kiriki Press:

And these steampunk book charms that of course I had to turn into earrings:

It's Black Friday, and I'm out of black floss which I very much need for one of the gifts. But I don't know if I can bring myself to venture out into the rain and the crowds to get it. If only one could arrange for thread delivery like one can for pizza ...

Monday, October 31, 2022

Trick or Treat Blog Hop

 Happy Halloween to those of you coming from Jo's blog! Your letter is:

Happy Halloween font cut out pumpkin letter P Stock Vector | Adobe Stock

It's been kind of a terrible year, so I have gotten very little stitching done. I decided to focus on an old pattern I started decades ago (while I was in law school, I think) but never finished -- Liz Turner Diehl's Cider House Garden. I didn't manage to finish it this year, either, but I made good progress, stitching the house, one of the maple trees, and six of the apple trees:

I think I might finally be able to finish it next year.

I also started Wild Violet's primitive tarot set, but didn't get very far:

I dyed the aida myself, using black tea with a little baking soda to (I hope) cut down the acidity.

On to the next blog:  Have fun!

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Earrings, Earrings, Earrings!

 I've been on a jewelry kick again.

The pair on the left started out as just the large faceted bead; I got them long ago as a subtle earring to wear when the rest of my jewelry stands out, but they were too boring. I added a glass bead under each one, and then for fun added smaller faceted beads to the ear wires. Still subtle, by my standards.

The second pair have gorgeous crystal skulls, which I got from a Halloween kit by Candie Cooper. In keeping with both the autumnal palette and the Dia de Muertos theme, I added two different gold vermeil flower beads. I absolutely love them.

The last pair have czech skull beads from yet another Candie Cooper kit. I didn't intend to make more skull earrings (I have three pairs already, including the crystal ones above), but I couldn't resist the kooky details on those beads.

These took longer to make; I'd been meaning to try brick-stitching seed beads around a ring, and this seed bead mix (also from the Halloween kit) gave me the opportunity. As you can see, I need more practice, but I've got all sorts of ideas percolating now.

There are lots more fun beads from the kit, but as the needs of my family go up, my crafting time goes down, so I doubt I'll be able to make much more before Halloween.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Book Round-Up

 Flying Solo by Linda Holmes: Her second novel was just as enjoyable as her first, with wonderful characters, a sweet romance, a little mystery, and an unconventional happy ending.

Just One Look by Lindsay Cameron: A fun thriller about a young lawyer who, after spectacularly blowing up her life and career, has to start over as a contract attorney doing document review. The documents she reviews, which lead to a new, dangerous obsession, are a lot more exciting than the documents I reviewed when I was a lawyer.

The Bear Went over the Mountain by William Kotzwinkle: A laugh-out-loud-on-the-subway book about a bear who finds a manuscript in the woods and decides to get it published. It's a satire not only of academia and publishing, but humanity, too.

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova: Córdova's short story was one of the only good ones from Toil and Trouble, so I was excited to read its expansion into a novel filled with family legacies, art, magic, and resilience.

The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie by Rachel Linden: This was a disappointment. The protagonist, stuck in her life, is given three magic lemon drops that allow her to live out a day where she has made different choices in the past. She was far too passive and martyrish, though, and the resolution was a bit too pat. A far better novel about regrets and "what ifs" is Matt Haig's The Midnight Library.

Friday, October 7, 2022

Calico Cats

 My latest lap quilt:

It's very wrinkled, because while I waited days -- DAYS -- for the rain to stop so I could take a good picture, one of my cats claimed it. Fittingly.

The cat head pattern was from ... actually, I don't remember, and the pdf I have has no metadata. The calico fabrics, except for the border, are from the Little House on the Prairie fabric collection. The leftover squares (it was a "layer cake," meaning a set of 10-inch squares) I used for the back:

The quilting was very basic, which about all I can handle on a quilt this size -- in the ditch quilting between the blocks, diagonally through the nine-patches, an outline around each cat, and a very wide zigzag along the borders. I tried to do a swirl design instead of the zigzag, but although it seemed so simple to do in my head it was a disaster in execution. Sigh.

My husband and kids have worn out the other lap quilts I made, so this one is just for me!*

*And the cat.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Book Round-Up

The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd: This was a fascinating premise -- what if phantom settlements on maps could become real? -- but a mediocre execution. Too many of the characters made inexplicable or just plain dumb decisions, and it was far too easy to figure out the bad guy. A disappointment.

An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed by Helene Tursten: A second set of stories about a murderous octegenarian from Sweden. The stories suffered slightly by trying to show us how she became so murderous, but they were delightful nonetheless. And I adore the book design!

The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey: Is it a re-read if I don't have any recollection of the first read? This is Tey's last story featuring Alan Grant and published posthumously. I wonder if she had planned for this to be the last Grant story, which might explain the bifurcated feel to the novel; the first half deals mostly with Grant's psychological recovery in the Scottish highlands of his youth, and it's not until the second half that the mystery-solving begins in earnest. Still, it's an enjoyable read, and I can add it to the list of disparate books that refer to the lost city of Wabar (see also: Declare).

Homicide and Halo-Halo by Mia P. Manansala: The second in the series, and as fun as the first. The writing wasn't as strong, but I appreciated Manansala's commitment to addressing the trauma the characters experienced in the first book, something rarely dealt with in cozy mysteries.

Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware: I've been a big fan of Ware's for a long time; Building Stories was an impressive reading experience. Jimmy Corrigan is an earlier work, stemming in part from Ware's own experience with his absentee father while, like the other work, also touching on almost-crippling loneliness. Ware's artistic talent is just as impressive, but the main story left me cold, perhaps because Corrigan is simply not as engaging as the protagonist of Building Stories, perhaps because, unlike Corrigan, that protagonist actually does things rather than just allowing things to happen to her. An earlier storyine, having to do with Corrigan's grandfather as a child, was touching and heartbreaking.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin's The City We Became is both a horror-tinged fantasy response to Lovecraft and a love letter to New York City. The city, you see, is on the verge of being born when the book opens, a process only a few cities go through, and even fewer cities survive. By the end of the first chapter, NYC has survived its birth, but its avatar, a homeless, queer artist, is now in a coma from battling a mysterious entity bent on destroying cities. NYC, however, is one of those rare living cities with multiple avatars, one for each borough in addition to the primary one. These five avatars -- Bronca, Brooklyn, Manny, Padmini, and Aislyn -- must come to terms with their new status, find each other, find the primary avatar, and defeat the Woman in White.

It's a standard quest for an epic fantasy, made deeper by focusing on the diversity of the city and arguing that the city's strength comes from that. Bronca is from the Lenape tribe, the first "residents" of the land, and fittingly she is both the oldest and the one with the most knowledge of what is going on. Brooklyn is a black woman, a former rapper (possibly the most popular style of music in the world, originating in African American neighborhoods in NYC) turned politician. Padmini is an immigrant, studying hard for her own version of the American Dream. Manny is brand new to the city, having arrived at Penn Station for a job right as the main avatar collapses. I was especially delighted at this touch; Some residents, particularly Manhattanites, tend to argue that anyone not born in the city doesn't count as a New Yorker. But this city would be nothing without the newcomers who arrive every day.

And then there's Aislyn, an Irish-American woman from Staten Island -- the most isolated borough, and the most conservative. Her life has been stunted by her abusive, racist father, and she is fearful of everything. Despite that, she's on the verge of venturing out into the rest of the city (something that could help her see the world is so much bigger, and better, than her father has taught her) when the Woman in White gets a hold of her and manipulates her fear (and her second-wave feminism) to stay home. This puts Aislyn in far more danger.

Unfortunately for her, Aislyn is blind to that danger. The turning point (which she fails to see) is when she refuses to consider the warnings her own mind is giving her, because she does not want to acknowledge that her understanding of the world could be wrong. Up until then she had been a somewhat sympathetic character, someone who had the potential to transcend her small-minded upbringing. But the refusal to challenge one's own assumptions, to admit one could be wrong about something, leads to all sorts of evil. As Aislyn herself will acknowledge someday in the future, "confirmation bias is a bitch."

In this way, by highlighting the strength that comes from diversity, Jemisin is responding directly to the overt racism, fear, and conservatism of Lovecraft. The Woman in White explicitly states that it's humanity's ability to learn from each other -- ideas, viewpoints, languages, cuisines -- that makes us so strong, and allows us to continue to develop as a species. This is true, as even a cursory review of history will show. Innovations happen when cultures mix, whether by immigration, conquest, war, or trade (some of these methods being better than others). The Woman's complaint is that this growth by humanity, specifically cities, eventually harms creatures in other universes. But late in the game we learn her true identity, revealing her to be a genuine hypocrite and calling into question her previous arguments. It will be interesting to see how this tension (growth that causes destruction) is resolved, if at all, in the sequel.

Which I can't wait to read.