Tag Archives: books

Last year in books.

I am a part of a book club with 10 or so other friends, and 2014 was our second year together.

At the beginning of each year we all nominate 4 books, we each get one shoe-in (although everyone has absolute veto power), then we discuss and vote on the rest.  Each month a different member is the host; they feed us and we drink and have lively conversations.

I spent 4 years reading almost nothing but classics, with a special affinity for Russian literature.  This group has made me read books I never would otherwise and I love that!

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My thoughts, in the order in which we read them:

“Pale Fire” by Vladimir Nabakov — N/A — I did not make it very far into this book.  It felt a little tedious at the time, though I’d love to still read it one of these days.

“The Interestings” by Meg Wolitzer — ★☆☆☆☆ —  This book was anything but interesting.  It partly hinges on the idea that one of the main characters is “the funny one” but she is not, which makes the rest of it kind of fall apart.

“A Super Sad True Love Story” by Gary Shteyngart — ★★★☆☆ — I kept waiting for this book to get super sad, and it never really does.  But in the meantime, it’s an amusing and interesting idea of the future, including the over-saturation of technology and obsession with beauty and youth.

“Oryx and Crake” by Margaret Atwood — ★★★★☆ —  I loved this book.  It’s the first of the MaddAddam trilogy, which I quickly read all of.  It’s an interesting and strangely beautiful idea of the future including the propagation of diseases to assist natural selection.

“Salt: A World History” by Mark Kurlansky — ★☆☆☆☆ —  This book was so boring.  It seems like it wouldn’t be so difficult to write about history in a compelling way (Jared Diamond and Erik Larson do it very well!) but this book definitely did not.

“The Lowland” by Jhumpa Lahiri — N/A —  I didn’t read this book; it was just one of those months.  But it’s still waiting for me on my bedside table!

“Who Fears Death” by Nnedi Okorafor — ★★★★★ — This was my second favorite book of the year. I didn’t finish it in time for that month’s meeting, so parts of the ending were spoiled for me but I plowed through it soon afterwards and loved it.

“The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P” by Adele Waldman — ★★★☆☆ —  This book was entertaining but didn’t have a lot of depth.  Well, it delved into the mind of a man in his playboy prime but in a way that, as a girl, was very disheartening.

“The Witches of Eastwick” by John Updike — ★★☆☆☆ — I didn’t totally finish this book because I got so bored, but made it far enough through to judge it.

“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor — N/A — I didn’t read this either, even though it was a short story and would have taken no time at all.  I bought it in an anthology with all of her short stories and I hope to read them soon.

“Battling Boy” by Paul Pope — ★★☆☆☆ — We have read graphic novels in December for the last two years.  I find myself reading through them so quickly that I hardly pay attention to the illustration, which is the best part of the book.

“Burial Rites” by Hannah Kent — ★★★★★ — This was my favorite book of the year, hands down.  Though it’s a fairly bleak story set in northern Iceland in the 1820s, Hannah’s writing style is so smooth and lyrical, it was hard to put it down. I have had a fascination with Iceland for a long time and I very much want to visit.

We are starting off this year with another Margaret Atwood novel called “The Handmaid’s Tale.”  At our next meeting we will be deciding on books for the rest of the year and welcoming a couple new members.  Do you have any recommendations?

I love keeping track of books on Goodreads.  Find me there and be my friend!

Snippets of life.

Where did I go the last couple weeks?   No where, just not here apparently.

I don’t have any big finishes or anything quite yet but I wanted to share a few snippets of life around here lately.

Remember I set a goal to bake a loaf of bread every week this year?  Well week two was pizza crust and may I say, it was amazing.  The recipe I used, from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day, made enough for five 10″ pizzas so I used two and froze the rest. Mine, pictured above, had roasted garlic, olive oil, bacon, caramelized onions, and fresh basil, with mozzarella, sharp cheddar, and feta cheese.  Yum!

I spent a gift card at Marshall’s and got, among lots of other kitchen things, a lovely green Le Creuset pan into which, I promptly made blondies.  I added whiskey and instant espresso to the batter and seeing as they spread so thin, it’s possible I ate twice as much :)

This is quilt three of three for Catherine’s nieces.  I finished sewing the binding on the front today and will complete it tonight in front of the tv (Castle and Parks & Rec have returned!) and then it will be in the wash for all three followed by a photo shoot with Cait in a couple weeks!

I got a sweet Groupon deal for a portable iPod speaker system that a friend of mine had recommended.  My computer speakers just don’t get loud enough when cooking or washing dishes and this is a great solution!  It came with a small bag and strap but I think I’ll definitely be needing a much prettier one!

I actually made this a couple months ago but never showed it.  It’s only 8″ square (instead of 24″) but now I’m not sure what to do with it!  I think I might streamline it a little and  use some in a larger quilt.  I like these as minis!

When I started rearranging my studio a few months ago (no, I’m still not done :-/ ), I took down a couple pieces of beloved artwork so I knew they needed to be hung elsewhere.  So now they adorn the hallway and I’m able to see them multiple times a day, and a couple of them when I’m laying in bed.  The three on the left are done by the lovely Laura Lashley, the middle and top right are by Liz Simmons, and the bottom right is by Molly Bolton.

Remember when I mentioned a tattoo I got being part of a larger art project?  Well the show is up this month at the Electric Moustache gallery and Evan did such a fabulous job!  He took photographs of all of us that participated and our tattoos and made a video loop of our horses in motion.  You can see the video here.  It’s based on a series of photographs by Eadweard Muybridge in 1877 who set out to prove whether or not when a horse runs, all it’s feet leave the ground at once.  Through the photographs, he pioneered stop motion animation. I love the tattoo and the show and I’m so happy to be a part of this project!

I’ve been feeling the need to sew clothes lately.  I’m on the search for an easy, versatile top that I could make a lot of.  This is Simplicity 3835, a Built by Wendy pattern that I had a lot of hope for.  I’ve made the shorter dress with the ties before and it fit super awkwardly but I hoped the shirt would be better.  And it’s not really.  This picture actually isn’t bad but I kind of just feel like I’m wearing a bag :(  There are darts in the back but it doesn’t give it enough shape.  I could either shirr the waist or I could easily take it in but then I’d have to put in a zipper… I plan to work with it and see if I can’t make it better.

I ordered myself a couple things!  I love getting books in the mail.  I got a red sketchbook because I’d like to start drawing/sketching again this year (I haven’t done it since 11th grade), Denyse Schmidt Quilts (I didn’t realize until looking through it recently how much I love almost all the quilts in it!), and Last Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts.

Speaking of which, I’m excited to tell you that my friend Cait and I are embarking on a challenge in 2012 to make a project a month from LMP+QG!  We have designated 12 projects and will be blogging about them the last Thursday of each month.  I very rarely buy quilting books because I feel like I have to be drawn to a majority of the projects, so this is a good prodding for me to try some things I might not, otherwise.  After flipping through a few books that Cait owns, we settled on this one because it has a range of projects, and because of the iconic Color Wheel Quilt.  (That’s when I also realized I was drawn to a lot of DS’s projects so I threw that in my shopping cart, too.)  Can’t wait to show some things off!

Christmas weekend.

This Christmas was pretty nice.  It’s wasn’t as snowy and awesome as last year but it was a weekend filled with sleep and cooking and a couple new things.

Saturday night I made pretzel rolls

and used them for sandwiches with sauteed sausage and onions and they were delicious!  The pretzel bread was so easy, I want to make them all the time.

Having started them the night before, I baked  no-knead pumpkin rolls on Sunday morning that were so good.  The recipe made 17 rolls; so what if I ate two for breakfast yesterday and today and one for dessert?  There’s no time like the holidays to be a fat kid :)

For Christmas dinner I made garlic schmeared rosemary chicken, butternut squash risotto with sage and bacon, crispy parmesan asparagus sticks, Martha’s trusty baked macaroni & cheese, and garlic pull apart bread (based on this recipe).

The risotto didn’t really work, I think it just lacked seasoning and I wish the squash had been more finely cut.  The asparagus wasn’t very good either.  I didn’t get pre-seasoned Panko breadcrumbs, which might have made the difference.  But all in all, the deliciousness of the chicken, bread, and pasta made up for it!  And I was pretty proud of myself for making three yeast breads in 24 hours!

One of my goals for Christmas day was to learn how to crochet granny shapes (hexagons in this case).  I pinned this photo on Pinterest months ago so following the tutorial, I made a couple and I love them!

I’m just using some Bamboo Ewe yarn I got with coupons at JoAnn’s and I thought I would stick with these same four colors the entire time but I might throw in a couple more along the way, keeping the grey outer ring a constant.  Three down, only 78 more to go!

Remember the photo I posted of the wrapped books I received and were saving for Christmas morning?  Well I eagerly opened them and spent a couple hours just flipping through the pages.

My dad so kindly got me The Break Baker’s Apprentice, Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, and The Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt so I can join in on the quilt along next month!  I’m so excited about all these things.  I was really inspired by a sentiment Amanda talked about when we met at the Sewing Summit.  She talked of her desire to live a handmade life and I absolutely want to do the same thing.  Any small thing I can quilt to use around the house, making more of my own food, using my hands to knead bread and mend things; that sounds like such a rewarding life.

Oh and of course, how can I forget that I finally joined Instagram!  I love seeing everyone’s photos from there but hate that you have to have particular Apple products to use it.  I have a Mac but nothing else that would work, until Friday when Marcus brought home an iPad, a year end gift from his boss!  I won’t be carrying it around with me so I’ll only be posting things around the house but I still get to “like” and comment on other people’s things.  My name is @kaitcetera and you should follow me!

With new toys comes the creation of new things to use with them.  I noticed the hunching problem when using it while sitting down so following Betty Crocker Ass’ tutorial, I made a handy iPad rest!

The fabric was one of the only home dec fabrics I have in my stash (Amy Butler Imperial Fans in forest from Nigella), and definitely the least “girly” one.  Marcus and I have a bit of an argument about what’s manly :) I bought 5 or so yards of a wood grain fabric I fell in love with a few years ago and used it heavily in his quilt (and lots of other projects) but he insists it’s not actually manly at all. I want to make an iPad case but he said he wanted it to be black and purely functional.   What’s the fun in that?

So instead, I finally made a lined drawstring bag from Jeni’s wonderful tutorial!  It really was so simple and the fabric combinations are endless so I’m sure there are many more in my future.  I used fabric from my stash: an unknown floral print, the aforementioned wood grain, a yellow DS Quilts print, and an off-white twill tape for the pulls.

Reading, listening, and watching #8

I was sick last weekend with a head/throat cold that was not fun.  I slept a lot and while I hardly read at all or listened to much music, I did watch a lot of things.  My newest love (obsession) is Parks & Recreation.  How have I not watched this show until now?!  I watched everything up ’til now in just a few days and I’m crazy about it.  They make me want to work in that office, live in a small Midwestern town, and be friends with Leslie Knope.  I’ve heard that Louis CK is coming back for 4 episodes which makes me happy because I like him but a little sad because I like Adam Scott (from Party Down, another favorite) so much.

I also watched a lot of movies like Bridesmaids (loved it), The Adjustment Bureau (liked it), The Lincoln Lawyer (liked it), Tree of Life (mostly liked it), Source Code (liked it), and Kick Ass (really liked it).

I’m still making my way through Frankenstein.   There is, in my opinion, a really annoying review of it on GoodReads that makes me wonder if we’re reading the same book  And the 73 people that like that review?  I guess honesty has it’s place and we all have our tastes.  Although I like it enough to have read it an a few days, it’s taken me over a month to read.  I’ve only really been reading before bed which means I make it through 2-5 pages and then I’m asleep.  Maybe when the quilting/creating slows down in March, I’ll have time to get sucked into a book.  I did get three books in the mail from my Dad.  I know exactly what they are but I still want something to open on Christmas morning!

Reading, listening, and watching #7

It’s still been way too long since I’ve gotten engrossed in a book. I want to find something I can’t put down, a reason to curl up in my papasan chair and do nothing but read for hours on end. Few things in life make me happier than a good book, my chair, a cup of tea, and a quilt. Though whether I’m engrossed or not, I can still have all those things, I suppose.  This last week I’ve been reading “The Pearl” by John Steinbeck and “Franny and Zooey” by JD Salinger.  I finished “the Pearl,” which was much different than other Steinbeck stories I’ve read, but no less entertaining.  Upon finishing that, I started a collection of short stories by Dostoevsky, beginning with “A Nasty Story,” which I’m definitely enjoying.

For some reason I’ve always had a hard time with short stories.  I have a harder time reading them than a good novel, even when written by my favorite authors.  I have a few collections (obviously) so I’m giving them a try while I wait for the next read that I can’t put down.

Which I just might have found.  While going to Knit One Smock Too on the north side of town, I had to park in front of what turned out to a used book store!  I have long thought we only had one, a large store that’s well organized but over priced (used paperbacks for $7-$11?!)  so I was pretty excited about it.  I headed right to the classics section and came away with this lovely stack.

I picked up “Dracula” first and I’m liking it so far.  I’m going to Kentucky for a week with Catherine and I’m going to take three books with me and hope it’s a relaxing enough vacation  to read a whole lot!

Anyway, we also started watching the Walking Dead and I really like it.  I’m usually not really into zombies and I definitely don’t like scary things but this show is much more about people and interpersonal relationships with zombies thrown in sometimes.  We zipped through the first season and are almost caught up with the current season.

Not a lot of music has been happening for me.  However, I’m seeing Beirut in Kentucky tomorrow and I’m really excited about it.  A friend did post their Tiny Desk concert today and I really enjoyed it.  (There are a lot of really neat concerts on there.)  I can’t figure out how to post the video here so go watch it!

Busy, busy.

I’ve been busy, busy, busy lately. I don’t feel like I have a whole lot to show for it but I’ve definitely been sewing a lot. I have a long arm date with Ursula and Lindsay this weekend so I’m trying to get as many tops done as I can (I’m hoping for three).

I’ve made all the kaleidoscope blocks so they need to be trimmed and sewn together. I’ve made some headway on my Modern Crosses quilt, though it isn’t the quick project that I was thinking it would be. I’ve cut some of my Habitat up but have yet to start sewing.

The Sewing Summit is in 10 days!! I am so excited about this trip. I can’t wait to meet all these bloggers I read and take some amazing classes.  There are a couple projects I’d like to finish before hand and maybe start a couple projects to take with me.  I’ve decided not to take my machine but I want to have plenty of things to keep my hands busy while I sit and chat.

I have been needing a wallet that could hold more than just my cards and a little cash so I found Noodlehead’s zippy wallet tutorial and whipped one up.  Looking at my fabrics, I found 10 combinations that I’d like to make.  I think I might have found a good Christmas gift!I finished “The Virgin Suicides” and started “In The Woods,” a book I remember seeing in the bookstore when it came out but got at the Mission for 25 cents.  It’s good so far, I wish I had more time to read it.  I started watching Mad Men this week and I like it.  I told Marcus yesterday that I don’t I-have-to-watch-the-next-episode-NOW love it, but after what I watched today, all I can think about it getting home to watch the next one.  It’s kind of like the Castle situation was, I know that at some point Don proposes to his kids’ nanny but he’s still married to Betty (Betsy?) at this point and I keep speculating as to whether she dies or they divorce (probably the latter).  If I keep watching at this rate, I’ll find out very soon.

Okay, back to work.

Reading, listening, watching, creating, #6

Sheesh, I should really try to do these more often.  It’s been since June!

I started reading “Geek Love” by Katherine Dunn on our beach vacation last month and only recently finished it.  It’s a story about a sideshow family that has been created by taking certain drug cocktails during pregnancy to produce children such as Arturo the “Aqua Boy” who has fins for arms and legs or Olympia the albino, hunchbacked dwarf.  It was unlike any story I’ve read before but really enjoyed it.

Now I’m reading “the Virgin Suicides” by Jefferey Eugenides.  I watched the movie again recently and having loved his second book, “Middlesex,” I thought I’d give this a try.  It’s a pretty easy read and so far I’m impressed how much like the book the movie was, though the book is much more… dingy.  I don’t know that that’s the right word but Sophia Coppola has a way of making everything kind of dreamy.  This story has more sadness and decay than the movie put forth.

I have been in love with the tv show Castle.  I first heard of it through my favorite podcast and then I was looking through a slideshow regarding the season premiers this fall, it was mentioned that season three ended with Castle telling Kate that he loves her after she gets shot.  If that wasn’t reason to try it out, I don’t know what would be.  But, now I’ve had three seasons to watch, knowing that eventually it gets to that point, which has kind of been driving me crazy.  In a fun way, of course.

It’s kind of a cheesy show about a writer, Rick Castle (Nathan Fillion), who, after consulting on a case where the killer murdered according to characters in his books, finds inspiration in Detective Kate Beckett and begins shadowing her while writing his new book(s) about Nikki Heat.  He makes a lot of bad jokes and they have, two seasons in, danced around their feelings for each other.  But I know an “I love you” comes eventually!

I haven’t really been listening to music much, honestly.  Having to DJ 6 hours of music at work every day makes me kind of sick of picking things out.  I still love Bon Iver’s record and am looking forward to getting Blind Pilot’s newest album but Castle has been my main entertainment.  Marcus and I did go see O’Death in Durham a couple weeks ago and it was such a good show.  It was at a small place called The Pinhook and they put on a good performance (I have a soft spot for bands that have both drummers and percussionists).

After a whirlwind few days with three finishes, it’s felt a little slow going around here.  I’ve continued to cut and press the plaid shirts.  The money I saved buying thrifted shirts, I’ve spent in time getting them prepped to be used.  I decided to change the layout a little bit and maybe use a combination of solids instead of just the quilter’s linen.  Not all the plaids are cut on the straight grain so I’m nervous the top will be really busy, not to mention all the bias edges.  Caitlin came over for a sewing date yesterday during which I finally finished cutting all the plaids and will hopefully cut out the linen triangles today.  She brought her Kona cotton challenge to bind which looks great!

Today.

Today is gorgeous, and taking it’s time. It’s wonderful.

It’s been in the mid-60s in the mornings so I’ve been trying to get in the backyard in my papasan chair for a while and enjoy it. I’m still reading “Geek Love” and really enjoying it. I’ve been thinking about getting a library card since I joined an online book club and won’t necessarily want to purchase all the books we might read.  We’ll see.  Otherwise, I might read “Franny and Zooey” by JD Salinger next.

I cut all the patterned fabrics for the Modern Crosses quilt today.  Seeing Caitlin‘s at the last guild meeting and a recent life change for a friend, I decided to make it.  I used all fabrics from my stash/scraps but I don’t know what color to do for the background.  Navy blue?  Grey?  Once I figure that out I’m sure the rest will come along pretty quickly.

I received my first ever Spoonflower fabric order today!  I made a quilt label design and got them printed up in a few different colors.  I’ll mainly use them for quilts I sell and will still embroider the special ones.  I have a few quilts to sew these onto right away!  I’m curious to see how these wash up.

I switched to decaf iced coffee today and just now I’m getting a really bad headache.  I hate being reminded of my addiction to caffeine.

I worked on a mini quilt today.  Nothing much more to say about that now…

Okay, summer can end now.

Vacation is over and we are back home. It was such a lovely week at the beach with good friends that it’s sad coming back to the real world.
We went to Carolina Beach, just south of Wilmington NC and stayed in the same house we did last year which is a block from the ocean. It was really hot most of the days (and nights) but we cooked, ate, played games, drank a lot, sat on the porch, slept, laughed… everything you want from a vacation.

The Fat Pelican, one of the coolest bars ever.

I only got in the water a couple times. I’ve never really liked swimming in the ocean, actually. I got taken down by a wave in Hawaii when I was 8 and to this day, it still stresses me out to be amongst waves. I did finally get out there on the fourth day and thankfully, we were able to be in a shallow spot behind where the waves broke, so I could relax a little and enjoy myself.

Sunrise.

I had set out with the goal of reading a book, doing a puzzle, and working on a quilt. I finished “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” one of my favorite books in high school (maybe even junior high?) and made a dent in “Geek Love” by Katherine Dunn, which I’m really enjoying so far (thanks for the recommendation Saylor!). I did not have a puzzle to take with me but there was plenty of Apples to Apples, Yahtzee, and Catch Phrase to go around. I had hoped to get my Single Girl quilt to the point where I could take it with me and begin hand quilting but that didn’t happen, so I grabbed my hexagons and made some headway (to be shown on Wednesday). I also crocheted a baby hat on the drive there, the cherub cheeked beanie.

We were told to bring linens so I brought our bed quilt, and though it turned out it wasn’t needed, it was a piece of home that made the bedroom cozy.

It’s hard to come back for work and all but it wouldn’t be a vacation if it lasted forever. I am now fully ready for fall to arrive and am looking into our next group trip possibility, a cabin in the mountains by a lake perhaps? Yes, please.