Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring Break Reading

In addition to traveling and shopping, I had time to lounge around and read during spring break. Here are some opinions and observations on the books I carried around last week.

Slumdog Millionaire
This is one of those instances (like Bridget Jones' Diary and The Notebook) where the screenwriter and film makers improved upon a book.

Originally titled Q&A, the concept of the book is unique and captivating. The execution, however, is choppy and puzzling. The novel read like a group of loosely connected short stories, which made it easy to put down after each chapter. About three quarters of the way through I decided not to pick it up again. Don't let this stop you from seeing the movie, though, because it's fantastic.

The Bright Forever
Lee Martin manages to keep his readers wondering and wavering. Just when I've decided to like a character, he or she says or does something to fall out of favor. This ability to create believable yin and yang for each character is noteworthy. The story and its characters orbit the twin concepts of innocence and guilt.

Reviewers have rightfully compared this piece to the classic Winesburg, Ohio, for the town is a collective character. Have patience with the story as it unfolds, and pay close mind to who narrates each chapter. It's a carefully crafted web of interconnected, small-town lives well worth your attention.

Sister Mine
Another Tawni O'Dell book with sassy spirits in sh!tty circumstances. Coal mining territory has also been a plot mine for O'Dell. I thoroughly enjoyed the interesting dynamics between the main character and E.J.

This author does a great job of portraying the ordinary, the impoverished, and the desperate with realism and respect. I liked it, but not as much as Coal Run. I look forward to her next book, and would like to read more about the author. From the bits and pieces of information I've found, she seems like quite an interesting woman.
Mmmmm. What's more decadent than ample time to read?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spring Break Summary

The liberation from grading papers has been more exhilarating than words can say. After a week off I feel capable of getting back to the classroom to buckle down and teach effectively before state End of Course Exams occur in late April.

How did I spend the week off?

Saturday - Tuesday: Driving over 1800 miles to tour New Orleans and the beaches of Biloxi, Mississippi and Destin, Florida. We played plenty in between the hours buckled up in the car. The afternoon at Henderson State Beach was idyllic, and the day spent with friends in Louisianna was restorative and companionable.

I also managed a 30 minute pit-stop at Hancock's of Paducah--the number one quilting store that I'd heard such great things about. Their inventory was enough to make a sewist salivate! I beautiful yardage by Alexander Henry, Heather Bailey, Moda, and other fabric designers.

Wednesday - Thursday: Bike riding, running, hiking, lunching with friends, and shopping! Bargains were found for many items that had long been on my wish list. Gorgeous, churchy-sounding wind chimes, a set of comfy and attractive patio furniture, mission style solar landscape lights and light fixtures for the front porch, and some clothing for the guys in my house. Once the wintery cold snap clears up, I'll get some photos of the patio and lights, but here's the Target ad. I swapped out the table for a glass-free model.

It's been a fun week. The only thing lacking has been down-time at home. Today, we'll stay home to watch the season four DVD set of Project Runway, sew, and work out.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Cutting the (electric) Cord

I'm leaving technology behind for a brief road trip. The laptop is staying home. No e-mail, no Facebook, no Etsy, no blog. Ahhhh. This time of year, the outdoors beckon sweetly and I spend less time plugged in anyway.

My four year old and I will be visiting a high school-era friend and her family, and exploring their region: New Orleans. There are so many other places I'd like to go while in the south, but it looks like the weather will not be nice enough to make it worth staying more than a day or two. Besides, all of the beach campsites are booked. Believe me, I checked every state park on the gulf!

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Bibliophile's Disappointment

I respect author Anna Quindlen for her chameleonic writing abilities. Her books sport fresh characters and settings, with altered writing modes to suit them. While remarkable, this trait can make it more difficult to maintain a following. People do, after all, enjoy some measure of predictability beyond talent.

The characters, likable yet held at too much of a distance, were without all but minor and excusable faults. The conflict was merely an abstract sense of ennui that did not manifest concern. The NYC setting was meant to breathe vitality into the story, but the verbose musings about wealthy Manhattan lifestyles grew wearisome.

If you're looking into Quindlen, try Black and Blue or Blessings instead.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Motherhood Is...

I remember how I used to cry when I heard the song "Apron Strings," by Kate Bush. First, the tears were for my eldest sister-in-law, whose craving for a child emanated tragically. Later, the tears welled for my own lonely womb. Now the emotions conjured are a combination of these memories, joy at the luck of all the parents I know, and tenderness for those who have the longing to become parents.

The charmingly optimistic Montessori educator, sewist, and expectant mother who blogs as Sew Liberated has begun a series of posts with guest writers defining motherhood. Since this role tends to usurp all other aspects of my life and personality, and since it's a privilege and fascination for me, I'm enjoying the entries.

The first, succinct entry is by the marvelously creative Maya Made ,and reads:
Motherhood is... finding balance
~ when to hold your child's hand and when to let it go
~ when to listen to others' advice and how to hear your own wisdom
~ how to give to yourself, while you provide so much to everyone else
~ learning how to play and still get work done
~ learning how to get work done and still play
~ figuring out what is too much and what is just enough
~ flexibility vs. structure
~ spontaneity vs. routine

Motherhood is a bit like walking on a tightrope and balance is what keeps us putting one foot in front of the other.

Keep an eye on Sew Liberated's blog for further installments (there's a new one today!) on a topic near and dear, yet difficult to pinpoint with words.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


No book reviews or new sewing projects this week. I've had my eye on some sweet fabric, and I've borrowed a few enticing titles from the library, but can't afford the time for such pleasures until I finish evaluating a giant stack of essays about the book Night, by Elie Wiesel. My goal is to finish before the weekend.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Fashion Show Rebel

A friend of mine will be attending a fashion show / autism fundraiser next weekend and commissioned a "trailer chic" bag to carry. To mock the fashion industry, and to make the event more fun, she plans to wear all black, with fuschia accessories and shoes, and to carry a life-like stuffed puppy in this purse.

I hope she finds this bag suitable-- she didn't give me many parameters to work within. (Such freedom is almost more worrisome than explicit instructions.)

This was my first time working with vinyl, which kept things interesting. The pattern is by RileyProject and was clear and simple, though the shape requires much pinning.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Life I Imagined

Earlier this week, LenoxKnits proprietor, PLenox, blogged about the fantastic upcycled sweater creations of KatWise.

(Photo property of KatWise)

I was drawn to the de/reconstructed fashions in her shop, and immediately read through her web site. This woman, close to my age, has been living a life very near what I imagined for myself as a teen.

Along the way, passions more sedate than travel squelched my wanderlust and I've been settled in one region for quite some time now. My life is satisfying and idyllic, yet reading this gave me some pangs closely related to those I've been writing about in fiction lately.

I urge you to check out this page of her web site. It's a trip!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

An Author Worth Your Time

Last winter I read Backroads, Tawni O'Dell's and was riveted. Today, I finished another by her: Coal Run.

I commend O'Dell for her ability to portray the ordinary, the poor, and the unexpected sages we all know. While I felt there were some inconsistencies, the characterization was still wholly effective. Afterall, real people aren't always consistent either. Val and Ivan stand out the most, but Jess, Bobbie, Jack, Jolene, Eb, and the rest were so lifelike I felt I could turn around and catch a glimpse of them whenever I put the book down.

O'Dell is able to instill, and build upon, a sense of dread throughout the chapters of her books that keeps me turning pages even though I don't want the story to end.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Tees and More Tees

There are a few more shirts in my Etsy shop this week. I'm looking forward to setting up shop at a festival this summer or fall so that I can gauge reactions to the clothing I've been working on.