Saturday, November 26, 2016

The long promised and late delivered book post:

It's been awhile since I did a book post, even though I promise one in just about every post this year.  My apologies.....just that: an apology, no excuse.

I read a lot.  Last night I finished my 59th book of 2016.  Much of what I read is well covered in popular fiction and nonfiction categories, but I do read some little known items that I come across.  It seems that it would be good to share with you some of those little known works so you can ferret them out for yourselves.

First on my list of little known but well loved books from this year is The Bowl With Gold Seams (Amazon link) by Ellen Prentiss Campbell.  This book piqued my interest when a fellow book club member recommended it because it is a piece of WWII historical fiction that takes place about 40 miles from where I grew up.

The Bedford Hotel located in Bedford Springs, Pa. is the setting for this re-imagination of actual events during WWII when a down on it's luck historic hotel was used first as a training facility for inductees into the navy, then later as an internment camp for the Japanese Embassy delegation captured during the fall of Berlin.

The story is told by Hazel Shaw, an imagined woman from Bedford Springs as the country entered WWII.  As a recent high school graduate, her clerical skills gain her the position as secretary to the man placed in charge of the hotel's internment activities by the State Department.  During that time Hazel's father dies, and she is widowed when her high school sweetheart husband is killed in the war. In her emotional turmoil she befriends one of the Japanese families interred at the hotel and mentors their adolescent daughter.

Much later when faced with a moral dilemma as a head of Quaker academy, she attends a conference and meets the woman she had supported as an adolescent.

The bowl with gold seams which gives title to the book refers to a piece of kintsugi pottery, which is porcelain bowl intentionally broken then mended with a golden glue.  The resultant piece is revered as more beautiful and more valuable than the original....what is broken becomes more beautiful.

Hazel has a such a bowl on her mantel in her adult home, it's provenance provides the story of Hazel's involvement with the Japanese family.  It also serves as a metaphor for one of the many themes in the story.

The language is beautiful, the complex characters are well drawn with keen psychological insight. And the story reveals to us a forgotten chapter of WWII history.
The Bedford Hotel is a real place, closed for about 30 years, it is now reopened as a luxury hotel.
I'm surprised that this book has not received more attention.

Second on this list is Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash (link to Washington Post review).  This is the third Ron Rash book I've read.  His writing is placed firmly in southern Appalachia and his use of language invites you to be immersed in this world.

Above the waterfall is the pristine place where the treasured and dwindling brook trout live.  The primary characters in the novel are Les, a soon to be retired small town sheriff, and Becky, an emotionally damaged park ranger.  The chapters alternate between the two voices, with Becky's chapters being closer to poetry than prose.  They are two lonely people, struggling to deal with haunted pasts.

The story is a bit of a "who dunnit" when the waters above an elite resort are poisoned, killing the environmental disaster as well a financial one for the resort.  Entwined in the story is meth addiction & production, elder & child abuse and neglect, coming to terms with one's past, suffering and redemption.

I admit to reading this story about the same time I got sucked into the Longmire series on Netflix.  Les and Walt Longmire share similar characteristics including a receptionist/dispatcher named Ruby.  I haven't read any of Craig Johnson's Longmire series so can't compare the writing between the two authors.

The third book, Loving Eleanor by Susan Wittig Albert, is historical fiction and is likely to be eclipsed by the recent nonfiction release Eleanor & Hick by Susan Quinn.  I haven't read the latter, so can't offer a fair comparison.  What I can say is that this is a story worth knowing about.  First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was an amazing lady who did an enormous amount of work in the area of social justice during her husband's political life and after his death.  Her relationship with Lorena Hickok, as well as other questionable intimate relationships outside of her marriage, reveal a woman who was emotionally starved most of her life.  That she exhibited such strength and character in her public life is truly amazing to me.

The next book I would recommend is a National Book Award Finalist, so does not fit my little known category.  But it is certainly one of my best loved books:  News of the World by Paulett Jiles (link to NYT review...which references Ron Rash..imagine that!)  I'll spare you my review.  But I will tell you that I was thoroughly charmed by both Captain Kidd and little Johanna and found myself cheering them on through their adventures across Texas.

In case you are wondering, the 59th book completed last night was The Wonder by Emma Donaghue (link is to my LibraryThing review)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Been spinning and weaving

One of the things that I did earlier this year is beta testing of TempoTreadle on my Macomber Loom.  I have never had the desire to have a computer control my looms.  I like working with computers, and I like messing around with looms, but have no desire to interface to two.  Yet, I really would like to have less treadling and threading errors in my weaving life.....not something to run the loom, just something to double check my work.  That's exactly what TempoTreadle does.

Here is the first project completed once we had the latest verision of TempoTreadle installed and running:

The design is from the fall 2014 issue of Handwoven magazine, titled Cornucopia Placemats.  There are 1035 picks in each placemat.  There are 4 placemats with no treadling errors in an overshot pattern.  I call that success.  Since the color patterning is in the ground cloth, I programmed the TT to let me know when it was time to change colors.  Perfect!

The TempoTreadle also helps with threading by displaying 5 threads at a time while you are threading.  There is a feature to help with tying up the loom.  And if you establish your beat, you can use the TT to help square your overshot pattern.

I've also recently finished this stole:

The warp is handspun alpaca and the weft is Halcyon's 2/12 silk.  I used the TempoTreadle for this 8 harness point twill variation too.  I love the hand of's very drapey and will be very warm.

Obviously, blogging has not been at the top of my to do list over this past year.  But I am still making and creating.  So I guess I'll post about what's been completed every now and then.
Thanks for looking in....

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Wild things

Last post I promised a report on some of the things going on in the natural world around us. On Father's Day we had a "Teddy Bear's Picnic":

This is the second bear to show up while I was inside cooking dinner and dh was having a little refreshment  outside.  It was 90 degrees outside and she looked as suprised to see us as we were to see her.  Apparently it was too hot to run away (as the previous bear did) so she just sat down (2nd photo) and stared back at us while we were looking at her from the cabin door.  Eventually she got up and walked back into the woods.  I would have preferred that she was less curious and more scared.

So an hour later, after dinner, we were sitting outside enjoying the evening and heard some rustling around behind the woodshed.  Dh and I looked at one another and:
She just walked right past us.....
and strolled on out the drive.

We suspected that there were bears up at the cabin, so we've been very careful to not have food outside anywhere around the cabin.  Needless to say, we will be even more careful now.

Meanwhile in suburbia, I am back to buying parsley for a couple weeks:

This is the caterpillar stage for the black swallowtail butterfly.  Every year they come and denude my parsley during the last couple weeks of June.  I used to think they were tomato worms and picked them off.  Then I searched on Professor Google a couple years ago and learned their true identity. I've since learned that if I leave them and the parsley alone, in about two weeks they are gone, the parsley recovers, and Kroger sells a couple of extra bunches of parsley to me.  Of course, I never know whether they complete their metamorphosis or if the the many birds around here make a feast of them.  Perhaps I should set up a nursery/incubator next year as the linked article suggests.

And those caterpillars have not been the only ones spinning up some cocoons:

This is some yak/silk that was a birthday gift.  There's a bout 1000 yds of yarn from the 4 oz. of top.  The plan is to weave with it, but not before I spin a bunch of other yak/silk I've received as gifts.

And the spindles have been busy too:

Both cops are cormo, the white was spun on my Jenkin's Aegean spindle and the brown was spun on the Kuchulu.  Don't they look like a hot fudge sundae?

Next up:  books.....