Thursday, August 28, 2014

Winter Is Coming (Box Elder, SD)

I have been neglecting my blog...actually both blogs lately.  I think about them often and of my blogging friends, but I keep finding reasons not to be online.  It's a beautiful day and the sunshine is calling.  Soon it'll be cold and dreary so I must enjoy these warm dry days while I can, right?  Our cats agree especially Squirrel and Dusty.  They can spend all day outside.  But, that's not my only excuse.  I have done a lot of reading and listening to books this summer.
The Book of Life: All Souls, Book 3

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness is the third book in the All Souls Trilogy.  I have waited a long time for this book.  When I saw the publishing date for the third book, I decided to listen to the first two (A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of the Night) again.  I'm glad I did.  There is so much detail in Deborah's stories that I had forgotten quite a bit of the important hints that become very crucial in the last book.

If you like reading about vampires, witches, and daemons with a different twist then you will enjoy this fantasy search for a special alchemy book that holds the secrets that links all four beings or creatures.  My ears were plugged in constantly wondering what they would find in "Ashmore 782" and how the book would change them in the end.  Just to be clear....I am not a fan of most vampire books like the "Twilight" series.  I did read three of Anne Rice's Lestat series and the Mayfair Witches series when they were first published.

Deborah's story addresses deeper questions like how the creatures came to be and were they a dying breed.  There's plenty of our history mingled into the story along with taking a more science researcher's view of alchemy and the different creatures' DNA.  She also addresses how women/witches have fought and evolved their images over the centuries.  There is also the forbidden love between a witch - Diana and a vampire - Matthew, the support of both their families and friends.  The details are quite lengthy at times, but this just gives more dimension to the characters.   In all three books, the characters do a lot of traveling between Europe and the U.S., as well as, time-walking or as we know it time travel.

My favorite characters were not the main ones.  One was Matthew's nephew and vampire, Gallowglass is a Scotsman with a good sense for comic relief during stressful moment and good timing when he was needed at the most crucial moment.  I would love to hear his story someday.  Another favorite character was actually a house.  Diana's aunt lived in the old family Bishop home filled with family ghosts, of course.  It was the old house known as the Bishop House that had a mind of its own and was quite funny at times in the first book.  Closing doors, tossing items at people, or building a new room when it knew there was a guest arriving.  It always cracked me up when someone living there would ask "Are we expecting a guest because the house just added a new room.".  I was a little disappointed that the Bishop house wasn't quite itself in the third book.  It did manage to drive Diana's aunt crazy by playing Fleetwood Mac tunes all day.  Still, I loved spending my summer in Diana and Matthew's world.  I plan to listen to them again.  Links to Audio Version

The House at RivertonThe House at Riverton  by Kate Morton  If you like Downton Abbey, you will probably enjoy this book.  Except instead of the hearing the story from a family member, we see their life through the eyes and memories of a young House Maid and later Lady's Maid, Grace.  The story starts out with a movie scene script that leads us to 98 year old Grace being asked to remember that fatal night in 1924 when a young poet decides to kill himself in front of two sisters during a summer party.  A young American hopes to find out and tell the truth of what happened that fatal night.  Grace is the last living soul left to tell the story.  So, begins Grace's walk down memory lane back to 1914 when she first started working for and living among the rich with all their secrets, disappointments, and dreams.

I suggest reading this one.  I liked listening to the English narrator and found her quite relaxing to listen to, but she cannot do an American accent and heaven forbid when she tries to sound like a Texan!  They sounded like snobs with long drawn out vowels.  I would have preferred her English accent to her Texas accent since the story is being told by Grace.  Why not leave it sounding like Grace telling the story?  

I plan to read not listen to more books by Kate Morton.  I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the mystery, and the surprise twists that I did not see coming at the end.  Link to Audio version 

 Game of Thrones  Stark Family words:  "Winter is Coming".  "No One is Safe!" should be George R. R. Martin's words and I mean NO ONE!  I have never read a book or books where the main characters are just as likely to die as the faithful sidekick.  I have to admit that knowing this had me on pins and needles, often hyperventilating while flipping pages as fast as my eyes would allow me to read.  I worried throughout all five books for all my favorite characters.  Sad to say that quite a few are gone.  Curse George's Pen!  The worse part is that this is not the end of the series.  There are two more books to go, but I am ready for a break.  This will give me some time to get my blood pressure down again!

So, about the books.  There are so many characters in this series that I'm happy to say there is a family chronicle for each House.  There are four top families: King Robert's House Baratheon, House Stark, House Lannister, and House Targaryen with many, many more.  It can be confusing at time and hard to keep the characters/family/country straight, so I did refer to this section quite often.

This is a fantasy set in times of medieval Kings, Lords, Ladies in Waiting, and Knights on quests.  It is Camelot's dark side...a very dark side filled with many unusual creatures and people like skin-walkers, Wizards, dragons, huge wolves known as direwolves, and then there are the walking dead - the Others who come with the cold of winter.   There is a lot of fighting, battles, 'off with his/her head' moments, and well, it can be a little bloody at times, but not as graphic as the HBO series.  Could be that my imagination doesn't get as graphic and yet, I could visualize, smell, and feel the moment thanks to George's wonderful descriptions of how a room was designed and decorated or what and how food was being served or someone's clothing.

I really liked the first three books.  I found the last two books harder to read.  Part of the reason was the loss of some of the characters.  The last two books were actually one book and had been split by characters instead of by time.  From the very first book, each chapter is written in a character's view which is great except that almost every chapter ended in a cliff-hanger.  Was the character still alive?  What or who did he/she see?  So, many of my favorite characters were not in the fourth book and that left me wondering what had happened to them.  Every once in awhile, there would be a hint or rumor of what was happening to a character, but nothing confirmed.  Talk about tossing us a crumb once in awhile to keep our interest so you cannot skip #4 no matter how frustrating.  Reading #5 wasn't much better.  It felt like the characters were floundering around or maybe I'm just not happy with what is happening.  I can only hope that George will take a little pity on his fans and let some of the characters live or finish more quests or finally have a few reunions or get rid of someone we all despise.....

On The Cutting Board
I'm working on more Happy Campers.  I decided to make a pile of ready to embroider sets for this winter.  Setting up the right fabrics and designs take time, not to mention, a lot of space.  For the past week, I have had piles of fabrics spread out across our bed with the kitchen setup as the ironing station, a chair filled with old and new designs, and the dining table became the scattered thoughts' area or design center with all sorts of papers, light box......yea, the list goes on and on....
Here are four I started to work on and then decided that I should just work on cutting out more campers and worry about embroidering them later.
I have lost count as to how many I have prepped like the ones above.  I probably have close to twenty ready for this winter.  Oh, I also have a few wall hangings, but only one quilt to work on during the winter.   I heard people are already working 50 hour weeks, so I'll be amazed if I get through most of my planned projects before January.  Although, I have found that the more stressed I am, the more I sew.  I might run out of projects instead....well, I can dream, can't I?  :)
A couple of postings ago, I showed a picture of eight finished Happy Campers.  Well, I'm down to six.  Yep, I sold two without listing them.  That was a good feeling since I have not been working very hard to get people to view my shop lately.  I just hope this luck holds out when I return in January.

Okay, back to prepping or maybe I should decide on another quilt or two...hmmm
Happy Quilting!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Only Two Weeks Left (Hot Springs, SD)

We are down to our last two weeks here.  We will leave after Labor Day weekend.  Usually I am counting the days until we leave.  I blame my travel bug for that antsy feeling to get on the road again, but it did not show up this time.  Our stay here has been pleasant and our co-workers have been great.
On The Cutting Board
This will probably be my last order for this year.  I will not be listing my new projects or renewing the old ones until next year.  I have decided to close the shop while we are working at  I will open the shop back up in January.  Between 40 to 60 hour weeks, it will be very hard to find time to mail orders.  I do plan to keep sewing during the winter, so please stop by to see what I am working on this winter.
I finished this custom order today for a friend.  I might make a couple of more Happy Campers in this shape and a few in the shape of Class A motorhome (like ours) for next year's listings.
I was a little worried about the deep inward curve puckering from the stiff fabric when I sewed the layers together.  It came out so much better than I had hoped for.  Nice and flat.
I plan to spend the next two weeks putting together projects for this winter.  I need to cut out more mug rugs and mark them for embroidering.  I have a few wall hangings, but I would love to add to the pile.  Oh yes, I should also put together a couple of quilt kits for those energetic evenings when I feel like sewing.
Happy Quilting!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sweet Dreams (Hot Springs, SD)

Well, I can't believe it!  I have sold 100 item through Etsy.  Wow!  To think when I first opened my shop, I really did not think I would sell more than a couple of items before I would get discouraged and close my shop. 
 My customers have been wonderful with their reviews, but I have also been seeing quite a few comments that my photos are not doing my hand work justice.  Sooo, I'm working on getting at least one close-up of each item.
You can now do a thread count on the fabric and see every single stitch.  I'm not sure if this will be a good thing, but I'll post one macro for each item listed.
The Sweet Dreams quilt is finally finished!  A year or so in the making and I am very sad to see it done.  I found the small embroidery projects fast and fun on those evenings when I did not have the energy to think out a complicated project.  I might have to make another one.  Although, I do have the Snowman collection to embroider.  Maybe I should work on that one first.
I took a photo of all the embroidered blocks.   I have added a new page at the top of my blog with all the photos from the quilt.  When I list it, I will offer the link so people can look at all the cute critters.  I probably should do at least one close-up so an interested buyer can count my stitches.
I started working on a custom order for a friend.  Her sister loves her motorhome and travels part-time with her family.  Her motorhome is very long so I had shorten the length so it would fit on paper and I made it taller.  I will use the dark pink floral for the backing.  
The light green will be the motorhome.  I haven't decided if the dark teal or the light pink will be used for the doors.  Or maybe, I should look for a different light pink to match better.  What do you think?
Well, back to the drawing board!
Happy Quilting!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

How High Is The Water, Momma? (Hot Springs, SD)

I barely got setup to sew a border onto this bunny quilt when the park's flood siren went off.  We thought that was a little strange since the sky had cleared up after a heavy rain/hail storm and the grounds was starting to dry out.  Campers were busy building fires and getting meals ready.  It was turning into a nice evening.
Dan called the ranger and soon the ranger was calling back to say that they would be evacuating low lying campsites!  Wow, really??  Apparently the rain had caused a flash flood from a connecting canyon and it was on its way to our area.  While Dan spread the news to start packing, I went out back to look at the stream behind our motorhome.
campers packing in a hurry
Well, the small stream was now a fast moving little river.  I never see the water from our site, but I could see it quite clearly at that moment!  The head ranger had all the campers and day use people out within a couple hours.  Some of the road was already covered in 6 inches of water and still rising.
fire pit is still smoking from the campers
We did not have to worry about moving since our site sits up high enough, but we did pack up our outside items just in case of more heavy rains.
20 ft below and behind our site
Gosh, this is the first time the campground has been so quiet!  We wandered around picking up some trash that was left behind and watched the water level.  Then I got that song by Johnny Cash stuck on repeat in my head - "How high is the water, Momma? Well, it's 5 feet high and risin'!"  Well, we did not have to worry about the water rising too much.  The photo below shows the highest point.  Not too bad for us or for the park.
road to wildlife area
They opened up the road gates this morning.  The day use area is back in business, but the campground only has one camper so it will be another quiet evening for us.  You know what?....I think I'll get that border done tonight.
Happy Quilting!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Driving Down Memory Lane - Sturgis 1998 (Hot Springs, SD)

We drove to Rapid City last Friday.  We were seeing quite a few early arrivals with their loaded down motorcycles on the road heading for Sturgis.  The annual Sturgis Motorcyle Rally started on Monday, August 4.  Seeing all the travelers brought back memories of our trip to Sturgis in 1998 so I thought I would share a few photos and memories.
 A quick rest from icy roads and photo op in the Colorado Rockies
Far right:  Dan and I
We planned our trip with two other couples and riders from Albuquerque. One couple rode double while the other two rode their own Harleys.  I had spent almost a year learning to ride my own motorcycle - a Yamaha Virago 350, so we could have more space for packing tents, sleeping gear, and clothes.  My bike wasn't as powerful as the smallest Harley, but I had no problem keeping up with them.  I also found this more entertaining to drive my own motorcycle than to ride on the back with Dan.  Although, it was hard to look around and view the country side as we drove from Albuquerque, NM to Sturgis, SD (around 800 miles one way).

The weather did not want to cooperate.  We ran into hail, heavy rains, ice covered mountain roads, and one mud filled road along with high winds, but we made it all in one piece with no incidents.  Funny, we are having about the same weather this time too.  We had over an inch and a half of rain last night from a thunderstorm that shook our motorhome and had our cats sitting wide-eyed.   
Devil's Tower, WY before the downpour blocked our view
Dan had reserved a campground between Sturgis and Rapid City near the highway.  The campground claimed it was a couple of miles from the highway exit.  We thought it meant 'away from' the highway too.  No, that was parallel which means we could see and hear the highway all night long.  That turned out to be no problem after a day of activities with eating and drinking too much, I don't think a single one of us had a problem going to sleep at night.
staying dry was a challenge for the first part of the week
With overcast skies and threat of more rain, the guys setup the camp by circling our three tents with a makeshift awning to keep the center dry.  This worked well once the sun came out giving us some shade and relief from the humid heat.
Welcome to Sturgis
Once we started touring around the Black Hills and the Rally, I decided to park my bike and ride with Dan.  I did not want to miss a thing!  I think I gave myself whiplash from rubbernecking to view people and bikes.  So much to see and so little time.  Crowds everywhere.  Sounds of music, smells of food.... times it was almost overwhelming so we would head out to the Black Hills for a quiet ride and serene views of wildlife except the buffalo were running down the road the day we drove through.  We don't know if it was all the noise from the bikes causing them to run or if someone told them it was dinner time.  Either way, it got a little iffy with us being so exposed to the huge critters.  We had heard that it wasn't unusual to have a buffalo flip a motorcycle with its driver.
Buffalo Jam
All in all, we had a great time and have some wonderful memories.  Would I do it again?  Traveling exposed to the elements on a motorcycle was fun when I was younger, but  I have become a creature of comfort.  I like traveling with our own bathroom and kitchen with a solid roof that doesn't leak when it rains.  I love sleeping in a bed that doesn't deflate during the night leaving us to wake-up on the cold hard ground with stiff backs.  I will stick with our home on wheels.

I'm almost done with all of the new Happy Campers and the Sweet Dreams quilt.  I'll try to post some photos when I get ready to list them on Etsy.
Happy Quilting and Safe Travels to All!

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