happypathbookclub

our book club reads happy books!

Leap!

First things first – I missed last month’s book club. Boo me! (and there’s a very good chance I will be miss this month’s meeting to – I have to work, I think. Boo me again!)

Last month’s book was “The Divorce Papers” by Susan Rieger. I had  a very hard time getting into this book and the details of it just didn’t stay with me. My biggest recollection about it was skimming (and when I say skimming ,I mean skipping) through all the boring (to me) legal documents. I am really curious to see how everyone else liked it – what was the consensus – thumbs up or thumbs down?

So on to unfinished business. In my last (long ago!) post, I hinted that I had picked a word for 2015. For about 6 months or so, I have had this postcard propped up on a shelf in my sewing room.

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The  postcard is an advertisement for a fabric line and  was included in a package I received of fabric purchases.

I must admit, when I first read it my initial thought was, “that’s not true!” A picture of an empty swimming pool and disastrous consequences of leaping  popped into my mind! But I knew that wasn’t the intent of the card and it really gave me food for thought (especially the fact that my mind had instantly gone to that dark place!) At the time, I was working (struggling!!) with designing this quilt:

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I was really feeling like giving up. I didn’t have to complete it, I  had been inspired by a particular fabric to create a wall hanging for my office. No one would know or care if I never finished it. But I got that postcard in the mail and I propped it on my shelf and it began to give me the message: try something, eventually something will work. And eventually I came up with this:

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So, I have changed my attitude about this little postcard and it still is propped up on shelf. I no longer see empty swimming pools! Now when I’m not sure how to get something done, I just start, and work it out as I go. And it has made me more aware of the many people who always are there, willing to help. So that is why I decided to make my word for 2015 “Leap”. And that is why, in addition to book club books, this year I will be reading books like this:

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I started classes to get my Masters. It feels like a big leap for me, but so far, exciting and good. I have leapt,and so far, the nets have appeared!

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One Good Dog

Our book this month was “One Good Dog” by Susan Wilson.

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This was a very nice story about how a mistreated dog helps a man heal. Traumatic events from childhood has led to the loss of everything Adam March values in his adult life. Of course, everyone knows the love of a good dog can fix just about anything! Well, it may not fix everything, but unconditional love is always nice and by learning to love and take care of a dog, Adam learns to take responsibility for his actions and to make a new life for himself.

The meeting this month was at Kathy’s house, so we all knew we could look forward to delicious bakery treats. We were not disappointed!
And they were adorable too:

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Thanks Kathy for the delicious treats and being such a great hostess!

I’ll leave you with a picture of my “One (pretty) Good Dog” I loved the depiction of retrievers in the book, because their lovable nature and eagerness to please is why I love having labs. Feel free to tell me about your good dog too!

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We All Scream for Ice Cream

Well, I wanted to scream anyway, while reading this book!

 

Or I should say, avoiding reading, falling asleep while reading, skimming. All these are more accurate. “The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street” by Susan Jane Gilman was our book club selection for this month. This was 512 pages of misery. Which I normally don’t mind, but I found the main character so unlikable I wasn’t interested in her story.

The one good thing about this book: its large size ensured that I did not even consider taking it with me to Jamaica to read on the beach!

jamaicaI’m glad nothing spoiled this view! And when I visited the resort’s self-serve soft serve machine (daily!) I didn’t think of Lillian Dunkle once!

Why did I bother to finish this book you may ask? One reason is because I do like to finish book club books so I can contribute to the discussion (perhaps this is really something that is imprinted on me forever – I always did my homework when I was in school. Always. I know. Obnoxious. I blame my parents.) The other reason I finished the book was so I could get to the happy part of the book where she received an operation so her leg was miraculously healed. And she could wear semi-cute yellow shoes. Like I was promised on the cover of the book. I know there is a saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover”, but nobody is ever actually talking about books when they say that, are they?

So…other than the book, book club was great!! Norene had delicious refreshments. We had something from all four food groups: fruits, vegetables, dairy, and M&M’s. And of course, ice cream for dessert. Reminding us, in spite of what we had just read, that ice cream is indeed, a good thing.

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Head in the Clouds, Nose in a Book…

Ever since I purchased my new sewing machine in November I’ve been sewing like a mad woman. I come home from work and sew for a couple of hours. So fun and relaxing! Between November and the end of May I completed 4 t-shirt quilts, 3 handbags, 2 twin size, 1 wall hanging and 1 baby quilt. I was always working on 2 or 3 projects at once, and all of them but 2 had a deadline. And I kept adding more projects to the list of things I wanted to make in the very near future.

At the end of May, I stopped to take stock (and to dig my sewing room out of the chaos that working on 3 projects at a time creates.) I had met all my deadlines, but I knew I had another one looming in October. Looking at what I didn’t accomplish on my previous list, of course the things that didn’t get done were things I wanted to make for myself. One thing in particular stuck out. Back in February I bought a piece of fabric which I wanted to make into a wall hanging.

reading in treesReading & quilting – two of my favorite things. I wanted to make this fabric into a wall hanging for my new office at the library. And I had not started it yet. I realized two things were standing in my way: no deadline and no design.

The deadline was the easy part. I figured I just wanted a small wall hanging – I could be finished by the end of June. The design was really what was holding me back. After searching books, magazines, and the internet for a pattern of the design I had in my head, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and design my own quilt. Gulp! I do not have quilt design software, I can’t use Adobe Illustrator, I can’t draw. I can do math, but I don’t like to. But the math teachers always say,” someday you’ll need this stuff”. That day had come. I went totally old school:

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In an hour or so I had sketched out my idea for the quilt and broken down the design into steps. If I tackled one little step each day, I should have no problem meeting the deadline.

Ha! Truthfully, there were no “little” steps.  I had no idea how to execute this design.

I thought it would be cute to duplicate the starburst hanging from one of the tree branches in the fabric. Surely I could quickly find a star pattern and make the block. But none of the pieced star patterns were exactly what I wanted. Reluctantly, I realized that I had to delve into the world of paper piecing, and I finally found what I wanted.

While certainly not the most difficult paper pieced block in the world, not really a beginner project, especially in a 6″ size. Especially since I was determined to use a striped fabric for it. I borrowed a Carol Doak book from the library and I quickly understood why she has such a reputation as an expert in paper piecing.

I was encouraged by my 1st try with “practice” fabric…

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…but definitely saw areas I needed to work on. And it was at this early point in the project I had to accept that it would never be as perfect as I imagined it in my head.

The third time was the charm:

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On to the next challenge: the stack of books. Again, I thought it would be easy, and again, it wasn’t really. How do you make  random strips of fabric look like a stack of books? But then I found the idea of using the fabric selvedges for titles, and I was off and running.

People, to make a long story a little shorter, I will just say that every aspect of designing and making this quilt was hard!! I pondered over every element and agonized every time I had to cut into my “good fabric”.

Here is the quilt in its “hot mess” phase, when I seriously considered abandoning the quilt altogether:

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But out of sheer stubbornness I persisted. I tackled applique even though I am bad at it. I ripped seams, I made half square triangles when I never had any intention of doing so. I eliminated fabric that I really, really wanted to use because it didn’t work. I made a squirrel even though I hate squirrels.  I endured some moments of  panic, worried that I wouldn’t know when the quilt top was finished – I would just keep adding things to it and it would keep getting crazier looking!  But I realized as soon as I sewed the Perle cotton from the tree branches to make the star and books look they were hanging from trees that it was finally finished.

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And then I promptly took the Perle cotton off , because, really, how do you expect to quilt it when there is loose thread on a quilt top that you want to remain loose. (I really meant it when I said I did everything at least twice.)

I quilted it and hand bound it and put the Perle cotton back on. And I even named it. Which I never do. But the name just came to me, so I accepted the gift, because that was the only thing that “just came to me” on this quilt.

“Head in the Clouds, Nose in a Book” designed & made by Pat Hartman.

Inspired by the “Quiet Time” fabric collection by Tamara Kate.

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Me Before You

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May’s book club selection was “Me Before You” by JoJo Moyes. I had heard great things about this book at the library and that is the main reason I suggested it.  I was so happy that other book club members enjoyed it more than I did.

If you go over to Goodreads, it is amazing the amount of 5 star reviews this book got.  Most of them claiming that the reviewer cried their eyes out. I must confess, no tears were shed by me. I agree with the 2 star reviewer “Litchick”.

Beth, as usual, had lovely refreshments. Tea, cake, and scones  so we could pretend we were having tea in a small English town with a castle in it!

Next month’s book is “The Blessings” be Elise Juska. This is what LibraryReads has to say about that:

“This finely-crafted story is told through a series of Blessing family members’ points of view over a two-decade span of time. A deceptively small book with very big themes, this novel is gentle and wise. It made me look at my own close and extended family with new eyes; now I see the ways in which we are alike, not the ways in which we are different. A transformative reading experience. Highly recommended.”

I’m preparing to be transformed – well at least my house is! Well, transformed from dirty to clean – book club is at my house next month. So I’ll start cleaning soon. But not yet – it only stays clean for half a minute – wouldn’t want to have to do it twice!!

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Don’t Mess with Mr. Darcy!

I feel like I’ve been neglecting book club with all the recent quilty posts, so I thought I would catch up with book club news today!

Unfortunately, I missed January’s meeting. The book was – wait for it – “The Book Club” by Mary Alice Monroe. I don’t have much to say about this book. I found it not very interesting and the characters kind of unlikable. Not sure how everyone else felt about it, so leave a comment and let me know!

February’s book was “Mad About the Boy” by Helen Fielding. I admit I was disappointed in this book, which is sad, because I love Bridget Jones. My first disappointment was the death of Mr. Darcy. (see post title above!). “Bridget Jones” is an homage to “Pride & Prejudice”, specifically the BBC mini-series starring Colin Firth. Was there ever more brilliant casting than Colin Firth as Mark Darcy in “Bridget Jones’ Diary”?

The two Mr. Darcys:

Colin Firth in “Pride & Prejudice”

Colin Firth in “Bridget Jones’ Diary”

Jane Austen was smart enough never to write a sequel to “Pride & Prejudice”, especially one without Mr. Darcy. “Mad about the Boy” lost me once I realized Mark was dead. The brief mentions of him in the novel just made me miss him more.

The other problem I had with the book was its style. Which is a shame, because Helen Fielding was cutting edge when she wrote Bridget Jones in diary format. But it’s been done so often since, it seems kind of dated. I was looking for something more original.  I struggled all month to read this book and in the end, just skimmed. But it was nice to make it to book club and hear what everyone else had to say and have some delicious treats!

In other reading news, on January 14th I  wrote this post, about putting “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt on hold. I got it from the library on February 28th. Actually, it didn’t take me as long as  I thought it would to come in (I still have the eBooks on hold: I’m 104 out of 473 in Philadelphia and 46/116 in Bucks County). It’s a big thick book and it is riveting right from the start. I’m in the middle of it now but so far it certainly doesn’t meet the “happy book” criteria. I’ll keep you posted!

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Star Bright

I haven’t got any work done on my Building Blocks Quilt Along for the past 2 weeks. Here’s why:Star BrightThis is the “Star Bright” baby quilt I made from a pattern by Katie Blakesley from SwimBikeQuilt. (and a big thank you to Katie for this free pattern!)

I have a baby shower to go to tomorrow and I wanted to make a gender neutral quilt. I had been wanting to make a quilt with a modern feel and when I saw this pattern it was a no brainer. Every baby is a super star!

I had so much fun making this quilt!

1. I had to buy all new fabric for this quilt – only one small piece of the yellow print is from my stash. I headed over the bridge and visited a lovely quilt shop for the first time – Olde City Quilts. About 20 minutes away and such beautiful fabrics and a wide selection of threads. And the staff was so nice! I’ve already been back once, and I’m planning another trip soon.

2. I didn’t do any free motion quilting, but I’m pretty happy with what I did with my walking foot. In the past I only used it for stitching in the ditch. I ditched the ditch stitching this time!

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3. Tried spray basting for the first time – loved it!

4. Used striped fabric! First I have to say I hate stripes. I knew I wanted something graphic for the binding and when I saw this striped fabric I felt the colors were a perfect match and didn’t over think it too much. Once I got it home I wavered between “well, it will match the colors of the quilt” and “I hate it!” It wasn’t till I took the last stitch, turned it over, and held it up to admire that I was able to say: “The stripes are cute – I love it!”

5. Flannel on the back and custom labels! Fancy!

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6. I  copied off all the quilting blogs of been reading and took my quilt outside to photograph the quilt. I even uttered the words “I wish we had a fresh coat of snow so I could photograph it on snow.” I’m sorry! Now that I decided my weathered deck would work fine, I take it back. No Snowmegedden this week please!!

Now that this quilt is finished (Good-bye! I will miss you!) I will catch up on my Quilt Along. But I am also thinking about another fun project. When I saw this fabric, I didn’t think twice – I ordered immediately!

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Considering the name of my blog is “Happypathbookclub” and I work in a library, the only question could be “why wouldn’t you buy this fabric?” This looks like the happiest book club ever! (The fabric is Quiet Times by Tamara Kate) I didn’t notice the “I Heart Books ” carved into the tree trunk when I ordered, but it just made me love it more! Now I’m about to do something else I’ve never really done  before – design my own quilt. I have a couple of ideas so far. One of them involves that star shape ornament hanging from a branch. Anybody have ideas or advice for me?

 

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Because Everyone Else Was Doing It. . .

. . . I put the Goldfinch by Donna Tartt on hold at the library.

 

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The current status of my holds:

Bucks Library: 142 out of 150

Bucks Overdrive (e-book) 57 out of 63

Philadelphia Overdrive (e-book) 346 out of 384.

It seems to be on everyone’s year-end best book lists.

I hope “beautifully written” isn’t code for “long and boring”!

Care to you join me? Have you read it yet?

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Soup to Nuts

Last week was book club again and this was an extra special night – it was soup night! Thanks to Beth for hosting the night and making three delicious soups: Chicken noodle, Cream of Potato, and Carrot Ginger. I must admit my favorite was the Carrot Ginger. (or was it Ginger Carrot?)

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This is not Beth’s actual soup because I am so bad at remembering to take pictures, but looking at this picture makes me want to eat that soup again, especially on this rainy day!I would be soup-er excited if Beth shared this recipe here, but I understand if it is a “secret recipe”. (I don’t have any secret recipes, do you? I guess I’m so excited if someone likes something I make  enough to ask for the recipe that I give it to them! It is a rare occurrence.)

I’m not sure which “nuts” the title of this post refers to: was it the cocoa coated nuts we munched on or was it our nutty selves for not discussing the book too much? I admitted that I did not like the book (And I just realized that I still have I not mentioned the title!) The title of this book is “Does This Book Make Me Look Fat?” by Rhoda Janzen. When we read a book that some people like and some people don’t, I think it is an opportunity for an interesting discussion.

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So here is my review: I read Janzen’s previous book “Mennonite in a Little Black Dress” and enjoyed it. For some reason I had a very hard time getting into this book. I enjoy reading non-fiction, especially memoirs, but reading this book made me realize that, fiction or nonfiction, I like a story when I’m reading. This book had very little story, although some pretty big things happened. Rhoda got breast cancer and got married. I found myself wanting to hear more about this, especially about how she met her husband, who seemed so different from her. There was a lot of philosophical writing about religion, which I found kind of boring. I guess I am not a deep thinker!

I would love to hear what the people who liked the book have to say!

The busy holiday season will be upon us soon – I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving (and Hanukkah if you celebrate)! My holiday season got off to a great start yesterday! Stay tuned – more details to follow!

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A Taste of Summer

Is there a food that just says “summer” to you?

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I had my first tomato sandwich of the summer yesterday. As always, it took me back to my childhood summers, when I would have a tomato sandwich almost everyday, with tomatoes picked from one of the tomato plants growing outside our kitchen door.

I was shocked early in our marriage when my husband told me he was never allowed to eat tomato sandwiches. He was told “put some meat on that. Tomato sandwiches are for poor people.” Who knew!

When my son saw me making my sandwich he commented, “you could make a BLT with that. That’s just a T. ” But it’s not. Each bite is a memory of summers of the past.

Now, as then, I ate my tomato sandwich on toasted white bread with mayo, salt, and pepper. Now, as then, I ate it with a book propped in front of me so I could read as I ate.

Thanks for the delicious tomatoes, Pat!

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