Friday, June 29, 2012

Wrapped in Rain by Charles Martin

When we first moved into our current neighborhood, we went to a neighborhood party.  There I met Maryann, who turned out to be a distant cousin.  Maryann is also a teacher, kindergarten, God bless her. So when my friend, neighbor, cousin, and fellow teacher, Maryann, said that this book changed her teaching and the way she looked at children forever, I had to read it.

Wrapped in Rain by Charles Martin is about a boy named Tucker and his half-brother Mutt.  Their father is an abusive millionaire who spends the majority of his time making money in his office in Atlanta.  Tuck and Mutt are cared for by Miss Ella, who is the only mother figure the boys have.  Rex, the father, is rarely around, but when he is, he is abusive to all three of them. As the boys get older, Mutt start having symptoms of mental illness.  Shortly after Miss Ella dies, Tucker sends Mutt off to a mental hospital in Florida.  

The story actually begins when the boys are adults.  Tuck is a famous photographer, Mutt is still in the hospital but planning an escape, and Rex is in a nursing home with Alzheimer's after having lost all his money to a young, gold digging wife and the IRS.  Luckily, the childhood mansion was gifted to the boys early on and this is where Tuck lives.  Tuck and Mutt's old best friend Katie returns to the town with her son, running from her abusive ex-husband.  Mutt does escape from the hospital.  Tuck finds him and they all return to the mansion and the story continues to unfold.

There are many wonderful things about this book, but I want to start with the parts, not many, that I didn't like.  

Being in my profession, there are a few things I know about mental illness.  I'm not a psychiatrist, but some of the descriptions didn't ring true.  For example, Mutt's psychiatrist, Dr. Gibby, thinks his mental illness stems from a childhood trauma.  That is much too simplistic when it comes to schizophrenia and other disorders.  However, this scenario moved the plot along as they all begin to heal from their childhood.  Also, at the end of the book, after the trauma has been pinpointed, Mutt only needs two medications.  Really?  After seven years of high doses of psychotropic meds, he is just all better on two?  Far fetched.

There are a few other little plot flaws.  At one point, Rex beats Miss Ella so badly that he cuts her cornea and breaks her ribs and teeth.  Where are the police when she goes to the hospital? They would have arrested Rex and thrown him in jail.  Also, early on in Katie's stay with Tuck, Tuck knows that she has been discovered by someone who works for her ex-husband.  Yet nothing happens for weeks and Tuck doesn't try and do anything to protect her.  

On the other hand, there are so many things I loved about this book.   Charles Martin does a fabulous job describing some of the locals.  These moments of fantastic description did nothing to further the plot, but were enjoyable and the best writing of the book.  I also loved the character development of Mutt.  Tuck and Miss Ella have excellent character development, but Mutt is the best.

I loved that there were so many people who were kind to Mutt when he was an adult.  Dr. Gibby, his nurses, the Catholic priest, even the local barber. This isn't typical of the way our society sometimes treats people with mental illness.

I loved how the author used Jase, Katie's son, as an example of how accepting we should be of others.  

I loved that for Tuck, forgiving his father wasn't easy and it took a long time, years.  As the book ends, he is still working on it.  This is pretty realistic.  Forgiveness is hard and probably more difficult the more wrongs that have been done.  But the point of the book is to say that until we forgive we can't really live.  

I also loved that while Ella is a very spiritual person, the writing didn't come across as too preachy.  There were only a few times when I thought things were a little sticky sweet.  

Back to my friend Maryann.  She told me that since she read that book, she felt that maybe she was the only goodness that a child might have in their life that day.  And she will never feel too busy to help tie a shoe or give extra love to a child.  

 4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Simplicity 3956 View A

In March I posted about Simplicity 3956 View C.  I began:

"Sometimes I spend hours sewing a piece of clothing only to find that I don't like it very much and never end up wearing it.  This was not the case with Simplicity 3956."  

I love this blouse.  I wear it frequently.  So of course, I wanted to make another with different sleeves.  

I don't know what happened this second go 'round, but Foster ain't too happy. 

It started with this darling red and white polyester floral.  Cute print, no?  But even with pattern weights and pins, the second layer of fabric shifted causing 2 very strange cuts of the same pattern piece.  

I ran back to the fabric store to see if they still had some of this print and luckily, or maybe unluckily, they did.  So I cut out a few new pieces.  Even without layering the fabric and careful placement of the fabric and pattern, the outcome wasn't exact.  

I sewed away and tried it on.  My daughter said, "Mom, there isn't much room for a zipper." How could that be?   The other blouse I made fits with room to spare. This is the same pattern. The same size. Oh yeah, wonky pattern pieces.  I sewed the zipper with very little seam allowance. And, phew, it fits.  Well, sort of. I'll get to that in a minute.  

I don't dislike everything about this blouse.  I spent a long time fitting the bust, as I had some trouble with that the last time I made this pattern.  I modified the bust by sewing down the crossover layer to make it secure.  I'm pleased with that outcome.

From the front it is pretty cute.  So the blouse isn't a total loss.  I find this high-waisted style flattering if I do say so myself.  

But what the heck is this bump in the zipper at the waistline? Can anyone explain my mistake there? The fit in the back is just out of whack! 

Darn, I was hopping to make this blouse for the Summer Spark Sew-Along.  Maybe I still will.  I'm going to wear this, dang it, and hide that bump with a sash.  After all, I had to buy all that extra fabric. Everyone can just look at me from the front!

With the sash!

The fabric, a Hancock's print, gets one out of five stars only because the print is cute and I like red.  

The pattern, Simplicity 3956, gets 4 out of 5 stars.  It looses a star because the zipper instructions are confusing.  Luckily I can set in a zipper without instructions.

Linking to:
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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Scrappy Springtime Quilt Part One

Just recently my mother-in-law generously gave me half her quilting  fabric stash.  The other half went to my sister-in-law.  We are two very lucky and happy women.

In my stash there were dozens of cream colored or tan fabrics.  Some were in large cuts.  Now I am not one that usually goes for tan hues in my fabrics, but I didn't want to waste fabric, especially free fabric.  I needed to find a project that would make me happy with my cream colored wind fall.  

order a signed copy of my book!I remembered a quilt that was done by Amadajean at Crazy Mom Quilts.  She calls her quilt the Oatmeal Quilt and used all her creams to make it.  She used the "slab technique" that she outlines in her book, Sunday Morning Quilts.

I have the book, by the way, and the quilts are simply lovely.

I decided to use my creams with a pop of color somewhere in the middle of the block.  I though this could be representative of the colors of spring, like crocuses popping up out of the brown earth. 

I browsed the slab technique, which is quite easy, and got started cutting, sewing, and fitting scraps into the design.

Part of the planning stage.

Pulling it all together.

All the scraps from trimming extra-long edges.

I love sewing quilt blocks this way.  It takes some thought to put it together, but since no block is the same, it never gets boring. Since nothing has to be totally perfect, and points and seams don't need to match, it was a very peaceful and calming to complete this quilt top.

I say quilt top, because I still haven't finished started the back yet. I want to take a break and do another project, and then I will get back to this one.  

Here is the finished quilt top.

This is the quilt I am going to take a nap with when winter is driving me nuts. I will then be reminded that spring will soon arrive.  (I really don't like winter.) I actually laid under it with my feet pointing straight up to make sure it was long enough to cover me from my chin to the bottom of my heels. That is why this picture on the hammock is so appropriate for my new napping quilt.

This fruit fabric is one of my favorites.  There are several fabrics in here that have been in my stash for over 10 years and who knows how long they've been in my mother-in-law's stash.  

Back, quilting and binding to come.  

Linking with Freshly Pieced,  I Gotta Create and Plum and June

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Benja Thai and Sushi in St. George

You wouldn't think that in the land locked metropolis of St. George, Utah, there would be good Sushi.  But surprise, surprise, Benja's somehow brings good Sushi to the desert.

Now, I am not a sushi aficionado.  I can probably count the number of times I've  ordered Sushi on one hand.  As a matter of fact, the first time I went to Benja Thai and Sushi, I saw a former student and her family eating big slabs of raw fish.  I'm not that brave.  I stick with the "beginner" rolls like spicy tuna and my new favorite, the Alaska roll. I liked the food so much the first time, we went back last week while in St. George.

Not only was the sushi delicious, the Thai food was delicious as well. My daughter was brave and tried the Thai duck.  She's been watching too much Food Network.  We all agreed this was our favorite and loved the duck shaped serving platter.  Nice touch.

The green curry was also delicious and super spicy, and the cashew and pineapple rice added a respite of sweetness to the otherwise hot fair.  The rest of the dishes were good but didn't have that "wow, this is fantastic" factor.  You could get them at any old Thai restaurant.  

I think a restaurant is a success if my kids will eat sushi and duck! I'm giving Benja's 4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

The Forgotten Garden

You know me.  Always a little worried I will be at odds with my book club on my opinion of a book.  But guess what?  This time I wasn't.  And this time we all loved The Forgotten Garden.

The story is about a little 4 year old girl who, after a voyage alone across the ocean, is left on the dock in Australia.  It is 1913 and the manager of the dock takes her home where he and his wife raise her as their own.  The following story, the whole 550 plus pages, unwinds the mystery of her past.

I loved how the story wove generations of women together.  At first, I thought the book was jumpy as it hopped back and forth from the past to the present, but once I was more into the novel, the flashbacks seemed to flow better.  I also found that the writing and the dialog didn't feel forced or contrived. There was a beautiful flow with the descriptions and language.  

Illustration from inside the front cover.

It is best to read this book consistently.  If not you will forget characters and their relationships to each other.  I finally made myself a genealogy chart to keep things strait.  It probably would have helped if I had made a list of the characters from the English village in 1975 because some showed up again in 2005.

Kate Morton

I only have one complaint of the book.  When the girl, Nell, is an adult, her father tells her she is not his, that he found her on the dock.  She then has a break down of sorts, becomes bitter, and distances herself from all those that she loves.  This seems inconsistent with the lovely young woman she has become.  Regardless, I felt emotionally involved with the characters, good and bad, as they evolved and as the story intertwined through the generations.   It was worth the 557 pages! 4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

I used to belong to one of those cookbook clubs where every month the company sends a catalog and the customer decides whether to accept or decline the monthly selection.  The customer can also choose an alternate selection.  Because of this, I have a cookbook collection that is too big.  Is there such thing as too big? I enjoy reading cookbooks as much as I do making recipes from them.  

When I returned from California on Saturday, my rhubarb and strawberries were ready to harvest.  So I got out a cookbook I had never used, only looked at, Bubby's Homemade Pies.  Mmm, mmm. There are some great recipes in this book, my friends, but of course, I had to make Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.  Mmmm.  Summer pies!

The recipe appears to be a very standard recipe using a pastry for double crust pie.  I used an all butter pastry pie dough for my crust, but a butter and shortening crust will work as well.

The pie was delicious and well received.  The crust was fabulous, if I do say so myself.  

I do have two complaints. The first is my fault.  I can never tell when my rhubarb is ripe.  It never really gets that beautiful raspberry color.  Some varieties of rhubarb don't.  Consequently, sometimes the stalks I pick are old.  You can tell because they appear stringy and porous.  

Second, the pie was runny.  This is often a complaint of rhubarb pie makers.  But I used to have a recipe from a friend in Alaska who used a little raspberry gelatin in her pies and there was absolutely no dripping, slipping, or sliding!   I've lost that recipe, darn it.

Overall, this recipe gets 4 out of 5 stars.  I won't dock a star because my rhubarb wasn't the best.

Here are some photos of what ripe rhubarb looks like!

Starapple Edible Gardens

Strawberry Rhubarb: This doesn't ripen into a dark color as other varieties do.
The Cook's Thesaurus

Linking up with Salt Tree Open Call Tuesday.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Foster on Disneyland

More than once I have been accused of being a negligent parent because I haven't taken my children to Disneyland.  The accusations grew ever more intense as my eldest child approached graduation.  "What kind of parents are you?" people would question as they threw their hands in the air and shot us nasty, condescending looks.  "Parents who don't like crowds and whiny kids," we would timidly answer. Finally, we gave into peer pressure and decided to go to Disneyland after graduation.

On Guides

If you, like me, are timid about taking your kids to Disneyland, I have a few tips.  First, get a guide that will help you plan out your stay.  My husband bought The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland months ago and begged me to read it.  I did--in the hotel the night before we hit the park.  Read it sooner than I.

On Accommodations

You can spend hours and hours on the internet trying to get the best deal on the hotel and Park Hopper passes as we did in the beginning.  Finally, with numbers and dollar signs swirling in our heads, we called a travel agent, told him we wanted to be close to the park with a room that could accommodate 5, a fridge, a microwave, a pool, and free breakfast.  We also wanted three day Park Hopper passes.  That was easy way out, and we couldn't have done it any cheaper! We stayed at the Desert Palms Hotel that was conveniently located walking distance from Disneyland.

On Parking

Parking? If you are staying anywhere close to the park, don't bother.  Most hotels are within walking distance or there are shuttles available for a fee.  As a matter of fact, I was picturing the parking lot for Disneyland when I was 18. Imagine my surprise when that parking lot is now Disney's California Adventure Park. The parking lots were further away from the Disneyland than my hotel!

On Timing

Get to the park early before it opens.  It will be well worth your time.  The park is less crowded in the mornings, and you may be able to ride the popular rides without waiting too long in line.  You can also grab your fast passes for favorite rides.  The second morning we were there, the park opened early for all those that validated their tickets the previous day.  Even better, the final day of our stay, California Adventure opened early and everyone was in that location so Disneyland was unusually sparsely populated.  Yay for us!

On Clothing

I have decided that frumpy is better than hoochie mamma! I saw so many pairs of tight, little shorts that I wondered if those women were getting any circulation to their legs.  Besides, I don't want to sit the ride where someone's partially covered you-know-what just sat.  I also saw little girls dressed like, well, why would you do that to your little girl?  It is best to be comfortable in your clothing.  Summer clothing that is neither too tight or too baggy is best when riding the attractions.  Pockets that have Velcro, buttons, or zippers are a great help for keeping park tickets, fast passes, money and cell phones.  Comfortable shoes are a must.  High heels? Really? Yes, I saw women in high heels.  The most darling were the little girls dressed as princesses.  I even saw a little boy as prince charming.  It was charming.  

On Food

Food in the park is expensive and is there when you want convenience.  We, however, opted to eat out of the park and ate many of our meals in our hotel room.  Thank you Food 4 Less grocery store down the street!  Make sure you pack snacks and water bottles.  This will save you a bundle.  One afternoon, we went to a cheap Mexican place in a strip mall called Alertos.  It was sooooo delicious.  I really have been trying to like the Mexican food in Utah, but my last experience was so bad, I couldn't even blog about it. My husband said it would be like giving a Broadway review to a junior high play.  It was that awful.  So when I tasted my burrito, I said, "Flavor, where have you been, I've missed you!"  So yes, there are ways to eat delicious food without breaking the bank.  

On Babies and Toddlers

This must be the reason why I never took my kids to Disneyland when they were young.

This photo represents not even a fourth of the strollers that were parked in front of the ride, It's a Small World.  I saw couples pushing strollers with the kids and another stroller with all the crap, gear that the kids require.  I saw melt down after melt down.  My kids never had a melt down, didn't require diapers, bottles, or excessive snacks.  They were tall enough to ride all the rides and we could ride all together. Take that, you naysayers.  My waiting paid off!

On Photos

I actually did not take that many photos while in Disneyland.  Sometimes we take so many photos we miss the moment.  I decided to chill on the photo taking when I was missing the World of Color show at California Adventure because I was watching it through my tiny camera lens.  This photo is of Ariel projected on the fountains.  You can sort of see her red hair, but it is blurry and doesn't do justice to the real thing.  Also, I saw moms take pictures of their kids on the rides and then they were so busy posting the pictures to Facebook and Twitter, that they missed the rest of the experience.  I decided that I wasn't going to miss the experience.  There are professional photographers who take pictures and scan a photo pass which they give to you.  The next time a photographer takes your picture with Mickey Mouse, for example, you hand them your card to scan.  After you get home, check out the pictures and purchase the photos if you'd like.

On Persons With Disabilities

Two years ago, my husband had an illness that affected his legs.  He walks with a cane, and when the distance is too long, he uses a wheelchair.  Disney is extremely accommodating to people in wheelchairs and those with other disabilities.  In Disneyland many of the lines for the rides were not built for accessibility, so the exit is often used to push wheelchairs to the front of the line.  California Adventure, on the other hand, is completely accessible and those in wheelchairs wait in line with everyone else.  

I was so impressed with how the Disneyland staff treated an elderly man who had an intellectual disability.  He was obviously a regular because we saw him two mornings in a row, and the staff all knew him.  He would clap a pattern to tell the staff he was at the ride and they would clap back.  They would then greet him with a "secret" handshake, call him by name, and acted genuinely glad to see him.  

I was unimpressed with the people who obviously weren't disabled and somehow lied their way into having a disability pass so they could get on the rides more quickly.  One group in front of us had one adult and nine young kids.  None of whom appeared disabled.  A lady behind us said, "This is the line for the cripples and I'm not crippled."  Besides her politically incorrect use of the term "cripple," she openly admitted that she was bucking the system.  Disgusting!

On the Rides

My favorite was Soaring Over California.  It is as if you are hang gliding over the state.  They even have the smell of the orange groves blowing peacefully in your face.  Of course,  Indiana Jones was pretty amazing as well.

Also, don't miss Tower of Terror, California Screaming, Star Tours, Space Mountain and the more peaceful Jungle Cruise.

We went on quite a few of the kiddie rides as well.  The worst ride in all of Disneyland has to be Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.  It could scare a little kid to death.  It is dark, there are explosions and fire.  My husband started calling "Mr. Toad Goes to Hell."  A more apt name in his opinion.  


On Chilling Out

Sometimes an afternoon nap might be a good thing while you are at Disneyland.  But really, a day at the beach, is the best way to relax after the over-stimulation of the amusement parks.  Look at that beautiful ocean. Definitely make this a part of your journey.

Here's to a wonderful California Adventure.  I hope one day you might have a successful trip to Disneyland as we did!