Friday, August 15, 2008

The Quilt Files, Episode 2

Too much to do ... get Boy ready for band camp ... start paying writing assignment ... finish chapter for critique group ... balance checkbook ... boy, I wish I could figure out how to copy video from my Black Belt show DVD and wow you with my cement breaks and awesome skit. But I've only got time for something short and sweet.

So here's episode two of my Quilt Files, my second finished project. This is a 27" square wall hanging I finished back in the winter of 2003. I fell in love with this group of fabrics—I do so love jewel tones—and bought a couple of charm packs (precut squares). Although I've since learned this pattern is called "Trip around the World," I didn't refer to any books for the design, just figured it out myself. Piecing it together was easy, only a couple afternoons' work, but I did the quilting by hand. You can't really see it on the back, but I used multicolored thread and stitched in the ditch, which looks really nice on against the black background.

This hangs in my front hallway almost all year round (I've got holiday hangings I swap in at Halloween and Christmas) and visitors almost always remark on it. I love the colors, so I don't think I'll ever get tired of it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Confessions of an Olympic Junkie

Oh, my blog posts will be short and few these next two weeks. Hi, my name is Diane, and I'm an Olympic junkie. I'll watch nearly anything if it's Olympic. Gymnastics? I love watching the tumbling and near-falls. Swimming? As a kid it was the sport featured in my gold-medal dreams, before I discovered I was short, slow, and klutzy. Diving? Hoo boy, look at 'em twist and tumble—and how do those 10-meter divers manage not to crap their pants every time they look down from the platform? And we haven't even started the track-and-field or taekwondo or archery or rowing competitions yet.

Thanks to the joy of TIVO, I don't have to watch all the commercials, all the "human interest" stories, all the replays and interviews. I don't have to stay up until 1:30 am to see the end of live competition. I don't have to procrastinate on Chapter 17 by writing in my blog....

Whoops! I think there are pretty horses jumping for gold! See you later!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

O Pioneers!: The Official Haiku Review

It's amazing the difference one word (and ninety years) can make. It took me three weeks and much toil to get through James Fenimore Cooper's 1823 novel The Pioneers. It took me less than two days to devour Willa Cather's 1913 novel O Pioneers! So without further ado (or complaint), here is my official Haiku Review:

For her, the land is
work, love, grief, poetry, self
Land is life; life, land.

Cather's short novel follows one woman over twenty years as she tries to make a success of her family's Nebraska farm. Sounds terribly exciting, right? But listen to how Cather turns the prairie into poetry:
One January day, thirty years ago, the little town of Hanover, anchored on a windy Nebraska tableland, was trying not to be blown away. A mist of fine snowflakes was curling and eddying about the cluster of low drab building huddles on the gray prairie, under a gray sky. The dwelling-houses were set about haphazard on the tough prairie sod; some of them looked as if they had been moved in overnight, and others as if they were straying off by themselves, headed straight for the open plain.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that after this opening description Cather soon recounts the story of a kitten being rescued (awwwww!), but she punctuates her entire story with similar examples of beautiful writing. Her main character, Alexandra Bergson, isn't stunningly beautiful or spunky or clever; she seems an ordinary farmgirl, albeit one with dedication, determination, and a willingness to take risks. Despite her older brothers' hesitance to adopt newfangled techniques, Alexandra brings prosperity to her farm through canny management. It allows her younger brother to go to college and leave Alexandra and the land behind. There seems to be no room for adventure or grand passions in her life, but she sees that such passions can bring tragedy. In the end, she has love and her farm (although her older brothers attempt to take it from her—bad men, grrr!), and the simple life suits her: "We come and go, but the land is always here. And the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it—for a little while."

Beyond the pure beauty of her words, Cather's talent is to portray the essence of her subjects in just a few scenes. The novel is less than 200 pages long, but I felt I learned more about her characters and their Nebraska farmlands than I did from Cooper's 450 pages. After finishing I immediately wanted to hit the library and find Cather's other books. Of course, they will have to wait for the end of the summer, after I read a couple more American classics. But it does make me wonder what other marvels I have missed.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Photo of the Week--8/4/08

Although most of our trip to Lisbon in August 1999 was sunny and warm, we happened to get rained upon on during our visit to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. Luckily the cloisters of this 16th-century monastery are so beautiful they stand out even against the gloomy skies. I even think the gray setting gives you a better feeling of the age of this complex, whose church is still in use. (We saw two wedding in progress while we were there.) It reminds you that at one time Portugal was one of the great powers of the world, with the wealth to show it off. Lisbon is a beautiful city, both ancient and modern, and you can tell they take great pride in their history.