Friday, May 7, 2010

Wordless definitions: greedy

I've mentioned before that orchids really like the greenhouse window TSU installed in my kitchen, and rewarded me with loads and loads of blossoms this spring. My three phaelenopses are in full bloom right now, one with about two dozen flowers, and one of my stubborn cattleyas even bloomed. So although I wasn't lacking blooms when I attended a local orchid show, I wasn't lacking extra space in my window, either. I spent a few minutes looking at the displays, but I was more interested in the sales room. I really had trouble choosing. There was this lovely phaelenopsis, white with just a blush of pink in the center ... and phaelenopsis are almost idiot-proof, so it would be a good investment. But then there was this gorgeous white cattleya with raspberry stripes ... and it had a gorgeous scent! But then the phaelenopsis was on sale! But the cattleya was so pretty! You can see my final decision, and why it suits our wordless definition:

When it comes to orchids, I can't help being greedy.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Quilt Files, Episode 19

So I'd gotten into the pattern of making a baby quilt whenever someone was expecting, and I planned to revisit one of my favorite patterns when a cousin announced she was expecting baby #2. As I was planning the quilt, I began to think about baby #1, who was born before I started quilting. Her sibling was getting a quilt; her twin cousins already had quilts; why should she be denied a quilt just because she was born first?

She was five or six at the time, so I figured I could make a nice lap quilt, in pretty girl colors, from some of the fabric in my stash. (I might have bought a couple of fat quarters, but I think I mostly used stash fabrics.) As a bonus, I would put something pretty and girly on it ... and you don't get much more girly than fairies! I found some images in Microsoft ClipArt, blew them up big, and then used them to create appliques, which I basted on to the base and then attached with a satin stitch around the edges. I finished by quilting concentrically around the fairies, using the center one for my main circle and putting smaller circles around the corner fairies. I think it turned out nicely. The little girl in me certainly thought it was pretty pretty pretty!

Sometimes I have just as much fun putting together the back of a quilt. I had found this gorgeous pink and purple batik that looked almost like it had been tie-dyed. I used it for the borders and one set of squares of the top, and had this lovely big piece for the center of the back. I took the remainders of the other seven fabrics and stripped them together. It's pretty, too, and in this view you can get a better idea of how the circular quilting turned out.

I'm particularly fond of this piece; not just because I love the colors (although they are my favorites), but because I designed the whole thing myself and managed to create recognizable fairies even though I can't draw worth crap.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Janespotting: Ladysmead by Jane Gillespie

Like Joan Aiken, British writer Jane Gillespie wrote several Austen sequels, including ones to Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility. Published in 1982, Ladysmead is her earliest effort at attempting Austen; like the other sequels, she takes one or two of the more colorful (ie, naughty) characters and drops them into a completely new situation. In this case, it is the family of Reverend Thomas Lockley, a widower who has managed to marry off five of his seven daughters. With four younger sisters already wed, the second daughter, Sophia, "felt the cage of spinsterhood beginning to enclose her," at the decrepit age of 23. She has resigned herself to managing her father's household and keeping an eye on her youngest sister, Lucinda. This proves a challenge, as the family is continually economizing, and Lucinda is depressed: her best friend has just moved away and she has few other distractions, living in the remote countryside of Lancashire.

Luckily for the story, the friends' cottage at Ladysmead is let to another set of tenants, an older widow and her niece: of course, it is Mrs. Norris and Maria Rushworth (here going by Rushton) from MP. Although she knows nothing of the scandal that led the two to leave London, Sophia is somewhat unsettled by her new neighbors: Mrs. Norris is interfering, while Maria Rushton is aloof and snobby. She finds it convenient to befriend Lucinda, however, bossing her around and encouraging her to develop a contentious attitude. She encourages her young friend to flirt with one of her father's students, even though she has no real liking for the boy. This concerns Sophia as well as her father's rector, Charles Williams. Charles has a secret devotion to Sophia, but his offers to assist her only make her angry.

When the owner of Ladysmead and the neighboring mansion passes away, his heir Mr. Dalby comes to the area to decide what to do with the property. His manners are pleasing and he makes Sophia laugh, but Mrs. Rushton decides he should be the target of Lucinda instead. Several meetings and excursions are alternately planned, thwarted, and executed, with no one satisfied with the outcome. When Mr. Dalby invites a friend to the area and he turns out to know Mrs. Rushworth's sordid history, it leads to another shock: not only does Dalby elope with Mrs. Rushton/Rushworth, but they leave the poor Mrs. Norris behind. The events disturb poor Lucinda so much that she runs away from home, seeking solace from her new friend's betrayal by visiting her old friend.

Charles follows her and discovers her, of course (shades of Mr. Darcy finding Lydia in P&P). While he is gone Rev. Lockley declare he intends to marry Mrs. Norris, giving her a home and thus freeing poor Sophia to go out into society. This shocks Sophia so much she shows her disappointment to Charles, who reveals his own feelings and offers to marry her so she can escape. When Sophia realizes his proposal is based on love and not pity, she discovers her own heart is glad for his devotion despite her mistreatment of him. She accepts him, Dalby returns to take Mrs. Norris back to Mrs. Rushworth, and all ends happily with Sophia and Charles ensconced at Ladysmead.

As I mentioned, this novel follows a similar pattern to Gillespie's other Austen sequels: an upright, steadfast, suffering heroine; one or two flawed but entertaining minor characters from Austen's original; and a virtuous hero who demonstrates his worthiness of the heroine. Is it formula? Pretty close, but since Gillespie's style is entertaining and her borrowed characters are true to the original, I don't consider that a problem—especially when the novel is less than 200 pages, making for a light, quick read. This one was fun if somewhat forgettable.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Photo of the Week--5/3/10

Ignore the vaguely (!) suggestive statue* and look in the shadows. There you will find the scourge of pigeondom, Boy, working his magic against the fat and lazy pigeons of Helsinki. Okay, maybe Helsinki pigeons aren't that fat or lazy, as they probably work hard to acquire fat and then burn it off during the long, dark Finnish winters. But this was summer, and we had to make sure that any rest breaks those pigeons were taking didn't become a habit.

*It's the Three Smiths statue, and although the three smiths are naked, they are wielding hammers against that anvil. I just chose an unfortunate angle for this photograph.