Most people don’t like change, and with good reason. Change brings uncertainty, unfamiliarity, and a sense of loss. When change is forced upon people, there is also a loss of control and a degree of fear.
The one change many people seem to embrace is autumn. The beautiful period of transition from summer to winter when temperatures cool and festivities begin. There are so many pleasures to enjoy that this change of season is the high point of the year for some people.
One of the things I enjoy most is the colorful fall foliage. What do you enjoy most about autumn?
What entices you to buy a book? The author? The cover? The description? Reviews? Favorite themes or tropes? Some combination of all of these elements?
When I encounter a new author, the subject matter is often a compelling motivator to buy the book. Women’s fiction that includes small towns and independent women always gets a second look. If the book also involves quilting, it moves to the top of my list.
If you feel the same, check out these books that feature quilting as part of the story.
Welcome to San Fernando Valley, California, where Martha Rose and her coterie of quilters are enjoying life on the good side of retirement—until murder pulls a stitch out of their plans. . .
Martha and her besties Lucy and Birdie are set to expand their Quilty Tuesdays by inviting newcomer Claire Terry into their group. Though at forty Claire’s a tad younger than their average age, her crafty reputation could perk up their patchwork proceedings, especially as they prepare for the fancy quilt show coming to town. But when they arrive at Claire’s home and find her dead inside the front door, and her exquisite, prize-winning quilts soon missing, Martha is not one to leave a mystery unraveled. Especially if she wants to stop a killer from establishing a deadly pattern. . .
Enjoy this new series from Ann Hazelwood, The Door County Quilt Series. This first novel introduces you to Claire Stewart and her life in beautiful Door County, Wisconsin.
Claire Stewart, a new resident of the county, joins a prestigious small quilting club when her best friend moves away. Claire is a watercolor quilt artist, and the beauty of Door County captivates her right away.
Claire’s new friends and her quilt group provide fun, but it’s the man with the red scarf who intrigues her. As she grows more comfortable after escaping a bad relationship, new ideas and surprises abound as friendships, quilting, and her love life all change for the better.
A stranger’s murder in the dark alley behind May’s Flower Shop is causing the residents of Park Place, South Carolina to keep their children inside and their doors locked at night. Banty Hen Antique Shop owners, Sam and Valerie Owens, are caught right smack dab in the middle since they were the last ones to see the victim alive. Valerie’s new venture, the Sweet Tea Quilting Bee is comprised of an eclectic mix of women, calling themselves ‘newbies’ and ‘oldies’ in the art of quilting. Their weekly meetings help keep Valerie’s mind off the murder, but it’s hard to keep the secret from the ladies that the victim was killed over, of all things, a quilt! The murder suspect has been described as tall and thin, a pitifully vague description, but Police Chief Jess Hamilton and his new detective, a self-described Columbo, are on the case, questioning every tall and thin person in town. Even Sister Margaret, a nun who has just begun her mission at St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church, doesn’t go unnoticed. But it’s hard not to notice a nun who dances, and sings along with country music when she thinks no one’s watching.
This exciting box set includes the first three adventures of Miranda Hathaway and Cutler Quilt Guild Number One:
Book One – The Quilt Ripper: Miranda gets involved in the search for a burglar who simply tears apart vintage quilted pieces and seemingly steals nothing.
Book Two – The Missing Quilter: While helping daughter Zoey search for her missing friend, Olivia; Miranda goes missing.
Book Three – The Quilt Show Caper; To raise money for the school, the guild is holding its first ever quilt show with the oldest quilt in Pennsylvania on display when someone turns on the sprinklers—and steals the cash from the show.
Throughout these adventures, Miranda is assisted by Gabe Downing, a former FBI agent; and Harry, her cat, who always knows when something is wrong.
When Emma Byrd moves into the house of her dreams in the small mountain community of Sweet Anne’s Gap, she knows that making friends may prove to be her biggest challenge. Her husband loves his new job and her kids are finding their way at school. But Emma — no natural when it comes to talking to strangers — will have to try a little harder, especially after the sweet, white-haired neighbor she first visits slams the door in her face. Luckily, a few of the quilters of Sweet Anne’s Gap adopt Emma and she soon finds herself organizing the quilt show for the town’s centennial celebration. With Birds in the Air, Frances O’Roark Dowell (winner of the Edgar Award, the William Allen White Award and the Christopher Medal) creates a warm, funny novel about fitting in, falling out and mending frayed relationships one stitch at a time.
It’s been six months since COVID-19 changed everything. How we shop, how we socialize, how we work, how we communicate, the learning environment, where and how we travel, and even how we dress (masks required!)
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the “new normal”, especially when it looks like these changes will remain in place longer than we anticipated.
Developing a positive attitude in the wake of change and uncertainty is a challenge, but one well worth the effort. When so much is beyond our control, one thing we can determine is how we think, feel, and react.
The benefits of a positive attitude include increased energy, better problem-solving, greater confidence, and more satisfying interactions with people. People with a positive attitude are more creative, more resilient, and live longer than Negative Nellies.
When you are feeling sad or worried or anxious, cultivating a positive attitude may feel just as overwhelming as all the other challenges you’re dealing with. Start with small shifts to build towards greater positivity. Here are five ideas to get you started.
Pay attention to your words and vocabulary. Replace negative, pessimistic phrases with optimistic, empowering ones. Instead of saying “I can’t go out to eat,” try “Cooking at home allows me to try new recipes and make healthier choices.”
Start a gratitude journal. Every morning or evening, take five minutes to jot down three things you are grateful for. Reread your entries when you need encouragement.
Connect with people who lift you up with their own positive energy and outlook.
Keep a list of things that inspire you-music, movies, books, blogs, exercise, rituals, etc. Get a daily dose of inspiration to stay on track with your positive outlook
Relish small pleasures. It’s easy to focus on what we’ve lost and what we’ve had to sacrifice, but there is still joy to be had in life. Be intentional about recognizing the pleasure and joy in small moments, such as the perfect cup of coffee, a leisurely walk along a quiet country lane, fresh vegetables from your garden, time to read new books and reread favorites, starting a new hobby, assembling a care package to send to a friend (and envisioning their smile of surprise), and so much more.
How are you staying positive? What inspires you? What encouragement would you offer to others? Keep up the good work and have a wonderful August.
There’s something special about reading a book set in a location you are familiar with, especially when that setting holds fond memories or is much loved.
When an author weaves in authentic details about a location, especially local traditions, culture, and history, the setting becomes another character in the story.
For me, Wisconsin is such a place. What makes The Badger State special for me is its expansive shoreline, quaint small towns proud of their history, creative and beautiful artisan crafts, and a strong sense of community no matter where you live in the state.
Here are five Wisconsin authors whose books showcase what I love about our state.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought uncertainty and fear into our homes and our lives. How did this happen? What will we do to survive? When will it end?
There is an abundance of speculation by both citizens and professionals to these and other questions, but, as yet, there are no definitive answers. Each state, community, and family needs to evaluate the situation as it unfolds and reach answers that are unique to themselves. We have never had to handle such an overwhelming event that reaches to our core.
So, in my humble opinion, I say help where we can, let kindness be the guiding force. A simple phone call to an isolated person will let them know you care. A funny card,–homemade preferred–sent by mail will bring a smile. Maybe with all the home cooking being done, a plate of sandwiches and cookies would be a treat for a close neighbor with children who are tired of eating mac ‘n cheese.
I call these little acts of kindness a silver lining to the chaos surrounding us.
My neighborhood email thread keeps us connected. It is a poor substitute for morning coffee with a friend or a lunch together to help support our local restaurants. But think how much we will enjoy seeing each other when we can.
I live in a rural area, and last week a neighbor reported seeing orioles and hummingbirds. I’ve been watching, and this morning a male oriole sat on the window ledge by the kitchen table. He left before I could get a picture, but, oh, how beautiful he was. I call him Nature’s silver lining in these days of doubt and despair.
One evening, the local nesting pair of Canada geese brought eight goslings onto the lawn. They ran and played, then ate the newly mowed grass and ran some more. The parents certainly had to work to keep them together. Can you argue against this silver lining of life moving forward?
My neighbors have gardens ranging from a few raised beds to elaborate areas with greenhouses and hoop houses. With empty spaces on the shelves at the local grocery store, these friends won’t be in need of assistance. They are kind people and will generously share extra produce come harvest time. Neighbor helping neighbor, another silver lining.
This week I will plant lettuce and radishes in my cold frame. The ground is warm under the glass and once the sprouts appear the plants will be safe from rabbits and deer looking for a tender green treat. It will be a couple of weeks before I plant the rest of the garden. I’ve seen too many freezing nights before June to challenge Mother Nature. Doing a second planting after a frosty night is not my idea of fun, thank you very much. Come fall, I will reap my silver lining and share the bounty with my neighbors.
In The Christmas Promise, my 2019 holiday novella, Charlotte Wilson goes to Willow Birch, her husband’s childhood home to be with her mother-in-law. The longer she stays, the more she sees the community as a take-care-of-your-neighbor kind of place. Charlotte uses her abundance to help a local, needy family. Her silver lining is the joy she feels after helping others in a position of want.
We shouldn’t wait for a holiday or a special event to find a silver lining, a small act of kindness for a friend or neighbor or for someone unknown to us. Now is the time to reach out. Be creative, Be funny. Bring joy to the day.
With the uncertainty we are facing now and into the unknown future, we are forced to do more planning than we have had to do in the past. Our shopping mainstays – grocery and all-purpose stores – have limited items on their shelves, forcing us to adjust our meals and activities. Never before in recent years have we’ve seen empty spaces in our stores and wondered when they will be restocked.
As we focus on our homes, I’m reminded of a quilt block known as the Log Cabin design. Popular in the late 1800s, this block was traditionally made with a red square in the center of the block to represent the hearth of the home. Around that square, strips of light and dark fabrics were added in sequence. The light fabrics on one side represent the sunny side of the house while the dark fabrics are the shadow side.
It’s known that quilts with black center blocks were sometimes hung outside homes to indicate a safe haven for runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad trying to make their way north to freedom. After the Civil War ended in 1865, there was a dramatic migration to settle the West. During that time, brides-to-be often used yellow center squares, thought to represent hope for their lives ahead.
New quilters often used this design to develop their skills for accurate cutting and sewing. They find the sewing requires attention to seam allowance, and it’s easy for a block to become slanted if the sewing is not precise.
Recently I made a wall hanging using the Log Cabin pattern It was important to me that the cutting and sewing were accurate so the wall hanging would be square with the wall when it was done.
In my latest release, The Quilt Company, Deanna Westford uses the Log Cabin quilt design to describe the way she’s building her company, with each strip representing a different part of the business. She knows that each “log” of her business needs to be added accurately or her business will become out-of-line and collapse.
Our current lives require us to give accurate attention to the many aspects of our lives – the light and dark “logs” around our hearth – to make it through this difficult time.
I wish your family well keeping your Log Cabin safe.
In Wisconsin, we talk mostly about the weather during
March. The adage, “In like a lamb, out like a lion,” or vice versa, is
mentioned often from day one. I’m afraid that if this is true, with the
beautiful days we are having now, we will pay big time before the end of the
month. So, when conversations lag, weather is an easy subject.
Nationally, we transition into Daylight Savings
Time in March. How wonderful to have an extra few minutes of daylight in the
evening and more time as the months pass. I love those warm evenings when it is
light after supper.
Wisconsin – the beer capital of the U.S., maybe the
world – transitions to “green” beer on St. Patrick’s Day. Even if you
don’t claim Irish heritage, the meal that day is corned beef and cabbage served
with a mug of green beer. One meal each year is enough for me, thank you.
My favorite transition in March is the changing
of the closets. I am not a person who embraces winter, so when warmer temperatures
arrive this month, I am happy to put away the heavy coats, hats, and mittens
for another year. It’s like the weight of the cold weather is also being packed
This month I transitioned to include sewing and
knitting along with quilting. Our local help organization needed baby items, so
I opened totes of yarn, cabinets of flannel fabric, found patterns, and got
busy. Boy, did I have fun. Look at my assortment of booties, beanies, bears,
By the time you read this, all the items will have
been given to local families in need. I’m so grateful to be able to help.
Before I sign off, I want to tell you Miss Opal, the recipient of the quilt from the January blog, arrived on schedule. She and Mom are doing fine. Dad is sporting a huge smile and offering a helping hand.
Keep well this month and enjoy a touch of the Irish.
Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much, and reach for that
Pot o’ Gold.
Historians aren’t 100% in agreement as to the
beginnings of this holiday. Many believe it started as a Pagan ritual known as Lupercalia when goats and dogs were
sacrificed and their skins, soaked in the animal’s blood, were used to slap the
women of the village. The women welcomed the treatment, believing it helped to
make them more fertile in the coming year.
Around the 3rd century A.D., the Catholic
Church banished the Pagan ritual and recognized three different saints named
Valentine, but, here again, there is no consensus among the researchers.
It is known that Americans began exchanging handmade valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, a woman began selling the first mass-produced valentines she made with lace, ribbons, and colorful pictures. In 1913, Hallmark Cards offered premade valentines, and in 1916, began mass producing them. It is estimated that 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year.
We have friends who save their money all year so they
can celebrate Valentine’s Day in grand style. They buy special gifts for each
other, spend the evening with dinner and dancing, and playfully renew their
wedding vows. Hubby and I are lower key in the celebrating—maybe a card, maybe
a dinner out, or not. It all depends on the activities surrounding the day.
My quilt project for February was done as a challenge
from the aforementioned husband. He said, “Do something that you haven’t done
in a long time.” I immediately thought of a miniature project. And what better
subject than a heart?
Each of the squares of red fabric in the heart finish
as one inch squares. To keep the challenge going, I hand-sewed all of the red
squares together, then added the background fabric using the machine. The
fabric heart is in a 7 x 9 inch frame.
With the leftover fabric, I made two-sided hearts and
put them on florist wire. I put the hearts into a red and white artificial
flower arrangement I put out in February.
I hope you enjoy the month of love and romance and make
every day a Valentine’s Day.
I hope everyone is as excited as I am about starting fresh in January. I have a group of friends that are truly motivated with goals and intentions, so when I asked them about their projects for the coming year, they could count on their fingers the what, when, where, and how they would be successful.
When I inquired about their decade goals, I was totally surprised. They looked at me with deer-in-the-headlights expressions and mumbled, “Well…I… Let’s see… Um…I’m not sure.”
Could this be true? Do my dedicated friends only think in one-year increments? I was surprised – shocked, really – until one person explained that thinking long-term was scary for her. The last time she’d planned long-range goals, she accomplished them sooner than she’d planned and was left floundering with all her “free” time.
My reply of, “How wonderful. What a gift. Let’s plan more goals for you,” wasn’t received well.
I finally realized she hadn’t given herself time to do some future thinking to challenge herself to set bigger goals that were “scary” and would stretch her skills to accomplish them.
It is a known fact that we plan to do more than we can accomplish in one year, but we also don’t plan to do enough in the years beyond the first and are left with “Is this all there is?”
So I challenge you to grab a cup of tea, coffee, or “whatever” and spend some enjoyable time doing future thinking for the next few years in order to make this decade an awesome adventure.
For myself this year, in addition to writing, I have the challenge of making quilts – my first passion – for wedding and baby gifts. In our current society, hand-made gifts are seen as unique and special. And that is how I want my gifts to be.
My first gift this year is for a baby arriving in February. It is always relaxing and comforting to work with the pastel colors and add a flannel backing for warmth.
In this picture I have set out fabric and supplies and have made a few sample squares.
And here is the finished quilt, ready for the expecting parents. I can’t wait to hear when the little one arrives.
Each month this year I will show you my current quilting project and the challenges I will face making it.
Until next time, I wish you happiness and joy. The kind my characters receive after facing and overcoming their challenges.