Category Archives: Books


Quilts Galore ~ Excerpt


Early morning sunshine washed over my breakfast nook and turned the pale yellow walls into the rich color of golden daffodils. The rays of light were strong and bright, so unlike the washed out, faded blue-jean color of last winter’s mornings.

I wasn’t strong like the sunlight, though, and my hands trembled as I pinned two fabric blocks together for my quilt-in-progress, just staying busy as I passed the time. Jack Pearson was due here any minute. An across-the-yard neighbor and friend, his official capacity as our—my— family lawyer made our appointment necessary. I didn’t want him to come, but a week had passed since I’d buried William, and Jack said he needed to go over some details of William’s estate. Routine paperwork, I assumed.

Jack knocked on the patio door and let himself in, leading with his briefcase. In his charcoal gray suit and characteristic crisp white shirt, he was already dressed for the office. Mine was the first business of his day, but I was dressed in my typical quilting-at-home clothes, comfy slacks and a beige cotton sweater. We didn’t need to be in the staid atmosphere of Jack’s law firm setting to accomplish whatever he’d put on the agenda.

I put the quilt pieces aside on the table and nodded towards the counter. “Coffee? It’s ready.”

He nodded, but didn’t look my way.

That he didn’t meet my eye, felt like a slight. I ignored it and filled two mugs and carried them to the dining room, setting them on the table. I swept my arm across the table, pushing piles of newspapers, junk mail, and fabric scraps to one side, clearing space for us to do our work.

Jack pulled out a chair, the same one he always sat in when he and his wife, Liz, came over for one of our regular foursome dinners, then opened his briefcase. He pulled out a sheaf of documents, placing them on the table. The official looking papers left me uneasy, not that I had any particular worries. Consulting with Jack, William and I had prepared our wills together and I knew the provisions. He still hadn’t looked me in the eye though, and something about Jack’s reserved manner triggered mild anxiety. Distancing himself was so unlike him.

Steady and calm, yes, but he was friendly and casual, too. Especially around me. After all, he and William were good friends. His wife, Liz, and I had been close for years. Even more important, she was my rock, my confidant, over the grueling months of William’s illness and during the last week, too. The first week I was without my husband. Going over William’s estate had to be painful for Jack, too.

He cleared his throat and took a quick swallow of coffee. “Okay, Marianna, I know this is tough, so let’s get through it. I’ll do a quick recap, confirming what you know.”

Until William’s diagnosis, I’d never expected—or wanted—to be sitting across the table from Jack, listening to him explaining this or that provision of a will I wished I’d never had to file or even look at. I wanted William alive and with me. The trembling returned, and I wrapped my arms at my waist, as if holding my body together. I wanted to run outside and declare this all a horrible mistake, or a bad dream. William was well and strong. He’d join me for a cup of coffee any minute now. But I knew that wasn’t true. Finally, I raised my hand. “Enough. I know which charities William chose for his bequests, and I’m aware he left everything else to me. That’s what’s important now. We don’t need to go over all those details. I’ll sign whatever forms you give me. Let’s just wrap this up.”

With his eyes still on the papers in front of him, Jack squirmed in the chair.

“What is it? You’re wiggling around like a little kid.”

He lifted his head, at last looking me in the eye. “William added a codicil,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper.

“A codicil? You mean he added something to the will and didn’t tell me?”

He nodded. “It’s about Rachel.”

Rachel? My fists turned into little balls in my lap. I was aware that my nails dug into my palms, causing mild pain, but somehow I didn’t care. “I see.” A lie. I didn’t see at all. “He never told me about it. He hadn’t seen her in, what, fifteen years?”

Jack tapped the paper. “That’s true, but remember, Marianna, he knew he was going to die, and he’d had time to think about the past. Maybe examine a few regrets.” Jack cleared his throat. “Most of all, he wanted to make sure you were protected.”

“From what—or who?”

“From Lydia, first, but Rachel herself, too,” Jack said with a sigh. “William was certain Rachel’s mother would come knocking on your door, maybe making demands on Rachel’s behalf. But the codicil is in the form of a trust. You’re under no obligation to tell Lydia or Rachel that there’s some money for her down the road.”

I pointed to the papers in front of him. “Tell me more about it. I don’t understand.”

“William funded a trust for Rachel with some investments he held long before you two were married. But he restricted her access to the trust until she’s twenty-five years old. You have control until then, and there are provisions that would allow you to release or hold back funds.”

“Lucky me.” My sarcasm didn’t escape either of us. I had no desire to deal with either Rachel, who I’d never met, or her mother, who was the reason William had virtually no relationship with his daughter. The money itself wasn’t an issue. William and I had always had plenty—more than enough for a comfortable life. The day after William died, Jack had quietly assured me I would never want for anything. But I’d already known that. William often joked we could live to be 100 and still pay the bills. More than half way to the century mark already, I was simply thankful that I’d be spared dreary money worries.

“I’m not sure I like this particular surprise. One day I’ll have to hand over money to Rachel for no other reason than she’s William’s daughter.” I swatted the air, wishing it would sweep away this new development. “He never had a relationship with her—you know all the complicated reasons for that. And it’s not like Rachel has done anything to earn the money.” For some reason, that didn’t sit well with me.

Jack nodded and took another gulp of coffee. “You’re right.” He paused. “Still, it isn’t her fault her mother is a miserable person, willing to hurt Rachel and ruin any chance she had to get to know her father.”

True enough, but it didn’t help this news settle in any easier. “Since it’s a trust, then you’re saying I don’t have to contact the girl until she’s twenty-five? Until then, I never have to be involved with her at all?”

“That’s correct, Marianna. I’ll continue to pay the child support until Rachel turns eighteen. Her birthday is in a few months, by the way. The trustees at the bank will send annual reports to state and federal tax agencies until she’s twenty-five. Right now, since Rachel is fifteen, none of this will require anything from you for ten years.”

“That’s a relief.”

Jack gathered the files and the copy of the will and returned them back to his briefcase. He quickly closed the clasps, as if trying to make the codicil to the will disappear along with the papers. “I have to run,” he said, getting to his feet. “I’ve got an early appointment to get to.”

He hurried to the door, but stopped and pivoted on his heel to face me. “As I said, Marianna, William never wanted the codicil to hurt you—or be a burden. That was the last thing he’d ever want. He didn’t talk to you about it, because he wanted his last months and weeks—even days—to be only about the two of you, not rehashing things that happened long before you were married.”

I nodded, showing that I understood. But I didn’t. If William wanted the girl to have some money, he should have left her a lump sum in his will. Somehow, I was left with the feeling this wasn’t going to be a matter of a simple ten-year wait.


Two years later

Restless and pacing between my kitchen counter and the stove, I held a mug of coffee in one hand, the phone in the other, and waited for Liz to pick up my call. Finally, after the fourth ring, I heard her breathless hello.

“Morning, Liz,” I said quickly. “I finished another quilt design last night. I’m heading to the fabric shop in Wolf Creek this morning. Want to come along?”

Liz laughed. “You’re talking so fast, like a woman on a mission.”

“I suppose I am,” I said. “It’s just that I’m eager to be on my way.” I didn’t expect her to understand my sense of urgency to get out and go somewhere. I wasn’t acting like the Marianna that Liz had seen recently—for the past two years, anyway.

“As much as I want to go with you…oops, hold on.”

I heard little Andrea fussing in the background and Liz’s low voice trying to soothe her. I hadn’t known she’d have her granddaughter with her for the day.

“Marianna? You still there? I’ve been up all night with Andrea and she still hasn’t settled down. She’s the cutest almost-two-year-old you ever saw, but she has her days—and nights. There’s no way I can take her on a trip today. Can we go another day?”

Her question carried a hint of longing. She liked nothing better than a spontaneous jaunt to a nearby town, a chance to poke around in shops and go out for lunch. She usually had to drag me along. But I wanted the fabric today. Besides, I was finally eager to do something different. A trip to Wolf Creek captured my attention. It was important to go today.

“We can go together another time, Liz. I’ll stop by later and show you the fabric when I get home.”

“Okay,” Liz responded, apparently resigned to the situation.

Eager as I was to be on my way, I still wanted to avoid abruptly ending the conversation. “Andrea isn’t sick, is she?”

“I don’t think so,” Liz said with a sigh. “Just cranky last night and today. She’ll be okay. You have fun.”

“Thanks. I will.”

I appreciated what Liz said. She knew better than anyone that for me, fun had been elusive. For two years, Liz coaxed me to try new things, or even agree to simple things such as going out for breakfast at a café in town. But more often than not, I’d said no. I wasn’t usually so compelled to leave my house, but I wanted to begin my new quilt without delay, and I needed the fabric.

Ready to be on my way, I went to the door going into the garage, but stopped before opening it. I’d almost forgotten my brooch. It was right where I’d left it on my kitchen counter, protected in its velvet box. I opened the box and picked up the brooch, my mind slipping back to the day I’d buried William. I rubbed my fingers over the delicate primrose design, the petals of hammered silver, the center a pearl, and three “buds” of smaller pearls on the end of wire curves. I’d wanted to wear the brooch today, but when I went to pin it on my coat the clasp broke in my hand. It upset me more than that kind of mishap usually would, but it was the last piece of jewelry William gave me before his cancer diagnosis.

These last two years, I tried to keep him close by having the brooch sit on my dresser top so I could look at it—picking it up to run my thumb over the surface—every day. Feeling ready to wear it again, I wanted it repaired. Another reason Wolf Creek beckoned me. I wouldn’t wait any longer.

Surprised by my own restlessness, I tried to examine what drove me to start the quilt, but I didn’t want to slow down long enough to figure it out. I tucked my quilt design and the box into my purse and hurried to the car. This day, I wanted to leave the familiar behind. I’d spent two years surrounded by, even cloaked in, all the touchstones of the life William and I had built. All this time, the memories had been enough, but not anymore.

Available at your favorite retailer. Click Here to get your copy!

Too Comfortable In My Comfort Zone

Comfort is, from Webster’s Dictionary, a state of ease and quiet enjoyment. Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful place to be? Finding a place surrounded by nature with limited interruptions would be heavenly. What would you do with unlimited time and no responsibilities? And, for how long would you be content?

Over a year ago when the stay-home policy was put in place, Hubby and I looked at each other and he said, “That won’t be hard on us.” I agreed. In general, we live a routine life when we are alone, but we had lots of company before the pandemic changed that. Our friends would stop in for an afternoon of conversation or we would have overnight guests. Fortunately for us, we found our daily routine served us well when everyone had to stay home. The phone became our means of connecting with people.

My trips to town for essentials, like food, post office (I started sending ‘thinking of you’ cards), and sundries dropped from weekly to biweekly. I had planned fourteen days of menus which made grocery shopping easier and I spent less time in the store. Even with masks required, I didn’t want to linger. Our local small town grocery store didn’t offer online ordering or curbside pickup. I’m still doing the fourteen days’ worth of menus because I’m comfortable using the same grocery list and eating quality meals over and over.

With lockdown at the local library, my short breaks wandering between the shelves to find an intriguing book were no longer part of my routine. But I couldn’t think of not having books to read. People more technically advanced ordered their books online for curb-side pickup. Not knowing how to use this system, I relied on the library staff to find books for me. They did a wonderful job which added to my comfort zone.

Now that it’s summer and we’ve been unable to enter Canada, we have entered into the current interest of gardening. I am finding it relaxing to spend time checking the plants and weeding in the morning. There are always more weeds than vegetable or flower plants. (See July’s Blog for more on my game with weeds.) Our area of Wisconsin has seen an extended time of hot, humid days followed by heavy, hard rains. Both plants and weeds are having prime growing conditions. I’m finding joy in the quiet and solitude of the garden.

For a good laugh, read on. Remember those routines I talked about earlier? I/we (Hubby’s in this, too) have daily tasks because there are times when we can’t remember which day of the week it is. Most days our “tasks” are done in the morning, leaving afternoon and evenings for hobbies or phone visits. Here is how our week unfolds:

Sunday – wash bed linens, pay bills

Monday – wash towels, take dumpster out for garbage pickup

Tuesday – wash rugs, bring in dumpster

Wednesday – wash dog blankets, wind antique clocks

Thursday – wash shirts and tops, iron as needed

Friday – wash undies, clean toilets

Saturday – let washing machine rest (smile here), water indoor plants

Our lives have become simple routines that we are comfortable living within.

With many of the restrictions lifted, I feel it is time to break out of that comfort zone. I need to call a friend so we can meet for coffee, or walk the aisles in the grocery store to see if they’ve added new items, or take an afternoon to browse the library shelves.

But, sadly, I find myself changing my mind and staying home in my comfort zone. I know it’s time to connect with the world, find a new book, try a challenging hobby, and make coffee with a friend a priority.

The adage of knowing and doing are two very different things applies to me. I really need a new comfort zone.

Believing in tomorrow.


Fiction for Quilters

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.

Forget Me Knot (A Quilting Mystery Book 1)

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. . .

Quilters of the Door (The Door County Quilt Series)

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.

The Sweet Tea Quilting Bee (Southern Grace Book 5)

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.

Miranda Hathaway Boxed Set: Cutler Quilt Guild Adventures #1-3

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.

Birds in the Air

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.

You can also enjoy my women’s fiction with quilting themes: The Quilt Company and Quilts Galore (The Shops on Wolf Creek Square, Book 1)

June – Celebrating Wisconsin Authors

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.

Kate Bowman – For the Love of Fiber Series, which includes The Spin I’m in and It Never Felt so Good

Virginia McCullough – Author of The Jacks of Her Heart, Greta’s Grace, The Chapels on the Hill, and other award-winning women’s fiction and romance.

Nancy Sweetland – The Door to Love: A Door County Romance

Valerie J. Clarizio – Love on the Door County Peninsula Series, which includes Talia & Ryan’s Story and Jess & Sam’s Story.

Mary Grace Murphy – Noshes Up North Culinary Mystery Series, which includes Death Nell, Death Knock, and Death Nosh.

You can also enjoy my women’s fiction romance, inspired by the joys of living in Wisconsin.

What is a place you love to read about?

Believing in Tomorrow,


April – Planning Ahead

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.

My first attempt many years ago.

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.

Recent finished project.

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.

Believing in Tomorrow,