Saturday, December 31, 2011

good books of 2011

Each year I read about 60 books for grown ups and who knows how many books for children. Here are some of the more interesting ones I read or liked in 2010.

Betrayal in Paris by Doris Elaine Fell is a suspense filled novel our book club read back in April. Adrienne Winters is in search of something to help her understand her dead brother's past. Her search takes her to places and situations she would never have imagined being part of.
Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas is the book our book club read in June. It is set in Colorado in the 1930's. Eighty six year old Hennie Comfort is the main character. She has a sign outside her house that says Prayers for Sale, which brings young Nit Spindle to her door. It is a great story of friendship. Quilting is part of the story, as Hennie works on quilting to pass the time with Nit and others.
I picked up The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow by Joyce Magnin because of it's title. My grandma's name was Agnes, and it talked about prayer. I read it around the same time I read Prayers for Sale, and it was much different, but thought provoking. Agnes is an extremely overweight woman who prays for the townspeople when they need it. The people in Bright's Pond are convinced God answers Agnes' prayers more than others.
The 100 Thing Challenge by Dave Bruno was a book that made me think. Bruno decided to live for one year with just 100 personal possesions. It is something almost anyone COULD do, but there are so many thing that I like, I am not sure I would WANT to do it.
Other novels that I have already written about on my blog and would put on my list of favorites for the year would be Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford Promises to Keep by Ann Tatlock.

For children's books, I discovered the poem book Falling Down the Pages: A Book of List Poems collected by Georgia Heard. It is a different style of poetry than I am accustomed to, but it made me think more about writing some of my own poetry. Some of my students really enjoyed it as well.
Other children's books I discovered this year and really like are A is for Autumn by Robert Maass, Guyku by Bob Raczka, and Ling and Ting by Grace Lin.
Did you read anything noteworthy in 2011?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

False Pretenses

False Pretenses by Kathy Herman is the book my book club is reading for January. It is a suspenseful story that tells about Zoe Broussard. Zoe is living a life she enjoys but has lots of secrets from her past. She begins getting mysterious notes that make her worry her whole life is going to collapse around her. There are characters from Herman's Sophie Trace trilogy in the story, which I didn't know until after reading this book. If you like inspirational suspense novels, you would enjoy this book. I am also looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas is Here

Christmas is Here is my pick of the year for children's Christmas books. The text is taken from Luke 2:8-14 of the King James Bible. Illustrations are by Lauren Castillo. Castillo has done an excellent job with the artwork in the book. I will be looking for more books that she has illustrated. Have you found any new children's Christmas books you would recommend?

Friday, December 16, 2011

another quilt

I finished this quilt on Sunday night. It is a lap size quilt I gave away as a special birthday present. The picture doesn't show the quilt colors as well as I like, but I guess lighting and the camera can make a big difference. The pattern for the star block I got from my sister's blog and can be found here. I like how putting blocks together without sashing makes another pattern. It makes me want to try doing that again (maybe with a different block pattern).

Monday, December 5, 2011

Charlotte's Web

I reread Charlotte's Web by E.B. White over the weekend. My nephew was reading it on Thanksgiving, which made me pick up my copy and reread it. A good story that doesn't disappoint. It goes without saying that it is way better than the movie. Do you have any favorite classics?

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Muppets

I went to The Muppets movie last night. It was silly. Which is what you would expect from the Muppets. I enjoyed watching The Muppet Show as a kid, though this puts the Muppets in part of the real world. It is not a movie I would pay to go see again, but I might want to watch it with my nieces and nephews when it comes out on video. I enjoyed SOME of the music, and parts of the movie reminded me of a musical. Have you seen it? Do you think you might?

Monday, November 21, 2011

making things

Making things makes me happy. Here are a few things I have made lately. Above are two blank books I sewed together. I LOVE making books cause you can choose the size and color to fit anything.

I made the pillowcase last evening and it might be a Christmas present. Pillowcases are easy and this kind only takes a yard of fabric and less than an hour if all goes well. Not a bad investment for a handmade gift.

The card is small (less than three inches by three inches) but will make a nice gift tag or little note for someone. I like projects that can be done in just one sitting, but I probably won't give up making quilts, cause they make great gifts for big occasions. What do you like to make?

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Sister Dilly

My Sister Dilly by Maureen Lang is the story of two sisters. Despite the title referring to Dilly, the story is really about her sister Hannah. Dilly is getting out of jail, so Hannah quits her job in California to return to Illinois to help her sister. Hannah feels guilty for leaving Hannah behind so wants to redeem herself by being there for Dilly now. This story deals well with the complexities of family relationships and how personal perspective makes us think as we do. It would be a good book to discuss in a book club.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

If You Give a Dog a Donut

If You Give a Dog a Donut is Laura Numeroff's most recent book. It is an enjoyable story about what happens when you give a dog a donut. If you or your child are a fan of Numeroff's other books, this book is for you. I liked it better than her last one, If You Give a Cat a Cupcake. My students sure enjoyed this book as well. Have you read any notable picture books lately?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A is for Autumn

A is for Autumn by Robert Maass is a fun alphabet book. If you like fall, alphabet books, or photographs, I recommend this book. The text is brief enough for a preschooler, yet engaging enough for an elementary aged child. It could even be used for older students learning English. Reading it more than once to different children didn't make me tire of the text. The photographs are enjoyable as well. My favorite pages in this alphabet book are for Q and Z. Q is for quilt, and Z is for zipper. What do you like about fall?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Silver Sword

I read The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier over the weekend. It is a children's book that was published first in 1954, though the first time I heard of the book was in the last couple months. The story takes place in Europe during World War II. The story starts with a family-the mother, the father, and three children living in Warsaw. The father is sent off to a prison camp, the mother is arrested, and the three children are left to fend for themselves. The bulk of the story focuses on the three children Ruth, Edek, and Bronia, along with their friend Jan, trying to get to Switzerland from Warsaw to be reunited with their father. The book reminded me some of other children's novels about World War II like Twenty and Ten by Claire Bishop, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, and Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan. The difference is the characters in this book have very little direction from adults in their task. It is a story I would recommend reading. It would be a good book for a student studying World War II. It has also been reprinted under the title Escape from Warsaw.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Sound Among the Trees

I finished this book, A Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner, yesterday. The novel has some rather distinct characters-Adelaide, Susannah, and Marielle. Adelaide and Marielle are in the present day, Susannah is Adelaide's great grandmother. Some people think that a ghost haunts Holly Oak, where Adelaide and Marielle now live, though neither of the residents are certain. The part that I enjoyed the most were Susannah's letters to her cousin in Maine. She wrote the letters from Virginia during the Civil War. The letters could have been a story in themselves. One thing I liked was how Meissner didn't intersperse the letters throughout the story. Instead she told much of Adelaide and Marielle's story, then put all the letters together in the middle, then ended with Adelaide and Marielle's story. If you haven't read any of Meissner's books yet, I would recommend this one.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

One World, One Day

One World, One Day by Barbara Kerley is a book that I would recommend reading to any child. There are pictures of children from all over the world doing everyday things...eating breakfast, going to school and playing with friends. No matter where a child lives, he or she would be able to identify with the daily activities. It is simple, but could be used for any age because at the end there are more details telling exactly where the children in each picture was taken along with more details.

Monday, October 3, 2011

desert quilt

This is a quilt I made this summer for my friend who lives in the desert. If the quilt had stayed in Minnesota, I would have probably called it a fall quilt. The idea for the pattern was inspired by a quilt I saw on the movie Saving Sarah Cain. My first attempt to make a quilt with triangles like this resulted in a quilt top I gave to my sister and she finished. You can see it here.

Friday, September 30, 2011


The winner of the giveaway for September is Melissa. I will get the bibs and bag in the mail to you soon.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

National Sewing Month

September is National Sewing Month. To commemorate this, I am giving away the two baby bibs above and the bag shown below. The baby bibs are quilted and washable, the bag is made of cotton fabric and is machine washable as well. The bibs and bags are both things I make for gifts because they go together fairly quickly and are functional. If you want a chance to win, leave a comment on any of my posts from this month. A winner will be chosen sometime after school on September 30. One entry per post, and like my last giveaway, open to people I know. If you won something on my blog already this year, you are not eligible for this one.

Friday, September 2, 2011

ocean breeze tumbler quilt

The ocean breeze tumbler quilt is what I gave my sister for her birthday. The idea for the name came from my friend Jill, but when she mentioned the words ocean breeze, it seemed to fit well. Maybe she and I should quit our jobs and work for a paint company naming colors.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Anita is the winner of the giveaway. I counted comments on all the posts for July and August and then used the random number generator. Fitting, as it is her birthday tomorrow. Thanks for all of you who commented...I'll have another giveaway in the next month or two.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

back to school giveaway

I am having a back to school giveaway! You can win the above items-two birthday cards, two blank books, and the book Frederick by Leo Lionni. The blank books and cards were made by me. You are eligible to win if you live in the United States and I know you. For each comment you make on one of my July or August posts you will be entered once in the drawing. I will pick a winner sometime after work on Thursday, September 1. How is the back to school season treating you?

Friday, August 26, 2011


Here are a few cards I made recently. My friend sent me the stickers for my birthday, and with a little bit of ribbon, cardstock, and adhesive I put these together. My favorite is the red one in the lower right corner. Do you have a favorite?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Amish Nanny

The Amish Nanny by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould is the second book in the Women of Lancaster County series the two women have written. This book tells the story of Ada Rupp, a young Amish women. In the story, she travels to Europe with another woman and child to help save a historical site in Switzerland. This is an intriguing story which is characteristic of Clark's other novels.

Monday, August 8, 2011

easy as pie quilt

This is a quilt I finished this summer. I got the pattern from my sister's blog (click here for directions). It isn't a quilt I planned on making, but after seeing the pattern and directions for it on her blog, I kept thinking about it and the scraps of fabric that I had in my closet. It went together quickly-I cut out the pieces and sewed it together in one weekend. The quilting took an afternoon, and the binding a couple of hours. It would be a great quilt for a beginner because of the big pieces and not needing to match corners exactly.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Persian Pickle Club

I read The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas last week in one day. It is about Queenie Bean and her quilt club, The Persian Pickles. They live in a small community in Kansas during the Greet Depression. It is a story about friendship which I enjoyed. The story was short (under 200 pages) and had enough surprises that made me keep wondering what would happen next. Did you know that Persian pickle is actually another name for the paisley design? Just one thing I learned from reading the book.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Fresh Fabric Treats

My sister Amanda has a pattern for a quilt in this book, Fresh Fabric Treats. To see a picture of the quilt she made for it, click here. I got to see the book last time I was at her place, and it is a fun book. Seven of the sixteen projects are quilts. Among the other projects in the book are several kinds of bags and a pillow. If you don't quilt, you still might enjoy flipping through the book and seeing the different things people made.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Secret Gift

I put A Secret Gift by Ted Gup on my reading list at the recommendation of a friend and former roommate. It took two months to get it from the library because there were so many people waiting for it. The story itself is inspiring-a man decided to place an ad in the paper at Christmastime in 1933 saying he would give money away to people from Canton, Ohio who were in need. The book was not as interesting to read as I had hoped. There were many details about the lives of people during the depression. I finished reading it but at times it felt more like homework-it took me over a week to read it. Anyone else have an opinion about the book?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch

Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch by Jennifer Rofe is a book I saw at my sister's house this week. The picture book is for preschoolers, but my older nephews seemed to like it as well. Two pigs take a walk around the farmyard and run into several problems. The pictures are simple but well done, and inside the cover there is a map of the farm showing the route the pigs chose. It was a short book that I could read quite a bit before I grew tired of it. Read any noteworthy picture books lately?

Friday, July 1, 2011


One of the only good reasons I can think of to get up early in the summer is to pick strawberries. This is just a portion of the ones I picked this morning. Yum!

(thanks to my brother for the picture, thanks to my friend Cathy for inviting me to go with her)

Friday, June 24, 2011

photo Friday

My brother sent me this picture which he took somewhere in Iowa. This picture looks like it would make the great cover for a book, or a story starter for my students. What do you think is at the top of the stairs?

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book

The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book by Barbara W. Ellis is a book I have been looking at this week. There are several parts that are general in nature at the beginning-how to prepare your garden spot and composting are two of them. There is a question and answer section about specific vegetables. At the end of the book, she has suggestions of how many plants you need per person for each kind of vegetable. This is a book that would be helpful to beginning gardeners like me, but seasoned gardeners may also learn something from it. I found it at the library and may have to renew it so I can keep it an additional three weeks.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

birthday quilt

This is my recently completed quilt. It is for my friend's birthday, which is today.I used my sister's Juki TL-98Q to quilt it and I might just have to buy a machine like it. I didn't have any puckers til I got to the binding. The stitches are very even, and I didn't have to do any stitch ripping. The only problem was that the quilting went so well I didn't take any breaks and my back hurt like crazy for several days because of it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

a dozen quilts

Above is a picture of my current quilt collection.
1. my bull's eye quilt
2. soft and snuggly
3. sunflower quilt
4. quilt of hearts
5. red, white and blue
6. my first quilt
7. fall looking quilt
8. red, white and blue quilt from my sister
9. farm quilt
10. tumbling towers
11. blue and yellow sampler quilt
12. the quilt my grandma gave me

Clicking on any of the highlighted names of the quilts will show you a bigger picture of the quilt.

Ten of the twelve I made. I actually use all of them in the winter when one of my sisters comes over to spend the night with her family. Many are used as play things when my nieces and nephews come over for Camp Clair.

My favorites are soft and snuggly, quilt of hearts, and the red, white and blue quilt I made. I do like them all, except the fall looking quilt. It is probably going on the giveaway pile once I complete my next quilt. Which are your favorites?

Monday, May 2, 2011

This Plus That

This Plus That: Life's Little Equations is Amy Krouse Rosenthal's newest book. It doesn't tell a story as much as write things as equations. The pictures are great, and my students enjoyed the format of the book. Some of the equations made me smile and it made me think my students and I should try to make up some of our own equations like Rosenthal did. The pictures by Corace are great, too. Though I still like her book Little Pea the best of all her books, this is definitely worth reading and rereading.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Promises to Keep

Promises to Keep is Ann Tatlock's newest novel. The story is told by 11 year old Roz. She lives in the late 1960's. Roz, her mother, brother and sister have just moved from Minneapolis to Mills River, Illinois to get away from her father. Promises to Keep is well written, but covers some issues that don't have easy answers. I would recommend it if you like reading serious stories.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Guyku by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds is my new favorite picture book. The subtitle for the book is a A Year of Haiku for Boys, but I enjoyed the book immensely even though I am a grown up. Raczka writes haiku poems describing different outdoor activitites many children enjoy. He starts with spring and goes through each season using words to create images that made me smile. Reynolds also has great illustrations to go with the haiku. I read it to some of my students and they enjoyed it because of the words and pictures. It is a book I may have to go out and buy for myself. There is also a website that goes along with the book at

Monday, April 11, 2011

Poetry Matters

Poetry Matters by Ralph Fletcher is a book I read for a class I took last summer. I picked it up at the library again because it is National Poetry Month. It is written for older elementary or middle school students. Fletcher gives some tips and suggestions that help students become better writers of poetry. This book was written for students, but I think teachers and writers might enjoy it as well. Reading this book made me want to write a poem or two about some of my favorite things. Have you ever written a poem by choice?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Last week in school one of the stories was about collage art. So I assigned my students the task of making a collage. I also made the collage above. It is a picture of where I would like to live someday-in a neighborhood that is walking distance to my sisters' ( Amanda and Anita) houses and a library.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

from fabric to quilt

A common question I get from people is "How long did it take you to make that quilt?" Normally I can just tell them when I started it and when I finished it, which is anywhere from one week to six years. So I kept a record of how long this one took and it turned out to be about 27.5 hours. The part that took the longest (around 17 hours) was the hand quilting around each picture twice-once on the picture itself, and another time on the bordering fabric. There are a total of 28 blocks, each measuring 12 by 16. It is long enough to sleep under and will likely be popular with my nephews when they come sleep over.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile

Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile by Gloria Houston is a picture book that would be great to read to children in elementary and middle school. The book is based on the life of a woman the author knew when she was a child. Miss Dorothy loved books and loved sharing the books with others. I like this book just as much (or more) than her book, My Great-Aunt Arizona. Even though this book's intended audience is children, most adults that love reading would enjoy this story as well.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Chair for My Mother

A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams is a great story to read to grade school children. A girl, her mother, and her grandmother work together to save money for a chair for their apartment. It sends a great message about saving for something and community. The more I read the story, the more I like it.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan is a book I picked up to read because my nephews are reading the series. It took me awhile to get into the book, but after I got into it, there was plenty to keep me engaged in the story. Percy is a boy that is thrust into a world he never thought was real-the world of mythology. He finds out at the beginning of the story that he is the son of a god. He encounters all kinds of strange things in his quest to stop the Greek gods from starting a war. The strength of the story is in the many twists and turns in the plot. Having Greek gods as some of the characters seems like it would be confusing to children reading the book, but hasn't stopped the Percy Jackson series from being a bestseller. I don't think I am interested in watching the movie, and may not read the other books anytime soon. Has anyone read the book or watched the movie?

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Wonderful Book

The Wonderful Book by Leonid Gore is an engaging story to share with preschool and elementary aged children. Animals find a variety of uses for a book and at the end a boy finds the book and reads it to all the animals. The story is brief and the pictures are appealing. I have read it several times in the past month to different groups of students and have not grown tired of it.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Today I dressed up as Bookgirl, a character I made up, for I Love to Read month. I wore a cape and carried a bag with books to read and some to give away. The second and third grade students LOVED it. Since I don't usually wear glasses, a cape, or pigtails some people had to look twice to know that it was me.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Here are two bags that I made following a pattern I found at I adjusted the pattern a bit so I only need a half a yard of fabric. If you are an experienced seamstress, you could probably get one of these bags done in less than an hour. There are some French seams so there are no raw edges exposed when it is complete. This bag is a great quick project to make for a gift for a friend.