Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Book Review: Homesick

Homesick: My Own Story
by Jean Fritz

This is sort of a strange little book.

As you might guess by the title, this children's award winner is a memoir. Jean presents herself as a 10 year old American girl living in China in the early part of the 20th century. She was actually born in China to American aid workers. And though she's lived her young life entirely with the Chinese, she remains a foreigner. The stories her parents have told her about the United States, along with the letters from her grandmother in Pennsylvania, have Jean feeling homesick for a land she's never seen.

From this book you do get a sense of China in the 1920s. You feel the unrest between the foreign nationals with the native servants and local people they work among. You get a sense of the privilege that these families expect and receive. You get a sense that Jean lived among the Chinese, but was not of them.

There were some nice details of her life ... from picnics on the Great Wall to holidays in the foreigners compound, from the mixture of nationalities of children at Jean's British school to her solo trips into the strictly Chinese areas of town and her reception by the residents there. Jean had a particular fascination with the Yangtze River, so had some nice details about spending time near the river. Then there was a tragic and silenced part of the story about the loss of Jean's infant sister.

Jean and her family are more-or-less forced to leave China in 1927 due to strikes and anti-foreign demonstrations in Hankow, near where Jean and her family lived. The revolution that changed Chinese government soon followed.

The book continues as Jean and her family travel across the Pacific and enter the United States through San Francisco, then the trek across the country to Washington, PA where her dad grew up. Finally the day arrived when Jean got to meet in person the grandmother she already loved through letters.

The last part of the book is, I suppose, a different kind of fish-out-of-water story. It's about how Jean begins to learn to fit into this new American life. It's not only about living in a new country, but about dispelling myths kids in the US had about what life is like in China. It's about learning to dress right and fit in at her new school. It's about the onset of adolescence and the confusion that comes learning to grow into that part of life.

It isn't easy for our girl Jean.

In the end, though, it's a book about being accepted -- especially by her grandmother. Tough as the transition is, the love and laughter Jean shares with her grandmother helps smooth out the rough edges.

So why did I read it? I had this book in my collection of Newbury Award winners, but had never read it. It received a medal as a Newbury Honor book in 1983. Plus, I have a soft spot in my heart for memoirs and biographies.

But I did find it sort of an odd book because, like real life, it doesn't have a tidy beginning and ending. In addition, it's the memories of a 10 year old girl with all the curiosities of things that are important to 10 year olds. Some of the memories blossom in full color, while other memories resemble pen and ink sketches.

Overall, this children's book was a nice diversion, but I don't know that the story is memorable for me.

3 stars

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Macro Monday - A Place for Yogi

Though Mr. Ranger, Sir and BooBoo Bear
were nowhere in sight

Picnic Table

I went down to the river to look at the water and geese and autumn colors ... but I got sidetracked. How short-sighted of me.

* * * * *

Macro Monday is easy to play,

snap a macro (or close-up) photo,
post it on your blog
then go to Lisa's Chaos
and sign Mr Linky.

Sunday Secrets: September 26, 2010

PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard. I find it to be an insightful sociological experiment.

It's funny how some weeks I can relate to a lot of secrets. Then weeks like this where none hit the mark. I did sort of like this though:

There were times when I thought people only wanted me around so I'd sing for them. I like my life better now that I don't sing and people show their true colors when asking me to attend their weddings and family funerals.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Happy Dance: Jodie's Hobo Bag

Jodie wanted a new purse, but couldn't find just the right one for just the right price in the stores. So she asked if I'd give her some sewing lessons and help her make her own hobo bag. We chose this Simplicity pattern and decided to make the one where the handles tie.

We purchased all our supplies at Wal-Mart. Jodie chose this very pretty and soft faux leather for the outside.

Though the pattern calls for the same fabric for the outside and the inside, we decided to change it up a bit. Jodie chose this pretty blue and green cotton paisley print for the lining. We used another piece of this fabric to make an inside pocket (not part of the original pattern). In addition, we made a zippered coin purse out of the black fabric.

Jodie did most of the sewing. But when she got stuck and frustrated on some of the curves and with some of the top-stitching, she asked me to step in. I think she learned a lot. I know it was very good Mommy-Jodie time.

If we make another one (and she'd like to), she wants the bag itself to be a bit bigger and the handle a bit longer. I think we can manage to alter the pattern that way.

If I had my druthers, I'd use a snap closure at the top, add an outside pocket, and put some sort of plastic mesh stabilizer in the base of the bag so that it can stand up.

Here's Jodie modeling her new hobo bag. Nice, huh?

Next she wants to learn to hem pants.
Oh, joy.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Merita's Bookmark

I learned today that the last of the bookmarks I stitched arrived. So now I get to share.

The lovely Merita loves Barbie Pink!

And she has a heart as big as all outdoors. One thing Merita likes best is to "play in the dirt." Goodness, she has a lovely yard! All full of flowers and wonderful growing things. (I need lessons from her.)

This pretty design was from the same Italian website as the design I used on Vicki's bookmark. I made some minor alterations to the original design to make it fit the fabric scrap I used.

The fun part of Merita's bookmark? The pink felt I used to back it has happy white polka dots!

Merita is one of the most faith-filled women I know. Her family has gone through a number of tough trials in the last year, and she bears it all with tremendous inner strength and courage. So the book I chose for Merita concerns other women of extraordinary faith and the witness they bear to the world.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Macro Monday - Crazy Corn

It's that time of year ...

The Crazy Corn goes for a walk
then crosses the street without looking both ways
and gets run over by a car.

Crazy Corn

Musta forgot to carry a glow stick.

* * * * *

Macro Monday is easy to play,

snap a macro (or close-up) photo,
post it on your blog
then go to Lisa's Chaos
and sign Mr Linky.

Sunday Secrets: September 19, 2010

PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard. I find it to be an insightful sociological experiment.

I could relate to these three secrets today:

Taking action helps me keep from being stymied
and wallowing.

Sometimes I hit the mark.
So sorry when I don't.

I lesson I learned from Flylady.
We're the boss of our second childhood!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Miss V

We got a bit of a late start today, but decided to go to our regular Saturday morning breakfast at Denny's anyway. The plus side of this tardiness was that Jodie got to go with Dale and me. Little did we know that not only would we get a discount breakfast, but we a show for free!

We took our seat at our favorite table tucked in the back by the kitchen door. We like that spot because it's quiet, and I get a full view of a large swath of the dining room. As we sat down, we were making small talk. I was in the middle of a sentence when I glanced over Dale's shoulder and saw this:

I got lost in mid-thought.

And yes, that is a corset.
And yes, it is leather and laces all the way up the back.

Miss Voluptuous caused a stir not only at our table, but at most of the other tables in the joint. At my encouragement, Dale judiciously dropped a napkin on the floor. It fluttered behind his chair. He had to get up and turn around to pick it up, and sneak a peek.

When Jodie nestled up against me to gander, she looked, then quipped, "Someone should tell her to just put it away!"

Six waitresses each took a trip to Miss V's table to fill up coffee mugs. Then we'd hear them giggle in the kitchen and send the next one out.

Hearing us laughing, our waitress stopped by with coffee and asked, "Are you laughing about the same thing all of us are laughing about?" Our answer was another peel of giggles.

From then on the meal was speckled with watching the expressions of other customers as they were seated nearby and with continued banter with three of the waitresses (they stopped by our table to say I was welcome in their waitress sorority!) Even the manager's face glowed red after his trip to Miss V's table to check on service.

My favorite customer reaction was a 75 year old man that sauntered down the aisle on the window side of the restaurant, took a glimpse, then walk away ... only to repeat the trek two more times!

A disapproving grandpa in the corner opposite to our table kept the eyes of his grandchildren averted by focusing them on their puzzle placemats. He scowled every time he looked up in her direction. But try as he might, the kids' dad couldn't help but scan his eyes over her bosom a number of times. Good thing his wife had her back to Miss Voluptuous' table.

A red-haired gal sitting at a table kitty corner to ours just blatantly stared. Across the room by the windows, a teenage girl had to pull her sweatshirt collar up over her cheek to cover her smirk. Her shaking shoulders gave her silent laughter away. Her tablemate's eyes twinkled as a grin spread across her face.

I couldn't stop laughing ... and I'm ashamed to say, VERY LOUDLY. Our waitress reminded me, with a wink, that laughing could make me choke on my breakfast.

The best line of all came from one waitress who quipped as we were paying our bill, "Too bad I'm lactose intolerant!" With that remark, I had to run out the door. I couldn't keep my howl of glee pent up any more.

Friday, September 17, 2010


This fence line from 2006

And this plant from 2007

Look like this in 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Movie Review: I've Loved You So Long

This is simply one of the best movies I've seen in quite a while. I rented it from Netflix about two months ago, and had just about given up on ever watching it and sending it back unseen.

But I finally found an evening to myself to sit and watch it. It is the kind of movie that demands complete attention. For one, it's in French, so you need to sit still to read the subtitles. More, it's an emotionally intense movie, so to receive the full impact, I found it necessary to have a "movie theater" experience ... i.e. to sit quietly in my living room, film on the big screen, lights dimmed, popcorn in hand, phone off, no outside distractions.

I'm so glad I finally took that time!

This is the story of two estranged sisters who find their way back to each other after 15 years of physical and emotional separation. It's much more a character-driven film than plot-driven cinema. That fact all by itself drew me to this movie.

The plot is this: Older sister gets out of prison. Younger sister brings older sister into her family of husband, two adopted daughters, mute father-in-law, and academic colleagues. Husband doesn't trust older sister with his children because older sister was in prison for murder. Family slowly learns to know and trust each other. Older sister learns to live in the world again. Reason for the murder finally emerges. Sisters reunite completely.

Pretty boring, huh?

But the acting! Holy moly!

This film was nominated for a couple Golden Globes. The writer-director received one. The other, very deservedly, was for acting by Kristin Scott Thomas, the older sister. In so much of this movie, all the action takes place on her face:
  • The vague empty stares as she tries to adjust to the world outside prison.
  • The restrained longing as she watches her nieces.
  • The release in the presence of books and a mute father-image.
  • The bit of life that begins to emerge over coffee with her parole officer.
  • The naughtiness when she reveals a recent indiscretion.
  • The pain that washes over her as she recalls incidences with her son.
  • The gradual letting down of defenses as she reads, looks at art, begins confiding in a family friend.
  • The peace and pride as she makes steps to get back on her feet.
  • The repulsion of confronting an irreparable connection.
  • The total meltdown as she admits truth.
  • The hope of redemption.


Much more than a chick flick.

I suppose that's why this movie touched me so deeply. I'm all about relationships. Broken relationships with family are particularly wrenching. But it's also about repairing a brittle relationship with your own past misdeeds to find hope for the future, a measure of peace, and solace within.

5 stars

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Black Eyes!

Black-Eyed Susan, that is. These lovely Fall flowers are poppin' up all over town. My neighbor has a particularly beautiful display in their side yard. I trod carefully on their grass and took a photo or two with my camera's phone while on my walk at daybreak.

Black-Eyed Susan

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

RonDee's Bookmark

Our sweet and wise RonDee's favorite color is emerald green. I tried, but just didn't have the exact shade I needed in my stash. So I made this bookmark on 14ct green aida with a variegated floss in many shades of green.

But that's like RonDee. Many layers. Many sides to her personality. Lots of experience and wisdom that pops out in crystal clarity. Just when you think you know this woman, she surprises you with more depth. A spiraling wealth of insight, you might say.

The pattern I used is another freebie I found online many years ago. Unfortunately, I no longer have the designer's name or website. If you recognize it, let me know and I'll edit this post to give credit where credit is due.

RonDee and her husband have a fabulous photography business. She was very busy working with the public to sell these works of art all summer. By the end of August, she was exhausted! So I chose the The Woman's Comfort Book for RonDee because it has many examples and ideas on how women can comfort and rejuvenate themselves.

RonDee, go take a spa day at home! I give you permission. ;)

Sunday, September 12, 2010


My husband and I are in the midst of a huge yard renovation. We've pulled out a lot of bushes and ground cover. We're revamping the layout of the lawn. We'll be getting a sprinkler system and doing some hydro-seeding.

But in the midst of disturbing all this nature, some of the other residents of the yard have not been so happy with us. The quail have found other living quarters. Our three squirrels have migrated to a neighbor's yard. But the wasps were not going to give up their home under the hood of our pickup without a fight!

So ... I got stung. Yowch!

Wasp Nest

While escorting that family of wasps to never-never land, we found four other colonies in the yard. After the eviction, we knocked down the nests.

I got to take this benign photo after the visit to the doctor, and before we demolished their home.

* * * * *

Macro Monday is easy to play,

snap a macro (or close-up) photo,
post it on your blog
then go to Lisa's Chaos
and sign Mr Linky.

Sunday Secrets: September 12, 2010

PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard. I find it to be an insightful sociological experiment.

I don't know that any of this week's secrets are like my own, but all of them made me smile.

Well, the relationship Dale & I share isn't necessarily "better" than anyone elses, but what we have sure works. We enjoy each other's company and we share a lot of laughter. Our home is not full of tension and anger; we know how to forgive. We're simply better together than apart.

I LOVE this! Can't wait to see what Stephen has to say about it this week on the Report!

Love. Love. Love. Words to live by in the social network world.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Vicki's Bookmark

Vicki let me know her surprise book and bookmark arrived in the mail, so now I get to share it here. (Didn't want to spoil her surprise by posting the image too soon).

Vicki's favorite color is blue. She has a very happy spirit and is full of fun and kindness and love. This little blue bird and heart was just the ticket. But the plants? Nah. They're just for looks. She tells me she does NOT have a green thumb.

I found this pattern eons ago online. I'm not sure this particular design is still available, but this Italian website has a number of very nice freebie charts. Worth a look!

Vicki and I first got reacquainted when I learned she is a stitcher, too! Vicki, however, has the stamina to complete those very large and intricate BAPs that I just can't wrap my head around. She does gorgeous work ... at least from what I've seen online. I can't wait to see her pieces in person!

So the book I chose? Well, Vicki likes good novels so I chose Stitches in Time by Barbara Michaels. I remember it as a nicely eerie book about the magical powers of a wedding quilt. A fun read.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Louise's Bookmark

Now how can I describe my friend Louise? Of our clan, she's the gal I've known the longest. We were in elementary school together!

Louise is passionate -- just like her favorite color, purple. She's energetic and imaginative. She is always full of ideas. She's got an excellent mind for business. Louise comes up with the most fun ideas, and always knows how to get others involved. She's a tremendous mother and teacher. And she's fearless.

The design I chose for Louise is Bookmark #2 from Pretty Bookmarks by Deborah Lambein, a Leisure Arts leaflet #2490. A center surrounded by hearts and love that yield a field of flowers. That's Louise! Instead of using the colors called for in the chart, I decided to use a variegated floss to add dimension.

Louise is a fellow Flybaby. She recognized me as a Flybaby when I used the term "Home Blessing" on Facebook. Louise threw down the gauntlet and challenged me and these other women friends to declutter for 15 minutes every day for a month. That challenge among old high school friends led to this bond of friendship the six of us now share that goes FAR beyond keeping a tidy home.

So Louise received one of the Flybaby handbooks: I'm OK ... But You Have a Lot of Work to Do by Pam Young (Flylady's mentor). Now, this is not a book you want to give just anyone! You could easily hurt feelings! Seeing as Louise and I are Flysisters, I took the chance and gave her my extra copy. Not only did Louise accept the book in the spirit it was given, but her daughter got a laugh out of it too!

Mary Elizabeth's Bookmark

After quite the stitching hiatus, I put needle to fabric again recently. I started off easily by making some of my favorite projects:

I was hoping to visit five of my best friends in northern California this Fall. I wanted to have a little somethin'somethin' to give them, so I stitched bookmarks in their favorite colors.

Unfortunately, our gathering cannot happen right now. So instead of giving the bookmarks in person, I sent them in the mail along with a book from my personal collection ... each book tailored to the recipient.

Mary Elizabeth loves RED and redwork. So I stitched this design from Dunmani Designs on a piece of 18ct aida banding.

The book? One called Left-Handed Stitchery. We southpaws usually have to turn stitch diagrams around in our head to make the stitches come out correctly. I had a book that was geared to help left-handed folks learn these stitches. Mary Elizabeth is getting back into stitching after a time away from it, so I shared that book with her.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The End of a Tradition

or ...
The Last First Day

For the last 17 years, we've had a tradition at our home. As the girls go off for their first day of school each fall, Mom stands out in the cold morning air in her socks (and sometimes bathrobe) with her camera to take a snapshot of the girls heading out the door and down the steps.

As you might well imagine, this tradition has drawn more than it's share of eye-rolls over the years (especially in middle school years).

Today is the first day of Jodie's senior year in high school. My youngest is nearing the end of her local educational career. So it looks like this will be the last "First Day of School" photo I get to take of my girls.

I e-mailed one of these photos to Jodie's sisters. They reminded me that this is not the end ...
I get to do it again when I have grandchildren ...
but that's not for at least another seven years.

:: whispering ::
Don't tell them, but when that time comes, it's THEIR turn to start annoying their own kids with family traditions.

I get to sit back, watch, and enjoy ...
complete with the proud mommy look on my face.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday Secrets: September 05, 2010

PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard. I find it to be an insightful sociological experiment.

After I picked these four secrets today, I realized they have a theme:
"Things I want to remember and follow their example."

If you're put in a position of authority,
you darn well better live up to it.
I can't stand it
when those who lord stuff over me act badly.

What a way to point it out to them!

Too funny! I gotta do that.
I hate outhouses.

I would too!

I made it through the rain.
I don't have to live in the puddles any more.

The other side of this postcard read:
"I want to change the world
one hug and smile at a time."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Little Blog Love

Check it out! My blog was mentioned on the Friends of the Fullerton Library blog. This is quite the little love-fest between our two blogs.

This is the first time (that I know of) that my blog has been reviewed on another blog.

It feels ... good!

While you're visiting the Friends of the Library blog, please do consider clicking some links and purchasing a used book or two for yourself from Ostrich, the Friends' used book store on Amazon.com.

Or check out the library's wish list in the Adopt-a-Book program and purchase a new book for the library from one of their Amazon.com wish lists.