Serena: A Novel Serena: A Novel by Ron Rash

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book conveyed a lot of emotion that I associate with the big business monopolies of the 20s. And oh the simmering angst I feel lurking. Or is it the hint of that dang cat always there just beyond your field of vision?

I really wanted to like Serena Pemberton - I thought she'd have a lot to offer. Desire to be seen as an equal in a male-dominant microsociety, feminine when required, and really in love with her husband. She failed me in all accounts.

I'd like to think that she got what she deserved, but I think she ended up bringing everyone down to her level and destroyed all that was good. Can you say evil incarnate? She couldn't even do it on her own - she was above that. She had to have someone else do it for her. Was she really above the law? In command of funds and all the right people? Don't know, but I found nothing revering about the woman.

So - how about the comparisons: 1) Destruction. It was emotional, environmental, and moral. It followed the Pembertons and their logging operation. 2) Snakes. Slithering, unsuspecting, and gutless. Serena had men and beast (I'm talking about that eagle) eating out of her palm, and she had them all hunting for snakes. The snakes went about their business until that eagle (or its one-handed Serena-worshipper) swooped in with the talon to rip out their inards. 3) Fear. Whether of a cat, a murderer, or the potential for job loss, everyone felt it. Serena manipulated that fear to her twisted liking.

Not a woman I'd want to meet on a moonless night.

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I Thought This Would Be Easy

Last week at book club my friend, Alena, made some delicious chicken fajitas using homemade tortillas. I got there just as she was rolling out the tortillas and putting them in the fry pan. The woman was walking around the kitchen, talking to me, talking to her daughter, setting the table, and not even acting stressed. Jennifer said she wanted Alena to come over and teach her how to make them. Then we decided that on our next movie night we'd have Alena teach us all how to make them.

This is NOT Alena or any of the other ladies in my book club...

I was talking to Jon later and told him about the tortillas. It was so easy to do, why did I need to wait for Alena to show me how? Yah. So not what happened.

I went ahead and mixed the dough - it was a bit lumpy, but I figured that would work out.
I rolled a couple out and put them in the pan - they were entirely too thick. It was like eating an unlevened fry bread. Too dense, too dry, too uneatable.

Jon suggested getting out my pasta maker and rolling them through that. Great idea - not great results. Although I think that some of the problem was that he was cooking them too long. The directions did say that slow cooking would dry them out.

We ended up with flatbread ham and cheese sandwiches that literally crumbled on the first bite. Jon was taking the boys to a $1 movie so they were in a hurry. They were great sports, but I'm afraid that most of the sandwiches were slipped out the door to the dogs.

See how fluffy and bubbly and round these tortillas are? Mine didn't look like that.

Alena? HELP!


Mon ami aime le rose


I made my friend, April, and myself table runners for Valentine's Day. I named these runners "My Friend Loves Pink" - hence the title for this post.

They are just a little bit different (different sashing on the two sets of 4 hearts and I forgot to add the ribbon to the center square on hers), but I think she got the point that I was thinking about her...

I do realize that the plant on my table is a Christmas remnant, but it's still thriving, and it's red. So it works - OK?

 I had some left over charm squares, so I practiced meandering loop, grid, and squiggle grid machine stitches - because every machine quilter will tell you that it all takes practice. I doubled up the grid and squiggle grid squares to make a hot pad, and the other one I used to create "A Little Bit O Love". I'm currently using this in my living room. I'm going to have to make another one soon since the season has changed...

I don't think April knew what she was unleashing. I've got a small stockpile of table toppers building up, and I don't quite know what I'm going to do with them.

Oh - and if you're wondering who those handsome silohouettes (sp?) belong to, those would be my 3 offspring. That was last year's Mother's Day gift for my mom and myself (made by me).

Dang - where am I finding all of the time?


The Stipple Monster Pt 1

Just before Christmas I used my FaceBook status to ask what gift you were most excited to give. I had 3 that were at the top of my list. One was an album for my brother. The other two were for my mom and my mother-in-law.

I got to spend a wonderful weekend with my friend, April, in November. She taught me how to machine quilt while I was there.

My mom's table topper and placemats
I cut 1 5" charm pack (42 5" squares) in half and the stitched them together in a sort of stair stepped fashion.

This first photo is a closeup of the loopy meandering stitch I used for quilting.
Here's the back.

And most of the front. I have no idea why I couldn't get the left side when there's so much extra space on the right....

I didn't quilt the  placemats - I just stitched the half squares (aka rectangles) into a strip, and used duck cloth to complete the top. I used fleece instead of batting (figured it might wash better).

My Mother-In-Law's Table Topper
You don't have to be associated with the Hill family very long before you figure out that pizza is a fairly common component of family get-togethers. My in-laws have a large (probably 6 ft) round table with a 3 ft lazy susan in the middle. After Jon saw what I'd made for my mom, he complimented my work by telling me that I should make something like it for his mom. Well - my noggin went to work, and I came up with the perfect table topper...

Griff and I found two "cheese" fabrics, a pepperoni, an olive or sausage, and a striped one that's supposed to be green peppers. I pieced split rail or basket weave blocks using two strips of cheese and one strip of toppings. Then I cut that into a circle. I thought I could just sew a sauce binding around the edge, but the circle was too small, so that first sauce strip was unpicked, lengthened, gathered (wish I'd discovered my ruffler foot then...), and stitched to the pieced quilt. Next I flipped the sauce strip out and top stitched to keep it in place.

Stacked the quilt (with a brown crust), meander loop stitched it, and bound it with golden rod blanket binding.


My favorite part of this was how we gave it to her. We picked up a large, empty, pizza box from a local pizzeria, folded the table topper up like a slice of pizza (couldn't locate a box large enough for a 30" pie), and gave her the box. She didn't quite know what to think about that, but once it was open I think she loved it!


Project-itis or Spiffying Up My Space

I finished these back in September or October, but I haven't posted photos yet. A friend of mine said she saw something similar at Tai-Pan Trading, but I came up with this idea all on my own - no Tai-Pan inspiration...

Jon got our white couches in exchange for finishing a basement our 2nd Christmas in this house. I dreaded those couches and then finally decided to just work with them. They are a pain to keep clean, but everyone does their best.

I decided that my decorating motif for this room would be rustic elegance. I've tried to bring in some strong feminine elements as well as some masculine features - hence the 2x4s, 1x3s and plywood I used to complete these cornices (or are they valances?)

There are 3 of them. One hangs over the 6 ft window on the south side of the living room. The other two go over the 3 ft windows on the west side.

I spray painted the aluminum tiles with a champagney/coppery colored metallic base and then dabbed on the greenish-copper patina.

Then I stained the 2x4s and 1x3s with a mahogany stain.

Jon helped me screw them together. We mounted them on the walls with photo hangers. They are very light (big one probably weighs 15-20 lbs). If I decide to dress them up a bit more, I can put a tension rod inside each box and hang sheers.

Couple of things to finish up this room... I HATE the mantel. I'd like it to be deeper and wider. I also strongly dislike the tile around the fireplace and I'd like a book case on the wall where the ficus tree is. I'm also playing with idea of creating a coffee table out of the steamer trunk that sits on my front porch (came from Switzerland with Jon's Grandma when she was 8). 

Note the green table. That was a $5 DI find that I sanded and painted last spring. 

Sometimes I really do impress myself.


Fighting the Frumps

Remember yesterday morning's dilemma? Well, I did end up making myself a pillow...

Cut 17" muslin circle, marked a spiral in with 1" spacing, and cut 1 yard of plaid into 2 1/2" strips.

Sewed all strips together and used my rolled hem presser foot (this is another new discovery) to hem one side of the plaid strips.

Used my ruffler (imagine me saying this with pretty-close-to-jazz-hands) to sew the strips onto the spiral marked on the muslin.  This was not an easy task... Now - take a moment to really look at this ruffler foot. It's a little intimidating. It has moving parts. You can choose whether to gather every stitch, every 6, or every 12. You can also choose how full you want the gathers to be. For this project I gathered every stitch with a medium fullness.

I topstitched the plaid about 1/8" away from the seam so that I could control the direction of the ruffles. I forgot to take a picture of that part.

I cut two half+ circles (the "+" being ~1inch that I hemmed on each straight edge) and stacked the straight edges. Sewed the stacked half circles to the ruffled front, and created an envelope for a 16" round pillow form.

Here is the finished product! Can you stand it?! I think it turned out SO ADORABLE!!!

Couple of things I would do differently to avoid the white spots:

  1. Cut to-be-ruffled fabric into 3 1/2" strips.

  2. Use a base fabric that coordinates or matches the ruffled fabric.

  3. Use a spiral that's a little bit closer together than 1".

  4. First row of spiral would be on the edge of the base fabric. I started 1" in.
Not too bad for a Saturday morning, huh?


February Frump...

It's Friday.
It's snowing.
There's no sunshine.
I'd really like to see blue sky.
The ground is moist.
My friend, Chalyce, doesn't like that word.
The grass is dormant.
And ugly.

Griff slept 11 hours last night!
He was a baby polar bear this morning.
He only gave up-the-side-of-your-face-licking-kisses.

My friend, April, unleashed a stipple monster.
I want to quilt.
I've got one stacked.
And two waiting for starch.
My browns don't match.
On the back.
I need new thread.

Jon said I should try to go one whole day without spending any $.
I think I can pay for the thread with coins in my purse and car.
But then I'd see all that fabric.

And there's a Holiday on the corner.
With Diet Coke with Lime on tap.
That'd take more coins.

My modem doesn't work.
Because I confused it.
Only one phone in the house works.
Because of the confused modem.
It's not a wireless phone.

I want a new bedspread.
That I would sew.
With on-sale fabric.
Just 6 yards.
Of a designer tapestry weave.
That's too much $ per yard.
Even on sale.

I need kidney beans in food storage.
The canned kind that I don't have to soak.
But I can soak beans in the mean time.
In the crock pot.

I'm stuck in my house.
Waiting for the cable guy.
I could go for a walk.
But what if he's early.
Yep-that's my excuse.

I need an attitude adjustment.
Maybe I should just adjust a presser foot.
And make a pillow.
For every room.
With the ruffler....
And fabric scaps.
A Project!


That's your baby polar bear kiss.
Thank me for sharing.

I really need a shot of Vit D.


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