28 December 2014

Are you looking for holiday reading?

Have you finished reading your current book and looking for a novel to read next? I can help!

Check out the labels list on the right-hand side of my blog. See it? If you click on the label called 'Novels', my posts about books I have enjoyed will display. If you're so far into holiday mode that thinking hurts, just click here instead.

Another place to look for novels and reviews is Goodreads. This photo shows some of the titles I've read this year. For the full list, you can see it here (don't forget to scroll down to view them all). 

You may fancy reading one of these titles, so go straight to your local bookshop to buy a hard copy or buy an ebook online. If you are looking for a cheaper option, go to your local library - it's free! Signup for your library's ebook collection, too - you can download ebooks to read even when the library's building is closed - again, for free! What could be better than that? Happy reading!

26 December 2014

Welcoming 2015

I prefer to look forwards, not backwards, so you won't find one of those 'the best of 2014' posts here. I always feel they are competitive - like boasting 'my year was better than your year'. Anyway, that's just my take on it - you may feel differently.

I love to see a new year spreading out before me. Although the calendar is an artificial way of designating time (which is, in itself, an artificial construct), it gives us some illusion that we can control and organise our lives.

My diaries are always purchased long before the beginning of a new year. I've had my 2015 diary since August and already I've marked quite a lot of entries (all my Sydney Swans games are there, so I can organise other events around them!).

If you like to organise your days, too, here's a great site for free printable calendars for 2015, like the one I've shown above. You can download pdf, Word or Excel versions - aren't they lovely? Thanks Calendarpedia!

23 December 2014

Five novels that gripped me

It's holiday time and I thought you may be looking for some novels to while away the hours in the shade? I do enjoy a psychological thriller - here are five that gripped me this year.

The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid
Who would have thought that a skeleton discovered in a disused Victorian building in Edinburgh could be related to the Balkan wars of the 1990s? While investigating this cold case Inspector Karen Pirie, through the author's meticulous research, makes us think hard about what justice really is. Totally enthralling.

Read more about The Skeleton Road on Goodreads.

Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty
This story about a woman who makes a single rash choice to have sex with a man she met at the English Houses of Parliament was never going to end well. I truly didn't know what was coming next and I was compelled to keep reading until the last twist was revealed. I was wowed by this book.

Read more about Apple Tree Yard on Goodreads.

The Book of You by Claire Kendal
This suspenseful tale is centered on a woman's attempt to escape an expert manipulator. The more I read of this story, the more I felt Clarissa's role couldn't (and wouldn't) have a positive outcome. Gripping story that had me looking around when I was out in crowds. Creepy and satisfying.

Read more about The Book of You by Claire Kendal on Goodreads.

Fog of Dead Souls by Jill Kelly  
Trying to escape a violent past, Ellie McKay walks into a bar and, unplanned, accepts a wedding proposal from a man she meets there. Brilliant, suspenseful story about human resilience. Loved it.

Read more about Fog of Dead Souls on Goodreads.

Thursday's Children by Nicci French
This is the fourth novel in a series, so perhaps it's best to start at the beginning with Blue Monday. Once you've caught up, Thursday's Children will grip you with rich, three-dimensional characters and an ever-present sense of menace. Fabulous series.

Read more about Thursday's Children on GoodReads.

Do you have any recommendations for suspenseful thrillers? Share your reviews in a comment! 

21 December 2014

Summer solstice

When we live in cities, we sometimes don't notice the rhythms of the earth and our seasons. Today is the summer solstice here in Australia - the day when the sun's track across the sky reaches its highest point - and commonly called the longest day of the year.

Although my daisy shrub is in full bloom, the flowers appreciate dappled shade that protects them from the full blast of the sun's power. From now on, the minutes of daily sunlight slowly decrease and, for that, my garden and I say thanks.

16 December 2014

Textiles Tuesday

Here it is - my last Textiles Tuesday for 2014. Have you enjoyed the links to interesting crafty events and websites I've shared with you this year? Today I have 13 items for you.

* Jenny Bowker has had so many requests for instructions for her Shimmering Triangles quilt that she has released a pdf digital pattern. You can purchase it from Craftsy for immediate download. It's a glorious project - check out the photo here!

* Do you need to upgrade your Electric Quilt skills? You can now take online classes direct from EQ University.

* For all you Bonnie Hunter fans - her latest mystery quilt, Grand Illusion, is now available! 

Printing with compressed sponge is so much fun. If you haven't tried it, watch this video by Lisa Walton to see how! If you are inspired to try this technique yourself, you can purchase compressed sponge here.

* Did you know Facebook has changed the rules for use of business Facebook pages? Here's a useful post by Katherine Tyrrell about how to best use your business Facebook page (not personal page) in 2015.

* Do you keep a visual diary? This article from Brain Pickings may inspire you.

* Pat Sloan has announced her new, free, mystery Block of the Month quilt. It starts in January 2015. 

* The Quilters' Guild of NSW Inc has announced a call for entries for Evolution, Change, Challenge: A Contemporary Quilt. Entries close 24 July 2015. 

* Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr are coming to teach in Australia! Bookings are now open for Brisbane workshops and lectures on 19-22 June 2015. This event is organised by Cecile at Unique Stitching. Classes will also be held in Sydney - details to be announced soon.

* Are you interested in dyeing fabric with plants from your own garden? Read which plants Myf Walker grows in her Victorian garden and see some of her work in this article from The Planthunter.

* Another 2015 event for your diary: 

* Victorian Quilts Inc invite entries to their Remembrance Challenge 1915-2015. Entries close 1 June 2015. Full details here.

* The Tasmanian Art Quilt Prize for 2015 has been launched, with the theme History, Her Story. Entries close 31 July 2015. Full details here.

Have you found anything of interest here? Please make me happy by leaving a comment! 

10 December 2014

Fun and easy textile surface design techniques

People who aren't involved in writing, editing, designing or publishing magazines and books truly do not appreciate how much work goes into preparing these publications for our reading pleasure. How can they?

Well I do. I've seen first-hand all the planning, sample creation, writing, photographing, and organising that Lisa Walton has done to create the first in her Creative Journeys ebook series. I'm so pleased to be part of the blog hop to showcase Lisa's ebook because it's such a handy resource for all of us who like to pattern our own fabric.

I made a couple of textile postcards, using techniques that Lisa covers in her ebook. For my first one, I stencilled the background with a plastic stencil and Derwent Inktense blocks. In Lisa's ebook, she explains how to carve your own stamps but, for my postcard, I chose to use a set of letter stamps I already had. Simple stitching marked the path between 'lost' and 'found'.  

 My other postcard features a screen print of a copyright-free image. Screen printing is so easy and this is one of the techniques Lisa shows in her ebook. I coloured the tree with opaque paints - this made the black lines even more striking.

I think the main reason I find the ebook so handy is that I don't have to scramble around looking on the internet for different techniques - they are all explained in Fun and easy textile surface design techniques. It's 187 pages of useful information and there are also links to Lisa's videos!

You can buy your copy now and read it on your device of choice within minutes. How easy is that? 

To see other posts about Fun and easy textile surface design techniques, follow the blog hop on these blogs:

8 December - Sarah Ann Smith

9 December - Lyric Kinard

10 December - Erica Spinks - you're already here!

11 December - Susan Brubaker Knapp

12 December - Brenda Gael Smith

13 December - Judy Coates Perez

14 December - Shelley Stokes

05 December 2014

My book of the month: December

In my opinion, this is Picoult's best novel so far. A wonderfully twisty plot combined with richly worked characters results in a story that is difficult to stop reading.

A novel should transport you to another place and time. It should take you inside the characters' heads so you understand their motivations. Leaving Time does this and so much more. There is plenty to savour in this tale of loss, grief and motherly love (and elephants). I cried. 

To read more reviews about Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult, visit Goodreads.

01 December 2014

Hello December!

I have to tell you up front that December is not one of my favourite months. It's awfully hot here and many of us are feeling increasingly crushed by the incessant commercial pressure leading up to Christmas. Yet, December arrives at the same time every year so I try to focus on the positives instead.

December means being grateful for the air conditioning at work, staying away from large shopping complexes, lunching with friends, keeping the water up to all my garden plants, hand sewing while watching Test cricket on TV, eating cherries and mangoes, and watching Australia slump into summer mode. Lots to enjoy there, so hello December! 

29 November 2014

Blog corralling

Last time I checked, I was following 642 blogs. Yes, you read that correctly - 642! So, you can imagine that I need a way to organise all this information so that I don't run away screaming from it, can't you? That's why I love Feedly.

Not all the blogs I follow post daily. Some don't even post monthly. I suspect some are actually defunct but I will delete them when I do my next regular cull.

It doesn't matter, though. Feedly keeps track of all the new posts so I don't have to. All I have to do is maintain the list of blogs I want to read. Easy!

This is the way the summary looks on my PC screen. If I want to read the actual post, I just click on the picture. Depending on how the blog has been set up, I will see either the full post (without having to visit the actual blog) or a partial post (to see the full post I then go to the actual blog).

This is the way the summary looks on my tablet. If I want to read the full post, I tap on the photo and am taken to the blog.

You can see that this type of display is really an invitation to read, so it's important that a blog post has a meaningful title and a photo - make it look enticing. I don't read every post from every blog, just the ones that tempt me from the Feedly display. I enjoy catching up with blog posts at breakfast time each day.

You can add my blog to your Feedly blog subscriptions by clicking on the icon in the sidebar of my blog or, if you prefer to use Bloglovin', click on that icon instead. 

I have tried Bloglovin' to organise my blog subscriptions as well, but prefer Feedly. Isn't it lovely to have options?

25 November 2014

Textiles Tuesday

I'll be posting a collection of links for Textiles Tuesday once a month, now. It's a crazy amount of work to compile this post and do all the linking, so I hope you look forward to your monthly crafty browsing.

Take some time, get a cuppa and enjoy exploring these 14 links.

* My favourite quilt magazine is Quilters Newsletter because it always has interesting, meaty articles that often lead me to sources I didn't know before. The Dec/Jan issue arrived this week and I was intrigued to read an article about World War I quilts made by American quilters. It is written by Sue Reich and here is the link to the section on her website about this topic. It's very topical and worth reading.

* Craftsy has many interesting resources available for free. This one, Genius Hacks Every Quilter Should Know, is a free downloadable eGuide. You do need to sign up to Craftsy but that's free, too!

* If you are a knitter, Craftsy has lots for you, too. Here's an article, 5 Knitting Apps to Keep Your Knitting Organised and On Track. There are also other apps mentioned in the comments.

* Here's a whole new world to explore: crochet diagrams. This Craftsy article explains what all those symbols mean.

* I regularly pop over to TextileArtist.org to read their articles. There's a great one here about art quilter Deidre Adams.

* If you love Kona solids, you'll want to view this collection of 30 quilts made with these fabulous fabrics. You can view it online or download a pdf. Free patterns are available from the Robert Kaufman website. Very inspirational!

* Photos of the winning quilts from South Australia's Festival of Quilts are now available for viewing. Congratulations to all the winners!

* Are you making Barbara Brackman's Austen Family Album block of the week quilt blocks? She's up to block 32 now but all instructions are on her blog if you want to get started.

* See photos of the 2014 winning quilts from Quilts: A World of Beauty, the annual Judged Show of the International Quilt Association. Congratulations to all the winners, in particular Australians Rachelle Denneny and Denise Sargo, for their awards.

* Abby Glassenberg's blog is always worth reading for her thought-provoking posts. Two subjects in particular have raised a lot of discussion. The first subject is about how much do fabric designers earn from designing quilt fabrics. Abby has two posts on this subject: An Inside Look at How Much Fabric Designers Earn and An Inside Look at Designing Premier Quilting Cottons for JoAnns. Very frank and interesting - don't forget to read the many comments.

The other question Abby asks is should crafters work for free products? This is common practice in the crafting industry - you make up your own mind about whether you agree or not. 

* Here's another take on the ongoing discussion about craft fabric designs being copied, this time by The Eternal Maker.

20 November 2014

Every day is different

Sometimes, it seems as if the endless stream of days blurs into a single continuum. The sun rises, the sun sets. Another lot of routines are carried out and another day is ticked off the calendar. Suddenly, we look up and realise another week, another month, has passed by without us really noticing. Where's the fun in that?

So I like to gaze regularly at this small quilt I made a few years ago because it contains a message that I need to remember when I feel overwhelmed. 

Do you see the message?

I printed the black border fabric with a sponge dipped in gold paint. I was enjoying the gold paint so much that I painted cardboard letters with the same colour and then dipped them in gold glitter while it was still wet. My circles are wonky - not deliberately but it reflects my applique skill level at the time. I'm happy that I have improved a lot since then!

Have you worked out the message yet?

The letters spell 'enjoy every day'. They can often get jumbled in our thoughts, can't they? We know there's a message in our heads but it isn't always clear. This quilt makes me focus on the idea so that's what I try to do, even when one day seems the same as the one before.

Do you have a daily message? 

16 November 2014

Australian rural romance novels

What began as a niche genre, Australian rural romance stories have really taken off in recent years. It just shows that the appeal of the Australian bush lifestyle, combined with evocative descriptions and a spicy romance, can capture the hearts of readers.

Interested? Here are some Australian rural romance authors to get you started:
I'd like to read novels in this genre that focus on older women as well. It seems to me that there's a whole generation of Australian rural characters that should be given their own stories. After all, romance is definitely not limited to younger women!

I've read novels by all these writers but are there other Australian authors I have missed? Leave your recommendations in a comment!

13 November 2014

Be kind to yourself

Did you know today is World Kindness Day? I don't know who designates special days but I think that any excuse to share a little kindness is a Good Thing, don't you?

We all know a kind word can provide a happy spot in a day - for the giver and the recipient. But do you ever think to be kind to yourself or is self-care always last on your to-do list?

1. Appreciate what you have

How often do we focus on what is NOT in our lives? All around us we see people who own more stuff, make more money, have more friends and look more beautiful than we do. We compare ourselves to them, without knowing the true stories of their lives. Don't do it.

Instead, look at your own life. What do you have that makes you happy? Is it a beautiful flower, a child's smile, a smoochy kiss from someone special or a comfy bed with freshly-laundered sheets? How fortunate you are! Appreciate what you have.

2.  Listen to your body

Your body will tell you what you need. If you're tired, maybe you need more sleep. If you're restless, perhaps a walk would help you settle. If you're thirsty, a large glass of water may be the answer. If you're anxious, talking to a friend might be just what you need. Learn to trust the signals your body is sending you and act accordingly.

3. Take time out

You don't have to be 'busy' all the time. Each of us has 24 hours in a day and it's up to us how we use those hours. I think it's important to have some time every day when you let your mind free. You could meditate, go for a walk or just sit quietly, thinking. It refreshes your spirit.

4. Move away from toxic people

You know those people who constantly criticise you? The people who deflate your spirits? You don't have to let them have that effect on you. Why not carefully assess how you feel after spending time with members of your family, friends and co-workers. If you feel belittled or diminished, why continue to put yourself through that? It's your life, so it's your choice.

5. Know that you are unique

There isn't anyone else in the world who is as good as being you as you are. We don't need anyone to give us permission to be ourselves. Be proud of your uniqueness and develop a strong sense of self-worth. What a remarkable individual you are!

 Please leave a comment to share your kindness tips. We can all benefit from your ideas!