Still in love with the Isabel Dalhousie series and reading more. Isabel continues to surprise me... even while she makes meIsabel Dalhousie still #1
Still in love with the Isabel Dalhousie series and reading more. Isabel continues to surprise me... even while she makes me enamored with her thoughtful ways. I believe that those of us who tend to fall back into the mesmerizing ways of philosophical perspectives would truly enjoy this series from McCall-Smith. ...more
NOTE: See Post Script at the end of this review… written after I received a hard copy of the book.
While I truly wish I would have had a hard copy of tNOTE: See Post Script at the end of this review… written after I received a hard copy of the book.
While I truly wish I would have had a hard copy of this book to review, I was pleased with the images and presentation of it on the Kindle.
Aoki begins her book in her garden, the inspiration for her beautiful embroidered flower work throughout the book presented season by season. She compares her needlework to actual gardening
In addition to being stunned by the number of projects in this book, I expected to see only traditional embroidery projects . . . pillow cases, wall hangings/pictures, etc. I was unexpectedly surprised with the dramatic variety of work created by Aoki. Here is a partial list of what is available in Aoki’s book:
Spring: Spring Flowers: red campion, buttercups, daisies, forget-me-nots, mimosa, scilla, and lily of the valley Spring Wreath (image below)
Garden Diary: This is a diary that Aoki has kept since she first began working her own garden, where she keeps memos to herself about what works/doesn’t work, etc.
Tiny Daisies: a small wooden spool wrapped in embroidered ribbon – with tiny daisies, of course Colors of spring: Aoki has created her own thread line – made of linen and in a “slight matte quality” that “highlights the texture of the stitches” (Loc 36).
Miniature Garden Sketch: This is a beautiful combination of at least five different flowers in a ‘clump’ of grass and with a single bee with its movements embroidered throughout a lovely twirling effect. Jam-Making Set: Easily made from stash material, Aoki’s version is made from a red plaid Butterflies All Around and the Butterfly Brooch: I’m not exactly sure what these are, as I don not have the instructions in this Kindle version . . . but they are embroidered butterflies . . . and they are beautiful!
Summer: Summer Flowers: aegopodium, globe amaranth, blue salvia, pentas, sunflowers, bluebells, and nicotiana Summer Wreath: lippie, aegopodium, salvia, clematis, globe amaranth, petunias, zinnias, roses, and pentas Herb Sampler.
Lavender Sachet: This is a lovely, little pillow with a purple striped, inner lining filled with lavender. Gardening Set: This set includes canvas bags for plant ties, twine, embroidered gloves, pruner holder, etc. Summer Garden: This has to be my favorite. It looks so real! It is situated next to a building with one, blue-paned window. You will want to buy the book just to see this one!\ Autumn: Autumn Flowers: Japanese aster, meadow sage, tickseed, roses, myrtle, rudbeckia, and mushrooms Autumn Wreath: an olive branch and rose hips stalks Pocket Board: This is a delight. It looks to be about 18” tall and 15” wide; includes three ribbons on the right to hold envelopes, and two pockets – one embroidered with a European Robin and the other with a Blackbird. Aoki also included two smaller pockets on the Board. Bird Coin Purse: The coin purse also features the European Robin and has instructions for making the purse longer to change the purpose of the purse from just a purse to a card keeper or a compact digital camera. Sewing Set: This is so delightful and worth a good look. It includes a lovely pincushion. Gallery Exhibit: Her gallery exhibit includes an embroidered, miniature dress form that is so lovely! Winter: Winter Flowers: fatsia, Christmas rose, narcissus, snowdrops, sarcococca, and viola Winter Wreath: ivy, fatsia, flannel flowers, conifers, and sarcococca Throw Pillows: These pillows are embroidered with three different types of frogs, yours for the picking. She also includes other types of pillows, some made from ticking, and some from solid color material. Christmas Ornaments: Aoki includes a Christmas stocking, of course, along with ornaments made from wool felt. Eagerly Awaiting Spring: This includes fake bulbs in little pots . . . perfect for pin cushions. Dreaming of Roses: Aoki’s roses are perfect for framing. Card Making: These cards look like a page taken out of her journal . . . with stamps, bits of postal cancellations, and other miscellaneous. In addition to her seasonal projects, Aoki includes the following items:
Gardening Life with Embroidery: Embroidered Silhouette, Finding Inspiration for Embroidery in the Garden, From Gardening to Embroidery Embroidery Life with Gardening: Embroidered Silhouette, Kazuko’s Stitch Lessons, Basic Techniques, Extra Techniques, Lessons on Finer Points, Stitch Catalog. Here Aoki talks about how she makes her own sketches before she begins to embroidery. How to Make: Instructions for the projects Resources: This includes materials needed, a glossary, list of thread colors used for every project About the Author Alongside all of the projects Aoki includes, she shares helpful hints for working with embroidery. It is easy to see that Aoki is not new to this craft. Other books that Aoki has published include An Illustrated Guide to Garden Flowers, Seasons of Embroidery, and Cross-stitch A to Z, and many others, but I believe that this is the first book published in English by Aoki.
Aoki’s work on fabric looks alive. Her Spring Wreath (Loc 29) in her book looks as if you could pick up the wreath and place it on your head… yet all the while it is sewn into the linen, held tightly by the stitches, and not loose.
In the beginning of her book, Aoki states, “My feelings about the garden itself are different every year” (Loc 16). Just as each of us will take Aoki’s work and make it our own, making it unique to our own talent and/or perspective, it will all be beautiful. I hope that you will pick up a copy of Aoki’s book and see where your fingers take you.
Now that I have this lovely book in my hands, I would like to say two things:
The book is smaller than I imagined by a bit – but enough to make the instructions a tad difficult to work with. While Kazuko has done a beautiful job of making the instructions an integral part of the beauty of the book, it would be more helpful – especially to those of us who wear bifocals – to make the instructions stand out better. It strains my eyes to read the instructions, which is not a great thing. I find it very frustrating that I cannot seem to get my hands on Kazuko’s linen embroidery thread. It seems it is only available for sale within Japan – and because it is linen – and because it is matte – it seems that it would make a big difference in the outcome of the embroidery. While Kazuko recommends DMC for several of her projects, I would like to have the option of being able to use Kazuko’s own thread. This, also, is very frustrating.
“Stir,” by Jessica Fechtor – NetGalley ARC, Was to be released June 2015
Jessica Fechtor begins her book at the point when she has just had a ruptured aneurysm: She went from running on a treadmill in a gym with her friends Or and Ilana to laying on the floor, thinking she’s sick from a migraine. The rest of the story is a truly engaging take on a very long road to recovery, alongside a mixture of Fechtor’s life and her relationship with food. Fechtor’s goal in writing this book is, I believe, to find her way back to herself – the self that she was before she lost the ability to be whole amidst the connections she has learned from cooking, baking, and feeding those she cares about. She does this be weaving together the story of her conscious work at re-membering who she was – is – in relation to food – in relation to sharing food with her family and friends. It is also the story of a new start, one through which Fechtor realizes, more clearly than she ever has before, how her true self is part of the recipes she has taken and made her own over the years.
I start this story here, on the floor of a conference center gym, because it now seems the most obvious place But it wasn’t obvious to me then that a start had occurred at all (Loc 61).
I have to admit that I wasn’t super excited to read a book about food and someone’s “broken brain,” as Fechtor puts it. But the story is so engaging, the food has such a life of its own, and Fechtor’s story so real and captivating that I could barely put the book down to do my own writing.
By why food? How does a story about dealing with a brain aneurysm have anything to do with food? That’s a good questions, one that I definitely needed an answer to as I decided to invest my time in this book:
"So, yes, this is a book about food. It isn’t a cookbook, though there are recipes here. Because to follow the story where it went I had to follow it into my kitchen. The recipes in this book are for foods that connect me to myself and to my people. Foods that reminded me who I was when I felt least like myself" (Loc 68).
It was Fechtor’s connection to food – and the relationships that food create, if we allow – that brought her back to herself through a seriously, arduous ordeal.
I could probably describe this book as a braided essay and easily get away with it. The first braid is the story of the ruptured aneurysm. The second story is the back story of Fechtor’s life, mainly, her life as a graduate student, how she met her future husband, Eli, and their life together. The third story The third story has to be all about the food… stories about food, stories about relationships connected to food, and the recipes themselves.
What makes this book so engaging is that each braid is interesting all by itself. The fact that braiding each section with two other equally well-written and interesting stories only strengthens each section more strongly. I was invested in each section, singularly so, in that I was always happy to ‘open’ a new chapter, to go back to another part of Fechtor’s story and get to know her better as each story progressed. Each section is written with a clear mindfulness that combines both a lyrical sense of story and an objective, detailed story line with very well-developed characters. What a treat!
Fechtor speaks of the first time she saw Eli:
"He was totally annoying. He sat all crooked with his left arm draped over the back of his chair, and when he spoke, which was often, he’d cock his head to the side and hold out his right hand, palm up, as if expecting a tip. He wasn’t loud or rude, in fact, he seemed smart, but he was talking about the gap year he’d just completed in Israel, and all he could do was complain" (Loc 329).
The fact that they developed a strong friendship before falling in love adds depth to Fechtor’s book and allows her readers to get a clear image of and feeling for both she and Eli.
Stir is written mindfully with a mixture of a natural voice and thoughtful musings… about life, friends, and food. At one point during Fechtor’s recovery, one of her friends, Megan, suggested she create a food blog. At this point, Fechtor was still not physically strong enough to cook a meal by herself. With impaired vision and the need to wear a hockey helmet for protection, Fechtor was hindered not just by extreme physical weakness, but by the cumbersomeness of strange necessities.
"The kitchen became my arena for testing myself physically. I’d page through my cookbooks and stack of rumpled recipes in search of ones that felt safe. My favorite buttermilk biscuits, for example. I misjudged the depth of the bowl as I sank the whisk into the dry ingredients and sent some of the mixture flying. I scraped it back into the bowl. My wrists ached from rubbing cold butter into flour with my fingertips, but wait, hadn’t they always? The familiar discomfort brought me back to myself “(Loc 2028).
Through Fechtor’s horrific experiences and mindful sharing, we get to see some of her family members, how and what she learned from them, and what place they played in her growing love of food and cooking/backing. For instance, we get to see her great-great-Aunt Fran, who – though childless – communicated with Fechtor as an adult and introduced her to escargot. We get to know Fechtor’s step-mother, Amy, who baked for no special reason but to try a new recipe or because she was thinking about someone who might enjoy a certain recipe. And through all the introductions and meetings, we get to see how each person’s relationship with food developed into a relationship of friendship, love, and caring with Fechtor herself – and vice versa.
We also begin to understand how the food that we eat as a child, even the wrappers and containers, the people who are there during the eating, the places, the smells, the tastes, the routines – hold our memories as we grow older… and how we accommodate this food and make it our own.
In getting to know food – and in getting to know how her family and friends enjoy and eat their food, Fechtor gets to know who these people are; she again regales in the connections between food and the person, gets to know her people more deeply through their relationship with food, and how they make it truly theirs. And in the end, this is definitely a story of hope, of determination, of connections and relationships… and the myriad ways that food helps us to find our true selves
The 'partnership' of Russell and Holmes, with Russel only 24 years old, seems to mesh the two protagonists into Russell to be older and Holmes youngerThe 'partnership' of Russell and Holmes, with Russel only 24 years old, seems to mesh the two protagonists into Russell to be older and Holmes younger: If Holmes is already in his 60s, his physical stamina surprises me at times. And Russell shows a side to her that unexpectedly provides a seemingly smooth transition into wise, patient, and all-knowing 'grandmother.' While I enjoyed Russell's somewhat changed character - and enjoyed the challenges both Russell and Holmes experienced, I missed the intellectual jousting that was common between the two in the earlier books. Additionally, the action, which was in abundance, was a too-constant 'character,' in and of itself, for me in this particular book. In spite of all this, I gave it 4 stars, and would have given it 4 1/2 stars, if I had the option. I was not bored, and I enjoyed the characters. Also, I continue to enjoy King's details and language. ...more