Sunday, January 20, 2008


We have a finish. Here is Peony all stitched up. I've decided
to work on another project for awhile and so have put this piece
aside. However, while browsing through blogs the other day I
came across Coventry Cottage Home 's blog and Suzanne has
done all six designs in this series on a single piece of fabric. She
features the finish in her post of December 28th, and it looks
fabulous. Something to inspire me when I'm ready to pick this
project up again. By the way, I love the little butterflies in the
Peony design. For some reason the green, pink and brown
colours together put me in mind of mint or pistachio ice cream.

I spent much of Friday night kitting up a new project, and
chasing Rupert who kept getting into my stitching cupboard,
grabbing skeins of thread and running off like a mad cat, with
me in hot pursuit. He did this three times, which proves that
he's a very determined, stubborn cat, and I'm an easily
distracted, over optimistic, short term memoried human.

I'm doing a cute project from a book of cross stitch designs
by Lori Gardner. I'm taking parts of a larger design and
making a long, single line piece. Bright colours, quarter
stitches and back stitching. The problem with stitching from
a book is hauling said book around while working on the
project. The thread grid and the chart are in colour, so
photocopying the page would not be an option I think. Also,
I've found that thread guides using mostly coloured squares
is a pain. Especially when the guide is on one page, and the
chart is on an overleaf page. Telling shades of red and orange
apart is difficult, to say the least. And referring to the picture
of the finished piece doesn't help because the thread colours
look really different in the picture compared to real life.
Still, I soldier on. I'll post a picture of my progress when the
project looks like more then a few blobs of brightly coloured
bits.

We're back to winter here in the Great White North. It's minus
fourteen Celsius with a wind chill of double that. Whew!! I
think we're suppose to get some snow too at some point today.
Me? I plan on hibernating for the day. As far as I'm concerned
when it comes to winter, bears have the right idea.

DH has filled the bird feeders, bought and put out cakes of
suet and seed mix, filled the bird bath and made sure the
heater is properly placed, and stocked up on seed for refills
during the week. We have a flock of junco's overwintering
with us, a family of red breasted nuthatches, and assorted
gold finches, house finches, chickadees and mourning doves.
And busily decimating the hard cherries on our three trees
out front is a flock of pine grosbeaks, which are new to us.

Above is a male Pine Grosbeak. It looks a bit like a
House Finch, but is twice the size. The females are a
olive colour, and the juveniles are a rusty brown. These
birds are extremely tame and you can get right up close
to them, and they'll just drop cherry skins on your head
and ignore you.

Usually it's migrating Cedar Waxwings that dine on the
berries in the Spring but this past December, for the first
time, almost a dozen pine grosbeaks appeared and began
attacking the hard skinned cherries with their very strong
beaks. The snow under the trees soon grew to resemble
the aftermath of a massacre, with the bits of smooshed
cherries scattered around. The birds continue to appear
so I guess they're here for the winter.

It's so exciting to see a bird for the first time at our feeders,
and this past year we've had a few newcomers to our yard.
The red breasted nuthatches for one, and the grosbeaks,
and on one memorable day an indigo bunting!! Last year
it was a whole family of Baltimore Orioles who spent an
afternoon in the area and kept appearing in our yard. DH
and I were going nuts trying to keep track of them as they
appeared and then flew off. Such gorgeous birds.

And now for my book of the week. And boy do I recommend
this one to all of you. I loved this book!! The story is fascinating,
the writing sharp, vivid and both emotional and amusing in turns.

Water for Elephants was written by a Canadian, Sara Gruen and
this is her third book. This is the first one of hers that I've read
but I plan on checking out the others now. This one came out in
2006 and was a critically lauded success.

The year is 1931 and Jacob Jankowski is in the last week of
studies before sitting for his final exams to become a veterinarian,
like his father before him. But devastating news rocks Jacob's
world when he learns that both his parents have been killed in an
auto accident, and because of the recession their house, it's
contents and his father's practice have all been seized by the bank.
The realization that his parent's re mortgaged their house to pay
for his education, and his father has been accepting payment for
his services in the form of produce and barter due to the
depression, sends Jacob reeling and in the middle of trying to
write his exams he breaks down and flees the University.

Running without thought or destination Jacob ends up hopping
a train and finds it to be a circus train. Taken in by an
elderly circus worker named Camel, Jacob finds himself in
desperate need of a place to stay and work to feed himself in
a depression weary country where jobs are few and far between.

Taken on as vet to the circus Jacob meets Marlene, star equestrian
rider and wife of August, an animal trainer. Marlene is beautiful
and enchanting, August is in turns charming and bombastic,
suddenly changing to a dark, sullen and suspicious man with
a cruel temper. Jacob falls for Marlene and as the week pass and
August's actions reveal more and more of his dark nature Marlene
is drawn to Jacob.

The circus world is revealed to the reader in fascinating detail.
We meet the workers, who are strictly segregated from the
performers, and find a world both magical and brutal. Jacob
finds a refuge with the animals he tends and comes to care for
them with a dedication reminiscent of his father's to his domestic
practice.

As the circus owner Big Al herds his big top show from town
to town, imperious and obsessed with building his circus into
a success to rival that of the Ringling Bros. and uncaring of
the people and animals he uses to achieve that end, tensions
mount.

Jacob must find a way to save Marlene from her increasingly
unstable and eventually abusive husband, as well as the
animals in his care, on whom August vents his temper without
mercy. But Big Al values his animal trainer August, and
performer Marlene, who is the big draw to his circus, and the
keys to his dreams of success, and he will sacrifice animals and
humans of lesser value to keep them in his circus.

I think we're all drawn to the world of the circus, especially
the circus's of 30 to 60 years ago when the magic and laughter
that enchanted the audience often hid a dark and hollow
world of brutality, discrimination and desperation. This book
shows us that world, warts and all, but also allows us to see
the camaraderie of the circus people who work together to
bring the big top alive, and support each other in a world who
views them with suspicion and distrust.

I really loved Jacob and his determination not to abandon
his friends, the animals who depend on him, and the woman
he loves, in spite of his own grief, loss and his youth. And
you'll loose your heart to the animals in the menagerie, who
are as brilliantly portrayed and brought to life, as the human
characters are in this book.


Guess that's it for now. Time to go do some chores and earn
my keep. Hope that you all have a great week. Cheers!

10 comments:

Barbara said...

Okay, I'm going to see if I can hunt this book down. Believe it or not, my paternal great grandfather actually ran away (as an adult!) to join the circus. And my maternal aunt's eldest child did the same (as a young adult). So I guess it runs in the veins!! ;)

Kathy A. said...

Isn't it amazing how we stitchers enable and boost each other. Doing a SAL has kept me motivated on Paradigm and seeing your work on other blogs must do the same. Congrats on the fine job.

Pumpkin said...

Peony looks beautiful and I never compared it to pistachio ice cream until you mentioned it! LOL!

Lovely picture! I love birds but we don't have many here due to lack of trees around the house :o(

That book sounds very interesting! I'm going to add it to my list for sure :o)

Wendy said...

Peony is beautiful! As is the picture of the bird - how stunning he is. I'm writing down the name of this book, it sounds very interesting.

Jaimie said...

You've been tagged Judy! Come on over to Bell Literary Reflections!

Lynn said...

Peony looks just great!! I love all of these designs and think they'd look fantastic all done up together.
Your new WIP sounds intriguing. I look forward to some pics of it. I did a piece for my Mom once from one of my stitching books and remember how much of a pain it was carting the book around everywhere. However when it's a coloured chart there's no way around it. I laughed thinking of Rupert taking off with your threads. Fortunately for me, Finnigan isn't much interested in mine.
I love the picture of your Pine Grosbeak. We had our first one visit us here in late fall. I don't know what happened to all our birds. They love to come and visit in the summer but we don't seem to attract any except the woodpeckers in winter. Maybe they don't like our feed!

stitcherw said...

Peony turned out beautiful, what great colors. I so love these thread packs, don't have all of them yet but I'm working on it. You mention Suzanne has done them as a set all on one piece of fabric, but I didn't see a link to her blog. I'd love to see it finished that way as have thought about it myself.

Gorgeous picture of the Grosbeak. It isn't quite that cold here, but it's still bitter. We've also gotten more snow so I'm making sure to keep the feeders full too. I sure wouldn't want to have to be an outdoor animail in the winter.
Sue

Beatrice said...

Peony is lovely.
I love the birds. It's a beautiful photo.We live in the country and enjoy all the wildlife!
Enjoy your books and stitching.

Lelia said...

Water for Elephants was one of THE BEST books I've EVER READ. For real. When I got it from the public library, I read it cover to cover -- didn't put it down. Was up all night & couldn't put it down.

After I read the book, it became a best seller. Always good when that happens!!!

Michelle said...

Beautiful finish on Peony!