Europe, Memory, and the Heart: What I Read in 2017

I’d never participated in a reading challenge before, but last year I joined my friend Gilion at Rose City Reader for her 2017 European Reading Challenge.

Gilion’s rules are simple, and the goal is five books from different countries:

The idea is to read books by European authors or books set in European countries (no matter where the author comes from). The books can be anything – novels, short stories, memoirs, travel guides, cookbooks, biography, poetry, or any other genre. You can participate at different levels, but each book must be by a different author and set in a different country – it’s supposed to be a tour.

I didn’t complete five, whole European books–Gilion’s Five-Star “Deluxe Entourage” category. I didn’t even make it to four: “Honeymooner.” I finished three: “Business Traveler.”

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Sewing

I fell in love with William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s painting Sewing (1898) when I was about twelve years old. I thought this calm and pensive little girl was so beautiful, and I made up my own stories about her life and interests.

The sweetness of this child still makes me smile. Sometimes I think of her, and the innocence this painting represents, when I sew.

Phyllis Hoffman DePiano, publisher of Classic Sewing Magazine, has a gracious blog called The Ribbon in My Journal. Last week she shared the history of sewing machines. Most of my sewing has been embroidery by hand, but I recently began learning to use my Singer sewing machine.

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Seasons and Celebrations

“To understand the calendar is to grasp in a new way the huge significance of the Christian faith, and to understand the role it continues to play in our common life.”

Every December I reread A Yearbook of Seasons and Celebrations because the Liturgical (Church) Year begins with Advent, the four-week season before Christmas.

British journalist and author Joanna Bogle’s A Yearbook of Seasons and Celebrations is my last book for Rose City Reader’s 2017 European Reading Challenge. Her book is a descriptive compilation of traditions associated with Christian feast days, as they have been celebrated particularly in England. She presents recipes, songs, games, crafts, and customs for each feast day or season of the year. Many of them are centuries old, and their origins are fascinating. Continue reading

“Knit Your Bit” (or Crochet) for Today’s Veterans

I was in grade school during the first Gulf War. We prayed the Rosary for peace and for the deployed family members of students.

I also remember that when war was imminent, a priest at my Catholic parish announced he was becoming a Navy chaplain. I don’t remember if he already had a past in the Navy; it seems likely he did. But in 1990 he was not a young man.

He enlisted as a chaplain because our country was going to war, and he wanted to serve the spiritual needs of the men and women who were going to fight it. I remember feeling a kind of awe that Father Ryan knew instinctively what he ought to do at that moment in time–and that he so straightforwardly did it. His farewell was a lesson in selflessness and in doing what was right without fanfare, fuss, or delay.

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Beautiful America

One of the most beautiful blankets I’ve ever made is a pattern called Little Boy Blue by Lion Brand.

This jewel-tone afghan was designed for Lion Brand’s Heartland, which happens to be Lion Brand Yarn Studio’s October Yarn of the Month. Heartland is 100% acrylic and weight 4 (medium). Heartland has a soft, silky feel and is comfortable for me to work with.

I enjoyed the variations in stitch patterns from row to row, which produced such a distinctive border. I counted stitches carefully at the end of each row, because mistakes would show and disrupt future rows. It is well worth the time and effort to ensure each section is correct before moving on. Continue reading

Beauty and Enduring Things

Tea Time Magazine was originally a gift I received, years ago, from a dear friend. I haven’t missed an issue since. But the main attractions for me aren’t actually the features on tea–as informative and interesting as they are.

What draw me to linger over this magazine are the beautiful table settings and the diversity of china patterns featured in each issue. Every one is a feast for the eyes.

One of my favorite regular features of Tea Time is an article incorporating one pattern into three thematic table settings by blending it with different accent pieces and flatware. The settings might be traditional, or formal, or whimsical–depending on the combination of patterns, colors, and materials placed together on the table. It’s a great boost to any hostess’s imagination.

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Would You Take Love Advice from an Italian Woman?

“How do you actually measure a year in your life?” writes Costanza Miriano in the provocatively entitled Marry Him and Be Submissive: Radical Advice from a Real Woman About Marriage, Love, Kids, Work, Play & Everything Else. “By dawns and dusks?…A year should be measured by the number of times you’ve put aside your own preferences so as to give yourself to another person. It’s measured in the life that you have transmitted to another person–not necessarily a son or daughter, but someone smaller than you, weaker, poorer.”

Costanza Miriano is an Italian journalist with RAI (Italian public television). Her refreshing addition to the genre of relationship advice provides what too many American books are missing: la gioia della vita.

Miriano’s Marry Him and Be Submissive: Radical Advice from a Real Woman About Marriage, Love, Kids, Work, Play & Everything Else is my second book for Rose City Reader’s 2017 European Reading ChallengeHer thoughts on love, marriage, and family life take the form of letters to her single and married friends, as follow-ups to phone conversations at wits’ end over boyfriends, husbands, or incorrigible bambini.

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