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.” Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Of Course You Can

One of my earliest memories is my mother taking her friend upstairs to our hall bathroom to share the unique floral Marimekko shower curtain she had just designed and sewn. The fabric matched the wallpaper.

I must have been only three years old, but I remember being impressed with the idea that Mom could do anything. If she wanted something specific, with distinctive style, she could create it herself. This was a liberating concept with which to grow up, and that’s what a sewing machine says to me to this day.

Mom gave me my first full-size sewing machine for my birthday two years ago–Singer’s 9960 Quantum Stylist. Feeling like a teenager driving a new car, I made a lightweight shower curtain for the second full bathroom/guest bathroom in the home of a close friend. Continue reading

Taking the Long View

When I was growing up, my ballet teacher had a poster that hung in the studio dressing room. It was a picture of a young girl’s pink-stockinged legs and feet as she sat on the floor, tying her pointe shoe ribbons. The words were:

“So much of growing is waiting–for our knowledge to increase, for ourselves to mature, for our dreams to become reality.”

I was recently reminded of that poster–at which I glanced countless times during eight years of ballet classes–when I finally got around to crochet projects that I’d intended to begin for much of my life and never had. One of these “someday” projects was learning to make thread crochet doilies. Continue reading