Jan 21, 2013

Adventures in FMQ

It's been a while since I last blogged, but things suddenly got a bit chaotic in Fuzzy Land... Quick and sudden changes that brought jobs along and the need to reorganize our lives - another testimony of God's care for his children.  It's been an awesome roller coaster ride during which I had to reset priorities, and at some point, the growing pile of clothes needing ironing seemed to require a bit more attention than posting something.

However, I just have to keep being me... Making something, crafting stuff and "playing" with newly discovered techniques have become an unending source of creativity that makes my mind soar to new possibilities.  Discovering new uses in what is at hand tickles me in such a way that I could spend days and days creating and forgetting about things around me.  Yes, it's THAT bad great!  In other words, I've kept myself busy, but I just haven't had the chance to share it yet.

Lately, my crafty bone has been focused on been Free Motion Quilting. I mean, why using a sewing machine just to sew... What about DOODLING with it? (Please note cheeks tweaking as major big smile starts appearing in my face...)

Here's a token:

And here is the back side (I was running short of blue thread, so I used white thread in the bobbin):

I just can't make up my mind which side I like best...  This guy came along because I wanted to make something, like a divider, to put in between my pots and pans so that they don't get scratched.  So, just as with about anything else I make, I cannot go for a simple version of fabric just sewn together, and turned these dividers into FMQ practice pieces.  Mr. Fuzz thinks that they are too fancy for not being seen that much, but it's OK.  My ever-active crafty bug is happy and the nice chocolate (yep, that's their color) pots and pans live safely in the cabinet, with their new doodly friends...  :)

I first learned about FMQ when I came across Leah Day's FMQ blog. Some months later, it was two courses from Craftsy:  Machine Quilting with Wendy Butler Berns and Free Motion Quilting a Sampler with Leah Day.  

These are some of the patterns I used in this practice piece; some of them are in Leah's Craftsy course, but others are from her blog.

Sometimes, FMQ feels like learning how to write... You need to learn strokes first and then put them together. Little by little you can see some improvement!  This was my first practice piece, the one that made me realize I needed WAY more practice if I ever was to do something like this in an actual project that would be seen.  I don't know whether it's such a good idea to post it, but at least you'll have something to talk about after seeing it, hehehe...

I am currently working on my third practice piece, so I'll soon be posting some other pictures...  In the meantime, I hope you spent a good time reading this post and got enthused into making something pretty!  :)

Jan 13, 2013

Amish Prayers, by Beverly Lewis

I generally do not favor prayer compilations, as we tend to consider them more than the Bible – a practice that I disagree with, as I believe our prayer should be a personal communication with our Creator.  However, I Mrs. Lewis’s novels, which depict the Amish people with straightforwardness and a caring heart that reflects their deep communion with God. This sparked my curiosity about this book, knowing that the compilation would be made by someone knowledgeable in the matter, and despite that

No wonder why those characters are so rich and faithful!  With prayers like the ones in this compilation, we witness the validity and authority of the Word of God. It includes prayers said in different times of the day, like breakfast, in different moments of life, like death, and even in different attitudes, like thankfulness. Each prayer has a Bible reference from which it takes its inspiration, reminding us how Biblical principles can be applied to different aspects of our life.

There are not enough words to fully describe how special this compilation is.  I hold it, and I know I’m holding something special and unique – that is how powerful the Word of God is, the source of inspiration for the prayers.

The essence and main beauty of this book is its expression of trust and faith in the Almighty God, always aligning our whole self to Him. This precious little book reminds us that prayer is a thing from the heart.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for a review. This did not bias my opinion on the book, nor on the author.

Jan 12, 2013

The Breath of Dawn, by Kristen Heitzmann

“The Breath of Dawn” tells the story of Morgan and Quinn.  Morgan is a successful businessman who has amassed a fortune and gained ample recognition by assisting companies solve their problems and directing them back into a profitable direction.   But he now finds purpose in living only in his 2-year old daughter, after losing his wife and older daughter.  Quinn makes a living by buying items from old estates and reselling them on e-bay, and has tried to isolate herself as much as possible, because she fears her past and Markham, the dangerous man she witnessed against years ago.  They  meet when a house is about to come to the market and both are interested in it – Quinn buys and sells items while Morgan plans to turn it into a home for him and Livie, his daughter.

When Markham is released from jail, the threatening messages start and Quinn sees her worst nightmare come true.  At this point, she has become way too close to Morgan and his family and fears for their safety.  She finally opens up to Morgan, the ever problem-solver that likes to take things in his own hands and offers an alternative that seems to jeopardize their future instead of securing it.

When I started reading this book, I wasn’t aware that it was the third one in the series; it took me a while to become suspicious about the characters.  When the rest of the Spencers are brought in the story, it was good to share their Christmas celebration; their family life has its ups and downs, but it is encouraging to see people believing in God and staying true to godly principles despite difficult circumstances.

Up to this point, “The Breath of Dawn” is another token of Kristen Heitzmann’s wonderful ability to weave plots together, keep the reader interested and depict Godly characters. It all seems to be well, but there are aspects of the book that wander off of the Bible and flirt with a current idea of romance that is not godly at all. I am particularly referring to two aspects that have left me with a “cheap novel” aftertaste; by this I mean a novel that seems to be more interested in tickling the senses and finding a good marketing selling point than in portraying a character or situation from which the readers  can learn Biblical principles. 

The first one is the supernatural aspect of the basement; I presume that the author wanted to add suspense to the story by writing about ghosts and “a presence,” but it is just distracting, it doesn’t add anything to the story and is left unresolved.

The second one has to do with one aspect of Morgan’s solution – (SPOILER ALERT) please note that the rest of this paragraph contains information that will reveal some details of the story, but I need to include this so that I can explain why I find it so distasteful and out of line with the rest of the story.  Always the problem solver, Morgan comes up with an extreme idea that, while providing a quick solution for Quinn and which might come later in time anyway, seems too forced and almost borderline of being a one-night stand. The author “covers her bases,” by having Morgan arrange a quick marriage to Quinn, out of the country and arranging a sort of dream honeymoon that might captivate a lot of readers, as it is the epitome of honeymoons, full of luxuries and money available, ready to quench any whim and craving.  This is a side of Morgan completely opposite to the “family side” of Morgan; it does look like the book implies that a mere convenience is a good enough reason to get married.

In this sense, this book is very far from offering a good alternative to clean, Christian entertainment,  implying that Biblical principles and ethics and morals are gray and can be blended into the current worldview - the main reason why I advice to read it with caution, or even better, not read it at all.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. This has not biased my opinion on the book or on the author.

Jan 4, 2013

Against the Tide, By Elizabeth Camden

Lydia was born in Europe, to a Greek father and a Turkish mom; the family’s “home” was a boat that constantly traveled to different places around the Mediterranean, in order to look for jobs and make a living.  This extraordinary experience allowed the brilliant, little Lydia to learn several languages. At one point, the family comes to Boston, and when Lydia grows up, her linguistic ability allows her to get a prestigious job as a Translator for the Navy and a rudimentary, yet comfortable life when most women had very limited labor opportunities.

Although she has all the essentials, the building where Lydia lives is sold and, in order to keep her apartment, she has to come up with a lot of money in a pretty short time. Her boss, Admiral LaFontaine, knows about her predicament recommends Lydia to Bane, who has done some special jobs for the Admiral and is now in need of some translations for an investigation he is doing. Little by little, they start feeling for each other, but Bane’s past has a powerful restraint on him; he won’t allow himself to get involved with anyone, afraid of exposing them to danger.

When Bane asks Lydia to go beyond her limits, he will jeopardize everything Lydia has fought for and even stay absent when she desperately requires his assistance. However, Lydia sympathizes with his cause, and finds in herself a strength she didn’t know she had when her services are needed once more by Bane, whose investigation takes a turn for the worse, involving the Admiral’s family, and making Bane’s worst fears an awful truth.

Bane’s investigation and past has to do with the opium trade in Boston. While I won’t give details spoiling the story, I must say that Mrs. Camden takes time to end the story with an example of how an awful addiction to narcotics will affect lives at so many levels. In this note, I really appreciate the fact that the author ends the story with the same intensity present in the rest of the book; the conclusion is not rushed, and even leaves room open for further possibilities.

It took me a little to realize this was the continuation of “The Lady of Bolton Hill.” Because of this, the story became more enjoyable and gripping for me. Although “Against the Tide” can be followed as a story of its own, Bane’s character has a sort of double personality; he is sweet and cares for others, but the experiences he went through when he was younger and how he got away from it (included in the first book), make him cocky, belligerent and even rude sometimes. This rougher side of him is a result of his coping with the past, feeling responsible for his mistakes and wanting to make things right; he gets so focused on this goal that he forgets his present actions also affect the people around him. If someone reading “Against the Tide” has not read “The Lady of Bolton Hill,” this dichotomy might be confusing and his character might be taken as an unpleasant person.

Another fact that I enjoyed about this book is that Mrs. Camden is continuously reminding the reader that God is always present in our lives, whether it doesn’t seem like it, or we aren’t aware of it. Some of the characters she portrays are constantly learning about faith and growing in their relationship with Christ.  For instance, someone (I won’t mention the character because I don’t want to give a lot of information about the story) mentions: “I learned that salvation is possible, even for a nasty sinner like me. I learned I had the freedom to make a choice about what sort of person I wanted to be. (page 98).” Even though this is a fictional story, it is refreshing to remember that God is a transformer of lives, as long as we allow Him to.

Something common to Elizabeth Camden’s books is that, at the end, she includes questions that invite the reader to ponder about the character, decisions, morals, habits and other situations described in the book. Even if these were not included, the story is so deep that it will be easy to be used in study groups, or even self-study. Moreover, the language is clean, and although there is a deep attraction between the main characters, the author does not use excessive descriptions that distract from the plot and focus on feelings.

Also, this is the second book by Elizabeth Camden that I’ve read. It is always a delight to read her. Her books are outstanding in that they are historically descriptive in a very realistic way. I would assume that most authors do their homework and research the context within which they are setting the story; Elizabeth Camden does it in such a way that History becomes alive and it actually taps something in the readers, making them wanting to know more about the period or situation described in the book. Few books awake that curiosity in me; Against the Tide is a highly recommendable book. 

I can’t wait to read Mrs. Camden’s next one!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. In no way has this influenced my opinion on the book or on the author.