Women in the Dark

One of my goals for 2015 is to read more.  Check out the other books I've read this year hereherehere, & here

The fifth book I've read so far is Woman in the Dark by Dashielll Hammett. I borrowed this one from the BPL, one more for the road, as they say!

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I'm a fan of mysteries and noir stories, and Hammett is one of the greatest of the genres. 

Luise Fischer is on the run in the cold dark night. When she stumbles in to the home of a taciturn and handsome stranger, her luck might be changing. 

This is a quick and to the point, classic feeling, noir novella. Perfect in its sparsity.  This is a great introduction to this genre if you've never read it. Woman in the Dark is also a perfect read for current fans or fans of short books. 

Do any readers enjoy noir novels? Do you prefer short quick paced books, or long involved stories?

 

Rest In Peace, Tiger

I read yesterday that a creature I would consider a friend passed away. It hit me pretty hard. 

Tiger was a constant on 6th Avenue, where I passed walking to work every day. I had seen him for many years, even before I moved to the neighborhood. It did not go unnoticed that we would move so close to him. We were pretty excited about it.

He was almost always around, guarding his turf, or snoozing in the sun, sometimes chasing down baby birds fallen from the nest, or eyeing down a terrier.  He had a regal apartment, decked out with beds, hammocks, toys, and food. He had an "upstairs neighbor who sometimes hung out in the window above him. He didn't seem to mind the occasional pigeon sharing his meal.  Tiger had his own bench. When he wasn't in front of his opulent abode, he was winding his way to greet you or any passerby (he really liked kids),  surveying local construction, or hiding out at one of his other stomping grounds near by. 

I would often look for him, and be delighted to turn the corner and see him, perched at eye level, on a trash can cover near some potted flowers. Sometimes I would spy him further up the block in yard with a red Japanese maple, red stones, and a red fence. It was always just like greeting a neighbor you've seen for years. You are happy and surprised at their presence, cheerful to say hello! Tiger, you could tell, felt the same. He'd come out to get a scratch, perhaps trailing behind you for a few houses. 

I didn't know Tiger well. I did, in fact, think he was a she for our entire acquaintance. (I also always pictures her name being spelled "Tyger" in a sort of grrrl power way).  But he was a staple of my day, my week. He had a distinctively handsome face and a particular white triangle on his nose that you couldn't mistake. He was a fixture in the neighborhood and I am not the only one who will dearly miss him. 

In a way, it feels like the universe telling me it's ok to go now. The things I love in Brooklyn are dying and I'm ready to move and move on. 

  

Ash in My Mouth, Sand in My Shoes

One of my goals for 2015 is to read more.  Check out the other books I've read this year herehere, and here

The fourth book I've read this year is Ashes in My Mouth, Sand in My Shoes by Per Petterson. I borrowed this book from the Brooklyn Public Library.  

I found this Ashes in My Mouth... using my favorite book finding method in the library (or book stores)  which is just wondering around the stacks until I see something that looks interesting. The little format and color scheme of this book cover got my attention. Per Petterson is a Norwegian novelist and this short book of ten stories that all string together was his first work. 

Arvid Jansen is a boy who moved out of the city and he's not sure he likes it. He is disillusioned with his father's new job, his own nightmares, and the idea of growing old. Although only seven, he feels he knows as much as adults and should be treated as such. But death and sex are still a mystery to him. 

This book reads like someone remembering what they think childhood was like. Arvid's thoughts are too complex for a seven year old, but exactly how we remember being seven was. Although these stories read as if a memoir, Petterson uses this character in several of his later novels, so it is unclear how autobiographical it is. I liked this book, it was moody and disjointed in an appealing way. I would be interested in trying some of Petterson's longer novels. I would recommend this book to people who like coming of age stories, have daddy issues, or like short books.  

Have you read anything by Per Petterson?

 

Famous Potatoes

One of my goals for 2015 is to read more.  Check out the first book I read this year here and the second here

The third book I've read this year is Famous Potatoes by Joe Cottonwood. I picked this book up off a stoop, a lovely and common occurrence in Brooklyn.  

 I had Famous Potatoes for a while before I actually started reading it. As well as trying to read more this year, I'm also trying to read books that I already have in the house. Since I get books from stoops and book sales pretty often, I now have a large collection at home to choose from! Everyone loves a good book stash. When I saw this book on a stoop in South Slope, I was immediately drawn to it's clearly 1970s jacket design. And when I saw it had an author's recommendation from Tom Robbins, I was hooked. 

Follow Willy Carusoe's (nee Middlebrook) misadventures around our sometimes glorious, sometimes sad and dangerous, sometimes downright sexy, wide open country as he mingles with the locals, gets in with gangs and gamblers, and tries to do right by the love of his life. Famous Potatoes is a love story at heart, but you're not sure if the love interest is Willy's wife, women in general, or America it's self.

This novel has a great seventies vibe, and a meandering style, part prose, part stream of consciousness. I really enjoyed being transported back in time, but also seeing the themes and issues that are still common today. Willy is s bumbling but endearing character and you find yourself wishing him the best (but not sure that's what he'll end up getting). 
I'd recommend this book to fans of 70s authors, beat culture, road trip or hitch-hiking stories, and good sexy fun. 

Have you read this book? Or can you recommend other 1970s novels? Found anything good on a stoop or at a Little Free Library? Leave a comment below!

 

June in Review

The year is half over. Can you believe it? June went by so fast. 
For about half of June I felt like I was saying "hang on, wait up!" and for the rest of it, I felt like I was just hanging on, myself. 
There were certain events happening that I felt like speeding up, but I would never have wanted to skip all the great weather, beautiful days, visits with friends, festivities, and temperate Summer-ness that June had to offer. 

Love note from Brooklyn. 

Love note from Brooklyn. 

Although work was a little crazy this month, I tried to take some time for family, friends, travel and projects. 

1) North Side, Asbury Park, on a foggy day. 2) Sitting in the  park  waiting for music and Fireworks. 3) Lacey evening walks. 4) Grand openings and grey skies. 

1) North Side, Asbury Park, on a foggy day. 2) Sitting in the park waiting for music and Fireworks. 3) Lacey evening walks. 4) Grand openings and grey skies. 

In June, I participated in Jersey Collective, an artist take over of their instagram feed. It was a wonderful experience (read my interview here) and I can't wait until my next go in Dec 2016. It meant that we had to spend the better part of a week in NJ and we combined that with Father's Day, and my mom's student's graduation. 

At home, we tried to see friends for concerts in the park and pride among other things. We saw art in the city, and stumbled on it at home, too

1) Lazy Summer creatures. 2) Lake side walks. 3) Fun times and fast cars (and action figures, of course). 4)  Spotting  of a different kind. 

1) Lazy Summer creatures. 2) Lake side walks. 3) Fun times and fast cars (and action figures, of course). 4) Spotting of a different kind. 

Watcher spotting was at an all time high in June, and a favorite past time for my commute. 

Sewing, on the other hand, was on the downswing, but picked up towards the end of the month. I'm hoping the coming months see more productivity. 

Blogging, too, took a down turn. It's such a time consuming effort! But worth it in the end, so I plan to rally!

1) All perfect symmetry. 2) All wide eyes. 3) All high and mighty. 4) All no nose. 

1) All perfect symmetry. 2) All wide eyes. 3) All high and mighty. 4) All no nose. 

June certainly wasn't slow, but it was delicious in all it's candy colored Summer glory. Put on your sunglasses, I think July is gonna be bright! 

New Block: Four Bear Paws

Well, really this is an older block as I made it quite a few month ago, now.
I was inspired my Maureen Cracknell's Bear Paw block

One day, I will iron all my blocks. Perhaps I'm waiting for a proper ironing board. Or even a table ... Right now we iron everything on a towel on the floor. 

One day, I will iron all my blocks. Perhaps I'm waiting for a proper ironing board. Or even a table ... Right now we iron everything on a towel on the floor. 

I've been lacking inspiration and motivation in my sewing lately, so I thought I'd go thru some of the WIPs I have. I'm at a stage in much of my ongoing quilts where they require a large block of time and space, and I just haven't had that recently. I'm hesitant to work on the projects that are more new and less done, bc that just means my pile of unfinished grows and grows. 

I need a vacation just for quilting! Who's with me?

I'm linking this block up with Slow Sunday Stitching by Kathy's Quilts

Scrappy Little Hearts: A Finished Quilt

This little strangely shaped quilt started out when I saw Cluck Cluck Sew's heart block pattern. I know a lot of people fell in love with this block this year. I didn't really have a plan after I made the blocks. 

But after I made them, I couldn't let them rest.  I had other projects I was working on but the little hearts called to me. 

I knew I also wanted to scrap bust this year, so I pulled a ton of green scraps and started to create wonky courthouse steps around the hearts. I linked it all together with some 9 patches in purples, mimicking the checks in the hearts. The quilt was looking a little crazy at this point so I added some calming solid boarders. 

I used the last heart block, and most crooked and crazy, for the back, as well as more solids. I sandwiched top and back together with some scrappy batting.  I used purple pearl cotton to go around each heart on the top and each 9 patch. Then used light green cotton thread to densely quilt the rest of the top. I embellished the boarders and back heart. 

I made a thin rolled boarder to finish it all off. Bc of the improv piecing, this quilt is a crazy shape and all crooked. It kinda averages at 37" x 37" but is measures as wide as 39" in some places. 

Pit was the biggest helper on this little quilt. He knows it would make a cute baby quilt, or play mat, or wall hanging. 

I washed this quilt and it got nice and crinkly. I was a little worried about how it would wash bc I used a bunch of different fabrics for the top. Mostly cotton but also some velveteen, and wool, as well as blends. This quilt doesn't have a label yet. 

This is my first finish of Q2 of the 2015 Finish Along. I have a feeling I'm not gonna get as much done this quarter, but I'm happy with this little finish!

All Gingham All The Time

Or, A Not Very Good Quilt. A Finished Quilt - with a story!

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I heart gingham, can you tell? All Gingham All The Time uses almost all the gingham from my stash, most of it vintage. I found everything I could, from pre-cut vintage squares and on, to make a bright and cheerful courthouse steps design.

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It's the largest quilt top I have made to date, all hand pieced! The backing for this quilt is a vintage gingham table cloth that my husband used in an art piece in college. It had a minor stain (something to do with apples, I think), so I cut it apart and reassembled it with a strip of pieces from the front.

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When I went to baste this quilt, I saw that the top was quite a bit larger than the back, my first idea was to make the folded binding fold from front to back. Instead of back to front, the way I usually do. But  by that time I had found some more vintage gingham and was eager to add them to the quilt, as well! More Gingham!! (Don't count how many times I use the G Word in this post, please!) I added an outer boarder with the "new" pieces to the bottom. Now the bottom was bigger than the top. 

I basted the quilt with some vintage poly batting that I had. It was a very large one and left some scraps. AGATT was hand quilted with white pearl cotton thread over quite a long period of time (more on that below).  I went around the inside of each "box" of all the courthouse steps. Bc of the batting and the nature of the super soft vintage gingham, and weird fluffy texture of the vintage table cloth, this quilt is very puffy and fluffy. I didn't really try to keep it ultra smooth and tight when quilting as to add to this effect.   

For the binding I used my fold over method and bc the backing was quite a bit bigger it made a extra large fold. I quilted and secured the binding with more pearl cotton, mimicking the top by going around each side in a "box" motif. It gave the quilt a heavy, soft, floppy edge all around.  

All Gingham All The Time measures approximately  58" x 84". Almost all the cats helped me on this one, but notably Bippi (here), Tom (here, and here) and Pit (here and here). 

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It was great weather to take photos and my husband held the quilt for me! A first! I'm linking up with Kathy and Slow Sunday Stitching to share this quilt today. All Gingham All The Time is also one of my 2015 Q1 Finish Along finishes!

And now, more to this story:

I started this quilt January of 2014. I worked diligently on it....until I hit a snag. I had made the top, was pleased with the bottom, decided to baste it with one of the vintage poly batting I had. All good so far. But when I started quilting it, I wasn't happy with the job I was doing. I'm sure all quilters run into this problem, and I'm sure they all see the two possible roads to fixing it.  1) Tear out the quilting and start again. 2) Put it out of sight and out of mind and try not to think about it (until you decide what to do). I ended up doing the latter, of course! I didn't want to rip out all the quilting I had already done. But I knew I wasn't doing my best work. 

I know that I shouldn't be telling you all this. 

I know that when one doesn't do their best, they should not alert people to that fact and take away from the enjoyment the viewer might get from the work. Perhaps the viewer didn't notice, or sees nothing wrong with the work... Perhaps they enjoy it and it's imperfections. By drawing attention to what the artist feels of as their short comings, the viewer enjoys it a little less or perhaps feels bad for liking it the way they do. I know we should not take away the viewer experience of the work. 

But, on the other hand,  It's often helpful for fellows in our craft to hear about mistakes we make, so they can learn and grow, as we have done. 

So I put the quilt aside for a while. Once I had had some space, I took it back out. It still wasn't as nice as I would like it to be, but I wanted to continue with what I had. To me, the mistakes seemed huge, and maybe they would to other quilters, too. But I would rather move on and than go backwards. I tried to be better as I moved forward. I still made some mistakes and there are still techniques that I need to learn to hone my craft. I'm looking at this quilt as not a salable or giftable quilt (maybe a second, or really close relation, who will love my work no matter what...), but as a learning experience. Not to mention I like this quilt! It's all crazy colors and bright pattern! 

More Modern Art with my Father

Earlier this year, we took a trip in to The City with Stephen, my father. We went to the MOMA to see some modern art. A few Sundays ago, he came to visit and we decided to visit the Brooklyn Museum. 

There were two modern art exhibits up that we had been wanting to see and we got to explore both; Ai Weiwei and Swoon.

Ai Weiwei crabs. This room also had two huge bowls of pearls, which were begging to be touched. They had a guard to keep peoples fingers out of the pearl pots.  Pardon the blurry picture. 

Ai Weiwei crabs. This room also had two huge bowls of pearls, which were begging to be touched. They had a guard to keep peoples fingers out of the pearl pots.  Pardon the blurry picture. 

Ai Weiwei's work is very political, often criticizing the Chinese government and practices. His work sometimes seems light hearted and whimsical, but often has undertones of loss and violence. 

The last Ai Weiwei room we visited was right before the next exhibit we were there to see and blended perfectly, having many pieces made from reclaimed wood. 

The last Ai Weiwei room we visited was right before the next exhibit we were there to see and blended perfectly, having many pieces made from reclaimed wood. 

In a lot of the work we saw from Ai Weiwei, He used found objects, or reclaimed materials. Some from earthquakes, some from destroyed temples, but all things that impacted the people of China's lives. 

This giant tree created from paper mache, dyed fabric and paper cuts, was the center of the Swoon exhibit and served as a dock for two hand made  boats from a previous art piece.   

This giant tree created from paper mache, dyed fabric and paper cuts, was the center of the Swoon exhibit and served as a dock for two hand made boats from a previous art piece.  

In contrast to Ai Weiwei's deeply political, world wary work, Swoon's art seems to be about creating new worlds by taking the leftovers from this one.  Often using found objects or NYC garbage, she has created floating cities and strange spaces. 

A room and resting place besides the tree dock invites you to sit among bees, wasps and their nests. 

A room and resting place besides the tree dock invites you to sit among bees, wasps and their nests. 

Swoon reformed the gallery space by painting the walls and creating an organic feel using wood, cloth and paper. 

Swoon reformed the gallery space by painting the walls and creating an organic feel using wood, cloth and paper. 

Swoons first inspiration and applications as a street artist were increasingly delicate and detailed paper cuts pasted to walls and buildings using wheat paste. 

Swoons first inspiration and applications as a street artist were increasingly delicate and detailed paper cuts pasted to walls and buildings using wheat paste. 

Having followed Swoon's street art for practically all my years in Brooklyn (who else remembers The Splasher?), it was wonderful to see a show of hers in a major museum. Although she has been having such shows for a while, it was a first for me. 

A familiar sight to the Jersey Shore bred. Reminds me of this  work  by fellow New Jerseyan,  Mermaid Trousers .

A familiar sight to the Jersey Shore bred. Reminds me of this work by fellow New Jerseyan, Mermaid Trousers.

In both these artists work there was a mix of the grotesque and the gorgeous. Both seemed to be about creating beauty from the fallen or forgotten. 

As usual it was nice to see art and hear three different perspectives on it. I'm sure there will be more modern art trips for our family this year!

Busy Being Busy.

March is flying by and Mad Cat Quilts is suffering slight neglect. Life will do that to blogs. 

This is what life has looked like, lately. 

The end of February was still snowy. 

The end of February was still snowy. 

My new commute is pretty wonderful. 

Prospect Park West. 

Prospect Park West. 

Crisp, clear, chilly mornings....

The Arch from afar. 

The Arch from afar. 

Great light in the evenings...

Hustle and bustle on Grand Army Plaza. 

Hustle and bustle on Grand Army Plaza. 

Purple Arch. 

Purple Arch. 

Stunning sunsets...

Iconic Brooklyn images. 

Iconic Brooklyn images. 

And hidden details. 

Snakes in the park. 

Snakes in the park. 

Perks of taking the elevator. 

Perks of taking the elevator. 

My quilting has suffered a bit, too.  I see myself getting back on track soon. In the mean time, I'll try to enjoy being busy. 

Sunday

Stash #3

My mail delivery is really becoming a problem. I lost a package of vintage fabric this month. The post office says it must have been stolen... but somehow I'm not convinced. 

My mail delivery is really becoming a problem. I lost a package of vintage fabric this month. The post office says it must have been stolen... but somehow I'm not convinced. 

Not the best lighting, as I took this picture at night, but I received some vintage fabric this month!! I adore the bright blue and orange on the end. I have also recently come to grips that I'm addicted to fine calico of all colors. So the blue on the right is wonderful to me. 

The Bismuth is so shiny and iridescent! Hard to capture in a photo. 

The Bismuth is so shiny and iridescent! Hard to capture in a photo. 

Two treasures we picked up in DC, a perfect pyrite cube and a bright piece of bismuth. Again, not the best lighting, maybe I will try for more pics another time. We are thinking that we need to re think our over all gem display, especially for small pieces like these. One day it will happen. 

6th Ave in Park Slope was lovelier than ever. 

6th Ave in Park Slope was lovelier than ever. 

Brooklyn has seen so much snow in recent weeks. Some of the prettiest I have seen in the city. 

It has gone from beautiful and crisp and clear, to wet and icy and horrible and back again for several weeks. 

It has gone from beautiful and crisp and clear, to wet and icy and horrible and back again for several weeks. 

I'll leave you with another ill lit pic; My truck, completely buried.

There's another 2 foot wide, 2 foot high wall of snow between it and the road. 

There's another 2 foot wide, 2 foot high wall of snow between it and the road.