Pigeon beaks and quilt bee cookies

My lovely neighbor, Marie, knocked on my door the other day. She was wearing a frowny face which was most unusual. In her hands were a youngster’s blue hoodie jacket and a couple of squares of yellow felt. Oh, and the hood of the little jacket had what looked like very large “peel and stick” eyeballs on the top of each side.

“Drake has to dress like a storybook character for school and I’m having a little problem figuring out how to sew on a beak. Can you tell me what I should do?” Marie said.

I had heard about Drake’s favorite book, “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” by Mo Willems. Marie had told me a while back that her son belly-laughs whenever he reads it. Of course, Drake MUST be a pigeon!

I quickly inspected the jacket and had Marie follow me into my sewing room.

“I’ll just snip the felt here and make a three-dimensional beak. Then I’ll stuff it a little and whip stitch it on. It won’t take long at all. I drop it by in a little while,” I said.

Did I mention that Marie makes these amazing decorated sugar cookies? She sells them locally. I order from her from time-to-time and just love seeing my friends’ reactions to her little works of art. A couple of weeks back I ordered a batch for delivery this week after searching through her website selections (www.missmariescookies.blogspot.com). I challenged her to come up with either a “bee” or a “quilt” type cookie. And I mentioned that if that was not possible the autumn leaves I had seen on her site would do nicely. So of course Marie gave me both the bee and the quilt! And they taste just as yummy as they look.

Oh, so let me finish my story about Drake’s pigeon beak. When I delivered the pigeon jacket across the street a little while later, Marie thanked me profusely. Drake tried on the jacket and looked just adorable! Actually, Drake looks adorable without the jacket, but that is beside the point.

“I couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you again so much,” Marie said.

I smiled. Did Marie know how honored I felt to be able to participate in such a small way? Before turning to head home I stopped.

“You know Marie … my gift is that I sew … and your gift … is your amazing sugar cookies,” I said.

Life should be as simple as a child’s favorite book and a delicious sugar cookie.

Layers of New Orleans’ French Quarter

Beautiful bride in New Orleans
It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve strolled around the French Quarter, I always see something new. This time it was a wedding party shuffling down Royal Street with a marching band. The bride is beautiful don’t you think?

I like to think of the Quarter as the layers of a quilt. The top layer is often pieced together with lots of interesting colors of fabric … like the quaint antique shops and art galleries of Royal Street. The bottom fabric layer is often a large single piece of fabric with one identity … the seedy and colorful underbelly if you will … like bawdy Bourbon Street. But does anyone ever see the fluffy batting that lies between the two layers of a quilt? That is what I searched for in September while hubby attended his seminar.

This time I wandered into one of the gift shops along Jackson Square. Located at 523 St. Ann Street is what looks like a typical New Orleans gift shop, only on steroids, with lots of interesting history books and boxed pralines and all things New Orleans. It turned out to actually be a museum gift shop and a National Historic Landmark run by the Louisiana State Museum (www.crt.state.la.us/museum/properties/1850house.aspx). I never saw it coming. For a modest $3 (adult price) you can self-guide yourself up the spiral staircase in the back of the gift shop. The second and third floors of the antebellum row house will quickly turn back the clock 163 years. The rooms are furnished to represent life in the 1850’s before the Civil War. It is a lovely way to see with your own eyes what life must have been like before cell phones and computers.

There is only a small sign on the door which reads “Faulkner House Books” (www.faulknerhouse.net). If you walked past the shop after quitting time when the place is buttoned up tight, you wouldn’t even know it was there. It is another interesting layer of the French Quarter. Located at 624 Pirate’s Alley just off Jackson Square, it is also a National Literary Landmark that should not be missed. In 1927, the young William Faulkner rented rooms in the same space that houses the bookshop. Books in the tiny space can be found in every nook and cranny clear up to the ceiling. Closed only on Mardi Gras Day, they sell new, used and rare editions.

There is so much more to tell about the French Quarter. I’ll attempt to tie the layers of the quilt together next time. Or maybe I’ll just play around in the fluffy batting for a bit longer!

Is it too early for Halloween?

I just started reading the gothic novel “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley. I don’t know what took me so long. I still recall watching the 1931 movie version starring Boris Karloff, and many other versions, so the monster story is very familiar.

Back in the ‘60’s when I was a kid there was a television program called “Creature Features” that came on every Saturday night that played all the old vampire, lagoon creature and “Frankenstein” movies. It was an awesome way to spend an evening around the popcorn bowl with the family.

I have to say Shelley’s writing has me hooked. She doles out just enough information to let your imagination go wild. I can tell I am really going to enjoy it.

But I was so surprised how the novel began. It starts out with a self-absorbed man looking for the North Pole. During his voyage into icy waters littered with sheets of treacherous ice, he comes across a man, and one remaining dog attached to a sled, that have fallen through the ice. There is a rescue involved and the waterlogged gent recovers to tell a long story about his interesting life.

The family name of “Frankenstein” is finally mentioned on page 76 and that is where things get interesting. Need I say more?

The next book in the queue

“The universe is not made of atoms. It is made of tiny stories.”

I saw the quote on Pinterest and just had to pin it to one of my boards. My husband, the engineer, will playfully argue with me on that one. Rick loves to watch all those science shows about the universe. He also believes in black holes. I don’t.

Last night I finished a book that was a bit of a struggle. It was pretty good … basically stories about the Vietnam War … just not one of my all-time favorites. “The Things They Carry” by Tim O’Brien was recommended by another author.

Recommendations are sometimes how I pick the next title to read. Several years back my son recommended “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein. Ricky said it changed his life. That is a good recommendation if ever I heard one. Loved the book.

So it was that one afternoon I just happened to catch an author on television when I was channel surfing. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni was speaking about the writing process. I had read one of her books and stopped to hear what she had to say.

She wrote “One Amazing Thing.” It is a story about a group of people trapped in a building after an earthquake. A motley crew from varying backgrounds, they were all having a most difficult time keeping themselves from falling apart. Someone decides each person should tell a story about the “one amazing thing” that shaped their lives. It was indeed an interesting collection of tiny stories. I found the book remarkable and decided the author could certainly be an authority on what to read next. In the course of her lecture she mentioned a couple of book titles. One was the book by Tim O’Brien. I’m sure I have the other book written down somewhere.

Last year I received another book recommendation and downloaded it onto my Nook. It is the one I am excited to be reading next. Rick and I were visiting the Napa area and seated for a wine tasting at a small vineyard. Across from us was a cute couple that had been dating for several years. The lovely young lady was a recent graduate from Berkeley. Between wine pours, she mentioned just finishing “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn the night before. She told me it had deeply affected her. Don’t know why, or how, but her eyes led me a place I decided to travel.

So what do you do when someone gives you a gift? You give one back. I recommended she read “One Amazing Thing.”

Do you have a book title you loved so much you would gift it to a stranger?