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small mercies

It’s been pretty damp out here lately. It’s easy to let your spirits fall flat and feel dreary. Even the computer sends out small, slightly ominous messages of warning, in the right-hand corner of the screen.

Yet I take heart in Emerson’s words this morning: “I am thankful for small mercies.” The beauty of green lush scenery and the ever-changing skies, the humorous way my computer seems to be speaking, commiserating about the weather… it’s all so endearing, so regular, so northwestern. It’s life happening right before our eyes. The passage which follows in Emerson rings strangely familiar too, to readers of Michael Singer and other contemporary writers on consciousness:

“The new molecular philosophy shows astronomical interspaces betwixt atom and atom, shows that the world is all outside; it has no inside.”

Emerson also reminds us, like Singer in Living Untethered (just got my copy and loving it!) that:

“Life’s chief good is for well-mixed people who can enjoy what they find, without question. .. To fill the hour–that is happiness; to fill the hour and leave no crevice for a repentance or an approval. We live amid surfaces, and the true art of life is to skate well on them.”

“Life is a tempest of fancies, and the only ballast I know is a respect to the present hour. … we should not postpone and refer and wish, but do broad justice where we are.”

— from Emerson, “Experience” in Selected Writings, pp. 350-352.

And then there’s “All Star Seattle Quilt” No. 1, finished yesterday! It was fun to stitch in some of my favorite natural scenes and landmarks from this city I love so much… and to blend them with fabrics from the many cultures which make this such a quirky, lively place to be: African block prints, Vietnamese tigers, Japanese cranes in flight, Mexican flowers in bloom–we have so much to be grateful for, in this outpost on the far western side of the country.

Hint: those T-shirts and the tiny pin represent local landmarks which will be featured in “All Star Seattle Quilts” Nos. 2 and 3, coming for summer!

And now, about that weather…

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American literature happiness loss memory

Trivia quiz on Edith Wharton, “The Age of Innocence”

Trivia Quiz for The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (1920; winner 1921 Pulitzer Prize)

(with answers below)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 4/24/22

1. Husband, Wife, Stranger?  May Archer (née Welland) and her husband Newland Archer seem to understand and love each other in their own way. But they also find fault and misunderstand each other. What one trait does May not have, according to her husband?

a. she takes care of herself     

b. she lets her imagination run wild  

c. she is loyal and gallant       

d. she prefers to ignore unpleasantness         

e. she is a true New Yorker and knows how to act

2-5. Social Portraits. Familial, societal, and marital obligations loom large over the characters in The Age of Innocence; those characters who are unmarried or estranged from their families are seen as lonely outcasts. Yet even the most privileged seem pitiable. Match quote to the character. Characters include:  a. M. Rivière; b. Newland Archer; c. Countess Ellen Olenska; d. May Welland

Quotes                                                                                                         

2. “’Sameness—sameness!’ he muttered, the word running through his head like a persecuting tune…”

3. “I want to cast off all my old life, to become just like everybody else here. …  If you knew how I hate to be different!”

4. “You musn’t think that a girl knows as little as her parents imagine.”       

5. “Ah, good conversation—there’s nothing like it, is there? The air of ideas is the only air worth breathing.”

6.  New York, circa 1870: A Uniquely Historic Urban Setting. There are many famous and familiar places named in The Age of Innocence, where the action mostly stays in New York city. Which one of the following places is not named?

a. Grace Church                     

b. Washington Square            

c. Metropolitan Museum of Art

d. a home on West 23rd Street            

e. the Academy of Music       

f. Central Park

g. the Empire State Building             

h. Wall Street 

7. Intimacy and nostalgia. Some of the most poignant passages endeavor to describe times past, longing, and how people who are otherwise intimate perceive life so differently. Which one of the following is not in the novel?

a. “You never did ask each other anything, did you? And you never told each other anything. You just sat and watched each other, and guessed at what was going on underneath.”

b. “Odd, he thought, how the thought of childhood keeps coming back to me—the result of seeing Clarissa, perhaps; for women live much more in the past than we do, he thought.”

c. “She was frank, poor darling, because she had nothing to conceal, assured because she knew of nothing to be on her guard against.”

d. “My good father abhorred hurry. But now we live in a constant rush.”

8. Style and technique. With her mixture of omniscience and interior monologue, Wharton’s narrative provides readers with a feeling of listening to the characters’ most secret and changeable thoughts. Which one of the following thoughts occurs to the hero, Newland Archer?

a. “Don’t let us be like all the others!”                      

b. “Women ought to be as free as we are—”

c. “We can’t behave like people in novels, though, can we?”          

d. “It’s worth everything isn’t it, to keep one’s intellectual liberty; not to enslave one’s powers of appreciation, one’s critical independence?”

9. Keywords and thoughts recur in Wharton’s description of upper-class New York society. Which one of the following quotes is not drawn from Wharton’s book?

a. “keep out the ‘new people’”          

b. “rather bad form”               

c. “morbidly sensitive”

d. “low-toned comments”      

e. “a naïve, generous country”           

f. “it’s confoundedly dull”

g. “ritual was precise and inflexible”            

h. “the occasion was a solemn one”

10-11. Maxims or life lessons. Similar to many of her contemporaries, Wharton peppers her novel with pithy bits of wisdom. Which two of the following are from The Age of Innocence?

a. “Living’s too much trouble unless one can get something big out of it.”

b. “The worst of doing one’s duty was that it apparently unfitted one for doing anything else.”

c. “It seems stupid to have discovered America only to make it into a copy of another country.”

d. “The children you don’t especially need, you have always with you, like the poor. But the bright ones get away from you.”

12. High tech and futurist scenarios. Which one of the following modern ideas and inventions is not in the Age of Innocence?

a. long-distance telephoning              

b. 5-day Atlantic ship crossings, from the US to Europe

c. women’s suffrage                                      

d. electric lighting      

e. Debussy’s music

13. Age = wisdom? At the beginning, Newland Archer seems to be in his early twenties. How old is he at the end of the book? 

a. 57 years old            

b. 42               

c. 78               

d. 85   

ANSWERS

1. b.

2. b.

3. c.

4. d.

5. a.                

6. g.

7. b.  (That quote is from Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway.)

8. b.

9. e. (That quote is from Willa Cather, My Ántonia.)

10.-11.  b. and c.

12. c.

13. a.

A special thanks to Carl and Daniel for the violets from their garden, featured in the nosegay seen above: a symbol of Wharton’s lost world and the nostalgia we all feel for long-lost times, places, and loves…

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Emerson on the human condition

Feeling blah and still aching from the shoulder where I crashed down, quite incorrectly, during a speedy Aikido roll on Monday, I was surprised and encouraged by these lines discovered during my morning reading, and so I share them for you.

“Every man beholds his human condition with a degree of melancholy. As a ship aground is battered by the waves, so man, imprisoned in mortal life, lies open to the mercy of coming events.”

“God enters by a private door into every individual.”

“Our spontaneous action is always the best.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Intellect” in The Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Modern Library edition, p. 293-94.

Hang in there. You are not alone.

And some pretty pictures to remind us of what lovely things we can hold and create and appreciate, with our hands and simply by walking outside in nature, despite being shipwrecked in morality!

Featured is Alice in Wonderland Quilt No. 4, photographed yesterday at Green Lake in Seattle, WA.

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American literature

Trivia quiz on Willa Cather, “The Song of the Lark” & “My Ántonia”

Trivia Quiz for Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark (1915) and My Ántonia (1918)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 3/27/22

1. Women’s work. Cather’s novels provide a glimpse of the paths available for girls growing up in the rural heartland of the USA in the early 1900s. Which one of the following careers is not portrayed as a possibility for women, in the two works we read?

a. Opera singer                       

b. Wife and mother                

c. Teacher

d. Attorney                             

e. Seamstress                         

f. Real estate investor

g. Maid                                   

h. Church pianist                   

i. Boarding house owner

j. Laundress                            

k. Cook/Housekeeper

2. Overcoming adversity. The two heroines—Thea Kronberg and Ántonia Shimerda (later Cuzak)—undergo many hardships before finding success. Which one of the following obstacles does not adversely affect them, over the long run?

a. unplanned pregnancy         

b. poverty                   

c. familial hostility    

d. foreign languages

e. lassitude / lack of will power                     

f. growing up in rural isolation

3. Social satire. Although her tone is kinder than some writers we’ve read, Willa Cather does ridicule social convention. Of the following passages, which one is written by Cather?

a. “No matter in what straits the Pennsylvanian or Virginian found himself, he would not let his daughters go out in service. Unless his girls could teach a country school, they sat at home in poverty.”

b. “Left-wing people are always sad because they mind dreadfully about their causes, and the causes are always going so badly.”

c. “To a feather-brained school girl, nothing is sacred.”

d. “There were two classes of charitable people; one, the people who did a little and made a great deal of noise; the other, the people who did a great deal and made no noise at all.”

4. On Love with or without Marriage (and vice versa). It may surprise modern readers to discover multiple critiques of marriage in Cather’s work, given its early time period. Which one of the following is not by Cather?

a. “’I don’t see why anybody wants to marry an artist anyhow. … You might have kept me in misery for a while, perhaps. … I have to think well of myself, to work. You could have made it hard.”

b. “Loverless and inexpectant of love, I was as safe from spies in my heart-poverty, as the beggar from thieves.”

c. “She is handsome, energetic, executive, but to me she seems … temperamentally incapable of enthusiasm. … She has her own fortune and lives her own life. For some reason, she wishes to remain Mrs. X.”

d. “Men are all right for friends, but as soon as you marry them they turn into cranky old fathers, even the wild ones. They begin to tell you what’s sensible and what’s foolish, and want you to stick at home all the time.”

5. Maxims. Life lessons run through both books. Which one of the following is not by Cather?

a. “Living’s too much trouble unless one can get something big out of it.”

b. “The children you don’t especially need, you have always with you, like the poor. But the bright ones get away from you.”

c. “Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man’s face. It cannot be concealed.”

d. “Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.”

6. Humorous Asides. Cather’s portraits of unlikable characters provide some comic relief. Which one of the following lines is not by Cather?

a. “Her face had a kind of heavy, thoughtless beauty, like a pink peony just at the point of beginning to fade. … She gave the impression of wearing a cargo of splendid merchandise.”

b. “X was an intensely dreary girl … who had failed so far to marry, and seemed to have no biological reason for existing.”

c. “X [had a] very fat wife, who had a farm of her own, and who bossed her husband, I was delighted to hear.”

d. “It was excruciating to sit there day after day and hear her; there was something shameless and indecent about not singing true.”

7. On Nature. Which of the following lines is not from Cather’s works?

a. “This earth seemed to her young and fresh and kindly, a place where refugees from old, sad countries were given another chance. … a naïve, generous country.”

b. [About apple trees in an orchard]: “’I love them as if they were people,’ she said, rubbing her hand over the bark. ‘There wasn’t a tree here when we first came. We planted every one.’”

c. X was “drinking her coffee and forcing open the petals of the roses with an ardent and rather rude hand.”

d. “Through the screaming wind they heard things crashing and things hurtling and dashing with unbelievable velocity. A baby rabbit, terror ridden, squirmed through a hole in the floor.”

8-10. Finding beauty in an imperfect world. Match the quote to the character. Characters include: a. Thea Kronberg; b. Ántonia Cuzak; c. Lena Lingard

8. “She laughed her mellow, easy laugh, that was either very artless or very comprehending, one never knew quite which. … I caught a faint odor of violet sachet.”

9. “She could lie there hour after hour in the sun and listen to the strident whir of the big locusts, and to the light, ironical laughter of the quaking asps. … her power to think seemed converted into a power of sustained sensation.”

10. “A stalwart, brown woman, flat-chested, her curly, brown hair a little grizzled … She was there, in the full vigor of her personality, battered but not diminished.”

11. An origin tale. Although it details the lives of many immigrants, My Ántonia claims to be narrated by a person who was born in the USA. What state is their birthplace?

a. Oklahoma  

b. Indiana       

c. Iowa           

d. Nebraska                 .

ANSWERS

1. d.

2. e.

3. a.

4. b. (That quote is from Villette by Charlotte Brontë.)

5. c. (That quote is from The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde.)

6. b. (That quote is from The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford.)

7. d. (That quote is from Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.)

8. c.

9. a.

10. b

11. d.

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bittersweet thoughts on the Ides of March

“Bittersweet” (or douce-amère, sweetbitter in French) sums up the memories that are seeping into thought this morning. Ambivalent and a little sad, a little happy.

What triggered it was the following email: “I last wrote to you on 3/10/20, two years ago, to cancel the writing workshop, Write YOUR Story.” The rest of the letter explains hopes for recommencing the workshop but still…

Two years have disappeared, two years of isolation, anxiety, and collective worry. Two years is a lot when you are only 8 years old. It’s been two years while those kids whose story, which never even got a title and remains unfinished, have been growing up. [BTW: The spring 2020 group story was a reverse fairy tale, modeled on “Hans in Luck,” by the Brothers Grimm. Our protagonist: a 12-year-old girl who loves gardening. In keeping with the original genre, our heroine is given, and loses, money and treasures one after another. At the ending, she’d be left with nothing, or at least no material profit. I was so curious to know how they’d spin that, the nothingness.]

It is bittersweet, the memory of covid-19 and all who have died, who were sick, who remain devastated by memory or physical disability, that plague. Equally fragile are those who got better but who remain terrified by the memory of having a plague.

Yet look at the sweet hopefulness in the children’s faces seen here. If ever we needed a reason to keep going, it’s in these faces.

Look at those adorable girls who joined the class in 2015, seen above. They are teenagers now, adults. Yet I bet they’ll remember the warm feeling of fun we all shared, how fun it was to write and illustrate Nabiki and Ruby: An Outer Space Fairy Tale.

That creative energy has to be good for the planet!

May your activities this week, as we head into the notorious IDES OF MARCH, be creative and good for the planet too. Despite the horrors that have transpired on March 15 in years past, history does not need to repeat itself. We can do better. We must!

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March 10 Founder’s Day sale: 50% off HGBG quilts!

Here’s a hot tip: Thursday March 10 is the second annual Founder’s Day Sale, at Honey Girl Books and Gifts LLC! Original children’s books and quilts of all colors and styles. “Cozy, with an edge.”

That means 50% off select items… for one day only. Posted below are all the items that will be on sale!

Original Honey Girl pillows, front and back (“His” and “Hers”)
Frankenstein quilt, No. 3
Back, Kimono Silk Quilt, No. 3
Japanese Kimono Silk Quilt, No. 3
HGBG T-shirt
Seattle Quilt, No. 4
Detail, “A European Childhood” quilt, No. 2
“A European Childhood” quilt, No. 2
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Trivia quiz on Charles Dickens, “Bleak House” (part two, from Chap. 29 to end)

Trivia Quiz for Bleak House (part two)by Charles Dickens (1853)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 2/20/22

A. The Complicated Unfolding: Characters and Relationships.

1. Secrets revealed. People’s secrets come to light in many ways—gradual and abrupt—in the second half of Bleak House. Which of the following is not a secret revealed?

a. Mrs. Rouncewell is actually George’s mother.

b. Lady Dedlock is actually Esther’s mother.

c. The will found by Mr. Smallweed in Krook’s shop actually does provide a fortune for the Jarndyce wards.

d. Mrs. Jellyby’s efforts actually do help the people of Borrioboola-Gha.

2. Mysteries remain. Despite the many dénouements in the second half, significant doubts nag at the reader. Which of the following enigmas is unresolved?

a. Why did Hortense kill the lawyer, Mr. Tulkinghorn?

b. How does Skimpole get away with sponging off of other people?

c. How did Jo get the dread virus and transmit it to Esther?

d. Whose footsteps are heard on the Ghost’s Walk at Chesney Wold?

e. All of the above remain tinged by mystery, in one way or another

Insider references: a clue to emotion. Several characters revert to stock phrases to express their feelings. Match the character to the phrase.  The characters include:  a. Mr. Bagnet; b. Mr. Jarndyce; c. Richard in the middle of the novel; d. Mr. Jellyby

3. “Never have a Mission, my dear child.”

4. “It’s rather jog-trotty and humdrum. But it’ll do as well as any thing else!”

5. “Discipline must be maintained.”                         

6. “An East wind is blowing.”

B. Social critique? Institutions and professions are skewered but reform is ridiculed too, and family is not necessarily a haven.

7. Which of the following social institutions is not condemned in Bleak House?

a. medicine                            

b. the law                               

c. charitable organizations (church, philanthropy)

d. Parliament and local governments

8. Family and broken homes. Who among the following is not an orphan, or missing one parent?

a. Ada                                     

b. Allan Woodcourt               

c. Richard      

d. George

e. Esther                                 

f. Caddy Jellyby        

g. Jo                                                   

9. At the end, Mrs. Jellyby gives up her efforts in Africa to focus on an English concern that is portrayed as equally ludicrous. What is it?

a. women’s rights                  

b. the abolition of slavery                  

c. Socialism

C. Oddities and Loose Ends

10. True or False? The heroine’s real name is not Esther Summerson, but Esther Hawdon.  T / F

11. In a novel where much of the action takes place in the fog, the weirdest meteorological phenomenon actually comes from human sources. Which one of the following passages does not describe the death of Mr. Krook by spontaneous combustion?

a. “See how the soot’s falling. Confound the stuff, it won’t blow off—smears, like black fat!”

b. “Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes—gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun.”

c. “’Don’t you observe,’ says Mr. Snagsby, pausing to sniff and taste the air a little, ‘don’t you observe, Mr. Weevle, that you’re—not to put too fine a point upon it—that you’re rather greasy here, sir?’”

d. “’What, in the Devil’s name is this?’ … A thick, yellow liquor defiles them, which is offensive to the touch and sight, and more offensive to the smell. A stagnant, sickening oil, with some natural repulsion in it that makes them both shudder.”

12. Why is Lady Dedlock startled to see Esther in church one day? Choose the correct reply.

a. Esther bears a striking resemblance to her, as much as a daughter might (but Lady D. thinks her own secret child died in infancy).

b. Lady D. mistakes Esther for Hortense, the French maid she has fired, and who has vowed to bring her down in revenge.

c. Lady D. is surprised because Esther, a prominent atheist, is not known to frequent places of worship.

13. True or False? At one point, Lord Leicester is described as “a magnificent freezer.”   T/F

14. True or False? The last scene portrays the adult Esther on a moonlit porch with a loving husband who asks her, “Don’t you know that you are prettier than you ever were?”     T/F

ANSWERS

1. d. 

2. e.

3. d.

4. c.

5. a.

6. b.

7. a.

8. f.

9. a.

10.  True

11. b.

12. a.

13. False.  He is described as “a magnificent refrigerator”!

14. True

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Keep a green bough in your heart…

… and a singing bird will come.*

The sunny weather makes this a perfect day for a Quilt Show on my back porch! Today I’m unveiling the brand-new “Seattle Quilt” no. 4, which sports a green Seahawks T-shirt in its center, alongside “Seattle Quilt” no. 3 (with a navy blue Seahawk jersey) and “Seattle Quilt” no. 2, an homage to West Seattle. All three are available now!

*Proverb recounted in Neurodharma, by Rick Hanson.

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Trivia Quiz on “Bleak House” by Charles Dickens (part one, up to Chap. 29)

Trivia Quiz on Bleak House (1853)by Charles Dickens

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 1/16/22

A. Bleak House Essentials I: Characters galore!

1. … and they have such funny names! Odd and humorous names abound in Dickens’s prose, and they provide a good laugh to readers. Which of the following is not a character in Bleak House?

a. An unwelcome cousin, Volumnia              b. A wicked money-lender named Uriah Heep

c. Lord Boodle, the Duke of Foodle, and the Noodle, Sir Leicester             

d. A nasty old man called Grandfather Smallweed                e. A dirty boy named Peepy       

2. … but they’re confusing. Which people are important? Bleak House is crammed with people of all sorts who bump shoulders in apparently accidental ways, on crowded city streets among other places. Yet some encounters are significant. Which one of the following encounters among characters is followed by a significant message or foreshadowing?

a. Miss Flite’s meeting with the three orphans outside Lincoln’s Inn

b. Lady Dedlock’s meeting with Lord Boodle at her home in town

c. Lady Jane’s meeting with the three orphans at Krook’s store

d. The visit to Mrs. Jellyby of some natives of Borrioboola-Gha

B. Bleak House Essentials II: The World of London

3. Compared to other London novels such as Mrs. Dalloway, there are few tourist locations named in Bleak House. Which one of the following places is named?

a. The Shard                           

b. The Victoria and Albert Museum              

c. The Tate Modern

d. Temple Bar                        

e. The Princess Diana Memorial Fountain    

f. All of the above      

C. Bleak House Essentials III: Fog

4. Many scenes take place in dark, shady neighborhoods or deep in a cold wintry fog. The fog often portends confusion, as if the characters are entering into a particularly disorganized, unruly, murky place. Which of the following places in Bleak House does not match that description?

a. The home of the Jellyby family                                         

b. Tom-All-Alone’s

c. The Court of Chancery                                                      

d. Krook’s store

e. None of the above: they all match that description

5. The House Itself: Not so bleak!  Which of the following does not describe Bleak House?

a. “delightfully irregular”                  

b. “a bountiful profusion of little halls and passages”

c. “It was the completest and most desirable bedroom ever seen—in the stern of the vessel; with a little window, and a little looking-glass, just the right height for me, framed with oyster shells.”

d. “shining out upon the star-light night; with its light, and warmth, and comfort”

6. Strange Pronouncements and Legacies. Some of the most vivid passages touch on the power of words to form a destiny or conjure up the past. Which of the following is not in the novel?

a. “It would have been far better, little Esther, that you had had no birthday; that you had never been born!”

b. “Take care how you cut yourself. It is more dangerous than you think in this country.”

c. “Some melancholy influence is upon her; or why should so proud a lady close the doors, and sit alone upon the hearth so desolate?”

d. “Blest! If I can ever have seen her. Yet I know her! Has the picture been engraved, miss?”

e. “The only other lodger is a law-writer. The children in the lanes here, say he has sold himself to the devil.”

D. Style and Wisdom. Charles Dickens shows great talent for describing human frailties, yet the depth of the characters’ psychology may disappoint: people often resemble their exterior and names. Name the person associated with the following quotes, from this list: a. Mr. Snagsby; b. Esther Summerson; c. Harold Skimpole

7. “It sounds—somehow it sounds, like a small sum?” 

8. “But so from rough outsides (I hope I have learnt) serene and gentle influences often proceed.”

9. “X appears: greasy, warm, herbaceous, and chewing.”

10. Maxims. Dickens famously describes Victorian attitudes in his works, and Bleak House abounds with maxims such as all of the following but one. Which one doesn’t fit?

a. “Of all the soul’s impressions, shame is the most conventional and the one most capable of being falsely applied.”

b. “Submission, self-denial, diligent work, are the preparations for a life.”

c. “There were two classes of charitable people; one, the people who did a little and made a great deal of noise; the other, the people who did a great deal and made no noise at all.”

d. “It is a melancholy truth that even great men have their poor relations.”

11. True or False? An earlier name for Mr. Jarndyce’s home is “The Peaks”. T / F

ANSWERS

1. b. Readers of David Copperfield will find Uriah Heep there, but not in Bleak House.

2. a.

3. d.

4. e.

5. c. This quote is also from David Copperfield.

6. b. That warning is from Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

7. c.

8. b.

9. a.

10. a. That comment is from Karolina Pavlova’s novel, A Double Life.

11. True

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Right in time for MLK Day: Respect Quilt no. 14, and a quilt sale!

Respect quilt no. 14 is now done, and heading off soon to Atlanta, GA to celebrate a great American writer: Tayari Jones! In the joyful spirit of love and brotherhood, I am also offering a sale of 50% off all “Seattle” and “Respect” quilts now until Friday January 21, 2022, on etsy!