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Friday, 11 June 2010

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

SIGNORA DA VINCI by Robin Maxwell

Another book from my selection for the Historical Fiction Readiing Challenge on the royal reviews blog
This story tells of Caterina, the mother of Leonardo da Vinci.
From her humble beginnings as the daughter of the local apothecary in the village of Vinci, we follow her life as she falls in love with the son of the local aristocrat family, Piero da Vinci.
But when she falls pregnant and believes that Piero will marry her, she is sadly disappointed.
When the baby, Leonardo is born, the family (Da Vinci) takes the baby to live with them, as was the custom.

Over the years, Caterina finds ways to spend time with Leonardo, with the help of Francesco, Piero's brother.
Piero wants nothing to do with the child and the family sends Piero to Florence to make a suitable match befitting his position as a Notary.
When Leonardo is only about 11, Caterina requests Piero find an apprenticeship for Leonardo, as due to the custom of the time, illegitimate sons coud not follow the profession of the father.

Thus Leonardo finds himself apprenticed to ne of the masters in Florence, where his talents develop. Caterina misses him so much, that her father suggests she go to Florence, where he has an apothecary shop which was bequeathed to him by his former emplyer. There she can set up shop, but she will have to disguise herself as a man.
Due to her father's teaching since she was a young girl, she is well education in the arts etc and so she is able to assume this change and revels in it.
She has so much more freedom than living as a woman, and is now known as Cato. By chance she makes the acquitance of Lorenzo De Medici and is drawn into the illustrious circle. Eventually falling in love with him.

Very good insight into that time in history.

Thursday, 15 April 2010


Eventhough this was not one of my chosen books for the challenge (Royal Reviews), I wanted to post a comment as the story was wonderful to read.

This is an absorbing story of Alais (sister of Phillipe of France and step daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Alais had been bethrothed to Richard (the Lionheart) but caught the eye of King Henry and captured his heart.
In this story, Alais, has been living at the French court with her brother Phillipe and is feeling stifled with the life and intrigue of the Court.
A written request is received from Eleanor of Aquitaine, for Alais to travel to Canterbury in England and retrieve hidden letters that Eleanor had written to Thomas Beckett. If these letters fall into the wrong hands, the information they contain could bring down the English king, John.

Eleanor also hints that the child born to Henry and Alais, did not die at childbirth and she knows of his whereabouts.
This prompts Alais to undertake the journey to England and when she arrives, she realises that there is more to the story than she has been told.
While trying to retrieve the letters, which were hidden in the alter of the church at Canterbury, she is abducted by King John and his wife, Isabelle, and held at Sarum - the tower where King Henry had imprisoned Eleanor many years ago.
Her rescue comes by way of the Knights Templar, who are led by William of Caen, a childhood friend of Alais.
Something is taken from Alais while she is drugged - her prized possession of a jewel, given to her by Richard at their betrothal. This jewel had been created by an Arab poet, Omar Bn Al-Faridh. More mystery attached to this, as many people want to get possession.
To find out more, you should read this book.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

TWYLIGHT TOWER by Karen Harper

I had intended reading The Poyson Garden as part of the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge on Royal Reviews, but when I went to reserve at my local library, it was no longer on the catalogue.
So that's the reason for reading Twylight Tower.

This story is set in 1560 and Elizabeth 1 has sent William Cecil to Scotland for negotiations with Mary. Cecil is uneasy about leaving on this journey as Elizabeth has been spending too much time with Robert Dudley, and not enough attention on affairs of state.
Shortly after Cecil departs for Scotland, the court's master lutenist plunges to his death from the parapet (near Elizabeth's chamber). It is assumed that he accidently fell after drinking too much, but the other loyal servants of the Queen are not so sure, and believe he was pushed.
Onto the scene appears a young musician and begs to be taken into the Queen's service. This lutenist is good, but something is not right. It soon is discovered that the musician is a girl (it was first though the musician was a eunach).
Elizabeth feels that she is being watched all the time, but dismisses this as being upset at the death of her previous musician.

Robert Dudley is constantly in the Queen's attendance, eventhough his wife Amy Robsart is ailing and living in the country. We know that Robert is ambitious and will do anything to reach the top.

There are twists and turns in this story, always including the workings of the Royal Court, with all its intrigues and jealousies.
The Spanish Ambassador is also at court, lobbying for Elizabeth to take a husband, and building up a network of spies around the palace.

Tradedy strikes close to the throne, when Elizabeth is almost killed whilst performing in one of the plays that she enjoys.

The death of Amy Robsart brings tragedy close to the throne also and suffice to say that the young lutenist wreaks her revenge on the Queen with this incident.
It transpires that she is one of the bastard offspring from King Henry's time.

I am become quite involved with the characters in this series and look forward to reading the other books.

Here are the pages that I have created for my Historical Reading Journal

Friday, 19 March 2010


I just can't seem to get into the swing of posting on my blog everyday. Always other "things" to do.
A couple more book reviews to add - always can find time to read!!

I am a fan of Matthew Reilly's books and CONTEST is the author's first novel, which was self published (1996) after being rejected by every major publisher in Sydney (Australia). That attitude certainly changed once he wrote other books.
Before I read this story, my husband Michael said that I would think twice about visiting a large public library.

As usual with Matthew Reilly books, the theme is action packed from start to finish.

"A thief breaks into the New York State Library and comes away with nothing but the biggest nightmare of his life, and being put in jail (where he reckons he is safe from the monster). He had awakened Karanadon, a monster that has been teleported there as part of a Contest.
The human contender is Stephen Swain, who has also been transported there from his home, together with his daughter Holly (she happened to be close to him at the time).
Stephen thinks he has entered a nightmare, especially when he discovers he has to fight for his life if he wants to come out of the library alive.

Don't want to give too much away, as it will spoil all the twists and turns that are in the story.

For a change of pace, the next book DEATH BY DARJEELING (by Laura Childs), is the first in the tea shop mystery series.
The author has also written a Scrapbooking Mystery series.

Was lucky to get a copy of this book from BOOKMOOCH, as the theme of the mysteries intrigued me, as I am a tea drinker (as well as coffee).

The character of Theodosia, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop is a strong independent woman, and she is helped in the shop by Drayton,who is her major domo and expert tea blender; the waitress and chef is a young girl called Holly.

At a tea party catered for by the shop, a well known property developer dies, after drinking tea and it turns out he was poisoned. Of course, all eyes are on Theo, who desperately tries to save her reputation and track down the killer.

Interesting snippets throughout the story of the various tea blends and names of tea.

Enjoyed the story and look forward to reading others in the series.

Friday, 12 March 2010


As well as enjoying historical fiction, I am also a fan of mystery novels, and after coming across the Cozy Mystery site
I have a good list of authors to choose from.

A couple of stories that I have recently read are:

THE BOHEMIAN MURDERS - A Freemont Jones Mystery (by Dianne DAY).

The period for this story is 1906 and Freemont Jones is forced to leave San Francisco after the devasting earthquake. She goes to the bohemian beach community of Carmel-by-the-Sea and is looking forward to being reunited with her friend, Michael Archer, and setting up her typing business.
But she is not prepared for the way that Michael has arranged a cottage for her, situated in the artist colony and feels that she will be restricted. So she takes up the offer of being the fill in for the Lighthouse keeper for a period 6 months and also rents out a small shop for her typing business. The lighthouse duties only really take up a few hours during the day and she has a man to help out with the other duties.
One day while carrying out her duties on the watch,she sees through the binoculars, a body in the water. When the body is recovered from the water, no-one seems able to identify the person (a young well dressed woman).
Freemont therefore undertakes to find out what happened and promises herself that she will pay for the burial for the woman. But this turns out not be an easy task.

I found the character of Freemont to be a lively, independent person and enjoyed the story.

The other book was THE CHOCOLATE BEAR BURGLARY - by Joanna CARL

As I love chocolate, couldn't resist the title of this book. Also a good read into the chocolate making business.
Lee McKinney works with her Aunt Nettie in the shop - TenHuis Chocolade.
To participate in the "Teddy Bear Getaway" organised by the chamber of commerce at Warner Pier, Michigan (where the shop is located), Lee and Nettie agree to display a collection of antique chocolate moulds.
The moulds have been in the same family for generations and are quite valuable.
But after a burglary at the shop, the antique dealer who asked for them to be on display is murdered, and the main suspect is Lee's young stepson, who has left home.
Once Lee starts delving into the background of the moulds and the family who owns them, secrets are exposed and her life is put in danger.


Originally uploaded by emerging artist2008

I knew that the chilli cut out would come in handy for a card sooner or later, and for the background, used a page from a book of latin that I acquired from a library sale.


Originally uploaded by emerging artist2008

Background for this card is a serviette (love collecting these now for the wonderful colours and prints).
Also I have been collecting quotes from various sources, which add to the images.


Originally uploaded by emerging artist2008

I have a multitude of historical images and thought I should start using some. Pleased with the other "bits" that I have added to make up the composition.


Originally uploaded by emerging artist2008

A real mixture of paper finds for this card - background paper from a sheet that I downloaded from a scrapbook site; image from a travel magazine, and the text is from a family research matter that I was looking into. Unfortunately my husband's family don't have Chinese ancestors, (at this stage anyway).

Thursday, 11 March 2010



The idea for the journal mentioned in my previous post was inspired by Roberta's blog and check it out for other great ideas.

ANNETTE VALLON - by James Tipton

I decided to read this book for the Historical Challenge as I had seen a couple of reviews on blogs that I follow.
Also I had not read many books centred around the French Revolution, and the character, Annette Vallon, was unknown to me.
Book covers and the "blurb" inside sometimes can be deceptive - in other words, too much hype and not enough substance.

The story starts in the period 1785-1791 in the Loire Valley France.
Annette and her family are in the high social classes, and her mother has aspirations for Annette's future, especially when William Wordsworth is brought to their acquaintance and is definitely of the working class.

I felt that there was too much padding for my way of thinking and the story became bogged down.
Didn't press on with the rest of the book.

I did though start up a Reading Journal for the books in this challenge, and here are the pages for Annette Vallon:

Thursday, 4 March 2010

BEACH MUSIC by Pat Conroy

This book was our set read for the month of March, and at our book group meeting yesterday (3rd March), everyone agreed that it was a great story.
Having to pick the titles for the year, I always ponder how the other ladies will relate to the books and looks like I picked a winner here.

Some of the topics that stand out in the story:

Family Relatonships
Love and Loss
Jewish Race
Vietnam War
Living in Italy

This book has all of the above themes and probably a lot more that I may have missed.
Very intense story to read and so well written - especially the family relationships.
Jack's family - how different all the 5 boys were - their mother Lucy, her poor and heartbreaking childhood and how she overcame this and rose to become a much respected and well loved woman and mother.
Shyla's family (Jack's dead wife) and how the legacy of the Jewish holocaust stayed with her family and eventually took her life (suicide).
Jordan - the son of a career Army man, and how his life panned out because of his father.

Had never read any of this author's books before and will probably look for others:

The Prince of Tides
The Great Santini
The Water is Wide
The Lords of Discipline.

The author's descriptions of life were spot on.

THE LAST BOLEYN by Karen Harper

Another book for the Historical Fiction Challenge on ROYAL REVIEWS.
This story gives another slant of the Boleyn family (have read Phillipa Gregory's book The Other Boleyn Girl which I enjoyed).

I was not aware that the Boleyn name came into being in 1530 - previously the family name was Bullen and Anne had wanted the name changed and pronounced Boleyn, a French spelling and much more suited to a future queen of the realm.

We are shown how manipulative the fathers, husbands etc. were in order to become powerful. Thomas Bullen, the father of Mary and Anne was a power hungry man who thought nothing of using his daughters and also his wife to attain his aims.

Mary Bullen is sent off to France (at a young age as was the custom) to be at the French Court in the service of Princess Mary Tudor, King Henry's sister, who was now the Queen of France.
When King Louis XII, dies, his nephew Francois, comes into power, and besides having eyes for Princess Mary Tudor, casts his net at young Mary, who becomes bedazzled by his handsome appearance and everything about him.
Young Mary is finally seduced by Francois, and comes to realise just how ruthless life at court can be.
William Stafford, a member of King Henry's court, becomes entranced with Mary whle on the King's business in France. His love never waivers for Mary even when upon her return to England, her father arranges a marriage with Will Carey.
As was Henry's want, he wants Mary and has her. For 5 years she is his constant companion, and has 2 children by him,Henry and Catherine, who over the following years are taken from her and used as pawns - once again by her father.

I don't want to give too much away, but Mary's marriage to Will Carey is a loveless match, and all the while, "Staff" is in the background watching over Mary, who comes to realise she is falling in love with him.
Will Carey dies and it is sometime before Mary and Staff can marry - all the time playing politics at court and becoming involved with Thomas Cromwell.

The decline of the Boleyn family comes about when Anne and her brother George are beheaded - King Henry wanting to marry Jane Seymour.
Thomas Boleyn, the father is now a broken man, who has now lost all his power and position at court.
But Mary survives all, and her and Will return to his family property Wivanhoe.

Excellent story.

Friday, 26 February 2010


Originally uploaded by emerging artist2008

Artist Trading Card which I have posted onto my Flickr set as well.


Originally uploaded by emerging artist2008

The jigsaw piece was something I created a few months back and knew that it would look good on one of my asian themed cards.


Originally uploaded by emerging artist2008

Another postcard - liked the background paper, and the other images just seemed to fit.


Originally uploaded by emerging artist2008

this postcard brings together images from magazines, together with a sticker depicting a chinese girl.


Originally uploaded by emerging artist2008

The background is a postcard from a book of cards of Japan.
Added the embellishments to enhance the scene.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

THE THORN MAZE by Karen Harper

Another book that I chose to read for the Historical Reading Challenge (Royal Reviews Blog).
First time read of this author and I had been wanting to read her books for sometime.
Enjoyed her style of writing and the period in which she has set her story.

The tale is set in the reign of Elizabeth 1 and the series (this is number 5) sees the Queen become an amateur sleuth.
This is the time of the plague in London and Elizabeth is at Hampton Court, which has as its feature, a hornbeam maze. But the maze becomes a murder scene, as first someone attempts to strangle Elizabeth, then a famed lawyer is murdered in the maze. Soon after his wife is found dead in another maze.
The killer appears to be taunting the Queen and she enlists her closest peoiple to help solve the murders. To add to this, she is trying to keep her eyes on Lord Darnley and his parents, who want to return to Scotland.
Elizabeth is thinking that maybe she can have Mary in Scotland marry Lord Darnley, maybe even Robert Dudley.
William Cecil comes under investigation, as does his wife, and it is not until nearly the end of the story, you discover the identity of the murderer.

The historical names become like old friends once you have read a lot of historical fiction and I find this adds enjoyment of the story for me as well.


My craft cupboard has a "few" cushion kits to be done and this one was a pleasure to do. My friend Diane had given me the kit, and as it very large holed canvas, only took a short time to do.

Very pleased with the result and the cushion sits well on the couch.

Also made up some more cards, and added to the Flickr site as well.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010


I am always on the lookout for notecards/paper, and these days there seems to be a lack of this type of writing paper.
So yesterday I decided to print out some of my photos and make my own note cards.
These are much more personalised and you can embellish to your hearts content.

While I was waiting for my bread to rise this morning, thought it was time that I got back into making my Artist Trading Cards etc, so here are the results. Only 1 ATC and 3 cards (4 x 4). I will use these images for my next batch of note cards

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

THE BORGIA BRIDE by Jeanne Kalogridis

This is another book that I chose to read for the Historical Fiction Challenge (ROYAL REVIEWS), and was not disappointed.

Starts in the Autumn of 1488.
Sancha of Aragon, natural daughter of the man who become Alfonso II, King of Naples.
Like the Borgias, Sancha's people came to the Italian Peninsula by way of SPAIN. (Wonder whether this can be where the cruelty came into the bloodlines).

Sancha's grandfather, King Ferrante - a ruthless man with a streak of cruelty, who arranges for Sancha's bethrothal to Onorato. She is quite happy with this arrangement, but due to political alliances, is told that the marriage will not happen as she is to marry Jofre Borgia, who is only 11 years old at the time.
Their marriage takes place when Sancha is 16 and Jofre "nearly 13".

Naples is plunged into war with the French and the family flees to Messina in Sicily.
Eventually they all return to Naples and it takes sometime for the city to be rebuilt.
Then the Pope, Alexander VI, requests his son Jofre, return to Rome with his wife Sancha as he wants all his family to be with him. The Pope is known for his womanising and Sancha is reluctant to move there.
So it is that in 1496, they arrive in Rome and are welcomed by the Pope's second eldest child and only daughter, Lucrezia Borgia.
At first there is jealousy between Lucrezia and Sancha, as Lucrezia fears that her father will turn to Sancha instead of her. We realise why when later in the story it is evident that Lucrezia and her father are lovers.
Sancha thought is attracted to one of the Cardinals and learns later that he is Jofre's brother, Cesare. They eventually become lovers, and it is not until later that Sancha realises that Cesare is also the lover of Lucrezia and bears him a child.

There are so many twists and turns and at times you shudder at the cruelty that seems to go hand in hand with the power of the Borgia family at that time.
Sancha sees the only way of stopping the family is to poison both the Pope and Cesare to stop the bloodshed, and this she does with the poison called Cantarella.

This is a wonderful tale of intrigue, history, love and betrayal and well worth reading.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010


It has been sometime since I last posted - too involved in gardening, sewing, and of course reading.
Have just finished "Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict" by Laurie Viera RIGLER and loved the story, which has reawakened my interest in the stories of Austen.
I know that I was sucked back into Pride and Prejudice, after watching the DVD(and Colin Firth), and now I need to read more of the books and see the other movies that are on offer.

This story was a delight to read and I notice on the Jane Austen site that there is another book called Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict.

Wonderful info. and links on this site and well worth a look.

Monday, 11 January 2010


Have read my first book for this challenge from my list - THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS (Book 4 of the Plantagenet Series) by Jean PLAIDY.

The more that I read of this series, my interest is awakened even further in historical fiction. The Royal Reviews blog is a good site to check out

This book follows on with the death of Richard, the Lionheart, and his brother John takes over the throne. Not a popular choice of some of the barons at the time, and especially John's nephew, Arthur, who wants the crown.
Because John realises that there is a great threat with Arthur, he ultimately lures him into his presence and murders him, throwing Arthur's body from the castle in France where they had arranged the meeting. This is John's secret as he enlists the aid of a deaf mute to dispose of the body.

John's reign is one of evil - he has a terrible temper, like his father.
Their sexual appetites are similar, in that John arranges to divorce his first wife, so that he can marry Isabella, a 12 year old girl, who was betrothed to another French noble. Isabella is very knowing for her age, and for some years they appear to have a happy marriage, eventhough John takes other women,(young girls and even one of his Baron's wives).
The story ends in 1216 with the death of John.
You are left pondering whether he may have been poisoned after visiting the Abbey of Swinehead. As usual John's eyes dwelt on one of the nuns, and he had it in mind to return to the Abbey and have his way with her.
While resting at Swineshead for the night, one of the monks gives John some peaches on a platter - these he ate hungrily and almost immediately afterwards he was seized by violent pains.


We have been frustrated for sometime with not being able to keep the water clean in our fish pond. No doubt the pump size is inadequate for the area.
So after much pondering, my husband Michael came up with this idea. It works a treat and is basically a plastic crate that has 3 layers of foam inside, and an extra hose, which feeds from the pump- through the foam, and then comes out clear water.
Each week, all that is necessary is for the foam pieces to be removed, hosed clean and put back in the crate.

The fish are happy and so are we.


Another 2 projects to add to the tick list and quite pleased with the outcome.

The shoulder bag is a first for me, in saying this I mean that I have never sewn a bag with a lining before, and the tutorial from tiny happy site was very good, especially having the photos to follow. The tutorial is called Shoulder Bag tutorial and here are photos of my bag.
Used an old earring for the button as I did not have the right size button in my stash

The table runner was started last year and got put on the back burner.
The centrepiece is done on my embroidery machine, and wouldn't you know it, as soon as it was finished and I placed it on the table, my black cat Taliesin had to lay on it.

Now what I am going to try next?

Thursday, 7 January 2010


I had started sewing this Shopping Canvas Tote with the machine embroidery quite a few months back, and when I came to sew on the webbing, realised that there wasn't enough. Had used some of it to mend a strap on Michael's golf bag.
As we needed to go to the shops for a few things, the opportunity arose to visit the Craft Warehouse. Lucky enough to get a lovely red colour in the width that I needed, and surprised to see other colours as well.
Once home I got stuck into the sewing and finished the bag.
The idea is from the site - Advanced Embroidery Designs in their projects section.
Called Shopping Canvas Totes with Applique Embroidery.

Whilst going through my fabric stash, found a piece of material that I either bought at an Op. Shop for $5-00 (a metre piece) or got from the give away table at our Craft Group. Anyway it is good heavyweight material and decided to sew another shopping tote. Found this patter as a tutorial - Summer Sewing - Classic Tote Tutorial on the site Sew.Mama.Sew

Very pleased with this one as well and liked the idea of the outside pocket. Perfect for my glasses and sunglasses.

Have just found another good piece of material that this patter would suit, so will be making this one again.


I have a good excuse for staying indoors at the moment and catching up with my sewing. RAIN and how wonderful it is to see the garden come back to life, and the trees reviving. The grass is growing by the day and once the sun comes out, then the mowers will be out in force.

Here are a few aprons that I made (in a day actually) - and got enthusiastic about this after reading a few posts on one of the blogs that I follow - Down to Earth.
A good time was had searching on the net for patterns and this is what I came up with.

First one is an apron you can make from a Vintage Pillowcase. I had just a plain one that I decided to embellish. The details are from a Blog called Whoopsie Daisies Days

The embellishments for the pockets are canvas bags that I purchased rolled oats and SR Flour in. Added the braid from my stash at the hem.

Next creation is another Pillowcase Apron, with a pocket and this is from a blog called Lipstick and Laundry

Last one is from a site that had a tutorial called Apron in an hour tutorial by Jona Giammalva. Good pattern as it only requires one fat quarter for the main apron and 1/2 yard of fabric for the waistband and ties.

I hope this inspires you to get out the sewing machine. Quite enjoy wearing an apron now, as it certainly saves the clothes a bit and you can use up some of your stash - tea towels, pillowcases etc.