Quilting Cousins

Recently, a stunning quilt top was handed off – from cousin Linda (in Prineville, OR) to cousin Gary (who played delivery guy) to cousin (me). Fingers fumbling, I opened the box, ready for a first glimpse. I unfolded it and caught my breath. Gorgeous! And what a treat to partner with Linda Gholson, quilter extraordinaire, in this part of my novel journey with Abingdon Press.

Tail in the Rail Quilt

“Tail in the Rail” Quilt

My upcoming “Quilts of Love” mystery, A Stitch in Crime, features Thea James stitching on this very quilt in her spare time. (Not that she has much of it. Too busy trying to figure out whodunit.)

I’ve named the quilt “Tail in the Rail” because the pattern consists of Fence Rail blocks, floral sashing, and Aunt Elena’s Nine Patch variation of a kitty-cat to represent Betty, the feisty calico in the story. It’s my own design, along with Linda’s artistic twist. Like in the book, the quilt fabric is all from the Smithsonian Collection, no longer available. This quilt is a treasure, indeed.

Though Thea hand-quilted the book’s rendition, mine will be sent to Stacy Boyd, a wonderful local quilter. With a long-arm quilting machine.

Quilt Backing & Top

Quilt Backing & Top

Between unfurling the thing and admiring it from this angle and that, I must now decide if the backing I bought is a good match.

Hmm. Too dark? Good enough?

Nope. “Good enough” isn’t good enough for this lovely quilt. Off to get new muslin….

"Tail in the Rail" Quilt

“Tail in the Rail” Quilt

NOTE: If you’d like to make this quilt, take heart. I hope to make the “Tail in the Rail” pattern available when A Stitch in Crime is released in January 2015. Stay tuned.


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5 Great Gifts for a Writer

If you have a writer in your life, you may struggle to choose a gift that pleases. It doesn’t take long before most writers have an abundance of books or DVDs on the craft, journals for noting character descriptions of passersby, mugs with author quotes (though my Jane Austen mug is a favorite), and writer refrigerator magnets. They will have already subscribed to The Writer Magazine and downloaded Scrivner to the hard drive.

So what other writerly gifts would be fun to buy and fun to receive?

Here is my Countdown for 5 Great Writer Gifts:

#5. The Perfect Pen to use at book signings.

The Perfect Pen

Ready to sign my Author Page for Abingdon’s 2014 Fall Fiction Sampler.

You laugh. “Pshaw!” you say. But I say it’s a great gift. Some years ago, a fellow writer gave me a couple pens at our Quills of Faith Writers Group Christmas party. Those pens are the only ones I ever use to sign books because:

  • They have a cushioned grip so my hand won’t tire after signing dozens and dozens of books. Okay, it hasn’t been a problem yet because I haven’t had that long line of fans spilling out the store and around the corner. But I’m prepared, by golly.
  • The ink doesn’t bleed through the book page or leak all over my hands.
  • And most importantly, when I received the pens, signing my own book was still a dream. That little gift told me someone else believed I would get there and I felt encouraged. (Thank you, Ed Reinagel.)

    Shakespeare Cookie Cutter

    Bard Cookie Cutter

#4. Literary Cookie Cutters. Your writer can whip up a batch of cookies featuring the profiles of our dear Jane Austen (I need that cutter to compliment my mug), the Mad Hatter, Harry Potter’s glasses, an open book or bookworm, Clifford the dog, and more. Ideal for any literary event. Check out the Bard cookie cutter shown right (William Shakespeare) on Etsy.

Hobbit Tea

Hobbit Tea

#3. Seems like we need some tea to go with those cookies, eh? How about some Hobbit Tea (left) for the Tolkien fan in your world? I  bought both the Gandalf the Grey Green Tea and Bilbo Baggins Breakfast blend. Rave reviews from two LOTR devotees when they received my gift. Unusual and tasty, too!

Amazon's Steampunk Phone Cover

Amazon’s Steampunk Phone Cover

#2. Steampunk Typewriter Phone Cover (right.) I really want this, even though I’ll have to figure out how to pry the present cover off my phone. They seem pretty bonded. But, what a way to remember you are a writer every time you use the phone. And remind your friends.

And a drum roll, please…..

#1. Typewriter Key Jewelry!! Oh, yeah. Best gift ever! If you like Steampunk, if you like vintage, and if your gift target is a writer, you’ll like this. Each piece is handcrafted using authentic, vintage typewriter and cash register keys from 1900-1940s. The keys are recycled from non-working typewriters, only.

I recently bought a fabulous bracelet from The Magic Closet with designs by Gail Selby. Mine spells out WRITER using various colored keys and silver-plate backings. Check out the picture below. Looks right at home on my computer. Great weight to it, nicely crafted.

Typewriter Key Bracelet

Typewriter Key Bracelet

In the bracelet category, there others that spell out EDITOR, I * WRITE, AUTHOR, and more. Each is unique; no two are alike.

(Did I just repeat myself?)

Worried about your sales numbers? Teaching your baby to count? Forgot the date of your wedding anniversary? Gail has number bracelets that will do the job. (And she can do custom orders.) There are earrings as well, and handsome cuff links for the fellas in your writer sphere.

Don’t mean to give a one-woman sales pitch for The Magic Closet. Or…maybe I do? I’ve seen Gail Selby’s work and am ordering again. Today! However, there are other artisians on eBay or Etsy who have different designs you might enjoy. Take a look.

Just type “Typewriter Key Jewelry” in the subject line and start shopping!


June 16, 2014 · 7:07 am

A New Tradition: Holiday Mail for Heroes

Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving Turkey

Traditions come to the fore when family gets together on holidays. Like you, we have ours. Long-loved practices we cannot wait to practice again.

This year our Thanksgiving table was set in splendor. Designed by my daughter, Heidi, who makes everything beautiful. Fresh flowers in silver vases, chargers giving the plates even more importance, flickering candles, and lacy leaves scattered about. She added our usual name-tags, each decorated with fall cutouts and personalized with winsome descriptions: Extraordinary Eric, Debonair Dietmar, Exquisite Essie, Magical Maya, Sweet Sidney, and more. Mine was Creative Cathy.

Though Heidi is really the creative one.

In the kitchen, my son-in-law Eric sliced the plump turkey he had cooked; the aroma told us dinner was ready. Soon we stood around the table, holding hands, one by one expressing the gratitude in our hearts.

After giving thanks, we tucked in, enjoying our traditional dishes, turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, fresh green salad, corn pudding, Parmesan asparagus, grilled artichoke hearts, and Marcia’s famous Jell-O.

Once we relaxed with pumpkin and apple pie, sipping coffee and cranberry-apple cider, Heidi announced a new tradition for us to practice. Recently, she had seen a moving video of wounded soldiers, in hospital, lonely and away from home for the holidays. Yet cheered by Christmas cards sent from their grateful countrymen. And country’s children.

Cards for the Troops sign

Six-year-old Sidney made a great sign for us.

What a great idea for us, Heidi thought. We could make our own cards! So in preparation, she spent many evenings at work on her Cricut, cutting out cards and ho-ho-ho designs.She gathered up festive stickers and colored pens. On Thanksgiving day, she asked her wee daughter to make a sign to hang over the kitchen table.

The children got busy and made a couple cards each. My two-year-old grandson went wild sticking stickers all over his card, slapping even more on the inside.

Heartfelt Thanks from Linnea.

Heartfelt Thanks from Linnea.

Children working on cards

The Kids Got to Work!


Their messages were strangely mature in spite of their youth. Full of respect and gratitude.

Busy Cardmakers

Busy Cardmakers

Basket of Cards for the Troops.

Basket of Cards for the Troops.

Soon the adults took over the table and made more cards. We didn’t stop until we ran out of card stock and filled a basket with our warm wishes.

I hope we do it every Thanksgiving. A new tradition, worthy of much practice.

If you are interested in making a card for a soldier, please visit Holiday Mail for Heroes to get the details.

Hurry! The deadline is December 6 to guarantee delivery by Christmas.

Maybe I’ll start early for next year.


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What’s in a (Hobbit) Name?

I never cared for my name. Cathy. Not Catherine or Cathleen. Just plain Cathy.  Though, when my mom told me they considered “Bunny” because I was born on Easter, I decided Cathy wasn’t so dreadful, after all.https://i2.wp.com/media.cmgdigital.com/shared/img/photos/2013/05/31/89/84/baby_name.jpg

But it was common. Cathy was the Jennifer of my generation. In high school, I hung out with three other gals with the same name. The unique thing about mine? It started with a C. Wow. The others were K-gals. Still, I longed for something beyond a nickname.

Something romantic and memorable. Like Fiona! Ah….

Not long ago, an Elder at our church, smitten with all things Tolkien, told us he’d looked up his Hobbit name online. The first name was cool – Miles. But the last name spanked – Chubb. Miles Chubb. He wasn’t happy.

I was excited. This was new name territory I could cozy up with – my very own Hobbit name. How bad could it be?

Pretty bad. The Hobbit Name Generator informed me:

Your Hobbit Name is Celandine Gawkroger. Gawkroger, a name only appearing in drafts as a predecessor to ‘Goodbody’. Also spelled Gaukroger. The name means ‘clumsy roger.’

You share your Christian name Celandine, with a Celandine Brandybuck (2994–?): The third child of Seredic and Hilda Brandybuck, she attended Bilbo’s farewell party.

How enchanting. Ms. Brandybuck attended Bilbo’s party. And we shared the lovely name, Celandine. (I decided to try again.)

2nd Try at a Hobbit name:

Your Hobbit Name is Pearl Took. Took, a wealthy family who held the Thainship. The name had no specific meaning.

You share your Christian name Pearl, with a Pearl (Took): (2975–?) was the eldest sister of Peregrin “Pippin” Took. She also had two sisters named Pimpernel and Pervinca. Pearl probably died sometime before the year 63 of the Fourth Age when Pippin left the Shire to live in Gondor.



Okay, I did like the name Pearl. And I knew a really sweet quilter with the last name Tooker. An improvement over my Gawkroger moniker, but I figured I could do better. Using a different name generator.

A Lord of the Rings Name Generator, My Precious, declared:

Cathy Elliott, from this day forward you will also be known as Ducla ‘Proudfoot’-Proudfoot of the Bree.

Uh…no, thanks. This wasn’t working for me. Celandine Gawkroger? Pearl Took? Ducla Proudfoot? Maybe I wasn’t meant for Hobbit-hood. Tweaking the same LOTR Generator, I tried my Elven name. Twice. The result stopped my search:

Cathy Elliott, from this day forward you will also be known as Fonia Eluchíl.

This, I could embrace. It wasn’t quite my favorite Fiona-name. But close enough.



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When I was a child, our school passed out poppy-pins for us to wear on Memorial Day. Looking back, it might have been because the school was located on a Navy base. But I imagined everyone everywhere received poppies, too. And wore them with grateful hearts.

We had solemn parades with lots of red, white, and blue. The Blue Angels flew overhead and we heard the familiar sound of “Taps” played by a lone trumpet. Later, in a quiet moment at home, I’d open Mother’s slim book of poetry and read “In Flanders Fields” over and over, until I could recite it from memory.


In Flanders Fields  by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Though written during WWI after the death of his friend at the second battle of Ypres, Dr. John McCrae’s touching poem is as meaningful today as then. And today, I wish I had a poppy pin to wear.

For more information on the inspiration for McCrae’s classic poem, visit The Great War. And to find out about the tradition of the remembrance poppy, visit The Story Behind the Remembrance Poppy.

Photo credit: *Lie … on a short break … ! / Foter.com / CC BY-NC


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Downton Abbey Spoofs – A.K.A. Poor Mr. Bates!


As a “Downton Abbey” devotee, I recently received an email link to a series spoof. It spurred me to cyber-search for even more clever parodies. Below are some of the best on the web:

  • “Downton Arby’s”  Just the name is enough to start the smiles. Stars comic Richard Kind and is a favorite of Downton creator, Julian Fellowes. Of course, Thomas is up to no good and targets the unsuspecting Bates.
  •  “Uptown Downstairs Abbey” ParodyOn screen interviews with cast members and writer/creator Julian Fellowes (not) keep it entertaining. Bates takes a few unfortunate falls for the good of the order. Stars Kim Cattrall, Jennifer Saunders, and Joanna Lumley.
  •  Late Night with Jimmy Fallon’s Downton SixbyFallon morphs into stuffy Lord Grantham opposite Brook Shields, playing his Lady. Clomping about in an iron orthopedic boot, Mr. Bates steals the show. Until Hedith, Grantham’s unlovely daughter, steals it back for the aristocrats. Very funny!  (NOTE: Colorful language alert.)
  •  And my personal favorite, the Muppets star in Upside-Downton Abbey”  – Adorable. But one is left with the question, what happened to the tea? (You’ll see what I mean at the end.) Sadly, Bates does not appear, but the interaction between the former Lady Grantham and Carson tease the funny bone.

Post Script. For further Downton Abbey fun, check out these sites:

  •  “If Downton Abbey Characters Were Played By Dogs” – The Downton characters as dogs. And one cat, since the dowager countess is “too uppity to be a dog.” Brilliant.
  • Not to be missed are these wonderful drawings by Kim Parkhurst – “Downton Abbey as Dogs & Cats.” Incredible! Mrs. Patmore’s likeness is a hoot. These are available on Etsy for purchase should your drawing room require a tasteful,  updated decor.
  • And who expected this Downton meets American Gothic portrait parody?

Source: Veni Vidi Vichins on Tumblr

Plenty of getting-Downton-fun for all. Enjoy.


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Les Miserables Echo

Today, I saw the movie, Les Miserables. Though the stage play touched me deeply, this experience seemed more stirring somehow. Watching the character’s emotional reactions up close in panoramic, digital clarity left me shaken. Moved. I cried all my makeup away – not a good look. It has been six hours since l exited the film and still, it is with me. That’s good story, folks.

Heading home, the beauty of love’s impact on a life, on many lives, curled around my heart like a mist and rested there. How many of us have the opportunity to change a life through God’s forgiveness and selfless love? All of us, I should imagine.

I thought of people who had forgiven me. Who had loved me, though I’m often unlovely. And right away, my thoughts settled on my mother.

My sweet, ninety-three-year-old mother who has dementia and remembers little, except that she loves me. The lady who inspires friends not seen for years to say, “Cathy! Good to see you. How’s your dear mother?”

My mother at ninety.

My mother at ninety.

Day after day, year after year, my mother dwells in grace. Her kindness is an offering and her smile a blessing. Along with Jean Valjean, she loves with a Godly love that changes lives.  She has changed mine and continues to do so.

May God grant her more pages in her story. Like Les Miserables, it’s a good one. And I’m reading it right to the end.


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