Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Meandering Around Ballina

We spent a good part of the afternoon at art exhibitions, one in an upstairs room at the library and one in a large space at the civic building. We enjoyed them both a lot, even though the work itself was extremely different from one venue to the next. The art at the Civic Building was all by one artist and consisted of many portraits and some landscapes. The library exhibition consisted of art by a group of recent graduates and contained a lot of more abstract work. I found much to like in the former, but really, I connected more with the work in the second.

When we were looking for the art in the library, we went up the wrong staircase at first. It wasn't the art we were looking for, but I thought this piece, which sits there all the time, was interesting. From where I was standing, I could only see the back.
I forgot to stop on the stairs to see if I could get a picture of the front, but when we got to the place we were looking for, I was able to see it from the front.
 When we were not in overheated rooms looking at art, we were wandering around in the fresh air. We sat on a bench on the bridge over the River Moy and looked at the salmon weir and listened to the roar of the water while we ate.
We found one of the new pieces of street art, created as part of the Fringe Festival'
We saw some Halloween decorations in shop windows.
 We'd seen Mayoman Frank last year when we were here and I was happy to see him again, greeting people on the corner outside the Ballina Heritage Costume Centre.
I thought this sign was funny.
On the way back to the flat, I saw this plant, which is interesting.
It's been a nice day. We enjoyed the art and our wander around town. Now I'm going to make some supper. I hope it's a nice day in your part of the world today, too.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Ballina Again

Last October, we spent a few days in Ballina, County Mayo. We both loved the town, so we decided to come back. Here we are. Like last year, it was raining steadily when we arrived. We are staying in a flat Bill found on AirBnB, so when we got off the bus we headed there. We were,uh, a bit damp when we arrived. Jim, one of our hosts, said that if he'd known we were coming on the bus, he would have picked us up. I told him it was OK--I enjoy the rain. He offered us the use of his dryer, which is elsewhere in the building, but we said the clothes horse he got out of a cupboard was fine. Things can air dry. You can see them in this pic of the living room area:
I love the little nook with the chair there by the window. I told Bill that if I lived here, I'd keep the chair in that spot, add a table and a bookcase--it'd be the perfect stitching/reading spot! There's one in the bedroom, too:
It's nice to have a kitchen.

The book on the table is called Dear Old Ballina--we're going to be looking for a copy to buy and take home when we're out tomorrow. We're going to go to the library to see an art exhibition that's there and find the street art as we walk around. There's also an art exhibit at the Civic Building, just down the street from us. All of that is part of the Ballina Fringe Festival, which is going on now. We didn't know this when Bill booked the flat, but we were happy about the timing. 

We didn't do much today, other than take some scenic bus rides, walk through part of town to get from the bus station to the flat, and pick up a few groceries--we're tired. This night owl got up at 5:30 this morning. After trying unsuccessfully to fall asleep earlier than my usual bedtime last night, I looked at my watch, saw that it was 1:10, and told myself that if I could fall asleep within 20 minutes, I'd have four hours. I must've drifted off, because the next time I looked at my watch, it was 3:15 and I happily noted that I still had a couple of hours. Then suddenly, I was hearing the alarm on my tablet making the 'early morning' sound. I grabbed it and was trying in vain to turn it off. My mind was foggy and I was confused, thinking there must have been a mistake. Just a few short minutes before, it had been 3:15 and I had two hours before the alarm would go off. Alas, there was no mistake and I got up. I am reminded once again that I am no longer a spring chicken. I can remember when I would get about 4 hours of sleep every night, and run round the next day doing a bunch of stuff, particularly in grad school. Those days are long gone. I remember them fondly, but have no wish to live like that anymore! It's nice that the flat is so comfortable--we can have a good sleep and then head out in the morning.

I hope you're having a good day, too!

Friday, October 11, 2019

Happy Socks

Yesterday, I posted about small things that make me happy. Something else that's been making me happy is the sock yarn with which I created this pair of slouchy socks.
I love the way the colours combine in the yarn. Socks are a nice project to have on the go, because it is largely mindless knitting. There is always some counting when doing the heel flap and heel turn and a bit with the toe section, but mostly it's just knitting that I do when other stuff is going on. I know by now how socks fit my feet and Bill's, so I know how many to cast on and how many for the heel flap and turn. I always use the same basic formula for the socks, changing the stitch patterns on the top section for interest when I make them. Sometimes I do a 7x2 rib on this section, sometimes a lace pattern, sometimes something else. Bill likes his plain, so I do that. On this pair, I randomly purled across on that needle, which makes little bumps on the top. I tried to do this where there was a colour change from one round to the next. I usually do a simple 2x2 ribbing for the cuff, but on these I wanted a more slouchy fit, so I alternated 5 knit rounds and then 5 purl rounds. I tried that on another pair a few months ago and I really like them, so did these the same way. I might do a cable rib for my next pair. I'll see. The planning of the next project is also a happiness-inducing activity. 😀

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Quiet Moments of Contentment

I live a quiet, simple life. My needs and wants are few and I find that it is little things that bring me joy and contentment on a daily basis. Here are a couple of things I've been particularly enjoying lately.

First, I saw these tea bags in Aldi the other day. There were a couple of different kinds of chai--I saw a ginger variety and this coconut.
I'm not in love with ginger, although I can tolerate it in very small amounts, so I skipped that and brought home a box of coconut. It is soooo good. During the summer, I was drinking a lot of lemon green tea. Then I went back to regular black tea, but now I'm hooked on this. It was in the section of the store where they put the special buys--stuff that is only available until it's gone--so I might not be able to get it again. More reason to enjoy it while I have it, although I will try to buy this or something like it again.

Another thing I've been loving is the Open Ears Project podcast. The last episode for the first season came out yesterday, but all episodes are available at the link. They are well worth listening to! Each podcast is short--I think the longest was about 15 minutes, but most are 10 minutes or less. There is a different person on each episode talking about a piece of classical music they love. They explain why they love it, how it makes them feel, and what it means to them. Then the piece of music is played. I was fascinated by the ways in which people found so much meaning, solace, joy and strength, among other things, in the music and I heard each piece differently than I would have if I'd just heard it on the radio without the context. It sounds like there will be more seasons of this podcast in future and I sure hope that is the case. I will miss it now.

It's chilly, grey, and sometimes rainy today. That makes me happy. I am wearing a sweater--still another little thing that makes me smile. I love wool season.

I hope your day is filled with little things that bring you moments of joy and contentment, too.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Budget on the Bus

Yesterday afternoon, when we got on the bus to come home from Donegal Town, the radio was on, as the Minister for Finance was presenting the 2020 budget. This happens every October. The past few years have been slightly different, because the current government had to enter into a confidence and supply agreement with one of the other major parties after the last general election. This agreement was to last for three budgets, but this is the fourth. No one wanted to bring down the government while there is Brexit turmoil, so the parties worked together to get the budget done, even though there has been the usual grumbling.

This is the first time Bill and I had actually listened to the budget presentation--or part of it at least. He was already talking when we got on the bus. We've read about the annual budgets in the past, but it was different to hear it presented in this way. I was struck by the many ways in which people are helped here. I know that people don't think there is enough help and I have no way to evaluate that. I also have no idea how it compares to other countries, except the one I was born in. I'm sure there are more robust governmental support  systems in place in some other countries, but as I was listening to the announcements about increases in the living alone allowance, the carer allowance, the lone parent allowance, the fuel allowance, and more, I was thinking about what a contrast it is from where I came from.

One of the things that has surprised both Bill and me over the years we've been here is how there will be the budget presentation and then things will take effect within hours. Yesterday, an increase in the carbon tax was announced. At the same time, it was announced that the price of petrol would be rising at midnight. Sure enough, when we went to pick up a few groceries, it had gone up by 2 cents since yesterday.
The top is diesel, the bottom is petrol, and that is the price per litre.

Anyway, it was an interesting ride home.

To follow up on my post yesterday, I mentioned barm brack and a couple of people said they didn't know what that was. I should have said! It's a round yeast raisin bread that is a Halloween thing. It is sometimes called Halloween brack.

I'm off to make a cuppa and work on a sock. Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Happy Hallowmas!

We went to Donegal Town today to drop off and pick up stuff at the library and as usual, we went to Aldi for a few groceries while we waited for the library to re-open after lunch. We walked in and heard a witch cackling. Every time someone came in, we heard the cackle, which was wired to go off when the motion sensor detected a new arrival. Aldi (and Lidl) usually have more Halloween stuff than the other grocery stores we've frequented since we've been in Ireland, so I expected to see some of the stuff that was there. Just behind the Halloween stuff, was the Christmas stuff. I was surprised to see so much of it already.
the blue box under the strawberry on the hanging sign says 'Smarties' --for US readers, those are like M&Ms

nice tin!

In past years, the Christmas puddings have been the first to show up, but this year there's a lot of variety already. There will be many more Christmas puddings in various sizes and types on display soon. I have never had Christmas pudding and have no idea what the differences between them are. They appear early and stay around for a while after Christmas in some places. Back in May or June I saw a Christmas pudding on the shelf at our local SuperValu. They also had some Santa and snowmen ice cream things in the freezer case at that time. The boxes were dented and looking a bit frosty (😁😉😝). I suspect the ice cream inside was full of ice crystals. I cannot imagine who would have bought them.

We didn't get any Christmas or Halloween stuff. When we were waiting to get to the till, I saw that the woman behind me had a round loaf of barm brack. I love that stuff and look forward to it every year. Then I eat it regularly, get tired of it, and am ready to leave it alone until it comes back the next year. I almost dashed back to get a loaf, but we would not have been able to fit in in the backpacks without smooshing it, so I opted not to--I can get some at SuperValu tomorrow or the next day, probably. It should be showing up there soon, if it's not there already.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Good Day to Get My Nose Stuck in a Book!

OK, I admit it--every day is a good day to get my nose stuck in a book, but some days are even more so. We're starting to feel the effects from Storm Lorenzo, which is no longer a hurricane, but is still packing high wind and rain. The worst of the wind is supposed to be just south of us and the hardest rain is supposed to show up for us later, but there's plenty of wind already and heavy rain off and on. I will choose a book to start, make some tea, and settle in.

Here are the last books that I spent September with:

The Small Hand: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill (audiobook read by Cameron Stewart)
Adam Snow is a rare book dealer who gets lost one day when leaving a client’s home and ends up at a ruin of a house. What is that small hand he feels holding his own and why does it seem to be following him?

Dolly by Susan Hill (audiobook read by Cameron Stewart)
Edward Cayley is sent to stay with his elderly Aunt Kestrel over the Easter holiday. He is joined by a spoilt cousin, Leonora. Leonora wants a doll for a birthday present, but not just any doll. The repercussions of the birthday echo through the years.

Twelve Slays of Christmas by Jacqueline Frost
I love certain cosy mysteries and used to read many series when I was still in the US as the themed ones involving needlework, knitting, crocheting, and books became abundantly available. I checked the library and requested the latest ones when they came out. The individual stories were often pretty predictable and I almost always knew whodunnit (once from page 10 on) and it seemed that for some authors, each mystery was simply a vehicle to move the characters forward more than the central reason for the books. Still, I enjoyed them as mindless, entertaining reads—settling in with some tea and a cosy was something I enjoyed. Those series aren’t available here. There are different ones, but I don’t know what they are unless I stumble across one. I was surprised to come across this one as I was looking at the library website to see what new Christmas-themed books were available. It’s the first in a series. There’s another one after this, but it’s not available here. It’s a shame, because I’d read it if it was. Maybe next year. I laughed out loud several times when reading this book and read passages to Bill, who also laughed. These were mainly bits about the rescue cat, Cindy Lou Who, which brought back memories of rescue cats we used to wait on. There is also a rescue goat named Theodore, after the late husband of his person, and some rescue reindeer.

The setting of the book is the fictional town of Mistletoe, Maine. Holly White moves back to the Christmas tree farm where she grew up after her fiance goes off with someone else days before their Christmas Eve wedding. Of course, Mistletoe is populated by quirky characters, which is another fun part of the book. However, someone really did not like the president of the Historical Society, because, when she leaves the cafe at the tree farm, she doesn’t make it far. She’s been issuing citations and harassing people, so the list of suspects isn’t short and includes Holly’s dad. Holly investigates and uncovers some secrets. 

The cover is cute, too.
A Maigret Christmas and Other Stories by Georges Simenon

I came across this title while scrolling through the e-book section of the library website. It reminded me that I have a small omnibus edition (the seventh one, according to the cover) containing three Maigret novels that I got from a friend. I’d never read any of these books, although I’ve heard of them. I decided to check out this book, so I could start with the short stories and see if I wanted to read the novels. The book contains three stories, only one of which involves Maigret. That story was pretty good and I probably will at least try one of the novels at some point. The other two stories were OK, but one their own wouldn’t make me want to read more of this author’s work.

Murder, She Said: The Quotable Miss Marple by Agatha Christie
I love Miss Marple, so when I saw a blurb about this book, I went straight to the library to see if they had it. They didn’t. Fast forward several weeks when I was scrolling through the library e-book site and stopped short when I saw a photo of the bright red cover. I immediately clicked the button to borrow it. It’s a fun little book, but I would definitely recommend getting it from the library. I'm happy to have read through it, but it isn't one I'd feel the need to keep and refer to again. It begins with an introduction about the character of Miss Marple, written by Tony Medawar. It ends with an essay written by Agatha Christie and published in 1928, after the serialisation of the original 13 Miss Marple stories in a magazine was complete. In between, each page has a Miss Marple quote on it. Some of them made me want to go back and read some of the books. For me, Miss Marple lives in my head as she was portrayed by Joan Hickson a few decades ago.

I hope this day is a good one in your part of the world.