Saturday, March 28, 2015

Getting the Feet Covered

One day last fall we were getting ready to head out for a walk. I put on my hiking sandals and heard a weird flapping sound. I looked at the bottom of the shoe and my heart sank.
 I was really surprised to see this because these were new when we left and they lasted only 6 or 7 months! In the past I've had Nikes that I bought "hardly used" online and they've lasted for years!  I practically live in my hiking sandals. When I am inside I take them off and put on my slippers. I put a lot of miles on my shoes so I figure if I don't wear them inside I can make them last a little bit longer. I didn't plan on this though! I don't do well with regular closed shoes. I can wear them, depending on the shoe, but they are not as  comfortable to wear or to walk in--I get blisters easily and prefer shoes with no backs at all. For walking longer distances a back strap is useful so years ago when I stopped driving and started walking everywhere, I bought a pair of hiking sandals and never looked back. They are comfortable, provide the right amount of arch support, and do not hurt my feet or give me blisters. I learned that if I wear them in winter with layered socks, preferably one pair with mohair toes, my feet actually stay warmer than they do in boots. They also stay dry. So I wear my sandals and make sure I have a good sock wardrobe that contains socks of varying thicknesses and fibers.

Anyway, I was stuck. The shoe stores here did not have any hiking sandals available at that point, though they had appeared briefly last summer when I did not need them. The shoes they sell are pretty ridiculous and are not shoes that are functional in the least, so buying something locally was out. We looked online and couldn't find anything. We tried an emergency fix of the sandals.
The tape on the left shoe came off during a subsequent walk, but I was able to make it home anyway.

Luckily, just before we left Maine, a friend of mine gave me some shoes she'd bought for herself but knew she would never wear. They are good shoes in a Mary Jane kind of style. Even though they had a back, there was an adjustable strap and the leather in the back was soft, so while I did get a little blister when I started wearing them, it wasn't bad and I soon adjusted. They are very comfortable to kick around in, but aren't made for long walks or hikes. Still, they worked well throughout the winter and I was glad I had them.

We haven't been doing much walking anyway since Bill's been down for a month and a half now, but I knew that we'd be walking once again eventually and was hoping that by now I could find something online. I looked in the local shoe stores again first, but they had the usual silly shoes. This time I found what I needed online--they arrived the other day.
They are Timberland. Bill has Timberland boots and he loves them. They seem to be made well and they last, so I hope these sandals work out. They had some Tevas online in my size, but I was hesitant to buy more of those, given how quickly the last pair fell apart. I still have them and if we can find a shoe repair place, I will see if they can be glued.

I try to buy things used and in the past have had good luck finding shoes that people bought, wore once or twice if at all, did not like, so put them up for sale. I had to buy these new from a shoe outlet in Germany. I wasn't pleased about this and I did hesitate because of my commitment to buying used whenever possible. Upon reflection I decided that my shoes are sort of like tires on a car--with the amount of walking that I do, I need good shoes that are fit for purpose. I will probably buy some hiking boots within the next few months for those hikes that require such things. Those I will need to try on before buying and there is an outdoor store here that looks like they will have something, so at least I might be able to buy local for those. I hate this kind of thing--can't imagine why people shop for fun!

Since I do require such an extensive sock wardrobe, I have a great excuse to make socks of various sorts and I finished a pair last night.
Here are the instructions:
Ribbed Knit Socks

I used size 1 needles for the cuff and switched to size 0 when I got to the heel flap. I am a loose knitter. If you are a tight knitter, you might want to use the size 1 throughout or go up a needle size. I made these to fit my size 9ish feet and used less than 437 yards for the pair--I had quite a bit of yarn left from the skein. If you prefer a longer cuff or a larger sock, you will use more yarn. A shorter cuff and/or smaller sock will use less.

ssk: sl 1 as if to k, sl 1 as if to p, slide left hand needle through front of 2 slipped sts, wrap yarn around right hand needle and knit off

CO 68 stitches and divide onto 3 needles (I did 24, 24, and 20). Join, being careful not to twist stitches.

Knit one round.

Work in k2, p2 rib until cuff is as long as you want it.

Divide for heel:
--k 34 sts onto one needle.
--k7,p2, k7,p2 onto next needle
--k7, p2, k7 onto next needle (these two last needles are your instep stitches)

Heel flap:
Working back and forth on needle with 34 sts, (sl 1, k1) across, turn
--sl1, then purl remaining sts across, turn
-- (sl 1, k1) across, turn
--sl 1, purl remaining sts across, turn
Repeat previous 2 rows until you have completed 34 rows, ending with a purl row. Turn.

Turn the heel:
--sl 1, k18, ssk, k1, turn
--sl 1, p 5, p2tog, p1, turn
--sl1, k to within one st of gap, ssk over gap, k1, turn
--sl 1, p to within one st of gap, p2tog over gap, p1, turn
Repeat previous 2 rows until you have 20 sts remaining on needle.

Combine instep stitches onto one needle.

--K 10 stitches from heel flap onto one needle.
--K remaining 10 heel flap stitches onto another needle and then on same needle, pick up 17 stitches along side of heel flap.
--On instep sts, k 7, p2, k7, p2, k7, p2, k7
--With empty needle, pick up 17 sts along other side of heel flap, then on same needle, k the 10 stitches off the last needle.

Now you will decrease only on the two needles with the picked up stitches and work even on the instep.
First round:
First needle: k all sts
Second needle: k7, p2, k7, p2, k7, p2, k7
Third needle: k all sts
Second round:
First needle: k all sts to within 3 of end, k2tog, k last st
Second needle: k the k sts and p the p sts
Third needle: k1, ssk, k remaining sts

Repeat these two rounds until you are back to the original 68 sts, with 17 sts on needles 1 and 3 and 34 instep sts on needle 2.

Now work even until the foot is 2 inches shorter than the desired length:
First needle: k all sts
Second needle: k7, p2, k7, p2, k7, p2, k7
Third needle: k all sts

Toe decreases:
First round:
First needle: k all sts to within 3 of end, k2tog, k last st
Second needle: k1, ssk, k to within 3 of end, k2tog, k last st
Third needle: k1, ssk, k remaining sts

Second round:
k all sts on each needle

Alternate the previous two rounds until you have 5 sts left on needles 1 and 3 and 10 on needle 2.
You will end after needle 3, so knit the 5 stitches from needle 1 onto same needle. Cut yarn, leaving a long tail. Thread tail into tapestry needle and graft the toe. If you search for “kitchener stitch” online, there will be videos and tutorials if you want/need them. You could also do a couple more rounds of decreases without the  k round in between, weave your tail through the few remaining stitches and pull closed, but this might leave a hard lump.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Howards End is on the Landing by Sue Hill

I picked up one of Sue Hill's novels in a charity shop one day and when I read it, I enjoyed it a lot. I looked her up in the library catalogue to see what else they had by her and this was one that came up.
The subtitle is: My Year of Reading from Home. I've read several reading memoirs and have always liked them a lot, so I requested this one. It came in the other day and I read it yesterday.

It was a bit different from the others of the type that I've read. The reading memoirs I've read in the past were mostly structured around specific books and the author wrote about the books, how the books impacted their lives, why they loved them, and stuff like that. Sue Hill does this as well, but she incorporates these things into a more general history of her own reading habits and her thoughts on books, authors, and genres in more general terms.

She begins the book by describing a day when she went to look for a particular book and had trouble finding it. This made her think about how many books she has and she realized that she had not read many of them and had not re-read many of them in a long time. She decided to "read from home" for a year. This meant that she would not buy any new books for a year, but would read only what she already had. Being an author and publisher, she did make a couple of exceptions. She allowed herself to check academic books out of the library and she would read some review copies that were sent to her. So her adventure began.

She described the project as an adventure several times throughout the book and I can see how it would be. I really enjoyed her musings on various aspects of books, writers, and reading. One thing that kept going through my mind though, was the idea of how large a house she must have as she repeated how she went to this floor, that floor, or "the very top of the house." She mentioned a bookcase at one point that came with her and her husband on all their moves except the last one because there was no wall to accommodate it. I have had such an experience myself. I also thought a lot about how we have painfully taken fewer books with us in each succeeding move. I love books, but I do not think I ever want to have as many as I used to--I have always been a big library user, but as I have bought and kept fewer books, I have used the library more and that works well for me. There are books that both Bill and I own that we would not want to get rid of, but since I read so much and most of what I do read is stuff I am unlikely to want to read again, I don't really see a need to collect and haul those books around with us.

When she talked about the marginalia in various books--put there by herself or previous owners of the books, I did think about one book that I was sure I would bring with me when we were packing to come here. It's Evolution of God and it was the last book I bought new 6 years ago. It was also the first book I'd bought new in a long time, but we were on the road when it first came out and I'd heard the author on the radio and podcasts. It sounded like a book I really wanted to read and as we were on the road at the time, in the middle of a 99 day camping trip across the northern US, I had no idea when or where I would next have a library card. So one day I went into a bookstore and bought it and I was glad I did. I did not have a lot of time each day to engage with the book as we traveled and it took me many days to read it. But I can still remember reading and scribbling all over the margins in response to what I was reading. I always thought that some day I would like to read the book again in more settled circumstances. One of the things I was looking forward to was reading my own notes. But it was a thick hardback and when push came to shove during the packing, I reluctantly gave it up and put it into the library donation pile so that Bill could have the space and weight for one of his harder-to-replace photography books. He bought me another copy when we got here, and the margins are clear and ready for whatever I have to say next time. I sometimes chuckle to think about someone buying my old copy at the library book sale--all that bonus material :-)

So if you like books, reading, and thinking about the same, this is a nice, pleasant book to spend a couple of hours with. I am glad that I found it in the library system.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Chicken Veggie Soup with Pierogi and Other Batches of Cookery

I mentioned the other day how thrilled I was to find bags of pierogi back in the store after a long absence. I knew I'd be making some the next day and decided to make some chicken soup to put them in--I LOVE chicken veggie soup with pierogies.

Fortunately I had a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the freezer that I'd picked up from the reduced shelf a while back, so I took that out.

Into the usual puddle of olive oil, I put chopped onion, red bell pepper, carrots, garlic, and the chicken, which I'd cut into chunks. I sweated the veggies, stirring them around, and then added some diced roosters (red potatoes). I put water into the pot to cover everything, brought it to a boil, turned the heat down a bit and let it cook until the potatoes were tender, adding some dried oregano and basil about halfway through the cooking time. When I added the potato and water I turned on the heat under another pot and cooked the pierogi. When the soup was done, I put a few pierogi in the bottom of the bowls, ladled on some soup, and added some cubed parmagianno reggiano cheese. Yum!
Here it is through the steam:
I never make soup (or almost anything else for that matter!) without making extra, so we had the same thing last night for supper. Turned out to be a perfect day for soup--rainy and slightly chilly. There is still a bowlful left, too.

Since I used some stuff from the freezer I had some room and I grabbed another bag of pierogi at the store--gotta get it while it's here! 

Today Bill said he wanted mac and cheese, so I made some cheese sauce. Puddle of olive oil again, into which went chopped onion, red bell pepper and garlic. I stirred the veggies around until they were soft, then added some flour, incorporating it in before turning down the heat and adding some milk. I whisked this around until thickened and then removed the pot from the heat and dumped in some cubed extra mature and mature cheddar and a liberal sprinkle of black pepper. A few twirls of the whisk and it was melted and incorporated. I cooked the rest of a bag of whole wheat fusilli and Bill had that with cheese sauce. For myself, I heated up the rest of a container of leftover cooked brown rice and put some cheese sauce and several grinds of the hot chilli mixture I like so well. Of course there are leftovers :-)
Tonight I will put a butternut squash and a couple of sweet potatoes in the slow cooker to cook overnight during off-peak electricity hours. Tomorrow night I will cook a chicken with onions, carrots, potatoes, and garlic. That'll be the weekend suppers sorted!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Spring Colour!

The other day while I waited for Bill to be finished with the GP I stood in the little square knitting a hat to pass the time. It was a very convenient carry-along project since it was just two small scrap balls of yarn and the hat in progress on a pair of circular needles--very portable. Last night while I sat in bed and listened to an In Our Time podcast about photons, a Thinking Allowed podcast about sociological research on relationships and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, and a Guardian books podcast, I finished the hat and wove in the ends.
It's made with cotton and acrylic sock yarn that was given to me by a friend when I still lived in Maine. I'd used some of the purple, so had a bit more of the cream. I used size 5 (3.75 mm) needles instead of the 1-3 suggested on the ball band, because I wanted a loose fabric. I'd been thinking about making a hat with the yarn, but was undecided on how I wanted to do it until the other night, when the idea popped into my head. It's a very simple pattern and I am quite pleased with how it turned out. I'll post the pattern below.

There are more flowers every day it seems. I am particularly partial to purple!
I always think of colourful foliage as a fall thing, but here it is in spring, too:
Spring colour is busting out all over :-)

Bill seems to be doing a little better. He has been sleeping a lot since Monday, which is good. He really needed that, since it had been weeks since he got a decent night of sleep. He has some periods of time when he feels OK, but the itching and burning soon return in spite of the medication. I am not sure the pain killers help much, but he feels the Lyrica is helping a bit. It seems clear that the antihistamine is quite effective.

Today we took a short walk to the library. I knew I had one book in because we got the message yesterday evening, so I grabbed some change from our container before we left. Then I decided to grab some more in case any of the other 3 books that were listed as in transit had come in--and 2 of them had! Yay!

Bill says he feels better after the walk and I am always happy when I come home with books, so it has been a pretty good day so far. Hope it's the same in your neck of the woods!

Easy Two Colour Roll Brim Hat
sock yarn--I used less than 200 yds--this is a cotton/acrylic blend, but you could use any fibres
size 5 (3.75 mm) circular and double pointed needles

I carried the unused colour up the back so I would not have as many ends to weave in. You could cut the yarn at each colour change if you'd rather. You could also carry the main colour and make every ridge a different colour.

Cast on 110 stitches and join, being careful not to twist stitches
With colour A, knit a round and place stitch marker, if you want. Knit 6 more rounds with A. Do not cut yarn.

With colour B, purl for two rounds. Drop B, but do not cut.

With A, knit 3 rounds.

With B, purl 2 rounds

Repeat until hat is as tall as you want it from brim to crown, ending with 2 purl rounds.

For crown decreases (switch to dpns when necessary to work comfortably around):
Rnd 1: (k9, k2tog) around
Rnd 2: (k8, k2tog) around
Rnd 3: (k7, k2tog) around

Rnds 7 and 8 and all purl rounds: work even in purl

Rnd 9: (k6, k2tog) around
Rnd 10: (k5, k2tog) around
Rnd 11: (k4, k2tog) around

Purl 2 rnds

Rnd 14: (k3, k2tog) around
Rnd 15: (k2, k2tog) around
Rnd 16: (k1, k2tog) around

Purl 2 rnds.

Last two rnds: k2tog around then knit around.

Cut yarn, leaving long tail. Using a tapestry needle, weave tail through remaining stitches and pull closed. Weave in end. Cut B and weave in end. Weave in beginning tails. Enjoy your hat :-)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Hurray for the Pharmacists!

I was reminded again this afternoon how much I love the pharmacists at Joanne Hynes Pharmacy. They are wonderful!
Note that the photo above was taken last summer. It was not 22 degrees today, it was 14.

When we go in there to get Bill's usual medication, they always ask if we would like them to halve the pills (the available dosage is double what he was taking in the US, so he takes half a pill). We have a pill cutter, so he does it himself, but it is so nice of them to ask.

Today he finally called the GP about the itching and burning he has from the rapidly healing shingles rash. He was given a prescription for Lyrica, an antihistamine, and another medication for pain, but the explanation for how he was to take these was unclear to me. When the pharmacist came back with the bag of stuff, she asked if we understood everything. I asked her to please explain and she did--in a friendly, clear, completely understandable way. Bill said it was much more clear than what the GP told him. They always answer questions so well and so thoroughly. They are so nice, too. I have seen them interacting with people who clearly do not feel well at all and they do it so well.

The pharmacist explained that the antihistamine did not have a number associated with it for the medical card, so she charged us the VAT on the prescription meds and charged us as an OTC for the antihistamine--she said that was the cheapest way. She asked if we had a loyalty card and when we said we didn't, she signed us up for one right there and knocked another couple of euro off the total.

I am hoping he gets some relief from these medications. He did not have the kind of pain people usually get with shingles, but now that the rash is healing, it has been burning and itching. It is still a little weird to get used to the way the GP thing works. He called this morning at 10-ish and was told to stop in at 2. He was out by 2:08.

The waiting room in the GP's surgery is far too small for extra people to hang out there--"room" is an optimistic label for the tiny space. So as not to be in the way, I waited in the little square across the street and was standing there knitting. An older guy came up to me and said, "Well aren't you an industrious woman! Do you ever stop working?" Then he was concerned that I was cold. I assured him that I was quite comfortable and we chatted a bit. Bill came out a couple of minutes later.

After the pharmacy we went on to SuperValu to pick up a few things. As we were walking by the frozen food case toward the checkout, I spotted a blue bag out of the corner of my eye, so I turned around to look. Yes! It was the pierogies I love so much back in stock!! Hurray! I bought them regularly when we first got here and I quickly learned to buy a couple of bags at a time because they would go out of stock for a while and then come back. I tried to keep a bag or two in the freezer to have in soups or with sauteed veggies and cheese on top (they are filled with onion, potato, and cottage cheese). Months ago they disappeared, but the shelf tag stayed, so I figured they'd reappear. They didn't. Then the tag went away too and I figured that was that. They put a bunch of other stuff in that spot and I stopped checking every single time we went in there. I bought two bags today because that was all I could fit in the freezer. I hope they stay around this time!

The same thing happened with the chilli grinder I bought all the time. I would grind this stuff on everything--it's a blend of onion, garlic, chillis, mustard. I was nearing the end of the jar and had it on my list, but it wasn't there. I checked every time I went in and was disappointed every time until week before last when I spotted some and grabbed one. Last week I noticed they had one left, so I bought that one, too.
It was a pleasant afternoon. Bill hopefully will get some relief, I worked on my hat in the fresh air and had a nice chat with a stranger, and I got a happy surprise at the grocery store. Sometimes small things can mean a lot!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

It's Definitely Spring

There is no denying it now--after months of walking outside, looking at each other and saying, "Feels like spring!" we find ourselves squarely in it!

I opened a bedroom window this morning and just shut it around 7 tonight. It's not even chilly in there.

We went out this afternoon and I walked out in just my shirt sleeves--no need for a jacket.

Our neighbor has had laundry on the line--load after load--for the past 24 hours.

We turned off the heat--probably for the season--the other day. I was wondering how our heating strategy would work and we discovered that it worked just fine. We heated one room and that was it. The heating system and the design of the apartment made that very doable.

We have electric storage heating. So we have these units in every room (see behind the chair against the wall):
The picture above shows one of two that are in the kitchen/sitting room. There is also one in the hallway right by the door (?) and one in each bedroom. The bathroom has a wall heater that can be switched on and off at will. We actually did not turn on the one in the picture--seemed dumb to generate heat right by the fridge. We did turn on the other one in the room and we closed the door to keep the heat in this room. There are two dials on the heater with numbers 1-6. One is for input and one for output. We set both of these to 3, figuring we could adjust as needed. That was fine, though. So at 11, when off-peak electricity rates begin (it will revert to midnight when we change the clocks on the 29th), the heater turns itself on and generates heat (input) until 8 a.m (soon to be 9), which it then dissipates throughout the day (output) during peak hours. Had we needed extra heat during the day we could have switched on the separate heater attached to the bottom, which would have provided instant heat. We did not need to do this.

We do not like sleeping in stuffy bedrooms, so we did not turn on the heat in our room and there was no need to turn it on in the spare room. The sun comes in through the spare room window when it's out and it streams in for most of the day, so while I usually kept the door to the room closed, if it was sunny the room would warm up and I opened the door.

It doesn't get really cold here and the walls are very thick, so our strategy worked well. We've been told that electric heat is the most expensive, but because we didn't use much, we didn't pay much. I liked not having oil or propane fumes, too. It stayed between 58 and 62 in here, which is actually warmer than we kept things in Maine. If it was just me I probably would have turned it down or off more often, but Bill gets cold easily.

So now the heat is off and it'll probably stay off.

Bill reminded me that we sold our then 24-year-old truck a year ago yesterday, so we have been car-free for a year. I have not driven in over a decade because I knew we'd be coming here and not having a vehicle and I wanted to set up my life to walk as much as I could. I have never missed giving up my DL. I wish I'd done it sooner!

It's easy to live here without a vehicle since there are excellent public transport options--even in many small towns and villages!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


March marches on with Bill in recovery mode and me settling in with the arrival of my annual spring depression.

Turns out that Bill's rash is shingles. He showed it to the GP last week when he went for his regular INR test. The GP thought it looked infected, so he gave Bill a prescription for antibiotics. Bill finished the course yesterday. Fortunately Bill did not have the pain that is usual with shingles--the GP was astonished that he had no pain because it was a pretty bad case, he said. Now that everything is healing though, Bill's having more discomfort as everything itches. The back issue comes and goes. He has been able to get dressed and get out for short walks over the last couple of days, which is good. He's tired afterwards, which is also good. Yesterday we went out for a short walk and he came home and napped in the chair. He needs the sleep since he's not sleeping well at night.

We went out after lunch yesterday because we'd heard there were St Patrick's Day festivities going on and for some reason we thought they would begin in the early afternoon. We were wrong. The streets were very quiet. The flags were out though.
Bill got tired so we came home and he rested. I read. Later on people started to congregate. After a while we decided to go downstairs and wait for the parade, which we knew would pass right by our corner. We went out too soon because we waited for over half an hour before it finally came by--Bill's back was starting to bother him and he wasn't sure how much longer he'd be able to wait--it was nice that there were concrete walls to lean against. Eventually the parade came our way and Bill took a bunch of photos.

It was good to see him with his camera--in many ways life has just been on hold for a few weeks and he hasn't picked up his camera at all.

As for me, my annual spring depression arrived right on schedule. I was curious to see how the lack of winter would affect me and I think the answer is that since it was cool enough, it was OK. I know enough not to subject myself to one of those horrible places where it's hot all the time, but I wondered how I would be in a place where it just doesn't get cold at all. Turns out that for me--as long as it's cool enough--it's the light that make the difference. I do really well in the dark and this would explain why October, November, and December are the months when I feel good.  By January the light is returning fast and I am already dreading what's to come. The expanding hours of daylight make me sad. So it is. I have learned to just accept that this is the way it is for me. I loved it here when it was starting to get dark at 4 o'clock. I am not happy now when I notice that it's almost 7 and still light out. We will turn the clocks forward in a couple of weeks and it will be light even later. By June, the daylight will linger until 11. Summer solstice makes me happy not because it's the "longest" day, but because I know that from then on, there will be a little less light every day.

Anyway, here it is. The first few days are the worst and I just accept that it's here. I expect that when Bill recovers and we can go out and walk and take day trips, things will be better. At the moment I am devouring book after book (even more so than usual)--it is good for me to have stuff to learn and think about. I am best when my brain has something to occupy it. I enjoy seeing all of the flowers that are popping up.
Of course I have a lot of podcasts to listen to and I have a pair of socks on my needles to work on while I listen. I am knitting the second in a pair now--cuff done, heel flap and heel turn next. I also got tired of having my spools of sewing and machine embroidery thread jumbled up in plastic bags, so I grabbed a clementine box I'd saved and organized all of that.
Looking at that makes me smile.

I have a book in at the library so will go off and pick that up later. We got the notification that it was in on Saturday, which is pretty unusual. It's an automated message and came after the library was already closed, so I couldn't go pick it up then. Library is closed on Sundays and Mondays anyway and it was closed yesterday because of the St Patrick's Day holiday, so today is the day. While I waited, I read a bunch of stuff I'd picked up at charity shops, none of which I plan to keep. I will pass them along and have that much less to haul with us when we move!

So we are having a little intermission from our regular life at the moment. I have missed my normal life, but have also been grateful for the parts of it that remain and that sustain me. Several years ago when I was living in a place that was like hell for me, I was in a very severe depression, which was unrelated to this seasonal stuff and far more serious. As I started to try and climb out of that, I realized that I had to seriously think about what kind of life I wanted to have and what I really needed, so I could keep that and dump the rest. I have tried to keep what I learned in focus ever since then and I've found that this knowledge really does help in times that are less than wonderful. I am glad that I have this understanding of myself.

Friday, March 6, 2015


This week has been a bit strange.

Bill's back spasms have turned into a bigger problem than usual. He put some gel where the problem was in an attempt to ease some of the pain, but he had a reaction to it and now has a nasty looking rash around half of his waistline--right where the pants sit. Between the pain and discomfort of that and the muscle pain, he's not a happy camper at the moment. He can't take most pain relievers, but can take acetaminophen with his other medication, so I went off in search of some of that yesterday. It's called "paracetamol" here and that seems to be primarily what they sell. I didn't see any aspirin or ibuprofen or anything, just box after box of paracetamol in various forms--all boxes of 12. He took some yesterday and it helped a bit, so I went and got another box today. I am hoping I can stop dashing to the store now for a few days :-)

He hasn't had much of an appetite this week, but I did manage to use a bunch of stuff from the freezer last week and earlier this week. It was full and I thought it was time to use some of what was in there. Last weekend I made stuffing and a chicken and on Monday I took out a couple of containers of cranberries and made some jam.
Using up all that stuff left a lot of room--and just in time, too! There was more chicken on clearance and on sale and when I popped in to get Bill his paracetamol yesterday, they had tortellini on clearance--and another package today, and most of that went into the freezer, which is now full once again.

I finished a pair of socks for Bill last night and wove in the ends this morning. The boots he usually wears in winter need a heel repair, so he's been wearing his other boots, which are more snug. Some of his winter socks are too thick to wear with those boots, so I gave him a pair of my crocheted socks with mohair woven through the toe to test. They worked well and he liked them, so I said I'd make him a pair. I had some green and grey sock yarn that I got at the Christmas Market a few months ago and a couple of small scrap balls of green mohair, so I used those.
Some day he will be able to move with ease once again and the socks may be useful--unless it's too warm for them by then! In that case, they can sit in a drawer for a while until the cooler weather returns.

I have another skein of the same yarn and two skeins of the same yarn, but in purple and grey. I think I might knit myself a pair of socks using one of those. I need to start something that I can pick up and put down easily.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Couple Days of Winter

Yesterday morning, we awoke to find snow on the deck.
It actually stuck around for a while and more snow fell off and on throughout the morning. This was often mixed with some sleet, but sometimes it was lovely, big, fat flakes.

It was all melted by afternoon so we went out for a short walk--we try to avoid dealing with ice. Last night after Bill had gone to bed I was sitting here reading when I heard some spattering sounds. I looked up to see the big fat flakes were back and they kept on falling. By the time I headed for bed at about 1:30, the snow was swirling and when I looked out a bedroom window, I saw that the road and sidewalk were completely white. It is the first time I have seen that here. Even when snow falls, it usually doesn't stick (I think they say "lie" here--at least in some parts of the country).

When I woke up, I peeked out again and saw that it was still there! I was kind of surprised! I was planning to go out and get some groceries this morning, but I decided to wait until this afternoon, figuring everything would be melted by then.

Indeed it was, so I finished the book I was reading (Wednesday's Child by Shane Dunphy--a harrowing, sad, and somewhat hopeful book about his time working in the Irish social care system--for US readers, this would be like Family Services or Child Protective Services) and then I got my backpack and headed for SuperValu.

We'd planned to do our big shop for the month, which includes our stop at Tesco for the few things that we can't get elsewhere, but Bill is having back spasms (a problem that first appeared in 1998 and occasionally rears its ugly head), so he stayed home. I was pleased to go outside into the chilly air, wind, and light rain.

SuperValu is only about a 3-minute walk, so I was there, in, out with my stuff, and home again in a very short time. I decided that since it was a perfect day for a walk I would go to Tesco after all, so after emptying my backpack, I set out again. By the time I was on my way home, I was roasting and was very glad when the wind kicked up again. A bit more rain would have been nice, too, but that started after I got home.

The few centimeters of snow that fell caused a lot of problems--accidents, a jack-knifed truck blocking a main road, problems getting deliveries through, and very treacherous driving conditions in various parts of the country. The library book club discussion scheduled for tonight was even cancelled!

It was a lovely day for a walk here though, and now we are well stocked with important things like coffee, tea, olive oil, pasta, biscuits, extra mature cheddar, and some other stuff we needed. Tomorrow I will probably run over to Country Market for some fruit, veggies, and eggs and stop in at the library where we have a couple of books in. It's supposed to start warming up again and it will be in the mid 50s by the end of the week, they say. Winter did not last long, but it was really nice while it lasted!

Monday, March 2, 2015

All Our Yesterdays and Maine

I read a couple of books centered on families and family relationships over the weekend. They could not have been more different!

The first one was All Our Yesterdays by Natalia Ginzburg. It was translated from Italian.
This is about a couple of families that live across the street from one another in the lead up to Italy's involvement in WWII. The main character is, I suppose, Anna, who is a little girl as the story opens and grows up in the years leading up to the war. She often complains about having to wear dresses made from curtains. Her father is anti-Fascist as is her older brother. She ends up forming a friendship of sorts with a little boy across the street and his older brother becomes friends with her brother. There ends up being a small circle of anti-Fascists who get together at Anna's home and talk, write, and listen to the radio. It was unclear whether they ever engaged in any other sorts of subversive activity during these years. The story spans about a decade or a decade and a half, ending after the war is over. As you would expect, people live, die, grow up and grow old and new little people are born. Overarching themes include gender roles, class differences, evolving personal philosophies, and obviously, war. Although the war is sort of a central part of the book, it is more a focus on how the people outside the war cope. The book takes place on the outskirts of the war, mostly.

I found it difficult at first to get into this book. It was the style. There are some very long sentences that meander all over the place, with thoughts separated by commas. There was no dialogue--it was as though someone was sitting there gossiping or reporting to the reader what had gone on. She also bounced around from one point of view to another--one sentence would be from Anna's point of view and the next Ippolito's without any break. That said, once I got used to the writing style, I settled in and wanted to know what happened next. It was a good book.

I wrote above that these two books were very different, but as I type this, I can see where they are more similar than it may appear on the surface. Maine, by Courtney Sullivan, was a book that I'd heard a lot about when it came out a year or two ago. It sounded like a good read, and I thought about putting it on hold. For some reason, I never did--I think I either had a bunch of other stuff I wanted to read first or I was running out of slots to place holds. Of course, since I was in Maine at the time, there were a lot of copies floating around the library system, but there were also hundreds of holds. In any case, shortly after we moved here, we saw the book in a charity shop and picked it up. I finally got around to it yesterday.
This is also a multigenerational family story, told completely from the point of view of 4 different women in a family. Alice is the oldest and is mother to Kathleen, mother-in-law to Ann Marie, and grandmother to Maggie. She is a staunch Irish Catholic who marries her husband after a personal/family trauma. She does this because she wants to atone for something that she thinks she has done wrong--and this thing blends with the guilt that her faith induces in her to colour her entire life. She comes across as cold, unloving, harsh, and mean with her family, although she can pretend in public. She drinks too much. This was a realistic portrait to me because I have had such a person in my own life, although not an Irish Catholic, but an Italian Catholic. The trauma was different for this actual person, but there were many similarities in how the effects of that trauma played out in their lives and in how they behaved.

Kathleen, a recovering alcoholic, wants to get as far away from her mother and have as little to do with her as she can. Occasionally, though, some similarities become evident. Kathleen was her father's favourite, much to the anger of her mother. Ann Marie comes from a lower class background, as does Alice, and they have some things in common, including the need to keep up appearances at all costs. Of course this doesn't work. Alice dotes on Ann Marie and likes her much better than her children, who she wasn't keen on having in the first place. Maggie seems to be able to get along with everyone, but is involved with a jerk of a boyfriend and has her own dilemmas to deal with. She is also the only one of the four without a drinking problem.

The title of the book comes from the beachfront property in Maine that Alice's husband won in a bet. He built a cottage on the property and they would go up there every summer. Years later, Alice's son (Ann Marie's husband) had a house built next door to the cottage. In the story, Alice is in her 80s and is up there for the summer living in the house, with different members of the family coming up at various times to stay in the cottage. The story goes back and forth between present day and the past. Sections are divided between the four women and their points of view, so sometimes you get a glimpse of how things get misinterpreted.

Unlike All Our Yesterdays, this was an easy book to get into and whip through. I read it yesterday afternoon. I enjoyed it a lot and I often found myself chuckling at the similarities between what was being described in the book and experiences I have had in my own life. Some of the themes are the same in both books, even though we are looking at things in a very different time and place. Gender roles and how they have changed was a theme running through both. Class issues were another theme. Catholicism and its effects was another one that was present in both books, but more central to Maine.

Both books described what happens when change happens--as it always does--and how people deal with it. Some try to stop the change and keep things as they are while some try to adapt as best they can. Some are afraid of change and some embrace it.

I quite enjoyed both books and would recommend them. Maine seems more accessible in terms of writing style and ease of following along. There were a few times in all Our Yesterdays when I got lost in the commas of a very long sentence that was stringing many thoughts together and I had to go back and reread. The lack of dialogue was also hard to follow at first--it was like listening to someone breathlessly rush through a complicated story and trying to follow along. The bouncing points of view also meant that the reader was all over the place, while in Maine, each point of view was clearly labeled and placed in its own section. They are both well worth reading, though.