Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Glass Shore

Last year, Bill bought the book, The Long Gaze Back for me. It is a collection of short stories written by Irish women, spanning more than a century. It is an excellent book and was widely praised.

As a result of the publication of that book, the editor, Sinéad Gleeson, was approached about doing a sequel of sorts, that would be a collection of stories written by women from the north. The result is this book. It contains 25 stories written by women from the geographic north of Ireland--not limited to Northern Ireland. The Ulster region is represented across borders.

I loved this book. The stories are wide ranging in style and substance. Many are concerned with women's experiences of both leaving home and staying home, crossing borders, navigating difficult cultural norms, resistance, and finding ways to live a fulfilling life in spite of outer circumstances beyond individual control.

When I began the book, I was immediately drawn into the first story, a Gothic tale by Rosa Mulholland, an author I'd not heard of before. She was born in 1855 and was encouraged to write and publish by Charles Dickens. I searched for her on Project Gutenberg and found one of her books, so I downloaded it. As I recall, that one is a novel, but I would love to find more of her short story collections and will keep my eyes open for them.

As always, I liked some stories better than others, but there were none I really disliked. I also enjoyed the brief biographies of each author that precede their stories.

This is a book well worth reading.

You can find a review of the book here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Post-Conversion Scroogey Kind of Day

It was quite a pleasant day. We called on veg man where I was happy to discover that he still had pink lady apples. I bought a couple more bags, even though I still had several of them in the fridge. Bill likes galas, and we bought a bag of those too, but I love pink ladies and I know that they will not be around forever. Happily they keep well, so I can buy extra while they're around.

We filled our basket, went to pay, and started chatting. Veg man was happy that the frost was gone and that he'd gotten his Christmas shopping done and dusted. He was laughing as he told us about trying to get stuff inside the house and hidden without his wee ones seeing. He was enjoying the memory and I was smiling as I imagined it. It was such a lovely moment--standing outside in Market Square on a chilly, grey day, with our bag full of fruit and veg, listening to someone share a story about a joyful holiday moment in his life.

We came home and after I put away our food, I went off to my studio/study room to work on a small piece that I've been thinking about for a long time. I have been going back and forth about how to do what I wanted to do and I finally decided the best thing to do would be to just start. I did. I decided on a different route and took a break for lunch. I tried another thing and decided I was complicating things too much, so simplified. That was the answer! I ended up in a completely different place than what I'd envisioned, but the main component was the same and I am happy with where the unexpected path took me. I can't put a photo up just yet, but I will when I can.

After that, I borrowed Bill's computer to watch a DVD that a friend had sent me for either Christmas or my birthday last year--it contains two very old and previously thought lost versions of A Christmas Carol. I am mad about that story and although I am not a movie person, will watch several versions of that each festive season. I will also listen to different versions and read the story itself, which I did the other day. I used to have a book that went through the history of various media productions of the story and the ones on this DVD were mentioned, but it was thought they no longer existed. One was made in 1923 and one in 1926. Both are silent films, so that was interesting. The gestures were all so exaggerated and at times, comical. It is always interesting to me to see which features of the original story are left out and which are emphasized in the different film adaptations. These were short, so much was cut out and a lot was condensed. In one of them, Marley's Ghost announces that he is there 'to represent' the Ghosts of Past, Present, and Future. In one, Scrooge simply sleeps in his office and the ghost(s) visit him there. It was interesting to see how they created certain scenes, given the limited technology they had, and the words they used to tell the story.

In both films, in the scene where the small boy comes to sing a carol outside the office, Scrooge picks up something--in one version it was his ledger book--and goes outside and actually strikes the child in the head! It was a scene that I do not think would go over well like that today.

In the 1926 film, called 'Old Scrooge,' they first put up some educational text and photos, talking about Dickens himself and the parallels between his life and the story. Then they introduced Old Scrooge by showing his face in a circle. I laughed when I saw it because he made me think of a character in an old, bad Western who was waking up after overindulging in bad tequila the night before. He even limped as he walked. Then as the story went on there were other weird moments. After Bon Cratchit leaves for the night, Old Scrooge closes the curtains, blows out the candle and removes his bag of gold from its resting place. The text comes on the screen telling us that there was nothing Old Scrooge liked better than being alone with his gold. He cradled it like a teddy bear as he sat in his chair and fell into a dramatic slumber, before being awakened by Marley's Ghost. At that point, Old Scrooge arched his back as though shot and slid off the chair and onto the floor, where he spent much of the rest of his time with the ghost. He was able to express a lot of emotion from the floor. This was definitely one of the weirder versions I have seen, but I am so thrilled to have it and the 1923 film.
Thank you, Karen!!  😀

Hope you had a pleasant and productive Tuesday, too!

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Tree in Market Square

They've put up the Christmas tree in Market Square. Tree lighting is Sunday. Earlier this year, when I was looking for information about Moville before we moved here, I came across an article about how, last year, the tree had been snapped in half by high winds and had to be replaced! Remembering that, I was particularly noticing all of the chains and cables used to anchor the tree, as well as the fun 'girdle' around the trunk! Each side has a different scene.

And just in case I needed a reminder that seasons are fleeting and I should enjoy this one while it's here, I only had to look at the planters in and around the square. The flowers have been removed, but not for very long! The bulbs are sprouting.

So I will celebrate the fact that 'the festive season,' as it is referred to here, has begun and I shall enjoy it while it lasts.

May we all have a wonderful end to what has been, in so many ways, a difficult year!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016: The Sequel

We've just returned from a lovely Thanksgiving gathering at a friend's house. We met some new people, had fun conversations, and ate delicious food. We are stuffed! Our hosts went to a lot of time and trouble to create the feast and the guests all added something to the table. The food and the company were so appreciated.

My contribution was dessert and a bean/veggie salad with pesto.
I made a butterscotch custard--I am calling it custard, but I am not sure that it is technically that, since it has no egg. I would have called it pudding a few years ago, but that means something different here, so custard it is!

I made that to go on top of the apple crisp/crumble I made, since I could not get ice cream--no room in the wee freezer compartment of our little fridge.
 I cut the sugar way down on both the custard and the crisp/crumble. It was a bit of an experiment with the custard/pudding, so rather than wing it and hope for the best on the day I made a test batch last week. We have gotten out of the habit of eating really sweet things, except for a small bit of chocolate now and again, so the pudding that I used to make is now way too sweet. To make this, I placed 4 tablespoons of flour in a saucepan with 4 tablespoons of dark brown sugar and whisked them together before adding about 3 1/2 cups of milk. You could use cornstarch instead of flour and that should work--just use half the amount. I prefer plain flour for thickening--cornstarch doesn't hold up well in leftovers, in my experience. Anyway, cook the milk mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly until mixture starts to thicken. When it starts to bubble, keep whisking for another minute or two, remove from heat, add a bit of butter if you want and 1/2 teaspoon of extract if you want flavouring. Last week I added some almond extract and used a lighter sugar (you can also use white sugar if you do not want a butterscotch flavour). It will thicken further as it cools.

The salad was another bit of improv, but quick to make and one I will make again. Had it cold today, but it would also be good heated up and used to top a baked potato or some brown rice.
I chopped an onion, half a large red bell pepper and half a medium yellow bell pepper and sauteed these in olive oil. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, I placed a couple of cans of kidney beans, a can of sweetcorn, three chopped fresh tomatoes, some chopped sun-dried tomatoes from a jar, and finely minced red and yellow bell pepper (the other halves). I dumped the cooked veg (not soggy, but al dente) into the bowl. Instead of making a dressing, I added some pesto. The little bit of oil that was still on the sun dried tomatoes and that coated the cooked veggies thinned it down just enough.

So Thanksgiving Part 2 has provided us with more leftovers, which is quite wonderful. I do love my leftovers.

There were three families there besides Bill and me, so I made a few Christmas ornaments--one for each family.

And a small piece of lace for Jodi, who was kind enough to invite us and to pick us up and bring us home--and to provide such a fun and delicious Thanksgiving afternoon.

I thought the metallic gold thread would look nice in firelight or candlelight.

Thank you Jodi and James! Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

It's Complicated (But It Doesn't Have to Be)

When Gerard and I were talking about ways I might be of use to our beloved wee library, we decided on the knitting/crocheting group for different reasons. I was happy enough to defer to him in this situation, because he has been librarian here for a long time and knows the village and the people who live here. This is a cross-cultural experience for me, so I watch and learn and engage in participant observation.

 We agreed to take things one step at a time, first gauging interest, then having a meeting where people could decide what they wanted and what day/time they wanted to get together. Things came together and we had our first meeting, which included someone who just happened into the library at the time we were starting, stayed, and enjoyed it. She has since started bringing a friend.

We went around and said what we were there for--and people had different reasons. We agreed that it would be very informal and people should feel free to come or not as they felt like on the day. The point would be to have a cuppa, a biscuit, and a wee chat while working on something or not, as the mood struck. If someone had something they particularly wanted to learn at some point, then I or we would help them. Seemed pretty straightforward, at least to me. Gerard kept asking if I was OK with things and I kept trying to reassure him that I was not attached to any particular outcome.

Then we had to decide on a day and time, which did not seem that complicated once again. It had to be Wednesdays or Fridays, because those are the days the library is open. Mornings were better than afternoons, because it is less busy then. Nothing here starts too early, so we should start late enough to account for that, but early enough to have a bit of time before Gerard closed up for his lunch break. So options were pleasantly limited, which would make things easier--or so I thought. That thought was wrong.

The woman who happened upon our little group said she would like to keep coming. She rides in on the bus from a town 40ish minutes away and she rides out on a noon bus. Friday was the only day she could come. Our token male attendee lives at the former convent turned elder apartments that is next door to where we live. He'd brought along one of his neighbours and a note from another. The note said that if Friday was the chosen day, there would be one Friday per month that she would not be able to come. Everyone else agreed that Friday would be fine, since that was the only possible day for the one woman.

I was in Clifden the following week, but the week after that when I got there, I was greeted by Token Male who informed me that the woman he'd brought and the woman who wrote the note were simply too busy on Friday and it would not work for them. I should, he explained, either move the group over there to the elder apartment complex or add another group. I told him that since his neighbours had agreed to Friday, there was nothing I could do at that point and perhaps they just were using over-scheduling as a polite way to indicate that they did not want to come, which was fine. Or perhaps it is just an example of the Irish way of not rocking the boat. One of these women knows how to knit and wanted to be 'held accountable' so she would finish a gift she wanted to make and the other had not knit for decades and wanted to get back into practice. It seemed to me there was no reason they could not get together where they live and meet both needs. At that point the bus arrived and I turned my attention to helping someone learn to make a crocheted ribbing.

For various reasons Token Male was absent for a few weeks. Yesterday he was waiting for me when I got there. He told me that he had talked to the woman in charge of such things at the elder apartments and she assured him that we could use the common room at any time. He proceeded to try to sell me on this room--large comfortable armchairs, a big kitchen attached, no limits as to days and times, and no need to share space with children and story hour or library patrons wanting to use computers or read the paper. Plus, he had already lined up at least 4 or 5 people to come and there would probably be more. Some of them are experienced knitters, according to him.

As I was standing there , smiling politely and thinking quickly, I was wondering why on earth they do not just get together in the big comfortable armchairs with tea from the big kitchen in their room and knit away. What do I have to do with any of this? This group came about as a way to do some small thing for the library--leaving the library completely defeats the purpose. Besides that, the two women who come into town on the bus cannot change the day or time. He did concede that it would be a hardship for them--he apparently bumped into one of them recently and asked her. She said she liked it at the library and did not want to go to the elder community. I told him that I am committed to the library meeting as long as it is useful. I reminded myself that he is a nice man who means well and is trying to be helpful. He made sure he had my phone number and repeated that I should at least come over and look at the space. I told him that I would look at the space, but I could not commit to anything until the new year. I was happy enough with myself for that.

In the past I would have felt obligated to try to accommodate people, no matter how it impacted me and my life. This felt like a situation where I could choose to repeat that behaviour or I could put myself first and do what is best for me. I chose the latter.

Right now, at this time of year, the last thing I need is another regularly scheduled thing. I really need this time of year to recharge and refresh myself. I like not having to be anywhere unless I want to be. I am lucky that I have been able to take that time most years. In the years where that has not been possible, I have learned what happens afterwards. There is no good reason for me to commit to this right now. This is not like deciding to go do something on a particular day, which is fine. I can choose to do something or not as things arise. I do not like the idea of knowing that if it's Thursday at 2, I have to go sit in the common room whether I want to or not.

It may be that after the holidays it would be a good thing. I might enjoy sitting around with the women and listening to their stories. I am aware that I will need to have a plan for myself then in order to prepare myself for the onset of the 6 months of depression that will start to descend in March, probably. I am gathering ideas for myself. I have collected the resources I need--both online and in book form-- to engage my mind in various ways. I am even feeling pretty optimistic about it. This is not time for that though. This is time for me to meander through my days, drinking hot beverages, enjoying the cool weather and the darkness, listening to seasonal music, and letting go of the 'shoulds.' I will decide how to proceed with this new group idea in January, if it is still a thing by then. But for now, I am setting it aside.

Friday, November 25, 2016


It's Friday, so off to the library I went. I was wondering whether the lane would be slippy (roads and footpaths are slippy here, not slippery), but it was fine. I spent some time at the library and Bill met me there, happy to learn that his requested books had arrived and that I had them checked out and in my backpack. Then off we went to pick up a few things at the shop.

We crossed the street because Bill wanted to look at something and we discovered that there was a black Friday sale at the charity shop--everything a euro or less. That is the only kind of Black Friday shopping we would do, so in we went. Bill found a nice waistcoat (vest) with lots of zippered pockets, which will be great for wearing while walking.  I saw this wee candle holder and was immediately smitten with the triangular reindeer with the tilted heads.

I was thinking that these would be easy enough to chart up and use for cross stitching.

After lunch, Bill went out again to take fog photos and he came across the postman who said he had a wee parcel, so Bill signed for it and went on his way.

Yesterday morning, he'd forwarded me an email he'd gotten from Springwools. It was an announcement about their Black Friday promotion (which started on Thursday). They are offering free shipping (worldwide) on everything all weekend and have a bunch of stuff on sale. I clicked on the link to see what was on offer and commented that the embroidery floss was a really good deal. It is not cheap here--I used to be able to use a coupon and buy 4 or 5 skeins for a buck, but here it's around EUR 1.25 per skein. That doesn't sound like much, but if you are trying to get a decent array of colours, it adds up fast, even if you don't need many shades of one colour. There is also nowhere local for me to buy a skein as needed, so I often substitute crochet thread or multiple lengths of sewing thread, but the thickness can be an issue with the former. You can buy floss bundled at Springwools 100 skeins for EUR 65, but during this sale it is marked down to 30. He asked me if I wanted to get it. I said I'd think about it. I was still thinking about it when he handed me the wee parcel and said, 'That's yours.' I now have quite an excellent range of embroidery floss colours. And I can stop thinking about whether to get it and start thinking instead about what I might stitch with it! I have a project in the queue that will now be much easier because I have this.  He ordered it yesterday and it got here today. They also included a cute tag that I can sew onto something that I want to give as a gift.

Yesterday, I finished both the book I was reading and a project I'd been working on for a while, so I get to choose new stuff to start on today. Guess I'll get to it!

Hope you're having a lovely Friday!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is our third Thanksgiving in Ireland and this year I am more grateful than ever to be here.

I had a chat with veg man the other day--he did not know what Thanksgiving is, so I told him what it is to us, then briefly mentioned the wider cultural norm. He'd heard of Black Friday. We agreed that it was always good to stop and be thankful for the good things in our lives and as I left, he wished me a happy Thanksgiving.

We are having two this year. Today we are having our little low-key dinner. I was chuckling the other day thinking about how much I used to do--I would start cooking two days before. This year I've cooked a large chicken in the slow cooker overnight, will be making mashed potatoes and gravy, a veg, and a big pan of stuffing. I've toasted some oats and mixed with coconut and almonds. I will cook some apples with cinnamon and other spices and make some custard. We'll have the apples topped with the oat mixture and custard for dessert. And I will make enough of everything for us to have for the next couple of days. On Sunday, we will be going to a friend's house for another festive dinner--we are looking forward it!

Since it is a regular Thursday here, Bill went to the shop to get some bananas, calling in at one of the charity shops along the way. There he found this little guy for 10 cents, so he brought him home.
 He can hang out with the festive snowman we got a month or so ago.

I know they join us in wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving, if you celebrate. If you don't, happy Thursday--maybe this is a good day to stop for a minute and be especially thankful for the good people and things in your life.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thank the Hosts

Yesterday's post brought an envelope from Tesco. It was our voucher (coupon) for the quarter, along with some ad stuff, which naturally was all about Christmas. We rarely shop at Tesco, but when we do we swipe our club card and we use Tesco mobile pay-as-you-go for our phones and that is also tied to our club card. I still have not had to top up after putting 15 euro on the phone when I got it almost 2 1/2 years ago and Bill has topped up once or twice on his phone, which we got the day after we arrived in the country, so our voucher was only 1.50, but as they say, every little helps. Some day when we're in Letterkenny, we'll pick up some coffee and use it.

I did find some of the other stuff in the envelope amusing. Tesco's holiday ad theme this year is, 'Thank the Hosts,' which is a nice sentiment. People who host holiday parties and meals do a lot of work and they should be appreciated and thanked, but I am not sure this needs to be done using a piece of stationary with a Tesco logo, which was included with our voucher.
I laughed when I saw the disclaimer at the bottom.
Ah well, it will be a festive bit of scrap paper and I am sure I will find a use for the accompanying envelope.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Wee Flowers

I played around a little more with beach finds and thread scraps this afternoon.
I loved the shape and texture of this shell.
The hole was in the right spot for attaching a motif, but it had to be a small one, so I kept it simple.

Quick, Simple, Small Flower Motif (Crocheted--US terms)
Chain 2
Single crochet in second chain from hook, (chain 5, single crochet in same chain) 4 times, then chain 5 and slip stitch into first single crochet.

You could stop there if you wanted. Or make bigger petals by making more chains in each one. Or make more of them by repeating between ( ) a few more times. I decided I wanted a little more thickness in the petals, so I did another round.

7 single crochet in each chain 5 loop, slip stitch in each single crochet on previous round.

You could make a small hanging loop at this point by slip stitching up to the 4th single crochet in the group of 7, making your chain loop as big as you want it, and then slip stitching into the same stitch.

It is just the right size to go into these wee card/gift tag things I have.
I used a strand of size 10 crochet cotton held with a strand of metallic thread that is about a size 20 or a little thinner, I'd say, with a 2mm hook. This gives me a flower that is 1 inch across. I could size this up or down by using thicker thread or yarn with a bigger hook or even smaller by using thinner yarn and a smaller hook.

This would make a cute garland by joining as you go or by making a bunch of these, making a long chain and picking up the flowers as you chain. Or you could hang them vertically the same way.

Good way to use up small scraps :-)

Monday, November 21, 2016

From Sea to Tree

I went rummaging around in my pile of found sea glass and came across a green triangle. Seemed like it would be a nice tree, so I sat down with my thread scraps and crochet hook and played around a little.
This is what it looks like with light behind it. Please excuse the wobbly freehand crop job :-)
I like it! Plenty more beach finds to play with, too. Yay!

I finished playing with sea glass and thread just in time to go make supper. It was a good day for soup and sandwich, so I made cream of vegetable soup and grilled cheese. It was yummy.
I love the colour of the soup. It was pretty basic--onion, red bell pepper, carrots, celery, garlic--all diced and sweated in some olive oil. Then I added potatoes that I'd cut in small pieces and just barely covered with water. I let that cook until the potatoes were done, took the pot off the stove, added some milk and whizzed everything up with my stick blender, adding some black pepper and a sprinkle or two of crushed red pepper. It hit the spot.

Hope Thanksgiving week has started off well!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Pitta Pizza and Cauliflower

I decided to make pitta (yes, that is how it is spelled here) bread pizza for supper tonight. I can get small whole wheat pitta breads at our local shop so I use them as the base. I used sliced tomatoes instead of sauce and sprinkled with garlic granules and oregano. I put cheese on top of that. Then added sliced onion, yellow bell pepper, and red jalapeno slices (pickled). Popped them in the oven and they were soon hot and bubbly. Yum!
While these were cooking, I finely chopped a small head of cauliflower and added it to a puddle of olive oil in my pan along with a sliced onion. I cooked these until the cauliflower started to brown and added garlic, cumin, chilli powder, smoked paprika, oregano, and parsley. It smelled soooo good!
It's now in the fridge ready to be used. It's very handy to have this kind of thing prepared. I finished the broccoli I had in the fridge for breakfast this morning with whole wheat pasta and parmesan cheese. There is still a bit of pasta in the fridge so I will probably have that in the morning with some caulifower and the rest of the cheese sauce that remains from two suppers of chilli mac and cheese. Planned leftovers make food preparation so much easier.

Hope it is a pleasant Saturday in your neck of the woods!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Winter(ish) Morning, Busy Library

Winter(ish) has come to Moville. We have seen some cars with slushy snow on the top and there is a dusting on the hills across the Foyle. I was wondering whether the lane and footpath (sidewalk) in Market Square would be icy, because I was off to the library this morning to hang out with yarn people and the lane is a downward slope. I hate walking downhill on ice, but there was no ice today, so that was good. It is chilly, but not cold. It is a grey day with wet stuff of various sorts falling from the sky, but have we've not had any thunderstorms (yet) which are also a possibility. It's my kind of day!

The yarn people group at the library was nice. I brought one of my ongoing projects to work on and did a little bit in between helping someone with their crochet. We had a new woman last week who was brought by a friend of hers. They came again this week. They take the bus from a little town about 40 minutes from here and they have a little less than an hour until they catch the bus heading back in their direction, stopping off at the neighbouring town for a while. They enjoy the company and the crochet, but they also like the tea and biscuits. Another new person came by today who wants to refresh her knitting memory. She has to be away next week but will be back the week after that. So things are moving along about how I thought they would. I show up, sit there, and stitch. People come and go as they wish. If they want some help, I help them. We all encourage each other, have a chat, a cuppa and biscuits (cookies) and enjoy that bit of the morning. We have knitters in the chairs in front of the big window (and people look in to see what we're doing) and children in the back having story time. In between there are people using the computers, taking out and leaving in books, reading newspapers, and chatting. There's a lot going on, which is exactly what I like to see happening in our wee library!

I found a new-to-me author among the e-books so I checked one of her novels out last night. I will be starting that today. I love it that I can come across people that I never heard of, tap or click, and start reading--all from my bed in my robe late at night.

I've also been scrolling through various e-magazines and saving charts and things for future reference and use. So many ideas get sparked as I scroll through.

There is more stitching planned for today too. I can't post pics of current works-in-progress, so I leave you with a couple of tatting experiments done with scraps of thread a few weeks ago.  I've made many of the standard triangle trees in the past. Some readers may have one--I do tend to get happy about certain motifs at certain times and make a lot of them. For this one I decided to use lots more picots than I have in the past and to add a small crocheted trunk. I like all the picots. Not sure about the trunk. The other is just a small bit consisting of four rings and lots of picots.

Wherever you find yourself on this Friday and whatever you're doing, hope your day is wonderful!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


This is the time of year when I would normally be focused on gift-making. No matter the time of year, when I make a gift for someone I do it with mindfulness and intentionality, opting not to rush but to think of the recipient and focus on their well-being. The last few weeks have not been conducive to that, so I set aside my plans and turned to a comforting scrap project. I am using odd balls and scraps given to me by two different friends and a pair of circular knitting needles that once belonged to the grandmother of a former co-worker, so symbolically at least, it reminds me of our connectedness as human beings. Using scraps is a reminder that we need to make the best use of what we have, more so now than ever as people will take steps to harm the planet further. It is also good to remember that even the bits that seem insignificant can combine with other bits to turn into something beautiful, warm, and comforting. Personally, this project has been perfect for me during this time--it does not require a lot of attention so my mind can wander, but not too far because I have to keep track of some things. Deciding what yarn to use next and watching how it knits up brings a smile to my face. And I like watching it grow and imagining what it will look like when it's done and I'm using it.
So Jodi, Teresa, and Mandy's grandma, thank you for providing me with the materials and tools necessary for this project. It has helped a lot these past couple of weeks. I will probably set it aside now for a few weeks, because I am feeling like it is time to pick up the gift stitching once again and I have to make up for lost time!

I have also had to reluctantly accept that one of my favourite shirts will now have to be a work shirt/apron kind of thing or I will cut off the buttons and use the fabric. Ten years ago, a friend used to send her son over with bags of clothes, telling me to take what I wanted and donate the rest. I am wearing one of the shirts she gave me as I type. In one of the bags was a big, light brown, lightweight shirt. It was big and loose on me and I loved it. I wore it as a jacket sometimes and sometimes as a comfortable baggy shirt. I loved the fact that it was so loose. I loved the fabric. I wore it a lot. The fabric started to get thin and little tears appeared. I mended them. Then bigger tears happened. I mended them. But yesterday I heard the dreaded sound of another big tear right near where I mended the last big tear and it looks like there is just no way to mend it again. So I will have to accept that the shirt I have worn a lot for a decade is now ready to be retired.
I hope your day is peaceful and filled with small moments of quiet contentment.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Humans by Matt Haig

I heard about this book a couple of weeks ago while listening to an episode of A Good Read on BBC Radio 4 when it was the pick of one of the guests, Dr Kevin Fong.
After the panel was finished discussing it, I clicked over to the library website, found it, and requested it. It arrived Friday and I read it today. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was a few pages in when I laughed for the first time and there were more laughs to follow. I love culture shock sorts of books where the storyline is all about a person or people being put into an alien environment and having to learn how to function. Perhaps I enjoy such stories so much because this is how I have lived most of my life--always watching what is going on around me from the fringes and trying to figure it out. In any case, with regard to this book, 'alien environment' is exactly what the setting is. It is definitely an 'anthropologist from Mars' sort of book.

Professor Andrew Martin is a very highly regarded mathematician, but is a bit rubbish at being a husband to Isobel and father to Gulliver. One day, he comes to the moment he has worked towards and sacrificed for throughout his career. He has solved the Riemann hypothesis. Unbeknownst to the brilliant mathematician, there are beings from a galaxy far, far away who do not want mere human earthlings to have this knowledge, so Professor Martin is replaced. His replacement looks like him and attempts to assume his identity in order to carry out the tasks for which he was sent. Everything is foreign to him and he has to learn fast. To say much more would be to take away some of the fun of reading the book and experiencing his confusion and insights into human experience as he goes along, so I will just say that it is not all comedic and he does come to some understandings about the human condition along the way. In the acknowledgements, the author said the idea of the story came to him during a time of severe anxiety in his life when he was having panic attacks every time he left his house.

The book takes the form of a narrative meant to be read by the people the alien being has left behind and at the very start he tells them that, 'For those that don't know, a human is a bipedal life form of mid-range intelligence, living a largely deluded existence on a small waterlogged planet in a very lonely corner of the universe.' (p.ix)

Later he is typing some words of advice into the computer of someone he cares about. He has 97 bits of advice in all. Number 24 says, 'New technology, on Earth just means something you will laugh at in five years. Value the stuff you won't laugh at in five years. Like love. Or a good poem. or a song. Or the sky.' (p271) Good advice, indeed!

I am very glad someone picked this book as their good read for the show, happy the library had it, and very pleased to have read it. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories by PD James

I am a great lover of mystery writing of a certain kind. I do not like the more gruesome, graphic novels that are popular today, but give me a cosy mystery, an English village mystery, or a psychological mystery and I am usually quite happy.

I have always loved books and I love reading about books and listening to conversations about books. I get emails about books and download podcasts about books.

In one of those emails several weeks ago, I read that there was a posthumous collection of short stories by PD James about to be published. I like PD James and Christmas whodunits are right up my street, so I clicked right over to the library website, found that it was on order, and added my name to the queue. The other day it came in and I read it yesterday. It was an enjoyable couple of hours!
In the foreword, Val McDermid says that these were stories written for newspapers back in the day when they did that kind of thing. Although the novels of PD James vary in style, these are all English country house mysteries, complete with references to Agatha Christie. James' most well known detective, Adam Dalgliesh appears in a couple of the stories. It is a slim volume (136 pages) with 4 stories in it. They all take place at Christmastime.

I loved this book. With a nice hot cup of tea, it was just the thing for a rainy, chilly, lazy Sunday afternoon at the leading edge of the Christmas season. It is worth picking up if you come across it at your local library or charity shop!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Bit of Beauty for a Stressful Day

Today is a stressful day for many, so I offer you some simple beauty as a respite from the ugliness we have been seeing. One way or another, may we all have the wisdom and the courage to face whatever reality awaits us while still moving forward in hope and compassion.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Catching Up

I had stuff I'd planned to do on Saturday, but when I went down with a migraine, nothing got done. Yesterday was catch-up day.

I spent a couple of hours in the kitchen. I made some muffins using the same basic recipe as these lemon poppyseed muffins that I made last week, but this time I left out the poppyseeds, used about 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla extract instead of lemon, and used ground up walnuts instead of sliced almonds. I baked the muffins first, then turned up the oven to 200 and stuck in a pan of cauliflower. I'd chopped a head into small bits, tossed them with olive oil and sprinkled with garlic granules, black pepper, oregano, and a bit of chili powder. When they were tender and a bit browned, I sprinkled Parmesan cheese over the top and stuck the pan back into the oven for a little while longer.
About 10 minutes before the cauliflower was done, I stuck a pan of mackerel in the oven too. I sprinkled the fillets with garlic, black pepper, and smoked paprika before I put them in the oven. On the stove I sauteed some sliced zucchini and onion in olive oil and sprinkled that with garlic and basil. Cooked some baby potatoes too. Bill had fish with the zucchini and some potatoes; I had mine with the cauliflower and potatoes. I made extra potatoes and we will have some in our burritos for supper tonight--I'd cooked a chicken overnight in the slow cooker on Friday night. Our little fridge is filled with prepared food, which is handy and will save time for the next few days.

This morning we dashed out of the house after breakfast and before coffee (!!!!!!!) because Bill had his INR test scheduled. Since the health centre is halfway to the recycling bins, we packed our tins (cans) and bottles (jars) into our backpacks and after he was done we trudged up the hill and got rid of those. On the way back we felt a bit of sleety rain coming down and it seemed like there could be a winter someday. It was a wee bit chilly and soon it might be chilly enough for a scarf or cowl! I think it's supposed to alternate between chilly and mild for a few weeks. Guess we'll find out.

We stopped for a few groceries on our way back home. It is such a different kind of experience, shopping in the wee shop on Main Street. Monday mornings are a hive of activity as they restock. They are actually closed on Sundays. It is rather refreshing, the slower pace of life here. Last Monday was a bank holiday and we called in on Tuesday morning before we stopped at veg man's stall. The shop was full of customers and they were trying to restock at the same time after being closed on Sunday and Monday. Anyway, I always feel good when I shop there--they are so friendly and so nice and I like supporting a small, local business that is so vital to a small village like this. Tomorrow morning we'll be calling on veg man again to give him a bit of business. His prices are good, his food is high quality, he is a friendly, pleasant guy, and he works hard setting his stiff up every week. I asked him last week if he comes all year and he says he does, except for the week between Christmas and New Year, when he takes off. Must be really something to be out there on a cold, sleety, windy, winter day. He deserves our business!

When we walked in the door I made a beeline for the coffeemaker and pressed the button before I started putting stuff away. I am tempted to cast on another mitred sqaure--got two more added yesterday--and I just might start on the next one!

I also have some other projects to work on, so could be a project buffet today--a little of this and a little of that. It's a good afternoon to sit with a book, yarn, hot beverages, and nice music.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Duh! Oops!

So on Friday night I was tired, a bit brain fogged, and my hands were aching. I'd defrosted our tiny freezer compartment before I went off to the library and even though I wore gloves, my hands were not very happy. I know from past experience that when they feel like that, stitching helps--it loosens my fingers up and increases the circulation--so of course, I settled in with some yarn.

Since it is November, I would normally be picking up some gift stitching and I have a few projects on the go and a list of others. Problem was, they all require some attention at this point and being tired and brain fogged, that did not seem like a good idea. Besides that, a friend had given me a bag of odd balls and scraps, which immediately told me that they wanted to be made into mitred squares and I was itching to cast on, so I did. That seemed like a good project for the moment--not much attention required and using circular needles of a medium thickness would be just right. Ha!

I cast on 60 stitches, placing my marker after the first 30 and began knitting away. I thought the point created by the centre decreases seemed a bit too pointy and the whole thing seemed off somehow, but I dismissed it as being the result of having the stitches bunched on the needle. I was nearing the end, which seemed to be coming with surprising speed, and I still could see that something wasn't right, but on I knitted! A few rows later and I was at the point where I would bind off and I looked at what was hanging off the needles, admitted that it was an interesting shape that I should remember because it could come in handy for a future project, but it was definitely not even close to being a mitred square. I could see that I had decreased too fast. Then it dawned on me and I checked my notes. Yup, I was supposed to knit every other row even, but I was decreasing on every row. Oops!

It was close to 1 a.m. by then, but I ripped out my interesting shape, cast on again, and knit a couple of rows to set things up for the morning. Unfortunately when yesterday morning arrived, the start of a migraine arrived with it, so I was only able to do a few rows (and I had to tink half of one because I'd made a mistake) before I set it aside and went back to bed. By 10 p.m. I was feeling better, but starving, so I got up and ate, read some email and scrolled through my facebook page, and at around midnight, settled back in with my square. And this time it did end up being a square. Yay!

Isn't it pretty? I love the colours and such squishy yarn. This morning I rummaged through the bag and picked out the yarn for the next square, which is worked off of this one. Projects like this are so fun--I love putting scraps together and picking out what colour to use next.
Thanks, Jodi!!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Clouds Rolling In

The clouds started rolling in last evening.

Woke up this morning to rain-splattered windows. By the time I left for the yarn people group at the library, the sun had been out for a while and it was pretty warm out--I just wore my lacy sweater instead of a jacket. It is always roasting in the library anyway and it only takes 2 minutes to get there. A friend gave me a bag full of scraps and odd balls--yay! I saw them and thought, 'Mitred square afghan.,' so that's what I shall do! And she brought a bag of skeins for others to use, which will be handy.

Shortly after I got home, the sleet/rain/hail began. This is supposed to continue, I think, with the possibility of thunderstorms added. There is a possibility of a wee bit of snow on the hills. Guess we'll find out whether that comes to pass.

Today has had a chaotic feel to it. I feel like I have been sort of moving right along from one thing to the next. Days like this remind me how unused to that kind of thing I have become. I used to spend almost all my days like that with even more to do. At the time, it was good. I got a lot accomplished and achieved things I am still proud of today. But I am glad I do not live that kind of life anymore. That was then, this is now, and I am not quite the same person I used to be. Now I am very happy living my boring life in the slow lane--and extra happy because the slow lane is full of clouds, rain, and maybe even a wee dusting of snow.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Low Lacy Light

Last evening after supper I settled in to do some cross stitch while listening to some Celtic Christmas music. I find my headlamp works best for cross stitching because I can aim the light right at the fabric. Since we have already changed our clocks back to winter time and it gets dark early, using my headlamp leaves the rest of the room in darkness--perfect for a candle. I have a perforated tin candle holder that a friend gave me--she got it in Morocco, I think, in a market. It was upcycled from something else, I believe she said. I put that in my little corner with my snowy Buddha picture, sent from Maine by another friend, a piece of crocheted lace that I made almost 20 years ago when we lived in Fairbanks, a wee felted person that I made here, and some rocks, driftwood, pottery bits, and shells that we've gathered from beaches here. It was lovely.
I did not turn on my headlamp right away, but just sat there enjoying the calm atmosphere and the low lacy light for a while.

It was cool enough yesterday for me to wear a sweater--yay! It was a lightweight lace sweater, but still a sweater.

It wears like a shawl with sleeves and I have worn my lightweight linen shawl these past weeks, but it felt like this was a step in the right direction--I love wool season!!

I was pretty pleased with myself for being able to put 4 books INTO the wee free library since Saturday and I have another ready to go. One I started and did not care for so set it aside before turning to something else. The others were good reads and I whipped through them. One book pile was noticeably lower. But you know what they say about one step forward and two steps back--we stopped at a charity shop this afternoon and I picked up 4 books and Bill got one. Good thing I made room on the pile!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Leftovers and Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

I made a batch of lemon-poppyseed muffins today, with a bit of coconut and a handful of almonds added. These are a riff on the Lynne's Muffins recipe that I originally found almost 30 years ago (!!!!) in The New Laurel's Kitchen cookbook. The basic recipe is wonderful--tasty and healthy--and lends itself well to endless variations, many of which I have posted about in the past. Here's this one:
Mix (in a container with a lid) 2 cups oats (jumbo on this side of the pond, old fashioned on the US side) with 1 1/2 cups milk. Refrigerate overnight or for several hours.

When ready to bake, dump the oat mixture into a mixing bowl and add 1 or 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons poppyseeds, and 1/2-3/4 teaspoon of lemon extract, stirring to incorporate. Add and egg and mix in. Add 1 cup wholemeal (whole wheat in the US) flour, 1 teaspoon each baking soda and salt. Stir in. Add some coconut and a handful of almond flakes (sliced almonds) and fold those in, if desired. Spoon into paper lined or greased muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes or so in a 170C  (400F) oven--or until they are golden brown.  I know this is not an even conversion between Celsius and Fahrenheit scales, but when I first was adapting to the ovens I had here, they were fan ovens, which changes things and this is the temperature that works best here. In the US I baked these at 400 and even now that I no longer have a fan oven, the 170 works, so I stick with it.

We will have these for our late night 'dessert', but they are quite healthy, so we can have them with meals too, if we want. They are a quick breakfast with a piece of fruit.

I have no other cooking to do today. I polished off my jazzed up smashed potatoes for lunch.
On Monday, I had a small head of broccoli that needed to be used, so I chopped it up, keeping the florets separate. I put the chopped stems in a puddle of olive oil in my pan, along with a sliced onion. I cooked this, stirring it around, with garlic, black pepper, some dried parsley, and dried chili flakes. When that was almost done, I added the bowl of florets and stirred that in, adding a little bit of water. Meanwhile, the potatoes boiled away in a separate pot. When they were done I smashed them up with a little butter and milk and stirred in the broccoli mixture. With some extra mature cheddar mixed in, it was a yummy lunch these last three days!

Tonight we are having leftover Thai red curry made with lots of veggies and tofu that had been drained, frozen, thawed, squeezed to get out the water, and crumbled. Freezing the tofu creates ice crystals and these change the texture. When thawed, I squeeze out the water and the dry tofu crumbles. Because it soaks in the flavours of whatever sauce you use it with it is great for strongly flavoured dishes. I also use it to make sloppy joes. It was not so easy to find in Ireland in the water pack form. We saw the cardboard packages in a few health food stores, but that was of no use to me. It was very surprising to find tofu all over the place in little Moville! The small grocery store down by the petrol station has it in jars, but it is expensive. I was shocked to find big 500g blocks (very little water in these packages) of it at veg man's stall--and for EUR1.50! I get it from him--have 3 blocks in my tiny freezer compartment as I type. Very handy!

May you have an abundance of nourishing food in your world too.