Saturday, March 31, 2018

Better Than I Thought and Books

Last evening/night turned out better than I thought they would. I'd resigned myself to an early-to-bed-and-hope-I-fall-asleep night, as my head hurt and my stomach was upset. Then I took a generic benadryl-like pill and within 15 minutes, I felt better. I made our Friday night pizza, this time with pesto instead of tomato sauce, and had a pleasant evening. I listened to podcasts--one about books and one about the Japanese artist Hokusai--while I finished a tote bag I'd been working on for weeks, while Bill listened to game 2 of the 2018 Red Sox baseball season on his computer.

I spent a bit of time weaving in ends on the bag today after I sat and read for a while with my morning coffee--which I have in a book-themed mug given to me by a friend. It was a peaceful, pleasant morning, for which I was grateful.

Here is the middle section of my March book list.

Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes
This book is the second novel in the author’s series about the Walsh family, but it could easily be read as a stand-alone novel. As the title indicates, this one revolves around Rachel. She is the middle daughter of five, in her late 20s, and living in New York City, where she shares an apartment with a friend she’s had since childhood. Rachel is very conscious of what is cool and trendy when it comes to places, people, and fashion and wants to be seen wearing the right clothes in the right places with the right people. When she meets Luke, another young Irish person in NY, they immediately hit ot off, but she’s embarrassed by him because he and his friends are not cool enough. In fact, she and her friend used to laugh at the group of them when they’d see them in various places. Nevertheless, they end up in a relationship. Then Rachel wakes up in hopsital having her stomach pumped. She’s inadvertently overdosed on a cocktail of various drugs. Her sister and brother-in-law fly in from Dublin to bring her back to Ireland so she can attend a rehab centre. She is quite sure she just takes drugs for fun and does not have a problem, but when she finds out that her parents have reserved a spot for her in The Cloisters, where some celebrities have been known to go for rehab, she consents and allows herself to be admitted. She expects a nice holiday, complete with tropical fruit buffets, spa treatments, a gym, mud baths, seaweed wraps, and other such relaxing activities. She is, of course, completely unprepared for the reality that awaits her and the people she will be with as she comes to learn about herself, her past, and the reasons she did what she did. Keyes is a wonderful writer who knows how to construct a great story. I was laughing one minute and breathless the next as the story whipped from the moment Rachel meets her roommate, Jackie (spelled Chaquie, because J-A-C-K-I-E is so boring and common) to the group meeting where one of the other people in rehab has to face the wife he physically abused. In between epsiodes at The Cloisters, Rachel thinks back to moments from her past as she slowly accepts that she has a serious, life-threatening problem. I loved this book.

A Country Miscellany by Alice Taylor
I’ve enjoyed Alice Taylor’s accounts of life in rural Ireland ever since the librarian at the Ballinrobe library gave me one of her books one day and said she thought I might enjoy it. I did. I came across this one in the e-book section of the library website and checked it out. This contains memories of her childhood and the people she knew, as well as more current (at the time of writing) anecdotes.

Himself by Jess Kidd
This is a wonderful book. I could not out it down. Well, I did, but only long enough to heat up some supper. I posted about it earlier here.

I hope things are peaceful and pleaant in your neck of the woods, too.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Sadly Spring, But at Least There Are Books

We turned the clocks forward last weekend and it's been a very unproductive week. I always need a while to adjust to the spring time change anyway, and all my usual spring and summer problems have arrived right on schedule. I am not sleeping as well, am tired, have the usual seasonal depression, aches and pains. All of this should go away about 6 months from now. In the meantime, I'll eventually get used to it all as I do every year and get onto the rhythm of dealing with it and getting stuff done anyway until we get past the yucky spring and summer months. Until I get used to it again I just gave myself permission to get the basics done this week and that's it.

I've not done much stitching or reading this week, but I did get sick and tired of seeing a scrap piece of cross stitching sticking up from the end of a book. I'd stuck it in there when we moved house last year and there it remained. I'd taken a narrow scrap of black aida cloth and made random cross stitches with scraps and ends of thread--I wanted an abstract design with a piece of sea glass. I'd had the glass with the piece but when we moved, it got put with all the rest. Rather than look through it all, I grabbed a piece that was in a plant pot, washed it, let it dry, and used it. So now this small piece is finished and the book has nothing sticking up from it.
Although I haven't read much this week, I had some good books to read earlier this month. Here's the first part of the list.

The Stories of Muriel Spark
This is a collection of Muriel Spark’s short fiction. Many of the stories involve Brits in colonial Africa and the tensions between the colonizers and native people, racism, and the attitudes of the Brits who lived there. Funny story about this library book. I'd returned it a week and a half before it was due, but then the local library was unable to access the larger system, as the ISP--the dreaded Eircon--had a problem. When asked what the problem was and when it would be fixed, the guy said he did not know. Typical. So the books piled up for two weeks because the librarian couldn't check them in. I happened to be there after the system was fixed and he was scanning it in and when he opened it, I noticed a couple of things I'd stuck in there and forgotten about, so I was able to retrieve them.

The Case of the Unsuitable Suitor by Cathy Ace
Having read the first and third (the library e-book section does not have the second) books in this new-to-me cosy mystery series, I decided to reserve the fourth. This seres revolves around the WISE Enquiry Agency, so named because the four women who founded it are Welsh, Irish, Scottish, and English. There were two unrelated storylines/mysteries in this book. One takes place in the Welsh village where they all live and work and the pther takes place in Northern Ireland, where one of the women is on holiday with her partner at the ancestral family home. One storyline was more predictable than the other. I find these books pleasant to read and will read the next one if I come across it whenever it is published.

The Wisdom of the Buddha--Anne Bancroft, ed
This is a collection of sayings of ‘the’ Buddha, taken from various texts, sutras/suttas. It is divided into categories, like love, kindness, society, practice, etc. It’s a nice little collection.

Now I am off to take an aspirin in the hopes of losing this headache/face pain. Spring. Bah! Humbug!!

Thursday, March 22, 2018


The other day, Bill got an email from The Wool Shop, an online shop that is closing down so the owners can embark on new life adventures. In this email, they said that all felting supplies were 60% off. Bill, who surprises me with goodies to feed my addiction indulge my passion for textile manipulation when opportunity knocks, clicked over to the site and placed an order. After a phone call to find out where we are, the courier dropped it off this morning.
I admit that Bill was less enthusiastic about squeezing and fondling each ball of roving than I was, but he was happy enough to watch. You know what they say--happy wife, happy life! 😊

The two in the front are felting mohair--they're particularly soft. I've not needle felted with mohair yet, so I'll be curious to see how it behaves.

As it happens, I have a felt book from the library that I have not looked at yet. I also have a book that Bill got me a while back.
It really is inspirational. The techniques are illustrated with pieces inspired by the sky. The book is full of gorgeous photos of skies and felt pieces, made using both wet and dry felting techniques.

My mind is crammed with felty thoughts--will have to pick one idea and start stabbing soon!

Hope you have some fun surprises today, too!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Wonderful Cup of Tea and a Completed Commission

Yesterday morning, I went outside for a while and re-potted some plants. Then we went to get fruit and veg from veg man. Unsurprisingly, by early afternoon, my head was clogged and I had a scratchy throat. I considered taking a Benadryl, but decided to just wait it out. I should have taken it then, because this morning I woke up with drippy nose and eyes and a funky stomach. I had my porridge and coffee and sat quietly on the couch, eyes closed, with a blanket on my lap and a shawl around myself, shivering, as I do when allergies attack. After a while, I took that Benadryl and continued to sit until I felt like a cup of tea. It was just plain old regular tea with a splash of milk, but it was wonderful! As I swallowed the first sip, I felt goosebumps rising on my arms and legs. I really enjoyed that cup of tea! And after a while, I felt myself warming up--a sure sign that things were settling back to normal. By then I could keep my eyes open, so I picked up the hat I was commissioned to make and completed the knitting. We went to the shop to pick up a few groceries, after which I made another cup of tea and settled in to weave in ends. Then I delivered it.
I was quite pleased with it. The person buying it was very happy. And Bill asked if he could have a similar one.

The hat is made with leftovers from other projects. The person it's for came over to choose colours and asked for stripes, so that's what he got. I think these colours came together well. I'll have a rummage in the scrap bag and start Bill's soon. For now, I am happy to be feeling almost normal again, if a bit tired. I expect my second wind will show up around midnight, as it usually does.

I hope you're having a wonderful day in your neck of the woods!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A Good Read: Himself by Jess Kidd

I was reading a review of this author’s latest book (The Hoarder) one day and they mentioned this, her first novel. After placing The Hoarder on hold, I looked up this one and requested it as well. I picked it up on a Sunday afternoon, planning to start it and see whether I liked it. I forced myself to put it down so I could reheat leftovers for supper, but other than that, I read it straight through that day. In reading a couple of reviews of this book after I’d finished it, I was surprised to read that the reviewers thought there was too much going on in parts and that they felt it got bogged down in the middle. This was not my experience at all. I was completely caught up in this book on every page and when I finished it, I closed the book and said (out loud), ’Wow!’
It is true that there is a lot going on in this book, but that was certainly not a problem and I think it’s part of what makes it such a good read. Rural Ireland, traditional folktales and spiritual practices, literature, theatre, Catholicism’s role in rural Irish life, and more are all skillfully knitted together by the author to move the story along.  She is also a wonderful writer. She moves from laugh-out-loud humour one minute to disturbing violence the next. She crafts beautiful sentences and paragraphs, such as these--such an evocative way to say that, in a small village, news travels fast:

‘Words are capable of flying. They dart through windows, over fences, between bar stools and across courtyards. They travel rapidly from mouth to ear, from ear to mouth. And as they go, they pick up speed and weight and substance and gravity. Until they land with a scud, take seed and grow as fast as the unruliest of beanstalks.’ (p60-61)

The story revolves around Mahoney, who has been brought up in an orphanage (staffed with abusive nuns and priests, except for one nun who is kind) in Dublin, thinking his mother abandoned him. He is given information that indicates otherwise and he goes to Mulderrig in County Mayo to find out what happened to his mother and how he got to Dublin. We soon learn that Mahoney sees and communicates with deceased people. He meets the local pub owner first and then takes a room in an old house with one other lodger--the aging theatre actress, Mrs. Cauley, who describes herself at one point as, ‘Miss Marple with balls’. They bond quickly and she begins to help him in his quest, as does the woman who runs the boarding house and Bridget, who was one of the couple of friends his mother had. The dead also help, in their own way, as do books. Villagers are not pleased at Mahoney’s arrival and at first they cling to the story that his mother--an unpopular teenager--simply left of her own accord. There were lots of stories and none of them make much sense, but people cling to them anyway.

A good part of the story involves the old ways and the tensions between those and the Catholic church’s teachings and representatives. The current corrupt priest, for example, ridicules an elder for believing in the old ways and dumps some water out of a horse trough--water that was spiritually significant for her. He is then subject to a holy spring that springs up (ha-ha) in his drawing room, accompanied by frogs and other aquatic/amphibious creatures.

The reader is in no suspense about what happened to Mahoney’s mother, as this is the scene that opens the book. But as Mahoney, Mrs Cauley, and the others get closer to the truth, personal secrets begin to come out.

The book is an interesting combination of genres. There are so many different aspects to it--folklore, psychological thriller, detective story, village full of quirky characters, humour, and nature writing are all here. I was surprised to love this book as there are some aspects of it that are not the kind of thing I would normally pick up. I knew that before I started, but the other aspects of it and the setting made it seem like it was worth a try. I’m glad I set my reservations aside and gave it a shot! One other thing I liked about the book was that, at a certain point, the ‘damsel in distress’ trope was turned upside down.  I’m quite looking forward to reading the new book!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

No Rain on the Parade...

but there were a few snow flurries! It is, as they say here, Baltic out there. 😊 Nevertheless, the parade must go on and the sign in town said it would commence at 2:30 sharp, so at 2:29, Bill and I stepped outside to await the man himself.
He was followed by large trucks with bunting and flags, the fire truck, a few groups of cold looking children wearing sparkly headbands, and some bagpipers--not a good day for kilt wearing even with cool knee socks. Everyone who was not in an enclosed vehicle looked like they were freezing, but some seemed to be having a good time in spite of the wind and cold.

the love bug showed up
sea scouts

cosy cottage
Then it was done. We stepped back inside and had a cuppa. Now the sun's out.

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Needle Tatted Shamrocks

St Patrick's Day is tomorrow, so I decided to make a few shamrocks to hang in the window of the front door. I started with this one, since I had the cone of green fingering weight cotton and the appropriate tatting needle next to me.
Then I went upstairs and got some green yarn scraps and my wooden tatting needles and made a few more.
These are really simple to make.

For the larger shamrock, make three rings of 23 stitches each. Then make a chain of 13 for the stem. In the photo, the top one, the darkest one, and the large one on the bottom are made this way. The other two are smaller. For the smaller shamrock, make three rings of 13 stitches each and a chain of 7 stitches for the stem. Of course, you can make these as large or small as you want by either varying the yarn/thread you use or changing the number of stitches used to make the rings and stem.

I decided to make a brooch using the first wee shamrock, so I got out the needle felting supplies and played around.
The background looks a bit on the reddish side on my screen, but it's the bright orange of the Irish flag, which is green, white, and orange.

Winter is making a comeback and it may well rain on our parade--or sleet or snow. It is supposed to be cold. I hope the folks on the floats dress up warm. Last year we stood in the rain and watched the parade. Last year we walked down to the square and I almost got poked in the eye by someone's umbrella. Then we found out it goes right by our house, so we came home and stood outside. If it's icy out there tomorrow, we could just stand at the window if we want. I feel kind of bad for the vendors--there is supposed to be music and food trucks in and around the square, but I don't think it'll be a good day for that stuff. The pubs will do a roaring business, though.

It's just about time for the pizza crust to be done, so I'm off to roll that out and make the pizza. Happy weekend!

Monday, March 12, 2018

The End of the Cones

The other day, I finished a crochet project I'd been working on using what was left on two different cones of yarn. One was a green chenille and one was a thin brown boucle with a few different colours of slubs sprinkled throughout. I completely finished the chenille and have only a small ball of the brown boucle in the scrap box.
I started with the chenille at the bottom with 3 stitches and increased at each end every row until I was finished with the chenille that was left on the cone. I used the sc, ch1, sc stitch pattern in which you sc into the ch1 spaces and ch 1 over the sc on subsequent rows--this makes a fabric that is lightweight and quite drapey. I used a G hook throughout. (hook size and stitch names in US terminology).

That gave me a triangle. I attached the brown boucle and did a few post stitch rows back and forth across the top, alternating back and front post stitches. Then I folded the piece in half across the top, right sides facing, and joined, leaving a space for the neck hole.
Then there was just a border to do, which I did by doing a round of triple crochets followed by three rounds of single crochet and then triples again. I ended with a round of triples and then one of half doubles.
A friend found the chenille at a thrift store in Boston and brought it back for me. When I began the first poncho, which was a large granny square with a neck hole, the cone looked like this:
Afterwards, it looked like this:
There was still plenty there, so I made a small cowl, which didn't really make a dent in what what was left, so I knew I had enough for another large project.

The brown boucle was yarn I found at a local pop-up charity shop last summer.
I'd used some of it, held together with a strand of fingering weight dark brown wool, to make a tall cowl, so I used most of what was left. At the moment, the mauve with turquoise slubs is on the knitting needles being made into a shawl.

I've been wearing the new poncho for the past few days--I love it. It's lightweight and comfortable. I so enjoy the process of making things out of leftovers and scraps. It's funny to remember now, almost 4 years on, that when we moved to Ireland I had one sweater and a couple of shawls. I'd left the rest of my winter clothing behind because we did not have space or weight in our suitcases. I've made up for it since and have quite an assortment of winter gear. The hooks and needles have served me well! 😀

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Postman Knocked Once

This morning I heard the postman putting something through the mail slot and then I heard the thunk of a parcel hitting the floor. Then came the knock at the door. Bill went to answer and came back in with the book I was expecting, which would not fit through the slot, and a surprise, which is the one that hit the floor.

I'd never heard of this book, but Bill saw it somewhere and ordered it.
What a fun book! It's a collection of photos taken between the 1860s to the 1960s. The focal point of all of them is people knitting, but there is a lot to look at in the background of each photo. There are some quotes about knitting sprinkled throughout the book, too. This was definitely a happy surprise!

The book I was expecting from Kenny's in Galway (free shipping worldwide) was this one:
I'd requested it from the library and it came last week. I started it and was taking copious notes before I was past the second page. Bill commented that if I was taking that many notes right from the start then it was probably a book worth having and keeping. Based on what I'd already read, I agreed, so went to the Kenny's website. I've read articles about this book in various media outlets--it was published here last year, but is newly published in the US, I think. I suspect this will be one that gets marked up a fair bit.

We have plenty of room for these new additions to the book collection, as we took a load of books to the charity shop this afternoon. I packed our backpack on wheels and pulled them down the street so I would not have to carry the heavy load. Then we stopped at the library and picked up a pile of requests that had come in. On our way out, I was surprised to see the latest book in one of the knitting cosy mystery series I used to read, so I brought that home, too--plenty of bookish surprises today!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Cleaning Up At Last!

Two and a half weeks ago I posted a gift to our daughter, hoping it would arrive before or on the day being celebrated, which would have been 10 days. I figured there was a good chance, since in the past, things have taken as few as 6 days. Not this time. It arrived today.

In the envelope were some dishcloths and a kitchen towel that I'd made using blue, her favourite colour, for a couple of them and scarlet and black, the colours of her beloved Portland Trailblazers basketball team, for a couple more.

For this one, I followed a pattern from the crochet calendar she sent me. It's short row slip stitches.

This one is from the same calendar, showing up a few days before the one above. It was presented as a pot holder for some reason--I think it would be a very poor pot holder as written, because it was done with a traditional granny square design after the heart--that means spaces in between stitches. The pattern did call for a back layer of dc, but there too you'd have spaces in between. Linked dc would work better. In any case, none of that is a problem for a dishcloth, and I adapted it to make it more solid.

The next one was in last year's knitting calendar that she sent.

And I just made the towel using a Tunisian crochet extended simple stitch for the red section and did two rounds of linked triples for the border.

These took quite a while to travel from point A to point B, but at least they're home now!

Hope it's a good Saturday in your neck of the woods!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Emma the Fierce and The Rest of the Book List

We did not get any additional snow from Emma overnight, but the wind was fierce! Still some major gusts happening, but there is a wee bit of melting going on. Other parts of the country got slammed with snow as well as the wind and are digging out today. I heard a woman being interviewed on the radio this morning. She works in the catering department at the hospital in Cork, which is at the other end of the island from where we are. She walked for two hours to get to work and plans to be staying at the hospital tonight and possibly beyond so that patients and staff have their meals. Other members of her staff are doing the same. They are unsung heroes, for sure!

The concern in some areas now is for flooding, if the snow melts too fast. It looks like it will be slightly warmer, but still cold, so that melting will be gradual in most places. That's good.

Here's the third (and final) portion of the February book list.

A Day in the Death of Dorothea Cassidy by Ann Cleeves
This is the third book in the author’s Inspector Ramsay series--out of print for a while and now reissued as e-books. In this book, the vicar’s wife, Dorothea Cassidy is found strangled in a park flower bed and Inspector Ramsay and his arrogant sidekick, Hunter, set out to discover whodunit. The ending of this one was a surprise.

Still with the Music by Karl Jenkins with Sam Jackson
This is an autobiography of Karl Jenkins, the Welsh composer. I wrote more about this book here.

Light on Distant Hills: A Memoir by Cathal O’Searcaigh
The author (born in 1956) is a poet who grew up on a hill farm outside the small village of Gortahork in County Donegal. His first language is Irish and although he learned English as a second language, he realised that his poetry needed to be written in Irish if it was to be any good. This is the first book he wrote in English. In the book, he covered the early years of his life through young adulthood, including such topics as the area in which he lived, his neighbours, their way of life, his growing passion for words, moving to London for a time before returning home, and how he settled into life as a gay man.  I found the book in a charity shop and bought it because it was a memoir about life in Donegal. I’d not heard of the author before, but I guess he’s a pretty well known Irish poet--at least in some circles.

Bullets into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence Dean Rader, ed
This is a book of poetry written by well known and lesser known poets alike that are addressing gun violence. Each poem is followed by a response from someone who has been impacted by gun violence in some way. I found this e-book on the library website and borrowed it. Then the latest school shooting unfolded in Florida. I downloaded and read the book after that, and it was heartbreaking to see the same things happening again and again.

Thon Ulster Scots Book by Liam Logan
Bill found this book in a pop-up charity shop about a year and a half ago and thought I’d like it, so he brought it home. I did like it. It’s a guide to the Ulster Scots dialect of English that is spoken by some poeple in Northern Ireland. There are some pages written entirely in this dialect, a poem about the calendar and the annual cycle, and others that are more explanatory with examples of how the dialect is used. ‘Drapping prootas,’ for example, is ‘dropping (planting) potatoes.’ He describes individual words as well as sayings, like ‘Keep yer wun tae cool yer parridge!’ This means, ‘Keep your wind to cool your porridge’ or ‘Don’t waste your breath giving advice.’  The one thing I did not like about the book was the way it was produced. The pages are thick and glossy and there are gorgeous photos of nature, but the text is often on top of the busy photo and difficult to read. White text across a cloud photo is not the best choice. Other pages had text that did not work well with the background colour. There was one page where they placed a box behind the text, which made it stand out from the background photo--they could have used more of that. Happily, many of the photos had a page by themselves.

Joining the Dots: A Woman in Her Time by Juliet Gardiner
The author, a social historian, describes this book as a fragmentary memoir. In it, she recounts some of her own life stories and ties her experiences to what was going on in the UK at the time. She was born in 1943, so there have been major sociocultural changes, particularly for women, during that time. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of life, such as education, marriage, work, motherhood, and begins with her personal stories before widening out to describe the context in which this was playing out. I’d not read any of her previous work, so when I came across this in the e-book section of the library website it was the title that caused me to click on it and read more. I liked the way she structured this book. It worked well as a combination memoir-social history. It was a good read.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

More Beast, More Books, More Soup

I've just finished my lunch of leftover soup. I made it yesterday and it was so good! Bill had leftovers yesterday for lunch, so didn't try the soup until today and he loves it too, especially the tofu pieces done this way. I will be making it again--or at least something very like it. It's never exactly the same thing twice in the kitchen. The tofu would also be good done this way in burritos, so I will probably try that sometime--be especially good with some fresh homemade salsa when it's tomato season and with some freshly picked lettuce and coriander (cilantro)!
It's a chilli tomato broth with tofu chunks and (leftover) brown rice. The tofu I get here is much firmer than even the extra firm stuff I used to get in the US. Maybe this is because it does not come swimming in a plastic tub full of water. I used to buy extra firm tofu there and freeze it so that the texture changed and it would crumble as I squeezed the water out. The tofu that I get here from veg man some in very little water and holds its shape even after freezing, thawing, and squeezing. I had a few blocks in the freezer, so I took one out, let it thaw, squeezed out the water, and cubed it. I put the small cubes in a pan with olive oil and cooked them, stirring them around, until they were slightly crispy. Then I added a bit of chilli powder, some smoked paprika, a bit of granulated garlic, some coriander, and some oregano and stirred to coat. I continued to cook until the cubes were crispy on the outside. Then I made a quick and simple broth by cooking a chopped onion, diced sweet red pepper, several cloves of garlic, and two sliced red chilli peppers (one seeded) in some olive oil. When these were softened, I added a chopped fresh tomato and a can of chopped tomatoes with juice, along with some oregano and coriander. I ladled the broth over some leftover brown rice and some of the tofu chunks. Perfect for a winter day!

And it is still wintry out there. The status red warning was extended last night to include the entire country and goes until tomorrow afternoon. I think The Beast has done its worst, but Storm Emma is coming and we are being advised to be inside by 4 this afternoon. No bus service is operating. Schools and businesses are closed or closing early. The library will be closed tomorrow.

We got a bit more snow overnight while the wind howled, but some places are a big mess.
All of these warnings are apparently causing people to rush to the shops and clear the bread shelves. I have a loaf of wholemeal lemon poppyseed coconut bread baking as I type. Had I known that bread was going to be so popular, I could have baked extra and made my fortune! 😜🍞

So we wait and see what Emma brings. Glad we don't have to go anywhere. I only have to reheat the leftover smoked mackerel chowder for supper. We had some last week and Bill wanted more this week, so yesterday seemed like a good time to make another batch. We can have some cheese and crackers with it. I started a collection of Muriel Spark short stories, so that and my yarn are keeping me happily occupied as The Beast and Emma do their meet and greet.

Here's part 2 of my February book list (part 1 is in yesterday's post):
The Case of the Curious Cook by Cathy Ace
This is the third book in the WISE Enquiry Agency series, which I borrowed in e-book format from the library. They do not have the second book for some reason. In this book, a used bookstore owner wants to find out who has been leaving books in his shop, which is called Crooks and Cooks. He runs the mystery section and his daughter, formerly a food presenter on BBC, runs the cookbook/food writing section. She finds some interesting artwork in some of the books that are left there, which leads to another line of enquiry.

A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark
I was listening to the BBC Radio 4 show A Good Read recently and one of the guests picked this book as their good read. Before the discussion had ended, I’d gone to the library website and requested it. The guest was right--it is a good read! The story takes place in the 1950s and revolves around Mrs Hawkins, who is a war widow in her late 20s. She works at a publishing company, lives in a rooming house, and interacts with a wide cast of quirky characters.

The China Factory by Mary Costelllo
I love short story collections. I’d read Academy Street, another book by this author, a year and a half ago. That one is a novel constructed of linked short stories. I quite liked it, so when I came across this one in the e-book section of the library, I downloaded it. The stories in Academy Street all had some tie to the street in the title. This book has no connecting thread between the stories. They are all set in different places within Ireland and involve various characters. I found myself immersed in each story, which is not always the case. I love short story collections, but don’t always connect with every story within a given volume. I did with this one.

Mark-Making in Textile Art by Helen Parrott
This is a great book. In it, the author, who is a textile artist, focuses on just what the title says--mark making in textile art. She takes the reader through her process, complete with lots of photos, examples of her notes and art journal pages, and a case study, which goes from idea to completed piece. She is also good at encouraging people to do what works for them and their practice. She offers examples from others as well as other possibilities that she has thought of in terms of how to proceed. I enjoyed reading this book, thinking about what she had to say, and looking at the photos. It was quite interesting to notice which finished pieces and which textures with the photos made me catch my breath and stop and look more closely.

Hope it's a lovely March day where you are!