Monday, April 30, 2018

The End of Another Month and Books

This month has flown by! When it began we were getting ready for our daughter's visit. She came, I got to spend time in my favourite part of the world--southwest Donegal--she went home, we came home, and now it's back to the usual spring/summer blues! I am tired and achy, feeling the usual hum of agitation that constantly runs in the background of my days as the light increases, not sleeping as well as I did a couple of months ago, and reminding myself that in less than two months we will start to lose daylight again, which brings me comfort. It is already past 9 before it gets dark and we'll add more than an hour and a half to that before we move in the other direction. Sad.

I am always grateful for books, though, and I find them even more important when I need to move my mind in another direction. Distraction is very good for me between March and September and books help with that. Here are some of the books I read in April.

Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment by Robert Wright
Let me say right off the bat that the title of this book is problematic. I probably would not have even been interested in it if not for the fact that I have read some of the author’s previous work and been very impressed by it. He recognizes the problems with his title, too--he discusses these at the beginning and again at the end. Right off the bat, he explains that he is going not going to focus on all of the various kinds of Buddhism out there, nor is he interested in the supernatural elements that have been added as Buddhism evolved. In fact, he is actually really talking about one small piece of one kind of Buddhism and that is insight meditation. In a nutshell, his argument is that insight meditation can change people’s lives for the better and in so doing, improve the world. he points out that we get through life by telling stories to ourselves and others. We can’t help doing this as it’s hard-wired. Insight meditation helps us gain some distance from some of the stories in our heads and seeing that things and people are not always as they seem to us.  By gaining insight into our own minds, feelings, and responses, we can bring calmness and clarity to difficult situations. he states that, ‘ I think the salvation of the world can be secured via the cultivation of calm, clear minds and the wisdom they allow. Such minds can, for one thing, keep us from overreacting to threats and thus from feeding the vicious cycles that intensify conflicts. Calm clear minds can also help us soberly assess what animates the threats...we don’t have to love our enemies, but seeing them clearly is essential.’ (p 256-257). He makes his arguments about this practice and its benefits and difficulties, relates his own experiences, and discusses the scientific and philosophical work that supports it. The subtitle of the book is not at all problematic. I do not call myself a Buddhist because, like him, I feel it would be disrespectful to people who do identify this way and who practice regularly. I use Mary Pipher’s term, ‘Buddhish’ because although I do not practice insight meditation or any of the other forms regularly, I have adapted the ideas in ways that work for me. I find basic Buddhist ideas about life and how to live very useful and commonsensical. One thing that struck me as I read the book was how so much of what he was talking about beyond actually sitting on the cushion, was so familiar to me. And I could see some connections with the sort of anthropology I’ve practiced since I was a kid. For me, there was nothing about the Buddhist stuff he wrote about that was new, although it would be a fine introduction to this part of it if someone was interested. I listen to a lot of dharma talks, particularly those given by Martine Batchelor, who talks about many of the Buddhist themes Wright writes about--and she is also interested in the practicalities of how people can use these tools to improve their everyday lives. I have found her talks very helpful and encouraging--and outting these things into pracrtice has improved my life. To get back to the book though, in spite of the fact that I did not learn anythng new about Buddhism, it was definitely worth reading, because I learned a lot about the psychology and brain studies that support the claims made by some Western practitioners of insight meditation and Buddhists of old.

The Hoarder by Jess Kidd
In this novel, the author’s second, Maud is given the job of being a home care worker for the difficult, reclusive, widowed Cathal. Although they are in London, they are both Irish, and Maud thinks this is why she was given the job. Others before her have failed. Cathal is the hoarder of the title and the house is a mess, as he is himself. When Maud finds strange photographs with faces burned away and strange things begin to happen, her curiosity is piqued and, with the help of her landlady and various saints, who hover around, she begins to investigate. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as I did Himself, the author’s first novel. A more detailed review can be found here.

A Death in Holy Orders by PD James
A remote, isolated school for the education and training of young men who will become Anglican priests is thrown into turmoil when one of them is found dead. It is considered an accident, but the boy’s father is unconvinced and asks Adam Dalgliesh to look into it. He has memories of staying at the school with a family friend when he was young and on holiday, so he goes to investigate. There is an explosive mix of people at the school the weekend he is there and trouble ensues. I picked this up at a charity shop and now it is destined for the wee free library.

Passenger to Frankfurt by Agatha Christie
We were on a bus across the country one night, on our way from Dublin Airport to Donegal Town. Most of the other passengers were sleeping and though there were overhead lights, I did not want to turn mine on, lest it disturb someone, so I got out my e-reader. It had been a long day and I wanted something cosy, so I went into my Agatha Christie folder and just tapped on something. The story is a bit fantastic, but still, I enjoyed it, and it hit the spot.

I hope that April was a good month in your world!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Lemon Meringue Muffins: The Pictures

The other day, I posted about some lemon meringue cupcakes we had at a village market and said I didn't take pics before we ate them. Well, a friend came to visit today and brought some of the market muffins (as the baker calls them)--strictly for documentary purposes, you understand! 😋😉
It's a sponge cupcake muffin with lemon curd inside and meringue on the top. They are soooooo good!
While I was munching on one, it dawned on me that it tasted different than such cupcakish things I've had in the US, whether from a supermarket bakery or made at home with a cake mix. One thing I've noticed here is that there are no cake mixes in the shops. I might have seen a gluten-free mix now and again, but while there are a gazillion different kinds of flour and sugar, there are no cake mixes.

I'm told that it did not take long for the supply to be depleted at the market this morning. Kudos to the baker!

Hope there are some tasty treat in your day, too!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Asshole Survival Guide by Robert I. Sutton

I came across this title when I read an interview with the author on Vox. Of course, the title is meant to grab attention, but when the interview piqued my interest, I clicked over to the library website and did a search. I requested a copy and it arrived yesterday.
This is a follow-up to a previous book he wrote called The No-Asshole Rule, but that was primarily about groups, he says, and this one covers more kinds of situations. Since that book, he has received a steady stream of correspondence in various forms, with people asking for advice on how to deal with assholes and /or sharing asshole stories. he says, 'I assumed that this asshole stuff would be a brief side trip and, within a year or so, I would return to my work on leadership, innovation, and organizational change. I was wrong. That little book touched a nerve. It took me a few years to accept that--no matter what else I write in my life or any other impact my other work has--I will always be known forst and foremost as "The Asshole Guy."' (p 3).

Sutton says that, 'The Asshole Survival Guide is devoted to strategies that help people escape, endure, battle, and bring down others who treat them like dirt.' (p 158) And that is exactly what the book provides, along with examples from the author's own life and from people who have shared their stories with him. He talks about some of them in the interview linked above.

I found the book to be quite interesting and even entertaining at times. The strategies he suggests and the research that underpins them were useful and the examples were sometimes amusing enough to make me laugh out loud. That said, there is a serious underlying issue here. This profusion of assholish behaviour is causing real harm to people. Were there always so many assholes? Has something changed to make assholes proliferate? As more people feel insecure in trying times, does the stress manifest this way? Whatever the reasons for the large number of assholes, this book provides practical advice for dealing with them.

Monday, April 23, 2018

New Book on World Book Day

Neither of us expected this to get here so quickly, but this book arrived today.
I came across the title while searching for something else on the library website. I love short stories and have a small, but growing, collection of short story collections, mostly written  by women, so it did not take me long to request the book. It arrived at the library while we were away and Bill picked it up last Wednesday. He dropped it on the couch and we marveled at the size--it is over 1000 pages. I sat down to look at it and was impressed with the contents of this collection, containing as it does a mix of authors who wrote in different time periods. Anna Katharine Green and Mary Roberts Rinehart, two early mystery writers, are included, as are better known writers from the 'Golden Age' like Agatha Christie, Marjorie Allingham, Ngaio Marsh, and Dorothy L Sayers. Charlotte Perkins Gilman is in here with The Yellow Wallpaper, a story that has always given me chills. Contemporary authors, like Val McDermid and Janet Evanovich are included as well--I have not read their work, but who knows, I might like it! And if I don't, there are plenty more stories from a wide range of authors to choose from!

So there I was, commenting on what a great book it appears to be, when Bill asked if I thought I'd keep it if it wasn't a library book. 'Definitely,' I replied, 'This is a really great collection.' There was a bit of clicking and then he said a copy would be on its way, albeit one without the dust jacket. 'Who cares about the dust jacket?!' I said. Later that day, he had a notice that it had shipped and the expected date of arrival was 3 May, so neither of us expected the postman to be knocking on the window today. Maybe the book faeries wanted me to have it on World Book Day instead of waiting another week and a half 😉

I hope your day brings some happy surprises, too!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Wee Leaves

Last year, I saw a video about harvesting cabbage, in which the master gardener said that one should not just pull the plants up roots and all, but should cut the cabbage off and leave the bottom part in the ground. He said new leaves would grow. These would not grow into heads of cabbage, but would be like baby cabbage leaves. I tried this and it was working until the slugs decided the new leaves made for tasty munching!

A few weeks ago, I got a small head of pointy cabbage from veg man and when I was cutting it up, I noticed the base and thought, 'Hmm, I wonder what would happen if I stuck this in water.' I am a big fan of regrowing stuff and utilising everything to its fullest extent, so I went into our (unused except for storage) dishwasher, pulled out a container, put some water in the bottom, and plunked in the cabbage base.

I am happy to report that when we returned from our jaunt to southwest Donegal the other day, there were some lovely, deep green, wee leaves growing out the side.
Eventually, when they've grown a bit more, I'll use them. In the meantime, the experiment continues. I'm curious to see how big they grow and whether more appear.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes at the Market

On Saturday, we went to a market in a village hall near Donegal Town. It's held every other week and it happened to be going on while we were down that way. It was pretty cool. There were a few knitted items for sale, some produce, homemade jams, marmalade, and lemon curd, eggs, and meats all produced in the area. There were also home baked goodies of various kinds, including lemon meringue cupcakes. We all thought that was an interesting idea. I've only had meringue on top of lemon pie and baked Alaska and to be honest, I don't think I understand the appeal. Meringue is quite popular here, though, and it can be found packaged in the shops. Unfortunately, I did not think about taking a photo of the cupcakes until after they'd been eaten, but I can say that they were really good! It was just a sponge cupcake with some scooped out to make a place for a dollop of lemon curd. I suspect the meringues were made separately and then stuck on top, but maybe not.

In addition to the baked goods, there was other food on offer and of course, endless cups of tea. I thought I might float out of the village hall!
They offered something called the '5 mile fry' which was an Irish breakfast in which the ingredients all came from within 5 miles. A few people around us had this and it was quite a substantial amount of food! Our daughter and I had a plain omelette, which had cheese in it and was made with local eggs. It was served with some potato farls and a piece of soda bread. Simple, but delicious! Bill had a sausage sandwich, made with local sausage and what looked like sourdough bread. I tried a small piece of the sausage and it was quite good. Our friend had a fried egg on potato farls and he quite liked it.

It was fun to see all of the people coming together in the village hall and chatting with each other. Seems like a great idea for an ongoing community event. Long may it continue!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Blowin' in the Wind

Our daughter is making the long journey back to her home and Bill and I got back to our house late this morning. We caught an early bus, so I took the opportunity yesterday to go out into the fierce, howling wind and take some photos of the lovely flowers that are already blooming, even though it's early in the season.

Things are waking up after their long winter's nap. They look delicate, but they must be pretty tough to stand up to that wind! It was crazy.

I hope you are having a beautiful day in your neck of the woods!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Coast Road to Slieve League

Yesterday we took a ride along the coast road to Slieve League, the highest sea cliffs in Europe. This is the third time I have been there--it's been different every time, but every time I love it.

You can barely see the boat down there in the water.
This time, there were even sheep!
On the way back down, we stopped at a small gift/coffee shop, where we had coffee, hot chocolate, and some baked goods.
The ride to and from Slieve League is beautiful in its own right.

Soon, things will be all greened up.

We stopped for a bit at Fintra Beach
It was a lovely day! Hope your day is lovely, too!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Scenes from the Bus and an Airport Buddha

Our daughter is visiting for a few days. She arrived Wednesday and we hopped on a bus to Dublin Airport to meet her. The double-decker bus we were on had bench seats facing each other with a small table in between, in the front of the bottom level, and I sat facing the rear of the bus. It was a little weird to be moving forward and facing backwards, but it was a comfortable ride.

Just over the border with Northern Ireland, in Strabane, we passed this sculpture, called Let the Dance Begin

 I think we were still in Strabane when I took these, but I'm not positive.

In Omagh, the coffee stop appears to be in the church.
We soon passed through Northern Ireland and back into the republic. Eventually we got to a dual carriageway and toll booths--been a long time since we were in that kind of traffic on those sorts of roads.

We arrived at Dublin Airport with time to kill, so we wandered around a bit and came across the airport Buddha outside a food place.
 It was too dark to see much of anything on the bus ride out of the airport. I was once again impressed  by the bus driver--I often am. They need quite a variety of skills to do that job, involving as it does not only driving, but interacting with all sorts of people. They also do quite a good job of remembering who is going where. On this night, we were at a stop after 11 pm, with the drover calling out, 'Belleek! We're in Belleek!!' There was no response, so he got up and walked back to find the guy who wanted to get off at Belleek. He had to wake him up and wait for the guy to gather his stuff and get himself off the bus.

Have a peaceful day!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Pizza-ish: Using Up the Last Bits

I had some stuff in the fridge that needed to be used, so today, when we went to veg man's stall, I picked up a few things to use with the odds and ends and we had this pizza-ish dish for supper.
Yesterday, I strained a batch of yoghurt and had enough whey for a batch of ricotta. I also had some milk that needed using, so ricotta it was. This evening, I mixed in what was left in a jar of red pesto and I made wholemeal pizza dough in the bread machine. I rolled out the dough, patted it into the pan, and pre-baked it just a bit-- for 5 minutes or so--before spreading the ricotta-pesto mixture on top. Meanwhile, I chopped an onion, a few cloves of garlic, a sweet red pepper that needed using, a courgette, a bulb of fennel, and some cherry tomatoes and cooked them in some olive oil, adding dried oregano and basil. I spread this mixture on top of the ricotta-pesto. Then I grabbed the cheese--I had a few blocks nearing the end, so I chopped those up and sprinkled them on top. There was a crumbly cheddar, a black pepper cheddar, and a garlic and chive cheddar. It all went back into the oven for about 20 minutes. Yum! It is delicious! Definitely a good use of all those odds and ends that were in the fridge! 😋

Hope your fridge has some useful and delicious odds and ends, too!

Friday, April 6, 2018

Rarely Seen But Gratefully Felt

Several years ago, I began experiencing the symptoms of Raynaud's in my hands. They'd get painfully cold and then warm up too much to become painfully warm, red, and itchy. My fingers would puff up and get stiff. I learned that arm warmers/fingerless gloves helped quite a lot to ease the pain and discomfort.

A little less than a year and a half ago, we were living in an apartment with tile floors that looked great, but were always cold. I began to experience the same symptoms in my feet and toes. There seems to be no good solution to this and the advice given is to not let your hands or feet get cold. Easier said than done, but I do what I can with my woolly creations and have been happy that I have plenty of socks in various thicknesses and fibres to help.

There was one fly in the ointment and that was at night. Almost every night, I sit in bed for a few hours and read, listen to podcasts, stitch, or whatever. I have a heating pad that I use if my feet are really cold, and I can wear socks until I am ready to go to sleep, but trying to sleep with them on usually doesn't work for me. And, of course, eventually, I have to get up from the bed to use the bathroom, rinse out my tea mug, or get some thread/yarn/whatever. Every time I got up, even if it was just for a minute or two, my feet would freeze again and I'd have to start the warming process all over again--and veering between cold and hot is exactly what I am supposed to avoid doing.

I use some slip-on trainers instead of slippers because I know I won't slip with them on. I've felt my foot sliding in the past when wearing slippers or socks and I have no desire to take another tumble. They are fine for the purpose, but they have a very thin sole, so the cold seeps right in. I stuck in a couple of store-bought insoles, but they didn't help. I considered using some wool yarn to knit or crochet some insoles, but never got around to it. Then Bill got me a bunch of roving when an Irish online shop was closing down and having a big clearance sale. There was a brown roving that was not merino wool, and so coarser than the others. That was particularly cheap, so he got several of those. I saw it and thought, 'Insoles. I could needle felt some insoles.' So I did!
They sure don't look like much, but I stuck them in the 'slippers' and hoped for the best. My problem has been solved! My feet no longer freeze when I get up, which means I am so much more comfortable. I used less than one ball of the roving, so for less than 50 cents and a little time spent stabbing, I made my life a little bit better. I didn't felt them all the way, since I know that using them will felt them further. I might make a pair for my hiking boots before next winter rolls around--I am very pleased.

I hope you are warm and comfortable today, too.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Romanian Bell Cord

Sometimes I make something that is purely decorative. Sometimes I make something that is functional and I don't care about whether or not it looks nice. Sometimes I make something that is both useful and decorative.

The other day, I did the latter. I'd been meaning to try out the Romanian cord for a while and just never got around to it. When the crochet calendar page the other day showed a project using one, I figured that was as good a time as any to try out that method.

I have a small bell that a friend sent me a few months ago. It has a lotus on one side and a Buddha on the other. It was a key chain, but since I rarely have my keys out, if I used it like that, I would never see it. She sent Bill one with a Celtic knot that he has on his backpack, but I didn't want to do that, either. I kept my bell on the table next to the couch where I could see it and enjoy it.

Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk, often spoke of the 'mindfulness bell' and even suggested that people set up a bell sound on their computer or use the telephone ring as a mindfulness bell. The point was that when you heard the sound, you would pause for just a second or two and be reminded to be mindful. I would hear my bell when I would pick it up or bump it and even just seeing it sitting there made me pause for a second or two. When I decided to try making a Romanian cord, I figured that if I liked it, I would use it for my bell. So, the other night, I grabbed some purple yarn and my pouch of hooks, and sat upstairs crocheting a cord while listening to a dharma talk. I made it long enough to fit over my head so I could slide the bell on as a pendant and either hang it or wear it.
I did like the way the cord came out and I've been wearing my bell for a few days now. It does not make a loud sound, just a small tinkling now and again when I move the right way. This is my mindfulness bell.

The Romanian cord is very easy to make and the process is quite meditative--just making one single crochet, turning and making another in a particular spot. There's a good video here that illustrates how--it's about 6 minutes long. I can see all sorts of uses for this and it is great for using scraps. The end result gives a nice edge with loops that can be worked into for needle lace of various sorts, crochet, knitting, sewing, etc. Cords could be used as embellishments as well--just make a long one, lay it out in whatever design you like, and couch it to a garment, quilt, wall hanging, etc. I might be starting another, longer cord tonight for a different use. I'll see what I feel like later.

I also recently experimented and made something that is rarely seen, but extremely useful. I'll save that for another day.

I hope you're having a peaceful and pleasant day.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Soup Weather or Salad Weather?

It's both! The wind has been howling all day and it was damp and chilly. Then, around midday, the sun came out. Then the clouds blocked it. Then the sun came out again. The wind kept howling.

I made a slaw/salad base with some shredded cabbage and carrot, diced sweet red pepper, basil, oregano, and balsamic vinaigrette. Veg man has been having these small pointy heads of cabbage and I love them, so I've been getting one each week. Last week I did not see them until we'd paid and were walking away. I chose one and went back up to his counter to pay him for it and he told me to just take it. This week I spotted them in time. I made a nice big container of the slaw and can add stuff to it for lunches for the next few days. Today I added a few cubes of garlic and chive cheddar, black pepper cheddar, and a crumbly plain cheddar, some sliced cucumber, and cherry tomatoes. Yum!

After we ate lunch and I finished my library book, we went off to the shop on the edge of town to pick up some strong wholemeal flour and a few other things. It felt cold when we walked outside and the wind hit. Then we turned the corner and the sun came out and it felt hot. The colour of the water was interesting--a sort of grey-green, which did not get captured by this picture.
There was something about the way the light was interacting with the sun, clouds, and water that made it striking to me when I first saw it.

By the time we got home, it was chilly again--someone commented on how biting the wind is today and that's a good way to put it. We put the groceries in the kitchen and grabbed the stuff going back to the library. I put the kettle on so that when I got back I'd have a head start on my cuppa! Of course, the library was roasting so by the time I got out of there with my loot, I was way too warm. I made my cuppa anyway.

We have leftover soup to have for supper tonight. I made a quick veggie soup with a little chicken in it last night and there's enough left for tonight. I used a bag of the green beans Bill grew in his garden last year--now I have one left in the freezer.
So it's a soup and a salad kind of day. I had the cold salad earlier today when I was chilly. Hopefully by the time I heat up the soup I will have cooled off again. Maybe I should open a window.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Four Years!

Today it’s been four years since we arrived in Ireland! Hard to believe it’s been that long, but I can honestly say that not a day goes by that I do not think about how grateful I am to live in this beautiful country. I never met Bill’s grandmother, but it was through her that he got his Irish citizenship, which helped get us here.

We landed at Shannon, where a driver picked us up and brought us to the B&B in Oranmore, where we'd booked a room for a week. Beyond that, we had no clue where we were going to go and where we would live. A week later, we moved into the apartment in Ballinrobe. was our good friend!

This is what we arrived with four years ago:

We have rather more now, but even so, most of what I see around me is not mine, but is stuff that is part of the dwelling we rent. I like that a lot. Stuff can be quite a burden and, with a few exceptions, I hold physical things very lightly. That said, I have to admit that I am quite happy about having replaced some books and, thanks to Bill, kind friends and charity shops, my yarn/stitching supplies collection is no longer meagre. And we have a funky old coffee maker given to us by a friend which I am quite fond of, too. Some stuff really does make our lives better!

And, of course, better than any of the stuff are the new friends we've made here, the many nice people we've met, and the interesting stories acquaintances have shared with us. Thanks to technology, we can keep in touch with old friends, too.

I hope this day treats you well, wherever you're spending it.

Monday, April 2, 2018

My New Tote Bag

I have lots of bags. Bags of all shapes, sizes, construction, and with various handles and straps are all around the place. We have bags that smoosh up into the attached pouch for easy carrying. These have the right kind of handles for carrying in your hand, but not the right kind for comfortable carrying on the shoulder. They're handy to carry around in their pouch in case they're needed--we've used them for carrying groceries, unexpected charity shop purchases, and even to pick up sticks for the fire when we've been out walking. We have a large burlap bag that is great for hauling home bulky groceries, carrying books to the wee free library, or bringing stuff to the charity shop--Bill found it while we were out walking one day last year. We have a new muslin bag with the Donegal County Library logo on it--the shape of that is perfect for carrying milk without having the jug fall down and of course, for carrying books to and from the library. Bill doesn't care for the bag because the strap is too long for him to carry it at his side and he doesn't like putting it on his shoulder. I prefer to carry things on my shoulder, so I use it when appropriate. Over the years, I've learned that when walking everywhere having the right bag for whatever is being carried is important to avoid pain and discomfort. For years I practically lived with my backpack on my back-- if I was outside without it, I felt weird and like I was missing something. But I've gotten to the point now where I don't need to carry it around all the time. If I am just going for a walk or we're taking the bus somewhere for the day, there's no need to wear a backpack that is mostly empty. This is especially true in summer when it is hot. So I decided I wanted a tote bag that I could wear on one shoulder and hanging across my body when out walking. I wanted it to be flat, easy to carry, and big enough to hold a spare hat (you never know when the weather will change here and I have found it helpful to be prepared--fortunately both Bill and I have a hat for any kind of weather condition that might crop up),  a book and/or a small stitching project, my little camera, my stainless steel coffee mug, and some food. I wanted it to be machine washable and sturdy. And I did not want a stretchy strap. I gathered some acrylic yarn that was given to me--Red Heart Classic. It's tough stuff and the colours are nice. I started making squares. Liked the squares, but not for this bag. I decided to keep them for a future project, unless I needed the yarn for the bag. I didn't. I started again and ripped out what I had. I think I repeated this a time or two more, before I finally decided to just do the Tunisian crochet simple stitch short row hexagon. So I made two of them, crocheted around each, crocheted them together, and then made a strap.
I always like the Tunisian simple stitch with multi-coloured yarn and/or scraps and it's a dense, sturdy stitch if done with a smaller hook than I'd normally use for Tunisian. I used a 5.5mm hook for this project. These hexagons are fun to make--just make a chain that is about half the width you want the hexagon to be. Some people prefer to start with one stitch and do one more each row. I start with a stitch in each chain and do one less each row, until there is one stitch left. This creates one smooth edge and one sawtooth edge. Stitches for the next wedge are picked up along the sawtooth edge and again one less is stitched in each row. For this bag, I began with a chain of 29.

For the strap, I kept chaining and measuring to get the size I wanted from one side of the opening to the other. I did this with the darker green. When I had a chain that was just a bit shorter than I wanted (the strap will stretch a little bit in use), I slip stitched to the other side, turned, and did single crochets  back to the other side. I dropped the darker green, leaving a loop to use later, picked up the lighter green, and did triple crochets across, slip stitching to the body of the bag on the other side. I cut this yarn and finished off that colour. then I went back to the darker green on the other side and did slip stitch surface crochet on the triples, turned, and did a row of single crochet back across in the top of each triple, before fastening off and weaving in ends. The strap seems to be pretty sturdy and without much stretch, which is what I wanted.
This was my mindless upstairs project. I finished it the other night and have yet to decide on what the next mindless project will be. I felt a bit adrift last night as I listened to podcasts without the yarn running through my fingers! I will have to figure something out before tonight's podcasts!

Here's hoping your week has started off well. It's a bank holiday here and raining, so it's fairly quiet in the neighbourhood.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Last of Last Month's Books

Another month begins--it's hard to believe that the first quarter of 2018 has already passed us by. A new month means a new book list, but for now, here's the rest of last month's reading. 📘

Uniquely Felt by Christine White
This book was fascinating. Most of it was about different kinds of wet felting, although needle felting was briefly mentioned. I am not likely to ever engage in wet felting, for various reasons, but I love needle felting and the possibilities it offers and this book had a lot to offer anyway. The author discusses felt in general--how the process works, what fibres felt well and how, what to look/feel for when felting, and more. She discusses her own process. She provides short vignettes of other felt artists. She provides some sample projects for people who want to practice and gives tips about how to tweak things, if desired. The photos are well done. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, learned some new stuff, and am glad it was in the library system for me to find!

Angels by Marian Keyes
This is the third book in the Walsh family series by this author. It may well be the last one of the series I read. Out of the 4 books by this author that I’ve read, this was the one I liked the least. This is probably more about me than her, to be honest. The writing was good and there were funny moments, as in her other books, but I did not engage with the characters or the setting. Maggie and her husband are having problems and they split up. Her childhood friend, Emily, invites her to come to LA where she is working as a writer of screenplays. Emily has had a brush with success, when one of her screenplays was bought, but no movie was ever made and things got desperate. She is frantically working on a new screenplay and decides that if she can’t sell it, she will have to give up, when she learns about Maggie’s situation and invites her to stay. Maggie goes, planning to stay for a month while she comes to terms with the end of her marriage. She quickly becomes enmeshed in Emily’s social and professional life. I could not connect at all. They went shopping a lot and I don’t care for shopping. I was not interested in the superficial people or the whole Hollywood thing. Unless it’s a documentary about a subject that interests me, I don’t watch movies. I read stuff and I listen to stuff while doing something else. Sitting and watching usually drives me nuts. So I did not give a hoot about that world. I did not care what happened to any of them. The best part of the book, which I did enjoy, was when Maggie’s parents and two of her sisters decide to visit LA too. At one point, they go to the premiere of an arty movie made by one of thefriends of Maggie and Emily. Mr Walsh is quite confused when it ends, expecting there to be more. ‘Where’s the rest of it?’ he asks, ‘That’s no ending!’ Maggie’s sister is a bit more direct. ‘That was shite,’ she said. I had the next book in the Walsh family series on the bookshelf, having picked it up at a charity shop. I looked at it, decided I did not care enough to invest the time, and put it in the wee free library.

My Buried Life by Doreen Finn
I came across this book in the e-book section of the library under Irish authors. I’d not heard of the book or the author before, but I am glad I stumbled across it! Eva has been living in New York City, but comes home to Dublin after her estranged mother dies. She is in her childhood home and has to face some demons--the same demons that drove her to alcoholism and NY. Her great-aunt lives in a garden flat and they get along well, but Eva has a lot of buried issues to come to terms with and she finds out some things that were new to her. She spends some time thinking about the past and how things unfolded, even as she tries to figure out how to move forward. The ending did seem a little bit trite, as a new character was introduced quite near the end and things sort of hurtled to a neat and tidy conclusion after that, but I enjoyed the book in spite of this.

Wintering Out by Seamus Heaney
A poetry collection

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
I was not familiar with this poet-artist’s work when I came across this book in the e-book section of the library website. I’ve since learned that this is her second poetry collection and that the first one was #1 on the Times Book Review bestseller list. She often performs her poetry and she does visual art as well. The book includes her poems and drawings. It is quite a powerful collection. Some of these poems took my breath away. Themes range from the end of a love relationship, intimate partner abuse, rape and its aftermath, immigration, patriarchy, female infanticide, and more.

A Dark Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell)
This is the first book Rendell wrote under the pen name Barbara Vine. I picked it up in a charity shop. It was a strange book in some ways. I wasn’t sure I was going to continue with it after reading the first 25 pages or so and then not picking it up for a few days. Then I decided that I should make a decision about whether to place it in the pile for the wee free library then or after I’d read it. I picked it up and gave it another shot and ended up reading the rest of it that day. The book begins with Vera, the narrator’s aunt (her father’s twin) about to be hanged. From there the story moves forwards and backwards as the narrator, Faith, corresponds with a writer who wants to write a book about the case some years later and asks for her help. She thinks about events in the family history, goes over her memories and in some cases, reinterprets them, talks to other family members to get their memories, and discovers new information in the process. New mysteries are uncovered by the would-be author in the course of his investigations. In the end, nothing is resolved. The new mysteries remain unsolved and the questions surrounding Vera’s actions remain unanswered.

Here's hoping for a wonderful start to a new month!