Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The End

The last day of July has arrived. I always experience winter as here and then gone in a flash and summer as a season that draaaaags slowly on, but this July has felt like years instead of one month. I look at my book list and am surprised that it was just a few weeks ago that I read the ones at the top. Seems like they are from a more distant past.

Artwear: Fashion and Anti-fashion by Melissa Leventon
I came across this book title on the library website and requested it, only because of the ‘anti-fashion’ part of the subtitle. I sometimes joke to Bill that I am the anti-fashionista, so I was quite looking forward to this book. When I put it on hold the first time, the hold sat there, even though it said the book was on the shelf. This sometimes happens and I remove the hold and request it again, from another library if there’s more than one listing. I couldn’t request a different copy this time, since it’s the only one in the nationwide system, so after a month of nothing happening, I removed it. We moved and I placed the hold again. This time, it was placed in transit quickly. I am glad I did another request for it--what a great book! It was published to go along with an exhibition by the same name at the Fine Art Museums in the San Francisco Bay area. It explores the history and evolving philosophy of artwear, how it relates to other textile art movements, how it is used in performance, and how it relates to the world of fashion. There is a chapter on artwear within the US and in the rest of the world. The author says that, ‘Artwear...is a product of the postindustrial, Western battle of art versus craft, in which craft seeks validation as an equal to art and art seeks to maintain a proper distance. Yet it has also appeared in Asia, where the art/craft divide has not traditionally existed.’ (p 8) The book is packed with wonderful photos of example after example of artwear, some of which are meant to hang on a wall and some of which are meant to be worn, either in everyday life or as part of a performance piece. Knitting, crochet, and felting are all well represented. It’s no surprise that I loved this book!

Dressing Up for the Carnival by Carol Shields
This is a collection of short stories that I picked up in a Moville charity shop. I’m always on the lookout for short story collections and I’d read some of her work before, so I picked up this volume. Shields is quite a good writer with a really great imagination. Many of these stories started from an unlikely theme--a window tax and how a couple of artists coped with having to block their windows, authors and their creative processes leading in unexpected directions, keys--all provide inspiration for the author to delve deeper into minds and hearts. She nails academic jargon--there were a couple of times I laughed out loud. I like her writing at the sentence level, too. In the story, ‘Keys,’ she says this about one of the characters:

‘As a very young child, not more than six or seven years of age, she understood that she was scheduled to have a double existence--an open life in which her actions were plainly visible, and a hidden life where thought and intention squatted darkly. This powerful separation seems wholly natural to her, not a thing to rage against or even to question. The real world, of course, is in her own head, which she sometimes thinks of as a shut room provisioned with declaration and clarity, everything else being a form of theatre.’ (p 100)

Also, the first story begins with a woman deciding what to wear that day and the last story involves an annual naturist retreat, in which clothes play a part, often by their absence. If you enjoy short stories, I can recommend this one.

We Are Michael Field by Emma Donoghue
This is a short biography of Katherine Bradley and her niece, Edith Cooper, who were partners in their personal and professional lives. They wrote together using the pen name Michael Field. They died within a 10 months of each other, Edith in December 1913 and Katherine in September 1914. Their work is not that well known and is of varying quality, according to the author. I have not read any of it, but decided to read the book when I came across it in the e-book section of the library website, having read a short blurb about ‘Michael Field’ in another book.

Parallax by Sinead Morrissey
A prize-winning collection of poems by a Northern Irish poet.

I hope it's a good day in your neck of the woods!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Watching the Clouds Roll by at Midnight

We were under cloud cover the other night when the lunar eclipse/blood moon was happening, so we didn't get to see it. Last night, though, Bill went upstairs and then commented that the moon and clouds were looking pretty dramatic, so up I went. He was right. I stood in the cool breeze at the bedroom window for close to half an hour watching the clouds move across the sky, sometimes in front of the moon. It was beautiful.

I hope some beautiful sights float your way today.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Aaah, Almost Autumnal

It has been a lovely day. I have felt such ease and none of the undercurrent of agitation I feel throughout the summer. It has felt almost autumnal today and I spent the day savouring the feeling.

I started a novel this afternoon (The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah). It's about a troubled family who, in 1974, go to live in the Alaskan bush without the proper skills and with very little money. After I'd read through page 164, which is the end of the first part, I looked up, blinking, and had to get my bearings. I was transported right back to Alaska and could visualize the landscape and the seasons, even though we didn't live in the bush and were in a different part of the state. As the author described the people, the light in summer and the dark in winter, the adaptation that's required to live a different kind of life, I was right there in that world.

At that point, which was just after an intense scene, I needed to do something else, so I made some chowder for supper. It's not something I usually make in the summer--especially not this one--but today was cool enough and I wanted to use some stuff up.

Now it's about 9:30 pm and we're having a cup of tea and some wholemeal raisin toast, which also reminds me of autumn, since I made it with cinnamon, ginger, and allspice.
And just to top it off, the coal man just stopped by, saying he used to sell coal to the woman who lived here. Bill said she moved. Coal Man asked if we burned coal. Bill said no. 'Maybe when it gets colder,' Coal Man replied. 'Maybe,' Bill said. Coal Man said he'd come back when it's colder. We're not going to burn coal and we never even put the heat on until the end of November, so when he shows up again, we'll politely decline. The idea of the fire makes me think of autumn, too, but then again, the local shop had a stand outside containing bags of coal and briquettes all through the heat wave. Fires happen all year here.

The only drawback to the rain we had yesterday, last night, and today is that it was too cloudy to watch the eclipse last night. I checked a few times in case there was a well-timed break in the clouds, but there was no moon to be seen.

I might do a bit of cross stitch tonight as I listen to the wind rustling through the leaves. I hope it's a peaceful day for you today in your part of the world.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Beautiful Breakfast

Happily, I woke up this morning to some rain and slightly cooler temperatures. The forecast is apparently for a return to a more normal summer pattern for Ireland. I hope so. Not a fan of summer, but if there must be one, a typical Irish summer of a bit of sun punctuated by plenty of rain is pretty good and I'll take it over this heatwave extreme sun nonsense we've been having.

Even I will admit that there are a few good things about summer. My breakfast this morning contained some of them.
I've been making muesli as needed to make sure I have a continuous supply. It's perfect for a summer breakfast. I keep it simple by just mixing toasted oats, coconut, raisins, sliced almonds, and walnut pieces. I can eat it plain with milk, mix it into yoghurt, and add whatever fruit I feel like. This morning, it was some raspberries picked from one of the gardens here along with blueberries and bananas. Delicious!

Here's to the yummy stuff growing at this time of year!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

I'm Not a Good Pruner...

pincher, trimmer, or snipper. I was given instructions by the resident expert who creates the beautiful gardens, pots, and hanging baskets about caring for some of the flowers and plants. This involves making sure some things don't get too leggy by cutting back, pinching off bits, and that sort of thing. I flinched as she showed me by grasping a stem with beautiful purple fan-shaped flowers and ripping it off. Still, I know she's right and that this stuff needs to be pinched/pruned/trimmed. She knows what she is doing and is excellent at what she does, so I nodded and said I would do it.
 Yesterday after our return from Donegal Town, I went outside, pinched, snipped, and trimmed. I could not bring myself to toss away what I'd cut, though, so I brought the stems inside and stuck them in a glass of water. They look nice on the mantel.
Here's to new growth!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

I Know Where Your Stuff Is!

Today we made a library run to Donegal Town. I had 6 books come in last week, Bill had a couple of CDs in, and we both had stuff to return. It was time. Because I knew we were going, I took a look at the Lidl email I got the other day and saw they were going to have some sewing thread available starting yesterday. We added that to the Donegal Town itinerary. We got off the bus in the town centre and went down a street we'd not been down before, which ran into more familiar territory. We passed some colourful doors along the way.

Brightly painted doors are quite common here, but these colours are not what I usually see.

We went over the river.
And in about 20 minutes, we arrived at the roundabout at one edge of the town where the Lidl is located. You can see that once you're through the town, you're back into a more rural area.
view from the Lidl car park
Lidl, like Aldi for those of you familiar with that store, has groceries that they stock on an ongoing basis, but part of the store is for rotating items. They have themes, like sewing, crafting, fashion, cleaning, tools, etc. They have a very limited selection of items available, but their prices are quite good. I've gotten sock yarn there in the past and would have gotten more last autumn when we were in Ballybofey, but it became available the day after we left. I'll be keeping an eye out this year! The sewing thread was only available in a few basic colours, but I picked up a cone of red, one of navy blue, and one of grey--I had to search the bin for the grey because it was buried. I shop more at Aldi because, although there is a lot of overlap in terms of what they sell, Aldi stocks more groceries that I use regularly so I go there more often. It's also more convenient, being in the town centre. But it's worth the effort to go to Lidl every so often.

After we were done in Lidl, we headed back into town and just poked around here and there until it was time to go to the library. We'd saved it for last so we would not have to carry around a pile of  books, some of them large. There were a lot of people in there and we were all picking stuff up. There were two librarians and it seemed that one was being trained. The more experienced guy was trying to find the holds that had come in. He was looking through piles and shifting books. Bill spotted his book, which had come in this morning, and the CDs that came last week. The woman in front of us had a book and the one behind us had a couple, all of which were finally found. Then he asked me my name. I told him. 'Ah, Shari,' he said, 'I know exactly where your stuff is. Three more came in today!' And with that, he walked over to a floor-level shelf, bent down, and came back up with a beautiful pile of books. As he dropped the pile on the desk, he commented that there was a library somewhere on this island full of empty shelves.
As we walked back to The Diamond to wait for the bus home, I chuckled and commented to Bill that it never takes long for me to have a reputation when it comes to libraries. They might not be able to put the name with the face right away (this is only the second time we've interacted with this guy), but they can put the name to the books and that's good enough for me!

I'm almost done with an e-book that I borrowed from the library and then I'll have to decide what to read first--I have a memoir, three novels, and a book about carftivism. There's also a cookbook in the pile--The Donegal Table, which was written by a chef from Moville. Three of the books are stitching books about various techniques. Tonight, I plan to make a cuppa or two and flip through one of them. There's nothing like the simple joy of a lovely cup of tea and creative inspiration.

I hope your day is filled with simple joys, too.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Colour, Shape, Line, and Reflection

I walked down a footpath I'd not been on before and enjoyed a new view.

I hope this new week has started off well for you.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Friday Night Pizza

A while back, we designated Friday as pizza night, so every Friday I know that I will be making pizza for supper. I always make a wholemeal crust in the bread machine, using strong wholemeal flour and oats, but the toppings are rarely exactly the same. I sometimes use pesto, either red or green. Sometimes I use fresh tomatoes. Last night, I used plain tomato puree with basil, oregano, and garlic. On top of this base, and before I added the cheese (so they don't burn), I put a bit of spicy pepperoni and some chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Then came some mozzarella and some cheddar. On top of that went chopped green bell pepper, sliced onion, broccoli, and jalapenos. We sprinkled on the Parmesan after it was cooked. It was a really great pizza, even if I do say so myself! And we had leftovers for lunch today. Yay!
This afternoon, I made some wholemeal jalapeno cheese bread in the bread maker. I had a partial block of cheddar that is crumbly anyway and had been frozen, which made it even more crumbly. Perfect for the bread. Speaking of which, it's cooled enough now for me to hack off the end, spread on some butter, and enjoy it while it's still warm.

May you enjoy some simple pleasures during this day, too.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Vintage Tea and Tourists

There are three cruise ships docking here this month and on each of those days, including today, volunteers are putting on a Vintage Tea Day fundraiser, with proceeds going to various community groups and projects. We went this morning.
The first thing we saw when we were leaving was a couple of tourists. He walked partway up the drive to take a picture of the building and she stayed down at the bottom, taking a picture of the plaque.

Music was playing in the town centre. The Bayview Hotel had the usual art/craft fair (some beautiful work there!) and had traditional Irish music scheduled to begin at 11:30. A bit further on, we came to our destination. As in various other locations around town, there was a painted bike with flowers--this time a child's bike.
Here's the sign:
Inside is a nice set-up. There was a bucket on the bar and they just asked for a donation. The volunteers asked if we wanted coffee or tea and as we all wanted tea, they brought us a pot. Later they asked if we wanted more, but it was a big pot, so we declined. The home baked goods were lined up on the bar with little plates and we were told to just help ourselves to whatever we wanted and to go back as often as we liked. We all exhibited some willpower and just had a couple of bites--a snackeen as a friend would say--but it wasn't easy, because what we did have was delicious.

We'd gotten there at about 10:30, which is early in rural Ireland, so it wasn't surprising to be among just a few other people, most of whom were volunteers. Shortly after I snapped this picture, though, the place filled up and all the tables had people around them enjoying their tea, goodies, and conversation. We thought we might blend in with the tourists, but the woman who greeted us commented to Bill that we must be from here, because she's seen us out walking.

This is what was on the other side of our table:

I suppose this side looks like this all the time--how much is genuine and how much is set up to make it look like what the tourists want to see, I don't know. Probably some mix of both.

And there are plenty of tourists today, even in the grey, drizzly, misty weather.
Queen Elizabeth--photo taken from bedroom window
dwarfing the other boats
This ship is like a floating village, carrying over 2000 passengers and over 1000 crew members. The population of Killybegs is about 1200. I guess these people are cruising around the UK and Ireland. That kind of thing wouldn't be my cup of tea, but if they're having a good time, more power to them.

I hope they're enjoying their time in this beautiful bit of the world and I hope you're enjoying the day in your neck of the woods.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

A Few Bits

I wanted a cord for a pendant I have, so the other day I grabbed a scrap ball of size 10 crochet thread in a variegated purple colour and a 1.5 mm steel crochet hook and started on a Romanian cord, which I finished off yesterday.
 I am quite smitten with these cords, whether done in thicker yarn or thinner thread.

The other day, I was scrolling through a knitting e-magazine that I got through the library website. This particular publication has a regular yarn review feature. As part of that, they always have a page that has pictures of a small motif made with each of the yarns under review, as well as instructions for making the motif. In this issue, it was a butterfly, which I quite liked, so I got a small scrap ball of cotton yarn and some 4.5 mm knitting needles and made one.
It's cute and simple and can be done with any yarn. I'll probably make some more--maybe try with thread and some really small needles one day when I'm feeling particularly nimble in the fingers.

Today on our walk, I spotted a patch of fireweed I'd not noticed before. I love fireweed. We used to have lots of it in our yard in the woods when we lived in Fairbanks. I was told to watch it blooming from the bottom up and when it gets to the top, summer is over. I eagerly look to see where the blossoms are whenever I see some. This vacant lot was so striking with the stone wall, the fireweed, and the yellow flowers in front, all against the dark green backdrop.

I hope that you come across some bright, beautiful surprises as you go through this day.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Bean Burgers and Mixed Veg Salad

Today I decided to see how the new indoor grill would work for bean burgers. I've had a recipe bookmarked for two or three years now, I think, and it seemed like a good day to try it. Of course, me being me, the only thing the recipe and the actual bean burgers have in common is two cans of mashed kidney beans.
The recipe does sound good--it's got stuff like fresh coriander (cilantro), a cup of salsa, an egg, bread crumbs, and includes a yoghurt-lime dressing. I have no fresh coriander and no bread crumbs. I have a small jar of salsa that I did not want to use for this. I was prepared to use the egg, but I didn't need it.

I mashed the two cans of kidney beans. I added half a can of chopped tomatoes in the juice. I had a couple of tablespoonfuls of red pesto left from our supper last night, so I put that in. I whizzed up a bit of yellow bell pepper, a small onion, some fresh oregano and fresh basil leaves in my chopper and added that, mixing it in well. I added some garlic granules, a bit of chilli powder, and dried parsley. Instead of bread crumbs I used small porridge oats. Then I formed this mixture into patties that I cooked on the grill. We had them on wholemeal wraps with lettuce and tomato jalapeno relish.
They're so good! The recipe said the shaped burgers could be frozen and cooked directly from the freezer, but I cooked them all and stuck the extra ones in the fridge. That's lunch sorted. I can see that they would be good with various sorts of herbs and spices. Next time maybe I'll add some chipotles, more chilli powder, and some dried coriander.

Earlier today, I made a salad with thinly sliced cucumber, sweetcorn, diced yellow bell pepper, chopped scallions, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh oregano tossed with some balsamic vinaigrette I made--we had that with our burgers. It was a great summer supper.
Here's hoping your day is pleasant and peaceful.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Tourists Have Docked

This week, we'll have two cruise ships docking in town. On Friday, the Queen Elizabeth will arrive--that is apparently a massive ship. Today is the MS Oriana, a ship that has been coming here for a few years, I think. It carries 1800 passengers (more than the population of the town) and 760 crew members.
The passengers have various options when they disembark. They can take a bus to Donegal Town or the one to Slieve League and Glencolmcille. They can also choose to stay in town. We saw a lot of them today. Some were studying the walking tour map, some were taking pictures on the pier, some were enjoy coffee/tea and baked goods at a local cafe, some were having fish and chips at The Seafood Shack by the pier. The Bayview Hotel always has an arts and crafts fair. The town seems to be doing a good job of promoting itself, because the number of cruise ships docking here has been increasing year on year.
We walked down on one of the piers and I was struck by the lines on this ship--they make a nice abstract design.
As we were walking towards the pier, I noticed this commemorative stone. I must've passed it many times since we've been back and had not noticed it until today.
Last year was the centenary of the Easter Rising--an important step towards Ireland gaining independence and there were a lot of commemorations of various kinds around the country. 

By now the passengers will be getting back on the boat if they haven't already done so, since it'll be setting sail soon. Looks like it was a good day for all the little businesses in town and tomorrow everyone can start to prepare for the huge ship on Friday. I hope the passengers enjoyed their visit to Killybegs and this part of Co Donegal.

I hope this day brings you some new experiences, too.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Simple Summer Supper

I put the ingredients for raisin bread in the bread maker early this afternoon and it was done just a while before suppertime. I mixed some homemade ricotta with some thawed frozen raspberries and blueberries and spread that on some bread. We had a bowl of watermelon chunks on the side. It was so tasty and very refreshing.
On our walk today, we came across this beautiful hydrangea bush, although the flowers looked darker in person--a gorgeous deep purple.
A couple of years ago when we were in Clifden, we saw deep burgundy hydrangeas. It was the only time I have ever seen that colour. I was bummed because even though I took about a gazillion pictures of those flowers, none captured the deep richness of the colour. It's the same with the picture above. They really are breathtaking in person!

Today, I hope you come across something so beautiful that it takes your breath away, too. Happy Monday!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Spectacular on a Sunday

One of the little things that makes me happy here is just walking around the grounds to look at all the plants and flowers. They are quite spectacular.

taken a week before the photo above it, which is of the same plant

I hope your day is filled with beauty, too.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Paying for Itself

The other day, we got a SuperValu ad in the post for a sale that began on Thursday and runs for two weeks. As I was flipping through it, I saw that selected stores were going to have George Foreman indoor grills on sale for 20 euro. I have never paid much attention to those, although I'd heard of them. But the ad did its job and I started thinking about it. The big focus seems to be about reducing fat in foods as you cook them, which was/is not my issue. My thing is about saving time and energy. I clicked around a little and 20 euro seemed like a decent price, plus I had a 5 euro voucher, so could get it for 15. I was confident that, if it worked as I hoped it would, we would save that much and more on electricity costs alone, plus I would save a great deal of time. Both the stove burners and the oven take a very long time to heat up--it has been this way in every place we've lived here. Just to cook a bit of fish or a few sausages would end up taking over half an hour by the time the oven got hot and things actually cooked through. Then, if I try to be efficient and cook a lot at once while the oven is on anyway, it takes longer to cook it all and I have to keep moving things around so it cooks evenly. Because of all that, I decided this indoor grill thing was worth a try. If I tried it and didn't like it, I could pack it back up and return it to the store.

I carefully unpacked it this evening, saving all the little bits of wrapping and stuff. Then I used it to cook supper. I was surprised at how quickly it heated up. First on was some sliced red onion and red bell pepper. In a few minutes, they were done and the peppers were still al dente--I could have left them in longer, but I liked them the way they were, so I put them in a bowl and covered it so they'd stay hot. Then I put on turkey burgers from one of the local butchers. The booklet that came with the grill said it would take 7-8 minutes for them to cook. I was skeptical, but that was right.

We hadn't tried the burgers before and were both happy to discover that we really like them. We had them on sliced brown bread with the peppers, onions, fresh basil leaves, and mashed avocado with salsa.

It was easy to clean the grill with a wet cloth. So it took me about 15 minutes and one small countertop appliance to cook what would have taken me more than half an hour with the oven on and 15 minutes or more with the stove burner on, both of which would have caused the kitchen to warm up--fine in winter, but not now. I saved time and energy. I am very pleased. There's still more experimentation ahead, but I see lots of possibilities here, so I'm glad I decided to get this. I won't be returning it unless it malfunctions during the next few uses.

This won't work for everything, of course, and I will still be using both the oven and the stove, but I'll be using them a lot less now and that's good.

Friday, July 13, 2018

It's a Yum! Kind of Day

I started the day off with a delicious (if I do say so myself!) breakfast. I mixed some homemade yoghurt with some thawed frozen raspberries and a bit of the juice, some fresh blueberries, and some muesli I'd made. The muesli is a simple mix of toasted oats, walnuts, almonds, coconut, and raisins. It takes less than 10 minutes to make a batch, because the oats are toasted in the microwave.

Yesterday I had the same, except I had a chopped nectarine instead of blueberries. Bill had his without muesli, but mixed with blueberries and chopped banana. It's the perfect breakfast for a summer day.

Shortly after we'd finished breakfast, we headed for the charity shop to look at the plant bowl we'd seen in the window the other day. It was still there, but had a big crack all the way through and did not seem very sturdy, so we left it there. We did get another plant container though. Then we spotted this:
I thought it was three pots and thought I might get one because of the size. The ones that come with the cottage are smaller and although I have used the largest one, I've wished it was a bit bigger for certain things. I went over to look and discovered that it's a pot with steamers. The top and middle sections have holes.
The only drawback was the bulk, so I walked into the book room to scan the shelves while I considered whether to buy it. I spotted this book, which I immediately snapped up.

 After a few minutes, I decided that the pot/steamer would be useful enough to find a place for, so I went back out, only to find an older lady taking the lid off and looking at it. I walked away to let her look and to wait to see if she wanted it. She walked away and we took it. I will use the pot a lot and it can double as a mixing bowl. I will use the steamers for their intended purpose, but also as colanders in a pinch. So even though I still have no idea where I'll put it, I am sure a spot will be found. I've already had reason to be pleased with the purchase, because this afternoon I used some of the whey I had from yoghurt making to do a batch of ricotta.
I thought I'd have to make it in two batches, but, with my new pot, I could do the lot in one, which saved me a fair bit of time. I might use some of this in a savoury meal and some will definitely be mixed with berries to be spread on toast. It might all end up with the berries--not sure yet.

As I type, the dough for the pizza crust is rising in the bread machine. It has another half an hour or so to go and then I will decide what to put on the pizza. Red pesto? Green pesto? Pesto mixed with ricotta? Sauce? I will put on some bell pepper, onion, jalapeno and fresh basil.

I hope this is a yum! kind of day for you, too! 😋