Friday, August 31, 2018

Whoosh! Books, Too!

I've had an unplanned blog break for no particular reason. While July seemed to pass at glacial speed, August seems to have whooshed by me somehow. Isn't it always the way? When it's hot, sunny, and highly annoying, the hours seem to stretch into days and when it's grey, rainy, and a bit cooler, they speed right up. People often complain that winter lasts forever. This is never the case for me. It comes, it blows by me, and is gone. Summer, on the other hand, goes on and on and on and on.

This morning we stopped at the tourist info centre so Bill could print out a page of cross-stitch charts for me. It was sunny and I know it's hot in there, so I stayed outside, reading some poetry on my e-reader and enjoying the sights of the harbour. There are not as many sailboats on the pier these days. This boat was heading back in.
Earlier, I'd seen this plant in the bank--not sure what it is, but I like the red leaves.
The sun is setting earlier, the kids are back in school, the fireweed has gone to seed, and some leaves have started changing colour. When I feel myself getting a wee bit grumpy because of the bright sun and warm temperatures, I remind myself that autumn is just around the corner!

When I'm not wandering around town, I'm doing the usual happy things, like stitching and reading. here are the first few books on my August book list:
Full Circle: My Life and Journey by Ellen MacArthur
I had not heard of this woman before, or if I did, it wasn’t a name that stuck in my mind. A friend mentioned her in the course of a conversation and said she’d written some books, one of which was about the thing she’s best known for, which is circumnavigating the globe in a sailboat by herself in what was a record time when she did it. I was intrigued, so immediately did a search, found out the name of the book, went to the library website, found it, and placed it on hold. I’m so glad he brought her up because I loved this book. The author, who grew up in a landlocked part of the UK, knew from a very young age that she wanted to sail. She focused on that dream and started sailing and winning awards at a young age. She was a competitive sailor and was a part of many races. Eventually, after breaking the record for the fastest solo sail around the world, she began to feel herself becoming interested in the earth itself and the creatures we share it with. She continued to sail for a time as she worked through her evolution and explored what the next chapter of her life might look like. Now she encourages people to understand that we cannot keep simply extracting things and expect that to go well. We need an entirely new system that will allow for sustainability and she thinks people have the capacity to do it. She’s trying to make more people have the will to do it. As I was reading about her time in the southern ocean, as she was sailing and when she went to stay on some islands there, I was thinking about how incredible the things she was seeing must’ve been, even as seeing some of the damage caused by humans even in that remote part of the planet was sad.

The Sing of the Shore by Lucy Wood
This is a collection of 13 short stories in which the sea plays a role. A review described the stories as miniature thrillers and I’d agree with that. Some of the stories leave the reader slightly off balance. In each, we see some aspect of life in the ‘off-season’ when the holiday homes are empty and the tourists are gone. I enjoyed this book a lot.

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
I loved this book. I sat down to read a bit of it one day and ended up zipping through the next few hundred pages to the end. As I was reading, I was thinking how history repeats itself over and over, politically speaking. One theme of the book involved so-called ‘purity tests’ within movements, which are evident in various social justice/human rights movements, the environmental movement, as well as in both major political parties in the ‘United’ States. This story begins in 2006, with Greer Kadetsky who is off to university. It is not the Ivy League university she got accepted to and wanted to attend, because her space cadet parents (her mother is a library clown by profession, which is a comic touch, but also, we later find out, a worthwhile occupation) messed up the financial aid applications. Her father thought they were too complicated so submitted them incomplete, assuming they’d get in touch with him about what needed finishing. They didn't. So Greer is glum about going to a college that lacks prestige, especially since her boyfriend is off to an elite school. She is lonely, goes with another new student to a frat party, is violently groped by a misogynist frat boy, reports this assault, and is angry when he gets off with a slap on the wrist. Greer finds it difficult to speak up for herself, so it takes a lot for her to raise her hand and ask a question when feminist icon Faith Frank comes to speak at the college. After the talk, Faith and Greer have a conversation in the restroom and Faith gives Greer her card. Greer hangs onto the card, but does not contact Faith until after she has graduated. When she does contact Faith, it is to inquire about a job at the magazine Faith has been running for years and she gets an interview, but it’s too late for the magazine. Another opportunity presents itself, however. The story goes on from multiple points of view and we learn about Greer, Faith, Cory (Greer’s boyfriend, who experiences a shocking loss), Greer’s friend, Zee--what came before in their lives and where they are now. The story ends in 2019 with a misogynist (and despicable in many other ways) president in office and a bittersweet realisation that, although progress had been made, in the ‘United’ States, there was much going backwards and some battles were going to have to be fought all over again by a new generation. This is not just a story about the women's rights movement, but encompasses the battles for human rights in all areas--intersectionality is an issue on which one important plot twist revolves and is a theme throughout. It avoids easy stereotypes and presents characters who are trying to live in self-awareness, and to do good things, but who wrestle with how to do these things. How much change can be made before the backlash starts to erode the gains made? The book brings up important current issues in the form of a very well-crafted story that entertains while making the reader think.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Summerfest Saturday

Summerfest is going on in various places around town.Bill and I went to watch and listen to a few things this afternoon and I did some short (all less than a minute) videos to capture the mood.

First, all the way from Letterkenny, it was the Donegal Ukelele Orchestra, which was quite fun. I am not sure what I expected, but there was an interesting mix of songs by The Kinks, Dean Martin, Tom Jones, Cyndi Lauper, and Creedance Clearwater Revival.

Then, from the hills of Donegal, it was Fiddle and Folk.

After that, we came home for a while and walked back down to the pier to watch the tug o'war matches--one and two. The team in the black shirts, from Harbour Bar, won handily.

getting ready

picking up the rope



handshakes afterwards
In the second set, one side didn't have enough people, so they took volunteers from the crowd. Team Centra (in black) won 2 tugs in a row, but in the finals they were no match for Harbour Bar, even though there were two little girls yelling, 'Go Centra!'
team centra--2nd guy from the left kept almost losing his shoe
More events are planned for tomorrow on the final day of Summerfest--it seems like a nice community event.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Finding Pots and Potting Plants

We headed out to the charity shop this morning on a day that has been pleasantly cool and breezy until it's roasting with the sun beating down upon my less-than-thrilled self. There were even a few sprinkles when we started out. Alas, they did not last long, but there are supposed to be more on the way. I live in hope.

As we got into town, the white of the ship really stood out against the grey sky.
Not long before this, the sun was shining brightly on the water and the sky was blue.
It's been going back and forth all day. It's quite nice when the sun isn't out.

We found what we'd been looking for at the charity shop--a plant pot that was the right size to re-pot our jade plant in. We've been checking and finding some nice pots that we've now used for other plants, but weren't having luck spotting a bigger pot until today. So, pots and plants in hand, this afternoon we went out did some potting.

I posted a while back about my aversion to pinching off bits of plants, even though I know it's good for them. I pinched off lots of coleus bits and as is my wont, I stuck some of the stems in water, where they grew roots pretty quickly. They have a new pot. I have more in the kitchen window. I might be living in a coleus forest, if this keeps up.
I have a plant upstairs (not a coleus) that I brought as a cutting in a jar when we moved from Moville. It had started life as a wee cutting with maybe 3 or 4 leaves on it and grew and grew. because of my aversion to cutting, it grew and grew and grew and grew. I finally re-potted and trimmed, putting the trimmings in water. They grew roots. I planted them. Everything grew and grew. I trimmed and kept a couple of cuttings and planted the rooted bits. We brought a dozen or so plants to the charity shop for them to sell there. We got a couple of tiny spider plants at the same charity shop and they're growing well. Bill also picked up an aloe plant there that has just a couple of stalks/leaves (not sure what they are called) on it and has been growing ever since. It got a new pot today, too.
In January, Bill picked up a couple of pieces of a Christmas cactus that had broken off from a plant. The plant was gone, but the broken segments were there on the shelf outside the shop. They would have been thrown away, so he brought them home.
They didn't do so well in the water, but a couple of segments were hanging in there, so Bill stuck them in dirt and then they were happy. We gave them a new pot today as well.
There are more new segments coming on one of the pieces that's bent towards the window--they're just not visible in the photo.

We'd like to find a philodendron to put in the living room, which does not get much light. We never see houseplants around here, though. It's possible that Aldi will have a selection of small cacti at some point. They have in the past. If they do, we will get some. We have a couple of small ceramic pots that would be perfect for them.

I took a couple of the plastic pots we had and planted some chard seeds in one and coriander in the other. Not sure how they'll do, but I already had the seeds, so no harm in trying!

I hope there are some good things growing in your part of the world today!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Down from the Sky and Up from the Ground

I was just starting dinner prep when I looked out the window and saw the rainbow. It hadn't even been raining, as far as I know.

Earlier, I'd been outside admiring some of the fuchsia in the front garden...
...along with these yellow trumpet-shaped flowers.
I love this place.

May you find something to love about this day, too.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Post-Bank Holiday Tuesday

We went to Donegal Town this morning to go to the library. The Diamond has been sporting the bunting for weeks now and the Abbey Hotel has gone all out with the flags.
I think this all went up because of some sporting events, but not sure whether they are still going on or whether they've just left it up for tourist season. Ether way, it's kind of festive.

I knew I had one book in at the library and four others in transit. I hoped to get those today, but honestly thought that since yesterday was a bank holiday, I probably wouldn't. I was wrong--they were all there. Woo-hoo!
I was particularly chuffed about these three, all of which appear to be brand new. I know the tatting one is new to the library because I periodically do a keyword search and last week was the first time I saw that on the list. I was surprised , but delighted, when I found the kumihimo ones in the system. I've watched lots of videos, but I learn best from books, so am looking forward to settling in with my kumihimo disk, some thread or yarn, and the books. I also got a novel I've been looking forward to reading and an Irish language for beginners book and CD.

After we were done at the library, we walked around a little bit and then called in at Aldi before it was time to get the bus home. We'd read that the Animals in Need group really needed cat food donations because they are rescuing lots of cats this year, so we picked up a couple of bags while we were in Aldi and dropped them off at the nearby charity shop that they run. While there, we also picked up a couple of books. I took a cosy mystery that takes place at Christmastime in the Cotswolds. Another time we were in there, I found a book in the same series that takes place at Halloween. I've set them aside and will read them when it's the appropriate season and then they can go in the wee free library.

The gladioli are still spectacular and seem to be enjoying life in our living room, even if they are not arranged, but just plunked into a jug.
After supper, I went outside and cut off spent flowers from the front garden and got to enjoy more floral beauty. It's been a nice day here. I hope it's the same in your neck of the woods!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Is This the Best Way?

It's the last day of a bank holiday weekend here. The next one will be the weekend before Halloween. There have been a lot of cars, camper vans, and vehicles with canoes on the roof going down the road. So one might think it would be a good time to set up a charity drive. I am not sure whether setting up what was essentially a roadblock charity collection was the way to go, but I leave that to more experienced people to decide.

Down the hill at the bottom of the lane that comes up to where we live, the road widens a bit to accommodate cars dropping off and picking up the kids at the vocational school. Last week, there were sandwich boards out saying there would be a road collection for Donegal Hospice on Saturday. That's a good organization worth donating to and we've often seen people in the middle of the road wearing high viz vests and holding out buckets to passing motorists, collecting for various causes. This time, they took it a step further by parking a fire truck in the drop-off zone and placing cones in the lane to block it off. There was a pick-up truck from the fire department parked in the middle of the road and one guy for traffic going one way and another for traffic going the other way. If you wanted to get in or out of town on the main road, you had to stop in the tailback that was created.
We were out in the afternoon and traffic was backed up about a quarter of a mile. Some vehicles turned around. Some people rolled up their windows before they got to the guy with the bucket and looked straight ahead. Some rolled down their windows and threw something into the buckets. It's not that I think donating to a hospice is a bad idea, but I wonder whether this is the best way to get people to do it. I suspect that some people donated because they felt they had to and others, who might have donated in other circumstances, did not, simply because they didn't like it being in their face to that degree. When we've seen this in the past, it was usually (but not always) at an intersection or a light where traffic would be stopped anyway. We have no traffic lights and the intersections are further through town where there is not as much traffic, so I understand why they set up where and when they did. I hope they had a good collection. They sure annoyed a lot of people in the process, though.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Bee-ing Nice

We walked through town today to drop off the bottles and tins for recycling. On our way, we passed the tourist information centre, which had pretty flower boxes on the railing outside. I stopped to look at the flowers when a bee flew right into this one.
I was already standing there with my camera out, because I was taking a picture of this incredible purple beauty when the bee flew up, so I hardly had to move.
Later, our landlord stopped in to give me a bunch of hydrangeas before he left to go back to Dublin. What a nice thing to do! He'd been here for a few days doing a bit of work around the place. He has a big garden out front and did some work on that while he was here, too. He'd cut the flowers from there. I told him I love hydrangeas. He said there's an apple tree in his garden and he's cleared it out a bit so it's easier to get around down there--things were a bit overgrown. He said they're good apples and should be ready in a couple of weeks, so we should go help ourselves. We will do that!
And I have some gladioli in here from a friend's garden, too.
So beautiful!

I realized I never did finish posting the July book list, so here's the end of that:
The Cow Book: A Story of Life on an Irish Family Farm by John Connell
This book was written by young man who comes back to Ireland from Australia to help his dad on the farm. They have cows and sheep. He mixes his own personal history and observations/feelings about farm life, village life, various relationships between family members and other villagers with sections about the history of cows and the cow/human relationship, cross-cultural views on cows, Irish folklore and history, and occasionally comparisons with other animals.

Ancient Irish Legends by Padraic O’Farrell
A collection of stories from Irish folklore that the author likes and has put into his own words. I came across this in the e-book section of the library website. Many of the stories revolve around cows and since I read this directly after The Cow Book, I found myself reading more in-depth stories that were briefly described in that book. 

Death and the Seaside by Alison Moore (e-audiobook)
I downloaded this e-audiobook from that section of the library website. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but soon I was gripped by it, wondering how the story would unfold. The narrative is from different points of view. Bonnie is about to celebrate her 30th birthday and her parents make her move out of their house. She is trying to write short stories and has a couple of cleaning jobs that don’t pay much, but with her parents’ help, she takes a ground floor flat in a house that’s been renovated into flats. eventually, she meets her landlady, Sylvia Slythe, who comments that she knew Bonnie’s mum, and even Bonnie herself when she was quite young. Sylvia is weirdly interested in Bonnie’s writing--both the autobiographical short story she is working on as well as the thesis she was working on before she abandoned her degree program. Why is she so obsessed with Bonnie and her work? Why is Bonnie in the situation she’s in and why does she have such strange dreams? Why does she always need to be on the ground floor? What is this thing about jumping? And what role does literature play in all of this anyway? The Guardian, in a review of the book, says this:
‘Death and the Seaside is a challenging book. Dense, complex, thought-provoking, it manages to be at once a fairytale and a philosophical treatise, high-octane thriller and literary interrogation. Like the dreams that haunt Bonnie’s night-times, it holds its secrets close, and repays careful rereading.’

I hope you are surrounded by niceness and beauty today, too!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Getting Into Kumihimo

Four or five weeks ago, I was reading a blog post written by a woman who tats and knits. On this day, she was talking about doing kumihimo--a Japanese braiding technique. My interest was piqued, so I googled, watched a few videos, and got all excited--as you do. I knew I could make my own kumihimo-style loom out of cardboard to do some basic braids, but decided to look for a foam loom that would give me more flexibility. I knew I could get them from various online shops, but I went to ebay and found two for a euro with free shipping, so Bill ordered those. They arrived yesterday and last night I tried one out, making a basic two-colour spiral braid.
You can use any kind of yarn/cord/thread for this. I used some worsted weight kitchen cotton for this because the texture is smooth and it's thick enough that I could see what I was doing. I love the way this came out and am excited about trying various kinds of braids--there are a lot of different things you can do, with and without beads. A good introductory this one, which also shows examples at the end of some of the results the woman got from different kinds of yarn and thread. I also like the Prumihimo channel.

This is what my loom looks like:
 They also come square so you can make flat braids. It was recommended in one of the videos that I watched, that you mark the one that you use for thicker cords because eventually, the slots could stretch out, making work with thinner cords more cumbersome. Since I have two looms, I'll use this one for thicker yarn and my other one with thread.

Fun stuff!

I hope there's some fun stuff in your day as well!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Creeper No More and Books

One of the things I loved about this place was the creeper that grew up the side of the building, especially when it turned red, which it was just starting to do. It framed the windows, which was nice, although it was starting to become too much downstairs around the kitchen window, where it wanted to grow right inside. Apparently, it was causing problems up near the roof as well and allowing water and possibly a critter into the building. Since structural damage had become likely had the situation continued, the creeper is being pulled down and is now in piles out front. It's kind of a bummer, but I see why it needed to be done. Our kitchen seems almost too bright now that the leaves are gone from the window, even though it's a grey, rainy day.

Continuing on from my last two posts, here is more of my book list from July:

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
This book was recommended in one of the book related emails I get. I clicked over to the library website and put it on hold. A couple of days after I picked it up, I sat down, opened it, and was hooked. I kept reading until I was done, finishing it after midnight in bed. ‘Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. 1977, May 3, six thirty in the morning, no one knows anything but this innocuous fact: Lydia is late for breakfast.’ That is how the book opens. From there the narrative moves forward and backward in time as the reader learns about how things unfolded within the family up to that point and slowly discovers what happened to Lydia Lee. The Lee Family consists of Marilyn and James Lee, the parents, who both bring different scars to the relationship with each other and eventually, their children. Marilyn wanted to be a doctor and was always the lone woman in her science courses, where she was patronized and undermined. James is an American of Chinese descent, which makes him an outsider who always wanted to fit in. Their children are the only ‘Orientals’ as they’re called by the white people in the book, in their schools. Nathan is the oldest child, Lydia in the middle, and Hannah is the youngest. Both Marilyn and James project their own needs onto Lydia. Nathan and Hannah are pretty much ignored. Hannah becomes a careful observer. Nathan looks forward to getting out. Lydia has no one to rely on except Nathan. I could relate to so many of the issues that drove the family. Even though the details and backgrounds were different for me, many of the larger dynamics were the same.  Beyond all that, it’s just a really good story written by a talented writer. I am looking forward to reading her latest book, Little Fires Everywhere--getting closer to the front of the queue!

The Little Book of Craftivism by Sarah Corbett
What is craftivism? How does one go about it? What are the benefits? What’s the point? The author, who is the founder of The Craftivist Collective, provides the answers, along with a couple of projects, in this fun little book.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Let me start by saying that I loved this book. At times, it took my breath away. I was not sure I would like it, but I decided to request it because of the Alaskan setting. I’d never read anything by this author before, but the book was part of a list of recommendations that were in an email I got. The way it was described made it sound like it might be a bit too ‘fluffy’ or romance-like for my tastes, and I suppose there was an element of that, but not enough to detract from the book in any way. The author has spent lots of time in Alaska since she was a kid and it shows in the beautiful way she describes the landscapes, the seasons, the light in summer and the winter dark, how it feels to be there, and the characters who inhabit the bush village where a good part of the story takes place. At one point, she says that for people who are not born in Alaska, but end up there, they’re either running to something or away from something. That seems about right, based on my experiences living there for almost a decade. The story is told from the point of view of Leni, who is 13 when the book opens. Her mom, Cora, had her when she was 17 and the two are very close. Leni was young when her dad, Ernt, went to Vietnam, where he was captured and spent time as a POW. He was a different man when he returned. Now he might be treated for PTSD, but this was 1974 and such things weren’t talked about then. he had a rough time, unable to keep down a job, unable to sleep well because of nightmares, becoming more unhinged in winter and when it was dark, and generally not coping. Cora tries to sooth the troubled waters, but is not very successful at this. One day, Ernt learns that his war buddy, who did not make it home, left him his homestead in the Alaskan bush and off they go, in a VW van. They are not prepared, of course, for what will be required to survive there. The community rallies around to help and teach. They arrive in the summer so things look like they could be heading in the right direction for this little family. But then winter arrives, with the extreme, life-threatening cold and the darkness and things change. I won’t say anything else because it would spoil the story, which is a page-turner. It really was a case of me becoming lost in the book. I would stop reading and look up, just kind of blinking, and need to take a few minutes to get my bearings. As I was reading, I felt like I was right there with these people. I’m glad I decided to request it in spite of my initial misgivings!

Wherever you are today, I hope it's a pleasant and peaceful day.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Happy August and More Books from July

On we go into a new month! Yay!

Here's a continuation of the July book list, the first part of which can be found here.

Days of Awe by A. M. Homes
The newly published collection of short stories by this author, who also wrote May We Be Forgiven. I loved this book, even though I had to just stop and sit for a while after one or two of the stories. One set of characters appears in two of the stories set years apart. The author happened to be on BBC Radio 4‘s Open Book a few weeks ago, and during that interview, she mentioned that the same characters had appeared in previous short story collections.

Cowslips and Chainies by Elaine Crowley
A memoir recounting the experiences of the author growing up poor in 1930s Dublin. One of the reviews set this work against the books of Alice Taylor, who also writes about her life in Ireland, but in a rural setting and in a tone that is much more idyllic. In Crowley’s book, written in a very straighforward way, we see great cruelty and hardship, but also great acts of kindness and solidarity, joy and pain, and hard lessons learned.

Coming Home: One Man’s Return to the Irish Language by Michael McCaughan
I found this book on the shelf at the Donegal Town library one day. I loved it! The author is an Irishman who has been a journalist in South America and has learned to get by in some languages and communicate well in others (besides Englsh). Like almost all Irish children, he had compulsory Irish language classes as a boy, but, like most of them, he did not learn much Irish in them. Irish and English are the two official languages of the country. Most people are not fluent in Irish. He decided one day that he wanted to become so, and he set out to learn, even though at that point, he was still spending most of his time in South America. He began listening to the the RTE Irish language radio station via the internet. This was useful to him, but he started pretty specifically--he realized that the obituaries on the radio came on at the same time every day and used the same words every day, so he listened to those at first. The author talks about his own difficulties learning Irish, the ways he learned and attitudes towards the language and language learning, among the general public and in classes. There are many ways in which the Irish language issues remind me of various issues around language in other places, especially things I observed while studying and working with Inupiaq Eskimo. The author has some good insights. At one point, he says that to speak Irish in Ireland is to be treated as a second class citizen and reflects on why that might be so:

‘We are a colonised people, a condition that outlasted the declaration of the Free State in 1921. We have two governments on this island, a direct consequence of occupation and plantation. One can agree or disagree with existing arrangements, but one cannot deny the reality of a divided country which carries with it the imprint of a brutal past and the legacy of a post-colonial mindset. This condition is buried deep within and emerges in strange ways.’ (p 253-254)

I think he’s right about the fact that the history as a colonized country still has an impact on cultural attitudes today. It was pretty clear to me quite soon after we arrived, that living in a country that was, historically, a colonized country that gained independence less than a century ago would be different than living in a country that was a colonizer, and was built on genocide, land grabs, and slavery. As an aside, it has been interesting for me to discover how much more comfortable I feel being here than I ever did in the country in which I was born and I think that this history has something to do with that. The author goes on to say:

‘The Celtic Tiger era, for all its wealth and sham, brought a new conviction to the Irish people with regard to their country and its language. the blighted langauge of hunger and poverty became, in the minds of many people, the language of plenty, sparking renewed interest.’ (p 256)

This book would be a great read for anyone interested in language preservation and language learning.

The Shelter of Neighbours by Eilis Ni Dhuibhne
A collection of short stories by this Irish author. The stories are set in Ireland and many involve different people/families living in a particular street. I came across the book in the e-book section of the library and enjoyed it a lot.

May this new month be full of good reads, creative endeavors, and moments of quiet joy.