Sunday, September 30, 2018

Good Month for Books!

This was a great month for books. There were some good ones and some excellent ones. Some I'd been waiting for for months and some were new discoveries. Here are the first couple:

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
This is the second of Celeste Ng’s novels and, having read both this one and the first one, I can’t wait for number three! She is excellent at writing from the point of view of the outsider in suburbia and at looking past the pretty facades to examine the dysfunction lurking within. This novel is set in Shaker Heights, Ohio, which is an actual place where the Ng spent part of her childhood. It was a planned community that still has strict rules--no garbage cans in front of the house, even on pick-up day. The truck comes down the street and a person on a scooter rides behind each house, collects the bin, brings it back to the truck, empties it, and brings it back. Grass can only grow so high before it must be cut or the city sends a warning to the owner--cut it or we’ll do it for you and send you the bill. They try (unsuccessfully, of course)to hide class divisions by requiring any multi-family dwelling to look on the outside like it is a single family house. It was thought, and possibly still is, that by rigidly planning these kinds of things, everything will be harmonious. You can guess how well that works.
As with her first novel, Everything I Never Told You, the opening sentence is great:

“Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer; how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.”

From there, the book goes back in time to tell the reader how this came to pass. We learn that the Richardson family is an economically comfortable Shaker Heights family. Mr Richardson is a lawyer and Mrs Richardson is a journalist on the small local paper. They have four children, one of whom is not like the others in terms of her comfort level and difficulty finding a way to belong in the family, home, and community. Mrs Richardson has inherited a house with two apartments, the bottom of which is rented by an older Chinese immigrant. The other has had more tenants cycling in and out and is vacant. Mia Warren, an artist, and her daughter, Pearl, rent it. Pearl becomes friends with the Richardson kids and spends a lot of time at their house. Mia becomes close in different ways with the different Richardson kids. Tension is created in all of these relationships.

Various members of both families get involved in different ways when a well-off childhood friend of Mrs Richardson, who has tried for years to have a baby, is offered a Chinese baby that was left at the local fire station. The baby’s mother, who is struggling to make ends meet, gets her act together and decides she made a mistake and wants the baby back just before this couple was due to finalize the adoption. A court case follows. The novel takes place in the 1990s and I recall these kinds of cases being in the news at that time.

Issues of class differences, ethnicity, belonging, exclusion, privilege, and definitions of family are themes that run throughout the book. One thing I like about Ng’s work is that, because she has always been an outsider, she sees things from that perspective. In a BBC World Book Club podcast I listened to, someone asked her about the fact that she refers to white people as white people. She replied that white people are used to being just thought of--and they see themselves--as the default, so the descriptor isn’t used. But, as she rightly pointed out, that is what they are. In calling attention to this, she aims to remind people, in this time when people on the left and the right of the political spectrum like to howl about the wrongness of identity politics, that white is an identity too. I was very pleased to hear her saying this--it brought to mind the many times I would have white students come up to me after class and say, with almost a sense of wonder, that they never realised that they had a culture, too. They thought the way they lived was ‘just the way things are’ and that it was those other, different people who had a culture. Those moments made me very happy, indeed. So did this book, which I highly recommend.

Killjoy by Ann Cleeves
This is the fourth of the author’s 6 Inspector Ramsay books. This time, he and his obnoxious, arrogant sidekick, Hunter, are called to assist a neighbouring police force who is having trouble with thefts of property and cars. A young woman, the lead in a local theatre production, is found dead in the director’s car. She was from the housing estate where people with low incomes live, but had moved into the suburban home of a woman who also works at the theatre and her daughter, who was the understudy in the play. Eventually, Ramsay untangles the web.

Here's hoping October is full of pleasant autumnal/springtime moments!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Kind of Day

This morning, as I looked at the wind and rain, I thought that it might be a tomato soup and grilled cheese kind of day. When we went out in the afternoon, it sort of was and sort of wasn't. Walking in one direction, with the wind at our backs was one thing, but on the way home we were walking into the wind--a whole other experience! It was brisk. Soup and sandwich seemed like a very good idea then!
I made an extremely simple and quick chunky tomato soup. I had a couple of sweet red peppers that I diced and put in a pot with a puddle of olive oil along with diced onion and chopped garlic (4 cloves, I think). I stirred the veg around until it was softened, then added a couple of tins of chopped tomatoes in juice and some tomato puree (tomato paste in the US). I rinsed the cans and poured that water in the pot and added some oregano and basil. I let it simmer for a while and then whizzed it up with my stick blender, leaving it a wee bit chunky. I had a little bit of leftover whole wheat penne, so I threw that in the bowls and ladled the soup over. I made grilled cheese on my indoor grill. It was a delicious simple meal--the best kind!

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

Monday, September 24, 2018

Twiggy Wreath: A Perfect Fit!

A friend recently gave me a twig wreath. I love twigs, bare branches, driftwood, etc, so I was quite happy to receive it. It's the perfect size for little embellishments, and it'll be easy enough to switch said embellishments as seasons change. First up, autumn. I've been doing some little cross stitch leaves using bits of thread and scraps of aida cloth. I wasn't sure if I would hang them on the wreath as they were, or make some kind of background. This morning, I thought of shells, so I went into our beachcombing tin and found a few with holes. I also crocheted some small maple leaves from scraps of sock yarn.
As it happens, it's the perfect circumference to act as a frame around the small round mirror that's attached to the door.
I like it! Makes me smile.

Hope there's a lot to smile about in your world today, too!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Happy Autumn Socks and Stuff!

The autumnal equinox was at 2:56 this morning here. Yay! The difficult spring and summer months are behind me once again and my best time of year has begun--cooler temperatures, less daylight, more darkness, and less sun. Everyone gripes about how winter lasts forever and summer goes by in a flash, but I gripe in the opposite direction. Spring and summer feel like they will never end and I struggle every year. Autumn and winter fly by and before I know it, I am back to working at making the best of the miserable seasons. But I do not need to think about that now. I know what steps I have to take when the time comes, but now I can leave that behind for a while, relax, and enjoy the peace of the best time of year. I am sure there will be sunny days that are too warm for my taste, but the quality of the light is different now and the longer hours of darkness allow for cooling overnight, so it will not stick around.

I finished a pair of socks this afternoon. I cast these on a couple of months ago and left them on the table downstairs, picking up the needles and working some stitches here and there as the mood struck.
As always, I started with the cuff and cast on 68 stitches on size 1 (US) needles. I wanted these to be slouchy, so I alternated a few rounds of knit with a few of purl instead of doing ribbing. When I got to the heel, I switched to size 0 needles and proceeded. I did the foot on 72 stitches--knit 7, purl 2 across the top of the foot--ending with a star toe. The sock yarn was a gift from a friend and is a couple of shades of purple with brown. I love it and I still have two skeins and a couple of scrap balls left, which I have some plans for.

I put out some of my autumnal stitching to celebrate the turn of the season.
needle felted background with cross stitch and sea glass embellishment

the opposite side of the one above--two-sided to hang in a window
needle felted background with driftwood, beads, shell, sea glass, and pottery shard
needle felted leaf coaster

crocheted placemat made from scraps

crocheted placemat made from scraps
crocheted romanian cord with large beads from deconstructed charity shop bracelet and small metal pieces from a charity shop shirt
placemat from scraps--Tunisian crochet with scrap lengths of yarn woven through stitches
crocheted lace
crocheted lace
maple leaf crocheted with scraps
It always makes me smile when I put up my seasonal things after not seeing them for many months. I hope this first day of autumn brings you things to smile about, too.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


In Donegal Town this morning after visiting the library, we saw that the Forget-Me-Not Gift Shop has their Halloween stuff on full display and some sidewalk decoration.

€65 for that pumpkin!

I was thinking that they should have an authentic/vintage Irish jack o'lantern in the window, since they originated out in Ireland. They were carved from turnips, not pumpkins. They're pretty creepy looking! You can see them here.

During our first Irish autumn, I was listening to a radio documentary on Halloween. Older people were wistfully talking about how it was different when they were kids. One person just cut to the chase though, and said, 'We gave Halloween to the Americans and they sold it back to us.' I guess the €65 price tag on one of those pumpkins in the window illustrates the point!

Hope it's a lovely autumn/spring day in your neck of the woods. We're expecting a storm, so the wind is gonna blow!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Unicorn Giggles: A Hat

I had some yarn leftovers when I finished my cowl the other day. I had a ball of the multi-coloured Unicorn Giggles colourway, a mini hank (45 yards) of one of the blue gradients that had been duplicated in the set, and some small bits of the other gradients. I looked at them and thought, 'Hat!'--as you do. So I took the mini hank (which I'd already wound into a ball) and the same 5.5mm hook I used for the cowl, and began making a series of foundation double crochets. I kept placing the strip around my head until it was the size I wanted--the two ends meeting when slightly stretched. Then I made half double crochets (hdc) along one side. When I was at the end, I brought the beginning around to form a ring and kept on making half double crochets, around and around without joining at the end of each round. When working in the round, by inserting the hook for each stitch in the very back loop of each hdc, the front two loops get pushed forward. I like the way this fabric looks, feels, and behaves and I've used it a lot, especially for hats and sock cuffs.
I love this hat--the colour, the stitches, and the fact that it's so soft, squishy, and cosy!
 When I reached the end of the blue, making sure I had a long enough tail to weave in well, I switched to the Unicorn Giggles and did a few rounds of that, before switching to a scrap ball of the gradient. I did this all the way up the hat. I did not worry about where the blue/teal stripes ended. I wanted to use as much of the yarn as possible, so I switched colours wherever necessary when I reached the end of a scrap ball.

I happened to be working on 72 stitches, which was convenient when it came time to decrease for the crown. I usually do 6 or 8 decreases per round on hats like this, so I could simply begin by placing a stitch marker at the beginning of the round and proceed to make 10 hdc and then hdc2together all the way around. On the next round, I did 9 hdc before hdc2together around. The next round was 8, and so on. I stopped after I did a round of 1 hdc, hdc2together around, then, leaving a long tail, cut the yarn, threaded the tail into a tapestry needle, wove the tail through the few remaining stitches and cinched the top closed.

If the number of stitches had not been divisible by 6 or 8, I would've done a round of evenly spaced decreases to get to the number I needed.

This is a simple, quick hat that works with any thickness of yarn and an appropriate hook. It's great for using scraps. You can be random about colour placement or more organised. In this hat, which I made for Bill a few years ago, I used some black wool I had left from another project along with a ball of Noro yarn with long colour changes--alternating on each round. The black was a fingering weight, so I used it double stranded.

You could opt for a crocheted ribbing to begin, instead of the foundation dc, or you could begin with a regular chain. Make the hat as tall as you want it--longer for a roll brim. I have a hat I made like this using aran weight scraps and a 6mm hook. I roll up the brim most of the time, but when it's particularly windy, I pull it down and it covers my ears nicely.
You can see what the reverse side looks like on the rolled up brim
To add a bit of texture, I sometimes do a random round of dc.
This is a strand of grey and a strand of black--both fingering weight--worked together as one strand

 Even after making the tall cowl and the scrappy hat, I still have a small scrap ball of Unicorn Giggles left to be used in some other scrappy project.

Now to decide on the stitches I want to use for the next project. I'm going to starting playing with the gigantic cone of rust-coloured yarn a friend recently gave me. I've already had fun considering what to make and thinking about how to make it. More fun to come in the making and wearing!
 I hope there are fun things happening in your world today, too!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Unicorn Giggles Hot Off the Hook!

This afternoon I finished a cowl that has been floating around in my mind for several months.
A friend sent me some lovely yarn for my birthday last year, some of which was this set:
The colourway of the large hank is called 'Unicorn Giggles.'
As soon as I saw it, it told me it wanted to be a cowl and that the stitches should be curvy in some way. I would think about this as I was working on other projects. We were in limbo then, thinking we might be moving, but not knowing where or when. I was working with yarn I had on cones so that I wouldn't have to pack them. Then we did move and it was hot, humid, and not really the time to be working with my wooden hook and wool. I told myself that I would save the yarn and the project for the cooler weather of September. This was something to look forward to and to distract me. I could let my mind wander as I considered how I would make the cowl and when I was doing that, I wasn't thinking about my discomfort in the heat. I thought about knitting it, but decided I wanted to crochet it. I went through my stitch dictionary, narrowed it down to chevrons or shells, and chose the shells. I knew I wanted it to be tall, but not too wide, because I wanted it to sit around my neck without hanging down, and also tall enough to pull it up over my face and ears if I need an extra layer. I briefly considered making a scarf that could be wrapped several times, but no, it wanted to be a cowl.
looking forward to the day I can wear this without overheating and having the glasses steam up!
The other day, I was ready to begin, so I wound the yarn as I listened to podcasts. Then I began swatching. The yarn is a fingering weight (#1) it says, but it's a bit heavier than most sock yarn of the same weight. I swatched with G, H, and I hooks and ended up going with the I (5.5mm). Normally with fingering weight, this would be too big, even though I'm a tight crocheter, but this yarn is slightly heavier and the resulting fabric is so wonderfully squishy and soft.

The small hanks are gradients and I decided to go from darkest to lightest. There were 5 hanks, but 2 were the same shade, so I set one of those aside. I did a series of foundation dc (in US terms) that was long enough to go around my head, but not too long. Then, using Unicorn Giggles, I did a row of the shell pattern in the sides of those stitches. It's simply sc and 5-dc shells alternating, with a couple of spaces in between to start, then just make the shells in the sc and sc in the middle dc in the shell. I wanted to work in the round, so at the end of the first row, I brought the beginning end around to where I was and kept working, then I used the tail from my beginning slip knot to sew the small space closed as I was weaving in the ends. Making the first row of stitches flat and then joining is much easier when making a long chain to begin--at least I find it so. It's less awkward and I don't have to worry about twisting.

I did two rounds with the Unicorn Giggles, then a round with the blue, then 2 more with the Unicorn Giggles and so on. I did 3 blue rounds with each shade and three rounds of Unicorn Giggles in between blue sections.
This just makes me happy! I love the way it looks. The colours are gorgeous, the stitches work well with them, and it is exactly how I wanted it to come out when I started. If the cooler weather ever comes, I suspect I will be wearing this a lot. And if it doesn't, I'll just sit and look at it and squish it. 😀

I hope there's something making you happy today, too!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Happy Surprises!

Last night, Bill switched on one of the lamps in the living room and the bulb blew. We have a light fixture that hangs from the ceiling, but it has multiple bulbs and it's both too bright and unnecessary for us to have several bulbs burning at once, so we almost never use it. This morning, we went off to get a new bulb. I hoped we would be able to find a compact fluorescent, but was prepared to have very little/no choice. It would not have surprised me to have to buy an old-style incandescent. In Moville, we had no choice but to buy an incandescent bulb for the lamp and we had to pay €5 for it. The only other option was to buy a ridiculous 200W (incandescent) bulb which was certainly not desirable or energy efficient! The only CFL bulb we found had a base that was too small for the lamp. So, I was quite pleased when we discovered LED bulbs in the shop here today. I can remember when I worked in a 'sustainable' goods store (where not everything was actually environmentally friendly or useful) and LED bulbs were the only kind of bulb the owner stocked. At the time, they cost $30 and up, depending on wattage. I was told that they would last 40 years or something like that. This was usually not convincing enough to convince people to buy them, but they were often interested in looking at them and finding out about them, since they were new at the time. We were chatting with the guy in the shop today about the fact that the price has come down quite a bit as we gave him the €5 euro for the bulb. I suspect it will not last 40 years, but that's OK. It's the most energy-efficient option, so I'm glad to be able to choose it and a little bit surprised that such a thing is available here in this small town!

Since we were just around the corner from the charity shop, we went in there and immediately headed for the book room, where I found a couple of happy surprises!
 I'm intrigued by the women's stories about gardening. I'm quite interested in the history and experiences of women's labour, so I was happy to find this--it's a different angle than that taken in books I've read in the past. I've read a lot about women's domestic labour--cooking, making clothing, running a household, parenting--but never about gardening, so this will be new to me!

I had not heard of the other author--Mavis Doriel Hay--but I discovered from reading the back of the book that she was a writer in the 'golden age of crime writing' category, so I brought the book home. I enjoy the writing of the women who wrote during that era and I was thrilled to find a new-to-me author! She only wrote three detective stories, all published in the 1930s and re-issued a few years ago by the British Crime Classics Library. I googled her when we got home and learned that the one I got was the first of her books and the third and last is a Christmas themed one. Bill looked that one up and found a copy at an indie bookstore in the UK, so that one will be on its way to me shortly. I also found out that she was really interested in rural village life in the UK and, under her married name of Mavis Fitzrandolph, and sometimes in collaboration with others, she wrote books about that subject. Her primary interest was in rural handicrafts, especially quilting. I'm so glad that I discovered her today!

This is one reason I love poking around the shelves and piles of books in charity shops. We haven't had any used/indie bookshops in the small villages we've lived in, but the charity shops always have lots and lots of books--this is certainly a nation of readers!--and we've found some gems. As a bonus, when we pay for them, we know the money is going to various good causes. Sometimes we find books we plan to keep and sometimes we know we will read them and pass them on, donate them back to the charity shop, or put them in a wee free library. It's all good.

I hope you experience some happy surprises today, too!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Funky Fungi, Fabulous Flowers, and a Frustrated Visitor

Library day today, so off we went this morning to Donegal Town. I knew I might have a pile of books in today and the books I was returning were just two paperbacks, so it made sense to walk around with those when we got off the bus and go to the library later.

We saw this weird stuff, which wasn't there last week:
These wee flowers are cute:

We called in at the Animals in Need charity shop, where we each picked up a couple of books--Bill got a couple of novels and I got an older vegetarian cookbook and an Elizabeth Bowen novel.
When we got to the library, I saw these and remembered how I loved them when I first saw them a few years ago. I'd forgotten about them, since I haven't seen any elsewhere.  I still love them.
I did indeed have a pile of books waiting for me at the library.
After we left the library, we went to sit in The Diamond for a while. Then it got darker and there were a few sprinkles. We crossed the street to the bus stop area and took shelter in an unused doorway to watch the rain bucketing down.
After it stopped, an acquaintance stopped for a chat. Then, just before our bus pulled up, another small bus dropped off a group of passengers. It must've been a tour or something--a temporary sign on the side of the bus said something about a group in Illinois. There were maybe 10 people who got off the bus and one woman was miffed because she could not buy things in shops using US dollars. She was clearly frustrated. I was amused and also thinking how ridiculous it is to travel to another country only to be pissed off because they don't want your currency in small shops. She was in Donegal Town, which meant that she had not just landed in this country and would have had ample opportunity to change money at whatever airport she presumably arrived at, not to mention the ATMs that are all over the place, which would provide her with euros. So even if she was unable to get them before leaving the US, she would have had many opportunities to do so here. But she just keeps on wandering around with her green bits of paper wondering why she can't use them. I was thinking about Lionel Shriver's book, The Mandibles, in which US dollars suddenly become worthless when the rest of the world decides they've had enough of whatever the US is throwing at them and they decide to use another currency. As I used to tell my anthropology students, money is a cultural construct and those bits of paper only have value as long as enough people agree that they are worth something. If something happens to change this, they won't be worth the paper they're printed on. I hope this woman has gotten some euros by now and has relaxed a bit.

Walking home after the bus dropped us off, I admired again the hydrangea in front of the local hospital.
I've only seen that deep red colour once before, a couple of years ago when we were in Clifden--it's so pretty!

I'm looking forward to starting the new Poirot. It just came out and I was first on the hold list, so I plan to read it and get it back for the next person. These newer Poirot novels are written by Sophie Hannah and they're different from Agatha Christie's in some ways I can't quite put my finger on, but I have a soft spot for Poirot, so I read and enjoy them. Now if someone would do more with Miss Marple!

I hope it's a lovely day in your part of the world. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Mind in a Whirl!

A friend recently returned from a trip and brought me some thrift store goodies! My mind is whirling with possibilities! What great finds these are and what a wonderfully kind thing for her to do, using precious luggage space to bring this stuff back for me.
First, there's this lot:
The hanks are handspun merino wool and the others are also wool. The cake is blue faced leicester and the two skeins are Norwegian wool.

I cannot believe she lugged this behemoth home with her!
As you can see, it's about 7 1/2 inches across the top and is fingering/laceweight. There are thousands of yards here! And the colour is perfect for the season! I think it's a wool/acrylic or nylon blend. I am wondering if it might even be a sock yarn because based on the burn test I did, it's mostly wool, with just a bit of synthetic to leave that melted bead at the burnt end. The proportion would be right for sock yarn. I could make socks with it and I may well do. I'll be able to make lots of things to go with those socks, too. This is a cone that will go on and on and on.

Finally, there's this:
This is a little over 1200 yards of cashmere and silk!

So many possibilities! I will have such fun deciding what to make with all of this wonderful yarn even before I have the great joy that comes with the actual making! I can see many happy hours of planning, knitting and crocheting ahead of me. Bliss!

In addition to the yarn, she also brought a small twig wreath. That will be fun--I will add small seasonal decorations to it. I have some Christmas ones already that I tatted and crocheted from sewing thread. They're about the size of a euro/quarter. I will make some small cross-stitched Halloween bits, then will change to autumn leaves, then winter/Christmas and will see what comes after that. Hearts for February, Celtic knots and shamrocks for March, flowers for April and then I am not sure, but something will comes to me.

Thank you, T, for the fabulous surprise! I am one happy woman! 😁

Now I am off to make some tea and think about yarn!

I hope there are some happy surprises in your day, too!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Green and Red

Signs of autumn are becoming more abundant now. I am always on the lookout for the first yellow leaf on the trees and I've been following the progress of one tree in particular for some weeks now. I'm seeing more and more yellow every morning when I look out the window. Now the red is coming on, too.

I don't know what this is, but it's very striking.

The bottom one is spreading--there are several new plants popping up all around it.

This one's growing right out of the wall.
Leaves are starting to drop.
One shop was showing their support for Tyrone in the All-Ireland Football Final, but Dublin won again--4 in a row for them.
And in a slightly different, but related sort of green, I saw this sign in Lidl this morning.
There is still too much plastic, especially in the fruit and veg section, but Lidl does seem to be actually trying to increase the amount and number of items sold loose, which is a good thing. Other stores talk about doing this, but I've not seen much of it actually happening.

I hope it's a colourful day in your part of the world, too.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Lazy Day and Books

It's a lovely lazy day here today. I've already finished a piece in a larger crochet project I have ongoing and will probably do a bit of tatting later, possibly while listening to a podcast or some music. I might knit the heel flap on the sock I have on the needles. I plan to read and drink tea. I had some yoghurt in the yoghurt maker overnight, but it has to sit for 24 hours before it gets strained, so there's nothing to do with that today. I will make more bread tomorrow, but for today, we have enough. There are leftovers for supper. Today, nothing is required of me. I try to keep Sundays as such days. I find them quite refreshing.

Here are the rest of the books I read last month--on lazy Sundays and every other day!

Craeft: How Traditional Crafts Are About More Than Just Making by Alexander Langlands
This is the back cover of the book, which has an excellent summary of this wonderful book.
He is writing here about an older meaning of the idea of craft than how we think of it today. He discusses making things (like stone walls, baskets, etc) and doing things (growing, keeping animals, etc) in ways that work with the landscape/ surrounding area instead of just bringing in heavy equipment and tearing the ecosystem apart to extract things or building with materials that are not up to the job. I was surprisingly interested in the chapter in concrete, for example, and how it is not 'breathable.' I had a whole new way of thinking about our time in a mold infested apartment in an old building that had been renovated using modern building materials. He's got a lot of respect, as I do, for people who have the knowledge and skills to make things work using what is around them, understanding that things are interrelated.
This is a book that I originally borrowed from the library, but a couple of pages in, I knew it was one that I would like to own. I am glad I get to keep it and there are lots of underlined passages and notes in the margins.

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
I’ve only read one other Patricia Highsmith book and that was one I picked up at a charity shop a couple of years ago. I’d heard a lot about her on various books podcasts and knew she was a bit dark in her outlook. Recently, Bill and I were talking about books and stories made into films by Hitchcock--I may have seen some of these, but have no recollection of them, as I do not enjoy movies and don’t bother with them, unless it’s a documentary on a topic which interests me. Anyway, this book came up in conversation, so he requested it from the library. The basic plot is that two strangers meet on a train--one a troubled alcoholic rich kid with a fixation on his mother who feels like his father is always picking on him and the other an up and coming architect who is married to a woman he’s been separated from years before and who is pregnant, having taken up with various men over the years. The troubled alcoholic is pushy and won’t leave the architect alone. The latter drinks too much and talks about his wife and how he wants a divorce. he plans to marry a politician’s daughter once his career is off the ground. Pushy alcoholic comes up with an idea that he should kill the wife and the architect should kill his father and no one would know. Architect wants nothing to do with this plan and thinks he’s rid of Pushy Alcoholic, so goes off the Mexico with fiancee. He gets a bad feeling when the wife is murdered. he is not keen to become a murderer himself, but PA engages in some serious mind games with him. I am not sure how I felt about this book.  On the one hand, I did find it to be a page-turner after a while, although it was slow in the middle. But it was sort of creepy, which is what the author was after, I suppose.

Rain: Four Walks in English Weather by Melissa Harrison
In one of my book emails, a recent novel by this author was mentioned. It sounded good, so I looked it up at the library. It didn’t come up, but this book did, so I requested it. I am quite fond of rainy days and walks, so I was looking forward to it. It’s a slim volume, but she packs a lot in--from observations about the landscape during and after rain, to the effects of rain on plants and animals, to the history and geology of the landscapes she is walking through. If you are a fan of nature and being outside, this is a great book to read.

A Few Figs for Thistles by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Second April by Edna St. Vincent Millay
poetry collections

When Last I Died by Gladys Mitchell
This is one of the author’s Mrs Bradley mysteries, of which there are 66! I vaguely remember watching a series years ago on PBS with (I think) Diana Rigg in the title role. I don’t think I watched more than one or two of them. Then I listened to a dramatization on BBC Radio 4 at some point, but again, didn’t feel the need to go further. I found this a bit surprising because I am usually quite a fan of this kind of character, setting, and genre and Mitchell was a contemporary of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers. I like much of the work from that era. I came across this book in the e-book section of the library website and decided to download it. I was pleasantly surprised! The TV and radio versions didn’t grab me, but I enjoyed the book a lot! So now I have a whole series of books to dive into. This one comes farther along in the series and it was no problem to come in at that point. There’s one more novel and a collection of Christmas short stories in e-book format and I will probably go ahead and check those out, but I’ve also placed the first two novels in the series on hold. The librarian expects them to come in on Tuesday, so I’ll start from the beginning and go from there.

I hope you're enjoying a peaceful day today, wherever you are.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Hooked! And Books!

Another month begins and, according to various media outlets, summer is now over in Ireland. How I wish it were so! We went out today and by the time we got back, Bill was doing even more grumbling about being hot than me! Lucky that no one needed to interact with either of us in any meaningful way, because we were both a bit grumpy by the time we got home. It's cooler inside and there's no sun, so that's good.

The Hooked! Seafood Festival is going on today, so we walked to the other end of town and took a look. We watched the filleting demo that was going on and I was remembering my sad attempts 20+ years ago in Alaska. It was our first full summer there and we found out that a big truck was going to show up at a spot in a neighbouring town to give away fish. I guess they'd had the eggs stripped at a processing facility in the southern part of the state and they didn't want anything else, so they trucked the fish up. We queued up with a cooler and got lots of fish that I attempted to fillet. They were pretty ragged looking fillets. My technique can use much improvement.

There was this sad reminder of what we, as a species, are doing to the planet.

We went into a tent where various products were displayed and where someone was cooking something seaweedy, but it was hot, steamy, and crowded, so we didn't stick around.

The festival takes place at the tourism college, which is a satellite campus of Letterkenny Institute of Technology. There was a chowder contest or something inside, but again, there were too many people in a not-big-enough space, so we didn't hang around. That is my one quibble with the event--the lack of space made it difficult to move around and to see what was going on. Had they had things more spread out, it would have been much better. Still, it was interesting and seems to be popular. Maybe no one else cared about the heat and the lack of space!

Now we're home and I have a new novel to start--one that came in this week after being on my hold list for months. I'm looking forward to it. Here are a few more of the books I read last month (when it was still summer!).
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
I saw something about this book in one of the book related emails I get and something in the post struck a chord. I no longer remember what that was, but at the time, I recalled seeing the book in the e-book section of the library website, so I clicked over and borrowed it. It was a good book with a few useful reminders about how creativity works in practice and the importance of working through the difficulties that come with being someone who lives on the cultural and societal fringe.

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
I’d downloaded this book a few years ago and never got around to reading it. Just as well, I suppose, because I had a completely different experience with it than I would’ve had I read it when I first got it. The many ways in which it felt like a novel set in today’s USA would not have been quite so blatant then. The story is about a fascist candidate, named Buzz Windrip, who is elected president. Of course, during the campaign many people did not take his candidacy seriously, stating over and over that such a thing could not happen there. They learned otherwise. Lewis did a good job of describing how such things do happen--rallies complete with violent thugs, racism, misogyny, a candidate that speaks in a way that gets the crowd whipped into a frenzy, but with no idea what he actually said, and unrealistic promises are all utilized to good effect. One thing I really liked about the book was that the plot was not just a look at what leads up to the election, but also discussed what happened afterwards. I have always been fascinated by what happens after major culture changes--how people cope, how they resist, how they move on to build something new. I thought in the case of this book, it got a little bit bogged down in the middle, but once the focus turned to the post-election changes, it got more interesting for me.

In spite of the fact that it's a bit too warm, signs of autumn can be seen. I'm always on the lookout! 😉
I hope this first day of September is a great one in your neck of the woods!