Saturday, March 30, 2019


Over a year ago, when we were still in Moville, I started doing a random abstract cross-stitch piece, using a scrap piece of aida cloth (14 count) and scraps of various kinds of thread. Whenever I needle tat or crochet or cross-stitch, I have bits of thread left over at the end. In the case of embroidery floss, I might have enough to put back and save for another project. In the case of crocheting, these are left after I weave in my ends well. I tend to leave long tails so I can weave in securely. When I am needle tatting, I always pull off more carrying thread than I think I'll need, because I'd rather not have to add more in the middle of a row or round if I can help it. Not wanting to waste any of this, I started keeping it in my cross-stitch pouch--embroidery floss, crochet cotton in different thicknesses, perle cotton were all saved and used. Every once in a while, I'd thread a needle with one and just make random stitches until the thread ran out. Then I'd thread another length of thread onto the needle and repeat. I had no set plans and just did what I felt like doing in the moment. When I got to a point that I felt was near the end, I did start filling in spaces and balancing colour. To finish the cross-stitch part, I did a frame of purple cross stitches around.

Then I had to decide what I wanted to do with it from there. I tried doing a collage background with watercolours and some papers, but wasn't happy with it. I considered various options, but in the end, went with needle felting and a kumihimo braid as a hanger. I used scrap ends of roving for the needle felting and scrap lengths of Homespun yarn to make the kumihimo braid. Everything started as scraps from something else. To finish, I slid a washer found on the sidewalk onto the top loop, crossed the ends over and sewed a button on the bottom and called it done--finally!
I had fun with this process. I'm ready to start the next scrapstraction piece!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Hole in the Wall

We went to Letterkenny yesterday and while there, stopped for lunch at this little hole-in-the-wall Mexican grill. It's been there for a while and even won an award for being the best takeaway in Ireland a couple of years ago, I think. Mexican food isn't much of a thing here, so I've wanted to try it for a while, but the timing was never right--either we were just in Letterkenny for a little while to get a bus to somewhere else, or we weren't there at a mealtime. Neither was the case yesterday, so we ate lunch there and it was sooo good!
There are three tables inside and we got there just before the lunch rush began, so they were all empty and we sat inside. There's a counter with a few people behind it. You start off at one end and say what you want--burritos, tacos, or whatever. There is also a 'naked burrito' option, which comes without the wrap. You can choose meat, chicken, or veggies. We opted for veggie burritos, which got built from there. We had a choice of white or brown wraps, Mexican or brown rice (we went with brown for both). You get to choose what you want, so at the first station, on top of the brown wrap and brown rice, we had pinto beans, black beans, refried beans, and grilled bell pepper and onion. Then we moved to station two, which had an array of sauces, salads, and other things. We both had medium salsa, corn salad, cheese, guacamole, and I had 'leaves' as they call them here.
There was a lunchtime special, so the two burritos and two drinks was only €11. The menu board said the burrito was €6, so even if one was not there at lunchtime, the prices are quite good. It was a lot of good, healthy, extremely yummy food. This is a really good little place and I'd go there again if I was in Letterkenny and had the time. I wasn't even sure it was still there before we went, but as were were in the roundabout heading for the bus station, I looked down the main road and saw that it was. Judging from the lunch rush we saw after we'd sat down with our food, it looks like business is booming.
In our wanderings yesterday, we passed this sign, but were not tempted to go into the coffee shop to try it.
Regular old hot chocolate is fine with me. I don't need it to be pink. I wonder how popular this is. The other side had a picture of some banoffee brownies. Those seemed much more appealing.

And now, I am off to have some lunch.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Happy Feet

Recently, I reluctantly admitted to myself that it was time to make a decision about shoes. I hate shopping, even online (when necessary, Bill does it so I don't have to), but I couldn't put it off any longer. We walk a lot of miles in our shoes and need them to be comfortable and functional. I have good hiking boots, but they only work during the cooler months, since they require heavy socks or two pair of thinner ones. As it gets warmer (and by that I mean 10C/50ishF), they become uncomfortable to wear. The Raynauds leads my toes to quickly and easily become either ice cold or burning hot. When it's the latter, it is difficult to focus on anything else except the desire to get the boots off of my feet.

In Moville, it wasn't much of an issue, since I couldn't spend a lot of time outside anyway without feeling ill. I had shoes I could wear indoors or to take a quick walk to get groceries or go to the library.  But now that I no longer have that issue, I am doing more walking again and the time had come to decide what to wear on my feet now that winter is over.

Years ago, I had severe pain, including in my feet and could not even walk around barefoot in the house, even for a few steps. The way I could walk without pain was to wear Birkenstocks, so I'd buy a pair whenever the old pair wore out. Then I stopped eating red meat and within weeks, my pain was gone. By the time we moved and I started walking everywhere, it was no longer an issue, so when I needed new walking shoes, I bought some hiking sandals to see if those would work. I got the first couple pair on sale and then a pair on clearance and the three pair (all Nike) lasted a decade, clocking up mile after mile after mile. I never did find another kind that was as good. Some have been uncomfortable or not great for walking any distance and one pair (Teva) fell apart after a few months.

So, being in need of good warm weather walking shoes, I started going back and forth in my mind about which way to go--Birkenstocks or hiking/trekking sandals. Since I had no local options at the moment, I knew I'd have to look on ebay or some other place online (we don't do Amazon). That made me lean towards the Birkenstocks with a back strap because I knew what I'd be getting and knew they'd be comfortable.  The downside of the Birkenstocks is that when they get wet, they get stiff and feel weird. Since we need to be prepared for rain during much of the year, I hesitated to buy those.

Bill found some hiking/trekking sandals with a closed toe, but large vents on the sides and an adjustable back strap. I decided to take a chance on those, since I could return them if I had to. He got a notice saying the estimated delivery date was this Friday and I woke up this morning hoping they'd come a few days earlier, since I have been walking around feeling like my feet would be bursting into flame at any moment. This morning he said, 'One of your pairs of shoes is coming today.' I thought that was a weird way to phrase it, but said, 'Oh, good! I was hoping they'd come before Friday! They'll be early! Yay!' 'No,' he replied,'These are the Birkenstocks. I figured you might as well have a pair of each, so I ordered those, too.' I often consider the fact that, while I was not as cool as I thought I was when I was 18, I did know how to pick a good husband 😀

We went and did a few errands and with every step I looked forward to the arrival of the postman bringing me my comfortable new shoes, and telling myself that tomorrow, I would not have to worry about the spontaneous combustion of my toes. When he came, I excitedly opened the box and put them on. Happy feet!
A few minutes later, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a hi-vis vest going by the window and heard a thunk as something was tossed onto our windowsill. I went out to see what it was and it was the other pair of shoes!
They were early after all, although I must say that I am unimpressed with Fastway couriers. Oh well. Happily, I should not be needing their services again anytime soon. So far, these are comfortable, too, and hopefully they'll be good to walk in. They're designed to get wet, so bring on the rain!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Just in Case

As the UK government stumbles around in search of reality regarding Brexit, the likelihood of them crashing out of the EU seems to be increasing. There are still people, including leaders of the odious DUP in Northern Ireland, making hypocritical noises about the 'precious union' and claiming that the answer is simple--just renegotiate the agreement it took 2 1/2 years to craft and get it done in a couple of weeks. These people and others seem to think that 'negotiate' mean that they will dictate what they want and the other side will give it to them, completely and quickly. For some MPs, who are trying to find a positive way forward, things have gotten quite serious--one woman was advised by police not to go home this weekend after death threats were made against her. A week or two before the referendum, an MP was actually murdered as she was in her home town speaking to constituents, so these things are taken very seriously. From what I've been reading, the UK as a whole is not at all ready to crash out and Northern Ireland has done nothing to prepare. What could possibly go wrong?

In any case, if the UK crashes out there will be serious repercussions for the Republic of Ireland. To be sure, there will be benefits, too--many UK businesses have made plans to move here or have already done so in order to stay within the EU--but for most people, there will be some negative effects.

There isn't anything I can do about the bigger picture, but in terms of us personally, I suppose I should prepare where I can. This means focusing on food for the most part. Ingredients for manufactured food products, basic food items, and much fresh fruit and veg usually enter Ireland through the UK. That means that in the event of a no-deal exit, there could be disruptions to the supplies until alternate routes are found or they streamline the new system of checks that will be required. It's quite possible that eventually, such disruptions could lead to more things being grown and produced here, but that would take some time. I'm also told that, since we live in a border county, we could expect to see people from Northern Ireland coming here to buy things, as food shortages would be expected throughout the UK.

We don't use much manufactured food, so I don't need to consider that. I sometimes buy rolls or bread, but usually I make bread and muffins, so as long as I have enough flour, I'll be good there. I'll buy an extra couple of bags of strong wholemeal flour and that should be good. We no longer eat meat, and the mackerel that we do sometimes eat is the most local food we can get here. I have local fish in the freezer. Dairy is another food that is not quite as local as mackerel, but still comes from the same county, so that should be fine, too. The same is true for eggs. We have a good supply of canned and dried pulses, but since we eat them regularly, it wouldn't hurt to get another bag or two of red lentils and a few more cans of chick peas. I've got brown rice and wholemeal pasta, but might get an extra bag of each. Porridge oats are the grain we use most, so I'd better pick up some more of those. The biggest issue, should these food issues come to pass, would be the fruit and veg, which are the foundations of most of our meals. I buy fresh and frozen veggies, and fresh, frozen, and canned fruit. For some fruits, like pineapple and peaches, canned is best. For some, like raspberries, frozen is the way to go. I prefer to use frozen peas, corn, and cauliflower, rather than buying fresh, even when available. Most agriculture in Ireland is meat and dairy, and the kinds of crops that will grow here without a polytunnel seems to be limited, so while I can sometimes buy Irish-grown fresh produce, often I cannot. We have an added wrinkle in that many of the things that do grow here are also Vitamin K rich foods and we have to be careful how much of that Bill consumes. We have plans to try to grow some leafy veggies, cucumbers, herbs, and maybe green beans, but who knows what kind of growing season it will be, whether we can protect the crops from the hares, and whether or not things will grow. Even if all that works in our favour, it will be a while before we'd be able to eat what we grow.

So after that little inventory it appears that, over the new couple of weeks, I should be sure to buy some canned fruit, frozen fruit and vegetables, a few bags of porridge oats, a bag of strong wholemeal flour and a couple bags of red lentils to add to what I already have. If there is no hard Brexit and no disruption, then there will be no harm done--I would buy this stuff anyway at some point, it will not go off,  and it will all be used.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Getting Up, Staying Up, and Wandering Around in the MIst

This morning, I woke up a little before 7:30, thinking that it was quite early enough for me to go back to sleep for another hour or two. Then I remembered that we'd planned to take the earlier bus into Donegal Town today and my heart sank. I proceeded to talk myself into getting up and staying up. I told myself that if we took the 9 o'clock bus, we'd get home earlier than if we take the 11:45 bus. I reminded myself of the library books waiting for me. I encouraged myself with the thought that Lidl might have some watercolour pencils and pens left from last week's ad. I bribed myself with the thought of the seeded soft rolls they sell in the bakery section of Lidl, which we love. 'If you wait for the later bus, you won't have time to walk to Lidl and back,' I reasoned with myself. Finally, I got up and I stayed up.

I had some crocheting to pass the time on the bus so even though we sat for several minutes at the road works, the journey seemed like it was over in a flash.

Our first stop was the ETB (Education Training Board) building, where the library is housed. There's a bookshelf upstairs that serves as a wee free library of sorts and we brought some books to leave there. We're working through our pile a few at a time. Yesterday we left a few in the wee free library here in town. Somehow it seems as though no matter how big the 'pass along' pile gets, there isn't any more space on the bookshelves/book piles. This is what happens when charity shops are overflowing with books and a certain someone lacks willpower when faced with such abundance. 😉

After we left the books (and did not pick up any others!), we went down to the library, returned a few and I picked up the 5 that were waiting for me. Then it was off to Lidl on the opposite edge of town, about 1 1/4 mile away. It was misting by then, which I did not mind--the bus and library are always roasting, so it was nice to get outside.

Bill commented that his head was dry in his hat knitted (with love) using Donegal Tweed and I reminded him to thank a sheep. I got this yarn in a yarn shop I used to teach/work in over a decade ago--well before I had any idea I would someday see it walking around in Donegal! You can see the water droplets forming a sort of halo--I love wool!
 There was plenty of green to see:

We got what we wanted at Lidl and I was pleased to see that they did have a few packs of watercolour pencils and pens left from last week. They also had a few other items that had already been on the 'let's clear this stuff out' shelves weeks ago, when I was there last, so it was a happy surprise to see those. I rewarded myself with a jelly doughnut--I haven't had one of those in years and it was tasty.

We loaded up the backpacks and headed back to the town centre. Since we had some time before we had to catch the bus home, we called in at the tourist information centre and I picked up this booklet.
 It will come in handy as we start planning day trips.
I asked the woman there about the Bluestack Trail and she gave me these cards with maps. It's a 65 km trail, so I don't expect we'll do the entire thing, but we can do parts of it at either end sometime this spring/summer.

After that, we headed for the bus and home. We had a quick lunch of reheated leftovers and then a cuppa. I have not yet looked at my library books and they are still on the couch where I dumped them. I'll look at them in a while and decide which one I will read first.
In spite of my early start, it's been a pleasant day. It's nice to be home with the errands done. And if I wake up at 7:30 tomorrow morning, I will be happy enough to turn over and go right back to sleep!

I hope your day is pleasant, too.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Getting Ready for Easter Starting in December

Yup, the first bit of Easter candy appeared in our local shop a couple of days after Christmas and has increased steadily since. Since there is still more than a month until this day finally arrives, I can only assume I will see more bunnies and eggs in the coming weeks.

When we first arrived in Ireland, it was a few weeks before Easter and I was amazed then at the eggs, which come in all sizes, from small to gigantic. I think the gigantic ones are hollow and have other candy and possibly small toys, but I don't know. In the past, I've seen the sorts of eggs one would expect--Oreo, Twix, and others. Today I saw some that I haven't seen before. It would appear that the Lily O'Brien company has a fairly extensive line of Easter chocolate.
 i'd rather not spend €25 on this--i could get a lot of regular chocolate for €25!
in case you want to go with ugly eggs

i prefer my caramel unsalted
I look at all of these and cringe at the amount of packaging. All that plastic will have to go somewhere. Bill was telling me this morning about a whale that starved to death because it had ingested 40kg of plastic.

This display was right by the door, so once I got past the shelves of over-packaged chocolate, we went and got our groceries, then went outside, loaded our backpacks, and headed home in the fog and mist.
We were walking into the breeze, which was nice, because we were both quite warm by then. Before we went to pick up groceries, we walked to the other end of town to recycle tins and a couple of jars. After the holiday weekend, the bins were pretty full, but we had enough room to stick our few things in there. We did our errands and had a pleasant 2 1/2 mile walk in the process.

I hope your day is pleasant, too!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Patrick Parade

We went to watch the parade today--our fifth! The weather conditions have been different for each one. The first two took place on sunny warm days. I felt kind of bad for the vendors at the one in 2017, because it was bucketing down steadily and it didn't seem like too many people were keen on buying burgers, chips, ice cream, or candy floss from the food trucks. Last year, it was cold and there were a few snow flurries. This year was sort of a combination of all three. We've had sun, rain, sleet, hail, a bit of wind, and a little chill. The light was such that I could not see what I was taking pictures of, so some of the pics didn't come out, but a few did, and they provide a flavour of the event.

Patrick's first task today was to try to clear the road of vehicular obstacles. I was unable to discern whether he was using the same method he used centuries ago to drive out the snakes, but in both cases, he was successful. You can just see him there on the right lane in front of the fire truck.

love the shape of the xylophone

guy on the left is wearing a T-May mask


Since this national holiday falls on Sunday this year, people will have tomorrow off. That means an extra party night for some, but for today, there were families out and about, enjoying the parade and celebrating Ireland, from elders to babies and all ages in between.
I wish you a happy St Patrick's Day from County Donegal!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Needles and Pins

I spent some time with various needles today and ended up with this pin:
I'm quite happy with it!

This brooch, which measures a smidge over 3 inches, involved a few different techniques. The Irish rose was crocheted using cotton thread and measures 1 1/4 inches. This was sewn onto a needle felted base that I randomly stitched on using 2 different, but compatible, colourways of variegated embroidery floss held together in the needle. I added the metal bead embellishments, which came from a couple of necklaces I purchased at the Animals in Need charity shop and deconstructed. Finally, I sewed a jewelry pin securely on the back.

I had fun with this one and as always, ideas were pinging around in my head as I was working on it. I might sit down with the felting needles again this evening to make another piece of felt to stitch on. Before I can do that, I'll be making some blueberry orange muffins and some supper, which I think will be mac and cheese with veggies, wholemeal fusilli and some canned wild salmon. While I'm chopping, I'm going to put mixed bean and veggie soup ingredients in the slow cooker crock, pour some boiling water over everything, cover, and let it sit until later, when we'll turn it on and let it cook overnight. Tomorrow morning, I'll add some dried mixed herbs and some vegan bouillon powder and that'll be a couple of suppers done and dusted. That will leave me more time to play with my needles and pins and thread and roving! Yay!

Thursday, March 7, 2019


We were in Aldi today and this was at the end of a centre aisle:
Neither hot cross bun nor lemon meringue seem like appealing fudge flavours to me, so I snapped a pick and moved on without putting any in my trolley. I didn't notice until I looked at the picture, that there is a box of clotted cream flavour in the back. From the amounts in the display, it looks like more people are choosing lemon and clotted cream than hot cross bun.

And for those of you who might want a pop of colour in your day, here are a few flowers that are mixed in among the daffodils and tulips in some planters.

Although it rained off and on today, when I stopped to look at the flowers, the sun was shining and the colours were quite striking!

Had some books come in at the library that I'm looking forward to--one is Irish Gothic Fairy Stories from the 32 Counties and the other is Threads of Life: A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle. I had another book come in after we'd been and gone, so I'll pick that up next week.

On the way home, the bus driver took a detour to up a hilly road to let a woman off right by her house. He thought he'd be able to connect with another road, but they'd dug it up, so he turned around after she got off and we backtracked. I think it's so great that he went out of his way to let her off at her house at the top of the hill, so she didn't have to climb with her bag of groceries. It's been a bit of a surprise to me how riding the bus regularly these past few years almost always provides me with a reason to smile, because I am witnessing people being so kind to one another in one way or another.

Here's hoping there are many reasons to smile throughout your day, too.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019


Here you see the usual school pick-up nonsense. Most days, I just marvel at the insanity from up the hill, but sometimes, I get annoyed.
The car on the right is parked in their own private parking spot in front of their home. No problem there. The driver of the blue car that is parked on the footpath was first in line--there were others behind her. You might be able to see the brand new traffic lights at the newly built crosswalk and the freshly painted road markings. All of this was recently done in order to make things a bit more orderly, I guess. Fail. As they were doing all this work, Bill and I would have conversations about how this was not going to help and would, in some ways, be problematic. They narrowed the road beyond the school by placing an island in the centre. This prevented people from parking (sometimes double parking) on both sides of the road and blocking traffic. But, as I told Bill at the time, they'll just park on the footpath. They used to also pull into the lane that leads up to where we live and sit there, or park in front of it, blocking the way. That seems to have stopped after some of the people who live here and drive had to have a word or two. People apparently needed a reminder not to block the entrance to the local hospital, as well--there are bright yellow lines and an X in front of that now.

Our kitchen window here provides us with a view of the daily chaos, as did the one in the apartment we lived in in Moville. Here it's at the bottom of the hill--it was right below us in Moville, where we frequently watched people double park and then fling open their door, causing other cars to slam on brakes. We watched people leaning into car windows to have a chat, while nonchalantly standing in the middle of the road. We watched people trying to get out through the way in, thus causing traffic mayhem. And here today, not for the first time, as I was trying to make my way home from the grocery store, I had to drag my heavy rolling backpack off the footpath and bump it over grass before heading off  into the road and back onto the footpath after I'd gotten past these unfortunate people. What about older, possibly infirm, people? Or people who are recovering from an injury or in a motorized wheelchair?  They would not have been able to get past these inconsiderate drivers. These people try to jockey for position and be as close to the school as possible to pick up children who, for the most part, could easily manage to walk a few extra steps. These are the same hordes of children we sometimes encounter when we get off the bus, as they run (literally) down to the shop to buy junk food on their lunch break, at times almost running directly into us. If mummy, daddy or grandma is a few extra yards away from the school, I think they'll manage to get to the vehicle anyway.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Take Your Pick

At the moment, we have an array of natural and cultural seasonal choices for people to choose from.

For those who do Easter or Eostre, the bunnies have arrived.
Or, there are shamrocks and a St Patrick's Day bank holiday just around the corner:
Last week, it was spring,
but this week, there's snow on the hills.

Easter, St Patrick, spring, winter--take your pick! 😉

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Resisting or Embracing Change at the Library

Over a decade ago, I briefly worked in a library. One day, shortly after I started, a couple came up to the circulation counter. He was smiling. She was not. I took her card and her pile of books and began to check them out. She began to tell me how sucky it was that the card catalogue was now gone, replaced with a computer. I smiled at her and perkily began to extol the virtues of middle-of-the-night searches on the library website. Her frown deepened and her voice became something of a growl as she said through gritted teeth, 'I liked the card catalogue.' Her companion was still smiling--almost laughing--when he jerked his thumb in her direction, tilted his head a bit that way, too, and said, 'She really misses the physical card catalogue.' 'I see,' I replied, managing not to burst out laughing. They were soon on their way. I hope that she has come to grips by now with the library website searches and no longer feels such longing for the old card catalogues. I continue to be overjoyed at the way I can come across a book title or have something pop into my head and go straight for the library website, find it, place it on hold, and have it appear, as if by magic, at my local library, even if it usually lives at a library at the other end of the country. And how great is it that I can click over to the e-audiobook/e-book section and find fabulous things there. Or, if I am in the mood for magazines, I go to the digital magazine app and read one I've downloaded. If I ever want to, I can take classes online through the programs that are available with my library card. I remember using card catalogues and they were cool, but they couldn't do all of that! 

The rest of my February book list is made possible by my library card, with the exception of the needlepoint book, which was a gift from a friend.

Falling Awake by Alice Oswald
I am not sure where I read about this poetry collection, but it sounded intriguing, so I found it at the library and requested it. The poems have largely been inspired by nature. I’m glad I came across the book!

Dead Men’s Morris by Gladys Mitchell
Last year, I came across a Mrs Bradley mystery in the ebook section of the library website and decided to give it a try. I vaguely remembered watching a show on PBS years ago, in which Diana Rigg played Mrs Bradley. Being unfamiliar with the books, I had no idea at the time how miscast she was in that role. I wasn’t in love with the episode I saw, so never watched again. There have been a few radio versions on BBC Radio 4 Extra that I listened to, and Mary Wimbush, the actor playing Mrs Bradley, was very different. Now that I’ve read some of the books, she seems far more suited to the character. In any case, when I read the ebook, I enjoyed it, so decided to read some more, starting at the beginning. I started requesting a few at a time from the library. I took a break after several of them, although I did read a Christmas themed ebook last autumn. I recently started requesting them again, and this is the first one that came in. It was not the next one on the list, but it really doesn’t matter much of they’re read out of order, so I went ahead and read it without waiting for the next two. This one turned out to take place during Christmas--I would have requested it a few months ago had I known that. Mrs Bradley goes to stay with a nephew for Christmas. He is a pig farmer. There are other guests there, both coming from afar and staying at the farm, local people coming for Christmas Day and Boxing Day, and possibly a ghost making an appearance. Of course, things work out in rather a different way than expected when one local gent takes a walk at midnight to look for the ghost and fails to return. The title comes from the Morris dancers and the festival in which they take part, some months after the Christmas mayhem, and which play a vital role in the story’s denouement.

Medieval Needlepoint by Candace Bahouth
This was a really interesting book, in which the author writes about her own artistic journey and inspirations, as well as her fascination with medieval imagery and symbolism and explanations of same. She includes photos of some of her needlepoint work that has been inspired by medieval imagery and charts and instructions to make some of them. There are some charts and portions of charts in here that I will use, but for cross-stitch instead of needlepoint. I enjoyed this book a lot--both the text and the photos--and expect I will get a lot more enjoyment from it as time goes on. It’s a keeper!

Death at the Opera by Gladys Mitchell
Another Mrs Bradley mystery. It struck me as I was reading that one reason these are interesting is that they are all written in a slightly different style. I am reading them mostly in order and noticing that Mrs Bradley’s ideas about psychology seem to evolve as the books progress. I don’t know about the history of psychology, so don’t know whether her evolving ideas mirror what was happening in the discipline in the real world.

A Spot of Folly by Ruth Rendell
I came across this in the e-audiobook section of the library website. It’s a posthumously published story collection. I usually like Rendell’s work well enough and I am a big short story fan, so I decided to give it a try. With audiobooks there is always the added issue of whether or not the reader annoys me in some way, so I was prepared to skip it of that was the case here. Happily, it wasn’t. There were several different readers and all were good, so I spent a few evenings happily listening and tatting. One story was very long and it was getting tedious, but then it finally ended. That was the only one that I felt was lacking. It was too long and in the end I felt that there wasn’t much point. One story is just a few lines long. The final story in the collection is chilling. It starts out on a jarring note, turns briefly into a happy annual family holiday on an island, and then slowly we understand that something is wrong--not with the family, but with the world out there beyond the island. I would have loved to read this story expanded into a novel. I’m glad I found this audiobook. It’s a good one.

 I hope you find some good stuff at your local library soon, too, whether you're searching in the middle of the day or at 3 am in your pjs--or maybe even using a card catalogue!

Saturday, March 2, 2019

A Few Irish Women in Books and Life

Continuing on with the February book list, I see that I read a lot of Irish women. That there is still so much more work by and about Irish women available to read, makes me very happy indeed.

The Unforeseen by Dorothy Macardle
I discovered this author through the book about modern Irish women’s literature Bill got for me a few months ago. I read her first novel, The Uninvited, and liked it. I read that this book included one of the main characters from that book, so thought it was something of a sequel, which is wasn’t, really. The main characters in this one were completely different, although a couple of the same people from the previous book did make an appearance. In this book, an artist, Virginia Wilde, who lives in a remote part of Ireland, begins to have premonitions that eventually come to pass, she is alarmed and goes to see a doctor, who refers her to a psychologist. He says there is nothing wrong with her, but invites her to dinner to meet his son, who is training to be a doctor and is interested in that kind of thing. She feels comfortable enough to take the son into her confidence and they all become friends. Virginia’s daughter is coming for a visit and she swears them to secrecy, which becomes increasingly difficult as Virginia’s issues persist, her daughter can sense something is wrong but doesn’t know what, and people get closer together, so secrets are harder to maintain.

Earth-Bound and Other Stories
by Dorothy Macardle
This is a collection of short stories the author wrote while she was jailed for her activities during Ireland’s fight for independence. Many of them involve figures from Irish history in supernatural roles.

Grace O’Malley: The Biography of Ireland’s Pirate Queen 1530-1603 by Anne Chambers
We heard this author on The History Show on RTE Radio 1 one evening and I went to the library website to request the book, which was fascinating. Grace O’Malley was quite an unusual woman in her day, who lived an extraordinarily long and unconventional life, adapting well to changing circumstances in Ireland. Regional rulers came into and went out of power and she had to figure out which way to maneuver within that. At one point, she just went and took her case to Queen Elizabeth, who was apparently impressed and offered her protection, much to the dismay of the ruler of the Mayo region (as it’s now known) at the time.

This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell
I found this book at the local charity shop recently and one day when I had finished my library books with a couple of days until we were going to pick up the next batch, I decided to read it so I could pass it on. I’ve enjoyed her books in the past and this one was no exception. Parts of the book are set in Donegal and some familiar locations were mentioned, so that was part of the fun. Claudette is a reclusive former film star who is living with her husband, Daniel, their children, and her son from a previous relationship in a very isolated part of Donegal. Daniel teaches part time at a universoty in Belfast and one day, when he is going to catch the train that will take him there, he hears a story on the radio that involves someone he used to know. He is booked on a flight to NY after he is done teaching, so he can attend a family function, but the reminder of this person from his past has shaken him and he ends up in California to visit his two children from his first marriage. As he tries to some to terms with some issues from his past, he inadvertently causes problems for himself and his family in the present.

 Here's hoping that there's plenty of good reading material in your world, too!

Friday, March 1, 2019

Book Love

When the month began with wintry weather, I celebrated with books. As spring crept in, I took refuge in books. As we swing back to more seasonable weather, I am looking forward to starting a new book. No matter how I feel or what kind of day it is, I'm never far from a book. I've noticed in the past that when I am going through a difficult time, I find interludes of peace in the pages of novels or short stories more than nonfiction. Sometimes, if I am trying to learn about a specific topic, I'll immerse myself in nonfiction books on the topic. Most of the time, though, it's a mix of fiction, short stories, nonfiction and poetry, as it was in February, beginning with these few.

Abstract Expressionism edited by David Anfam
I found this book to be very informative. It gave a nice introduction on various aspects of abstract expressionism--the history, the evolution, the artists, and the people who made it a thing (Peggy Guggenheim and Betty Parsons, primarily). Unlike a different book I read on the subject last month, this one included sculpture, like this work by David Smith.

I am a fan of abstract art. It’s not that I like all of it or that I dislike representational art. I dislike much abstract work and there is some representational work that I like, but whenever a piece of art makes my heart sing, it’s an abstract work of some kind. I spent some happy time with this book, partly because it was an interesting read, but also for the beautiful photographs of the artwork.
 The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
I found this book in a charity shop a while back, but hadn’t read it. It was always in a place where I wasn't seeing it all the time and I forgot about it until I discovered that the BBC Radio 4 Book Club discussion was with the author about this book. I pulled it from the shelf, finished the book I was reading, and read this one, so I could listen to the discussion. It wasn’t what I thought it would be somehow, but I enjoyed it a lot. The Guardian review here is not so kind to the book, with the reviewer saying it lacks plausibility. I don’t disagree with that and I had some of the same thoughts while reading, but it did not detract from the book for me, which I whipped through. The story revolves around a family in Amsterdam in late 1686 and early 1687. Nella Oortman arrives from the country, newly married to Johannes, a wealthy merchant who lives with his sister, a freed slave who now works for him, and a couple of other servants. She arrives alone and is puzzled when Johannes is not there to greet her. She is fascinated by Otto, the former slave and terrified by Marin, her new sister-in-law. Things happen that she does not understand. When Johannes gives her a cabinet house, whch is a replica of their house, things get even more strange. The book basically takes us along as Nella begins to understand what is happening and the consequences of those things play out.

Mid-Life Slices: An Anthology of Writing and Art by Women in Midlife, compiled and produced by Mary Manandhar, Maureen Howley, and Ita Conroy with additional photography by Peter Wilcock
The title says it all. This was a fun book to read. It was published several years ago, with all proceeds going to a Sligo cancer support organization.

Forbidden Fruit: A History of Books and Women in Art by Christiane Inmann
This book was fascinating. The author wrote about the history of book consumption through the ages, what sorts of books were considered acceptable to read, and how women with books have been subjects for artists. In addition to the narrative, this book is filled with photos.

And now I'm off to make some tea and crack open a new book. I hope you're enjoying a day filled with whatever makes you smile.