Monday, April 29, 2019

Scraps to Plant Pots

Last autumn, we decided to toss the rest of our chard seeds into a pot of dirt to see if they'd come up. There were too many for the pot, so I also put some in the ground. It wasn't long before we had chard coming up. The stuff in the pot got eaten as soon as it grew, but for whatever reason, the stuff in the ground grew through the winter. Bill put the pot of dirt behind our shed and we forgot about it. Then a few weeks ago, he came out holding the pot, which had a tiny chard plant growing in it. We put it on the wall so it could get some sun and it started to grow. It looked like it was going to survive, so I decided to make a better pot for it, instead of the black plastic one it was in. I rummaged around in the box of yarn scraps and came away with some small scrap balls of oily, rough wool that I'd gotten in a charity shop and used for other projects. There wasn't much and it wouldn't really work in a scrap project with other yarns, so I decided it would be perfect for a plant pot. I crocheted a circle and then switched to Tunisian in the round, using both colours until one ran out, then finishing with the brown.
I finished it off with a few rounds of slip stitch through the back loop. to narrow the top. I re-potted the chard plants and stuck in some scallion ends, too. Everything is growing--yay!

Last weekend while we were walking, we stopped at veg man's stall and walked by the plant guy. I spotted this celosia plant and fell in love with it, so bought it.
I started felting a pot the same day I came home with the plant, going through my roving scraps and choosing colours that I thought would look good with the flowers and stabbing away at it with my barbed needles. Then I quilted all over it to firm it up and make it more sturdy, using three colours of perle cotton scraps. That took a very long time, because I was making lots and lots of tiny stitches. I would be listening to podcasts and stitching away--it was very meditative and I enjoyed watching the way the colours played together and how the texture of the piece changed as I worked. But then I'd look up and three hours had passed and I had only a small area quilted! The other afternoon/night I worked on it a lot--I just wanted to get it finished, which I did. Then yesterday, I poured boiling water over it, then cold water, then more boiling water, and finally another dousing of cold water, doing some rubbing in between. I like the way this finishes things off. I let it sit and when we got home from our morning walk, I planted my celosia in the pot and gave it a drink of water.
I see that I should have made it taller. At first I thought it was too wide, but the circumference actually looks OK. In spite of the height issue, I love the way this came out. Whether or not I would make another one of this size is a different matter, since it took so long, but I'm really happy with this one.

And so another week begins. Here's hoping it's a good one for all of us!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Tea and a Book in the Back Garden

After lunch, I went outside and re-potted a couple of plants. It was nice outside, even with the sunshine, because there was a cool breeze blowing. When I was done, I decided to make a cuppa and go outside to read. Just before I went out, the clouds came, which made things pretty much perfect. I plunked myself into a chair, put my feet up on the wall and started reading. The birds were singing, the breeze was blowing, and it was so peaceful.
 The window box on the wall contains our lettuce. We are going to do some container gardening this summer as we attempt to grow various veggies.
 On this end, there will be mostly flowers. These are done by a friend/neighbour, who also has a gorgeous garden area in front and does beautiful window boxes and hanging baskets. She's been getting her hands dirty recently, now that spring has arrived!
As I was sipping my tea, I noticed the ferns, nestled in the mint, starting to unfurl.

It was such a lovely way to spend part of my day, even though the book I am reading is harrowing. It's Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham. The author is a fine writer and the book reads like a novel. I am not sure that a fiction writer could actually come up with a set of characters this inept, though. If this was a work of fiction and not history, it would be quite unbelievable as a plotline. The sheer number of people who had high ranking positions at this facility and who decided maybe they'd better educate themselves about nuclear physics (in the case of one guy, by taking a correspondence course!) is mind-boggling. And even after the explosion, the people in charge were telling the people who had seen the aftermath that they were wrong, because an explosion was simply impossible. As they sat in their bunker, the people tasked with coming up with a response plan simply denied that an explosion had occurred and began talking about fixing the problem and getting the reactor back up and running.

So, as I read about radioactive rain falling over Sweden and terrified people being threatened with bullets if they didn't enter the area around Unit 4 of the Chernobyl plant, it was nice to look up every once in a while, take in my lovely green surroundings, listen to the birds singing--and to consider how quickly it could all be lost.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

New Season

The first cruise ship of the season arrived today, bringing 600 passengers (mostly British, it seems) and 400 crew members. That just about doubles the population, at least for the day.

The town was bustling. We took wee Finn on our daily walk and he acted as a good ambassador for Killybegs, greeting people as we went along. One woman was walking very slowly with a stick, but when she saw Finn, she had a big smile on her face and was stooping down to pet him, even as she continued to walk towards us. He continued being fabulous as he accepted the admiration of the tourists.

When we had gotten through the town and were on the outskirts, it was very quiet and we didn't see anyone. I did pause to enjoy the rhododendrons, which are opening and looking quite spectacular.
After the quiet interlude, we went back through the town centre. By then the Irish music was playing near the Diamond, the picnic tables and benches were filled with people, and folks were milling about.

The ship will be leaving at 5 this evening. The next one is Italian and won't be here until 1 June. That one will be here for two days and one night and holds even more people. The new cruise ship season has begun.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Dressing Up the Bottles for Earth Day

It's been about 15 years since we bought these stainless steel water bottles and they're still going strong, in spite of a few dents and dings. The big dent in mine (the one on the right) came when it fell out of a backpack side pocket outside a library 13 or 14 years ago.
I've been meaning to make carriers for them and finally got to it this weekend.
These bottle holders allow us to carry them more easily, attach to the backpacks, and, in the heat, helps insulate and keep condensation at bay. I made these out of scrap yarn, starting with a crocheted circle and then continuing on using Tunisian crochet in the round using one colour to pick up stitches and a different colour to work off stitches. I might add a longer strap to mine in case I want to carry it off my shoulder.
stitch detail
I don't remember exactly how much we paid for these at the time, but I don't think it was much more than $30 for the pair, including shipping. We've gotten 15 years of use out of them with more to come, so they've long since paid for themselves. And we've kept 15 years' worth of plastic water bottles from the waste stream. Win, win!

Happy Earth Day!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Turbine Blades

We went down a small road today on our walk and came upon these wind turbine blades. They'd been unloaded from the ship and are waiting to be transported to north Mayo, where they will be part of a wind farm.
I'm not sure why these two were in a separate area--I wondered whether they'll be the next to go. They go one at a time on a long truck. Maybe they get loaded from that area.
It was so quiet for the first part of our walk. Easter weekend here is like Christmas in that way. Once we got back into town, it was midday and things were picking up a bit. Veg man was busy and there were a lot of cars parked outside the butcher shop. There's no real car park, so it was just a haphazard arrangement of cars.

We're settled in for the rest of the weekend now--no plans except to do whatever I feel like doing in a given moment. I hope you have a peaceful weekend, too.

Friday, April 19, 2019

April Summer

The usual April summer is upon us. I saw a headline in a Donegal online news outlet this morning proclaiming that Donegal would be as warm as Spain today. The other day, they were even more jazzed because we'd be warmer than Ibiza, Lisbon, Barcelona AND the south of France. Exciting times. I have not yet seen the word, 'scorchio' being used, although 'scorcher' was in today's weather story, so it's getting close to those inevitable scorchio sorts of days.

Even the wee puppy isn't very keen on these warm days. It's such a contrast from Monday, when it was chilly, with a strong wind, dark grey skies, and some rain. On that day, he picked up this beret from a pile of leaves and twigs.
He played with it the rest of the way home, but then let me have it. It's wool, so I washed it and will be able to cut it up and use the fabric.

A friend/neighbour brought me a bouquet of flowers from the gardens here a little while ago. Aren't they beautiful? I love the addition of the parsley--it's so pretty such a beautiful shade of green.
Whenever I get glum about the heat and long hours of sunshine during the spring and summer, I go look at some flowers and they make me smile.

Bill was in back of our shed yesterday and discovered the pot we'd placed back there last autumn. We'd planted some chard in it, but it got eaten. It's growing again, so we put it in the sunshine.

I hope there are some lovely things blooming in your part of the world today.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Caught My Eye

We went for a walk last night after supper and could not help noticing this:

Today we were in Donegal Town and walked along the Bank Walk. The fairies are accepting mail now, so if anyone has anything to post to the fairies, here's where it needs to go!
There's plenty of green.
There were several of these plants growing on the side of the slope.
When we were in Aldi, I found this:
It's good! It reminds me of the Dickens Toffee Coffee I used to be able to get at Safeway at Christmastime years ago. They also had chocolate orange and white chocolate raspberry, but I wanted to try this, so didn't consider the others for very long. They seemed to only have one jar and it was in the back, so glad I found it. I think it'll be good mixed with vanilla chai--I'll have to try that.

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

Friday, April 12, 2019

A Few Photos on Friday

this tree caught my attention on our walk this morning
out of the shadows
doing the school run in whatever vehicle is available
Enjoy your weekend!

Monday, April 8, 2019

Finn Says No Walls!

Hiya! I'm Finn.
This is me today a couple of miles into my walk. I'm still kinda new here--only been hanging around these parts for a few months--but I like it! Shari and Bill are my neighbours and this morning they heard me barking as they were leaving to go on their walk, so they called over to ask my mom if I wanted to go with them, and Mom said I could! She got my fabulous short lead, handmade out of Donegal Tweed so I'd be looking good for any adoring fans I might meet along the way.

There was a lot going on and I raced along, so I could get to the next bollard and sniff, but sometimes I had to stop and leave a message of my own. The thing is, I'm a wee guy and my bladder is small, so I ran out pretty quickly. But you know what they say, 'Fake it till you make it!' so I did! I kept lifting my leg and lifted as far as I could go, even though I had nothing left to give, but a couple times I almost toppled over, so I had to be more careful.

I was bouncing along when I suddenly saw this terrible thing!
I did not like it AT ALL! I backed up, crouched down, and started barking at it. Shari told me there was nothing to worry about and we could keep going, but I was wary and looked at it for a while.
I'm a tough guy, though, so once I had barked enough to get my message across, I trotted right by--guess I taught this thing a lesson! Shari told me that there was a big dog in the window across the street, but I was busying giving this face thing a piece of my mind and didn't see him.

On we walked and there was a lot to see and sniff--so much going on. Eventually, we came to Killybegs Seafood Shack. Over the weekend, they won the gold medal in the All-Ireland Chowder Championship, so I was hoping maybe there'd be some samples, but they were closed. Bummer!
When we got back to the bottom of our lane, I still had a spring in my step, so Shari and Bill decided we'd keep on going to the grocery store. When we got there, Bill went in and I waited outside with Shari. There is a low stone wall by the footpath, which I tried to tear down with my front paws. I got a rock out of it, so I did my part. Then I decided it would be a lot of work, so I jumped on top to supervise Bill as he put the courgette and raisins in his backpack. I waited for him to give me the treat I was sure he must've picked up for me in there, but inexplicably, none was forthcoming. I can see I have some training to do with this guy!

It was a good 3 1/2 mile walk, in spite of my untrained companions. I am sure they will improve as time goes on. Hopefully they will be fast learners and their training will not require too much work on my part. They told Mom that I could come with them on walks again in future, so they'll have a chance to do better next time!

I'm having a little rest now. I hope you're having a nice day, too--and that no one forgets your treats!

Friday, April 5, 2019

Finally Deconstructed

I found this necklace in a charity shop a few weeks ago and bought it for parts.
When I sat down to take it apart, I found I couldn't do it--the rings were tough to open. I set it aside and waited until I had some needle-nosed pliers. Yesterday was the day for that, so today, after we got home from our walk and had lunch, I took it apart.
So many fun ways to use these bits--even the one I broke as I was taking everything apart.

We did a quick 2 1/2 mile loop today. We'd gotten a late start and wanted to come home and have lunch.
In a few minutes, I have to get the pizza crust going in the bread maker. I have time to finish my cuppa first, though.

I hope you're enjoying a pleasant day.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Wee Seed Pots

For the past few springs, Lidl has had a gardening promotion where they give away these wee seed pots. I think they're mostly aimed at kids, but in spite of no longer being a spring chicken, I think they're fun, too.
The directions for planting are inside the cardboard, which is wrapped around a tiny pot that has a seed disk and small marker inside. You don't know what kind of seeds are in there until you open it up, so it's a surprise. A friend gave us a couple and we've picked up a couple more each time we go--they have a box of them on the bagging counter for people to help themselves. Turns out all the ones we have are different. One is aubergine (eggplant) and I am not sure how well that will grow here, but I'll give it a shot. The others should do well--salad mix, chervil, spring onion, coriander (cilantro), and beetroot.

I guess I'll start these soon and see how things go. It will be a while before I can plant anything outside, since the forecast for the longer term indicates that we will go back and forth between mild days and nights and cooler days, nights near or at freezing, frosts and possible wintry precipitation through at least the middle of the month. Eventually, I'll get some stuff growing out there and maybe the hares will leave some for the people in our little neighbourhood!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

All Four Seasons in One Day

There are jokes and souvenirs here about Ireland being a place where you can experience all four seasons in one day. We've lived in several places where people told us that if we didn't like the weather, we should wait five minutes and it would change. This was never actually the case--until we got to Ireland. It is certainly true here. Sometimes the change comes in a few minutes and sometimes one doesn't even have to wait at all. I can remember days in Moville when I could walk out the front door into the rain and out the back door into the sunshine. The only reason that's not possible here is the lack of a back door! Since the time change the other day, it's still light at 8:30--even if the westher is unpredictable, we can know what to expect as far as sunrises and sunsets go!

Yesterday was a day in which various seasons were on offer. There was bright sunshine and warm temperatures one minute before it cooled off as the rain bucketed down and then moving to a sharp wind and hail shower situation. We experienced several seasonal changes back and forth throughout the day.
Today is much the same. There's a bit of a roar from the wind and it's chilly enough to wear a jacket. The sunshine has sparkled off the water and then given way to showers of rain and hail. We walked into town to do a few errands and Bill was happy to have sunshine with us the entire time. It began lashing down just after we got home.

We stopped at the charity shop where I was happy to see that some new books had been added to the shelves. I found a couple of good ones that I was unaware of, so would not have known to look them up in the library and Bill found a nice photography book. I also found a wooden embroidery hoop, so I brought that home along with the books.

I will probably read the library books I have checked out before reading the two I got today, but I expect I'll get to them fairly soon.

Here's the rest of my March book list--a few older ones in this section, along with a couple of new ones.
The Descent of Man and Other Stories by Edith Wharton
I needed something to read on the bus one day, so took my e-reader and chose this book of short stories. It was a good choice.

The Red House Mystery
by Margaret Hungerford
I discovered this author in the book about modern Irish women writers that Bill got me a few months back. several of her books were available on Project Gutenberg, so I downloaded them. This one was published in 1893 but the main storyline seemed to be so current in a sad kind of way. The red house of the title is home to Dr Darkham, his wife, and their grown son, who is deaf, unable to speak, and has some other ailments. This is not a happy family. The son and his mother have a strong bond, but neither of them care for Dr Darkham and he cannot stand to be around them, either. He married his wife for her money and often wishes he had thought twice before doing so. He has no affection for his son. He has, however, become obsessed with the orphaned niece of a patient. She, in turn, finds Dr Darkham repulsive, sinister, and wants him to leave her alone. She is interested in someone else. Mrs Darkham takes a fall, is unconscious, and is soon helped out of this world, leaving Dr Darkham free, as he sees it, to more freely continue the stalking of the young woman who is uninterested in him. Twists and turns occur. In addition to the stalking issue, the book also addressed gender ideologies and class issues of the time--one might have hoped for more progress since the 1893 publication of the book, but as we know, such things are still affecting people, albeit in more modern ways. In spite of the tidy ending, which was not really a surprise, I thought this was a good book and I look forward to reading some of her other work.

The Hermit and the Wild Woman and Other Stories by Edith Wharton
Another bus ride and another Edith Wharton short story collection begun. I find it handy to have my e-reader with me when we hop on the bus and short stories are the perfect thing. I finished the book here and there when I had a bit of time.

Stargazing at Noon by Amanda Torroni
I came across this poetry collection while scrolling through the e-book section of the library. One poem begins with ‘you are not lost/ but in transit’ which I quite liked.

Useless Magic by Florence Welch
This is a book of poetry, song lyrics, doodles, drawings, artwork, notes, and musings by the frontwoman for the band Florence and the Machine. I am vaguely familiar with one or two of their songs and her voice is distinctive, so if I heard others, I might be able to identify the band, but I am not a huge fan or anything. I came across this book in the e-book section of the library website and because I am very interested in the creative process, checked it out. I’m glad I did. It was an interesting glimpse into someone’s creative life. It was a bit dark at times, but still worth the read.

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

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

There's That Sorted

Today was our 'big shop' day, in which we topped up supplies of a few heavy staple foods (canned beans, canned and frozen fruit, strong wholemeal flour, frozen veg, etc). One never knows whether or not items will be in stock, but we found most of what we wanted today. And we can always pick up the frozen blueberries some other time. I was organized, with a list for Lidl and one for Aldi. I make my lists in the order in which things are shelved in the store, so we don't have to spend time wandering back and forth--we like to get in and out. Some things were on both lists, so I could make sure to get them in one place, in case they weren't in another--prices are mostly the same in each place. In both stores, just as we were coming up to the till with the full trolley, there was an announcement that they were opening till #3, so we moved over to that. Funny that it was the same number in both stores.

We rode with a friend who was going to pick up some stuff too, and it was nice to have time to chat and to not carry a heavy load home. It's a weird weather day--one minute sunny and warm and the next hail, rain and a few degrees cooler.

Stopped at the library, returned a few books and picked up one I had in. Before I start that one, I have a few that I picked up last week to read. I will be starting one in a while, now that I'm home and the groceries have been put away. I picked up a quiche at Aldi and we'll have that for supper, with veggie sausage and fruit, so it'll be quick.

 I know there are several people in the queue for one of the books I returned today, so I'm glad it can be passed along to the next person.
The Border: The Legacy of a Century of Anglo-Irish Politics by Diarmaid Ferriter
This is a timely book by a well-respected Irish historian whose work I find quite useful and informative, so when I first read about it, I immediately went to the library and put myself in the queue. It arrived quite a bit earlier than I expected it to--one morning, I was at #45 and by that afternoon, after we’d picked up other books at the library, it was in. They had a lot of  copies, so things moved quickly. I’m glad it came when it did, given the current drama surrounding Brexit. Since the border between Northern Ireland and the republic is one of the major issues, it was good to be able to read this now and see how things have evolved in the (almost) century of its existence. In terms of the EU-third country border that it will become if and when Brexit happens, there is more border on this island than at the eastern flank of the EU. I’ve had people tell me, and Ferriter bears this out, as do circumstances as they unfold, that there is a lack of interest and knowledge about Northern Ireland on the part of people on the ‘mainland’ UK in general and those running the country. I have a better understanding of the border now and how it has evolved.

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors translated by Misha Hoekstra
I’d seen this author interviewed on a you tube channel called The Louisiana Channel, which is all about artists of various kinds, including writers. I think it is from The Netherlands, but not sure. I read this interview, because the author is Danish. She was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize with this book, which is a bit strange, but quite good. In it, Sonja is in her 40s, a translator of violent Swedish crime novels into Danish, living in Copenhagen, learning to drive, and trying to repair her relationship with her estranged sister, who still lives in the rural area in which they grew up. Sonja finds urban life to be quite unsatisfactory and she is very lonely. The reader watches her as she searches for herself, sometimes in her own head and sometimes in her interactions with the people around her--her two driving instructors, her massage therapist, and unsent letters to her sister.

Karate Chop by Dorthe Nors translated by Martin Aitkin
This was the first of the author’s books to be translated into English. I’m a big short story fan, so when I heard the interview with her and looked her up, I was happy to find this in the library system. I must admit, though, that I liked the novel better in some ways. These stories are powerful, direct, well-written, and spare, but also unsettling and even disturbing, in some cases--or at least I found them so. When I was done, I clicked around to see what was written about this book and I found an interview she’d done back in 2014 with The Paris Review. In it, she talked about the title of the book, among many other things. In Danish, her native language, the title is, Kantslag, which has four meanings. One is a karate chop. Another is a rimshot against a drum. A third is a chip that breaks off a piece of porcelain. The last one is ‘the battle you experience on the brink of something new.’ She says it is this last meaning that she was thinking about when she gave the book this title. I can see how the other meanings would also apply.
 Libraries are wonderful places!

tiles in the sidewalk outside the Central Library in Letterkenny--this one says Donegal Library 1922-1997

I hope you're enjoying this day.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Gotta Change the Calendar Page, Too!

We changed the clocks forward yesterday, so I am a bit off--as I usually am. The autumn time change never bothers me, but the spring one does every time. This unfortunate event also meant that, in the middle of the night, I lost an hour of reading time. Bummer. But I had planned leftovers for supper yesterday, so used the time I would have used in meal prep to make up for it. And today we enter a new month and I have yet to turn the calendar page. We have a yellow warning for periods of wintry weather and possible icy patches from just after midnight to midday on Wednesday. Could be a bit of extra reading time ahead!

Last month was filled with some great books--here are the first few:
The Devil at Saxon Wall by Gladys Mitchell
This is a Mrs Bradley mystery. I am late to these books, but I have to say that I find them fascinating. They are all so different and the more of them that I read, the more I see how ahead of her time Mitchell was in some ways. In others, we get a glimpse into what psychology was like in its early stages and how it evolved, as Mrs Bradley’s views change as the series progresses. In some books, like this one, there is also an anthropological quality, as we learn about the places in which the books are set--the folklore, the traditions, the dialects, the food, daily life, etc. I request a few at a time from the library, read them, then tae a break before requesting the next batch--there are over 60 in the series. In this book, successful author Hannibal Jones has a novel due and has writer’s block. Mrs Bradley advises him to go off to a quiet rural village to have a change of scene. He chooses Saxon Wall and is at first intrigued by the locals, their quirky ways, and hints of the secrets they keep. Things become more sinister, though, and he calls on Mrs Bradley for assistance. It was a complicated plot, but quite an interesting one.

Threads of Life: A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle by Clare Hunter
I LOVED this book. The author takes readers through the history of needlwork and how it has been used by women through the centuries to make connections, to empower, to protest, and to encourage change.
back cover

dust jacket

The House of Stairs by Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell)
The book begins with Elizabeth, a novelist, looking out the window of a cab, spotting a woman she used to know. She rushes out of the cab and tries to follow this woman, only to lose track of her. From there, we learn the story of who this woman is, what relationship she had with Elizabeth, what happened to bring them to this point, and what will happen now. The story goes back and forth between the past and the 1980s when the book is set. The house of the title refers to Elizabeth’s aunt’s house, in which much of the action takes place. Elizabeth has always been close to her aunt, especially after her mother died of an illness that is genetic and may or may not have been passed on to her.

St Catherine’s Church and Graveyard and the Medieval Town of Killybegs published by Killybegs Community Response Scheme
We picked up this book at the tourist information centre. It is quite informative! It provides a general historical overview of Killybegs and the church and graveyard, talks about the archaeological work that has been carried out, and provides information on the flora and fauna of the area.

And now, I am off to turn the calendar page. Hope the new month has started off nicely in your part of the world!