Monday, September 28, 2020

Funky and Festive

 This morning, even though it might be pushing it just a bit, I put on the socks I finished a couple of months ago, when it was definitely too warm to wear them. 

At the end of last year, a friend sent me a box of yarn that she no longer wanted. It included a lovely ball of highly textured yarn in a gorgeous colourway. It was a wool boucle wrapped with a nylon thread that has little lengths of ribbon hanging off it. I loved the yarn and thought about what to make with it. There were 52 yards of yarn, so not enough to make a scarf or anything. It would have been great as an accent, but working as I usually do with odd balls, I didn't have anything that would go with it in a larger project. When I got the pin loom Bill surprised me with, I briefly considered making squares, but the ribbon bits would have made weaving with it highly aggravating. I let it percolate. One night, when I was working on something else, the yarn popped into my head along with the thought, 'Sock cuffs.' Click. That was it--if one of the sock yarns I thought would work would be OK colourwise. The next day I checked and one was, so I cast on, using fattish needles. I just did garter stitch, which, when turned sideways, is just as stretchy as ribbing. The stretch was what was most important, since the yarn is so highly textured. The stitches are not visible anyway. So I made my sock cuffs with the novelty yarn and then picked up around one side of the tube and knitted the rest of the sock with the sock yarn. I'm really pleased with how they came out and I'm glad the weather is getting to the point where it will be cool enough to wear them!

We did our weekly shop this morning in an almost empty Aldi. I turned the corner, heading for the nuts and eggs (not refrigerated here, because they have higher standards and don't need to wash them to prevent disease like they do in the US). But first, I stopped and took a pic of the festive aisle:

It runs the whole length of the aisle and at the other end are the first Christmas puddings and Christmas cakes, with the blindingly white marzipan icing. I was just commenting to someone the other day that it's about time for these things to show up. It's somehow nice to know that even in the midst of global chaos, some things continue on as expected.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

I Smile

 I wrote this poem in August as the lengthening nights were becoming more noticeable. A month later and the sun is setting before 7:30 and as of the other day, there is more time between sunset and sunrise than between sunrise and sunset. 

I Smile

(a poem for all the night owls)

August evening, 9:15

looking out the kitchen window

waiting for kettle to boil

cup of tea on the way.

I smile.

Watching the darkness


falling gently

on my shoulders

like a shawl.

I smile.

Feeling something settle--

calm, peace, ease, joy--

I wrap the night around me and

it feels like an embrace.

I smile.

The click of the kettle

draws me away;

I bring the night with me

while I make my tea and

I stay in its embrace

while I sip and savour.

And I smile.

25 August 2020

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Saturday Splendour


Friday, September 25, 2020

Sea and Sky

 I am sharing the photo Bill posted on his blog today, because it's gorgeous and I love it. 

He took it the other morning at about 8:30, about a block behind our apartment.

The link to his blog is here. He posts a photo each day. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Autumn Sunset and Beautiful Blue Sea

 I went into the bedroom last night at a little past 7, glanced out the window, and noticed the sky.

Late this morning, I went out on the landing, glanced out the window and noticed the beautiful blue of the sea. 

Simple moments of joy scattered throughout the day make me smile. I hope you have many of these today as well.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Autumn Appreciation

 The other day, when we were walking home with groceries, we passed a bunch of sheep resting under some trees. I stopped to chat with them. Later that day, I was sitting with my stitching and a poem began moving through my mind, so I wrote it down. It's a tanka-ish poem (lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables).

Resting sheep chew, stare

As I stop to say thank you.

At home, yarn awaits

crochet hooks, knitting needles,

my hands--wool season beckons.

New season granny smith apples were on sale at Aldi, so I bought a bunch. I don't have much of a preference for cooking apples--they get soft anyway--but for eating 'raw' I like hard, crunchy, not-too-sweet varieties, like granny smith. It was such a treat to have these apples again. I can get them throughout the year, but once they've been stored for a while, they tend to lose their crunch. Anyway, this simple pleasure also inspired a haiku-ish verse.

New season apples

Another gift of autumn

Enjoying the crunch.

With everything going on in the world right now, it seems even more important than usual to appreciate and savour simple joys. May you have an abundance of them!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Autumn At Last!

 I am sooooooo happy that autumn has arrived! 🍂🍁🍃😁💜 After breakfast this morning, I got down my collection of seasonal decorative bits that I've stitched over the past few years and hung them up. I had two small cross stitched pumpkins that I made the other night. I attached one to a shell with a hole in it and hung the other on my rosemary plant. Each one is less than an inch. I will make some more, probably in different sizes.

In the afternoon, I cooked a bunch of apples with cinnamon and ginger. The smell of them cooking was wonderful and it lingers on several hours later. We will have these in porridge or with yogurt and muesli.

The day does have an autumnal feel to it after a week or so of summer-ish weather. It's cooler, breezy, and rainy--just the way I like it. 

I hope this day turns out just the way you like it, too. 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Blooms and Sheep

Bill was in the information centre yesterday and saw this coaster. Everything about it is me--the sheep, the rain, the rocks, the hill, the foliage, and the purple wedges on the umbrella. There was only one. He bought it for me. I love it and will not be using it as a coaster, of course. It makes me smile every time I look at it.

We've had a week or so of summery weather. Hopefully this is the last gasp. With the sun at a different angle and longer nights, this was not as unpleasant as similar days earlier in the season. The forecast for later in the week looks like the weather might be a lot like that being experienced by the sheep!

Before the sunshine, we had a lot of rain. I suppose the combination made the flowers quite happy. I saw this as I walked by and wondered what it would look like when the buds open.

Then we walked on and I found out.

I have no idea what these are called, but I like them!

Thursday, September 3, 2020

August Books Three: Classics and Short Stories

 Here's the final instalment of my August book list. 

Uncle Vanya 

Three Sisters

The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov

Three plays, one of which (The Cherry Orchard) is supposed to be a comedy, but seems just as depressing to me as the others. All are populated with people who are bored, trying to kill someone else or themselves, depressed, drinking heavily, wishing they were elsewhere, doing jobs they hate, partnered with the wrong person, and short of roubles. Meh.

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

This is a pleasant and funny book. There is no plot to speak of, just a series of vignettes about life in the village of Cranford, all of which revolve around a group of older women who inhabit a certain social station. The story is told from the point of view of a woman who lives in a different village, but who has ties to Cranford. She makes frequent long visits and receives letters. Before this was a book, it was published in instalments in Household Words, a publication edited by Charles Dickens, between late 1851 and mid 1853. i really enjoyed this book and I laughed more than once while reading. There is tragedy along with the funny parts, but the women of Cranford find ways to care for one another along the way. I got my free digital copy from Project Gutenberg here

The Progress of Love by Alice Munro

This was the first book I bought at the local charity shop after we moved. We were on our way to the library to pick up requests that had come in, when we popped into the shop. It’s a collection of short stories by one of the best short story writers around. I love a good short story collection and this one did not disappoint. If you like short stories, Munro is always a good writer to turn to.

Machines in the Head: Selected Short Writing by Anna Kavan, selected and with a foreword by Victoria Walker

I include this short biographical note about the author because it pretty much sums up what her stories involve. The stories were sort of weird and sometimes disturbing. I'd red about this collection in a book email months ago and this is a book that was sitting in the library since March. It is hard to say what I thought about it. I didn't exactly dislike it, but I am not inclined to rush out and find any of her other work, either. I suppose I can say that I am glad I read this book by this author I'd never heard of and I'll leave it at that!

I'm really glad I finally got to Cranford, which I highly recommend, and I am reading another Gaskell now. It's been cool and rainy--perfect for tea and books. I got some new-to-me tea the other day--white tea with vanilla and a chocolate tea. Both are excellent. I hope you get to spend some time today with your beverage and book of your choice!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

August Books Two: Novels

 Here are some more of the books I read last month:

The Last Day by Andrew Hunter Murray

In this dystopian novel, set in the 2050s, the earth’s rotation first slowed, then stopped a few decades earlier. This resulted in an extreme hot zone, and extreme cold zone, and a Goldilocks zone, where conditions were just right. The latter includes the UK, with slivers of continental Europe and North America on the margins. The US has managed to buy its way onto part of the UK ‘mainland’ and set up a territory there, but things are rough. 

Ellen Hopper is a research scientist, studying ocean currents on a rig in the ocean. One day, she receives a letter from a former teacher, asking her to come and see him before he dies. They had a serious falling out and she hasn’t spoken to him in years. She has no intention of visiting him, but two government officials come to the ship and ‘encourage’ her to do so. When she continues to refuse, she is told that she can visit the guy or lose her job. She goes with them. Clearly, he has something he wants her to know and they want to know, too. What is it, where is it, and will she be able to find it? 

This was a page-turner. I read all but the first 20 pages or so in one afternoon, because I did not want to stop. 

The Memoirs of a Survivor by Doris Lessing

I must admit that I was a little disappointed in this book. I had not heard of it until a few months ago, when I read about it in one of the bookish emails I get. It sounded great—a dystopian novel, published in 1974, set in a near future Britain, and told from the point of view of someone watching the aftermath of some kind of collapse from her ground floor apartment window. At the time, the library was closed and not allowing requests, so I put it on my list to request later. 

When I picked up this one and read the dust jacket, I saw that there was a sci fi or fantasy element. That’s not my thing. I’m not sure I would have requested the book had I known, but it was here, not that long, and I was greatly interested in the dystopian aspects of the book, so I decided to give it a try anyway. As expected, I was engrossed in the dystopian storyline and not so much in the time travel sections, although I see what she was trying to do with them. I would have preferred a different approach to the same thing, but that’s personal taste. I hated the ending and thought it was kind of a cop-out. 

The story is told from the point of view of a self-described elderly woman, who lives in a ground floor London apartment after an unnamed ‘crisis’ that destroys life as people knew it. People have to adapt and create new ways of organising themselves, getting what they need, and everything else. There are ‘authorities’ that people are afraid of, but mostly they seem to let people get on with whatever they’re doing. People are forming ‘tribes’ as they leave the city to go to more rural areas, some of which they know are still inhabited and some of which have ‘gone silent.’ Food is scarce as  are many other things, so people get creative and learn how to use the detritus from before to create what they need in this new world. One day, the narrator is faced with a man and a 12-year-old girl named Emily. The man tells the narrator that Emily is now her responsibility and leaves. Emily has a pet named Hugo, who is part dog and part cat. The three of them create a life together, navigating the world around them from the relatively safe haven of the apartment. The time travel element comes in when the narrator periodically finds that one particular wall is permeable and she can walk through it into a different world. Here she sees visions of Emily’s past, which explain some of her behaviour in the novel’s present. As I said above, I could have done without this.

One way this book reminded me of another dystopian novel, The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver, was that Emily was a guiding force for the narrator. She took charge, much like the 11-year-old boy in The Mandibles. Lessing has her narrator observe on more than one occasion that young people don’t know any world other than the one in which they are living now. They do not have to overcome nostalgic feelings regarding a real or imagined past. It’s a good point.

Homeland by Walter Kempowski, translated from German by Charlotte Collins

I read about this author in one of the many emails I get on the topic of books. I immediately went to the library to request this one and the author’s final book, All for Nothing. This one arrived just as the country went into lockdown in mid-March. One we started moving out of lockdown, a few branches in our county opened to browse, borrow, and return, but not ours. Requests from other libraries were not available for about a month after things started opening up. 

Our library remains closed, but Fiona, our librarian, has started a call and collect system whereby we can call her when books come in and we’ll set up a time to go to the library. She lets me in and I place my returns on a table and take my new books, which she has already checked out for me. We are, of course, both wearing face coverings. So I was able to pick up a bunch of books this month, including this one.

It’s a good book, if a bit weird. Jonathan is a freelance writer who lives with his younger girlfriend in Hamburg. He is 43, but seemed immature. He is offered a job involving going to East Prussia, which is now part of Poland, to scope out the route of a potential motor rally. Since he was born in this area, he is curious and accepts the job. He is travelling with other people, so there are awkward moments between the people in the group and between the group and the people outside the group. Jonathan thinks a lot about his parents, both of whom died there. The story moves between his personal turmoil and the cultural turmoil between Germans and Poles, given the history.

All for Nothing by Walter Kempowski, translated from German by Anthea Bell

I liked this book much better than the one above by the same author. This one is his last and considered his best.

The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny

This is the third in the author’s Inspector Gamache series. I’d requested it months ago and it came in just as the country closed up due to the pandemic, so it was sitting in our local library branch since March. Had I read it then, it would have been timely, because the story takes place at Easter, when some of the residents of Three Pines decide to have a seance. Someone does not survive and appears to have been frightened to death. Gamache is sent in to investigate. At the same time he is trying to untangle this mystery, he is dealing with his own trouble with the Surete, which is divided because of a cop gone wrong situation in the past. I enjoy these books, but am probably not going to request any more for a while. As always with series books, I find myself more interested in the lives of the regular characters than in the specific cases themselves. This seems to be a series that I can read in small doses. There are some series that I can read in larger chunks—several books in a row, one right after the other. For some reason, these are not like that.

A Late Phoenix by Catherine Aird (audiobook read by Robin Bailey)

Construction has commenced on a lot across the street from a young doctor’s new surgery. This location is handy because when the workers uncover a skeleton, they don’t have far to go. Of course, there’s nothing he can really do except to call in the police. Sloan and Crosby have to find out who the bones belonged to, when and why the body was put there and by whom.

A Hole in One by Catherine Aird (audiobook read by Bruce Montague)

This is the last book the digital section of the library has by this author that I had not listened to/read. There are many of her works that this part of the library website does not have, but should they get more, I would check them out. I enjoyed this one as I have all the rest, but I still like Robin Bailey better as a reader. This guy is fine, but puts a completely different spin on the characters.

In this book, the ladies are playing golf at the club when one of them lands in a bunker. What she finds there is not pretty and Sloan and Crosby are called in to find out who was buried in the bunker and why.

I'll finish the August list tomorrow. In the meantime, onward into another month of reading 😀

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

August Books One: Nonfiction and Poetry

 Happy Meteorological Autumn! I am grateful for the shortening days, the rain, and the slightly cooler temperatures. And for books, of course. It's always book season around here! Here's the first part of my August book list:

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg

I got this book about 4 years ago, not long after it was published, but then stuck it on a shelf and hauled it around, unread, every time we moved. Now that it has been 5 1/2 months since our local library closed, and I have not had time sensitive books moving constantly in and out, I have turned to my bookshelves more frequently and I decided it was a good time to read this book. I’m only sorry I didn’t read it sooner, because it’s a great book. 

The book is a historical look at the situation of poor white people and how they have been characterised from the settlement of what is now the US to the present day. She jumps right in by busting the myth that there is no class structure in the US, an idea which has always been ridiculous, but continues to be believed by some. From colonial times, poor white people were considered ‘waste people’ useful only for labour. Thomas Jefferson called them ‘rubbish.’ The names used to label such people evolved and some were specific to areas of the South, until at some point, ‘white trash’ became a kind of umbrella term.

The book begins in colonial times, moves through the formation of the country, and continues to the present. The book was published in 2016, so this is where her analysis ends. The author makes her points using examples from various aspects of culture—politics, economics, education, popular culture, etc. It is highly readable, very informative, and a thought-provoking read. For anyone interested in moving beyond the flag-waving nonsense of American exceptionalism and the myths about a ‘classless society,’ or for someone who just wants to understand the culture a little bit better, this is a great book, which I highly recommend.

Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man by Mary L. Trump (audiobook read by the author)

I’ve always believed that cruel, evil people are created. They’re not born that way, but are damaged by others and for whatever reasons, lack the ability to deal with the pain of the damage inflicted upon them. This does not excuse their actions—we all have painful experiences in our lives and it is our responsibility to deal with them in whatever healthy ways we can. I understand the need for self-protection, but I also know that the only way to get beyond the damage is to walk through the pain, not to try to shield ourselves from it. So while I understand why and how cruel, evil people behave as they do, this doesn’t let them off the hook. They should be held accountable. 

I’d listened to a couple of interviews with the author and was intrigued by her story, so when I saw this title appear in the ‘new to library’ e-audiobook section of the library website, I borrowed it. It is a good illustration of how pain and dysfunction can be passed down through the generations. It also shows how, in one family, people can create coping mechanisms for themselves. Some hurt themselves while   others set out to protect themselves by hurting others. The author’s father was in the former category and the damaged individual who became president is in the latter. It’s a striking example of what monsters can be created in families, with the help of society at large. 

The author is a clinical psychologist and she explains her arguments in a clear way that a layperson can understand. From a personal perspective, I was struck by how some of the family of origin dynamics were the same in my own situation. It was interesting to me to see the similarities and differences in my response to those circumstances as opposed to the offspring she talks about in the book.

Life and Death in the Third Reich by Peter Fritzsche

Wintering: How I Learned to Flourish When Life Became Frozen by Katherine May

This is a memoir written about a time in the author’s life when a lot of highly stressful events were thrust upon her. As is so often the case, these events caused her to rethink various aspects of her life and make some changes. She came to see these times as winter situations, in that as in the natural world, we all need winter times to regroup and get ready for the next season of our lives. As she is writing about her own life, she also talks to others who have had serious issues and have grown as a result, learning to cope and thrive. 

I was eager to read this book when I first read an essay by the author. As soon as we were able to place holds again at the library, I requested this one. I loved this book. Her metaphors didn’t work as well for me as they do for others, simply because I do not struggle in winter. That’s a summer thing. She spoke to someone who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and while I experience most of the same symptoms, I experience them in summer, not winter. The light is agitating to me and I feel at home in the dark, so I shuddered when she described the ways in which this woman keeps her house brightly lit throughout the winter. I rely on winter to recover from summer, so that sort of thing would be a disaster for me. That aside, I enjoyed her story and those of the people she talked to and I liked the way she came to embrace winter. It’s a wonderful book.

How to Fly (in Ten Thousand Easy Lessons): Poems by Barbara Kingsolver

I loved this poetry collection, which includes poems about nature, knitting, life, relationships, and a family trip to Italy which included the poet’s mother-in-law, whose parents came from there. 

I hope there is a lot of good reading ahead for September!

Sunday, August 30, 2020


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Pin Loom Hat from Noro Wool

 Last December, a friend sent me a box of yarn that she'd bought about a decade ago, thinking she might learn to knit or crochet. I did teach her to crochet years ago, but somehow, she did not become obsessed with yarn. This is difficult for me to understand 😉😃, but we can't all be in love with the same things. She has her own creative interests. She was tired of having the yarn in her house, so sent it on its way across a continent and an ocean, arriving just a couple of days before we came here to look at this apartment. It was packed again in short order and when I unpacked it again, I added it to the rest of the yarn collection. The box contained a mix of yarns--novelty ribbon and eyelash yarns, as well as some wool and blends of wool, mohair, and other fibres. There was a ball of Noro wool in there. Noro is known for the colours of the various yarns, mostly with long colour changes and lots of colour in a ball (although there are more muted colourways). It is gorgeous yarn and this ball was in my kind of colours--cool jewel tones. I thought when I first saw it that I would make a hat out of it, but wasn't sure how I would do it. I knew from past experience that both knitting and crocheting would require the use of some scraps with the ball of Noro to eke out a hat. I let it sit in the collection and let the ideas percolate. Then Bill got me a pin loom and I started playing with that. It seemed perfect for the Noro wool. I thought weaving would be a great way to allow the colours to shine and it would allow me to get more mileage from the yarn, as the weaving uses less than knitting or crochet. I wasn't sure how many squares I would get from the ball, but decided to just start making squares, see how many I ended up with, and take it from there. I ended up with 13 squares and I might have enough left for one more (I kept some yarn back in case I needed it to sew up or crochet a border or something). 

I needed to put a bit of a border on each square, just to get the circumference right, so I rummaged round and came up with some scrap balls of some very dark blue laceweight yarn I'd gotten a few years ago at a charity shop, which I doubled up. I experimented with crochet stitches of different heights, measuring after each and doing some calculations before going with one round of double crochet, which was perfect. I like the effect of the dark frame around each square, which makes the colours pop even more. 

I left long tails when starting and ending the border rounds, and I used those to sew the squares together, which I did in the order in which the yarn came off the ball. I sewed 5 together into a tube and then sewed 5 more to each other and the first set. I didn't need any more height and considered cinching the top together by weaving some yarn through and pulling closed but I decided to crochet around the top, decreasing quickly, instead. Finally, I crocheted around the bottom using single crochet, chain one around. This pulled the bottom in just the right amount. I don't want my hats to be really tight, but if they're too loose, they slide around and are not very useful in wind. 

So that's my hat--all squares from the same ball of yarn. The colours take my breath away--I just love them. I'm looking forward to cooler weather when I can wear it. It's a lightweight hat, so good for chilly days that are not too cold. We wear hats all the time, so we each have a collection of hats and something to suit whatever conditions arise!

And now, I'm off to make a cup of tea and to cut a couple of pieces from the loaf of wholemeal raisin bread that is fresh out of the bread maker.It smells so good in here at the moment--it's a rainy, windy day as Storm Francis moves through, so the smell of freshly baked bread seems like a perfect.accompaniment to my kind of day 🍞😋

I hope you are well and staying safe!

Saturday, August 22, 2020

No-Bake Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Oat Bars

 One day, I was looking through my collection of recipes I'd jotted down on scrap paper from various places, when I found one that I'd completely forgotten about. I have no idea where it came from, but it sounded good, so I kept it out so I could make it. I could see that I would be changing it in different ways, leaving some things out and substituting others, but I'm always willing to experiment. For example, the recipe as I wrote it calls for honey, but I do not like honey and it doesn't agree with me, so I left it out. It also called for espresso powder, which I do not have. I briefly considered using regular instant coffee, but decided I'd rather just leave it out. I had to adjust quantities as well. Finally, the original said to freeze the bars and store in the freezer. I do not do this, but just chill and  keep them in the fridge.

The first attempt tasted good, but was crumbly (we ate it all anyway). The second time I was able to correct that by adjusting the amount of peanut butter and I continue to make these bars this way. 

There are a lot of things to love about these. First of all, they're yummy! 😋 They are not overly sweet, which is a problem I have with a lot of no-bake cookies that use a large quantity of sugar. They're convenient to keep in the fridge, ready to grab for a snack--so good with a nice afternoon cuppa! They take just a couple minutes to make and there is no oven needed to make them--no heating of the ingredients at all. This is something I especially appreciate on a warm/hot summer day.

No-Bake Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

Place the following in a bowl:

1 cup porridge oats (quick cooking oats in the US)

3/4 to 1 cup of peanut butter (you could use whatever nut butter you like, I'm sure, but I haven't tried this)--runny is best, like the kind that has no added oils or sugar

a bit of sugar, honey, or other sweetener if you want

1-2 tablespoons cocoa, according to taste

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-3 tablespoons, or according to taste, mini dark chocolate chips

Mix everything together. Line a pan with parchment paper and press the mixture into the pan. Place in fridge for a couple of hours or more. When they have been chilled, lift out using the parchment paper, place the whole thing on a cutting board, and cut into squares or rectangles. You can place the whole thing back in the pan or place in a container, then stick back in the fridge. That's it! They're ready to enjoy whenever you want.

If you use honey or another liquid sweetener, you will probably need less peanut butter. If it's too wet or sticky as you mix it together, you can add more oats. If too dry, add more peanut butter. Exact amounts are not important here.

I'll end with a note on comments. I had turned off comments for a time yesterday, because I had about 30 spam comments in the space of a couple of hours. I've turned comments back on, but left moderation on, in an effort to better control the spammers.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Simple Upcycled Plant Pots and Fabric Crochet Baskets

 Late last autumn, I decided to cut up some fabric I had. It had been given to me by a friend and there is a lot of it. There are many different prints, one of which consisted of a white background covered with bright yellows daffodils and green leaves and stems. There was a lot of very bright yellow and I am not all that keen on yellow--I am definitely a cool colour kind of gal. For that reason, I was unsure what I would do with it. Since it folded up nice and flat, it was easy enough to store without taking up a lot of space, which I did for a few years. Finally, I decided to cut it into strips, which I could then use to weave or crochet with, so I got out my good shears and cut, making a continuous strand as much as possible, then rolling the long strips into balls. My original plan was to make some place mats after the holidays were over, but by that time, we knew we were moving here. Since we have no table here, we have no need for place mats, so I stored the fabric strips in a cupboard. 

In the meantime, we got a couple of new plants. I stuck them inside the plastic buckets peanut butter sometimes comes in--these work great. Sometimes I poke holes in the bottom, fill with dirt, add a plant, and use the lid to catch drips. For this, I make a sort of sleeve like people use around their to-go coffee cups. This makes for an attractive plant pot and allows for drainage. In this case, however, I wasn't re-potting the plants, but so stuck them right inside the bucket. When I am watering, excess water can collect in the bottom of the bucket. But I wanted something nice to put everything in. I thought of my fabric strips and dug them out. Last night, I sat and listened to part of an audiobook, got out my biggest crochet hook (10mm--could have used a slightly larger one which Bill tells me is now on the way), and started crocheting. I made a circle, increasing for 5 rounds, then just crocheted evenly around until it was as tall as I needed. When I was near the end of a ball, I simply held that end and the beginning end of a new ball together and crocheted on, leaving any ends that stuck out on the inside. These will not be visible, but I think leaving them show would be cool, too, and I might try that in future to see how I like it, especially with the strips that are not as long. When I was done, I cut the fabric, threaded it through a large tapestry needle, and wove in the end to secure it. 

(When I took this pic earlier, the sun was shining through the window. I am happy to report that this is now gone and it is raining--yay!)

I love these and plan to make more baskets for other uses. Once I was done cutting this fabric, I gathered the unwanted clothes I'd gotten at charity shops and started cutting them into fabric yarn, too, so I have some fun fabric yarn to work with. I will probably wait until I get my 15mm hook, though, as it will work better. 

I hope you're having a good day! 😃

Sunday, August 2, 2020

July Books:Classics (Short Stories, Plays, and a Novel)

I've really been drawn to older fiction lately. For some reason, newer work is not floating my boat at the moment. Happily, there is plenty of classic literature available. Here are the classic works I read last month:

The Wharton Gothics: Stories of the Unnatural and Supernatural by Edith Wharton (audiobook read by Gabrielle de Cuir)
This is a short story collection that contains a collection of Wharton’s short fiction. Some of the stories were fairly long. The reader was good. It was a new addition to the e-audiobook section of the library in July.

The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
This is Trollope’s longest novel, coming in at 100 chapters and, at least in the Wordsworth Classics edition I have, over 800 pages. There is a lot going on in this book. It was originally published in book form in 1875, after being serialised. It’s a satirical novel, which serves as a commentary on the society of the time, especially the financial scandals and rip-offs that were common (some things never change). At the centre of the book is Augustus Melmotte, a conman who appears to be wealthy and who has people fawning over him as a result (to their own detriment), in spite of his shady background, lies, scams, and general lack of trustworthiness. He reminded me in many ways of the current US president. In addition to the machinations and continued scams of Melmotte, there are others who move in and out of his orbit with their own storylines. There are people with titles and no money looking to marry money, families working their ways through various problems, class issues, and more. Throughout the books, we move back and forth between ‘the City’ with the business dealings, rural areas in which a different way of life goes on, and other parts of London where people live and spend time at their club.

I loved this book and at no time did I wish it was shorter or that any parts of the story were not included. As the book went back and forth between several storylines, I would momentarily wish that the one I;d been reading would continue so I could find out what happens, but then I would quickly get back involved with the storyline at hand and happily read on. It was definitely worth the time investment. Last month I read Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens and I must say that I am enjoying reading these long multi-plot novels with oodles of characters and I am a bit sad when I get to the end of the books. I sometimes imagine what it must've been like to read these as they were serialised, waiting for the next instalment and having all aspects of the plot stretched out over a couple of years. I'm glad I can just pick up the books when I want.

Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde (audio play performed by LA Theater Works)
This 1895 play pokes fun at London society and politicians. What happens when an MP with a reputation for honesty and integrity learns that a secret he thought safe could soon be revealed? I enjoyed this play a lot—I laughed out loud more than once.

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (audio play performed by LA Theater Works)
Another Wilde play that pokes fun at the silly ideas of the British society of the time.

Ivanov by Anton Chekhov
This is definitely not a cheerful play, involving as it does a wife dying of tuberculosis, a jerk of a husband (the Ivanov of the title), a bunch of people who are bored out of their minds, alcohol abuse, greed, and stupidity. The end is a bit of a relief.

The Seagull by Anton Chekhov
This is a play in which the themes of love, relationships, social status, money, and the nature of art are addressed.

This is the last part of my July book list. As always, I have plenty of good stuff to read in August. I hope the same is true for you!

Saturday, August 1, 2020

July Books: A Little of This and a Bit of That

I came across some fun books at the library website in July, both e-book and e-audiobook. I also got the Basho book in the post, from a Swiss ebay seller. I am quite interested in haibun as a form.

Mostly Water: Reflections Rural and North by Mary Odden
When I clicked on this book title in the ‘new to library’ section of the library website and read the description, I knew I wanted to read it. It is a collection of personal essays drawing on the author’s life in both ‘cowboy country’ Oregon, where she grew up, and interior Alaska, where she has lived as an adult. Having lived in both places, although not in the same towns, I was intrigued. I loved this book, both because of Odden’s stories and reflections on her life and the world she inhabits, but also for the memories it evoked for me. When she mentions eating seal oil and ‘Eskimo ice cream’ at potlucks with Alaska Native people, I remembered my own experiences doing the same. I could picture certain areas of Alaska as I was reading her thoughts and descriptions of them. There was one chapter near the end that, in an ‘it’s a small world’ sort of way, seemed kind of weird, because she spends some time writing about someone I knew, albeit in passing (the husband of a linguistics/anthropology professor that I knew when I was in the anthropology department at university in Fairbanks). Music was her jumping off point for that chapter and within a few paragraphs of her section on this guy, she talked about being in a Killybegs pub once. I would have enjoyed this book even without the similarities to my own life, but being able to relate to it in this way made it an even better read than it would have been otherwise.

Becoming by Renaada Williams
This is a debut poetry collection that considers what it means for someone to grow into who they are, to stand up for what one needs, to be a Black woman, and more.

Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn (audiobook read by Diana Dimitrovici)
This was in the ‘new to library’ section of the library e-audiobook page.  I wasn’t sure about it, but gave it a try. I was gripped from the start and ended up changing my plans one night because I was eager to finish it and see how the story ends. It was longlisted for various prizes in 2018 and 2019. It is written in flash fiction format, so the chapters are very short and while the story does move along, it is definitely choppy in a way because of the format. Some chapters were written in first person through Alina’s point of view and others were written in third person, as if by an observer who was reporting on what was happening to her.

The book is set in 1970s Romania. We first meet Alina when she is at the end of her teenage years. We learn that she has a troubled relationship to her mother, who is an enthusiastic supporter of the communist regime. She also has an aunt who clings to old folk ways in spite of having been married to a government official. Alina marries Liviu and things go well at first. But when Liviu’s brother defects, they become targets of the ‘secret’ police. Their careers are harmed, they are under surveillance, they suffer physical and psychological violence and their marriage is threatened. Alina turns to her aunt for advice. Will the old ways provide a path out of their dangerous situation?

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Matsuo Basho (translated and with an introduction by Nobuyuki Yuasa
This is Basho’s (1644-1694) most famous work. It’s in the form of haibun , which I am quite interested in—spare travel writing with haiku interspersed throughout. There is particular attention paid to nature. This slim volume is one I will return to again and again. I loved it.

I hope this first day of August is treating you well.

Friday, July 31, 2020

July Books: Mysteries

Hard to believe there are only a few hours left of July as I type this. The month seems to have zoomed right by. Like all other months, this one was filled with books and as always, there were mysteries on the list. Here they are:
Please Do Feed the Cat by Marion Babson
I found this in the e-book section of the library website, clicked on it, and read this description:
Mystery writer Lorinda Lucas doesn’t like the trend toward overly gruesome crime fiction—but she’s even more upset about Roscoe, the cat who lives next door. He used to look well-fed and well cared for, but when Lorinda gets back from her most recent book tour, she’s worried by his dangerously skinny appearance.

It turns out that Roscoe’s owner has a new girlfriend who’s put the poor cat on a deprivation diet—and that’s not the only bad news in Brimful Coffers. There’s been a fatal hit-and-run and escalating tensions—and before she knows it, the mystery writer will be investigating a real-life murder case .’

This was a light read and funny at times. The author spoofs the gruesome crime fiction her character is not fond of. Lorinda has brought back to the UK a stack of such books from her US tour in the interests of research and at various times, she picks one off the pile and starts reading. She never makes it very far and her cats get used to dodging flying books when she throws them across the room. Babson is quite over-the-top when she creates these excerpts. I don’t read that kind of crime fiction myself, so I appreciated the sentiment.

The cats are a big part of the story, as you’d expect. I enjoyed that aspect of the book a lot. The setting is a village named Brimful Coffers, which has the usual quirky characters. The twist here is that the village has become home to a many mystery writers—another fun plot device. I’d red more of these books if I came across them.

False Scent by Ngaio Marsh
This is the 21st book in the Roderick Alleyn series. I’m really enjoying picking up my e-reader and moving along in the series whenever I want a dose of Golden Age mystery from one of the Queens of Crime.

This book takes place in the home of an actress who is a diva and concerned about her age. It is her 50th birthday, although she doesn’t like anyone to know how old she is. She is difficult to deal with, spoiled, and easily slighted. She has a party planned, complete with photographers for the publicity, but it turns out to be a very unhappy birthday indeed. Early in the day, she has a temper tantrum (called a ‘temperament’ throughout the book) because she feels some other theatre people have betrayed her. Later, at the party, there is another ‘temperament’ about another perceived betrayal. That’s the last temperament—and the last birthday--she has, but was it an accident or did someone have enough and help her out of this world? Roderick Alleyn arrives to find out.

The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katherine Green (Phoebe Reads a Mystery podcast)
This book (published in 1878) was said to have inspired Agatha Christie. It takes place in NY, which kept throwing me off for some reason. I had to keep reminding myself that I was not in an English village.

Mr Leavenworth is the guardian to two nieces, who live with him, but he has a favourite and it is she who is due to inherit his fortune when he dies. When he is found in his study with a hole in his head, suspicion naturally falls on said niece. Inspector Gryce investigates with the help of the family lawyer’s colleague and some other people. There are a lot of twists and turns before the solution is revealed. This book is in the public domain and can be downloaded for free at Project Gutenberg.

This reading lasted for almost all of the month, with Phoebe reading a chapter, or sometimes two chapters if they were short, each day. The book has 39 chapters.

Hand in Glove by Ngaio Marsh
The amusingly named Percival Period is sharing his home with someone he does not really get along with. When said person is found dead in a drainage ditch, Roderick Alleyn must find out who put him there.

The Last Seance by Agatha Christie (audiobook read by Fenella Woolgar)
This is a collection of Christie’s short stories dealing with the supernatural. The reader is excellent. She had quite a task to go between different characters of all ages, different genders, and with different dialects of English, and different nationalities, sometimes in the space of a few sentences. I really enjoyed this one.

And now, August arrives. Onward!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Taco Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

I knew I felt like having some kind of salad tonight for supper, with a piece of the rye bread I made the other day on the side. But I went back and forth about what kind of salad I wanted and what kind of dressing. Then I thought of the bean burgers I had in the freezer. We get them at Aldi and they are spicy-ish bean and veggie patties with a bread crumb coating. These burgers are not really hot, but the ones we get from Lidl are--we like both. I decided to cook those and make a taco salad. I had limes in the fridge, so opted for a lime vinaigrette dressing. This salad hit the spot, along with the warm bread and butter. Yum! 😋
For the salad, I used what I had around, but this lends itself to endless variation. Instead of the bean burgers, canned beans (drained), cooked leftover chicken, pork, or beef, tofu chunks, or meat analogues would work. Cooked breaded/battered  fish or chicken or burgers--turkey, beef, or vegetarian, could be cut up and added, too.  Same with the veggies--this is the kind of thing that would be different every time I make it. Fresh parsley or coriander (cilantro) would be great.

For this salad, I cooked the vegetarian bean burgers and while they were cooking, got all the veggies in the bowls. I used lettuce, cherry tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, red onion, scallion, cucumber, carrot, and sweetcorn. When the burgers were cooked, I cut two of them into pieces and added one to each of our salads. Then I topped with shredded mature cheddar.

Lime Vinaigrette Dressing:
3 tablespoons lime juice
5 tablespoons olive oil
a wee bit of Dijon mustard (I probably used about 1/4 of a teaspoon)
sprinkles of granulated garlic, oregano, ground coriander, and a pinch of chilli powder

Whisk together with a fork. Any leftovers can be stored in a jar in the fridge. The olive oil may get a little solid in the cold, but it's no big deal--it 'melts' again at room temperature.

I hope you're safe and well!

Monday, July 20, 2020

Chocolate Ricotta and Muesli

I've been quietly moving through this summer month, which really has not been that bad for July, one of my least favourite months. While Bill sometimes quips that he is getting ripped off by having no summer, I rejoice at the coolish days (in the 50sF/mid teens C), the grey skies, and the rain. It's sunny at the minute, but the rain is supposed to come back in a couple of days. The clouds have been hanging around quite a lot and one day last week was almost autumnal. If I must have July, I'll take one like this has been so far.

Today I had a productive day in the kitchen. I made some muesli. I prefer it to cereal when I want a cold breakfast. I usually have porridge during cooler weather, but at this time of year, I often have yogurt (which I usually make at home), berries. peaches or bananas, and muesli. If I don't have or want yogurt, I have milk instead. The muesli is good either way.

It's a simple thing to make--place two cups of jumbo oats (old=fashioned rolled oats in the US--not quick oats) in a shallow bowl. Microwave for 3 minutes, stirring at one minute intervals. Then add whatever you like. I add raisins, coconut, walnuts, and almonds. I let it cool and store it in a container. It takes just a few minutes, is healthy, and really tasty.
When I make yogurt and strain it, I end up with whey. I use this to make ricotta. I love homemade ricotta in savoury dishes like lasagne and stirred into pasta, or with herbs mixed in as a bread spread, but I also like it in other ways. In the past, I've mixed in some thawed frozen berries to make a spread for toast, which is yummy! The last time I made it before today, I used some of it in pasta, but decided to try the rest as a dessert. I mixed in a bit of sugar and cocoa powder and let it sit for a few hours. When it was time for dessert, I spooned a bit into a bowl and topped with raspberries and a few mini dark chocolate chips--it's my new favourite way to eat my ricotta. Today's batch is all chocolate. 😋
I think it would also be good with cinnamon instead of chocolate and cooked apples instead of berries. That would be a nice autumn dessert. Peaches would be good, too, maybe with a little vanilla and maple syrup and banana sounds yummy. 

Making the ricotta leaves me with a thinner whey that works really well for breadmaking, so I made a loaf of rye bread with some of it this afternoon.
I have more whey in the fridge so will think about what kind of bread to make after this loaf is done. If I think I'm not going to use it before it goes off, I'll put it in the freezer.

I hope the week has started off well for you and that you're safe and well.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

June Books: English Language and English Villages

Here's the last instalment of my June book list. I spent a lot of time with Miss Read last month. 😀

A Fortunate Grandchild by Miss Read (audiobook read by the author)
When the Miss Read books were recommended to me by a few different people, I looked her up and borrowed a couple from the library. Both were part of her Thrush Green series. A few years later, when I saw an omnibus edition of three of her Fairacre series in a charity shop, I bought it. I liked all of them, so when I saw these audiobooks on the library website, I borrowed them.

Miss Read is the pen name of Dora Saint, who was born in London in 1913. She wrote novels about small village life through the perspective of a schoolteacher named Miss Read. These books are not really plot-driven. They are quiet, pleasant books about the quirky people in these villages at a particular time. This book is a memoir which is much like her novels. In it, she talks about her two grandmothers and her experiences of them. It was interesting to hear about her basic way of life in the early 1900s. The grandmothers had very different sorts of families and lived in quite different circumstances and through the narration, we get a sense of family life in that particular time and place. I enjoyed hearing about what the homes were like, the attitudes of the grandmothers and aunts, what it was like to go on a summer holiday to one grandmother’s house at the seaside, what it was like to travel by train or by steamship, etc. If you’re interested in those sorts of things, this is a pleasant read.

Time Remembered by Miss Read
This is another memoir, this time with a focus on three years (1921-1924) the author spent at a small school in the country. The author was born in London, but as the book begins, we learn that she and her mother have only recently recovered from the Spanish flu and medical advice was to get the family to the country. They relocated to a small village ‘a few train stops’ down from London. Miss Read had been attending a large London school in which her aunt was a teacher and she was amazed when she got to her new school and saw a small building with a headmaster, instead of a headmistress. It did not take long for her to discover that she loved it and she loved living in the country. She says these were among the happiest years of her life.

As she looks back, she both celebrates what it is she loves about rural life (which comes through in all of her novels that I’ve read) and she considers why she does not like being in cities. I could relate to both. I have never loved cities and have no interest in being in them. We’ve been in Ireland for 6 years now and other than being at the airport a couple of times, have never been to Dublin, which is fine with me. I am repelled by the thought of being there, to be honest, so why waste my time? I’d much rather go visit a small village/town and walk around enjoying the slow pace of life. 
This is another interesting glimpse into life in a different time and place. I enjoy her books.

Over the Gate by Miss Read (audiobook read by Gwen Watford)
I enjoyed the memoirs, so after I was done with those, I checked out this Fairacre novel, in which village schoolteacher Miss Read shares stories of village life, but also listens to stories shared with others about things that happened before her arrival. The book was read by Gwen Watford, whose voice sounded familiar. I knew I’d heard it before and then I remembered—she played Dolly Bantry in the Joan Hickson Miss Marple series a few decades ago. She did a good job with the reading and had a wide range, moving between dialects, characters, age groups, etc. This was very enjoyable to listen to.

Affairs at Thrush Green by Miss Read (audiobook read by Gwen Watford)
I wasn’t planning to borrow this right away, but when on the library’s e-audiobook page, I noticed that some of the Miss Read titles that had been available a couple of weeks ago were no longer listed. Since it appeared that these were no longer going to be in the system for whatever reason, I looked at the titles that were left. I’d either read or listened to all but this one, so I borrowed it. I immediately got a message saying it would not be available for renewal, so I listened to it and returned it. The next day, I checked the website and found that it was gone. It’s a shame these books are going away, because they are very pleasant, heartwarming, and amusing. I enjoy small town/village stories with quirky characters and that’s what these are. Gwen Watford was a wonderful reader, too.

The Stories of English by David Crystal
This book was given to me by a friend a few years ago. I quite enjoyed it.

Happy reading!

Friday, July 3, 2020

June Books: Mysteries

I am pretty sure that there is never a month in which my book list does not contain some mysteries (both short stories and novels), usually classic and/or cosy, but also some others. I started one last night that I'm enjoying so far. Here are the mysteries I read in June:
Offshore by Ann Cleeves
This is a collection of short stories all set on islands and featuring various detectives from the author’s various series. I am only familiar with the Vera series, which I love (new one coming out in a few months). There was a Vera story in here as well as a few Jimmy Perez stories, which are set on one also based in Shetland but with a different detective, and one that seemed to be by a different author but based on an earlier Cleeves series about George and Molly, an older couple who are really into bird watching. The Shetland series has concluded now, I think. I have been considering starting on that one from the beginning, and might do so soon. The author also has a new series, the first book of which was published a few months ago, at least on this side of the Atlantic.

Parting Breath by Catherine Aird (audiobook read by Robin Bailey)
This is one of Aird’s Sloan and Crosby series. This one is set in a college. A student is found dying one autumn evening. His final words are ‘26 minutes.’ What does this mean? Why did someone want to silence him? While on standby in case they’re needed during the sit-in being staged by some students at the college, Sloan and Crosby proceed to figure it all out.

Singing in the Shrouds by Ngaio Marsh
I couldn’t decide what to read next, so picked up my e-reader and jumped into book 20 of the author’s Roderick Alleyn series, in which he is on a cargo ship that takes a few passengers from England to South Africa. He pretends to be a relative of the shipping company big shot so he can investigate a series of stranglings and to prevent the next one. Due to one tiny clue, it is thought that the murderer is on that ship.

The Missing Diamond Murder by Diane James
I came across this in the e-book section of the library website and the blurb said it was a good choice for people who love British cozy mysteries, so I gave it a try. It was a good read. It’s part of a series (this isn’t the first book and I have not read any others) and contains a backstory in addition to whatever the mystery is. In this case, the mystery involved a family diamond that went missing after the death of the family patriarch, which was also suspicious. Did he manage to make his way to the cliff edge in his wheelchair and either deliberately or accidentally fall over, or was he pushed? Fran Black goes to investigate at the urging of her friend Tom Dod, both of whom are part of a literary society. This is where the backstory picks up—he urges her to go because they have become very close when solving previous mysteries. He is in a marriage that involves his dead brother’s former fiancee or something like that and she is in the middle of a divorce—her husband is living with his new partner and they are expecting a baby. But, in 1930s England, that would not be enough for Fran to be granted a divorce. If she was ‘carrying on’ with someone herself, she would not be ‘blameless’ and the divorce would not be granted. Someone has written a letter to the court insinuating that the relationship between Fran and Tom is ‘improper’ which jeopardises her divorce. He suggests she go to the country to investigate the case, where she can be isolated and away from suspicion. She goes and the story unfolds. I would read more of these books—the mystery itself was fine, but the cultural details were what made the book for me. I quite enjoyed that aspect of the novel.

Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie (Phoebe Reads a Mystery podcast)
A few months ago, I learned of this podcast. At the time, Phoebe was reading The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Christie’s first book, one chapter per day. I caught up just as she was finishing the book. She moved on to Hound of the Baskervilles, which I also listened to and enjoyed. Then she began The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins and there she lost me. I hated the book and after trying to hang on in the hopes it would get better or end, I gave up. I was glad I did, because it seemed to go on forever. I did not unsubscribe from the podcast, but just waited to see what book would be next. It was this one, so I happily started listening again. This is Christie’s third book and it features Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings. Poirot gets and urgent letter imploring him to go to France immediately to help a man named Paul Renauld, who fears his life is in danger. Poirot and Hastings rush off, but arrive to find that Paul Renauld has been killed. Poirot investigates in spite of hostility from the French police detective assigned to the case. It’s no surprise who gets the right answer in the end. Phoebe is currently reading Anna Katherine Green's novel, The Leavenworth Case, which was apparently an inspiration for Christie.

Murder Takes a Holiday by various authors, edited by Cecily Gaylord
This is a collection of 10 classic crime stories that is new to the library e-book collection. There are a few more current authors included, but most are from the Golden Age era. Like the Christmas collections I’ve read in the same series, this is a great read. All the stories involve some sort of holiday/travel.

It's still weird for me to see things about 'the holiday season' because to me that's December. But here it means summer, when people go on holiday (instead of vacation)--at least they did before the pandemic.

Stay safe, wash your hands, cover your face in public, and happy reading!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Sheepy Watch: Sweet Dreams

The postman put something in the box this morning and when I brought it upstairs, Bill said it was for me. he said he saw it and decided I had to have it. He knows how I love sheep 🐑😀
Note the black sheep on the bottom right of the band. Being a black sheep myself, I particularly like that!

On the watch face, the sheep are cavorting among the stars and the text around the dge says 'sweet dreams' in various languages.
I love it!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

June Books: Classics

Another month begins, bringing with it a new stack of books to spend time with. Our library is still not open, even though they were able to reopen three weeks ago. In our county, they started a phased reopening last week, with a few branches. Another branch has opened this week. They're still not allowing requests and no books are being send from library to library, so it's all browse, borrow, return for the time being. We have no idea when our branch will open, but fortunately, between my e-reader, charity shop books and other acquisitions, library e-books and e-audiobooks, I am not going to run out of reading material anytime soon!

I've been getting into more classics lately and I have quite a collection of those on my e-reader, thanks to Project Gutenberg, a site that has e-books freely available for download. These are all out of copyright and in the public domain and they have various formats to choose from. Some of the classics are pretty long though, having originally been serialised in periodicals and I don't always want to read 700-800 pages or more on a screen, so we have picked up a few used books online lately, both from Book Depository and ebay.

Without further ado, here is the beginning of my June book list:

Odd Women by George Gissing
I learned of this book from a booktube video. It sounded good, so I went to Project Gutenberg, downloaded a copy and put it on my e-reader. I loved this book! After I finished, I went back and got more of Gissing’s work.

This book, published in 1893, revolves around various ‘odd women.’ The title can refer to the fact that the women are ‘odd’ in the sense that most of them do not fit into the roles society has created for them. The other (related) sense of ‘odd’ in the title has to do with the fact that there were more women than men and many women were unmarried, whether by choice or not. The book includes themes of marriage, respectability, the role of women, and early feminism. It’s set in England, and we first meet the Madden sisters. After their father dies, the sisters are left without much money and have to fend for themselves. Two of them end up in poverty, trying to find work as governesses and companions, renting a small room and eating sparingly. Their younger sister becomes a shop girl, but wants a different sort of life. She makes a decision that will have repercussions for a long time to come.

As youngsters, the sisters knew Rhoda, who they end up coming into contact with again as adults. Rhoda has no interest in marriage and works with Mary Barfoot to teach middle class women secretarial skills so they can support themselves. The story branches off from these people, but comes back to intertwine at various times.

Gissing does fall short when it comes to class issues, which seems a bit weird, considering that some of his other work deals with class in a very different way and in his personal life, he was not a fan of the class structure.

I highly recommend this book and I look forward to reading more of Gissing’s work.

The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster
I’d heard about this novella before, but was reminded of it by Bill, who read something about it. I could not find it on Project Gutenberg and couldn’t request it from the library, since it’s still closed, but with a bit of searching, I found a LibriVox audiobook on youtube and listened to that. It is really good. Even though it was written in 1908, it sounds like he could have been writing about today. It’s a dystopian world in which people are forced to live underground with every need taken care of by ‘The Machine.’ At an eariier time, people thought they could control the machines they created, but of course, things did not go as planned. So people live in isolation in subterranean compartments and socialise via their screens. The main characters are Vashti and her son, Kuno. One day, Kuno appears on Vashti’s screen and asks her to come visit him in person. Travel is rare and frowned upon, but she gets permission and travels via airship to see him. This is terrifying for her. She is even more disturbed by what he has to tell her and is happy to get back to her compartment. Her relief is short-lived, however. Excellent story.

A Dark Night’s Work by Elizabeth Gaskell
This novel was published in 1863. It was first published as a serial in a Charles Dickens periodical. The main character of the novel is Ellinor Wilkins, who lives with her father, Edward, and various people who work for the family. The story begins when Ellinor is a very young child and ends when she is in her 30s. Edward inherits the family law practice, but he is unsuited to this work. The family is fairly well off, but does not have high social standing because Edward works for people who do. Things go downhill as the years go by, with serious consequences for many of the people involved. Class and gender roles are themes of the book.

I loved this book. I had it on my e-reader, having downloaded it from Project Gutenberg some years ago. I was recently reminded of it when listening to a booktube video.

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
We recently ordered this book, along with a couple of other books by Dickens. I wanted to read this one first, so of course this one came last. The other two arrived together and this one a week later, even though they were all ordered from the same place at the same time. This one somehow travelled from the UK to France to Ireland, so it had a longer journey. As soon as it arrived, I dove in and loved it from the start. It's not perfect, but there is so much to enjoy in this book and so much that is relevant in our world today. The introduction to this edition was also excellent, although I read those at the end, so as not to have plot points divulged before I start the book. I haven't really read Dickens, except for A Christmas Carol, in decades, so it is fun to revisit his work.

I should note that I have tried to give a flavour of the plots, but without going into too much detail, because I don't like to give too much of the storyline away. There are Wikipedia entries for all of them if you'd like to get that detail, but like the introductions, I never read those until after I read the book either, because they give away the story.

I finished a book just before going to sleep last night, so I will have the fun of picking a new one today. So many books, so little time! I hope you're enjoying some good reading, too.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Clever Funny Videos

I always enjoy the Founders Sing videos--here's their latest:

And Randy Rainbow is another clever guy:

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Wildflower Wednesday

We walked the river trail today and there were some lovely wildflowers blooming.

this thistle was quite tall and the bee was happy
The patches of ferns were pretty, too. I love the curls as they grow towards opening.

I hope there are many beautiful sights in your neck of the woods, too!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Happy Solstice!

At 22:43 tonight our time, summer solstice will arrive. Yay! From then on, ever so slowly, the seconds/minutes/hours of daylight will begin to dwindle a bit more each day. I am almost giddy thinking about it! I know there is plenty of yuck still to come as summer drags on, but I always feel just a little bit better knowing that at least I am heading towards my best time of year now.

Whether this day makes you happy because of the long hours of light or the upcoming journey towards the dark, I hope it's a good one where you are.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Finally! FO to FO

Just over a year ago, we visited Creeslough for a few days. As we always do, we walked around to various places, just to see what we would see. One day, we walked to Doe Castle. On the way, I spotted this on the side of the road and picked it up.
I knew this would be fun to use somehow, so I carried it to Doe Castle and back to our 'glamping villa.' Then I considered how I would carry it home on buses and in a full backpack. I didn't want to carry it lest the end stab myself or someone else and I didn't want it to punch through my pack, either. I ended up wrapping the bottom with a couple of cardboard cores from loo rolls and tying it with some yarn I had. Then I carefully placed this wrapped end in a yogurt jar and set this on the bottom of my backpack along the back before packing everything else. It worked well and I got it home with no damage to anyone or anything else. I poured boiling water over it a couple of times and wiped it down

Then I considered what to do with it. I knew it would be a plant poke, but went back and forth and round and round about what to put in the ring. Nothing settled, so I just stuck it out of the way. When we moved, I stuck it in a new out-of-the-way place until the other day, when I decided it was time to actually make this FO (found object) an FO (finished object). I opted for a small bit of crocheted lace with a pineapple design.

I'm happy with the end result and it looks nice in the window.
If I decide at some point that I want something else, I can remove the lace and add a different piece of work, but for now, I'm glad to have finally turned the FO into an FO!

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Blooming Cactus

This is a very slow-growing cactus. We got two others at the same time and it's easy to see how much they've grown, but this one seemed to maybe get a bit taller and fatter, but it was hard to tell. The other day, I looked at it and thought there was something wrong with it because I saw those things sticking out of it. Then I looked closer and saw that it is blooming. 😃

Monday, June 8, 2020

Using Leftovers: A Pin Loom Scarf

A few weeks ago, I posted about the pin loom that Bill surprised me with. I've spent many happy hours with this little tool since then, weaving away and listening to podcasts and audiobooks. I started with some smooth cotton scrap yarn. I made 6 squares and practised joining them, following along with instructions both in videos and in the printed directions that came with the loom. I wasn't too keen on any of the joins, to be honest, but I crocheted around the resulting rectangle and made a little hanging loop and had a hand towel for the kitchen. With all of the hand-washing going on these days it comes in handy and since it's useful, the joins seem flimsy and messy don't bother me that much.

Once I knew I wanted something different as a finish to the squares, I played around until I found what I liked. That is a crochet slip stitch and chain border around each square. This provides a clean frame for the squares and provides versatility as far as joining goes--I will be able to sew the squares together along the crocheted borders or they could be crocheted together. I could also build on the crocheted edge to create a more elaborate border as a frame for the square. The joins would also be sturdier, which is important if making a blanket, shawl, or other garment.

When using the pin loom, the yarn gets wrapped around the pins in a particular way (depending on the loom and configuration of the pins) and then the yarn is wound around the outside of the pins to measure how much will be needed for the weaving itself. Then the yarn is cut, threaded through the weaving needle and is used to weave through the warp. I simply wound the yarn around 5 extra times and when the weaving is done, I pick up a crochet hook and use the tail to slip stitch and chain around the square. When that's done, I have a tail long enough to be securely hidden or to use for sewing squares together, if that's what I want to do.

I've been making squares out of all sorts of yarns, including some novelty/textured yarns a friend sent me a few months ago. I have a large project in mind for those, so am simply making squares for now. I don't want to put any together until I see what I end up with and arrange them how I want them. I plan to crochet them together with one colour of smooth yarn, but the squares themselves will be a mix of different yarns, textures, and colours. Fun!

I had one leftover ball of silk/cashmere yarn that a different friend brought back for me a couple of years ago--she found it in a thrift store in the US when she was there. There were 4 balls of a blue-grey, one ball of cream, and one ball of light brown. I used the two single balls to make myself a neckwarmer and three of the blue-grey to make a scarf with pockets, so I had scraps of cream and brown, a few scraps of blue-grey and a full ball. I made as many squares as I could with the yarn and today, I put together the blue-grey ones into a short scarf. I decided that, instead of attaching the squares along the edges, I would layer them in a diamond shape. I rummaged around in my stash of beads and bits from deconstructed charity shop jewellery and picked out a few pieces to use as embellishments. I used the long end tail to sew the squares and to attach the embellishments.

It's hard to see in the pictures, but the bottom diamonds are the blue-grey and cream held together.
I have a couple of squares made with the light brown and cream, but I will use those for something else. This scarf is just the length I wanted--it sits around my neck and the ends do not hang down too much. I plan to wear it secured close to my neck with a small pin/brooch. It will be nice when we are back in my happy seasons of autumn and winter.

Meanwhile, the pile of 4-inch squares keeps growing and ideas for how to use them are bouncing around in my head. I'm having so much fun with my little handmade loom.

I hope this day finds you safe, well, and experiencing many moments of quiet joy!