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!

Saturday, June 6, 2020

May Miscellany

This is the last of my May book list--the books that were neither mysteries nor poetry. Included are short stories, memoir, Buddhism, nature writing, art, and letters in audiobook, e-book, and book form.

Bliss and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield (audiobook read by Juliet Stevenson)
The title says it all. Juliet Stevenson was a good reader. I enjoyed this book quite a lot.

The Magnetic North: Travels in the Arctic by Sara Wheeler
This book has been on my shelf for a few years and I decided the time was right to read it. The author had spent time in Antarctica and written a book about the experience. She wasn’t very interested in the arctic, until a trip to the area piqued her interest. She embarked on this book project, spending a couple of months in a particular arctic area of each country that has territory above the Arctic Circle. She did not do the entire project in a continuous journey but in chunks, one place at a time. Sometimes one of her children went with her. While her discussion of each place highlights a particular theme relevant to the problems faced in the far north, each chapter provides cultural insights, science, descriptions of weather and landscape, and descriptions of how things are changing. The science is dated, because the book was published over a decade ago, but it was still interesting as background. The author does a good job in her cultural descriptions—much was familiar to me from my time in Alaska and learning about Native cultures and Inupiaq Eskimo language. Her love of what she is doing and the arctic is evident in her writing and the way in which she structures the book. It’s a good read, if not always a happy one.

Letters of Note: Art compiled by Shaun Usher (audiobook read by various people)
The compiler of these letters recognised that letter writing is a dying art form and set out to find and preserve letters of note on a website. He has recently complied theme-based audiobooks of these letters. Various actors and authors read the letters and before each one Usher provides the listener with background on the writer of the letter, the context in which it was written, and a bit about the culture of the time. This was fascinating. I loved it and highly recommend it. There are also audiobooks on the themes of mothers, cats, love, and war. There may be others as well, but these are the ones I saw at the library website.

Elizabeth Taylor: The Complete Short Stories
I was thrilled when Bill came home with this book a few years ago, having spotted it at a pop-up charity shop. I love short story collections, especially complete collections like this one. I gather that Taylor is not as well known as she once was, but is starting to be read more these days with some of her work being re-published. This is an excellent collection. It’s a chunky book at 600+ pages, but it can be dipped into over time. I started it before we moved and then ended up reading other things, partly so I could donate them before it was time to pack them up and haul them here. I think I read about 1/3 of it before I set it aside. Once I picked it up again, I sailed through it, because I really loved it. Most of the books we pick up at charity shops are read (or started and set aside if not liked)—and then passed on, but sometimes I find one I want to keep. This is one of the keepers. I highly recommend it.

Minor Feelings: A Reckoning on Race and the Asian Condition by Cathy Park Hong
This was a new e-book on the library website. This is teh description from the page:
‘The daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong grew up in America steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy. She would later understand that these "minor feelings" occur when American optimism contradicts your own reality. With sly humour and a poet's searching mind, Hong uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness. This intimate and devastating book traces her relationship to the English language, to shame and depression, to poetry and artmaking, and to family and female friendship. A radically honest work of art, Minor Feelings forms a portrait of one Asian American psyche - and of a writer's search to both uncover and speak the truth.’

This is an excellent book. I read it just before the current uprisings against racism began in the US and spread around the world. The book is extremely relevant to what is going on now.

Welcoming the Unwelcome: Wholehearted Living in a Brokenhearted World by Pema Chodron
Years ago, when I was in the middle of a very serious depression which interfered with my ability to function well, I checked out a set of CDs which was an audiobook by Pema Chodron. I don’t remember which book it was. I was familiar with the name and had read a bit of her work before. I was also aware of the general structure of Buddhism, but I was to find out that I had misunderstood both. As I listened to the audiobook while in bed, crying and unable to make myself get up, I felt myself tuning in to something for the first time in a while. She made so much sense. I found myself mentally nodding as I recognised my own life in what she was saying. Then I saw ways I could begin to heal from right there in my bed and with my tears still flowing. And I did begin to heal. When that audiobook was done, I checked out another and then another. I read other books. I explored Buddhist teachings. I found my place in secular Buddhism as I understood the foundational ideas and put them into practice and felt such peace of mind. When I saw this e-book listed as a new release, I reserved it. It wasn’t all that different than her previous work, but the personal anecdotes and examples she gives are new and often funny. She shows how these practical ideas can help us navigate through pain and difficulty and also deepen our experience of joy and peace. Crucially, she also talks about how this benefits the rest of the world. I recommend her work, whether it’s this book or another.
Here’s the blurb for this book:
'In her first new book of spiritual teachings in over seven years, Pema Chödrön offers a combination of wisdom, heartfelt reflections, and the signature mix of humor and insight that have made her a beloved figure to turn to during times of change. In an increasingly polarized world, Pema shows us how to strengthen our abilities to find common ground, even when we disagree, and influence our environment in positive ways. Sharing never-before told personal stories from her remarkable life, simple and powerful everyday practices, and directly relatable advice, Pema encourages us all to become triumphant bodhisattvas--compassionate beings--in times of hardship.

Welcoming the Unwelcome includes teachings on the true meaning of karma, recognizing the basic goodness in ourselves and the people we share our lives with--even the most challenging ones, transforming adversity into opportunities for growth, and freeing ourselves from the empty and illusory labels that separate us. Pema also provides step-by-step guides to a basic sitting meditation and a compassion meditation that anyone can use to bring light to the darkness we face, wherever and whatever it may be.'

Friday, June 5, 2020

Poems and Poets

There was a bunch of poetry in my May reading.

The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms edited by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland
I wanted to have a book about poetic forms. I considered borrowing one from the library, but wanted one I could keep and refer to whenever I wanted, so I clicked around, read about various books, found this one, and bought it. Sadly, a day afterwards, we heard that Eavan Boland died. She was a groundbreaking poet and I highly recommend her work.

The book is excellent and just what I wanted. Each chapter is devoted to one form and begins with the form at a glance in which the structure of the form is presented as a list of components. Then there is a history of the form and a discussion of its evolution. From there, the text moves to the form in a contemporary context. This is followed by many examples of poems written in the form from different time periods. Finally each chapter ends with a closer look at one of the example poems. For anyone interested in poetry and poems, this is a wonderful resource.

Sylvia Plath Poems Chosen by Carol Ann Duffy
I hadn’t really read Plath’s poems, except for possibly one or two in anthologies or poetry emails. I probably won’t be reading more. They were fine, but not really my cup of tea and I wouldn't seek them out. This collection showed up in the 'new releases' section of the library ebook page, so I borrowed it.

Mean Time by Carol Ann Duffy (audiobook read by the poet)
the poet’s 4th poetry collection. I enjoy listening to audiobooks like this, because when the poet reads her work, she reads it in the way she meant it to be read, which could be different than how I would read it on the page.

No More Masks!: An Anthology of Twentieth Century American Women Poets edited and with an introduction by Florence Howe
Bill spotted this is a pile of books on the floor of a charity shop last year. He pointed it out to me, I snapped it up and brought it home. It was one of those treasures that we come across occasionally. I’m thrilled to have it—it’s a keeper. As with any anthology, it contains some work I love, some work I don’t care for, and some that is in between, but overall, it’s a wonderful collection. It was first published in 1973 and this is a revised and expanded version, published in 1993, so it is something of a classic.

Happy reading!

Thursday, June 4, 2020

More Mysteries in May

Here are the rest of the mysteries I read/listened to last month:
Scales of Justice by Ngaio Marsh
One day I was feeling tired and generally icky from the usual spring/summer head congestion and pressure, so the two non-fiction books I had started, which require some attention and thought, were not going to work for me. I still felt like reading, though, and went to some comfort reading—a book by one of the Queens of Crime. This is book 18 in her Roderick Alleyn series and was perfect for the sort of day I was having. It was a typical English village sort of story—lots of secrets and simmering resentments bubble up to the surface when Alleyn comes to investigate the death of one of the gentry, whose body was found by the river next to the ‘Big ‘Un’ and old trout that was a prize catch.

Death of a Fool by Ngaio Marsh (also published as Off With His Head)
After I finished book 18, I moved right into book 19 of the Roderick Alleyn series, which also takes place in a village and involves folklore and ritual. Something goes quite wrong at the annual winter solstice ritual dance and Alleyn has to find out why someone took part of the ritual horribly literally and someone else did not make it to the end.

Passing Strange by Catherine Aird (audiobook read by Bruce Montague)
I’d finished an audiobook and had a few days before my next reserve could be downloaded, so I went to the library site and found this one available. There are a few of her books in the system that are duplicates, but read by different people. The first one I listened to was read by Robin Bailey and I really liked his delivery—he really brought out the humour in the books. So when I saw this one, I checked to see if he was the reader, as I always do. He was listed, so I borrowed it. When I started listening, I learned it was the other guy. I decided to listen anyway and see whether I liked him. He was fine, but not as good as Bailey. It’s possible that this book wasn’t as funny as the others, but I do think the reader’s delivery was a factor. This guy put a whole new spin on some things, like reading the head detective’s words in a Scottish accent. I’m fairly new to audiobooks and a bit picky about the readers, so this is the first time I have had a chance to listen to several works in a short period of time by the same author but read by different people.

This is one of the books in Aird’s Sloane and Crosby series. I’m not listening/reading them in any particular order, so not sure what number it is. It doesn’t seem to matter about the order as there doesn’t seem to be any evolution in the characters through time as there is in some series. So far, they’ve all worked as stand-alones.  In this one, things go terribly wrong at the annual village Horticultural Society show. First of all, there was no way that woman’s tomatoes should have gotten first prize and second of all, the district nurse is nowhere to be found—at least until they are taking down the tents. Does this have something to do with who will inherit the priory, is the newcomer really who she says she is, and was the nurse silenced because she would be able to answer those questions?

The next Catherine Aird e-audiobook I requested came in a few weeks early, but I have a short story collection to listen to first--or at least see if I like it. Or maybe I'll renew that one and listen to Aird first 😃I don't think there are many more of her e-audiobooks in the digital section, so I'll have to look her up in the library system once we can request physical books again. I do enjoy her books a lot.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Mysteries in May

As we head deeper into June, things are looking positive regarding our possible move to Phase 2 of the re-opening plan on 8 June. This is the time when libraries can re-open. Yay! That's a Monday and our library is closed on Mondays, so it would be the 9th before I could go, but that's less than a week and my anticipation grows by the day. 😀 I have three books waiting patiently for me to pick them up. There will also be an easing of the requirement that we stay within 5 km of our homes with certain exceptions. This will really not make much of a difference to us, because we live far enough away from things that even with the new 20 km limit, there wouldn't be anywhere to go, other than an even smaller village up the road a bit. We could possibly hop on a bus and go there for a few hours one day.

In looking over my book list for May, I see lots of mysteries and poems, along with a smattering of other sorts of books. I'll start with some of the mysteries.

Inheritance Tracks by Catherine Aird
Having recently discovered this author via a Lit Hub/Crimereads email and recognising the name from the e-book/e-audiobook section of the library website, I tried one of her books and loved it. It was an audiobook because that’s what was available at the time of my search. This turned out to be  good thing, because the reader was perfect for this author’s work. There are several of her books in the system, all but this one in e-audiobook format. This is her latest book, published last year, and is  in e-book format. I wasn’t sure whether I would enjoy reading her work as much as I did listening to it, and if given a choice, I would choose an audiobook read by Robin Bailey, but this was almost as wonderful. I wasn’t sure how much the dry humour would work in print, simply because it often appears in the form of thoughts left unsaid by the main detective, Sloan, but it does work. I was also curious to see how much the characters had changed or progressed because the books span decades and the first one I listened to was an early book. But it seems that little has changed. The doofus sidekick that no one is keen to work with, Crosby, seems to be the same as do the rest of the characters. It’s possible that as I go back and listen to more early work, differences will become more apparent to me, but it doesn’t really matter. These are fun books and I’m so glad to have had this author come to my attention.

Here’s the description of the book from the library website:
‘But they – along with a missing man – are descendants of the late Algernon George Culver Mayton, the inventor of “Mayton’s Marvellous Mixture” and each entitled to a portion of the Mayton Fortune. But before they can split the money, the missing man must be found.
They begin their search, but then Detective Sloan receives a call that one of the legatees had died following an attack of food poisoning. Now detectives Sloan and Crosby must determine whether the deceased merely ingested a noxious substance by accident, or if the legatees are being picked off one-by-one. And when matters of money and family rivalry are involved, there is almost certainly foul play afoot.’

The Religious Body by Catherine Aird (audiobook read by Robin Bailey)
This is the first Aird book. It’s set in a convent. After her room is found empty and she does not appear for morning services or breakfast and search is begun and Sister Ann is found at the bottom of the cellar stairs. It soon becomes clear that she did not simply fall as first assumed. Who killed her and why? Sloan and Crosby have to find out.

Henrietta Who? By Catherine Aird (audiobook read by Robin Bailey)
This is an early book in the Sloan and Crosby series. As with the other books of hers, I laughed several times. I do so enjoy the humour in these books. Grace Jenkins, a widow, is found early one morning by the postman, making the rounds of the village on his bicycle. It is clearly a case of hit and run and quickly determined to be deliberate. Her daughter, Henrietta, at university, is notified and comes home. But when the postmortem is done, it is discovered that Grace Jenkins never had Any children. Who is Henrietta and why was Grace run over?

Murder Under the Sun by Agatha Christie (audiobook read by Hugh Fraser)
I came across this title some months ago among the new releases in e-audiobook section of the library website. I waited until it was more seasonal and reserved it. It’s a collection of mostly lesser-known short stories, set in various places, but all in the summer. The title is a bit off as most stries feature other less serious situations than murder. There are some Poirot stories, many featuring Mr Parker Pyne, one with Mr Quin, and a few without any of her recurring characters. I am usually not sure whether or not I will like the reader of an audiobook, but I knew I’d like this one. Hugh Fraser played Hastings in the TV adaptations with David Suchet as Poirot. This is a fun collection and well worth listening to if you’re a Christie fan.

I hope you're enjoying some good books, too!

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Poem in Solidarity

Self Destruction (in solidarity with people rising up against oppression and with a nod to Audre Lorde)

I sit
in the adopted country
I love.

 I watch
the ongoing self-destruction
of the country I have never loved
but was born into and understand so well.

I listen
to the anguish
of those who
have always known
they were never meant to survive.

I see
the incredulity and fear
of those who
thought their country
was something different
even though this
is what it has always been.

I am reminded
that all politics 
is identity politics
and only one identity
decides how things 
should be,
who belongs where,
who gets to take 
a knee
and who gets to breathe.

If your skin is light enough
(or even sickly orange)
you decide
which of your weapons 
to use
in any given moment
and for whatever reason
you choose
while pretending 
you’re a patriot.

What are you in the mood for today?
Your voice?
Your position?
Your propaganda?
Your politics?
Your knees?
Your guns?
All of the above?

Each day you speak
and oppress
and deny basic rights
to humans you despise
and fear.

And when people
keep on surviving
you look for excuses
to kneel on their necks
and make the metaphor real.

And when that doesn’t work
you turn to your weapons 
of war
and even 
weapons illegal
in war.

I consider
as I sit here
how everything depends
on which side of the gun
you’re standing.

2 June 2020