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.