Friday, December 24, 2021

Season's Greetings!

 Whether you're celebrating today and tomorrow or not, I hope your days are peaceful and full of joy.

I've got a batch of lasagne bubbling away in the slow cooker, which will be supper tonight and lunch over the weekend--it smells good in here! I've made smoked salmon spread and some spuds with veg, which I will add to and turn into veggies bites tomorrow. We have a few other munchie things and will graze our way through the weekend--no large meals which means minimal prep and cleaning up. 

Sunday is a holiday here as well and much just shuts down between now and the new year--we won't even have mail delivery until next Thursday, I think. It is starting to get more quiet out there. This is what I have always loved about Christmas in rural Ireland--the quiet slowness. Quiet slowness is very me!

I've got some lovely music playing. It's a nice afternoon here. I hope the same is true for you!

Now I'm off to make a cuppa! ๐Ÿ˜€

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Bittersweet

 Happy Solstice!

This is always a bittersweet day for me. I'm definitely sad about the fact that the days will lengthen now, but I treasure the darkness that we have in such abundance at this time of year! whether you're celebrating the abundant darkness, the return of the light, or simply Tuesday, I hope you have a wonderful day!

Friday, December 17, 2021

Kind of Worth It

 I'm a night owl. I do best if I go to sleep between 2 and 3 in the morning and get up between 9 and 10. This is only possible for some of the year because I'm not able to stay asleep in summer, although I cannot get to sleep any earlier. I savour the restful nights I have at this time of year because I know they are fleeting. I hate giving up any of these mornings by getting up too early, but sometimes choices must be made. 

We recently learned that Friday is Market Day in Falcarragh, a small village that is nearby. One of the vendors is the veg man, a mobile greengrocer. I was thrilled to know that he was there! Dungloe didn't have one and I missed this.When we got here, I asked around but was told that no one does this in the vicinity. no one mentioned Falcarragh and it was just by chance that we learned about it. We had to go there for something else and saw a sign, then asked for confirmation. 

There are some buses that get to Falcarragh from here in 15 minutes, but one comes at 7:30 and the other at 8. One day we will take one of those buses to spend more time there, preferably when it's spring or summer and I wake up early anyway. These are large buses and probably would have a hard time on the coast road, which is narrow and very curvy. The bus we take is a small, van-sized bus--the same one that brings us to Dungloe. It comes through here at about 9:20 and takes the scenic route along the coast. It's the only bus that runs along that route and people get on in the middle of nowhere to go to Falcarragh or the village 5 minutes before that where there is a grocery store. When the bus leaves Falcarragh, it comes back through here and on to Dungloe. People all along the route use it to go in that direction, too. Today someone was going for a medical appointment. It takes longer to get to Falcarragh--about 40 minutes--but it's a gorgeous ride and an important service for those who live along the way.

Anyway, this morning we got up earlier than usual and got ready to visit veg man's stall. I was struck by the colourful sky, the play of light, and the shapes of the undulating coastline. It's not a time I am usually outside at this time of year, so it was a treat to see it! I decided it was kind of worth it to lose an hour of sleep. ๐Ÿ˜€

I took a bunch of pictures out the bus window as we rolled along to Falcarragh. 
outside our apartment waiting for the bus 9:15 a.m.







breakfast time for the sheep--we stopped here for a minute so the lady who lives across the street from them could board the bus


i think that's Muckish in the distance, but not sure
So we got to Falcarragh, went to veg man's stall, got our fruit and veg, and went back to wait for the return journey. We have half an hour at most when we go there--often a little less if we get there later than scheduled. We only had to wait a couple minutes, but he would have waited for us if we'd not been there. The first time we went, the driver asked if we were coming back. I said we were and confirmed where we should wait. He told me, 'Don't worry, I won't leave without you!' I still find it remarkable and wonderful that we can live in such a rural place and still get to be car-free! And the bus is like a whole little community in and of itself. I wasn't keen on getting up early today, but I knew that once I did, it would be an enjoyable morning. And so it was!

Monday, December 13, 2021

We're Boostered

 Bill and I got our boosters this afternoon. They were talking appointments at a local pharmacy, which is a 2 minute walk from our apartment. We asked if we could just come together instead of having separate appointments, and they put us both down in the same slot, which is cool because it kept a slot open for another person. 

The guy was trying to put a plaster on my arm over the jab site and he was laughing because he couldn't find it. He ended up just sticking it on my arm somewhere. LOL 

We were both glad that we could pop in, have it done, and come home in the space of 20 minutes. Very convenient!

It was a busy day, starting off with a brisk 2 1/2 mile walk to the post office and back to pick up a large (over 1000 pages) book Bill had ordered. When we got home, we had just enough time to grab something to eat before catching the bus to Dungloe so we could go to Aldi and Lidl. We got home from there with enough time to haul the heavy bags upstairs and put things in the fridge. We left the rest of the stuff in the bags and went to get boostered. First thing I did when we got home was to turn the kettle on to make tea while I was putting the rest of the groceries away. All day long, from the time I got up, I was counting down the hours until we would be done, home, and drinking a cup of tea. I am not sure I have ever appreciated a cuppa more than I did today!

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Keep an Eye on the Time!

We've been listening to the all-classical radio station in Portland, Oregon via Radio Garden, an app that allows us to listen to radio stations of all kinds around the world. We both enjoy listening to classical music--it's just about the only music I listen to, in fact. But neither of us likes opera and the 'classical' station here, as with others we've listened to over the years in many different places, will often include a lot of opera in their playlists. We'd be listening to some nice music and then suddenly there would be a shrieking soprano jangling the nerves. The station here also has large blocks of time when they seem to have a jazz-heavy playlist and I'm not a jazz fan. 

When Bill was clicking around the app a while back, he came across this station and we tried it out. It is all classical and almost no opera. What little shrieking soprano there has been has been short. We both really like this station and have been listening to it a lot. As we had it on the other night, there was an announcement about some upcoming programming, including a show about Christmas music. I was thinking, 'Oh, I'd really like to listen to that, but no way will I be up at 7 a.m.' Then it dawned on me. It's Portland. They're 8 hours behind us. Seven a.m. there is 3 p.m. here. I can do 3 p.m.! Yay!

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Sunset Skyscapes

Skyscapes as seen between 3:30 and 4:30 on a winter afternoon on the western edge of Ireland:





Friday, December 10, 2021

Friday, December 3, 2021

Watercolour Sky

 Walking home with some groceries this afternoon at about 3:15, I was reminded of a watercolour painting as I glanced down the lane. I stopped to enjoy the shapes of the clouds and the subtle colours. I love spectacular sunsets, but I also love the beauty that exists in this kind of quiet sky.


Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Stockford Carol by Loreena McKennitt

 This is another one from her CD/album/collection of songs (I never know what to call them now that it's all digital!) called To Drive the Cold Winter Away. It's a wonderful collection which is up there at the top of my seasonal favourites. She also has an 'EP' called A Winter's Garden and an 'album' called A Midwinter Night's Dream, which are all seasonal and all fabulous. I hope you're enjoying whatever seasonal music you love, too!

Monday, November 29, 2021

Snow by Loreena McKennitt

 This song was my introduction to Loreena McKennitt's music. I first heard it years ago when we were in Fairbanks. We have bought a lot of her music through the years and I love it, but this remains my favourite of her songs.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

More Beautiful Music--Candlelight Carol by John Rutter

 This carol is lovely and brings me a sense of peace and serenity every time I listen to it--and since it stays in my head, sometimes even when I am not listening to it!

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Beautiful Music

 I am not a Christian and we don't really celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. For me, this time of year is a celebration of winter and nature, which we mark on the winter cultural holiday. Since that is Christmas in the places we've lived, that's the day we celebrate. That said, I do enjoy much about the festive season. I love the fairy lights shining in the dark. I love the cute decorations. Most of all, I love some of the music, which can be beautiful. I thought I would share some of my favourites over the next few days.


Friday, November 26, 2021

Howling, Roaring, Whistling, Rattling

 I never thought that much about wind until we got to Dungloe. I noticed when it was windy. We had a couple of trees blow down in Fairbanks. We've experienced the tail end of hurricanes on the US east coast. but Dungloe was the first time I experienced such sustained wind noise and was actually blown off balance when out walking. There were times we avoided walking to the end of the pier because of the wind. Through most of the year there was some wind, although it disappeared in summer when I really needed it! When we first moved in, it took us a while to get used to the constant howling and rattling that went on for weeks. Since we've been here, we've moved up a level with regard to wind. There were times when there was little to no wind or it was blowing in the wrong direction to provide a breeze through the windows that open outward from the side. Mostly though, there is wind and it is often loud. Today and into tomorrow morning we are going to have a visit from Storm Arwen. Even before Arwen arrives, we've already had over a day of strong wind. It roars, howls, and whistles. We've had a few hail showers and watched the hail blow horizontally down the street. We could get sleet and snow showers later. There might be some snow on the surrounding hills later this weekend. After an unseasonably warm autumn, perhaps we will get just a taste of what passes for winter here.

As I listen to the noise of the wind, I sometimes think about how it would sound of one was in a hurricane. It must be an awesome and sometimes terrifying feeling to listen to what must be incredibly loud and intense noise while trying to stay out of harm's way.

While the wind howled, roared, and whistled, I put up my few Christmas decorations, almost all of which are small bits I have made from scraps since we got to Ireland, since I left the Christmas stuff behind when we came here. I have a few things that people have gifted to me as well. I enjoy taking these things out each year and hanging them around. They do bring a smile to my face. I am particularly partial to these two that I made from sea glass collected on a shingle beach in Moville.
needle felted wool with crocheted borders and french knots (R), embellished with sea glass

One thing about living in so many different places is that almost every year, things are being placed somewhere new. Last year these were in a living room window. This year I hung them on knobs of the kitchen cupboards.

I hope that whatever you're doing today, you have a pleasant and peaceful time.


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving/Thursday!

 To those of you in the US or celebrating elsewhere, we wish you a very happy Thanksgiving! To those of you who are not having Thanksgiving today, we wish you a very happy Thursday!

Thanksgiving is the one US holiday that we've continued to celebrate since we left. It's still weird to have things just going on as usual out there while we have our much simplified holiday in our home. We've pared back the meal to the few favourites and I just finished preparing everything, although the stuffing continues to cook away in the slow cooker. Later we'll just heat things up, as we will for the next few days--I always make leftovers! 

I hope that wherever you are, you're having a good day spent with your favourite people!

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Wise Words on Wednesday

 'When I was about six years old, I received an essential teaching from an old woman sitting in the sun. I was walking by her house one day feeling lonely, unloved, and mad, kicking anything I could find. Laughing, she said to me, “Little girl, don’t you go letting life harden your heart.”

Right there, I received this pith instruction: we can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice.'

--Pema Chodron from page 20 of The Pocket Pema Chodron 

Monday, November 15, 2021

In Dungloe's Enchanted Forest...

 Mother Earth smiles.


Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Little by Little

 For several months now, I've been making squares on my pin loom. Not every day, but when the mood struck. I was using up scraps of acrylic and novelty yarns that people have given me through the years. I had fun playing with colour and texture as I made square after square. It's a 4-inch loom, so I knew I'd need a lot of squares to make a blanket. Earlier in the year, I took 70 of them from my accumulated pile to use for a different project, so the blanket had to wait a bit longer to be finished. But the other night, I wove in the last yarn end and it was done!
photo by bill burke

Here are a few pictures that show some more detail of some squares as the blanket is in use on the bed.



I am in love with this blanket. When it comes to making things, there is nothing I like more than playing with scraps. It makes me think of my grandmother, who was a sewist. She would take scraps and odd bits of fabric and make really scrappy quilts--not pattern, just squares sewn together. I loved mine and I remember sitting under it when I was small and looking at all the different colours and patterns in the small pieces of fabric. I do not get on well with sewing machines, so I end up making bits of fabric with yarn instead and get my scrappy fix that way.

When Bill first got me this pin loom and I was learning how to use it, I quickly realized that I didn't care for leaving the edges plain once they came off the loom, so played around until I had a crochet edge I liked. when I'm setting up the loom, I wind more yarn than the instructions call for and do a slip stitch border around each square using that. There is also a long enough tail left to sew squares together. I like the way the crochet frames each square and the way it looks when the squares are sewn together. It's a neater finish and easier to do. It's also sturdier. Unlike some of the mass-produced pin looms, like the Zoom Loom, this one is handmade and is meant to accommodate bulkier yarn--the pins are farther apart. This means I have fewer curves on the edges to use to connect the plain squares, which is why I decided on the crochet border. I wasn't happy with the end result when I tried to sew my first squares together without it, so I adapted. Years ago I had a vintage Weave-It pin loom, but I broke it, probably trying to use yarn that was too thick for the pins. I love having this one because I can use bulky yarn or two or more strands of thinner yarn held together. So many possibilities!

I have not yet used up my odd balls and scraps, and there is another scrappy project in progress. I guess I'll turn my attention to that now, along with some other things. 



Saturday, November 6, 2021

Yikes!

 When we were coming home from the library yesterday, we came across this creepy looking sight:
It looked like some kind of creature that crawled out from the ditch, but it's just a decaying leaf, on its way to being fertilizer. It used to look like this:

The cycle of life on display.

Friday, November 5, 2021

My Dream Home

 I had stuff in at the library today, including this new book:
My first thought was that upon removal of that guy, I'm ready to move right in. ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜‰



Thursday, November 4, 2021

Costly USPS Incompetence

 In late September, our daughter posted a parcel to us. She has posted similar packages to us in the past and they have almost always arrived within a week, so when it did not show up after a couple of weeks, I started to think something was off. After it still had not arrived a month or so later, I started checking into what the problem could be. Although we've never had to pay them in the past, we knew we would likely have to pay customs fees, taxes, and charges this time, because new rules have gone into effect, lowering the level at which these kick in for packages coming from outside the EU. In addition, shipping costs count towards that limit and those have increased. She did not know this when she sent the parcel and neither did we. But we learned about it while the package was en route, so we assumed we would get a slip through the mail slot telling us how much we would need to pay to collect the parcel. It didn't even get that far.

She was unable to track it on the USPS (United States Postal Service--LOL--the states aren't united and service is not the word I'd use, but there it is) website after a certain point, but I was able to track it on the an Post site. I discovered that it had been sitting somewhere for 10 days and then sent back to her. In the end, it went back to her home city, where the morons in that sorting facility apparently did not see the stickers on it and sent it back out to an international sorting facility in a neighbouring state. Someone there was awake that day and they sent it back to her. 

Before we knew what was going on and that she was getting it back, I tried to find out what was happening. Turns out that EU customs rules changed on 1 July of this year. There is now a requirement for electronic customs information to be sent to the postal service in the country of the recipient. This information has to be provided by the originating post office. You see where this is going. USPS is not doing the necessary work and parcels are being sent back in huge numbers. People are extremely angry. To be fair to USPS, they are not the only incompetents around--people in other countries are having things returned, too. Canada Post was having the same issues, but they have fixed it, from what I have learned. Also, people who send things from the US using a service other than USPS are not having any problems at all, which is telling. 

A few years ago, she sent something that was returned and we later found out it was because there was a magnet in the parcel, which was prohibited. When I spoke to a woman at an Post, she said there was nothing prohibited in the contents of this one. When our daughter got the package back, there was a sticker on it indicating that it did not clear customs and another that said, 'returned, refund.' She brought it and her receipt back to her local post office and was told that she could not get a refund because they did their job and it got to Ireland. Never mind that because they did NOT do their job, it could not get out of the sorting facility. Is she supposed to commandeer USPS computers and send the electronic information required after somehow learning what that information is supposed to consist of? No, that is the job of the clerks at USPS, who clearly are not up to the task all over the country, judging by the number of irate customers out there! Wait until Christmas! A lot of people in the US send things to Ireland, especially during the festive season. They won't be happy when the stuff is sent back and USPS essentially steals their money by not doing their job and not giving refunds. It's not cheap to send things here--our daughter is out over $80. 

I have told people not to send me things from now on. The incompetence on the part of USPS is costly--but not for them, so they don't care, I guess. 

Monday, November 1, 2021

Wee Shop or Shopping Mall? You Decide!

 This is the wee shop in Bunbeg.
It's useful when we want to dash out and get bread, milk, eggs, etc, because we can be there and back in 10 minutes or less. They have some groceries also--whole chickens, sliced ham, frozen, canned, and fresh veg, some fresh fruit, bottled and canned goods, coffee and tea, biscuits, crisps candy--a bit of this and a bit of that in small quantities. There's a card rack with greeting cards in Irish, most of which seem to be about babies. And there are a few cleaning supplies and stuff like toilet paper. The place is only a room and the wall space in the front is taken up with more convenience store sorts of stuff--bottled drinks, a coffee/tea to-go station with pre-made sandwiches and baked goods, a deli area where people can get sandwiches made (I am not sure this is actually in operation, but the case is there) and a small ice cream area where people can get a scoop or two--they have maybe 8 or 10 tubs of different flavours. Sometimes fishing nets and hula hoops are available, too and there is always the fire supply stuff as well. All that crammed into the room. 

One day I was looking up the directions to the library on google maps and I saw that this wee shop is on the map characterized as a shopping mall. I find this quite amusing. I don't suppose anyone would actually show up expecting to find a shopping mall in Bunbeg, but if they do, I suspect they'd be pretty disappointed. ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜†

Sunday, October 31, 2021

From the Place Where It Began...

 Happy Halloween!
image from the article linked below
The original jack o'lanterns were turnips and other root veggies--pretty creepy. ๐Ÿ˜จ๐Ÿ˜ฑ
Here's more about the origins of the day. The link will open in a new window.

Whether it's Halloween for you or not, have a great day!


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Beautiful Ending to the Day

sunset over Magheraclogher Beach, Co Donegal on 27 October 2021


Sunday, October 24, 2021

A Chance Glance

 
dance of clouds and moon
softening autumn landscape
as the dark descends

As I glanced out the bedroom window the other night, the moon and clouds caught my attention. I got my camera, even though I figured the picture would be blurry. When I looked at it, I loved that about it--all the soft edges create a seasonal vibe I didn't expect. 

Friday, October 22, 2021

A Bit of This and a Bit of That

 We headed out to the library this afternoon to return books and to pick up more. It's been a changeable day, weatherwise and our walk was no exception. When we left, the sun was shining. A couple minutes later, when we turned onto the little lane, it was grey. As I stopped to look at this scene, it started spitting rain.
Then Bill pointed out the rainbow behind me.
The sun came out enough to create shadows.
At the end of the lane, we turned onto the road and there were more rainbows around.
We got to the library and picked up our books. I was happy to get the latest Fintan O'Toole. I have admired his work since I discovered it shortly after we got to Ireland. 
We decided to walk home the long way, so we took a different lane. It got more grey with each step and I stopped to take off my sunglasses. Then the light rain started. I looked back to see if I could see Mt Errigal and I could, but just barely.
It was a nice walk. It's nice to be able to do our errands while we enjoy the scenery.







Thursday, October 21, 2021

Not Bad!

 It's not a bad walk to the grocery store. The sea and sky were lovely today, even with the tide being out.

I hope it's a lovely day in your neck of the woods today, too.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Love!

 I have never been a fan of the ovens and hobs I've had since we came to Ireland. In the US, I always had electric stoves and ovens, with one exception. Our cabin in North Pole had propane and it was horrible. The burners were either on high or off--there was no in between. We ended up buying an electric hot plate because that was better to use. If I remember correctly, all of the hobs I had in the US were part of a unit with the oven. But here, none of them have been. The hobs are just set into the counter. I have no idea whether that makes any difference whatsoever, but they've all been quite slow to heat up. With each one, I learned how 'early' to turn on a burner while I was still chopping so that by the time the food was ready to hit the pan, the burner would be hot. The hob in this place was at a whole other level, though. The first time I cooked something, it took 20 minutes for water to boil on the front burner. After that, I used the back ones, which are better, but still not great.

When we were moving, the friend who helped us said that he had an induction hob he wasn't using. he has a gas stove, but there was a problem with it at one point, so he started using one of the two induction hob/hot plate things he had and kept on using it because it works so well. He said he wasn't using the other one and thought I might like it. He said to check my pots and pans, though, because not all of them can be used on induction burners. If a magnet sticks to it, it can be used. I was kind of noncommittal, because I try not to accumulate too much stuff, but I did go to do the magnet test. Turns out there was no need, because on the bottom of the pots and pans it says 'induction' so I knew they'd be fine. After I'd waited 20 minutes for water to boil, my mind was made up. I said I'd love to have it. He came for a visit with some other friends about a week and a half ago and he brought it. 
I was shocked the first time I used it. It required a different way of working. Instead of turning the burner on while still prepping the food, with this the food has to be in the pan and the pan on the hob before it's turned on (and an empty pot/pan should never be left on the burner as it will melt). And when it's turned on, the sizzle begins within 30 seconds! It is so fast! I put hot water in a pot the other day and it was boiling in a minute or two. When I turn down the heat, it immediately cools down. I was reheating leftovers the other day and it was faster than the microwave. Because it's so fast, it's not a problem to cook things in succession if I need two pots and pans. The other day, rather than turn on the regular hob, I used this to make pasta and veggies. I cooked the veggies first, then took the pan off the burner and cooked the pasta. When that was done, I took that off the burner and put the pan of veggies back on while I drained the pasta, just to be sure they were piping hot. It was still quicker than using the regular hob would have been. In addition to be nicer to use, it will use a lot less energy than the regular sloooow hob. I love this thing! 


Monday, October 18, 2021

I Promise

 A friend sent me a picture of some wild mushrooms someone gave her. I am not a fan of mushrooms myself--don't like the texture or the taste and they make me itch when I eat them. But her picture reminded me of when I cooked in the soup kitchen. My day was Thursday, usually, although I'd fill in on a different day if needed. There were various people on my crew, including a pot washer, who I will call Jack (not his real name). When I started cooking there, Jack would ask me every week if there were mushrooms in the meal, because he did not like mushrooms. I would always reassure him that there were no mushrooms, so he could feel free to enjoy his lunch. After several weeks, I told him, 'Jack, I don't like mushrooms myself, so I promise you that when I am cooking, I will not be adding mushrooms to anything. I give you my word.' His face lit up and he said, 'OK!' and gave me a hug.

The soup kitchen coordinator always gave the 'chefs,' as we were called, advance notice of what we'd be cooking with on our day. One day I got an email from her asking if I would make beef stroganoff, because there was a lot of beef and a lot of sour cream. When that happened, stroganoff was the default. I wasn't keen on the stroganoff idea, since I don't like beef, either. And there was my promise to Jack. So I asked if it had to be stroganoff. The coordinator said that if I could think of a different way to use up the beef and the sour cream, I could make whatever I wanted. I thought a while and came up with a taco casserole. I emailed and asked if we had the various ingredients I was thinking about. We did and she said it sounded good and she was looking forward to trying it. It was a big hit, Jack was very happy, and I was asked to make it again and a again after that. The coordinator later told me that it was her favourite soup kitchen meal. I thought it was way better than stroganoff for many reasons, one of which was that I could get a lot more veggies in the meal! Taco casserole rotated with fish chowder, which I thought was pretty funny, because I didn't have a lot of experience with fish in my home kitchen. 

I had never made it before, so the first time I was asked to make chowder, I was nervous. But I did it my way, much to the chagrin of one of the people who worked at the food bank, who wanted it with just onion, celery, spuds, bacon, loads of butter, and cream along with the fish. That's not how I roll, so I asked the coordinator what veggies we had that needed to be used and she brought out a bunch of stuff. She was happy that these things were being used, but had not thought to bring them out before, since that wasn't usually how the chowder was done. I wasn't sure how the diners would feel about having all the veggies in the chowder--it was New England and as my co-worker illustrated, some people like things a certain way. But I figured that for many of the people coming for lunch, it would be the only decent meal they would have that day, so providing as much nutritious food as possible within that meal while making it taste good was a good thing. And there we had all that healthy food that needed to be used up. So in the veggies went. I nervously ladled the chowder into bowls and watched as the servers brought them to the diners. They seemed to like it. People wanted seconds and then even thirds. What a relief!

One Monday, when I was doing my usual shift at the food bank, I had to speak to someone in the office, so I walked down the hall to go there. People were sitting there waiting for the soup kitchen to open and I heard murmuring as I walked by. I heard someone say to her neighbour, 'She's the one who puts all the veggies in her chowder. It's so good!' That made me smile. 

I felt so bad one freezing cold winter day, when one of the guys who worked there came in near the end of the shift, rubbing his hands together. he'd been out doing deliveries or something and said he was hungry and looking forward to some chowder. His face fell when I said there was none left, so all I could offer him was some broth or I could make him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He took the broth. 

On my last day in the soup kitchen, before we moved to Ireland, I was asked if I wanted to make chowder or taco casserole. I chose chowder, simply because it was less labour intensive. The taco casserole was always a race to the finish and it took every minute to get it done before the doors opened.

I did a lot at that organization, as did a couple hundred other volunteers and the paid staff. There was a lot of community support, donations from local farms, restaurants, and grocery stores. People who needed it were able to get high quality, healthy food that would have otherwise been thrown away. But what a shame that such a place is needed and that without it, so many more people would go hungry and so much more food would be wasted. 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Tip of the...

 mountain just visible over the hills. On our way to the grocery store--Mt Errigal, the wind farm, hills, and green fields.


Saturday, October 16, 2021

Power in the Stitches

 The comments people kindly left on my last post set me off on a trip down memory lane. In that post, I mentioned how cool I still think it is every time I turn a heel on a sock. I started to wonder how many stitches I have made in the past 4 decades since I taught myself to knit and crochet when our daughter was a toddler. I'd done some needlepoint and crewel embroidery using small kits when I was a kid, but wanted to make more functional things, so taught myself knitting and crocheting. When I started higher education, I had less time, but I still looked forward to my little bit of stitching time. I remember how, in my first couple years of grad school, I was under a lot of time pressure. Bill was working graveyard shift and I was working as a TA, taking a full load of classes as required for the TAship, doing my own research, then writing my thesis. Bill would leave for work at about 9:30 pm. I would set the alarm for 1 or 2 am and place it across the room, so I would have to get up to turn it off. Had it been within reach, I would have simply turned it off and kept sleeping. I'd get up, make coffee, and do my reading for the day. I wouldn't have time once things got going--Bill would swing by from work in the morning, pick us up, drop me off at the university, take our daughter to school, then go home and go to bed. If I was TAing a night class, he'd pick me up when it was done, drop me off and head to work. If not, he'd pick me up at 5ish, we'd go home, help with homework if necessary, have dinner, hang out together, then he'd go to work. I would sit in bed and crochet, usually for just 10 or 15 minutes, since I was too tired to do much more, then I'd sleep for a few hours. I looked forward to those few minutes all day, though! I made a lot of blankets during that time. The first one was just a scrap blanket. I'd gone through all my scraps, tied them together in a big ball, chose a mindless stitch pattern, made a chain, and crocheted. I didn't have to count after the chain was made and I could just crochet away, even when half asleep. we had that blanket for a decade and it was still going strong, but we left it behind in a move, because it was heavy. When that was done, I started another, less scrappy blanket and gave it to a friend. Then a fellow student's wife was having a baby, so I made a blanket for the baby. It was so important to my mental health to have those projects to work on.

Throughout my time in the higher education system, I always felt like I was really on break when I could read novels instead of academic writing and I could spend more time knitting, crocheting, and doing a bit of cross stitch. Every Christmas break, I would spend at least one or two nights up almost all night listening to Christmas music, watching a Christmas Carol, and working on a big project that would be a Christmas gift. I loved that and looked forward to those nights. Sometimes this was a blanket or other thing for our daughter, but later on, near the end of my time in academia, I was working on a large project for Bill. I took a filet crochet chart, usually done with thread, and made it with yarn and a bigger hook instead. We had a large wall of dark paneling that it would be perfect for.
This was one of our dogs at the time--she was highly bonded to Bill. She loved all of us, but he was her favourite person.
She made it clear from the moment she came home from the shelter that she was a bed dog, not a sled dog!

Later on, after we'd moved and life took a different turn, I had more opportunities to see the power of stitching. I was asked to teach a crochet class to women in the shelter for those fleeing domestic violence and abuse. I did. We were there with donated supplies and they seemed to be enjoying themselves. The person who organized these classes sat in a corner and watched with her mouth open. Near the end of the class, one of the women looked at me while sort of hugging her project and asked, 'Can I keep this?' 'Oh, yes,' I replied, 'It's yours to keep.' 'Thank you,' she said,' I am making a blanket for my daughter's doll. I hope she likes it.' Later, we'd gone to a dinner in which both the organizer and the director of the shelter were present. They told me that they had their doubts about the usefulness of the classes, but that they were the ones that the women liked the most and they all said they got a lot out of them. That made me really happy.

When I'd left academia, I taught myself other techniques, including needle tatting. When we moved to a place with a new yarn shop in town, They held a meeting looking for instructors and I went. when they saw I could needle tat, they jumped on it and we'd scheduled the first class before I left. It was filled and I was able to recommend good resources so the shop always made a lot of sales in addition to the classes always being filled. I taught various things there for a few years and it was always gratifying to see the way people blossomed as they learned a new skill they'd been wanting to learn and often wanted to make something for someone they loved. This was true in all my classes, but especially in the needle tatting classes. Almost all of my students there were older and they'd talk about their grandmothers--one brought her grandma's crochet hook to join her picots. She cried at the end of the class, saying she never thought she'd be able to do it and how much it reminded her of her grandmother. Once, two friends attended the class together and they told us how they'd been talking on the phone with one another, cheering each other on. When one of their husbands asked what was for dinner, she replied, 'Make your own dinner. I'm tatting!' 

I have so many happy memories that involve yarn and thread. Thank you to Vicki, Linda, and Iris for your comments that brought me to this little journey down memory lane!


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Simple Pleasures

 Last night, I made myself a mocha, grabbed a piece of chocolate, plunked myself under my blanket and worked on a sock while listening to part of an audiobook and then some music. It was lovely. And I still get irrationally chuffed when I turn a heel! ๐Ÿ‘ต๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ‘ฃ


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

I Lost One

 When we looked at this apartment, we noted that two of the windows had outer panes that were cracked and had small holes. We later learned that this damage was the result of a friend of the previous tenant throwing stones at the window to get his attention, since the main door locks automatically so people can't just walk in. When we signed the lease, we checked to see that this issue was included as a landlord responsibility to fix. It was. And the letting agent made sure to note the windows in the video he took of the place. When the owner came by later that day, which was almost three months ago now, he said that he'd been trying to have someone come and fix the windows for weeks, but was having no luck so far. We believed this because that's how things roll here. When we next saw him, he asked if he could give the glass guy a phone number because he was here once and we were not. He'd thought he could fix it from the outside but needed to get in. We gave him a number and said to tell glass guy (GG) to let us know when he was coming so we could be sure to be around. 

A couple of months went by and there was no sign of GG, until yesterday when he showed up. Fortunately we were home, because there was no advance warning at all. There was just a ladder propped up against the outside windowsill and a head that appeared in the window, followed by a knock. I went and opened the window a crack so as not to knock him off his ladder and he said he was here to replace the windows and he needed to come inside. Would that be OK? Would I go downstairs and let him in? I did, while Bill hustled to clear away the windowsills and stuff around the windows. One has a desk under it and one the counter/breakfast bar. The guy came and removed the windows. Bill has a pic here (link will open in a new window). He said he was done inside and would go and install the new ones. He was on the ladder putting the first one in and I was in the other room. I was walking down the hall when I heard Bill made a noise of dismay. As I turned into the room, I saw the guy with his head back, softly expressing himself using expletives. I understood why and felt bad for the guy. Running from one side to the other, in a lovely curvilinear shape, was a crack in the outer pane of the new window.

He finished installing the cracked window and took a few pictures of it. Then he moved on to the next window. When we appeared in the space he said, 'I lost one.' We said some sympathetic words and he replied, 'This job must be cursed. I came once and Owner was supposed to be here to meet me and wasn't. I couldn't get in another time. There was one day when I had the windows in the back of the van and one of them broke. Now this.' I did feel bad for him. This job, for reasons both in and out of his control, has been hanging over his head for months. Just when he thinks it's about to be done and out of his life, craaaack. 

So we assume he will be back at some point to replace the replacement window. Or maybe not. One never knows here. The best thing to do is to believe it will happen after it happens and not until then. In this case, it doesn't affect our day-to-day life. It's not our responsibility, so if he doesn't show up, not my problem. For his sake, I hope we're home if/when he shows up the next time! 

Friday, October 8, 2021

Seizing the Moment

 It's been quite rainy here, which is typical. It's also been quite warm--in the high teens--which is not usual. September was warmer than usual too. Of course, 'usual' probably isn't much of a th9ing anymore as the climate crisis deepens.

In any case, it may be bucketing down rain and too warm, but books with my name on them are still showing up at the library! I've had a few in for several days and got another in today. The last one surprised me, since it was just put in transit yesterday or the day before after being processed and entered into the system. I'd requested it several weeks ago after reading a review of it and I'm happy to have it in my pile now!

Today I checked the Met Eireann website to see if there was going to be a window of opportunity we could seize upon to get to the library and back without ending up with waterlogged books. Three o'clock looked good, so around that time, I checked the satellite image and saw that we should be good. We headed out a few minutes later.

On days like this, I am reminded of how spoiled we've become. Since we've lived here, our local libraries have been just a few minutes away and we could be there and back in less than 15 minutes. This is very handy when we're dodging heavy bursts of rain! Now it's a mile away and takes 20 minutes to get there, however much time it takes inside the library, and 20 minutes back, so we need more time.  We were lucky today and avoided downpours. There was just a bit of spitting/mizzle and the books stayed dry. Yay!
These are the books I came home with. The Dawn of Language is quite new. I'm looking forward to reading his ideas about how language evolved and his reasoning behind these ideas. 

I used to think of Georgette Heyer as a romance writer and never read any of her work, since I'm not into that genre. While I think she did write mostly romance, she also wrote some mysteries, which I did not know until I read about it somewhere. This one, Envious Casca, takes place, in part at least, at Christmastime, so I decided to check it out (bad pun, I know!) and see if I like it. If I do, there are more to read. I think there are two different series detectives, but I am not sure.

I found the listing for the Thich Nhat Hanh book when I was looking for his newest book, which I also have on hold. It's still on-order.

The House that Disappeared on Tory Island is quite a (true) story! I recently somehow stumbled across a 5-part podcast that told this story and contained interviews with some of the people involved, as well as dramatized scenes. I am not sure the book will go any deeper than that podcast did, but I decided it was worth reading. Bill didn't listen to the podcast, so he might read it, too. The short summary is that Neville Presho was working as a filmmaker whose work was well-received. At one point, he went out to Tory Island, which is not far from where we are now and is said to be the most remote inhabited island off Ireland. I think it's 7 or 9 miles off the mainland. They used to have their own king--LOL. He fell in love with Tory while he was making the documentary that brought him there and he bought a house. His life took him to New Zealand, where he married and became a father. He was having mental health issues and his wife suggested they go back to Ireland. It wasn't clear to me whether it was to be an extended visit or a move. As the ferry approached Tory Island, he brought his son to see his house, which was visible from the sea. He was very excited, until he realized that his house was not there. Of course, he was frantically trying to find out what had happened, but no one was talking. Things went downhill from there as he slowly pieced things together.

I'm always happy to have a new pile of library books! Glad we were able to seize the moment and collect them.



Saturday, October 2, 2021

Saturday Smiles

 This reminded me of cats I've served in the past--made me laugh!


Friday, October 1, 2021

Something for Everyone

 It's finally feeling autumnal here--such a relief! Today we had heavy rain, sun, howling wind, and rainbows. Happy October!


Thursday, September 30, 2021

'Tis the Season...

 ...to keep my eyes open for the first Christmas biscuit sighting of the year. Yesterday was the day. We were in the grocery store in the next village and there they were.
๐ŸŽ„๐ŸŽ…⛄

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Maybe This Means We've Really Arrived :-)

 My computer had been having issues these past few weeks and nothing seemed to make them go away, so I reluctantly admitted that it was on its way out. It wasn't a surprise. There had been indications that it was struggling for a few months before and I think almost never using it for the month we were moving and only had brief access to wifi prolonged its life a little bit. We always buy refurbished computers, mp3 players, etc, for environmental reasons, so it wasn't expensive and I got years of use from it. Still it was somewhat annoying to not be able to do certain things that just don't work well on the tablet. I didn't have to deal with the issue for long, though, because Bill found a refurbished computer in Ireland that meets my minimal computer needs. Since Brexit we are much more careful about avoiding UK sellers--too much hassle and various fees. Anyway, since it was coming from Ireland, we figured there was a good chance it would get here on Monday. We were heading out when we saw the postman drive up a lane across the street, so we waited to see if he would come here next. There is a mail slot in the main door, which locks automatically when it closes, so if there is a parcel and no one happens to see or hear him, he drops a card through the slot and we have to go pick up the item at the post office in the next village a mile and a quarter down the road. There used to be one in a wee shop in our little village, but it closed. 

On this day, the postman came down the lane and swung around next to us. He asked if it was Bill and said he had a parcel. It was my computer. Bill brought it into the apartment and we headed off. As we were walking, I said to Bill, 'Now he knows who we are, so it won't be long before he sees us walking around between villages and stops to give us a parcel.' Indeed it did not take long! Today we walked to the library and then the grocery store. We were on our way home when I suddenly saw a van heading towards us. Then I saw the an Post logo. He pulled up and handed Bill the book I'd asked him to order for me. I guess it was just a tad too thick to go through the slot. He said he'd left a card for us to pick it up, but we could just rip it up. We rarely buy stuff online but when we do it is almost always a book or books, so there may be more opportunities to have them delivered while out and about. Now that we're known by the postman, maybe it means we've really arrived in the village.๐Ÿ˜€

This is the book I got and I am excited to own it. It's one I plan to keep.


Sunday, September 26, 2021

???

 I was reading along, nearing the end of the book. A weird-ish mystery, published in 1955 and then reissued in 1993 as part of a series of forgotten classics. I was about 30 pages from the end. Loose ends were being tied up and explanations given. I turned a page and found this:

I turned this page, hoping the story would pick up there where it had ended on the previous page, but nope. These blank pages were supposed to contain actual words important to the story. I muddled on, knowing I had missed some important bits. I turned the page again and was faced with more blank white space. After that, I flipped through the rest of the pages to see if there were more blanks. There weren't and I finished the book, but the experience would have been better if four of the final 30 pages had not been missing! I do not recall ever having come across this kind of thing before and I hope it's the last time! ๐Ÿคจ๐Ÿ˜•

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

July Books: Fiction and Short Stories

 I read some great fiction and short stories in July.

Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans)
This book was originally published serially in 8 parts in 1871 ans 1872. The story is set in the fictional town of Middlemarch between 1829 and 1832 and runs roughly on two tracks, although they intersect frequently. The novel begins with Dorothea Brooke, a very young woman who, with her sister, Celia, has been raised by an uncle on the death of her parents. She is pretty uninterested in the expectations put upon her as a woman and instead is more interested in intellectual pursuits and improving the lives of the poor and exploited. She makes a very big mistake and learns from it as the consequences gradually become clear to her. This part began as a long story revolving around the character of Dorothea and those who are in her orbit.

The second storyline revolves around a young doctor, Tertius Lydgate, who is new in Middlemarch. He has some newfangled ideas that the older generation of doctors does not like, which creates tension. He befriends the Vincy family. He also makes a big mistake that causes him suffering. This part of the book was meant to be the novel Middlemarch until Eliot realized she should intertwine both storylines into one book.

When I read classics, and particularly Victorian classics, I am always struck by how many things sound exactly like what is going on today. The technology and channels of communication are different, so these things happen in different ways today, but it’s still the same stuff. For example, virtually everyone in the novel, no matter their class situation or occupation, was always focused on keeping up appearances and hiding things that would cause people to look down on them. They didn’t have social media influencers, but there were influencers of another kind in the form of gossip. Word (whether true or not) didn’t get around as quickly as it does today, but it did get around and changed people’s lives in profound ways.

I really enjoyed this book. I could relate to some of the feelings expressed by Dorothea in particular.  There were some funny bits, too, which made me laugh.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton
We were in the charity shop one day, dropping off a couple of books when I saw this on the shelf. I'd been looking at it for months in e-audiobook and e-book on the library site, but it's too long for me to want to read/listen in those formats, so I never borrowed it. But there it was, so I bought it, figuring I could read it right away and donate it back so I wouldn't have to move it. As it happens, since there's no wee free library in Dungloe, we ended up sort of creating on on a shelf in between the sets of doors that make up the entrance to the old church where the library is housed. We would put books on an empty shelf with a 'free books' sign on top and they got taken, so we added more. This book ended up on one of those piles. It's a good book.

Address Unknown by Katherine Kressman Taylor
This is an epistolary novel which consists of letters between friends and business partners. One is a Jewish person who runs an art gallery in the US and the other is his partner who goes back to Germany as Hitler is coming to power and falls under his spell. It’s a chilling but important work, particularly now.

The Last Resort by Jan Carson
This is a collection of linked short stories, each told from the perspective of a different person. All of them are set in a caravan park in Northern Ireland, located on the edge of a crumbling cliff. This is a new addition to the library’s e-book collection. I loved it!

Learning to Talk by Hilary Mantel
This is a collection of short stories I picked up in a charity shop a couple years ago. The last story is an excerpt from her autobiography, which was published shortly before this. It was clear from that how biographical the previous stories were. They all revolved around childhood experiences. This is a good collection and well worth reading.



Tuesday, September 21, 2021

July Books: Nonfiction, Folktales, and Poetry

 In addition to all the (mostly) classic detective fiction, there was some fascinating nonfiction in the book pile in July.
In Praise of Wasting Time by Alan Lightman
When I came across this title in the e-book section of the library website, I was eager to read it. It did not disappoint.
‘We have apps, smart watches and calendars that constantly remind us to be productive and stop wasting time. We have created a frenzied lifestyle in which time is money, with not a minute to be wasted, and the twenty-four hours of each day are carved up, dissected, and reduced down to small units of efficiency.  

Professor Alan Lightman documents the rush and heave of the modern world, and examines the many values of ‘wasting time’ – for replenishing the mind, for creative thought, for finding and solidifying the inner self and letting the mind lie fallow without attempting to accomplish anything and without any assigned tasks.

Carl Jung did his most creative thinking and writing when he took time off from his frenzied practice in Zurich to go to his country house. Gustav Mahler routinely took three or four-hour walks after lunch, stopping to jot down ideas in his notebook. Albert Einstein described letting his mind ‘roam’ to make connections between concepts that were previously unconnected.

In this timely and essential book, Professor Alan Lightman investigates the creativity born from allowing our minds to freely roam. In Praise of Wasting Time teaches us all that sometimes, the best thing to do is to do nothing at all.’ Here's a quote:

Queen of Whale Cay: The Extraordinary Story of ‘Joe’ Carstairs, the Fastest Woman on Earth by Kate Summerscale
I found this in a charity shop years ago, but as it was a small paperback, I always set it aside to read larger books that I didn’t want to haul with me during a move. This time it came to the new place, but I read it and brought it back to be donated to the charity shop. It’s the biography of ‘Joe’ Carstairs, a woman born into a wealthy family who lived as a man and broke speed boat racing records before buying an island and declaring herself queen. Cay is pronounced ‘key.’

Dorothy L. Sayers: A Careless Rage for Life by David Coomes
This is a biography of Dorothy L. Sayers, best known for her Lord Peter Wimsey detective novels. She was one of the Queens of Crime during the Golden Age of detective fiction, but her output in the genre was not as extensive as some of the others. She also did a lot of theological writing. This author, who worked for BBC Radio in the religion department, is primarily interested in the latter. He skims over parts of her life, but quotes extensively from her letters and other writings that pertain to her religious views. I found this mildly interesting, but had it been a longer book, I probably would not have finished it. 

Why the Moon Travels by Oein deBhairduin
This is a collection of folktales from the Traveller culture. 

Quiet Enough by John Stevenson
This was a book of the week in an email from the Haiku Foundation. These haiku and senryu bring many images to mind, some of them sad as he writes about experiences and feelings leading up to, during, and after a break-up/divorce. But others made me smile and created a feeling of peace, like this one:
autumn wind
the leaves are going
where I’m going

I look forward to that autumn wind!