Monday, December 12, 2022

Playing Chicken on a Frosty Night

 Last night I finished my yarn chicken project. I won. 

A friend recently went to the US to spend Thanksgiving with her family. As she always does, she went to Goodwill (thrift store) to see what was there. She has found some great yarn there over the years. At the moment, I am wearing a sweater I made from a giant cone of yarn she brought back for me a few years ago. I still have some of that left. This time she found 10 balls of a superbulky superwash wool yarn that she wants me to use to make her a jumper (sweater). Incredibly, she found 8 hanks of merino wool yarn in purple--my favourite colour! Also, there was a ball of green superwash wool and a coppery coloured ball of wool/silk/cashmere yarn. Fun! I am pretty sure I know how I am going to use all of it. I started with the wool/silk/cashmere. It is so squishily soft. I had 120 yards of it and decided to play a little yarn chicken. Fingerless gloves seemed like a good use of the yarn. I use those a lot because my wrists ache in chilly weather and these would feel so nice when I wear them. Would I have enough yarn? I decided to try it and see. 

I am wearing them now and they are warm, cosy, and so soft. The colour is a bit more coppery than in the photo and they go well with my sweater, which is a rust colour with brown slubs.

I had just a tiny bit of yarn left:
It's definitely time for the wool here! It's been hovering around freezing for several days with milder weather not expected until the weekend. It's gotten well below freezing in some parts of the country. This is a big deal here and they're not really set up for it. There is a lot of black ice around and even though some businesses (and the local GP) were salting footpaths (sidewalks) and walkways into premises, it was still slick. Some businesses closed for the day and the GP was going to call everyone with an appointment to see if it couldn't be handled over the phone. Gatherings have been cancelled. They are gritting the main roads, but not side streets.  Some areas of the island got snow, but we just had a few flurries a few days ago. Now we have a moderate warning for potential freezing fog. Haven't seen that since Fairbanks! Our woolly bits are being put to good use!

Monday, December 5, 2022

In the Bag Upcycling Project

 When our friend came for Thanksgiving, he said he'd brought something hoping I'd look at it. It was a jumper (pullover sweater) that his late wife had knitted using some fluffy yarn with slubs. He wondered whether I'd be able to take it apart and unravel it to use the yarn for something else. I said I could and he happily left it with me.

I started by removing the seams holding all the parts together. There was a front, back, and 2 sleeves--pretty basic, which was good. The neckline was knit longer, then folded over and sewed down so I took that seam out, too.

I started with the back then moved on to the front. Ripping the knitting back was a bit fiddly at first because the bind-off edges were tighter than the knitting itself, as you'd expect. But it went quite smoothly once I got below the armhole shaping because it was straight knitting from there with no more bind-offs. The yarn was much easier to pull out than I thought it might be and this gave me a clue as to the possible fibre content, but more on that below.

I'd set the sleeves aside, because I wanted to preserve some of our friend's wife's work. 

As I ripped back the knitting, I thought about how I wanted to use one or both of them. I decided to make a bag.
I sewed the top of the sleeve closed and it became the bottom of the bag. You can see in the bottom right corner of the picture where it's not quite even--that's where some shaping was done. I considered evening it out, but decided to leave it as she knitted it. I used the yarn from the accent stripes to crochet a strap and a slip stitch border around the edge of the bag. 

I am quite happy with this project (and so is our friend). I am not sure if I will keep the second sleeve or rip it back. I have the rest of the sweater done and now have a bag full of fuzzy yarn balls. I plan to use my pin loom to weave squares with it. It held up well to the unraveling even when I tugged fairly hard, so I think it should be strong enough for that.

As for fibre content, I did the burn test on the yarn. It did burn (wool is flame resistant) and there was a bit of a hard black knob on the end, which indicates synthetic, but it wasn't as large as I'd expect if it was all synthetic. There was a significant amount of ash as well which indicates natural fibres. Based on all of that, I would say it's a blend with mostly natural fibres (some kind of animal hair). The burn test doesn't tell me specifically what the fibres are. But as an educated guess and based on the burn test I would say that both the fuzzy and smooth yarns are a blend of primarily natural fibres with some synthetic blended in. I would guess that the fuzzy yarn has a nylon core strand plied with the fuzzy strand, which feels and looks like mohair. Also, both nylon and mohair are very strong and the yarn held up quite well to the pulling. The fuzzy bits stick to each other and the slubs catch, so at times I had to tug fairly hard and the yarn did not break, which is part of why I would guess that it's a blend of nylon and mohair. The smooth yarn is also a blend based on the burn test and I would guess that is mostly wool with some acrylic.

This is a very satisfying project for me in many different ways. When I use the bag and weave with the yarn, I will think of our friend's wife. Sadly, I never met her, but from what our friend and another friend who knew her say, we have a lot in common. I suspect that we would have been friends. I wish I'd known her.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Look for Me There

 My blooming season has ended, yet
I am still here--
a different kind of beautiful.

Soon I will fall,
decay, decompose, disappear, yet
still be here
nourishing new blooms
yet to appear.

Look for me there.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Simply Lovely

 Late this afternoon, I went into the conservatory to work on deconstructing a sweater (more on that soon). It's a fiddly process because the yarn is both fuzzy and slubby, but I am almost done. As I sat there playing with yarn, I watched the last bit of sun fall on the remaining leaves and the moss on the tree trunlks, making them glow. I looked at the light coming from behind a layer of dark cloud. I listened to the birds singing. I noticed how peaceful and content I felt and I smiled.

Earlier in the day, we took a walk out to the outskirts of town to a little park area which I'd seen on the bus. At that time of the day, the sky was a blanket of grey but there was still much colour to be seen. 
I've always loved purple ornamental cabbage--I haven't seen any in a while until today

there were several of these hanging in there

a pretty little flower

a bit of autumn colour hanging on in spite of the wind

It was a simply lovely day. I hope it's the same for you!

Tuesday, November 29, 2022


 A few weeks ago, I was reading on the RTE website when I came across a book review. I immediately decided I wanted it, but when I looked for it, discovered that it wouldn't be published until the end of this month. I figured I'd go back to look at some other time. What I didn't know was that Bill made a note of the publication date and ordered it. We were both surprised when it arrived today! I didn't know it was coming and he didn't know it was coming this soon.

This is the book:
Andrew Fitzsimons is an Irishman who is Professor of English Language and Cultures at Tokyo’s Gakushuin University. This book contains translations, dates of creation, and annotations for all 980 of Basho's haiku, as well as an extensive introduction, glossary, index of poems in both Japanese and English, and more. According to the review, "It’s a real landmark publication, described by the poet and Oxford Professor Bernard O’Donoghue as "a moment of huge significance in world poetry."

Fitzsimons is a poet himself and brings that experience to this work. 

I am so thrilled that this book exists and that I have a copy! It will be so great to take a deep dive into this work. I expect to learn a lot.

John Kelly's review can be found here and is definitely worth a read.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving/Thursday

 To those of you in the US or celebrating elsewhere like us, Happy Thanksgiving! To the rest of you, happy Thursday or whatever day it is when you're reading this. 

We had our 9th Thanksgiving in Ireland while everyone else went about their usual Thursday routine. A friend came for dinner and brought three desserts! A trifle, a custard tart (pie) that the bakery in his neighborhood is known for, and some caramel slices. I spent a good chunk of the day cooking and now I am thrilled with the leftovers. I'm tired, but no cooking necessary for a few days now. Yay!

Last week, I saw that veg man had purple sweet potatoes so I got one to try. I liked it, so today I got another one, along with some other stuff for dinner. I made a roasted fruit and veg thing--chopped purple sweet potato, chopped orange sweet potato, chopped apples, and fresh cranberries mixed together and tossed with some orange juice. I poured it onto a tray and baked it until the sweet potatoes were cooked. The colours were beautiful and it was yummy!

We had a great visit with our friend, ate some yummy food, and had a peaceful day. It was a lovely Thanksgiving. I have so much to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Some Kind of Trauma

 We went to Donegal town this afternoon. When we got on the bus to come home, a very thin woman struggling with three or four heavy-looking bags got on and sat in front of me. It was not crowded, so no one was sitting next to her or me (or Bill, who was sitting behind me). She was in the very first set of seats. She settled in for the 1 1/2 hour ride to Dungloe. Based on the language she was using, I figured she was from Ukraine (we have many Ukrainians who have been given refuge and support here in Ireland). I saw that there was some kind of text on her phone--not sure if it was news or a message or what. She picked up the phone, looked at it and started howling, muttering, crying, moaning, and writhing in her seat. This continued for the half hour it took to get to Killybegs, but then she got quiet and I heard her snoring softly as she was curled up across the two seats.

I have no idea what traumatic events this woman has gone through, be they personal or having something to do with the war. I have no idea if she is from Ukraine or a different country or whether this behaviour springs from a mental illness, PTSD, or some other cause. What seemed clear to me was that she was in a great deal of emotional pain. My heart was breaking for her. I felt very relieved for her when I could hear her snoring, because it seemed to me that she needs a great deal of deep rest, among other things. I was hoping that she would not have any nightmares so she could have a respite from the thoughts in her head, which were clearly causing her so much pain. Whatever is so painful for her, may she get the help and rest that she needs to heal.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

A Few Weeks of Abundance

Whenever we go into a charity shop, I scan the room and make a beeline for the bookshelf/shelves. Sometimes there is nothing there that I am inclined to purchase, even if the shelves are groaning under the weight of the books. Occasionally we've been in a shop with very few books, but mostly they have a wide variety. This is definitely a nation of readers. Our new local charity shop is quite an excellent place for books. The first time we went in there was the day we were here to sign the lease and get the keys. We had a more time to kill so we went in. Like a magnet, I glided to the back of the small shop and scanned the shelves. I came out with a book. I couldn't fit it in my backpack, so I just carried it around. Thus began a very cool book winning streak. We have never gone into that shop and come out without at least one new-to-us book. Sometimes, it's been two, three, four, or more. Yesterday it was 6. Three for Bill and three for me. It's been a few weeks of book abundance around here. Here are the books I've picked up in the last few weeks--all but two are from our local shop. The other two are from the one in Killybegs, picked up the other day when we went there to have lunch with a friend.
the Bronte books was one I got in Killybegs--it's been a few decades since I read Medea

I'm not sure about the ones above. I got the novel first because I've heard so many wonderful things about it. I got the other one yesterday because some of the characters from the novel appear in some of the stories. Neither is the kind of thing I usually read, but one great thing about picking up books in the charity shop is that it's easier to expand my horizons. If I don't like a book, I can set it aside having only spent a euro or less and know that the money went to help someone. And I can donate it back so it can be sold again.
I love short stories, so thrilled to find these

I picked up the biography above in Killybegs. I know nothing about Marie Antoinette or the times in which she lived, so this should be a fascinating read.

While in the charity shop yesterday afternoon, I had a nice chat with the lady volunteering there. She observed that our Thanksgiving was coming up and asked if we still celebrate it. When I said we did, she wished me a happy day. We both celebrated the fact that they've started to put up the Christmas lights on Main St. When we left, she wished me happy reading and said to feel free to bring the books back when I'm done with them and we can do a swap. It was a very pleasant part of my day--a friendly chat, seeing the lights being organized, a nip in the air, and books. Simple joys.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Well That Was Fast!

 Last week, a friend came to visit, bringing with him a coffee maker. He'd given us an old one when we first met him and we loved it. It was excellent. But eventually, even the coffee maker of the year for 1987 (there apparently is such a thing) gets tired and decides it has had enough. Such was the case with Old Faithful. This happened just before we moved to Bunbeg, where we really didn't have room for one anyway. Our friend offered us this one at the time. We thought he'd given it away, but he brought it, along with some coffee, last week. It was chosen by his late wife and had never been used. He seemed happy that someone would be happily using it.

Coffee is starting to be more of a thing here, but it's still nothing like what we were used to in the western US or even the east coast, which had quite limited options in the grocery store. When we arrived here, there was mostly instant coffee, although there was a bit of ground coffee for coffee makers. Now everyone seems to be into the pods and our local grocery store does not even sell ground coffee. Before, we'd just used the plain coffee they had at Aldi, which comes in small bags. This time, Bill decided he wanted to try different kinds of coffee so he went online to see what was available. After looking at various places, we opted Kaffekapslen We chose a sampler pack of 5 different coffees--1kg of each. It ships from Denmark. Communication was excellent and shipping was cheap and fast. It arrived this morning.
apple for scale
Because we had no coffee filters, we couldn't use the machine right away. We couldn't find any here or in Killybegs, so Bill ordered some and they came yesterday. This morning we had a visit from a friend of a friend so the coffee maker had its inaugural run. We used the coffee our friend brought and I will use that before I open any of these. We like darker roast, so we might mix the blond with the intenso, but we'll decide once we get there. Very happy to have the coffee maker and a big supply of coffee. Goes well with the book haul, too! 😏😋😀

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Happy Mail/Book Haul!

 Last week, Bill got me a voucher for Kenny's, an independent bookshop in Galway (free worldwide shipping). Since we have never had a local bookshop in the Irish towns/villages we've lived in, that serves as ours. I had a great time thinking about what books I wanted and clicking around on the site. Today, my happy book mail arrived. Yay!
For the last few years, I have really been into classics with regard to fiction. I read a few more current fiction books, but it doesn't take long for me to want to get stuck into a classic again. Some of these I could get for free at Project Gutenberg but for books like this, I much prefer having a physical book instead of an e-book. Also, I really like the Wordsworth Classics editions. They have very informative introductions, but I don't read those until after I've read the book because there are spoilers. When a Wordsworth Classics edition was available, I chose that. When that wasn't available, I happily chose whatever copy they had.
each of these volumes contains 3 novels

I also got a couple of nonfiction titles.
Fanny Trollope was the mother of Anthony Trollope. She was also a writer, but while I've read a fair number of his books, I don't know anything about her. She was apparently a big influence on him, so I was happy to find this biography of her. 

The hat book was my last pick. I was looking at the bargain books and was intrigued. I make a lot of hats myself (knitted, crocheted, and occasionally, tatted) and the idea of hats changing the world seemed kind of hyperbolic. But it did look like a fascinating book. After looking at it in person, I can say that I am glad I decided to get it! It has a picture of a person wearing a certain style of hat on one page and a page of text opposite that provides information about the hat style and its importance. I think this will be a fun read, as will the rest of them. Now to decide which one to read first! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Routes by Rhiya Pau

 Routes by Rhiya Pau
ISBN 9781913665715
published by Arachne Press/Books Go Social 

A lovely collection of poems inspired by bother inner and outer journeys. Listening to the stories of her elders, who immigrated to the UK from South Asia and found ways to keep their identities while learning to fit into their new culture, the poet was inspired to consider their lives and her own as she travels herself to find her own way of being in the cultures of her grandparents.

In the preface she states, 'Conversations with our elders suggests that they...have compartmentalized fragments of their identities in order to survive. For me, writings Routes has been a process of holding these fragments up to the light, laying them down on a page and acknowledging the overlapping narratives and the silent spaces in between.'

I like the play on words in the title--Routes (as I pronounce it) could just as easily be Roots. 

These poems are very accessible and brought me along with the poet as she explored these themes of belonging, cultural unfamiliarity, and self-discovery.
I received a digoital copy of this book in exchange for a review. I thank NetGalley, the poet, and the publisher.

Monday, November 7, 2022

A Bridge of Words: Views across America and Japan by Hiraoki Sato


A Bridge of Words

Views across America and Japan

Published by Stone Bridge Press
When I saw the description of this book, I was intrigued. It did not disappoint. Hiraoki Sato is a writer, haiku-ist, translator, and worked for a trade organization in New York for over four decades. He grew up in Japan, but went to the US in his 20s. He wrote regular newspaper columns for both the Japan Times and the Mainichi Times and this book is a collection of some of these. They were originally published between the late 80s and 2019. Sato's interests and observations range widely across topics and small details can pique his interest and cause him to look both more closely and more broadly at an issue. In the foreword to the book, Geoffrey O' Brien writes, 'The restless desire to know more--to illuminate large things by attention to the smallest of details--might be the bass note of this collection; and what Sato full of surprises and odd angles.'

I really enjoyed this thought-provoking and informative book. I like the way he makes connections and how his position as always an outsider of one kind or another causes to him have a particular way of looking at the world. As someone who spent the first half century of my life in a country of origin in which I always felt misplaced, before emigrating, I am always fascinated by the views and observations of other outsiders. I also enjoyed the many topics he writes about. I can relate to the kind of curiosity that sees seemingly small things as illustrative of larger issues and that finds many things worthy of investigation and thought. Anyone who feels the same, is an outsider, has an interest in Japan, books, haiku, history, and Japanese language and culture would enjoy this book. It can be read straight through or one slice at a time. The columns are grouped by topic and if Sato has more to say on the subject now, he adds it as the end of each piece. There are also a few pictures and poems in the book. As with any such collection, there were some topics that interested me more than others and places where I disagreed with him, but that did not detract from my enjoyment of the book. I received a copy of the e-book from NetGalley in exchange for a review. I thank them, the publisher, and the author.

Friday, November 4, 2022

All I Want for Christmas is Yarn by Lindsey Newns

 This is a lovely collection of crochet patterns to make for the festive season and beyond. It is a book that has something for people of all crochet skill levels. There are patterns here for things a very new learner can make, providing instant results. There are also patterns for those with more experience and everyone in between. There are stash buster projects, patterns for seasonal decorations, gifts for others or for oneself. It is also a book of ideas. One thing I really liked about the book was the fact that while all 30 of the projects could be made specifically for Christmas, many could be for any time of year, whether as written or with a few tweaks. For example, change the colour yarn used for some of the decorations or stuffed toys and they are no longer limited to a certain time of year. The adorable gingerbread man is a gingerbread man because of the colour of yarn and the embellishments. Use a different yarn and leave off some or all embellishments and you'd have a cute toy for all the year.

Beyond the patterns, which are written in UK terms (which are different from those used in the US), the author provides much useful information, like a glossary of crochet terms, a table showing the US equivalents to the UK terms, one showing the same for needle sizes, and explanations of the stitches used in crochet.

I have taught crochet at a yarn shop, to groups, and to individuals through the years and had this book been available then, I would have recommended it to my students. It provides projects that could lead to instant gratification, which is important to beginners. It also gives them something to aim for and to build upon as their skills expand. 

I received a copy of the e-book in exchange for a fair review. I thank NetGalley, the publisher and the author.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Bargain of the Day

 Sometimes I like to make rye bread. Rye flour isn't something that I normally see in the grocery stores. One year Aldi had some around Christmastime, but that was a few years back now. I end up getting it online at a natural food store in Galway. I like caraway seeds in my rye bread, but although I haven't looked in a while, the naturql food store didn't have any when last I needed them, so I when I saw some in a grocery store in Dungloe, I bought them paying €2.79 for a jar containing 38g. I'm nearing the end of the jar, so I started looking around again. 

Last week, Bill was on a site called Nuts in Bulk. They sell things in various container sizes and have many other things besides nuts. I checked to see if they have caraway seeds. They did, so I got the smallest package they sell. Our order came today. 
You can see my supply is more than adequate to my needs! 😂 I will not have to go in search of caraway seeds again for as long as I live. The 500g bag cost €3.15. Shipping was free. As it happens, a friend loves caraway seeds, so I will be bringing some to her. 

I also got two tubs of peanut butter and a 4 kg bag of walnut pieces. We use both regularly. I will have to go back to the site and spend more time in the herbs and spices section. It would be handy to have the ones I use a lot in larger packages. Back in the day, when we still lived in the US, I could and did get lots of bulk food, including herbs and spices. Once we moved east, that was no longer an option and bulk foods just aren't a thing in the rural towns and villages we've lived and done our grocery shopping in, so this site is a good option for us. We choose to avoid Amazon and to buy from Irish sites when we can and if not, then from the EU. This is a site we'll use again.

Monday, October 31, 2022

From the Original...

 home of Halloween, have a good one!
original jack o'lantern National Museum of Ireland Country Life, Castlebar, Co Mayo

Thursday, October 27, 2022

I Am Easily Thrilled

 It's Thursday, so that means veg man comes to town! Yay! I love, love, love having a local veg man again! Today we were picking our produce when I glanced ahead of me, stopped, and did a sort of happy gasp as I spotted the bags of cranberries piled up in a nearby crate. Cranberries aren't as much of a thing here as they are in the US and I may or may not be able to get some in December. There's no Thanksgiving here, so we usually don't see them until then, if at all. Then sometimes they come in a large plastic punnet, which we avoid. So to see them in October and without punnets made me very happy indeed! I bought three bags. I stuck one in our wee freezer compartment, saved some to make a loaf of orange cranberry bread, and made jam with the rest.
I dumped the cranberries, so sugar, and a bit of water into a pot.
Stirred for a few minutes (the induction hob is fast) while they popped and cooked down and 5 minutes later, I had my jam. 
I will get more bags as long as he has them. 

The very first day we were in this town, we called in at the small local grocery store and as we walked by the produce, I exclaimed to Bill, 'They have loose parsnips!' There was a guy right behind me and I'm sure he thought I'd gone mad, getting excited about parsnips. 😂 But those usually come wrapped in too much plastic packaging (those punnets again!) so we didn't buy them. Now I can (and do) get them there or at veg man's stall. I am thrilled. 

Yes, it doesn't take much to make me happy. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Murder at the Bookstore by Sue Minix

 Murder at the Bookstore
by Sue Minix
ISBN 9780008584634
Avon Books UK, Avon

Jen Dawson always wanted to be a writer. Her first mystery novel, featuring twins Dana and Daniel was a big hit and she got a contract for the sequel. But her long-term boyfriend broke up with her and writer’s block moved in, so she opted for a fresh start back in her small hometown. There she discovers a new bookstore/coffee shop and spends a lot of time there waiting for the ideas to arrive. She befriends the owner, Aletha, and they become close, so Jen is devastated when Aletha is killed in an explosion on her husband’s sailboat. She is shocked when the police, in the form of a high school boyfriend and his police partner, show up at her apartment one Sunday morning, saying she and Tim, Aletha’s husband, are under suspicion. They are working on the assumption that he killed his wife and she helped. Jen decides that it’s in her best interests to do some sleuthing on her own. She doesn’t really believe Tim killed Aletha. When she starts to collect clues, she is pretty much ignored, so she investigates even more.

This was a great read. I could relate to Jen and her struggles to gain confidence in herself and to stop beating herself up. There were times I wanted to shake her and ask why she was making the choices she was making, but then I remembered my 20s. In that context, it was very believable. I found the group of quirky cozy characters delightful. One of the things I love most about cozies is the group of quirky people in them. The mystery was well plotted and kept my interest from beginning to end. The ending was well done and the ‘why’ the culprit did what they did was unexpected and interesting.

This is the first in a new cozy mystery series and I am delighted to have gotten into it from the beginning. I will definitely be looking out for more! 

I downloaded a free copy of this e-book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. I thank them, the author, and the publisher.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Murder in an Irish Castle

 Murder in an Irish Castle (A Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery Book 12)
by Verity Bright
ISBN 9781803148274
Pub Date 28 Nov 2022 

I had a pile of books I’d planned to read, but when I saw this—a cozy mystery set in the west of Ireland at Christmastime—how could I possibly resist? I couldn’t. I am very pleased with my lack of willpower too, because this is a delightful book.

Lady Eleanor Swift has inherited her uncle’s estate, which includes the wonderful butler, Clifford, and property in Ireland, as well as his property in Britain. She has yet to visit the Irish property, but when she gets an invitation to the Derrydee village Christmas 1923 festivities, she is eager to go. Clifford  accompanies her. They making their way to the big house in lashing down rain when Clifford slams on the brakes. They get out to find a man in the road, just barely alive. They get him into the Rolls and to the nearest place with a telephone, which is the abbey. The nuns are not thrilled at this turn of events, but they take the guy to a distant room and call the Garda (police), doctor, and priest. Alas, he does not make it. But who is he, how did he get there, and who killed him? On Christmas Eve, the caretaker’s cottage burns down. Was it an accident? The locals aren’t talking and seem to be acting in ways Lady Eleanor finds strange, although since it is during the Irish civil war and the fight for independence from British colonization, she assumes some of it can be put down to that. Lady Eleanor and Clifford decide to find answers.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved Clifford—his exasperation when Lady Eleanor does not behave according to the sense of what is ‘proper,’ the way he is a stickler for language, his encyclopedic knowledge of history and culture, and his affection for Eleanor, whom he has known since she was a small girl. Clifford was very close to Eleanor’s uncle for years and he sometimes has a sarcastic remark which includes a memory about the uncle or wee Eleanor. Eleanor is equally fond of Clifford and relies on him for support, information, and understanding. They make an excellent team.

As a blow-in to northwest Ireland, I was curious to see how the author would handle that aspect of the story—she did this well and even included a short glossary-ish section at the back, explaining things like hurling matches and their importance in small villages, culture, and history. Even though the book is set a century ago, there are some aspects of culture that remain the same.

Even though this book is the twelfth in the series and I had not heard of it before now, I could still jump right in and feel at home with this pair. I didn’t feel like the fact that I had not read any of the previous books in any way detracted from my enjoyment of the book. I will be looking for more books in this series and hope to spend more time with Lady Eleanor and Clifford in future. 

I received an advance copy of the e-book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. I thank them, the author, and Bookouture, the publisher.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Mossy Mosaic Mushroom and Friday Food

 We were doing an errand this afternoon and on the way home stopped to look at a small area in the back of Market Hall. There we found some cute mosaic sculptures. I was quite taken with this mossy mosaic mushroom.
There was no rain today, although we had plenty of grey sky. Yesterday was summer-like with bright blue sky and warm temperatures. However, we have had plenty of rain and wind recently and so far at least, there has been no further dripping from the living room ceiling. 

I made lemon poppy seed bread today and baked it in the slow cooker. It's yummy! I am still using some strong wholemeal flour I got a while back before the pandemic. I'm on my last bag, though, so will have to see if I can get more.

The other day I made polenta in the slow cooker, which is a great way to cook it. I am thrilled that the small local grocery store here carries coarse ground maizemeal--in the past I've had to get it online. I put black beans and veg with taco seasoning over the polenta and added some cheese, but it's also good with pasta sauce. Today I saw a recipe that the creators said is definitely not pizza, but it looked like a pizza. The polenta was spread out and served as the crust, the toppings were added, and it was baked. Seems like a good idea.

I have some millet I am going to try at some point in the slow cooker. I'll let you know how it goes!

Hope it's a good day in your part of the world today.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Catching the Light by Joy Harjo

 This is a gem of a book. Joy Harjo, former poet laureate of the US, writes about the power of words and music in her life as a Mvskoke/Creek Nation. There are many strands to this book, which Harjo weaves together beautifully--memoir, cultural history, folklore, music, poems, writing are all here. She writes about her own life and how the discovery of words and poetry saved her during some very dark times. She describes the struggles she endured in her quest to get an education as a Native American woman in a difficult relationship and as a single mother caring for her kids at the same time. She tells us about her experiences in various jobs she had along the way and how she formed a band with some lawyers at one point. They named it Poetic Justice--love that!

Harjo muses on the fact that in 2021 it was the 50th anniversary of her first published poem and states, 'This treatise will be something of a journey. about the why of writing poetry. There will be fifty vignettes, some poem-centered; There are points of illumination or questioning.' (p3)

This fine book can be read through and savored with much food for thought. It can also be dipped into randomly, one or two vignettes at a time. It's definitely well worth a read--or several.

I received a free advance e-copy from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. I thank the poet, the publisher, and NetGalley.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

One Chunk at a Time

 In one of the Goodreads Victober threads, someone mentioned the (free) Serial Reader app. I'd never heard of it but I was instantly intrigued. A quick search led me to the website, which is here (link will open in new window). 

The app has loads of books in many genres, all in the public domain. There are some well-known authors here, such as Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and more. There are also less-well known authors available. When you subscribe to a book, it is delivered to you in daily chunks. What a great way to revisit old favourites or discover new ones in a few minutes per day (the FAQs mention 20 minutes per day, but the book I selected first is less than that). The listing for each book includes the number of installments. 

Count me in! I downloaded the app and started looking through options. I've chosen one book and have read the first installment. I plan to choose another one or two besides. I might go with both shorter and longer works at the same time. I love this idea! It's how so many books were originally published--serially in periodicals. Only after the run was finished did they get bound into a single volume or multiple volumes, depending on length. I think that reading in small chunks like this will allow for closer reading and time between segments to think about what I've read, which is not always the case when zipping through a book. I don't think every book would be enjoyable to read in this way, but I think many lend themselves well to this, especially since it's how they were meant to be read when written. Others, like those in the philosophy section, will be examining ideas that require some thought. I have my eye on a bunch of books so I'm eager to jump right in! It seems like a great resource.

Update: One unexpected benefit is that this app leads me to other books. As I was scrolling through the list of titles, I came across some titles that intrigued me but that I didn't want to read in installments. I hopped over to Project Gutenberg and got them there. Now if I can find the app that will give me more hours in a day, I'll be all set!

Saturday, October 8, 2022


 The village of Creeslough in Co Donegal is devastated this morning after a shocking tragedy yesterday afternoon. At about 3:30, an explosion blew apart a building that housed the post office, a small local grocery store/ deli and the apartments that were above them. There is a filling station out front. So far there are 9 people who have lost their lives, but that number is expected to grow. Many are missing and they are now engaging in a search and recovery operation after having worked through the night to try to reach anyone who might be trapped. People were waiting outside all night for news and to support one another. All of Donegal seems to be reeling today and the rest of the country is shocked as well. But the devastation in Creeslough cannot be overstated. It's a community of just under 400 people and that location was a hub, especially on a Friday afternoon. Kids would go into the shop after school to get munchies or something from the deli. People would run in for last minute purchases before the weekend. People would be using the post office and picking up their pension payments. It's on the outskirts of the village and is really the only place to do these things. It's a tiny place.

It is a lovely village. A few years ago, we spent 5 days glamping right across the street from the shop. I loved it so when a place became available to rent there last year when we were looking, we jumped on it. We were in the process of moving to a place a two-or three-minute walk from there, but when we saw the lease we felt the landlord was not to be trusted so we declined to rent it. 

It is heartbreaking to think about the grief and suffering happening there right now. In a community that small, everyone is affected. Added to all the personal loss is the loss of a community space that was at the heart of the village. My heart goes out to everyone there. 

Friday, October 7, 2022

What Is and What Was

 Bill called the management office this morning to tell them about the dripping. The woman told him that she'd call the landlord and would call Bill back. The landlord called and seemed none too pleased about the fact that the leak wasn't fixed. He said he would try to get someone out tomorrow, but if they wouldn't/couldn't do tomorrow, then Monday. He apologized and said, 'I'll do my best for ya.' We are happy with his response and the promptness of it. We know that this isn't his fault and that he sent someone out quickly to take care of the problem. This makes sense, since it's his property being damaged by the water. The fact that the job wasn't sufficiently completed isn't down to him. This is one more reason we are happy to be renting. If this was my house, I would be the one trying to get people to come and fix things and would just have to hope they did it properly. When they didn't, I would have to spend time trying to get them to come back.This is not something I would be confident about, ever. The alternative, I suppose, would be to become a DIY sort of gal. No. It's not my jam. I much prefer renting. I'm happy to pay someone else to provide me with shelter, furniture, dishes, silverware, etc and to deal with these kinds of issues.

Later in the day, the management office called just to follow up and make sure someone had contacted us and that things were moving towards a solution. This is quite a contrast to a previous experience where any reports of problems were going out into a black hole with the property manager and may or may not have ever gotten to the owner, who wasn't keen to spend money on the place in any case. After we left he tried his luck with AirBnB. The reviews were brutal. He seemed to think he could give people the keys and they'd give him lots of cash and all would be well. Hasn't worked out for him.

So we are pleased with how quickly people have responded. It has just started raining again. If the drips return, we're ready. We moved the chair and books last night and the containers are in place. It's supposed to be dry tomorrow, but heavy rain again Sunday so we'll just leave everything as it is.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Not So Fast!

 Well, we thought the roof issue was fixed. There was no dripping at all yesterday and through today. We put everything back this afternoon. Plenty of rain today, but all seemed OK, until at 10 tonight, drip, drip,drip again. ☹️ Another call to the management office in the morning. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Fingers Crossed!

 Last night the rain continued and the dripping resumed. We moved a chair, a bunch of books, and a few other things. I emptied out a few containers and lined them up under the drips. After a while the rain slowed then stopped and the dripping followed suit. Even when we had some heavy showers after that, there was no more dripping, but we left everything in place just in case.

The roof guys showed up this morning. They went around outside and stood there looking and frowning for several minutes. I think they were figuring out how best to get to the roof--they had to get over some roofed storage areas at ground level to get to our roof and there's not that much ground between us and the river. After a while another guy came with a very long ladder. It was raining off and on and some of the showers were heavy. We heard the guy on the roof. I was thinking that the slate must be slippery. After some thumping and banging, he came in just to have a look at where the drips had been happening. He said, 'There were some cracked slates up there and they were right in line with the drips. And that was that. It has rained since but no sign of dripping. We decided to leave the containers there for tonight just in case, but hopefully the problem is solved now.
photo by bill burke

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Puddles Don't Belong Here

 Last night we went to bed at 2-ish. It was lashing down rain and the wind was blowing harder than it has since we got here. It had been that way for most of the day. We were glad the trees outside the wee conservatory have been trimmed. They had been touching the windows. This morning, when we got up a bit after 9, Bill exclaimed, 'What's this water from?' There was a puddle on the living room floor. It was pretty contained in one place. I got a torch to look closely at the ceiling. There is a crack running from the door to the other wall--looks like a line where two pieces of wood/sheetrock, or whatever it is they use on ceilings meet (I am not a DIY person at all, so if there is a name for this, I have no idea what it is). There is tape along the space, looks like, and it's all been painted over. I assumed the drip must've come from there, but I didn't see any wet spots. It did look like there is some bubbling along the tape line that I don't remember being there before, but it could be that it was there and I didn't notice. There was no more dripping at that point.

I went to take a shower and Bill cleaned up the puddle, called the management office, and got dressed. A short time later, there was a knock on the door. Three guys were there wanting to know about the leak. I showed them where the water had been. One of them immediately said, 'It's the V-spot.' They said there was nothing they could do today because they 'didn't have ladders and stuff' but they'd be back tomorrow. Usually when someone says something like that I believe it when I see it, but I am cautiously optimistic in this instance. These guys are working for the owner, refurbishing an apartment in a neighbouring building. I suspect they've done work in here before, too.

This afternoon, we took a stroll down to the charity shop where our streak remains intact. We have never gone into that place and left without one or more books. It was three today. But on the way out and the way back, I looked up and saw what he meant about the 'V-spot.' There is an entryway that is mostly windows with a peaked clear roof. From the outside, we can see that this is sort of attached to the structure with some kind of black stuff. It seems like perhaps the wind blew the rain in a space that exists in this connection. So they will probably come and seal it up better--this is a guess on my part. 

It's raining again, but there's no wind so hopefully there will be no more puddles inside. I am so glad to not be responsible for this kind of thing, other than to tell the appropriate people that there's a problem and what the problem is. Far less stress than when we owned instead of renting. I much prefer the latter!

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Victober 2022

 I discovered Booktube a couple years ago and from that was introduced to Victober--a month devoted to discovering, reading, and discussing Victorian literature. I listened to some videos with interest these past couple years, but this year I decided to participate so joined Goodreads and the group discussion there.
Each year there is a group read and some challenges/prompts. People participate in all, some, or none of these as they wish and read as many and whichever Victober books/poems/stories/plays strike their fancy.

This year the group read is Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. I've not read any Hardy and suspect he is the sort of author I would have to be in the right mood for as he is apparently depressing. I won't be taking part in the group read this year.

I will definitely read some things for a couple of the prompts/challenges while the others are maybes. They are to read something from the Victorian era in the following categories: a poem, a short story, a coming-of-age story, a novel in which one of the characters has an illness or disability, and a novel that has a film or TV adaptation to watch.

Things are loose for my TBR right now, but two I definitely plan to read are Weird Women: Volume 2: 1840-1925: Classic Supernatural Fiction by Groundbreaking Female Writers, edited by Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger (short stories prompt), in which 10 of  the 16 stories are Victorian. 
Bill got me Volume 1 a couple years ago and I loved it. I recently discovered that there is a Volume 2, so he got it for me from an indie bookstore in Galway. I happened to finish a library book yesterday, the first day of Victober--The Face in the Glass: The Gothic Tales of Mary Elizabeth Braddon--so technically I am done with this prompt, but I love short stories, so I'm happy to continue.

Today I started Trail of the Serpent by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (chronic illness/disability prompt).  

I might read North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell and/or John Halifax, Gentleman by Dinah Mulock Craik--not sure if either of those would be coming of age novels, although I think they would fit in with the illness/disability prompt. I have learned from experience not to look too deeply into plot descriptions for classics because there are often spoilers really give away major plot points. A couple of years ago, I read a classic after reading the back cover. It was not until I got to the last few pages and the main character learned something that everything hinged on that I realized it was supposed to be a surprise for the reader, too. But it was stated on the back cover, so I read the entire several hundred pages knowing what I was not supposed to know. My experience of the book would have been much better had I not known. So now I don't read the back covers or introductions until after I've read the books. 

I might read some Oscar Wilde poetry or Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (which is a long coming-of-age poem)--not sure. 

I don't enjoy watching things so won't be taking part in that challenge, although I might read a book and listen to a radio adaptation instead. It will depend on how much time I have and what I feel like doing later in the month. Also what my library has available in the e-audiobook section of the website, where there are a few Victorian radio dramas from BBC. 

I've also been wanting to start a re-read of Anthony Trollope's Palliser series, so might pick up Can You Forgive Her? 

Some of these books are ones I own and some are on my e-reader from Project Gutenberg, which is a really great place to try out authors from an earlier time. I have discovered authors I'd never heard of (like Dinah Mulock Craik) and now love from booktube and have been able to click over to Project Gutenberg and get some of their work. I've been on a big classics kick for a couple years now and I'm thrilled that I have so many new-to-me authors still to discover.

Happy reading, everyone!

Saturday, October 1, 2022


 Today has been a mix of bright sunny spells and lashing down rain with some cloudy bits in between. Earlier, I was sitting with my tea and doing some simple sewing at our dining table in the small conservatory. When I went in, it was cloudy and pleasant. I sat and listened to the river flow by as I worked--it rained hard the other night and at times yesterday so it's running high and fast. Then the sun came out. It was getting warm. The sun was bothering my eyes and I had to grab my sunglasses. I've been putting them on and taking them off all day and we haven't even gone outside! It is so bright when the sun is out and gets warm quickly. There are blinds on all the windows in there, but I like to be able to see out. We do keep them down on the three windows on one side because when the sun is out, it beams in through those for hours. I've realized that the space will be unusable in summer as far as sitting in there goes--I will keep the doors closed. But I think I will probably use it as a greenhouse and try to grow some tomatoes in a pot or two. They don't grow well outdoors here, but are great in a polytunnel. I don't have one of those, but this should work just as well, especially with the long hours of daylight. In the meantime, I will keep my sunglasses handy for the times when the sun is shining. We're getting into the time of year where that's not as much of a thing, and there won't be as much daylight in any case. At this moment, there's a bit of everything. The sun is shining on the trees, there's a black cloud above us, and the rain has started pattering on the roof. 

Happy October! 🎃

Thursday, September 22, 2022


 Last week we learned that there will be some changes on the bus route we regularly use. For years it has technically been a Bus Eireann route but it was operated by a local company, McGeehan's Coaches. Everyone is familiar with PJ, the regular driver. Indeed, we used to know him from when we lived in Killybegs and at the start of our time in Dungloe (pre-pandemic), because we used that bus all the time. We even did most of our move from Killybegs to Dungloe on that bus. When we moved here and got on the bus for the first time, PJ said hello, asked how we'd been and what we've been doing. Then he asked, 'Are you moving, by any chance?' He's a nice guy. Today when he found out we were going to the library, he said he'd drop us off at the top of the town, thus saving us a few minutes walk. Since we got there a bit later than usual (road works) and only had about half an hour before the bus left to come back, this was welcome. He knows where to look for the regulars who climb on the bus from the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, getting a ride to a grocery store. For these people, there are not even any corner shops for them to get some groceries--there aren't even any corners, just a long winding road with the ocean, sheep, cows, hills, and beautiful scenery on either side. Without this bus, things would be a lot harder for them.

Now things are changing, though. Bus Eireann has decided they no longer want to contract the route out and will run it themselves. There is no one who is happy about this. There is concern that they will be unreliable and cancel the route without notice on individual days or altogether or that they might change things in some way. There is also an expectation that the people driving this route will not be as friendly as PJ and might not stop for those people along the side of the road. Needless to say, it's been the talk of the bus for a week and speculation about what will happen is running wild. There has also been an air of sadness and even some stress among the regulars.

Today on the way back, PJ stopped to pick up an older lady out front of her house. She placed her free travel pass on the reader and said to him, 'We're losing you, I hear.' PJ replied that today was his last day. 'This is for you,' she said as she handed him a gift wrapped package and thanked him for the years of driving her around. This is so rural Donegal. 

She sat next to someone she knew and they were talking about the change that starts next week. She was saying how we all know the drivers now and we won't when Bus Eireann takes over. Another guy said that he doesn't think they'll last a month and will give the contract back to McGeehan's. Wishful thinking? I think there is also a feeling that McGeehan's and the drivers are local and are more trustworthy than the national and impersonal Bus Eireann. I am curious to see how things play out. As for PJ, he's hoping for a week off next week before he finds out what his new territory will be. He's been driving this route for 5 years so maybe the change won't be all bad for him. Hopefully things will go better than expected for all of us who ride the bus, too. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Life of Crime

This is an entertaining and informative history of the many facets of crime fiction and the people who wrote/write it. Edwards does a fine job of intertwining the lives of the authors, the cultures in which they lived, and their work. The result is this very readable history of the genre and the subgenres within it. 

We see the evolution of the genre and how authors were inspired by the work that preceded them. I found some new-to-me authors to look for and very much enjoyed reading about more familiar ones. As is to be expected, I was more interested in some chapters than others--simply a matter of personal taste and preference. I found even the chapters about the kinds of crime fiction I am not interested in quite interesting. The book is very well-written and I loved the inclusion of radio dramas in the book--I'm a big fan of old radio mysteries. I am not a watcher so was less interested in the discussions of visual adaptations, although I found it interesting that Hollywood adaptations ruined the characters for some authors.

Most chapters begin with an anecdote from an author's life, which I found fascinating. For anyone who wants to research any topic in more depth, the book includes a select bibliography, an index of titles, and an index of names.

If you're at all interested in crime fiction of any kind, I highly recommend this book.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Not Buying It

  Last night, Bill was listening to the radio feed of the Boston Red Sox game on the Major League Baseball site. It was an early game so I was not yet in the other room listening to something else--at least not for the first half of the game. At every break they play the same old commercials. One of them was about how the time has arrived to welcome fall with a houseful of new furniture. I was reminded of ads on the radio here, heard during our first few months in Ireland, about how there was still time to have a new kitchen installed before Christmas.

Who knew? All this time I've been doing quite a good job of welcoming autumn and celebrating Christmas and not once did this involve new furniture or a new kitchen. Ah, marketing. 

Saturday, September 17, 2022


 We walked down the lane to drop off our glass for recycling and came across these two having a lunch date on a dandelion.
They were quite into their food--did not move as I came in closer and took their picture.

I'm still not used to things as they are now. When we would go to recycle glass in Bunbeg, we walked a mile and a half down a busy road and had to shout at each other to make ourselves heard if we tried to have a conversation. It was like a speedway. Now we walk down a country lane, chatting in normal voices and listening to birdsong. It's a lovely walk. Today the sky was a bit dramatic.
It's not as cool as I would like, but I am starting to feel the stirrings of an autumnal vibe. This makes me so, so happy. It's been chilly enough at night to close one of the windows, to wrap up in a shawl in the mornings and evenings, and to put my wool blanket on the bed. I might have to take it off again a few nights hence, but for now, I'll just be happy about it.

I hope your day is filoled with good vibes, too--whatever that means for you.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Dickens and Christmas

This is a fascinating and sometimes myth-busting account of Charles Dickens and how his work impacted both his own life and the culture at large. He was among those who were drivers of the cultural changes that led to the way we celebrate Christmas and the ways in which it is marketed to us. The book includes excerpts from the work of Dickens and others and contains photos and illustrations.

Lucinda Hawksley does a good job of intertwining the parts of Dickens' personal life that inspired his Christmas writing--and while the book mentions his other work, some of which was being written at the same time as the Christmas stories, she does focus on the Christmas work. A Christmas Carol was the first of these stories and not only did it change the way Christmas was viewed, but the popularity of it profoundly changed his own life too, in ways both good and bad. There's a lesson in unintended consequences there.

The book is well-written and an enjoyable read.

Monday, September 12, 2022

A Christmas Carol Gone Wrong

 Murder at the Theatre Royale
The perfect murder mystery for Christmas 2022
by Ada Moncrieff
published by: Random House UK, Vintage on 13 October, 2022
ISBN 9781529115314

It's 22 December 1935. Agony aunt Daphne King works for a newspaper but wants to use her journalism skills on the crime beat. Her boss isn't keen on the idea and wants her to stay where she is--she's good for the bottom line. She solved the case of a kidnapped contessa and ever since circulation has gone through the roof. However, he needs someone to fill in for a guy who has become ill, so he sends her to the premiere of a play--A Christmas Carol--being staged by a formerly well known playwright. So it is that Daphne is there at the dress rehearsal when the leading man, in his role as Ebenezer Scrooge, drops dead. Inspector Marklow soon arrives and decides it was probably heart trouble. Daphne thinks otherwise and it doesn't take her long to ruin Marklow's pre-Christmas plans. Daphne and her new friends are soon on the hunt for the killer.

I was interested in this book because of the connection to Christmas and A Christmas Carol. I do love a Christmas cozy! As it happens, that was pretty secondary to the plot and was almost an afterthought in the story, although winter weather did play a small part. I enjoyed the book anyway, but it wasn't what I expected.

I was a bit confused for a while, because it was clear that Daphne knew Marklow pretty well and that there had been other cases before this one. Some reference was made to these cases, which made me think this was one of a series, but I was unable to find any other books with this character.

This was a fun read. I liked Daphne and her new friend Veronica quite a lot. I enjoyed the way Daphne grew in confidence as she went along and was determined to get her boss to change her role at the paper. She is also fond of wordplay as I am, so I found myself chuckling at some of her comments. The mystery was a good one and the ending was not predictable. The author tended to move into the future quite a lot, writing things like, 'For years, Daphne would remember this moment as a turning point...' Sometimes she would use this device to let the reader know about the future selves of some of the characters. I don't know if this will be a series. It seems like it would lend itself well to that and it would be interesting to see how Daphne evolves and grows over time. If you like cozy mysteries, this is a nice way to spend a few hours.

It may be published as A Stage for Death in the US--I have seen it reviewed under that title.

I received a free advanced reader's copy of the e-book in exchange for a fair review. I thank NetGalley and the publisher.