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! 🎃