Saturday, December 23, 2023

Where'd It Go?

 With the exception of June, which felt like it contained 743 weeks, the year seems to have flown by. Here we are, nearing the end of another trip around the sun. The days are lengthening ever so slightly now, which doesn't make me happy, but also doesn't make me as sad as it used to. 

I've been living my usual verrrrry slooooow October, November, December life as much as possible, savoring the long hours of darkness, the peaceful autumn/early winter vibe, books, and yarn. I had fun experimenting with some scraps of Christmas yarn:
coiled kumihimo braid with old button from the button stash of a friend's late wife

coiled kumihimo braid with bead from deconstructed charity shop necklace

Not the best photos, but I quite like the way they turned out and I have another braid on my disk that's in non-Christmasy scraps. I'm not sure whether I will use the ones above as ornaments, sew pins on the backs and make brooches, or maybe one of each. I'll probably just pack them away with the rest of the Christmas stuff in a few days and decide next year.

I do hope that you are enjoying these last days of 2023 in whatever ways are meaningful and joyful to you. If you celebrate Christmas, have a very happy holiday. If you don't, may the rest of the year be kind to you and bring much joy. Here's to health and happiness today and in the days ahead.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Exploding Head Emoji

 The postman comes early here, so when I heard him this morning shortly after I got up, I got dressed in a hurry and had a look. I knew I'd be getting happy mail today or tomorrow because Bill recently got me a voucher from Kenny's Bookshop and I'd gotten an email saying the order was shipped. After he gave it to me, I spent a few days pondering and clicking around, deciding what to get. I kept a list and made my decisions from that. I was thrilled to see the box in the entryway this morning and even more thrilled when I opened it.

Other than Kristin Lavransdatter, all the books are either comedic (The Caravaners) or at least have elements of comedy and satire (Sketches by Boz and Cecilia). The Undset book contains the entire trilogy. I know I read at least the first one decades ago, but am not sure whether I read all three novels and don't remember anything about the one I know I read, so although it'll be at least partly a re-read, it will seem new. I've not read any of the others. I did listen to a couple Sketches by Boz on the BBC Sounds app--they aired on Radio 4Extra. I laughed quite a bit and after that I decided I wanted the book. Fanny Burney is a new-to-me author, although I've read a bit about her and am intrigued. I was deciding between Cecilia and Evelina. The latter is more well known, I think, and I can read that in installments on the Serial Reader app, which I will do if I like this book. Burney was apparently a big influence on many writers who came later. This book was first published in 1782. Finally, I read about The Caravaners in a blog post that was discussing Elizabeth von Arnim's work in general. I haven't read anything by her, and her better known works, like Enchanted April and Elizabeth and Her German Garden are quite different, from what I've read. Nevertheless, if I like this one, I'll get the e-audiobooks of those from the library. I have Dickens and Burney on my e-reader--they're free on Project Gutenberg--but when a book is several hundred pages long (Cecilia is over 1000), I prefer to read an actual book instead of an ebook.

In anticipation of the arrival of the new books, I organized the ones I already had. We don't have any bookcases, so we do what we can with boxes and the floor. We have a few book towers tucked away in accessible, but out of the way spots. I had some books that I've read so wanted to put elsewhere. As I was shifting books around, I was reminded of how many great books we have. I've been reading so many NetGalley and library e-books that I've been letting my physical books languish. I've decided to focus on those for a while. I've been on a classics kick for a few years now and that shows no sign of abating. I have lots of chunky old books in my pile that I am eager to get to. 

For the past year, I've been enjoying old writing that makes me laugh. E.M. Delafield and her Diary of a Provincial Lady books, E.F. Benson's six Mapp and Lucia novels, and the occasional P.G. Wodehouse e-audiobook have brought much laughter. I'm looking forward to the comedic elements of my new books--I think I'll start with The Caravaners. It will be a good contrast to the e-book I'm reading now--the last one on my NetGalley shelf. It's an excellent nonfiction book that reads like a thriller, about what would happen in the event someone fires off a nuclear weapon at the US. Given the current situation globally and the threats within the US itself, it's a timely book (to be published in March, if I remember correctly). The author is laying out the history of the military thinking about nuclear weapons, the effects of such a blast, and the minute-by-minute response process that would ensue. The president would have about 6 minutes to decide where to launch the response nukes--and what people to kill/maim. This is not a defensive situation--in spite of what we are told, the interception systems are likely to fail--it would be pure retaliation. And I must say that as I have been reading, I have of the exploding head emoji many times. Of course we all know the very idea of nuclear weapons is nuts, but it's hard to wrap my mind around how very flimsy the entire edifice is. So much can go wrong at so many points in the process--and almost has. Once again, I am astonished that human beings as a species have survived for this long. I have a feeling it will be something of a relief to turn to a comic novel, written more than a century ago, about a pompous German general on a caravan holiday in Kent (UK) in 1906. It's apparently based on a true story. I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Into the Dark: What Darkness is and Why It Matters by Jacqueline Yallop

 Into the Dark: What Darkness Is and Why It Matters
by Jacqueline Yallop
ISBN 9781837730711

I sometimes joke that I must be part bat--usually when Bill asks me, 'How can you see?' I tell him that I can see just fine. I love the dark in its different gradations. I prefer night to day, cloudy days to sunny ones, and dim light to bright. I'm a night owl and I love the long nights of winter. With the exception of the occasional day of sun on a cold day, bright sunshine agitates me while grey days bring a calm feeling. I need light to read, stitch, or do other tasks at night, but I have a portable USB lamp and a headlamp that I can adjust to shine directly on the page or project, leaving the rest of the room dark. I never turn on the overhead lights. So when I saw this book, I was eager to read it. I'm so glad I did!

Jacqueline Yallop has paid attention to the dark since she was 7 or 8 years old and on holiday, spending a night in a farmhouse. It was the first time she ever experienced real darkness--not the kind I described above, but a deep dark that prevented her from seeing the hand in front of her face. From that moment, she was fascinated and paid attention to the dark. This interest only deepened when her father was diagnosed with dementia. One of the things that changed for him was his relationship to the dark. His experience was the opposite of my own. Bright light calmed him and even the fading light of dusk agitated him. He would turn on every light in the house every night. The author knew she could not fully understand her father's experience, but she decided to try to get as close as she could by investigating the dark. What are the ideas we have about the dark? How do we 'see' the dark? How do our bodies process light and dark? This excellent book is the result of her investigation. She observes and cares for her father. She takes herself to unfamiliar places on very dark nights and is very aware of what she is feeling in an attempt to get a little bit closer to understanding the new terrain he is having to navigate.She draws on human experience, biology, philosophy, literature, poetry, visual art, popular culture, folklore, architecture, language, and culture. Her writing is beautiful and often lyrical. There were times I stopped and let the words just sink in.

The book is structured in chapters that go along with the phases of the moon--waxing, full moon, waning--and also her father's progression through dementia. This book is so well written and is such a joy to read.  

I thank NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for a digital review copy.

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Who Cares?

 This morning, one of the Irish online news sites had a poll question about whether it is 'acceptable' to be playing Christmas music now. There is so much of this kind of thing and sometimes there is anger about it as well. It's a peeve. My issue is with the word 'acceptable.' Acceptable to whom? If you want to play Christmas music now or in January, or in June, or whenever, go ahead. Enjoy. If you don't want to play Christmas music until December, then don't. If you do play it then, enjoy. If you hate Christmas music and never want to hear a bell jingling or what some greedy jerk wants from Santa Baby (I'm with you on this one), then don't listen. Enjoy the silence. If people get some joy, peace, happiness, comfort, or whatever else from listening to Christmas music at any time of year, as long as they're not standing outside blasting it outside someone's window, why on earth should anyone else care--or even notice? I know some people get annoyed when it's played in stores at times unacceptable to themselves. Such is life. When we go into our local wee grocery store, they almost always have a local radio station playing and most of the time, it's playing country western music. I loathe and detest country western music. We get what we are there for and we leave, sometimes laughing at the song/lyrics. We don't get pissed off and demand that it be turned off. It's a different matter when it enters my home, but when I am out in public, I know that people are going to have different tastes from me. I am well into adulthood and can handle it. No one ever asks if it's 'acceptable' to be playing twangy tunes at any time of year and Christmas music should be no different. Some towns have speakers blasting Christmas music in the square. We walked out of a shop in Donegal town a few years ago and Last Christmas--a song I abhor--was playing. Bill and I had a laugh. It ended. I was unharmed. 😉😏
needle felted base, sea glass, french knots, crochet trim

Friday, November 3, 2023


 We were in Donegal town yesterday and I saw this window box near the Diamond (like the town square).

Really? I mean, if you're going to make a window box to display using plastic flowers, at least take off the price tag! 😂😁

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Mistletoe Malice by Kathleen Farrell

 Mistletoe Malice
by Kathleen Farrell
published by Faber and Faber, Ltd
ISBN: 9780571378265

In this fabulous, darkly funny book, which was out of print for a time, members of an extended family who really don't care for one another very much are getting together for Christmas at the behest of the needy, controlling matriarch. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty. Let's just say that things take an unfestive turn and tidings of comfort and joy are not exactly there in abundance. As an example of the feelings people have towards one another, one character says to another, " The very essence of the stupidity of countless generations has solidified into one person. And that person is you..." Yes, one big happy family group together for the festive season.

Rachel, the matriarch, and her niece by marriage, Bess live in the house. Arriving for Christmas this year as they do every year are Rachel's daughter and son-in-law, a niece, and a nephew. New this year is Rachel's ne'er do well son who left under a cloud a long time ago and hasn't been seen since. There is also a cook/housekeeper who is a snoop and a bit nasty. Already complicated relationships are stressed and no one is having a particularly good time.

The book takes place over the course of 3 1/2 days. Each section of the book describes one of those days--The Day Before Christmas, Christmas Day, The Day After Christmas, and The Return. There is an afterword at the end, which describes the way in which the book came to be republished and a bit about the author herself.

I loved this book. The family is quite dysfunctional, each member in their own way. People are stuck in various ways, which is bad enough individually, but creates new issues when the dysfunction is all enclosed in the space of one house at a time of year when the pressures of the season cause problems of their own. Then the return of the son--a surprise to all of the visitors--adds another layer of tension. All that said, the book is quite funny, in a dark sort of way. I'm thrilled that the book is being republished--the time is definitely right for it--and delighted that I've had the chance to read it! I hope to read more by this author in future. Highly recommend.

I thank NetGalley and the publisher for a digital review copy.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Direct Sunlight by Christine Sneed

 Direct Sunlight: Stories
by Christine Sneed
Northwestern University Press
ISBN 9780810146167
Change is always with us, in big and small ways. Sometimes we get to direct it, sometimes it drops down shockingly upon us, and sometimes it sneaks up and surprises us. However it appears, the result is that we have to think again about who we are, who we want to be, what we will do next, and how we will go on with our lives. New relationships begin. Established relationships shift. Sometimes they, along with other parts of our everyday lives, end. We can feel adrift, unmoored, afraid, exhilarated, and more. We adapt and go on.

The 12 stories in this collection show us people navigating through changes in their everyday lives. Some of the stories are quietly devastating. Some are hopeful. Some are poignant. All are excellent. Usually in any short story collection there are stories I like better than others and at least one or two that I am not that keen on. Not so with this book! I loved every single story. I did not race through the book, but rather savored one story at a time, before setting the book aside for several hours or a day. Short story as a form can be tricky--there is a lot to do in a small space--and Christine Sneed skillfully and beautifully does it all. With these 12 stories, she has created 12 little worlds inhabited by people going about their daily lives and navigating changes they may or may not have wished for. I felt myself immediately immersed in each world and interested in what was happening to each of these people, sometimes feeling empathy for their situation, sometimes sadness, and sometimes hope. It's not easy for writers to evoke these kinds of feelings, even in long novels. To do so within the confines of the short story form is a particular kind of skill. I had never read any work by this author, but I will definitely seek out past work now.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for a digital review copy.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Poirot Saves Christmas (Again)

 Hercule Poirot’s Silent Night
The New Hercule Poirot Mystery
by Sophie Hannah
ISBN 9780008380779

A new book in the Sophie Hannah Poirot continuation series--and one set at Christmas to boot? Yes, please! I was excited to see this book and I was not disappointed! I think it may just have been her best Poirot yet. Can you tell that I loved it? Hannah does a great job with these books, both in characterizing Poirot and in her plots, settings, and supporting characters. These books wouldn't be mistaken for a Christie, but they're well done nonetheless. In this book, Cynthia Catchpool in particular is a fabulous character. I like the way readers are given more insight into the friendship between Poirot and Edward Catchpool. The mystery is twisty enough to be enjoyable, but not so convoluted that it's hard to follow. Poirot is Poirot in all his persnickety glory. There are some surprising plot twists.
In this book, Poirot and Catchpool are finalizing their plans for the Christmas dinner they plan to share when they are interrupted by a breathless woman who insists that they must go with her at once to spend Christmas at the large home of a friend. The friend is in distress because her husband, who is quite ill and nearing the end of his days, plans to admit himself to a hospital right after the new year. He wants to spend the time he has left solving the mystery of who killed a patient there three months before. His wife is trying everything she can to convince him not to go because she is sure he will be killed next. The police have had no luck solving the three-month old murder, so Poirot is needed. Things go on from there as Poirot and Catchpool put up with horrible food, a freezing old house, and more.

The book is also funny. There were places where I laughed out loud at the descriptions she provides. For example, "He spoke in an inelegant manner, one had the sense that a struggle between words and teeth was taking place, with no clear winner emerging.' If you love Christmas mysteries, Hercule Poirot, and/or mystery stories with a collection of quirky characters--some of whom can't stand one another--thrown together in what is supposed to be a festive atmosphere, this would be a great one to pick up.

I thank NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for a digital review copy.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Do You Mind if I Ask Why?

 On January 1, 1996, I woke up feeling like crap. This wasn't unusual from either group or personal perspectives. Countless people woke up with hangovers on that day and for me, while it was less common than it had been over the previous 15 years or so, it still happened. Funnily enough, I hadn't consumed nearly as much alcohol as I had on so many other occasions, but I also hadn't eaten very much, so that probably had something to do with the sad state I was in. This time, though, something had shifted and I thought to myself, 'This is so stupid. I'm not doing this anymore.' And I didn't. I was lucky. Somehow I was able to really focus on how I was feeling and associate that with my behaviour around booze, so I actually felt repulsed by the idea of having a drink, instead of having to deal with cravings and the difficulties that come with recovery. Having just a drink or two was never going to be an option, because I knew myself well enough to know that if I started, I wasn't going to stop there, so I just never started--and never wanted to. I went on with my life. Then we moved to Ireland.

Shortly after we got here, we met up with a woman we'd been corresponding with online for a while. Her husband is also from the US. She invited us to spend a couple days at their house, staying overnight. Before dinner, she asked us what we wanted to drink--wine, beer, something else. I opted for coffee. She asked me why I didn't want a drink and then asked if I drank at all. I said I didn't. 'Do you mind if I ask why?' she replied. 'I don't mind at all. I used to drink way too much, so I stopped.' I answered. Then she explained how she doesn't drink that much and only sometimes, and that sort of thing. I was taken aback. I really didn't care what her drinking habits were--she was in her home and not driving anywhere, so none of my business. I nodded, smiled, and probably made some meaningless remark.

A couple months later, our lovely neighbour invited me to her women-only birthday party, telling me not to bring anything except whatever I wanted to drink. It was summer, so I got some sparkling water with lemon. At the party, I sat between two older women. One was telling me her history about how she went to Chicago for a while to live with an aunt and uncle, arriving at Christmastime and being awed by all the lights and decorations. The other one occasionally made some comments that I found amusing, including that she'd seen us walking around with our backpacks and was so happy that her friend had respectable people as new neighbours. Eventually, she said to me, 'I notice that you're drinking water. Don't you want a drink?' 'No, thank you,' I replied, 'The water is perfect.' Then she asked me if I ever drink. I said I didn't. 'Do you mind if I ask why?' she said. My reply was the same as above. I started getting really interested in why I was being interrogated for my choice to not drink. I was even more interested in the story she told me about her nephew, who stopped drinking and then felt unable to engage in any social activities whatsoever, so never left his house. Then she went on to say, with her slurred speech and while waving the glass that held her 6th or 7th gin and tonic around, 'I've had three and I wouldn't have another if ya shot me for it. I know when I've had enough.'

I came across a book at the library not long after that--a memoir written by an Irish guy who started drinking to excess when a young teenager and who was, at the time of writing, in recovery. He talked about how hard it was to hang out with friends after he stopped drinking because everyone else was and usually to the point where they were drunk. This was at a time when non-drinkers didn't really have too many options in pubs and other such places. As he described it, pubs were where social life happened. People didn't visit each other in their homes, they met at pubs. Celebrations happened at pubs. First communion? Pub. Birthday? Pub. A day ending in 'y'? Pub. Everything was at the pubs. I found that book very useful. As we've lived for the last year near the loud bar and in this village where there are a lot of drunk people wandering the streets yelling, I have started thinking about another reason not drinking would make socializing difficult. It must be a very different experience yelling along to Zombie, slurring through some songs you don't know the words to during karaoke, whooping at the same old bad covers of bad country western songs, or doing a call and response version of Sweet Caroline on opposite ends of Main St when you're drunk than it is when sober. And the whole thing must seem boring and embarrassing if you're not toasted. 

Thursday, October 26, 2023

The Dictionary People: The Unsung Heroes Who Created the Oxford English Dictionary by Sarah Ogilvie

 Bill saw this book and thought I'd love it, so he bought it for me. Love it I did! It's a fun romp through the alphabet with each letter characterizing certain people who were at the heart of the creation of the Oxford English dictionary.

What a cast of characters it was! Back in the day when the first edition of the dictionary was being created, the call went out for people to read books and periodicals, pick out words, provide a quote and a citation, and send the slips of paper to the editor. Some people sent in a few and some were more prolific, sending in thousands and even hundreds of thousands in some cases. People from all different walks of life and with wildly varying interests sent in slips, many from publications having to do with their own particular obsessions. This is such a great book, dealing as it does with words, but also brief life stories and even a bit about the culture in which the dictionary was being created. This is a wonderful addition to my book collection and I know I'll be picking it up from time to time to open at random and read some chapters again. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Not Perfect, Better

 It may appear to some readers from posts like yesterday's that I regret coming to Ireland. I understand why it could come across that way, but nothing could be further from the truth. I have never regretted moving here. Are there problems? Yup. Am I sometimes stressed, angry, frustrated, annoyed, etc? Of course. That's life. There were problems in every place in which I've lived and I felt all the things in every place I've lived--and will until I take my last breath. That's being human. Problems are almost always caused by people (including myself) and there are people everywhere. Long before we knew we were moving here, but during the time when it was a long-tern goal, people would ask me if I really thought it would be any different here than in the US. I said I was sure it would be. Once I moved here, people have commented that they sometimes think about moving but, 'since it's the same everywhere, there's no point.' I always reply to this kind of comment that it's not perfect here or anywhere, but it's better than the country I come from--at least for me. And that's the thing--we are all different and different places will suit different people in better and worse ways. I never was and was never going to be comfortable in the US for many reasons. I always felt misplaced. I'm always going to be an outsider here, too, but I am more comfortable. It's easier to live my simple life based on my own set of ethics here than it was there. It's fascinating to live in a country that's only a century old and that has the opposite founding myths to the US. The US myths are about exceptionalism and greatness. There are many problems with this, of course, not least because these blind people right the way across the political spectrum to the fact that the country is susceptible to the same kinds of movements and dangers as other countries. I used to be amazed at how people would genuinely think that certain sorts of political ideology could not possibly happen there because the country is somehow so special as to be immune. This fed into my understanding that leaving was a good idea, since it was glaringly obvious where things were going--and probably without the amount of resistance necessary to slow or halt the progress of such ideas. I think people are grappling with these issues now and it has been traumatic for many who believed their country was somehow something other than what it is. On the other hand, this was a colonized country until a century ago (and some would say that the colonization continues as long as the 6 counties of Northern Ireland remain a part of the UK). The history is close by. There are no delusions of grandeur here, although as things go in certain ways in the UK on one side and the US on another, you can see a bit of smugness start to show itself, which is fascinating. People are people. And yet, it is remarkable how much progress has been made in a short period of time--when Bill and I got married, divorce and birth control were illegal here. When we moved here, Bill voted in the election to legalize marriage equality. This was the first nation to do this by popular vote--and it was not even close. There is no far right political party here like Republicans in the US (the word 'republican' has a different meaning here in any case). There are some scattered hateful people who are trying to organize more with the help of social media and they sometimes pop up, but pushback is swift. And there is more willingness to look at the atrocities committed in the name of the church (which was the main driver of these things here) and to take ownership of them as a society, reminding people that the mistreatment of women and children was something that individuals/society participated in at the time and allowed to happen. Very different than current attempts to pretend that the US was not built on genocide and slavery. Here again, it's not perfect, just better. There is racism here as well as lingering religious division, which often is the veneer for other sorts of divisions. It's entirely likely that a person of colour would not see much difference between the racism here and that in the US and elsewhere, but my white privilege shields me from that kind of experience. I am aware that my experience as an immigrant is hugely different than that of others, partly because I am the spouse of a citizen, partly because of my skin colour, and partly because of where I come from. Will Ireland eventually go the way of other countries and have a large far-right extremist segment of the population and political party or two? Almost certainly. People are people. History cycles. Just as the US will cycle out of the current situation, Ireland will probably cycle back into some nasty stuff, although it'll look different than the old days. But I was there and am here at particular moments in the cycle. I could see where things were heading in the US and knew it was best to leave. It happened that where we landed is in a much different part of their cycle. We went from a country moving backwards to one moving forward, which has been a fascinating experience.

No matter how long I live here, I will never be Irish. It always used to make me laugh when, just after the 2016 US election, people would ask us where we're from and when we would tell them their face would fall and they would look sympathetically at us before saying, 'Well you're European now, so you're OK.' I'm not European, either. I know that to some degree, I will always be uncomfortably United Statesian, simply because that's where I was born and enculturated. But I also know that I never felt like I belonged there, either. I was enculturated there, but always was a little apart--always observing, analyzing, and figuring out what on earth was going on while understanding that the whole 'American dream,' suburban, upper middle class lifestyle I was supposed to be so grateful for just seemed weird and often baffling. I get it from an intellectual perspective, but I was always at a remove. I guess that's just easier and more comfortable for me here where I am in the proper role at last. I AM an outsider in every way and will be for as long as I'm here. And yet, societal infrastructure and attitudes are closer to my own ideas here than there. They recognize large issues here in a way that wasn't the case among people I knew in the US. The foundational understandings are different and more realistic here as are their attitudes towards themselves. They're not as insulated as people in the US, where the idea that they are the centre of the universe is sort of assumed. So for those reasons and more, I don't regret coming here and I'm grateful to have been able to do so. Who knows what will happen in the future. What I do know is that this experience of living in a different way--even though on the surface it doesn't look that different--has broadened and deepened my understanding of things both outside and inside myself, given me much to think about and consider, and made me a better person than I would have been without this experience. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Special Circumstances

 On Sunday afternoon, the local GAA men's football club won the Donegal championship. This meant an excuse for the locals to get drunk and yell for hours and hours. Not that excuses are needed--they do this anyway, albeit not quite to the same degree. Anyway, loud thumping music began at about 7:45 and went on until 3 am. This was accompanied by screaming and yelling and attempts to sing along. They played Queen's 'We Are the Champions' 5 times in a row. This was all quite near our home. Annoying.

Yesterday, Monday, the thumpy 'music' began at 2:30 in the afternoon, went on for a couple of hours, stopped for an hour, then went on for a couple more hours. At 1 am, I went to bed. It was quiet and I was tired from getting little sleep the night before. At 2:30 this morning, I was awakened by pounding music. The lights were on in the beer garden of a nearby bar, which had been dark when I went to bed. At 4:30, they were yelling along to the Cranberries song Zombie. At 5, the music stopped.

At 3 am, after being woken up but before the Zombie experience, I was standing in the living room emailing a guy (I'll call him Bob, although that's not his real name) I'd corresponded with a few months ago about the noise. He'd sent a warning letter and the music did end up stopping slightly earlier for a while. I also sent an email to the office of a TD (like a US senator, kind of) about this issue--I'd contacted his office a couple weeks ago to get an answer to a question that had not been answered by Bob, and that was: At what time does the noise have to stop or move inside? Interestingly, no one gave me an answer. I was told to call Gardai (police), when the noise was disruptive at late hours, but how can I do that if I don't know what hours they are allowed to be loud? So I asked both again and this time I got an answer. It's 11:30 Sunday-Thursday and 12:30 Friday and Saturday, according to Bob, but there are certain special circumstances that allow for later times. Winning the football match is one of them, apparently, although it is still unclear to me how long the 'special circumstance' lasts. I hope two days is enough. Bob said he would send another warning letter and call them as well. He has been helpful. He again said I should call the gardai every time there is a problem. I told him about what I was told by a garda spouse, which was that they won't touch this kind of thing because people will hate them and often they are in the pubs after hours themselves. In this case, the pub seems to cater to young males, which, as Bill has pointed out, is exactly the problem. We lived a few doors down from a pub in a different Irish town which had live music all the time--never heard a peep from the pub-goers. The music was trad music,which we never heard--we just knew from the signs announcing the music. There was no screaming in the pub or on the street. There were numerous pubs, but not the level of loud public drunkenness that exists here.

So anyone planning a trip to Ireland, beware. This kind of thing happens in rural and the few urban areas that exist here. Drunk people wander around yelling, pubs play loud music, and in some urban areas, homeowners have to clean up vomit and feces from their property. They like to blame tourists, but it's not just down to that. I'd say the problem is local, not from away. Some places we've lived don't have this issue, but this one does in a big way. So when planning accommodation, tourists should take care to not book a place near pubs just in case. And be mindful of any 'special circumstances' like GAA games and fairs and festivals when things get worse. This is an expensive place to travel to, from what I understand, and it would be a shame to have a trip ruined by this kind of crap!

Saturday, October 21, 2023

The Wisdom of Sheep

 The Wisdom of Sheep & Other Animals: Observations from a Family Farm
by Rosamund Young
ISBN 9780571368259
Rosamund Young grew up on a farm and has farmed her whole life. Now she runs a farm with her brother, Richard, and her partner, Gareth. This book is a collection of some of her stories about being a farmer, the animals on her farm, and her interactions with them. She anthropomorphizes throughout and is quite sure she knows what each animal is thinking and trying to communicate to her. That may or may not be off-putting for readers, but I just took this with a pinch of salt and enjoyed the stories for what they are. The title highlights sheep, and there are stories about sheep, but most are about the cows. That's fine--they are all entertaining stories and very enjoyable to read. A few of them did end quite abruptly and seemed like they weren't quite finished. I would have liked to have read more about these particular situations. Overall, however, the book was fun to read. I kept thinking that it's a pleasant book. It seems like it'd be a great book to have around so it could be picked up and opened at random whenever one wanted a pick-me-up or just had a few minutes in which to be entertained. It's that kind of book--it would make an already good day even better and would provide a few minutes of ease in a more difficult day. Or it can be enjoyably read in sequence from start to finish as I read it. .

Thanks toNetGalley, the publisher, and the author for a digital review copy.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Human Origins: A Short History

 Human Origins: A Short History
by Sarah Wild
ISBN 9781789295788

At the beginning of this book, the author states, "The aim of this book is to break the complex human story into bite-sized chunks, to highlight the broad trends and the major disagreements--and there are many disagreements...I have also tried to highlight how much our understanding of human origins has changed--and continues to change--and how, in some ways, palaeoanthropology showcases some of the best features of scientific inquiry..." (p6) Does she succeed at the task she has set for herself? Indeed she does! She skillfully weaves the many threads of the story of human origins into a very readable, informative, fascinating narrative. Along the way, some threads get dropped and new ones picked up as more evidence becomes available. The search for the definitive story of how we--Homo sapiens sapiens--became the last homo species left will probably never be completely understood. The clues are random and necessarily fragmentary. We only have what turns up in the archaeological record. Then there is the interpretation of what is found, which often leads to disagreement between scientists. There is broad agreement that anatomically modern humans have been around for about 300,000 years, but how we got to that point and what happened to the other human species is still being explored. One 'fun fact' in the book was that Homo sapiens is the only hominin species (the lineage of species that diverged from chimpanzees 6 to 7 million years ago and resulted in us) to have a chin, as far as scientists know, and they don't know why. This book is a great overview of the current state of thinking about human origins. It explains things without getting deep into jargon--general readers will find the book fascinating, highly readable, and informative. My one quibble was the explanatory boxes that were placed in the middle of the text. They provided important information, but the placement did interrupt the narrative flow for me, so I ended up just reading each chapter, then going back to read the text within the boxes. That's a minor issue, though, and about organization, not the excellent book itself. This is a small book, but there is much food for thought within it.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for a digital review copy.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

The Winter Spirits: Ghostly Tales for Frosty Nights

The Winter Spirits:Ghostly Tales for Frosty Nights

by Bridget Collins; Imogen Hermes Gowar; Natasha Pulley; Jess Kidd; Andrew Michael Hurley; Elizabeth Macneal; Laura Purcell; Kiran Millwood Hargrave; Stuart Turton; Catriona Ward; Laura Shepherd-Robinson; Susan Stokes-Chapman

ISBN 9781408727584

Here is a collection of Christmas stories with a twist, solidly in the holiday ghost story tradition. And what a fabulous collection it is! Usually in any short story collection there is at least one story that I am not that thrilled about. Not so here. Each story was wonderful in its own chilling way. These are not holly jolly Christmas stories, There is a sense of menace and creepiness to all of them. One story was like Bluebeard with a twist and another reminded me in a vague way of The Lottery. Settings range from old country houses to remote island villas to a small house next to a church in a seaside village and more. The writing is superb. In her story, The Gargoyle, Bridget Collins describes 'window boxes foaming with lobelia.' What a perfect description! All the stories take place at Advent, Christmas, or New Year's Eve. This is my first time reading most of these authors, but I would happily read more of their work based on this collection. I was a little sorry when I got to the end--glad to have had the reading experience, but bummed that it was over. Definitely 5 stars! And isn't the cover image great?! I've just noticed they changed the cover from 'frosty nights' to 'festive nights.' My copy had the former.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for a digital ARC.

Friday, September 22, 2023

So Many, So Little

 Last year, I participated in Victober--when people read Victorian literature in October and discuss on youtube and Goodreads. When I was reading some of the threads, I learned about the Serial Reader app, which I had never heard of. I immediately went to learn more about it and within a few minutes, I'd downloaded it and started going through the options. I haven't looked back. I've been using the app daily for almost a year and I love it. They send the books you choose in installments that they estimate will take between 10 and 20 minutes to read.The books are all in the public domain so it's all older books. There are well-known books and authors available, as well as obscure and unknown (at least to me) books and authors. There are long books (The Complete Sherlock Holmes, for example is over 250 installments) and short stories that are two or three installments. There is a wide variety of genres, which is cool. I've read books in genres that are among my favourites, like old mysteries and I have read work that is old sci-fi, a genre I normally don't read. Some of the latter have been truly strange, but I find them fascinating nonetheless. It's interesting to see what people thought life would be like in the future. I read a book published in 1894, written by a French astronomer, about a comet that was going to hit the earth. He forsaw the EU. Another, published in 1836, was about a guy who was transported 300 years into the future, which put him close to the present day, if I remember correctly. There were all kinds of things the author imagined life would be like, but in the story, large blocks of ice were still being transported to China by ship. Mary Griffith, the author, who is considered the first female utopian writer in the US, couldn't foresee freezers, apparently. Some of the books I've read have been wonderful, some have been weird, some have been not my cup of tea. But because it's just a short installment each day, it's easy to keep reading. There has only been one book that I decided not to finish after reading a couple of installments and that was a Willa Cather book, the name of which escapes me at the moment. I've tried a different book of hers in the past and didn't finish that, either, so I've concluded that she's just not for me. Anyway, if you're into classics, I highly recommend this app.

Besides that, my reading plans were recently upended, but in a good way. I was at the point where I had about 300 pages left to read of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens. Then I got this in the post:
Several weeks ago, I reviewed Davis' new book, Our Strangers. I loved that book so much that I wanted to read her previous work, so I went to the library website and requested The Collected Stories. Bill found a copy online and bought it for me, so I cancelled the library request. I'm thrilled to have my own copy, because it's the kind of book that is great to read in chunks.

Shortly after that, the postman dropped off another book parcel. Bill had found this book at Kenny's and bought it for me:
What a fabulous book it is, too! I am almost at the halfway point and I am loving it so far! But I ended up having to set that aside, too, because suddenly books I'd requested from NetGalley weeks ago got approved all at once and a couple are close to publication date by now. I already had a few others on my shelf, so those 4 got added. I've been reading those books for the past week or so. And the icing on the cake is the new Agatha Christie autumnal short story collection that appeared on the 'new ebooks' list at the library website. I reserved it and although it said it would be available in October, it came in the other day. 

I am not complaining, mind you. I think that an abundance of books is not a bad thing. I have a pin that says, 'so many books, so little time' and that about sums it up. If only there was somewhere I could click to request more hours in a day. 😀😁

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Sunday Spine-ku

Here are a couple of spine-ku, as I call these short spine poems, on a Sunday morning. Now back to coffee!
A natural curiosity
family album

Books are A Natural Curiosity by Margaret Drabble, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and Family Album by Penelope Lively--all happen to be published by Penguin.

literary women
to the lighthouse

Books are Five by Doris Lessing, an old Penguin collection of 5 of her short novels, Literary Women by Ellen Moers a nonfiction work published by the Women's Press, and To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, Wordsworth Edition. 

Although I got this one in a charity shop, Wordsworth Editions are my favourite for classics and when I am looking for a classic online at Kenny's I try to get those--they always have good informative introductions (which should always be read after reading the book because there are spoilers) and good notes. Penguin and Oxford are good, too, but I like Wordsworth best.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Making Lemonade

 Yesterday I posted about the obnoxious harvest fair and the accompanying noise. It's the same sort of crap we've had to deal with periodically through the summer--same old noise, same old songs, same old garbage. In order to try to hang on to some bits of sanity when the same annoying noises are invading my home, I came up with a poem using the song titles and lyrics that we have heard over and over and over and over and.... throughout the summer. I think the story reads like a country western song. Here it is:

Bar Music 1
The rhinestone cowboy rode into town,
the doors were closed and the shutters were down.
He was looking for his Sweet Caroline,
wondering if he would run out of time.

He'd been to Folsom Prison, you see,
but once he got there, he decided to flee
and falling into a burning ring of fire,
was not quite enough to quench his desire.

Down the country roads he went,
kept going when all his money was spent.
He sped towards his home in that dirty old town,
but when he got there, he could only frown.

Sweet Caroline had not long waited--
another man's dinner was already plated.
He begged, he pleaded, he sank to his knees,
while she and her new love ignored all his pleas.

So he drew on some lessons he'd learned in the past--
know when to hold 'em, fold 'em, then walk away fast.
'I know when I'm beaten,' he said to himself,
,'I won't stay here to be put on the shelf!'

He jumped into his car to speed into the night
seeking paradise by those dashboard lights.

Who knows where he landed, who knows where he went, 
while Sweet Caroline built a new life with her gent.

August 2023

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Time Marches On--I Limp Instead

 A few weeks ago, I was just starting my walk home from the museum when I suddenly found myself on the sidewalk on my right knee. I have no idea what happened, but I suppose I must've tripped. I don't recall any such thing, but there I was. I didn't stumble or anything--just went down. I gathered up my bag and was thinking, 'Well now I have to get up.' There were probably some cars passing by but no other pedestrians, so I shifted to my left knee, already damaged from previous falls, and stood up, surprised at how easily I was able to do this, considering there was nothing to grab onto. I checked my pants, assuming they were ripped. They weren't, but when I got home I discovered that my knee was. I limped home, washed off my knee, put some antiseptic cream on it, and plunked myself down and my leg up. That was how I spent the next several days, pretty much--thank goodness for books and yarn! Sleeping was not coming easy because I had to stay on my back all the time, so I was having trouble falling asleep and then waking up after a few hours in pain. My leg was puffy and all kinds of colours. Still, I was moving better after a few days and able to do necessary tasks, although stairs aggravated things. Mainly, I wanted to sleep more.

A couple weeks later, we had some summery weather and it was hot and uncomfortable. I was still having to sleep on my back. Not a good combination, so I got even less sleep. That was a shame because I'd really wanted to get some good sleep before last weekend when the dreaded Harvest Fair Festival began--or as I call it, the Annual Mega Noise Pollution Event. I knew that I would get very little sleep for the 5 days this crappy thing was going on so wanted to go into it rested. Oh well.

It was as bad as I expected. Last year was our first here and we were appalled at what it turned out to be. On the last day, they close Main St and vendors line either side. The street is crammed with people walking around. We thought there would be artists and craftspeople, but there were only a handful--mostly it was people with cheap plastic junk. Once I got home from that, I knew I wouldn't be going ever again and this year, I didn't.

Worst of all though is the noise. This year they put speakers on Main St. We don't live on Main St, but off of it and we were located between speakers, so we heard the bad music all day and then when they had live performances on Main St (also bad music) we heard that, too. The biggest disruption came from a nearby bar with a 'beer garden.' Music there was supposed to start at 9, but of course they were always late so sometimes didn't start until 10. The same songs were being repeated over and over again on the same night and on consecutive nights. If I have to hear Sweet Caroline complete with drunk Irish people singing, 'So good, so good, so good' and 'whoa-oh-oh' I think I will scream. Also some maudlin song about how 'this is my homeland, the place I was born in...' They seem to wait until everyone is good and toasted before they sing that one for the first time. Sometimes the singers clearly get drunk along with the audience because they start slurring their words when they scream into the microphone.  When the gigs were done after 3 or 4 hours, the drunk people would hang around outside and yell (they think they're singing), laugh, and scream. Since it was hot, we had to keep the windows open so we heard everything--against our will. We would hear it even with the windows closed, but it is worse with them open. On Sunday, I heard one of the stragglers say, 'It's 5:02' before the group broke up. I didn't get to sleep until 4 or 5 in the morning each of the 5 nights of the 'festival.' We have nights like this through the summer, but they're usually more spread out. When they're concentrated into one long period of time, it gets on my last nerve even more. There is a wee bit of humor--I find it funny how some of these people, who are country-western singers, have their little twang. I wonder if they practice as they pretend to be from Alabama or someplace. The laughter never lasts long--I can't stand country western music. Whatever the genre, the music is so loud that it disrupts our life. A friend sent me ear plugs, which do almost drown out the drunks, but not the music. I can sometimes add my large headphones, which cover my ears, and turn up certain things to the max, but sometimes even that doesn't work and all I can hear is the cacophony from the beer garden. Wandering drunk people in the middle of the night is a very Irish thing. We've heard them in every place we've lived, but this place is the worst for that. 

Publicans are always whining about things--taxes, drink driving laws, outdoor smoking--and saying their business will fail. It's true that many pubs have closed, but there are still plenty left. The market was clearly over-saturated. This is a village of 800 people. There are 4 standalone pubs, a bar inside a hotel, and another inside a restaurant on Main St alone. I am told there used to be 14 pubs in town.

Anyway, I woke up yesterday to the first day post-fair. It was chilly and raining. I was thrilled. Last night I slept well. I hope there's plenty more of that kind of thing in my near future!

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World by Naomi Klein

A Trip Into the Mirror World
by Naomi Klein
ISBN 9780241621301

Naomi Klein (author of The Shock Doctrine and No Logo) thought it was a little weird when people started mistaking 'Other Naomi' (Naomi Wolf) for her. After all, although they share a first name, had brown hair and at one time had views that seemed at least somewhat similar on the surface, Other Naomi had since fallen deeper and deeper into the world of right wing conspiracy theories. As confusion about which Naomi was spouting this stuff grew more widespread, and she received nasty comments online and overheard conversations criticizing her for comments Other Naomi had made, Klein became more distressed. She started to think about the doppelganger idea and decided to find out more about what hers was saying and doing. She began to watch and listen to media where Other Naomi appeared, looked through her website and writings, and began to wonder how Other Naomi went from what she was to what she is. As she got further into this journey, she saw patterns emerge that are relevant to all of us and to society at large, making connections between the idea of the doppelganger and how we live our lives online, doppelganger politics, economics, and more. For example, Klein points out that anyone who has an online presence is, in a sense, their own doppelganger. She discusses a 'Mirror World' of conspiracy theories in which genuine issues are given bizarre explanations and there is an attempt to create a false equivalency of victimhood. The ideas in this world are often contradictory--the point is not to create a coherent narrative or to convince anyone who is actually paying attention, but is a tool to distract and encourage denial both inside this world and outside it. 

This book is not a simple criticism of the Mirror World, but also shows the ways in which those outside it, who are not mired in right wing media and conspiracy theories have their own issues-- in the 'Shadow Lands' where people who are critical of the inherent racism of the far right, for example, don't see the ugly reality underneath the comforting mythologies colonial countries like the US, Canada, and others are built on.

Klein is doing what she does so well here--investigating deeply, going where her findings take her, pulling various threads of thought and observation together, and making connections. It's a book full of insight, keen observation, and critical thinking and one that is definitely timely and important. I highly recommend it.

I thank NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for a digital advanced review copy.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Our Strangers by Lydia Davis


I had not read anything by Lydia Davis before this book. I had also not read anything by anyone that was quite like this. My first reaction shortly after starting this book was, 'Wow!' Now that I am finished with it, that is still my reaction. This is a fabulous book of short and very short stories about small aspects of everyday life that most of people would either miss or forget about shortly after they took place. Yet, as this collection reminds us,  these are the moments that make up our lives and they're worth noticing and paying attention to. Some of the stories are several pages long and some are just a few sentences. Even the very short stories leave  traces of larger stories that the reader can fill in in whatever way their imaginations takes them. A few of the stories provide different versions of the same events within them. There are stories that made me laugh out loud, stories that made me feel the awkwardness of a given situation, and stories that are poignant. I devoured this book in one sitting, but it would also be a good book to keep in a handy spot so one can easily dip in and out of it. It also warrants rereading. It may also make readers want to notice the usually unnoticed as they go about their daily lives. I can't wait to read more Lydia Davis and I am thrilled to have discovered her work. 5+ stars.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for a digital review copy.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

A Cat's-Eye View of Japan

For those of you who love cats, here are some videos that I really enjoy watching--each one is about 5 minutes long. I can't share the videos themselves here because NHK Japan doesn't allow viewing off their YouTube page, but here's the link to the playlist.
The cats are fun to watch, the scenery is beautiful, and the glimpse into the culture of each place is interesting. There are subtitles where necessary.

Friday, August 4, 2023

Wait and See How It Goes

 I've started volunteering at a small local museum that has just reopened after being closed for 4 years. I'm not sure why they closed--it was before the pandemic--and we didn't live here then. In any case, it's open again now and I decided to volunteer for a shift each week. I did my second one today. It's going OK so far, but to be honest, I'm not sure how it will be in the long run. Everything seems very random, haphazard, and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants. That's not how I roll. I have decided to wait and see how things go. I'm making conscious decisions to not jump in and try to do too much. As much as I am inclined to try to impose order on what seems to me to be a chaotic, disorganized situation, as I have done in the past (not always successfully), both in paid employment and volunteer gigs, I am going with the flow and accepting the way it is. This may mean that I eventually get so frustrated that I walk away or it may mean that I learn to comfortably operate differently. Time will tell. I remind myself that I am not in my own culture anymore and this is how things are here. It seems to work for them and whether it works for me doesn't really matter. I'm the one who doesn't know everyone in the town, the history, etc. So much is left unsaid because they seem to be used to dealing only with people who have been here for years. For example, I was not given any sort of instruction on what to do when I am in the museum--I still have not even had a chance to see all of it. Most of the exhibits are self-explanatory, but I had to ask for information on some things. Today a couple of people came in and I had to go downstairs to turn on the lights because it was particularly dark in one room. I went to the closet where the switches are, but I looked at the switch box in vain for anything that suggested which switch was for the downstairs front room. Finally I just turned all of them on to see what would happen. It was the last switch, marked 'audio-visual' that I needed. 😐😕 Communication is weird and via a What'sApp group where there are many conversations going on at one time and answers to questions are vague. Maybe this is typical of such groups--I am new to the whole What'sApp thing. In any case, the museum closes for the season at the end of September and I think there will be random events in the months until it opens again in the spring. I can decide what I want to participate in as they arise. In the meantime, I have learned more about the history and culture of the town, both of which I find quite interesting. In the process, I am observing myself, too, and noticing how I react to things, which is also good. More self-awareness is never a bad thing.

Friday, July 21, 2023

If It Must Be

 If we must have summer, then I want more summers like this July has been! We had our heatwave earlier in the season. By that I mean an Irish heatwave, which is quite mild (even if too hot for me) and would feel quite cool for millions of people right about now. I am no fan of bright sunny days and hot temperatures, but I am mindful of the fact that so many are suffering in dreadfully hot conditions right now. We don't get that kind of thing for which I am eternally grateful.

What we do get is rain. It has been pretty rainy for the month of July. There were a few mornings that felt like the edge of autumnal, at least for a few hours. I sat in the conservatory, sipped tea, and just enjoyed it. Today has been a rainy day--the kind I love. Rain, rain, more rain, and then it rained some more, sometimes heavy showers. You can't see the rain very well in this picture, but it was lashing down at the time--it's just visible in the top left and bottom right corners. 

More rain is expected through tonight, tomorrow, and tomorrow night--yay! The downside is the increased levels of various sorts of fungal spores. As usual at this time of year, I have a scratchy throat with an occasional tickle which makes me cough, fatigue, and other issues as a result. But here we are, in what seems like the blink of an eye, staring down the end of July. 

It's cool enough that people have their fires burning--they do love their open fires here and stores sell various sorts of fuel year-round. Whatever the neighbourhood fire is being fueled by tonight, it smells gross.

Whatever the weather in your part of the world, I hope July has been a good one for you and if it's roasting, I hope it cools off soon!

Friday, July 7, 2023

The Lost Supper By Taras Grescoe

 The Lost Supper: Searching for the Future of Food in the Flavors of the Past
by Taras Grescoe
Published by Greystone Books in partnership with the David Suzuki Institute 19 September 2023
ISBN 9781771647632
In The Lost Supper, Taras Grescoe takes us on a journey as he describes his attempts to 'deindustrialize' his diet and to make the case that the world can benefit from traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). To do this, he takes a deep dive into foods of the past, travelling around the world to educate himself about what people ate in the past and what remains of that food today. He speaks to archaeologists, growers, chefs, and those who harvest various kinds of food. It's a fascinating and highly readable book. It's no secret that industrial food and the standard diet of most people in wealthy nations in not healthy for people or the environment, but the facts as he lays them out are still startling. For example, in his Prologue, he says that 9 out of 10 gallons of milk in the US 'now comes from freakishly productive Holstein-Friesian cows, all of which are descended from only two bulls.' He also makes the point that our diets are far more limited now than they were in the past. 'At a single 23,000-year-old site in Africa's Rift Valley, archaeologists have found evidence that Paleolithic foragers feasted on 20 small and large animals, 16 families of birds, and 140 different kinds of fruit, nuts, seeds, and legumes, a diet drawn from wetland, savannah, woodland, and desert food webs' (also from the Prologue--there were no page numbers in my copy). Obviously, the human diet is far less varied today. Grescoe is not making the argument that agriculture is bad, nor is he saying the 'paleo diet' fad is good. Industrial agriculture as it is currently practiced is problematic and the Paleo diet has nothing to do with the reality of what Paleolithic populations ate. Rather, he is making the case that we need to expand our options and take lessons from what and how people ate in the past for our own health and that of the environment in which we live. What he found in his travels, though, was a mixed bag--sometimes the stories were hopeful, but sometimes they were not.

He went to Mexico City to discover and taste some bugs that used to be a staple food, but now, due to development, the bugs are hard to come by and very expensive to buy, thus putting them out of reach for those without the money to spend on such delicacies. When he visited his hometown on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, he talked to the indigenous population who have been denied access to their own Native foods for centuries. One man dubbed this 'food warfare' which is a good way to put it. Without traditional Native foods, people became reliant on empty calories, white flour, sugar, etc and health deteriorated. This is a common situation worldwide. On the more hopeful side, he visited some cheese makers in the UK who were building a successful business making cheese that is good for people, the cows, and the land. These are just a few examples the author focuses on--there are many more, each one quite fascinating.

I loved this book. Not only did I learn about foods I'd never heard of, but also about the locations where these foods thrived--the geography, environments, cultures, and prehistories/histories. I think these things are worth knowing, even if only for the ideas they can bring and the lessons we can apply to our lives today. I do not think that even the successful enterprises he visited will be a solution to current and future food problems. There are too many people on the planet and as these food entrepreneurs pointed out, high quality food is more expensive. Many people cannot afford it and many of those that can, don't want to pay more. We cannot recreate the past, but we can learn from it. 

This is a fine book that is definitely worth reading if you're in any way interested in food, food culture, history/prehistory, cultures in general, and food history.

I receieved a digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review. I thank them, the publisher, and the author.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023


 Last night, I finished a pair of socks. Today, I have happy feet. Love, love, love! 

Yarn is King Cole Zig Zag sock yarn in the colourway Butterfly. It's 75% superwash wool and 25% nylon. A skein is 100 grams/460 yards/420 metres. Created with a size E/3.5mm bamboo crochet hook. Crochet design is my own. There is an afterthought heel, which means that when that wears out, I can cut it off and make a new one, thus extending the life of the socks. My socks always wear out on the bottom of my foot at the heel end, so this is good. 

They're extremely comfortable, fit my feet perfectly, and I love the bold colours which make me smile every time I look at them. And I have a fair bit of the yarn left, so I will be able to use it in a future scrappy project. At least some of it will be used on my triangle pin loom--I am really looking forward to seeing how it weaves up on that.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Speeding Along and Going Nowhere

 The other day, as we were nearing the end of another week, Bill mentioned that time seems to be speeding by. I agreed that the weeks seemed to be zipping by, but that somehow June felt endless. It feels like it's been June forever. Indeed, I am sometimes astonished when I remind myself that it is still June, because surely it has been June for several months already! It's been warmer than usual this June--could be the warmest on record by the time (or if) we ever reach the end, according to Met Eireann. We had a couple of weeks where the temperature was around 80F, which is hot for here. I have been knocked back by this. I always have issues in summer, but usually they come on gradually and build up over time. Not this year. I went through a week or 10 days of not being able to get to sleep until after 5 am. Combined with stomach upset, headaches, achiness, a clogged head, sore throat, and other things, there were days when I was just doing the bare minimum. Once I was able to get a little more sleep, I could function slightly better. I'm used to having all these issues in summer, but not so early or at such an intensity. Things are more manageable, at least for now, so I am taking it as it comes.

One thing that provided me with some smiles during this time was Lennnie the Blob. I had never heard of Lennnie until someone from HarperCollins UK contacted me and asked if I would like a copy of Lennnie's book. I accepted and several weeks later, just as I was starting to be assaulted by summer, the postman delivered Lennnie. It was perfect timing! 

Lennnie has some wise words for all of us. They made me laugh out loud at times and this was most welcome under the circumstances. In addition to the words of wisdom, the artwork is fun and endearing. This is a book to revisit from time to time, during moments of ease or times of discomfort. Lennnie and their friends have an uplifting, encouraging, and positive attitude that doesn't get sappy or saccharine. This is a great little book and I thank HarperCollinsUK for sending me a copy. Lennnie can also be found on various social media platforms.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Twelve Words for Moss by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett

 Twelve Words for Moss
by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett
ISBN 9780241556832
Penguin Press UK – Allen Lane, Particular, Pelican, Penguin Classics, Allen Lane

I loved this beautiful book--the subject matter, the writing, the structure, and the personal insights. 

The author is grieving the loss of her father and finds hope in the way moss grows, thrives, and survives, even under harsh conditions. She finds comfort in her pursuit of knowledge about mosses. She revels in the times she can spend in the natural world, but since she is forced to be in a city for work much of the time, she is able to look for and observe the mosses growing in the urban environment she inhabits. She says that in times of grief or other hard times, a friend found it helpful to focus on small details to "block out the bigger picture." For her, mosses serve this purpose as well as providing a focal point from which she can explore various other aspects of her life and history, as well as that of her ancestors. She finds connections with her mother's experiences growing up in Kenya, for example.

The book is written/structured in an interesting and very effective way. There are short poems about specific kinds of mosses, but also prose sections. Nestled within these sections are rhyming sentences that form mini-poems within the prose. 

Being a fan of moss myself, I enjoyed reading about it and how it grows. I will have even more respect for it now that I have read this book. Beyond that, this is jsimply a lovely book to read. The descriptions of the moss, the insights the author gains through her close observations, the gorgeous writing, the mini-poems within the prose, and the foundation of hope the author finds--each strand weaves together into a whole cloth that is full of colour, vibrancy, and beauty. 

I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review. I thank them, the publisher, and the author.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Let's Do It Again!

 Yesterday, a small bird flew in through the open conservatory window. This afternoon, it was warm in there again--it gets quite warm fairly quickly and it won't be long before I have to keep the doors closed to keep the heat in there instead of where I am. For now, though, opening the window is enough to keep it pleasant, so around midday, I opened the window, but not as wide as I had it yesterday. This evening, the bird flew back in, sat at a window and chirped. I opened a different window; he flew at it and chirped, then doubled back to the other window. I tried to explain that his chosen window does not open. He gave up and flew at the open window, bumping into it on his way out and leaving a few tiny feathers behind him. I checked to make sure he wasn't on the ground dazed or hurt, but there was no sign of him. I guess I will have to just close the doors when it gets warm in there from now on. It's a shame, because it's a lovely space to sit and stitch, but when it's hot it's unusable. On the other hand, I can't have this bird flying in every day! 

The issue with the conservatory windows is that there is no deep window well. The walls here are very thick, with a foot or so on either side of the windows, so they can be opened and still not sticking out into the air. A bird would have to fly into the window well and under the window to get in. But the conservatory just juts out from the main dwelling and is elevated, so it's in the flight path. Plus, it's on the riverside and the birds like to hang out in a tree that hangs over the river. Maybe this is a young bird who is trying to get his bearings. In any case, while he is very cute, I hope this is his last indoor visit!