Thursday, May 23, 2024

Does He Understand the Concept?

 It was Bill who pointed it out to me. He looks out the window as he's washing the dishes and he often gets a view of the guy across the river and his droopy drawers. He shared his observations with me and well, there are some things you just can't unsee. Droopy seems not to understand the concept of pants and what their purpose is. He seems to assume that they should be worn under the butt instead of covering it. He apparently feels that this fashion statement is one to be shared with any and all who are in his vicinity. I'm sure I am not alone in wishing he wouldn't, but here we are. We look out of the windows at our own risk. Yesterday, he was on a ladder fairly high above the sidewalk, giving all and sundry a better view. You'd think the breeze blowing across his butt would cause a chill, but he's apparently willing to tough it out. Has anyone ever told him that pants were actually designed to gently cover the rear end, providing warmth, comfort, and protection from stinging insects, biting bugs, splinters, frostbite, etc? We'll never know. Droopy droops and I just look away.😬

Monday, May 20, 2024


 Got happy mail today! 

It was kind of a surprise--Bill told me the other day that he'd seen a couple of books that he thought I'd like on a used book page on eBay, so he got them and they were on their way. He asked if I wanted to know what they were and I said I did, so he told me. I was (and am) thrilled! I didn't look them up, so the contents were a surprise. He was concerned that I might have already read many of the stories, but as it turns out, there are just a few between both books that I've read before. Not that I would have minded if there had been more. I love, love, love both short story collections and classic mysteries, so there is plenty for me to love here. 

I started the Victorian mysteries shortly after the parcel was opened. The second story was an amusing Wilkie Collins detective story. His Woman in White was mentioned a few times in the Introduction as one of the first detective sensation novels. As luck would have it, I found a like-new copy of that in a charity shop on Friday. The Victorian mystery anthology is divided into themes--detective, crime, international, and American stories. It seems to be quite well done and I am looking forward to reading a story or two each day. It'll be interesting to see if the stories from Spain, Italy, Germany are different in some ways from the British and US ones. I've been reading more and more Victorian literature (and a bit before that) for the past few years for quite a while now, so this will fit right in with that.

I am equally excited about the Christmas anthology, but I will summon up my willpower to hold off on that until later in the year. Reading Christmas mysteries is part of my yearly 'I am so grateful summer is OVER' ritual, so I am thrilled to know that this will be waiting for me when the time comes. It's a nice chunky book so I can stretch out my enjoyment for a while.

What better way to begin the week than welcoming fabulous books into my life?

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Immortality of a Sort?

 This will be me. 

Friday, May 10, 2024

The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley

 The Minstry of Time by Kaliane Bradley

Published by: Hodder & Stoughton | Sceptre

ISBN 9781399726344

I don't usually read sci fi, although there are a few exceptions. However, I was intrigued by the description of this book, in which a select group of people are brought from the past to present-day Britain and must learn to inhabit the 21st century. I do love a good culture shock story. This excellent book is far more than that, though, and I am so glad I read it!

The book is told from the perspective of a civil servant, who had been toiling away in the Languages department, but applies for and is hired for a much more secretive and well-paying job in the Ministry, where time travel has been discovered. She will be the 'bridge' to Commander Graham Gore, who had been known as one of those who perished in the Franklin expedition to the Arctic. History says he died in 1847, but now he's learning about life in the 21st century. The bridge is there to monitor him and help him navigate this new world. Even she isn't clear about what the Ministry is about and what the purpose of the project is. This job also makes her think about her own life as an outsider--her mother was a refugee from Cambodia and she grew up with the casual racism that is sadly so common. Just as the 'expats' as they are called (in order to keep away the stigma of the word 'immigrant') must figure out what their place is in a new society, the bridge continues to figure out her place in her own. Her experience also complicates her relationship with Commander Gore at times, but in spite of the fact that this is supposed to be a job, she soon finds herself growing closer to her expat. At the same time, she finds herself uneasy about some of the things that are happening at the Ministry and isn't sure what to do about it. At one point she says, 'Life is a series of slamming doors. We make irrevocable decisions every day. A twelve-second delay, a slip of the tongue, and suddenly your life is on a new road.' (p 160)

As you'd expect, there is a lot in this book about belonging and feeling misplaced. For the bridge, this is a generational thing--there is a very moving short scene in which she remembers a trip to her mother's home place in Cambodia and how her mother's accent was ridiculed. She clearly didn't fit in there, but she never quite fit in in Britain, either. The bridge's sister writes about her experiences with racism, while the bridge tries to fit in and pass as white. In similar ways, the expats have different strategies for navigating their current world.

I don't want to give anything away, but I'll just say that the last 100 pages or so are a wild ride. I thought I knew where the book was going. I was wrong. This is a really fine book, beautifully written, and a real page-turner. I was annoyed every time I had to put it down and couldn't wait to get back to it. I've been thinking about it ever since I finished it and I think it will stay with me for a long time. Fantastic read!

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

Update--an article about the author appeared in The Guardian and you can read it here

Thursday, May 9, 2024

The Silence Factory by Bridget Collins

 The Silence Factory by Bridget Collins
Published by HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction | The Borough Press
ISBN 9780008424046
On a Greek island in the 1820s, Sophia is trying to cope with her married life. Her husband, James, is obsessed with finding a particular spider, which supposedly spins silk that has unusual properties. When Sophia accidentally finds a specimen, neither of them realize that James' obsession will trap him in its web just as securely as the spider webs trap the rats and 'suck them dry' when they're dropped into the tanks as food. James leaves the island with as many spiders as he can carry and goes back to England. He thinks that as a British Christian man, he is smarter than everyone else and entitled to take what he wants.

Some decades later, Henry Latimer, a grieving widower, is plodding through his days as a clerk in his father-in-law's audiology shop. One day, Sir Edward shows up and engages Henry in conversation. He comments that Henry sells sound and he sells silence. Henry is clearly puzzled, so Sir Edward gives him a piece of spider silk with special properties. When one side is facing, utter silence results. The outer facing side creates weird murmurs, whispers, and disturbing noises. Sir Edward has inherited his great uncle James' estate and the family lace factory, which he is using to try to mass market the silk. Henry becomes obsessed with the silk after bringing it home and using it to block out the cacophony outside. He gets his first good night of sleep since his wife died in childbirth. When Sir Edward wants someone to come to his home to test his deaf daughter, Henry goes. He, too, gets tangled up in the web of silk and refuses to heed the warnings of people who try to help him. He desperately wants to outrun the whispers, murmurs, and disturbing noises in his own mind, but of course, none of us can do that. While he sees a chance at a new life as his feelings for Sir Edward grow deeper, he also has to work hard to ignore the horrific effects of the factory on the town and especially the people, including the children, who work there.

This is the first book I've read by this author, but it definitely won't be the last. It's a fantastic book that hooked me from the start. The book moves back and forth between Sophia's diary entries and Henry's story, with the former sprinkled throughout the book. I was gripped by both story lines as the characters struggle to escape the bonds that imprison them, whether it is James with his ego and need to
impress his brother, leading to the fixation on the spiders, Sir Edward with his sense of entitlement and need to wield power and get more cash, Sophia, who is stuck in a marriage with a man growing more angry and erratic, or Henry, who is trying to outrun his grief and guilt. The spiders provide a good metaphor for this theme as they weave their webs, entrapping and destroying prey much larger than themselves. Will they also (indirectly) destroy the humans who have stolen them from their native habitat in order to exploit them? At one point, Sophia comments that she knows the spiders are furious at them. The difference between the rats dropped into the spider tanks and the humans outside of it, of course, is choice. The rats have none. The spiders have none. The humans have choices, but will they make the right ones in time? What will become of the people involved, from those in charge to those working in the factory and at the mercy of the people and machines that make the factory run? What happened to Sophia and James? Read this excellent book to find out!

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

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

They're Screaming

 In summer 2021, "In a twenty-four-hour period, the temperature in downtown Portland, Oregon jumped from 76 degrees to 114 degrees (F), the hottest temperature in 147 years of observations...If you'd had the right kind of microphone, scientists say, you could have heard the trees screaming." 
         --The Heat Will Kill You First by Jeff Goodell, pgs 7-8

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Lucky Day!

 We hopped on the bus this morning with our fingers crossed. We were heading for the library and hoping that they still had a couple of books--one on each of our lists--that had been waiting for us until Friday. We didn't have a chance to go last week, so I emailed and asked if they could please hold the books a bit longer so we could go today. I got an automated reply back because the person was out of the office until today. I figured it'd be OK anyway, because it was a bank holiday weekend here and once they closed Friday they weren't open again until this morning. I was pretty sure that no one would jump over to the hold shelf and start removing books as soon as they opened and they didn't. We both plan to read both books, so nice that we were able to get them.

We are also both planning to read this one--me first:
Bill started this when we got home:
I read an advance review copy near the end of last year, I think and it was published a couple months ago. It's a great book and my review is here.

Finally, I got this one, which I am really looking forward to:

Our luck continued when we popped into the charity shop by the bus stop. Bill found a couple books and I made a beeline for the large plastic tub that had a few things of yarn in it. The tag said €1, so I grabbed a couple hanks of brown wool, three balls of mohair, and a cake of a thin yarn that I suspected was a wool blend of some kind, perhaps with silk.
When I went to pay, the woman only charged me €1.50 for the lot, yarn and books. I shoved the pile closer to her and asked if she got everything--LOL--and she assured me that she did, so I gave her the cash and left the store. When we'd entered, I was feeling a bit too warm and increasingly eager to get home so I could pour some coffee into myself. My fabulous little yarn haul and the books in my backpack perked me up a bit. 😁 

I did the burn test on the mauve yarn and it is indeed mohair. The thin yarn is definitely mostly wool. Not sure if the rest is silk or plant fibre of some sort, but it feels lovely. That and the brown wool are now chilling in the freezer. I didn't see any evidence of moth damage, but might as well be safe. And when my coffee and I were united once again, it was magical. Hope you have some magical moments in your day, too!

Monday, April 29, 2024

Nuclear War: A Scenario by Annie Jacobsen


Nuclear War: A Scenario
by Annie Jacobsen
ISBN 9781911709596
Nuclear war is an insane concept. Nevertheless, here we are in a world brimming with weapons that can destroy life as we know it many, many times over. In this book, Anne Jacobsen describes what would/could happen in the event of a rogue leader launching a nuclear weapon at the United States. She bases this on interviews, research, and access to the declassified information that is currently available. The book is incredibly well-written and reads like a thriller, as she describes, minute-by-minute, what would happen both with the nuclear warhead in its journey towards the target and with the US government as they react to the fact of an impending nuclear strike. She talks to people who have been in situations and jobs where they were well-versed in the procedures that would ensue. She explains what such a strike would do to the target area and the people in it. She talks about the possibility of a nuclear detonation in space that would immediately stop the US electric grid from functioning. The people she talks to admit that while the goal of having nuclear arsenals is deterrence, all of the plans and protocols go out the window in the event of an actual launch.

The book is subtitled, A Scenario, and it is structured in that way. The author is telling a story, based on fact as far as is possible. She lays out a scenario in which a 'mad king'--in this case in North Korea--launches a nuclear strike against the United States. How would people in the US and elsewhere respond? Would communication between the US and Russia occur and would it help to prevent more catastrophe or would things escalate? The situation she describes seems all too plausible. The book is very timely, describing as it does the nuclear arsenals that are precariously sitting all over the globe and in the oceans, while unhinged leaders feel an increasing need to appear powerful. This is an extremely important book that is also so well-written that it's a page-turner. Everyone should read it.

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

Friday, April 26, 2024

Fill 'Er Up!

 The other day we were in Letterkenny, having gone to pick up some books at the library. We were making our way back up the town to the bus stop, when I glanced in a bakery window as I passed. They had a few lovely loaves of bread piled up, so we went in to get a multi-seed cob. They wisely put the pastry case around the till. It was lunchtime, we were a bit peckish, and we gave in, choosing 'fresh cream' eclairs. We were disappointed at first bite, but it was my own fault, really. I interpreted the label the way I wanted to and after 10 years in this country, I should have known better. 

The first time we had eclairs here, we were surprised to find them filled with a strange stiff cream-like substance and indeed, they had some of those in the pastry case. Before we came here, we'd always had eclairs filled with what in the US would be like a creamy pudding, like the creamy layer in a Boston Cream Pie. They don't have exactly that here, except sometimes in frozen profiteroles, but they do have what they call custard. Some years ago, we went to a gathering of other immigrants from the US and a couple of Irish people. I made apple crisp and what I would call butterscotch pudding. The Irish woman had never heard of butterscotch or pudding (which usually means dessert in general here), but she loved it. I gave her the rest to take home, explaining to her how I made it. The custard here is similar to what I know as pudding, but thinner and doesn't come in different flavors like chocolate, butterscotch, lemon. It's just custard. So when we got the eclairs, for some reason I thought maybe fresh cream meant custard, since it clearly wasn't the weird stiff stuff. It didn't. It just meant fresh non-stiff whipped cream. Now, I adore whipped cream. When I was a kid and we were on a cruise, I had a severe disappointment when the baked Alaska at dinner one night turned out to be covered in meringue and not the whipped cream I was expecting! So whipped cream is always fine with me. And it was fine in the eclair I had, but it wasn't spectacular. The eclair was OK. I won't get another one, though. 

Bill and I both have books in at the library and are waiting to see if the others we're waiting for come in this week. Either way, next week we will make another trip to the library. We will stop at the bakery for another multi-seed cob, which is delicious. We will not get eclairs. But we might just have  try with something else. I'll let you know.

What are eclairs filled with where you are?

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Follow That Thought!

 Yesterday, out of the blue and who knows why, the thought, 'lemon ricotta' popped into my head. This seemed like a very good idea indeed, so when we were out doing our errands, I picked up a litre of milk, came home, and began. I had a net bag of three organic lemons that a friend had given me, so I washed those and grated the zest. I squeezed out the juice and set the saucepan of milk on the induction hob to heat up, stirring frequently. When it was just starting to get a few small bubbles on top, I dumped in the lemon juice. It curdled right away, but I stirred for a couple more minutes before taking it off the heat and letting it sit for 15 minutes. Because the curds were very small, I poured it into my fine mesh strainer to let the whey drain. I put the ricotta into a container and stirred in about half of the lemon zest. I put the other half in the freezer. I let the ricotta sit to cool, adding back a bit more whey as needed, because it firms up as it sits. After it was cool, I stirred in more whey and some desiccated coconut. 
This morning, I had some for breakfast--OMG!  It is so delicious! I've made ricotta plenty of times, but never like this and I don't know why. It won't be the last time, though. I love it! It's perfect for spring and summer, too. This morning I had it mixed with a sliced banana, some blueberries, and a couple of chopped dates. I don't know where the thought came from, but I'm glad I followed it to the end result.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Yesterday's Haul

 These are the books I picked up from the library yesterday:

Those 4 are some of the ones I requested (I have three more coming). Some dark subject matter there, but quite informative and useful for the times in which we live. I've been struck more and more about how history repeats itself with different people in different places at different times. 

I spotted this one on the shelf:
I've not read everything Kingsolver has written, but I've read several of her books and I really like the ones I've read, so I added it to the pile. Have any of you read it and if so, what did you think?

At the charity shop, the books were 5 for a euro. Bill found 4 and I picked up this one to round things out. 
I have another of Kate Atkinson's books in one of my book piles (Life After Life), which I haven't read yet and this one has now been added. I've read a few of her Jackson Brodie books and at the end of each one, I've thought, 'Wow!' I hope I have the same reaction to those two.

I think this was a pretty good book haul to start the week!

Monday, April 22, 2024

Happy Surprise on Earth Day

 We did a library run today. We don't have a branch in this village, but there are three we can go to, so we've been alternating. For now, the Central Library in Letterkenny is the best one for us, because of the opening times and bus schedules, so we've had our requests sent there and 4 of mine came in. There is a charity shop conveniently located across the street from the library, so after I picked up my holds and an extra book, we went in there. They were doing a brisk business because all women's clothing was €2. When we got past the line at the till and the people going through the racks of clothes, Bill spotted this:
photo taken after we got home
As is so often the case, there was no price tag on it. I hate asking how much something is, so Bill took it up to the till and asked the guy there. He pondered for  minute and said, "Two euro." It didn't leave my hand after that. I dragged it upstairs to look at the books, back downstairs to pay for it and the books we bought, into the shop where we picked up an extension lead and plug adapter, into the bakery where we got a loaf of delicious bread and mediocre eclairs (we'll go back for more bread, but skip the eclairs next time), back up the town to the bus stop, then onto my lap for the ride home on the crowded wee bus. Now it lives with me. It is missing a screw on top, but it's easy enough to fix. I'll take off the weaving that's on there and I should be able to use the yarn at some point. I'm thrilled to have this--it will give me more ways to keep more textiles out of landfill--I can use yarn and cut fabric into strips and weave with that. It's a good find on this Earth Day!

Thursday, April 18, 2024

The Amendments by Niamh Mulvey

The Amendments: A deeply moving, multi-generational story about love and longing
by Niamh Mulvey
ISBN 9781529079852

How do you navigate a world in which you feel like, in some fundamental way, you don't belong? What kinds of things might you do to fit in, only to spend your life running away, literally or figuratively, from the consequences of those actions, large and small? For the women in this book, these are huge questions that have serious impacts on their lives even as the culture changes around them in profound ways.

Although most of the story is set in Ireland, the book opens in a therapist's office in London, where Nell and her pregnant partner Adrienne are attending their weekly appointment. It's clear that Nell is running from her own feelings and hiding her discomfort with the idea of being a mother, admitting this to no one but herself. Shortly thereafter, we meet Dolores, Nell's mother, and learn some of her story, along with that of her mother, Brigid. Along the way, Some of Nell's friends are introduced, some of whom will play a major role in subsequent events and some of whom will be more peripheral. One thread running throughout these women's stories is the massive cultural changes taking place in Ireland regarding the role of the church, women's reproductive rights, attitudes towards gay people, family roles, and more. The title refers to the various amendments around abortion that were voted on in different decades, which may lead to the impression that the book is primarily structured around these events. It is true that this is an underlying theme, but for me it was mostly in the background and wasn't the primary focus.

This is an excellent book. Niamh Mulvey skillfully captures the confusion, tension, and discombobulation people feel when the culture is changing around them in ways that strike at the heart of their essential identities. She also beautifully illustrates the pain of feeling like there is nowhere to belong, to always feel peripheral, to feel misplaced, and to desperately seek out groups and people who will provide some sense of security and belonging. The role of shame in this book cannot be understated--particularly for women--and shame plays a big role in the events that unfold for all the women. For some, overcoming their shame is the main work they have to do.

This is a fine book. The writing is beautiful. I found the characters and their issues to be very relatable, even though my background is quite different from theirs. The larger themes are some I have struggled with in my own life. In fact, much of my life was shaped by people trying to run away from their shame and pain, which didn't work and only made things worse. As a result, I found the characters and their actions very believable. This is a book that is well worth reading and I highly recommend it.

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

Sunday, April 14, 2024

All Tied Up

 I'm having computer issues again and have not gotten it to the tech guy yet. I got out an old computer that I saved for back-up. It's very slow, but it works.

Just before we moved, on a page devoted to upcycling textiles, I saw a post by a woman who makes bags out of old neckties. Unfortunately, while I loved the project, I didn't make note of the page or her name. I knew I wanted to try it after we'd gotten settled--after all, the charity shops always have lots of ties. Except for the shop we went to while in a nearby town to do errands and meet a friend. No ties to be seen. Said friend went to a different charity shop in a different town shortly thereafter and picked up 6 neckties for me. By then, I was into a large blanket project that I wanted to finish before it got too warm to have on my lap. It's all done now except for weaving in the ends, so this afternoon, I chose a couple of ties from the bag and started (hand) sewing. Here's the bag:

I was thinking about how to join the ends to make the strap. For now, I am going to just use it knotted so I can see how the length works out. When I know how long I want it to be, I will probably sew the ends together. I love the idea. I don't like to carry a big bag most of the time, nor do I need one. When I do, I grab my backpack. This is a good size, but I do have a rolled up nylon bag that I usually keep in my bag for when we stop at the grocery store or a charity shop or something. Although it fits, it takes up a fair bit of room, so I think I'm going to make a pouch to attach to the strap and keep it in there. That may be a project for later when I'm listening to an audiobook.

This is a really fun idea and very simple. Just lay the ties next to each other in opposite directions. Pin them together, right sides facing each other, and sew together a length that is double the depth you want your bag to be. Then fold in half, right sides together, and sew up the sides. The thin parts of the ties will be loose and become the strap. They can just be knotted together--it's adjustable this way--or sewn together. I'm sure there are ways to do an adjustable strap without the knot. Anyway, I have 4 more ties and may make at least one more bag. I'll be keeping my eyes open in charity shops, too.

I'll close with some necktie humor:
'If men can run the world, why can't they stop wearing neckties? How intelligent is it to start the day by tying a little noose around your neck?'
-- Linda Ellerbee

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Tranquil, Quiet, Soothing

 2 a.m. I'm getting ready to go to sleep. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I turn my head and glance through the window. There I see the sideways smile of the crescent moon illuminating a patch of the black sky. I notice the angle of the roof on the other side of the lane, barely visible. I see the square chimney tops and the shapes of windows on buildings sitting in the glow of the streetlights. I stop for a moment or two, just to look and to savor the peace that descends upon me as I sit there. A cloud veils the moonlight for a minute before moving on until the moon is smiling at me once again. I smile back. I slept well.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Chaotic, Crazy, Crowded

 At least that's what it felt like. We went to Letterkenny the other day. We needed to have a key made. When we moved in here, the local co-op could cut the keys for the downstairs doors, but not the mortise key to our apartment. We hoped to have better luck with the elderly gent who has a little shop in the Letterkenny shopping centre, so off we went. The bus ride is just under an hour and goes through some very scenic areas. It's all very rural until you get to the outskirts of town. 

When we got off the bus, a small older lady with a shopping cart on wheels came up to me and commented on the nice ride. I agreed with her--it's a very pleasant ride. Then she asked me how to get to Primark. I told her that it's called Penney's here and told her how to get there--basically, cross at the crosswalk, go to the right, and keep following the sidewalk to the shopping centre. Go through the doors straight ahead and keep going straight and until you're in Penney's. She kind of vaguely repeated what I'd said, but she still seemed anxious and a little confused, telling me it was her first time 'doing this.' Bill and I had planned to go to the charity shop right by the bus station before going to key man, but I wanted to put her at ease, so I said, 'Why don't we walk you over there?' She protested a little bit, but not too much, and she seemed visibly relieved when I assured her that we were going that way anyway. We got her to where she wanted to go, we got our key, did a bit of grocery shopping, and sat and had some yogurt, since it was lunch time. We were lucky to find a bench because it was crowded. I felt like I was ready for a nap.

 Back at the bus stop, things were a bit chaotic because it was 1 o'clock and there are a lot of buses coming and going at that time. Our little 19-seat bus didn't leave until 1:15, but the driver arrived early and was unable to pull in right away because there were a few large buses parked there. The lady with the cart--now full and she also had a shopping bag--looked at me and kind of nodded in the direction of our bus as it pulled up, so I nodded back. But she then tried to board one of the big buses, so Bill and I hastened over to direct her to the right bus, just as a space opened up for it. She looked at me with wide eyes and said, 'There are just so many buses and people. It's a lot.' We all got settled in for the pleasant ride home (we got off in the village before hers). Soon we were away from the crowded town and back in the countryside, once having to stop on a dime to let three sheep cross the road. It was a relief.

I was thinking about this lady as we were on our way home and I realized that I always find Letterkenny somewhat stressful. Once we're done there, I always feel drained. It's the largest town in Donegal, but it only has a population of around 19,000. In the past, I have lived in larger towns that were considered quite small and rural, but I am apparently no longer used to dodging people as I go and having so much going on at once. I don't actually dislike Letterkenny. There are things worth going there for--the museum, art exhibitions, and of course, the library. It's just that the sensory overload really takes a lot out of me somehow. Now that I have paid attention and am aware of this, perhaps I can prepare better in the future. Or I will just know that when I get home, I will be tired and ready for a nice cup of tea and I'll look forward to that!

Friday, March 1, 2024

Crochet Socks Tutorial/Instructions

 I was recently asked for a tutorial/pattern/instructions for some crocheted scrappy socks, so I put one together.
Before I get to the process, there are a few preliminaries. First, this post will be quite photo heavy, in case that's an issue. Second, this is a description of the process I use and not a traditional pattern. When I was experimenting to find the crochet sock construction/stitches that I like best, I was trying them on my own feet, so the numbers I use are specific to me. The good news is that the process is easily adapted so different feet and different thicknesses of yarn. I make mine with sock/fingering weight yarn, but the same construction method could be used with any yarn weight. Also, for my socks, I use a US E hook with the sock yarn. I am a tight crocheter. For those who crochet more loosely, a smaller hook might be better. You don't want a loose, floppy sock. They will wear better if they aren't loose and drapey. 

Crochet Socks Process Tutorial 

Supplies: yarn of your choice and an appropriate hook. I use sock yarn, which has some nylon in it for strength. Mohair is also very strong and would work well for slipper socks.

For the scrappy socks, I begin by gathering my scraps of sock yarn and joining them using the Russian join method--this way I don't have knots. There are many youtube videos that show how to do this, if needed. I simply put yarns together that I think will work well next to one another. When I have a decent size ball, I start crocheting. If I need to, it's easy enough to just add more.

Stitches Used: US hdc (which is UK half treble), chains
to make a hdc, yarn over, insert hook in stitch and pull up a loop, yarn over, pull through all 3 loops on hook

These socks are constructed from the toe up, so you can try them on as you go. They also have an afterthought heel, which means that if you wear out your socks on the underside of the heel like I do, you can take the heel off and add a new one. So starting at the toe, continuing through the foot, making a flat piece to cover the area between foot and ankle in front, then the cuff is the basic way these are constructed. Then yarn for the heel is joined and the heel created.

Chain 11, half double crochet (hdc) in 3rd ch from hook (the 2 skipped chains count as your first stitch). Hdc until you reach the last chain. 3 hdc in last chain--you will now see that you are ready to work across the other side of the chain (all of the following photos show a sample sock that I made for the purposes of this tutorial using thicker yarn and a bigger hook, so things would be easier to see. Each section is in a different colour)

Work a hdc in each of the chains along this side, making 3 hdc in the last stitch. Do not join. It may be helpful to mark this last stitch in each round until you've finished the toe section.
Continue making hdc around, working in the very back (3rd) loop. 

Make 1 hdc in each stitch, except for the 3rd stitches in the group of three at either end, where you will work 3 stitches. This stitch skews right, if you're right-handed, so increasing in the 3rd stitch keeps the increases at the ends.By working in this 3rd loop, you will push the first 2 loops to the front and this is what will create the ridges.

Try on the toe cap as you go. You want it to cover your toes width-wise, without any ease. When you reach this stage, stop increasing.

Then continue working 1 hdc in the 3rd loop of each stitch, without joining at the end of the rounds. Just keep going around until the sock just meets the junction of the top of your foot and the bottom of your leg. Do not make this part too long. These socks stretch some in width, but a lot in length, so bear that in mind.

When the foot is the appropriate length, it's time to work flat for a few rows, so lay it out as pictured and for the next round, stop when you get to the halfway point. Then work hdc in 3rd loop for the other half of the stitches (for example-the socks I make for me are 44 stitches around, so I do 22 stitches and stop). 

Ch 1 (does not count as a stitch), turn, and work back over half of the stitches (in my case, the same 22 I just did), but through the FRONT loop.
At the end of this row, ch 1, turn, and hdc through the 3rd loop in every stitch across. Don't forget the very last stitch as it's easy to overlook and can be a bit fiddly.
Repeat the last two rows one more time. At the end of the last row, you will have the front of your sock facing you and it's time to set up for the cuff. 

Simply make a chain that is a few more than half of your foot stitches (example: my foot is 44 stitches and I make 27 chains--if you have thin ankles you might want fewer, if thicker, you might want more)
Join with a hdc in the first stitch of the flat part.
Now go back to working hdc in every stitch around and around without joining at the end of the rounds. If you prefer, you can use a different stitch pattern for the cuff. Just work in the round until your cuff is as tall as you want it. Fasten off.
view from back of sock--the gap is for the heel
Attach yarn in any stitch of the bottom of the cuff. Hdc until you get to the sides of the flat section. Yarn over, insert hook in the end of a row, pull up a loop, insert hook in the end of the next row, pull up a loop, yarn over and pull through all 4 loops on your hook.

Yarn over, insert hook in the end of the next row, pull up loop, insert hook in the end of the next row, pull up loop, yarn over and pull through all 4 loops on hook.

Continue on to foot section--hdc in each stitch across until you come to the next flat section, then repeat what you did on the other side.

Continue hdc around, decreasing twice on each side. When you're approaching the first decrease in the group of two, stop one stitch before you get there and yarn over, insert hook in stitch, pull up a loop, insert hook in decreased stitch on previous round, pull up a loop, yarn over and pull through all loops on hook. Then yarn over, insert hook in next decrease stitch from previous round, pull up loop, insert hook in next stitch, pull up loop, yarn over and pull through all loops on hook. Work hdc in each stitch across foot. At the decrease section, repeat the process you did on the other side. Work around like this until the heel fits your foot well or until there are just a few stitches left. Cut yarn, leaving a long tail.
Thread the yarn tail through a tapestry needle and sew the opening closed. Weave in all ends.

Note: When doing the heel, I insert my hook through both the 2nd and 3rd loops so the heel is sturdier and less stretchy.

So that's how I make my crocheted socks. I love them. They're very comfortable, cushy, and cosy. They use less yarn than knitted socks do. And they're great for scraps. You can also easily make toes and heels a contrasting colour. It's all up to you.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask and I'll try to answer. Happy crocheting!

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Maurice and Maralyn A Whale, a Shipwreck, a Love Story by Sophie Elmhirst

 Maurice and Maralyn
A Whale, a Shipwreck, a Love Story
by Sophie Elmhirst
ISBN 9781784744922

After they got married in the 1960s, Maurice and Maralyn were feeling stifled by their suburban British life So in the early 1970s, they sold their bungalow, had a boat built, finished the inside themselves, and set off to sail to New Zealand. Because they wanted to be truly away from 'civilization' they did not have a radio on their boat and they planned a route away from shipping lanes. They were happy and content with life at sea until one morning, a wounded whale rammed their boat, leaving a large hole. In less than an hour, they were on a life raft and dinghy with what few things they'd been able to salvage, watching their boat sink. Thus began their 118-day ordeal, drifting in the sea, trying to survive.

This book is the story of that event, but also of Maurice and Maralyn's relationship, which is almost a character in its own right. The relationship they had with one another was the foundation of everything--the choice to go on the voyage in the first place, the way it changed once the disaster had occurred, how things unfolded after it was over, and more. We see a bit about Maurice and a bit about Maralyn, but much more about Maurice-and-Maralyn. Today there is more acceptance of those who don't fit well within the confines of conventional society, but back then--at least in the world of US suburbia where I come from--there was little tolerance for those who didn't want to live that kind of life. I was fascinated by their strategies for dealing with that and by their survival strategies when things went horribly wrong.

It's a great book--part adventure story, part love story, part self-discovery story. I devoured it and I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Loving Little Scrappy Squares

 One day as we were coming home from doing some errands, Bill reminded me that he never took pictures of the cuddly poncho I was wearing, so I stood there, stuck out my arms, and he clicked. I finished it quite a while ago and I love it. I loved making it, love the way it turned out, and love wearing it.

There are 224 squares, all made on my pin loom from odd balls and scraps of yarn that I'd been given or found in charity shops, most left from other projects. I did a simple crochet border using yarn that a friend brought back from a Boston thrift store. It was on a huge cone. So far, I've used it to make a sweater, fingerless gloves, sock cuffs, and more and I still have some left.

I love my pin looms. This one has the pins further apart than most so I can use chunkier yarn or thinner hard held doubled if I want. I can also use a single strand of thinner yarn for a more open weave. The loom uses less yarn to make a square than knitting or crocheting would, so even small scraps go a long way. Some of the squares are plain weave but a few have a more textured weave pattern. All the yarn is wool, mohair, or a combination.

Both the weaving and the sewing together are very meditative activities and it's nice to relax into a project, play with colour and texture, and see how things unfold.

Monday, February 26, 2024

What Day Is It and Where Am I?

 Well, 2024 has been a weird year so far. The days have passed by in a blur. First, Bill and I coughed our way into the new year--that annoying tickle that pops up randomly and wants to hang around for a while, preventing sleep and being generally aggravating. By the time that was over, we had days of ice, particularly on one side of the street, so we didn't get out much. Finally that was over and I took my computer in to be looked at. As I suspected, the cord wasn't staying firmly in the port so it wasn't getting any power. Joe, the tech guy, said he might have the part but if not, he'd order it and I should check back in a few days. I did this and found that the one he had was a smidge too short. The only one he could find to order was in Germany and it was on its way. Three weeks later, it arrived and he sent me a text to say it was ready. Not only did he fix that, but he replaced some other cord thing and cleaned my crumb-filled keyboard--all for €45! It was nice to have it back and working properly, but my use of it didn't last long because right around the time I got it back, we started moving.

We didn't move far--just to the building that used to be in front of us. I've written before about the beer garden that was across the very narrow 'river' from our bedroom window and the extremely disruptive noise pollution that spewed forth from it. They've done a great deal of work on it over the winter so they use it more than they used to, although January was a lovely, quiet month. It won't be long, though, until spring and summer are in full swing and the crap starts in earnest all over again, so we started looking. As has been the case for a few years, the housing market is very tight (whether buying or renting) and we weren't finding much. There are way more huge houses than there used to be and we don't need a 4 or 5-bedroom house, even if the rent was affordable, which it is not. Still, I obsessively checked my list of websites numerous times a day and hoped something would come up. One day, I noticed that Bundoran had two new listings, so I clicked on them. Both apartments looked really nice in the pictures and one looked just right for us. As I read the description and looked at the map views, I could see where a mistake had been made. The apartment is not in Bundoran at all, but right here in Glenties. And I was pretty happy to see that they both were the apartments that our landlord was refurbishing from pretty much the bare walls soon after we moved to this village. He'd been using them as holiday homes/short term lets, but there was rarely anyone in them. Now he's renting them out on a long term basis. We immediately felt a surge of hope. We like the landlord and the management company--when there's an issue, they're on it. We thought we'd have a pretty good chance at the one we wanted, so Bill put us on the list and we viewed it a few days later. We think that this will help with the noise issue. I don't need silence, but I wanted it dulled enough to make my ear plugs and ear defenders actually work. This place has new insulation and a lot of it. It's configured in such a way that the bedrooms are on the opposite side of the building from the beer garden and there are walls and doors in between. In the old place, the difference in the noise level between the bedroom and bathroom, where the windows faced the source of the noise, and the living room, where the conservatory stood in between, was noticeable, so I am hoping that walls, doors, and distance will work here. It's also up higher than the old place, which is level with the bar. It's a gamble, but given the lack of options, it's one we decided to take. In any case, this is a better apartment. There are small things that make living here more convenient. The full size fridge/freezer means that I don't have to bend down and grope around to find things in a small under-counter fridge or think carefully about how I am going to fit something in there. The small hot water tank means that we don't have to boil the kettle for hot water, which makes doing dishes and food prep quicker and easier. In the old place, the only way to heat water was to burn oil and that seemed wasteful, particularly since it didn't stay hot for very long once we turned it off, so we just boiled the kettle instead. Everything in the new apartment is more energy efficient, including the heat, which is electric. No more buying oil. The insulation is great and there are these little closet things (I call them cubby closets) which are the spaces between the outside walls with their several inches of insulation, and the inside walls, so the place retains the heat well. The furniture is way more comfortable. And there are two bedrooms. We haven't had a noise pollution event since we've been here, so we don't yet know how it will be in that regard.

The move itself was weird, since we were just carrying stuff a short distance. There are a lot of stairs, though, and we have a lot of books, which are heavy. We figured it would be a slow process, but we were wrong. Some friends came over and everything except a few last minute things were brought over in less than two hours. It took a while to sort through everything and get it all put away, but we're pretty much done now. Tomorrow we do the walkthrough at the old place with the letting agent. I guess someone is moving in this week. On Friday, we gave it a good clean and put everything back where it was when we arrived. I am pretty sure the new tenant won't need all 15 of the wineglasses, but they're back in the cupboard now, just in case.

One glitch may have turned into quite a gift. When Bill contacted Vodafone to start a home move process, he was told that someone would contact him to set everything up within 3 business days. Those days came and went with no call, so he called them back and was told the place isn't wired and he should call back when it is. Then Vodafone guy cancelled our broadband in the old apartment right then. I called the management company and they gave me the info so we could log on to the communal wifi that was here for the holiday home guests. It's due to stop within days and the strength was weak, but between that and our phones, we managed. The holiday home wifi is eir(con) who are major rip-off artists, so we didn't want to deal with them (again). We also didn't want to argue with Vodafone, so we returned the modem and said farewell. In the end, we went with a small, Irish, family business called RuralWifi. The modem was delivered today. It took less than 5 minutes to set up. And just like that, we were connected. The strength is good throughout the apartment and the speed is good so far. I'm really hoping this works out, because I'd much rather support these people than the big companies.

So that's where we are and what we've been up to. I hope the first couple months of 2024 have treated you kindly.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Happy 2024 and Computer Issue

 I hope the first week of the new year has gone well for everyone! I am having some computer issues--hopefully minor--so only have sporadic access and am never sure how long it will last. Not sure if it's the power cord, a loose connection, or something else, but unless everything is just right and it feels like working, no power makes it to the machine. It feels like a loose connection, but I don't know. I have to place the machine in a particular place, plug it in, fiddle with the cord until the light comes on whilst holding my breath, then slowly back away and hope it keeps charging the battery. Or I give up fiddling if the light won't come on. Sometimes it charges a little and then stops. If it all works, then I have a small amount of time to use battery power, which doesn't last that long. Now that the festive season is over and things are getting back to normal, I will take it to a local tech repair guy and see what he says. The problem has been getting worse and I almost took it in the week before Christmas, but then I came to my senses. Nothing would happen at that time of year--LOL