Thursday, August 17, 2017

Scrap Happy Tunisian Crochet

After finishing the bag yesterday, I was in the mood for some Tunisian crochet and I had scrap balls of kitchen cotton out, so I grabbed a hook and started crocheting.
I put a border on the small pink/orange/yellow (knitted) rectangle I had so now it's in the basket of napkins, along with the plain green one sitting on its right. I decided to make a couple of larger cloths, too. When our friend arrived, she gave me a cloth she'd crocheted. It turns out to be a perfect towel to use in meal preparation. I use it all the time, but when it gets laundered and is not yet dry, it's unavailable and I wish I had it, so I made a couple more. The tea towels we have are good for certain things, but they are thin and get quite wet quite quickly. They're not very useful then. But these kitchen cotton towels are just the right size and thickness to be very useful, so glad I have a couple more now.

I just used a modified Tunisian simple stitch that I came up with one day. I am sure it's not new, but it was new to me and I find it quite useful. Regular simple stitch curls and can be thick. Using a larger hook can help, but then it is more open than is sometimes desirable. With the modification, it's not open or lacy, it's not as thick as the regular stitch, and it doesn't curl. You can see the detail in the first photo above. To work the stitch, you insert the hook sideways in the front vertical bar as you do to make a simple stitch (the hook stays in front of the work). Being right handed, I put the hook in from right to left. I pull up a loop as usual, but then I do a chain 1, leaving the loop on the hook. I do this all the way across and then work off as normal. I make a chain at the beginning of each row to account for the extra height of the stitches.

I might do some textured Tunisian now that I've got my cloths done. Have some ideas, but need to decide which one to try.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Twists and Turns

This morning I crocheted pieces together and finished a bag for a friend. I'd been working on it for a couple of weeks.
It was the perfect project for the time--not too complicated, but requiring just enough attention to distract me from the pain and discomfort I was experiencing after my fall. And as a bonus, now Karen has a handy bag to carry her stuff in when she goes walking or to sit on her bench on the edge of the green.

I had an idea of how I wanted to construct it, so I grabbed my Aran stitch dictionary and picked a cable for the front and back of the bag. Then I found a narrow one in a coordinating shape for the sides/strap. When all the pieces were done, I crocheted them together and did a border, keeping the curvy shape at the top. She wanted a drawstring, so I made a chain and wove it through the spaces.

I used worsted weight kitchen cotton and 4.5mm knitting needles for the main parts and a 5mm (H) crochet hook for the borders and to crochet pieces together.

Now to consider what I might begin next!

Saturday, August 12, 2017


Since we got back from Sligo, I have not been out much--trying to let the left side of my body recover from the tumble I took in Tesco there. The bruises seemed to have been delayed somehow. Once we were home, I became rather colourful on the left as my wrist, upper arm, and leg turned various shades of purple. Each day the colours are a little bit different, but I am keeping an eye on things and can see improvement. I make sure I move around every so often so I don't stiffen up, but am also mindful of my tendency to overdo things and am trying to avoid that. I went to call on veg man on Tuesday and to the library yesterday, but other than that, have stayed at home, grateful for books and a yarn project that requires just the right amount of focus to distract me.

Bill has been tending the garden and bringing home tomatoes, among other things. Today while he was there, I was in the kitchen using some of our tomatoes to make salsa. They're so pretty.
We have a grand total of one jalapeno growing on a plant in the polytunnel, so perhaps I will be able to use that in the next batch.

He came home with more colourful goodies today, including our first broccoli, our first couple of wee courgettes, and some more spuds.

 I might make some potato broccoli cheese soup next week. 😋

Saturday, August 5, 2017

July Books, Part 3

With our jaunt to Sligo and all the excitement there, I never posted the third and final installment of my July books. Here it is, before we get too far into August.

Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home by Jessica Fechtor
One morning while the author was at an academic conference using the treadmill in a hotel gym, she suddenly found herself on the floor, head cradled in a colleague’s lap, vomiting and with a terrible, intense headache. An aneurysm had burst. This book is an account of what she remembers from that morning and what followed as she underwent surgeries, rehab, recovery, and lessons learned. At the time of her brain injury, she was a PhD student in Jewish literature who was also a foodie. She enjoyed eating and preparing food with which to share with others. This interest in food and cooking helped with her healing and recovery and is a sort of organising theme of the book. Recipes are included.
It was a good book and I was reminded again of how much people can go through and somehow heal. I must admit though, that I had a constant background thought as I was reading and that was what a privileged position this young woman was in. I did not resent her for this, but as always happens in situations like this, I start to think about people who might have health issues of the same seriousness, but without the strong family/friendship support system, without the kind of excellent health insurance the author apparently enjoyed, and who did not live in the kinds of circumstances that would allow them to eat artisan bread and cheese whenever the mood struck or to snack on dried cherries as a means of comfort. I think the attitude towards food was the thing I liked least about the book. I found the general premise interesting, but the food snob aspects of the whole thing made the book less enjoyable for me than it otherwise would have been. As for the rest of it, I was glad that she had a support network and good health insurance--everyone should have those things. Reading the book as I did, though, during the days when the US Senate was trying to devise new and creative ways to deny millions of USians health coverage while so many people were terrified that they or their sick loved ones could die as a result of such political games did provide quite a contrast between those who are more vulnerable and those who are a bit more secure.

All the Beloved Ghosts by Allison MacLeod
This was an interesting mix of short stories that touched on a variety of themes, such as Sylvia Plath, Tony Blair, terrorism, life in the UK, among others. My favourite story in the book was one that took place inside the underground from the perspectives of various riders in a single area. The title escapes me at the moment. I found the book while scrolling through the e-book collection at the library--a happy discovery!

The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman
I began the month with a novel by the same author called The Idiot. When I posted about that book, I mentioned that I was sorry to part company with the main character because I wanted to see what happens to her. Turns out that this book (the author’s first) pretty much tells me. It’s non-fiction--a mix of memoir and thoughts on Russian literature--but in the introduction, she gives some background about what came before this time in her life. It was the storyline of The Idiot, so I read this as something of a continuation of that book, even though this one was written first. I enjoyed it, but liked The Idiot better.
This book begins as the author is deciding whether to do a PhD or go to writer’s workshops. She takes a dim view of the workshop system so opts for grad school. She writes about her experiences in academia, her ideas about certain authors and their novels, and especially a trip she took to Uzbekhistan. There are three chapters devoted to her stay in Samarkand, but they do not all come back to back. Rather, they are separated by chapters about other topics. Near the end of the book, when she was recounting an argument involving two men, one of whom was a tour guide, she reports that one man finally had enough and hurled an insult at the other guy, telling him, ‘What does a donkey know about fruit compote, anyway!?’ I found that quite amusing.

Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood
I listened to this audiobook after coming across it in the e-book/audiobook section of the library website. I enjoyed it a lot and found myself looking forward to getting back to it at night with some yarn in hand. It is a collection of short stories, but all involve the central character, Nell. The first story takes place in Nell’s older years, but then we go back to her childhood and the stories move chronologically from there.

Happy August reading!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Taking a Tumble in Tesco

For about a month, I have been having some muscle and nerve issues in my left backside and leg. When standing and walking the pain was manageable. When sitting for a while, it went away, but the actual process of sitting down or standing up involved some pretty intense pain. I was grateful that this was getting better and was at the point where I would feel twinges and a sort of tiredness in my leg at times instead of this intense pain, especially when we got the letter notifying Bill that he had an appointment at the eye clinic in Sligo to do his 6-month post-cataract-surgery exam. We set off on Wednesday morning on the earlier bus so we'd have time to find the new-to-us B&B where we'd be staying and Bill would have time to walk around and take some photos. We had a pleasant journey, and eventually found the B&B after asking a couple of different people. Google maps was not as accurate as it might have been and even the traffic warden's directions of, 'Go over there, turn right, and keep going' did not get us there. It was the helpful lady in the pharmacy that pointed us in the right direction. We did see this cute little front garden along the way.

Once we knew where we were going, we decided to meander back into town, stop at Tesco to get some stuff for supper, and then head to the hospital. My leg was getting tired and I was looking forward to sitting down. By now we know where stuff is in this Tesco--it is laid out in a strange way, with the produce and bread off in this weird little area in the back of the store. We headed that way first, picked up some rolls and some fruit and were heading back to the main part of the store. Before I knew what was happening, I found myself stumbling forward, trying to keep my legs under myself. I failed at this and have a dim recollection of heading towards some poor woman looking at rolls. Next thing I knew, I was on the floor, stunned, and starting to register the pain. Somewhere in my mind, I was aware that the woman was not on the floor, too, so I must've missed her, and wondering whether something was broken. Then I saw Bill's feet and heard him saying my name. Some other guy was there telling me not to move too quickly and asking me if anything was broken. He said he was some sort of medic--I didn't catch the whole thing. I slowly sat up and got my backpack off. I moved my wrist and it hurt a little but wasn't broken. My leg was on fire. The medic told me to sit there for a minute, asked if I needed an ambulance, and when I said I didn't, asked if we were on holiday. Bill said we were actually on our way to the hospital for an eye exam and the medic said, 'Oh no! I hope not for this, too!' He and Bill helped me get up. I was lightheaded for a minute, but I thanked the medic profusely for his help and he went off. Bill and I proceeded to get our food and then walk to the hospital, about a mile up the road. I could see my leg swelling and figured it's be all sorts of colours.  On the way, he told me he felt something bounce off his head--it was the rolls I'd been carrying. That's when he turned around and saw me on the ground. For some reason, this seemed so funny to me and I started laughing. I must've looked like a maniac, laughing and limping along. I told Bill it was a good thing I wasn't carrying any eggs.
His appointment went well. His eye looks good and he has no need for further exams with that one. The other one is apparently just starting to form a new cataract, so the local optician will keep an eye on that.😉 It'll probably be a couple of years before that one is ready for surgery, they said.

It took a couple of hours for him to be done, and by that time, the little coffee shop was closed. This was a disappointment. When I got up and we were heading out, I was stiff, had a buzzing feeling in my head, and felt like I might pass out, but Bill got me some water and that did the trick. Off we went for the 1 1/2 mile-ish walk to the B&B. I was so, so happy to get into our room, flop onto the bed and get my leg elevated. I was even happier to get downstairs the next morning and get some coffee into myself. They had these little china cups--very lovely and all, but please just save time and give me a vat. Bill took care of me, though, saying a few times, 'You finished that already? Do you want more?' and getting up to refill my little cup.

Back to Tesco after that for some rolls and yoghurt for lunch. I looked at the rug where my mishap occurred and was surprised to see that there was no incline. I'd remembered myself going downhill somehow. Later on, I could see what had probably happened. There was a non-slip rug. I think my tired leg dragged and caught on it. It wasn't quick enough to get back underneath me as I stumbled and I fell. My knee seems to have been the first place to hit. My wrist and arm have some bruising, a couple of scrapes, and a bit of pain, but my leg is quite a sight. Later on, in Letterkenny, I caught myself twice more as my foot sort of caught on the floor and I stumbled again. Happily both times I was able to catch myself, but I was really careful after that to pay attention to lifting my foot up when I walked.

I was overjoyed to get home. Our friend had prepared supper, which was so wonderful (thank you, Karen) and it was a happy moment indeed when I crawled into my own bed, where I slept very well. Now I will just wait for the swelling to go down and the bruises to fade. I am grateful that I didn't break anything and that I was able to get around in Sligo and get home with a minimum of pain and discomfort. I can get around--not quickly or nimbly, but slow is OK. I'd brought some tatting with me and I was able to do that without my wrist hurting, so that turned out to be good--kept the wrist from stiffening up. I did some more tatting last night and will try some knitting today--after all, it's therapy now!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

July Books, Part 2

Part 1 of my July book list is here.

Simple Recipes by Madeleine Thien
This is a short book of short stories, which I sat down and read in a couple of hours. I enjoyed it in a weird sort of way. The first story raised goosebumps and none of them were what I would call ‘happy,’ but they were good stories. One story felt somewhat strange to read as it was written in the second person. I found myself trying to determine who the ‘you’ was that she was talking about. Common themes running through the stories are migration, family relationships (parents and children and spouses), mental health issues, growing up, being a cultural outsider, and work.

The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St Clair
This was a fun book! The author has sections on the different colour families and within those discusses various shades of that colour. She provides a history of the colour, how it affected the culture, how artists used it, and more. each page was edged with a stripe of the colour under discussion and at times I found myself arranging the pages to see several of them side by side, making it easier to compare them.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
I don’t remember exactly where I heard of this book, but I suspect it was in an Off the Shelf email. It’s a cleverly constructed book and good story by the creator of Midsomer Murders (Bill is a big fan of the show). The book begins in Crouch End, London where a book editor tells us about a manuscript she read that changed her life in ways good and bad. She begins the story at the point where she is home from a business trip and abot to settle in to read the latest maunscript by the publishing company’s star author. It’s the final case of his series detective. The first section of the book is short and sets things up. Then we begin the novel within a novel. There is a twist at the end of the manuscript which alerts the editor to a real-life mystery involving the author, who, the editor learns, has died, apparently due to illness. We then pick up the story with which the book began. I loved the book--definitely a page turner--and with the added bonus of it being two books in one. I was also amused to see a reference to the Essex Serpent hysteria which figured prominantly in the novel of the same name that I read a few books before this one.

$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Schaefer
I heard the authors of this book on a podcast last year and searched for the book at the library. I was not surprised when I didn’t find it. Recently though, a friend sent me a story about poverty in the US and this book was mentioned. I checked the library again and found a copy, so I requested it. I’m glad I found it. The book is a combination of personal stories, qualitative data, and discussions of policy and the history of welfare reform. It reminded me once again about how much hard work is involved in surviving as a poor person. It is not easy to continue to get back up time after time after time when life and the system keep knocking you down. As the personal stories in the book illustrate, the simplistic ideas people have about poor people and what they should do are uninformed and unhelpful. For example, it is common to hear people going on about people going out and getting a job as though it’s a simple matter. Even if a job opening appears, there are other layers of things to consider. One woman in the book applied for a job in Chicago in the summer. Her interview was scheduled on a sweltering day. The only decent clothing she could wear to a job interview was made of black polyester--not exactly the most cooling attire. She could not afford public transport, so she had to walk--and walk, and walk, and walk. Then she got lost so she walked some more. She eventually found where she needed to be, but she was hot, sweaty, and an hour late. You will not be surprised to learn that she did not get the job. The stories in the book are a good reminder that we really need to have a deeper understanding of both personal circumstances and societal problems before we start judging people and coming up with simplistic and unhelpful ideas that punish them and make the underlying problems worse.

Happy August!

Monday, July 31, 2017

July Books, Part 1

Here we are on the last day of July. I am always happy when we leave July behind--one month closer to the end of summer.

The Idiot by Elif Batuman
 I loved this book and wrote a post about it here.

Modern Ireland in 100 Artworks edited by Fintan O’Toole with associate editors Catherine Marshall and Eibhear Walsche
 The goal of this project ‘was to map a century of creativity by selecting 100 artworks made from 1916 to 2015, using each year to gradually assemble a cumulative sense of an evolving creative culture, which in turn mirrored the modernisation of the state.’ (p ix) They used the year 1916 as a starting point because this was the year of the Easter Rising, which many see as the beginning of a change in attitude toward the colonial British and which eventually led to independence in the following decade. A panel chose a work of art or architecture to represent each year, and various people commented on the person/people behind the work, the work itself, and its place in the culture of the day. By art, they meant visual and literary arts--painting, sculpture, film, installation, performance, poetry, short stories, and novels were all included. It was quite a fascinating book. I felt I learned some stuff while reading it and enjoying it quite a lot. You really could see the evolution of Irish culture and society as each piece of work was discussed. When appropriate, the artwork from a previous year was referred to so the reader could compare if desired, or see how things had changed. I thought it was a great idea for a commemmoration--the book was published in 2016 and there were many activities throughout the country to mark the centenery of the Rising. I discovered the book when looking up Fintan O’Toole in the library to see if he had written anything since the few books of his that I’d read when we first arrived in country. I came across this one and A History of Ireland in 100 Objects, which I read last month. I have loved everything I have read that Fintan O’Toole has written. It is all enjoyable to read and informative, whether it is a book or his journalism in The Irish Times.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
 I think I first read about this book in an Off the Shelf email. It sounded intriguing so I went to the library site and requested it. It’s a great book! It takes place in various places in England in 1893. Cora’s abusive husband succumbs to throat cancer and no one is particulary sorry to see him go; Cora herself is relieved and feels free. She is an amateur naturalist who is keen to find fossils. She takes her son and her companion away from London and to the country where she hears about the legend of the Essex Serpent (which is a legend in real life, according to the author) and is determined to get to the bottom of it, so off they go to Essex, having met the vicar and his family through mutual friends. They end up becoming very good friends and the friendship deepens and complicates things for the vicar and Cora as well as others. There are lots of ideas and issues swirling around in this book, many that seem quite relevant today. There is a lot abot faith and reason--how they are sometimes at odds, how they interact, and how either can be taken to an extreme. Social issues and class play a role in the story, such as how society sees poor people and tends to separate those in poverty into the deserving and undeserving poor and how poverty is addressed. Social movements such as feminism and socialism are important to various characters. Medicine and cutting edge procedures of that day have a place in the plot as well. The book has a lot going on, but at the heart of it is a really good story. When I had about 40 pages to go, I had to put it down and go deal with some aspect of daily adult life--and I was miffed. I wanted to stay on the couch and read on.
This is the author’s second novel and I am off to the library website to look for her first. The copy I read had an interview with her in the back and her third, which is in progress, sounds like it will be worth watching out for too!

The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional by Augustin Fuentes
I came across this book while scrolling through the library’s e-book collection. I am interested in creativity in people’s lives, so I reserved it. It was well worth the read. He explains his ideas and the underlying concepts very well, so one does not need to have any sort of prior knowledge about how evolution works and stuff like that. I did find parts of it to be boring because of that--having a background in anthropology, I was already quite familiar with the foundational ideas. There was nothing in the book that was particularly startling to me, but I enjoyed seeing how he put his ideas together and reading about some of the newer research that has come out. I was pleased to see creativity placed at the center of our evolutionary history, where it belongs. As Fuentes points out, we evolved as creative beings--had our evolutionary ancestors not been creative, we would not be here. He talks about where our ancestors came from (both geographically and from a species perspective) and how the earliest humans would have been quite vulnerable to predators. However, being social animals living in cooperative groups helped them to survive. When they discovered how to make some stone tools, they were able to pass on the knowledge (probably by example and some vocalizations, since this would have been pre-language) and become power scavengers. The tools allowed them to make quick work of a carcass while some of the group kept watch and scared away other scavengers and potential predators. The increase in protein fed the huge energy needs of the brain. Those adaptations meant better survival and the creativity, imagination, and cooperation increased and were factors in how the species Homo evolved. He is basically talking about how cultural evolution and biological evolution were intertwined. Eventually, creative innovation is what allowed members of earlier Homo species to communicate, see the potential for making useful tools in rocks and other bits of their environments, migrate, expand populations, engage in symbolic thinking, settle, develop many cultural adaptations to environment and living patterns, cooperate, ease tensions, create group cohesion, and eventually begin to create religious systems, art, and engage in scientific exploration. He includes chapters on the role of food, sex, and violence. He communicates his ideas well, in my opinion, and I’m glad I read the book.

Hope you've got some good books in the queue, too!