Saturday, September 23, 2017

WIPs to FOs

For several months, I have been jumping around a bit with my stitching. I had several projects started, but throughout the summer, I would often feel restless and at times, none of the started projects were things I felt like working on at a particular time. Some other stuff had to be set aside because it was too uncomfortable to have on my lap, even when I wanted to work on it. I always have different projects using different techniques in progress because that way I can move from one set of hand/wrist/arm movements to another and not end up in pain. This was beyond my usual way of working though. It started to bug me, actually, but it was summer and in addition to my usual difficulties with the season, I also had the pain and the aftereffects from the fall I took a couple of months ago, so I tried not to think about it too much and decided it'd all get dealt with eventually. I did whatever worked to distract me--if I felt like crocheting, I did. Knitting, tatting, crocheting, bit of sewing or cross stitch--whatever I felt like doing on a given day, that's what I did. I completed some smaller projects, but some larger ones just sat in a pile.

Now summer is officially over (I cannot express how thrilled I am by this!), and I am feeling better. The pain has dwindled to a little bit of discomfort that is not even noticeable at times. While it is not as cool as I wish it was, and I am still eagerly awaiting the day when I can close the windows, it is far more pleasant than it was. I am able to work on things that sit on my lap and last weekend, I finished my swoncho (sort of like a sweater-poncho combination). Last night, I finished a poncho I'd started a few months ago.
I went around and around for a long time, deciding how to use this yarn. I've had it for a couple of years, since I walked into the charity shop in Killybegs one afternoon and spotted it--two large hanks of Donegal tweed in a beautiful blue with specks of purple. I made a beeline for it, as you do. The hanks were large, but there were only two of them, so I knew I would not be able to make a sweater, for example. I considered smaller projects--hats, cowls, other accessories--but I already have a hat in a very similar, though thinner, Donegal tweed. I also have a big blue cowl. The yarn was a little bit thick and thin and not something that would wear well for anything like mittens or socks. In the end, I decided to try a poncho. I started knitting it on big needles and it just wasn't working for me. I decided to use a big crochet hook (8mm) and use my go-to stitch combo for when I want to stretch the yarn--the net stitch with ch3 spaces.
I made two triangles of the same size and then joined them, leaving a neck opening. I started each triangle at the bottom point and worked up, increasing at the beginning and end of each row. I crocheted 1 round around the outside of each triangle and two rounds around the neck opening. I have a couple of small scrap balls of yarn left, so this approach worked well for stretching the yarn as far as it would go--yay!

I still have a few more large projects and a couple of smaller ones in progress. Two of the big projects have been ongoing for a while and I know they will not be finished anytime soon. They're large tatted pieces and tatting is not a fast process. I also have a big hand sewing project that will not be done quickly. I don't mind this, since I do like having some projects ongoing that I can easily pick up and put down as the mood strikes. I have a bunch of ideas and plans for new projects, but I am going to try to complete the blanket I am working on, the second sock that is on the needles, and the second crocheted arm warmer to match the one that is upstairs by my bed, before I start anything new. We'll see how that goes! In the meantime, I eagerly await a bit of cooler weather, so I can start wearing more yarny stuff!!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Swoncho

In the spring, I decided to use some of the wool I'd picked up at the charity shop in Killybegs for a warm 'thing.' I was not exactly sure how I would proceed beyond the first bit. As I was making one bit, I was thinking about how to make the next bit. I wasn't sure whether it would be like a poncho, a cardigan, a sweater, or a wrap when I started. At some point, I decided I wanted sleeves and was on the second one when it got too warm to have it on my lap, so I set it aside. Last week, it seemed cool enough to work on it again, so I brought it downstairs and worked on it a bit each day. I did a little more crocheting yesterday and then spent some time weaving in the ends.
It's not quite a sweater and not quite a poncho, so I guess it could be a swoncho.I wanted it loose, but not as wide as a poncho and I wanted sleeves. This way I can wear my backpack and not have everything bunching up too much. The yarn I used was all on cones and somewhere between laceweight and fingering. I used two strands together--sometimes the off white with brown or green Donegal tweed and sometimes the greens together or two brown strands together, using whatever stitches struck my fancy for each section. It's mostly regular crochet, with a couple of panels of Tunisian honeycomb.
After all that crocheting, there is still wool left on the cones. Maybe I will make some fingerless gloves and wait for things to cool down enough for me to wear my new swoncho (and all of my other wonderful winterwear).

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Whales and Dolphins at the Library

We went out to do errands this afternoon and instead of saving the fun stop for last, we started at the library. We returned stuff and chatted with Gerard. He'd picked up one of the books I requested at the Carndonagh branch and brought it with him to Moville today, so it was there. It's a novel called Inch Levels, which is the name of a place in Inishowen. The review I read said that it captured the contradictions of life on the Inishowen Peninsula and really illustrated Irish mannerisms and ways of speaking. How could I not request it? Hopefully the story is good, too!

They're using a new courier to move requested material around the country and there are a few glitches, so the rest of the 'in transit' stuff had not arrived. While we were there, someone did drop off a box of stuff, though, and there, at the bottom of the pile, was a Celtic cross stitch book I'd asked for. Great timing!

Inishowen Whales and Dolphins has a nice display up in the library, along with this guy, who is just hanging around 😁🐋
The group put up a nice informational display--this is a piece of it.
After we left the library, we went and got a bunch of groceries, which is not as much fun as the library, but it is nice to have food around the house.

My leg is doing a lot better. I carried home a full backpack, walking uphill and did not have any pain.  There is a slight autumnal feel in the air at times, so hoping I will be able to venture out more often now without feeling crummy afterwards. I do find myself being a little bit fearful of falling again when I am out, but I suppose that will fade eventually--at least I hope so. For now, I am just appreciating the fact that I am healing!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hat by Request

The other day, Bill asked if he could have another hat just like the one he was wearing, but in a different colour. I think he was pretty sure his request would be enthusiastically granted and he was right. 😁 He chose his yarn and I started crocheting. I finished this afternoon.

Here is a close-up of the outside (the colour is off on this--the actual colour is what you see above).
I love this fabric--it's so squishy! I've used this stitch  (hdc worked in the round through the very back loop) many times for hats and other things but today as I was weaving in the ends, I noticed the back side of the fabric in a way I hadn't before. Maybe it was the yarn that made me stop and admire it. I quite like it. The pebbly texture is a nice contrast to the smoothness of the other side.


So Bill has his new hat and I will get back to my larger ongoing projects. It's cooled off a wee bit now, so I can work on a couple of them that will sit on my lap. It'd be good to finish a few of the ongoing projects before starting a new one, but we'll see how it goes. I have been feeling a bit creatively restless lately and moving from thing to thing. Ah well, a few stitches here and a few stitches there and eventually it'll all get finished!

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Rest of the Bunch

Here's the rest of the August book list. I must say, that even though it's much the same outside today as it was yesterday, I am thrilled that we are now into September. I scrolled through a cross-stitch e-magazine from the library this morning and was smiling at all the autumnal charts--leaves, trees, pumpkins scattered throughout. I think I'll start stitching some of them.

A Bird in the Hand by Ann Cleeves
I discovered this author’s Vera series and enjoy it quite a lot. When I was looking her up, I found out that she had written an earlier series (starting in the 1980s) that revolves around a retired couple who are involved in bird-watching. The library didn’t have these, but the e-book section has recently added them, so I am starting at the beginning--this is the first book. I am not familiar with bird watching culture, so that is one interesting aspect of the book. It’s a pleasant cosy mystery with an unexpected (to me, anyway) ending. I enjoyed it and have the next two in the series on reserve.

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
I do not remember where I read about this book, but once I did, I requested it from the library. I am so glad I came across it. It was one of those books that, once I’d finished it, left me unsettled and a little bit dazed. There were a lot of things to think about here, but one of the things that kept popping up was the dangers of complacency in a democracy. We learn from the narrator that at some point, some fringe political group came up with the idea that all women over 50 and men over 60 who do not have children or work in some capacity that is ‘useful’ should be brought to units where they have every material thing they could wish for, but who are then asked to ‘do their part’ by taking part in medical experiments and donating body parts. Eventually, this idea moved from the fringe to the mainstream. People in the book, when challenged about the ethics of certain things, would frequently respond that it must be OK, because they live in a democracy. The Atlantic has a good detailed review of the book here, so rather than go into greater detail here, I will refer you to that. This was not a fun read, but it was definitely worth reading.

Silent in Finisterre by Jane Griffiths
The latest poetry collection from this poet. Poems inspired by landscape and houses, esepcially those from childhood. I came across the book while scrolling through the library’s e-book section.

The Ambleside Alibi by Rebecca Tope
This is the second book in the author’s Lake District series. Windermere Witness, which I read earlier this month, is the first. Bill found this one at a pop-up charity shop. Persimmon (called ‘Simmy’) is a newbie in a small village and a florist who has an unfortunate new habit of inadvertently getting involved in murder investigations. In this one, she delivers a birthday bouquet of flowers with a mysterious message to an elderly woman. Not long after, another elderly woman in the same town meets an untimely end. Everyone is connected in the small village and there are many secrets from the past that won’t be secrets forever. I have already downloaded the next two books in the series from the e-book section of the library website.

Come Death and High Water by Ann Cleeves
This is the second in the cosy mystery series featuring George and Molly Palmer-Jones in which bird watching is an ongoing theme. I quite like this series and the author’s Vera series, so I plan to read this one until I reach the end and the other as new books are published. In this book, a group of amateur bird people converge on an island observatory for an annual meeting. The owner of the island announces his plans to sell it, but he is not around long enough to follow through.

Murder in Paradise by Ann Cleeves
This is the third in the Palmer-Jones series. George arrives on the island of Kinness for an annual visit with his friend, the schoolteacher and keen birdwatcher. He comes in on the same boat as Sarah and Jim, the latter a native of the island and the former his new wife. She is excited to be starting a new life on the island. It’s not long before secrets start to bubble up and trouble arrives.

The Consiton Case by Rebecca Tope
The third in the Lake District series of cosy mysteries featuring Simmy, the florist, and a cast of small town characters. This one seemed a bit convoluted with mysterious flower orders leading to misunderstandings, anger, and hurt feelings. But do they have anything to do with murder?

Happy September!




Thursday, August 31, 2017

Glad to Have the Books!

I am always really tired by the time August rolls around. Summer and I do not get along and every year, I slowly find myself wearing down as the summer inches along. It seems to take forever and once we hit this time of year, I am in great need of rest. I knew it would be even worse this year, since I did not get the usual winter respite that I rely on. This year it was all compounded by the fall I took at the beginning of the month, so all the annoyances combined to make a month filled with discomfort, pain, and an inability to do much beyond the basics. I was happy, therefore, to have plenty of books around to distract me from August. I read a lot of fluffy stuff, along with a few that were not quite so mindless. And last night, I thought I might settle in with some more fluff, but instead, I crawled into bed at 9:30 and slept and slept and slept. I finished the e-book this afternoon.

So, starting at the beginning, here are some of the books I read in August and a bit about them. I'll post the rest tomorrow.

Maiden Speech by Alice Renton
Susanna and Peter live in Kent with their three young adult children. He is a solitictor and she breeds ponies. Her mother lives in her own dwelling on their property. Peter decides he’d like to try to stand for Parliament. Susanna is not overly excited about the idea, but supports him because it’s important to him. Neither of them think he has much of a chance, but through an unlikely series of events, he wins a seat. Things do not go as planned. The family is put under a good deal of strain and in the end, a desperate plan is hatched to save the day. I picked up this book at a pop-up charity shop and brought it to read on an overnight trip to Sligo. It was perfect for that. It was quite funny at times and I found myself laughing more than once. I was particularly amused by a short comment about Susanna’s mother and her elderly friend becoming interested in foraging for mushrooms. Their interest was piqued by a community ed class they were taking called ‘Death or Dinner?’ Bill did not, for some reason, find this as funny as I did.

After Me Comes the Flood by Sarah Perry
I’d read the author’s second book, The Essex Serpent, and loved it, so I requested this one. I didn’t like it quite as much, but it was a good read. It was weird and I felt like I was not quite sure what was going on in the strange house with the odd cast of characters. Not to give away plot twists, but the story begins with John Cole, a book shop owner, leaving London in the middle of a very oppressive heat wave. He plans to make his was to the home of his brother and his family, but his car breaks down before he gets there. He goes to the nearest house, which is not in the best shape and gives off an odd vibe. Even more odd is the fact that the strange people there seem to be expecting him and they call him by name. The story unfolds from there.

The Windermere Witness by Rebecca Tope
A couple of months ago, Bill picked up some cosy mysteries for me in a pop-up charity shop. One of them was the second book in a series, so I decided to read the first one first, reserving the e-book version. It was an enjoyable read, and perfect timing, since I was in pain from a fall I’d taken. Small town, society wedding, unfortunate and untimely death--whodunit?

The Pale Gold of Alaska and Other Stories by Eilis ni Dhuibhne
Spotted this while in our wee local library branch and being a fan of short stories, picked it up. This is an author I’d not read before. The stories all involved Ireland in some way.

Chef Interrupted: Discovering Life’s Second Course in Ireland with Multiple Sclerosis by Trevis Gleason
This is a book Bill saw and requested from the library. When it arrived, he chose a different book to read first, so I read this one. It is basically the story of and the author’s reflections on 89 days he spent in County Kerry in a cottage he rented after he was diagnosed with MS. He has since come back to Ireland. In his old life as a USian, he was a chef, but his illness caused him to change course. The book is pretty lighthearted, mostly, and it was interesting to read his first impressions. There were sections where he talked about MS and the ways in which he had to cope with the effects of the disease on his body. He includes various recipes in the book. These range from scones and soda bread, to a main course, to a dessert.

Dear Friend, From My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li
I found this collection of short stories when browsing the library e-book offerings. The title is taken from a piece of writing by Katherine Mansfield, who was an important influence on the author. The stories in this collection are autobiographical and deal heavily with mental illness and suicide, as well as writing, choosing to be a writer (as opposed to a scientist, in the author’s case), the influences of other writers, her childhood in China, writing in English, and her relationship with her mother. From start to finish, it felt like an odd book to me. As I understand it, this author is primarily a novelist who does not write autobiographically in her fiction, so this book may be a sort of outlier for her.

I hope you are enjoying the end of summer and have some entertaining reading in your pile, too!


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Bill's Bounty

Bill went to the garden this afternoon and brought back more goodies! We've been eating good stuff for a while now and it keeps right on coming.

I used a  bunch for supper tonight.
I used some sliced pork and leek sausage from the butcher in Buncrana, some onion, and half of a large green bell pepper, stirring it around in olive oil until the onion was starting to brown (I'd cooked the sausage first in the oven, then sliced it and added to the pan). Then I added the tomato chunks and snipped in a bunch of parsley and fennel, stirring everything just until the tomatoes were heated and the herbs were a little bit wilted. Then I topped some wholemeal pasta with the veggie/herb mixture and snipped on the fresh basil.
It was so yummy and fresh!

We still have plenty of tomatoes and herbs here.
I've been getting stuff in the freezer, too. I've put some green beans in there and some chard--more chard went in today. And still things keep on growing. Yay! Bill's thumb is getting greener!

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

Colourful

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.

Audiobook:
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!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Simple Summer Hat

I looked at a small skein of grey cotton and it told me it wanted to be a hat, so that's what it is now.
I knew what I wanted to do, so I just grabbed a hook and started crocheting.

Simple Summer Hat
(US terminology)
I used this cotton with a G hook, but any yarn and appropriate hook will work as gauge doesn't matter.

Ribbed Band
--Chain 12
--Single crochet in second chain from hook and in each of the remaining chains. Chain 1, turn.
--Working through the back loops only, single crochet in each stitch across. Chain 1, turn.
--Repeat the last row until the strip of ribbing fits around the head the hat will sit on when slightly stretched.
--When the band of ribbing is as long as it needs to be, fold it over so that the beginning chain is behind the last row and slip stitch these ends together.

Hat
--Chain 1 and single crochet evenly around, working in the ends of the rows of ribbing.
--When you get back around to the first single crochet of the round, make a half double in it, chain 3, skip the next two stitches, and make a half double crochet in the next stitch. Continue to work around like this until you get back to the beginning of the round.
--Do not join rounds--just keep on making half double crochets in each half double from the previous rounds and chain 3 over each chain 3.
--You could keep going evenly around until the hat was as tall as you want it, leave a long tail, and weave it through the top row of stitches, cinching the top shut. I did a more gradual decrease.

Crown Decreases
--continue to make hdc in each hdc, but make 2 chains in between for a couple of rounds. Then do a couple of rounds with one chain in between. Then hdc in each hdc with no chains in between. Then hdc2tog around and around until there are a few stitches left. Cut yarn, leaving a long tail. Pull through the last stitch. Weave in ends. Enjoy your new hat.

You can easily make this a more or less open hat by replacing the half double crochet stitches with single crochet, for a less open mesh or use double crochets or even triples for a big mesh.

I had an idea while working on this hat, and another as I was typing this, so will have to pick some yarn and try them out!

Hope you're having an enjoyable day in your part of the world!



Thursday, July 27, 2017

Devil's Schnitzel and Yarn Bombing

We took a ride to Buncrana today. I was amused by some of the frozen 'Mexican' food they had in Lidl, particularly this Devil's Schnitzel.
Nearby was some frozen 'American Style' schnitzel which appeared to be stuffed with chilli cheese sauce. It's fun to see what is considered 'American' here. Possibly much like a Chinese person would feel looking at what passes for 'Chinese' food in the US  😉 Lidl is a fun store to walk around in because there are often products I have never seen before, particularly in the frozen food section. Today it was Devil's Schnitzel, but in the past I have seen ostrich steaks, kangaroo leg steaks, pizza with kangaroo meat on it and pizza with asparagus. In Aldi we saw some frozen lamb chump chops, which I find highly amusing as a phrase, but since Bill loathes lamb, I did not buy any.

Before we got to Lidl, we walked over to the library, where there was a big yarn-bombed tree.


detail

detail

There were some simple yarn bombs in town, too.

We had plenty of time after we did the stuff we needed to do there, so we took the long way back to the bus stop. It rained a little while we were walking, but then it stopped. The sky stayed grey, though, which made the flowers pop.


It was a nice day--not too hot and very little sunshine, so pleasant for walking around.

 I hope your day has been pleasant, too!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Scrappy Napkins

I got out the knitting needles yesterday and made a few scrappy napkins.
There were two wee scrap balls of the bright pink/yellow/orange cotton and 3 or 4 smaller balls of green/purple/variegated. I did Russian joins to make one larger ball out of the hot colours and another out of the rest, then made the two diagonal cloths. I still had some of the former left, but not enough to make another cloth, so I made a couple of rectangles in stockinette then did a garter stitch border in the green. I counted wrong and one side is a row narrower than the other, but I decided to leave it alone, since it's a napkin and it doesn't matter. I still have another rectangle that needs a border, which seems like a good thing to do later while listening to an e-audiobook. I also have a pair of socks on the needles. I have a larger crochet project upstairs that is not too far from finished, but it's too warm to have it on my lap at the minute, so have been working on smaller things while I daydream about cooler weather. Thankfully, there's a yarn or thread project for just about any situation so I can keep calm and carry on.

Hope your day is filled with small bits of brightness that add up to something good!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Cable Ribs on Socks

As we waited for the day of our friend's arrival, I worked on a pair of socks to put in the small goody basket I had for her. I finished them a few days before she got here.
I did not originally plan to make the cables. I'd never used that particular sock yarn before and I could see that it had some colour changes, but I didn't know what they'd look like knitted. As I was making the cuff, though, I saw that there were the wide sections of the medium blue and I thought I could get away with larger cables. This was a 14 row repeat and rows 1-12 and row 14 were the same since I was knitting in the round. On row 13, I did the twists for the cables.

I worked the cuff on 68 stitches and the heel flap on 34. Then I picked up for the gussets and did the usual decreases every other round on needles one and three, but instead of decreasing until I was back to 68 stitches altogether, I stopped when I was at 72. I figured the cables would pull the fabric in a little bit. Since they are big cables, it wouldn't be a huge amount and the stretch in the ribbing might have compensated, but I thought it was better to be safe than sorry! They seem to fit, so that's good.

I'm about to start the heel flap on a pair of socks I've cast on for myself. This yarn is also some that I've not used before, but I see that the colour changes are short and the resulting fabric is busy, so the stitching for these will be pretty plain.

Hope your week has gone well and a great weekend is ahead!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Finding Flowers

I was thrilled this afternoon when we walked towards the local grocery store and saw some hydrangeas outside. I'd decided I'd look for one and a big pot to plant it in so I could stick it out back. I was hoping for a purple one, of course. They seem to grow so well here and in some many gorgeaous colours! We used to have a cat who we ended up calling Queen Hydrangea, so this one's for her!
As we were on our way home, we stopped to chat with a woman who was tending her window box flowers. I'd seen her in the shop before I grabbed the plant and the pot. She said, 'Oh good, you got one! Isn't it a beautiful day?' Weather commentary is always the conversation starter here. It's warm and sunny, so that means there are a lot of giddy people. I untruthfully agreed with her about the extent of the day's beauty and then I asked her about the hydrangea's sunlight needs and she said they're hardy and as long as I water it, it'll be fine. She commented that we'll want a bigger pot for it, then saw that we had one. Then she laughed and said, 'This is Ireland. You won't need to water it much!' Then she told a story about one of her plants that she took a cutting of when she moved. She was getting frustrated because it wasn't growing and she was fussing over it. Then she saw a tiny bud. She said it probably wanted her to just leave it alone so it could do its thing. 😎

We've repotted the poor thing now--it was hard to get it out of the tiny pot because the roots were so tight and coming out the drainage holes. I hope it likes it out there.

Last week, when we walked up to veg man's stall, I spotted these and fell in love with them.
I asked what they are, and if they needed a lot of sun. He told me the name, but I didn't catch it, so I googled 'fuzzy purple flower' when I got home and the image came right up. They are apparently called 'floss flower.'  Veg man said they can tolerate sun and shade, so I got one (good thing, too--he had none today) and then later thought I should've gotten two, so I went back and got another one and a geranium.

I do not think the colour in the geranium photos is quite accurate--the flowers are brighter in person. I love looking out at them while I'm working in the kitchen. They are in a location that gets a few hours of sun on sunny days, some filtered sunshine, and plenty of shade. The colours really pop no matter the light, but by evening, when I am cooking supper, they are in shade. They almost seem to glow.

I think that there will not be much sun for the next couple of days at least, but I'll keep an eye on the hydrangea to see whether it needs to be nudged over a bit to get more sunshine. The floss flowers and geranium have been where they are for a week and seem to be happy, so that's good.

I hope you find some beautiful things as you go through your day, too!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Who Knows What Else Is In There!

You know how sometimes a song you haven't heard in a really long time comes on and you find yourself singing along--or at least knowing what lyrics come next? You might not have even thought of the song in ages, but when prompted, out it pours. I had a similar experience recently when Duolingo launched their Japanese lessons.

I've been playing with Duolingo for a while now, mostly in German, which I had not studied since high school decades ago. It's an interesting approach to language learning in that it's treated like a game and it's fun--at least to a word geek like me. There are grammar lessons on the website for most of the languages, but I use the app on my tablet, which is slightly different. It's the first time I've studied a language outside of an academic setting and as someone who has studied language acquisition and language preservation in the past, I find that aspect of it and my own interaction with the app fascinating as well. It is not the kind of thing that will, on its own, lead to deep fluency, but I've learned a fair bit and I've picked up a few books to use as additional resources--I've even been lucky enough to find some dictionaries at charity shops.

Several months ago, Duolingo announced that they were developing a Japanese course. I signed up to be notified when it launched. Several weeks ago, the announcement came and I added it to my Duolingo profile. Why Japanese?  I started the academic period of my life 30 years ago attending community college to study Japanese. We'd just moved to Oregon and got a course schedule in the mail from Clackamas Community College. Japanese was listed and I commented to Bill that it'd be cool to study that language. He encouraged me to sign up. I had some seriously low self-esteem at the time and was quite sure I could not do it. He was quite sure I could and gently pushed back. He had a lot more belief in me and my abilities than I had in myself, but finally I ended up enrolled. I was terrified. I signed up for other classes too, which met on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, so they were the first ones I attended when the term began. They went well and I relaxed a little bit. Japanese was on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I was excited when I got to the classroom with my beautiful new textbooks, but my heart sank when the teacher told us we would all, one by one, go to the front of the class to introduce ourselves and say why we'd enrolled in the class. I felt panic rising and thought, 'I have to leave. I can't do that.' I was sitting at a table in the front and next to the wall, so fleeing would have caused a lot of commotion and drawn much attention to myself. I mentally talked myself down while the first person was speaking and then I volunteered to go next to have it over. I lived through it and went on to love the class. I gained an awful lot of confidence in that class, partly because of my own work and partly because the teacher took me under her wing. At one point during the last term of that first year, she rushed into the classroom one day, walked up to me, and said, 'I have a doctor's appointment. Can you teach the class while I'm gone?' 'Uh, but I'm IN this class,' I said. She insisted she'd only be gone a short time and by then I knew that arguing with your sensei is not done, so I said OK, took a deep breath, walked up to the front of the class, and proceeded to give a Japanese language lesson on the fly, with no preparation or advance warning. The class was 2 hours long. She returned after 1 hour 45 minutes. If someone had told me that first day, that I'd be doing something like that in a few months, I might have fled! After that year, she got me hired as her assistant, and for two years I helped her in the classroom, tutored students, graded homework, and substitute taught. It was a great experience for me. When I transferred to university, I discovered anthropology and turned my focus in that direction, but I always had a soft spot in my heart for Japanese, even though I never got back to it--until Duolingo added it to their offerings.




It was funny to see how much I remembered. One thing that I found particularly amusing was when the word enpitsu (in hiragana) came up and I did not even have to think about it before I typed in 'pencil.' You might expect words and phrases like, 'hello, 'thank you,' 'how are you' to be retained, but 'pencil'? Who knows what other obscure bits of information are hidden in my brain (and yours!) just waiting for a chance to come out!

I don't remember nearly all the kanji (the ideograms like the ones in the first and last photo) that I knew years ago. I was surprised at how much hiragana and katakana I did remember--all of the former and most of the latter. These are syllabaries that are used for different things--katakana is used primarily for loan words, names, etc. Hiragana is what you see to the right of the large kanji in the last photo above--it was the first bit of stuff I learned all those years ago. I remember feeling like a kid as I practiced my symbols over and over again the same way I used to practice cursive writing when I was learning that.

So I am playing with words and writing systems and language. It's fun. I like Duolingo a lot and one of these days, will use my library card to sign up for another program called Mango, which also has good reviews. There is a subscription fee for that one, but apparently it is free for people who belong to participating library systems. Donegal is one of them and from what I've read, there are many in the US, too, so if you're into this kind of thing, it might be worth checking into!

I hope that some fun and interesting things come your way today, too! Happy Friday!


Thursday, July 13, 2017

More Hours in a Day

I've been spending less time with my computer on these last several days and it's been amazing how that simple thing has given me a few more hours in each day. I'd started noticing how a couple of hours would go by unnoticed while I was scrolling down my Facebook page. One day, I just decided I didn't feel like it, so I didn't bother going to the page. That gave me more time to lose myself in the excellent books I've been reading and the knitting project that is my current yarny focus.

I went with Bill to the garden yesterday and cut some chard and watered the outdoor bed while Bill watered the indoor ones. Looks like we might be picking a courgette or two next week. I've not been up there much, but a week or two ago, I saw someone's cute scarecrows.

Someone else has a nice crop of artichokes coming right along. I don't care for them as food, but they are pretty!
Now, back to the knitting! I hope you've had a good week so far.