Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Still Pickin'

Bill had not been up to the garden in a while, but he went up there today expecting to pull up some plants and put them in the compost. He did that, but discovered that there was chard to be picked.
Since it's supposed to get cold tomorrow night with a chance of frost and some wintry mix for the next few days after that, he pulled the chard plants. We are deciding whether he should plant more seeds in the polytunnel, where he still has a few wee jalapenos, parsley, lemon balm, and lettuce growing. Someone grew lots of lettuce in the tunnel last winter and there seems to be no reason why the chard would not grow well in there.

People don't grow chard around here--we saw what we thought was chard in other people's beds earlier in the season, but then we realised it was beetroot. Bill said people assumed our chard was beetroot, so there was confusion all around. 😁

I used a bit of chard in the tomato sauce I made for supper tonight (along with fennel, courgette, garlic and onion) and will blanch and freeze the rest tomorrow. Our little freezer is currently stuffed full, but I will be removing some things tomorrow, so can fit the chard in then.

If Bill does plant more chard in the polytunnel, it will only be a plant or two, since we have chard in the freezer already. We also have most of the beans he grew in packets, ready to be added to soup over the winter. He discovered that he enjoyed gardening and approached it as a learning experience, since it was all new to him. He did quite well!

I have a small chocolate mint plant out back that I should probably cut back tomorrow.  It's pretty sheltered back there, but might as well get it in just in case we do get a hard freeze. And if it does get cold, a nice hot cup of chocolate peppermint 'tea' would hit the spot quite nicely.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Christmas Blanket Wrap

Months ago, someone gave me two huge skeins of white yarn that is an acrylic/wool blend. It's about a DK weight and at 900-ish yards in each one, there was a lot of it! She also gave me a skein of forest green that was slightly thinner and not as large, but there was still plenty of yardage. A few months later, a friend brought over a big bag of yarn that included a large skein of what the label calls 'paddy green,' and skeins of red, dark red, and a green-white variegated. I had been wondering what to do with the white, because while there was enough there for a big project, I was not feeling the love when I thought about large expanses of white in an afghan, shawl, or poncho. The other colours were perfect to go with some white and I decided on a simple blanket wrap--I can use it either way. In order to avoid the large areas of white, I opted to cut the yarn at the end of each row, leaving the tails at either end as fringe. I chose to do a very drapey stitch combination of single crochets with ch3 in between. The single crochets are very shallow, so the chain 3 loops stack up right on top of each other, providing warmth while not being too heavy or bulky. The paddy green, variegated green, and the reds were slightly thicker than the white and the forest green, but it didn't matter in this project. I used a 6mm hook.
photo by Bill Burke

Since I had so much white, I used that for every other row. I had a lot of the greens, too, so I used them more often and scattered the reds around a bit more. I love it!

I did not even use one full skein of the white and I have scrap balls of the other colours left that will be used in a future scrappy project. I've cast on a hat in the white so I can try out an idea I had. I will decide some other time how to use the rest of it.


Friday, November 10, 2017

This Too Shall Pass

A while back, my sister-friend and I were exchanging emails and were talking about how things happen and things pass. 'All is impermanent,' I said. 'Yes, I have to remember that saying about this too shall pass,' she said, 'I need to find a small thing that says that to hang on the wall.' You know what happened next. Ideas began to whirl around my head. I graphed out words with the intention of cross-stitching the saying and going from there. It wasn't right, so I worked on other stuff and let the whirling ideas settle and present themselves one at a time.

I decided to start with the foundation, so needle felted some black roving with iridescent threads. Her favourite colour is red, so I crocheted a red border. Then I started on the words. I tried a few different times to embroider the words directly onto the felt. Didn't like it. Ripped out, not once, but four or five times. Then I decided to try simple, small words on a scrap of aida cloth. That worked. I attached it to the felt and set it aside until the next morning. I rummaged through the sea glass and the button tin and started sewing stuff on. I remembered a shirt with a highly embellished collar that I'd picked up on the 50 cent rail at the charity shop and cut off a small metal piece to add. Finally, I grabbed a brass ring that had been baked into the Halloween barm brack and sewed it on the back as a small hanger.

I really enjoyed the process of making this and it gave me some ideas for other wordy projects I've been kicking around for a while. 😀

Hope you have some creative stuff to think about and work on, too!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Seasonal Stitches

A friend in Maine belongs to a knitting group called the Knit Wits. Every year, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, they hold a sale of work to benefit their helping fund, which is used to help people who have unexpected expenses or who need a bit of help. On Friday, I sent a few things for this year's sale. I just got word that the envelope arrived today, so it got there in good time. Yay!

I stayed with a winter holiday theme. I couldn't resist an Irish rose...
 ...or snowflakes
I included a couple of ornaments, one of which was a simple tree that I did not photograph. The other was a combination of needle felting, crochet, cross stitch, and French knots.
I put a couple pair of earrings in the envelope, too.
I am sure there will be an abundance of wonderful handmade items at the sale and I hope it's a huge success! Kudos to the Knit Wits for doing this every year and for being there for people who need a helping hand!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Bookish October 3

Here is the final installment of my October book list.

Away by Jane Urquhart
I’d picked up another novel by this author in a charity shop a few years ago and quite liked it, so when I saw this one in the charity shop here, I added it to the pile. The story begins with Esther, an older woman who is at the old family home for the last time. She is thinking back to the story told to her by Eileen, her aunt--the story of Eileen’s mother, father, and brother and of Eileen herself. Eileen was born in Canada, but her parents and brother were from Ireland. They were given passage to Canada by their landlord during the famine and they eventually were able to settle on a plot of land there. Although Esther appears here and there in the present, the majority of the story takes place in the past. Esther appears infrequently and we get a glimpse into her thoughts before the story moves back into the past again. I will not say much more, because I don’t want to give away the plot. When I first started the book, I wasn’t sure if I would like it enough to finish, but it did not take long for me to get into it and want to know how things were going to unfold. Some of the things that happened seemed quite implausible, but that did not detract from my enjoyment of the book. After I finished it, I stuck it in the wee free library, where it did not last a day. I hope the person that took it enjoys it, too!

The Case Against Fragrance by Kate Grenville
I am not sure where I read about this book, but it was just a week or two ago. Kate Grenville is a novelist. I had not heard of her and had not read any of her books before this one, but once I became aware of this book, I immediately went to look for it on the library website. I could relate to the author’s description of how she would get headaches more and more frequently when she was out in public. She realised it was fragrance she was reacting to. By this she does not mean only perfumes, but all of the scented things we are bombarded with from all directions on a daily basis. She thought she was some kind of outlier until she started googling. Then she discovered that there are many of us out there. She tried to get more information and was finding lots of technical science writing, but no book for lay people about the public health issues around fragrance. She decided to write one, with the help of scientists of her acquaintance. She talks about how perfumes (even expensive ones), laundry detergents, cleaning products, air fresheners, candles, reed diffusers, shampoos and other personal care products, are full of cheap chemical fragrances. There is no requirement that these things be listed on the label in detail because they are trade secrets. So, when you see ‘parfum’ it is probably a mix of these chemicals, some of which are toxic and carcinogenic. They get passed to infants through breast milk. They cause skin reactions, headaches, respiratory problems, and nausea for increasing numbers of people. The author is Australian, and she compares the situation there with the US, Canada (who was the leader in making fragrance an air quality issue), and to a much lesser extent, the EU. I can’t speak to the EU as a whole, but I can say that Ireland is difficult in this regard. Everything is scented. It has been impossible for me to find unscented laundry detergent, lotion, etc. I take my chances and hope for the best. I am not always lucky and I have to set the sickening smelly stuff aside and try again. When we moved into our previous residence, someone had left a bottle of green washing up liquid by the kitchen sink. It made me ill, so we had to stick it under the sink and go buy the yellow stuff. Lesson learned. Green stuff, bad. Yellow stuff, OK.  I have also learned here that if something says it’s coconut and vanilla, it’s probably not going to make me sick. If I can’t find that kind of shampoo, I have to buy something else and hope it will only be unpleasant and not nauseating and headache-inducing. Soon we will start seeing holiday scented laundry detergent and even toilet paper (!!!) appearing in the shops. Last year the limited edition holiday scent for the loo rolls was mulled wine. I cannot imagine. Things bothered me in the US, too--those nauseating reed diffusers used to give me an instant migraine and once I used shampoo and body wash that almost made me pass out. The book could have been better had it included an index, but that’s my only quibble. It was a good overview of the issues surrounding fragrance, its effects on people, and how unregulated the whole industry is. People have become quite ill in the past because of this lack of oversight and we can only wonder what we are doing to ourselves now, as we are piling these chemicals onto our skin and breathing them in, in ever-increasing quantities. What health guidelines there are for these things do not take into account how they will interact with other chemicals and even air, nor do they consider the fact that people are getting large doses--a little from one product, a little more from that one, and the other, and the other, and on and on. And that’s before considering cleaning products, laundry detergent residue on clothing, air ‘fresheners’ and other things that we encounter in public spaces.

The Tragic Death of Eleanor Marx by Tara Bergin
This is the second poetry collection by this poet. Eleanor Marx was a daughter of Karl Marx who was a social activist and literary translator. She did the first English translation of Madame Bovary and learned Norwegian in order to translate Ibsen’s plays. sadly, she was involved with a guy who betrayed her by secretly marrying an actress, and when she found out, she committed suicide in a way similar to that of Emma Bovary. Several of the poems in the collection are about the life and death of Eleanor Marx. I heard the poet on RTE Radio One’s Poetry Programme and requested the book from the library as a result of the interesting discussion there.

Empty Pulpits: Ireland’s Retreat from Religion by Malachi O’Doherty
This was an interesting book. By ‘religion,’ the author unsurprisingly means Catholicism, by and large although other religions are mentioned in various arguments, mostly as comparison. He makes some good points throughout the book as he takes a sociological and somewhat psychological look at how Ireland has done religion in the past, how they do it now, and how they might do it in the future. He makes the interesting argument that, because Ireland has ‘lost’ religion faster than any other European nation, people here are in a good position to be interpreters, if you will. They know what religion has meant and can explain this to vocal anti-religion people. At the same time, they can explain secularism to religious people. He acknowledges that Spain has also secularized quickly, but they had an anti-clerical faction in that country and Ireland did not. The book was published in 2008, and things have moved on quite a bit since. There’s a new pope with different attitudes about certain things, Ireland became the first country to make marriage equality a constitutional right by popular vote, and people are protesting more about the hold the Catholic church still has on some state institutions. Still, it was an interesting book and provided food for thought as he laid out his reasoning. I found it in a pop-up charity shop over the summer and picked it up--glad I did!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Bookish October 2

Yesterday I posted the first part of my October book list. Today I post the middle section. I also made a personal goal for myself for this month to read at least 7 books that I can bring to the wee free library afterwards. After looking at the library pile here and the list on the website, I think that's doable. Guess I'll see. I have one finished and ready to go, so 6 more to go.

A Death in the Dales by Frances Brody
This is one of the cosy mysteries Bill brought home for me a few months ago when he went into one of the pop-up charity shops that appear in town. It’s a series detective and there are several books before this one. I have not requested any of the others, but I enjoyed this one, so I might in future! The detective is Kate Shackleton and the stories take place in 1920s Britain. The lingering effects of WWI figure throughout the story. Sometimes these sorts of novels can be pretty predictable, even if they are enjoyable to read. One storyline in particular in this book ended in a way I did not expect.

The Maid’s Tale by Kathleen Ferguson
This is a novel that won the Irish Literature Prize for Fiction in 1995. The author grew up in derry and this is her first novel. The story is told by Brigid Keen who, at a young age, becomes the maid to Father Mann, a new priest. After 33 years, he ends up in a care home and she loses her job. The story is told as though Brigid is talking to you and recounting her story. It is a slim volume, but there is plenty to think about in terms of social issues inside and is a good window on the culture of Derry at the time.

Knitting Pearls: Writers Writing About Knitting edited by Ann Hood
This book is exactly what the title says it is. It’s the second one edited by Ann Hood, the first being Knitting Yarns, which I read a few years ago. I didn’t know this one existed until I was scrolling through the results of my search for the keyword, ‘knitting’ at the library website. Every once in a while, I do basic searches like that--I can easily see what new stuff has been added, since it is added to the top of the list. It was a fun read.

Murder Under the Christmas Tree: Ten Classic Stories for the Festive Season edited by Cecily Gayford
These were mostly classic authors with a couple of contemporary ones added to the mix. I enjoyed this book a lot, which is not surprising, considering it combines cosy mysteries, short stories, and seasonal stories. I found it while doing a search at the library and decided to request it now, since it will probably be in demand pretty soon.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A Bookish October

Happy November! We move deeper into autumn now, and of course I am thrilled.

We did not get any trick-or-treaters last night. I'd thought we might, and had gotten candy just in case (just one bag). It will not go to waste!

I read some good books in October and here is part 1 of that list.
The Farm in the Green Mountains by Alice Herdan-Zuckmayer
This is a recently reissued book that was originally published in German in 1949 and translated into English for a 1968 publication. The author wrote an epilogue for the later edition. The author and her husband were well known and well off in Germany. He was a successful writer and they had servants, a few different houses in different countries, and a pretty cushy life. They ended up at their home in Austria when the Nazis came to power, but after a few years, they had to flee. They went to the US where they tried living in New York City and LA, where they thought he might be able to write for Hollywood. These places did not work out for them--he was not interested in doing the kind of writing Hollywood required. They spent a couple of summers in rural Vermont and decided to try to find a house there. One day, while on a walk, he found it and brought the author to see it. They talked to the owner of the old farmhouse, who agreed to modernise it and rent it to them, along with 190+ acres. They had to learn how to run a farm. They focused on various fowl, pigs, and goats. He wrote when he could, which wasn’t often. They knew nothing, so relied heavily on local friends and the USDA. The book came about because Alice would write long letters to family in Germany. Her brother eventually had them published in a magazine and she was asked to make this material into a book. For me, the best parts were the chapter about how much the library meant to her and what she had to go through to go spend a day there to do research into topics that interested her, as well as the final chapters. In the last chapter of the original, they’d moved to Switzerland and she was thinking about who she was and how her time in Vermont had changed her and what it had taught her. In the epilogue, they’d gone back to the farmhouse, but realised that they could not stay, so she was on her way back to Switzerland--she had further thoughts on her life as a result of these experiences.

Bird by Jane Adams
Bird is a married mother of twins who is back at her childhood home because her grandfather is dying. He seems to be obsessed with the image of a woman hanging from a tree. Tensions mount and Bird leaves her grandparents’ home to go back to her own, but she is determined to find out what it is that her grandfather is so disturbed about. Her husband and her father help her. As the book progresses, we learn about the dysfunctional relationships between family members from various perspectives. Segments of the book are memories of Jack, the grandfather and others are letters that he wrote to Bird but never sent. I took this book with me when Bill and I went away for a few days and started it in the B&B one night. I had to force myself to put it down and go to sleep. The story kept on moving until the very end.

The Seagull by Ann Cleeves
This is the latest in the author’s series of books revolving around Inspector Vera Stanhope and her colleagues. When she goes to give a talk at a prison, she comes in contact with a former bent cop who has some information for her if she will check in on his mentally fragile grown daughter. She does and the information provided opens up some old missing persons cases, so Vera and her team swing into action.

The Upstart by Catherine Cookson
I was not sure I was going to like this book. Bill found it in the wee free library one day and brought it home, even though he wasn’t sure, either! He said what made him decide to bring it home was the fact that it said on the back cover that it was a story about class attitudes and he knows that has been an ongoing interest of mine. The story (and the title) do have a lot to do with class, but also involved the ways in which the society of the time (Britain in the late 1800s-early1900s) was changing. There are also feminist aspects to the storyline, particularly evident in the character of Janet, the main character’s eldest daughter. Sam is the son and grandson of cobblers and has built something of a shoe empire. He becomes wealthy and buys a big house for his dysfunctional family to live in, even though he’s the only one who wants to move. He and the butler (left from the previous owners) have some issues, but quickly get past them as Sam realises he needs the butler to teach him how to behave properly and the butler feels he has a duty to do this. Sam and family are never really accepted into ‘society’ because he is considered an upstart. His money alone cannot make up for his working class background. This causes ongoing agitation for Sam. The family falls apart and Janet, an outspoken girl/woman who knows from an early age that she will become a librarian stands up to her father on a regular basis. There were parts of the story that seemed kind of formulaic, but overall, I ended up really liking the book. I wanted to read on to see what would happen in some of the storylines. Afterwards, I looked up the author and discovered that her life sounded quite a lot like one of her novels! Turns out she was the most borrowed author at UK libraries for many years running. When I was done with the book, Bill returned it to the wee free library, where it was scooped up within 24 hours. We see books by the author all the time in charity shops, too, so although she is now deceased, she is clearly still quite popular!

I'll post the next 4 tomorrow. In the meantime, I hope you've got some good things to read, too!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Pumpkins aren't really a thing here, except for a couple of weeks in October. Jack o'lanterns were invented here, but originally they were carved turnips and, judging from photos I've seen, they really do look creepy. But these days Halloween decorations involve pumpkins, not turnips. The seamstress' shop down the road has this very creative pumpkin in the window. I love her!
Someone clearly has no plans to drive anywhere for the time being.
The barm brack has been eaten and we changed our clocks back last weekend. Tomorrow we turn another calendar page and move deeper into autumn and closer to winter. Yay!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Colourful New Bag

A friend returned from a trip the other day and gave me a skein of funky, bright, chunky yarn. As it happened, I'd been thinking for a while about making myself a bag that was just big enough to fit a few things that I almost always have with me when I leave the house. I'd been having ideas here and there but hadn't settled on anything. Then I got this skein of yarn and it told me it wanted to be the bag, so I started that very night. Because the colours take centre stage, it needed to be done in a very simple stitch. Tunisian crochet can be great for bags because it can be quite dense and with little stretch. Tunisian simple stitch was perfect for this project.
Using this chunky yarn, I chained 23 with a size K (6.5mm) Tunisian crochet hook and did 25 rows of simple stitch. To bind off, I did slip stitches across the last row, inserting my hook and pulling up a loop in between the stitches. This created small eyelets. I made another rectangle the same way, then slip stitched them together. I made a chain as long as I wanted to strap to be, slip stitched in each chain, then turned and slip stitched again in in each stitch. Hid all the ends, chained 123 for the drawstring and wove that through the eyelets. Simple stitch, simple construction, and the colour really stands out! This was a fun little project and now I have a bag that will get lots of use--thanks, Karen 😊🌈

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Christmasy Bits

I've been having fun with needles and hooks of all kinds lately, working on various projects and trying out ideas. Included in the mix have been a few Christmasy bits.

I just finished this one a few minutes ago.
I needle felted a few pieces this afternoon with the intention of embellishing them. I tried a few things with this one while I was felting and liked none of them, so I decided to set it aside and see about adding sea glass later. As I was going through the jars of sea glass, I came across this piece and saw a potential Christmas tree. I went into the bag of yarn snips in my needle felting box, found a length of brown and felted it in before sewing the sea glass on. It's about 2 1/2 inches across.

The other night I decided it was finally time to do something with the large roundish piece of white sea glass that had been sitting on my bedside locker for a couple of months while I waited for inspiration to strike. I'd gotten as far as knowing that I'd use red and green, but no further. I grabbed my thread and my pouch of crochet hooks and started crocheting. I did a bit of frogging and restarting, mostly to make things more simple.

I have a few more felted pieces to embellish and my plan is to do some of that tonight. Or I might work on the bag I started last night. Maybe I'll do a little bit of both!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Stitch Here and a Stitch There Eventually Makes Socks

I've had socks on the needles in a pouch next to my spot on the couch for months. I'd pick them up when I felt like it and do a few stitches. Sometimes I did a needle or two, sometimes a few rounds, and sometimes I'd work on them for a little bit longer. I finished sock one, cast on sock two and continued to do some stitches here and there. I was not in a hurry and I like to always have a project like that available. The other day, I picked up the needles and did a few stitches. They turned into a few rounds. I kept going and when I put the project down, I had a good portion of a foot done. The next day I continued to the point where I'd start the toe decreases. Last night I made the toe, cut the yarn and got the ends woven it.
This morning I grabbed another skein of sock yarn and stuck it in my pouch. Bill commented the other day that he could use another pair of socks, so the next pair will be for him. It's not urgent, so I have no idea when they will be finished, but by doing a few stitches here and a few stitches there, eventually he'll have a new pair of socks.

For the socks pictured, I cast on 68 stitches with a size 1 needle and some sock yarn. I did a 2x2 cuff, changed to size 0 needles and did a regular heel flap over 34 stitches (sl1, k1 across on the right side and sl1 and purl the rest across on the wrong side until 34 rows were completed) and heel turn. When doing the gusset decreases, I stopped when I had 72 stitches on the needles and did the rest of the sock on the 72 stitches. For the top of the foot that is shown in the picture, I worked over 34 stitches--k3, p6, k1, p6, k1, p6, k1, p6, k4. I did a round toe, starting with a round of k10, k2tog and then decreasing on every other round (k9, k2tog, then k8, k2tog, and so on) until I had 6 stitches left. I threaded my yarn through those stitches, pulled the hole closed, and hid the ends. I will decide how I want to do the next socks as I am doing the cuff and heel on the first one. It's going to have to be simple because the yarn is busy and anything other than simple would get lost. 

I don't use sock patterns, since I prefer to just make the socks in the way I know fits best and is most comfortable for us to wear. I vary the stitch combinations I use on the stitches that make up the top of the foot and leave the rest. Because I am usually making socks for Bill or myself using sock yarn and size 1 and 0 needles, I know the numbers now for the cast-on, heel flap, heel turn, etc. But I came across this handy chart a while back and I saved it. It looks like it could come in handy for a time when I might want to use different yarn and need different numbers. Perhaps it might be useful for some of you, too. 😀

Happy Tuesday!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove

Years ago, Bill gave me a hardcover copy of this book for either my birthday or Christmas. I always thought it was one of the best book titles I'd ever seen. The subtitle is A History of American Women Told Through Food, Recipes, and Remembrances. It's just my kind of thing and I loved the book when I read it.
It moved with us once or twice, but, being hardback, it was heavy and so it did not travel with us across the pond.

We were talking about something recently and I mentioned the book. I did not know that Bill looked it up, found a copy, and ordered it. The postman just delivered it. What a great surprise! This one is softcover, so easier to cart around--it's definitely a keeper and I'm so looking forward to reading it again--it's been years since I read it the first time!

I've been trying to cut back a little bit on the number of library books I request, other than needlework/stitching books. I have succumbed to temptation recently and my list is back up to 12, but I am reading some of the books we've accumulated from charity shops and the wee free library. A few of those are keepers, but most are brought home with the intention of reading them and then either giving them to a charity shop or back to the wee free library. We have been doing well lately. In the past week, we've put 5 books in the wee free library with another ready to go today. I'll be heading for the library this afternoon to pick up a book that has arrived--a collection of essays and stories on the topic of knitting, written by various writers. I read the first volume a few years ago and did not know that a second volume had been published until I was scrolling through the results of my search for 'knitting' on the library website. I check back once in a while to see what new stuff comes up. I am often happily surprised.

Hope your day includes some happy surprises too!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Posh Scraps

This morning as I was getting dressed, the doorbell rang. I assumed it was the postman and sure enough, I heard something coming through the mail slot. Deciding it was best not to try to hurry down the stairs on my still-not-normal leg, I continued what I was doing. I heard the mail slot again and realised that he was trying to stuff the roving scraps Bill had found on ebay.uk through the slot. He gave up and left before I was able to get down there.

Knowing that he goes a bit further up this side of the street and then crosses and goes back towards the post office, I unlocked the door, went outside, and when I saw him cross, I walked over to meet him. He still had the packet in his hand and was holding it out to me as I walked up to him. 'Sorry,' I said, 'I didn't make it downstairs in time.' 'Sure, you're alright,' he said with a smile.

I brought my packet home, pushed the button to start the coffee brewing, and opened the packet. I was happily surprised when I pulled out the roving. I expected small pieces of plain roving in various sizes and fibres, but what I did not know until I looked at the invoice was that they are 'posh scraps.'
It is all so beautiful and so soft! I was thrilled when I saw it--I love the multi-colours and the pieces with iridescent threads. I will have so much fun with this! He got these from Heidi Feathers, the same place where he got a kit for me a couple of years ago. I was quite pleased with the quality of the supplies in the kit, as I am with the 'posh scraps.'

I had no idea what the first packet was--the one the postman easily tossed through the slot. I saw that it was from a needlework place, so felt it was safe to assume it was also for me. Bill had picked up a grab bag of 16 count aida cloth scraps and offcuts when the seller was down to her last one. This was another great collection. There are several good-sized pieces of cloth and each is a different colour--off white, navy, light blue, peach, brown, oatmeal, and a couple shades of grey. I'll use this for cross-stitching and huck embroidery.

I wanted to sit right down with my coffee and start stitching, but I had plenty of chores to do first, so I was good and got laundry done, a few groceries purchased, food cooked, and the resulting dirty dishes washed. Then I finished a library book so I can return it tomorrow. Tonight I'll have more coffee and I'll do some stitching with that. Yay!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


The other day, I came across this link from Red Heart. It took me to a pattern for crocheted maple leaves that they strung into a garland. I bookmarked it and then shared it. I decided to try it out using scraps from the blanket I made.
They have you make a loop at the end of the stem so that it can be strung with beads to make the garland. I am not going to make it into a garland so I left the loop off. I will make a few more to hang around the place.

These are quick and easy to make and I like the way the leaf came out! It's just three rounds and a couple of ends to weave in.I have not tried this, but it looks like you could make a few of these in a thinner yarn (I used worsted weight and an H hook) and join as you go in a circle to make a doily. Should work to join at the ends of the stems and at each 'petal' on either side of the stem.

Happy autumn crocheting!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Happy Surprise!

This morning, both Bill and I thought we heard the postman putting something through the mail slot in our front door. I was still upstairs and walked out to the landing to look down the stairs, but I saw nothing on the mat. Bill was downstairs and he went into the entryway to check. We both thought it odd, but went on with the day. Early in the afternoon, there was a knock on the window. It was the postman. Bill went to the door and the postman handed him a packet, saying it wouldn't fit through the mail slot. Mystery solved!

Bill opened it and said, 'It's your book.' I had no idea what he was talking about. He handed me this book, explaining that ever since I'd asked him (months ago now) to keep an eye out for this book, he'd been watching some ebay listings by a charitable organization. They had this one copy left at a good price, so he got it.
I am thrilled! I don't remember where I came across this book, but it was at least a few months ago. As always, I went first to the library website and one library did have it, but they denied my request to have it sent to Moville. After a while, it popped into my head once in a while, but I mostly forgot about it.

It should be a fun read. Usually the books we buy or pick up at the wee free library come into the house with the expectation that we will read them and then pass them on, whether to another person, a charity shop, or the wee free library. I think this one will be a keeper though.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Felted and Found

I felt like felting again this morning, and had a couple of ideas, so I sat down with my second cup of coffee, my roving, and my barbed needles, and created a couple of pieces of felt. The first one went off in an unexpected direction, so after I'd finished it, I set it aside. I am pretty sure I know what I'll do with it, but I have to make a few more bits first and there is still time for it to veer off on another as yet undiscovered path.

Then I started on piece number two--a simple circle in a couple of shades of brown. After that was done, I dragged boxes out from under the bed and the corner shelf so I could have a rummage through various receptacles containing found objects, beach combing finds, and deconstructed jewelry bits. I chose some and started playing around. My original intention was to make a two-sided piece for the window, so one side would be facing out and the other would face us in the room, but I quickly realized that it would work, but it would have to be done by making another piece and sewing them together. I might do that, but for today I completed the piece and it's now hanging on the wall.

While I was sewing stuff onto the felt, Bill was looking at ebay to see if anyone sells roving. I was overjoyed when he said that the woman he got the kit from a couple of years ago sells random grab bags of scraps in various colours and fibres! Since I work as much as possible with orphan materials, this made me irrationally happy. Bill ordered two bags, since shipping is free for the second.

I have already been practically giddy for a while. In addition to all of the things I am continually grateful for, it's finally autumn, the days are not as long or as warm, I've been able to close the windows, October has arrived (and with it my best quarter of the year), we had a few days away in a nice place, and now I learn that I can buy scraps of roving to felt with! Yippee!

I hope you have much to be happy about today, too! 😊

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Needle Felting: Motifs and Toes

This morning as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, I saw some great needle felting. This put me in the mood to do some repetitive stabbing of my own, so I went upstairs and got my box of supplies.

I decided to make a couple of festive seasonal motifs to hang in the front window.
I was messing around with the smile and as I was shaping it, it started to remind me of one of the Grinch's smiles after he becomes a reformed Grinch. I left it like that. I quite enjoy the way things happen in needle felting as things change shape and get a little wonky as I keep on stabbing.

While I was upstairs, I grabbed a pair of socks that I knew had holes in the toes that needed repair.
I pulled out another pair that I knew had holes in the heel, but when I got back downstairs and prepared to fix them, I discovered that I'd already done that pair, so I just had to do the toes today.
At first I was matching the roving to the yarn and then it dawned on me that I could use the odd bits that I pull off of the foam. As I repeatedly stab the roving, small bits of it get stuck to the foam and I periodically pull this off. It's just a ball of fluff, made up of whatever colours I have used. I can't bring myself to just throw it away, so I am glad to have the perfect use for them. These will either be worn as bed socks or inside hiking boots, so it doesn't matter what colour the repair is. To be honest though, even if these toes were going to show, I think I'd do this anyway. I like the idea that the repair is visible. As I keep on repairing them, the socks will take on an abstract look. 👣😊

Wherever you are today, I hope the day is a good one.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Twin Towns Community Garden

Earlier this week, while we were in Stranorlar and Ballybofey, I was looking at a map and saw where the Twin Towns community garden is located. The next day we were in that area, so we went over, found the gate open, and went in. There was a guy there who said hello and told us to have a look around. I mentioned to him that Bill had a plot in the Moville community garden, and he got quite animated, telling us that they'd met some people from the Moville garden in the past. He then proceeded to give us a tour of their very impressive garden.

Turns out he is one of the people that does a great deal of organising and work at and for the gardens. He proudly showed us these little cottages he builds. I was quite smitten. Some are planters and some have bird houses and roosts on the sides. If you covered the roof with twigs, it'd be a thatched cottage.

He was also working on a replica of this wheelbarrow, which was built in the 1800s and was still in use as a wheelbarrow until fairly recently and now has new life as a planter.
I also quite liked these chairs that were in one of the hoop houses.

It was a pretty impressive set-up, especially considering they were flooded a few years ago and had to start over again afterwards. They have a couple of polytunnels with raised beds and one that is for the flower plugs. They do hanging baskets and planters for the towns and he said in the spring they have 33,000 flower plugs in there until they are ready to be planted. He has some plans to build more shelving. He is thinking about other improvements to make to the area near the entrance, which is an arbor. Then you walk into an area with lots of flowers before coming to the vegetable beds, of which there are many.
 There was still some stuff growing and Michael, our tour guide, said that he's just planted his winter cabbage, which should be ready to eat in early January. They have grape vines in one of the polytunnels and this year they got grapes for the first time, although he said they wouldn't ripen because there hasn't been enough sun.

There are some plans to plant some more flowers around the shed as well.

We had a nice time chatting with Michael, having the tour, seeing the plants, and learning about their group and what they do. We wandered in at just the right time!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Scrappy Autumn

I've been having fun playing with scraps lately.

I had more of the autumn-coloured yarn left after I finished the blanket and made a placemat, so I made a simple 'curtain' for the window in our front door. I finished the last few rows last night after we got home from our jaunt to the Twin Towns.
It's a simple sc, ch3, sc across, leaving a tail at the beginning and end of each row for fringe. I cut the yarn after every row and started back at the beginning--the front of the work was always facing me. 🍁

I still have a few scraps of this yarn left, which will go into my scrap bag for use in a future scrappy project.

Last week, I used some cotton scraps to make a seasonal dishcloth.
 I had a chart for a pumpkin motif which I liked, but it was not going to work so well for a dishcloth. The centre contained lots of very tall stitches, which means space in between them and the outer rounds were dc with chain stitches in between, so more open space. I ended up using the stitch count (mostly) and the height of the stitches as shown in the chart, but I tweaked the count where necessary and I used linked tall stitches so there would not be space in between. Then I just made up the last couple of rounds as I crocheted. 🎃

Who doesn't love a friendly ghost? I used some white and a wee bit of black to make this guy.

I think I will make one or two more of these--I'll see how long the white lasts. 👻

I am not quite sure what I will work on next. I have a couple of projects in mind to start and I have my second sock here by the couch. I worked on that a bit today and got the heel flap done, the heel turned, and the gusset started.

I hope it's a good day in your neck of the woods!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Ballybofey and Stranorlar

Coming to you tonight from a B&B in Stranorlar, just over the River Finn from Ballybofey (pronounced bal [like pal with a b]-ee-buffet [as in all-you-can-eat]). These two towns are usually referred to as the Twin Towns. We've gone through on the bus many times when we were going back and forth to Sligo and a few other times as well. I sometimes get 'vibes' about places, both good and bad, and every time we've gone through here I have thought it seemed like a good place. We could have done day trips here, but we decided to book a room and wander around for a couple of days.

I am quite pleased with myself today--we walked a smidge over 5 miles altogether. This is normal for Bill, but sadly, I have not been able to walk any distance for over a year, due to reactions to mold and then a muscle problem, and then my fall. I was curious to see how I would feel today after walking around and I am pleased. The leg that has been injured is tired, but not painful.

One thing I always liked about the place was this sculpture on the bridge between the towns.
It's called The MatrimonyTree and it's based on Donegal Folklore:

" Local folklore indicates that when a couple were engaged to be married two different varieties of tree would have been planted next to one another. At the time of the wedding these would have been grafted together, and left to grow from thereon as one. The two trees would have retained their unique characteristics, but formed a distinctive shape with the grafted section – like a bridge."

You can read more about this on the Donegal County Council Public Art page here.

We got here at 10:15 this morning and had some time to kill before we could check into the B&B at noon, so we wandered up and down Main St in both towns and went down a few side streets. We stopped at Aldi and got some hummus for lunch. We wanted to find Drumboe Woods, so we found out where that was. After we checked in, we had our lunch and headed back out to the woods. It rained and it was sunny--pretty typical Irish weather!

The ruin in the photo above is what's left of the carriage house that used to be connected to a castle. You can just see a small bit of the castle wall (nothing else remains) on the left of the photo.

There are several trails in these woods, but we stayed on the main one along the river. We started in Stranorlar and walked along until we crossed the river on the footbridge.
By then we were back in Ballybofey and we came out on a lane that led us back to the main road.

We headed back towards the bus stop, because we'd seen a bakery/coffee shop right there and thought it'd be a good idea to check it out. We had some good coffee and almond cups. These were like bakewell tarts in a cupcake shape--almond cake with raspberry jam. Yum!

Now we're hanging out in our room and I'm about to put the kettle on. Tomorrow we'll be out exploring again.

Hope your week has started off well.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

September Reading

It was a mystery book month here, with a few other things tossed in. I even discovered a few books that are set in Inishowen. Those were fun! And now, another month of reading commences!

A Prey to Murder by Ann Cleeves
The next book in the cosy mystery series involving George and Molly Palmer-Jones. He is a retired Home Office guy and keen bird watcher. She is a retired social worker who has a knack for listening and observation. In this book, they go back to the village in which he grew up, where the woman running the manor house turned hotel is discovered dead in the area where the bird of prey exhibition is being held as part of a fundraiser.

Sea Fever by Ann Cleeves
The next in the series--a boat full of bird watchers ends up being one person short when one of the participants is found floating.

Agatha Raisin and the Curious Curate by M.C. Beaton
I have read a few books in this series in the past. I feel lukewarm about them, but they are enjoyable enough. However, I have listened to BBC Radio dramatisations starring Penelope Keith as Agatha in the past and liked them. When I came across the audiobooks on the library website and saw that she is the reader, I decided to check them out. I started with one that was well into the series, but rather than go back, I just went on from there. One day in a pop-up charity shop, I came across this book, so added it to the pile. I’ve been listening to the audiobooks now and then and reached this title, so I read it and then went back to the audiobooks. For some reason, even though I was hearing Penelope Keith in my mind as I was reading this book, I still prefer her audiobook versions. She does a great job and in my experience with audiobooks, the reader makes or breaks them. I have stopped listening to some e-audiobooks that I was interested in because I was finding the reader to be highly annoying and I’d rather read it myself. With these books, it’s the opposite--I’d prefer to listen.

Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life by Helen Czerski
This was a fun book, which I came across while scrolling through the e-book section of the library website. The author does just what she says she will in the subtitle--explain why small things in our everyday lives work the way they do. What is going on when you pour milk into your tea or push down the lever on the toaster? Why don’t ducks have cold feet? How do these small things relate to bigger things in the world/universe?

Another Man’s Poison by Ann Cleeves
In this book in the Palmer-Jones series, Molly and George discover her aunt has died the night before they arrived for a visit. Who might want her out of the way, and why?

Travelling Bag and Other Ghostly Stories by Susan Hill
I came across this title while scrolling through the library e-book site. I’ve read a little bit of the author’s previous work and enjoyed it, so I borrowed this one. It’s a short book of short stories, all with a supernatural element. I quite liked it. I think there are some e-audiobooks of hers on the site as well--I’ll have to check them out!

Inch Levels by Neil Hegarty
This book was published last year, but I hadn’t heard of it until The Irish Times started doing reviews of it this month, when it was selected for their book club. I was interested for a couple of reasons. Part of the story takes place in Inishowen. In fact, important parts of the book unfold in a place that sounds quite like Moville and Inch Levels is an actual place. Also, one of the reviewers talked about how well he captures the culture and communication style of people in small Irish villages, particularly those that are up here on the edge of the island. There is a common feeling here that Donegal is ‘the forgotten county’ and that this is the forgotten part of the forgotten county. Mind you, when we lived in Mayo, they also considered themselves hard done by, but every place has its own particular culture and the reviewer was right--he did a good job of illustrating this one. The book begins with a little girl riding her bike when something happens. Then the story starts shifting. Each chapter is constructed with short sections that move from one event to another or from one person's perspective to another. At times, the same event is told first by one character and then another, so the reader sees it from different angles. Eventually, these bits start coming together--like a quilt that someone constructs from little bits of fabric--to tell the story. It is a multi-layered plot that weaves together several strands, with the main character being Patrick, a middle-aged man who is in hospital, dying. He thinks back to his life and a secret he’s been carrying around. As his mother and sister come to visit him, the focus shifts sometimes to their point of view and how their pasts, their families, and the history of the places in which they lived continue to impact their lives. I did not settle in with the book right away because of the quick shifts in focus and narration, but before too long, I was into it and compulsively turning the pages.

Death at Whitewater Church by Andrea Carter
I had not heard of the mystery series in which this is the first book until I read a review of Inch Levels by the author. Both this book and the next one were on the shelf at our wee local library, so I checked them out, brought them home, and whipped through them. They were quite enjoyable--good reading for a rainy afternoon with a nice cuppa or two.

Treacherous Strand by Andrea Carter
This is the second book in the series about Benedicta O’Keeffe, a solicitor who is a blow-in to Inishowen and who gets involved in some bad situations. The character lives in Malin, which is an actual town and works in the fictitious Glendara, which in many ways, though not all, sounds like Carndonagh. I think the third book in this series is due out in October. I’ll request it when it becomes available.

The Truth and Other Stories by Sarah Clancy
I learned of this poetry collection while listening to the poet read some of her work on The Poetry Programme on RTE Radio 1. I looked it up on the library website and requested it. I like her work and will be looking for more of it.

happy reading!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Second One's Done

I've been working on projects that I'd started through the spring and summer, but hadn't yet completed. In a couple of cases, they were big, warm, and not things I wanted on my lap during the summer. In other cases, I started and then got restless, so drifted to another project. I usually have a few different projects going at once, using different techniques, but this last summer I was finding it difficult to keep my interest going in any of my ongoing projects, no matter how enthusiastic I was when I began them. That seems to be over now, I am happy to say. I have ideas, plans, and stuff I want to try, but first I wanted to finish some of the stuff I'd already started. I finished my swoncho and a blanket. I completed a poncho, which I wore for a few days afterwards. Last night, I finally made the second armwarmer of a pair I'd started a couple of months ago. I made the first one in a little over an hour, set it aside, and then looked at it every time I was in the bedroom. I'd think, 'I should make that second armwarmer,' before moving on to a different project.
photo by Bill Burke

They're just a simple tube with a thumb hole done in a granny stitch. The pattern was in a small magazine our daughter sent me earlier this year. The yarn is black, an almost turquoise blue, and pale purple strands plied together. It's quite nice. I look forward to a cool down so I can wear them, but for now I am happy that the project is complete. I am thinking about making another pair, but making some changes. I have a ball of Noro that would work well.

After I finished this project, I started a piece using the scraps left over from the blanket. That should not take long. Just as well, since the bits and pieces of these various projects and the supplies I was using to make them were piling up alongside the bed and in the space around my end of the couch. It's much less cluttered in both places now! Yay!

I'm off to work on the heel flap of a second sock. Hope your day is pleasant and peaceful.