Sunday, July 24, 2011

Room by Emma Donoghue

When you read the synopsis of this novel, it doesn't exactly encourage you to pick it up and start reading. It sounds massively depressing for a start - the story is of a five year old boy and his Mum who are being held captive by a man (who also fathered the boy) in Room. And it's narrated by the five year old. Both of those things made me thing that it wouldn't be very good, and that it would also be very dark to read.

Not a bit of it. I soon got into the style of the writing, and, coming from the child's perspective makes it an entertaining read. This is a kid who has never been outside the room he was born in so how he views his world and what happens in it is highly interesting, and amusing in places. Plus, because it's from his perspective, there's nothing graphic actually in the book, although cleary some horrendous stuff has been going on. Yes, there are some dark parts, and some thriller-like parts that had me on tenterhooks, but there are also many heartening cheerful parts. I was overwhelmed by the ingenuity of the Mum, who has managed to bring her son up in as healthy a way as she can manage and educate him with the limited resources available to her. And by the ingenuity of the author, who had obviously put a massive amount of thought into both the circumstances of the main characters' lives and also what it would be like for the boy once he is outside the room. And I'd better not say any more, else I'll give the plot away! ;-)

I read this very very fast, in slightly over a day. It's one of those unputdownable books.

I had a busy week last week. The new job is fantastic. All I had hoped it would be and I've had a lovely time. Even the daily commute wasn't too bad, although I was quite tired by the end of the week.
It was nice having extra time for reading and knitting on the train (about 1.5 hours a day now!) and so far I've had a seat on every train and tube I've been on.
I'm currently reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and A vintage affair by Isabel Wolff, so I'll review those once I've finished them. Wolf Hall is taking a while as it's really too heavy to take on the train so I'm only reading it at home.

Knitting-wise, I've finished some more blanket KAL squares, and am actually waiting for next month's patterns to be released instead of frantically trying to get squares finished before the end of the month!

I managed to forget to cross one of the cables over in the cabled square and then also forgot that I have the Knit fix book which tells you how to fix this...

That's all for now. With the new job I'm finding that I have less time for blog reading and catching up with Ravelry and Facebook, so bear with me!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Adventures with the slow cooker, or 10 days at home

I enjoyed my ten days at home between jobs. The second week we had builders in installing our new downstairs loo. In the space of a week it went from this:

 Which wasn't great, the taps and pipework were on the leaky side and brown was a really good colour for showing up every single little tiny bit of limescale (and as the water here is really hard there was a LOT of limescale). Plus carpet on the loo floor is a bit, well, gross, isn't it?!

To this:

So much lighter and brighter. Plus we now have a mirror downstairs, crucial for that last minute hair check! And the window sill is bigger now, more room for plants! ;-)

As well as keeping the builders supplied with copious quantities of tea and chocolate biscuits I tried various slow cooker recipes.
This one is Mediterranean Vegetable Casserole (which actually turned out to be ratatouille). Then you just stir some mozzarella and basil in just before serving.

This one is chicken stew with olives. Except I forgot to get olives, so it's chicken stew.

And this one is slow cooked beef with madeira. Except I didn't have any madeira so it's just slow cooked beef. I also forgot to take a photo of it until it was on the OH's plate along with some potatoes.

And finally, I used up some vegetables by making stock. I then condensed it down and froze it into cubes. These can then be used with boiling water in place of using a stock cube.

 So, verdict on the slow cooker is that it's great. Although I've now got a freezer stuffed full of batch cooked meals so won't need to use it again for a while.

Most of those recipes came from the little booklet that came with the cooker, but some are from Antony Worrall Thompson's Slow cooking: easy one-pot dishes for the slow cooker, oven and hob which I found at the library. It's a really good book, with some nice recipes in and gives instructions for a variety of cooking methods, although it does assume your slow cooker is a 4-6 person one, rather than the 2-3 person one I was using.

I'm not sure how much time I'll have for blogging in the next couple of weeks as I start the new job tomorrow, which means a Longer Commute. I'll still be trying to keep up with other people's blogs though.

PS. Can't believe I put pictures of the loo on the internet!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Leaving work

Last week I finally left work. You may remember back in the dim and distant past of April that I acquired a new job. Unfortunately I also had the longest notice period in the universe so have only now finished the old job, ready to move onto the new one with a 10 day gap inbetween.

I had a leaving afternoon tea at work - tea, miniature sandwiches and lots of little tiny cakes and scones. Although I'm not sad to be leaving as it turned out to be a disappointing place to work and the new place has a lot more to offer, I will miss some of the people I met there, and many of them turned out to say goodbye. And gave me a rather cool sheep card:

A gardening book that's very "me" and definitely my style of gardening.

And a large pile of garden gift vouchers. After I'd finished  at work I had some friends to stay the next day, and Mum came for a few days, so we promptly disappeared off to the garden centre to spend some vouchers!

This is the first lot of plants (still got half the vouchers to spend!).

This week is a bit calmer, so I'll be planting these, and also keeping an eye on the builder who'll be installing our new downstairs loo. I have several things planned, including some knitting, some paperwork (boring, but has to be done), getting the boiler serviced, looking after the church office one morning, a planning meeting, reading group and meeting various friends for coffee!

And I've borrowed a slow cooker to experiment with as I've never used one before. I have a slow cooker recipe book reserved from the library too!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Garden at the beginning of July

The garden's really beginning to grow up now. The nasturtiums I planted along the edge of the raised bed have gone a bit crazy so you can't really see what is behind them!

And this is just from a different angle, behind the apple tree. Lots of the plants are covered with aphids (the nasturtiums are particularly bad), but, having done some reading about it, it looks like things should balance out within a couple of years if we don't use chemicals. Certainly we've attracted quite a crowd of dunnocks who seem to like hopping around eating the aphids, and there are definitely more ladybirds around now.

We had to move the bird feeder after seeing a squirrel taking a flying leap from the trellis onto it, and then the OH saw a mouse shinning up the pole to the feeder so we've put some mouse traps down in the shed.

And speaking of the shed. Last weekend I went a bit mad and cleared it all out. It never got cleaned out when we moved in as we'd already got the new house to clean, and the old rented house, so it got forgotten. So, on the hottest day of the year so far I emptied the contents out, swept it all out (getting covered in dead spiders in the process) and tidied everything up.

Some of this is a bit pointless, as, as you can see, it has a BIG damp problem:

 Not a lot we can do about that at the moment. The roof has a small hole in but really needs totally replacing. Unfortunately it is both made of asbestos and continuous with the roofs of our garage and our neighbour's garage so that's going to be quite a big job. And the walls aren't great either and nor is the drainage outside. I'm not sure what the long term plan for it is really, but I've moved the tools to the one dry bit of it.

The librarian urge overcame me and I arranged the plant pots in size order.

Outside in the garden things are looking a LOT prettier than in the shed. This is a rose we were given as a wedding present last year:

And all the fuchsias are now flowering.