Sunday, April 05, 2015

Books read 2015 #1

Can't believe it's taken me three months to read five books, although I have been doing a load of professional reading for work, which hasn't helped...

#1 John Pritchard How to pray
Borrowed this one from the church reading club, mainly because it looked interesting, short(!) and accessible, and I wasn't far off. It's actually taken me several months to read, mainly because all of the chapters look at a different way of praying and I needed time to absorb them, and to try some of them out. It's the kind of book I wish had been around about 20 years ago, as I'd have found it incredibly helpful as a new Christian. It still is incredibly helpful (there were a few, aha moments as I read it, when something I'd not understood before suddenly became clear - Ignatian prayer, for instance). A lot of it is about establishing a routine, finding out what works for you and slowing down enough for it to take effect. Highly recommended.

#2 Frances Hodgson Burnett The shuttle
I've owned this book since it was published in 2007, but have just never got round to reading it. It's quite chunky, and, as I usually have several books out from the library at a time, I frequently find it hard to fit in books I actually own. Originally published in 1907, it's a fictional account of an American heiress, Rosalie, who marries a minor member of the British aristocracy, principally so that her fortune can restore his house (think Cora's fortune and Downton Abbey). Except it doesn't turn out like that, as her new husband is distressed to discover that her money is under her control, rather than his. What follows is what would now be called domestic abuse. The shuttle in question is the shuttle weaving closer together both sides of the Atlantic, as these marriages become more common. Eventually her sister, Bettina, is old enough to travel to Britain to find out more, and much of the story is taken up with what happens next. I found it a compelling read, contrasting the dynamism and energy of the Americans, with the fairly useless and impoverished British upper classes. It's published by Persephone books, so is a very nice book to look at too!

#3 Elizabeth Jane Howard Marking time
The second book in the Cazalet Chronicles takes us into the Second World War, and the action shifts to follow the new generation of Cazalets, who are mostly in their teens. They all have their own worries, Christopher is a pacifist, Louise is desperate to be an actress, Polly is worried about what the adults aren't telling her, and Clary is worried about her father, after he goes missing in France. I love the detail that is observed in these books, from the details of dinners (particularly catering for a house of that size) to the difference the war makes to everyone's lives, the petty inconveniences, combined with moments when it comes closer to home. 

#4 Margaret Attwood Maddaddam
The final part of the trilogy, started in Oryx and Crake and Year of the Flood, it fleshes out the story in the other two novels by giving a different perspective, and then moving the action on a little bit. I struggled a bit initially with what was happening, as it's a while since I read the first couple of novels (2004 and 2010 respectively, thanks LibraryThing!), and, although there is a short recap at the beginning, it still took quite a lot to jump into the dystopian world and have a vague idea what was going on. I did eventually get into it properly. It follows what happens after most of the population of the earth has been wiped out by a mysterious illness, and the few people who are left have to work out what they're doing. I didn't enjoy it as much as the other two - the idea is good, but it feels like it's now been overdone?

#5 Amy Bratley The girls' guide to homemaking
Chick-lit, with added sewing! ;-) This was being passed around at knitting group and I grabbed it to read as a bit of a change after the last book(!).  It follows the usual chick-lit type saga, newly single girl can't work out what she's doing with her life, discovers a talent for making aprons (OK, that doesn't happen in most of them), falls over the man of her dreams (why does that always happen?) although she doesn't realise it at the time (again, they never do) and it all gets resolved in the end. Still, a fun read, although I get annoyed when they are so so unrealistic - since when has a single woman supporting herself by making aprons been able to buy a flat in Islington, even with a deposit?! But it's chick-lit, I'm not supposed to think about things like that!


Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Garden at the beginning of April 2015

This one seems to have come round quickly! I usually work on Wednesdays, but we get an extra days off for Easter where I work so I am at home ready to take pictures instead.

I'm not sure why the lawn is looking a particularly psychedelic shade of green. It is a bit on the yellow side though. 

Yay, lots of rhubarb appearing, so it will soon be time for rhubarb crumble etc. The gooseberry has nearly all its leaves now and the blackcurrant bush isn't far behind.

Lots and lots of cowslips now flowering around the foot of the apple tree.

First signs of apple blossom appearing!

The aubrieta is beginning to flower too.

I love the colour of these hyacinths, and I'm pleased with how they've worked in these pots with the cyclamen. I'm tempted to do this one again next year.

The hydrangeas are covered in leaves and I've pruned the dead flower heads off them now.

I wasn't sure what this one was called (or how it got into the garden, as I didn't plant it!)  but apparently it's a Leucojum vernum, or spring snowflake. Never heard of it before!

And the white voilet is covered in flowers.

Have you got lots of spring flowers in your garden?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A bit of a gauge issue

I have one finished item to show off. A cardigan for my [future] Godson, made with two balls of Sirdar Donegal Tweed. The pattern is Baby Vertebrae by Kelly Brooker - I really love her patterns, they are clearly written and fun to knit. It's intended for his birthday in July.

This is my latest victim knitwear model wearing the Beyond Puerperium (another Kelly Brooker pattern) I made for his baby shower.

The reason why I'm knitting things in March for a July birthday? He has a twin... Hopefully she'll like one in this yarn:

I've finished the body on my Harvest Moon cardigan. I love the i-cord cast off (OK, I didn't love the time it took, but I love the look it gives) on the body. Now I'm onto the sleeves. To get gauge I knitted the body on 4mm needles, but the sleeves are on DPNs and I seem to be knitting tighter on those, which isn't something I've particularly noticed before, although I've read it can happen. This is what the first sleeve looks like on 4mm DPNs, and there is a noticeable difference and it felt tighter when I tried it on, so I had to pull that bit out and try on 4.5mm instead. That seems to be a lot better!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Days out: Clandon Park & a trip north

Last week we both had a day off and went to visit Clandon Park, near Guildford, where we were hoping to see daffodils. We've been thwarted a couple of times, as four years ago we were too late for daffodils, and last year we visited on a Saturday (without checking opening times) and discovered that the property is closed on Saturdays so we couldn't see the daffodils at all then.

So, of course, this year we were too early.

 Most of the daffodils weren't as far along as they are at home, although I wasn't aware that I'd planted particularly early-flowering varieties.

There was hardly anyone around so we had the gardens to ourselves as we wandered around. This is the Dutch Garden, which is sponsored by the Air Cabin Crew Fund as a memorial to British Airways cabin crew who have lost their lives in service.

 And some woodland looking across towards the daffodils

It will look amazing in a few weeks' time...

I also went up to my Mum's for a few days over the Mothering Sunday weekend. We had a couple of days out too, mainly to Nottingham to go to John Lewis, and then to various Lincolnshire garden centres. ;-) I went on the train so managed to avoid the temptation to buy lots of plants to bring back with me.

Sweep was obviously delighted to see me.

This is the fabric I bought at John Lewis. It seems appropriately Daisy-ish. It's to make a Megan dress, from the Tilly and the Buttons book.