52 Books in 52 Weeks : 5/52 The Half-Life of Hannah by Nick Alexander

Hannah, her husband Clive and son join her sister Jill, her daughter Aisha and friend Tristan on holiday at a villa in France. It immediately becomes apparent that Hannah’s life with a steady, dependable husband, part-time job and lovely son is not what she wants and she feels trapped and unhappy in its predictability. Clive is the second man she has ever had a serious relationship with and she has been with him 15 years, a rebound relationship after a turbulent one with an unpredictable guy.

I found this a very hard read because I wasn’t feeling all that sympathetic to the characters. In fact, the first third of the book seemed rather dull (perhaps that was the point?). It may be that I didn’t enjoy the genre that much as I’m much more interested in thrillers and crime fiction. I’m glad I only paid 20 pence for it as I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would another. I guess I only kept going to see if it would get any better 🙁

Sirius is rather happy because he is in what he considers to be his bed.

Ten on a Tuesday: 10 Ways to Beat the Winter Blahs

I’m sitting on the sofa after a very long, very dull, very unsatisfying day followed by a dreaded teleconference and definitely feeling a little blah so this is a good day to think about how to beat those blahs.

1. Tea. It fixed the Doctor when he was feeling low. It certainly helps my mood when I’m tired and need a pick me up. It has to be proper tea made with milk and no sugar and preferably Waitrose English Breakfast tea.
” Tea! That’s all I needed! Good cup of tea! Super-heated infusion of free-radicals and tannin, just the thing for healing the synapses… “

and guess what, I’m drinking a cup of tea (sadly not the above type but PG Tips Fresh One as we ran out the Waitrose type) and it is making me feel a lot less blah.

2. Cats. I think you know me well now. Those little furry faces with their looks of mischief just before they do something naughty like breaking into drawers or licking the cream out of your cream doughnut. You can’t help but smile when Tamyra climbs up and headbutts your hands for a stroke.

3. Exercise. I don’t often feel like talking a walk when I’m exhausted but weirdly I feel a lot better once I’ve got going. I think I’ve been cooped up a little too much of late so tomorrow I’m heading off for a little stroll. Fresh air is so good for me.

4. Talking to a friend. Someone once said that a problem shared is a problem halved. Life is a bit exhausting at the moment and it is nice to have some good friends to talk to. Quite often I fit in a Skype call and it makes the world of different afterwards.

5. Doing something for someone else. I had a great time helping a very tired friend get ready for Christmas. It was good for me as I felt helpful and not feel blue about Christmas as I have done every year since Stu died and good for her as we got to help each other.

6. Craft. One of my fondest days of the week is Friday when I join the craft group to make flowers. Sometimes I’m too blah to go out but if I make a supreme effort, I usually find I’m much cheerier afterwards.

7. Dancing and singing like no one is looking. I know it sounds strange (and my long-time blog friends will know that I *am* strange) but klezmer music really lifts my mood. There are some really good bands like Klezmer Kollectiv and Sandanski’s Chicken which I recommend.

8. Being inspired. I work hard at thinking of new ideas for projects so I surround myself with books and magazines to spark that imaginative streak. I keep a positivity journal where I list one or two lines on positive things I’ve done in the day – a goal accomplished, something nice that has happened.

9. Trying to step outside of myself. Another strange one. With recent home events, I did feel rather overwhelmed by all that was going on so I’ve been working on staying on the outside and not letting myself wallow in deep emotions.

10. Cooking. I really enjoy cooking and it helps me to chill down a bit when I get home in the evenings.

pao is also very good to have around when you are feeling blah.

Making Monday : Marmaknits

I posted up some photos of the beautiful and tasty marmalade that mainly pao and myself made yesterday. It is rather delicious 🙂

The plan to keep some vanilla socks stashed away for some quick knitting is great as I can talk and knit at the same time. My friend Fiona asked if I could teach her to knit socks – my answer : of course! So next Friday, I’ll try have some half-done socks to show her the picking up of the gusset and Charlene Schurch’s book on making socks with me.

I have been rolling along apace with my Betty Mouat blanket. I really love it and I’m enjoying looking through my stash for yarns to include. The only trouble with making this is now I’m thinking about making another one already and have the colours all planned in my head(!) I am also spurred to keep on knitting because I am cold! I am so cold that I want to knit a blanket and but I am also cold whilst I knit so I need a blanket to keep me warm!

And Sirius, he continues to make mischief.

Mr Marmalade

I found some very cheap Seville oranges and thought that a little marmalade-making would be a nice weekend activity.

pao and I had intended to make marmalade together.

But I was feeling tired and grotty.

So pao stepped into the breach and got on and starting making it.

He is a very neat chopper – it took him about an hour whilst watching the tennis this morning to chop all the peel.

We had even acquired the muslin that all the recipes mentioned – normally we omit that stage.

The saucepan was fairly full so I was glad I’d only gotten one bag of oranges.

pao’s grandmother’s jam pan getting good use.

I came down to help skim the top off (which was very nice on toast later on). Yes, there is a leg of lamb sitting next to the marmalade – he also cooked a full roast lunch, too.

and pour the marmalade into jars. My funnel wasn’t quite right for the jars – so I poked the strips of orange into the jars with the back of a fork.

We even did the wax seal bit. We both wondered how someone realised that the wax seal and cellophane helped to preserve jam.

It was delicious on a piece of toast 🙂 I’m very pleased that Mr Marmalade makes rather lovely Orange and Grand Marnier Marmalade. Thank you, Mr Marmalade.

52 Books in 52 Weeks: 4/52 The Mayor of Montebello by Revel Barker

I am pleased to note that I’m slightly ahead in my personal challenge – go me 🙂 I did find that last year I really didn’t read as much so it is kind of good that I have this goal to achieve throughout the year. Also, I have been using my Kindle a lot more as it is easier to read and knit at the same time as I don’t have to prop a book open 🙂 This was another 20 pence book I got from Amazon which I notice has now gone up to almost three pounds.

Horatio Green, an newspaperman from the UK, retired to the island of Montebello. His father before him was a hero in Montebello because of and Horatio spent many of his childhood summers on the island so he got to know it very well. It was a crimeless place where people left their keys in the door.

Horatio (or Oratio Verdi as he was known by locals) spent much of his time as the island’s newspaper editor criticising the Montebellan regime and eventually was persuaded to take up the post of mayor of the island. Horatio soon finds that the peaceful, tranquil island isn’t quite what he thinks. Being located so close to Sicily, he finds that there is a frisson of Mafia activity and he tries his best to do the best for the island.

I can’t say that I was completely enamoured with the book but I did keep on reading as it wasn’t awful. It was kind of fun and amused me a bit as it reminded me of when I lived in Italy and amused me with the Italian-British culture mix.

In cat news, Tamyra was found resting in the lovely new cat bed that Jeanne made for them. It is a very popular place!

Flowers on a Friday

Fiona and I went to Sophie’s workshop at the Beaney again today and today’s craft was fabric printing where the intention is that we will make a lovely flower like the one above.

We used some very simple blocks made of cardboard and foam.

I already knew exactly what I was going to make and had my pattern for a leaf cut out already.

Fiona’s pattern was far more intricate.

The leaf was painted with some acrylic

and then pressed onto the calico.

Fiona’s stamp was really intricate.

I made a second stamp which I stamped in the purple. I thought it looked a lot like an orchid. Very apt for the flower theme of the workshops.

Fiona was a lot braver and did a wash over part of her pattern to produce a different look. Her fabric looks brilliant.

I started sewing some of the foxglove petals together from last week’s session. I used a combination of my petals and Fiona’s.

Whilst we were waiting for our prints to dry, we started some crochet flowers.

Fiona’s flower was green and I thought it looked pretty good even though she wasn’t convinced.

It was a great workshop and we all really enjoyed ourselves. I’m looking forward to next week as it is crochet and knitting 🙂 Thanks to our lovely teacher, Sophie 🙂

There is no cat on the table

no, no, definitely not!

My eyes are very sore for some reason at the moment so I’ve got lots of eye drops and I’m restricting my computer usage until it gets better so I may not be doing a lot of blog reading until my eyes feel better. So I’d better plough on with some knitting instead.

52 Books in 52 Weeks: 3/52 The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who … by Jonas Jonasson

Word Press doesn’t seem to like my extra-long title – the full title is: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson 🙂 This is one of the 20 pence Kindle books – what a brilliant idea! I even got the Life of Pi for 20 pence. 🙂

Allan Karlsson has just turned 100. He is in his room in the nursing home as everyone is getting the place ready for his birthday party but instead of going to his party, he climbs out of the window and runs away.

He only has about 60 krone in his pocket so he heads off the bus station and readies himself to catch the next bus out of town. Whilst he is waiting for the bus to arrive, he is asked by a dodgy looking youth to care for his suitcase whilst he visits the bathroom. The bus arrives and Allan gets on the bus with the man’s case. This sets him off on an interesting journey involving criminals, dead bodies and amusing twists and turns. His story is interspersed with flashbacks into his extremely eventful past and also the bungling investigation by Swedish police into finding him.

I found this a little difficult to start with but a couple of chapters in, I found myself hooked with the amusing and sometimes ridiculous twists of the story. It certainly had some laugh out loud moments and it was definitely a page turner as I wanted to know what this remarkable old man got up to.

Sirius is rather pleased with his new bed. He woke up to glare at me when I was taking his photo.

Surprising New Sleeping Quarters

Our postman knocked on the door this morning and to my great surprise (a. that he arrived in the morning & early and b. he had a huge box in his arms) there was a parcel from the USA. From Jeanne, in fact.

And we were bemused to find inside a spanking new cat bed!

So I put it all together with Tamyra’s help.

She did rather enjoy the box it had come in ever so much that was tempted to dispense with the legs and lay the cozy cover in the box in front of the radiator and see if she would take to that.

Well, I put the new cat bed is in front of the other radiator but was studiously ignored by both cats to start with until I put a cushion and blanket on it. Sirius is so happy! Thank you, Jeanne! What a lovely surprise 🙂