Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Unexpected Pleasures

I just had a most unexpected phone call from my Aunt, who lives in Aberdeen. We had kind of lost touch with that branch of the family since my father died, but my Aunt found a bit of paper with a phone number while clearing an old handbag and rang it on the off chance. It was lovely to hear from her and to know that they are all doing well. It must be seven years since we last met, which would have been at my father's funeral. It was quite out of the blue but a nice surprise.

I've been making the most of my days off. Yesterday I went to the fantastic Fabric of Myth exhibition at Compton Verney. Some of the exhibits were truly stunning. My favourite was a weaving of Three Fates, commissioned by Henry Moore and woven by Pat Taylor and Fiona Abercrombie. The quality of the workmanship was amazing. I would have to admit to being a little baffled by some of the contemporary exhibits, but the early ones were amazing.

Today I have been sewing. I made a skirt for my holiday from this fabric -

As soon as I saw it I knew it had to be a sarong-type skirt to wear on the beach. Just looking at it makes me think of dabbling my toes in the ocean. Proper picture of this tomorrow when there's someone around to photograph it. (Everyone has been out today, hence the progress with sewing etc.)

Also done today - Block 2 for the traditional quilt

See, I have been busy. Also the washing machine is fixed now so I'm tackling the backlog, though the weather is not proving to be as nice as I hoped. Where's all the sunshine???

Monday, July 21, 2008

Days Off........

I'm at the beginning of a long-awaited week off - it actually runs to 9 days in total, but I have a lot of things to pack into those days.

Today has started with a marathon of housework, beginning at the top of the house and working downwards. At least that's the plan. So far I am at the stage where it all looks much worse than it did before I started. Time for a quick cup of coffee and a break to blog before I go back and make it all tidy. Or at least tidyish which is as close as this house ever really gets. We are generally not tidy people. Too much stuff to ever be really neat. We're probably never going to be minimalist, and much as I love the look of these simple streamlined interiors you see in Grand Designs I'm enough of a realist to know I could never live like that. The next house we buy will have to have the biggest cupboards and closets known to man. Those of you who are American will know the sort of thing I'm talking about - huge walk-in closets lined with shelving and rails and all manner of storage gizmos. For some reason when the British build houses they don't build closets.

Foiling part of the plan for a reasonably spick and span house is the slight problem that the washing machine isn't working. We finally have great drying weather and I can't get the towels and sheets etc washed. Hopefully when the repair man comes tomorrow he will be able to sort it (and cheaply too please) and we won't have to go and buy another one.

Over the weekend I finally got the Evilpixie to model Icarus for you....

As you can see it's quite large. Blocking it was a tad tricky as there is nowhere I could pin it out on the floor (see too much stuff above) and it was wider than the bed. You can't really see in this photo but I have beaded the lower part of the lacy pattern (about the bottom 5-6 inches) with a variety of different coloured seed beads. I have tried to take a picture that shows both the beads and the lace pattern and it seems the two ideas are incompatible - You can only see the pattern with a dark background and you can only see the beads with a light background.

It's not exactly to the pattern as I started to run out of yarn. I had to fudge the last few pattern rows and could only manage 2 rows of edging before I had to stop. I have about 15 feet of yarn left - a close call. For the anally-retentive among you this is Icarus, from The Best of Interweave Knits, knitted on circular needles (about 4mm I think, can't remember), with Fibrespates hand-dyed mohair (hence the panic about running out - don't think I'd ever be able to get any more). Anyway it has turned out better than I expected and is just right for our forthcoming holiday - I am picturing evenings on our balcony, gin and tonic in hand, draped in my lovely light shawl against the evening sea breezes, watching the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. I may have a little knitting to hand. I am so looking forward to exploring the yarn stores for some little gems that I just can't get here. Oh, and did I mention that there's a fibre store just a few miles up the road. Six weeks on Saturday till we leave............

I read the new John Connolly at the weekend. It's called The Reapers and it's about Louis and Angel, though Charlie Parker does make a couple of brief appearances. Do you know what? People who know my reading tastes will be astounded. I didn't like it. I love John Connolly, I like him as a writer, I've liked all his previous work, but this one just didn't do it for me. I'm a bit hard-pressed to put my finger on exactly why that is. It's a bit wordy, a bit heavy on the introspection, and I found that when it came down to it, much as I like the character of Louis, and find him interesting in the Parker books as a secondary character, I just didn't really need to know all that much about him. I'm chalking this one up as a bit of self-indulgence on JC's part, forgiving him and moving on, hoping the next book will be back on track.

I finished Dark Flight by Lin Anderson and really enjoyed it. I had read Driftnet (her first) when it came out several years ago and thought it was good, but I hadn't read any of her's since. This one is set in Glagow as usual but features several members of the Nigerian community. It's about a missing boy, whose mother and Grandmother have been murdered. It also links to the real-life story from several years ago of the torso of a young boy found in the River Thames. I was interested by this as I once wrote the start of a novel using that very story, as an exercise while on an Arvon course. It was intriguing to see how she had built the novel out of that, using her already established characters. Of course, I never had to develop my beginning into a full novel, just write a start that would hook the reader in, but I was interested to see what she had done with it. A full review of this book will appear on Eurocrime when I get it written.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Normal Service Has Been Resumed

I'm back.

What do you mean, you didn't notice I was gone?

We had a slight interruption of our broadband service for a short time - only 5 days, nothing major. Thanks a bunch to Virgin Media who were so helpful during this time. Not.

I don't think I'd realised before just how reliant on the web we have all become. I couldn't read all my favourite blogs. Check if a LYS has the yarn I want - no. Look for a local supplier of chicken coops - no. Find a recipe - no. Look for a pattern on Ravelry - no. Find some fibre on eBay - no. Reply to an email I got just before it went off - no. Look up the name of that actor on Wikipedia because I know I've seen him in something else and I can't remember what - no. Update the blog - not a chance. Not to mention the damage to the Evilpixie's social life caused by not having constant access to MSN or Myspace or whatever.

Now, I realise that all these things are trivial. Nothing life-threatening here, but it was seriously odd. Strangely, now that it's back, apart from an afternoon spent catching up on the news from the blogs and a quick browse on eBay, the desperate need to be online has disappeared.

And I have pictures to show you too. Here's Bubba working hard -

He seems to be doing well, especially with the help of the lovely Gayle from K9 Hydro in Aston. Back to the specialist tomorrow for the crucial x-rays to see if the bone is mending properly. Fingers crossed.

All the time offline meant I got a lot of knitting done. Icarus is almost finished. I've had to cut short the lacy edging as I was running out of wool - about 8 rows shorter than it should be. I'm hoping it will look alright once the edging is done - otherwise I shall have to frog the last 40 or so rows and re-do them. I am so hoping not to have to do that. Anyway there are 4 rows of edging so I shall do them and see what it looks like when I block it. I rather suspect there are some hideous mistakes in the knitting but I'm hoping they won't be too noticeable in such a large expanse of shawl - it has turned out quite large - even before it's blocked. Bear with me while I do the last few rows then I'll photograph it for you.

Obsessive lace knitting means I've not been reading too much though I did read The Overlook by Michael Connolly which was quite a short book. It's one of the Harry Bosch series and while I enjoyed it I didn't think it was one of his best. It wasn't a bad book, just seemed to be lacking a little of the depth of plot and character I expect from Connelly.

Then I read The Nicholas Feast by Pat McIntosh. This is the second in a historical crime series set in Glasgow. I did really enjoy the first one (The Harper's Quine) though I thought this one was possibly not quite as good. That may just have been the subject matter as the murder was set in Gil's old university and the book was filled with some old and dusty theologians and the victim was not a particularly pleasant fellow - it was hard to feel much sympathy with him. However the main characters of Gil, Pierre and Alys are developing nicely and I shall certainly read the next one. This book was for my crime reading group. I'd been unable to attend the group this past 9 months or so because it clashed with my spinning class, but that's finished now so I'm back to the reading group. I had really missed it. I just love to hear everyone's different opinions on the books we've been reading - especially as we are a diverse group with a wide range of tastes. So glad to be back.

Now I'm off to knit a row or maybe two of Icarus in the garden before I go to work, now that we finally have a sunny day.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Tuesday Round-Up

This was the second of two days off in a row, after six days at work. I've spent most of the last two days knitting as I have rediscovered the love I was feeling for Icarus. I'm on the third chart now and am just loving the way the beads nestle into the fluffiness of the mohair. I want to knit it forever. But I won't because I also want to finish it so I can wear it on my holiday - nine weeks and counting.

I've found a lovely strappy top to knit as well, but I'm having a little trouble sourcing the yarn locally - it's only Sirdar, so it's not exactly rare - except in this part of the West Midlands apparently. I shall have to order it on the web, unless the little wool / haberdashery shop in Walsall stocks it (highly unlikely).

Bubba is doing well in his recovery - he's had two hydrotherapy sessions now with no ill effects and no limping. He has another 2-3 sessions before he goes back to the vet for the hideously expensive x-rays to tell if the bone is knitting properly. Thank goodness for pet insurance. I planned to take a photo of him basking in the sunshine, as that's what he's been doing all day, but the rain has arrived a bit earlier than predicted so we're sheltering inside now.

Because I've been knitting I've also been indulging in films. Today I watched Rob Roy which boasts some of the worst Scottish accents ever - Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange - shame on you. Yesterday's film "treat" was a truly terrible made-for-TV disaster Movie called NYC: Tornado or something similar. (Sorry, no link. Too aweful for DVD release apparently). Bad disaster movies are a secret guilty pleasure of mine - I just love them - especially those with a cast you've never heard of - no clues as to which of the actors will die a nasty death. NYC: Tornado was a classic of the genre. Mega storm system threatens the Big Apple - can the plucky meteorologist save the day? Heaven!

I've been reading too. I read Blood Lines by Grace Monroe. Words cannot express how much I hated this book. Several times I put it down and walked away vowing not to read another word. But I was supposed to be reviewing it for Eurocrime so I persevered and got through to the end eventually. I've not written my review yet, but I'm struggling for something / anything positive to say about it at the moment.

To cheer myself up after that I have started The Overlook by Michael Connelly. Just what I needed - a little time with Harry Bosch to restore my faith.

I am missing Euro 2008 already. Just when you get into a routine of football every night (and the associated knitting), Spain go and win and it's all over. I blame that Fernando Torres - surely he's not old enough to be out without his mum....