my favourite reads of March and April 2024

My reading life continues to be unsatisfying much of the time, all because of my dumb decisions.

For one thing, I had the brilliant idea to start reducing the truly ridiculous number of books in this house by finally picking up titles I suspect might not be my thing and giving them 50 pages to impress me. Shocker: none of them have and every week a couple more move out to various Little Free Libraries. This is good for the shelves, but not so good for getting excited to go up to bed and read every night.

For another, I keep placing holds on books that I do think will be my thing and ugh, almost everything is so lame and disappointing. My reading journal is an endless list of titles with ‘Not my taste’ or ‘No info I’d use’ written beside them.

I did read four good things, though:

Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitting Workshop (2013)

I have owned and enjoyed my 1981 edition of Knitting Workshop for many years, but this updated edition (with colour photos!) has a lot of bonus material. This might be one to request for my birthday.

Everyone On This Train is a Suspect by Benjamin Stevenson (2023)

Last August, I read and enjoyed Stevenson’s Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone and I think I enjoyed this one even more. Amusing, clever, creepy.

Lark Rise (1939) and Over to Candleford (1941) by Flora Thompson

Lark Rise and Over to Candleford are the first two books in what is now a trilogy usually grouped together as Lark Rise to Candleford and sadly I was unable to finish the third before the end of April. Described as semi-autobiographical novels, these are extremely detailed accounts of daily life in a tiny hamlet in 1880s England. Fascinating reading. (And nothing like the tv adaptation.)


March and April 2024 in photos

I was sick at the end of March and not up to posting anything, so today’s recap will be two months for the price of one.

This was Simon in March, taking a short breather from destroying houseplants and pots.

March 7 was an incredibly grey day, making this flock of cedar waxwings in our beech tree hard to make out. Boy, were they noisy.

The robins are nesting under the deck again this year, meaning lots of photo opportunities when they come out to find food.

The old man sunbathing. Still a heartthrob.

A young goldfinch, I think, keeping an eye on things from the deck.

The goldfinches love love LOVE picking at the seeds in whatever this tree is beside the deck. They descend upon it en masse and will easily spend an hour hopping from branch to branch looking for goodies.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

I’ve been re-photographing all my completed mittens and hats for sale and it is…not my favourite thing. Who knew that accurately photographing the finished product would be the hardest part of the whole process?


my favourite reads of February 2024

A Gentleman of Leisure by PG Wodehouse (1910)

Light-hearted, pure entertainment.

The Last of the Duchess by Caroline Blackwood (1995)

In 1980, Caroline Blackwood received an assignment to write a profile on the elderly Duchess of Windsor, but was unable to get anywhere near the Duchess thanks to her equally elderly lawyer/attack dog, Maitre Blum. This book is a fascinating account of Blackwood’s struggles to complete her assignment, including interviews with (an apparently insane) Blum and several of the Duchess’ old friends and acquaintances, all of whom had been cut off from the Duchess by Blum. Totally gripping.

Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie (1976)

Audiobook narrated by Stephanie Cole.

A clever mystery with good narration. Enjoyable knitting listening.

The Twits, The Minpins, and The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl

Audiobook narrated by Richard Ayoade, Bill Bailey and Kate Winslet

Another one I enjoyed while parked on the couch with my knitting. All three narrators perfectly captured the spirit of Dahl’s wild stories.


As an aside…

While searching for an image of my particular edition of A Gentleman of Leisure (which I couldn’t find and so had to photograph my own), I came across this monstrosity at left. Most books that are now out of copyright and can be printed and sold by anyone have weird, ugly or inappropriate cover images, but this one takes the cake. There is zero percent chance the person who chose this image has read this, or any other, PG Wodehouse. Thank you, mystery “publisher”, for the biggest laugh I’ve had this week.


February 2024 in photos

Heading into February, I expected a fairly quiet and mellow month. I knew there’d be drop-off and pick-up trips to the airport and that I’d be dog-sitting Evie for a week in addition to all the usual duties (grocery shopping, doctor appointment, parental care), but nothing too draining. What I hadn’t anticipated was an emergency root canal after two weeks of steadily worsening pain while (thanks to an error at their vet’s office) cat-sitting two of the world’s most energetic, curious and affectionate kittens.

This is grandcat Simon and this was my view any time I tried to write. Simon loves chewing pens, plants, upholstery, cardboard boxes, kitchen utensils, drapes and human fingers.

Simon is unfamiliar with the concept of personal space. He’s lucky he’s so cute.

This is grandcat Nadja. Like Simon, she likes to be paws-on and “help” write, walk, care for houseplants, knit, cook, do dishes, read a book, and, as in this photo, empty the kitchen garbage can.

They are beautiful cats and smart enough to break out poses like this just when you’re ready to strangle them.

Sadly, cousins Simon, Nadja and Evie do not make good playmates.

Evie just needs everyone to understand that this is her house and what she says goes.

I have never met a dog who enjoys the snow so much. She’d stay out there romping for hours if only she could find someone to stay with her.

But it was really cold during her week here and the stupid wimpy humans always pack in it too soon.

Uncle Glen is also frustrating for her. He looks like a dog and smells like a dog, but behaves like a Canadian pensioner on the beach in Florida, refusing to do anything but lounge in the sun all day. “Toys do not tempt him, Evie,” I said. “You’re wasting your time trying to get him to play.”

If you can’t beat him, join him.

And finally…

My lovely ram friend wanted to do a bit of modelling, but it was really cold that day and my mouth was hurting so I just took a few photos from the car and promised I’d do better next time. Sorry, buddy!


my favourite reads of January 2024

Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitter’s Almanac (1981)

(I bought my copy for $5.75 at the World’s Biggest Bookstore, according to the price tag on the cover. That would be in the late eighties, I guess. I was such a cool teen.)

Elizabeth Zimmermann is my favourite knitting writer and teacher, bar none. She was smart and funny and no-nonsense and I’m positive she was the reason I decided so early on in my knitting career to work things out for myself and not blindly follow patterns.

Literary Lapses by Stephen Leacock (1910)

Speaking of being a cool teen, this particular edition was published in 1982 and I’m sure I asked for it for Christmas not all that long after, proving I had the tastes of a septuagenarian even as a child.

Leacock himself might have been a bit of an ass, but he did have the knack for writing humour. There’s nothing like reading a book published over a hundred years ago to highlight how much things have changed, but it’s also amazing how human nature hasn’t changed at all. His observations on people’s behaviour are the real winners in this collection.

Mossy Trotter by Elizabeth Taylor (1967)

Not that Elizabeth Taylor. Ugh, how tiresome it would be to share a name with a major celebrity.

This is an entertaining novel for children about a boy who doesn’t want to participate in his mother’s friend’s wedding. It was well-observed (read: definitely written by the mother of a young son), although I thought the ending was a bit flat and abrupt.

The Pebble Spotter’s Guide by Clive Mitchell (2021)

As a huge fan of both collecting pebbles and collecting identification guides, I can’t believe it never occurred to me to look for a pebble identification guide. This one is geared to the UK, although I did recognise a few I’ve picked up here. The author’s enthusiasm is as charming as the watercolour illustrations. Now I just need to find the Canadian equivalent.


January 2024 in photos

I love January. It’s cold and cloudy most of the time (the best weather) and quiet and peaceful because everyone else is too depressed to make many demands. I love wearing layers and cuddling under a blanket to read or knit and spending hours at my desk reflecting on the previous year (and all the targets I missed) and planning the year ahead (and all the goals I’m sure to fail to reach). Happy times.

A pair of eagles against a rare blue sky.

A mid-afternoon look across Wellington Dyke.

My snow-shovelling partner.

Trees in the backyard at the tail end of a snowstorm on January 29.

One of my mourning dove friends.

Eagles eagles everywhere.

Looking across the fields toward Blomidon.

Always a sucker for hay bales.

A slushy Minas Basin.

If you put a brightly coloured tractor in your field, I will take a picture of it.

Yet more eagles. Seriously, they are everywhere this year.

And a hawk, for variety.

I felt like thrumming, I guess.


my favourite things of the past few weeks

December is a lot. The cooking, the baking, the shopping, the wrapping, the cleaning, the cards, the finishing of handmade projects, the four million little things to prepare and remember. I get a little more organised with every passing year, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be organised enough to not feel overwhelmed for a couple weeks in the middle there. We had a lovely week with everyone home, though, and all the work was worth it, of course.

*My favourite people

*My favourite granddog

At her great-grandparents’, tuckered out by late Christmas afternoon and using Santa as a pillow. He’s been around so long there are probably pictures of little me doing the same thing.

*One of my favourite grandcats

This is Nadja, waiting impatiently for me to make a fresh cup of green tea she can share. Her brother, Simon, never stops moving and is harder to get a picture of.

*My favourite birthday present: Shaun the Sheep

Charlotte, genius crochet toymaker, designed him herself, which is no mean feat. Makers understand just how much skill goes into crafting something like this.

*Gecko!

Charlotte looked in on a friend’s geckos while she was away for the holiday and you better believe I was getting in on that. There were three geckos, but this one was the most outgoing. I could have watched him (?) eat mealworms all day.


my favourite things of the week

For November 27 to December 3, 2023

*A visit with this handsome young man

I knitted a blanket for his upcoming first birthday and I think he liked it – if dragging it along while blowing raspberries means he likes it, which I’m pretty sure it does. It’s been a while since I spoke toddler, though.

*A visit with my crow friends

My walking companion is too polite to say so, but I bet he is heartily sick of my need to stop and chat with the crows during every outing. They’re just so smart, and they’re my neighbours, after all. Seems rude to walk on by without a word.

*Big, moody skies

This time of year brings the drama and I love it.

*’Embroidery Woman’ (1817) by Georg Friedrich Kersting


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