Crafts

This week I have spent a bit more time on crafts, which I am quite happy about.

I finished and sent a couple of knitted blankets for premies:

DSC06399

I have sewn the sleeves, back and front of a cardigan I am knitting in size 2 years for a friend’s baby. The pattern is Neptune cardigan by Purl Alpaca Designs. I still have to add the border.

dsc06405

 

I am also making my first attempt at lace knitting. The pattern is for a shawl designed by Anniken Allis from the Let’s Knit magazine, number 121 August 2017. The yarn was free with the magazine. It seemed like the best way to give it a try before attempting to knit other patterns with yarn that may be expensive!

DSC06408

This week I also worked on a cross-stitch project for my Dad. We made a cruise on the Nile a few years ago and this looked like a perfect present to remember the sites we visited. I bought this kit by Classic Embroidery at the Knitting and Stitching Show in London earlier this year.

On a side note, a few weeks ago I decorated an envelope for a friend recovering after surgery and I was quite happy with the result as I am absolutely rubbish at drawing! I know it is very basic, but I can only do so much unless I start spending time practicing!

DSC06250 (2)

I also received some items that I ordered from Etsy, in beautiful packages!

I had been keeping an eye on this gorgeous bag for a while and decided it was time for it to come to me. The order comprised the bag, the skein of gorgeous and soft yarn and a birdhouse stitch marker but Debbie also sent some goodies: tea, sweets and a heart stitch marker! The yarn is a fingering blend of 70% baby alpaca, 20% silk, 10% cashmere, colourway Mustard. I do not know yet what I will knit with it but I look forward to it! You can find Debbie’s Etsy shop here.

DSC06401

I also had my eyes on these bags, I love the fabric and ended up thinking I had left it far too long already! The picture really doesn’t do them justice, they are so so so gorgeous! I will confess I still have my eye on one other bag, but I already received quite a few (and expect some more) so I will wait a bit longer and see if it is still available in a little while! Here is the link to homebirdmake’s Etsy shop.

DSC06402

And the last package received included two bags ordered as well as a notion bag and an owl knitting stitch marker as goodies! People are just so generous! And everything is just gorgeous! The link to RachelGreencrafts’s Etsy shop is here.

DSC06404

That’s it for my crafty updates!

Advertisements
Posted in Crafts, Cross-Stitch, Knitting, Purchases | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood / Black Sheep by Susan Hill

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is a 324 pages paperback.

From Amazon:

The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.

Brilliantly conceived and executed, this powerful vision of the future gives full rein to Margaret Atwood’s irony, wit and astute perception.

The Handmaid's Tale

This book had been on my to-be-read list for a while and I decided to read it when Channel 4 announced it would air a new series of the same name. I started recording the episodes to watch them once I was done with the book, but when I finally finished reading it – about half-way through the series being aired on TV – I decided I would not bother watching them.

I enjoyed the story and the atmosphere of this despotic, new-order America (enjoyed in the sense of liking the strangeness and discovering what it was rather than wanting to live in such a regime!), but I felt it was all best left to my imagination rather than watching someone else’s interpretation of it.

As said, I liked reading this novel, however the last chapter ruined part of it for me. I usually love books that end in this way, but it did not work for me in this instance; I would have been happier with one less chapter. Personal taste!

I liked the characters, the description of the regime that gives just enough to feel the madness of it and leaves enough to the imagination as to how we got there, the flashbacks into Offred’s previous life and the craziness of her current status. I had to re-read some passages wondering if I was having a dirty mind moment, realising I was reading them as intended and feeling quite embarrassed as this was happening while being in a coffee shop. A little bit like when you get to a graphic paragraph while standing on a crowded platform waiting for a train and feeling everyone must be staring at you and judging you!  🙂

One sentence really stood out for me. This book was written in 1985 and although I was only 10 years old and was not very aware of political and world events at that point, I do not believe anything was leading to this back then. Reading this in 2017, I feel it takes a very different dimension than it would have in 1985: “They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time“. If I could ask Margaret Atwood one question, it would probably be: what led her to choose this, was there anything specific in the news or in the political environment that made her think that the world would go down this road? Don’t get me wrong, this is only one sentence and it has no impact whatsoever on the rest of the story. As I said, 30 years ago, you would probably have read it and not paid any attention to it. And I think that is what makes this quite weird to me, knowing it would have meant nothing when it was written and that it is so relevant today.

Overall I thought this was quite good, but I also feel that filming a series out of it makes it a bit overrated. But I do want to read some more of Atwood’s works.

Black Sheep by Susan Hill is a 144 pages paperback (with quite a large font and wide margins).

From Amazon:

Brother and sister, Ted and Rose Howker, grew up in Mount of Zeal, a mining village blackened by coal. They know nothing of the outside world, though both of them yearn for escape. For Rose this comes in the form of love, while Ted seizes the chance of a job away from the pit. But neither can truly break free and their decisions bring with them brutal consequences…

Black Sheep

This was a very quick read. I enjoyed the description of a contained village more or less isolated from the rest of the world, its habits and the necessity to stick to what is considered acceptable to not become a “black sheep”. A great insight into a claustrophobic world, both above and under ground.

It is such a short story that I feel that writing much about it will be longer than the book itself, but I did like it. I would have enjoyed to read more about some characters that disappear without leaving any trace but I think that somehow, Susan Hill writes and describes a lot of events in very few words! Probably not my favourite story of hers, but I still enjoyed it.

Posted in Books | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Podcasts

I cannot remember when I started listening to podcasts, but if you have not tried yet, I would strongly suggest to stay away from them! Listening to podcasts is seriously addictive… and you learn about so many things that you feel almost intelligent! You start with one, then you add another one, and another one, and then without knowing how it happened, you have subscribed to 130+ podcasts and have a backlog of 14500+ episodes to listen to. Of course you could jump straight onto the latest episodes, but where’s the fun in that?

The subjects I follow on podcasts range from fiction to politics (although one could argue both are interchangeable) via knitting, history, myths and legends, self-help, organisation advice, and of course the TED talks… I have become quicker at unsubscribing if the subject or the way it is narrated does not work for me. I usually prefer audio podcasts as it allows me to do other things while listening, but I do download a few video ones too.

I use the Podcast Addict app by Xavier Guillemane on my Android tablet and I save the episodes I want to keep on iTunes on my laptop. The app is very simple to use and sees regular improvements and new features being added. I tried some other ones but I found them difficult to set up or impossible to play the episodes without having to play with the set-up.

I will probably mention more podcasts in future posts, but here are some that I enjoy a lot:

  • Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History by Dan Carlin: I have only listened to the free episodes so far, but I suspect I will download some of the other ones at some point. Dan Carlin brings a different viewpoint on some parts of history with an in-depth analysis and commentaries that make you think. I listened to his 5hr 49min The Destroyer of Worlds in one sitting. It is just incredibly interesting! I also listen to Common Sense with Dan Carlin, which is more of a political podcast where Dan Carlin expresses his thoughts on a subject that caught his attention. Whilst I do not always have the same views as him, the podcaster explains his with an in-depth knowledge and arguments that make me consider why others may think the way they do with more interest. Love it.
  • Everyday Emergency by Doctors Without Borders: testimonies of MSF doctors. I have shed more than one tear listening to the horrors that people encounter, but feel it is important to learn about them and about the generosity of doctors giving their time to help.
  • Invisibilia by NPR: the podcast explores a range of subjects that have all captured my interest, but one that absolutely blew my mind (and I have since then heard more about this) was How to Become Batman which looks at how people’s expectations of us influence what we actually do. If you listen to only one episode of this podcast, I would strongly recommend this one.
  • Irish & Celtic Music Podcast by Gail Rybak: self-explanatory! Love the selection of the podcaster.
  • Little Yellow Uke Crafts by Zena Perry: a video podcast about knitting mainly (in the episodes I have watched so far), but also about cross-stitch, crochet and fibers. I love the way Zena Perry presents the projects she has completed, what she is working on, the yarns she uses… I find watching her inspires me to work on my own projects and it feels like she could be a friend from next door. Absolutely love her podcasts. The only downside is that I can only watch her podcasts while doing something where I can give the video some of my attention  🙂
  • The Magnus Archives by Rusty Quill: a horror fiction podcast. I just finished listening to season one and think I will struggle to wait a week for the new episodes once I have caught up with all the ones already released!
  • The Moth Podcast: true stories told live by a variety of storytellers. Great!
  • Myths and Legends by Jason Weiser: I absolutely love this podcast, not only for its subject but also for the way it is narrated and the sarcastic comments about the “facts” of the stories that bring so much fun. Simply love it!
  • TEDTalks: there is a range of TEDTalks podcasts, some audio, some video, but here are some of the episodes I have saved to watch over and over again: What’s so funny about mental illness by Ruby Wax, A tale of two political systems by Eric X. Li and How to fight desertification and reverse climate change by Allan Savory
  • This American Life: a podcast about a variety of subjects, exploring different points of view, all incredibly interesting!
  • Witness by BBC World Service: short episodes (usually under 10 min) reviewing historical events narrated by people who experienced them. Again, very interesting!

 

Posted in Podcasts | Tagged | Leave a comment

The storied life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The storied life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is a 306 pages paperback.

From the back cover:

A.J. Fikry, the grumpy owner of Island Books, is going through a hard time: his bookshop is failing, he has lost his beloved wife and a prized rare first edition has been stolen.

But one day A.J. finds two-year-old Maya sitting on the bookshop floor, with a note attached to her asking the owner to look after her. His life – and Maya’s – is changed for ever.

513H37+FomL._SL160_

I read this book in ten days. It is quite a romantic story and most of the plot is to be expected, but it is well written and the story is engaging. I felt that, even though Fikry and his family and friends are the main protagonists, books are the main characters around which the story evolves, especially with each chapter starting with a short commentary of a title.

The characters are believable, the description of the book trade business seems quite realistic, even if it is kept at a high level.

Any story involving a bookshop will play on my biases and bring a good review from me and The storied life of A.J. Fikry will be no exception. It is a nice light read that I would recommend, as long as you do not have anything against a light romance! 🙂

Posted in Books | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Who I am

Hello and welcome to my blog!

I am a 40-something year-old French expatriate currently living in the UK.

I enjoy reading, knitting, cross-stitch, going to the theatre and to concerts, watching movies, listening to podcasts…  I am very passionate, which is probably one of the many reasons that I have been suffering from depression for about 30 years – having to keep your feelings constantly under control as being what others consider as “over-excited” about things that bring you unbelievable joy or anger is not the best way to live your life.

In this blog I hope I can share some of what lights up my days.  It is not always easy to see the light when I am down but I hope that having this blog will help me focusing on what I enjoy even at the worst of times.

I hope you can find some interest in some of the subjects I will cover!

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment