Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Crocheted Secret

Pretty cotton/acrylic yarn for my new project (Sirdar Calico).

But I can't show you what I'm making 'cos it's a secret.


Bookmark and Share

Bathroom Blitz 2

... On Thursday the tiles all got grouted, plumbing and electrics finished and shower fitted.

And Friday - DONE! Lovely, simple white suite fitted. Toilet upstairs - woo hoo! We just need to paint the walls once the plaster has dried completely.

The guys were great and worked late most nights to get it all finished for us by the end of the week. It's a bit of a pain having a couple of rooms messy for a while but it was well worth it.

Ta dah! And this is the finished bathroom. We love it! Do you? It looks much better in real life (I had a lovely long bath last night and it felt like a nice hotel bathroom!)

The colours haven't come out very well - basically: white walls, suite and blind, black slate floor tiles, white and grey 'marbled' wall tiles, chrome taps and fittings, silvery mosaic mirror, white and lime green towels, candles and plant pot.

The bath is where the old bedroom wall was. So, obviously, the bedroom is a bit smaller (by the size of a bath) but it's still a decent size for a 2nd bedroom.

And there's the oh-so-important toilet upstairs now (what every viewer seemed to want!)

So we've got the estate agents coming back tomorrow to take new photos of the bedroom and the fab bathroom - and hopefully we'll have some new viewers soon too. Finger's crossed we get a sale very soon.

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Turning Over a New Leaf - book 5

Book number 5: What To Do When Someone Dies by Nicci French.

The blurb:
Ellie Faulkner's world has been destroyed. Her husband Greg died in a car crash - and he wasn't alone. In the passenger seat was the body of Milena Livingstone - a woman Ellie's never even heard of.

But Ellie refuses to leap to the obvious conclusion, despite the whispers and suspicions of those around her. Maybe it's the grief, but Ellie has to find out who this woman was - and must prove Greg wasn't having an affair.

And soon she is chillingly certain their deaths were no accident. Are Ellie's accusations of murder her way of avoiding the truth about her marriage? Or does an even more sinister discovery await her?

My view:

The main character, Ellie, can't grieve for her husband until she proves he hasn't, or has, been unfaithful. She becomes completely obsessed and her sanity is questioned by close friends as she strives to find out the truth. I know that it's a novel and not a true story but this book has a completely implausible plot, which gets even more unbelievable after the 'twist' near the end. A quick, read-it-on-the-beach book (no thinking necessary), but I actually think this story would work much better on TV than as a book.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Bathroom Blitz

As regular blog readers will know, we've had a tonne of people coming to view our house, but no buyers as yet. Lots of people have loved the house but the stumbling block for many seems to be the lack of toilet upstairs.

So, in a bid to get that elusive buyer, we've decided to spend some pretty pennies on a bit of a bathroom blitz.

This is our small, but perfectly formed (apart from a loo) bathroom on Sunday.

And this is what it looked like when I got home from work on Monday!

Quite a transformation: the wall to the left has been knocked down and rebuilt, taking a couple of feet from the bedroom next door; bath and sink ripped out and a lot of the tiles removed.

On Tuesday we have beautifully plastered walls (and in the bedroom next door too), new electrics, and the additional plumbing started.

Wednesday sees the gorgeous new tiles going down, continued plumbing work - and the new bath is fitted!

This is the addition to the bathroom: a lovely bath alcove. It's a shame to make the bedroom next door smaller, but people didn't seem to love the house enough to want to walk downstairs to the loo.

It's a scary thing to be doing this - putting our faith in a spanking new bathroom - but we hope that forking out this money will get us a buyer for the house. We've already got some interested people lined up for when all the work is done so finger's crossed.

More to follow...

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Turning Over a New Leaf - book 4

Book number 4: Blackwater by Kerstin Ekman.

The blurb:

Midsummer eve, 1974, in the far north of Sweden. Annie Raft arrives with her six-year-old daughter in a small town called Blackwater to join her lover Dan on a commune. But Dan is not there to meet them. Panicking, Annie treks into the wilderness to find the commune, in the strange, hovering light of midsummer night. By the river, she finds a tent; and inside it two bodies hideously murdered - stabbed so violently that the feathers from their sleeping bag scatter the ground. Many years later, Annie has settled in the region, and Mia, her daughter has grown up. Early one morning glimpses Mia in the arms of the man she believes responsible for the murders. The seemingly inexplicable crime, long buried, is forced to come to its own dark and unexpected conclusion.

My view:

A long hard slog... but I always read to the very last page. A dark and disturbing tale; beautifully detailed descriptions set scenes and moments in time, but complicated, confusing and, at times, monotonous. Complex characters and Swedish names, and a plot jumping from one character to the next and from the present time to the past = not an easy book to read on the bus! The first half is very slow but the second half moves along at a slightly quicker pace as the plot develops and you understand the characters more. I think you'll either love this book, or absolutely hate it.

Bookmark and Share

Friday, 4 February 2011

Is winter over yet?

Oh, I do hope so.

I spent a lovely couple of hours in the garden last Sunday. The weather wasn't too bad (if you were well wrapped up) and it was great to be outside in the fresh air and daylight for a while. I'm so glad the nights are gradually getting that little bit lighter.

The garden won't be mine (hopefully) for very much longer. We WILL sell the house in the next few months, I'm sure, so I feel very much just a plant caretaker; no long term plans or new plants for this patch (I tell a lie, I couldn't resist a few packs of annual seeds...) Anyway, there were plenty of maintenance jobs that needed doing:

Leaves to clear away - and little slugs to dispose of.

Snow-damaged branches to prune.

More leaves and stems for the compost bin.

Climbers to cut down.

Containers to clean and tidy.

More leaves to clear up.

Some of my plants didn't survive this past winter, and others are perfectly fine: the smaller-leaved Hebe in the background seems to have faired much better than the slightly larger-leaved variety in the foreground. I'll wait a while and see if any green shoots emerge from the dead, brown ones.

I potted up a few of my favourite plants to take with me, but the frost has got to some of the containers so new ones will have to be purchased (always a pleasure!)

And it's never a chore cutting down old stems when you can see the signs of new life forming beneath them. We may not have seen the last of the winter weather, but spring is definitely on its way.

Do you have big plans for your garden this year?

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Turning Over a New Leaf - book 3

Book 3 this year: But Inside I'm Screaming by Elizabeth Flock.

The blurb:

'But inside I'm screaming' is one woman's unforgettable story about what it is to lose control as the world watches, to figure out what went so very wrong and to accept an imperfect life in a world that demands perfection.

While breaking the hottest news story of the year, broadcast journalist Isabel Murphy falls apart on live television in front of an audience of millions. She lands at Three Breezes, a four-star psychiatric hospital nicknamed the "nut hut," where she begins the painful process of recovering the life everyone thought she had.

But accepting her place among her fellow patients proves difficult. Isabel struggles to reconcile the fact that she is, indeed, one of them, and faces the reality that in order to mend her painfully fractured life she must rely solely on herself.

My view:

A disappointing read; a quick, read-it-on-the-beach novel rather than a realistic portrayal of mental illness.

I liked the fact that the main character's story was told through flashbacks of her life, whilst enduring the daily, personal torment of life in a psychiatric hospital. However, I thought that the author didn't spend enough time on the recovery process - Isabel came out of her depression way too quickly and easily for it to be true to life.

The ending was intriguing in that loose ends weren't tied up. We're left wondering what Isabel did when she was discharged, and how she coped with the decisions she'd made about her future - and I liked that. Full of stereotypes and two-dimensional characters though.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, 24 January 2011

Granny in the Garden

My New Year's resolution to make pretty things for me rather than to sell is going well.

I started making these crocheted Summer Garden Granny Squares over the festive break (see Lucy's lovely blog over at Attic24 for the pattern).

I used some acrylic yarn that I had in my stash - yarn that came with each issue of The Art of Crochet partwork that I collected last year. I never got past the first binder as I was quite disappointed in the number of designs for the price of each week's issue. Anyway, I had enough balls of yarn to make 49 squares (a nice size for a cosy lap cover). Nine colours were used, though I had more balls of certain colours (mainly the blues) so they tend to dominate.

I wanted to make each square different so I wrote out a little chart where I could check off colours against their row position in the square. This ensured that I had a pretty much equal amounts of squares with a white border, or a red border, or a lime green border, etc.

I had great fun trying out different combinations of squares - making sure that no centre colours or edge colours were next to each other; and then of course colours such as the white shone out so they had to be moved around until they were more evenly spaced. And then I joined the rows together in the wrong order so things were slightly more random than intended - but it looked ok and so I didn't bother pulling it out!

I didn't have enough of the yarn left for the border so I'm hunting now for some similar tones. I've found a green yarn in my stash and used that for the first row of the edging but I need a shopping trip to get a couple more to finish it off!

It's such an easy pattern but the overall effect is lovely. Hopefully I'll post a FINISHED! photo soon, and I'll try and take a decent picture in daylight as these photos don't show the lovely bright colours very well.

What have you been making this month?

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Turning Over a New Leaf - book 2

Well I'm doing well so far - two books read this year and we're only in week two (only another 51 to go to beat my record!)

My latest read was The Savage Garden by Mark Mills.

Whilst browsing the charity shop shelves I'm always drawn to books with 'garden' in the title, or those set in exotic locations - this book was both. Full of intrigue and suspicion, this book is a decent mystery novel, with a bit of romance thrown in, centred around a memorial garden in post-war Italy.

Review from Fantastic Fiction:

A beautiful Tuscan villa, a mysterious garden, two hidden murders - one from the 16th century, one from the twentieth - and a family driven by dark secrets, combine in this evocative, intriguing mystery set in post-War Italy.

In 1958, Adam Strickland, a young Cambridge scholar, travels to the Villa Docci in Tuscany to study a sixteenth-century garden. Designed and laid out by a grieving husband to the memory of his dead wife, it is a mysterious world of statues, grottoes, meandering rills and classical inscriptions. But tragedy has hit the Docci family more recently. The German occupation during World War 2 had a devastating impact on them, and the tensions between collaborators and partisans were played out within their own tight circle.

Adam is fascinated by the Doccis and increasingly aware that there are dangerous secrets hidden within the family domain. The garden itself starts to exercise a powerful influence over his imagination, its iconography seeming to point to some deeper, darker truth than was first apparent. And what really lay behind a killing at the villa towards the end of the war? Past and present, love and intrigue, intertwine in an evocative mystery which vividly captures the experience of an innocent abroad in the uncertain world of post-War Italy.

This was a Richard & Judy Summer Read in 2007, so if you didn't read it then it's worth trying to pick up a copy now.

Bookmark and Share

Friday, 14 January 2011

Every Girl Needs a Pink Dinosaur

One of my major plans this year is to concentrate on making things for my own pleasure - whether it be for family, friends or home. There will be a lot less making to sell and I have no craft fairs lined up at all this year (though of course that may change). I'm keeping my Folksy shop open, and I'll list new items occasionally, but this year I thought I'd concentrate on learning new techniques and spending time developing my own ideas.

I really enjoyed knitting this dinosaur for my Great Niece Deja's first birthday (actually last November but I hadn't got round to posting the photos). Due to the copyright laws I tend not to make things from magazines, but when I'm knitting for a gift (and not to sell) then that's okay.

This was from Let'sKnit magazine, issue 31, June 2010 - knitted in oranges, blues and greens in the magazine 'perfect for little boys' - I thought it would look lovely for a girl in a variegated pink/lilac/white yarn with touches of minty green. I added the long eyelashes at the last minute to make her extra-girlie!

I'm not sure that Deja liked her birthday gift at first.

But she seemed too after a little while.

Every girl needs a pink dinosaur, hey?

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

New Year - New Book Goal

As I've previously mentioned, I love reading. In a previous job my journey time to and from work was much longer, so I used to read a lot of books to make the time more enjoyable - 53 in 2007 (I was aiming to read a book each week but I miscounted!) But then I changed jobs and worked much closer to home so my travelling time reduced, and consequently so did my book quota - 45 in 2008, 32 in 2009, and a pitiful 26 last year.

You can see which books I read in 2009-2010 if you scroll down the right hand side of the page. I tend to buy most of my books from charity shops so it's a fairly eclectic mix of whatever appeals at the time.

I have big plans for this year - and one of them is to read a lot more. Over the festive break I managed to finish my first book: The Book of Names by Jill Gregory & Karen Tintori.

I really enjoyed it. It was easy to read, fast-paced, with a decent good-versus-evil plot.

Here's the blurb:

Within each generation, there are thirty-six righteous souls. Their lives hold the key to the fate of the world. Now someone wants them dead.

When a childhood tragedy comes back to haunt Professor David Shepherd, he finds himself in possession of knowledge that holds the world in a delicate balance. He uncovers the Book of Names---an ancient text originating with the biblical Adam, and thought lost to history forever. By Kabbalistic tradition, the book contains the names of each generation's thirty-six righteous souls---the Hidden Ones---by whose merits alone the world continues to exist. Legend holds that if all thirty-six Hidden Ones were eliminated, the world would meet its end.

When the Hidden Ones start dying of unnatural causes, the world grows increasingly unstable: war in Afghanistan, massive flooding in New York, brutal terrorist attacks in Melbourne, a tanker explosion in Iran. David finds himself battling against the Gnoseos, a secret religious sect whose goal is to destroy the world by eliminating all of the righteous souls. David's involvement quickly turns personal when his stepdaughter's name is discovered to be one of the endangered. With the help of a brilliant and beautiful Israeli ancient texts expert, David races to decipher the traditions of the Kabbalah to save the righteous souls, his stepdaughter, and perhaps the world.

And here is an interview with the authors, explaining the background to the novel.

Can you recommend your latest read? Which books do you intend to read this year?

Bookmark and Share