Tuesday, December 29, 2020

My year in books

I started keeping track of the books I was reading when we were living in Vancouver last January. There might be a couple missing from the first days of the year, and of course I might have forgotten to include one or two. The oldest ones are at the bottom of the list.  Right now we have 64 on the list, and I bet I'll finish number 65 before the end of the year. 

This was the year of Black Lives Matter, and there are several books on this list that I discovered from articles or library blogs about black authors. I especially enjoyed Nairobi Heat by Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ, about an American cop who follows a lead to Nairobi and teams up with another officer to solve a multinational crime. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead was as stunning as his previous book, The Underground Railroad. 

In January we were (blissfully) living in Vancouver, in a retired professor's apartment, so some of the books at the bottom of the list were ones that were lying around. We had no public library card, so relied on his bookshelves and Little Free Libraries. Highlights from this group were My Nepenthe: Bohemian tales of food, family, and Big Sur by Romney Steele, Kaffe Fassett's niece, and Syria's Secret Library: Reading and redemption in a town under siege by Mike Thomson.

I read lots of non-fiction this year, I think because it's nice to have the facts about something, an anchor of reality in this wacky and "unreal" 2020. Recently I got riled up about public toilets and the lack thereof, especially in this pandemic, and read No Place to Go: How public toilets fail our private needs by Lezlie Lowe and then for historical context Dirty Old London: the Victorian fight against filth by Lee Jackson. After reading the first one, which was written by a woman who was first outraged about public toilets when she would go to parks with her young children, I had a book in my pile about Auschwitz. I found that I could handle outrage about toilets but I was not ready to deal with that, so back it went to the library. 

A lot of the fiction I read this year was "comfort" reading: a few Harry Potters, a few Ian Rankins, On the Road, Anne Tyler, even Nevil Shute! 

I used to volunteer at the local documentary cinema and would see probably 40 or 50 docs a year (I will keep a list when next I am able). I now find that although I have access to many movies online, I don't watch many documentaries, but I'll rewatch the Crown or some British cop show instead. It's just not the same sitting here alone in my living room watching on a laptop. 

Did you have a favourite book of the past year? 

Books read since Jan. 1, 2020
  • The Pine Islands, Marion Poschmann
  • Dirty Old London: the Victorian fight against filth, Lee Jackson
  • Pastoral, Nevil Shute
  • Sweater Quest: My year of living dangerously, Adrienne Martini

  • The Five: the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper, Hallie Rubenhold
  • No Place to Go: How public toilets fail our private needs, Lezlie Lowe
  • Love Enough, Dionne Brand
  • Crap: a history of cheap stuff in America, Wendy A Woloson
  • Little Fish, Casey Plett

  • Aubrey McKee, Alex Pugsley
  • A Song for the Dark Times, Ian Rankin
  • Redhead by the side of the road, Anne Tyler
  • Vancouver After Dark: The Wild History of a City's Nightlife, Aaron Chapman
  • Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo

  • The Bohemians: The lovers who led Germany's resistance against the Nazis, Norman Ohler
  • Cemetery Boys, Heather Brewer
  • They said this would be fun: race, campus life, and growing up, Eternity Martis
  • The Last Gang in Town: The epic story of the Vancouver police vs. the Clark Park gang, Aaron Chapman
  • Black Star Nairobi, Mukoma Wa Ngugi

  • 1536: The year that changed Henry VIII, Suzannah Lipscomb
  • Versailles, Colin Jones
  • Blacktop Wasteland, S A Cosby
  • Blonde, Joyce Carol Oates
  • Black Docker, Ousmane Sembène

  • You look like a thing and I love you: How artificial intelligence works and why it's making the world a weirder place
  • Somebody's Gotta Do It: Why cursing at the news won't save the nation, but your name on a local ballot can, Adrienne Martini
  • The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead
  • Rule Britannia, Daphne du Maurier
  • 1619: Jamestown and the Forging of American Democracy, James P P Horn

  • Nairobi Heat, Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ
  • Heat: an amateur's adventures as kitchen slave, line cook, pasta-maker, and apprentice to a Dante-quoting butcher in Tuscany, Bill Buford
  • On the Road, Jack Kerouac
  • Dark Age Ahead, Jane Jacobs
  • N is for Noose, Sue Grafton

  • No Crystal Stair: a novel, Mairuth Sarsfield
  • Maigret at the Crossroads, Georges Simenon
  • The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel
  • Bring up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel
  • George, Alex Gino

  • In a House of Lies, Ian Rankin
  • Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
  • The Thin Man, Dashiell Hammett
  • The Falls, Ian Rankin
  • The Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy

  • Gumboot Girls: adventure, love & survival on British Columbia's north coast, a collection of memoirs compiled by Jane Wilde & edited by Lou Allison
  • Scurvy: how a surgeon, a mariner and a gentleman solved the greatest medical mystery of the age of sail
  • Exit Music, Ian Rankin
  • Far from the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling

  • Sahara, Michael Palin
  • The Last Duel: a true story of crime, scandal, and trial by combat in medieval France, Eric Jager
  • Brighton Rock, Graham Greene
  • Syria's Secret Library: Reading and redemption in a town under siege, Mike Thomson
  • Anil's Ghost, Michael Ondaatje

  • The Complaints, Ian Rankin
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling
  • Lieutenant Hornblower, C.S. Forester
  • Earth and High Heaven, Gwethalyn Graham

  • My Nepenthe: Bohemian tales of food, family, and Big Sur, Romney Steele
  • The Fire Engine that Disappeared, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
  • Mr Midshipman Hornblower, C.S. Forester
  • The Woman in Blue, Elly Griffiths
  • The Silk Train Murder: A mystery of the Klondike, Sharon Rowse

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Still here

Less than a week till Christmas! 

My shopping has mostly been online this year; my baking has been sporadic; I have knit nothing for gifts; we have the tree up and lights on the house. 

The other day I went to pick something up from a shop downtown, and when I finally looked in the bag yesterday, I found there were only five things when there should have been six. Today I had to go back to get the last item. 

I rode a share bike half the way there, walked the rest, and took the subway home. 

Me in a subway station: 

Friday, December 11, 2020

As promised

Three new dishcloths!

This is the last one I made: just keep increasing along the centre line till you run out of yarn! There was even a bit of yarn chicken here. I was casting off and ran out of yarn two or three stitches before the end, so I took out the cast-off row and just redid it tighter, and got myself several inches of yarn that way! I was quite chuffed. 

The round one. This is the Crazy Eights cloth, a favourite of mine. 

Another fave is the Chinese Waves, which is the same stitch as the Honey Cowl. Nice two-sided texture. 

I don't know if anyone will get these for Christmas, since they are so blah coloured. Probably they will join the ranks here in the kitchen drawer. It may be time to retire some of our older models.  

And now I suppose I have to go back to the mitten! I am reading a book now about tackling a big, fancy, multi-coloured knitting project. One mitten is nothing compared to Mary Tudor. If she can knit that sweater in a year (and write a book about it) I can surely knit one wee mitten in a month or so, right? Stay tuned. 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Wandering about in the cold

Today a friend and I went out eastward to see the new Cherry Street bridge. I had read some hoopla about how lovely this new bridge is, how it will open up new parkland, blah blah blah. 

Perhaps in a few years it will. 

Now it is in place but not connected to anything; it is behind a construction fence. There is hardly even a sidewalk in front of it.

So that was a bit of a let-down! Right now it's not a very lovely part of the world, but there is a "waterfront" path so we walked back towards downtown along that. Lots of new construction, a new college campus, tons of stuff going on. I'm sure one day it'll be grand.

We also stopped for a moment at Sugar Beach, a manufactured beach next to the Redpath Sugar refinery, which my kids once toured and saw a bulldozer moving the sugar around inside! There is even a museum in the refinery, but I have never gone.

The beach has these cute pink umbrellas and must be nice in the summer.

In knitting news, I have made a few dishcloths out of some beigy-browny cotton. They look tea-stained already, fresh off the needles! It is now dark and gloomy here, but I will take some pictures soon in the daylight and show you. 

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

December planning

Mid-November I made this list. It's not really a to-do list, as it turned out, but let's have a look. 

  1. It's a month and a bit till Christmas.
  2. I have mailed away the only gift I have to mail, but I guess I should nag my husband about his side of the family. 
  3. I have to write some cards. Cards to family and friends, and eventually cards to complete strangers via Ravelry. I think this year people need cheerful cards, and lots of them. 
  4. I have not acquired all the gifts I want to give to family, because I am not sure what they want/need. 
  5. All this decluttering and non-keeping makes gift-giving more stressful than it should be. Not everyone wants a piece of cheese (although a nice piece of cheese has sort of become a go-to present around here). 
  6. I like to have Christmas cookies around but Stephen can't really eat them. I asked him what he wanted for treats and snacks and he says potato chips and wine. I suggest carrots and celery. He scoffs.
  7. There are other things to think about as well; this is supposed to be a to-do list. 
  8. Knitting: the fancy mitten should take precedence, but it does require constant attention and so I have to have a back-up knit as well. 
  9. I would love to sew all my old jeans up into a nice big blanket. 
I have done all the cards. Will get them in the mail today, or the next time it stops raining.
I have acquired all the gifts, except a couple of back-ordered items which should arrive in a week or so.
I have made cookies, but there are always more cookies to be made. 
Knitting the mitten.... let's just remember that it took me four years to finish the first one. I did start a dishcloth as back-up knitting. 
Blanket! Such fun!

So, can I make a new list? 
  1. Sew the fun blanket
  2. Knit the warm woolly mitten
  3. Make even more cookies
  4. Prepare for the how-do-we-socially-distance-in-the-house visit of my brother. We all lead pretty careful and solitary lives these days so I think the risk is low. 
  5. I have to get to the good butcher shop and get a brisket for Christmas dinner.
  6. I have to decide upon a brisket recipe. Maybe that calls for its own blog post. 
  7. We'll get the tree out and decorations up when youngest child returns from university. 
  8. We hope to have a Zoom Christmas party. Maybe the 18th or so. If we are clever we can entertain people from England to Vancouver Island. I think that is eight time zones. 
Enough to be getting on with, I think!

Monday, November 30, 2020

That's November done, then

Well, I did not do very well on the NaBloPoMo front this year. But I have not been idle.

I have got most of my Christmas presents dealt with; I have cookies in the freezer; I am getting out for a walk most days. I have a stack of cards to mail, if only it would stop raining. 

That was a really big walk last Saturday. It was a lovely day and a couple of friends and I decided to walk through a ravine. We had a vague idea where we were going, but I guess we didn't really realize what it all added up to, and we ended up doing about 25,000 steps. We all slept soundly that night. I have to do more of that! 

My big bluejeans blanket is slowly taking shape. It now takes up all the space on the floor upstairs, that must count for something! The exciting bit should come tomorrow -- I get to cut up the purple jeans. 

My mitten is hardly bigger than when we last spoke, but I am off the corrugated ribbing, at least. 

Once upon a time, last November, I took some pictures in Bath Abbey and made a collage. Mary on Bath Stone, we can call it. 

I put it on Instagram but not here, apparently. I had the notion to print it on fleece, cut it up and call the pieces scarves. 

I know a few Marys, so they are all getting one of these. I think I will sew the two ends of mine together and make a loop. 

So, let's see what December holds. Perhaps we'll make a new list tomorrow! 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020


I am keen to have my lovely mittens for the winter. But I really don't like knitting with two colours of tiny yarn on tiny needles. 

And now I find my black yarn has been nibbled on, sometime in the last four years, and is in bits. I suspect carpet beetles. 

This will take some work, some thinking. It would be nice if my mittens matched, but it might be impossible. And mismatched is kind of my style, these days. But, dang!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Age-old mystery solved, perhaps

Today on Twitter, I saw a note about a talk on Victorian toilets, that soon became a thread about Victorian men peeing in alleyways. That led to a blog post about urine deflectors and ways of stopping men from stinking up your street. And there I saw something that reminded me of two things I posted back in the day. 

Here is our hero in London at St Paul's Cathedral in 2006. 

And here are mystery spikes at Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge. 

If you were looking for a place to discretely relieve yourself, these would not be very convenient corners. You'd have to stand out more in the open; best to move along to another alley altogether. It makes sense, I think! I'd say mystery solved. 

In other news, it is snowing! Snowing! 

Friday, November 20, 2020

It's like July

It's not really like July, I suppose, but September, for sure. It's 18ºC today, clear, sunny skies, and everyone is out enjoying it. 

I did take a walk today, and saw this lovely wooden truck on a picnic table. 

A real classic. I'm sure someone will be back for it. 

I also saw... something red over there. 

All the leaves have fallen, and even been raked up by the city, it seems, but these bright red berries remain. Do the birds eat mountain ash berries? (And is this really a mountain ash? I think so. ) Pretty, anyways. 

Meanwhile, I got some things delivered to my house and am more or less finished Christmas shopping, I think. We'll see how successful this online shopping lark is. Now, perhaps, only baking remains!

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Day 19

The room upstairs is now covered with cut up jeans legs, but there's not really much that's exciting to show just yet. 

I made a hat, did I show you? This yarn came in my box of stuff from Claudio and it's chunky and fluffy and brown. The pattern is simple and managed to use the whole ball. Charity box. I think it will be warm with the bit of alpaca, although the yarn is 70% acrylic. 

I also took apart a hat I made in the past few months. 

It is a child's size. I just can't leave it sitting around waiting for an 8-year-old to appear, and I love the colours so much that I will make a big one for me! 

The last piece of super-exciting news I have is that I made a new muffin recipe. Zucchini Cheese Bran! You soak All-Bran cereal in buttermilk, add the usual flour, egg, a bit of sugar, and a cup of grated cheese and a cup of grated zucchini. 

Tasty and good for you. Breakfast-appropriate and lunch-ready. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

What have I gotten myself into?

I did go and look at my collection of old jeans. I think I have enough to make a cover for our king-size bed! 

Along with the Gee's Bend quilts, I am thinking of Sean Scully paintings. So many seem knittable, and quiltable! 

I have lots of black and blue, and I have one pair of purple pants and some rosy denim that I could use for the colourful insert. 

This one looks simple, but the white squares would be a problem, and the excellence in this is the blurred and smudged lines, hard to do with my fabric and my skills. 

This is my floor just now. Time to do something, that's for sure! (I think I will ignore the butter-yellow pants. They are of a lighter and stretchier fabric and not quite right here.)

Here are the roses! I think it might have once been a curtain flounce or something. I imagine I got it at the Textile Museum sale, but who can say? The brownish thing is a cushion cover or maybe a piece that goes over the arm of an armchair? Also of dubious provenance. I often think of just putting handles on it and calling it a shopping bag. The denim is a cut-up pair of capris. 

Somehow I will cut the pants into bits and then rearrange all the bits in some artful way. That is the plan! 

Meanwhile, in the bathroom: 

And in the garden: 

There were bits of snow falling today, although it didn't stick and now the sun is shining. More than halfway through November!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Time to make a list

  1. It's a month and a bit till Christmas.
  2. I have mailed away the only gift I have to mail, but I guess I should nag my husband about his side of the family. 
  3. I have to write some cards. Cards to family and friends, and eventually cards to complete strangers via Ravelry. I think this year people need cheerful cards, and lots of them. 
  4. I have not acquired all the gifts I want to give to family, because I am not sure what they want/need. 
  5. All this decluttering and non-keeping makes gift-giving more stressful than it should be. Not everyone wants a piece of cheese (although a nice piece of cheese has sort of become a go-to present around here). 
  6. I like to have Christmas cookies around but Stephen can't really eat them. I asked him what he wanted for treats and snacks and he says potato chips and wine. I suggest carrots and celery. He scoffs.
  7. There are other things to think about as well; this is supposed to be a to-do list. 
  8. Knitting: the fancy mitten should take precedence, but it does require constant attention and so I have to have a back-up knit as well. 
  9. I would love to sew all my old jeans up into a nice big blanket. 

This stunner was made by Mary Lee Bendolph. I think I'll go sort out my pile of old jeans now. 

Monday, November 16, 2020


The big floofy cowl is done. 

It is very stretchy and loose and can fit over my shoulders, but it is not really long enough to pull up over my head, and still keep the back of my neck covered. Now I understand why people make cowls so long! 

I had a tiny bit of yarn left over. Maybe I could have got another round out of the yellow, but maybe not. 

Yesterday was spent watching the new series of the Crown on Netflix, but I did manage to get some baking done so I can mail sweets off to my poor wee daughter who's finishing up her university term sitting alone in a room with a computer. This COVID stuff is so hard on the young'uns. And us old folks and everyone! Wash your hands and stay home!

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Day 14

A year ago I went to London

I can hardly imagine! 

Today I took another couple of bags of stuff to the secondhand store, but it was a nice, sunny day and it took me at least half an hour to get off our street, because I kept running into neighbours. One person is out there raking leaves and everyone stops for a natter, people come and go, all the gossip is learned. For example, one neighbour is 80 years old today! 

Eventually I went on my way. I walked almost three and a half kilometres, got rid of my junk and rode a bike back. I took no pictures. The leaves are mostly done so I didn't stop in my tracks to take a picture of a lovely tree, and I had my hands full of bags so couldn't just snap a photo of anything as I walked along. 

Let's hope for more exciting news tomorrow! 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Actual knitting content

Ten days ago, I posted a picture of my brioche cowl. I am pleased to say that it is much bigger now. 

I worked on it at the cottage, but, really, it does get a bit same-ish after a while. 

So I stuck in some increases, and now we just have to wait till it's finished to see what that does. I imagine a gentle point, or sort of a wave.

I am knitting as fast as I can, while doing all the other things. 

Yesterday was mostly filled with escorting Kid #1 to the dental surgeon and home again, minus their wisdom teeth! Today I made soup so the poor baby didn't have to live on ice cream. 

Not to mention the broken dishwasher and the hand-washing of the dishes. 

Onward and upward!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Back in the saddle

I went away for a couple of days and didn't pre-write posts to amuse you in my absence. Now I'd best just get back here and say something, to get the NaBloPoMo ball rolling again!

We went to a cottage on Georgian Bay. It was right on the water, and instead of the storms of November, we had gorgeous, warm, sunny weather! 

We didn't have anything special to see or do, but there are a few highlights. 

Practically next door to us was the Hibou conservation area. The parking lot was closed for the winter, but we were able to walk in. Rocks, trees and water. 

Evidence of woodpeckers. 

We took a drive to Big Bay, the stone skipping capital of Canada. I'm sorry for the crappy picture! Get the photographer's shadow out of the frame! 

Lots of big flat stones. I am not a stone-skipper, but I do like to sort through and find the nice ones. 

The nice ones at this beach are full of fossils! 

Another day we went to Owen Sound for lunch, mainly because we were running out of food! I think we brought back a few cloves of garlic and some crackers, but we'd packed pretty efficiently. 

We went to the Mudtown Station, a brewpub in the old train station. Because Owen Sound doesn't have many COVID-19 cases, one could eat inside, but the weather was lovely and the whole idea of being indoors with other people was not appealing. I wonder when we will get back to the old ways. 

On the last morning, I was up early enough to see the gathering of the geese. They all arrived on the water -- a hundred or more -- honked and quacked for a bit, and then took off, in groups of a dozen or so, until the last group all took off at once. 

As you can see, it was a bit overcast, and as we drove home, we did hit a bit of rain. We were in Wasaga Beach and as we passed a road to the beach we saw a rainbow. 

Just lovely! One thing we don't have in Toronto is wide open space. 

That is enough for now. Tomorrow I might show you the knitting progress I made. 

Saturday, November 07, 2020

I went to the lake

A friend and I went for a walk to the lakeshore on Friday. Access to the lake is one of the big failings of Toronto civic policy over the years, I think. We went to a park, walked through a parking lot, climbed over a railing and scrambled down a pile of broken old sidewalks and concrete rubble to get to the lake. Lakeshore Boulevard zoomed by behind us. Not the way I'd like to be at a lakeshore. 

But, what the heck, it ended up being quite nice to sit and look at the water. 

My brother is the king of water pictures, but I always give it a shot. The sun is so low these winter days (although it was almost 20ºC) and it was shimmering on the water. 

Best entertainment by far: the ducks. These two mallards (tails in the air), and what I think is a wood duck, bobbed around for quite some time. Very delightful. 

We got quite a walk in, as we went west along the bike path for a while. Finally we got hungry for lunch and actually sat on a patio and ordered food. Living life on the edge, that's me. 

Friday, November 06, 2020

A thing in the mail

Once upon a time, someone on Ravelry received a box in the mail, from a sender whose name she didn't recognize, Claudio Sanchez. It held a package of candy apples, but it was a pack of three, containing only two. It turned out that Claudio was the guy in mail room and the Raveler's boyfriend's aunt thought it would be nice to send these two apples to two people, and ... it was all fine, but a bit weird. 

So people on Ravelry who heard this story thought it would be fun to send each other boxes of random junk. They've been doing this Claudio Sanchez exchange for several years now, and I learned about it before we went to England just last year. I had no junk in England, so I couldn't really participate, but this year I filled a box with some yarn I wasn't going to use, some pencils, some fabric, a telephone handset that plugs into your cell phone, a single sock I had found at the side of the road that had Michelangelo's David on... whatever. I wish I had taken pictures before I sent it, but alas, one can't do everything. 

Today I received my box in turn! And boy, does it contain some random stuff!

These pictures are in a pretty random order, as well. Here goes. 

First up, some yarn! The alpaca blend will probably make me sneeze, but it will make a nice warm hat for someone, even though it is 70% acrylic. The cone is 6 or 7 different strands all together, will look nice. 

This is my fave! A little box with all the Christmas baby Jesus cast. They are very tiny. I will find some way to show them off at the appropriate time. 

Let's see: a festive garland of felt leaves, thank you stickers, a little book about an opossum, some things that I thought were paper straws but actually, somehow you can make a robot, and a mask with sushi fabric! And more...

The mask! 

Most things were in ziplock bags in the box, but these were sort of thrown in at the last minute, from the look of things. Craft sticks, a water bottle and a very important Fall Risk bracelet. I hope I don't need that! 

Well! Some rubber ducks, some sunglasses, many key chains, beads, a little pink pouch. 

Ahem, some chocolate! 

It was so well packed, I couldn't get it all back in the box! 

The box itself was tastefully decorated with sparkly rainbow tape, and the rest of the roll was included inside. 

I won't keep all of this stuff (some people keep the things they don't want and send them on the following year. I don't think I'll do that, because maybe once was enough for this), but it is always fun to get stuff in the mail, and now I have a rubber duck in a Flash suit, so it's all good!