What I’m reading this September…

OK, having managed to miss the July/August book club chat completely I’m trying hard to get back on track as a new month arrives! Of course, I read loads in August as usual, I just didn’t manage to blog or chat about any of it. A good chunk of the month, including our little sojourn to the Norfolk Broads was spent reading ‘After the Crash’ by Michel Bussi.

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This was a huge hit in France and following a splendid translation into English now seems to be proving a hit outside France too. I can be a bit funny about translated books, I kind of want the book to ‘feel’ how it felt in its mother tongue but at the same time I still like an easy read – do you know what I mean? Aside from the ‘Dragon Tattoo’ series I’ve struggled with a lot of Scandi Noir books that should be right up my street because I can’t seem to read them fluidly. Maybe it’s because I’m a speed reader and I need to be able to race at full pelt through a book? Anyway, this one worked for me… the translation kept enough of the French feel but was still a fluid, easy read. The premise is simple, a devastating plane crash leaves just one survivor, a 3 month old baby girl – orphaned by the crash – with no means of identification. There were two 3 month old baby girls on the flight so which one is she? Set in the early 1980’s the obvious DNA testing isn’t an option, which is part of what made this book so intriguing, it couldn’t exist *now*, it was completely of a moment in time, before the technology to identify relationships between family members existed. I really liked it! The story flashes back and forth between the girl’s 18th birthday and the time of the crash and eventually the reader becomes aware that the true identity of the girl is known to some of the parties involved… 

I also whizzed through You Can Trust me by Sophie Mackenzie, a thriller that constantly twisted and turned and gave itself up just ahead of the final denouement… one of those ‘a-ha’ moments moments before the big reveal. I quite like Sophie Mackenzie’s writing style, she writes both YA books and adult thrillers so I’ll look out for more.

I also started ‘The Shock of the Fall’ which I expected to love… but for some reason didn’t? I gave up after a couple of chapters, maybe I’ll revisit it at some point. I think mood plays a big part in whether a book captures my imagination or not and I just needed something different at this point.

So, on to September! My current book is called ‘Without You’ by Saskia Sarginson.

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Picked up, on a whim, in the library last week, it turns out to be set just ‘up the road’ at Orford, on the Suffolk coast. Orford Ness was an MOD testing base during and after the Second World War and there is much speculation about nuclear testing having been carried out there. It’s an intriguing place, now a protected nature reserve but still with buildings, towers, military paraphernalia and a lighthouse intact. The ‘ness’ features heavily in this story of a missing, presumed drowned teenager and the family dealing with the tragedy. I’ll let you know if it lives up to expectations!

I’ve also got the new Sophie Hannah, ‘A Game for all the Family’ to read next. I love Sophie Hannah, as much for her impenetrable twisty-turny psychological scenarios as for her down to earth, believable characters. I read somewhere recently that Hannah would never describe a crime she couldn’t imagine committing herself, or something like that… Given the gruesome, torturous nature of some of her story lines it somehow made me like her even more ;-)

Right, that’s August dealt with and September all mapped out… see you at the Circle of Pine trees twitter chat at the beginning of October! Do head over and follow some of the links to other blogger’s contributions… it’s really a great way to find lots of new reads!

A Curious MKAL

For me, this time of year always feels like a bit of a ‘beginning’… much more so than January 1st, when we’re swept along on a tide of bonhomie, or the arrival of ‘Spring’ which is always more of a gradual creep here. September seems to come out of nowhere every year! Boom… it’s here, summer is almost gone… again. September means starting to think about cooler weather, retreating back inside for longer evenings in front of the fire and with that, inevitably for a knitter maybe, casting on new projects. It’s woolly season!

So, when I heard from Helen at Curious Handmade that she was about to release a Mystery Knit-A-Long shawl pattern I whooped and started plotting. The Summertide MKAL is starting on September 10th, timed just right to take advantage of the return of children to school (not ours I hasten to add!!) and tap into a crafter’s desire to find a little bit of ‘making’ time again. And why not ‘make’ along with a bunch of other like-minds? Helen’s Ravelry group is a busy bustling place and there’s a thread to discuss colour choices, yarn choices, whether to stash-bust or splash out… you know how it is…

One of the suggested yarns is Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light and I spent a delightful hour (or two) earlier this week coming up with possible colour combinations for this two colour shawl – you can see my ideas over on the Curious handmade blog.  Obviously this got my creative juices flowing and I’ve spent the rest of this week deliberating over the two shades I’ll use for my Summertide MKAL…

Inspired by my own inspiration (is that a thing?) I decided to go for it… rather than a subtle neutral pairing or a muted green combo, or my usual yellows and mustards I thought about what I’ve been wearing this summer and used my current favourite top as a springboard.

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(‘scuse the wrinkles, it’d been a long day…)

I’ve found myself drawn towards blue lately… I’ve never been a ‘blue’ person, always greens, mustards, browns. Autumn shades to compliment my ‘auburn’ hair… I guess it’s time to face up to the fact that the hair isn’t auburn any more!!! :/ So, cool blues and navy have edged in, with a splash of mustard and orange of course. This loose cotton top has been my favourite purchase of the summer. From Seasalt, it’s been great on its own on hot days but it’s also proving to be perfect layered over a skinny tee (the only way I’ll wear a skinny tee!!!) so I can see it proving popular long into Autumn.

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Aided by Rhubarb tea and a Gingernut biscuit I set about finding two Madelinetosh shades to replicate this combination of soft sky/teal blues and orange and came up with…

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Tomato and Well Water. I’ve loved the vivid orangey/red of Tomato since I first set eyes on it but it was always going to be too much as a sweater or cardigan. It’s been discontinued now by Madtosh so I knew I had to grab a skein before it went forever and Well Water, a soft tonal sky blue is the perfect foil for it. OK, we’re set, I’ll see you back here with regular updates and over on the Curious Handmade Ravelry group as we knit ourselves up a Summertide Shawl!

bountiful…

This year has already been declared the ‘best tomato harvest ever’ and we’re only a couple of weeks into it. It’s all relative and it’s fair to say that previous years’ tomato harvests have been poor, if not shocking/disasterous/non-existant. Based on our experience anything that stays on the vine, turns red and doesn’t get immediately demolished by birds, bugs or disease is a resounding success!

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We’re crediting the poly-tunnel with most of the glory… that and us splashing out on some lovely organic feed rather than half-heartedly making our own comfrey/nettle tea. This is technically the second poly-tunnel ‘season’ but it went up so late in the Spring last year that everything was experimental and we were at least a few weeks behind where we’re at this year so the results weren’t really that different to our previous attempts to grow tomatoes outside, up against the sun-trap red brick side wall of our old house.

So far we’re doing our best to eat them fresh off the vine, as a simple salad with basil, coriander a splash of white wince vinegar and a slosh of oil, on pizza and the little cherry ones just ‘as they come’, warm from he polytunnel, popped into the mouth whole. Yum!

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We’re anticipating either glut or disaster at some stage that will result in lots of pizza/pasta sauce for freezing and/or green chutney depending on the sequence of events ;-) For the moment we’re just loving a proper tomato success!

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Affinity…

As always, summer is whizzing by! Making the most of the long evenings, taking advantage of the working day being a bit quieter, these have been our priorities lately… and while I know a huge swathe of the UK has ‘skipped Summer’ this year weather-wise we, in the most arid Eastern county, have had a quite lovely couple of months of warm, sunny days with the occasional overnight rain to help the runner beans up their poles… I know, I’ll go away now ;-)

Every now and again I come across a company on my travels around the crafty world that I immediately warm to. Whether it’s a beautiful product that raises the heart rate a little, a blog post from the heart that speaks to me or just the whole package. Life in the Long Grass, a small independent yarn company that I stumbled across a while back ticked all the boxes. Lovely (understatement) yarn, a perfect glimpse into an idyllic setting, appealing personalities shining out! I ‘acquainted myself’ with their yarn (essential research you understand) and then was delighted when we were able to add a small selection of their beautiful shades to our range. We’ll be adding more in the very near future!

Caroline & Jonny are based in the beautiful county of Cork in Ireland and their yarn encapsulates their landscape and lifestyle. When our last delivery arrived back in June, I asked Caroline to share a little about their life and adventures in yarn….

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A glimpse into the world of Life in the Long Grass… © LITLG

 

We discovered your beautiful yarn fairly recently but can you tell us a little bit about how, when & why LITLG came into being?

We started LITLG 3 years ago when we found ourselves unemployed.  I always knitted and had dabbled in some hand-dyeing and desperately wanted to make something that worked for us rather than working for other people.  When things got to a low point I looked at our skill set and decided to create a product/brand that we would both be proud of and enjoy working on.  Knitting was my thing and we both loved colour so it was a natural progression to start LITLG.  We had eclectic backgrounds to draw inspiration from living and working in London and Ibiza for years with other creatives and artists from different industries it seemed like the time was right to do our own thing.

Your amazing way with colour is truly inspirational. Do you have an artistic background? Any fine art training?

 I’m a self-taught graphic designer & web coder,  and Jonny is an Architect.  I’ve always painted and been fascinated with landscapes since I was very young and Jonny has painted watercolour illustrations for most of his life – we have a lot in common and are inspired by ideas, art and our surroundings.

Your yarn is a series of beautiful collections inspired by your landscape and the nature around you. Do you see new colour ways everywhere you go? 

Oh yes, everywhere!  Particularly colour ways with texture they fascinate me and the task of trying to translate that to yarn then to a knitted fabric is a challenge.

Much like Meadow Yarn, LITLG seems to be a family affair… so, who is the boss? Is it you or Jonny ;-)

Ha, ha…. I’ll say both of us but really it’s me!:))  We are together 16 years so we have learnt to balance the boss role until our 5yr old daughter Nellie came along and took over the role!

Do you have any exciting plans or dreams for LITLG that you can share with us?

Lots of ideas are brewing at the moment, being a startup gives us scope to look in any direction without any restrictions.  It’s tricky though as we don’t want to lose sight of what we do currently so we will take our time, work hard and dip into those ideas to see what happens.

Thanks Caroline! And BTW – my answer to question 4 would have been identical ;-)

We’ve got a gorgeous selection yarn from LITLG in stock based around their beautiful ‘Silvers’ collection, head on over to indulge your senses…

June reads…

I’m (already) hopelessly out of sync with the rest of the ‘Circle of Pine Trees‘ book club but here’s where my reading is at this month… which I appreciate is pretty much over ;-)

I had to hang around for my mum to finish Kate Atkinson’s ‘A God in Ruins’ so the month started with a couple of very quick reads…

I tore through The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. A book I’d seen mentioned here, there and everywhere so I grabbed a library copy when I saw it! I liked this, although there were elements that I found frustrating. Sometimes a character just needs to ‘big up’ and tackle a thorny issue… but then I guess there wouldn’t be a book ;-)

Next in the pile was The Ice Twins by S.K Tremayne. This had a tragic premise, the loss of a twin, so from the outset was mired in remorse and what-ifs and grief. The story traced the unravelling of the death of an identical twin in a tragic accident whose surviving sister suddenly decides she’s the dead twin (with me?) and so their mother spirals into a semi ghost story as she tries to uncover what happened on the fateful day of the accident. It deals with the idea of ‘favourites’ and what the consequences might be and has a suitably stormy conclusion… I enjoyed it but it was one of those books that I was quite glad to finish. It was a bit *too* much and I did find the final couple of chapters a bit OTT and a little unnecessary in some ways…

Then it was on to the main event.

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I love Kate Atkinson’s writing… from her very first novel ‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum’ through the ‘Jackson Brodie’ detective series that were wonderfully quirky.

Then came “Life After Life’… a sweeping novel with a very clever hook that I absolutely loved. Once in the swing of the multiple story lines and the ‘re-births’ I found it to be clever, touching and such a lovely read it was a book I was incredibly sad to finish… I had high hopes for its ‘companion’ novel A God In Ruins. I was sooooo disappointed! Not to ‘spoil’ it but it really just never caught fire for me and the end, which attempted to reignite the spark of Life After Life had me ready to throw it out of the window (but it’s a library book and I was the first borrower so I restrained myself ;-) )

 

That’s all I’ll say on the matter… I’ve moved on…

 

This is July’s book pile!

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I’m already a way through the new Elly Griffiths ‘Ruth Galloway’ mystery. Set in North Norfolk in and around places I know, I love these books. Ruth is a fabulous female lead character, with quirks and foibles and a habit of turning up just when things are getting dangerous… So far so good! I will report back in July… sometime… I promise…

When a one-eyed norse god comes to stay…

We were at one of our regular home-ed meet ups at a local arts centre recently when a friend casually asked if we’d be interested in rehoming a one-eyed cockerel… as you do!

We’d already been having conversations about getting some fertilised eggs from a local chap who has such things as we’ve almost always got a broody hen at the moment so we gave it a moment’s thought, asked a couple of questions about keeping a cockerel with hens and then said ‘Yes!’

He was desperately in need of a new home after close neighbours of his current custodian had objected to his crowing and as we have *no* neighbours within a cockerels crow we seemed to be the perfect candidates. We arranged to collect him on Saturday…

Meet Odin, the one-eyed cockerel

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He’s a very handsome chap indeed! He’s showing you his ‘good’ eye here… his other eye has no pupil and it’s quite enchanting to watch him turn his head to see what treats you may have… and of course to keep an eye on his new clutch of ladies!

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He seems to like them. And, thankfully, they are quite happy with him too ;-)

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He crows pretty regularly and has a fine pair of lungs (assuming birds do in fact have two lungs? Now there’s a home-ed lesson in the making ;-) ) but luckily the hen house is far away enough from our house that we’re not getting woken at the crack of dawn. It’s the cows in the field on the other side of the house that currently wake me up at around 5:30am each morning – who knew a ‘moo’ could be so loud??!!

We are now researching the ins-and-outs of hatching our own fertilised eggs… I will keep you posted!

The June garden…

After a brief glimpse of Spring quite early on, it then turned chilly, grey and often wet… and even when it wasn’t grey and wet it still seemed very chilly to me, this so-called Spring. But now June is here! And we can rejoice in the lush green, the fragrant blooms… and the rampaging dog ;-)

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There is, of course, knitting going on too… and some writing here and there but often, when the sun shines and the breeze is warm it’s just about sitting and taking it all in… and then yelling at the dog to get off the flowerbed ;-)