Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The past few days

I have a confession to make, neither of us had any idea that on Sunday the clocks were going forward by an hour. I only realised the fact when I turned on the television in the evening and realised it was an hour later than my watch said. It's frustrating though, I'd vaguely thought to myself during the week that the clocks must be changing soon and immediatley forgot all about it and never checked. Very embarrassing but no damage was done to man or beast (grin).

I had an osteoporosis test at the hospital the other week and on Friday I received a letter for my doctor asking me to come in to discuss the results. My imagination immediately went into overload as if everything is fine they would have said so. However when I saw my GP yesterday it turned out that the results weren't too bad. My spine and hip are fine although my femoral neck is osteopenic. The doctor wasn't going to give me any medication although he advised thast I continued to take the calcium and vitamin D tablets I take anyway. I also mentioned that both my thumbs get a bit painful at times but my GP wasn't exacly interested. he said that the real lifespan for a human is 35 years, so anything extra is a bonus. Oh well, nice to know I'm over the hill.

Good news. Originally we were told that only two parents could come to the Stepson's graduation ceremony this summer, something that rather disappointed me because obviously he would want his father and mother there. However, the Stepson has managed to get me a place too so I will be able to go as well. .

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Pulmanarias

Last summer, in the heat of the drought, I was looking at a table outside one of the houses near to where I live. The table was full of plants, all at a few pennies each with the money going to the local hospice. In two very small yoghurt pots were a few leaves labelled as pulmanarias, each for sale at about 30p. I bought them, carried them home and planted them in a spot under a couple of large shrubs. The soils was so thin there it was almost dusty so I put a handful for multi-purpose compost in the base of each planting hole and the plant on top. The only other thing I did was to water the plants until I was convinced that they were established. Then I ignored them, I still am. Despite this by winter they had grown into nice compact little plants which have survived the winter and now in flower. They clearly love where I have put them.

I am aware that pulminarias are described as ground cover plants, which mean that they spread and spread but for where I have put them this is just what I need. They certainly like it there and as far as I am concerned if they can keep the weeds under control which try to take over in that spot then I shall be happy. And if they begin to spread too far I can always dig out a couple of yoghurt pots and put a table by our front gate.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Have You Read These?

Via Eden

Take the list below, paste it into your own blog, put READ next to those you’ve read, WANT TO next to those you are interested in, AGAIN & AGAIN next to those you’ve read and can’t stop, and leave blank those you don’t care to read.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown) READ
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) READ
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien) AGAIN AND AGAIN
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien) AGAIN AND AGAIN
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien) AGAIN AND AGAIN
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery) READ
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon) WANT TO
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling) READ
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown) READ
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling) READ
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden) READ
16. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Rowling) READ
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling) READ
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) AGAIN AND AGAIN
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien) AGAIN AND AGAIN
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) READ
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold) READ
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) READ
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis) READ
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom) READ
31. Dune (Frank Herbert) READ
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell) READ
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley) WANT TO
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho) READ
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. The Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card) READ
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling) READ
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood) READ
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice) READ
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery) READ
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell) READ
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett) WANT TO
76. Tigana (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier) AGAIN AND AGAIN
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind) READ
85. Emma (Jane Austen) AGAIN AND AGAIN
86. Watership Down (Richard Adams) READ
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding) READ
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd) WANT TO
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum) READ
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield) READ
100. Ulysses (James Joyce

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Free Knitting Pattern: My Red Hat Scarf

At the last Red Hat event that I attended I noticed that several other members were wearing scarves of purple and red. So I decided I'd have a go at knitting one for myself. I looked on the web but didn't find a pattern that inspired, so I thought I'd have a go at designing one myself. I chose the Old Shale pattern from this book, adapting it slightly. Then I looked out for appropriate yarn. I chose 4 ply in purple, as I didn't want anything too thick, and some eyelash yarn in red.
As the picture of the whole scarf doesn't give a true idea of what it is like, I've also provided a close-up and one showing the actual stitch pattern.

1 100g ball Sirdar Country Style 4 ply yarn - roughly US fingering weight (M)
1 50g ball Sirdar Vegas (C)
4 mm circular needle

7 sts & 8 rows to 1 inch

To make:
Cast on 360 stitches, work in pattern.

1st Row Purl
2nd Row: K1, P to last stitch, K1
3rd Row: * [K2 tog] three times, [YO, K1] six times, [K2 tog] three times; repeat from * to end
4th Row K

Knit 49 rows in M, except for rows 4, 5, 24, 25, 44 and 45 which are in C.

Cast off loosely. Sew in ends.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Stepdaughter came round yesterday. I couldn't resist taking a photo of her and the Husband.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Red Camellia in my garden. I'm slightly confused though as they look almost dark pink here while they look red in real life.I wonder whether it's something to do with the camera?

We are expecting very cold weather, frosts and possibly snow by Monday. I hope it won't affect the blossoms too much. I fear so, though.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Sometimes here I mention that I am a member of various Yahoo Groups - some I've been a member of for years. Anyway, one such group is called Jennifer Crusie Fans. It started as a fan group for people who like the books of Jenny Crusie but has become a community which talks about everything - in the past couple of days subjects discussed included bullying at school, King Charles 1st, why the new Harry Potter book will be the price it is going to be, suggestions of young adult books, why ceramic teapots are better than metal ones, how to get rid of spiders when you can't go near the things (and no, that wasn't from me), cat's soft claws, the problems of owning an independent book store, and lots and lots of other subjects including, in the past such subjects as fainting goats. Jenny is busy writing but still takes the time to respond to the odd question asked there and several other authors also are active members of the Group. The good thing about the Group is that everyone respects others' opinions and I cannot remember a Flame war, although at times there are very different opinions expressed on various subjects. Members of the Group are called Cherries. Yesterday two of us English Cherries, Rachel and myself, decided to meet in London for a few hours.

We met outside the National Portrait Gallery just after noon. As I stood outside and saw all the people around and going into the gallery it occurred to me forcibly that I had absolutely no idea what Rachel looked like, and that she wouldn't be able to recognise me either. However, I am rereading "Bet Me" at the moment and so I dug it out and started to read. When Rachel approached she took one look at the giggling figure reading the bright pink book by Jenny and immediately knew who to approach. After introducing ourselves we went into the NPG and up to the Second floor where the permanent collection started. And so we travelled forward in time from the Tudors then on through the 17th century and on to the mid-18th century. It was a fascinating collection of portraits where the earlier ones were mainly royalty or nobles while by the 18th century the portraits included many more "ordinary" people who had made an impact on society in various ways. What was interesting also was to see how the portraits actually depicted the individuals concerned. Some were just a pictures displaying little life or understanding of what the person was really like at all (there were even a few which had been painted after the individual had died, probably using more than a little imagination as to how they actually looked). However, some pictures stood out from the rest showing so much life and individuality that you could feel the force of character displayed by the person.

We were unable to go into the galleries for the late 18th Century/early 19th century as they were closed over lunchtime so we popped out for a sandwich and chatted about how to spend the rest of the day. There was, of course, no difficulty in deciding that as we were in Charing Cross Road, which is notorious for being full of bookshops. We started by window shopping at a couple of second-hand bookshops (including the one that was 84 Charing Cross Road - as in the book by Helen Hamf). Then I dragged poor Rachel into Murder One, an independent bookshop that concentrates on books in two different genres: crime and romance. The majority of the shop concentrates on the first but it also has a room dedicated on romantic fiction as well. The good thing about Murder One is that it sells a lot of US imports too and not just books published in the UK and also that books are piled from floor to ceiling in every room so you are spoilt for choice. When finally Rachel had had enough we moved on up the road and into Borders (one of the bigger ones in London). When we had finished in there we stood on the pavement and stared at Foyles on the other side of the road but decided that visiting there would be too much of a good thing and that we would find something else to do.

So we walked down Oxford Street and then on to Regent's Park where after some searching (and a lot of walking) we found Queen Mary's Gardens. We walked around the ponds and discovered that although many plants have yet to bloom this early in Spring some are already making a fine show of colour, including lots of daffodils, some tulips, a lovely white azalea and two magnolia trees. By now it was 5.00 pm and it was time for us to part as Rachel was meeting a friend and I had to make a move too.

It was a really nice day and it was good to have the opportunity to meet someone I have previously only "met" online.
Oh, and the pictures/ The first is King Henry VII; then there's Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborogh and the last is John Tradescant the Younger, all ones we saw at the gallery yesterday.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

It's odd how using a camera makes you look at things more closely. I always thought that we had two types of daffodills in the garden: the little tete-a-tetes; and a bigger type of daff in the back garden. But I've just realised that we have several different types of daffodil in the back. The second picture is of one lot of the tetes, the other pictures are of the big ones in the back garden.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The most decorative way of walking into town is via Admiral's Park, although it is much longer than the other ways of going. But today was such a lovely day and so I decided to treat myself. Sitting by this lake in the park I decided to take some pictures of it. The odd thing is that it looks so peaceful that you wouldn't believe that one of the main railway lines from London to East Anglia travels on the enbankment in the background, so that dozens of trains pass by every hour or so, and that the town's railway station is only about 5-10 minutes walk to the right of this picture.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Quite a busy weekend. Yesterday morning I headed for the public library which had a craft morning and Kaffe Fassett came to sign his books. I took some pictures but wasn't able to get any good ones: the one I've posted here should give an idea though. I splashed out and bought his new book "Kaffe Fassett's V&A Quilts" which he signed. The book is full of absolutely lovely pictures and although I'm not a quilter ( can't see well enough for one thing) I am hoping to get some inspiration from the book.

It's an odd thing but being in a "crafting" environment brings back all my lack of self confidence for my own skills. I can still remember when at school being told how bad I was at any sort of art or craft and how I was so bad at putting colours together. So I came back and continued with knitting the scarf I am making myself for Red Hat times - purple and red goes so well together(!)

In the evening the Husband and I went to see a a concert with local performers in a local place. Each piece of work performed was a pitched and bloody battle between instruments to see who would prevail and be the most prominent. The trumpets resoundingly won by two falls and a submission.

Tonight we are going to go to see the Glenn Miller Orchestra in the local theatre. I love big band musicand am gradually pursuading the Husband to liking it too. We both enjoyed them the last time they played here and so we are looking forward to seeing them again tonight.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Sometimes things happen that make you realise just how dependent you are getting on modern technology. Yesterday was one of those days when the electricity went off just after 2.00 pm and stayed off until about 8.00. We have no idea why this happened - the rumour was that a cable was cut while some building work was done to a house just down the read but this no-one can confirm. The thing was that I soon realised how much one relied on electricity. We had no light, of course, but fortunately we had some candles which we dug out and lit as the darkness fell. But everything esle was off too. I was glad that it was a mild day yesterday so I didn't miss the central heating too much but we didn't have hot water either (the boiler whech supplies the central heating and hot water may be gas but it needs electricity to get going). So no washing up, no machine working and increasingly getting darker. Every time I thought of something to do I had to say no because electricity was involved in someway or another: shredding papers, mowing the lawn.... all impossible without electricity. I rang up the emergency number for power custs and was told that 220 households were affected by the power cut.

The electricity came back on about 8.00 and all is well now but it really makes you think just how many of the things that surround you rely on electricity. And how much you rely on modern technology.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Our family all have an absolute passion for port. I don't mean the little old lady drink of port and lemon but good port drank straight, often with stilton as an accompaniment. The Husband and I developed a taste for it after I bought him a bottle of good port as a Valentines Day present a few years ago (I never know what to buy as present for men - so a visit to the local off-license is sometimes the place I go). We always keep a bottle of white port in the fridge for those occasions when we aren't in the mood for the tawny. The Stepson gives, and goes to, several parties serving port and cheese at university and in fact I found myself having a rather surreal experience one Christmas buying him a requested decanter for port, when he was about 19 years old.

Anyway, the port we used to drink has recently disappeared off the shelves of the local shops and it looks as if it isn't being produced any more so we are trying to find a new favourite port to drink. So we looked at the 10 year old tawny and found two possibilities - Tesco and Taylor's. There was just one thing: the Tesco cost £11; the Tayor's cost £17. Which one was the best, and if it was the more expensive was it worth an extra £6 (somewhere in the order of $12)? So last night, while they had a reshowing of a classic Avengers on television we had a glass of each type and tried them out. The Tesco was a lighter colour and the taste was subtly different from the Taylor's which at first sip tasted more fruity and generally had what I can only describe as a "deeper" taste. Both were very nice but we both agree that of the two the Taylor's had the edge. But the thing we both have to ask ourselves is whether it is worth an extra £6?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Some years ago, when both my parents were still living in Dorset, I took the opportunity when down there to visit a specialist Camellia nursery in a nearby town and to buy four really beautiful Camellias: one with white flowers, one with pale pink flowers, one with dark pink flowers and one with red flowers. Usually the pale pink flowers are the first to emerge each early Spring but this year they started to emerge about the time we had bad snow and freezing weather and so I haven't seen any more flowers from that bush. (Having said that I've just noticed that the bush has lots of buds showing, so I assume that they are just late this year.) The next set of flowers to emerge, however, are the dark pink ones and I looked out the window this morning and decided now was the time to take some pictures of them. There's lots of buds on the plant too. Lovely.