Saturday, 28 January 2017

Year in Books 2016/2017 and Burns.

During 2016 I took part in the Year in Books organised by Laura at Circle of Pine Trees, with the aim of reading at least one book per month. Before I reveal whether I achieved my target, there are 4 books to show you which I didn't get around to reviewing.

The first, read in September, is The bookshop on Rosemary Lane by Ellen Berry which was given to me as a birthday present. It's the story of Della who decides to open a bookshop selling cookery books with the books she inherits from her mother. As the book opens, she is struggling with a purpose in life: her mother has just died, she's bored with her job, her marriage is failing and her daughter is just about to go off to university. It sounded like just my kind of thing - bookshops, cooking, what's not to like? A shame then that I found it all a bit disappointing and cliched.

October was the only month I didn't manage to complete a whole book, though I did read a couple of short stories. I'd deliberately saved The mistletoe bride and other haunting tales by Kate Mosse to read during the spookiest of months. I usually love her books but, to be honest, the two I read, both based on the mistletoe bride folktale, were a bit average. What I did like were the author's notes saying where she got her inspiration or some anecdote around the writing of the story. I'll probably save it and read the other stories this October.

Thankfully, November proved to be much better with The ocean at the end of the lane by Neil Gaiman. Here's some blurb from the back cover:

'An ancient little girl, and an old woman who saw the moon being made; a beautiful housekeeper with a monstrous smile; and dark forces woken that were best left undisturbed'.

Clearly it's a fantasy novel, though set in the near past, and narrated by a man looking back at events from his childhood. I really enjoyed this one and will be looking out for more by Neil Gaiman (the film Stardust, based on one of his novels, is one of my favourites).

However, the best was yet to come in December with The snow child by Eowyn Ivey. It's the story of Jack and Mabel who are struggling to make a living in Alaska in the 1920s. They moved to this remote area to escape the tragedy of losing a baby and the resulting childlessness. Their lives change when a small girl appears by their cabin the night after they build a snow girl.

I loved this one! I've always been fascinated by the pioneer experience so enjoyed that aspect of the story. The characters were very well drawn and made you care about them. And the descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness were magical. A great end to the year.

So, did I meet my target? Well, I initially set out to read a book a month but was amazed to find I actually managed 21!

Actually, make that 21 and a half. I started out reading this one, month by month, but then forgot about it! I'll have to pick it up again this year.

Am I going to continue with the challenge? Well, I signed up on Goodreads to read at least 10 books. I probably would have been more ambitious if I'd realised what my 2016 total had been! I definitely plan to keep working through my stash which continues to grow rather than reduce! I'm not sure whether I'll stick to the structure of month-by-month posts though but will let you know my progress.

Onto 2017 then. My January pick, which I'm reading at the moment is The box garden by Carol Shields.  I've read quite a few of her books so my expectations are high.


Tonight is my annual Burns Night dinner with my friends Sue and Gordon. I'll be following the usual running order which I've written about here and here and the 'highland games' from here.

New this year is pin-the-tail-on-the haggis (image from here). And I might show this YouTube video.

Whatever happens, I know it'll be great fun. There's still lots to do, so I bid you 'Soraidh' (farewell) and 'Lang may yer lum reek! ('live long and prosper!). xx

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Kirigami 2016 finale

It seems a little ridiculous still looking back to 2016 when we're almost at the end of January. However, I wanted to round off a couple of the regular posts I did throughout last year.

The first of these is my kirigami-a-day challenge. For those who are new to it, I bought a calendar which had a kirigami project for each day of the year and set out to see if I could complete it. For the first few months I did stick to the schedule and made time each evening to work on a design. After a while though, it ended up being more convenient to do them in a batch at the end of the week.

By the time we came to October/November, well, it all fell apart and I only ended up finishing earlier this month.

By the end, I also ended up only doing the designs which interested me as I'd learned by that point which were enjoyable and which were more of a chore.

The designs varied in quality and complexity. My favorites were probably the simple snowflakes. My least favourite were probably the weaving projects though they also produced some lovely effects.

Some of the Japanese designs, like the pair of cranes here, were particularly stunning.

Overall then, a challenge I really enjoyed and would recommend. More paper folding is definitely on the horizon this year as a friend bought me a doodle origami book for Christmas.

Next time, how did I get on with the Year in Books challenge? x

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Weather weather

A very belated Happy New Year to you all. It's been a few months since I last posted: a combination of being overwhelmingly busy and a lack of inspiration. I'm still not sure how much I will continue to blog but it's likely to be more erratic.

Still, I'm here now and to talk about that most British of topics, the weather! I love a bit of folklore and an article in the newspaper at the beginning of the month mentioned a 16th century way of predicting the weather for the rest of the year. Each day foretells what the corresponding month will be like. Well I couldn't resist and took a photo on each of the relevant days. Here then is what this corner of Lancashire can expect during 2017.

The photo above, taken on 2 January, predicts September to be bright and sunny.

3 January = October : cloudy and grey.

4 January = November: sunny, blue skies.

5 January = December: more of those sunny blue skies.

The morning of 8 January foretells June, whilst the afternoon predicts May. It was miserable, grey and misty all day. Oh dear. I've booked a holiday in Northumberland in May!

The morning of 9 January = August. Yep, miserable and grey. That's about right as it's my birthday in August and it pretty much always rains!

The afternoon of 9 January = July. Hurrah, blue skies.

And the temperature on 12 January gives a rough summary of the whole year. Bitterly cold then. It was the day it snowed heavily in some parts of the country, though not here. It was also one of those 'four seasons in one day' kind of days: grey, rain, blue skies and sunshine. Maybe there's something in this folklore after all!

You might have noticed that this particular piece of folklore didn't bother with January-April so it will all be a big surprise! It'll be interesting to look back to see how close the prediction came.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend. We're going to see La La Land at the cinema tomorrow and really looking forward to it. xx