Monday 31 December 2007

Literary Review 2007

I really don't like the way the colour supplements at this time of year cop out with a review of the year, a year in pictures, this year A to Z etc. These articles are obviously written well in advance, I read one on Benazzir Bhuto that made no mention of her recent and shocking assassination though it was published several days after. I appreciate that journalists are entitled to their holidays too but I do resent paying full price for half a newspaper and an annual review.
Having said that, I now offer a review of my own fiction reading this year.
I used to think I didn't read enough so I started recording each book as I finished it and was surprised and pleased to find that I read at least 24 books a year. I won't bore you with the full list but some of my favourite and regular authors are Anne Tyler, Helen Dunmore, Rose Tremain and Margaret Atwood. I keep the list in my diary and rate the books with a system of ticks. The voting this year had my top three as follows
1 We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver. A beautifully written, harrowing and haunting story that I read in January and is still with me
2 The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
3 The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney
Some books are so good I cannot part with them (usually paperbacks go to friends or charity shops), these three are still in the bookcase with some favourites from previous years that I may or may not read again but I need to own.
I'm already into my first 2008 book which is Mother, Missing by Joyce Carol Oates. She is an American author I have read and enjoyed several times and this book is no exception. I'm also delving in and out of The Gentle Art of Domesticity by my blogging/crafting heroine Jane Brocket, who never fails to inspire me to craft and tidy up.
We are all taking it easy today, reading, knitting and dozing in front of the stove, its heaven and good preparation for 2008, my retirement year.

Saturday 29 December 2007

Christmas boxes

Good Christmas for us all, the day was calm, food delicious and present great. I had knitted Mr FF a pair of 4ply plain grey socks with wool I bought in a sale. I didn't stitch the ends in at the toe just in case they weren't big enough, they were, but once he tried them on Cleo decided the trailing wool was one of her best Christmas presents

She managed to capture both ends at once, one in her paw one in her mouth. Her original family who used to live next door to us were home briefly from Kuwait and came round for dinner last night. Cleo was a bit nonchalant about seeing them again but they were delighted to see how well she is looking and confirmed that she is 17 years old. Still catching rabbits, mice and wool, what a good girl.

Mr FF did well with his shopping and found me some lovely Patons angora/wool mix beautifully packed in tissue paper in cardboard boxes, 9 balls of pale lemon and 10 of lavender.

The balls are tiny, only 10 grams each but I'm sure there's enough for something nice, interesting lacy socks or a pretty scarf, if I can ever bring myself to empty the boxes. Such an elegant way to buy wool and though the now discontinued yarn isn't that old it makes me feel like a lady from Cranford, I'll be knitting by candlelight next.

Monday 24 December 2007

Has he been yet?

Happy Christmas from me
Happy Christmas from Clee

Friday 21 December 2007

Cath at Christmas

It was our admin team awayday morning and office Christmas lunch yesterday, but thats enough about that. We had the usual £5 secret santa after lunch and this year I was lucky enough to be selected by a person of great taste and sensitivity. Here is my giftCath Kidston tissues, Cath Kidston lip salve and pink knitting needles. I don't think the needles are Cath Kidston, but they could easily be if Cath sold such things and they match the colour scheme pefectly. The whole gift made me very happy and I can guess who it was from, the only person at the lunch wearing a Cath Kidston dress - thank you Amy.
Fortunately I drew Joanne, my faithful reader, as my recipient and since the clues she had given were green and size 5 feet, I got my needles in action and made her these

Just one more Christmas gift to knit, Mr FF is out this evening so I shall get down to some serious work. Meantime I'm doing my domestic duties and adding bit of festivity to the house. No need to do much as the scene outside is so beautiful, bright sunshine and everything covered in white frost, I can almost hear those sleighbells.

Sunday 16 December 2007

Feeling Smug/Feeling Humbug

Ho ho ho. All the presents for family and friends in Yorkshire are wrapped and ready to go. Mr FF is travelling down south tomorrow on business and will visit my cousins and brother dropping off various packages just like Santa but in a corporate Vauxhall Vectra. Its nice to know all that is done, now just need to concentrate on us. We have a rule that neither spends more than £5 to produce a Christmas stocking for the other (gifts to exclude food or drink, here we don't impose a limit and purchase festive fayre together). Quite a challenge, involving trips to second hand/charity shops and plenty of imagination, but its always fun on Christmas morning opening a bottle of fizzy and the quirky presents.

We are not great ones for decking the halls, but we have put white lights outside on the Korean pine at the front of the house, the tree is well covered by blue/black cones again this year and looks really welcoming. I've also put the wreath up beside the front door so to the outside world at least we look festive. On the inside all you can hear is bah humbug!And now even after that brilliant Argentine tango the lovely Gethin is out of Strictly, I am devastated, I'm not voting any more.

Friday 14 December 2007

There's music too

No you're not in the wrong place, this is my new look blog. I've been admiring other sites where the photographs seem to stand out much better and after a bit of searching I've come up with this new template which I've adapted slightly. I'm really pleased with it and also with the fact I've managed to download some music. Mr FF is constantly amazed that a woman who cannot change a plug has found out how to do all these technical things. Its all on a need to know basis, just like my life. I can work out how to turn a heel or adapt a knitting pattern because I want to but I'm not interested enough to find out about complicated spreadsheets or source the latest piece of technology.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder - behold my new site.

Sunday 9 December 2007

Strictly Shepherds Pie

Pam and Andrew came round on Saturday night for supper, to see our holiday photographs and to watch Strictly Come Dancing. There is nothing nicer than watching Strictly with a girl friend having firstly sworn the boys to silence apart from relevant questions or comments. A good rant about the dancing, frocks, judges etc makes for a perfect evening. I made a shepherds pie so I didn't have the leave the viewing and we could launch into it as soon as the programme finished.

I love Strictly and I love those who love it too. I email people I work with, clients and suppliers, about the results, chat to my colleagues and even had a discussion in the hairdressers the other week. I fantasise about being one the the professional dancers, though I can't decide if I'd be Flavia or Lilia. As Falvia I'd be able to brush up my (lapsed intermediate level) Italian with the gorgeous Vincent and he'd lead and lift me through smouldering tangos. Admittedly I'd need to lose a bit of weight but obviously I would. If I were Lilia I'd be married to the adorable Darren and I'd have partnered my favourite ever Strictly competitor Darren Gough, and again got thrown around a bit during the fabulous Night to Remember routine (are you noticing a theme here?). The year Darren won we had been invited out to dinner on final nights and our friends Roger and Christine kindly arranged the meal to suit the programme timings even though they weren't fans. This was in the days when the result were announced later the same evening, we took puddings and coffee in front to the telly and all cheered when Darren won. I'm not so fond of waiting a day to know the results, but it does mean we see more of the wonderful professional dancers.

And who do I want to win this year? GETHIN. Alesha is the obvious favourite but I feel she had such an advantage coming from a musical background and some of those celebrity boys have made such progress. Kenny Logan admitted he couldn't even clap to the beat when he started and look at the improvement he made. I had to watch the lift from Dirty Dancing several times (OK I'll stop this now). Whoever wins it will have been a fabulous series as ever and made a retiring woman very happy. Come January I shall be bereft.

Friday 7 December 2007

Timing is everything

I carried out a review of the Christmas bulbs today, its a fine art having them flower just when you want them. The white hyacinths look fine, perfect poised. I cannot take the credit for this as they were a lovely birthday gift from Helen, but I have kept them cool in the conservatory for the last few weeks to hold them back. The first bud on my amaryllis is just about to burst open but no colour is showing yet and there is another bud to follow so I'm fairly confident of a good display around 25.12. Its just the paperwhites that are causing concern. They've been living in the greenhouse and have just romped away, already one is in flower. It would be logical to bring them into the house now and enjoy their fabulous perfume but I keep hoping the others will hold off a big longer. Paperwhites, paperwaits would have been better.

Sunday 2 December 2007

Making Progress

I am starting to feel bit calmer about the knitting for Christmas lark and also about the gift wrapping, which I've decided to do a bit at a time rather than the usual last minute frenzy of paper, sellotape, labels and awkward shapes. I just finished these fingerless gloves which I can show you as they are a gift for my Aunt Dolly, who is 95 and certainly doesn't read my blog. She lives in the village in Yorkshire where we were both born, she never married and still lives on her own in a cottage beside the Church. There is a marvelous caring spirit in the village and all the elderly folk who live alone, and there are a few, have a telephone network whereby each morning one person phones the next and so on in order till everyone has been phoned. If by any chance there is no reply or someone is not well friends or family are alerted.

Dolly isn't really my aunt, she is a friend of the family who has had this honourary title for two generations. She was when her eyesight was better a great crafter, knitting. crochet and embroidery, and has been an inspiration to me. There are several beautiful tapestry kneelers in the Church that Dolly made for the Queen's silver jubilee, I used one at my niece's wedding this year. When I first tried to crochet about 30 years ago I showed Dolly my efforts and she presented me with a full set of hooks in a case that she said she had been keeping for that moment. I am embarrassed to say that I never really progressed beyond the basics, though I did make a rather ugly blanket that I still have There is still time to improve and one day I really would like to learn more. I hope she likes these gloves, based on a pattern in Last-Minute Knitted Gifts (how appropriate) by Joelle Hoverson and I hope she has a wonderful Christmas which I know she will be spending with either family, genuine or self appointed.