Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reflections on Water - Past and Present

Our Lifeline for the past few weeks
At last - the water is back albeit at reduced pressure which means no showers, but let's be thankful for small mercies as dear old Ma used to say. And the joy of having water to wash, flush, run the dishwasher and washing machine and mop the manky floors knows no bounds!

I hadn't realised how much I'd taken water for granted till spending this Christmas without it - and surviving. It's been well over 20 years ago, when we were living in Burigi in Northwest Tanzania in the heart of the bush between Lake Victoria and Rwanda, with the two oldest and the third on the way, and we had no running water at all.  We lived on rainwater (in the rainy season of course) collected in drums and a specially built tank, and river water did for the dry season and our clothes washing. Nappies were always a darker shade of grey and everything was tinged with a sludge-coloured hue. We only realised this when we were back in Ireland and saw how technicolour everyone else was compared to our au naturel shade of safari gear.

The boys on driftwood at Bahari Beach Dar-es-Salaam - looking out to Zanzibar-1994
Yes, those were the days - and we were loving it! Must have been the vigour of youth that kept us going, and the fact that we were totally thrown back on our own resourcefulness to get by. We were very stoic and nothing fazed us, even the dreaded malaria which landed hubby in our local mission hospital on a few occasions. We had to boil and filter all our drinking water, as it was very muddy from the river and the chalk filters had to be cleaned almost daily. So we certainly didn't take water for granted- and as we had a pit latrine which didn't require flushing we had no worries on that score. Not as awful as it might sound, these pit loos are a terrific solution for any area of water shortage and are a lot more environmentally friendly - as long as they're not leaching into any water supply.

I have some terrific pics of the boys at bathtime outside our house, as all ablutions took place in a makeshift shower hut, with bucket showers. They are sitting in a yellow plastic tub in the sunshine, and as happy as sandboys. I don't think they were overly traumatised by the lack of mod cons, as they knew no different, having been born and reared in the bush. But we often longed for a decent shower and a highlight of our time there was trips to the Dutch doctors in Rubya Hospital in Muleba where we could chill out and shower at length safe in the knowledge they had plenty of water and a hydroelectric plant in the making from the abundant waterfalls in that elevated region.

We had friends in Bukoba town and visiting there meant a surfeit of water, and an illicit swim in Lake Victoria which was out of bounds as far as the tropical docs in Ireland were concerned. This was due to the risks of contracting Bilharzia or Schistosomiasis, which was transmitted via the snails that lived in the water and were vectors of the disease. We occasionally took a chance, hoping that our years in the bush had given us an acquired immunity from all kinds of parasites, as the missionaries and other expats took a laid-back approach to it all.

I guess everything is relative and compared to the refugees we were living amongst and working with, our lives were very comfortable and we had that option they never had - a sanctuary back in Europe if the going got tough and security inadequate. So perspective certainly kept us going as a coping strategy - no matter how rough we thought things were, they were never as rough as the lives and experiences of the Rwandan Tutsi refugees - who are now back in their own country after a lifetime of exile in Uganda and then Tanzania. But that's a story for another day.

We were always used to boiling water abroad, as the only place we ever drank tap water was in Zanzibar, where the aquifers are deep enough to be clean. In Bangladesh water is potentially lethal as the tubewell water is naturally tainted with arsenic, This was not known in our day there 30 years ago, but has since come to light. It's particularly ironic in a country that has such a love-hate relationship with water that this should happen - after all, the Cholera hospital in Dhaka invented the Oral Rehydration solution that we're so familiar with in the West now.

We are looking down the barrel of water metering in Ireland with inevitable charges - hubby is amazed that we have free water here when every other European country seems to be charging for it - but our attitude seems to be why should we have to pay when we have an over-abundance of rain in this damp climate. I guess it's all down to the cost of treatment, which is a luxury we do take for granted, especially when the boil notices appear and ghastly things like Cryptosporidium turn up in Galway and are traced back to the water source. I hope that our mega-leaking ancient pipes here will be given priority for repairs as there seems to be as many litres leaking away per hour as we owe the IMF in Euro in the coming few years.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Christmas - from the Frozen Wastes of a Waterless West Waterford

Happy Christmas - Cake with fondant and royal icing
We are after the coldest Christmas Day in my memory - it was -11Centigrade in Dungarvan on Christmas morning according to the weather widget thingy on my laptop - and I'm not going to argue with technology. It is now +6Centigrade, so that's an improvement and we were due a thaw over the coming days. Hopefully it will suffice to thaw the frozen water pipes that have returned us to bush living (without the tropical heat) over the past week or more. It's been quite an experience having no water over Christmas and our house has been full - there were eight of us for Christmas dinner and it was a lovely day - I was made sit down after dinner while the kitchen was blitzed by the gang and everything left pristine.
After the first slice!

Little and Large - cake for son on left - loaf-tin baked
 We've been drawing water from the Spout, a spring near the town, by Lismore Castle, and it has been seeing queues of people for the past week, as there are so many households and farms without water. So we are relying on the kindness of friends for washing clothes, and offers of showers and people are really helping each other out at this time. We've had New Year's Eve parties for the past few years which have been great fun, and a nice way to meet up with everyone over Christmas - but this year's looks in doubt unless a miracle happens and water returns well before then.

  Years with water shortages in Africa were the norm for us, but there you are prepped for it and it seemed less hassle. We had a pit latrine for starters - that's the biggest drawback for flush loos - the water supply should be reliable. (That old adage from Meet the Parents comes to mind - "If it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down"!)
Lismore Canal on Christmas Eve

River Blackwater at the "Kitchen Hole" - N72 Cappoquin-Lismore road - on Christmas Eve

Jan and me with his internet radio
 I iced our Christmas cakes disgracefully late this year - I put the marzipan on two days ago and the white icing last night - and we've already had a slice. The "proper" way to do Christmas cakes according to the purists is to bake them in October, do the marzipan in late November, wait a week or two and then put on the fondant or royal icing at least a week before serving. Oh dear, I breached each and every one of those guidelines - and there's me preaching with my recipes on Facebook and the blog! So like nurses are the worst at looking after their own health, I guess bakers are somewhat similar - not practising what they preach! In any event, the cake is delicious and the slightly softer-than-usual marzipan and half-set royal icing is actually very tasty. So sometimes breaking the rules isn't so bad after all!
My Outnumbered DVDs - with teen daughter

Sofia and her sit'n'ride rocker - and her godmother
 We'd a lovely day as it was Sofia's first Christmas and she got lots of presents, and Santa came back to the house after an absence of some years - luckily he hadn't forgotten the way. I got some lovely pressies - jewellery from hubby Jan, a gold necklace and matching earrings - the whole series of subversive comedy Outnumbered from the boys, and another DVD from teen daughter - Evelyn with Pierce Brosnan, while clever Sofia gave her granny a Swedish DVD - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - which I read last year for book club! Santa brought Philip Roth's Nemesis - much coveted - and friends gave me more books - chicklit writer Jennifer Weiner's Best Friends Forever from my own very literary BFF in New Jersey, and next month's book club choice (real world, not bloggers!) Winter Bones by Daniel Woodrell. from another friend.
Sofia and her dad

Design son with book
 A family DVD was watched last night - Les Miserables' 25th Anniversary show from London this year - brilliant performance which was live-streamed to cinemas globally and which Shayne and Jany went to see in Dungarvan's SGC cinema at the time. So I will be busy for the coming weeks. Hubby's pressie from me was a Roberts Internet and DAB radio which will give a lot of pleasure - BBC World Service will be crackle-free and round the clock instead of erratic and fadey and non-existent in Ireland - not far enough away to need the World Service on longwave but not near enough to have it on FM the thinking! I believe there are about 10,000 stations globally available - that's gonna need time to navigate!

Sofia got a rocker/sit and ride toy from us, and lots of other toys including her own baby zimmer frame - a push activity toy. Designer son got graphic and typography books, and sporty son got sporty gear and a heart-rate monitor, teen daughter a lavender new mobile phone, while Jany got a sewing machine and books, and Shayne got books and games. All this after Mass and before the turkey dinner, and we went to visit Ma's grave before dinner as well, in the brilliant winter sunshine, as we're thinking of our first Christmas without her.

Here are some photos of the winter wonderland scenery around this Christmas with snow and ice - and frozen rivers, and some of our Christmas day pressie pics. Have a great holiday season and Happy rest of Christmas and New Year!
Jany with Singer sewing machine

Monday, December 20, 2010

Socks, Scarves and Snowflakes - coping with the Big Freeze at Christmas

Modelling the Curly-Wurly Ruffle Scarf
I've been trying to keep my mind off the state of the nation (not an easy task) by immersing myself in knitting and crochet mini-projects. It may be a sign of the times that I can't get down to a single big project like a jumper or jacket, as there's just too much going on with work, home and Christmas less than a week away to concentrate on something demanding a lot of time and attention. That's what the grim gloom of January and February is for! Jany (our d-i-l-to-be) has totally taken to crochet since I showed her how to do it a few months back, and has made some wonderful hats and scarves since then, some of which I posted about recently. She has got me hooked (sorry, couldn't resist that!) on it as well, and as it is much quicker than knitting there's a certain attraction when you want something in a hurry.

This weekend I made a lovely curly-wurly ruffle scarf, in chunky random-dyed wool from the local shop - Angela's Design Workshop - which has reawakened interest in a lot of dormant knitters and crocheters. This coral reef style pattern was so easy and fast to work I couldn't believe it - a scarf in a couple of hours. I can see myself making presents of these for friends - so watch out!
Curly-Wurly Ruffle Scarf
I also got some terrific wool in Lidl which awaits my attention but is such good value you couldn't leave it - especially as Lidl only very occasionally has wool for sale, and when it's there you grab it. There were whole kits - wool, pattern and a circular needle for a jumper for about €5 - ridiculous and yet unmissable. The small independent shops can't compete with that so I don't abandon our local shop which has terrific bargain basement wool - balls of 100g DK for €3, perfectly serviceable and the makings of a scarf or a pair of socks. How bad is that?

Curly-Wurly Ruffle Scarf detail

Cable and Basketweave Socks
Heel detail of  Cable and Basketweave socks

A couple of weeks ago I finished a pair of socks - pattern from Ravelry I think - Cable and Basketweave design. They are very chunky and warm, only suitable with my trainers which is fine, but too thick for my ankle boots. I love them, and they were trimmed with remnants from my stash, so very good for using up scraps. I had a disaster with another pair - my lovely peachy socks I posted about a while back - when second son washed his jeans in the same load. They emerged sludge grey and the little heel hole I'd planned on darning had expanded to beyond repair level - even if they'd retained their colour. So into the bin, before their time. The trials and tribulations of hand knit socks - they don't always wear as well as the shop socks but then that's not why I make them!

Seafoam Scarf
Snowflake for the tree!
I got some random-dyed wool blend a few weeks ago and made this lovely loopy seafoam scarf, and that was another pattern from one of the many online sites I wander around. You can see the original pattern and I made it in a different blend of colours. It was easy to make and ran up very quickly.

This weekend I made a lovely crochet snowflake - it was from a Lion Brand Yarn free download pattern - and Jany made two or three more - they are all delightful and adorn our tree, so that's something I'll do again. There are so many talented designers out there - all I do is knit and crochet, not design anything. 

So I hope you get some inspiration from this post - I hadn't knitted or crocheted anything for  years and only took it up a few years ago, and now I find it a great hobby with a nice end product - and I love that I've shown some others how to knit (Tandy who came in March and is now knitting in London!) and Jany. She has passed me out by leaps and bounds and last night we laughed when she showed me how to do a 3D flower in crochet, while she was a beginner only a few short months ago. There are hundreds of online tutorials for knitting and crochet projects, so check them out on YouTube - just search for them by name and you'll be busy for some time. Most of them are also available as printed patterns, if you prefer.
Toll Plaza on M8 Cork-Dublin motorway at Watergrasshill, Co. Cork

As we are in the middle of the coldest December in my memory with snow and sub-zero temperatures I wish you all a very Happy Christmas. Hope you enjoyed my last post with all our news from the year, and I am loving reading all the cards and letter coming by snail mail each day through our letter box. You can't beat the old ways - even though I only hand-write at Christmas since the advent of email and blogging!

Here's a photo of the road from Cork today after bringing Shayne, Jany and little Sofia home after a weekend with us in Lismore. They'll all be here for Christmas which will be terrific.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happy Christmas 2010 - thoughts on Round Robins and Recessions

Happy Christmas 2010!
Dear friends,

Family gathering for Jan's birthday celebrations (minus William)
It's that time of year again – the Round Robin's bob-bobbing along to a mailbox near you as yet again the annual missive that is our Christmas Newsletter wings its way around the globe. I just realised that this is the 21st Anniversary of our Newsletter – the first one was written on a portable typewriter in Iringa in 1989 and photocopied – badly – and sent off to far-flung corners of the globe from the Southern Highlands of Tanzania!

We are coasting downhill to the Christmas and the New Year with more trepidation than we've collectively felt in my lifetime. There's a strong sense of déjà vu – last year was bad but this year Ireland has a post-apocalyptic feeling now after our €85billion bailout by the IMF and the EU – an intervention much denied by our benighted government in the run-up to their arrival. These sheriffs have been and gone but will keep a close eye on us to make sure we're doing as we're told to keep the banks afloat and raise the taxes to do so, all the while paying the lenders enough interest would run the health service every year. The ignominy of having our affairs handed over to outside forces is a bitter pill to swallow as we have certainly lost our financial sovereignty – not quite back to the old colonial days but economically somewhat similar.

The dreaded budget was unveiled on Tuesday – there's a deficit of €6 billion to fund this year, part of the €14 billion we have to find by 2014. The years of wheeling and dealing have finally caught up with a government who had no grasp on economics as they led us into a bubble of property development borrowing from toxic banks that was totally unsustainable. We're all crashing to earth after builder developers abandon the ghost estates that litter the rural hinterland, while the banksters are all exposed as bluffers who profited from the light touch regulation and deference of the government. What it means to me is a drop in take-home pay of around €2K p.a. and that's just speculative – we won't know till mid-January as there're so many new and combined levies we have a job calculating it all till our first paycheques.

Jan and me at his birthday party May 2010
Back to the news from the Rotte-Murray family – and what a year it's been. We've seen the best of times and the worst of times, to borrow a line from Charles Dickens. We were blessed with the birth of our first grandchild, a beautiful little girl, Sofia, born to Shayne and Jany in Cork on February 11th. She is a joy and delight for all of us, as she grows to a lively active baby, well on the way to being a toddler who'll keep everyone on their toes this Christmas. Then three weeks later, on March 5th, we were plunged into sadness with the death of my beloved mother at the great age of 94. She had been declining over recent years, and she had a peaceful passing for which we are all grateful – she didn't suffer and I was blessed to be able to spend so much time with her in her last weeks in St. Joseph's Hospital in Dungarvan. It has been an awful loss as we were so close, but these last years have been a long goodbye, with her decline into dementia. She was buried in Lismore with her beloved parents, and Jan gave a beautiful eulogy at her funeral Mass. I have great memories of her, and I can look out our window to the graveyard at the back of our garden where she's at rest, and there's a comfort in that for me. We are all glad that the whole family were together with her a few days before she died, and we took treasured photos of her with Sofia and all of us.

Sofia's Christening Day, 4th September, with her parents
Shayne and Jany have settled into life in Cork, and they are expecting a second baby next March! Shayne had been working with Concern in direct fundraising but was let go in February. Jany then got a job in Marriott International in April, and Shayne is looking after Sofia and doing a business course – Jan or me babysit on the days he's at college. They are in a nice house in Blackrock, close to shops and bus routes. They went to Holland in August to bring Sofia to see Jany's family and friends. It is lovely having them in Ireland after all the years Shayne was in Spain, and we would miss them so much if they weren't here –so the timing was perfect when they came back – another year and they might have been put off by the dire economic situation. We had a lovely ceremony for Sofia's Christening in Lismore in September – she looked sweet in our family heirloom Christening robe – the 4th or 5th generation – and had a BBQ in the garden here afterwards, as we had a good summer this year.

Me and Sofia - October
Martin and us at his MA graduation DIT - Oct. 2010
 Martin has just finished his Master's Degree in Professional Design Practice in DIT (Dublin Institute of Technology in Bolton Street) and we had a lovely day at his recent graduation in St. Patrick's Cathedral. He is still living in Dublin, and is trying to find a job, without much luck so far though he has an interview this week. He enjoyed his MA and it is a damning indictment of the system to see so many well-educated graduates on the dole and unable to get work in their professional field- he has done unpaid interning to get experience for his CV, so I hope it pays off. There's so much emigration now that the government is factoring it into the projections for the social welfare costs for the next four years and they are also claiming the figures on the live register are dropping (the Social Welfare register) – that's all because of the emigration. I don't want the boys to have to go abroad – when we went it was from choice, not necessity. That's a whole different ball-game.

William and us at his BA graduation UL August 2010
William finished his BA in Physical Education and Geography in the University of Limerick and we celebrated with his graduation in August. He moved to Cork when he got a job as a waiter in the Airport Hotel, and as he was getting very few hours there he got another job this week in Amazon in Cork. He has applied for teaching in the UK as there seems very little in teaching in Ireland – the public service embargo is affecting new grads worse than experienced teachers as they are all competing for the few substitute jobs or maternity cover or the private schools unaffected by the ban on recruitment in the public sector. All very demoralising for the lads and their parents aren't too happy either – but we are very proud of all of them for getting to adulthood with a positive outlook on life and not giving up on Ireland – just yet anyway.

Maeve has just had her 15th birthday with a sleepover weekend here at home with five or six of her friends – we lifted the term-time ban on sleepovers for the occasion and she made the best of it. With her Junior Cert looming in June, she has had to knuckle down to the books – and having to do supervised study doesn't really appeal but it concentrates the study to the afternoon and she doesn't have that much to do after dinner. As we didn't go abroad for holidays this year – sign of the times – she spent the summer camping in the garden in a big tent we got in Argos, and they had good fun with that. I took four of the girls to Dublin for a weekend in July – we stayed in the Skylon Hotel and they shopped till I dropped. They enjoyed it and I was able to drop them to Blanchardstown Centre and spend time with Martin and also visit old friends Tom and Darina.

Jan had a very significant birthday this year – he turned sixty in May! All his family came over from Holland for a week and we marked the big occasion with a party in Ballyrafter House Hotel with the family and our friends. I baked a huge cake and we had a lovely night, and he didn't look a day over fifty (!) as we danced the night away to a local combo. The family all stayed in Youghal in holiday homes, and did a lot of sightseeing as well as spending time with us in Lismore during the week – we had a BBQ at home and then hired a bus for a day trip around the Ring of Kerry, which was a highlight for all of us. It was over thirty years since I had been there in my hitch-hiking student days. It's still a beautiful scenic route – a 90 mile round trip from Killarney and some hair-raising bends – no wonder the tour buses can only go one-way! Jan is still active in the local Town Council for Labour and on the national town councillors' committee, as well as Concern's council, and the national festival association.

Shayne, Sofia and Jany
This year's Immrama festival of Travel Writing was another great success, with big names like Ranulph Fiennes speaking about his Boy's Own adventures to various frozen wastes of the world, his self-amputation of his fingers after a nasty dose of frostbite, and other tales of derring-do. Tim Severin was also there, telling of his high seas adventures in the wake of Sinbad and St. Brendan and other great voyagers, and veteran writer Jan Morris rounded off a terrific weekend of armchair travel in wonderful settings around Lismore. It proved a great respite from the recession, and hopefully 2011 will be as big an event – many old faces return for the fringe events, and its international reputation keeps growing. Jan is kept busy as the festival manager, and plans are already underway for next year. We took part in the Seán Kelly Charity Tour of Waterford in August, with Jan doing 90km while Shayne and me did 50km, and Shayne did 90km in the Cork Rebel Tour in September. I got a lot of fun from my birthday present of a lipstick-red hybrid tour/trek cross bike.

I'm still working away in Old Parish area as the public health nurse, although I moved office to Dungarvan in May. With the snow we've had in Ireland in recent weeks – Snowvember as some called it – there have been parts of my area impassable by car, and the coastguard jeep had to do shopping for some isolated folk in the uplands. I don't think Ireland does snow and bad weather too well, as is the norm in so many countries, but we literally grind to a halt when there's more than a few days of snow and ice. We had the Big Freeze in 2009/10 and it looks like it may be round 2 already, with plenty more forecast. I continue to enjoy my job despite the constraints of cutbacks, as the recruitment ban means that posts aren't always automatically filled, and now there're plans to reduce numbers by 6000 in the coming years, half of which may be frontline nursing staff. With beds closing, hospitals overcrowded, and morale very low, it's hard to know where it will all end. There's even talk of returning the beleaguered HSE to the old Health Boards system to improve accountability.

That's about it for our news this year – we weren't away for any holiday, rather the family came to us in May and in late March an old friend Tandy came for a visit – we hadn't met since we lived in Iringa where our kids grew up together, so we'd a lot of catching up to do. We spent some of the time sightseeing around lovely West Waterford and had some knitting lessons – which she has kept up since returning to London. Jany has discovered a previously unknown talent for crochet, and I knitted some funky socks for myself as well as some baby clothes for Sofia. I'm still reading avidly, and in the book club, as well as an online Bloggers' book club, where there's a lot of overlap with the real world club. I enjoy blogging as an outlet for writing – mostly recipes, book reviews, knitting, family events, and current affairs ranting. Check it out – I was chuffed to be shortlisted for two categories in the Irish Blog Awards, even though I didn't win it was a nice accolade.

We're looking forward to having all the family together for Christmas in Lismore, even though it'll be sad as the first one without Ma, and she'll be in our thoughts. May you all have a wonderful Christmas, and drop in if you're around Lismore – we've an open door here and love to catch up on old friends in real time as well as all those we keep in contact with through Skype, Facebook and email, which have all changed the way the world communicates. We wish you all much happiness in 2011 and look forward to hearing from you in the coming weeks and over the festive season.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all,

Love from

Jan and Catherine, Shayne, Jany and Sofia, Maeve, William and Martin, and Ben the dog.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bloggers' Book Club - Room by Emma Donoghoe

We had this Man-Booker shortlisted novel for our real-world book club here in Lismore last month so it was serendipitous that it was listed for the Bloggers' Book Club for November. There's been a few coincidences recently - Andrea Levy's Small Island was another one we did in both worlds and it went down a treat in each!

Room has just won the Irish Novel of the Year at the Irish Times Book Awards and it is a well deserved accolade for Emma Donoghue, whatever you may make of the novel's subject matter which has sat uncomfortably with many readers. It's a pretty ambiguous book and many of our book club members seemed ambivalent; torn between admiration and exasperation,  the lack of the definite article was a particular gripe with one of our members who found it incongruous in a child with an otherwise extremely advanced vocabulary.

Many felt uncomfortable about the voyeuristic sense that it exploited for literary and commercial gain the misery of those who  had experienced such incarceration, particularly the Fritzl case in Austria which was the inspiration for Donoghue.

Coincidentally, last Sunday morning Emma Donoghue and her father Denis Donoghue, a renowned literary critic were on RTÉ Radio One's Miriam Meets. It was a fascinating programme and it showed the relationship between father and daughter to be mutually loving and relaxed. She came across as a gentle articulate woman with a lovely accent - Hiberno-Canadian overtones probably - and he as a slightly self-deprecating academic and family man. I have to admit I'd never heard of him but had read her before - Stir-Fry was the first of her books I read back in the '70s and it left an impression.

But this is a review of Room. The subject was harrowing - based on the horrendous true story of abduction and imprisonment of young women by monsters - often their own fathers as in the Joseph Fritzl case - and in this book, a stranger who abducted Ma (I don't think she's named in the book - correct me if I'm wrong) as a young student and held her hostage in a soundproofed garden shed for 7 or 8 years. Long enough for her to be impregnated twice - first with a baby who dies, and is buried in the garden by the abductor/father (known only as Old Nick, a nicely Satanic reference), and then with Jack who survives and becomes the focus of Ma's life. The story opens when he's almost six and he is the narrator throughout. It quickly becomes evident that he is an extremely precocious child with a vocabulary way beyond his tender years, and an intelligence of acquired knowledge - like reading and big words - while having a very peculiar trait. He personalises objects in his environment and in doing so drops the indefinite article. The Wardrobe is simply Wardrobe, and every inanimate object in his frame of reference comes alive. It is a grating construct that grew on me - I quickly got over the initial irritation - and it made perfect sense to me when he had such a strange world view.

For Jack, his world was Room - he knew no other space - and Ma conspired in this by telling him the world they saw on TV was not real. So he grows up with the norms of childhood in the early 21st Century - TV. Dora the Explorer is his favourite children's programme, slightly unusual as it is generally favoured by girls, but Jack has no gender stereotypes to conform with. Their lives in Room are so confined yet Jack has no sense of this, knowing nothing else. That he has got to five with such intelligent development is a testimony to Ma's care and the most disturbing images are of his hiding in Wardrobe during the visits of their abductor and Ma's passivity in succumbing to his advances, all the while humouring him to protect Jack. She still breastfeeds Jack which makes sense - they need to be close to each other and it provides him with nutrients he might not get from his diet given that he never saw daylight except through the skylight in Room.

I found myself trying to imagine how the world would be if all you knew was the one space and had no language to describe the rest of the world. It reminded me of writer/philosopher Alain de Botton's references to Xavier de Maistre's Voyage around my Room in his book The Art of Travel. de Maistre wrote about travelling around his bedroom, as if on a global expedition - but he knew what else was out there. Jack has no idea what he's missing, and only midway through the book when Ma plots the escape plan does she disclose the truth to him. He cannot comprehend that there is a world with more people out there, and while the actual escape stretches the imagination a bit I think Donoghue deserves a bit of artistic licence as there was no other way to do it.

The book is clearly divided into a before and after - life in Room and beyond. The world falling apart for Jack is at times harrowing and if not such a difficult scenario would be often hilarious. The poor boy has a hard time adjusting to relationships with the family of Ma who has a nervous breakdown soon after their rescue. There's little reference to the abductor afterwards, other than to confirm he'd be getting life. I found the after part of the book quite disjointed and it probably reflected their new life - she had to pick up the pieces after a long absence and her parents had split up, so she had a new Steppa to contend with while her natural father came from Australia to visit her and had a difficulty with Jack being the result of rape. It had an open ending - so one hopes there's a good future for both of them - if there's a sequel potential I'd be curious to know what went on before - maybe there'd be a prequel as well.

I'm going to add some videoclips I saw on other Blogger's Book Club member's reviews, as they give a good sense of the macabre world we move into with Room.

All in all, I loved the voice of Jack - his innocence and absolute acceptance of the world he knows is credible, and while the lack of the indefinite article is a bit irritating at first it blends in with the theme. I could visualise Room so well that I could imagine them exercising, feeding, watching TV and hiding in Wardrobe. The horrors of the incarceration are alluded to and the reader is drip-fed tidbits, like the injured wrist which Ma sustained from her abductor, her rotten tooth which Jack holds like a talisman, a soother. There are terrible things in this book that creep up on the reader they are told so matter-of-factly by Jack referring to incidents or relaying what Ma's told him happened.

There's a subtext on breastfeeding and societal attitudes to extended feeding which are nicely addressed here - Jack helps himself to "some" as he calls the milk whenever he wants it - a situation prevailing in many parts of the world today - but it freaks out people on the outside when they hear of it, as if it's one of the bigger deals. The topic is opened up without being laboured pedantically but it shows the prejudice that society can have towards something so innocent, as if it's something bad she's doing, instead of a way to keep sane as well as keep Jack healthy in his incarceration.

While it is a disturbing difficult book to read, that's probably the genius of the writer. As a mother of a young boy like Jack, she listened and listed his speech patterns to get the gist of a child's voice. The reader is drawn into their world that it becomes plausible and real. I would say this book will be read by book clubs globally and there will be a universality in the response to it, a difficult subject, controversial regarding allegations of exploitation by the writer of such situations - some of our members and indeed some journalists felt it exploited the awful abductions like that of Jaycee Dugard that came to light in 2009, the Fritzl one in 2008 and the Kampusch one in 2006, both in Austria. I'm sure Austrian society has done a lot of soul-searching lately but I don't think any country can take the moral high ground. We're not too hot ourselves in our treatment of the innocent, with all the clerical sex abuse of children, the dreadful incest cases exposed in the media - some high-profile like the McColgan and Kilkenny and Roscommon cases, others less so where there's a litany of misery in the cold detached language of a newspaper court report.

The subject matter might be bleak, and any review will reflect that, but I think Donoghue offers insight into what it might be like to be a victim of such a terrible crime and we'll all hug our children a little bit tighter after reading a book like Room - and be thankful for our ordinary mundane lives.

The members of the Bloggers' Book Club (moderated by Lily, bless her!) include:

Lily @
Marian @
Cathy @
Lorna @
Susan @
Ann @
Val @
Edie @
Jen @
Kirsty @
Susan @
Winifred @
Paysan @

Drop by and leave a comment if you feel inclined. And if you'd like to join, just send Lily a message. New members are welcome so link in if you're a book-lover!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Snowvember Comfort Food - Variations on a Theme of Chicken Stroganoff and Apple Cake

The view from my bedroom this morning
Yesterday we had our first snow of this winter - Snowvember as someone called it on Facebook (I'm lifting it for the post title but have no idea whose idea it is - I just like it!) - and it came out of the blue as we never expected to have such early falls. The temperatures have been sub-zero for a few days, barely rising to 1-2 degrees Centigrade by day and falling to -10 Centigrade at night - in some parts of the country at least. The UK has had a much  more severe spell of snowy weather with -17C in Wales last night. (For all the American readers - I'm sorry, I haven't a clue what these temperatures are in Fahrenheit without converting and as I only do that for recipes you'll have to bear with me and check out some widget somewhere or other that'll do the business for you!)

The garden from the sunroom at noon today
With all this in mind it was time for lockdown for the weekend. I am not even thinking about work tomorrow or how I will deal with that - we don't prepare for snow in Ireland so no snow tyres/tires, and no chains and no snowploughs - only salt and grit. That means only main roads get treated and the by-roads I travel in work will be left to Mother Nature. I hope to be around to report back later in the week!

So ratchet the central heating up to the max, get a good DVD for Saturday night and have a nice warming dinner. This offset the worst impact of our "blizzard" - in essence about three or four inches of powdery snow which didn't thaw as the temps are too low - and made us feel like Scott of the Antarctic.

Going outside prompted "I may be some time" comment from the wittier among us, and a trip to the hilly hinterland of Lismore, Ballysaggart on the foothills of the Knockmealdown Mountains, to collect teen daughter and her pal from a friend's house necessitated having hubby drive as I was too chicken to chance it.

The book - in Jamie's blokey style
It was hair-raising as there were patches of black ice and snow frozen on ice that were lethal and we were lucky not to skid into the ditch/side of the road. (Still have that argument with Dutch hubby over ditch/dyke. In Holland a ditch is full of water, here it's the hedge at the side of the road. I seem to remember writing about this last year during the "Big Freeze"!

I decided to make a new dish for dinner last night and went to Jamie Oliver's wonderfully back-to-basic home cooking book "Jamie's Ministry of Food" for inspiration. As I wanted a chicken one-pot dish with rice, I went for the Chicken Stroganoff with leeks and mushrooms and tweaked it a little. Normally I use chicken in curry, or in a tomato-based Spanish-style stew, or for fast food like Fajitas or just plain old Roast Chicken, which is one of my favourite and hard to beat for comforting winter Sunday roasts.

This chicken stroganoff was simple to make, and quite plain. I added garlic, mixed herbs and some non-MSG Season-All (a type of sprinkled BBQ seasoning from the Schwartz spice range, which are good quality with no nasty artificial stuff.) This gave it a bit of a kick and I think the original would have been just too bland for my and hubby's taste buds which have been primed by years of Asian cuisine to the upper end of the hot'n'spicy scale.

Just had a nice slice of the cake - yummy!
Today I decided to make a variation on another classic comfort food - Apple Cake. I had some pastry for a base which I baked blind (with beans weighing it down on greaseproof paper). I covered the base with sliced cooking apples, then sprinkled sugar and a light dusting of cinnamon, and then covered the lot with cake mix. I used Victoria Sponge - having made enough for buns as well, I used half to top the cake. I then decorated the top with Glacé cherries and pecan nuts, and popped it in the oven for 30-40 minutes. It is delicious with whipped cream or ice cream, as it is more a dessert than a cake, being quite moist from the apples.

Here are both recipes with some photos of each.

Chicken Stroganoff (Based on Jamie Oliver's recipe)

Creamy chicken stroganoff with leeks and mushrooms
Jamie's recipe - click to enlarge pic
  1. Olive oil and butter knob (25gm/1oz) to cook
  2. 600gm/1.5lbs diced chicken breast
  3. 1 large leek, quartered, sliced and rinsed well
  4. 220 gm/half-pound sliced button mushrooms.
  5. 1 tsp. dried mixed herbs.
  6. 1tablesp. chopped parsley.
  7. 1teaspoon seasoning sprinkled over chicken - can be BBQ, Cajun, Season-All, try the Schwartz range or any good quality natural seasonings. 
  8. 1 glass white wine.
  9. Half glass water.
  10. 250 ml/half-pint single cream.
  11. Salt and Pepper to season.
  12. Half-tsp. paprika powder (optional - I wanted a bit of a kick).
  13. Small squeeze of lemon juice (optional - add at end if wished).

Method (varies from Jamie's but I like to brown the chicken first).
mmmm, dinner!
  1. Sprinkle seasonings and dried herbs on chicken, heat oil and butter and add chicken. 
  2. Cook stirring well over high heat until browned all over. 
  3. Add leeks and mushrooms and cook for a few minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.
  4. Add wine and water, chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste, cover and simmer for 10 mins. 
  5. Add cream, simmer and stir, reduce if liquid is too thin, but no need to add roux or any flour thickener.
  6. A delicate and tasty flavour, this is delicious served with Basmati Rice and Garlic Bread!
 Apple, Cherry and Pecan cake

Pastry for Base (Standard sweet shortcrust pastry used on numerous other recipes in this blog)

before baking - apple mix in pastry case
  1. 1lb/450gm plain flour8oz/225gm chilled butter (preferable to margarine).
  2. 2 oz/50gm sugar (or caster sugar or icing sugar) - optional if sweet pastry desired - otherwise omit.
  3. 1 egg - optional if you want rich shortcrust pastry - otherwise omit.
  4. A few tablespoons of cold water to bind.
Ready for the oven
  1. Add butter to flour, chop up with knife and rub in with fingers to crumbly texture.
  2. Add sugar and egg (if using) and water to bind stiffly.
  3. Minimally handling, knead lightly on floured worktop/table.
  4. Roll out enough pastry to line a deep pie/flan dish.
  5. Bake blind - put dried beans on greaseproof paper on top of pastry base.
  6. Bake for 10 mins at 200C/390F, then lower heat to 150C/300F and remove beans and paper, bake further 10 mins. Cool.
Finished Apple, Cherry and Pecan Cake
Victoria Sponge Cake Mix
  1. 4oz/100gm flour (self-raising or plain with 2-3 teaspoons baking powder)
  2. 4oz/100gm sugar
  3. 4oz/100gm butter
  4. 2 eggs
  5. Almond or Vanilla Essence (as preferred)
  1. Put all ingredients into mixing bowl and whisk together, if using electric whisk. 
  2. Otherwise, using a wooden spoon, cream butter and sugar well, add essence and beaten eggs and flour and baking powder (if used) alternately until a dropping consistency is reached. 
  3. Add a little boiling water to get right consistency.

2- 3 Cooking apples peeled and sliced - lay on base of cooked pastry case
Sprinkle sugar liberally on apples, then cinnamon.
Cover with Victoria Sponge cake mix
Decorate top with whole glacé cherries and whole pecan nuts as wished.

Bake in preheated oven 200C/375F for 15 mins, reduce heat to 150C/300F for another 20-30 mins or until firm and golden - watch out it doesn't burn - if edges done before centre move down a shelf and cover with greaseproof paper - loosely.
Cool on wire rack and dust with Icing Sugar.
Delicious with Ice Cream or Whipped Cream

Note the absence in this post of any mention of economic meltdown, national humiliation bailouts and selling out to the IMF/ECB, or street protests. These will have their day as I am very angry about the state of the nation and the mess our incompetent so-called leaders have left us with as we face down an early General Election in the New Year. But for now - time to be happy and eat well!

Monday, November 15, 2010

More Memorable Typos - Lifting the Pre-Budget Blues

I was out for a walk last week and spotted this
congratulatory beauty in a shop window. Luckily I had the camera in my pocket for a quick snap, capturing the sentiment for posterity, and being the typo terrorist anorak that I am - after winning the Irish Times Terrible Typos competition in September there's no stopping me now - I just couldn't pass this by. 

Camogie, for the uninitiated, is hurling for girls and  women, it's very popular among local teams but has very poor national support compared to the senior hurling and football All-Ireland Finals in Croke Park, which are usually sell-outs. The GAA tried to sex it up a few years ago by a "Chicks with Sticks" campaign, but while it might have boosted the game's image and shown the calibre of the players, it smacked of desperation to me and many other old-school feminists out there.

Then a few days later I was at a conference in the West of Ireland and this wonderful misspelling jumped out at me from the ticket to the Gala Dinner - or Banquette? It set me thinking of the unreliability of grammar and spellcheckers that are so ubiquitous in computer software but don't bypass the need for proofreading and judicious editing before committing to print. This would surely prevent a lot of red faces when the errors come to light.

Last week I was listening to Liveline - a phone-in daily RTE Radio One show that purports to take the pulse of the Irish listeners and reflect the zeitgeist -when this woman with a plummy South Dublin accent rang in to say she was in the horrors over a typo on a baby vest she'd spotted in Dunnes Stores. (Note the absence of a possessive apostrophe in their title - deliberate or not no-one seems sure.)
You can link to the audio clip here.

Well she set the airwaves alight! The baby vest for infants under a year had typos that made a nonsense of the little slogan but was of the kind all too common on fake designer rip-offs when we lived in Laos. ("Your going to fast in your little red car" was the slogan!)She came over all righteous and wanted a head on a plate but had got no joy from Dunnes other than a vague assurance it wouldn't happen again - so she made good on her threat to "Talk to Joe" and  fired off a missive to Liveline. The response she got from other listeners can't have made her day as she got no support and was written off as a tad OTT. Her own cliché was picked up when she said "At this point in time" so she wasn't getting away with anything.

Fair enough - I get grief from my lads for being an "Eats shoots and leaves" typo type, but I do hope I don't get too smug over it all! Some would say Liveline caters to the whingers and moaners who have nothing better to do than ring in with their gripe of the day, but it is incredibly addictively listenable when a good row gets going, and certainly has ruffled political feathers on many occasions. 

Courtesy of RTE - protest at hospital closures
Finally - the pièce de résistance! This was broadcast on national TV news the other evening at a protest march against local hospital closures when the extremely unpopular Minister for Health Mary Harney was present.  That she's seen as the Angel of Death to local hospitals is quite understandable - but this put a whole new angle on the situation! Given that she was splashed with red paint the previous week at a sod-turning ceremony, it's amazing that she had the brass neck to put in another public appearance where she would be heckled. But she's got brass neck in spades (couldn't resist that pun!) and there are some terrific Photoshopped images out there - Santa killer below being one of the best! 

Courtesy of Photoshop - Mary Harney kills Santa!
Enjoy them and forget the wolves at the door - in the guise of the IMF or the European Bank Bailout Crew - whom we are told with Shakespearean denial (as in protesting too much) by the government are not on the horizon - we all think they are, sharpening their calculators to see how much they can bleed from the peasants come Budget Day on December 7th. I think I'll just knit my way through the recession - it'll take my mind off the dreary penny-pinching days ahead!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bloggers' Book Club - Small Island by Andrea Levy

This book has a sense of dejá vu for me as I read it a few years ago, then our real-world book club chose it for September, and now it's rolled around again for the virtual Bloggers' Book Club - Lily's brainchild.

I re-read it, and it weathered the re-read pretty well, as I had forgotten a lot of the detail. 

The story tells of the lives of four main characters - a young Jamaican woman, Hortense, who comes to live in England, following her husband Gilbert Joseph who has already come over in the first wave of Caribbean immigration on the Windrush; Queenie Bligh, their landlady and friend; and her husband Bernard who signs up for service in India during WWII.
Hortense has great hopes for their future, but these are dashed when she sees the squalor in which he lives, in a room in a boarding house. The landlady, Queenie,is a truly anachronistic character in that she is kind-hearted and very open to immigrants in the face of the overt racism of Britain at the time - the days of the "No Blacks, Irish or Dogs" signs in the windows. In her tolerance, she seems to be colour blind and this brings the wrath of her neighbours and family on many occasions. Her husband Bernard has vanished during the war, and his story emerges when he returns unexpectedly from abroad, a changed man whose wartime experiences in India are horrendous and show the brutality of war on ordinary men.

The writer highlights the attitudes of the colonial Caribbean "small island" people to England - the Motherland. They speak of it as Home, redolent of the Raj, and imbue it with a sentimental nostalgia. The disillusionment they must have felt on experiencing the reality must have been a huge let-down and thrown them completely.
Gilbert is a lovable rogue and quite innocent, while Hortense was ambitious and quite the snob - she had aspirations to a grand life in England and won't let anything stand in her way. To this end she does an appalling thing by telling her best friend's boyfriend about her mad mother - and ends up marrying the  boyfriend - Gilbert.  This shows a mean streak in her character which is mirrored throughout the book in her treatment of Gilbert and yet she is a paradox as she shows at the end with an uncharacteristically magnanimous gesture.

Hortense was well-educated in Jamaica as a schoolteacher and it is heartbreaking to see the dismissive attitude of the staff at the department when she tries to get her teaching certification recognised in England. She sees her dreams dashed but becomes a better and kinder person by the end of the novel, by realising that people are what matter.

There are many twists in this tale - Queenie's love affair with Michael, who has links to Jamaica and Hortense - and whose paths almost cross in England. The end of the tale is very poignant, and I found it very moving and yet somehow redemptive, and to tell more would prompt a spoiler alert.

Levy has a lovely style of writing - she uses the vernacular and the patois of Jamaica - and she paints a wonderfully evocative picture of an idyllic yet hard life on the island before the mass migration to the motherland. She is well placed to write on this theme of  migration as her own parents were also migrants on the Windrush to England in the 1940s.

The sense of being from a small island becomes relative when they realise that England and the Motherland is another small island in the global context. It is a novel that encompasses race and identity in a cultural clash and brings the colonial past into sharp relief - the propaganda of colonialism is shown by the idealised image Gilbert and especially Hortense have of England and how disconnected that ideal is from the reality.

Serendipitously, I had BBC Radio Four/World Service on yesterday and thanks to a strike by newscasters and journalists, the Today Programme was replaced by the World Book Club programme with Andrea Levy talking about - yes, Small Island! It was great to hear her reading in the voice of Hortense and to hear her discuss the book and answer questions from the audience about the characters - check it out for yourself here. Just scroll down and find it under Andrea Levy. You can podcast it to iTunes and listen at your leisure as I have just done.  There is also a BBC TV production of Small Island which I haven't seen, but I am very tempted to get the box set or even check if the local library has it.

The members of the Bloggers' Book Club are here - be sure to visit their posts and compare and contrast everyone's reviews!
  1. Lily @ Lily's Blog
  2. Marian @ Made Marian
  3. Cathy @ Rumble Strips
  4. Lorna @ Garrendenny Lane Interiors
  5. Val @ MagnumLady's Blog
  6. Jenn @ SmurfetteJenn's Blog
  7. Edie @ Munchies and Musings
  8. Jenny @ Stitchcraft Jen
  9. Kirsty @ The Road Less Travelled
  10. Steph @ The Biopsy Report
  11. Susan @ Queen of Pots!
  12. Winifred @ I'm Trying Honestly!
  13. Ann @ Inkpots n'Quills
  14. Paysan @ Kick out the Jams
  15.  Susan @ Joyous Flowers
  16. Marie @ Diary of a Country Wife
Happy Surfing and remember - if you want to join us - check in with Lily as the moderator and I am sure new members are more than welcome!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Comfort Zones - Chocolate Pecan Brownies and Peachy Socks

Brownies ready for the oven - Pecans and 70% Chocolate
Yesterday I was perusing blogs and came across this decadent-looking recipe over on Brownieville Girl's foodie blog and thought - I've got all the stuff in the kitchen - so I got stuck in straight away and made them. I have to confess I  hadn't made brownies since we lived in Africa over 15 years ago as I am not that mad about rich chocolate cakes - but then I have eaten some delicious brownies over the years and they are quite different from chocolate sponge cake.

Mixing the Brownie Batter with the pecans
Firstly they are so concentrated and dense that you only need a small one to feel satisfied and full (she tells herself!); secondly, they are totally different in texture and have a moist centre with a slightly crunchy outside; and finally what clinched it for  me was seeing a brownie in the coffee shop we went to for lunch yesterday that cost €1.50 - and that was not much more than a mouthful.

Cheapskate that I am it kills me to see such prices for what's basically a slice of a tray-bake, in the same way that my inner Scrooge baulks at paying €1.90 or €2 for a cup of hot water with a teabag. I do enjoy going for lunch with my colleagues and a couple of times a week we meet up - but mostly I bring lunch with me and have it in the tearoom at work with an endless supply of free tea from the Burco boiler!
Ready steady bake!

I decided to experiment with these lovely brownies to bring them into work to share with my colleagues in the tearoom. They could be my guinea pigs, as they have shown themselves adept at sampling my other experiments, be they Anzac cookies or plain old Apple Tarts. They were very happy to do so and the brownies vanished like the promises in a political manifesto after polling day.

Here's the recipe from the Brownieville Girl Blog with full credit to her for sharing it with us - you can also link to her recipe post here.
(I am not familiar with cups but I used a cone measure which has cups on it and that helped, along with our digital scales)

Brownies (Courtesy of Brownieville Girl) with Pecan Nuts
Brownies cooling down - cut into squares
(my variation)
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Ready with the cuppa tea - or hot chocolate to go all out!
  1. 1/3  cup                cocoa
  2. 1 tsp                     instant espresso powder
  3. 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp   boiling water
  4. 2 oz (55g)            dark chocolate (at least 70%) finely chopped
  5. 2oz (55g)             butter - melted
  6. 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp  vegetable oil
  7. 2                          large eggs
  8. 2                          egg yolks
  9. 2 tsp                    vanilla extract
  10. 2 cups                 sugar
  11. 1/2 cup                brown sugar
  12. 1 3/4 cups           flour
  13. 1/2 tsp                 salt
  14. 6oz (165g)          dark chocolate (again at least 70%!) chopped into pieces
  15. 1 Cup                 roughly chopped Pecan or Walnuts (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 180 C/350 F
  • Line a 9" brownie tin with parchment paper, or just butter it.  
  • You can also use a roasting dish/tin with parchment paper lining as I did.
  • Whisk cocoa, coffee and boiling water in a large bowl. 
  • (I used a saucepan for everything instead as I melted the butter and chocolate on the stove top)
  • Add 2 oz chocolate  and whisk until melted.
  • Whisk in the melted butter and oil.
  • Add eggs and egg yolks, vanilla extract and whisk until totally blended.
  • Whisk in the sugars until well incorporated.
  • Add the flour and salt and combine carefully with a large spoon.
  • Mix Pecan nuts or Walnuts thoroughly in mixture
Scatter the chocolate pieces over the brownie mixture.
  • Bake 30 - 35 minutes - you know how to check it's right!
  • Allow to cool for 1 1/2 hours and then cut into nice big chunks. (I used a Pizza Cutter)
I hope you like the photos - the chocolate I used was Lidl's Ecuador 70%, while the Cocoa was Green & Black's Organic Cocoa - a perfect combo! The whole thing took no time to make - I used a hand whisk as the mix is like pancake batter till you fold in the flour when it thickens a bit. No need for much elbow grease at all!

Cosy Toes in Comfy Boots
Peachy Pastel Lacy Socks

As for the peachy pastel socks - these were just too pretty to pass by. I found the pattern via Ravelry like so many others - they are also from the Fantasy Cascade range and I used DK yarn - 100gm ball of a lovely pale peachy colour that I'd bought in Buncrana in September - I got it as a baby wool but as I got two balls I have plenty leftover. The socks use about 65gms. I found the pattern easy-peasy once I got used to the repeat, every 16 rows. The pattern can be downloaded as a free PDF from the Cascade Yarns Fixation site here  You can see the pattern on the link about half-way down - W124 Fancy Feet - it's the middle sock of the three shown. 
(If you want to follow me on Ravelry I'm there as LismoreLady!)

Hanging out in the garden

The beauty of these socks I've been making is that they are actually very wearable and I am as snug as a bug in a rug these days with my new ankle boots and home-made socks keeping me warm and cosy. I got my new Clarks ankle boots in Shaw's in Dungarvan a few weeks ago - and they are a tad big for popsox or normal tights, as I wanted to have enough room for woolly ribbed tights or my knitted socks - and they work a dream. So the moral is - go a half-size up if you want that bit of space in your boots - especially if you try them on wearing popsox.

I think I'll be making some of these as Christmas pressies - maybe even as a blog giveaway when I get around to it - watch this space!

Meanwhile, happy baking and knitting to all!

New Boots with my Coral Socks

Heel and pattern detail of Lacy Socks