Thursday, June 24, 2010

How have I only just discovered Jane Austen?

I was nosing through the "books for sale for 50p" section of the library a few weeks ago, and came across Jane Austen's Emma. Somehow I've come this far in life without having read any Jane Austen, so I decided it was time to remedy that.

I really enjoyed it - there were parts that I found so funny I had to read them out to John (who appreciated it, I'm sure), and scenarios that were as cringeworthy as any reality show or sitcom. I really loved the ramblings of Miss Bates, who appears to stop speaking only to breathe, and even then, only when she's in danger of keeling over.

I also loved Mr. Woodhouse, Emma's father, who verbalises the worst possible outcome of every situation. There were two scenes of his that cracked me up. The first is when his elder daughter is bringing her family to visit for two weeks, and he frets endlessly about the fact that two weeks isn't possibly going to be enough time and why would poor Isabella possibly not want to stay with him forever? The second part was when the assembled are discussing their thoughts on a painting that Emma has done, and Mr. Woodhouse says that he quite likes the artistry but could never possibly like the painting because the subject is seated outside, and all sorts of unfortunate things could befall one while outside!!

Too funny.

Speaking of horrible things that can befall one while outside, I was minding my own business putting the compost bin out tonight, and noticed that our gooseberry bush is a shadow of its former self. As in, half the leaves were gone and the branches stripped bare. Um, what? I checked it on Tuesday night and everything was fine. According to the interwebs, it's sawfly - little green caterpillars that nom their way through gooseberry plants. Lovely. As much as I hate spraying chemicals on things, the two suggestions were: pick them all off by hand (um, no) or NUKE the little buggers. One trip to B&Q later, for some food-safe insecticide, and they have been nuked. I felt a little bad, but they were eating MY gooseberries.  Or at least, eating the leaves on my gooseberry plant, preventing me from eating MY gooseberries.

In other news, this foxglove is not infested with anything (yet), and I thought it looked pretty. Agree?

While on my unscheduled trip to B&Q this evening for my bug-killer juice, I tuned into Bob Harris' weekly country music extravaganza on Radio 2. He had Brad Paisley singing songs from his new album, which John and I both really liked (and have now downloaded on iTunes). Between the Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, and Dixie Chicks, I think we now have sufficient country music to keep Stowmarket hoppin' for quite a while.

Quick musical plug: if anyone is anywhere near Stamford, Lincs, this Saturday evening, the Bach Choir is performing at St Martin's Church in Stamford at 6pm. We'll be done by 7, in plenty of time for you to watch the football!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Too cold for anything but quilting

I'd noticed on my Friend Connect widget  (somewhere over thataway ---->) that I was being followed by Halfpenny Home.

"Oooh...someone I don't know!", I thought.

Upon further investigation, they are a crafting/fabric/yarn/notions emporium and craft school tucked away near the station in Needham Market.

The weather on Saturday was horrible - blustery and cold with heavy rain showers. Between the showers (and wearing a fleece - in JUNE!) I headed over to check out the craft & vintage festival that they were running.

I had a funny moment when the owner looked at me and said, "Hey, you're Kate from Stowmarkate!" Um, yes, I am. Not as famous as Delia Smith, but I'll take what I can get.

There were about a zillion things that wanted to come home with me, but I managed to restrain myself to some ribbon, a spool of thread, a really glorious natural cotton, some nice pins, and an embroidery hoop. Oh boy, oh boy! The cotton has already been cut and is playing a supporting (but crucial) role in Baby Quilt No. 2.

Look at that ribbon. Would you have resisted? Thought not.

I dashed out to the back yard between showers yesterday afternoon to nab these pictures of the finished Baby Quilt No. 1. It's my favorite so far. As soon as the baby arrives, it'll be in the mail!

Friday, June 18, 2010

A book and some more quilting

I read the second Magic Thief book, Lost, last week. It's the second in the trilogy (the third has recently been published and is now en route to our house from Amazon), and reminded me quite a bit of the second LOTR, in that the hero goes on a rather epic journey and that it's all middle. Very interesting and entertaining middle, but middle nonetheless. I'm looking forward to the 3rd book, and I have it on good authority (ahem, from the author herself in the comments of one of my previous posts) that there is a knitting pattern in the back. Lucky me!

I've finished a baby quilt for a soon-to-be-born baby in the US - here it is in bits, before quilting:

The various bits were acquired during an extremely entertaining hour at Quilter's Haven in Wickham Market. The finished product is actually waiting for another sunny afternoon and clothesline combination to have its photo taken. As you may have noticed, it's the pattern from the Road To Spring quilt, downsized and reversed. It's a great pattern and really simple.

After my awesome quilting, we went to Lucca in Manningtree for our anniversary dinner. Owned by the same family as the Mistley Kitchen, it was a really nice evening out. John didn't think his pizza was as good as I thought mine was, but I really enjoyed my mushroom, gorgonzola and ham calzone, the service was great, and it was a great evening. We ended up taking the train from Stowmarket to Manningtree (we hopped on the London express and it's only 2 stops and 20 minutes), which was definitely the way to do it! 

And now, half-time is over - back to the World Cup. C'mon ENG-ER-LAND!!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Three things I love

In ascending order.

1. Lingham's chili sauce. Discovered on our south-east asian cooking class (our Christmas present from my parents) at the Mistley Kitchen. It was a great workshop - we had a blast. We bought the sauce as it's featured in a number of the recipes and it now goes on everything. Yum.

2. Our Williams-Sonoma mesh grill pan. BEST. INVENTION. EVER. No more mucking about with skewers or things falling through the grill. Tonight's dinner was steak (in the grill pan) and grilled veggies (again, the grill pan). Mmmmm.

3. My awesome husband. We've been married for 4 years (um, what?) today. Yay us! (Picture stolen from my brother's girlfriend - thanks Jen!)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Steam train in Stowmarket?

John had to pick the sm. boy up from school on Friday afternoon. Since I wasn't quite finished with work, I stayed late and took the train home. When I got to Bury station, there were a lot more people than there usually are on the platforms. "Must be the bank holiday weekend," I thought.

And then I noticed the two old people sitting on lawn chairs on the opposite platform. Um, what?

The train arrived (on time, thank you British Rail), and we left the station. As we came out of Bury, every level crossing, random field, ditch, and footpath was full of people clutching SLRs, fancy video cameras, tripods, and children. Some in lawn chairs, some not. Thurston and Elmswell stations, same thing.

I figured they weren't all there to watch the 6:25 from Cambridge to Ipswich (my train), so as the conductor came by, I asked what they were all waiting for.

"OH!," he said, "Coming along behind us is a brand-new steam engine. With a full load of carriages!"

I texted John, who was walking down the hill to meet me at the station. He'd already left, though, so we ended up without the SLR. So here is the "holy moly it's going fast" picture from my little Casio, which made a valiant effort, I think.

Here she is, in all her 75mph and slightly blurry glory. The Tornado.

While not out trainspotting, I've been trying to decide what to do with this yarn. I Had To Have It in the store but am now not entirely sure what to do with it. I don't really like knitted socks (too itchy) and I don't wear shawls. Maybe a "fake-isle" hat once it starts to get cold again. Or if it doesn't get warm. Today, June 1, we have the heating on and I'm wearing jeans, a hoodie, and slippers. Brrrrr. Granted, John and I both have colds, but still.

I also just finished a few great books: Fire, by Kristin Cashore, which I didn't like quite as much as Graceling but was still fantastic; The Magic Thief, by Sarah Prineas (recommended by Kristin), which was a little Philip Pullman-esque and very good; Innocent Traitor, by Alison Weir, which was riveting and rather heartbreaking, and The Children's Book, by A.S. Byatt. I didn't like The Children's Book as much as the others, but it wasn't bad. Embarrassingly, my book group also read The Book Lovers' Appreciation Society. There were a few tolerable ones, anyway. Mostly, though, it was filled with overly sentimental drivel. At least they were short!