What I’ve Read This Spring

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain – Bill Bryson

I’d been reading so many dark and sad novels lately, I wanted to read something a little different. This was a sequel to Notes from a Small Island. The small island is the United Kingdom and the notes were regarding the author’s travels and observations of the country as he was preparing to move back to his native United States. That was 25 years ago. This time around he explored the UK from end to end, from the south, all the way up to the tip of Scotland around the time he became a British citizen.

For the first half of this adventure, he mostly complains about how crowded and expensive everything is which makes us kindred spirits (this is practically a hobby of mine) but doesn’t make for great reading. It did however, help me start a mental list of places to avoid if I ever make it to England again.

It gets better by the time he hits Shropshire though. His grumpy old man narrative continues but northeastern England seems to have retained some of that British charm he’d been nostalgic for. Next, he moves on to the Lakes District and Cumbria which is, incidentally, the land of my people (the Todd’s have lived in that area for as far back as I can trace – at least the late 1500s) and so I have a certain fondness for that area, despite the fact I’ve never been. Then, he seems to rush through Scotland.

Overall, it was ok. It wasn’t nearly as laugh out loud funny as his other work though.

No Safe House – Linwood Barclay

Every now and then I like to pick up a thriller. They tend to be formulaic but they’re quick and easy. Linwood Barclay is the gold standard of this genre, in my humble opinion. He also lives in my region, which is apropos of nothing.

This one followed a common theme found in many of his novels, where an average guy – in this case, a school teacher, gets unwittingly embroiled in something nefarious. It was creepy and suspenseful.

I was actually a bit annoyed with the story at first because there seemed to be a backstory that was often alluded to but never explained. Finally, I realized this was a sequel to another one of his books called No Time For Goodbye. Not having read it didn’t really prevent me from understanding this story, but if you do plan to read this one, I would suggest starting with the first book.

A Visit From the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan

A Visit From the Goon Squad was unique because it’s not so much a novel but a collection of interwoven short stories. The book is centred around two characters, a music producer and his assistant. The chapters were different stories, taking place in various timeframes and from the perspectives of assorted characters but always tied to the lives of the core people.

It was an interesting concept and enjoyable read, although I don’t think it was Pulitzer Prize good (it won the award in 2011). Who am I to judge though?

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride – Cary Elwes

When I first picked up this book, I doubted I was going to read it all the way through. It seemed like a good idea when I downloaded it. I’ve always loved The Princess Bride but did I really care about the behind the scenes stuff? I generally have little to no interest in how movies are made. I actually did finish it though. It was a tad on the dull side, but reading about what a positive experience it had been for the people involved was so heartwarming.

My biggest takeaway from this book though was the knowledge that the movie was adapted from a novel. How on earth did I miss this? I’ve not only been a huge fan of this movie since it came out when I was a tween, but I spent nearly 8 years of my adolescence and young adulthood working in libraries and bookstores. You would think that it would have it would have passed through my hands at some point, The fact that I had absolutely no idea there was Princess Bride novel is, well – inconceivable!

Needless to say, I’ve added it to my reading list.

Before We Were Yours – Lisa Wingate

I choose to read this one based on good reviews and recommendations and it really lived up to the hype. So far, it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.

The story is a fictional amalgamation of a family affected by the infamous Tennessee Children’s Home Society – a child laundering scheme that managed to operate for 30 years – from around 1920 to 1950. The system was run by a monster while being protected and supported on the legal end by corrupt judges and politicians.

It was an absolutely heartbreaking story that was made even more gut wretching with the knowledge that there were thousands of real families that were torn apart and children who were robbed of their identities and sometimes even their lives at the hands of people who lined their pockets at their expense. It’s the kind of story that will linger in the back of your mind long after you’ve read it.

On that note, I’m now looking something uplifting to read. Have you read anything happy lately?

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I Made Things In March

It’s taken me a while to write this because I’d been waiting for a nice sunny day to take the accompanying pictures. For almost two months, that day didn’t come. March and most of April was so cold, dark and grey I just couldn’t finish this post. It’s finally Spring though and I feel alive again and I’m getting things done.

Moppe Ikea Hack

Apparently, Ikea discontinued these for a while but brought them back by customer demand. I actually picked up this one at a thrift store a while ago for about $5. I stained it this chestnut waterbased stain that I already had and then ordered the cardholder/pulls from Etsy.

I’m really happy with how this came out. Eventually, it’s is going to be used for storage in my craft room when I finally clear the junk off the counter. I’ve also got another on deck for refinishing, as my husband wants one now too!

This is what it looked like before (Photo source: Ikea)

Purl Soho Toddler City Gym Shorts

This is another free pattern from Purl Soho. I went with size 4/5 for our almost 3-year old just in case it was a small fit but these seem on the larger side, so they go into storage until next summer. I might try to whip up a smaller pair for this year.

Imperial Striped Afghan

I’ve always wanted a wool HBC point blanket but I’ve never had any luck finding a second-hand one that hasn’t been discoloured or moth-eaten. Obviously, I could buy new but I just can’t bring myself to drop that kind of dough on one. With having had pets (rest in peace, sweet kitties) and now a toddler, we really can’t have nice things.

I’d made a baby sized version of this for Little B, but I’ve had it in the back of my mind to make one for our guest room and since we just bought a new daybed for that space, this was the perfect time to get it done.

Painted Birdhouses

This project did not exactly align with my use what I have initiative. Little B and I were picking up some things at Dollarama when she saw a little birdhouse painting kit. I agreed to buy it for her and then had this vision of my own little village of Wes Anderson style birdhouses. So, I bought some birdhouses for myself too.

There were a few problems with this project. First, the dollar store houses are really poor quality (surprise) and I don’t think they’ll hold up outdoors. Second, I did some reading about birdhouses after the fact and it turns out these are novelty birdhouses and unsafe for birds.

So, these will have to be decorative only and will probably disintegrate during their first rainstorm, but that’s ok because I don’t feel that I really hit the mark with these aesthetically anyway.

As for April, I started several projects but just couldn’t find the motivation to complete anything. Then, spring finally came and I’ve been spending all of my free time cleaning up our patio furniture, weeding and prepping my garden boxes for planting. I am hoping to have some of my April crafts finished this month though. Stay tuned!

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If I could play outside…

So, we’re now in the middle of April and it’s still f*$%ing winter.

I’m beyond my usual seasonal blues. I’m now bitter and angry as we’re hunkered down during what the news is calling a “potentially historic ice storm.” I tired of being cold all the time and I am completely out of ideas as to how to entertain a busy almost 3-year-old inside (she doesn’t like the cold either and loses her shit if you try to get her into a snowsuit).

My seedings in the window yesterday while my daffodils are were getting pelted with ice and snow outside below.

I want to go outside and play in the backyard.

I need sunshine.

I’m withering and wilting!

Right now, all I can do is pin gardening ideas and make plans for better days, if they ever come.

Here are my backyard goals for this summer:

1. Grow more flowers.

Last year I was focused on growing food and will be again this year. I’ve been feeling like we need a bit more colour in our yard though. We don’t have many flower beds that are in full sun so that means I’ll need to cut a bed somewhere in the middle of the yard and I can’t quite decide where to do it.

2. Grow more squash.

I was so excited about my starship squash last summer, I’ve picked up a few more varieties and the seeds are germinating as I write this. I have the same dilemma here as I do with growing sun-loving flowers though. I need to find a sufficiently sunny spot for them. I should also build a structure to grow them vertically too. Maybe something like this arch?

This photo is from Get Busy Gardening)

3. Make our deck cozy and hospitable.

Our deck could be lovely, it’s just unusable at the times we want to be on it. There are three main issues that prevent us from fully enjoying this space.

First, our cushions are usually packed away, either in the garage or somewhere in the house and I’m often too lazy to get them when I want to sit outside. The deck isn’t covered, so I don’t like leaving them exposed to the elements, but we need somewhere to store them on the deck so they’re readily available.

Another problem is our deck is positioned so that the setting sun beats down on it right at dinner time so we can’t enjoy dinner out there. We tried curtains a few years ago but they were destroyed in a windstorm and never replaced. We need something to shield us from the sunset that is sturdy enough to leave out but not permanently in place, as I would like to be able to look out over the yard throughout the rest of the day. I’m currently at a loss as to what I’m going to do there.

This is the deck on a much nicer day than today.

My last barrier to fully enjoying the deck is that when the sun goes down it gets too buggy to sit outside. I’m one of those people with whatever blood type mosquitoes love so I get swarmed at dusk. Aside from planting more repelling herbs and flowers and buying more citronella candles, I’d like to get some kind of a chair that I could cover with mosquito netting at night, if need be, as I want nothing more to than to spend my summer nights reading outside with a glass of wine.

I currently have my eye on this as a solution:

It’s from Wayfair

But for now, all I can do sit inside and sulk.

What are your gardening plans for this summer?

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