There were two themes to the past week: Wind and Rain. It was windy for the first part of the week and has been raining for a solid day, and will continue to do so for the next couple of days. That’s March for you.
Despite the wind, though, a friend and I went for a mid-week walk at a local park, though we decided against going all the way around the lake– particularly when we turned toward the south and headed into the wind. We couldn’t hear each other, and if we had gone much farther I’m pretty sure the braids would have been blown straight off my head. It turns out that Renaissance-style hair taping is not great for blustery days.
After successfully not being blown away at the park, we went to a local bakery for some pastries, and then headed across the street to the international candy shop. I did not know the candy shop was there. It used to be in a different part of town, and when that shop closed, I thought it had closed for good. Turns out it just moved. So I bought some Icelandic chocolates (I’m sure you’re shocked), which were delicious.
I took far fewer photos than I had planned to due to the wind. It’s hard to snap photos when 1) you’re just trying to stay upright, and 2) your hair is flying into your eyes.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
I do my taxes early, so I’ve already received my refund. I decided to finally buy a new television to replace my old one, which worked fine but was rather small and the image was hard to see if you weren’t at just the right angle. Also, it messed up the sound when I tried to watch more than one YouTube video, which was streamed through the Blu-Ray player. The new TV isn’t anything special, but it’s so much clearer than the old one, and the sound is so much better. I’ve been re-watching some of my favorite shows and have been seeing all sorts of things I missed.
But anyway. I was watching one of Sewstine’s videos yesterday and Mina came into the living room, sat down, and just stared up at the TV like she had nothing else in the world she would rather do. I guess she enjoys Christine’s voice more than she enjoys trying to get into the kitchen cabinets. I guess this means I need to turn on Sewstine videos whenever Mina’s pawing at the cabinets. I don’t know why she’s so obsessed with them. She has two little houses to curl up in, a couch and a bed to hide under, the towel shelf to nap on, and a laundry basked to curl up in. All those places are certainly more comfortable than the cabinets.
So whenever I need to get Mina out of the kitchen, I guess I know whose videos to load.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- The Lays of Beleriand (The History of Middle-earth #3) by J.R.R. Tolkien, ed. Christopher Tolkien
- Melmoth by Sarah Perry
- Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lays of Beleriand and Roverandom were both rereads for me. I’d read Lays of Beleriand in… high school, I think? A long time ago, anyway. It’s all about the great legends of Tolkien’s legendarium, primarily that of Túrin Turambar and Beren and Lúthien, so I’m well familiar with the stories, which feature in The Silmarillion, The Book of Lost Tales, pt 1, and The Book of Lost Tales, pt 2. While I love the tale of Beren and Lúthien, after three books of various drafts of their stories, it will be nice to have a change of pace.
Roverandom is a non-legendarium story about a little dog named Rover who is turned into a toy dog because he annoyed a wizard. After ending up becoming a boy’s favorite toy, Rover is lost on a beach, where he encounters another wizard who sends him on a series of adventures. This is my favorite of Tolkien’s non-legendarium stories, in part because of the story behind it: the Tolkien family was on holiday on the Yorkshire coast in 1925, and Tolkien’s son Michael, then four, lost his beloved toy dog on the beach. Though they looked and looked for the dog, they couldn’t find it and Michael was devastated. To help make him feel better, Tolkien made up a story about the toy dog and the adventures it went on after being left behind on the beach. As with all of Tolkien’s story, the tale grew in the telling. Roverandom is full of all the charm and fun you’d expect while not talking down to a young audience or containing a didactic moral message. I’ll be writing a more in-depth review for Pages Unbound’s annual Tolkien event.
Melmoth is a gothic novel about a woman named Helen, who is living in self-imposed exile thanks to a secret sin. One day, her friend Karel gives her a collection of historical accounts of people’s encounters with the mythical figure of Melmoth the Witness, who haunts those who have secret sins they can’t escape from. I was completely invested in this story until the last twenty pages or so, when another historical account is shoehorned into the story without the grace of the previous accounts, and then a character randomly shows up out of the blue with very little explanation as to how they arrive. It’s coincidental to the point of unbelieveability, which made for a disappointing finale.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, translated from the Italian by J.G. Nichols (59/661)
- Persian Pictures: From the Mountain to the Sea by Gertrude Bell (90/208)
- Walk the Wild With Me by Rachel Atwood, audiobook narrated by Matthew Lloyd Davies
I’m reading The Decameron as part of my big books challenge, and so far…. meh. I realize that this is a collection of stories that’s regarded as ribald and funny and a societal commentary, but I’m just not into it so far. Granted, I’m only about ten percent of the way through, so I’ll give it more time. But if I don’t start enjoying it, I will probably DNF this one. It may be a classic, but that doesn’t mean I have to read it if I don’t want to.
Persian Pictures is a collection of Gertrude Bell’s early impressions of Persia. She traveled there for the first time in the 1890s and wrote this little book, which ended up being a hit back in England. It began her long love of the Middle East, where she spent the rest of her life traveling, meeting and working with the various people who lived there, negotiating political situations, and making maps of the region. She was often referred to as the ‘Queen of the Desert’, worked with T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia), and had an enormous effect on the politics of the region. If you’re listening closely in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and they mention the Bell Maps, they’re talking about Getrude Bell’s maps (not a man like they say in the movie). You can definitely tell that Bell brought her British prejudices with her on her first foray into Persia, but her descriptions of the land, the cities, and the people are still lively and beautiful.
I’ve only just begun listening to Walk the Wild With Me, which is set in Medieval England. It’s about an orphan boy, Nick, who is raised in a monastery. He’s a strange boy who sees faces in the forest and loves exploring the abbey’s foundations. On one of his adventures, Nick finds a strange altar that is older than anything he’s ever seen. Before he knows it, he finds himself journeying through eerie paths and encountering Faerie creatures and legendary people, all while being guided by a mysterious goddess. Through all of this, Nick is trying to rescue a young woman from the Faerie realms before the door between them and the real world disappears for another fifty years.
Did Not Finish:
- The Bridal Wreath (Kristin Lavransdatter #1) by Sigrid Undset, translated from the Norwegian by Charles Archer and J.S. Scott
I think my issue with this book was the translation, which was so dry. The narrative was so monotonous and was all, “Then this happened and then this and then this and then this and then…”. No one event seemed to be more important than any other. When a character was injured, for example, there was no more emphasis than when Kristin was given a bowl of milk by a friendly neighbor. Perhaps I will try a different translation in the future.
I finished the fluffy blanket! It’s draped over my reading chair for now, as it has been warmer lately, and the blankets already on the bed are warm enough for right now. I’m sure there are some wonky rows and some rows that are a stitch or two longer (or shorter) than the average, but that’s okay. The yarn is so fluffy that you can’t really see the errors, and the blanket as a whole is lovely and warm.
So onto the next project: linen pillowcases! Last weekend, I had to baste my three-yard length of 100% linen, then wash and dry it. Sunday morning, I spent about an hour and a half ironing it all. Once I realized that I didn’t have tailor’s chalk to mark the (very basic) pattern on the linen, I ran over to Joann’s, bought some, and got the pillow pinned. By the time I’d done all that, the bright morning sun had left my living room for the day, so I set it aside. On my next day off, I used a running backstitch to close the pillowcase’s two sides (one was a fold, the fourth side is open). I’d lost the light again by the time I was finished with that, so I’ll be finishing the seams this morning and felling the raw edges of the pillowcase’s opening.
With luck, I’ll have a new pillowcase ready to go by the end of the day. If not, it’s no big deal. My current pillowcases are just fine.
What I’m discovering about linen threat is that it is hard to work with, mostly because it’s such a pain to thread a needle with. When I use silk or polyester threads, it’s not a problem to get it through the needle’s eye. But linen? It’s super stubborn. I also have to remember to wax the thread, as it strengthens the thread– especially the point where it’s pulled against the needle. I’m sure I’ll get better with it all as I get more experience with the materials, as this is the first time I’ve ever used linen thread. The fabric is super soft, though, so I don’t really mind the hassle of working with the thread.
Once I’ve finished the first pillowcase, I’ll worry about cutting out the other two. I already know what I need to do to improve on the next one, which is part of the point of this exercise– to end up with soft new pillowcases, and to learn more about sewing in general.
About That Writing Thing:
I made a lot of progress in my current Work in Progress. Not quite as much as I’d hoped for, but still plenty. I reached the end of chapter seven on Wednesday, so I’m almost ready to start on chapter eight. I say almost because I was checking my notes and realized that I left out a scene that should have ocurred at the very beginning of chapter seven. But that’s easy enough to fix, and it shouldn’t take more than a couple of pages to complete.
Then it’s on to chapter eight, which features my favorite point of view to write from (who also happens to be my favorite character). Thanks to the events of the past couple of stories, I haven’t written from his perspective in the better part of a year, and I’m looking forward to returning to this thoughtful, elegant point of view.