Monday, February 27, 2012

The Real Elizabeth

I used the handy-dandy site tonight to determine a winner for my copy of The Real Elizabeth, and ExpatMum was lucky #1. I've sent her an e-mail; meanwhile thanks to all who entered.

Monday, February 20, 2012

End of the season

Last night in the States was the tw0-hour Christmas finale of Downton Abbey's second season. What did you think? I'm going to watch it again today on since I missed chunks of it here and there; my husband decided to fix our dishwasher just as the program came on, which meant many interruptions. Harrumph!

I enjoyed the scenes with Daisy last night, esp. her role in the kitchen. (I won't say anymore in case you haven't seen it.) Then today I found this interesting piece on NPRs site about Downton Abbey's sumptuous food scenes and how they don't correspond with our perceptions of British food as being lumpy, tasteless, and bland.

I'll leave you with this to enjoy with your lunchtime soup. The only scene that's missing is the ending scene in last night's finale. :-)

Friday, February 17, 2012

It's beginning to look (a little bit) like spring!

I brought some trash outside a few minutes ago and lo and behold ... balmy weather! I was wearing only a cardigan sweater, too. I decided to rake out the last of the fall leaves from some shrubbery in a side garden when I spotted this:

See that little bud poking out? Maybe it's our first daffodil. I can't wait to see what pops up in our border gardens this spring since this is our first spring in our new house and I have no idea what's lurking under the mulch. I suspect we're in for a nice surprise since the summer and fall plantings were so pretty.

Despite my burst of energy that helped me accomplish some yardwork, I feel like this today:

The cure? I thought I would cast on a new knitting project since I quickly finished a pair of red and gray felted mittens for myself this week. I was thinking a Stripe Study Shawl in grass green and chocolate brown. Before I cast on, though, I took a photo of the two yarns together, then processed them in black and white to see if there was enough contrast between the two yarns:


Sigh. Not contrasty enough I fear. So it's back to the drawing board. BTW, the green yarn is Dream in Color Smooshy in Happy Forest and the brown is from SkeinnyDipping ... Journey Fingering in Terracotta. Both beautiful yarns, but destined to live apart.

Don't forget -- today's the last day to enter the giveaway for Andrew Marr's The Real Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by leaving a comment on the post from earlier this week. I'm closing the comments' section on the entry post at 5:00 p.m. and will do the drawing over the weekend. Good luck!

Monday, February 13, 2012

What I've been reading (and a giveaway)

My right hand has been giving me some trouble (too much knitting?), so I've been catching up on my reading while giving my poor hands a break.

First up is Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill, a book I've had on my Goodreads list for a long while. If you're the type of person who walks into a friend's home and studies her bookshelf for clues about who she really is, you'll like this book. Hill, the author of the The Woman in Black (yes, the scary film starring Daniel Radcliffe is based upon it), decided to spend a year reacquainting herself with her personal book collection rather than shopping for new books. Hill is a lovely, evocative writer; my only quibble --  keeping in mind that I haven't yet finished the book -- is that it reads more like a book of essays than a flowing narrative, which I'd prefer. On the other hand, since I find myself dipping into the book in the few short minutes I have reading in bed, I can get through a chapter and know that when I pick up the book again, I won't have to backtrack to pick up. I've found myself making mental notes of books I'd like to read or re-read: Great Expectations, Enid Blyton's children's books, and yes, The Woman in Black since I don't like watching ghost stories on film (too scary!).

I've written here about my enjoyment of Jane Brocket's The Gentle Art of Domesticity. It's a book where I like looking the pictures more than reading the text: Brocket has a habit of dropping reference to her advanced degrees that I find a little offputting. I got to the point where I said to the book, "I get it! You're educated! Give it a break!" She reminds me of a friend who cannot get through a conversation without mention of her Ivy League degree.

But I digress. So if you're like me and like Brocket's book sans copy or you hated Brocket's book, you might like the book I picked up last week called Homemade: 101 Beautiful and Useful Craft Projects You Can Make at Home by Ros Badger and (the late) Elspeth Thompson. The book is set up by seasons, which I love, and most of the projects can be completed with found objects around the house. There are recipes (elderflower cordial, spicy chutney, pumpkin soup), as well as simple knitting projects and even household fix-its, like instructions on how to restore garden furniture, create planters, and build a pebble garden. But what I really love about this book is that none of the projects have that "cutesy" look I detest in so many modern-day craft books. Everything looks stylish, but organic if that makes sense. It's the kind of book I can flip through to give me inspiration on decorating my home on a tight budget. For example, we have some dreadfully ugly floor registers. My hope was to replace them with some brass registers but they're prohibitively expensive. While glancing through Homemade, I got the idea to clean them and give them a good coating of spray paint. I was going to do them in an antiqued brass, but decided to paint them glossy black to match the thresholds. I just finished the project this a.m., and while the registers don't look as pretty as brass ones would, they're 1000% better looking with a coat of paint.

Last week the publisher of The Real Elizabeth by journalist Andrew Marr sent me a couple review copies. I've been itching to read this biography as I've heard that the Queen gave many of her staff and intimates permission to talk to Marr as he researched the book. I've also read excerpts on the web, which piqued my interest in Elizabeth's 60-year-reign as Britain's monarch. Last week marked the beginning of her jubilee year so in celebration, I'm giving my other copy of The Real Elizabeth away to one lucky Hail Britannia reader. All you have to do is tell me, in the comments below, what you admire about the Queen ... even if it's just her corgis. I'm sorry but with this giveaway, I can only ship to addresses in the U.S. or Canada. The giveaway closes on Friday, February 17, 2012 at 5:00 p.m. ET, and I'll draw a name at random early next week. Good luck ... and thanks for entering!