Friday, June 25, 2010


My Peasy cardigan is complete! 

It was off the needles a few days ago but searching for just the right buttons took a little while.  The choice came down to two and the saleswoman said these were more like a boutique button than the other ones.  I must also add that these were the ones R choice didn't rate the 'boutique' label.

I'm very pleased with my Peasy, I think it's my nicest knit yet.  Thanks to Heidi Kirrmaier for the wonderful pattern!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Priory by Dorothy Whipple

Christine and Penelope Marwood have grown up in the nursery at Saunby and are now in their late teens.  Once a thriving country home of aristocratic splendor it is now in a state of disrepair.  Farms are being sold to finance the Major's cricket matches and to put food in the larder...the lights are only turned on in the evening.  A slightly eccentric Aunt Victoria has a room in the house and loves nothing more than to paint, she's also a spinster and quite happy in the situation.

The Major's wife has been dead for some time and feeling the need for a woman's touch about the place he decides to propose to Anthea Sumpton.  Since he's dashing, athletic, distinguished and aristocratic, Anthea is beyond thrilled.  What her intended fails to inform her about is that he's also broke.

Soon after the wedding...and a fainting spell, Anthea is found to be pregnant.  This is devastating news for the Major as the mouths to be fed are increasing (someone missed the lesson on the birds and the bees).  Not only that but Anthea insists on having Christine and Penelope out of the nursery (and about time too) so that it can be completely made over.  Since it simply will not do to be aristocratic and care for your own baby, a Nurse must also be hired.    By now Anthea has discovered the desk drawer in the study stuffed with overdue notices.  Things are going from bad to worse.

Enter Nicholas Ashwell, who arrives to play in the annual cricket match at Saunby.  Christine falls in love with this handsome fellow who just so happens to come from an extremely wealthy family.  Hmmm, big money meets aristocratic family name...perfect!  Or is it?

The staff working at Saunby provide further drama at Saunby.  Thompson is the handyman/chauffeur and both Bessy and Bertha find him rather attractive.  We all know three is a crowd and someone is going to end up in tears.

Dorothy Whipple was sending a huge message in this book, published in 1939, about the fate of women who are uneducated and that the world is run by the whims of men.  When Penelope asks a male friend to help her inquire about jobs she is laughed at and told she won't be good at anything.  With no education and no training she's just to look pretty until the right man comes along.  The way Whipple writes a character telling her daughter that things will be done differently for her is so vehement.  There is no doubt that Dorothy was a progressive woman.

At 528 pages, this is a longish book but I was truly sad for it to end.  I turned the last few pages with tears in my eyes because darn it...Whipple knows how to get you completely absorbed into her characters.  This is a wonderfully engrossing story so please don't leave it to languish on your shelves!

Monday, June 14, 2010

the secret lives of Princesses

Children's literature is quite delightful but the secret lives of Princesses by Philippe Lechermeier and illustrated by Rebecca Dautremer is divine.  The 'cover girl' is Princess Hot-Head who chooses horse races over needlepoint, spits on the ground and likes to arm-wrestle.

Naturally my favourite princess in the book is Princess Paige.  'As soon as the ball is over or once the meal is done, Princess Paige scampers away and climbs the thousand steps which lead to her library.'

Even though she wouldn't appreciate it I find Princess Primandproper a spooky house kind of way.  She 'Doesn't laugh anymore because the last time she did, her bun came undone, she tripped, and her skirt flew up over her head.'  There was a marriage late in life to the Baron of Broken Hearts...see, there is someone for everyone!

I could never be a Princess Somnia.  She 'Comes from a royal family of do-nothings.  Laziness is their policy, and the sloth is their emblem.'  It is also noted that she is related to Sleeping Beauty.

This sumptuous book is for savouring slowly, to pour over each detail of the writing and gorgeous illustrations and for making you smile.  Do look for it and enjoy!

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Zest for Lemons

Once I set eyes on the lemon tree in Ysolda's (a knitwear designer) flat I knew it was a plant I wanted to try growing in my own home.  I previously thought they were something that would only grow in warmer climates but became suspicious when I spied loads of them in plant boxes in the serene back garden of the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The Meyer Lemon is native to China and thought to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange.  The skin is a little thinner than a regular lemon so zesting won't actually yield very much.  The thrill for me will be in watching these little oblong green fruits become bright yellow over the course of goodness knows how long.  It has become a cheery daily ritual to pour a cup of tea and 'visit' my lemons and as you can see...Deacon is always right there to supervise.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Time for Something Bookish!

Thanks to the many tempting reviews by people with a fondness for books my bookcase is overflowing.  It would be quite easy for me to read strictly from my shelves for the next couple of years but there will always be a title or two which cry out to be added.

Frost in May by Antonia White was a surprise in my mailbox, kindly sent by Verity.  The story of a young girl in a convent with what I've read is a sad ending is sure to be a book which I won't soon forget.  Add in the introduction by Elizabeth Bowen and this Virago is a real treasure!

The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan had several positive reviews last winter.  I'm not usually one for books which have dialogue springing forth from people in the past (especially Jane Austen!) but curiosity got the better of me here.  A fictionalized story about the Bronte sisters should definitely be interesting so I'm hoping this one doesn't disappoint. 

The New House by Lettice Cooper on the surface is the story of a family moving house.  We lovers of Persephone titles know that the women involved are going to offer up the emotion and conflict which is inevitable when packing up house and home.  On a shallow note...I spied the word 'gas-ring' whilst flipping through this one and was consumed by cosy domestic bliss.

London Belongs to Me by Norman Collins first caught my eye last year when dovegreyreader wrote about it.  Set in 1938, this Penguin Classic is filled with a variety of characters.  Sarah Waters writes 'One of the great city novels: a sprawling celebration of the comedy, the savagery, the eccentricity and the quiet heroism at the heart of ordinary London life.'  This makes me want to shut myself away for a weekend, imagining myself sitting on the steps at the lodging house on Dulcimer Street to watch things unfold.

Paperboy by Christopher Fowler is the author's memoir of growing up in the sixties.  Full of humour and the slant on life which comes from looking back on childhood perceptions, I thought that R would enjoy this.  He grew up as a first generation Canadian with a very Ukrainian home life and as a late surprise baby to boot!  Hearing stories of him as a small boy, sitting under the dining room table amidst the stockings of older ladies gathered for gossip, has me thinking he could write a book of his own!

With the inclination to spend more time out and about during the warmer weather I find that reading is taking place in short spurts here and there and I'm falling into bed exhausted.  What are your warm weather reading habits like compared to the cooler months?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Being Crafty

Last month, I bought a package of stitch markers from the Knitter's Frolic extravaganza.  A loop of yarn had sufficed before that but such is the way of our world today that simple just does not seem to do.  They are beautiful in their simplicity and when I really looked at them...not that hard to make.  Scrounging around a craft store yesterday, I found a few supplies to get started and whipped these up in no time.  The peridot made me think of a co-worker who has made this shade her signature colour.  I'm going to surprise her today with a little present.  Thank goodness she knits!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Simon says...

Simon wrote a post the other day about finding a photo or picture which sums up your reading taste.  I chose this one.

Being completely enamoured with so many aspects of traditional English life...despite whether or not that ideal even exists apart from glossy magazines, this says it all. 

The English domestic cosy read is a favourite of mine.  Should even the word 'tea' appear on the page when I'm flipping through a book in a shop it will most likely be coming home with me.  And please don't mistake my cosy reads for fluff.  My favourite characters are complex in their personality, thought processes and emotions whether discussing their relationships, finances or unmolding the blancmange for pudding.

I unashamedly admit to buying my dream over and over again in books and magazines.  If I can't live on the other side of the pond then I'm quite happy to immerse myself for as long as it takes to read a story about someone else who does. 

Stepping back in time is also extremely appealing.  Not that things were easier but at least when the power went out you wouldn't need an engineering degree to get everything back on again...I digress.