Sunday 27 September 2015

Summing Up Sunday 27th September

Autumn is definitely coming. But let's all celebrate with this last bit of extended sun - hurrah! It's so nice that it's sometimes difficult to get anything done, as the outside just calls to you...

A bits and bobs sort of week. J and A out to WWW Walkers on the Sunday - making the most of this glorious Indian summer we're having. A and E with support MJ went out to Clevedon beach on Saturday morning to collect... pebbles! (There is some sense to this, I promise!)

M2 is having a sale in order to get money for a polytunnel at the shared allotment, after finally getting planning permission. So money must be raised... There's a sale on the allotment on 8th October (scary how quickly October is coming!) and there's been a little flurry of activity over things to make. Here's a little preview...

Popoki's still growing, and the adult cats are gradually getting used to her. She still likes to clamber all over them and try to play when they just want some peace, but we're hoping she'll learn... (She hasn't so far - poor Kosh is pretty clear that she doesn't want to play (hissing, growling) and the little one comes back for more! I would've thought she'd realise by now what they're saying, but there seems to be some sort of communication error...)

Other than that, life as normal. Books to be read - we've got the whole of The Man Booker prize on order, although I don't know if any of us will be able to stomach 'A Brief History of Seven Killings.' We'll give the others a go before the October announcement.

26 books - well, we're really not doing well with that challenge. See what we can do. Even if it ends up being 10 books, then that's better than nothing!

Saturday 26 September 2015

BOOK TOUR: Milan by Simi K. Rao

‘Behind the scenes at an Indian Wedding’
Indians in general are deeply rooted in tradition. Our culture gives us our identity. Most of us (especially those living away from the homeland) cling to it, even though several aspects in these particularly modern times, make no sense at all. Why do we do so? Perhaps because it brings us together as a community and provides us comfort in a foreign environment. The same I think applies to immigrants from all over the globe.
Marriages in India, in particular Hindu marriages are long drawn intricate affairs fraught with age old tradition. Little has changed over the centuries except for certain embellishments due to modernization. To non-Indians these ceremonies appear just that—elaborate colorful rituals flavored with plenty of pomp and show.
In the following story I take my readers on a ‘behind the scenes' tour at a traditional Indian wedding. I’ve tried to illustrate the proceedings from engagement to the wedding ceremony with “generalized” Indians---my characters, and have also made an attempt to expound on the emotional upheavals that occur in the background and often aren’t spoken out loud. Milan is more of a ‘short story’ concept where it shows the before/during and after of an event than it is a ‘long novel’ about characters with hopes and dreams and goals. And its purpose is exactly that, to show the emotions Indian couples go through during the process of a wedding. This story may help the reader get a better insight into the culture of marriage in India.

The Setting of MILAN:
Whenever I travel back to my homeland, I prepare for a culture shock. The crowds, the noise, the pollution have all increased several fold as the country races forward at breakneck speed to catch up with the rest of the world. There are very places left where it still seems like life goes on as it did a few decades ago, where people are laid back and nature is not at war with mankind.
MILAN is set in one such place; Coonoor-- a hill town located in the Nilgiri Hills, about 56 kms from the Coimbatore Airport, in the southern Indian State of Tamil Nadu. It is part way from its more well-known cousin Ooty. I spent some time there during my last trip and was so enchanted that I chose to use it as a setting for my story. Known for its tea plantations, Coonoor is a lovely, rustic little town. With its abundance of greenery and quaint architecture it is a throwback to India as it used to be. The temperate climate and serene environment help the restless soul to relax and take a few breaths of peace. When you are there, don't forget to take a ride on the Nilgiris meter gauge train, as well as a personalized tour of the tea estates.
I want to thank Debdatta for giving me this opportunity to express myself and for hosting this blog tour. I also want to thank all the bloggers who are participating in this tour and have made space for my book on their blog. Your time and generosity is much appreciated.
Please visit my website for more info on me and my work. You can also connect with me on Facebook and twitter
Happy Reading!

Simi K. Rao

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Hope you enjoyed hearing from the author - let's support smaller authors!
See you Sunday! E xx

Sunday 20 September 2015

Summing up Sunday 20th September

Not so good weather this week, sadly. A lot of rain, and a lot of fog. Still, we've had some wonderful evenings making the most of the last sun.

A has been on her wonderful Shibori dying course - which she talked about here! It's amazing what complicated things you can do with what originally seems like a simple process. And the blue is amazing. Of course.

J has spent the weekend visiting T and H in Cambridge - playing Norwegian Train Game, having breakfast out and visiting museums.

A and E went to visit S's orchard in the mist this morning (S is away all September) and came away with some veggie-ful spoils:

E has done a couple of craft projects: a bag for a 4-year-old just starting school, and a peg bag for M.J. 

Popoki continues to grow! She's got more of a run of the house now, which is good for independence, and the big cats are slowly getting used to her. She doesn't make things easy when she has endless endless energy, and you can almost hear her yowling: play with me play with me play with me! Such a joy to have though.

The Man Booker Shortlist was announced on Tuesday... to much disappointment. Two out of five books were damned by the book group, and one wasn't even read! At least the Anne Tyler made it through. The question now is: are we really going to read them all?

No Guardian Quiz - we forgot! Happy Sunday x

(We really need to get a move on with 26 books. It isn't that we haven't read lots - we have, honest! - it's just coordinating reading books from the right categories at around the same time. Might just have to start posting whenever one of us has read one, time's a ticking!)

Thursday 17 September 2015

Shibori dying

I've just returned form an excellently run course at West Dean College near Chichester with tutor Janice Dunning and 8 other wonderful ladies. We used indigo and woad and tried out lots of different techniques to resist the dyes - stitching, clamping, tying, winding, pleating, wrapping - and I have come home with some glorious cloth to make into a quilt and possibly some clothes to wear. I love blue so immersing myself in it was glorious. Thank you to Janice and the warm and inspiring companionship of the other people on the course.

So this is. It involves stitching for a long time with strong  threads in a drawn patten which you then draw tightly before dunking in the bath.

This is karamatsu - the material is folded then stitched in concentric half circles with a very clever mechanism of tying with a knot through a cloth fragment at one end and then loosely stitching into another at the other side to allow pulling and tying off!

This one is where the cloth is stitched with a fold and then pulled tight - mokume.

This was my favourite - Bomaki - which involves making tubes of material that fit over drainpes or poles. The fabric is then rucked up and it creates a wave-like pattern.

And this is clamp resist dying - itajime - this produces regular symmetrical patterns by concertina folding the fabric then on either end clamping with pegs, clips, bound wood, acrylic shapes, etc before immersing in the vat. 

Sunday 13 September 2015

Summing up Sunday 13th September

What we've been up to:

  • A and E went on a hunt for more materials to weave into baskets from the hedgerows, after a lovely visit from E's 'good-father' and his wife. Both very successful, although A's basket is not quite finished...

  • A, E and supporter E went to Cadbury Garden Centre to look at fish for supporter E's new fish tank! Difficult decisions, but a radical rethink from cold to tropical fish! Back to the drawing board with new heater and filter. Had a quick look round the bunnies and squeaky-pigs, but the craft section has gone! Very disappointing.
  • Book Club discussing the Man Booker long list! Each person read one book and here are some choice comments.

The Chimes (JT): wonderfully enjoyable read, but possibly annoying if you don't have a background knowledge of musical terminology. Maybe not for the shortlist, as it reads a little like a young adult novel. Recommend to E and A particularly.
A Moor's Account (JC): retold story from a Moroccan slave character's point of view, reminded of 'Testament of Mary' from two years previous shortlist. Pretty good.
A Spool of Blue Thread (ET): regretting having never read Anne Tyler before! Beautifully formed novel, felt in very safe hands from the start. The kind of book where it isn't groundbreaking or dramatic, just an average family life, but you end up reading slowly - not wanting to read the end.
Satin Island (AJ): rather like the cover, this book was less interesting than watching paint dry. Didn't like the characters, plot or anything at all.
Sleeping on Jupiter (DW): set over a very short period of time (almost finished reading!) digging deep into the disparate protagonists. 
The Fishermen (CG): brilliant read, and a debut from a Nigerian author. It should make the short list! 
A Brief History of Seven Killings (ET... well, the first 50 pages): Not brief enough (700+ page book)
A Little Life (CG): found this a slog and too many characters to keep track of...
Did You Ever Have a Family (): 
The Green Road (AC): 
The Illuminations (AB): a good read, though not groundbreaking. The two interwoven stories came together slightly clunkily, and one story was more compelling than the other; maybe the extreme contrast improved it though. A not very believable ending soured the climax.
Lila (RA): hadn't read the two others in the trilogy, although it seemed okay to stand alone; Marianne Robinson is probably more established in the US? Stream of consciousness writing, would rather have had points to stop because you can't say 'I'll stop when I finish the chapter!' But a great read and should make the shortlist! 
The Year of the Runaways (CN): enjoyed, though not finished yet. Sometimes don't want to hear so much about suffering, seemed to be a very 'worthy' book. Seems similar to 'Five Star Billionaire' on the long list two years previously.

  • Not one, but two weddings! (or three if you count T and H at another in another part of the country). J and A to cousin J's wedding to T (very relaxed, family affair at a registry office), and E with two supporters (thank you J and M!) to an old school friend's. Very contrasting - church wedding, lovely tipis for the reception (though they didn't go), beautiful decorations, wedding car, amazing dress, the works! Moving ceremony and very grateful to be invited, and able to go.

  • The Winscombe Michaelmas Fair! For the first time in a long while, A wasn't there organising on the day! Quite nice to have a break, although she still missed it a bit. E entered photos, flowers and some craft things - and a good haul of certificates back, although disappointed at the photo compilations not being ranked. Still: two firsts, four seconds, one third and one highly commended. Just a shame about the photos.
(Winning collage of the sheep - a bday present for Alison, and each sheep is made from her own wool!)

(Losing photos on the theme of texture)

  • J stayed overnight in Devon after the wedding, and now A has left for a shibori dyeing course at West Dean until Thursday! Should be good fun.
  • 5/15 on Guardian Quiz. Did you know that Princess Anne was the first senior royal to commit a criminal offence? She had dangerous dogs. (We didn't).
Happy Sunday! If you're reading, give us a comment :)

Monday 7 September 2015

Summing up Sunday 6 September

What a lot has happened this week! Lots of firsts...

The first mega adventure for 2 small boys  involving the storm kettle and a cave for the first time - A borrowed Hijs and Bram for a long afternoon adventure involving the strawberry line and tunnel, a climb through Kings wood, up to wavering and to the secret spot and the hidden cave ( which had bones in - we thought they were bear bones or even zombies but Hugo inspected them on our return and declared them to to be sheep!), boiled the storm kettle and had sausage pot noodles ( Jodie's suggestion) instant tomato soup and chocolate biscuits... We drew pictures and stuck leaves in our adventure books to document all of the bits of the journey and the 4 and 6 year old legs didn't complain once even after several hours...

First ever Ticket to Ride Netherlands with the right pronunciations - Hugo and Natasha our wonderful Dutch neighbours played ticket to ride with us and we learnt how to talk Dutch! We won't remember the pronunciations easily but we had a good go and Natasha won spectacularly.

First family therapy after the summer break - it was good to see Jeremy again after his summer holiday in France, and although we entertained Sue at 2 Coombe cottages with gluten free scones and jam one wet Wednesday afternoon a few weeks ago it did feel like the first real session after a very long time.

The first choir practice - We had the first official practice  after the summer break and our triumphant appearance at Tracey's wedding. This time in st Mary's church and with the big band we are singing with in a few weeks time. It was a big big sound and E had to wear ear plugs to cope with it although she only had a single one with her! It does sound amazing and not like our usual sound so it looks likely will be a great concert (18 sept - church in Whiteladies Road) 

First birthday garden party for a very long time - a return to As birthday format of a 2 Coombe cottage crafty weekend with Heva Tam Molly Belinda Michael and Annie with willow weaving and an outing to the Ethicurean for a fabulously artistic celebration of vegetables meal. 

First basket made by Molly - a triumph!

First glimpse of the sun after a very long month of grey - true to tradition A's birthday is always sunny and the sun definitely appeared. It was glorious.