Friday, May 31, 2013

Postcrossing – The First Card

Postcards Exchange

Postcrossing is a project/website that allows people to randomly exchange postcards all across the globe, for free – “well, almost free!” – i.e. no extra cost besides the cards and stamps you have to buy in order to be able to send your own.

The main idea is that if you send a postcard, you will receive one back from another registered Postcrosser somewhere in the world, but not the same person that you sent your own card to.

(For details about how it works, click the link at the top of this post to the Postcrossing website.)

Friend and fellow blogger Scriptor Senex in England has been writing enthusiastically about the fun of postcrossing for over a year now, and more recently I noticed that Doreen had joined too. I’ve been thinking about it for a while but finally decided a couple of weeks ago.

Since 15 May I’ve sent eleven cards off out into the world and today I received my first one back:

Thatched house in Süderdeich, North Frisia
Thatched roof cottage in Süderdeich, North Frisia (postcard)

I do not have the ambition to blog every card received but I decided to wait to write about this at all until I had received my first card (and then I would). So I was delighted when it dropped in today and turned out to be such a lovely one and absolutely blogworthy! :)

I put a few different suggestions on my PC profile and doors/windows one of them, since they were always among my favourites; so it was very fitting that the first card I received through postcrossing had both! Many thanks to Hanna in Germany! (who is not likely to read this, as I have not linked my blog to my PC profile; but I did sent her a thank you message via the website when registering the card as received)

What made me decide to join was really all the stamps I found while going through my father’s study after he died. In the past he collected stamps and it turned out he continued to subscribe to new releases long after he’d lost the energy to ‘do’ anything with them when they arrived (like organize them into albums etc).

So I took home all such stamps that I found  (i.e. the ones from the last decade or so that had not been put into albums) and put them in a drawer of my own… Then recently I sat down and started sorting them out according to value rather than any other system; and realised I had A LOT that could be used for foreign postage.

As in my opinion stamps were made to travel, and I also quite enjoy buying postcards but feel the same about those (i.e. that they were made to travel) – and at the same time email (and blogging) seems to have taken over most of my regular correspondence these days – well, Postcrossing seemed like the answer. Let the stamps go travelling and collect the recieved postcards instead :) … I think that suits me better!

Question: Do you collect anything? What?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

We Have Summer

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Today we had a rather perfect early summer’s day here. I was able to spend most of the afternoon and early evening sitting (and reading) on my balcony. Often it’s either too cold or too windy or too hot (in the summer) to actually do that, but today it was “just right”. (In Swedish we have a word for it: lagom. It can be used about anything that is neither too this nor too that but somewhere in between and satisfying.)

Update on the tooth situation:
Yesterday morning I called my dentist’s office first thing. I could not get a proper appointment with the dentist until the next day (i.e. today) but a nurse said she could have a look at it and see what she could do. I brought the crown that had come off and it turned out she was able to glue it temporarily back on so I got protection from further damage to my tongue. As I was not in pain otherwise I ended up having quite a tolerable day yesterday too, even if (to be on the safe side) abstaining from food that needed serious chewing. Today at noon the dentist ripped the thing out again – but ended up putting it back in again, only (hopefully) a bit more securely. So once again I came out of the whole (mis)adventure quicker and with less pain and at less cost than anticipated.

Before I left the dentist’s office I asked when they close for their summer holiday… Not until July. So I have another 4½ weeks or so in which I can continue to break teeth. In July (i.e. while my dentist is unavailable) I’m contemplating to switch to a strict diet of foods that don’t need chewing…

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Booking Through Thursday: Ideal

btt buttonfrom Deb @ http://btt2.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/ideal/

I want you to think about your ideal reading experience. Think about the location. (Your bed? Favorite chair? The beach? Indoors or outdoors?). Think about the sounds. (Is there music playing? Happy children playing in the background? Utter silence?) Is there a snack or beverage nearby? Are you alone or with friends/family (presumably being quiet enough for you to read in peace)? What kind of lighting is there? Are you dressed in something ultra-comfy? What’s your position? Curled up? Stretched out?

Now … describe it so that we can all feel exactly how perfect it is … and why.

My preferred reading position is leaned back with good support for my neck and arms – and the book. Sometimes a proper fuss to get everything right (pillows and reading glasses and whatever). (I often prefer reading on the Kindle now as then I can change the font size etc and it’s easier to hold as well – plus it has built-in dictionary.)  Depending the time of day, season, light and noise etc it can be either my bed or my sofa or my TV-lounger or my sun-lounger on the balcony.

Usually I prefer silence; but if it’s not quiet (like the beat of music from some neighbour, or disturbing noise from outside) then I prefer to put on my own music… something with a “steady flow”. I like Celtic music so that’s often my choice in those situations; but it depends a bit on what it is I’m reading.

While I sometimes read while I’m eating, I don’t usually eat while I’m reading. Do you agree there’s a difference? Winking smile

What I mean is that I can sometimes take a book to the kitchen table and read while I eat there. But I don’t very often eat snacks while reading in my “comfy” reading positions, as sticky fingers don’t go well with turning pages. Perhaps a cup of tea or another drink within reach though. (And I might take a break in the reading for snack!)

 

 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Book Review: A Lesson in Secrets (Maisie Dobbs #8)

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (2011)
****

This is the 8th novel about private investigator Maise Dobbs. [See my review of The Mapping of Love and Death (the 7th book) for a bit more background.]

In A Lesson in Secrets, set in 1932, “Maise Dobbs’ first assignment for the British Secret Service takes her undercover to Cambridge as a professor – and leads to the investigation of a web of activities being conducted by the emerging Nazi Party.” (from the blurb)

While I hesitated to give the previous book more than an average rating (3 out of 5), I think this one deserves at least 4 stars. Trying to put words to why, I felt that with this book the author managed to break a certain background monotony, even though there is still a strong continuity with the previous books. We get to see Maisie in partly new circumstances and different environment; and at the same time the story mixes a traditional murder mystery with Secret Service involvement and interesting insights into how National Socialism was regarded in Britian at this time (just before Hitler was elected chancellor in Germany).

I think it would probably also be possible to pick up and enjoy this book as a stand-alone novel without having read the previous ones. (Bonus points for managing that in this novel without too much tedious repetition for those readers who did read all of the rest.)

I read this one in print but I have the next one (Elegy for Eddie) in the series waiting on my Kindle, as I happened to find it at temporary bargain price some time ago (probably just before the 10th book was released). I might even get straight on to it…

Quote:
“Was it that she did not trust happily ever after, that she was deliberately indifferent to the possibility? Or was happily ever after another of time’s secrets, waiting to be revealed on the journey?”

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Here We Go Again

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Feeling a bit on edge tonight… Just broke another tooth a couple of hours ago. (No, not on toast this time; but equally unexpected.) Another ten hours to go until I can phone the dentist’s. Hopefully I’ll sleep through at least some of them! I’m not in pain (think it must be another root-filled tooth) but the edges on what’s left of the tooth feel as sharp as this tulip looks. (Wondering if it’s possible to put a sticking-plaster on one’s tongue??)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Book Review: Memories of the Curlew

Memories of the Curlew by Helen Spring (2011)
****

Amazon Book Description
'Memories of the Curlew' is based on the life of Gwenllian, daughter of the King of Gwynedd, who became known as 'The Welsh Warrior Princess'. At her birth in 1096, the famous Druidic bard Meilyr predicted she would become a great leader of the Welsh. Married to the young Prince of Deheubarth, she supported his mission to build a new Welsh army, while raising a young family in the extreme conditions of life in the mountains. The military struggle was mirrored by personal conflicts, with Gwenllian emerging as a true Welsh heroine. Her story is one of passion, courage and honour, and gives a fascinationg insight into Welsh life at this turbulent time.

The author says: ”In this fictionalisation I have been true to the few original documents which survive from the period, and where they are non-existent my inventions are what I believe to be most likely.”

I found this historical novel interesting in that it gives an image of what life might have been like back in those days (after the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066); but at the same time I have to confess I found it rather hard to properly get into the story and keep the grasp of who was who. For one thing some of the characters have the same or very similar names; like both Gwenllian’s father and her husband were named Gruffudd, and there’s also both an Owen and an Owain (now who of them was the bad guy and who was the good one, again?), and so on. As the names are based on historical facts, one can’t exactly blame the author for that… But it does not make it all easy to pick up the thread again when having had to put the book aside for a while. Gwenllian herself does stand out; it’s the various kings and princes that tend to blend in my head.

I read the book on the Kindle and I haven’t seen it in print, but I would have appreciated a list of characters at the front in this one.

Quote:

‘I can recall,’ said Gwenllian, ‘when my father talked to me of the curlew when I was a child. He showed me how to know it by its long curving bill, and said that its cry was a cry of mourning, a cry of heartbreak.’

Thursday, May 23, 2013

BTT: Childhood vs. Adult

btt buttonfrom Deb at http://btt2.wordpress.com/

Have your reading habits changed since you were a child? (I mean, I’m assuming you have less time to read now, but …) Did you devour and absorb books when you were 10 and only just lightly read them now? Did you re-read frequently as a child but now only read new books? How about types of books? Do you find yourself still attracted to the kinds of books you read when you were a kid?

It’s a long time since I was a child… :)

I’d say my reading habits have gone through changes both back and forth and across since I first learned to read (over 50 years ago). I did devour books when I was about 10, I think I borrowed piles from the library almost every week back then – like The Famous Five and Nancy Drew and Anne of Green Gables and Cherry Ames (and similar kinds of books by Swedish authors). I’m sure I read many of those more than once – especially the few I owned myself, but also some borrowed repeatedly from the library.

It still happens that I return to classics like Anne of Green Gables, while other childhood favourites were gradually replaced from my teens onwards by more grown-up mysteries and detective stories and romance novels and whatever.

I still like to go back and reread certain favourites from time to time – and that includes all genres I think (and also to watch favourite TV-series over again on DVD). Stories are much like friends in that way… Spending time with old friends is comfortable, but it’s also stimulating and challenging to meet new ones. (And sometimes you discover new things about old friends, too!)

Thinking back, one thing that strikes me is that there were certain children’s books that I did not read in childhood but which I came to love later on – like the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis. (First published 1950-1956 but I did not come across them until in the late 1970’s when I was in my 20’s.) I don’t recall reading a lot of fantasy and fairy tale kind of books back in my childhood. One reason may be that my mum (who no doubt influenced much of my early reading) was never much into that kind of stories. She preferred books closer to reality. Another reason may be “the spirit of the era”… Correct me if I’m wrong, but my impression is that the fantasy genre was not very big in the 1960s. Especially not the witches and wizards kind. I think there was a bit of a revival for authors like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells though. (After all, the 1960’s was – among other things - the decade of moon landings… More science fiction, and turning towards the future rather than seeking roots in old legend.)

There were some children’s books that stretched imagination without being neither magical nor scientific though, like The Borrowers by Mary Norton (the first four written between 1952-1961), which are among my favourites that I’ve kept returning to. A couple of years ago I read them for the first time in English (in my childhood it was of course the Swedish translations that I had), all in one volume together with the fifth book written much later (1982).

Out of curiosity I just checked the bibliography of Astrid Lindgren, probably the internationally best know Swedish author of children’s books, some fantasy and some not. In the 1960’s she too kept to down-to-earth kind of stories, with the border-line exception of two sequels to Karlsson-on-the-Roof (1st book 1955, the sequels 1962 and 1968).

I guess I made up for a certain lack of magic in my 1960’s childhood by becoming a Harry Potter fan in my late 40’s (onwards)… :D

I still like to read a mix of genres, and a mix of old and new. Since I bought my Kindle last autumn I’ve been exploring both some classic children’s books (for example some by Edith Nesbit) and various authors of contemporary fiction for adults that I’d never heard of before.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Lady’s Smock/Cardamine Pratensis/Ängsbräsma

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English: Lady’s Smock or Cuckoo Flower

Yesterday I saw a purple variety of this flower on Adrian’s blog; today when I went for a walk in my own neighbourhood I found lots of white ones (with just a hint of pink or purple).

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Latin: Cardamine Pratensis (pratensis is Latin for ‘meadow’)

Now the question is if I shall have to get up and out for a walk very early tomorrow morning to check if it’s true (as Adrian claims) that the same flower really changes colour between morning and noon… (These photos from around 11 a.m., summer time.)

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Swedish: Ängsbräsma, ängskrasse (‘äng’ is the Swedish word for ‘meadow’)

The Swedish Wikipedia article tells me there are different subspecies of it and they can be white or pink or pale violet in colour.

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They don’t keep well when picked. I picked one anyway because I wanted a couple of photos against non-green background…

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Let’s Raise A Toast

It’s not been a great weekend for toast. I can only hope you had better luck with yours than I did with mine…

On Sunday morning my breakfast toast was burned to cinders (almost) by my old toaster, which refused to throw the bread put in back up again.

Later on in the day I went out and bought a new one; and then decided to give it a test run for my afternoon tea.

So far, so good. It seemed to know how to do its job.

Then I bit into the toast and broke a tooth…

Which meant oatmeal porridge for supper, and just a banana-soy milk smoothie for breakfast this morning; and then a visit to the dentist instead of the pool…

I was lucky though, in that my usual dentist was able to receive me on short notice. At first when I called they squeezed in an emergency appointment around lunchtime; but ten minutes later the nurse called me back and said they’d just had a cancellation if I could come earlier. I could, so I did.

It turned out to be one half of a tooth with an old root-filling that had cracked. (The root-filling explains why I did not get into more pain than I did.) As the other half still seemed okay my dentist managed to do some magic at both less cost and less pain than I had expected.

Coming home from the dentist’s at lunch time, I was hungry but still sore and numb… Solved it by making myself some “baby food”! (Leftovers chopped in the mixer, and eaten luke warm… No culinary hit, but it did its job.)

Not ready to try toast again this evening, I think! Winking smile Possibly a soft cheese sandwhich with a cup of not-too-hot tea while I contemplate the possibilities of getting the manufacturer of the toaster to pay my dental bill…?

Nah, maybe not! ;) But if I’d had a different kind of accident – like a fire caused by placing an inappropriate object on top of the toaster – then perhaps I might have been able to sue someone re the Swedish manual. (The new toaster came with a few more functions than my old one, like defrosting and reheating; that’s why I bothered to read it.)

Translation jokes are not easy to convey unless the reader knows both languages… But maybe if I turn part of it back into English it may give you a rough idea:

"To heat up, place the bowl in bread compartment, to sink the lever the wagon the control until it clicks in place and push reheating the button.”

The most puzzling part was the bowl (“skålen” in Swedish). What bowl?? 

So I turned to the English part of the manual:

"To reheat, place toast into the bread slots, lower the carriage control lever until it clicks into place and press the Reheat button."

Toast in English has two meanings, rarely confused with each other: 1. “sliced bread heated and browned” or 2. “A proposal to drink to someone or something or a speech given before the taking of such a drink.”

In Swedish:

 
toast 1 = rostat bröd


toast 2 = skål!

BUT
a skål is also – a bowl

(Try to get that into the toaster if you can!)

Let’s have a vote. Do you think the translation was made by a human or by a computer?

(Pictures in this post from Google Images)

 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Straight Out of the Camera Magnolia

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Straight-out-of-the-Camera Sunday

Saturday offered a perfectly blue sky…
Back to cloudy today.

If you’re in the mood, listen to Paul Simon singing “Was A Sunny Day”: http://youtu.be/_NrqA9MbzKI

Friday, May 17, 2013

(Skywatch) Treewatch Friday

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Last Friday when I was out at The House (see previous post), the birch trees had just started to try on a very subtle shade of spring green. Since then, Nature has been making fast progress towards summer, which is probably what more or less “knocked me out” this week (pollen allergy). I’ve been (extra) tired, with headaches and eye irritations; which is why I have not been very active in Blogland either, in spite of spending more time indoors than I would have wished.

Below is a photo from this morning to show you what a difference the past week has brought in the trees. We’ve gone from early spring to summer greens all in one swoosh! As the birch pollen count is still on High, I think I’d better stay in town this weekend – even if we have trees here, too.

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This view is from the park in the middle of the housing estate where I live.  Today!

Skywatch Friday 6/45

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Old and New

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As it became clear earlier in the week that my brother would not be able to come down for this weekend either, I decided on Friday that I’d better take the bus out to The House outside town for the day, to “check on things”. Besides some very small things like hepaticas in bloom (above), also some big things to do with consenting recently to let a neighbour take down some trees… (See Signs of Spring, April 17).  (The main reason is that an old road that used to run between the properties is going to be restored.)

When I was there discussing the tree-felling, I had so much to think about that unfortunately I forgot to take proper “Before” photos. I found some in my archives from last summer though. Even if they were not taken the same time of year or the exact same perspective, they will give an idea, I think.

The House, summer 2012:
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The House, May 2013 (tree-felling in progress)
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Garden shed and various junk, summer 2012 – pretty well hidden from the neighbours by trees and bushes:CIMG0045

May 2013: Ooops! Not so well hidden any more!CIMG4189-001A

That huge fir tree will be taken down as well:CIMG4192-001A

Contemplating the “new view”, a photo from grandma’s albums came to mind:

My grandparents at the well on the property where they were going to build their house (half the size of the present one) in 1930. The view must be very nearly the same as in the photos of the garden shed above.

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“Is there anything of which one can say,
’Look! This is something new’ ?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.”
~Ecclesiastes 1:10~ *

 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

♫ S(pr)inging in the Rain ♫

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As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower
and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.

Isaiah 55:10-12

Today is Ascension Day in the Christian Churches, and still a public holiday in the Swedish calendar.

I went for a walk in the spring rain, and passing popping into the supermarket on my way back (not to pretend to be holier than I am!) I could not help reflecting that this has become our main “temple” nowadays for a rainy day off… The car park was so full that people were queuing for a parking space – and for once, in spite of the rain, I was actually glad to be on foot (I only needed a few things and with self-scanning no queuing involved).

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Traditionally Ascension Day here was/is a day for early morning outdoor services and picnics… Not really picnic weather today, though! But actually quite nice for a walk, in spite of the rain. Because today what we had was proper spring rain… no wind, and not too cold… and Nature is obviously just loving it!!!

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Booking Through Thursday

This week (in honor of her brother-in-law turning 50), Deb at Booking Through Thursday asks us to:

“… please pick up your nearest book or whatever book you’re currently reading, and turn to page 50 and then share the first 50 words [or so].”

The book I’m reading at the moment is Memories of the Curlew by Helen Spring. I probably haven’t got as far as page 50 yet (I’m reading it on my Kindle, no page numbers, and I’m not wasting energy on maths!) but here’s a teaser from a page recently read, anyway:

Meilyr closed his eyes and tried to conjure the image again, letting his mind sink deep into his dream, when the gentle form of the sweet babe asleep in her crib had dissolved into the scampering child, with thick blonde curling hair and clear blue eyes, who brandished her wooden sword like a boy and climbed recklessly up the mountainside.

(That’s 60 words but I did not want to break off mid-sentence.)

I think it was Scriptor Senex who recommended this historical novel, some months ago. It’s based on the life of Princess Gwenllian, known as the 'Welsh Warrior Princess.' Daughter to the king of Gwynnedd, born in 1096,  30 years after the Norman invasion, she was predicted by the bard Meilyr to become a great leader.

I’ve hardly even got to the prediction yet but am looking forward to learning more :)

 

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