Thursday, 31 January 2019

Read in January: Garden Spells and First Frost

January has been a good month for staying in and read... So I've decided to divide my books reports for January into at least two posts. Starting here with two that I read on Kindle, and which belong together:

Garden Spells

by Sarah Addison Allen (2007)
(Read on Kindle, January 2019)

In the small town of Bascom, North Carolina, the Waverly family has a reputation for having peculiar gifts, bordering on magic.
Claire Waverly, for example – living in the old family house – has a special gift when it comes to using various herbs and flowers for special purposes in cooking and baking; and she uses her skills to set up her own catering business.

However, when it comes to the old apple tree in her garden, she never uses those apples, and does not encourage anyone else to eat them either – even when the tree itself sometimes seems to literally to throw its fruit at people, wanting them to taste it.

Claire's elderly relative Evanelle is known for always giving curious gifts to people – strangers as well as friends. Evanelle herself never knows why, and the recipient never understands it either – until something happens that proves that gift to unexpectedly come in very handy. (And sooner or later, that always happens.)

One day, Claire’s sister Sydney, who left the town back in her rebellious youth, suddenly returns together with her daughter Bay (about five years old); fleeing from a bad relationship. Sydney's return forces the two sisters to deal with their family heritage together; including not only the past and the present, but also the future. And at the centre of it all, there is that mysterious apple tree... 

First Frostby Sarah Addison Allen (2015)

(Read on Kindle, January 2019)

In First Frost, Sarah Addison Allen returns to the story of the Waverly sisters in Garden Spells. The second novel was written a decade or so after the first one; and the author has also let ten years pass in the fictional time. 

Both the Waverly sisters are now happily married to husbands that are a lot more down to earth than themselves (i.e. with no supernatural powers). Claire and her husband still live in the old Waverly house, and have a daughter, Mariah. Claire has abandoned her small catering business for making candy, which has become very popular and high in demand – to the point of making Claire's life more stressful than enjoyable these days. Sidney is working at a hair salon; and her daughter Bay (from a previous relationship) is now in her teens and in highschool. 
While Bay always had an obvious connection to the Waverly magic (in her case involving a gift for organising, and knowing where things as well as people belong), Claire wonders a bit about her own daughter, Mariah - who so far has shown no signs of special gifts (said to be inherited among the women in the family rather than the men). For a Waverly, Mariah seems very down-to-earth and ”ordinary”, taking after her dad rather than her mum. 
The title of the novel, First Frost, again has to do with the magic apple tree. One of its peculiarities is that it starts blooming at first frost, around Halloween, and bears fruit in the winter. When this novel starts, it's early autumn, the tree is bare and waiting to start its season of blossoming. One way or the other, all of the Waverly women (and girls) are also feeling a bit impatient, waiting for change of some kind. And when first frost arrives, that is always cause for celebration in this family.

But as fall approached, the tree would lose its leaves overnight, and then it could do nothing but shake its bare branches miserably until the first frost of the season startled it back awake. The entire family felt its frustration.

One day, a stranger arrives in town... It takes a while before we get to know what he has come for, but of course it turns out relevant for the story.

First Frost reveals more of the Waverly family history and magic than we learned in Garden Spells; but it also repeats a lot of things from the first book. This may be a good thing for anyone who never read that one, or perhaps read it years ago and has forgotten the details in between. But when reading both in one fell swoop, like I did now, I felt it got rather too repetitious at times. (So... I do not really recommend reading them that close together; and the second one probably also works as a stand-alone novel if you wish.)

But apart from the repetitions – and that ”borderline magic” can perhaps sometimes provide a bit too much of an easy way out for an author (even if not always for the characters of the book!) – I found both books an enjoyable read. I think my favourite character is Evanelle. She's still around in the second book, around 90 years old now, and depending on portable oxygen + her younger lodger and friend Fred. But still with that uncanny gift of presenting people with odd gifts without neither herself nor the recipient knowing what for (until it does prove useful after all). 

Beneath the ”easy” surface of these books, I think they do also touch on the serious struggles we all have to face now and then through life, finding out and defining where we belong (and with whom), and what our own ”special gifts” may be. 

About the author:

Sarah Addison Allen grew up in Asheville, North Carolina and graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in literature. When asked about her writing process she has said; "I start with a loose storyline, then see where it goes". Her books have been translated into 30 languages and sold nearly 2 million copies. She is a New York Times bestselling author and won some other awards as well.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

White Magic

Today I didn't get out until after 4 p.m., which just now means around sunset (the days getting noticeably longer now, compared to around Christmas). 

I went for a walk around the old cemetery, which always looks totally different and other-worldly when covered with freshly fallen snow.



As darkness falls, the 'Narnia' lamp posts are automatically lighted

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

The Difference the Sun Makes

While yesterday the snow seemed rather depressing against the background a dark grey sky, today showed the sunny side of winter:

The snow plows have been busy the last couple of days.

Some old houses in the neighbourhood. I think I've read somewhere that the big house on the top of the hill once belonged to a wealthy factory owner, back in the early days of textile industry in the city. And I assume (although I don't really know) that the two buildings below maybe belonged to the same estate as well.


 The old cemetery where I often go walking. (I love all the big old trees there...)


Our World Tuesday

Monday, 28 January 2019

Tempted or Tried?

It's been snowing non-stop for two days. Yesterday, I went into hibernation and did not set foot outdoors. Today (still snowing, but less windy) I decided to venture out for a little while anyway - for exercise, some snowy pictures, and to post a snail mail postcard... As for the ice cream sign, it was truly only the photographer in me that felt tempted by it today! ;-) 



Wednesday, 23 January 2019


I had a cute little visitor today, out on my balcony. Not only did I have to take the photo through the window, but also through the blinds (which were open, but down) - and I only got one chance before the bird took off again! So I was quite surprised that it came out this good! 

Monday, 21 January 2019

At Long Last...

… Four months after the election back in September 2018, Sweden has a new government. Actually it’s the same prime minister and mostly the same people in the cabinet as before, and all from the same two parties: the Social Democrats + the Green Party. The main difference lies in the new government now relying on backup support from the Centre and Liberal parties (in the “middle” of Swedish politics). This is what has taken them four months to sort out, as it involves a lot of compromises and a historic reararrangement of previous alliances in Swedish politics.The priority in the new agreement has been to stop right-wing extremism from too much influence in the parliament. 

The photo of the Swedish flag is my own. The one below, of the new government, is copied from official media today. The road ahead of them is likely to still be slippery; but I wish them luck.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Frozen Rose Hips


It's a frozen world here at the moment. Even with my new studded boots on, it's best to keep my eyes on my feet while out walking... But I did have the camera with me today, and stopped to take these photos.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Mission Accomplished

My brother came visiting for a couple of days this week, bringing his complete set of screwdrivers. So that solved my problem (described a few posts ago) of how to best “kill” those two old laptops that I wanted to get rid of for good…

While brother did the manhandling, I had some photo-fun...

Saturday, 12 January 2019


2019-01 boots

We had rain in between my snowy Thursday post and the sunset Friday post, so the snow from Thursday is all gone now. But back to frost again this morning, and again partly icy and slippery streets…

I took the bus into town for a few errands, including looking for a new pair of winter boots. Since I only knew that I wanted them to be warm, comfortable and really nonslippery, I expected the search to probably take some time. However, this is how it went:

I went into the shoe shop that happened to be the most convenient place for me to start. Right inside the entrance, my eyes fell on this boot on a shelf. It was the very first item I saw. I took it down to inspect it further. It had a note on it, telling me that it had a sole with both metallic and rubber studs, which would permit me to walk both on icy ground and on hard indoor surfaces without slipping. Just the kind of thing I wanted; but did not even know existed. The boot I took down happened to be my size. I tried it on. While I was doing so, a shop assistant turned up and asked if he could help. I asked to try on the other one as well, and he fetched it. They felt really comfortable. I chatted a bit with the assistant while walking a few steps with them in the shop. (He praised them as well, of course.) Why look further? I bought them and left – and doubt I spent more than five minutes in the store! It may be my quickest footwear purchase ever! Now I just hope they’ll prove to be as good as they sound. (I haven’t tried them outdoors yet; but no doubt I’ll have the opportunity very soon…)


Friday, 11 January 2019

Skywatch Friday




Sunset views from my balcony this afternoon.

SkyWatch Friday

Thursday, 10 January 2019

A Winter Walk in the Park

190110 Götaparken mobil collage

In English, “a walk in the park” is supposed to mean “a task or activity that is easy or effortless to accomplish”. In winter, the definition might need some adjustment… ;-)

190108 snowstorm

We had our first snowstorm of the year here in the night between Tuesday and Wednesday. We did not actually get all that much snow, but I could see from my windows yesterday that it was still very windy. I had a lot of indoor things to do that day anyway (including laundry), so didn’t go out. Today was cold but sunny, and the wind had calmed down; so I ventured out for a while around noon. As the streets were icy and I didn’t really need to go anywhere special, I just went for a  slow walk around the park very close to where I live (more to be out for a while in the daylight than for “exercise”). Even so, I took one of my Nordic walking poles for extra security… It wasn’t all that slippery actually, but the statue of the boy on the turtle is still a good illustration of how I always feel about walking on icy streets! At the same time, though, the white snow does brighten things up a bit.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Killing Time

190106 kill a computer-001

Mind you – it was not really Time that needed to be killed, but a couple of old laptops that have been lurking in my wardrobe for years now, guarding all my secrets from the past… My personal data like documents, pictures and music were safely copied to more convenient storage long ago. The reason why the dragons are still lurking is just my distrust of being able to properly wipe their memories, before handing them over to the recycling center… But one of my New Year Resolutions for 2019 (not written down anywhere but in my own head) is/was to finally Do Something About It.

So on Friday, I started with the newer of the two (Windows7-not-very-successfully-updated-to-Windows10) . (Replaced by my present pc two years ago). After a couple of rounds of trial and error, I did find my way within the Windows software to restore that one to its original factory settings; including cleaning it from personal data. It took five or six hours to complete the process; but at the end of the day, it did seem to have been successful. (Yes I know - there are probably also computer wizards out there who could still bring it all back… But I doubt it’s likely that anyone would find it worth while.)

The other, even older dragon (Windows Vista) proved to be a tougher challenge, though. My first battle with it on Saturday got me nowhere. I had the manual, I read instructions, I followed instructions…  Sometimes, to tease me, it gave a convincing impression of making an effort, showing messages like “Windows is loading files” or “This may take a while” … just to eventually end up with some error message, and another prompt to restart. Which, each time, it happily did. Yesterday, I gave up, and instead spent hours on manually deleting personal files, uninstallling software that I knew were not in the original setup, and deleting internet history and passwords etc. Today, I again tried alternative ways of resetting/restoring, both with and without CDs. Nope. The dragon is still alive, and at every restart optimistically suggests that I should consider doing a new backup, and update my virus protection… (I’ve kept it offline during my experiments.)

Perhaps I should just connect it to the internet, and hope for some vicious virus to find it? Or drown it in the shower in the bathroom? (I found a YouTube clip showing that…) (I suppose I could also ask my brother the IT-wizard. I’m just a bit stubborn sometimes…)

Out of curiostiy: What do you do with old computers?? Have you got a pc museum in your basement/attic, or have you actually got rid of them (and how)?

Saturday, 5 January 2019

10th Blogoversary !!!!!!!!!!


It just Dawned on me that it’s my 10th blogoversay today. I suppose that means I should have thrown a big party here today, with lots of photos and memories from the past ten years… Somehow time seems to have floated away too fast for me today, though; and I got caught up in other things. So I’ll just celebrate rather modestly with this red balloon that I found floating on the river when out on my walk earlier.

After all, as Winne the Pooh says:
“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.”
(from Eeyore’s birthday)

I do remember how it all started, though. A penpal in Australia had started a blog, and sent me a link to hers. To be able to comment there, I needed a Blogger account of my own. And once I had created a profile, I thought I might just as well explore a bit more how it all worked… I chose the signature DawnTreader after the ship in one of the Narnia stories; and then I named my “test” blog after one of the islands that they sailed to in that book: The Island of the Voices. I wrote my first post on 5 January, 2009 – The Dawn of a New Year and a New Blog. Two years later, I had (or feared) some technical problems with my account, so decided to start over; and in connection with that I changed the title to Beyond the Lone Islands.  But there is a permanent link to the first blog from the sidebar of this one; and it can still be read. (Maybe I’ll do some more diving into early posts later on during this year and find things I’d forgotten about? We’ll see…)

Anyway… Starting my blog black then really did feel like sailing off into the Great Unknown, and I felt very doubtful if any strangers would ever find me out there in the Cybersea. But some people did; and the most amazing thing about the whole adventure is really that some of you whom I “met” quite early on on my blogging journey are still “here”… And from some of the random contacts with “strangers”, long-lasting friendships have grown. Which is really why I’m still “here”, too!

So here’s to Old and New Friendships,
and a Happy New Blogging Year!

alias DawnTreader

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

A New Year (2019)

2018-12 December7

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

… and somehow, instead of a fresh blank page, every new year always seems to start with sorting out the leftovers from the previous one…

It has become a long-standing tradition for me and 2-3-4 friends to celebrate New Year’s Eve together at my place. Three of us used to be neighbours in the same building for many years in the past. One of them usually has her sister visiting for NY; and the other one now usually has her mum staying with her over the holidays. 

To make things easy we pretty much follow the same procedure every year now… I make quiches (because I can prepare those beforehand and then heat them in the microwave; which gives me time to tidy up, lay the tables, rest and get dressed etc in between, before the guests arrive). The others bring the salad and some of the snacks and drinks (we keep to non-alcoholic).

We start out with a small cup of hot glögg  (‘mulled wine’ – but non-alcoholic) in the living room – just because it’s nice to warm up and greet each other properly and catch up a bit before we eat. Then we have the quiche and salad at my dining table in the kitchen; after which two of the others always help take care of the washing up of those dishes. Then we all move into the living room for coffee/tea, and a coffee table full of bowls of fruit and chocolates and “whatever” to see us through the rest of the evening… Having chatted for a bit, we always watch a film; and after the film chat a bit more. (The film this year was Paddington 2… enjoyed by all of us!)

It has also become somewhat of a tradition that one of my friends buys us Kindereggs (chocolate eggs with a surprise toy inside – sometimes a bit of a challenge to put together). Just a bit of silliness to help keep us awake (and not feeling too old)… Mine this year turned out to contain a little race car… Perhaps a hint that the next year will seem to swish by even faster??


Towards midnight we watch the celebration broadcasted live from Skansen (park) in Stockholm; which includes various artists singing, and just before the midnight countdown and the ringing of bells – and the outbreak of fireworks (of which we also always have plenty going on “live” outside my windows)  – an actor reading a certain poem which has been read in the New Year celebrations there ever since the 1890s or so (i.e. long before there were even any radio broadcasts of the event). The poem is a Swedish translation of Ring Out, Wild Bells by the British poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Actually I’m not sure if I ever read the original until this New Year. It was some other friend quoting it on Facebook that made me do it now. In my ears, it rings even more up-to-date in English…

Here it is (copied from Wikipedia):

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Happy New Year to All of Us!


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