Thursday, 29 August 2013

Book Review No.18: A Deadly Yarn (A Cosy/Cozy)

It's time to get cosy again and this time we're heading back into the realms of what I consider to be a 'true' cosy/cozy with this series which is set in modern-day USA - Fort Connor, Colorado, to be more exact.

This is the third in the Kelly Flynn [Knitting] Mysteries series. I read the other two (Knit One, Kill Two and Needled to Death) back in 2012 before I struck on the idea of reviewing books on here; it seems I wasn't altogether taken with the first in the series, but gave the next one a go as I already had it on the book shelf. Clearly the second one can't have been too bad as I decided that number three was worth a try too.

Kelly Flynn is a book-keeper who moved to Colorado on the death of her aunt in order to help sort out the aunt's estate. She ended up staying rather longer than anticipated and, wouldn't you know it, helped to solve the mystery of her aunt's death (book one) and a further death (or was it two?) in book two. By book three Kelly is feeling settled in Fort Connor, especially when she is spending time with her newly-acquired friends at the knitting shop-cum-cafe next door, and it seems that the money she has inherited from her aunt will enable her to give up the tele-commuting job in Washington DC and make a permanent home in Colorado.

We get all the way to page 23 before a body turns up in this book; it's Allison DuBois, an up-and-coming artist who is just hours away from setting off for a new life in New York. Kelly and her friend Megan go to visit Allison at her apartment and find her dead; immediately Kelly goes into sleuthing mode. She seems to be able to find out things that the police don't, or come up with ideas and suggestions that the professional detectives didn't think of, which does make this story even more implausible than many of the other cozies I've read (yes, I know that makes it sound like some cozies are actually 'believable', but I'm sure you get the gist of what I'm trying to say.) Eventually, after several false starts - is it the angry ex-boyfriend, the art gallery owner, the competitive student - on page 255 Kelly unmasks the killer (in front of the police, no less) and all is good in Fort Connor once again; the knitters can get back to knitting, playing softball and having barbecues at alpaca ranches and Kelly can continue to bat away the affections of local builder Steve, all the while looking after her great lumox of a dog, Carl.

 While I was reading this book I didn't mind it at all, but now I look back on it I can see just how weak it really was (and that's saying something in the world of the cozy.) I'll probably read some more in the series simply because they are in the bookcase and I'm sufficiently interested in Kelly, her friends and her lifestyle (I'm sucked in every time she wanders over to the knitting shop/cafe for a strong coffee and an hour or so of knit one, purl one) to want to know where things go from here, but there are other cozy series that I enjoy a lot more than this, so I don't think I would recommend starting out with this one, if you happen to be new to the world of cozy crime. There are many better places to begin.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Lovely Lyme x 2

DC and I have taken two trips to Lyme Regis in the last couple of weeks; the first time we took Granny along and the second time we met up with some friends who were camping in the area.

Both of these visits have been based around DC's new seaside obsession of crabbing. This involves walking along Lyme's famous Cobb (ie, the harbour), finding a suitable spot to set up camp, lobbing the old crabbing net (plus bait - we find bacon works well) in the water and waiting. And waiting. And pulling the net in. Finding it empty. And throwing it back. Mostly this is done by me, while DC issues the orders. "Pull it in now, Mummy." "Have you caught a crab yet, Mummy?" "Can you get a crab now, please, Mummy?" Sometimes we catch a crab or two (or a shrimp or even a fish) until DC's patience runs out and we are free to enjoy the rest of Lyme's delights.

One of the joys of the Cobb is that it is much quieter than the rest of Lyme, especially at this time of year. The other joy is the views (are the views? neither of those sound right) looking over to the beach and town, and also east along the Jurassic Coast towards West Bay and beyond.
Plenty of small craft in the harbour
View along the coast, towards West Bay and beyond
DC and Granny
Relaxing, while Mummy does the hard work
Post-crabbing amusements
VERY busy beach
And town was busy too.
The next lot of photos are from the second trip.
That beautiful view along the coast, again.

Looking over towards the beach and town
Evidence that this is still a working harbour
But the costs have probably changed since 1879
What a whopper. Except this one was somewhat 'past its best', shall we say.
Oh, to be a beach hut owner
A quick paddle
Get Mummy to fork out for a flag, and then we can go home

Friday, 23 August 2013

New (Old) Wooden Bed

Some time last year (I can't remember exactly when it was), I spied a lovely old wooden bed frame at our local auction house (Lawrences of Crewkerne, in case you're interested.) I thought it would be perfect for DC so I left a commission bid of about £60. Lady Luck was on my side at that particular auction as I won it for the princely sum of £22. Yes, just 22 of those good old English pounds. Bargain. 

Hubby brought it home and it sat in the garage for a goodly while as DC was still sleeping in his cot bed.

Then in June he progressed to his 'big boy' bed; except he couldn't use the lovely wooden frame I'd bought as we couldn't figure out how on earth a mattress was actually going to rest on the frame. You see, I hadn't considered this small, but rather significant fact when I'd got all over-excited at the auction. When the frame was dismantled and we gave it a cursory glance over, hubby and I had assumed that the metal side pieces would accommodate slats on which the mattress would rest. However, when the bed was assembled we could see that, although they are L-shaped, the metal side bars actually fix in the manner of an upside-down L  (sort of like this ), which meant there was nowhere for slats to rest. And so we sort of gave up for a while. The frame sat in the spare bedroom for a few weeks.
And then some friends asked if they could come and stay, which meant we needed both of our spare rooms and that galvanised me into action. I did a little searching on the old t'interweb using the term "old-fashioned wooden beds" and finally discovered just what an old-fashioned bed like this needs in order to accommodate a mattress - it needs a bed base. As luck would have it there's a place just about a ten-minute drive from us which sells them and, as luck would have it again, at the lowest price I had found during my interweb searches.

A couple of phone calls later, a quick trip along the A303, and hubby came home with this ticking-covered beauty from Wessex Beds. And we were almost ready to go.

A week later the mattress arrived from lovely John Lewis, and it was time to move the bed frame into DC's room.
Pop the bed base on.
Add the mattress. 
Test for bounce-ability.
Put the favourite duvet cover on.
And sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.
Night night. Sleep tight. Don't let the (old-fashioned) bed bugs bite.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Kitchen Shelf Upgrade

I've been looking for some new-to-us shelves for quite a while now as the ones we have (had) in the kitchen (bought at the first Shepton Mallet Flea Market we attended, back in May 2012 - see original post here) were getting a bit full with our bits and pieces of Streamline pottery.
I've looked on eBay, but to no avail as I didn't want to pay too much which meant the shelves needed to be within say a ten-mile radius in order that I could collect them and save on postage or courier costs. But nothing that was quite right and/or the right price seemed to come up.

Then, about a month ago, I spotted a set of pine shelves at a car boot sale. I asked the price, hoping that they would be a bargain, and they were - just £10. Sold, immediately. 

I think they may have been painted red in the past as there's definitely a tinge which you can possibly see in the photo below. But that's fine by me as they may get painted later down the line anyway. Although, for now, we are living with them in their au naturel state to see if we like them that way.

Putting the shelves up on the wall hasn't been an urgent job but this past weekend hubby set to; he took the old shelves down, exposing that electric cable that we had installed when we thought we were putting an electric clock in this spot. We then changed our minds but have kept the cable since it may come in handy in the future.
The new shelves went up. 
Please excuse the paint patch; we still haven't decided whether this wall should get an injection of colour or simply be painted white again.
And the Streamline pots, pie funnels and other bits and bobs were "artfully" arranged in their more spacious surroundings. Plenty of room for further additions. 
If you look again at the photo of the smaller set of shelves, you'll see that since I took that photo back in May 2012 we have added to the Streamline (or similar cream/green ware) collection with the Raisins pot, plus the shaker and nameless pot on the bottom shelf. The bottles from the top shelf below have been relocated to our brand new built-in units, which I will write about one day soon.
Standing further back, the wood looks darker; a small change, but a good one since the larger shelves look less cluttered and seem to fit that part of the wall better than the previous ones.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Retirement Bucket List: Strike One

Go me! Less than a week into my enforced retirement and I've already been able to strike one item off the Bucket List (see here for the list in all its six-point glory.) As predicted, it was item no. 2: Put WD40 on squeaky door handles, that was the first retirement project to be tackled. The fact that I was able to put my hands on the WD40 almost immediately in the Black Hole of Calcutta  garage certainly helped.

Now, hold on to your hats and be prepared for some of the most exciting blog action shots you are ever likely to see.
Door into open plan room
Door into snug
Door into guest bedroom
Door into ensuite
There were more (such interesting photos as: door into our bedroom, door into DC's bedroom, door into spare room, door into bathroom), but I didn't want to get you all worked up and hyperventilating. Still, I thought at least the photos would prove that I have actually made a start on my Retirement Bucket List. Impressive, non?

Monday, 19 August 2013

Book Review No.17: Murder on the Flying Scotsman

Apologies for the back-to-back book reviews if they're not really your thing, but I'm a bit behind with them (I'm currently reading book 20 of the year) and need to do some hasty catching up. All this time on my hands now I'm "retired"...

Set in the UK during the 1920s, this is a cosy crime series which differs from many, as I've mentioned in previous reviews, since most cozies (that I've read) are set in modern-day USA. The social constraints of the era are apparent as Daisy fights to be 'independent'; despite her mother's complaints, she is employed by a magazine to write about stately homes around the country, which is how she so often happens to be in the right place at the right time to help solve murder(s). The atmosphere of the 1920s is apparent in the language, behaviour, settings, etc throughout the series, making it a gentle read where the modern world (computers, mobile phones, even motor cars for the most part) does not intrude. I'm sure a historian of the 1920s would find fault with some part(s) of the book, but I enjoy the fact that we are taken back to a time when things seemed, even if they weren't actually, a little gentler and less frantic.

This is the fourth in the Daisy Dalrymple series and the story goes something like this: Daisy is off to Scotland aboard the Flying Scotsman train to visit a stately home as part of the research for her next magazine article. On board she bumps into an old school friend who is travelling with numerous family members to the deathbed of the scion of their family in the hope that they can persuade him to leave them his (supposed) fortune. Daisy becomes embroiled in the many and varied arguments between sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins as they pass up and down the train and pop in and out of her carriage. Before long one of the greedy clan ends up dead in mysterious circumstances and it's the stowaway daughter (that's a whole other strand to the story) of Daisy's "friend" Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher who finds the body. Needless to say, the entire group has to disembark the train and is ensconced in a hotel while the police (ie Alec and his trusty cohorts, who just happen to be in the area on business) try to solve the crime. There follows a possible attempt on Belinda's life, a clonk on the head for a local policeman, numerous interviews with the assorted ne'er-do-well family members plus their solicitor until, finally, the mystery is solved.

If you have a problem remembering characters, you may want to give this book a miss. There are a LOT of them and although the family tree at the beginning of the book does help with this, it can be a little tiresome having to constantly flick back to try and work out who's who. That said, it does make it harder to work out 'whodunnit' with such a cast to choose from, and with so many of them seeming to have a motive. The style is the same as with the other Daisy books: gentle, easy-to-read (numerous characters aside) and engaging, just so long as you are willing to suspend belief and simply enjoy the book/series for what it is.

If you are a fan of cosy crime books you might be interested to give this series a go; even if you're more au fait with Agatha Christie and/or Patricia Highsmith you might enjoy it, for the settings or time period as much as anything else (autopsies, finger prints and other detection methods are evolving which is interesting in itself), although I'm not sure the plots are anything to match those penned by Ms Christie.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Book Review No. 16: Gone Girl

I'll cut to the chase immediately - I LOVED this book. And doesn't that make a nice change? A positive book review from me.

 It's a story set in present-day USA of a husband and wife, beginning on the day of the wife's disappearance and presumed murder on the day of their fifth wedding anniversary. The husband is the main suspect. The chapters are written alternately by the husband and wife, with her chapters taking the form of a diary dating back to the day they first met whereas the husband's chapters are current.

 There are some fantastic plot twists and although it had crossed my mind what the main twist might be, it was just one of many ideas I had because it really wasn't possible to work out exactly what was going to happen next. It's the sort of twist that really does make you think 'OMG' (or words to that effect) and the alternating chapter style suddenly makes sense. The revelation of the main twist marks the end of the first part of the book; the second part is still gripping, although I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the first part. The end almost lets the rest of the story down but still this book really is the cliched 'page turner' and if you are a fan of thrillers this should definitely be on your 'to read' list. Hubby read it straight after me and even though he enjoys darker thrillers than me (although, in all honestly, what isn't darker than a cosy?!), he thought this was a great book too.

As I read the book I thought it would make a great film, in fact I wondered if it had even been written with this in mind. Turns out I wasn't the only one and the film has already been cast; Ben Affleck and Rosamunde Pike will play the lead roles of Nick and Amy.

So, for a change, an absolute thumbs-up from me; a book I would thoroughly recommend.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Shepton Mallet Flea Finds

A couple of weeks ago I trotted off early on a sunny Sunday morning to the Shepton Mallet Flea Market. My last trip, back in May, resulted in the following stash:

So far, the small pot to the right of the photo has found a home in the dresser
the flask has been used as a vase (please excuse the delightfully green water)

 the Union flag is still folded up
and the First Aid box has been painted internally
and then requisitioned by DC for use as a 'castle'. Not quite what I had in mind when I bought it, but who am I to argue with a four year old?

These were some of the things that caught my eye on this particular foray. I thought this pine unit might look nice on a wall in the guestroom. But I didn't buy it.
I was tempted by this metal plate rack; thought it could look good on an outside wall holding pots/plants. But the £75 price tag was a little more than I was happy to part with. Yes, I'm cheap.
This plain old bookcase was exactly what I've been after to act as storage in DC's wendy house. £18; bargained down to £15 and it was mine.
Lovely filing cabinets to fulfil my storage needs. But not this time.
Even DC would have been kept amused had I decided that he should be allow to come along.
Wine box anyone?
The dolly tub was tempting as an outdoor planter.
This sweet little shelf thingy caught my eye. Repainted and hung on the wall in DC's room it will be great for holding his cars, figures, etc. I bought it, but I now can't remember how much I paid. Think it might have been £20.
These call buttons were from Longleat House; very Downton Abbey. I wanted to get the 'Valet' one, but the price was a little high (again, I can't remember how much. Bad blogger.)
I do love me an old enamel sign. But I didn't buy this one.
Large numbers and some bull horns. Got to be a use for them somewhere.
Gardenalia. Love.
So, two wooden shelf units came home with me. The yellow one is still on the floor in the dining room where I left it when I got home (lazy, moi?) 
but the white bookcase went straight into DC's wendy house and is already doing a grand job of holding his saucepans, tea set, mixer, buckets and other general plastic paraphernalia.