Saturday, 31 October 2015

House tour - part 5

We're almost there now!  Not far to go!

As I've implied in previous instalments, what I've left to show you is probably the least dramatic of all the work we've done to the house.

In the 'guest' bathroom and WC, all we changed really was the ugly lino for some tiles and a fresh, clean coat of paint.

The guest room was a bit of a surprise when we first got the keys.  Everytime we'd been to the house, the teenage son was recovering in bed from a late night out, so we'd only ever peeped in and seen it with the curtains drawn.  We realised that it was a convenient 'ploy' after getting the keys as this was the only room with a Critall window (just about visable in the photo below) - hideous!  And draughty!  Initially we were just going to paint and carpet it, but the plaster was pretty awful, so it was replastered too and last year we replaced the awful window.
The second spare room had some nice original features - bare floor boards, original fireplace and a nice little cupboard (and no radiator as we discovered some months later!).  They were however painted a rather bright blue:

And now:

(you may recognise this as my sewing room now!)

Then the final bedroom, like the guest room, was replastered and redecorated and carpeted and went from this:
To this:
Now that leaves just one room left.  The previous owners used it as a dark room, so it had a sink in it already.  We'd thought of keeping the sink and using it as a laundry room, but when we looked more closely at the sink it was disgusting (photographic chemicals presumably).  So a bit more money spent and it was transformed from this:
 to this:

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Getting the juices running

image of plum cake
I know the title of this blog suggests that it is all about sewing and suchlike, but are there restrictions to being creative?

Like many of you, I'm sure, I've been getting my teeth into the latest series of Great British Bake Off (excuse the pun!).  As ever, it makes me want to bake more and try new techniques and recipes.  Not that I'm intending to construct biscuit and choux pastry towers or anything.  I just enjoy baking and would like to do more and get better at it.

Two years ago my DM had a severe stroke.  Over recent years, we'd shared the Christmas jobs between us to a certain extent - a good friend has given us a couple of Christmas puddings as part of her extremely generous Christmas parcel, DM would make the cakes (one for all of us, some for friends and relatives), DS and DNs would decorate the family cake, I'd do mince pies ... You get the idea.  Well, since Mam's stroke, baking was more than my already over-stretched sister could face, and I didn't want Christmas to change too much as a result of DM not being at home any more.  So, guess who now has the job of making the cake?!?  You've got it!  Since DM has been out of rehab, I've included her in the job - she supervises me :-D  And she's done such a good job that the only time I've managed NOT to curdle the mixture with the creaming method is when she's keeping an eye on me.  And the Christmas cake baking weekend isn't far off now ...

The downside of baking is the eating (depending on how you look at it, obviously).  Generally, the eating is The Upside, but DH and I don't want to put weight on (anymore than I've already done), so having cakes and biscuits at home is a bit awkward.  Since GBBO, though, I've found a way around the problem - work!  If I bake something at the weekend and take it into work on Monday, I get to indulge my baking dream and have an office load of people to eat the cake.  I'm lucky that I work with people who love cake too :-D

So, my two offerings so far have been ...
Bavarian Zwetschgendatschi (or plum cake)
And double ginger cake (but my colleagues got to it before I did with my camera - sorry!), but which is a lovely moist cake flavoured with both ground ginger and crystalised ginger (from Nigel Slaters' Kitchen Diaries).  I must admit - it went down a treat at the office, so I shall be making another (but maybe just for us next time!).
I'm not sure what will be next as last weekend and next I wasn't/won't be able to bake, but it is 'that time of year' again and I feel a pumpkin pie coming on ...

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Literary catch up

I am acutely aware that I'm a bad blog-mother (or whatever you'd call someone who should be caring for her readers but forgets to post anything for weeks or months) and haven't given you any 'sustenance' for some time.

To be honest, it has been a pretty awful few months for us recently and crafting hasn't been very high on the agenda.  Finding the emotional energy and concentration for it has been beyond me too.  I've tried to carry on with household crafting, but the sewing machine stitch length regulator packing up hasn't helped much either!!  The machine is now back on its feet, so hopefully I can tell you all about that soon.

In the meantime, following a chat about books with a colleague, I thought I'd at least fill you in on my reading this year.  It was January when I last updated you.  As I say, I've not had much patience or concentration for crafts or reading over the summer, but I'm gradually getting back into things again now and I'm going to try and work my way through the pile of books I've had next to my bed and cluttering up the front of the bookshelves over the next few months.  So, since January ...

Llwyth - Bethan Gwanas (a Welsh language book for teenagers - I know, I'm well past that stage now, but I met the author and this was the only book I hadn't got that I could get her to sign. It is about tribes (hence the title, which is Welsh for tribe) in a sort-of prehistoric, mystical Wales where the tribes have animal attributes - crows, wolves, bears and dragons - and they have to overcome their fear/prejudice of each other to fight a common enemy. Enjoyable even as an adult!)
Martha, Jac a Sianco - Caryl Lewis (a novel set in rural Wales, on a farm where two brothers and a sister live together after caring for their parents. Are they still 'young' enough to start afresh, or is it too late for them now? Not an unusual situation in rural communities where the children (or at least one child) remains at the family home caring for the aging parents. Quite a poignant and sad tale.)
O'r harbwr gwag i'r cefnfor gwyn - Robin Llywelyn (Like Martha, Jac a Sianco, this is an award-winning novel. According to (Welsh book council's website/shop) "a fantasy love story about the quest of the hero for his love against many odds".  I must admit, I found it hard going and struggled to persevere with it.  But I hate being beaten by a book!)
The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton (My MIL was given this as a gift and I'd intended to borrow it, but when I was looking for something to read on holiday I threw caution to the wind and bought myself a copy. I loved it! I'd visited the Rijksmuseum and had seen the doll's house that had inspired it, so I simply couldn't resist.  Well worth a read if you like historical novels - this is a good HN, but with a difference.)
The Luminaries - Eleanor Catton (We had two weeks on holiday and two long flights to fill, so when there was BOGOHP or something at Waterstones I had to choose something to go with The Miniaturist.  There was another book in competition, but for whatever reason (possibly because it was a Man Booker prize winner) this is what I bought. It is a who-dunnit of sorts, but a historical novel too. Quite puzzling - I found it hard work, but also couldn't put it down.  I think the ending disappointed me a little, but quite a good read.)
An Equal Music - Vikram Seth (This was DH's holiday reading choice.  He loved it and recommended that I read it too.  We both like music, so it was pretty certain to appeal.  Another poignant story, but also a page turner.  It left me wishing that I was a better musician - again.)
Excursion to Tindari - Andrea Camilleri (This was the start of a bit of a 'binge' read and a clear out at the same time.  I'd bought an unboxed 'boxed' set of Inspector Montalbano books from the Book People, so having read the first four, I wanted to finish the set.  So, how better than to 'binge' in them, one after another? All the Montalbano books are atmospheric and full of mouth watering descriptions of his favourite foods!  I can't imagine that the Sicillian tourist board need anything more than these books to tempt people there!  It is certainly high on our list of places we want to holiday in soon.  There are common themes running through them too - including, topically (or not as these books actually prove) the problems mediterranean destinations face with the influx of refugees.  Despite the obvious distress and concern the recent news items have caused, I got quite angry that the media made it sound as if it was a 'new' problem.  The Snack Thief was first published in Italian in 1996 and deals with the son of a refugee who is being traficked - so the problem has been around for at least a decade! Anyway, these are great 'light reading' books, with plenty of atmosphere, humour, serious themes and drama - so I won't write about each one individually.)
The Scent of the Night - Andrea Camilleri
Rounding the Mark - Andrea Camilleri
O! Tyn y Gorchudd - Angharad Price (I actually read this a while ago, but only realised it wasn't on my list in the midst of my Montalbano binge! It is tells the story of Rebecca Jones and her life in rural Montgomeryshire.  another award winning book - and well worthy of the prize.  There is a translation available, which DH found fascinating.)
The Patience of the Spider - Andrea Camilleri
The Seville Communion - Arturo Perez-Reverte (This is another 'throw back' that somehow missed getting on my list. If you enjoy mystery/thriller type books, but fancy one that is a little different, I'd recommend any of Arturo Perez-Reverte's books.  This one is about "murderous goings-on in a tiny church draw the Vatican into the dark heart of Seville. A hacker gets into the Pope's personal computer to leave a warning about mysterious deaths in a small church in Seville that is threatened with demolition".)
The Paper Moon - Andrea Camilleri
August Heat - Andrea Camilleri
The Boleyn Inheritance - Philippa Gregory (After a crime binge I needed a bit of a change, so reverted to my other 'love' - historical novels.  Philippa Gregory is difficult to beat too.  I'd already read her Cousins' series about the Wars of the Roses and had dipped into her Tudor series, but I've decided now to read them in chronological order (rather than the order they were written). As it happens I'd got as far as 'dear ol' Ann Boleyn, so the 'aftermath' was next.  As usual, Philippa doesn't disappoint.  Luckily, the next novel chronologically has just come out, so I'll be moving on to that soon.)
he Captive Queen - Alison Weir (This and The Boleyn Inheritance have been my way of getting back into reading after a horrible summer, so thank you to Philippa and Alison for tempting me back. This is about Eleanor of Aquitaine.  I remember reading the Plantagenat series by Jean Plaidy when I was still at school.  I've enjoyed the Plaidy books over the years, but this gives a bit more flesh to the bones, and probably more historical fact too, although there isn't much about Eleanor apparently. I've only read one other book by Alison Weir before, but I may 'pinch' my DM's copy of Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and his Scandalous Duchess in the future.)

Since then I've completely changed direction.  As I've promise (!), I am going to work my way through the pile of books blocking the other books on our bookshelves and the pile next to my bed.  So, as good as my word, the top of one of those piles was Good Ideas - How to be your child's (and your own) best teacher by Michael Rosen. In short, it is about making every day experiences fun and educational for children. The introductory part was hard going (but I was tired and run down at the time), but it is fun reading it.  A lot of it is probably stuff you'd do without thinking, but it may well open your mind to doing something different (in my case, despite LOATHING mushrooms, the thought of going foraging in woods with an expert - obviously! - and seeing nature, the life cycle of plants ... AND getting something tasty (for some people) to boot, sounded like fun.  So I may well give it a go one autumn - as long as none of you make me eat the results!!!

So, what have you been reading recently?  Any recommendations?  Have you read any of the books I've been reading?  If so, what do you think of them - and do you agree with me?! 

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Back to basics

I've been having a bit of a rethink about my sewing plans recently, ... mainly in light of the shambles I made of some recent projects.

I admit, I've lost confidence in my ability and have come to the conclusion that the next step is:
a) to give up
b) only make what I know works, or
c) do something about it

It is probably true what DF said when I was getting all of this off my chest - I need to get back into it and practice more.  It has been a looooong time since I did any serious dressmaking and most of my sewing has been restricted to home furnishings for quite some time.  And that hasn't exactly been a regular thing until recently.  And they've been BIG projects that have literally and figuratively swamped me - as well as making me doubt that I really got an A at GSCE maths.

Another thing that has held me back with dressmaking it finding the right pattern.  Now, I may have taken this to a 'how do you find Mr Right' kind of level, but what frustrates me about making your own clothes is this.  You go clothes shopping, you see something you like on the rail and you either know it will suit you, or if you're unsure you can try it on before you buy.  Even then, if you change your mind after taking it home, you can still take it back to the shop and get your money back or exchange it for something else.

But with dressmaking, you choose a pattern, choose your fabric (or you may do it the other way around if the fabric has inspired you), buy your pattern, fabric, and the million-and-one notions necessary.  At home you spend ages pinning, cutting out, pinning again, tacking, sewing .... to get the final garment ... try it on ... and it looks hideous on you.  So what can you do now?  Nothing except chop it up and use it as dusters, put it in the bin or take it to a charity shop.  You've wasted hard-earned money and precious time and gained ..... nothing!

So, having 'regrouped' mentally a little, I'm going to take a step back and not run before I can walk before I can crawl.

I'm beginning to formulate a plan for this, which at the moment looks a bit like this:
  1. make more clothes for myself - using commercial patterns
  2. where possible, make these clothes using the stash of fabric that has been hiding in various boxes, bags and trunks in my possession over the years
  3. if I get stuck or struggle with something (such as the collar band on my half-finished toile/muslin of the Liverpool tunic by Amy Butler, or the fit of a pattern), put it to one side, take a deep breath and wait until I can either work it out myself, or get help at a sewing cafe or similar
  4. as I regain my confidence, venture into pattern alteration - either at a cafe mentioned in 3 above or by enrolling on a course/for some lessons (this may happen anyway as a way of regaining my confidence before I get to step 4)
I will have to accept, that in order to get it right at step 1 above, I may need to make toiles first and ask for help if they're not quite right.  If they 'just don't suit', give it up as a bad job.  However, if they work - then I've got a pattern I can use over and over again!  Hooray!  Also, if it is a toile, I won't have wasted any expensive fabric in the process, and if I still feel like following in Scrooge's footsteps, I'm sure that I can find bed sheets at a charity shop to use for making up toiles.

Above all, I mustn't rush any of it and get flummoxed as this will only take me back to where I am now.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Total blackout

It is high time that you all got an update following my last disastrous post.  The title of this post could refer to my lack of contact with my loving public (!), and I apologise profusely for that*.  In fact I'm referring to the fact that DH and I are now sleeping much better (and longer - oops!) because we have a pair - YES, A PAIR - of matching curtains in our bedroom!

It has been a very long road to reach this point, but goodness, it feels good and looks pretty good too.  At least, we both like them.

* The fact is, we've had so much other stuff going on recently, that the curtains have been about the only creative thing I've had in my sights over the last few months.  Hopefully that will change soon and I can get back to something slightly less bulky and time consuming.  So, please don't give up on me and continue to watch this space!?!

Monday, 23 February 2015

A complete disaaaaaster

I'm sure you all realise that not everything works out as planned with sewing projects, as with anything else.  Well, let me tell you that that was definitely the case for me last weekend (not the one just gone - I had to wait a week to blog about it as I was too worked up and upset by it all!).

My curtain-making had been on hold for almost a fortnight thanks to a late delivery of an online order for extra header tape, so I was already frustrated and behind on things.  DH kindly went to John Lewis late night shopping on his way home one evening to get me some more so that I could carry on properly the following day - but they'd run out of stock!  So I went into town myself on Friday morning to track it down elsewhere - and finally got it at the third shop after a 'magical mystery tour' of the West End.  And when I got home, there was the online order waiting patiently on the doormat!

So, Friday afternoon was spent putting all three layers of the HUGE curtain together - pinning, tacking, sewing side seams, hemming ...  Saturday afternoon was more of the same followed by pinning the sections for the pinch pleats (my least favourite part of the process).  I hadn't been happy with how the pleats had turned out in the first curtain (currently hanging at our bedroom window), so I'd decided to try to use the fabric pattern when planning the pleats on the second one.  However, the pattern had other ideas.  So at supper time, I'd had enough and was feeling pretty miserable and frustrated - and gave up.

Sunday afternoon, despite feeling groggy and headachey, I persevered.  If it was the last thing I was going to do, I was going to get BOTH curtains up by the end of the day!  I decided I was asking too much of myself to get the pleats to work with the pattern.  This was only my second attempt at pinch pleats and my first with patterned fabric, after all.  So, how many pleats did I want - 9 on the first curtain weren't enough and it was all a bit baggy.  So I did some maths for 10, 11 or 12 pleats and decided I'd give 12 a go.  All pinned, I marked the sewing line on my machine to help keep things straight and away I went.  Hooray - 12 pleats ready to pinch!

DH was out for the afternoon, so I waited to hang it once he got back.  And all was looking pretty good .... until we drew them closed ... or not as it turned out.  The second curtain wasn't wide enough to cover the whole window!!!!   AAAAAAAAAAAAARRGH!  And it was puckering at the bottom, so there I was tugging gently as the leading edge .....  when I realised that the leading edge WASN'T MEANT TO BE THE LEADING EDGE.  Not only wasn't it wide enough - I'd pleated the bottom (ie it was also upside down!).

After a couple of tears for frustration (understatement), I decided that the sooner I unpicked the whole thing, the quicker I'd get onto resewing it.

Isn't it weird - it had taken me a number of afternoons to get the blasted curtain put together, but it only took me about an hour to unpick it completely.

And then it hit me - the pattern wasn't going to match across the window!  Somehow, the second curtain had been cut out about 3 inches lower down the pattern than the first so the only way that I'll get the pattern to match across the window is to unpick the curtain that is already hanging as well!!!!

Please, will someone pass me the valium?!  NOW!!!

Monday, 16 February 2015

From Bedroom to Zenana*

After we moved into our house, we were ridiculously organised and went fabric hunting for our kitchen, bedroom and living room curtains WAY before there was any hope (or money and time) to make them.  At least we managed to save up and make the kitchen blinds, and after a considerable amount of huffing and puffing the living and dining rooms also have curtains.  So it is finally the turn of our bedroom.

When we were initially having work done on the house, there was so much to think of that I couldn't face deciding on specific colour schemes until we knew what would go where (we didn't move in until the work was done).  As a result the house is mainly painted cream with white woodwork.  Excellent as a base, but not much help when you're trying to decide on a colour scheme!

We were given a deep purple throw and coordinating cushion with allium on it as a wedding present and we used them in our bedroom on and off for a while, but for some reason, DH wasn't all that enthusiastic about having lilac/purple as the colour scheme for our bedroom.

We were wandering rather aimlessly through the fabric department of John Lewis trying to find something we both liked when DH found an Osborne & Little fabric that gave us an idea.  We had two problems with the fabric in question - a) we couldn't afford it and b) even if we could afford it, neither of us can stand George Osborne who is part of the O&L family!  BUT it did inspire us.

We went to India on our honeymoon and loved Jaipur and the Moghul stamp (aka paisley) and I had a kameez made while we were there out of local hand-blocked silk with the paisley pattern on it.  So, clever DH suggested we use India/our honeymoon/paisley as our theme.

As usual (see Curtain up), I was trawling the web for fabrics that fitted the bill and found the Harlequin Lalika collection and fell in love with the Azara fabric in particular.  We ordered samples of all colours and narrowed it down to either red or blue and despite being torn, we've decided to go for the blue.

In 2013 we spent a lovely relaxing week in Turkey and brought some nice souvenirs back with us to adorn our home.  Along with two Kilim rugs for the hallway, we bought two lovely ceramic plaques/plates in the Iznik style and a lovely lamp for our bedroom (that had a bit of an adventure getting to Britain - but that is another story).  So, our bedroom has become more of an Islamic art theme than just Indian now, but so far we're loving the change.

* Not sure DH would be all that pleased, but this is the definition of Zenana, but ironically I'm a baptist too, so it is quite apt.

Monday, 9 February 2015

New year's sewing resolutions

As ever, with the new year, new leaves are turned over, fresh starts are made, blah-di-blah.....

Well, that is all good and well if you've finished everything off before the new year starts! Unfortunately, I didn't.  So my new year is starting by trying to finish off last year's UFOs.  There are two that I'm concentrating on - one for the evenings vegging in front of the TV fire and the other for the weekends so I've more time to give to it.

My 'evening' UFO is my snowdrop sampler (see Commissions - updates) and the end is now in sight.

The 'weekend' UFO is our bedroom curtains.  One is up (goodness knows what people across the road make of our 'odd socks' look at the moment), the other is in three parts awaiting 'construction'.

Maybe after that I can start to look at new new year projects.  Or maybe not - sad face.  I'm loath to list what I'd like to make this year as the list I drafted last January has very little crossed off it now.  Last year was a bit of a toughie though with lots of family stuff going on, and now that we're getting settled into the new situation this year may be more creative/productive.

However, our next project is to clear my sewing room - very sad face.  I'm sad to have to pack it up and move after waiting so long to get it, but there is a good reason (more of which will be revealed eventually).  But I'm going to try and 'decamp' rather than 'pack up' by moving my stuff to the laundry room.  It will be cosy there, so some will probably have to go in the attic, but there is quite a bit of storage there that hasn't been used efficiently and the ironing kit is already there, after all.  Hopefully the non-sewing/craft stuff will find a new home in other parts of the house too (enter DF with his DIY knowledge and toolbag!).

The trouble is, with sorting through the stuff in the sewing room, I'm coming across fabrics and garments that are giving me ideas and I know that I just won't find the time to bring those projects to fruition.  Oh well, at least Great British Sewing Bee has restarted to cheer us all up and get us dreaming ;-D

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Commissions update - Snowdrops 2

The best travelled sampler!

Well, so much for being determined in March 2014 to get back on track this commission.

To be honest, progress was more or less non-existent until the Christmas break, but it must be in the running for the 'most travelled embroidery project' by now with numerous trips to Cardiff and Norfolk, not to mention Brussells, north Wales and Provence in 2014.  I'm really pleased (and hugely relieved) with how it is going now. There was a mild (understatement of the week!) panic over the weekend when I got to the last corner and realised that the two 'ends' were one thread out of line.  Yes ONE thread!!!  Aaargh!

But, I found where I'd gone wrong and thankfully it isn't as big a 'repair' job as I'd feared. So, last lap here I come.  Just one more repeat of the V shaped motif and it is on to the text of the poem for the central space.  I still have the white flowers to catch up on (daylight is an absolute MUST for these at this time of year), which I may still outline (watch this space).

I'd love to find a suitable font for the poem though.  The border is 'art nouveau' influenced and all the backstitch ones I've found so far don't really 'match'.  There are plenty of lovely cross-stitch ones around on-line, but I'm constrained now by the border, so it can't be too large.  I've found some nice 'print' fonts, which I may attempt to convert to backstitch (or at most, cross-stitch over one thread).  We'll see how much time I have.  I don't really want to 'spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar' this close to the finishing line though!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Nice colours

Ages ago, during my quest to design a sampler for my friend's little girl, I came across these gorgeous websites (thanks to Wild Olive's suggestions - I hope she won't mind me repeating them).  I came across them again whilst tidying up my draft blog posts the other day and got distracted by them all over again.

They have some scrumptious colour palette suggestions and I'm tempted to get lost in them again looking for some interior colour scheme inspiration.  This one could almost be the inspiration for the colours in our living room carpet.

They're a really good way of learning about colour too I think, especially if you're not that confident with mixing colours together (either in what you wear or things around your home).  Using an image you like - either one you've taken yourself, or one you've seen in a book, magazine, blog (!) etc - as the basis for a colour scheme is a great and simple idea.  All you need to look at is the blocks of colour and 'separate' them out (as these websites do for you) and, hey presto, you have your colour palette.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

Design Seeds
Color Collective blog
Creature Comforts Blog - color crush posts

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Stringing along

Just a short post today, to say that I'm rather pleased with myself for having recently learned how to knot beads.  It is fantastic what you can learn using t'internet!

This was a coral necklace that my DF bought for me on a work trip to Hawaii (I think), but it was threaded on wire and had somehow acquired a 'kink' and never lay flat.

Not perfect, but I'm chuffed how well it has worked.  And I've already have more use out of the necklace than I'd had before rethreading.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

More reading

Well, hello and welcome back!  And a happy new year to you all.  Once again, my apologies for my absence from the blogosphere.  I'm afraid that other pressures haven't given me much time or material to write to you.  So, going 'off piste' a little to get myself back in the mood, here goes.  In true SewandSiw fashion, it is almost a year since I've given you and update on my reading projects.

I have managed to catch up on two of my partly-read book that I mentioned last time, namely:
From the Holy Mountain - William Dalrymple (a bit of an epic journey to read about, but fascinating and an eye-opener in places)
Life of Pi - Yann Martel (It took me a while to get going with this, probably why I 'flaked out' last time, but really worth persevering.)

In addition I've also read:
Fall of Giants - Ken Follett (his books are always favourites and this was particularly timely as it is set during WW1)
Sieben Tage Ohne - Monika Peetz (some German chick lit about a group of friends going on a detox holiday (an oxymoron if ever I heard one))
The Lady of the Rivers - Phillipa Gregory (really the first in her Cousins' War series, but the last one for me to read.  As fascinating and gripping as all the others)
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies - alexander McCall Smith (one of the No1 Ladies Detective Agency series. Very entertaining and fun)
Mother tongue: a history of the English language - Bill Bryson (fascinating for a language geek like me!)
Bring up the Bodies - Hilary Mantel (after reading Wolf Hall, I just HAD to read the second in the series.  I couldn't put it down - just like Wolf Hall)
One Step Behind - Henning Mankel (the start of a crime-fest after some history)
The shape of water - andrea Camilleri (the first of the Inspector Montalbano books - although they're crime books, they are quite funny and you really get a feel for Sicilly, especially with Salvo's obsession with food!)
The terracotta dog - andrea Camilleri
The snack thief - Andrea Camilerri
The voice of the violin - Andrea Camilleri (I'd bought a boxed set of 10 of his books!!)
Enigma - Robert Harris (having bought this for Dad after our visit to Bletchley Park and before going to see The Imitation Game, I wanted to 'get into the mood'.  A brilliant read - but don't watch the film with Dougray Scott and Kate Winslett within a few days of finishing the book or you'll be spotting all the errors and omissions for much of the film and annoying anyone else in the room!)
Labyrinth - Kate Mosse (I started this on a 7-hour return train journey from Provence and to DH's amusement I kept saying 'I'm not sure what to make of this', to which he replied, 'Well, you seem to be getting through it despite not being sure!'.  I think it was the sinister undertones that were putting me off, but well worth a read)
Treason's Daughter - Antonia Senior (the author was at uni with my BIL and the book was given to DH by his brother and as I like history novels I decided to give it a go.  It is set during the Civil War, which isn't a common period for history novels, and on the whole I enjoyed it.  I was a little disappointed that the title and the blurb gave the impression that the main protagonist is a woman, but it really follows her story AND her two brothers through the Civil War.  I can't decide what I think about the ending either)
The constant Princess - Phillipa Gregory (the first in her Tudors series. Looks like I'm on a bit of a history-fest again!)
The Other Boleyn Girl - Phillipa Gregory (guess what!  I'm going to try to read the whole series now, although I may take a break 'en route' for some more crime!).