Thursday, 16 February 2017

Raindrops On Roses - February

These are a few of my favourite things.

Call the Midwife. I'm so pleased that this programme is back on TV. This is the sixth series and it's as fresh as ever with some fabulous hard-hitting storylines. My only disappointment is that there aren't more than the usual eight episodes in the series, I'd love for the series to go on and on.

Spring is on the way. There's signs all around us now, lots of bulbs are poking their way through the soil and will soon be in flower, if they're not already. Buds are appearing on the trees. I'm glad that February is the shortest month of the year as it's the hardest month for me. The days are short and more often than not, grey. These little signs of spring keep me going, I know it won't be long now until the new season is finally here.

Ravelry. This is a fantastic website which is free to join and offers thousands of free patterns for knitters and crocheters. There's lots of projects that I've printed off which are just waiting for my attention. There's also a great community on there, lots of groups to join and forums where members are able to chat with each other. It's such a great source of information too. My user name is jo9919 if you want to find me on there. At the moment, I'm trying to organise my stash, having it listed on Ravelry means I can see in a flash just what I've got. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen.

Letters in the post. I don't get many letters these days, people tend to send emails or texts rather than writing so it makes it all the more special when a letter does arrive. I received a lovely letter from an old family friend earlier this month, it was lovely to hear from her.

Archie. He was bound to make an appearance, he could feature in every month's post really. How I love this little ball of fluff with the soulful eyes. He's looking a little bedraggled at the moment, he's ready for a trim but the groomer we usually take him to has just upped and left without a word so it's time to find a new one.

What favourites do you have this month? How about joining me and writing a post about them?

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Works In Progress

After finishing off Eleanor's Green Socks, I've now got a couple of new projects on the go so I thought I'd give you a glimpse of what's on my needles at the moment.

Mick's first pair of socks were finished at the back end of last year, they were knit in a thicker yarn to use in his walking boots so I thought I'd knit him another pair, this time in thinner yarn. I'm just using a basic sock pattern but the variegated yarn keeps it interesting.

I'm using Opal yarn again and like last time, I'm not impressed at all. It feels really rough and scratchy, not at all soft. I've only used Opal on these two occasions and I haven't been happy with it at all. They might wash a bit softer once they're finished, we'll see.

Another pair of socks are on the needles for Eleanor too. I've been wanting to give the Rose City Rollers pattern by Mara Catherine Bryner a go for a while and I thought they'd look good in this Knitglobal Sock yarn in Summer Berries colourway.

These are a short sock, more like a trainer sock, with a rolled top. I love how the colour is working up.

I've heard so much about Hiya Hiya Sharps needles so I bought a set of double pointed needles to try them out, I'm knitting Mick's socks with them. I do like them but I think the KnitPro Zings, which I'm knitting Eleanor's socks with, have the edge. I think the Hiya Hiya Sharps would probably be good for lace knitting where you're picking lots of stitches up or passing them over other stitches, those pointy tips would make short work of that.

What projects have you got on the go at the moment?

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Nigel: My Family And Other Dogs

I used to watch Gardeners' World religiously when I had my allotment but I have to confess, I only caught the odd glimpse of the last series. When I did watch, I always enjoyed seeing Nigel, Monty Don's beautiful golden retriever, whenever he featured in a segment of the programme. Mick bought me Monty's latest book, Nigel: My Family And Other Dogs, for Christmas and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Split in to short chapters, it tells Nigel's story right back from puppy hood through to his back injury, his life 'on set' and everything in between. There's lots of snippets of information about Longmeadow, the garden which Monty and Nigel share with viewers on Gardeners' World, along with tales of other dogs which have shared Monty's life.

I'm not ashamed to say that I shed tears, both of sadness and joy, as Monty describes the relationships he's had with various dogs throughout the course of his life. It's a charming read and would appeal to any dog lover.

If you want to know what else I've been reading lately, you can find a list in the sidebar. This shows all the books I've read this year and there's also lists of the books I've read right back to 2012.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Green Socks

Phew! Am I glad that these are off the needles? The answer is a resounding YES!

Eleanor put in a special request for some plain green socks, plain in every way, plain green yarn and the plainest of plain patterns. No problem, or so I thought, I'll have these knit up in no time at all. I started them well before Christmas and they were finished on the 27th of January. They weren't straight forward though, far from it.

I had a look at Cascade Heritage yarn and they had a number of different shades of green in their range so I let Eleanor decide which one she wanted, she went for sage. I have to say that this yarn is lovely to use, it's very soft and squishy and at £7.99 per skein, it doesn't break the bank. I shall use it again, in fact, I've got more in my stash. I used a very plain pattern as per Eleanor's instructions.

I'd just about finished the first sock, I got half way through the toe shaping and I made a mistake on the decreases. It was over the Christmas period when my dad was in hospital and I was under a lot of stress and instead of just taking back the mistake, I pulled the whole sock off the needles, unravelled it all and started again. I know, how ridiculous. I actually made lots of mistakes when making these socks and spent so much time taking them back, I don't know if it was because I just wasn't in the zone for crafting with so much else going on at the time or whether it was because I sometimes become a little bit complacent when working on something so simple. Simple it didn't turn out to be!

But, they're now done and I can heave a sigh of relief. Eleanor had a few days at home at the end of January as she wasn't very well, and they met with her approval, just what she wanted, she said. Just as well as I could have probably knit them three times over with the number of times they were taken back.

By the way, the ridge underneath the right sock in the above photos is because Eleanor wears ankle bracelets, nothing to do with my knitting!

I can now choose something to knit with a little more interest. Hooray!

Thursday, 2 February 2017

A Muddy Walk At Lotherton

Sunday dawned frosty but by early afternoon the sun was trying to put in an appearance so we decided to make use of our annual membership and head off to Lotherton Hall to take Archie for a walk.

We usually do the Boundary Walk around the edge of the estate but it looked very muddy and we were a bit silly really, we hadn't worn our walking boots.

Instead, we decided to do as the sign suggested.

We took a walk through the woodland where the paths make it much less muddy, though I still had to clean my boots when I got home.

The orchard was looking quite bare devoid of leaves. Lotherton has an Apple Day in October and I've been meaning to visit this for the last few years but still haven't made it. Perhaps this year. There looks to be some wonderful varieties.

We walked back through the formal gardens. They look so different in the winter months with the lack of colour.

Daniel and Eleanor always used to enjoy visiting the William and Mary garden whenever we went to Lotherton when they were children, especially at the time when frogs were spawing as the pond was always full of frogspawn and tadpoles. It's always a favourite with children.

I wrote about the pet cemetery in my Lotherton Hall And Doggy Ghosts post, there's also more information about Lotherton Hall in this post too.

We passed the little chapel on our way back to the car. This is the oldest building at Lotherton and dates back to the 1100s.

It was nice to get out of the house for a decent walk, as I've mentioned before, it does improve my mood. I'm so lucky that we're spoilt for choice really where we live, there's so many places which are more or less on our doorstep. I just hope that the weather holds for a bit now so that we can get out and about a bit more.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

365 Day Money Saving Challenge

I came across this saving challenge a while ago and decided I'd give it a go this year. I actually missed starting on time but I've since caught up.

The idea is that you save 1p on day 1, 2p on day 2, 3p on day 3 and so on, until the last few days of the year you're up to £3.63, £3.64 and £3.65. By the end of this challenge you should have saved a total of £667.95.

I've decided to do it a bit differently. Instead of saving all the small amounts at the start of the year and the large amounts in December, I'm mixing it up a bit. I'll be saving various amounts throughout the year and to make life easier, I've printed off a chart, which I found on Skint Dad website, so that I'm able to cross off each amount as I save it.

I've also printed off a calendar so that I can cross each day off as the money for that day gets saved, I think I could easily forget to put my savings away sometimes and this will ensure that I don't.

I'm using Daniel's old pocket money jar to keep the money in but as it's loose change that's being saved, it's filling up fast. I might have to use something else once it's full.

I think this is a savings scheme that's quite affordable and will add up to a decent amount at the end of the year. Now I just need to decide what to spend it on.

Is anyone else joining in?

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Raindrops On Roses - January

These are a few of my favourite things.

Tea. Can you believe it? Rarely, throughout my life, have I enjoyed a cup of tea but I've really got a taste for it just lately. Nothing fancy here, just good old Yorkshire Tea for a Yorkshire lass. I've got a bit of a weakness for lovely mugs, this is one that Daniel bought me for Christmas, Wrendale by Royal Worcester - Good Hare Day.

Precious and Grace. This was another Christmas gift and the latest in the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. These stories, which are set in Botswana, are so charming with a gentle plot, they're so relaxing to read and I'm  thoroughly enjoying this one, I don't want it to end.

Craft House Magic. This is the latest podcast I've discovered and I've now caught up with all the episodes right from the beginning. Ellie's a wonderful host, she's always happy and welcoming and at the moment she's running a sock challenge which is lots of fun for anyone wanting to improve on their sock knitting skills.

My beautiful orchid. This was a gift from a friend and I've had it just over three years now. Contrary to what many people believe, orchids are very easy to look after. I water mine once a week and when the flowers fade, I just snip the flower stem at the base which encourages it to send up a new stem and then it starts to flower all over again. What could be simpler?

Cadbury Starbar. I used to love these when I was younger and then they seemed to disappear from the shelves, I don't know if they stopped making them or if they just stopped selling them in the places I shopped but they've reappeared and my love affair with them has been rekindled. Milk chocolate with peanuts and caramel, yum yum.

What favourites do you have this month? How about joining me and writing a post about them?

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Grey And Dismal

I'm always happy to get out and about when the sun's shining, not so much so on dreary days like we've been having just lately. I decided that I just had to bite the bullet and make an effort, especially as Archie was starting to feel badly done to as he hasn't been having many interesting walks, so we spent a little time at Temple Newsam yesterday.

I don't think I'm the only one who feels this way as there weren't many people about, I think they must have been hunkering down at home rather than taking a stroll around the grounds.

I think the weather affects my moods to some extent. I don't have full blown seasonal affective disorder (SAD) but I'm certainly much happier in the summer months. I could happily hibernate during winter and only resurface in the spring. I hate cold weather too.

Getting out does improve my mood though, I'm always glad when I've made the effort. I think having a dog gives me the motivation sometimes, I know how much he enjoys a good walk so it makes me get out there, I don't think I'd bother so much if he wasn't here.

There wasn't much colour about at all, so different to how this place looks in summer. It was a still day too, there wasn't any movement on the lake apart from when the ducks were swimming by.

The willow trees looked rather sad without their leaves, they're absolute beauties in summer. It's nice that there's so many evergreens planted though, at least there's still plenty of greenery around.

Archie came home happy and contented after his walk and I felt much better too.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Mum's List

I hadn't heard of Mum's List by St John Greene until I saw something about the film adaptation on TV. I thought it sounded interesting, though very sad, and I decided to read the book.

Mum's List is a true story about Kate Greene, a woman dying of cancer, who decided to write a kind of wish list for her husband, Singe, and two young sons. The list was actually things which Kate wanted the family to do, some things she'd intended doing with them herself, mixed in with things she didn't want them to forget and life lessons.

Having my own life threatened by cancer when my own children were very young, I find myself drawn to these type of books, however, this one didn't turn out to be the weepy I expected it to be. Yes, it's a true story and it's extremely sad, I feel terrible when anyone loses their life to this horrible disease, especially when they're leaving young children behind, and Kate's illness wasn't the first time the family had been touched by cancer, one of the children had gone through it too, but there were things which just didn't sit well with me at all and I must admit that I nearly abandoned the book on more than one occasion.

I know that people deal with grief in different ways but I found Singe to be quite disrespectful after Kate's death. He removed his wedding ring within days of Kate dying as he now thought of himself as a single man and he seemed eager to find a new partner. Even when one of the boys asked him when they were going to get a new mummy he didn't put him right and tell him that Kate was their mummy and always would be. Singe may be a lovely chap, he obviously idolised his wife, however, the way the book is written doesn't show him in a very good light, in my opinion.

I thought the book was going to go in to more detail about the list itself, which seemed to get lost amongst the gloating about the new house extension, new boat, holidays and even appearing in a Steven Spielberg film. I feel terribly sad at Kate's death but it certainly hasn't held Singe back.

I thought the best part of the book was the inclusion of Kate's mum's diary. This one chapter told me more about Kate's illness and what was happening at the time than all the other chapters put together.

Has anyone else read this book or have you seen the film, I wonder if that's any better. I'm afraid it's a film I won't be rushing to see if the book's anything to go by.

I've decided that the Christmas books that I didn't get round to reading last month will be put away now until next Christmas. There's quite a few so I'll be all set in December without having to buy any more.

If you want to know what else I've been reading lately, you can find a list in the sidebar. This shows all the books I've read this year and there's also lists of the books I've read right back to 2012.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Crafty Gifts

I was very blessed to received some wonderful gifts this Christmas, my friends and family know me very well and know the things I like and they always get things exactly right. I think I'm quite easy to buy for, I enjoy a lot of different hobbies and like lots of different things so people can always think of things to buy for me.

I got some lovely craft gifts this year so I thought I'd show you some of them. First of all, yarn. These three skeins came from two different Etsy shops, the one on the left is from Little French Meadow. I've been wanting to try some of their yarn for some time now. This is their Saint Savin Sock base, a 75% superwash merino/25% nylon yarn and the colourway is Hall of Prophecy, part of their Harry Potter inspired range. The other two skeins are from Felt Fusion and dyed under the name of Den of Yarniquity. The middle skein is superwash Blue Faced Leicester/nylon sock yarn in Meandering colourway and the skein on the right is alpaca/merino/nylon sock yarn in Hot Stuff colourway. This one is much plumper than the other two and consequently, there's only 333 metres in the skein. There's 425 metres in the other two so I hope I'll still get a pair of socks out of it. They're all so beautiful, I can't stop stroking them.

I've been really pleased with the stitch markers I've bought previously from Little French Meadow so I put some more on my wish list. Mick chose to buy me some Harry Potter inspired ones, a broomstick, a lightening bolt, a wizard hat with pumpkin and the Whomping Willow. The ladies at Little French Meadow also included a cute sunflower stitch marker and a fruit tea sachet in with the parcel.

The project bag I bought from Sam at Betsy Makes earlier this year is being well used so I thought I'd like more bags to keep other projects in. This time I fancied a bag which gathers around the top and after looking on Etsy I came across Quince Pie. Elaine has some lovely bags in her shop, as well as other craft related items, and Mick chose this drawstring bag for me in a lovely owl design fabric.

He didn't stop there though, once I'd seen this set of two project bags and DPN holder from Fondant Fibre I knew I had to have them. They really are lovely and the attention to detail is fabulous. Even the zip pulls have pretty little flowers attached to them. Deb popped a little snowflake stitch marker in the parcel too.

Who could resist this charming fabric?

Of course, I showed you in my Twelve Days Of Christmas 2016 Reveal post the wonderful crafty gifts made especially for me by my swap partners, a project bag and ultra cute pea pod stitch marker and progress keeper from Kim at This Happy Homemade Life and the hand painted yarn and notions pouch from Cath at Clicky Needles, here they are again.

I'm sure you'll agree that I've done very well indeed for crafty gifts this year. Now I just need to decide which projects I'm going to cast on, I think this year is going to be a busy one craft wise.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Twelve Days Of Christmas 2016 Reveal

This Christmas was the worst I've ever had, called in to the hospital late on Christmas Eve as my dad wasn't expected to live and not getting home until the early hours of Christmas Day morning, visiting throughout the festive season not knowing what was going to be and on top of that, feeling ill myself, it hasn't been the best Christmas. My Twelve Days Of Christmas swap gifts were a little light relief in each day.

The swap came about as my lovely blog friend, Lisa from Jumble And Jelly, asked if I'd like to do a swap with her back in 2014. We each really enjoyed it and so last year I hosted a swap on my blog for other people to join in too. It was such a success that I decided I'd host it again this year.

Lisa and I decided we'd still do the swap between ourselves as well so I thought I'd show you the things which we swapped first of all. These are all the gifts which Lisa sent to me.

I've never read anything by Katie Flynn before so I'm looking forward to starting this book and when I do, I might have used the paper cake cups and cake toppers and made myself some buns to eat whilst I'm reading, how cute are they? Those little snowmen are adorable. Lisa knows how I love my old films, especially musicals and White Christmas is a lovely one to add to my collection. One of my favourite gifts was the piggy foldaway bag and piggy sticky notes, I'm such a huge fan of pigs. I'm always scrabbling about for a bag and this one is great because it can just be clipped to the outside of my handbag and doesn't take up any space.

I took these photos in the conservatory to give me a little more light in these dull days and I'm not sure you can read what's on the mug, it says If Friends Were Flowers I'd Pick You, isn't that lovely? It came with two hot drink sachets which I'm itching to try. The cute cupcake tin will come in very handy, I do love a tin, and it was filled with a packet of Snow Bites, yum yum. I remember Holly Hobbie well from my childhood and I just love these notecards, they so pretty. I've been itching to open the cinnamon & hazelnut mini stars all Christmas but I've been saving them until I did the photoshoot, I shall be opening them very soon.

I love these Cosy Footlets, they're so pretty and very toasty. Lisa knows that Green & Blacks is my favourite chocolate, it's very rich though so these miniatures are just the right size for when I fancy a taste. The stocking plate is really lovely, it's something I'll be able to use each Christmas and it came with Ferrero Rochers, another of my favourite choccies. The table games have already been in use and I can give them a big thumbs up, we all enjoyed playing them and they'll be brought out again when we have another family gathering.

Thank you so much, Lisa, you've got my tastes off to a tee now, I love everything I received.

Here are the things I sent to Lisa.

A Santa filled with Dairy Milk chocolates, paper straws and ice cream tubs & spoons, I thought they would be nice to use on a summers day, an egg cup with a chicken shaped cover to keep the egg warm and some cute girly notelets.

A spotty dotty mug with some flavoured tea sachets, two pairs of cosy socks, a shopping list pad which is magnetic to stick to the fridge and a pretty butterfly coaster which I saw when I was on holiday in Cornwall and couldn't resist buying.

Twelve Days of Christmas book by Trisha Ashley, I thought this was quite appropriate to add to the swap parcel, a silver tealight holder, packets of Snow Bites and Malteaser Reindeers and a notebook and red spotty pen.

I thoroughly enjoyed our third swap and we've already decided that we'll do it again next year.

My swap partner from the swap I hosted on the blog was Kim from This Happy Homemade Life. I received some wonderful gifts from Kim and she definitely knows the things I like as they were all themed to my likes and my hobbies.

A set of three Botanica notebooks, I love stationery and these little notebooks are so pretty, a butterfly writing set, again pretty, I just love this design, a craft paper pack, now I don't know whether Kim knows this or not but I used to enjoy scrapbooking and it's a hobby I'm keen to take up again so these will come in very handy, and a mini cross stitch kit which will be a nice little project to do in between some of the larger things I've got on the go at the moment.

I've never read anything by M. C. Beaton but I do like this genre as I'm sure you know with me working my way through the Agatha Christie books so I'm sure this will be a good one, the orange & cinnamon scented tealights smell divine, I love anything with a tangy scent so these will be lovely, such a cute gingerbread man bath bomb, it will be a shame to melt him but it will be nice to take a relaxing bath after the stresses I've been under lately, and the cutest cross stitched Rudolph, how I love this little tree ornament and it will take pride of place on my tree in the years to come.

A pack of adhesive fabric sheets, how clever, I'm thinking up projects that I can use these for, a Baileys truffle bar, yum yum, a pack of gel pens which I'm thrilled with as mine always seem to go walkabout so these will replace them and the most beautiful project bag. The fabric used is just so me with my love of gardening and growing veggies, and can you see those cute little pea pods? One of them is a stitch marker and the other is a progress keeper, how fabulous.

Thank you so much, Kim, you've done so well choosing these gifts, they're all things I'd have chosen myself.

Here are the things I sent to Kim.

Twelve Days of Christmas book by Trisha Ashley, yes, you saw this in Lisa's swap parcel too, too appropriate for the swap to pass it by, a manicure set, French manicure nail varnish and a couple of mini cross stitch kits.

A row counter for knitting and some Made With Love charms and in with these I popped some pins and a crochet heart kit which had come free with magazines, I thought Kim might be able to make use of them, a tin of Whittard's afternoon tea, some pretty tealights and a set of lip balms.

I'm afraid I mixed up the gifts here, oops! This photo shows some bath bombs which were actually popped in a different parcel, in their place I sent Kim some Drops cotton yarn, a writing set, a Peter Rabbit notes & lists pad and some Dairy Milk and Smarties chocolate.

Thank you for taking part in the swap, Kim, you were a brilliant swap partner.

I took on another swap this year. Cath from Clicky Needles was left without a partner after the one I allocated her pulled out so I said I'd swap with her instead. Here are the gifts I received.

A giant Toblerone triangle, we're all fans of Toblerone in our house so I've been careful to stash it away, some cute t-shirt shaped sticky notes, they'll be very handy in my Filofax, some pretty ribbon, always handy and the cutest little Rudolph brooch and flower covered button badge.

Cath didn't leave Archie out of the swap, he got a bag of treats, a torch which will be very handy for his night time walks and a safety ID tag, such a good idea. I'd listed some Etsy shops on my Christmas wish list and said that I wouldn't mind a notions pouch but I didn't receive one so I was thrilled to bits with the one Cath sent, it's just lovely and will be very useful, some pretty covered buttons, I need to find just the right project for them and some more pretty ribbon.

A tealight holder and three glitzy gold tea lights, they'll jazz the place up, three spools of decorative tape which will look great in my Filofax and a sparkly notebook which will be handy to pop in my handbag, I don't always carry my Filofax around with me these days so it's handy to be able to jot things down when I'm out and about. I also received a chocolate treat with each day's gift.

Those were my Twelve Days Of Christmas swap gifts but Cath had put an extra special gift in the parcel for me, a beautiful skein of yarn which Cath had hand painted herself. This colourway is called Bazaar. I just love all the different colours and I know I'm going to love using this. Thank you so much.

Thank you, Cath, I'm really happy with the gifts I received and I'm glad I could step in when you were left without a partner.

Here are the things I sent to Cath.

A pair of cosy footlets, a ha, there are those bath bombs that I mentioned earlier again, this is the parcel they were destined for, a lip balm set and some Whittard's truffle praline tea pyramids.

A row counter for knitting, a thimble and some Made With Love charms and I popped them all in a little notions pouch which had come free with a magazine and also included a heart brooches kit which was also a free magazine gift. A Yankee Candle votive and holder, two bottles of nail varnish and some Green & Black's miniatures.

Another Twelve Days of Christmas book by Trisha Ashley, I added one of these books to each of my swap parcels, a cute owl writing set, a to do list pad and two balls of Drops Love You yarn.

Thank you for taking part in the swap, Cath, you were a great swap partner.

I had such a lot of fun with each of the swaps I took part in this year and I hope that everyone else who took part did too. Thank you so much, it does add to the excitement of it all when there are lots of swappers joining in.

As I mentioned earlier in the post, when I hosted the swap last year it all seemed to run very smoothly without any hitches at all that I know of. Unfortunately, this year, there's been a few problems. I've had people pulling out after they've been allocated a partner, miscommunication and others who have simply ignored all posts, comments and emails which have been sent to them. I know there may be hiccups along the way and that some people may sign up and then something unforeseen happens which means they can't fulfil their commitment, I totally understand that, but this wasn't the case and I've had swappers left disappointed after being left without a partner and, to be honest, it's taken away some of the enjoyment for me. I don't get anything for hosting the swap, I just thought it would be a nice thing to do but there's always people who will put a downer on these things and spoil them. I'd like to apologise to those people who were left without a partner this year, I certainly never foresaw this happening.

To this end, I've decided that I won't be hosting this swap again next year. I'd just like to take this opportunity to thank all the lovely people who have taken part over the last two years and hope you've all enjoyed joining in. It's been nice to get to know you and I hope you all had a lot of fun with the swaps. If you write a blog post about the gifts you sent or received I'd love to see them, do please leave me a comment so that I know.