Sunday, 28 August 2016

Reading - August 2016

I'm back to my average of four books read this month.


The Woman Who Walked In Sunshine is the latest tale from the The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. I'm such a fan of these books, the characters are delightful and each time you read the next installment it feels as though you're catching up with old friends. This time, Mmm Ramotswe decides to take a holiday, but she's not one to sit about and can't help but secretly get involved with the cases at the agency.


My Agatha Christie read this month was Cards On The Table. In this story, the murder takes place during a bridge party. I've no idea how to play bridge and as there was a lot of bridge terminology and reference made to certain hands which had been played, this totally lost me. I think this may spoil the book for some people, however, it didn't for me, I still enjoyed it. There was only four suspects but I still didn't guess the culprit, my suspicion kept altering from one to another.


I got Sleigh Bells In The Snow by Sarah Morgan as a free download on my Kindle. It had been there waiting for me to read it for quite some time, I wasn't sure it was really my kind of book and when I started it I still wasn't sure but the more I read, the more I enjoyed it. It's set around the beautiful Snow Crystal resort in Vermont at Christmas time and I think it would be a great book to read during the festive season as the scene is set. This is the first in a trilogy and I've now put the other two on my list of books to read.


Big Little Lies is the third book by Liane Moriarty that I've read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I really like this author's style of writing and the characters she introduces us to could easily be people we know, it's so easy to connect with them. The story is set around a group of kindergarten parents, one of which we know from the beginning of the book has been murdered but we're not told which one. The story goes back in time and follows the lives of these people, many of which have a secret, until that fateful school trivia night at which one of them will die.

It's a bank holiday weekend here but not only does Mick have tomorrow off work, he's taken the rest of the week off too. I'm hoping that the weather improves from what it's like today, dull and rainy, so that we can get out and about a bit.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Mollie Makes

I'm a bit late to the party with Mollie Makes, the latest, which is out at the moment, is issue 70 yet this is the first copy I've ever bought. I know a lot of people raved about it when it was first released back in 2011 and many signed up for a subscription. Some still buy every issue.


I have to confess that the only reason I've bought the magazine now is that I found an offer for 5 issues for £5. I've tried to cut down on buying magazines because of the cost and if I were going to spend £4.99 ( the usual price) for a magazine, there are others I'd prefer.

Knitting, crochet and, more recently, cross stitch are my preferred hobbies and it's only occasionally that I dabble with other crafts but I thought I'd give Mollie Makes a go and see what it's like. Immediate Media have a sale on their subscriptions at the moment so I thought it would be a good time to try it.


It came with a free Flower Garland kit to crochet. Free gifts wouldn't usually prompt me to buy a particular magazine as I don't often use them, but I suppose they're a little added extra.


I haven't had a proper read yet but there does seem to be a wide range of crafts in the magazine, brilliant for those proper crafty people who turn their hand to anything. I particularly like this cute felt fox which appears on the cover. The templates are included in the magazine, as are full instructions to stitch this little felt friend.


I wondered where I'd seen this T-shirt hack before. It turns out to be a project by Molla Mills which also appears in Crochetterie which I reviewed earlier this month.


These Beach Treasures really appeal to me, a lovely way to transform keepsakes which have been picked up at the seaside.


I can see that I'll enjoy looking through the five copies of Mollie Makes which I've purchased, however, on first impressions I'm not persuaded to continue with the subscription. I doubt I'd make very much from it.

I haven't been asked to write a review of Mollie Makes or paid to do so. I bought the subscription myself and just thought I'd share my opinion of it. How about you, have you bought this magazine in the past or do you buy it now and what do you think of it?


Thursday, 18 August 2016

My Clever Girl

If I thought the exams were stressful, it was nothing compared to this week. Eleanor has definitely developed anxiety, which I actually realised when she was having panic attacks during the exams. This week it's manifested itself in the form of nausea. She's had a sick bowl pinned to her side at all times, though she hasn't actually been sick.

As it turns out, she had nothing to worry about, all her hard work has paid off and she's got a place at her university of choice, Nottingham Trent, to study biomedical sciences. She was actually offered a place at her second university choice too.


She was disappointed in her grades when she took her AS Levels last year, even though she worked really hard for them, but she's improved on them this time and come out with a C in Biology and B's in both Psychology and Sociology. We're really proud of her.

Perhaps the sick bowl can be put away again now whilst we have a day of celebrations.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Joyful World - August

I haven't worked on the Joyful World Stitch Along very much this month but I've done the border and a little bit extra of the March design.


Another bit of the project is released on the 10th of each month and I'm always eager to see the next part of the design, I'm really looking forward to stitching the months ahead.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Crochetterie

I've got a different kind of crochet book to review for you today, Crochetterie: Cool Contemporary Crochet for the Creatively Minded by Finnish designer Molla Mills. This crochet instruction guide has been brought about to appeal to men as well as women. Why not? I know lots of men who can knit, my dad included, my grandma didn't think it should be a craft exclusive to women so she taught her three boys to knit as well as her daughter, I remember my dad knitting clothes for my dolls when I was young. Why shouldn't men be able to crochet too? In fact, some men do crochet, I know because there are some great crochet blogs which are written by men.


So what will inspire men who don't crochet already to pick up a hook and get learning? Tools, of course. Let a man know that he'll need tools for the task and he'll be very happy.


When you mention crochet to some people, they automatically think of delicate lacy doilies or the antimacassar laid across the back of Grannie's chair, but this book is filled with projects which may just appeal more to men's tastes.

How about something to aid the manly task of wood gathering? A Log Carrier, for instance.


Or what about a Football Bag? I think this is a rather good idea actually, when you're forever gathering up balls from around the garden a dedicated bag to keep them all together is very appealing.


It's not all about the men though, there's lots of projects that will appeal to both sexes. These Mittens look lovely and cosy, just the thing for autumn.


I do like this bunting, something a little different to the granny type bunting you often see crocheted up.


How I wish I had a bike so that I could make this Bike Bag for it. Very stylish as well as useful.


There's about thirty projects in the book, each graded according to difficulty, and they cater to all abilities. They're split in to four sections, Home, Clothes, Travels and Equipment, with a variety of projects under each section. The instructions seem very clear and there's helpful illustrations alongside the written patterns.


A section on Basic Instructions is included to help non-crocheters get started or to help with unfamiliar techniques. There's even information about whittling a crochet hook and exercises to help you loosen up, something many of us need help with after a particularly long crochet session.

I've thoroughly enjoyed reviewing this book, as I said at the start, it's something a little different. I'd definitely recommend it. There's lots of projects I'd like to have a go at myself.

The book is published by Jacqui Small Publishing and is due to be released on 18th August 2016. I received a copy of this book to review, however, all opinions expressed are my own. The book retails for £20.00 and can be purchased direct from Quarto.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

I ♥ My Pup

I usually keep my knitting projects all together in a shopping bag but they do become rather tangled and I've had a mishap on more than one occasion where knitting has slipped off the needle as I've tried to lift it out. Since I've started watching podcasts, I've seen how other people have lovely project bags which they use to organise each project and keep it safely stored away when it's not being worked on.

Some of the podcasters I watch design their own project bags and they even have Etsy shops where they sell some of the bags they make. There's many different styles but one which appealed to me was made by Sam from Betsy Makes. Last week, she had a shop update and when I saw the I ♥ My Pup project bag, I just had to treat myself.


The bag arrived sooner than expected and it's very well made, I'm thrilled with it. I just love the cute fabric.


It's really roomy, I thought it would be ideal to hold a sock project but a larger project will easily fit. Perhaps I'll just have to use this for the shawl I've got on the go and treat myself to a smaller bag for my socks.


I really enjoy Sam's podcasts, she knits, crochets and sews so she's always got lots of lovely things to show.


All I've got to do now is extricate a project from the shopping bag of doom and then it will be treated to it's own lovely project bag, I just hope the stitches don't slip off the needle in the process.

By the way, I bought the bag myself and haven't been paid or asked to write a review, I just thought you might like to see this lovely bag and hear what I think of it.

Monday, 8 August 2016

A Small Harvest

Vegetable growing is very different for me this year having given up my allotment at the end of last year. Normally, at this time of year, the courgette glut would just be starting, I'd be preparing beans for the freezer and I'd have had my fill of strawberries. I gave up the allotment due to lack of time so it was a conscious decision to only grow a few things in my garden this year, I didn't want to have given up the plot just to have as much work on at home. I decided on tomatoes, potatoes and cucumbers in addition to the fruit bushes and trees I already have in the garden.

The things I've grown are just starting to produce now and this is the small harvest I got yesterday, four cucumbers, three tomatoes and a tumbler of blueberries.


I decided I'd grow two Mini Munch cucumber plants and they started off really well. They were both looking healthy and then all of a sudden, one of the plants just keeled over and died. I've heard of a few people with a similar problem this year. So, I've only got one plant but it looks to be working hard, there's lots more fruit on the plant at various stages of growth. As you can see, two of the cucumbers are a much lighter green than the other two, I think these have been left on the plant too long.


The ripe tomatoes are from my Totem and Bloody Butcher plants, the Maskotka haven't started to turn red yet. The plants aren't looking their best this year but I should get enough tomatoes for my requirements from them and now they've started to ripen, the other fruit on the plants should follow suit.


I'm having a good year with the blueberries. I grow them in containers along the side of the conservatory, the birds don't tend to venture this far up the garden so I don't need to net them.

I'm also harvesting potatoes, two varieties, Arran Pilot and Anya.

My harvests this year may be small but growing your own is still well worth doing in my opinion for the taste alone. Nothing you buy from a supermarket quite compares to the delicious taste of fruit and vegetables picked fresh from the garden.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Look What I Found

My Home Is Where The Heart Is cross stitch was finished last year, this was the very first  cross stitch project that I'd ever completed but it wasn't the first cross stitch project I'd attempted, I'd started one when I was in my teens, over thirty years ago. It was an Anchor kit which had been given to me as either a birthday or Christmas present by my brother. I remember stitching away on it but I eventually got fed up and put it to one side never to be worked on again. I thought I'd dig it out and see how much of it I'd got done.

This is the kit, the design is a white pussy cat sat amongst pretty pink flowers.


It's not a big project but I remember it being quite a laborious task stitching all that white, perhaps that's why I got fed up with it.


Here's what I got done. There's actually more to it than the Joyful World project I'm working on at the moment as it has half stitches and backstitch, not my favourite thing.


There isn't much left to do so I shall definitely work on it to get it finished at some point now that I've found it again, it would be nice to complete it.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Knitting Update

I started a couple of knitting projects before I went on holiday. I had thought that I'd work on them whilst I was away but things didn't really turn out that way, I'm not sure why, I just didn't seem to pick them up. I only did a couple of rows on each in the whole fortnight.

I haven't worked on them since I've been home all that much either but it's good to have them there for when I am in the mood. They have grown a little since I last showed them on my blog.

The No-Fuss-Shade-Loving Shawl by Susan Ashcroft is working up really nicely. It's such an easy pattern and I can work on this whilst I'm chatting or watching television as you don't have to keep a count of anything. I think this pattern would be lovely in a thinner yarn but knitting it in James C Brett Woodlander double knitting will keep the chill off my mum when she's wearing it.


I was on the cuff when I last showed you my sock but the first leg has now been knit and I'm ready to work on the heel. I'm knitting Hermione's Everyday Socks by Erica Lueder. It's a nice easy pattern which creates a textured fabric. I'm really liking how the Laughing Yaffle yarn in Mango Tango colourway is working up.


I'm still enjoying watching podcasts and have added a couple of crochet ones to the knitting ones I mentioned in a previous post, Love Made My Home, which you may already know about if you read Amy's blog and Crafternoon Treats,  a podcast from here in Yorkshire which I'm really enjoying at the moment. I'm catching up on Kathryn's earlier episodes at the moment and now only have a couple to watch until I'm up to date.

The problem with reading crafty blogs and watching podcasts is that I see lots of projects which I want to have a go at myself. I've said it before and I'll say it again, if only there were more hours in the day.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Reading - July 2016

I've got lots of books to tell you about this month, mainly because I read quite a bit on holiday and also because my July reading was actually started in June, I wrote my Reading - June post early because I was going away.


I read One Day by David Nicholls back in 2014 and when I saw Us by the same author in our local library, I decided to pick it up. The book is about a married couple, Douglas and Connie, who are on the brink of waving their only son off to university. Then comes the bombshell, Connie announces to Douglas that she too is thinking of leaving. In an attempt to save their marriage, Douglas decides to make their last family holiday the trip of a lifetime and they all embark on the Grand Tour of Europe. I found parts of this book quite boring and I certainly enjoyed it less than One Day.


To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of my favourite books, I don't often read a book more than once but I made an exception with this book. I wasn't sure I wanted to read the recently released Go Set A Watchman, a novel set two decades after To Kill A Mockingbird, which has received mixed reviews, but I couldn't leave it on the shelf when I saw it in the library. I'd read that this novel was, in fact, written before To Kill A Mockingbird but it had been turned down by publishers. After the huge success of To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee insisted that she'd never publish another book but Go Set A Watchman was brought to the publisher's attention when Harper Lee reached the age of 89 and was frail and sight and hearing impaired after suffering from a stroke and the novel was published. Had she really wanted this book to be published? We'll never know as Harper Lee sadly died in February. I'd got it in my mind that I wouldn't enjoy this book after reading some reviews but I was glad to be proved wrong, I actually loved the book, not as much as To Kill A Mockingbird, but I would certainly recommend it.


The newest book in the Nightingale series by Donna Douglas is Nightingales Under The Mistletoe and this is another book I found in the library. This book is set during Christmas 1941 and some of the nurses we've met earlier in the series are revisited. I can thoroughly recommend this set of books but I'd advise you to read them in chronological order to get the most out of them.


My Agatha Christie book this month was Murder In Mesopotamia. The story is set at the site of an archaeological dig and not only did the little Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, solve this mystery, so did I. I'd actually guessed the murderer before I was half way through the book. Perhaps the more I read, the more I'm getting in to Agatha Christie's mindset. I still enjoyed the book though.


I've had A Song For Issy Bradley by Carys Bray on my Kindle waiting to be read for some time and I've finally got round to it. The story is about the Bradley family, Ian a bishop in the Mormon church, his wife, Claire, who converted to the faith when she met Ian, Zippy, their sixteen year old daughter, Al and Jacob, thirteen and seven year old sons, and Issy who's just four when she dies at the beginning of the book. I thought this was a very moving story and showed not only how each member of the family dealt with the tragic circumstances but also gave an interesting insight in to the Mormon faith. This is another book I'd thoroughly recommend.


I thought While My Eyes Were Closed by Linda Green sounded like my kind of book, a mother playing hide and seek in the park with her daughter, when she opens her eyes, four year old Ella is gone, nowhere to be found. Where is she and who's snatched her? It wasn't really what I was expecting, I think so much more could have been made out of the story, it was quite weak and the ending was terrible, it seemed rushed and left you having to make up your own mind about what happened next. Perhaps I expect too much.


I was offered Follow You Home by Mark Edwards as a free download on my Kindle. Psychological Thrillers aren't the usual genre I read but I do enjoy some, unfortunately, this wasn't one of them. I found the story really boring and I struggled to read it. It seemed to pick up pace towards the end but I actually heaved a sigh of relief when it was finally finished. I know I should have abandoned it really but I hate to let a book beat me.


The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes was another book I picked up at the library. I've only read one of her books before and that was Me Before You which I absolutely loved, so I picked up this purely because I'd enjoyed that so much. I'm so glad I did, it was one of those books that I couldn't put down. I definitely didn't enjoy it as much as Me Before You, I thought that book was exceptional, but it's encouraged me to put the rest of Jojo Moyes books on my wish list.

Eight books read this month, some good, some not so good, but a good month overall.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

An Update On Archie

A couple of weeks ago, a routine health check found that Archie has developed a heart murmur. Thank you for all your good wishes, reading through them all really touched us, it does help in these situations to know that friends are thinking of you, keeping their fingers crossed and hoping for the best outcome.


Heart murmurs are graded on a scale of 1 to 6 according to how loud they are, with 1 being quiet and 6 being loud. The vet had graded Archie's murmur as a 3. We know that heart mitral valve disease is very common in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, it's a progressive disease which is caused by the deterioration of the heart valves. The vet had asked if he'd become lethargic or if we'd noticed him coughing as these are common symptoms, however, we haven't noticed anything amiss with him at all.


He had to go back last Friday for a cardiac ultrasound and it was found that he does have mitral valve disease but it's in the very early stages and has been classed as Stage B1. This basically means that it's symptom-less and there's no heart enlargement. Cardiologists refer to this as the pre-clinical stage without the need for treatment, however, he will need to be monitored and he'll need another scan in a year's time. The progression of the disease can be rapid or slow, there's just no telling, but there are drugs which can help and dogs may still go on to live a long life.

Thank you again for all your good wishes, the outcome could have been much worse so we're certainly counting our blessings at the moment.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Crochet Therapy


I've believed for a long time that hobbies are not only something you do for pleasure but they can also improve the quality of your life. I first heard of Betsan Corkhill through her book, Knit for Health & Wellness, and I'm pleased to see that she's now released a new book about another hobby I enjoy titled Crochet Therapy which is published by Apple Press. I was asked to review this book on my blog and I jumped at the chance.


The book is set out in three chapters, the first one dealing with Crochet as Therapy and explains how craft can be used to achieve a more balanced and mindful life. It explains what mindfulness is, how the exercises work and provides some Basic Exercises.


Chapter two is all about The Projects. The chapter is split up in to different moods, Calm, Energy, Relax, Explore, Refresh, Dream, Focus, Persevere, Find Joy and Friendship. There are exercises provided for each of these headings followed by some wonderful projects and feel-good tips.


The final chapter deals with Techniques and is a great addition to the book, especially for those people who are new to crochet or need a little help getting started.


I think the idea of the book is quite unique, promoting mindfulness, providing therapeutic exercises and then suggesting a project to further enhance that particular exercise, I've never come across a book quite like it before.


As for the projects, well, there's something for everyone. None of them seem particularly difficult, I'd feel confident tackling each and every one and I've already picked out a few which I'd like to have a go at.


I'd definitely recommend this book, it would appeal to those people who are interested in craft as therapy or who already practice mindfulness and want to combine this with craft. I'd also recommend the book to people who are new to crochet and would like some fairly easy projects to have a go at, whether you want to follow the therapy part of the book or not.

I received a copy of this book to review, however, all opinions expressed are my own. The book retails for £12.99 and can be purchased direct from Quarto.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Joyful World - July

February is finished at last. Here's Mr and Mrs Mallard looking all loved up, presumably because Valentine's Day is this month.


I'm really loving this project and though it's a big design to tackle for a newbie to cross stitch like me, having it split up in to twelve totally separate areas makes it more manageable.


I can see already how lovely it's going to look when it's finished.