Thursday, 23 March 2017

Raindrops On Roses - March

These are a few of my favourite things.

Candy Crush. We often play box games when there's any family gathering but I don't play so many online games. I occasionally play Scrabble but I often get my phone out for a quick blast of Candy Crush whenever I've got a few spare minutes, it passes the time if I'm waiting around. Actually, I must have been waiting around quite a bit as I'm now up to level 620! It can become rather addictive and they only give you so many free lives in a certain time period, extras have to be paid for, but I haven't succumbed to that.

Rachel Piso. If you don't know this blog I would urge you to pop over and take a look. Rachel lives in Pittsburgh and is documenting her life in cross stitch. Rachel's named her project her Tapestree and each little bubble is filled with a memory, something to do with current events or something that she's interested in, in other words, things to do with her life. I'm really enjoying following along and seeing each new little bubble being filled up. If you do pop over to take a look, please tell her that I sent you.

Frogspawn. I'm thrilled to bits that my little pond has been used by the frogs again this year. I put this tiny pond in my garden back in 2009, it measures just 84cm x 64cm but it attracts so much wildlife. Last year was the first time there'd been any frogspawn in there but it never amounted to anything so I'm hoping that this year we might just get some tadpoles. Wouldn't that be lovely?

Harry Potter. I remember reading the first four books in the series to Daniel when he was little but he read the rest himself and I never got any further with them. I decided that I'd like to read all the books, starting again from the beginning, so I put it on my 50 Before 50 list. Well, I've made a start this month and I'm really enjoying the first one, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. I wonder if JK Rowling could have ever imagined just how successful Harry Potter would be when she started writing this first book.

Old fashioned sweeties. Weighed out by the quarter, or rather 100g these days, but still taken from large jars and measured out in to paper bags. These are Pontefract cakes and treacle toffees but it's always a big decision choosing from the large array on offer. It's good to see that so many of the old favourites are still available.

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

Monday, 20 March 2017

Rose City Rollers

I finished the Rose City Rollers socks which I was knitting for Eleanor. The pattern is free on Ravelry and is by Mara Catherine Bryner.

They're a short sock, like a trainer sock, with a rolled top and they knit up really quickly. I used Knitglobal Sock yarn in Summer Berries colourway and I have to say that I'm really impressed with the yarn. It's a gorgeous colour and the yarn itself is beautifully soft. One thing I would mention though is that I noticed a huge amount of dye left in the water when I blocked the socks, I'll have to make sure that Eleanor knows to hand wash them separately. This doesn't bother me though and I would love to use this yarn again, I'll have to see what other colours they do it in.

The socks were nicely wrapped and popped in a box of Happy Mail which Mick delivered to Eleanor when he was working in Nottingham and I'm pleased to say that she loved them.

As the Rose City Rollers are only short socks, there was quite a lot of yarn left over from the 100g skein so I thought I'd knit Eleanor another pair of short socks. This time I didn't follow any particular pattern, I just knit eight rows of rib before starting the slip stitch heel and then finished the socks off as I would an ordinary pair of plain socks. I think they've come out very well.

This sock yarn was very reasonably priced and to get two pairs of socks out of one skein is brilliant. I shall wrap this latest pair up and pop them in the next box of Happy Mail to be sent to Eleanor which will be after Easter now as she'll be coming home for the holidays at the end of next week.

I hope she doesn't read this blog post!

Friday, 17 March 2017

And Then There Were None

As most of you will know, I've set myself the challenge of reading all 66 of Agatha Christie's detective or mystery novels in chronological order. I usually read one each month and I've now read 26 of them, And Then There Were None being the latest.

I usually read in bed just before I drop asleep, or I allow myself to indulge on a Saturday or Sunday morning before getting up, depending on what time I wake, however, I got about half way through this book and was so involved that I finished the rest off one Sunday afternoon.

Ten strangers, each having a guilty secret, are lured to an isolated island off the Devon coast. One by one they begin to die. An ancient nursery rhyme seems to be counting them down...

Ten little soldier boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were Nine.

Nine little soldier boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were Eight.

Eight little soldier boys travelling in Devon;
One said he'd stay there and then there were Seven.

Seven little soldier boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were Six.

Six little soldier boys playing with a hive;
A bumble bee stung one and then there were Five.

Five little soldier boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were Four.

Four little soldier boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were Three.

Three little soldier boys walking in the Zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were Two.

Two little soldier boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was One.

One little soldier boy left all alone;
He went and hanged himself

And then there were None.

I would heartily recommend this book, whether you're an Agatha Christie fan or not, whether you've read any of her books before or have yet to discover this author. Out of the 26 of her books that I've now read, this is by far my favourite. This book shows off Agatha Christie's talent for crime writing, keeps you guessing right to the very end and, in my opinion, is the perfect whodunnit.

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.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Visiting The Offspring

Now that Daniel's living in Surrey, we have to plan any trip we want to take to visit him. He's not just down the road like he was when he was at university in York, he now lives 206 miles away. We decided that instead of making the journey to visit him and then Mick and I staying in a hotel, we'd pick him and his girlfriend up after work on Friday and then whisk us all away somewhere else for the weekend.

Mick took Friday off work and we made the journey down to Surrey. There were plenty of stops along the way so that Archie could get out of the car and stretch his legs. We made good time and arrived just as Daniel was finishing work. He collected the things he'd need for the weekend and we set off again, this time on our way to Oxfordshire. We'd got a good deal on a hotel break on Groupon and luckily, it was a hotel which accepts dogs. We got something to eat on the way to the hotel and after being shown to our rooms, unpacking and freshening up, we all met up in the bar and enjoyed catching up with each other's news.

On Saturday, we had a leisurely breakfast in the hotel and spent the morning relaxing before going for a drive to Henley-on-Thames, famous for the Henley Regatta, a rowing event held annually in July. It was a beautiful day, we'd struck lucky as we couldn't have foreseen that we'd be wandering around without our coats it was so warm. The walk along the river was very pleasant.

Mr and Mrs Mallard were busy attending to personal matters, it takes quite an effort to look so good.

There were lots of Canada geese and they were all keeping their eyes on the many dogs out for a walk, I wouldn't like to bet on who would come out on top should there be any altercation, Archie always steers well clear of them.

Another stretch of the river. I love these riverside dwellings, they're all built on a little island. I think I'd get a bit fed up of having to get in a boat every time I needed to pop to the shops though.

We didn't walk too far before we turned and headed back towards the town.

There were a few boats on the river whilst we were there, many practicing their rowing technique.

This is the boat which took Mick's fancy, it's something he'd love to own if we ever win the lottery.

It was such a beautiful day that it would have been rude not to have an ice-cream as we wandered back in to town.

The town itself is very pretty with its tudor buildings.

It has an attractive high street which has a mixture of boutique style shops amongst the popular high street names.

We called in at a pub on the way back to the hotel for a meal and then once back at the hotel, spent the evening in the bar again playing Trivial Pursuit.

After another leisurely breakfast on Sunday morning, we drove Daniel and his girlfriend back home to Surrey before heading back ourselves to Leeds. We did take a small detour though on the way home. The motorway passes just a couple of miles away from Eleanor's student accommodation in Nottingham so we stopped off to say hello and take her for something to eat. She wasn't expecting us so it was a lovely surprise for her.

I really enjoyed seeing them, Eleanor's just got three weeks now before she breaks up for Easter but I don't know when we'll see Daniel again. We can always do the same again if I miss him too much.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Mick's Socks

I'm definitely going to have to start coming up with some more imaginative names for my knitting projects, aren't I? I've got away with naming the new addition to Mick's sock drawer 'Mick's Socks' only because the first pair of socks that I knit him were the Blueberry Waffle Socks. Should I go on to knit him more pairs of socks, which I'm sure I will as he's very happy with the two pairs I've knit him so far, they can't all be called Mick's Socks.

I used a basic sock pattern for these socks but changed the heel to a slip stitch heel which makes it a little more durable.

The Opal yarn felt very rough and scratchy when I first started using it but it does seem to have softened a little and perhaps it will ease more with wear. I'm happy how easy it was to match the pattern. The yarn is the 'Moments of...' range which reflects emotional moments experienced through life, the one I've used is colourway 9087, Rebellion.

Even though this project is now finished, my needles haven't stayed empty for long, there's been a few new projects cast on which I'll tell you about at a later date.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

The One Plus One Giveaway Winner

Thank you to everyone who entered my giveaway to win The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes. I wish I had enough copies to send one to each of you, but as I don't, there can be only one winner.

The name drawn at random is Julie from Julie's Stitchyknitter Journal blog. Can you please let me have your address details so that I can get the book sent out to you. You can find my email address if you click on 'View my complete profile' in the 'About Me' section in the sidebar. I do hope you enjoy it.

I do hope that those of you who showed an interest in reading the book manage to pick up a copy for yourselves. I actually found a copy in the library so you may be lucky there.

Friday, 3 March 2017

50 Before 50 - Update 1

I started my 50 Before 50 list on my 48th birthday, you can see the list and read about it in my 50 Before 50 - Part One and 50 Before 50 - Part Two posts. As it's now exactly six months since I set myself this task, I thought I'd give you an update of how I'm doing so far.

There aren't many things I can actually cross off the list yet, but there's a few, and I'm working towards others.

Number 14 on the list is Visit A Christmas Market. I've always wanted to go to the Christmas market in Lincoln, it's only held on one weekend over the Christmas period but having looked in to going, I discovered that they don't allow dogs. We can't leave Archie at home for a full day so we had to change our plans. We picked Eleanor up from university on the 10th of December for the Christmas holidays so we decided that before making our way home, we'd head in to Nottingham City Centre and visit their Christmas market. You can read all about it in The Wanderer Returns post. It would be nice if we could visit another market this Christmas too, though sadly, it won't be Lincoln.

Watch All The Harry Potter Films is number 33 on the list. I'd already seen some of the earlier films but I watched them again and worked my way through all eight. I suppose that Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them counts as a Harry Potter film now so I shall watch that too once it becomes available on Sky.

The first thing I crossed off the list was Climb Flamborough Lighthouse which is number 38 on the list. You can read all about that in my Flamborough Lighthouse post.

Number 48 on the list is Attend The Christmas Lights Switch On. The event in our small town happened on the 26th of Novemeber and Mick and I went along to support it. You can read all about it in my Christmas Lights Switch On post.

When Eleanor started at Nottingham Trent University, I thought it would be a good opportunity to get to know the city a little better. Explore Nottingham is number 50 on the list. So far, we've only visited once and you can read what we got up to in my Wollaton Hall post. Of course, we also visited the Christmas market when we picked Eleanor up in December which I mentioned above, but there's lots of other places I'd like to see when we visit again.

So I've made a start on the list, though I really need to get cracking if I'm going to cross off all fifty things before my 50th birthday. I think some things will be easier to get to grips with once we get some warmer weather, after all, who wants to go on a picnic in the rain?

Monday, 27 February 2017

The One Plus One Giveaway

Mick bought me The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes for my birthday last year without realising that it was a book I'd borrowed from the library a month or two earlier.

I'd been encouraged to read more books by Jojo Moyes after reading Me Before You, which I loved, and though I didn't think The One Plus One was as good as Me Before You, I still really enjoyed it.

'One eternal optimist . . .
Jess Thomas, with two jobs and two kids and never enough money, wears flip flops in the hope of spring. And when life knocks her down she does her best to bounce right back. But no one told her it's okay to ask for help.
Plus one lost stranger . . .
Ed Nichols is the good guy gone bad. He had it all, then one stupid mistake cost him everything. Now he'll do anything to make it right.
Equals a chance encounter . . .
Ed doesn't want to save anyone and Jess doesn't want saving, but could Jess and Ed add up to something better together?'

The One Plus One which Mick bought me for my birthday has never been read and so I thought I'd offer it as a giveaway prize. Just leave me a comment on this post by noon on Tuesday the 7th of March 2017 after which time I'll draw a name at random. I'm afraid that this giveaway is limited to the UK as to send it overseas would cost nearly as much as the book's worth.

Good luck!

Thursday, 23 February 2017

A Cheep Day Out

Sunday wasn't as bright as Saturday, it was rather dull and a little cooler but we made the most of it being dry and headed to RSPB Fairburn Ings. We're lucky that we only live about five miles away from this nature reserve and apart from the £3 parking charge for non RSPB members, it's free to visit. We were surprised that it wasn't too muddy, though I must admit that there's a big difference visiting here in winter compared to summer, the lack of greenery is quite startling, it won't be long though now until the trees are clothed in leaves once again.

I took my Panasonic FZ72 with me, I bought this camera about a year ago but I still haven't really got to grips with it. It was the 60X zoom which attracted me to it, a similar lens for my Nikon DSLR would have cost much more than this camera did so it was a bit of a no brainer. I'm pleased with the photos it takes even with my lack of skills, it's so easy these days to set the dial to automatic, point and shoot, the camera does the rest.

We're rarely lucky when we visit Fairburn, the birds seem to realise we're on our way and decide to make a hasty exit. As we passed the kingfisher screen there were a crowd of people who were quick to tell us that we'd just missed this beautiful bird, it had been and gone. We hung around for a while before continuing on our way, only to be told, as we passed again on our return trek, that it had come back and we'd missed it yet again. It just wasn't to be. We've only seen a kingfisher here once and that was a couple of years ago, I wrote about it on my old blog in A Bank Holiday Outing post. The thing which did thrill me though was a little robin redbreast landing on the fence right by my side and serenading me. I have lots of encounters with robins at Fairburn.

Just like the kingfisher, the water birds were rather scarce too, however, there were plenty of garden birds at various feeding stations around the reserve. The great tit was enjoying the suet and it was nice to see lots of greenfinches which have been missing from my own garden for a while now, though I've actually seen them returning this past week or two, they must have been away for the winter.

The ducks realised that they could find plenty to eat underneath the feeders where tasty morsels had dropped.

Another robin. His long legs made me chuckle.

I do hope this coming weekend is dry again, it's so nice to get out and about.

Monday, 20 February 2017

A Weekend Outing

I was hoping for a dry weekend so that we could get out and about. Archie loves having a good walk, preferably somewhere that's safe for him to come off his lead so that he can have a good sniff about, so when Saturday dawned bright and dry we decided on a trip to Roundhay Park, one of Leeds most popular attractions and one of the biggest city parks in Europe. Roundhay Park actually holds special memories for Mick and I as we held our wedding reception in The Mansion, a beautiful Greek Palladian style mansion which is a Grade II listed building and set within the 700 acres of parkland, wood and lake. You can just get a glimpse of it here through the trees. The brightly coloured train was doing great business on Saturday giving people rides around the park.

It's so muddy everywhere at the moment so we kept to the paths but Archie went a little off piste running around on the grass, sniffing trees, snuffling in the leaves and playing with other dogs whilst we headed down towards the lake.

Waterloo Lake was constructed by soldiers who had returned from the Napoleonic wars and was therefore, named after the famous battle. It was landscaped from a former quarry and covers thirty three acres. It took two years to build.

There's always lots of birds by the Lakeside Cafe, they're used to people feeding them in this area.

This Canada goose was out of luck, we hadn't taken anything with us.

On our way back to the car we passed the cricket pitch. It looks as though it's being looked after during the winter months though I doubt it'll see a match played on it for some time yet.

After our walk, we called at a lovely pub restaurant for a spot of lunch. We often call in here when we have Archie with us as they allow dogs in the bar area. There was a roaring fire burning in the fireplace, though it was actually much warmer out than it has been, but it was lovely and cosy all the same.

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?