Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year

We've had some nice weather over the festive period, nice enough for us to get out and about and have a few good walks. On Saturday, we ventured to Temple Newsam, a regular haunt of ours.

Temple Newsam has its own Home Farm, home to many rare breeds. We've visited the farm many times previously, especially when Daniel and Eleanor were little, but we don't often venture in nowadays. One of the pig barns opens out at the back and this area can be seen without going inside the farm gates. I have a thing about pigs so we always stop by here to see if the pigs are out and about. They were on Saturday. I'm not sure what breed these are, perhaps Middle Whites.

I'm pretty sure these are Tamworths.

Just look at the cutesy, curly tail.

Even Archie likes the pigs.

Temple Newsam is looking so different now that the leaves are missing from the trees. There's so many shades of green during the summer months which change to fiery reds and oranges in autumn, the trees look drab during the winter months in comparison.

Even the shrubs and trees around the lake look extremely bare in winter.

There was plenty of activity around the lake though, the sunshine had brought all the water birds out.

This is what our walk was really about though, Archie having a good run and playing with other dogs who were out for some exercise too.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014.

Happy New Year.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

2013 Challenge Results

My 2013 challenges were:-

1) Watch one old film each month.

2) List five items on Ebay each month.

3) Have a date night with Mick each month.

I've thoroughly enjoyed watching an old film each month. Some of them I'd seen before but others were new to me. Here's a list of what I've watched.

January - Brief Encounter
February - Rebecca
March - Mildred Pierce
April - All About Eve
May - Gone With The Wind
June - Casablanca
July - Sunset Boulevard
August - From Here To Eternity
September - Bus Stop
October - A Streetcar Named Desire
November - The Big Sleep
December - It's A Wonderful Life

I intended to rate them one to twelve but it would be impossible. There's some I definitely prefer to others, but I couldn't choose between some of them. I'm pleased that I've eventually got round to watching some of the classics and it's something I intend to continue. I shall watch out for them being repeated on tv and make an effort to watch more.

My Ebay listings have now ended. I've listed five items each month, sixty items in total throughout the year, and I've sold fifty six of them. I don't yet have a definite figure of what I've made from the items I've sold as I'm waiting for payment for one item and waiting to post another, but it's somewhere in the region of  £180.00. I'm really pleased with this amount, the items were all of low value, clothes which Daniel and Eleanor had grown out of, old magazines and books.

In addition to selling my own sixty items over the year on Ebay, I also listed one each month for Daniel and Eleanor. These were old toys, games or books of theirs. Every one of them sold and Daniel has made £52.16 and Eleanor has made £55.47. A nice little earner.

I shall continue to list things on Ebay, this challenge has shown just how profitable it can be, but I won't challenge myself to list a certain number of items each month, it turns it in to a stressful event. Instead, I shall list as I feel inclined to, perhaps more than five items in one go, but only every few months.

Our date nights have been a success. Admittedly, we haven't gone far, but the dates have given us some time alone and given us the chance to talk without being interrupted. This is something we shall definitely continue with.

I think my 2013 challenges have been a success. I'm still trying to come up with some fun challenges for 2014 so I shall let you know what they are as soon as they're finalised.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Challenge Update - December

My 2013 challenges are:-

1) Watch one old film each month.

2) List five items on Ebay each month.

3) Have a date night with Mick each month.

I've been really looking forward to my film for December. I'd decided months ago that the film I'd choose to watch would be It's A Wonderful Life. This has got to be one of my favourite Christmas films ever. Mick, Eleanor and I sat down to watch this film together, Mick having only seen bits of it previously and Eleanor never having seen it before. I was surprised that Eleanor watched it all the way through as she's not a fan of black and white films, but she really enjoyed it. It's an inspiring story of how one person can touch the lives of so many other people, a real feel good tale for Christmas.

The last of my Ebay items have been listed and will be finishing within the next couple of days, I'm looking forward to seeing how much money I've made from items which would have just been discarded. I'm glad that this challenge is coming to an end as it's quite time consuming photographing, listing and posting items, though I'm sure it will have all been worth it when I count up what I've made.

We went for a meal in our local pub again this month for our date night, not very imaginative but it gives us a chance to spend some time together alone and to talk without being disturbed. Besides, we enjoy it there and the food is good.

I hope everyone's had a lovely Christmas. We had my mum and dad over for the day, and Mick's auntie and uncle dropped by in the morning to exchange presents. It was a wonderful day.

Yesterday, we decided to take Archie to the local RSPB reserve for his walk to blow away the cobwebs. I got a new lens for my camera for Christmas so it gave me a chance to try it out. We started off on one of the viewing platforms where the ducks and swans congregate, it can get quite frantic when food is thrown in to the water as a feeding frenzy takes place.

I think the swans look so serene.

This little fellow came to see what we were up to.

We walked by the visitors centre, which was closed for the holidays, to see which birds were visiting the feeders. This blue tit and great tit were having their fill.

There were lots of robins around too. This one was quite happy to sit in the tree having his photo taken.

I'm quite pleased with my photos as most were taken on a manual setting.

We didn't stay too long. It was a lovely sunny day but it was very cold in the shade.

I have to include a photo of Archie. Here he is resting after the exertions of Christmas day.

I hope you're all enjoying the festivities. Mick isn't back at work until next Thursday so they're ongoing here.

Monday, 23 December 2013

On A Cold And Frosty Morning

There wasn't any frost around, but it was still very cold on our walk at Lotherton with Archie yesterday morning.

We passed by the hall, no fun for dogs there.

We passed the formal gardens, dogs aren't allowed off their leads in there.

That's better, lots of open land for Archie to run on and play with other dogs who are also going on walks. It was bitterly cold here with no wind break.

A stoll through the orchard where it was noticeably warmer, the trees provide some shelter.

A few apples are still clinging to the trees, I'm sure the birds are pleased for some tasty food.

A few rotting apples on the floor. Birds and insects have been eating away at them.

The cornus, or dogwoods, are putting on a show. Their fiery red stems literally glow.

I think this is a pyracantha, I love how it's trained against this wall.

We're just about to set off to do the Christmas food shop and then we'll be all done. The weather's supposed to be bad over the next couple of days so apart from visiting the crematorium tomorrow to take some flowers for my sister, I'm intending to hunker down with some Christmas films and my knitting until Santa arrives.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas. I hope it's a good one.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

A Christmas Cracker Of A Concert

We went to see Eleanor in her school Christmas concert on Thursday evening. Well, I say we. Mick was helping my parents with a furniture delivery and knew he'd be a bit late, but didn't mind as we thought that Eleanor was performing near the end. When I got there and looked at the programme, Eleanor was listed as third, and Mick ended up missing her. I'm just hoping that I can find someone who videoed it so that Mick gets to see her.

The concert was titled Our Christmas Cracker, and it was. There were performances from different music classes and music groups and bands, all from Eleanor's school. Eleanor performed with her Year 11 GCSE Group. The first song was I Don't Know How To Love Him from Jesus Christ Superstar which Eleanor sang solo with musicians from the group backing her, and the second song they did was Run Run Rudolph, a song originally released by Chuck Berry, which she sang as a duet with one of her friends, again with musicians backing them.

Other performances were by a brass group, the school orchestra, a concert band, a string band, a folk group, other exam classes and even a steel band.

I really miss watching nativity plays since Daniel and Eleanor left primary school, but I'm so pleased that Eleanor's musical so I have something to attend at school during the Christmas period.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Brightly Coloured Balls

I couldn't help but pick up these little coloured balls on a recent shopping trip. The colours are so eyecatching and they're so tactile.

In fact, they were just what I was looking for.

I've started thinking about my challenges for 2014. As you know, I like to set myself challenges rather than make new years resolutions, and my challenges are usually fun. I've already come up with one challenge and these little coloured balls will be needed.

I'll tell you more about my 2014 challenges another time, but in the meantime, I shall leave these brightly coloured balls in a bowl where I can see them and they'll make me smile.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Deck The Halls

This weekend saw the Christmas tree and decorations dragged out of the loft. We'd been contemplating buying a new tree this year, but went for some new lights instead and I'm quite happy. The tree's just the right size for the room and it still looks ok even though we've had it a few years now, so we've saved ourselves some money.

I enjoy reacquainting myself with all the decorations which we only see once a year, especially all the hand made ones which Daniel and Eleanor have added over the years. We lost one last year which Eleanor had made in primary school, a silver clay bauble which was the size and weight of a house brick, how it didn't make the tree topple over once hung I really don't know. Anyway, it broke last year so we don't have to worry about that anymore.

I've still got a couple of presents to buy, a few cards to write and all the presents to wrap but I'm hoping to get it all done this week. Daniel's home from university for the Christmas holidays already, Mick finishes work on Friday lunch time and Eleanor breaks up from school on Friday afternoon so Christmas starts on Friday evening for us. Bring it on.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Planning A New Year

I've been transferring all my information in to my new 2014 diary. I've had so many appointments set up and dates for one thing or another to remember, I've just been jotting them all down, but I'm now able to write them all in to the appropriate dates. I think I'll have to buy my next diary a bit earlier in the year than I've done this time.

I started using a filofax again last year, I wrote about it in my Diary Love post. At the beginning of this year, I bought a new filofax with some money I was given when my uncle died, I wrote about that in my It's Here post.

I'm really enjoying using a filofax again, I keep so many notes and lists in it, as well as my diary and addresses and telephone numbers. It's really handy to have all the information I need in one place. It definitely keeps me organised.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Charity At Christmas

We're so lucky in so many ways. I count my blessings every Christmas that I've been able to give my kids the kind of Christmas I want to. I remember my own childhood Christmases, spent with my family in a warm house, plenty of good food and lots of presents. Unfortunately, there's lots of people who never experience a Christmas like this. Money is very tight for many people these days and it just doesn't stretch to keeping a roof over their heads, never mind such luxuries.

Eleanor brought a letter home from school last week about one of the school's nominated charities, St George's Crypt. This is an organisation in Leeds which helps homeless people in the city and they also provide food parcels and help for families in need. Each year, they ask the people of Leeds to donate a Christmas present which they can then distribute to families who are unable to buy gifts for their children. Eleanor's school had a collection point where gifts could be dropped off so we bought a few things which I hope will help out a family.

Morrisons had a buy one get two free offer on their selection boxes, so they worked out at £1 each, and I bought three small gifts, a cross stitch kit, a jigsaw and a colouring set, which were also £1 each. I hope that a child will enjoy these little presents on Christmas morning.

Mick's auntie's WI branch support the organisation with donations of gifts for the homeless. Mick's auntie bought two hats, two pairs of gloves and two pairs of thick socks, one set for a man and one set for a lady. I'm sure they'll be gratefully received.

It's so easy to get caught up in the excitement of Christmas that it can be easy to forget that many people aren't as fortunate as ourselves. I hope that our small contribution will make a difference to someone else's Christmas.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

A Street Cat Named Bob

The most recent book I've read is A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, in fact, I haven't read a book so fast for quite some time, I just couldn't put it down. It was an easy read and kept me interested.

It tells the story of how James Bowen found an injured cat, Bob as he was to be known, curled up in the hallway of his sheltered accommodation. He nursed Bob back to health before turning him free, but Bob had had enough of the kind of life he'd lived up to then and so decided to stick around with James. They'd both had troubled pasts and each of them helped the other to go forward.

It's an inspiring and heart warming story, but also deals with the issues and struggles of people on the streets and those fighting addiction.

James has now written a follow up book, The World According To Bob, so I'm hoping to read that one soon.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

I had a lovely evening on Saturday, I went to watch Eleanor and the rest of her drama company in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at The Carriageworks Theatre in Leeds.

They do a big production every November and this year was one of my favourite musicals. Eleanor was cast as Asher, one of the brothers, though she had to miss opening night on Thursday as she was away on her school trip in London, which she thoroughly enjoyed. She was back for the Friday and Saturday performances though, and they went very well.

The youth theatre which Eleanor belongs to have a company made up of children of all ages. You could see that they all had a great time on stage and the show was excellent, extremely professional.

It's quite a hectic schedule leading up to the show as there's lots of additional rehearsals, but they've now broken up for Christmas so they can have a well earned rest.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Challenge Update - November

My 2013 challenges are:-

1) Watch one old film each month.

2) List five items on Ebay each month.

3) Have a date night with Mick each month.

I chose The Big Sleep with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall as my film to watch for November. It's fast paced so it keeps you watching, otherwise you're likely to miss an important part of the quite complicated plot. It's a good film but it won't rank in the top half of the films I've watched this year, I've seen better.

I'll be glad when I've finished my Ebay challenge. I'm enjoying watching the bidding on my auctions but not the actual listing of the items. I'm only listing five items each month, yet it's so time consuming, and Ebay are now charging a final value fee on postage, which I think is absolutely ridiculous. I'm wondering what else they'll find to add a fee to, afterall, there's already a fee to list, a fee on the final value of the item, then there's a Paypal fee and now a final value fee on postage. All these fees certainly cut in to any profits.

My date night with Mick this month was in a recently refurbished local pub. I noticed an offer on Groupon for two two-course meals for £12, which I thought was good value, especially as the main courses here are usually in the region of this price for one. It's many years since we've been to this particular pub so it made a change, though I have to say that the atmosphere left a lot to be desired. We were seated at one of only four tables in use, there were another two couples and a table of four, though there were plenty of unoccupied tables, yet when we rang to make the booking, we were told that they were quite busy and we may have to wait. I'd hate to see them if they had a rush on. As it happened, the food was delicious and the staff couldn't have been more friendly, so that made up for the lack of ambience.

We've got a quiet house for a couple of days now. Eleanor's headed off this morning on a school trip to London and won't be home until tomorrow night. It's a trip which has been organised for her GCSE Music class. It's really so that they can attend some workshops with the London Symphony Orchestra, but there's lots of fun things going on too, such as a meal at the Rainforest Cafe before a visit to the big budget production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the West End tonight. They're also going for a tour of London with a flight on the London Eye. I wish she'd had room in her suitcase for me.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Owl Fingerless Mitts

I got the Owl Fingerless Mitts knitted up in no time at all.

I used Sirdar Supersoft Aran in Kingfisher, a colour which Eleanor chose herself. It took less than half a ball so there's plenty left for another pair.

I actually got a bit stuck on the pattern, it had abbreviations which I hadn't come across before, T4Bpk and T4Fpk, but I found their meanings after doing a search online. It's not that the stitches are hard, I think if you know how to knit and purl you're well away, it's just learning the meanings of all the terms.

Eleanor's pleased with them and I might even knit a pair for myself seeing as I have plenty of yarn left over.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Hello, Old Friend

It was back in March when I completed my last knitting project, the Humanity fingerless mitts for Eleanor. I can't believe it was so long ago, though I have to admit that I've got a bit hooked on crochet so I've been concentrating on that this year. I have picked up my knitting needles to knit a few dishcloths at various times, but I don't count those as a project, I could knit them in my sleep.

I thought it was about time that I cast on for the project I'd planned eight months ago, Owl fingerless mitts by Amanda Jones. I'd seen Gail post about this pattern on her Amongst The Wool blog and I really liked the owl pattern so I thought I'd give them a go myself.

It's like catching up with an old friend again. It's only now that I've picked up my needles that I realise how much I've missed my knitting. Sometimes I get so absorbed in something that other things fall by the wayside, I really need to make time for a bit of everything, afterall, variety is the spice of life.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Changing Colours

Archie's walk on Saturday was in the grounds of Temple Newsam. As you know, we often visit this stately home and its 1500 acres of parkland.

It was a lovely morning for a walk, quite mild and only a small breeze.

The trees are looking glorious at the moment in their autumn colour, though it won't be long now until they've completely dropped their leaves.

The beech walk looks a little sad, there aren't many leaves left here.

There's still quite a few flowers blooming though.

Hydrangeas look so pretty if their blooms are left to fade, so much nicer than cutting them off when they've finished flowering.

There's lots of berries this year too, a sign of a harsh winter to come, I wonder.

The rhododendrons have already formed their flower buds ready for spring.

Archie loves autumn, the fallen leaves are too much to resist. He loves to hear the noise they make as he runs through them.

Here he is just ready to start rolling around in all the leaves.

The ducks on the lake were enjoying the beautiful morning just as much as all the visitors were.

The grounds of Temple Newsam were landscaped by Capability Brown. I think he did a marvelous job around the lake, I just love all the different planting which gives a palette of such different colours.

I'm making the most of all the autumn colour as it won't last much longer.

The weather is set to become much colder over the next couple of days and snow has even been mentioned, I hope it passes us by, I'm not ready for that quite yet.