Saturday, 16 October 2021

3rd of October

We're in full on wedding fever here at the moment. Eleanor and Jacob got engaged in October 2020 and would have liked to have started making preparations for their wedding straight away but we went into lockdown again after the engagement and it's been a bit uncertain throughout the year with limits being enforced on how many guests were allowed at gatherings due to the pandemic so they thought it best to wait awhile. Most restrictions have been lifted now and though nothing's certain in terms of what's to come, they've decided to start making plans.

The first thing they needed to decide on is where they want to hold the wedding and reception. Neither of them want to get married in a church, preferring a civil ceremony in a hotel, so we've been looking at venues. They've found the perfect place for them and have now booked it, along with a registrar.

Eleanor and Jacob met at university, they were taking the same degree and met on the 3rd of October 2016. At the time, Eleanor had been going out with her then boyfriend for over two years and it would be nearly two further years before they went their separate ways. This left the door open for Jacob to ask Eleanor out on a date, and this he did exactly two years after they first met, on the 3rd of October 2018. When it came to proposing, if it hadn't been for the pandemic and lockdown, I think it would have happened sooner than it did, but Jacob ended up popping the question on the 3rd of October 2020 and She Said Yes. So, as you can imagine, the 3rd of October is an important date for them, they met, started going out and also got engaged on this date. They had thought about having a summer wedding but in the end they've decided to carry on the tradition and they'll be getting married on the 3rd of October 2022.

Although it seems there's lots of time to get things ordered and booked, there isn't really. There's so many things to organise so we've been visiting some wedding fairs, they're such a great place to start as many suppliers come together under one roof and you can take lots of ideas away with you. Many of the suppliers have said that they're taking bookings and orders for 2023 already so we do feel a little behind the game, but I'm sure we'll catch up with things.

The main things we'll have to sort out that I can think of for a start are flowers, stationery, cars, cake, and of course, there's the wedding dress. I remember trailing around for Eleanor's prom dress, that was an ordeal in itself so goodness knows what wedding dress shopping is going to be like. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Wildlife World

I've written about Lotherton Hall on numerous occasions, it's only a ten minute drive from where we live and we usually visit several times each week as it's the perfect place to walk Archie. There's different walks around the estate but we rarely tour the hall or Wildlife World, which is situated in the grounds, as it's rare that we visit without Archie. Last week Archie hurt his leg and he's been limping so he's been on enforced rest at home. We took advantage of the situation on Saturday, visited Lotherton without him and had a look around Wildlife World.

The main attraction in Wildlife World is the colony of Humboldt penguins.

They're always playful, swimming up to the viewing windows and showing off.

These penguins are originally from South America and can live for up to twenty five years.

The natural surfaces and pool allow the penguins to behave as they would in the wild and also breed, which means that Lotherton can contribute to the national breeding programme as the species is listed as vulnerable.

Most of the flamingos were doing what flamingos usually do, standing on one leg. It's believed they do this to avoid muscular fatigue, it's an energy saving activity.

There always seems to be something new when we visit Wildlife World, this time it was the Nocturnal House. We didn't manage to see Bonnie and Clyde, the cloud rats, endemic to the cloud forests of The Philippines, but we did see the Egyptian fruit bats and Seba's Short-tailed bats, though they were far too fast to photograph. I did manage to take a picture of Pablo the Kinkajou though. He came to Lotherton from the Isle of Wight, though they're native to the tropical forests of Central and South America. 

It was very dark in the Nocturnal House so my photos aren't the best but you get the idea.

Another animal in the Nocturnal House is Gaston the Southern Three-Banded Armadillo. Gaston lives in the same enclosure as Pablo the Kinkajou but Pablo seems to spend his time climbing on the ropes and branches which have been especially installed for him, whereas Gaston scurries around the ground. A member of staff entered the enclosure while we were there and Gaston was following her round wanting her to pet him. He's such a cutie.

A different member of staff invited us into the educational centre to get a closer look at the tortoises and while we were in there, we were being watched. Apparently, this white peacock just turned up at Lotherton about ten years ago and has stayed ever since. He's free to wander wherever he pleases.

The African Grey Crowned Crane is the national bird of Uganda and features in the country's flag and coat of arms. His crown makes him look very majestic.

This Southern Helmeted Curassow is called Angus. The conservation status was changed from Threatened to Endangered in 2005. They're found almost exclusively in Bolivia and some northern parts of South America but their numbers have declined due to deforestation for agriculture - shrinking the habitat area. The male will present the female with choice food gifts to entice her. If she accepts the gifts they will breed. I thought the way to a man's heart was through his stomach, obviously the other way round in this case.

Have you ever seen anything as cute as a Patagonian Mara. A relatively large rodent also known as the Patagonian cavy, Patagonian hare or dillaby. Found only in Argentina, they prefer to live in habitats with plenty of shrub cover. Being monogamous, pairs of Maras stay together for life. The male will follow the female wherever she goes, living in pairs or warrens of up to twenty nine pairs. That's quite specific, isn't it. I wonder what happens if thirty pairs get together.

I really enjoyed our little look around. Although we visit Lotherton often, it can be a few years between our visits to see the animals so I always look forward to it. Before we left, we went to have a look in the hall but unfortunately it was closed for cleaning. I do want to return as there's an exhibition there at the moment which I want to see so we might do that in the next few days.

I hope you enjoyed coming along for a visit to Wildlife World with us.

Friday, 8 October 2021

Taking Stock

Last August, I started working on a few of my older projects with the aim of getting some of them finished off. I wrote about it in My Crafting Rotation post. Since then, I've finished off quite a few of those projects, I've started some new things and finished those too. So I thought I'd do a post to document what projects are still outstanding at this time.

My first scrappy blanket is being knit out of hand dyed yarn and to date this blanket consists of one hundred and twenty squares. I'm not sure yet how big I'm going to make this blanket but it's already quite heavy so I don't think I'm going to let it grow to massive proportions. I shall just keep adding the squares until I think it's time to stop.

The second scrappy blanket I've got on the go is being made from commercial yarn. There are fifty two squares in this blanket so far so still some way to go. I really enjoy working on scrappy blankets as each square I knit is different to any I've already added so every single scrappy blanket is totally different, and the squares don't take long to knit up. They're nice projects to have on the go and add to every now and then.

I started the Twelve Days of Christmas sampler last September when I asked Who Fancies A Bit Of Stitching? I didn't expect to have this finished quickly as for one thing I'm a slow stitcher, and another, I work on many projects at once so it never gets worked on for long periods of time. I don't mind that though, I really enjoy each and every stitch that is added, and for me, it's the working on something which brings me the greatest pleasure rather than the finished article.

English paper piecing is very new to me, though I started this last year I'd never done any kind of sewing before, hand stitching nor machine sewing, so this is something completely different. I only add two or three hexagons every so often but it is getting bigger. I love the fabric I'm using, it's the Botanic Garden design from Lewis and Irene. I'm not sure what I'm going to make this into but for now I'm just enjoying the process of stitching the hexagons together.

I won't have any of these four projects finished any time soon but I do enjoy having some longer term projects on the go to pick up when I fancy. These will continue to be worked on as the mood takes me.

I'm taking part in the Strictly Sockalong again this year so I recently started my socks for that. I haven't got very far yet but as I haven't knit any socks since last year, I'm really enjoying having a pair on the needles again.

And that's it at the moment, just five projects on the go, and none of them near completion, though I'm sure the Strictly Socks will get finished before the Strictly Come Dancing series ends in December. Perhaps it's time to start something new.

Monday, 4 October 2021

The Thursday Murder Club

There were over one hundred people in front of me waiting for The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman when I put in a reservation at the library, it's been a very popular book. I could have bought it but I do like to use my local library whenever I can as so many libraries are fighting to stay open these days and that will only happen if people make good use of them.

"In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.

But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it's too late?"

This is Richard Osman's debut novel and I think he's done a brilliant job with it. It's a cosy crime novel, nothing too graphic or gory, it's written with humour and the characters are people you'd love to come across in the real world. The plot itself kept me guessing right to the very end.

This gets a big thumbs up from me, I can't wait to read Richard Osman's next book, The Man Who Died Twice (The Thursday Murder Club Book 2) but I'm currently 63rd in the reservation queue at the library for that one so I doubt I'll be reading it any time soon!

Thursday, 30 September 2021

Little White Cat

I've finally finished the cross stitch which I started many years ago, I'm not sure exactly when it was started but it was definitely more than forty years ago as I know my brother bought it for me one year when he was in the army and that was between 1976 and 1981. I wrote about this cross stitch in my Rusty Cat post and you can also see in that post the stage it was at when I rediscovered it. 

I can't say that I've enjoyed finishing it off, it wasn't a pleasure to stitch with so many quarter and half stitches, and I abhor backstitch, but I've finally done it. I just picked it up for an hour here and there and managed to chip away at it. I actually considered leaving it there once I'd done all the cross stitch but I'm glad I persevered as the back stitch really does make it stand out and finishes it off nicely.

It would have been nice to pop it in an oval frame but I couldn't find one which was the right size anywhere. The next best thing would have been to use an oval photo mount inside a frame but it would have meant that I'd need quite a large frame so in the end I just went with a straightforward 8 X 6 white frame. I think it looks okay. I took the above photo before the glass was added to avoid the glare.

It certainly doesn't deserve pride of place but I'm relieved that it's finally finished and I have to say that it does please me to still have my very first piece of cross stitch after all these years.

Sunday, 26 September 2021

Hobonichi Cousin

I've mentioned lots of times in the past that I've kept a journal for many years now. Back in 2019 I bought a Hobonichi Techo in the A6 size. I really enjoyed using this little journal, it was compact and as it was dated, it encouraged me to write something each day. In 2020 I decided to continue journaling in this way and used a Hobonichi Techo again but this year I've gone back to my old A4 journal which I've been using since 2006.

I miss writing something in my journal every day. I know I could do so if I so wished, but I don't think an undated journal encourages this. I've also been watching lots of journaling videos on You Tube and I follow journaling accounts on Instagram, they've inspired me to go back to using a Hobonichi. This time I've decided to go for the Hobonichi Cousin in the A5 size to give me a little extra room as I'd like to have a go at more creative journaling where you not only write but decorate the pages too.

My order from The Journal Shop was delivered last weekend, not only have I bought the Hobonichi Cousin but I've also bought a lovely cover to keep it in, along with a pencil board which you place underneath the page you're writing on to prevent marking the sheet of paper underneath. Hobonichi pages are printed on Tomoe River paper which is very thin. It keeps the book compact allowing one whole year to fit in one journal and it's bleed resistant, ink doesn't show through onto the next page, but as it is so thin, indentations from writing tend to appear, the pencil board should prevent this.

I'm very happy with my purchase and look forward to getting started with it in the new year. Do you keep a journal? Have you started making any plans yet for 2022?

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

He's A Flake

I started He's A Flake by Little House Needleworks at the beginning of last year and I actually had it finished quite quickly, or at least quickly for me, but it's been languishing in my craft room waiting to be made up into an ornament.

It's a lovely design which I stitched on 28 count Brittney Lugana. It has a few beads added, beading was something new for me to learn and it definitely adds to the finish. I found it a little bit fiddly but I hadn't done it before and it certainly wouldn't put me off using beads again.

I love the actual cross stitching but I'm not confident at finishing things off properly so I end up putting them to one side for months on end. This could have been made into a lovely ornament in plenty of time for last Christmas and I decided that if I didn't get a grip, it wouldn't be finished in time for this coming Christmas either. I will admit that I chickened out though and it's actually Mick who has done the finishing for me.

I think Mick's done a very good job. He's not the least bit crafty but didn't mind measuring, adjusting and glueing. I got the idea for this on the internet so popped into Poundland to see if they had any of these little wooden serving boards, they're ideal for crafts such as this.

I'm happy with how it's turned out, I just need to have a look at the Christmas decorations appearing in the shops and then I can find something to trim the borders up with. I think it will look very festive.

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Strictly Sockalong 2021

The Strictly Sockalong, which is hosted by Ali from Little Drops of Wonderful podcast, starts today along with the first episode of this season's Strictly Come Dancing. 

The last pair of socks I knit was the Aava Socks which I knit as part of last year's sockalong so I'm itching to get some socks on the needles again. I've gone shopping in my stash and come up with this Mad Scientist yarn in the Badgers Mess colourway which I think is perfect for all the glitz and glamour of Strictly. The photo doesn't actually show how bright and sparkly the yarn is, it's a 75% superwash merino 20% nylon and 5% lurex mix so it has silver flecks running through it.

I've always used a pattern for the socks I've knit in previous Strictly sockalongs but I think this yarn speaks for itself and so I shall knit them plain this year. I can't wait to see how the yarn knits up. I've decided to use the magic loop method this time instead of double pointed needles, I'm getting to enjoy this way of knitting socks more and more. I still knit one sock at once even though there's a way of doing two at once with a long circular needle.

I'm really looking forward to Strictly tonight. Will you be watching?

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Gloster

I bought my little Gloster apple tree back in 2012. It's a patio tree, grafted onto dwarf rootstock to keep it small, but despite its size it's given some good crops over the years, though none so good as this year.

It's only a small tree though the size of the fruit is anything but, they're of good proportions. I counted about thirty apples before I started harvesting. It's a wonder the tree can support all this fruit.

Gloster is a red skinned variety with crisp flesh. They taste delicious.

The green apples are from my Golden Delicious tree, again, a patio variety It's never done very well. Just four apples this year, and much smaller than the Glosters, but they'll be enjoyed by Mick, they're his favourite.

We'll be okay for apples for a while.

Friday, 10 September 2021

Granny Stripe Blanket

My granny stripe blanket had been on the hook since January 2015, the yarn was a Christmas gift in 2013 and I was anxious to get it crocheted up into something as I'd been dithering the past year over what it should become. It came as an Attic24 granny stripe blanket pack, though I was thinking of using it for another design, however, in the end I did indeed begin making a granny stripe blanket.

Skip forward a few years and by the middle of 2019 there hadn't been very much work put into it and I did consider taking it to the charity shop for someone else to finish before I reconsidered and decided to finish it off myself. Yes, it's still taken me a long time to do that but I've finally got there.

I have to say that this isn't my favourite blanket, it isn't the most enjoyable blanket I've crocheted and the end product isn't my favourite either. I think it's the colours, it's just too colourful for me. There's seventeen colours all together and it's all too much, they jar.

It's quite a big blanket measuring 75inches X 55inches and it will get used, I think it might be nice for picnics or a beach rug, the happy colours would work well in that setting, it's just a little too big for a sofa blanket.

It's made from Stylecraft Special DK yarn and there's quite a bit left over. I'm thinking of adding this to the other Stylecraft Special DK I've got and crocheting up some lap blankets or doggy blankets for charity. It's good to have a bit of mindless knitting or crochet to work on when I'm watching TV.

Monday, 6 September 2021

My Birthday

It was my birthday on Friday. Mick took the day off work but we didn't really make any plans, we just waited for the day to dawn and then decided what to do on the spur of the moment. 

We headed off in the direction of the east coast but this time, decided to travel a little further north than we usually do to Saltburn by the Sea, a lovely seaside town which still has the olde worlde feeling about it. The main attraction here is the Victorian water balanced cliff lift, and though it's still in operation today, it wasn't in use on Friday.

It was a murky, grey day but there were still quite a few people about, I suppose they were making the most of, what will have been, the last day of the school holidays for many. Here you can see the pier. Yorkshire was once home to six piers but sadly, one by one, they've been lost to the sea and the pier at Saltburn in the last one standing.

We took a walk along the pier but only got half way, as you can see by this photo of the sea, it was quite choppy out there.

Instead, we went down onto the beach but even Archie avoided the sea on this trip, he's usually up for a paddle. He's such a good little dog, he comes on all our outings with us and never complains when we traipse him all over the place. He's getting older though now, he's eleven, and I'm mindful not to overdo things for him. Saying that, after our stroll on the beach we headed off to Whitby where the weather improved somewhat and we had a wander around the cobbled streets of the old town. It was a lovely day out and the hours zoomed by. 

We were going to have a meal out in the evening but I've been suffering quite badly just lately with hayfever, something I suffered with terribly as a child, though nowadays I seem to just have sporadic flare ups. I decided that I'd rather stay at home and have a takeaway instead so Eleanor and Jacob came round after work and joined us. Daniel and Jasmine called from Essex to wish me a happy birthday.

I got lots of lovely presents, I'm always so lucky, my family and friends know just the things I'd like and they're always very generous. Maggie from BlackCountry Wench blog sent me a lovely card and this wonderful gift. The 'Sunflowers in Summer' chart is so pretty, I shall enjoy stitching that, and Maggie has been so kind to even include all the thread I need too. Not only that but I also received these three pretty notebooks , I do love my stationery. There was also a box of Toffifee but you know what it's like once the box is open, you just can't resist, or maybe that's just me. Anyway, they're all gone now but they were delicious. Thank you, Maggie, I'm thrilled to bits with this gift.

So that's me at fifty three, I do wish these years would stop whizzing by so quickly.

Thursday, 2 September 2021

My Sister's Keeper

I've never read anything by Jodi Picoult before but Marlene from Poppy Patchwork mentioned My Sister's Keeper on her blog and it sounded right up my street. I was thrilled when she asked if I'd like her to send me the book. Thank you, Marlene.

"Sara Fitzgerald's daughter Kate is just two years old when she is diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia. Reeling with the helpless shock of it, Sara knows she will do anything - whatever it takes - to save her child.

Then the test results come back time and again to show that no one in their family is a match for Kate. If they are to find a donor for the crucial bone marrow transplant she needs, there is only one option: creating another baby, specifically designed to save her sister. For Sara, it seems the ideal solution. Not only does Kate live, but she gets a beautiful new daughter, Anna, too.

Until the moment Anna hands Sara the papers that will rock her whole world. Because, aged thirteen, Anna has decide that she doesn't want to help Kate live any more. She is suing her parents for the rights to her own body."

I really enjoyed this book, though you have to be prepared for a lot of medical and legal jargon. That didn't bother me though. I thought the subject was very interesting and as a parent, it makes you think about the decisions you'd make yourself in a similar situation. 

The ending was totally unexpected, I didn't see it coming at all. I thought it could go in a couple of ways but I have to admit that what did happen hadn't crossed my mind and if I'm honest, I think it's a bit of a cop out and a lazy way of tying thing up. 

My Sister's Keeper was made into a movie starring Cameron Diaz. I found it on Netflix and decided to watch it. Again, the ending was a surprise as it was totally different to the book, and in my opinion, much better. I won't say anymore in case you decide to read it for yourself, which I'd definitely recommend you do if you like this sort of book.

Sunday, 29 August 2021

To Have And To Hold

It was my niece's wedding on Tuesday. I call her my niece but she isn't really, she's my sister's stepdaughter. My sister died twenty two years ago but we've always kept in touch with her and her brother and it's just the same as her being my proper niece. She was supposed to get married last September but the wedding had to be postponed due to the coronavirus restrictions. It was moved to around Easter time this year but again, had to be postponed, so it was third time lucky.

We had a lovely day, the wedding was held in a converted barn and it was a fabulous venue surrounded by beautiful scenery. The bride and groom didn't want gifts, they said it was enough that we were helping them celebrate their marriage, but we gave them some money and I couldn't resist giving them a little token in the form of this cross stitch.

This is To Have and To Hold from Country Cottage Needleworks stitched on 28 count Brittney Lugana. I really enjoyed stitching it and though I started it at the beginning of 2020, I held off finishing it completely until I was sure the wedding was going ahead as the date had to be added. 

Talking of the date, what a numpty I was. Can you see what I did? The numbers were all charted up for me, I just had to choose the right ones and make sure I centred it in the design, but I couldn't even do that right. I put the year as 01 instead of 21 so I had to unpick it and start again. I added the names to the design so I had to chart some of the letters myself but I think it looks okay.

The bride's hair was supposed to be blonde but my niece has brown hair so I changed that, and the date is actually charted in pink but as I was adding their names I decided to continue in the same colour as the rest of the writing.

I snapped a photo of it in the frame before the glass was added to prevent the glare. I'm pleased with how it turned out. It was a lovely design to stitch.

I think the next wedding on the cards will be Eleanor's, though they still haven't chosen a date, venue or anything else, so I don't think it will be for some time yet. It gives me time to stitch another wedding sampler if I choose to do so.

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Mixed Fortunes

I only planted two containers of potatoes up this year, one was in a purpose made potato bag and the other was in a large plastic pot. I've used both very successfully in the past. Unfortunately, potatoes only grew in one container, the potato bag, there wasn't any growth at all in the plastic pot and exactly the same thing happened with Eleanor's potatoes too. I can only assume that the seed potatoes in the plastic pots rotted when we had the bout of very wet weather earlier in the year, but it does go to show that the bags which are made specifically to grow potatoes in have definitely worked better this year.

Having all my eggs in one basket so to speak, or rather all my potatoes in one container, I was hoping for good results. When the bag was tipped out it looked promising.

All told, there were just over eight pounds of potatoes in the one bag. The 50p is on the photo for scale, there were some really quite large spuds harvested. These are Charlotte, a second early potato which Eleanor chose as she fancied the waxy texture that this potato offers. I grew Charlotte last year too, it was the first time I'd grown them in containers and I got quite a poor yield. They can vary considerably from year to year.

I'm more than happy with what I've harvested this year, you can't beat the taste of home grown!

Saturday, 21 August 2021

My Own Surprise Book

I've made lots of friends in Blogland. I'm always amazed by the connections people make even when they've never met in real life. One of my best friends is Maggie from BlackCountry Wench blog. I was drawn to her blog when I came across all the fabulous cross stitching she does, and I always enjoy her varied posts. We seemed to hit it off from the start and though we've still never met, she's a very good friend.

Maggie and I share a love of reading, among other things, and in her recent post about Monday's Outing, she mentioned a book she'd picked up in a National Trust shop. It's a wrapped book so she doesn't know what it is, a surprise. It does have a tag on the parcel with a clue about what the book is about, so I'm sure it will be a lot of fun finding out if her guesses are correct. I commented saying how I thought it was a great idea and yesterday my friendly Hermes delivery man brought me an unexpected package. Maggie had sent me my own surprise book.

There was a lovely card with it too. Maggie said that she thought the book would be something I would enjoy and I'm sure it will be, it sounds right up my street:-

TWOPENCE TO CROSS THE MERSEY

When Helen Forester's father went bankrupt in 1930, she and her six siblings were forced from comfortable middle-class life in southern England to utmost poverty in the Depression-ridden North. Twelve-year-old Helen becomes responsible for the running of the household with little food to feed the younger children. Written without self-pity, this account is both heartwarmingly funny and shockingly moving.

LIVERPOOL MISS

The Forrester family are beginning to win their fight for survival and, now fourteen, Helen's personal struggle is in persuading her parents to allow her to earn her own living and lead her own life, after years of putting her family first, forgetting her own need for care and education. Struggling against illness caused by severe malnutrition and dirt, Helen also has to contend with her parents' selfish demands.

Thank you, Maggie. I know this is a book I'm going to really enjoy.

Do pop across to Maggie's blog if you don't know it already, it's a very good read.