Friday, 17 March 2023

Three Quick Knits

My knitting mojo has returned with a vengeance. I really want to get all my languishing projects finished but it's so hard not to cast on any new things so I thought I'd start something which would be a quick knit and would be off my needles in no time.

So I started with a little baby cardigan and it turned into three.

This is the Fuss Free Baby Cardigan by Louise Tilbrook. If I knit this one again I would omit a couple of rows from the neck, it just seems a little too high.

My favourite of the three is Oh Baby! Cardi by Roberta Rich. It's a simple pattern and gives a nice finish.

Jasmine Baby Jacket by Marianna Mel is more like the old fashioned matinee jackets which most babies of a certain generation wore for the first few months of their lives.

All these patterns are free on Ravelry and were knit using Sirdar Snuggly DK. Unfortunately, my idea of having a quick cast on and then getting back to the projects I've already got on the go hasn't quite worked out as I'd hoped as I now want to cast on more new things.

And no, there are no babies on the way here but I do love to knit baby garments as they're instant gratification, quick and easy, on and off the needles in no time at all. They're ready and waiting for the first baby that comes along.

Friday, 10 March 2023

The Lake District

Mick's been using up some of his holiday from work before it expires at the end of this month. He's had all week off so we decided we'd have a little break away from home in the Lake District, somewhere neither of us have ever visited before, even though it's not all that far away from where we live.

We set off on Tuesday morning, not too early, and arrived in Windermere around lunch time. Our first view of Lake Windermere, stunning. The scenery in the Lake District is just beautiful.

We parked the car and set off to walk down by the lake. It's 10.5 miles long, a mile wide and 220 feet deep making it the largest natural lake in England. We were lucky with the weather for although it was rather chilly, it was a beautifully sunny day. We'd wondered about taking a boat trip but it was still a little too cold for that.

Afterwards we went into Ambleside, one of the Lake District's small towns, to have a wander round. I was glad that we stumbled upon Bridge House, a two roomed building originally used to store apples for nearby Ambleside Hall, as I have a Lilliput Lane ornament of this building. It's said that at one time, a family with six children lived here. It was built over Stock Beck to avoid land tax and is now owned by the National Trust.

The time was now getting on so we drove to our quaint sixteenth century inn where we'd booked to stay for two nights. In all honesty, it wasn't the best place we've ever stayed but it was comfortable enough. The room was on the small side but the food was adequate, the cooked breakfast was included and we also had a meal there on that first night.

Wednesday was another lovely day, still cold but bright. We decided on a trip to Grasmere, a  pretty village popular with tourists, and the home of William Wordsworth.

Grasmere is surrounded by spectacular fells and we saw lots of walkers passing through the village.

There's plenty for tourists here, shops, pubs and cafes, and I expected it to be much busier than it was, in fact, I expected the Lake District in general to be far busier than we saw it and can only imagine that it wasn't so because we were there midweek, out of season. I'm sure it gets far more crowded during the summer months.

William Wordsworth (7 April 1770 - 23 April 1850) was an English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English Literature. He lived in Grasmere and is buried in the churchyard of St Oswald's Church in Grasmere.

He's buried alongside his wife Mary, their children, Dora, Catherine and Thomas, his sister Dorothy, and other family members.

By the side of St Oswald's Church is the Wordsworth Daffodil Garden.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

This piece of land had become neglected and overgrown but now, through sponsorship, it provides much needed funds for the ongoing maintenance of the church.

The path is made up of 3000 engraved stones which have been sponsored by the public. It was amazing when we realised what we were walking on, Mick looked down and immediately saw a stone engraved with the names of a family who live near us, though we don't know them.

It's a lovely garden, very tranquil and perfect for quiet contemplation.

Of course, it was perfect that we were visiting when the daffodils were blooming, it made it all the more special somehow.

No visit to Grasmere would be complete if we didn't pop into Sarah Nelson's Grasmere Gingerbread shop. 

"No-one knows when exactly but sometime in the winter of 1854 Sarah perfected a recipe for a new spice-sweet sensation that she named simply Grasmere Gingerbread.

Neither a biscuit nor a cake, but somewhere in between, no-one had ever tasted anything quite like it before! Sarah began selling slices of Grasmere Gingerbread wrapped in parchment to villagers and tourists outside her neat home."

I'd been told not to miss out so we did queue and buy some gingerbread to taste for ourselves and I can confirm that it's quite delicious. We brought some home with us.

We'd spent quite a bit of time in Grasmere so we called into a cafe for refreshments. Archie caught up with forty winks underneath the table, he's such a good boy. We do have to be careful how far we walk Archie and how long we keep him out for these days as he tires easily, he'll be thirteen in a couple of months, though he still does very well for his age.

Snow had been forecast for Thursday in various parts of the country but we woke again to a bright day. We'd hoped to spend some more time exploring before we set off home but the Met Office had put Leeds on an amber warning and the forecast showed heavy snow from 9am on Thursday through to 9am today so we thought we'd better head off straight after breakfast. Well, just look at the roads as we headed into Leeds, hardly anything there, and they call this heavy snow. In hindsight, we could have stayed all day as the little snow that was falling actually stopped and the roads were still clear when I went to bed last night. More snow has fallen overnight though and we now have a decent coverage. I'm not sure how long it will last as it's stopped snowing now and the forecast is for a sunny afternoon with temperatures rising to twelve degrees on Sunday.

Apart from a night spent in a hotel when Eleanor got married last October, this is our first time away from home since 2018 for one reason or another. It was a lovely getaway, even if it was just for a couple of days.

Tuesday, 28 February 2023

February 2023

February is the month I like the least, I think it's because it's usually the coldest month, so I'm glad that it's also the shortest month. 

The month started out blustery with some very high winds but we still managed to get out when there was a break in the weather. We had a walk through the ancient woodland at Middleton Park which Archie enjoyed. The lake was very quiet on this particular day though there's usually lots of people fishing.

My crafting mojo has finally returned. I hardly picked up any of the projects I've got on the go last year so I've got a few things which have been languishing. I really want to get them finished off now. I finished the Scrappy Dog Blanket as you'll have seen in an earlier post and I've pulled out my Twelve Days of Christmas cross stitch to continue with. I didn't do any cross stitching at all last year but I've been putting just twenty minutes stitching into it each day and I'm sure that will soon see it completed. I really want to start some new things but I want to get my older projects nearer completion, if not totally finished off, first.

If January was the month of daffodils, February has definitely been the month of tulips. I just love the different look each bunch I return home with brings to the house depending on which colour I choose. I'm like a child in a sweet shop when I stand there trying to decide between each of those jewel tones, it's always such a hard choice. I'm glad I'm not restricted to just one bunch throughout the tulip season and that I can work my way through many of the different colours.

I've read three books this month.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

"Fiercely romantic and hugely influential, The Scarlet Letter is the tale of Hester Prynne, imprisoned, publicly shamed and forced to wear a scarlet 'A' for committing adultery and bearing an illegitimate child, Pearl. In their small, Puritan village, Hester and her daughter struggle to survive. But in this searing study of the tension between private and public existence, Hester Prynne's inner strength and quiet dignity make her one of the first great heroines of American fiction."

I have to say that I've never heard of Nathaniel Hawthorne, nor had I heard of this book, but as it's included in the Penguin English Library I picked it up. It was published in 1850, though set in the mid seventeenth century in Puritan Boston, Massachusetts. The overall theme is that of sin, redemption and social stigma. I found the writing style quite challenging so I did have to concentrate and perhaps this is why it didn't really hold my interest. It's not the worst book I've read but it definitely wouldn't be among my favourites.

Return to Thrush Green by Miss Read.

"Problems never come singly in Thrush Green.

Joan and Edward Young have to face an illness in the family, while crabby old Albert Piggott is rapidly going downhill without his wife Nelly, and the Curdle's family fair is making a loss.

Loyal Miss Foggarty welcomes an old friend to the village, and Harold Shoosmith catches himself hoping - at the ripe old age of sixty - that his bachelor days are over.

In the expert hands of 'Miss Read', Thrush Green once more springs to life for the reader."

I've been reading one book each month by Miss Read for over two years now and yet each one is so different so there's no chance of becoming bored. I really enjoyed this story of characters returning to Thrush Green, some to stay and another to just up and leave again before the story ends.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

"At First Sight, Ove is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet. He thinks himself surrounded by idiots - neighbours who can't reverse a trailer properly, joggers, shop assistants who talk in code, and the perpetrators of the vicious coup d'etat that ousted him as chairman of the Residents' Association. He will persist in making his daily inspection rounds of the local streets. 

But isn't it rare, these days, to find such old-fashioned clarity of belief and deed? Such unswerving conviction about what the world should be, and a lifelong dedication to making it just so?

In the end, you will see, there is something about Ove that is quite irresistible..."

The book has recently been made into a film called A Man Called Otto starring Tom Hanks and I've heard of quite a few people taking trips to the cinema to see it. Whilst looking at the Kindle deals I saw the book reduced to just 99p so I downloaded it.

It's an enjoyable story, some sad parts but plenty of humour too and it kept my interest and was entertaining, one of those heart-warming reads. I think we all know people like Ove so it's easy to relate to him. I'd like to see the film. I more often than not think that a film doesn't do a book justice but with Tom Hanks in the starring role, I think this just might be one of those films which is better than the book. What a brilliant actor, Tom Hanks can really bring a character to life and I'm sure he'll be fantastic in the role of Ove/Otto.

Shrove Tuesday always falls forty seven days before Easter Sunday and so as the date of Easter fluctuates each year, so does Shrove Tuesday. It always falls somewhere between the 3rd of February and the first week of March and this year it fell on the 21st of February. I often made pancakes when Daniel and Eleanor were young, though I don't think that either of them were particularly bothered about them. I don't often make an effort now that they've left home but I thought I would this year. I have lemon and sugar on mine and Mick has gravy, yes, gravy. I've never heard of anyone else having pancakes with gravy, though perhaps it's not all that weird really as it's only the same batter mixture as Yorkshire Puddings.

We've had some glorious sunsets this month. This photo was taken from my craft room window, no filters, this is exactly how the sky looked. Isn't it beautiful.

In my end of month post in January, I mentioned that I wouldn't be writing as many posts as I have done in the past. Some of you commented saying that you hoped I wouldn't be giving up blogging all together. Well, no, I still enjoy blogging, it's just that I'm cutting back on the time I've been spending on it. I shall definitely still be here with one post at the very least each month. Also, I mentioned last month that you can find me on Instagram, just search jothroughthekeyhole, and thank you to those of you who have done just that and who already follow me over there. I do enjoy Instagram but I don't think you get the connection with other people as you do through blogging and that's why you'll still find me here too. 

Mick's got two separate weeks holiday from work in March so we're hoping for fine weather so that we can get out and about a little. I'm hoping for an action packed month.

Friday, 24 February 2023

Air Fryers

With energy prices as expensive as they are at present, many people are looking at ways in which to cut down on their usage. Using an air fryer instead of an electric oven is one way to cut down on costs so it's no surprise that many people have turned to this way of cooking their meals since the energy price hikes in October. In fact, air fryers are so popular at the moment that some models sell out as soon as retailers replenish their stock.

Air fryers aren't a new thing, I bought my first one over eight years ago when I wanted some Crispy Chips. I didn't buy it to cut down on the cost of cooking a meal, more for the health aspect, which is what air fryers were being marketed as at that time, a way to cook food more healthily. Cooking this way was all very new to me at that time but I grew to love my air fryer so when it eventually broke, I didn't hesitate in buying another one. 

The two I've had up to this point have both been Tefal Actifry air fryers and I've been very happy with them. The only downside in my opinion is that they have a paddle to agitate the food being cooked so there is some limitation to what can be cooked in it, unless you buy an additional part. There's a cooking basket which can be popped over whatever you're cooking in the bottom of the pan but we've never bothered with that. 

Both Daniel and Eleanor had air fryers when they went off to university and they both found them really useful too, so much so that they both still use them now.

My second actifry is just starting to go now, we've already replaced one part and I can see that it won't be long until another part gives up the ghost so we've decided to invest in a new air fryer. 

We've gone with a different style of air fryer this time, a Ninja Dual Zone. Having used an air fryer for a long time now, we know what suits us best and I think the two separate drawers in this type of air fryer will be brilliant for cooking whole meals rather than just a part of it, meaning that we'll definitely use the oven less.

The Ninja Dual Zone has six cooking functions. Along with Air Fry there's also Max Crisp, Roast, Bake, Dehydrate and Reheat, and because there's two separate drawers which are able to be used independently of each other, it will be easier to cook complete meals

It's quite an expensive outlay but I think we'll recoup at least some of the costs back through not using the oven so much and of course, it's a healthier way to cook too. I'm looking forward to trying it out.

How about you, have you got an air fryer? Have you had one for a while or is it a new purchase? Have you bought it for health or cost reasons? I'd love to know.

Friday, 10 February 2023

Scrappy Dog Blanket

Back in May of 2018, I started a scrappy mitred square blanket with the intention of using some of my leftovers as well as mini skeins in it. When I gave it some more thought, I decided that I only wanted to use hand dyed yarn in the blanket so the following month I started a second blanket to use up the leftovers from my commercial yarn.

I never really got very far with it but after nearly five years it was time to get it off the needles. I've had some of my longer term projects far too long now and I want to clear the decks. When I looked at it, there were a few squares left to knit to square it off, but even then, it wasn't very big, it wouldn't even work as a lap blanket.

I don't like untidy edges so I picked up stitches right the way around it and added a small border, it now measures 75cm by 60cm. It's made up of fifty six squares with just three duplicate colourways which means the blanket is made up of fifty three different yarns, many of which are leftovers from the socks I've made over the years.

After giving it a soak, it's acquired a lovely drape and it's much softer than it was. Commercial sock yarn can be quite rustic but it usually softens up after a wash.

Although it isn't big enough to do very much with, it's made from wool which is lovely and warm so I shall give it to the Dogs Trust when I next visit. I'm sure it will be just the thing to line a little dog's bed. It will keep it warm and snuggly while it awaits its forever home.

And what became of the original scrappy mitred square blanket that I started you may ask. Well, that's still on the needles. I'm hoping to add some more squares to it and get it finished off at some point. Sooner rather than later I hope.

Tuesday, 31 January 2023

January 2023

I'm not a fan of the winter months, I hate the cold so I'm always wishing them to whizz by and for spring to come. I have mixed feelings about January though, I find it sad that another year has ended, though on a few occasions I have been glad to see the back of the old year, but I do like the idea of having a whole new year stretching out in front of me and all the possibilities it brings.

Mick and I saw the new year in on our own. Daniel and Jasmine and Eleanor and Jacob were at a friend's party in York, they had a good time. I think they spent New Year's Day recovering but the four of us were invited to Eleanor and Jacob's house the following day for a New Year's meal. It was delicious and a lovely way to start the year off.

We don't visit Lotherton very often over the Christmas period as it gets so busy so it was nice to get back to our regular walks there this month. We go so often that I think Archie must get sick of the same walks but no, he's always excited when the car pulls up and he can't wait to get out.

I've been enjoying vases filled with daffodils throughout the house. I think I'm a bit earlier in buying them this year, I usually wait a while after Christmas before the first vases are filled, but when I saw them in the shops I couldn't resist. At just £1 per bunch they're a cheap and cheerful way to brighten up the house during these cold, dark days.

I've read three books this month.

My Name is Eva by Suzanne Goldring.

"Evelyn Taylor-Clarke sits in her chair at Forest Lawns Care Home in the heart of the English countryside, surrounded by residents with minds far less sharp than hers.

It would be easy to dismiss Evelyn as a muddled old woman, but her lipstick is applied perfectly, and her buttons done up correctly. Because Evelyn is a woman with secrets and Evelyn remembers everything. She can never forget the promise she made to the love of her life: to discover the truth about the mission that led to his death, no matter what it costs her...

When Evelyn's niece Pat opens an old biscuit tin to find a photo of a small girl with a red ball entitled 'Liese, 1951' and a passport in another name, she has some questions for her aunt. And Evelyn is transported back to a place in Germany known as 'The Forbidden Village', where a woman who called herself Eva went where no one else dared, amongst shivering prisoners, to find the man who gambled with her husband's life..."

A great first read of 2023. The story spans the war years right up to 2016 which sees Evelyn now residing in a care home. Her niece and the staff there think she's succumbed to dementia, but Evelyn is still as sharp as ever, she's just playing a very clever game. The book is about love, hatred and revenge, and the promise which Evelyn makes to her Dearest Darling, Hugh. A page turner which kept me wanting to know more, I'd definitely recommend.

Battles at Thrush Green by Miss Read.

"Feelings are running high in the normally sleepy village of Thrush Green.

The rector's suggestion for the neglected churchyard; a clash of personalities at the school; and the village eccentric's return to the road after an absence of fifty years, all threaten to disturb the tranquility of the Cotswold village.

'Miss Read', with her unwavering eye for detail, succeeds in portraying the day-to-day life of a small country community, without distortion or sentimentality."

I'm continuing to read one book from the Thrush Green series by Miss Read each month this year. I thoroughly enjoyed the Fairacre series, which I finished last year, but it's fun getting to know a whole new cast of characters from a new fictional village. Battles at Thrush Green is the fourth book in this series and I've enjoyed every one of them so far.

Animal Farm by George Orwell.

" 'All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.'

Mr Jones of Manor Farm is so lazy and drunken that one day he forgets to feed his livestock. The ensuing rebellion under the leadership of the pigs Napoleon and Snowball leads to the animals taking over the farm. Vowing to eliminate the terrible inequities of the farmyard, the renamed Animal Farm is organized to benefit all who walk on four legs. But as time passes, the ideals of the rebellion are corrupted, then forgotten. And something new and unexpected emerges..."

This is quite a short book but its impact is huge. I thoroughly enjoyed it and read it in a day, a real page turner. This is essentially the story of the Russian Revolution, the animals of Manor Farm revolt against Farmer Jones just as the Russian people rebelled against Czar Nicholas II. It's written in such a way that makes it easy to understand and this is probably why this book was taught in schools. I'm not sure whether it still is or not, though neither I nor either of my children studied it. Lots of moral lessons can be taken from the story but I enjoyed it for what it is.

You will have seen the V For Valentine Bed Socks which I posted about. I really want to make some progress this year on the other projects I've got on the go so I've picked up the scrappy blanket that I'm knitting out of commercial sock yarn. I've really had enough of having this hanging around now so I've decided that I want it off the needles, even though it isn't very big. There's still a few squares to knit which will make it eight squares by seven squares and measuring about 60cm by 54cm and then I should really put some kind of border on it. It will be rather small but I'm sure a little dog at the Dogs Trust will be happy to have a warm blanket in its bed.

I've enjoyed watching a few things this month. A couple to note.

Happy Valley.

This is the third and final series of this brilliant crime drama and the finale is on Sunday. It's seven years since series two was broadcast and I, for one, have been waiting patiently for Sally Wainwright, the writer, to release the next chapter in the story. It's definitely been worth the wait. The fantastic Sarah Lancashire and Siobhan Finneran star, and James Norton is back once again to play Tommy Lee Royce. If you haven't watched Happy Valley and you like gritty police dramas then you're in for a treat. Watch from series one though as it's an ongoing storyline which is carried through each series.


I watched this on Netflix. The series is based on a true story about a teenager who is charged with lying about having been raped but when two detectives stumble on the fact that there's a serial rapist in the states of Washington and Colorado, they uncover the truth. Starring Kaitlyn Dever, Merritt Wever and Toni Collette. There's eight episodes in the series and I was so hooked that I ended up binge watching. A disturbing story which makes it all the more harrowing because it's based on fact. Another one I'd recommend.

We had a meal out with Daniel and Jasmine. It was only at Pizza Express and really nothing to write home about, but it was nice to spend some time with them. They've been living back in Leeds for a year now and it's lovely to have them living close by so that we can see them often.

Eleanor had a Sunday shift the weekend just gone and as Jacob was working a night shift on Saturday he wasn't at home to take her. The trains don't start running on a Sunday until after the time that her shift starts so it meant she would have to get a bus, which takes absolutely ages to get into Leeds from here, so Mick said he'd take her. We were up early so once he got back we decided to hop in the car and take our first trip of the year to the coast. Scarborough wasn't as cold as we'd anticipated but I made sure that I was well wrapped up in all my woollies. It was quite busy to say it's January, lots of families as well as dog walkers about. Archie had an absolute ball playing with lots of dogs on the beach. It's a good time of year for dog walkers as the dog bans don't come into force until April so they're allowed on all areas of the sand and Archie made sure he had a good run around. Many people stop to give him a stroke and chat to us and they usually ask his age, they can't believe that he'll be thirteen this year, he does seem like a young dog still in many respects, though a trip out like this usually knocks him for six as it did this time and he spends a long time sleeping once we get home. It was a lovely day out and I'm looking forward to more days at the coast again soon just so long as the weather cooperates.

That's January in a nutshell. If you've got to the end of the post then thank you for sticking with it. You'll notice that I'm making a few changes this year, I shan't be writing as many posts as I have done in the past, though I will still keep you updated with all my news, and you can also find me on Instagram, just search jothroughthekeyhole.

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

V For Valentine Bed Socks

I've had a skein of Cascade Heritage sock yarn in the Butter colourway, as well as some Rowan Kidsilk Haze in the Daffodil colourway in my stash for a long time now. I've been wanting to use them to make a pair of bed socks and I've finally got my act together.

These are the V For Valentine Bed Socks, so named because the pattern is the V For Valentine Socks by Ellie Jones of the Craft House Magic podcast. I altered it only slightly, knitting two complete hearts on the ankles rather than one and a half as the pattern dictates. I wanted a slightly longer leg and this has worked out well. 

I held both yarns together and the Kidsilk Haze has given the socks a fluffy effect. They feel so warm and cosy, and very luxurious.

I used 66g of the Cascade Heritage yarn and they took exactly one 25g ball of the Kidsilk Haze, in fact, I was playing yarn chicken by the end. This is how much I had left to graft the second toe together, leaving a short tail to weave in at the end.

I'm so pleased with these socks, they've turned out exactly how I imagined and are perfect for keeping my feet toasty warm in the cold weather we're having just now.