Friday 12 April 2024

He Proposed


Daniel and Jasmine spent last weekend in London. They arrived home on Monday and came round to tell us that whilst they were there they got engaged. It was a surprise, though it will be ten years in May since they started seeing each other, so they haven't rushed into things. 

Apparently, Jasmine didn't know it was on the cards either. Daniel suggested they take a walk in Kyoto Garden in Holland Park and there, underneath the cherry blossom with no one else around, he got down on one knee and popped the question. The ring you see here is a promise ring, temporary until they go ring shopping together. Daniel wanted the proposal to be a surprise but also wanted Jasmine to be able to choose her own ring, he really thought of everything.

They met in their first year at university, they were both on the same science course and were lab partners, they met in exactly the same way as Eleanor and Jacob, they were lab partners at university too. Jasmine comes from Colorado in the US but has settled here, she's recently applied for British citizenship and the application is being processed so we're hoping that will come through soon, there's no reason why it shouldn't, she's jumped through many hoops over the years to get to this point.

So the next step will be choosing the ring and then a wedding will be on the cards, though I don't think they're in any rush, after all, it's taken them ten years to get this far!

Monday 8 April 2024

Gadding About

Mick decided that he'd take some holiday from work around Easter time so he took off the four days leading up to Good Friday and the four days after Easter Monday. It meant that, with the bank holidays, he could use just eight days of his entitlement but was off work for sixteen consecutive days. We didn't go away on holiday but we had plenty of days out and I thought you might like to see some of the places we visited.

Sherwood Forest is known for the legend of Robin Hood. It is said that he and his Merry Men lived in the forest and sheltered under the Major Oak. This tree is thought to be around 1100 years old, its canopy spreads twenty eight meters, the circumference of its trunk is eleven meters and it's thought to weigh twenty three tonnes. Sherwood Forest was once a royal hunting ground but the RSPB now leads the team that manages the reserve. The day we visited was a beautiful spring day, the sun was shining and it had warmed up after a run of cold, wet weather. It was the perfect place to take Archie for a walk, he loves the scents and smells of woodland so he had the best time snuffling around the forest floor. It was rather a long walk for him though, he was wiped out afterwards.

Calke Abbey is not an abbey at all, rather a Grade I listed country house in Derbyshire. It was owned by the Harpur-Crewes, an eccentric family who amassed a vast collection of hidden treasures, but it fell into disrepair during the 20th century and the National Trust began caring for it in 1985. Although a little restoration work has been carried out, they decided to preserve the rooms as they were found, abandoned with peeling paintwork, to tell the story of the dramatic decline of a country house estate. We didn't go inside the house as we had Archie with us but there was plenty to discover in the gardens including hidden tunnels, a walled garden and St Giles Church. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and will definitely return.

We spent one morning in the market town of Masham, known for it's annual Sheep Fair and home to Black Sheep Brewery. We had planned to spend the afternoon at Studley Royal Water Garden, set on the same site as Fountains Abbey which we visited in February. We did get a short walk in the grounds before the heavens opened, the rain was so heavy that it cut short our visit but it's somewhere we'll visit again as there's plenty more to see.

I wouldn't be happy with a staycation unless there was a trip to the Yorkshire Dales, we visit so often but there's always new places to see, we never get bored of it. This is Semerwater, the second largest natural lake in North Yorkshire after Malham Tarn. There are many myths and legends about it but the most famous is that a beggar once visited a thriving city and asked for food and shelter. He knocked on all the doors but was turned away, only a poor couple in a cottage just outside the town took him in. The next morning he cursed the city. The water rose up and flooded the city and drowned the inhabitants, only the cottage and the poor couple were left unscathed. It had been forecast rain on the day we visited but it turned out to be a lovely day, it just clouded over late in the afternoon. We pay little attention these days to weather forecasts, they're often wrong and if we'd have taken note, we'd have missed out on a day out.

We couldn't have a staycation without visiting the Yorkshire coast either. On this particular day we spent some time in Bridlington, a seaside town we were often taken to as children. We allowed Archie some time on the beach before travelling on to RSPB Bempton Cliffs. It was still too early for the puffins, they should arrive towards the end of April, but we did see some Kittiwakes as well as Razorbills and Gannets. We really enjoy the time we spend at the coast, as does Archie.

There was an artisan market at Ripley Castle on Easter Sunday and visiting that gave us the opportunity to wander round the grounds as well as the village too. Ripley Castle is a Grade I listed 14th century country house in Ripley, North Yorkshire. The castle is privately owned by Sir Thomas Ingilby, 6th Baronet and his wife, Emma, Lady Ingilby. When Sir Thomas inherited the estate at the age of eighteen, it came with a huge tax bill so they turned the family home into a hospitality business. The castle is open for private tours and it's been used in a number of TV series. It was nice to wander around the village on this occasion, though it was busier than we'd ever seen it before, perhaps the combination of it being Easter Sunday as well as such a lovely day weather wise was the reason why.

We spent some time in the market town of Barnard Castle in the Durham Dales. We didn't go in the castle but we had a saunter around the main street and perused the many independent shops which line the street. On our way home we popped into Beningbrough Hall in North Yorkshire. We didn't stay very long as time was getting on but what we did see, we enjoyed and it's another place to put on the list for a return visit. Parts of the garden are closed at the moment as they're undergoing work. Andy Sturgeon, the award-winning landscape and garden designer, has been appointed to refresh and improve the eight-acre garden. It will be interesting to see the changes in the future.

Another trip to the Yorkshire coast took us to Staithes, a charming fishing village which clings to the hillside. It's known for its steep cobbled streets and traditional red-roofed cottages. Captain Cook was apprenticed to a draper here and it's said it's where he found his love of the sea. It was a chilly day when we visited but we definitely worked up a sweat on the trek back up the hill, blimey it's a steep one. We called at Whitby where I popped in to my favourite bookshop and I might have treated myself to a book, and then visited the village of Grosmont, a peaceful village in the Eskdale valley area of the North Yorks Moors National Park. It's popular with train enthusiasts, the steam locomotives which run between Pickering and Whitby pass through the station.

Somewhere I've wanted to visit for a long time is Hardwick Hall, a fabulous country house from the Elizabethan era. It was built for Elizabeth, countess of Shrewsbury, known as Bess of Hardwick, one of the richest women of Elizabethan England. Her descendants are the Dukes of Devonshire of nearby Chatsworth. I would have loved to have gone inside the hall itself but that's for another day, we had Archie with us and dogs aren't even allowed in the garden here, only the parkland. Unfortunately, I think the past fortnight had caught up with Archie, he wasn't at his best so we didn't explore much of the grounds but we enjoyed what we did see and we'll return at a later date. We cut short our day in Derbyshire, there were a couple more places we'd intended to see but we thought it only fair to return home so that Archie could rest.

It's been such a lovely fortnight. As well as our longer trips out we've also visited old haunts closer to home, had meals out and got some jobs done in the house and garden too. We've been lucky with the weather, it hasn't been too bad and I'm sure you'll agree that we've visited some wonderful places, some old favourites and many places where we haven't been before but to which we'll definitely return, but for now, I'm ready for a rest!

Sunday 31 March 2024

March 2024

It's Easter Sunday today, Happy Easter! We're slap bang in the middle of the two weeks holiday that Mick's taken off work. We've had some lovely days out already, more of that to come in a later post, and we're hoping to have some more days out this coming week too. Before all that though, here's what else I've been up to this month.

Towards the beginning of the month we spent some time at RSPB Bempton Cliffs on the east coast just north of Flamborough. It's a fantastic place to see sea birds, about half a million of them flock here during the spring and summer months and it's a good place to see puffins between April and July. I'd read that there'd been some early sightings of puffins but they weren't there when we visited. We did see plenty of gannets though, among other birds. Bempton Cliffs has the largest mainland gannet colony in Britain. We were also lucky enough to see an owl flying over the fields and just as we left we saw what we thought was a kestrel hovering over its prey but on checking the photos when we arrived home, we now think it was a merlin, the UKs smallest bird of prey.

Mother's Day was on the 10th, I spent it with my family and received gorgeous cards, flowers and gifts, I feel very much loved and appreciated. We enjoyed a meal out and then came home to spend more family time together. I'm very lucky to have my children living close by, there were years when we hardly saw Daniel so I count my lucky stars now that they both live very near.

As part of Eleanor and Jacob's Christmas present we paid for them to have a 4D scan of the baby. They had to wait until Eleanor was 26 weeks pregnant. I never expected them to invite us along, what a wonderful experience it was. The baby didn't cooperate at first, their arms were held up right in front of their face and we couldn't see very much. In the end the sonographer asked Eleanor to walk around and have a cold drink and they booked her back in for another appointment an hour later. When we went back the baby's arms were still in front of the face but the sonographer managed to grab some photos this time. It's amazing how technology has advanced since I was pregnant with my two.

I've read five books this month.

The Storm Sister by Lucinda Riley.

"Ally D'Aplièse is about to compete in one of the world's most perilous yacht races when she learns of her adoptive father's sudden, mysterious death. Rushing back to meet her five sisters at their family home on Lake Geneva, she discovers that her father - an elusive billionaire known to his daughters as Pa Salt - has left each of them a tantalising clue to their true heritage.

Ally has also recently embarked on a deeply passionate love affair that will irrevocably change her destiny. But with her life now turned upside down, she decides to follow the trail that her father left her, leading her to the icy beauty of Norway.

There, Ally discovers her connection to a young unknown singer, Anna Landvik, who sang in the premiere of Peer Gynt over a hundred years before. As Ally learns more about Anna, she also begins to question who her father really was. And she starts to wonder why the seventh sister is missing...

The Storm Sister is the second book in Lucinda Riley's spellbinding the Seven Sisters series."

After reading and loving the first book in this series, I wondered how this would match up to it. I'm pleased to say that it followed on really well and I enjoyed it just as much. Each of the books in the series follows the same timeline but is written from a different sister's point of view, an interesting idea which works well. I have the third book in the series ready and waiting for me.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

"The Little Prince is a classic tale of equal appeal to children and adults. On one level it is the story of an airman's discovery, in the desert, of a small boy from another planet - the Little Prince of the title - and his stories of intergalactic travel, while on the other hand it is a thought-provoking allegory of the human condition.

First published in 1943, the year before the author's death in action this translation contains Saint-Exupéry's delightful illustrations."

I didn't know anything about this book before I received it as a gift and I don't know what I was expecting but it was totally different from any thoughts I had. A simple story with many hidden meanings. I've read many reviews since I finished it, most of them giving it high praise, but I have to say that it was just so so for me, it didn't grab me.

Included in this edition is Letter to a Hostage which was written and dedicated to the 40 million French living under Nazi oppression. An interesting read but one I wouldn't have reached for had it not been included with The Little Prince.

A Villa With a View by Julie Caplin.

"Lia Bathurst had always dreamed of escaping to the white sandy beaches and turquoise blue seas of the Amalfi Coast - but that dream hadn't included meeting her real father. A father she had never even known about until a few weeks ago! Yet here she was, standing outside the gates of a gorgeous pink villa being refused entry by the insufferable - and insufferably handsome - Raphael Knight, her father's business manager.

When an old black and white photo proves Lia's claim to be true, Raph is determined to make sure this stranger, with her long caramel waves and infectious smile, doesn't have an ulterior motive. Even if that means not letting her out of his sight. 

As temperatures rise, and not just from the heat of the Mediterranean sun, could Lia and Raph's forced proximity lead to something more like...amore?"

The latest in the Romantic Escapes series by this author, and another destination to add to my wish list. I don't know how Julie Caplin gets me dreaming of far away places, well I do, her descriptions of these idyllic holiday spots gets me itching to visit them myself. A typical girl meets boy storyline with the added interest of a dreamy destination and descriptions of mouth-watering food. A light but enjoyable read.

The Museum of Ordinary People by Mike Gayle.

"Deep down, Jess knows she is drifting. She needs to rekindle a sense of purpose.

Her boyfriend wants her to buy a place with him: a fresh start. But first she must sort the few sentimental belongings she kept from her mum's house. Her friend tells her about 'The Museum of Ordinary People', a place that keeps beloved items from everyday lives. It sounds perfect - and it is.

Everything there has a label, and these stories begin to unlock Jess's heart - treasured memories, families reunited, loves lost and found.

So when the owner, Alex, tells her the museum faces closure, she decides to help him fight for its future. In doing so, Jess might lose everything. Or she might just find a future for herself as well."

I've read a couple of Mike Gayle books before and thoroughly enjoyed them so I was expecting good things from this book and I'm pleased to say that I did enjoy it. Not quite as good as the previous books I'd read but I do enjoy this author so I'll definitely read more from him in the future.

I've spent some time updating my yarn stash on Ravelry. Much of it had already been entered on there but I've been a bit lax recently with new purchases. I went through everything making sure that each skein had been listed and taking photos so that I can see at a glance exactly what I've got without having to go diving into my stash. Ravelry is a great site for knitters, there's patterns galore to choose from, some free and some which you have to pay for, groups, forums and somewhere to keep track of your projects and stash, and best of all, it's free.

It was five years on the 28th since my mum died, I just don't know where the time has gone. I can't believe all that time has passed by. We have a memorial stone at the crematorium, similar to the ones shown above. There are memorial plaques for my mum, my dad and my sister on it and we're able to place flowers there. We took some flowers on the day, even though we'd been less than a week before when it was my dad's birthday. I like to visit on birthdays and anniversaries, and even though the crematorium is over thirteen miles from where we live, we visit often at other times too. There's only us besides Daniel and Eleanor who visit so I like to make sure there's flowers there so that they never look forgotten.

I never watched Fat Friends when it was originally released back in 2000 but I know so many people loved it. When I saw that the four series were showing on Netflix, I decided to give it a go. Oh, how I wished I'd watched it all those years ago. It seems a bit dated now but I still loved it, I binge watched all twenty five episodes. Written by the late great Kay Mellor who wrote so many fantastic shows, it follows the lives of several slimming club members focusing on the impact their weight has had on them. A fantastic cast including Alison Steadman, Ruth Jones, Richard Ridings, Gaynor Faye, James Corden, Kathryn Hunt and Lisa Riley. It's set in and around Leeds and it was fun looking for places I recognised. If you haven't watched it give it a go, it's both funny and, in parts, sad.

The clocks went forward today so the evenings will be lighter. It will be nice to get back to walking again after dinner, or tea as we call it here in Yorkshire. Let's hope we start to get some nicer weather again too.

Monday 25 March 2024

V-Stitch Blanket

I've had this, and more, Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino yarn in my stash for such a long time. Made from 55% Merino Wool, 33% Acrylic and 12% Cashmere it really is the softest, squishiest yarn ever and really cried out to be made into a baby blanket. It's another thing I made last year.

I chose these eight shades: Candy Pink, Pool, Peach Melba, Speedwell, Mist, Bamboo, Baby Blue and Lilac. I later added Light Blue for the border.

I've never crocheted the V-stitch before but it's been on my radar for the longest time. I've had a V-stitch blanket in my sights but like many things, it's just been an idea, something I've wanted to do in the future, so when I thought of crocheting a baby blanket, the V-stitch was the first thing which popped into my mind.

I can't remember now how many chains I started with but I crocheted seven repeats of the eight colours and then added a border of two rounds of double crochet. It measures 28" by 23".

I'm so pleased with how it turned out. It's so soft and drapey and I think it will work well in a pram or car seat.

Tuesday 19 March 2024

Clumber Park

Clumber Park is a country park near Worksop in Nottinghamshire. It was the seat of the Dukes of Newcastle and extends over 3,800 acres. We visited on Saturday, it was a little dull and rather cold when we arrived but the sun did put in an appearance and it warmed up considerably whilst we were there.

The main house here was damaged by several fires and eventually demolished in 1938 but the grade 1 listed chapel in gothic revival style still stands, as does the walled kitchen garden, but more of that later.

A view of the parkland towards the lake.

Clumber Lake is huge, serpentine in design, extending more than two miles and covering 87 acres.

As you can imagine, there's lots of water birds here both gliding along the water and by the sides of the lake.

So many swans, some seemed to be young ones as they still had their grey tinged feathers.

We spent a little time watching a greylag goose. I know geese are renowned for being grumpy and aggressive but this chap really seemed to have a problem, he was sticking his neck out, honking, hissing and chasing all the other geese, and swans too. It was quite comical to watch.

Bulrushes by the edge of the lake.

There's pretty seating areas by the waters edge. I bet it's a delight to sit here on a hot summer day.

One of my favourite spring flowers is the humble primrose so I was pleased to see great swathes of them adorning one bank.

I really want to visit again in a couple of months as there's an abundance of rhododendron bushes which are covered in buds. I'm sure it will be a riot of colour come May and June.

We were also just a little too early to see this beautiful magnolia in all its beauty. It was just on the brink of flowering.

Some of the blooms were just beginning to show but most were still in bud.

Clumber Park has some interesting and ancient trees in the lapsed wood pasture but they're also scattered throughout the parkland too.

As with most National Trust properties, there's the chance to sit down and have something to eat or drink, and a shop to peruse.

In the Laundry Yard and Turning Yard you can find a cafe, a gift shop, plant sales, a second hand bookshop and an ice cream parlour as well as an information point and more food and drink outlets.

After a long walk around the grounds both Archie and I were flagging a little, me with my bad back and Archie just because he's rather old now, though he does still manage very well, bless him. We didn't want to call it a day before we'd explored the walled garden though so we decided to head back to the car and drive round to the other car park which is much nearer this area and I'm glad that we did as I've never seen a walled garden like it before. It spans four acres, has two national collections and is so well kept. On the outside of the walls are these espalier fruit trees.

There's produce for sale on the cart. Things which may be available in March are early rhubarb, rhubarb crowns, kale and spring cabbage.

We could see the bees hard at work going in and out of the hives.

Clumber Park is home to a national rhubarb collection, there's over 130 varieties, which are all labelled up. You can see some of the plants behind Archie who doesn't look too impressed, in fact I think you can tell how tired he is in this photo.

There's also a national collection of apple trees at Clumber Park too. Some of them are espaliers grown against the walls and others are trained against wires strung between posts. It's certainly a space saving way to grow fruit trees.

The longest glasshouse in the National Trust can be found at Clumber Park. 

It measures 451 feet.

It was nice to see a display of Amaryllis as mine didn't even flower this year.

Just look at the size of this dried allium head. All those little star shaped flowers in the globe are still perfect even when dry.

Back outside in the walled garden again, I love these cloches. The ground looks ready and waiting for the plants.

More fruit trees, there are around 250 apple trees as well as other fruit trees.

Another of the rhubarb beds. The collection here is the second largest in the world. The gardens supply the cafe and some rhubarb is sold on the produce cart.


No flowers on the roses in the rose garden as yet but I like how they're growing cheek by jowl with other plants. There's bulbs, annuals and herbaceous perennials to create a long lasting display. There's over 40 pre-1920s varieties of roses in this garden.

A lovely way to display some of the hellebores which are growing in the garden. These flowers tip their blooms downwards so you don't get to see the flowers unless you lift them up. Floating them in water in this way gives you a chance to see the blooms in all their glory.

Such a lovely day out, I'm really looking forward to returning. There's so much we didn't see on this visit and such a lot we want to see again, especially in the walled garden which changes week by week. If you're in the area I can thoroughly recommend it.