Friday 30 December 2016

Reading - December 2016

The books I've read this month have all had a festive theme.

The first book I read this month was Hercule Poirot's Christmas. I started reading all Agatha Christie's murder mystery novels in chronological order back in January 2015, one a month. It just so happens that this book is the twenty fourth that she wrote and therefore, even though I hadn't chosen it specifically to be read around Christmas time, it just fell right that it was to be read in December. Though the book had Christmas in the title and the events which occurred were over the Christmas period, I wouldn't say it was Christmassy at all. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and didn't guess the ending at all, it was one of the most surprising endings I've read from Agatha Christie yet.

I picked up Christmas At Battersea a couple of months ago and I've been itching to read it since then but I thought I'd wait and read it around Christmas time. I read a great book previously called Rescue Me by Melissa Wareham about the fifteen years that the author had spent working at Battersea Dogs And Cats Home and I'd really enjoyed that. Christmas At Battersea is made up of lots of individual stories about dogs and cats, because remember Battersea rescues and rehomes cats as well as dogs, which had been taken in by Battersea before finding their forever homes. There's some wonderful stories and I enjoyed this book very much. It's now been passed on to someone else who I'm sure will enjoy it too.

My third Christmas read was Christmas At Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop by Jenny Colgan. This book follows on from Welcome To Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop Of Dreams which I read last month and which I actually preffered. This book was rather predictable, I thought more could have been made from the story but it was okay as an easy read.

I had bought lots more Christmas themed books to read this month but this is as far as I got. I love Christmas but I'm actually rather relieved that it's all over this year, to say it's been a disaster is an understatement.

I mentioned in my last post how my dad had been taken to hospital by ambulance on the 21st of December. Thank you for all your good wishes for him. It was found that he had internal bleeding from a duodenal ulcer so he was taken to theatre to have it repaired. Unfortunately, quite late on Christmas Eve we got a phone call telling us to get to the hospital as quickly as we could, the repair hadn't held and the bleeding was severe, my dad wasn't expected to live. To cut a long story short, they took him back to theatre to have another go at repairing it whilst we waited in the family room. We were warned that it didn't look good but they were surprised by how hard my dad was fighting it and a few hours later we heard that he was out of theatre and he was holding his own. We eventually got home at about 5am on Christmas morning and by the time we'd got my mum sorted out and had a drink, it was 6am when we went to bed. We were up again at 9.15am, picked up my mum and got back to the hospital. We've been at the hospital every day since then and I'm pleased to say that my dad is really picking up now.

Whilst all this with my dad has been happening, I've been ill myself. I started with a cold before Christmas but it travelled on to my chest and I've been feeling really rubbish all through the festive period. All the stress with my dad hasn't helped and I just haven't been able to get any rest. I'm hoping that it will all start settling down now.

I'm a real Christmas lover but I've never experienced one like this before. All the jollity and festivities have gone out of the window this year, we swapped gifts late afternoon on Christmas Day and we were going to postpone Christmas dinner until Boxing Day but in the end I decided to get the meat in the oven and we ate it early evening on Christmas Day. It's been a case of making the most of things.

Back to the subject of this post, I'd bought lots of Christmas themed books to read this month but I haven't had time for anything since my dad's been in hospital. I'm not sure if I'll read them in to January or whether I'll save them for next year now, we'll see.

The books I've read this month have brought the tally for this year to forty eight, that's four a month on average. I'm pleased with that. My favourite read this year was Me Before You by Jojo Moyes but I've read a good variety of books and there's plenty more I've got lined up yet to read too.

I'm so far behind with everything at the moment that blog reading hasn't happened at all so I do hope you'll bear with me. I will try and catch up with a few blogs here and there as I get the chance but I doubt I'll be back on top of everything until things settle down again.

I hope that all my readers have had a very merry Christmas spent with loved ones and I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy, healthy and peaceful new year. I hope that 2017 brings everything you wish for.

Thursday 22 December 2016

Merry Christmas 2016

Things aren't going quite to plan this Christmas. Firstly, I'm absolutely streaming with a cold, it's the second one I've had in as many weeks and this time it's found its way on to my chest. I'm feeling thoroughly fed up. I had so many plans for these last few days before the big day but I'm not going to be fit for anything.

Secondly, my dad was taken in to hospital by ambulance yesterday. We're not sure what the problem is yet but he's been kept in while tests are done. We're hoping it's nothing too serious and that he'll be home again soon. In the meantime, we're having to support my elderly mum who relies on us more and more these days.

I hadn't intended signing off my blog for the Christmas period quite so early but I'm sure you understand that I've got other things on my plate just now. I'd just like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very merry Christmas. I hope it brings you joy, happiness and everything else you wish for. Hopefully, I'll be back in the period between Christmas and the new year, I'll see you then.

Monday 19 December 2016

Christmas Card Swap 2016

Amy from Love Made My Home has, once again, organised a Christmas Card Swap. This is the third year that I've joined in with this swap and this year I was partnered with Jan from Jan's Ramblings.

I hadn't come across Jan's lovely blog before so I'm pleased that, through this swap, I've now been introduced to both Jan and her blog.

This is the card which Jan sent to me, I don't think it picks it up so well on a photo but it's really twinkly and catches the light beautifully.

I forgot to take a photo of the card I sent to Jan but it was personalised with the name of the small town where I live.

Thank you, Jan, for the lovely card and thanks go to Amy too for organising the swap again. I'm linking this post to Amy's post where everyone's sharing the cards they received in the swap.

Friday 16 December 2016

Blueberry Waffle Socks

Of all the socks I've knit up to press, not one pair has been for Mick, so I thought I'd better rectify that.

I decided that I'd go for a thicker sock that he'd be able to wear in his walking boots, something that'll keep his feet nice and warm during the winter months. He chose the yarn himself, Opal Wintermond in colourway 8922 - New Years Eve. This is a 75% wool yarn for warmth and 25% nylon for strength.

I thought the cushioned fabric, which the Blueberry Waffle Socks pattern by Sandy Turner works in to, would be extra cosy so I went with that pattern. As it turns out, I wasn't 100% happy with either the yarn or the pattern choice.

The heel of this pattern was not what I was expecting at all, it's different from the heel pattern I usually use, the part which goes underneath the heel is square rather than tapered and doesn't give anywhere near such a good fit. If I knit these socks again I would definitely use a different heel pattern.

I was disappointed to find that the yarn had several joins in it and I didn't think the pattern was matching up as I was knitting. As it turned out, it does match up quite well.

I actually thought I was going to run out of yarn, I found these socks very greedy, they used just about every little bit of the 150g ball with just a short length left over at the end.

I'd like to try this pattern again but this time in a finer yarn and with a different heel pattern incorporated. That's one of the great things about socks though, you can take lots of different components from various sock patterns and put them together to create a pair of socks with all your favourite features.

Mick's put a request in for another pair of socks now but he'll have to wait, I have a pair for Eleanor on my needles.

Wednesday 14 December 2016

Joyful World - December

I've finally finished the March design of Joyful World. I only had the lettering to work on since I last showed you where I was at but I haven't been doing much stitching at all just lately.

I think I'll put this project away now until Christmas is over and done with and then I can start on the April design fresh in the new year.

Sunday 11 December 2016

The Wanderer Returns

My gorgeous girl came home from university yesterday for the Christmas holidays. It's the first time she's been home since we dropped her off on the 23rd of September and I've missed her so much.

She's just been sitting end of term exams before she broke up so we're keeping our fingers crossed that she's done well. She's certainly loving her course and has done well in all her assessments so far.

Daniel's managed to get Christmas off work so I'm very excited that my family will all be together for Christmas and for an extended period afterwards too. His girlfriend will be celebrating with us, as she did last year, so they'll be arriving home, hopefully, on the 23rd.

Before we left Nottingham, we called in to the town centre to visit Winter Wonderland, Nottingham's Christmas market, ice rink, bars and food hall.

There's over fifty Tudor style cabins selling a good range of products, as well as traditional fairground rides for the children.

I was very tempted by the food stalls, they were selling all manner of delicious goodies, but I managed to resist.

My favourite part of any market are the craft stalls and there was a good range of products here.

These type of events certainly get me in the Christmas spirit and I feel that, having my girl back, I can start getting in the Christmas spirit even more now. The Christmas tree's going up today!

Thursday 8 December 2016

Pen Pals

I've always loved writing letters, I would sit for hours as a child jotting down all my news to send to my Nana and one of my aunties who lived miles away, and I was even known to send letters to my Grandma who only lived a bus ride away, just for the sake of writing the letter.

I also had pen pals when I was younger, I wrote to a girl called Jeanette who lived in Leicester, funnily enough the same place my Nana lived, and a girl called Carina who lived in Sweden. I also had an American pen pal at one stage but I don't think that one lasted very long as I can't even remember her name. I've always loved stationery and I think that was part of the attraction of letter writing too.

When I found out that Colletta from Colletta's Kitchen Sink blog was organising a PenPal Sign Up, I couldn't resist. So far there are people signed up from the US, Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand and my name has been added to the list. I think it will be fun to join in, it's not often I receive a 'proper' letter these days, it's all texts or emails, and most of the things dropping through my letterbox are either bills or junk mail. It will be a good way to make a new friend too.

Do you fancy joining in? It's not too late. The Sign Up is open until the 19th of December 2016 so what are you waiting for? Head over there now and put your name down, just think of all the lovely letters you'll receive throughout the year and all the gorgeous stationery it'll give you a reason to buy. That's an incentive in itself!

Monday 5 December 2016


Nurmilintu comes from an old Finnish lulaby: Nuku, nuku, nurmilintu: Sleep, sleep, little bird. It's the name which has been given to this shawl by Heidi Alander, a free pattern on Ravelry.

After knitting the No-Fuss Shade-Loving Shawl for my mum, I decided I wanted to knit another shawl but in a finer yarn and with a little lace patterning in it. I thought this would fit the bill nicely. It's knit mainly in garter stitch but each block is split with a stripe of lace pattern and rather than the traditional triangular shawl, it's started at it's narrowest point at one end and increases gradually to the widest point where it ends with a picot bind off. Nothing too demanding here which is just as I like it.

It's knit using Drops Alpaca yarn in colourway 7240 - Petrol Mix and it's so soft and cosy, just the thing to wrap around your neck now the cold weather has arrived. I haven't used Drops Alpaca before but I've got more in my stash which I'm very pleased about as it's knit up beautifully.

The picot edge just finishes it off perfectly.

I'm really happy with how it's turned out and I can see me using this pattern again in the future.

Friday 2 December 2016

It's Swap Time 2016

If you've joined in with my Twelve Days Of Christmas 2016 swap, then your parcels should be posted off no later than tomorrow.

I've got two swap partners this year. I've wrapped all the gifts and the parcels are being posted out today to Kim from This Happy Homemade Life and Cath from Clicky Needles.

I'm also doing a Twelve Days Of Christmas swap with my blog buddy, Lisa, from Jumble and Jelly blog again this year. I haven't sent her parcel off yet but all the gifts are wrapped and just waiting to go.

Amy from Love Made My Home organised a Christmas Card Swap again this year and I was partnered with Jan from Jan's Ramblings. I'll be posting off a card to her today. I hadn't come across Jan's blog before but taking part in various swaps introduces you to blogs and bloggers than you haven't yet encountered.

The last swap I'm taking part in this year is the #stitchingsanta 2016 swap which is being organised by Sheila from Sewchet blog. This is a knitting/crochet or sewing swap and partners are kept a secret until the parcel is received, so the person I'm sending a parcel to doesn't know that I'm her partner yet and I don't know who's sending me a parcel yet. I took part in it last year too and it was great fun. I'm just putting the finishing touches to this parcel before sending it out.

So I'm quite organised where my swaps are concerned but I haven't done much at all towards our family Christmas. I was the same last year too at this time but it all came together in the end and I'm sure it will again. How about you? Are you organised with your swaps and is Christmas in general coming together as planned?

Tuesday 29 November 2016

Reading - November 2016

My reading seems to have slowed down a little this month, I'm not sure why, but I managed to get through three books.

I haven't read anything by Jenny Colgan before but when Amy over at Love Made My Home recently wrote a post, Irked....... or offended actually, I was a bit unsure whether to start Welcome To Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop Of Dreams which I'd got in a pile of books waiting to be read. I'm glad I did as I really enjoyed it. The book follows the stories of two women, the modern day tale of Rosie, and that set back in the 1940s of her Great Aunt Lilian. Being set in an old fashioned sweet shop, it brought back lots of memories of the sweeties I used to buy as a child and even includes some recipes too. A very enjoyable read.

My Agatha Christie read this month was Appointment With Death. I thought I was on a roll having guessed the identity of the murderer in some of the recent Agatha Christie books I've read but I didn't guess the ending of this one at all, it kept me guessing the whole way through. There were lots of red herrings which threw me off the scent. Another good book.

I read Sleigh Bells In The Snow by Sarah Morgan back in August, it was the first book in a trilogy and this month I've read the second book, Suddenly Last Summer. The setting is the same as the first book, the beautiful Snow Crystal resort in Vermont and it includes the same characters too but this time, it's centred around a different couple. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I shall be looking out for the last book in the trilogy as I really want to read that now.

I don't usually read books with a specific Christmas theme around Christmas time but I thought it might be fun this year so I've got a few lined up for my December reads. I'll tell you about them next time.

Sunday 27 November 2016

Christmas Lights Switch On

It's years since I've been to watch the Christmas lights switch on in our little town. We used to take Daniel and Eleanor when they were little but when Eleanor joined the youth theatre group, their big show of the year, which they performed in one of the Leeds theatres, always coincided with the event so we stopped going. The switch on for this year was last night and Mick and I decided that we'd go to see if it had changed at all.

We're lucky that we have some wonderful, independent shops here and most of them go out of their way to be involved in community events. The shop windows are looking very festive at the moment. This is the Post Office window, they won 1st prize in the Christmas window display competition.

This is the display in the window of our local flower shop.

A fabulous coffee shop and delicatessen, they've got baubles in their window.

This is the local undertakers, I just love what they've done with their windows.

There was a small funfair with a big thrill ride and hook a duck stall etc.

Many of the shops stayed open and some of them set up stalls selling their wares from there. I love this American school bus which was selling pizza and hot beverages.

No event would be complete at this time of year without the main man in red dropping by in his sleigh.

Our local radio station, Radio Aire, was there and there was entertainment throughout which was provided by the community choir, the local dance school, the secondary school band and one of the primary schools, amongst others. The special guests were the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Leeds, the Olympic bronze medalist, Katy Marchant, who's a local girl, and Leeds Rhinos mascot, Ronnie the Rhino.

Unfortunately, the switch on didn't go to plan and only half the lights worked, Blackpool Illuminations it was not.

There used to be fireworks after the switch on in previous years but many people were disappointed to find there were none this year. Instead, funding was given for a two day market to make it in to a weekend event. There were some lovely craft stalls and I may have made a small purchase. I couldn't resist this hand-painted mug.

How cute are the cats, linking their tails in to a heart.

It was a shame that there was a mishap with the lights and that lots of people missed the fireworks this year but it's a lovely event for the community to come together and nice to see local businesses making an effort to be part of it.

Wednesday 23 November 2016

You Are So Loved

Mick had to take a trip to Birmingham yesterday so he decided that he'd make a small detour on the way home to see Eleanor and take her out for her tea. She's in no rush to come home to see us, preferring to spend her free time revising for the exams she'll have at the end of term. She's working so hard. She was excited though when I told her that her dad was going to call and see her.

Since I sent her the Happy Mail last month, I've been putting a few bits and pieces together in another parcel, so I said he could drop that off while he was there.

Most of this parcel contained food and edible treats but there was one hand made item, the secret cross stitch project that I was working on a little while ago, which I can now show you.

You Are So Loved is a beautiful design by Maja who writes The Snowflower Diaries blog, the same designer of the Joyful World Stitch Along which I'm currently working on. I'd originally intended to stitch this up for Eleanor for her 18th birthday but I just never got chance, better late than never.

Maja writes "It is dedicated to the strongest and deepest love between human beings: the love between mother and child." Perfect then as a gift for Eleanor.

The fabric I used is so different from the 28 count DMC linen I'm using for the Joyful World Stitch Along, this is 28 count evenweave which I bought from Hobbycraft and I find it a much nicer fabric to work with. It's softer for a start which makes it more pliable and I find it much easier to work with. It was white but I tea dyed it to give it an aged look.

I bought an antique looking frame, which I think sets it off well. It's free standing as Eleanor isn't allowed to hammer nails in her walls, but it's only a small piece so that's fine.

I'm so pleased with how it's turned out and Eleanor was thrilled with it. Not everyone appreciates hand made gifts but it gives me such a warm, fuzzy feeling to make gifts for those who do, Eleanor's one of them.