Friday 29 January 2016

Joyful World - January

I think I knew deep down when I wrote my Decisions Decisions post that I really did want to join in with the Joyful World Stitch Along which is being run by Maja on The Snowflower Diaries blog. I've finally decided that I will start it but just like the Spice Of Life Crochet Along which I started a while ago, I'm going to go at my own pace. I don't see the point in rushing along so that I'm ready for when the next part of the pattern is released, it's much more pleasurable to go at my own speed and enjoy the whole process.

I've gathered everything together that I need to start so I'm all ready to go.

There's been two parts to the pattern already released, January and February, so they're printed off along with the other instructions which have been published on Maja's blog and they're all safely stored together in a folder.

I've decided to use 28 count DMC linen in natural. I've only ever used aida before, though I did buy some evenweave fabric before Christmas to try it but I never got round to it, so I hope I can manage with this. The holes look so small. Mick bought me a magnifier with a light attached for Christmas which clips on to a hoop or frame so I hope that will help. I bought the fabric from Sew and So, I've used this company before and had really good service and the prices seem competitive, though I haven't really shopped around for cross stitch supplies before so I don't know if there's any other sites which would be cheaper.

I bought my threads from a local craft shop. It's a very small shop and doesn't stock many supplies but it does have a good range of DMC threads and it's just 50p. I haven't found anywhere to beat this price. Hobbycraft sell them for 90p, that's quite a difference when you've got a lot to buy.

Has anyone else decided to join in with this Stitch Along? It would be good to follow each other's progress. I hope I'll have some actual stitching to share with you soon.

Tuesday 26 January 2016

Reading - January 2016

I was an avid reader as a child but that dropped off somewhat in my late teens and then when I had children I hardly picked up a book at all, I just didn't have the time. Even reading before bed was out of the question, I was asleep before my head hit the pillow. It was only about four years ago that I really got back in to reading and I'm so pleased that I did. There's so many great books out there to discover.

Last year, I decided that I'd start reading Agatha Christie murder mystery novels in chronological order, there's 66 of them in total and I managed twelve last year so that leaves me 54 to go at. Obviously, I'm reading other books in between. I used to read Agatha Christie in my teens but I can't remember any of them now. This month I've read Lord Edgware Dies, another of Christie's books where Poirot is the investigating detective. I've enjoyed every one of her books so far, she really was a master at weaving a plot with plenty of twists, dead ends and red herrings.

Another book I've read this month is Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. It's actually a children's book aimed at 8 to 12 year olds but when I saw it, it brought back memories of the television adaptation from when I was a child and I just had to read it. It tells the story of adopted sisters Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil and their lives as they attend a dance and acting school. It's such a lovely book, I enjoyed reading it and I'm sure any children who take ballet lessons would love this book too, as would their mums.

As I mentioned in my Charity Shop Books post, I've got a pile of books waiting for me, I'm actually spoilt for choice at the moment as there's so many I'm eager to read. I wonder which will be next.

Sunday 24 January 2016

Let's Talk About Spuds

I may have given up the allotment but I shall still be growing some things in the garden. I know I won't get anywhere near the harvests I got from the plot but it's definitely worth growing some things yourself for a number of reasons. The main thing I would say is that many things you grow yourself taste so much better. I've never eaten a supermarket bought tomato which has the intense tomatoey taste as home grown ones do and corn on the cob tastes so much sweeter when picked from the plant and immediately popped in to boiling water to cook rather than spending days on a supermarket shelf waiting to be sold.

Potatoes are one thing I shall continue to grow. Even when I had the allotment, I grew my potatoes in containers at home so there won't be any difference there. When I went in to Wilkinsons last week, I noticed that this year, they're selling some of their potato varieties loose so that you can fill a bag with as many varieties as you want to try. I have problems finding Anya so I was really pleased when I saw that this is one of the varieties they're selling loose. Unfortunately, they had very few of these seed potatoes left so I went back this week once they'd restocked and filled a bag with them. I also bought a net of Arran Pilot, the variety I've grown for the last few years and one which I'm very pleased with.

The 2kg net of Arran Pilots cost me £2.75 and the bag I filled with Anyas was £1.50. I weighed these when I got home and there's about 1.25kg in the bag. There's two sizes of bag you can fill, the larger size costs £2.50. I could have filled the bag with a selection of varieties but I've decided to stick to these two favourites this year.

Potatoes are very easy to grow and there's nothing quite like the taste of the first spud harvest each year. I never scrape them, they're delicious in their skins boiled in water with a sprig of mint then drained and smothered in butter. I can't wait.

Friday 22 January 2016

Charity Shop Books

Even though I've got a Kindle, I still have a mooch in the charity shops to see if I can find any books I want. I keep a list of titles I've read good reviews of, have seen on blogs or just books I want to read and sometimes I'm lucky, they come up as a Daily Deal for my Kindle or I find one in a charity shop.

Last Saturday whilst Mick and I were out shopping, I popped in to a couple of charity shops. The first shop I went in had Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey. This is a book I'd heard about on the tv, it's not only a detective story but also tackles the issue of Alzheimer's.

Whilst in that same shop, one of the assistants popped a book on the shelf. When I looked at it I found it was another book on my list, In The Midst Of Life by Jennifer Worth. I've read the first three books written by this author about her time as a midwife, I believe this book is about her time nursing patients who were approaching the end of their lives. No doubt I'll need to keep a box of tissues handy when I read this one.

They were both 99p each. I then went in to a different charity shop and couldn't believe my luck when I found another two books which were on my list. The first one is Grey by E L James, the fourth book in the Fifty Shades of Grey series. I'm not too bothered about this book but seeing as I've read the first three books in the series, I thought I might as well read this one too.

The last book from my haul is The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin. I remember Mitzi from Lazy Days & Sundays at Willow Cottage writing about this book in her Another Week Over post. It's about a woman with a terminal illness coming to the end of her journey but Mitzi writes that because it's so brilliantly written, you're not left feeling sad.

Each of these two books were £1.49 each, so I did really well for books on this charity shop trip, four books for just less than a fiver. I've also got lots of books waiting for me on my Kindle so I'm going to be spoilt for choice when I come to decide what to read next.

Wednesday 20 January 2016

A Weighty Issue

It's four years ago now since I lost around two and a half stones, I can't remember if it was thirty six or thirty four pounds in total. I managed to keep it off for quite a while but slowly and steadily, it's crept back on. Actually, I might have put even more back on with what I've eaten over Christmas, I daren't step on the scales.

I lost the weight myself just by cutting down on  portion size, eating more healthily, cutting out snacks in between meals and taking more exercise, I didn't sign up for any weight loss programmes. I have, however, heard very good things about Slimming World, how people have got down to their target weight but more importantly, how they've managed to keep the weight off, not by starving themselves but by changing the way they eat. I know myself that to be successful at keeping the weight off, it's got to be a lifestyle change. When I was shopping last week, I saw the Slimming World magazine so I picked up a copy to have a browse.

Some of the recipes look absolutely delicious. This is Spicy Tomato and Mozzarella Penne, doesn't it look appetising?

Diet Cola Chicken anyone? I really fancy giving this a go.

This Potato, Leek and Tomato Boulangere has been tried out already by Cheryl over on My Little Piece of England blog in her On Plan with my Menus post. She thought it was delicious, it certainly looks it.

I want to get the weight off again this year but I'm not sure whether to do it myself again like I did last time or whether to join up with Slimming World. To be honest, I begrudge paying £4.95 every week just for someone to weigh me. What else do you get for your money, is it worth it? I'm not totally sure how Slimming World works, as far as I can tell you have different days when you eat different things as well as a limited number of syns each day which you can use on treats. Is it complicated?

I've got very lazy lately too. I bought Mick a Fitbit Flex for Christmas and I'm thinking of treating myself to one. As well as tracking steps, distance, calories burned and active minutes, it also monitors sleep which I'd find really interesting as I've had a few sleep issues over the last few years.

The annoying thing is that I never had a weight issue until I stopped smoking back in 2010. Still, at least I managed to kick that habit.

Monday 18 January 2016

Decisions Decisions

After completing my first ever cross stitch project at the back end of last year, I decided that it's a hobby I'd like to continue with. I popped a few things I thought I might need on my Christmas list and hoped that Santa would oblige.

I'd been looking for another kit, I fancied an alphabet sampler, one like those which were stitched in Victorian times. I found this one on the Sew and So website. It's by Historical Sampler Company Limited and was just what I was looking for.

I also wanted a snap frame. I think it will be better than a hoop, especially when stitching a large project, though time will tell.

I'm going to start this hobby as I mean to go on, being organised, and to that end I asked for a storage box, bobbins and number stickers. I also got bought a bobbin winder.

I was all set to get started on the lovely sampler I've been bought but reading Marlene's post on her Poppy Patchwork blog over the weekend about the Stitch Along she's just about to start now has me in two minds. It's being run by Maja on The Snowflower Diaries blog and it's called Joyful World. There are twelve different parts to the Stitch Along, each one being a month of the year. I'd love to have a go at stitching this but there are lots of other knitting and crochet projects waiting in the wings to be started too so I've a decision to make. Do I...

a) Forget all about the Stitch Along, I've got plenty of other things to be getting on with.
b) Join in with the Stitch Along and put the alphabet sampler, and other projects yet to be started, to one side for now. There's no way I'd be able to keep up with the Stitch Along and have another cross stitch project on the go too.
c) Print out each month's Stitch Along pattern and stitch it at a later date, though that may not be for quite some time.

I don't have many things on the go at the moment, just two crochet blankets, but there's other things waiting for attention. I got a needlefelted hare kit for Christmas 2014 which hasn't yet been attempted. I want to crochet an animal from Edward's Menagerie, I got the book and yarn for Christmas 2014. I've got various yarn which would make lovely shawls, I've never knitted one before but I fancy giving one a go. I keep saying that I'm going to have a go on Eleanor's sewing machine but still haven't got round to that.

If only there were more hours in the day.

Saturday 16 January 2016

Making The Money Go Further

Throughout last year, I steadily sorted through cupboards sifting out things we didn't use or need any more. I took lots of things to different charity shops for them to sell on and you may remember me mentioning that the lady who was working in the R.S.P.C.A. charity shop had asked me if I wanted to Gift Aid the particular donation which I took there.

It rather took me by surprise, I always tick the Gift Aid box when giving a monetary donation but I didn't realise you could do it when taking in unwanted items for them to sell. It's the only time a charity shop has ever asked if I want to Gift Aid my donation. Apparently, they can claim Gift Aid on the amount that the items sell for.

In December, I received a letter from the R.S.P.C.A. letting me know that my donated items raised £20.91 for the charity and that by claiming the extra Gift Aid, they'll raise a further 25%.

This letter about Gift Aid has to be sent as a requirement of the HMRC but I think it's great to find out how much the donation has raised.

I'm quite sad that I've never been asked if I'd like to Gift Aid my donations by any other charity shop, I've donated so many unwanted things to lots of different charity shops this year, they surely must be missing out on a lot of revenue by not claiming Gift Aid.

The sort out continues here, I've got another pile of things to take to a charity shop and I'm inclined to use the R.S.P.C.A. as I know they'll make the donation go further by claiming Gift Aid on the amount it raises. I wonder if anyone else has come across other charity shops which use this scheme.

Thursday 14 January 2016

Simple Stylish Knitting

At this time of year there's lots of adverts on tv for new craft publications. I buy quite a few of the first issues even though I've no intention of buying any more, just because they're at an introductory price and there's usually free gifts included.

Take Simple Stylish Knitting, the first issue is just 99p and with the magazine comes two balls of yarn, a pair of knitting needles and a yarn needle.

As well as step by step instructions to learn essential knitting techniques, there's lots of handy hints as well as some cute knitting patterns. I think this scarf is quite charming, and easy enough for even a beginner to make.

How about this Mr Fox iPad case, I wouldn't mind one of those myself, if only I had an iPad.

Each issue comes with 50% wool yarn and instructions to knit a square in a new stitch which will eventually be made in to this throw. However, as the regular price for each issue is £3.99, and with ninety issues in the series, it would work out to be a very costly throw.

I think the first issue is definitely worth the 99p but I won't be buying any further issues.

Tuesday 12 January 2016

River Cobbler

We're not big fish eaters, mainly because the rest of the family aren't keen. When I was a child, we had a man who came in a van selling fish each week and we always ate it on a Friday. I'd like to get more fish in my diet but not if I'm eating it alone, it annoys me having to make different meals for different people because they don't like something.

Mick popped to the supermarket last night and came home with this River Cobbler. I've never heard of it before but he thought it was worth picking up as it was in the reduced section. He figured if I didn't like it, Archie would.

Has anyone tried this before? I popped it straight in to the freezer but I'm looking forward to giving it a go. It's definitely worth a try for 22p, just 10% of what it should have cost.

I do like getting a bargain.

Friday 8 January 2016

#stitchingsanta Reveal

I've really enjoyed the swaps I've taken part in this year. The #stitchingsanta swap, hosted by Sheila on her Sewchet blog is a great one for crafters. There were two categories, Sewing or Crochet/Knitting, I opted for the second.

This was a Secret Santa type swap so I was given someone to send a parcel to and someone else sent a parcel to me.

It turned out that Leah from Faith's Craft Box had been given my details and she sent me some wonderful gifts. First of all I must show you the beautiful card she sent. This is Leah's second attempt at cross stitch and I'd never have guessed, it was absolutely perfect and such a lovely design. I'd have thought she'd been cross stitching for years. I'm sure you won't be surprised that this is one card which hasn't gone in to the recycling box, I thought I might have a go at turning the stitching in to a lovely Christmas tree ornament which I can display each year.

Inside the card was this Lizzie Kate Dreaming is Free Believe in Miracles cross stitch chart. Such a lovely motto.

The gifts were wrapped beautifully. They resided under the Christmas tree until Christmas morning when I couldn't wait any longer to find out what was inside.

These are the things I found inside. Wasn't I spoilt? Some luxury yarn, a handmade toadstool which is now residing on my dressing table, a knitted pouch to hang on the Christmas tree containing treasure of buttons, a stitch marker and some brooch pins, a pair of Rudolph slipper socks, a candle in a cute robin candle holder, some snow berry yarn, a wet-bag which is perfect for holding crafting projects, though I'm intending starting swimming soon so this will be ideal for my wet cossie, some fruit tea and some delicious Green & Black's ginger chocolate.

These slipper socks are so cute. I've put them away so that I can wear them throughout the Christmas period each year.

Such beautiful yarn. Debbie Bliss Fine Donegal. It's merino wool and cashmere, luxury. I've been saying that I fancy having a go at knitting a shawl for quite some time and I think this yarn would be perfect for that. It's such a beautiful colour too.

Thank you so much, Leah, I'm absolutely thrilled with everything and you've been a great swap partner.

I was given the details of a different blogger to buy for, Tracy from Mad About Bags and so much more......... I hadn't come across this blog before and I couldn't email Tracy to ask what sort of things she liked with it being a Secret Santa swap so I did a bit of reading through her blog and hoped that I'd bought things she'd like. I sent a few sachets of Tea Pigs so that she could enjoy a brew whilst opening the gifts.

I sent a couple of balls of West Yorkshire Spinners Bluefaced Lecister Aran, a couple of balls of Drops Love You 5, a Crochet Mini Makes book, some wooden buttons and some ribbon.

I also knitted two little stockings to hang on the Christmas tree with some stitch markers and Hand Made charms inside.

This scarf was the only hand knitted item I gifted this year. It was made from Patons UK Wool Blend Aran.

I didn't follow a pattern, I just made up a checkerboard design.

I can't send a swap parcel without including chocolate so I sent a box of Toffifees.

Finally, I discovered through her blog that Tracy is a fox lover, so, even though it was nothing to do with knitting or crochet, I sent this little fox magnet.

I received a lovely email from Tracy thanking me for everything, she seemed very pleased. She'd been away just before Christmas to Lapland and I'm extremely jealous, I'm waiting to hear more about her trip now.

Thank you for organising this swap Sheila, I had such a lot of fun with it.

I think I became a little obsessed with swaps over Christmas, you do have to be quite organised to buy everything and send it all off on time but I've loved taking part in each and every one and I shall definitely be taking part in more this year.

Wednesday 6 January 2016

Twelve Days Of Christmas Reveal

Christmas is now well and truly over for another year. How do I know? I have no more gifts to open. The Twelve Days Of Christmas swap was great fun, I was opening gifts right in to the new year and I received some fabulous things. Would you like to see?

My swap partner was Marlene from Simple Living. These are the gifts I received.

I'll give you a closer look but please excuse the photos, it's been so dark and dismal around here lately so I took the photos in the conservatory where there's more light, but anything shiny tends to relect so the photos aren't very good.

Some lovely lavender napkins, a pretty Things To Do memo pad on a clipboard with a pen and a Ted Baker notebook. I do love nice notebooks and this one will be put to very good use.

Some yummy Thorntons Little Temptations chocolates, scrummy yoghurt, cranberry and pumpkin seed crumbles biscuits and some gorgeous fabric. There's lots of different designs in the pack which compliment each other so I think I'll have to try my hand at patchwork. I've been saying that I'm going to learn to sew for quite some time and this may just give me the inspiration I need.

A cute Christmas tin which contained a pretty brooch with all manner of gardening paraphernalia on, The Orange Tree orange blossom & neroli hand lotion and fabric preserve jar covers. I think my pots of jam are going to look very posh with these gorgeous covers, all different designs.

Rainwashed Berry and Christmas Baking Yankee Candles, a cute owl bookmark and a coaster sporting a picture of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. How cute is that? It looks just like Archie. There was also a yummy chocolate included with each day's gift.

Thank you, Marlene. You've obviously been reading my blog well as they're all things I would have chosen myself, I'm thrilled with everything.

These are the things I sent to Marlene.

A book about preserves, a butterfly writing set and a decorative heart.

A bauble filled with jelly beans, a pack of fancy tissues and a book of nailfiles to pop in a handbag and some bath fizzers.

A notebook and pencil, some scrummy Green & Blacks ginger chocolate and The Duchess DVD.

Some vegetable seeds, an owl suncatcher and a furry hippo bookmark.

The Twelve Days Of Christmas swap came about because my very good blog friend, Lisa from Jumble and Jelly, asked last Christmas if I would like to do a swap with her. We really enjoyed it and when I mentioned it on my blog, I had quite a few comments saying what a great idea it was so I thought I'd host a swap this year for anyone who wanted to join in. As well as the official swap, Lisa and I decided that we'd do a swap again between ourselves and these are the gifts I received.

A decorative wall plaque - Blue Skies & Happy Days, Liberty Silk by Kate Beaufoy, Home Sweet Home candle holder and a Christmas Spice candle in a tin and some pretty butterfly candles. I do love burning candles around the house, I'll be spoilt for choice which to use first.

A pack of Christmas tree sponge scourers and some Along Comes Betty Peachy Keen Hands That Do Wishes dry hands lotion, a bauble filled with chocolate coins and some beautiful snowflake earrings which I completely forgot to take a photo of and a cross stitch bookmark. I'm just getting started really with cross stitch but I know it's a hobby I'm going to love so I'm looking forward to getting started on this.

Some notecards, scrummy Green & Blacks chocolate and some cute Hair Clips paper clips. They're such fun and will look great in my Filofax.

Some gorgeous buttons and a pig purse filled with chocolate coins and a pig keyring. I've got a thing about pigs and love these. The keyring is one of those where the top of the key pushes up inside it.

Thank you, Lisa, I love everything. It's been such fun opening all the gifts again this year.

Here are the things I sent to Lisa.

A cute kitten jigsaw, a fox windchime (which I didn't take out of the box otherwise I'd never have got it back in again) and a tin of Danish cookies.

Green & Black's Treat Collection, two memo magnets, a compact mirror and a lip balm collection.

A heart suncatcher, bath fizzers, a fox lavender sachet, a furry elephant bookmark and a necklace and bracelet set.

I'm enjoying seeing what everyone else has sent and received in the swap so please leave a comment if you've done a post about your gifts so that I can pop over and see.

It's been a fun swap, something a little different with the gifts being opened gradually over a period of twelve days. Thank you to everyone who joined in with the swap, I do hope that you all enjoyed it as much as I did.