Friday 26 February 2016

Reading - February 2016

February may be a short month but it's been a good month for reading, I've read six books in total.

Liberty Silk by Kate Beaufoy was one of the Twelve Days of Christmas gifts which was sent to me by Lisa from Jumble and Jelly. The story follows three different women from 1919 through to 1965 in Paris, Hollywood and London. It was a brilliant story and I really enjoyed reading this book. I found myself going off to bed a little bit earlier whilst I was reading it just so that I could read an extra chapter before falling asleep. I'm sure that many of you would enjoy it too.

My Agatha Christie read this month was Murder on the Orient Express. This must be her most famous murder mystery and one of my favourites so far. It's another crime which is solved by the little Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and if you haven't read any of Agatha Christie's books but you fancy giving them a go, I can fully recommend this one.

I've read Jennifer Worth's (of Call the Midwife fame) first three books about her time delivering babies in the East End of London so I thought I'd read In the Midst of Life which is about her experiences as a nurse and ward sister, treating patients who were nearing the end of their lives. I didn't enjoy this book as much as the first three, she does write about personal experiences like she did in the others but there's also a lot of information about procedures and the author's opinions of death which I found rather boring. I can highly recommend the first three books but I wouldn't particularly encourage anyone to read this one.

I remember Lynda Bellingham taking the part of James Herriot's wife in All Creatures Great and Small and also from the Oxo adverts. It was very sad last year when she passed away, she'd been fighting bowel cancer. I used to read quite a lot of biographies and autobiographies, I don't read so many these days but Lynda's book, There's Something I've Been Dying to Tell You, which she wrote whilst fighting the disease interested me because she was suffering from the same type of cancer I had sixteen years ago. I'm sorry to say that I found most of the book quite boring, the parts where she wrote about her illness were fewer than I expected and the rest of the book was padded out with stories about her career. There was a lot of name dropping and I hadn't even heard of most of  the people she mentioned, producers and the like. I'm afraid this book wasn't really for me.

I think the idea behind Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey is very clever. Maud is suffering from dementia but she's sure that her friend, Elizabeth, is missing and she's determined to find out what's happened to her. Running alongside the dementia storyline is a seventy year old mystery which everyone, except Maud, has forgotten about. I really enjoyed this book and can thoroughly recommend it.

You may remember that I bought The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin from a charity shop last month. It turned out that I'd already got the book waiting to be read on my Kindle. Oh well, I've passed the paperback copy on to my mum and made a list of all the books I'm waiting to read on my Kindle in my Filofax so that I've got it with me when I'm out and about. That's the only downside to a Kindle, I read lots of books on it which I think other people would enjoy but I can't pass them on to them. I thought this book was going to be a real tearjerker but it wasn't as sad as I expected. As you can guess from the title, Rabbit Hayes is dying so there's no surprise there. It actually wasn't Rabbit's story which kept me reading but that of her boyfriend, Johnny, as I wanted to know what had happened to him. It's a heartwarming story and one I'd recommend.

Quite a few books about death and dying this month, let's see if I can find something a bit cheerier in March.

Monday 22 February 2016

Going Going Gone




We watched this coot swimming about the lake at Fairburn Ings RSPB reserve last weekend. Actually, the photos are out of sync, the first one was taken once it has surfaced again, you can just see it's got some sort of twig in its beak, it doesn't look worth diving for to me.

We visited Fairburn Ings last weekend as I wanted to try out my new camera. We bought Eleanor a Panasonic DMC-FZ72 for Christmas 2014. I'd read lots of great reviews of it and I know a few bloggers who have this camera too, the 60X zoom is what attracted her to this particular model.

She's been using the camera since then and it produces some great photos. I've already got a Fuji bridge camera and a Nikon DSLR but the one thing I was missing was a good zoom. I looked at a new lens for my Nikon but to get something equivalent to the 60X zoom which the Panasonic has would cost mega bucks so I decided that it made more sense to buy myself the same camera and forget about the lens for the Nikon, especially as I found a good deal on the Panasonic. I used some money which my mum and dad had given me for Christmas.

We didn't stay at Fairburn long as it was very cold, but I did get chance to have a quick try of the zoom on the camera. There didn't seem to be many birds on the lake...

...however, this is what the camera captured on the far side of the lake once I'd zoomed in.

I still haven't got to grips with my DSLR and now I've got another camera's functions to learn. It's all good fun though.

Thursday 18 February 2016

Wedded Bliss

Today is my mum and dad's diamond wedding anniversary.

They tied the knot 60 years ago today, it was a cold February day with snow on the ground.

I love this photo of my mum showing off her ring to my grandma and two of my aunties.

They're not ones for big celebrations so it will be a quiet meal here this evening, but I got them some lovely flowers and some posh chocolates. I always order my flowers from my local greengrocer, he makes wonderful arrangements, this photo really doesn't do them justice, it's a huge bouquet. Included are roses, carnations, chrysanthemums, gerbera, lilies, alstroemeria, tulips, stocks, astrantia, gypsophila and a few which I don't know the names of.

I've arranged for them to receive a congratulatory card from The Queen so they'll be thrilled with that.

This is just the beginning of a year of celebrations here. It's Daniel's 21st birthday tomorrow and later in the year is his graduation, Eleanor's 18th birthday and Mick's 50th birthday. It's a busy year.

Sunday 14 February 2016

Is This The Way To Amaryllis?

Eleanor bought me an amaryllis bulb for Christmas, Red Lion, a most stunning scarlet red variety. I didn't set it going until in to the new year but within a couple of days, some fresh green shoots were already showing.

There isn't really very much to see at this stage and there's certainly no clues as to the magnificent flower that will soon emerge.

Once it does get going, it doesn't take long until you see some rapid growth.

Still a while to go yet until I get my beautiful bloom.

Morrisons have some great deals on flowers and plants. I picked up this hyacinth in a pretty little clay pot for just £1.35. I'm looking forward to it blooming as its beautiful scent will perfume the house. My favourite type of air freshener.

I'm not one who has many houseplants, in fact, I've only got orchids, but I do love to have fresh flowers in the house and at this time of year, I love bulbs too.

Thursday 11 February 2016

Joyful World - February

I've got started on the Joyful World Stitch Along but being a newbie to cross stitch, I've got a couple of questions which I hope you can help me with.

As you can see, I've put masking tape around the edges of the fabric, as advised, to stop it fraying. I've started on January's design in the corner but now I'm wondering if I should have started further in and further down, leaving a bigger margin at the edges, what do you think? Obviously, there's more fabric underneath the tape which can't be seen here, but I'm still not sure I've left enough space at the edge. I haven't done that much yet so I could easily unpick it and start again if you think I should do so.

I'm using 28 count DMC linen in natural but it's such a huge piece. The design builds up to a piece of work which measures 35 inches wide by 22 inches high and I'm finding that the fabric being this size is getting in the way whilst I'm stitching. Also, because of this, I'm finding it easier to stitch without a hoop or frame. Firstly, is there a secret to working on a piece of fabric this size, I'm folding it at the moment but I can see that it will be even trickier to find an easy way to stitch on it once I'm working in the middle, and secondly, will there be a problem if I don't use a hoop or a frame?

The fabric is rather stiff too, I expected linen to be much softer than aida but it isn't really. It creases terribly, which is only to be expected with linen, I do hope all the wrinkles iron out easily.

I'd appreciate any help, advice or tips you can give me, I know there are a lot of expert stitchers out there so I'd be very grateful for any guidance you can give.

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Pancake Day

Today is Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day as it's known in our house. We don't need a special day to eat pancakes though, we enjoy them throughout the year, though we don't eat them as much nowadays as when Daniel and Eleanor were little. I always used to make them when they had friends over for sleepovers, it was a bit of a treat at supper time and I was always surprised when some of their friends told me that they'd never tried them before, or that they rarely had them.

Eleanor's favourite treat when we visit the German Christmas market in Leeds are mini pancakes with strawberries, drizzled in strawberry sauce. Just before Christmas, she visited the market with her boyfriend and was dismayed to find that the pancake stall wasn't there this year. This gave me a really good idea for a Christmas present, I thought I'd buy her a mini pancake pan so that she could make them herself at home. Whilst I was looking for one, I came across an electric poffertjes maker and decided to buy her that instead.

Poffertjes are Dutch pancakes but unlike the ones we make here, they have yeast added to the recipe to make them rise, though the recipe we've been using incorporates baking powder instead for speed. It makes them quite fluffy.

The poffertjes maker has fourteen small indentations for the batter.

The recipe we've been using consists of flour, baking powder, caster sugar, salt, milk, water and eggs but there's lots of variations to try out to find the one you prefer.

This was Eleanor's brunch on Sunday. She may have had second helpings but I'm not going to tell on her.

I'm sure you can imagine, this Christmas present was a huge hit. Perhaps it will be put in to use when Eleanor gets home from school tonight, it is Pancake Day afterall.

Friday 5 February 2016


You may remember that when I first started the Spice Of Life Crochet Along blanket, it all went a little wrong. There are so many different stitches in the blanket and because of this, my tension went completely to pot and I ended up starting again. I'd decided to weave in my ends as I finished each row to avoid having so many to take care of at the end but it backfired as trying to pull back my work was virtually impossible. I decided that I'd set Mick on the task, he's got so much more patience than I have, so whilst we've been sat watching television on an evening, he's been picking away at my first Spice of Life attempt and has eventually managed to take most of it back. He's done a really good job for me.

I really needed to salvage whatever yarn I could as I'm almost running out of some of the colours now yet I've still got a little way to go with the blanket, every scrap of yarn is precious. You can see the small amount of progress I've made since last month.

I've learnt my lesson how hard it is to take crochet back once the ends have been sewn in so I decided I'd deal with them all at the end, just to be on the safe side. These are the ends from just one side of the blanket, there's the same amount on the other side too. I'm not looking forward to tackling them at all.

There's still a way to go with this blanket but I'm still enjoying working on it.

I'm joining in with Jennifer's Winter Project Link Party over on her Thistlebear blog. Do pop over and take a look what it's all about, and how about joining in with the fun? I'm sure many of you have projects on the go for winter.

Wednesday 3 February 2016

Beautiful Blooms

There's nothing like having flowers around the house to cheer you up. I love this time of year when the daffodils, tulips and hyacinths are in the shops, though I must admit that I haven't treated myself to any daffodils or hyacinths yet this year. I bought some daffodils last week for my mum when I saw them outside a local greengrocers, not the brilliant greengrocers I usually frequent I hasten to add. They've been rubbish, most of them have remained in bud and those which have opened out are all spindly and look half dead. I won't buy them from there again but I'll buy her some more when I go shopping to make up for them.

On Saturday, we decided to have a look around Aldi. We don't have one very close to us so it's not somewhere we usually go but after hearing so many good things about the bargains people get from there, we decided to give it a go. I wasn't very impressed to be honest, I certainly couldn't do a full shop there and the prices weren't as low as I'd been expecting. I got a few things though and these beautiful tulips happened to fall in to the trolley. Aren't they beautiful. They've definitely been cheering me up whilst it's been wild and windy outdoors. I'm so pleased that I was told about the trick of sticking a pin through the stem right below the flower to keep them standing tall, my tulips never flop any more.

I don't have many house plants, in fact, the only things I have are phaleanopsis orchids or moth orchids. This is one which a friend bought me for Christmas two years ago. It was blooming when she bought me it, it flowered again at Christmas 2014 and it was putting on a show again this Christmas and it's still going strong.

It has beautiful pure white blooms.

I think I'll look out for some hyacinths when I go shopping, I've missed having their heady scent filling the house. Which flowers are your favourites to have around the house?

Monday 1 February 2016

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

I love receiving parcels through the post, especially ones which have travelled a long way. It was the very last day of the year when a package arrived all the way from Australia, it was from Susan from Granny Smith's Quilting. Inside was not only a Christmas gift for me but one for Archie too.

Back in my Challenge Update - October 2015 post, I'd written about a book which had been sent to me by Lisa from Jumble and Jelly called Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates. Apparently, the books have been made in to a television series and when Susan saw that I'd read and enjoyed this book, she decided that she'd send one of the episodes on DVD for a Christmas present. A gift was also enclosed for Archie, a fabulous pull toy which Susan made herself. Archie loves it. He's a funny dog, he doesn't like balls, anything made of plastic or anything with a loud squeak, but he's had hours of fun already with this toy.

I watched Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries last night whilst I was on my own. Mick was out at cricket practice in the indoor cricket nets and Eleanor was having a leisurely bath. I really enjoyed it. It was quite fast paced, which I liked, there's nothing worse than a programme dragging on for ages just for the sake of it. I always prefer to read a book first before watching a television or film adaptation as I like to form my own opinion of the characters but Phryne Fisher was just as I'd imagined from the book. Lisa's told me that the current series had been on Alibi during December so I shall have to watch out for it being repeated.

Thank you, Susan, I really enjoyed my Christmas gift and as it was a Christmas episode, I shall get it out at Christmas and watch it again.