Saturday 30 July 2016

Reading - July 2016

I've got lots of books to tell you about this month, mainly because I read quite a bit on holiday and also because my July reading was actually started in June, I wrote my Reading - June post early because I was going away.

I read One Day by David Nicholls back in 2014 and when I saw Us by the same author in our local library, I decided to pick it up. The book is about a married couple, Douglas and Connie, who are on the brink of waving their only son off to university. Then comes the bombshell, Connie announces to Douglas that she too is thinking of leaving. In an attempt to save their marriage, Douglas decides to make their last family holiday the trip of a lifetime and they all embark on the Grand Tour of Europe. I found parts of this book quite boring and I certainly enjoyed it less than One Day.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of my favourite books, I don't often read a book more than once but I made an exception with this book. I wasn't sure I wanted to read the recently released Go Set A Watchman, a novel set two decades after To Kill A Mockingbird, which has received mixed reviews, but I couldn't leave it on the shelf when I saw it in the library. I'd read that this novel was, in fact, written before To Kill A Mockingbird but it had been turned down by publishers. After the huge success of To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee insisted that she'd never publish another book but Go Set A Watchman was brought to the publisher's attention when Harper Lee reached the age of 89 and was frail and sight and hearing impaired after suffering from a stroke and the novel was published. Had she really wanted this book to be published? We'll never know as Harper Lee sadly died in February. I'd got it in my mind that I wouldn't enjoy this book after reading some reviews but I was glad to be proved wrong, I actually loved the book, not as much as To Kill A Mockingbird, but I would certainly recommend it.

The newest book in the Nightingale series by Donna Douglas is Nightingales Under The Mistletoe and this is another book I found in the library. This book is set during Christmas 1941 and some of the nurses we've met earlier in the series are revisited. I can thoroughly recommend this set of books but I'd advise you to read them in chronological order to get the most out of them.

My Agatha Christie book this month was Murder In Mesopotamia. The story is set at the site of an archaeological dig and not only did the little Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, solve this mystery, so did I. I'd actually guessed the murderer before I was half way through the book. Perhaps the more I read, the more I'm getting in to Agatha Christie's mindset. I still enjoyed the book though.

I've had A Song For Issy Bradley by Carys Bray on my Kindle waiting to be read for some time and I've finally got round to it. The story is about the Bradley family, Ian a bishop in the Mormon church, his wife, Claire, who converted to the faith when she met Ian, Zippy, their sixteen year old daughter, Al and Jacob, thirteen and seven year old sons, and Issy who's just four when she dies at the beginning of the book. I thought this was a very moving story and showed not only how each member of the family dealt with the tragic circumstances but also gave an interesting insight in to the Mormon faith. This is another book I'd thoroughly recommend.

I thought While My Eyes Were Closed by Linda Green sounded like my kind of book, a mother playing hide and seek in the park with her daughter, when she opens her eyes, four year old Ella is gone, nowhere to be found. Where is she and who's snatched her? It wasn't really what I was expecting, I think so much more could have been made out of the story, it was quite weak and the ending was terrible, it seemed rushed and left you having to make up your own mind about what happened next. Perhaps I expect too much.

I was offered Follow You Home by Mark Edwards as a free download on my Kindle. Psychological Thrillers aren't the usual genre I read but I do enjoy some, unfortunately, this wasn't one of them. I found the story really boring and I struggled to read it. It seemed to pick up pace towards the end but I actually heaved a sigh of relief when it was finally finished. I know I should have abandoned it really but I hate to let a book beat me.

The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes was another book I picked up at the library. I've only read one of her books before and that was Me Before You which I absolutely loved, so I picked up this purely because I'd enjoyed that so much. I'm so glad I did, it was one of those books that I couldn't put down. I definitely didn't enjoy it as much as Me Before You, I thought that book was exceptional, but it's encouraged me to put the rest of Jojo Moyes books on my wish list.

Eight books read this month, some good, some not so good, but a good month overall.

Thursday 28 July 2016

An Update On Archie

A couple of weeks ago, a routine health check found that Archie has developed a heart murmur. Thank you for all your good wishes, reading through them all really touched us, it does help in these situations to know that friends are thinking of you, keeping their fingers crossed and hoping for the best outcome.

Heart murmurs are graded on a scale of 1 to 6 according to how loud they are, with 1 being quiet and 6 being loud. The vet had graded Archie's murmur as a 3. We know that heart mitral valve disease is very common in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, it's a progressive disease which is caused by the deterioration of the heart valves. The vet had asked if he'd become lethargic or if we'd noticed him coughing as these are common symptoms, however, we haven't noticed anything amiss with him at all.

He had to go back last Friday for a cardiac ultrasound and it was found that he does have mitral valve disease but it's in the very early stages and has been classed as Stage B1. This basically means that it's symptom-less and there's no heart enlargement. Cardiologists refer to this as the pre-clinical stage without the need for treatment, however, he will need to be monitored and he'll need another scan in a year's time. The progression of the disease can be rapid or slow, there's just no telling, but there are drugs which can help and dogs may still go on to live a long life.

Thank you again for all your good wishes, the outcome could have been much worse so we're certainly counting our blessings at the moment.

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Crochet Therapy

I've believed for a long time that hobbies are not only something you do for pleasure but they can also improve the quality of your life. I first heard of Betsan Corkhill through her book, Knit for Health & Wellness, and I'm pleased to see that she's now released a new book about another hobby I enjoy titled Crochet Therapy which is published by Apple Press. I was asked to review this book on my blog and I jumped at the chance.

The book is set out in three chapters, the first one dealing with Crochet as Therapy and explains how craft can be used to achieve a more balanced and mindful life. It explains what mindfulness is, how the exercises work and provides some Basic Exercises.

Chapter two is all about The Projects. The chapter is split up in to different moods, Calm, Energy, Relax, Explore, Refresh, Dream, Focus, Persevere, Find Joy and Friendship. There are exercises provided for each of these headings followed by some wonderful projects and feel-good tips.

The final chapter deals with Techniques and is a great addition to the book, especially for those people who are new to crochet or need a little help getting started.

I think the idea of the book is quite unique, promoting mindfulness, providing therapeutic exercises and then suggesting a project to further enhance that particular exercise, I've never come across a book quite like it before.

As for the projects, well, there's something for everyone. None of them seem particularly difficult, I'd feel confident tackling each and every one and I've already picked out a few which I'd like to have a go at.

I'd definitely recommend this book, it would appeal to those people who are interested in craft as therapy or who already practice mindfulness and want to combine this with craft. I'd also recommend the book to people who are new to crochet and would like some fairly easy projects to have a go at, whether you want to follow the therapy part of the book or not.

I received a copy of this book to review, however, all opinions expressed are my own. The book retails for £12.99 and can be purchased direct from Quarto.

Saturday 23 July 2016

Joyful World - July

February is finished at last. Here's Mr and Mrs Mallard looking all loved up, presumably because Valentine's Day is this month.

I'm really loving this project and though it's a big design to tackle for a newbie to cross stitch like me, having it split up in to twelve totally separate areas makes it more manageable.

I can see already how lovely it's going to look when it's finished.

Wednesday 20 July 2016

Round And Round The Garden

Wow, wasn't it hot yesterday? My living room is north facing and I'm so pleased of somewhere cool to retreat to when we get warm weather, however, it was hot in there too yesterday. It does make a change though, it's our first real taste of summer this year, though back to form, we're forecast rain today.

I thought I'd share a few things of note in the garden with you today, things which are making me smile when I go outside.

I'm not very good when it comes to sowing biennials, plants which flower the year after they're sown. Annuals, those plants which flower the same year as being sown, are sown early in the year whereas biennials are sown a little later and I usually forget all about them. I actually got my act together last year though and now I'm reaping the benefits. These are just a few of the Sweet Williams that are flowering in my garden at the moment, I've planted them around the base of my small apple trees.

Talking of apple trees, they're doing really well in the garden. I had been growing my two patio trees in containers but decided to plant them in the ground and I think I'm going to be rewarded for my efforts. The varieties are Golden Delicious, a green variety, and Gloster which produces red apples.

Daniel bought me an unnamed rose bush for Mother's Day in 2013. It hasn't done very much each year since but it's blooming beautifully this year, it's covered in vibrant red flowers. It obviously needed to get well settled before it did its thing.

I do like understated flowers but I've also got a thing for those 'in your face' showy blooms. I have a pot of these scarlet pelargoniums at each side of my back door. They were freebies actually which I picked up on a visit to Wyevale Garden Centre back in 2014, I've managed to keep them going since then. They're a newish variety, Black Velvet Scarlet, and their colour stands out beautifully against the nearly black leaves.

After a slow start, my tomatoes are finally producing fruit. My plants aren't all that good this year so I'm not expecting great things but I'm glad I'm not going to be completely without, I can't imagine a year without home grown tomatoes.

My porky pig cane topper, isn't he cute? I have a few of these which are placed on the top of supporting canes to stop any accidents. Apparently, there are many injuries every year caused by garden canes which are used to support plants, especially to the eyes. I'm not taking any chances.

The potato foliage is dying back which means it's harvest time, yippee. You can see the later planted containers towards the back, their leaves haven't quite toppled yet. I love the taste of home grown potatoes, just one of the things which tastes so much better when you've grown it yourself. I'm growing two varieties this year, Arran Pilot and Anya.

It's going to be a bumper blueberry year, my plants are laden with fruit and it's starting to ripen.

I have three blueberry plants, each one a different variety and each one maturing at a different time, which means that the harvesting period is extended.

The sedum is starting to come in to bud. I really love this plant, not only is it great for giving some late colour in the garden but it also attracts masses of butterflies, all different varieties too. I've never had so many butterflies visit my garden before growing this plant. Bees too are attracted to it. Just a good all rounder.

I did the same thing with my cherry tree as I've done with my apples, turfed it out of its container and planted it in the ground. It's responded well and I had high hopes of a good harvest this year, there were loads of cherries hanging from the tree when we went on holiday. Alas, when we returned, every single one had disappeared. I presume the birds have had a feast. My next door neighbour's cherry tree overhangs the garden fence and is loaded with fruit, they've hung CDs amongst the branches to deter the birds.

There's such a lot of things going on in the garden at this time of year and it's at this point when veggies are in abundance if you grow your own. I'm missing all the fruit and veg I used to get from my allotment after giving up the plot at the end of last year but I have to admit that I'm not missing all the work it entailed. I think this year's been quite challenging for gardeners too with the cool, wet spring and early summer, but one consolation is that rarely does everything fail, hard work is more often than not rewarded.

Monday 18 July 2016

Spuds For Tea

Yesterday, I emptied my first container grown potatoes of the season. They were flowering before I went away on holiday and the foliage had all but died back so it was definitely time. These are Arran Pilots.

The first container yielded very little, what a disappointment. I'd sown three tubers and got about the same back.

I've had similar experiences in previous years where the potatoes I plant earliest don't produce much. These were sown on 10th of April and we've had lots of rain since then, perhaps they got waterlogged or it was too cold for them, it's been a chilly spring and summer so far.

Undeterred, I decided to empty out a second container of Arran Pilots. These were planted at the same time and the foliage had also died back.

This time, I found more potatoes lurking beneath the soil. Still not a huge yield but more respectable than what I harvested from the first pot.

I'm going to my mum and dad's shortly and I'll take the Arran Pilots with me, they've been waiting patiently for some new potatoes so they'll be pleased with those.

I've also grown some Anyas this year, they're my absolute favourite so I emptied out a container of those too.

I've had mixed results from Anyas in the past, sometimes they don't seem to produce a big harvest but the taste more than makes up for that in my opinion. This time, they've done better than the Arran Pilots. Some of them have a pinky tinge to them which isn't surprising as they're a cross between Pink Fir Apple and Desiree.

These were also planted on 10th of April and are a second early, whereas Arran Pilots are first earlies, so in theory, they should take longer to grow. I think if I'd left them a little longer they'd have grown a bit bigger, but there's some decent sized spuds there. We'll be having them with our turkey dinner this evening.

I've still got lots more containers to empty out so I'm hoping that the later sown potatoes have done a bit better.

It was a sunny day yesterday though rather windy. Archie was out in the garden with us relaxing on the grass.

It was time for his annual vaccination booster last Tuesday and whilst he was at the vet's, he had a routine health check. We got the bad news that he's developed a heart murmur. He's got to return for further tests but we know that heart mitral valve disease is the leading cause of death in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. It's a serious, progressive disease which is caused by the deterioration of the heart valves and is about twenty times more common in this breed than others. We haven't noticed any difference in his health at all but we'll know more once further tests have been done.

We enjoyed some lovely celebrations last week, Daniel's graduation and Eleanor's 18th birthday, thank you for all your lovely comments and good wishes for them. While we were enjoying the celebrations, we had this devastating news in the back of our minds. I'm trying not to worry too much until we know exactly what we're dealing with but that's easier said than done.

Friday 15 July 2016

Happy 18th Birthday

It's Eleanor's 18th birthday today. It's hard to believe that my children are all grown up, where did those years go?

This year, she's hoping to head off to university to study biomedical science, we're keeping our fingers crossed that she gets the grades she requires.

We're heading out shortly to a cafe for breakfast and tonight we're having a party where Eleanor's friends, family and family friends can help us celebrate, after which, she's heading off with her friends in to Leeds to a nightclub. Mick and I are also taking her out for a meal over the weekend so that we can have a more intimate celebration ourselves.

We're so proud of Eleanor, she's grown to be a happy, caring and thoughtful young lady and we wish her a lifetime of happiness.

Happy birthday Eleanor. xxx

Wednesday 13 July 2016

Graduation Day

Daniel graduated from The University of York today with a 2:1 in Physics with Astrophysics.

This is Central Hall where the ceremony took place. Everything was so well organised, we were really impressed.

There were lots of students graduating today, Daniel's ceremony comprised both physics and chemistry students.

After the ceremony we were invited to a champagne reception in the physics department. I don't think Daniel's taste buds are sophisticated enough for champagne, three years of being a student has probably wrecked them forever.

Afterwards, we all went out for a meal to celebrate. It's been a wonderful day and we're all so very proud of Daniel.

Sunday 10 July 2016

Here Comes The Sun

We've just had our two week summer (!) holiday in Cornwall and the weather, to put it bluntly, was terrible. We hardly saw any sign of that big yellow round thing in the sky during our first week, in fact, the rain hardly let up. We did get a few good days in the second week though and managed to spend a little time on the lovely beaches there. I didn't take many photos, I just couldn't be bothered recording our time spent in the pouring rain, but here's a few which I took when the sun decided to put in an appearance.

I think we've visited Boscastle every time we've been to Cornwall, it's such a lovely little fishing village and great for a wander round.

Aren't these cottages pretty?

It's hard to keep Archie out of water, even when he's on his lead.

We walked up towards the harbour. The tide has often been out when we've visited previously but as you can see, it was in this time.

We climbed a little way to see the natural inlet which leads to the harbour.

Mevagissey is on the south coast of Cornwall, we visited for the first time two years ago and really liked it so we decided to take a trip there again on this holiday.

The harbour is busy with working fishing boats, though tourism is now the major industry here.

One thing we missed last time was the museum which is located by the harbour. It's quite compact but is situated on three floors which are jam packed with exhibits and all very interesting. It was well worth a visit and they even let Archie in. I'd definitely visit again, admission is free but donations are welcome.

There's lots of touristy gift shops in Mevagissey which we enjoyed browsing, especially when it started to rain, yet again.

We misjudged the weather when we visited Padstow, rain had been forcast so we decided to head here for a wander instead of spending time on the beach, however, the sun decided to put in an appearance afterall.

It was glorious weather so after refreshments in a lovely beer garden, we spent the remainder of the day on the beach at Constantine Bay. It was rather windy though, Mick and Eleanor went off to the sea to do a bit of body boarding but returned rather sooner than expected, the waves had literally whipped Eleanor in a full circle on her board and everyone on the beach got an eyeful as she emerged with a boob hanging out of her bikini.

Another beach we visited was Trebarwith Strand. This is another place we found for the first time two years ago and we learnt then that you have to check the tide tables before you go as the sea covers the whole of the beach at high tide. We judged it right this time and not only did Mick and Eleanor manage to have some time body boarding in the sea but Archie also enjoyed some time splish sploshing around in the rock pools.

As is usually the case, he dried himself off by rolling around in the sand.

We couldn't spend time in Cornwall without visiting our favourite haunt, Blackrock Beach, which is part of Widemouth Bay. This beach isn't very far from where we stay and it's dog friendly too. As you can see, it wasn't very sunny this particular day but Eleanor still managed to get burnt, silly girl.

We spent rather more time than usual in our lodge, especially that first week, but Mick and Eleanor did lots of fishing (there's four lakes in the grounds) and I did plenty of reading. I'd taken knitting and stitching with me but hardly did any crafting at all. It's the first time we've holidayed at the end of June and beginning of July but it's a gamble whatever time of year you go on holiday in the UK with the weather being what it is. We made the most of it though and had plenty of rest and relaxation.

We've got a busy week coming up, Daniel's graduation on Wednesday and Eleanor's 18th birthday on Friday, celebrations all round.