Monday 27 February 2017

The One Plus One Giveaway

Mick bought me The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes for my birthday last year without realising that it was a book I'd borrowed from the library a month or two earlier.

I'd been encouraged to read more books by Jojo Moyes after reading Me Before You, which I loved, and though I didn't think The One Plus One was as good as Me Before You, I still really enjoyed it.

'One eternal optimist . . .
Jess Thomas, with two jobs and two kids and never enough money, wears flip flops in the hope of spring. And when life knocks her down she does her best to bounce right back. But no one told her it's okay to ask for help.
Plus one lost stranger . . .
Ed Nichols is the good guy gone bad. He had it all, then one stupid mistake cost him everything. Now he'll do anything to make it right.
Equals a chance encounter . . .
Ed doesn't want to save anyone and Jess doesn't want saving, but could Jess and Ed add up to something better together?'

The One Plus One which Mick bought me for my birthday has never been read and so I thought I'd offer it as a giveaway prize. Just leave me a comment on this post by noon on Tuesday the 7th of March 2017 after which time I'll draw a name at random. I'm afraid that this giveaway is limited to the UK as to send it overseas would cost nearly as much as the book's worth.

Good luck!

Thursday 23 February 2017

A Cheep Day Out

Sunday wasn't as bright as Saturday, it was rather dull and a little cooler but we made the most of it being dry and headed to RSPB Fairburn Ings. We're lucky that we only live about five miles away from this nature reserve and apart from the £3 parking charge for non RSPB members, it's free to visit. We were surprised that it wasn't too muddy, though I must admit that there's a big difference visiting here in winter compared to summer, the lack of greenery is quite startling, it won't be long though now until the trees are clothed in leaves once again.

I took my Panasonic FZ72 with me, I bought this camera about a year ago but I still haven't really got to grips with it. It was the 60X zoom which attracted me to it, a similar lens for my Nikon DSLR would have cost much more than this camera did so it was a bit of a no brainer. I'm pleased with the photos it takes even with my lack of skills, it's so easy these days to set the dial to automatic, point and shoot, the camera does the rest.

We're rarely lucky when we visit Fairburn, the birds seem to realise we're on our way and decide to make a hasty exit. As we passed the kingfisher screen there were a crowd of people who were quick to tell us that we'd just missed this beautiful bird, it had been and gone. We hung around for a while before continuing on our way, only to be told, as we passed again on our return trek, that it had come back and we'd missed it yet again. It just wasn't to be. We've only seen a kingfisher here once and that was a couple of years ago, I wrote about it on my old blog in A Bank Holiday Outing post. The thing which did thrill me though was a little robin redbreast landing on the fence right by my side and serenading me. I have lots of encounters with robins at Fairburn.

Just like the kingfisher, the water birds were rather scarce too, however, there were plenty of garden birds at various feeding stations around the reserve. The great tit was enjoying the suet and it was nice to see lots of greenfinches which have been missing from my own garden for a while now, though I've actually seen them returning this past week or two, they must have been away for the winter.

The ducks realised that they could find plenty to eat underneath the feeders where tasty morsels had dropped.

Another robin. His long legs made me chuckle.

I do hope this coming weekend is dry again, it's so nice to get out and about.

Monday 20 February 2017

A Weekend Outing

I was hoping for a dry weekend so that we could get out and about. Archie loves having a good walk, preferably somewhere that's safe for him to come off his lead so that he can have a good sniff about, so when Saturday dawned bright and dry we decided on a trip to Roundhay Park, one of Leeds most popular attractions and one of the biggest city parks in Europe. Roundhay Park actually holds special memories for Mick and I as we held our wedding reception in The Mansion, a beautiful Greek Palladian style mansion which is a Grade II listed building and set within the 700 acres of parkland, wood and lake. You can just get a glimpse of it here through the trees. The brightly coloured train was doing great business on Saturday giving people rides around the park.

It's so muddy everywhere at the moment so we kept to the paths but Archie went a little off piste running around on the grass, sniffing trees, snuffling in the leaves and playing with other dogs whilst we headed down towards the lake.

Waterloo Lake was constructed by soldiers who had returned from the Napoleonic wars and was therefore, named after the famous battle. It was landscaped from a former quarry and covers thirty three acres. It took two years to build.

There's always lots of birds by the Lakeside Cafe, they're used to people feeding them in this area.

This Canada goose was out of luck, we hadn't taken anything with us.

On our way back to the car we passed the cricket pitch. It looks as though it's being looked after during the winter months though I doubt it'll see a match played on it for some time yet.

After our walk, we called at a lovely pub restaurant for a spot of lunch. We often call in here when we have Archie with us as they allow dogs in the bar area. There was a roaring fire burning in the fireplace, though it was actually much warmer out than it has been, but it was lovely and cosy all the same.

Thursday 16 February 2017

Raindrops On Roses - February

These are a few of my favourite things.

Call the Midwife. I'm so pleased that this programme is back on TV. This is the sixth series and it's as fresh as ever with some fabulous hard-hitting storylines. My only disappointment is that there aren't more than the usual eight episodes in the series, I'd love for the series to go on and on.

Spring is on the way. There's signs all around us now, lots of bulbs are poking their way through the soil and will soon be in flower, if they're not already. Buds are appearing on the trees. I'm glad that February is the shortest month of the year as it's the hardest month for me. The days are short and more often than not, grey. These little signs of spring keep me going, I know it won't be long now until the new season is finally here.

Ravelry. This is a fantastic website which is free to join and offers thousands of free patterns for knitters and crocheters. There's lots of projects that I've printed off which are just waiting for my attention. There's also a great community on there, lots of groups to join and forums where members are able to chat with each other. It's such a great source of information too. My user name is jo9919 if you want to find me on there. At the moment, I'm trying to organise my stash, having it listed on Ravelry means I can see in a flash just what I've got. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen.

Letters in the post. I don't get many letters these days, people tend to send emails or texts rather than writing so it makes it all the more special when a letter does arrive. I received a lovely letter from an old family friend earlier this month, it was lovely to hear from her.

Archie. He was bound to make an appearance, he could feature in every month's post really. How I love this little ball of fluff with the soulful eyes. He's looking a little bedraggled at the moment, he's ready for a trim but the groomer we usually take him to has just upped and left without a word so it's time to find a new one.

What favourites do you have this month? How about joining me and writing a post about them?

Sunday 12 February 2017

Works In Progress

After finishing off Eleanor's Green Socks, I've now got a couple of new projects on the go so I thought I'd give you a glimpse of what's on my needles at the moment.

Mick's first pair of socks were finished at the back end of last year, they were knit in a thicker yarn to use in his walking boots so I thought I'd knit him another pair, this time in thinner yarn. I'm just using a basic sock pattern but the variegated yarn keeps it interesting.

I'm using Opal yarn again and like last time, I'm not impressed at all. It feels really rough and scratchy, not at all soft. I've only used Opal on these two occasions and I haven't been happy with it at all. They might wash a bit softer once they're finished, we'll see.

Another pair of socks are on the needles for Eleanor too. I've been wanting to give the Rose City Rollers pattern by Mara Catherine Bryner a go for a while and I thought they'd look good in this Knitglobal Sock yarn in Summer Berries colourway.

These are a short sock, more like a trainer sock, with a rolled top. I love how the colour is working up.

I've heard so much about Hiya Hiya Sharps needles so I bought a set of double pointed needles to try them out, I'm knitting Mick's socks with them. I do like them but I think the KnitPro Zings, which I'm knitting Eleanor's socks with, have the edge. I think the Hiya Hiya Sharps would probably be good for lace knitting where you're picking lots of stitches up or passing them over other stitches, those pointy tips would make short work of that.

What projects have you got on the go at the moment?

Wednesday 8 February 2017

Nigel: My Family And Other Dogs

I used to watch Gardeners' World religiously when I had my allotment but I have to confess, I only caught the odd glimpse of the last series. When I did watch, I always enjoyed seeing Nigel, Monty Don's beautiful golden retriever, whenever he featured in a segment of the programme. Mick bought me Monty's latest book, Nigel: My Family And Other Dogs, for Christmas and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Split in to short chapters, it tells Nigel's story right back from puppy hood through to his back injury, his life 'on set' and everything in between. There's lots of snippets of information about Longmeadow, the garden which Monty and Nigel share with viewers on Gardeners' World, along with tales of other dogs which have shared Monty's life.

I'm not ashamed to say that I shed tears, both of sadness and joy, as Monty describes the relationships he's had with various dogs throughout the course of his life. It's a charming read and would appeal to any dog lover.

If you want to know what else I've been reading lately, you can find a list in the sidebar. This shows all the books I've read this year and there's also lists of the books I've read right back to 2012.

Sunday 5 February 2017

Green Socks

Phew! Am I glad that these are off the needles? The answer is a resounding YES!

Eleanor put in a special request for some plain green socks, plain in every way, plain green yarn and the plainest of plain patterns. No problem, or so I thought, I'll have these knit up in no time at all. I started them well before Christmas and they were finished on the 27th of January. They weren't straight forward though, far from it.

I had a look at Cascade Heritage yarn and they had a number of different shades of green in their range so I let Eleanor decide which one she wanted, she went for sage. I have to say that this yarn is lovely to use, it's very soft and squishy and at £7.99 per skein, it doesn't break the bank. I shall use it again, in fact, I've got more in my stash. I used a very plain pattern as per Eleanor's instructions.

I'd just about finished the first sock, I got half way through the toe shaping and I made a mistake on the decreases. It was over the Christmas period when my dad was in hospital and I was under a lot of stress and instead of just taking back the mistake, I pulled the whole sock off the needles, unravelled it all and started again. I know, how ridiculous. I actually made lots of mistakes when making these socks and spent so much time taking them back, I don't know if it was because I just wasn't in the zone for crafting with so much else going on at the time or whether it was because I sometimes become a little bit complacent when working on something so simple. Simple it didn't turn out to be!

But, they're now done and I can heave a sigh of relief. Eleanor had a few days at home at the end of January as she wasn't very well, and they met with her approval, just what she wanted, she said. Just as well as I could have probably knit them three times over with the number of times they were taken back.

By the way, the ridge underneath the right sock in the above photos is because Eleanor wears ankle bracelets, nothing to do with my knitting!

I can now choose something to knit with a little more interest. Hooray!

Thursday 2 February 2017

A Muddy Walk At Lotherton

Sunday dawned frosty but by early afternoon the sun was trying to put in an appearance so we decided to make use of our annual membership and head off to Lotherton Hall to take Archie for a walk.

We usually do the Boundary Walk around the edge of the estate but it looked very muddy and we were a bit silly really, we hadn't worn our walking boots.

Instead, we decided to do as the sign suggested.

We took a walk through the woodland where the paths make it much less muddy, though I still had to clean my boots when I got home.

The orchard was looking quite bare devoid of leaves. Lotherton has an Apple Day in October and I've been meaning to visit this for the last few years but still haven't made it. Perhaps this year. There looks to be some wonderful varieties.

We walked back through the formal gardens. They look so different in the winter months with the lack of colour.

Daniel and Eleanor always used to enjoy visiting the William and Mary garden whenever we went to Lotherton when they were children, especially at the time when frogs were spawing as the pond was always full of frogspawn and tadpoles. It's always a favourite with children.

I wrote about the pet cemetery in my Lotherton Hall And Doggy Ghosts post, there's also more information about Lotherton Hall in this post too.

We passed the little chapel on our way back to the car. This is the oldest building at Lotherton and dates back to the 1100s.

It was nice to get out of the house for a decent walk, as I've mentioned before, it does improve my mood. I'm so lucky that we're spoilt for choice really where we live, there's so many places which are more or less on our doorstep. I just hope that the weather holds for a bit now so that we can get out and about a bit more.