Friday 31 March 2017

Projects On The Go

I used to be a one project at a time kind of girl but that's all changed over the last couple of years, now there's any number of projects on the go at any one time. Here's what's on my needles at the moment.

Antarktis Shawl by Janina Kallio. That's the photo from the pattern above. I won't say anything about how the shawl is knitted up as it's a paid for pattern on Ravelry but it's made with a technique I've never used before. It's easy enough for anyone with limited knitting skills to make and I like the fact that it only uses one skein of fingering weight yarn. I'm using Debbie Bliss Fine Donegal in teal colourway which was gifted to me by Leah at Faith's Craft Box in a swap. It's a 95% wool 5% cashmere blend and a tweed type yarn. I'm loving how it's knitting up so far.

Hermione's Everyday Socks by Erica Lueder. This is a free pattern on Ravelry and one which I've knit before. I used a patterned yarn when I knit these last time and I thought I'd see what the pattern came out like with a plain yarn, I'm using Cascade Heritage in the charcoal colourway. I love this yarn, it's so soft and squishy and just as I thought, the pattern is showing up beautifully in this solid colour. I know Eleanor has a liking for things in grey so they might end up being for her, though I'm not sure the pattern will be her sort of thing, she likes things plain. I don't mind either way as I'd quite like to keep these myself.

Neville's Socks. This is another sock pattern which is based on a Harry Potter character and another one by Erica Lueder. This designer has some wonderful free patterns on Ravelry. I first heard of Neville's Socks when I was watching Giddy Knits, a relatively new podcast which I'm thoroughly enjoying. I'm using a yarn from Wharfedale Woolworks, this is a Superwash Blue Faced Leicester in neon iris #2 colourway, and it's been sat in my stash for near on six years now so it's definitely time it saw the light of day. I used something very similar for my Sockalong Socks. The colourway is slightly different this time, there's much more purple/lilac in the mix so it will be interesting to see the difference in colour as it's knitted up. I haven't got very far but the pattern is just starting to emerge.

I'm trying out Drops Fabel yarn for the first time with these plain socks. This is the Lavender Print colourway and I'm quite impressed so far. It's a very inexpensive yarn but is reasonably soft and is knitting up well. I suppose the proof of the pudding will be in the wearing once they're finished but I'm very hopeful from what I've seen so far.

As you can see, I haven't got very far yet with any of these projects so they should keep me out of mischief for quite a while. I'm enjoying having lots of different things on the needles so that I can choose what I feel like working on at any particular time. How about you? Do you stick to one thing or are you like me and have lots of things on the go at once?

Monday 27 March 2017

Weekending In Wales

The only times I've visited Wales in the past have been for family occasions. My brother married a Welsh girl from Powys, Mid Wales, and though they lived in Leeds, they married there and had their daughter's christening there so we travelled there for those events. Unfortunately, the marriage didn't last and his ex wife and daughter moved back to Wales. In later years we went back to Wales to visit my niece and for her 18th birthday celebrations but each time was to the same place. I wanted to see some other parts of Wales so to encourage me to book a trip I included it on my 50 before 50 list and it worked because we visited North Wales this weekend.

We stayed in the market town of Denbigh and it was a good base from which to travel around. We booked a deal on Wowcher, just £89 for two for two nights including breakfast and it also included an allowance of £15 per person towards a meal on the first night with a glass of wine each, though we had a £10 supplement for staying on a Saturday and we had an extra £10 per night to pay for Archie. It was a cracking deal though, the hotel was lovely, an old coaching inn dating back to the 17th century. Some of the features were quirky but this added to its charm and the food and hospitality was very good.

We didn't spend much time in Denbigh itself, which is a shame really as it looked to have lots of lovely shops and a castle and town walls.

There's lots of little snickets and alleyways where more shops are tucked out of view.

The high street with hills in the distance.

Mick had to work on Friday, he'd got an important meeting so he couldn't leave very early so it was late when we set off. We eventually arrived after 8pm so our first night was spent in the hotel. Saturday dawned bright and sunny so we set off in search of a beach. I've often heard Colwyn Bay mentioned so we decided that would be our first port of call.  The beach area was very quiet and we managed to get parked right by the side of the sands without any problem at all. It's a beautiful beach, such a huge expanse of sand and shingle and Archie loved running around and darting in and out of the sea.

I usually do a bit of beachcombing when I'm at the seaside and there were plenty of interesting things to see here. How about a starfish?

Or some interesting seaweed? I haven't seen any seaweed like this before but there was plenty of it about.

I think something must have been having a good feed as there were quite a few dead crabs around.

When we'd tired Archie out we decided that we weren't all that far away from Anglesey so we'd have a drive there. We crossed from the mainland of Wales in to Anglesey by the Britannia Bridge. This bridge was built to provide a direct rail link between London and the port of Holyhead, and railway pioneer George Stephenson's son, Robert, was the chief engineer. The bridge was opened in 1850 but was greatly damaged in 1970 by a serious fire. It was partly rebuilt and in 1980, the upper road level was formally opened carrying a single carriageway section of the A55 road.

We couldn't believe the glorious weather we were having, we've been so lucky with these recent weekends away, both this time and a fortnight ago when we were Visiting The Offspring, so we headed to another beach. My auntie and uncle used to live in Benllech and though I never visited them there, I knew it was a seaside destination so we made our way there. It's another place with a huge expanse of sand and Archie loved spending some time in the rock pools as well as the sea.

Judging by the amount of caravans here, I think Benllech must be a popular holiday destination.

Wherever we were in Wales there was beautiful scenery, I loved this beach with the mountains in the background.

Before we crossed back in to mainland Wales I wanted to visit the place with the longest name in Europe and the second longest one word place name in the world. The long name was invented for promotional purposes in the 1860s and has fifty eight characters. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. This is the old railway station.

As we approached the bridge to cross back in to mainland Wales, we pulled in to a layby at the side of the Menai Strait where we could see the island Ynys Gorad Goch. There's a house built on the island and also the remains of fish traps which are no longer used. In the background you can see the snow capped Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales at an elevation of 1085 metres above sea level.

The Menai Suspension Bridge was built by Thomas Telford and was completed in 1826. It's a Grade 1 listed building. There was no fixed connection to the mainland before the completion of this bridge and the primary means of access to and from Anglesey was by ferry across the Menai Strait.

Driving across the Menai Bridge.

It was late afternoon by this time but there was still one place I wanted to visit. As we drove there, we passed through Snowdonia National Park. The scenery was spectacular.

Betws-y-Coed is the principal village of the Snowdonia National Park. It's surrounded by dense woodland and it's where the River Conwy meets its three tributaries flowing from the West, the Llugwy, the Lledr and the Machno.

The Swallow Falls waterfall is the most famous attraction nearby, however, as it was already early evening and darkness was starting to fall, we stayed in the village. It's somewhere we can visit when we return.

When we got back to our hotel, we once again had our evening meal there followed by a few drinks in the bar before retiring, very tired (me and Archie) to our room (I think Mick could have kept going).

We had a lovely full Welsh breakfast again on Sunday and I just need to mention here that I managed to cross something else off my 50 before 50 list. I'd asked for the black pudding to be left off my Welsh breakfast, however, it was on my plate when the waitress brought it out so I thought, oh well, I'll give it a try. Black pudding is something that I've never fancied knowing what it's made from (usually pigs blood mixed with fat and oatmeal) but I thought as it was there on my plate I'd give it a go. It reminded me of a slightly spicy sausage but I just couldn't get past the pigs blood element and so after eating about half of it I left the rest on my plate. It does count as trying a food I've never tried before though, so number 18 can now be crossed off my 50 Before 50 list.

After breakfast we decided to head back to Colwyn Bay so that Archie could have a last run on the beach, which he thoroughly enjoyed, and then we headed home.

We've all had a wonderful weekend and though it was only a short break, I think it's done us the world of good. Wales is a beautiful part of the UK, the scenery is spectacular, and it's somewhere I'd definitely like to visit again. As they say, a change is as good as a rest and I've had both this weekend.

Thursday 23 March 2017

Raindrops On Roses - March

These are a few of my favourite things.

Candy Crush. We often play box games when there's any family gathering but I don't play so many online games. I occasionally play Scrabble but I often get my phone out for a quick blast of Candy Crush whenever I've got a few spare minutes, it passes the time if I'm waiting around. Actually, I must have been waiting around quite a bit as I'm now up to level 620! It can become rather addictive and they only give you so many free lives in a certain time period, extras have to be paid for, but I haven't succumbed to that.

Rachel Piso. If you don't know this blog I would urge you to pop over and take a look. Rachel lives in Pittsburgh and is documenting her life in cross stitch. Rachel's named her project her Tapestree and each little bubble is filled with a memory, something to do with current events or something that she's interested in, in other words, things to do with her life. I'm really enjoying following along and seeing each new little bubble being filled up. If you do pop over to take a look, please tell her that I sent you.

Frogspawn. I'm thrilled to bits that my little pond has been used by the frogs again this year. I put this tiny pond in my garden back in 2009, it measures just 84cm x 64cm but it attracts so much wildlife. Last year was the first time there'd been any frogspawn in there but it never amounted to anything so I'm hoping that this year we might just get some tadpoles. Wouldn't that be lovely?

Harry Potter. I remember reading the first four books in the series to Daniel when he was little but he read the rest himself and I never got any further with them. I decided that I'd like to read all the books, starting again from the beginning, so I put it on my 50 Before 50 list. Well, I've made a start this month and I'm really enjoying the first one, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. I wonder if JK Rowling could have ever imagined just how successful Harry Potter would be when she started writing this first book.

Old fashioned sweeties. Weighed out by the quarter, or rather 100g these days, but still taken from large jars and measured out in to paper bags. These are Pontefract cakes and treacle toffees but it's always a big decision choosing from the large array on offer. It's good to see that so many of the old favourites are still available.

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

Monday 20 March 2017

Rose City Rollers

I finished the Rose City Rollers socks which I was knitting for Eleanor. The pattern is free on Ravelry and is by Mara Catherine Bryner.

They're a short sock, like a trainer sock, with a rolled top and they knit up really quickly. I used Knitglobal Sock yarn in Summer Berries colourway and I have to say that I'm really impressed with the yarn. It's a gorgeous colour and the yarn itself is beautifully soft. One thing I would mention though is that I noticed a huge amount of dye left in the water when I blocked the socks, I'll have to make sure that Eleanor knows to hand wash them separately. This doesn't bother me though and I would love to use this yarn again, I'll have to see what other colours they do it in.

The socks were nicely wrapped and popped in a box of Happy Mail which Mick delivered to Eleanor when he was working in Nottingham and I'm pleased to say that she loved them.

As the Rose City Rollers are only short socks, there was quite a lot of yarn left over from the 100g skein so I thought I'd knit Eleanor another pair of short socks. This time I didn't follow any particular pattern, I just knit eight rows of rib before starting the slip stitch heel and then finished the socks off as I would an ordinary pair of plain socks. I think they've come out very well.

This sock yarn was very reasonably priced and to get two pairs of socks out of one skein is brilliant. I shall wrap this latest pair up and pop them in the next box of Happy Mail to be sent to Eleanor which will be after Easter now as she'll be coming home for the holidays at the end of next week.

I hope she doesn't read this blog post!

Friday 17 March 2017

And Then There Were None

As most of you will know, I've set myself the challenge of reading all 66 of Agatha Christie's detective or mystery novels in chronological order. I usually read one each month and I've now read 26 of them, And Then There Were None being the latest.

I usually read in bed just before I drop asleep, or I allow myself to indulge on a Saturday or Sunday morning before getting up, depending on what time I wake, however, I got about half way through this book and was so involved that I finished the rest off one Sunday afternoon.

Ten strangers, each having a guilty secret, are lured to an isolated island off the Devon coast. One by one they begin to die. An ancient nursery rhyme seems to be counting them down...

Ten little soldier boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were Nine.

Nine little soldier boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were Eight.

Eight little soldier boys travelling in Devon;
One said he'd stay there and then there were Seven.

Seven little soldier boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were Six.

Six little soldier boys playing with a hive;
A bumble bee stung one and then there were Five.

Five little soldier boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were Four.

Four little soldier boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were Three.

Three little soldier boys walking in the Zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were Two.

Two little soldier boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was One.

One little soldier boy left all alone;
He went and hanged himself

And then there were None.

I would heartily recommend this book, whether you're an Agatha Christie fan or not, whether you've read any of her books before or have yet to discover this author. Out of the 26 of her books that I've now read, this is by far my favourite. This book shows off Agatha Christie's talent for crime writing, keeps you guessing right to the very end and, in my opinion, is the perfect whodunnit.

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.

Monday 13 March 2017

Visiting The Offspring

Now that Daniel's living in Surrey, we have to plan any trip we want to take to visit him. He's not just down the road like he was when he was at university in York, he now lives 206 miles away. We decided that instead of making the journey to visit him and then Mick and I staying in a hotel, we'd pick him and his girlfriend up after work on Friday and then whisk us all away somewhere else for the weekend.

Mick took Friday off work and we made the journey down to Surrey. There were plenty of stops along the way so that Archie could get out of the car and stretch his legs. We made good time and arrived just as Daniel was finishing work. He collected the things he'd need for the weekend and we set off again, this time on our way to Oxfordshire. We'd got a good deal on a hotel break on Groupon and luckily, it was a hotel which accepts dogs. We got something to eat on the way to the hotel and after being shown to our rooms, unpacking and freshening up, we all met up in the bar and enjoyed catching up with each other's news.

On Saturday, we had a leisurely breakfast in the hotel and spent the morning relaxing before going for a drive to Henley-on-Thames, famous for the Henley Regatta, a rowing event held annually in July. It was a beautiful day, we'd struck lucky as we couldn't have foreseen that we'd be wandering around without our coats it was so warm. The walk along the river was very pleasant.

Mr and Mrs Mallard were busy attending to personal matters, it takes quite an effort to look so good.

There were lots of Canada geese and they were all keeping their eyes on the many dogs out for a walk, I wouldn't like to bet on who would come out on top should there be any altercation, Archie always steers well clear of them.

Another stretch of the river. I love these riverside dwellings, they're all built on a little island. I think I'd get a bit fed up of having to get in a boat every time I needed to pop to the shops though.

We didn't walk too far before we turned and headed back towards the town.

There were a few boats on the river whilst we were there, many practicing their rowing technique.

This is the boat which took Mick's fancy, it's something he'd love to own if we ever win the lottery.

It was such a beautiful day that it would have been rude not to have an ice-cream as we wandered back in to town.

The town itself is very pretty with its tudor buildings.

It has an attractive high street which has a mixture of boutique style shops amongst the popular high street names.

We called in at a pub on the way back to the hotel for a meal and then once back at the hotel, spent the evening in the bar again playing Trivial Pursuit.

After another leisurely breakfast on Sunday morning, we drove Daniel and his girlfriend back home to Surrey before heading back ourselves to Leeds. We did take a small detour though on the way home. The motorway passes just a couple of miles away from Eleanor's student accommodation in Nottingham so we stopped off to say hello and take her for something to eat. She wasn't expecting us so it was a lovely surprise for her.

I really enjoyed seeing them, Eleanor's just got three weeks now before she breaks up for Easter but I don't know when we'll see Daniel again. We can always do the same again if I miss him too much.

Thursday 9 March 2017

Mick's Socks

I'm definitely going to have to start coming up with some more imaginative names for my knitting projects, aren't I? I've got away with naming the new addition to Mick's sock drawer 'Mick's Socks' only because the first pair of socks that I knit him were the Blueberry Waffle Socks. Should I go on to knit him more pairs of socks, which I'm sure I will as he's very happy with the two pairs I've knit him so far, they can't all be called Mick's Socks.

I used a basic sock pattern for these socks but changed the heel to a slip stitch heel which makes it a little more durable.

The Opal yarn felt very rough and scratchy when I first started using it but it does seem to have softened a little and perhaps it will ease more with wear. I'm happy how easy it was to match the pattern. The yarn is the 'Moments of...' range which reflects emotional moments experienced through life, the one I've used is colourway 9087, Rebellion.

Even though this project is now finished, my needles haven't stayed empty for long, there's been a few new projects cast on which I'll tell you about at a later date.

Tuesday 7 March 2017

The One Plus One Giveaway Winner

Thank you to everyone who entered my giveaway to win The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes. I wish I had enough copies to send one to each of you, but as I don't, there can be only one winner.

The name drawn at random is Julie from Julie's Stitchyknitter Journal blog. Can you please let me have your address details so that I can get the book sent out to you. You can find my email address if you click on 'View my complete profile' in the 'About Me' section in the sidebar. I do hope you enjoy it.

I do hope that those of you who showed an interest in reading the book manage to pick up a copy for yourselves. I actually found a copy in the library so you may be lucky there.

Friday 3 March 2017

50 Before 50 - Update 1

I started my 50 Before 50 list on my 48th birthday, you can see the list and read about it in my 50 Before 50 - Part One and 50 Before 50 - Part Two posts. As it's now exactly six months since I set myself this task, I thought I'd give you an update of how I'm doing so far.

There aren't many things I can actually cross off the list yet, but there's a few, and I'm working towards others.

Number 14 on the list is Visit A Christmas Market. I've always wanted to go to the Christmas market in Lincoln, it's only held on one weekend over the Christmas period but having looked in to going, I discovered that they don't allow dogs. We can't leave Archie at home for a full day so we had to change our plans. We picked Eleanor up from university on the 10th of December for the Christmas holidays so we decided that before making our way home, we'd head in to Nottingham City Centre and visit their Christmas market. You can read all about it in The Wanderer Returns post. It would be nice if we could visit another market this Christmas too, though sadly, it won't be Lincoln.

Watch All The Harry Potter Films is number 33 on the list. I'd already seen some of the earlier films but I watched them again and worked my way through all eight. I suppose that Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them counts as a Harry Potter film now so I shall watch that too once it becomes available on Sky.

The first thing I crossed off the list was Climb Flamborough Lighthouse which is number 38 on the list. You can read all about that in my Flamborough Lighthouse post.

Number 48 on the list is Attend The Christmas Lights Switch On. The event in our small town happened on the 26th of Novemeber and Mick and I went along to support it. You can read all about it in my Christmas Lights Switch On post.

When Eleanor started at Nottingham Trent University, I thought it would be a good opportunity to get to know the city a little better. Explore Nottingham is number 50 on the list. So far, we've only visited once and you can read what we got up to in my Wollaton Hall post. Of course, we also visited the Christmas market when we picked Eleanor up in December which I mentioned above, but there's lots of other places I'd like to see when we visit again.

So I've made a start on the list, though I really need to get cracking if I'm going to cross off all fifty things before my 50th birthday. I think some things will be easier to get to grips with once we get some warmer weather, after all, who wants to go on a picnic in the rain?