Friday 28 July 2017

Life's A Beach

We're away to the Lincolnshire coast tomorrow for the first week of our summer holidays.

The weather forecast's looking a bit mixed at the moment so I'm just hoping we'll be able to get some days on the beach, as well as doing a bit of sightseeing in between lots of relaxation.

I keep saying that this will probably be the last holiday that either of our children come with us, I said it last year and the year before, but yet again, Eleanor's decided that she'll come with us. I'm really pleased because she's such good company, both for me and for Mick.

We're staying in a lodge by the edge of a lake on which fishing is permitted. Both Mick and Eleanor fish when they're on holiday so I'm sure I'll get a bit of reading and knitting time in whilst they're both happy doing other things. Don't worry, they don't leave me on my own for long, they only fish on an evening when I'm quite happy to have a bit of me time.

I know this won't be the last holiday that Eleanor's with us as we have another week booked in Norfolk this summer and Eleanor's coming with us then too. I love it that my nineteen year old daughter doesn't deem it uncool to go away with her parents. I suppose it helps that we're paying for her.

I believe the lodge we're staying in does have wi-fi but I'm looking forward to some time without technology so I doubt I'll be doing any blogging until I return home. See you all in August.

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Shopping In York

I mentioned in my last post that I went shopping in York last week. I took my pocket camera with me, intending to take a few photos to share with you, however, I think it's broken. It turns on and then turns off again, even when there's fully charged batteries in it. What to do. I've never taken a photo on my phone in my life, but faced with this situation, I soon learnt how to. Isn't it easy? I must warn you though that the photos aren't very good, I'm out of contract later this year so I'll be looking for a phone with a better camera now, it'll save me having to carry a separate camera about with me all the time.

Mick was working in York last Friday so I decided to tag along, he said he'd be able to drop me off on his way and then pick me up again when he finished. I got to York just in time for the shops opening and it was lovely and quiet, I've never seen the Shambles so empty. The buildings in this historic street are from the fifteenth century and though you don't get a very good idea from this photo, they lean into the middle of the street and their roofs almost touch. It was historically a street of butchers shops and houses. Records from 1872 state there were twenty six butchers on this street. The Shambles is believed to have been the inspiration for Diagon Alley in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series so it's no wonder that a Harry Potter themed shop has sprung up there, The Shop That Must Not Be Named stocks all manner of Harry Potter merchandise and must be number one on the list for any fan visiting York.

I had a little mooch around the Shambles Market. It isn't a large market but there's a variety of different stalls.

One of the things I love about York is that there's so many independent shops along with all the high street stores. Fossgate dates back to Roman times and was home to York's fishmarket. Traders brought their wares from the east coast to sell, a tradition which lasted right up to the Victorian era. Fossgate today is full of independent businesses, cafes, bars and shops.

This guy was tempting me to go in to the Teddy Bear Shop on Stonegate. I managed to resist but Eleanor's still got soft toys I've bought from here in the past.

If I hadn't been on my own I could have been persuaded to go in to this charming little pub for a swift half. Mind you, it's said to be haunted so perhaps not. The Punch Bowl has been a pub for over four centuries.

York Minster, such an imposing building. It can be seen towering over the surrounding shopping streets. It's many years since I've been inside the Minster, there's an admission charge these days which starts from £10, I consider that to be quite hefty. I remember visiting when I was a child and seeing someone brought down from the tower on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance as they'd suffered a heart attack at the top. It's funny the things you remember, and it made me wary of climbing all those stairs. Then back in 1984 I remember the photos on the front of the Yorkshire Post showing the Minster on fire after it had been struck by lightning. It caused £2.25m worth of damage.

You can't go to York without visiting Betty's Tea Rooms. You can see how popular Betty's is, just look at everyone waiting for a table. I bypassed the queue and went in to the shop instead where I chose some tasty treats to take home with me.

Two chocolate and passion fruit bombs, two caramel slices and a chocolate and orange rascal.

Two ganache mice, a sheep cupcake and a marzipan pig, how cute is he?

Don't worry, they weren't all for us, one of the bombs was shared three ways, it was so rich, it was delicious though.

I also came home with a couple of bargains which I picked up in the M&S sale as well as some make up, some cards I'll be needing for upcoming birthdays, some yarn I picked up from a wonderful wool shop on Colliergate and some fancy shampoo and conditioner that Eleanor uses. I also couldn't resist this sign.

If he doesn't lick you to death, he'll get you with his waggy tail.

Mick picked me up again at about 2pm. I'd had such a lovely day that I didn't want it to end so we picked Eleanor up from home and went out to Bella Italia for Pizza before she had to go to work.

Mick tells me he'll be going back to see the same customer in York again soon so I may just have a repeat of this shopping trip then.

Monday 24 July 2017

Raindrops On Roses - July

These are a few of my favourite things.

An anniversary bouquet. Mick and I celebrated our twenty seventh wedding anniversary earlier this month and I was quite taken aback when he surprised me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers as we don't really celebrate our anniversaries. We usually get each other a card but that's it. The photo doesn't do the bouquet justice, it was huge and contained roses, lilies, carnations, alstroemeria, gerbera among other flowers which I don't recognise. He can be romantic when he tries.

Outdoor events at Lotherton Hall. I've posted many times about our visits to Lotherton Hall. This month there were two events which we popped along to. The first was an Edwardian weekend where there were lots of themed activities for families. It was a beautiful day but we only went in the morning so we missed the brass band which was due to play later on in the afternoon. We did make it on time for the Punch and Judy show though, not that I'm a fan really. There was lots of Edwardian fun for the children with sideshows including splat the rat, high striker and coconut shy, and there was dressing up in the hall as well as craft activities. Last Thursday we were invited to a Member's Summer Party. It was 6pm to 8pm and as well as a scavenger hunt, there was a barbecue and a live band. It was a lovely evening but we gave the scavenger hunt a miss, preferring instead to sit on deckchairs whilst we listened to the band and ate our hotdogs.

Bargain shoes. Clarks had their sale on this month and I managed to snag a pair of shoes marked down from £50 to £25. The great thing about this is that it's years since I've bought a pair of shoes, I usually wear sandals in summer and boots in winter and that's it. I've mentioned before how I've had trouble all my life with shoes rubbing my feet, so I tend to buy footwear and stick with them until they literally fall off my feet. Comfort before style every time for me. So, when I found these shoes, which feel really comfy, I snapped them up. They'll do nicely for the transition from sandals to boots. I just need to wear them in a bit now, plasters at the ready.

Shopping in York. I don't get chance very often to spend time alone just looking around shops, I won't leave Archie long on his own so if I go shopping, it's usually with something in mind and I'm there and back. With Eleanor being at home I've got the chance to leave Archie with her and please myself for the day. I went to Leeds last week but it definitely isn't one of my favourite places, there's all the high street names there and lots of designer shops, but they're really not my thing. I much prefer York which also has the high street names, but there's also lots of independent shops there too. Mick was working in York on Friday so I decided I'd hitch a lift, I was there about four and a half hours and I had a lovely time looking around the shops.

A Street Cat Named Bob. I'd read both of the Bob books and noticed that the film had recently been released on Sky so on Saturday afternoon, whilst Mick was at cricket and Eleanor was working, I sat down to enjoy it, and enjoy it I did. Based on the true story of James Bowen, a recovering drug addict, and his loveable ginger cat, Bob, it's an inspirational tale of how someone can turn their life around. When James met a stray ginger cat, he had all the inspiration he needed to get clean. Bob plays himself in the film and, of course, he steals the show.

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

Friday 21 July 2017

Snail Mail - July 2017

I've had some lovely things drop through my letterbox just lately so I thought I'd share some of them with you.

I was a little confused when a large envelope addressed to me was delivered last week, I wasn't expecting anything at that time so I wondered what it could be. Julie from Julie's Stitchyknitter Journal had been on holiday to Norfolk and, knowing we'd recently booked a holiday there, had picked up some information whilst she was out and about to send to me. What a kind thing to do, especially as she hasn't been very well just lately, yet she was still thinking about me. Thank you, Julie, we're still reading through it but we're making lots of notes for when we visit Norfolk ourselves. I'm always so blown away by the kindness and generosity of people in the blogging community.

The next parcel was delivered earlier this week, two scrummy skeins from Giddy Yarns. Helen has only recently opened her Etsy shop, in fact, I was her very first customer. I know Helen from her Giddy Knits podcast and this is where I saw her showing the colourways she was going to have on sale. I could have actually gone mad, there were quite a few which appealed to me, but I settled on Roadkill Peppa, a variegated/graduated pink colourway with dark brown and red speckles, so named by Helen after she had thoughts of Peppa Pig getting run over after watching far too many episodes with her children. I missed out on Peppa Pig myself, my two were born just a little too early, but I know how fed up you get with watching the same thing with children over and over again, it was Thomas the Tank Engine and Teletubbies with Daniel and Eleanor. The second colourway is called Dorothy and is variegated and speckled. Inspired by Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, it contains the blue and white of her dress, the red of her ruby slippers and green and yellow speckles to represent the yellow brick road and Emerald City. I couldn't be more pleased with my purchase, they both look even better in real life than they do in photos, and they're both so soft being 75% superwash merino and 25% nylon. I need to find some special projects in which to use these.

I was lucky enough to win a prize in Nicola's Try Something New knit along on her Bumble Stitches podcast. You may remember the Duotone Cowl which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, well this is the project which I entered, along with a couple of others, and my name got drawn as a winner. The prize was a beautiful project bag made by Nicola herself, three mini skeins and a bee stitch marker which you can see in the photo attached to the zip of the bag. Thank you, Nicola, it's a fabulous prize and it will all be put to very good use.

I think you'll agree that some wonderful mail has dropped through my letterbox this month, I'm a very lucky girl.

Tuesday 18 July 2017

The Last Letter From Your Lover

It took me quite a while to get in to this book. I'm not sure if my reading mojo isn't completely there at the moment or if it's the books themselves which just aren't doing it for me, there's been a few lately that I've struggled with.

The Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes is split into three parts and once I got over the first, it was plain sailing, in fact, I couldn't wait to read on to find out what happened.

Set in two time periods, the 1960s and 2003, the book tells the story of Jennifer Stirling, a woman married to a wealthy man and living the life of luxury. When she falls in love with another man, she's risking everything she has.

Fast forward to 2003 and Ellie Haworth is dating a married man. Though she believes she's happy, deep down things aren't all what they seem.

Ellie is a journalist for a national newspaper and when she stumbles upon some love letters from the 1960s, both Jennifer's and Ellie's lives entwine.

I've become a fan of Jojo Moyes since reading Me Before You last year, and though it did take some time to get in to this book initially, I did enjoy it in the end and would recommend it.

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.

Saturday 15 July 2017

Pink Flamingo Socks

Another pair of Christmas socks knitted up, the gift drawer is filling up nicely. I'm determined I'm not going to be at the last minute with my Christmas knitting this year.

These socks are for Daniel's girlfriend and they're the first pair of socks I've knitted with contrasting cuffs, heels and toes. I used West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply, the main body of the sock is knitted in Pink Flamingo colourway and the cuffs, heels and toes are knitted in the Candyfloss colourway. I like how West Yorkshire Spinners do colours which mix and match with each other.

I used the Vanilla Latte Socks pattern again, a nice simple pattern but not totally plain.

I'm pleased how these socks have turned out and I shall definitely knit contrasting cuffs, heels and toes again.

Wednesday 12 July 2017

Home Grown Goodness

I'm not growing very much in the garden this year but I'm very much looking forward to the things that I have got out there.

There's only four containers filled with potatoes this year, two of Sharpes Express and two of Anya. I harvested the first of the Sharpes Express recently and though the harvest was rather small, the spuds tasted delicious. I'll leave the other three containers for a while longer to see if I can get a slightly larger yield from them.

I have three blueberry bushes which I grow in pots, each plant produced lots of fruit last year, however, only one is going to be productive this year. The second one is producing a meagre crop of berries and the third seems to be having a year off altogether.

The tomato plants are flowering and fruit is beginning to form. They're a little behind this year as the seeds were sown quite late but they'll ripen eventually. I usually grow about a dozen plants made up of a few varieties but I've cut right back this year, there's just four plants and they're all Maskotka.

There should be a good harvest when autumn comes around, my Gloster apple tree is only small but it's absolutely laden with fruit. I'm not sure if they'll all make it to maturity but it's looking good so far.

I must admit that I do miss all the fresh vegetables I used to get from my allotment but I don't miss the hard work, and a lot of time has been freed up since I gave it up. I'm still able to grow a few things in the garden so I'm pleased about that.

Sunday 9 July 2017

Vanilla Latte Socks

This is my first time using West Yorkshire Spinners yarn and I'm really impressed. It's a little more rustic than the snuggly soft indie yarn which is so popular at the moment, but I think it will wear well and it knits up beautifully.

I bought this yarn from Spring Into Wool back in April, it's WYS Signature 4 Ply in the Mallard colourway from their Country Birds collection and they're the latest socks I've knit for a Christmas gift. These socks were intended for Daniel but now they're knitted up, I'm not sure they're his colour. I'm not sure he'll like such pronounced stripes either. I may very well gift them to my dad for Christmas instead as they're more his thing, either way, they'll be a Christmas gift.

I used the Vanilla Latte Socks pattern by Virginia Rose-Jeanes and I'm very pleased with it, a nice simple pattern which shows the yarn off well. They're very similar to a plain sock, the only difference being the vertical stripes which have been created by purling a few stitches in each alternate row, it adds a little extra interest in both the knitting and the finished item.

This pattern allows you to decide on a few things for yourself. Firstly, the cuff. I went with a 1X1 Rib but the pattern also suggests other options. I went with an Eye of Partridge heel and a Rounded Wedge Toe but again, other options are given.

I've got a couple of things that I've made tucked away for Christmas now. I haven't gifted anything hand made for a couple of years as in the past, I've left everything till the last minute and then it all gets rather stressful trying to finish things off in time, but I really want to make some gifts again this year so I'm determined to have everything done in good time.

How about you, do you give hand made presents and if so, have you started making anything yet? I'd love to know.

Thursday 6 July 2017

Bedtime Stories

I recently came across some books which I'd kept from when Daniel and Eleanor were very young. They both used to enjoy being read to, particularly at bedtime, and it's something which both Mick and I used to take turns in doing.

These were some particular favourites.

Actually, I'm not sure why The Very Hungry Caterpillar is in there as I can't say it was a book which anyone enjoyed very much, me included. I know it's been raved about over the years but perhaps it's just outdated now. My house was filled with children's books and there were many more which I would rate higher than this. Incidentally, the local primary school did very well when I cleared my bookshelves as the children grew out of books.

The book which was Eleanor's absolute favourite was Where's My Teddy? and It's The Bear by Jez Alborough.

It's The Bear was her favourite story, about Eddy and his mum going on a picnic. It's written in rhyme, which is usually a hit with youngsters.

The best bit for Eleanor was hearing what food was going in the picnic basket and when we got to I've forgotten to pack, she'd shout out THE BLUEBERRY PIE!

I Don't Want To Go To Bed by Julie Sykes and Tim Warnes is a charming book. Little Tiger never wants to go to bed and getting fed up with his protests, his mummy tells him he can stay up all night.

It doesn't take long for Little Tiger to discover that it isn't fun staying up when all his friends are in bed, and the jungle can be a scary place on your own after dusk. Don't worry, a friendly bush baby soon takes him home where his mummy is waiting to tuck him up for the night.

A personal favourite of mine is The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear.

I always finished off the bedtime reading with this book.

Both Daniel and Eleanor can now recite this well known poem without the need to have the words in front of them. It just goes to show how much of what they hear when young actually sticks in their minds.

How about you and your children? Any favourite children's books?

Monday 3 July 2017

Duotone Cowl

I had no intention of knitting the Duotone Cowl, a free pattern by Orange Flower Yarn, that is until I saw Helen from Giddy Knits mention in her Ravelry group that she was going to knit one for the Summer Stripe Along CAL. Two colours are worked in a series of stripes which switch in size half way around the cowl. As it's knit in stocking stitch, I thought it would make a nice easy project for when I'm watching TV. As it happens, there were a couple of things which challenged me in this pattern.

Firstly, a crochet provisional cast on is required, something I haven't done before, but it was easy enough with the help of a You Tube tutorial. It's so easy these days to learn something new, it seems there's a tutorial for almost everything on You Tube. A provisional cast on is a removable crochet chain which allows you to keep your stitches live so that once the chain is removed, the cast on stitches may still be worked. The waste yarn is removed when the knitting is complete, ready to graft the ends together. This isn't a very good photo but you can see that I used an orange yarn when I worked the provisional cast on and this is the crochet chain which is ultimately removed.

The second thing which was challenging was the grafting of both ends. The cowl is knit in the round, like a long tube, and then kitchener stitch is used at the end, after the waste yarn is removed from the provisional cast on, to graft the two ends together. The kitchener stitch was easy enough, I use it on the toes of the socks I knit, the thing which was rather tricky was manipulating two circular needles in a position to get started. I managed it in the end though and I must say that the result is far more pleasing than it would have been had I had to sew the ends together.

When I came to start this project, I decided I would use yarn I already had in my stash. The only DK yarn I had was Stylecraft Special DK so I thought I'd go with that. I've got a purple windcheater jacket which I use when I walk Archie so I went with wisteria and silver colourways, I think these will go well with my jacket and being knit in acrylic yarn, will be easy enough to throw in the washing machine when dirty.

I followed the pattern exactly and I like the length it's turned out to be, however, it would be simple to make the cowl longer, so that it can wrap around your neck a couple of times, should you so wish.

I'm really pleased how it's turned out, the stripe effect works very well. I'm all set now for the cold weather when it arrives, though I'm hoping we get a scorching hot summer first.