Tuesday 31 December 2019

Looking Back At 2019

2019 has been a sad year for me with the death of my mum in March. It's felt as though bereavement has overwhelmed my year, but looking back over my blog posts I can see that it hasn't all been doom and gloom. Yes, I've had plenty of down days, but I've had lots of happy times too. Let's take a look.

We had A Blustery Weekend at the end of January but it didn't keep us indoors, we took Archie out for walks on both the Saturday and Sunday.

In February I told you about the Hobonichi Techo which I'd recently bought. I was hoping that going back to a page a day diary would encourage me to journal on a daily basis and I'm pleased to say that it has. There hasn't been one day which I've missed since starting it.

Mick had quite a bit of annual leave to use up in March and took some of it towards the end of the month. We had a bit of a staycation which I told you about in my Holiday Week post.

I wrote my Up Days And Down Days post towards the end of April. It had been a hard few weeks since my mum died and I wanted to thank everyone who had taken the time to leave lovely comments and send emails and cards, they were all very much appreciated.

In May we had a Day Out In Derbyshire. It was a weekday so we avoided the crowds and we had a wonderful time.

Whilst having a day in the Yorkshire Dales in June, we literally stumbled upon Clapham. I've been visiting the Dales all my life yet this is the first time I've come across this beautiful village. We've visited again since.

2019 saw the hottest July day on record and it just so happened to coincide with Eleanor's Graduation. We were flagging in the heat but it was a wonderful occasion and we're very proud parents.

I told you about the Warty Pigs And Rock Hyraxes, as well as other animals, which we saw on a trip to Lotherton Hall in August. We're so lucky to live close to this Edwardian country hall and estate, there's always something going on there.

We had A Bumper Apple Harvest in September. The trees we have in our garden are just dwarf patio trees so we're lucky that they produce as much fruit as they do. This year was exceptional though.

Autumn arrived in October. I always try to cling onto Summer for as long as I can, I'm not a lover of the darker evenings and colder days, but there was no denying that summer was long gone.

It's not often that I'm poorly, I don't even get many colds, but I was Under The Weather with some sort of bug in November. I had a bad chest, aches and pains and felt generally grotty. I developed a cough which lasted for weeks.

I visited a new yarn show in December. Yorkshire Yarn Fest was held in two barns on a farm and though it was rather cold, there were some great dyers there. I came away with some lovely purchases.

A very special thank you to everyone who has visited my blog this year, especially those who have left comments and those who left such supportive messages when my mum died. It's been a tough year but I think this post illustrates that I didn't just get through it, I did manage to enjoy a big part of it too. Wishing you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2020.

Happy New Year!

Saturday 28 December 2019

Books Read In 2019

My reading dropped off a bit this year after my mum died but I've still managed to read forty books. I'm pleased to say that my reading mojo seems to be well and truly back now so long may that continue.

Back in 2015 I challenged myself to read Agatha Christie's murder mystery books in chronological order. There are 66 in total and I've averaged one book each month in between reading other books. I've now read 60 in total, which means I'll complete this challenge next year, hopefully.

This year I've mainly continued with favourites such as Jojo Moyes, Amanda Prowse, Philippa Gregory and Charity Norman but there are a few new to me authors that I've read too.

The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory
4.50 From Paddington - Agatha Christie
The Child - Fiona Barton
Ordeal by Innocence - Agatha Christie
Three Things About Elsie - Joanna Cannon
Three and a Half Heartbeats - Amanda Prowse
Cat Among the Pigeons - Agatha Christie
Casting Off - P.I.Paris
The Pale Horse - Agatha Christie
The Mirror Crack'd - Agatha Christie
The Coordinates of Loss - Amanda Prowse
The Clocks - Agatha Christie
The Secret - Kathryn Hughes
The Girl in the Corner - Amanda Prowse
The Ship of Brides - Jojo Moyes
The Key - Kathryn Hughes
A Caribbean Mystery - Agatha Christie
The House of Unexpected Sisters - Alexander McCall Smith
The Boleyn Inheritance - Philippa Gregory
At Bertram's Hotel - Agatha Christie
Nine Perfect Strangers - Liane Moriarty
This is Going to Hurt - Adam Kay
Third Girl - Agatha Christie
Nella Last's War - Nella Last
Love, Nina - Nina Stibbe
The Tattooist of Auschwitz - Heather Morris
The Taming of the Queen - Philippa Gregory
The Things I Know - Amanda Prowse
Still Me - Jojo Moyes
Endless Night - Agatha Christie
By the Pricking of My Thumbs - Agatha Christie
Halloween Party - Agatha Christie
The Queen's Fool - Philippa Gregory
The Horse Dancer - Jojo Moyes
Her Last Promise - Kathryn Hughes
The Virgin's Lover - Philippa Gregory
Freeing Grace - Charity Norman
The Other Queen - Philippa Gregory
Queen Victoria - Lucy Worsley
A Million Dreams - Dani Atkins

It's too hard to choose a favourite from this year's list but noteable reads were The Other Boleyn Girl and The Queen's Fool, both by Philippa Gregory, The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes, Nella Last's War by Nella Last and The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris.

My 'waiting to be read' pile has been reduced considerably this year but there's still a few books that I haven't got round to yet and I was also bought some books for Christmas, so my reading intentions this year are to read all the books which are still waiting to be read before buying more, and to finish off my Agatha Christie challenge. I'll then have to think up a new challenge.

Monday 23 December 2019

Merry Christmas 2019

Daniel and Jasmine spent last Christmas with her family in Colorado so it was a quiet Christmas for us. They're with us again this year, which I'm really pleased about, but it's the first Christmas without my lovely mum so it's going to be bitter sweet.

It really does help having family around when you're feeling sad. I know I'm not the only one who has lost a loved one this year so I'm sending my thoughts out to those in the same position as me, as well as all my lovely friends who have been so kind and thoughtful this year, leaving such kind comments and helping me through this difficult time.

Wishing you all a happy and peaceful Christmas.

Friday 20 December 2019

Driving Home For Christmas

The family are all arriving tonight ready for the Christmas holidays.

Everyone's got time off work over the holiday period, Eleanor finished on Tuesday and has been at her boyfriend's house from Wednesday, they're coming home later today, and Mick was working in Basingstoke yesterday and today so he'll pick Daniel and Jasmine up on his way home as they've finished today. Daniel's got to work on the 27th but he can work from here, and Eleanor has to work on the 27th too but other than that, everyone's off work until the 2nd of January. It will be a lovely long break and the family will be all together for much of it.

I'm looking forward to seeing them all, it's nearly four months since we've seen Daniel and Jasmine. I was hoping to be all ready for Christmas but I've still got some last minute jobs to do. I'll be able to finish them off whilst they're all doing their own thing.

Not long now, five sleeps to go.

Tuesday 17 December 2019

What I'm Watching - December 2019

TV and film that I've been watching this month.

I read Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey back in 2016 and it has now been made into a TV drama which I recorded and watched last week. Glenda Jackson took the leading role of Maud and what a fantastic performance. Maud's friend, Elizabeth, goes missing and Maud's determined to find out what happened to her, but in the process, an old mystery comes to light. Running alongside this storyline is a brutally honest depiction of what it's like to live with dementia, from the person suffering with this horrible illness's point of view and also their family's. Anyone who has taken this journey with a loved one will recognise the emotional anguish which Maud goes through, and also the torment which her family suffers. If you didn't see this TV film I would definitely recommend it if you can find it on catch up.

The Strictly Come Dancing Final. The fifteen contestants were finally whittled down to just one overall winner. I really enjoy seeing the improvement week on week of non dancers in this show so I was quite disappointed to find that two of the three finalists had actually danced in the West End previously. To me, that's not what the show is all about. Granted, they were good dancers, but they weren't non dancers when they started like most of the other contestants were. I was thrilled to see Kelvin and Oti win and they seemed to be a very popular choice.

If there's one Christmas film I have to watch each year it's National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. I must have seen this film dozens of times now and yet it never gets old, I still laugh as much as I did the first time I saw it. I've already watched it this Christmas and I might even watch it again yet.

Most of the podcasts I watch are doing Vlogmas this year, videoing snippets of their daily lives. Each video only lasts around ten minutes but gives you a flavour of what they've been up to. I love watching these little videos, it really puts me in the Christmas spirit watching people decorate their trees, bake some yummy festive goodies, visit jolly events, and generally get in the Christmas spirit. It can be a challenge keeping up with the videos as more people than ever seem to have joined in this year, but it gives me something cheery to watch.

Have you been watching any of these? What else have you been watching this month?

Saturday 14 December 2019

Fun And Games

Whenever the family come together we always get the board games out. I think our favourite is Trivial Pursuit, it's certainly the one we play the most. I've been playing this game since the 80's, first the original edition and then updated versions which were brought out over the years. You used to be able to buy additional questions for the original game but I believe they stopped doing that, and does anyone remember the games where a video was supplied with the questions? We had a few of those in different genres.

We bought a new game a few years ago as the questions in the game we were using were out of date but unfortunately, the same thing is happening again. It would be good if new questions were released on a regular basis instead of having to buy a completely new game.

We noticed that a new Trivial Pursuit game had been launched, the Ruby edition to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Trivial Pursuit brand. This comes with all the usual trivia questions, but also has an additional Ruby deck featuring key questions from the past forty years. We succumbed, it will be fun having some brand new questions to answer when the family are all together over Christmas.

Another favourite is Who Dares Wins. We enjoy this quiz show when it's on TV so we bought the game a couple of years ago.

Pointless is another game which usually comes out when we're all together too. As you can see, we do enjoy a quiz in this house.

We've got the usual Monopoly, Cluedo and Scrabble amongst others which we also play, but it's the quiz games which get the most use.

Do you enjoy playing games as a family? Which are your favourites?

Wednesday 11 December 2019

In The Making - December 2019

A roundup of the things I'm working on at the moment.

I was hoping that I might have another project off the needles before I did this month's roundup but that wasn't to be. Being ill during November held back my Christmas preparations and I feel as though I've been playing catch up ever since so crafting has had to take a bit of a back seat.

There's only one thing I've been picking up when I've had time and that's the Wildflowers & Honeycomb Socks which I started some time ago. I've now turned the heel on the second sock and I'm about half way through the gusset decreases. It will be plain sailing then as I knit down the foot.

Not much to show this month but I'm sure my crafting will pick up again in the new year.

Sunday 8 December 2019

Christmas Mugs

I have a bit of a thing for mugs, which is quite funny considering it's only recently that I really started drinking hot drinks. I used to drink the odd hot chocolate, but I now enjoy at least one cup of tea each day. Even when I didn't drink hot drinks I bought plenty of mugs. Surprisingly though, I've never bought a Christmas mug.

Until this year! I've never thought about buying Christmas mugs in the past but I saw this lovely one in the local garden centre and couldn't resist.

Then, yesterday, I was in Sainsbury's and saw these two had been reduced so I grabbed them while they were on offer.

I can see the beginnings of a new collection.

Thursday 5 December 2019

Freeing Grace

Charity Norman has written five books, I've now read all of them and enjoyed every one. Freeing Grace was her debut novel.

"Grace's teenage mother dies shortly after giving birth and the perfect adoptive parents are found for her. Until, that is, Matt, Grace's shell-shocked young father, falls in love with his daughter and decides to keep her. A thought provoking story exploring the sacrifices we make for family and what it takes to be a good parent."

This book wasn't what I expected it to be. After reading the blurb I was anticipating a tug-of-war story over a baby, however, this tale was so much more. Back stories of several characters are explored as are family dynamics, and the story twists and turns throughout the pages.

I think the characters were well developed, though not always likeable, and I was kept guessing right to the end.

I'm thrilled to discover that a new book by Charity Norman is due out next year, I'm a big fan and would definitely recommend all her books.

Monday 2 December 2019

Yorkshire Yarn Fest

There are more and more yarn festivals popping up each year and I visited the newest one on Saturday in York, Yorkshire Yarn Fest.

Held in two barns at White Syke Farm, goodness, it was muddy and the barns were cold. There were warnings that we'd need to wrap up well but I felt sorry for the vendors who were having to warm their hands on cups of coffee. There were a good selection of exhibitors, over thirty in total, but I have to say that the lighting was so poor in some areas of the main barn that Mick actually took out his phone and shone the torch so that I was able to see. Not ideal for a yarn show.

I bought two gorgeous skeins of yarn, each from dyers I haven't come across before. The first is from Castle View Yarns in the Owl Post colourway and the second is from Noodle Soup in the Disphotic Zone colourway. I have to say that this is the sparkliest yarn I've ever come across, though the photo doesn't do it justice.

There looked to be a good turnout and it was good to see some new to me dyers, but I do hope they'll do something about the lighting before they hold their next show, which is already scheduled for March next year.

Friday 29 November 2019

Winters Frost

I've finished my Winters Frost socks by This Handmade Life.

They were a pleasure to knit. I decided to give magic loop another try, I usually use double pointed needles when knitting socks, but I always think it's good to master different techniques. Once I'd got into the rhythm of using the circular needle I found it quite easy. I'm not sure if magic loop will become my sock knitting method of choice as I do still prefer double pointed needles but I'm pleased to have given it a go and succeeded. I managed to sort the ladder issue I had out too. Sometimes ladders appear in the fabric between the end of one needle and the start of another when knitting in the round. I struggled a bit with this at the start but it's no longer a problem.

I love the colour of these socks. The colourway is The Goblin's Revenge by Paper Stories, though I don't think this dyer is in business any more. Mick bought me the yarn for Christmas 2017 so it was time it was knitted up into something lovely.

Now it's time to get on and finish the other pair of socks which have been on my needles for some time.

Tuesday 26 November 2019

Magnifying Daylight Lamps

I know there are quite a few of my readers who are cross stitchers so I'm seeking your advice.  I haven't done a lot of cross stitching in the past but when I have, I've struggled a bit to see what I'm doing, especially when there isn't a lot of daylight about.

I've got one of those contraptions which clips to the embroidery hoop, there's a small magnifier and light on it. It's okay for what it is, not brilliant, but it certainly helps. I've got a snap frame which I'd like to try out but the clip on the magnifier is too small for this and there's no way I can stitch without some kind of magnification.

I'm thinking about putting a magnifying daylight lamp on my Christmas wish list and wondered if any of you use one. I think one which stands on the floor rather than a table would be better for me and I'm sure it would come in useful for more things than cross stitch, especially during the winter months when there isn't much daylight about. I'm looking for any recommendations you can give. Do you have one of these magnifiers, can you recommend a particular one, do you find it useful, is it worth having?

Any and all advice gratefully received.

Saturday 23 November 2019

What I'm Watching - November 2019

TV and film that I've been watching this month.

I watched both season 1 and season 2 of The Crown earlier this year and since then I've been looking forward to the release of season 3. It's finally here! Olivia Coleman has succeeded Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II and Tobias Menzies has taken over the role of Prince Philip. I'm trying not to binge watch so that I can string out the new series and so far I've watched two episodes and I've enjoyed them as much as the earlier ones. The new cast have taken on their roles well as we embark on a new era for the monarchy in this third series.

Cold Call is a four part mini series which was shown on consecutive nights this past week. Sally Lindsay stars as June, a woman who becomes the victim of a cold call scam. It was frightening to see how easy it is for these fraudsters to get people to believe in their rackets. It was a bit far fetched and a ridiculous final episode, but I thought it had a good plot and I did enjoy it.

I'm not a lover of sci-fi but I saw that War of the Worlds had been remade as a mini series so decided to give it a go. I began watching but it soon became apparent that even in this format it just wasn't for me. I think Mick will watch it though, it's much more his genre.

Mick was visiting my dad in hospital last Sunday (by the way he's home now and doing well, thank you for all your good wishes for him), and Eleanor was out with friends so I had the house to myself. I decided to watch a film, something I don't do very often. I had a look on Sky to see what was available and decided on Christopher Robin. Ewan McGregor stars as an adult Christopher Robin who is reunited with his old bear, Winnie the Pooh, and the animals in Hundred Acre Wood. I wasn't sure it was for me at the start and nearly turned it off but I'm glad I stuck with it as I actually found it quite charming. The perfect movie for a Sunday afternoon when you want to just sit and watch and not have to think too hard.

Have you been watching any of these? What else have you been watching this month?

Wednesday 20 November 2019

In The Making - November 2019

A roundup of the things I'm working on at the moment.

I'm pleased to say that crafting is firmly back on the agenda at the moment. My mojo has been coming and going since my mum died back in March, which I suppose is to be expected as my grieving navigates its twists and turns, but it's nice when I'm at a period where I'm getting enjoyment from the things I usually do. I've even completed a project this month, my Strictly Cha Cha Chevron Socks 2019 are off the needles.

I've been working on my Winters Frost socks. I usually knit my socks using double pointed needles but I'm beginning to enjoy using the magic loop method which I'm giving a go on these socks. The pattern is a pleasure to knit and I love the colour of this yarn. I'm knitting the heel flap of the second sock at the moment so these socks may be finished soon.

I asked for Opinions Please on my Beach Days wrap. Thank you to everyone who left a comment. I wasn't sure whether to follow the pattern and include the centre wave panel on the wrap or omit this, I didn't know if it added anything to the wrap or not. I think most people who commented on my post said that they'd leave out the centre panel so this is what I'm going to do. I shall add some extra blue and gold waves and eyelet bands instead but I need to work out how much yarn I have in order to do this first.

Only a couple of projects which I'm actively working on at the moment but it's nice to be focusing my efforts and seeing some progress. I'm hoping for another finish before my next monthly roundup.

Sunday 17 November 2019

Opinions Please

I've been knitting a little more on my Beach Days wrap and have now got to the point where I start knitting the centre colour block.

What I can't decide is whether to follow the pattern or omit this centre panel of blue and gold waves and just continue with the design I've followed so far, blue wave, eyelet band, gold wave, eyelet band, and so on. The centre panel looks something similar to the blue and gold waves that I've already knit at the end of the wrap and I'm not sure I like that block in the centre.

What do you think? Would you follow the pattern or would you miss out that centre block? Help me decide please.

Thursday 14 November 2019

Under The Weather

I've had the lurgy, in fact, I've still got the lurgy. It's not often I'm ill, which is just as well as I make a bad patient when I am, but this time, I've had it well and good.

I started at the beginning of last week with a really sore chest and it developed into a dry cough, I coughed so much that I was physically sick. It's not a cold, I haven't had a runny nose, but my whole body has ached and I've had a high temperature.

It wouldn't be so bad if my dad wasn't in hospital. We took him to A&E on the Sunday night before I was ill as he had chest pains and he was having trouble breathing, his ankles were also very swollen. They hooked him up to a heart monitor, took blood to test and did a chest x-ray and they discovered that his kidneys weren't working as they should. My dad's got prostate cancer and he knew that he'd lost the function of one kidney completely and was down to 27% function in the other kidney. They wanted to keep him in hospital but he refused point blank so they allowed him home, but on the Monday he received a phone call from the urology specialist asking him to go in and see him on Tuesday. It was the first day I was feeling off it so Mick took him to the appointment. He was told that the function of his one remaining working kidney is now down to 16% and that they needed to drain it. He wasn't impressed that he had to stay in hospital but Mick eventually talked him round and he's been in there ever since.

I didn't think it was a good idea being in close proximity to my dad, or anyone else in hospital, when I'm obviously carrying germs around so Mick's been doing all the toing and froing whilst my dad's been in hospital, not that I felt able to get there anyway. I don't know what I'd do without him.

Mick also had a big interview last week and has just earned himself a big promotion. He's worked for his company since leaving school thirty six years ago and has worked his way up through the ranks so his promotion is very well deserved. He's now responsible for all his company's UK factories. We haven't celebrated yet but I'm sure we'll do so as soon as I feel up to it.

I've still got a really bad cough but I'm feeling a lot better in myself than I have done over the last ten days so I'm hoping that it doesn't last much longer. I'm also hoping that my dad gets sorted out soon and is allowed home. It never rains but it pours!

Wednesday 6 November 2019

Strictly Cha Cha Chevron Socks 2019

I've been taking part in the Strictly knitalong which is being hosted on the Little Drops of Wonderful podcast. I took part in this same knitalong last year, and in fact, knit the same sock pattern which was last years official Strictly knitalong pattern. It's the Cha Cha Chevron pattern by Sandra Paul and though I don't want to knit anything too complicated whilst watching the dancing, it's interesting enough for me not to get bored.

My knitting mojo has been coming and going since my mum died in March but taking part in a knitalong has been keeping the momentum going on this project. It's also encouraged me to pick up other projects and knit on those too.

These socks have been knit whilst watching Strictly Come Dancing, the results show and its sister show, It Takes Two which is shown on weekdays. It's been a while since I've had a finished item to show so I'm very pleased to have got these done. I've used a hand dyed yarn which I received in a swap which I took part in on Instagram, I don't know who the dyer is but the yarn is so soft, it's been a pleasure to knit with.

Unfortunately, I started the toes a little too soon and the socks are a tad too small for me, but I don't mind, they'll make a lovely Christmas gift.

Sunday 3 November 2019

Still Me

I read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes back in 2016 and absolutely loved it. I'm always wary of reading sequels when I've enjoyed a book so much as they rarely live up to the first offering and unfortunately, I found this in After You, which I read the following year. It left me wishing that the author had left Me Before You as a stand alone book.

When I saw that a third book in the series, Still Me, had been published I decided that I wouldn't bother reading it, however, after reading a few reviews and people telling me that it was much better than the second book, when I saw it for sale in a charity shop I picked it up.

"Lou Clark knows too many things...

She knows how many miles lie between her new home in New York and her new boyfriend Sam in London.

She knows her employer is a good man and she knows his wife is keeping a secret from him.

What Lou doesn't know is she's about to meet someone who's going to turn her whole life upside down.

Because Josh will remind her so much of a man she used to know that it'll hurt.

Lou won't know what to do next, but she knows that whatever she chooses is going to change everything."

At first, I thought I'd made another mistake reading this book, I found it quite slow going and there were definitely characters which I didn't warm to. I'd have to say that it's a book of two halves, I could have quite easily put the book to one side even when I was half way though, it was probably the last third of the book which I enjoyed the most, though it was very predictable and I guessed the outcome of each storyline well before it was revealed.

Would I recommend the book? I think I'm probably expecting too much after loving the first book in this series so much so perhaps I'm being over critical of the following installments. Still Me is probably a good enough story in its own right for me to recommend but I still think that the story of Louisa Clark should have finished at the end of Me Before You.

Thursday 31 October 2019

Happy Spooky Halloween

You may remember my Spooky Halloween post from last year where I took you on a tour of the grounds of Lotherton Hall where they'd put on a Spooky Scarecrow Trail. This has been going for a few years now, but last year they decided to extend their opening hours into the evening to make it even spookier with a scary walk through the haunted woods. We went during daylight hours last year but we decided we'd be brave this time and went after dark. Some of my photos look like daylight but it's because I used the flash on my camera, it was actually very dark.

The first thing we came to were the wooden cabins by the car park which have all been decked out as Spooky Wild West. Some new cowboys were just arriving in town.

I think they were just in time to join the cookout.

They'll probably want to join in with a hand of cards later on.

Or perhaps they'll just enjoy some time in the saloon.

All needs are catered for, though the public conveniences could do with a dust looking at the number of cobwebs.

They'll need to have their wits about them though, not everyone gets out of here alive.

If they don't want to join the cookout they can always purchase a burger or hot dog, though on second thoughts I don't think the chef will be up to making them.

After exploring Dodge City we set off to explore the haunted woods.

Unfortunately, the lanterns they'd got strung from tree to tree were only working at the entrance to the woods. The spotlights they'd got trained on the exhibits weren't working either. It turned out to be a spookier walk than was intended as it was pitch black. Mick had to use the torch on his phone so that we could see where we were going and we missed so much of what we were supposed to see.

This was at the start of the trail and looked very spooky in the dark.

I jumped out of my skin when these monks started chanting.

There were lots of scary and spooky things hiding in the trees but unless Mick managed to pick them out with his torch we ended up missing them.

A scary mummy dangling from a tree.

It's such a shame that the lights were out. We always enjoy the events at Lotherton, they really do make an effort with them, and I thought visiting the Spooky Halloween Trail in the dark would really add something to it, but unfortunately, without lighting it was just too dark to see much of anything. Oh well, there's always next year.

Happy Halloween!