Saturday 30 May 2020

An Unexpected Gift

How lovely is it when you receive an unexpected parcel in the mail, I love it. Especially when that parcel contains a gift, and even more so when it's a 'just because' gift, no birthday or Christmas in sight. All wrapped up beautifully too.

I was reading my lovely friend Maggie's blog, she writes at Blackcountry Wench. In her Fully Finished post she showed some gorgeous cross stitch project envelopes that she'd made, I never dreamt for one moment that one of them was for me.

Cross stitch is quite a new hobby for me, I'd dabbled in the past but I'm really getting into it just recently. I have lots of notions and knitting accessories, but very few things for cross stitch and I'll admit, I've actually been looking at project envelopes to buy. Well, a new hobby, let's face it, I'll need all the bits and bobs to go with it.

To say I was over the moon when I opened the parcel is an understatement. I'm absolutely thrilled with my beautiful project envelope, but that wasn't all, Maggie had also sent the second one she'd made for Eleanor, who has only just taken up cross stitch but is loving it. How kind is that.

Inside each bag is a matching lavender pouch, they smell gorgeous, and there was such a cute card too.

Thank you so much, Maggie. We're both thrilled to bits and the bags were put into use as soon as they were received.

Don't you think that having lovely accessories for your hobby is such a treat, I do.

Wednesday 27 May 2020

Bank Holiday Monday

Thank you for all your comments on my last post. It's interesting to see how the lockdown is affecting us all financially. I'm pleased to hear that most of us are faring well in these troubled times, and my heart goes out to those who are having a tough time of it. I think we'll all be paying for it in the future though, one way or another. We prepare for so many things through life but I don't think anyone could have predicted what 2020 would have in store for us.

It was Spring Bank Holiday on Monday. We'd had some blustery weather over the weekend but it brightened up again and it was much warmer so we took ourselves off for a walk through Parlington Woods down The Flyline.

You can read my post about Nellie's Tree where I touched on the history of The Flyline, and also the romantic story of Vic Stead, his Sweetheart and the tree which was voted Woodland Trust's 2018 tree of the year for England.

This is usually a quiet walk but there were lots of people out walking on Monday, as well as numerous cyclists and a jogger or two.

Even local walks get much busier when the weather's nice, especially on a bank holiday.

It's been good that the weather has been so nice through lockdown, I don't know what we'd have done had we been confined to the house for the duration.

As the restrictions surrounding exercise are relaxed, it seems that some people's concerns about the virus are lessened too. There were too many people not observing social distancing to count. Groups of people, who it was obvious were not from the same household, out together and walking side by side.

It makes me wonder if I'm in the minority when it comes to observing the rules. It certainly seems that way when I'm out and about.

Nevertheless, Archie was unconcerned and relished a bit of freedom running around and enjoying his walk, though he was ready for home eventually, he does tire much quicker these days.

Sunday 24 May 2020

Money Makes The World Go Round

Mick found a five pound note last week. He was taking Archie for his last walk of the day just before bedtime when he saw it lying there on the pavement. It reminds me of the time, many years ago now, when he came into the house and told me he'd found a five pound note on the drive. It was half an hour later, when looking for some money he had in his pocket, that he realised he was a fiver down. The five pound note he'd picked up on the drive was his own!

Whenever I find any money in the street it always makes me wonder who dropped it. Was it a child who has lost their pocket money, or an elderly person who has lost part of their pension. Will someone have to go without something now because losing that money means they can't afford to buy it.

How are you managing your finances in lockdown? We're very lucky, Mick is able to work from home so he's still been earning his normal salary but I know many people are having to take wage cuts, or worse still, have lost their job.

Are you finding that you're spending more or less in lockdown? These days, many people shop around for the best prices but I suppose lockdown is preventing that somewhat. People don't want to be going in lots of different shops for their groceries, they want to be in and out of that one supermarket in the shortest time possible. The one way systems in the shops also make it difficult to head in different directions once you're inside the shop too, so you can't backtrack to an item once you realise it's a better offer than something that's ahead of you. I would have thought that having Mick at home all day, we'd spend more on food but in actual fact we seem to be spending less. I think that's because we're not doing all those top up shops during the week when 'extras' seem to jump into the basket.

Another area where we're spending less is petrol, though it's not actually saving us any money as Mick can claim mileage for petrol he uses for work. Usually, he drives an average of eight hundred miles each week when he's at work, but he claims the amount that costs back. At the moment he's taking Eleanor to work and picking her up too every day so that she doesn't have to use public transport, it's ten miles each way so that's forty miles a day, and he drives to my dad's too, so he's still using the car and I'd say it's costing us about the same as it usually would.

You would think that the amount of gas and electricity we're using at the moment with Mick being at home would increase, but it's hard to work out how much extra that is. We change our supplier regularly to ensure we're on the best deal and the heating has been turned off for much of the time during lockdown as we've had such lovely weather.

One thing that's definitely gone up is the coffee bill. We have a Tassimo coffee machine, it's Mick's, there's only him in our house who drinks coffee. He usually has one cup before work each day, but being at home, he's helping himself to numerous cups each day, and those pods aren't cheap!

How about you? Which areas are you spending more on and where are you making savings? Have you realised that a change you've made during lockdown is saving you money and therefore, it's something you'll continue to do in the future? I'd love to know.

Thursday 21 May 2020

Enjoying The Rhododendrons

The sunshine returned on Tuesday after a cooler period, so we decided to head off to Temple Newsam to see the rhododendrons. It's the perfect time of year to visit as the gardens, filled with so much colour, are a delight to see. Previous posts I've written about the rhododendrons at Temple Newsam are Temple Newsam Rhododendron Walk and Temple Newsam Rhododendrons. I have to say that we won't be heading back to Temple Newsam in a hurry though, it was packed, and there wasn't a lot of social distancing happening. Different families were out together and many people didn't even try to step to the side as people passed by them. It's so different to the experience we've had at Lotherton since the lockdown has begun to ease, it's so much quieter there and every single person we've come into contact with has moved out of the way, as we've done too, as we've passed by.

This is the start of the Rhododendron Walk. The path snakes its way through the parkland with these beautiful shrubs grown as a hedge all the way along.

I shall let the flowers and colour do the talking for me today.

I'm pleased I got to see the rhododendrons at Temple Newsam this year, it's just a shame that people aren't sticking to the social distancing rules.

Monday 18 May 2020

A Flower A Day

Eleanor's done a bit of cross stitching in the past but it's not really a hobby that's gripped her. Since I've been cross stitching myself however, she fancies giving it another go. I'm always pleased when she wants to do something creative, she enjoyed all the art type subjects at school but hasn't taken up any hobbies in this direction so I'm only too pleased to encourage her when she wants to give something a go.

I'd been looking at Carolyn Manning Designs website, she has some lovely cross stitch patterns, especially the Flower A Day Collection. There's projects all across the colour spectrum and when I showed Eleanor, she picked out the pattern with yellow flowers framed with a floral border. These patterns are supposed to encourage a bit of stitching every day.

She's been a bit fed up of late, it's ten weeks now since she's seen her boyfriend due to the lockdown so I wanted to cheer her up a bit. I've treated her to the fabric, floss, hoop, bobbins and scissors, so she's all ready to go. There is something in it for me too, it'll be fun having a stitching buddy to share a hobby with.

Friday 15 May 2020

Archie's Birthday

It was Archie's 10th birthday on Wednesday and it started off as all birthdays should, with presents.

Archie's always keen to unwrap his gifts, he knows that they mostly contain edible goodies and he's such a greedy boy. He wasn't disappointed, the things we chose for him were met with his approval.

Wednesday was the day when lockdown restrictions were eased in England, we're now able to exercise outdoors as often as we want and we're able to travel in a car in order to exercise too. With this in mind, Leeds City Council have reopened the car parks in the parks in and around Leeds, which meant we were able to visit Lotherton for the first time in nearly eight weeks. Archie was pleased with his birthday outing, Lotherton is his favourite place.

I thought it would be busier than it was, there weren't very many people there at all, though nothing's open, just the grounds. The playground is closed and the play equipment is taped off. The cafe and shops are closed and so is the house. None of that matters to Archie though, he just loves a stroll through the woods.

It's such a lovely time of year with so much in bloom. The wild garlic is in abundance right now, the woodland floor is carpeted with pretty white flowers.

We passed through the orchard. A couple of weeks ago it would have been so pretty with all the blossom on the trees. I feel we've missed out on so many things this year being confined to our own neighbourhoods.

There were one or two trees still hanging on though so we haven't missed out completely.

Lotherton has some beautiful trees, all different kinds, but there's quite a few horse chestnut trees and they look magnificent at this time of year when they're adorned with their 'candles', the upright flower spikes.

The wisteria in the William and Mary garden is past its best but still looks glorious growing against the walls.

We came across many juvenile birds during our walk which just sat there and looked at us. I suppose they've been so used to having the whole of the grounds to themselves since they've been born, we must be the first humans they've come across. Luckily, Archie isn't bothered by birds and chooses to just ignore them.

Archie enjoyed his walk and then it was back home for a couple more treats and an afternoon snooze before being served his favourite meal, fish. I think he had a good birthday.

Tuesday 12 May 2020

My Wildlife Pond

I created my little wildlife pond back in 2009. It's very small, it measures just 84cm X 64cm, but it's so well used by the wildlife that it's been a huge success. I think that if you want to attract wildlife to your garden then you should always add some water, even if it's just a small amount like I have here.

You can read about the plants I first introduced to the pond in my Wildlife Pond post which I wrote on my old blog. Unfortunately, the marsh marigold - Caltha Palustris took over and swamped everything else so that, and an iris which is also striving for domination, are the only two plants which now reside in the pond. I don't mind though, when you create something like a wildlife pond it's a case of seeing what works best and just going with it. I never wanted it to be too contrived, it's nice to let nature take it's course sometimes.

We've had a very warm spring this year and the little pond has attracted all manner of birds who like to take a little dip to cool down. I have three bird baths in the garden but they still flock to the pond. All sizes of bird from sparrows to pigeons use the pond. We have frogs in there too, though there's only a couple of years that they've spawned, I think it's just too small for the tadpoles to survive. Take a look at my Cute As A Newt post which I wrote on my old blog to see the newt we found by the side of the pond too.

The pond is situated in a small border which is full of plants, this affords the wildlife which visit plenty of ground cover where they can hide or rest away from the glare of prying eyes. There's bits of old wood, stones and pebbles, and shells around the edge of the pond, there's also an old frog house which is now rotting but still in use. I like to make sure there's plenty of different habitats and cover for all sorts of different wildlife in close proximity to the pond.

I must be doing something right as for such a small pond it certainly attracts its fair share of wildlife.

Saturday 9 May 2020

A Little Of What You Fancy

One thing which many people seem to have been doing more of since lockdown is baking. I try not to bake very often myself as it just encourages me to eat all the delicious goodies, and I can do without all those extra calories, but I've really been fancying a homemade scone over the last week or two. Unfortunately, I hadn't been able to get my hands on any flour to satisfy my craving, until Thursday. Of all the things which were in short supply at the start of lockdown, most are back in regular stock, but a flour shortage seems to be the one thing which is ongoing. It's all kinds of flour too, the shelves seem to be permanently bare.

I usually make my scones with self-raising flour but plain flour was all I could get hold of so I looked up a simple scone recipe online which uses plain flour and this is the result.

They're not the prettiest things, granted. I didn't want to waste a single crumb so instead of using pastry cutters, which make attractive round scones, I just cut the dough into portions with a knife before baking so they're all very irregular shapes.

Spread with jam (I'm not too bothered about cream) they tasted delicious, and there's still plenty of flour left so I can make more when I have a craving again.

Wednesday 6 May 2020

Going To The Chapel

I showed the first part of the cross stitch wedding sampler I'm working on in my Projects On The Go post. Back then I had completed the bride and groom, and now they've got somewhere to get married as I've almost completed the next section.

There's wording to add yet and still the grass to add in both sections, and I also need to stitch the date but I'm holding off on that for now.

The sampler is for my niece, she's supposed to be getting married in September and everything's already booked for then but who knows if it will go ahead or not. Being in lockdown at the moment, it's hard to imagine that large gatherings will be allowed by September, but we'll see.

I'm quite new to cross stitch but I'm really enjoying working on this sampler. It's a joy to see the picture emerge bit by bit.

Sunday 3 May 2020

The Other Half Of Augusta Hope

I'd come to the end of my pile of books waiting to be read, and all those downloaded on my Kindle too. Annoyingly, there's a couple of books I'd requested from the library which I'd just got to the front of the queue for when the lockdown came into force so I wasn't able to collect them in time, but they'll be waiting for me when the libraries open their doors once again. I was looking for something to download onto my Kindle when I came across The Other Half of Augusta Hope.

This is Joanna Glen's debut novel and what a wonderful book it is.

"Augusta Hope has never felt like she fits in.

At six, she's memorising the dictionary. At seven, she's correcting her teachers. At eight, she spins the globe and picks her favourite country on the sound of its name: Burundi.

And now that she's an adult, Augusta has no interest in the goings-on of the small town where she lives with her parents and her beloved twin sister, Julia.

When an unspeakable tragedy upends everything in Augusta's life, she's propelled headfirst into the unknown. She's determined to find where she belongs - but what if her true home, and heart, are half a world away?"

I stumbled upon a wonderful book, such a moving, touching story, and written beautifully. I read this in two sittings and I can't wait to see what else Joanne Glen comes up with. Thoroughly recommended.