Monday 30 November 2020

My Advent Calendars

Last year was the first time that I'd had a yarny advent calendar. I enjoyed opening a little package containing a small skein of yarn each day in the run up to Christmas so I decided I'd treat myself again this year.

I've gone for a calendar from Beaches and Birdsong this time. I've heard a lot about the beautiful yarn from this dyer but I haven't tried it for myself yet so I'm really looking forward to opening a selection of different colourways. Each parcel contains 10g of yarn. Each square in my scrappy blanket takes about 4g of yarn so I'm left with about 6g of yarn for other scrappy projects or swaps.

I've also treated myself to the 12 Days of Christmas Charity Selection Box which Helen from Giddy Yarns has organised. There's a package to be opened on each of the twelve days of Christmas which contains a 20g mini skein from twelve different UK indie dyers.

In addition to the calendars I've bought, there's also the advent swap I'm doing with Maggie from Black Country Wench blog. We're swapping 6g mini skeins made up from our leftovers, it's enough to add to our scrappy blankets. This came beautifully packaged and I opened it yesterday to take a photo and ready to start opening tomorrow and I'm overwhelmed with what's inside the box. The packages look exciting enough but just look at that little Santa sack. We're also swapping a 100g skein to be opened on Christmas Day so I expect that's it, and there's a lovely scent wafting out of the box too, I'm not too sure what that is yet. It's all so exciting.

I can't wait to start opening these little packages tomorrow and the opening will continue right through until the 5th of January.

Have you got an advent calendar this year?

Friday 27 November 2020

A Crisp Autumn Day

We woke to a frost on Monday. The weather has got much cooler over the last week or so, though I'm not complaining when I see that my Canadian friends and some of my American friends too have snow now. It may be cold but a bright sunny crisp autumn day is preferable to a dull soggy one so as soon as I saw the sun shining, and with my back feeling a little better than it had last week, we decided on a short walk at Lotherton.

There's a marked difference now to how everything looked the last time I was there. Many trees are devoid of their leaves and there's no doubt in my mind that winter has just about arrived.

The woods look rather bright with few leaves to block out the light. It's a totally different outlook to that we see during the summer months.

Although Wildlife World is closed at present because of lockdown, the woods take us round the back of the pens and we can catch glimpses of various birds. The emus were quite inquisitive on Monday.

Our walk takes us through parts of the wood which looks stunning with all the vibrant leaf litter beneath the unclothed trees.

Archie managed to find the soggiest leaves in the woods, though it isn't as muddy at the moment as it has been.

There aren't many berries on the holly bushes we saw. Perhaps the birds have had their fill already.

Where there's holly there must be ivy, and here it is creeping up this tree.

Although my back was hurting as I walked, it wasn't as bad as it was last week and it's continued to improve throughout the week so I'm hoping it's on the mend again.

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Back Problems

It was at the beginning of August that I finally relented and spoke to the doctor about my bad back. I do tend to suffer with things until they get so bad that I have no option but to seek help. I had a telephone consultation and the doctor thought I was suffering with Sciatica which I tend to agree with as I have a terrible pain shooting from my back down my left leg. The doctor referred me for physiotherapy but warned it could be a long time until I got an appointment.

I didn't mind waiting as the pain I was suffering with in my back had abated. I finally had a telephone consultation with a physiotherapist on the 21st of October, not as long a wait as I was expecting, and was given some exercises to help strengthen my back. By pure coincidence, I'd had some twinges again the day before the appointment but they were only twinges and nothing bad.

There's sheets of exercises which the physiotherapist recommended so I got straight on with them. He said it was important to keep up with them daily so that's what I've been doing, however, the twinges I was having in my back were getting worse. Last week, my back was so bad again that there was no way I could keep up with the exercises, in fact, I couldn't do very much at all. I don't think it's the exercises which have aggravated my back as I'd had those twinges the day before I had my appointment, I think it's just one of those things.

I'm pleased to say that my back feels a lot better again this week so I'm back on with the exercises and I'm trying to do more than I was doing last week too. I do feel better if I sit and rest but I know this won't help me in the long run.

I'm hoping that in time, the exercises will help strengthen my back and will prevent these bouts of pain. We'll just have to wait and see.

Saturday 21 November 2020

Custard Tarts And Broken Hearts

I read a recommendation about Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts, by Mary Gibson, on Instagram. I reserved the book from my local library and I'm so pleased I did as I thoroughly enjoyed it.

"Britain 1911.

Strikes and riots erupt countrywide as the shadow of the Great War looms over Europe. But in one small corner of London, factory girl Nellie Clark's wages are all that keep her younger brothers and sister from starvation.

And, as the young women of Pearce Duff's custard factory watch their menfolk prepare to march off to war, Nellie is forced to make a difficult choice: between the family who depend upon her, and the man she loves...

Following Nellie and her struggle through the hardship of life in First World War London, Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts is an outstandingly moving novel full of tenderness and drama."

I read this book in October and have since read Jam and Roses, Gunner Girls and Fighter Boys, Bourbon Creams and Tattered Dreams, Hattie's Home, and A Sister's Struggle, all by the same author. They're all set in Bermondsey during different time periods and some characters are mentioned or feature throughout the books, though they're all standalone stories and don't have to be read in any particular order.

One common theme throughout the books is that Mary Gibson writes about strong women, and I imagine women of that time had to be strong with all that life threw at them, especially in these factory settings where the work was backbreaking.

I'd definitely recommend these books. There's only one more by this author which I've yet to read, The Bermondsey Bookshop. I've asked for it to be reserved at the library but I don't yet know when I'll be able to pick it up as our local library is closed because of lockdown. It was closed right through the last lockdown and didn't reopen again until the end of August so goodness knows how long it will remain closed this time.

Wednesday 18 November 2020

Testing Testing

I was contacted by letter asking if I'd take part in a COVID-19 testing research study which is being carried out by Imperial College London, on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care. My name was chosen at random from the NHS list of patients registered with a GP. It's to monitor the levels of COVID-19. I'm used to taking part in medical research, I've received numerous letters asking for my cooperation since I underwent treatment for bowel cancer and I do try to help when I can.

I've had a home test sent to me, which I took this morning. The test is a nose and throat swab and will be collected by courier today. There's also a short online survey to complete which asks about my health and any COVID-19 symptoms I may have had.

I haven't had any symptoms so I expect the results to come back as negative, but people are testing positive without having had any symptoms so you just never know. 

Sunday 15 November 2020

Out Of The Fog

We had a period of nearly a week where we were immersed in fog and mist and it didn't clear at all throughout the day, and then on Thursday it suddenly lifted and we had the most beautiful day. I think we appreciate the sunshine more when it's been missing for a while.

Mick has been working from home now since before the first lockdown in March, I don't think he'll ever go back to working how he did before. There will be times when he needs to go to a particular site but I think many businesses will now realise that some employees are able to work just as efficiently from home, and in some cases, they get more work done during the day as they're not using up working hours travelling. He can get under my feet at times but in the main we get along well even though we're with each other twenty four seven. It's quite convenient when the sun's shining as we're able to take advantage and pop out for an hour as he can make up the time later, so with some better weather materialising on Thursday we headed off to Roundhay Park.

It seemed many people had the same idea as it was very busy but the park is so big that you don't really realise that so many other people are out for a stroll too. The cricket pavilion was serving sandwiches, cakes and hot drinks but we were good and resisted, lunch was waiting for us back home. This arena, where cricket is played during the summer months, has staged many large concerts. It can hold over 100,000 people. It's where I saw Michael Jackson perform back in 1988 and where the latest Ed Sheeran concert Eleanor's attended was held, last year.

We headed down to Waterloo Lake, so called as it was landscaped from a former quarry by soldiers returning from the Napoleonic wars and thus named after the Battle of Waterloo. It covers thirty three acres. It's a favourite place in the park for children as there's lots of water birds who are only too happy to be fed.

It wasn't too cold on Thursday but even though the sun was shining, it's quite obvious now that we're heading into winter as many of the trees are now devoid of leaves and those which are still hanging on have lost the bright colour which is so evident a little earlier in autumn.

Looking through the trees you can catch a glimpse of The Mansion, a large stone two and three-storey house in Greek Revival style which was built from 1811 to 1826. It is now used as a wedding venue and it's where we held our own celebrations thirty years ago. My sister also held her wedding reception there the following year. The park was such a lovely backdrop for our wedding photos.

I thought we'd managed to deter Archie from rolling in the fallen leaves but just as we were on our way back to the car park he took us unawares. I don't really mind, he's such a happy little doggy squirming amongst the leaves. He was covered in mud but luckily his coat is short at the moment as he's recently been to see the groomer and the dirt just brushed out otherwise he'd have had to be dunked in the bath.

I really enjoy my midday walks, it's good to make the most of any fine weather we have at the moment, and as well as breaking the day up a little I always feel better after getting a bit of fresh air.

Thursday 12 November 2020

Wondrous Dishcloth

I like hand knitted dishcloths, so much more than shop bought. I usually use the Grandmother's Favourite Dishcloth pattern but I decided I'd give the Wondrous Dishcloth by Jooles Hill a try this time.

This is a different type of dishcloth as it's double thickness and it's not a big as I usually like. I had a bit of trouble knitting it at first too, the pattern calls for you to knit certain stitches from the front and back of the work together and I got myself into all kinds of twists and turns until I finally figured out the best way to do it, and then it became much easier.

The cloth is textured on the front and smooth on the back, a little bit like a scrubby, and that's probably how I'll use these cloths. I think I do still prefer the old style, they don't call it Grandmother's Favourite for nothing, it's stood the test of time.

Monday 9 November 2020

Freebies From The Garden Centre

Our local garden centre often post leaflets through the doors of local households offering free gifts. All we have to do to claim them is call in, while stocks last.

Back in September, the households in our area were offered six narcissus bulbs, the variety is Tamara. Yes please, I'll have those. They're now planted out in the garden where they should flower in spring. When I collected the bulbs I was given a till receipt offering some free fat balls. It was September at the time but the fat balls weren't available until the 1st of November. That's fine, I just squirrelled the receipt away until it was offer time. The birds will be very thankful of these now that the weather's turned cold.

It's a lovely garden centre, not the cheapest place for garden essentials but we pick up bits and pieces from here throughout the year, and we always enjoy looking around it at Christmas time. In fact, they're in full Christmas mode now and it's all looking very festive.

Friday 6 November 2020

Crafting Rotation On Hold

I've been using My Crafting Rotation for quite a while now, I've managed to get a couple of projects finished and made some good headway on others but I've now made the decision to put the rotation, where I work on each of seven projects for at least an hour each week, on hold. I've got a few things going on at the moment and with Christmas sneaking up and things to do for that, I feel it's for the best. It doesn't mean that I won't still be crafting, I will, just not in such a structured way.

I'm really pleased with the progress I've made on my crochet granny stripe blanket. I was in two minds about continuing with this blanket but I'm so pleased I have, the bigger it gets the more I like it, and it's great to work on now the colder weather's here, it keeps me nice and warm whilst I'm crocheting.

There's now seventy five squares in my scrappy blanket and no two are the same. This blanket is great to work on when I've just got an hour or so to spare, it feels as though I've accomplished something by adding another square.

This cross stitch, which I started about forty years ago, was another project I wasn't going to bother finishing as there were rust stains on the fabric from the needle I'd left tucked in it all that time, but the stitching I've done recently has covered it up. It's quite hard going though with all the half stitches that's called for.

Although I started a new hobby of English paper piecing with good intentions, all I've actually done so far is glue baste the hexagons. I'm looking forward to putting some actual stitches into this and getting some of those hexagons sewn together.

I'm still knitting dishcloths. I haven't got as many finished as I'd have liked but this is ongoing as I like to keep a good supply in stock.

The Twelve Days of Christmas cross stitch is something I'm loving working on but I haven't got as far as I'd have liked. I don't mind a slow stitch, I like to enjoy each stitch I put in rather than rushing but this is a project I'm looking forward to spending more time on over the coming weeks.

Another slow growing project is the Twinkle Twinkle Blanket. There's over two hundred stitches on the needles already and there's a long way to go. As there's increases every other row I should think I'll end up with hundreds of stitches more on the needles by the time I'm done.

So that's where I'm leaving everything for the time being. I shall just work on whatever I fancy over the next couple of months and see how I feel about starting the rotation up again in the new year.

Of course, I shall still be working on my Strictly Socks which I'm knitting for the Strictly Sockalong over on Ali's Little Drops of Wonderful podcast. I'm not sure I've chosen the best pattern to go with this yarn as it's hard to see the lace detail, but I've started now so I shall continue.

There's plenty of projects there to keep me going, and I've still got plenty more waiting in the wings too. Well, it's nice to have a choice, isn't it.

Tuesday 3 November 2020

Knitting With Your Leftovers Giveaway Winner

Thank you to everyone who took part and left a comment on my giveaway post to win a copy of Knitting With Your Leftovers by Fiona Goble.

A winner has been drawn at random and I'm pleased to announce that Briony from Crafty Cats Corner is the lucky winner. Can you please let me have your name and address details so that I can get the book posted out to you. You can find my email address by clicking on my name in the About Me section at the top of the sidebar. I hope you'll find the book very useful.

Thank you again to everyone who took part.