Sunday 28 November 2021

My Advent Calendars For 2021

Having a yarny advent calendar has become a bit of a tradition. It's such fun opening up a small packet of yarn each day in the run up to Christmas, and there's so many patterns out there now to use these small quantities of yarn up, from blankets to scarves, socks to shawls.

My advent calendar this year has been put together by Helen of Giddy Yarns. It's actually a Charity Collaboration Advent, twenty four different dyers have each dyed up 10g of yarn which I think is so much fun. I've had yarn from some of the dyers before but not all of them so it will give me a chance to sample yarn from a number of dyers without having to buy a full skein from them. Money has been raised through the sale of these boxes for three different charities, which is such a great idea too.

I've also done an advent swap with my lovely friend Maggie from BlackCountry Wench blog. We're swapping 5g mini skeins from our leftovers, and a full skein to open on Christmas Day. We did the same thing last year.

Maggie has sent it in a beautiful box and very kindly added lots of extra little 'brown paper packages tied up with string' which she's said I can open throughout advent or alternatively open on Christmas Day. I think I may wait, I do love the anticipation of having gifts to open. There is one which she's told me to open before the big day, and there's also a card which I'm to open on the 1st of December.

Just three more days to wait now until I can start opening them.

Advent calendars seem so popular now, you can get all sorts of things to open on the days leading up to Christmas, candles, stickers, tea, cosmetics, etc. and of course, chocolate.

Have you got an advent calendar?

Wednesday 24 November 2021

Colder Days

The weather has changed this week, gone are the mild November days. We're coming towards the end of autumn now, winter will soon be taking over and the temperature has dropped accordingly. I really didn't fancy donning my coat and shoes on Monday, the first day we really noticed the colder weather, but I'm glad I did as it was beautiful once I was out there.

It really wasn't as bad as I'd feared it was going to be when we were walking in the sunshine, the golden glow lit up all the scrunchy leaves on the floor. Archie had great fun running through them making a noise and kicking them up with his back legs.

Some trees are still holding on to a few of their leaves but others are now completely bare. They seem to change day by day at this time of year when one blustery day can make all the difference.

We haven't had very much rain at all just lately so the fallen leaves are still crisp underfoot, much to Archie's delight. I'm with him on this one, I really don't like it when I'm walking in mud and squelchy leaves.

I haven't seen many holly berries this year, I've passed great swathes of holly with just a few berries dispersed here and there. I wonder if the birds have been busy filling up before winter sets in or if the plants just haven't produced many.

No berries at all on this variegated holly.

There's still pops of colour about if you look carefully.

Even the dying plant material produces such wonderful colours before they eventually die off and fall to the ground, though I fear we're coming to the end now.

The apple trees have lost their leaves but they're still hanging on to the unwanted apples.

I find it hard to motivate myself to get outdoors for a walk the minute the season looks to be changing to winter, I hate the cold weather, but I'm so glad when I make the effort. I soon warm up when I'm walking and the beauty of nature really does lift my mood.

Saturday 20 November 2021

Planning My Journal

I've always used some sort of planning system, from a pocket diary, which I would carry about in my handbag, to a Filofax which I use now. I mentioned a while ago that I'd bought a Hobonichi Cousin to use next year, though this will be used as my journal, not for any sort of planning. I really like the planning system I use in my Filofax and it works well for me so I don't want to change that, however, as the Hobonichi Cousin is meant for planning rather than journaling, there are lots of pages which I won't need, so I'm trying to work out what to use them for.

With the Hobonichi Cousin you get a page per day, these are the pages where I shall do my journaling.

Then there's the whole year set out over four pages. You only get a line per day here so I thought I might record my daily steps. I use a Fitbit, mainly to see how much I'm moving about, and though I do go for a walk most days, my step count could be better. Perhaps recording my steps in this way will encourage me to walk more. At the very least I'll be able to see how I'm doing over a longer period and if there's any patterns to see where my steps drop off. I think this could be quite interesting.

The monthly pages are set out one month to two pages with just a small box for each day. I'm really not sure what to use these pages for. I thought I might print out a tiny photo each day, but that would depend on being able to size the photos down and set up some sort of template in order to be able to print the photos out at a size which will fit into the boxes. That's definitely beyond my technical capabilities but Mick should be able to help me out with this. It would mean that I'd have to remember to take a photo every day though, that could become a bit of a bind. I really can't think what else I could use these pages for.

The weekly pages are set out seven days over two pages and each day is set out vertically with times at the side. I'm going to record my crafting and hobbies here with the help of some lovely stickers I bought recently. I've got stickers for walking, reading, knitting, crochet, cross stitch and sewing. Whenever I do one of these things I'll use a sticker and write underneath either where I went, the book I was reading or the project I was working on. I think it'll be good to have a record of this.

So the way I intend to use the planner pages are really just an extension to my journaling rather than any sort of planning and I think it'll be useful and interesting to see how they work out as I've never recorded these things before.

Are you making any changes to the way you plan or journal in 2022?

Tuesday 16 November 2021

Delia's Happy Christmas

I promised myself that I'd be organised this year and have everything ready for Christmas early but, so far, I've done very little towards the big day. There's now less than six weeks to go, and though that may sound like plenty of time, it will slip by in the blink of an eye. 

One thing I have been doing is having a look through my Delia's Happy Christmas book. I don't do very much baking, mainly because if it's there I'll eat it, so I tend not to make many sweet things. Christmas is different though, I'm allowed plenty of treats.

It was only two years ago when I discovered I like Christmas cake. I tried it as a child, proclaimed it wasn't for me and never tried it again until I wondered if my tastes had changed, and indeed they had. I won't be making my own Christmas cake though, it's really not worth it when there's only me in the house who eats it, but Mick's auntie is a wonderful baker and has promised me some of hers. I do think that this photo of Delia's looks delicious though.

Something else I've only recently discovered I like, after a childhood of picky eating, are mince pies. Last year, after this new revelation, I went through packets of them, all bought from various supermarkets. This year I intend to make my own.

I do love my crumbles in different guises but how does Chocolate & Sour Cherry Crumble sound to you? I have to admit it sounds right up my street. I don't think crumbles ever look particularly appealing but the taste and texture usually makes up for that. I think the combination of chocolate and sour cherry will work wonderful together so this is one I must try.

After a big dinner on Christmas Day, the last thing I want to be doing is cooking more big dinners in the days that follow so I admit that we let things go a bit in the cooking department and we eat easy things or picky things. Parmesan Twists are a favourite of the cheese lovers amongst us, there being only one who doesn't like cheese (how any child of mine can grow up not liking cheese I'll never know!). These will definitely be on the list of things I must make, Eleanor would never forgive me if her favourites weren't available.

I'm quite partial to a meringue and so are others in the household so I might give these Petits Monts Blancs a whirl. They look quite special with the sparkler in them. I'm not too sure about the sweetened chestnut puree that they're filled with though, I've never tried that before, I wonder what it's like. Does anyone know? I could always do meringues filled with something I know everyone will like and enjoy. That's the beauty of recipe books, they can give you inspiration even if you don't follow the recipes to the letter.

There's lots of other lovely things in this book, some of which I might have a go at, assuming I can get everything else that I need to do done in time. Wouldn't it be good if we could extend the days a bit at this time of year.

Friday 12 November 2021

Autumn At Temple Newsam

It's been a while since we've walked at Temple Newsam. I've been suffering with sciatica for most of this year, some times worse than others, and as it's a little hilly, it can play havoc with my back. It's not too bad at the moment so on Wednesday we decided we fancied a change from Lotherton.

When I was growing up, it was a short walk from our house to Temple Newsam so it was somewhere we often went for a walk. I'd visit with friends too. We had so much more freedom in those days than children do now. 

Temple Newsam is a Tudor-Jacobean house in Leeds with grounds which were landscaped by Capability Brown. It has a long history, being listed in the Domesday Book as Neuhusam. It has been owned by the Knights Templar. Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley was born at Temple Newsam in 1545, he went on to marry Mary, Queen of Scots and became the father of King James VI of Scotland and I of England.

Today, the house and estate are owned by Leeds City Council and are open to the public.

The colours are beautiful at this time of year, many different species of tree are planted in the grounds which give a tapestry of colour in autumn.

Many of the trees seem to be still hanging on to most of their leaves, though some look a little worse for wear.

We watched a solitary swan gliding on the lake. It looked quite lonely as swans usually mate for life, but there were only moorhens and ducks around other than this one single swan.

It had rained on Wednesday morning and it was a dull day but it's very mild at the moment, it's the perfect weather for a walk, I don't like it once the temperatures drop and it's cold.

I was surprised how quiet Temple Newsam was, we passed just a few dog walkers but it seemed we had the place almost to ourselves.

As we retraced our footsteps we saw that the swan had got out of the lake, still no other swans in sight though.

It made a change to visit somewhere we hadn't been for a while, and good news about my back, the hills didn't bother it too much.

Monday 8 November 2021

All The Light We Cannot See

I picked this book up from the charity shop. I'd heard of All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr but didn't really know what to expect.

"' Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.'

For Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, the world is full of mazes. The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home. The microscopic layers within the invaluable diamond that her father guards in the Museum of Natural History. The walled city by the sea, where father and daughter take refuge when the Nazis invade Paris. And a future which draws her ever closer to Werner, a German orphan, destined to labour in the mines until a broken radio fills his life with possibility and brings him to the notice of the Hitler Youth.

In this magnificent, deeply moving novel, the stories of Marie-Laure and Werner illuminate the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another."

I've read many books, some based on truth and others works of fiction, set around the Second World War, yet this one is different in that it's based on a totally different perspective, that of a young blind girl in France and a young boy in Germany. The story takes us on a journey through Europe at a time when atrocities are being committed and running alongside is the tale of The Sea of Flames, a diamond with magical powers.

There's no doubt that that this is a "deeply moving novel" but, for me, it lacks that something which I can't put my finger on. The story was good, I liked those characters I was supposed to bond with and disliked immensely those I was not, so I'm not sure what else the author could have done to make me enjoy this book more. Perhaps it was the writing style, I really don't know, however, I would definitely suggest reading it yourself and making up your own mind. It's had rave reviews and was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015. 

Thursday 4 November 2021

Reacquainting Myself With My DSLR

I bought my DSLR camera back in 2013. It's a Nikon D3100 and has far more features than I'll ever use, and though there are many manual settings, it also has an auto setting which does everything for you. I really enjoyed this camera when I bought it, and it takes some brilliant photos, but being a DSLR, the zoom on the standard lens which came with the camera isn't all that great. I invested in extra lenses but it's so cumbersome to carry around all the extra kit, and then having to change the lenses when you're out and about, it's a bit of a drag. We bought Eleanor a Panasonic DMC-FZ72 bridge camera for Christmas back in 2014 and the 60X zoom feature encouraged me to invest in the same camera myself. To buy an equivalent zoom lens for the DSLR would have been far more expensive. I would alternate the cameras at first, but I soon packed the DSLR away opting to take the bridge camera with the zoom facility out and about with me. Honestly, I can't remember when I last used my DSLR but I thought it was about time it got an airing so out it came.

At first I couldn't remember all the different settings but it soon came back to me.

After all the rain we had last week and over the weekend, when a crisp autumn day occurred on Tuesday, we headed off to Lotherton with my DSLR in tow.

It's a great time of year to use a camera, all the colours of autumn are fantastic to capture.

Lotherton was very busy last week when it was the school holidays but it was so quiet on Tuesday. It's a pleasure to walk through the woods with hardly a soul in sight.

The wet weather has encouraged an abundance of fungi. I'm no expert on the subject, I only know the names of a couple, this one not being one of them.

It's been quite blustery and the trees are losing their leaves quite quickly now, there's lots of leaf litter on the woodland floor.

Archie loves this time of year, he's so funny to watch, He runs through the leaves and then kicks them up with his back legs. I think he likes the noise they make, much like running through rock pools at the beach, another thing he loves doing. I'm convinced it's the sound.

We walked through the orchard. I believe the apple day was well attended but there's still lots of apples hanging from the trees and, sadly, many fallen apples are rotting on the ground.

There's still a few flowers hanging on...

...and some yet to appear.

I love seeking out all the hidden treasure in the fallen leaves, damp logs or woodland floor.

I didn't take any extra lenses with me for my DSLR but I've still managed to capture an array of images in different settings. I know they're not the best, I'm no photographer, but they're perfectly adequate. The only thing I'd really be missing is if I wanted to use a zoom, so perhaps I'll start using my DSLR more often again.

It was like being reacquainted with an old friend.