Tuesday 31 January 2023

January 2023

I'm not a fan of the winter months, I hate the cold so I'm always wishing them to whizz by and for spring to come. I have mixed feelings about January though, I find it sad that another year has ended, though on a few occasions I have been glad to see the back of the old year, but I do like the idea of having a whole new year stretching out in front of me and all the possibilities it brings.

Mick and I saw the new year in on our own. Daniel and Jasmine and Eleanor and Jacob were at a friend's party in York, they had a good time. I think they spent New Year's Day recovering but the four of us were invited to Eleanor and Jacob's house the following day for a New Year's meal. It was delicious and a lovely way to start the year off.

We don't visit Lotherton very often over the Christmas period as it gets so busy so it was nice to get back to our regular walks there this month. We go so often that I think Archie must get sick of the same walks but no, he's always excited when the car pulls up and he can't wait to get out.

I've been enjoying vases filled with daffodils throughout the house. I think I'm a bit earlier in buying them this year, I usually wait a while after Christmas before the first vases are filled, but when I saw them in the shops I couldn't resist. At just £1 per bunch they're a cheap and cheerful way to brighten up the house during these cold, dark days.

I've read three books this month.

My Name is Eva by Suzanne Goldring.

"Evelyn Taylor-Clarke sits in her chair at Forest Lawns Care Home in the heart of the English countryside, surrounded by residents with minds far less sharp than hers.

It would be easy to dismiss Evelyn as a muddled old woman, but her lipstick is applied perfectly, and her buttons done up correctly. Because Evelyn is a woman with secrets and Evelyn remembers everything. She can never forget the promise she made to the love of her life: to discover the truth about the mission that led to his death, no matter what it costs her...

When Evelyn's niece Pat opens an old biscuit tin to find a photo of a small girl with a red ball entitled 'Liese, 1951' and a passport in another name, she has some questions for her aunt. And Evelyn is transported back to a place in Germany known as 'The Forbidden Village', where a woman who called herself Eva went where no one else dared, amongst shivering prisoners, to find the man who gambled with her husband's life..."

A great first read of 2023. The story spans the war years right up to 2016 which sees Evelyn now residing in a care home. Her niece and the staff there think she's succumbed to dementia, but Evelyn is still as sharp as ever, she's just playing a very clever game. The book is about love, hatred and revenge, and the promise which Evelyn makes to her Dearest Darling, Hugh. A page turner which kept me wanting to know more, I'd definitely recommend.

Battles at Thrush Green by Miss Read.

"Feelings are running high in the normally sleepy village of Thrush Green.

The rector's suggestion for the neglected churchyard; a clash of personalities at the school; and the village eccentric's return to the road after an absence of fifty years, all threaten to disturb the tranquility of the Cotswold village.

'Miss Read', with her unwavering eye for detail, succeeds in portraying the day-to-day life of a small country community, without distortion or sentimentality."

I'm continuing to read one book from the Thrush Green series by Miss Read each month this year. I thoroughly enjoyed the Fairacre series, which I finished last year, but it's fun getting to know a whole new cast of characters from a new fictional village. Battles at Thrush Green is the fourth book in this series and I've enjoyed every one of them so far.

Animal Farm by George Orwell.

" 'All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.'

Mr Jones of Manor Farm is so lazy and drunken that one day he forgets to feed his livestock. The ensuing rebellion under the leadership of the pigs Napoleon and Snowball leads to the animals taking over the farm. Vowing to eliminate the terrible inequities of the farmyard, the renamed Animal Farm is organized to benefit all who walk on four legs. But as time passes, the ideals of the rebellion are corrupted, then forgotten. And something new and unexpected emerges..."

This is quite a short book but its impact is huge. I thoroughly enjoyed it and read it in a day, a real page turner. This is essentially the story of the Russian Revolution, the animals of Manor Farm revolt against Farmer Jones just as the Russian people rebelled against Czar Nicholas II. It's written in such a way that makes it easy to understand and this is probably why this book was taught in schools. I'm not sure whether it still is or not, though neither I nor either of my children studied it. Lots of moral lessons can be taken from the story but I enjoyed it for what it is.

You will have seen the V For Valentine Bed Socks which I posted about. I really want to make some progress this year on the other projects I've got on the go so I've picked up the scrappy blanket that I'm knitting out of commercial sock yarn. I've really had enough of having this hanging around now so I've decided that I want it off the needles, even though it isn't very big. There's still a few squares to knit which will make it eight squares by seven squares and measuring about 60cm by 54cm and then I should really put some kind of border on it. It will be rather small but I'm sure a little dog at the Dogs Trust will be happy to have a warm blanket in its bed.

I've enjoyed watching a few things this month. A couple to note.

Happy Valley.

This is the third and final series of this brilliant crime drama and the finale is on Sunday. It's seven years since series two was broadcast and I, for one, have been waiting patiently for Sally Wainwright, the writer, to release the next chapter in the story. It's definitely been worth the wait. The fantastic Sarah Lancashire and Siobhan Finneran star, and James Norton is back once again to play Tommy Lee Royce. If you haven't watched Happy Valley and you like gritty police dramas then you're in for a treat. Watch from series one though as it's an ongoing storyline which is carried through each series.


I watched this on Netflix. The series is based on a true story about a teenager who is charged with lying about having been raped but when two detectives stumble on the fact that there's a serial rapist in the states of Washington and Colorado, they uncover the truth. Starring Kaitlyn Dever, Merritt Wever and Toni Collette. There's eight episodes in the series and I was so hooked that I ended up binge watching. A disturbing story which makes it all the more harrowing because it's based on fact. Another one I'd recommend.

We had a meal out with Daniel and Jasmine. It was only at Pizza Express and really nothing to write home about, but it was nice to spend some time with them. They've been living back in Leeds for a year now and it's lovely to have them living close by so that we can see them often.

Eleanor had a Sunday shift the weekend just gone and as Jacob was working a night shift on Saturday he wasn't at home to take her. The trains don't start running on a Sunday until after the time that her shift starts so it meant she would have to get a bus, which takes absolutely ages to get into Leeds from here, so Mick said he'd take her. We were up early so once he got back we decided to hop in the car and take our first trip of the year to the coast. Scarborough wasn't as cold as we'd anticipated but I made sure that I was well wrapped up in all my woollies. It was quite busy to say it's January, lots of families as well as dog walkers about. Archie had an absolute ball playing with lots of dogs on the beach. It's a good time of year for dog walkers as the dog bans don't come into force until April so they're allowed on all areas of the sand and Archie made sure he had a good run around. Many people stop to give him a stroke and chat to us and they usually ask his age, they can't believe that he'll be thirteen this year, he does seem like a young dog still in many respects, though a trip out like this usually knocks him for six as it did this time and he spends a long time sleeping once we get home. It was a lovely day out and I'm looking forward to more days at the coast again soon just so long as the weather cooperates.

That's January in a nutshell. If you've got to the end of the post then thank you for sticking with it. You'll notice that I'm making a few changes this year, I shan't be writing as many posts as I have done in the past, though I will still keep you updated with all my news, and you can also find me on Instagram, just search jothroughthekeyhole.

Wednesday 25 January 2023

V For Valentine Bed Socks

I've had a skein of Cascade Heritage sock yarn in the Butter colourway, as well as some Rowan Kidsilk Haze in the Daffodil colourway in my stash for a long time now. I've been wanting to use them to make a pair of bed socks and I've finally got my act together.

These are the V For Valentine Bed Socks, so named because the pattern is the V For Valentine Socks by Ellie Jones of the Craft House Magic podcast. I altered it only slightly, knitting two complete hearts on the ankles rather than one and a half as the pattern dictates. I wanted a slightly longer leg and this has worked out well. 

I held both yarns together and the Kidsilk Haze has given the socks a fluffy effect. They feel so warm and cosy, and very luxurious.

I used 66g of the Cascade Heritage yarn and they took exactly one 25g ball of the Kidsilk Haze, in fact, I was playing yarn chicken by the end. This is how much I had left to graft the second toe together, leaving a short tail to weave in at the end.

I'm so pleased with these socks, they've turned out exactly how I imagined and are perfect for keeping my feet toasty warm in the cold weather we're having just now.

Sunday 8 January 2023

Twelve Days Of Christmas 2022

As is now the norm, my lovely friend, Lisa, and I swapped twelve little gifts again, one to be opened on each of the twelve days of Christmas. This is the ninth year we've done this, it's become quite the tradition. I thought you'd like to see what each of us opened.

These are the gifts I received from Lisa.

Here's a closer look at them.

A Cath Kidston storage bag which will be so handy to store away the winter clothes once spring is here. Some Christmas microfibre cloths, cute gonks, they'll make me smile when I'm doing the dreaded cleaning at Christmastime. A bar of spiced apple soap in a tin, it smells delicious, almost good enough to eat. A shopping pad, two Christmas pencils and a foldable shopping bag. So handy as I always forget something when I go shopping, I really must get into the habit of writing a list.

A pack of 15 red berries Christmas scented tealights, I should imagine they'll make the house smell very festive. Two packs of notecards. Lisa knows I'm a letter writer so they'll come in very handy. A make your own pumpkin decorations kit, I'm really looking forward to getting started on these, though I think I'll wait until nearer pumpkin season before I do. A mini cross stitch kit. I didn't do any cross stitch at all last year but I want to get back to it again this year so this cute design will ease me in.

There's usually a book amongst the gifts and this year it's A Merry Little Christmas by Julia Williams. I haven't read anything by this author before. I got a few Christmas books as gifts this year, I may just keep them until next Christmas as they'll really get me in the Christmas spirit then. Some yummy all butter mini shortbread trees, I love shortbread so they'll go down a treat with a cup of tea. Some Galaxy Fusions dark chocolate with raspberry meringue, I look forward to trying that, it sounds delicious. Last but not least, a can of Percy Pig phizzy fruit juice drink and a packet of Santa straws, what fun, I can't wait to try that.

As usual, some wonderful gifts, I feel very spoilt. Thank you Lisa, it's been a fun swap again and it's now part of my Christmas traditions.

Here's what I sent to Lisa.

And a closer look.

It's all about keeping warm this year so I sent Lisa a cosy hot water bottle with a fluffy cover as well as two pairs of thermal socks. I just loved the colour of this scarf when I saw it so that was a done deal, I thought it would suit Lisa. And you can't beat a bit of pampering so there's also some lemon and clary sage bath soak and a sheet mask.

I think I've put a Christmas themed book in every parcel I've sent and this year is no exception. I went with Flora's Travelling Christmas Shop by Rebecca Raisin. I wouldn't have minded having a go at the felt animal kit myself, I chose a cat for Lisa as she has two cats of her own. There's nail varnish in two different colours and a compact mirror and cosmetic sharpener, I thought they might come in handy.

We usually exchange some sweet treats too. I thought these Thorntons salted caramel squares looked tasty and I sent some German inspired mini cinnamon speculatius, I haven't seen these before. I'm sure the milk chocolate spoons will be delicious, each in a different flavour, peppermint, orange and caramel. There's marshmallows with them too. And just for a bit of fun, a gin jigsaw. I know that Lisa is a fan of jigsaws so I hope she likes this one.

Didn't we do well. This swap is such a fun thing to do and it extends the Christmas festivities right into January. Thanks again, Lisa.

Wednesday 4 January 2023

Advent Calendar 2022

I posted previously about My Advent Calendar For 2022, I think it's the first year that I've had just one advent calendar to open as I hadn't signed up for any swaps this time. I went with the Charity Advent which Helen at Giddy Yarns put together and I thought I'd show you what I received.

This year, Helen went bigger and better. Not only did she organise the twenty four day advent but she also organised a twelve day countdown box too. She had thirty five dyers involved, including herself, and they each dyed up a mini skein to be added to one of the boxes (Helen dyed a mini skein herself for each box), so you didn't actually know whose yarn would be in which box. I was very pleased with what I received, a 10g mini skein from twenty four different dyers. 

The reason I went with this advent calendar rather than one of the vast array of others on offer was a number of reasons. It was very reasonable compared to the cost of some others, I enjoy trying yarn from lots of different dyers, I prefer an advent calendar with random colours rather than colours which coordinate with each other which some dyers offer in their advent calendars such as fades or rainbows, and the main factor, Helen donates money raised from these advent calendars and countdown boxes to three different charities, Shelter, Action for Children and Reengage. I know it must be a lot of extra work for Helen putting these boxes together at what is an extremely busy time for any business, but it's important to support charities which need all the help they can get, and I'm very happy to support Helen in her endeavour.

Now to think of which projects I'm going to use all these lovely mini skeins in.