Tuesday 28 February 2023

February 2023

February is the month I like the least, I think it's because it's usually the coldest month, so I'm glad that it's also the shortest month. 

The month started out blustery with some very high winds but we still managed to get out when there was a break in the weather. We had a walk through the ancient woodland at Middleton Park which Archie enjoyed. The lake was very quiet on this particular day though there's usually lots of people fishing.

My crafting mojo has finally returned. I hardly picked up any of the projects I've got on the go last year so I've got a few things which have been languishing. I really want to get them finished off now. I finished the Scrappy Dog Blanket as you'll have seen in an earlier post and I've pulled out my Twelve Days of Christmas cross stitch to continue with. I didn't do any cross stitching at all last year but I've been putting just twenty minutes stitching into it each day and I'm sure that will soon see it completed. I really want to start some new things but I want to get my older projects nearer completion, if not totally finished off, first.

If January was the month of daffodils, February has definitely been the month of tulips. I just love the different look each bunch I return home with brings to the house depending on which colour I choose. I'm like a child in a sweet shop when I stand there trying to decide between each of those jewel tones, it's always such a hard choice. I'm glad I'm not restricted to just one bunch throughout the tulip season and that I can work my way through many of the different colours.

I've read three books this month.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

"Fiercely romantic and hugely influential, The Scarlet Letter is the tale of Hester Prynne, imprisoned, publicly shamed and forced to wear a scarlet 'A' for committing adultery and bearing an illegitimate child, Pearl. In their small, Puritan village, Hester and her daughter struggle to survive. But in this searing study of the tension between private and public existence, Hester Prynne's inner strength and quiet dignity make her one of the first great heroines of American fiction."

I have to say that I've never heard of Nathaniel Hawthorne, nor had I heard of this book, but as it's included in the Penguin English Library I picked it up. It was published in 1850, though set in the mid seventeenth century in Puritan Boston, Massachusetts. The overall theme is that of sin, redemption and social stigma. I found the writing style quite challenging so I did have to concentrate and perhaps this is why it didn't really hold my interest. It's not the worst book I've read but it definitely wouldn't be among my favourites.

Return to Thrush Green by Miss Read.

"Problems never come singly in Thrush Green.

Joan and Edward Young have to face an illness in the family, while crabby old Albert Piggott is rapidly going downhill without his wife Nelly, and the Curdle's family fair is making a loss.

Loyal Miss Foggarty welcomes an old friend to the village, and Harold Shoosmith catches himself hoping - at the ripe old age of sixty - that his bachelor days are over.

In the expert hands of 'Miss Read', Thrush Green once more springs to life for the reader."

I've been reading one book each month by Miss Read for over two years now and yet each one is so different so there's no chance of becoming bored. I really enjoyed this story of characters returning to Thrush Green, some to stay and another to just up and leave again before the story ends.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

"At First Sight, Ove is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet. He thinks himself surrounded by idiots - neighbours who can't reverse a trailer properly, joggers, shop assistants who talk in code, and the perpetrators of the vicious coup d'etat that ousted him as chairman of the Residents' Association. He will persist in making his daily inspection rounds of the local streets. 

But isn't it rare, these days, to find such old-fashioned clarity of belief and deed? Such unswerving conviction about what the world should be, and a lifelong dedication to making it just so?

In the end, you will see, there is something about Ove that is quite irresistible..."

The book has recently been made into a film called A Man Called Otto starring Tom Hanks and I've heard of quite a few people taking trips to the cinema to see it. Whilst looking at the Kindle deals I saw the book reduced to just 99p so I downloaded it.

It's an enjoyable story, some sad parts but plenty of humour too and it kept my interest and was entertaining, one of those heart-warming reads. I think we all know people like Ove so it's easy to relate to him. I'd like to see the film. I more often than not think that a film doesn't do a book justice but with Tom Hanks in the starring role, I think this just might be one of those films which is better than the book. What a brilliant actor, Tom Hanks can really bring a character to life and I'm sure he'll be fantastic in the role of Ove/Otto.

Shrove Tuesday always falls forty seven days before Easter Sunday and so as the date of Easter fluctuates each year, so does Shrove Tuesday. It always falls somewhere between the 3rd of February and the first week of March and this year it fell on the 21st of February. I often made pancakes when Daniel and Eleanor were young, though I don't think that either of them were particularly bothered about them. I don't often make an effort now that they've left home but I thought I would this year. I have lemon and sugar on mine and Mick has gravy, yes, gravy. I've never heard of anyone else having pancakes with gravy, though perhaps it's not all that weird really as it's only the same batter mixture as Yorkshire Puddings.

We've had some glorious sunsets this month. This photo was taken from my craft room window, no filters, this is exactly how the sky looked. Isn't it beautiful.

In my end of month post in January, I mentioned that I wouldn't be writing as many posts as I have done in the past. Some of you commented saying that you hoped I wouldn't be giving up blogging all together. Well, no, I still enjoy blogging, it's just that I'm cutting back on the time I've been spending on it. I shall definitely still be here with one post at the very least each month. Also, I mentioned last month that you can find me on Instagram, just search jothroughthekeyhole, and thank you to those of you who have done just that and who already follow me over there. I do enjoy Instagram but I don't think you get the connection with other people as you do through blogging and that's why you'll still find me here too. 

Mick's got two separate weeks holiday from work in March so we're hoping for fine weather so that we can get out and about a little. I'm hoping for an action packed month.

Friday 24 February 2023

Air Fryers

With energy prices as expensive as they are at present, many people are looking at ways in which to cut down on their usage. Using an air fryer instead of an electric oven is one way to cut down on costs so it's no surprise that many people have turned to this way of cooking their meals since the energy price hikes in October. In fact, air fryers are so popular at the moment that some models sell out as soon as retailers replenish their stock.

Air fryers aren't a new thing, I bought my first one over eight years ago when I wanted some Crispy Chips. I didn't buy it to cut down on the cost of cooking a meal, more for the health aspect, which is what air fryers were being marketed as at that time, a way to cook food more healthily. Cooking this way was all very new to me at that time but I grew to love my air fryer so when it eventually broke, I didn't hesitate in buying another one. 

The two I've had up to this point have both been Tefal Actifry air fryers and I've been very happy with them. The only downside in my opinion is that they have a paddle to agitate the food being cooked so there is some limitation to what can be cooked in it, unless you buy an additional part. There's a cooking basket which can be popped over whatever you're cooking in the bottom of the pan but we've never bothered with that. 

Both Daniel and Eleanor had air fryers when they went off to university and they both found them really useful too, so much so that they both still use them now.

My second actifry is just starting to go now, we've already replaced one part and I can see that it won't be long until another part gives up the ghost so we've decided to invest in a new air fryer. 

We've gone with a different style of air fryer this time, a Ninja Dual Zone. Having used an air fryer for a long time now, we know what suits us best and I think the two separate drawers in this type of air fryer will be brilliant for cooking whole meals rather than just a part of it, meaning that we'll definitely use the oven less.

The Ninja Dual Zone has six cooking functions. Along with Air Fry there's also Max Crisp, Roast, Bake, Dehydrate and Reheat, and because there's two separate drawers which are able to be used independently of each other, it will be easier to cook complete meals

It's quite an expensive outlay but I think we'll recoup at least some of the costs back through not using the oven so much and of course, it's a healthier way to cook too. I'm looking forward to trying it out.

How about you, have you got an air fryer? Have you had one for a while or is it a new purchase? Have you bought it for health or cost reasons? I'd love to know.

Friday 10 February 2023

Scrappy Dog Blanket

Back in May of 2018, I started a scrappy mitred square blanket with the intention of using some of my leftovers as well as mini skeins in it. When I gave it some more thought, I decided that I only wanted to use hand dyed yarn in the blanket so the following month I started a second blanket to use up the leftovers from my commercial yarn.

I never really got very far with it but after nearly five years it was time to get it off the needles. I've had some of my longer term projects far too long now and I want to clear the decks. When I looked at it, there were a few squares left to knit to square it off, but even then, it wasn't very big, it wouldn't even work as a lap blanket.

I don't like untidy edges so I picked up stitches right the way around it and added a small border, it now measures 75cm by 60cm. It's made up of fifty six squares with just three duplicate colourways which means the blanket is made up of fifty three different yarns, many of which are leftovers from the socks I've made over the years.

After giving it a soak, it's acquired a lovely drape and it's much softer than it was. Commercial sock yarn can be quite rustic but it usually softens up after a wash.

Although it isn't big enough to do very much with, it's made from wool which is lovely and warm so I shall give it to the Dogs Trust when I next visit. I'm sure it will be just the thing to line a little dog's bed. It will keep it warm and snuggly while it awaits its forever home.

And what became of the original scrappy mitred square blanket that I started you may ask. Well, that's still on the needles. I'm hoping to add some more squares to it and get it finished off at some point. Sooner rather than later I hope.