Thursday 30 November 2023

November 2023

The hours of daylight are now less and winter is knocking on the door, in fact, we've got a sprinkling of snow this morning, the first of the season. It's not my favourite time of year with the colder months ahead but at least we've got Christmas to look forward to.

The Christmas markets and craft fairs have started popping up this month and I always enjoy visiting some in the run up to the festive season. The huge German market in the centre of Leeds is back this year after a four year hiatus but it gets so busy. We haven't been yet this holiday season but we did go to a smaller festive makers market at a nearby farm shop. We came home with a new ornament for the tree and a bottle of locally produced beer.

We visited our local high street for the annual Christmas lights switch on. The whole road is closed off to traffic and there's usually market stalls set up along the pavements but it was a little disappointing this year as the market had been cancelled by the powers that be. I've read various reasons for this so I don't really know why, but there was still a stage with musical entertainment, side stalls such as hook-a-duck, children's fairground rides, and food vendors. Some of the shops stayed open too. I like to support local events but my goodness, the weather had suddenly changed and it was freezing.

I saw on Instagram that various vendors who were exhibiting at Yorkshire Yarn Festival last Sunday were offering free tickets so I took one of them up on the offer. Eleanor came with me, it's the first yarn show she's been to as although she can knit and crochet a little, it's not really her thing, but she did enjoy looking at the different stalls and squishing the yarn. It was nice for me to have some company too. As we were driving home we saw signs for a Christmas market so we stopped off at that and had a wander around there too. The only thing I bought was a little gift for a friend at the yarn show.

I've read eleven books this month.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.

"Published as a 'shilling shocker' in 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson's  dark psychological fantasy gave birth to the popular idea of the split personality. Set in a hellish, fog-bound London, the story of outwardly respectable Dr Jekyll, who unleashes his deepest cruelties and most murderous instincts when he is transformed into sinister Edward Hyde, is a Gothic masterpiece and a chilling exploration of humanity's basest capacity for evil."

Also included in this book, which I didn't know when I bought it, is The Bottle Imp, another story by Robert Louis Stevenson which I'd never heard of before, so I got two for the price of one.

I'm sure you've heard of people with dramatic mood swings being described as Jekyll and Hyde, well this is where it comes from. I knew the outline of this story before reading it but didn't know the full tale. The setting, the back streets of London amongst the gloomy fog, is key in creating a sinister atmosphere and prepares the scene for the horror story that follows. Definitely a classic.

I read Treasure Island and The Ebb-Tide, both also by Robert Louis Stevenson, earlier this year. He's a great story teller, so I had no hesitation in reading The Bottle Imp too. A short story which is very entertaining.

The Nightingale Daughters by Donna Douglas.

"London's East End, 1957.

Three young women are beginning their nursing training at the Florence Nightingale Hospital...

Winnie desperately wants to win her mother's approval - but will following in her footsteps and becoming a nurse help?

Tearaway Viv has never been one to follow the rules, though the Nightingale may help her mend her ways.

Beth is following her late sister's dream by training as a nurse. Will it be the right path for her?

There's a steep learning curve ahead. But with friendship on their side, the Nightingale Daughters are ready to rise to the challenge..."

It was nice to be back at the Nightingale and catch up with some of the earlier characters as well as some new ones. I've read every book in this series and enjoyed them. Following different nurses through their training and onto the wards, as well as delving into their private lives, can be quite a saga.

I was a little disappointed that the ending seemed rushed and that not all loose ends were tied up, let's hope there's another book in the offing to follow this up as I still enjoyed the story and I'd like to read more.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis.

The Magician's Nephew.

"The adventure begins.

On a daring quest to save a life, two friends are hurled into another world, where an evil sorceress seeks to enslave them. But then the lion Aslan's song weaves itself into the fabric of a new land, a land that will be known as Narnia. And in Narnia, all things are possible."

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

"They open a door and enter a magical world.

Four adventurers step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia - a world enslaved by the power of the White Witch. When almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change...and a great sacrifice."

The Horse and His Boy.

"A wild gallop for freedom.

On a desperate journey, two runaways meet and join forces. Though they are only looking to escape their harsh lives, they soon find themselves at the centre of a terrible battle. It is a battle that will decide their fate and the fate of Narnia itself."

Prince Caspian.

"A Prince fights for his crown.

A prince denied his rightful throne gathers an army in a desperate attempt to rid his land of a false king. But in the end it is a battle of honour between two men alone that will decide the fate of an entire world."

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

"A voyage to the very ends of the world.

A king and some unexpected companions embark on a voyage that will take them beyond all known lands. As they sail farther and farther from charted waters, they discover that their quest is more than they imagined and that the world's end is only the beginning.

The Silver Chair.

"A prince imprisoned - a country in peril.

Through dangers untold and caverns deep and dark, a noble band of friends are sent to rescue a prince held captive. But their mission to Underland brings them face-to-face with an evil more beautiful and more deadly than they ever expected."

The Last Battle.

"The last battle is the greatest of all battles.

During the last days of Narnia, the land faces its fiercest challenge - not an invader from without but an enemy from within. Lies and treachery have taken root, and only the king and a small band of loyal followers can prevent the destruction of all they hold dear in this, the magnificent ending to The Chronicles of Narnia."

I've never read The Chronicles of Narnia, nor seen the films, I didn't even know what the story was about really, but I've ordered a yarny advent calendar this year which is inspired by The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, so I thought I'd better read it, and whilst I was reading that book, I might as well read them all.

Fantasy is not a genre I'd usually choose and this is possibly why I never read these books as a child. I did enjoy them on the whole, though some parts dragged a little and it reinforced the fact that fantasy just isn't for me. I often feel I've missed out when people talk about books they enjoyed as a child which I've never read, but who's to say that children's books are only for children. I fully intend to acquaint myself with more books I never read in my younger days.

All Good Things by Amanda Prowse.

"Daisy Harrop has always felt like she exists in the background, and since her mother stopped getting out of bed, her life has come to a complete standstill, Daisy would give anything to leave the shabbiest house on the street and be more like the golden Kelleways next door, with their perfectly raked driveway and flourishing rose garden...

Winnie Kelleway is proud of the beautiful family she's built, They've had their ups and downs - hasn't everyone? But this weekend, celebrating her golden wedding anniversary is truly proof of their happiness, a joyful gathering for all the neighbours to see.

But as the festivities get underway, are the cracks in the 'perfect' Kelleway life beginning to show? As one bombshell revelation leads to another and events start to spiral out of control, Daisy and Winnie are about to discover that things aren't always what they seem."

This book does make you realise that you never know what goes on behind a closed door or what secrets even the most seemingly idyllic family keep. A thoroughly entertaining read which held my interest. 

Amanda Prowse is a prolific author. Mitzi from the Lazy Days & Sundays blog recommended her to me back in 2015 and I've read twenty nine, which I think is all, of her novels since then, as well as a memoir she wrote with her son about his depression and mental health struggles. Her books are usually about family dynamics, focusing mainly on women and the situations they may find themselves in. If you haven't read any of her books, give her a go, I always look out for anything new from her.

It was Jasmine's birthday on the 24th. We had our birthday get together a few days later when everyone's shift patterns meant all six of us were free. Mick made a lovely roast beef and Yorkshire pudding dinner for when they finished work and then afterwards, as we often do, we had a drink and played games. We do love board games, we often add to our collection but invariably return to the oldies but goodies.

A bit of a progress report on my English paper piecing. I started this a couple of years ago having never hand sewed anything before. I put it down when we moved house and picked it back up a few months ago. I'm using the Botanic Garden fabric from Lewis and Irene. It's certainly not perfect but I've now got it to the point where it measures about 31.5" by 26". When I started it I was assembling the hexagons without a final project in mind but now it's this size I suppose it would be nice to make it into some sort of quilt. My question would be, will this size suffice for a baby quilt or a floor mat for a baby to lie on, or do I need to add more hexies? To be honest, I'm nearly done with it now. I sometimes get to the stage in a project where I just want it to be finished and I'm just about at that point with this. In any case, I think I shall put it away now and bring it back out again after Christmas.

December sees us heading into the festive season. I'm hoping to get our tree and decorations up at the very start of the month and as we've got most of the Christmas shopping done it should be a nice relaxing month for us. Haha, who am I kidding, December is always crazy!

Tuesday 21 November 2023

Copper Conifer Socks

I chose the Copper Conifer Socks pattern by Rachel Fletcher to use for my Strictly Sockalong socks this year.

Ali from the Little Drops of Wonderful podcast hosts this knitalong, where you knit socks whilst watching Strictly Come Dancing, or cheat and knit them whilst not watching Strictly Come Dancing, and this is the sixth year that I've joined in.

I really enjoyed knitting this pattern, it's a simple lace with a four pattern repeat and it's quite instinctive. The photos don't show it off to its best, it looks so different when it's stretched out a little on a foot.

I used yarn which I've had in my stash since 2012. It was dyed by Laughing Yaffle and the colourway is Winter sunrise. The first hand dyed yarn I bought was from Laughing Yaffle back in 2011 and though that got used up, I've still got a full skein from Laughing Yaffle in my stash from the same year.

I learnt to knit as a very young child and continued into my teens but I put my needles down in the eighties and didn't pick them back up again until 2010. It's funny how you come back to things, isn't it.

Sunday 12 November 2023

Ripley Castle

We were looking for somewhere new to visit on the last Sunday of October. The clocks had just gone back so we'd had a leisurely morning with the extra hour we'd gained. We didn't want to travel too far but fancied going somewhere we hadn't been before and after a quick Google search, we came up with Ripley Castle.

Ripley Castle is a 14th century country house which is situated three miles from Harrogate in North Yorkshire on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. We were actually really lucky when we visited because there was an artisan market being held in the grounds and therefore, admission was free. It also meant that we had extra to see on our visit.

The market was held in the Castle courtyard and there were the usual artisan food and drinks on offer, as well as a few craft stalls.

Such a beautiful setting for a market.

We ventured round the side of the Castle and into the grounds. There's plenty of space here for a good walk around.

There's a large ornamental lake with a waterfall, and if you cross this it takes you into the deer park.

The outbuildings comprised of a brewhouse, bakehouse, game larder, laundry and stores for the Castle. They were restored and converted to their present use in 2001.

Just look at the colour of this acer, absolutely beautiful, even on such a dull day. I'm sure it's even more stunning with a little sun shining through the leaves.

All the trees were clothed in autumn's hues, dripping in reds and golds.

Nature is so clever. This is a self-perpetuating beech tree.

The sign explains it better than I could.

How about this beautiful Redwood in the woodland. Isn't it a beauty.

There's a beautiful walled garden which I expect looks spectacular in the sunny summer months, though I'd like to visit in the springtime as there's a collection of Hyacinth which not only provide a riot of colour but also a magnificent aroma.

The buildings in the walled garden have undergone repair work and though at one time they were on the Heritage at Risk Register, they've now been removed.

The Palm House and Hothouses hold the current collection of tropical plants and ferns.

The archway leads you from the walled garden into the walled kitchen garden.

It's so well kept, even at this late stage of the year.

An avenue of fruit trees.

There's still so much to see in the kitchen garden with some beds planted up for the winter months.

It was quite a whistle stop tour as we didn't want to be out too long, but we did linger over hot drinks before we returned to the car.

The Castle is set in a small village, though we didn't look around the wider area this time.

A return visit is definitely in order. There's so much we missed on this visit and there's enough here to keep you entertained for a whole day and more. That's without even mentioning the Castle tours which you can take if this is something which would take your fancy. Yes, we'll definitely be back.