Wednesday 31 January 2024

January 2024

The new year started here with illness. I'd had a bad chest and awful cough since Boxing Day, in fact, the cough still hasn't completely gone. We'd struggled through New Year's Eve with Jasmine and Eleanor also under the weather and then on New Year's Day, Mick woke up with whatever I'd had. He's not one to moan though, unlike some men who take to their beds with a cold and call it flu, he just gets on with it. I think the last day he had off work for sickness was in the last century. Anyway, we're all much better now, thank goodness.

Mick and I spent New Year's Day on our own. It was lovely actually having the day to just relax before Mick returned to work on the 2nd. We spent the time catching up watching a few things we'd recorded over Christmas. Our TV is rarely turned on over the festive period so we had a few things to choose from.

We've had a few trips out this month. You can read about our visits to the Coast & Country in my earlier post. We particularly enjoyed our visit to Bridlington on the east coast, so much so that we returned the following week when it was a little warmer, though a storm was expected so the sea was very choppy. I think Archie especially enjoyed this second visit, he seemed to have a spring in his step and made lots of new doggy friends.

My reading mojo disappeared completely for a few weeks. I read my last book of 2023 before Christmas and I didn't pick up a book again until we were well into the second half of January. Even then, I've been reading sporadically and have finished just one book this month.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

"Set in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Havana, Hemingway's magnificent fable is the tale of an old man, a young boy and a giant fish. This story of heroic endeavor won Hemingway the Nobel Prize for Literature. It stands as a unique and timeless vision of the beauty and grief of man's challenge to the elements."

It's a short book at just under a hundred pages but it's packed with such beautifully descriptive writing that it will be one which is long remembered. Not a subject I'd have expected to enjoy but I found myself recounting the story to Mick and it was clear to him that it's a book I'd enjoyed. There's little wonder that Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for this book.

I was thrilled to discover that I'd won a prize in a make along which I'd taken part in during the latter part of 2023. Ellie at Craft House Magic was running the Craft 20 a Day Make Along where you worked on any crafty project for, you've guessed it, twenty minutes each day. I joined in with my English Paper Piecing and won the prize for the last quarter of the year. Ellie sent me this gorgeous yarn, one skein called All I Want For Christmas Is You and the other a one of a kind. It definitely needs to be used together as the colours compliment each other so well. I just need to find a pattern to use it in.

We've had quite a few little treats this month, taking ourselves out for coffee (Mick) and tea or chocolate (me). We're lucky that we have a choice of cafes, some independents and some chains, near to where we live, quite a few within walking distance even, so we're spoilt for choice. It's nice to take ourselves out of the house, even for just half an hour, sit down together and chat.

A new series of Trigger Point started at the weekend and I've binged watched the whole six episodes already. It stars Vicky McClure as Lana Washington, a bomb disposal officer working for the Metropolitan Police. I enjoyed the first series and thought this second series even better. If you like fast paced crime dramas, this one might be for you.

So that's the first month of a new year already gone. I wonder what lies ahead, though one thing's for sure, time is whizzing by. It never seems long after we're seeing in one new year before we're seeing in another. Does anyone else feel the same?

Monday 22 January 2024

Coast & Country

We had planned to have a drive out to the coast on Boxing Day but as I was beginning to feel under the weather, we put it off. You know when you've been looking forward to something and then it doesn't happen, it tends to be on your mind, and a trip to the coast was on mine, so the minute I felt I was on the mend, off we went. 

We decided on Bridlington on the east coast, about sixty miles from where we live. As is often the case, we didn't check the tide times before we set off but we were lucky, the sea was a long way out and there were huge, wide open spaces for as far as we could see. Perfect for a little dog to have a good run.

Archie enjoys the seaside as much as we do. The good thing about this time of year is that dogs are allowed on all areas of the beach, dog bans come into play between May and October, and there aren't the crowds during the winter months that there are later on in the year. This was a Saturday and look how deserted it was. Yes, it was a bit nippy but we wrapped up warm.

I think I enjoy my trips to the seaside more out of season. The majority of people we saw were dog walkers, we're a hardy breed braving all weathers, and we get well rewarded for it. Miles of unspoilt empty beach with the odd dog running around here and there and beauty all around us.

Archie had a whale of a time, he doesn't do much running around now as he's an old boy but he loves all the new smells as well as having a little paddle. He loves making new friends too.

There are lots of rockpools on one stretch of the beach. If it had been a little bit warmer I might have explored a little to see what I could find.

Beach treasure. I didn't find any sea glass on this particular day, though I wasn't really looking.

Just look at those pink fingers. Yes, it was rather cold.

The pleasure cruisers were still taking passengers for trips around the bay despite how much the temperature had dropped on this particular day.

After our time on the beach we took a walk around the harbour. There wasn't much water left in it with the tide being so far out.

The Turnstones were grubbing about in the mud which was left behind.

As we passed the harbour we could see Flamborough headland in the distance. Flamborough is a little under five miles from Bridlington and it's the place where was saw the seals on Our Staycation.

A little further round and there's the lure of the amusements. I'll admit that I'm quite drawn to the 2p pushers but I resisted on this occasion.

I did give in to a doughnut though, well who can resist the delicious aroma when it's wafting through the air, not me!

The following day we decided on a trip to the Yorkshire Dales and in particular, Reeth, which is in the north of the Yorkshire Dales and again, about sixty miles from where we live. It has a population of about 700, though it looks rather busy with all the cars parked here but I believe there are many walking routes which can be taken from the village so people park up here. We did see evidence of this ourselves with people changing into walking boots and others returning to their cars with their walking poles.

The village has a little more for tourists than some of the small villages in the Dales. Fleece is an arts and crafts cooperative and a non-for-profit organisation. Arts and crafts from a number of different makers are sold here and it's a lovely shop to look around.

There are a number of small shops, a gift shop, an art gallery, a post office and general store as well as a toy shop. It was a shame to find most of them closed on Sundays. I would have particularly enjoyed looking round The Threshing Barn, a fibre arts shop, but their winter opening is just Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and it doesn't open at all on a Sunday, even in summer. It was nice to find Dragonridge Hills open for a browse. Here you can buy some beautiful jewellery as well as a selection of textile items and fossils and stones.

The ice cream parlour was open for business though it was far too cold for ice cream in my opinion. They do sell hot beverages though too.

Reeth has three pubs. We noticed that one of the signs outside The Black Bull is upside down and looking on Google when we returned home, discovered that this was done as a protest when a previous landlord removed the render when he tried to tidy up the exterior and exposed the original walls, only for the National Parks officials to take exception to this and insist that the render be replaced, threatening legal action if this didn't happen. Some local pranksters, apparently, turned the sign upside down in protest and it's still upside down to this day.

What a funny place to put a cat flap, in the window. Right next to the bird feeder too!

Reeth Evangelical Congregational Church.

Swaledale where Reeth is situated is known for its farming landscape of fields, barns, drystone walls and hay meadows. The village is surrounded by beautiful scenery. I wonder who lives in that white cottage halfway up the hill.

There was snow on the tops of the hills.

I can't go to the Yorkshire Dales without taking a photo of some sheep. The one on the right is definitely trying to tell me something.

After visiting Reeth we decided to head over to Hawes to stock up on some Wensleydale and Fountains Gold cheese from the Wensleydale Creamery. Before we realised which road we'd taken we were heading over Buttertubs Pass, a road which crosses high moorland between Hawes and the small hamlet of Thwaite. Jeremy Clarkson has apparently labelled it as "England's only truly spectacular road". It's a meandering road with hairpin bends and sheer drops to the side and only a length of barbed wire between the car and the edge in some places. To make matters worse, it had been snowing up there. The photo above was taken through the windscreen as we were driving.

I really don't have a head for heights and I couldn't look as we were driving the parts with nothing to the side of me, but as we got further along we stopped the car so that I could get out and take a photo. There isn't usually much traffic up there anyway but I think we saw just two cars on this particular day. Absolutely stunning scenery over the pass but I won't be rushing back, especially in the snow!

We're so lucky to have these beautiful places, and many more, not too far from where we live. Our small town is just under eight miles from one of the largest cities in England. We have all the amenities that a large city offers on our doorstep if we need them but we're far enough away not to be bothered by the negative aspects, and where we live is surrounded by beautiful countryside. The coast is less than sixty miles away, so very convenient for day trips. We really do have the best of all worlds.

Monday 15 January 2024

Twelve Days Of Christmas 2023

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you'll know that my friend, Lisa and I have been swapping twelve small gifts each year, one to be opened on each of the twelve days of Christmas. This is now the tenth year that we've swapped gifts, it's a lovely tradition.

This is what I received from Lisa this year.

A closer look.

The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square by Lilly Bartlett. I haven't read anything by this author before so I look forward to reading this. Gingerbread mug hangers to hang on the side of your hot chocolate mug, almost too cute to eat. The Big Cheesy Night In, well we all love cheese here, with the exception of Daniel, so this will be fun. Cheese themed quizzes, jokes and games. It's a long time since I've done any card making so these blank greeting cards may just get my creative juices flowing, and the craft bags will be brilliant to decorate.

A pretty water bottle, always handy for days out. Some gorgeous handmade pure natural essential oil bath bombs. They're so pretty and smell gorgeous, I can't wait to use these. A ceramic Happy coaster and a sachet of Galaxy hot chocolate, yum. Three Yankee Candle votives, each a Christmas scent: Mulled Wine, Warm Apple & Cinnamon, and Gingerbread. They smell delicious.

A pair of Christmas Up To Snow Good socks, they'll be sure to keep my feet warm. Some hand cream: Wild Meadow with notes of Apple Blossom and Violet Leaf, and In Bloom with notes of Jasmine and Freesia, don't they sound lovely. A note book and pen, always handy and just the right size to carry in my handbag, I'm always scrabbling around for a bit of paper and a pen when I'm out. Some of my favourite Green & Black's ginger chocolate.

Haven't I been spoilt. Thank you Lisa, I'm thrilled with all my gifts.

This is what I sent to Lisa.

A closer look.

A bit of a baking theme here. A set of three Christmas cake tins, there's two nestling inside the big one. I popped the tub of edible Christmas sprinkles inside too. A tropical cupcake set, you get the cases and the toppers. An eat, drink and be merry spatula with a gingerbread man cookie cutter, and a winter wonderland plate.

A tin of Scottish shortbread biscuits in a lovely nutcracker tin, I admit it was the tin which drew me to these. A bar of Cadbury's Snow Balls, who doesn't love this. Baylis & Harding hand cream in floral scents, and a pair of really squishy socks for the cold weather.

I always pop a Christmas book in the parcel, this year it's Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop by Jessica Redland. I expect it's the usual boy meets girl at Christmas time but I enjoy a cosy romance to settle down with during the festive period so I hope Lisa does too. A ceramic tea cup bird feeder. I saw this and thought it looked so cute. Just imagine the birds feeding from a tea cup. A calligraphy set, something I've fancied having a go at myself but never have. A Winnie the Pooh weekly planner ready for the year ahead. I'm always a bit wary of buying people diaries in case they've already got one but this planner just has the days of the week printed so it can be used at any time.

Well it's been such a fun swap again. I enjoy looking for all the little gifts to include in the parcel just as much as I enjoy opening up a gift each day, and as I always say, it keeps the excitement of Christmas going right into January. Thanks again, Lisa.

Friday 5 January 2024

Advent Calendar 2023

This is the fifth year that I've had a yarny advent calendar. I had one from Josie at Beaches & Birdsong back in 2020 and I went with one from her again. This time each mini skein weighs 20g, I've always had 10g ones in the past. I thought having more yarn of each colour would give me more options when it comes to choosing what I'm going to use it for.

The theme of this advent calendar is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It was delivered on the 1st of November in plenty of time to start opening all the little packages at the start of December.

It was such a treat opening each little parcel, I couldn't be more happier with what I got. The colours are just beautiful and the yarn, as always when buying form Josie, is so squishy and soft. I haven't decided what I'm going to make yet but it will be an absolute pleasure to use this yarn.

And that wasn't all. There were also little treats added to some of the packages, sweeties, chocolate, stitch markers, a little tin to keep the stitch markers in, and even a sticker of a lion on the day I opened the Aslan colourway.

I'm still using up the yarn from previous year's advent calendars so I doubt this will be used in the very near future but I shall enjoy pondering on what I'm going to make with it.