Sunday 31 March 2024

March 2024

It's Easter Sunday today, Happy Easter! We're slap bang in the middle of the two weeks holiday that Mick's taken off work. We've had some lovely days out already, more of that to come in a later post, and we're hoping to have some more days out this coming week too. Before all that though, here's what else I've been up to this month.

Towards the beginning of the month we spent some time at RSPB Bempton Cliffs on the east coast just north of Flamborough. It's a fantastic place to see sea birds, about half a million of them flock here during the spring and summer months and it's a good place to see puffins between April and July. I'd read that there'd been some early sightings of puffins but they weren't there when we visited. We did see plenty of gannets though, among other birds. Bempton Cliffs has the largest mainland gannet colony in Britain. We were also lucky enough to see an owl flying over the fields and just as we left we saw what we thought was a kestrel hovering over its prey but on checking the photos when we arrived home, we now think it was a merlin, the UKs smallest bird of prey.

Mother's Day was on the 10th, I spent it with my family and received gorgeous cards, flowers and gifts, I feel very much loved and appreciated. We enjoyed a meal out and then came home to spend more family time together. I'm very lucky to have my children living close by, there were years when we hardly saw Daniel so I count my lucky stars now that they both live very near.

As part of Eleanor and Jacob's Christmas present we paid for them to have a 4D scan of the baby. They had to wait until Eleanor was 26 weeks pregnant. I never expected them to invite us along, what a wonderful experience it was. The baby didn't cooperate at first, their arms were held up right in front of their face and we couldn't see very much. In the end the sonographer asked Eleanor to walk around and have a cold drink and they booked her back in for another appointment an hour later. When we went back the baby's arms were still in front of the face but the sonographer managed to grab some photos this time. It's amazing how technology has advanced since I was pregnant with my two.

I've read five books this month.

The Storm Sister by Lucinda Riley.

"Ally D'Aplièse is about to compete in one of the world's most perilous yacht races when she learns of her adoptive father's sudden, mysterious death. Rushing back to meet her five sisters at their family home on Lake Geneva, she discovers that her father - an elusive billionaire known to his daughters as Pa Salt - has left each of them a tantalising clue to their true heritage.

Ally has also recently embarked on a deeply passionate love affair that will irrevocably change her destiny. But with her life now turned upside down, she decides to follow the trail that her father left her, leading her to the icy beauty of Norway.

There, Ally discovers her connection to a young unknown singer, Anna Landvik, who sang in the premiere of Peer Gynt over a hundred years before. As Ally learns more about Anna, she also begins to question who her father really was. And she starts to wonder why the seventh sister is missing...

The Storm Sister is the second book in Lucinda Riley's spellbinding the Seven Sisters series."

After reading and loving the first book in this series, I wondered how this would match up to it. I'm pleased to say that it followed on really well and I enjoyed it just as much. Each of the books in the series follows the same timeline but is written from a different sister's point of view, an interesting idea which works well. I have the third book in the series ready and waiting for me.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

"The Little Prince is a classic tale of equal appeal to children and adults. On one level it is the story of an airman's discovery, in the desert, of a small boy from another planet - the Little Prince of the title - and his stories of intergalactic travel, while on the other hand it is a thought-provoking allegory of the human condition.

First published in 1943, the year before the author's death in action this translation contains Saint-Exupéry's delightful illustrations."

I didn't know anything about this book before I received it as a gift and I don't know what I was expecting but it was totally different from any thoughts I had. A simple story with many hidden meanings. I've read many reviews since I finished it, most of them giving it high praise, but I have to say that it was just so so for me, it didn't grab me.

Included in this edition is Letter to a Hostage which was written and dedicated to the 40 million French living under Nazi oppression. An interesting read but one I wouldn't have reached for had it not been included with The Little Prince.

A Villa With a View by Julie Caplin.

"Lia Bathurst had always dreamed of escaping to the white sandy beaches and turquoise blue seas of the Amalfi Coast - but that dream hadn't included meeting her real father. A father she had never even known about until a few weeks ago! Yet here she was, standing outside the gates of a gorgeous pink villa being refused entry by the insufferable - and insufferably handsome - Raphael Knight, her father's business manager.

When an old black and white photo proves Lia's claim to be true, Raph is determined to make sure this stranger, with her long caramel waves and infectious smile, doesn't have an ulterior motive. Even if that means not letting her out of his sight. 

As temperatures rise, and not just from the heat of the Mediterranean sun, could Lia and Raph's forced proximity lead to something more like...amore?"

The latest in the Romantic Escapes series by this author, and another destination to add to my wish list. I don't know how Julie Caplin gets me dreaming of far away places, well I do, her descriptions of these idyllic holiday spots gets me itching to visit them myself. A typical girl meets boy storyline with the added interest of a dreamy destination and descriptions of mouth-watering food. A light but enjoyable read.

The Museum of Ordinary People by Mike Gayle.

"Deep down, Jess knows she is drifting. She needs to rekindle a sense of purpose.

Her boyfriend wants her to buy a place with him: a fresh start. But first she must sort the few sentimental belongings she kept from her mum's house. Her friend tells her about 'The Museum of Ordinary People', a place that keeps beloved items from everyday lives. It sounds perfect - and it is.

Everything there has a label, and these stories begin to unlock Jess's heart - treasured memories, families reunited, loves lost and found.

So when the owner, Alex, tells her the museum faces closure, she decides to help him fight for its future. In doing so, Jess might lose everything. Or she might just find a future for herself as well."

I've read a couple of Mike Gayle books before and thoroughly enjoyed them so I was expecting good things from this book and I'm pleased to say that I did enjoy it. Not quite as good as the previous books I'd read but I do enjoy this author so I'll definitely read more from him in the future.

I've spent some time updating my yarn stash on Ravelry. Much of it had already been entered on there but I've been a bit lax recently with new purchases. I went through everything making sure that each skein had been listed and taking photos so that I can see at a glance exactly what I've got without having to go diving into my stash. Ravelry is a great site for knitters, there's patterns galore to choose from, some free and some which you have to pay for, groups, forums and somewhere to keep track of your projects and stash, and best of all, it's free.

It was five years on the 28th since my mum died, I just don't know where the time has gone. I can't believe all that time has passed by. We have a memorial stone at the crematorium, similar to the ones shown above. There are memorial plaques for my mum, my dad and my sister on it and we're able to place flowers there. We took some flowers on the day, even though we'd been less than a week before when it was my dad's birthday. I like to visit on birthdays and anniversaries, and even though the crematorium is over thirteen miles from where we live, we visit often at other times too. There's only us besides Daniel and Eleanor who visit so I like to make sure there's flowers there so that they never look forgotten.

I never watched Fat Friends when it was originally released back in 2000 but I know so many people loved it. When I saw that the four series were showing on Netflix, I decided to give it a go. Oh, how I wished I'd watched it all those years ago. It seems a bit dated now but I still loved it, I binge watched all twenty five episodes. Written by the late great Kay Mellor who wrote so many fantastic shows, it follows the lives of several slimming club members focusing on the impact their weight has had on them. A fantastic cast including Alison Steadman, Ruth Jones, Richard Ridings, Gaynor Faye, James Corden, Kathryn Hunt and Lisa Riley. It's set in and around Leeds and it was fun looking for places I recognised. If you haven't watched it give it a go, it's both funny and, in parts, sad.

The clocks went forward today so the evenings will be lighter. It will be nice to get back to walking again after dinner, or tea as we call it here in Yorkshire. Let's hope we start to get some nicer weather again too.

Monday 25 March 2024

V-Stitch Blanket

I've had this, and more, Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino yarn in my stash for such a long time. Made from 55% Merino Wool, 33% Acrylic and 12% Cashmere it really is the softest, squishiest yarn ever and really cried out to be made into a baby blanket. It's another thing I made last year.

I chose these eight shades: Candy Pink, Pool, Peach Melba, Speedwell, Mist, Bamboo, Baby Blue and Lilac. I later added Light Blue for the border.

I've never crocheted the V-stitch before but it's been on my radar for the longest time. I've had a V-stitch blanket in my sights but like many things, it's just been an idea, something I've wanted to do in the future, so when I thought of crocheting a baby blanket, the V-stitch was the first thing which popped into my mind.

I can't remember now how many chains I started with but I crocheted seven repeats of the eight colours and then added a border of two rounds of double crochet. It measures 28" by 23".

I'm so pleased with how it turned out. It's so soft and drapey and I think it will work well in a pram or car seat.

Tuesday 19 March 2024

Clumber Park

Clumber Park is a country park near Worksop in Nottinghamshire. It was the seat of the Dukes of Newcastle and extends over 3,800 acres. We visited on Saturday, it was a little dull and rather cold when we arrived but the sun did put in an appearance and it warmed up considerably whilst we were there.

The main house here was damaged by several fires and eventually demolished in 1938 but the grade 1 listed chapel in gothic revival style still stands, as does the walled kitchen garden, but more of that later.

A view of the parkland towards the lake.

Clumber Lake is huge, serpentine in design, extending more than two miles and covering 87 acres.

As you can imagine, there's lots of water birds here both gliding along the water and by the sides of the lake.

So many swans, some seemed to be young ones as they still had their grey tinged feathers.

We spent a little time watching a greylag goose. I know geese are renowned for being grumpy and aggressive but this chap really seemed to have a problem, he was sticking his neck out, honking, hissing and chasing all the other geese, and swans too. It was quite comical to watch.

Bulrushes by the edge of the lake.

There's pretty seating areas by the waters edge. I bet it's a delight to sit here on a hot summer day.

One of my favourite spring flowers is the humble primrose so I was pleased to see great swathes of them adorning one bank.

I really want to visit again in a couple of months as there's an abundance of rhododendron bushes which are covered in buds. I'm sure it will be a riot of colour come May and June.

We were also just a little too early to see this beautiful magnolia in all its beauty. It was just on the brink of flowering.

Some of the blooms were just beginning to show but most were still in bud.

Clumber Park has some interesting and ancient trees in the lapsed wood pasture but they're also scattered throughout the parkland too.

As with most National Trust properties, there's the chance to sit down and have something to eat or drink, and a shop to peruse.

In the Laundry Yard and Turning Yard you can find a cafe, a gift shop, plant sales, a second hand bookshop and an ice cream parlour as well as an information point and more food and drink outlets.

After a long walk around the grounds both Archie and I were flagging a little, me with my bad back and Archie just because he's rather old now, though he does still manage very well, bless him. We didn't want to call it a day before we'd explored the walled garden though so we decided to head back to the car and drive round to the other car park which is much nearer this area and I'm glad that we did as I've never seen a walled garden like it before. It spans four acres, has two national collections and is so well kept. On the outside of the walls are these espalier fruit trees.

There's produce for sale on the cart. Things which may be available in March are early rhubarb, rhubarb crowns, kale and spring cabbage.

We could see the bees hard at work going in and out of the hives.

Clumber Park is home to a national rhubarb collection, there's over 130 varieties, which are all labelled up. You can see some of the plants behind Archie who doesn't look too impressed, in fact I think you can tell how tired he is in this photo.

There's also a national collection of apple trees at Clumber Park too. Some of them are espaliers grown against the walls and others are trained against wires strung between posts. It's certainly a space saving way to grow fruit trees.

The longest glasshouse in the National Trust can be found at Clumber Park. 

It measures 451 feet.

It was nice to see a display of Amaryllis as mine didn't even flower this year.

Just look at the size of this dried allium head. All those little star shaped flowers in the globe are still perfect even when dry.

Back outside in the walled garden again, I love these cloches. The ground looks ready and waiting for the plants.

More fruit trees, there are around 250 apple trees as well as other fruit trees.

Another of the rhubarb beds. The collection here is the second largest in the world. The gardens supply the cafe and some rhubarb is sold on the produce cart.


No flowers on the roses in the rose garden as yet but I like how they're growing cheek by jowl with other plants. There's bulbs, annuals and herbaceous perennials to create a long lasting display. There's over 40 pre-1920s varieties of roses in this garden.

A lovely way to display some of the hellebores which are growing in the garden. These flowers tip their blooms downwards so you don't get to see the flowers unless you lift them up. Floating them in water in this way gives you a chance to see the blooms in all their glory.

Such a lovely day out, I'm really looking forward to returning. There's so much we didn't see on this visit and such a lot we want to see again, especially in the walled garden which changes week by week. If you're in the area I can thoroughly recommend it.

Wednesday 13 March 2024

Baby Knitting

Now that I've told you about the new family member we're looking forward to meeting in a few months time I can show you a few things which I've been knitting.

These three little cardigans were actually knit last year. We were expecting to become grandparents before Christmas, however, that wasn't to be. Sadly, Eleanor and Jacob discovered at a routine scan that the baby had no heartbeat. After twenty four weeks it would be classed as a stillbirth but as the baby hadn't reached that age, it's actually called a missed miscarriage, a term I'd never heard before. There was no outward signs of a miscarriage, the baby's heart had just stopped beating.

As you can imagine, it was a sad and traumatic time for us all, but especially Eleanor and Jacob, and I don't think it's something they'll ever get over. This second pregnancy has been fraught with worry after what happened last time, plus the fact that Eleanor's had hyperemesis gravidarum, or severe sickness.

Anyway, on to the knitting.

This is the Baby Aosta Cardigan by The Knit Purl Girl and this is my favourite of all the little baby cardigans I've knit so far.

It's knit in Andalusian stitch in Sirdar Snuggly DK in the shade Twinkle Toes, isn't that a great name for a colourway. I love these little wooden buttons I've used. I've started buying my buttons from the local market, they're so much cheaper than places like Hobbycraft, and they have a much better choice too.

The rib is cast off using a tubular bind off and the button band is cast off purlwise, which I can't remember ever doing before. It does give it a lovely neat finish.

Another one I really like is the Biscotti Baby Cardigan by Lilia Vanini. I knit the first size. The pattern is written for a sport weight yarn but again, I used Sirdar Snuggly DK. I knew the gauge would be wrong but it just means that it's come out in a larger size, which is fine as it will be perfect for the winter months when baby will be older.

This colourway is Treasure, another great name. The raglan on this little cardigan is different from the norm and makes a lovely feature.

I can't say that cables are my favourite things to knit but I do like the effect they give. I started this cardigan and then realised that the cables on each front go the same way, I'd have liked them to be mirrored, but I didn't want to start ripping back to start over. When looking at this designers patterns at a later date, I realised that she actually has the exact same pattern but written in a way in which the cables are mirrored. It will teach me to look more closely at a pattern before I start in future, and also to look at the designers full range of patterns too. I'm happy with it overall though.

This one is the Oh Baby! Cardigan by Roberta Rich and it's one which I've knit before. It's a quick, simple knit and perfect for an everyday baby cardigan. Again, knit in Sirdar Snuggly DK, this is the Rice Pudding colourway.

Aren't these little bear buttons the cutest. They finish off this cardigan perfectly. I bought these from Spring Into Wool, a yarn show held at Leeds Grammar School, last year.

I'll leave it there for this post but there's more baby knits, and crochet, to come!