Tuesday 30 April 2024

April 2024

It's been an exciting month for us, and especially Daniel and Jasmine after He Proposed. They've been rather busy with other things they had planned this month so the ring shopping and engagement celebrations are yet to take place but we're all still thrilled to bits with the news. 

I mentioned in my Gadding About post that we rarely take note of the weather forecast as it's often wrong. Well, on the second Saturday of the month we'd planned a trip to Derbyshire, we've never visited Ladybower Reservoir and we were keen to see the two giant plugholes, or bellmouth overflows which drain water, while we had a nice walk. When we looked at the forecast that morning it said Derbyshire was due heavy rain all afternoon. Not being put off by this we set off but as we approached the reservoir you can see how dismal a day it was. We decided not to bother getting out of the car after all, apart from jumping out to take a quick photo. This area must look stunning on a beautiful day. Not to be beaten, we decided we'd still take a drive around the area. We ended up in Castleton, a popular tourist village which we've never visited before. Many visitors to the village set off from here on the moorland and hill trails, and there's many cave systems here too. We're not quite so adventurous so we stuck to the village itself, but we were rewarded with some fine weather, quite different from the forecast or what we'd encountered just a short time before. Afterwards we travelled on to Bakewell, the largest town in the Peak District and a favourite of ours. It actually turned into a successful day out after a shaky start.

Eleanor had her baby shower. She hired a local bar and decorated it with a Winnie the Pooh theme, same as the baby's nursery. Everyone had a lovely time and her guests were very generous with their gifts. Less than two months to go now to the big day, we're counting down.

We had another trip to the coast, we seem to be visiting fairly regularly this year. Though the sun was shining there was a chilly wind which made it really cold. Archie didn't seem to mind though, he enjoys a walk on the beach but he does tire easily now so we don't stay as long as we used to.

I've read three books this month.

The Shadow Sister by Lucina Riley.

"After the death of her beloved adoptive father, Pa Salt, Star D'Apli├Ęse is at a crossroads. Her father has left each of his six daughters clues to their true heritage, but Star - the most enigmatic of the sisters - is hesitant to step out of the safety of the close relationship she shares with her sister CeCe. When she finally decides to follow her first clue, it leads her to an antiquarian bookshop in London, and to the start of a whole new world...

A hundred years earlier, headstrong Flora MacNichol vows she will never marry, She is happy and secure in her home in the Lake District, living close to her idol, Beatrix Potter. But when machinations outside her control lead her to London, and the home of one of Edwardian society's most notorious players, Alice Keppel, Flora is pulled between passionate love and family duty.

As Star learns more of Flora's incredible journey, she too goes on a voyage of self-discovery, finally stepping out of the shadow of her sister and opening herself up to the possibility of love.

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

Another brilliant read, I'm loving this series. The dual timeline and how the story is interwoven is done so well. I like how each book in the series sends you off in a different direction and the history aspect leaves me wanting to know more. The fourth book is already waiting for me on the bookshelf.

Peter Pan by J M Barrie.

"The story of Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up, captures the lost magic of childhood and has been loved by generations.

As Peter flies in through the window and spirits Wendy and the rest of the Darling children away from their London home and on a journey involving epic battles, fairies and pirates, their adventures conjure up a world of joy and freedom far away from the responsibilities of adulthood."

It seems I know many stories from my childhood but have never actually read the books so I'm on a quest to put that right. Peter Pan was never one of my favourites but I'm glad I've now read the book and I did enjoyed the way it was written.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

"When Elizabeth Bennet first meets eligible bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcey, she thinks him arrogant and conceited; he is indifferent to her good looks and lively mind. When she later discovers that Darcey has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever. In the sparkling comedy of manners that follows, Jane Austen shows the folly of judging by first impressions and superbly evokes the friendships, gossip and snobberies of provincial middle-class life."

Although I'd never read Pride and Prejudice before, I've seen several screen adaptations so I obviously knew the story. That didn't lessen the enjoyment for me though. I often think that a film doesn't do the book justice and I suppose that's because they can't fit everything which is in a book into a couple of hours of screen time but, having seen more than one adaptation of this story, I already had a pretty rounded view of it. I do enjoy Jane Austen's writing though so I found reading the book worthwhile.

The puffins have arrived at Bempton Cliffs, only a few so far, there'll be many more appear in the weeks to come. It's such a lovely place to visit, especially between April and July when the Puffins, Guillemots, Gannets and Kittiwakes turn up to raise a family. There's other birds here too, we saw two short-eared owls when we visited earlier this year and corn buntings, linnets and skylarks breed in the grassland which surround the cliffs. At the moment you can see the birds flying in with nesting material, we'll visit again soon in the hope we can catch a glimpse of some chicks.

I've been knitting so many things for the baby, I thought it was about time to cast something on for myself. I decided I'd join in with a knitalong which is being hosted at the moment so I've cast on a shawl. I looked through my yarn stash and came up with these two skeins from Fondant Fibre, a dyer who is no longer in business, I thought they'd look lovely together in the Rosa shawl by Collete Audrey, a free pattern on Ravelry. I haven't got very far with it yet, I'm still knitting for the baby!

I keep saying that I hope the weather warms up but it's now the end of April and perhaps we're just turning the corner. We've had such cold, wet weather these first four months of the year but we've just got into double figures this week and the forecast is looking better than it has for a long time. Fingers crossed that May is the month that we start to see some better weather.

Wednesday 24 April 2024

Toadstools Romper

I saw that someone I follow on Instagram had knitted the Toadstools Romper by Julie Taylor for her granddaughter and I fell in love with it. It's the little embroidered toadstools on the front which do it for me. I didn't think a romper would be the kind of thing that Eleanor would like but when I showed the pattern to her she loved it and asked if I'd knit one for her.

Of course, I was only too happy to oblige, though I must say that the embroidery made me think twice as it's something I've never done before. The knitting part of the pattern was very easy, it's something a beginner knitter would have no trouble with, I'm sure, but as for the embroidery, well, I didn't even know where to start. 

The closest I've come to embroidery in the past is cross stitch so I was completely in the dark here, however, the pattern comes with videos explaining each stitch very clearly, and though I don't think my embroidery skills are up to par, I think I managed this little design adequately after muddling through.

I knit the romper in Drops Merino Cotton in the Sea Green colourway, I think it will be suitable for a girl or a boy, and I bought these little 20g balls of Sirdar Happy cotton with which to do the embroidery. I'm really happy with how this romper has turned out, isn't it cute.

I think it looks even cuter with a little T-shirt underneath.

Thursday 18 April 2024

French Macaroon

I don't often knit jumpers for babies, I think it's probably easier to dress them in cardigans rather than have things which have to be pulled over their head, but I saw this French Macaroon pattern by The Noble Thread on Ravelry and just loved it.

It's knit in garter stitch so it's beautifully squishy. The only downside really is that the seams need to be sewn together. I'll admit that I avoid seaming at all costs, knitting in the round wherever possible, but it's only a small garment so I relented. The shoulders and tops of the arms are joined with a three-needle bind off so it was only the underneath of the sleeves and sides which needed sewing and even I could manage that. Going back to that three-needle bind off, it's done with wrong sides facing so that the seam is shown on the outside so I did one knitwise and one purlwise so that both seams faced the same way.

There's a button at the back of the neck to allow a little more give when putting the jumper over baby's head. I used King Cole Cottonsoft DK in the Ecru and Lime colourways. One thing I love about this jumper is the bold pops of colour, I could knit so many in lots of different colours. I did notice a difference in the way each of these colours knitted up though, the Lime seemed to have more body to it, the Ecru is much more drapey. I joked with Eleanor that she can use it as a dishcloth when the baby's grown out of it.

I added a button which I picked up when I was at Bakewell Wool Gathering.

I'm very pleased with the finished garment. It's knit in a larger size so it should be perfect for the colder months when the baby is a little older.

Friday 12 April 2024

He Proposed


Daniel and Jasmine spent last weekend in London. They arrived home on Monday and came round to tell us that whilst they were there they got engaged. It was a surprise, though it will be ten years in May since they started seeing each other, so they haven't rushed into things. 

Apparently, Jasmine didn't know it was on the cards either. Daniel suggested they take a walk in Kyoto Garden in Holland Park and there, underneath the cherry blossom with no one else around, he got down on one knee and popped the question. The ring you see here is a promise ring, temporary until they go ring shopping together. Daniel wanted the proposal to be a surprise but also wanted Jasmine to be able to choose her own ring, he really thought of everything.

They met in their first year at university, they were both on the same science course and were lab partners, they met in exactly the same way as Eleanor and Jacob, they were lab partners at university too. Jasmine comes from Colorado in the US but has settled here, she's recently applied for British citizenship and the application is being processed so we're hoping that will come through soon, there's no reason why it shouldn't, she's jumped through many hoops over the years to get to this point.

So the next step will be choosing the ring and then a wedding will be on the cards, though I don't think they're in any rush, after all, it's taken them ten years to get this far!

Monday 8 April 2024

Gadding About

Mick decided that he'd take some holiday from work around Easter time so he took off the four days leading up to Good Friday and the four days after Easter Monday. It meant that, with the bank holidays, he could use just eight days of his entitlement but was off work for sixteen consecutive days. We didn't go away on holiday but we had plenty of days out and I thought you might like to see some of the places we visited.

Sherwood Forest is known for the legend of Robin Hood. It is said that he and his Merry Men lived in the forest and sheltered under the Major Oak. This tree is thought to be around 1100 years old, its canopy spreads twenty eight meters, the circumference of its trunk is eleven meters and it's thought to weigh twenty three tonnes. Sherwood Forest was once a royal hunting ground but the RSPB now leads the team that manages the reserve. The day we visited was a beautiful spring day, the sun was shining and it had warmed up after a run of cold, wet weather. It was the perfect place to take Archie for a walk, he loves the scents and smells of woodland so he had the best time snuffling around the forest floor. It was rather a long walk for him though, he was wiped out afterwards.

Calke Abbey is not an abbey at all, rather a Grade I listed country house in Derbyshire. It was owned by the Harpur-Crewes, an eccentric family who amassed a vast collection of hidden treasures, but it fell into disrepair during the 20th century and the National Trust began caring for it in 1985. Although a little restoration work has been carried out, they decided to preserve the rooms as they were found, abandoned with peeling paintwork, to tell the story of the dramatic decline of a country house estate. We didn't go inside the house as we had Archie with us but there was plenty to discover in the gardens including hidden tunnels, a walled garden and St Giles Church. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and will definitely return.

We spent one morning in the market town of Masham, known for it's annual Sheep Fair and home to Black Sheep Brewery. We had planned to spend the afternoon at Studley Royal Water Garden, set on the same site as Fountains Abbey which we visited in February. We did get a short walk in the grounds before the heavens opened, the rain was so heavy that it cut short our visit but it's somewhere we'll visit again as there's plenty more to see.

I wouldn't be happy with a staycation unless there was a trip to the Yorkshire Dales, we visit so often but there's always new places to see, we never get bored of it. This is Semerwater, the second largest natural lake in North Yorkshire after Malham Tarn. There are many myths and legends about it but the most famous is that a beggar once visited a thriving city and asked for food and shelter. He knocked on all the doors but was turned away, only a poor couple in a cottage just outside the town took him in. The next morning he cursed the city. The water rose up and flooded the city and drowned the inhabitants, only the cottage and the poor couple were left unscathed. It had been forecast rain on the day we visited but it turned out to be a lovely day, it just clouded over late in the afternoon. We pay little attention these days to weather forecasts, they're often wrong and if we'd have taken note, we'd have missed out on a day out.

We couldn't have a staycation without visiting the Yorkshire coast either. On this particular day we spent some time in Bridlington, a seaside town we were often taken to as children. We allowed Archie some time on the beach before travelling on to RSPB Bempton Cliffs. It was still too early for the puffins, they should arrive towards the end of April, but we did see some Kittiwakes as well as Razorbills and Gannets. We really enjoy the time we spend at the coast, as does Archie.

There was an artisan market at Ripley Castle on Easter Sunday and visiting that gave us the opportunity to wander round the grounds as well as the village too. Ripley Castle is a Grade I listed 14th century country house in Ripley, North Yorkshire. The castle is privately owned by Sir Thomas Ingilby, 6th Baronet and his wife, Emma, Lady Ingilby. When Sir Thomas inherited the estate at the age of eighteen, it came with a huge tax bill so they turned the family home into a hospitality business. The castle is open for private tours and it's been used in a number of TV series. It was nice to wander around the village on this occasion, though it was busier than we'd ever seen it before, perhaps the combination of it being Easter Sunday as well as such a lovely day weather wise was the reason why.

We spent some time in the market town of Barnard Castle in the Durham Dales. We didn't go in the castle but we had a saunter around the main street and perused the many independent shops which line the street. On our way home we popped into Beningbrough Hall in North Yorkshire. We didn't stay very long as time was getting on but what we did see, we enjoyed and it's another place to put on the list for a return visit. Parts of the garden are closed at the moment as they're undergoing work. Andy Sturgeon, the award-winning landscape and garden designer, has been appointed to refresh and improve the eight-acre garden. It will be interesting to see the changes in the future.

Another trip to the Yorkshire coast took us to Staithes, a charming fishing village which clings to the hillside. It's known for its steep cobbled streets and traditional red-roofed cottages. Captain Cook was apprenticed to a draper here and it's said it's where he found his love of the sea. It was a chilly day when we visited but we definitely worked up a sweat on the trek back up the hill, blimey it's a steep one. We called at Whitby where I popped in to my favourite bookshop and I might have treated myself to a book, and then visited the village of Grosmont, a peaceful village in the Eskdale valley area of the North Yorks Moors National Park. It's popular with train enthusiasts, the steam locomotives which run between Pickering and Whitby pass through the station.

Somewhere I've wanted to visit for a long time is Hardwick Hall, a fabulous country house from the Elizabethan era. It was built for Elizabeth, countess of Shrewsbury, known as Bess of Hardwick, one of the richest women of Elizabethan England. Her descendants are the Dukes of Devonshire of nearby Chatsworth. I would have loved to have gone inside the hall itself but that's for another day, we had Archie with us and dogs aren't even allowed in the garden here, only the parkland. Unfortunately, I think the past fortnight had caught up with Archie, he wasn't at his best so we didn't explore much of the grounds but we enjoyed what we did see and we'll return at a later date. We cut short our day in Derbyshire, there were a couple more places we'd intended to see but we thought it only fair to return home so that Archie could rest.

It's been such a lovely fortnight. As well as our longer trips out we've also visited old haunts closer to home, had meals out and got some jobs done in the house and garden too. We've been lucky with the weather, it hasn't been too bad and I'm sure you'll agree that we've visited some wonderful places, some old favourites and many places where we haven't been before but to which we'll definitely return, but for now, I'm ready for a rest!