Friday 31 May 2024

May 2024

The weather finally perked up in May. After a cold, wet start to spring we got some beautiful days and it was nice to finally spend some time enjoying the garden and having some days out in the sunshine. Mind you, I don't know what's happened since as here, at the end of the month, we're back to cold, rainy days.

We were treated to the most spectacular natural light show on the 10th when a solar flare reacted with gases in the Earth's atmosphere allowing us to see the Northern Lights or aurora borealis. They're usually only seen further north than the UK but they were visible in many parts of the world on this occasion. It had been a lovely, sunny day and we were sat outdoors with the family so we didn't miss a thing. This photo was taken from our garden by Eleanor.

Archie celebrated his fourteenth birthday on the 13th. As you can see, he was rather bored with all the present opening, though he did enjoy the treats which were inside the packages.

I've read four books in May.

The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square by Lilly Bartlett.

"When Emma's boyfriend Daniel pops the question with a ring the size of a small country, she suddenly realises just how different they are. She wants a low-key wedding in Uncle Colin's pub, while Daniel's mother is expecting a society do that their high-brow guests won't forget!

Then there's the fact her cross-dressing Uncle Barbara wants to be a bridesmaid, her best mate Kelly can't stand Daniel's best friend Cressida, and her dad is too proud to accept any help from Daniel's family towards the costs.

There's three months to go until the big day. Will Emma's happy-ever-after end in disaster?"

This book was in my Twelve Days Of Christmas 2023 parcel from my friend, Lisa. I'd never read anything by this author before but the cover drew me in, and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. Very light-hearted as you'd expect, but lots of laughs. I enjoy reading a variety of genres, it keeps my reading fresh and enjoyable.

The Pearl Sister by Lucinda Riley.

"CeCe D'Apli├Ęse has never felt she fitted in anywhere. And following the death of her father, the elusive billionaire Pa Salt - so-called by the six daughters he adopted from around the globe - she finds herself at breaking point.

In desperation, and armed only with the scant clues her father has left her, CeCe begins a search to discover her true origins...a search that takes her to the searing heat and dusty plains of the Red Centre of Australia.

But what is her connection to Kitty McBride, a Scottish clergyman's daughter who lived there over a hundred years ago?

As CeCe unearths deeply buried and long-forgetten secrets, she starts to believe that this wild, vast continent could offer her something she never thought possible: a sense of belonging and a home."

I must admit that when I started this next instalment of the Seven Sisters series I wondered if this would be one story that wasn't for me, but I should have trusted in Lucinda Riley's captivating storytelling because once I'd read past the first couple of chapters I just couldn't put it down and it's probably the book I finished the fastest of the four in the series I've read so far.

I'm trying to pace myself, I'm half way through the series now but I don't want it to end so I'm reading other books in between. What I really want to do is devour the whole eight books in one go. A big thumbs up from me.

The Household by Stacey Halls.

"Urania Cottage reminds Martha of a doll's house, of a staged domestic life where, upon closer inspection, the fire is a pile of ribbons and the windows are pasted shut...

London, 1847. In a quiet house in Shepherd's Bush, the finishing touches are being made to welcome a group of young women. The house and its location are secret, its residents unknown to one another, but the girls have one thing in common: they are fallen. Offering refuge for prostitutes, petty thieves and the destitute, Urania Cottage is a second chance at life - but how badly do they want it?

Meanwhile, a few miles away in a Piccadilly mansion, millionairess Angela Burdett-Coutts, one of the benefactors of Urania Cottage, makes a discovery that leaves her cold. Her stalker of ten years has been released from prison, and she knows it's only a matter of time before their nightmarish game resumes once more.

As the women's worlds collide in ways they could never have expected, they will discover that freedom always comes at a price..."

One of the great things about reading historical fiction is that you learn new things along the way. When reading a book of this genre, I often Google to find out more, and I'm often surprised by what I learn. For instance, I never knew that Charles Dickens set up a home for fallen women. Urania Cottage, as written about in this story, was a real place and it was, indeed, funded by Angela Burdett-Coutts, British philanthropist and granddaughter of the banker, Thomas Coutts.

I was expecting good things from this book. I've read all three of this author's previous books and enjoyed them all and this one didn't disappoint either. The book follows several storylines and held my interest. Another good read from this author.

The Last Reunion by Kayte Nunn.

"BURMA, 1945. Bea, Plum, Bubbles, Joy and Lucy are five young women looking for adventure, fighting a forgotten war in the jungle. Running a mobile canteen and dodging hostile gunfire, they soon become embroiled in a battle that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

OXFORD, 1976. At the height of an impossibly hot English summer, a woman slips into a museum and steals several rare Japanese miniature sculptures. Despite a reward being offered, these exquisitely detailed carvings are never seen again.

LONDON AND GALWAY, 1999. On the eve of the millennium, Olivia, an art dealer's assistant, meets elderly widow, Beatrix, who is hoping to sell her husband's collection of Japanese art. And when they attend a New Year's Eve party in the Irish countryside, secrets kept for more than fifty years will be spilled..."

I must admit that it was the lovely cover which tempted me to purchase this book when I saw it in The Works but I thoroughly enjoyed the story. Dealing mainly with life in Burma towards the end of WWII, it follows the Wasbies (Women's Auxiliary Service Burma WAS(B)) who operated mobile canteens for the troops close to the front line.

It's such an interesting storyline with strong, female characters and beautifully written. I shall definitely look for more from this author.

We've enjoyed lots of meals out this month for one reason or another. A particularly nice one was at our local Italian, a favourite restaurant of ours, celebrating Daniel and Jasmine's engagement.

I visited Buxton Wool Gathering on the 19th, a yarn show I haven't been to before. It's held in the most stunning setting, Buxton Pavilion Gardens, a fabulous venue. We took Archie with us so the landscaped public park was an ideal spot for Mick to walk him whilst I was squishing yarn. It was a glorious day weather wise so they got to see the Victorian gardens at their best. I came away with just two mini skeins, one in pink and one in blue, the edging for a baby blanket I've got on the go. I shall decide which one to use after the baby's born. There was so much beautiful yarn there which I could have bought but I'm more mindful at the moment of the stash I've already got so I'm trying not to purchase yarn unless I've got a project in mind for it, or if I just really can't resist!

I got a lovely surprise phone call from Nectar at Sainsbury's. Apparently, there was a Cadbury's promotion running over Easter to celebrate their 200th birthday and because I'd bought some Cadbury's Easter eggs there, I'd been entered into a prize draw and won a chocolate hamper. It's stashed full of different Cadbury's products, there's more underneath the ones you can see here.

After reading Pride and Prejudice last month, I decided to look out the old DVDs I've got of two of the screen adaptations and rewatched them. One was a TV mini series and the other a film. More often than not, I prefer a book over a movie and I think that's because a book goes into so much more detail. Films have to cut short many elements in a story because time is limited but a TV mini series doesn't have these restrictions so much so perhaps that's why this one stays truer to the book than the film does and why I prefer it. Or, perhaps I favour it because I'm more partial to the cast. I think Alison Steadman and Julia Sawalha, amongst others, portray their characters so well, and Colin Firth will forever be my Mr Darcy.

Mick had booked this last week of the month off work but I started feeling unwell on Sunday, I've had a sore throat all week and now that's developed into a cold, so he ended up cancelling his holiday and he'll take it at a later date. It's good that I've got any illness out of the way as we're looking forward now to the month ahead when we're expecting an addition to our family. There's lots of excitement here as you can imagine. 

Friday 24 May 2024

More Baby Knitting

I just can't stop knitting baby garments, though I don't suppose that's a bad thing, it's nice to have plenty of things to go at. I remember my two going through a few outfit changes a day sometimes. I'm also knitting a range of sizes as babies grow so fast. These two aren't my favourites but sometimes you don't know that until you finish knitting them.

This is the Velvet Acorn Baby Cardigan by Lilia Vanini. It's a cable and mock cable design which is interesting to knit.

I used Drops Baby Merino in the Light Turquoise colourway. I thought it would suit both boy or girl.

I just love these cute buttons. I don't like the way this designer creates the buttonholes in her patterns though, they end up far too big for a baby cardigan so I found myself having to stitch them up a little. If I knit any more of her patterns I shall remember to make the buttonholes in a different way.

This cosy cardi is the Pulcini by Annalisa Dione, a free pattern on Ravelry. Doesn't it look snuggly. That's because it's knit in garter stitch, it makes a lovely squishy fabric. For this one I used Wendy Peter Pan 4Ply in the Teddy colourway, a nice neutral colour. I started off knitting the newborn size but it knit up so small, I pulled it out and went up to the 3 month size and it's still very small but should fit nicely when the baby's born. That is if it's a baby meerkat, just look how small the neck opening is. Never mind, it can be worn unbuttoned, or the top button left open.

Isn't this little hat cute, I couldn't resist knitting it when I saw those ears. It's the Big Bearly Bonnet by Pure Stitches. I knitted the 3-6 month size so that it will fit in winter. I thought it would be nice to knit some mittens to go with it so I followed the Baby and Toddler Mittens pattern by Julie Taylor. Both of these patterns are free on Ravelry. In hindsight I should have knitted the mittens in garter stitch to match the hat, I just didn't think at the time. I didn't have enough yarn left to knit another pair but I don't think it really matters.

I'm waiting now until the baby's born before I cast on anything else. It will be nice to know whether I'm knitting for a boy or a girl, not long to wait to find out now.

Friday 17 May 2024

Back To Tissington

You may remember a post I wrote last year about Derbyshire Well Dressings, a custom where wells and springs are adorned with pictures made from flowers and natural materials which have been pressed into a clay base to dress the wells and give thanks for the water. We visited a few different villages last year to see their well dressings, on Sunday we decided to go back to a village we last visited in 2019 to see Tissington Well Dressing.

You can read more about Tissington if you click on the link above, I wrote about the village in my last post. You can also see how the wells were dressed five years ago, they change them each year.

There are six wells in Tissington, Hands Well, Children's Well, Hall Well, Yew Tree Well, Town Well and Coffin Well. The above is Hands Well.

It's a lovely atmosphere in the village with so many people coming to look at the well dressings. It's so well organised with a field given over to parking at a cost of just £3 per car. Tissington holds their well dressing early in the year, their tradition is to have the festival on Ascension Day. They certainly got the weather for it this year.

Children's Well.

These ducks had the right idea, taking a nap in the dappled shade of a tree.

Hall Well.

There's some pretty cottages in the village, some are holiday lets. It's a lovely part of the country to take a break with some stunning scenery a stones throw away and many places of interest in the vicinity.

Yew Tree Well.

Ornaments adorn many of the canopies over the doorways. I love the pig.

Town Well.

There were plenty of refreshment stalls as well as cafes, a plant stall as well as a nursery, a butchers shop, a candle shop, even a craft shop.

Coffin Well.

Afterwards, we made an on the spot decision to visit Ilam Park, somewhere we haven't been before. It's just across the border into Staffordshire but less than five miles from Tissington so it wasn't far to go.

Ilam Park is owned by the National Trust. It covers 158 acres and consists of Ilam Hall, the remnants of its gardens and woodland.

I love this time of year when everywhere is so green. We may have had a lot of rain in April but it's made for a lush May when the sunshine has arrived.

We watched the lambs with their mums.

Holy Cross Church stands in the grounds of Ilam Park, set amid beautiful scenery.

I enjoyed seeing the planting combinations in the borders. The purples looked pretty side by side with the oranges.

We stopped off in Ilam where the cottages resemble a Swiss village.

It was a lovely day out. Yew Tree Well is my favourite well dressing. Which is yours?

Thursday 9 May 2024

In My Garden

I'm not sowing many seeds this year, in fact the only seeds I've bought are Tigerella tomato and sunflower Rouge Royale.

I always used to start my sowing much earlier than May but with a cold rainy April, I just couldn't motivate myself this year. In fact, I'm not even sure I'm going to sow the tomatoes as I saw that a local garden centre had some heritage tomato plants, I may pop back and buy a couple of those. There's so many interesting tomato varieties that it's nice to try something new.

We've done quite a bit of garden centre visiting just lately and we've made a few purchases too, they're not all shown here. The better weather has encouraged lots of garden activity. I've bought some plants to plug gaps in the flower border as well as others to put in pots. I'm not a huge lover of bedding plants but they have their place. We've also bought a tree, rowan Joseph Rock. Its leaves turn a flame red in autumn and it produces amber yellow berries. We've got an ornamental cherry tree in the front garden at the moment but it's diseased so we're going to replace it with this.

Mick bought me a plant stand for Christmas so I'm enjoying filling that with an assortment of different pots and plants. There's still space for more.

We've bought a few of these metal planters to hang on the fence. I've filled them with violas and lobelia as they'll be emptied at the end of summer and stored away to prevent them from rusting. Who knows, they may rust anyway being outdoors in our British summer. Time will tell.

Of course, if I'm trying to get some photos of the garden then Archie is going to photobomb them!

I have a few different areas in the garden where I group pots together. Here at the side of my bench I have an acer, a pieris, a pot filled with strawberry plants, a dahlia and a sedum.

We're lucky to have a nice outdoor space. I think many people came to realise during the pandemic that a garden can be a haven and though our garden is now smaller than the one we left behind two years ago, it's still a good sized space, big enough for us, and we enjoy being in it when the sun puts in an appearance.