Tuesday, 31 May 2011

May Photo Hunt and Some AOB...

Hello! Thank you for the nice comments on my last post - I'm still a bit lurgified, but I'm kind of at the tail end of it now, so hopefully it will clear up soon.

I was on annual leave last week, but due to both of us having cold (CJ got it before me, but his didn't seem to last as long) we didn't really get out much. We did make it to Northallerton on Monday; we wanted to have a day out but somewhere different to where we usually go. We always seem to end up in either York or Lincoln, or the East Coast - all very nice, but we fancied somewhere else this time. I've been to Northallerton years ago but I couldn't remember it, and when we got there we thought it was very pleasant. It seems to be mainly just one long high street (there's probably more to it than that, but we stuck to the shops). Unfortunately the weather was a bit rubbish, blowing a gale and quite drizzly, so after walking up one side and down the other, we headed back to the car with some warm sausage rolls - yum! (diet? what diet??) We decided to have a drive around to a few other places - Bedale, Masham, Ripon - while gradually making our way back home, but we didn't get out at any of them, mainly due to this:



It bounced down just after we'd got in the car, and I don't think it stopped all the way home! I'm afraid to say we're fairweather day-trippers!

So that was Monday. Tuesday we just went over to my mum and dad's, and then grocery shopping, and it was Tuesday night when CJ developed cold, so like I said, that was pretty much the rest of the week ruined (don't get me wrong though, it's still been lovely not being at work, and having a lie-in every day!)

On the Friday before my week off, I finally - finally! - got around to posting some granny squares to the Japan Appeal, and also the Australian Crochet A Rainbow.





You get the idea!

 I did feel a bit bad about only sending 10 to each one, when some people are sending 40 or 50 at a time! But I'm sure every little helps!

Apart from the bobble dishcloth (which I still haven't finished!) I wasn't really doing any crochet, so last week while I was off (and in between all the nose-blowing!) I returned to an old favourite. This is just a sneak peek, I'm sure I'll blog about it when it's completely finished:


Another thing I managed last week was to get a couple of books read (proper books too, not Kindle books!). I'm a huge fan of Jodi Picoult, and I read The Tenth Circle, which was as thought-provoking and moving as all her novels are. I've read quite a few already, and I've got several more on the shelf, but I like to pace myself with them, and just read one now and again. I'd hate to catch up completely and then have to wait for the next one, although she writes one book a year, so I wouldn't have to wait too long! After hers, I read The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. His books seems to get a bit of a slating from a lot of critics, but I just take them for what they are, a really good action adventure, totally un-put-downable!! I don't worry too much about whether all the historical facts and figures are correct. I don't think it's being made into a film (yet) but I've already cast Morgan Freeman as one of the main characters - that's who I was picturing as I read it! I'm going to try and put a 'currently reading' pic in my sidebar whenever I start a new book.
 
So as it's the end of May, I thought I might as well post my Photo Scavenger Hunt pics. I'm afraid to say I didn't manage to get them all: I couldn't find a willing victim participant for the black and white portrait; my imagination let me down when it came to the streetlight; and, most annoying of all, I failed in my efforts to get a snap of an emergency vehicle. This is annoying because I work at a hospital, so when I saw this on the list I thought "easy - an ambulance!". Well, every time I wandered up to A&E, were there any ambulances parked up outside?? Not one!! I know 'other emergency vehicles are available' but I really thought I'd got that one in the bag. Oh well. Here are the rest of them then:

a bicycle

Yes, this sorry looking thing is my bike, currently in the garage covered in dust, sawdust, cobwebs and goodness knows what else! I tried cycling a couple of years ago, but decided I preferred to have both feet on terra firma at all times!

A butterfly
Maybe a little cheat, this is one of the butterflies on a larger cross-stitched picture that I did a few years ago.

A cartoon character
This one had me stumped for a while, but then I realised that I walk past this Noddy kiddy ride every day.

A Red Door
Hmm, another iffy one, this is my take on a red door - my mum's well-used bottle of Red Door perfume by Elizabeth Arden!

A Sign of the Zodiac
This is Leo, my nodding lion. He's very old, and I have such a soft spot for him. He belonged to my grandma, and after she died we were clearing her house and I don't think anyone really knew what to do with him; for a moment I think he was almost in danger of being thrown out!! So I said "I'll have him!" and he's been with me ever since. When I told my mum that I was using a photo of him, she said she remembers 'posing' him amongst some shrubs in her garden when she was a girl, and taking photos of him (I'm afraid I wasn't that imaginative!), and she says they'd had him years even then, so he's been around a while!

An interesting local building
Ok, try to see past the big tree - this is the Brotherton Wing, part of Leeds General Infirmary. I find it 'interesting' because I think it looks a bit like a cruise liner, with those balconies on the end there. It was built in 1940 from Portland Stone at a cost of £50,000. I believe the balconies were used for 'open-air therapy'; each one was at the end of a ward, although there are no wards there now. Apparently it was hit by German bombs in an air-raid not long after it opened, but was undamaged (I don't know how it can be hit by a bomb and not damaged but that's what 'my source' says!)

Something blue
Millie's eyes!!

Texture
A bobble on my bobbly dishcloth

Think vintage!
In recent years, my dad seems to have been reverting to his youth, and started collecting model/toy cars - this is one of them!

So there you go, my May photos. Looking forwards to the June list - I enjoyed the challenge, even if I didn't manage to get them all.

It's getting late and my bed is calling, so I'll just leave you with some pics of our little visitor who has been absent for a while, but who must've smelled the peanuts in the new feeder:




Bye for now!!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Bleuuurrghh!!

This is pretty much me at the moment:


I'm full of cold (since Thursday) and feeling a bit crappity-crap to say the least. CJ has just been out and bought me eight - 8, count 'em! - boxes of Kleenex Balsam Tissues, bless him. The rate I'm going through them, they'll probably be gone by this evening.

I hardly slept a wink last night, and I don't even feel like I've got the energy to write a longer post. I just felt like coming here and having a little moan.

That's all.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Zumbaaaarrgh!!

Hello again! I hope you're well!

I'm not keeping up with this blogging malarkey as well as I'd like to, am I? It's been so long that, as usual, I'm sure I've forgotten lots of things that I wanted to write about! Oh well, I'll just see how I go...

Firstly, I've tweaked my blog dimensions slightly, so if it looks a bit different, that's why.



These were some lovely flowers that CJ bought me a couple of weeks back. He'd actually bought two bouquets for the wife of one of the members of his bee club; she'd kept everyone fed and watered during a weekend course that they were running, so the flowers were a thank you for her. But he realized that it wouldn't look too good if he came home with flowers for another woman and none for me, so I got these!! I desperately need some new vases though, the tall glass one is too tall and really heavy, and the bottom one is really a jug (not that you can't put flowers in a jug, but it's a jug that we do sometimes use for keeping cold drinks in the fridge). I'm not too keen on the clear glass either, I think I'd prefer something where you can't see all the stalks.

I should really change the name of this blog now to something like "the diet started last Monday"... because it did! I'm not going to waffle on about it for ages, but basically last weekend I planned my week's meals using the recipe suggestions from the slimming club which is run by the gym I attend. The previous Thursday we signed up for the six week challenge, which really just consists of getting weighed once a week, and at the end of the six weeks I think they look at your food diary and tell you if there's anything you could improve. At my first weigh-in I'd lost 2lbs from my starting weight, which is good, but I'm not getting overly excited about it as it's such a small amount. But if it keeps going like that every week, I'll be happy! Planning my meals proved to be really successful too, especially as CJ and I are now eating different foods (he's not bothered about healthy eating!). Knowing what I was having for my tea each night really helped, and stopped me from my usual lazy habit of just getting a bowl of cereal. One thing I need to get used to is that cooking meals for myself, and preparing my lunches for work, means spending more time in the kitchen on an evening, which means less time sitting at my laptop reading blogs or playing Bejewelled Blitz on Facebook! But that's not really a bad thing, is it? I definitely need to be more active, so on that basis, I've also indulged in this:

 
For the complete beginner (which I am!) it's flippin' hard work! I've discovered just how incredibly uncoordinated I am, not to mention unfit and the complete opposite of agile! I feel like an elephant, lumbering across the living room! It seems like I can't jump or lift my feet up, they're rooted to the floor! In my defence, I think the game could be better; the tutorials don't talk you through the moves, you're just expected to watch and copy the person on the screen, as they gradually do faster, more complicated, routines. It tells you to copy them exactly, ie. if they move to the left on screen, you move to your left. But my brain just doesn't seem to work that way - when they move to the left on screen, my brain kind of flips it and I know that they're really moving to their right, so I move to my right too! And then I'm even more confused! Zumba afficionados will probably say that I'd be better off going to a class, and I'm tempted, especially as my gym runs one. I thought I'd buy this for the Wii so that I could practice at home first, but I'm not sure it's doing anything to convince me that I'd enjoy a class. Apart from the fact that I'm next to useless at it, I just don't know how I feel about sweating that much (eww, sorry!) in front of so many other people!

Having said all of the above, I should probably confess to a little lapse yesterday. CJ texted me at work to ask if I wanted to go out for an evening meal. We usually go a couple of times a month, and just because I'm trying to be good it's not fair to say no to eating out occasionally. I just told myself that I'd try and go for a healthier option, something like a salmon fillet with lots of veg, or a side salad. This is what I had:

Bacon and Mushroom Taglietelle Carbonara...

... with Garlic Bread and Parmesan
As you can see, I failed. And I'd already tucked into a piece of garlic bread before I thought about taking a photo. So yes, I was naughty yesterday, but it was delicious, and I've tried to repent by doing 40 minutes of Elephant Zumba this morning. By the way, if you're ever in the area, I can fully recommend this place - always a warm welcome, very friendly staff, efficient service, large varied menu and beautiful food.

So, I waffled on a bit longer than planned there!

I haven't done any more crochet apart from a dishcloth, which is finished but waiting for it's ends to be tied in. I'll have to try and remember to take a photo of it before we start using it. I learned a new stitch for it - a bobble stitch! I can't find the original pattern, but it's similar (probably the same) as the one that Cuckoo explains here. Between her brilliant tutorial and the site with the dishcloth pattern on it, I figured it out, and once you've got the hang of it, it's actually a doddle. So we now have a bobbly dishcloth waiting to be put to use!

I'm actually off work for a week now on annual leave, which is just the best feeling! We haven't made any plans, although we've been talking about maybe having a day out somewhere, like the coast. Hopefully if we do, I'll take my camera and might have some pics to show you later.

I finished work early yesterday, as I was claiming some time back from working late. On the way home though, I had an incident with a bus, which first made me really angry, but then left me a bit shakey!


 I needed petrol, and a few yards before the entrance to the petrol station, there is a bus stop. I was behind the bus and as it approached the stop, he indicated left, so I naturally assumed he was going to pull up. There are two lanes, so I moved into the right-hand lane to pass him, because I knew that there was enough distance between the stop and the petrol station entrance for me to be able to pull in, and if he was waiting at the stop, I'd have enough time to do this. I'm sure I've done it before in fact. I passed him and was basically starting to turn, when I realised that, although he was slowing down, he wasn't stopping at the bus stop. Instead, he went straight past it and eventually stopped halfway across the entrance to the petrol station, just so that he could 'drop off' another bus driver. At first, I didn't realise what he was doing, and thought maybe someone had been running for the bus but couldn't make it to the stop in time, so he'd waited for them. I'd kind of started turning into the garage at this point, and had no choice but to carry on, but after his buddy had jumped off the bus the driver went to set off straight away, and then realised I was right in front of him, so I got beeped at!! I made it into the petrol station, and he went on his way. I was furious at first, and must admit to turning the air blue in my little car! I consider myself to be a safe, careful driver; I'm not saying I never make mistakes, but mostly I try to be sensible and conscientious, so it really annoys me when someone else's bad driving makes me do something stupid! After the anger faded though, my legs went to jelly! I kept going over it in my head on the way home, which I shouldn't have done because there's more chance of something else going wrong if you're not concentrating. I made it home in one piece though, thankfully! I told CJ about it later and he reckons that the bus driver was at fault because he shouldn't have parked across the garage entrance, and also the fact that he stopped, albeit only for a second or two, meant that he shouldn't have automatically set off without checking what was around him, which is what he did. So that was my (unwanted) excitement for yesterday!

I'm not doing very well with my Photo Scavenger Hunt. I've got a few pics, but I'm struggling with some of them and I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to get them all, although I'm hoping I'll get chance this week. I don't suppose it matters if I don't manage it though, as it's only a bit of fun, and I'll just try again next month! I think part of my problem is that I get a bit embarassed about taking photos in public, which is stupid, I know!

I think that's nearly everything. I just wanted to ask, if you haven't done so already (or perhaps if you didn't see my previous posts about it here and here), it would be really wonderful if you could sign the petition. I think the review is in June, so time is running out, and the more support we can get, the better. If you've already signed it, thank you very much. (If you haven't and don't want to, that's fair enough, I realise it's only a 'regional' issue and doesn't affect everyone).

Anyway, I'm going to leave you with a song, which I'm currently a bit obsessed with! I don't know much about Lykke Li so I can't call myself a fan, but I do love this track, and the video. According to the comments, it seems that this is about her relationship with her father, so the general consensus is that the man in the video (played by Stellan SkarsgÄrd) is her dad, rather than a 'lover'. One comment said that it would have been better if he'd slowly danced with her at the end, rather than stopping her, which I'm inclined to agree with. I still love the video though.


Monday, 2 May 2011

Lotherton Hall

Yep, that's where we decided to go this morning! We've never been before but it's been on my mind to visit ever since I read about it here (where Jo provides lots of interesting facts on the history of the places and various things that can be seen in the house and grounds). Unfortunately today I was feeling a little bit under the weather so I wasn't really up to spending hours there, so we just visited the bird garden before coming away. Also, it was packed with it being the Bank Holiday, so we'll have to try and go back on a quieter day and see a bit more of it.

The Bird Garden, however, was great, with some really impressive birds. As we walked in, one young boy behind us asked "why don't the birds just fly away?" as some of the 'enclosures' are actually open (but a few are completely netted over) and to be honest, I'm not sure! I presume that they're either birds which don't fly very well anyway, or perhaps they've had their wings clipped. I'm always a tiny bit uncomfortable peering at animals in captivity, but I think times have changed now and places like this tend to be quite heavily focussed on breeding and conservation, and they do their best to give the animals a happy and safe environment in which to live.

I took my big posh camera but I think I need to get the instruction manual out again because, despite taking lots of photos, none of them came out very good! And a bad workman blames his tools, so I have to hold my hands up and say it was my fault and not the camera! Trying to photograph a bird through a wire fence resulted in lots of photos of a beautifully-in-focus fence and a blurry bird in the background!

So I've just picked out the best of a bad bunch here:

Demoiselle Crane

Marabou Stork

Superb Starling!

 
There were lots of these Superb Starlings dotted around, and they really are superb! Apart from the amazing colours of their plumage, they were very sing-songy and quite cheeky! It took me ages to get a photo of them, because as soon as I pointed the camera at one, it would fly to another branch and then when I tried again, it would fly back to it's original perch!

Lilac Breasted Roller

I wish I could've got a photo of this bird in flight, because when it opened it's wings (and kind of fanned it's tail) it was the most amazing irridescent purpley-blue colour, especially in the sunlight!

Andean Condor
This was about the best shot I could get of the Andean Condor, which has the largest wingspan of any land bird (around 3.2m). There was a waterfall and pond in it's enclosure, and there were a couple of ducks in the pond. I was a bit concerned that they might've been lunch, but apparently the Condor only eats carrion, so they should be safe for now!

Hiding!
I'm not sure what this bird was, but I thought it was quite funny how it was hiding in the bushes! Probably cursing me for photographing it and blowing it's cover!

 

And last but not least, some flamingoes. I'm assuming these are two different species, due to the difference in height and the ones on the left being much paler in colour (though still pink). Unless they were adults and juveniles.

So it was a pleasant walk round, and I'm just sorry that I don't have more/better photos to show you. Lotherton Hall Estate does seem like a nice place to visit though, even though we didn't see much of it today, so if you've never been, I'd recommend it.

Well, I hope you've had a nice Bank Holiday and if it's back to work tomorrow for you, you have my comiserations and sympathy - I'm back too :-( I'm on a course aswell, which is going to be tough as my brain takes at least half a day to get back into the swing of things after any time off!



Sunday, 1 May 2011

A Royally Good Weekend!

Hello there! I hope you're well and enjoying another Bank Holiday weekend.

Well, I can't really start without mentioning The Wedding, can I? Apologies if you're not remotely interested - you'll just have to skip this next bit! Wasn't it wonderful? Beforehand I didn't even think I was that interested in it, I just kept saying that I was mildly curious about the dress. We didn't get the day off work, although we were given an extra days annual leave, which I prefer, because we can take that whenever we want. However, as it got closer to it, I did start to get a little bit caught up in the excitement, and on the day itself I was a bit miffed that I couldn't watch it. However, I had a cunning plan! I'd found out that it was going to be broadcast on the 'big screen' which overlooks Millennium Square in Leeds, and as I work close to there, I made an executive decision to pop outside to watch it!* I was still mostly just interested in the dress, and thanks to the expertly-planned timetable I knew that we'd catch our first glimpse of it around 10.51, so I got there about five minutes early and picked a spot by the Civic Hall steps to watch it. This was the Square, but I was right over on the other side (and thankfully not on this picture):

Photo from BBC.co.uk
It was a lovely atmosphere, lots of cheering and flag-waving as the members of the family arrived, and especially when we first saw Kate. I actually only stayed till 11.00 when the service started - I'd watched Kate arrive and seen the dress, and thought I better get back to work. Didn't she look beautiful? And I thought the dress was perfect too.

Photo from BBC.co.uk
In fact, I thought they all looked amazing - William and Harry and the other male members of the family all looking resplendent in their military uniforms, Pippa Middleton (almost) stealing her sister's thunder, and even the cute bridesmaids and page boys (especially the little one who covered her ears on the balcony - that photo is going to haunt her forever, isn't it?). Proper fairytale stuff!

Photo from BBC.co.uk
I've actually really surprised myself with how much I enjoyed the wedding (I managed to see the whole thing later on that evening on the BBC news channel). I got a little bit obsessed for a while there - I couldn't stop reading about it on the internet and looking at any new photos that were released. Whenever I talked about it before Friday I'd start my sentence with "I'm not a royalist, but...". Well, I think I might be actually, just a tiny bit! To be honest, I've never disliked the Royal Family; I never really had much of an opinion either way, they were just 'there'. When previous big events like this have been televised though, I've watched them with a mixture of awe, admiration and pride - I've always had that 'Crikey-they-put-on-a-good-show!' feeling and it always leaves me feeling proud to be British. And I definitely felt that on Friday. I don't care what anyone says, I love all the pageantry, the dignity, the formality of it all. It makes me prouder than ever of our Military and their discipline and dedication, not to mention the fact that they look absolutely amazing when they turn out in all their finery for things like this! I love the fact that Prince Philip still has to sing the National Anthem whilst standing next to the Queen, just because 'them's the rules!' Seeing William salute and Kate lower her head as they passed the Cenotaph brought a lump to my throat; I know this is protocol but it's still lovely to see them paying their respects. I feel really positive about the future of our Royal Family, now that William and Kate are that future. I think they're a breath of fresh air, and I hope they have a long and very happy life together.

Anyhoo, other news now! It's the 1st May and I was actually at home and able to take my first of the month photos. It was very sunny this morning, but also very windy.


I love how lush and green this tree looks against the blue sky; in last month's photo it was still mostly brown and 'twiggy' with just a bit of foliage appearing - it's amazing what a few weeks of warmth and sunshine can do!


Sorrel in the right foreground, getting a bit carried away! Behind that is a strawberry patch, and just in front of the greenhouse is a poinsettia in a tub, that my mum was given for Christmas. She didn't expect it to live long, but four months later she'd had enough of it on the kitchen windowsill, so it found itself a new home in our garden!


The 'pond', just waiting for the lilies to appear (there are 3 or 4 buds making their way up to the surface).

Another strawberry patch!



And yet more strawberries, in the 'toilet'. We like our strawberries in this house! CJ tells me that some of these (but I don't know which ones) are June-bearers, and others are ever-bearers, so we should hopefully have a plentiful supply for several months. I foresee lots of strawberries and cream, or smoothies!

I know I've complained about the lack of flowers in the garden, but there are a few little bursts of colour here and there, which I tried to capture today:

Bugle

Chives

Iris

Poppies

We don't know what these are - any ideas?
I also did a little bit of bird-watching:

Coal Tit

Magpie

Really fat woodpigeon!
I don't know if you can make them out, but wrapped around the trellis that the woodpigeon is perched on, are some solar-powered lights in the shape of bees, which I bought CJ for Christmas - have I ever mentioned that he's a beekeeper? Well, he is! This was him in the garden last year, inspecting one of his first colonies:



We don't have any colonies in our garden at the moment; he's got (I think) four hives that are doing really well, but he found a home for them elsewhere as we didn't think the neighbours would appreciate all the extra bee activity!

Speaking of photography, I've noticed a few of you taking part in a monthly scavenger hunt for images suggested on this blog. I came across it last month and thought it seemed like fun, but I didn't join in with that one, I decided to wait till this month. I've already visited this morning and written down the list, and I think I've already got one of my photos, which I'm pleased about. I'm hoping it will encourage me to get out and about more with my camera, and also use my imagination a bit more. I probably won't post my pics on the Flickr group (they won't be good enough for that!) but I'll show them on here, assuming I complete the challenge!

Anyway, it's getting late and I need my beauty sleep! Have a lovely Bank Holiday Monday whatever you get up to; I've been browsing on the web looking for places to visit. I've got a few ideas, and fingers crossed I might get back on here soon to show you where we ended up!

See you later!


*I'd just like to make it clear that due to working some late nights, I'm actually 'owed time back' at the moment, plus I almost always start work earlier than my official start time every day, so I didn't think there was any harm in skipping work for 20 minutes to watch part of such a historic event. Just in case management ever read this...
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