Sunday, 23 December 2012

Happy Christmas

Well, hello! Long time, no write! I hope you're well and looking forwards to (or already enjoying) the festivities of the season?

I just wanted to pop in and wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I'm hoping to get back into blogging in 2013, as I have really missed it. I think I just needed a break though. I've still been reading all my favourite blogs while I've been absent, and trying to keep up will all your goings-on, and I look forwards to continuing to read all about what you've been up to next year.

Also, for any crochet fans, if you don't already know about this, there is a new monthly magazine coming out in January called quite simply, 'Simply Crochet', full of projects for beginners and experienced crocheters alike.

I've already subscribed for a year!

If you want to find out more, there are various ways to get in touch/follow:
Twitter: @SimplyCrochet_

I can't wait for my first copy to arrive!!

Anyway, this was just a quick visit. Once again may I wish you a very happy and healthy Christmas and New Year - see you in 2013!!


Sunday, 9 September 2012

Couple Of Things...


It's Sunday and I go back to work tomorrow after a week off, so I'm a bit fed up, but I just thought I'd pop in and tell you about a couple of things...

Firstly, I've joined a Craft Club!! This is quite a big deal for me, because I am generally very very shy, and I'll find any excuse I can to stay at home and not 'put myself out there', so to speak. So the fact that I drove all the way there and walked in on my own and spoke to strangers etc is a big step (I know it probably sounds silly to anyone else, but there you go). I've only been to one meeting so far, earlier this week, and it's only held once a month so I've a little while to wait for the next one, but I am planning to attend if I can. It's not very local to me, but it's not far from where I used to live so I do know the area a bit and it's not difficult to get to. It's the first one I've come across which sounds like just my kind of thing - we meet up in a church hall, and there is tea, coffee and lots of cake provided!! I took my crochet blanket and managed a few rows; I was sitting at a table with some other women who were knitting, and one was teaching another one to crochet, although I don't think she was really getting the hang of it. I'd be happy to show people, but I don't think I'm very good at explaining things.

I did feel a bit left out because most people seemed to know each other, either from going to the club last month, or from being members of other groups or living near one another. But they were friendly enough, and I was quite happy sitting there just quietly getting on with my blanket, and occasionally chipping in to the conversation. At least next time I go, I won't be the 'new girl'.

* * *

The other thing I wanted to mention is that just over two weeks ago, I started a diet. It's called Celebrity Slim (stupid name!) and it's a meal replacement diet. It was actually Chris' idea; a woman he works with was doing it and had started losing weight, so he bought me a couple of the products to try. I said I'd have a go, so he paid for my first order online (I think you can buy it in places like Superdrug, but ordering in bulk online is easier). It's basically a reduced-carbs diet, so I've had to cut out bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and cereal - I was eating at least one of those things every day (breakfast cereal every morning, and sometimes for lunch and tea if I couldn't be bothered making anything else, and we were always having pasta bakes, curries etc). So I don't know if it's the Celebrity Slim products, or the reduced carbs, or a bit of both, but in my first two weeks I've lost eleven pounds, which I'm very happy with! I rarely feel hungry - I think part of that has been kind of 'retraining' my brain to not think about food so much, or to not see it as the answer to everything. You know, "I'm bored - what can I find to eat?", "I'm going to watch a film - what can I snack on?" etc... On the CS diet you're supposed to drink at least 2 litres of water every day, but I'm afraid I just can't manage that, although I wasn't doing bad when I was at work. Being at home this week though, and going over to my mum's a lot, has kind of messed up my routine a bit.

As well as the meal replacements, you're still supposed to have one balanced meal each day, and for someone who is not great at cooking, it's been interesting trying to create a meal without using bread, pasta, potatoes. I'm having a lot of chicken, mushrooms, bacon and eggs (not necessarily at the same time). I'm also having a lot more fruit and veg, which can only be a good thing.

Anyway, I just thought I'd let you know about Celebrity Slim, you might be interested in giving it a try. I'm not on commission or anything like that! To be honest, I'm normally sceptical of these type of diets and not convinced that they work. Even with this one, I think it's probably the fact that I've reduced my carbs which has made the biggest difference. I will say though, their range of shakes are delicious!! I have one for breakfast every day and I really look forwards to it!!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

At Last...

For the past few months, 'a thing' has been happening, which I've avoided discussing on here for fear of jinxing it. Now, at last, it's over. It's nothing big and exciting to anyone else, but it was a fairly major 'event' to us.

My mum has moved house!

She'd been wanting to move for a long time, but my dad wasn't keen on the idea; he didn't like the thought of all the upheaval. He was an 'anything-for-an-easy-life' type of person, as well as being limited by poor health too. Eventually he came around to the idea and agreed to move, but sadly it was too late, and he passed away a short while later, before any plans had been put into place. This made my mum even more determined to move, so she waited to get Christmas and New Year out of the way, and then got in touch with some estate agents to get a valuation. The house went on the market in March, and within a couple of weeks she'd had about 5 viewings, and had accepted an offer! Fantastic! In the meantime, she'd found a lovely little bungalow and put an offer in on that, which was also accepted. So far, so very good. Boxes were packed and labelled, lists were made, certain unwanted items were given away to charity (and quite a lot came to me!). Everything was going really well, and when there was probably just a couple of weeks left before arranging the moving date, the couple who owned the bungalow pulled out, and took it off the market.

So it was back to square one for my mum. She was worried that the couple who were buying hers might get sick of waiting (they were first-time buyers, currently renting), so she felt she had to find somewhere else really quickly.

She found another bungalow which, on first impressions, was really nice, if a bit on the small size. She actually put an offer in, but after thinking about it for a couple of days, we realised that the place was just far too small, and needed too much work doing to it. So reluctantly she withdrew her offer, but she'd found a third bungalow by this time, so arranged a viewing on that one. Chris and I went with her, and we all agreed that it was so much better than the first two, although unfortunately that meant it was a bit more expensive too, but still within her price range. So, she put an offer in, he accepted, and it was all systems go, again!!

It still seemed to take a long time, possibly due to some not very proactive solicitors and estate agents (on the vendors side - my mum's 'people' were pretty good on the whole). There was a hiccup where the couple buying my mum's house said they didn't want to move until October (my mum really needed to be in before September for work reasons), but that issue was resolved and she finally got a moving date for last week.

I asked for the day off work, but I could only have the afternoon off in the end, which was a bit annoying because I wanted to be there to help my mum with all the last minute things. Not only that, I wanted to be there for emotional support, as I thought she might be a bit upset. She'd lived there for about 37 years - it wasn't just a house, it was a home, full of so many memories. I'd gone over the day before, and felt quite sad walking around it for the last time. I went into my old bedroom and looked out of the window. It had a really nice view, looking over open fields, and I remembered all the time I'd spent gazing out of that window, daydreaming, when I was supposed to be doing homework and revision! It was very strange thinking that it would be the last time I ever set foot in that house, and the garden.

Anyway, in the end, my mum's auntie came over to help, and so on 'moving day' I went straight home from work and loaded up my car with some things that my mum had given me to look after. The removals men didn't leave until after 3pm; my mum rung to say they'd gone, and I drove over then to see her in 'her' new bungalow for the first time.

It was chaos, as expected, but she was in, and there hadn't been any major problems. After she and her auntie had been to the estate agents to pick up the keys, they managed to get lost, despite it being an area that they both know quite well. A lamp got broken at some point, and her washing machine wouldn't fit in the gap where it should go, but apart from that, it all went quite well. The bungalow was well looked after and quite nicely decorated, so she can 'live with it' for now - the only room she wanted to get painted was the living room, and she knows a decorator who has already been and done that for her. She wants to get a new gas fire and a carpet, and then the living room will be finished. The bedroom will take longer because she wants to have some fitted wardrobes built, but hopefully someone in the family is going to do that for her in the coming weeks. So it's all going quite well.

I was a bit worried about what she'd be like on her own, in a new, strange place. She's had so much on her mind for the past few months, now that she's finally got moved in, I wondered if her mood would fall a bit 'flat', especially as we're coming up to the anniversary of my dad passing away. But I think it's going to take her a long time getting her new home just how she wants it; she's a bit of a perfectionist, and she's always had a really good eye for interior design, so hopefully she'll keep herself occupied for quite a long time getting things 'just so'.

Another good thing about where she is now, is that she's about a 15 minute drive away from me, whereas before it was about 45 minutes. It's great being able to leave her house at 9pm, and be back in mine by about 9.15! It's also about 15 or 20 minutes from where I work, so this past week I've been calling in on my way home, and it's not really out of my way at all, as it's heading in the same direction. It's a lot better having her so much nearer to us. 

So it's been a very stressful five or six months, obviously worse for my mum, but I've found it difficult too, seeing her so worried (because she really is a worrier!). I've always tried to stay positive, but my mum can be quite negative, and there have been times when I've just run out of things to say to her. There's only so many times you can say "everything will work out" before you stop believing it yourself!!

In the end though, everything did work out - it's a lovely bungalow, and I think she's going to be really happy there.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Black Cat Appreciation Day

So it appears that the 17th August was Black Cat Appreciation Day. I don't know if this is just an American thing or a worldwide event, and I realise I'm a couple of days late, but I just wanted to say how much I appreciate my very own black cat, Mischief.

Aww, look at him, all curled up asleep on the chair:

While he was sitting there, sleeping peacefully, I thought I'd sit on the sofa and do a bit of crochet. My new Mk 2 blanket is coming on leaps and bounds, now that each row is 5ft shorter. However, it transpires that Mischief was merely resting his eyes, and on seeing me settle down with my blanket, he thought he'd wander over to help:

Just a touch, for quality control purposes...

He was just a teensy-weensy bit in the way there, so I gently persuaded him to sit next to me, on the hairy faux-sheepskin-type blanket that my mum gave me, which he absolutely loves. He agreed, but kept one paw on my arm, just to let me know he was still there to offer his support, if I needed it:

"Don't worry - I'm here"

After a while, he must've thought it was getting a bit dull, and, worried I might strain my eyes, he decided to stretch out on the windowsill and part the blinds, to let in more light, like the excellent assistant that he is:

Yes, our front garden is a bit 'Day Of The Triffids'...
Eventually, he decided "Enough's enough! Michelle, you are working too hard on that blanket! I must rest my head You must rest your arm for a moment, here, I will hold it still for you. With my head. And my paw."

So I stopped. I had no choice. My trusty assistant Mischief had saved me from some horrible crochet-induced Repetitive Strain Injury, thank heavens for him. When he was satisfied that there would be no more of that nonsense, he retired to the hairy blanket.

My work here is done...

Thank you, and good night

So yes Mischief, when I'm trying to crochet you have the most annoying habit of getting between me and 'it', and although I love it when you want to sit on my lap and have cuddles, you can be a little bit too clingy at times. But I love you to bits, and I wouldn't have you any other way. Most of the time.

* * *

In the interests of fairness, I can't leave Millie out, can I?


 However, this is what she looks like most of the day:

A bump under the duvet
She spends almost all day under the duvet, asleep. Sometimes I think it's because she hears voices outside, like the neighbours, and she hides, because she's really timid. But mostly, I think it's just that she's incredibly lazy. Actually, speak of the devil, she's just come downstairs now, for an evening snack. But trust me, she's been under that duvet all day...

* * *

In other animal news, did I mention a few months back that we were looking after some baby geese? These were they, just here overnight:

I think there were five. Or maybe six.
And here they are now, all growed up!:

With mum and dad. And maybe another relative, if there were only 5 babies...

Brace yourself, there's more! (More animals, not more geese).

I was a bit warm this evening after tea, so I thought I'd go and sit in the garden to cool off. It's been a hot weekend for most of the UK, although I believe the North has been around 10 degrees lower than the South. It was probably low 20's here, but we had some spots of rain, hence it had come a bit cooler this evening. So there I was, sitting out in the garden, when I heard a kind of snuffling sound coming from my right. I was sitting close to the half-barrel - our 'water feature' - and I noticed some of the foliage around the edge of it moving. I assumed it was a frog, but when I peered through the leaves, it was actually a hedgehog!! I know they're really common, but we haven't seen one in the garden for a couple of years so I got a bit giddy and started talking to it, like I'm some kind of Dr Dolittle. I was worried that it might fall into the water if it was trying to get a drink (we do have a ramp though for the frogs to get in and out, so hopefully it would've found that), but I decided the best thing was to give it a bowl of water, and try and encourage it to move away from the pond. I also had a quick google to find out what I could feed it. I knew bread and milk was a BIG NO-NO, but apparently dried cat biscuits are fine, as long as they're not fish-flavoured. Ours are on turkey at the moment, so he got a little dishful of biccies too. He had a really good snack, and drank quite a lot of water, before toddling off and eventually going through the hedge into next-door's garden:

Hedgehogs. Why can't they just share the hedge? © Dan Antopolski 

* * *

And finally, I took a silly photo of my house giving 'the finger':


Oh actually, that wasn't 'finally', because I also wanted to say - the Olympics!! I flippin' loved it, and I'm not remotely sporty!! And no, it hasn't inspired me to take up a sport because, hey, I know my limits, but still, it was fab! I even won the office sweepstake, because I drew the USA (and, ahem,  Slovakia), although we didn't pay any money to take part, so technically I didn't win anything, and the person who organised it has been strangely quiet ever since, but still, I won! Yay me!

Almost as exciting as the Olympics, for me at least, but not so much for the rest of the world, is the news that our kitchen is nearly finished!! We 'got a man in' to do the tiling, and he's obviously done a much better job than if we'd done it ourselves, an option which was considered, for a time. The tiles look lovely, and the only thing left to do is a little bit of touch-up painting, and then get some new flooring. And then it will be complete! With a bit of luck, it may take us less than a whole year!! (We don't like to rush things in this house, y'know).

Anyway, I think that's it. Finally.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Is It Me....

..... or is there something... not quite right about this sign?


Have you ever seen a frog yawn?*

Answer: You have now.

* I don't actually know if it was yawning. I'm not David Attenborough.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Things That Go 'Tap' In The Night

So there I was, fast asleep, dreaming sweet dreams, when I was roused from my slumbers by a gentle but persistent tapping on my arm. My first thought was, oh no, I've slept in and Chris is waking me up. I glanced bleary-eyed at my bedside clock, and it was 4.30am. Hmm, I haven't slept in then, my alarm doesn't go off until 5am, and then I usually have a few extra minutes. I turned to Chris, and this is the conversation that followed:

Him: "Yay, a real person"
Me: "What???"
Him: "A real person!"
Me: "I don't understand why you're saying that to me?!"
Him: "I just wanted to check that you were a real person, and not a cartoon or a cardboard cut-out"
Me: "And you woke me up just to do that?"
Him: "Oh, sorry..."

He was asleep again within about 30 seconds, I lay there for 10 minutes, really annoyed that he'd woken me up and spoiled the last half hour of my sleep!!

When I got in from work this afternoon I said "See? A real person!" - he had no idea what I was talking about, and he couldn't remember any of the conversation...

It's not the first time he's done something like this. The other time, he grabbed me by the wrists and pulled me to a sitting position. I'd been sound asleep, and just for a second I thought someone had broken into the house, and I was about to be attacked. I quickly realised it was him, and said "What's up?" and he said "Oh, nothing, go back to sleep..." I was so tired, I did just that. The next morning I asked him what it was all about and he said "I thought there was a rat on your pillow... but it was just your hair"!!! Charming!!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Ripple Update

Hello, long time no blog, again!! Hope you're well.

Just thought I'd give you an update on my ripple blanket, the one I started around October 2011. Here it is:

Yep, I frogged it, all the way back to the first row. I was on my 35th 'stripe', and as it was two rows per colour, that meant I was on my 70th row. I was doing a bit of al fresco crochet in the garden this morning, feeling the warmth from that strange round yellow thing in the sky, and wondering why it wasn't raining again, when halfway through row 70 I just thought "I'm not happy with this blanket, I really should start it again". So I brought it inside and laid it over the foot of the bed. It touched the floor on one side, and trailed on the floor on the other side. That was bad enough, but the thing that really decided it for me was the thought that I'd want to put a border on it when it was finished, and that could add another two or three inches all the way round. It was just too big. I mean, stupidly massive. In fact, guess how wide it was? Go on, have a guess. Ok I'll tell you...

... 9 feet and 2 inches. I know!! I was only supposed to be making a throw for the bed, but instead I was on my way to crocheting a flippin' carpet for the bedroom!!

So, I started frogging, and I think that took me nearly two hours. Eventually I got back to the first row, laid a tape measure along the bottom of the bed, and unravelled it back to the length I wanted. I made sure I counted along the foundation chain carefully, putting a stitch marker in every 14th chain, and leaving three at the end. Then I started stitching into each chain, which was slightly easier than the first time because the holes had already been stretched a little bit. I've got to the end and started back the other way, but I've broken off for a bit to write this. Hopefully though, because it's not as wide, it won't take me as long to do each row and I might be able to get back to where I was fairly soon. I'm hoping I don't have too much wasted yarn, but considering how much shorter it is, I'm hoping that there will be a reasonable amount left over, that might come in for something else, like the centres of some granny squares, or something like that.

So how wide is it? Well, it is now a far more manageable 4 feet wide - I'm hoping that this will allow for a bit of stretch (although being smaller it won't be as heavy), and also allow for whatever size border I put on it.

Speaking of heavy, I actually struggled to lift it, which was another thing that made me decide to start again. We've got a big cotton throw that we usually have on the bed, to try and keep cat hairs off the bedding. The other day, Mischief was sick on it (sorry), so it went in the washer, and it's obviously really heavy when it comes out wet. Then it takes two days to dry on the line. I dread to think what this blanket would've been like if it had needed to be washed after it was finished. At least this new smaller size is more practical.

I thought I might've felt really gutted at having to frog it all, and I was worried that halfway through I'd change my mind, but actually the overwhelming feeling was one of relief. I wasn't happy with the blanket, so I've done something about it, and I'm really pleased that I have. I'm just annoyed that I didn't do it a lot sooner, because I've known for ages that it was too big. But even back then, I felt like I'd got 'too far' to stop, so I just carried on. Obviously I'd got even further this time, but I knew that if I kept going and finished it, I wouldn't be happy with it in the end, so it was better to stop when I did than do any more. Hopefully it won't take long to start taking shape again.

Right, I'm off to get a drink, and then I'm going to carry on and see how much more I get done this evening.

Bye for now!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

A Brief Glimpse...

A day late, but I didn't have time to upload it yesterday. The Olympic torch, moments after it left Leeds Town Hall, on it's way across Millennium Square. I believe the bearer was Mike Healey, the founder of a children's cycling club. Taken on my phone, so it's a bit jerky. Worth getting to work early for!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Retail, Ranting and Reading

So I had me a little bit of retail therapy on Friday. First port of call was Hobbycraft, because I wanted to buy some toy stuffing for my amigurumi bees. I also wondered if they had 'safety eyes', although I couldn't really see any on the website. I got there about half an hour after it had opened, so it was lovely and quiet and I had a really nice leisurely stroll round. Eventually I remembered what I'd gone for and got my stuffing, plus a few balls of yarn fell into my trolley too, including some Debbie Bliss. Ooops. I did find a pack of eyes but it still said 'not suitable for under 3 years' or something, so I'm not sure if they're safety eyes, so I didn't bother with them. I bought a sheet each of black and white felt, because I thought I could make some eyes with that. Oh, and a pack of 100 black pipe cleaners which I thought I might be able to use for legs.

Bee #2 looks like this:

I crocheted the eyes in the end, and I don't mind that they're a bit wonky, it adds character!

Not loving the wings though...

"Hello, how are you today?"   "Busy busy"

As you can see, they are both legless, so the 100 pipe cleaners might've been a bit of a waste of money. Quite a lot of the patterns on the interwebs have left the legs off as well, but I don't think it detracts from them, so they might stay that way. When I went shopping after Hobbycraft, I bought a big pack of cotton wool, it's kind of in a pleat, and in the end #2 is stuffed with that rather than using my new toy stuffing. I put more in, so he's firmer than #1.

I also thought, while I was on an amigurumi roll, that I'd make a little ball for the cats. The first one turned out bigger than I wanted

and I didn't stuff it enough, so it's not as round as it could be. Second attempt is smaller and a better shape

A couple of Christmas' ago, my mum bought the cats a little plastic mouse that rolled across the floor on something like a ping pong ball, but you could take a little cover off the ball and shake in some loose catnip, which came with the toy. They weren't too fussed about the toy, but I've still got the little container of catnip, so I decided to shake some of it into the middle of the cotton wool as I was stuffing these balls. I think they might be able to smell it, although I don't know if I put enough in, and they've never gone really wild over catnip before, but I just thought it might help a little. They have played with the balls briefly - Millie likes to pick them up in her mouth and carry them into another room, so I think she'll prefer the smaller one for that. I just hope it doesn't get too soggy.

As well as the amigurumi, I've also made another dishcloth, using this pattern, which I was directed to from here. It says it can be done in less than an hour, but I don't think I'm that quick. Having said that, while I was making it there was a power cut (due to the torrential rain, I think), so I broke off to light some candles. It was still daylight, but I didn't know how long the power would be off and I thought it was best to do it while I could still see. In the end, it was only off for about 20 minutes, so nothing exciting! I used a lighter to light one of the candles, and managed to burn my thumbnail! The edge of it went all brown and shrivelled, so I had to cut it off. One of many reasons why I've never been a smoker, I can't even use a lighter!

Diagonal Dishcloth
It's worked in the back loops only, as is this one which I started ages ago, and finished yesterday because I wanted to start the above one (I was at the end of a row so I just decided it was big enough and fastened off!)

I'm assuming I will have consulted a pattern for this one too, but I'm afraid I don't know whose, although there's not much instruction needed really. I'm hoping these two fare better than the last one I crocheted - I think I made that one up as I went along, doing trebles and bobble stitches, but once it started to get wet it stretched, so your fingers go through the holes. I don't like that.

* * *

[Warning: Rant follows!] So as I said, after I'd been to Hobbycraft, I went to a local shopping centre with a view to buying some clothes for work, specifically some tops. I've been wearing jumpers all winter, and even through spring into summer, apart from the really really hot days when I wore a shirt. So I thought I should try and get some more summery type clothes. I do like it when it's warm and sunny, but clothing-wise I prefer to be covered up, so the cooler weather suits me better. But I thought I'd make an effort and get something appropriate for summer. Everywhere I went, the trend seemed to be little tops with very short sleeves, or no sleeves at all, a bit like this. Now I know there are a lot of women, myself included, who are a bit self-conscious about their upper arms, and the dreaded bingo wings. But I bought some of these little short-sleeved tops (because like I said, there wasn't much else to choose from), and then I ended up buying a cardigan to wear over them! Which kind of seems to defeat the object! Why can't they make the sleeves just a little bit longer? I've worn one of the tops today at home, and another, much worse, problem that I've discovered is the gaping neck. I did try them on before I bought them, and I usually do fairly rigourous tests in the changing room (bending, stretching, twisting etc), but I can't have been as thorough with these. It looks fine when I'm standing up straight. But when I bend forward to, say, load the washing machine, the world and his wife and anyone else who might be looking gets an eyeful!! The trouble is, how can I put this?, I'm not exactly blessed in the chesticle department, so there isn't really much to see, or rather, you can see straight past... them, to my big fat belly! If any clothing designers are reading this (ha!), why can't you make appropriate necklines? I'm not saying everything has to be a polo neck, but why do they have to be so low, and why do you seem to assume that all women have a large chest to 'fill it out', because some of us don't!!

So there's no way I can wear them for work, because I have to do far too much bending over (ooh, missus!). Just getting my milk out of the office fridge would give my male colleague nightmares if he looked up at the wrong moment! But I'll wear them at home, and if anyone has any suggestions as to how I can somehow make them less gapey, I'd love to hear them. I did think about wearing a scarf with it, as they seem to be all the rage at the moment too, but I have a bit of an issue with summery top + scarf. Like when you see teenage girls wearing skimpy hotpants and Ugg boots - it's either warm enough for shorts, or cold enough for furry boots, make your mind up! God, I soooo don't have a clue about fashion, do I?

[Rant over]

* * *

I've been forgetting to mention that I've done a bit of reading lately, and updated my book list over there on the right. I never managed to finish The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, there was just so much detail in it - names, dates, places etc - it was a bit heavy-going for a bedtime read. So I moved on to A Change In Altitude by Anita Shreve. I've read quite a few of her books already, and consider her a bit of a favourite. This one was only so-so though. It was about a couple living in Kenya, who along with two other couples, decide to climb Mount Kenya. Whilst crossing a glacier, one of the party is killed. There's a question of who was to blame, and the tragedy rocks the marriage of the main couple. I thought the death was going to be a major part of the story, but it just kind of... happened, and then the rest of it was about their relationship. Maybe I was being a bit morbid, hoping for more gory details? In the end, the couple climb the mountain again so it kind of comes full circle, with one of them coming out the stronger of the two, and I get that that was the theme of the book. It was ok, just didn't do much for me.

Next I read Let The Right One In, which was translated from the original Swedish, I think. There was a film, in Swedish, and then more recently an American remake. I haven't seen either one, although I think Chris has got them so I might get around to watching them. It's a story about a young boy, Oskar, who befriends a young girl called Eli. It turns out Eli is a vampire. If I wanted gory detail, I got it by the bucketload in this! But really it was about friendship and loyalty, and also a couple of school bullies getting their come-uppance!! I actually really enjoyed this book, and like I said, I might try and watch one (or both) of the films.

I've now started Songs Of The Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult, but as much as I usually love her books, I haven't really got into this one. It might just be because I've been busy doing other things, and got my crochet bug back again.

I also succumbed the other night and downloaded Fifty Shades Of Grey onto my Kindle! You've probably heard about it, if not read it yourself, the erotic fiction that's sold more than Harry Potter or something. I was curious to know what all the fuss is about. I'm a few chapters in and to be honest, it's a bit crap. It's a kind of car-crash of a book - awful, but you can't help reading it. The writing is terrible and clich├ęd; the biting of the lip seems to be the modern-day equivalent of the heaving bosom, and who actually says "oh my!"? I'll perservere with it, but I'm not in any rush, it's not what I'd call 'unputdownable'.

Anyway, that's all for now. One more day of freedom left, and then back to work on Monday, boo, hiss!!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

A Jaunt In The Countryside...

Hello! How are you? I hope you're well. Did you like my cryptic(ish) message on my last post?

I'm off work this week, so I thought I might've managed a flurry of blog posts like I usually do, but it's already Wednesday and this is my first one, so I'm not doing too well with that, am I?

Anyway, what have I been up to? Well, yesterday Chris and I decided to have a drive into the countryside, North Yorkshire to be precise. We're supposed to be tiling the kitchen, but I spoke to my mum on Monday evening who advised me that it was going to be Very Warm, and that we should go out instead. We didn't need much persuading! I remembered a place I'd been to a while ago with my mum, called Darley Mill, which is just a nice little place to visit, so we headed there. As you can see from the link, it's a bit of a gift shop type of place, with gardening and outdoor products, kitchen and homewares, clothing, food and a restaurant. We spent quite a long time wandering around looking at everything, and in the end we bought some fudge and chocolate on the way out. We hadn't really thought about where to go next, so I suggested Grassington, as we've driven through it loads of times, but never actually stopped and had a walk round. So Grassington was tapped into the SatNav, and off we went.

As we drove along, I gazed out of the window at the beautiful scenery, wishing we could stop so that I could take some photos (I'd brought my camera along specially with this in mind). But I didn't really like to ask Chris to keep stopping, and he seemed to just want to get to Grassington, so I didn't say anything. We got there eventually and had a walk up and down the main street. There were signs up saying that Grassington Festival was on, and although we didn't really see anything (I think a lot of the events might've been evening ones), there seemed to be a lot of people about, but perhaps that's normal. We popped in a couple of shops, and had sausage rolls for lunch from a bakery, and then headed back to the car, thinking about where to go next. In the car park I went to powder my nose (!) and when I got back to the car, Chris was on the phone. I've mentioned he's a beekeeper, haven't I? Well, he's also a regional 'swarm collector', and he'd received a call about a swarm near a primary school. So that was kind of the end of our day out. I think we were both ready to go home, and it was just as well because that's where we were going, as he needed to get his things to go and collect the swarm.

On the way home I started thinking that maybe I'd be as well going for a day out into the countryside on my own. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't annoyed with Chris about our day being cut short, but I just thought that if I was on my own I could do what I wanted, go where I felt like, stop and take as many photos as I pleased, without worrying about someone else.

So today, that's what I did!! I borrowed Chris' SatNav and decided to basically do the same trip as yesterday while it was still fresh in my mind, but if I felt like veering off course, then that was fine too. I wanted it to be more about the journey, rather than the destination (ooh, profound!) And yesterday evening, I read a post by Lucy which mentioned a road near Hubberholme, and I thought, I know that road!! Or at least, I think I do!! And it's somewhere we've driven along, but never stopped, even though I've wanted to. And as it wasn't far from Grassington, I had a vague plan in my mind that I'd head for there. So off I went. Called at the Co-op for provisions, then the petrol station to juice up, and then the open road beckoned!!

I got to Darley Mill first. I was specifically thinking 'toilet break' at this point, but I thought it might be cheeky to go in just to use the facilities, but I didn't really want to buy anything, so I just drove back out of the car park and headed for Grassington. Yesterday there were loads of places where I wanted to stop and take photos, but today I realised just how difficult that is. All the nicest views are while you're travelling along quiet, winding, single-track lanes where it's not really safe to stop for a photo opportunity. I got to Grassington, parked up and used the facilities  withoutpayingforaparkingticketnaughtyme! (Chris later informed me that there is an area where you can park free for 10 minutes for that very purpose, which I didn't know about, but I do now) and then put Hubberholme in the SatNav and set off again. On the way there, I passed through Kettlewell. There was an incident with some cyclists (stuck behind them, uphill stretch of road, no passing places, you get the idea). As I got to what I think was the road to Hubberholme, where the SatNav was directing me to turn, the whole road was closed for roadworks, so I carried on and followed the diversion, which took me down a terrifyingly narrow lane, which thank god had a one-way system in place, because if I'd met something coming the other way it would've been game over! After a couple more narrow roads where I was beginning to think I was completely lost, I realised that I was near the river, and then suddenly the road kind of opened out, and I was there! I think. Somewhere between Yockenthwaite and Deepdale. I found a spot to park up, and then had my lunch, and this was my cafeteria:

Beautiful! Just the sound of the river, which is more of a 'babbling brook' here, and the bleating of the sheep in the field opposite, so peaceful and tranquil.

Think it must've been a bit too hot for these ones!

I noticed a couple of ducks in the river, and as I was getting ready to take a pic another bird arrived. I'm not sure what it was, but it looked like some kind of dipper. I zoomed in on it, but then my camera decided to focus on a nettle, and by the time I'd re-focused, the bird had gone. So it was only Mr and Mrs Mallard who made it into the photo:

There were one or two Lesser-Spotted Ramblers around too:

It's not that obvious on the photos, but it was really sunny, with a lovely blue sky, and lots of fluffy white clouds, although there were a few slightly grey ones too:

I stayed for nearly an hour, and then set off again with no particular destination in mind. And then promptly got very lost! Well ok, not lost - you're never lost, are you, all roads lead to somewhere. I was just, um, temporarily misplaced... I found myself driving along lots of very remote roads, out in the middle of nowhere, and when I stopped to take some photos I panicked ever so slightly because my car started making a strange noise, and I thought it was overheating, and then I thought it was going to die on me and I'd have to ring the AA and I didn't even know which road I was on so I wouldn't be able to explain where I was!!! Aaaaaand, breathe! It didn't die on me, I took the pics and then carried on.

When I was looking on Google Maps yesterday, I remember noticing that the road next to the river, where I stopped for lunch, wasn't all that far from Hawes, and thinking, ooh, I don't want to go that far really. So where did I end up?

Hello, Hawes!
At this point, I decided I should start heading back, which is where the day became less fun and the act of just getting home became something of a chore. I ended up going through Aysgarth (as in Falls), Leyburn (brings back happy memories of family holidays from years ago), Bedale and various other lovely little villages, which I wish I could've spent time in. Then somehow I found myself at the 'wrong side' of the A1, and I didn't actually want to go on the A1 but Mrs SatNav wanted me to. I over-ruled her, and eventually worked my way across to Ripon and back towards Harrogate and Otley and then into Leeds. I was driving through Leeds at around 4pm, which is just about the time I'd be coming home from work, which is a coincidence I didn't particularly enjoy.

So overall I had a really fun day, and I'd do it again, but maybe with a bit more planning (and I probably should have a map in the car next time). I know it might not seem like a big deal to anyone else, but I don't often go places on my own, just for a day out, so the fact that I did it and went all that way is quite an achievement for me.

* * *

In other news, last Sunday was Open Farm Day, which is a national initiative where people can visit local farms and see what goes on. Chris has some beehives on a nearby farm which was participating, so the farmer asked if he'd set up a stall all about bees and their produce. As part of his display, he borrowed an observation hive from a beekeeping friend; he picked it up the day before, and it spent the night in our kitchen. He opened it up so that I could have a look.

It's a narrow box, just two or three inches wide, with glass on either side, and inside it are a couple of frames of wax/honey, and several hundred honey bees. He assured me that they couldn't escape. When I say he 'opened it up', I mean that there are two pieces of wood covering the glass, so he just moved one aside for me to take the photo. When I'd done so he put it back in place and then the whole thing had a white sheet over it all night:

It was quite unnerving to be able to hear a very loud, constant buzzing coming from under the sheet, but like I said, they couldn't escape. On Sunday morning I came down into the kitchen and look what I found on the windowsill:

A honeybee! Yes, those are bare bricks, no, we still haven't done the tiling!
Thankfully there was just that one, and Chris thinks it was probably on the outside all along. Anyway, he used the observation hive on Sunday and it attracted lots of interest, and then we took it back to it's owner that evening. The village where he lives had a scarecrow festival on, these were the only ones I managed to photograph:

This was my favourite!
Chris hasn't had much honey so far from his bees, they take a while to get established, so he's started making other products from the beeswax. So far he's made his own lip balm, and he's just had a go at hand cream. I jokingly said that I should try and crochet something 'bee-related', and then thought it would be a good excuse to have a go at some amigurumi, which I've been wanting to try for ages. So I knocked this together last night:

I gave up on the legs!
Not perfect, but not bad for a first attempt!

Mischief gives it the sniff of approval!
Well, I think that's about it for now. Apparently it's going to tip it down tonight and for the next few days, so we are really really going to maybe do some tiling in the kitchen tomorrow. We bought the tiles on Monday, so that's a step in the right direction, at least. We don't like to rush things, you know. Good things come to those who wait. And take their time.

Right, I'm going to buzz off!

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