Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Happy Christmas!!

Once again, I've been finding it difficult to make time to blog just lately, and I fear that I've probably forgotten some of the things I've wanted to write about. But since Christmas is just around the corner, I thought I better try and squeeze in one more post.

So, in no particular order, (as Tess might say):

Jay won Strictly Come Dancing, and even though I wanted him to win for weeks, I found it all strangely underwhelming when it finally happened. I've really enjoyed Aliona's choreography all series, and I had high hopes for their showdance, but I'm afraid I had to agree with the judges that there just wasn't enough 'show'. It's not that I wanted them to be doing lift after lift after lift, or anything like that, but it just seemed a bit lacklustre, and the upside-down starting position seemed quite out of place. I wonder if that particular prop had originally been part of the Gleb and Anita showdance that never was, and since it was going spare, Aliona shrugged and said "yeah, go on then, we'll use it"?

As much as I loved their Pulp Fiction Jive, I didn't mind too much that they didn't repeat it, because I'd have been worried that they might make a mistake, or it might, somehow, not be as good as the first time around. Shall we though, since it's Christmas...?

One thing that has bugged me a bit is the constant complaining (well, on Twitter, at least) about Jay (and some of the others) having had previous dance training, and that they shouldn't be allowed to take part. I understand that SCD is a dancing competition, but it also involves performance and fitness to some degree, so does that mean that sportspeople and anyone from an acting profession shouldn't be allowed to take part in the show either?

Anyway, apart from "that Jive" as it will always be known, my other favourite dances were Georgia's 'Chicago' Charleston, Jay's 'Dr Who' Charleston, Kellie's 'Star Wars' Charleston (yes, I do love a Charleston), and Anita's 'Maleficent' Waltz, mainly for that bit where Gleb kinds of falls to the floor and then springs back up again backwards, because he's under Anita's spell, or something. They're the ones that have stuck in my mind the most, I guess.

Will you be watching the Christmas Special? I don't usually, but I've seen the trail for it and there seem to be some interesting costumes, so I might have a gander if I get chance.

I realise that I haven't managed to blog about each couple, as I'd started to do, but it seems a bit pointless to go over it all now, it already feels like it's in the past even though it only finished a few days ago. I've enjoyed SCD again this year, but I have to be honest, I'm always a bit relieved when it ends - I think I get a bit of Strictly fatigue! It'll be nice to have my Saturday and Sunday evenings back too.

* * *

At the risk of sounding like a telly addict (I'm not really, but I do have certain programmes that I enjoy), I have absolutely loved the third series of The Bridge. The bridge of the title is the one that connects Sweden and Denmark, and each series has centred around a series of crimes which have required a joint investigation by the Swedish and Danish police. The chief homicide detective from the Danish side who appeared in series 1 and 2, Martin, wasn't in this series. I really liked his character, so I wasn't sure how it was going to work without him. It turns out that his replacement, Henrik, was just as good, better, in fact, and his relationship with Saga, the Swedish detective, has really brought something new and exciting to the show. The final episode certainly finished in a "to be continued...." kind of way, so I can't wait for Series Four.

* * *
I think I'm just about ready for Christmas now - the cards have been written and delivered, and the presents have been wrapped. Apart from the giant plastic slide that we've bought Junior, which is still in the box that it was delivered in, and which will presumably be set up on Thursday night, ready for him to see as soon as he walks into the living room on Friday morning. Yes, we're going to have a slide in the living room. That boy loves a slide! (It will eventually make it's way into the garden).

I think Junior is still a bit young to really understand Christmas (this time next year though!), but he knows something's going on. He loves the fairy lights that are strung around the room, every morning when he sees them again he says "twinkles". We haven't taken him to see Santa, but we've got a few Santa toys/ornaments and we're teaching him to say the name, and I think he's kind of recognising him when he sees him on tv or anywhere else.

It was Chris's birthday a few days ago, and Junior helped unwrap his presents, and he's definitely getting the hang of that, so I can't wait to see him opening his own presents on Christmas Day. My mum will be coming over for dinner, and I'm really looking forwards to it. Chris's parents are coming for dinner on Boxing Day, and his sister and her family will probably come over later in the day, so it's going to be a busy couple of days, but Junior will love all the attention.

Chris and I decided not to buy presents for each other this year, but I've still got some things to unwrap as I took part in Jo's Twelve Days of Christmas swap. I took photos of the things that I bought and sent to my swap partner Cheryl, but obviously I won't blog about them until after they've all been opened - I really hope she likes them! I will, of course, blog about the gifts that she's sent to me - I haven't decided if it will be a quick daily post about each one, or one long post at the end of the twelve days. Her parcel was beautifully wrapped, so I haven't even opened the box yet, but I can't wait to see what I've got!

* * *

Crochet has been almost non-existent for the past two or three months. I had a break from it because I was ill, but it also coincided with Strictly starting and as I said above, that has kind of taken over my Saturday and Sunday evenings, when I would've otherwise been crocheting. (I usually crochet upstairs, in our bedroom, because if I try to do it downstairs I just end up with the cats all over me, and I can't get anything done). Most evenings I've either felt too tired, or just not in the mood for crochet, and more recently I've been trying to get sorted for Christmas - ordering presents online, wrapping them, writing cards etc. I had a few hours to myself last Saturday when Chris took Junior out, and I did a little bit of crochet then, but my intention is to really try and get back into it after Christmas.

* * *

Speaking of which, I've been having a think about what my New Year Resolutions might be, except I never call them that, but it's basically the same thing, to me. If I can link to Jo at Through The Keyhole again, I've been really inspired by her 2015 Challenges this year. I like the fun element of them, she's been doing something enjoyable 'for her', but there has also been a more serious side in supporting a different charity each month. I'd really like to do something similar for 2016, so I've got my thinking cap on and hopefully I'll have come up with some ideas by January 1st.

* * *

Anyway, unfortunately I have to go to work on Christmas Eve, so I really should be toddling off to bed (just found out that we can leave two hours earlier than usual though, so I'll be driving home in daylight for a change, wippee!).

So have a wonderful Christmas / Festive Celebration of your choice, and I'll see you on the other side!!

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Review: The Blackhouse

The Blackhouse The Blackhouse by Peter May
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like reading books that are set in/around the Highlands/Islands/West Coast of Scotland, so I was keen to start reading the first of the Lewis Trilogy.

DI Fin Macleod was born on the Isle of Lewis, but had left when he was 18. Investigating a murder in Edinburgh, he is sent back to Lewis when a man is killed in similar circumstances. However, although the murder investigation rolls along in the background, the novel is more about Fin's journey back into his past.

It took me a few days to get into it, but then I really enjoyed this novel. The chapters alternated between what was happening in the present day, and Fin's memories of his life on the island as he grew up. There was a lot of history there, which was revealed slowly, so it was a real page-turner, wanting to get to the next revelation.

I did think that Fin had had an exceptionally bleak, unhappy life, which was quite depressing. When the book begins, he is leaving for Lewis and effectively walking out on his marriage, just four weeks after his son had died. This was only referred to a handful of times throughout the rest of the novel, and I couldn't understand how Fin had seemingly come to terms with his son's death so quickly.

The killer wasn't too difficult to guess, in the end, and that part of the story was possibly a bit of an anti-climax. There was a big twist too which to be honest seemed a bit too convenient to me, as there had been no hint of it at all up until that point, as far as I was concerned.

Overall though, I did enjoy this novel. I've already got book two of the trilogy, so I'm looking forwards to reading that.

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Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh my, what a lovely, lovely novel!

Retired Harold Fry receives a letter from an old work colleague, Queenie, informing him that she has terminal cancer. He writes a quick note of sympathy, and while his wife Maureen furiously cleans the house from top to bottom, he pops out to the nearest postbox to post the letter. Except, he doesn't. Instead, he decides to deliver it in person. But he lives on the South Coast, and Queenie is in a hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed. But Harold feels that as long as he keeps walking, she will keep living. So that's what he does. He just keeps walking.

Along the way, he has ample time to reflect on his life - his failures (as he sees it) as a husband and father - and he meets lots of characters to whom he lends a friendly, listening ear. He realises that there are people just like him, everywhere - on the outside they appear 'normal' and do normal, everyday things, and no one ever knows what kind of turmoil they might be going through on the inside.

"He understood that in walking to atone for the mistakes he had made, it was also his journey to accept the strangeness of others".

Meanwhile, Harold keeps Maureen updated on his walk. At first, angry, embarassed and confused, her enforced solitude eventually gives Maureen the opportunity to reflect on her own conduct as a wife and mother. Her gradual understanding and acceptance of Harold's journey, and the way her anger and bitterness gives way to support and forgiveness, was incredibly moving.

For most of the journey, Harold walks alone, but inevitably the media get involved, which is where his walk becomes a 'pilgrimage'. He is never comfortable with this, and this reader shared Harold's relief when he finally slipped away from the crowd of 'followers'. (I didn't mind the dog though).

There was a twist towards the end of the book that I didn't see coming, but perhaps I should've done. The last few chapters were sad, poignant and yet uplifting as well. I absolutely loved this book, and it will stay with me for a very long time.

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Sunday, 8 November 2015

Flying Visit...

I don't seem to be able to find much time for blogging lately! I feel busy, but it's busy in a 'lots to do' kind of way, like I've got a lot on my mind, lots of things to remember. I'm thinking about what needs doing, but not actually getting much of it done. I should write it all down, make a list, but I forget to even do that, or I do it but then forget to look at it!

It doesn't help that I've been ill for about three weeks. It started as a cold, one Friday afternoon at work. I'm so relieved that I now work on my own, in my own office, because it meant I could just shut the door and sneeze and sniffle in private. After a few days I developed a horrible chesty cough, in fact, I suspect I've had a chest infection, although I never actually got around to making an appointment with the GP. Sometimes the cough would be so bad that it would make me sick (sorry, a bit TMI). Then I got a sore throat, possibly as a result of all the coughing, and didn't eat for a day, and although it's mostly back to normal, it still hurts when I yawn, oddly enough! I had my flu jab just over a week ago, which in hindsight possibly wasn't a good idea when I wasn't very well, although I don't think I had any side-effects from it. And just yesterday I had an appointment with the practice nurse (which had been booked for a few weeks) to have a test to find out whether I've got asthma. So to say I've been a wheezy, coughing mess for the past few weeks is an understatement!

I haven't done any crochet at all since I started with the cold, which is making me a bit sad, but I knew it would frustrate me if I had to keep breaking off to cough or blow my nose. So instead I've mostly been snuggling up on the sofa with my hot water bottle, under a blanket (and a cat!), and either reading or watching tv, and just taking it easy.

Anyway, sorry for moaning about all that!

In much happier news, we've had a birthday recently - a certain little someone turned two years old! I can't believe he's two already. He got some lovely cards and pressies from all the family, and absolutely loved being the centre of attention, as always :-).
He's a little bundle of energy, completely fearless, running all over the place, climbing everything. He fell/climbed out of his cot bed the other week - I heard the thud on the monitor and I don't think I've ever got up our stairs so quickly! Thankfully he was completely uninjured - there were a few tears, but I think that was more the shock of what had just happened, and then he stopped crying and actually looked a bit pleased with himself! He hasn't done it again, but just to be on the safe side, just about every cushion we own is spread out on the floor around his cot every time he's in there.
He can count from 1 to 10 (and sometimes carries on to 20, although the numbers start to sound a bit vague after 12), and he can pretty much say the alphabet all the way through. He's saying 'mum' and 'dad' really well now - I'll never get tired of hearing him call me mum (although, when I've just popped to the bathroom and I can hear him shouting me from the living room, that's... interesting! Can't I just... you know... do this, in peace?!). He can say loads of words now, really, too many to list. He's recently started saying 'ok' when we ask him anything, or sometimes he just says 'yes' to every question.
He loves singing, and some mornings I can hear him on the monitor singing The Wheels On The Bus or Wind The Bobbin Up to himself, it's so cute! He does all the arm actions too.
If we say "can I have a kiss?" he'll come over to kiss you, and he'll make a 'mwah' sound at the same time. And we've just taught him how to blow kisses too.
He's absolutely adorable and I love him so much I could burst!!

I'm still watching Strictly, of course, and still think Jay is fantastic. I don't think I breathed during his Argentine Tango this weekend, it was mesmerising! Since I last talked all things Strictly, Ainsley has left, followed by Kirsty and Carol. Ainsley was just starting to annoy me, he didn't seem to know when to stop talking and sometimes his sincerity was a bit OTT. I never took to Kirsty at all, so I wasn't sorry to see her go. Carol was the right person to leave tonight; as happy and smiley as she is, I can't really make my mind up whether I like her or not. But dancing-wise, she was definitely the weakest one. The next person to leave probably should be Jeremy, although I am actually quite enjoying his partnership with Karen, and I feel Katie Derham might be on thin ice too. To my untrained eye, she seemed to make a lot of mistakes in their Quickstep this week, and ballroom is meant to be what she's best at, so I don't know how much longer she can hang on.

Anyway, it's going to have to be a flying visit tonight - I thought if I don't blog something soon, I'll never get around to it!

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Review: House Rules

House Rules House Rules by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

House Rules centres around Jacob, a boy with Asperger's Syndrome, who is accused of murder. The nature of the Syndrome means that a lot of his mannerisms could potentially be mistaken for signs of 'guilt', such as not being able to make eye contact and not answering certain questions, particularly under pressure. It also didn't help his case that he has a fascination with forensic science, something which he is extremely knowledgeable about.

The murder victim is Jess, Jacob's social skills tutor. His mum, Emma, knows that he had some kind of involvement in what happened to Jess, but she doesn't know to what extent. When Jacob is charged with the murder, Emma enlists the help of a rookie lawyer to try and prove her son's innocence. Meanwhile her other son, Jacob's younger brother Theo, is dealing with his own issues alone, while his mother is preoccupied with Jacob's court case. The 'forgotten sibling' seems to be a popular theme through several of JP's books...

This was another formulaic Jodi Picoult novel - moral/social/ethical dilemma etc culminating in courtroom scenes. I felt like I learned quite a bit about Asperger's Syndrome, although having read a few other reviews on Goodreads, it seems that Jodi Picoult threw every possible symptom at Jacob, so that he was quite an 'extreme' example of the condition.

The part that moved me the most was when Jacob was actually being held in jail (he was 18, so legally an adult) and trying to cope with such a dramatic change to his routine, and the torment that Emma was going through being parted from him and unable to help, but knowing how much he would be struggling. Even though he was an adult, the Asperger's meant that he was sometimes a bit naive and child-like, and as a parent myself I kind of felt that pain of not being able to help your child when they were suffering.

Overall I enjoyed the book, but there were a few moments of frustration when I wished someone would just ask Jacob, in a way that he would be able to respond to, about what really happened to Jess. Emma was always pointing out that he was incapable of lying, so I couldn't help thinking it could've all been solved a lot sooner!

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Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Review: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I had a massive book clear-out a while ago, but this was one of a few 'classic' books I kept; I don't know if classic is the right word, but those books that you feel you 'should' read, y'know? (I've also kept 1984 and Animal Farm, for example). I kept this one mostly because of the Scottish link.

But it just wasn't for me, I'm afraid. There were moments that I found mildly amusing, but on the whole, I just found it a bit boring. It sat on the bedside drawers for weeks, until I finally decided to finish it today. A couple of pages into it and I was nodding off, and then I found myself skipping to the end, skimming the paragraphs to see if anything interesting jumped out at me, but it didn't.

So although this book ticked the 'set in Scotland' box of my list of reading requirements, I'm afraid I needed a bit more than that to keep me hooked.

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Monday, 19 October 2015

Strictly 2015: Second and Third Out

Wasn't planning on writing about Strictly this year, but I seem to have started so I might carry on...

Second celeb to leave was Anthony Ogogo. He wasn't a favourite of mine, but I didn't mind him really. I follow the celebs and pro dancers on Twitter (until they leave the show, and then I unfollow them. It's a little game I like to play), and Anthony came in for a bit of stick from so-called boxing 'fans' who thought he should've been training instead of doing Strictly. I was impressed with his positive attitude and the way he regarded learning to dance as training in itself, for example helping him to become light on his feet. Even though he wasn't on the show for long, I hope it does have a lasting benefit to his boxing career. However, I don't think he should've ever been chosen to take part in the first place. Maybe it was felt that his shoulder would recover quicker than it was doing, but dancing isn't just about the feet, and you'd think someone would've realised that he'd struggle with lifts etc. Oti seems like a really good dancer, so hopefully she'll still be around next year, and will get a promising partner (I think Anthony could've done quite well without the injury).

The third celeb to leave the show was Daniel O'Donnell, and I don't think it was really a surprise to anyone. I do think he'd made some improvements, and certainly seemed to have conquered his nerves compared to his first dance, at least, but it was obvious he wasn't going to get much further in the competition. Having said that, I think I would've preferred Kirsty to leave, I'm sorry to say I find her a bit annoying, and her partnership with Brendan is one that I'm just a bit indifferent to.

I was gutted that Jay made mistakes in his Quickstep as it looked like a really good routine, but you could've almost put money on him messing up after his amazing Jive. I hope it doesn't knock his confidence, and that he comes back next week with another brilliant dance. (Yes, I'm a bit of a fan. Trying to make up for calling him 'creepy' after the Launch Show).

Sunday, 18 October 2015

I followed...

... this vehicle the other day, and you know exactly what I was thinking, don't you?

Ooh, nice granny square blankets! I hope they don't fall off...

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Goes to show...

... you never can tell!

Oh my goodness! Jay and Aliona's Jive in Week 3, the Pulp Fiction one? How amazing was that? I can't stop watching it.

I didn't think he was going to be any good to begin with, and I'm here to hold my hands up and admit that I was wrong. Very wrong.

I still think Anita might win, but I'm now thinking she's got some serious competition from Jay. All three of his dances have been good, and tonight I think he was finally starting to look more confident in terms of finding the character of the dance.

Len said last week that he was excited about Jay, and I'm starting to feel that way too. I really want him to do well, I watched their jive with a big grin on my face because I knew what an amazing reaction it was going to get, and I was so happy for him! I also think that Aliona is a brilliant dancer and choreographer when she's given a good partner to work with (like Harry from McFly), so I hope she continues to bring out the best in Jay.

My other favourite dance was Kellie and Kevin, because I've always loved the music that they were dancing to, the Cantina Band from Star Wars.

Not sure who is going to leave on Sunday. Carol is probably the weakest dancer (even more so than Daniel O'Donnell), but I don't think Jamelia is very popular with the general public, and I also think Kirsty might not be around for long.

I'm off to watch that Jive again...

Monday, 5 October 2015

Strictly 2015: First Out

Well, I wasn't expecting him to be the first one to leave, but I can't say I'll miss Iwan Thomas at all.

I didn't really like his attitude - I think he came into Strictly either thinking that he was going to be better than he was, or that other contestants weren't going to be as good as they are, or that it was going to be easier than it is, or maybe a bit of all three. Basically he came across as a bit arrogant. Clearly he was affected by the negative comments from the judges in the first week, and I do think he'd eaten a big portion of humble pie by week two, but it wasn't enough to save him. Maybe he was genuinely sad to be leaving so soon, but I think there was an element of his male pride taking a huge beating too.

I don't read the tabloids, but I'd caught wind of the rumours that Ola wasn't happy to be partnered with him, and that they didn't get on, even though that didn't appear to be the case on tv. However, true or not, it affected the way I viewed their partnership, to the point where I was always looking for those little telltale signs that things might not be as happy as they were trying to imply.

Similarly, I used to like Ola, but I think she is suffering a bit by the behaviour of James Jordan, particularly some of the comments he makes about Strictly on Twitter (I know I don't have to follow him, but I was curious). Now that he's no longer a part of the show, he's really let rip with his opinion, and yet Ola is still there having to keep the smile painted on and almost pretend that he isn't saying the things that he is on Twitter. It must be hard for her, so perhaps it's best that she's first out. I'll be surprised if she's still on Strictly next year.

The dance that made me smile the most this week was actually Ainsley and Natalie's Salsa. I think everyone was expecting it to suit him and it did, but I'm not sure that they'll be able to top it now.

I also found myself smiling (and maybe cringing a little bit too) through Jeremy and Karen's dance. Having been forced to listen to him on Radio 2 when I was at work previously, I used to find him a bit annoying, but his excitement and enjoyment of Strictly is quite infectious.

I've been really surprised by both of Jay and Aliona's dances. He's so nervous, I was expecting him to dance like a plank of wood, but he's actually pretty darn good. He looked very striking in his white suit this week, and I loved how straight and controlled he was in those spins. I agree that he's going to need to start working on the performance side though, as his face has so far been a bit emotionless. And I know I've just mentioned his nerves, but I really wish people (especially Tess) would stop going on about them - IT'S NOT GOING TO MAKE HIM ANY LESS NERVOUS!! It's like pointing out to someone that they're blushing - it just makes it worse!

Also enjoyed Anita and Gleb, and I still think she might win it...

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho...

Last Friday was a bit of a momentous day for me - I went back to work!!

When we adopted Junior, I took 12 months leave, but my annual leave accrued while I wasn't there. This was added on to the end of my leave, which meant I had just over 13 months off work altogether. So as you can imagine, going back after all that time was a massive shock to the system!

Chris and I have both chosen to work part time - he's doing three days, and I'm doing the other two. We're very fortunate to be able to do this, and it means that one of us will always be at home with Junior during the week, so we don't need to arrange childcare. However, we will look into letting him go to nursery in the new year, as it's obviously important for him to socialise with other children in preparation for school. (He does currently attend a few playgroups so he's already mixing with other children now).

Since Junior came to live with us, I've spent pretty much every day with him. The only days I've been away from him for a considerable length of time are the two Saturdays that I went to Yarndale, last year and this year. Chris sometimes takes him out on a weekend, but it's usually for no more than 4 or 5 hours, so it doesn't really feel like he's away for long, and somehow it doesn't feel as bad when it's Junior who is going out, while I stay at home.

So to say I was anxious about going back to work is an understatement. As the day crept closer, I had that kind of feeling of impending doom, like a huge black cloud was hanging over me. It was almost as if I was never going to see him again, rather than be away from him for just a day. Plus I had all the other nerves about going back to work, and the worry that I'd almost forgotten how to do my job, so that was bad enough, but on top of that I was worried that I might actually get upset because I was missing him so much!

Since I'm now only working two days a week, I've actually moved into a different office, in fact, a different site altogether to where I previously worked. So there was some added anxiety about driving there, and the fact that I don't know anyone. As it happens, the drive was pretty horrendous due to extremely thick fog, and then I had some issues getting into the building, never mind my office, because I needed a swipe card to get in and mine had expired months ago.

I got in to my office eventually, but I couldn't really do much until my supervisor arrived, who then got my swipe card updated, and got me logged back on to all the various IT systems that we use at work. I had a lot of training to catch up on, but fortunately most of it can be done by e-learning now, so I just had to sit and watch a few short videos and then tick a box to say my training was up to date. All of this took most of the day, but thankfully my supervisor was understanding about that, and didn't really expect me to get any 'actual' work done that day; he even said that he'd send someone to cover the workload next week, until I go back on Thursday.

So all in all, it was quite an easy day, and not as bad as I'd been expecting. I thought about Junior a lot, and wondered what he was up to, although Chris did Whatsapp me a couple of photos. Most of the time though, I was kept quite distracted by what I was doing, so although I was missing him, it wasn't too bad. I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm glad to be back at work, but I was definitely relieved to get the first day over with. Like I said, I'm back on Thursday, and I'm a teeny-tiny bit looking forwards to getting stuck into the work.

Also, I have my own office, which is a bit drab (I don't even have a window, which is a shame, although if I did I'd probably spend all day gazing out of it), so I'm trying to think of how I can brighten it up - some crochet bunting, perhaps? Crochet coasters? Crochet wall-hanging (although they might not want me hammering nails into the wall)? I definitely want to make it a more pleasant, inviting place than it currently is - maybe I could get a poster of a window with a nice view, to stick on the wall?

It was a long drive home, not helped by two lots of pretty serious roadworks, but luckily Junior was pleased to see me - he was in the back garden and I could hear him shouting "mum! mum!" even while I was getting out of the car. Chris was making tea, so me and Junior had a big cuddle and then a kickabout with the football. I'd left in the morning before he was even awake, which was really difficult because I'm the one who always gets him up every morning (I haven't had a lie in since he arrived!), and it was soooo good to see him when I came home.

I'm still not looking forwards to leaving Junior and going back to work next week, but now that I've got the first day over with, I do think it's going to be easier. It's probably good for both of us to spend some time apart, even though it doesn't really feel like that for me!

Sorry for the long wordy post with no pictures, I just really wanted to write down how I felt about what was such an important moment for me.

Thanks for reading, if you've got this far :-)

Monday, 28 September 2015

ICYMI: New Yarn Resolutions

Yarndale is such a highlight on my calendar, it's almost as significant as New Year's Day. Possibly more so, as I don't usually celebrate or do anything special for New Year. So I've been thinking - if we can have a 'financial year' that runs from April to March, I think we should have a 'yarn year', that runs from September to August! New Year's Day will be Yarndale Saturday!

I don't always make New Year Resolutions, and if I do, I don't often stick to them, but I've been thinking about making some New Yarn Resolutions instead.

The main one at the moment is:

Make things for me, especially with all the gorgeous hand-dyed yarn that I've bought over the past year or so. Ideally I'd like to have used it all up before Yarndale 2016 (so that I can buy more, natch!)

So I've got to turn all of this into some beautiful items of clothing!

I don't mean to sound selfish, but other than things like hats and scarves, I've never really made myself anything, especially not clothing. Recently I've gone through all my back issues of Simply Crochet magazine and made a note of all the things I'd like to have a go at - mostly jumpers, sleeveless tops, cardigans, plus a few shawls. If I've already got suitable yarn, I want to start making, and if I haven't, then I'll allow myself a treat of buying some yarn specifically for the pattern. This 'Yarn Year' needs to be the year of making clothes!

Make another blanket to use up stash

If I fancy a change, or something a bit less complicated, I'll probably start another blanket. I wanted to make an Autumn inspired one, but when I went through my stash, and then looked at my Stylecraft Shade Card, it turned out that I needed to buy at least 10 more colours. Hmm, fancy that... So that might be on hold for now.

Make things for other people

My mum asked me (months ago) to make her a throw for her bed. She wanted it to cover it top to bottom, and to almost touch the floor, so even though it's only a single bed, the throw will probably be almost double-sized. I'm making sunburst granny squares, all in cream (her choice), and I'm slowly chipping away at it. I've made 30-odd, but I think we worked out it might need about 165! I really need to speed up on that.

She's also asked me to make her a shawl, but I think she understands that she might have a long wait for it.

I've got a couple of patterns that I'd like to make for Junior, but I want to buy the correct yarn for them, and I need to have a think about what size to make. If it takes me a long time to make them, I wouldn't want him to have grown out of it after only wearing it a handful of times.


I've got a couple of things in mind for Christmas presents, so obviously that's a bit of a priority

Make things to sell

I started making blankets to sell, and I also designed and published my first shawl pattern, but I'm now really torn between wanting to do this (some of which I find a bit boring), and wanting to make things for myself, which is much more enjoyable and rewarding. For example, Chris has asked me to make some facecloths, which he's offered to try and sell for me. It would be great to make a bit of money from that (albeit not very much), but the trouble is, I find facecloths quite boring to crochet, and all the time I'm doing it, I'm thinking I could be doing something else instead. So do I just abandon the whole selling idea? Or maybe just fit things in between other projects...

Learn other crafts

This one mainly refers to the needle-felting kit that I bought at Yarndale 2014, which I still haven't done. I need to have a play with that! I also need to have another go at dyeing my own yarn, now that I've bought some proper dyes.

I think those are all my New Yarn Resolutions for now. What about you? Would you like to join me and think about your own yarny goals for this Yarn Year?

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Yarndale 2015

The date we've been waiting for all year finally arrived - Yarndale 2015 was upon us!

It was an early start for me - left the house at around 7am, called at the ATM first to get some spending money and then went to pick my mum up, although we didn't leave her house till 8.30.

We had a nice steady drive to Skipton, commenting on the fact that the weather looked promising, as the sun was trying it's best to break through the clouds. Although we wouldn't notice the weather whilst we were inside Yarndale, we were planning to go to Otley for a wander around afterwards, so we wanted it to be fine and dry. As it happens, we didn't come out of Yarndale until about 3pm, and after a quick trip to Grassington (mainly to use the loos in the car park, and then have a quick bite to eat, because we hadn't had anything to eat or drink all day), we headed home. It seemed to take forever, and I got home just after 6pm. A very long, but enjoyable, day!

Anyway, back to the morning. We arrived at the Auction Mart just after 9.30, so drove straight in and got parked up in the grass field at the back with no problems. I took a couple of spare bags with me which I forgot to get out of the boot, so I went back for them before we joined the queue. We waited from about 9.45, and didn't actually get inside until about 10.20, which was a little bit frustrating as I'd bought the tickets in advance, and I (and others in the queue) assumed that we'd get in sooner. But the people who were buying tickets 'on the door' were getting in much quicker than us. It wasn't a big deal though, at least it wasn't throwing it down or blowing a gale, and the mood in the queue was generally a happy, excited one.

When we got in, the first thing I spotted was the mandala display from last year. Around 500 of them are currently on display in Craven Museum and Gallery in Skipton, but the rest were at Yarndale again. I'd no idea where mine had ended up, but I was going to have a look for it all the same! I spotted it straight away!

Top left corner of the board on the right

Pink centre, yellow round the edge

Unfortunately, in the excitement of the day, I didn't take any more photos, which I'm a bit sad about now. But as in previous years, I will spend the next couple of weeks trawling blogs, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook to swoon over everyone else's photos and basically relive the day vicariously through them.

I did, of course, take the obligatory Yarndale Haul photos when I came home. First priority was a quick cuddle with Junior, who was just about to go to bed (I'd left before he got up this morning, and missed him like mad). Then I watched Strictly, so it was late evening when I spread my purchases out on the bed to take these photos. Apologies for the shadows.

So we have:

This year's Yarndale bag and two pin badges, plus a 2016 calendar

A starter pack from Colourcraft - after my attempt with food colouring, I really wanted to have a go with proper dyes. I'd never even thought about buying some at Yarndale until Friday evening, when I was having a look through the list of exhibitors and saw that they were going to be there. Had a nice chat with the chap on the stall who recommended this starter pack, and I'm looking forwards to having a play!

A fun bag from The Knitting Goddess. The badges were already attached to the bag - one says The Knitting Goddess, and the other says "I hold the potential to make beautiful things", which I liked.

Two sets of two stitch markers from Watercolours and Lace. This was one of the first stalls I went to, and the first purchase I made. I was very tempted by a lot of their yarn, but didn't want to buy some so quickly before I'd looked round everywhere else, and then forgot to go back. But the good thing is, all the website links are on the Yarndale site, so I'm going to bookmark as many as I can so that I'll always be able to visit them online and maybe make a future purchase. The beads on the stitch markers are all purpley colours, and two have little silver cats on them, and the other two are just a couple of nice beads. I'm trying to slowly increase my cute and pretty stitch marker collection, so these will do nicely.

This is some gorgeous squishy yarn from Juniper Moon Farm (I think). I can't remember what stall I bought this from, I don't think the stall was called Juniper Moon Farm, but I could be wrong. As you can see it's 50% wool/50% silk. I thought it was 4ply but looking at the label again it looks like it's lace weight. I'd taken a very brief shopping list which mostly consisted of getting some yarn to make a couple of shawls, and this is earmarked for one of them.

This is beautifully soft 4ply yarn from Debonnaire - 75% merino superwash/20% nylon/5% silver stellina - it's the first time I've bought something with a bit of sparkle in it, and this is also destined to be a shawl.

These are four skeins of undyed 4ply merino, although only two of them are mine - I'll be having a go at dyeing them. My mum bought the other two, and she's asked me to make her a shawl with them, as she liked the 'undyed' natural colour. I don't like saying no to my mum as I feel quite flattered that she wants me to make her things, but I've no idea when I'm going to get around to it all! I'm already in the middle of making her a huge throw for her bed...

I also bought Books 1 and 2 of The Shawl Project - I might have a go at some of the patterns in them, but they also have some really interesting tips on designing your own shawls. I tried to read it last night and I must admit, most of it went over my head, but I was very tired and I had a pounding headache, so that didn't help.

As I said above, the other yarn that I bought is destined for shawls. The irony is, though, that I don't really wear shawls/scarves/wraps! I'm not even sure 'how' to wear them, you know, what kind of outfit they'd go with. I just live in jeans and hooded sweaters at home and I feel that they wouldn't work with that, so maybe it's time I updated my wardrobe and smartened myself up a bit?

I've just come up with a 'thing' too - we have New Year Resolutions, so I'm going to have a New Yarn Resolution! Basically, I'm going to try and find some patterns (or heck, design my own if I have to!) to use up all my best yarn, and make something for myself. I've still got yarn that I bought at Yarndale 2014, which I finally got around to winding the other week, as well as yarn from Armley Mills Wool Festival, and some that I bought on holiday. So I'm going to try and use it all before next New Yarn (Yarndale 2016)!

So I've shown you mine - now you show me yours! (Your Yarndale goodies, of course!)

Friday, 25 September 2015

Review: Picture Perfect

Picture Perfect Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

I've always been a huge fan of Jodi Picoult, but this is the second of her books which I've given up on, and this was my second attempt at reading it.

The story just wasn't gripping me at all, so I read a few reviews on Goodreads and realised that I have no interest in finding out how it all ends (besides, I read some spoilers so I kind of know how it ends now).

Picture Perfect is one of Jodi's earlier novels, and I think she definitely seems to have improved over the years; this book doesn't seem to be as good as many of her later ones.

So, abandoned.

Edited to add: I did actually give it 1 star, but I forgot to do it until after it posted my review to my blog. 

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Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Review: Mysteries of Winterthurn

Mysteries of Winterthurn Mysteries of Winterthurn by Joyce Carol Oates
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

I once read an article which listed a Top 10 of Gothic Novels, and Mysteries of Winterthurn was on the list. I decided to try and track it down, along with some of the others, as I thought 'Gothic' might be a genre I could be interested in.

I've had the book for two or three years, but only just got around to reading it now. Unfortunately though, I couldn't get past the first couple of pages. I couldn't get on with the Victorian style of writing (though I've been able to in other books), and I just didn't fancy the prospect of wading through all that in what is quite a hefty tome. Life's too short to read a book that you're not really enjoying!

So I've abandoned this one, I'm afraid...

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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Hot Water

When we were on holiday in March, and again in August, the cottage could get a bit chilly on an evening. There was a log fire, but although it made the living room warm and cosy, the heat didn't really spread to the other rooms. We found a fan heater to help warm the bedroom up a little, and I also found a hot water bottle.

I haven't used a hot water bottle for years, but I must admit, I really looked forwards to sliding it between the sheets to keep my feet warm each night. It didn't have a cover, so I wrapped it in a towel so that it wasn't too hot to touch.

A couple of weeks after we got home, I was sitting on the sofa one evening, reading, and I felt really cold, even with one of my crochet blankets covering me. I decided that a hot water bottle would be perfect for such moments!

So the next day, Junior and I popped to the shops and I bought a basic hot water bottle from Boots. I didn't have a cover for it, so in a moment of inspiration, I thought I'd crochet one! (Yes, that's what this little tale has been leading up to...)

Since the hot water bottle is blue, I thought I'd use blue yarn, so that it wouldn't be as obvious if it showed through. I started thinking about a 'water' theme, and decided to do a ripple pattern, in shades of blue going from dark to light - think 'the sea'.

Then I thought it would be fun to embellish it with some fish, or something watery.

And this is the finished cover:

The colours from the bottom up are Royal, Aster, Turquoise and Cloud Blue - the button band at the top is Sherbet. I made an identical back and front, and joined them around three sides with Sherbet, leaving the top open. I sewed the buttons onto the inside of the top band, which is all trebles, and the buttons just push through the gaps between the stitches. You can't see it on the photo, but I also made a chain and attached one end to the cover at the back, and the other end to the 'plug', so that it won't get lost.

I didn't have a pattern for the fish or the seaweed (yes, that's what it is), I just made them up as I went along. I was going to put a different scene on the other side, but to be honest by the time I'd made these and sewn them on, I'd had enough, so the back is just the ripple pattern.

I'm really pleased with this - it's nothing fancy, just a bit of fun, but all done without a pattern. And most important of all, it's lovely to snuggle up to when I'm sitting downstairs reading.

Autumn Finds...

... during a walk around Temple Newsam this morning.

We stood under an Oak tree while a squirrel knocked (threw?) acorns down from above.

Friday, 18 September 2015

The 'C' Word

No, not that one. Or that one. This one:


Yes, it's September, so I'm tentatively thinking about Christmas, specifically, Christmas presents. If I pull my finger out, there may be some 'handmade' gifts winging their way to people this year, which I'm quite excited about.

I'm also very excited about this - Jo at Through The Keyhole is organising a 'Twelve Days Of Christmas' Present Swap, and I've signed up for it. All the details are on her blog, but basically, she will match everyone up with a swap buddy, to whom you then send 12 presents. Wrapped individually, they will open one present a day, from the 25th Dec through to the 5th January. Gifts can be handmade, but if purchased should cost no more that £2, or the whole lot should cost no more than £20. So nothing extravagant, but there are still lots of nice thoughtful little gifts that cost less than a couple of quid, and I've already started thinking about things I could buy. However, I'll wait until I know who my swap buddy is - we'll have to swap addresses obviously, and I'm assuming that we might introduce ourselves and maybe say a little bit about the kind of things we like. Or maybe we'll just say "surprise me!" Either way, I'm very excited to be taking part.

Thank you to Jo for organising it.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Wool. Wound.

That's 'wound' rhymes with 'round'.

Yes, I've had my wool winder and my swift out again this weekend. Chris took Junior to his grandma's, so I had a few toddler-free hours and decided it was about time I wound some of my skeins into cakes. I mean, I've only had some of them since Yarndale 2014...

I didn't take any action shots, but this is the end result:

My arms were aching after all that!

Clockwise(ish) from the top, there are eight cakes of cobweb lace from Natural Born Dyers, which I bought at Armley Mills Wool Festival in 2014.

Natural Born Dyers

The big cake next to them is my first, and so far only, attempt at hand dyeing. It was caking up lovely, but I should really have stopped halfway and made two. As it was, it got a bit big and I decided to finish winding it by hand, because I was worried it would slip off the winder and get into the cog mechanism, which happened to me last time. There is approx. 100g DK here. It looks quite nice caked up, the colours are a bit 'ice-creamy', if you know what I mean.

my hand-dyed

Underneath that are six cakes of a 4ply yarn called Licorice Kiss, which I bought from Easyknits at Yarndale 2014. It's black, pink and turquoise and scrummy.


To the right of that are four cakes of squidgy soft DK yarn from Little Boo Yarns - I wrote about buying them from one of the Yarnmama nights on Facebook here

Little Boo Yarns - this colour is called 'Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice'!

Below the Easyknits yarn are nine cakes of the Yeavering Bell 4ply yarn that I bought from Whistlebare Yarns in Northumberland, when we were on holiday in March. So much fluff came off this while I was winding it, I had to keep sweeping the table in between each one! After I'd bought it, I thought it might be a bit too itchy to wear next to the skin, but now that I've handled it again, it is actually quite soft and snuggly.

Whistlebare Yarns

Finally to the left of that are about 14 or 15 cakes of Eden Cottage Yarns Pendle 4ply, again bought at Yarndale 2014. This is earmarked for a cardigan that was featured in an issue of Simply Crochet.

Eden Cottage Yarns

The first skein that I wound was my own hand-dyed yarn, and after that I decided to keep all the others smaller, which is why there are so many. It pained me to cut the yarn and start again each time - I wish I could've wound the whole skein in one go - but even doing smaller ones I still got the yarn caught in the cog mechanism a couple of times, which is really annoying. I managed to free it without it being damaged though.

I was really pleased to get them all done, because I can actually use them now. However, so far I only have a serious plan for the Eden Cottage yarn - I'm not sure what to do with the rest of it. Suggestions welcome!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Review: Started Early, Took My Dog

Started Early, Took My Dog Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fourth Jackson Brodie novel, and judging by the ending, probably (hopefully) not the last.

Two years have passed since the events of book three, and Jackson is back doing private investigations, helping an adopted woman in New Zealand track down her birth parents. As usual, nothing ever runs smoothly, and along the way he encounters an ex-cop dealing with the consequences of an impulse purchase, a missing social worker, an actress whose memory is fading along with her career, and he himself becomes the subject of a private investigation - the hunter becomes the hunted. Oh, and he rescues a dog.

There are some harrowing scenes in this novel, which I almost had to skip as I was finding them too upsetting, but as with the previous three books, there is a lot of humour as well. I was born and bred in Leeds, so it was nice to read about places that I'm familiar with too. The chapters shifted between the present, and the 1970's, which I sometimes struggled to keep up with, but I think that was because I read it over a few nights, and I just kept forgetting what was what and who was who.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book - I think it's my favourite Jackson Brodie story so far.

And three cheers for The Ambassador!

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Saturday, 5 September 2015

Strictly Come Dancing 2015 - Partner Predictions

Just for a bit of fun, I thought I'd try and predict who might be dancing with who, prior to the launch show at 7.15pm on BBC One.

I've no idea how tall anyone is, so I might be completely wrong based on heights. I also can barely remember any of the celebs from 2014, so I may have matched the pros with a similar celeb to who they had last year. But like I said, it's just a bit of fun!

So, in no particular order, these are my predictions (not even attempting to spell some of the pro dancers surnames, sorry!):

Kirsty Gallacher + Tristan
Daniel O'Donnell + Kristina
Peter Andre + Oti (new pro)
Katie Derham + Giovanni (new pro)
Georgia May Foote + Gleb (new pro)
Iwan Thomas + Janette
Anita Rani + Brendan
Jay McGuiness + Ola
Ainsley Harriott + Aliona
Carol Kirkwood + Anton
Jeremy Vine + Natalie
Kellie Bright + Kevin
Anthony Ogogo + Karen
Jamelia + Aljaz
Helen George + Pasha

I'll pop back later to reveal how wrong I am with all of these!
Haha, well I got two right, but I was miles away with the rest of them!

So the official pairings (and my initial thoughts) are:
Daniel O'Donnell and Kristina - I think he'll be the first to leave.
Kellie Bright and Kevin - Love Kevin, so I want them to do well, but I'm not sure that she'll be able to keep up. She seems fun though, so I think they'll have a good laugh along the way.
Kirsty Gallacher and Brendan - Kind of indifferent to them, but I think she'll be good
Peter Andre and Janette - I think I might have a teeny tiny soft spot for Peter Andre, I don't find him as annoying as I used to, so I think I'd like them to do well. He'll probably be good at the Latin, but struggle with the ballroom at first.
Katie Derham and Anton - Anton can't do Latin, they'll only get so far with good ballroom dances. Finding her a bit irritating so far, her smile looks too forced.
Georgia May Foote and Giovanni - They'll be cute and/or sexy and will probably go a long way
Iwan Thomas and Ola - Not sure about Iwan, think he might turn out to be a bit wooden
Anita Rani and Gleb - She seems to have a confident and determined personality, and I could see her going a long way. Gleb is gorgeous, but I hope he has a good sense of humour like Aljaz - would be a shame if Claudia and Zoe's funny comments are lost on him (and I'm sure there will be many comments from them throughout the series).
Jay McGuiness and Aliona - I'm already finding him a bit creepy, to be honest, seems like he's just there to ogle the women. Does he know Aliona got married recently?
Ainsley Harriott and Natalie - I've never really liked Ainsley, always found him a bit too OTT, but thought he was a bit calmer and quieter at the launch show, nerves maybe? As long as he keeps the gurning under control, I might be able to tolerate him.
Carol Kirkwood and Pasha - Should've known that they wouldn't want Pasha to win two years in a row, so they'll give him someone who (presumably) won't get too far. Sorry Carol.
Jeremy Vine and Karen - I think he'll give it his all, but I don't think Karen will be around for long unfortunately.
Anthony Ogogo and Oti - Seems weird to have joined a dancing show when you've got a shoulder injury, I wonder how that will impact on their first few dances? He seems keen though, so they might do pretty well.
Jamelia and Tristan - Can't decide if I like her or not, but I think she'll turn out to be pretty good
Helen George and Aljaz - I really like Aljaz, so I'd like them to go a long way. I think she'll look good, but might be a bit clumsy/make silly mistakes.

I was catching up on Twitter while they did their first group dance so I didn't really see what any of them looked like. So based on no evidence whatsoever, I'll have a complete stab in the dark at the final three and say:

Anita Rani and Gleb (winners)
Peter Andre and Janette (2nd place)
Georgia May Foote and Giovanni (3rd place)

with Jamelia and Tristan just missing out in fourth place.

Ha, I bet I regret typing that in about three month's time!

Friday, 4 September 2015

Review: The Good Neighbor

The Good Neighbor The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I think this was a free monthly download from Amazon.

The blurb made it sound like it was going to be an exciting, psychological suspense thriller, but I'm afraid it was none of those things.

I'm usually hopeless at guessing the 'whodunnits' or the 'whydunnits' of plots, most of the time I don't even try to figure it out, but it was clear even to me what was happening here, and what the conclusion was going to be. No suspense at all.

I didn't find any of the characters particularly likeable, and thought they were all quite one-dimensional.

Only took me a couple of evenings to read, whilst on holiday - glad I didn't pay for it!

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Thursday, 3 September 2015

Border Country

We've recently returned from another holiday in the Scottish Borders. We stayed in the same cottage that we went to in March; we were very happy with it last time, and it's nice to know what kind of place you're going to be staying in, especially with a very active toddler! For example, when we were there before, Junior was obsessed with closing all the doors - it was a miracle that we never had any trapped fingers. Just to be on the safe side, this time I took some of those foam door stoppers that slot over the top of the door (I borrowed my mum's, but forgot to take ours). As it happens though, I think he's got over the novelty of closing doors now, or he realised that if he left them open there was more room for him to run around!

I took loads of photos, of course, but I'll just have to select a few of the ones that don't feature Junior.

We were lucky with the weather for most of the week, so we managed to fit in a few trips to the beach. Chris and I have never been bothered about beach holidays before, but we think that will change now that we've got Junior, as he absolutely loves playing on the sand and going for a little paddle in the sea.

There are three nice beaches in and around Berwick-upon-Tweed. The first one we went to was just off Pier Road, it was lovely and quiet, and Junior enjoyed throwing seaweed up in the air.

heart-shaped - found on the beach at Pier Road

Next, we went to Coldingham Bay. Back in March it had been deserted, but this time it was heaving! It's a very popular surfing spot, it seems. Junior was wearing a t-shirt and some denim shorts, which got quite wet and kept slipping down. As we walked back up the beach, Chris and I were swinging him between us, and on one swing I noticed he no longer had his shorts on. They were a few yards behind us, just sitting there on the sand, and his nappy was inside them too! Whoops - little half-naked boy! Opposite the car park is a surf shop, so after we'd put a clean nappy on him, we popped in and he came out in his very first wetsuit! He looks so cute in it, like a proper little surfer dude!

Later, we went to another of Berwick's beaches, which is near the golf club - there are a lot of steps down to the beach, but it was nice, and there were a lot of rock pools.

The third beach is actually just out of Berwick, at a place called Spittal. Doesn't sound very appealing, but it was actually a very nice beach, and again, quite empty.

looking left

looking right
Probably the best beach we visited though was Cheswick Sands. Again, there is a long walk to get there, but this time over huge sand dunes. It's worth it though, when you get to this:

They were all taken on the same day, despite the difference in the sky (we were there for a couple of hours though). I even dipped my toes in the North Sea, but nobody needs to see a photo of me with my jeans rolled up and my pasty white legs on display!

We had a few 'animal' adventures too during the week. We went back to Eshott Heugh Animal Park, near Morpeth. I showed you loads of photos last time (remember the peacock obsession?) so just a few this time.

forget your exotic animals, I was just happy to make friends with a cat

obligatory meerkat photo


oh no, not again...

how did a photo of me get in here?
On Thursday, we went to Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World, which was very enjoyable. (It was similar to Tropical World at Roundhay Park in Leeds, which is the only other place like it that I've been to, but I'm sure there are many others around the country).

I've spared you the photos of tarantulas (they were behind glass and there was too much reflection, to be honest).

On Friday, we went back to Edinburgh, this time to visit the zoo. I couldn't get over it's location - on a very busy main road, nestled between hotels, houses and shops. Prepare for more animals:

baby meerkats


giant panda

looks like a chick?

not sure where this shifty lot were going...

dwarf mongooses

rock hyrax


Scottish wildcat



so cute - my mum's favourite

sun bear

 And just a few more snaps of other places

the River Tweed

looking the other way

Henderson Park, Coldstream
Norham Castle

I can also recommend a visit to the Heatherslaw Light Railway, on the Ford & Etal Estate, but unfortunately I didn't take any photos (other than of Junior).

So all in all, another really lovely holiday in the Scottish Borders.

Wow, that was a really long post wasn't it? I'm off for a lie down...

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