Tuesday, 14 March 2023

Come walk with me and finishing a couple of ornaments

I have to be in the mood to take on the ornament fully finishing process, no matter how many times I do it I still don't find it easy, so best not leave it until I have more than a couple to do.

If you recall I wrongly thought I was stitching on 32 count for my January ornament, the one on the left, and It was larger than I wanted so for February's ornament I found some polka dot linen in my stash that I knew for certain was 32 count.  I am much happier with this one.  I shamelessly copied the lovely Carol, of Stitching Dreams and omitted the section he was standing on  so that it would fit into the oval shape.  If I stitch any more from that booklet I will definitely be doing the same again, they look so much better and the process is easier.

Both are from book No.80 of The Prairie Schooler Old World Santas.

(That red bow looks quite bright in the photo, it's really not the bright, must be the light today)

I can't call myself British if I don't mention the weather and seeing as It was the main topic in the news I have to show you what greeted me when I opened the curtains last Thursday morning, yes we had some more snow.  What a pretty sight, unfortunately it didn't last, by mid afternoon it was all gone, I've never seen snow disappear so fast, lol.

Since then we have has a mixed bag of rain, sun and wind.  It was dry on Saturday morning though so I went for another jaunt along the canal, this time taking the opposite direction to the one I shared in my last post.  This one is the Dudley No 1 canal which is on the opposite side of the road to the Stourbridge canal walk I did last week.  
I did a bit of reading after last weeks walk, as you do, and thought I'd share a bit of history of this particular section of the canal
There was an original plan in 1775 for a single canal but that bill was opposed and so the the project was split in two and resubmitted to Parliament and were authorised separately.  They were opened in 1779 and following a joint restoration project between Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal Society and the British Waterways Board, were reopened in 1967

My walk started at the end of the Dudley No. 1 Canal and is the boundary to the Stourbridge Canal. 
There are eight locks on this section, (there were originally nine) but locally are still called the nine locks.

I was very happy to see this fella sitting on the wall at the start of the locks

At the top of the locks looking back

Still walking along the canal, there is a good view here of part of our huge local shopping centre.  Built on what was farmland The Merry Hill Centre has around 200 shops, a retail park, food court and cinema as well as the usual fast food places and 10,000 parking spaces!  I avoid going unless absolutely necessary but unfortunately all the bigger stores moved here from surrounding towns so sometimes you have no choice.  
The building work started here in 1985 and 1990, despite local protesting over building work being carried out on green space instead of the adjacent former Round Oak Steel Works site.   Since then there have been several extensions and alterations.  In the beginning we thought it was great, there was even a monorail! (which went bust many years ago and was dismantled), but it has been the downfall of all the surrounding towns as no shops want to go to the small towns anymore, if you want anything you have no choice but to brave it.

At little further along is the Marina or the Waterfront as it's now called.  There are some pubs and restaurants along here, there used to be a couple of night clubs too, not sure if they are still there today.  

There is a lot of office space. The West Midlands Ambulance headquarters and control room are here, also HMRC (the Tax Office) and Black Country Radio, as to what else is there and what they do in all those offices I have no idea.

This area used to be The Round Oak Steel Works and was founded in 1857 by Lord Ward.  
During the Industrial Revolution the majority of iron-making in the world was carried out within 20 miles of The Round Oak and It was the first in the UK to be converted to natural gas supplied for the North Sea.  The History of The Round Oak steel works is a story all of it's own, I don't know a lot about it but I remember when it closed in 1982 and the affect it had on the area, so many people lost jobs, it was a sad time.

The steel works made use of the canal that ran though it, I'm sure it looks a lot prettier now than it did back then.

Not such a picturesque walk now we're are past the marina.  The land behind the fence is also where the steel works used to be and is undeveloped but has been left like a wasteland.

I only went a little further over that bridge, there wasn't another person in sight and I started to feel a little bit vulnerable, also it had started to drizzle, so I decided to turn back.  I remembered to bring some bread for the wildlife this time, not so much on this section but this little fella made me laugh.

He deserved a treat after that :-)

I hope you enjoyed walking with me and weren't too bored with the little potted history.  Where we live is full of interesting things if we take the time to investigate, don't you think?


Wednesday, 8 March 2023

So far this week

I finally finished the socks I cast on at Christmas.  I've lost the ball band but I'm fairly sure the yarn is a sock set from West Green Loft Yarns.   I've noticed that the previous socks I've knitted have started to feel a little loose so I went down to 68 stitches for these and the fit seem much better.  I don't think I could get away with 64 stitches, they might be a little tight to get on but I will wear these for a while and see how they feel and perhaps try a 64 stitch sock at some point for comparison.

I spent most of Saturday in the garden, the weather forecast said that this week was going to turn colder and I wanted to do one last tidy up of the leaves before the garden waste collection today.   There are lots of things coming up, the daffs are almost there and the tulips shouldn't be too far behind.  At least now the last of the leaves are cleared we will be able to see them better

Yesterday was forecast to be the best day of the week so I decided to go for a walk, it's been ages since I got out for a decent walk, I chose a canal walk that is near to where my eldest daughter lives and about ten minutes drive from me.

I didn't think there would be so much wildlife on the water and I regretted not taking something for them.

It was quite chilly despite that lovely blue sky and those fluffy clouds, a perfect day for a walk.

I walked further than I intended as I took a wrong turn and ended up on a different section of the canal and had to re-trace my steps to get back to where I should have been.  Oh well, It boosted my step count for the day!

Today the weather couldn't be more different, we have some snow.  Now don't laugh, this is as much snow as we've had this year, I doubt it will get any worse, it's already turned to sleet.

Today I've done my usual Wednesday morning aqua fit class and a pile of ironing so I think I've earned a couple of house sitting with my stitching, It's too horrible out there to do anything else.

Tomorrow I have a hair appointment and Friday Is sewing day and then It will be the weekend again, these weeks keep rolling by don't they.

Enjoy the rest of your week


Thursday, 2 March 2023

School was never this much fun

Today is World Book Day so school uniform is abandoned and all the children get to dress up as a character from a book.  I thought I'd share the photos that were sent to me this morning of the kids and their chosen costumes.

Jacob loves tigers so he chose The Tiger Who Came To Tea

Bonnie chose The Queen of Hearts, (Alice In Wonderland)

(Mummy did the face painting for both of them)

Oliver chose Where's Wally

I had to chuckle, doesn't he look the part

And Arty, bless him.  He wanted to be the witch from Room On The Broom
Never mind that it meant him wearing a dress, he was all up for that, lol

He is such a character, I hope he never loses that spirit

I think they all look fantastic, I bet it was entertaining being at school today :-)


Sunday, 26 February 2023

Stick6in23 - Spring stitching finish

 This is my first year taking part in the Stick6in23 SAL hosted by Martina and Manuela, you can find out all about the SAL on either of their blogs and also see the wonderful work they both do.  I believe there is also a list of other people taking part on Manuela's blog so we can go and enjoy their work too. 

 The number generated at the beginning of the year was No, 4 and the chart I had assigned that number to was April by The Prairie Schooler.  

I used all the called for DMC colours and the fabric is 28 count with a soft mottling, which unfortunately doesn't show in the photos.

Started 1st January 2023 Finished 17th February 2023

I love stitching houses and how sweet is this little pink house complete with picket fence, It's what drew me to the chart but I loved stitching every bit of it

And here is the whole thing.  

It's now in the hands of the framers, I've opted to have it framed in the same style as my January Piece, which you can see here.  They have a back-log on framing but fingers crossed I will have it home ready to display for  the month of April and I will show you how it looks then.

Martina has drawn the number 2 to be worked on in March and April, I'm so happy because I assigned the number 2 to a chart my daughter bought me a couple of Christmas's'  ago.  I can't wait to get started.

I do have another couple of finishes to show but haven't taken any photos yet, so perhaps next week I will get round to doing that.

Have a good week all


Tuesday, 14 February 2023

Plodding along, but making progress

 We have a small group on FB for those of us who attend the Nimble Thimble meet-ups,  At the beginning of each year we enthusiastically declare that we are going to stitch an ornament each month, I don't think to date that any of us have kept up with that declaration.  Some of the ladies have stitched and finished a number of ornaments but I don't think any of us have managed 12 fully finished, ready to hang on the tree ornaments.   I managed two last year.

I'm already behind on this years ornament stitching as I only finished January's last night.

This little fella is from book No.80 of The Prairie Schooler Old World Santas.

I made a mistake when choosing the fabric, I wrongly thought It was 32 count, which is the called for, instead It was 28 count, so my finish is a little larger than it should be.  I was going to finish him into an oval but it's now too big for that.  The question is, do I now stitch them all on the same 28 count, or switch to 32 count for the rest?

Last week was my week for stitching on my Bothy Threads bunny.  I didn't stitch on it all last week but the days I did stitch I got a decent amount done.

He's taking shape now, I'd say it's probably about half done.  I had thought it would be finished by the end of February but that's not going to happen now.

This week I'ts the turn of my Stick6in23 piece, not much more to go on this one, we have until the end of February to finish and I will share photos then.  The next number will be chosen soon and we will be working on that through March and April.  

I hope you all have a lovely week, the weather here is picking up, we have had some lovely sunshine the last two days and I feel as though I should be out in the garden starting the tidy-up.

Take care


Monday, 6 February 2023

Sew organized

I'm still going to my sewing class each Friday.  Holly holds classes on various days/evenings through the week, I think the maximum number of people she can accommodate in each class is ten, the Friday morning one I attend is only small, usually just the six of us, It's just about right.   We have got to know each other and there is no waiting to use the cutting table, irons or overlocker.  Everyone works on their own chosen pattern and at their own pace, a few of the ladies have been going longer than me but, like me they had limited dressmaking know-how to begin with and with Holly's help and encouragement are now making beautiful clothes.  Holly is lovely and is always on hand to assist in anyway needed, she has been sewing for years so has extensive knowledge.  

I'm very slow,  but I'm told that's good, taking your time and getting it right is the best way.  I'm not always patient when learning new things but I'm learning not rush the process, afterall, I want something that's wearable.  

This is my second me-made dress, Hinterland Dress by Sew Liberated.  I've seen it made by several people I follow on Youtube and it seems a versatile pattern.  The fabric I chose was a cotton by Rose & Hubble

I'm making the cap sleeve version and having a faux button placket, (I don't feel ready to tackle button holes yet!)  There will be pockets though, who doesn't love a pocket!
I can see it taking me at least into March to finish it as I only work on it in class on Friday.

Before Christmas I saw someone at our stitching group with a case to hold their stitching and I thought It would be perfect for holding everything to taking to sewing class so when Stevie asked what I wanted for Christmas I requested a sewing case.

There are two layers, this is what you see when you open it, plenty of room for all your bits and bobs.

Then underneath that is enough room to store whatever I'm making and a mesh pocket to hold your pattern, or in my case my leftover fabric.

And here it is all closed up.  I love it!  I was considering getting another sewing box to keep everything in but this is so much better, everything I need in one place and ready to go each week.

I'm never going to be a sewing expert but I'm enjoying the process and If I can make a few wearable garments along the way then I'll be happy.  I have made a deal with myself though, I will only buy a pattern and enough fabric to make that pattern when I'm ready to start the next thing.  I am determined not to start a fabric and pattern stash.


Monday, 30 January 2023

Making sense of all the brown threads

There hasn't been a lot happening this past week, although I do seem to have been busy, just nothing really to show for it, some weeks are like that aren't they?
 I thought I'd pop in with a quick stitching progress update on my bunny stitching.

I'm alternating between a week stitching on this project and a week on my Stick6in23 project, that way each gets a decent amount of time.

Not massive progress but I'm getting more used to changing all the colours now, although I did have to stitch the eye twice as I miss-read the symbols.  I've stitched on this a total of 12 times now.  In the past I've not been very good at keeping a record of when I start and finish a project, so this year I'm making notes and keeping track of when I work on something, hopefully I can carry it on through the year and not just through January 😉

Bunny has been put away for another week now while I work on my Stick6in23 project, which I will work on until Sunday night.   I'm on nanny duty for the rest of the but hopefully I can find a few hours here and there to get some stitching in.

Apologies if I haven't commented on your blog posts this week, It's been one of those weeks when I've been in and out the house almost every day.   I plan on setting aside some time in the morning to read your news.

Have a good week All


Monday, 23 January 2023

First finish of 2023

 I want to try and use up some odd balls of acrylic yarn that I have, In most cases I have just one or two balls of a colour, not enough to make a garment, even a small one so I will make a few small blankets to use them up.  This one is a small pram/pushchair size, I had one ball of the blue so worked until that had gone.  It's for no one in particular, I might donate it or ask one of the girls if they know anyone who could use it.

I have more grey and white so I will see what else I can team that with to make another one soon.

I've enjoyed working on this simple granny square and remembered that I have another crochet blanket that I started a few years ago and didn't finish. 

This is the Crofter Blanket and it's been a good few years since it's seen the light of day, but now it's out I'm going to try and do a bit each week until it's finished.

All the squares are made, some are even joined into rows so it's just a matter of joining the rest of the squares then joining them all together.

I think I put it away because I wasn't too keen on the colour, and it's still not my favourite colourway but It's better finished than sitting in a box, and if i don't like it once it's finished I can always give it away.
One of my doctors appointments last week got cancelled, twice, my smear test is now Feb 7th, unless it gets cancelled again.  Physio wants me to go to do rehabilitation, that will entail a weekly session at one of the local hospitals,  but first she wanted to do some blood tests and will make me an appointment a once those have come back.  I've had achilles tendinitis for years on and off, it was particularly bad all summer last year, I've been doing the recommended exercises for over twelve months and it's never gone away completely, I just have days when it's not as bad as others.  The rehabilitation work will, so I'm told, work on strengthening the leg muscles so that there is less strain on the tendon.   I'd just like to walk a decent distance without limping and being in pain, sometimes for days afterwards.

Saturday was such a horrible day, it barely got light all day, the weather grey and foggy, not a day for going out but I wanted to do something, so we opted for an afternoon trip to the cinema.   We went to see A Man Called Otto, based on the book A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.  I had read the book in 2018 and loved it, we have also watched the Swedish film.  This new version, which is set in America rather than Sweden and has Tom Hanks as the cantankerous Otto is good, we both really enjoyed it, It is somewhat different to the Swedish film, but I think that's probably to make it appeal to a wider audience, but well worth it.  If you haven't read A Man Called Ove I can highly recommend it, I'd put it in my top 10 books.

Have a lovely week


Monday, 16 January 2023

Monday Stitching update

For my birthday in December 2020 my eldest daughter bought me The Meadow by Bothy Threads.  I didn't do much stitching last year but, since Christmas I seem to have got my enthusiasm back for it and made a start on Boxing Day

After that I didn't pick it up again until last week when I worked a little every day.  I found it slow going at first because I don't usually stitch things that require lots of colour changes, the bunny section has different shades of browns and I found myself getting confused over which symbol matched which brown once they were stitched.  I think I'm getting the hang of it now but it takes a bit more concentration than my normal stitching.  The flowers are much easier and I'm sure will be quicker to stitch.

This one will be put to one side this week while I work on my Stick6in2023 SAL.  We have January and February to work on the first number chosen, (N0. 4), mine will probably take most of those two months as I'm alternating weekly with The Meadow, plus, I have chosen a medium sized chart to stitch.

That's all for now, I have a busy week this week, picking the boys up two days and I've two doctors appointments, (one is for a smear test, ugh, but it's got to be done hasn't it), one is for a medication check-up and I also have a physio appointment about my ankle.

Hope you all have a good week


Wednesday, 11 January 2023

Granola - how I make it

When I posted about the granola I made at Christmas some people expressed an interest to know how I made it so I thought I would share that today as I made up a batch today.

There are no precise weights and measures for how I make mine, the more ingredients you use the bigger the batch.  This was a smaller batch because It was just for me.

As well as the items below, oats, coconut oil, cinnamon and maple syrup, you will also need a selection of nuts and seeds and either raisins sultans or dried cranberries, or a mixture of all three, if that's what you like.

 I always use these organic oats from Aldi, they are nice and big and not powdery like some others can be.

For this batch I had a mixture of nuts left over from when I'd made it at Christmas,  walnuts, pecans and hazelnuts, and I also added some almonds and pumpkin seeds and a handful of mixed seeds too. 
 You can use whatever nuts and seeds that you prefer.

I line the baking tray with foil, (because it's easier to transfer to a container once cooled), and arrange the oats nuts and seeds as shown.*

 I then add 2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil, (adjust the amount of coconut oil you use to how large a batch you are making, I would suggest you put less rather than more at this stage because you can always add a bit more)
Sprinkle with a generous amount of cinnamon and drizzle maple syrup all over.  You can add a pinch of salt if you wish to, (sometimes I do, sometimes I forget, I don't think there is any difference) 

I set my oven at 180°C and leave it in there until the coconut oil has melted, then I take it out and mix everything together.  At this point you will be able to see if you need to add more coconut oil, you don't want the ingredients too dry, but neither do you want them swimming oil.  

I turned my oven down to 165°C and put it back in to cook for about 20-25 minutes.  Of course your's may take longer or cook quicker, depending on your oven.

You will easily see when it is ready as it will looks lightly toasted and sound crunchy when you stir it.

Once it's cooled for a while add your sultanas/raisins/cranberries, (or all three) and mix those in.   
 leave it to completely cool before jarring it up.  That's it, it's so easy to make up a batch while your'e cooking something.

If you wanted to make the gingerbread granola which I did at Christmas just add the following.
  zest of 1 orange plus 1 tablespoon of the juice.   
2 tablespoons of black treacle 
2 balls stem ginger
1 tablespoon of ground ginger
 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves

I added all the above to my Christmas batch except for the stem ginger and cloves as that doesn't appeal to everyone.  It turned out great and everyone was happy to receive a jar again this year.

I can guarantee that once you try home made granola you will never want shop bought again!

Let me know if you try it

*I like to arrange the ingredients like this, because I'm slightly ocd and like to see everything in little piles, you can totally just chuck everything on that tray if that's the way you prefer to work, 🤣

I'll also copy this page to the recipies tab at the top of the page for future reference 


Sunday, 8 January 2023

Book topic

 I joined a book lovers group on fb a few months ago, mainly to get book recommendations but also to connect with people who also share a love of reading and books in general.  However, I've had a change of heart about the group.  Since the New Year some people have been posting their Goodreads 2022 reading challenge results on there, along with what they have set their reading challenge to be for 2023.  I was shocked at all the nasty comments from people, most saying that reading was not a competition and that people were showing off saying how many books they had read and they couldn't understand why anyone would want to keep a record/track of what they read, I even read one comment that said they thought it was inappropriate to put what you're reading challenge was for the coming year as it might offend those that did not read that many books....What!  Some of the things being said were just ridiculous.  I set a challenge for myself every year, It's a personal challenge, It never crossed my mind that someone would think it was showing off.  I also like to keep lists so keeping a list of books I've read is just another list to me.  I just couldn't understand the objections.

Audio books was another topic that got a lot of negative comments, with many people saying that if you listened to audio books it didn't count as reading, neither should it be counted in the number of books you've read!

 I'm just giving you the gist of what was said, some comments where quite nasty and I gave up reading any comments on posts that were about reading challenges, I've since left the group, I can do without those sort of negative feelings.   I think there is a  lot of snobbery associated with books, but does it really matter what anyone else reads?  We are all different and like different things, not everyone will enjoy the same books and people will take different things from the same book, and that's ok.

All that made me wonder if I should do an end of year book post, but then I thought, why shouldn't I?  I like seeing what other people have been reading, there may be something hasn't been on my radar, plus this blog is about my life and hobbies, reading and books are a big part of my life, so, here are my end of year reading stats.

My views on audio books are the complete opposite to that person on the fb group. Studies have been carried out and the findings were that there is no significant difference in comprehension between reading and listening.  I can visualize the scene whether I'm reading a physical book or listening to an audio book, for me there is no difference, infact, in some cases an audio book may be better than the physical equivalent as a good narrator will bring interest, enthusiasm and atmosphere to the story.

It took me a long time to get into audio books but for the last couple of years I almost always have one on the go alongside a physical book.  I listen while I'm walking, doing chores or while I'm crafting, I spend a lot of time on my own so they fill the silence at times.   Granted some are better than others, the narration has to be good otherwise it will spoil a good book.

My total for audio books in 2022 was 24

The best by far was Lesson in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.  Wonderful writing, sad and funny and great narration

The best series was the Middle Fall Time Travel series by Shaun Inmon.  There are 17 books in this series and I've finished 8 so far.  They are good escapism.

I think The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was the most overrated, I was expecting good things and it didn't deliver

I've been making more use of my local library recently too and read 13 library books in 2022.

The best of these are the Detective Washington Poe series by M.W Craven, extremely well researched and written.  (If you read any of his books make sure to read the about the book section at the end)

I read 6 books from my shelves.

Really enjoyed The Woman in the Window and The Child, The Animals at Lockwood Manor was really boring and the most overrated, in my opinion was Where The Crawdads Sing.

This last selection were my Reading Group books, there were others but they were ones I'd already read so chose not to re-read them.  As a group we are all agreed that the book choice this year haven't been great,
The most disliked book was Normal People, I was the only one that liked it but I do think its a book that would probably mean more if it were read more than once.  I really didn't like The Gustav Sonata although lots of others liked it and strangely the book that none of us enjoyed at all, All Among The Barley was the one that sparked the most discussion.  

My Goodreads challenge for the year was 50 books, I'm happy that I reached that goal.  

According to goodreads that equates to 17,865 pages
My longest book was True Colours by Kristen Hannah with 544 pages
My shortest book was A Bachelor Establishment with 206 pages

Of the books I read, the most shelved on Goodreads was Where the Crawdads Sing,  which was shelved 3,942,045 times

The least shelved book, of my books, was A Christmas Carol, 11 times.

The highest rated (star rating) on Goodreads was A Christmas Carol

The average rating I gave to books in 2022 was 3.3 stars 
Lessons in Chemistry I think was the best book for me last year,  I will continue to read the Washington Poe series as he releases them, they are so well written, and I will carry on with the Middle Falls Time Travel books, they are easy listening and entertaining.

I can't remember a time when I haven't read, from when I was very small I can remember having a book with me, but it's not only reading I love, I love books, the smell, the feel even just flicking through pages, there is just something about them that brings me joy.  As a child I would spend hours in our local library and as an adult there is nothing better than finding a new book shop to explore.

So what about you?  what books do you enjoy?  Do you think it's cheating to count audio books in the number of books read? Do you also like to keep count?