Thursday, 22 February 2018

The Great Yarn Giveaway

Let me ask you a question. How would you like to help fight heart disease by making a donation to the British Heart Foundation? Let me throw in an incentive. How would you like to help fight heart disease by making a donation to the British Heart Foundation whilst being in with a chance of winning a fabulous yarny prize? Sound good? Then pop over to The Woolly Adventures Of A Knitting Kitty blog where Helen is having a Great Yarn Giveaway.

Supporting the British Heart Foundation is very important to Helen since the death of her beloved husband in 2016. Mr JK was a keen runner and Helen has now taken up the mantle. She'd never run previously but last year took part in the Great North Run and the Yorkshire 10 mile event raising over £4000 for the British Heart Foundation.

This year, two of Helen's friends are running the Brighton Marathon in Mr JK's memory and Helen is helping them with their fundraising by organising the Great Yarn Giveaway. There are dozens of prizes, from skeins of yarn to project bags, stitch markers to knitting patterns, crochet hooks to craft books, you get the idea. To be in with a chance of winning one of the fabulous prizes, all you need to do is make a donation of £2 for the British Heart Foundation through Helen's Just Giving page, a link to which can be found in the top left hand corner of her blog or you can click here. Please make sure that you tick the box alongside 'I'm happy to be contacted by' so that Helen can contact you if you're one of the lucky winners. If you don't tick that box she won't be able to get in touch with you so that's really important. I've used Just Giving in the past to donate to charities, it's simple, fast and totally secure. Just Giving never sell on your details or send unwanted emails. This giveaway is open world wide so please do enter.

A full list of the prizes are shown on Helen's Just Giving page, though it's still being updated as prizes are still arriving. I'm sure Helen would be only too happy to add to these prizes if you have a business and would like to donate something.

Helen's already raised a lot of money with this giveaway but it's open for donations until the 30th of April so let's hope that she can raise a whole lot more.

Good luck, Helen.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Out Of Sight Out Of Mind

Mick's auntie and uncle bought me an amaryllis for Christmas, it was one of those already planted up and packaged in a box so that the recipient can just take it out, water it and it springs into life. Well, that's the theory anyway. Unfortunately, the gift got moved before I did anything with it and though I didn't exactly forget about it, I kept putting off starting it off.

When I did decide to give the poor thing a drink of water and coax it into action, I found that it had got sick of waiting for me to get my act together and it had already started growing. Now the box that it was packaged in was quite a strong box and was clamped firmly shut but this wasn't going to prevent this bulb from growing, oh no. I think I opened the box in the nick of time because when I did eventually open it up I found that the amaryllis had put out quite a shoot, though there was no room inside the box for it to grow straight so instead it was growing horizontally.

I never thought for a moment that it would right itself, the stem was a sickly pale colour and there didn't look to be any way that it could start growing upwards after this poor start, but it did. It hasn't grown to quite the height it would have had it been given the care it needed in the beginning, but it certainly hasn't done bad, it's about a foot tall.

It's a gorgeous colour. I can't remember growing a two tone amaryllis before, though I might have done, my memory isn't what it used to be. There's two other buds round the other side so I should get more flowers.

I'm making sure that I'm vigilant with my watering regime now, I can't let this poor thing suffer any more than it already has.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Valentine Cast On

Ellie over at the Craft House Magic podcast released a free pattern on Valentine's Day, her V for Valentine Socks. You can find it on Ravelry.

I know I've got a few projects on the go but I couldn't resist these cute socks with the heart detail on the leg so I went stash diving and what did I come up with but some gorgeous Fondant Fibre yarn which I bought at Spring Into Wool last year. It will soon be time for this year's Spring Into Wool festival so it's time I got this knit up.

I love all the speckles in this yarn and I think the pattern and yarn will combine to make a gorgeous pair of socks.

Ellie is having a Knit Along with this pattern so I thought I'd join in and duly cast on when the Knit Along started on Valentine's Day.

I haven't got very far yet but I've got a few weeks in which to get them finished. I'm loving seeing all the speckles come to life in the fabric as I knit.

Nicola from the Bumble Stitches podcast is also running a Knit Along. Hers is the Old And New KAL. Basically, you choose a New to you pattern and use some Old yarn from your stash with which to knit it. I'll be able to double dip and enter the socks in both KALs.

Better get those needles clacking!

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Love Is In The Air

Happy Valentine's Day.

I took this photo on our recent visit to Lotherton Hall when we went to Meet The Penguins. Love seemed to be in the air for these capybaras, I hope your day is filled with love too.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

The Food Of Love

I'm a big fan of Amanda Prowse, her books can be a little hit and miss, I do still enjoy them all but some are definitely better than others. Many involve difficult issues such as post natal depression, domestic abuse, alcoholism etc. but they're written in a sensitive way and look at the effect on the whole family.

The Food Of Love is the latest Amanda Prowse book that I've read and I think that this is one of her best, I couldn't put it down. Freya and Lockie Braithwaite have two beautiful teenage daughters, confident Charlotte and thoughful Lexie. Their home is filled with love and laughter. When Lexi's struggles with weight start to control her life, everything Freya once took for granted falls apart.

The story really brings home just what a terrible illness anorexia is. It highlights the everyday struggles of living with anorexia and the turmoil for the family too. A real eye-opener.

There are a number of words which I could use to describe this book, powerful, thought-provoking, emotional, touching, uncomfortable, educational, heart-wrenching. I usually only read in bed but I read this book at every opportunity. I thought the author researched the topic well and I became fully immersed in the story, I felt myself rushing to the end to find out what happens.

I'd definitely recommend this book. I've got another two Amanda Prowse books waiting to read on my Kindle and she's got another two out soon, I'm looking forward to reading them all.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Meet The Penguins

We had two trips to Lotherton Hall on Sunday, the first was our usual walk through the woods with Archie, which he always enjoys. After dropping him home we returned to visit Lotherton's new Wildlife World.

There has been a bird garden in the grounds of Lotherton Hall since 1980 but this is currently being added to with work being undertaken to build Lotherton Wildlife World. A colony of Humboldt Penguins, Capybaras and a tapir have recently taken up residence here and they've attracted lots of visitors so I decided it was time for us to visit them too.

A series of themed zones are being created and the first one we visited was the Coastal Zone which features an enclosure where flamingos, wading and free flying birds will live alongside the new penguin pool, which has above and below water viewing areas. The penguins have already moved in ahead of the other residents.

Their new home features natural surfaces and the pool will allow these 17 Humboldt Penguins to behave as they would in the wild and also breed, meaning Lotherton can contribute to the national breeding programme.

The below water viewing area is such a good idea. Visiting children were so excited to be able to see the penguins swimming past and the penguins seemed to be showing off, swimming right up to the glass.

These are South American penguins which breed in coastal Chile and Peru and the species is listed as vulnerable.

Humboldt penguins socialise in large colonies but choose only one partner for life.

The above water viewing areas are excellent allowing visitors to see the penguins up close.

The colony is made up of penguins from zoos in Newquay and Dudley and their introductions must have gone well as they seemed to be happy living with each other. They're real characters.

We then went on to visit the Forest Zone where some capybaras have recently been introduced to Lotherton.

Capybaras are the largest living rodents in the world. It's quite obvious that their close relatives include guinea pigs and rock cavies, they look just like giant guinea pigs to me.

I didn't realise that Capybaras enjoyed water quite as much as they do. A large pool has been installed in their enclosure and it was fun watching them go for a swim. They have webbed feet and their eyes, ears and nostrils are located on the top of their heads which means that a capybara can lift just its eyes, nose and ears out of the water to learn everything about its surroundings while the rest of its body remains hidden underwater.

Arthur the tapir is another new resident at Lotherton. Unfortunately, he was ensconced under a heat lamp indoors on Sunday so we only got to see him through the window. He looked very comfy though. We'll definitely make a return trip to see him again at a later date.

Whilst we were there we couldn't miss the opportunity to visit the Andean Condors. They're a variety of vulture from the Andean Mountains in South America and the largest bird of prey in the world. They have a wingspan of over three metres and weigh over twenty five pounds. I think they look like they're wearing a furry hood.

Future plans at Wildlife World include an Africa Zone, featuring a new mongoose exhibit, a Children's Zone, with a small zoo and farm animals and an Asia-themed zone which will be home to red pandas and an otter exhibit.

It all sounds very exciting.

Sunday, 4 February 2018


I've acquired a few new skeins of yarn just recently so I thought I'd share them with you.

I started watching the Wey Aye Let's Knit podcast a while ago and also joined the Ravelry group. I'm glad I did because I was introduced to The Yarn Tart, a range of yarn which is hand dyed by Julie who hosts the podcast. When she announced in her Ravelry group that she was having a sale on her yarn I headed over to her shop, Suffolk Socks, and snagged myself some bargains.

Both skeins are 4ply high twist superwash merino/nylon, so will be ideal for socks. The greeny coloured one is called Playground Politics and I don't remember knitting with anything in a similar colour before, there's quite a few other colours mingled in with the green so it will be interesting to see how it knits up. Oh La La is my favourite of the two, this is creams, yellows and oranges but there's also speckles of purple in there too.

Whilst placing an order I decided to add some Grundl Hot Socks Rubin yarn to the basket. I've never used this yarn before but I've heard other people mention it and I have to say that it's so soft. It's made up of 50% superwash merino, 25% bamboo and 25% polyamide. It's the yarn that I'm knitting one of the pairs of socks in which I talked about in my On The Needles post.

The other yarn which has come into my possession is from Giddy Yarns. Helen has a Flower Fairies yarn club running this year, inspired by Cicely Mary Barker's Flower Fairies, and the inspiration behind the February yarn was the Primrose Fairy. Now anyone who knows me knows that I love primroses so I really couldn't resist this yarn. The idea behind this club is that you purchase the yarn in advance without actually seeing it dyed up, all you know is what the yarn will be inspired by and you leave the rest up to Helen. I love this idea of having a surprise. The order was placed back in December and the yarn was sent out at the end of January.

I think Helen's got the colours just right, that pale lemon and green, with the odd speckle, beautiful.

I just cannot place an order without something else catching my eye so as well as the Flower Fairies yarn, two other skeins were also added to my basket.

The yarn on the left is called Eleven. Helen has some Stranger Things, a Netflix series, inspired yarn for sale at the moment and though I've never seen this programme I really liked these colours. Sold as a sock set, there's a 50g skein and a 20g contrasting skein for the heels and toes. Regeneration is the name of the yarn on the right and I'm sure that any Dr Who fan will know the inspiration behind this one. The colours in this just pop, it will be such fun to knit with.

I'm very pleased with all my recent purchases but I really need to curtail my yarn buying for a while now whilst I knit up some of what I've already got, I just hope that nothing else catches my eye in the near future.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Weekending In Scotland

The first time I trod on Scottish soil was back in 2015 when we crossed the Union Chain Bridge. We'd taken a holiday in Northumberland and as we were in the very north of England we decided to hop across the border. We didn't see much of Scotland, just a couple of days in Eyemouth, which is about eight miles north of Berwick upon Tweed, but I knew that I'd like to visit again and so I popped Visit Scotland on my 50 Before 50 list.

I've been watching the deals on Groupon and when a suitable offer came up, we jumped at it and spent last weekend there. The hotel was situated in The Borders, again, not too far into Scotland, but as we were only going for the weekend we didn't want to be travelling too long.

Somewhere I've always wanted to go is Gretna Green so we decided that we'd stop off on the way up. Back in the 18th century, marriage laws in England were tightened and couples were unable to marry under the age of twenty one without their parents' consent. The law in Scotland was different and with a more relaxed arrangement, many young couples simply eloped across the border in order to marry. Gretna Green was the first village in Scotland and situated on the route from London to Scotland, so very convenient. Any responsible person was able to conduct the marriage but the local blacksmith often carried them out 'over the anvil' and so the village blacksmith and the blacksmith's anvil have become the enduring symbols of Gretna Green weddings.

Round the back of the blacksmith's shop is a museum dedicated to the history of Gretna Green which is accessed through the Lucky Arch.

The area around the blacksmith's shop has been geared up for tourists with souvenir shops, a lovely food hall and a restaurant, and there's also a courtship maze. Weddings are still performed here and there was a bride and groom who had just tied the knot during our visit.

The Big Dance is the title of this thirteen foot tall sculpture of two clasped hands which was created by artist Ray Lonsdale, it stands in the centre of the courtyard.

After a whistle-stop tour, we continued on our way up through the Ettrick and Yarrow Valleys, such stunning scenery.

The drive was a little hair-raising at times with sheer drops at the side of the road, but the views were breathtaking. We encountered birds of prey soaring above the valleys and so many sheep grazing on the hillsides.

Eventually, we reached Ettrickbridge, our destination.

I knew straight away that I was going to like it here. Look how these traffic cones have been yarn bombed.

A small village, there's only one pub, The Cross Keys, which is where we stayed. This is a 17th century former coaching inn and we got a warm and friendly welcome from Trevor, our host. The room was clean and comfortable and the food was wonderful, we really enjoyed our stay.

The view from our room.

On Saturday, we decided to head towards Edinburgh. In hindsight, we should have planned this trip more carefully as the one-way traffic system coupled with a lack of car parking spaces and poor signage let us down. After trying for what seemed like an eternity to find somewhere to park, we gave it up as a bad job and decided, instead, to head to Portobello, a coastal suburb of Edinburgh.

I'm always happy to get a beach fix and so is Archie. Here he is doing what he always does as soon as his paws touch the sand.

Unfortunately, we hadn't taken into account just how windy it was. Can you see how the sand is blowing around?

Archie wasn't happy about the wind, here he is looking rather windswept, and it was only minutes after this photo was taken that he was trying to rub sand out of his eyes with his paws so we decided to call it a day and head back to the car.

We spent the rest of the day driving back towards our digs, stopping off at little places along the way and taking in the wonderful scenery. Mick got a new car last week and the sat nav would insist on taking us down little winding back roads, he needs to have a look at it and program it better, but we got to see some fantastic sights this way.

It was raining hard on Sunday morning so we decided to head back home after breakfast. On the way, we saw signs for Hadrian's Wall. I'd visited a different stretch of the wall on a school trip many years ago but Mick had never seen it before so we took a little detour. In AD122, the Emperor Hadrian ordered his soldiers to build a 73 mile coast to coast wall between Roman Britain and Scotland.

Some parts of the wall have stood the test of time better than others, but it's amazing that something nearly two thousand years old is still standing.

The glorious view back towards Scotland.

We had a wonderful weekend and I know we've only touched the surface of Scotland, there's so many more places to discover. I'm sure we'll be back again.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Maybe This Christmas

Maybe This Christmas by Sarah Morgan is the third book in the Snow Crystal trilogy. I read the first two books, Sleigh Bells In The Snow and Suddenly Last Summer, back in 2016. The first book was a free download on my Kindle, I doubt I'd have read the book otherwise, but after reading it I knew I wanted to read the other two and I've really enjoyed each of the three books.

The stories are set at the Snow Crystal ski resort in Vermont, which is owned and run by the O'Neill family. Each book tells the story of one of the three O'Neill brothers, Jackson in Sleigh Bells In The Snow, Sean in Suddenly Last Summer and this time it was the turn of Tyler.

Okay, it's a bit of a trashy love story, but it's a quick, easy read and I enjoyed it and anyway, who can resist a bit of Christmas romance? Not me!

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

On The Needles

I wanted to start off the new year with all my knitting projects finished, and I managed it. I wrote about the Cowardly Cowl which I cast on to see me through the Christmas period and this was finished on the last day of 2017. It meant that I was free to cast on some new projects ready for 2018.

The first thing I cast on in the new year was Boxy by Joji Locatelli, a lightweight sweater which I'd promised to knit for Eleanor. I bought some Drops Baby Merino when Wool Warehouse was having a sale and this yarn was earmarked for this project. Boxy is an oversized sweater which is knit in the round, there's nearly 400 stitches on the needle, so I don't expect to have this finished any time soon, but as it's knit in plain stocking stitch it will be a good project to pick up when I'm watching TV.

After all the sock knitting I did for other people last year, I intend to spoil myself a little this year and knit some lovely socks for myself. I recently came across a photo of some socks which I liked the look of on The Woolly Adventures Of A Knitting Kitty blog. Helen had written a post, The Socks Have It, about the hand knitted socks she has in her sock drawer and the photo of the socks I liked was in this post. As I read on, it came to light that Helen had designed the pattern for these socks herself and called the pattern Kali Kardia after a favourite taverna in Greece where the idea for these socks was born. The textured pattern is offered in a chequerboard or ribbed version, I've decided to go for the latter. I'm using yarn from Laughing Yaffle in the Fantasia colourway which has been in my stash for six years now so it's time it was used.

I decided that I'd like a plain pair of socks on the needles too so I decided to get a head start and knit up a pair of socks ready for the Yarndale Sock Line. Yes, I know Yarndale isn't until September but what can I say, I like to be organised. I'm using Grundl Hot Socks Rubin in the 05 colourway. I'm thoroughly enjoying knitting these socks, the yarn is so soft being 50% superwash merino, 25% bamboo and 25% polyamide and I'm loving how the colour is working up.

I used to be a monogamous knitter but I enjoy having different projects on the go at any one time now, I doubt it will be long before some more projects make their way onto my needles.