Sunday, 17 March 2019

The Clockmaker's Daughter - Kate Morton

My father called me Birdie;
he said I was his little bird. Others
knew me as his child, the clockmaker's
daughter. Edward called me his
muse, his destiny.

My real name, no one remembers.
The truth about that summer,
no one else knows.

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one women has been shot dead while another has disappeared, a priceless heirloom is missing, and Edward Radcliffe's life is in ruins. 

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting looking women in Victorian clothing and an artist's sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin gabled house on the bend of  a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? Who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? And will she ever give up her secrets?

Intricately layered and told by multiple voices across time, this is a kaleidoscope story of murder, mystery and thievery, of art, love and loss. And flowing through its pages like a river, is the voice of a women who stands outside time, whose name has been forgotten by history but who has watched it all unfold: Birdie Bell, the clockmaker's daughter.


Elodie Winslow is an archivist she finds a sketchbook within a leather satchel and discovers a sketch of a beautiful young women and house, a house she knows well from her a childhood, a story passed down within her family from generation to generation a story she thought was just fairy tale. Elodie decides she needs to find out what is her families connection is to this house, now a museum, to try and find out who is the women within the sketchbook and was it she who pulled the trigger that left a young women dead and was it she who stole a precious heirloom, the Radcliffe Blue diamond. 

I have read all Kate Morton's novels and always enjoyed her style of writing moving between the past and the present weaving her story as she goes. There are many characters all of which have a connection to Birchwood Manor. The clockmaker's daughter is written using a narrator a spirit that has never left Birchwood Manor who knows all its secrets including what happened that summer in 1862. 

Unfortunately for me this was not one of Ms Morton's best novels. Normally I am gripped from the start and can't wait to be able to find time to pick up where I had left off to be able to indulge in more of the story she is setting. For me the clockmaker's daughter became a little disjointed with too many characters and the usual seamless flow moving from one time frame to another just didn't seem to happen. I loved the fact that the story was being told by a spirit locked within the house for the past 150 years, but it became a little unbelievable that a spirit would of kept up with modern technology and would know what a mobile phone was never mind a laptop and how to communicate by email.  

Sadly for me not one of her best.................


Friday, 15 March 2019

Spring is here!!!

So finally February has come to an end so too the last few days of Winter, although you wouldn't think so judging by the cold , wet and windy weather we are having at the moment.  We had had such glorious weather towards the end of February that even Marjorie Mountfield had been let out of the shed and given a twirl around the lawns to give them their first cut of the season.

When I look back at the photographs of this time last year when we were knee deep in snow I couldn't believe the weather we were being blessed with. That was until last Sunday morning when we woke to you guessed it.

Oh my goodness snow. This had not been forecast but thankfully it did not last.

 One of the things I love about living here is the diverse bird life. There is nothing more exciting than spotting a new bird in the garden and working out what it is.  I have a couple of very good bird books but sometimes you have to have some idea of what you think it it might be in order to look into it further.  This bird was one of a flock that had been coming into the garden over several days.  Eventually I sent a message to Spring Watch, yes they are there all year round and always happy to help but when the show isn't on air it can take then a couple of days to get back to you but better that than not knowing at all. They confirmed this to be a Fieldfare also known as a Winter Thrush, typically seen when the weather is colder and food more scarce. and apparently they are quite partial to apple and love to feast on them.

This morning there was great excitement as we descended our stairs to see out of the window this Sparrow Hawk sitting on the hedge.  I thought I had seen one on the fence post a couple of days ago but it flew off before I could get a good look. This morning it was back but rather than visiting the bird feeders I rather think it was thinking more a long the lines of sparrow for breakfast. The sparrows live in the hedge it is perched on and in the spring it is an array of bird song and becomes the local maternity ward, so much so that when the hedge grows over the spring/summer we can't cut it back in fear of disturbing the birds and by the time we get to cut it back in the autumn it looks quite unruly. 

Now just before I sign off this came up on my facebook feed and the person who posted it could as it says spot 4 faces. I spotted 10 so for a bit of fun on a cold, wet & windy Friday why not see how many faces you can spot.


Sunday, 3 March 2019

Fairy Dust - cross stitch ta dah moment

My three older children all left home sometime ago now and as the years go on I find it increasingly difficult to know what to give them for birthdays and Christmas, especially as all three of the big ones have birthdays in January and February.  I didn't plan that very well did I. You would of thought I'd of known better being a winter baby myself.  They have all had knitted hats and scarfs and crochet blankets and they will occasionally come up with something they would like but that is not very often.  I suppose now they are all out earning their own money when they want something they get it for themselves.  I don't like just popping some money into their bank accounts as I always feel as though I haven't put any thought or effort to getting them a present, but I'm sure that's not how they feel.

Anyway I digress.  I bought this beautiful little cross stitch chart a couple of years ago whilst at the craft show at the NEC Birmingham. She has been patiently waiting to be stitched since that time but then a baby came a long and things went a little hectic for a while.  I found her again in November and decided it was about time she was stitched and with my daughters birthday coming up it felt like the perfect gift. She has always appreciated my love of all things myth and magic especially fairies, unicorns, pegasus and dragons. When she was 21 she had a tattoo of a fairy to remind her of me. I am not brave enough or young enough to start having tattoos so I'll stick with creating my beautiful cross stitches instead. 

The artist is Jean Baptiste Mong who is famed for his celtic faeries and whimsical creatures. The chart has been commissioned by a french company Nimue of France and this chart is known as 'Fairy Dust' or 'Poussiere de Fee'. As well as being able to order direct from Nimue, although there is no translation facility on their site, there are now a number of retailers in the UK and further afield and can be bought as a kit or stand alone chart.

I particularly liked her colours which are all DMC, but the list of threads included mohair filament which I have to say I have never heard of and had no idea where I was likely to be able to source.  So I used a bit of poetic licence and used copper coloured krenik instead which I think has come up well as an alternative.

I wouldn't say it's a complicated chart to follow so whether you are a novice, intermediate or an advanced stitcher  you would be able to take this project on. They do recommend you stitch on evenweave or linen as there are some half stitches and back-stitching and to stitch using one strand of floss over 2 x 2 strands. as you can probably make out in the picture above.

I certainly enjoyed stitching this little lady and I am already thinking of other projects I would like to stitch in the future from this company.

She is now back from the framers and I think they have done a fabulous job.  In years gone by I have been told off numerous times for not signing my projects and some I have others I've not as I didn't want to spoil the effect.  I had never thought of having my name added as shown in the picture before until D had a project framed for me and had my name and date added. It was a bit of light bulb moment as to why had I never thought of it before.  This is definitely something I will continue to do going forward.

Now I just have to wrap her up to gift to my daughter, if I can bare to be parted from her. That's the fairy not the daughter.  


Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Anna & Theo - Amanda Prowse

Anna Cole  - grew up poor, but her mother's love made her feel rich every day. Then her mothers died, and Anna was sent to a care home. As a teenager, Anna vowed that one day, she would have children of her own and create the happy, noisy family life she always craved. 

Theo Montgomery  - Theo has kind eyes, but a sad past. His family were rich where he had all the toys and trinkets money could buy. But his childhood was full of neglect and he was bullied at school. Now he is an adult Theo can't imagine bringing up a child into this cruel world, but he does want a soulmate.. Someone who understands him. Someone who will love him unconditionally. 

Then, one day, Theo meets Anna Cole in a lift. Theo and Anna are two damaged souls, from two different worlds. Is their love for each other enough to let go of the pain of their pasts? Or will Anna and Theo break each other's hearts?

My January reads were two books Anna & Theo by Amanda Prowse. It is no secret that for many years now, that I have regarded Amanda Prowse as one of my favourite authors.  I love the fact that she writes about real life subjects as though she has lived them but, as with most authors I find I like some of her work better than others but Anna and Theo I think as one love in two stories works brilliantly. But if I had to choose I would have to agree with Jo from Through the Keyhole blog and say that out of the two Theo was my favourite. Not least because there is a cameo role for a character named Mitzi.  Myself and Amanda do converse from time to time through instagram and facebook and she comes across a lovely down to earth lady.  I did tag her into a comment about my namesake and she did leave a comment to say she wondered what I would think of my name being used in one of her books.  Well it was a bit of shock when I saw my name on the page but then I roared with laughter. That's the only problem with having an unusual name. You spend most of your life like TIGGER thinking you're the only one, but it also means that people will latch onto the name store it in their memory and use it when you least expect it.  

You could read each book as a stand alone novel and never read the second, but then you would only get to know one side of the story.  You definitely need to read Anna first followed by Theo or there will be elements of do they get their happy ever after that will be revealed and spoil your reading pleasure.   I guess what you really want to know is,  does Anna get the happy family she so desperately craves and does Theo find his soulmate and can he put his past behind him to enable himself to move forward and embrace family life. 

Now there is a third novel in this series How to fall in love again - Kitty's story where in his twilight years Theo meets up with an old flame but I am going to hang fire and savour these two stories for a little longer before I read this one just yet.

For my February read I have just started the The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton which I think is going to take me most of the  month to read as it is 592 pages, but at least by then this little dormouse will be coming out of hibernation as we move into Spring and hopefully some warmer weather wouldn't that be lovely.


Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Autumn Throws (two for the price of one)

Firstly thank you for all your get well wishes.  I am feeling much better and less like a zombie.  Its not often I take to my bed and if anything it bought it home to me that I am not as young as I was and that these days although I don't seem to acquire many viruses and things when I do they completely take the wind out of my sails and I can't bounce back the way I used to. Even though I have a flu jab every year I definitely would have said this was a flu type virus. Thankfully nobody else in the house seem to pick it up.  The bearded one had a lesser version but managed to ward it off.

Now I know we're in the midst of winter but it has to be said that autumn is my favourite of all the seasons with all the smells and the colours, I just love it.  With this in mind I decided that we needed a new throw for the farmhouse ready for the colder months, which is laughable in itself as I have attempted to make several throws for the house over the years only for it to be gifted to a family member or a friend for birthdays or Christmas.  But this one I was definitely going to keep for those long winter nights. And as the furry paws kept commandeering it to sit on whilst putting it together I think they too were in total agreement that it was about time they had something comfy to snuggle on or under. 

My Forever Autumn throw, named after the beautiful Justin Haywood  song from the musical War of the Worlds, is made with Stylecraft Special DK using my favourite  3.5m size hook and there are 90 squares (6 of each colour), one for each day of autumn, using Jan Eaton's Willow Block pattern in 15 gorgeous autumnal colours.

If you fancy having a go at this one the colours I used are:-

1004 Dark Brown                                       
1027 Khaki
1029 Copper
1035 Burgundy
1054 Walnut
1064 Mocha
1065 Meadow
1081 Saffron
1123 Claret
1246 Lipstick
1709 Gold
1711 Spice
1712 Lime
1723 Tomato
1823 Mustard

You will require one of each colour except for the colour you are going to join everything together with and for that I used 1004 Dark Brown and you will require two balls of yarn for this. As always I joined all the squares together using double crochet and the border was a nice simple slip stitch for 3 rounds.

What do you do with the leftovers from making a throw especially if there is quite a bit left?  Well I decided to make another throw of course. As the title would imply with these throws you get two for the price of one, well almost as you will need to buy 300g 1710 Stone and 300g 1011 Midnight to complete each square.   My Autumn Mist throw, so called because as a child I loved the song Puff the magic dragon , who lived by the sea and frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee. Using my solid granny square I made 90 squares with  the left overs from the Forever Autumn blanket by crocheting  rounds 1-2 n the colours listed above followed by rounds 3-5 in 1710 Stone and the 6th with a final round in 1011 Midnight, so a total of 6 rounds in all.  I  joined  this one together  with 1011 Midnight in the same way as I did for Forever Autumn but this time I finished off with a picot edge, which does give it a nice cosy feel.  Both throws measure approximately 170cm x 200cm so plenty of room to snuggle under. Autumn Mist was gifted to my son and his partner for Christmas and it was lovely to see their faces when they opened it.  It is so nice when you gift something and straight away you can see how much your efforts are appreciated but I must admit I did love this one and it was hard giving it away so I think I may just have to make another one for me. Well we do have two sofa's in the lounge and therefore the two throws would complement each other wouldn't they?  Best put it on the to do list to join the queue of all the crafty projects I have planned for this year.

Anybody else already filled their calendar of craft projects for the year?

With more cold weather if not snow due keep warm and safe one & all. 


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