Sunday, 13 December 2015

Tiptoeing Into Christmas

Starting to feel slightly Christmassy, finally! Our town is so beautiful at this time of years, it's full of churches and other old buildings and they tend to do a good job with tasteful variations of decorations.

I've managed to make a few presents for people, but not as many as I would have liked - above is a hot water bottle cover I made for one of my best friends. There has also been snowflake crafting activity of both the crochet and cross stitch variety. I might even finish something to hang up before Christmas! Watch this space...

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

A Week In Snapshots

How is it December already? I barely feel like I experienced November, it's just been a whirlwind. In a nutshell, I am still enjoying the new job (the commute not so much). The house move is progressing slowly. Oh so slowly. But we hope to move in January, mortgage/solicitors/estate agents willing.

Last week I was travelled to Bristol and Newcastle for work, and while I enjoyed it I was pretty shattered by the end! I am very much missing my blog, so I made an effort to try and capture some of the last week in snapshots, I wasn't amazingly successful but I managed to get a few.

Monday morning, 7am. Waiting for my boss to pick me up on campus ready to head to Bristol. This is one of the more attractive buildings on campus, I thought it looked pretty in the dawn light.

Admiring my wonderful Mum's handiwork - she knitted me this jumper using Sirdar Folksong chunky. I love it - it matches pretty much all of my clothes and is so warm, like a portable Mum hug.

We popped into Peterborough to finally start our Christmas shopping at the weekend. It's not the most beautiful city but the old centre is quite pretty, and I do love the cathedral.

Latest crochet make - a very simple phone case! Taken in one of the hotel rooms (I forget which) I have a new phone and it needed protection.

So very little to report from here, I miss blogland and will try and make some time to read more blogs. Busy busy and I really just want to move so commuting hours are reduced! And I haven't even had time to think about Christmas crafting this year, sigh.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Walking on Sunshine/I can see clearly now...

I feel like a different person from the last time I wrote a blog entry. It hasn't been that long, but it seems like a lifetime away! I am now nearly settled in the new job, the house is on the market, and last but absolutely definitely not least I passed my PhD viva exam on Tuesday. PHEW. I don't think I have ever been so nervous in my life - I got myself really wound up and stressed - but it was actually an incredibly rewarding experience. My examiners challenged me (of course) but were satisfied with the last 4 years work, and my only corrections are typos, which is an outcome I didn't even think about.

So one big weight is gone from my shoulders and I can, as the song goes, see clearly now. Linking in with the theme of sunshine,  the lovely Anne and Michelle from Crochet Between Worlds have nominated me for a sunshine award. I love reading their blog, which is a great reflection of their strong friendship, and am honoured that they have nominated me.

As part of the award they have set me some questions to answer and I then nominate others to pass it on. I'd like to open the floor and nominate anyone who'd like to take part :) It's a lovely way to spread some sunshine in these long, darker (in the northern hemisphere anyway) nights!

The questions Anne and Michelle asked were:

1.  What is your favourite season and why?
2. Which Person(s) brings happiness into your life?
3. What is (one of) your happiest memory?
4. What makes you smile?
5. What is the most important thing in your life?

I love these questions! They are incredibly positive and uplifting thoughts to be thinking on a Sunday afternoon.

1.  What is your favourite season and why?

I have two favourite seasons (is that cheating?!) - Autumn and Spring. I love the changing seasons between the extremes of Winter and Summer. Spring is a new beginning, hopeful, exciting, Autumn is a season of colours and change.

2. Which Person(s) brings happiness into your life?

I'm very lucky to have lots of people who make me happy. My husband of course, he makes me very happy every day, my parents and brother, who have seen me at my best and at my worst and love me anyway, some very close friends who are there when things are good, and when they are not so good.

3. What is (one of) your happiest memory?

I'm going to have to be a bit corny here. The first memory that springs to mind is walking down the aisle with Chris having just said our marriage vows. The ceremony ended, our pianist played 'All You Need is Love' and we passed the happy smiling faces of all our family and friends as we took our first walk as husband and wife. My face nearly split I was grinning so much,

4. What makes you smile?

I smile quite a lot. Probably too much as it makes me go really squinty eyed. I smile at the people I love, food (!), a good book, a funny film, the usual things. 

5. What is the most important thing in your life?

To be happy, to be healthy, and to follow my heart.

If you would like to take part I am going to nominate the exact same questions as Anne and Michelle because they have made me smile a lot just thinking of the answers!

Have a lovely Sunday

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Giant Granny Square Blanket

I finished my scrappy Aran giant granny square blanket! Although I nearly gave up photographing it earlier as the light was really rather awful and doesn't do it justice at all. This was a comfort project, which I picked up at intervals towards the end of writing the thesis. I used almost entirely yarn from my stash of all different brands, and the colours were chosen randomly and based on whether I thought I would get an entire round - I always lose at yarn chicken!

Here is a close-up which does it marginally more justice. It's surprisingly warm and has already featured in slobbing out sessions in front of Netflix.

I kept the border simple, two rounds of single crochet in the colours I had the most wool left in. I always tend to err on the side of simple with borders - I think by the end point I just want it to be over!

Again, awful lighting (our sofa is a nice deep purple not grey) but here it is laid out inside. I'm really mean and keep the cats off it so I don't have it out during the day - our cats seem to catch everything they possibly can with their claws (including several favourite jumpers) and also shed a ridiculous amount, and I have been rather precious with finished crochet items. Am I being really mean? Other people post pictures of cats and crochet, maybe I should overcome my inner aversion!

Thanks for all the lovely comments on my last post, we are setting the ball in motion, or trying to so watch this space!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

All Change

I've never been particularly good with change, I guess I'm a creature of comfort and habit. I like routine and stability for the most part, although I'm not completely adverse to the occasional adventure! Now is a time of change, and while I'm very excited about it, I'm also unsettled and clinging onto well-known and established parts of my life.

I have been exceedingly lucky and have managed to get a job - what a shock to the system that will be! It's a maternity cover role, so again a temporary solution, but I think it will give me some really good experience and also the opportunity to decide whether this is the area I want to work in. I really like the look of the job, and I had a good feeling at the interview so I am optimistic and looking forward to getting into it. Said job is however quite a commute - 2 hours on the train or an hour and 10 minute drive. Not being the most confident driver I'm a little anxious about doing so much travelling, but I'm sure I'll get used to it!

The job is in the area we want to move to, the East Midlands, so we will be putting our lovely little house on the market and attempting to move house! We've been here four years now and have outgrown the house a little - with both of us working at home and having quite a lot of hobbies we have filled all available space. And some. It's exciting, but also a little sad. We live in a beautiful town and I will miss it. But, we will be moving closer to both of our places of work, and many friends, which will be really lovely.

So I'm trying to swallow the unsettled feeling and embrace the excitement of change, the optimism we both feel for the next step in this funny old journey together. And with my last week of not working I am picking up old crafting projects, getting sidetracked with amigurumi pears, and panicking slightly that my oral exam for the PhD has finally been arranged and it's only two weeks away! Everything happens at once I suppose.

I hope you are all having a good week, and enjoying the change of season. I miss the long days, but I love winter/autumn clothes, always have always will - I love changing my wardrobe around in the autumn :) 

Monday, 12 October 2015


The week before last we spent a few lovely days in Lisbon for C's birthday. It was the first time either of us had been to Portugal and I have to say we both really liked it. The higher temperatures were especially welcome, it felt like a final fling with summer before returning to the UK autumn. Lisbon is extremely hilly - we'd been warned but were still taken by surprise! The most definite silver lining to all the hills was naturally the views: a few steep climbs ended in the most gorgeous landscapes of the city, with the river on the horizon. So many of the big cruise ships dock in Lisbon, I loved watching them sail in and out, massive boats but some how rather graceful.

I thought I'd share a few highlights of this lovely city here. It was a bit rougher around the edges than I imagined but had loads of character and was a wonderful place to visit. We stayed in the Alfama district, which spreads between the castle and the river. Alfama is famous for its steep winding streets and Fado bars, the mournful Portugese music genre with its roots in nineteenth century maritime Lisbon. (See here for a famous fado performer)

On our first afternoon we explored Alfama, climbimg relentlessly it felt, but being rewarded with stunning views which melted in a gorgeous hazy sunset scene.

The next day we explored some of the highlights including the most incredible cathedral, Igreja de Sao Roque, which looks rather plain from the outside...

... but on the inside is covered in gold, marble, jewels, and beautiful ceramic tiles. It was really rather overwhelming, very grand and ornate.

Another, altogether different, religious building was the Convento da Ordem do Carmo, which is a monastery and church destroyed by the devastating earthquake which hit Lisbon in 1755, killing as many as 90,000 of the city' 270,000 inhabitants. The ruins are striking and sparse, pointing to how destructive the earthquake must have been

After the convent we wandered down to the Praca do Comercio, which is where all of those arriving by boat used to disembark. It's a large impressive square with an arch leading to the bustling streets of central Lisbon.

The afternoon we spent exploring Lisbon's castle, which provided us with stunning views over the city and ramparts, with its beautiful (apparently heavily restored) fortifications and lovely quiet gardens.

The following day we headed to Belem, a more nautical area of the city, from where colonial explorers departed for the new world, and fortifications protected inhabitants from invaders. We started off in the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, an amazing monestary which is now divided into museums. You can also still see the cloisters and the church, which are very impressive.

We then ambled towards the sea front, where we found a monument to Portugese colonisers and explorers...

... lots of sailing boats, a wire sculpture where people symbolically lock their love with a padlock, and the Torre de Belem, a fortress built in 1515 to defend the harbour. You could feel the Atlantic winds!

Overall we had a wonderful time in the Portugese capital. It wasn't a resting holiday, but that wasn't what we signed up for - we enjoyed exploring the winding streets and climbing the hills. Our trip has definitely made me want to explore more of Southern Europe!

Monday, 5 October 2015

The Year in Books: October

Hooray for time to read! This month I've really relished being able to curl up with a non-study related book and lose myself in another world. I tried to choose some books that were maybe not so typical for me, to expand my horizons a bit.

1. The Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden, Jonas Jonasson

I loved 'The Hundred Year-Old Man who Jumped out of the Window and Disappeared'. I really did. And I loved this book too, which follows the life of the South African girl Nombeko from the slums of Soweto. Nombeko is extremely bright and has an innate talent for mental arithmetic. After being run over by a drunk and incompetent chief South African nuclear engineer Nombeko is ordered to work for him by a corrupt court in the time of Apartheid. She becomes indispensable to the man as she quickly grasps the fundamental nuclear physics that he cannot. A series of (unfortunate) events sees Nombeko escape from the compound where the engineer works, accompanied by a nuclear bomb that technically doesn't exist, and pursued by two Israeli intelligence agents (you'll have to read it to find out why!). She travels to Sweden, where her adventures continue, climaxing in the plucky Nombeko finding herself with the King and Prime Minister of Sweden and a nuclear bomb in a potato truck. She does save the King but I won't say how. I was really gripped by this book, and learnt a lot about South African nuclear armament and Swedish history along the way.

2. The House of Silk - Anthony Horowitz

I haven't read many original Sherlock Holmes books, but I really enjoyed Horowitz's take on it. He writes convincingly as Watson and takes the reader back to the Victorian underworld as Holmes, accompanied Watson, try to uncover the mysterious House of Silk, against the background of a multitude of 'typical' tropes, the rich client, a gruesome murder, links to the underworld of Victorian London as well as criminal gangs of Boston. What is revealed has an extraordinary relevance for today's society and recurring news stories, which I won't comment on. This was a really easy and enjoyable read, and whilst I found the ending a bit cliche I do realise that I count as a 'modern' reader. The plot certainly departs from the limits of Victorian sensibilities and stands in contrast to what Conan Doyle wrote about. Overall I'd recommend as a good entertaining way.

3. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

I read this book before, but I'm not sure I appreciated it properly. I absolutely loved it this time around, beautiful writing, a rich cast of vivid characters and a really gripping plot. The narrator is a young woman who married the rich widower Maxim De Winter after meeting him in Monte Carlo where she is working as the companion of an elderly American woman. She returns with him to Manderley, his infamous estate on the coast but is completely overshadowed by her own sense of inferiority to his first wife, Rebecca, a paragon of elegance, grace and beauty who ruled Manderley with a tight grip, organising renowned social gatherings and playing the part of the perfect hostess. In her obsession with her predecessor the narrator loses her own identity - we do not even learn her name - and as the plot progresses some dramatic twists and turns challenge all that we know, that the narrator constructs in her imagination, about Rebecca. I couldn't put this book down!

What have you been reading? Do you have any recommendations?

Joining in with Laura at The Circle of Pines.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Checking In: September

Making: Finally crocheting the border of my scrappy granny square blanket, reveal post now on the horizon

Cooking: I've been doing quite a lot of baking, including cherry cake (C's favourite). This weekend we had friends staying and I made a fish pie from a Mary Berry Cookbook. Yum.

Drinking: Beer brewed by hubby (in the evenings I hasten to add. Not all day)

Reading: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier - really enjoying this so far.

Wanting: A job. I have applications lined up, and an interview tomorrow but my main problem is I don't really know what I want to do!

Looking: Forward to a couple of days in Lisbon with C for his birthday.

Deciding: What to pack, hand luggage restrictions apply...

Enjoying: This beautiful weather. We walked to Burghley House yesterday (pic above) and just marvelled at the beautiful park, grounds and buildings.

Waiting: For some birthday presents for C to arrive, I hope they come soon!

Liking: Having some spare time.

Wondering: What happens next.

Loving: I had a few days at home last week (Charlie our cocker spaniel is in the pic above) and had some time with the family, C came for some of it and we cooked for everyone for my parents' wedding anniversary. I love family time.

Pondering: Whether to start a new crochet project. Head (and C) say no. Heart says yes.Buying: Mostly food at the moment. Yum.

Watching: I have finally become addicted to Downton Abbey and am making my way through the early series.

Hoping: That my exam date for my thesis is set soon, I want to know when to start preparing/panicking

Marvelling: At pictures o
f the lunar eclipse/blood moon yesterday

Needing: A bit more exercise. I have become very lazy of late.

Smelling: Our yankee candle in the sitting room. mmmm. Meadow Blossom I think.

Wearing: Crochet cowls again :)

Noticing: Earlier nights and later mornings

Admiring: A new hair cut, rather drastic by my boring standards!

Sorting: Out. Everything. At my parents' house, home, time to declutter.

Getting: A little bit excited about Christmas. Sorry.

Bookmarking: Lots of crochet shawl patterns on ravelry.

Feeling: Ok. Optimistic. Relaxed. 

Snacking: Cake. Lots of cake. And hummus. Not together though

Helping: C with his accounts. Maths is not my forte!

Hearing: Listening to my favourite German band, The Wise Guys.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Autumnal Cowl 2015

I think I shall establish a tradition of making an autumn cowl each summer to be worn over the forthcoming autumn and winter. Last year I made this cowl here, using yarn bought on honeymoon in Austria and I wore it continuously last autumn and winter. This year I have used some yarn bought from a little wool shop in Amroth and this wonderful pattern from The Little Room of Rachell. It's been finished a while but one sunny morning in Wales last week I decided to indulge in a little photo shoot on the decking of my parents' caravan.

The yarn was from the West Yorkshire Spinners, a blend of wool and nylon in their Aire Valley Aran Fusion range, most appropriately entitled 'Autumn Mix'. I'm very much in love! Now the weather seems to be turning I think this will be a permanent fixture around my neck.

And just because, here is the view from the front of my parents' caravan. You can just make the see out between the trees. Take me back!

Have a great week :)

Friday, 18 September 2015

Five on Friday - Pembrokeshire Snaps

Back again to join up with Amy for Five on Friday. Last week we were back in wonderful Pembrokeshire, relaxing after the trauma of thesis submission (!) We had a few lovely days with C's family, we all stayed in the most beautiful cottage in Tenby and did some of the activities they all used to do on holiday - like my family they also spent their family holidays in Pembrokeshire when C and his brothers were younger. It's a small world! When they left C and I headed for my parents' static caravan and had a bit longer with the beautiful coastline. We were rather spoiled with the weather surprisingly!

This week I want to share 5 snapshots of the week, which once again include some of my favourite Pembrokeshire places :)

1.  This building is the old Lifeboat Station in Tenby - it's an iconic part of the Tenby landscape. It was decommissioned from service a couple of years ago when a new station was built slightly further around the coast. You may recognise it from Grand Designs - it is now a residential building. I can't imagine many houses have as amazing views as this one!

2. We did a little bit of walking along parts of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. This is the descent down to Barafundle beach. The beach is part of the Stackpole Estate which is managed by the National Trust. It's a beautiful estate with several beaches, lily ponds, and wonderful places to walk.

3. Walking on the beach at Amroth. There are many beautiful beaches in this part of the world, but this one is closest to my heart. Here C strides ahead awaiting his icecream (salted caramel) and I linger a little longer with the sea.

4. Sunset at Amroth. After dinner we normally go for a walk along the seafront. This is definitely my happy place!

5. Crochet time in the evening. This was taken in front of The Great British Bake Off I believe. C kept getting cross with me as a kept moving the blanket as I came to the end of the row! I'm really pleased with my scrappy Granny Square, it's nearly finished now so hopefully a Ta Dah post will be not too far away.

Head on over to see what everyone else has been up to at Amy's lovely blog here. Have a great weekend!

Sunday, 13 September 2015

A weekend in Wroclaw, and the Submission of the Thesis

Well it's been slightly longer than I hoped between posts, but between a trip to Poland, a week in Wales and submitting my monstrous thesis I've not had much internet time! 

Yes, that's right - it's gone. Actually gone. Submitted and sent off to my two examiners a week and a half ago. So far I have found 3 typos but I haven't read it too thoroughly yet. Urrrrgh. 

Before that momentous, and if I'm honest entirely traumatic, event however C and I jetted off to Wroclaw in Poland for the wedding of two university friends (it's pronounced vrotzwaf). I was slightly distracted by the imminent submission of thesis, but still had an amazing time. It's a truly lovely city, I'd been lucky enough to visit before during my year abroad in 2008 but it's been developed a lot and rebuilt even since then. The city had an interesting and troubled history - originally Polish back in the middle ages it has since been part of Bohemia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and was annexed by Prussia in the Napoleonic Wars in 1742. After German unification in 1871 the city (Breslau in German) was the sixth largest city in the German empire. After 1945 it was part of territory ceded to Poland when the German border was moved to the Oder-Neisse river, and it is again Polish.

It is really stunning today with lots of lovely restored buildings (it was heavily damaged during World War Two). As we were there for such a short time and we had a wedding for one day we didn't do a lot of sightseeing, it was also about 40 degrees so we mostly sought shade (!) But here are a few pictures of the old city around the very impressive Market Square. I'd really recommend Wroclaw for a weekend break, it's easy to get to, very cheap, the weather is nice and the city is beautiful :)

Lots of churches and little winding streets, perfect for meandering :) There are also a series of dwarves dotted around the city, which have a history as a symbol of political opposition under communist rule; they were used as anti-government grafitti. Essentially the authorities couldn't arrest people for drawing dwarves without looking rather foolish. The dwarves are everywhere, you have to keep your eyes peeled! Here are some of my favourites

And finally, the last photo of this barrage of photos I promise (!) Here is my with my monster thesis. Smiling!

Looking forward to a long overdue catch-up with blogland!