Despite my best intentions, the festive period always degenerates into excuses for staying inside and eating. Whilst my weight hasn’t spiralled *completely* out of control, my activity levels plummeted over December and that just leaves me primed with excuses for January – “But it’s been so long, I just lost all my stamina” (that is of course a complete lie – I never had any stamina to begin with).
Thanks to the positive influences that are Pete (boyfriend) and Alf (dog) I have managed to peel myself out of my chair on occasion and get out to enjoy some fresh air and the beautiful Anglesey coast.
Newborough and Ynys Llandwyn
We had some spectacular weather over the weekend of the 21st & 22nd January and even though domestic tasks took up a large part of the day we wanted to make the most of the sunshine and get out for a walk. Pete decided he wanted to go to Newborough forest for what he described as a short walk to the beach and Llandwyn Island. The ‘short walk’ turned out to be a 2.5 hour, 11.3 km round trip – really I should know better than to have trusted his perception of how long things take!
Whilst I did end up in an awful lot of pain having gone from no activity for practically a month to an 11.3km hike and we had to finish the walk by the torches on our phones, we did get to witness Newborough beach and Ynys Llandwyn at sunset, which was very beautiful even if I’m not overly romantic (for those who don’t know, Ynys Llandwyn is named for Saint Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers).
Unsurprisingly, as such an iconic and picturesque place there were quite a few people gathered, most with very fancy camera set ups and one with a camera drone, while I was just snapping with my phone. To be honest, I’d hate to see the place in August at the height of the tourist season, if you can I would definitely recommend going in the ‘off season’.
The weather this past weekend wasn’t quite as glorious as the weekend before, but we made the most of the bit of sunshine on Saturday afternoon and paid a visit to one of our more regular dog walking locations – Lligwy Beach. It was coming up to low tide which is the best time to visit Lligwy as it means there is masses of open sand that the dogs can run around on and we were keen to try and wear out both Alf and my parent’s dog Molly who had been staying with us for a few days.
We got caught in a very brief hail shower but were rewarded with a lovely rainbow (hail-bow?) afterwards.
This time of year is great on Anglesey as there are so few people around. I could have counted the other people on the beach on my fingers. It’s so nice to be able to get out and see the sky and the sea and have some space to breathe and think and disconnect from all the rubbish for a while.
I have big plans for getting out and about this year, including climbing Snowdon, which I still haven’t done even though we’ve been up here 3 and a half years and Pete has done it several times. I really need to get over this excuse of ‘breaking myself back in slowly’ and actually put some effort in though, my concept of slowly might frustrate a snail.
Hope you are well and have survived January in more-or-less one piece,
Another year is over and we’re all trying to find our feet in 2017. As much as I sometimes see the fuss around ‘New Year’ as a bit pointless, I do like the impression of beginning a new chapter that comes with the change of date – generally speaking, as people we have always found new beginnings and clean slates appealing and a motivation for change (who starts a new fitness programme on a Thursday?).
I have spent the past week or so drafting a list of my own personal ambitions for 2017. Unfortunately I am currently fighting off a rather persistent illness which has left me quite unable to act on most of them so far, so I thought I would take the opportunity to look back on 2016 in the meantime instead.
From a global media perspective, 2016 seemed a little cursed. Looking a little closer you home however, I am looking back on 2016 rather fondly. I did lots of fun things, caught up with some old friends, took a couple of holidays, got a new job, made progress on the house and made progress on myself too. As I didn’t really get my act together on the blogging front, I wanted to share some of the highlights with you now.
February – Long Weekend in York
In February I arranged to take Pete to York for his birthday to coincide with both the Jorvik Viking Festival and going to see Týr, a band he is a big fan of but never managed to catch live. I was in the early stages of what would go on to be an epic chest infection and pleurisy but still had a lovely time getting away with Pete and seeing York and all the Viking attractions. Unfortunately the Jorvik Viking Centre itself was closed after being badly flooded at the end of 2015, but the rest of the Viking Festival was really interesting and enjoyable – Pete entered the ‘Best Beard’ Competition and was very pleased to come in 2nd place.
March – Chickens!
Since we moved to Wales in 2013 we have toyed with the idea of getting chickens and in March Pete decided to go for it, built a coop with help from a friend and then bought us four hens from a local farm. I was a bit apprehensive at first, but it’s actually been really enjoyable to keep them. It took a few months before they started laying eggs but we haven’t been short of eggs since.
Since we got the first four hens our flock has now grown to 8 with the addition of a cockerel who we hatched from an egg ourselves, two hens that were a gift from a neighbour and one more hen who we rehomed from a colleague of Pete’s who was having to move away and couldn’t take the hen with him.
March-April – A Hen-do & Wedding
At the end of March I went on my first ever hen-do for my good friend Laura. We had a great day and night out in Oxford, starting with a walking tour, then lunch and drinks, followed by cocktail making, a late night tour of the castle then on for more cocktails all followed up with afternoon tea the following day. It was lovely to catch up with some friends I hadn’t seen in ages and to let my hair down a bit!
Although it was a bit of a trek down from Wales to Oxford I returned the following weekend, this time with Pete, to celebrate the wedding days itself!
June – Northumberland
In June we went away to Northumberland for a week with my parents and our dogs. We stayed in a lovely cottage near the ‘village’ of Twice Brewed which was within walking distance of part of Hadrian’s Wall. We had (mostly) great weather and spent lots of time out and about and did lots of walking, I clocked more than 100,000 steps on my FitBit and we tired the dogs out thoroughly.
July – Croatia
For the past three years Pete’s research has required him to spend around 3 months every summer living in Croatia and for the first time in 2016 we actually managed to find a mutually convenient time, and the money, for me to go out and see him. So, despite being terrified of flying on my own, I headed out for a week at the end of July which also happened to include my birthday!
It was far from a ‘normal’ holiday, but I was expecting that, staying in an old house in the middle of nowhere with no mains anything – water from a tank that needed to be kept topped up, gas from bottles and the only electricity from a car battery in the main living room. I had the best time and it made the summer apart from Pete and Alf so much easier.
September – Wedding Weekend
Just after Pete returned from Croatia in September we had a mission of a weekend attending two weddings nearly 300 miles apart. It was important to us to be able to attend both so we didn’t mind making the effort to get to both. It was a lovely weekend with great weather on both days and two lovely (and very different) ceremonies. It was strange that having had very few friends get married we had 3 this year, that combined with 2 babies in our close friendship group probably suggests we’ve got to ‘that stage’ in life (not planning on following suit ourselves mind!).
Well that’s ended up being quite a lot longer than I expected, but enjoyable for me to look back at all the pictures we’ve taken over the past year. It’s not that nothing good has happened since September, but I thought I’d better reel myself in before this becomes even more of a mammoth post than it is already!
I’ve been saying this for a fair while now, but I really do hope to get back into blogging properly so hopefully this will just be the first of many 2017 posts!
For now I’ll leave you and say Thank You to everyone who made my 2016 so great, and to everyone who might still be reading this.
January has been such a long month! Not that I’ve done a lot with the endless amounts of time that seem to be between us and the New Year now – it feels like this has just been a month of working, sleeping and waiting to get paid. An early pay day in December seems great at the time, but 6 weeks between pay days seems like a massive stretch now.
Despite the incredible amount of rain we’ve been getting recently, we have still managed to get out most weekends with Alf. I’ve even bought myself some upper sexy outdoorsy walking trousers. Ok so they’re not going to in any style awards, but they are comfortable, warm, water-resistant and mean I don’t have to risk damaging any of my smarter trousers on our outdoor adventures.
I’ve really enjoyed being able to get out-and-about up here, even when the weather isn’t perfect. The scenery is beautiful and most places we go are so quiet we barely see another person. Plus I can really do with the exercise – a desk job isn’t agreeing with my waistline.
When the weather hasn’t been so good I’ve been doing some reading – books and magazines – I seem to read an inordinate number of magazines these days, particularly compared to a few years ago. Current favourites include The Simple Things, Mollie Makes, Women’s Health, Delicious, Good Food and I recently picked up my first copy of Things & Ink. I don’t read all of these on a monthly basis, I only subscribe to The Simple Things and pick the others up as and when I remember and am particularly interested in the edition. I’ve also subscribed to Audible, so I can listen to audiobooks at work when thing are a bit quiet or in the evening if I’m too tired to read. The first audiobook I’ve downloaded is The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, which won The Man Booker Prize or 2013. I’m enjoying it a lot, there’s definitely a lot of mystery and intrigue.
I suppose the most noteworthy event of January is that I have got a new job! I interviewed yesterday afternoon and was offered the position by the evening 🙂I’m very excited by the new opportunity. My current job has only been on a three month contract which expires at the end of February, plus it hasn’t been the most exciting job in the world – but they have paid me my first decent salary, so I’ve tried not to complain too much. The new job is about the same money but I’ll get a two year contract which gives us much more security and the possibility of being able to buy our own place soon(ish). I start in the beginning of March and I’m very excited. I think this will definitely call for a shopping spree for some new (work appropriate) clothes and shoes J I’ve done fair amount of browsing online lately and there’s quite a long list of things I’ like to add to my wardrobe. I’ll probably have to go through and whittle the list down though, we are trying to save for a house a well! Roll on Friday evening, Love
I haven’t been feeling quite myself this past week. From time to time my stomach decides to throw a bit of a hissy fit and leaves me feeling bloated and nauseated – and this week has been one of those times 😦 So I’ve been feeling a bit sorry for myself and not been getting up to as much as I would have liked.
It’s been especially frustrating as I have (finally) got myself a job, which starts a week on Monday, so I had been hoping to make the most of my last weeks of freedom. I’m going to be working for the local University, engaging with local companies who have been involved in a University project to find out the benefits they got out of working with the Uni. It’s actually only a three month contract to start with, with the possibility of extension, but it’s definitely the best (only) offer I’ve had all year! It’s sounds like a really interesting role, but on of the best things (other than getting paid) is that it’s only a five minute walk away from the house 🙂 It’s also been an excuse to do some clothes shopping, which I haven’t really been able to do for a long time as I haven’t had an income. Even though it was only work clothes it was still nice to be able to treat myself. I mostly bought trousers as I have tops that are work appropriate but the only trousers I really have are jeans that I obviously can’t get away with in an office. I might get around to taking some photos for you to see when I’m feeling less bloated and obese.
It has got rather cold here as well this week – so as well as being ill I’ve been staying inside to avoid the cold. I’m hoping the office where I’ll be working has got good heating The cold isn’t all bad though as it means we get to put the fire on and get snuggled up in a blanket. The animals (cat and dog) are definitely on board with that plan too- they’re either trying to psych each other off of my blanket or spreading themselves out in front of the fire. They aren’t the best of friend, but their mutual love of warmth had brought them closer together than ever these past few days.
Warm Winter Fire. Pickle cat sprawled in front of the fire. Alf asleep on my coat.
I’ve also been doing quite a lot of crochet again, it’s a good snuggly winter evening activity 🙂 I’ve been working on some animal xmas baubles that are quite easy but super cute. The pattern is an original design by All About Ami which you can find here, there are also loads of other great designs and helpful hints and tips all really well illustrated with photos.
Cute Crochet Panda Xmas Bauble
I’m on my own this evening as the parents are away in Vietnam and Pete is out seeing a friend who has come up to climb in Snowdonia. Evenings on your own only mean one thing – personal indulgence 🙂 Not wanting to tempt fate, but my stomach is feeling the best it has done in 2 days, so I might go and treat myself to a mug cake!
Halloween this year was not quite as much of an event for me as it had been in previous year.
A combination of factors including our recent move, work and a lousy mood that overcame me for most of last week meant I didn’t have the time, effort or cause for a big fuss.
I got to dress up a bit on the Wednesday when I helped with children’s craft activities at the National Trust property where my mum works. I wore the same Pearls & Swine Devil Horn fascinator as last year because, well, there aren’t exactly a great range of occasions when one can wear a devil horn fascinator. It was an enjoyable but very tiring day – something in the order of 120 kids got involved in making Halloween Trick or Treat bags and kept me on my feet (in heels) for 6 straight hours without a break!
On Halloween itself I found time to bake a cake; orange with chocolate fudge frosting. I’m not sure what happened but my first attempt went horribly wrong and barely rose at all. That one had to be consigned to waste and I had a second go that was marginally more successful. I was rather disappointed as it was a recipe I have used several times before and has always produced brilliant light, fluffy sponge. It was perfectly edible and tasted nice, but it fell short of my expectations and I don’t get on well with baking failures 😦
My Halloween Orange and Chocolate cake, with pumpkin, ghost and bat sprinkles
As I had been quite busy I was rather tired, that combined with my low mood meant I didn’t really feel like going to the cinema in the evening, so we didn’t get to see Frankenstein. Again, I’m a little disappointed in myself now that I didn’t feel up to it. Fortunately there is another opportunity to see it, this time with Jonny Lee Miller as The Creature, later in the month, so I hope to still get to see it.
Instead, Pete and I carved pumpkins (also rather delayed by being do busy) and watched The Walking Dead. We’re a bit late to The Walking Dead and are only on Season 2 at the moment, only 2 episodes from the end of the season now. I was even quite lack-lustre in my pumpkin carving and stuck with a fairly classic scary face. It was still a nice evening and appropriately Halloween-y.
Pete’s Spooky Ale
My Demon Face pumpkin and Pete’s Alf inspired design
Alf was a little unsure of his pumpkin doppelgänger
Apologies for the poor quality of the photographs. Taking pictures with my camera is another thing I’ve not been so good at lately, so these are just ones I have taken with my iPod. If you want to see more pictures from me you can follow me on Instagram.
I hope you all had a good Halloween, whatever you did or didn’t get up to 🙂
Listening to: Alkaline Trio (the only band for Halloween)
Watching: The Walking Dead, Season 2
Reading: Wuthering Heights (I’ve been reading this for ages and am trying to slog through the last few chapters)
Things have changed quite a lot for me over the past few months, which partly explains my lack of blogging recently.
Since I graduated, back in July, I continued to struggle to find a job and life was becoming increasingly unaffordable (and stressful as a consequence) for Pete and I in Southampton. After a lot of thought, discussion, agonising, too-ing, fro-ing and making and changing of decisions, we finally committed to take a major step and leave the South and move to North Wales.
View of the Britannia Bridge. The little van I managed to drive. View of the Menai Bridge.
The decision had been a long time coming – we’ve loved the thought of living in North Wales since we first visited my parents after they moved to the region 5 years ago and have toyed with the idea of moving there ourselves since the beginning of this year. Despite the long build up, the final decision, and putting it into action, happen rather quickly; we told my parents we were coming, handed in the one month notice on our flat and started filling boxes.
A lot of boxes.
I knew I had a lot of stuff, but I didn’t fully grasp how much until I had to sort it all, pack it into boxes and transport it nearly 300 miles across the country. I tried getting rid of a lot of things, selling a few bits on eBay, giving some to charity and just throwing out a lot of things that I wondered why I had even kept in the first place – but I’m just not very good at being brutal when clearing things out and we ended up having to make three trips with very full hire vans to shift it all.
New dog walks. Alf enjoying a beach. Rock Pooling.
I think Pete was a bit overwhelmed by seeing all my things labelled up in boxes, for some reason he seemed to think that things like a box of tights, a box of nail varnish or two boxes of shoes were unreasonable! Men! They just don’t understand. Haha.
The four weeks between making the decision and the end of our tenancy totally flew by in a blur of packing, cleaning and saying goodbye to people. It all got a bit stressful towards the end, trying to plan how to move everything and where to keep it. Luckily my grandparents offered us space to store things in their cellar for the time being whilst we stay with my parents before we get set up on our own, which has made things a bit easier.
The final weekend in the flat was a mad rush to fit the last bits in the van and make sure the place was clean enough to ensure we’d get a good portion of our deposit back (we’re still waiting to hear about that). Alf did get rather distressed and didn’t understand what was happening, why the flat was empty and why he didn’t have anything comfortable to sit on – although now we’re here I’m pretty sure he’s recovered and is happy about the move.
Alf goes bouldering. Foggy view. Alf admires his new territory.
We’ve been here for just over two weeks now, and I’ve just about sorted out our living space in the upstairs of my parents house. There are still things in boxes, and much of it is likely to stay in boxes as we have limited space, but it’s actually really cosy and homely up there at the moment, even though this isn’t going to be a long term arrangement.
As you can see from the photos, we’ve managed to get out and about in amongst the unpacking, work that Pete has had to be getting on with and making arrangements for paid work. I’ve done a bit of volunteering in the shop where my mum works, to help out and keep me busy and it’s looking like both Pete and I will be able to pick up some paid teaching work at the local uni once the new term begins. So things are looking up across the board. Alf is loving it with so much great outside space and so many new places to explore. So is Pete for that matter, he’s so much happier in the wide outdoors than stuck in a city.
Sorry if that was a bit of a long winded update. I really intend to blog more regularly again from now on, but probably more on crafting, baking, general life and sharing interesting things than on the product side of things (although products do often hold an important role in my general life so won’t be entirely absent).
Even when I’m not blogging I tweet quite a lot, so you can follow me on twitter @Betty Leopard. Also, since getting a new iPod for my birthday I have joined the masses on Instagram and have definitely got into posting photos, quite a lot of which are of Alf. You can see my photos and follow me here.
Thank you so much for sticking with me over this quiet period. I hope you will enjoy my upcoming posts.
I am positively delighted to be able to announce that I finished and submitted my PhD thesis yesterday! While this isn’t the end of the process and I don’t get to call myself Doctor Betty yet, it does mean I don’t have to look at or even think about it for a while.
As I don’t have a job to go to just yet (not for want of trying!), I now have some time off – some of the first proper time off I’ve had in four years, with no guilt or anxiety of work hanging over me. I have to say, it’s pretty brilliant 🙂
My celebrations so far have been pretty low key. I am immensely happy to have finished, but it all still seems quite unreal and dreamlike, plus all the effort of finishing has left me really tired.
Last night I stayed in with Pete and Alf and we had Indian take-away and a lovely bottle of Prosecco that my Mum and Dad sent for me, along with some pretty flowers, to say well done.
Today I have been quite lazy, enjoying being able to lie-in guilt-free, then I went out for a walk with Pete and Alf for the first time in ages. It was pretty cold but there are signs of spring coming through, including some crocuses beginning to emerge from the grass.
I have a few plans for what to do with my time, some of which aren’t so exciting (like tidying up all the mess I’ve been putting off while I finished up) and some of which are a bit more interesting (including getting back to blogging and some new ideas I have for posts!). In the next few days I’m definitely looking forward to being able to read something that isn’t a scientific paper. I have several books, comics and graphic novels that I have accrued in recent months and am very much looking forward to reading.
Thank you all so much for sticking around during my absence, which was a fair bit longer than I intended. I hope you will like what I have planned.