Rediscovering my legs – January Walks

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’.

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Sunset from Newborough Beach
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The Old Lighthouse at Ynys Llandwyn
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Sunset over Llandwyn Island
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Sunset and the less-old Lighthouse

Lligwy Beach

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.

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Empty Beach, Long Shadows, Rainbow, Brittle Star, Alf on the Rocks
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Molly chasing Alf chasing Pete

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,

Love

Betty

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2016-2017; Another year

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.

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clockwise from left; Micklegate, Emblem of the City of York, Jorvik Vikings
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clockwise from left; Hnefetavl (Viking Chess), Pete as Dick Turpin, Second Place in Jovik Best Beard Competition

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.

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The Original flock
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Chipper – Our very own hatchling. Clockwise from top right; hatching day, one day old and four weeks old
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clockwise from top right; me with Chipper at 4 weeks, Mabel & Beauregard, Chipper at 2 and a half months

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!

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Obligatory Hen-do accessories, Cocktail Making, Afternoon Tea

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.

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Playing Shield-Maiden at Homesteads Roman Fort, Alfred owning Hadrian’s Wall, The Sycamore Gap in Hadrian’s Wall near our cottage
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Ruins of Thirlwall Castle, Molly enjoying the sunshine and a sheep outside the garden wall
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Lindisfarn Castle, Cragside, Bamburgh Castle
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Walking along Hadrian’s Wall and a very tired dog

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.

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Me & Pete, My accommodation, The meadow next to the house
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Radio Tracking, Croatian Lunch and a baby Salamander
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Plitvice Lakes 
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Clockwise from left; Lake, Birthday wine and epic food

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!).

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Wedding Number 1 – tipis in a field in Yorkshire
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Wedding Number 2 – Pete as an Usher at a Church Wedding in Hampshire

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.

Happy New Year,

Love

Betty

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Freedom, Sweet, Sweet Freedom

Dear Readers,

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Love,

Betty

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Turtle Bay: Our 3 Year Anniversary

Saturday was me and my boyfriend’s 3 year anniversary 😀
Unfortunately he had to work during the day, but I booked us a table at Turtle Bay – a Caribbean restaurant in town. I’d heard a lot of things about it – both food and cocktails – but we hadn’t had opportunity to go before. Caribbean food isn’t really something I’ve had a lot of experience of before but I had already looked at the menu online and had some pretty high hopes!

Turtle Bay – complete with optimistic outside seating in March

It was a Saturday night, so the place was pretty busy, but we were seated really quickly, even though we got there early. I liked the interior, it was Caribbean styled, but not themed to the point of being tacky. The bar was set in the middle of the restaurant and styled like a beach front hut type thing. The bar was actually really busy in it’s own right, which isn’t surprising given the great range of cocktails the place offers. In fact, the bar was so busy that our drinks took longer to arrive than our food! Even though it wasn’t happy hour and the cocktails were a little pricey, I had to order myself a Raspberry and Chambord Martini – I love Chambord and Martinis are so elegant. It certainly lived up to expectations, so yummy.

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My Raspberry-Chambord Martini

Even though I had looked at the menu online, I hadn’t managed to choose what I wanted. There were so many options, loads of different and interesting things that I wanted to try – Goat Curry, Jerk Chicken, Marinated Pork, Jerk Ribs, Sweet Potato Fries. In the end I went for Browned Jamaican Chicken and Pete had the Goat Curry. Both came in rustic looking metal pots which I liked, I would love to have pots like that at home. Both were really yummy and came with rice and peas (which are actually beans). My chicken came on the bone, which I loved and Pete’s goat was ridiculously tender. They were both spiced really well, the flavours were great and left you with a warm spicy  feeling in your mouth.
The place had dessert menu, so I couldn’t really say no. I ordered the Dark Chocolate Pie, which was actually just a warm, gooey chocolate brownie and came with ice cream. Warm chocolate cakey things with ice cream are one of my favourite desserts and this was awesome – it was so chocolatey and gooey in the middle. Even though I was immensely full I couldn’t not finish it!

Pete’s Goat Curry with Rice and Peas and flatbread
My Jamaican Browned Chicken with Rice and Peas and a fried dumpling
Dark Chocolate Pie with ice cream

I had a really lovely evening. Turtle Bay is a great restaurant – if you’re ever in Southampton you should check it out, I think they also have one in Milton Keynes. They also have a lighter lunch section on the menu if you’re eating during the day. I will definitely be going back, I’d really like to have lunch there and also maybe go on an evening that isn’t a Saturday to see if the atmosphere is any different when it’s less busy. Plus I have to go back at some point to check out happy hour and try some more of their cocktails 🙂

Hope you all had a good weekend,
Love,

Taste the Rainbow (Cake)

Note: This is not a post about Skittles, although Skittles are great!

Yesterday was my boyfriend Pete’s 25th Birthday 🙂 He was working all day, which was a bit sad for me (although he loves it as he works with dogs at the Blue Cross), but that gave me plenty of time to prepare a special birthday evening for the two of us.
My main task was baking him a birthday cake. He always says he’s not a big cake fan, but a birthday cake is a necessary part of a birthday as far as I’m concerned (plus I love cake and baking). I had decided exactly what kind of cake I was going to bake ages ago, it’s something I’ve wanted to try for a long time – Rainbow Cake!
I was a bit nervous about it all going horribly wrong, but it was actually surprisingly easy. The main drawback for me was that I only own one circular cake tin, so had to bake each layer one at a time :/

(This is actually a slightly adjusted recipe from the one I used, as next time I’d prefer a bit more cake batter to work with.)

A few additional points;

  • Although the number of colours might look intimidating, remember – you can mix your own, so you only really need a red, yellow and blue, then mix the green (blue & yellow), orange (red & yellow) an purple (red & blue) yourself!
  • I used a silicone cake ‘tin’ which I very lightly oiled to be extra sure the cake didn’t stick. If you’re using a metal cake tin remember to grease and line to avoid sticking.
  • Keep an extra close eye on your layers as they’re much thinner than a standard cake. My oven is poor so takes longer than most :/ Bake until the sponge bounces back when lightly pressed or a cocktail stick/skewer comes out clean.
  • Allow cake to cool slightly before removing from tin, then leave to cool fully on a cake rack before frosting
  • As usual, I cheated on the frosting and used Betty Crocker’s Vanilla Frosting which I got from Tesco, but you can get a much greater range of flavours and alternative brands on AmericanSweets.com A lot of these frosting’s are ‘accidentally vegan’ as they contain nothing even close to an animal (or natural!) ingredient, but do be careful to check ingredients as not all brand/flavours are vegan suitable. For my cake I used around a can and a half of frosting to frost between layers and all around the outside – for this modified recipe it might be closer to 2.
We had a lovely evening. Pete got to open all his presents – I got him lots of sweets and biscuits (all suitable for his cow-product-free diet), lots of books, some comics and a torc bangle from St Justin Jewellery. I think he was pretty happy with his haul. I cooked duck legs (£2.50 for 2 in Tesco!) with hoi sin noodles, followed by the cake, then we chilled out with beer/wine and watched Ironclad- the DVD his brother bought for him 🙂
I’m very glad he had a good birthday evening 🙂 It all makes me excited for my birthday though – shame that’s still five and a half months away!!
Hope you’re all having a good weekend,
Let me know if you have a go at the rainbow cake. I promise it is easier than it looks, it’s more about time than skill.
Love,

Thank You

As it’s Thanksgiving today, I thought I would take some time to write a little Thank You post. Now before anyone starts getting all uppity about celebrating a very American holiday in the UK, I was born in the US, making me at least technically, an American citizen, so there :p lol. I also just think it’s a nice sentiment, to take some time to think of the things you are thankful for and that you maybe don’t show enough appreciation for.

The People and Things that I am most Thankful for;

  • I am thankful for my family. My mum and dad, who have always loved and supported me, put up with a lot of complaining and still tried to offer advice. My sister, even though we haven’t always got along very well, you have been an important part of my life. My grandparenst, for being ridiculously generous and always proud.
  • I am thankful for Pete (my boyfriend), for being supportive and understanding and caring, making me laugh and pushing me to be a better person, being there every day through thick and thin. I love you so much and am thankful every day you stick with me.
  • I am thankful for Alf (our puppy) for his endless outpouring of (mostly) unconditional love, for being the best hot water bottle in the world, a constant source of amusement and making me smile just by being you.
  • I am thankful for my therapist, he’s the only therapist I’ve really got along with and (even though he gets paid or it) he listens to all my shit and has been so helpful, I don’t know where I’d be without that help.
  • I am thankful for my friends. I might not see you all as often as I would like to, but just knowing you are my friends means a lot. Thank you for spending time with me, talking to me, inviting me to things (even if I don’t always make it) and considering me your friend.
  • I am thankful for you, my blog readers. I love writing this blog and knowing that someone reads it and (hopefully) enjoys it, makes it all the more worthwhile. Your comments always make my day 🙂
There are a lot of things I am thankful for too; 
  • My ‘job’, as having a job that pays is not always easy to come by at the moment  and my job allows me enough freedom to work from home and choose my own hours (within reason). I don’t always actually enjoy it, but I know I could be in a much worse position.
  • Having a home, food on my table, hot water in my bath and the ability to treat myself to a few luxuries every now and again.
  • Even little things, like music, that can pick me up when I’m feeling low or chill me out if I’m super stressed. 
I don’t want to go on too much and get too sappy about all this. Basically, I am thankful for my life and all the things in it and everyone I encounter and communicate with.
Pete and I had a little Thanksgiving dinner this evening that was so lovely. I cooked it all and it brought me so much joy 🙂
Lemon and Rosemary Chicken
(I know Thanksgiving is meant to be Turkey, but there were only two of us, so a chicken seemed more sensible)
Corn Bread Chilli Muffins
Betty’s Homemade Stuffing
Thanksgiving Dinner Table
Carving the Chicken
Sticky Butterscotch Pudding
Alf all dressed up for Thanksgiving 🙂
I’ll try and post the recipes up tomorrow.
Thanksgiving has definitely put a smile on my face 🙂
Hope you have had a good day and have something to be Thankful for.
Betty
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Movember

Movember is something I have been aware of for the past few years, but not really paid much attention to. Until this year that is. Due to our lives being touched by the issue at the centre of the Movember campaign, my boyfriend decided to sacrifice his (almost trademark) beard in the hope of raising some money for the cause.
For those of you who don’t know; Movember is a campaign that aims to raise awareness of male health issues, (primarily prostate and testicular cancer) by encouraging men (and women, I guess) to grow/don a moustache during the month of November. While Pete isn’t strictly following the rules, as he’s not starting clean shaven, given he has had a beard for the entire (nearly) 3 years I have known him, cutting down to a ‘tache is as much of a commitment for him as growing one from scratch. So, this afternoon, he took up residence in the bathroom with a range of shaving equipment and set about cutting.

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Before
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During
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After
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I didn’t want to be left put

I think he looks rather handsome, but maybe I’m biased 🙂
He’s set up a team on the Movember website, looking to recruit team members and take donations. If any of you felt like sparing a few pennies, the team donation page can be found here. Breast Cancer gets a lot of press, it’s about time male cancers were thought of the same way.
I feel a ‘tache related bake spree coming on……

Hope you are all well,
Betty
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