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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Dysgu Cymraeg and the Llŷn Peninsula

I really love living in North Wales. It’s a beautiful place.

The week before last I was lucky enough to be able to go away to attend a week-long Welsh course on the Llŷn Peninsula. The Llŷn is really close and really beautiful, but I have only visited a couple of times in the nearly two years since we moved.

I stayed at a place called Nant Gwrtheyrn (roughly pronounced Nant Goor-thay-rn), on the north coast of the Llŷn, near the town and popular holiday destination of Nefyn. Nant Gwrtheyrn is a former quarrying village which, after being abandoned and falling into ruin, has been reclaimed and renovated as a holiday location, wedding venue and Welsh language school. They run courses that run from very first introductions to Welsh through to advanced courses for those fluent in spoken Welsh to practice written Welsh or learn about Welsh culture in Welsh.

Ever since we moved to Wales I have really wanted to start learning Welsh. Anglesey, where we live, has one of the highest percentages of Welsh speakers in the country (and the world) – our neighbours speak Welsh as do most people in our town and a large number of people I work with. I have never had a bad reaction to not being able to speak Welsh, but I have always felt that learning was the right thing to do, and would definitely be a helpful addition to my CV if (when?) I need to apply for a new job here.

The course was really enjoyable, I learnt a lot, gained confidence in speaking Welsh and also had great opportunity to relax in the fabulous location.

It was so peaceful and tranquil. On my first evening there I walked down to the beach and sat, listening to the sea and without seeing another person. After having felt so low and unhappy in recent weeks it was so nice to have some genuine down-time away from the rest of life (including digital life, with next to zero mobile phone signal) to rest and relax.

 A series of views from Nant Gwrtheyrn out across the Irish Sea

By the time my week on the course was over I didn’t really want to have to leave and get back to the real world. Hopefully, when Pete is back from working away, in September, we might be able to get away for a break somewhere on the Llŷn and try to find that genuine peace and quiet again.

If you’re interested in learning Welsh then I would absolutely recommend looking into courses at Nant Gwrtheyrn. If not, I would still definitely recommend you visit the Llŷn for a holiday – Wales isn’t always top of the list of holiday destination options, but that means a lot of people are missing out.

If you do speak or are learning Welsh I’d love to hear from you – I’m keen to find people I can practice on!

Oh yeah, for those who don’t speak Welsh, the tile of this post ‘Dysgu Cymraeg’, means ‘Learning Welsh’. Dw i’n dysgu Cymraeg – I am learning Welsh!

Hope you are well,

Love

Betty

Is it still January?

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


Far Over The Misty Mountains Cold

I’ve still not quite got back into the blogging habit, have I. Things have been a bit busy, well, busier than I have been used to for quite a while anyway. Pete and I have both been doing some teaching at the University, only a couple of hours a week but often quite spread out so we end up spending most of our days there.

Things are going to be getting even busier for Pete now though, as he got a job this week! As of the 1st of November he will be a full time teaching assistant and PhD student at the uni. We are both so happy and I am very proud of him. Not only is it great news because we a) have an income and b) have a definite reason to stay in North Wales for at least 3 years, but he has been trying to get funding to do a PhD for a long time now, so it’s so nice that all his hard work has finally paid off.
He interviewed for and was offered the position on Wednesday, but as we had to work again on both Thursday and Friday we put off celebrating until Friday evening. I cooked a huge Chinese feast, as he loves Chinese food and it meant I got to go to the local Oriental Supermarket and search through all the exciting things. My favourite bits are always the ‘accesories’ – prawn crackers, spring rolls and fortune cookies 🙂 I meant to get pictures but it all got eaten so quickly I didn’t get chance!

The plus side of being kept busy during the week (other than making some money) is that our weekends feel more proper again and we try and make the effort to get out and do things – ideally things that Alf can join in with as well.

Last weekend we visited the local Farmers’ Market and picked up some pumpkins to carve for Halloween. If you are a regular reader you are probably aware that I LOVE Halloween (see my previous Halloween posts herehere, here, here and here). My plans this year include pumpkin carving, helping out with a kids’ Halloween craft event at the nearby National Trust property (including dressing up) and going to see Benedict Cumberbatch as The Creature in Frankenstein at the cinema. Oh yes, and hopefully get some Halloween baking in :)I’ve been trying to think of a design to carve into my pumpkin this evening. I’m not totally set on an idea yet, but I’ve put together some ideas on a Pinterest board. I will blog about it once it’s done.

Today we went on a trip to Beddgelert (pronounced Beth-gelert), which translates as Gelert’s Grave. Beddgelert is a village in Snowdonia National Park which (allegedly) takes it’s name from the nearby grave of/monument to Gelert, a dog that belonged to Prince Llewellyn, Prince of Gwynedd. The legend of Llewellyn and Gelert tells how, upon returning from a hunting trip, Llewellyn was greeted by Gelert who was covered in blood and discovered his baby son missing from his crib. Llewellyn immediately drew his sword and slew Gelert for murdering his son, but, as Gelert gave his last whimper, Llewellyn heard the cries of a baby and discovered the child, unharmed, alongside the dead body of a wolf. Realising his error, that Gelert had in fact saved his son and not killed him, Llewellyn had his faithful hound buried in a big ceremony and was said never to have smiled again.
We were following a route from a new book my mum bought us – Countryside Dog Walks: Snowdonia. It’s a really good guide, breaking walks down by level of difficulty (this one was an ‘Easy’) and gives helpful information about parking and facilities. The instructions are really clear and easy to follow, even for someone with as poor a sense of direction as me, it was obviously written by someone who has walked the route and not just looked at it on Google Earth.

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The route took us briefly through part of Beddgelert village then onto Gelert’s Grave just on the edge of the village. The grave itself was quite humble, a large rock flanked by two trees with two plaques in front of it telling the story of Gelert (one in English and one in Welsh). Just beyond the grave are the ruins of a small building, inside which is a bronze sculpture of a dog which we tried to get Alf to make friend with, although he wasn’t exactly sure. Most of the other visitors made it as far as the grave, a few ventured the extra ten or so yards to the house, but once we ventured on with the walk past the ruins we didn’t see another person until the end when we returned to the car park. On one hand it’s a shame that everyone else missed out on the beautiful scenery and views, but on the other, it was really nice and peaceful having the whole place to ourselves.

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The title of the post is taken from the song of the Dwarves from The Hobbit, which came into my head as we walked through a forested area with several rocky outcrops and a carpet of fallen leaves, moss and mushrooms – it just seemed appropriate (even thought it was, thankfully, not particularly misty or cold). The lack of people did make the whole walk feel like a bit of a mysterious adventure – going through forest, through gaps in stone walls and along and across rapid little streams.
Alf absolutely loved it, running through the trees, smelling every smell he came across and climbing every rock and wall that we encountered along the way. He got thoroughly wet and muddy and was really quite tired by the time we got back to the car – he slept wrapped up in a towel on Pete’s lap the whole way home.

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We were rather lucky with the weather, just as we got back to the car it had started to spit with rain and had started absolutely chucking it down within minutes of us leaving.

I really love living up here, it’s so much more relaxed and beautiful than the south coast. There are certain things I miss about Southampton and it’s proximity to London, but I’m not sure they’re worth giving up living here for. Plus, once I get my own job, it shouldn’t be too hard to make the occasional visit 🙂

I hope things are going well for all of you and that you’re looking forward to Halloween, however you chose to spend it.
Also, what do you think of the new blog look?

Love,

Betty

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Blackberry Crumble Cake

One of the best things about having moved from our titchy flat into my parent’s house (temporarily) is their kitchen. In the flat we had a pitifully small box masquerading as a kitchen with barely enough storage space let alone enough surface space to indulge my joy of cooking and baking. I think I did pretty well with the space I had, but it’s so nice to have the space to move around and not have to stack ingredients, bowls and tins on top of each other whilst baking.

I had decided I wanted to make something for dessert after Sunday dinner over the weekend, but was torn between a good old cake or a warming autumnal crumble using the blackberries my mum had gathered from the garden. Luckily enough, I came across the idea of a crumble cake and my decision was made!

Berries Collage

I used a combination of two recipes; the preparation of the berries from this one from the BBC and the overall method from this one from Hippapotamousse (although I used Vitalite instead of butter due to Pete not eating dairy).

It was actually very quick (other than the 40-60 minute bake) and easy to make and I was very pleased with the result. More importantly, it was also very yummy. I had maybe expected the berries to be a bit more tart but I don’t know if the lack of zing is due to the wild berries or the method of preparation from the BBC recipe.
It all went down very well with the family. My parents had theirs with yoghurt while Pete and I had ours with ice cream (vegan ice cream for Pete, obviously). I was quite tempted to zap it in the microwave for a few seconds before serving, to properly embody the crumble side, but didn’t in the end as I was worried the jammy fruity middle might get unnecessarily hot and destroy my taste buds. If I make this again I think I might take the risk though.

Construction collage

I only found Hippopotamousse’s blog while searching for a good recipe for a blackberry crumble cake, her’s was by far my favourite and I’ve also had a good look around the rest of the site and really like her recipes, as well as the fact that she is also a scientist. Plus, she is a far better photographer than I am – beware looking at her site if you’re hungry!

Complete Collage

I have, of course, been keeping up with The Great British Bake-Off, which has fuelled my desire to bake somewhat. I’m a bit torn on my favourite this year – I quite like Kimberley and shee seems to be a very good baker, but she’s possibly a bit over confident, I like Christine and Becca but their baking has seemed a little hit and miss, I’m very torn on Frances, she’s very inventive but can also be a bit hit and miss and I’m not totally convinced by all of her novelty bakes (although I adored her Secret Squirrel Cake), I am not a fan of Ruby at all, I find her annoying and I don’t like the way she seems to skate by by the seat of her pants.

Who else watches GBBO? Do you have a favourite, or least favourite?

Hope you are all well,
Love

Ch-ch-ch-changes

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Love

Betty

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