Tuesday, 9 September 2014

On Four Corners and Mexican Hats l America 2014; Part 3

Oh yeah, remember when I went to America in March and then totally forgot to blog about it? Allow me to try to rectify matters for you...

Feel free to read Part 1 here (it's got a plane journey from hell and baseball in it you know) and Part 2 here (it's got pictures of Monument Valley in it you know).

If you don't fancy re-reading back then allow me to refresh you: 

We flew to Phoenix, Arizona, spent a couple of days acclimatizing with American Girl & Boy, got a car, drove to Monument Valley, spent the night at The View Hotel. In a nutshell...

.........

The next leg of our American road trip was one of the biggest in terms of distance covered. When I tell you the reason why you may think that I possibly have mental problems but hear me out…

When we were first planning our Grand American Road Trip I had spoken to American Girl about my determination to go to Monument Valley. She suggested that as we were up that way we could take a visit to Four Corners.

“I beg your pardon? What the hell is a Four Corners?”

When I found out that this is the only place in the US where you can stand in four states at the same time it was on the list. In stone. We were going to do it.

Even when I then looked at the logistics and realised that we were going to have to drive quite a way out and then come back on ourselves I was insistent that I wanted to go. The Person wasn’t that keen but I wasn’t backing down - I’d included the Grand Canyon on our road trip for him (I already saw it back in 2008) so I needed Four Corners.

map.png


If you look at the map you can see how ridiculous my plan was, but hell, I was the one that was doing all the driving so I was driving us there.

(Do you love my map? It’s so hilariously awful isn’t it? I just went mad in Paint. I can only apologise. I’m sure my award for most aesthetically pleasing blog is going to drop in my lap any day now…)

This was actually my favourite day driving. On the way from Monument Valley to Four Corners the roads were empty. And I mean empty. Remember the pictures of the roads from my last post? Just those roads with no-one else in sight. It was weird. But actually quite nice. I turned the music up and drove along without a care in the world, making sure I didn’t think about what would happen if anything did go wrong on an eerily deserted Highway in the middle of nowhere. For the rest of my life Settle, the album from Disclosure will remind me of this particular day's driving.

We did make a brief stop off on the side of the road not too far out of Monument Valley. Having seen signs for a town called Mexican Hat we spouted various theories as to why it might be called that. Turns out they have a rock formation that looks like….a Mexican Hat.

Too good.


But mostly it was mile after mile after mile after mile of open and clear road. It’s easy to zone out on those lonely America highways - they are so straight and empty that all you have to do is set your course and plough straight ahead. The scenery was overwhelming - it’s hard to explain how something so vast and empty can simultaneously leave you spellbound. I suppose it was just that it was so different to anything I’ve seen before. The UK just doesn’t have the space for those kinds of vistas and although views of rolling hills and fields are beautiful in their own way, they are on a completely different level to what I could see out of my window as I drove along through Utah/Colorado.


Four Corners is.....Well.....

Ok, it’s a little underwhelming. The monument is there with the flags of all four states flying in their respective corners and surrounding that there are lots of stalls for local traders. We found out after we got back that allegedly you can buy weed in the Colorado corner as it is legal to buy it in that State. Unfortunately I can't confirm that for you.

The good thing about going out of season meant we virtually had the place to ourselves so we could lie on the monument, crawl over the monument, put small stuffed animals on the monument - anything that we pleased. 



Hanging out and being super cool on the Four Corners monument. That's a crocheted mouse on my lap. I don't want to talk about it...

To me it was worth going just to say we’d been there - and for the simple pleasure that driving there meant that I had technically driven through 4 states.


Touristed out (and yes, yes I did buy a Four Corners tshirt and it is my favourite and I love it) it was back in the car to basically head back exactly the same way that we had just come for two hours…

This was much less fun than on the way out and I was definitely starting to getting tired - the windows went down and the hypnotic music went off and The Person was woken up to keep me company until we got to something resembling civilisation which turned out to be Bluff, Utah.

I swear I’m not making these place names up.

Bluff is a road with some houses, a petrol station, a post office, and most importantly, somewhere to have a lovely cup of tea. It suited me perfectly and we spent an hour there drinking tea, writing postcards, using the much loved wifi and starting to feel a bit more human again.


Restocked on drinks and crisps we were back on the road to our final destination, Page, Arizona.

The drive was relatively drama free, we found our hotel for the evening without any fuss whatsoever, and took note of the slightly alarming number of churches that are very neatly lined up one after the other on the road into Page. I think we counted 8 in total - all different denominations, all different churches, all in a line. It was…..different.

It was kind of an odd place, looking at the signs almost felt like I’d stepped back in time, I’m sure the Travelodge opposite to our hotel had old branding. But I don’t know if I’m just making it up, I look at this picture and I just absolutely love it, I don’t know if it was the light or what, but it just makes me smile. I know. Of all the things I took pictures of on this trip a photo of a hotel sign is one of my favourites. I’m quite the artiste.


We took a little wander about but opted to have dinner at the easiest place we could find, right opposite the hotel. I don’t know if it was the altitude (Page is 1,255m above sea level compared to my home town’s 144m) or tiredness for the driving but I got pretty wrecked on a minimal amount of alcohol. It was brilliant.



(This reminds me, I will one day tell you a story involving me and altitude which will probably make you cry with laughter but will almost certainly make you think less of me. I’ll get around to writing it down one day…)

In hindsight we could have not gone to Four Corners, had a much more laidback drive to Page and had more time to hang around there but then I wouldn’t have been able to say I’d driven in four states, you know?

What on earth were we in Page for?

I'll try and not leave it another five months before blogging about it...

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Not Really Resolutions 2014 l Update

1. Read 12 Classics



Still going well on this one and certainly better than I did in 2013. I've got a good mix in here of 'classic' Classics and more modern "are they really Classics?" Classics.

I guess I've relaxed my rules a little bit as the years have gone on with this not really resolution. Before I wouldn't have read anything that didn't have Penguin Classics written on it anywhere but now I'll whack it in there if it's just a well known one. I don't know if Murder on the Orient Express can count as a Classic - but it's famous so I've added it in.

I do enjoy this challenge but I think that next year there may be a modification...

2. Eat 1 vegetarian meal per week

I am trying guys, I really swear I am. I think the trouble here is just lack of inspiration. Every vegetarian recipe that I look at just makes me go....bleh. At the moment of posting we are 35/36 weeks into the year and I have completed 30 veggie meals.


There was a point where I thought this was going to be much worse so I'm feeling ok about it.

Please please please feel free to hit me up with your veggie recipes. Just as long as they don't involve carrots, sweet potato or anything in that ilk - The Person isn't a fan and I'm not up for making massive meals just for myself. I've also found that the vegetarian meals that I tend to like the look of also seem to involve outrageous amounts of cheese.

Spinach & Mushroom lasagne

Another thing I've found is that it is wicked hard to photograph veggie meals in a way that makes them look good and not like random piles of veggie mush.


3. Do 1 interesting thing each month

January - Trip to London including getting to see Chloe
February - Trip to Leicester to meet up with Janet
March - America baby!
April - FA Cup Semi-Final at Wembley to see Hull City beat Sheffield United
May - Trip to the London Pet Show (where I totally met Chris Packham!) and a rainy Bank Holiday outing to a reservoir
June - Picnic at the Castle with The Person and a trip up to see North Yorkshire and see Heather that I still haven't blogged about yet.
July - The Color Run in Manchester at the Etihad Stadium and a VERY exciting trip that I haven't had a chance to blog about yet.
August - Well. I did nothing. But that's because I spent most of it laid up with sciatica. But one quiet month is ok by me.

4. Save up to buy a car

This one is going well. We should have a car by the end of October - squee!

5. Finish my Tetris blanket


Not a Tetris Blanket

It's just neeeeeeeever going to happen is it? I don't feel too bad about it, it's not like I've been sitting on my behind doing knack all. I've crocheted 23 animals this year and I've managed to make another blanket (which I still need to blog about). I don't think that's bad going. But next year I'm definitely going to become a bit more selfish.

6. Learn something new

Still working on this one...

7. Sell something at a craft fair



I don't think this one is going to happen (see Point 5). What I need to do is take time out to build up stock before I can think about craft fairs. Definitely one to think about next year though - I'm going to have a little practice at Christmas time with crocheting a job lot of pieces up. What I really need to think about is what I might need as stock.

8. Beat my 10k time

Oh dear. Oh very dear dear. The Hull 10k was awful and terrible but I really pulled myself up by my bootstraps to get a shift on. I secretly signed up to another 10k at the end of August and my training was going really really well. I managed 6km running without stopping and was feeling so so confident. And then - hello sciatica. I was barely able to walk, let alone run, for all of August so the 10km went un-run and now I have nothing to sign up for as we're entering the winter months.

More to the point, being unable to run has meant I've got out of the habit of running and now I haven't run in over a month and can't find the motivation to start again...

Next year though. I need to beat those Hull 10k demons!

--------------------------------

4 more months to go!

(Last update here)

Thursday, 4 September 2014

11 things

What better way to try and get back into the swing of blogging than by doing one of those "Tell us stuff about yourself?" Janet tagged me in the Liebster thingy and it spurred me on to try and get myself back in the game.

I'm supposed to write 11 things about myself, answer the 11 questions set and then pose 11 questions of my own.

That was all too much for my addled brain, so I'm going to answer Janet's questions and then we'll call it done - ok? By answering the 11 questions I'm basically telling you 11 things about myself, so by my reckoning I'm 2/3s of the way there and that's majority.

No?

1. Why did you start blogging?

I was in my MSc year at the University of Manchester and discovered MSN Spaces. I think my cousin had one and I’d clicked on to it when I talking to her on MSN Messenger one day - I thought - “Cool, I can write stuff on here!” and set about. I don’t think even I knew what the purpose was. I just liked writing and always have. There wasn’t the blogosphere as you knew it back then!

2. What post are you most proud of?

I’m proud of any of the posts where I’ve really said what I feel. I’ll be honest they’re few and far between because it’s hard to put something out there that’s particularly personal - especially when there are some people from ‘real life’ who read my blog - but they’re always the ones I feel best about and they’re usually the ones that receive the most interesting comments. I really appreciate the time that people take to write comments on those posts because thought-provoking posts mean that people have to have a little think about what they write, that means a lot.

Particular posts I'm proud of are: 
The one who moves away (it got me in more trouble than I can even go into - but I stand by it. And one day I'll tell you why)

3. What’s your favourite thing about blogging?  And a least favourite?

It’s the thing that everyone says - it’s the people! Since moving to my current location I haven’t been able to make any friends here. There are people that I get on with, don’t get me wrong, but no ‘friendships’ if you get me. The people I count as friends are the people I talk to every day either via blogging or on Twitter.

I love that moment of discovering a new blog and thinking “Oh my god I like that TOO!” and realising that there are other people doing the same kind of things as you.

My least favourite? The other thing that everyone says. Blogging aint what it used to be and more and more I find it harder and harder to come across blogs that I immediately connect with because they’re either the same as every. other. blog. Or they’re so full of sponsored content that I don’t feel like I actually really “know” the person behind the blog. There has to be an element of personal stuff on there for me to want to be bothered to read.

4. What’s your favourite kind of sweet? And least favourite?

I always hit up the purples and the reds. Poor yellows and greens, they always get left ‘til last don’t they? I feel bad for them because actually I’m a citrus lover.

Although I have recently realised that Janet & I have the same problem when it comes to sweets in that I have to eat them like this…



…or else my brain goes funny.

5. What’s your favourite flower?

I love an Alstroemeria me. They’re not usually massive expensive. You can usually get some colourful ones. And they last. for. ages. Only problem is that they have a name which I can’t spell...

6. Did you have a favourite dressing up outfit as a child?

As an adult I hate fancy dress and all that it means but as a kid I loved wearing an old bridesmaid’s dress of my sister’s. It was from the early 80s so was full on. Light blue, chiffony, puffy sleeves and an actual hoop in it. I used to wear it and pretend to be a bride. One time me and 2 friends got dressed up - I wore the dress, my friend wore a vampire cape which made her the vicar and my other friend wore one of my Mum’s fur coats and was mother of the bride. I don’t even know what we did about a Groom. Probably used my cat...

7. Zayn or Harry?
You see I don’t want to like Harry because it’s so obvious and because I imagine he’s quite the rogue but damn him he does have a lovely face. Definitely not Zayn. Actually I like another one but I don’t know his name...

8. What was your best holiday and why?

This is where I say “I really need to finish blogging about my trip to America in March 2014”, a sentence which I’m pretty sure I’ve put in every blog post since April. But it was amazing. It was an experience and a half. I loved going to Corfu last year and it was a brilliant lazing on the beach holiday but our America trip will take some beating.


I think the reason why I loved it so much was that it was the first holiday I’ve been on where I felt like a grown up on holiday. I know that sounds ridiculous but I haven’t had a summer holiday away (apart from a trip to the US in 2008) since I was a teenager. This was the first  ‘big’ holiday I’ve been on where we did some major travelling by ourselves and had to do a lot of planning.


And obviously just the places that we got to go and the sights we saw, as well as being topped by watching my best friend get married - that has to make it the best holiday!



9. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

It would have to be the US. I’m not really up for learning any new languages and I’m definitely not up for being somewhere remote where not a lot is happening, so I’d need to be in a city in America somewhere. I would say Arizona given that that is where American Girl & Boy reside  but I know the heat in summer would kill me dead so  I’m guessing I need to go for somewhere like San Diego which is still vaguely near but isn’t going to cause me to perspire to death.

But the thought of no NHS, lack of annual leave and the chance of getting shot by some random kind of freaks me out.

10. What’s your favourite Christmas tradition?

Christmas Eve. Bath with Lush bathbomb. New pyjamas. Boom. Basically ALL I am interested in at Christmas.

11. Do you have a nickname?

Not anymore really. Family call me Beedlebum - the origins of which are too complicated and potentially too boring to explain. It’s one of those stories that just don’t make sense, you know?

I got nicknamed out at school - all manner of variations on my last name and the ever so wonderful Teen Wolf. A result of being an extraordinarily hairy child. Aren’t kids nice?


Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Back?

So first of all there was a massive worksplosion.

This is what I call it when there is so much work it is basically coming out of your eyeballs and ears and nose and it makes a massive mess of everything, everywhere.

Then in the midst of my worksplosion I woke up in the early hours of the morning in excruciating pain in my left leg. The pain of which was unreal. So bad that I thought I might have a DVT in my leg the pain was so reminiscent of my pulmonary embolism. A trip to the Drs first thing diagnosed me with sciatica.

Take my advice. You don’t want it.

For the next 3 weeks there was a seriously small amount of time that I wasn’t either in huge amounts of pain or high as a kite on Tramadol.

I didn’t take any time off work, which in hindsight I think was a mistake. I think it prolonged how long I suffered for when I should have just been chilling out at home and the simple fact was that being at work meant that was the only thing I could focus on. That meant I could not focus on cooking, cleaning, being productive, generally being a nice person. I just didn’t have the brain capacity.

I have serious respect for anyone suffering from chronic pain. It literally changes your personality. You cannot be yourself when part of your mind is engaged with working out how you can chop your leg off without actually chopping your leg off.

After several visits to an Osteopath and huge numbers of various painkillers the pain eventually disappeared. Who knows if it would have gone away by itself anyway - it might have done and I would be about £200 better off but at the time I would have done anything to make the pain go away.

So yeah. No blogging happened. And then I was out of the habit of blogging and there was so much that I wanted to blog about that writing a list was actually making the whole experience feel more overwhelming. So I just tried to forget about it for a little bit.

What I have been doing in the meantime can be boiled down to two quite simple things.

Gerbils.


and crochet.


That’s it.

So, you know, you haven’t missed much.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Foremark Reservoir a.k.a. A Very Traditional British Bank Holiday

I'm currently racked with indecision about the best way to forge ahead with my blogging. For a change I feel like I am bursting at the seams with things I want to blog about but I'm still struggling with finding the time and brain space to sit down and compose words, and find nice pictures and all those other things that you need to make a good blog post.

This indecision means that I am about a billion years behind on my blogging. I have been back from America almost four months (how is that possible?!) and still haven't finished blogging about that and things have actually been quite exciting for me lately meaning that the stuff is just piling up and ready to topple over.

I either post about things as soon as I do them and try and play catch up with others when I have the chance, or I start back at the beginning and resolutely work my way forwards.

I've already cocked that plan up by writing my post about The Color Run just after I'd done it....

Oh whatever...


Yeah that's right. Continuing on the theme of my last post, I'm going to ask you to stay in May. Go on, try and remember that far back and think about what you were up to on your Bank Holiday weekend.

Can't remember?

That's probably because it was a miserable piss wet through weekend.

Take a look at the below photo - I call it Bank Holiday Grey...


The Person doesn't automatically get Bank Holidays off so a lot of the time we're not together for Bank Holiday shenanigans but he'd booked this one off and we weren't going to let some absolutely dreadful weather get in the way of our fun. No thank you.

For we are British and that means that on Bank Holidays we go out in the nature whether the sun is out or not.

I borrowed my sister's car and we drove out to make the best of it. You would have to because seriously, look at how miserable it was. When we pulled up it was just so British I could I have cried. Over in the distance there was a couple determined to have a picnic and had their rug spread out, sheltering under a tree. By the kiosk there was a miserable looking teenager who had clearly been dragged out against her will with the rest of the family. And through the drizzle we could spy Super Active Family, with Dad striding out ahead and Mum and child valiantly struggling on behind him, all wearing matching kagoules.


I always act as if I don't like nature and that's not strictly true. If anything I can get very over-excited about nature because I'm still a city girl at heart and generally shy away from woods and trees.

The trouble is that nature for me is synonymous with aimless wandering. I don't really get the point of just "going on a walk". I get it more if you have a dog and you are exercising said canine. But two people, just out...walking...I can't really get my head around it.

"So where do we walk to?" I asked The Person.

"I don't know, you just walk." came the reply.


I was unconvinced.

The one downside of Foremark Reservoir is that you can't walk all the way around its perimeter. That is the kind of walking I can begin to get my head around, although only just. You walk for the sake of walking around the outside of something? It just jars a little in my head sometimes.

But I was there to explore and I was happy to get my nature on, even if there are some pretty steep hills and what feels like perilous steps around the reservoir.

I like trees though. I'm a fan of green. I'm a fan of leaves. All good things in my book.


The main problem with Foremark is that a lot of the time when you're walking around it you can't really see the water. There's a small part with a man-made beach but you can only go so far on that and then you're in very dense woodland for the rest of the time.

It's ok, but, you know, something to look at other than leaves would be nice.

We battled valiantly on for quite a while I think, but in the end the rain was just not stopping. Aimless walking, couple with persistent rain just does not make for a fun day out for me I'm afraid, it was literally dampening my spirits.


The only thing that could make me feel better?

A return to the kiosk to buy a cup of tea and a sit on the bench in the rain, getting a wet bum, because, let's face it, we were already wet anyway.

We watched the picnic couple pack up and silently saluted them. They'd done their best and had fought the good fight, but in the end the British Wet Bank Holiday will always win my friends.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Fancy London Town

Cast your mind back to May if you will and let's pretend that I wrote this blog post when I should have done, and not almost two months too late.

The Person and I had travelled down to London to the London Pet Show and had spent a lovely morning and beginning of the afternoon stroking cats and dogs and bemoaning the lack of gerbils at Earl's Court. However it turns out that even if you are a crazy pet person like I am, there is only so much London Pet Show action that you can take before you start to feel a little fatigued.

With a good few hours until we had to catch our train home there was only one thing for it...


Go exploring.

I am not normally a fan of exploring and aimless wandering around. I like a plan and I like to know where I'm going. The Person is much more of an explorer than I am.

But we were both a little stuck as we don't really know London well. I know London well enough for if someone was to ask me whereabouts I was in London I would reply;

"In London."

So we headed for the nearest map to see what we could see. I spied greenery and with no other plans we decide to head for Holland Park to enjoy the rare bit of sunshine we were experiencing.


The walk there was fab.u.lous. Streets upon streets with rows upon rows of gorgeous terraced houses like those in the picture above. I feel bad that they're all basically flats though - when I become a massive mega millionaire and decide I want to buy one of these houses it's going to be a right pain as I'll have to buy all the flat separately and turn them back in to a house again. Major pain.

I couldn't get enough of it as we wound our way through the streets and I secretly hoped to bump into a cast member of Made in Chelsea.


Eventually we made it to Holland Park which was full of all the people enjoying the sunshine. This also means it was the perfect opportunity to get a drink from the cafe, find some grass to sit down on and people watch until our eyeballs hurt.

There was no end of entertainment available. The Person wailed that the park was full of children who had no catching skills because their parents clearly didn't take them out enough whilst I spent a good thirty minutes laughing at groups of little kids playing football aka swarming around the football like a herd of angry bees.


Reluctantly we began to make our way back to the train station. So often I travel to London and end up mad and frustrated and tetchy because it is busy and heaving, but this weekend we seemed to find the one part of London that was just calm and peaceful.

Even the park was big enough to hold everybody without it feeling rammed and I was able to wander about the streets like an aimless soul, taking pictures willy nilly, rather than feeling shepherded to get to the next place as fast as humanly possible, carried along in a tidal wave of people.


Lucky old me, we passed a Daunt Books shop on the way to the Tube and the rule is, if I clock a book shop I have to go in. Even if it's just to breathe in the smell of paper.

And then it was back to the Midlands with us, with memories of pets, meeting Chris Packham and finding a beautiful quiet spot in London whirling around our heads.

Well played London. Well played.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Color Run l Manchester 5th July

After the drama of this year's Hull 10k I think I would be forgiven for never putting my trainers on again.

Not really. That would have made me the most ridiculous human alive.

Luckily for me I didn't really have a choice as many moons ago I had booked The Person and I into to do The Color Run in Manchester at the Etihad Stadium. Getting covered in paint in my favourite city? Erm yes please.

It isn't the cheapest of runs at £25 per person and I did hover for a second before making the payment but it turns out I don't think I've ever had as much fun on £25, not even when I was student and it was a vodka and coke for 80p on a Monday night in 5th Avenue.

Your £25 gets you your very own white t-shirt to run in, a white headband, a transfer tattoo and a kind of pointless poncho - in other words, all you need to be a super cool person.

I was excited to find out that Miss Pond was going to be running too - a trip to Manchester, getting covered in paint and meeting an Internet Friend in real life?! - too much my friends. Too much.

We almost didn't meet up as it turns out that trying to find one person in a crowd of 5,000 when every single person is wearing a white t-shirt is pretty much the most difficult thing on earth. Luckily I managed to spot a hand waving out of the top of the crowd and I buzzed my way through the crowd to find myself in an awesome group of runners (made up of ladies also known as The Lady Sybil, Katherine Sully, and Phat Cupcake) and actually really close to the start of the race.

This is not the place to try and aim for a PB, this is not the race to take yourselves super seriously, this is the place to have a bit of a run and generally enjoy yourself. This is why I was actually quite surprised at how much not fun some people seemed to be having. We made a pretty lively group and I was all for whooping and high five-ing fellow runners as we weaved past each other but some. people. were not up for that kind of shit. Weird. If you can't have fun at The Color Run I literally don't know where you can.

Knowing that roughly every kilometre you're going to get blasted by powdered paint makes running a hell of a lot easier and that first blast of pink was quite the shock. I'd heard people say that they didn't really get covered in paint at these kinds of runs but I have absolutely no idea how. We were head to foot covered in awesome pink colour.

In fact if there was only one piece of advice I could give you it is to say make really sure you don't breathe a lot of that paint in. Harmless it may be, but it is dust nonetheless, and if you have a pretty decent case of asthma I wouldn't say that this is the race for you.

I probably should have taken more photos, a lot of people were stopping after each stage to do that but as much as I wasn't trying to zoom around the whole course, I didn't want to get caught up in crazily massive crowds either. Sometimes, it's ok to not document every single moment of everything you're experiencing. My brain is doing a pretty good job of remembering for me.

There isn't any more to say really. You run, people throw paint at you, you finish, you throw more paint around and take a load of photos and dance about like a loon, you get on a tram back to the centre of Manchester.


If that doesn't make you want to join in I have no idea what will.

So I'll see you there next year, yeah?