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?


Saturday, 5 July 2014

How to survive a gerbil escape

The first time your gerbil escapes

1. Hear the unmistakeable sound of a gerbil landing on the toy stuffing you're using for your latest crochet animal at the same time as you hear your boyfriend go, "Oops...."

2. Try to leap up as fast as possible whilst simultaneously not leaping up as fast as possible so as to not scare gerbil.

3. Scream for boyfriend to "SHUT THE DOOR! SHUT THE DOOR!"

4. Stand going "ohmygodohmygodohmygod" as gerbil merrily scampers across the living room floor exploring his new found territory

5. Boyfriend grabs box to try and coax gerbil into

6. Get down on all fours as you watch escaped gerbil disappear under armchair to try and get him to come to you.

7. Realise gerbil is already on other side of the room in the time it took you to get on all fours.

8. Gerbil runs into box.

9. Gerbil is returned to playpen

10. Round on boyfriend for picking him up whilst watching football and not concentrating, thus allowing him to slip out of hands and escape.

Escape artist Number 1 a.k.a. Tyrion Lannister

The second time your gerbil escapes

1. Hear the unmistakeable sound of the gerbil falling off the edge of the bed.

2. Turn to boyfriend and go "Yeah....that was the sound of a gerbil escaping for definite."

3. Boyfriend calmly gets off bed and leaves room, shutting the door behind him.

4. Return other gerbil to gerbilarium before there is a dual gerbil escape on your hands.

5. Get down on all fours to see where escaped gerbil is

6. Spot him sitting under your bed wondering where to adventure next.

7. Gerbils comes right up to you.

8. Scoop up gerbil in hands and kiss his little head.

9. Boyfriend appears back in room with massive tube to try and coax gerbil into.

10. Return gerbil to gerbilarium

Escape artist Number 2 a.k.a. Ser Jorah Mormont


I'm just saying. I think I might deserve an award for Biggest Turnaround in performance.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Adventures in DIY - the Ikea Lack table edition

When we moved into this flat of ours it was unfurnished and whilst that sounds great in theory - a great opportunity to start building up a stock of furniture of your own, rather than being stuck with your landlord's cast-offs - it doesn't quite hit you quite what unfurnished means until you're standing in an empty flat realising that you don't actually own any furniture other than a super awesome comic book table that you made yourself.


Luckily for me Heather came to my rescue - she had an armchair that she no longer needed and then threw in an Ikea Lack table just for funsies.

At the time I didn't think that I really needed a table but clearly I was an idiot and it is our main coffee table. It is where my laptop rests when blogging, where cups of teas are left to go cold, where we sit back and put our feet up - in short, the centre of the room.


After writing this post for BEDM about creating some kind of colour theme and bringing all our furniture together under a beautiful banner of grey and yellow I decided that I really ought to do something about it instead of just talking and pinning about it.

I'd seen a multitude of blog posts and online tutorials about the wonders of Plastikote spray paint. You don't just paint stuff any more it would seem, you spraypainted stuff. That's what all the cool interior kids were doing and it was so easy peasy lemon squeezy that anyone could do it.

I decided I would do things by the book this time around. I am not a patient person and that's why painting and decorating is hard for me. You have to wait for a really long time until everything is done and comes together. I am always a person who likes to skip to the end immediately. But I steeled myself and reminded myself that I was going to do this properly and that meant priming first before anything fun could be done.


I got me some primer and set myself up with my newspaper and happily primed away, feeling terribly smug with myself.

Then I realised that I was going to have to wait for it to dry and I wouldn't even be able to begin spray painting for possibly days until there was a break in the weather or time to do it.

So I cracked on with a mini project - painting some brown coasters using some tester pots in varying shades of yellow and grey that I had picked up from Wickes. No priming this time. I needed to see some quick results.


The next day, with my spray paint clutched in my hand I ventured out on to the grassy area outside our flats which provided me with lots of room to wield my can. I had used the Plastikote website to work out how much spray paint I needed and had gone with their Fast Dry Enamel in Buttercup Yellow.

I felt a little conspicuous as a stood out on the grass, shaking my can which seemed to echo ominously and telling myself over and over again that no-one was looking out of their window and wondering what the hell that girl was doing with the spray paint.

It turns out that I am seriously lacking when it comes to calculating how much spray paint I need. One can of spray paint only managed to cover the top of the table and the outside of some of the legs before running out completely.

Brilliant.

But I felt good about how good it was going to look when it was finished.

We took the table back upstairs to the flat and I went to the B&Q website and ordered two more cans. Only to be phoned up two days later and told that they had run out and would only be sending me one can of spray paint. Ok, fine, I can make my peace with that.

Except that when we opened up my one can the nozzle had broken off in transport. We decided we'd try and fix it and The Person dutifully stepped forward to sort it out. It mainly resulted in spray paint going everywhere, mostly all over our hands.

Half the can was wasted and what I had managed to spray had come out in glibs and globs and left splatter marks all over the table top and I still didn't have enough to finish the legs of the table.

I immediately threw a bit of a shit fit which very nearly culminated in tears and was only saved by the fact that I managed to stroke two random cats whilst waiting for the table to dry.

And back up the stairs we trudged with the table and I hit up Amazon this time to order yet another can.

This can arrived and guess what? The nozzle had broken during transportation.

At this point I was ready to turn blue in the face and blow up like Rumpelstiltskin but The Person assured me that this time he knew how to fix it and would do so with minimal loss of spray paint. His hands again ended up covered in paint but the results were slightly less catastrophic and I set out with one mission in mind - just to get this bloody table finished because there was no way on god's earth I was going to come outside again for the fourth time that week and be the Crazy Lady with the Yellow Table on the Grass again.


The finished result is by no means perfect. Spray painting is not as easy as they make out and it is hard to get a good technique going and not end up with big drippy bits of spray paint. The splatters on the top of the table are still kind of visible but probably only really to me.

And if it hadn't have been for having to order replacement spray paint twice the whole makeover would have taken hardly any time at all - the paint is touch dry within 45 minutes so if you got up first thing in the morning to prime and spray paint you could easily have it done in a day.


The cost of this is a bit of a hazy one due to a number of reasons:

  • Can 1 - free because somehow the man at The Range forgot to charge me for it, even though I definitely saw him scan it.
  • Can 2 - £3.98 because B&Q refunded me the delivery cost seeing as they could only send me one of the two cans that I wanted
  • Can 3 - £5.76 p+p
I'm not entirely sure how these DIY mishaps seem only to happen to me, it doesn't really seem fair but obviously the God of DIY doesn't shine his kindly face down on mine.



And my coasters look pretty damn cool either sitting on my new table or placed on the side tables that we have, slowly but surely starting to bring the whole scheme together.

At the moment I'm not entirely sure where I stand on painting vs spray painting. Unfortunately the speed and easiness of spray painting something has been tainted by the fact that I had to make multiple efforts to buy enough to cover my damn table, but it definitely isn't as easy to get a smooth coverage as everyone makes out.

My main lessons from this experience?

  1. If you want to do picture frames or other small items go for the 100ml Fast Dry Enamel, otherwise, you're gonna need a bigger spray can
  2. Don't buy your spray paint online - no matter how well it was wrapped both of mine from two different suppliers broke in transit
  3. If it does turn up broken, just send the damn thing back rather than trying to fix it yourself
  4. If you do fix it yourself be warned that spray paint does not come off your hands easily
  5. If you are not lucky enough to have a garden and have to do this out in public like I did, build up nerves of steel to cope with the abject paranoia that everyone is looking at you as if you are a total lunatic
  6. You have to spray paint outside. Being outside means bugs get spray painted on to your shit. I don't even know what you're supposed to do about that one
  7. I might want to consider calling in a professional for all other furniture makeovers I want to undertake.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The weekend of nothing

This weekend has been about being at home.

This weekend has been about the pottering, about the wandering about and not really doing anything at all.

This weekend hasn't even really been about chores, it has been about the bliss of being a grown up without responsibilities.

No children, no parents, no other dependants, just a whole two days stretched out ahead with no demands on your time. Nowhere particularly to be, no-one to particularly see, nothing particularly to do.

What do you do on weekends like this?

You try your hand at baking something for the first time in what feels like a million years...


(Apricot & Cranberry bars from the Hairy Dieter's, super easy to make although don't think that you substitute tin foil for baking parchment. This stuff is sticky.) 

You spend some time hanging out with your gerbils, building them a super fun playpen with every obstacle and hidey hole that you can think of. Mostly in an attempt to encourage Ser Jorah to run off a bit of his bulk, as covered in this blog post.


(You get a bonus point for spotting the gerbil in this picture.)

You take a massively long bubble bath on a Saturday night because there is nothing to watch on a Saturday night anyway, and you run the bath so hot that you have to come out of it and drink about 3 litres of water to rehydrate yourself.


You read your head off in bed in the mornings because despite the fact that you've woken up annoyingly early you don't really need to get out of bed and can lie, lolling about, drinking multiple cups of tea for as long as you want.



(The Casual Vacancy was pretty good actually, I really enjoyed it, although it did go a little off the rails at the end. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been a revelation, I didn't know what to expect at all and it has taken me quite by surprise)

You binge watch Scandal because you find the box set on Sky On Demand and remember how much you loved the first series.


(Episodes watched over the weekend = 10)

You cross stitch and cross stitch and cross stitch because you'd forgotten how much you enjoyed doing it and because watching the picture slowly build is hypnotic and makes it impossible to put down until you've just...finished...this....last.....line.


You go out for a run because you want to feel like you've really done something with the weekend.


(Yeah, yeah I'm no Mo Farrah. But I did it without stopping so I'll take my wins where I can thanks)


But mostly you just savour it for what it is. A perfect weekend of nothing.

Monday, 30 June 2014

The return of the cross stitch

After closing my doors to crocheting amigurumi animals because I was so sick of making them for other people and getting stressed about it all the time the inevitable happened.

I became absolutely bored out of my mind.

There are a billion things I could do. I could get on with my totally abandoned Tetris blanket (yeah, remember that guy?!), I could crochet some animals just for me, I could crochet some random flowers, or start to crochet stuff to build up a supply for *whispers* the C-word.

And then I remembered my cross stitch. I haven't done any cross stitch for a very long time. In fact, when saving the below photos on to my laptop I realised that I only cross stitched one thing in the whole of 2013, a Valentine's Day card for The Person. A whole year without cross stitching? How did that happen?!

I knew immediately the project I wanted to undertake.

When we were at Monument Valley in March (note to self: you've been back for three months and still haven't finished blogging about America. Get on with it.) I hit up the gift shop like it's never been hit before. I am a sucker for tat. I love it I love it I love it and that place had it coming out of the wazoo. There were magnets, there were random rocks, there were tshirts, there were posters, there were dreamcatchers, there were keyrings. You name it, they had it and I revelled in it all.

Off in a little corner on the wall they had a selection of cross stitch kits by NP Designs called Rugs of the Southwest. I pondered for a while because it was almost too touristy even for me but eventually I succumbed and made my selection, choosing the Wide Ruins design.

I was mesmerised by the pattern. As someone who prizes neatness and order above all else, the symmetry of all the designs were right up my street. I knew that the symmetry would mean that it would be a relatively "easy" piece to stitch up. No pesky half stitches and no colour changes every four minutes, just nice and simple stitch after stitch after stitch.

I started it on June 22 and immediately got swept away. Up and down I stitched, methodically working my way through. The pace took some getting used to, after a year of crocheting amigurumi I have got used to quick results. Crochet happens pretty quickly, whether you're making an elephant or a granny square and cross stitch is very much the opposite. You can stitch and stitch for hours and it still won't really look like you've done anything or made any progress.


But looking on that uniformity. Oh my word it's brilliant.

It wasn't long before I was stitching in the morning before I went to work and coming home at lunchtime to stitch a few more sneaky rows.

This weekend I have binged on cross-stitching and put in some serious hours, meaning  that I now officially one quarter of the way through. This made me feel happy and simultaneously made me draw in a huge intake of breath, because man cross stitch really is about the slow build...


But it feels nice to be doing something for me and nice to be back at the first creative, crafty thing I turned my hand to.

I'm sorry it's been so long cross stitch.