Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Shakespeare, a Maze and Some Yarn

Well, Hey Nonny Nonny, it's the time of year when we go en famille to Stratford Upon Avon for our annual Shakespeare fix. Being creatures of habit, our trip usually follows roughly the same format: arrive late morning, lunch from the Baguette Barge on the river, hire a rowing boat, potter round the shops and town, an early dinner and then the main event - the play. Usually, we go late July or early August and we have ALWAYS been lucky with the weather. This year, owing to various exams, holidays etc. we went in September ........ and it rained on and off all day! Being English, however, we're used to the odd drop of the wet stuff and had come prepared. Cagoules were donned and, apart from eating lunch inside, the day followed its usual pattern.

 The play we had come to see was this:

Very good it was too. There was the odd adaptation - I always thought Cymbeline was the 'King' of Britain!- but we thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless.

Also on our summer manifesto was a trip to Blenheim Palace, principle residence of the Dukes of Marlborough and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. This time, it was a sunny day and L, E and I packed a picnic and set off.

 If you haven't been, it's a fantastic place for a day trip with children. You can omit the palace itself if you wish and just buy a ticket for the park and gardens. Your ticket can also be upgraded free to allow free entry for the  following year, which is what we did. There is a lakeside walk, a maze. a butterfly house, an adventure play area and a narrow gauge railway.

 The butterflies were very friendly. Here's one on L's shorts:

 .... and one on my shirt. You have to check yourself before leaving, just to make sure that you don't have any hangers on! 

It was a really wonderful day out and we will be returning in November near L's birthday to do some of the bits we didn't get around to this time.

Other happies this week:

I finally got around to visiting 'Yarnfest'. A yarn shop on the edge of a local village that I have passed numerous times before, but never gone in. It's situated in an old telephone exchange building and is a little gem of a place. The lady running it was really friendly and chatty, but I went at about 2pm and she admitted that I was her first visitor of the day. At that rate, I'm not sure how they keep going. 
Being her only customer, it would have been rude not to make a purchase! I chose a ball of sock yarn and also treated myself to a new set of dpns. I usually use the set of bamboo ones that I bought in Oxford when I planned my first pair of socks, but some of the ends now have little splits in them that catch the yarn. These are metal Knitpro Zings and I really like them. It did seem a bit of a betrayal of my faithful old bamboo needles though - yes, I am a bit sad like that.
Enjoying a cup of Vanilla Honey tea. The project bag in the background is my travel one from Knitrundig - it holds my current sock project and is small enough to stuff into my bag when I'm out and about.
I have been bitten by the mini skein bug. These are Harry Potter inspired ones from Norah George. From top to bottom: Pumpkin Juice, Snape (yes, I was a little confused by that one, but I do love the colours) and Ravenclaw.
I'm hoping to advance my sock knitting a little. I'm only on my 4th pair and am still learning, so they have, until now, all been  very plain socks. I'm hoping to master the 'fish lips kiss' heel next though and would love to insert a different colour for that and maybe the toes or cuff. Hence the mini skeins. I'm also a big HP fan - but not of the new book 'The Cursed Child'; I found it such a disappointment and a bit of a swizz putting J K Rowling's name in big letters like that.

Finally, this week's library books. I would recommend the Sue Perkins autobiography for anyone who enjoys a good laugh out loud until you cry book. I'm also a big fan of the GBBO and am thrilled that it's back on our screens - I'm rooting for Andrew Smyth.
Well, that's all for this week. 'Parting is such sweet sorrow' as Shakespeare would say, but that bedding won't change itself!

Toodle Pip for now. x

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

A levels, Tea, Wigs and Moomins.

Hello! Well, these blog posts have been few and far between this summer haven't they? The weeks have been running away with me somewhat, so I just thought I'd grab half an hour, upload some photos and have a bit of a catch up.
A level results day came and went. I am so glad that that will be my last time sitting in the car waiting for one of my girls to come out of school clutching an envelope. I find it all so incredibly stressful - far worse than when I sat exams myself. All went well, however - E got 2 A*s, an A and a B and will be off to Bristol uni on September 18th. She is thrilled at the moment as she has just discovered that she has been allocated her first choice of accommodation. She is slowly amassing a pile of stuff to take and I am trying my best not to sob all over it!
We have had a few lovely trips out, trying to make the most of the lovely weather that we have been having recently. E and I went for a trip to Bath - always a treat. We discovered a fantastic tea shop - ie. a shop that sells all things tea related - called T2. There were hundreds of different types and when you had narrowed down your choices, the lovely shopkeepers would brew them for you to try before you made your final decision. I had to stick to the decaff section (caffeine gives me palpitations) where there were lots of lovely tisanes to choose from. After much deliberation and tasting, I settled on Honey Vanilla and it's just lovely. E took even longer to decide, but eventually plumped for Black Rose which smelled divine. We also bought her a lovely aqua teapot to take to uni.
After much searching, we managed to find a lovely little yarn shop where I bought a couple of skeins. No photos, I'm afraid but one was the West Yorkshire Spinners' Kingfisher colourway and the other is a tweedy charcoal yarn, destined to be another hat for E.
 After a long day pootling, we sat in the shade of a tree in a little square and had the obligatory Bath Bun.

 Other happies this week have included:

A family bowling trip. R won (he always wins!) as he manages to bowl it much faster than the rest of us. I'm just happy if I don't end up in the gutter!
A trip to G&D's in Oxford for a bagel lunch. This was R's dessert - there's a brownie under there somewhere!
 E and I went for a walk and a picnic to a nearby lake:

 L, E and I went for a day to London. We started off in Covent Garden. Last time we came, we spotted the Moomin Shop, but kept putting off going in until it was too late. This time it was first on the agenda. It's a little gem of a shop, dedicated to all things Moomin and we spent quite a while browsing before deciding on a little treat each.
I bought a Moomin pot holder which now hangs on one of my kitchen cupboards and is just perfect for cradling a bowl of soup - I have plans for making 'Moominmamma's Evening Soup'.
I also bought a little Moomin charm (yes, I know that's 2 treats!), which I've attached to one of my project bags. Note to self: use more hand cream!
L bought a Moomin flask and E bought a beautiful tin which she plans to keep biscuits in at uni. Then it was off to Kimchee for lunch. 
The main purpose of our trip to London, however, was a visit here:
L has passed her Bar Course and we had to get her a wig and gown for her Call to the Bar ceremony in October. The shop was intimidatingly grand, but the people were actually lovely and didn't seem to mind when we lowered the tone of the oldest wig makers in the country by giggling a lot. It was a proud moment, although more than a little weird seeing my 'baby' all dressed up for court and looking the part - even if she was wearing her converse trainers underneath!

Finally, when L went to uni, E and I knitted her a patchwork blanket to take with her. L and I have been doing the same for E and I am currently in the process of joining them all together.
I have about 5 more rows to go, before doing the edging to keep them all neat. Doing it outside in the sun makes it more bearable.
Anyway, I'd better go. E is currently visiting L in Oxford and I have a list of 'to do' jobs as long as my arm. 
I hope you enjoy the last few days of the summer holidays.

Toodle Pip for now. x

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Sri Lanka

Hello there! Long time, no see! We have just returned from our family holiday to sunny Sri Lanka and very lovely it was too. We saw more wildlife than you could shake a stick at, walked on beautiful sandy beaches, learned to windsurf (well, the girls did anyway!), ate LOTS of curry, rice and fruit and challenged my acrophobia by climbing Sigirya rock. We took hundreds of photos and here are just a few of them:

Sunset at Negombo beach - we stayed here for a couple of days at the beginning and end of the holiday as it was near the airport:
 One of our resident lizards:
 Our attempt at art made from our beachcombing finds:
 Our next stop was Sigirya where we were woken daily by the monkeys running across the roof:
 The hornets nest outside our room - luckily, they kept to themselves!
 Sigirya rock that we climbed in the late afternoon - it was cooler then. The views were magnificent but heights are really not my thing and my legs shook all the way up and down.
 We went on a jeep safari in one of the national nature reserves. If any of you have seen the film 'The Bucket List' (and if you haven't, you're missing a treat), we recreated the scene where Jack Nicolson and Morgan Freeman are standing up in a jeep singing 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight'!

 Sorry for the blurry jackal photo - they are very quick!
 Water buffalo:

 We took a tuk tuk to Dambulla to see the cave temple:
 There were even more monkeys. One stole the lotus blossoms that we had bought as an offering. Apparently, lotus blossoms are very tasty!

 Durians at the local market - not my favourite fruit!
 Our favourite mode of transport. We usually managed to cram all 4 of us into one tuk tuk and lowered the tone nicely as we all piled out at our hotel!
 Sigirya rock before the climb:
 A rather worrying sign:
 We hired bikes to explore Polonnaruwa - a royal ancient city:

 The beach at Trincomalee where the girls learned to windsurf:

 L and I playing 'Hotdog or Leg?'!
 Tea at the market in Kandy:
 A monitor lizard:
 Our best and cheapest meal - masala dosa with dahl and coconut sambal at 'Pure Vegetarian' restaurant in Kandy. It was delicious and cost less than £4 for all of us ......... and that included drinks!
 Traditional Kandian drumming and dance:
 Terrapins at The Botanical Gardens in Kandy:
 Flying foxes -we watched these for ages:

 The Temple of the Buddha's Tooth, Kandy:
 Snatching a yarny moment by the pool:
 Our hotel in Pinnawala backed onto the Oya River. Pinnawala is famous for its elephant orphanage but our guide book implied that, sadly, the animals aren't treated terribly well there and the only way to improve matters is to boycott it until they clean up their act. So, despite it being just opposite out hotel we decided not to visit. Luckily for us, twice a day the elephants are taken down to the river to bathe, so it meant that we were able to get our elephant fix from our balcony and the dining room:

Some of them came very close and we fed a few some sneaky bananas!

Well, that's all for Sri Lanka. We had a brief stop off there and back in Muscat in Oman, where we had a lovely but expensive meal. My abiding memory of Muscat though is that it smells very nice - very floral. Well done if you made it to the end of the photos. We are now back home and A level results are pretty imminent - yikes!
I'm just off to catch up with all your lovely blogs.
Toodle Pip for now. x