Monday, 30 July 2012

Bolton Abbey

'And thus in joyous mood they hie
To Bolton's mouldering Priory.'

On the drive back from Malham last week, Gav and I stopped off at Bolton Abbey: an estate in North Yorkshire which is home to the twelfth century ruins of Bolton Priory. I will never pass up the opportunity to visit a medieval ruin, as they're one of my favourite things ever ♥ Bolton Priory has been a ruin for quite some time, and was apparently much loved by a whole bunch of Romantic-era painters and writers, including Wordsworth. 

I used to hate Wordsworth with the passion of a thousand suns when I had to study him at school, because he was just so wholeheartedly enthusiastic about nature and I found it incredibly dull. Now that I'm one of those losers frolicking around the countryside and old ruins beaming like an idiot because everything is just so beautiful and perfect and awesome, he feels a bit like a kindred spirit (albeit that he's far more eloquent.) Silly teenage Alice. She worried too much about liking things the incorrect amount. Now I just let it all out!

The surrounding 12,000 hectares of scenery are beautiful. We didn't even make a decent dent in this, as we were pitifully limping around after walking too far the day before. Weaklings.

'That sumptuous pile, with all its peers
Too harshly hath been doomed to taste
The bitterness of wrong and waste'

'Its courts are ravaged; but the tower
Is standing with a voice of power,-
That ancient voice which wont to call
To mass or some high festival'

'Lie silent in your graves, ye dead!
Lie quiet in your churchyard bed!
Ye living, tend your holy cares
Ye multitude, pursue your prayers.'

In the 14th century, Bolton Priory was sacked by Scottish raiders, causing severe structural damage and temporary abandonment of the site. Luckily, Gavin wasn't here to raid and/or pillage (and besides, I had my eye on him.) He's a very well behaved Scottish raider. :P

When we were having lunch, there were a few very inquisitive birds that came hunting for crumbs, and I managed to get a few shots of this little one. He's a Chaffinch, I think, which is from the Old English ceaffinc, and they were named for their habit of eating waste grain on farms.  Literally, a Chaff Finch. Turns out they also like ciabatta. ;)

alice xox

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Toy Thursday: Brave

First things first - Brave comes out in the UK (excluding Scotland, which gets it 10 days earlier) on the 13th August. That's only, oh, a whole month after its premier in the US. Odd marketing decision, given it's so... well, Scottish. They've tried to soften the blow by giving Scotland it a few days earlier, but it's so frustrating. I want to see it! Sadly, I'm unlikely to be in Scotland for the 3rd, so I'm waiting to see it with the rest of us down in Englandshire.

So basically, what I'm saying is that I haven't seen Brave. But... I'm already completely in love with it, because all the toys that have been taking over the Disney stores here (a whole month before we get the movie!) are brilliant. I decided to treat myself to the 11" Classic Merida Doll, which was very much a budget option. She's an absolute beauty.


She has a beautifully posable body, and comes with a dress, wrist bracer, shoes, cloak, quiver, bow, and one (unusually long) arrow. For £15, the quality of the clothes and accessories is pretty much what you'd expect. What really blows me away about this doll is her amazing face and hair.


She has an incredible amount of character in that adorable lop-sided smile. The £75 18" Limited Edition Merida was absolutely beautiful, but somehow, I feel like this one has more character. (Though I won't deny that I pawed at the 18" Merida's box for a little bit, whimpering pathetically. Oh, for £75 to drop out of the sky...)

Some other Brave toys I really rather like: Toddler Merida (to match the 16" Animator's Collection, I'm assuming), the Triplets (I have no clue what the bears are about, I expect I'll need to actually see the film...) and Queen Elinor. (Again, bears, what? This had better not turn out to be a major plot-point or I'll be very grumpy.)

Well, at least the joy of a pretty new doll has lessened the agony of waiting. Sort of. 

alice xox

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

WIP Wednesday: Grannysquaretastic!

I think I first mentioned my granny square blanket project back in October, which is a shamefully long time ago, but it's still very much a WIP...

The granny square is a magical thing. I think among crochet techniques it has the biggest discrepancy between how intimidating it looks to newbies and how awesomely easy it actually is. As I mentioned back in October, my sudden granny square cravings are entirely due to Lucy of Attic24, who makes the most deliciously colourful and beautiful blankets. I don't have her magical  colour-sense, but I marched into John Lewis and bought a lovely selection of Rowan Pure Wool DK, and I think it's worked out rather well considering the complete lack of planning.

I started off without any of the cream edging, but decided it was looking too dark and that having a uniform last row around the edges would making joining much neater. I used the joining method you can find explained here which involved basically making an extra granny row in-between the squares. It's definitely my favourite way to join granny squares, plus, it has a really nice finish (which will be ever better when I've sewn all the ends in and blocked it a bit.)

The reason this blanket has taken so long is mostly because I spent so long making the squares without joining them, trying to be responsible and lay them all out in the correct colour combinations first... but I love seeing a project grow too much, and without that, I kind of lost enthusiasm. When I started joining them as I went, the granny-love was back!

I don't really know how much bigger I want it to be, I figure I'll keep making squares until I run out of my original blanket yarn stash, and then I can pick colours for the border. This is only my second attempt at a crocheted blanket, and I love it so much more than the last, because I used wool rather than acrylic, which is 57483957493 times more delicious. At this rate, I should get it finished for movies-on-the-sofa-under-a-blanket-season. After all the awesome superhero movies this summer, autumn will be fun of excellent DVD releases. Sounds like a plan... ;)

alice xox

ps. truly dreading sewing all those ends in. dreading.

Monday, 23 July 2012

A little bit of Yorkshire and a vague plan to have Better Blogging Habits

You know, I think I might be the most English English-person in the entire world. I get taken away on a lovely holiday to France where the weather is gorgeous and sunny. I shovel on the factor fifty, buy a ridiculously large sunhat and make sure to cover my shoulders... and I still get burnt, and thus spend the rest of the week hiding and hissing in the shadows, occasionally sprinting out for provisions - including but not limited to more suncream and drinks with lots of ice cubes. I get bitten everywhere and complain about the Euro and the exchange rate and when I step off the plane I practically dance in the rain because eight degrees centigrade is such a beautiful temperature and oh, sweet British earth let us never part again!

So, Gavin's holiday idea of going to Yorkshire for a few days was spot on. It was even forecast to be at the very least overcast, if not drizzling. Perfect.

Yorkshire is so pretty, and I'd never really been to this particular area before. We stayed in Malham, which was a really lovely town.

It's just a short walk to Gordale Scar, which was formed by the melting water from glaciers. (You know, quite a long time ago.) You don't get a full view of the Scar until you come around a corner in the valley, and so the first impression is pretty amazing.

Apparently, normally you can climb up it, but it's been raining super heavily across the UK right now, so the waterfalls were pretty ferocious. We climbed up as far as the first waterfall, and then, after seeing three dead birds lying in the water, we decided it was an omen and we'd just walk around it. Even without climbing up it, though, it was pretty awesome.

At early dawn, or rather when the air
Glimmers with fading light and shadowy eve
Is busiest to confer and to bereave;
Then, pensive votary! let thy feet repair
To Gordale chasm, terrific as the lair
Where the young lions couch; for so, by leave
Of the propitious hour, thou mayst perceive
The local deity, with oozy hair
And mineral crown, beside his jagged urn
Recumbent: him thou mayst behold, who hides
His lineaments by day, yet there presides,
Teaching the docile waters how to turn,
Or, if need be, impediment to spurn,
And force their passage to the salt-sea tides!
- William Wordsworth

Further down, the water from Gordale Scar runs into Janet's Foss, another very pretty waterfall. 'Foss' is a Nordic word for waterfall, and 'Janet' is apparently Queen of the local fairies who live in the cave behind the waterfall. Again, too much rain - we couldn't get to the cave without quite possibly breaking our necks (which I'm rather fond of) but it was lovely anyway!


We climbed up (well, I sort of flopped and moaned and scrambled while Gavin strode up casually) a nearby hill to get a good view of the Scar and surrounding Yorkshire prettiness. Callie felt very at home, the Proper Northern Lass she is. 


The next day, we decided to go for a Really Long Walk, and completely overestimated our stamina and fitness. Hilariously so. It was lovely anyway, though, even if every single muscle in my body was weeping gently.

A B&B near Kilnsey had this really cute set-up where they'd prepared bunches of flowers and left them in jars of water by the road, with an honesty box. Gavin presented me with this bunch which I stubbornly brought all the way back to Newcastle with me. Pretty flowers! 

It drizzled every now and again, which was actually perfect weather for a long walk. The heavy rain meant a lot of fields were actually kind of more like rivers, so I was pretty soggy by the end of it, but everything was green and verdant. Beautiful!

As much as I love Northumbria to bits and pieces, I would totally live in Yorkshire. It's gorgeous.

After we had a delicious dinner at a pub in Malham and decided to definitely book a table there tomorrow and Gav gave the guy his name - we arrived the next day to find we were apparently, a married couple. Hehehe! Apparently we are giving off the married vibe already... it made us laugh!

In other bloggery news, I have decided to try and stick to some vague kind of Updating Schedule, with various themes on various days that I can use for inspiration and incentive! I have unashamedly pinched this idea from a lot of blogs I love following. So far, I'm thinking:

WIP Wednesday
I do want to keep recording crafty stuff on this blog, but as I haven't, er, actually finished anything recently, I haven't been updating it with my crafty progress. I am a WIP Queen. This probably won't be a regular thing, but maybe every other Wednesday I'll post my WIPs. This may even spur me on to actually finishing things, you never know! I am planning my first Wip Wednesday for this week. Yay for self-motivation!

Toy Thursday
Just to make sure I'm updating regularly with toy related content - toys I love, toys I bought, toys I want... I know I can stick to this on a weekly basis, as I pretty much spend at least 50% of my waking hours thinking about toys. Why not share my unwavering enthusiasm? (It'll save family and friends listening to me jabber on, anyway!)

Hopefully, you'll be hearing from me on a more regular basis! :)

alice xox

Monday, 16 July 2012

Mr & Mr Stormtrooper and their intergalactic love

The other week in my favourite toy/comic store in Glasgow, I noticed there was a buy-one-get-one-free offer on the Star Wars figurines... and I don't suppose I need to explain what happened after that. (What is this "self control" you speak of?) I have fallen completely in love with Stormtrooper action figure photography on Flickr, and I have always wanted to join in - and now, I have two little troopers of my own! 

My personal favourite Stormtrooper photographer is JD Hancock, because their shots are hilarious and beautiful. (When they favourite'd a photo of mine the other week I nearly exploded, because I am such a Flickr fangirl and it felt like the ultimate compliment.) I don't know what it is about the Clonetrooper action figures, but they're so bizarrely expressive, given you never actually see their face. They're hilarious and adorable and I knew from the moment I deboxed mine that they were deeply in love.

... even if that doesn't make a great deal of sense in actual Star Wars canon, as they're actually genetically identical and it would be probably be some kind of bizarre incest (selfcest?) and I don't imagine the Empire would approve. But... my toys aren't the same. They're from different packs, and one is skinnier and taller, the other is stockier and shorter, and they are SO CUTE TOGETHER I CAN'T EVEN-

 - er, basically, please admire their adorableness. That's an order.

184/366 Learning to Dance

187/366 "I can show you the world~"


alice xox

Saturday, 14 July 2012

La Sittelle

I am typing this by the side of the pool, enjoying the last forty minutes of my holiday before I leave to go to the airport. My very generous and most excellent father invited me along for a week to the villa he and his friends are renting for a few weeks this summer in the South of France. The villa was designed by Robert Dallas and is so lovely that I just had to share some photos. All of these are taken in and around the villa and garden, and any disembodied body parts can be assumed to be mine! Photos from our day trip travels to follow in a later entry~

This was my first time leaving the UK in quite a few years, and it was lovely to get out and experience actual heat. I will have to create some kind of thank-you present for my wonderful dad for bringing me out here.

Back to rainy England I go...

alice xox