Thursday, 30 July 2015

A trip to East Neuk of Fife

elie beach

Our plan for last weekend was to go camping at St Andrews and have a proper wander around there in the absence of golfers and students.  No prizes for guessing what the weather had in mind for us.  A forecast of rain, hail and general rotten-ness for Saturday evening meant we turned a weekend in Fife into a day trip to East Neuk.  It would still have been a day in St Andrews but we wanted to take Jake on a trip to the beach, so it turned into a family coastal outing.

Five humans and a doggy piled into Tam's mum's car and set off on an adventure.  The first stop was Leven, where I'd never been but was added on to the trip to incorporate a stop at the local yarn store.  I managed to get out with only two balls, both of which I have plans for, so yay me! 

lobster stall shop crail fife

jake rough collie dog

harbour brick wall seagull crail fife

boats harbour crail

doors east nek crail

umbrellas street rain

picture house old vintage crail

We made it up to Crail after a quick lunch stop and had a wander about the town - there was a market on that afternoon but we only managed to catch a few stalls at the end.  I got to go to the fab whole foods shop though, and picked up some marzipan amaretto chocolate (weird), raspberry liquorice sticks (good, but not my usual brand) and Montezuma's excellent dark chocolate buttons (these ones).  The harbour at Crail is one of my favourite places to walk to - it's just a small area, but the street is home to lots of quirky little buildings and picturesque signs.  Hence all the photos.  This is me restraining myself btw.

rocks beach elie fife

beach dog walk crab shell

cricket elie beach fife

Being in East Neuk meant there was only one acceptable option for dinner - a chippy in Anstruther!  This time around, we skipped the queue at the popular Anstruther Fish Bar and headed to the Waterfront, where we sat out in the sun, eating vinegar soaked chips and agreeing that this chippy trumped that one.  Jake got a bonus walk on the way home at Elie beach and I got to test out my new 50mm lens.  It definitely takes some getting used to after having a regular twisty one (totally a technical term) but the pictures came out better than I expected.  More experimenting is needed!

How did everyone's weekend go?


Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Finished Knitting - Chevron baby blanket and booties

orange baby booties pompoms

chevron baby blanket rainbow yarn

Nothing new to see here really.


After I made my latest chevron baby blanket in all its rainbow coloured glory, I made matching booties.  Usually I make both items completely separately and the booties are constructed from whatever odd balls of yarn I have to hand, but I decided to go for a set this time.  I do love me some matching crafty items after all.

The blanket is made from my favourite Purl Bee pattern and the booties are part this design (#7), part my own spin.  I've been messing about with the pattern a bit to create a better fit so hopefully they'll be useful AND pretty.  Of course, I added a couple of pompoms to give it an Elise edge.

Both items were made with machine washable, basic DK wool - I use a mixture of Stylecraft and Woolcraft.  They're good value and have a fab colour selection, and I can buy them locally so it's easy to match up colours or buy them at random.  This set is going to my friend's sister who's due her baby in September, then I'm going to mix things up a bit and crochet my next blanket.  I know, don't all keel over at once.  I even bought some lovely, brightly coloured yarn with a voucher I'd had for ages, so it was like free wool!  Now I just need somewhere to store it until I get a chance to start...

persuasion jane austen book

Oh, and there's a bonus section in this post, in the interest of joining in with Ginny's Yarn Along.  My current book is Persuasion by Jane Austen, the aforementioned friend's favourite book.  I started it just after Christmas and wasn't really feeling it, but I'm really enjoying it this time around.  I love the gentle humour and finding characteristics in these figures from two hundred years ago that I recognise in people today.  Plus I don't have much memory of the movie so it's like a whole new story - not my usual approach to reading Austen!


Tuesday, 28 July 2015


Tam's household got a new addition this weekend.  Meet Jake.  He's a rough collie like Parsnip was, although he's eight years younger (so, four right now) and a ball of energy.  He likes to follow everyone every time they move, he licks toes and his favourite biscuits are Digestives.  He has great taste, clearly.  If we disregard the toe thing anyway...  Plus he's totally gorgeous - look at all that hair!  Although after two rounds with Tam's mum and a grooming brush, he has significantly less of it.

Annoyingly, I'm now fairly sure I have a pet allergy - I thought I'd escaped hay fever/summer cold season this year but when my stuffy nose and heavy eyes returned at the weekend, I made a guess at this being the culprit.  Still, that cute wee face makes up for feeling rubbish.  Let's hope Jake likes lots of fresh air and beach walks - if summer ever comes back we might finally get outside with him!


Friday, 24 July 2015

Friday Threes - Moments, blog posts and songs

marie claire old magazines back issues

1 - Hanging out in Edinburgh - I volunteered to help out at a conference in Edinburgh on Tuesday and it was a surprisingly fun day.  All I was really responsible for was handing out names tags and goody bags to delegates (most of whom had collected theirs the day before) and directing them around the venue.  Oh, and stopping outsiders entering the conference area, a task my many years of cinema ushering put me in good stead for!  I met lots of cool people from around the world and even managed to sneak out for lunch with Tam.

2 - Hanging out with K - I took a late start at work one day last week and met my pal in town for brunch.  We went to Cup for waffles, pancakes and tea, and talked for as long as we possibly could before my responsible adult brain kicked in and I went off to do some work.  Boo.  K brought me some magazines in a fabby bag that I had every intention of returning's just too good to give back.  I was also dreadfully disorganised all week and took no pictures of anything fun, so enjoy the magazine shot above.

3 - Hanging out with M - My oldest friend came home for a quick visit this week.  She's twelve days older than me so has already felt the pain of turning thirty, but we discussed it in depth anyway.  No, I'm not ready to stop going on about aging.  Sorry.  We also discovered we each shared an office with the most annoying colleagues ever, so it was nice to get some sympathy on that front while we demolished giant slices of chocolate cake.  (My mum's idea of sympathy is telling me to suck it up and stop being a baby, so it's no wonder I was frustrated.  And mad because she's totally right.)

Blog posts
1 - Simple gathered skirt on Paper Tiger - I love the simple beauty of this handmade skirt, and I'm coveting that gorgeous tartan fabric.

2 - Sheila's Hexiscenes on Mochimochi Land - (Grammarly tried to correct that to 'sex scenes' so good thing I was paying attention...) Those hexipuffs we've all been making?  Someone has used them as a base for tiny knitted scenes.  It's the best kind of art.

3 - Escape to the Seaside - I'm cheating a bit here, but I loved writing this latest post for the Time Out blog and I just want to share it more.  For anyone based in Glasgow/the west of Scotland, follow this guide for a great day at the seaside.

1 - 'A case of you' by Gabrielle Aplin - A cover of the classic Joni Mitchell song.  I love listening to Gabrielle's voice.  My Watch Later list on YouTube is full of her videos.

2 - 'One last time' by Arianna Grande - I've never liked any of her songs before or since but this has been stuck in my head for weeks and shows no signs of going away.

3 - 'Stubborn love' by The Lumineers - A lot of songs in my playlist come from movie trailers and this is one of those.  If you've seen the 'August: Osage County' trailer, you've probably fallen for this song.

What's everyone up to this weekend?  We're heading up the east coast for a spot of camping - keep your fingers crossed for dry weather!


Thursday, 23 July 2015

A tour of Glasgow Central Station

On Saturday morning, I gathered with a bunch of colleagues, Tam and a few strangers for a tour of Glasgow Central Station.  We'd had it on our work social calendar for a while and it finally got booked a few weeks ago.  Imagine a bunch of film historians getting a backstage tour of a building most of us use every week.  Yup, we were excited (and not just for the cake that followed the tour.)

The tour started unofficially with a group photograph thanks to Tam, then we were met by tour leader Vic.  This guy was a proper Glaswegian and therefore automatically awesome.  He loved that our 'social secretary' (she also has a real job!) had cut out our tickets into the shape of train tickets.  We didn't see anything weird about that, but I think we won the Most Enthusiastic Visitors award that day.  We were given hard hats and safety vests to wear and Vic told us a bit about the history of the main station - it was built in two parts, with the oldest area opening in 1879 (on my future birthday, oddly enough).  It was expanded between 1901-1905 and the difference in eras can be seen in the roof beams - one set are straight and the others curved.  We were also treated to a lovely story about how child labour was used to make the riveted pillars - the kid would be inside the hot pillar, ready to bang the rivets into place when someone on the outside pushed them through.  To stop them from getting too hot, they wore hessian sacks soaked in cold water.  Interesting working conditions!

The tour then moved backstage and down below the platforms.  We saw where trucks used to come in to collect grain and coal brought up the Clyde in ships and visited a room that had multiple ghostly sightings in the first half of the twentieth century.  I was burning to know more about that area, although I thought there would have been far more creepy occurrences in a place like the catacombs of a train station.  Especially when we got to the next area and learned that it was once used as a collection point for the bodies of soldiers killed in the First World War.

During the first half of the war, bodies were sent home to be claimed by the soldier's families, but they weren't cleaned up or anything, just wrapped in a blanket and laid on a stretcher.  The soldier's widow/mother/whoever got a note telling them where to pick up the body and they had to come to the station, walk along the rows inspecting each man until they found who they were looking for, and take him home.  As in, carry that stretcher out themselves.  It was such an awful part of history to hear about, especially so close to home, that almost no one knows about now.  It's become just another war story lost in time.  There are plans to paint a mural down there to commemorate the events, so hopefully that will appear soon.

After making us all thoroughly miserable, Vic took us to what was easily my favourite part of the station - the remnants of the Victorian lower level platforms.  At the moment, they can only be looked down on from a small platform accessed from the current lower level walkway, and there's not a lot to see, but there are plans to make it more accessible in the future.  I was desperate to get down there and poke around.  There's even a radio room with equipment that was bricked up in the 1960s - my nerdiest friend would have a field day in there.  We also learned about the waiting areas used by Victorian women when they got on and off the trains - while waiting for the smog to clear they had to stand in an ante-room to the side of the platform to avoid being robbed or having their reputations sullied.  You know, from daring to be on a train unaccompanied.  I'm not even kidding.

Would I recommend the tour?  A million times, yes.  Go now.  Run.  At £13 for an hour and a half, it was well worth it.  Vic was the best tour guide I've ever come across and what I mentioned here is only a tiny portion of the stories he told us.  That guy knows his history!  Sadly we didn't get on to the roof due to the weather, but anyone else I know who's visited has said the same thing.  Thanks, Scotland.


Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Photo an Hour Day - Saturday 18th July

07.40 - I'm awake and reading.  Trying to get through my book before it's due back at the library this week.

08.53 - Still in bed, still reading.  Making very slow progress....

10:19 - Washed, dressed and hair done, ready to face the weather.  Unfortunately, I'm back in socks after making a big deal about how summer is not the time for socks or jackets.  It's definitely not summer though.

10.56 - I met my friend A at the station and we got the train to Glasgow Central for the day's big activity - a work outing involving a backstage tour of Central Station followed by lunch and cake.

12.11 - Still on the tour.  I was delighted when we were told we could take all the pictures we wanted - there will definitely be a more in-depth post about this trip soon!

13.25 - Waiting for food in 13th Note.  I had pizza and chips.  It was fine.  Meh.

14.18 - Caaake!  After lunch we went across the road to Once Upon a Tart for dessert.  My cake expert friend assured me it was amazing and after careful testing, I can confirm this to be true.  I had carrot cake topped with thick, sprinkle-covered icing and yup, amazing.  Tam went for chocolate amaretto cheesecake and, as someone who is not a cheesecake fan, I was gutted I didn't get it.  Best cake I've tasted all year.  We're definitely going back soon.

15.41 - Tam, A and I decided to walk home to burn off some cake calories, and I got distracted by mirrored office buildings, a bridge and a fountain.  We beat the rain though.

17.02 - Home.  Shoes off.  Bed.  I tried to read but fell asleep, and woke up grumpy and annoyed with myself at six thirty.

20.00 - Grumpy Elise also forgot to take pictures, so these were from our post dinner, must-eat-all-the-junk-now phase of the day.

20.54 - Tam claimed the lounge when my flatmate went out.  I hate this room with a passion (for various reasons, none interesting) but agreed to sit on the sofa instead of my bedroom floor for a couple of hours.  We watched Parks and Recreation and I knitted, then we went to bed just after ten.  A pretty typical end to the day anyway!

Who else did Photo an Hour this weekend?


Friday, 17 July 2015

Friday Threes - The Elise and Life Edition

This week's Friday Threes is all about me!  Well, my blog anyway.  Just indulge me for a moment, please.  I've been writing here for nearly five years and I've been a bit nostalgic over my old posts lately.  Sure, a huge number of them were terrible, but there's the odd gem in there if you're willing to search it out.  Or just read on to find out my favourites...

1 - Family Flashbacks - This one started life as pictures in an album on my mum's bookshelf and ended up providing inspiration for a series on the best dressed moments in my family's history.  My personal favourites are Hand Knits and Wedding Season, although That 70s Holiday has proved the most popular with readers.

2 - Blogs I Love - This mini-series was published here earlier this year and continues to be a big hit.  Three posts detailing all my favourite fellow bloggers and why I love them.  I'm a big believer in spreading good karma so if you haven't checked it out yet, give them a read and spread the word! (parts one, two and three)

3 - The 2013 Challenge - In which Sarah and I came up with a list of things to do that year and documented our efforts.  Some of the challenges were fun, some scary, some... challenging... (remember the Friends Monopoly game I created?) but it was definitely one of our better ideas and I had a great time contributing to that list!  (This year's Super Summer mini list is over here.)

Most fun to write
1 - A Tall Girl's Guide to Secondhand Shopping - Sure, it appealed to a pretty narrow readership and wasn't that popular, but I loved sharing my tips on how I shop on a budget as a tall gal.

2 - Reasons to visit the library - The library is one of my favourite places to hang out when I have an hour or two to spare - quiet, airy rooms where you're encouraged to read magazines and take books home?  I don't know why everyone doesn't hang out there! (Actually that would make it far less relaxing so... as you were.)

3 - I love friends who... - One of my earliest posts and a fun little tribute to my awesome bunch of real life buddies.

(I can't resist adding a bonus one here - my big long list of things that make me happy :))

1 - First post - There it is.  Short and sweet.  I did briefly have another blog but I had second thoughts and deleted it after a few weeks before returning for more.  I'm so glad I did!  I may own much less stuff and do way less sewing than I did back then, but I don't think the essence of the site has changed too much.

2 - First time meeting a fellow blogger - Sarah of course!  I can't even remember what prompted us to eventually meet but we got together in Glasgow and had fun hanging out and watching a movie.  Sarah put me right at ease, especially when she acknowledged the odd sort of way we met - I'm not sure blogger meetups were so much of a thing back then...

3 - First blogger event - Last summer I went to a photography workshop in Glasgow that Joe Bloggers organised.  I don't really get nervous at things like this - if I know I'm meeting a bunch of people that I have at least one thing in common with I get quite excited.  The learning part was great too, and I still use a lot of the skills we were taught on the day.  I've also been aqua spinning and crafting since then and they were super fun too.  Roll on the next Scottish event!


Thursday, 16 July 2015

The Historic Scotland side of Orkney

stone steps broch of gurness orkney historic scotland

Orkney is so stuffed full of historically significant places that it's hard to turn around without falling over a standing stone or an ancient burial cairn.  Being as history obsessed as I am, I was excited to find so many sites maintained by Historic Scotland.  A flash of our membership cards meant we had a bunch more places to explore between cake and birdwatching stops.  Here's a rundown of everywhere we managed to see on the Orkney mainland...

Broch of Gurness
broch of gurness orkney historic scotland

stones broch of gurness orkney historic scotland

Our first stop, and easily the windiest, was the Broch of Gurness, an Iron Age settlement by the sea.  The main tower was surrounded by a village that was abandoned around 100AD, after being in use for 300-600 years.  Now, unless a year has quadruple figures, my brain can't comprehend what life was possibly like that long ago - i.e. before paintings, photos, films and books.  You know, visual aids.  If I can't see it, I have a hard time imagining it.  Yup, I'm a terrible historian.  So this place sort of blew my mind.  Seeing sleeping recesses and communal living areas made it easier to get an idea of life back then, but the version in my head (a 'survival of the fittest' type scenario) is probably miles from the real thing.

Earl's Palace, Birsay
earls palace birsay orkney historic scotland

taking photos orkney earls palace birsay historic scotland

This place made so much of an impression on me that I forgot we visited until I was looking at pictures for this post!  Eh...  I'll use the excuse that there are two Earl's palaces on Orkney...  It was cool for a quick wander around after lunch at the nearby Birsay tearoom though.  This one was built by Mary Queen of Scots half brother who became the Earl of Orkney, which sounds like a fun title.

Skara Brae and Skaill House
skara brae orkney historic scotland

bird skara brae orkney historic scotland

skaill house orkney historic scotland

Possibly the most well known of Orkney's historical sites, Skara Brae dates from around 3000BC and claims to be 'Western Europe's best-preserved Neolithic Village.'  Remember what I said about my mind being blown over ancient history?  It was in pieces when I found out how old this place is.  Until recently, it was possible to walk around inside the structures but now (in what I'm assuming are measures to protect the area) they can only be seen from above by following paths built along the tops of the dividing walls.

Skaill House sits a short walk along the path from Skara Brae and was home to the laird who discovered Skara Brae in 1850.  Imagine having all that history on your doorstep and never knowing it until then!  The house is a mere 395 years old, but the artifacts in there were much more relatable to my brain.  Even the pink bathroom.

Brough of Birsay
brough of birsay orkney historic scotland

brough of birsay historic scotland orkney

The Brough of Birsay sits at the foot of the rock where the puffins hang out.  It was similar to Gurness, although more spread out and less built up (now anyway - it was likely very similar in scale at the time).  Birsay is only accessible at low tide for a few hours every day, and Birsay Tearoom handily had a list of the timings when we had lunch there a couple of days before.  The day we chose to visit was calm, sunny and warm.  Not what we were expecting!  One of us was even wearing two pairs of tights under her leggings...  The land itself can be accessed without going through Historic Scotland's site (where the brough lies) but this wasn't terribly clear since the visitor centre sits off to the side.  Dogs weren't allowed in the area because of the wildlife but we saw a couple walking their dog through a gate that clearly explained this, so that's also a bit vague...

Ring of Brodgar
ring of brodgar standing stones orkney historic scotland

ring of brodgar stones historic scotland orkney

I had a small tantrum here.  A bus full of tourists showed up right after we did and I realised it would take a lot of skill to keep my pictures people-free, and find space to look around properly.  I know,  It was fine though.  They were much slower than me so I got around half the site before they even reached it.  Plus there was the added bonus of seeing a bunch of Spaniards hugging the stones.  To release their magical powers I guess?  Because the site was unmanned I didn't learn a whole lot at the time, but it was easy to work out that the stones are both super old and sacred.

Bishop's and Earl's Palaces, Kirkwall
earls palace kirkwall orkney historic scotland

earls palace sign orkney kirkwall historic scotland

palaces kirkwall orkney historic scotland

bishops palace historic scotland orkney

These two sites sit across from each other in Kirkwall, next to the cathedral.  They were much more like the typical places we visit at home, and I liked that there was lots of wandering to be done in each place.  The Earl's Palace was built by the evil Patrick Stewart, Earl of Orkney, which I found amusing.  The fact he used slave labour though, not so much.  This was the only really rainy exploring we did, but it was probably one of our better timed outings, since there were plenty of bits to shelter.  In Bishop's Palace we found a fireplace taller than Tam, so I had to get a picture.

No pictures of this one because it looks like a little grassy hill (or Hobbit house) from the outside and was pretty dark inside.  Tours of Maeshowe are arranged as pre-booked guided tours only, and I'd heard they filled up fast in the summer, so Tam and I scooted along to book one when we got off the ferry.  They turned out to only be full a couple of days in advance and we managed to snag a handy noon slot.  On the day we checked in at the visitor centre then headed along to the cairn, where our tour guide talked us through the history of the area.  Then it was time to go in.

The tomb is accessed by a low tunnel that involves crouch-walking along until you reach the main chamber.  I still have no idea how Tam got in there.  Inside, the talk continued and we saw some fascinating runes scratched into the stones - leftover relics from when Vikings broke into the place in the twelfth century.  I won't spoil the translations for anyone but they're pretty hilarious.  Another interesting thing about Maeshowe - every year on the shortest day, the sun shines right along the entrance tunnel and into the furthest away burial chamber.  They even rig up webcams these days so it can be watched around the world.

historic scotland members book stamps orkney

I'm pretty proud of the stamps in our membership book, even if we didn't get one at Gurness because it was shut for lunch.  It's filling up quickly this year!

See more Orkney wandering here.

Who's visited any of these places?  What's the favourites?  I can't decide on mine...

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