"Betty Leopard": 2013

Friday, 20 December 2013

Dresses for December #7

Today was my last day of work for 2 whole weeks! I could get used to this sort of pattern, three weeks working, two weeks off.... Shame the Christmas holidays come but once a year (although not the associated spending and over eating).

Today's Dress for December is from Tara Starlet.

I fell in love with this dress the moment I saw it. Like many of my other selections this month it is simple, classic, elegant, vintage inspired and suitable for wearing to work or out in the evening. It also comes in pale pink and pale blue, but I prefer the red as it just screams Rockabilly - plus it's suitably festive if you wanted to wear it at this time of year.

I'm not lucky enough to own anything from Tara Starlet (yet), but I have long lusted over their great vintage inspired selection of dresses and other clothes. I'd love to have a pair of their sailor slacks.

At £80 this dress is a bit too expensive for me, sadly, even as a treat at the moment. If you feel like splashing out, you can find the dress here.

I hope that you all have a great weekend. I plan on going to the local farmer's market tomorrow morning to pick up some last minute gifts and then get on with wrapping. If you're really lucky I might also get another post in ;)


Monday, 16 December 2013

Dresses for December #6

Hmmm, so 6 posts in 16 days isn't quite the level of posting I was hoping for. Unfortunately I have been struck down by a nasty little cold this past week which has left me rather lacklustre and in no fit state for doing very much at all, let alone blogging :( I'm not totally recovered but I do feel notably better than any day in the past 7.

Still, my resolve to continue my Dresses for December remains - even if only because I love window shopping for dresses.

Today I have chosen this swallow print dress from Warehouse (although, I really must say, I am not at all a fan of the models haircut :/)

I'm a complete sucker for almost anything with a swallow print, or even a bird print these days, so this dress instantly caught my eye. It's another example of my favourite type of dress - the multifunctional good-for-work-or-dressed-up-in-the-evening dress (I may need to work on a catchier tag line for that one...).

My only concern with this one is that it may be a little short for me. It's not obscenely short, but as soon as a hem line creeps above my knees I get a little self-concious and nervous.

At £38 I don't consider this to be either a bargain or overly expensive. If I was more sure about the length I would probably snap this one up quite quickly - especially as I'm feeling quite flush today having received my first pay slip from work :)

If you're less self-concious than me then head over to Warehouse and check it out here.

Hope all is well with you.
Thanks for reading,

Monday, 9 December 2013

Dresses for December #5

I thought it was too good to be true. Four consecutive days of blogging wasn't bad, but by Thursday evening I was just way too tired to even give a second thought to dresses!

I will not give up though, I'm going to continue with my Dresses for December feature, even if it isn't a daily one.
Getting back on track in super style, today's dress is this gorgeous black maxi dress from Biba.

I don't think a lot needs to be said about this one. Beautiful. Elegant. Classic. This would be a fantastic wardrobe staple that you could break out for so many occasions and change the overall look with a range of accessories.

I would love to own this dress. It's pretty much my perfect LBD, even though it's not that little, that's part of why I like it.

The good news? It's currently half price at House of Fraser - here.

The bad news? Even then it's still £99.50.

Another one for my list of beautiful dresses I can't afford :(

Hope you all had a good weekend,


Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Dresses for December #4

So I've made it through three days of work and managed to keep up my good intentions of daily blogging - although I must admit I nearly didn't make this one. Unsurprisingly, I'm pretty tired but I was expecting it to be worse.

Today's Dress for December is from a brand I really love - Collectif. I've featured them before with this cute pair of leopard print capri pants that I still adore. They have a lot of great dresses (and more besides), mostly in vintage 1940s/1950s inspired styles - however, this one really stood out to me as it's a bit different from the other dresses on offer.

I'm not actually a big Downton Abbey fan, I've only seen a few episodes, but I'm increasingly attracted to the 1920s era style of dress. I think this dress is a perfect example of understated glamour, not over-the-top or flashy, but simple, sophisticated and elegant. I really like the simple and classic styling here with pearls and awesome vintage hair.
I'm not totally sure how the low rise belt would look on me, I usually go for a much more defined waist in a dress, but I'd like to give this look a try.

This dress comes in at £47.50, which I think is totally worth it. If I had the money I would definitely buy this dress - it's another one I could easily wear to the office or dress up in the evening. 

If you are taken by today's offering then you can check it out, and Collectif's other offerings here.

I hope you're all surviving your weeks too.


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Dresses for December #3

Today's dress is pretty much the exact opposite of yesterdays - a super casual, grunge style jersey t-shirt dress from Asos. Proof that there is more to dresses than work and parties.

This dress makes me feel comfy just looking at it - I'd wear this on a lazy weekend, or even Boxing Day, with thick tights, a big chunky cardigan, a slouchy hat and the boots in the picture or even a pair of DMs.

At £25 you could get 6 of these for the price of yesterdays glitzy number, and I can guarantee I'd get more wear out of them too :)

If you want to pick one up for yourself, head over to Asos here.


Monday, 2 December 2013

Dresses for December #2

It's hard to beat a sequined dress for party season and so today's Dress for December is a this super glitzy and glamorous, 1920s inspired frock from ASOS.

I like this dress because, aside from being beautiful and sparkly, I think it's quite different to the rather large number of 1920s inspired dresses around at the moment. I like the longer length, making it a bit more demure than some of the super-short flapper dresses, yet still giving a flash of leg with the mesh and side split. I think I could come over all Downton Abbey in this dress :)

Unfortunately, at £150 this is well beyond my budget (even if I was in need of another dress at the moment) so won't be being added to my wardrobe anytime soon, unless I win the lottery or someone out there is feel generous?). However, if you're feeling particularly flush you can find the dress here.

Hope you all had a good Monday.


Sunday, 1 December 2013

Dresses for December #1

This year has not been my best year for blogging, which is something I really want to try and rectify before the year is out!

As part of these efforts I have decided to try and start a small but daily feature - Dresses for December. What with getting a job (starting tomorrow) so having the prospect of an income and the need for some new clothes, even if they are only work clothes, I have been doing rather a lot of browsing round shops online and come across rather too many beautiful things I want to own. Plus with the beginning of the festive party season, who doesn't enjoy dreaming about the perfect party frock :)

Today's offering is a dress I am pleased to say I have actually bought for myself, although it hasn't arrived yet.

It's from Wallis, which isn't somewhere I normally shop, so I actually don't know how I came across it in the first place. I really like the simple and classic, slightly vintage inspired look and think I has a lot of scope to be worn both during the day for work and dressed up for the evening - possible with pearls or my faux fur stole to play up the vintage look.

It's made from jersey so I'm hoping it's going to be quite comfortable and reasonably forgiving, especially as I've bought it in a size 10, but we'll have to wait until it arrives to see about that.

As an added bonus, it's currently reduced from £40 to £28, which I consider to be a bit of a bargain. Check it out here.

Now, I need to go and find 30 more dresses to share with you this month!
Where have you been shopping for dresses lately? Let me know if you've found anything especially beautiful or a great bargain!


Saturday, 23 November 2013

Weekend Catch-up

I haven't been feeling quite myself this past week. From time to time my stomach decides to throw a bit of a hissy fit and leaves me feeling bloated and nauseated - and this week has been one of those times :(
So I've been feeling a bit sorry for myself and not been getting up to as much as I would have liked.

It's been especially frustrating as I have (finally) got myself a job, which starts a week on Monday, so I had been hoping to make the most of my last weeks of freedom.
I'm going to be working for the local University, engaging with local companies who have been involved in a University project to find out the benefits they got out of working with the Uni. It's actually only a three month contract to start with, with the possibility of extension, but it's definitely the best (only) offer I've had all year!
It's sounds like a really interesting role, but on of the best things (other than getting paid) is that it's only a five minute walk away from the house :)
It's also been an excuse to do some clothes shopping, which I haven't really been able to do for a long time as I haven't had an income. Even though it was only work clothes it was still nice to be able to treat myself. I mostly bought trousers as I have tops that are work appropriate but the only trousers I really have are jeans that I obviously can't get away with in an office. I might get around to taking some photos for you to see when I'm feeling less bloated and obese.

It has got rather cold here as well this week - so as well as being ill I've been staying inside to avoid the cold. I'm hoping the office where I'll be working has got good heating :/
The cold isn't all bad though as it means we get to put the fire on and get snuggled up in a blanket. The animals (cat and dog) are definitely on board with that plan too- they're either trying to psych each other off of my blanket or spreading themselves out in front of the fire. They aren't the best of friend, but their mutual love of warmth had brought them closer together than ever these past few days.

Warm Winter Fire. Pickle cat sprawled in front of the fire. Alf asleep on my coat.

I've also been doing quite a lot of crochet again, it's a good snuggly winter evening activity :) I've been working on some animal xmas baubles that are quite easy but super cute. The pattern is an original design by All About Ami which you can find here, there are also loads of other great designs and helpful hints and tips all really well illustrated with photos.

Cute Crochet Panda Xmas Bauble

I'm on my own this evening as the parents are away in Vietnam and Pete is out seeing a friend who has come up to climb in Snowdonia. Evenings on your own only mean one thing - personal indulgence :) Not wanting to tempt fate, but my stomach is feeling the best it has done in 2 days, so I might go and treat myself to a mug cake!

Hope you are all well,


Thursday, 14 November 2013

Pulled Pork Stew

This summer I completely fell in love with Pulled Pork - it was cheap, easy and very, very tasty. It's something I meant to blog about all summer but never got around to.

Now, whilst Pulled Pork is a barbecue style dish (not that mine involved the use of a barbecue) and could generally be considered to be summer food, there obviously isn't any reason why you can't enjoy it in the winter - slow cooked spicy meat still sounds like a great, comforting winter meal.  However, I was inspired by a recent email from Tesco to put even more of an Autumnal-Wintery twist on my summer favourite and make a Pulled Pork Stew.

One of the best things about this recipe is that it uses Pork Shoulder, which is a really affordable cut of meat - Asda have Pork Shoulders available from £3 per kilo (I used around 700 grams of shoulder steaks and that was more than enough for 4 people).
Another great thing is that it is really quite low effort - as a slow cook dish, so you can put it on in the morning and it can cook all day to be as good as ready when you get home from work :)

Pulled Pork Spice Rub

Pulled Pork Stew
1. Mix the rub ingredients together in a bowl. Rub half into your meat then cover and leave in the fridge for a few hours or over night.
I have previously used Pork Shoulder Joints but used Shoulder Steaks this time for the stew, however, I think I would probably recommend Joints over Steaks

2. Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius  Place meat into a roasting tray/tin, add a cup of water and cover the whole tray in tin foil. Cook for 4 to 5 hours (for 1 to 1.5 kilos)

To make stew mixture
(any time after putting the meat into the oven) 

3. In a large pan/casserole dish - Soften a chopped onion and sliced celery (optional) in olive oil

4. Add tinned tomatoes and water (number of cans depends on number you are feeding, I used one tin of tomatoes and one tin of water for 4 people)

5. Add chopped veg of your choice (I generally use carrot, peppers, courgette, tomatoes, green beans...)

6. Add beans - I used tinned kidney beans in chilli sauce, but you can use any type of bean, fresh, dried (and soaked) or tinned (even baked beans) or skip the beans all together if they aren't your thing (but they are very good for you and if you cook them for a long time you'll probably not even notice they're there!)

7. Add more tomatoes and/or water if more liquid is needed

8. Season to taste - salt, pepper, smoked paprika/cayenne pepper/chilli, tomato purĂ©e

9. Now you have a choice, which partly depends on how long you have left til the meat is cooked
- If it is still a few hours til the meat is ready you can either put the pot in the oven with the meat (make sure it is oven proof) and leave to slow cook or you can simply turn it off and leave it covered
- If the meat will be ready soon (within 30 minutes to one hour) you can leave the pot, covered, on a low heat on the hob or pop it in the oven with the meat

Bringing things together

10. Once the meat is cooked, remove the layer of fat (which will be weird and squidgy, not like crackling as Pete is always disappointed to find) then take two forks and pull the meat apart (hence PULLED pork) and mix in the spicy juices in bottom of the tin

11. Add the meat to the stew mixture - If you took the stew mixture off the heat while the meat cooked then do warm it up on a mid to low heat hob, or in the oven, before mixing the meat in

12. Serve. 
I served mine with savoury corn muffins made using this recipe, although substituting buttermilk for soy milk with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.

I certainly enjoyed it, and everyone else seemed to as well.

I hope you are all well and enjoying some hearty and warming meals now autumn has definitely arrived.


Monday, 4 November 2013

Halloween 2013

Halloween this year was not quite as much of an event for me as it had been in previous year.
A combination of factors including our recent move, work and a lousy mood that overcame me for most of last week meant I didn't have the time, effort or cause for a big fuss.

I got to dress up a bit on the Wednesday when I helped with children's craft activities at the National Trust property where my mum works. I wore the same Pearls & Swine Devil Horn fascinator as last year because, well, there aren't exactly a great range of occasions when one can wear a devil horn fascinator. It was an enjoyable but very tiring day - something in the order of 120 kids got involved in making Halloween Trick or Treat bags and kept me on my feet (in heels) for 6 straight hours without a break! 

On Halloween itself I found time to bake a cake; orange with chocolate fudge frosting. I'm not sure what happened but my first attempt went horribly wrong and barely rose at all. That one had to be consigned to waste and I had a second go that was marginally more successful. I was rather disappointed as it was a recipe I have used several times before and has always produced brilliant light, fluffy sponge. It was perfectly edible and tasted nice, but it fell short of my expectations and I don't get on well with baking failures :(

My Halloween Orange and Chocolate cake, with pumpkin, ghost and bat sprinkles

As I had been quite busy I was rather tired, that combined with my low mood meant I didn't really feel like going to the cinema in the evening, so we didn't get to see Frankenstein. Again, I'm a little disappointed in myself now that I didn't feel up to it. Fortunately there is another opportunity to see it, this time with Jonny Lee Miller as The Creature, later in the month, so I hope to still get to see it.
Instead, Pete and I carved pumpkins (also rather delayed by being do busy) and watched The Walking Dead. We're a bit late to The Walking Dead and are only on Season 2 at the moment, only 2 episodes from the end of the season now. I was even quite lack-lustre in my pumpkin carving and stuck with a fairly classic scary face. It was still a nice evening and appropriately Halloween-y.

Pete's Spooky Ale
My Demon Face pumpkin and Pete's Alf inspired design
Alf was a little unsure of his pumpkin doppelgänger

Apologies for the poor quality of the photographs. Taking pictures with my camera is another thing I've not been so good at lately, so these are just ones I have taken with my iPod. If you want to see more pictures from me you can follow me on Instagram.

I hope you all had a good Halloween, whatever you did or didn't get up to :)

Listening to: Alkaline Trio (the only band for Halloween)
Watching: The Walking Dead, Season 2
Reading: Wuthering Heights (I've been reading this for ages and am trying to slog through the last few chapters)


Saturday, 26 October 2013

Far Over The Misty Mountains Cold

I've still not quite got back into the blogging habit, have I. Things have been a bit busy, well, busier than I have been used to for quite a while anyway. Pete and I have both been doing some teaching at the University, only a couple of hours a week but often quite spread out so we end up spending most of our days there.

Things are going to be getting even busier for Pete now though, as he got a job this week! As of the 1st of November he will be a full time teaching assistant and PhD student at the uni. We are both so happy and I am very proud of him. Not only is it great news because we a) have an income and b) have a definite reason to stay in North Wales for at least 3 years, but he has been trying to get funding to do a PhD for a long time now, so it's so nice that all his hard work has finally paid off.
He interviewed for and was offered the position on Wednesday, but as we had to work again on both Thursday and Friday we put off celebrating until Friday evening. I cooked a huge Chinese feast, as he loves Chinese food and it meant I got to go to the local Oriental Supermarket and search through all the exciting things. My favourite bits are always the 'accesories' - prawn crackers, spring rolls and fortune cookies :) I meant to get pictures but it all got eaten so quickly I didn't get chance!

The plus side of being kept busy during the week (other than making some money) is that our weekends feel more proper again and we try and make the effort to get out and do things - ideally things that Alf can join in with as well.

Last weekend we visited the local Farmers' Market and picked up some pumpkins to carve for Halloween. If you are a regular reader you are probably aware that I LOVE Halloween (see my previous Halloween posts herehere, here, here and here). My plans this year include pumpkin carving, helping out with a kids' Halloween craft event at the nearby National Trust property (including dressing up) and going to see Benedict Cumberbatch as The Creature in Frankenstein at the cinema. Oh yes, and hopefully get some Halloween baking in :)I've been trying to think of a design to carve into my pumpkin this evening. I'm not totally set on an idea yet, but I've put together some ideas on a Pinterest board. I will blog about it once it's done.

Today we went on a trip to Beddgelert (pronounced Beth-gelert), which translates as Gelert's Grave. Beddgelert is a village in Snowdonia National Park which (allegedly) takes it's name from the nearby grave of/monument to Gelert, a dog that belonged to Prince Llewellyn, Prince of Gwynedd. The legend of Llewellyn and Gelert tells how, upon returning from a hunting trip, Llewellyn was greeted by Gelert who was covered in blood and discovered his baby son missing from his crib. Llewellyn immediately drew his sword and slew Gelert for murdering his son, but, as Gelert gave his last whimper, Llewellyn heard the cries of a baby and discovered the child, unharmed, alongside the dead body of a wolf. Realising his error, that Gelert had in fact saved his son and not killed him, Llewellyn had his faithful hound buried in a big ceremony and was said never to have smiled again.
We were following a route from a new book my mum bought us - Countryside Dog Walks: Snowdonia. It's a really good guide, breaking walks down by level of difficulty (this one was an 'Easy') and gives helpful information about parking and facilities. The instructions are really clear and easy to follow, even for someone with as poor a sense of direction as me, it was obviously written by someone who has walked the route and not just looked at it on Google Earth.

Clockwise from top left: Our route through a gap in a dry stone wall, fungi on a fallen tree, Alf and Pete loving the adventure, Welcome to Beddgelert
The route took us briefly through part of Beddgelert village then onto Gelert's Grave just on the edge of the village. The grave itself was quite humble, a large rock flanked by two trees with two plaques in front of it telling the story of Gelert (one in English and one in Welsh). Just beyond the grave are the ruins of a small building, inside which is a bronze sculpture of a dog which we tried to get Alf to make friend with, although he wasn't exactly sure. Most of the other visitors made it as far as the grave, a few ventured the extra ten or so yards to the house, but once we ventured on with the walk past the ruins we didn't see another person until the end when we returned to the car park. On one hand it's a shame that everyone else missed out on the beautiful scenery and views, but on the other, it was really nice and peaceful having the whole place to ourselves.

Clockwise from top left; Alf looking cure on a wall, Signpost to Gelert's Grave, Alf and his new buddy Gelert, Beautiful Autumnal Woodland 
The title of the post is taken from the song of the Dwarves from The Hobbit, which came into my head as we walked through a forested area with several rocky outcrops and a carpet of fallen leaves, moss and mushrooms - it just seemed appropriate (even thought it was, thankfully, not particularly misty or cold). The lack of people did make the whole walk feel like a bit of a mysterious adventure - going through forest, through gaps in stone walls and along and across rapid little streams.
Alf absolutely loved it, running through the trees, smelling every smell he came across and climbing every rock and wall that we encountered along the way. He got thoroughly wet and muddy and was really quite tired by the time we got back to the car - he slept wrapped up in a towel on Pete's lap the whole way home.

Clockwise from top left; The story of Gelert, Rocks and leaves, Mini Waterfall, Mossy brances
We were rather lucky with the weather, just as we got back to the car it had started to spit with rain and had started absolutely chucking it down within minutes of us leaving.

I really love living up here, it's so much more relaxed and beautiful than the south coast. There are certain things I miss about Southampton and it's proximity to London, but I'm not sure they're worth giving up living here for. Plus, once I get my own job, it shouldn't be too hard to make the occasional visit :)

I hope things are going well for all of you and that you're looking forward to Halloween, however you chose to spend it.
Also, what do you think of the new blog look?


Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Blackberry Crumble Cake

One of the best things about having moved from our titchy flat into my parent's house (temporarily) is their kitchen. In the flat we had a pitifully small box masquerading as a kitchen with barely enough storage space let alone enough surface space to indulge my joy of cooking and baking. I think I did pretty well with the space I had, but it's so nice to have the space to move around and not have to stack ingredients, bowls and tins on top of each other whilst baking.

I had decided I wanted to make something for dessert after Sunday dinner over the weekend, but was torn between a good old cake or a warming autumnal crumble using the blackberries my mum had gathered from the garden. Luckily enough, I came across the idea of a crumble cake and my decision was made!

Frozen Blackberries & Cooked Blackberries

I used a combination of two recipes; the preparation of the berries from this one from the BBC and the overall method from this one from Hippapotamousse (although I used Vitalite instead of butter due to Pete not eating dairy).

It was actually very quick (other than the 40-60 minute bake) and easy to make and I was very pleased with the result. More importantly, it was also very yummy. I had maybe expected the berries to be a bit more tart but I don't know if the lack of zing is due to the wild berries or the method of preparation from the BBC recipe.
It all went down very well with the family. My parents had theirs with yoghurt while Pete and I had ours with ice cream (vegan ice cream for Pete, obviously). I was quite tempted to zap it in the microwave for a few seconds before serving, to properly embody the crumble side, but didn't in the end as I was worried the jammy fruity middle might get unnecessarily hot and destroy my taste buds. If I make this again I think I might take the risk though.

Cake Layer, Berry Layer, Crumble Layer
I only found Hippopotamousse's blog while searching for a good recipe for a blackberry crumble cake, her's was by far my favourite and I've also had a good look around the rest of the site and really like her recipes, as well as the fact that she is also a scientist. Plus, she is a far better photographer than I am - beware looking at her site if you're hungry!

I have, of course, been keeping up with The Great British Bake-Off, which has fuelled my desire to bake somewhat. I'm a bit torn on my favourite this year - I quite like Kimberley and shee seems to be a very good baker, but she's possibly a bit over confident, I like Christine and Becca but their baking has seemed a little hit and miss, I'm very torn on Frances, she's very inventive but can also be a bit hit and miss and I'm not totally convinced by all of her novelty bakes (although I adored her Secret Squirrel Cake), I am not a fan of Ruby at all, I find her annoying and I don't like the way she seems to skate by by the seat of her pants.

Who else watches GBBO? Do you have a favourite, or least favourite?

Hope you are all well,

Tuesday, 24 September 2013


Things have changed quite a lot for me over the past few months, which partly explains my lack of blogging recently.

Since I graduated, back in July, I continued to struggle to find a job and life was becoming increasingly unaffordable (and stressful as a consequence) for Pete and I in Southampton. After a lot of thought, discussion, agonising, too-ing, fro-ing and making and changing of decisions, we finally committed to take a major step and leave the South and move to North Wales.

View of the Britannia Bridge. The little van I managed to drive. View of the Menai Bridge.

The decision had been a long time coming - we've loved the thought of living in North Wales since we first visited my parents after they moved to the region 5 years ago and have toyed with the idea of moving there ourselves since the beginning of this year. Despite the long build up, the final decision, and putting it into action, happen rather quickly; we told my parents we were coming, handed in the one month notice on our flat and started filling boxes.

A lot of boxes.

I knew I had a lot of stuff, but I didn't fully grasp how much until I had to sort it all, pack it into boxes and transport it nearly 300 miles across the country. I tried getting rid of a lot of things, selling a few bits on eBay, giving some to charity and just throwing out a lot of things that I wondered why I had even kept in the first place - but I'm just not very good at being brutal when clearing things out and we ended up having to make three trips with very full hire vans to shift it all.

New dog walks. Alf enjoying a beach. Rock Pooling.

I think Pete was a bit overwhelmed by seeing all my things labelled up in boxes, for some reason he seemed
to think that things like a box of tights, a box of nail varnish or two boxes of shoes were unreasonable! Men! They just don't understand. Haha.

The four weeks between making the decision and the end of our tenancy totally flew by in a blur of packing, cleaning and saying goodbye to people. It all got a bit stressful towards the end, trying to plan how to move everything and where to keep it. Luckily my grandparents offered us space to store things in their cellar for the time being whilst we stay with my parents before we get set up on our own, which has made things a bit easier.

The final weekend in the flat was a mad rush to fit the last bits in the van and make sure the place was clean enough to ensure we'd get a good portion of our deposit back (we're still waiting to hear about that). Alf did get rather distressed and didn't understand what was happening, why the flat was empty and why he didn't have anything comfortable to sit on - although now we're here I'm pretty sure he's recovered and is happy about the move.

Alf goes bouldering. Foggy view. Alf admires his new territory.
We've been here for just over two weeks now, and I've just about sorted out our living space in the upstairs of my parents house. There are still things in boxes, and much of it is likely to stay in boxes as we have limited space, but it's actually really cosy and homely up there at the moment, even though this isn't going to be a long term arrangement.

As you can see from the photos, we've managed to get out and about in amongst the unpacking, work that Pete has had to be getting on with and making arrangements for paid work. I've done a bit of volunteering in the shop where my mum works, to help out and keep me busy and it's looking like both Pete and I will be able to pick up some paid teaching work at the local uni once the new term begins. So things are looking up across the board.
Alf is loving it with so much great outside space and so many new places to explore. So is Pete for that matter, he's so much happier in the wide outdoors than stuck in a city.

Sorry if that was a bit of a long winded update. I really intend to blog more regularly again from now on, but probably more on crafting, baking, general life and sharing interesting things than on the product side of things (although products do often hold an important role in my general life so won't be entirely absent).

Even when I'm not blogging I tweet quite a lot, so you can follow me on twitter @Betty Leopard. Also, since getting a new iPod for my birthday I have joined the masses on Instagram and have definitely got into posting photos, quite a lot of which are of Alf. You can see my photos and follow me here.

Thank you so much for sticking with me over this quiet period. I hope you will enjoy my upcoming posts.


Monday, 5 August 2013

Graduation Day

Just less than two weeks ago I finally graduated from my PhD and brought 8 years of University to an end.

It was a lovely sunny day, although a little bit hot to be sat around in academic robes. The robes for PhD graduates from the University of Southampton are a delightful combination of burgundy and light blue, which made selecting an outfit a little difficult. I went with a very safe black dress with a simple crane pattern, from Monsoon (in the sale).

Me in my 'beautiful' robes
I was pretty nervous before the ceremony - having to walk across a stage in front of a hall full of people, what if I fell over? Plus, when you get a PhD you have to kneel on a stool in front of the Vice Chancellor and they put the hood over your head. What if I completely misjudged the stool and ended up collapsing into the Vice Chancellor's lap?

Yeah, I get a bit ridiculous and paranoid about these things.

Needless to say, nothing terrible happened. I walked up, knelt down, got my hood put on, had a brief chat with the Vice Chancellor and left. Now I'm 100% officially a Doctor and even have the certificate so I can go get my title changed on my bank cards :)

My Mummy and Me :)
Me and Pete
Me and my Dad :)

It was a nice day, especially as my parents came down to visit and Pete got the day off work to be able to be there. In the evening we were also joined by my sister and her boyfriend for dinner, it isn't often we get the whole family together like that :)

These past few weeks have been pretty crazy. A few days after my graduation we had to head up north for my cousin's wedding, followed a few days later by my 28th Birthday. In addition, we've been trying to make some pretty big life decisions about moving home and our job situation, as I am still struggling to find work. So all-in-all it's been pretty hectic and chaotic.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you might have noticed that I have recently become an Instagram-er, as I got a new iPod for my birthday that can use Instagram, unlike my phone. I haven't posted too many photos yet, but think it's definitely something I could get carried away with! Find me by searching 'betty_leopard', and let me know if you use Instagram too, I'm very keen to find interesting people to follow.

Thanks for reading,
I hope you're well.


Monday, 29 July 2013

A Mad Hatter's Tea Party

Nearly two months ago now (that's how bad I've got at keeping up with posting), I met up with some of my old university friends in London to go for afternoon tea. We had a good look around on the internet for places to go before we came across the Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea at The Sanderson and our decision was made for us!

The Sanderson Hotel is actually really unassuming from the outside, so much so that we did almost walk right past it. Inside the foyer is filled with a very interesting selection of furniture - a giant lip shaped sofa, chairs with horns, chairs that look like Masai Mara carvings and something that looked distinctly like a space age coffin.

While there is a lot of outside seating as part of the restaurant we were taken to an indoor table. Whilst the outside looked lovely I wasn't personally disappointed at being indoors as at the time (early June) the weather was still a little on the cool side. The table was beautifully set with specially designed Alice in Wonderland themed crockery, the menu inside an old book and sugar lumps in a working music box complete with twirling ballerina.

First, we got to choose from a selection of teas - Strawberries & Cream, Mint Chocolate, Rhubarb & Custard and Green. The teas were all loose leaf and were brought round in small bottles that I suspect were old perfume bottles, they even smelt amazing just in the bottles. I went for the Mint Chocolate. It was very yummy (and came in a King of Hearts teapot).

After some tea and much needed catching up we were presented with our afternoon tea treats, presented on a three tier cake stand that matched the designs of the rest of the crockery (I think you can also buy the crockery from the designers Luna & Curious).
The selection included sandwiches, sweet and savoury scones, mango cheesecake, mini Victoria sponge, green tea mousse, marshmallow mushrooms, carrot shaped meringues and a 'Drink Me' potion that consisted of a passion fruit coulis and panna cotta.

The food was all beautiful, but too be honest I think there was actually a bit too much and (although I never thought I'd say it) there might have been too many sweet things compared to the savoury.
The sandwiches and both the sweet and savoury scones were great, and I really liked the Victoria sponge (decorated like a pocket watch) and the marshmallow mushrooms. I loved the coloured stripes decorating the mango cheesecake, but it was actually much too big and not the best cheesecake I've ever had. The green tea mousse was interesting, but not quite to my taste really.

Then all this was followed by a 'Jelly Wonderland' - a selection of jellies on a trolley. They were good jellies especially the Apple one and the Blackcurrant one, but I was too full to properly enjoy them. Also, in my opinion, four jellies does not a wonderland make.

I had a lovely day meeting up with my girls, and I certainly felt quite special and a bit fancy having proper afternoon tea in a London hotel. I love afternoon tea and will definitely do it again, whether in London or somewhere else, but I won't rush back to The Sanderson for the Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea, unless I know someone who really wants to experience it. The theme is a great novelty that clearly draws a lot of people in, if it appeals to you then you should give it a go, but I think I'd like to try some different places, themed or unthemed (I'm pretty sure somewhere in London does a Peter Pan themed afternoon tea).

Has anyone else been for Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea? Or have anywhere to recommend for their afternoon tea?

Thank You for still reading,