Finding her feet

Well, her toes at any rate! Baby Sweetie has in the last couple of days decided that her feet are a couple of the best toys ever. Which is good this morning as she woke up more than an hour earlier than usual, and those built in toys have been keeping her very happy!

image

Not the best quality photo as it was taken in the half light on my phone, but you get the general idea.

By the way, I absolutely love those pyjamas on her. She had them in newborn size, and the boys and I loved the outfit so much we went back and bought it in 3-6 months size. I must confess I’m very tempted to go and see if Sainsburys has any in size 9-12 months to lengthen the joy!

No knitting today (but it was a good day despite that!)

I had a lovely day today, spending time in Cardiff with my friend Ellie, visiting bead and button shops and drinking huge amounts of hot chocolate! We went to the museum but unfortunately some of the exhibits were off limits, so we’re hoping to make a return visit at Easter when everything should be open to the public.

Unfortunately there were no pancakes in my Shrove Tuesday. Instead there was birthday cake – it was my sister in law’s birthday today, and I’m pleased to report that she loved her presents. From Handsome she had jelly babies and chocolate toffee eclairs, and from Cheeky she received this;

A bracelet and earrings set that he designed himself and partially made – I just helped with bending the pins into loops at the ends, but other than that it was all his work! Well done Cheeky!

Lovely Stratford Upon Avon

I’ve just had a lovely weekend away with my husband in Stratford Upon Avon. It was his idea, and completely booked by him, so I was very spoiled!

We stayed in a gorgeous five star guest house called Cherry Trees. It was really conveniently located, just over a footbridge from the main town and the Royal Shakespeare Company theatres. On our arrival, they couldn’t do more to make us feel welcome.

Even though it was nearer dinner time than afternoon tea, a tray with a pot of tea, scones and jam was brought to our room. Our breakfast order was taken so that it would be ready at the time we specified that we’d like the meal. Our room was beautiful as well.

A lovely old fashioned four poster bed, living room area with comfy chairs and a chaise longue. We even had our own private conservatory with two more comfy armchairs and tea and coffee making facilities (including a little fridge with milk, filtered water and chocolate!). We also had access to a small garden with a pond and water features.

I couldn’t recommend this guesthouse more. It was fabulous service, a fabulous location, and a lovely comfortable room. If you’re visiting the area, see if they have any vacancies. I don’t think you’ll regret it!

More soon, including the town, the theatre and the eateries!

Dooce’s latest photo

I’ve just come from my blog reader, and I wanted to point you at this photo that Dooce posted recently of her dog. It made me giggle, and then brought memories back of our dog which we had whilst I was growing up. He was the sweetest dog, with a lovely temperament (he was a golden retriever). Sometimes, being only a child, I’d attempt to dress him up in a scarf and hat, or put his paws into slippers, or balance sunglasses on his face. He’d put up with it in a very patient way, but he’d have the most embarrassed look on his face that it’s possible for a dog to have! The look of ‘what have they done to me’ that is in Dooce’s dog’s eyes really brought that back! My dog would put up with the scarf/hat/sunglasses for a while, and then would dip his head, or lie down and knock it off as if to say “enough is enough”!

I’ve got some great memories of playing with our dog from when we had him when I was nine years old, and I sometimes feel quite sad that it’s unlikely that my children will experience that suring their childhoods.

Gloves are done!

Thanks to a Cardiff Knitters meeting last night and lots of hot chocolate, I managed to stay focussed long enough to finish Handsome’s Gryffindor Gloves. He very proudly and happily wore them to school this morning. I just hope that the cheap acrylic yarn (remember, using yarn from my stash rather than buying new!) will keep his little hands warm enough. They certainly inspired him to fly on his broomstick most of the way to school, so I must have done something right!

And while I was at the meeting, I got bored by knitting so I switched to crochet for a while and made this;

You can see how small it is when you look at the size of the pins which I’m using to block it. (Blocking is the process by which you get lacey items to achieve the shape you want after you’ve made them. I used spray starch on this ornament so that, once it has dried, it should stay fairly firm unless it gets damp again.) I love these little lace projects – they fulfil my instant gratification thing, and are pretty to look at! Plus, this is item nunber one done for Christmas 2010!

Another wintry walk!

We made the most of the sunny day and went down to the local lake again today. It was much harder to stay upright today, since lots of the snow on the pavements has now turned to ice. I felt exhausted by the time we got home just from the sheer effort of staying on my feet! I’ve got a couple more pictures to share with you before my fingers actually turn to icicles and snap right off!

These frost flowers were on one of my car windows.

The lake was still frozen solid, so the birds were all very glad of any food thrown to them. We chose to throw our bread to the smaller birds in the trees and bushes at the side of the lake, as I expect they don’t get so much attention. Plus, I’m hoping that my robin friend (the one in my header) will have found some of it!

If you want to do a full circuit of the lake, you have no option but to cross this footbridge. Now, it worries some people enough on fine days, given that there’s no handrail. So you can imagine that today, we crossed it very gingerly indeed! I love the shape of the bridge. So much more interesting than a straight bridge!

New header!

I hope you like my new header image – the photo is of a friend I made on my walk this morning!

F.A.O. Jo BmS!

I wanted you to get a proper idea of the sort of evening snack I was talking about in my last e-mail! The hot chocolate looked more impressive when GG gave it to me, but I greedily slurped most of the cream straight away. However, I think it still looks fine! xxx

Positano and the Amalfi Coast

As I have mentioned before, this wasn’t our first trip to this part of the world. We had a two week holiday in Sorrento back when we were in university, and did a lot of travelling about and sightseeing during that fortnight. So, during this short break, Maria and I were able to revisit our favourite places and a couple that we didn’t see last time, with the minimum of stress.

spray on the rocks

The one place that we had determined to visit, even before landing on Italian soil was Positano. On our last trip we visited Amalfi, and we passed Positano on our ferry trip back to Sorrento. Positano fascinated us; this small town clinging to cliffs, with the houses built virtually in terraces up the side of the mountain. I wanted to see the place at closer quarters, and Maria was happy to oblige. I had only one condition; the journey HAD to be made by sea both going and coming back. When we visited Amalfi in 2000, we travelled by bus all the way round the Sorrentine peninsula and down the Amalfi coast and it was horrific! Don’t get me wrong, the views were sublime but I’m not a good traveller at the best of times and I was feeling so incredibly sick by the time I fell thankfully from the bus and hung over the sea wall in Amalfi. So I determined that never again would I make that road trip!

Liquid lunchThis day trip was much kinder on my stomach though. We made our leisurely way down to the harbour after managing to get into breakfast just before the end of the sitting. As it turned out, the ferries weren’t quite so frequent as we had hoped, and so we had a wait of about an hour and a half before the next one was due to depart. But there are many worse places in the world to have to unexpectedly pass some time than Marina Piccola in Sorrento, so we settled ourselves on a bench and watched the world go by. A few ferries arrived and departed while we watched, and a man did some business from the back of his little van selling fruit and vegetables to the tourists. Ice cream, drinks and granite (like slush puppies) sellers did a brisk trade, and eventually we gave into temptation and headed for a quayside cafe for some early lunch.

Jennie by the ferriesIt was so incredibly relaxing, sitting there with our glasses of wine in the sunshine. Eventually though, the wine was gone (as was the food – it wasn’t a wholly liquid lunch!) and we headed back to the ferry stage. We found ourselves to be at the back of a very long queue, which meant that we had to sit inside for the journey to Positano – still glorious views, but not the opportunities for photography which I would have liked.

I think the boat ride took about an hour and a bit, although you’d have to ask Maria as she has a far superior memory to mine! I just remember a very relaxing time, watching the coast pass by as well as a number of smaller boats. I was surprised by the number of tiny villages we passed, nestled into little natural harbours which were barely more than little nooks and crannies in the cliff face.

PositanoWhen we arrived in Positano, the first impression it made was even more striking than the memory I had been carrying for the past nine years. We stood on the quayside for some time, taking pictures of the ferries, fishing boats and the glorious blue sea. After a little while we decided to explore. We only had a couple of hours to spend before the return ferry trip, but Maria’s guide book had assured her that this would be ample time to explore the vertical town. In the photo to the left, you can just see Maria in her red flowery dress standing in front of a display of pictures. Under the umbrella a man was working on a painting of Positano, and the other pictures were ones which he had painted previously and was offering for sale. They were lovely bright watercolours, typically Mediterranean in style and had I had any wall space left in my house I would have loved to have brought one home.

334 stepsWe hadn’t come to Positano for the shopping though (having already planned plenty of that sort of therapy for following days in Sorrento!) but to explore, so off we went. Of course, exploring in Positano seemed to indicate travel in only one direction – up! So we found a set of steps and started to climb.

Funnily enough (that was sarcasm there, my friends) we were largely alone on our climb up through Positano. We stopped every now and then to catch our breath and exclaim at snatches of blue sea visible over walls, and also at the number of houses only accessible by climbing these very steps. This is the place to go to improve your heart health! Although I dread to think how long it would take me to climb these steps if I were trying to bring my weekly shop and a pushchair along with me.

I was so eager to get to the top of the steps and out to see a proper panorama that I was able to put to the back of my mind the threat of coronary failure and I pushed on. Maria is much slimmer and fitter than me, and was leaping up the steps like a veritable gazelle, although I have to give proper credit where it is due – she climbed all the steps in heels! A wonderwoman! Anyway, eventually we arrived at a road a fair way up the cliff, and decided that some liquid might not be the worst idea in the world, as we had to be fairly dehydrated by this point. And then we turned around and saw this vista;

positano view

It was completely worth the climb. We bought drinks, and could have looked at the view for hours were it not for the fact that the ferry would be leaving in about forty minutes. So, reluctantly, we made our way back down to the harbour. Not having had the breath to do anything other than focus on staying alive on the way up, on the way down I decided to count the number of steps we had climbed. I was somewhat hampered by an Italian man gently pursuing us wanting to talk about the Prince of Wales and what we thought of him and the rest of the royal family! I think I was probably quite rude, as I was both counting and descending the stairs at too fast a pace to hold a conversation! We were amazed though, when we got to the bottom and realised that we had climbed 334 steps in a relatively short space of time.

After a short look at the shops we boarded the return ferry and left Positano. I just have a couple more pictures I’d like to share with you;where we stopped for a drink

This is a photo taken from the ferry as we were leaving Positano. Circled in blue you can see the cafe where we gratefully stopped for a couple of Sprites after our long climb. 334 steps and we hadn’t even got to the top of that particular cliff! Looking at this picture, I’m disappointed now that we didn’t have the time to carry on and climb all the way to the top. However, there’s always next time!

And finally, another picture of some of the steps we climbed;more positano steps

Imagine being presented with this, on a very hot day after already having climbed a couple of hundred steps. It really did seem a little never-ending at this point, but I’m so glad we persevered. You can also see in this picture a couple of entrances to houses on this flight of stairs. Just carrying shopping or children up these steps would wear me out, never mind the preceding hundreds! The reason that Italians have fewer heart attacks has nothing to do with olive oil and everything to do with towns and villages like this!

Sorrento

VesuviusJust a couple of photos today. I am acutely aware that I’ve been meaning to write about my holiday for nearly a month now, but I just don’t seem to have the time! So I’m posting a couple of my favourite pictures.

The first one is the iconic image of Vesuvius from Sorrento that I’ve carried in my memory since I was last in Sorrento in 2000. Strangely, it was a lot larger and closer than I’d remembered, looming over the Bay of Naples. The cragginess of the outline only served as a reminder that this isn’t an extinct volcano, and could become active and extremely dangerous to the thousands who live on the slopes and in the surounding area at any time.

Jennie in Sorrento

This photo is to prove that I was actually there, and that I’m not just using a friend’s pictures! I think this might have been taken on the first day, which would explain the lack of beaming smile – I was worn out! All the travelling took its toll on us and we were asleep very early on that first night. Back to the photo; I’m standing by railings which are on the edge of the cliff on which Sorrento sits. Some of it (the old and new harbours, for example) are at the bottom of the cliffs, but the majority of the town is many metres above sea level. From the sea, we could see lots of staircases cut into the cliff face leading from the hotels at the top down to their private beaches. One way to lose weight whilst on holiday, and ensure that you get your daily cardio workout!

Vesuvius at sunset

And finally, for today, Vesuvius at sunset, it’s peak masked by a blanket of cloud. Had I been a proficient artist I could have captured the colours in the sky much more effectively than did my camera, but you’ll have to make do with this! Isn’t it beautiful? We stood and watched the sunset for ages, having gone down to the old harbour in the almost village-suburb of Marina Grande speciafically to see it from such a good angle. In fact I think that we saw Vesuvius pretty much each day at this time, from various viewpoints.

More to come, I promise. I’ve lots of lovely pictures of our trip to Positano, the local harbour festival, the Amalfi Coast from the boat trip we took and of our hotel. However, at the current rate I’ll be lucky if I get all of that written by Christmas! Oh well, please bear with me!