Thursday, 19 March 2015

Patio progress (and oh, WHAT progress)

Remember when I was dreaming of patios? Well SBB has made quite a bit of progress. In fact, he was a little shocked when I showed him the original post from August of last year - not for how it looked but because he thought he'd started work on it much earlier and in fact spent a couple of minutes telling me how my post was wrong. Erm...

Anyway, we've made quite a bit of progress (I say 'we' I mean 'he'). First up was to lay a concrete base. SBB did this at the end of August and destroyed a pair of trainers in the process of laying the first half (luckily he wore wellies the second time)

First steps on the patio!

Next was to build the wall to hide the ugly concrete path. It took us a couple of back-breaking weekends to source the stones and we added the ones we bought to the small stock that we had left over from the old rockery.

 Isn't it so pretty?
 SBB found a heart-shaped stone and set it in the centre. He's such a romantic :)

This was such a good find. It's an old fragment of gravestone that we found under an overgrown hedge. For a while we weren't sure what to do with it but as soon as we decided we were going to build a stone wall there was only one option.

So that was it for last year. The winter set in and building work ceased, waiting until for better weather. Now that's it's spring of course, SBB has a patio-shaped-bee in his bonnet however, there was a problem. We hadn't bought enough bricks to lay the entire patio and they had been discontinued. No herringbone for us, then.
We threw some ideas around and eventually decided upon a slab/cobble/motif combo.

SBB set out the brick border and then filled the cavity behind the wall with rubble before topping it with muck and smoothing it over.

We then grabbed a couple of bags of gravel (the wood's there to keep it from spilling onto the path).

We didn't use as much gravel as we thought so the rest will be going down in this awkward little corner - along with something else that I'm going to keep as a surprise!

So that's all so far. We managed to source some broken bricks so SBB will be laying those and then we'll have to shop for some slabs to go down!
I confess that this progress is starting to make me think of BBQs....

Monday, 16 March 2015

Suffolk and See - Part 2

Now for part two...

Sunday was spent with SBB's brother - we hit up two castles and a National Heritage site. It was a whole lotta history but that's what we love! We went to Framlingham Castle - which has a very interesting history - Orford Castle and Sutton Hoo. I don't have any pictures to show you for Sutton Hoo because it started raining just as SBB and I were heading out to the burial mounds and we had to do the 'Sharpe's rifles quick march' to get there before we got drenched. We managed to snap one picture of us in front of said burial mounds in which we both look disheveled and a little wild.

Framlingham Castle (the one that can be seen today) was built by Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, and completed about 1213 and was captured by King John in 1216. By the end of the 13th century the castle was a luxurious home with extensive land for hunting. During the 15th and 16th centuries Framlingham was at the heart of the estates of the powerful Mowbray and Howard families (relations of both Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard) - and it was during this time that the fashionable brick work was added. Later Mary (aka Bloody Mary) seized power in 1553 - she collected her forces at Framlingham Castle before successfully marching on London. In the years that followed the castle was also used as a poor house, a public house, an isolation ward during the plague and as an equipment store during the Napoleonic Wars.

The old poorhouse - such a beautiful building
The old poor house

Love this door

There's an odd but interesting animated video next to the reception/shop which gives visitors a quick run through of the history. None of us were English Heritage members so we had to pay but while we were in the shop SBB and I noticed a reproduction sword for sale for the bargain price of £85. I wasn't willing to commit to buying it until I'd seen the blade so we decided to ask to look at it after a walk around the walls. However, by the time we got back down - it had been sold! We were a little bit sad but then it probably just wasn't meant to be.
SBB was particularly enamored with the brick chimneys - as you'd expect - and I must have taken over 100 photos of the place. It was definitely worth the admission fee but SO COLD up on the battlements. It was windy and the wind was bitter. I'd left my gloves back at the hotel so by the time I'd finished taking all the photos my hands were painfully numb from the cold.

Next up was Orford Castle - it was built between 1165 and 1173 by Henry II and was heavily garrisoned during the conflict between 1173-1174. The political importance of Orford diminished after Henry's death although the port of Orford grew in importance as it handled more trade. The castle was captured in 1216 by Prince Louis. After 1336 it was no longer a royal castle and passed through various families whilst the surrounding economy of Orford went into decline. The estuary of the River Ore increased and gradually the harbour became more difficult to access and trade dried up. The castle and the land changed hands again in 1754 and by the late-18th century only the north wall of the bailey survived and the roof and upper floors of the keep had badly decayed. In 1805 a proposal was made to destroy it but this was declined and in 1831 restorations began. In 1930 the castle was given to Orford Town Trust. During the Second World War it was used as a radar emplacement.

Inside there were some cabinets with the various archeological finds from the site and the cabinet that caught my attention held information about the Wild Man of Orford. According to the story, a naked wild man, covered in hair, was caught in the nets of local fishermen around 1167. The man was brought back to the castle where he was held for six months, being questioned and tortured but he said nothing. The man was feral although eventually they decided he wasn't a threat and let him roam the castle but he was disdained by all. Eventually they took him out to the water and he swam away, popping up in the water every now and again 'in a mocking manner'. Obviously there were a few theories at the time ranging from demons to mermen. Modern suggestions seem to be that it was a seal but if the account is to be believed the wild man had the body of a man, slept in a bed and walked around... which doesn't sound very seal-like to me.

Unfortunately most of the castle has been demolished so only the tower is left. Apparently it's quite well-known for its unusual design and I can see why - each level had curling tunnels and rooms around the outside of each main room - a bit like a starfish if it bent all its legs round in a spiral. Most of the rooms were too dark to get any decent pictures but they were certainly entertaining. We found a couple of 'waterclosets' which had the wooden seats reconstructed so there were a couple of joking references to a certain scene from Game of Thrones.

I know it's technically still graffiti but I still think it's a little awesome...

Sutton Hoo is home to one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time - they discovered the ship burial of an Anglo-Saxon king and his treasured possessions; including the famous Saxon helmet - have a look at the National Heritage website and you'll recognise it. We only arrived at site ten minutes before it was about to close so we rushed around the museum and had a quick (damp) peek at the burial mounds.

Sunday evening we went out to dinner with SBB's brother and his small family in Bury St Edmunds. We popped into a Wetherspoons - I think it was called the Corn Exchange? - and SBB and I were pretty impressed with the interior.

I perused the menu but my brother-in-law insisted that 'with all the great places to eat in Bury it would be a crime to eat at a Wetherspoons'

....Okay then....

Instead we ended up eating at Chimichangas which didn't seem to me to be a particularly special place (but hey, what do I know...). There were a couple of mix ups with our order - my sister-in-law isn't eating dairy at the moment as the baby has an allergy and somehow that translated to the staff that she wouldn't be eating rice as her vege chilli came out with - I kid you not - a dessert spoonful of rice. We had to ask for more. As for my order I asked for the cajun chicken quesadilla and ended up with just cajun chicken and the soggiest corn on the cob I've ever had in my life.

 The funeral was in a little village called Clare and was to be held in Clare Priory. That's extent of the directions that we were given and, determined not to get lost as we had at the other funerals, decided to scout out the place to find out EXACTLY where we were going. SBB's mum had implied that the Priory was easy to find. After an hour of driving around in the dark we finally found the place so we were both glad we hadn't left it til the morning of the funeral.
In Clare we did spot this amusingly named pub and, indulging my immature side, I took a quick snap.

The next day we drove through some lovely old villages and towns and there some places that we'd have definitely liked to stop to take photos but it felt a little inappropriate given the occasion. I think, given the chance, we'd definitely go back to Suffolk and see more of what the area has to offer.

Have you been to Suffolk (or live there?) do you have any recommendations for places to visit?

Sunday, 15 March 2015

A small obsession with frozen... not the film

SBB has been getting me to try new foods.

After years after declaring hatred for them SBB has encouraged me to try, and I've discovered I enjoy, the following:

  • Marmite
  • Yellow peppers (still can't stand the reds or greens, though)
  • Cauliflower
The last one was a real surprise to me. I really hated it. Really, really. But now I can't understand what the fuss was about.

I've been trying to add more vegetables to our diet and have recently become obsessed with frozen vegetables. I bought a bag of mixed frozen veg a few years ago (which had red pepper in - not a great start!) and we hated it. Perhaps I went too cheap with it? We've always had frozen peas but they were all we had. Obviously I buy fresh vegetables but I want the flexibility of frozen veg.

Anyway I decided to try again and I'm so glad I did. I've been adding it to almost everything lately. Burgers and sweet potatoes with frozen veg? Simple, healthy and tasty!

Have you recently discovered a taste for anything you previously didn't like?

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Suffolk and See - Part 1

A couple of weekends ago SBB and I headed up to Suffolk. I'd like to say we were just taking a short break but actually we were heading up there for SBB's great aunt's funeral - so it was a weekend of mixed emotions. The funeral was on the Monday but, having recently been to two other funerals just north of London and only just making it by the skin of our teeth - we decided that to drive up on the Monday to get there for 11am would have been a nightmare travel-wise. Instead we decided to head up on the Saturday to spend a couple of days seeing the area. Also, SBB's brother lives up near Cambridge so it also gave us an opportunity to visit them and their baby daughter (our first niece!).
I checked the route on Google. It threw up some interesting results:

Image taken from Google maps
 Five flights and two continents later...
We caught a ferry Saturday morning at a very respectable 9am - given that we're usually on a ferry at 7am or earlier when visiting the mainland it felt very luxurious indeed!
The journey wasn't very eventful - M27, M25, M11 - whilst singing along (loudly) to our Les Miserables CD. We eventually stopped at junction 8 of the M11 to get some lunch and I discovered something that made me squeak elegantly gasp in excitement. They had a Krispy Kreme doughnuts self-service cabinet.

A complimentary doughnut? Where do I sign up?!
I'd like to say that they made it some way of the journey... but I can't. I think I was back in the car 30 seconds before I opened the box. We bought a caramel ring doughnut for SBB and we shared the strawberry love bug (in the middle) and the Lotus caramelised biscoff limited edition- which was the best one. Oh my god... just thinking about it is making my mouth water - it was heaven!
We also had our customary Burger King but instead of my usual Whopper I had a Double Rodeo burger. Sooo gooood.
We stayed at The Rutland Arms Hotel - a quirky old hotel in Newmarket.

Quirky staircases!

Random wooden struts - love it

More quirky staircases!

Yes the floor is sloping

The courtyard

Shoe shiner

Gorgeous stained glass window
The hallway

The car park! Love the trailing ivy

Entrance to the carpark - it's a bit tight!

Newmarket highstreet

Newmarket highstreet view two
Newmarket highstreet view 3

Quirky shop across the road
Quirky shop across the road (again)

Fake Hogwarts Express?
The room was a bit worn and the bathroom was an ever-so-attractive avocado green but it was clean and in the new section of the hotel far away from the mainroad - i.e. pitch black and silent at night. Well, it wasn't so silent on the Saturday night. We were unfortunate enough to have irritatingly inconsiderate guests staying next to and opposite us. The ones next to us came in at 1:38 (I looked at my phone) and spent about twenty minutes having a loud conversation in their bathroom (which backed directly onto our bedroom). About an hour later the woman returned to the bathroom to throw up (lovely!). Then at about twenty to four in the morning the guests opposite and down the hall (who had been playing loud music BEFORE they went out) came back, rather worse for wear, had a loud drunken conversation outside our door and then proceeded to wish each other 'GOOODNIIGHTTT' before going into their rooms and slamming their respective doors. Great. Thanks for that.

Breakfast was included in the price so I opted for a full English (MINUS the black pudding!) but SBB just had a bacon sandwich and pastries. Needing caffeine we both had tea. Lots of it. I was a bit worried about having another night's sleep disturbed - particularly with the funeral the next day - so I asked at the desk whether the guests around us would be staying another night. Turns out they weren't but after I explained the situation to the lady - who I assumed to be the weekend manager - she very kindly offered to leave the whole corridor empty that night and make sure that any new arrivals were placed elsewhere in the hotel. I'm so very grateful that they did and we had a wonderful night's sleep.

We popped over to see SBB's brother on Saturday evening to make some sort of plan for the next day and stopped off at The Plough at Fen Ditton on the way back to the hotel for dinner. It was a lovely place but SO busy! We were lucky to get a table at the bar, which I didn't mind at all because the tables were metal topped. So SHINY!

 SBB had the fillet steak and I had battered halloumi - an enduring obsession love that I picked up in Cyprus.

Check back for part 2!