started well but sadly in August, after fighting the inevitable fight against
Old Age, Charlie was put to sleep. He fought well, and was his usual happy
little self right up until the end, even though he could hardly move in his
last day. He was our gorgeous little friend and we will always miss his cheeky,
lazy manner and his little beady eye. Everyone who met him fell in love with
him. We're not sure how many miles he did in the end as we lost track when we
moved down here, although it was certainly well into the tens of thousands, and
he was always ready to play when he reached his destination.Living in rented
accomodation I couldn't face burying him here to move on in a few years time
and leave him behind, and so we did the logical thing of wrapping his little
body up in a shroud and putting him in a tuppaware box in the freezer. Next
time we went to visit Dad we took him with us and buried him, in his wooden
house, under the apple tree in the garden. I hope he finds a log in
hammy-heaven to use as a base for all his 'splorings.
Inevitably, with the empty cage on the specially-bought coffee table/hamster
cage table, Kev and I started casually looking for hamsters up for adoption and
came across "Bell". "Bell" was a four-month old female hamster
with very pale ginger mottles over her white fur, and where Charlie was "damaged stock", "Bell" was "past her sell by date". The name just didn't suit
her. We still haven't found a name that really suits her, but we call her Winter as it
sort of suits her. Her full name is Winter Bella Tiny-Marcusetta Andy-Andy
Arlott, and she is as mad as a sackful of badgers on speed. Never have I seen a
hamster chew anything as much as Winter does. Never have I seen a hamster
choose not to sleep in a house/log/nook but make an elaborate nest of tissue,
covering half the cage floor. Never have I seen a hamster burrow with the vigour Winter displays. I'm very grateful she's in the glass cage, as I
think she'd get out of a normal cage.
Winter is quite a sizeable hamster - at only four months old she was already bigger than Charlie or Biscuit when they were much older. She has only continued to grow, so the super sized hamster tank is probably about the right size for her.
As such, the tank is too big to transpot anywhere if we need to take Winter with us, and, the manic-chewing machine she is, it's too risky to put her in the small cage. We had to come up with a better solution.
In December 2011, Kev and I went on holiday to Cornwall. But how to take Winter with us. A chance visit to Dad, who happened to be throwing out some very large plastic storage containers ("Spacious and durable!") on wheels, provided a solution.
We (by we, I mean, Kev) cut a hole in the lid big enough to accomodate the top grill from the tank cage. With no sticky-out bits inside, Winter had nothing to chew, and so a lightweight hamster transporter the same size as the tank was born. The trip to Cornwall demonstrated how effective it was - Winter seemed happy (although doesn't travel as well as Charlie) in it and actually seemed to enjoy the change of scenery. Problem solved!
It's been a long time since Kev or I posted on here properly and a lot has happened!
The wedding went well - we had a wonderful day, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves! And so now we are officially Mr and Mrs Arlott. Thanks again everyone who could make it and for all the lovely gifts we were given, they were all very thoughtful and have all been used!
About two weeks after the wedding, I got a call from a company I had an interview with in January offering me the job (they turned me down initially, but thankfully remembered me when some more work came up!) and so at the end of April Kev and I moved down to the outskirts of Southampton to a little flat, in the servants quarters of an old Victorian mansionette. Charlie (of course) made the journey with us, but his super-cage-tank was damaged in the move - he was a bit miffed at spending the next couple of weeks back in his travel cage.
The flat is quite small but it's more than big enough for the two of us. The main building is surrounded by much of its original gardens, including an old vegetable patch gone wild, manicures lawns and some wonderful old trees (including but not limited to the biggest horse chestnut I have ever seen, some interesting oak varieties, a larch, a fir and a mighty Scots Pine, but sadly no lofty flowering cherries and I'm not sure about the plucky little aspen). Being on the second floor and surrounded by trees it's often a little bit like being in a fully kitted out tree house. We have bird feeders on the windows and get regular visits from blue-, great- and coal-tits and even a family of nuthatches (and, on one occasion, a spotted woodpecker).
We finally got around to replacing Charlie's cage about a month after moving in, instead of the same size opting for one 5 inches longer. Charlie loved to be back in his log again and continued enjoying his adventures, especially when he started to explore the whole flat (although on multiple occasions, and quite by accident, not in his ball).
In my job (Marine Geophysicist, then Senior Geophysicist the following year) I enjoyed processing a range of geophysical data including magnetometer, sidescan sonar and sub-bottom data. Sub-bottom is definitely my favourite and something that never ceases to amaze me, despite it being something I have spent the majority of my time processing.
Kev was offered a job later in the year with a pretty big company based in Frimley - it means an hour long commute for him but he insists this isn't a problem!
Putting so many miles on the W reg Astra meant it had it's ups and downs and in September 2010 it failed it's MOT. We replaced it with...Another white Vauhall Astra estate, slightly newer! This one had a mere 88k on the clock, but this later turned out to be someone had clocked it (although the seller, a dealer, denied all knowledge of it) and we think it had somewhere in the region of 120k when we got it, which is annoying.
We both started playing badminton with some of my friends from work which turned into a twice-weekly habit. We're both getting pretty good now and it's definitely helped the two of us keep fit.
In late November my works had a Christmas Party, and we got the excuse to dress up and have some fun with our new friends.
Christmas 2010 was spent up in North Wales - for a second year heavy snow covered the whole country and we managed to get some fairly impressive photos of Kev snowboarding on the beach at Black Rock Sands.
We spent the weekend after our first anniversary in Florence. What a beautiful and inspiring city! I am also trying to learn Italian in my own time, but motivation issues are slowing me down.
Sadly we lost Charlie in early August 2011, and gained Winter two weeks later- I will post about that separately.
September saw Kev compete in the Euros at Hoylake, and our first package holiday to Isola di San Pietro, in Sardinia. It made a nice change to be able to swim comfortaby in the sea - I have never swum in a warm sea before! We did a load of snorkelling, and Kev enjoyed using his prescription mask and being able to see the multitude of fish.
That pretty much brings us to where we are now - so much for a "Quick Catch Up"!!
I was a little dubious of trying this at first. But when I realised that if I could get it to work, it would have the benefit of being no more than 5 minutes away from chocolate cake, I had to give it a go - wouldn't you?
YOU WILL NEED
4 tbsp flour 4 tbsp sugar 2 tbsp cocoa 1
medium egg 3 tbsp milk 3 tbsp oil A small splash of vanilla extract 1
large mug (we used a Pete's Eats Mug, and it was spot on for size)
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO
Add all the dry ingredients to the mug, and mix it all well. Add the egg and mix again, thoroughly.
Add the milk and oil, and mix again - make sure you do it well!
If you want, add 2-3tbsp chocolate chips at this stage, along with a splash of vanilla extract. Make sure you stir it again, really really well.
Whack it in the microwave quickly (if you're slow, the chips sink and you end up with a half burn mess at the bottom of the mug). Cook it on high/1000watts for 3 minutes. You can watch, if you've got nothing better to do - your cake might overflow the mug.
Once it's cooled a little, you can tip it out into a bowl - if you're feeling a bit greedy, you can eat the whole thing by yourself, but it will easily serve two. I had whipped cream with mine, but a hot chocolate sauce also wouldn't go amiss.
We've still got to try this a few more times, before we can get the recipe right, but for a quick chocolate fix you can't really go wrong!
So there you have it - possibly the most dangerous recipe in the world, if only because it means we are always but 5 minutes away from hot chocolate cake.
Lemming pasta is a ring-shaped pasta
similar to many kinds of meat filled tortellini found worldwide. However,
unlike many Italian pastas, lemming pasta originated in Scandanavian tundra
areas within the Arctic Circle. Latin name Tortellini Lemmini, an individual piece
of lemming pasta traditionally weighs between 2-5g and usually 3-5cm in length,
although weight and size can increase rapidly during cooking to as much as 8g
Left - Lemming Pasta. Right - A Lemming
The behaviour of lemming pasta is similar
to that of many other rodent-pasta varieties, including vole-pasta and
muskrat-pasta, in that much of it's time is spent reproducing. Lemming pasta often
suffers population explosions, owing to rapid growth of individual pasta pieces,
and therefore some individuals instinctively disperse in all directions in
order find more personal space. It is a common misconception that lemming pasta
is suicidal and partakes in mass suicide from the tops of cookware including
the common "Big Pan" and "Really-Big Pan" during cooking - although recent
scientific studies have proven several populations of Tortellini Lemmini to indicate manic-depressive tendencies (requires citation).
Above - Lemming Pasta populations often experience overcrowding, and instinctively attempt to migrate in all directions. Note two individuals attempting to escape the crowded pan conditions (centre), the secondary pan used in attempt to prevent too many pasta-deaths (bottom right) and a deceased individual (bottom left, below pan base).
Many pieces that are forced over the edge
of pans ultimately die. They may land underneath the pan and be burned by the
gas hob, or, in the case of an electric hob, be left abandoned, in both cases
rendered inedible. In some cases, lemming pasta can be saved by the quick use
of a spoon and a secondary pan of boiling water. Transferring some individuals
to a secondary pan by use of a cup is not advisable - by removing too many
pasta individuals the pasta below often encounters a rebound action and further
forces the pasta to surge over the edge of the pan to it's inevitable end.
Ultimately, the only effective way to avoid lemming pasta related accidents is
to use the "Really, REALLY Big Pan" and to keep an eye on the swelling pasta.
Lemming pasta is quite a delicacy once
cooked, and is particularly tasty served with a tomato and mascarpone sauce and
some grated cheese. Garlic bread with green bits is an optional accompaniment.
Sometimes you meet people, and you immediately
can't stand them. Sometimes, however, the opposite occurs and you meet a person
and are so uncontrollably, inexplicably drawn to them, you can't help but let
yourself go with the tide and enjoy the journey, even though you've no idea
where it's going to go.
For me, the day I first came face to face
with the shy and quiet young man known as Kevin, was one of these experiences. Kevin
and his dad, along with some other gents from North of the Border, were down at
the Wirral for a buggy racing event on June 21st 2003; living in
Derby, my own family weren't too far for a day trip over and since my dad and I
were really getting into this kite-flying malarkey we decided to make the
pilgrimage to Hoylake to spectate. When I first saw Kev and one of his friends,
Stu, walking over to us, I can honestly say that my mind was quiet - this is no
mean feat, since normally my own voice in my head chatters away 100% of the
time about this and that, but this young man had me totally lost for words.
Here was a skinny lad, apparently consisting of little but arms and legs and
those massive, warm but intelligent brown eyes of his, and he had me, serial
talker, totally stunned. Even now, I have no idea why this should be so -
nobody before had made me shut up so why should this veritable stranger?
Everyone at Hoylake, October 2003
Fast forward to October 2003 and we finally
decide to become an "item" - and then on through one more year of school, 2
years of college, 2 years at uni and all the ups and downs life threw at us in
between, to one of the happiest moments of my life so far.
At the end of August 2008, Kev and I went
away for a week to the Isle of Harris, on the Outer
Hebrides. Harris is somewhere I've always loved to go, and since
my first visits as a child a part of my soul has stayed there on the bleak
moonscapes and clean, empty beaches. We booked a B&B for the nights and
breakfasts, as the forecast was appalling, and spent the rest of the time
wandering around deserted coasts in the rain - although this didn't dampen my
spirits as I've always been drawn to the sea, hence my degree choice of Coastal
Geography. However, as it was Kev's first Hebridean visit, I would have loved
for him to have seen it in the sunshine so he could see it truly at it's best
as I knew he'd fall in love with it.
The third day we were there, August 27th,
we took a drive up to Lewis and for the first time the sun shone and we had a
lovely picnic on Dal Mor in a shelter I remember adding to 10 years previous (I
was astonished it was still there!) and then stopped off at a little
silversmiths on the drive back to Harris. There was the prettiest little ring,
and I quickly tried it on my ring finger when I thought Kev wasn't looking and
it fit! Anyway, he ushered me out of the shop and back into the car and I
thought nothing of it. The rest of the day we spent snorkelling unsuccessfully
at Seilbost (the bad weather the day before had made the viz so bad I couldn't
see my hands on the ends of each arm) and then over to Luskentyre for another
As we set up the blanket and sat down I
felt very happy and relaxed. Luskentyre is what I would consider one of the prettiest
jewels in the crown of the Hebridean beaches, and I have spent many happy hours
with my family and friends wandering around on the sand. Kev then announced he
needed the toilet and, as men can so easily do, he disappeared into the dunes.
"Just you watch where you're going. That's
a fragile ecosystem you're peeing all over!!" I shouted after him. Classy, me!
I smiled - the sun was setting for at least one beautiful evening for Kev to
see how glorious it can be up there.
He soon came trotting back with one of the
happiest grins I've ever seen on his face - and fell to one knee before asking
me the Eternal Question. Inside a very dainty carved wooden box, and surrounded
by Luskentyre sand, was the little ring from the shop - obviously I hadn't been
as subtle as I'd thought! The best I could croak out was a muted "yes!" and
have a little cry, before enjoying our M&S bolognese-in-a-can and some (slightly
And so, the sun actually set over the most
beautiful day I've ever experienced in the Hebrides,
and even though the rain truly poured the rest of the week, inside the sun is
still shining for me.
Last night was a monumental night for Charles P. Hamster.
Since the arrival of Umber, our guide-dog-in-training, Charlie's ball-time has dramatically reduced. This is not, however, because of of anything we've done - Charlie hates the dog.
As soon as Umber moved in, Charlie started spending more of the evening asleep - when we got him out of his cage, he would just freeze and move very, very slowly. I felt like the worst mummy in the world, but there was nothing we could do but hope that it was just him being unsure - having never come face to face with a dog before, that would be perfectly understandable. But no, Charlie spent almost every night asleep in his nest, only coming out for the occasional toilet break and to stock up on food.
When we went down to do our notice giving, Charlie came with us and that week he was like a different hamster. 7pm sharp, he'd wake up like he used to and announce to the world "It iss teatime, where is my food?!" and then until we went to bed he would be out and about, running in his ball just like he used to. Obviously then when we returned, it was like someone flipped a switch - back to scaredy-Charles.
Umber on the other hand, loves Charlie. Umber has, on several occasions, sat and watched Charlie running in his wheel for up to 15 minutes.
Then the other night, Umber went away to see who might potentially be his new owner. We put Charlie in the ball first thing in the morning when we got up the following day (he was still wide awake and wanting very much to come out and play, we didn't wake him!) and he ran around the house, even though it still must have smelled like dog. He was running about, being put back in his cage every 20 minutes or so for a drink and a sleep if he wanted it) until 12pm!
For 3 days we did this, and he started coming out again more in the evenings. Umber came back and then last night, while Umber was shut in the kitchen and lounge, Charlie spent the best part of 2 hours roaming free and happily like he used to, top speed up and down the hallway.
Finally it seems like Charlie is not afraid of the dog any more, just as Umber is getting ready to leave us!
Well today marks two months left until Kevin and I get married. Oh lord!
It's all action stations after Christmas. Before Christmas, I was the only one starting to panic about things not being done already - "Oh, it's ages away yet!" but since the start of the New Year everyone else seems to have switched to Wedding Mode and now most of the wedding party have organised their outfits!
My mum got the ball rolling with her outfit purchased in Birmingham - a tea-length dress in black and cream, with a faux-fur bolero to match. Sadly I don't have a "formal" picture of this, so you'll have to see it in the wedding photos!
Sarah continued the outfitting by buying her own dress from a shop in Chester, Always the Bridesmaid... - a gorgeous little D'Zage dress like the one in the middle here, but in a deep, rich teal - to match the swatch I got from another bridesmaid's dress a short while ago after falling in love with the colour. Jenny, stuck in London because of all the snow they've had, hasn't been able to get to a shop but, realising time is rapidly running out for ordering a dress, ordered one from a different shop in Chester - The Ivory Lounge. Jenny ordered a Belsoie dress in teal, pictured here, which I had originally intended to buy and "dress up a bit" as a wedding dress - but after trying on the larger bridal dresses felt the little bridesmaid dress to be a little humble, despite it's beauty.
The following Sunday, the Arlott gents went forth into Glasgow in search of an outfit for the groom and his attendents. Kev, Simon and Tom were all measured up at Geoffrey Tailor and kilted up and an order placed for three dashing outfits, in the style pictured here on the right, although Kev has opted for a plaid and brooch as well. The tartan Kev has chosen is Midnight Thistle, and should hopefully match nicely with the colours on the bridesmaids dresses and the ones chosen in the flowers.
Once the gents were organised it was time for Jane and I to hit the high streets of Glasgow - and hit them we did! We spent several hours shopping and Jane fell in love with a dress we first spotted in John Lewis - a Phase Eight Ophelia in navy with ivory and a deep cerise detailing, as opposed to the lilac colour pictured here. These colours should match the kilts, which also have a navy colour base.
This means my Dad and Ceri are the only ones left to find their outfit. Dad and I are going to have a look for something for him when I nip down to Chester for my Final Fitting at the end of January. Other than that it's just accessory shopping now for ways to keep warm - if this cold weather keeps up I will be wearing a wooly jumper!
Our invitations went out mostly before Christmas and a lot of our guests are returning their menu choices to me now - I'm hoping to have all of them in soon, so we can finalise the table plan and finish our place cards!
Table decoration wise, we are borrowing some fishbowls from Sarah's sister who is kindly lending them to us after her wedding back in November. These will be filled with sand (yes, a special kind of sand, yes, you can take the bride away from the ocean but you'll never take her sediment away from her!) and some pretty candles along with 100% British, responsibly sourced sea shells! Some of these Kev has been making into some fairly impressive little candles which I'll write about separately! Other beach miscellany will also be included, scattered on the tables including driftwood and tumbled sea glass.
Between now and March 15th everything has to be finallised, but now the important bits are done and we've (finally) given notice it's just tying up all the loose ends - the pressure is off but it's all go-go-go!
Kev and I have finally given Notice for our wedding. We've had a load of problems because we're both living in Scotland but want to get married in England - apparently this isn't allowed, because it's classed as immigration! So to get around it we had to go and live with my Dad for a while. After much hoo-har with the Job Centre and various registrars we packed up, along with Charlie, and boogied on down to Derby for a while.
We got all sorts of stuff done - we had to make a special day trip to Chester for my first proper dress fitting, where I met up with Sarah and my Mum. I spoke to the florist and have pretty much all but settled on what flowers we're having, and we also got all our invitations handed out/posted.
We also added a load of miles to the Hamster Milometer:
Hamster Miles to Date: 1036.55 miles Hamster Miles This Trip: 722.04 miles
TOTAL HAMSTER MILES: 1758.59 miles
But the main thing is that we managed to finally give notice, so, in about a week, we should legally be able to get married next March. One more thing struck from the ever growing list of things to do!
Well on the 9th of October Leah and Kev packed my things up and stuck me in the big noisy motorhome and we went for a very long drive! I'm not a great fan of travelling.
Firstly we went down to the Sands of Luce. It wasn't so bad, although I got put in a cupboard and all I could hear all night while I tried to concentrate on my running in my wheel was Tom snoring! The second night though was much cooler and I had to make a big nest in the base of my house - I piled all the wood shavings high and snuggled down into them with my tissue paper and it was ever so cosy.
Then we drove some more, and came back home. I thought "Brilliant! I can stop this being chilly in the big noisy thing and enjoy some running around the house in my ball." So I enjoyed the evening - but then in the morning we were off again!
This was a much longer drive and I was really hoping it was going to stop soon when it did. We were at Chris' house! I like it there because I can wander about and enjoy the fireplace being all warm and cosy. The house is like a giant hamster-nest for people, although I personally find it doesn't smell as nice as my manly-hamster odour like my nest does.
We stayed there for a bit and then the big noisy thing came back and we went off again! Although not too far this time before we came to a nice stop in Cheshire for the evening. Well, I enjoyed a hearty run in my wheel again that evening! The next morning I was running about all over the living room of the motorhome - around the table and I even tried to climb the curtains. I think everyone was surprised when I worked out how to get out of the top of my cage - they kept putting me back in so I kept doing it again to prove how strong I am!
That day we drove about a lot, although at first this was punctuated by a lot of short stops. Then we did one big journey back home again. I was tired after this so I slept for a long time that evening.
So, to my Hamster Miles:
Hamster Miles to Date: 286.56 miles Hamster Miles This Trip: 749.99 miles