Tuesday, 11 April 2017

First day in paradise: Samoa 2016

We landed just before sunrise at Faleolo airport and were welcomed by the resident band playing local music and singing and as soon as the luggage arrived we joined the queue for the bureau de change.  The Samoan tala isn't a closed currency but it is very difficult to obtain especially in the UK so most visitors take Australian dollars and get it changed at the airport.  As expected, the queue was rather long and by the time we emerged, dawn had broken ...

We were given gorgeous fresh flower leis from our drivers Joe and Chris and once the vans were packed up we set off across the island to our first accommodation; Coconuts Beach Club

One of the first tourist hotels on the islands, Coconuts has a bit of a history including almost complete destruction when a tsunami hit the islands in September 2009.
Our drive took us from the airport on the west of the island, right across the middle to the south coast, and less than an hour later we were checking in and sipping coconut cocktails (yes, at that time of the morning!)
Hannah and I were sharing a 2 bedroom beach fale which, as the name suggests, was beach front with the South Pacific just a few steps away.  Despite the rain (which featured very heavily during our trip unfortunately) I took myself off for a quick paddle with my coconut, as you do...

We has time to freshen up before having breakfast and then having a full tour of the property; the original accommodation known as the tree house (a small block of rooms was built back in 1992, the beach fales which were completed in 1994 and finally the over-water fales which were the first ones in Samoa back in 1997 with more added in 1999.
The tsunami pretty much wiped out the whole property but by February 2010 they were ready to accept guests again and were fully operational in no time...

We then met up with Chris and Joe and they took us the short journey inland to the Lupe Sina Treesort...

I've never seen anything like it before!  Designed and built by owner Jack (an American who has lived on Samoa over 30 years) it is certainly unique!  The main accommodation is the Samson suite, built within the branches of an ancient Banyan tree (over 300 tears old they think) climbing the narrow stairs up 12 metres into a tree was like being transported to a mythical land and the view was just stunning - I can only imagine what it must be like on a clear sunny day looking out over the rainforest to the ocean beyond.  Some members of the group criticised it for being very old fashioned but I think bright modern fixtures would look totally out of place in the heart of a tree.  I certainly wouldn't call it luxurious but it's definitely a once in a lifetime experience...

Unfortunately we couldn't view the other tree house (Star Gazer) as there were guests staying but the view from their deck area was just so beautiful...

The Star Gazer is around 10 metres up in an Ava tree and the bedroom has a glass ceiling so that you can watch the stars from your bed - and with very little light pollution I can only imagine it to be spectacular.
We were invited to the main house for refreshments and were treated to fresh coconuts and home made chocolate cake, I love this place already!

We were scheduled to do a gorge walk in the afternoon but after extremely heavy rains it turned into a river walk - some of us carried on and had a great time and the rest of us (me included) headed back to Coconuts and relaxed for a while.

Dinner was in the lovely Mika's Restaurant, listening to the tales of the river walk and then the Fia Fia began...

Fiafia is a celebration of everything Samoan:  filled with colour, music, song dancing and of course fire!


I was invited to take part in the 'ava ceremony and stood up, raised the coconut shell cup and said my first Samoan words "la manuia" which has a multitude of meanings: happy, well, good.  I then (having watched a couple of people before me) took a drink and then threw the rest of the contents over my shoulder - symbolising the throwing away of misfortune!


After such a long and busy day (London felt like forever ago!) it was time to head to bed.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

An epic journey - Samoa 2016

I hope you don't mind travelling back in time with me for a few posts, I didn't get a chance to blog while I was away in Samoa last year as our days were very busy so I thought I'd do a year on (like I did with the USA) mind you, its crept up on me quicker than I thought 😮

Back in November 2015 I attended a training evening based around the islands of the South Pacific.  I was sitting next to Alison from the Samoa Tourism Authority whom I'd met before at another event, she knew about my love of rugby and that I wanted to visit the South Pacific, anyway, as normal with these things there's a little prize draw after dinner, and there's usually a good selection of goodie bags, wine, accommodation and fam trip places up for grabs.  Alison's prize was accommodation in Samoa and guess who won?! Yey!!
Alison later explained I could swap my accommodation for a place on the Tourism Exchange which was taking place the following April. I said I'd love to and that was that.

So on April 6th 2016 I caught the train from Newcastle to London for the first 247 miles of my "epic journey"; as Samoa is on the dateline, I suppose it's the furthest place from home without leaving the planet!  The sun was shining in London when I arrived at Kings Cross...

I made my way over to Heathrow and enjoyed a night in the Travelodge before getting up bright and early the next morning to head over to the airport to meet Alison and the group and set off on leg 2.
Blimey, these places work like clockwork 24 hours a day I really don't know why I was worrying so much.  A couple of minutes on the hoppa bus to terminal 5 and then I was on the Heathrow Express to terminal 2 eating my "grab 'n' go" breakfast of tea and a croissant.  Just a few minutes later and I was at the check in desks :)

Now, meeting up with friends and family isn't too stressful as you know what they look like, however, meeting a group of people you've never clapped eyes on is a bit of a nightmare!  Alison arrived and we checked in together as everyone else had already gone through.  A quick meet and greet with Elizabeth, Hannah and Nicole at the gate and before we knew it we were called for boarding...

I've not flown Singapore Airlines before and know they are one of the best so was looking forward to this...

the view from seat 53A of a dull and rainy London...

I was quite impressed by the room in economy (even though business class was almost empty we weren't important enough for an upgrade lol)  and we were given a little amenities kit - not had one in economy before, and I got acquainted with the entertainment system before the drinks trolley came around.  I had the whole row to myself so I popped my feet up and read my book before stretching out and having a snooze...

The food trolley woke me up and I enjoyed my shiitake mushrooms and vegetables in ginger sauce with fried rice.  Film time "The Lady in the Van" followed by a bit of crochet, another film "Star Wars" and some more sleep and before I knew it, we were somewhere over the Andaman Sea and the breakfast trolley was doing the rounds and the eggs Benedict were delicious...

Time to watch one more film (Suffragette) from my planner before landing.  
That was the longest leg of 6747 miles done.  We didn't have too long to wait in Singapore airport but had a wander around the shops and got to know each other a bit more.  

The Sydney flight was around 8 hours (covering 3915 miles) and as it co-incided with UK night time I wanted to try and catch up on a bit of sleep to help me adjust to the 12 hour time difference.  I checked my watch and realised I'd been on the go for 24 hours just as the captain announced we were flying over Ayres Rock - typical I was on the wrong side of the aircraft!  On the way into Sydney the sun was shining high above the clouds...

We met up with the other members of the group who had come from various other destinations across Europe so it was nice to finally have us all together :)
It was dark when we left Sydney for the final leg of our epic journey.  Only 2697 mile to go and we would be in Samoa!!! 

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Photo Challenge Week 14: Pond

After missing the photo challenge last week, I made sure I was prepared early for this weeks post!

On my way home from seeing the lovely ladies at my local wool shop / crochet group  on my day off I made a little detour to the village pond.

Now, I admit it's been years since I was last down here but apart from being a lot tidier, nothing much has changed ...

Despite the dull weather the ducks were in fine form and making plenty of racket as they swam towards each other and then I spotted a beautiful swan heading towards me

My friend had told me earlier that a swan had nested right alongside the fence so I assumed this speedy bird was the owner of that nest, by the time she reached me she was hissing a bit too much for my liking so I legged it!

I'll come down again soon when the babies have arrived and try to get some pictures of the fluffies!

It's funny, being down there on a dull spring day reminded me of coming down here with the Brownies some 30 odd years ago and looking for frog spawn - blimey I hadn't realised it was that long ago and now I feel old!!

Monday, 3 April 2017

Goodbye March!

The last couple of weeks have been so busy all of the days have flowed into one at a frightening speed and I missed the end of March!!

And that means I don't get to look at one of my favourite pictures anymore ...

obviously I didn't take it but it was my idea and I'm so glad I got to do it.
You can find out more here about where it was taken etc in my previous blog post about my trip to America.

I didn't manage the photo challenge last week as my inspiration deserted me when it came to the subject "van" - I think I'm pretty much sorted for this week though so that's good.

I've been gifting a few makes which is always a good feeling :)  my new bunny pattern is lovely and everyone seems to like them too...

I've got one on the hook and another 2 orders, as well as an order for an old style.  And I'm SO excited to be able to finally share my penguin with you!  I fell in love with this pattern as soon as I saw it as it's the perfect penguin...

Isn't he gorgeous!? Even if I say so myself :)  Both him and the bunnies are from a lovely designer, called Amy over at Little Muggles - her designs are so sweet and the patterns are very easy to follow. I have a feeling I'll be hooking up more of her creatures in the future.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Photo Challenge Week 12: Historical

Oh my goodness - I could fill an entire library with historical pictures, I'm such a history geek!!
It's taken me all week but I finally decided on this one ...

This is the "Cooperage", one of the oldest buildings in Newcastle and has a great history..

I've always known it as a pub, which my Dad used to drink in occasionally (sadly, I've never actually been inside). 

The first storey of the Cooperage was built back in 1430 - the ceiling timbers supposedly came from a Dutch merchant's ship that had sunk in the river Tyne which runs opposite the building.  
Due to the close proximity of the old town wall at the foot of Castle Hill, there was no room to extend out so they went up and a new storey was added every century or so.

In 1531 the building was granted to the merchant Thomas Horsley and was then occupied by generations of prominent merchant families until around 1742.  Records show that silk dyer Mr J Robinson bought the building in 1841 but by 1853 it was listed as a grocery store.

In 1863 an established cooper (barrel maker) moved into the building.  Barrel making was big business as they were used were used to transport all kinds of goods from the river: beer, wine, butter and fish.  John Arthur Cooper bought the building in 1876 and carried on the barrel making business.  6 generations and almost a century later, the family moved the business to Ponteland and in 1974 it became a pub.

Long since closed, archaeological digs have taken place inside and pottery from the 14th and 15th century has been found along with Roman pieces.

As with most old buildings, it's said to be haunted.  One particular tale is that the ghost of a sailor who was nailed to a side door for attacking maid on the Long Stairs and he is still said to pound the door to this day 👻

The steps running up the side near the bottom right-hand are known as the "long stairs" which managed to survive the Great Fire of Newcastle in 1854 and they lead up to the castle keep.
The building next door (on the right) is the Michelin star restaurant House of Tides which is a fantastic place.

I love history, especially in my beautiful city so I hope I haven't bored you!! X

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Photo Challenge Week 11: Spiral

So here we go on my first endeavour into blog photo challenges - eek!

I picked this one up from reading Nana Cathy's blog and have watched (or read) from the side lines for the last couple of weeks seeing what others have submitted just so I get the right idea.

The hint which came out last week was "spiral" and I immediately knew which picture I would submit...

I love this picture :)  taken on a day out with my Mum, we walked the stairs rather than took the lift in the Baltic Mill on the Gateshead Quayside.  I looked down over the handrail to see how high up we were and loved the reflection from the floor below (you can just see me in the bottom right corner of the reflection as I took the picture) it actually looks a lot higher than it is because of this reflection and I liked that too.

The Baltic Mill is now a centre for contemporary art which, in all honesty I just don't "get" but I still like to have a nosey around and go up to the viewing platform and look out along the river of my home town/city...

The shiny building to the left is the Sage Gateshead which is a top class music venue, the world famous Tyne Bridge sits proudly in the middle and in the bottom right corner the Millennium Bridge.
Baltic Square at the bottom left hosts all sorts of different events from comedy festivals to the city athletics meeting.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Photo Challege

I've always taken photos and love nothing better than wandering around capturing views and random things - I could never take portraits, I don't have the patience haha!
Last year I entered my very first photo competition; Newcastle Libraries were looking to re-vamp one of their regular titles and wanted pictures of listed buildings within the city for Newcastle & Gateshead: Architecture and Heritage

As soon as I read the article I knew I wanted to submit my picture of St Nicholas' Cathedral that I'd taken a while back.  My friend Julie, her children and I were having a guided walk of the city centre on a lovely Sunday morning and as we stood with our guide talking about Queen Victoria and the position of her statue on St Nicolas Square, I just happened to look behind me and saw the reflection of the beautiful Cathedral spire in the windows of the Cathedral Square office building and immediately snapped this ...

I sent in my entry to the competition and it wasn't long before I was told I was a finalist!
The general public had to vote on which picture they wanted for the book (at this stage I didn't know it was going to be on the cover) I asked everyone to vote for me as you do and I won!
My prize was a gift voucher and a copy of the book.

And here is my picture on the front cover!

AND my name is on there too!  Fame at last hurrah!

I really wish I had the time and money to concentrate on my photography a bit more - I need to get out of auto mode and learn the workings of my camera but courses are so expensive.  I also want to learn "proper" editing too.  I post on Instagram all the time and have editing apps on my phone and tablet but I have no idea on layers and picture stitching etc

Since joining Bloglovin' I've began following a lot of crafty blogs and have stumbled upon reading challenges and photo challenges along the way.  So now it's time to bite the bullet - I'm entering my first photo challenge next week :)

Sunday, 5 March 2017

THE sock post - finished!!

I've wanted to make socks for ages and I will learn to knit them this year with the help from my friends at Ready Steady Knit but when I saw this gorgeous sock yarn from Opal I just had to have it and have a go at crocheting a pair.

There are so many lovely colours to choose from but the bright turquoise really stood out and it was this one I went home with.

The "Snuggly Socks" pattern from Simply Crochet issue 24 was very easy to follow and worked up quite quickly.  It's not a difficult pattern, just double crochet and you can measure as you go against your own foot which is helpful!

The heel was a lot easier than I anticipated, with decreases and then increases before continuing around the foot again.

Leaving just a small seam either side of the heels to stitch up, as you can see Mr Weasley wasn't very interested or excited by the new socks!

I got to the top and as there was a decent amount of wool left, I added a little picot edge just to finish them off...


I'm wearing them in my wellies this weekend so let's hope they keep my tootsies warm!

Friday, 3 March 2017

Spring, craft-tea time and socks!

I love March: spring finally arrives, days are noticeably longer and everything is just a little bit brighter, hurrah!

We passed some beautiful blossom on our way for tea and cake on Sunday, nature is certainly stirring and colour is seeping slowly back into our rather bland winter world...

Almost every Sunday after lunch my Mam and I head up to our local (and favourite) tea shop The Perfect Blend for a cuppa and cake.  There's nothing better than a nice stroll knowing there's a warm welcome and delicious treats awaiting you.

I always take whatever crafty projects I'm working on with me (when they saw my Christmas pudding chocolate orange covers immediately ordered as many as I could do as an added Christmas treat in the shop.  I'm delighted to say I managed 33 and they all sold!) and we chatter while I "work"

I'm delighted that they are launching a craft-tea evening this month (Tuesday 14th) from 6:30pm - 8:30pm and I'm hoping some of my crafty friends will come along :)

So, full of tea and cake, we headed home to watch the rugby and I sewed up the heel seams on my socks!

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Goodbye February!

And there you have it - February done and gone.

The last day of looking at another of my favourite pictures...

One of the most photographed spots in the whole of Northumberland, this is Sycamore Gap.

Made famous by the blockbuster film Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves back in 1991, it's been a place I've longed to visit since my teens.  When I finally got around to it a couple of summers ago, it was certainly well worth the wait!  Early on in the walk from Housesteads is the only place you are permitted to walk actually on the wall (which feels wrong, but you have to do it) and then you follow the path with the most beautiful scenery all around you before dropping down into this little valley with it's world-famous tree.

Depending on where you begin, it's not an easy walk, it can be rough under foot as you're just walking along the trodden grass and steep in a few places:  it really makes you think about the poor workers and how they got all of the supplies etc in place and built the structure itself.

I'd absolutely love to take night pictures up there as there's hardly any light pollution and you can capture the most amazing starscapes like these from Paul Flannigan.  I follow Paul on Facebook and can only dream about taking such stunning pictures as he does.

There are a few different websites with links for Hadrian's Wall and Sycamore Gap in particular, but here's a good one.

And a couple of extra pictures...

Thursday, 23 February 2017

February is flying by

Even though it's only 2 days "short" of an average month, February always seems to disappear in a flash.

Earlier in the month I went to a crime writers event at Gateshead Central Library.  I've been a keen crime reader since my teens (fact and fiction) and although it can be a bit gory and scary at times I still keep coming back for more.  The evening was based around 2 authors and their professional partners:  Margaret Murphy (or A.D. Garrett as she is also known) writes psychological novels and her forensic expert Helen Pepper and Mari Hannah alongside her partner Mo Dowdy who is a retired Detective Inspector.  Is was really interesting to hear how they worked together to build the characters and plots, with the "experts" adding to the mix to make it more realistic.  I learned a long time ago that crime work is a long, slow and laborious task and certainly not like it is on TV, the big screen or on the pages of a book but I still have a hankering for all that searching and analysis.  Maybe in another life - there's no way I'm brainy enough or rich enough to start again lol
As a result, I bought Mari's first novel and have spent this week flying through it, stopping occasionally for a bit of crafting! Loved it, need to get the next one :)

I spent my weekend off with friends, enjoying a fab Thai green curry and overdue catch up time (not to mention, some delightful gin as well) Sunday morning came and it was glorious, it was almost as if Spring had arrived: beautiful blue skies and even the wind was warm (ish!). We walked from Whitburn round past Roker lighthouse to the newly developed area at Marine Walk where we stopped for a drink and a seat in the sunshine.  I loved this piece of sculpture - just framing the end of Roker pier in a rather James Bond-esque fashion...

We made our way back through Roker park so the boys could hunt down Pokemon and savoured the last of the blue sky before heading home for a well earned brew...

The damned hat has finally been finished and I still have no love for it, maybe if I hide it in the back of the cupboard until next winter I might feel differently.  Or maybe I'll just make another one in a crochet-friendly wool and be done with it.

Sock number 2 is pretty much finished now I've closed the book and I got the heel and best part of the ankle finished in crochet class this week.  It was the lovely Janet's 70th birthday at the weekend and she brought some beautiful raspberry and rose cakes for us to enjoy...

Once I get this sock finished it's back to my list of makes and next on the agenda: a penguin to go down to Bristol with me next month and then 2 rabbits :)

A crafters life is never quiet!

Friday, 10 February 2017

Sock it to me

I've kind of "frogged" my messy bun hat at the moment; despite the fact I'm almost finished, the fluffy black yarn is driving me mad!
Another rabbit is done and dusted and before I start the next 2 I wanted to get a start on my socks!

I've wanted to make socks for ages and there seems to be a bit of a renaissance for hand made socks at the moment - lovely Lucy from Attic 24  is always showing off her gorgeous fluffies and it's making me want them even more!

I'm not ready for knitting them yet - the thought of 4 needles fills me with fear but I thought I'd have a go at crocheting them.  I bought this gorgeous Opal yarn from Ready Steady Knit my local shop (and where I go for crafty chit chat on my day off) and after much deliberation I decided on a pattern from Simply Crochet magazine issue 24

Not done anything unusual yet so not bad for a first attempt if I say so myself...

Let's see how I get on when I get to the heel!

Will keep you posted :)

PS:  "frogged" in crafty terms means to leap-frog the project and go on to the next one before finishing!

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Goodbye January!

There we go, first month of 2017 gone in the blink of an eye!  Tomorrow when I'm back at work I get to turn over on to the next page of my own calendar.  We get loads of free calendars at work from suppliers but none of them were what I wanted - too big, too small etc so I made my own with my own pictures, I chose 12 of my favourites, loaded them up into the Asda photo website and tah da...

January's picture is of Souter Lighthouse which was built in 1871.  I've visited a couple of times now and the view along the coastline is absolutely beautiful from the top and it's not a bad climb either...

The stretch of coast between the Tyne and the Tees has 43.8 shipwrecks per mile, confirming it as the most dangerous area around the British Isles and the rocks at Whitburn Steel were particularly dangerous, making a lighthouse essential.  Souter was revolutionary, being the world's first lighthouse to be purpose-built with electricity; due to technology it was decommissioned in 1988.

When the visibility dropped to less than 2 miles during daylight or the pier lights were not visible at night, the huge foghorn would sound (and wow, it's loud!) 

Home to the best coal in the whole of the North East, the area has links with author Lewis Carroll and the nephew of our local heroine Grace Darling was the lighthouse keeper for 24 years. 

I was lucky enough to be there on an open day and was up beside the huge lamp when it was switched on. The whole system looks brand new, it's so well kept and lovingly looked after by the National Trust volunteers. The lamp itself is sat in mercury and can be moved with one finger - I know as I've moved it!

The main lighthouse keepers cottage is kept as a museum and is a little a step back in time with furnishings from days gone by.  The other cottages at the Leas can be rented out - something I'd love to do during the long summer days.
The little garden is full of pretty flowers and attracts loads of birds and butterflies...

The perfect place to watch the sun go down with a g&t once all of the visitors have left for the day :)  roll on summer eh?!

Friday, 27 January 2017

Winter Blues and Grey Days

I have a huge case of the winter blues...
As much I as I love frosty mornings and Christmas-card snowy views I'm really not a winter person - I much prefer bare feet and flip flops to fluffy socks and slippers!  

I think it's these dark mornings that are really making me feel bleugh.  I love waking up early to the sun streaming through the window and the promise of a long day ahead whereas these dark mornings just make me want to turn over and go back to my warm fuzzy sleep; especially last week when I finally succumbed to the dreaded bug that's been doing the rounds.

However, despite headaches, runny noses, coughs and sneezes we must get up and get on as jobs need doing, bills need paying and craft needs crafting!

I've had quite a productive start craft-wise this year already having made my first bunny and sent her on to her new family.  I really love the Toft Emma the Bunny pattern and can't believe I've made 35 of these now, they're such a perfect and personal gift - let's hope baby Evie will love her new friend.

I'm in the middle of making myself a messy bun hat - the latest craze to hit Pinterest by the looks of it!  Having long hair that's always up, I don't wear hats very often as it's uncomfortable and I end up with a rather unsightly lump in my hat, so I thought this would be the perfect compromise.
As always, I don't make things easy for myself and I chose a beautifully soft wool which is an absolute nightmare to crochet with.  Fingers crossed I'll get it finished and I can be warm and toasty without having to wear my hair down or plait it like I do now in order to wear my bobble hat (especially at the rugby on these cold evenings!)...

Due to running out of stash space I think it's about time I started making up the pile of "freebie kits" that grows every month.  I subscribe to 2 magazines and often buy others and they all come with little kits on the front and I pop them into my storage cube in the living room.  The poor cube is getting way too full so in between my "proper" projects I'm going to see if I can fit them in...

The first one I did was the flower brooch from Simply Crochet Issue 43 which I am really pleased with, an easy pattern to follow and I managed to whip it up in no time :)  I might make a few more to have as little standby gifts, always handy to have.
I have put mine on my black winter coat and it's a gorgeous splash of colour on these dull grey days..