Sunday, September 8, 2013

September 8, 2013

Sunset


One year ago I was looking out toward the fuzzy future of a life in Cambridge. We were just about to take off for a life we'd been planning for over a year. These were my thoughts at that time

Today, I'm looking into a much less fuzzy future, with many more things known, rather than unknown. In a few hours we'll cycle to our new flat in Cambridge and pick up the keys to our new home. We'll walk through the rooms, wander the front and back gardens making mental notes of things we want to spruce up, or things we're excited to dig into. It's likely that this flat will be our home for the remainder of our time in Cambridge. I can't help but wonder in what ways our lives will unfold within these walls. What experiences we'll have together as a couple, and individually in our own lives and careers.

Packing up our one-bedroom flat at on Charles Babbage Road feels the tiniest bit bittersweet. This will forever be our first home as a married couple. The lens through which we first saw and experienced Cambridge and England. Here, we learned how very little we need to be happy, what little space we actually require (and frankly, even if it was smaller it would have been fine). We discovered what elements make a rented and furnished flat "our own". House plants. Art we love on the walls. Good pans to cook with. A great knife. A favorite mug. Good sheets. The Interwebs. Enough space to lay on the floor.

Our next house is undoubtedly bigger, with more space to fill, and more distance between us as we inhabit different rooms and outdoor spaces. We'll buy more house plants. Hang up some of the same artwork. Cook with the same beloved cookware. Drink warm drinks from favorite mugs. We'll stretch out a bit more, wear headphones less, and host potlucks and parties like we used to do back in Berkeley. I feel like I'll finally settle down and relax into the two years ahead.

I'm looking forward to . . .
A fridge with a freezer.
Ice cubes for cocktails.
Ice cream because we can.
A Washing Machine.
A Dishwasher.
Taking long, warm baths.
Hanging clothes on the line to dry.
Having tea and coffee in the back garden.
Watching the sunset from the front garden.
Stretching out together on a full size couch.
Having a guest bedroom! (Come Visit!)
Closet space.
A five-minute walk to the train station.
A five-minute walk to grocery stores and restaurants.

Flat D30 you've been a good home.
Thanks for the views.
The warmth in the winter.
The hotbox shower.
The south-facing sunshine spilling.


Devin @ Sunset




Saturday, September 7, 2013

Last Weekend On The Farm



Doesn't my new haircut look just fabulous? I think so. It's so drastic it makes me look like a whole different person? This is the photo I showed the hairdresser at the Market when I went for a trim last week. She did pretty darn good considering the limitations of: a) I have short bangs and b) This girl has more hair than me. But it's all good. I'm happy. Besides, most of the time I just look like this anyway:


Hi.


It's been a busy week since my last post. Schools are back in session and I went back to work at my job as an Associate Therapist (that's right, I'm title dropping) at a local primary school. It was and such a great day. The team of mentors and therapists-in-training are entirely new to the school so it was fun to meet everyone and start to show them the ropes. Last year I was volunteering my time so I'm thrilled that I now work for this great organization and even better, I get to carry a full case-load of clients! This coupled with the fact that I also have some administrative responsibilities all adds up to feeling valued and recognized for my experience and education. Whoot! Whoot!

On one of my off days I took a walk through the nearby campus of Churchill College (shout out to The Siepel family!), it was beautiful over that way, full of long green tubes, and golden wheat fields. I'm really going to miss living so close to all these trails, sights and sounds.


Green Tubes at Churchill College




On Thursday I spent the entire day working at the cancer center and man-o-man was it busy. The temperature was in the 80's (20's C) and the center was swarming with people. We had steady stream of people coming in for complimentary therapy treatments, wig fittings, general information, and the phone was ringing off the hook. Also in the mix was a flurry of art supplies and art therapy projects, strewn about the living room with people of all ages participating in coloring mandalas, making watercolor paintings, designing a collage, or working on the community blanket project. Yay for Art Therapy!

After work I stopped by my friend Andrea's house for some proper iced tea (hard to come by in England!), and a lovely chat. We soon made our way into town for my latest adventure in making friends, The Cambridge Drunken Knitwits. This is a group I met through the website meetup.com. I've been attending the group for three weeks now and each week we meet at a different pub in town to have a 'chinwag' (it's an English phrase, fer reals) and work on our knitting/crochet projects. The group seems to be more about chatting and drinking than crafting which is fine by me. We had a great time and I even made my first yarn-bomb. A hat for the ketchup bottle! Pom-pom topper made by Andrea. We left it on the ketchup bottle with a note that said, "You've been yarn-bombed by the Cambridge Drunken Knitwits". Oh the things that thrill you when you're 35 years old . . .


Blurry photo of The Ketchup Hat!



Friday I spent most of the day turning our flat into chaos in preparation for the big move on Monday. Strangely, it doesn't feel all that inconvenient yet as we really don't have that much stuff. We're hoping the move will go easily and be relatively pain free on all fronts. We are SO excited to move. Another chapter begins!



Chaos begins

The field's been plowed, time to move to town.

This is as close as I get to catching a sunrise.


This afternoon, since most the packing is done and I was getting stressed out about all the details of setting up new accounts, moving old accounts, finishing US taxes for 2012 and starting UK taxes for 2012 Devin and I went for a walk out west to our favorite stomping grounds of Coton. 

We found so, so many blackberries ripe and perfect that we frequently stopped and gorged ourselves on these sweet treats. If we remember, we'll go back out tomorrow with a container or two because there are just too many to eat while standing there! We walked through the reserve, through town past the church and up the hill behind the town where you have a 360° view of much of Cambridgeshire. I promise you it's a beautiful walk, but I only managed to take one photo this time around. It always makes me giggle when I walk by.


The Pool in Coton


On our way back down the hill my tummy started to complain that it needed beer and chips (french fries) so we stopped at The Plough Pub and sat in the back garden to enjoy our half-pints of Leffe beer. Angels sing when you drink this beer. Does it get any better than this? Yes it does because there were HORSES!! What? Only in Cambridge. 

Eventually the horses left, the chips were gone, as was the beer so naturally, Devin went to explore the nearby fitzer bush. He reports that when he was a kid they would play under and around the snow covered fitzer bushes in his yard. It sounds very cool. Even these kids think so! 




Mmmmmm. Leffe Beer.

Fitzer Bush Playing


On our walk back home we stopped by the playground and played on the equipment which made me giggle my head off. There is a version of merry-go-round that you sit on and power with you legs. The centripital force is amazing and smashes to you the side of your seat. It was so much fun . . . I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard from playing like that. (Maybe it's because when I was a kid I didn't drink Leffe and then go out to play? Hmmm . . .)

After a few more stops by the blackberry brambles we made our way home and are now we're back in the flat, computing on the internets and watching the ridiculous, amazing, beautiful, stunning, you've-gotta-be-kidding-me clouds roll by.
It's blowing our minds. See?

Happy Weekend All!

Minds Blown

Monday, September 2, 2013

Positively Autumnal

We are moving from our flat to a different area of town one week from today. I'll write more on that at another time as what I want to focus on today is where we've been living, and all the things we've really come to appreciate about it.


We live on the very outskirts of Cambridge, any further away and you're really not in Cambridge anymore. We are on an island of University owned land, surrounded by laboratories, veterinary schools, farm fields, and not much else. The closest pub or grocery store is more than 1.5 miles away so we really do have to "go into town" for any services or shops. While this location has had it's drawbacks it's also had it's benefits.





Drawbacks

  • Picture a freezing cold winter day with 20 mph winds and you're halfway through a recipe and realize you're out of something. 
  • Perhaps your friends are all gathering across town but it's pissing down rain and you've got 3 miles between you and them. 
  • When the wind blows it absolutely h-o-w-e-l-s as there's nothing to block it. 
  • We don't know a single one of our neighbors (we may be at fault for this, but other people we've met in passing have said these flats are a black hole of social interaction).
  • To go outside and see what the weather is like you have 4 flights of stairs between you and the ground floor.
  • To carry up two panniers full of groceries you've got 4 flights of stairs between you and your flat.
  • No garden to play in.




Post Cycle Home Raynaud's Flare-Up


Benefits

  • An absolutely beautiful view.
  • Immediate access to countless public footpaths.
  • Peace and quiet. Except for the birds, which are straight out of a Disney movie. Just Lovely.
  • Fantastic sunrises and sunsets.
  • Even on the coldest, windiest, crappiest day, this place is snug and warm.
  • No garden to worry about. 




On my walk this morning I headed over the M11 (highway) toward my favorite place to walk, the Coton Reserve. I've mentioned this place in previous posts as well as taken a few snapshots of the landscapes out in that direction. Living out here in the sticks (literally) we have access to so many trails, hedgerows of tasty blackberries, sightings of foxes and muntjac deer and endless options of which direction to walk and explore. Today I went over a bridge that is usually too muddy to approach, but today, thanks to our long, warm, dry summer I made it across. I found many new paths, a gold-mine of ripe blackberries and a lovely community garden bursting with produce and beauty.





As I walked, I couldn't help but notice that the rays of the sun, although still warm and strong enough make my skin go all rosie, is starting to feel positively autumnal. The shadows are longer, the sun is lower in the south sky, and the leaves on some trees have gone from vibrant green to a weaker one, with hints of red and yellow lurking beneath the surface. Throughout my walk I started to feel nostalgic for Cambridge, almost missing it in advance of leaving (in two years time), and I recognized that the feeling isn't one of nostalgia, but of familiarity for what autumn looks like in this lovely town. I was remembering what it was when we arrived a year ago, and it felt familiar.




Later in the day, I rode into town wearing flip flops, jeans and a tank top. It seems like ages since I had to cycle in my stocking cap, giant black down coat and Blundstone boots (the best!). I made my rounds throughout town: £8 haircut at the Market (best deal in town!), waterproofing conditioner for our winter shoes, and Poundland for some much needed packing tape. Making my way from shop to shop, cycling through the city past the colleges and through the quiet, tiny streets of residential neighborhoods I realized how much I've grown to love Cambridge.



I think in all honesty, it's taken me a year to really appreciate living here. Sure I've been able to appreciate it's beauty before now, and there have been so many times where I have to pinch myself to recognize that this is where I truly live. This is home. But today with the warm autumn sun and cool western breeze, the church steeples, the expansive green parks, the bridges over the river, the cobblestone market square, the ducks 'laughing' outside our flat . . . this is Cambridge. My Home.


Watching the seasons and weather change from four floors up has truly been a joy. I'm going to miss living out here amongst the wheat and rapeseed fields. I'll miss the vista from our bedroom window and french doors that allow us to open the entire wall of our living room, letting the outside pour in.

I'll miss this place because it was our first home as husband and wife. For better or for worse.
D30 - you've done right by us. Thanks for keeping us warm, dry, safe and sound.

Our First Day. Sept 11, 2012

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Norfolk Coast - Weekend Away

One month ago Devin and I were lucky to get out of Dodge (Cambridge) and spend a few days camping on the Norfolk coast. Our lovely friends Andrea and John loaned us their car so we were footloose and fancy free to go where we wanted, when we wanted. What a luxury! (Thanks Bronskills!) From August 2 - 5th we toured the Norfolk Coast and spent the days Wi-Fi free, staring out at the ocean.


After minimal searching, Devin found Overstrand Campground. It's only open 2 months out of the year, and is in this tiny, wee, speck of a town called Overstrand, just southeast of the larger, more tourist-laden town of Cromer. The campground was lovely, complete with bathrooms, a canteen, and as you can see from the photo, beautiful ocean views. We were just a short hike down the cliff to miles of pristine beach. The only drawback from the campground was that it was pretty busy (holiday weekend) and many families were nearby so we could hear every word of their conversations, or that of their angry children who frequently went into melt down. Other than that, all was fabulous!

D and our wee tent

Our first night at Overstrand we settled into camp, took a long walk on the beach and marvelled at where we were and how nice the weather was. We sat in our fancy new Crazy Creek chairs (folding chairs), ate beans and rice, drank whiskey, and ate sour patch kids. As the sun went down we snuggled into our down sleeping bags and read our books by the light of nature's friend, the iPhone.

Looking northwest toward Cromer
Devin's getting good at the arm shot
Ta Da!
Walking back to campsite

The next day we got up with the sounds of camp all around us, made coffee and oatmeal and then packed our bags for the beach.  We spent the entire day combing the sand, swimming (Devin), reading books, staring out to sea and hiking up to Cromer. Once at Cromer we realized how lucky we were to NOT be staying in Cromer as the beach near our tent was so much nicer, and virtually private. Cromer is a quaint town, but has an air of tourism and busy-ness about it, which is fine, but not what we were looking for. One of the shops in town was named "Cedar's Surf Shop", so I snapped a photo of it for my nephew Cedar. Maybe he'll visit that shop one day! We grabbed a few sandwiches and snacks and ate them up on a bench overlooking the Cromer pier. Afterwards, as any self-respecting tourist would do, we bought ice cream cones and went for a walk down the beach. Adorable alert: many beach towns have these "beach houses" that are painted in bright colors all along the sea wall. Inside they are about the size of a garden shed and have the odds and ends to make a day at the beach more leisurely and pleasurable (tea kettle, chairs, hot plate, towels, shade from the son, shelter from the wind, etc.)




Hot Rock: Spa Hayley

Cromer
Sunset Contemplation

After our day on the beach an visiting Cromer we headed further afield to Felbrigg Hall, Estate and Garden. We arrived early, before the house had opened so we decided to take a walk through some of the 520 acres of land. There are many photos of Felbrigg to be seen on Google Images if you're interested in seeing more. We only took a few shots of the house, focusing more on the gardens, which were utterly stunning. We managed a lovely hike without running into any livestock. Phew. (Not only are the English unfailingly polite, they also let you know when the cows might be about)


Walking through the forest at Felbrigg
Felbrigg Hall
Felbrigg Hall Ceiling
Felbrigg Hall, Formal Dining Room
500 Year Old Sessile Oak
500 Year Old Sessile Oak



After a lovely day at Felbrigg we continued along to the grounds at Sheringham Park. This park was founded in 1812 and has acres of land covered with hundreds of Rhododendron bushes, few of which were blooming this late in the summer. We wandered through the lush garden and woodlands, climbed a few lookout towers that gave you 360° vistas of the Norfolk countryside out to the North Sea. The landscape was beautiful, and we had a great time, acting goofy, telling jokes, and pretending we were yoga instructors from the website Yoga Today.

Once we had our fill of nature, we headed back into the city of Sheringham and found a great pub called The Windham Arms where we had a few pints, watching the neighborhood paint signs in the nearby lot for the city's upcoming parade. Afterwards, we walked up the high street and found a lovely little Thai restaurant called Chai-Yo. Once we were sufficiently stuffed we went for a walk back toward the water and in a little courtyard we found a live band playing to a nice sized crowd. Just nearby there was a beautifully restored VW van advertising that a local company has a fleet of them for vacation hire. We got far too excited about this possibility and fully geeked out over the possibility of renting one of these within the next year . . . we'll see about that. But wouldn't it be so fun?!
Retro Campers Norfolk, we might hit you up next summer . . .


Sheringham Beach
Beach Houses, Sheringham

We spent the rest of the evening exploring the seaside, taking in the sights, and watching the sun go down. The following day we grabbed a bite to eat at a local seaside diner on the cliff-top near our campground. We spent a handful of hours on the beach that morning, soaking in the sunshine, the surf, and the change of scenery. We truly felt as though we'd lucked out with this quickly planned weekend away. Minimal planning, quick escape to the coast, and an altogether perfect long weekend away. I like to think of it as our one year wedding anniversary trip.