Year Of Claire – October & November Update

Time for another life recap for the Year of Claire! October and November were busy months with big changes and a hectic work schedule. Here’s a round up of what I got up to…

In early October I attended the opening launch of the new Miller Harris fragrance store in Cambridge. An absolute visual merchandising dream – colourful interiors and dreamy scents, I completely fell in love with the brand! All the scents are unisex and I was kindly gifted their best seller Scherzo to try. I think it is the best scent I have ever tried, they are all so unique and beautifully packaged.

October was a month for a few treats by the way of pretty flowers and chocolate treats from the famous George’s Bakery. I also visited my favourite colourful wall in Cambridge which is home of the delicious burgers from indie food legends Steak and Honour. Lastly, I got a daith piercing to see if it would help the migraines. Soon after I had a 3 week vertigo attack and a terrible migraine weekend, but since then things have been much better! My hearing has also been a bit of a struggle lately, but I’m learning to tell people and try not to visit super noisy places as often these days.

Autumn arrived in Cambridge with plenty of blue skies, pretty leaves and frosty mornings. I planned to take a little photowalk around the city to shoot some red ivy on the beautiful buildings, but life got in the way and I just managed these snaps on the way back from the gym or on my cycles to work.

Halloween at my office is a big deal and this year my team and I dressed up as scary clowns! We had a lot of fun and even had a power cut at work that day. Work has been really great in general and I’m thoroughly enjoying the day job. We’ve had a huge office fit out project to work on with builders and designers, so coordinating lots of different elements for that has been busy and fun. The design elements have been really interesting, especially the flooring, moss walls and plants.

At the beginning of November, I finally left my house share of 9 behind and moved into a new flat with one person. Em and I are delighted with our new pad! I’ve been enjoying the bath lots and I did a lot of flat pack with gin when I moved in. I promise it isn’t too wonky! We love making the new place our own and I’m so grateful to have left the traffic noise and the main road behind.

Even though it has been a busy couple of months, I did a few crafts when I could find time. A blanket I made my niece 3 years ago needed a little repair and I started a denim skirt at the Sew Cam social sewing day.

I also spent a weekend with family for a 70th afternoon tea party and took some time to see my Grandad in his new care home. He has Dementia and Parkinsons, so it is not always easy to visit him, but the care home is lovely and I am lucky to still have a grandparent at my age!

Talking of age, I celebrated my 36th birthday with friends, cake, cider and greek gyros for dinner at my favourite bar Thirsty. It was a nice evening to reflect and despite all the difficult times I’ve had, I felt so much happier this birthday in comparison to last year!

The last weekend of November was spent in Brighton enjoying the winter sunshine, the upside down house, the beach and plenty of good food. Despite losing my watch and having a few panic attacks whilst I was there, it was a nice weekend and felt good to escape Cambridge for a couple of days.

I also visited the Brighton Etsy Made Local market and the Cambridge Made Fair in the same weekend. Although I felt a little sad not to be selling this year, it was super to catch up with creative pals and to start my Christmas shopping. Work has been so manic this year that I am waaaaay behind!

So, a very busy couple of months for work and life but fun all the same! I can’t believe in just 1 month the Year of Claire will be over and we will be entering a new decade….

8 Things I Learned Living with 8 Strangers

In 2018 basically everything in my life changed. A very long term relationship ended, I closed my small business, I changed my job and I moved into a house share with 8 strangers. You could say it was a lot to handle, but with my positive mindset I pushed heartbreak aside and threw myself into the new adventures.

I’m not going to lie, moving into a house share in my mid-30s did kind of feel like taking a backwards step in life. I had lived with a partner for almost 15 years and built a nice home together in a rental. It look me a while to rid my anxieties about ‘life stages’ and social expectations for someone my age. Financially it was pretty much the only option I had if I wanted to stay in the city centre. Cambridge is basically London prices for housing, eating out and drinking now. I’ve paid £10 for a gin & tonic and almost £7 a pint before!

Cottages-in-Cambridge
Some expensive Cambridge houses that are not my home

I digress. In the summer of 2018 I packed up a 3 bed house, shoved a ton of stuff in storage, and agreed to rent an overpriced en-suite room in a converted B&B on a main road. It had been newly renovated and everyone was moving in at the same time. Advertised to professionals only (the Spaced reference there pleased me!) I thought it would be a good call. I felt I needed lots of company at that moment in time and saw having 8 new people around me as a positive to keep me going through heartbreak.

It was a surprising 18 months with a lot of laughter, frustration, stress and ridiculousness. There are people I will keep in touch with and people I won’t. In the last 6 months the turnover was pretty high with the letting agent relaxing his professionals only rule. It was more like a student house with lots of temporary 3 month lets and it became exhausting to keep welcoming new housemates only to have them leave again and be replaced. Here’s what I learned along the way…..

  1. Just because someone is an adult, doesn’t mean they know how to adult.

I lived with 8 people between the ages of 22-35. In some cases, the younger people were the ones who had more life skills and knowledge for taking care of themselves. We had one lovely Romanian girl who was the most awesome cook and her mother would send HUGE care packages full of cookies, wine, cheese and home made pastries for us all. There were younger lads who had their shit together and had impressive careers for their age.

With housemates from all over the world, we learned that in Greece and Hong Kong it is common for people to live with their parents well into their 30s, being cared for in every way. Because of this, some were more independent than others. I showed people how to use a washing machine and some helped others turn on the oven. There was a big stretch of life skills.

We also learned that some people are just incredibly lazy! We had a group chat with the letting agent to report issues and get news of new housemates. In this group one male housemate asked for a robotic vacuum. When I replied to tell him there was a Henry on the first floor he said “but that isn’t robotic”. He added that he wanted a robotic hoover because he was lazy. And that it was better if someone else paid for it…..he also asked us if we wanted to “pay a lady to do our ironing” because apparently that’s a woman’s job. *sigh*

Even the contractors employed to do repairs were incredibly lazy and incompetent. We nicknamed them the cowboy builders as so many incidents happened and so many things malfunctioned. Too many to list and so many hilarious conversations with the letting agent. Who mostly replied with eye roll emojis and grumbles!

The concept of putting the bins out and retrieving them was lost on most of the household and don’t get me started on people ordering takeaways and then not answering the door. Weird. If I’ve got a Deliveroo on the way I’m stalking the driver on the map as soon as it is on the way.

String-of-Hearts-Plant

2. Cleanliness is not important to a lot of people.

Even though we had a cleaner once a week you can imagine what a kitchen looked like at times with 9 residents. We were lucky enough to have a huge island to prepare food on, but this often became one guy’s cooking experiment area where he would bake bread and explode the flour, cook elaborate dishes and guarantee to burn everything every time. He caught the oven gloves on fire, melted a spatula by leaving it on the hob and once burned batches of sesame seeds. 5.times.in.a.row.

We had incidents of noodles and food left in the sink for days, meat blood dripped on the floor and sink (GROSS), unflushed communal toilets and daily paper napkins left on the dining table after being wiped on mouths. Luckily I had my room as a sanctuary and cleaned the kitchen as much as I could to prepare my meals. At one point there was a ‘mystery smell’ which no one could identify, even after I cleaned all the fridges out and searched high and low for the source.

Our breakfast bar had a small area where we would leave some treats to share with each other. If someone traveled they added chocolates or sometimes nice things they had baked. At first it was great and people respected the area. Eventually it became a dumping ground with rotten apples, weird items people didn’t want to eat and generally just grossness.

You could suggest that I cleaned up after these people, but I lost my patience in the end and checked out! After all I was not there to look after them. In the end I chose meals that were minimal to prepare so that I could spend as little time in the kitchen as possible.

3. Common sense is a completely mislabeled phrase. It isn’t common.

Funnily enough there are too many incidents to illustrate the lack of common sense, but I was baffled by some situations. One housemate admitted they never cycled with lights on and one would park his car across the main road onto the pavement in front of the house in a diagonal fashion. No surprises when he received parking tickets for obstructing the bus lane!

The amount of times our front door was left open overnight was utterly ridiculous. It didn’t even stop when there was an armed drug raid a few doors down or when there were incidents outside on a weekly basis (it wasn’t a great street to be on). I was baffled how many people struggled to close a door properly.

Thatched-Cottage-Bourn-Cambridgeshire
A Cambridgeshire home I wish was mine

4. Some people will literally consume anything.

3 day old chicken hearts, octopus from a tin, fish that has been cooked and then recooked for days, questionable meat that other housemates advise is off, mouldy vegetables, burnt food and I once found a pint of open milk (in a fridge I didn’t use) that was 3 MONTHS OUT OF DATE.

One housemate would use the oven as storage for whole cooked chickens. Then proceed to reheat day after day in a vat of oil. Sometimes you could smell the oil on the 3rd floor of the house at 11pm. Yes people cooked at 11pm. Goodness knows why.

Oh and throughout the 1.5 years and many housemates, we were always living with at least 2 Huel dickheads at any one time. It is a common diet for Cambridge tech guys – I see it at work all the time! One of them even made Huel pancakes and tried to share them…..we passed!

5. Group Whats App chats are worth muting for your mental health.

I think we probably all have that Whats App group chat that makes us feel a bit stressed. Mute it and only check it when you want to. It honestly helped me get through the last 6 months of living there.

Annoyingly, one house mate refused to join the group chat as he didn’t use Whats App, but I think he was onto something.

6. Self awareness is a spectrum.

Door slamming, stomping, shouting, some people just weren’t aware of the noises they made or how their behaviour affected others. Some were considerate and checked in to make sure their activities weren’t disturbing others, super nice! I did hear things I would rather not have heard and one person liked to iron in the corridors at midnight every week, slamming the iron down in between pressing.

I know I’m not perfect and there were times I could have been more self aware, but I think I naively assumed most people would be considerate towards others.

Pink-Grey-Bedroom-Styling
My joyful bedroom

7. There will be some good times.

Some of the original housemates that were there for the first year were a lot of fun. We had nights out, nights in, shared dating stories, cooked group dinners, watched movies, went on holiday together and laughed a lot at some of the things we experienced – a Home Alone drinking game at Christmas was a highlight and watching the house fall apart around us and the letting agent’s attempt to assist was entertaining if nothing else.

I actually enjoyed living with guy mates again and also found a great friend in Emily who I now share a cosy 2 bed flat with. I made my room as homely as I could make it and it was so nice to have a space that was just mine. I think I hadn’t had that since my uni halls back in 2002, so it was a bit of a novelty that didn’t really wear off. No one to judge my houseplants or pink cushions or excessive toiletries and face creams in the bathroom! It was a good place to start single life again.

Dogs are better than boys

8. Living with strangers will teach you a lot about yourself.

I discovered I’m really an extroverted introvert (Ambivert?!). I really valued my time alone every day and also some time to chat with others. Even though we were a household of 9, it often didn’t feel that way. I remember when Jack used to visit he would comment on how empty the communal spaces were on some days. People were coming and going a lot.

Living on a main road was challenging. My anxiety levels definitely got worse and the constant super loud traffic noise and house/street disturbances contributed to my insomnia. Which in turn contributed to my lack of patience toward others. The relief I felt when Em and I moved into the new flat was immeasurable. A new environment was just what we needed. I know that I need a quiet home where I have control over my surroundings and where I can retreat for some calm.

I know that living in a clean and tidy home helps me feel better. I decluttered when I moved and purged a lot of belongings. It felt good. ‘Stuff’ just felt overwhelming and I have carried that tidy and more organised me into my new home with Em too. One of the guys that I lived with couldn’t believe my Marie Kondo folded t-shirt and sock drawers. A week after he moved out he texted me a picture of his neatly folded t-shirt drawer and it made me smile.

So to end this long ranty blog post, I can summarise by saying the house share was AN EXPERIENCE. Living with just one friend now is way less stressful and I couldn’t be happier with our flat! We have a nice view of the local church, the river close by and a lovely colleague is our upstairs neighbour.

Have you ever lived in a house share? I would love to hear your stories.

Chunky Crochet Rainbow Blanket

Time to make has been hard to find lately, but I finally finished a craft project! Today I wanted to share this Chunky Crochet Rainbow Blanket I made for my pals Ali and Jam who run super colourful brand Hello Dodo.

The original idea for this yarn (Bernat Softee Chunky) was to make rainbow cardigans for myself and Ali. However, once I started working it up, I knew it would just be brilliant to make into a large colourful crochet blanket for their whole family, pooches included!

The chunky yarn was quick to work up with an 8mm hook. I just used half treble stitches (hdc in US terms) and made rows of 9 in each colour. Each row took up 2 balls of yarn.

Total time to make was probably around 20 hours, but it was a great make to finish as Autumn began – it kept me warm on my lap as it got bigger!

After blocking, the blanket easily covers a double bed (here it is on mine) and it is super snuggly to wrap around yourself too. I hope Ali, Jam. Hero and Pepper will love it and use it for years to come! They live in a super colourful house in worthing so I think it will compliment their home style pretty well.

I’m definitely thinking of making another chunky blanket in this yarn, perhaps in a ripple pattern or with some pom poms on the corners…..maybe in the grey and more subtle colours for me.

Like the quilt I made a couple of years ago, this one was hard to gift actually. I kind of wanted to keep it for myself!

I’ll be working on a few baby blankets for my next crochet projects to gift to friends for their new arrivals. Taking my crochet back to simple patterns has been refreshing as I’m using my brain power to tackle dress making instead lately.

I hope you enjoyed seeing my latest project. Let me know what you think and what craft projects you are working on!

Year of Claire – August & September Update

It’s a bumper post for Year of Claire this month as I haven’t posted an update since July. Summer felt short lived in Cambridge, but I guess that was a side effect of being quite busy and filling my time up with lots of things.

In August I was house and dog sitting for a colleague, which was a welcome break from the house share. Cleo the Labradooodle was the perfect company for making sure I got outside every day and cuddled up a lot. We even had a pooch play date with Hannah and Ian’s Cockapoo Leo. Such a good week for clearing my head – doggy therapy was just what I needed. Just look at that face!

I also spent a lot of time with friends in August, making sure to enjoy as much of summer as I could. Georgina came to Cambridge for the day and we found the latest yarn bombs in the city.

I ventured to London for the day to catch up with a friend and enjoy the Greatest Showman sing-a-long at the cinema. We had a great time!

The Festival of Cycling started in Cambridge with lots of bike events popping up around Cambridge. BrewDog also opened in the city and I enjoyed an evening out with workmates to sample the beers and food.

Continuing the food and drink theme, I spent time enjoying many a sunset and gin at Othersyde along the river, frequented Jack’s Gelato and indulged in meze from Wandering Yak.

On the bank holiday weekend, we were lucky enough to enjoy a heatwave! I took the opportunity to join what felt like the whole of Cambridge at the Lido. Plenty of hammock and ice cream time too. It was scorching!

September brought some beautiful evenings to venture out and meet friends for Columbian food on a bus and pub quizzes with burgers.

The Lush Halloween collections launched and I spent the evening sniffing pumpkin stuff and making bath bombs. So much fun!

I enjoyed paddleboarding with some blogger pals at Milton Country Park – possibly the last warm paddle of the year…..

The lovely folk at Enchanted Cinema invited me back again for the closing weekend at the Gonville Hotel gardens (gifted). We saw Bohemian Rhapsody and got excited about the Christmas season they have planned!

More doggy fun in September when I stayed with Hannah, Ian and Leo the cockapoo. Of course there was more hammock time too when the sun came out.

The month ended on a high with Jo and I enjoying a Saturday cheese toastie and drinks tour of Cambridge. Honestly one of the best weekend days I have had in a while. Watch this space for a food review of all the cheesy fun we had.

Writing all this down made me realise how much I have eaten and drunk these last two months, oops! On a health note, I have struggled with migraines as usual, BUT I have managed to keep exercising as consistently as I possibly can. I take a weekly spin class and have started weight training workouts too. Taking the time for fitness has been challenging with my head, but the trainer at my gym is so encouraging and just keeps me feeling positive about it all.  I feel way stronger, even if I can’t quite do a pull up just yet!

I’m still working on my anxiety and have seen an improvement there which I’m not sure is down to the therapy or because I  finally found a new flat. My home life was getting a little stressful with people in my house share changing a lot, but I’m starting to pack for a move in a month’s time. I won’t go on about how expensive it is to rent in Cambridge, but I’m grateful to be sharing the flat with my friend Emily who wants a nice quiet tidy home too.

I have also been working on some creative projects in my spare time. I finished a big one last week, so I’ll be sharing that here soon as well as my attempts to sew some new clothes instead of buying new.

Thanks for sticking with me for this bumper post for Year of Claire!

September SUP Fun

Have you ever taken up a new hobby and wondered why you hadn’t done it sooner? Stand up paddleboarding is that hobby for me. In February I took a couple of private lessons (in the cold and wind) and since then I’ve enjoyed getting out in the warmer weather to enjoy the river in Cambridge. It’s been a really sociable sport for me, and something which has pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped my mental health too.

One of the places to SUP in Cambridge is Milton Country Park located to the north of the city. Even though they run a SUP course, I hadn’t ever ventured to the lake to paddle before. I sometimes take lunchtime walks in the park as it is near my office and often see people enjoying open water swimming, fishing and SUP.

I met up with a few local blogger friends to have a quick start session as none of the girls had tried SUP before. The weather was a little windy and chilly, but we popped on our layers and headed to the lakeside. I always say Cambridge is a small city and as soon as I saw the instructor was an old colleague of mine, I knew we would be in great hands!

I paddled off ahead to get a feel for the lake and board, whilst the girls got to grips with paddling on their knees and then confidently standing up in no time at all.  We played games of world domination (a tag based game), learned some turning techniques and even tried a few yoga poses on our boards.

It was awesome to see how quickly everyone picked it up and how the smiles came out in an instant. Seeing others enjoy SUP never fails to make me happy because it has been such a revelation for me too. I took my waterproof phone case and managed to get lots of snaps of the fun.

Lauren / Rachael

Jen / Kelly / Jess

Towards the end of the session, I encouraged the girls to lay back on their boards and take a minute. I had been experiencing anxiety all week and being there with them in that moment just made me feel so content and calm I wanted to share it with them!

I was really psyched to be able to try out some different boards during the session too, firstly a Jobe…..

… then a Red which I loved! Hopefully at some point I’ll have my own board and paddle and will be able to get out in my own time.

Our Cambridge blogger scene is so encouraging and supportive, it felt like such a positive morning and a great activity to do together!

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I’m a bit sad the warm weather SUP season is coming to an end, but maybe I’ll get out with a wet suit and tackle the autumn winds soon!