it feels like only yesterday that it was September and we were moving into our new house – yes, you can see the theme here. Where DOES the time go?!!! Seriously though, I promised Stoney an update a while back, and someone else some photos of our new home, so I’m combining all this and a year review in one blog post. And then I shall probably go silent again till I get another break at Easter…!

Anyway. Be warned. This is a VERY photo heavy post, which is why they’re all behind the cut. the page will take a while to load…

First of all, though, an update. The last three months have been very sad ones, as well as busy. University studies have taken most of my time, and are mostly going well – you can look at the Education page to view marks for specific assignments. But outside of studies, they’ve been sad because I lost both my grandmothers: my paternal grandmother at the end of October, and my maternal one just 2 weeks before christmas. Both had been ill towards the end; Nannie (Paternal grandmother) had broken her other hip and was in a great deal of pain, Grannie (Maternal grandmother) had had a spell in hospital a few weeks before but had just given up, mentally. For both, death was a release, a blessing, so to speak, but it still doesn’t take away from the fact that this year has been a very bad one for our family, especially as I lost my father in January 2011. I just hope 2012 will be substantially less painful.

Dad, in one of his favorite places in the world, Scotland.

Christmas was especially painful – not just because of Grannie’s funeral, just a few days before Christmas, but because, as a cousin of mine put it, “there were too many empty chairs”. I know exactly what she meant. It will take a while to get over this. I was far closer to Grannie than to Nannie – Grannie was the lady who owned Stoneheads house, the inspiration for this blog, and a woman who was also directly responsible for my childhood love of history and who never stopped encouraging me to learn, to develop, to make the most of myself. I shall miss her greatly.

otherwise, we have mostly been settling into our new home, exploring Leicester and what it has to offer – which is a lot! We love the city and our new home, especially the views. I promised Photos, and Photos you shall have – a sort of year’s review… In January, we spent two unplanned weeks in Ludlow with Mum because of Dad’s death…

berries on a bush in Mom's Garden in January

gravestone in St. Mary Magdalene Church

Snowdrops in the grounds of the local Church

In February, at half term, we again went to spend time with Mum in Ludlow. While there I asked for her to take us to Wroxeter, a Roman town (that hasn’t lasted as a town, unlike places like Chester or Bath), to see the ruins there, for one of my archaeology assignments…

all that is left, above ground, of Wroxeter Roman Town - the thick bath walls, known as "The Old Work".... but the baths have been excavated, as well as parts of the old Forum, and there's plenty to see, and lots still remaining below ground. It will be left buried though - once something is dug up, the record, in an archaeological sense, is destroyed, so archaeologists are trying NOT to dig except where necessary.

at Easter we went to Ludlow again. You can see the pattern developing here! Mostly it was about supporting Mom, all three of us healing and grieving from dad’s death. In between, I focused on my studies. We paid a visit to Clee Hill, amongst others, clambering over the spoil heaps and mine workings there….

Michiel and Mom on Clee Hill

View down into the valley from Clee Hill

Suzie, receiving much needed and deserved cuddles from Mum (she had been left alone for the morning.. awwwww...)

After Easter I focused on exams, but once term ended we were off to Yorkshire for my great aunt’s 100th Birthday Party. For privacy reasons I won’t post photos of that, but here are some of the ones I can post:

Michiel and myself (and Bella) enjoying the morning sunshine in our hostess's garden. She was looking after Bella for a couple for a week while they went away.

Jasper (my mom's cousin's huge, young, boisterous, loveable dog) and Suzie (mom's dog) in the garden

In early August we played host to a couple of friends from Utah… who had the foresight to visit the UK just at the time of the London Riots! Fortunately they missed any excitement but had to wander around Manchester at a point where there was a heavy police presence. I spent the evening handing out jelly babies to any police offers we saw (and we saw a lot. even a couple of police horses. Horses like jelly babies! who knew?!). We also took them to the Manchester Science and Industry Museum which they were deeply impressed with…

Michiel, John and Liz outside Manchester's Roman Ruins, by the Museum of Science and Industry

Also in August I got my results and gained a place at Uni, and we started to house hunt. We found our dream house… and were gazumped on it.

our dream house - nicknamed "the moat house"

the verandah and garden

the stream that ran by the side of the house

so with a heavy heart we started house hunting again. Mom found us a house and we signed up to it, trusting her, sight unseen (big leap into the unknown!), and began to pack up in Manchester…. we stayed at mom’s overnight in Ludlow in September:

We shut down the flat in Manchester and handed the keys back on the monday, all our belongings staying in the removal van overnight, while we headed down to Ludlow to stay with Mom overnight. That morning it was cold, wet and misty while walking the dogs (along with Charlie, who you can see looking at the camera there, a handsome older labrador belonging to one of mom's neighbours), before we headed across to Leicester to meet the removal van...

cobwebs caught in the morning mist

the day soon warmed up though and by the time we got to Leicester it was warm, sunny and gorgeous. And THIS view awaited us from the back bedroom window....

Michiel standing in the yard, all happy

For while it was very chaotic and stressful as we tried to find stuff and put stuff away

but we slowly got sorted out - kitchen and dining room, at the rear of the house

and settled down to enjoy our new home - living room from the door to the hall

rear of our home from the bottom of the yard

My study - where I am right now!

some of the books in the study (but only a fraction of the ones in the whole house

Jess was absolutely exhausted by the stress of the move but she loved the yard, the freedom of being able to wander in and out of the house, and sleeping out there in peace and quiet.

Jess has slowly learned to socialise with other dogs, building on her experiences with Suzie and Charlie, and in her walks in this HUGE field just 2 minutes walk from where we live, she meets many many other dogs and thoroughly enjoys socialising and romping with them. She even has a boyfriend now - a gorgeous, blue eyed Alaskan Husky called Alfie - something that seemed impossible to imagine back in Manchester. The move has been extremely good for her as well as us.

the house has also given us treats such as this - October sunrise from the dining room french window

- and this, from our bedroom window - Michiel even swore he could see a very faint triple shadow, but I couldn't, sadly -

- to this, moonrise, also from the bedroom window. Its a wonder we get anything done. And don't get me started on the fireworks from Diwali - they were amazing!

I’ve started at Leicester University – enduring fresher’s week (and fresher’s flu!):

Attenborough Tower, affectionately called "the Cheesegrater" by the locals. I have some of my lessons in here. Fantastic views - its very hard to concentrate!

you only see stuff like this during Fresher's week! I still have no clue what that was all about!

Part of the great thing about Uni has been the chance to attend events like these - I went to the first one (before fresher's flu got me) and it was an extremely interesting talk, and I really recommend, if you ever get the chance to hear Ruth talk, to grab it...

We’ve spent time cooking:

chicken and veg thai kebabs with CousCous

lime and coriander salmon with thai veg stirfry

and of course we come then to Christmas, both at home….

our christmas tree at home

With the challenges that a new house present in terms of christmas decorations - especially when you've not put up the candle sconces you're used to using for xmas decorations... this used to go between them in the old flat. here, i draped it over the stair bannister instead.

mom's real christmas tree... put up on christmas eve...

a display I made to say thank you to a friend of Mom's, who very kindly hosted the bun fight after Gran's funeral, just a few days before christmas...

display i made for mom's christmas dining table

another one I made for the living room, to go on top of the television

The christmas dining table all ready for christmas lunch!

It wasn't a white christmas, but still capable of stark beauty when the light was just right...

and the dogs loved being able to get into the garden, romp around and playfight...

most of the time they were unaware they were being watched but occasionally they would realise. "oh... hai. we can do somethings for youz?"

and would curl up sort of together at the end of the day - although Jess claimed Suzie's bed. she has older bones. that's it. (and if it wasn't that, she was camped out in front of the wood burning stove)

Suzie and Jess patiently waiting for treats

There are many many more photos on flickr – I don’t have room to post them all here – but its given you a taste of our year, our new home, our new life.

I hope – if you’ve made it down this far – that 2012 is a good year for you all!!!