Quick Catch Up

Here I am again! Twice in as many days. This is going to be a very random outpouring of news I fear! Sorry in advance – think of it as eclectic!

I’ve entitled this ‘quick’, but in reality it is anything but because my nails have got so long, it’s really hard to type accurately! I was recommended a new nail technician and I’ve been religiously going to her for beautiful sparkly gel nails every three weeks.

These are what I’ve had so far.

The last set had to be less glitterified because I had a very important work event which required professionalism! I’ll tell you more about that enough another time, but suffice it to say, it worked! It led to another work event which happened to be on the day that I was due to get my nails re-done hence they’re now REALLY long! I’m not due to get them done for almost another two weeks, but I will be going for full on sparkle overload ready for the festive season.

What else have I been up to? I did some baking. I bought some fabulous cookie cutters a few weeks ago and I really wanted to try them out, but didn’t want to completely scupper my diet plan so I scoured t’internet for a diet friendly cookie recipe and found one that didn’t break the diet bank.

It swapped sugar for sweetener and only used a small amount of low fat spread instead of butter.

Here they are pre-baking.

They lost some of their shape in the oven but I was still pretty pleased with how they turned out.

I won’t lie, they weren’t as tasty as Millie’s or Maryland cookies, but I was happy enough to offer them to my Dad (sweet things connoisseur) and C when they came to visit.

That visit was a mercy mission for our little Olive. She recently learnt how to hop up on to the banister at the top of the stairs.

Doesn’t she look pleased with herself?

Cats aren’t always as surefooted as they’re reputed to be and our poor Olive slipped off the banister and fell top to bottom, right down to the hall below. We put the cardboard turrets on the posts, as you can see in the photo, but it didn’t stop her jumping up.

So, Dad to the rescue ……

We have a safety shelf to catch floundering felines! Of course, to the best of our knowledge she hasn’t toppled off since it’s been safe to do so, but at least we have peace of mind.

Last weekend was super busy. On Friday I was in London for the annual ISTA (International Steel Trade Association) lunch at the Brewery. I completely forgot to take any photos which is a shame because the food’s always beautifully presented. We enjoyed salmon mi cuit for our first course. I’m glad I didn’t know that mi cuit means half cooked until after I’d eaten it because it would’ve put me off but it was really tasty. The main course was Hunter’s Chicken but it wasn’t Hunter’s Chicken like you get in the pub down the road! It was super posh Hunter’s Chicken and was scrummy. The dessert was pear sponge pudding with ice cream and completed a trio of deliciousness.

The speeches were shorter than usual, which I think was a good thing because the state of the steel industry isn’t good so many more words would just have added to the gloom. The ‘celebrity’ speaker was Dr Phil Hammond, who I’d never heard of, and after hearing him, I think I’ll just forget him again! It was a good day though, I caught up with some old friends, met some new friends and ate some yummy food – what’s not to like?

On Saturday I travelled back down to London. If I’d known further in advance I could’ve stayed overnight on Friday to save all the travelling, but hey, never mind. I’d already arranged with my Dad that he’d drop me at Uxbridge tube station and he’d go to the Harry Potter Studios in Watford whilst I jumped on the tube to South Kensington. Destination? The Royal Albert Hall …

… to watch the Champions Tennis.

I arrived a little early so I had a quick wander around the Prince Albert Memorial statue in Kensington Gardens.

Prince Albert is surrounded on all four corners by representations of Europe, America, Asia and Africa.

I took my seat in the Royal Albert Hall in good time and, whoop, I was on the front row! Great view!

I was slightly disappointed to have a net in front of me, and I experimented with taking photos through the holes, until, that is David Ferrer and Juan Carlos Ferrero took to the court and started practising their serves! I’ll take a net on my photos over a one hundred plus mile per hour tennis ball in the nose!

My photos aren’t great because of the net and because the iPhone isn’t great at capturing action photos, but as well as Ferrer and Ferrero …

I also saw Tim Henman and Goran Ivanisevic …

… playing with Mark Philippousis and Xavier Malisse.

There was also an exhibition doubles with Heather Watson, Martina Hingis, Thomas Enqvist and the ever popular Mansour Bahrami.

I had a great day. Dad, meanwhile had a great day at the Harry Potter Studios. He reported that the studios were dressed for Christmas …

… and he was very impressed with the new Gringotts exhibit which hubby and I saw back in May.

On Sunday we went to the Good Food Show with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law and again I forgot to take any pictures! It was a good day though. We sampled lots of gin, cheese and curry and managed not to spend too much money on gimmicks! Last year we all bought frying pans which were supposed to revolutionise our cooking lives. Needless to say, said frying pans ended up in the bin quite quickly when they failed in their promise! I did buy several skinny syrups which I’m now enjoying on my porridge and baked oats in the mornings.

This weekend has been much more about upcoming festivities. On Friday I went to Resorts World to check out the shops and grab a bite to eat, and they’re in full on Christmas mode.

It seemed the right time to get festive at home, so, the decs are up!

So, there you have it. A round up of the last couple of weeks. Hopefully it’s not too disjointed, but if it is,just remember …. eclectic!

Six on Saturday 7th September

I thought I should check in with a Six this week because we’re on holiday for the next two Saturdays so I most likely won’t get chance to do one, and then we’re rapidly approaching October which means fewer trips out of the back door and less exciting developments au jardin when I do brave the cold and dark.

I’ve been out there for half of today trying to tidy up and prepare for the colder months, so I took a few snaps that I thought you guys might like to see. Be warned though, random they definitely are, eclectic you might say since they all came from our garden, but that is the extent of their coherence.

Number one is an early birthday present from my in laws.

They’ve discovered somewhere that makes these in all sorts of different animal forms. I chose a kingfisher because I like the colours. I attached it to the fence in the middle of our garden today. It’s next to my raised beds so I’m hoping it might scare the birds away from my fruit and veg next year.

Speaking of fruit and veg, number two is potatoes. I finally got round to emptying my wheelbarrow which was full of the compost from the potato bags which I harvested earlier in the Summer. When I tipped it out I discovered that I’d missed some.

I assume it’s still ok to eat these. They look fine now I’ve cleaned them up, although I have no idea which of the three varieties which I grew that they are. I grew Maris Peers, Charlotte and another variety which escapes my memory for now!

I also planted more Charlottes today. I got them a few weeks ago but have only just got around to planting them, so they’ve chitted quite a lot so I hope they’ll still grow. They’re supposed to be ready in time for our Christmas lunch!

Moving on to number three, and following on from my garden wildlife post last week – cobwebs!

For some reason I ended up behind the greenhouse and the sun was shining right down the garden and was making the cobwebs twinkle.

It’s normally really difficult to get decent snaps of cobwebs, and these are still not great, but I was pleasantly surprised with how well they showed up in these with the sun highlighting them. I didn’t see the occupant of the webs. The poor spider is much maligned, but if I was one I think I’d still feel superior, I mean, can you spin your house and do your food shopping all out of your bottom? Nope, me neither!

Back to the home produce for number four. There’s not much left growing now but I do have these still to come.

I think they’re leeks, but it’s possible there might be a red onion in there. My lolly stick labels got bleached by the sun so I can’t see what I sowed in this particular line. If they are indeed leeks, then they’re supposed to be ready to harvest next month, which looks unlikely to my novice eyes! Everything seemed to either take longer to mature than the packets said, or didn’t grow at all so maybe they’ll be ready next Summer!

Number five is something I’ve been trying to identify for over a year, so far to no avail. I picked it up on a sale table in B&M Bargains for £1.50.

Not the best picture of it, but you can see the shape of the leaves. A couple of people have suggested it might be a Cotoneaster, but I’ve now had it over a year and it hasn’t produced any berries. I actually feel quite attached to it, despite not being on first name terms with it. It very loyally hung around in its pot whilst I tried to determine what it was so I knew whereabouts to plant it, and since I took the plunge and planted it out (still not having a clue how big it would get) it seems to very stoically deal with being surrounded by fallen leaves and living behind the raised beds receiving minimal attention. It looks healthy and it’s definitely grown so, even if it retains its John Doe status, it’s more than welcome in my garden.

Number six is one that I was waiting for completion to post, but now I’m concerned that completion might happen while we’re on holiday, so I’m posting now so it doesn’t miss out.

Sunflowers!

I’ve nurtured these since I sowed them in April! I sowed eleven seeds, ten of them germinated and were planted out back at the beginning of the Summer and since then they’ve got slowly picked off (by what means I don’t know!) so I’m left with these two.

The smaller one that has flowered is just under six feet tall. Its flower is a little raggedy Anne but I love it nonetheless because it’s the first Sunflower I’ve ever grown and it looks ever so cheerful out of our back window.

You can see the seeds starting to form in there.

The big ‘un is over seven feet tall! I was standing under it to take this photo and this is my view (I’m five foot four). We’ve had to tie it to the Sweet Pea wigwam to keep it standing because it’s so tall. You can see the bud forming up there, but we go on holiday in less than a week and I think we’re going to miss it opening. My Dad’s cat sitting so I’ve asked him to take a photo if it flowers while we’re away. I definitely think there’s some kind of time delay in our garden – everyone else’s Sunflowers flowered week’s ago. My theory is not enough sun due to next door’s forest!

There we are, I thought I might have to start up a Six on Sunday blogalong for a minute but I’ve made it. Check out the Propagator’s blog for more Sixes.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend lovely people.

Garden Wildlife

Happy Saturday all. September tomorrow. I’m not sad about the end of Summer, not yet anyway. I still have a holiday to come so it doesn’t feel like it’s over. Plus, I quite like Autumn. Now come the end of Autumn, then I will be in mourning because I am not a Winter person.

Today I’m focusing on the animals in our garden, from the tiny insects up to the bigger visitors. I’ve been snapping photos all Summer with this post in mind. I’ve got so many now that I’m not sure how to narrow them down, but narrow I will. I’ve can’t tell you how many seconds, minutes and possibly hours I’ve spent, camera poised trying to get the perfect photo and ending up with blurry wings or a hastily departed flower!

I’ll start with the traditionally less pleasant critters that I’ve spotted throughout the last couple of months.

For the arachnophobes amongst you, feel free to scroll past the next section (or peek at it from behind a cushion). I’ll put a row of hearts when it’s safe to look again and I promise to move on to more cuddly creatures soon, but right now, SPIDERS!

I used to count myself as an arachnophobe, indeed, my Mum, who witnessed my screams throughout adolescence, bought me this which now proudly hangs in my shed.

294938F2-9507-43A6-8FE4-82BE9901B0B9

I have found though, since my gardening adventure really kicked in with a vengeance, that’s there’s really no place in gardening for irrational fears of anything creepy crawly. You’re in their domain, not the other way round, and they just get on with their thing. They really are more scared of you than you could ever be of them (as I found out when stalking them, camera in hand!) The beast above was stomping past my pots at the side of the house. I tried to get a better photo, but he disappeared next door (bet they were really grateful!)

💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚

Next up slugs and snails.

This snail was really quite pretty. It may have chobbled on my strawberries, which is unfortunate, but I liked it.

These ones were a lot bigger and not so attractive. The first I discovered in my potato bag and the second was hiding behind my Diascia Cherry Blossom.

Slugs decimated my strawberries this year! I assume it was slugs anyway, given the evidence above! The second one is on my somewhat raggedy Dahlia. Given the rain over the last couple of days, there are some humongous slugs slurping their way around the garden at the moment, but they’re icky so I couldn’t bring myself to take photos.

On to beetles and beetley type things.

A9D0DE63-51DE-420E-8B40-6B4B49EABE5D

I can’t remember where I snapped this one, and I can’t work it out from the background. Quite an impressive looking beetle.

DCC5001A-9D6D-4D77-99F9-8BE5E9AD3A11

This one was very well camouflaged on my petit pois. A quick google of ‘green beetles’ doesn’t bring up anything that looks like this, so I don’t know what it is.

A3C31AF5-B0EF-416B-AEE6-85B90A8790DB

These are Lily Beetles and it’s such a shame they’re such a pretty colour because they’re destructive! I tried picking them off, but they don’t get the hint so I had to resort to chemical means. I made sure not to spray them once the buds appeared though because that would kill any pollinators that gathered their pollen.

Ladybirds. When I first saw the lily beetles I thought they were ladybirds, but they are sans spots. These are definitely ladybirds. Ladybirds really remind me of being a child. Surely it’s some kind of rite of passage to have a ladybird wee on your hand (although it’s not really wee, it’s some kind of toxic ‘back off’ fluid!)

Now for some random flying things.

Lots of flying things in our garden, including more than our fair share of mosquitoes! No photos of those because they either get squished immediately or they get away! I’ve lost count of the number of bites I’ve had this Summer – most of them through my clothes! Yep, these supersonic mozzies can chomp on you even through jeans!

Quite impressed with these two pics, although it does feel as though we should avert our eyes from the first pair, because I’m sure they really should’ve ‘got a room!’

I tried really hard to attract butterflies to the garden. I planted a Buddleia and I hung up bananas but it didn’t do any good and I saw very few butterflies all Summer.

3F3D5FEE-EF52-477B-9BE8-17CC0AC96178

I actually saw this one land when I was in the kitchen and ran out with my phone to take a photo. Luckily it stayed there long enough. Would you believe it, in the two seconds I was in the garden I managed to miss the Amazon man knocking on the front door and had to chase him down the street!

This is slightly cheating since I didn’t take the picture in the garden, but it’s too pretty not to include.

8D9B315E-17C5-40AD-90BF-5C558CAAD89C

I saw it at the garden centre. Isn’t it lovely?

Finally for the insect/arachnid section, I have LOTS of bee (and other stripy insects) photos, all of which were taken in the garden.

I’m going to finish with the best photos that we’ve captured on the garden camera since the last post.

We’ve tried to plant even more wildlife attracting plants this year, and I’ve also been a lot less ruthless with pulling up wild flowers and/or weeds and I love all the animals that are choosing to roam round our outside space.

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at all our lovely animals and sorry if the spiders disturbed anyone.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!