Happy Birthday To me

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Green Girl Gardener is a whole one year old today! Where has that year gone? I knew it was coming up because about a month ago my iPhone calendar reminded me to ‘cancel WordPress if not using’. I just swiped it away, and that made me happy because it meant I’d been successful in my venture.

After I published my first post, hubby turned all Del Boy and declared that ‘this time next year we’ll be millionaires!’ Well I haven’t been successful in that way  (not that the intention was ever for that to happen), and I don’t even have that many followers/regular readers, but it still feels like an eminently successful year to me because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every second of blogging. I’ve always been a closet writer (I still think there’s a novel in me somewhere) and this is a fabulous way for me to express myself creatively. It makes me happy to play with words, find the most amusing way to express myself, to conjugate to my heart’s content.

I think the blog has had its main focus on my gardening adventure, but I’ve also managed to bring other passions into it – crochet, cats, holidays, teddy bears, tennis. Hopefully I’ve provided some light entertainment on otherwise dreary days, and maybe I’ve even provided a little bit of education along the way (although probably not in gardening because I’m still right down the bottom of that particular learning curve).

I’ve found lots of fellow bloggers who blog on all sorts of subjects from crochet to mental health to cooking to travel, but most of all I’ve found fellow gardeners. Luckily (for me) most of them are far more experienced than yours truly and they’ve helped me identify mystery plants, they’ve offered tips and tricks either directly or through their own writing and they’ve opened my eyes to different kinds of gardening. I can honestly say that starting my little bloggy venture was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’ve complemented by space here with a Green Girl Gardener account on Instagram (@greengirlgardener if anyone’s interested) which allows me, when I don’t have time to blog, to share those random photos that I take when I pop out to check the garden before work, or when I spot a beautiful plant while I’m out and about or when I’ve created something scrummy with my own homegrown goodness.

I’m going to celebrate my first birthday by sharing some of my favourite photos from the past year.

I’ve tried to pick one photo from each month, but I’ve got so many photos that I love that I think I’m going to have to do another montage!

Above we have for July my Eupatorium (that had to be in there, didn’t it), Olive and Tink, our furry girls for August and my birthday planter for September. Then there’s the fox cushion I made for my mother in law in October and hubby and I in a cenote in Mexico during our November holiday. Next row shows my Hellebore flowering in December and my Christmas present greenhouse housing a hubby (a husband hut as my friend on Facebook quipped) in early January. Penultimate row is us with a friendly falcon in Malta in February and the Palace of Holyroodhouse during my trip to Edinburgh (which was also in February but I must’ve written my post in early March) and finally one of my raised beds all planted and netted in April, the iconic Universal globe on our fantastic holiday to Orlando in May and last but not least, the Confetti Fields that I visited in June.

Here we go again. Top row shows a Gazania which was the first sale table find that I blogged about back in July 2018 and an Eeyore house at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens which we discovered in August. Jump down a row to a wild pony in Sutton Park which we came across in September, I still remember how happy I was to have seen one because I was starting to think they were a myth, and my set of Clover hooks which revolutionised my crocheting life in October. Next up is a white feather in November which I think is my gardening expert Grandad popping down from heaven to check I’m not messing up the garden, followed by our yummy Christmas dinner in December, our furry girls keeping warm in January and me meeting my new baby niece in February. Fourth row shows a mountain of bears in March (that’s been added to since then!) and an elephant that I crocheted as a leaving gift for my boss when he retired in April so he doesn’t forget me and lastly a Gringotts vault at the Harry Potter studios in May and the start of my love affair with overnight oats as I started Slimming World in June.

It’s so nice to look back at these photos – yet another benefit to my blog. I also take more random photos when I get an inkling of an idea for a blog post and I find that quite often they evoke the strongest memories.

I’ll finish with a thank you. To all you lovely readers – friends, family, colleagues and fellow bloggers – thank you so much for reading, liking, commenting, complimenting and educating me for the last year. I really do appreciate it every time someone takes time out of their busy day to read my musings and ramblings, and I hope I can continue to entertain and perhaps amuse for a long time to come.

Our first harvest!

Oh botheration! It’s raining! This is, of course, well needed and good for the garden, but why does it have to come at the weekend and not while I’m stuck inside an office?  I managed approximately ten minutes in the garden this morning before it started coming down too heavily to contemplate staying out there. Let’s hope tomorrow is better.

I did manage to get my first haul (haul may be a slight exaggeration but I’m sticking with it) of produce from the garden in those ten minutes.

Whoop! Homegrown goodness! The strawberries are from my three plants that I’ve had in a pot for a couple of years now. I’m still having no luck with the new plants in the raised bed. I’m going to put straw underneath them to see if that’ll deter the slugs, or whatever it is that’s eating them.

The potatoes are Maris Peers. I have three different types of potatoes in three bags up by the greenhouse, and while all three have (or had, in the case of the Maris Peers) humongous stems and leaves sprouting out of the top, the Maris Peers are the only ones which have flowered. They all got really battered in the heavy rain we had a couple of weeks ago so now I don’t really know what to expect from the other two bags.

I’d been waiting for some of our own potatoes before trying a recipe from my Pinch of Nom cookbook that I’ve been drawling over for a while. Pinch of Nom is amazing and is helping me immeasurably with Slimming World. It’s not strictly aimed at followers of any particular diet plan but is full of lower fat/calorie dishes and alternatives for people who are watching their weight.

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Bacon, onion and potato bake. Doesn’t it look yummy? It’s completely Syn free on Slimming World as long as you use bacon medallions (or cut any excess fat off) and count the cheese on top as part of your healthy extra A.

My version looked a bit different!

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Not a million miles off though, and it tasted delicious!

I had some potatoes left over, and certainly didn’t want to waste any after growing them myself, so I made my own version of the bacon and onion frittata from the cookbook.

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We can have this cold for lunch tomorrow. I’m supposed to fill one third of my plate with speed food (most fruit and veg) so I could do with serving this with some salad but unfortunately we don’t have any in! Maybe I’ll have some carrot sticks.

I whipped up some dessert so we could have our massive crop of five strawberries! I’d seen people talk about this in the Pinch of Nom Facebook group and decided to give it a go.

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Game changer! It’s so simple, yet tastes like a proper indulgent pudding. It’s just a couple of spoonfuls of quark mixed with an Options mint hot chocolate sachet (one Syn for half) and put in the fridge for a while. Obviously the strawberries made it!

Speaking of food, we had our first barbecue of the season last night. Slimming World friendly for me, obviously!

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We have the smallest barbecue in the world! It does for us though. I am quite tempted to invest in a gas one but can’t decide if it’s worth it.

My burgers were the anaemic looking ones at the back. I went to Tesco to get their meat free burgers because they have no Syns. Quorn burgers are two and a half Syns for some reason. I’m not vegetarian (obviously, given the bacon in my lunch) but I’m not a meat lover, especially red meat, so I’m more than happy to have veggie burgers, and it’s a bonus that they’re less Syns.

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Look at that! Double decker burger! On a diet! Look at Minnie sneakily eying it up!

I added cheese from my healthy extra A and I made a Syn free sauce with fat free natural yoghurt, mint and garlic. The barbecue was an impromptu decision so I’d already had my healthy extra B for breakfast, which meant I had to count the Syns in the bread roll but if I’d been more organised I could’ve had a wholemeal roll and counted it as my B option which would mean the whole thing was free!

I made some pasta salad to have with my sausages so I didn’t have to use more Syns on bread.

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The sausages are Linda McCartney veggie ones which are yummy. Much nicer than Quorn ones. I would’ve loved to have a couple of hubby’s real sausages but it’s a small sacrifice to make if I continue to lose weight. I tried to keep the Syns down by mixing the pasta with quark and fat free natural yoghurt instead of mayo, but I think next time I’ll use lighter than light mayo and Syn it.

I’m not losing weight super fast, but, as they say, slow and steady wins the race. Let’s hope so. Having switched from WW to Slimming World this time around, I feel like Slimming World is more sustainable. The diet gurus all say that you need to change your habits forever to keep the weight off and with WW that seems really restrictive and life altering to maintain forever because of the nature of the plan, whereas Slimming World is more flexible. We’ve had some really delicious meals which I would be happy to eat over and over again so I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to stay on plan and that maintaining will be possible once I get to goal.

Support is crucial to anyone trying to lose weight. My hubby has no issue with weight, and he doesn’t put any pressure on me to change the way I look, but he knows it’s important to me so he tries to help as much as he can.

It used to be that you had to go to a diet group once a week to get external support, but these days social media plays a huge role. Writing about my weight loss journey (gosh that’s cliched!) on my blog and posting on Instagram is helpful to me, but there are millions of people on Instagram who post every meal they eat and give the recipes which helps to inspire me and give me new ideas. As I mentioned above, there’s a Pinch of Nom group on Facebook and most members seem to be following Slimming World so it’s a great community of like minded people sharing tips and tricks which are really helpful.

Let’s hope in a few months I’ll be able to report that I’m at target and planning to stay there forever! Right now, it’s nearly time for a takeaway – all counted and within plan, obviously!

Christmas 2018

So, that’s that then for another year! Three hundred and sixty three days shopping days until Christmas! I hope everyone had (or is still having if you’re having extended celebrations) a fantastic festive time.

Looking through the camera roll of my phone I now realise that I was too busy having a great time to take many pictures over the last two days. For those of you reading in different countries I’ll explain the two day thing. Until I started work with my current employee and had contact with lots of colleagues all over Europe, I assumed that Boxing Day was a universal holiday, but it seems it’s not. It’s mainly observed in the UK and former members of the British Empire. It dates back as far as the sixteen hundreds (it was documented by a certain Samuel Pepys) and its origins lie in the tradition of giving tradesmen and service staff a Christmas box on the first working day after Christmas Day. Whatever its derivation, I’m very grateful for it because it gives us two days over which to see mine and hubby’s families and gives me more time to catch up on sleep at a time of year when although happy, I’m always exhausted.

We’ve fallen into a happy routine over Christmas. We spend Christmas morning and early afternoon at home, just the two of us and the cats, then we spend the evening at my sister-in-law’s house exchanging gifts, playing games, eating too much and catching up. On Boxing Day we go to my Dad’s house in Worcester for more over-eating, more exchanging of gifts and more catching up. I love it!

I talked to you last time about making a recipe card similar to Gousto for our Christmas dinner to take all the hassle out of cooking it. It worked a treat!

I followed this pretty much to the letter and (even if I say so myself) Christmas lunch turned out absolutely delish!


It wasn’t all strictly from scratch, but it was less pre-prepared than we’ve done in previous years. We always have prawn cocktail for our starter – we shredded the iceberg lettuce ourselves but the prawn cocktail was out of a tub. I do actually make a mean thousand island dressing (it’s dead easy) but really, life’s too short to faff around when Tesco will do it for you for very little expense.

The chicken number two was lovely. I cooked it in its bag and just had to cut it open twenty minutes before the end and baste it – fabulous, no mess in the oven! We had roast potatoes with thyme, mashed potato, Yorkshire pudding (controversial!) cauliflower cheese (hubby’s fave), Chantenay carrots and parsnips roasted in a honey glaze, peas, red cabbage with port and cranberries, gravy and, the pièce de résistance, pigs in blankets! Hubby had seven. SEVEN! He certainly ate well – three roasties, seven pigs in blankets, two yorkies and all the rest too! Oh well, if you can’t indulge at Christmas, when can you?

We didn’t forget our little girls – they had their own Christmas lunches on special Christmas plates.

Speaking of fur babies, we got my sister-in-law’s pooch, Charly, a little festive treat.

You can’t quite see it, but it says Santa’s Little Helper on it. She was very clever and opened it herself. She needed a little bit of help to put it on, but she seemed quite pleased with it.

On to Boxing Day, and we headed off to Worcester around eleven thirty. I don’t know how I manage to forget out the speed restrictions on the M5 every time I go on it! It’s down to 30 mph at one point which feels slower than walking! Oh well, for once the traffic was light and we didn’t need to be rushing so road rage was absent.

Driving home for Christmas, oh I can’t wait to see those faces. Those words are very apt. I love seeing everyone altogether in one place. People just find a perch on a chair or the floor and we just all chat away to whomever we happen to perch next to.

Some of our numbers were beavering away on a Christmas jigsaw for much of the day, with cries of ‘who’s pinched that bit?!’ and ‘the pieces had better all be here!’ emanating from that end of the room periodically!

People dipped in and out as they pleased throughout the day. Look at all those lovely heads bent over as they vied to be the one to put the last piece in! Surely this is what Christmas is all about? Relaxing and enjoying the company of family.

We both got some amazing gifts from our nearest and dearest which we will enjoy wearing, making, reading, watching, planting, bathing in, eating and drinking for some time to come. I’ll tell you about all our lovely new things over the next few posts rather than bombard you with them all now, but I will leave you with this picture of the amazing quilt that my Mum made for us, which Olive and Tinkerbell have already commandeered as their own!

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