Six on Saturday 20th July

I trundle along through life, as one does, trying to make the best of the virtues with which I was lucky enough to be born and appreciating the opportunities and joys which come my way but I’ve always been of the opinion that I missed my vocation (who hasn’t?) The problem was, I didn’t actually know what my vocation was. Well, folks, I think I may have found it this morning! Far too late to do anything about it (mortgage to clear, holidays to book, plants to buy) other than use it to brighten up my life and living room, but it’s quite a revelation to have found something that I appear to excel at without really trying, and which I really enjoyed. Of course, you good people might disagree once I reveal the product of my new found talent (self esteem, it would seem, I do not excel in) but I’m very pleased with it so I shall studiously ignore any criticism!

It started off when I went for a pootle around the garden to snap some photos to use for a Six post and I noticed that my Sweet Peas had produced more beautiful flowers. Monty Don advises to cut your Sweet Peas every eight to ten days to ensure a steady stream of blooms throughout the Summer, and I only gathered my first posy on Monday so I wasn’t expecting more just yet.

This was my first display.

They really don’t last long. They’d mostly faded when I looked this morning.

I was really enjoying my pootle, checking out progress in my veg plot, marvelling over the colours in my Coprosma and squinting at the tiny purple flowers appearing on my Callicarpa Bodinieri (which I assume will give rise to its purple berries in Autumn), but it started to drizzle so I got on with cutting my Sweet Peas (which is number one of six).

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I got quite a good bunch, as you can see, but as I was gazing at them and drinking in their heavenly scent, I thought to myself, some yellow would really look good with these to break up the pinks and purples and highlight the whites, why don’t you get yellow Sweet Peas?

So, I decided to add some and headed for my Coreopsis Grandiflora. As I wandered down the garden my Ox-Eye Daisies waved at me in the breeze. Yes! I thought, daisies look stunning in bouquets, so I gathered up both (number two).

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As I headed back up the garden to collect my Sweet Peas, my eyes were drawn to my Cosmos. Apt, I thought, given that my Sweet Peas and Cosmos were raised from seed side by side in the greenhouse (number three).

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The colours in the Cosmos bring together the colours in the Sweet Peas and the Coreopsis perfectly. I love those little star shaped stamens.

We have an abundance of hardy Geraniums in the back garden. More and more every year as they self seed to their heart’s content. I may have to divide some of them somewhen, but for now I decided to include them in my posy as a nod towards their ever presence. They are quite attractive with their veins of dark purple. Another plant that is self seeding all over the place is Oxalis. Considered a nuisance by some, we don’t have enough of it (yet) for me to be troubled by it. These two pink pals are number four.

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Any good bouquet has a Rose in it. I hesitated at first, because I do love my Roses as nature intended them, but after umming and ahing for a while I decided that the two Roses which best matched the colour scheme had enough blooms to spare a couple for my display, so here’s number five.

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Do you spy my little green snips in the background? These have come into their own recently – they’re perfect for the delicate little cuts needed for Sweet Peas and their tendrils.

Finally I decided that if weeds will insist on making repeat appearances in the garden, so much so that I can’t possibly keep on top of them, then they may as well make themselves useful. Number six, then, is wonderfully weedy!

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One of these isn’t a weed it’s one of my Hare Tail grass ears that I got from Gardeners’ World Live, but it seemed to fit with the the rest of these goodies so I included it. Apart from that, there is normal grass and a flower from Herb Robert, but I don’t know what the blue and yellow flowers are. The yellow looks like a tiny Cowslip (but definitely isn’t) and the mystery blue is lovely and delicate. Several of them have appeared in our path.

So there you have my Six, and soon I get to reveal the finished arrangement, but first a couple of ‘along the way’ photos.

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I love this. It reminds me of place mats that you used to get in the eighties and nineties that had drawings of plants with their scientific names written on in scrawny writing. I’m sure most households of my family had some of these (and I suspect some still have – waste not want not).

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Here they are all bunched up, as they were when I brought them in.

And now, the big reveal ….. drumroll …..

I really need to get one of those light box things for taking photos rather than having to balance tea towels on various kitchen utensils to get a decent background!

Here they are in situ, up high on the wall because the Sweet Peas at least are toxic to cats, and even if they weren’t, I don’t want my beautiful arrangement to be chewed by feline teeth! I hope you’re not disappointed after all my self indulgent hype up!

I couldn’t decide whether they looked better with or without flash so I’ve included both. The two on the left are with and the one on the right is without.

If you want to check out more Sixes, pop over to the Propagator’s page and have a snoop in his comments.

Toodleoo.

Six on Saturday 13th July

I’ve been AWOL from Six on Saturday for a couple of weeks now so I’ve made time to showcase six of my best flowers today. Luckily the Propagator doesn’t enforce participation so I’m pretty sure I’ve got away with my absence. Check out his blog for more Sixes.

I’ve gone all amateur photographer today and I’ve been taking close up pics of some of the prettiest flowers which are blooming at the moment in the garden so I’m choosing close ups as the theme of this week’s Six.

1. Rose Campion

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Oh I do like a close up of a flower glistening with water! These are such a shocking bright pink that I’m quite surprised no planes have mistaken them for the airport landing strip given that we live on the flight path! They were another gift from our cleaner at work’s garden – very generous she is with her self seeded plants.

2. Hebes

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know I’m a sucker for a Hebe. I have to blinker myself when I go through the Hebe aisle at the garden centre, and if I see one on a sale table, well, it’s coming home with me!

The one on the left above is Hebe Purple Pixie and I think it was my first ever sale table purchase. It flowered beautifully last year and is just starting to bloom again now. It lives in the shade and it seems quite happy with that situation. The one on the right is Hebe Celebration. It was also from the sale table last year and is actually still in its pot. It’s almost as shocking pink as the Rose Campion! I think I might plant it in the front garden tomorrow. The one in the middle was from a pack of four Hebes and it didn’t say which variety any of them were. It’s the only one of the four which has started to flower so far.

3. Roses

I have a few Roses in the garden, these are just three of them, all from various sale tables. I’m not sure of their names. It’s probably hard to tell the sizes from the photos, but the red one on the end is actually really small. That opening flower is probably only about an inch tall and I love how it looks like a mini version of a red Rose that a nervous young man might buy for his starry eyed sweetheart on a first date.

4. Buddleia

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Another sale table find. There’s a theme to my garden centre shopping! We’d wanted to add a Buddleia to our garden to try to attract butterflies. It was the tiniest little plant and I squeezed it into a tiny space next to our fence but it’s done really well and is flowering beautifully. I need to prune the Holly bush next to it because it’s in danger of crowding it. I think the Buddleia would benefit from something to grow up as well because it seems to be flopping over slightly.

5. Sweet Peas

These are one of my biggest successes of this year. I grew them from seed in the greenhouse and I made my own support, and now they’re rewarding my hard work with beautiful blooms. I’ll see how many have opened tomorrow and I may cut them to bring indoors. They’re toxic to cats so I have put up a wall mounted shelf of sorts in our living room in anticipation that the cats can’t get to so we can enjoy them inside all Summer. No doubt I’ll show you a pic on a future post.

6. Cosmos

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Another success from the greenhouse. I sowed these at the same time as the Sweet Peas. I planted them behind my birthday planter because the Cosmos I grew in a pot last year got really tall, at least four feet, if not more, so I thought we’d be able to see them over the planter, but these have only grown about a foot high. I love this photo, it looks somehow ethereal. Not of this world. Like it belongs in some kind of parallel fairy universe. Just beautiful!

What a lovely Six! I love all the colour in mine and everyone else’s gardens at the moment. Long may it last.

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!