2018 Review in Pictures

I should’ve probably written this post on 1st January, but I was busy finishing off my greenhouse and since then I’ve been back at work and feeling somewhat tired. It’s amazing how quickly you get out of the habit of getting up early and doing proper adult things. Every January when I go back to work I struggle to keep my head above water because I’m so tired and suffering from the January blues. I always manage though, and soon we’ll be through January. February’s not much better, in my humble opinion, but its saving grace is that it’s closer to Spring and you can finally see that the days are getting longer. The end of Winter is in sight!

I downloaded the top nine app which makes you a collage of your nine most liked photos on Instagram.

856e3de8-c346-4c3c-b37c-1ba42d5c4a28

I like all these photos (as, apparently do the people who follow me on Instagram) but I didn’t feel that it represented my year as I remember it. Of course, I only started my blog and the accompanying Instagram account (greengirlgardener for anyone who’d like to follow me) in July so it’s not representative of the whole year, but there’s not one gardening photo on there and that was a massive part of my 2018. I also realise that I need to be careful not to use a photo I’ve already posted as my featured blog picture because that’s how I’ve ended up with the same photo twice. 

Anyway, I thought I’d look back on my year and try to select my personal favourite pictures, and maybe you’ll find them interesting.

We managed to keep our fur babies healthy and happy in 2018 – this really isn’t a chore because they are just so delightful. I couldn’t not include my favourite pics of the gorgeous twosome from this past year.

How do I choose my favourite pictures from the garden? Honestly my phone is full of pics of plants and garden paraphernalia! I’ll try to narrow it down.

This is what really sparked my enthusiasm for the garden when we had the jungle chopped down and I could really see what we had to play with!

It inspired me to create our bistro.

I soon added other features to give character to our space.

My wheelbarrow planter.

3CA3B5FB-7042-4C49-8FEE-4A636354D0D1

My planter which was made by my Dad for my birthday which I love.

965B5BB5-7F92-4A8C-82E5-77BAF62E553A

My raised beds ready for growing fruit and veg in the summer.

60C782D1-A10F-41B0-AF9F-20768B937571

More recently my greenhouse which I’m really excited about.

D2058BE7-404E-4D3D-9B5C-94EB60985DC0

The garden gave me so much pleasure this year. I can’t possibly show you everything that I planted or managed to nurture, so I’ll try to narrow it down to a few of my favourite photos.

When the cats were kittens it was impossible for me to crochet because they would run off with my yarn, but this year, now that they’re the ripe old age of three, I rediscovered my love for hooking and I also resubscribed to Little Box of Crochet. Here are some of my makes.

I also met Amanda, the owner of Little Box of Crochet at the Grand Sale Event.

E760F832-56CF-4516-B341-62FD4F166F4F

I went on three holidays. Lanzarote at Easter with hubby’s side of the family.

d0a4a7b8-f646-4a79-a3af-410dd7b1a92c

Sandybrook Country Park near Ashbourne with some of my best and oldest (in time, not age!) friends for May Bank Holiday.

002a24ec-40f9-4d5b-80ca-512df0de965f

And Mexico in November with hubby.

img_1869

2018 saw the last of my school year turn 40. My birthday is at the beginning of the academic year so I turned 40 in 2017, but my best friend celebrated her milestone birthday in style in 2018. We went to London, saw Les Miserables in the West End and had afternoon tea at the Dorchester.

6866f1b5-ccc7-4ff2-b5f2-2862a007bc66

I don’t even like tea, but I was in the Dorchester and I was drinking tea whether I liked it or not! I look thin in this photo – might print it out and stick it to the fridge to motivate my New Year diet!

This is really not in chronological order because this happened in February. It’s just in the order that it’s fallng out of my head! We finally knocked our teeny tiny kitchen through to the dining room to create a big kitchen diner. It’s the best thing we’ve done to the house – we no longer fall over each other when we’re trying to cook, and we no longer risk going up in a puff of smoke like we did using our old dodgy cooker!

30011e1a-58ce-43d9-bfe6-9adc78f9217d

Hubby and I went to Thorpe Park with two of my work friends (one of whom made a rollercoaster fwiend – sorry, in joke!) Until I went to Orlando for the first time in 2016 I’d never been to a proper big theme park. I used to go to a local theme park when I was a kid, people can’t believe that I’ve never been to Alton Towers! I loved Thorpe Park. It was so much fun.

My youngest brother got married in August and I gained another sister-in-law. It was an amazing day and really made me appreciate time with family.

4AC4B353-B093-4D9B-B2E6-8D014BE838DE

Oh, almost forgot! I got a promotion and became an Account Manager. I’ve tried to embrace my new role and am enjoying the learning process. It’s not always easy, and I’m spending a lot of time outside of my comfort zone, but I’m relishing the challenge and am determined to succeed and prove myself. That reminds me, I must ask for new business cards!

c73d2778-c1a5-4b31-8003-237811588cb2

I think that’s the major events of 2018 covered. So, what’s to come in 2019? If all goes according to plan, then I’ll travel to Orlando and Spain. I’ll return to Sandybrook with the girls. It’s highly likely that I’ll visit the south of Italy with work. I’ll visit the Hippodrome to see Peter Pan and the Alexandra Theatre to see Thriller Live. I’ll pay an extortionate parking fee at the NEC when I visit Gardeners’ World Live with my best friend. There are tentative plans to go to Kew Gardens, do pub quizzes, visit Tallinn and to remedy my not having been to Alton Towers. I’ll take part in my first CAL (crochet-along) with thousands of people around the world when I follow attic24’s sweet pea blanket pattern. I’m planning to decorate the downstairs loo, redo the bathroom and obviously there will be exploits in the garden. I did briefly toy with the idea of a huge PVC igloo on the lawn today when I was daydreaming (and imagining myself to have won the lottery) but I’ll satisfy my gardening dreams by beautifying my greenhouse and growing my own fruit and veg this year.

I hope you all have plans for 2019, whether big or small. Life’s for living!

 

 

 

Underwater World

We are jet lagged! I imagine this is what it feels like to be on mind-altering drugs. Earlier we went to Tesco (through necessity certainly not desire). I generally avoid supermarkets. Life is just too short when you work full time to be faffing around in supermarkets in your free time, wondering how the human race hasn’t become extinct. If it can’t even handle a shopping trolley how on earth does it undertake more complicated activities such as, oh I don’t know, crossing the road or raising a child! Anyway, somehow today, in our multi time zonal state it suddenly became more bearable. I’m pretty sure I managed not to leave my trolley horizontal across the end of an aisle whilst I wondered off to (at length) ponder the virtues of Cushelle over Andrex as is the want of your seasoned supermarket goer, but I was definitely less spatially aware than usual and (joy of joys) pretty much unaware of the irritating foibles of my fellow shoppers. Maybe that’s as a result of post holiday relaxation, or maybe the jet lag. Either way, I shall return to online shopping next week because I’m sure both will have deserted me not to return until our next holiday, leaving me open to the possibility of committing hara-kiri with a carrot should I attempt to enter a supermarket.

We landed back down on earth with a bump today (and not one of a Dreamliner!) As well as braving Tesco, I’ve emptied both suitcases and my beach bag, put the passports away, hung up everything that didn’t need washing, filled and emptied the dishwasher, watered the plants, cleaned the kitchen and straightened my hair (but I drew the line at applying make up – one thing at a time, eh?) Hubby has emptied the bins, cleaned the cats bowls and changed their litter trays and between us we’ve done two loads of washing (including hubby’s uniform ready for his return to work on Tuesday) and now we’re cooking tea. There was a fairy for all manner of domestic chore whilst we were on holiday and I was hoping it might have popped in our suitcase to continue back home, but no such luck!

So, I’m going to live vicariously through my past self this evening and tell you about our excursion last week. We decided we’d just do one excursion while we were away, partly because they were flipping expensive but mostly because we really felt the need for copious amounts of lying, relaxing, snoozing and general nothing doing. We looked at the options and toyed with a trip to Chichen Itza, but ultimately we realised that this would’ve just been a box ticking exercise and we weren’t all that desperate to see it. Impressive as I’m sure it is, you can no longer climb the pyramid, the pick up was at some ungodly hour and it would’ve meant spending several hours of our precious holiday on a coach. So, we opted for Underwater World.

Our pick up was scheduled for 7.55am, but by 8.15am we were still lounging in the sun on the front steps of the hotel. I have to admit I was starting to worry, but there was no need, the minibus had got held up getting into Playa Carm (as the locals call Playa del Carmen). There’s a checkpoint to get in and every vehicle is checked. This must be irritating for people coming in for deliveries and hotel staff etc. but it’s for safety reasons and did mean that the hotel felt super secure.

Soon we were on our way down the highway to our first stop which was a cenote, which is an underground lagoon. There are over six thousand cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsular and as there are no rivers in the area, they provide the primary source of drinking water. The water filters through the rocks when it rains and it is crystal clear (until, that is people go in and stir up the silt on the bottom).

We entered the uunderground world down a very steep staircase.

11F7A01B-68CA-473E-99E7-5BC211A11453

Please excuse the swimwear! I promise I won’t make a habit of posting pics in such attire! You can see the steepness of the stairs and the concentration on hubby’s face to make sure he doesn’t fall down them!

There is absolutely no natural light down there once you’ve moved away from the entrance so for most of the time we had to follow our guide Ricardo’s torch as you can see in this photo.

DE26C629-D417-4A51-A806-EB3D56403C57

Luckily nobody asked what would happen if the battery died until after we’d got back to the stairs! Apparently it has happened and they all had to hold on to each other and feel their way around the rocks until they got back! Argh! When we were in the depths of the cave Ricardo turned the torch off and you literally couldn’t see your hand in front of your face!

The cenote is filled with stalagmites and stalactites which are thousands of years old, formed by the water dripping through. You have to be really careful not to touch them because they are very easily damaged.

This is one of the most special things I’ve ever done.

After we scrambled our way back up the stairs we headed back to the highway down the bumpiest road I’ve ever known. Halfway down we suddenly stopped to the cry of ‘tarantula!’ Somehow our driver had spotted this little (big) fellow crawling around at the side of the road.

8590F5F2-F841-47B2-AD81-5CF2A45D5A4F

I’m not the biggest lover of spiders, although I’ve got better since I’ve been gardening more and coming across all manner of creepy crawlies, but I was very impressed by this guy. Now, I’m not saying I want to find one of these in the bath, but I find them a lot less shudder-inducing than the common house spider, because they don’t scurry. They’re too big for scurrying! You can see some scale in the next photo.

0720438A-4C99-4AC2-A962-711C376546C6

Another minibus was heading towards the cenote and they pulled over when they saw the commotion and the driver picked the tarantula up!

Brave guy!

We carried on and headed to our final stop, a beautiful beach where went snorkelling. Unfortunately I don’t have photos because we had to leave our belongings in the minibus because there were no lockers, but imagine Caribbean paradise and you’ll be part way there!

We suited up in our life jackets and snorkels and followed Ricardo into the water. There’s no guarantee of seeing turtles because they’re not in captivity, they’re free to swim wherever they please. Apparently ten years ago you’d be likely to see close to a hundred on a good day, but now you’re lucky to see five or six.

We were reasonably lucky, we saw three.

DCIM907GOPRODCIM903GOPRO

These aren’t the actual turtles that we saw. Well, they might be, but I didn’t take the photos, they were in a photo package that I bought of the day. They’re pretty close to what we actually saw.

It’s very serene when you’re floating around looking down at turtles, not able to hear anything because your ears are below the water. Very calm.

Sadly some of the turtles are getting cancer because of the chemicals that we, the human race, are putting into the sea. I couldn’t see any evidence of it on the turtles we saw (apparently they get white tumours) but it really makes you realise that we need to change our ways for the good of the animal kingdom, and the planet as a whole. Obviously we need to wear sun protection, but there are animal safe products available. There are alternatives to many plastic consumables.

As well as the turtles we saw two sting rays, an adult (mummy?) and a baby.

DCIM102GOPRO

Again, not my photo, but a good likeness.

This was an absolutely brilliant day! I’m so glad we chose this over Chichen Itza, we have amazing memories that we can cherish forever.

 

Back to Blighty with marvellous memories

Is it Saturday? It is according to my Fitbit which has found its way back on to my wrist for the first time in a few days, but it feels like I’ve lost a day somewhere over the Atlantic. Were we really sitting on our balcony in Mexico this time yesterday? It’s five hours behind in Mexico which makes it 11am, so yes we were.

E03871F9-E6DD-4A94-8D4B-4ED80F6CA13A

Look at that blue sky!

The journey back was largely uneventful. We were on the Dreamliner again, and we had a tailwind most of the way back. At one point it got up to 138mph so despite taking off a few minutes late, we landed fifteen minutes early. The pilot told us the downside of a tailwind is likely turbulence, but luckily we didn’t get any to speak of.

I was poised with my phone to take photos of the ambient lighting on the plane that I told you about here, after I was too busy marvelling at the colours on the way out to remember to take pics.

I don’t really know where to start telling you about Mexico. The hotel, the Riu Tequila, was lovely. It had four pools, one with a swim up bar ….

C1885D27-CEB9-4B52-A28E-253A63AECB49.jpeg

… and tables and stools in the water. Apologies for the photo – I took this at night because it was always busy during the day.

One small pool which was next to the separate children’s pool which we didn’t frequent, and finally the pool which, happily, was closest to our room and had sunbeds in the water as well as nestled under the palm trees.

The service in the hotel was amazing. The staff, from the cleaners to the bar staff to the grounds men, worked tirelessly. We didn’t want for anything all week and the grounds were always spotless.

There was one main buffet restaurant which was open for breakfast, lunch and dinner …

4576AAC8-17ED-4D52-BD3C-64477D791C7E.jpeg

… and there was also the 24 hour Sports Bar in case you were peckish at four in the morning (we didn’t go in here).

The food in the main restaurant was good with plenty of choice. It was nice to get home and have a balanced meal though because I do find you end up with weird concoctions from buffet restaurants.

There is some fruit and veg in there, but there is also quite a high proportion of churros!

In addition to the main restaurant there are four speciality restaurants. There’s a Mexican which you have to book in advance and is situated over the road in the Riu Yucatan and there’s a steak restaurant. We didn’t try either of these, but we did try the Italian and the Asian. We were underwhelmed with the Italian – the starter and desserts were still buffet style and the choice of mains was very limited.

The Asian was a real disappointment. It was completely self service apart from the drinks and most of the dishes were the same as the Asian options served in the main restaurant, but without the additional choice. I’m glad we checked it out, but I wouldn’t go back.

In the main restaurant there were always fruit sculptures.

The animals in the resort were a massive highlight, and I’d go so far as to say that they went a long way to making our holiday the special break that it was. I’m missing the coatis already. There is now a high proportion of coati imagary on my phone! For the first time in ages I used an actual camera as well to make use of a better zoom. Unfortunately it gave up life towards the end of the holiday, but I still managed to get a few good shots.

I’ve already shown you some coati pics, but I’m going to delight you with some more because they’re just so cute that they deserve multiple mentions.

88FD3AD5-2CD7-469D-BC81-675E4CDBFCED61770CEA-538F-4059-83D2-4B545A38275367249550-0B33-49D8-8632-8C0CAE02A13F9F838BF1-F439-45E3-99DB-DF2AD01AFD5BA04952DA-301F-40D0-96F5-23278D1C1990BD459ABA-0A74-4997-954B-E580E3807C82BAA6D6D5-0964-4B9C-8AD4-AC3F31D6E383

193C060B-618E-404C-A7AA-9610C33A99F2

There’s quite a marked difference in size between the male and female coatis, and there were a few teeny tiny babies. It was quite hard to get good photos because they don’t always stay still for very long. As the sign shows, the hotel encourages guests not to feed the coatis, and on the whole this is adhered to, but we did on one day have crisps by the pool and dropped one. The nearest coati gobbled it down in a milisecond and then realised that my bag contained the open bag of crisps so tried to pinch it! They do it in a very cute way though and aren’t at all threatening or intimidating.

They have a very sweet tooth, as is evidenced by the final photo of a thirsty coati drinking coke that it had pilfered from our sunbed. One also pinched hubby’s packet of Fisherman’s Friends which he’d hidden under his towel whilst he went for a swim. They have highly sensitive and expressive noses which they use to sniff out potential food sources.

After the crisp incident I got back to our room to find this.

2B5454A1-FBFE-4B11-AD4B-79D0C72058D8

Silly hubby!

There are lots of birds around the resort. Some are relatively similar to those you find in the UK, such as these two which I think may be some kind of hawk and a jay.

Some are more brightly coloured like this Yucatan Jay.

EBF65D4E-5D72-4C32-AF75-5D48DFDB3CDB

Or this woodpecker with its magnificent plumage.

Birds are even harder to capture with the camera so I only managed to get photos of a small proportion of the birds that we saw. As well as these we saw bright yellow parroty type birds and flamingos flying over, high up in the air, in formation like geese do.

The first animal we saw on our arrival at the hotel was what we thought was a capybara.

94BA7D01-5C6C-4289-9709-1106B361FBC8

It turns out that it’s not a capybara, but another, smaller kind of rodent, the Mexican agouti. These were very shy, and we only saw them a couple of times. They wouldn’t approach you, unlike the coatis who weren’t wary at all. This photo was taken from our balcony. The little agouti was seemingly unaware that we were looking down from our balcony so it happily went about its business of breaking into this juicy fruit and enjoying a late afternoon snack.

I thought we’d see large lizards, but I only saw one tiny one. Maybe the coatis have kept their numbers down. If you squint you can just about see it hanging on to this tree, just by the sun bed.

81B9B724-5EAD-4D2C-A891-BFD9D8B93D9D

There was a big moth on the wall outside our room for three days, with beautiful camouflage colours.

There are a couple of other animals that I want to tell you about that we saw on the one and only excursion that we went on, but I’m intending to do a separate post on that soon. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe Monday. I’m off to bed now to try and combat the old jetlag.