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!

Not Six on Saturday

Oh my goodness it’s been a topsy turvy old week! I feel like I’ve had a bit of insight into what it feels like to be bipolar! I hope that’s not disrespectful to anyone who is unfortunate enough to actually suffer from the disorder, it’s certainly not meant that way, but oh boy, I’ve been down as far as I go this week but I’ve also flown pretty high too! More on that another time maybe, but suffice it to say, normal service is resumed for now.

Phew, I was really ready for the weekend.

I spent Friday night with three of the best friends that a girl could want (minus the fourth because she’s poorly sick – get well soon J). We met up at the most supreme Indian restaurant in Birmingham (www.bhujondining.com in case anyone’s interested) in honour of my birthday. I decided to dress up in my favourite jumpsuit for the occasion – I’m starting to enjoy clothes again since I’ve been following the Slimming World plan.

The girls spoilt me with lovely cards and gifts and we enjoyed, as ever, a delicious curry and I came home feeling more relaxed and happy than I’d felt all week.

Today I met up with my best friend at Dobbies garden centre (which used to be Wyevale). One of my favourite people at one of my favourite places. We settled down in the restaurant to put the world to rights over a diet Dr Pepper and a pot of tea before buying half the shop (in my case!)

I bought six items, but they’re not all flora related, hence this is Not Six on Saturday!

I’ll start with the three things that I bought which are garden related.

Two of them are now happily hanging up in our kitchen window.

It’s so hard to take decent photos in this perpetual greyness! This one really doesn’t show my acquisitions at their best.

I picked up a succulent in a sustainable pot first, but then I saw these Cacti in the same pot, and swapped it. I don’t have much success with succulents but I do seem to be able to keep Cacti alive. I hope I haven’t spoken too soon.

Having said that, in the bluey/green pot I did go for a succulent. I decided to take a risk on it because it’s not the normal spiky type which I’ve failed in the past. Keep your fingers crossed!

Here’s the whole window arrangement with the new additions.

The other planty purchase is on the opposite side of the kitchen on our fireplace ledge, and I’m a little bit in love with it.

Apparently it’s a Ginseng Fig. I’ll do my very best to keep it alive.

Here’s the whole ledge.

Moving on to the non garden purchases.

I love giraffes and I love reading so what could be better! I’ve always got a book on the go, but usually I prefer to read on my kindle. The exception to the rule is biographies because they tend to have photos which don’t translate well on the kindle. Hubby bought me two biographies for my birthday, so I thought I’d treat myself to a pretty bookmark for them.

Sticking with the giraffe theme (and adding an elephant) I couldn’t resist these cookie cutters.

The slight sticking point now is Slimming World! Cookies and Slimming World don’t tend to go together remarkably well so I’m either going to have to be inventive, or I’m going to have to bake cookies for other people to eat and enjoy them by proxy!

Finally I got a kilner jar.

This was an absolutely unnecessary purchase but I keep seeing photos of people’s overnight oats creations on Instagram and I want to join in! Yes, I know, I know, they won’t taste any different than they do in an old takeaway container, but look how pretty they look when you can see the layers.

By tomorrow, all that frozen fruit will have melted and the water and juice will have soaked through to the oats at the bottom making a delicious gooey breakfast that will keep me going until lunchtime.

So there we have it, my Not Six on Saturday. I’ll try to do an actual Six next weekend if I can, but it’s getting less and less pleasant to be in the garden by the day (which I hate!)

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

A great Good Friday

I’m completely confused about what day it is! It feels so much like a Saturday because I haven’t been at work. We even just had a Chinese takeaway for our dinner! I have to remind myself for the next half an hour that it’s actually Friday because Gardeners’ World is on, and it’s back to hourly episodes tonight.

I’ve had a very productive, and enjoyable day, helped muchly by the beautiful weather. I was vaguely aware of the world at six thirty this morning when hubby got up to go to work, but the next thing I knew it was ten to nine. Lovely lie in – just what the doctor ordered!

I decided to take myself into Town (for non-Brummies, that’s Birmingham City Centre – we only ever call it Town round here). The reason for my venture into the heart of the city was that the world’s biggest Primark opened there last week, and I was curious to see what all the fuss is about.

I decided to get the train in to save having to remortgage to pay for parking. There are lots of memories for me on our train line. Mum and I used to use the same line to get to school (she taught at the same school that I attended) and I can remember sitting next to her and chattering away about nothing or reading our books in comfortable silence. I can remember her putting lipstick on me when I’d got sore lips from the walk to the station in the wind in winter because she’d run out of chapstick. I can remember her trying to hold in a giggle when one of the school girls opposite us looked up coldsore in the dictionary (because she had one) but got it slightly wrong and read out ‘a mix of cabbage, carrot and onion in a mayonnaise sauce’.

New Street Station has been completely revamped since I was a child and the main concourse bears absolutely no resemblance to its former self, so much so that I have no idea where I am when I’m there in relation to where I used to be (if you see what I mean!) The platforms haven’t changed much though and they still make me think of train journeys that I took regularly as a child. New Street to Shrub Hill where my Dad would meet me for a weekend or a Christmas in Worcester. New Street to Euston for the first leg of a trip to Reigate to stay with my Granny and Grandad. When I was really little I used to have an imaginary dog in the luggage compartment! It was an Andrex puppy and it was on every London bound train that I got on. I used to play with it during the journey until I got too old, but even then I still used to say hi to it as we boarded the train!

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This is the outside of Primark. It really is huge. It used to be an entire shopping centre! I pinched this picture from t’internet, I didn’t take one today, but if I had it would’ve looked somewhat more busy! It was crazy!

I took a deep breath and dived in! I decided to start at the top and work my way down. It wasn’t quite as busy on the top floor. Here I found the Harry Potter section!

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It wasn’t a massive section, but there was a lot in there, from clothes to toys to stationery. They’ve managed to capture some of that Harry Potter magic in the decor.

There’s a massive focus on Disney throughout the store. There’s even a Disney cafe. I was intending to look at the menu to see if the food’s Disney themed, but there was a massive queue even way before lunchtime.

I couldn’t resist some Disney purchases.

We’re going to Orlando in a week and a day’s time so I got some new PJs to take along with some trainer socks for the gym and a new phone case for my work phone.

As well as Mickey and Minnie Mouse they also had Dumbo, Donald and Daisy Duck, Jungle Book and Lilo and Stitch. There was a distinct lack of any Hundred Acre Wood goodies though. Most disappointing!

There was an area called the ‘Primarket’ which I’ve never seen in Primark before. It had lots of stationery, headphones, phone cases and other techie things. I had fun looking at everything here. Most people are after cheap clothing so there was a bit of breathing space here.

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This is what I decided to put in my basket. Not the iPad, the arm that it’s attached to. You can’t see it very well, but it clips on to a table or chair and holds your tablet up for you. A couple of weeks ago when hubby was away for the night, I decided to take my crocheting to bed and watch an episode of the Crown, and I had great trouble balancing my iPad on the bed. If I’d have had this, no problemo!

I was also on the lookout for some cheap clothes and I managed to get four spaghetti strap tops for our holiday for four quid each!

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Primark, or Primarni if you will, clothes aren’t the best quality (at £4 that’s not surprising) but for holidays when you’re likely to get suntan lotion all over them, they’re great! I just hope I’m not funding some child labour sweatshop in the Philippines though! I can’t find any evidence of this, but they’re hardly likely to admit it now, are they?

I headed home to get out in the garden in the afternoon to make the most of the gorgeous weather.

I decided I’d better tackle the front garden. Those of you who follow me on Instagram (greengirlgardener) May have seen my post saying that I’m in love with my garden with a pic of our back garden. The same can’t be said about our front garden. Our plan, when funds allow, is to turn the front garden into a drive, so I begrudge time out there when I could be in the back. It may seem almost sacreligious to some of you to block pave a garden, but we have so much to do out the back that we just don’t have the time to do justice to both.

Anyway, it was in quite a state, embarrassingly so! It’s still not perfect now, I need to get the hedge cutter out and we need to replace a fence, but it looks a lot tidier.

Here’s some before and afters.

I was less stringent with my weeding than I have been in previous years. I left most of these hanging around.

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I feel that Dandelion flowers must really feel that their leaves are holding them back. The leaves are quite ugly but the flowers, whilst not being on a par with a Rose or an Anemone, are reasonably pleasing to the eye. Anyway, I’ve left them for the bees. According to Facebook (therefore it must be true) Dandelions are bees first source of pollen.

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I’ve also left several of these Geranium type plants. I say Geranium type plants because I’ve never left them long enough to grow before, but the leaves look Geraniumish to me. We’ll see what happens in a few weeks. I thought, if they are Geraniums, or some other non-weed, they’ll hopefully provide some ground cover which will make weeding less necessary.

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There’s another of the Geranium type plants amongst some of the Peonies. These have sprung up this week. They are really really beautiful when they flower. If we can ever afford to turn the garden into a bigger drive, I’ll attempt to move them to the back. I’ve read that they don’t like to be moved, but I’ll give it a go.

Three days off still ahead – what a blissful thought! Hope you all have a great Easter break.