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.

Wimbledon!

Whoop! The best fortnight of the year is here!

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Oh I wish it could be Wimbledon every day! I’ll watch any tennis – singles, doubles, men, women, mixed, wheelchair, grand slam, ATP 1000, 500, 250, challenger, Davis Cup – but there’s something special about Wimbledon. I guess it’s partly because it’s my home slam and also that it’s the tennis that I grew up watching (because no other tennis was ever shown on telly) but it’s not just that. It’s the tradition, the occasion, the royal connections. I think if you were to ask the players, if they could only win one slam, which would it be, most would immediately answer, Wimbledon.

First held in 1877, Wimbledon is the oldest slam, it’s the only slam still played on the original tennis surface, grass and it’s the only tournament where players have to wear the traditional white kit. The great Roger Federer was, a couple of years ago, reprimanded because the soles of his trainers were fluorescent yellow and had to change them for the rest of the tournament. Venus Williams was berated in 2017 for having pink bra straps on view and had to change the garment midway through the match (she was, of course, allowed to leave the court to do so!) The outfit has to be predominantly white, with the only real deviation being the players’ sponsorship logos. The All England Club staunchly upholds these traditions, and I hope they never change.

The first year I went to Wimbledon was 2012 when I got tickets to the Olympic tennis which was held there, and I caught the Wimbledon bug. I applied in the ballot for tickets to the Championships held in 2013 and I was lucky enough to get two centre court tickets. Since then Dad and I have both applied every year, and there’s only been two years when neither of us has got tickets. One year we both got tickets so we spent three glorious days in London and spent two full days in Wimbledon.

We arrived at Southfields tube station on Tuesday, the earliest we’ve ever visited the Championships, and excitedly joined the crowds walking up to the venue. Soon we were in and our senses were being assaulted by the almost tangible atmosphere that draws you into the occasion.

This year we had No. 1 Court tickets so we headed straight there for the 1pm start. We were on the very back row, ZC, but we still had a cracking view.

Having tickets for one of the show courts pretty much guarantees that you’ll see some of the big names in tennis and this year on No. 1 Court we got to see three number ones.

The ladies world number one, Ashleigh Barty playing China’s Saisai Zheng.

The ladies British number one, Jo Konta playing Romanian Ana Bogdan.

And finally my all time number one (with the exception of Sir Andy Murray), Rafa Nadal playing Yuichi Sugita from Japan.

All the number ones won reasonably easily. That’s the potential downside of getting tickets so early in the fortnight, there’s a risk that the matches might not be as gripping as later on in the tournament because the competition hasn’t yet been whittled down to the top performers for that year. The matches we saw were great and there were some brilliant rallies and exciting winners along the way but all three matches were won in straight sets without even a hint of a tiebreak.

This did give us time to have a bit of an explore of the grounds that we’ve not been able to do before when we’ve been engrossed in matches all day.

We popped out in between the two ladies matches and picked up the afternoon tea that we’d booked in advance.

We sat at the top of Henman Hill (Murray Mount, Robson’s Ridge) to eat our delicious picnic. I only had yoghurt and fruit for breakfast because I was trying to save Syns for the rest of the day so I was thinking about my rumbling tummy and not about taking photos of our food. This is what we had though.

Delicious! We’re not vegetarian, just cheese freaks! The sandwiches were on wholemeal bread so they would’ve taken care of my Healthy Extras. Pretty sure the rest of it doesn’t fall under Slimming World rules though! I couldn’t resist the scone with clotted cream and jam (cream or jam first? Always cream for me – doesn’t make sense in my head the other way round, you wouldn’t put jam on before butter!) but I did only partake of one of the cakes (the other three are in our kitchen now waiting for hubby to eat them being ignored by me) and I didn’t have any cream on my strawberries.

I didn’t want to miss a second of Rafa who was up third, so we took the opportunity after we’d eaten to pop to the Wimbledon shop before heading back to watch Jo Konta.

I got a jumper which I’m not going to be able to wear for some time given the current warm weather. I would go and take a picture to show you, but there’s a puddy cat curled up on my lap and she looks so comfy.

Speaking of puddy cats, I got them a present.

They love these bands and they carry them round the house in their mouths!

And of course I got a bear. Come on! It is me you’re talking to!

Looks right at home with his compatriots, doesn’t he? He’s called Rafa, by the way.

The grounds are meticulously maintained, no mean feat given the amount of footfall over these two weeks. This is the first year I’ve given more than a fleeting glance at the planting around the courts. There are living walls by the big screen outside No. 1 Court and there are hanging baskets and planters pretty much anywhere they could squeeze one in, all following the purple and green Wimbledon colour scheme.

2019 sees the debut of the new roof on No. 1 Court.

It’s looking like there won’t be any rain delays over the course of the tournament but the roof is still coming into its own. As I’m watching Andy Murray and Pierre Hugues Herbert play their debut doubles match, they’ve just closed the roof because of poor light to allow them to finish the match tonight. Jamie Murray wasn’t so lucky – he was playing on one of the outside courts without a roof so that match will conclude tomorrow.

Final picture for today, and a fitting end for a tennis post I think.

The late, great Fred Perry!

Enjoy the rest of Wimbledon folks.

Sandybrook Country Park (and a few bits and bobs).

What a truly excellent long weekend! Just what the doctor ordered.

I drove out of work on Thursday afternoon full of the joys of Spring (when the weather was still behaving appropriately for a season beginning with S) knowing that I had three days of rest and relaxation ahead of me.

My long weekend started with a trip to the theatre with hubby. I’d forgotten until a couple of weeks ago that in the deep, dark midst of the January blues I’d booked tickets to see Thriller Live at the Alexandra theatre in Birmingham so we’d have something to look forward to.

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For those who lived under a rock in the 80s, Thriller is an album by Michael Jackson. Now I realise that he’s somewhat of a controversial figure these days (I guess he always was, but for different reasons) but from where I stand, whatever he may or may not have done, (and I guess we’ll never know for sure now) his music is still iconic and I grew up with it. The first album I ever bought (on cassette tape from Woolworths!) was Bad and I loved it.

Anyway, the show was brilliant and really took us back to our school days. I didn’t know if they’d turned his music into a story like they have with We will Rock you did for Queen, or if it was going to be just like a concert. It was somewhere in between. There wasn’t a story but it wasn’t like a normal tribute act either. There are five lead singers, one of whom is a woman, and lots of backing singers/dancers. If you can get past the controversy, I’d highly recommend seeing it for a bit of escapism.

Anyway, on to the main event of the weekend – I was going on a mini break with five girl friends that I’ve known forever. We were heading for a return trip to Sandybrook Country Park near Ashbourne in Derbyshire. It’s a complex of fifty two lodges, ranging from one to four bedrooms, some with hot tub, set on a hill just a short walk away from the Tissington trail. We requested the same lodge, number sixty five, that we had last year. It’s at the top of the hill, one of the furthest away from the entrance so it has lovely views and is relatively quiet with little to disturb you when you’re sat in the hot tub or on the decking.

Last year we went over the early May bank holiday weekend and the weather was glorious. This year, not so much. I took the photos above on Sunday just as we were leaving which was, typically, the nicest day, weather-wise. The rest of the time it was pretty rainy, but there were breaks in the drizzle so we did all get to use the hot tub without being rained on (although some of us are such hardcore hot tub devotees that a bit of rain didn’t stop us!)

We headed into Ashbourne on Saturday for our pre-booked afternoon tea at Betty’s Sewing Box. Last year we walked along the Tissington trail to get there, but this year it was definitely a car kind of trip!

This place is like some kind of heaven mixed with cake! Not only does it serve a great afternoon tea for only £12.50 …

but it also has various crafts hanging around for you to have a go at …

and it’s attached to a craft shop…

This year we got to eat, drink and craft to a background soundtrack of the likes of Glen Campbell, Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash. Honestly, I’m amazed I ever managed to drag myself away! I did leave a little piece of myself in the form of a granny square that I knocked up over lunch!

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After we’d consumed our fill of sandwiches, scones and cake and drunk enough tea (or Diet Coke in my case) to keep the whole of Derbyshire hydrated we moseyed on into Ashbourne to have a mooch. We all have a bit of a penchant for charity shops (of which there are lots), and there’s a fabulous bear shop that I was very excited about returning to.

I came away with this gorgeous Charlie Bear called Shelby (a la Peaky Blinders) …

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and these books from a couple of charity shops.

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I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to which cost me lots of money! He did have ten percent off though (hope that doesn’t mean they’re closing down.

We didn’t let the rain dampen our spirits. When we got back from Ashbourne with our spoils and full tummies, we managed to fit in a hot tub session before we knocked up a buffet tea and then set about the important business of chatting, laughing and reminiscing over a glass of Prosecco or three ….

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and in my case a couple of Bric Royales.

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This is a cocktail that I discovered when hubby and I went to Malta in January. It’s rosé wine with a shot or two of passionfruit liqueur added. Can you count a drink as a cocktail if it only has two ingredients? Not sure.

I signed up for Slimming World a couple of weeks ago, which probably wasn’t the best move given that I had my girlie weekend coming up. I followed the plan for the first week and managed to start a downwards trajectory …

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… but I wasn’t going to be beholden to it while I was away. I didn’t want to be awkward for communal catering, and I also wanted to be able to tuck into my afternoon tea and enjoy a tipple in the evenings, but I did try not to go mad.

I started each day, as I have been at home, with overnight oats that I made and took with me.

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This is the first batch I made. It’s just oats, fat free Greek yoghurt and frozen fruit layered up – free on Slimming World. Doesn’t it look like cheesecake? I was really hoping it would taste like it, but no such luck. It’s quite nice but cheesecake, it’s not!

I certainly indulged a little, as well as the afternoon tea and the booze, we had buffet teas with pizza, quiche, crisps and hummus (not all at the same time) and that’s my favourite kind of meal so I could have gone crazy, but I managed to reign myself in a little, at least more than I would have if I hadn’t just started Slimming World.

Anyway, wonderful weekend though it was, I think it’s left me a little sleep deprived – you never sleep as well in a strange place do you – so I can hear my bed calling. Only two more days to get through though – I have another four day week because I’m off to Gardeners’ World Live at the NEC on Friday. Whoop! Excited muchly!