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.

Sunny Spain and a catch up

Hi *waves* I’ve unintentionally had the longest break from my little blog since I started it over a year ago. Last week we were in sunny Spain and the week leading up to the holiday was really busy! Apologies in advance, because I fear this post will jump around from topic to topic as my head catches up!

I finally got round to taking some cuttings two weeks ago today. I bought a couple of beautiful Coleus which have done really well over the Summer.

In fact, they’ve got bigger than anticipated and taken over the pot! They’re not hardy, but the leaves are so vibrant I thought I’d take cuttings now and see if I can over Winter them in the greenhouse ready to plant out next Summer.

Regular readers will know of my slight obsession with my Eupatorium. I’ve taken cuttings of that too.

I was a bit concerned about them drying out while we were away, but a quick inspection of the greenhouse on our return yesterday put my mind at rest. They look pretty much the same now as they did in the picture taken before we flew off. I guess now I have to employ patience and wait for the roots to grow and establish.

On the Wednesday before our holiday I went to the theatre to see 9 to 5, the musical based in the film of the same name starring Dolly Parton.

It was really good! Very funny. I went with my sister-in-law and a couple of female friends and I’d highly recommend it for a fun girlie night out. There weren’t many men in the audience, and those that were there looked like they’d been dragged there kicking and screaming!

On Thursday the holiday preparation started properly – nails! I do like to have nicely manicured nails for a holiday. It somehow makes it all the more exciting! Here they are taken while we were away.

What you can’t really see is that my thumbs are the colour of the other four fingers on the other hand. You can get such fancy manicures these days that it seems a bit dull to have all one colour, especially for a holiday. Pink (especially baby pink – eugh) is probably my least favourite colour so I rarely go for ‘traditional’ nails.

We didn’t fly until early afternoon so I had time to pop out in the garden for a last minute peruse before we left. There was still a lot of colour.

It’s still looking pretty good now.

I was convinced our giant Sunflower would bloom while we were away, but it still hasn’t. I hope it does. I’ve nurtured this plant for months, from seed, and it would be a real disappointment not to see it through to its natural ending. The weather’s not looking good for the foreseeable future, so I guess it might give up on me!

Saturday morning came around and we were rushing around doing last minute preparations, checking all the doors had doorstops so the cats couldn’t lock themselves in anywhere, watering the pots, packing last minute essentials, chucking perishables (although we missed the carrots and came back to a bag of black, furry mush!) but soon we were on our way.

I really wanted to try to stick to Slimming World as much as possible so I had a gluten free breakfast in Wetherspoons at the airport which I figured was mostly free and for probably the first time ever, I didn’t buy any chocolate whilst telling myself that calories don’t count at the airport! I managed to be good for the first couple of days when we arrived, but it got too difficult to make good choices under pressure of a massive queue behind me! I did my best at breakfast and went for eggs, muesli and yoghurt or fruit, but a lot of the fruit wasn’t ripe so I couldn’t eat it and I bet the muesli wasn’t sugar free or the yoghurt fat free (I’m basing this on the fact that it tasted lovely!) There was a pretty good salad bar at lunch and dinner so I tried at least to stick to the principle of having a third of my plate as speed food to limit the damage. I’ve got straight back on it now we’re home so I’ll claw back any gain soon, and I enjoyed my holiday (especially the two Magnums that I couldn’t resist) so it was worth it.

We stayed in Salou and our hotel was called MedPlaya Calypso. It’s in the process of being refurbished and we were all (we went with hubby’s side of the family) in the not-yet-refurbed block. The rooms are definitely in need of updating but we didn’t spend much time in there so it wasn’t a big issue.

They were clean and safe, which is the most important thing, there was air con and the beds were comfy. Every night when hubby got in the shower I jumped as there was a huge bang as the shower attachment fell off the wall (didn’t do it for me for some reason) and you couldn’t leave the tap on for any length of time because it leaked from the bottom and flooded the floor!

We overlooked one of the pools, the snack bar and the evening entertainment area.

After the first couple of days we discovered another pool round the back of the refurbed block which was quieter and more relaxing. It was away from the bar so I guess it didn’t appeal to some of the rowdier guests, but it suited us much better.

We walked down to Salou beach one day. Hubby loves going in the sea so he was in his element. I didn’t take any photos because it was a very busy beach so I would’ve just got photos of lots of other people setting up camp for the day.

We had entry into a local water park, Aquopolis, included in the package so we went there twice. It was a short bus ride away (and the bus ticket was also included). I didn’t have particularly high expectations for the water park because the only other water park I’ve been to in Spain is a bit basic and I was worried I’d compare it to Volcano Bay in Orlando which is fully immersive and, let’s face it, awesome, but it was really good and the days there were my favourite two days. Since I’ve had the experience of rides in Orlando I’ve become much braver so I went on most rides. My favourite was the black hole, which I didn’t manage to get a photo of. It was a two person ride on a tube and it was a fully enclosed black slide with fairy lights so it was like being in a star.

We got sun beds in front of the main pool which also had a section with bubbles and fountains.

There was a ride where you sat in a raft to slide down to a pool below. We all went on this one, even my mother-in-law who is most cautious of water rides.

It’s great having a waterproof phone. I videoed hubby and I coming down and got a (slightly dodgy – excuse the state of me!) selfie.

This next one was the first ride I went on – I’d seen it on the leaflet and really wanted to try it.

It was pretty steep as you went over the edge but it was good fun!

These are two random people just to illustrate the ride. It lifted you up at the top and launched you down and then you skimmed over the water at the bottom. Pretty cool.

There was a lazy river, which I LOVE, but it was closed unfortunately and there was a wave pool but I didn’t get round to going in it, and there was a racer ride which was pretty fun too.

There were lots of elements which reminded me of parks in Orlando.

The Hawaii theme is very similar to Volcano Bay (but Aquopolis is definitely older so did it first), there’s a signpost like this at SeaWorld and, of course, the famous jaws statue at Universal Studios.

On our last night we decided to have a break from all inclusive and went for a Chinese. It was a really nice meal, and I managed to remedy my lack of Sangria so far, which is obviously an essential part of a holiday in Spain! Afterwards we strolled back along the seafront which was a really nice walk. We happened upon a gorgeous merry-go-round.

I’ve never seen a two tier merry-go-round before. It was very ‘Mary Poppins’.

I managed to get a lot of r and r in, and for me, this means catching up on reading and crochet/knitting. I made good progress on my knitted jumper on a couple of evenings when we chose to retire early and I finished a Little Box of Crochet project which has been to Malta, USA, Italy, Germany and Spain.

He’s called Donovan Chalmers.

I also finished the third instalment of His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman.

I’ve moved on to the prequel, the Book of Dust, now because I couldn’t bear to leave the daemon world behind!

I’ll finish on a particular high which was taken as we were waiting for our coach back to the airport.

I’m back off to Spain tomorrow, but unfortunately for work this time, so I’ll see you on the other side!

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.