2020 A Year in Review

2020 may have been the oddest year of most of our lives but it’s done now, and we have to have hope that 2021 will be better. I have, for the most part, managed to stay mentally sound throughout most of the year, which I know isn’t the same for everyone. I thank my lucky stars that this happened now and not a couple of decades ago when we would have been far more isolated that we have been thanks to Zoom, FaceTime and Teams.

I also massively appreciate the fact that we have outside space which, although at the moment isn’t at all enticing due to the inclement weather, got us through the warmer months of the year with relative ease, especially so when we were allowed to have people in our garden.

Here are some of my favourite garden photos of last year.

The garden was reasonably productive in terms of fruit and veg in 2020 …

… and we had quite a few visitors of the fauna variety!

Inside the house, we made a few home improvements. The first was pre-lockdown when, with the help of my Dad, we transformed our bathroom from dingy to sparkly clean safari wonderland.

During lockdown when I was furloughed and hubby’s workplace was demonstrating exactly how a zero hours contract benefits the employer (they still are!) we tackled first our spare bedroom/my home office making it a homage to all things Harry Potter …

… then when I was unfurloughed but hubby was still unbusy with zero hours, he decided to tackle the woodchip in our living room and we completely redecorated including wallpapering, laying laminate flooring, opening out the fireplace and hanging the TV on the wall.

Outside we built a catio on the side of the kitchen so our furry girls can get some air safely.

Away from home, amazingly we did manage to squeeze in three holidays. The first was, to paraphrase Craig Revel-Horwood A-May-zing!! A week long cruise round the Caribbean preceded by a two night stop in Orlando and a trip to Universal to go on the new Hagrid’s Magical Creatures coaster. This was pre-COVID, in fact I remember the first I heard about it was by scanning the Sky news app whilst I was sunbathing on deck, and I assumed it would be like the previous SARS disease. I never even entertained the thought that it could turn into what it has! Blissful ignorance, eh?

In between lockdown 1.0 and lockdown 2.0 we managed a short break to Norfolk which was a game of two halves – lovely to get away and see the sea, but I got bitten by a dog, we had to come home early because hubby had a job interview (which he didn’t get!) and I got a flat tyre!

In September we went to Edinburgh for my birthday. This had been booked pre-pandemic and we didn’t know until the last minute whether we’d be able to go, but I’m so glad we could because we had a fantastic time. One of the best holidays I’ve ever had.

We had a few great days out – we walked alpacas, visited confetti fields, played with meerkats, met gorillas at Twycross Zoo and we walked and cycled many times in Sutton Park and Kingsbury Water Park …

… and we also had a couple of great days in making up for things that we should have been doing. We had a non-Jamaica party for two on the day we were supposed to be flying out and we had a tennis afternoon tea on the day Dad and I were supposed to be going to watch the ATP tour finals in London.

I also did a lot of crafts – mainly crochet, but also knitting, baking, jigsaws (do they count as crafts?) model making, felting and, obviously, mask making!

So, all in all, although it certainly didn’t feel like it at times, 2020 was actually a pretty full year and I achieved quite a lot. Amongst all this, I was also working full time (apart from being furloughed for nine weeks in the summer) in a job that I only started six weeks before we were plunged into lockdown and home working, and I feel that I managed very well to learn the new job (although this is an on-going process) under challenging circumstances. It turns out that home working, while it doesn’t suit everyone or every job, works pretty well for me, and for my team. As I mentioned before, thank goodness for technology!

Now it’s time to look forward to 2021 and I’ll finish with a quote that I recently read in a fiction book, the sixth in the Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley but that is based in fact (the first book I didn’t enjoy as much, but I’m so glad I persevered because they got better and better and one thing to look forward to in 2021 is the release of the final in the series).Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards – Soren Kierkegaard.

Christmas Catch Up

Well, what could’ve been a very sombre and dismal Christmas actually turned out pretty well in the Green Girl Gardener household. We managed to make the most of the restricted circumstances and had a very peaceful and merry, if somewhat smaller, Christmas. I do feel for those who couldn’t see loved ones as planned or had to, not through choice, spend the day alone. Let’s hope that the restrictions have kept more people safe and that next year we’ll be able to make up for anything lacking this year with even bigger and better celebrations.

Our tree had to be rearranged a couple of times this year because we had replacement double glazing fitted in mid-December, but I didn’t want to wait till late December to deck the halls! Especially not after the year we’ve all had – some festive cheer was needed! I was also really impatient to hang my new Harry Potter decorations that I bought in Edinburgh on the tree.

I finished work on 22nd, which was somewhat of an anticlimactic affair given that there was no hugging colleagues and wishing all the best, but merely a walk downstairs! I was supposed to be going to see my Mum in Hampshire, but Covid put paid to that so I had a couple of days of doing not a lot before the big day. I decided to go for a festive run on Christmas Eve …

… followed by not a lot for the rest of the day. By twenty past ten, Father Christmas was busy delivering gifts in Africa …

… so we made sure we were asleep before midnight snuggled under our Christmas duvet …

… to give Father Christmas plenty of time to pop down the chimney and enjoy his mince pie and snowball and take some treats up for the reindeer.

On Christmas morning we met up with some of hubby’s family for a walk in the park in lieu of meeting them inside as we normally would. The park was actually quite busy, probably full of like-minded people meeting up with friends and family that they otherwise wouldn’t see. It was a great way to start the day, with some exercise, fresh air and good company.

We were back home by eleven thirty in time to start cooking dinner. I completely forgot to take any photos of our dinner, but I did snap our girls eating theirs.

I think cooking the dinner is the most fraught part of the day, making sure everything gets done at the right time so it all comes together at the end. Anyway, we had prawn cocktail to start followed by turkey with all the trimmings – roast and mashed potato, parsnips and carrots roasted in honey, peas, cauliflower cheese, sprouts with bacon cooked in cider, pigs in blankets and (ever controversial) Yorkshire pudding. After all that we were too full for any dessert.

We didn’t get round to opening any presents until quite late in the day but Father Christmas was very kind and generous. He’d obviously done his research and found that I am a Harry Potter fan.

The days since Christmas have mostly been spent building Hedwig and Diagon Alley and finding the perfect homes for all my lovely new things. Good job I have a Harry Potter room, isn’t it?

I asked Father Christmas for some USB lamps that I’d seen on QVC. They immediately came in handy to help me put together Hedwig in the perpetual gloom that is December!

I also got a duck!

Ok, so it’s actually a hairdryer, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a duck! My previous one died after thirteen years so I was relieved to get a lovely new one, even if it might quack!

Today I’ve sat down to do some crocheting and my pattern called for a stitch marker and, well what do you know? I was given a gorgeous one by my best friend.

Now the big day’s over and, because of the restrictions, we have nothing planned for the next few days, it feels even more like a perpetual Sunday than this time of year normally does! Normally I’d be planning what I’m going to wear for New Year’s Eve and making preparations for what we’re going to do but this year we can’t do anything or see anyone unless we want to freeze our bits off outside. However, we’re safe and well, we have more than we need and there is hopefully an end in sight, so I’ll finish by saying that I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and wishing you a very happy 2021 and here’s hoping it’s a vast improvement on 2020.

Safari Lodge Bathroom Reveal

I’ve been waiting for the final piece of the jigsaw to arrive before I wrote this post, and finally this week it arrived so I can have my ta da moment!

Our bathroom had become what can only be described as dingy so we decided before Christmas that the time had come (and probably passed several months previously!) for us to do something about it.

See what I mean? It was clean, it was just impossible to make it look clean!

We didn’t want to rip all the fixtures out and add to landfill when there was nothing wrong with them functionally, so we chose instead to work with what we already had. My Dad, DIY extraordinaire, had previously fitted panels to my brother and sister-in-law’s bathroom as well as my Aunt and Uncle’s, so we decided to go down that route and had the panels and various paraphernalia delivered just before Christmas.

My Dad and C were on standby to assist when my new nephew arrived, and he was due in February so we decided to wait till he’d said hello to the world before we got cracking on the bathroom. He arrived safely, and, thank goodness, before the lockdown so he could meet his Grandparents.

Welcome to the world Leon Rye (more about that bunny blanket another time – one of my creations!) I’m glad you don’t know how crazy things are at the moment!

So, sometime towards the end of February my Dad arrived on a Saturday with the contents of his workshop in the back of his car, and we got cracking.

Shower came off first. I was just trying to work out why both the taps are in the ‘on’ position, and then realised it’s because we’d turned the water off. D’oh!

Then we started the process of cutting the panels down to size. Mantra of the day: measure twice, cut once! It gave my Dad the perfect reason (excuse?) to buy a fancypants new jigsaw. My multipurpose tool came into use too. We ended up with blue snow all over the house, and it was really slippy! Cue much skating up and down the hall!

This is where we left it at the end of day one looking much better, and infinitely cleaner!

It doesn’t look like there was much to finish on day two, but it was deceiving. We did the window reveal and all the edging. Sometimes the smaller jobs take as much time, if not more, than the bigger jobs with more impact.

This is how it looked at the end of day two. Sooooo clean! I loved it immediately and my creative brain starting coming up with ideas for how to accessorise. This is where I come into my own!

The first thing that came to mind, was a giraffe that I knew I’d seen (and coveted) somewhere! Now this might sound a bit odd, but it’s where the whole safari idea started to form. Roll with it!

I started at the bottom and worked my way up. I found some amazing tiles from Wayfair, ordered them and then sat impatiently drumming my fingers until they arrived (I may have gone to work in the meantime, but I was mentally drumming!)

Here they are in the process of laying them. Aren’t they gorgeous!

I found the perfect shower curtain from Wayfair as well. I think it helps to make the conversion to safari lodge rather than just bathroom full of animals.

I found the Relax sticker in the background on Amazon and thought it added a certain je ne sais quoi.

By this time, the piece de resistance, the giraffe, had arrived and she now stands regally in the corner, surveying her domain. I’ve no idea where I originally saw them, but this one is a Fairtrade one.

I fortuitously decided to make a trip to the Dunelm and the Range the weekend before the lockdown and picked up the finishing pieces and also managed to find some tile paint in the perfect colour.

I’ve always hated the random patterns in some of our tiles …

… so I decided to paint them.

Turns out it was the colour that I didn’t like, not the pattern. Now they’re a lovely colour they fit in perfectly with the rest of the bathroom.

Here’s the rest of what I bought.

See that elephant hook? It’s balanced on a tack there, but I decided to be brave and drill tile for the first time ever! This necessitated a trip to Homebase to pick up a tile drill bit. The end result is, well, see for yourself.

I’d love to say I purposely gave them a jaunty head tilt, but that would only be partly true! The first one (on the right) ended up wonky due to, I guess, substandard drilling skills, so I did the second one on the slant too to balance it out. But hey, I have a head tilt due to the squint in my right eye, so maybe these heffalumps are just particularly empathetic to my plight! I’m counting it as a success! I didn’t crack the tiles and the hooks are fully functional!

The final touch is a well travelled monkey! I ordered a new light pull from Etsy and had it sent to work, but then the lockdown happened and we all had to work from home. It hadn’t arrived by then and, as it turns out, yours truly had somehow managed to put my work address with our home postcode! D’oh again! It finally made its way back to the seller and she kindly sent it out again to home and now it hangs on the light desperately catching its breath after all that to-ing and fro-ing!

It’s hard to get a decent picture of the overall effect, being the smallest room in the house, but here’s the best I could do.

I ummed and ahed about the monkey candle, but the first time I lit him, I knew I’d made the right choice.

So relaxing to have a candlelit bath.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my bathroom talk! I’m happy I’ve finally been able to do the big reveal. Massive thanks to Dad for making it possible. Just need to beat this corona business now so people can actually come and see it in person!