Christmas Gatherings

Oh dear!  It’s been a while again!  Does anyone else find in the run up to Christmas they have too much to keep in their head all at once?  I’m a perennial list maker, but at Christmas I have lists coming out of my ears, and if I don’t, I forget everything that I’m supposed to be keeping in my head!  I haven’t put ‘write a blog post’ on a list because I thought it was so ingrained in me to do it now, but the things on my various lists have kept me away from Green Girl Gardener!  I’m struggling to remember what I’ve been up to since we last spoke, so thank goodness for photos – I’ve just perused my camera roll to remind myself!

I’ll start where I left off at the end of my last post, my gym Christmas do.  My Secret Santa gift was successful.  I don’t know the recipient very well, but I thought that she seems a fun, Christmassy kind of person, and I know she has young children so I decided to get her novelty tree decorations from Paperchase.  I stupidly forgot to take any photos and now I can’t remember what they all were, but they definitely included this lovely unicorn.

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I managed to just about squeeze three decorations into this lovely Gingerbread Man gift bag.

21E60A4C-8805-40CD-96FB-C28B0B2A4723I love Paperchase so much, I can browse in there for ages, and now the bigger Next stores often have a Paperchase in them, as well as a Costa, so I could literally spend hours in there and even have refreshments to keep me going!  If I get chance to pop out this week, I think I’ll see if they have some festive broccoli in the Paperchase near work because I think there is still a little bit of room on our tree.

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My Secret Santa gift was amazing. Someone had certainly done their research because I got these great gardening inspired gifts.

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I think I’ll plant something in the mug – it’s too nice to keep hidden in a cupboard!

The Christmas party was held at a lovely venue called the Old School House near Lichfield. We had lovely food and a night of dancing to get us in the festive spirit.

This week was also my work Christmas event, which I organised so I was feeling the pressure! Luckily it went pretty well and I think everyone enjoyed themselves – some possibly slightly too much given the size of the number on the bar bill!

We started by doing an Escape Room. We had the ‘Jingle Bells’ package which meant we got a mince pie and a couple of drinks included with our game. We had four teams and two played a war inspired game and the other two teams became samurai warriors. Only one of the teams managed to escape, and it wasn’t mine! I’ve really enjoyed the other two escape rooms that I’ve done, but I was in one of the war teams and I struggled this time. It started off well and we soon solved the first couple of clues but then it got really complicated, so much so that even when it was explained afterwards I still didn’t know what we were supposed to have done. Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all!

After this we went for lunch at Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse which is on the twenty fourth floor of the Cube hotel in the Mailbox, a commercial centre in Birmingham. The food was a bit of a mixed bag. I chose prawn cocktail to start and it was one of the best prawn cocktails I’ve ever had, juicy prawns, crisp iceberg lettuce and plenty of creamy marie-rose sauce.

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I followed that with traditional turkey with the trimmings and this was a bit disappointing. The veg was lovely, julienne carrots, roast parsnips, the obligatory Christmas sprouts and crispy roast potatoes, but the turkey was made into a roulade with stuffing and it was stuffing overload but not enough turkey.

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I rounded it off with lemon tart with vanilla ice cream and that was pretty tasty but it could’ve been more more lemony. You can’t please everyone, can you?

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After we’d eaten we swapped our Secret Santa gifts. I had perfect gifts.

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I commented to my colleague that whoever had me obviously knew me well as I got cat and teddy bear themed pressies, and he made the very good point that it could’ve been anyone in the office.  He’s right, I don’t hide my love for cats and teddy bears!

There were great views from the top floor, especially as the sun was setting.

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This weekend I made my annual pilgrimage down to Surrey to see my Mum, Granny, Aunt and Uncle and one of my cousins so we could swap cards and pressies. It was really lovely to see them and, as always, I’ve come back thinking I really need to make that journey more often. It’s so nice to be with people that you love, and who love you. With my family being so far apart geographically, I don’t get to experience it very often. Life always seems to get in the way, we’re so busy that time goes by and before I know it, another year’s gone and I haven’t visited. Maybe I’ll add that to my New Year’s Resolutions – make time to see my loved ones more often.

The pile of presents under our tree is growing.

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Look at that big snowman sack! That one’s for me from my Mum. How exciting!

I hope they all like the gifts I’ve chosen for them. I guess we’ll find out on Christmas Day.

My Mum likes Chocolate Orange (it’s not Terry’s, it’s mine!) so I crocheted her a little cosie.

 

As well as our Christmas gifts, I also came home with some cuttings that my Mum has taken from her garden.

 

I scrawled all over the photos so I remember what they are! I have two fuschias, one hardy and one not, a salvia, a geranium, a spray carnation and something which may or may not be a ragged robin.

I’ll be sure to update on the progress of these cuttings when the stupid winter is over! Stupid stupid winter!

 

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

I feel like I’ve been neglecting my bloggy baby lately! Have you missed my updates or is everyone too busy trying to get ready for Christmas to notice? I promise I’m not losing my blojo (have I just coined a word? Blogging and mojo – yeah, doesn’t really work if you have to explain it!) I’ve just been struggling to fit everything in to twenty four hours each day, and that coupled with trying to reset my body clock to UK time and attempting to catch up on sleep after my globetrotting lately has meant no time for writing.

It’s not just my blog that’s had to be temporarily pushed aside, I only managed to get to the gym once in November and I’ve only been once so far in December. I’ve either not been here to go, or if I have I’ve been so tired I just couldn’t contemplate jumping around like a lunatic for an hour in lycra! I’m too scared to stand on the scales, and, let’s face it, December is hardly the most conducive time for healthy eating, is it, so I guess we know what the theme of my New Year’s resolutions will be!

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We have a table at work. It’s called the cake table. A table specially for cakes! It’s possible that it wasn’t put there with the intention of housing the office sugary delectations, but it very rapidly became known as the cake table when we took possession of it, and now no one would dream of calling it anything else! Seriously, it must be reinforced by the steel that we sell because for the past week it’s been groaning under the weight of Celebrations, Foxes biscuits, Turkish Delight and many other treats that are making my chubby bits chubbier!

My lovely friend and colleague Maria also has a steady supply of dib dabs, black jacks, fruit salads (does the healthy name excuse it? No? Bother!) and lollies in her Santa bowl on her festive desk (hope she doesn’t mind me pinching this pic from Facebook).

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She also surprised some of us this week with these lovely homemade gifts.

We wondered what she was going to do with the Gü ramekins that she’d been saving! Now we know!

We left work one day this week to find several men on ladders in the foyer decorating a massive Christmas Tree!

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How exciting! We’ve been in this office for six years and we’ve never had a tree before!

Its my gym Christmas party tonight (yes, I am still invited even after my lack of attendance lately!) and what with that and the festive atmosphere at work, I decided that today was a good day to climb up the loft and get Christmas down. Several pffftts later as I got rained on by dust and miscellaneous loft expulsions I had all the various Christmas paraphernalia down much to the surprise of Olive and Tinkerbell.

Apparently Olive thought the tree was delicious!

I decided to get in the festive spirit while I was decorating. It was before 10am so a little early for a Christmas Snowball (although I may have thrown caution to the wind had I had any Advocaat in the house, or lemonade for that matter), so I went with Christmas tunes on YouTube and a hat!

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Does anyone else have their mother’s voice in their head while decorating the tree saying, ‘don’t forget the back!’ No? Just me then. I used to wonder why she was worried about the back of the tree, but I get it now. I get it especially this year as I have finally achieved an adulting aim of having my tree in a bay window! Isn’t that a proper grown up thing? Firstly owning a home with a bay window, and secondly having the tree in it so it’s visible from outside!

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I have a particular order for dressing the tree. Our tree has integral lights so I don’t have to worry about hiding the wires, but I always wrap the tinsel round first and then step back to satisfy my OCDness that it looks even. Then I start with all my favourite baubles, all the ones that I’ve picked up from Harrods and various Christmas fayres over the years.

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This one was made for us years ago by our nephew. He’s nearly eighteen now so he probably won’t appreciate me including this!

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The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed this one in the full length pic above. I posted about this a few weeks ago when I made it from a kit given to me for my birthday. It looks lovely on the tree. Hopefully I’ll get time to complete the rest of the kit before Christmas (that may be wishful thinking given the amount of Christmas crocheting I have to do!)

I fill in all the gaps with our regular round baubles. Finally, the star has to go on top. Done!

Then I have to start upon the rest. We have a few homemade bits from my Mum. The tree skirt is her handiwork.

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As are these two.

I make an effort with our fireplace.

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The stockings were made by my Mum too.

I dot festivity around the rest of the living room.

Even the coati’s got in the Christmas spirit!

We had our kitchen and dining room knocked through this year to make a big kitchen-diner so I’ve extended the festivity to there too.

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This tree is new for my Little Box of Crochet advent calendar makes which I’ll show you when I’ve made all twenty four.

Right, I’ve got to dash – need to brave the shops to pick up my Secret Santa gift for tonight. Very disorganised, I realise, but I do at least know what I’m getting, just haven’t had time to get to the shops!

Busy busy bee

Oh my goodness! Where has November gone? One minute it was October, then I blinked and it was December! In a way this is a good thing because I’m not keen on the dark, dull days of November, and once we hit December we’re in the same month as the Winter solstice so I know that soon the days will start getting longer again, even if only by a couple of minutes each day.

I’ve just worked out that I’ve only been in my office for seven out of a potential twenty two working days in November and I’ve slept in my own bed for only seventeen out of the (thirty days have September, April, June and November) thirty nights in November! I have to say, I feel as though I’ve spent more than the normal amount of hours at work given the amount of travel and concentration that’s been going on, but I feel like I’ve spent even less than seventeen nights in my own bed! I am exhausted.com!

However, I’m back now, the only travel I have to do between now and the big day is within the UK, Christmas can now commence!

So what’s been keeping me busy this November? I’ve already told you about our holiday to Mexico and my trip to Frankfurt, and this week I had to go to Gijon in northern Spain for training as part of my new job. Gijon is approximately a thousand miles away. Mexico is nearly five thousand miles away. It took us fourteen and a half hours to get to Mexico, door to door. On Monday it took me thirteen and a half hours to get to Gijon, also door to door. An extra hour and I could’ve been back in Mexico!

It’s a nightmare journey to Gijon. There are no direct flights and you can’t even go from Birmingham. So, my day started with a two hour drive to Heathrow. So far so good! I’ve always loved Heathrow, and now it has a Harry Potter shop so it’s even better!

I couldn’t resist a few purchases! Some of them are Christmas presents so I can’t show you.

The route is then Heathrow to Madrid and Madrid to Asturias, and the same in reverse. Unfortunately two of the flights were delayed. On the way out they discovered that the plane had been hit by lightning so we sat on the plane for two and a half hours before we finally took off.

They checked all round the plane before we were given the all clear.

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It felt like that scene from Liar Liar when Jim Carrey is chasing the plane.

The delay did give me opportunity to indulge my inner plane spotter! There are BIG planes at Heathrow. I was on a Boeing 777 which is pretty sizeable, but I saw a few jumbos and A380s.

Flying into Madrid was quite serene thanks to a spectacular sunset ….

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…. but then it was panic stations! The delay meant that I had to go careering through the airport at top speed in order to make it to my connection. Madrid airport is humongous. My connection was from the same terminal but I still had to get a train from gate S to gate K and had to go back through passport control and security. The security guard had stepped away from the x-ray machine so I had to wait for her to get back and ready herself. I have never seen a person sit down and put rubber gloves on so slowly in my life! My entire insides were screaming ‘hurry up’ but obviously you have to keep the frustration internal in these situations lest they decide you may have a bomb secreted about your person and delay you even more! I made it with seconds to spare!

The two days of training were full on and tiring, but were really useful. I have to admit, some of the technical aspects were very complicated and I’m not sure I completely took them in, especially towards the end of the second day when my brain had reached its saturation level!

I got to look round the factory in Aviles which produces the slabs which are then rolled into the heavy plates which I, and my colleagues, sell on.

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Unfortunately the steel shop wasn’t working while we were there so it was somewhat of a theoretical visit.

The next day we were shown round the reversing mill in Gijon where the plates are rolled according to specification, and happily, it was working.

It’s really quite impressive to see it all working, and seeing and understanding the process helps me in my day to day job. It is also very helpful o meet and spend time with colleagues from other countries. It’s always good to put faces to names/voices. It did occur to me while watching the plates being rolled that the amount of energy and resources being used are mind blowing. Having said that, within my company there is a massive focus on sustainability and responsible steel production. I won’t bore you with talk of steel, but suffice it to say, steel is the fabric of life, and if you are interested, there is a fabulous corporate video on YouTube produced by my company which gives me goosebumps, and it makes you realise why steel is essential to all our lives.

The journey back didn’t take quite as long, just eleven hours (or to put it in practical terms, forty minutes less than it takes to fly from London to the Maldives!) There were no problems between Asturias and Madrid. Asturias airport is one of the smallest airports I’ve travelled through. The arriving passengers come through the throng of waiting departees and disappear past the smallest duty free shop I’ve ever seen. The planes have plenty of space on the apron due to the low traffic and the way they are parked brings to mind the parking of soccer moms in 4x4s in Sainsbury’s after the school run!

I had a couple of hours in Madrid this time so it was a much more leisurely transfer from gate K to S. As I was lounging exhaustedly on a seat at the gate, I even had time to wonder whether the ceiling had been modelled on aliens from Area 51 or perhaps John Lennon!

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I was delayed again on the flight from Madrid to Heathrow, this time because of a discrepancy between the numbers on the paperwork and the actual number of passengers. It was only an hour this time, but an hour is a long time when you’ve got a two hour drive home ahead of you, and you just want to get home to your husband, the cats and your bed! There’s nothing like being away on your own to make you appreciate what you have waiting at home. Even if it’s a good and worthwhile trip, in the words of Dorothy (and countless homeware stores), there’s no place like home.

Foreign trips over, yesterday brought a domestic trip to London. This was for the annual ISTA (International Steel Trade Association) lunch. This is normally on the first Friday of December, but this year it fell on the last day of November.

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Several of us caught the train from New Street to Euston, which gave me the opportunity to catch up with some colleagues whom I hadn’t seen for a while because of all this travel, and also to get a little bit of crochet done.

First stop was the Jugged Hare on Chiswell Street. This is a common meeting point for attendees of the lunch so it gets ridiculously busy. The owners must love it, not so much the bar staff! I sampled an orange gin and a pink grapefruit gin here – all before lunchtime! This is one of the occasions where a work event is actually a bonus (although it does mean a day out of the office and lots of work to catch up on!)

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The Jugged Hare has very rural decoration considering its in the middle of the capital! I struggle with this stag. As a general rule I prefer animals to be alive. I just hope this magnificent stag wasn’t killed just for its head. It’s bad enough if it was killed for meat and then its head taxidermied, but being a meat eater, I can’t take the high moral ground on that (although I absolutely would not eat venison – it’s Bambi for goodness sake!)

Lunch is always at the Brewery which is just a hop and a skip from the Jugged Hare. It’s a great venue, and this year seated approximately six hundred and fifty guests.

There are various speeches, culminating in a comedic act. This year we were treated to a very amusing turn from Marcus Brigstocke.

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He was really very funny. It must be so hard at an event such as this to know what level to pitch your humour at, but I think he got it spot on. He centred a lot of his jokes around the impending disaster that is Brexit, making it obvious that he is a remainer. Incidentally, the organisers ran an informal poll on whether, if given the opportunity to vote again, the guests would opt to remain or leave the EU. The result was overwhelmingly remain with seventy six percent of the vote. While this is not necessarily representative of the country as a whole given that the room contained many people working for European companies who could be adversely affected when we leave and people for whom trading with Europe is an essential part of life, I did find it strangely reassuring to be among kindred spirits (as well as frustrating that, despite this opinion, we’re stuck with Brexit).

Anyway, let’s not get political!

Tomorrow I have a lovely day planned. I’m driving up to Altrincham with two friends in order to attend the Little Box of Crochet Grand Sale Event. Hopefully I’ll return with lots of lovely goodies. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it.