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.

8D29DD84-266D-4394-872B-A66A55CA92F6.jpeg

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!

1F6A8D97-532C-47B0-A4EC-C025DEFF2238

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) …

7F6EBA27-7A78-40BF-B632-85F4B1CD33C4.jpeg

and these books from a couple of charity shops.

6BB828FE-F431-4735-A6BD-C29F4D9F19F4

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 ….

E7C0E2DC-F418-4A51-A31A-436FAA220ECB

and in my case a couple of Bric Royales.

826FCE46-F75A-4828-95AB-9CDFF8F0F79B

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 …

B9136147-7C81-4400-89C0-3450E4B6E12B.jpeg

… 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.

1E15A7D6-CE58-4ADA-AFF2-C5F6DE324ACD.jpeg

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!

 

A couple of trips to the theatre

Gosh, isn’t January taking its time? I saw a meme on Facebook this morning that said  ‘it literally feels like 74th January!’ Now, I’ll ignore my internal linguistic Juliet Bravo who wants to remove the incorrect use of ‘literally’ because it feels so true that it almost is literally! At least it was pay day yesterday and I was finally able to order the jumper I’ve been drooling over on the Oasis website for the last fortnight!

8444204E-DD0D-4F65-9783-CF61842E20F7.jpeg

Shopping makes me happy, and when I don’t even need to leave the house to do it …. even better! Aren’t these lovely summery colours? I have something of a long love affair with stars. I had one tattooed on my shoulder at the age of nineteen. You can imagine my delight when this month’s Little Box of Crochet arrived this week covered in beautiful stars.

FED3578A-4861-46DF-9285-958FBD76392C.jpeg

The contents make something starrily gorgeous too, but I’ll show you that once it’s done (which will be some time away since I still have November and December’s boxes to finish, plus I’m halfway through a baby blanket for my new niece, Emmeline, and am fully ensconced in the Attic24 CAL – here’s a quick sneak peak of my progress as modelled by my lovely Tink).

6C8BF212-EC68-4E63-BE4E-DB5D5B0EAE8B.jpeg

Anyway, on to today’s topic, theatre trips, and controversially I’m going to tell you about the second (most recent one) first.

He’s behind you! Oh no he’s not! Pantomime! One of my favourite people got tickets for her Mum, my Dad, her friend and I to go and see Peter Pan at the Birmingham Hippodrome. We’ve been looking forward to this for months, and it finally came around this week.

e907f4e3-2460-4671-bb1e-51c6bd718ec9

I obviously don’t have many photos because it’s generally frowned on to take pics at the theatre, but I managed to snap this one at the beginning. I just love the whole, well, pantomime of it. All the booing, the campness and the innuendo that all the kids laugh at but have no idea why!

Peter Pan was played by Jaymi Hensley who was on the X Factor back when it was still worth watching and he had a cracking voice. Meera Syal played a mermaid. I don’t remember a mermaid in Peter Pan, but it’s an awfully long time since I read it. Queue lots of fishy jokes and Goodness Gracious Me references. Captain Hook was originally Jimmy Osmond, but sadly he was taken ill early in the run (get well soon Jimmy) and was replaced by Darren Day. I didn’t have a particularly high opinion of Darren Day (possibly owing to the media reporting his various infidelities at length during my youth) but good on him for stepping in and, actually, he was fab! Very funny. Finally, there was Matt Slack as Smee. He is the glue that holds the whole thing together. He’s a regular having been in the Birmingham Hippodrome pantomime for the last six years (and confirmed for Christmas 2019 too).

I saw the panto last year too, and I noticed that some of the scenes are rewritten and updated each year, but they’re so funny that it still works. There’s a scene where several of the characters sing in a round including actions which result in Smee being bashed over the head with a frying pan or poked in the derrière with a poker and another where a tongue twister gets added to and embellished until it’s practically impossible to get through without accidentally slipping out a rude word. Hilarious, and actually very difficult for the actors. There’s also always someone that ends up falling through a trap door!

The script is obviously updated regularly to reflect current affairs. There were references to Brexit (obviously!) and the Duke of Edinburgh’s driving exploits and Theresa May (Theresa may what?) Without having seen it twice, it’s hard to tell whether some of it is ad-libbed or not. If it is, then it’s even more clever. We all spent a significant amount of the time belly laughing, and personally, given the trials of work at the moment, and the political uncertainty, and, let’s face it, January, I really appreciated the diversion. A good laugh is good for the soul.

Something that is also good for the soul is this ……

DE2C213B-3AF0-47A6-9E39-F55F6897DB84.jpeg

….. Practically Perfect in Every Way!

I adore Mary Poppins! Always have, always will. If I’m poorly, one of my go to ‘feeling sorry for myself’ indulgences is watching Julie Andrews fly in with with her umbrella to sort out the Banks family. Given my alliegence to the 1964 original, my initial reaction to the news that a new Mary Poppins film was being made was abject horror (I still can’t bring myself to watch the remake of Pete’s Dragon!) but once I’d breathed in and out of a paper bag a few times and googled it, I realised it wasn’t a remake, but a sequel. Hmmmm, thought I, that, I think, is ok! From thence onwards I let out a little squeal of excitement whenever I saw a trailer for it. Emily Blunt, on initial viewing, seemed practically perfect in every way for the part of Mary Poppins.

On Christmas Eve, I excitedly rushed away from work once I was allowed to escape, and met my sister-in-law and our lovely friend to go and see the new film. I had learnt several weeks earlier than said lovely friend had never seen the original, and once in the cinema, it also transpired that my sister-in-law hadn’t seen much beyond supercallifragilisticexpialidocious either! Honestly, if I hadn’t been concerned about missing the start this may have had me reaching for that paper bag again.

The premise of the story is that Jane and Michael are all grown up. Jane is single and has rather inherited her mother’s activist tendencies. Michael has been recently widowed leaving him to care for his three children. He still lives at 17 Cherry Tree Lane with the children but, as a struggling artist, has received notification that the house will be repossessed if he can’t make the next payment on a loan by the deadline. Jane realises that their father left them shares in the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank where he worked. All they need to do is find the share certificate and present it to the bank in time to save the day.

Obviously, it transpires that it is not as easy as it sounds, so enter Mary Poppins to save the day! My initial feelings about Emily Blunt were bang on! I can’t think of anyone who could have emulated the great Ms Andrews any better. She had the mannerisms and quirks spot on. Jane was also exactly as I would have imagined her to grow up. Michael, not so much, he just didn’t look quite right and he had lost the cheeky zest he had in the original (although I guess that comes from being widowed and having bailiffs pound on your door).

 

The film has completely its own story, but there are nods and references to the original scattered throughout it. Upon seeing Mary Poppins for the first time, Michael’s mouth falls open to which, those of us who are in the thousands of views of the original, could easily predict that Mary Poppins’ response would have to be ‘close your mouth Michael, we are still not a codfish’ (she doesn’t disappoint). It’s done very cleverly though so you won’t miss out if you haven’t seen the original (how, how, how?) rather your viewing is simply enhanced if you have. I think I probably smiled with nostalgic glee the whole way through, so incredibly happy that they’d managed to capture the original magic and rework it.

I won’t say too much and ruin the surprise for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but integral to the story is a Bert-like character who helps to keep the story moving (in doing some research I’ve just discovered a theory that Mary Poppins was Bert’s nanny – mind officially blown), there’s a scene which is the partner to the chalk drawing scene in the original, an updated version of the part where they have a tea party on the ceiling with Uncle Albert, an alternative to the rooftop chim chiminey dance, and these fellas are still hopping around.

B3D4E589-72DD-4069-9BFE-4217D0E3900A.jpeg

Dick Van Dyke even makes a cameo appearance towards the end!

It essentially follows the same format as the original. For devotees such as myself who could be in the original if only they could learn to fly, you can almost predict roughly what kind of scene is coming. This may sound like a bad thing, after all, who wants a predictable film, but the storyline keeps you guessing, it’s just the format that’s familiar which just adds to the magic and the nostalgia.

I don’t think I’m giving too much away by saying that all’s well that ends well. The ending is brilliantly tied up with something that happens in the original. I won’t tell you what, but it has to do with this!

a587a1c2-995e-42b7-a95a-08257e1377b1

Well, I must finish, there’s some housework that won’t do itself, however, continuing the theme, ‘for every job that must be done, there is an element of fun, you find the fun, and, snap, the job’s a game!’

Goodbye Mary Poppins. Don’t stay away too long.

 

2018 Review in Pictures

I should’ve probably written this post on 1st January, but I was busy finishing off my greenhouse and since then I’ve been back at work and feeling somewhat tired. It’s amazing how quickly you get out of the habit of getting up early and doing proper adult things. Every January when I go back to work I struggle to keep my head above water because I’m so tired and suffering from the January blues. I always manage though, and soon we’ll be through January. February’s not much better, in my humble opinion, but its saving grace is that it’s closer to Spring and you can finally see that the days are getting longer. The end of Winter is in sight!

I downloaded the top nine app which makes you a collage of your nine most liked photos on Instagram.

856e3de8-c346-4c3c-b37c-1ba42d5c4a28

I like all these photos (as, apparently do the people who follow me on Instagram) but I didn’t feel that it represented my year as I remember it. Of course, I only started my blog and the accompanying Instagram account (greengirlgardener for anyone who’d like to follow me) in July so it’s not representative of the whole year, but there’s not one gardening photo on there and that was a massive part of my 2018. I also realise that I need to be careful not to use a photo I’ve already posted as my featured blog picture because that’s how I’ve ended up with the same photo twice. 

Anyway, I thought I’d look back on my year and try to select my personal favourite pictures, and maybe you’ll find them interesting.

We managed to keep our fur babies healthy and happy in 2018 – this really isn’t a chore because they are just so delightful. I couldn’t not include my favourite pics of the gorgeous twosome from this past year.

How do I choose my favourite pictures from the garden? Honestly my phone is full of pics of plants and garden paraphernalia! I’ll try to narrow it down.

This is what really sparked my enthusiasm for the garden when we had the jungle chopped down and I could really see what we had to play with!

It inspired me to create our bistro.

I soon added other features to give character to our space.

My wheelbarrow planter.

3CA3B5FB-7042-4C49-8FEE-4A636354D0D1

My planter which was made by my Dad for my birthday which I love.

965B5BB5-7F92-4A8C-82E5-77BAF62E553A

My raised beds ready for growing fruit and veg in the summer.

60C782D1-A10F-41B0-AF9F-20768B937571

More recently my greenhouse which I’m really excited about.

D2058BE7-404E-4D3D-9B5C-94EB60985DC0

The garden gave me so much pleasure this year. I can’t possibly show you everything that I planted or managed to nurture, so I’ll try to narrow it down to a few of my favourite photos.

When the cats were kittens it was impossible for me to crochet because they would run off with my yarn, but this year, now that they’re the ripe old age of three, I rediscovered my love for hooking and I also resubscribed to Little Box of Crochet. Here are some of my makes.

I also met Amanda, the owner of Little Box of Crochet at the Grand Sale Event.

E760F832-56CF-4516-B341-62FD4F166F4F

I went on three holidays. Lanzarote at Easter with hubby’s side of the family.

d0a4a7b8-f646-4a79-a3af-410dd7b1a92c

Sandybrook Country Park near Ashbourne with some of my best and oldest (in time, not age!) friends for May Bank Holiday.

002a24ec-40f9-4d5b-80ca-512df0de965f

And Mexico in November with hubby.

img_1869

2018 saw the last of my school year turn 40. My birthday is at the beginning of the academic year so I turned 40 in 2017, but my best friend celebrated her milestone birthday in style in 2018. We went to London, saw Les Miserables in the West End and had afternoon tea at the Dorchester.

6866f1b5-ccc7-4ff2-b5f2-2862a007bc66

I don’t even like tea, but I was in the Dorchester and I was drinking tea whether I liked it or not! I look thin in this photo – might print it out and stick it to the fridge to motivate my New Year diet!

This is really not in chronological order because this happened in February. It’s just in the order that it’s fallng out of my head! We finally knocked our teeny tiny kitchen through to the dining room to create a big kitchen diner. It’s the best thing we’ve done to the house – we no longer fall over each other when we’re trying to cook, and we no longer risk going up in a puff of smoke like we did using our old dodgy cooker!

30011e1a-58ce-43d9-bfe6-9adc78f9217d

Hubby and I went to Thorpe Park with two of my work friends (one of whom made a rollercoaster fwiend – sorry, in joke!) Until I went to Orlando for the first time in 2016 I’d never been to a proper big theme park. I used to go to a local theme park when I was a kid, people can’t believe that I’ve never been to Alton Towers! I loved Thorpe Park. It was so much fun.

My youngest brother got married in August and I gained another sister-in-law. It was an amazing day and really made me appreciate time with family.

4AC4B353-B093-4D9B-B2E6-8D014BE838DE

Oh, almost forgot! I got a promotion and became an Account Manager. I’ve tried to embrace my new role and am enjoying the learning process. It’s not always easy, and I’m spending a lot of time outside of my comfort zone, but I’m relishing the challenge and am determined to succeed and prove myself. That reminds me, I must ask for new business cards!

c73d2778-c1a5-4b31-8003-237811588cb2

I think that’s the major events of 2018 covered. So, what’s to come in 2019? If all goes according to plan, then I’ll travel to Orlando and Spain. I’ll return to Sandybrook with the girls. It’s highly likely that I’ll visit the south of Italy with work. I’ll visit the Hippodrome to see Peter Pan and the Alexandra Theatre to see Thriller Live. I’ll pay an extortionate parking fee at the NEC when I visit Gardeners’ World Live with my best friend. There are tentative plans to go to Kew Gardens, do pub quizzes, visit Tallinn and to remedy my not having been to Alton Towers. I’ll take part in my first CAL (crochet-along) with thousands of people around the world when I follow attic24’s sweet pea blanket pattern. I’m planning to decorate the downstairs loo, redo the bathroom and obviously there will be exploits in the garden. I did briefly toy with the idea of a huge PVC igloo on the lawn today when I was daydreaming (and imagining myself to have won the lottery) but I’ll satisfy my gardening dreams by beautifying my greenhouse and growing my own fruit and veg this year.

I hope you all have plans for 2019, whether big or small. Life’s for living!