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!

Six on Saturday 7th September

I thought I should check in with a Six this week because we’re on holiday for the next two Saturdays so I most likely won’t get chance to do one, and then we’re rapidly approaching October which means fewer trips out of the back door and less exciting developments au jardin when I do brave the cold and dark.

I’ve been out there for half of today trying to tidy up and prepare for the colder months, so I took a few snaps that I thought you guys might like to see. Be warned though, random they definitely are, eclectic you might say since they all came from our garden, but that is the extent of their coherence.

Number one is an early birthday present from my in laws.

They’ve discovered somewhere that makes these in all sorts of different animal forms. I chose a kingfisher because I like the colours. I attached it to the fence in the middle of our garden today. It’s next to my raised beds so I’m hoping it might scare the birds away from my fruit and veg next year.

Speaking of fruit and veg, number two is potatoes. I finally got round to emptying my wheelbarrow which was full of the compost from the potato bags which I harvested earlier in the Summer. When I tipped it out I discovered that I’d missed some.

I assume it’s still ok to eat these. They look fine now I’ve cleaned them up, although I have no idea which of the three varieties which I grew that they are. I grew Maris Peers, Charlotte and another variety which escapes my memory for now!

I also planted more Charlottes today. I got them a few weeks ago but have only just got around to planting them, so they’ve chitted quite a lot so I hope they’ll still grow. They’re supposed to be ready in time for our Christmas lunch!

Moving on to number three, and following on from my garden wildlife post last week – cobwebs!

For some reason I ended up behind the greenhouse and the sun was shining right down the garden and was making the cobwebs twinkle.

It’s normally really difficult to get decent snaps of cobwebs, and these are still not great, but I was pleasantly surprised with how well they showed up in these with the sun highlighting them. I didn’t see the occupant of the webs. The poor spider is much maligned, but if I was one I think I’d still feel superior, I mean, can you spin your house and do your food shopping all out of your bottom? Nope, me neither!

Back to the home produce for number four. There’s not much left growing now but I do have these still to come.

I think they’re leeks, but it’s possible there might be a red onion in there. My lolly stick labels got bleached by the sun so I can’t see what I sowed in this particular line. If they are indeed leeks, then they’re supposed to be ready to harvest next month, which looks unlikely to my novice eyes! Everything seemed to either take longer to mature than the packets said, or didn’t grow at all so maybe they’ll be ready next Summer!

Number five is something I’ve been trying to identify for over a year, so far to no avail. I picked it up on a sale table in B&M Bargains for £1.50.

Not the best picture of it, but you can see the shape of the leaves. A couple of people have suggested it might be a Cotoneaster, but I’ve now had it over a year and it hasn’t produced any berries. I actually feel quite attached to it, despite not being on first name terms with it. It very loyally hung around in its pot whilst I tried to determine what it was so I knew whereabouts to plant it, and since I took the plunge and planted it out (still not having a clue how big it would get) it seems to very stoically deal with being surrounded by fallen leaves and living behind the raised beds receiving minimal attention. It looks healthy and it’s definitely grown so, even if it retains its John Doe status, it’s more than welcome in my garden.

Number six is one that I was waiting for completion to post, but now I’m concerned that completion might happen while we’re on holiday, so I’m posting now so it doesn’t miss out.

Sunflowers!

I’ve nurtured these since I sowed them in April! I sowed eleven seeds, ten of them germinated and were planted out back at the beginning of the Summer and since then they’ve got slowly picked off (by what means I don’t know!) so I’m left with these two.

The smaller one that has flowered is just under six feet tall. Its flower is a little raggedy Anne but I love it nonetheless because it’s the first Sunflower I’ve ever grown and it looks ever so cheerful out of our back window.

You can see the seeds starting to form in there.

The big ‘un is over seven feet tall! I was standing under it to take this photo and this is my view (I’m five foot four). We’ve had to tie it to the Sweet Pea wigwam to keep it standing because it’s so tall. You can see the bud forming up there, but we go on holiday in less than a week and I think we’re going to miss it opening. My Dad’s cat sitting so I’ve asked him to take a photo if it flowers while we’re away. I definitely think there’s some kind of time delay in our garden – everyone else’s Sunflowers flowered week’s ago. My theory is not enough sun due to next door’s forest!

There we are, I thought I might have to start up a Six on Sunday blogalong for a minute but I’ve made it. Check out the Propagator’s blog for more Sixes.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend lovely people.

Garden Wildlife

Happy Saturday all. September tomorrow. I’m not sad about the end of Summer, not yet anyway. I still have a holiday to come so it doesn’t feel like it’s over. Plus, I quite like Autumn. Now come the end of Autumn, then I will be in mourning because I am not a Winter person.

Today I’m focusing on the animals in our garden, from the tiny insects up to the bigger visitors. I’ve been snapping photos all Summer with this post in mind. I’ve got so many now that I’m not sure how to narrow them down, but narrow I will. I’ve can’t tell you how many seconds, minutes and possibly hours I’ve spent, camera poised trying to get the perfect photo and ending up with blurry wings or a hastily departed flower!

I’ll start with the traditionally less pleasant critters that I’ve spotted throughout the last couple of months.

For the arachnophobes amongst you, feel free to scroll past the next section (or peek at it from behind a cushion). I’ll put a row of hearts when it’s safe to look again and I promise to move on to more cuddly creatures soon, but right now, SPIDERS!

I used to count myself as an arachnophobe, indeed, my Mum, who witnessed my screams throughout adolescence, bought me this which now proudly hangs in my shed.

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I have found though, since my gardening adventure really kicked in with a vengeance, that’s there’s really no place in gardening for irrational fears of anything creepy crawly. You’re in their domain, not the other way round, and they just get on with their thing. They really are more scared of you than you could ever be of them (as I found out when stalking them, camera in hand!) The beast above was stomping past my pots at the side of the house. I tried to get a better photo, but he disappeared next door (bet they were really grateful!)

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Next up slugs and snails.

This snail was really quite pretty. It may have chobbled on my strawberries, which is unfortunate, but I liked it.

These ones were a lot bigger and not so attractive. The first I discovered in my potato bag and the second was hiding behind my Diascia Cherry Blossom.

Slugs decimated my strawberries this year! I assume it was slugs anyway, given the evidence above! The second one is on my somewhat raggedy Dahlia. Given the rain over the last couple of days, there are some humongous slugs slurping their way around the garden at the moment, but they’re icky so I couldn’t bring myself to take photos.

On to beetles and beetley type things.

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I can’t remember where I snapped this one, and I can’t work it out from the background. Quite an impressive looking beetle.

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This one was very well camouflaged on my petit pois. A quick google of ‘green beetles’ doesn’t bring up anything that looks like this, so I don’t know what it is.

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These are Lily Beetles and it’s such a shame they’re such a pretty colour because they’re destructive! I tried picking them off, but they don’t get the hint so I had to resort to chemical means. I made sure not to spray them once the buds appeared though because that would kill any pollinators that gathered their pollen.

Ladybirds. When I first saw the lily beetles I thought they were ladybirds, but they are sans spots. These are definitely ladybirds. Ladybirds really remind me of being a child. Surely it’s some kind of rite of passage to have a ladybird wee on your hand (although it’s not really wee, it’s some kind of toxic ‘back off’ fluid!)

Now for some random flying things.

Lots of flying things in our garden, including more than our fair share of mosquitoes! No photos of those because they either get squished immediately or they get away! I’ve lost count of the number of bites I’ve had this Summer – most of them through my clothes! Yep, these supersonic mozzies can chomp on you even through jeans!

Quite impressed with these two pics, although it does feel as though we should avert our eyes from the first pair, because I’m sure they really should’ve ‘got a room!’

I tried really hard to attract butterflies to the garden. I planted a Buddleia and I hung up bananas but it didn’t do any good and I saw very few butterflies all Summer.

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I actually saw this one land when I was in the kitchen and ran out with my phone to take a photo. Luckily it stayed there long enough. Would you believe it, in the two seconds I was in the garden I managed to miss the Amazon man knocking on the front door and had to chase him down the street!

This is slightly cheating since I didn’t take the picture in the garden, but it’s too pretty not to include.

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I saw it at the garden centre. Isn’t it lovely?

Finally for the insect/arachnid section, I have LOTS of bee (and other stripy insects) photos, all of which were taken in the garden.

I’m going to finish with the best photos that we’ve captured on the garden camera since the last post.

We’ve tried to plant even more wildlife attracting plants this year, and I’ve also been a lot less ruthless with pulling up wild flowers and/or weeds and I love all the animals that are choosing to roam round our outside space.

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at all our lovely animals and sorry if the spiders disturbed anyone.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!