Christmas has started

Hopefully just about time for a quick blog post whilst my blueberry, coconut and sultana baked oats are baking. There are six oaty muffins baking and I have two at a time for breakfast so that’s enough for my whole working week. Yep, I break up for Christmas on Wednesday! Woohoo for three day weeks.

So why, you ask, is this post entitled Christmas has started if I haven’t broken up yet? Well it’s because I’ve been in Surrey this weekend for the annual Christmas pressie swap with my Granny and my Mum. I don’t get to see them very often because there’s nearly a hundred and fifty miles between us so when I do get down there it’s always special. I listen to Christmas songs on the radio all the way there and back and it always makes me smile if Chris Rea’s Driving Home for Christmas comes on because, whichever direction I’m going in, it feels like I am driving home for Christmas.

Granny’s had a rough couple of years! I’m sure she won’t mind me telling you that she’s eighty eight but almost exactly two years ago she had a heart bypass and recovered from it quicker and with more aplomb than someone half her age would’ve done, and this year she’s had various medical issues and a couple of stays in hospital, the latest being just a couple of weeks ago when she lost a pint of blood after knocking a scab off which happened to be on an artery (her bedroom and hallway currently look like a scene out of a horror film!) Anyway, she’s bounced back from it all but it makes it all the more important to spend time with her. My hubby calls her Super Gran. She really is amazing!

Despite all of this, she’d still taken the trouble to get all my favourite things in to feed me! You wouldn’t believe how excited I was to see these sitting on top of the fridge when I arrived!

I LOVE crumpets! Especially Warburtons and I hadn’t had them since May when I started Slimming World! Of course, I could’ve rung her before I went and said I’d bring baked oats instead, but somehow, it completely slipped my mind to do so!

Ooooooh! What a treat! Hot toasted crumpets with Flora Buttery and, you either love it or hate it, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it! Marmite!

I devoured my crumpets whilst Granny popped to the shop to get her paper (a kind gentleman paid for it for her – Granny has an admirer (in my head at least!)) and while we were waiting for my Mum to arrive. Much excitement – hadn’t seen her since last Christmas!

Mum brought with her Christmas presents, a knitting stitch holder because I’d forgotten mine and news of my Great Aunt who’s unfortunately suffering from fairly advanced dementia. Mum initially moved away from Birmingham to help my Great Aunt when she was in the early stages of the disease but she’s now ably cared for in a home.

A home which apparently also caters for donkeys! She doesn’t look overly impressed, does she!

We had a lovely day together just chatting and catching up. Granny’s still catching up on sleep after losing all that blood and didn’t feel up to Scrabble so Mum and I had a game. My Mum is the Gyles Brandreth of Scrabble (or Suzy Dent for the younger amongst you) but somehow I managed to be winning, right up, that is, until she went and got ninety something points for one word! Honestly, I ask you! How does she do it? Anyway, she ended on something like three hundred and twenty nine and I managed two hundred and ninetyish so I don’t feel too beaten up.

I headed back up the M40 after the tea of kings! Granny’s Shepherd’s Pie! It deserves to be capitalised because it’s soooooo good! She makes it the day before and reheats it when needed. It’s some concoction of lamb mince, celery, carrot, onion salt and vegetable stock topped with potato, but believe me, even with the correct ingredients it is impossible to make it as well without the Granny magic!

It tastes a-ma-zing! Sets you right up for the rest of the day.

Today I’ve had a relatively lazy day chilling out with hubby and the gorgeous twosome …

… but, and I think I deserve a round of applause for this, I did go out in the garden, in the bucketing down rain, to harvest the remainder of my produce.

Now, if we can all just imagine that I intended to grow baby potatoes and baby leeks, then it will have all been worth it!

These are Musselburgh leeks which, according to the internet, should be ‘whoopers’ and reliable and easy to grow. Hmmmm! I sowed them in about April and this is what I got! They look like spring onions. I assure you they’re not! Oh well, they’ll be fine chopped up in a stir fry.

The potatoes are Charlottes and I planted them in bags about the end of September time. They were advertised as ready for Christmas, which I suppose they are, but I was rather hoping they’d be big enough for our roasties. They’re not!

They sprouted masses of leaves to start off with. This is how they looked halfway through November …

… but I noticed last week that all the foliage had died down so I thought I’d best check if any potatoes had actually grown.

Anyway, my baked oats are cooked and cooling …

… so I’m off to get some beauty sleep ready for my last three working days of 2019. Nighty night.

Six on Saturday 2nd November

I’ve a feeling Six on Saturdays will be few and far between for the next few months. It feels like we haven’t had a dry weekend for months so I’m not able to get out and do any proper graft, which means I’ve got very little gardening news to share. I wonder if the Propagator notices fewer people joining in over the winter, or if I’m the only fair weather gardener around.

Anyway, it finally stopped raining so I took the opportunity to squelch up the garden to see what’s going on.

1. Most of the annuals have resigned themselves to the fact that their season is over (which is more than I have!) and they’ve almost visibly breathed their last and deflated! The Coleus which looked almost regal all through the Summer is clearly a plant after my own heart and hasn’t taken kindly to the couple of frosty mornings this week.

It’s so sad because the colours were so glorious.

2. However, all hope is not lost! A quick peek in the greenhouse shows that my cuttings are coping ok with the downturn in the weather. My thermometer showed 9.2° in there today, just a slight change from the recorded high of 47.2° over the Summer!

Also in the greenhouse are two teeny tiny Fuchsias and a Gazania.

The two Fuchsias are cuttings that my Mum gave me last Christmas. They lived in our porch until we built my greenhouse after Christmas and then I transferred them there until it was warm enough to put them outside in the Spring. I remember Mum telling me that one of them is hardy and one isn’t ….. the problem is, I can’t remember which is which! I’ve played it safe and put both in the relative warm. The Gazania was from the sale table in Notcutts in Summer 2018 and I fully expected it to die before Christmas 2018 but half of it survived the Winter. It didn’t rejuvenate to its former glory so I’m hoping a Winter in the greenhouse might save it again for next year.

3. There are a few sun-lovers that are hanging on for dear life!

One of them is a Calendula that I grew from seed in the greenhouse.

All of the Calendula grew very lanky, not sure if it was something I did wrong, but they did, and still are in this case, produce beautiful blooms.

4. My Fuchsia Delta Sarah is out performing itself.

This was my favourite Gardeners’ World Live purchase. I bought the biggest one I could find after my previous one didn’t survive the Winter, despite it being hardy. So far so good, it’s still full of buds and is looking quite happy.

It’s really hard to take decent photos in this perpetual half light. With flash they look surreal but without you can’t see the colour at all. Roll on Spring!

5. Unlike me, my Eupatorium thrives in the Autumn. It shoots up in the early Summer and then spends August and September waving elegantly in the breeze, but by the end of October when everything else is preparing for a long snooze (at best) the Eupatorium comes into its own.

The jagged dark green leaves stand out against the purple stems and then, the piece de resistance, the fluffy, cloud-like flowers crown the shrub royally.

6. Outside our kitchen window I can see my beautiful Berberis. This time last year I thought I’d lost it. I planted it out in the garden and all its leaves dropped straight away leaving bare spiky twigs. I dug it back up and put it back in its pot and kept my fingers and toes firmly crossed and in the Spring it rewarded me with some fledgling leaves.

Through the Summer it thrived, although perhaps didn’t quite regain its former glory, but now that November’s here the leaves have turned autumnal.

I really wish Autumn didn’t make me so Eeyoreish because I’m so busy feeling gloomy that I forget to appreciate all these beautiful colours. I’ll try harder!

Mexico in Mexico

I can’t actually believe that tomorrow is our last full day here and that soon I’m going to have to contemplate wearing shoes, drying my hair and, you know, adulting!

As I write this I am lying on a sunbed, with my wireless headphones (thank you NLMK) pumping my holiday playlist into my lugholes, barely inches from a very inviting swimming pool. There are guys and gals regularly wandering past asking me if I’d like a tequila sunrise, a pina colada or any other manner of delectation.

Of course, we could’ve chosen to go and imbibe our choice of poison at the swim-up bar in the next pool, but we prefer the quieter more relaxed vibe of this pool (and we’re drinking Diet Coke so really no need of swim-up bars).

There are coatis wandering around in the foliage behind me, cats lounging in the shade trying to keep cool, tropical birds chattering away to each other in the trees above me and occasionally a flamboyance of flamingos soaring high over head.

Spot the imposter!

This truly is an animal lover’s paradise. Not so good for those not so fond of the fluff and the feather, but really, we’re in their home, not the other way round. A guy flicked water at a coati yesterday on purpose as he got out of the pool (the guy, not the coati). The coati didn’t give two sniffs of his turned up snouty nose and carried on about his important business of snuffling and being cute, but hubby and I were both incensed (in a most internal and private British way).

We’ve had such a fantastic time (and it’s not over yet). We really are so lucky that we have the means and the opportunity to take holidays like this every so often. The luxury of doing nothing, or everything, depending upon your mood is something to be thankful for. Admittedly we’ve spent the vast majority of our time doing the nothing rather than the everything, that’s exactly how we wanted it.

We went to the beach one day. I couldn’t tell you which day as I have very little comprehension of time at the moment. It certainly wasn’t yesterday, because yesterday was somewhat spectacular, but more of that at a later date when I have photographic evidence. Maybe it was the day before? Maybe not. Who really cares?

The beach is just over the road, through one of the sister hotels (where you can also make use of their all inclusive facilities). We walked over, down a lovely sheltered promenade, but for the infirm, over-heating or, dare I say it, exercise-shy you can jump on a golf buggy to be deposited a stone’s throw from the white sands.

The beach was very pretty, although, I think hubby and I have been spoilt by the indescribable, and untouched, beauty of the Maldives and any other beach will now struggle to match it. Still, first world problems and all that.

Hubby went snorkelling but reported slim pickings (or should that be viewings?) on the fish front. I had a bit of a paddle. We stayed at the beach until lunchtime and then headed back along the promenade to our hotel. The only shade on the beach was provided by palm trees and the sun beds were somewhat crammed in and the humidity was high so we were in need of a few minutes of air conditioning to cool down.

Today we could’ve joined in with a coconut party at the next pool. We politely declined due to a serious lack of botheredness, but I have to say, I was slightly intrigued as to the specificities of a coconut party. The entertainment staff promoting it were dressed a la Carmen Miranda, sporting coconuts on their heads, but I assume the actual party entailed more than careful balancing of fruit on one’s bonce. I wasn’t concerned enough to extract my derrière from my sunbed, but from what my ears could detect, there was much whooping and singing of the Macarena. Not sure what that has to do with coconuts, but whatever!

I was just interrupted by a passing band of coatis (I just guessed at the collective noun, but then googled, and I guessed right. Score!) This happens every day towards late afternoon. They’re around all day and evening, but they like to patrol the pool around now. Presumably they’ve learnt people are likely to have dropped (or disposed of) food by now.

This is a common sight. Coati bottom protruding from a rubbish receptacle!

Look at the teeny tiny baby!

Hubby has just gone off to the shop to dispose of another 160 MXN (£6.11) on Cheetos crunchy.

Totally worth it (even though we’re all inclusive), they’re amazing!

Anyway, silly boy left his Diet Coke unattended and a coati, having a very sweet tooth as we’ve discovered coatis do, has knocked over and pilfered said Diet Coke.

This really is a real-time post today!

It was supposed to rain today, but we’ve had about three and a half spots! Hubby is now back with Cheetos, so I think we may make our way back to our room before the weather changes its mind, and also before the dreaded mozzies come to consume our blood. So far I’ve managed just two bites (both before we realised they’re active in the day and therefore had neglected to liberally apply the deet!)

Having re-read my post, I realise that Eleanor Oliphant (fantastic book that I finished in two days at the start of the holiday) has rubbed off on me and my parlance is somewhat loquacious and elaborate (I did that bit on purpose!) Sorry!

Anyway, the coatis are now trying to steal my bag because they can smell my Cheetos so I shall vacate my sunbed forthwith! Chat later!!

That’s my knee bottom right of photo – they get that close when there’s a chance of dinner!!