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 great Good Friday

I’m completely confused about what day it is! It feels so much like a Saturday because I haven’t been at work. We even just had a Chinese takeaway for our dinner! I have to remind myself for the next half an hour that it’s actually Friday because Gardeners’ World is on, and it’s back to hourly episodes tonight.

I’ve had a very productive, and enjoyable day, helped muchly by the beautiful weather. I was vaguely aware of the world at six thirty this morning when hubby got up to go to work, but the next thing I knew it was ten to nine. Lovely lie in – just what the doctor ordered!

I decided to take myself into Town (for non-Brummies, that’s Birmingham City Centre – we only ever call it Town round here). The reason for my venture into the heart of the city was that the world’s biggest Primark opened there last week, and I was curious to see what all the fuss is about.

I decided to get the train in to save having to remortgage to pay for parking. There are lots of memories for me on our train line. Mum and I used to use the same line to get to school (she taught at the same school that I attended) and I can remember sitting next to her and chattering away about nothing or reading our books in comfortable silence. I can remember her putting lipstick on me when I’d got sore lips from the walk to the station in the wind in winter because she’d run out of chapstick. I can remember her trying to hold in a giggle when one of the school girls opposite us looked up coldsore in the dictionary (because she had one) but got it slightly wrong and read out ‘a mix of cabbage, carrot and onion in a mayonnaise sauce’.

New Street Station has been completely revamped since I was a child and the main concourse bears absolutely no resemblance to its former self, so much so that I have no idea where I am when I’m there in relation to where I used to be (if you see what I mean!) The platforms haven’t changed much though and they still make me think of train journeys that I took regularly as a child. New Street to Shrub Hill where my Dad would meet me for a weekend or a Christmas in Worcester. New Street to Euston for the first leg of a trip to Reigate to stay with my Granny and Grandad. When I was really little I used to have an imaginary dog in the luggage compartment! It was an Andrex puppy and it was on every London bound train that I got on. I used to play with it during the journey until I got too old, but even then I still used to say hi to it as we boarded the train!

44893611-1CDF-443D-B71A-4ACF95984F8F

This is the outside of Primark. It really is huge. It used to be an entire shopping centre! I pinched this picture from t’internet, I didn’t take one today, but if I had it would’ve looked somewhat more busy! It was crazy!

I took a deep breath and dived in! I decided to start at the top and work my way down. It wasn’t quite as busy on the top floor. Here I found the Harry Potter section!

FEE9B0B9-DF82-466A-83B0-88E7ECC8C303

It wasn’t a massive section, but there was a lot in there, from clothes to toys to stationery. They’ve managed to capture some of that Harry Potter magic in the decor.

There’s a massive focus on Disney throughout the store. There’s even a Disney cafe. I was intending to look at the menu to see if the food’s Disney themed, but there was a massive queue even way before lunchtime.

I couldn’t resist some Disney purchases.

We’re going to Orlando in a week and a day’s time so I got some new PJs to take along with some trainer socks for the gym and a new phone case for my work phone.

As well as Mickey and Minnie Mouse they also had Dumbo, Donald and Daisy Duck, Jungle Book and Lilo and Stitch. There was a distinct lack of any Hundred Acre Wood goodies though. Most disappointing!

There was an area called the ‘Primarket’ which I’ve never seen in Primark before. It had lots of stationery, headphones, phone cases and other techie things. I had fun looking at everything here. Most people are after cheap clothing so there was a bit of breathing space here.

CEFC6DF1-8AD9-4955-886F-334FAA0EB045

This is what I decided to put in my basket. Not the iPad, the arm that it’s attached to. You can’t see it very well, but it clips on to a table or chair and holds your tablet up for you. A couple of weeks ago when hubby was away for the night, I decided to take my crocheting to bed and watch an episode of the Crown, and I had great trouble balancing my iPad on the bed. If I’d have had this, no problemo!

I was also on the lookout for some cheap clothes and I managed to get four spaghetti strap tops for our holiday for four quid each!

07A6D07E-2CD8-41CC-8BCE-141792C2216A

Primark, or Primarni if you will, clothes aren’t the best quality (at £4 that’s not surprising) but for holidays when you’re likely to get suntan lotion all over them, they’re great! I just hope I’m not funding some child labour sweatshop in the Philippines though! I can’t find any evidence of this, but they’re hardly likely to admit it now, are they?

I headed home to get out in the garden in the afternoon to make the most of the gorgeous weather.

I decided I’d better tackle the front garden. Those of you who follow me on Instagram (greengirlgardener) May have seen my post saying that I’m in love with my garden with a pic of our back garden. The same can’t be said about our front garden. Our plan, when funds allow, is to turn the front garden into a drive, so I begrudge time out there when I could be in the back. It may seem almost sacreligious to some of you to block pave a garden, but we have so much to do out the back that we just don’t have the time to do justice to both.

Anyway, it was in quite a state, embarrassingly so! It’s still not perfect now, I need to get the hedge cutter out and we need to replace a fence, but it looks a lot tidier.

Here’s some before and afters.

I was less stringent with my weeding than I have been in previous years. I left most of these hanging around.

5F856B33-340E-41B6-970C-F099C4E88C36

I feel that Dandelion flowers must really feel that their leaves are holding them back. The leaves are quite ugly but the flowers, whilst not being on a par with a Rose or an Anemone, are reasonably pleasing to the eye. Anyway, I’ve left them for the bees. According to Facebook (therefore it must be true) Dandelions are bees first source of pollen.

21701B11-B1AB-4283-AD71-6684821B2B0C

I’ve also left several of these Geranium type plants. I say Geranium type plants because I’ve never left them long enough to grow before, but the leaves look Geraniumish to me. We’ll see what happens in a few weeks. I thought, if they are Geraniums, or some other non-weed, they’ll hopefully provide some ground cover which will make weeding less necessary.

19A9A065-215D-4AF2-9B6A-9B387A8012A7

There’s another of the Geranium type plants amongst some of the Peonies. These have sprung up this week. They are really really beautiful when they flower. If we can ever afford to turn the garden into a bigger drive, I’ll attempt to move them to the back. I’ve read that they don’t like to be moved, but I’ll give it a go.

Three days off still ahead – what a blissful thought! Hope you all have a great Easter break.

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!

0A491441-5D4F-47EC-8669-56E808D4BCA0.jpeg

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).

F0B12A40-9426-4660-B0ED-985ABD0B3789.jpeg

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!

26F70637-AF71-4EA3-BB22-EC30C818F3F4

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!

AEFEEAE0-136D-4589-9278-FAC3BD8F9B21

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!

2D662A66-01F0-4941-AC8E-5D3529381F74

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.

714E2064-F872-4E66-A0B9-4FB86BDCE9B5

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!

D1E7913B-4BF0-4403-9BF8-E20187709FB8

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.

A7FCB068-5B80-4516-A521-AFFD9655FFD4

As are these two.

I make an effort with our fireplace.

F2F47BF0-9E1B-4C29-8E04-59331EFC680B

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.

D37673A8-B942-4701-9C2F-ABC03AB19230

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!