Not Six on Saturday

Oh my goodness it’s been a topsy turvy old week! I feel like I’ve had a bit of insight into what it feels like to be bipolar! I hope that’s not disrespectful to anyone who is unfortunate enough to actually suffer from the disorder, it’s certainly not meant that way, but oh boy, I’ve been down as far as I go this week but I’ve also flown pretty high too! More on that another time maybe, but suffice it to say, normal service is resumed for now.

Phew, I was really ready for the weekend.

I spent Friday night with three of the best friends that a girl could want (minus the fourth because she’s poorly sick – get well soon J). We met up at the most supreme Indian restaurant in Birmingham (www.bhujondining.com in case anyone’s interested) in honour of my birthday. I decided to dress up in my favourite jumpsuit for the occasion – I’m starting to enjoy clothes again since I’ve been following the Slimming World plan.

The girls spoilt me with lovely cards and gifts and we enjoyed, as ever, a delicious curry and I came home feeling more relaxed and happy than I’d felt all week.

Today I met up with my best friend at Dobbies garden centre (which used to be Wyevale). One of my favourite people at one of my favourite places. We settled down in the restaurant to put the world to rights over a diet Dr Pepper and a pot of tea before buying half the shop (in my case!)

I bought six items, but they’re not all flora related, hence this is Not Six on Saturday!

I’ll start with the three things that I bought which are garden related.

Two of them are now happily hanging up in our kitchen window.

It’s so hard to take decent photos in this perpetual greyness! This one really doesn’t show my acquisitions at their best.

I picked up a succulent in a sustainable pot first, but then I saw these Cacti in the same pot, and swapped it. I don’t have much success with succulents but I do seem to be able to keep Cacti alive. I hope I haven’t spoken too soon.

Having said that, in the bluey/green pot I did go for a succulent. I decided to take a risk on it because it’s not the normal spiky type which I’ve failed in the past. Keep your fingers crossed!

Here’s the whole window arrangement with the new additions.

The other planty purchase is on the opposite side of the kitchen on our fireplace ledge, and I’m a little bit in love with it.

Apparently it’s a Ginseng Fig. I’ll do my very best to keep it alive.

Here’s the whole ledge.

Moving on to the non garden purchases.

I love giraffes and I love reading so what could be better! I’ve always got a book on the go, but usually I prefer to read on my kindle. The exception to the rule is biographies because they tend to have photos which don’t translate well on the kindle. Hubby bought me two biographies for my birthday, so I thought I’d treat myself to a pretty bookmark for them.

Sticking with the giraffe theme (and adding an elephant) I couldn’t resist these cookie cutters.

The slight sticking point now is Slimming World! Cookies and Slimming World don’t tend to go together remarkably well so I’m either going to have to be inventive, or I’m going to have to bake cookies for other people to eat and enjoy them by proxy!

Finally I got a kilner jar.

This was an absolutely unnecessary purchase but I keep seeing photos of people’s overnight oats creations on Instagram and I want to join in! Yes, I know, I know, they won’t taste any different than they do in an old takeaway container, but look how pretty they look when you can see the layers.

By tomorrow, all that frozen fruit will have melted and the water and juice will have soaked through to the oats at the bottom making a delicious gooey breakfast that will keep me going until lunchtime.

So there we have it, my Not Six on Saturday. I’ll try to do an actual Six next weekend if I can, but it’s getting less and less pleasant to be in the garden by the day (which I hate!)

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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.

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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!

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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) …

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and these books from a couple of charity shops.

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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 ….

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and in my case a couple of Bric Royales.

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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 …

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… 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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.