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!

A bit of catching up

I really hate that life keeps getting in the way of things I want to do. Of course, it’s a well known fact that I am the queen of procrastination, so I probably could shoehorn more in if I spent less time on social media and playing candy crush, but, you know, we all have our vices!

This morning I’m also being thwarted by this little lady who seems particularly in need of cuddles.

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Who am I to say no to a snuggle with my Olive?

She may be feeling in need of some reassurance today because I was away for two days this week. Off I went on the epic journey to Gijon in northern Spain again. You may recall that I did this journey in November just after our holiday to Mexico, and it took only slightly less time to get to Gijon than it did to get to Mexico! Eighteen hours it took this time for the round trip for a meeting which lasted three and a half hours. It was an important, necessary and, as it turns out, positive meeting, but I do wish there was a direct flight from somewhere nearer.

As it is, I have to drive to Heathrow to catch a flight to Madrid for a connection to Asturias. I do love Heathrow. London airports generally mean an exciting long haul flight for an exotic holiday. A work trip couldn’t be further removed from exciting, but still the airport evokes those feelings. There’s also a Harry Potter shop! Slightly inappropriate since Harry and his chums would be the last people to need an airport being in possession, as they usually are, of a Nimbus 2000 broomstick and floo powder. I guess Mr Weasley would love learning about our primitive muggle modes of transport though.

I couldn’t resist, and unfortunately these I can’t claim on expenses!

There was a slight panic with my last flight when I got a message to say it was cancelled! Turns out they’d put two flights together, I think because of the bad weather expected in the UK. I ended up with a little delay (much preferable to a cancelled flight!) and a huge plane. An A330 to be precise. It was nice after all that travelling to be on a luxurious plane rather than crammed into an A320. I even got a seat back telly, and look what was showing …..

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Poor Julie Andrews got cut off in her prime halfway through Feed the Birds, but still it was just what I needed when I was feeling somewhat jaded and in need of some creature comforts.

Being away for two days means I’m now even further behind on my attic24 Sweetpea blanket CAL. Lucy published part five on her blog yesterday and I’m only a couple of stripes into part three.

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Little puddy paws love it already, even if it is smaller than it should be. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up, but I am feeling the pressure when I see other people posting that they’re not only keeping up, but are managing to fit in other projects whilst they’re waiting for the next instalment. My excuse is that I have to go to work and the gym, and I have to eat and sleep. I’m also hard at work on a gift for a very special little lady who will be exactly a month old tomorrow.

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Perfect use of the seatback pocket!

I shivered my way out into the garden this morning, still in my dressing gown, to have a look at what’s going on out there. Blimey it was chilly! There are signs of life though, which is encouraging.

On the left you can see my giant alliums coming through the cyclamen and heather. They’re the pointy, leafy bits. These are, if nature does its thing, going to be a couple of feet tall with giant purple Pom Pom heads. On the right are my trusty daffs which I planted when we moved here five years ago and they turn up every year, regular as clockwork to signal that winter’s on its way out.

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All the bulbs that I planted in front of my planter are coming through nicely. I can’t remember exactly what I planted now, but I think the row closest to the planter are various varieties of daffodil, but there may be some tulips in there. I definitely planted some tulips, just can’t remember where!

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The second row, in front of the daffs/tulips, which you can’t see that clearly are, I think, snowdrops, but they could also be crocuses.

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I’m glad I’ve forgotten what I planted where, because it’s quite exciting waiting to see what will appear (so if you can tell, please don’t ruin my own surprise that I’ve created!)

When I created our little bistro area …….

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…… the one sadness was that I’d covered up a lot of bluebells which we inherited with the house, so imagine my glee when I went out this morning and spotted this ….

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It would appear that the indomitable bluebell won’t be quashed! They’ve pushed aside the weed control fabric and are popping up all along the edge of the bistro! Yay! Not what I planned at all, but a very happy accident. I’m learning not to plan or be too meticulous in the garden because nature seems to find a way, and I prefer, in a lot of cases, to let it do its thing. It knows better than me!

Finally I looked at my Eupatorium. It was so beautiful at the end of the summer and into autumn, but it’s looked very dead for a while.

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I was almost too scared to investigate too closely, but I decided to be brave, for its sake. I gently scratched at one of its main stems hoping and praying to find some green. I did! It’s alive! Just sleeping hopefully. I can’t find much info on t’internet but my Mum managed to find a site that instructs to cut back at the beginning of spring. I’m going to wait until it’s warmed up a bit and then I’ll get the secateurs out and then keep everything firmly crossed!

Right, I’m off out for a bottomless lunch later so I’d better dash and get ready.  Wishing you all a great weekend!

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.

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

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And Mexico in November with hubby.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!