Saturday, 27 September 2014

Winter flowering plants: pansies and violas

Plant Me Now winter pansies

Is there a happier looking plant than a pansy?

Pansies and violas are so appealing, with their happy little faces. I decided to plant up some new pots for outside the front door, and used pansies, violas, cyclamen and a small evergreen to add a bit of height and contrast.

I bought two ceramic blue pots from Homebase, and selected wintering pansies and violas from Plant Me Now. As always the service was excellent, the only minor hitch (if you can call it that) was that they sent a lot more plants than I ordered! Nice problem to have I know, but this is just a small selection of what they sent me. There were about another 6 packs in the delivery box!

The plants looked very healthy when they arrived, and you can see how well protected they are in the packaging. The violas are the smaller plug plants, and the pansies were in pots. After a good watering they were ready to be potted up. I had enough to do these pots, two more pots for the back garden and the remainders were planted in the borders.

winter pansies and violas

They're all beautiful, but the Matrix Pansy True Blue (bottom left photo) is a stunning colour. It looks more of a purple in the photo, but it's a beautiful blue in real life.  The Pansy Matrix Sunrise is also a stunner - such a lovely colour combination of pink and yellow.
winter pansies and violas

The plants have burst into colour over the past week and should flower right through until the Spring. Winter is usually a quiet time for garden colour, and these winter plants help to make the front of the house a bit more welcoming. They never fail to raise a smile from me anyway.

Friday, 26 September 2014

That was the week that was: music, laughter and red shoes

My garden in autumn

I took this photo sitting on the back door step, drinking a cup of tea and enjoying the evening sunshine. It's probably one of the last remaining evenings before it gets too cold and dark, but I love this time of year. Wednesday marked the autumn equinox and so it's time to start thinking of the colder evenings, woollen socks, cuddles on the sofa under cosy blankets, hot chocolate, scarves....yes, I love a good scarf. 

And don't tell anyone, but I bought my first Christmas present last week and two packs of Christmas cards...

Kate Bush The Red Shoes

I've been listening to Kate Bush pretty much non-stop these past couple of weeks. I've been a fan since Wuthering Heights, but after the disappointment of not getting tickets for her live shows (there should definitely have been tickets reserved for fans who bought The Kick Inside when it was first released in 1978. Bit of an oversight there Kate!) I decided to console myself by buying one of her albums, The Red Shoes, which I hadn't listened to in a while. I had it on cassette, but with no way of playing it I bought the remastered CD. Listening to it again was like being hugged by an old friend. Love you Kate.

We've laughed a lot these week too. Real belly laughs. In fact, I've felt happier - and more able to laugh -  these past couple of weeks than in a long time. No idea why, nothing significant has happened but spending time with my girls is the main reason for me laughing like a crazy woman. Particularly The Teenager's impersonations of me which are both uncomfortably accurate and hilarious. Drat that girl!

Watching Modern Family is always good for a belly laugh too and there's nothing better than the three of us watching together. Cam's my favourite. No, Phil. No wait, Cam. Anyway, I love it, makes me snort with laughter which isn't a pretty sight at all.

Now my girls are older and boyfriends are very much a part of life (theirs, not mine) I occasionally like to share nuggets of dating advice with them. Yes, that's advice from me, the woman with the worst dating history every. But apart from that minor detail, and in addition to my previous profoundly brilliant tips, my other solid-gold piece of advice for them is this:  Never date/marry a man who doesn't make you laugh.' I'm with Lena Dunham on this one.  Really, not even worth thinking about. Now, if only I'd listened to my own advice.

Talking of laughing this was my most popular share on my FB page this week.. Number 9 absolutely kills me.  If you already follow my Facebook page, thank you. If you don't it would be lovely to see you there.

Not sure what this weekend has in store for us, but there's definitely some Strictly Come Dancing, walking the hound and lots of cake forecast for me and Tall Daughter, and the Teenager's boyfriend just started at Leeds Uni so she's going to visit him there. This time next year it'll be her turn to go. I'm not sure how I feel about that yet.

Whatever you're planning, have a great weekend x

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Emma Watson: If not me, who. If not now, when.

I'm a feminist.*

I don't hate men and I don't want to receive better treatment than men, but I would like my daughters to be given the same opportunities, treatment and rewards as everyone else and for their rewards to be based on merit rather than gender.

I just don't understand why anyone, man or woman, would be against fairness and choice, which is pretty much what feminism boils down to. 

But don't listen to me, listen instead to the eloquent and talented Emma Watson who explained it all beautifully in this game-changing speech to the UN earlier this week.

*If you got past the first sentence, thanks for reading.

Are you a feminist?

Sunday, 14 September 2014

House-sharing, OCD and father figures

Next month we'll have been living in this house for three years. Three years! Doesn't time fly?

The reason for buying this house jointly with my younger brother T, who had yet to step onto the property ladder, was purely to make a bit of equity and - after 5 years - sell up and buy our own separate properties.

I'll be honest, the last three years haven't all been plain sailing. It was always going to be a bit of a risk, and plenty of people (including our sister) warned us off, saying it would never work and, my god, there have been plenty of times when I thought they were right. Living with a sibling when you're still kids and growing up in the family home is one thing, but living with a fully-formed adult sibling is quite another, and not one to be ventured into lightly.

And, after so many years of living in an all-female household, getting used to living with a man again
T's tidy food cupboard
T's OCD food cupboard. And in the three
years we've lived here I've never seen him
have a bowl of soup.
took quite a bit of adjustment on our part. Tall Daughter has no memory of her dad living with us (she was only 3 when he left) so for a while she found the new set-up really difficult, and The Teenager took a while to get used to T's extreme tidiness (see photo evidence).  Actually, scratch that, we all still struggle with it.

Added to that, T has some strong opinions on anything and everything you care to think of, and as I'm not short of a few of my own it's led to some interesting times as the Chinese curse goes.

But 3 years on and we're all still in one piece, and better still, we all seem to be getting on really well. Eek, I hope that doesn't jinx it!

By far the best thing that has happened, is that T has become a father figure to my two girls.  He's always been a great uncle to them, but recently I've noticed it's developed into something more substantial.

They look forward to him coming home from sea, enjoy talking to him, they pull his leg, get under his feet when he's trying to do stuff, and seem to spend equal amounts of time laughing or bickering with him.  He, in turn, takes a genuine interest in them, how they're doing at school, their latest exam results (and knows which subjects they worry over) listens to them, gives them advice (whether they like it or not) and is very generous with both his time and money. Oh, and he gives them lifts to and from school/college in his flashy sports car.

Last year there was a lot of  hoo-haa in the media about single parents and the lack of father-figures, and at the time I said that role doesn't have to be filled by the father, and it's true.  In our case, T has stepped up to fill that role and is making a significant difference to the girls' lives.

I'm not sure what'll happen over the next two years but T's role as a father-figure has blossomed at a time when both girls really needed it, and if he wasn't such a grumpy sod I'd tell him how much I appreciate it. But because he's not one for any emotional nonsense, I'll have to hope he picks up my words of appreciation telepathically. Thanks T.