June 6: Pool and lawn success

I can’t take any credit for it, but the pool is clean and slowly filling up.

Leo was up early to tackle the task and did a great job. It’s tempting to jump into it now, half full! While he did the pool, I finally, FINALLY!, finished the lawn. No more holes to fill!

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“I’ve come to clean ze poooool”

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From this …

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… to this! Yay!

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Liliane dipping a tentative toe … hopefully in a week it will be warm enough to dive in

We also moved a fridge into the little annex area under the balcony where the two pink geranium pots sit. We cleaned it, set it running and filled it with our drinks! We lost the bar fridge in the kitchen to make way for the dishwasher, so now we have another that will be just as handy throughout summer.

It’s another stinking hot day here today. We’re off to the Muse concert in an hour or so. Can’t wait!

Update: I forgot my 30-Day Challenge, of learning three to four new plant names each day!

The texture of these lamb’s ear plants make them one of my favourites. I knew their name before but now know the Latin name, Stachys byzantina. Unfortunately, there’s none in my garden but they are abundant in the Rosengarten in town. Sometimes, one leaf accidentally falls off the plant when I visit, and I rub my fingers over it constantly for the rest of the day. 🙂

The aeonium haworthii x urbicum grows willy nilly on the terrace, after I took them from the large pot and spread them around the rock garden under the bushes. They’ve multiplied like crazy, provide great colour, with their green centre and pink edges, and have beautiful long-stemmed pink flowers towards the end of summer. We also have smaller reddy brown aeonium spread in the same place.

We have a pot with fuchsia hanging by the front door. The flowers are a mix of pink and purple sections – pink undercarriage and purple centre. They hang nicely and I hope the flowers keep coming thick and fast!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

June 5: A scorcher!

Today we baked. Not in the kitchen but outdoors. Wowsers, 30 degrees Celsius here, with no wind, feels like 40 degrees in Australia. Or as I mentioned before, maybe I’m just becoming acclimatised to the (normally) year-round cooler weather.

But I refuse to be defeated! I donned all my long gear, gloves, socks with my Birkenstocks (please, don’t tell anyone, but my feet got burnt during the week and I hate the t-bar tanlines!), hat and neck scarf and set about filling more holes in the lawn with soil.

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The lawnmower with trailer attached to the front (now that makes for interesting driving!) It was full of soil yesterday – we need more!

I forgot to mention yesterday, before I could fill the holes with soil, I had to load the trailer with the dirt! Man that was tougher than I thought it would be because the soil mound had been overgrown by weeds! But it was great being able to drive the lawnmower and trailer around and fill the bucket as needed, rather than filling the bucket from the source all the time. What a nightmare scenario that would have been!

So today, I thought I’d be able to finish everything, but I ran out of time and soil. Yesterday, I was so precise (hate being a perfectionist) and took out all the stones and packed it in nice and tight … After four hours today in the sun, I was practically throwing handfuls of soil into each hole and wanting to be done with it!

Saved by the bell! I was very, very happy to see Sandra arrive, so I downed tools and we hung out. We haven’t seen each other since we went to the BEA festival in early May.

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Sandra came to help clean the pool!

We drank glasses and glasses of water and chatted under the terrace umbrella. Leo arrived home early which was great, so we three had a “welcome to the weekend” beer before Sandra went home.

Then we joined Rene, Liliane, Eve and Paul under the pool tent for dinner and played rummy (cards) til about 9.30pm. It’s been another great day.

The only downside is we were supposed to clean the pool this afternoon and start filling it with water. Unfortunately, Rene was unwell and didn’t emerge from the house. Neither Liliane nor I knew how to empty the dirty water from the pool, so we’ll do it all tomorrow morning before the Muse concert in Biel.

I may not write a blog tomorrow (unless I write before the concert), as we will be away from home from 3pm to midnight or so. We’ll drive the 40 minutes to Biel with the Vespa, and fingers crossed the expected thunderstorms don’t eventuate!

Really excited to see Muse, a three-piece English band, again. I love live music, and these guys know how to make a lot of noise and entertain people! They have an amazing stage show and presence.

My 30-Day Challenge continues. For fear of this turning into a gardening blog, I won’t post any example photos! I’m learning the common names (and maybe the Latin names?!) of three to four new plants per day. Today, I’ve memorised delosperma, which Liliane has in her garden, blue delphinium, which is growing in mine, and stonecrop angelina sedum which is growing in both our gardens.

Right, it’s time for bed! We’ve got a pool to clean and dancing to do tomorrow!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

June 4: A bit of everything kind of day

Today was an achieving kind of day. So many lovely things happened.

I received my new second-hand phone in the mail and spent a few hours setting it up (but it still doesn’t seem to be complete). But, wow, does it work faster than the one I was using in the interim, after mine died. While this was loading, I spoke with my sister on the home phone for about 40 minutes. Thanks for calling, Judy!

Then I met my friend Leonie for lunch which is always a good laugh. And then I went grocery shopping, because from Monday next week I start the I Quit Sugar program.

Recently, Leo has mentioned (in a lovely way) my skin has been looking less than glowing, and I’ve also been feeling less than energetic (despite all the garden work). The I Quit Sugar blog and program has been on my radar for a long time – a long time – and until now I’ve never thought it would be beneficial had the nerve to attempt it.

But in the guise of 2015 being the year of fitfor15in15, I thought why not give it a try?! It’s another experiment, and it will be interesting to see if giving up unnatural sugars for eight weeks will make a difference to my energy levels, my moods, my skin and my general well-being.

I have been eating a fair bit of sugar lately (hello M&M Peanuts!), so after years of thinking about it, it’s time to have a go. A few months ago, I did the 5:2 Diet, which was interesting, and I did lose two kilos in that month, but it’s not so much the weight I’m worried about, it’s the sense of feeling good. And I hate counting calories – boring!

So, here’s to the new experiment. If it’s as good as all the testimonials say, then I’m looking forward to jumping out of bed in the morning and not having any afternoon slumps. (Maybe I should put down that phone first thing in the morning too!)

This afternoon, I started filling in all the holes in the lawn, where the weeds used to be. While in the back part of the garden, near the forest, I found this wonderful, small, empty, pale blue and brown speckled bird’s egg. I did an internet search, but am still unsure as to which species it belongs to. Do you know?

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Not the best quality, sorry. Can you identify which bird it comes from?

It was a lovely thing to find, while tipping and patting dirt into holes. I just hope the baby hatched of its own accord, and wasn’t eaten by a falcon! When my back was hurting after an hour of being in the garden, I lay down on the grass, looked up to the clear blue sky, and watched a falcon swirling overhead. They really are magnificent to watch … I just hope that baby bird lives!

When I called it quits in the garden for the day, I had a beer with our neighbour Liliane, sitting back and relaxing and enjoying the wonderful warmth. Alas the Alps were covered in mist and cloud, but it was still so lovely to be soaking up our wonderful surroundings.

And last but not least for today, I’m on a mission to learn new things.

With help and encouragement from Freda, I’ve decided to join the 30-Day Challenge, from zenhabits. Well, I haven’t so much as signed-up on that website, I’m just doing my own thing, so to speak. I like reading Leo Babauta’s blog, it’s one of the minimalism blogs I mentioned here.

My challenge is to learn the names of three to four new plant varieties per day. The goal is to be able to recognise and name more than 100 new plants, which is about 94 more than I currently know.

Freda was quick off the mark to help with yesterday’s post – they are white campunala and pink thrift or sea thrift.

The two new ones for today are the tiny creeping phlox ‘candy stripe’ which I have in a heavy pot as part of a mixed gathering of perennials (its flowering days are just about over for the year), and the tall and hardy crocosmia x crocosmiiflora which is in my little garden. I love the colour and its long, majestic, slender leaves.

Creeping phlox 'candy stripe' which flowers early spring

Creeping phlox ‘candy stripe’ which flowers early spring

Crocosmia which flowers July and August

Crocosmia which flowers July and August

It was quite fun typing things into Google, such as “perennial plant with long green leaves and red or orange flowers” and seeing what pictures came up. What would we do without the internet?! The creeping phlox I stumbled upon by accident (looking for another plant, which hopefully I can name tomorrow!).

Wishing you a wonderful day.

June 2: She works hard for the …

I think I’ve worked out why I’ve been going like a bull at a gate on the weeds for the past two days (no, I’m not smoking anything green, just removing them from the lawn).

Not only are they Rene’s enemy, so therefore mine, I think I’m taking out my frustrations on not getting either of the jobs I’d recently applied for. I found out on Friday about the job in Zurich and yesterday about the job in Lausanne. In the wonderful words of Kevin Kline’s character, Otto, in A Fish Called Wanda, “DisapPOINted!”

So, I reckon I am currently in training to be a gardener and, to be honest, I wouldn’t mind that at all!

While working out with Brad today, I listened to the end of the Serial podcast. Manual labour and a mental workout all at the same time. Highly recommended! I won’t say anything about the series in case you haven’t heard it (but I really want to write lots of stuff and have a big discussion!!).

I was overly optimistic thinking I’d get the rest of the lawn done in four hours. It ended up taking just over six, and that was just pulling the weeds out. I’ll fill the holes with soil tomorrow. I enjoyed the work today more than yesterday for some reason – Brad behaved well, all my aches and pains were gone, and I have the Birkenstock tanlines on my feet to remind me of my labours.

Today was also a very big day in the kitchen. Last week, Rene and Liliane decided it was time for us to have a dishwasher, and today it was installed (replacing the small bar fridge). Leo’s eyes went wide when he found out about it, as he has lived here for 12 years without one. We don’t really need it, but it’s a lovely gesture and will be great when we entertain. Now we just need to buy more than the four plates and bowls we currently own! Ahahahahaha. No, that won’t be happening. (Honestly, we’ll probably only use it once a month!)

We finished the television series Derek tonight. Another series bites the dust! We’re on a Netflix roll! I love binge-watching a series and not having to wait a week for the next installment. I really enjoyed Derek, but have never cried quite so much in a supposed comedy series. (It’s set in an old people’s home … join the dots.) Ricky Gervais is a very clever man (although the character of Kev I could have lived without) and I wish I was cleverer and could write something more inspiring about him than him what is clever (said in my best attempted Derek voice).

It got completely dark around 10.15pm tonight. I took this poor quality photo of the full moon just before 10pm. Not long til the longest day, which always makes me sad, because it feels like every year it comes too soon.

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Still light enough outside for my old phone to take a photo!

Speaking of phones (caption above), my iPhone 5 was too far gone to be fixed, so Leo very kindly bought me a second-hand one off the internet which should be here by the end of the week! Yahoo! I can use Instagram again #fitfor15in15 @fitfor15in15

Disappointed Roger Federer lost today at the French Open. I’ll have to cheer for Stan now. Or Rafa. Are you watching any tennis? Are you Wimbledon fans too?

Wishing you a wonderful day.

June 1: A short affair

It was a short affair, with so much potential.

I’ve been itching to get my hands on this bad boy for a few weeks now, and today there was no holding me back.

He’s long and lean and good at his job. Let’s call him Brad. Putting Brad to the test sounds like fun, right? It shouldn’t be so bad, right?

Well, like most affairs, the idea was more exciting than the end result. He promised so many good things – at the least, a sense of happiness and satisfaction – and came up short. To be honest, I really wouldn’t mind if I never saw him again, but alas we have another date tomorrow.

Brad?

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The weed puller

Oh, Brad, you’ve ruined me! You’ve given me pain all over. My hands are bruised, despite the gloves, my left wrist aches, my back is twisted, my stomach’s sore … and there’s still so much lawn to be done. Waaaaaaaaa! We still have to be together tomorrow! Noooooooooo!

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Exhibit A – holes

I didn’t take before and after photos of the lawn, because, hey, even I found it hard to see the difference. If it wasn’t for all the holes Brad left behind, you wouldn’t even known we’d been through a third of the lawn. I’m finding it hard to believe 10 large buckets of weeds and earth have been removed from that area! Because the weeds grow so low to the ground, with a random bloom sprouting up a few days after it’s been mowed, the change is hardly noticeable.

And really, who wants to see a weed? Holes aren’t much better, let’s be honest! Here’s what the clean section looks like …

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Exhibit B – doesn’t look all that different really

Rivetting huh? And the saddest part is that area took six hours to do – shoving Brad into the ground, twisting him clockwise, pulling him out, then pushing his lever (using my stomach mostly; that’s why it’s sore) to release the dreaded weed.

You know what’s even sadder? I still have two-thirds of the lawn to do! Luckily this third was the worst; I should be able to finish the rest in about four hours. Then I’ll fill the wheelbarrow with soil and fill in all the holes, so the lawnmower wheels don’t fall in them. Some of them are quite wide.

I forgot to say Rene came home from hospital yesterday, in good spirits. He felt fit enough to go into his cellar to retrieve a gift for Leo and I, much to Leo’s disgust! In an effort to tighten the purse strings, I accepted our neighbours’ kind offer of their old door hanger, to keep the flies out and let the breeze in. Now it really feels like summer! Waiter! Where’s my pina colada?!

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If you can’t go to the Caribbean, bring it home!

I can’t wait for my summer fling with Brad to end. He’s nowhere near as exciting, or satisfying, as I thought he’d be. But I’m sure Rene’s happy we’ve spent this time together.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

May 27: Five hours in the garden

Today was a busy, do-it kind of day, as opposed to yesterday’s nothing kind of day.

First off yahoo, the sun came out!!!! so it was time to scoop the leaves out of the pool to prepare for summer fun. In the next few weeks, it will be cleaned with a power hose, old water out, clean water and chlorine in and then final ingredient – just add people.

Rene kindly ‘made’ me a pair of gumboots from an old pair of fishing waterproofs, which came up to his thigh. They’re really old and he never uses them anymore, so he cut them off just below the knee. Because they were about five sizes too big, I wore a thick pair of socks and a pair of slipper kind of things as well. But I was dry and clean, and in this mess, that’s all that mattered …

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Gumboots at the ready …

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… let’s clean this thing!

The leaves and algae/gunk on the bottom were quite think and the smell was pretty foul too. Leo came home quickly on his way to a meeting, so he snapped some pictures to prove I stood in that cesspool.

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Had to block my nose!

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Dumping the leaves and getting a little sunburnt

I forgot to take an after photo, but all the leaves are gone and plenty of the gunk/gunge is still floating on the bottom but at least it will flush out easily with the jet hose.

Then Rene mowed the lawn and I whipper-snippered a large section behind the garage, where the forest is creeping closer and closer.

It’s amazing how fast the time goes when you’re working outdoors. I definitely gave my arms a good workout, scooping and snipping. And there’s a bit of colour on the back of my neck and arms. Oops!

Speaking of colour, here are my little garden photos at long last.

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Pinks and purples and one red one

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Lots of colour in the pots

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In the corner near the herb garden

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Geraniums and snapdragons on the kitchen window …

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… and geraniums on the unused, north-facing balcony

Wishing you a wonderful day.

May 21: Running around without raising a sweat

Today was an on-the-go kind of day – I should have worn my running shoes!

My phone died this morning (Leo says from overuse – can’t argue) so I borrowed the neighbours’ car to go to a nearby shopping centre with a phone store, hoping they could fix it. No luck – it’s been sent away for a week, like a naughty kid suspended from school – but at least I have my old phone to use in the meantime.

This is one time I’m glad I haven’t been a minimalist and gotten rid of the old phone as soon as the new one arrived. The old one feels like a brick in comparison, and the photo quality will be pretty average, but I’m contactable, which feels more important than it should be. I’ll carry my compact camera around in case I see Betsy and friends again.

Amazing things, cars. I even managed to do a grocery shop AND go to the nursery for more plants and soil. I wasn’t going to put planter boxes on the upstairs balcony but hey, I needed geraniums. It wouldn’t be a Swiss house without geraniums. I was trying to avoid conforming, because it seems like it’s compulsory to have planter boxes overflowing with red geraniums in Switzerland … so I chose pink ones instead. Still a rebel.

Couldn’t plant them this afternoon because it was raining so much, but hopefully I’ll do it on Saturday … if the weather gets any better. It was five degrees Celsius this morning, and 10 degrees at 3pm. Come back spring, we miss you already.

I really, really, really have lost my exercising mojo. I feel worn out, and I look it too, but really, I’m not worn out, I’m just being lazy. Which is a shame because the fitfor15in15 six-month mark isn’t too far away and I want to look and feel my best. (I blame the mammoth book, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, that I’m still reading. What a sorry sack that whole story is at the moment – it’s leaching into every pore).

So, banishing the book and with the halfway mark as my motivation, I’m off to do 15 minutes of squats with hand weights, push ups, sit ups, lunges and all that kind of malarkey.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

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Here’s Betsy’s hairy Scottish cousin, Beryl, who lives in the north of Switzerland

May 18: Monday Runday – 4km

I didn’t think I’d be able to do Monday Runday today, because of that pain in my right butt cheek, which has been … well … A RIGHT PAIN IN THE ARSE!

But after reading in the hammock and finishing off the rest of the lawnmowing in the furthest part of the front lawn, I was itching to do more. Because I was covered in grass clippings and grotty already, I thought, c’mon, why not go for a run and test out the injury?

Worried the 5km would be too far, I did the 4km loop and surprisingly, it went ok. It wasn’t a record-breaking time, at 28 minutes, but that included some jumping of muddy puddles on the trail path through the forest and stopping for three photos. I didn’t have to walk at any stage because of pain, so I’m happy! Six hours later the bum/thigh is still happy too.

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A last glimpse of the fields before heading into the woods

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A cool trail path, literally and figuratively

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Nice to see hay bales near home after so many on the recent Swiss Camino

It was about 24 degrees today. Lovely! Still haven’t taken photos of the new garden plants. Maybe I’m not that inspired by them? I’ve gone for a different planterbox filling  – no geraniums this year! How very un-Swiss! Maybe that’s why I’m not feeling the love?

Wishing you a wonderful day.

May 17: Mentally fit with a book

A very relaxing day with absolutely no exercise whatsoever. Well, I finished putting the new plants into the garden this morning (and promptly forgot to take photos) so that could be classified as exercise. Now there’s some colour behind the hedge, in the garden, on the outdoor table and a window box next to the front door.

The hammock had its first workout; I started Donna Tartt’s new book, The Goldfinch, and lay under the umbrella for a while before the cool breeze sent me back inside. There’s nothing like a swing in a hammock for relaxation I reckon, preferably under palm trees with a blue ocean and white sand close by, but hey, the forests of Wohlen bei Bern and that sensational fresh-cut grass come a close second.

I need to finish the Cary Elwes audio book too, I’ve been neglecting it a bit because his voice is just so jolly posh you can only handle so much of it for so long! If you’d like to see short reviews of the books I’ve read this year, click here. Unfortunately, I’m well behind on my goal of 52 books in 2015. Can it be salvaged? The Goldfinch is going to take me a while to get through – at 864 pages, I won’t be ripping through it in a few hours, like the past few books – so maybe I’ll have to choose some shorter ones to get back on track … is that cheating?!

We also started watching a new Netflix series, Luther, tonight. It’s about a London detective with many problems and some questionable techniques trying to do his job. I’ve been a fan of the main actor, Idris Elba, since he was in The Wire but so far the recurring storyline of series one has me shaking my head in disbelief. I only hope it gets better!

Still having small problems with my right butt cheek muscle, but it’s slowly feeling better and I hope I’m up for Monday Runday tomorrow!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

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Someone’s clever “rockwall” garden on the walk into Einsiedeln. It was high and long!

May 16: Gardening all day!

Rene, our neighbour and owner of the whole property, called us this morning and asked if we could help him clean the ride-on lawnmower today. No problem!

From midday, we prepared the mower to be in tip-top working condition. We both got a bit sunburnt! Oops. Here’s Leo cleaning out all the caked-on grass.

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Scraping off the hard grass

I cleaned another part and Rene sharpened the blades and then we put it all back together again. After nearly two hours it was ready to go, and Rene was ready for bed!

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Rene decided to have a little pause here

The grass was still a bit too wet to mow after yesterday’s all-day rainfest, so Leo and I put up the umbrella at our house and rebuilt the hammock holder. We also made a quick trip to the local shop for some new plants and soil.

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The terrace looking all summery with the soon to be planted flowers on the table

When we came home, I jumped straight on the mower and did just the back of the house and half of the front. Rene wants to see if the grass in the furthest part of the front lawn can thicken up a bit if we cut it less. So the grass looks a bit half and half. We had lots of problems with the wet grass clogging up the mower again. Afterwards, I decided to weed around the little house Liliane calls the pergola, where they have dinner parties and so on. It’s like a small shack with two tables and an indoor fireplace. Lovely in winter and great for barbecues in summer. Didn’t take a photo of that, I’m afraid.

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Looking good

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Can you see the line where I stopped mowing?

Leo made dinner then we sat outside with Liliane and Rene admiring our handiwork and watching all the birds. We finished the night with the James Bond movie Thunderball. I’m feeling exhausted! Right butt cheek muscle is feeling better today, so that’s another win!

Looking forward to planting all the new flowers tomorrow.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

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My little garden will get a spruce up tomorrow