June 8: Kärcher Queen

“I am the Kärcher Queen … Wrinkled and sweet … more than 43 … Oooh yeah!”

I should make a workout video with the Kärcher high pressure water hose. It’s great for your arms! Today, in 3.5 hours, this section behind the main farmhouse (I love a good before and after photo) …

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Green and slimy …

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Reverse angle

Became this …

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Pristine clean …

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Patches still drying

I quite enjoyed doing that. Much more than the lawn!

Today is also the first day of a personal challenge to do the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program. This is a fitfor15in15 new addition, to break what could be a bit of a sugar addiction and possibly feel a bit fresher.

A nutritional challenge, with only naturally occurring sugars, following set recipes, for eight weeks. I wonder if I’ll feel like a Berliner doughnut by the end of the program? (Must stop talking about doughnuts … it’s only day one!)

Breakfast was yum, lunch was fine and dinner was yum. Happy with that!

We watched the first two episodes of Liev Schreiber’s television drama series Ray Donovan. I’m intrigued. Jon Voigt also stars. Thanks again to Netflix for providing something different.

On to the 30-Day Challenge – more plant names!

In between the two geraniums in the pot near the front door, I planted a selection of coloured snapdragons (Antirrhirum majus). Not sure if they’re going to last as long as the geraniums though – they look a bit sad already.

I have a large, low growing patch of sea campion (Silene maritima) in my garden. The flowers seem to have had their best run, but hopefully it will continue to flower until August? Can only hope!

And last but not least for today … I mentioned a reddish brown succulent in a previous post and have now discovered its name – common houseleek or St Patrick’s cabbage (Sempervivum tectorum). We have random, small clumps of it growing between the fir/pine trees (must find out what their names are too!)

I’ve run out of time to do the As You Wish book review – hopefully tomorrow!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

June 7: Stormy night and a cool, calm day

A hilarious, if not a bit scary, end to a great night last night at the Sonisphere concert in Biel.

We survived the heat and looming storm clouds to see The Hives and then (after a break for a band we didn’t like) the main act, my favourite band, Muse, hit the stage. We had good positions for both performances, in a sea of 35,000 people.

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The Hives – getting hives in the heat!

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Some idiots in the crowd

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The main act, Muse

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Towards the end of the Muse show. They’re on stage in there somewhere

Both bands were great fun – the poor Hives played in the hottest part of the afternoon and were constantly dousing themselves in bottles of water on a hot, black stage, and Muse played a lot of songs from their new album which I haven’t heard yet. They were all great.

We rode the Vespa (40 minutes there), wearing shorts, sneakers and our bike jackets. We had cool, long sleeve, loose tops for the concert – I’m still amazed how people who wear practically nothing can cope with slathers of sunscreen (or none at all) and the inevitable (slight) sunburn that comes. And no hats! Put a hat on it!

Anyway, as the afternoon progressed, the storm clouds gathered. Leo and Pastora sent a photo of their balcony, damaged from the high winds, and wondered if we were ok as it was heading our way. Luckily, we had no rain and could just see plenty of lightning in the distance. Straight after the last song, we headed home.

The great thing about taking the bike is you can park close to the stadium, so we were underway quite quickly. I didn’t do up the top part of my jacket, which protects my neck with another zippered layer, so I could feel the breeze. It was great setting off, seeing the cloud formations, riding through small villages, in relative darkness except for the lightning flashes, and feeling pretty content on such a rare, balmy night.

Well, then! Whaddyaknow! The ride (but luckily not us) went belly up! A third of the way home, it started to rain. Really rain. A deluge. And then, it started to hail. A deluge of hail. The wind was blowing the bike all over the place and water was seeping into my jacket around my neck, so I hunched down behind Leo. Poor thing, he was getting battered, and with no windscreen wiper it was amazing he could see. People in the cars behind us must have been shaking their heads in disbelief. I know we were!

The hail was small but sharp and pinged our faces and bare legs. We were totally saturated when we got home at midnight. I took photos of my legs with all the bright red ‘ding’ marks from the hail, but I forgot to shave my legs before the concert, so decided you can just imagine it instead!

It was the first time either of us had been on a bike in such a downpour, and I was very grateful to Leo for getting us home. Another experience ticked off the list (not that I have a list, nor would that have been on it).

Today was a mental fitness day. I hung in the hammock (with a rug to keep off the cool breeze) and finally finished As You Wish, the audio book from actor Cary Elwes about his experiences working on the movie The Princess Bride. Will write a review tomorrow.

I admired the glistening pool, a chilly 18 degrees Celsius, then prepared some food for the I Quit Sugar program, which starts tomorrow – quinoa, for dinners, and toasted muesli, which tastes pretty darn good!

We watched the Swiss Cup football final between Basel and winners Sion and then bits and pieces of the French Open men’s singles final. STAN, the MAN, from SwitzerLAN(d), won his second GRAN(d) SLAM, beating Novak Djokovic in four sets. Even Roger was watching!

And now, as the next electrical storm rolls through the neighbourhood, I’ve made the ridiculously late discovery of how nice it is to write at my desk, with the office door open onto the balcony with the geraniums, feeling the breeze and smelling the rain. (Just got to make a screen door to keep the insects out!)

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The view from my desk, with Bellamy, the stuffed guinea pig, sneaking a peek

And now that the rain has stopped, the birds are going crazy as the sun sets.

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Peaceful and noisy, all at the same time

The 30-Day Challenge continues and today’s three plants are (why did I choose three to four each day? Why not one, you know? Most people would just choose one, but no, I have to go and choose three to four *smacks forehead*):

I remember African violets growing on my grandmother’s window sill in Brisbane (well, I think I do?!) and the Latin name is Saintpaulia ionantha.

Liliane, our neighbour, has a lovely patch of these Hardy Garden Pinks (Dianthus gratianopolitanus, which are almost red) in her front garden. I might steal some for next year!

She also has a herbaceous pink peony (Paeonia lactiflora, seen middle, far right, near the driveway in the above picture) which smells divine. I took a fading bloom for the kitchen because it was too sad to see it hanging near the ground, still with so much smell to give. I’m not sure of its variety.

And with that, I’m off!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

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.