The summer bedding is hanging on

Actually it's more than hanging on, it seems to be absolutely blooming. And that's quite odd as there's autumn leaves about too.  Checking on the garden when I get back from holiday is one of my coming home rituals. This Sunday though I was quite surprised with what I found. The pinks were finally flowering, and I've since cut these and brought them inside to enjoy.

Pinks in my garden

The begonias which I moved to the patio so we could enjoy their colour, are still flowering - but now they're joined by autumn leaves on the ground. A job we have for the weekend is to start collecting the leaves, especially those on the slate so the worms aren't tempted up to them and leaving soil in the slate, which in turn will encourage weeds to grow there. It's one of the jobs MOH tackles regularly, but when the garden is full of leaves we both can collect black sackfuls of leaves at a time.

summer bedding and autumn leaves

The sedums are even more vibrant than before we left for Portugal and usually are the things to add colour to the garden, but this year they've got competition!

autumnal colours of the sedum

As the cosmos is continuing to flower. It's looking a bit straggly now, but the flowers are still perfect aren't they?

the cosmos continues to flower

I discovered a pear outside the greenhouse with a small nibble out of it. Squirrels. I wish they'd take more than a few nibbles before discarding their bounty. I was quite impressed with the size of the pears we've grown this year, easily a fist and a half in size, but equally as rock hard as usual. Perhaps they're baking pears as they're definitely not eating pears.  I'm hoping the squirrel will remember he wasn't so keen before he picks any more, but I doubt it...

giant but rock hard pears

And yes that is a petunia nestled amongst the lavender. In October.

petunias nestled in the french lavender

The sunflowers that I randomly dotted around the garden have flowered too. They're mostly spindly, unlike the ones on the allotment which had more sturdy stems, but they are much taller.  As the wind blew I caught this one and had a closer look.

grabbing hold of my sunflower
And letting it go again

And yes, I let it go again.

In the greenhouse my Lords and Ladies from Dad are really taking off. I've been trying to grow these from roots from Dad's garden for a while so it's nice to finally see them grow. They're destined for the area by the gabion baskets, which seems to welcome woodland plants.

in the greenhouse my lords and ladies plant is finally growing

I've plenty of new succulent plants on the way too - thanks to the squirrel again. He seems to have taken a liking to my succulent trough and is picking the leaves, and then remembering he's not so keen. So I've been gathering them up and waiting for them to start growing again.  And it seems to be working.

Plenty of new succulent plants on the way, thanks to the squirrels

Outside the greenhouse the Mind Your Own Business has gone a bit bonkers too much to MOH's disgust. He's not a fan, but I am and well, once you've got MYOB it's not easily got rid of. I like how it creeps along paving and edges and softens the hard landscaping.

even the mind your own business has gone a bit bonkers

Nearer the house the fatsia is starting to do its thing, the bauble like "flowers" look great at this time of year, and I'm looking forward to seeing these develop into berries again.

the fatsia is starting to "flower"

How's your garden coping with this peculiar weather at the moment?  Surely mine isn't the only one that's showing two seasons at once?

There's no shower like home

A few weeks before my trip to Portugal I met up with the people from Mira Showers to learn more about how by spoiling my senses I could enhance my everyday routine. Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? But after a week away and trying out three different bathrooms (none of them bad) I've come to realise that there really is no shower like home!

But can you really make the most of your senses in your own bathroom?

I think you can, whether you're a shower or a bath person, whether that's a morning blast or a relaxing evening routine. For me, it depends on my mood, and more often than not the state of my hair.  Most mornings I wake up to discover my hair must have been having its own party on my pillow and needs taming before I can call myself anywhere near presentable. 

But back to those senses. Mira Showers challenged me to see, if by putting their tips and tricks into practice how I could make little changes and if they'd affect my mood and senses. So how do our senses - touch, taste, smell, sight and sound - play their part?
Photo credit: Mira Showers

Photo credit: Mira Showers

Here for me touch is all about my bathrobe, and soft luxurious towels. Thinking about it now my bathrobe is one of my favourite items of clothing but one I'm sure i don't spend anywhere near enough time in!  More time relaxing is something I should build into my day, and something that I'm hoping I can put into practice more often after our week away.  Mornings are usually a rush. A rush to get up - I wouldn't call myself a natural morning person - to have breakfast, to make lunch and to get out the door. 

I say I'm not a natural morning person but since I've started having my weekly veg box delivered, usually around 7am, I've found it's nice to have some time in the quiet of the house, and in my dressing gown. I'm hoping that the veg box delivery man doesn't mind that part of my routine too much, and I know having that extra bit of morning means I get to enjoy rather than rush through my shower!

And afterwards, not forgetting taste, sitting down with a cuppa in my hand to either catch up with my emails, a quick check on social media or a glance at the paper feels indulgent and my reward for being up earlier.  I think I should do this more often, at least a couple of times a week, and maybe I will.

Photo credit: Mira Showers

Photo credit: Mira Showers

At the bloggers event I got to make some natural and organic beauty products for the first time. They smell amazing and I amazed it's something I've not tried before. Using many store cupboard ingredients, like oats and coconut oil, they were easy to make too, and at risk of using a word too many times in one paragraph, they do make my skin feel amazing.

I arrived at the event with a bit of a sore neck, nothing major, I think I'd slept on it funny. Or perhaps my neck joined in the party that my hair has on the pillow and ended up worse off, who knows. But I've never been more pleased to see a mobile massaging station. And when one became free, I didn't need asking twice. 

Photo credit: Mira Showers

Photo credit: Mira Showers

We all know the advantages of relaxing, but I'd never really thought about how a knotty neck might feel to someone else. I was surprised to find that almost immediately hands were gently working on the spot that felt tight and even after a short massage my neck felt less tense and more relaxed.

There was also some great food and drink at the event which were both a feast for our eyes and to eat and drink. I couldn't not share a couple of photos of them, the cocktails and the bacon "jammy dodgers" - yum!

Photo credit: Mira Showers

Photo credit: Mira Showers

Photo credit: Mira Showers

Photo credit: Mira Showers

Photo credit: Mira Showers

Photo credit: Mira Showers

I've not touched on sight or sound in this post, and while baths are so much better with a scented candle I'm still not convinced that with a shower they'd have the same effect. It's something I'll have to try. And as for sound, sometimes it's nice to escape the sounds of everyday life and just be, so for me, depending on my mood sound can be an intrusion.

At the start of this post I said there's no shower like home, and you may be wondering why. That's down to the Mira Switch, which is a showerhead that switches easily - quite literally at the press of a button - between saturate, stimulate, soothe and soak.  In the short time I've been using this shower head I've realised how useful it is, and being away for a week emphasised this.

Photo credit: Mira Showers

Photo credit: Mira Showers

It's funny the things you quickly take for granted isn't it? And the things that you look forward to when coming back from a trip away.


* This is a collaborative post but all views and opinions are my own.

Reflecting on my week #6

What a week I've had, and we've done so much that it seems much longer than a week.  After a weekend exploring Porto on foot, on Monday we headed to the Pinhao in the Douro Valley by train. The journey took just over two hours and the further along we went, the more picturesque the views became.

The view from the train to Pinhao in Portugal's Douro Valley

When we arrived at Pinhao we were struck by two things. One was the heat, it was even warmer here than in Porto with temperatures regularly reaching thirty two degrees, something that everyone kept telling us wasn't normal. It was nice to feel the sun but it was hard work and I was glad the bike hire didn't work out!  

The second thing was the prettiness of Pinhao station. The tiles were a tourist attraction in their own right and in the short time we spent there during our stay coach parties arrived, snapped photos and went again and it was a great people watching space. I'll share more of those photos soon, but here's a taster until then.

Pinhao station is one of the prettiest stations I've seen
The tiled murals at Pinhao station were a tourist attraction in their own right

Our hotel was a thirteen minute walk away so we opted to walk rather than take a taxi. We soon discovered that the majority of those thirteen minutes were a vertical walk. In the heat. With our luggage. But thankfully we only had one large bag and MOH was in charge of that. Once we got there the view was spectacular, but everything we needed was down in the town.

But the view and the pool made up for it. 

The pool at LBV House hotel in Pinhao

We weren't expecting to have much pool time this holiday but with the temperatures there was some and some time with a good book was much welcomed. We also branched out, as well as tasting more port (well, when in Portugal) we also tasted some of the Douro wines. I've always said they taste sweeter than French wines, and on this holiday we found out why. The grapes here are smaller and sweeter and that flavour comes through into the wines, and there I was thinking I didn't have much of a sense of taste...

Tasting the wines from the Douro valley at Quinta da Bomfim

After spending most of the week exploring the small town of Pinhao on Friday we headed back to Porto by train, and I couldn't help but be pleased by the lower temperatures. They continued to fall throughout the afternoon, so much so, that there was fog. We wandered around a different part of Porto and I discovered a shop selling cabbage leaf tableware.  These have been on my purchase list for a while and usually on our trips we'll bring back something as a memory of the place, but perhaps not the usual souvenir. 

We ummed and ahhed and I chose the shallow dish I thought would be most useful and we decided to come back the next day rather than carry it around for the rest of the day and all of the following day. That was our downfall. It turns out quite a few of the shops only open Saturday mornings in Porto, and we missed it by twenty minutes or so.  We assumed it was closed for lunch, but checking our days more carefully we realised there would be no cabbage plate purchase. 

Ah well another time, I'm sure.  And maybe we'll just have to go back!

We spent our last night in Portugal a little way out of town and in our restaurant of choice we were presented with these starters. Asking for further information we learnt they were the "specials" and one was chicken gizzards, the other mushrooms. For five euros I remained suspicious and the starters remained uneaten.  Quite an odd choice we thought, but I'm sure

The suspicious starter

Quite an odd choice we thought, but I'm sure the waiting staff had a good giggle at the English couple eyeing up these starters suspiciously. The last laugh was on us though when we got them to taken them off the bill. We're not quite that green, although I feel I may have been if I'd attempted them.

I was back to work today and that was pretty full on. As usual there's a lot going on, but I'm also sure I'm still on Portuguese timescales as you so often are when you come back from a relaxing, but busy week away.  

I'm sure that's also the prompt to book some more time off, and actually that's a very good point... 

Excuse me while I check my calendar!