Monday, 30 June 2014

My kitchen with a big heart

My kitchen although small, certainly crams a lot of activity into it. The cooking of course and the baking, when I have the time. Pleasant afternoons spent with the smell of vanilla wafting around the room and sprinkles to decorate with. Some painting courtesy of my 4 year old and making gloop with cornflower on a rainy weekday. All our messy play happens in here with my boy perched on a stool or stood on a box to get to the work surface. 

This is also where I am pestered for food all day long from preparing snacks of cheese and crackers to sausages and chips - child fodder! I seem to spend most of the day in the kitchen which is not so bad as it's quite a pretty place. 
One of my favourite pastimes is staring out of the kitchen window, at the rain more often than not and planning what to do with the garden should the sun shine. My place to stand with a cup of coffee in the morning, full of good intentions. I use the window sill to grow a few herbs and sometimes some frost tender plants, an overspill from the greenhouse. At other times I snip a few roses or other flowers from the back garden and stick them in a jam jar or a jug to brighten up a dull day. 
This time of year is busy in the kitchen with plentiful produce from the allotment. Handfuls of broad beans and peas to be podded and red currants and summer raspberries to be cleaned and whizzed up into fruit smoothies or used in puddings. Soon the potatoes will be ready and the courgettes. The kitchen becomes a production line of cleaning, cooking, pickling, making jam and trying out new recipes. 
I'm gradually running out of space in my little kitchen. The washing machine is in here taking up a fair bit of space that would be better as a cupboards for my growing number of kitchen items from coffee machines and bread makers to the Pyrex collection. The kitchen really needs a good de-clutter if I'm honest. We keep hold of fancy wine glasses and champagne flutes when we do not drink either very often. If I had more space we would also love a slimline dishwasher since the mountain of pots everyday is a constant source of moaning. If we did have a dishwasher I would try Fairy Platinum to make my dishes all sparkly. 

So here is a snapshot of the whole kitchen, shoes and wellies by the door, dog dishes on the floor, my son's PECS communication book on the storage box that doubles as his seat and something to stand on to reach the worktops. Lots of stuff! A fridge full of magnets and reminder notes. My lovely heart of the home. 
This post is an entry for the “My Kitchen Story” Linky Challenge, sponsored by Fairy Platinum

Friday, 20 June 2014

You're my rock of Gibraltar

When I saw a Pinterest competition hosted by Love Chic Living to put together a board based on one of Cunard's Mediterranean destinations. There are some amazing places from Italy to Portugal but I instantly chose Gibraltar.

Standing at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea is Gibraltar. A curious place at the southern end of Spain and just across the short crossing to Morocco, a little British enclave that I visited some years ago.

It is an intriguing place, a melting pot of cultures and influences. It is so strange to be in Spain and then pass through passport control and be in surroundings that feels so English with red phone boxes, an M&S store, fish and chip shops and British police - all in a beautiful Mediterranean setting. I was taken with Gibraltar and all its quirkiness - the rock from which views are spectacular, the cheeky Barbary monkeys that will jump on your shoulders, the cable cars and the busy Straits of Gibraltar full of all sorts of seafaring vessels. 

My board reflects the mixture of influences to the area - lots of Mediterranean, a bit of bohemian kasbah thrown in nodding to Morocco and of course Rule Britannia. An eclectic mix, which is what I like in my home. 

Follow Happy Homebird's board Gibraltar on Pinterest.

I like bright and happy colours so many of the Mediterranean colours are perfect. Warm pinks and different hues of yellow. Contrasted with blues that reflect the shades of the beautiful warm Mediterranean Sea. Pink printed fabrics, yellow cushions and accessories such as seashell and lanterns that remind me of a bustling medina quarter, flickering from with a secret doorway. 

Clashing colours is the go, items of furniture painted in a mixture of colours and rugs with colourful patterns. The more colours the better and light voiles fluttering in a gentle breeze across the window. A place to relax and unwind.

A few items to remind of Great Britain, perhaps some framed Union Jack postcards or some bunting. 

Fretwork and lace, patterned layers adding texture and depth to a room.

Geometric patterns and diverse items. Old meets new.

Glassware, a sea green lamp made from glass made on Gibraltar. Items collected at the local market. 

Of course being by the sea and with the Strait of Gibraltar being such an important body of water - it connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean, there is a hint of nautical in here too. Europe and Africa are under 8 miles apart at the narrowest point so you can see why there is a mixture of the cultures. 

Flora and fauna inspired items feature in my collection. Flower and fruit patterns and succulents in terracotta pots in the window. Vintage botanical pictures to brighten an entrance. 

Kitchen wares with fish on make me feel like rustling up a healthy lunch and then sprinkling herbs on which have been grown in the terraced area. Heady scents fill the air and are carried to my bedroom where the floral patterns make me think of bougainvillea. The Mediterranean to me is health and vitality, relax, move slower and appreciate everything around you. My items on the board make me feel chilled out, anything goes. 

Now, there's a knock on my beautiful green door. Do come in for a glass of wine....

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Coastal homes and gardens

After our Welsh holiday where we stayed in New Quay, West Wales I am now smitten with seaside houses. We did a fair amount of day tripping during the week from the scenic Ceredigion coast to a trip to St David’s and Tenby on the Pembrokeshire coast. On our travels I saw so many beautiful homes and gardens in the picturesque villages we visited. Here are some delights I saw for a bit of coastal inspiration.
Coast perfect house with bay trees either side of front doorPretty colour-washed houses with flower filled window boxes. Rows of rainbow coloured terraces that remind me of Balamory. I feel the desire to paint my house pink or yellow now but not sure if that would be ok with the neighbours and would look a bit odd in Cheshire. Why do seaside towns tend to have brightly coloured houses? I have read that it was so that sailors could recognise their houses from sea as they came back into the harbour? Maybe? I also read that it was once to cover the cheap local stone that the houses are made from and to weather proof. Probably. 
pastel coloured house exteriors New Quay, Wales New Quay house overlooking the harbour sky blue house
Perhaps a compromise for suburban Cheshire would be a bright pink door like this house which is actually a holiday cottage. You can see their web address in the picture, I had a look and there are so many pictures of the interior too which is superb. I also now want coastal inspired rooms too! I love the box topiary cones in matching pink planters. I would like to try this at home and paint my plastic plant tubs up.
little pink door house in New Quay WalesTraditional cottages with a quaint charm and quietly tucked away homes were found on coastal walks. These gardens were separated from their houses by the Wales Coast Path which is a public right of way. Dragons, gargoyles aplenty and gravel gardens with tall daisies, valerian and bright red geraniums. I also loved the nautical themed gardens with crab pots used as garden decorations with pebbles and shells - an idea I will most certainly steal and I’ve a little collection already of different types of seashells and smooth pebbles. On the lookout for a used crab pot now on my next travels….
coastal path garden overlooking the sea crab pots dragon house decoration daisies coastal cotage
I love the front gardens of these Period properties. Many had benches at the front and I saw plenty of people sat there enjoying a glass of wine in the evening. That would suit me perfectly, not the wine but the community aspect. I’d say hello to passers-by and watch people go about their business. The back gardens were quite often a small yard or patio with a table and chairs and potted plants. Who needs a large garden though when you are all but a walk away from the beach.
period property New Quay Wales Balcony garden
Some grew vegetables in the front gardens. Runner beans grew up canes and there were pots of tomatoes. Decking terrace gardens with dining areas for entertaining with chimineas, bunting and lavender spilling through iron railings – this is all just bliss to me. Palms and spiky cordylines in many gardens as is the norm in UK seaside resorts.
coastal garden terrace with bunting pretty coastal cottage coastal garden coastal front garden Houses nestled into the hillside with amazing sea views. I could easily imagine waking up and looking out of my window at all the fishing boats bobbing about. I’d have a telescope and some binoculars as there are bottlenose dolphins regularly seen in Cardigan Bay. We were fortunate to see some from the elevated view on a coastal walk at Mnwt. Two playful dolphins could be seen having fun by the rocky shore. A magical moment although I was slightly on edge with a firm grip on my son. We were not near the edge but he picked this moment to have a huge tantrum and the height and the crying then made me worry.
hillside houses New Quay Wales Grand villas with gardens on different levels.posh coastal home old seaside terraced house Pots everywhere! A perfect looking hosta - does the salt air keep the slug population down? :)hostas Houses and their gardens in coastal towns are so quirky. I love the bright colours and the wide range of artistic expression. I adore the house names that they all seem to have and even the curved lettering. The orange of the nasturtiums is a great clash with the purple door and I love the rustic gate. Looks very spiritual here.
purple house St DogmaelsBlue paint details and pinky geraniums are perfect. Geraniums are one of my favourites; cheap, don't get eaten and last all summer and beyond. They also withstand the heat well and are tolerant to drought. If I forget to water them, they don't keel over.Blue and white coastal house
The Georgian harbour town of Aberaeron had very smart coloured houses with respectable pots filled with pansies and the like outside. All very symmetrical.
Aberaeron coloured houses pots and benches
I loved this house in Borth, which is north of Aberystwyth. It is a wonderful wood panelled house and I think the painting they have used, purples, whites and blues goes so well. At the side they had a shed and a woodstore painted up in whites and blues so very beach hut like.
beach hut house
This old coast guards cottage certainly has a garden area with a fantastic view. How do you fancy having morning tea overlooking the bay. For sale at the moment!old coast guards house Tenby old coastguards house garden overlooking the sea coastal cottage blue door
Joining in with Mammasaurus for How Does Your Garden Grow?

Mammasaurus and How Does Your Garden Grow?

Thursday, 12 June 2014

How does your garden grow in Wales?

We are all on holiday at the moment in the idyllic harbour of New Quay, Wales having a lovely sunny time and I have been enjoying looking at all the coastal gardens here and further afield along the Cardigan coast. From rambling roses to pot plants nestled around steps and towering Monkey Puzzle trees, I am loving it all.
 photo IMG_2353_zps7b5859e7.jpg pink roses monkey puzzle tree There are many pastel coloured terraces houses here and in the sunshine they look stunning especially with a tub of rich red geraniums on the window sill or a pink rose scrambling around a doorway. I tried to take some pictures of the coastal gardens that I’ve come across in an inconspicuous fashion but I sure wish I had a free pass to look at the back gardens of these fine houses and sweet cottages. A quick check that nobody is looking and snap, snap....

Red valerian is prolific in these parts and every time we go on holiday I want to grow this pretty red to pink flower at home. It is growing from walls, on corners, through rusty gates, in glazed pots, from nooks of cottages and basically everywhere. A couple of years back in Dorset I looked around at many garden centres to buy it to take home. I eventually found some but alas it did not obviously like the northern weather and has hence disappeared from the pot it was planted in. I suspect that it got water logged over the winter and the roots simply rotted. 
pretty coloured house New Quay, Wales red geranium window boxes roses around a Welsh terraced house red valerian in a coastal village Roses seem to be very popular but of course it is rose month, since June to me is when most are blooming like my pink fairy rambler at home. The sight of a pretty reddy pink roses scrambling up a stone wall against a blue sky makes my heart sing. Also in full glory at the moment are the majestic foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) and the lime green Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla Mollis). Hanging baskets are starting to flourish with petunias and honeysuckle is spilling over walls and fences everywhere with the bees most grateful.
I loved the little snippets of gardens that I saw. Even haphazard collections of pots look delightful and in keeping with the quirkiness of the houses they surround the entrances of. I am enamoured by walls with valerian and small rockery plants peeking out of cracks and crevices. A whole row of snap dragons (Antirrhinum) in the brightest yellow was a reminder that I love this plant and for the nostalgia it brings me. Who can remember pinching their fingers together in the petals and making that snap? I must grow some as I’m sure Little Bird would find them quite funny. They are actually a Mediterranean plant and frost tender so you have to be careful about when they get planted out.
roses on a white washed wall trough of white daisies foxgloves by a bench garden in St Dogmaels honeysuckle in June
What I love about the gardens I have seen is that many of them have an air of make do and mend. Pots that don’t match and makeshift planters filled with any mix of plants gives a certain charm and higgledy piggledy fashion that matches the houses and their character. Balconies and verandahs overlooking Cardigan Bay have an array of plants and I've seen veggies growing on them too, a clever use of a small space. What a view though. I think the beaches of Cardigan Bay are some of the most beautiful I've ever seen.
coastal garden red valerian Welsh front garden cottage with yellow front door
We visited a wonderful coastal village called St Dogmaels where there are the ruins of an abbey and we happened to time our visit well with a local producer’s market. Opposite there is a large duck pond and we were treated to a gentleman playing the saxophone at the back of a garden by a jumbles looking summerhouse. It was all just so perfect and even as we were drenched in a quick cloudburst of rain, the man started to play ‘Singing in the rain’ A moment I will treasure in a corner of my mind forever. After pottering around the market we had a nosy at the ruins and the churchyard. The fringes of these areas seemed to be decorated with sweet smelling roses draped over coloured or white washed walls and brightly coloured gates. Seaside towns are so colourful and I’d love to take a little bit of this home and think about painting parts of the garden more brightly instead of the usual shades of green. Bright glossy yellow and sky blue would be a happy sight. Accessories too such as old nets pinned to walls which I have tried to do at home and need to complete my inland seaside garden in the small alleyway at the back of our garden. Usually tat shops are the best place to find items for seaside themed gardens so I hope to buy a few items on our travels. Don’t you just love holiday shopping?
flowers on a market stall saxophone man St Dogmaels yellow gate white valerian bug house peep into a garden green summer house in a pretty garden It is Day 4 of the holiday today so plenty more coastal gardens to hopefully photograph over the next few days to report back with next week. Hoorah to snippets of gardens seen through gates ajar and over walls as you come down a hill. Great little peeks. The caravan site we are staying at also has a little vegetable patch and a garden that I’m going to explore too.

Joining in with Mammasaurus for How Does Your Garden Grow.

Mammasaurus and How Does Your Garden Grow?