Monthly Archives: April 2014

House Update: Crane Day…again…

I thought once our roof was on we would be done with heavy machinery. But no…

Once the house was done we wanted to add a pool. The original plan was for a classically-styled in-ground pool with a spa and a tanning platform, all tastefully landscaped to match the rest of the house. Then we found out how long the planning process would take and what it would cost in permits and fees before we even broke ground, and we simply didn’t want to wait. So, on to plan B.

We’re neither of us big swimmers, and there isn’t much room on the terrace, so we decided to go for an above-ground swim-spa. It has seats around the edges for relaxation, and a deeper section in the centre where one can do water-based exercises, or swim against a current. We chose one made by Arctic Spas, which arrived on a lorry from Canada, and after some palaver getting it off the back of the truck, sat on our driveway for a week or so while we did the prep work on the terrace.

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But, it weighs 2000lb, so there was no way we were carrying it around the back by ourselves! Which brings me to the heavy machinery…

First came thisIMG_4037

Which lifted the tub off the driveway, across the garden and into the back…

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And then came this little baby

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which was walked through the garden onto the terrace, where is did this…

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…and then this…

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After some maneouvring

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the pool is in place and in use.

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It’s not as pretty as we would have liked (more landscaping required!) but it took eight weeks to install, from placing the order to swimming. Yay!

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Friday I’m in Love: First Fruits

So exciting…! I have been so preoccupied with house and visitors that I have rather neglected my kitchen garden. But this week I got two new presents.

First is a pair of gooseberry bushes. IMG_4156It seems gooseberries are not popular in California but Lovely Man loves them. And so I managed to track down some plants. Here’s hoping…

And second is my first actual produce…IMG_4157…mulberries. Not going to be making jam any time soon, but it still very rewarding to have results so quickly. Now if I can only keep the birds off until they’re properly ripe!

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Filed under Gardens, Happiness Project, Kitchen garden, Nature, Plants

Monday Pinspiration: Entertaining Little Guests

As I mentioned, this week we are welcoming Lovely Man’s family to stay. Since BH is more than half child himself, he’s particularly excited about the two grandsons (2 and 3) – small but very active!

They are coming from England and will not have much with them beyond iPads and a couple of essential toys, so I have been trawling Pinterest for ideas on how to keep them entertained. I focused on games they can play outside (this is California after all!)…

Here are some of the ones I thought looked fun:

IMG_0251Penguin races

IMG_0250Colour and shape jump

IMG_0253Toddler tennis

IMG_0262Water sponge fights

IMG_0255Water balloon target practice

IMG_0256Water balloon baseball

I just hope we have the energy to keep up…

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Friday I’m in Love: springtime creatures

The arrival of Easter confirms the arrival of spring. And Pinterest is full of lovely ideas on how to celebrate. Here are some of my favourite springtime creatures to create…

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Hen-shaped egg cozies

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Chick Beanbags

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How cute is this pincushion?

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Bird on a branch 

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Crochet butterfly

 

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House Update: Guest Rooms

What makes the ideal guest room? We are expecting a visit from Loveley Man’s’s eldest daughter and her family this week so this question is very much on my mind. For me, the perfect room combines practicality with comfort, and I take inspiration from some of the nicer hotels I have stayed in.

First is the bed. I’m a bit of a princess when it comes to sleeping, so I add a down topper to the mattress. Good quality linens that feel gorgeous on the skin. A pretty spread. Plenty of pillows for comfort and support. And an extra blanket for snuggling – rarely needed in California I know, but so cosy!

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Closet space and hangers. Guests may be only staying overnight, but they’ll probably need to hang SOMETHING. My parents always complained that the guest rooms in our English house had no hanging space so I ended up putting a bar and hangers on the back of the bedroom door. Better than nothing. The house here has built-in closets in every bedroom (got to love America!) so I just need to add hangers.

A night stand with good lighting for reading. Storage for loose items…I use pretty plates.

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Adequate (and easily found) sockets/outlets. This is my biggest beef with a lot of hotel rooms – where do you plug in your phone or camera charger? That said, I once stayed in a hotel which had sockets built into the bases of its table lamps. Genius! At home I make do with power strips or charging butlers. I also stash spare phone leads in the drawer of the nightstand in case a guest forgets theirs.

Lots of  towels. I like to wrap myself in a bath sheet when I’m done in the bath or shower but I also add smaller towels and face cloths, prominently displayed.

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The guest room also has a couple of hotel-style bathrobes, for extra welcoming factor…

Spare toilet rolls. There’s nothing more embarrassing than having to ask..! I learned from experience and keep a basket by every toilet in the house. I also make sure I have spare toothbrushes, razors etc. available, just in case.

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That’s the necessities covered. Then come the welcoming touches that make people feel you are glad to have them stay! Flowers or a pretty plant in the bedroom are a nice touch, but again I tend to lean towards the practical…

Lotions and potions. Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, soap…you get the idea. I like L’Occitane’s Verveine (Verbena) range, which smells so refreshing in the morning, and is available in travel sizes. And the leaf-shaped guest soaps are so cute!

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But this idea

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is nice too……a future project! And a scented pillow spray to encourage peaceful sleep…

A hair dryer. And a mirror. This Venetian beauty

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came with us from England.

Midnight snacks! So nice not to have to wander around a strange house in the dark if you can’t sleep! While we can’t run to guest mini-bars, I do provide a tray with an electric kettle, cups, and a choice of teas, coffee and hot chocolate, plus nibbles and a water carafe and glass.

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An iron. My everyday iron is one of those scary steam-generating types, so I have a spare for guests. I also have a dinky table-top ironing board from my dress-designing days that hangs in the guest closet, too.

And books! I rarely travel without them, but it’s always nice to have some new reading matter. There are bookshelves in almost every room of our house but for guests I try to offer some favourite easy reads, plus a selection of local guides.

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What would be in your ideal guest room?

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Friday I’m in Love: Pool-friendly plants

I’m planning a planter to go alongside our new hot-tub (on which more next week). From a practical point of view the plants need to be hardy, drought tolerant and evergreen. Ideally they should be tall or visually interesting, to disguise the boring wooden sides of the spa.

I’m leaning towards succulents. Nothing spiny or sharp, but there are some beauties out there that would make a striking display. Here are some inspirations from Pinterest…what do you think?

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March at Descanso

March is a colorful – and busy! – month at Descanso Gardens. While the camellias are still giving their best, joined now by the clivias planted beneath them,

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other trees and shrubs are getting in on the act. The cherry blossom in the Japanese Garden warrants a festival all to itself, well-deserved when you see how beautifully they combine with the azaleas and acers with which they share space.

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This

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is holly. I’ve never seen it blossom before.

And horse-chestnut

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– a real reminder of English springs!

The dogwoods (though not strictly a blossom) deserve an honorable mention.

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And a relatively new plant to me – the redbud.

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And don’t get me started on the bulbs…!

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