Friday I’m in Love: The English Hedgerow

The perfect English hedgerow is an ephemeral thing and this year I was lucky to be on the spot at the right time. The ingredients are:
Hedges (of course!)
IMG_0329 Key trees are oak, ash, blackthorn or sloe, beech, hazel and the occasional horse chestnut, but absolutely vital to a spring hedgerow is hawthorn, or as it’s known when in flower, “May”.
IMG_0330 Occasionally the “hedge” is a wall…
IMG_0331 …and there should be the odd gate or gap to allow a view of the fields beyond.
IMG_4657 Wild flowers peeping out from the grass;
IMG_0332 And last but by no means least: cow parsley. Not that spectacular seen singly,
IMG_4659 but in drifts…beautiful!
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Happiness Project: Reading Lists

I never need to make the resolution to read more; reading is one of my main pleasures in life.

And travel is for me a good opportunity to catch up on some different reading, so my packing for trips back to Europe aways includes a variety of books I might not get round to reading otherwise. This trip I’m (re)reading “Howard’s End is on the Landing” by Susan Hill, in which the author spends a year reading – and writing about – books she already owns. It has started two trains of thought…

The first is that, like Ms Hill, I have books on my shelves that I have either not yet read, or which warrant re-reading. I’m going to set aside a bookcase for these so that they are always on hand when I’m in need of literary  inspiration. There are probably enough that I won’t need to buy a new book for six months if not more! Not that it will stop me…

And the second is to actually write down the titles of the interesting books Ms Hill mentions that I haven’t got, so that I can read them too. It’s going to be quite a list!

Which leads me to more lists:

A friend posted this IMG_0188

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on Facebook and I’m trying it for a different approach to book selections. I’m working on my first line and so far I’ve read or am reading: “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert – over 500 pages; “The Black Moth” by Georgette Heyer – author under 30; “Paprika” by Yasutaka Tsutsui – one-word title; “The Killing Floor” by Lee Child – first book by a favourite author; “Black Cherry Blues” by James Lee Burke – book a friend loves. Only 150 pages of the first to go…another book that’s in my packing!

More of a challenge is this list. And this is well-nigh impossible! So far I’m up to 31 and 110 respectively. I don’t expect to finish…

What do you like to read. How do you make your selections?

 

Friday I’m in Love: Bacon Sarnie

Heading back to England for a few errands and a catch-up with everyone. I’m already salivating at the prospect of indulging in some of the foods I can’t get here…

Top of the list is Bacon. By which I mean back bacon. IMG_0186There is no American equivalent. This is one of the few English things I truly miss…to the extent that I even did a course at Altadena’s Institute of Domestic Technology to learn how to make it myself. Fun as well as useful…though I have yet to source the perfect cut. I’d love to hear from anyone in the Pasadena area who knows where I can get the right part of the pig!

Bacon is best eaten as a “sarnie” or butty”, the perfect indulgent breakfast, and an excellent hangover remedy!

What do you miss from your home?

Descanso in April

More technical issues this month, but I did manage to make one successful trip…

I fell in love with some new trees. This (I think) is the redbud I photographed before, now in full leaf.

P1020365What a beauty!

A strawberry tree in the entrance courtyard.

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This is a magnolia, I think. Just beautiful.

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A huge bottle-brush tree by the Bird Observation Station.

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And I was captivated by the tulip tree outside the Boddy House.

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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!

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…

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

 

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?

Friday I’m in Love: Tulips

If bluebells are the shy beauties of spring, tulips are the chorus girls. They are typically colourful and wildly effective en masse. Attractive enough to have caused arguably the world’s first speculative bubble and to have inspired some of the world’s most best artists.

I was late planting mine and so I’m only just seeing flowers.

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Descanso Gardens is more organised and the results are spectacular!

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