Happiness project: after the rain

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June Gloom

Yes, I’m aware it’s July…

The phenomenon known as June Gloom is a marine layer that covers the coast of California, and a little way inland, in spring and early summer. As the name suggests, this happens most commonly in June, but can also occur in May and July.  We are about 50 miles from the ocean and at an elevation of 1700 feet, and the cloud usually burns off by mid morning. But mornings can be magical! 





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…

Terrace Garden

When we bought our house, one of the main attractions was the view. It’s beautiful, day or night.


But the main garden – a terrace that wraps the house to the south and west – was uninspiring. Serviceable, but fractured and a bit boring.


And in remodelling the new kitchen and porch, much of it got trashed.


So once the main building work had quietened down we started landscaping. We wanted a space for entertaining which was water-conscious and wildlife-friendly, in a Mediterranean style to match the house. Pinterest was a great source of inspiration!


The old spa bit the dust when we extended the porch so we began by getting rid of the old pink concrete.



Luckily a friend of Contractor John needed exactly that to build a wall, so it went to a good home! Then we marked out the beds, put in a drip system for irrigation, and edged them with salvaged roof tiles, an idea I’d seen at the Old Mill in Pasadena.


The main part of the terrace is a boules piste (bocce ball court to Americans).


John had never made one before but I found instructions here. Since we didn’t have oyster shells we used the tiny loose stones from erosion control bags. I can see it getting a lot of use once we start entertaining properly this summer!

The planting is a mixture of drought-tolerant aloes, euphorbias and succulents, California natives and Mediterranean plants. They’ve been in about six weeks now and are filling out nicely.



The seating area is positioned for the best views. It’s high desert flag, a greeny-grey stone already in use elsewhere in the garden, interspersed with gravel. I’ve planted Corsican mint in some of the gaps, which gives off a wonderful smell when stepped on. The seat can accommodate eight when separated, or pushed together becomes a massive lounger for when we feel like lying around.


Beyond that, at the back of the house, is the spot of the – future – pool or spa. Currently overflow storage for garden equipment and building detritus!


And at the other end of the piste is my kitchen garden.


Have you designed a garden for yourself? What are your inspirations?

Friday I’m in love: Red-tailed hawk?

On Wednesday I woke to mist so thick I could barely see across the arroyo. And it appeared that I was not the only one with vision problems…one of our local predators had the same problem. Normally these guys sit in the tops of the trees to spot their meals so I’ve only seen them from a distance. But that day – well, I just grabbed my camera, crept out onto the porch and snapped.



Difficult to tell from the seated shots (he was perched on a eucalyptus on the edge of our terrace), but when he took off I could see the tail. Am I right? I know they’re fairly common, but I was enchanted to be able to see one (relatively) close up!