My most treasured things are second hand. Even though new things are very nice, there's nothing like the character only a second hand find delivers.
This second hand cane lounge suite is my favorite possie to drink my morning coffee. I looked everywhere to find an affordable romantic looking outdoor setting for this space, without any luck. This second hand suite was given to me after my sister sold her beach house. Her husband originally found it in an op-shop. I find that to get the character I want, second hand is most often where I find it.
When searching for a shabby-chic mirror, I went online to the usual home ware sites, like Ikea. I had no luck at all, but in the second hand Facebook market place, I found the one I adore.
The roses and ribbon that crown this curvy mirror say romantic, shabby-chic to me. Although I love the gold, I need a light and bright color scheme in this room. There are veranda's outside both windows which can make it quite dark. I have plans to paint it white using a little pot Annie Sloan chalk paint. The dark brown lounge is too dominant for the space. I'd really like a new one but I can't afford that. I'll make do with what I have and recover it in a cream or beige fabric.
You can see the chandelier refection in the mirror. This will also get painted white.
I've been visiting op-shops (thrift stores) in search of cardigans for winter. I did find some, but I also found some shabby chic picture frames and some very pretty tall glasses. The picture frames will be painted white and I'm going to get out my paints and create a still life of pink roses from my garden to go in them.
When walking in my garden I love noticing my second hand plants that add character. Plants I've taken from diving clumps of iris in Mum's garden and lambs ears from my sister's garden have taken off very well.
Cuttings of hydrangea, a neighbors gave me, have all grown well this year. A little burnt in our very hot summer, but they are budding up beautifully for next spring.
Dad gave me his grandfather's crown of rhubarb. It makes a lovely show of foliage in the border and I think of Dad every time I see it. Recently, I harvested some for a Rhubarb sponge desert to have for Easter lunch.
I harvested about a dozen stems and washed them well before cutting them into one inch peices. I placed them into a saucepan, covered them with water and added half a cup of sugar. I let this come to the boil and simmer until the Rhubarb was soft. I overcooked it a bit but it still worked out great. I added a little cornflour dissolved in water to thicken the syrup before turning off the gas. I spread it into a greased lasagna dish and then set it aside to cool a bit while I whipped up a packet mix of GF sponge cake.
I tipped a ribbon of cake mix over the top of the Rhubarb, moving the bowl up and down until the top was almost all covered. I lightly filled in the gaps with a spoon.
I baked it for about 40mins on 175C until the top was golden and the sponge bounced back when pressed in the middle. I can't believe how nice it tasted. As I'm writing this I'm sorry to discover that I don't have an after picture to post. It was Easter Sunday and I'd had a few glasses of wine so I'll hope you forgive me.
Imagine the sponge puffed and golden with the sweet and tart stewed rhubarb base steaming hot. I served it with whipped cream and it was very popular.
Because I feel bad, I'm posting this pic of some Easter eggs instead. By the way, they are sitting on a marble table that I bought second hand.
Creating a romantic home and garden doesn't have to be prohibitively expensive. Not only do I get to have fun seeing how far I can make my money stretch, decorating and creating a garden in my romantic style, but I also find the character filled pieces that bring my home and garden to life.
It's not something you can achieve quickly. A romantic home and garden is curated over time, but it's absolutely worth it and you always have a reason to drift through your local thrift store and see what treasures you might find for a song.
I hope you all had a lovely Easter and I wish you happy thrifting for items that will add character to your romantic home.
Dora Bramden writes heart-melting, passionate romance.
The Healing Power of Flowers
Since I blogged last week, I’ve had a Birthday and was lucky enough to be given a lovely bunch of pink roses. They are a delight and have been giving me a lot of pleasure, which I’ve needed because I’ve also been struggling with the run up to the anniversary of Mum passing away on March 20th 2017. I’ve been in need of all the uplifting flowers can do this week. Those roses have been in my dining room reminding me of the dear friend who gave them to me and her a warm, loving hug that accompanied the gift of the flowers. She knows that birthdays are a little bit hard for me now.
The garden has been barren of blooms for a while, but has finally put on a little early autumn show which entices me out to smell and admire the rose bushes each morning. It helps to lift the veil of sadness I’m waking up with every day. I picked some roses and made a posy which, you might have seen if you follow me on Facebook and Instagram . Each time I walked past that posy I smiled.
Roses have always been my favorite flower. There’s something so romantic about this drama queen of flowers. Scented roses are the most heavenly smell on earth. I have to shut my eyes as I inhale their sweetness. They’re so spectacular and attention grabbing that they bring me into the present and provide relief from somber thoughts.
The grief I feel over losing Mum is less than it was at first but this anniversary is accompanied by a physical pain in my heart. Two years since I heard her voice. Two years since she put her arms around me and I held her in mine. Two years of Mondays without our regular morning phone call to chat about our weekend.
I feel her with me in other ways and that is very comforting, but I miss her physical presence Only after she was gone did I become sensible to how big a place she filled in my life. The emptiness is huge. So a thoughtful bouquet of flowers from a friend is felt deeply.
The gift of a flower arrangement was a special treat that Mum always enjoyed. So I’m glad my sister rang this morning and asked if I’d like to go for a coffee and buy Mum some flowers for her grave. We chose a stunning basket of flowers. It’s consoling to be able to still buy flowers for Mum.
I’d planned on taking a posy of roses from my garden, and I still will, as I think she’d like that also. She loved gardening so much that not only did she keep a gorgeous formal English style garden looking beautiful she also used to weed my garden and my sister’s as well. She was always ready with gardening advice and no visit was complete without a tour of the garden.
Before, I said that I feel her in other ways, it’s usually when I’m meditating or when I’m in the garden, I can feel her essence nearby. As if she’s there next to me but I’m not looking at her. So I have many reasons to believe in the healing power of flowers. They help to uplift me through inspiring appreciation for the present moment and create connections, between friends and sisters and to my dearly remembered mother.
Dora Bramden writes Heart-Melting, Passionate, Romance
Summer Garden Tour
The garden this Summer was gorgeous, spring like temperatures and plenty of rain to keep the soil moist. The roses were stunning and my fuchsia was festooned in dancing red bells for Christmas day. Then shortly after it was scorched by a 44C day. For my Fahrenheit friends that is 111.2F.
The flowers dried on the stem and fell. Now it has recovered somewhat and I’m sharing my Summer garden so you can see how my favorites are faring. I’ve also made a tentative start on a veggie garden now that the liquid amber has been removed.
This view from the garage is one of my favorites. It shows the variety of leaf shapes, how much everything has grown and pretty waisted shape of the ornamental border.
The roses are valiantly putting on new blooms although smaller and less abundant than the first flush .The pansies in the crates were hit very severely by the hot day and will need replacing. I'm hoping I'll have time for some pink and white petunias.
Over the winter my sister divided her lambs ears and gave me several clumps. They've settled in and spread to form an impressive display of towering spires. I love the way they create a light resting place for the eye as it travels along the border.
The food production side of the garden has been doing well also. The fig is responding very well to the pruning to lift the canopy and repair the damage done to the center of the tree by the children who lived here previously. I can't blame them for climbing such a gorgeous tree but it suffered a lot of breakage in the center from it.
It's fruits extremely well. I suspect It likes having another fig so close on the other side of fence in the neighbour's yard. Next to the fig is a patch of potatoes, my first ever time growing them in a vegie garden. I saw a bags of seed potatoes in Aldi and decided to give it a go. I chose the Dutch Cream variety because I love to eat them.
I have planted a punnet of mixed tomatoes varieties, that nearly died on the hot day, they seem to be giving it a go. Only lost one.
This is a bit of a cheat, I've planted this rhubarb in the ornamental border because when Dad gave it to me, I didn't have a space for it yet. As you can see it's doing really well. But as an older variety, having been my grandfather's first and then going to Dad it has shorter stems. But that's fine, I love it for it's heritage. Once the vegetable garden is fully composted and ready for serious planting, I'll move it across.
I'm looking forward to some apple and rhubarb crumble this Autumn, after a meal of delicious dutch cream potatoes with fresh tomato sauce. I'm also going to start saving jars for making fig jam.
If you have any recipes for figs I'd be grateful, It looks like were going to have lots and I don't want to let them be wasted.
I was lucky to be given a wicker outdoor setting by my sister. Her partner thrift-ed them for their beach house, but they sold that just before Summer. I put my hand up for them when they were asking family if anyone wanted them. I think they fit perfectly with the romantic garden theme I love.
It's not hard to find posts on making a new life in the new year and I certainly am enjoying those, but it can become a little negative when focusing only on what needs changing. So, I want to take a minute to remember to love myself as I am and embrace the enduring goodness that resides in all of us.
Happy New Year everyone. I hope you are all looking forward to happy times in 2019.
As a blogger and romance writer, I want to serve others through sharing my experiences. It's an act of generosity to share yourself and I plan to continue to do that for as long as I'm able. I'm very proud of the blog posts from 2018 because I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and revealed my life in the spirit of giving.
Some of the personal-journey posts that I'm proud of include Three Things I Do To Cheer Myself Up, Remembering Easter and Our Romantic Proposal Story. It's always a little challenging to decide how much to share but honesty and what might help others has been my guide. There's my wedding later in the year and as a mature aged bride, I'll be sharing what that's like. Romance is for anybody at any age but it can have it's challenges.
I created a lot last year, writing behind the scenes was taking place slowly but besides that, I made a garden and did a lot of decorating in Sam's and my new home. Some of those posts that came from that include, Backyard Makeover on a Budget, Faux Plants in My Romantic Home and Vintage China Collection. I'm moving from Farmhouse to more of a Shabby Chic style so stay tuned for how I bring that about this year.
Cooking was another creative outlet for me, I had some wins with my Gluten Free recipe experimentation and I shared those in blog posts too. GF Scones, GF Choy Suey and an amazing Pancake Parlour style GF Banana and Walnut pancake in the blog called Something Sweet in the Morning. I will be posting a recipe each month in 2019, I'm working on some new ones for summer.
I've also been a regular contributor on the Romancing the Genres Blog Site in 2018. As a romance author who enjoys reading I posted a blog this week over at Romancing the Genres on the book I enjoyed reading most in 2018. It was a novel from Anne Gracie called 'Marry in Scandal'. It's an absolutely brilliant book so pop on over to my RTG post and have a read when you finish here.
In the spirit of sharing, Anne was so thrilled when she saw my post about her books that she decided to give one of the books I mention in the blog away to one of my readers. All you need to do is leave a comment below saying which one you'd like to win and a winner will be randomly chosen next Thursday.
Thank you Anne, for this gift for one of my lucky readers.
Don't for get to leave a comment saying which of the above book's you'd like most, for your chance to win it. The winner will be notified by email.
I'll be back next week to sharing more from my romantic lifestyle.
My New Garden - Spring Update
I've been waiting so long for spring to arrive. I began preparing the garden for it months ago in Autumn. New garden beds were created and planted. Being on a tight budget meant I couldn't afford advanced plants and that I needed to wait for my seedlings and baby cuttings to grow into plants. Not all the seedlings survived the winter. Only a few alyssum remain, but the pansies in wooden crates are doing really well.
The cuttings I stuck from from a pretty hydrangea have grown beautifully. No flowers yet, but the three bushes are expanding before my eyes.
My mother was a keen gardener so I had the privilege of playing in a gorgeous garden as a child. Mum's idea was to make little pictures in the garden when deciding where to plant things. I've followed her lead as best I can making the Fuchsia, that I rescued from a strangling vine, a center piece. Despite getting nipped by a late frost it's bushier than ever before.
I've planted a standard dwarf lilly pilly and glauca pencil pine either side of it. In front I recently planted white and yellow flag iris.
I lifted those just last week when thinning out a large clump in Mum's garden (which I maintain for Dad). They are already settling in. There are new green shoots sticking up past where I cut the old leaves. I must get a stronger stake on the lilly pillies, they're getting quite top heave with lush new growth.
My sister gave me some lambs ears from a substation clump in her garden. I grouped lots of bits and pieces and popped them in a couple of months ago. They looked pretty straggly to start but look at them now. The weeds are growing really well too, next job is to clear them out so they don't compete for water and nutrients.
This side of the back garden is coming along nicely. It's the view from my family room, kitchen and dining room. On warm mornings I take my mug of tea out to the back veranda and just look at everything.
This view of the whole back garden shows the gap where a Liquid Amber was. We had to take it out because the roots were blocking up our storm water pipe. I was so worried that I'd be sad but I don't miss it as much as I thought I would. The way the sun travels across the sky to the right of this garden angle means that I can put a vegetable garden there.
I can imagine tepees of climbing beans and potatoes in the foreground. Perhaps I'll plant some zucchini and pumpkins too. Sounds like work but I think it will be fun. I'll do a summer update once it's all underway.
Hope your enjoyed my spring garden tour. Thanks for stopping by.
How I Got My House Ready For Sale
When I sold my house at auction, I was thrilled when the hammer fell on a price at the top end of my hoped for range.
In the first year after buying the house, I did some updates.
I painted throughout and put down new carpet. I had a kitchen face-lift and laid laminate wood look floor boards over the pink and white kitchen tiles. I also cleaned out the garden beds of dead and overgrown shrubs but kept some things that might come back with a good prune.
I had a massive tree in the front yard that was undermining the footings, so that had to go also. Two years later and it was time for me to move on. Sam and I were buying a house together so my dear little house went on the market. But first, I needed to make sure it would appeal to buyers. As much as I loved how it worked for me, I needed to look at it through other peoples eyes.
The first thing I did was get moving on making the garden look nice. A cottage needs a cottage garden and that doesn't happen in two weeks. I started planning the sale in autumn so that when spring arrived the garden would be looking it's best. I planted standard roses and a Silverbirch tree in the front lawn to give a timeless appeal. A garden arch leading to the side way is planted with a yellow climbing rose. Not in full flower yet but some blooms had opened. I planted lavender when I moved in so they'd had a couple of years to get established. in the four weeks leading up to auction, I only needed to add a few plants to fill bare spots.
I put an iron bench on the front porch, flanked with identical standard Lillypillys in black urns, to give a welcoming but traditional, formal feeling.
You walk directly into the lounge room from the front door, so I needed it to act as a reception room. The furniture is placed away from the walkway but again creates an inviting space. I took down the framed family photos and kept styling on the crystal cabinet and piano similar. Note the lamps are of similar style. I removed one side of the sectional sofa and borrowed a wing back chair to give the room some character. I'd decided on using the French Provincial Style as inspiration for the theme of my home, a combination of old and new.
The coffee table is also simple, following the rule of three. A candle adds ambiance and being scented it created a lovely smell when people walked in the door. You'll notice I had every light turned on. I carried this out in all the rooms. It makes a huge difference. Most importantly, I followed advice from the real estate agent, to make sure there was enough open floor space for a small crowd of potential buyers to walk around during the scheduled open for inspections.
Kitchens sell homes, is what I've heard, so a face lift for my tired pink melamine kitchen was something I'd done knowing if I ever sold the investment would be worth it. While it was done at the time for me and not resale, I think it's worth sharing what I did because it did help me realize a good profit on the house.
The cupboards were in great shape and didn't need replacing, also I loved the splash back and wanted to keep those tiles. All I replaced was the bench tops and cabinet doors. I had new appliances installed and had laminated wood flooring laid straight over the old cracked pink and white tiles. I added a couple of black stools for a hint of farmhouse.
When sale time came, the agent suggested fresh lilies on the bench top. It was a little expensive to replace them each week but they added a touch of elegance and made the house smell beautiful. In the month leading up to auction, I enjoyed those flowers so much .
The clock on the wall in the dining area came from good ol' Kmart. It could have been bigger but I had a focal point on the table.
I kept the colors neutral and restful, in the master bedroom, creating interest with texture instead. The tufted bed head, embroidered pillows, fluffy rug and center pillow contrasted with a basket in the corner.
The shades on the ceiling light fixtures were broken in all the bedrooms, so I replaced them cheaply with batten fix light shades from Bunnings, hardware. I just threw away the fittings and kept the shade, at $9 each it was by far the cheapest option.
The second and third bedrooms were decorated simply with a picture of Paris above the bed in the double room and a birdcage filled with flowers and a battery powered candle sit's on the desk in the single room/study. The real estate agent suggested white doona covers and I think he got it right.
The bathroom needed a little spruce up. I replaced the taps and put in a clear shower screen door. The wire unit on the wall holds decor to add interest to a plain wall. An orchid next to the vanity gives a touch of class and a fluffy white towel hanging behind the door invites.
The last area to get a makeover for sale was the courtyard. It also was the most effort. I had to paint the fences, it was quite a job but, I got there by painting a section or two each day.
The garden beds were a bit bare but I had potted up ferns that had grown under the fence from my neighbors, so I sat those in the garden beds. I planted the birds nest fern on the right and put up some hanging baskets. I also added the succulent tower to the bed which gave it some architectural interest. The tree ferns were existing as was the Mondo grass. The back corner was empty and I planted several shrubs to fill it in. The statue was there also.
I put two outdoor chairs and small table in the back corner to invite people out into the space.
Some time ago my girlfriend gave me some fairy lights which we strung up under the eaves. I left them in place for sale so that they'd provide a nice ambiance to this area during the evening viewings. They made this space looked magical with the lights on. So nice that I couldn't bear to take them down and disappoint the new owner , so I left them behind as a gift.
Aside from opening up spaces and clearing out clutter, I made the most of what was existing. I did any maintenance jobs that were required, cleaned and updated worn out things. I created space for the buyers to imagine where they might put their furniture and personal items while keeping the charm of the cottage.
I saved money where ever I could which meant I had funds to spend where I knew I'd get a good return on my investment, like making over the kitchen. I didn't go for stone bench tops because I felt it wouldn't be money I got back. I chose instead a stone look laminate which worked really well.
Keeping the color scheme neutral helps buyers to visualize the colors they like layered in. I tried to keep similar color and style in each room of the house so that it felt cohesive and made the home feel more spacious. I also added interest with pretty decor items that didn't take over the room, more like earrings rather than a crown. Understated decorating again enabled buyers to visualize their own things.
It sold at auction after a couple of keen buyers drove the price up. Most of all I feel really happy that I've passed on a home to someone that is ready for them to just move in and enjoy. In getting it ready for the next owners, I feel I was also able to begin the process of letting it go.
Since selling my house, Sam and I have bought a house together and renovated it. It's a little more modern than the cottage but I have decorated it in a similar style. My furniture looks very nice in our new home. I've already posted pictures on my blog (in the decorating category) and on Instagram and or Facebook if you're interested to look at those.
As a romance author, I love all things romantic in my home and lifestyle. You can also discover more about my love of romance through my writing. Find my contemporary romance novels and short stories on my amazon author page or visit my Books page on this website.
Thanks for stopping by, until next week,
Winter Garden Hightlights
Since finishing the garden landscaping in Autumn, I've been busily planting some Glauca pencil pines and other plants I've been given. But not all the plants could go in. Low rainfall made the clay soil beds very hard. But now that the winter rain is softening the ground I'm looking forward to improving the soil and getting the rest of the pots planted and putting in flowering annuals this spring. Until then I have been planting up pots to make sure I have flowers when everything else is still making buds.
Pansies, a very dear little bloom that bobs it's velvety head in the breeze, are mixed with hard working white Alyssum. The pots are set into wooden crates. They're tiny seedlings now but they'll be overflowing the crates in the spring. My other love, Roses have been planted and I can't wait to see what they do this Summer now that they can get their roots down into the clay soil.
Begonias were loved by Mum. She had pots of them on her back patio. They've come to live with me and I've planted most in the front yard. Every time I come in my front door, I'll see them there. She used to say that they were easy care plants. Even if they dry out they hang on until you can get some water to them. I adore the tiny little rose like flowers and the array of pinks they come in. I also love the large rose begonias but I don't have any at home. I go to the begonia shows in March. Keep an eye out for that post next year.
Some of the plants I love most in the garden were already here. A gorgeous Apricot rose that I can't bring myself to prune yet, She still has blooms and buds, as if it were the start of spring. The fig tree and the Liquid Amber tree, an old gnarled and twisted trunk-ed rosemary and a couple of lovely Camellias. Oh, of course I can't forget the huge Fuchsia that flowers for nine months of the year. She has finally packed up and taken a rest for winter but still provides a green backdrop for front of the border plants.
Still waiting to be planted are a Gardenia and Daylias. They are doing it tough in the pots but I think they'll be better off if planted when the soil is more workable and I can introduce some organic matter.
My daughter gave me a Camelia which is going to be gorgeous when it flowers and a pink foliage Coleus which creates a much needed bright spot in the Winter garden.
It's hard to wait until everything grows. The larger shrubs will need a couple of years before the make much of an impact, and there are some quite small Hydrangea, Snow Ball tree and Geranium cuttings that won't look anything much for a long time, but they will. Eventually. I hope. But that's part of the joy of a new garden, seeing what works and what doesn't. Transplanting and replacing those that don't thrive. Thankfully, most are hardy plants that can cope with a lot and reward me with lots of lovely flowers which are a passion of mine.
Thanks for stopping by on my blog this week. Feel free to share this post with anyone you know who likes gardening and leave your questions in the comments and I'll answer them as best I can.
Budget Backyard Makeover
When Sam and I bought our house, the garden was in need of a lot of work. What must have been a lovely garden ten years ago was now overgrown and full of weeds. Under half dead pine trees a lovely rose struggled for life and a fuchsia chocked with vines was valiantly producing a few blooms. A massive Viburnum Tinus shrub had suckered and filled the back corner masking a couple of struggling camellias. An apricot tree was nearly dead so that needed clearing along with all of those bully plants. Once the plants were removed, we replaced the too short and rotten fences.
While waiting for these necessary big projects to be done I began looking on Pinterest and saving the gardens I liked, I also YouTube garden makeovers. It became apparent that the kind of garden I liked had free flowing edges with English garden plants. So I decided to go with that style.
I drew up a plan that showed the property boundaries and the house and existing plantings that I wanted to keep. I then drew in my garden beds and a living area behind the house as you step outside. I had several goes at this step until I got it how I wanted.
I placed some plants I already had in pots out and once happy with their position, planted them to help them get settled in sooner than later and started watering them regularly. I sprayed the grass and weeds that would be inside the future garden beds.
I then and started sourcing materials. Replacing the fence and the tree removal was quite expensive but had to be done which left little in the budget for completing the backyard. For this section of the work I had a thousand dollars.
I spent a lot of time pricing pavers for outside the back door but came to the conclusion that it would be too expensive to buy and have them professionally laid. So I decided to work with the existing pergola and wide concrete path than ran along the back of the house but extend it out using gravel. I chose Sunset toppings which over time set to form a firm concrete like surface.
I then chose firm straight timber edging to create a border for the toppings. My daughter’s partner works as a landscaper and he came on weekends to help with the makeover. He leveled the area for the toppings, installed the timber edging and spread the toppings to be flush with the concrete path. The concrete is painted an ocher color and the sunset toppings blend nicely.
To create the curvy garden beds I purchased flexible timber edging and steel stakes that hook over it when hammered into place. This is more expensive than the ridged kind at approximately three times the cost per length but it allowed me to create the waving and curved garden beds I wanted. I proceeded to hammer in the metal stakes at one end of the timber edging then bent the wood into the desired curve and then hammered in another stake to keep it in place. I repeated this process around the back yard until all the garden borders were completed.
I purchased pine-bark mulch in a large chip and back filled behind all the borders with help from my daughter’s partner. He wheel-barrowed it into place and I spread it around the plants. I put an iron bench seat, that I brought with me from my last house, at the far end of the garden in front of an ancient rosemary bush. This created a destination that not only drew my eye into the garden but also created an invitation to be in the garden.
All up I came in just under budget. I still have more to do in the garden so it’s good to have a little left over for next spring when I’d like to add perennials to the flower border and some annuals where I’m waiting for some cutting I’ve planted to grow to full size. A garden is never really completed but I have the structure in place and now I get to play with plants.
Until yesterday we’ve had warm weather and I’ve been enjoying my morning cup of tea in the garden. The vista in my back yard draws me outside into the fresh air. The Rosella's are feasting on figs and I can hear the rustle of the liquid amber leaves in the wind.
It took three weekends to complete but it was worth the effort and I look forward to many happy hours working in this garden.
Next summer I plan to bring a portable table into the garden and write sitting on the bench under the Liquid Amber tree. I can imagine the ice tinkling in my glass, as I sip my lemon and ice-water.
Romance author and lifestyle blogger
My whole life is inspired by romance. I write romance novels of course but also love creating DIY's and decorating in a romantic style. I'm rejuvenating an old garden, including rescuing a couple of old rose bushes and planting new ones.