Stefanie London, a writer friend, posed a question on her Facebook feed this morning about whether or not people re-read their books and if so which ones do they come back to the most.
I could put my finger on two. I re-read Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe many times, enjoying the escape from the mundane world to fantasy land with talking animals. Each time I rejoined, Lucy, Susan, Edmund and Tom on their adventures I experienced the excitement and camaraderie. I relived their testing times and determination to keep going when all seemed lost.
The second book is Persuasion. This Jane Austen classic not only fired up my romantic nature but also combined a reunion love story with a tale of having to leave home. Anne goes on adventures unimagined when her father has to rent out the family estate and move to Bath. Although she imagines spending the rest of her days in a place she dislikes, that isn’t her destiny. The move sparks a chain of events that provides her with choices of new home and romance that had previously been unimagined.
I noticed the link between these two stories was each had a heroine who had to leave her home. Her safe world had been upended, and she has to use all her skills to navigate through what transpires because of it.
It makes sense to me that these types of stories would resonate with me because of the experience I had at the age of nine. I had to leave my home when I became sick and spend a long time in the hospital. My mum would come and visit me every day. While she was there, I felt safe, but when it was time for her to go, the hospital was a scary place. I had to make new friends with the staff and other patients and endure often painful or uncomfortable tests and treatments to make me better. I was on my own most of the time and had to deal with stuff that didn’t happen in ordinary everyday life.
Like the heroines of the stories I read, I came home again one day but was changed by my experiences. I used to wake my sister at six in the morning with my singing which I learned to do to pass the early hours in the hospital. What was worst was that home felt foreign. It seemed as though I didn’t belong in my own bed anymore. It took quite a while for that feeling to go away. I definitely became more independent from this experience, and I learned some fun crafts from the occupational therapists at the hospital that I was able to do at home. I learned that I can manage away from Mum and Dad and that although the journey can be tough, it helps to make you stronger.
In 2013 I had to spend six weeks in the hospital. I learned some precious things about myself during a time of forced retreat. Not long after romance came into my life and a new home followed. I love my life, even though there have been times it felt like it was kicking my butt. The ordinary days have become treasures to me because I’ve experienced the challenging times of being alone and struggling.
I like to read and write romance or books because they are always the story of people who have to face tough situations and grow from them. Finding love is the metaphor for having discovered the way to survive and thrive with challenging changes and embrace a happy life.
You can read the first chapter of my books on Amazon, or if you have a subscription to KU, you can read the whole book.
Do you have a book that calls you back again and again?
Last Thursday, I was on Romancing the Genres with a blog about my fantasy holiday in Thailand. I'd wanted to go since I was a little girl. It's just one of those things I guess. At about age six, I saw the dancers and the decorative traditional architecture on TV and decided that it would be wonderful to actually go there. I never dreamed it would ever really happen in my lifetime.
Actually having the chance to go as an adult came as a surprise. Even though I'd put it on a vision board I'd created for myself. The experience was similar to stepping into a fantasy land. Follow the link at the end of this post if you'd like to read about my solo journey to a foreign land and experiencing a culture very different from my own.
I've been fortunate enough to travel to places I'd dreamed of visiting for years. While my children were growing up I couldn't afford to travel but later I managed to save enough to have a lovely trip to England and Scotland. The highlight was when I visited Jane Austen's house in Chawton. A few years later I also went to Italy and saw many places including historic Rome and fashion capital, Milan. The highlight was an evening tour of Venice.
I have no fantasy holidays left to take. My bucket list travel plans have been ticked off but I think they were so special because I'd looked forward to them for so long.
It's highly likely that I will still be traveling though. My partner, Sam has yet to see where his parents grew up on a small island above Sicily. And he has a friend with a house on Cyprus. So I'll be with him when he gets to go on his fantasy holidays. I encourage him to make it happen because I know that the holiday stays with you long after it's over. The excitement of discovery and being in a place that is magical to you creates a wonderful uplifting energy. Every time I think back on my memories I relive these gorgeous emotions .
What isn't a surprise is that I found these experiences inspiring and that led me to set my two published books in places I've visited. The Scottish Billionaire's Secret Lover and the Italian Billionaire's Secret Baby were written with the energy and excitement I felt at visiting these countries.
Have you ever traveled alone? Did you have a fantasy holiday that came true or do you have one yet to be realized? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.
If you'd like to read about my Thai Fantassy holiday, here's the link to
last Thursday's blog post.
I've created a feeling of romance in the corner of my kitchen with soft contrasts, flowers, fruit and layering. This charming vintage watering can, is past being useful life because it leaks but re purposed as a decor item to display a silk flower arrangement it creates perfect contrast of old and new. The grey metal contrasts nicely with the marble tray and white tiles and bench top. Fruit and flowers will always be romantic. The lemons at the base also provide a fresh element. I have layered the whole lot on a marble chopping or serving platter. Layers add a sense of cozy and intimate which, to me, equals romantic.
This blog isn't sponsored but I'm including where I sourced some of my things in case you'd like to know. The marble tray came from Kmart Au. but it's not available on line. The watering can is a vintage family piece but new ones can be aged to look old using toilet cleaner. The flowers came from a home decor shop and the green eucalyptus stems came from Kmart Au.
Textures and patterns give an overall sense of the exotic and create a romantic feeling in my TV corner. A chandelier will always add a touch of romance. Wedding venues have them for a reason. I purchased mine on line from Temple and Webster and. The wreath speaks romance to me, something about the circle always makes me think of the wheel of life. This gorgeous one is from Joanna Gaines', Magnolia, also purchased on line. I wanted a coffee table that would let me see the pretty rug underneath so this one is serviceable and doesn't close in the space. I've layered a faux orchid on top of an anthology of romance book and also layered the candle on a tray. I've stayed with the blue theme using varying shades to create harmony with interest. I aimed for a style called transitional. It has modern and classic elements combined to keep it fresh and interesting. The little cutouts on the white platter give it a lacy feeling without using a doily which can feel a bit like granny's house. The pretty sea foam blue container was a gift from Sam's niece, a sweet young woman who has excellent taste. I love not only the color but the interest the texture of it brings to the coffee table area.
As I was posting this picture I noticed a blooper I created when dusting. I wonder if you spotted it too.
In the bedroom, I've also used contrast, texture, layering and faux greenery to create a romantic mood. The bedhead is the star of the room. It really invites me into its softness. The texture of the buttoning contrasts against the grey feature wall. I've then piled on cushions in layers of complementing blues. The doona cover and pillowcase set were from Kmart, but I don't think they're in stock anymore. The point is that the color ties in with the bedhead. The front butterfly cushion was purchased at a Laura Ashley clearance store. The mohair blanket and blue and white rectangle pillow came from Provincial Home Living as did the place mats on the bedside tables. They were meant for the dining room when I bought them but looked so good here that I changed my mind. The bedside table lamps were a find at the Salvation Army store. I added black lamp shades to create a touch of drama. I think white would look very nice too. What do you think, white or black?
So that's my approach to styling a romantic home. It gives me joy every day and I think that's the whole idea. It's not about having the prettiest house, but having a home you love to be in.
In my soon to be released novel 'The Australian Billionaire's Secret Proposal' about a fashion designer, and a fashion house billionaire, the decorated style of each others homes plays a role in how comfortable or 'at home' each of them feels.
For me to feel 'at home' that's a romantic place to write and live. I hope you've enjoyed seeing how I create my romantic spaces and that it may have inspired you for styling the romantic decor in your home.
Chicken and Mushroom Caserole
As promised here is the second recipe for the weekend. I decided to share a casserole that has lots of flavor and only takes about half an hour to cook. It’s main ingredient is one of the staples on my shopping list as per my blog on doing the weekly shopping.
You’ll notice that my recipes are gluten free, that’s just because I’m a coeliac. You don’t have to use the gluten free options in the recipes.
As a home cook, no chef training at all, I’m very happy to share what works for me and hopefully it inspires you to enjoy cooking, and do it in a way that works for you.
Chicken and Mushroom Casserole
300 – 400 grams of chicken thigh fillets cut into one inch pieced
half an onion
1 small punnet of sliced mushrooms
1 clove of garlic
2 short rashers of bacon (less fat on those)
1 tablespoon of all purpose flour (I use gluten free self raising. I know it’s weird but it works)
1 teaspoon chicken stock powder (I use GF Massell)
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat a heavy based saucepan over a medium flame or temperature setting while chopping the onion garlic. Put the oil in the pan and let it get hot before adding the onion garlic and mushrooms. Stir occasionally while you dice the chicken thighs. When done add them to the pan and keep stirring until the chicken has browned or lost most of the pink colour.
In a cup mix together the water, chicken stock and flour then pour into the saucepan and keep stirring while bringing it to the boil. It should thicken a bit. Cover and simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes. Serve with steamed sweet potato and broccoli.
If you want you can take the onion, mushroom mixture out before browning the chicken and add it back later. I think this is the proper way to do it but I find it works fine just leaving it in.
Add a tin of crushed tomatoes when putting in the water to make this a great sauce to serve over pasta or polenta.
For a special occasion you can add a quarter of a cup of cream to this casserole near the end of cooking for a richer sauce. Serve with steamed green beans and potatoes that have been boiled then mashed with butter and cream. Oh my goodness.
I find this dish goes very nicely with a glass of wine on a Saturday night. I don’t bother lighting a candle it’s romantic enough sharing a meal with the man I love. It always makes me feel like smiling.
Enjoy your cooking and thanks for dropping by,
Lasagna with extra bolognaise sauce spooned over the top and sprinkled liberally with Parmesan Cheese.
Hi, I took a break from the Cooking Series for a Mother’s Day post and got caught up with a busy weekend last week so I missed blogging. To make up for it, I’m posting two recipes this weekend. Today as you can tell from the title is spaghetti bolognaise. Tomorrow there’ll be my chicken and mushroom casserole recipe.
Once a week, Mum served up an Aussie version of spaghetti bolognaise. It was based on a tin of Campbell’s tomato soup. Italians the world over would despair at this, but I thought it was delicious. However in an effort to include more vegetables in the meal, I started using the more traditional method of making a bolognaise sauce. I began with Dolmio bottled pasta sauce and when Aldi came to Australia, I sampled their Romano bolognaise sauce. I really like that one too.
Carrying on Mum’s tradition, we have some kind of pasta with this sauce once a week. My partner, Sam (born here but with Italian parents) starts getting pasta withdrawal if I miss a week, so that's rare. Pasta is such comforting food and, for me, it’s easy to cook. Once I have all the ingredients combined in the saucepan I can relax with a romance novel while it simmers away.
Most people have their own family recipe for pasta sauce, I wonder if it's the same or similar to mine. If you are looking for a recipe, this is an easy one and you can adapt it to suit your individual tastes. Either way I hope you enjoy reading my favorite recipe for pasta sauce.
Ingredients list for my bolognaise sauce
250gms of minced beef. ( I use 90 – 95% fat free)
500ml tomato pasta sauce of your choice. (I use Dolmio or Romano brand)
1 cup of water
half a finely diced red onion
one medium carrot, diced or grated
one medium zucchini, diced or grated
clove of garlic grated or finely chopped
I bay leaf
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 500gm bag of dried pasta of choice
To begin, put a heavy based saucepan on medium heat to preheat while preparing the vegetables. I dice the onion, grate or dice the carrot and zucchini, using a fine grater, grate the garlic. Pour around two tablespoons of oil into the hot saucepan then tip in all the vegetables stirring them over the heat until the onion is transparent and the carrots have softened. If they brown a little it’s not a problem the caramelized vegetables will add flavor to the sauce. Next in, goes the mince. Stir this until it’s no longer pink and has broken down into a crumbled texture.
Tip in the jar of tomato sauce. I put the cup of water into the sauce jar and swish around collecting every last bit of tomato, then tip that into the saucepan too. Add the bay leaf (if small 2 or even 3) and stir everything together. When it begins to boil turn the temp down to low and put on the lid.
if I’m cooking pasta I’ll put on the pot of water to heat now. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook until it’s soft or to how you like it.
All up the sauce has 20 minutes on simmer. That’s the minimum it needs to really be nice but it can be left a lot longer, it just gets better.
Keep reading for tips and variations to this basic recipe.
I add all the vegetables together so that they have time to soften before putting in the liquid. If they don’t soften first they tend to stay hard in the tomato sauce. No idea why, that’s just what I’ve found.
I stir the sauce every so often, about every 10 minutes, to prevent the meat from forming a crust on the base.
If simmering for longer than half an hour, check to see if it needs more water. Use the pasta water, if available, to thin it out.
For a Mexican style dish, add shopped capsicum to the vegetables and spice it with half a teaspoon of cumin and a teaspoon of paprika. Add dried chili to your taste. I can only have a quarter of a teaspoon max.
You can make this sauce using chicken or turkey mince, I add a rasher of diced bacon when I do this.
If I want something super quick to prepare, I omit the onion, carrot and zucchini and instead tip in a small punnet of sliced mushrooms.
If I’m using this sauce to make lasagna, I use one box of GF sheets. If it’s for a crowd I’ll double the recipe and use 2 boxes. This will make a baking dish size lasagna.
For an easy lasagna, I put a layer of tasty cheese slices on top and skip the white sauce.
In my soon to be released novel, 'The Australian Billionaire's Secret Proposal' the housekeeper leaves this lasagna in the fridge for Jarrod's dinner, which he shares with Ruby.' I chose this dish because, nearly everyone loves lasagna and it keeps so well, I think it tastes better the next day, don't you?
Enjoy reading and cooking.
This is a card that I gave my mother when I was in primary school. I must have been no older than ten, so she had kept it for over forty years. For me, it's a touching example of how much our mothers care. They worry about how we are sleeping. They worry about how we are doing at school and work. They want us to be happy in our life and support us the best they possibly can.
But mothers cannot be all the things we want them to be. They can’t give us all the things we’d like them to. There are excellent reasons for this and I believe they all add up to mothers being people doing their best with the skills life has equipped them. The benefit of that is mothers have to leave room for us to find our own way.
We have their support and encouragement as we tread our own special life path that is different from hers. Each of us has a brilliant mind, creative and unique so each of us will have a life that is unique. So our mother can’t completely prepare us for a life that is very different from hers. Neither should she.
My mother wasn’t a romance author like I have become. Each of us are here to create our own life. Our mother nurtures us until we are able to take the training wheels off and head down roads of our own choosing. Whatever kind of mother we had, whether she held our hand for a long time or a short time, she was there at the beginning and she was the right one for us. Our life is what it is because she began it all and taught us what she could. Even if those lessons weren’t pleasant they were a gift of experience that we now have knowledge of.
Mothers do so much behind the scenes in our lives. Their silent hopes or prayers for us continue long after we’ve grown up. When I’m writing I often think about the relationship my heroine has or had with her mother and what gifts it bestowed on her. Especially on Mother’s Day, I’ll be thinking of my mum. Watching me from spirit, I know she’ll be happy that I’m enjoying dinner with my grown up children.
She wasn’t perfect and I certainly wasn’t either, but since she passed I’ve never been more aware of how much I KNOW she gave me in kindness, caring, disciple, listening and giving advice. And I know I used what she gave me when it came to mothering my children. On a day that is full of pink roses and advertisements for expensive presents, I want to focus on my mother’s achievements and my own. Having my children come and visit me is present enough.
Hi, This week I’m starting a series on how I manage the cooking (in my romantic life). Sam doesn’t cook - other than toast in the morning which I don't think actually counts. But we moved in together in our 50’s which means we’re both pretty set in our ways, so I choose to make that work for us. I enjoy cooking ( and eating what I cook) so it’s my department.
Dinner time with Sam is when we catch up on our day and focus on each other. I want us to enjoy the experience. I believe that serving up delicious meals, we both like, supports our happy relationship. Shopping for ingredients can be overwhelming but over the years I’ve developed a routine that works for me.
I am a great advocate for online shopping and creating a list that you can auto load each week. But I need the exercise, so I usually shop at the local Woolworth's supermarket. Take a walk with me as I shop and you’ll see how I stay out of the lolly and chip isle and keep focused.
Shopping each week for a set number of staples takes the stress out of visiting the supermarket. My regular staples form the basis of a week's worth of breakfasts lunches and dinners. Because I’ve been using this method for years, I can forget the shopping list as long as my arm. My list contains only the pantry cupboard ingredients that I occasionally run out of.
Closest to where we pick up the trolley is the fruit and vegetables, first on my mental list. We choose to have fruit with for our desert, our favorites include mango, strawberries, cantaloupe, pears and kiwi fruit. This week I’ve got a half a cantaloupe and a punnet of strawberries.
We eat a lot of vegetables so they’re next in my trolley.
We need to pick up, 2 avocados, a lettuce, 3 tomatoes, a green capsicum, 2 zucchinis, a punnet of sliced mushrooms, a kilo of carrots, 1/8th of Queensland blue pumpkin, a head of broccoli, 2 red onions, I fairly large sweet potato, and 2kg medium size white potatoes. Okay, done. Now we are near the back of the store where the meat is kept.
A slight detour to the frozen fish bin. Here we pick up a 1 kilo bag of whiting fillets. One kilo does us for two weeks. (2 fish meal per week). So this is an every other week purchase.
Next is the meat that jumpstarts my meal planning. First in the trolley goes 500 grams of 90% fat free mince (2 meals), followed by 500gms of chicken thigh fillets (2 meals). I used to buy sausages but we’re watching cholesterol so they’re off the every week list. Last stop in the meat department is for a roast of some kind (2 meals). We want one of the following: a whole chicken; leg of lamb; cut of beef or pork. Usually the cheapest roast per kilo makes the decision easy. But I try not to have the same roast two weeks in a row.
After the meat cases is the general fridge section. Here I choose 250 grams of tasty cheese, 200 grams of Swiss cheese. I pack of Parmesan. 250gms of ham or turkey lunch meat, a dozen eggs (every other week), a tub of dip and 500ml tub of plain Greek Yogurt.
Tea and coffee is next and we have to do a u turn to get back to that isle. Beside tea and coffee we also pick up 2 packets of Gluten Free (GF) nut,bars, 3 litres of long-life, low-fat, lactose free milk.
Turning into the next isle we’ll grab 2 x 1 litre boxes of pine coconut drink then on to the health food section. I’ll grab a 500gm packet of GF pasta, a box of GF cake mix, a loaf of GF bread and a loaf of regular loaf of wholemeal for Sam.
In the canned fish isle I put in a tin of salmon or tuna and 4 tins of sardines in tomato sauce. Store cupboard items, sauces, flour, sugar, herbs and spices are next, I have a short list with what I need in the store cupboard if necessary.
In the pasta isle we stop for a bottle of tomato pasta sauce. If necessary a small bottle of olive oil or spray oil. I also buy a cup of GF instant noodles, occasionally, a bag of Doongara rice.
The next isles are for bathroom and cleaning supplies if needed. I buy the same earth friendly brands so it’s easy to keep focused and not get distracted the vast array on offer.
The last isles at my supermarket contain the frozen food. I’ll get 500 grams each of peas and beans and a kilo bag of GF oven fry chips.
This provides us with enough food for two adults for a week, a dinner for seven on Sunday night plus a couple of small meals for my Dad to take home with him.
Some of the meals I make from the above basics include:
There are many more and variations on the above recipes. Next week I’ll share my meal planning process and pantry cupboard supplies list, the ones I buy occasionally to give the basics a twist of flavor. I’ll also post my recipes for Bolognaise sauce and chicken casserole.
Yesterday, on my way to meet a girlfriend for coffee at a shopping center I passed a shop that had a granny square poncho in the window. I smiled remembering when I was a teenager in the seventies and proudly wore the one my grandmother made me. She filled her hours with craft projects. For my poncho, she had unpicked old jumpers and dyed some of the wool before beginning to crochet. She had a practical approach to life which came from being raised on a farm. She made everything, the dresses she wore, even her soap.
When I was little, Granny looked after me a lot. She taught me to crochet granny squares and to paper piece patchwork. I remember the cut and paste activity that kept me entertained for ages. I think Granny had a considerable role to play in my love of craft later on, but also she’d instilled her can-do attitude in her daughter, my mother.
Mum took my craft skills to a grown-up level. We went shopping for sewing patterns, and she taught me to sew my own dresses. She also taught me to knit. At school, I learned to paint with acrylic on canvas. When I went to work, I didn’t paint much, but I could afford to buy wool for myself, and I made jumpers and cardigans in my spare time.
After I was married and had small children of my own, I knitted for them and took up painting again. I found a local shop devoted to folk art and decorative art painting. I joined classes and practiced until I could reproduce the beautiful folk art roses adorning plates and jugs on display in the shop. I painted them on trays, flower pots and a box that I use for remote controls just to name a few. Anything I could find in the house that could be painted got roses painted on it.
Perhaps being a Pisces has something to do with my eclectic taste and desire to do many kinds of craft. The discovery of annual craft fairs opened my world. Talented designers/crafters displayed what was possible, and that led me into collecting a stash of gorgeous fabric and patchwork quilting kits. I also discovered scrapbooking. I’d found the luxury version of what I did as a little girl at my Granny’s kitchen table with a pot of homemade glue.
I found a company that creates paper templates for paper piecing and bought a kit. I’m still working on finishing this. I’ll be sad when it’s done because the fabric is so beautiful I love looking at it while hand stitching in front of the TV.
I also joined scrapbook classes for a little while. I created an album of my first overseas trip to England but have found I prefer to make collage pictures with the patterned papers. I also like to make cards for special occasions and have shared some of those on Facebook.
Busy fingers make me happy, and calm. I love my hot glue gun. What a brilliant idea this is. It’s so quick and instant and last Christmas I made a constellation of wooden clothes peg stars.
As a writer, I know that crafting helps to keep my creativity flowing so if I’m feeling a bit flat, doing craft is one of the methods I employ to light my creative spark again.
I’m not the only author who likes to do a craft. Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra crafted a patchwork quilt made of diamonds cut from scraps. It was the thing I most wanted to see when I visited her home in Chawton, England.
In to be released novel, the Australian Billionaire’s Secret Proposal, Ruby the heroine is a fashion designer, who has a hands-on, can-do attitude inspired by the women in my family.
The hero, Jarrod, is inspired by the part of me that knows about running a business and the many powerful men I’ve read in romance novels. He’s unique because he’s got an art critics eye and knows what great design is. He’s a supporter of creative people and makes their dreams come true. Who doesn’t love a supportive man?
Jarrod admires Ruby’s independent nature but is also challenged when she creates a plan of her own and acts on it without telling him. A secret in her family connects them and pushes them apart at the same time but working together in the fashion industry keeps reminding them of why they’re so good together.
Ruby can create beautiful clothes, this is the world where she feels strong and retreats to when her personal life isn’t happy. Jarrod and Ruby first met in high school where she was bullied because she was different and individual. She was hiding out in the library drawing dress designs at lunchtime when Jarrod, the son of a respected fashion manufacturer, spotted her talented drawings.
I think crafting has also been a solace for me at times. I blogged last year about how making wooden stars helped me cope with the first Christmas without Mum being there.
But I also do craft just for the joy of it. I don’t have to feel like I need a lift to pick up a needle and thread or spread out a drop sheet in preparation for painting. If I had to choose a favorite, I’d say it’s paper crafting. I love mixing and matching the pretty papers and adding embellishments.
Are you a crafter like me? Does craft help with your peace of mind? If you’d like to share with me which crafts you love, I’d enjoy reading your comments. I always love hearing about other peoples craft projects.
This week I have my blog post over on Romancing the Genres. I'm sharing my journey to becoming an Australian Romance Author. Follow this link to read my post and check out this terrific blog
I also post for them on first Thursday of the month. So yoy might find some you haven't read yet.
Next week I'll be posting here on my crafting life. There'll be photos of some of my projects and the types of craft I enjoy. Until then, have a lovely week.
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, recusing roses and planting new ones.