Rowallane Gardens

Last week George and I took a trip to Rowallane Gardens in Saintfield, County Down.  I had rung my mum to see if she wanted to come with us but it turned out she was already there with her friend Oonagh doing some painting in the walled garden! What are the chances?

Anyway it was a cloudy but pretty warm day so perfect for walking about all the different areas of the garden.  It's a National Trust property but the house isn't open for house tours, I think it's actually used by the trust for their headquarters.  However there is a lovely shop and a tasty cafe inside the house as well.  The main attraction here is definitely the amazing gardens....



A lovely bench in the walled garden, you can just imagine the ladies in their long dresses taking a stroll round here and stopping to sit for a bit, maybe watch some croquet on the lawn....






Amazing patch of clover underneath a tree.


This tree looked like it had been dusted with blusher.


A sea of ferns that looked like a 1950s tropical pattern.


The spring garden


Post and gate inspiration.


The outside of the courtyard.


Rather cute glass house.


I think I definitely need some arches in my garden!


Ornamental herb bed


I don't know what this plant is but it was swarming with bees.


I thought these little fellas had cute faces looking up at me.


The lavender smelled amazing.


Cat mint, I've just bought some of this for my garden from rosy bee.


These looked like they had been spray painted the most bright purpley blue!



This is the house, rather modest in comparison to other nearby National Trust places like Castle Ward and Mount Stewart


Another nice spot for a bench.  Benches are the most important thing in a garden if you ask me - you need somewhere to sit back with a glass of pimm's to admire your hard work! 

Bank Holiday day trip...

On the last Bank Holiday in May we decided we would take our first proper day trip as a family.  It was a really sunny day and we contemplated going to Castle Ward but decided in the end to go to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

We spent most of our time in the transport galleries looking at all the trains, buses and cars.

I was particularly taken by this Land Rover fire engine as it has so much in common with our camper van.  They really are very versatile vehicles!



We thought it would actually make quite a good mobile shop with the openings on the side!



So many of the vehicles had brilliant badges.  They just don't make them like that anymore.







I also really liked all the commercial vehicles, again modern commercial vehicles really don't cut it compared to some of these.



This little blue car was pretty cute.  It's a Peugeot Bébé.



Always love a Morris Traveller.  Maybe some day!


We then went across to the Folk park part of the museum were we had a picnic, with tasty bread and olives from the Poachers' Pantry in Lisbane and then we went for a walk round the rural part, mainly getting ideas for our own house and garden!







One of the last building we looked at was the rural school, it had some lovely vintage posters inside.









We reckoned that the older the kids got they must have moved up to the higher coat hooks.


All in all it was a great day out, I'd definitely recommend it if you're looking for an interesting trip.





Exhibition...

I'll be part of an exhibition, along with my mum and sister, opening this Saturday from 11 - 1 in Killyleagh library.  Everyone's welcome the opening so do come along if you can.  There will be refreshments, including a glass of wine if you fancy it!  The exhibition runs to the 28th June.


And then there were three...

The past six weeks have been somewhat of a whirlwind as in April we celebrated the arrival of our first baby! 

Baby George!

I promise that this won't become a baby obsessed blog but there may be some baby orientated making projects to come...

Also as I am pretty crap at blogging regularly this may become worse, although as we are out and about doing interesting stuff with the baby at the moment maybe I might actually get better at it!  Who knows, ah well I will try my best.

Two parties in one day....

On Saturday I experienced my first ever surprise party! My sister organised a surprise baby shower for me and my friend Kerry.  I honestly wouldn't have believed that they all could have pulled the wool over my eyes so completely but they were very sneaky and I didn't have a clue until we pulled up at my house and there were lots of cars outside and balloons at the door!

It was great fun although it took my a while to get over the shock!




There was lovely bunting made from old book pages.



Our Mexican bunting was still up (I had wondered why when I suggested taking it down both Dee and my mum said why not keep it up!)


Lovely marbled balloons (from the pound shop of all places!)


Me and Kerry the mums to be.




There were baby themed party games including guess the flavour of baby food - which I am demonstrating above and sniff the nappy and guess its contents which my mum looks mightily surprised at here! (they ranged from pesto to nutella and I can tell you what would normally be perfectly tasty took on a whole other dimension in a nappy context!)








All the guests had a go at decorating some baby vests.  They were very cute indeed.






The house is now filled with lovely flowers and feeling positively spring like.

As I was completely unaware that this party was on the cards I had also organised a birthday party for Dee that evening.  After all the excitement of earlier, I didn't take many photos that night but I was rather proud of the cake I made (4 layer salted caramel and chocolate) so here are some photos of it!





It was iced with a chocolate ganache and I sprayed it with edible gold spray paint.



The layers were from the bottom up... vanilla, caramel, chocolate caramel and chocolate all sandwiched together with salted caramel.  It was very yummy even if I say so myself.  You can find the recipe here.

It was certainly a party filled day and I was knackered by the end of it but I wouldn't change it for one minute (although I may have put more make up on before I left the house, as well as made the bed and cleaned the bathroom had I known so many people were going to be in the house!)





Mexican fiesta night.

Last weekend we decided to have a bit of Mexican night at home. A few months ago we had been out to Acapulco in Ballyhackamore for a lovely meal with friends and had planned to go again, but in the spirit of saving some money in January we thought we'd try it at home instead. Of course this money saving could have instantly gone out the window as I started adding heaps of papel picado bunting to my amazon basket, however my bank balance sighed a sigh of relief when I instead headed to the pound shop and spent a grand total of £1 on coloured tissue paper and decided to have a go at making my own.


Rather pretty off cuts. (Rather blurry pics as I decided to start this project rather late one night while watching this really good Seamus Heaney doc on BBC 4)

 I used this tutorial online and I think it worked pretty well, even if I do say so myself!


The finished decorations. In fairness I did splash out on the circular paper decorations but they were only £2.00 each and I can easily fold them up and use then again (for all those future fiestas I see us hosting!)

 I put out my most cheerful fiesta-y tablecloth (from ikea many moons ago) and added this perfectly tacky cactus confetti.

Obligatory hot sauce.


Beer and lime, yum!


We may have gone slightly overboard on the lime juice. We only used two bottles in the end, ah well I guess we will just have to make many more jugs of margaritas in the coming months, roll on summer!

I neglected to take any photos of the food, everybody brought along a dish so in the end we has quite a feast of nachos, tacos, fajitas, enchiladas and tasty salads and even some homemade guacamole which was delicious. We rounded it all off with my very first homemade key lime pie of which I was very proud and will definitely be making again, even though juicing all those limes nearly made my hands fall of - so stingy!

Frosty morning

This winter definitely hasn't been as frosty in the mornings as past years have - I think I've only really had to defrost the car half a dozen times. Earlier this week though I woke up to a beautifully sparkly white scene outside...







Lovely, like everything had been dusted in icing sugar or Epsom salts! Although it's just been grey and rainy all the other mornings this week so rather short lived!

Christmas...

After four years of hard work and regularly saying that we’d be in for Christmas, we actually meant it this year and finished off the new bit of our house enough that we actually were able to be in for Christmas.  It was very exciting after such a long time day dreaming of what it would be like.  Putting up the Christmas tree in the corner of our new room made all the late nights of painting, hammering and general constructing all worthwhile.

So what better way to try out our new kitchen than by cooking our first ever proper Christmas dinner?  Our original plan was to have everyone (potentially 17 people - eek) but we ended up with just ourselves, my mum and dad and my sister and her fiancé, and of course Yossi the cat, which to be honest was probably a lot more sensible for a first go!  Maybe next year we’ll try again and have everybody!

Here are some pictures from our Christmas day, all taken by my husband.

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Beautiful (and tasty) gingerbread house made by my sister.

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Christmas flowers, with berries that everyone thought were fake but were very much real - a bargain from Lidl the Saturday before Christmas.

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The ham, cooked in coke with a glaze of Golden syrup and mixed spice.

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The turkey, it was 8lbs which was plenty for the six of us with some left over for sandwiches etc but I think next time I would go for a bigger one as the leftovers are just too yummy.

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The Christmas table.  Crackers are from Paperchase - they had lovely baking bits and pieces in them like measuring spoons and a honey server thingy.

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I made some mulled wine and also some non alcoholic mulled punch which were very tasty while we were waiting for lunch to cook.

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Sitting down to starter of smoked salmon on wheaten bread with a glass of buck’s fizz.

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The main course, very tasty even if I do say so myself - my mum did say my roast potatoes were delicious too, I was well chuffed.

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A hopeful Yossi looking for leftovers.

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An after dinner game of scrabble.

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General cosiness.

All in all it was a lovely day.  I was very proud that I managed no to poison anyone and actually had lunch vaguely around lunchtime (2.30’s not bad!)

The house felt really cosy and it really was just how I imagined it would be all those other Christmases when we were still working hard to get the place finished.

I’ll take some more pictures of the house in general now that the Christmas tree is down to do a bit of a house tour post soon.

Happy new year everyone!

First Trip in the Campervan

For our first anniversary we decided to take our first trip in the Campervan now that it has passed its MOT.

We didn’t go too far, just down to the lovely campsite at Castle Ward, near Strangford.




The night before we headed off I had to make some curtains, as it was something I have been meaning to do for ages but of course I left it to the last minute!

We also decided that we were going to put the bunks back in but when we got them out of the shed we realised that one of them didn’t actually have any fabric on it and the one that did was quite badly torn….









So I had to make two new bunks as well as all the curtains - really should have started this earlier!

I had bought the stripy material from Ikea last year - we used it at our wedding, staple gunned to the not so pretty notice boards in the old church hall we used for our reception.




After nearly three years of working on the campervan it was amazing to be actually packing it up with all our camping stuff.

After stopping for a bite of lunch in Picnic in Killyleagh, we headed on down to Castle Ward and set up camp.





The campsite was very busy, completely full in fact. Its a really nice spot though, completely surrounded by trees.




We stuck out a bit in comparison to all the other caravans.

Once we were set up we had a glass of pimms and listened to some wimbeldon on our new but old looking Bush Radio




The campsite is great as it is only a short stroll into Strangford were there are nice pubs and cafes and then from there you can easily go as a foot passenger on the ferry across to Portaferry (which we did both days we were there for the grand sum of £2 each return)

The road into Strangford is very pretty with the verges covered in Red valerian…



For my first cooking experience in the campervan I went all out and decided to make eggs benedict, which was perhaps a little ambitious, but it was our first anniversary after all!  Although it was a bit of a palava it actually turned out very nice, and we washed it down with some buck’s fizz made with a bottle of fizz that my sister and her fiance had given us as a present.




Glastonbury was also on the same weekend so we spent both nights staying up late listening to the radio and drinking more pimms, which was very good fun indeed!



All in all it was a great first trip and I really hope we’ll be able to get away in it again soon!


Rathlin Adventures....

Last month we took a sailing trip to Rathlin Island.  We set off on a Sunday with the most amazing weather, which is always nice!

We were setting off from Glenarm but before we did we had a wander up into the forrest….

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The light was dappled through the leaves of the trees.

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There were swathes of wild garlic, the smell was quite something.

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Glenarm Castle.

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Some whispy cow parsley by the gate of the forrest.

Once we’d popped into the shop and got the Sunday papers and a chocpop ice lolly we started off for Rathlin.

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After a few hours we had a spot of lunch and then Rathlin appeared in the distance…

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The entrance to Church Bay.

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I was very taken by this lovely arch.

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Sunset in Church Bay

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These invoices were on the wall in McCuaigs Bar.  I have a bit of an obsession with old invoices and receipts so I was very taken by these!  I’m always amazed by the incredibly decorative headers at the top of these invoices.

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The next day we set off to the west lighthouse where there is an RSPB bird sanctuary.  We passed this cottage on the way, I’m a great fan of blue painted windows.

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This is the church which I assume Church Bay is named after.  It is very pretty and has a number of Commonwealth War Graves in the graveyard.

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After four miles or so we made it to the sanctuary and had a look for some puffins on the cliffs.

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They were a long way down, but incredibly noisy!

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This is the West Lighthouse which I had drawn for my Irish Lights book.

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The lichen on the wall was the colour of egg yolks.

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and the view was something else (sorry the horizon is a bit wonky!)

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We spotted this little beach from up near the lighthouse, I think probably the only way to get to it is by boat.


Rather than walking back we hopped on the puffin bus which travels up and down to the sanctuary.  We were a bit hungry so nipped in to Emma’s Chips Ahoy for some scampi.




Then sat on the harbour wall to eat and look at these old boats.

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Some California poppies (I think)

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The next day wasn’t quite so sunny (wellies and raincoats all round)  But we still decided to walk out to Rue Point, another of Rathlin’s lighthouses.

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We passed this building on the way which I think was used to dry and store seaweed that the locals collected to sell.

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The cheerful pink sea thrift brightened up the dreary weather.

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There were some interesting details to this remote house, and some rugged daisies who’d made their home there.

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We made it to Rue Point, a little damp and through a barrage of screaming seagulls!

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another secret cove, surrounded by no one except lots of sheep…

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The smell from the gorse was amazing, so tropical and coconutty.

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On our way back into church bay we spotted this stone, don’t know what it means.  Answers on a postcard please!

We were only away for a few days but we managed to pack a lot in, if you haven’t been to Rathlin before I’d definitely recommend a trip, it’s lovely in the sunshine but in the rain and mizzle it is just as windswept and interesting!  You can get there by ferry from Ballycastle and there are quite a few B&B’s in Church Bay you can stay in.  The National Trust also have accommodation in the Manor House which is open in the summer months.






1st attempt at home made crisps in the air fryer! Had some sliced potatoes left over from making a potato bake for tea and decided to try making some crisps, they’re ready salted and very nice indeed. Just peeled, thinly sliced spuds ( I did mine in the food processor with the slicer blade attached) then mixed with one teaspoon of oil, in the air fryer for about 20 minutes. I had to keep checking on them and taking out the small ones as they went crispy but all in all pretty easy. Finally season with your flavour of choice, I went for plain salt. Yummy!

Campervan....

A few years ago we bought an old Land Rover Dormobile on Gumtree.  Since then Dee has been working at it, totally overhauling it and fixing absolutely everything.  All the hard work has paid off and it’s very nearly ready so I thought I’d share some photos of it….

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I can’t wait to go on our first camping trip in it, although I really need to get my sewing machine fixed so I can get started on the curtains for it!

Exhibition opening...

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On Thursday night we had  the opening of our joint exhibition, Land, Sea and Air in Castle Espie.  This exhibition is the first time me, my mum and my sister have had an exhibition together.  It was a lot of work getting ready for it but it was all worthwhile - so many people turned up for the opening night, we were really chuffed!

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We started with a little celebratory glass of champagne…

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My piece was called Irish Lights - a concertina book of lithographs of drawings of all of the lighthouses around ireland - 73 of them in total!

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It worked out pretty long in the end, 7 metres when laid out flat, about 4 metres when concertina’d.

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I also created a large print of all the lighthouses together (as I figured most people probably wouldn’t want to buy a 7 metre book for their house!)

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Sarah had beautiful paintings of wildlife including hares, pheasants and stags. As well as a selection of drawings and prints.

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and mum had gorgeous landscapes and still lifes.

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The exhibition is on until the 9th June so there’s plenty of time to have a look if you’d like to.  There is a lovely cafe at Castle Espie so you can team it with some tasty lunch or a cup of tea and a brownie, and of course you can always go and see the ducks as well!

Castle Espie
78 Ballydrain Road, Comber, Co Down
028 91874146
info.castleespie@wwt.org.uk

Open Monday - Friday 10 - 5 and Sat - Sun 10 - 5.30