We keep a long list of future travel plans in our head. One of those places is Granada, where we lived for a year. It’s such a beautiful place, and we have so many friends there. When my husband sent over this link to Isleta El Espino, an island resort in Nicaragua, I immediately added it to the list of potential stays. We love the Isletas, and have wanted to stay there for a few nights on our next trip. Doesn’t it look amazing?

resort in nicaragua granada
island resort granada nicaragua
nicaragua resort sustainable
sustainable hotel granada nicaragua

For more images, information, and reservation, visit the website for Isleta El Espino.

The islands are about an hour from the Managua airport. The hotel offers transportation for $40 each way, but you can also hire a taxi at the airport for a bit cheaper. When they drop you off at the marina in Granada, you can then hire a water taxi. I would only attempt this if you know a least a little bit of Spanish and are up for an adventure.

While you’re in Granada, don’t miss market street, Iglesia Merced, and Garden Cafe.

Found via Huckberry.


Last summer, I helped a friend photograph a wedding in the Dublin area. During a site visit, we stopped off at Powerscourt Estate to tour the gardens and have a cuppa at the Avoca cafe located on the grounds. I found out about Powerscourt Gardens in a gardening book, where it was listed as one of the top gardens in Ireland. So, off we went for a visit.

formal rose garden in bloom

Touring Powerscourt Gardens

We started with a cup of tea and small meal in the cafe before starting our walk. The gardens span a total of 47 acres and require five full-time gardeners to maintain them. They’re full of formal and informal gardens, woodland trails, fountains, waterfalls, and there are even rumors of a hobbit cave as well! They also have a rather large pet cemetery, where the estate owner’s beloved pets are laid to rest.

powerscourt gardens fountain
powerscourt gardens_-10 round tower in garden
powerscourt gardens wicklow
powerscourt garden walkway

Somehow, accidentally, we were able to visit when the rose gardens at Powerscourt were in bloom. Of course, in Ireland roses bloom all summer because of the cool weather. So there is a much larger window of time to see the glory that is thousands of roses in bloom.  There are over 50 varieties to enjoy!

yellow roses in garden formal rose garden 
white tea rose
korresia yellow rose

This is a yellow David Austin rose by the name of Korresia. It’s a disease resistant floribunda shrub rose.

whiskey mac hybrid tea rose

This is the Whiskey Mac hybrid tea rose. Apricot in color, it’s hardy from zones 6a to 11 and is classified as a shrub, repeat-bloomer.

white tea rose bloom
white tea rosebud

Before moving to Ireland, I assumed poppies only thrived in drier climates (hello California!), but they are prolific in Ireland. During the summer season, you’ll see patches of poppies crop up everywhere: in cow pastures, along the road, and wherever else the wind takes the seeds. This garden had a selection of beauty pageant worthy poppies, in all different colors, showing off their paper-thin petals.

pink poppy in garden
white poppy in garden
poppy bud
red poppies in garden

For more information, including directions and visiting hours, visit the Powerscourt Estate website.

I planted my very first vegetable garden this year. It’s not the first time I’ve grown vegetables, but it is the first time I’ve been responsible for the entire process of planning, planting, and feeding my own small vegetable garden. I’m having so much fun with it!

small cucumber on vine

Every morning I walk outside in pajama pants with bed head to water my gardens. And then two hours later I go out and stare at them. And then a few hours later I go out AGAIN and stare at them some more. I’m a bit obsessed, you can say.

cucumber blossom

I’ve really enjoyed not just the planning and planting, but watching how each flower turns into a tiny little baby vegetable that grows each day. Vegetable gardening can be a bit intimidating, but I’ve found myself learning so much just by trial and error. And the best part is popping a tomato into your mouth that is warm from the sun and bursting with fresh flavor. No store bought tomato will be better!

cherry tomatoes in hand

I picked my first cucumber this morning, and we’ve already had a few cherry tomatoes come in. We bought both of these as plants at Lowe’s. I didn’t want to start from seed for my first batch because I’m so impatient to see results. But I have a few more seedlings that I’m growing right now to plant for our fall season. Yes, zone 9 has multiple grow seasons. It’s amazing.

growing bell pepper

The bell peppers and jalapeno peppers are also coming in! They’re very small right now because both plants are slow growers compared to the cucumber and tomato. The bell is about half the size it needs to be, and the jalapeno are tiny little 1″ peppers right now.

If you’re interested in planting your own small vegetable garden, here are the details of mine:

I used a 4×4 raised garden bed kit of plastic boards from Lowe’s because wood rots so quickly here. I’m not a fan of it, but it will do for this first season until I decide where I want permanent beds. My husband and brother helped set it up, but it really could be done with one person. We just like hanging out in the dirt together.

I used a layering system to fill the bed, with cardboard as the bottom layer, enriched garden soil nearly to the top of the bed, and mulch as a top layer to retain moisture. The cardboard acts as a weed block, and it composts well as it ages. I chose vegetables that I use frequently, and I planted in a grid system of three squares in three rows.

Back row: Because the sun is south of the bed, I planted the tallest plants in the back. They are a Husky Cherry Red tomato, Bradley tomato (a gift from my dad), and a bell pepper.

Middle Row: In the middle row, I have a banana pepper, sweet basil, and then another bell pepper (planted a few weeks after the first to stagger the crop). I’m moving the basil into the front row this week because the tomato plant is growing over it and blocking the sun.

Front Row: In the front row, I have a jalapeno pepper, romaine (just harvested so I’ll put the basil here), and a watermelon vine. The watermelon vine won’t stay in the container. It will spill out into our yard for several feet, but the roots will be in the enriched soil and given a lot of water.

I wanted to try growing the cucumber on a trellis, so I planted my Bush Hybrid cucumber in my flower garden, against a trellis that also contains plumbago. But next time, I think I’ll plant it in my small vegetable garden and trellis it up the back. I also don’t have a lot of room between my trellis and fence, which makes it a bit difficult to squeeze back there and harvest or weed.

Lately, I’ve been pondering how to add a little bit of cottage style to our 70’s ranch. I know it seems an odd match, but I think it could work. Especially if I work in a few beachy accents. I’m using this little California cottage featured in Country Living as inspiration.

cottage style dining
Photos by Elizabeth Jenkins for Country Living.

What I love about this home is the variety of brown tones she’s used. It’s interesting to me that this dining room still feels cool in tone, thanks to the white walls, curtains, and slipcovered chairs. Too often, brown can make a room warm in tone. So it’s nice to see it used in a way that feels fresh and current. Although I would lighten up those floors a bit, heighten the curtains, and maybe put in cornices in over each of the windows.

cottage style pantry cottage style kitchen

The owner is a chef, and has maxed out her kitchen with tons of style and efficient use of space. Despite the tiny size, it feels like a kitchen that could still be used regularly. If you visit the original article, she also installed a chandelier (!) in the kitchen. I like the amount of bright white she’s used. It could be too much white, but the room feels grounded because of the baskets, black countertops and two-color tile. Although, I wonder what it would have looked like with butcher block countertops!

cottage rose garden cottage style porch

No cottage is complete without a garden full of roses, and this cottage garden is bang on! The wicker lounge in the garden looks like the perfect place to take a nap when the flowers are in bloom. And the porch is just adorable. The choice of furniture makes it feel like an outdoor room, rather than just a place to walk through. While this works in the dry California air, it’s not doable in Florida. It’s too humid!

For the complete article that contains more photos of this adorable cottage, including the kitchen with a chandelier (!), head over to Cottage Living.


I’m in full garden obsession down here in Tampa. I’m talking a Burpee catalog perusing, zone 9 studying, spending all my fun money, sun measuring, seed buying, Lowe’s garden center stalking, Pinterest image gathering level of obsession. It’s all I can think of.

The best part? I live in subtropical zone 9, where you can start your garden very early and harvesting won’t end until late-December. I gathered stalk after stalk of basil until January, and the tomato plant I put into the ground as an end-of-season tester is still bearing fruit, albeit one sad little cherry tomato at a time.

Which means it’s time to start spring garden planting!

When we moved in last fall, our 3 bed / 2 bath ranch style home had little to no landscaping. Over the last five months, I’ve slowly added in flowers as I find them or they are given to me. It’s a mish mash of everything from begonias to roses, petunias to gerbera daisies. It’s been great to learn what works in the sun v. shade, and what the soil needs for plants to thrive. Now it’s time to add in more formally planned sections each season.

I’ve started with a full sun bed against a southern facing fence line. This is what I’ve ordered so far for my zone 9 full-sun garden:

Zone 9 Full Sun Summer Garden

Zone 9 Full Sun Garden

lisianthus pink bouqet pink sunflower ms mars

Lisianthus Pink Bouquet Collection (left): Perennial, Zones 7-11. Blooms Spring to Fall. 12-14″ in height. 6-8″ in spread.

Sunflower Ms. Mars (right): Annual. Blooms in Summer. 2o-30″ in height. 18-24″ in spread.

I picked these two plants because they make fabulous cut flowers and are great bedding plants. I’ve never lived in a zone where Lisianthus can grow as a perennial, so it will be interesting to see how it grows in Tampa.

monarda fistulosa humdinger clematis diamond ball

Monarda Fistulosa: Perennial, Zones 6-9. Blooms late Summer. 3-4′ in height. 20-24″ in spread.

Clematis Diamond Ball: Perennial, Zones 4-9. Blooms in Summer. 6-7′ in height. 2-3′ in spread.

We had several types of Clematis growing in our Kilkenny house. I’m interested to see how this vine looks in this heat. Will it hold up in zone 9? And, I added in a plant the bees will enjoy. This is the only plant I’m not sure I’ll like, as it’s more of a “wildflower” looking plant than the traditional cottage garden plant. So, we’ll see how it looks with it!

claire austin rose blue freesia zone 9

Claire Austin Rose: Perennial, Zones 5-9. Blooms in Summer. 4-8′ in height. 3-4′ in spread.

Freesia: Perennial, Zones 9-11. Blooms in early Summer. 14-18″ in height. 12″ in spread.

I’m a huge fan of David Austin roses, and this rose named after his daughter just looks beautiful in person. It’s been a feature in several formal gardens I’ve visited, and I can’t wait to see how it grows in my own garden. As for the Freesia, do I even need to give a reason?