Black & White & Color Photo Challenge

I have a spot in my backyard garden where nothing will grow. It’s near the path and the sprinklers just won’t reach it, no matter how I ย configure the nozzles. I decided to find a Buddha statue to place there but have had little luck finding just the right size and style that I really liked. Then, while my daughter and I were in Leavenworth (where we were supposed to be purchasing Christmas gifts for friends and family) I saw it. ย Exactly what I had envisioned for the bare patch!

I will be placing it in the garden when the weather warms up, but for now here it is by the fountain. Black & White, or Color? Either way I am happy with it ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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Grab your camera or phone and join Linda fromย Everyone Else has the best titlesย and Take the โ€œBlack and White and Colorโ€ photo challenge!

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Cobh, Ireland

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Our first stop, after Southampton, England and our visit toย Stonehenge, was in the port city of Cobh, Ireland. Cobh is a little town on the south side of Ireland and part of Cork County. It is a quaint, little area with farmlands and homes. It is important to the history of Ireland as it is the biggest harbor for transport of goods and assisted with the mass emigration during the tough times suffered by the Irish. It was also the last port of call for the Titanic, where 123 passengers were picked up for the fatal voyage. It was a beautiful day and we had some pretty views as we approached the port.

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These home almost look like toys, they are so close together on the hillside and so colorful

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Cobh Cathedral was stunning!

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This ivy covered home really stood out on the hillside

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My traveling companions! Hubby and his parents.

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We had a limited amount of time (a common theme for any cruise) so we chose to see the Blarney Castle and Gardens in the town of Cork, which was nearby. Our bus dropped us at the visitor’s center and I was surprised at how large the estate was. We began to walk toward the Castle itself.

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I have no idea why these trees are wrapped like this!

 

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This was our first view of the Castle

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It seems that every monument I saw on this trip had some sort of restoration or repair in progress, of course it was built over 600 years ago!

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Every good Castle needs a moat!

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I love how nature invades these ancient buildings

The Blarney Castle is most famous for its Blarney Stone, which people stand in line to visit. I had no desire to kiss a stone that had seen the lips of thousands of my fellow tourists. ย I had doubts that doing so would give me the “gift of gab”, which I have never coveted anyway, but was sure that I would contract the gift of herpes! What I did not know was that the line to kiss the stone, and to gain entry into the Castle, were one in the same. So, unfortunately I had to settle for the outside of the building.

First stop was the dungeon area and the network of tunnels that were below the castle.

 

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Not much of a view from this cell

I took in as much of the perimeter as I could. Love these old walls!

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There were a number of gardens on the property and one of our favorites was the “Poison Garden”.

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There were some truly nasty plantings in here like: Ricin, Opium, Mandrake, and Wolfsbane. There were also some lesser “poison” items that we know today to be not quite as life threatening, like Cannabis and Rosemary (yes, culinary Rosemary was thought to cause miscarriages in the 1800s!)

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I love the cage concept!

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This was a beautiful garden and located just behind the battlements of the castle. See that stone wall above? We had some excellent views from over that wall across the valley.

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The wall itself was home to many plants.

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The wall led up to a turret of sorts which could have been for storage or for imprisonment.

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It was fairly deep and also well covered with plant life.

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We left the Poison Garden and started down one of the many pathways on the grounds, taking in the beauty as we went.

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This tree was huge, I can’t even guess at its age!

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Then we saw Blarney House-WOW! I regret not going inside this home, I am sure it would have been stunning!

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This was from my Instagram feed

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Got my husband in this shot!

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This garden is smaller but no less impressive

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I would have loved to see the view from this little room

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Some stones found along the path leading to the house.

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The Blarney home was definitely a high light for me. We needed to return to the village to meet our tour bus, and grab a quick Irish coffee, so we ambled down another path to circle back to the start.

And we ran into this….

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We are from the Pacific Northwest where ferns and moss were practically invented! But this was a new fern species for us to be sure! It is tall and the leaves are produced at the top of the stalk.

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I was expecting a dinosaur to come strolling along, they look so prehistoric.

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As the path continued it wound down into a gully where this waterfall showed up out of nowhere.

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Our final sights as we left the grounds were the residents of the manor. Both cattle and sheep were taking in the warm sun and grazing nearby.

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The estate was glorious (and the Irish coffee was pretty great too)! If you go, make sure you have your expectation set. There will be a line, it will take the better part of the day to see it all and yes, it is worth it! I am already plotting my return!

Up next on the travel portion of my blog: Dublin and Belfast

A Ferry Ride, A San Juan Cottage and an Amazing Dinner: Day 2

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If you remember from the first post, we had just finished our wonderful dinner and were feeling pretty groggy the next morning from our food coma, that actually started the night before. We decided to head over to American Camp Beach for an early hike to clear our heads. This park has some rather impressive historical roots dating back to the mid 1800s when the military established its presence during the British/US occupation. Today it is just a pretty place to hike around.

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A group of kayakers are getting their safety lecture before heading out.

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The entire shoreline is covered with fort structures made from the huge supply of driftwood.

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We don’t get huge breakers on the sound, but look at the mountains in the distance!

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We saw several bald eagles and tried to get a closeup of two of them before they pecked our eyes out.

We were feeling considerably more awake as a result of dodging eagles and tourist with paddles, we headed back to the cottage to get ready for a round of golf.

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I promised a tour of the cottage in the first post, so here it is!

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The front, and only door, is on the left and the “kitchen” is to the right. The door has a gorgeous window!

 

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If you turn to the right from the “kitchen” you see the bathroom and bed. Look at that window!

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Then you turn back, and that is pretty much it!

Like I said before, it is small but the architecture allows for a lot of light, and it is really cozy. What is really stunning about the property is the location and views-more on that in a moment. Another bonus is that it is just 1/4 mile from the only golf course on the Island. We had a 1pm tee time.

I did not take a lot of pictures of the course because, well, it ain’t that pretty! I warmed up in the putting and chipping areas.

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It was a good course for me, the beginner, because there were not too many trees, water features or sand traps. But, this was an 18 hole course with some long drives, so I did not play every hole. I did drive the cart and managed to sneak some action shots of my hubby.

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He looks like he is going to crush this ball

It was fun and very hot! We went back to the cottage and I took some photos of the beautiful property.

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I absolutely love these trees. They surround the cottage.

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We are up on a hill overlooking the water.

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This is the view from the deck on one side.

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And the view from the other side.

The woman who owns this property has a second rental right next door and a beautiful garden, I had to take pictures of that as well! All the islands in the San Juans grow lavender. There is so much of it I would say it is the primary crop here. There are lavender baked goods, soap, bath salts….anything you can think of will have been infused with the scent.

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The bees love it so there is plenty of lavender honey for sale!

The owner has many wonderful and unique plantings throughout the garden.

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There was a trellis that caught my eye. As I swung my camera up I spotted one of the largest bee hives I have ever seen.

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I got a little closer

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At this point we believed it was an abandoned hive and I tried to talk my husband into climbing up and using his head for scale. Then we saw this…

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Obviously there were occupants at home and my hubby said it was a “no go” to the climbing up part. We estimate that the hive is just a little smaller than an adult head!

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The rest of the garden was not as scary!

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We ended this day with a light meal and happy hour at a beautiful spot over looking the ferry dock.

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We watched the float planes, which were constantly present, land and take off.

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Sorry about the quality of these photos, the planes were fast, I only had my cell phone and the happy hour drinks were starting to kick in!

The next morning it was time to head back home. We parked our car in the ferry line and set out on foot to find some breakfast. Cafe Demeter is the best bakery on the Island and just a few steps from the ferry dock. We have been here before and the wait in the long line is completely worth it! Highly recommend this one!IMG_2691

After my breakfast pizza, which I ate before I took any pictures, we wandered around town and checked out a few other places that are near the dock.

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This houses many little shops to browse or pick up a last minute souvenir-probably something with lavender!

 

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Also a great place for coffee or breakfast. It is also open for lunch and dinner.

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We have not dinned here but I have heard good reviews.

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Remember the ice cream we had on day 1? This is that shop but if you go remember they only take cash!

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We had lunch at this spot last year, it was ok.

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On the look out for our ferry at this pretty spot

Our ferry arrived right on time

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We said good bye for this year.

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Friday Harbor is just one side of the Island of San Juan. Roche Harbor is on the opposite side of the Island. It is just as pretty but maybe a little more effort to get there. Abbey from abbeyco is a boater who lives here in Seattle and happen to be visiting Roche while we were in Friday Harbor. If you would like to see more about that side of the Island, check out her post. She has great pictures and an adorable little girl too!

So it is good bye for now, until next year…..

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Gardening Update, 3 Months Later!

A few nights ago we hosted a party at our house. This was a reunion for our yoga retreat friends. You may remember that my husband and I went to Santiago, Mexico back in January to attend a yoga retreat lead by my hubby’s favorite yoga instructor. We had an amazing time snorkeling, sight seeing, eating and, of course, doing lots of yoga! I created several posts which you can see here, hereย and here.ย 

In fact we had such a great time that we have already signed up to go again in January of 2018! Our hosts who are americans living in Mexico, Bill and Susan, were visiting in Seattle this month and we couldn’t resist the urge to get “the band” back together again. We offered our home for the 20 or so folks who attended either the first retreat week with us or were part of the second week group. Since I was responsible for the desserts you might expect that this is a food related blog post. I did post an Instagram picture of my little sugary creations.

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top left: Lemon meringue flower tarts, top right: Berry white chocolate mousse cookie cups, bottom left: Peanut butter chocolate fudge, bottom right: Salt caramel cheesecake bites. I also made some appetizers and potato herb dinner rolls.

But this post is not about the food! Everyone who came to our house that night had never been here before. We saw our home through new eyes which is always a delight. It is so easy to take what you have for granted when you view it day in and day out. But our guests were so complementary about our home and, in particular, our garden and backyard that I began to take notice myself. I realized it has been awhile since my last garden post in which I shared the status of the new spring plantings and planter boxes that I hung along the fence line. So, here we go WARNING: lots of pictures!

We have three of these large pots, one on the deck and two on the patio below. I chose coleus plants and sweet potato vines, in varying colors for each pot.

This is one of the two on the patio. The hummingbirds love this red plant (don’t remember what it’s called!)

The hydrangeas are doing particularly well this year. They line the stairway down the side of our home and lead into the patio.

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Do you remember what the planter boxes looked like back in April? Ya, me neither! Here they are.

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And now….

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What a difference in just three months! I also put two other planters (which I did not build but purchased and painted) on the adjacent side of the fence line. They also filled in nicely.

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In fact, the entire garden has filled in!

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This is a pathway (that leads nowhere really) from the side of our patio.

 

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Same pathway as viewed from above

These plantings fall under the category of “trying to attract more hummingbirds”. It does seem to be working as we now have two fighting over territory of the yard.

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Other plants were chosen for their color or uniqueness.

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love this purple color

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This is a banana leaf plant and will be huge in August

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Others were selected to help with weed control, to serve as ground cover, but I still wanted variety and color.

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The garden really has come a long way. I am happy with the overall look, but will still be tweaking things here and there. After the third growing season I can see that some plants need to be thinned, or removed all together. Of course there is the constant weeding! I am going to try to remember to take a step back and enjoy the surrounding and attempt to avoid the tunnel vision I often acquire when I work in the yard. After all, the point is to enjoy the fruits of our labors and not just look for more flaws, right!

We also recievedย a lovely bouquet of flowers from one of our guests, so I would like to leave you with some pretty images of lilies and dahlias.

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Thanks for reading this far! Enjoy the summer while it lasts and I wish you all good fortune!