Country Living...Island Dreaming

June 29, 2017

Beautiful Garden Tour with Ideas for Every Budget!

If you are looking for some creative ideas to upgrade your outdoor areas to the next level, you might want to attend a garden tour for inspiration!

Yesterday, a few of us headed to the charming seaside town of Spring Lake, New Jersey for their annual Garden Club of Spring Lake - Seaside Garden Tour!

The weather couldn't have been more perfect with plenty of sunshine and a nice breeze!  We toured eight beautiful home gardens.  Since the homes were clustered in two sections of town, it was easy to just park twice and walk around.  

Each garden was loaded with gorgeous inspiration and although some of the ideas are dreams for most of us, I found plenty of ideas that could work for most budgets!

Layers of colorful hydrangeas and flowing grasses were a popular look.

Many of the homes had cozy outdoor seating areas tucked in their backyards...
This table opened up to a fire pit.  I was admiring how well kept the outdoor cushions appeared and the tour volunteer informed me that the owner has a cover for the them.  Good to know since I always wonder if people actually cover them in the real world.  I recently bought a cover for mine so I don't have to lug those things in and out all the time!

Another cozy fire pit seating area.  I am sure my kids would love to roast marshmallows out there.  Although this one is built in, I have heard the little metal portable ones work just fine.  Maybe we will pick one up this summer!

There were plenty of other great seating ideas...
I loved the furniture in this outdoor kitchen and patio.  The blue cushions really pop against the more neutral background.

How cute is this garden bench nestled in the flower garden?!  The straw hat was a nice touch too.  This would be a relatively easy way to add some seating without blowing your budget.  More money for flowers!  (or wine!)...

Here is another adorable bench hidden in a shaded area of one of the properties.  The weathered look of the wood really complements the stone.

Speaking of stone...
A stone bench is another pretty option.  I love the way this one is surrounded by cinnamon ferns and petunias.

Lately, I have been obsessed by driveways that have grass running up the middle!  Isn't this pretty?  I wanted to take off my shoes and walk down the center!  I know you would have to make sure the grass is always neatly mowed but if you have a driveway like this, you most likely would have a lawn service!

Here is another one.  I don't even think this property was on the tour but when I walked by, I had to take a picture!

Then there were the pools...
This beauty felt so private in the back corner of the property.

This one had full all-day sun with a huge umbrella for shade.  Although I have seen these cantilever umbrellas at many different price points, we just picked one up for our deck from Home Depot for around $300.  Definitely do-able if you like that look!

This pool was surrounded by grasses which definitely gives that beachy feel.  After all, the ocean was only a block away.

Another lovely pool with stone walls and plenty of pretty foliage!

We were all obsessed with this pool!  The owners bought the lot behind their house to build this amazing oasis.  Would you believe that building is the POOL HOUSE?!!  Like I said, I am sharing ideas for every budget!  Needless to say, this is not in my budget!

Here is another great idea which wouldn't be too expensive if you already have a pergola.  How nice to have a pergola canopy to shade you from the midday sun!

If you look closely, you can see that the canopy hangs on a track to make it easy to open and close.  I just love this idea!

Here is a fun idea for sports loving families...
This sports/basketball court looks like it's permanent but if you take a closer look, you can see that it's made up of squares linked together.  The "court" just floats above the driveway and could be removed as needed.  We lifted it up just to be sure.  I have never seen anything like it before!

My friend is going to use this photo for inspiration in her own garden.  Not only does the urn hold flowers but it sits among the flowers in the bed.  Great look!

More hydrangeas...they were everywhere!

I have always been a fan of flower boxes.  These are another way to add another layer of flowers to your house without spending too much.

In additional to touring some fabulous garden tours, we got to relax on this spectacular porch for refreshments!
I could only dream of what the inside of this beauty looked like!

We first approached the house from this angle with a view of this huge American flag to greet us!  A nice welcome!

The refreshments were served on the porch but we had the option of sitting on this gorgeous patio!  I could imagine inviting guests for cocktails out here...we could play croquet on that lawn...ahhh to dream!

And speaking of dreaming...
I even took a few photos of houses that weren't on the tour because the town of Spring Lake is just too pretty not to share!

I can never get enough blue and white!

Or just white...I definitely have a thing for white houses!

And white flowers!  Love these mini daisies!

It was a lovely day spent in Spring Lake!  If you have a chance to attend a garden tour in your area, I recommend you go.  I hope I gave you some ideas to incorporate into your own gardens!  Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your weekend!

Which feature was your favorite?

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Garden Ideas for Every Budget

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June 7, 2017

Gumbo Love Review and a Recipe From the Book!

I am excited to share a new cookbook and recipe with you today!

Recently, the publicity manager for Gumbo Love offered to send me a copy for review.   When I read through the description, I just knew this cookbook would be a great fit for my blog and couldn't wait to get started.  I mean, what are the odds that I wouldn't love a cookbook that incorporates Caribbean, Cajun, Cuban, Mexican, Old Florida, and Creole influences?  Mix in the fact that the author, Lucy Buffett (Lulu), is Jimmy Buffett's sister and I was prepared to be entertained!

Although I received a copy of the cookbook for review, all opinions expressed are my own.

Gumbo Love Review and Recipe from the Book!

About the book:

A delicious love letter to the Gulf Coast's vibrant food culture, by Jimmy Buffett's sister and owner of two beloved destination restaurants in Alabama and Florida. 
Incorporating Caribbean, Cajun, Cuban, Mexican, Old Florida, and Creole influences, Lucy proves through her collection of recipes that the Gulf Coast has its own distinct flavors and traditions that make it a destination year after year. Surviving hurricanes, the Gulf Coast—beyond just New Orleans—has a vibrant food and culture that's gone largely unnoticed. Lucy wants to change that by sharing her food and stories with GUMBO LOVE readers.

Like her brother, Jimmy, Lucy celebrates freedom, relaxation, and seaside decadence in her own art--cooking, and has now written the cookbook her fans have been asking her for; one that offers the recipes she's famous for, along with Gulf Coast classics and stories of growing up in Mobile, Alabama, working in New Orleans, and her philosophy of relaxation, gratitude, and enjoyment.

Lucy combines over one hundred new recipes with old favorites. Her fans will find recipes for their social occasions including gumbos, main dishes, deep fried favorites (with her easy frying tutorial), salads, seasonings, libations, and desserts. They will also learn how Lucy navigates the kitchen, her business, and her family and readers will come away with the basic ingredients of an inspiring life philosophy. 

In Gumbo Love, she combines over one hundred new recipes with old favorites, including gumbos, main dishes, deep fried favorites, salads, seasonings, libations, and desserts. Featuring classic family recipes, Lucy also explains in heartfelt, humorous stories about learning what it takes to make gumbo (especially amid many challenging life lessons), and how that helped her become an independent and empowered woman. 

Gumbo Love by Lucy Buffett
Image credit: Angie Mosier

If you are like me, you sometimes just read a cookbook for the recipes and skip through most of the text.  Luckily, I didn't do that in this case or I would have really missed out!

What fun it was to learn about Lucy Buffett's family memories and traditions along with her inspiration for the name, "Gumbo Love"!  I especially loved Lucy's list of life lessons and the stories behind them!  Her philosophy on life as well as cooking is so refreshing... and just what you would expect from a member of the Buffett family!

"Jimmy captures in his music the same attitude I celebrate in my food..."  
                                                                  - Lucy Buffett

Lucy Buffett
Image credit: Chandler Williams of Modus Photography

Last night I tried one of her recipes from the book and I would love to share it with you!

Classic Southern Pound Cake with Strawberries


Excerpted from the book GUMBO LOVE by Lucy Buffett. Copyright © 2017 by Lucy Buffett. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Life & Style. All rights reserved.


GROWING UP SOUTHERN, pound cake was part of my sweet-tasting experience, as there was always some kind of pound cake sitting on my grandmother’s counter. The traditional story about pound cake is that the ingredients consist of “a pounda” butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. This is my rendition of the classic dessert, and there are really no words to describe the sweet vanilla aroma and rich buttery taste of love infused in every bite.

1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk
2½ teaspoons vanilla extract (or use almond or any other flavored extract)
Fresh whipped cream (recipe follows), for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan (a tube pan is preferred, but if you use a Bundt pan instead, you’ll need to make sure to leave 1 inch of space at the top of the pan, so you may end up with a small amount of leftover batter).

2. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the sugar over the sliced strawberries. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve the cake.

3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

4. In a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add the remaining 3 cups sugar, ½ cup at a time, and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

5. Reduce the mixer speed to low and alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk, starting and finishing with the flour mixture. Add the vanilla and mix to incorporate.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then turn the cake out onto the rack to cool completely. Serve each piece with a spoonful of the chilled strawberries and a dollop of fresh whipped cream.


1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or
flavored liqueur
3 tablespoons sugar

1. Place a medium metal bowl in the freezer to chill.
2. When ready to prepare the whipped cream, place the cream and vanilla in the chilled bowl. With an electric mixer, whip the cream on medium speed, gradually adding the sugar. The cream will begin to thicken.
3. Whip the cream until it begins to form stiff peaks. Be careful not to overwhip or the cream will separate.

Pound Cake and Strawberries - Gumbo Love Review and Recipe

I guess it made sense for me to try one of her dessert recipes first since Lucy, being the "rule breaker" that she is, begins her cookbook with desserts!  As she says, "Life is short - eat dessert first."

I loved the way this pound cake turned out.  Not only is it pretty and great for entertaining but it's the perfect amount of sweetness - and so moist!  Even with my tendency to overcook things, I didn't mess it up!  Adding the strawberries and fresh whipped cream took it to another level of deliciousness!  I can't wait to make this one for guests!

In addition to all the delectable dessert recipes, I have already bookmarked several pages of fun drink concoctions, (margaritas anyone?!!), amazing salsas and other enticing entrees that will be sure to pull me out of my recipe rut!  I have a feeling I will be referring to this book a great deal!

Please note that this post contains an affiliate link which means I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link (at no additional cost to you).

Since I just know you will want to check out more of Lucy's recipes and read all about her adventures, click over to Gumbo Love to order your copy today!  Keep me posted on which recipes are your favorites!

Thanks for stopping by...
Enjoy your day!
I would love for you follow along so you don't miss a post!

Gumbo Love Review - with a recipe from the book!

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June 1, 2017

Take Me Away Link Party - June 2017

Happy June everyone!  It's time for another Take Me Away Travel Link Party!  We can't wait to see where you've been!

Let's get started with the June party!

  • Please link up to 3 travel posts you have written (new or old - as long as you haven't shared them at the Take Me Away Party before.)
  • Please include a link back to my blog.
  • Please don't link ads or giveaways (affiliate links are fine, though!)
  • By joining the party, you give me permission to feature your photo/post on any of my social media networks and this blog.
  • Please Pin from the original source of the photo.
  • Please visit and comment on as many links as you can...after all, it's a party!

Once again, we are off!  Take Me Away!

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