Holiday Snapshots

We’ve just returned from a sun-soaked ten days on the Iberian Peninsula. First stop was Seville – famous for tapas and tiles. My kind of town. It’s also rather hot and sunny. You can definitely see why the siesta is such a good idea in these parts. That summer sun is punishing. Stepping off the plane was like stepping into an oven – the heat hit us slap bang in the face. A low oven, mind you, we were frazzled but not fried. As you can see from the photo below, it was also rather cloudy when we first arrived. These were the only clouds we saw when we were in Spain. 2015-08-09 14.36.11-12015-08-09 16.31.42

We didn’t have long to sample the delights of Seville – so kept it brief – a visit to the Alcazar, a a stunning Moorish palace. If you’re a fan of geometric tiles (and I am), this was beautiful. I could have wafted around the palace and gardens for hours. Fred doesn’t share my love of tiles – he’s seven and is far more interested in Minecraft, sadly, so we didn’t linger for too long. 2015-08-10 12.30.44-1

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The builders of the Alcazar even designed it with an indoor pool. In the days before air conditioning, this would have been a very inviting place to spend some time.

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Next on our whistlestop tour of Andalucia was Jerez, well-known for sherry, of course. And there was lots of sherry to sample. (I managed to struggle through this task). No sweet Harvey’s Bristol Cream here – the Spanish have a range of sherries from dry Fino to thick and sweet Pedro Ximenez, which tastes like liquid raisins (yum). The sherry only cost one Euro a glass, so it would have been rude not to sample a few kinds. I’ve had sherry before in the UK, and I know a glass of the sweet PX with a chocolate dessert is a thing of beauty. This time it was all about the Fino with a plate of ham. How very Spanish. (Check out the tiles too. Tiles, tiles everywhere).

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We only had three days in Spain so in fact, we didn’t do a tour of Andalucia at all. We just sampled a couple of the highlights. It’s whetted my appetite for more. The Alhambra at Granada is supposed to be spectacular so that alone gives me a reason to return. We also have a friend who hales from Cadiz on the coast and spends the summer there with her three kids. We will be back, I’m sure of it.

But this time, after three lovely days in Seville and Jerez, we were on the road again to Portugal. A place I visited in my childhood, but never the Algarve. I was excited to see what the area had to offer…

 

Craft Beer in South London

Hop BurnsI’m a bit late to the party as yesterday was International Beer Day. You may have noticed that the world of beer has changed. Real Ale used to be confined to musty old pubs with bearded Camra members wearing sandals and socks, supping warm pints of cloudy liquid. Not really my scene. These days the drinkers may still be bearded and wearing sandals (well these things are deemed cool now) but the beer itself has changed – and there is so much choice. I’m no expert but I must say I’ve been enjoying the ‘Craft Beer Revolution.’ There are at least 5 breweries within a couple of miles from where I live…and a quick google reveals that there are loads (too many to count) in London as a whole. Check out a map of them here.

Here are a few of my South London favourites:

Brixton Brewery:

Apart from making a delicious pale ale named after the local underground river, the Effra, Brixton Brewery have a really fantastic graphic label. The one pictured below is a ‘special’ made only for the Brixton branch of Wahaca. It goes well with spicy Mexican food, obvs.

2015-03-08 14.22.16The Electric Pale Ale is pretty good too.

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Brick Brewery

Located in the heart of Peckham, just off Rye Lane, Brick Brewery has a range of beers named after Peckham landmarks and local characters. I like the Sir Thomas Gardner (who was a prominent orchard owner in the 17 century) as it’s citrussy and light. The thing I like about the Brick Brewery is that they have a tap room where you can enjoy an al fresco beer and perhaps a bite to eat (they often have a street food vendor on their premises). It’s also a good place to start a Peckham pub crawl.

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Canopy Beer Co

This brewery is literally down the road from me so is pretty convenient as they also have a tap room to enjoy their wares in. It’s pretty basic but there’s something quite nice about sitting on some rickety tables, enjoying a beer a few metres from where is was made. My favourite Canopy beer is the Ruskin wheat beer.

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Gypsy Hill Brewery

With a tagline of ‘drink it and talk to people’, you can’t help but like Gypsy Hill Brewery’s style. The bottles and cans also have a cute design. I like the Beatnik. It’s a light ale and you can buy it in a can or a bottle. They are also opening a tap room soon.

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Kernel Brewery

One of the granddaddies of the Craft Beer Revolution, my husband rates their Table Beer as the best in London. I like the Saison beers they brew; they are citrussy, fresh tasting beers. Is it because I am a lady? (Ladies like beer too. Although not many of us are good at growing beards, thankfully). Kernel also open up their doors although I note on their website that they are stopping this soon due to its popularity. You will still be able to buy bottles of their beer though. And combine it with a trip to Maltby Street Market (and the new Druid Street Market). Bermondsey is a fun place to hang out on a Saturday.

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Beavertown Brewery

I’m giving Beavertown a special mention as although they are not based in South London,  I absolutely love their labels. Decent beer and top notch graphic design featuring weird aliens; the cans certainly catch the eye. And when there is such a choice, you need to attract potential drinkers to your brand. I think they are pretty successful at this. Luckily the beer lives up to it; I had one of their Weissbeers (with lime and yuzu no less) last night and it certainly hit the spot. My husband rates the Neck Oil. They are based in Tottenham and also have a tap room if you find yourself in those parts.

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Where to buy the beer

Apart from tap rooms and pubs, there are nu-wave beer shops popping up all over the place. We’re lucky enough to have a few locally. My favourite has got to be Hop Burns and Black in East Dulwich. They have hit upon the winning formula of selling beer (of course), hot sauce and spinning tunes. I’ve always found them really helpful and now they are running a loyalty scheme (could be dangerous). And you are also able to have a drink in the shop if you want to kick back and listen to the music. Reasons to be cheerful indeed.

Hop Burns

August: On the Radar

August already?! Time really is whizzing by. July was a challenging month for me, hence the lack of posts. My Dad was pretty ill and spent three weeks in hospital; I find it hard to be upbeat on here when there’s an underlying anxiety going on in my life. Thankfully it looks like the problem has been discovered and dealt with so things are looking up again. But it was a reminder that my parents are getting older and not to take my (or their) health for granted…because health really is one of those things that you don’t appreciate until it’s not there any more.

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Anyway August, what you got for me?

  • Holiday!!! We will be jetting off for a week in the sun. If I get any time to kick back and relax, I’m going to check out some of these podcasts recommended by Blogtacular.  Any other recommendations would be gratefully received…
  • Fred is absolutely desperate to go to Kidzania – he wants to find out what the world of work is like. I do hope they make it more exciting than the years of office-bound ‘fun’ I experienced. (The juries out on this one..I will report back. The fact he and a friend can go in on their own for four hours while I ‘wait’ for them in Westfield is a deciding factor here.)
  • I want to check out this new place in Brixton. A creative space for start-ups and a fine array of food and drink stalls, Pop Brixton looks like a winner.
  • Finally the work on our kitchen is due to start. I am EXCITED. I have a little kitchen inspiration board over on Pinterest if you like that kind of thing. I’ll share some ‘before pics’ soon. Hopefully the ‘after pics’ can also be shared in due time.
  • Despite the fact I haven’t even been on holiday yet, I’m thinking about the post-holiday fall-out. Catherine did a really good round up of various online diet and exercise regimes. I’m looking forward to focusing on my health and fitness.

The Sky Garden

London is not known for its bargains. Quite the opposite, it regularly features as one of the most expensive cities in the world. ‘How much for a pint of beer?’, you can hear the cries far and wide. So when there’s a bargain excursion to be had, I’m there with bells on. The Sky Garden costs absolutely nothing and it has the wow factor. If you live in London or are planning a trip, I would highly recommend booking yourself a ticket.

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The Sky Garden is London’s highest public garden. It’s at the top of 20 Fenchurch Street, otherwise known as ‘The Walkie Talkie’ – 35 floors up. It’s impressive. The garden is lush and well planted. It even smells good; there are scents of thyme and rosemary which waft around the space.

Our tickets were for 10.30am, I was pleasantly surprised at how much space we had to roam around freely, taking in the views. It wasn’t overly busy. We probably spent about an hour up there and it did seem that there were more people by the time we left. So if I had any advice, it would be to book for the earliest part of the day you possibly can. Although I can imagine the views are stunning at sunset.

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If hunger strikes, you can treat yourself to a cake and a coffee whilst you’re up there. We didn’t so I can’t comment on how good they taste..but they did look pretty good. And I noted the prices. Not horrendously expensive.

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It’s not somewhere you can just turn up to and expect to be let in. You have to book your ticket online (a couple of weeks in advance) and take some id with you when you arrive (a bank card will suffice). But with a bit of organisation, you can take in some pretty spectacular views. Not bad for nowt.

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July: On the Radar

Woah 2015 will you slow down? Time is just flying by.. The boy has two weeks left at school and there’s a lot to pack in. Summer holidays loom. I like to have a few things planned over the six weeks but I don’t want to over-schedule. It’s nice to just hang out and take things as they come. Here are a few things I do want to do over the next few months:

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  • Weeeeeeeeeee. The Carsten Holler exhibition on at the Hayward Gallery looks like great fun.
  • If we have another heat wave, I’m definitely heading to Beach East. Sand, a bar called Pub Tropicana and live music events. Sounds fantastic!
  • Taking inspiration from Alexis over at Something I Made, I love the idea of doing some wild things during the holidays. It’s definitely a time for getting the hands dirty.
  • Have you been to Savage Beauty? I’ve got tickets to see it in July. I’ve heard it’s extraordinary.
  • We’re heading up to the Peak District at the end of the month. We’re camping with a group of friends – all the kids are boys and my husband has plans to take them climbing. Heights and hard hats are not my thing, so I’m thinking of having a little day trip to Sheffield. Jen’s blog post came at a good time. Sheffield, quite evidently, has some gorgeous cafes to hang in.

What have you got planned in July? Do tell…

 

What next?

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I’ve written about my career woes before. I find myself (again) in a position where I don’t know what to do next.  I don’t ever remember having a dream about what I wanted to do when I grew up. Now I am (supposedly) a grown-up, these decisions are not getting any easier. Lots of my career decisions have been based on the ‘oh well, let’s give it a go and see what happens’ school of thought. And of course…PANIC! I’m sure the reason I chose to go and work for KPMG after university to train to be an accountant was sheer panic. The ‘I’ve had loads of fun at university and not given this a second thought before now, but I need to earn some money and quickly’ type of panic. I suppose I was lucky I left university in an era of graduate jobs. At least I could get a job, although I’m not sure that it was the right one for me. But it’s all a learning experience…

I think perhaps I have been struggling with these types of decisions for a long time. This time the act of deciding has almost become paralysing. I’m so frightened of making the wrong one, it’s almost easier to not make one at all. I’m at a standstill. Not moving. Scared of failing (again).

Thankfully I’m not the type of person to dwell on past mistakes too much. I’m very good at deflecting those negative thoughts. So I’m not unhappy (having a supportive husband is a massive part of this, of course). But as well as not being one to beat myself up about my failings, I’m also prone to inaction and indecision.

But I do know that I don’t want to be an accountant. So what next? Well I’ve done the NCTJ and had a stint at a rather well known website (you know the one, it’s for Mums).  The job was not the one I wanted and to say there were office politics is an understatement. So I left. And now I find myself jobless, still wondering what to do next.

I may as well write down all my current ideas with the hope that if it’s written here, it’s almost like making a pledge to do something. I need to do something. Unfortunately at the ripe old age of forty (gasp – feels strange to write that down), I’m neither in the financial position to retire nor am I ready to give up the idea that I can do something interesting that I enjoy and perhaps uses my brain. It’s not a lot to ask…

Writer: It’s what I originally wanted to do after making the decision to leave accountancy, however it’s not that easy. I’m not unique in having this dream; there are a lot of people out there who harbour similar passions. There is also an expectation that you will work for free for a while, I did it for a while and didn’t like working for nothing. I realise I need to work on my networking skills. And I need to write…dur.

Salad maker: There’s someone on Instagram who set up a community kitchen in Sydney where she delivered salads to her customers by bike. (I love/hate Instagram in equal measure for giving me an insight to people’s perfect(ly edited) lives.) I have this romantic vision of doing the same. Minus the huge, scary buses in London. (I admit I’m terrified on cycling on the road in London). Maybe I need a cute little car instead? Mmmm. Maybe I need to concentrate on the business side of this idea, rather than the vehicle?

Teacher: I’ve been volunteering at Fred’s school since October so I’m under no illusions that this is really hard. I can also see that it’s very rewarding. The kids are gorgeous (and a few are a little bit challenging too).  I feel I need to be 100% committed if I do decide to go down this route. At the moment, I’m probably about 75%. Teaching assistant is a realistic alternative and I’m going to look into this more.

Cafe owner: Again on paper, this is perfect. I love food, I love interior design and would relish the idea of putting together a menu, learning all about coffee and designing a little space to welcome my customers. But realistically I have no experience and am I romanticising all the work involved? Yes probably. I have applied for a few jobs in cafes and so far, no luck! It seems my lack of experience is a problem here. (As well as my lack of capital…)

Echeveria in pot

Succulent grower: Another one I can blame instagram for – have you seen the shop Botany in Hackney? It’s gorgeous. It sells plants, macrame and has that seventies vibe which is oh so of the moment. Basically I want to waft around wearing flares and a cheesecloth blouse and sell the odd plant here and there. It’s not too much to ask is it? (Perhaps not a desire to make career plans around).

Food PR: Can you imagine? You’re basically paid to eat in restaurants and then promote delicious food. I could definitely do this. Although I suspect my waistline would not thank me.

Farmers’ Market stallholder: This could combine a few of the ideas above. I’ve also toyed with a few others over the years..but I’ve never actually done any of them.

So what next? The main message I’m getting is that I either want to work with food and set up a little business or go down the education route. I actually think I work far better with other people than on my lonesome, so if I set up a business, I’m looking for a partner in crime. So far none have been forthcoming (all my friends are gainfully employed).

I am going to make an effort to do something. 

Watch this space.

Cafe Culture: Nanna’s

Nanna’s in North London bills itself as ‘a cafe with a serious case of nostalgia’. And who am I to argue? If you’re a fan of vintage furniture and ceramics, fresh flowers and an innovative menu, then Nanna’s is a must-visit cafe.

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Appearance: Nanna’s has ‘great bones’ as an architect would say. The cafe has massive windows which let the light stream in, and the walls are covered in green and white tiles (I wonder what the shop used to be?). It’s a great space. Then add to this the vintage furniture, fresh flowers and details such as retro teapots being used for water and you’ve got the makings of a gorgeous cafe. As there are comfortable sofas and chairs to relax in, I could have happily sat there for hours.

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Location: Nanna’s is located near Highbury and Islington tube station. It’s on quite a busy road but the view outside is pleasing. It would be a lovely place to stop for refreshment after a wander down Upper Street, which is has some excellent interior shops on it. (Twenty Twenty One, Smug and Folklore to name a few).

Menu: I visited at lunchtime and was tempted by all the sandwiches and toasties on offer. They offer some unusual (and delicious) toppings and fillings. I had the brie, kale, pistachio and honey pesto toastie. And yes, it was as good as it sounds. I want to return so I can try one of the open sandwiches.

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Clientele: The comfy seats mean that there are a fair few laptop lingerers in Nanna’s. Not a bad thing as long as they are keeping themselves topped up with coffee and food. It has a lovely relaxed atmosphere so I don’t blame them.

Coffee/ Drinks: I didn’t have a coffee but the beans are from local roasters, Alchemy. I did enjoy the Square Root rhubarb soda I had. It was really refreshing.

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Overall: Nanna’s is a brilliant addition to the Islington cafe scene. I loved the vintage decor and the food was offering something above the usual cheese and ham toastie. The cafe also had a good selection of magazines. So if the comfy sofas don’t persuade you to take your time, perhaps a peruse of Kinfolk magazine will instead. If vintage is your thing, give Nanna’s a go. It’s a gem.

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Address: 274B ST. PAUL’S ROAD N1 2LJ

Photos all mine except first and last one from Nanna’s website.

A Wander Around Bristol

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know we headed West for half-term. We had a week in South Devon and then stopped in Bristol for a night on the way back. I’m not posting in chronological order here as I’m going to share a few pictures of Bristol before (if ever) I get round to the Devon ones.

Firstly, I should probably tell you that I love Bristol. Love it. I went to University there and so it shall forever be connected with good times in my mind. It’s the place I first tasted a little independence, fell in love, partied and generally had a very fun time. Perhaps a bit too much fun sometimes?

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I remember first visiting Bristol on a University open day. The sun was shining and I was hanging out with my boyfriend at the time and all of his school friends. I don’t think I even visited the History department. My decision to pick the University was based entirely on the fact that it’s a beautiful city that looks even better in sunshine. I don’t think I ever regretted that choice (although I do remember being slightly jealous of my friend who was at Uni in Manchester which was at the height of the Madchester, Hacienda scene. Oh the mind of an eighteen year old).

This time round, I didn’t have many plans; I just wanted to wander and soak in the laid back atmosphere. I did manage to visit a few of my old haunts.

Coloured houses on top of a hill are a Bristol icon. I lived in one of these in my final year. I had to revisit my old road in Cliftonwood to see if anything had changed. The house I lived in was still painted sage green and was as scruffy as ever. Still rented to students perhaps?

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Bristol is hilly. Very hilly. At the end of my second year at Bristol, I broke my ankle. It’s a long story and involves me, my ex-boyfriend and a twelve foot high fence at Glastonbury. In those days everyone jumped the fence (or that’s what my Devonian boyfriend told me). I do remember staring up at it from the bottom thinking ‘mmm looks higher than I thought it would be’. At that point, I should have decided not to do it. But of course I didn’t. I was young, foolish and reckless.  And not very good at jumping over fences. The inevitable happened. I jumped, I broke my ankle (pretty badly), I was ‘helped’ by some hippies with painkilling tinctures, my dislocated ankle was put back in its place (ouch!) and I was carted off in an ambulance (full of others who had various mishaps involving the twelve foot high fence.) I spent two weeks in hospital in Bath afterwards and had three operations on my ankle. Not my finest hour. But anyway, said injury meant I was on crutches for a very long time. Combine crutches and hills and you get very strong arms. If I could insert a stong arm emoji into this here, I would. Those hills…

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Clifton in the sunshine. Sigh. It’s full of Georgian splendour. The Royal York Crescent is the reputedly the longest crescent in Europe.

Bristol crescentI wasn’t in Bristol to shop, but there are some very nice shops in Clifton. I was particularly taken with Papersmiths, a shop devoted to magazines and stationary.

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I also lived around the Gloucester Road area in the year after I graduated. I was trying to figure out what to do next and took a job in a call centre to make ends meet. It was a fun time. My rent was low and my flatmates were students.

Strangely an old friend from where I grew up has recently moved to Bristol and lives one street down from my old house. This area has really seen some changes. Gone is the twenty-four hour kebab house on the corner (they used to sell us under the counter booze after the pubs had shut – naughty them), the Gloucester Road is now full of independent cafes and shops. And lots of charity shops. I loved my wander there. We also stopped for refreshment and a quick read of Harry Potter in a cafe called Bakers and Co. And very nice it was too.

2015-05-30 14.43.32 2015-05-30 14.50.15 2015-05-30 14.41.33 2015-05-30 14.41.52-1It was lovely to spend a day in Bristol and I’m not going to leave it so long next time. I could honestly see myself living there one day. *checks Rightmove*

 

 

June: On the Radar

Apparently June 1st is officially SUMMER. Well if this is Summer, give me Spring any day.  You may have noticed that it’s really not very hot out there. Thankfully the weather people are promising warmer climes for the weekend. Just in time for Fred’s first Beavers’ camp. I do hope they are right for all of their sakes. No-one needs a load of wet, overexcited Beavers to look after. (I do worry which google search terms will bring new readers to my blog after that last sentence. They may be rather disappointed.)

So Fred at Beavers’ camp = evening of rare, childfree fun for his parents. What shall we do? London is full of possibility. In fact, the whole of June is looking rather promising.

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  • It’s Stoke Newington Literary Festival this weekend. My favourite food writer, Diana Henry is doing a talk. How can I persuade Michael that he needs to come with me? (Clue: I probably can’t).
  • I love the look of this cafe. If I’m honest, I need a little health kick after my holiday. The belt is feeling a little tighter… But being healthy does not need to feel like deprivation. This place looks amazing.
  • Did you watch True Detective the first time round? I loved it. I wonder if the second season will live up to expectations? We’re soon to find out as it starts at the end of June. (No Matthew McConaughey this time though. Sob.)
  • It’s the Marylebone Summer Fayre at the end of June. We won big at the Monocle Tombola last year so I’m keen to return and try my luck.
  • When it comes to pickles, Lia is on my wavelength. I love the look of this salad/pickly goodness. There’s a similar recipe in Ottolenghi’s Plenty More using quick pickled mushrooms. It’s delicious. Or this one on his website. Yum.

*Image is from here. A bit of wishful thinking on my part.

Kitchen Wishlist: Green

From the featured picture, you’d be forgiven in thinking that this is a post about Madmen. The final episode is on Thursday and I’ve been following the lonely exploits of Don Draper since the beginning. But no, this is not a post about how brilliant Madmen is. It is, of course, brilliant so if you haven’t watched it, it’s time to invest in a box set now. However this is about my love of green and how best to incorporate this into my new kitchen.

Madmen is/was about so much more than a brilliant script and its characters’ existential crises. The costumes and sets deserve a mention in their own right. This motel scene caught my eye on Thursday as it incorporates the colour combination I’ve been trying to envisage for my kitchen. 2015-05-19 08.18.47Stop oogling Don Draper and look at those colours; two different shades of green warmed up by a rusty orange. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for.

colours2I spied this kitchen area on the Modern House (a constant source of inspiration) and was instantly smitten. I like the way not all of the cabinets are green. The orange cushions on the sofa also warm the scheme up.

modern houseIf I’m not willing to risk green cabinets, painted chairs are a good way of adding a bit of verdant colour. These are rather nice in a white kitchen.

green chairsOr these painted different shades of green, spotted on Decor8:

chairsAnother way of adding a pop of colour is painting a door. This one is painted Arsenic by Farrow and Ball and goes rather nicely with the copper pot on the table.

arsenicdoorAnd of course, the ultimate way of adding a splash of green is by including some plants in your scheme. This house featured on Designsponge was full of lush greenery.

plants1 plants2Opinions please? Would you have a green kitchen or should I stick to greening it up with plants and foliage?

Credits: Door, Cabinets, Chair, Chairs, Plants