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Introducing: Betty Bluebell

Betty Bluebell

Dear friends, I have news, we have a new baby in the house! My apologies if you are not a cat person, but we are so happy, and so excited over here… please feel free to skip to the bottom for a few house updates if whiskers on kittens aren’t your thing…

Raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens

Betty The Darling AcademyThey are most definitely my favourite things! When I wrote last time and said that we were thinking about getting kittens this winter, we didn’t end up waiting much longer because our dreams came true last Friday! It’s funny how your hopes and dreams can manifest so suddenly, as finding Betty was a magical experience and came about in such a lovely way. It just so happens that the breeder lives 10 minutes away, and this little kitten was waiting for her forever home. We hope, (if you believe in things that are “meant to be”, as we do), that she was waiting for us too.

We did our due diligence of the breeder, visited her home to see the litter and the parents of this little bundle of fluff, and absolutely fell in love. The hardest part was keeping it a secret from our boy for a few days while we prepared (and hid all the cat paraphernalia), as we didn’t want his hopes dashed in case it didn’t work out. There were a few nights of the husband and I exchanging knowing looks without Arlo knowing, and stifling giggles because we were just so excited. His return from school on Friday afternoon will forever be a favourite memory, the look on his face was priceless. He has never had a kitten of his own before and it’s an experience we really wanted him to have for himself. Both mine and my husband’s fondest childhood memories include the joy of having our own kittens to love and play with.


The hole in all our hearts has been filled with a little bundle of blue fur, and we couldn’t be happier about it.

Our last girl, Cleo, had been in our family since before our son was born. A surprise for my 23nd birthday (way back when), she was a British Shorthair x Bengal with the prettiest tortie colourings and a sweet half-face. She sadly died at the age of 14 back in January 2022 and we still miss her terribly. Knowing that we were moving house soon (and of course grieving for her) we decided to postpone adding another cat into our family until we were settled, and then we decided to move to Australia so the dream kept on being quashed.

32Cleo and I

We three are cat people and are all quite obsessed with them, so it was more than a lesson in patience. However the one who really struggled was Arlo, he has the nickname “cat lady” in our house. He is very much the product of what happens when two cat-loving people have a baby! We cannot walk down the street without him greeting every kitty that comes our way, and our old holidays in Greece were often peppered with requests to return to places we’d spotted some stray kittens “just to say hello”. Often sneaking out bits of ham or salmon from the hotel buffet to feed them with. Suffice to say, once we moved into our new home the first question on his lips was “when can we get a cat”?

Betty is a very sweet girl, makes the cutest little “meep meep” noises when talking to me (and usually when following me into the kitchen), and she loves to sleep in my bedside drawer at bedtime. I’ve lined it with an old quilt that was a favourite of Cleo’s too, and it’s nice to reach over in the dead of night to give her a little stroke and hear her contented purrs.

However, I did do a terrible-awful and stole her name! About two years ago, one of my best friends Jules and I were talking about cats. Specifically the British Shorthair breed. Jules shared with me that if she ever got a cat one day (which is unlikely), it would be a British Shorthair called Betty…

Well that just about did it! Every single time I thought about our future cat, I could not for the life of me get the name Betty out of my head. It was just purrfect! It took a while for the boys to come around to it, but when they realised just how much I had my heart set on it, they were happy for me to get my way. Betty Bluebell… such a pretty flower! My husband has started calling her Betty Boo, and we sometimes call her “BeeBee”. Isn’t it funny how we do that?

As for lovely Jules, I told her that I wish she had never told me about the name Betty because nothing else “fit”, and I didn’t want her to hate me - she laughed and said I could have it. Like that scene in FRIENDS where Monica shares the name Emma with Rachel, Rachel falls in love with it, and Monica gives her the best gift by saying “yes, you can have it for your daughter”... a sign of true friendship.

It was all meant to be, as Betty’s own mother cat is called Elizabeth, who looks remarkably like Cleo with her colouring! This kitten has been christened in homage to my bestie, Betty’s Mum, and our dear departed Queen Elizabeth. Regal. Fitting. So British.

British Shorthair Kitten

Our house is becoming a home

We had a few jobs around the house that we wanted ticked off before Betty joined us, and it was a hive of activity. Among some boring bits like fixing our sliding doors to the deck, and fitting a bar into my husband’s “man cave” at the end of the garden, we had some lovely carpenters and handymen come and do some fun decorative bits like replacing the hearth in my “English sitting room”. The one that was already there was too narrow and looked a little odd. We’ve decided to carpet that room so the hearth needed to be fitted before we can measure up.

I’ll show you a picture of the finished room, when it is finally done! The vibe is very Miss Marple meets “1990s Past Times”, do you remember that shop? I used to love going in there as a child, it was an absolute treasure trove of gifts and homeware for history enthusiasts. My Grandmother had quite a lot from there in her own house, including an old William Morris style tapestry wall hanging. I’d love to find one for the sitting room. It would go quite nicely and be very nostalgic.

There is a sneak peek of the floral sofas in the picture above! We have some lovely large Victorian pictures to hang, and carpet to fit. I’ll show you once I’m happy with it.

Paperwhite Daffodils

One thing I’ve also noticed is that I have found flowers rather expensive here! I’m not a fan of mixed bunches and used to love a simple (and cheap) single-type bunch of supermarket flowers back in England. I’m really happy that I found some Paperwhites last week! Though these were not exactly cheap, the equivalent of around £7, oops! But joy sometimes costs… Daffodils are my favourite flower of all, closely followed by roses. I think I might need to look into planting some bulbs asap, and growing some other type of cut flowers once winter passes. I’m excited to see if any existing bulbs come up in our garden. I’ve already spotted what might look like some Snowdrops or Crocuses outside on our “nature strip” between our front garden and the road. Time will tell…

I managed to circumnavigate the occasional lack of flowers by purchasing these lovely faux white tulips from Provincial Home Living, they’re so incredibly soft. I also bought some faux pears to fill a blue and white comport/bowl (similar) from the same shop. It’s my new favourite home decor store, without a doubt.

Provincial Home Living

They’re incredibly realistic and add a nice touch to the dining table, and we have some rather pretty Camellias blooming in our suburb at the moment too. I can’t quite get over how different Autumn is here to back in England. There are many flowers still blooming, and the skies are so blue.

While our nights are much chillier now, the daytime temperatures very nearly match what the UK is experiencing. So days are still cardigan weather, but I’m rather pleased to report that I got a heated blanket for Mother’s Day! It’s utter bliss climbing into a warm bed to cosy up and read a book. Or just slowly roast as you sleep. Haha!

Autumn Cammelias Australia

Last week was also filled with joyful little happenstances, including this book that I spotted at the newsagents, which I absolutely judged by its cover. You can probably tell why that was…

Summer Darlings Brooke Lea Foster

After reading the blurb on the back I knew I had to get it. Summer Darlings by Brooke Lea Foster is set in the early 1960s (tick), in Martha’s Vineyard (tick). The main character Heddy heads to Martha’s Vineyard to be a nanny for the summer for a wealthy family, but her offer of a place at Wellesley College (big fat tick - it reminds me of Mona Lisa Smile) is revoked, so she is determined to find her place among the wealthy and elite circles she finds herself in. A romance with a bohemian surfer collides with it all.

The book is praised as “a perfect summer book packed with posh people, glamor, mystery, and one clever, brave, young nanny”, according to The New York Times.

I’ll let you know how I get on with it once I have finished my current book, The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. It’s one my friend Robyn has told me to read many times and I’ve finally had enough time to pick it up. I know why she recommended it, oh my it is gorgeous. Set between the Cotswolds, London, and Cornwall, then dancing between 1989 and WWII. Robyn knows me well. So much of my own life’s history is tied up in those places, my interests are all catered for, and I had to giggle when the very hill my husband grew up on in Portsmouth ended up in a chapter too. Uncanny.

Apparently there is a drama that has been made of The Shell Seekers starring Vanessa Redgrave, which I shall have to watch once I’ve finished the book this weekend.


Budget kitchen updates at Darling Cottage

Our new home is a cottage built around 80 years ago, but the interior was renovated in the early to mid 2000’s so a lot of the style of the fixtures and fittings is in keeping with the trends back then. We do have a fireplace, cornicing and a lead light window, and the exterior is beautiful and traditional but the inside is very modern. Which is great, because it means it functions well - but as you can probably guess, I want to take it back in time a bit! Just to cosy it up a little…

The kitchen is thankfully well situated and really is the heart of the home! We have lovely floor to ceiling multi-pane windows looking out over the front veranda. It’s just the right size, we have a breakfast bar to sit at, and a hatch over the sink that means I can see into the living room and don’t feel disconnected from the rest of the family when I’m cooking.

However, I do sorely miss my “modern country” vibe in the old house. The white in this one is a bit stark and I’m not too keen on the tiles, but there are a few quick little changes we have made to make it a little more classic/traditional.

This included replacing the tap for a swan neck one as the old one had a lower profile and I couldn’t fit my big pots or a bucket under it. The carpenters also installed a much blonder wood in the hatch for me that I’ll be treating to warm it up a little with Danish Oil this weekend. The old one was a very dark mahogany stain which I wasn’t too keen on. However the best thing so far was getting the cupboard handles replaced!

The Darling Academy Kitchen BeforeBeforeThe Darling Academy Kitchen AfterAfter

I sourced these ones with the ceramic from Handle House, and spent an afternoon fitting them myself. The Mr did have to go through and “man-tighten” them though as they were a bit wobbly.

In time we will also replace the pendant lights that hang over the breakfast bar, and I think I’m going to put some tongue and groove on the lower half of the walls. Just to “zone it”, and give it a bit of character and texture. I would like to re-tile but I’ll have to really butter up the husband on that one, as it’s not a exactly a need but a want. We can at least admire the colour choice of the feature tiles in the meantime, yay for “Beryl”!

Autumn Comfort FoodPerhaps a few more delicious dinners might help him come around to the idea of new tiles? We have been enjoying lovely hearty Autumnal meals lately, and my friend Natalie’s Milk Rolls are now a bake on weekly rotation. They are perfect for Arlo’s packed lunches, and really easy to make. Do try the recipe yourself, they’re delicious. I make mine a little bigger than Natalie’s - I can get 8 good sized lunch rolls from the dough which is perfect for a school week. Kids like them because they are really soft! I have also tried them with a half wholemeal and half white flour mix and they were just as good!

Anyway, I must say ta-ra for now as I have to wash the school uniform, and we’re having a homemade chickpea curry for dinner tonight. The usual ‘end of the school week’ routine beckons, and it’s time to focus on family and fluffy babies.

I’ll leave you with a bookish little Betty who loves nothing more than hanging out in this corner of the living room - see, she is mine!

British Shorthair In Books

Betty just wanted to share yet another surprise with you that her her half-sister Violet is also coming to live with us in four weeks time when she has grown just a little bit more…

It’s kitten central over here guys!

With love, purrs, and nose boops,

Alena x

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