More from my Kitchen.

I’ve talked a bit about my kitchen before; the first large design project I took on single-handedly in our house.

I had to wait over a year after we moved in to replace the horrendous, greasy plastic coated cupboards which had mainly rotted out all by them selves. Brown tile with pears and berries on the occasional, even more disgusting tile here and there only adding to my misery when using the space. The oven we ripped out straight away as my parents had a spare little stainless steel one. The hob was actually fitted the wrong way, with the knobs along the front of the counter when the design was supposed to have them down the left. We had to take off a wall cupboard and trim the counter back to fit our fridge in the tiny space left. It had sat in the living room for a few weeks on the old, cream, badly stained (with what I hate to think) thick carpet on a part of our floor where the boards were damaged and sagged, taking the fridge with it.

I love books, so cookery books are everywhere in our new design. Black units don’t seem so dark when they’re not on the walls too. Plae floors and counter tops brighten it up further with white walls the finishing touch. I don’t know where my inspiration came from and to be honest I didn’t really think about the room from an interior design point of view. It had to be practical, had to fit, had to have certain fixtures and it had to have space for our little luxuries.

It feels a little like a swedish larder; two white open shelves hold (I kid you not) sealed jars of flour/sugar/dried coconut baking things next to all my pots of spices (which we use extremely regularly) pestle and mortar, big blue Denby Azure teapot and our pink Heart-shaped Le Creuset caserole dish, the other holding our cereal boxes, posh champagne and shot glasses and the bottles of Ouzo, Vodka, Rum, Tequila and Bourbon that look so good sat together. Organised chaos is my specialty and you can tell I’d be a bit of a horder if I wasn’t so ruthless. The windowsill is one of my favourite DIY’s. We had a huge gap from the window up to the counter top which should have been level (the extension ceiling is quite low considering the height of the cielings in the rest of the house) but happened to be an inch below the counter level. We had a hole. We have no tiles in the kitchen. I was completely ademant about this. I hate the thought of patterned tiles (hence the plain white in the bathroom) and didn’t want the room ‘busied up’ with them. So we didn’t have a quick fix to the gap problem. Our hob splashback (glossy black plastic panels) were cut in half lengthways and stretched along the wall at the back of the counter. Couldn’t use those either, they’d scratch if you kept putting stuff down on them.

Then I had an idea. My Mam has a bazillion scraps in her garage. I knew she had a spare pack of grey rough slate floor tiles. There was my answer. Chock up the inch gap and cut the tiles so they fit really tight in the window ledge with a little overhang onto the counter, slap down some No-More-Nails and plop the perfectly cut tiles on that. After they had a few days to dry I silicone sealed around all the edges as the sink is very close. Voila!

Here are some pics for you…

The space between the knife block and microwave needed some colour… Books were the only option.

My little baking and breakfast corner…

The window sill needed brightening up too. I have a lean-to outside the kitchen window that encloses the space between my extension and the nextdoor neighbours so I don’t need window treatments.

My collection of esspresso cups and saucers and the slate window ledge.

Coffee Corner is very different to Tea Corner. My two coffee machines here, both bought for me by my wonderful OH.

Above Coffee Corner is our utensil wall. Here I’ve also hung my pride and joy- my Le Creuset chef pan.

So, I’ve pretty much walked you though my kitchen from top to bottom now. I’m sure I’ll keep talking about it as it really is my favourite room. NExt time though, I may tell you about our bathroom…

 

 

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Puppy.

So, ever since I moved in with OH (three years ago on June 27th to be precise) I have wanted a dog. I think he secretly wants a dog still but he is, thankfully, too sensible to let me run wild with it. We lived in a rented flat and ‘rented flats aren’t allowed pets in them’. We were going on holidays and ‘you’d never leave your dog in a kennel’. We didn’t have a car and ‘we can’t pick up a puppy on a train’. He has preferences and ‘I’m not owning a girly dog’.

His excuses got steadily thinner until he just stopped acknowleging my research through adverts for pups. Our parents said ‘Oh, you don’t want the responsibility’ and ‘they tie you down’.

Well, one night as we were having a glass of wine I told OH (rather tearily I might add) that I didn’t want to be alone when I knew he’d be going away to work for six months the next year.

He looked at me and said ‘We can’t have a dog here Kirst.’

I squarked back through wine and tears ‘I know!’.

So he replied ‘So lets buy a house.’

So we did. That didn’t stop him going away to work for six weeks just as we were finalising purchasing details and solicitors. He has to work. I get that. I have to pick up the slack and know exactly what’s going on while he’s away. That’s my job. I’m pretty good at it and I am stronger than I give myself credit for. But I was in a new house on my own in a new part of town. I broke again one night and called my poor father at 2am. He listened.

The next day, on my way to work, Dad called.

‘I think I’ve found someone who can help you.’ (Aw hell, I thought, a shrink!?) ‘Just give her a call, we think this is the answer.’

‘What answer Dad?’

‘We want to buy you a kitten.’ I cried all the way off the ferry and into work. I love my parents but this was something I could never have guessed they’d do. The trick was getting it approved by OH.

‘You don’t even like cats.’

Hmmm. Incorrect. ‘I don’t particularly have an affintity for them.’

‘You’re Dad’s pretty much sold you on this hasn’t he?’

‘Yes.’

‘There’s nothing I could say is there?’ (smile in his voice now)

‘Well, there probably is but please don’t say it.’

So we got Jethro. A cat.

I think my desire for a dog has never really dissapated but Jethro was and still is my lifesaver. Now I see dogs on walks and I always shout to OH ‘Look at that! Isn’t he cute?!’ I am still missing a puppy and the more wild and rough Jethro gets, the more I want to find him a companion too. I have only ever had dogs (at home growing up) from puppies and for me personally, the benefits of this outweighs  getting an older dog.

So, here’s my wish list for dogs. I have carefully taken into account that when I’m on my own I may not be able/want to walk for miles and miles at night by myself so ‘big’ dogs are out of the question. Although when OH is home, we walk for miles and miles. There are a couple here that are probably too vivacious but I’ll eventually admit that to myself and NOT get a breed that would be bored or not excersised correctly.

The Basset Hound. The only things I really worry about with this breed are- how Jethro may bite or grab at dogs ears, their short stature is not reccommended for houses with stairs as going up and down stairs can affect their development and therefore their health and the fact that, despite it’s short stature this is actually a Big dog.

Hmmm. So, to the next.

The Dacshund.

Again, I worry about their health as they are considered an ‘extreme’ body type but the weight of these little dogs isn’t quite as tough on their joints as that of a Basset. This breed is on the ‘girly’ list of banned dogs OH has set.

So, onwards.

The Boston Terrier.

I am not sure if the Bozzy is on the banned list but they are peppy little dogs that apparently are couch-potatoes on the sly. A smaller dog, they have unfortunately become ‘trendy’ in England and now command rediculous ‘designer dog’ price tags which doesn’t always mean you are getting a healthy pup.

And the next…

The Beagle.

A sweet natured family dog (a must with Jethro around) this breed requires a lot of excercise and open running which would only ever be an issue occasionaly if OH was working away for months and I was left on my own with dog, cat and job…

I think, in reality that’s it. The only true contenders in my mind. I’m reluctant to pick one as I’m still trying to be objective and honest about our situation and I’m trying to be responsible, not to mention OH won’t let me have a puppy until I’m teaching which will be another two years at least. My thinking is, would it make us happy? Yes. Would it get us out the house and excersising more? Yes. Is now the best time as OH is definitely home for the next two years? Yes. I don’t want to be hearing what I want to hear here but at the end of the day, the more me and OH talk about something, the more we talk ourselves out of it i.e. the car dilemma.

But never mind, I’m sure we’ll get there and add another furry bundle to our little family eventually. Wish me luck 🙂

 

Here comes the sun…

Sunshine!

What does this call for? Sunburn? No, not that. Barbeque!

I love my food, as you probably know by now, but the sun just makes things so much more exciting. Eating al fresco even when the sun’s gone over the rooftops is a lovely summer experience here in England. You have to make the most of it when you can.

I make quiches and salsas, my Mam’s famous potato salad with a tiwst, we get the coals going and then we throw on what ever meat we can scrounge up. That’s our flaw, it’s only meat OH deams fit for the BBQ. We need to start on the veg. There always has to be the staple of BBQ ribs, a burger or two, some flavoured sausages and I would very much like to try fish on the coals.

So I’ve found a few recipes here that we’ll try in the coming weeks…

Ribs,

Easy peasy bit of greenery here… Asparagus (heaven)

I make a mean cold salsa and it’s the easiest, tastiest side for chicken or fish. Here’s the recipe. I’ll just let you know, I make a BIG batch.

Garlicky Salsa.

1 packet vine ripe tomatoes (8-10 chicken-egg sized tomatoes on average),

1-2 small red onions,

1 nice big clove of garlic (or 2 if you really want to knock your socks off, remember the flavour will mellow the longer the salsa marinades)

2-3 table spoons of good quality olive oil (or, as it goes on last, enough to make your mix wet and a little sloppy)

1 level teaspoon sea salt,

1 level teaspoon rosemary,

First, very finely dice the red onion. Do the same to the tomatoes. The smaller the pieces are the further the mix goes and if the salsa is chopped smaller it’ll fit better in burgers!

So, with the veg diced add the garlic. I like to slice this into seriously thin slices rather than chopping up into teeny tiny gritty little pieces. I dunno, I genuinely believe it tastes better. I NEVER press/crush garlic. I think to crush garlic this way is extremely disrespectful.

The Sea Salt and Rosemary need to be ground together in a pestle and mortar to combine the flavours and let the salt pick up the residual oils from the rosemary. Sprinkle this onto tomato, onion and garlic mix.

Lastly, pour over your olive oil and mix.

Leave over night or make the day before for best results. The flavours combine into a much more harmonious taste when left to marinate in the fridge.

So, now we need some veg skewers. Simples again. Get any of your favourite what I like to call ‘soft’ veg- Aubergines, courgettes, cherry tomatoes, small onions/shallots, mushrooms, even par-boiled salad potatoes and shove them on a pre-soaked wooden or metal skewer. Brush lightly with oil throughout the BBQ’ing and hey presto, another accompaniment!

I also like to do my Mam’s version of potato salad. You know by now I don’t really do ‘proper’ measurements and we ALWAYS make BIG portions! Here’s her recipe…

Mam’s Potato Salad

1 small bag salad or new potatoes,

3 medium chicken eggs/8 quail eggs or 2 duck eggs (depending on what you have available)

1 medium german or other soft sausage (anything fairly mild or even smoked but it must be soft not dried like salami or churizo)

1 small red onion,

3-4 generous tablespoons of Mayo,

2-3 teaspoons of mustard (either normal English or milder wholegrain)

So, boil the potatoes until they are just going soft. There is a huge cooking time difference between cooked and overcooked and there are many points in between.

In our house ‘Bite’ is an only-just cooked potato (stab with a sharp knife and try to feel how easy the knife goes in, this helps you to know at what point your veg is at) and ‘Soft’ is the point a couple of minutes before the potato falls to bits in the boiling water. For this recipe, we want them Soft.

You can also boil the eggs in the potato pan and pull them out at th soft-boiled stage. Run under cold water or immerse in a bowl of ice cubes to stop the cooking process.

Chop up potatoes and eggs and throw in a bowl together. Slice or cube the soft sausage and throw that in too. I mix everything in the serving bowl so I don’t have a million pots to wash at the end of the night.

Finely dice your red onion and hoy that in the bowl too and then pop your mayo and mustard measurements on top and mix the heck out of it. Don’t worry if your potatoes smoosh a little, they’ll soak up all the flavours better that way.

Eat while the potatoes are still warm (our preferred method) or chill in the fridge.

So, enjoy my recipes and enjoy trying out some I haven’t even tried yet. Most importantly, have fun in the sun and stay safe 🙂

Busy Bodies.

There’s always someone who thinks they know better. Like they’ve lived your EXACT life, know the best way to live it and that you are definately doing it wrong. They don’t give gentle advice at the point you need it, they hammer you with THEIR opinions as if it is absolute fact when ever they get the chance.

You find them every where; the nosy, overly helpful and insanely sweet old neighbour who pokes her nose through the fence to ask if you excersise your pets enough and who parks her horrific old banger of a car directly outside your front door as her husbands’ car is in their spot, the boss who still lived with his parents at thirty six and thought he new better just because he shouted his opinions louder than you, the uncle who thinks he knows better cause he was a police officer and ‘head’ of the house, the grandmother, well, they always know better… You find them every where.

You live with them quite happily most of the time but then one comment hits you right in a soft spot or that one comment is one comment too much.

And sometimes you just need to rant about it a little so you don’t end up saying something rude to shut them up…

 

Remember to live and love ALL THE TIME.

What I mean by the obnoxious titling there is what I tell myself when I’m down and blue or when I’m bored or stressed.

I know I take things for granted, I’m only human am I not? The thing is, I know I shouldn’t. I know I should soak up every second and always find the flip side to a troubling situation or moment in the day. I know I should really revel in the successes in my life and the wonderful people I share it with. I know this, I do, but sometimes people piss you off or you get in a selfish mood and don’t see the beautiful bigger picture.

Thank the lord I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in a fairly tight nuclear family unit with healthy, happy family and friends. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters isn’t it? My parents are still together and will be forevermore. I didn’t grow up with two seperate parents and two seperate homes. I grew up in a really nice area, not posh, but nice. Country-sidy. I had what ever I needed and was given a good education- school, college, university. We had pets- dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, mice, snakes, rats, goldfish and since leaving home my Mum has aquired more…

I now have an amazing OH who has built a home around me. We compromise with each other and it doesn’t even feel like a compromise. Our tastes are similar, our humor is almost similar (he still doesn’t understand what me and my Mum find so funny sometimes…) we want the same things, we’re going in the same direction. I don’t ever want to take that for granted.

Many people do. I see it all the time. People so wrapped up in their own little bubbles they forget they share that bubble with the people closest to them. They forget to respect the people closest to them. They forget that the world doesn’t revolve around them and that their decisions and opinions aren’t always the only ones. Not having the world evolving round you is a good thing. Let me explain some more.

People forget to see the small things. They forget to enjoy every moment; your favourite store is nice and quiet while you’re browsing, the fact the sun is shining and that you are able to drive/cycle/walk to work, your favourite song is playing. Take pleasure in these things. Your OH cooks you dinner/makes you a cup of tea/asks you about your day or your colleges are in a great mood at work.

I know I don’t always take my own advice but I make a conscious effort to do my best and sometimes I catch myself and change the way I’m thinking in that moment. Positivity is the key. ‘Smile and the whole world smiles back’ as the saying goes…

Just love the little things and really live every moment, however basic 🙂

Gardening.

We don’t have a lot of space behind our house and the garden is definately a hand-me-down design from the previous owners of our home. They have concreted 40% of it and thrown awful (what used to be) pink and yellow concrete-fake-stone hexagonal paving slabs over that. The rest, or at least most of the rest of the ‘garden’ is covered in shingle. URGH.

I do not like our garden. The only piece I enjoy looking at is the cattery and variegated Bamboo which sits next to it. The Bamboo is over-ruly and the cattery was the one installation in the garden I did with the help of my parents so Jethro can throw himself around in the fresh air and not A. Eat anything poisonous, B. Chase anything that can and will fight back, C. Get hit by a car, D. Get stolen (we live in an area where this kind of comment isn’t laughed at but taken quite seriously, I will eventually tell you about the bike-incident) or E. Eat anything poisonous (did I already say that? Well, he does like to eat ANYTHING green).

So today, the small strip of actual soil that can truly be called garden was sown with a number of seeds for various plants. I will list below;

Ornamental Corn- a great lime green, cream and pink stripe leafed variation that will sit at the back of the border.

Alongside this (maybe a little oddly placed now I type-it-out-loud) is a lovely small flowered (or will be, when it has germinated and grown) pale purple/white flowered clematis, which will creep up the trellis and into the passionflower that grows along the top of the wall.

In front of that we have sown Red Hot Pokers…

which we’re hoping will turn out half as nice as these.

Artichokes (the stately globe-kind)…

Lavender…

and Globe Thistles (one of my Dad’s faves and apparently one of the bee’s too.)

I really wanted structure and contrast so we went for structure with a fair few of the plants and stuck to clashing Hot and Cold colours of Orange/Red and Purple/Blue with a few ‘downlights’ of velvety black and ‘highlights’ of silvery foliage.

We’ve also sown…

Stock Night Scented.

and Salvia…

alongside THREE different types of poppy.

Paeony Black…

Mother of Pearl (shown below) and a Shirley Double type in our warm colours again…

In the mix there somewhere (we’re actually not sure where exactly) is a small patch of Amaranthus- Love Lies Bleeding…

with a smattering of velvety BlackJack Pansies…

to sit next to my pink Hydranger for another bout of colour contrast. Hmm, what else?

A nice bit of ground cover from some cheeky little Aubretia. We also threw around some Garlic Chives, Chives, Corriander and Basil for some quick herbs. I think that’s about it. Apart from my own Hydranger, a small gooseberry bush and some last-year’s success stories of transplanted Lemon Balm and ariel-rooted Loganberry vines my lovely neighbour has bequeethed me with, I have no original plants to work with other than a couple of hooligans. The roses I can’t quite pull out will have to wait (they are completely wild and in terrible shape having not been loved for the years they were left before we got here) the variagated Bamboo, which is getting a tad too big for it’s boots by sending out runners into the gravel part of the garden, is staying as I love grasses and the structure gives us some privacy.

Like I said, we have sown these plants in the hope some of them at least germinate and cover our soil with colour and form. I do not have any particular style going on here other than colour and form. Some will take, some will not. Some I will move around, some will become the success stories we dig out to take with us to any future home. I don’t know. I’m new to this and I don’t have money to throw at it.

What I do know is I have an eye for design, colour and form and I care very much for growing/living things. Hopefully this morning’s work will make me love my garden more and not just wish I was somewhere else when I am in it.

 

Being a Grown-Up

Sometimes, being a Grown-Up sucks. Expectations. Bills. Work. Bills. Houses, meaning mortgages. Food, meaning supermarkets. Bills. Responsibility. More expectations and did I mention Bills?

There are a few good things about being a Grown-Up that makes it all worthwhile, the biggest and best is FREEDOM. Okay, you have to work but you can choose what and where to do that. We chose what size T.V. we wanted (and later cursed it for not being big enough) we chose our own kitchen and bathroom suit. We choose where we go on holiday. We chose where to live. We picked our house.

We do have two full sets of parents between us that have offered their own advice and wisdom but at the end of the day, it’s on us. Got a mortgage you can’t handle, sorry kid, that’s freedom for ya.

I used to dispair sometimes at some of the people I worked with. I’ve always got along with much older folks than myself you see and listening to the same old “I got SOOOO smashed last night” stories from fellow twenty-somethings got tedious extremely fast. Even worse when those stories came from over-twenty-somethings and over-thirty-somethings-too. I find I have very little in common with the average twenty-four year old. Or at least the average twenty-four year old retail worker. I do intend to fix this. This year I’m applying for a PGCE and will get out of reatil as soon as I’m fully trained. I want to teach in a Primary School.

But anyway, back to FREEDOM. This week we’ve done a lot of big-deal things that we just seem to take in our stride. Lasik eye surgery, upgrading banking, reading through our life insurance policy… And hopefully, buying a car.

Have I mentioned before that we haven’t owned a car since moving to the South Coast? We’ve been here three years. Now is time. We just want something small and nippy- a Peugeot 206, a Fiat Punto, a Vauxhall Corsa, a Renault Clio… Nothing too fancy. With this new found freedom we want to visit family on the fly; without booking weeks of holiday off or renting expensive cars. We want to throw a two man tent in the boot and go camping for a few days where ever we end up. We want to tour the pubs of Hampshire on the weekends. We want to visit places like the zoo or national trust houses (I like old buildings, OH likes history) We want to go to France on the ferry (I know, I’ve never been but this will be fixed)

This we shall have as soon as we have encompassed the epitome of freedom that is being a car owner into our lives. See, sometimes being a Grown-Up doesn’t suck at all.