Kitchen Wishlist: Pantry

Can storage be sexy? For most people it’s an essential but not something to get excited about. Enter the pantry (or the walk in wardrobe, come to that). Oh yeah. If I could type the sound I make when I vibrate my tongue against the roof of my mouth, I’d do it now. You know the one…Eartha Kitt was particularly good at it. I would love to have a pantry and I’m trying to work out how. I have so many bits of kit that I only use occasionally and obscure ingredients tucked away at the back of my shelves. It would be amazing to be able to store everything more prettily and be able to access stuff with ease.

So I’ve been searching Pinterest for my pantry and larder ideas. It didn’t let me down.

Look at this one from Jordan on Oh Happy Day. It’s so pretty (and dare I say it, a little bit sexy too). Tiled walls and ordered shelves make for a good looking space. If we do manage to fit a pantry into our space, we would not have a window on it therefore no natural light.

Pantry2

This pantry found on Remodelista is separated from the main kitchen with glass panels. I think I would want to be able to shut the door and not see the inside of my larder, but I have to admit, this one does look good. I also love the dark kitchen units and shelf brackets.

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This sliding door is a good solution to keep the pantry separate from the kitchen. Although I’m not sure I would want a glass door embossed with the word pantry. Found here.

Pantry 1

Look how beautifully light and bright this one is. Swoon. Look at all that STORAGE. Found here.

Pantry 4

Here’s another space embracing dark colours. I rather like the black wall and tiles.

Pantry 3

 

I have a designer coming round later to discuss my plans. I’m itching to get started on this project, so watch this space. What do you think about pantries? Do you think they are a good use of space, or would you prefer to have a slightly bigger kitchen?

Serial: Are you listening?

serial

I have to tell you about this podcast, Serial.  I am hooked. I first heard about it on Twitter (where else?). It’s from the makers of This American Life (I’m told this was a popular podcast too). I’m new to the world of podcasts and up now have resisted in favour of a bit of (live) Radio 4 or 6 Music. But I’ve been missing out if Serial is anything to go by. It’s compelling.

So what is Serial? It’s a weekly podcast, in which an investigative journalist, Sarah Koenig looks into the real life murder of an American High school student, Hae Lin Lee in 1999. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed was convicted of the crime but he has always protested his innocence. Did he do it? We don’t know (well not yet anyway, I don’t know if we will ever know.). He’s currently serving 30 years in prison.

The case is not straight forward. Nothing is clear cut. And there are all sorts of issues raised about justice, culture and even memory. (Could you account for your movements on a Wednesday six weeks ago?)

I started listening yesterday morning, and since then I’ve binge-listened to nearly all of it. Eight installments have been released so far (they are released weekly.) I’m already planning cleaning the bathroom so I can listen to the next one. That’s got to be a good thing.

Do you listen to podcasts? Can you recommend any to a new convert?

 

New York skyline

New York, New York

New York 1

So as you are probably aware, my husband, my six year old son and I spent half term in New York. I say New York, but we actually managed a couple of nights in Washington DC too. New York might seem a strange destination for a family, but as a city lover through and through, I think it’s the ultimate family city break. Much like London, there are LOADS of things to do for kids. I thought I’d write a couple of tips and observations. Hopefully anyone planning a city break with a child might find these useful.

  • Be realistic. I think this really is the key when travelling with kids. You may have a list as long as your arm of museums and galleries to visit, restaurants to try, interesting little cafes but realistically you are not going to be able to do it all. This time I accepted that and went with the flow a little bit more. I actually picked one or two things I really, really wanted to do and concentrated on them. The rest of it was freeflow.
  • Airbnb is your friend. When you’re spending your evenings at home rather than painting the town red, it’s nice to have a separate space to relax in. Hotels in New York (and most cities to be honest) are expensive. Airbnb can offer you a cheaper alternative and more space and freedom. We’ve stayed in Airbnbs in New York, California, Paris and Copenhagen. We’ve had our own apartments and shared with the owner of the house. If you value your privacy, you’ll want your own place. But it’s often cheaper to have a room in someone’s house. And it can mean you meet some interesting people. I reason that they wouldn’t be prepared to rent out a room if they are not welcoming hosts. This time, we stayed for a couple of nights in a beautiful brownstone in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The owner, Marion, was a lovely lady in the later years of her life. She’d been born and brought up in New York and I had some interesting tales to tell. Her house was also beautiful.

Brooklyn

  • Airbnb also means it easy to stay in the neighbourhoods where people actually live rather than the central tourist traps. We stayed in two locations in Brooklyn: Park Slope (a well to do area full of families – fantastic for trick or treating, or as Fred says trickle treating) and Greenpoint (an area which is rapidly gentrifying and is full of cool shops and cafes). Given a choice, I’d always stay in these residential areas and I would recommend people do the same in London too.

We had brunch at Five Leaves in Greenpoint (as recommended by Design*Sponge on her blog, she lives in Greenpoint). The pancakes were the best I’ve ever eaten. Unfortunately they were Fred’s and he rather liked them too.

Five Leaves

  • If you’re travelling with your partner and have enough time, do things separately. This time, Michael took Fred off for a few hours to an amazing science museum (I say a few hours, it was actually nearly six), whilst I satisfied my urge to wander aimlessly and check out a few cafes. (I did my personal best on my pedometer that day – 24,000 steps). Another day, I took Fred to a museum while Michael went to the Met.
  • Instead of spending $$$s on the tourist attractions, have a drink in a bar instead. The views are obviously a big thing in New York and it’s pretty expensive to go up the Empire State Building or the Rockerfeller Centre. We figured we could get views elsewhere and enjoy a beer at the same time. Win win.

These photos were taken from the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg. The sunset lighting up the Manhattan skyline was spectacular. The drinks were rather nice too.

New York skyline

 

New York skyline 2

 

Fred

  • Jetlag is a drag and it takes (a long) time for children to adjust to new time zones. The first few days were 4.30am wake up calls for us. You can actually use this to your advantage and be the first in the queue for attractions that open early. We went on the Staten Island Ferry (which is free), pretty early in the morning and also had brunch in a popular spot. We were first in the restaurant. Later it was packed. Generally we changed our bedtime so we were in bed pretty early and able to manage the early rises. (Anyone with small children will know this is the only way to deal with it without feeling knackered). It also meant that coming back to the UK has been pretty easy for me and Michael. And from previous experience, it’s returning to the UK which is worst. Fred took about a week to get back to normal but it was no way as bad as when we went to California *shudders*.

New York 3

New York 7

  • We chose a daytime flight to come back. Most of the return flights seem to go overnight. It’s a seven hour flight which means five hours sleep max. Add an excited child into the mix and that’s not a lot of sleep for anyone. I could just about cope with it (and have done it in the past). However we felt it would be even worse trying to get him back on track if he missed an entire night’s sleep.

It all seems a distant memory now. Onto planning the next trip…it’s the only way to get through the winter.

November: On the Radar

We’re back from the Big Apple: poorer, heavier and body clocks askew (aint jetlag a drag?) That’s not to say we didn’t have a brilliant time. Because we did. I’m planning a little post once I’ve got my photos in order. Watch this space.

November

Autumn continues apace. I’m not ready to mention the C word just yet and am determined to make the most of any good weather we have. This means spending time outdoors, preferably kicking some leaves and soaking up some of that milky sunshine. I may be alone in this, but I don’t mind November. Sure it may be the in between month between the two big events of autumn (my birthday and Christmas in case you wondering – whaat? You don’t celebrate my birthday in your house?) but there is cosiness to be had and the dark evenings call for blankets and twinkly lights. I’m not a complete masochist though and the dark evenings have lost their sparkle by January, but one month at a time, my friends, one month at a time. No point in dreading the future.

So November, what delights can you offer us?

  • I love Grayson Perry. Love him. His documentary series on class was pure class. So I’m going to do a bit of catch up and watch Who Are You and then visit this exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. It’s free too.
  • It’s Renegade Craft Fair on 22 and 23 November. Might be a good time to pick up some Christmas pressies (darn, second mention of the C-word. I seem unable to avoid it).
  • Remember my post about M1LK? Well the guys behind that cafe have opened a new one. They’ve even got a blog about it. I’m going to try and check it out.
  • Have we reached peak kale? Yes according to the Daily Mail. (WARNING: links to Daily Mail. You may be sucked into the sidebar of shame from which there is no escape. Argh.) I ate some pretty good kale salads in NYC and I’m going to try and recreate one here. I like the look of this one.

What are you up to?

The Year in Books: October

This is going to be my last blog for October and I couldn’t let the month go by without my Year in Books post. We’re off to New York tomorrow. As is my usual modus operandi, I’ve left everything to the last minute so will be spending my evening ‘panic-packing’. Luckily most of my clothes seem to be black, grey and white, with a bit of pink thrown in, so packing a coordinating capsule wardrobe is quite easy (well that’s what I’m telling myself anyway.)

Last month’s book was the Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. The book starts in the lowlands of Calcutta, and follows the story of two brothers. Subhash, the older brother, is the more conventional character and his brother, Udayan, a more hot headed risk taker. It got off to a slow start and initially I found it pretty heavy going. I don’t want to give the plot away, but something terrible happens which changes the main characters’ lives forever. The rest of the novel explores the repercussions of this event over many years. I did enjoy this book, but I found the main characters quite cold and unemotional. In a way, this is the complete opposite to the Goldfinch, as we are never given an insight into their internal world. At times I was left wondering why they are behaving as they are. However I did find myself thinking about the book afterwards, which to me, is a sign of a good book.

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Next up, I’m going to read ‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves’ by Karen Joy Fowler. There’s a twist apparently. This means I’ll be reading it trying to guess what happens until in happens. I’ll let you know if I get it. I’m also going to pick a book to read in New York. I’m hoping to find a suitably New York yarn when I’m there. Watch this space.

I got a kindle for my birthday, so this may be the last book I manage to get a picture of. Taking a photo of my kindle each month won’t be quite the same.

Kitchen Wishlist: Tiles

My dream of converting our ground floor ‘dumping ground’ (not its official title) into a kitchen/utility is finally going to happen. I have been given the go ahead from the other half. There are lots and lots of things to do first (throw out most of the crap that is currently residing there, employ an architect/designer, get quotes from builders, etc, etc). But it may just happen next year. This makes me very happy.

I have lots of ideas about how I would like the space to look. Some of these will be incorporated, some of these won’t make the cut. This blog seems as good a place as any to document the wishlist. Hopefully I’ll then be able to compare the wishlist to what actually happens later on.

First off, tiles. And by tiles I mean floor tiles. I have a little obsession going on with patterned, monochrome floor tiles. I first saw these in the kitchen below. This look is very bold. perhaps a bit too bold for my liking.

tiles5

I actually prefer it when there the tiles are used sparingly in the design. This is good news because tiling a whole floor would be expensive.

This kitchen uses these tiles in its design without it being too overpowering.

tiles6But perhaps my favourite use of these tiles is the following room. The tiles don’t dominate but instead demarcate the entry area. And I love the green door. (Do have a look at this beautiful blog and Instagram account. The owner, Cattis, has a stunning house and also uses patterned wallpaper to great effect -take a look).

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tiles9Floor tiles such as these can be found at Fired Earth, Alhambra Tiles and Lindsey Lang (I discovered her designs at Design Junction and loved them.) Here’s an example of her tiles used in a kitchen:

Lindsey-Lang-Floor-Tiles-1

Sources of pictures: 1, 2, 3 & 4, 5

Fabulous (not fearful) at forty: Wishlist

I may have mentioned that it’s my birthday in October. (I’m not this tedious in real life, honest.) Inspired by Lia and Alexis, I have decided to put together a little wishlist. It may steer loved ones in the right direction, or it may be completely ignored. My long suffering/ gorgeous husband has already shelled out for a trip to New York. But just in case…here are the things I am currently lusting after.

Wishlist-0

  1. I don’t actually expect to receive this Tom Dixon beauty for my birthday, but it’s on a long term wishlist. We stayed in an Airbnb in Copenhagen that had this shade and I loved the shadows it made on the walls.
  2. I love Lena Dunham. I’ve watched Girls (and cringed along) and now I want to read the book. She’s pretty fearless. In fact, New York would be a perfect place to read it.
  3. I spotted Pikku Potin at The Crafty Fox Fair last year. I’m having a succulent moment and running out of surfaces to put them on. This hanger would be a perfect solution. My husband has yet to be convinced of its merits.
  4. This necklace from Oh My Clumsy Heart. In fact anything from Oh My Clumsy Heart. I love their stuff.
  5. A spiralizer. Yes I’m jumping on the courgetti bandwagon. Bring me raw vegetables and I will turn them into ribbons and eat them. *evil laugh*
  6. I spotted this blanket on Jen’s beautiful blog and swooned. I already own quite a few blankets. But this one would go perfectly in my bedroom.

Cafe Culture: The Blue Brick Cafe

The Blue Brick Café is in my old ‘hood, East Dulwich. It’s a neighbourhood café with a twist, as it only serves vegetarian food. I always judge a place on whether the food brings something new to the party. I’m not really tempted if I feel I can make it at home. The Blue Brick wins on this front, as the menu does offer something a bit different.

Blue Brick

Appearance: The Blue Brick café is clad with rather attractive (surprise, surprise) blue tiles. According to the café’s website, it was once a Victorian dairy. Inside, the café benefits from lots of light due to its big windows. The café is furnished with vintage, mismatched wooden chairs and tables. I like all the quirky details: coloured bottles on the windowsill, small jars filled with flowers on the tables and a shelf display of vintage crockery and wooden animals. It’s homely and inviting.

blue brick 3

Location: It’s on the corner of two residential streets in East Dulwich, Fellbrigg Road and Shawbury Road. This is a two minute walk from the main shopping streets; Lordship Lane and North Cross Road, both worth an explore if you like independent shops.

Menu: The menu is completely vegetarian. There are specials on the board and a breakfast and all day menu. I’ve eaten there a few times before and always found the food really healthy and delicious. I’ve had a fennel and halloumi salad and it was a good size (important in the salad stakes, I feel). Fred chose some corn pancakes and he devoured them. They will do a half portion for children too, so it’s a nice place to take youngsters if you want them to eat something slightly different (and more wholesome) than the usual children’s meals you get in cafés and pubs.

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blue brick 5

Clientele: This time I visited about 11am and had a coffee. The café was quiet apart from a group of women having a business meeting. I couldn’t help but eavesdrop (it was quiet)..obviously a few issues going on in their workplace! I’ve been at lunchtime too and it’s been busy (less eavesdropping opportunities).

blue brick 4

Coffee: I had my usual flat white. It came in a glass which is unusual (I think I prefer a cup). They have a proper coffee machine. I suppose that’s all I really need to know. (I should probably read up more about coffee as I know some people take this very seriously…)

Overall: The Blue Brick is a great neighbourhood café that offers good hearty vegetarian fare. If you’re in East Dulwich or even visiting the nearby Horniman museum, it’s worth a try.

(All images my own, apart from the menu).

The Blue Brick Café, 14 Fellbrigg Road, East Dulwich, SE22 9HH

On the Radar: October

October is an exciting month for me. I love the different seasons we have here in the UK. Having lived somewhere where the blurring between summer and winter was less defined, I longed for the rituals of autumn. Conkers, crunchy leaves, Halloween, even butternut squash..they are all part of October’s charm. I don’t need an excuse to enjoy a glass of red wine, but somehow the darker evenings make me savour it more. I’m all for cosy in autumn and winter. I have a blanket on the sofa and my fairy lights get to twinkle (that is not a euphemism). The clothes are better in autumn too. We can wear opaque tights and chunky boots. This a good thing.

In addition to all of that, it’s my birthday. I’m going to be 40 (old enough to know better but I still love celebrating). And I’m going to New York, baby (excited doesn’t even cover it). I have a good feeling about you October, what else is on the cards?

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  • It’s London Cocktail week. Get a wristband and enjoy a £4 cocktail in some pretty swanky venues. Or failing that, make one at home. This one has got my name on it.
  • Have you read Gone Girl? (I have and I thought it was a brilliant thriller). I will probably go and see the film. Rosamund Pike is inspired casting as Amy.
  • The Hayward has put on some thought-provoking (and fun) exhibitions recently (one involving balloons and poo), I wonder if Mirrorcity will be in the same vein? It’s supposed to explore the effect the digital age has had on us all.
  • I will be away for this, (eating all the hamburgers) but this food festival in Brixton looks fab.

How will you celebrate autumn? It’s not winter yet…

 

 

Cook Book Challenge

I have a bit of a problem. No it’s not that. I have a problem when it comes to buying cook books. I cannot resist the latest offerings from my favourite food writers. My shelves are heaving and I’m running out of space. Oh well. There are worse addictions to have.

There’s something going on in food right now. There seems to be a move away from rich, heavy meat-based recipes and the humble vegetable is being embraced in all sorts of sexy ways. This is good news for those of us who want to eat less meat and good news for the environment. These are a few of my favourite books at the moment. They are not all strictly vegetarian, but all of them focus on vegetable-heavy dishes and healthier cooking.

So over the next month or so, I’m going to stop flicking through these books and actually try some of the recipes. I’ve picked a few out below. I’ll let you know how I get on.

cookbooks

A MODERN WAY TO EAT – ANNA JONES

A lot has been written about this book, two of my favourite bloggers have raved about it. Of course, I had to have it. This is a vegetarian book and Ms Jones has some fresh, innovative ways of cooking with veg.

Three recipes to try:

  • Charred pepper and halloumi stew
  • Pan-dressed noodles with crunchy cabbage and crispy tofu
  • Kale and black sesame sushi bowl

kale

THE ART OF EATING WELL – HEMSLEY & HEMSLEY

Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley are glamorous sisters with a love of healthy food. They’ve worked as caterers to the fashion industry and have been food writers for Vogue. The book is full of healthy recipes, but is not vegetarian.

Three recipes to try:

  • Hot buckwheat noodle salad
  • Feta and black bean burgers
  • Carrot, radish and seaweed salad with sweet miso dressing

PLENTY MORE – YOTAM OTTOLENGHI

My love of Ottolenghi knows no bounds. I love what he does with vegetables and all the weird and wonderful ingredients he uses. Plenty More is already living up to the hype (perhaps it’s just me though?!) The dishes are divided up by the cooking methods: fried, roasted, mashed, etc. I can’t wait to get stuck in.

Three recipes to try:

  • Red onions with walnut salsa
  • Squash with chilli yoghurt and coriander sauce
  • Fried cauliflower with mint and tamarind dipping sauce

OTTOLENGHI2

SALMAGUNDI – SALLY BUTCHER

I have a thing for salads so this is my kinda cook book. The author, Sally Butcher also owns a specialist food shop called Persepolis in Peckham, which sells all manner of goodies from the Middle East and beyond. The book is full of inspiration.

Three recipes to try:

  • Patatas bravas salad
  • Harissa spiced fig, merguez and almond salad
  • Smoked mackerel salad with dukkah-spiced oaty sprinkles

A CHANGE OF APPETITE – DIANA HENRY

Diana Henry has got to be one of my favourite food writers. Her style is friendly but she knows her shizzle and the recipes always add something a little different to the party. This book concentrates on a lighter style of cooking, and it really is ‘where healthy meets delicious.’

Three recipes to try:

  • Winter greens with crispy onions, tahini and sumac
  • Gooseberry, almond and spelt cake
  • Burmese chilli fish with hot and sour salad

diana henry

IT’S ALL GOOD – GWYNETH PALTROW

Gwynnie is like marmite. She invokes strong reactions. Love her or hate her, this cook book co-authored by Gwyneth and Julia Turshen (Designsponge’s partner) is full of some really good looking recipes. They are pretty simple so pretty easy to whip up when you don’t have much time.

Three recipes to try:

  • Roasted cauliflower and chickpeas with mustard and parsley
  • Mexican chopped salad with Mexican green goddess dressing
  • Salmon burgers with pickled ginger and coriander

No excuses, time to get cooking.