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

Life, Lately

Life, lately has been rather busy.

On Saturday, my friend, Davina and I completed a 40km walk through the Sussex downs for charity *said in best Smashy and Nicey voice* (remember them?) Obviously, we didn’t want to embark on such a challenge without doing a bit of training first. Who I am I trying to kid? Training was minimal so we were pretty pleased we managed to finish it.

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Events did transpire against us in some areas. I can look back and laugh now but I must admit there were moments of sense of humour failure at certain points of the day.

We arrived in Chichester feeling tired and slightly deflated from the night before (it was the election night, I had intended to get to bed early but had been sucked into watching the coverage by the surprising first exit poll. When I did eventually decide to get to bed, sleep was elusive. Far too much going on my head.) So an early night before the walk in a comfortable hotel bed seemed like a good idea, after some carb-loading and a restorative glass of wine, of course. Things don’t always work to plan…

Who knew Chichester had a trash metal band scene? Well Davina and I do now as our ‘hotel’ (I use the term lightly) had the brilliantly named HELL PUPPETS playing on its premises the night we were staying. (Yes – thrash metal = loud guitars and screaming.)

No, we didn’t get much sleep. 

The walk itself was beautiful and the weather perfect – not too hot, not too wet. We did have a little shower, but we were in woods surrounded by carpets of bluebells at the time and even in the rain, this is stunning.

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Davina picked up a knee injury at the 21 km mark. She managed to do the rest of the walk with one straight leg. Go Davina! (She rather enjoyed getting her knee squeezed by a handsome Irish Med student though..)

I had a hacking cough and sounded like Darth Vader when any exertion was required. There were a few large hills so *insert wheezing sound here* LUKE, I AM YOUR FATHER.

It took us 10 hours, but we did it. And surprisingly I was not too stiff the next day. Nor did I suffer blisters. In fact, we totally WALKED IT.

So while Saturday was spent mainly walking, Sunday was spent hunched over Facebook like a stalker. Let me explain..I went to the Grand Designs show last week. My kitchen project is ongoing. It may win the prize for the longest running kitchen conversion ever but I digress… You may have noticed that I love cooking, so the ‘kitchen’ area of the show was my first stop. I oohed and aahed over the beautiful ovens and hobs. Stroking induction hobs as if they were my babies. At the AEG stand, a lovely man told me about a competition on Facebook. He said they hadn’t been many entries so why didn’t I give it a go? I duly took a (terrible) photo and uploaded it to their competition page.

The objective was to get votes on Facebook and retweets. I have a pretty average number of friends on Facebook but it was pretty obvious that no-one else was really making the effort, so I decided to start canvassing support and my friends and family stepped up to the challenge. To cut a long story short – I had one main rival (Adrian) and we obviously both spent the final day contacting everyone we know with a Facebook account. It was nail-biting stuff. I am pleased to say I won this epic battle!! The prize being £5,000 worth of AEG kitchen appliances. How very, very exciting. So I’m in the process of choosing them now. My kitchen dreams are closer to becoming reality. Party at mine when it’s done…

May: On the Radar

May looks set to be a cracker. The diary is fizzing with activity and fun things to do. Let’s hope the weather plays ball.

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  • May is the month that sees my ‘hood (Dulwich) put on a festival. There are festival fairs, events and performances, but the highlight for me is always the Artists’ Open House. Over 200 artists open their doors over two weekends; and there are some amazing houses (and art) to see. I love wandering from house to house, trying out local hostelries on the way.
  • Also in Dulwich, the first ever purpose-built art gallery, the Dulwich Picture Gallery is putting on its own little festival involving cinema, vintage clothing and kids’ workshops. Looks like fun. (Not so subtle subtext: COME AND VISIT DULWICH – THERE’S LOADS GOING ON,)
  • This weekend sees the Streets of Spain festival coming to the Southbank. Spanish food and drink, what’s not to love? Last year Morito had a stall and the pork belly chicarones were perhaps one of the most delicious things I ate all year. Hopefully this will inspire a little Spanish sunshine too.
  • Next weekend, I’m off to the Sussex downs for a sponsored 40km walk/hobble. The things you sign up to in the dark month of January!
  • It’s also the start of Rooftop Cinema season – I’m all booked for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

I feel like I’m hardly scratching the surface. So much to do, so little time. What are you up to?

The Year in Books: April

Where does the time go? I’m having one of those unintended blogging breaks. Lots of potential posts swirling round my mind, no actual action. Oh well. I have been reading though..and here’s the post to prove it.

Last month I read ‘Elizabeth is Missing‘ by Emma Healey. And I loved it. The book tells the story of Maud, an elderly lady with dementia. It doesn’t sound like the most gripping read, but the book is brilliant. Maud is convinced that her friend, Elizabeth has gone missing and is determined to find her. The present is deftly interwoven with the past, and we learn that there is a unsolved mystery in Maud’s past, which is linked to her resolve to find Elizabeth.

In Maud, Healey has created a wonderfully believable and sympathetic character. Her descent into dementia is heartbreaking but is not without its lighter moments, she forgets words and has wonderful ways of describing everyday objects. She captures her sense of confusion, her sense of frustration at how she is treated and impatience with those around her. The book  really made me think about what it must feel like to have dementia and how hard it is for close relatives. My own grand-dad had Alzheimer’s but I was too young to really understand what was going on.

The book is also successful as a page-turning mystery and it had me gripped until the very end. Yes, I loved ‘Elizabeth is Missing’.

I also read ‘Girl on a Train‘ by Paula Hawkins. Another unreliable narrator, another page turner. This time it’s alcohol that blurs the main protagonist’s memory; Rachel has issues with past relationships and the demon drink. She takes the same seat on a commuter train into London and imagines the lives of the residents of the houses that line the route. One of which she used to share with her ex-husband but he now lives there with his new girlfriend. There’s another couple living in the same road who Rachel sees everyday, she thinks they are the perfect couple,  and she’s constructed names and lives for them. Then the ‘perfect’ wife goes missing and Rachel can’t remember what she was doing that night…

I loved the premise of this book. Having done the kind of commute where you can see into people’s gardens, it’s easy to start imagining what kind people live there. The character Rachel, who was slowly self-destructing was also very believable; she had no self-confidence and could see no way of regaining a happy life. There were times when the book left me slightly bored. It was not a book I devoured, whereas I could not put Gone Girl down. (This is an obvious comparison – they both have Girl in the title and are part of a genre called ‘domestic noir.) However there were enough twists and turns to keep me reading and the ending was particularly nasty.

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Next month, I’ve decided to have a little break from the novel and tackle some non-fiction instead. I found this book in a charity shop. Blood, Bones and Butter a memoir written by Gabrielle Hamilton, the owner/chef at Prune, a New York restaurant. It’s often hailed as a brilliant foodie book and so far, I’m impressed by Hamilton’s writing. Also, I’ve got a David Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day) on the go; I needed something a bit lighter and funnier and having listened to him on Radio 4, I know that Sedaris is certainly funny.

Red Magazine Botanical Masterclass

When an email popped into my inbox offering me the chance to attend a Botanical Masterclass for FREE, I hit the ‘sign me up’ button as quickly as possible. A freebie involving plants! Hosted by Red Magazine and The Joy of Plants, the masterclass took place on Saturday in a beautiful location house in Tufnel Park.

The house was decked out in spectacular greenery. Each room was decorated by a different stylist; plants and green being the theme holding the schemes together.

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The dining room had been styled by Red Magazine’s Living Editor, Sarah Keady. The table setting was beautiful, fresh and green. She also gave us a few tips on how to create the look ourselves (and where to buy some of the key components). I feel an early morning trip to New Covent Garden coming on!

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The bedroom was stunning, although perhaps a little too styled for my taste. However I suspect the rules for styling a show home are rather different to what you would actually do in your own bedroom.

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I loved this door hanging. This is definitely something that would look good in anyone’s home.

Plants3Green trailing plants were everywhere.

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As well as wandering around the home, picking up hints and tips for creating our own botanical wonderlands, we were also given the opportunity to do a few workshops. Joanne Thornhill was doing a macrame plant hanger tutorial and I must say, it’s easier than I thought it would be. I took home my very own creation. Watch this space as I plan on making a few more for my home to really capture that Seventies style.

A company called The Urban Botanist were also doing a quick terrarium workshop. I am now the proud owner of a beautiful hanging terrarium. Now to find a suitable spot to hang it. I’ll report back with a photo when it has found a home.

Plants4

All in all, I spent a wonderfully inspiring couple of hours at this masterclass. As it was free, I wasn’t sure what to expect and it surpassed my expectations. I’m now determined to add a little greenery to my life.

plants8 plants9

 

April: On the Radar

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One of my favourite annual exhibitions is Pick Me Up, a graphic arts festival held at Somerset House . Featuring graphic designers and illustrators, it’s a great place to pick up an affordable piece of art. There are also loads of interactive workspaces, so you can have a go yourself if you feel inspired.

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Surely one of the most exciting things about April is that English asparagus starts to make an appearance on our plates? Just me? I thought not. How do you like yours? I’m happy with it plain and simple, a smidge of butter and lemon. But if you’re after ideas…Food 52 is always a good place to start.

white cube

An exhibition that combines art, onomatopoeia  and music. Sounds interesting. Could even appeal to my seven year old (who am I trying to kid? He’s obsessed with Minecraft videos in the Ipad and modern art cannot compete with Stampy Longnose or Diamond Minecart. If you don’t know who these people are, count yourself very lucky.) This major exhibition by Christian Marclay is only on at the Bermondsey White Cube until 12th April, and it’s FREE.

Apart from that, I shall mainly be planning my new kitchen. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking in equal measure. Lots still to do…

Meat Free Week

It’s the start of Meat Free Week today. While I’m not a vegetarian, there is no denying that eating less meat is a good idea for many reasons (if you want to learn more check out the Meat Free Week website, which sets out the issues a lot better than I can.)

I love cooking vegetarian food as it forces me to be a bit more creative with the ingredients. When meat is involved, it’s pretty easy to resort to the old meat, vegetables and potatoes fall back (nul points for imagination.) Getting the most out of your veggies requires a little more thought.

I have a few cook books that I call upon for inspiration when I’m cooking vegetarian. A lot has been written about Anna Jones’ A Modern Way to Eat and rightly so as it’s full of delicious and different veggie recipes. (See here for a proper review). I also like Vegetarian by Alice Hart and Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi.

So I’m doing the Meat Free Week challenge. As Fred, who is seven, has started eating his dinner with us now, I’ve got to find recipes for dishes that the whole family will enjoy. I’m lucky that he’s not a picky eater and doesn’t mind a little bit of spice and chilli in his food. Here are a few ideas for the coming week:

Fritters are a great way of getting kids to eat their vegetables. These carrot fritters with halloumi are from Vegetarian by Alice Hart. I’ve made them before and they were loved by adults and kids alike. You can find the recipe here.

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Fred has recently discovered the delights of a lightly spiced curry. Indian food is fantastic for vegetarian recipes. Of course a simple aloo gobi is divine, but if you want something a little bit different, why not make a spinach and paneer curry?  I even made my own paneer when I tried this recipe. Get me. Cheese maker extraordinaire, Alex James had better watch out. The recipe can be found here and is from Meera Sodha’s excellent book Made in India.

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I’ve also been on the look out for a good, quick pasta recipe. Anna Jones has listed a few on her blog which are worth taking a look at. I quite like the look of this one from 101 Cookbooks, a brilliant blog for tasty, innovative vegetarian food. You can’t go wrong with pasta, pesto (this one is made out of kale) and cheese.

winter_pasta_recipe

Shakshuka has become one of my staple dishes – eggs baked in a spicy tomato and pepper sauce, what’s not to love? Ottolenghi does a mean shakshuka. Although it’s meant to be a breakfast or brunch dish, I don’t mind eggs at dinner (brinner?) time.  I may tone down the chilli if Fred is eating with us. I like it hot.

shakshuka

And finally, these quesadillas from A Modern Way to Eat look pretty tasty. One for Friday night perhaps?

quesadilla

I’ll be documenting my #meatfreeweek on Instagram. What are you cooking this week?

Cafe Culture: Iris and June

Another day, another cafe. This one was also discovered through the power of Instagram. I follow Elly Curshen on Instagram, she owns a cafe in Bristol but often finds herself in London. On one of these visits, she posted the most amazing picture of a salad. As you know, I’m partial to a salad and am always on the look out for cafes that serve a good selection. So armed with my trusty phone, I vowed to track down the purveyors of said salad. And that, dear readers, is how I found myself at Iris and June, a cafe in Victoria eating a delicious array of fresh salads.

IrisandJune

Appearance: Iris and June is modern and spacious. Concrete, subway tiles and built in seating all feature in the design. It’s grey with flashes of bright blue and there are fresh flowers on the counter. (Where the fresh salads, sandwiches and cake are also displayed.)

Location: Just behind Victoria station, this area is a bit of a wasteland when it comes to decent lunch time options that are not chains. I should know, I used to work near Victoria and have eaten my fair share of limp cheese sandwiches. Yuck. If only Iris and June had been there for me. I’d have been a regular.

Menu: There are three salads to chose from every day. I follow them on Instagram for inspiration; and the salads always look seriously good. For example, one of today’s offerings was Vietnamese glass noodle salad. Doesn’t that look amazing?

iris_salad_instagram

For those who prefer something non salady, there are a revolving selection of homemade quiches, sandwiches and frittatas made with seasonal ingredients. The food is freshly prepared on the premises. I can’t remember exactly how much I paid for the salads, it was definitely under a tenner. I don’t think Iris and June is the cheapest option, however, but worth it for the quality of the food available.

Clientele: I’ve visited on a few occasions. And word has obviously got out as the cafe has got busier each time I’ve been. I should also mention that if you do have time to linger, the reading material is pretty good too.

Iris

Coffee: The owners of Iris and June are from New Zealand. Say no more. They take their coffee seriously. (Why is it that the Antipodeans do their coffee so right?) They offer a range of brewing methods and the coffee comes from Ozone Coffee Roasters.

Overall: If I still worked near Victoria, I’d be at this cafe every day for a coffee or a bite to eat. The salads are amazing. The atmosphere is buzzing but also welcoming. It’s a well designed space. You could say I’m a fan.

Iris & June, No.1 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG

Source: Iris & JuneInstagram and me.

*As a note, I tend to feature the cafes that I enjoy hence the largely favourable reviews. If I don’t really like the cafe, I won’t write about it.

The Year in Books: March

I had an unplanned ‘outage’ last week, so apologies for that if anyone actually noticed. There were technical tinkerings behind the scene that took longer than I thought they would. Back now though *breathes a sigh of relief*.

I had two books on my ‘to read’ list last month. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, the best selling novel of 2014 and Late Fragments by Kate Gross. Let me first discuss The Miniaturist, a novel set in 17th century Amsterdam. The atmospheric setting was one of the things I enjoyed most about the book; there are many secrets in the story and the description of cold and dark houses lit only by candlelight complemented this completely.  I had a few reservations about the plot though; at times I simply couldn’t believe that the characters would behave in the way they did. Without giving too much away, the main character, Nella had an attitude towards some things that would be far more at home in the 21st century than the time she was meant to be living in. The ending was also slightly disappointing but I can’t deny the book is a page-turner and kept me reading until the very end. I became absorbed in the story despite some misgivings.

Late Fragments is a memoir by Kate Gross, a woman dying of bowel cancer at the age of 36, leaving her five year old twins and husband behind. Doesn’t sound very cheery does it? Kate Gross was an extraordinary woman, she was writing speeches for Tony Blair at the age of 26 and she clearly excelled at everything she set her mind to. And this includes writing her memoir. The book is brilliantly written, she is witty and incisive and strangely, it is a rather uplifting read (although I did shed tears too, of course). The message being life is for living, do what you love, make the most of the time you have and love your family. It’s death that brings the importance of these things into sharp focus.

“I would do anything not to be writing this book,” writes Gross, clear-eyed. “The time I have had since I became ill has been beyond precious; this strange, razor-like clarity is something I wouldn’t have found had the worst not happened. Nor would I have found my voice, the time to tell this story, or what really matters in this magnificent life.”

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In March, I’ve got another book lined up which could be seen as being rather sad. Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey is written from the point of view of Maud, a lady with dementia. Not exactly laugh a minute. I’ve also got a classic page-turner thriller, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in. (And next month, I’m reading something light hearted and funny!)

On the Radar: March

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I seem to find winter harder every year. I can’t ever remember feeling the dread in Autumn before, but this year I did. And it wasn’t an especially hard winter. However in a way, we need to have winter so we can experience the sheer joy of Spring. New life, longer days and hopefully some warm sun on our skin. So March. Bring it.

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  • When it comes to decor, I’m definitely a maximalist (polite way of saying I am a borderline hoarder). I have stuff and lots of it, everywhere. (Sometimes I wish I didn’t). The exhibition Magnificent Obsessions at the Barbican features the collections of artists, some are more curated than others.
  • It’s the Women of the World festival at the Southbank Centre this month. I’ve never been before and wouldn’t mind checking it out.
  • I could wander around Spitalfields for hours; at the risk of sounding like an American tourist, it’s soooo old and the streets are full of stories. You can even hire a beautiful Huguenot house for events. I may need to get married again…(if you’re reading this Michael, that was a joke.) However if I can’t hire that, I want to look around Denis Severs’ House instead.
  • I really want to have brunch (or lunch) at Raw Duck in Hackney. The space looks gorgeous (neon lights and concrete galore) and it specialises in ferments and pickles. I love a good pickle and am intrigued by the idea of drinking ferments.
  • raw duckAnd finally…have you heard I Love You Honeybear by Father John Misty? It’s brilliant. It’s a collection of love songs but not your typical love songs; listen to those lyrics!

What are you doing to celebrate Spring?