The Quick and Easy Kitchen

In the not too distant future (ideally it was supposed to be yesterday but we are having some, ahem, issues with the structural engineer,) our kitchen is being ripped out. Because of the nature of the building work that needs to go on in the kitchen – we’re not just putting a lot of glass in to the external walls but taking a chimney breast out too that the current kitchen is in front of, the kitchen isn’t a simple in-out job and we will be kitchen-less for probably 6 weeks. To say I’m dreading it is an understatement.


Baked Ziti by Damn Delicious

In fact we won’t be fully kitchen-less and we are very lucky, because we are going to try and essentially rig up a lot of the appliances downstairs in the cellar. There is plumbing down there so fingers crossed we will have a sink, and the fridge, freezer and oven will all just plug in. We have a camping gas stove we can use but it won’t be ideal so I don’t want to cook much on it and we won’t have much in the way of worktop prep space at all. As a result meals will be makeshift. Of course I’m sure there will be a few takeaways and meals out locally but because I’m pregnant I don’t ideally want to be eating processed food every night, I do enough of that as it is! Given that this is all emptying the coffers, keeping costs down will be better too.


BLT bowl by The Londoner

So I need your help readers. I have already been cooking ahead to put meals in the freezer and we have portions of chilli, spaghetti bolognese, lasagne and fish pie stacked up. What I now need are ideas for quick simple fresh food that I can make with the minimum of washing up (the dishwasher won’t be re-installed downstairs,) fuss or prep space. Healthy recipes would be a bonus too to balance out anything we eat out. I was thinking of things like a chicken salad with a pre-cooked supermarket chicken and I’m really hoping you guys can suggest some recipes or meals that will help me out over the next couple of months.

Any ideas?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Feeling Blue…

Despite the fact that our new kitchen is still several weeks off being usable, I have already found myself thinking about the finishing touches. Aside from the pretty things, on a more practical level I want to add to our current dinner service.

We currently have 2 sets of plates and bowls, our wedding set of Sophie Conran for Portmerion table and serve ware in a ten person setting, and a bog standard square white set for 4 that was from John Lewis. The idea is that we use the set of four day to day so the wedding set doesn’t get hammered, but so we don’t end up saving the Portmerion for absolute best if there are ever more than just the two of us, we get out the good stuff.

Restoration tableware, John Lewis // Indigo Dinner plate, M&S // Indigo serving bowl, M&S // Lascari Stoneware, Anthropologie //Coastal Tableware, John Lewis // 12 Piece lombard dining set, M&S // Denby Bloom Stoneware, Debenhams //Jardin des Plants dinnerware, Anthropologie

In reality, with Francesca being with us, we have used the Portmerion a lot more and it has made me realise that when we are a family of 3, with regular visitors, we are going to need more of the everyday stuff to avoid using the Sophie Conan every day. I prefer seeing my food against white plates, but because our island eating area will be white I like the idea of a bit of contrast. Given my current obsession with blue, I thought a slim blue rimmed set would be nice. There are so many blue and white sets around right now however that a pick and mix, mix and match would be easy to do if you were so inclined and very stylish.

So readers, what do you think? Are you fans of white plates or do you like a bit of contrast on your dinner table?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Blueberry Hummingbird Cake

April is my birthday month and so I feel inclined towards celebrating cake in all of it’s forms today. This one is a favourite recipe of mine from the first Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and a slice even features on the cover. The reason that I like it is that it is huge – this is the perfect cake to have for a party or to take to work as it will easily feed 20. It’s light and moist and delicious. A total winner and it’s easy to make to boot.


Images copyright Lawson Photography

As you can see the images here were taken during the shoot at my old house before we moved, by the lovely Pete and Laura Lawson – thanks guys!

Blueberry cake – Adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook
Preheat oven to 170C fan

350g butter, unsalted, room temp
350g caster sugar
6 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
1 lemon zested
450g plain flour
2 tbsp of baking powder plus 1tsp
270ml soured cream

250g blueberries plus extra to decorate
1 quanitity of cream cheese frosting
(300g icing sugar, 50g unsalted butter, 125g cream cheese)
loosened with 30ml of soured cream and 20ml of lemon juice

25cm ring mould, greased and lined


Images copyright Lawson Photography

1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
2.Add eggs, one at a time
3.Beat in vanilla, lemon zest, flour and baking powder
4.Add soured cream and beat until combined, gently stir in blueberries
5.Fill your tin and smooth surface over with a knife
6.Bake for 40-50 mins until the crust is golden brown and the sponge springs back.


Images copyright Lawson Photography

7.Leave to cool in the mould for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wired rack, removing the paper.
8.When the cake is cool, pour the icing mix over the top and sprinkle with blueberries.


Images copyright Lawson Photography

Definitely give it a try readers, it is soooo good!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS Thanks for bearing with me this week – we are back in the bedroom!!! I’m still getting sorted but hope to be back next week with my usual schedule.

Sneak Peek: Bedroom in progress

Right now, things are BUSY. I hope you will excuse the lighter than normal schedule and bear with me while I get straight again. Meanwhile, I thought I would tell you what the hold up is…

Last Tuesday we caved and chose to get the bedroom walls lined with lining paper to give a perfect finish for painting. We had previously paid for them to be skimmed (lesson learned!) but cracks started to appear, which is inevitable in old houses and likely to only get worse as we shake it all again with the kitchen building work. We are so desperate to get back in there that we have since been flat out painting it. Everything needed doing and there was considerable prep work prior to actually getting on with the painting – ceiling, coving, woodwork, windows, doors and the walls, plus it’s not a small room so it has been an all consuming task each night after work and poor Pete has taken the brunt of it while I was at a hen party this weekend. (To be fair he is on the corresponding stag soon too!)

We are so close now but had to knuckle down and get it all done as the skirtings were last and had to be done before the carpet was delivered tomorrow. Now the end is in sight but the rest of the house is a mess, work has kicked up a gear, I have written work due for a course I am currently on, and the kitchen needs emptying before work starts in there. And at 24 weeks, I haven’t made time to do a single bit of exercise, which I feel pretty rubbish about.

So I need a few days to recharge and get sorted. Thanks for understanding.

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Trash T.V.

Time for a bit of guilty pleasures talk over here. Why not eh?

So, I watch pretty much no TV. I always have some American Drama on the go, Greys Anatomy being my preference, but that weekly slot is almost the only thing I bother with. Except my guilty pleasure. In addition to my ‘quality drama’ – hey it’s all relative here people, I also like a bit of trash tv on the side.

Historically it was Gossip girl, which I was borderline obsessed with, and currently it’s Nashville. It needs to be full of gorgeous glamorous types, a hot male lead or two doesn’t go amiss and a salacious storyline. Most importantly, I don’t need amazing writing, it’s all about the fluff. I just stick it on record and dip in and out when I get home on those days when I all I can do is collapse on the sofa and mourn the absence of a wine glass in hand. ;)

So today, I want to hear what your guilty pleasure is and what I should be watching?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

The Changing shape of Pregnancy (Dressing for the first 4-5 months)

One of the things that has taken me most by surprise during pregnancy has been the way I have changed shape. Right from the off I looked pregnant and when I broke the news to my colleagues at 11 weeks, nearly all of them said that they had already guessed. This sounds unbelievable and it certainly wasn’t ‘baby’, but bloat, as my digestive system was well and truly out of sorts for those first 10-12 weeks. Because I’m relatively slim (although I was heavier than I like to be at the time of finding out I was pregnant,) I expected to develop quite a neat, low down bump and that completely influenced my expectations of what I would be wearing. I imagined that I would keep wearing many of the dresses that I favour in a loose shift style from the likes of Whistles and Warehouse and that many tops and jumpers would still fit. I even thought I might be able to wear the waist accentuating styles that always tend to sit a bit high on me anyway as the bump would come from below. (I can hear those of you who have been pregnant chortling now!)

The reality has been totally different, as rather than developing that ‘low down’ bump I imagined, my whole tummy has come out at once, right from the top. I’ve always suffered from bloating and I suppose as my pelvis has become otherwise occupied my bowels have been pushed up. That has actually changed again in the last week or two as it’s coming out slightly more at the bottom now but either way I am W-I-D-E from the side! The other thing that took me by surprise was my boobs. They ballooned before I even knew I was pregnant and just kept going. Pre-pregnancy I was a 32C-D but I’ve gone up at least two cup sizes and my back size has gone up one too. As a result those cute shift styles look like more of a tent. All in all, quite a change and that’s why I wanted to share these pictures that show my body changing too. I can’t quite believe how slim I look in this first photo and how huge by comparison now!

I know lots of people can’t stand the idea of weighing themselves when pregnant, but it kind of fascinated me. I’m not fixated by numbers on the scales anyway and knew my shape was about to change so didn’t really fear it. Healthy weight gain ranges from 25 – 35lbs (1st 11 – 2st 7lbs) in pregnancy so I accepted that it was going to happen. I did worry in the first 12 weeks because I ate for England, partly to abate any mild nausea I got and partly because I was just hungry like I have never been before! When you receive those helpful weekly updates telling you ‘your baby weighs 40grams’ and/or is the size of a blueberry, you kind of know you shouldn’t be gaining weight at that stage! In the end I put about 4lbs on in the first trimester (although with the bloating it felt like much more,) and now at almost 24 weeks I’ve gained 11 lbs, so the rest of my body hasn’t changed a lot, bearing in mind that I was heavier when I got pregnant than I like to be. I really should have been more careful I guess, for health reasons more than anything, but I’m happy with the gain so far and if I had ballooned I would have tried to moderate my eating habits or make them healthier.

Getting back to the clothes side of things however, I thought I would review the things I bought in early pregnancy and how I have changed dressing for my new and slightly different shape. ;)

  1. Work has been the biggest problem as I wear a pair of Whistles navy ankle length tailored trousers day in day out. They fitted up to about 14 weeks then just got plain uncomfortable and I found jersey skirts to be a godsend. I purchased one from Dorothy Perkins and a maternity style from ASOS but to be honest the normal one is more than adequate as it’s a good length and just pulls up over the bump.
  2. The next purchase was my maternity jeans from H&M which have been a total godsend. Because I’m pregnant at this time of year I chose a dark distressed wash that I could dress up or down with a view to buying a second, perhaps coloured pair later in the year (which I’m looking for now,) that are more appropriate for summer.
  3. Totally not fashion related but I bought this water bottle from Primark as I was so thirsty initially and of course it’s always good to drink more water. A Bargain £1.50 in their fitness section.
  4. At 18 weeks I went on a hen do and needed something for the evening. I wasn’t yet looking totally convincingly pregnant, although it was clear if you knew me, so I opted for a looser style with this ASOS dress in a size up (12)
  5. I have continued to wear several loose blouse styles with my tube skirt as they look fine but  v-necks are a bit more risqué due to my enhanced bust so these H&M Vests are essential for modesty in the workplace!
  6. My biggest problem during those few awkward weeks before my bump really popped out convincingly was that my boobs were so big that the looser styles I favoured made me look like a house. As soon as I could get away with it, I switched to bodycon styles which made me look more obviously pregnant but also made me feel less enormous in general. I bought this Topshop maternity dress for evenings (quite short!) and another striped one which you can see me wearing here.
  7. I also bought this Joules dress very early on as it concealed my expanding waist (or so I thought) at work before I was ready to share the news.

I hope you guys have found this interesting reading. Pregnancy is the most amazing thing our bodies can do, but despite my admiration for my own body and it’s capabilities, I still don’t recognise it sometimes. As relaxed as I am about changing shape it has been a big adjustment and dressing my new shape has been hard so I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on what I have shared, your experiences and tips of dressing for pregnancy style in the first 4 months.

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Triple Temptation: Spring Palettes


Bobbi Brown // Nars // No.7

Every spring I’m tempted by the prettiest make up palettes that come out and look simply beautiful along with adding a bit of spring brightening sunshine to your make up look. Sometimes I feel like these are a bit of a folly but I have some lovely ones that I have used incessantly. As long as you pick colours that suit you it can be a hard working bit of kit. These are all brightening or blush compacts so likely to be the most useful of the possibilities out there and make a perfect spring treat for yourself or a gift for a friend.

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Spring nesting…


Coral Paisley Jacquard bedspread – Zara Home

I’ve always been a fan of white bedding but at this time of year I’m always drawn to the pretty brights available in bedding sets. Everywhere I turn the patterns and prints are spectacular, especially the range of glorious florals that make perfect spring-summer sleeping sense.

I thought I would round up some of my favourites and see what you guys think?

Clockwise from tope L: Peach Georgette bedding set, Matthew Williamson at Debenhams // Overscale floral bedset, M&S // Alimar (pink floral) bedding from Debenhams // Summer Floral Bedset, M&S // Charlottenburg, Designers Guild // Wild Coast bedlinen, M&S

Of course, it requires quite a neutral room to pull off such a block statement of colour and pattern but if you already have that in place then it is such a cost effective way to update your space and make a massive impact. I’m particularly drawn to the blues I’m seeing in various prints…

Clockwise from tope L: Scion Shibori bedlinen from John Lewis // Bluebellgray abstract petals bedding from John Lewis // Blue Chroma bedlinen, Sheridan at Debenhams // Asilah blue bedlinen, Debenhams

What do you think readers? Are you tempted or are you still sticking with white?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Friday Fun…

For the end of the week and in anticipation of the spring weather we have been promised for the weekend, I thought I’d share this little find. Yesterday I spotted these gorgeous desktop and mobile wallpapers by Elise Pescheret over on DesignLoveFest. I’ve seen her work before on Pinterest and I’m going to be dressing my tech immediately with these beautiful pieces of art. Perfect fore spring pretty and a friday pick me up.

Enjoy readers!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Kitchen Update…

If my house update posts have seemed a bit thin on the ground, that’s pretty much for two reasons. Firstly, the whole thing has been so exhausting and frustrating so far that I really haven’t had the mental energy to write about it here as well as collecting quotes and co-ordinating the work. And secondly, well, there hasn’t been that much ‘progress’.


Our Kitchen, on display in the showroom

Last time I talked about the kitchen I talked about choosing the actual units and style. Plus I have mentioned the issues that prevented us from extending. We initially got involved with an architect when we wanted to see if there was a way around the pipe and there was, but it was expensive. That and I don’t know how realistic his plans were. We have continued to work with the architect and that has been one of the massive delaying factors. The drawings took longer than they should have, trying to get quotes took longer and now we are chasing engineers calculations on modified drawings. Why the modification I hear you ask? Well, because the grand designs the architect drew up were completely unfeasible. I thought that architects not only planned creative solutions but that they worked within the limitations of the structural requirements. Clearly our experience hasn’t been great, but I don’t want to generalise and I’m sure there are lots of great architects out there, ours just hasn’t been. In fact, all we needed was a builder and it’s a shame we hadn’t met the builder who did the work on our bedroom by then, because he has taken on the kitchen job and been a lot more helpful. Hopefully we’re starting work in a week or two, so we can actually see things come together.


Although I’m talking about an ‘Island’ here, we are actually having a peninsula than comes from the exterior wall but you can walk around on three sides, separating the working side of the kitchen from the social side :) so it will look something like this… Image via.

In the meantime, the interior plans have been ticking along. When we found our kitchen it was on display in the shop and miraculously the layout could be slightly rejigged to fit our plans. We had to buy an additional couple of units to finish it off but it meant we could afford a kitchen that was otherwise way out of our budget. As the display was being removed we had the option to buy the worktops and sink too. The worktop is a veined black granite but very unusual, because it has a matt ‘honed’ finish, like the graining on a soft leather handbag. (I posted a picture on instagram showing the finish this morning.) I really deliberated about this decision. It was a good price, but I really wanted marble. Not just for the look but for the pale colour to bounce more light around.


How honed granite looks in situ via Pinterest

On our kitchen research trips I asked lots of people about marble as a work surface and was met with a variety of reactions, from derision to outright patronisation. I was told marble was for show kitchens in the kitchens of the rich, that it would stain and I would regret it. Of course I already knew that, having extensively researched the pro’s and con’s. For those of you who don’t know much about worktops, one of the pro’s for granite is that it’s tough. Marble on the other hand is soft and porous. It can scratch, dent, crack or ‘etch’, which is the correct term for the marks that are left on the surface from acidic foods coming into contact with it. Lemons and tomatoes all have this effect and anything dark can be absorbed leaving stains that can’t be wiped off or cleaned with usual cleaning products because they are sucked in to the stone itself. Pretty terrifying stuff, right? The problem was, I still couldn’t stop myself from wanting it, so I decided to do a little experiment.

The majority of the nay sayers amongst kitchen salespeople simply didn’t want to sell us the marble and be responsible for us then telling them it had marked or stained etc and demanding our money back. Tracy, our kitchen designer basically dared me to try some red wine on it. As much as I told her I would look after it she convinced me that after a party one night or when we had family visiting, someone wouldn’t take care of the marble like I did and it might get ruined. So I put red wine o the bottom of a glass, left it on a marble sample I had and promptly forgot about it until a couple of days later. It left a hideous stain which of course didn’t come out. After a bit of google research I read somewhere that in Latin countries where marble is used all the time for worktops they simply clean it with bleach. And what do you know, out it came. It removed balsamic vinegar too. The etching was still there from the vinegar but that is really only visible when the light shines across the marble and highlights the difference in texture between the polished finish and the matt etched areas. If you go for a ‘honed’ (matt) marble finish, this is less obvious again.


Images via Pinterest 1 // 2

So, decision time. Right now, (although I’m having a last minute wobble with the anticipation of a toddler throwing spaghetti bolognese all over it!) the plan is a compromise. We are going to reuse the granite from the display along the back wall’s run of units, either side of the cooker and in the cabinet where the coffee machine etc will go. This will be harder wearing and give a fuss free prep area. On the island, (where the sink will be) we’re going with honed marble for the look I love. Fingers crossed it works!


Hopefully this is pretty close to how our kitchen will look from one end, looking pack towards the house. Image via.

Because of our limited space there isn’t going to be the option for a dining table but the island will have bar stools for feeding kids (and adults!) at on a daily basis. The Back wall run of units will be drawers all the way along for a sleek look and the sink area you see above will be rejigged to make one side of the island with dishwasher etc. My only gripe now is that the handles that came with the kitchen are chrome finish and I really wanted brass, along with brass taps. Now I’ve just got to decided on tiles, flooring and lighting. It feels never ending but I can’t wait to get it all done and finished. Preferably before Baby arrives!

So that’s it for now readers, I hope I haven’t bored you but it has been a long process. And we haven’t even started yet. Tell me it will be ok?! (Or if I’m making a huge mistake with something!!!)

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS. If you happen to be interested in Marble, then here are some of the articles I researched from people actually living with Marble worktops:
Georgica Pond
For the love of a house
I also emailed Courtney Adamo for Advice who has this beautiful honed marble worktop.