Hurrah for Bank Holidays

The late summer Bank Holiday always takes me by surprise. It always comes just when I think that summer is over and we’re officially heading into Autumn. (Which, according to the Pagan wheel of the year, we are.) The days certainly seem a little shorter, a little soggier, and a little crisper, but that’s A-OK. I love Autumn.

We certainly made the most of the long weekend here…

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1. We all went to ‘Lo’s swimming summer school
2&3. An ace time at a local country park. Milo loves to swing, and he’s getting good at sharing.
4. Dancing to the Smiths after breakfast is an EXCELLENT way to start the day.
5. Zoo selfies in the rain.
6. Homemade Milo-sized pizza with salad and olives. SO tasty.

I’m starting to feel the sunshine get weaker and the wind get just a little bit colder. It’s September tomorrow, which has taken us all by surprise. Time to make the most of the last summer days, and pick up a puddle suit. After all, there’s actually no such thing as bad weather. Just bad clothes.

Hurrah for Bank Holidays

Very British Thrifting

I read quite a few American home and lifestyle blogs. It just so happens that my design sensibilities align to select individuals across the pond. Usually this poses no problem. I mentally convert closet to cupboard, and faucet to tap, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that for most U.S. urbanites, a ‘small’ living room is probably bigger than my entire flat. (I’m discounting Brooklyn here, some of those places really are small.)

The one area that I struggle with though, is ‘thrifting’. It’s hard to translate that one. Thrift store becomes charity shop, garage sale equates to car boot sale, and flea market? I guess jumble sale. It can be hard to get excited about any of those things. I know there are people who get up as the ass crack of dawn every Sunday to hit up a car boot sale. Frankly, I’m not that dedicated. 

There is one charity shop that keeps me interested though. It’s a British Heart FoundTion furniture shop and if you’re lucky, you can find a gem or two buried under the 90’s mass produced crap. Case in point, my beautiful mid-century teak sideboard. So, when Mr E called to say he’s picked up a headboard on Thursday, I was a little excited.

Mr E is kind of Brilliant at ‘British Thrifting’ or ‘Brifting’ as I’ll never say again, and our bed has been without a headboard for two years. It’s a little thing, but it bothers me. I was so pleased when he pulled said headboard out of the car. Boom.   

   

Look at that. All teak and curved and sexy. I know it’s a first world problem to be bothered by a lack of headboard, but my life does feel a little bit more complete now. Perhaps one day I’ll be a successful adult after all.

Very British Thrifting

Entertaining Toddlers

I am lucky enough to spend two days a week alone with my little man. I work three days a week, and he spends two days at nursery and one day with grandparents. It works for us. I get my independance and time to be with other adults and do a job I love, Milo gets to spend time with other kiddos in an environment that’s created entirely for him. win/win.

Milo’s changed so much recently, and he’s starting to be interested in different things at home. I can’t just sit on the floor and play with him all day any more, we need a bit more structure. Pinterest can provide a wealth of ideas but it all seems a bit random. I decided to put together a list of activities to do together based on the alphabet – every day has a different ‘theme’. Some days it’s just an activity, and (hopefully) other days will be more involved and full on – I also hope to arrange some play dates with Lo’s buddies on some of the more interesting days.

So far we’re a week in, and we’ve done ANIMALS and BAKING. Baking was my favorite of the week. We weren’t just pretending, we actually made chocolate rice crispie cakes.
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Hopefully we’ve got some fun ahead. I’m pretty lucky where I live – I’ve got parks and lakes and playgrounds and soft play all within walking distance. There’s a lot to do.  It’s been pretty hot the last few days here, and I’ve been trying to keep out of the sun, which means indoor activities are the way to go. Next week we’ve got COLOUR and DANCE to look forward to!

Entertaining Toddlers

Kid in the Kitchen!

I totally believe that our kids are a lot more capable than we give them credit for. This is an idea embraced by Montessori teaching, and it’s catching on. Milo is 14 months old now, and starting to get really involved in the world around him. We’re trying to encourage this and keep him safe as he figures out how he fits into the world. We built him a floor bed and now he gets up quite happily most mornings and plays. He loves wiping the table after meals, and today I was brave enough to let him help cook. (Pic 23/52. Where IS the year going?)
Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 22.38.42Boom. Scrambled eggs. I love the idea of helper towers for the kitchen, but there is no room in the kitchen to store one, or anywhere else in the flat for that matter. We’re going to get an Ikea Bekvam stool, and with help he can then stand up at the kitchen counters, and also at the sink to wash his hands. For now though we’re going old school and…
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…Standing on a chair. In other news, the light was awesome this afternoon, and I grabbed an iPhone snap of the dining end of the living room.
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It’ll be a while before I’m passing down my recipe book, but for now I’m happy to let the little man stir his own scrambled eggs.

Kid in the Kitchen!

I want to talk to you about my pancakes.

I’m a bit of a science fiction fan, and a massive comedy fan, and I love it when the two come together. Red Dwarf was, in my book, a huge success when it comes to combining the two, and has served me with many hours of pleasant distractions, and been re-watched many times.  In the episode ‘DNA’ Kryten (a mechanoid) becomes human and it’s hilarious. At the beginning of his journey, he discusses a list of observations about his new form with the ships only human occupant, Dave. It goes something like this:

Kryten: Ah yes, now, I wanted to talk to you about something. Something about, um, well, something I know we humans get a little embarrassed about.  It’s a bit of a taboo subject – not the sort of thing we like to sit around and chat about in polite conversation.
Dave: Kryten, I’m an enlightened twenty-third century guy.  Spit it out, man.
Kryten: Well, I want to talk to you about my penis.

Now, whenever I find myself starting a conversation with the words ‘I want to talk to you about my…’ I have to try REALLY HARD not to say penis.  So. All that said, I want to talk to you about my…pancakes.

Mother flippin pancakes

I love fluffy American pancakes. I love them with bacon, or blueberries, or lemon soaked raisins, or just tons of maple syrup and butter. I like to think that I’ve got pretty good at them over the years, and I’m frightened that one day I’ll lose the recipe. So, for posterity and y’know, friendly neighborhood sharing, here is my go to pancake recipe.

Get These Things

  • 135g Plain Flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • half a teaspoon salt
  • 130ml full fat milk (I guess SS would be OK)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Do These Things

I make my pancakes this way so there’s only one dish to wash up. Usually you add the liquid to the dry ingredients, but NOPE. I use a scale with a zero function, and a large beaker with liquid measurements and a nice spout for pouring the batter.

  1. Pour 130 ml of milk into the jug and add the egg. Beat it well with a fork.
  2. Place the jug on the scale and zero it. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar, and beat with a fork. Yes it will be lumpy. No it doesn’t matter.
  3. Once the mix is fairly smooth, add in the olive oil and mix until you can’t see any oil bubbles.
  4. KEY POINT: Leave the batter to sit. Room temp or in the fridge, doesn’t matter. I’ve left the mixture for 10 minutes and over an hour. Usually I make it up then jump in the shower.
  5. Heat some oil in a large frying pan, and use some paper towel to spread it around. Pour in two circles of batter and leave until the top in looking matte and there are bubbles just starting to pop. Using a spatula flip the pancake and leave for around half the amount of time you did the first side.
  6. Place on a plate and stick some butter and maple syrup on top. Yes. On every pancake in the stack. Those suckers are absorbent and if you only put it on top, you’ll have dry pancakes in the middle.
  7. Continue with the oil/wipe/pour shennanigan until you run out of batter. For me, this recipe makes six pancakes, and I would say each is the size of a large man’s fist. That’s how I roll.

If I were making blueberry pancakes, I’d stir in fresh or canned fruit before I left the batter to sit. If I were making lemon and raisin, I’d soak the raisins in lemon juice and then stir those in to the batter. Technically, I guess that recipe serves two, with three pancakes each, but often I eat it all by myself. I’m such a glutton. #NotSorry.

I want to talk to you about my pancakes.

Pretty FL/Y for a white guy

IMG_9188When we first bought the flat I was pretty clear on what kind of lights I wanted in the living and dining areas. Industrial! Multi-bulb! Coloured flex! And that worked over the dining room table. The living space was a different story. Just for shits and giggles, allow me to remind you of what was there.FlatProgress4Not really my cup of tea. Fun fact: The light fixtures aren’t aligned to, well, anything. Not to the walls, not to the window and certainly not to each other. Our answer was to put in a single drop pendant, Ikea’s fanciest £3 paper shade and worry about it later. Two years later it turns out. I always thought a Kartell FL/Y would look awesome in the living room, but then I stressed over whether non matching lights would work in such a small space. (Incidentally, the answer is NO.) Thanks to some diligent eBaying by Mr E, we bought three FL/Ys. One green, one orange, which arrived smashed to buggery, and one blue.

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Beautiful. Sure they get dusty pretty quick, but they’re so light and bright. They really do throw light everywhere. We’re currently using Ikea low energy globe bulbs, which are pretty bright and have a nice warm colour temperature.

I know I’ve been a bit lax on the kiddo front lately, life’s been oh-so-hectic. For those playing along at home, my new job is going really well, I’m loving being part time, and the fact that I’m writing and designing for a huge company is so…satisfying.  All that to say, Milo is 13 months old already. We had a little party on his birthday with cake and buddies, but nothing over the top.  He’s got teeth now and everything. Six of ’em.

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Let’s see what this weekend brings.

Pretty FL/Y for a white guy

Apartment Therapy’s Small Cool 2015

Hey guys, I submitted my shoebox flat to the AT small cool contest and we made it into the contest. There are some really great little spaces, and we fit into the ‘international’ category. If we were in America, we would fit into the ‘tiny’ category, and I like that.

I’m going to pull out the decent camera and take some half decent pics at some point, but I took these on the deadline day for the contest…naughty me, I know, but y’know, they’re not THAT bad…IMGP0190IMG_4120 Sideboard

So…once you’ve reveled enough in the great British pastime that is nosing at other people’s houses, vote for us!

Apartment Therapy’s Small Cool 2015

About non secular holidays.

I have a problem with Religious holidays in the UK.  I know we live in a ‘Christian’ country and I think it’s great that we get ‘free’ days off work and all, but I find the Religious bit tricky.  I’m sure that most of the UK don’t consider themselves particularly Christian-I see more cars in the car park at the swimming pool than the church on a Sunday.  That’s awesome-Sundays have shorter trading hours and families are encouraged to spend time together, rather than expected to go to church.  I don’t have a problem with church or Christianity of any flavour, by the way, and if you let me do my thing, then I’ll fight for your right to do yours.

The problem I have is that the Bank Holiday system in the UK is based on Religious dates.  Today is Good Friday, which is something to do with that Jesus.  Sunday is Easter and then there’s another Bank Holiday on Monday for some reason.  I’m Pagan by default, and celebrate the changing of the seasons rather than anything to do with any Prophet or Deity.  I don’t really celebrate Easter.  I don’t really celebrate Mother’s day.  I do however, partake in the Spring festival of Oestra, which is a bit of both.  For my first Oestra as a mama, we started what will hopefully become a family tradition.  We headed out to our local independent record store, swapped shiny new money for dusty old vinyl, went home and danced all afternoon.  We ate chocolate and looked at birds and were grateful for both our family and our ability to have a family.  None of this involved overpriced flowers, cards with twee sentiment or chocolate eggs.

There is a ‘summer’ Holiday in the UK at some point, and that’s secular as far as I can tell. I know that holidays are all historic and based in the industrial revolution, but I end up having far too many conversations about ‘what I did for Easter’, as it’s just so ingrained that we will celebrate.  The other problem is that the dates of Easter and Mother’s Day MOVE each year, and Oestra doesn’t really (FYI kids, it’s the Spring Equinox, around March 21st).  That means I often end up taking holiday to celebrate the festivals that matter to me.  Sigh.  It’s a First World Problem, I know.  I just felt particularly ranty about it this afternoon.

Here are some pictures of my kid to cheer things up.
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All Milo wants to do lately is read.  It’s awesome.
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Milo’s first time on a boat.  I was petrified.  He loved it.
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Milo’s really looking like his Daddy these days.

About non secular holidays.

Organisation and ‘what success means’.

Warning: Slight Chance of Philosophy Ahead.

Hello there. Another week has flown by with no discernable house progress.  The to-do list is fairly steady, although I did manage to sort a bunch of stuff out that’s just been hanging around.  We’ve had a hire car for a few weeks whilst mine was in the shop.  That meant we had to take everything out of our car, which in turn, meant I had to sort out everything in our car.  There was a broken steam mop and half a rice cooker in there.  A fun afternoon of sorting was had.  I’m only mostly being sarcastic here-I genuinely enjoy sorting and organising.  Mr E always jokes that I have a thing for containers, and he’s absolutely 100% correct.  I love a good jar, and it was with great glee that I finally sorted out the world’s smallest pantry.  Well, it’s a cupboard, but I can call it a pantry.
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I’m calling that success.  We were talking about what success means to us, and came to the conclusion that it’s really simple.  Being Happy.  I feel pretty damn successful at the moment.  I don’t earn a ton, but I spend time with my little man.  I don’t have a massive house, but my flat is full of exactly what I want.  I like my job, I’m happy with my self image (shock!) and the few friends I have are ace.

Mostly though, I like to open cupboards and see things all neatly arranged.  It certainly makes baking much easier.  This weeks’ TOTW wasn’t that great.  I made baked doughnuts but they were a bit too heavy and cakey for my liking.  Perhaps I’ll resort to frying again.
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TOTW
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Already so interested in the record player.  This was a calm Sunday morning playtime shot, and he decided he wanted to climb.

Organisation and ‘what success means’.

6/52

IMG_4863 - Version 2I had a babywearing consultant come and visit me this week.  She boosted my confidence to get ‘Lo on my back.  He’s just chilling and checking out some cows here.  Rock and Roll.
I left my job this week and cakes were had by all.  I made Hummingbird brownies, Mint sponge (I used Mary Berry’s recipe and added peppermint essence and colour) and some Betty Crocker Mix totally absolutely homemade muffins.
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I’ll take brownies in on the first day of my now job.  Makes awkward introductions less awkward.

6/52

Completed groutwork in the kitchen!

Another week has flown by.  On the plus side, we finally finished grouting the kitchen.  Black grout is a pain in the ass to get off of counters, walls, floors and children.  Speaking of which…

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IMG_4836Milo’s storming along with his eating, and really loves fruit at the moment.  Good times.  I also gave him a sneaky bit of this weeks’ treat – carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, straight out of the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, minus the walnuts.  I didn’t substitute, I just left those suckers out.
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Completed groutwork in the kitchen!

Sunday Round Up-010215

I finally got a date to start my new job.  Also, I got a new job.  I start on the 16th and I’m so stoked.  I’ll let you know how it goes!  I had a big sort out of all of Milo’s clothes and toys this week and spent half of Saturday pricing and labelling for a little pickles market on Sunday.  I came home with quite a lot of it, but I still managed to get everything sorted so it feels pretty good.

This week’s treat of the week was banana loaf with dark chocolate chips, and it was delish. I used the recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery recipe and added chocolate chips.  It’s healthy because of the bananas, right!?
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Milo is 9.5 months old.  He loves chickens and ducks and we take every opportunity we can to get out and feed them.  I love to hear him laugh as the birds get closer and closer to him. There are chickens at ‘Lo’s nursery.  I can’t wait until the Spring when he gets to meet them up close.

Sunday Round Up-010215

Sunday Round Up

It’s been a pretty chilled out week here, and they’re the best kind, in my book.  Milo’s still crawling all over the place which is so exciting.  He’s figured out putting one thing inside another, and handing stuff over when asked.  The glosswork in the living room is done, so we just need one more coat of chalky white on the exposed brick and we’re done.  Well, we need to figure out what lights we want, but other than that we are DONE.

This week’s treat of the week were salted caramel biscuit bars.  Totally delicious.  I used the recipe from Erren’s Kitchen, I overbaked them because I was tired so they didn’t have the brownie texture I was after, but they did taste delicious, so I’ll have another try one day.
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Today we made a family nest with playmats and cushion and cuddly toys and hunkered down to watch Ghibli films all morning, and I made us pancakes for lunch-Banana for Milo, Bacon and cheese for Mama and Daddy.  Bliss.  It’s been a long week, and bitterly cold, especially in the mornings. I’ve decided to take better care of my skin, and have started to drink a bunch more water and remember to moisturise.  We’ll see how it goes.

Sunday Round Up

Weekly Portrait of Milo

Hey there.  I’ve seen a few blogs that document the growing of their kids, whether literally in therms of shots taken in the same place or developmentally, with shots showing the new things Jr can do.  I’m going to go with a Life, The Universe and Everything approach, and add a snapshot of what’s going on in our lives each week, 52 weeks of the year.  This will take us through first steps and first words, first birthdays and first ice creams.  Should be interesting.  I’m going to jump right to number 2…
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Tomorrow I’ve got the day all to myself for glosswork and tidying up.  DIY and sorting.  Soothing.

Weekly Portrait of Milo

The 99% Finished living room

Howdy all,

It’s been a while since I put up any pics of the house, and there’s been quite a bit of change!  The living room is now 99% done – the skirting board needs painting and there’s some filler in the walls that needs sanding and painting.  The filler is the same colour as the paint though, so the job isn’t screaming at me.  I know, I’m a mess.  Our flat is pretty small, even by British standards, so it still feels like we’ve got a lot of function crammed in here.
This is our TV room, our dining room and where Milo plays.  The space also gets commandeered as a spare bedroom (the sofa folds out into an unbelievably comfortable full-size double bed) and my studio on occasion.  The dining table extends and I’ve had ten people around it. There are chairs cleverly hidden in various places around the flat – in the bedrooms and even behind the sofa!  A lot of our life gets lived in this one room, so there’s as much storage as possible.  The end of the sofa is acually a lift up treasure chest of DIY supplies, the sideboard/TV unit is JAM PACKED with booze and illustration supplies, and even a media server!

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We really don’t watch TV at all, but we have one anyway.  Sometimes Milo watches a Ghibli and sometime I veg out to Star Trek, but broadcast TV? Not so much.  We do listen to records a lot though!  I like to let Milo choose and then dance around the room.  He just chooses the the most colourful sleeve, but I feel good for letting him get involved.
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The view of the throne.  The sofa is the Friheten from ikea.  It was cheap and cheerful and is reasonably comfortable.  I like knowing there’s a spare bed, especially when the little one’s having a tough night!
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We all eat all of our meals at the table.  It’s nice to have a table right there because it actually gets used.  In our old place we had a dining room, but it got used as a bit of a dumping ground.  Again, the table is from Ikea, it’s just a Bjursta and its holding up pretty well.  It sure gets some abuse from the tiny one at dinner time!!  You can see our toy storage there too…Just a big ol’ box on wheels.
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The shelving is Elfa System track and bracket, and we got some ply cut to size at our local hardware store.  Fun fact-I was 5 months pregnant when we did this and couldn’t help at all. Mr E. tried to pick up the ply by himself while everyone assumed I was being overly feminine and not helping in case I broke a nail or something.  I tried really hard to look pregnant but it just didn’t work.
On the subject of the kid (honestly, you have one and they just take over), the little man is nearly 9 months old.  It’s totally shocking.
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I know a full house tour was sort of promised last summer, but it’s coming, I promise.

The 99% Finished living room

Wow.

Hi everyone,

I didn’t realise quite how long it’s been.  There’s a bit going on, so I’ve got some posts in the pipeline.  We painted the hallway black!  The brick in the lounge is white!  Everything in between!  For now, here’s a picture of Milo.  There was an unattended nativity so I did what any mother would do; Put my baby in the manger and take a photo.  I say baby, 7 months old and cruising already.  He’ll be a bona fide toddler before I know it.

Wow.

Caramel Crunch Bars

Good Morning everyone!

We’re in a holiday kinda mood here, so I’d like to share a new chocolate recipe.  Backtracking a bit…I LOVE coffee.  I can’t get enough coffee.  When I go to a coffee shop I get coffee with more coffee in it.  And a coffee chaser.  Yep. Double shot latte and an espresso to go.  I’m also partial to cake and chocolate, and most coffee shops have a chocolate nibble offering or six.  My current favourite comes in the shape of caramel crispy bars from Costa, so like any good citizen I have made my own take on the recipe, and I’m going to share it here, because I’m nice like that.

Caramel Crunch 1

It’s a chocolatey, biscuity, caramelly, crunchy mess.  YOU’RE WELCOME.  Also, you should probably only eat one, just sayin’.

Get these things:

250g Dark Chocolate (the bars don’t care if it’s cheap or Green & Blacks, it’s all good)
150g Butter
2 Tablespoons golden syrup
250g digestive biscuits
About a cup of rice crispies
2 caramel chocolate bars
200g (ish) milk chocolate

A well greased square baking tin, or two loaf tins, or whatever you have
A space in the fridge

Do these things:

Melt the chocolate, butter and golden syrup together in a mixing bowl.  Yo can do this over a pan of simmering water, or in a microwave if you like living on the edge.

Bash up the biscuits into fairly large chunks and add to the melted goo created above, then pour in the crispies and mix the whole lot GENTLY.  You want crispy crispies, not dust.

Pour into the greased receptacle, and flatten down a bit, trying to make it even.

Break the caramel bar into chunks, and stud the delicious looking chocolate mess.

Melt the milk chocolate and drizzle over the top, sealing the caramel chunks well and truly in.

Leave to set in the fridge overnight and turn out in the morning.  Cut into squares using a HOT knife, and enjoy.  I originally cut mine into nine squares, and Mr said I was ridiculous, so now we have eighteen fingers, which is probably better?  Will I eat fewer? NOPE.

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SO good.  Enjoy your thoroughly British treat!  (FYI for my American friends, I believe light corn syrup is an acceptable substitute for golden syrup, and you guys call digestives Graham Crackers for some reason. Language, HA!)

Caramel Crunch Bars