Friday, August 10, 2012

The sound of manic laughter... I survey the condition of my, eh, new home. It looks neither new nor homely, but technically that, in fact, is what it is.

This is the front room. Those two pole thingies to the left have been there since the builder came to put in the doors. People keep on asking me what they are for and then looking up at the ceiling. I am slightly terrified at the prospect that they might be holding the roof up and so I haven't actually asked. That doesn't stop my nephews from swinging out of them though.

These are the new doors linking the front room and main living room - not the best depiction, admittedly, but the difference that they have made to the space is unbelievable, when they are open the whole area is just so bright and airy. They have changed the nature of the front room though - it's not going to be a suitable telly-watching space, so I think that it'll have a piano at one end and then a desk at the other side, and room to work on sewing projects.

This is where the cylinder used to be. Yes, that's right - in the middle of the living room. 'Nough said.

And this is where the cylinder now is, in a far more sensible position- that nutty little nook to the left of the kitchen - going to block it up with a wall there, to make the kitchen vaguely more practical, and then create access to the cylinder from the living room.

My magnificent new gas boiler, super duper highly efficient apparently. And also kinda huge - there goes another cupboard, doh!!!

What do you meeeeeeean what is this - it's the kitchen, of course!!! Seriously, no I don't really know where everything is going to fit in either. Well, I do, but I don't know how I'm going to fit in once everything else has fit in. There's no room for the washing machine but my genius dad suggested building a small shed for it out the back, so that's the plan.

The living room is not so comfy for vegging out in any more, unfortunately.

My dad came one day and chopped his way through the jungle, I'm just waiting until I get around to ordering a skip to chuck it all in there and set about planning the garden. I'll need a serious fence to cover up my neighbours' yuckky wall on one side and nasty fence on the other side. Ugh. I've been buying plants, I can't wait to get cracking, I don't know how much longer my lovely Hydrangea can hold out. Also - I love that Tiger Lily, but I heard that they kill cats!!! So maybe that one needs a rethink...

You thought the kitchen was amusing? This is the bathroom. Hi-la-ri-ous. It actually looks SMALLER without anything in it - how did they get a bath in there?!!!

This is apparently how radiators are born. I'm fascinated in a nerdy way, the pipes go up the wall downstairs. I'm guessing that this is more obvious to others, I just hadn't given it much thought prior to this.

And in case you were wondering where it had all gotten to, here is the debris from my house - out the front, of course, where else. I'm thinking about creating an art installation, Tracey Emin-style. So save this could be worth a fortune if I end up winning the Turner prize!!! This is the sight that greets me when I come home every evening - clearly I have been working on my visualisation skills, so - you see insane mound of bathroom sanitaryware and 60s lino, I see pretty front garden bursting with colourful shrubs and flowers; you see bizzarely laid out little room with enormous gas boiler on wall, I see compact kitchen with stainless steel cabinets, concrete worktop, pretty tiled splashback and the aroma of a tasty dinner in the making; you see impossibly small space with missing floorboards and more pipes than you care to count, I see tiled oasis in the style of a boutique hotel in the Mediterranean, etc etc.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


I was watching Masterchef last night and was suitably humbled by these so-called 'amateurs' cooking in Michelin star restaurants. As I sat there eating my own effort, the salmon red curry I had lovingly prepared paled ever-so-slightly in comparison to these dainty food sculptures that were being carefully assembly with the dexterity and precision of a heart surgeon. Anyhow, the winner (Matt the IT guy) cooked the winning meal using wild ingredients, like rabbit, spider crabs, sea vegetables (which is a posh and in fairness more appetising euphemism for seaweed) and lavender. Very in keeping with these frugal times - get out there and get foraging!!!...

Foraging might be a bit of a stretch for most of us though - I was impressed, but I won't be out this weekend trawling ditches for random things to put in a stew. So - maybe going down the hearty, rustic route is a more fitting compromise. My brother very kindly got me a subscription to the new Jamie Oliver magazine for Christmas, and I was delighted to come home on Monday and see it waiting for me. It's absolutely chock-a-block with recipes, and he also has this pull-out menu for your two months-type thingy, where he basically highlights how easy peasy it can be to throw together a tasty meal by summing it up in a few lines - accompanied by an enticing photo for added incentive. He mentioned his Ribollita, a Tuscan vegetable soup, which is also in Jamie's Italy, so I rooted it out and cooked it last night. It's inexpensive, low calorie and extremely tasty - give it a go:
Soak about 310g cannellini beans overnight. Cook them for about an hour with a bay leaf, a peeled potato and a squashed tomato. When they're nice and soft, strain them, remove the tomato, bay leaf and potato and keep the cooking water. Put some olive oil in a large pot and cook two celery sticks, two red onions, two carrots and two cloves of garlic (all finely chopped), along with a pinch of ground fennel seeds and a pinch of dried red chilli, auntil they're soft - bout 15 minutes. Pop in a tin of chopped tomatoes and bring it all up to a simmer. Put in your beans, along with some of the water that they were cooked in and bring it back to the boil. Stir in 310g cavolo nero (this is an Italian cabbage, hard to find so I used curly kale instead) and soften two handfuls of bread, torn into chunks, in the bean cooking water, and add as much water as you need to create a nice thick consistency. Cook it for about 30 minutes, then stir in a glug of olive oil and season.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The eyes of a magpie and the wallet of a pauper

Seriously, I think that the gods of tastes and preferences are continuously playing cruel tricks on me - why can I never ever ever go for the cheap option?! Why oh why I am always drawn to lovely lovely things? Things that cost money?! Now - in fairness to me, I have been going for sales stuff lately. I even decided against the fancy column radiators and opted for normal, inexpensive ones (thank god for a sensible plumber is all I have to say). I was in Retrospect at lunchtime and my greedy little eyes were zoning in on their fab lighting - BUT it is all on sale at 10% off. So...well...I could potentially persuade myself into buying something on the basis that technically I'm saving money, blah de blah. Oh dear, I'm beginning to sound like one of those nutty eejits who spends a grand on a handbag and calls it 'an investment'. Anyhow, since I have been chatting to the electrician of late I have been giving thought to lighting. The 1930s Spanish pendant light (€195), above, would be perfect for my hallway; because it's a long and narrow hallway, I am going to keep it as bare as possible, but I don't want it to be completely without personality, so I've been looking for a pendant light that will add interest without looking insanely huge and I think that this is it - detailed and beautiful in an extremely refined and simple way. Then I spotted these Louis Poulsen pendants (€75 each) , below, that would look nothing short of completely perfect hanging over the dining table. Hmmm. It is payday tomorrow...oh listen to the excuses that I'm making to myself!!!