Okay, super quick ‘DIY’ for you here today. These guys are so easy, it’s barely a tutorial.
So last year, when Richard and I were figuring out how to do our first Christmas tree, we had only a handful of ornaments. I had bought him a couple funny ones that year, and we were given a few from family. But 10ish ornaments, does not exactly a tree make. So we had two options: 1. Buy a bunch of ornaments we would then have to store (and spend ££ on) or 2. Make ornaments we could get rid of at the end of the season! And by get rid of, I mean recycle, of course.
So last year, I made three things for the tree – little paper balls made of vintage sheet music, popcorn strands, and orange slices. You can keep orange slices (if they dry out fully), year after year, but we simply composted ours along with the popcorn. Which meant I had to make more this year!
All it took was two large navel oranges, and I had enough for our little tree. It made 18 slices, but if I had done them a bit thinner, I could have made a couple more. A large tree could use 3-4 oranges, which makes this project very economical.
Waaaaaaay back in August, my parents came for a visit. As I mentioned before, we spent a few days in London, but most of our time together was spent in Northern Ireland.
My parents had never been to the Northern part of Ireland before, and Richard still has some family living outside Belfast. It was a great excuse for us to visit family, while also showing my folks a part of Great Britain they had yet to see. We debated driving up through Scotland and crossing the sea on the ferry, but just didn’t have the time. The next time my parents visit, I want to do Scotland properly – I long to explore Edinborough and the Isle of Sky, but haven’t had the opportunity yet.
So, as we weren’t going to drive there, we took the quicker option and flew to Belfast. From there, we rented a vehicle and drove straight up the coast to see the many sights of County Antrim. A few years back, for our first Christmas together, Richard and I toured the coast of Antrim. Of course, it was rainy, windy, and horribly cold that trip, so I was excited to see the same places in a slightly warmer climate. It is Northern Ireland after all 🙂
When Richard and I had visited before, we spent a couple nights in the Causeway Hotel, and rather enjoyed it. It’s right near all the main sights, and quite reasonable in low season (however, this time was a bit pricier). The breakfast had been excellent last time, and was the place I got my recipe for wheaten bread! The food wasn’t quite as good this time, but the location just can’t be beat. It’s right beside the visitor centre for the Causeway, and grants you free access.
I love the mosaic tile in their entry!
We decided to just relax that first night and grab dinner in the hotel, then wake up early the next morning to visit a couple of the sights. First up, was the Carrik-a-Rede rope bridge. It’s a beautiful little spot just a ways down the coast from our hotel, and plenty busy with all the tourists. The last time that Richard and I were there, it was closed and I never got a chance to go across to the little island. It used to have a proper rickety rope bridge, but now it’s pretty sturdy. But it’s still a scary crossing for some of the tourists there!
Once you get across (which can take time with the lines of tourists in the summer), you can just wander around the little island and enjoy the views of the cliffside. Be careful, as there are no ropes or anything keeping you from falling off the sides of the cliffs! (more…)
Richard and I have similar tastes in lots of areas, but we don’t agree on everything. Recently, we had a hard time agreeing on what kind of Christmas tree to buy. One thing that I have always loved is a flocked Christmas tree! I’m not talking about those all-white needle ones without any green, but the real trees that tree farms spray with faux snow… although you can also get artificial flocked trees. You know who isn’t down with flocked trees? Richard.
I get it. The’re kind of dated in a way, and obviously artificial (since when is there snow indoors?)… but they are so so so beautiful! My favorite thing when it snows is how the snow-laden branches look, all thick and coated with white. And since there isn’t that much snow happening in London over Christmas, why not bring that look indoors? I’ve looked into it, and there are really good tutorials online that show you how to recreate the look at home. That being said, it seems to be a little harder to find the right flocking material over here in the UK, than in the US.
Buuut… despite my DIY suggestions, Richard would rather just stick to a classic tree. However, I’m still trying to get him to promise me that we can do one someday :). Now until that someday comes around (or he changes his mind), I’ll just have to look at all these beautiful pictures of flocked trees!
So one of the things that I really wanted to plant in our allotment, was cucamelons. I’m not even that big of a fan of cucumbers, but these just looked so cute! And of course, I love pickles, so growing cucamelons just pretty much means turning them into cucamelon pickles!
Here in the UK, I find pickles to be a bit sweet for my North American tastes. I like my pickles mostly tangy garlicky-dill rather than sweet, so I thought I should just make my own! My mom used to always buy those “yum-yum” pickles and I used to refer to them as “yuck-yuck”…
I used this recipe from The Kitchn as inspiration. I only made enough for two half pint jars, as that was the emount of cucamelons that I had. Just adjust the recipe up for the amount you need. As mentioned in the original recipe, I trimmed the blossom end of the cucamelons to prevent them from softening. (more…)
Artfully Walls collaboration with Anthropologie via Refinery29
Okay, so I’m currently off work because of a recurring knee injury (I’m able to walk, but my job is pretty physical and I can’t quite carry 50kg of weight on this knee). It’s given me plenty of free time, and I’ll admit that I spend too much of it browsing sites on my phone, looking at things that I can’t buy.
There are a few things in particular that I’m eyeing – things that I’d love to get for our flat. Top of that list are new mugs (we have a bunch of mismatched mugs Richard has collected over the years, which aren’t really my style), decorative pillows for our bed, and artwork for the walls.
For the mugs, I’m really gravitating towards any ceramic pieces that look handmade. I’m completely in love with all things speckled and ‘imperfect’ looking. Sure, I’d love dinnerware or serving pieces to match, but for now would be easily satisfied with just a handful of mugs. These ones have really caught my eye.
Aren’t those first mugs from Habitat great? And at only £25 for four mugs, they’re not too badly priced. So many places have crazy prices like £15 for just one mug. Richard and I keep looking for something like these ones, but every time it’s just too high of a price per mug. When you want to buy at least 4 of them, it adds up quickly.
And even though it’s not a mug, and a different style altogether, isn’t this jug amazing? I’m not sure why, but I’m really into having pretty jugs for dinner parties etc. Not that I’ve hosted one in a while… need to get on that!
For the pillows on the bed, I’m still thinking of getting a long bolster pillow, possibly in some kind of african mudcloth print, or turkish rug material. But just one pillow isn’t enough for me (although Richard reeeaaally doesn’t want me to add a lot of pillows) and I’d like to add a couple larger ones behind the bolster. Ideally they’d be something kind of neutral, like beige or grey, but have texture and interest. How about these? (more…)
When my parents came to visit back in August, we spent a few days in London before heading off to Northern Ireland. They had been to London before (hence only spending a couple days), but they wanted to see where we lived and worked. As for me, I work in the Borough Market!
I’ve been wanting to do a blog post highlighting the market for a while, but don’t exactly take my camera with me to work. This was the perfect opportunity for me to play the tourist, and get a couple snaps of the market stalls. I wish I had taken more photos showing all the great stuff… but my hands were too busy eating!
The Borough Market is London’s oldest food market; one form or another has been around for about 1,000 years. Given how long it’s been here for, you can assume it’s going to be good. And you wouldn’t be wrong! It’s located just near the base of the shard, and is open 6 days a week (Monday to Saturday). It’s basically the food hub of London. If you want to sample interesting cheese, produce, bakery products, etc. from all over, then this is the place to go. If I had lots of money, I would pretty much do all of my grocery shopping there. (more…)
After our time at Shaba National Reserve, and Mt. Kenya Safari, we made the drive back to Nairobi and dropped off our rental vehicle. We had a couple of days before our flight home, and wanted to see what sights Kenya’s capital had to offer. I had read about the various Maasai markets held around Nairobi, and Richard had researched some places we could go to see animals! Together, we had a jam packed two days touring around Nairobi.
Our home base in the city was the Fairmont Norfolk Hotel. Not as fancy or luxurious as the Fairmont in Mt. Kenya, but it was in a good location, right beside one of the markets that we were planning to visit. As we had dropped off our vehicle when we arrived in Nairobi, we hired a driver for the time that we were in Nairobi. It was a great call, as he knew all the best ways around town, as well as some places to eat along the way.
Our first stop was the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, to see the orphaned elephants. I had been picturing some sort of romantic scenario, where I get to hand feed baby elephants, but the result was a biiiit different. The crowd at this place was massive, which meant that we ended up at the back of a group of school children, unable to get very close to the elephants. It was a bit of a let down, as those people in front were taking photo after photo and not letting anyone else have a turn up close. If you decide to go yourself, get there early in order to beat the tour groups.
However, the elephants were exceptionally cute, and it did feel good to spend money to help a group of orphaned elephants, rather than pay some zoo. Although why they are orphaned in the first place (ivory) is so sad. By the time I have kids, elephants might be something you only see in zoos.
I have always been a fan of strange things. When I was a child, I wanted nothing more than to have red hair and green eyes, because they were uncommon and would make me look unique (brown + brown = boring to little Amy). When my mom would take me to the grocery store, I would ask her to buy all of the strangest fruits. Passionfruit, grenadilla, star fruit, dragon fruit, prickly pear… you name it, I wanted to try it! And for my birthday, I didn’t want any old cake, I always wanted pavlova!
Unlike nowadays, pavlova wasn’t as common when I was a kid in Canada. My siblings always opted for things like cheesecake or chocolate torte, but I wasn’t such a fan of those. Of course, my mom made a version almost more like a traditional cake, with whipped cream icing all around, but it was pavlova all the same. Ever since then, I have been a huge fan of simple meringue bases topped with all kinds of fun and colourful fruits.
Pavlova is a fantastic dessert because you can top it with anything! In this instance, I chose to pick some tropical fruits that we had in the house, and one of my favorite weird ones – passionfruit. For the passionfruit, I chose to make it into a sauce with some coconut water. I had a coconut that I wanted to turn into toasted coconut flakes (for decoration) and decided not to waste the water. It’s not necessary though, so feel free to just use the passionfruit as is if you want.
The next time I make a pavlova, I’m going to try using an italian meringue, rather than a classic french meringue. I haven’t made a french meringue in a while, and kept over-whipping it (I’m just that strong). The nice thing about italian meringue is that the egg whites cook in the simple syrup as you whip it, making it the most stable meringue you can make. Finally, I just decided to add some acid to the mixture in order to make it more stable.
Fancy chefs whip their egg whites in copper bowls, as they create a chemical reaction that helps to prevent over-whipping. You can make a similar reaction by adding a bit of lemon juice to the egg whites, or cream of tartar. For this recipe, I added cream of tartar, but feel free to substitute a couple teapsoons of lemon juice if that’s what you have on hand. Just add the cream of tarter to a couple tablespoons of the sugar, and mix together. Add that sugar first while whipping.
The other great thing about pavlova, is that it looks pretty no matter how perfect the meringue. Even if there are cracks in the meringue, it still looks pretty. And, if you break the meringue accidentally, you can still eat it! Just call it Eton Mess, and mix all the same stuff together in a layered trifle type dessert. Although, according to Richard it’s not an Eton mess if there are fruits other than strawberries and raspberries in it. He’s British.
So whether you serve it broken up, as one large meringue, or as the individual ones here, give pavlova a try! Who doesn’t like fresh fruit, cream, and copious amounts of sugar?
First, make the pavlovas. Preheat the oven to 100 degrees Celsius and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix together the cream of tartar with a couple tablespoons of the 300g of caster sugar. Whip the egg whites until foamy, and soft peaks are beginning to form.
Sprinkle over the sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, beginning with the cream of tartar sugar. Continue to whip the egg whites and sugar until stiff, glossy peaks form. Be careful not to overwhip.
Gently fold in the coconut and divide into four mounds on the parchment paper. Using a spoon, create little depressions in each meringue for the cream.
Bake in the peheated oven for 1 hour, 25 minutes. Turn off the oven, and allow to cool to room temperature.
To make the passionfruit sauce, stir together the 150g sugar and coconut water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, and stir in the passionfruit seeds.
Shortly before you're ready to serve, whip the cream to medium peaks and mound on the meringue shells. Add the mango cubes on top, the coconut flakes (if using), and the passionfruit sauce.
When we first moved in to the flat, we were short a few items of furniture. The previous owner had left a bed frame behind, but nothing else for the bedroom. To be fair, it was a small room, with plenty of storage in the closet. The only things it was really lacking, were side tables.
We lived with some little stools that Richard brought back from Nepal for a while, but I wanted storage. I wanted a place to keep little things tucked out of sight, like charging cables! However, our space on either side was limited, so we needed to find something small.
That’s when I turned to IKEA. They have plenty of options for side tables, but none of them really fit my design aesthetic. So what’s a cash strapped girl to do? IKEA Hack, that’s what! We ended up going with the NORDLI side table, as it had some pretty cool design features. It has hollow back legs that you can run cables down, as well as a little shelf inside purpose built for chargers and the like. The only thing not perfect about it was the bland white exterior.
That’s when I began searching for inspiration. I have always loved West Elm for style, and had fallen hard for their bone inlay bedside tables. However, I just couldn’t see how this design would be applied to the tables we bought. And the more I thought about it, the more I felt like our room needed more “warmth”. That meant wood, right? And if I can’t do bone inlay, why not wood inlay? So I searched around for a few styles of wood patterns, and found these. That got me thinking of ways to implement them.
I keep seeing people posting projects using Stickwood, and thought, why not that? It’s super thin, so maybe it would be easy to cut into strips! Not only that, but it’s often made using reclaimed wood, which I like. However, they really intend it to be used for larger projects, and don’t sell it in small amounts. As I wasn’t keen on having so much extra wood with no other projects in mind, I had to start looking for something else. (more…)
Okay, so after we left Samburu, we started on our way towards Shaba National Reserve. We were headed for some relaxation after a few days spent driving around on safari. The two reserves are right beside each other, but it took longer than expected to get there due to the ‘locals‘.
See, we ended up caught in the thick of a massive herd of camels! The locals tend to herd their livestock through the reserves, which can often scare off the more exotic animals. In this instance, I didn’t mind too much, as I happen to love camels. On my bucket list is to do a camel safari through the desert, and stay in a bedouin style tent.
Once we got through the camels, it was pretty quick up to the Sarova Shaba Game Lodge. The terrain here, despite being so close to Samburu, was far more rocky, and looked fairly volcanic. As we got closer to the lodge, the rocks gave way to trees and then the river that runs alongside the resort. Shaba Lodge was a lot ‘fancier’ than Samburu, and we wanted to make the most of our two days of relaxation. So we checked in to our room, and headed for lunch.
We pretty much spent the next two days in and around the pool, reading our books and snoozing. It was quite lovely! There were more people at this lodge, and yet we pretty much had the pool to ourselves! Most of the groups staying there were taking safari tours each day, while we had already spent over three days doing just that. So instead, we ate and got all kinds of lazy for two days… (more…)