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…)
While the kitchen progress is ticking along slowly, I can’t help but look ahead and think about accessories. All the white cabinets and pale walls have me craving warmth and texture. I’m thinking a funky wood clock, patterned faux roman blind, and a vintage rug!
Okay, so the rug may not actually happen. See, Richard isn’t a fan of having a rug in our kitchen. He sees it as a place for crumbs and germs to live, while I see it as much needed warmth, texture, and style in our all-white kitchen. I have been eyeing this rug on Etsy, but am worried it might be a bit too small for our space.
I’ve debated spraying a rug with some sort of repellant fabric spray, but am not sure if that would help (or convince Richard). For now, I would be content to vacuum it regularly. See, I have always lived with some sort of rug/mat under our kitchen sink areas, while Richard has not. My mom always had flat weave mats to stand on, and I loved the feel underfoot. All soft and cushy…
But enough about how they feel, look at them! Doesn’t a rug just add so much colour and interest to these kitchens?
Okay, be prepared for a reeeeaaaalllly long post (with way too many photos) – I’m not quire sure how to condense it anymore than this 🙂 As I’ve mentioned before, Richard had to go away at the end of May for a month, for work. But, unlike most jobs where maybe you go someplace boring, his sent him away to Kenya! Not exactly great, being on my own for a month, but it meant that we could do a Kenyan safari at the end of his trip!
See, Kenya is surprisingly expensive! We were probably the only young people we saw at any of the places we stayed, other than a few couples on honeymoon. Everyone else seemed to be either there for work, or retired. The only way we were able to afford the trip was because Richard’s flights were already taken care of, and we got discounts at the places we stayed.
I loved this cactus, it was seriously massive!
But enough about that, let’s talk about the actual trip!
I flew in to Nairobi airport in the afternoon, and Richard came to collect me. He had rented a vehicle through work for most of our trip. See, while there are national reserves in and around Nairobi, some of the best ones are a fair drive away. Our first day was pretty much all travel as we drove from Nairobi to Nanyuki. It was a sort of halfway point from Nairobi to the Samburu National Reserve, which was our first safari destination. During his previous month there, Richard had found a nice little hotel in Nanyuki called Le Rustique, where we could spend the night. I’ll be honest, I was pretty tired after my long indirect flight, and crashed pretty quickly.
The next morning, we drove to the reserve, and I began my new favorite game of “find the animals”.
If you know me personally, and especially if you knew me as a child, then you know I love animals. I wanted to be a veterinarian for the first 13 or so years of my life, as it meant being surrounded by animals. I asked to visit the pet store like most kids ask to go to the candy store. I may have also convinced my dad to buy a few pets while in said stores… (more…)
It’s beginning to feel like fall over here, despite the fact that it’s still technically summer. The weather here in London definitely hasn’t received that memo 😉 The chill in the air has got me craving soups, casseroles, and all things cozy. But, as it’s still summer, I thought I would compromise with this summer borscht!
My grandma used to make two kinds of borscht, summer and winter. And my favorite was always summer, hands down. I loved the fresh dill flavor, slight tang from the sour cream, and the salty ham. And not only does this meal taste good, but it looks kind of fun too! Depending on how much beetroot you add, or how bright their colour, it can turn out almost pepto-bismol pink!
And so, we continue the kitchen saga! After we got the cabinets up, and the paint on the walls, work stalled. Richard went away to Kenya for a few weeks, and then I joined him for a little 10 day trip (photos coming soon, I promise!). After that, we sort of just got used to the walls the way that they were – all bare plaster and drywall. But, we had plans for them! Richard and I are both big fans of subway tiles, and thought that they would suit our 1920s flat. Modern and historic at the same time, no?
However, I didn’t want just white on white, since our cabinets are already going to be white. I wanted to do a contrast grout for a bit of drama in our little space. I looked around at inspiration and settled on a medium grey tone for the grout. I didn’t want to go too dark as I didn’t want it looking busy, but dark enough that you could actually see the grout.
Once we had our plan in place, we started shopping around for tiles. We decided to go with Tons of Tiles as they had the best selection of smaller sized subway tiles and fair prices – plus they did sample tiles! We ordered their beveled mini metro white gloss, mini metro white flat, and rustico white gloss. Richard was really into the beveled tiles, as they most closely resemble the authentic metro tiles here in the underground. My only concern was that the uneven edges when they’re cut would make the corners and edges of our walls look wonky. I like the idea of using beveled tiles, but only on a single wall.
As I mentioned before, Richard and I collect antique or vintage silverware, instead of getting a proper set. We love the idea of using these pieces that often get relegated to a “fancy cutlery” drawer, in our day to day use. But there’s a reason that people avoid silver cutlery in favor of stainless steel – tarnish. So how do we go about keeping our mismatched set looking nice?
A few years back I was told this magic trick by an antique store owner on Fort Street in Victoria. Simply combine baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and boiling water in a container, with aluminum foil covering the bottom. What happens is some sort of chemical reaction where the tarnish is attracted from the silver to the foil, removing tarnish almost instantly! I don’t know how, but it does! Trust me. (more…)