Friday, 30 September 2011

Recipe : Crushed Tats

We’ve been making these for ages and they’re brilliant. We believe that this is THE BEST WAY to serve potatoes. They come out beautifully crunchy and very tasty with a little seasoning and look mouth-wateringly good on your plate. We discovered them as an easy way to have crispy tats without the hours' worth of preparation for roasties.

Needless to say these are a favourite in our home, fabulous to accompany pretty much anything. Alas, without our microwave in the van, it’s a little awkward, but if I remember to take some potatoes in (and take them out) I use the microwave at work and then finish them off in the oven at home.

You may notice that I very rarely cook with salt, and actually this is the only recipe that I use salt in. Nasty, evil little salt grains. Clinging and clogging up our arteries, however some salt is essential and with these it’s so worth it. So, get crushing.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Crafty DIY : Stencilled Tea Tray

Another easy peasy makeover. This manky old tray was hanging around doing nothing and so it was chosen to be reinvented through the medium of paint. I used a hard wearing oil based paint, leftover from painting the cupboards in the caravan.

It needed a good couple of days to dry completely and then I used the homemade butterfly stencil (originally created here for cushion stencilling) with some silver paint and it came out beautifully. I still need to varnish it though.

I’m really pleased with it, so much so, I’m dreading its virgin voyage as a tea cup stabiliser as the others halfs reputation for spilling tea is somewhat tainted. Imagine my shock and surprise after straightening out the bed clothes one evening only to find an entire mug of red bush tea sloshed not only over the bedding but the bed itself and the duvet we sleep on. That corner of the bed still resembles a haphazardly cleaned up crime scene. Turns out that beautiful red in red bush tea is surprisingly stubborn.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Teeny Tiny Holiday Barn in Kent

So the folks came back to stay. That meant disrupted days thanks to their extraordinarily late lie ins, an inexcusable amount of dessert temptations and a copious amount of wine. But this time they had their own space to explode into – a holiday cottage in the heart of Kent. This little barn at Penn Court (the picture below shows the view from the barn of another cottage to hire next door) had been converted for a holiday home by the owners who live in the grounds of a manor house, so you can imagine, it was a step up from our campsite.

This little barn had wraparound windows with views over green pastures with roaming cattle, a stream by its feet and chickens happily laying their eggs as neighbours. The seating area out the front was lucky enough to boast breakfast, lunch and dinner in the sunshine. With lavender beds, a herb garden and citrus yellow and ruby red roses all jostling for attention with their beautiful scents, we could not imagine a scene more charmingly English if we tried. We just needed scones to accompany our tea.

Inside the entire ceiling was exposed beams which was the cause of many a craning neck problem I am sure, captivating many a guest with their beauty. It looked as though it had been lovingly thought out during conversion and left us all with inspiration for our own homes. Now that we have lost the little house we have been waiting to move into (the owners have frustratingly decided after four months that they no longer wish to move), it is dangerous for me to think about plans for the future as I can't help but dream and get excited, so instead I have been jotting ideas down in the trusty notepad and taking photos for the scrapbook. Hopefully one day we will be able to work on our dream home. Until then, at least we are still technically a homeowner in the form of a caravan.

So with the fogies back, we took a few days off work to hang out and have a few adventures. Obviously having my charity shopping buddy back in the country meant a mini shopping spree for Mum and me, joining the boys in the pub garden afterwards. Obviously having my drinking buddy back in the country meant a few wine tasting sessions with my old mate. And obviously living with a train spotter, our holiday would not be complete without a real ale train and camping barn experience with a creepy, paranoid warden.

We even had an evening out at Leeds Castle - when you’re in Kent, check out the footpath through the grounds of the castle. Stick to the paths and you don’t pay a penny. although this does mean you don't get to experience the best maze in the whole of the South of England. We had an afternoon in the Fort Amhurst tunnels learning about Dead Ends (gruesome), clambering on trees at Shorne Woods and entertaining the masses face painting for the first time at an adorable three year olds birthday party. The most popular request was for a butterfly - which was a massive relief as that's the only one I knew how to paint. Now we're back to reality and back to house hunting. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Crafty DIY : Heart Light Feature

So the other half suggested that fairy lights made into the shape of heart was a step too far, and that a star would be much less girly in our small home. Then he went away for the weekend and I failed miserably at making a star, so a heart it was. I made one for my Mum too, this one pictured is hers, so it is a little neater round the edges than ours. I'm not sure what it is about me and hearts at the moment. It's not usually my style, but I like what it stands for. Maybe I'm just feeling the love.

After my colleague's very kind Mum had scrabbled around in her garden to find me some chicken wire for our shabby chic notice board (thanks for your efforts by the way!), I had loads left over and didn't want to waste it, so scribbled down some ideas, but fairy lights always win with me, and this is what I made.

This was fun and easy to make and just needed a little patience to cut out the shape and a touch more patience to thread the lights through the wirework. In hindsight, if you care about maintaining well-manicured hands, it’s probably worth wearing some gloves when cutting the chicken wire. If only I considered these things up front, I wouldn’t end up the hands more suited to an ripe old fisherman, but I think that’s the only health and safety heads up you will need here.

First, cut out a template of your desired shape out of newspaper and lay it on some chicken wire (I doubled layered mine for stability) and then gently cut around the template with the wire cutters on a pair of pliers. Don’t get overzealous and cut several bits of wire at one time, remember my man hands yeah?

Fold any messy mesh bits neatly into the edge and try to leave whole rings around the side of your shape if possible as you will need to be able to thread the first round of fairy lights through these. Next, spray paint the whole thing white so that it doesn’t just look like you’ve stuck chicken wire on your wall.

Once completely dry, you can begin threading your fairy lights through, which can take some time but as long as you do one complete round with the lights secured around the wire, the rest of the lights can be tucked in here and there until all the lights are fitted securely around the outside of your shape.

Choose fairy lights with LEDs for low cost running and white or clear cable to appear hidden when hanging in the daytime. Simply add a ribbon hoop to hang the light feature (I had to hang it high so was not able to tie a bow, but once you have a hook in the wall, a bow might finish it nicely) and keep everything crossed when it comes time to flip the switch. Its a real ‘ta da’ moment!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Vineyard Visit

This weekend we stopped by Biddenden Vineyards in Kent - which is well worth a visit. Admission is free and you can walk around the beautiful grounds, which at this time of year are displaying some truly stunning colours in the lead up to winter. The grape varieties are German which is why they do so well here, nestled in the hills of the Kent Weald. The sun cherry picked all the autumnal colours whilst we walked around and then headed to the shop for a free tasting session.

They also make cider on this farm and I honestly don't know which I love more - the medium sweet strong cider or the award winning Ortega white wine. So we bought both! Expect to pay a little more than your supermarket special, but we thought it was worth the money as we enjoyed a quality wine from the UK, which is incredibly rare and also we supported a local business.

As for the autumnal weather of late, it's been pretty good in the van. And well, word on the street says we're in for a mini heat wave - bring it on! I need to catch some rays now more than ever as my lovely Mum pointed at my chest whilst lounging outside a cafe in the sunshine this week and said 'Look, Zo, you're getting a little colour.' I then had to explain that, no, that red patch was, just in fact, where my bag had been rubbing. Rubbish.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Create an Outdoor Cinema

I found this image on the American Pottery Barn webiste and fell in love. It looks so inviting and I'm hoping that one day we will have a little garden of our own to recreate this scene.

You can read more about it here, but I have copied their step-by-step below for creating an outdoor screen to project your film onto, using a couple of sheets with a couple of poles.

Step 1. Start with two queen–size ironed flat sheets. Sew them together with white thread so the long sides are joined creating a tube.

Step 2. Insert a 1.5–inch diameter pole and let the fabric hang down.

Step 3. Attach thick rope to the ends of the top pole so that it can be attached to a tree.

Step 4. Now slide a thicker pole through the tube created by the sewn sheets so that it creates a weight at the bottom of the screen.

Step 5. Attach thinner rope to the ends of the bottom pole.

Step 6. Insert two tent stakes directly beneath the bottom corners of the screen, tie the thinner rope to both of the tent stakes and pull taught. This will insure that the screen doesn't sway in the wind.

Once you have your outdoor screen set up, introduce a few comfy chairs, some plump cushions, a few blankets for when it gets a little chillier, lights some candles and string up some lanterns above to set the mood.

Ideally serve popcorn and ice cream accompanied with a tin bucket of full of iced drinks and lay back to enjoy your film. How nice does this sound? I cannot wait to move!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Recipe : Garlic Bread

A note to the lovely parents of the other half - look away now! We have discovered making our own garlic bread is sooooo much better than buying it in the shops. You can regulate the amount of garlic, ie. LOTS of garlic. It tastes soooo good. I can highly recommend Lazy Garlic for this recipe. A fantastic addition to the UK supermarkets, it has become so popular so turns out it's not just us that's lazy. It's brilliant for using garlic in cooking without all the prep and smelly hands, so this is a real simple and speedy little recipe for you.

And you can impress your friends when they're round. Why not take it step further and do this with homemade bread? I cannot wait to unearth our bread maker and get busy. And remember to brush your teeth before bed, at least the vampires should leave you alone after this meal.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Crafty DIY : Apple Print Bag

Thanks to a little Martha Stewart inspiration, I raided our fruit bowl to decorate a plain cotton bag to be used for laundry in our smaller than small bathroom. This was so easy and so much fun! Simply cut your apple in half, including the stalk. Put some fabric paint in a flat bottomed dish and dab it onto the apple with a thick paint brush.

Then go to town! Well, actually, don't go crazy as it will splodge. But this is the fun part. Carefully place your apple on the fabric (make sure there is newspaper inside the bag so that it doesn't print through to the other side - been there, done that) and squish down hard, rocking the edges and pressing the stalk down too.

Carefully peel it back off and carry on until you have a pattern you like. This took a little while to dry, and it was a blustery day so I had to supervise, but now we have a printed laundry bag to match our colour scheme. Looking back over the posts, this is quite a monotone website... green anyone?

Monday, 19 September 2011

Outdoor Inspiration

I am still old school and although I should probably use an online inspiration board such as Piccsy to store inspiring pictures, I still copy them into Illustrator, print them out, cut them up and paste them into books and diaries so that I can carry them around with me for inspiration. One day I will share a few of my favourite pages, but for now check out these lovely outdoor seating ideas. Apologies, I have no idea where they come from, so if anybody knows, please feel free to comment.