Sunday, 25 March 2012

A Walk Around London's South Bank

We have the go-ahead by the council for most of the work on our house. Work can begin as soon as next week. It is very exciting but we are determined to keep things as simple as possible. If a complication comes up we will side step it. The room we had planned as a bathroom has a too narrow doorway for a bath to fit through. It is now going to be a charming shower room. Well, with only one bathroom between the four of us it will make more sense anyway. We don't want anyone lingering (reading) in there. Lingering will have to take place in dry areas only from now on. We took a walk around London. See how building work can get out of hand?

1. The Shard - which became the tallest building in the European Union at the end of last year (Southwark Cathedral is that dwarfed church below it)

2. Tower Bridge - Click on the little movie clip icon here to see how crazy it is to even build a Lego verison.

3. Shell Mex House - If you look very closely at ten to and ten 'o'clock you can see wee orange men balancing on the clock hands.

4. The craziest of all perhaps. We saw this helicopter straining unnervingly close to the roof of Waterloo Station attempting to lift a weight, thereby, we presume, saving themselves the bother of a crane.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Carrot and Coriander Sunshine Bread

As soon as I bake a loaf of bread in a new place I instantly feel at home. I can't imagine that there is any type of bread that hasn't been tried already in some corner of the World, but the other morning I had the original-to-me idea of adding some grated carrot to my loaf and well, why not, coriander seeds. I often add them to my rye bread anyway. The result was this gloriously fragrant golden loaf.

Carrot and Coriander Bread Recipe

2 carrots
175g strong wholemeal flour
400g strong white flour
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
400ml warm water
15g honey
10g yeast (dried or fresh but the kind you add to warm water)
3 tablespoons olive oil

1. Grate your carrot into a food processor.
2. Change your blade to a dough blade and add your flour, salt and coriander seeds to the grated carrots.
3. Whisk your yeast and honey into your warm water. Leave into it begins to bubble.
4. Now switch on your processor and slowly add the olive oil.
5. Follow by slowly adding your yeast mixture until a ball forms. You may need to add more flour at this point until your dough starts to come together in a ball.
6. Run the processor for five minutes or so.
7. To lift the dough out, wet your hands. This will stop it sticking.
8. Leave to rise in a covered mixing bowl for at least an hour.
9. Form into two loaves. Leave for another hour or until doubled in size.
10. Bake for 20 minutes at 220°C , then another 20 minutes at 180°C. Check it is done by tapping it on the base. If it sounds hollow then it is done.
11. Leave to cool at least 15 minutes until slicing (if you like a softer crust then wrap it in a tea towel at this stage).

I hope this brings an early Spring into your home!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

1. Shoot Factory 'House Next Door'

Located here

2. Toast Christmas 2010

3. Shoot Factory 'House Next Door'

4. Toast Christmas 2010

5. Shoot Factory 'House Next Door'

6. Shoot Factory 'House Next Door'

7. Toast Christmas 2010

Lately I have been thinking about the fantasy of homes and the reality, and how a little bit of imagination can bridge the gap.

For some years I have loved the homes presented by Toast. These are peaceful places, often undecorated. I have imagined them as much-loved town houses untouched by the years or elegant and homely country houses, miles from neighbours and protected from the world by their remoteness. I imagined that these town houses were nestled in the centres of picturesque European cities, with impossibly high house prices. But in fact these islands of homely beauty are sometimes in places we wouldn't expect. Places that are partly empty and people have turned their backs on. Places where we might not even expect to find a home.

With the imagination of just a few, the pattern of property ownership can lead from dilapidation to bohemianism and then gentrification. An area becomes empty of people until those with little or no money - aspiring artists, musicians, writers and those who are not afraid to think a little differently - move in. When the herd sees the area full of life once again, they want to buy into this dream for themselves. Of course the prices get higher and higher until the only people who can afford to live there are those focussed on money and the place loses its soul and affordability simultaneously. In fact sometimes the newer affluent residents turn against those who pulled the area out of the doldrums in the first place.

We shouldn't feel afraid to take chances on places. There are many areas of the UK that are virtually empty for no good reason. They are often only streets away from wealthy unreachably expensive areas, yet we don't take advantage of them. Here is a great place to start looking.

Monday, 5 March 2012


1. Robert Kristiansen's Summer House, Norway
3. Bryan Minnich and Katie D'Angelo, Washington DC
4. One of the bedsit kitchens in our new house

Today I was looking at a couple of 'Sneak Peak' homes on the inspiring blog. Although we need to start from scratch with our house - removing the false walls and ceilings in order to install unified heating, plumbing and electricity systems, it made me realise how what we have already could be easily become something cosy and of beauty.

The major charm of these kitchens is their effortlessness. They make the most of what is there already. With some paint, a clean up and a thoughtfully placed table and vase of flowers or arrangement of ceramics these rooms are warm and friendly.