Wednesday, 18 April 2012

I always wonder why people see the need for a large garden. I do love to grow a few herbs or even some flowers and it is lovely to sit outside and have a cup of tea in the sunshine. But when I feel the need for some 'green' I want to walk far, preferably with a destination. Parks, tow-paths, streets, beaches, riversides and public gardens bring us back to nature far more readily than our own privately-owned spaces.

 We are so lucky here to live near Kew Gardens. It does, I admit, cost us some money to buy an annual pass but it is so little compared to just one visit to the dreaded Garden Centre. And, of course, I could never dream of owning such a garden as Kew. But truly, what's the difference? In fact the pleasure is even sweeter knowing that everyone can share.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

We are now half-way through packing boxes in our rented house and our new home is a gutted and empty shell. And we need to get through the exam season before we can finally move to our new home. It is time for some healthy but homely cooking to relax and sustain us, I haven't yet packed the baking sheets. I tried these healthy home-baked cookies for the first time. No sugar, no raising agents yet really yummy, a small miracle I'm sure you agree!

1 1/2 cups of porridge oats
1 cup of desiccated coconut
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
3/4 of a cup of ground almonds
1 cup of raisins

3 ripe mashed bananas
4 tablespoons of healthy oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 175°C
2. Line baking sheet with baking parchment.
3. Combine the dry ingredients then mix in the wet ingredients thoroughly.
4. Press the mixture into biscuit cutters. I used a large love heart.

5. Bake for 20 minutes until the edges are golden. Leave to cool on the tray and then transfer onto a plate.

Now hoping for the larger miracle of a home with electricity and plumbing in time.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Good Friday

We have set a date for our move for June from this rented house to our new home and things are starting to become a lot more urgent and real. I have already started packing boxes of books, twenty so far; more wool than one girl needs and more chemistry sets than any family should safely own. We are retreating from the chaos to the stillness of the garden and filling the gaps left by our belongings with tissue paper flowers.

Hot Cross Buns

600g of strong white flour
2 teaspoons of mixed spice
400ml of hand-temperature warm milk
10g of yeast (the dried sort you add to water)
2 tablespoon brown sugar
a knob of butter
a handful of sultanas
1 lemon's zest
brown sugar (for glaze)

1. Whisk the milk, yeast and sugar together in a bowl and leave until it begins to bubble.
2. Rub the butter into the flour and spices.
3. Gradually stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture until you have a sticky dough.
4. Knead the dough for about ten minutes or until soft and elastic. 
5. Knead in the sultanas and lemon zest.
6. Leave to rise until doubled (about an hour).
7. Form into small buns and leave again until doubled.
8. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 200°c.
9. Cut crosses deeply into the buns, being careful not to drag the knife and cause the buns to deflate too much.
10. Bake straight away.
11. Whilst your buns are baking, mix four tablespoons of brown sugar with a little water, just enough to make a thick sugary paint.
12. When your buns are nicely browned take them out the oven and brush them with the sugary paint.
13. Put the buns back in the oven for just less than a minute.
14. Take out and brush with the sugar again. 
15. Leave to cool or serve straight away with butter and jam.

You can also leave the buns to cool and ice the tops with icing sugar (confectioner's/ powder sugar) mixed with lemon juice.

Even the fuchsias are made of tissue paper; we fooled a couple of bees and a brother.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

So work has begun on the top two floors. This is the destructive stage where all the false walls and stud walls (those added later and only made of wood and plasterboard) get smashed up and removed. Our first layout plans included, on the top and first floors removing the walls between these long thin rooms at the front

and uniting them with their neighbours

to create lovely big rooms with four windows across. One nice big bedroom on the very top floor and one even bigger room on the first floor - completely open plan for the whole floor. But the architect took a look at this wall

and decided it was a load-bearing and masonry. We were quite surprised since it had sounded hollow and anyway why put such a huge window at the end of such a long and narrow room. What could this room have been used for? It was a mystery. Ah well, so we planned how lovely our oddly thin kitchen would look anyway.

Image from Norm architects

We are easy-going folks. It will be great. Lovely, yes.
Today our friend who we have seen do this sort of thing again and again, who has years of hands-on experience and a lot of common sense, a man who we of course asked to manage the whole project for us, removes the false ceiling. He looks above the line of the false ceiling and sees there is nothing at all. He looks at our plans and looks at the huge empty space that he is going to have to 'make good' and gives us a call.
'Are you sure you really want this wall?'
Why did we think it would be masonry?