Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A Designer's Guide To Hibernation or Winter Is Coming!

My favourite time of the year is here. Autumn is wonderful, the colours of the trees, collecting conkers, walking on bright brisk days with the sun low in the sky. My wardrobe is better at this time of year also, boots, jumpers, tights and long socks. Pulling my scarf up around my face to keep out the cold air, I love it. Autumn also gets us prepared for what lies ahead, winter! Two years ago the toilet froze for 9 days so I am nothing short of a hardy northern lass, (you can tel by the way I casually used the word lass instead of woman). I am not adverse to braving the elements and walking in the icy wind with the dog but that makes returning home all the more appealing.

It is easy to feel like your home lacks a little warmth when the view from your window is so bleak. This coupled with the fact that when we pick up a house magazine at this time of year it looks like the only way to give our home that snug as a bug in a rug feel is to completely redecorate. Who has the time and money to do that each season, certainly not I so here are my tips for making your home a cosy haven this winter.
Invest in a teapot. This is a time of year to really get into warm drinks, be that coffee, tea, hot chocolate or even a hot toddy. Nothing says cosy more than sitting on the sofa in socks with your hands grasped around a warm mug.
You can't go around buying a new sofa for winter but you can cover it blankets. We keep a box of blankets in the corner also. Let me paint you a picture, there you are on the sofa, wearing socks, drinking tea watching The Darling Buds Of May Christmas special, (why not), and surrounded by blankets, wonderful soft blankets. It is a great way to change up your decor and keep warm and cosy.
Never underestimate the value of slippers. In fact all of your warm clothes, cardigans, dressing gowns, the works. I didn't live in a house that had central heating until I went to university. When we were at university we couldn't afford to use the central heating but I was prepared. The old adage you don't miss what you never had comes to mind. It is a very modern concept that even in the winter we should be able to walk around our home in summer clothes, it is winter after all and with ever increasing fuel costs we cannot afford to relay on having the heating on 24hours.
If you have a fire use it. In fact if you can afford to ditch your fire and swap to a wood burning stove all the better as attractive as an open fire is you loose most of the heat up the flu.

Eat comfort food. Heavy meals like baked cheese, stew and dumplings, bread. Fill yourself with fuel to keep warm and cosy indoors. There are many reasons food poverty is a big issue and it is not just nutrition we need this fuel to survive the winter. If you have a local food bank please give generously as well as stocking up your own cupboards.
Finally think about where heat is lost. I live in a Victorian home with old sash windows that I cannot afford to replace. The wind really makes it through the house. Here are my last few suggestions for keeping the heat in, some of them cost nothing apart from common sense. Close all of your interior doors, if you have fancy double doors leading to a room keep those close too, smaller areas are easier to heat. Choose warm curtains, in some rooms I have blinds and curtains. Yes it is nice to see Christmas lights twinkling though the window but it is warmer if you close the curtains, this makes a difference even if you have double glazing. Having the heating on lower for longer is more cost effective that short blasts of high temperatures. My last and least attractive tip, but nevertheless it works is make a layer of cling film inside your windows trapping the air. It looks terrible but it does work, it is what got me through university.

I hope that you all stay warm and cosy in your homes this winter and that you spare a thought who have no refuge and donate what you can to a local homeless charity.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Mushroom Stuffed Pumpkin

It is here pumpkin spice latte season, that means it is pumpkin season in general and I have a whole host of pumpkin recipes coming up on the blog and I am starting with this one because it is also mushroom season.
you will need;

150g oyster mushrooms
100g chanterelle mushrooms
10 shallots
25g butter
300g button mushrooms
30cl IPA (Indian Pale Ale)
2 tsp dried parsley
2tbsp malted yeast flakes
20cl double cream
1 small pumpkin
salt and pepper 
cous cous to serve
  1.  Preheat an oven to 180C. Slice the top off your pumpkin and scoop out the seeds, you can wash and dry them if you like, they are great on a salad.
  2. Slice the shallots and soften them in the butter. Meanwhile slice the button mushrooms, add them to the pan once the shallots are soft.
  3. Tear the oyster and chanterelle mushrooms and add those to the pan also.
  4. Once the juices have come out and the mushrooms have cooked down add the IPA, yeast flakes, parsley and season.
  5. Cook over a low heat until the liquid has reduced.
  6. Take off the heat, stir through the cream and spoon into the pumpkin. Place the top back onto the pumpkin, secure with foil and bake for and hour or until the pumpkin is soft.
  7. Serve with cous cous or green vegetables.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Filing Drawer Makeover

Sometimes simplicity is key. This project is another one that I undertook at the Festival Of Thrift 2014. It was my aim to showcase upcycling projects that covered every skill level so that everyone could become engaged with, and embrace upcyling in their home. This project is a perfect example. A roadside find that needed a facelift, and a clean was the perfect candidate for showing that anyone, yes anyone can upcycle. Here is a look at the drawers before, a hurried phone photograph.
My only disappointment with this project was the handles. Ideally I would have removed them before spraying, for ease but alas the old screw heads were rusted and the threads no more. Instead I was left with the painstaking task of covering each handle in frog tape, careful to leave all the drawers uncovered and getting clean lines on the edges.

I only had small amounts of various blues so spraying small drawers were the ideal way to use them up. 
A note on preparing your surface, clean with sugar soap and wipe the residue off. Also make sure you spray outside on a day that is not too windy. They are going to look really great in my new office space.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

La Recyclerie - Paris

Few things are certain in life, death, taxes and any area that is rough around the edges slowly becomes gentrified. That gentrification usually starts with the arty set, dare I say it, the hipsters. There are a number of schools of thought on the gentrification of an area, my own opinion changes depending on which day of the week you catch me, but regardless of your viewpoint I think we can all agree that seeing an old empty building being used for nothing at all is a waste. For decades now people would flock every week to Porte de Clignancourt to visit the vast Marche au Puces but there is another reason to venture out to the peripherique now and this one comes with snacks.

La Recyclerie is situated in the old station building and spills onto the unused tracks and platform providing a useful space and somewhat green urban oasis. The building has a great start with high ceilings and grand windows but it is the restoration design that sets this apart from others I have seen. The design team fully embraced their three Rs, those being Reduce, Reuse & Recycle. An entire wall made up from windows is just one of the examples that they have pulled off with ease.
Old buildings are often saved and restored but there are a number of things that I like about this in particular. Firstly it has remained a public space, it is not a hotel or office block. Secondly unlike many place that could be described as 'hip' this one is really friendly and accessible, I can say this in all honesty as I am not cool, not by any stretch and felt very comfortable there, with a mix of cool kids, older folk, families and well, people like me. In fact Rene, the builder of the recycling centre, has his studio in the middle of the space. He welcomes the public to come and have lunch, drink coffee, seeing him work in an "at home" atmosphere gives them a boost for a small repairs they may have.
Outside on the terrace and steps there is place to sit and eat, chat, home to vegetables and sometimes a market filled with secondhand goodies.
La Recyclerie really is a multipurpose space, meaning there really is something for everyone. The bar and cafe offers a fantastic social space serving world cuisine on a rotating calendar and their brunch is really good value. It is possible to shop online on their website from a range of local producers and then you simply call in and collect your goods later in the day, a real benefit for a busy city dweller.
The space is also host to a number of events such as brocants, craft classes, talks, special food events and performance.
Find La Recyclerie at 83 boulevard Ornano 75018 Paris.
Opening hours;
Monday to Wednesday Noon - Midnight 
Thursday  Noon - 1am 
Friday & Saturday Noon - 2am 
Sunday Noon - 10pm
M├ętro Porte de Clignancourt (line 4) Bus 85 & 86