Friday, 16 February 2018

Homemade Nut & Cacao Butter  cacao cocoa nut butter spread recipe homemade free from refined sugar and palm oil free
Is there anything more satisfying than tea and toast? The answer is no, and if you say sex you are wrong tea and toast is better, let's face it sometimes no matter how much love we have for our partner we are just too tired or not in the mood but I have never not been in the mood for tea and toast.

Moving on. Is there anything in the world more versatile that toast? The answer is no, you can put anything on toast from lavish topping to mayonnaise, perhaps the later is just me.

Living in Paris and being somewhat addicted to street crepes I have eaten my fair share of Nutella so I was sick to the stomach when the image of the separate ingredients did the rounds online. When my little boy asked for chocolate spread I was loathed to give him Nutella so I created my own nutty chocolate spread with what we had in.  cacao cocoa nut butter spread recipe homemade free from refined sugar and palm oil free  cacao cocoa nut butter spread recipe homemade free from refined sugar and palm oil free
If you are wondering why the list of nuts sounds strange that is literally what we had in.

you will need;

1tbsp cacao or cocoa powder
2cups whole cashew nuts 
2 cups whole pecan nuts 
1 cup flaked almonds
1tbsp agave 
1tbsp cacao nibs

  1. put the nuts into a food processor and pulse until a smooth butter. This will happen trust me without adding anything else into the mix. I do not have an amazing food processor so I ran it in bursts as I was worried it might overheat.
  2. Once the nut butter is in fact butter transfer to a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  cacao cocoa nut butter spread recipe homemade free from refined sugar and palm oil free
This will keep for a couple of months in an airtight container. The mixture is not as wet as Nutella and it is because I added powder to it. You could add additional nut oil to it, I might try that next time and see. The spread is delicious and the nibs add some bite. What better way to treat toast, possibly the worlds greatest food than with a super fancy incredibly tasty chocolate nut butter. 

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Cauliflower Cheese Bites

Freeze ahead cauliflower cheese bites gluten free paleo friendly snack recipe
Snack and convenience food is one of the main ways we fall into the trap of buying from food giants, something that I am avoiding, if you want to read why I wrote about it here.

These bites are gluten free, paleo friendly, great for baby led weaning and taste great. Did I mention you can make heaps and freeze them, no, well you can so they are pretty much amazeballs in many ways unless you are my husband who has a loathing of cauliflower.

So a little story about Joe and the cauliflower, for no other reason than I love cauliflower cheese I started to top shepherds pie with it instead of mashed potato. Back in the day when Joe was studying we ate a lot of veggie shepherds pie as it was filling and cheap. Fast forward 3 years and in a casual group chat Joe mentioned he hated cauliflower he went as far as calling it poison - harsh. I then asked why he did not tell me considering the whole cauliflower cheese overload, his response, "I didn't like to mention it" That man makes no sense to me sometimes.
Freeze ahead cauliflower cheese bites gluten free paleo friendly snack recipe
Freeze ahead cauliflower cheese bites gluten free paleo friendly snack recipe
Well for those of you who do love cauliflower cheese, so the rest of the world then I will share the recipe.

you will need;

1 large cauliflower or 2 small ones
2 cups of grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives
1tbsp olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
2tsp oregano
Freeze ahead cauliflower cheese bites gluten free paleo friendly snack recipe

  1.  Preheat the oven to 180C
  2. Chop the cauliflower into chunks and place it into a food processor to make cauliflower 'rice'
  3. In a bowl mix the cauliflower 'rice' with beaten eggs, cheese, oregano and chives.
  4. Use the olive oil to grease a muffin pan (the smaller ones not a big deep fill one).
  5. Fill each hole almost to the top with mixture and bake in the centre of the oven until golden brown
  6. If freezing allow them to cool fully and freeze flat. Once frozen they can be placed in a bag or a tub and reheated in the oven from frozen so why not double up the recipe.
  7.  Try variations on the flavours, I particularly like to add chili powder to everything.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

How To Make A Succulent Garden

As soon as the Christmas decorations come down I want to hit the garden centre. The house looks so empty right? Well as we are still recovering from rising damp, have an attic renovation in full swing and Spring is the best time to buy plants I am trying to restrain myself. I could not resist a little refresh so I made a succulent garden. Succulents have thick flesh and retain water well, basically cactus without the spikes most importantly they are the real international blog stars of our generation - we seriously love them. One of the great things about these plants is they have a shallow root system that likes to stay close to the surface so they are the ideal candidates for a shallow bowl. 
I fell for the colour and texture on this bowl from Arighi Bianchi hook line and sinker and I wanted it to have a special purpose, elevate it beyond fruit. I think I pulled it off.
To make your own garden first find the perfect receptacle. Play around with the placement of your plants, I found tiny ones that were 80p each, bargain!
Add a small layer of gravel for drainage, I used fish tank gravel. Make sure you use soil that is specifically for cactus and succulents, it does not get easily waterlogged.
Add interest to your garden, I had driftwood from some beach combing and a few of Sebastian's rocks from his 'special stone' collection. 
I topped off the garden with marine sand and gravel from the pet store.
What do you think? This should see me through to Spring.

Monday, 29 January 2018

How To Paint Dining Chairs

how to paint dining room chairs with chalk paint
I have said it a thousand times that I am no fan of shabby chic, granny chic, cottage retro, call it what you will I hate it but what many forget is that chalk paint does not mean any of those things. What chalk paint really means is no sanding prep - well Amen to that. The truth is it is a versatile paint that can be used to achieve a variety of looks so I was more than happy to team up with Sarah Jayne Chalk Paints when she reached out last year. I actually saw her demonstrate her paints when they were Everlong at our WI meeting pre children, it seems like a lifetime ago, and yes the WI is cool, well the one Hebden Bridge is so no judgment please.

We chatted about how we could use her product and I had been meaning to paint my dining chairs so this was great timing and the kick up the arse I needed to move forward with this project. I have been collecting the 8 dining chairs needed for 3 years so time was marching on. I wrote a lovely post with Chairish a while back extolling the virtues of painted chairs and highlighting the different looks that could be achieved with one simple task. I say simple but in truth painting chairs is a labour of love there are so many bloody sides!
how to paint dining room chairs with chalk paint
When the paint arrived I initially thought wow they are being pretty stingy with the amount of paint I have 8 chairs to do! It turns out that a 1litre paint tin was more than enough and they are right to have such faith in their product. The chairs I used were quite dark wood as you can see from the before picture and they were all covered in 2 coats with a little left to spare to touch up - you will always find that you missed a bit when it comes to painting chairs.
how to paint dining room chairs with chalk paint
Tip 1
Clean your chairs you may not be sanding them but you want to have them clean and dry.

Tip 2 
Take out the seat pads and check for any repairs needed, if you have second-hand chairs this is important as you want them to be sturdy.

Tip 3
Chairs are a pain in the balls to paint there is no getting away from that fact so choose a fast drying water based paint such as chalk paint. (NB if you use water-based eggshell you will need to sand and prime first)

Tip 4 
Check for drips, the many many edges of chairs mean there are many many chances for drips so keep checking and smooth them out with the feather-lite tip of a brush.

Tip 5 
Regardless of the paint you choose to use ALWAYS to thin multiple layers not thick coats.
how to paint dining room chairs with chalk paint
I have used other chalk paints and I can honestly say I love this brand. How is it different? First off it is not as gloopy as other brands I found it a lot easier to get a flat finish with Sarah Jayne Chalk Paint. The other thing that sets this brand apart is there is no need to wax. Yes you heard me right another godsend in my book. All you have to do is buff the paint with a cloth as opposed to wax then buff. It is non toxic and toy safe which is an added bonus when you have children or pets that like to lick things!
how to paint dining room chairs with chalk paint
After further thoughts I spoke to Sarah Jayne Paints and as dining chairs get such heavy use and get moved around all the time I opted to coat them with their water-based sealer. It is one coat and gives a lovely matte sheen to the chairs.
how to paint dining room chairs with chalk paint
I am absolutely in love with the chairs now and so happy that I finally got round to doing this. Now all I need to do is recover the seat pads, finish the dining room etc etc.... For now I am just happy that I have my wonderful painted chairs.

*although I worked with Sarah Jayne Paints on this post all of my thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Avoiding The Food Giants

how and why you should avoid the big 10 food companies
So about a year ago Joe and I began to get increasingly pissed off reading about large companies buying up smaller companies and essentially this leading to job losses. We then started to avoid Kraft now Mondelez. A short while after we made this decision I saw an infographic created by Oxfam that started to pop up referring to The Big 10 I chatted with this to Joe that evening and we decided that we were going to avoid the big 10. 

Initially we looked at one another and thought wow well we have decided to do this it is going to be tough and we sat to study the infographic more closely to see what we would be cutting out of our diet - the answer was not very much. One of the most obvious things when you look at this is that most of the food these companies are producing is overly processed crap - and no I am not pulling any punches today. With the odd exception they are feeding you nothing but junk. 

When we really looked we realised the only things we would miss were San Pelligrino, and I know that makes me sound like such a middle class wanker, and Marmite, (that is me not Joe). So there are other carbonated waters we can have and I am switching to Vegemite. With the exception of one Kelloggs product that Sebastian likes we are free of the big 10.

So why the exception with Kelloggs products, we feel that Sebastian only ever asks for the "mini cereal boxes" about 3 times in a year and he is allowed to have something kiddie and cute in his life and as far as the larger companies go we would be happy to pop them on the list of okay by us but we just don't eat their stuff ordinarily.
chickpeas how and why you should avoid the big 10 food companies
We have decided not be 'those' house guests. We have made a choice as consumers but turning up to other peoples homes and refusing half of what they offer you is just rude in our opinion so you can still invite us over. 

So why avoid them?
  • Large companies buy out the competition which is not great for the consumer
  • They promise that there will not be job loses but after a buy out there always is 
  • Huge conglomerates have to line the pockets of many many shareholders and this means that costs have to be cut somewhere often in food quality, job loses and workers rights.
  • Many of these companies have huge human and environmental infractions such as Nestle & Coca Cola, a quick search on Google will highlight these 
  • Most of these companies sell overly processed food and I prefer to know exactly what my family is eating 
  • Cutting out these foods will save you money in the long run
The fact is both Joe and I are not against big companies per sa and there are many industries where "the big boys" are the only ones with the requisite funds to plough into research and development such as energy. We also know that there are other evil if you want to choose a word, companies out there that are not food companies. Well yes we know that and we avoid other companies such as Apple and buy cruelty free everything but again that is our personal choice.
homemade pizza how and why you should avoid the big 10 food companies

How do we avoid them?
  • Buy ingredients and not convenience foods  
  • Buy local produce as much as possible
  • Look at alternative snacks such as keeping popcorn kernels in
  • Snack less, (this is something living in Paris taught me) we snack less so when we do we can afford more expensive crisps and biscuits from smaller local producers 
  • We are all busy so look into batch cooking to combat the loss in pre prepared foods you may have bought
  • Check online to see who the parent company is - you will be really surprised
I am going to update my archive pages to include a freeze ahead section so that you can easily find some great recipes. I will be adding more to this as time goes on also.
green beans how and why you should avoid the big 10 food companies
This is not the normal post from me but this issue is one we both feel strongly about on the grounds of our family's health and our socialist moral compass, we are big on workers rights and job losses in this house!

If you have any comments on this I am eager to hear them and if you agree, disagree or just think we have gone a bit woo woo here I am also eager not to exist in an echo chamber. If you are an independent food producer with a great moral code get in touch as I will be putting together a directory over the coming year. You do not have to be a super healthy organic producer just have ethics we can get behind and not be planning to sell out to one of the big 10.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

My Top 10 Interior Design Pet Peeves

my top 10 interior design pet peeves and how to avoid them
So I write a lot about the things that I love when I pull together a room or indeed when I look at the work others do, but let's cut the crap and talk about all the things that drive me crazy. Crazy might be an overstatement some merely make me raise an eyebrow but for the purposes of this post I will mostly be talking in a hyperbolic manner.
my top 10 interior design pet peeves and how to avoid them
1. Radiator Covers & Integrated Appliances

So I am going to dive straight in with one that I know will rub a lot of people up the wrong way as they are everywhere. Radiator covers and integrated appliances may seem like strange bedfellows but my primary reason for hating them is the same. I don't like disguising things. I believe that if an item serves a purpose in the room then it should be designed well. Okay items we use and put away don't count, like the vacuum, iron, frying pan etc. I am talking about the permanent integral room items. Perhaps it was the obsession with the Arts & Crafts Movement

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
William Morris 

I believe if you have a fridge say there is a fridge here, same goes for a microwave, radiator, you name it  have a well designed one. Obviously there are certain items, such as a washing machine that you might think well hey they are all as ugly as one another, that is where you have to make your design flare shine, make it work give yourself a challenge but stop filling your house with bland boxes that make people hunt for an hour just to find milk for their tea. 

I have one more point to raise and that is this, and you can't argue with me my husband is a physicist who works in energy, a radiator cover makes your radiator inefficient and with rising fuel costs that just seems like a silly item to make inefficient.
my top 10 interior design pet peeves and how to avoid them
2. Curtains That Are Too Short

Growing up, for the most part in the 80s it seemed like everyone had little faffy curtains that brushed the cil. There are many things that were popular in the 80s that we no longer do, throwing batteries into landfills, using teletext, listening to Bon Jovi, and by gum if we can quit Bon Jovi we can quit short curtains. In my opinion the only thing worse that really short curtains are ones that are a strange length bobbing around somewhere near the top of the skirting in no mans land. This is the rule; curtains should touch the floor or pool on the floor this is not up for debate. What about windows where that cannot happen I hear you say, (in fact I am imagining you saying this I can't actually hear you, that would be weird). Those windows above a counter top or a sink where they cannot reach the floor. Those places need to be dressed in a different way. There are many more ways to dress a window than sticking a curtain in front of it.
my top 10 interior design pet peeves and how to avoid them
3. Rugs That Are Too Small

This is such a common mistake, people buy a rug that floats around in the middle of the room and it looks awful, there is no way to say that in a kind way. There are also some other mistakes that are related to size you should consider. An example of this is the dining table, you have you small rug under the table, the chair are then half on and half off the rug, no no no. If they are on they should be on. The rug in my lounge is way too small, but it came from a smaller house and we have a slate floor and a toddler so there it sits until I save up for the rug I really want but it hurts my eyes and my soul every time I have to look at it.
my top 10 interior design pet peeves and how to avoid them

4. Badly Hung Art

This is a two part pet peeve so brace yourself. Badly hung art for me is art that is either at the completely wrong eye line, usually way to high on a wall, or it is floating around in space. You don't have to go all out gallery wall all the time but you do need to think about the composition on the wall. A painting that is way to small for a large expanse of wall floating around on its own is doing more harm than good to the aesthetics of the room. Balance it with furniture, more art, lighting, a plant etc. Think about where your art is in relation to your view, if all of your art is on the same wall as your bed or the seating and all you look at is a blank wall something is wrong.

Part two is this pet peeve is generic nonsense. Posters from Ikea, Keep Calm And 'enter nonsense here', photo canvases, faux vintage signs, anything by Banksy. Try and buy limited edition prints or posters, original art, thrift store vintage, children's drawings or photos framed. You don't want to walk into someone elses home  and have it look just like yours do you?
my top 10 interior design pet peeves and how to avoid them
6. Magnolia

Look you don't have to daub your walls with dark blue paint like I have you can go for a neutral pallet but do not under any circumstance put magnolia/cream or any derivative on your walls it looks awful. It is the nothing colour, it says nothing, it makes everything else in your room look bland and dull, it is like a disease turning everything around it boring and uninteresting. The colour of your walls is the base of your room, the backdrop for everything else, if that is wrong nothing else is going to pop no matter how hard you try. 

There are so many fantastic neutral option out there that do not involve magnolia. 
my top 10 interior design pet peeves and how to avoid them
7. Incorrect Scale of Furniture

Here I am again banging on about how size matters and this time I want it just right, not too big, not too small. Too big tends to be the more common mistake when it comes to furniture. You see it in a showroom or you even look at the dimensions on line and go as far as measuring if it will fit in the space. The trouble is measuring if something will fit across the width of your room is not the same as seeing it in full on 3D when it is dominating the room. The fact is you have to work with your room. If your lounge is small it is small you can still get all of the things you want but be smart about it as having to side step around the coffee table to leave the room is not fun and it does not look great either. If your bedroom is small it just is and a king size bed will just have to wait.

You can also go too small but having said that I see this with rugs but not as often with furniture but you should keep in mind scale at all times. Size matters people never forget it.
my top 10 interior design pet peeves and how to avoid them
8. Being Too Matchy Matchy

For those of you who live in the UK and watch the Great Interior Design Challenge you have probably heard Daniel Hopwood use this phrase at least twice an episode.It is a tricky one to define because it can be misinterpreted as filling your house randomly with things that do not make a cohesive style. The main thing to avoid is buying room sets, walking in and buy a set of things or creating a theme that is very twee like look here is our butterfly room with butterfly curtains and butterfly cushions and butterfly art. The best way to demonstrate is with images.
my top 10 interior design pet peeves and how to avoid them
9. Not Enough Cushions

You buy the sofa, they offer you the two cushions to place either end of your sofa that match the sofa you have just  bought. Stop! Don't do it it is a pet hate of most interior stylists to have a home that is too sparse of cushions. Mix patterns and colours and add personality to your sofa. As I am waiting to re upholster my sofa I have decided to go zero cushions until I pick a colour of the sofa rather than going minimal cushions.
my top 10 interior design pet peeves and how to avoid them

10.Poorly Laid Out Rooms

This covers a whole host of mistakes such as; pushing all of the furniture against the walls, arranging all the seating so that it stares at the TV, blocking off alcoves that have nothing in etc. Think about the flow of the room, think about how you need to comfortably move around the space. Don't be afraid to let go of furniture, if it does not fit it has to go this is not time for hording. Also know when you can break the rules, for example in the kiddos playroom, apart from one area most things are against the wall or close to it as I wanted to create a huge playspace that could be used in a variety of ways for the kiddos, space for trains and games to be set up and put away. I made sure that it didn't look awful by creating different  heights, creating zones around the room, playing with lighting and having open displays and storage to create interest.

please note I have added photos of the world and our homes as they should be because who needs ugliness on their blog