Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The coffee table quest...

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I came to the conclusion a few months ago that I needed to add a small coffee table to my sitting room in order for it to feel more finished. Little did I know that this decision would result in a to-date fruitless search for just the right table (in style and in budget).

Initially, I loved the idea of an upholstered ottoman....and whilst I'd still like to try this look one day, the sitting room of my flat is really too small to cope with a bulky piece of furniture. I looked through some of the images I had saved in my design folder and came across the sitting room below. I liked the elegant lines of this table so I instead started to look at daintier, glass-topped tables. My feeling is that a glass top and dainty legs will give me the functionality of a table, without the visual and physical bulk. 

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Initially I looked for a wood-framed table with a glass insert top - but found very few in my ebay trawls - many are either too big for the space, or have a lower shelf which again I think adds too much visual distraction. Then I came across this lovely idea...

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Brass tables....

I love how these seem to work with all different types of furniture styles, and add a bit of glamour to the rooms. Of course, the fact that I live in the UK and not the USA means that the availability of brass/glass coffee tables on ebay is virtually non-existent...but I keep on searching and hope that my patience will eventually be rewarded!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A Late Summer Afternoon...

On Saturday afternoon I joined friends in the Hampshire countryside to watch M's cricket team play one of their last fixtures for the summer. It was a perfect afternoon - sitting on the terrace of the oak-framed pavilion enjoying cloudless blue skies and a perfectly pretty cricket ground surrounded by gorgeous countryside including the local historical pub. I could not think of a more quintessentially English manner in which to spend a beautiful late summer afternoon.

...and a beautiful sunset to finish off a lovely day.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Weekend baking...orange and poppy seed friands

I had an enforced period at home on Saturday morning whilst waiting for a courier delivery so I decided to continue on with my weekend baking project.

This week I decided to try making friands. You rarely, if ever, see friands (financiers) here in the UK, but they are really popular in Sydney. When I worked in a hospital in Camperdown (Sydney) we had a fantastic coffee shop next door to our building which sold these amazing orange and poppy seed friands. Many a meeting was scheduled out of the department and into the coffee shop so that it could be accompanied by a friand and a latte.

I managed to find some proper friand trays on ebay (I think via an Australian importer), but muffin trays would work equally as well. I then perused several Australian recipe websites to find a recipe. The following is from about.com in the Australian/New Zealand food section.

Orange and Poppy Seed Friands
150 grams butter (plus extra for greasing the tins)
1/2 cup plain flour
1 cup icing sugar
Zest from two oranges, finely grated
150 grams almond meal (ground almonds)
3 tbsp poppy seeds
5 egg whites

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400 Fahrenheit). Lightly butter 10 friand tins and set aside (I got 11 from my batch).

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a medium-low heat. Simmer for 5 mins until golden brown, taking care not to burn it. Set aside to cool slightly.

Finely grate the zest. Mix the flour, sugar, almond meal, poppy seeds and zest together in a mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the whites to the dry ingredients along with the butter. Whisk gently until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the tins. Bake until golden brown. Depending on the size of the tins this may take 10-15 mins (mine took 15 mins).

Store friands in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

This was another recipe I can certainly recommend...I might try it with lemon next time.

And in other news...
...Downton Abbey started back last night...and there was a wedding...and the anticipation was worth it!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Bedside table makeover...

 Quite a while ago (ahem...in January), I posted about my plans for a mini bedroom makeover. Whilst this hasn't been the fastest project in the world, it hadn't gone completely off my radar. The issue that was causing the most problems was finding some nice (and cheap) bedside tables to refurbish for the room.

Finally, after months of scouring ebay I came across the above and managed to obtain them for £30. Actually getting them delivered by the courier was a whole other issue, but I was so pleased to see when they arrived that their proportions would suit the room, and they had some lovely details on them. Whilst I'd originally been looking for antique pine pot cupboards I had changed my mind and looked for something that had delicate legs to give a feeling of less clutter in the room.

Last weekend, I covered the entire sitting room in drop-sheets and got to work (I have no outdoor space in which to paint, so every project becomes a logistical nightmare of how to paint in a small, inside space without ruining anything within a two metre radius).

Continuing my new love affair with grey...two coats of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Paris Grey later, followed by a coat of clear wax and they were finished.

I do love the delicate turned wood legs and the extra beading on the front of the drawers.

The final touch was replacing the handles with these new delicate silver knobs from Zara Home...and I was delighted to find another use for the electric drill already!

I've now moved them into the bedroom, and feel inspired to start working on the other planned changes to the room. Next up is the project to make a new bed skirt and european pillow cases - so now I'm on the lookout for ticking, toile and other pretty fabrics...

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Weekend baking...maderia cake

It has been a perfectly lovely weekend in London - beautiful sunshine and 28 degree temps on both days. It feels a little as if it is summer's last hurrah before the autumn sets in.

The television programme, The Great British Bake Off, started back on the BBC a few weeks ago, and it has inspired me to try and bake a little more regularly on the weekends...particularly recipes I haven't tried before.

This week I delved into one of my Donna Hay cookbooks and tried her maderia cake. It has perhaps turned out just a little more 'golden' than it should be...I think next time I'll try it in a slightly lower oven, for just a little longer.

The recipe comes from Donna Hay Modern Classics Book 2.

170g butter, softened
3/4 cup of caster sugar
1 tbsp finely grated lemon rind
3 eggs
1 1/2 tbsp of lemon juice
3/4 cup plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup almond meal

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees. Place the butter, sugar and lemon rind in the bowl of an electric mixer (I used a hand mixer) and beat until light and creamy. Gradually add the eggs and the lemon juice, beating well. Sift the flour and baking powder over the butter mixture and fold through with the almond meal.

Grease a 10cm x 20cm loaf tin and line the base with non-stick baking paper. Spoon in the mixture and bake for 45 mins or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Cool in the tin for 5 mins and then turn onto a wire rack. Serves 8-10.

I can highly recommend it - I've already consumed one slice for tea this afternoon. The rest is going to have to be individually sliced and frozen for gradual consumption (as opposed to me eating half of the cake in one sitting)...something to look forward to mid-morning at work this week!

In other news, I've been busy painting this weekend on some long overdue projects...which I hope to post this coming week...

Monday, 3 September 2012

Loving the paralympics...

The end of August saw the start of the 2012 Paralympics. I love the paralympics - I think even more than the main event itself....

I've spent my career working as a paediatric occupational therapist - and so have spent many years working with children and their families as they face developmental challenges or adjust to changes following illness or injury. Watching the talented athletes perform at these games reminds me so much of various children I was fortunate to know over the years - with cerebral palsy, congenital malformations, achrondroplasia and arthrogryposis.

The draw of the paralympics is two-fold for me. Firstly, I'm fascinated by the technical expertise that goes into wheelchair and prosthesis design (all a different league to what we see in the NHS), and by the functional adaptations that the athletes have made to overcome their physical limitations and perform at such a high level. Secondly, and I think an experience shared by any person who is able-bodied and has the opportunity to witness athletes with disabilities compete, I am awed, inspired and humbled that pretty much any athlete in any class of competition could probably run/swim rings around me.

So here was how I spent my weekend...



On Saturday my friend K and I saw the swimming heats, and then followed up yesterday with the evening session of the athletics. We saw both Team GB and Australian athletes win a range of silver and bronze medals during the session...until the last race (men's T54 5000m) when David Weir (Team GB) won gold.

It was a fabulous weekend, and we have still have more tickets for Wednesday's evening swimming finals...where I'm hoping to see an Australian gold medal (go Matt Cowdrey!!)