Upcycling

I’ve moved recently.  We needed some extra storage to house all our clothes, so I leapt at the chance to paint and do up some furniture myself.

We had some pretty raw starting material…

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A lovely old Stag chest of drawers of my Granny’s (thanks Granny!).  A bit too dark for my liking, with nasty brass circular handles that weren’t to my our taste at all, that had inexplicably all fallen off.  So, I did some research on easy paints to use.  F started issuing dire warnings about ‘sanding’, ‘grains’ and other technical terms that I did not care for.  I had heard rumours of a supremely easy to use paint that was velvety to the touch and came in an array of colours to rival Farrow & Ball.

Enter Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint – all the better for being a global brand that can only be found in independent shops.  And look how lovely it has turned out to be!  The handles were a bargain from a kitchen shop that was closing down – all with a cracked marble cream finish.

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All you need is a tin of paint and a tin of wax (clear or dark, more on that later).  It really does what it says on the tin (pun intended) – but in case you wanted some extra hand-holding, here’s my guide.

  1. Tip your can of paint upside down for 5 minutes before you get going.  Wash any dirt off your piece of furniture (it paints plastic, metal, wood – so be careful of wearing any rings whilst painting!).
  2. Get yourself a stirring stick (I picked one up from an obliging tree).  Prise open the can and give it a good mix – you’ll see how beautifully thick it is.
  3. Using a nice big brush (ideally around 2.5 – 4 inches or one of the lovely Annie Sloan brushes), dip it in to the top of the paint, without getting too much on the brush.  Don’t overload it or you’ll smother it like a certain someone.
  4. Paint – either all over the shop for a more vintagey look or in straight lines for a more polished look (like mine).  Tip: paint sides (like the slim sides of my chest) horizontally, so you get the paint right into the top and bottom with a smooth finish with no brush marks.
  5. Let it dry between coats – about 20 minutes in good weather but make sure it is dry!
  6. I put 4 coats on this baby as it was so dark.  When you’ve done all your coats and you’re happy with the colour, get some super fine sandpaper out (if you want a beaten-up, vintage look).  Rip off a small piece, and run over the edges of the drawers, sides and other parts of the piece that would naturally take some wear and tear.  Sand down to your desired look.
  7. Whack open your tin of Annie Sloan Soft Wax.  Use clear to retain the colour, or dark for an antique look.
  8. Dip a clean brush into the butter like wax and rub it into a small area.  Using a clean, lint free cloth, massage the wax into the surface like moisturiser.  Don’t skip this step – the wax seals the paint so is necessary!
  9. Let it dry and put in place!  Use a coaster on the top and be kind to your lovely new upcycled furniture.

Annie says it takes up to a month to ‘cure’ – interior designer speak for settle down, methinks.    DSCF0482

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DSCF0481And then I went a tad Annie-Sloan-it’s-so-easy-I’ll-Annie-Sloan-everything crazy.  So I did another chest from F’s parents exactly the same, so no more photos to bore you with.  And these bedside tables…

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DSCF0493Ralph Lauren lamp (similar but much more expensive!)

I’m especially proud of these – I wanted a light, clean blue so mixed a tester pot of ‘Greek Blue’ with 500ml ‘Original’ to get this shade.  We picked up the tables from our beloved local junk shop.  Lovely!

What have you been up to?  Any summery home improvements?

P.S thanks to F for modelling the drawers!

Friends & Galleries & Lunacre

A little while ago, I visited some friends.

Firstly, I caught up with this angel larking around in what felt like a forest of steel but was actually a wonderful little gallery, the Gagosian.  Unfortunately this beautiful steel exhibition has now ended but you can see what they’ve got coming up around the world, here.

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The steel was treated and manipulated in such a way that it seemed soft, smooth and warming.  Some of them we had to check if it really was steel.

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With such huge pieces filling the gallery space, it was impossible not to physically interact with the art.  Which we, juveniles that we are, loved.

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Shortly afterwards, S whisked me up to the roof terrace on the top of her delightful building.  Below are our poor attempts to take a ‘grown up’ skyline selfie.  As you can see, we failed miserably.

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We spent the evening with her charming other half eating a ridiculously large Brazilian dinner with ridiculously large caipirinhas.  We spent the remainder of the evening listening to my uni housemate’s new band, the ethereal Lunacre.  S and I thought their music was dreamy, fresh and perfect for slow dancing and swaying.  My particular fave is this little number:

Here’s a rather late night photo of one of the Lunacre boys himself and one of our lovely friends.  As you can see, they are both delighted that I am taking photos.

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For some much needed solace the morning after, I headed over the Royal Academy to see their Rubens exhibition with a friend, Izzy.  Didn’t manage to catch a photo of her, the sly devil!  I loved this painting as I felt she was a kindred mermaid spirit of mine.

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Right next to the RA is my friend’s gallery, Dominique Levy, on Old Bond Street.  Their current exhibition is a beaut called Sotto Voce.  Now, I am no art historian but I am an art lover.  The peace and stillness of the space was divine.  I loved the contrast of it with this piece below, which looks like the artist punched it, then clawed at the hole they made.

IMG_1224But the most special thing about it was that my fabulous friend Katie worked on putting it together!  Congratulations Katie!  You better hot foot it to Old Bond Street before the pieces go and the exhibition ends (18 April).

Lemon Meringue Pie

OK, this is rather filthy but really rather delicious.  Just look at that mountain of meringue – aren’t you excited to hike up it?!

It was Mother’s Day here on Sunday.

I made my family a roast – spring lamb, crushed garlicky potatoes, maple balsamic carrots, cauliflower cheese and broccoli.

We stuffed ourselves as much as we could before Major took us off for a family walk.  We returned after a breath of fresh air for tea and a cheeky slice of this monster in front of the fire.

I had 4 slices for dinner.

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It is of course, loaded with sugar.  Not really sorry about that.

Ingredients

Pastry:

300g Dove’s Farm plain flour gluten free blend

150g unsalted butter

Dribble of cold water

Filling:

6 egg yolks

250g caster sugar

6 lemons, juice and zest

65g cornflour

450ml water

Meringue Mountain:

4 egg whites

225g caster sugar

2 tsp cornflour

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Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C and grease and line a 9 inch tin.
  2. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and rub the butter into it with your fingers (it’s easier if the butter is room temperature).
  3. Once the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, dribble a little cold water into the mixture.  Less is more – you want just enough so that when you use your fingers to bring the dough together it forms a smooth ball.  Wrap it in clingfilm and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the pastry from the fridge.  Place the pastry into the tin and push into an even layer across the bottom and sides of the tin with your hands.  Prick the bottom with a fork and bake for 30 minutes.  Reduce the oven to 170°C.
  5. Add the cornflour to the lemon zest and juice.  Pour the water into a pan and bring to the boil.  Stir in the lemon-cornflour mixture over a medium heat until it has thickened.
  6. Add the sugar to the egg yolks and mix.  Add this to the lemon-cornflour-water mix in the pan and stir over a low heat until it has thickened again.  Pour this into the pastry base.
  7. Whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks.  Add the sugar spoonful by spoonful to the egg whites and continue to whip until they form stiff peaks.  Fold in the cornflour.
  8. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.  Serve warm or cold but do let it cool so that it holds its shape on cutting.  As you can see, we couldn’t wait long.

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Date Bars

I used to love these babies before I had to go gluten free.  When I found out I couldn’t eat oats anymore I thought they, and flapjacks, were lost to me forever.

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Oh how the tables have turned!  I used a combination of quinoa and millet flakes to get the oaty, crumbly effect.  They are effectively a date sandwich.  DEEEELISH.

I’ve kept them refined-sugar free as well as gluten free so they’re not too naughty.  Substitute the butter with coconut oil if you want a vegan version.

I enjoy these as a very sneaky pre-breakfast, F enjoys his with custard and their handy size and sturdiness makes them great for portable snacks (always tricky for anyone gluten free).

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Makes approx 12 squares (if using rectangular smaller tin as I did as have apparently misplaced my recommended square tin) or about 16  in an 8in square tin

Adapted from Rachel Allen’s lovely book, ‘Bake

Ingredients

250 ml water

200g pitted dates, chopped

120g rice flour

30g tapioca flour

25g cornflour

1 tsp xanthum gum

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

130ml Grade A maple syrup

60g quinoa flakes

40g millet flakes (or 100g of either, I used both for texture)

175g butter, at room temperature

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Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180° C/350° F.  Grease your tin and line the bottom with greaseproof paper or baking parchment.
  2. Put the chopped dates in a saucepan with the water and simmer until there is no separation between dates and water and it is one gloopy date goo (about 10 minutes on a medium to low heat).
  3. Meanwhile, sift the flours, xanthum gum and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl.  Add the butter, cutting it into flakes as you add it to the bowl.  Rub the butter-flakes into the flour mixture until it resembles bread crumbs.
  4. Mix in the flakes (gently so they stay flakey!) and maple syrup until it becomes a sticky dough.
  5. Press half of the dough into the bottom of the tin to form an even mattress for the dates.
  6. Spread the date goo on its bed of dough.
  7. Sprinkle the remaining dough on top (I like to leave a few bits of date goo on view for the look and texture it takes on after baking).
  8. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes until golden brown and set.
  9. IMPORTANT – let it cool down to room temperature before slicing into bars so the bars will stick.

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(Nail polish – La Paz by Mavala)

Cheeky Pub Lunch

A slice of gf lifestyle for you today.  A little pub lunch – a stolen, quick one when you know you shouldn’t really.

Major and I strolled along to the pub.  This is Major, my wonderfully loving one-eyed dog.

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I’d like to tell you that he lost it in a bare knuckled fight with a terrifying Rottweiler, however, he simply had it taken out by a kind vet.
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This is the cosy pub, and this is the lovely lady with whom I had lunch.  My mum!  She’s great!

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I ordered a gf sharing board to myself, natch.  This is a great thing to go for if you’re picky or can see a few gf things on the menu but not all in one dish.  I just spoke to the waitress who sorted it out for me, no problem!

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The roasted red peppers were delicious and the pork belly bites were glorious fat soaked bites of pork.  A little too fatty sometimes, but if you’re going for pork belly, you’ve got to accept the rough (the excess fat) with the smooth (the deliciousness, especially the crackling).

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Another star was this whipped goat’s cheese, shown here on a cute little spoon.  The side salad wasn’t my favourite though, the only thing I would have changed.

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Animal print scarf – John Lewis

Pink check scarf – Tommy Hilfiger

After a lovely catch up, Major rolled us back home.

Banana Buckwheat Pancakes

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Today is Shrove Tuesday, otherwise known as Pancake Day.

Today is your swansong- the day on which to cram as much sugar, fat and additives into yourself before a fast day tomorrow (Ash Wednesday) and Lent.  Are you giving anything up?  It doesn’t matter how strong or weak your religious leanings are, Lent is a good excuse to reevaluate diet and habits.  Has that occasional afternoon cake become a daily habit?  (Guilty.)

This fat-cramming isn’t really my style.  But pancakes, pancakes are always my style.P1070127

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This is a smooth calming and filling recipe that serves 2.  Some light stirring, some sizzling butter and some flipping and you’re there.  Enjoy!

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Ingredients

82g buckwheat flour

1 ripe banana

2 eggs

1 tbsp maple syrup (or more if you’d like)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

50ml water

50ml milk (whatever milk works for you)

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Method

  • Mash the banana with a fork.  Beat the eggs in a separate bowl.
  • Weigh out the ingredients aside from the milk and water.  Add the eggs and banana.  Mix well.
  • Mix the water and milk together.  Slowly drizzle the milk/water mix into the batter whilst whisking.
  • Sizzle a knob of butter/coconut oil in a pan until frothy.
  • Spoon 2 tbsp of batter to form little pancakes in the skillet/frying pan.
  • After 2 ish minutes, the bottom of the pancake will easily lift from pan.  Flip them over and fry for roughly 1 minute – until the other side is opaque with a circular pattern from the sizzling fat.
  • Stack on a warm plate and keep in a warm place (e.g warm not hot oven).
  • Top with your favourite toppings – I LOVE applemousse (Dutch apple-sauce) on mine, or homemade applesauce, blueberries and flaked almonds.

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