The Evolution Of A Living Space


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One thing I’ve noticed in my rather limited experience of visiting men’s houses, is that they take an overall much more minimal approach to decorating than women do (or at least my friends and I!). Looking around now my home is stuffed full of interiors ‘stuff': magazines, flowers, lamps, cushions, pictures…. some bloke’s houses look barely moved in to.

Some – not all, however. I’ve been in the house of one man that rivalled my own for how clean, tidy and shiny it was. There literally aren’t many things that impress me in life more than a man with a well-decorated, tidy and thoroughly DIY-ed home.

Simple things.

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Alvine Ruta rug – £150, IKEA

For me my house is an evolving beast. It changes with the seasons, according on my mood and current lifestyle. I’ve been working a lot lately so the focus has been on low-maintenance; stripping out as much of the clutter as possible and having somewhere cosy and clean to come home to at the end of the day. When the kids were younger I preferred brighter colours and more playful patterns. I love it – I could potter around tweaking my house for days.

What am I saying? I DO potter around tweaking my house for days.

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I’ve recently been going at the living room. My house has an L-shaped downstairs and just before I moved in the wall between the kitchen and dining space was knocked through to create an open-plan space. You walk into my hallway then into the lounge, which leads to the dining area and the kitchen, where my workspace is. Open plan-induced noise aside this works really well for us; I like being able to keep an eye on the kiddos while I’m cooking dinner or cleaning up and even though the space isn’t huge we don’t need a palace right now. All those toilets to clean… no thank-you.

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Stockholm cushion – £12 IKEA. Ludde sheepskin -£30 IKEA. Tray and side table… guess where? IKEA. 

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Because of this set-up I like to define the different areas; I have a rug for the lounge area, one for the dining spot and another that leads into the kitchen. I feel like this helps differentiate the different purposes these spaces give.

Recently I’ve had a bit of an overhaul of my accessories in the living space and kitchen (you can see how it looked previously here, and when we first moved in here). This might not SOUND like much (er, if you’re a bloke maybe) but I’m telling you, the difference is huge. Even fellow accessories lover Bryony noticed it when she came over last week.

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Blanket, IKEA. DIY’d eBay table. 

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Cecily floor lamp, £90 c/o BHS. 

Looking around there’s still loads more I want to do. I want to work out how to create a larger work space somewhere in the house (but would rather not have this in my bedroom) as it currently doubles as my booze storage area/countertop next to the fridge. The big iMac really only gets used for recipe research and music listening so maybe this even needs to go? (shock horror – not my old baby!)

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Fruit bowl, £15 Ben de Lisi at Debenhams

I also want to pare down my belongings a bit. Even looking at these pictures it’s quite surprising how ‘busy’ the room looks with my bits and pieces – do I need the random pictures I bought on eBay? Should I be keeping my teapot and butter dish in the cupboard? Is there really such a thing as too many cushions? How do I stop my house being over-run by toys?

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For me, a home is more than just a few rooms stuck together by cement; it’s a living, breathing and evolving environment. Can you feel yours changing as you do?

Stories of Dishwashing, Garlic and Ginger Chicken and WIN a Whirlpool PowerDry!

Whirlpool PowerDry

Before Elfie and Hux came along I didn’t have a dishwasher. In the series of small London flats I lived in there didn’t seem the need – or space – for such a large piece of kitchen equipment. But having moved to the big city from a house up north with plenty of space for the godliest of appliances it was a really big adjustment. Cooking roasts, washing dirty dishes, saucepans and all those plates and bowls becomes that much harder when you know you need to do the cleanup by hand.

And so when I moved into my little house I made it a priority to shoe-horn a dishwasher into my kitchen in any way possible. I didn’t have a big budget at the time so scored lucky with an £80 secondhand dishwasher from eBay which served me well, though I never did like that it was white when its next door neighbour the washing machine was silver… what problems, eh?!

IMG_9585 This dishwasher, it became a part of my family, churning away every evening after dinner. I am a lazy washer upper though: saucepans would emerge with leftover bits of scrambled egg or porridge on the bottom of them but I’d just chuck them in for a second or third cycle. Anything better than washing up by hand!

So when Whirlpool got in touch recently to see if I’d be interested in test-driving their new PowerDry dishwasher I nearly took their hands off in anticipation. IT IS CHROME, YOU GUYS. My old dishwasher was dispatched for another family to love and the new one arrived to much fanfare. Just see how GOOD it looks!

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Now, this is not just an ordinary dishwasher as we know it. This one has a 1 hour PowerDry cycle that promises to get your load sparkling clean and DRY within 60 minutes. It’s magical – no big cloud of steam, no dripping wet bowls. It’s amazing!

Whirlpool wanted me to create a filling family meal that could be cooked and served in this short time and so we thought – let’s have some fun here! And so we loaded up the dishwasher and raced it to the finish line an hour later.

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As the weather has become cooler my cooking has become warmer, more filling. This Ginger and Garlic Chicken recipe is so simple to whip up but really will comfort you from the inside out. One tip – don’t miss out the crunchy onions! They really take this dish to another level.

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Garlic and Ginger Chicken with Noodles
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 4 nests egg noodles
  • 1 lime
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small knob ginger
  • 2 tbs sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1tbsp soy sauce
  • Large handful fine green beans
  • 1 small sliced red onion
  • 1tbsp plain flour
Instructions
  1. Start by chopping the chicken into bite-size pieces and popping in a bowl with your garlic and ginger (minced), soy sauce, honey and rice vinegar.
  2. Put the bowl in the fridge and boil a pan of boiling water ready for the noodles.
  3. Squeeze your lime into a bowl and add your sweet chilli and fish sauce and put to one side.
  4. Slice your red onion and mix with the plain flour. Heat a splash of oil in a frying pan and fry in a couple of batches until golden and crispy. Leave to drain on a slice of kitchen paper.
  5. Wipe the frying pan clean and fry your chicken until cooked through. Top and tail your fine green beans and add a couple of minutes before the chicken is ready.
  6. Meanwhile cook the noodles for around four minutes and drain, leaving a couple of tablespoons of cooking water.
  7. Put the noodles and water in the pan with the chicken and cook off on medium for a couple of minutes. Add the sweet and sour lime juice mixture and toss well.
  8. Top with finely chopped spring onion (optional) and the crispy onions.

And as for the timings? We finished cooking while the dishwasher had 19 minutes to go!

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 What I love about this dishwasher:

– It’s so quiet. I never noticed what a racket my old dishwasher made until this one came. You can’t hear a thing on the normal cycle though there is an ‘extra silent’ setting (which I haven’t felt the need to use).

– This dishwasher has ‘6th Sense’ technology which detects how dirty your plates are and adjusts how much water is used accordingly.

– It cleans really really well. No need for putting your pans through on a second cycle.

– I love the fact the front panel LED counts down to let you know how long is left.

– You won’t get a faceful of steam thanks to the 3D Airflow System which drains the excess moisture away.

– It looks good. CHROME.

– It fits one and a half loads of my old dishwasher in one go.

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What I don’t love about the dishwasher:

– My wine glasses are too big for it. But you can fit a whole bottle of wine in one so they’re probably too big for me too.

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What Hux likes about the new dishwasher: 

EVERYTHING.

How to win a PowerDry Dishwasher from Whirlpool:

All you need to do to enter is tweet a photo of a dish that you’ve prepared with the hasthtag #PowerDryDining. Take a look at my Chinese chicken dish here, or tonights pasta and burrata extravaganza. All terms and conditions can be found over here.

Huge thank-yous go to Whirlpool for sending the dishwasher and the treat of a lovely JosephJoseph nest. 

Our New House: The Kitchen

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So last week, I lied to you. Just a little. I told you that my new lounge was one of my favourite rooms in the house when actually I think the kitchen is.

It’s the room that I spend the most time in and is a completely different place compared with the old one. The area to cook in is about a third of the size, but rather than this being at all pokey or annoying it just means that everything is within arm’s reach. It’s perfect.

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There are a few things I’ve changed in here: replaced the blind and made a floral curtain over the ugly boiler (when I say ‘I’ made the curtain I mean I chose the fabric, measured the boiler then asked my Mother-in-Law to do it).

The Pantry

One of the best things about this kitchen is the MOTHERTRUCKING PANTRY! I’ve been lucky enough to live in a couple of houses with pantries before, and really is there anything else a middle-class country dweller craves more than a pantry in her kitchen? I think not. Ours looks a little bare as so much of our glassware lives in the garage (which is off the kitchen) so we are able to keep it to the bare essentials: breadmaker, mini magimix, veg, recycling bin, dried herbs and spices, ceareals… that sort of thing. I love it, duh.

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I think this is my favourite piece of art in the whole house, in my favourite frame. The art was from Etsy (no longer available) and the frame was a chazza shop special… the best kind of serendipitous decoration I real. It’s my sense of humour all over.

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When we moved into this house there was a washing machine where the dishwasher lives and we were told that a) white goods were included and b) there was plumbing for a washing machine in the garage. On moving-in day there was a gaping big hole in the kitchen where the washing machine used to be and no plumbing in the garage. I was shamefully a bit distraught: I felt that life without a dishwasher would be pretty bloody hard (first world problems, I know). Luckily my very clever dad plumbed my washing machine into the garage – being reunited with my beloved washing machine after 2 years was WONDERFUL – and I found a year-old dishwasher (with 3 years left on it’s John Lewis guarantee!) on eBay for 70 quid. Will bought it for me for Christmas and order was once again restored.

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This is where we eat. I love to cook our dinner as I watch the littlies tuck into whichever organic delight I’ve cooked up for them and this table is just big enough for family meals. It was another eBay bargain and is awaiting a lick of Annie Sloan chalk paint once the weather’s a big brighter and we can take it outside.

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This pot comes from my local garden centre: it was love at first sight.

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More Charity Shop bargains – my decanters and royal mug which is full of Crayola pens – and the unit that used to house cookbooks but is now the home of toys and plenty of the ‘That’s Not My…’ series.

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Because the sight of the pantry door was boring me to tears I thought I’d plaster it in family pictures. It’s such a lovely thing to stand and look at over your morning cup of tea, so many happy memories. Giving it a cursory glance I can see my Grandma (the original Elfreda), Will and I in NYC, Malaysia and Greece, my in-laws in Tunisia, my dad and I when I was Elfie’s age, gorgeous Aly McLoughlin-Harte (Bryony you’re on there somewhere too!), my BFF just as she got engaged and both Elfie and Hux in utero. I love photo doors, or walls, whatever. Memories ?

Our fridge is home to lots of letter magnets which are regularly abused to spell out rude words. And this is how I found out my husband can’t spell ‘Chlamydia’ properly :)

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Last but not least is the windowsill. An ever-rotating display of flowers, herbs and candles, the flower du jour being daffs which are all over the place at the moment (and these ones smell DIVINE).

I love my kitchen.

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A Fairy Light Update In The Kitchen

Although I love our kitchen the way it is now, I wanted to cutesy and warm it up a little bit. I’d seen Jen use some lovely fairy lights to decorate her kitchen shelves via her Instagram feed (I think from IKEA also) and thought they looked lovely, so filed the idea away in my mental ‘to do’ file. As soon as the shelves were up I was on the hunt for some fairy lights and found them again in IKEA; they’re diamond shaped so a little bit unusual and I love them. They really bring a little homely something to that spot in the kitchen, and Elfie loves them because she’s a total light fiend. The weirdo.

 

Interiors: The Kitchen

We all know that moving house is a pretty soul-destroying experience and as someone who can’t function properly unless her home is clean, clutter free and organized, for me it is a living hell. I hate not having my belongings in their places and boxes… urgh, don’t get me started on how unsightly millions of cardboard boxes are. I truly can’t bear to have them round the house longer than necessary. My name is Alice and I am a massive control freak.

So in our house the unpacking gets done pretty swiftly: in a week, if not sooner. And this time around I had the bonus of my mum looking after Elfie for the day and my mother-in-law working on the kitchen. She brilliantly unpacked everything in a wonderfully organized fashion that I honestly could not have done better myself. This made the process of cramming the contents of our old kitchen (including walk-in pantry) and utility room into about three quarters of the space so much easier for me.

This is by no means my dream kitchen, and in the hour I was alone in the house waiting for the removal men to deliver our belongings I was a bit concerned. The floors were cold, the walls were bare, the wood was dark and the worktops were green – so completely different to our old house. There were no shelves or cupboards above worktop level and it seemed like a very functional and cold room. Here’s a couple of before shots:

See? Positively chilly.

We knew on taking the house that we’d need an additional table as our long existing one was to go in the new dining room (which you can see through the arch). A couple of days on eBay later and we found the perfect round table for the new space, solid wood, four chairs and located in Bedfordshire, only 20 minutes away from us. The table and chairs will go through a facelift in due course: they will be rubbed down and painted white, aside from the table top which will be left and sealed, kind of like this.

The first shelf we (I use the ‘royal we’ here as I have never put a shelf up in my life) put up was between the two windows on the sink side of the room. I’ve chosen to store here a couple of my nicer Le Creuset dishes and saucepans, my pasta in kilner jars and a lovely jar of mustard that I picked up in Paris. I’ve used hooks to display some of my royal mugs (I love my royal mugs, no lie, my favourite is one that says ‘I am a royal mug’ with a photo of Kate Middleton’s face) and some of my most-used utensils. A smaller shelf extends off the larger one – good old Grundtal – and we store Elfie’s medicines here so they are easy to lay your hands on at 7am or the middle of the night.

I originally bought one more Grundtal shelf to go on this wall but we decided against it in the end to save on a bit of clutter. Instead I hung a couple of pieces of art, this food poster by What Katie Does is on the left and the Chronic Bitchface print by Kris Atomic on the right. I keep my cooking utensils in a jug that has been passed down to us from my mother-in-law (my husband says that every times he glances at it he thinks of his Sunday lunches at home) and I like to decant my olive oil into a fancy glass bottle.

This side of the kitchen is the most functional of all: breadmaking, laundry bits, microwave, blah blah blah. I keep all my bread ingredients in a large white box on the windowsill so they’re easy to get to every day (and now that my belly’s getting to big to allow easy squatting to cupboards).

The second lot of shelves we’ve put up are here; this wall was so terribly bare before and with no inbuilt above worktop storage we really thought we’d need the extra space. I’m still not sure which way I’m going to go with these, I think our white china would look lovely stored here but it’s really convenient to have it so close to the dishwasher at the moment.

Then I take a step back and realise that I’m 30 weeks pregnant and really, does it matter which china is displayed on my open shelves at this point in time? I’ll get to it later.

All the vases, candles and nicknacks used to be stored in our utility room and the shields (I think from one of the World Wars) were inherited from Will’s grandfather. I have my beloved Le Creuset teapot on display alongside my little collection of jugs and the ‘Elfie the Littlest Elf’ record that I found on eBay and framed.

So that’s it: the unpacked kitchen. Despite my initial misgivings I have to say it’s the most low-maintenance kitchen we’ve ever had (I loved my range cooker at the old place but bloody hell did it take some cleaning) and this wins over looks every time. We gather so much more as a family around the new table – Will on his laptop, Elfie drawing, me cooking – and from that point of view it’s a very sociable room. You can’t quite see the rug under the table which is the biggest pain of arse of all with a toddler but I’ve solved this buy purchasing a hand-held vacuum cleaner and trying not to get too worked up about a few crumbs – I think it’s a necessary evil to break up the tile floor in here. It’s not my Mr Right kitchen, but as a Mr Right Now it does a pretty good job.