Wednesday 31 December 2008

new year's eve

New Year's Eve, chez D... Just our pace: lounging on the sofa, watching Curse of the Were-Rabbit on DVD, and playing with Photo Booth on my MacBook.

Photo 32

Photo 46

Photo 45

Photo 39

Photo 47

Photo 34

Photo 33

We're ready to welcome 2009 - as long as we don't have to venture outside into the freezing weather! Happy New Year!

Sunday 28 December 2008

winter walk

s's parents are visiting from yorkshire. we took them to putney bridge for a shorter-than-planned walk by the thames this afternoon. with the weather hovering just above 0ºC, even the hardy northerners were cold!

smile... say 'freeze'!



Saturday 27 December 2008

festive goodies



dark chocolate fudge

Thursday 25 December 2008

merry xmas!


... a few pix from our xmas walk ...



hope santa brought you something good!

Monday 22 December 2008

kitchen: painted

we painted the kitchen yesterday.

let's remind ourselves what the wall above the sink used to look like:


permanent stain from the clock. holes from screws that used to hold the spice and towel racks.

and see how much cleaner it is now:


OK, it's not dramatic but it's light and clean. we're closing in on the last part: accessorising! IKEA here we come...

Sunday 21 December 2008

xmas tree

we put up our xmas tree yesterday...



...and we're ready for santa!

Saturday 20 December 2008

DIY xmas tree card tutorial

I found these great retro-looking cards this year and they inspired me to get a little creative.


DIY: Decorate-It-Yourself!

Inside each card, I added a kit:


What you'll need:
  • Colored paper
  • Scissors
  • Gluestick
  • Hole punch
  • Embroidery thread
  • Beads
  • Craft glue
  • Safety pin
  • Colored pens

To make the tree: fold one piece of paper in half. Lightly trace your tree onto the paper. Cut it out. Erase any remaining lines.


The envelope/present containing the tree trimmings was my version of easy origami. Fold a piece of paper in half diagonally, and again in half diagonally the other way to make a square. Cut off any extra paper if necessary. Hold the paper so that it looks like a diamond. Fold two corners so that they touch in the middle. Fold the third corner up just over the mid-point. Crease it back so that it looks like an envelope. Use gluestick to glue the sides together.

Make the tree trimmings. (Brief aside: in the States, we call them ornaments. Here in the UK, they call them baubles. I decided on the country-non-specific 'trimmings'.) Punch holes in different colored paper to make circular balls. Cut a yellow star. Add others as desired: stickers, other paper cuttings. Enclose in the envelope.


The 'lights' are made with embroidery thread and colored beads.


Use a piece of embroidery thread that will be long enough to drape around your paper tree. Mine was about 10 in/25 cm long, doubled. Fold the thread in half and make a loop in the middle. Use a safety pin to secure it to something (jeans work well.) Lightly dab each end with craft glue to make them stiff. This will help you string the beads onto the thread.


String your first bead onto both sides of the thread. Tie a knot below the bead to keep it in place. Repeat. Leave about 1/2 in / 1 cm between the beads. Finish with a knot.


Assemble your kit.


Your recipient can decorate their own festive tree!


Note: I used very small parts which might not be ideal for children. You can use age-appropriate materials if you want to try this with the youngsters in your life.

Merry xmas!

Thursday 18 December 2008

kitchen: tiles

It took some time to get to this point. The tiler was supposed to come last Friday, but had car trouble. I'm glad to say that it was worth the wait - and well worth hiring a professional instead of attempting to do it ourselves!

8:57 AM

10:19 AM

1:50 PM



I'm very pleased with the details. There is no way we could have done this so well - or so fast.



Click on the photos to see bigger versions on flickr.

So far, so good! Right?

Unfortunately, this story does not have a completely happy ending...yet.


We were 9 tiles short! D'OH!

The tile shop does not have them in stock, but they can do a special (small) order for us. The tiler has offered to come back in the new year and finish the job. That works for me!


Meanwhile, I have been listening to my happy music. A few weeks ago, soozs suggested a happy CD swap and I happily joined in. I sent CDs to 5 people scattered across Australia and England. And I have been enjoying all the mail I have received in return. In fact, while writing this post, I got Melissa's CD and I can already tell I'll like it. The tilers and I were singing along to music from Dee, Dani and Wibbo. It's interesting to see what kind of music makes different people happy - I got two versions of one song (Teardrop, by Newton Faulkner and Jose Gonzalez), some Irish jigs, some mellow songs, some grunge, some Spanish guitar, Stevie Wonder, Judy Garland, The Beatles.

If you want to see what I included on my happy CD, I made an iMix: click here to open iTunes.

Thanks, Suzie, for organising the swap. I'm feeling the happiness!

Saturday 13 December 2008

veggie casserole

101 cookbooks posted this mushroom casserole recipe a few weeks ago and i decided to try it the other night.


i made enough changes that i'm not sure if it's fair to consider it the same dish. call it 'inspired by' instead. i added aubergine and courgette (eggplant and zucchini), as well as some fresh spinach. i used tofu instead of cottage cheese, and greek yogurt instead of sour cream. it tasted great - and was probably the healthiest meal i have ever made - but it wasn't very creamy. i think i might try making risotto next time instead, but keep the fresh vegetables. the mushrooms made me especially happy.

in the back of the photo, you can see our tiles. you might notice that they aren't attached to the wall yet. the tiler was supposed to come yesterday but had car trouble. we're hoping he comes as scheduled next thursday!

Sunday 30 November 2008

impromptu thanksgiving

one of the nice things about living in england is that it is relatively easy for me to find comfort food.


when i lived in japan, i missed the simplest things: bagels, macaroni and cheese, burritos, deep dish pizza. when thanksgiving rolled around, the expat community would chip in together to buy a turkey that cost around $200 to import. then there was the scramble to find an oven, which is not a standard appliance in japanese homes. normally we ended up at someone's school's home ec classroom. we had some fun thanksgivings improvising in japan, but sometimes it's nice to walk into your local supermarket, get a turkey and some cranberries, and enjoy a feast mere hours later.


i hadn't planned to do thanksgiving this year, but i had a massive turkey craving on thursday combined with a twinge of homesickness for my family. c and k came over and we had a lovely time cooking, chatting, and watching casino royale. i used the rotitherm setting on the new oven to cook the turkey - it took 2 hours for a 3.5kg turkey and it came out nicely browned and still moist.

the menu:

  • k's crudites and houmus
  • roasted turkey with rosemary, thyme and paprika
  • cranberry sauce (made with apple chunks and lemon)
  • roasted carrots, mushrooms, red and yellow peppers, baby tomatoes, red onions
  • roasted mayan gold potatoes with red onions and herbs
  • mashed maris piper potatoes with the skins on, naturally
  • c's green beans and leeks from 101cookbooks
  • sage and onion stuffing from a box
  • bisto onion gravy

very satisfying (even if i took a few shortcuts)! for dessert i made lemon cupcakes with lemon buttercream frosting. i know it's not a traditional thanksgiving dessert, but i have never liked pumpkin pie.

after dinner, c commented that she was surprised to find so many out-of-season ingredients in a recipe from 101cookbooks. the author usually makes a conscious effort to promote locally available, in-season produce. i mentioned that it was probably because, for whatever reason, many americans expect to eat green beans at thanksgiving. this prompted a discussion about traditional thanksgiving dishes. perhaps my own aversion tainted the opinion, but no one was too impressed with the concept of mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows. despite getting a 4 fork rating on epicurious, i think everyone was grateful that i did not inflict such horrors upon our table.



thanks for coming, k & c!

Thursday 27 November 2008

kitchen: the floor finished

More progress on the kitchen today.


We got the new floor! It's a nice sheet of vinyl - nothing fancy, but that was the point. Since the kitchen is so small, we wanted to keep it as bright and big as possible. We ruled out vinyl that looked like stone, wood or tiles - why not just use the real thing? - and went for something easy to clean. It's nondescript, but in a good way.


Those with eagle eyes may also have noticed that we got a new dishwasher. Our old dishwasher stopped working after our cycling trip (unrelated to the kitchen remodel - just a coincidence.) We held out as long as we could, but it became more and more evident that it was not going to fix itself. Ah, dishwasher, how we have missed you...

Speaking of missing things (sniff!) I got nostalgic and homesick for Thanksgiving today. I miss my family in California. Boo. It was nice to see them on the webcam - hurray, technology! - but I decided that being surrounded by friends and food was what I needed.


So I sent out an email and bought a turkey on my way home from work. We'll have our feast on Saturday. Gobble gobble!

Tuesday 18 November 2008



How great was it to see palm trees and blue sky in November? It was certainly a welcome change from the windy, rainy weather we have been having in London.


True to form, we abandoned the kitchen over the weekend in favor of exploring sunny Lisbon. Neither of us had been to Portugal before, so that was an attraction in itself. I was also excited about being able to use my British passport to go through the EU queue on my own merit. We both took Friday off work to maximize our time there, and it was nice not to feel so rushed.

Themes for the weekend could roughly be fit into three categories: sight-seeing, food, and interesting modes of transportation (not necessarily in that order). We started with lunch at a tapas bar. Immediately we realized our mistake: Portuguese cuisine is heavy on seafood and eggs, two of the only things S cannot eat. I enjoyed the potato tortilla and ham in eggs, but S was a bit disappointed. Hopefully the view from the top of Santa Justa softened the blow.

Elevador de Santa Justa


The elevator (sorry: lift) connects the lower Baixa area to the upper Chiado area and offers a panoramic view of the city. It is hard not to admire the craftsmanship and ingenuity that went into it.


Riding back to the bottom, we continued our stroll down Rua Áurea to see the water. Lisbon is often compared to San Francisco, and a peek at the Portuguese version of the Golden Gate Bridge made it easy to see why.

25 de Abril Bridge, with statue of Cristo Rei visible to the left


We finished our first day at Ribadouro, on the swanky Avenida da Liberdade.


One of these langoustines would have set us back well over €100, but S opted for a steak instead. I asked about the prawns "brás style" and was told it was "shreemps, with sheeps and eggs." I was unsure about the "sheeps" so I asked "lamb?" and he said, "yes, sheeps." Whatever. It all sounded fine (if a bit weird) to me. I was relieved and surprised to find my prawns baked in an eggy potato fritter - sheeps, you know: chips. Our table was in between a group of nosy, yet friendly, Japanese tourists who were surprised when I told them (in Japanese) what we were eating and asked how they were enjoying their fresh seafood, and the grumpiest Spanish couple I have ever seen. Neither of them smiled once. The man kept sending everything back (poor live lobsters being shuttled in and out of the water at his whim!) and I don't believe the woman spoke at all. We enjoyed our meal, and S discovered a dark beer that he quite liked.


Café culture in Baixa-Chiado

More food on Saturday morning.

Assorted pastries, with our first pastel de nata in the middle



After breakfast, we took the 15E tram to Belém. We saw all the major attractions.

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos

Padrão dos Descobrimentos


Torre de Belém


And of course the famous Antiga Confeitaria de Belem, the only place in the world where the pastéis de nata can be called pastéis de belém.


What the guidebooks don't tell you is that the restaurant is massive. Maybe the Dr. Who creators had visited a few places in Lisbon when they designed the TARDIS - bigger on the inside than the outside? We got a table inside one of the many cafeteria-style rooms, but there was a queue building as we sat there. Amazing.


Back in town, S taught me how to take photos like this on my camera.

Praça Marquês de Pombal

Then we took the Elevador da Glória funicular to Bairro Alto.


Moon over Lisbon

Dinner at Cervejaria Trindade

S's veal kebabs

Similar to my shreemps with sheeps; but with mashed bread instead of potatoes


A final note on food: we stumbled upon the funniest cake in Pastelaria Suiça. So funny that it deserves its own blog entry.

It was a very pleasant weekend and I'm glad we got away!