Monday, 26 November 2012

Fire in the house

The wood burner is operational! 

Isn't it just beautiful.

Belinda Stepford

Friday, 23 November 2012

House Progress

Since I last wrote about the renovation things have been steaming along at full speed. Seriously its beginning to actually look like a house rather a building site. The house has been a flurry on workmen coming in and out.  The Kitchen is nearly done and so is the Bathroom they just need finishing touches like grouting and flooring before they are ready to be finished.

The Cul-de-sac has been filled with skips and vans as a house across the way is also being renovated so we must be driving the neighbours up the wall. 

The walls have been insulated this week, by a man doing slight acrobatics with a wall injector, and the loft will be done at some point next week, then laid so we can use the loft as storage.

Despite all the progress there is still a long way to go, the wood burner isn't in, light fixtures, decorating, flooring, finishing touches and dressing still needs to be done. It is so exciting to bring this house back to life, it has metamorphosed from the 1970's atrocity into a modern family home. Its sort of boggling to be doing a modern project after living in period properties always so its been a very different build from anything any of us have done before. Thats both exciting and nerve racking.  

Belinda Stepford

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Full Steam Ahead

There has been a sudden flurry of business at the house, over the course of this week there have been endless streams of people in and out. Fitting and finishing work. We officially have a bathroom that actually works, rather than a shell with holes in the floor. All the major jobs are now done. Which is a load of our minds.

The wood burner has also gone in, and it looks beautiful. A home is not a home without a fireplace. Now we can start burning things so that the fabric of the house is warmed. We are so close to the house being finished. It is all so exciting.

Its a little hard to believe that a few months ago this house was a greasy, filthy smelly 70's monstrosity and now its been stripped back and reborn. This is what I love about interior design. 

Belinda Stepford

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Looking forward

There are two things you really look forward to at University one is food shopping. Lack of funds and having to make everything yourself means that food shopping becomes this little deacon of hope. Where you get to wonder around the shops salivating over things you can't afford and treating yourselves to the things you can. Maybe shopping for food looses its lustre as you get older but for now its one of the best things in life. Nothing is more satisfying than a full fridge.

The second thing is holidays, the christmas season is almost upon us and and I am already really excited to be heading home. I can't wait to squeeze my puppies. I can't wait to see my friends from back home and most of all I can't wait to eat my parents out of house and home on christmas food. So I have started to get in the spirt and started looking for presents. Christmas is awesome and I'm going to revel in it for as long as I can.

Belinda Stepford

Friday, 16 November 2012

An update on all things

This blog has been slightly dead since august, how sad, I seriously keep meaning to write in it but I've been swamped. That being said this is my 100th post!  University work is in full swing and added to that Student Finance England the utter horrors are being evil to me yet again. Now they have decided that I am only eligible for the bare minimum of funding (not true) and are messing me about "reassessing me" yet again. Its as though everything that can go wrong has gone wrong with them. So I've been on even less funds that last year, if thats possible. I even caved and had my mother buy me a food shop, something I didn't do in first year even though I stock piled in preparation for not having money. I would sincerely like to kick the shins of who ever is in charge of student finance. They belong in the very dankest pits of hell. Anyway, rant over. There has been other more interesting news than my money woes. The house is nearing completion! Work has obviously been slower now my sister and I are back at uni and with my parents both working the build speed has slowed down but some awesome progress has been made. Despite some minor mishaps with feet going through floors and metal beams needing to be put into secure up the utility before it fell down throwing the budget slightly its going okay. The huge Sycamore tree has been cut down in the garden, we've kept some of the wood for the new wood burner.

The kitchen is almost complete it just need the light to go in, to be painted and for the floors to go down. It looks absolutely lovely though, the cooker is a super cute old fashioned looking thing that I'm a little in love with. Even though we couldn't get the little half moon handles we wanted the ones we got aren't a bad replacement and look really sweet. I think my dad and I did a pretty decent job on picking the work tops too.

All the rooms have been lined with paper and the carpets are getting measured sometime this week so progress is ticking on. The bathroom still isn't in even though its supposed to have been done weeks ago. Builders don't half like to drag things out. Parents have also been maniacally sorting out our current house getting ready to rent it out as soon as possible after the move so haven't had time to constantly chase around after slacking workmen.

Thats all really. I've got some plans for future posts so fear not I refuse to become one of those bloggers who posts once in a blue moon complaining they don't post enough, I'm out of the habit but I'm getting back into it I have big ideas for this little site even if it is only really for me.

Belinda Stepford

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Super Salmon Toastie

I had an amazing toastie today, So I thought I'd share. I had to use up the left over peppered salmon and I didn't really want to use it for my main meal, but when I came home from gym I was craving protein but didn't want a huge effort to cook so I used my noodle and came up with this. 

2 slices of whole grain bread
Salmon slices

Laura my housemates family visited recently and her dad brought some of his amazing home made bread. I'm still working on getting the bread thing down so I won't do any recipes just yet.  

To the bread slices I added the salmon after tearing it up into rough little chunks.

Then I sliced the mozzarella, pretty thickly I'll be honest but I do love mozzarella.

Then I covered it in spinach leaves and slapped it into the toastie maker until the cheese started to fizzle. The toastie machine is a students godsend, its just awesome, I guess I could use the grill but who wants the hassle. 

Super quick, totally tasty, 100% awesome.

Belinda Stepford

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

In which I run away with a recipe

I found this recipe quite a while ago and saved it. I kept meaning to try it so finally decided to do it this week, a slight problem of I couldn't remember what it was supposed to look like reared its head so I slightly made it up as I went. 

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled
4 shallots, thickly sliced lengthwise
Coarse salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes (optional)
8 sprigs thyme
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, combine butter and oil. Brush bottom of a round 9-inch baking dish with some butter mixture. With a sharp knife, slice potatoes very thinly.
2. Arrange potato slices vertically in dish. Wedge shallots throughout. Sprinkle with salt and red-pepper flakes (if using); brush with remaining butter mixture. Bake 1 1/4 hours. Add thyme and bake until potatoes are cooked through with a crisp top, about 35 minutes more.

Seems simple enough, I was missing the pepper flakes and the thyme but I substituted the Pepper for paprika as I know they're made out of red pepper, no red pepper corns as I think this recipe intended but oh well. 

The first bit went well I preheated the oven to 275 instead of 375 as that seemed far too high to be right. Then I added the olive oil to the bowl, then realised I was supposed to add melted butter so just threw in the butter and slapped it in the microwave for twenty seconds on high.

I brushed the pan neatly. I wasn't too optimistic the butter oil mix did not look appetising. 

Now cutting the potatoes was my biggest mistake, I started cutting them thinly then remembered this recipe was for hasselback potatoes. I then failed to slice them slice thinly across the top. as though the potatoes where supposed to be crisps but hadn't been cut all the way through.  I laid out my sliced potatoes on the tray so they didn't go to waste. 

I then attempted to slice the shallots and wedge them in the potatoes, the problem I faced is there was no room to accommodate the shallots so I ended up breaking bits of the patatoe and throwing shallots everywhere. I gave up and just diced and sprinkled the entire pan with them. Then I sprinkled with salt and paprika, even I can't manage to mess that up. 

Then I doused them in the left over butter mix. They didn't exactly look the most beautiful thing in the world.

Then I baked them for an hour when I noticed they had begun to burn at the edges so I rescued them and served them with peppered salmon and spinach with herring pickle over. After all that they actually tasted amazing and looked really appetising so I think I'll try this recipe again.

Belinda Stepford

Saturday, 10 November 2012

20 Years Old

Tomorrow I'll be 20, and I don't feel ready for it. I've always been one of those people who becomes super excited for their birthday but this year I'm not looking forward to it. I didn't celebrate my 19th because I was so sick last November and now I'm about to be 20 it seems crazy. I'm the kind of person who would rather be watching cartoons and climbing trees than doing grown up stuff.  I can't help but feel like I'm out of place not being a child, does everyone feel like that? 

Belinda Stepford

Friday, 9 November 2012

Cafe Direct Coffee Sample

I had a sample of Cafe Direct Coffee arrive today, so I thought I'd share my findings with you. I had pretty high expectations of this coffee, the packaging looked slick, the ethical credentials where there (even the pamphlet the sample came with was sustainably sourced) and when I opened the packet the smell was divine. The Blend they sent me was their full roast strong coffee, supposedly "velvety, rounded and full bodied".

 I unfortunately found it dull, and slightly forgettable. I use my cafetiere as a treat, a ten minute break between essay writing, I stop and just make my coffee. I drink in the smell and the action of plunging my French press. Its the little things that enrich my day. This sample left me utterly cold, with a tiny splash of warm milk it became washed out and uninviting.

My current coffee is Lyons Rich Evening Blend and it is lovely, and I can't ever see me swapping it for a Cafe Direct Coffee now after this disappointment.

Belinda Stepford

Monday, 5 November 2012

Angel had surgery

Little squiff Angel hasn't been to happy lately, with my sister and I back at University she hasn't been getting quite as much fuss as she is used too. Especially now my Mim has started training Blossom to Stack (the way show dogs stand) recently. Until about a week ago when my parents took her to the vet to get spayed. She was fine in surgery and charmed all the vets with her cute little eyes.

She wasn't too please though with her cone, dachshunds are definitely the wrong shape to wear cones. Every time she tried to eat or drink she ended up scooping food up and throwing it everywhere, so my Mim had to hand feed her and let her drink out of mugs. Which definitely made her feel like the centre of attention, her favourite trick was to stand on my mim while she was sat down and stick her coned face right into my Mim so all she could see was Angel and cone.

She also had to sleep in the cage to stop the others going after her stitches which she didn't like one bit. She has definitely discovered her howl. For such a tiny dog she can howl the house down when she wants too. Our neighbours must really hate us, but it doesn't matter on one side we have a really weird guy who is very rude and on the other side we have a young noise couple.

Belinda Stepford

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Cooking with Russia

Last year I bought a Russian cook book, then promptly looked over the recipes salivating in anticipation... Then realised I had none of the ingredients and zero capital to buy new ones. So then left it gather dust.  Until now...  and even then I didn't really follow the recipe.

Original Recipe for White Cabbage with Cream
1 head of perfect white cabbage                        1 1/2 cups sweet cream
2 tablespoons butter                                           White Pepper
1 tablespoon flour                                              Salt

Cook the head of cabbage whole in salted water until almost ready. Drain. Cut into serving portions. Combine butter, white pepper and salt. Mix flour with cream and add to the butter. Add cabbage and cook slowly until the cabbage is completely done. Serves four.

My Recipe
1 Serving Red Cabbage sliced                            2 tablespoons Greek Yogurt
2 teaspoons Flora                                              Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon flour                                                Salt

Cook the cabbage in boiled water with salt until slightly under done. I like mine slightly crunchy so I only boiled it for about three minutes. Then plunged it into cold water.  Then I drained the cabbage and put it on my plate to rest.

I then, in the pan I cooked the cabbage, melted the butter and added in a decent amount of black pepper. I chose to leave out the salt because I'd cooked the cabbage in salt already.

Then I added the Greek Yogurt to the pan and the flour. Once mixed up I've got to admit that it didn't look too promising. The cabbage smell and the strange milky thick mess that was unfolding before me.

Then I added cabbage and cooked until the sauce no longer had a slight flour taste and it was a more pleasing texture.

I then served it with pickled herring that I got from Tesco, which are served with gherkins and sliced onions. They taste great and have a lovely texture. They also are definitely fitting for a Russian menu as herrings are a staple food in Russia.   Then because the plates at our University house are so large and the fair sized meal looked so tiny on them I added a heap of spinach.

It was absolutely delicious, I imagine it would be better with Cream not Greek Yogurt and Butter not Flora. That being said I finished everything on my plate. Russian cooking is definitely something I'm going to keep trying. 

Belinda Stepford

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Five things I wish didn't exist

Number one:
 Sweat pants, now I know they are comfy for lazing about the house and they are suitable for the gym but that does not change the fact that people seem to think that they are an item of normal clothing. Sweatpants are a affront to taste, they have elasticated waists and make people think  you're sweaty. In all honesty sweat pants are closer to pajamas than too clothing. As Dita Von Teese Said on the subject of sweatpants. When asked if she'd ever wear a pair, "Why would I do that? Who wants to purposefully feel crappy?" Boys in sweat pants is one of my greatest pet hates, they look like tools.

Number Two:
Fake tan. The smell, the streaks, the orange; There are no redeeming features to the slop. Pale is beautiful and so is natural tan but faking your skin shows your just not comfortable in it. Some boys wear it now too... how masculine. Make up, plucking and primping is just making a person the best that they can be but tan tie dye is a step to far.

Number Three: 
Fast Food chains. Fast food is bad enough as it is, being high is salt and fat and nasties. My objection to chains is they are so far detached from the person in charge that the standards slip. A family who own a pizzaria are going to put love and care into their food as good sales are there livelihood but a global chain where the staff are on a minimum wage stop gap aren't going to care if there products aren't that good. Cheap food is not the answer, Good food is.

Number Four:
Glass Tables. I've yet to see one that isn't an abomination to taste, they are a health risk and they are impractical. A beautiful wooden table is indefinitely more practical and more aesthetically pleasing in all cases.  They serve no purpose but the signal you out as tasteless. 

Number Five:
Jeans. No one looks as good in jeans as they think they do. They make skinny girls look fatter and curvy girls look like sausages. They ride down or up showing kidney or weird bit of ankle. They are unflattering and dull. They are lazy fashion for people who don't care enough about what they look like to put consideration into their outfits. Then forty something old men wear them and attempt to look hip and young. Just no. 

Belinda Stepford