Tuesday, 14 October 2014

One man's trash is another man's treasure

With Building Regulations regularly being updated, it is getting more and more important to reduce waste on your building project.  I was fascinated to watch Grand Designs last week when the programme followed a Code 6 home build that required there to be virtually no building waste on site (as well as a raft of other stringent sustainability requirements).  This led to careful ordering of building materials and reuse where possible. Interestingly, however, building to this standard meant that the owner was permitted to build her home in a woodland setting outside the village planning boundary. Proper industry training from companies like Ableskills.co.uk will ensure that our future construction specialists will become more aware of the need to reduce waste which has to be good for the environment.

In the meantime though, on the majority of building projects there is waste and excess to some degree. We recently had a small extension built and were left with about 20 bricks over. Some of these have been put to good use in the chicken pen to keep their water bowl off the ground, and others are holding down the tarpaulin that is over the wood pile cut this year.  But I got to thinking how could I use them in the house.

My first moment of inspiration was when I realised that the holes in the bricks must be just the right size for tealights.  Luckily, the bricks were clean so I just gave them a good brush off and sealed them with a couple of layers of matt varnish.  I love the natural colour and surface, but you could also decorate them with paint, or even decoupage to really personalise them.  To fill the holes so the tealights don't drop through I used a little expanding foam.

We have lots of books dotted around the house, and they are always toppling over on the shelf, so my second idea was to make bookends from the bricks. I painted the bricks with acrylic paint in bright colours and then added some witty titles using an indelible marker.  Voila, no more wonky books!

I love recycling and upcycling so now have my thinking cap on for uses for some leftover rooftiles - watch this space  :)

Sunday, 12 October 2014

What's my favourite movie soundtrack?

I have what some might term as an "eclectic" mix of all-time favourite films, including Gone With The Wind, The Usual Suspects, Toy Story 2 and Grease, but right up there at the top of the list is Top Gun and this is almost certainly down to the brilliant soundtrack.  I remember going to see the film at the cinema when it first came out with some mates just after I left college and being awestruck with the amazing flying which was accompanied by an awesome, all engrossing soundtrack.  And I promise it had nothing to do with Tom Cruise!

From beginning to end,  Harold Faltermeyer's wonderfully evocative "Top Gun Anthem" makes you sit to attention and instantly brings back memories of being on the edge of my seat in that cinema watching the film.  Kenny Loggins' fantastic rock track "Dangerzone" reminds me of the excitement of the flying - I remember feeling like I was actually in the plane with those guys as the roar of the jet engines soared around the theatre.  The same can be said for Larry Greene's "Through The Fire" - heart in mouth stuff as the F-14s zipped around the sky. Faltermeyer's haunting "Goodbye Goose" still brings a lump to my throat today the memory of that moment in the movie is that strong.

On a lighter note, I adore the 60s tracks used in the film.  The very funny scenes with "You've lost that loving feeling" with Maverick being horrified the next day when he discovers his quarry was to be his teacher Charlie Blackwood, and "Great Balls of Fire" when Maverick and Goose are playing the piano together at the diner. They still bring a smile to my face.  :)

And who could fail to love Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" from the seduction scenes, maybe a bit cheesy, but SO much of the time, and every time I hear it, even today, I am reminded of the film.

In fact, writing this has made me decide to get my DVD out of the box and sit back on the sofa with a glass of wine, a bowl of popcorn (and a box of tissues for that "Goose" moment) this evening for another viewing.  Now I just need the Bose Cinemate 15 Sound Bar whose Acoustimass subwoofer with its powerful bass will recreate my cinematic experience from all those years ago......

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Potato and Chorizo Stacks

I've just come back from a holiday to Northern Spain and am overloaded with delicious chorizo so was thinking of new ways to serve it when I came up with this idea using fluffy Maris Piper potatoes which really soak up the flavour of the chorizo - enjoy!

Potato & Chorizo Stacks

2-3 Maris Piper potatoes, peeled, cubed and boiled till just soft, then drained
1 small red onion, chopped small
1/2 a chorizo sausage, cubed
1 egg, beaten 
handful of parsley, finely chopped

Fry the onion and chorizo cubes together until the onion is soft and the chorizo has begun to yield its oil
Carefully stir the onion and chorizo into the cooked cubed potatoes in a bowl, then mix in the beaten egg and parsley.  Season to taste.
Grease cooking rings and heat a non-stick frying pan with a little oil.
Spoon the mixture into the cooking rings and push down gently.  Cook until the bottom is golden, then carefully turn over and cook the top till golden.

Perfect Raciones!  

What Lies Beneath

When you're on a cruise ship, do you ever consider what lies beneath your ship's keel?  I thought not.  The size and stability of these amazing ocean-going "resort hotels" almost makes us forget that we are, in fact, travelling over the habitats of multitudes of creatures who happen to reside in our oceans.

This photograph was taken by me at Shaab Sataya in the Red Sea.  It is a remote location at the southern end of Fury Shoal (a cruise ship hazard!).  The horseshoe shaped reef is a natural habitat for dolphins who come here overnight to rest. I was privileged enough to be there very early one morning as the pod came together ready to go out hunting.  I was snorkelling whilst taking this photo rather than scuba diving and, whilst the dolphins effortlessly moved through the water, I was swimming at full strength just trying to keep up, and often failing.  Luckily, dolphins are very inquisitive and they kept coming back to see what this strange human was up to.

So, remember next time you are sipping a cocktail on Deck 13 looking out over the ocean, that beneath you lies an (often unexplored) beautiful varied habitat just waiting to be discovered (maybe on your next Caribbean cruise!)

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Potato & Sundried Tomato Bake

Another day, another Maris Piper recipe.  I simply can't get enough of these fluffy devils - they are the perfect all round potato.  In a dim and (very) distant past, I was a student of agriculture and worked on a farm that grew potatoes, one variety being the Maris Piper and it became my favourite from that moment, despite having to pick them by hand in freezing conditions!

This is my latest invention that showcases the delights of the Maris Piper. 

Potato and Sundried Tomato Bake

4-5 medium Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and grated (in a food processor for speed and ease) then dried in a clean teatowel
4 eggs beaten
1 small red onion, chopped 
1 crushed clove of garlic
7 sundried tomatoes (preserved in oil in a jar) snipped into small pieces
2 tbsps English Mustard
80g grated cheese

Fry the onion and garlic in a little oil until softened.
Place the grated potato in a bowl with the beaten eggs and mustard, stir to combine thoroughly
Stir in one third of the cheese and the onions and mix again.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Tip into a greased ovenproof dish, top with the remaining grated cheese and bake at 170 degrees for 40 minutes until golden and bubbling.

Perfect served as a lunch dish with a salad, or as an accompaniment to a main meal.  This makes the perfect Sunday brunch dish.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

#FluffyMarisPiper Hash

Now Autumn is upon us at long last, I can finally make comfort food (which just doesn't seem right when the sun is shining and it's 20 degrees outside!) - hurray!  Time to ditch waxy new potatoes for my favourite all round potato, the Maris Piper, which has such a wonderful fluffy interior and makes the perfect roasties.

I'm not a big one on having leftovers, I don't like waste in any form and I cannot understand why anyone ever has leftover mash, I have no willpower to resist!  However, I do love Corned Beef Hash so I will make it from scratch for a midweek supper when the weather is wild and windy.  I add a secret ingredient (see the video below....) which really perks up the flavour.  It takes less than half an hour to make it from scratch (less if you happen to have leftover mash) and you know what's gone into your meal which has to be a bonus.

Thursday, 2 October 2014



I sooooo need a new bathroom - this is what we inherited 15 years ago when we moved house, and as you can see, it can hardly be described as luxurious or relaxing.

But because it's perfectly functional, we've never got around to renovating it.  The only thing that has ever been done is replacing the floor when it literally rotted away a few years ago!

So, when Jen at Love Chic Living wrote about a bloggers competition that she is running in conjunction with bathandshower.com to create a moodboard for your bathroom revamp, I knew this was the proverbial "kick up the backside" that I needed to finally take the plunge and decide to create the bathroom I have always dreamed of.

I want the space to feel luxurious and like a spa. This will be my sanctuary, so the first thing that I need is this fab double ended whirlpool bath that will create masses of bubbles and sooth my aches away.  It's great as it's got room in the corners to put my glass of wine and candles whilst I relax (or even a glass each end if we decide to bathe-a-deux! ;)  ).  

Large rectangular travertine-style tiles will cover the walls and floors (which will have underfloor heating to keep my toes toasty warm).  I'd love modern taps like these and a mirror with lights down the side so I can see when my eyeliner is straight!   The basin will be wall hung to make the room feel more spacious but I hate seeing the plumbing, so this one will be ideal.  As well as toasty toes, I need warm towels to envelop me after my relaxing bath so this contemporary heated towel rail will be perfect draped with some deep burgundy fluffy bath sheets. 

So, now I just have to persuade my husband that it's time to get out the tile cutter and pipe bender.....watch this space!