My kitchen is cured

It’s been a long weekend. FULL of cleaning. I didn’t anticipate the Kitchn Cure to be quite so full-on, but every task so far (5 days in) has been cleaning of some sort. Day 4 was a full-on deep clean. It took me until the weekend to catch up as I had things on every night after work, and this was going to be a loooong-ass task. It took four hours yesterday, and about 2-3 today.

Can you tell the difference?

Overview-before after

First look – yes, I’ve found a home for the drill, tool box and compost bin. But closer up, I managed something I’ve not done since I first moved in five months ago.

Sink-before after

All the dishes are done, dried, put away and the dish rack is actually folded up. Never done that. Probably won’t ever again if I’m honest but this once, it’s a pretty nice feeling.

Continuing upwards, I had decided to finally clean the top of the cupboards and extraction fan. I noticed when I first moved in that there was a load of old bits of wall (I think?) up there, that I’ve shamefully never got round to cleaning up. So this was the day to tackle it.

It wasn’t just bits. There was grease. A lot of it.

SAM_0523

I know. Eww. I don’t know if this was my five months’ worth of cooking, or if it just wasn’t cleaned before I moved in – I obviously prefer to think that it’s the latter. But with a bit of elbow grease and my favourite green multi-cleaner, it was soon sparkling.

SAM_0524

Good eh? Next was the top of the cupboards, which were also pretty rank.

SAM_0532

What makes it worse is that I’ve actually been putting things up there for months. For example, the tupperware with Barry’s food, which I regularly take down from there and (ugh) put on the work surface. I know. So vile. I was a little bit ashamed. But no more, as it’s now gleaming!

Next it was the turn of the cupboard insides. This wasn’t too bad, just a matter of taking everything out, giving the cupboards a quick wipe down and then putting everything back in.

SAM_0534

SAM_0535

Luckily my friend Rachel helped me organise the cupboards when I first moved in, so that was one less job for me to do now.

SAM_0537

SAM_0539

That last photo also drew my attention to a spot on the bottom of the shelf that I’d missed…thanks flash.

Next up – that bastion of clutter. The work surface.

SAM_0545

Before and after, you say?

Work surface-before after

The only thing proudly mounted on there is the (mostly crossed-out) to-do list. Let’s take a look shall we?

SAM_0547

That makes me happy. Oh, I properly got my geek on in the middle of clearing up the cluttered work surface and fashioned a little plastic bag holder out of an egg carton. Yeah, that’s just as bad as it sounds, but I was feeling…inspired? I needed a solution for the, ahem, nappy bags that I use to clear out Barry’s litter tray. Something that’s a bit more aesthetically pleasing than just the ugly Tesco Value bag that was proudly sitting on top of the toilet cistern. I used some wallpaper sample scraps that I had stashed away to make it look a bit…prettier.

SAM_0529

Yes, you may point and laugh.

SAM_0527But you know, it looks a lot better now.

SAM_0548

Go on, mock me. I fully deserve it. But at least the kitchen is clean!

 

Cure my kitchen!

I’m about to own up to all my culinary ugly. And I mean…fugly. I’ve signed up to  the Kitchn cure in an attempt to get my mess under control before my dear mum comes over in ten days. Everyone knows mother’s visit = shame. Non? And since it’s her first visit since I moved into the new flat, I want to impress. So, without further ado…..here’s the shameful before:

SAM_0509

You can see where this is heading, right? MESS.

SAM_0510

SAM_0513Oh hello breakfast dishes. And last night’s dinner dishes…I just can’t seem to become one of those people who always wash up before they go to bed.

I also can’t seem to ever become one of those people who actually ever put the dishes away. Until the dish rack is so full nothing else will precariously balance on top. SAM_0514

Where the proverbial magic happens:

SAM_0515

There’s still some magic lingering….

SAM_0516

And here is the Bermuda work surface that never, ever stays clear. Hang on, who am I kidding – “stays” clear? It’s never been bloody clear.

SAM_0517

SAM_0518

Above that, the ornamental cat food:

SAM_0520

And below….so much wasted yet badly organised space.

SAM_0522

The only area that’s somewhat organised is the cleaning area behind the door.

SAM_0521

But never fear! To balance that out, more disorganised mess:

SAM_0511

And of course, the feline fine dining nook:

SAM_0512

Yep, a random shelf propped up next to the radiator. Looks good, right? Wrong. So many wrongs in one room. Here are some of the things I’d like to sort out in this kitchen:

1. Find a place for the tool box + drill – not necessarily in the kitchen, but somewhere easily accessible since I use them quite often.

2. Put that shelf up above the microwave – just need to get the right screws from B&Q. It will house my cook books (which will make more room on that trolley for other things that don’t have a permanent home) and the woven basket that holds all my lunch boxes. At the moment that basket is on top of one of the cupboards next to the extraction fan, which isn’t very practical.

3.  Organise under the sink. I’ve not actually documented it because, to be honest, I forgot. But it’s in dire need of sorting out. Hopefully it can house the cleaning stuff that’s now in the yellow box on the floor, taking up unnecessary space.

Doesn’t sound like a lot when I list it, but for some reason it’s seemed like an insurmountable task which I’ve been putting off for months. So, let’s roll those sleeves up. Tonight I’ve already done the dishes and cleaned the fridge out, chucking some two year old lemon curd, a kids’ carton of apple juice (?) and an almost-empty jar of chutney in the bin. It’s a nice start, I’ll tell you. Looking forward to tomorrow’s task!

These are a few of my favourite…places

Yes, that’s a really bad Sound of Music reference, but that’s how I roll. Shoot me.

Today’s post is just about some of the wonderful places I’ve been lucky enough to visit in the last few years. The difficult thing when trying to decide where to go is the compromise between expensive flights and cheap living, or cheap flights and expensive living. The former would take me back to Vietnam, which I absolutely adored when I went there five years ago, or maybe back to India (which I HATED when I was there but for some reason want to return to). The latter usually means travelling to somewhere in Europe, and trying to make it as cheap as possible once I’m there, such as staying in an apartment instead of a hotel so that you can cook dinner and prepare packed lunches, or have a drink at home before going out.

My favourite destination in Europe in recent years was hands down Lisbon. I had never even contemplated going there until a stranger online raved about it to the point where I couldn’t wait to see it for myself. I am SO glad I went, it truly was one of the best holidays I’ve ever had. My boyfriend and I rented a lovely apartment in the Bairro Alto area, which was the ideal placement to walk anywhere in central Lisbon. We spent a week walking the cobbled streets, exploring medieval castles, going on day trips to monasteries, eating pasteis, drinking lots of beer and prosecco and generally having an amazing time.

Portugal1Portugal2

Such a friendly city, with breathtaking architecture and great bakeries.

I’ve already mentioned Vietnam, which was only one of our many destinations when my sister and I did a compressed round-the-world trip after I graduated from university. Our route was India-Vietnam-Australia-New Zealand-San Francisco. As I said, I hated India at the time because of the sheer assault on the senses that it is – the smells, the noise, the utter cultural shock that greets you as a Westerner (and a woman). Maybe that’s why we both absolutely loved Vietnam when we arrived there, as it was so refreshing to see women out and about, working in shops, restaurants etc – in India the women weren’t seen in public, so we felt a bit like the odd ones out.

Hanoi was an absolutely amazing city – beyond delicious food, friendly (yet also aggressive!) people, cheap hotels (who knew you could barter for hotel rooms!)….loved it.
Vietnam1Vietnam2

Crossing a street full of traffic is an interesting experience in Vietnam. Waiting for cars to stop for you would take forever and a day, so what you do is just walk slowly into the road, keeping eye contact with drivers, and they will carefully swerve around you. It’s quite a sight, as they never actually slow down, but they have complete control of where they’re going. Really cool.

Hoi An was another cracker of a city. It’s known for its fabrics and tailors where you can have a whole suit made to measure for pennies, but we eschewed all that for cooking lessons, walks in the rain and a cycle trip to the beach where we had amazing noodles on a sun lounger. Completely dreamy.
Hoi An

We also visited the usual stops on a Vietnam tour – Ha Long Bay, the historical royal city of Hue (where I remember having an amazing dish of prawns and pancake called Banh khoai), Nha Trang (which was as close as Vietnam got to a resort) and Da Lat, where we were introduced to the wonders of “Easy Riders” (of which a quick Google tells me there are many) – motorcyclists who drive tourists round the local area (or further afield) on the back of their bikes for a day or longer. In our case, longer turned out to be four days. Our bums were rather sore. But we got to visit little villages out of the way, eat authentic Vietnamese food (I still to this day wonder if we were fed dog at any point) and see some breath-taking scenery along the south of the country.
Halong BayHueVietnam mixEasy riders1Easy riders2

I hear that Vietnam is turning into a bit of a Thailand-style mega-tourist mecca now. I’m glad I got to go before that happened, as I’m not sure I’d want to go back and “ruin” the amazing time I had there. I quite fancy visiting Burma now that Aung San Suu Kyi has been released from house arrest and it’s more socially acceptable to visit.

Phew! That got a bit wordy. Next time – the motherland!

Un.be.lie.va.ble.

Just a quick note to share this disgusting story:

http://whatsleftoftheleft.com/2013/07/30/is-it-still-rape-if-you-kill-her-first-pub-quiz-question-from-radio-bar-glasgow/

Whether or not you believe the comment from the PR lady from G1 (the chain who owns the pub) about them being unaware of the quiz master’s particular “sense of humour” – and to be honest, you would think the patrons/staff/manager would have pulled him up on it at some point prior to this – the fact that there are people who think that these sorts of comments and jokes are acceptable, nay, actually FUNNY, is beyond my comprehension.

Makes me think of some of today’s young women who say that feminism is outdated and no longer needed. This situation clearly shows the opposite.

Photo collage (finally!)

This is something that I’ve been planning for almost four months, i.e. since I moved in. In the last flat I ran out of wall space for all my photos, posters and other framed paraphernalia, but here I’ve almost run out of things to hang! For my reading corner I wanted to create cosyness by hanging loads of pictures of family and friends, and since I’d never attempted a frame collage before, I thought it was about time.

First I laid out all the picture frames in a formation that I liked:
1
Barry clearly wasn’t as taken with it, but since he can’t complain, I chose to ignore him. Oh, and I know that in most stylish frame collages you see on Pinterest etc, all the frames match. Mine don’t. That’s fine, as these were all frames I already had and I wasn’t about to go out and spend loads on this.

After previous failed attempts at hanging pictures exactly where I wanted them, I took some advice from this post and used newspaper templates to make sure I got the holes/nails right.
2

Before I taped the bits of paper up on the wall I marked a hole where the nail should go, so that I could easily put it in the right place once the template was on the wall. Like so:
3

Yep, I got to put a nail through Viggo Mortensen’s crotch.

Once I’d marked and taped all the paper templates up and put nails in all the correct places, my wall looked…interesting. Not exactly stunning, or cosy.
4

Put when I’d whipped off the paper and hung the pictures – ta-daah!
6

5

Please excuse the lilac chair. I bought it that way with plans to spray paint it, but when I finally took the time to do it, I ran out of paint. It’s still on my (long) list of projects. And the frame collage may look a bit small, but the idea is that I can build out from this shape as I want.

And just because I’m a nerd, here it is in 60s mode:

7

Summer is finally here!

I’m not sure Manchester had a summer last year, but we’re making up for it this year! Sadly it’s arrived on the same weekend that I had stupidly signed up for a casual morning 5K run…running in 25 degree heat and scorching sun the morning after having a curry for dinner is not something I’d recommend to others. But I did it, and managed a personal best to boot – 27 minutes 45 seconds!
5K

That’s me and my colleague Suzi looking very proud of ourselves.

But yesterday I went to visit my friend’s new baby girl! Meet the beautiful Elise Grace:

Ellie1

Look at all that hair!

Ellie2
Ellie3

She’s a strong little madam, with such perfectly formed little hands.

Ellie hand

I got some close-up cuddles with her too. She farted on my hand.
Cuddles

Cuddles2

But it wasn’t all about Ellie – I also went to give my godson his second birthday present. He ended up loving his Thomas the tank engine dvds so much that he wanted to watch them straight away, leaving me enjoying his paddle pool.

Pool

Ok, one more of Ellie. She was pulling the best faces.
Face

But the best part about other people’s babies is the fact that you get to leave them with their parents when they start crying. And go to the pub.
Pint

Happy Friday!

Today I just wanted to share this absolutely amazing photo:

Bowie tennis

I’m not a huge Bowie fan in general, but this is just genius.

Have a lovely weekend one and all!
x

Lunchtime mooch

I am obsessed with TK Maxx. I mean obsessed. Pretty much every lunchtime I nip in either there or in its sister shop Home Sense. Because you never know what might have popped up overnight, like some sort of magical home decor mushroom!

Today I just thought I’d share a few things that I spied while I methodically scanned the aisles…speaking of aisles, this one might be my favourite:
image

All those baskets just make me want to grab a load of them and run home and dot them around my flat. You know, like in the homes of one of those effortlessly organised people you see on American blogs. I will never be one of them. I like tat too much.

Moving on! I have been pondering my bathroom scheme, having just finished putting things on walls last night (update post coming soon!). I’m thinking a combination of whites, oranges and pinks. Might sound garish but this towel I spied made it all come together like a well-oiled squirrel:
image

By the way, pardon the low-quality pics today, they were all taken on my worthless phone. Speaking of towels, I also really liked these, but alas they would not go with my chosen scheme:

image

Continuing the bathroom theme, I thought this would look well cute filled with cotton wool balls:

image

In the clearance section I spotted this little gent, at a bargainous £3 due to a minute chip.

image

I would fill him with wine corks (ok, this is starting to sound rude) as and when bottles got drunk (quite frequently in my house…) Blatantly stole that idea from one of those aforementioned blogs.

I also spotted some fairly ghastly and, frankly, quite incomprehensible things. Oversized ornamental shoes anyone?

image

No, me neither.

Speaking of American…things, TK Maxx have started doing a “craft” and “scrapbooking” (never quite got my head around that concept to be honest) section, which somehow appeals to me, on some primal level. These lovely cards just made me want to be one of those people who sit at a leather-clad desk and write grown-up notes of thanks to friends.

image

Yeah, never gonna happen either. I know my limits.