Wednesday, 29 February 2012

PenDooooo Pt 1

There are 2 parts to this merely because I cannot keep up.  I do not have time (or the staying awake powers) after such an amazing weekend away to rush writing about it!  Plus there have been some seriously amazing blog posts to catch up with, and some husband-time to reassure him that I do remember him too and am not really planning on running off to live in Leeds with Penny and eat Mexican every night!

If you would like to know more in the meantime, please see here, here and here.  Never before have I felt like this about a random group of semi-strangers.  I cannot believe how simply lovely they all were are, not to mention the way Anna writes about us all, shucks!  ;)  To give you an idea of how easy it was to just sink into friendship with these amazing women - when arriving at the hotel and meeting up in Anna's room, the only one I hadn't previously met was the gorgeous Amy.  I tentatively asked "Are you....aaa" when she stepped in finishing Amy for me as I was clearly not entirely sure.  I held out my hand to introduce myself and said nice to meet you and she immediately hugged me instead.  :)  Not only did we all just get along so well so quickly, (possibly helped by having read so much of each others' lives) but despite the fact that 3 sadly dropped out for various reasons, we decided to re-jiggle the rooms to share rather than enjoy a room to ourselves (with the exception of Amy who had a bad cough, poor thing).  It was just more fun that way - like a massive sleep-over!

I sent Anna a few photos at her request but there are plenty more to come - which they shall, on Thursday when I am off and can lie in and fully devote my time to writing about the shenanigans!  It may therefore be a little later than usual - I'll aim for 11am as I also promised Mum a long catch up phone call in the morning!

Oh and happy Leap Year day - I wish every leap year we would get the 29th Feb as a bank holiday so it really is an ACTUAL BONUS DAY that we could all DO something with.  Maybe something adventurous or out-with normal comfort zones seeing as it's a bonus and all!  Like other bank holidays but more exciting!  Or even just make an effort to do all the things you keep putting off, it would be so satisfying to get them done in this bonus, extra time.  You know, all those things you think you would be able to get done if only there were a few more extra hours in the day?  OK, I'm probably not making much sense any more but I think it's a great idea!  ;)

P.S. I've just seen there is a 29% discount at Oasis today - enter code LEAP29 to get the discount on all full priced items on the website www.oasis-stores.com, yay!  (My PenDo dress was from Oasis.)

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Macadamia Nut Slice - A Recipe

This is another recipe I made for my tea party and it went down pretty well too.  I loved it and would make it again.  It was really easy to do and looked great all chopped up served on a platter.  This recipe also came from my M&S Easy Baking book.

Ingredients:
(Makes 16)

280g plain flour
175g soft light brown sugar
115g butter, plus extra for greasing
115g macadamia nuts, roughly chopped (I bought ready halved ones as that's all I could find but it was much easier)

topping:
115g butter
100g soft light brown sugar
200g milk chocolate chips (I could only get 100g so used 100g of dark chocolate as well)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180oC/Gas mark 4.  Grease a 30x20cm baking tin.

To make the base, sift the flour into a bowl and stir in the sugar.  Rub in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Press the mixture in to the base of the prepared tin.  Sprinkle the Macadamia nuts evenly over the top.



To make the topping, put the butter and sugar into a saucepan and slowly bring the mixture to the boil, stirring constantly.  Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly, then carefully pour the mixture over the macadamia nuts.  Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until the caramel topping is bubbling.

Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the top.  Leave for 2-3 minutes until the chocolate chips start to melt, then, using the blade of a knife, swirl the chocolate over the top.




Leave to cool in the tin, then cut into squares.  Serve...



Monday, 27 February 2012

Honeymoon Pt 20 - The Final Instalment - Kenya & Home

Today is my 1 year blogiversary!  I started writing my blog here (although I did originally start it elsewhere on the 12th before switching to blogger) one year ago today!  So much has happened in that time and I am absolutely loving writing about all the things that interest me or what I'm getting up to.  By far the best thing about blogging has been getting to know some lovely fellow bloggers and finding a whole new social life and real friends as a result!  I have just returned from a weekend in Leeds with 8 other girls from around the country and had such a wonderful time.  (Blog post to come - I'm pretty sure there will be an influx of write-ups about PenDo as our little gathering was named.)  Today, however, is my 20th (Oops, I didn't mean to drag it out so much!) and final instalment of the honeymoon report...


When we arrived in Kenya for the last leg of our Honeymoon trip, I was a little nervous.  We were staying with Nik's family as his parents grew up in Nairobi and he still has a lot of relatives living there.  I was finally going to get to meet Nik's grandmother (his Dad's Mum).  She couldn't make it over for the wedding as she was a grand age of 91 (now 92) and it is such a long journey.  I needn't have been nervous at all as she and all of the family (some of whom I had been able to see at the wedding) were all lovely and so welcoming.  Oh and his cousin's children are especially cute!



Our time in Kenya was spent with various members of Nik's family and I loved getting to spend a bit more time with them all.  We saw his grandfather on his Mum's side most days and lived with his Dad's brother and his family during our time there.  I also got to meet other aunts, uncles and cousins, it was great fun!  I don't have many pictures from our time in Kenya due to having lost the compact camera (it's less convenient to carry the SLR around and more conspicuous) and I was just enjoying spending time with everyone and exploring the area.  It was nice to have a break from being behind the lens after all of the safari photography but I do regret not taking more of everyone.

As well as just chilling out with family after all of our travelling, we got do do a few fun things while in Kenya.  The obvious one was shopping!  We were no longer restricted by weight limits on internal flights, in fact we had our first class flight (also booked with BA miles) on the way home to look forward to with about 93kg baggage allowance so I was delighted to finally be able hit the shops!  This is where the initial idea for re-decorating our study came from.  I saw the string balls I showed you previously hanging from a tree by the side of the road and thought they looked great but was convinced Nik wouldn't agree.  But he did, as long as I could think of where we'd put them (one would have looked a bit odd - I wanted 3) so I thought of our study which was in much need of sorting out and re-decoration and somewhere we could hang pictures of our safari trip.  Job done :)

String Balls
So, what other souvenirs did we purchase??...

Painting of figures
x 2
Carved wooden sign for my door at work
Wooden Masai Figurines

Masai Necklace

(Close-up)

Malachite Trinket Box

Spotty soapstone abstract Elephant

Soapstone Carved Hearts (olive green of course!)

Another fabtastic day was getting to see the baby elephants up close behinds the scenes at the Daphne Sheldrick Centre.  Nik's Nanaji (grandad) set this up for us as Nik's uncle, Sanjay is the vet there!  Such an amazing experience!  We got to walk out the back to where the little ones live in the woods and while he checked one of the smaller ones they suspected of having an eye injury (it turned out to be absolutely fine), we got to stand around petting the elephants while we waited!!

Nik, a handler, Nanaji, Sanjay and his children










They then led them all down towards the main area of the centre for the paying guests to see them get fed and bathe and play...











We spent some money and made a donation in the gift shop before heading back to a nearby shopping centre for coffee (I had an amazing mango milkshake instead!)



While we were staying, Nik's Aunt and Uncle organised a BBQ at their home so we could spend some time with more family and friends who Nik doesn't get the chance to see often.  The food was absolutely amazing, my favourite were the fresh spiced lamb steaks!  We visited a nearby Japanese restaurant another evening which had really fresh delicious sushi!

We also had a great night out with Nik's cousins at a wedding reception.  Apparently it's normal for extra guests to just rock up at weddings over there - they had about 400 guests anyway so didn't notice and we had a fab time at the free bar and enjoying the yummy buffet Indian dinner.  The cupcakes were SO good, we managed to track down where they were from and bought some more for everyone the next day!  The most memorable thing for me about the night out was going out in the bullet proof car!  An actual bullet and bomb proof Mondeo.  I think it came from an ex-politician!?  Nairobi can be a scary place at night and they have had issues before with hijacking and break-ins at their home, so security is a very high priority.  They rarely go out at night and when they do, only in the Mondeo.  They have their own security guard at the double gated entrance to the house and a big guard dog.

I was honoured to visit temple with Nik, his Aunt and his grandmother while I was there.  It was such a beautiful building with seriously amazing statues and paintings on the wall and ceiling, so colourful and vibrant!  His grandmother mentioned that we had just been married recently so we were each given a floral garland to wear and Nik and I had red string tied round our wrists as a blessing, his right wrist and my left.




When we had to leave Kenya, I was at the stage of being sad to leave but also looking forward to getting home to see everyone, catch up on the post-wedding gossip and start planning our new African themed study!  Our flight home was also an exciting part of our trip as we had the 1st class to look forward to.  I was very excited to see David Walliams in the Business Lounge at Nairobi and assumed he would be on our flight to London (I wondered if he had been there to do some filming for Comic Relief and it turns out he had).  I was a little disappointed though when sat in the gate after going through extra security checks, I smiled at him only to be met with a rather unfriendly glare.  I suppose it was the middle of the night and he might not be used to people smiling at him, maybe he was worried I might start trying to talk to him but I thought he looked particularly grumpy.  Ah well.  I was quite pleased when he got on the plane in front of us and turned right while we got to turn left!

Our flight home was lovely, although it was still an old plane so apparently not the most impressive 1st class cabin (says Nik who seems to be one of these lucky people who always gets free upgrades!)  By far the best thing about 1st class was the flat beds - being able to sleep and arrive home refreshed and not exhausted makes such a huge difference!

We received super cosy jersey pyjamas, slippers and socks to change into when we got on-board and were asked by the stewardess whether we wanted to eat before she made our beds up.  We were the only ones who had dinner (again, it was the middle of the night but I wasn't going to miss out on 1st class food!) and she set it up for us at either end of my seat (the foot of where the bed goes and my seat on either side of the pull out table) so we could effectively sit across a table and have dinner together!  We got a table cloth and everything, so posh!!






After dinner, we used our fancy Anya Hindmarsh wash bags to get ready for bed while she made up the mattress and covers for us and I slept until we were almost about to land!  I had a smoothie on the plane but waited for the 1st class lounge experience again for a proper breakfast at Heathrow!


Sunrise from the plane
We had booked a cabana at Heathrow which was great for a shower and a nap after breakfast.  We also booked a complimentary treatment in the spa - I went for the head, neck and shoulder massage which was bliss after a long flight!


Cabana

Cabana Bathroom

Breakfast was amazing too - again we could choose from anything on the menu.  I went for the Eggs Benedict and Nik had the full English and we had toast and pastries, juice and coffee.  It was SO delicious!



Sadly, we did have to return home in the eventually but as you already know, we are enjoying life as a married couple and we still have plenty to keep us occupied.  The study is finally finished with all our little African touches and I will be revealing it very soon!!!  :D

In an effort to make it easier for you to comment and following Kirsty's advice, I have removed word verification (I will endeavour to delete any spam comments asap if blogger doesn't catch them first).  Please go and read her wonderful writing about how we should all try to comment more on blog posts - I am guilty of the exact problem she discusses but am making a concerted effort to try to comment more on other blogs I read from now on!  They really do make me so excited to receive them so I plan to show my appreciation on other blogs I read also.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Our kitchen - Then and Now

We received a random letter last year, a few weeks before our wedding, from Spain.  It contained a lovely, polite, hand-written letter explaining that the writer had previously lived in our flat with her husband and young son before they moved to Tenerife a few years ago.  They were returning to Scotland for a holiday and were keen to return to the home they remembered fondly.  It was a bit of a strange request I suppose, but I loved that and can totally relate - I would love to return to my old homes and see what has been done with them and remember the good times I had there.  They included a picture of themselves in the kitchen here and explained that they were the ones who did a lot of work on the flat, changing some of the rooms around (ours is the only one in the block where the kitchen, bedroom and living room have all been switched).  They provided an email address asking for a reply to their random request to come and visit some time in August.

I immediately replied - it was a welcome break to all the last minute wedding planning chaos and nice to think about life after the wedding mayhem!  I explained that we were literally about to get married and would be on honeymoon for most of August but if the dates suited then we would be happy to let them come and have a snoop round the flat.  It turns out that there were at least two other owners in the time between them leaving and us moving in as they didn't sell it to the same people we bought it from.  I couldn't wait to hear about their time in the flat, especially as they had said they were the ones who did so much work on it and would bring pictures!!

When they came round, they were so lovely and friendly and it turned out the dad is also a doctor who worked in some of the same places as Nik when he was living here!  They have kindly scanned in the pictures they brought with them and emailed them to me since.  I decided to share them here, with their permission, and have also got a few photos of how the flat was when I first came to view it when Sarah lived here.  I love looking at how different people design spaces and add their own personalities to their homes.  I am fascinated to be able to see that done in the same place by three different families (if you include us).

Living room before it was a kitchen!
Kitchen when they finished it it 2001
Kitchen in 2001
Kitchen in 2001
And this is how it looked before we bought it in 2008...

The kitchen as Sarah had it in 2008 (from schedule)
Sarah's kitchen in 2008 (at viewing)
Luckily it turned out that Sarah and I had very similar tastes (we even had the same fruit bowl!)  We didn't even need to paint any rooms when we moved in.  The only things we have done since are the bathroom and recently the study.  Here is how we have the kitchen now - the walls are the same (they look slightly different due to my pictures being taken in the dark), ours is perhaps a bit more cluttered though oh and we also added a light above the 'peninsula' as we have christened the bit that's almost a kitchen island but attached.  We also took some of the cupboard doors off the back of this bit to make a wine rack.

Our Kitchen in 2012


And since I couldn't decide if it looked better in the daytime, here are a few more...





We absolutely LOVE our kitchen!  It has amazing storage, LOADS of surface space for chopping and baking and plenty of room to host dinner parties (we have extension leaves for the table too).  I am so glad that lovely Spanish family decided to completely change the flat around.  It works so well and their work on it was so obviously done with love.  He built the whole kitchen himself - so impressive!

And just because I love my details so much, here are a few more little touches I particularly love in our kitchen...

Our egg coop - saw this in a friend's kitchen and fell in love with it's quirky cuteness!
(managed to source on ebay)

My gorgeous green KitchnAid!
(Pressie from amazing In-Laws for Christmas)
One of the display cupboards for my pretty glasses, teapot etc. 

My cheese mice on display with the jugs/decanter  :)
(I felt so grown up getting a decanter - think we've used it like, once!)

Love my ceramic milk jug!
(Birthday pressie from Sarah)
My FABULOUS Tiki Head glass
(which may or may not have come from a bar called Dragonfly in Edinburgh years ago)

Our lego 'us' cake topper and stunning African etched bowl from Grandmother-in-Law

Slate Heart Message board
(and cute pear decoration from Sarah at Christmas)

Stained glass hanging art
(from a furniture shop in Edinburgh)

Totally in love with this candle holder from John Lewis (which always surprises everyone who asks)
which looks spectacular at night with all eleven candles lit.

Stunning painting by the lovely Jim Byars
(who I met when I did craft fairs, he's also an actor)

Twig heart from my lovely  friend Claire as an engagement present
(used as a prop on our e-shoot)

My very old wine rack from when I was a student, I like the effect of the bottles lit up from behind
And one of my pictures on canvas

A painting we bought in Egypt on our 2nd trip there

Some more of my pictures - all the shrooms that I love
And our very funky watering can!

And finally, some pretty silk painted cards I had made in Kuala Lumpur for Nik
when I went to Malaysia without him  (Cinta means Love)
Oh, and that's a magnet of my old dog, Gigha, who I loved to bits!!

So I think that's enough of my clutter for you!  I love having these little details around our flat, they're what make it our home.

I will share the photos of the other rooms soon (when ours are tidy enough to take current pictures!!)  ;)
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