The hole may still only be the size of a football but I can see the other side and that’s all the reason I need. Ebay has become my obsession of late, I’ve even delved in to the pages of Gumtree but I still can’t make out what’s real and what’s a paid for ad. It’s far too confusing to buy from let alone look at.
Once the hole becomes a door way and the two houses become one, we will have 6 rooms to furnish and decorate. All the walls are being painted white and the carpets replaced so in theory we’re being given a clean, blank canvas. Obviously when you’re joining two houses together you have the problem of having two of everything. We don’t need two kitchens so are ripping one out to make a through dining room from our existing kitchen. The small second sitting room will become a study and the dining room we’re not using, will become a grown up carpeted seating area with no room for toys.
The first room to consider is our existing kitchen which will be losing the large kitchen table to be replaced with a smaller table. The dryer and washing machine which take up two corners of the room, will be going next door in to the utility room so that frees up a whole load more space. The downstairs loo which leads off the kitchen, has today been ripped out to make way for the hole to next door. So this small corridor now needs to be thought about too and will eventually become much needed under stairs, corridor, storage.
So far I’ve made two big purchases for the kitchen : a new dresser and a small enamel topped table. Both are from second hand shops, one in Witney (The Old Pill Factory) and the other in Whitstable (Valentines Vintage). The dresser was priced with an accompanying note which read….make me an offer….so I did and got it for half price. Never pay full price when shopping in vintage or second hand shops. It shall be painted sunflower yellow, as all dressers should. The enamel topped table is absolutely beautiful and solves the need for a small table which can also double as more surface space.
I don’t want big bulky chairs so I decided on stools. Determined to stay away from Ikea and the like, I started looking on Ebay for things which could be made in to interesting stools or seats. I found the most amazing vintage American lard barrels. Two of them. I’m going to put them on coasters and top with cushions.
Another thing I discovered this week was that Marks and Spencer are selling potted Hyacinth bulbs for just £2. Re-potted in an old colander, they make a very nice addition to the new enamel table. And they help take my mind off the masses of dust and rubble a small hole in the wall can cause.
The other exciting thing about the house on the other side of the downstairs loo which we’re soon to take over, is the extra wall space. We’ve completely run out of walls to put things on. Every inch of space is filled with something to look at and we now have pictures leaning against each other patiently waiting for their turn, or pictures in tubes waiting for a frame. It’s not an ideal situation. It’s also a bit of an expensive situation – framing costs an absolute fortune – but we still can’t help find yet more things to put on a wall.
Here are my latest discoveries. They were all bought on Ebay (US) and each cost around £3. They are original vintage crate labels, in perfect condition and absolutely beautiful to look at. I’m hoping they will soon make it out of their hard back envelope and in to individual frames and finally on to a new, freshly painted wall for everyone to enjoy.
I made this last night and it deserves to be remembered and shared. I used Stilton instead of Gorgonzola and the “pickled pears” were replaced by some chopped up poached pears (pears, water, sugar, star anise and stem ginger) I had left over from Sunday lunch.
I didn’t use nearly as much cheese as I think it might have been a little too strong. Personal taste though I suppose.
Here it is in it’s un-touched form taken from Skye Gyngell’s wonderful book, A Year in my Kitchen
Cauliflower soup with Gorgonzola and Pickled Pear Relish
1 medium cauliflower
15g unsalted butter
2 small yellow onions
4 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 litre chicken stock
100ml creme fraiche
Break the cauliflower into small florets. Melt the butter into a saucepan and sweat the onions gently over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the cauliflower, thyme and bay leaves. Season. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft. Crumble in the Gorgonzola and stir over a low heat until it has melted. Add the creme fraiche and stir to combine. Pick out the herbs and blend the soup until smooth. Return to the pan and heat through. Check for seasoning.
Pickled Pear Relish
2tbsp dried cranberries
1 tbsp currants
2 firm, ripe conference pears
1 golden delicious apple
25g unsalted butter
75ml cider or red wine vinegar
2 tbsp caster sugar
3 thyme sprigs
1 cinnamon stick
salt and freshly ground pepper
Soak the cranberries for about ten minutes in warm water to soften. Core and chop the pears and apple into small dice. Melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat. When it begins to foam, add the diced fruit and cook for 5 minutes until starting to soften. Add all the other ingredients (except the salt and pepper) and cook for a further 8-10 minutes. Taste and season if necessary. Remove the cinnamon and thyme. The relish will have a shiny, jewel like lustre. Serve warm.
Serve the soup warm with chopped flat leaf parsley and a some of the pear relish heaped in the middle. Absolutely incredibly delicious.
“One of the most important things you can do to say you’re Middle Class is to Knock Through. The problem many Middlings are now encountering is that the house they have just bought has already been Knocked Through. On the surface this may appear to be good news, but actually it’s very disappointing and it is hard to resist the urge to Knock Through just a little bit more. At this stage the house falls down and it is time to ring Kevin McLoud.”
So says the Middle-Class ABC by Zebedee Helm and Fi Cotter-Craig, along with all kinds of other words of cringing wisdom.
It may not relate entirely to what we’re doing as we don’t actually own the houses we’re knocking through. We live in a semi detached cottage in the Cotswolds, not far from Oxford, which we’ve rented for the last three years and which we absolutely love. The only problem we’ve ever really had was a lack of downstairs space. We have two children under 5 and they take up an extraordinary amount of room. We also have a lot of stuff. So, we thought about moving but moving is ridiculously expensive and a great big hassle and then, something wonderful happened; our immediate neighbours decided to move, leaving a lovely 2 bed thatch cottage completely empty and in need of a little bit of TLC, just on the other side of our downstairs loo. So, we’ve negotiated with the landlord and we’re renting the thatch cottage and knocking out the downstairs loo and joining the two together. Suddenly we’re getting all the extra space we need without any of the drama of moving. We’re just spreading out a bit.
As well as all the extra windows to look out of and of course the dream of being a detached house, it means we have a whole load of new rooms to fill and do up. Something I particularly love doing. I’m not an interior designer sort of person, nor am I particularly avant garde or visionary when it comes to the look of a house, I just like what I like and most of that involves things either found, on loan, acquired or bought (cheaply). I love my house to be interesting, comfortable and welcoming with lots to look at and a bit different from the norm. I have a particular love of fabrics and bed linens and quilts and cushions. I love colour and pictures and tins and containers to put things in. I like enamel and old cutlery and interesting tea pots and plates and things with a bit of a story. I like houses with fresh flowers and I like to be able to see my children’s toys but to also be able to put them away sometimes. I like things for the kitchen and I like curious things hanging from ceilings. My husband likes all these things, as well as Star Wars, kitsch tapestries, dinosaurs, toys and books. Together our house is a bit of a jumble but it inspires us and makes us happy and that, I think, is the most important thing about a home.
So, over the next few weeks I am going to share the plans and ideas for these new rooms which will soon be ours through a hole in the wall. Our budget is virtually nothing so it will certainly be imaginative and it will probably involve some skips, junk shops and lots of Ebay. I doubt Ikea will get a look in, I’ve completely gone off tea lights recently.