Monday, 25 June 2018

Welcome to Life // coming face to face with some of the dreamiest kitchens you will ever see!

I love a kitchen. I fantasise about the day I can have dark inky blue cabinets, white surfaces and gold cup handles. Or maybe even grey units instead of blue (the indecisiveness is real). Another side of me is open to the idea of a more pastel kitchen with units in mint or sage green. With a kitchen the possibilities are endless. But that's life. And speaking of life...


When I was invited along to Life Kitchens latest event in London, it was my idea of heaven.
An evening of looking at beautiful kitchens? Count me in!

The concept: Life aims to create ‘kitchens for living’, by designing kitchens that are built around the individual and how they live their life on a daily basis. Other kitchens out there can be style over substance and as much as I love a pretty kitchen, at the end of the day it does have to be practical for your daily needs and to suit the needs of your family as it grows.

Here were a few of my favourite things that caught my eye that night

HERB GARDEN

I love the idea of having a herb garden in the kitchen. I grow sage, rosemary and basil in the garden but would love to transport some of it inside for herbs that are within reach (particularly useful on a cold or rainy day where I don't fancy stepping outside!)


INTEGRATED HOT PLATE

I first thought this was a sink with a clear cover (my mistake!), but actually this was a hot plate incorporated into the counter top so you can keep food piping hot. This would have been useful in a household like mine where I grew up, as my Dad always used to wander off round about the time dinner was served and then he'd huff about having not-so-warm food ("don't say we didn't tell you so!")


STORAGE

For me, useful touches are things like having big cupboards and opening them to reveal a larder and a shelf with power points so you can pop your kettle / toaster / coffee machine inside. I'd love to have one of these in my upcoming kitchen re-design. They make great use of space as behind the doors you can have racks to house your spices etc.


THE BAR

... or alternatively why not dedicate part of your worktop to have your own backlit bar? The bar pictured below was the talking point of the evening with everyone crowding around it in awe. The capacity to have chilled wine and champagne nearby in the chiller underneath was a great use of space.


THOUGHTFUL LITTLE EXTRAS

I really liked the kitchen that incorporated a chalkboard wall. My shopping list currently gets stuck on the fridge, but a wall like this would help to cut down my paper usage!


IDIOSYNCRATIC WORKTOPS

That evening I saw beautiful worktops I never would have normally considered which were like art. Take this one for example.


GOLD SINK

How quirky is this gold sink? I love the idea of having a gold or rose gold tap, but a gold sink is little too much - even for me! Give me a nice white butler sink any day.


EYE CATCHING TEXTURES

This textured, almost slate-like side to this kitchen island was another detail I fell in love with


THE PIECE THAT CONVERTED ME

This grey marble-like quartz may well convert me away from my desire to have white worktops. I mean a colour like this would be a lot more practical than white, right?


AND MY FAVOURITE...

This for the record was my favoruite kitchen and the sort of thing I am looking for (although preferably a darker blue and gold cup handles not the silver ones pictured below). But having said that, after seeing the above grey marble-like surfaces, this now leaves me considering a grey worktop instead of a white one. Thoughts?


To enter the kitchens section of the showroom, you enter through a corridor with the best wallpaper known to man / woman:


The first thing you see through this corridor is not a kitchen, but the below. I loved this Life Kitchens desk  - how incredible would it be to work against a backdrop like this??! The Tom Dixon lights, the huge screen, the archway.... "Welcome to life", indeed.


One really well thought out part of the evening was various cooking stations used to demonstrate the appliances. There was a Siemens stand where the demonstrators were showing us how the ovens had different functions for all your food needs. Be it for steaming (we sampled beautiful prawn dim sum), getting your food nice and crisp (we sampled chicken with a crispy cornflake and chilli batter) or getting a good even bake on cakes (hello chocolate brownies!). Another cooking station showcased a griddle top, perfect for griddling onions, peppers and chicken for chicken and avocado fajita wraps.


Also in the showroom....  all the different colours you can choose from are on display and the range of colours is immense. I still like the idea of grey or dark blue cabinets but I have to say, their spearmint was really easy on the eye and would look stunning with white worktops, don't you think?


Also on display... a vast range of handles. I didn't know there were so many handles out there! But admittedly I'm still really drawn to gold or rose gold cup handles when I replace my kitchen.


Was the event just a case of going to a showroom, drinking bubbly and swooning over pretty kitchens? No my friends, it was not. I was pretty surprised to see a VR headset whereby visitors to the showroom, could visualise their new kitchen and see it there right in-front of them. It was incredible and added a fun, quirky and unique aspect to the looking at kitchens process.


Not only that, but that evening we were beta testing a new app with Go Film which allowed us to record video of our time there, which would later be stitched together and emailed over as a memento of the evening (this will be added to my Insta stories in due course!)

Later into the evening, all the cooking demonstrations came to a close and the last fajitas were snapped up. But this wasn't the end of the food that evening. We were really looked after and later into the evening bowls of food came around on trays, such as seabass and noodles, coconut chicken and rice, and the dreamiest chocolate ganache served in a tea cup. Also can we talk about how dreamy their copper lighting ceiling was?


If you fancy a look for yourself, the Life Kitchens showroom is located at:

Life Kitchens
213 Newnham Terrace, 
Lambeth, London 
SE1 7DR

Nearest station: 
Lambeth North

Opening times:
Monday - Saturday: 9am - 5.30pm
Sundays: Closed

Thank you so much to Life Kitchens for inviting me. I am actively looking for a replacement kitchen so this invite couldn't have come at a better time and certainly gave me lots of food for thought!

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

4 ways to take a room from bland and boring to bold and beautiful

Because life's too short to be bland and boring! True story: I moved into the blandest of houses with magnolia walls which I first chatted about here. This particular shade of magnolia looked like it was once white but had aged over time. It just looked tired. Getting rid of the magnolia walls is still a work in progress. So far two rooms have been re-painted rejuvenated. How you ask? Well, read on to find out! Today I bring to you... my guide for how to take a room from drab to fab.

CONSIDER A WALL MURAL

If faced with a rather large and intimidating wall which you dread painting or wallpapering because quite frankly, it would take forever - how about a wall mural? Usually fitted as a few larger panels making it much quicker to fit than your typical rolls of wallpaper, and a lot quicker than spending days painting. You can hang prints and patterns like you would with a wallpaper, except murals allow you to go a bit bolder as you can essentially have large scale photography on your walls. So if you like galaxy print, marble, forests or sunsets, this may be a good option for you.

Previously I had been considering a mural for the office (a tiny little box room which needs a bold wall to perk it up a bit!). Forests have a special place in my heart (I got engaged at a French chateau with the most incredible woodland) so a woodland mural would be fitting. I have been searching the web for the perfect forest mural and my favourites I have found so far have been from a site called Wallsauce. Don't believe me? I'll show you.


How inspired would you feel working with a view like that right in front of you??! Admittedly I do also really like this one also from their forest mural range. However a bookcase mural like the one below could work well in a study or home office too.


If like me you love all things marble, then you may like some of these incredible marble wall designs. I prefer the softer designs which have a white background and either black or grey veins of marble (I could really imagine them in my kitchen or in the entrance hall behind a mirrored console table!). And how amazing would this galaxy mural be in a bedroom?


GET THE PAINT BRUSHES OUT

If you've got the patience for it, one of the easiest ways to transform a room is with a lick of paint. One of my proudest before and afters so far has been transforming the magnolia lounge into a dark inky blue heaven. Always colour swatch paint samples and put them up on the wall for a week or so to see how they appear in different lights. As much as I love Stiffkey Blue and Hague Blue by Farrow & Ball, I learnt from my swatches that they wouldn't have suited that particular room. Instead I was drawn to Teal Tension by Dulux which could easily be one of those two F&B paints in low light.


As well as colour, you need to consider what kind of finish you are going for. Gloss gives a shinier look and allows light to bounce around the room, whereas matt does what it says on the tin (quite literally!). Farrow & Ball has a good reputation in that it's supposedly meant to be a creamier paint which only requires the one coat. However the Dulux paint I used is from their Once range which is the same concept, but at a fraction of the price - great for a decorating novice like myself!

The transformation from magnolia to bold and beautiful was amazing.


I love how it's a darker shade in the evenings, creating a cocoon effect. To be honest, you wouldn't even know these walls are teal until the sunlight hits it and transforms it into the loveliest shade of blue.


Next on the agenda: the magnolia walls in the bedroom

I found the perfect grey paint which is now up on the bedroom walls, but just requires the finishing touches i.e the skirting boards, windows etc. However recent nerve damage to my back and neck means the project is on temporary hiatus until I can get full movement back in my arms again!

RESEARCH STATEMENT WALLPAPERS

With a statement wallpaper there are two roads you can go down 1) wallpaper the whole room or 2) just paper a single wall. Only covering the one wall doesn't necessarily mean less impact. Why not paint the remaining walls a contrasting colour? Or alternatively pair a statement metallic wallpaper with muted colours on the other walls.

The latter being my latest project. I had been obsessing about admiring the below wallpaper for ages and then one day I went in-store - for something entirely different - and found a small amount of said paper in the clearance section (just enough to paper the main wall in my bedroom... it was fate!). The silver trees catch the light and help bounce light around the room and as luck may have it, the grey we managed to colour match to City Break by Crown. Now all I need is for my neck and back to clear up so I can get this up on the wall!


CONSIDER AN EXPOSED BRICK WALL

If you like the New York loft feel, how about an exposed brick wall? One way of achieving this is by chipping away at the plaster already on the wall. But this can be time consuming and risky (after all, you don't know what state the wall is in underneath). Alternatively there are such things as brick tiles and brick slips which are thinner versions of brick to give the same sort of allusion, and brick effect wallpaper and murals to get a similar look for less. Some examples of brick murals here for example. These are a lot more authentic looking these days and look a lot less 2D, so are worth bearing in mind!

What are your favourite ways of transforming your home?

* Post written in collaboration with Wallsauce but as ever, all words and opinions are my own. 
Wallsauce have some amazing wall murals so do be sure to look them up!

Monday, 11 June 2018

Why you can't beat a good ol' cup of tea and some interesting new flavours of tea you really need to try!

Tea makes everything better. I'm not sure how, but it just does. You can have the busiest of days and you get back and that first sip of tea is like the first sip of water after being stuck out in the desert for a few days (or so I imagine). That first sip of tea you drink with a sense of urgency and the relief that washes over you is like a tonic to the soul.

Whilst I don't drink tea in the traditional and proper British sense (standard tea bag and milk), I do appreciate a herbal tea. I mostly drink green tea, although lately I've branched out into chamomile, turmeric and other teas. I have an Alice in Wonderland themed tea pot which I use for tea bags, or if I'm feeling a bit fancy, I use loose leaf tea and my glass teapot.


I drink a lot of green tea and I do find there is a smokier, greater depth of flavour when I use loose leaf tea instead of a tea bag. Loose leaf sounds like a faff, but in actual fact, it couldn't be any simpler.

STEPS TO THE PERFECT CUP OF LOOSE LEAF TEA
  1. Choose your sachet of tea
  2. Spoon the amount directed on the sachet into the filter
  3. Add water
  4. Leave for the recommended time
  5. Enjoy!
Adagio Teas very kindly sent me a selection of loose leaf teas to try which as you may have seen on my Instagram stories, came in a very generously sized box. I actually have a brand spanking new glass tea pot, glass mug and selection of teas to give away to one lucky reader - so if you want to be in with a chance of winning, read on!  But first... some insights on a few of the teas so you can see which takes your fancy should you be the lucky winner!

JASMINE PHOENIX PEARLS

The first tea I tried was the Jasmine Phoenix Pearls from their green tea range but had one of my favourites - jasmine -  incorporated. The Adagio Tea packets have a press seal which is a nice touch as it keeps everything nice and fresh until next time. Each sachet has directions for steeping and how much of the sachet to use. I found that this was generally 2 minutes or so for the green teas and a longer time like 8-10 minutes for some of the fruity tea varieties.


I opened up the sachet to find not traditional tea leaves, but these dried pellets. 
Which even a certain little lady was intrigued by.


My tea set came with paper filters but for larger 'pearls' like these, it was pretty safe to use just the main metal filter that came with the teapot. Once added, I filled with jasmine phoenix pearls (the sachet suggested I use 1 heaped teaspoon per cup and 2-3 mins steeping time).

The first thing that hit me was the smell. This was beautifully floral, and almost smoky at times. Due to the filter, this poured out without sediment and was a light amber sort of colour, like apple juice.


This didn't taste like green tea as you know it (the jasmine flavour was stronger and was what I could mainly taste), but it was instantly relaxing. This has been perfect coming home to after work. And I always bring this one out on a dark and murky day. Case in point of how dark and murky it's been lately.


I've been working through the rest of the teas and further recommendations include the following:

CALYPSO GREEN

Calypso Green was another one from the green tea range, but was green tea with a difference! This was pretty tropical smelling right from the get go and contained big pieces of dried fruit mixed in with the loose leaf green tea. This was fruity tasting (as you'd expect) but subtly done, so it wasn't too strong. It made a nice change to a bog standard green tea.


FRUIT MEDLEY

This one was very sweet smelling with a strong scent of cherries. If I had to pin it down, I'd say it smelt like gummy sweets and cherry chapstick (so quite an unusual smelling tea!) The mix however contained lots of fruit pieces and it was nice having these in there as opposed to being full of artificial flavourings.


This Fruit Medley tea from the herbal teas range poured out as a darker liquid, and luckily didn't taste like cherry chapstick! In fact I could taste more fruits than just cherry (a bonus). The tea itself wasn't too strong and I happily discovered it didn't taste as sweet as it smelt.

SAMURAI MATE

Another tea from the herbal teas range. This tea caught my attention right from the offset with its interesting ingredients like almonds, cinnamon bark and aniseed. I assumed this was called Samurai Mate because when you first smell it, you are like MATE because the smell is quite strong (heavily of almonds / marzipan). I don't like marzipan so I was initially a little nervous about this one.


Fortunately the almond taste wasn't strong once steeped and I was relived to discover it didn't taste like marzipan. I could really taste the cinnamon part of the mix (which was the part I wanted to taste) and it was a lovely warming drink for a cold and rainy day.

GENMAI CHA

My favourite! The greenest of the green teas when poured. The smell when you open the Genmai Cha sachet is INCREDIBLE. I couldn't pinpoint what the smell actually was, but it reminded me of some of my favourite ingredients to cook with like soy, miso and sesame. The sachet mix was really interesting looking too. Some of the pieces were rice like and there were also some larger white pieces which almost looked like popcorn. Case in point...


And you know what? It tasted exactly how it smelt and had a great depth of flavour. This one I could really imagine having with a meal - like my favourite sesame salmon dish. If you like green tea, then you need to give this one a try!

LEMON MERINGUE

It was incredible how much this green tea smelt like lemon meringue - it actually smelt like a dessert! Once brewed / steeped, the citrus flavour was subtle. I'd personally prefer for the lemon flavour to be a little stronger - but if you love lemon based desserts / meringue, then you'll like this lemon meringue tea!


PINA COLADA

With the Pina Colada tea from the Adagio herbal tea range, I was transported to the Caribbean. There were generous big pieces of fruit in the mix and initially it smelt very coconutty (is 'coconutty' even a word??!)


I couldn't smell the pineapple initially, but this flavour developed when the tea had had some time to steep. The longer I left the tea, the stronger the fruit flavour became. This tea gave me incredible wanderlust and rather than being stuck inside on a wet day, I felt like I was in sunny paradise.

CITRUS MINT GREEN

I didn't smell a whole lot of citrus in the Citrus Mint Green tea initially, but I did smell the mint (peppermint). The mix was quite straw-like in appearance which I assumed were the green tea leaves (but later I learnt this was lemon grass).


After 2-3 minutes of steeping, I could taste citrus in the tea which I was really happy about, however this was quite subtle and I would have liked a stronger lemon flavour. Mint is one of my least favourite types of herbal tea, but because this had the citrus element, it was ideal for me.

PEACH BELLINI

This peach bellini tea from Adagio's herbal tea range had a recommended 8-10 minutes steeping time and this was one of the best smelling teas I tried (besides the Genmai Cha of course!). The sachet contained apple pieces, strawberries, rose petals, mango pieces, pineapple pieces and apricots amongst other things.


This tea poured out fairly clear and reminded me of the peach sirop I used to buy from the supermarche when I used to live in France. Admittedly the Peach Belllini tea doesn't taste as strong as it smells, but that's ok, as I don't like anything too sweet in the evenings before I go to bed.


There are plenty more teas in the Adagio Tea range (see the full range here) which I'm still working my way through - but hopefully the above gives you a little taster of some interesting and alternative teas! My evening routine lately has consisted of coming home, changing into my new Cookie Monster PJs (because I'm quite partial to a cookie. Or five), binge watching Stranger Things (have you tried it yet? I'm addicted!) and finishing up the evening by sampling a new tea.


Not all of the teas are caffeinated (go check out their herbal tea range here), but fun fact: they are vegan and gluten free (any additional flavourings come from essential oils and the traditional teas use pure leaves).

I'll tell you what though: I have been really impressed by how lightweight the tea pot and mug are, as being glass, I imagined these would be heavier. The tea pot lid can get a little hot, so if you have a glass tea set, do take care when pouring your tea!


I try a new tea every evening and what I love most is the element of surprise you get when you open a new sachet. Rather than just a green pile of tea leaves, it's usually an assortment of bright colours and different shapes, sizes and textures. It's also intriguing to see what kind of colour it produces and of course, the aroma. I'm not usually a black tea drinker, but I'm looking forward to giving these amazing sounding teas a go! Does the chocolate tea actually taste like chocolate? Watch this space!


AND FINALLY... A GIVEAWAY!

Adagio Teas have very kindly offered one of my readers a glass tea pot, glass mug and selection of teas of your choosing. To enter, keep an eye out on my Twitter and my Instagram where I will be posting about the giveaway very shortly. Until then, start thinking about what teas you'd like if you won (you can view Adagio's full range of teas here).

Which tea do you most like the sound of? I'd love to know!

* Tea set and teas very kindly provided by Adagio Teas for review purposes, but as ever, all opinions are my own. I also have another set for one lucky reader (further details to follow!). 

What sets Adagio apart from the rest is that their hand-picked teas are sourced from origin, and they work directly with the farmers who produce them in their native countries. Coming straight from the source means that they are brimming with far more nutrients, they are full leaf (unlike the stuff you see in supermarket teabags!) with no added sugar and all-natural flavours.