lifestyle

Champagne on Ice, Dinner at 8…

Some friends you just know are going to be in your lives for the long run, and our former neighbours fall firmly into that category. In the space of just a couple of years we’ve camped out in each others’ kitchens, set the world to rights more times than I care to remember,  celebrated some of life’s great milestones and donned a myriad of fancy dress costumes whilst sinking an inordinate number of bottles of wine – all the usual stuff that bonds you and transcends the superficial differences in age and life stage.  So it was a no brainer that they’d be the first people invited to dinner the moment the new cooker was connected, and last weekend we celebrated in style.

Of course, anyone who has ever had a new kitchen fitted will immediately recognise my amateur error above, namely to throw a dinner party without having even idly flicked through the 368 page cooker manual beforehand, and indeed such a laissez-faire attitude was foolhardy to say the least. The food was certainly eye-watering, but not alas because of its grandeur and finesse but because of the smoke which billowed from the oven and created an atmospheric if throat-constricting backdrop to the evening.

Still, the champagne helped, and the table decor distracted – I made these personalised placemats earlier in the day using a basic graphics programme and some vintage cutlery clipart, before adding a touch of silver leaf to the knife and fork to catch the light from the candles on the table.  Stencilling the initials of our friends on these slate tags below with a chalk pen made for unique (and wipe-clean) napkin rings, into which I tucked a sprig of rosemary for a flash of colour and a hint of barely discernible scent. Tips and techniques below…

 

For the placemats (I used Powerpoint, but adapt these guidelines for your chosen programme)….

  • Draw a simple coloured square for your background colour, and choose font colour
  • I googled an online dictionary and copied the phonetic layout and invented appropriate descriptors for each guest
  • Either paste your clip-art directly onto the backdrop or carefully print, clip and paste on to each
  • I printed these onto UK A3 sized paper – using recycled paper gave a great matte finish, but normal copy paper would work fine
  • Rub the clip-art image lightly with low-tack glue (I used Pritt-Stick) and brush on a little silver leaf, using a dry brush to remove any excess.
  • Save the template – you can use it infinitely and just change names and descriptors each time – ta da!

 

Unnatural Passions…

So there I was in the new kitchen, sniggering at a story in the news about a lady in the US who was experiencing a distinctly unrequited passion for the Statue of Liberty, whom she intended to marry at the earliest opportunity.  ’A rare disorder’, mused the gravely serious experts, which meant that she was ‘irrevocably attracted to inanimate objects’, causing the same pulse-racing, obsessional behaviour that might occur in a normal woman were George Clooney to move in next door.  The Eiffel Tower too, it seems, has a flurry of admirers who become a little skittish and flirtatious when in its presence.

Imagine my surprise when my husband looked me in the eye and asked me, gently yet firmly, whether I recognised any of these symptoms.  He drew my attention to the way I stroke our Italian granite worktops, sigh contentedly at the soft-close doors and am happy as a clam just gazing at our new range cooker for the entire 45 minutes it takes to cook a Findus Ready Meal.  My denials faded rapidly…. in my defence, at least a new kitchen is – generally speaking –  a lower maintenance and less threatening lover than the usual alternatives.

So here it is; the object of my affections….

The room used to be a shag-pile carpeted living room, before we reconfigured the space to create a kitchen/diner. We had a mould made of the original coving and will continue it along the new back wall (above). The flooring is engineered artisan oak with a linen whitewash; it’s probably my favourite thing, and is great for tricycles…

A pair of dressers hold a collection of white and neutral china, including this cow creamer which holds a place in my heart as the quirkiest yet most utterly useless milk jug ever.

It would be untrue to say that the whole kitchen was designed around this beautiful and organic light from BTC, but we certainly had it in mind from the outset; six porcelain bell-cups cast a soft glow over the dining table.  Assembling it and wiring in without dropping a clanger (literally) is a feat of engineering and would make  a good game show challenge.

An off-white sofa may seem a ludicrous choice for a family kitchen, but this one is treated with industrial-grade stain guard and has so far resisted wine, chocolate, mud and just about everything else a 2yr old can throw at it.

The range cooker from French company Lacanche looks the bees-knees but its opaque doors and my resultant inability to peer inside without opening the door means that my baking skills are going to have to improve…

We kept the original fireplace and added a stone surround from London company Chesneys. After a frenzy of chimney sweeping we held our breath and built a fire; now evenings are spent pottering around the kitchen whilst logs spit and crackle in the hearth.

We’re taking our time with accents (not least because we need to earn some more money first…), and will add counter stools, in due course.  For now a clock and blackboard lean against the wall and can be moved around as we decide on their ultimate position.

And finally, the fireside log basket doubles as a stool and portable play table when fitted with our barrel-top breadboard