Saturday, May 2, 2015

Brighton Kitchen Progress

I promised an update on the work I have done on the kitchen so here it is.  I am embarrassed by the pictures - they are terrible -but they are all I have. And this is mostly for my Mom (+ family members who have been there) so I am hoping to be forgiven.

Click on the photos for the full photo - they have been cut off on the side in the body of the post.

Here is the Before, where we started:

Then, last Fall, I changed the tiles under the window and painted the lower cabinets.  The upper cabinets were still the dingy looking off white, but the lower ones were a nice Farrow and Ball color, Downpipe.  Here is the state of the kitchen after that.:

And here is the other side of the U shaped counter. This gives you a nice sense of the color.

Here are the upper cupboards painted Farrow and Ball All White.  It makes a  huge difference, maybe more than you can see here.  

I also took out the shelf under the cabinet on the left, which was always just annoying.  But the backsplash there is metal and I wasn't sure how to take it off and put something else up.  Then, duh, I bought a drill bit intended for metal and it wasn't that hard to re- site another hanging thing from Ikea, which had been on the side of the fridge.  Again, a small tweak that has made a huge difference.  I also made a cover for the over the rubbish bin.  This is probably the thing that bugged me the most.  I'm not sure the curtain is a permanent solution, but it's great for right now. 

From another angle, so you can see my pretty freesias some more.  I had freesias in my wedding bouquet and I love having them around. 

The other refinement that I made - putting shelves by the fridge - I already showed you here, -  you can go back and see them by clicking.

Still to do, we need to get the soffit put back up.  I have already made another curtain for another opening you don't see here.  I have a shade that needs to get put up. This will happen in the summer when we are back - we have already arranged with the carpenter for this to happen.

And I am going to paint the fridge pale blue. It's not included in any of these pictures, but it's an almond color that just doesn't Go.  I was going to paint it white and then I saw a picture of a blue Smeg refrigerator and I knew that I must have a blue fridge:

And then there's the floor. I dunno.  It's a lime washed old pine (I think, pine).  Very charming but with big gaps between the boards which crumbs fall into and will not brush out.  I'm not sure what to do with it and until I am sure, it will remain as is. Maybe I might paint it in the meantime.  We'll see.

Back in Brighton

It occurs to me that I've never done a 'tour' of our flat here.  That will have to wait until I can take pictures, but here is a picture of our sitting room, which I love.  The light in the room is wonderful and it's a happy place for us.

Here's a close-up of those tulips on the table.

Italy, Food

I was sick the whole time we were in Italy (sinus infection) so eating was a bit of a problem.  Restaurants don't open for dinner until 7:30 or 8 and by then I usually wanted to sleep.  So we ate in our flat a lot. Meals that were not exciting.  But we did have a few lovely meals.  And some nice gelato.

Here's a picture of one from the Stella Maris Restaurant on the beach in Amalfi. It was a local fish - don't know what it was - but it was very fresh and very good.

Lemons and San Marzano tomatoes are the crops grown here. I love lemons, so that's great for me. I also love Limoncello, the local liqueur made from lemons. The story we heard about the San Marzano tomato - which all cooks everywhere agree is the best for tomato sauce - was interesting.  We heard that in the 18th century, seeds of the San Marzano tomato were given as a gift from the King of Peru to the King of Naples.  

You may ask yourself, why did the King of Peru give a gift to the King of Naples? The reason for the gift seems lost to history.  Or at least not in Wikipedia.  I did learn that the San Marzano tomato probably did come from Peru, but also that there was no King of Peru in the 18th century.  So... it's a good story.

We also had a lovely lunch in Positano - the COG had grilled squid and I had lemon pasta, which was so fantastic that I am going to try to make some or find some.  Trader Joes has Lemon Pepper pasta, nice but not the same.   We had an elegant meal on our last night at a fancy restaurant in Ravello - again we had simple fresh delicious food.

But the stand out, in a way, of the whole trip was pizza we had in a restaurant in Ravello one of our first nights there.  This was the BEST pizza I have ever had.  It was so simple, crust-tomato sauce- buffalo mozzarella.  That's it. But the crust was the best crust ever.  The tomato sauce was the best tomato sauce ever - so much flavor. And the buffalo mozzarella was divine.  I had quite a bit of buffalo mozzarella while we were there and it was always good - such a different thing from the pale kind of tasteless stuff we get here, which I love anyway.

The thing that, for me, made this pizza so memorable was that it reinforced what everyone says - good simple ingredients, well-prepared.  One of those lessons for cooking that I knew of course, but when I actually had this pizza, I finally really got it.  I will always aspire to make everything I cook from now on, this good.

Italy: a few odds and ends

Looking straight down from the 'Terrace of Infinity' at Villa Cimbrone. What I wanted to show was those ubiquitous strips of black and green.  Those are covering lemon orchards to keep any frost off of them, according to our driver.  The lemons form from autumn to spring, and this is not an area with heavy frosts, but they do get some light frosts and this protects the trees. 

Here's another view from straight on. This is very much a part of the springtime landscape:

Here's another picture showing the terracing better.  I don't know how old the terracing is. In some places we have walked in France, it was said to be thousands of years old.  This area has always been agriculturally rich, even in Roman times and probably before. Terracing is an old method, but, of course, much of this could be more recent.  

As I'm writing this, I keep looking through my pictures.  Without wishing to belabor the point, this is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.  I'm going to stop there.  The COGs pictures are better than mine.  

Italy: This Poster

We saw this poster everywhere - apparently there's a musical, with an 'historical 'storyline.  People on Trip Advisor seem to like it, though no one gives any idea what it is, except there are good vocals and a cheesy story.

However, this poster bugged me.  It's so wrong.  There's a Big Bad Guy and, yet. The Girl is hanging onto The Good Guy's sword arm.  Sweetie- that's a bad idea. I'm not into violent fighting, but if you have to do it, do it right.  Leave his sword arm alone.  Hang on his other arm if you have really must.  I also (full disclosure) was bugged by the way she is looking down and the men are staring out.  It's a feminist knee-jerk reaction.  I know this is only a poster, but it bugged me. 

Just saying.....  

Italy Continued: More Plant Life

Not pruning this time but just a couple of things that impressed me.

First, we saw several of these trees.  No pruning on these that I could see, but such an odd looking thing.  All of the 'leaves' grow straight up from the branches, instead of drooping, or clustering around the branch as in every other evergreen tree I know.

And this beautiful hanging plant with purple flowers is the herb Rosemary used for landscaping.  I've seen it grow wild in massive bushes in the Mediterranean, and I've seen it - even blogged it- used for landscaping, but it always impresses me.  And I've not seen it hanging like this before.  When I think of my sad little Rosemary plant that I bring in each winter so I can use it in cooking... it hardly seems possible that it's the same thing. 

Italy Continued: Pruning

It's a funny thing about travel that the best, most impressive, things are usually surprises.  You can plan all you want, but the highlight ends up something you never thought about. And so it was on this trip.  The COG could not stop talking about pruning.  We have, of course, noticed before that there are all kinds of pruning techniques used in Europe that are not seen much in America.  But this trip was really eye-opening.  I think part of the reason is because trees weren't fully leafed out, so you could see what had been done.  It's rather ruthless - we didn't even realize you could do this to a plant and have it survive.  It's a way of making plants/trees do your bidding entirely.

This is a walkway/road by the church in Ravello - do you see how the trees have been pruned back so that they will form an arch in the summer, but not get too big?

Here's a close-up:

And look at this one from the garden of the Villa Rufalo:

And there was a whole avenue of flowering trees leading to our flat. They were quite remarkable because in places so much had been pruned that the flowers were growing right on the stem. 

Look at this tree from the main square of Ravello - totally reshaped by the hand of man.

There were many other instances of pruning - roses pruned waaaaay back and pergola structures like this one, with vines pruned to create shade in summer.

So we talked about pruning the whole trip - it was probably our most frequent conversation after the one 'OMG isn't that beautiful and look over there.'