Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Getting the keys to the new flat....

31 October 2012

Got the keys to the flat - everything left clean, but I decide that I hate it; think about selling it, renting it, all sorts of things cross my mind. Strangely, it looks even smaller without the tenants stuff in it. Felt slightly sick at the thought that I might have to live there one day!! The layout has always been problematic, but after racking my brains day in and day out (as well as asking all my friends what they thought, then annoyingly rejecting all their ideas!!), I realised that I'd have to live with the layout it as it was. The living room is in the wrong place (facing the quiet courtyard - where actually the bedroom should be), the kitchen is in the wrong place (next to aforementioned small living room), the bedroom is in the wrong place (facing the street, the biggest sunniest room.... restaurant two floors below, so could be noisy (though I'm assured it isn't), and cobbled street (pretty, but very noisy when cars drive over them) and the Schwarze Hexe bar next door (the Black Witch!! - could be interesting, in fact, but it's not.... thought I might meet some interesting types in there, but no)...this should be the living room at the front with the balcony, and facing the street. I knew all of this, but somehow refused to register the fact properly until the day I got the keys! What's that saying about doing things too quickly and regretting them later?

Living room to bedroom - Day 1
The building in which the flat located looked a bit shabby and dirty, and seemed like only the absolute minimum was done, and the new caretaker was not as nice and friendly and helpful as where I live now (Christian, we love keep the place looking clean and tidy, you are always helpful, fix anything that goes wrong in record time, or get the person that can.... you were never taken for granted by me, but now even less so!!). In fact, the new caretaker was quite macho and initially only spoke to my friend Johann, and not to me, until I put him right and told him that it was MY flat, and I might have a slight accent, but I can speak German and I understand everything he said. Not a good start!!! 

Living room facing kitchen and courtyard - Day 1
Now, I know I totally sound like a spoilt brat here, and I know I am really lucky to have a place to live, and for one person it's fine....I'm just can't really stand laminated floors and the ubiquitous woodchip paper found in almost every flat in Berlin. And the place where I live now is really nice....also not huge, but cosy, with nice wooden floors, a bit of stucco on the ceiling, old doors - and this place looks exactly like what it was.... a cheap rented flat. There are other personal reasons why I wasn't so excited about it, too, but won't go into those here. There's nothing really nice about it at all in terms of character, but it has big windows, a little balcony... and I know I can make it nice...given time, help, money and ideas. And a more positive attitude!! And, I always had plans to make lots of changes, but the size of the living room was just a shock!

Bedroom to living room - Day 1
Here's one thing I like though.... the door! An original feature....woo hoo!!
Living room to bedroom - Day 1
And another thing I like is the balcony and the size of this room. And it's pretty bright as it's on a corner. The street right outside my door is named after an American civil rights activist and singer, so that's really nice too. I like that I can see the name on the street sign if I look out of the balcony. This room's gotta have a lot of stuff in it, but it's bright and nice. Radiator is in a stupid place though and will have to be moved - and a bigger one installed. It's simply not big enough to heat this room. Hadn't ever seen that corner before, as it was always full of boxes belonging to the previous tenant. It is now four weeks since I got the keys, so I have had time to get used to it, and things are moving apace (ish!).

Kitchen - new tea and coffee making stuff for me and the workmen! Very important!

The next instalment will include stuff about my new 'best friend', Götz, (besides the wonderful Johann, who has helped me soooooo much),  who is a jack of all trades, a friendly and funny guy, and a coffee-drinker extraordinaire.... and he's doing a great job for me.... I found him (thank you D&F) after I discovered that the person I thought I was gonna use, had, how do I say this, erm, a rather murky criminal background (and it is all in the past), which made me not want to work with him, as well, I've been told, as a very loud and sexist manner. I decided against him, though I am assured by many people he's a great worker. So, anyway, I'm going a bit too stream of consciousness here now.... gonna sign off, but wanted to get back to the blog, as sooo many things are happening all the time, that if I don't write them down somewhere, all memory and therefore all the things I've learnt will be lost.

Bathroom... a corner at least.... rickety shower, and very old (broken) heating system!

Back very soon.... with photos of how it looks a few weeks later....things have to get worse before they get better, right? Well, that's the way I see's looking much worse, but as I see change happening, I think it looks kinda better.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Interview with yours truly

I was interviewed by Elli Luca for her great food blog. You can read it on her blog here

1. What's your worst food memory – well, I guess apart from school dinners, then eating Harira soup in Marrakech, which I understood from our waiter and with my schoolgirl French was a vegetarian lentil soup…. I must admit, it looked and tasted delicious served with crusty bread, but, as a vegetarian, I was dismayed that after several spoonfuls of this huge bowl of soup I found a really large, what I now believe to be lamb bone in there. Oh dear… I didn’t finish it (though I’ll admit, I had enjoyed it up to that point and obviously repressed any lamb taste in my mouth until the bones confirmed it!!).

Another bad memory was many years ago when I was travelling around Europe. We were camping (admittedly not on a camping site), and one night, we came back to find a strange man sleeping in our tent. Our companions took pity on us and took us home to one of their parents to sleep there. We were immediately integrated into the family, and on the next night served a special dinner of bacalhau (salted dried cod and a Portuguese speciality). I wasn’t vegetarian way back then, but I had already stopped eating fish, so I had the tricky task of secreting vast amounts of bacalhau into serviettes, placing it about my person whilst pretending it was delicious. I just didn’t have the heart to be so difficult and fussy when they had taken us in like that and didn’t know us from Adam. (I noticed while reading this through that hiding unwanted food appears to have been a recurring theme when I was young – see below!)

2. Best food memory – Dinner at Ottolenghi in Islington, London, with foodie friends. The food is amazing and everything looks so fantastic and fresh. I don’t think I have ever salivated so much in my life…and looking and choosing the food from the vast and beautiful array of salads and puddings was one of the most difficult choices I can remember. Thankfully, they are served in tapas sizes portions so you have to order LOTS.

3. My signature dish is. – absolutely anything to do with breakfast!

4. One of my favourite food photographs (I used my own photos here) - I chose two

Breakfast in black & white (with a touch of porridge) © Francesca Bondy

Berry breakfast © Francesca Bondy

5. Ingredient I'm currently obsessed with is: well, not one particular ingredient, but I am crazy about Vietnamese food at the moment. Berlin has a large Vietnamese immigrant community (in the former East where I live – they were communist, after all) so I adore the freshness and the minimalism and beauty in my favourite restaurants. Three fantastic fresh dishes on the menu, not 200 from the deep freeze! The mixture of hot, cold, soft, crunchy, raw and cooked…. wakes up my taste buds a treat.

6. Worst kitchen injury – Thankfully I’ve never had anything worse than the usual burns and cuts, so nothing springs to mind. More annoying is that I’ve become very clumsy recently and broken lots of lovely dishes and bowls.

7. Cake I ask for on my birthday – Tarte au Citron or New York cheesecake

8. Favourite Chef – Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi (they work as a team)

9. Share with us one of your favourite recipes:
Just to make a change from Ottolenghi & Tamimi, I’ve chosen a delicious lemon and poppy seed loaf from the internet (thanks to my friend Ilse who pointed me in its direction)….it’s now a firm favourite (and my signature cake!): tasty, tangy, beautiful and so easy to make…works a treat every time – just remember to let the lemon drizzle icing soak in overnight to ensure that wow effect in the mouth!

Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf Cake


3 large eggs
1/4 Cup (60 ml) milk
1 1/2 Cups (210 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 Cup (150 g) granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
3 Tbsp (30 g) poppy seeds
13 Tbsp (184 g) unsalted butter, softened

Lemon Syrup

1/4 Cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice
1/3 Cup (65 g) granulated white sugar


Preheat oven to 350˚ F (180˚C) and place the oven rack in the centre of the oven. Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a loaf pan (8 x 4 x 2 1/2 inch) (20 x 10 x 7 cm). Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and butter and flour the paper. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Set aside.

In a bowl (or your mixer bowl), mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon zest and poppy seeds until combined. Add the softened butter and half the egg mixture and mix on low speed with a mixer, hand blender or by hand until moistened. Increase the speed to medium and beat for about one minute. This aerates and develops the cake's structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining egg mixture in two batches, beating about 30 seconds after each addition. This will strengthen the structure of the batter.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 55 to 65 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. You may have to cover the bread with buttered foil or baking paper after about 30 minutes if you find the bread over browning. I always do!

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the sugar and lemon juice to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

When the cake is done, remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Pierce the hot loaf all over with a wooden skewer or toothpick and then brush the top of the loaf with about half the hot lemon syrup. Cool the loaf in the pan for about 10 minutes then invert onto a greased wire rack. Brush the remaining syrup onto the bottom and the sides of the loaf. Turn it again so it is right side up and cool completely before wrapping (I use tin foil). Store at least overnight before serving to allow the lemon syrup to distribute throughout the loaf.

Serve - and wait for the oohs, aahs, yums and compliments…happens every time.

This recipe (or something similar) is all over the internet, but I think it originally came from

10. Favourite kitchen appliance and what I make with it most often – my mini mixer – I most often make parsley and walnut pesto with lots of garlic, olive oil and parmesan…. Best served with 12 minute Di Cecco Spaghetti (as I don’t make my own pasta...not so much evidence of a foodie here!)

11. If you were on death row, what would your final meal request be – the full works at Jai Krishna – a really cheap ‘caff style’ Indian vegetarian restaurant in Stroud Green, London (definitely not a café). Cheap as chips, take your own booze, and don’t be confused by the slightly arcane ordering system. I specially love their Jeera Aloo; almost caramelised potatoes with cumin. Absolutely delicious, and their Tarka Daal is the best I’ve ever had…. (not having actually been to India!).

12. What did you learn from you mother/grandmother that you use often in the kitchen –My dad was the one to cook in our house… I learned that children, if given half a chance, sometimes hide food they don’t like so as not to upset their dad!

13. What the name and address of your blog: Bowhaus -

As the blog still very new here's a link to my flickr breakfast photos here
14. What are five things you can’t live without? (don't have to be food related) – my beautiful dog, Nico; friends; a nice cup of Yorkshire tea; my Mac (well, I could, of course, but I wouldn’t like to….oh no, not one little bit!); going to the cinema

15. What are your favourite cookbooks that you would recommend every home cook own and why?

I don’t have a big list because when I moved to Berlin I only brought a few things with me  (and a recent flood ruined lots of my cookery books) so my main source of inspiration is Plenty by (the oft-aforementioned) Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. The food is all vegetarian and lots of it stems from Jerusalem the where the Jewish/Italian Ottolenghi grew up on one side of the city, while Tamimi grew up in the Arab quarter in another. Wonderful mouth-watering photos, and don’t be put off by the sometimes enormous lists of ingredients….even if I miss a few ingredients out sometimes, it’s always looks and tastes absolutely delicious.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

You light up my life

I've decided that little and often is going to be better than attempting a longer post, but not getting round to finishing or posting, may I introduce my new lamp. Taadaaaaa!

Unfortunately, I don't know who the designer is, but perhaps someone can help me (Kay, Adelle?), but I bought this a couple of weeks ago with some birthday money from the nice, but now rather pricey market at Arkona Platz in Berlin (Sundays). It's really heavy and solid, gorgeous chrome, and not only can the upright be moved to various angles...

as you can see below, but the semi-circular light fixture itself can be moved around to all angles. A perfect desk lamp. I find it stylish, beautifully made and I'm really glad I bought it. It was a big treat for me, but it was my birthday money....and I'm worth it!

I'm going to go for cheesy titles for my blog posts wherever possible, as you may already have noticed, but I am a cheesy kinda girl!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Berlin's Flying Dumplings

This is just an excuse to put up some nice food photos that I took for Andreas Wegmann who is the brains behind Flying Dumplings Berlin (aka The House of the Flying Dumplings) part of the new food phenomenon to recently hit Berlin in the shape of a food truck that travels around the city serving (in this case) delicious Chinese dumplings to all-comers. You may find it at a foodie market, a street festival, an open-air 'pub' with music and art thrown in, or just somewhere in your local neighbourhood.

Andreas is one of the two best chefs I know personally (the other being Tim Freathy whose great new venture in the UK I will write about soon). He is simply a stickler for the best ingredients and authenticity; a food lover who has travelled extensively - not completely led by food exactly - but that would certainly be a very important element of his trip. He's made his way around the world picking up tips and tastes along the way. 

I rapidly agree to any invitation to eat at his house, in his garden or at the new 'food truck'. The flavours are fantastic plus I always learn something new about ingredients, a cooking technique, other chefs, amazing cook books I should probably already know about, or something else. He shares his knowledge passionately and generously.

Today's salad was rice noodles and Thai vegetable with peanuts, tomorrow it might be marinated steamed edamame with Sichuan pickles

His 'mobile restaurant' is his way of sharing his delight in food with anyone who wants to taste fresh, top-notch ingredients, prepared, cooked and served in this mobile restaurant.

You may have to queue, but the wait is worth it. The dumplings (or Jiaozi) are freshly steamed to order and served with a delicious crispy Asian salad, perfectly dressed with tangy lime and a number of secret ingredients! At the moment, Andreas is serving a salad of marinated, steamed edamame with Sichuan pickles. I have only tasted the lovely vegetarian version, but there are also traditional pork dumplings for meat eaters and coming soon there will also be chicken, lemon grass and Thai basil with a chilli, peanut satay sauce. The little van has beautiful Chinese posters inside to add to the feel of if not exactly being transported to China, then certainly bringing a touch and taste of it to Berlin.

If you want to know where you can find the truck, go to Flying Dumplings Berlin on Facebook and 'like' and you'll receive info about where the van can be found next (or leave your email address here to go on the mailing list).

Dip those dumplings!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Sweet shelves and round tables

I love these shelves, and I'd like something a bit like this in my new kitchen, I think. I don't like it all too fitted; I need a bit of life and mess around me...not too sterile. I fear that I may have a lot more stuff to put on my shelves than here though, as I won't be living in a photo-shoot, but I like this idea, in principle. 

However, thinking about it, maybe this speaks against having it open plan as it might look just a tad too messy if my shelves are full of stuff, nice as it may be. What do you think? 
(I still like the idea of old-fashioned Victorian-style folding doors between the kitchen and living room spaces, so I can remain firmly on the fence for a little longer with rather a lot of splinters up my a*s*!).

From Living etc magazine (not sure of issue date!)

The layout designs of both these kitchens could work in my place, and in the picture below, I like the idea of the kitchen with the workplace and the round table and stylish chairs. I don't want everything to be white though, which might be surprising given the two images I've chosen here. However, I definitely like the idea of the white table and wooden (possibly mismatched) chairs.

From Living etc magazine (not sure of issue date!)

I've also been advised that pretty as they might be, round tables are really rather impractical, but hopefully just going through these thought processes will help me reach some decisions when the time comes. Not to mention that I don't really NEED to buy very much, but I might just treat myself to the odd new item in good time.

I won't have a double height ceiling like the one above... but it is 3.2m high, I think. Fairly standard for Berlin, but I think in England, we might put another flat in between. A lot of people I know had to buy new ladders when they moved to Berlin (even from other parts of Germany) because of the ceiling heights. I don't own a ladder at all yet....but I'll be borrowing one from from one of those friends, I hope (D&F for example!).

So, that's today's little outburst.... I know that when I read blogs, I don't always want to comment and I'm not even sure what an RSS feed is (can anyone tell me in simple terms how it works?), so I'm not really a nerd with much knowledge of the blogosphere, but I would really LOVE to get some comments and feedback....anything at all, but even if I am writing into a void, I think the process is still helpful for me!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

CAD by name and cad by nature

CAD! Computer 'aided' design!! Well, that's what they call it!!! At the moment, the computer isn't really aiding me very much, but I must say that I'm really kind of enjoying trying to translate lines and numbers into beautiful-looking plans and elevations for my interior design course. But it's a tricky wee game to play and I've got sooooo much to learn. I've had some good tuition from my friend Emma, and now I'm on to "learning by doing" as they so love to say here in Germany.

I've left it a while since I last did some of this, so my beautiful plans are not up to professional standards, yet! It takes patience and logic to get things right. I'm aiming for something like this:

Paul Loebe Haus, Berlin.  ©Stefan Braunfels Architekten 

  ...eventually..... But what I've got at the moment, unfortunately, is this:

Something altogether more ugly and mundane, but we can but dream and aim high!

This isn't at all the layout I'll necessarily want in my new kitchen, but just having a look to see what I could potentially fit into this small space....and it's surprisingly (a little) more than I expected.

There'll be more questions about the layout (even if they fall on deaf ears); it's helpful for me (and good practice for my course) to mess about with the programme and get more used to things. Does anyone know Vector Works? The printed version looks very different to the one on the screen.....not sure what I'm doing wrong, apart from 'lots, it seems' ... but need to get used the screen stuff first, I think, then get to grips with printing.

I'm quite proud of myself to have got this far with the basics (it's harder than it looks, honest guv!) .... so more creative ideas about the layout I might want (an island, L-shape, something else altogether), not to mention the door or knock-down-the-wall question, can wait til later. I don't want to lose the impetus to write and post something here regularly.

So, that's it for today, folks.... (or should I say folk - Hi Ola - mwah!!!).

Friday, 31 August 2012

Kitchen questions - open plan or separate room?

Open plan, separate room, sliding doors.... questions, questions. What should it be? Sociable chatting while casually knocking up a delightful dinner or does that mean stinky smells in the living room? What are the pros and cons, and how do I choose?

My new flat has the possibility to be either open to the living room, partially or completely separate. Hmmmpphhhh. What to do? I've always had a separate kitchen, but now's the chance to change that....but do I want to?

Here's the plan of the flat... the red line shows the wall that currently separates the kitchen (Küche) - tiny as it is, from the the living room (Zimmer 1). My friend Johann (who's a structural engineer) says I could remove it if I want to. The cooker etc. are not really in the places shown on the plan.  There's a window on the outside wall.

So, my question of the day is: Are you an open plan type, or separate room? What are the pros and cons? Tips for me to think about?

I'm thinking about a compromise - with old fashioned Victorian folding doors that are commonly used in the UK between a dining room and living room, but not so common here in Berlin....The only thing I've found is these double doors which are the right period (Jugendstil) for the flat, but they'd take up most of the whole space, so would probably look a bit odd.... a small kitchen hidden behind these rather grand doors. I think that writing these ideas down is definitely helpful....but I'd really like to hear about other people's experiences.

Promise there'll be some pretty photos soon!

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Why blog about interiors?

Why not politics? Global warming? Something 'heavyweight'?

Well, I've certainly pondered why my interest isn't firmly rooted in more serious topics, but I've decided not to be too hard on myself. I get the feeling that some people think in writing a blog about interiors and food that I'm shallow and self-indulgent, so before I can go on and enjoy it, I just need to get this bit out of the way.

I have been thinking about why home and food are important to me and come to the conclusion that everyone has to find their own place in the world, whether it be in the realms of politics, science, art, sport, living with illness, poverty, just getting through the day - whatever. We're all different.

In my experience, it depends on where one happens to be born, education, background, family circumstances and a zillion other nebulous things.  I don't think my interest in these most basic of needs for food and shelter should be something to be ashamed of, even though across the world, and even perhaps not so very far away, I am more than aware that not everybody even has a home, nor enough food to eat. 

However, I do absolutely appreciate what I have in living here with a roof over my head and food on my table. I am not an intellectual and I couldn't write about really serious things even if I wanted to, yet I don't think I'm a bad person because of this.

I think my personal need to make a home probably stems from the fact that I 'lost' my family home at a comparatively young age (my mother left us when I was very young, and my father died when I was about 25). Ever since then, I've not only enjoyed, but perhaps even been slightly driven to create a cosy and comfortable living space for myself; a place I can invite friends; a place to call 'home'. I don't have luxurious taste, nor the money to indulge it, even if I had. I like to cook, to eat, to feed and to nourish - myself and others.

Food, shelter, love ... bliss!!

In thinking (and yes, googling!) about this, I came across a short article called Why home is where the heart is by the writer Alain de Botton: "In a house strangled by three motorways ... our optimism and sense of purpose are liable to drain away, like water from a punctured container. We may start to forget that we ever had ambitions or reasons to feel spirited and hopeful", he writes. 

I will always look for reasons to feel spirited and hopeful. My cup is more than half full! And so I will write about interiors and food...and more. Every day brings new things to interest, inspire and challenge.

So, that's that out of the way, for now, at least....and I'm going to get on with my original aims without feelings of lack and guilt. I hope some people will join me for the ride.

End of (slightly) serious it's gonna be back to fluff and wallpaper!!

Monday, 27 August 2012

What's my style?

Very good question, if I say so myself. Well, this is something I'm exploring in both my interior design course and personally, as I'm going to be moving into a new flat next year and let's just say, 'it needs some work'. I definitely like modern; I definitely like vintage, so I guess the nearest I can get is 'modern vintage' which just about covers it for now, at least, with a touch of (the other) Bauhaus and some mid-century modern thrown in for good measure.

I used to be a regular flickr user - see breakfast with Bowhaus, but I kinda stopped photographing my breakfast quite time ago (and hence lost a bit of weight too!). However, I was very inspired and learnt so much from the people I 'met' on flickr, so I hope that some from that lovely network of people might find their way to read this blog too. I'd love to reconnect with them  and share knowledge, wisdom (theirs, I mean!) and ideas, as well as images, useful links and who knows what else might emerge. 

My new flat - a one-bedroom in Berlin, Prenzlauer Berg - is a rather compact 55 sq m consisting of bedroom, living room, kitchen, bathroom and balcony (which is possibly a bit too close to the Greek restaurant downstairs, but that remains to be seen, or should I say, heard!). The flat needs a new kitchen and bathroom (it's only got a really manky shower at the moment and I am a bath kinda girl) and I'd like to strip the walls of the rather nasty woodchip paper (assuming the walls don't come down with it!) as well as the floor of the cheap laminate. I have been assured that there are nice old wooden floors underneath, but I wouldn't bet on it. I don't have access to it at the moment as it is still rented out, but I hope should be able to get started in November. Until then, I'd like to try to use this blog to brainstorm ideas to help me create a comfortable, colourful, cosy home and use it as a kind of diary for the before, during and after.

So here are a couple of images from the corners of the flat where I live now to give you an initial idea of my style

Arabia vase from e-bay (back left)

 Corner of my kitchen

 Shelves with paintings by Carlos Silva

I want to put things here which I already have, like or which inspire me. I hope that I'll be getting ideas and feedback from my lovely friends out there once I work out how to tell people about this blog, and if anyone reads it.

Well, if this works, it would have been easier than I imagined (I decided not to wait til I got the perfect photos, but to 'just get on with it' as my friend Odette would say) here's to the future of my Bowhaus' Blog! 

Special thanks are due to Nina for loads of tips, support and her mammoth email. I'd actually love for her to move to Berlin and help me with my new flat, but unfortunately she'll undoubtedly be staying with her partner and daughter in Holland!

Let me know what you think; tips, feedback and ideas are all very welcome!!