All about the exciting (terrifying) world of buying a flat in London and other interesting distractions.

Thoughts, ideas and little bits of inspiration.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

I missed you

My name is Aimée and I am a terrible blogger.

It has been a year since my last blog post. I am a blog failure. Time to set things back in motion. So, I should spare you the excuses and just crack on yes?

Let's start with a post to make you hate me a bit. Or, possibly to inspire you to book your 2014 holiday. When you have read this you will want to book a trip to Vietnam immediately.

3 weeks in Vietnam September/October 2014
Ho Chi Minh City - Hoi An - Halong Bay - Hanoi - Phu Quoc - Ho Chi Minh

This was a long awaited trip. It was whopping 13 months since our last proper holiday (honeymoon back in June 2012). We managed to stick it out all summer,  resisted killing all the friends and colleagues flitting off on holiday, and by the time we got to September we really needed it. It was well worth the wait.

We started out trip in Ho Chi Minh City, previously know as Saigon and still known as such to the locals.

We conquered crossing the roads - which basically meant coming to terms with just walking out into the traffic and letting it flow around you (this was a relatively quiet junction).

We got stuck in to the food.
And took a crash course in the history of Vietnam.

We departed Saigon in high spirits and already planning our return visit. We arrived in Hoi An in the pouring rain.

In continued to rain pretty much solidly for the next 2 days. This happened.

This was a river with roads running along either side. It became just one huge muddy river. Not that these kids seemed to mind.

 The little bridge got totally blocked up by water hyacinth and loads of guys had to come in and hack it all up.

But whilst we never made it to the beach,  The rain didn't stop Hoi An being a beautiful place to hang out. We became very familiar with Vietnamese coffee and beer and the local tailors. We also took a cooking course with one of the local restaurants Morning Glory

If you ever do make it to Hoi An, you must must go with the space in your suitcase. Oli and I both came home with beautifully tailor made wool winter coats and I could quite happily have had all sorts of things made if we'd had more space... Did I mention they as also make SHOES?

Next stop Hanoi and on to Halong Bay and the best upgrade we have ever (and probably will ever) had. Whilst the mini bus trip from Hanoi does not rank highly in my list of reasons to go to Vietnam, our 3 days/ 2 nights cruising Halong Bay with Bhaya Cruises does. Long story short, we had booked to be on this boat:

We got this one. To ourselves. We had a butler and crew. I kid you not. Smug doesn't even cover it:

Oli and our Butler/personal guide

Halong bay is stunning. Go there. But beware the cost of drinks. Food on the boat is all provided, but drinks cost extra and they are not cheap. We are talking London expensive, not even just Vietnam expensive! My recommendation - stock up on beer before you leave Hanoi and smuggle some booze on with you. The covert beers drunk on our balcony in the evening tasted so much sweeter for having not cost us the earth.

We had a few days in Hanoi before flying back South via Saigon to the island of Phu Quoc for a bit of R&R.
On Phu Quoc we stayed at the beautiful Eco Lodge Mango Bay 

So there you have it. A very brief round up of our Vietnam trip.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Tiny Earl Grey Cupakes for Band of Bakers

Yes, I know. I have been totally useless at Blogging. Last year I had an excuse. This year I really don't. But maybe, just maybe I will get my act together and blog more regularly again.

Then what better subject to begin (again, again), than the fabulous Band of Bakers. This wonderful South East London baking club meets every couple of months to share cake and recipes and chat over a glass or 2 of wine.

The lovely Naomi and Gemma, the brains behind the operation, set up Band of Bakers nearly 1 year ago and the club has gone form strength to strength. The rapidly growing members list is testament to it's success, as is the speed of response required to secure a slot these days when an invite goes out!

But it's not just about the cake (okay, it is mostly about cake). It's about meeting lovely people, supporting local businesses and getting involved in the community. At Christmas we baked for 2 very good local causes and generally spread the baking love throughout South East London.

It is becoming the stuff of local legend, and it's a legend very much enjoy baking for.

So, a little bit of cake for you:

Tiny Earl Grey Cupcakes
For 'British Classics' Band of Bakers, March 2013

For the Earl Grey sponge:

8oz unsalted butter, softened
5 tea bags worth of Earl Grey tea
3 eggs
6 oz Caster sugar
6 oz Self raising flour
1tsp Baking powder
A splash of milk

Early Grey Butter cream*

Pre heat your oven, around 180 (adjust according to idiosyncrasies of your oven)  and sort out your cupcake tray and cases.

The best way to get the tea taste, but avoid having bits of actual tea in your cakes, is to infuse your butter. Melt the butter over a low heat and stir in the tea. On a very low heat stir the tea and leave to infuse for a few minutes. Remove the heat. Strain the butter through a fine sieve, really press out as much as you can get - you should have around 6oz of butter (if you have any more, keep it for the icing later). Allow the butter to cool. You can use it liquid, or let it set a little.

Put all the rest of the cake ingredients in a bowl, add the cooled butter and mix with a wooden spoon or electric mixer till you get a nice smooth, thick batter.

If you are making tiny cakes, put a heaped teaspoon of batter into each case - they should be around two thirds full. Bake for around 10-12 minutes, keep an eye on them - when they are golden and springy to the touch they are done, whip them out, cool on a wire rack and repeat with remaining batter. This recipe gave me around 40 tiny cupcakes, so you can adjust ingredients for a smaller batch if you want less (as if you would you want less). 

Once cooled, I used a half quantity of Dan Lepard's *Swiss Meringue butter-cream recipe from Short and Sweet, but used tea infused butter rather than plain unsalted. I sprinkled a tiny bit of gold  edible glitter over them for a bit of lazy decoration. Et voila!

Looking forward to trying the tea infusion method with different teas. Rooibos? Lady Grey with extra orange perhaps? Not sure about husband's suggestion of Lapsang Suchong though...

Monday, 18 June 2012

Normal service resumed

... or at least that is the plan.

One or two people have suggested I need to change the name of this blog now in light of my recent nuptials, but I'm going to stick with it. Though Maison Mason Daffarn does have a nice ring to it.

Now I held my tongue up till now, not wanting to curse things in the run up to our wedding, but you know what, planning the wedding was not that difficult. Of course the word 'planning' is key. There were spread sheets and lists and we did as much as we could as we went along. The final week was still a bit hectic, but nothing we hadn't expected and totally manageable.

I know the homemade/DIY thing is not everyone's cup of tea, but the fact that we made a lot of things ourselves was a big part of what made the day feel personal and if you do have the capacity and inclination I would encourage couples to utilise their creative skills, whatever they may be.

I designed and we made all our stationery, right from our origami map invites up to the orders of service and menu cards.

I got a lesson in buttonholes and corsages from my floristry whizz Mother and with a little help made all of those the day before.

Months and months before the wedding, we raided the local woods for blackberry's and damsons and made 100 little pots of jam - that was where thinking ahead seriously paid off.

I was adamant that I didn't want a normal table plan, so this is what we came up with.

 More to come...

Monday, 26 March 2012


Reasons for feeling smug this weekend:
  • I  made macarons for the first time. Just because I felt like making something new. And they were amazing. From now on I have no fear of the tiny delicate treat that is the macaron. You can expect a rainbow of almondy treats in the months to come.I will take pictures next time.
  • I went to church! I didn't even complain about it (too much) - because our wedding Banns were being read for the first time. Then, when another couple, who were clearly there for the same reason, arrived late and spent the whole hour looking uncomfortable, I got to feel smug for having dragged myself out of bed to be there on time. If the big guy is really up there surely this warrants some brownie points or wedding karma or something?
  • I made my own Kindle case/cover. After shelling out a load of money for the Kindle itself I had been carrying it around in a small padded envelope. Now I have a custom made cover that cost me about 20 pence worth of elastic and a piece of left over fabric from making our curtains. 

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Sorry sorry sorry

Forgive me for such a ridiculously long pause in posting. One or 2 things have happened (or about to happen) since my last post...

We got engaged in April last year - The big day is now fast approaching...

I hope for normal blog posting to resume shortly!

Also news of a little recipe blog project I am working on on behalf of the cooking obsessed inhabitants of Nunhead!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Baking smugness

I have been told there are few things as satisfying as making your own bread. But lets face it, I just don't generally have the patience for waiting for the dough to rise twice over etc. If I'm baking, it is generally because I want either a) instant gratification b) a cake fix or c) praise

Past bread making attempts have been of mixed success. Largely due to impatience (see above). So it was with a little trepidation that I decided to try and make Hot Cross Buns on Sunday. I followed the recipe (unusual for me) and really made myself wait long enough to let the dough really double in size.

Behold the pay off:

So they aren't entirely uniform, but the perfectionist in me completely overcame this on eating one. They are awesome. James Martin I love you.

The biscuits in the tin are Easter Biscuits, made to my Mum's recipe and as authentic as could be.

Et voilà! A haul of seasonal baked goods. The boy was very happy indeed. 

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

I heart Little Green Notebook

I love Little Green Notebook at the best of times, but a whole post on book shelves - AMAZING. 

I'm aiming for a similar look to this one (M designs via Dolce Vita, via LGN)

- like this but with the chimney breast instead of the middle stack. And maybe not that colour, but you get the general idea. A mix of books and objects and pictures.

The paint colour samples are sitting patiently in the living room. We are waiting till Friday to get them on the walls.  Friday is completion day and the flat officially becomes ours at last. About time.