Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas

I have been an exceptionally lazy blogger this year, I must admit.
However, I couldn't look at a Easter chicken on the frontpage anymore, so here is a little glimpse of our Christmas tree.

We here at Hilltop House wish you all a lovely Christmas and a very happy New Year!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Happy Easter

I have tried my skills as an artist. Hmm, better not give up my day job just yet, I suppose. It was fun to mess around with paint and stuff though.

Someone who really likes Easter is our poodle-boy Eddie. He enjoys having Grandma and Grandad visiting, and he really enjoyed having his very own Easter egg.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Flushed with pride

Here at Hilltop House we have no less than two bathrooms that are in dire need of renovation. Unfortunately, renovating bathrooms is obscenely expensive.
One of our bathrooms is going to get done properly, sometime this summer hopefully. The other one got a mini make over recently, and it actually all cost less than 200 £.

We were so eager to get this hideous monstrosity out of the house, that we forgot to take a "before" photo. However, here it is in all it's glory.

Old, broken and BLUE. Hard to believe, isn't it? That somebody once thought this was chic. You can't imagine how good it felt to take this to the rubbish tip.
But it wasn't just the toilet and wash basin that needed changing. There was an old lamp which gave a strange yellow light that made you look pale and pasty. Not that it mattered much, because there was no mirror. There was no place to put any thing, no towel rail and the only heat source was a rusty old electric heater high up on the wall. It was probably a fire hazard, and we never dared to use that, so it was always freezing in there.

I know, we really ought to demolish the whole room and start from scratch, but it will have to do for a while yet. What we wanted was a small and inexpensive upgrade to make it look just a little bit better. We got two hundred pounds from my mother for Christmas, and decided to use them on the bathroom. We were lucky enough to pick up a few bargains in the after Christmas sale and actually managed to get everything for about 198 £. I'll have to spend those two extra pounds on a bar of soap or something.

We started by removing the old toilet. It was surprisingly easy to put the new one in place, even though replacing a toilet is a job we have never done before. We turned off the water mains, unscrewed the old toilet from the floor and lifted it away. Without going in to detail, the drainage pipe was a bit yucky, but was not difficult to scrape clean. We covered it with silicone before we lifted  the new toilet into place, screwed that losely to the floor, tilted it to one side and sprayed silicon on the floor, before tightening the screws. Then we could connect the water again. Easy peasy.

The wash basin proved to be more difficult. It is located behind a door, and with only just over a half-meter to our disposal, there was no room for bathroom furnitureWe needed a very small basin, and decided that a ceramic stand underneath would look pretty.
With most things we try to fix in the house, we are somehow confronted with the DIY projects of the previous owners, and we have long since concluded that they must have had considerably more enthusiasm than expertise. One of the strange things they had done was to switch the hot and cold water. Obviously, we wanted to correct that, so we had to buy flexible pipes. To connect them was easier said than done, because the dimentions were all wrong. We had a few days with leaking, but Hubby has proven to be a competent plumber and finally managed to get it watertight.

We put up some new towel hooks, and of course, I saw this as an opportunity to invest in a few new towels. These are from Vossen, one of my favourite brands. The soap is the gorgeously scented Verbena range from L'Occitane.

 The old heater was replaced by an electric towel warmer, which also heats up the small room - to a certain extent at least. It is such a nice luxurious feeling to wrap oneself in warm towels after the morning shower.
These towels are from Christy - another one of my favourite suppliers. I admit it, I am totally addicted to soft and fluffy towels. Ah well, it's not the worst thing to be guilty of, is it?

A small cupboard with a mirror door provides supringsly much storage space. Well, enough for all my little bottles and jars anyway. The style is rather minimalistic, so I needed to pimp it a little bit. A friend gave me this lace heart for Christmas. Cute, isn't it?

At this time of the year I need a good hand cream, and this one from Clarins does the job really well.
The little "Rings and Things" jar is something I found when tidying. It must be from the eighties. I thought it was a bit cute, and decided it would be a good place to keep cotton buds.

I bought this jar at the Sunday market in Bangkok. it is supposed to have real gold on it. I doubt that, but it looks pretty and is ideal to store cotton pads in.

 A good air freshener is a must in a bathroom and this jar is filled with lovely vanilla scented hearts. Really nice.

I wanted another small shelf on the wall, but couldn't find anything that fit, so I made this one. It was really easy, just a couple of white brackets and a melamine plank. Finally, I also found a spot for this old calender picture that I've held on to for decades.

Okay, so I didn't really need the shelf for storage. I just wanted a place to put little nice things.

This small rattan dresser was here when we moved in. Not the smartest piece of furniture perhaps, but size wise it fits the bill.

I've tried to make the window look a bit nicer too, but I definitely need new curtains. Or perhaps wooden blinds.

So, here is the result of 200 well spent pounds. Nothing fantastic, but a definite improvement from how it used to be. I'm actually quite proud of what we achieved with so little.

This is our budget:

Toilet: 50
Wash Basin: 19.90
Stand: 9.90
Faucet: 25
Pipes: 15
Towel Rail: 25
Towel hooks: 7.80
Cupboard: 29.90
Shelf: 3.80
Shelf brackets: 1.90 
Lamp: 9.90
Total   198.10 GBP.
            1981 NOK
            353 USD

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


In Norway it is a tradition to bake seven different kinds of cakes and cookies before Christmas. I must admit I haven't made them all, but so far we have four varieties in our cookie jars. It varies slightly from year to year what kinds we want to make, but the Norwegian donuts called "Smultringer" are a must. There are after all few things that taste as good as fresh donuts straight from the pan.

I have used the same recipe for years, and it is always successful.

2 eggs
150 grams of sugar
100 ml sour cream
150 ml cream
400 grams flour
1 teaspoon cardamom
3 teaspoons baking powder
A pinch of salt

Beat eggs and sugar until fluffy and mix in sour cream and cream. Stir the flour gently into the mix. The dough should be left cold for a few hours, preferably overnight in the refrigerator, before being rolled out to about one centimeter thickness.
We deep fry them in our wide Le Creuset sauté pan which is absolutely ideal for this sort of work.

You are supposed to fry them in lard, but that just smells too intense for me. I prefer coconut fat but you can use any kind of shortening.

We will probably need to make another batch of these gorgeous cakes this Christmas, because they tend to disappear quickly. Once when we invited some friends over to a Christmas workshop with baking, I fried more than 150 rings. It was a huge pile, and I thought that we would surely have donuts until Easter. But before the night was through, there was not a single donut left. The guests had munched up every single one of them

 Our ​​poodle boy was appointed the ring tester this year. A task he seemed to appreciate a lot.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Better butter

In these "low-carb" times fat no longer appears to be public enemy number one. Seems to me that people everywhere are "dieting" while stuffing themselves with bacon, cream and butter. Ah well, I'm not so sure that is such a good idea, but as far as butter is concerned I'll gladly admit I like it a lot.I am not a big fan of supermarket butter though. It usually tastes so bland. However, we get so used to it that we think it is supposed to taste like that, don't we? When I do get served old fashioned proper butter, it's like a revelation - so this is what butter really tastes like!

Well, since we are entering the festive season, I think we should serve the real thing on our Christmas table.  Only the best will do at this time of the year. However, if you want to taste real butter, you've got to churn it yourself. You'll be surprised how quick and easy it is and how little effort it will take to impress your friends when you serve the best butter they have ever tasted.

You can make butter from either sour cream or regular cream, needless to say the full fat variety. Sour cream gives a fuller, slightly tangy flavour.

Personally, I use half and half. About a cup of each is a good meassure.

You can use any sort of kitchen appliance that will whip cream, or if you want to burn off some calories you can even just use a jar and shake it vigourously for a while. I use a standard Tefal food prosessor.
First, the cream will turn into a thick white mass.

Then, after a couple of minutes, it separates and the yellow butter emerges.

The butter and the milk have separated and it is almost finished.

Try to gather it all together with a spatula.

Then comes the hands-on work. Knead the lump of butter to get out as much milk as you can. You will not be able to get it all out, so it will need to be washed in cold water.

Have a bowl of ice water standing by and drop the butter in. Because the water is icy cold, the butter will not dissolve in the water butwill repell it. Change the water at least once and make sure there is no more milk to wash out.

Lightly dry the butter with a paper towel, then put it back in the emptied and dried bowl. The butter will now have a smooth and lovely texture that is easy to work with.

Now it's time to add a bit of flavour. A teaspoon of salt is really all it needs. Use a spoon to knead the salt in, and taste it to see if you have added sufficient salt or if you need to add a bit more.

Find a suitable container and voila you're done! We had this empty jar that had once contained Stilton cheese and it fitted the bill perfectly.
By the way, make sure you keep the butter at room temperature to keep it spreadable. Don't worry about it going off. It will disappear so quickly that it won't have the chance.

If you like, you can of course add more flavour. You can use all sorts, depending on what you are going to serve it with.
Some chopped parsley and a spoonfull of lemon juice will be the perfect accompaniment for fish.

Some grated lemon zest and a bit of white pepper will jazz it up even more.

The buttermilk should not be wasted. You can drink it if you like, just make sure you strain it properly first, or else it will have little bits of fat and butter floating in it. We prefer to use it for baking.

This was added to the breadmix along with the leftovers from yesterday's mashed potatoes. The breadmix is about a kilo of plain flour, 200 grams of rye, 200 grams of oats and a handfull each of linseeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds, a teaspoon of salt and finally a spoonful of honey to feed the yeast. Bake for 40 minutes at 200 degrees Celcius. This will make a very tasty and rich bread.

Now, what could be better than home churned butter melting on a slice of freshly baked bread still hot from the oven? Perhaps a corncob sprinkled with crunchy sea salt and a good dollop of that golden butter. Mmmm, don't tell me you're not tempted.

Monday, 17 October 2011

There is still life in the garden

Although the first night-frost has done away with most of the summer flowers a good while ago, there are some hardy plants that blossom still. They stretch their heads and do their best to soak up the low autumn sun whenever it makes one of its rare appearances.

The Spanish Marguerites are still alive, even though the flowering may not be as vigorous as before. They are still beautiful though.

Looks like it's time to collect seeds from the marigolds, so that I can plant more next year. These flowers were among the most successful newcomers in the garden this year, and they really looked great in front of the house. I think they will come back again in the spring, but I would like to have them other places as well.

I don’t remember what these funny things are called, but they actually didn’t begin flowering before October. All summer the green modest leaves stood there, and I never thought I would get anything out of these seeds. However, it seems that autumn is their time. They are still full of flower buds waiting to blossom. 
The winter is so long here in Norway, so it's good that there are some tough plants, which extends the summer season for just a little while.