Thursday 24 March 2016

A Little Bit Of Everything

Now I'm NOT going to be talking about decorating.

Well ...

At least I'm not going to be talking about decorating my BATHROOM!

I'm not even going to mention that room again until it's finished (which is SO nearly is but these things take time and when I do eventually reveal all you will see why ...).

But other stuff has been happening around here.

last Saturday SD and I got dressed up, took ourselves off to the O2 at Bristol and watched these legends:

AMAZING night!  They played the whole of the black and white album back to back and I've got to say that since seeing them a couple of years ago they have really upped their game.

JJ has lost weight and they were all on top form.

The support band was The Alarm.  Bit of an odd choice I'd thought but hey, who doesn't like to sing along to 68 Guns?

Mike Peters, The Alarms front man - WHAT a nice guy ...  Seriously, seriously nice!

Mike has been fighting cancer for the last 20 years and does a huge amount of work for charities related to cancer.  He chatted a little about his battle and his charity work and urged people to join the bone marrow register.  He thanked The Stranglers for allowing them to tour with them in such a humble and genuine way that he melted everyone's heart and I don't think anyone got a bigger cheer that evening.

So, great night all round.

What else have I been up to?

Well, spending my Birthday money, a little bit of chazzing, some prep work for decorating the dining room (working on the finishing touches for the room I'm not going to mention) and making plans for the Summer which today, as it's cold and raining seems much too far away!

Want to see what I've been spending my money on?

I bought these spoons in my favourite antiques shop in Budleigh Salterton for just £1 - bargain!

I know they aren't anything special but they caught my eye and they are so sweet.

At the same time I also got this:

To add to my jelly mould collection for £4 so I was really happy.

I got this Sam Toft canvas at The Range.  I can't tell you how pleased I was when I saw it there.

I first fell in love with Sam Tofts paintings when SD took me to Cornwall for the first time and we discovered an art gallery that sold his paintings and prints.

I will have a Sam Toft original at some point (or maybe just a print) but although they aren't horrendously expensive they are a little out of my price range right now so this canvas was a real find and will fit in perfectly with the colour scheme I've decided on for my dining room.

If you were wondering, these are the colours I'm planning on using:

bit blurry, sorry ..

I decided my house was far too beige which really doesn't reflect my personality so I'm painting it mostly grey ...

Seriously, grey is the best colour (just wait until you see that room that shall not be mentioned!) and the great thing is that you can introduce other colours with it that really make it zing!

When I was looking at colours I fell in love with a Farrow and Ball paint called Arsnic - what a great name for a paint!  But there is no way I can afford to paint my wall with one of their paints so I looked around for an alternative and this paint, Cool Water by Wilko is a pretty good match for the colour.

I'm also thinking a few splashes of bright yellow might look nice with it ...

But, because this is MY house and nothing is ever easy let me show you what we are up against ...

I'd been aware for a while that there was a problem with the plaster on the window wall of the dining room.  The paper had started to bulge and the wall had a spongy feel to it.

While I was (literally) waiting for paint to dry I thought I might as well bite the bullet and strip the paper off to see what we were dealing with.

It was even worse than I'd thought ...

This is NOT good!

SD is off for Easter so we will be spending our time knocking off the loose plaster and preparing it to be re-plastered.  I was going to give it a go myself but fortunately SD has a friend who can plaster and has offered to come round and give us a hand.

Oh, and I bought this for the kitchen:

I haven't even started on the kitchen yet which will be a huge job as all the cabinates need painting but I got this in Home Sense which is one of those places that if you don't grab it when you see it then it's gone forever.  I missed out on a great camper van snow globe at Christmas by dithering ...

What else ...

Oh yes, SD found this fantastic silver anniversary Pirelli album when we were looking for a Pirelli calendar for the bathroom (which are evidently as rare as hens teeth by the way).

Isn't it great?

Well, that's about it I think.  This is really a 'filler' post while I get 'that room' finished which I'm saying will be by the beginning of next week but don't hold your breath ...

Thursday 17 March 2016

A Little Bit Revealing ...

I haven't mentioned my bathroom for a while and I know you've all been hanging in there with baited breath for the great reveal.

Well ...

It isn't now ...

I know, seriously, how long can one small bathroom take???

The truth is - FOREVER!!!

The thing is, I keep thinking of more things I want to do and I really want to have the damned thing complete but then I get impatient and I want to show you what I've done so far ...

Anyway, all of the painting, woodwork, little bits and bobs HAVE been done and some of the dressing has also been completed so I'm going to share a photo of the bath area.

The bath is in it's own little alcove with a wall along the side, a wall with a window along the back and a third wall at the tap end which is the side wall of the shower cubicle so it is enclosed on three sides.

This is where the inspiration came from to give it a municipal baths kind of feel  (not forgetting the workshop element).

This is how the bath area looks at the moment.

The three taps were originally a set of hooks that I picked up in Dunn Elm and SD sawed the hooks off just leaving the taps.

The retro garage print came from Ebay and the hot bath sign from The Range.  The set of three pictures hanging at the end was something I already had and they kind of go as they have a rustic look but I'm not sure if they will be staying.

I had talked about maybe edging the tiles around the bath with something but I think it suits it better just to leave it how it is.

NOW ...

A couple of extra projects I have started and which are holding things up a little ...

I picked this cupboard up on Ebay really cheaply.  I'd decided I wanted a free standing cupboard to keep things in rather than something built in.

I would have LOVED something like this:

But they are WAY out of my price range ...

So far the cupboard looks like this:

It's been sanded down and given a coat of undercoat - more on that at a later date ...

I also had this in my bathroom already:

It's a large bamboo laundry basket with a lid but I've never used it for laundry, it's always sat next to the bath and been used as more of a table.

It doesn't fit into the bathroom as it is but I have BIG plans for it which will either be a total triumph or a complete disaster, I really don't know which yet.

The transformation has begun and at the moment it looks like this:

Yep, just a coat of undercoat but I'm working on it! (really wish I'd emptied or moved those pots ...).

There are still lots of things to go up in the bathroom, some were Birthday presents so there hasn't been time yet but we will get there ... eventually ...

I'll post again after the weekend when hopefully both the cupboard and the laundry basket thing will be finished.  Who knows, there maybe more on the walls too ...

Wednesday 16 March 2016

The Hawaii Years

Well it happened ...

I knew it was going to but somehow I never imagined it ever would.

Considering the alternative I'm pretty grateful it did but I still can't quite get my head around it.

It all seems a tiny bit ridiculous and even now when I think about it I feel this tiny bubble of hysterical laughter building up inside.

I mean seriously? 


50 ...

Wow, I guess being the youngest of four means that you always think of yourself as the youngest and, while I still AM the youngest of four well, the others ain't so young either these days ...

Actually, there isn't very much between us at all.  My eldest sister will be 55 next month, the next one down will be 53 in May and for the next few days until she turns 51 I will be the same age as the sister above me.

That must have been a hell of a 5 years for my Mum!

I keep thinking 'but i don't FEEL 50' although to be honest, I'm not sure HOW I'm supposed to feel.

Nothings really changed, not really ...

One of the Birthday wishes on my Facebook said, 'age is just a number - actually, age is just a word' and that's true.  Just a little three letter word which means whatever you choose it to mean.

SD see's a bright new future, one with less responsibility, more freedom and at some point more time to do the things we love.

I get that although to be fair, that's pretty much how SD has ALWAYS lived his life.  The biggest changes are for me and while I really am looking forward to them and I know we are going to have so much fun I can't help taking a glance back and feeling a little sad that the days of hands on motherhood are drifting away.


One of the things that age HAS taught me is that looking back with regret is a pointless exercise and changes nothing and, if it weren't for the past then I probably wouldn't have ended up where I am and I really don't think I want to be anywhere else.

So ...  Back to my Birthday because I think when you turn 50 it probably is ok for it all to be about you don't you?

SD and I had planned to spend last weekend in Cornwall drinking coffee, walking the cliff paths, sifting sand through our fingers and filling our lungs with salty air and it would have been a fantastic weekend to do it as Spring made an early appearance for a few days.  The weather was mild, the sun shone and we had a glorious few days.

But SD's Mum wasn't very well last week and spent a couple of days in hospital.  She is out now and doing well although having some more tests but it just wouldn't have felt right to be so far away when she might have needed us so we put our plans on hold and will save Cornwall for Easter.

We did have a day out on Saturday though.

SD took me to Budleigh Salterton.  I've talked about Budleigh before.  It's a place that I love with it's pebble beach, little boats pulled high up on the shore, the colonial style houses and air of gentility.  Budleigh has a gentle pace of life which I love.  People walk slower, they stop and take in their surroundings, it's such a peaceful place to be and it was the perfect time to be there.

I've probably photographed this very boat more than once but I love the way the setting sun lit it from one side and the faint touch of pink in the sky behind.

I don't often post photos of SD on the blog but I couldn't resist this one, he just looks SO damned pleased with himself!

SD took loads of photos of me as he always does and I managed not to look too horrendous in a couple of them.

Then I got all arty with my photos:

How cool is the light on the wood and the way it frames the person standing on the shore:

At the end of a beautiful afternoon we sat overlooking the sea sharing a bag of cheesy chips and watching the sun set:

I was so peaceful.

Yesterday by contrast was non stop visitors, presents, phone calls and messages and ended with a lovely meal out and, because it's a big Birthday, it doesn't end there.  On Saturday SD and I are going to see The Stranglers in Cardiff where they are playing the whole of the Black and White album back to back, should be a great night out!

Monday 7 March 2016

The Chazzing Diaries Pt 1

Chazzing is a phrase coined by the lovely Emma Kate over at Paint and Style.

This is how Emma Kate describes herself:

'I'm Emma Kate. I'm a paint nerd, a decorative painter and a serial decorator. I live in a picturesque market town in Hertfordshire, England. I have a passion for frugal living, upcycling vintage furniture, home decor, DIY and secondhand shopping.'

But she's so much more than that!

Emma Kate blogs about her beautiful home, the things she has found and the things she has restored.  She also blogs in an accessible way talking you through the things she does and really making you believe that you could do it too.

Emma Kate also talks about her life, her family and her naughty cat Bad Bobby who often photo bombs her creations.

Anyway, Emma Kate hasn't been around much for a while (where you been Emma Kate??) but I still pop over all the time for inspiration.


Well, my interpretation of it is hunting down an eclectic mix of stuff from car boots, friends sheds, antiques markets , Ebay and second hand shops etc and filling your home with them and it's a love that Emma Kate and I share.

I will at some point do that Bathroom reveal which, although all the actual work has now been done (except I think I really need to give the floor a bit more attention, has yet to have everything put into place but SD has promised me that will be this week!

Meanwhile I thought I'd share the finds that have made there way into the cabinet in my front room.

This cabinet has to have been THE best buy EVER!
I bought it on Ebay a few months ago for the princely sum of £26!!!  Seriously, it's been fully restored and painted and the oak top waxed, I love it!

It sat empty for a while but over the weekend I played around with the things that I have collected and started to fill it up.

Things may change over time as I gather other stuff and mainly I think it's going to be filled with kitchenalia.

As you can see, one side it propped up with coasters under the feet.  This isn't because the cabinet is wonky but rather that my floor is!  The floor in this corner of the room like almost every floor and doorway in my house falls away.  SD had the woodwork guy at the school he works in make two wooden props which I have painted grey to match the cupboard and they will sit under the feet and hopefully yo wont even notice them.

The back of the cabinet is papered with a lovely silvery grey paper with an iridescent shine.

On the top shelf are a couple of my antique/retro jelly moulds.  One a standard blamange shaped one and one a tiny, single serve bunny mould.  As well as that I have two beer bottles that SD's Dad dug out of the hedge at the farm (I have many more bottles that I will show at a later date).  The bottles are a dark green glass and the embossed writing on then says, 'W Hancock & Sons Wiveliscombe.

A little bit of research found this information on the Hancocks Brewery:

'Wiveliscombe was famous for its brewery built in 1807 by William Hancock. The Hancock family exercised a huge influence on the town for many decades. The men of the family were fanatical in their enthusiasm for rugby. Wiveliscombe Rugby Club was founded in 1872 largely due to the Hancocks, The family were determined to ensure the club was successful and brought into the town many well-known people solely on the strength of their ability to play rugby. Seven of the ten Hancock sons played rugby for Somerset. One, Frank Ernest, captained Wales and another Phillip Froude played for England.

In the 1920s the brewery provided one of the main sources of employment still being run by Hancock after the amalgamation with Arnolds of Taunton in 1927. Its demise is poignantly catalogued by Ivor Burston in his book Wiveliscombe "Bits and Pieces" 1955 -Sad Days were in store for Wiveliscombe for Arnolds and Hancocks were bought out by Ushers of Trowbridge and many changes were made, eventually Watneys bought out Ushers, the brewery closed and with a number of employees moved to Rowbarton, Taunton. This was indeed the end of an era and many think Wiveliscombe was never the same"

The shelf also holds this:

 Picked up at our local Antiques market for a few pounds.  I love that it still has it's original instructions with it!

You can also see my old herb cutter just like my Grandmother used to have that I found in an Antiques shop in Lyme Regis:

The second shelf has a few of my glass jell moulds and a set of Coca Cola salt and pepper shakers.  The salt and paper set aren't old but that's the beauty of Chazzing in my eyes.  I wanted an eclectic mix of old and new and to just have things that seemed to fit as far as I'm concerned.

Again, on the third shelf, that radio is in fact a biscuit tin that SD was given at Christmas filled with lovely biscuits.  It's brand new but has a retro look that I like.  SD doesn't really think it has a place here and has promised me one of the real retro radios he has to replace it with at some point but for now I think it looks just fine.

On the left is one of my best finds.  An old icing set in it's original box:

It was clearly sent to someone as a gift for Christmas and still has the original festive paper inside the box.

The writing on the box is faded and has disappeared in places but in the top left hand corner it says 'Rayners Dispensing Opticians and, one the right, under where is says fragile you can see part of the address it was sent to, something Road and then dmouth (perhaps Sidmouth?), Devon.

On the left was another find at out local antiques market, a Spongs slicer:

Again, what appears to be a complete set in it's original box:

With instructions
Very similar to one I recall my Grandmother having and possibly from the 60'S.

The bottom shelf is a mix of things:

A retro style mug that says 'Chick Flicks - making guy suffer since 1954' - a couple more jelly moulds including a large rabbit one and a retro style oxo tin from the 80's.

And that's it for now, I'm still playing with stuff and deciding what I want in it and no doubt there will be other finds in the future but for now I'm pretty happy with my cabinet and my chazzing!

Thursday 3 March 2016

Grandma's Forgotten Recipe

I don't know when my Grandmother became Grandma.  Actually, I'm not sure why I always refer to her as my Grandmother.  We always called her Nanny so perhaps that's what I should call her from now on.

Anyway, all this talk about my Grandparents recently has led me to thinking about food, something very close to my heart as well as hers and I remembered a pudding she used to make that I haven't seen for years!

Honeycomb Mould.

I loved this pudding with it's milk custard base, light fluffy mousse and thin layer of jelly on top.

Sadly Nanny recipe hasn't just been forgotten, it's been lost.

All her recipes were written in her tiny spiky hand writing in a small blue hard backed book with a picture of flowers on the front. 

My Mum had the book for years but somehow over numerous house moved it disappeared.

I turned to the Internet for help and found that there were many recipes for this lovely pudding still out there and so yesterday I decided to give it a go myself.

For anyone interested I'll go through the recipe in 45 easy steps ...

1.  Pick your jelly mould:

Ok, so I MAY have more than the average person but I'm a COLLECTOR don't you know ...

I decide on this one I picked up at an antiques fair somewhere:

Because I'm pretty sure Nanny used a similar one

2.  Assemble your ingredients:

I like to pretend I'm organised when cooking

3.  Separate three large eggs while you bring 570ml of milk slowly to the boil adding a tbsp of vanilla extract as it heats.

4. Mix the egg yolks with 75g of sugar - you can use ordinary but I used caster sugar.

5.  When the milk is almost at boiling point pour it over the egg and sugar mixture and stir well.

6.  Return the whole thing to the saucepan and gradually bring to the boil stirring all the time.  Once it's boiled take it off the heat.  You should have a thin custard.

I would definitely recommend buying a silicone whisk if you don't have one, they are great for stirring hot stuff in nonstick pans!

7.  While the custard is cooling sprinkle 1 1/2 tbsps of geletine powder on to 2 tablespoons of cold water and leave it for a few minutes to soften.

8. Wonder vaguely why geletine powder is a kind of beige colour and watch as it immediately absorbs all of the water leaving a large amount of geletine still dry.

9.  Re-check recipe in case you have misread amount of water.  Recipe definitely says 1 /12 of geletine to 2 of water ...

10.  Poke geletine for a bit and stir cooling custard.

11. Stick your finger in custard to check temperature - it's still bloody hot!

12.  Place glass of still almost dry geletine mixture and non existent water into a pan of simmering water to melt geletine.

13.  Immediately realise your mistake when you hear a loud crack and the glass explodes.

14.  Recheck recipe which clearly says to put it in a cup not a glass!

15.  Stick your finger in the custard again (this stuff tastes GOOD!).

16.  Start geletine mixture again, this time in a cup.

17.  Watch geletine start to melt and wait for it to go from beige to absolutely clear as stated in the recipe.

18.  Look forlornly at glass for a while realising it was one of a matching pair.

19.  Notice that geletine has solidified and formed a invisible seal over the cracks and wonder if I could actually still use it.

20.  Decide I can't and chuck glass in the recycling box.

21.  Stick finger in still hot custard.

22.  Look at geletine and give it a poke with a teaspoon.

23.  Still fairly thick and still beige.

24.  Check recipe again - it definitely says it will go 'absolutely clear'.

25.  Wonder briefly if I have inadvertently picked up some kind of WHOLEMEAL geletine and does such a thing exist???

This sucker was NOT for turning!!

26. stick finger in now cooling custard a few more times and stir geletine.

27.  Whisk egg white until they are stiff but not dry.

Looks about right.

28.  Get fed up with stirring geletine and pour it into now cold custard mix anyway.

29. Fold in egg whites, it now looks like a lumpy pile of sick.

30.  Start to pour it into jelly mould and realise that jelly mould only holds 1/2ltr and you have about 1 1/2ltrs of pudding stuff.

31.  Get out supplementary bowl and pour the rest into that.

32.  Cover and stick in the fridge and wait for the pudding to work it's magic and separate into the three layer describe above.

33. Make restorative cup of coffee.

34.  Take a sip of coffee and then scream in pain as your lip sticks to the cup ripping off a strip of skin.

35,  Take another sip and repeat process.

36.  Look carefully at cup and realise that it's the same cup you used to dissolve the wholemeal geletine in and, while it stubbornly refused to turn crystal clear IN the cup there was a trail of it on the outside of the cup that was now invisible and half your bloody lip is stuck to it!

36.  Open fridge to check progress of pudding.

37.  Remove small black almost completely recovered kitten from the bottom shelf of fridge

38.  Make another coffee in a fresh cup.

39.  Check pudding again and chase away large tortoiseshell cat as she trys to grab the mince for tomorrows dinner.

40.  Wash every bowl in the house because it takes all of them to make this pudding.

41.  Check pudding again, it's starting to separate! (remove small black kitten from fridge again).

42.  Decide to leave pudding in mould in fridge overnight but ask Miss Mac if she wants to test the one in the bowl.

43.  Glare at Miss Mac when she declares that it might have been better to flavour it with lemon as per the recipe instead of with vanilla which is how I remember it tasting.

44.  Next morning confidently up end pudding over a plate.

NOTHING ....  Pudding still firmly in mould.  Shake it a bit and then decide to dip it into a bowl of hot water to loosen.

45.  Leave in hot water just a little too long and successfully turn out pudding onto plate.

When I say successfully ....

I think I melted the jelly layer  BUT, I do have a custard and a mousse layer and despite what Miss Mac says it does taste pretty good it just doesn't look like this:

So I've renamed it Honeycomb Moat!

So there you are, Grandma's forgotten recipe in 45 simple steps.

You are welcome!

And, because I'm slightly hysterical now and really don't care any more I'm going to like this post up with Anne at Domesblissity  for Thriving on Thursdays where people link up great crafting and baking ideas (this one should make them feel extra good about their stuff shouldn't it ;-)

Wednesday 2 March 2016

Cold Meat And Pickles

A comment by Di on yesterdays post prompted more childhood memories for me.

My Grandparents were frugal people, a trait born of necessity having lived through two world wars and times of great shortage.

Nothing was wasted, everything had a purpose and yet they never seemed to be short of anything.

Grandad grew almost all of the vegetables they needed and those that weren't used fresh were preserved in chutneys, jams and pickles.

Great sacks of potatoes sat in the shed and onions were plaited into long ropes that hung from hooks in the rafters.

The large dark wood wardrobe built into the alcove at the side of the fireplace in the front bedroom housed row after row of jams, jellies, pickles and dark, thick cut marmalade that sparkled like jewels in the dim light when the door was opened.

Housework in those days really was a full time job without the convenience of modern technology and labour saving devices.

I remember being given the job of sweeping the carpet in the little used front room.  The carpet was a deep pile textured carpet in a kind of ginger colour and the curtains and chairs were a dull gold draylon. 

The huge bay window where my favourite chair sat was hung with ridgedly starched net curtains that scratched my nose as I pressed it against the window.

I can still recall that smell and feel the coolness of the glass through the net.

The curtains ran on a track outside of the bay and when I pulled them across it was like being in my own little den where no one could see me but I could see all that was happening outside.

Sweeping that carpet was not my favourite job!  I don't know if they ever owned a vacuum cleaner, my memories are of an old fashioned carpet sweeper like this one:

It had a spiral shaped brush at the front that turned and swept the dust and crumbs up into the base as you pushed it across the floor.  Easy enough on a flat floor, not so easy on that bumpy, textured carpet!

Sunday lunch was always a very proper affair, the only hot meal of the week to be eaten in the middle of the day.

No roast was complete without it's correct accompaniment.  Apple sauce for pork, bread sauce with chicken, Yorkshire puddings with beef and mint sauce with the lamb.

Mint sauce was made from mint grown in the garden.  I was sent to pick a small bunch which would first be washed and then the leaves stripped from the tougher stalks.  The mint was laid on a wooden board and sprinkled with sugar and then chopped with a roller with a row of sharp blades before being left to infuse in dark malt vinegar.

I don't know what became of my Grandmothers mint roller.  I suppose it could have been used for any herb but the days of 'fancy' cooking hadn't yet arrived and I never saw it used for anything other than mint.

Last year when I was looking around an antique market near Lyme Regis I stumbled upon a herb cutter exactly like my Grandmothers.  The only one I'd ever seen other than hers so of course I HAD to have it!

It now sits proudly in a cabinet in my front room along with some other kitchenalia I've collected over the last few years.

The joint of meat cooked on a Sunday was always large enough for several meals and Monday was cold meat and pickles day.

Slices of cold meat were served with huge piles of buttery mashed potato, a loaf of bread warm from the oven and a jar of chutney or pickle from the wardrobe in the front bedroom.

My favourite was the dark green, slightly onion'y runner bean chutney packed with plump sultanas ladled out with a long stemmed rather worn silver spoon.

The rest of the meat was made into pies with golden pastry crusts, a small ceramic blackbird with it's beak open poking up through the centre to let the steam escape.

If it had been beef for Sunday lunch Grandad would clamp the mincer on to the side of the blue formica table in the kitchen and turn the handle as my Grandmother fed the slices of meat into the top.  I watched with fascination as the mince was forced through the holes and dropped into the bowl below.

Later it would be transformed into a huge cottage pie topped with mashed potato, the top raked with a fork so the peaks became caramelised by the butter dotted all over it before it was popped into the oven.

I also found an original 1960's mincer still in it's box with instructions at out local antiques market, perhaps my next post should be about the things I've collected so far ...