Sunday, 29 July 2012

From the sublime....

We were doing a bit of chateaux stalking the other day, it just sort of happened. We started off looking at properties in our budget and then went a bit further, and a bit further,and then some more and we stopped when we found this 19th century fantasy chateau.

We just loved the Harry Potter style staircase.

I might have to change the artworks in the bedroom.

And my own drawbridge.

A snip at 1.790m euros or with today's favourable exchange rate a tad over £1.4 million. Look here while the details are still available.

However reality at Chateau Nelson is a little different. You may remember we are reinstating the bathroom to it's original position, which meant reopening a doorway and putting a wall back. Like all the best projects nothing is straight forward. The bathroom/hall wall was lathe & plaster and not in brilliant condition so Andrew decided it would be easier to start again. On the plus side the kindling pile is looking pretty healthy.

New doorway
Spot the magic hammer
New doorway & partition
Not sure the door is really necessary at this point!
More wall coming off
Shower controls
The wall is now back and Andrew has started what is proving to be a very challenging plumbing project.

Frankly I've no idea!
Think I'll stalk some more chateaux!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Francophile alert!

Thanks to Chez Loulou for sharing this one. It's very funny and you have to watch the video!

Proud to be a Frenchy


Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Breakfast conversation

During breakfast this morning the new Poetry brochure arrived and I had a quick browse. This caught my eye.

"Now this I like - it's me. Softer than a jacket but more substantial than a cardigan"

" much is it?"

"£129 - but it is alpaca"

"£129! What, are you putting the alpaca and all it's cousins through higher education!"

What's a girl to do?

Sunday, 15 July 2012


Along with everyone else in the U.K I'm fed up with the rain. It's not just the constant need for an umbrella it's the continual grey sky with just an occasional tease of blue. Yesterday I decided to slap myself round the face with a wet kipper and find something made beautiful by the drizzle. The answer was close at hand in my herb garden.

What do you think?

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Strawberry jam

Well technically strawberry conserve. We were in our local farm shop the other day when Andrew spotted some punnets of strawberries reduced in price. Because they had been picked the day before they were deemed to be past their best - I just love farm shops! couldn't see Tescos doing that. Anyway Andrew gave me his most winning smile and said
"you did mention that you'd make strawberry jam.........."

Norfolk strawberries
I confess a dislike to anything strawberry flavoured and I never buy strawberry jam, it's always too sugary and doesn't taste of strawberries. But home made, completely different.

So what's the difference between a conserve & a jam? They're very similar but a conserve is softer set and with whole,or very large,pieces of fruit. Any soft skinned fruit will do. They are easy but you have to plan ahead as they take a couple of days.

You will need equal quantities of strawberries and granulated sugar.

Just under 500 grams
Mortimer loves strawberries so waited patiently for rejects!

Think that one's for me

Hull the strawberries and keep all but the largest ones whole. Layer in a large bowl with the sugar, cover with clear film and chill for 24 hours. This draws out the juices from the fruit, making it firmer and minimising the cooking time.

Just chilling
The following day transfer everything to a large heavy pan. Heat gently, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook steadily (not rapidly) for 5 minutes.

Leave to cool, put in a bowl, cover with clear film and chill for 2 days (yep days!).

Steady boil
Don't get paranoid about the foam as it has a lot of flavour, just stir through a knob of unsalted butter after it has boiled and it will disappear. Or read Kalba's suggestions here.

On day 3 pour the strawberry mixture into the heavy pan, bring to the boil and cook steadily for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Stir and ladle into warmed, sterilised jars and seal. All done.

Don't be tempted to stir too frequently when boiling jam as it lowers the temperature and so delays reaching setting point, making the fruit softer.

Yesterday we had some with Greek yoghurt for breakfast. Delicious!

Perfect summer breakfast

Mortimer was happy too!


Sunday, 1 July 2012

Bathroom concept board

We've almost finished downstairs,apart from some painting by me,and are planning upstairs starting with the bathroom. As I started working on the concept board for this room I realised that although I had talked about concept boards before I hadn't shown you the process so I thought this would be the ideal opportunity.

So what is a concept,or mood,board? It's a series of images that sums up the feel that you want to create in a room. For the kitchen we had "Sweden meets Tuscany" (I knew what I meant!)

Kitchen concept board

And now the kitchen.


So you can see how the colours,textures and feel of the room carry through.

Using a concept board really helps you focus on what you want and keeps you on track when you're shopping for furnishings. How many times have you gone out for say,a yellow shirt, and fallen in love with a purple flowery one. You can't resist the colour and pattern. You just have to have it! But you never wear it because it goes with nothing and it's not really you. It's easy to hide the shirt in the back of the wardrobe but more difficult with a pair of curtains.

But the best thing about designing a concept board is that your room will be individual to you and really reflect your personality. It's easy with so many gorgeous magazines and internet images to fall in love with a room style, go out and buy the whole lot. After all if everything has been selected by a designer it must be good? Well yes but is it really you? Does it showcase your individuality? Probably not. This spring everyone I met seemed to be decorating. I was a little perplexed by the amount of people who had chosen stone coloured paint with a feature wall in mulberry. Then I saw the Dulux catalogue which featured a room set with this combination,it's very nice,but not unique to you.

So back to our bathroom. My initial thoughts were for a calm(again!) tranquil, spa like zone. But then Andrew pointed out it was a family bathroom and that harassed mothers will probably not want teenagers loitering there in the morning. The first starting point is to think of some words that really sum up how you want the room to feel.
They can be something emotional 'cosy, snug,welcoming'  or you may have a theme in mind 'New England boardwalk','French chateau' or 'English rose garden'. It's entirely your call.

Initial thoughts

I came up with





Wake up!



It's best to have a maximum of three or it can get  confusing. From my list I whittled down to 'Wake up! Zesty & Indulge' which then got stuck in front of me to keep me focused while I sorted through images. During this process 'indulge' became 'fresh'.

Aide memoire

Because I make up quite a few concept boards I have a very fat file of photographs. They have been cut out of magazines over the years (travel,food and fashion ones are particularly good) and I have them categorised just to make it a bit quicker for me. These include urban,calm,cool,rich and one for each season.
 So I took  a few relevant sections out (this time I had cool, spring, and vibrant)  and then just start looking to see what appealed to me. It's easier if they're not in magazines or you can get distracted by reading! You could also use photographs that you've taken. The only rule is that there are no pictures of furniture,fabrics or accessories,you're looking for inspirational images.

My big fat file
My initial images numbered 21.

First haul
Can you see Wake up! Zesty & Fresh?
I prefer to only have three or four images on the final board, any more and it either becomes confusing or you're repeating images. Sometimes you find the one perfect shot that sums up everything you imagine living in that room will be.

Twenty one went to eight that went to four.

Getting there
Concept boards are not necessarily a quick process,up to the last shot I'd taken three hours but it is the backbone of your design. I wasn't entirely happy with the last four. They hit the brief but it was all a bit green. This wouldn't normally be a problem but we already have two rooms in shades of green and I wanted to break from this. But sometimes that's how houses,or you,are. I'm fond of blue but in our last house it just wasn't happening.

At this point I left the images on my desk overnight to see what I felt about them in the morning.

New day
So the morning brought the above selection, which then became this.

So close
And I finally whittled it down to four.

The next stage is cutting and mounting. Don't feel you have to have whole images,you can slice and dice as you wish. How you mount is an important part of the board. If you were doing a board for a child's room you might want it to feel lively and slightly chaotic so your images could be different sizes and placed in a more random way.

Try and avoid cutting with scissors as you rarely get a crisp line. A sharp blade, metal ruler and cutting board are best.

Tools of the trade

The colour of the board is important as well. I had run out of white mountboard and as it was my personal project I knew I could get away with it. White was important though as this is the colour of the bathroom suite and so will have a large presence in the room. So I cut white paper to mount my images on first. The easiest way of fixing the images is to use photographic spraymount as you do have a short window to reposition. Finally write your key words on,as a reminder.

So finally, after a couple of days I was happy with the results.

Final board
And the observant out there will notice that the lemon tart didn't make it to the finals!

Now I'll research tiles,paints,flooring and window treatment until I'm happy that the balance is right. Once I've got samples I'll make up a board as the final check and show you the results.

If anyone wants help with doing their own board, or would like me to design one for them then drop me a line here. Or if you have a question you can always post a comment.

Until next time