Sunday, 27 December 2015

End of year round up

Since it's been two months since I last posted I would be very surprised if anyone out there is still checking in with me. It just seems that there has been too much to do in a day and something had to give - namely blogging. This also included reading my regular blog list and so I have to apologise to all my blog friends as well.

So a quick catch up. Finally we finished the dining area so we were able to tick that off the list.

Dining area
Our summer plan was to clear and knock down part of the garage/workshop and create an outside dining area. This building takes up far too much of the garden and has a really ugly collection of roofs. I did manage to do quite a lot of clearing but autumn was upon us before we were really ready to start demolition and we just couldn't face it so we changed tack. With just two bedrooms to do indoors we thought we would complete one before Christmas and the second between the New Year and Easter. Ho hum!

We cleared the room to this stage (meaning everything had to go into the last bedroom which is chaos)

and knocked all the plaster off the chimney wall and then put up our old friend - the insulation.

We decided the best thing in this room was fitted wardrobes and Andrew said I could have half the space! Before he knew it I had the tape measure and graph paper out and had designed bespoke storage for my shoes and handbags (and am still a little nervous that there isn't quite enough room). For reasons I can't quite remember the shelf unit had to be built separately and then fitted over the chimney breast. I helped Andrew put the thing together and was a little baffled when he kept saying that the shelves "had to be this way round". Surely if they were symmetrical it didn't matter? But there had been a few issues along the way and so I decided it would be best if I kept quiet. I even did so when it was up and I realised that the shelves weren't symmetrical. After a couple of hours Andrew asked if I had noticed something, and I confessed that I had. It turns out that he had made one side bigger that the other just for me and my shoes!

However work ground to a halt and this is where we are today with an unusable, half finished room.

Away from the house Andrew discovered a wonderful little cook book. We both like Indian food and realise that when (and it's such a big when at the moment :-( ) we get to France, Indian restaurants will not be quite so plentiful. So many Indian cooks books are way too complicated and seem to want you to use every dish and saucepan the kitchen cupboards hold. 'An Indian housewife's cookbook' by Laxmi Khurara is marvellous. Simple cooking but with the complexity of spices that we love - it's highly recommended.

My favourite - vegetable biryani
So we finally made it to Christmas and spent a lovely, relaxing day - just the two of us and Mortimer, by the end of it I think we all felt like Mr M!

Happy but exhausted!
I hope you all had a happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

The Wheel of Sins*

Sounds a bit dramatic doesn't it? But it was quite interesting and an unexpected treat. We recently managed a few days in France and on the way back to Calais were thinking of somewhere for Sunday lunch. I remembered that Boulogne had been active in encouraging tourists after the demise of the day tripper traffic.

Favouring the old town we parked the car and went for a wander. We were surprised to find the main square had been turned from a car park into an art installation, an ephemeral garden.

Inspired by the paintings of 15th century Flemish artist Hieronymus Bosch we entered a series of gardens featuring the seven deadly sins -La Roue des Péchés. My French is of the school girl variety but péchés is a word I knew. I had listened to a radio programme while in Québec and had been very confused as I had initially thought they were talking about fishermen but there had been no mention of fish, the sea or boats! I've so much to learn...

The Wheel of Sins
Some of the sins were easy to guess with the props and planting but a couple had us puzzling, partly because we struggled to name them in English let alone French. Someone obviously had a temper in this garden and I couldn't quite get it until I read the handy label.

Vanity was easy

as was gluttony


and something easy to relate to after four days in France! We liked 'glutto' and "I'm so glutto" has becone a favourite phrase.

Covetousness wasn't too bad with it's box of jewels and gold & silver planting,

But this one, the two sculptures opposite each other had us going.

Turns out to have been envy.

I like sloth which was a garden full of weeds, a rust bed and an abandoned paint tin.


Lust, which seemed to have been a favourite topic of Bosch's as it had a huge space. had many representations, I'll leave you to spot some of them.

And if like us you are struggling to list them all: pride;covetousness;lust;anger;gluttony;envy and sloth

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Figs and honey

Figs and honey. Doesn't that conjure up wonderful images? The warmth of Tuscany or Greek islands where fig trees are everywhere and the streets are often sticky underfoot with over ripe fruit. I don't suppose Norfolk is top of your list. Well this week it was on ours.

Our bees only got settled from mid-June so they've just been making honey for a couple of months but they have been very busy so we decided to take a single frame of honey and left the rest for their winter stores. Because it was just a small amount we decided to extract manually (not using a spinner). I got Andrew involved in this because he is much steadier with a sharp knife than me!

First you have to take the wax cappings off.

It was quite a warm day so the honey ran out quite nicely.

You then get a spatula and gently, but firmly, push the rest of the honey out.

You now have a mixture of honey and wax which need separating. I had bought a double sieve which has two grades of mesh so we just popped the mix on top and let it slowly filter through.

From this we got two jars of honey. Andrew worked out that so far each jar has cost approximately £190 - I'm sure it will be better next year!

When we bought Nelson House it had a fig tree which was in completely the wrong place and so two summers ago we moved it. At the end of autumn last year I removed all the figs that were bigger than my thumb nail and was rewarded by quite a good crop this year.

The trouble with figs is that they go from unripe to overipe in the blink of an eye so we gathered them up and I made fig jam.

The smell while cooking is just gorgeous...

and it tastes like a warm hug!

Breakfast yesterday was quite special.

Fig jam recipe

1 kg figs - washed and diced
700g sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
Vanilla bean - halved and split

Mix all the ingredients and marinade overnight.

Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Watch carefully in the last five minutes as this jam sets really easily.
Take off the heat, remove the vanilla and pour intowarm, sterilised jars.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

What happened to August?

This blog is fast becoming a monthly event, honestly I have no idea where the last few weeks have gone. And now they've started the apple harvest so I know the end of summer is in sight.

First a canine update. Many of you know that on a Sunday morning we meet up with a few dog owners, little walking is done as we stand about lollygagging and the dogs charge around a lot. There have been times when we've been down to just a couple of dogs but we've been on a recruiting mission. Andrew and I were out with Mortimer one evening and we met a charming lady with her puppy Milton. As soon as I saw him I started kidnapping plans! Sadly these came to nothing but they was persuaded to come along on a Sunday and luckily she and her partner keep coming back. Milton is a Sproodle (Spaniel x poodle) and I have to say I started scouring the internet for breeders.

Milton the sproodle

Andrew with Milton, Toby and Dexter
Our next recruit was Blue so we peaked at seven dogs, plus the casuals who pass by. Sadly this week we lose Hoby who, along with Toby, is a trainee guide dog and is off to his next level of training.
Blue flanked by Hoby and Toby
Hoby just won't let go of the apple
As always in August we welcomed guests and went out and about. A favourite National Trust property is Blickling Hall where I coveted the range

I'd need a 'tweeny' to keep it clean
and the orangery

Blickling Hall orangery
Last time we visited there were bigger trees but they didn't look very healthy so I suspect they've swapped them in.

Sandringham Park has become a favourite walk with guests. There are marked trails, a nice restaurant, cafe and a sculpture walk. I'm not big on chainsaw art but some of these are quite good and work well in their settimg.

At home our summer project was to knock down the workshop which is attached to the garage and landscape the space for an outdoor dining area. Sadly this never got off the ground so we've shelved it until spring and are concentrating on the two remaining, and as yet untouched, bedrooms. As you can see from this photograph not before time! I admit it is looking particularly bad as my ironing pile was huge (I blame our guests!) and my clothes rail had collapsed for the third time in 45 minutes...


and all on my birthday. I just had to console myself with the chocolate cake Andrew had baked for me :-)

I'm not even thinking about the calories!

Sunday, 9 August 2015

A summer's evening

Early evening is the perfect time for us to head to the beach, the crowds have gone and it's no too hot for Mortimer.

Mortimer (and Andrew) like nothing more than a splash about

Unfortunately Mortimer likes to finish with a roll around the wet sand

Whereas I prefer a cold glass of something at the Sunset Bar!

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Ta dah!

This post seems to have been a long time coming but finally...

remember this?

Downstairs cloakroom
which is now this

and round the corner is this

Rain head shower
The wet room is not huge and quite angular so we used a lot of curves in the fittings, including the mirror (a lucky find in the John Lewis sale!). We wanted a more masculine feel as a contrast to the main bathroom but also warmth so there is underfloor heating all the way through.

Once again I have to pay tribute to Andrew's skill and patience. Cutting the tiles around the wet room drain took a few hours, and several broken tiles, but the result is perfect.

Any way a few photographs for you.

Heated towel rail

Curvy basin and mirror

More curves

Getting the tile cuts right took forever

Body jets