27 March 2024

Nothing goes to waste

I had quite a lot of fabric left over from the re-covered chair (I ordered extra to allow for any mistakes!) so I decided to make a couple of cushions.  The zip fastenings were tricky but I was quite pleased with the result.




They are destined for the master bedroom that is getting a makeover in June.

After a glorious sunny morning the clouds have rolled in.  Hot cross buns and a cup of tea are being served as an antidote to this chilly, gloomy afternoon.



21 March 2024

Lark or an Owl

 Are you a lark or an owl?  Up at dawn and early to bed or a late riser but still lively at night?

I am most definitely a lark.  Full of energy in the morning but flagging by mid afternoon and ready for bed at 10.00 p.m or earlier.  This morning I got up just after 6.00 and had cereal and a cup of tea, then out for Rick's morning walk around the village.  It was blissfully quiet apart from the dawn chorus (lots of blackbirds around here) and I didn't meet any other dog walkers today.

Back home I stripped the bed and put a load of washing on.  No rain forecast so I might get the sheets dry outside.  Then I boiled up a litre of milk and made a batch of yoghurt, I let the jars sit in the incubator for about 7 hours or so.  I love natural unsweetened yoghurt and this is so easy to make.  Then I chopped a whole load of bacon, onions, mushrooms and beef to go in the slow cooker for a Boeuf Bourguignon.  In France this would be typically served with a green salad and French fries but my English tribe prefer it with mashed potato and veg.  Whichever way it's a favourite in this household and the slow cooker ensures that the meat is always succulent with a rich and tasty sauce.

dinner bubbling away in the slow cooker

yoghurt doing its thing


By the time I had finished cooking the washing was ready to hang and it was coffee time.  Now what am I going to do for the rest of the day apart from write this blog?  Ah, just remembered.  I have a Dyson upright cleaner to re-assemble.  I took it apart yesterday to wash the filters and de-tangle the brush head.  I always have to get the handbook out to figure out where the filters are hiding, hate this task.

laundry day


By lunch time I shall be running out of steam.  Early afternoon I will do some core exercises for half an hour and then it will be time to sit down and relax with a book or watch some television and Rick will see that as a signal to jump on my lap for cuddles.  It also gives him a clear view of the driveway and he can look out for the postman.  What is it about a red post van that turns this mild mannered dog into a barking lunatic?  Never a dull moment!  (Rick is also a lark and likes to go to bed early).

Rick waiting for the postman




11 March 2024

Yesterday

It was Mother's Day yesterday, or Mothering Sunday as some call it and originates from when women in service (maids and servants working in big houses) were released for the day to return home to visit their mother.  The day always conjures up mixed feelings for me because I had a difficult relationship with my mother and was estranged from her before she died.  

Anyway, I have always told my daughters not to make a fuss or waste their money on over priced bouquets for me.  Yesterday Sarah invited me over to the cottage for lunch and gave me chocolates and a card and we had a jolly time feasting around a magnificent 'grazing table'.  Rick thought it was wonderful.


 

Kat posted a card to me on Monday and was most upset that it hadn't arrived.  That may have something to do with the fact she had put an out of date stamp on the envelope. She doesn't use the mail very often!  Never mind Kat, it's the thought that counts.

putting my feet up after lunch



9 March 2024

A leopard in the room

 


After a week of crawling around the floor and hammering in upholstery tacks (staples would have been easier but I like to do it the traditional way) the chair is finished.  


I think I'm getting too old for this lark.  Maybe I should take up knitting.



2 March 2024

Work in progress

 

I spent a couple of hours scrabbling around the floor this morning getting to grips with re-covering the chair. Even with a cushion to kneel on it was tough on my knees and back. Getting the fabric to fit around the wooden arms was fraught with danger, one snip with the scissors too far and the whole thing would have been ruined. Constant stretching of the fabric, trying to get an even tension and checking that everything was straight was time consuming but I tried not to rush, I was just very relieved when that part of the process was finished.




The next stage will be the back of the chair, and then the front, and then I need to visit the haberdashery shop in our local town to try and find some trim to cover the tacks and give the chair a smart finish. Hopefully all completed in about a week.



28 February 2024

Project

It's time for my next project.  I always like to have some sort of project in the pipeline although this does make Paul slightly nervous;  I can't fathom why.

About ten years ago we both did a course together - upholstery.  We bought a couple of tatty antique chairs from a local auction, lugged them along to the course centre once a week where we were shown how to strip them back, restore and re-cover them.  The chairs needed new springs and webbing and the horsehair stuffing was carefully washed (in a pillowcase in the washing machine) and re-used. It was back breaking work but we were quite proud of the finished items and they fitted in nicely with our rustic farmhouse in France.  


the old chair was in a terrible state


new replacement webbing and springs 

finished chair in our French home

At the moment one chair is in the attic and the other one is situated in the hallway by the front door.  It still looks very smart but ..... the fabric is a bit boring.   I feel it needs jazzing up a bit to fit in with my more contemporary home.  Time for me to gather my tools and re-cover it!

hammer has magnetic end to hold tack

essential tools


Stripping the fabric has been tricky, I had previously hammered those tacks in too well!  I have a tool for levering them out but you have to be really careful not to damage the wood.  I also need to keep the fabric pieces whole so that I can use them as templates for the new fabric.  Did I mention the new fabric?  Animal print of course!



21 February 2024

Night Shift

Just as we finished our coffee break yesterday morning we received an SOS call from Sarah.  Could we pick her up from work and drive her home.  After a 15 hour night shift she was too tired to drive safely.



Sarah is still employed by her Sydney company and normally works regular British time office hours but occasionally, during conference events, she is required to work Australian hours and long shifts.  It is not feasible for her to work from home because of the amount of kit she uses for video editing but I always feel a bit nervous about her working in an empty building on her own all night and we have always said that we would taxi her home if she felt it wasn't safe to drive in the morning.  These events happen about three times a year and I'm always relieved when they're over.


Some people work night shifts on a permanent basis and adapt well to the lifestyle.   They might choose to do these unsocial hours because it fits in well with childcare or perhaps they need the extra bonus that these shifts attract.  Personally, I have worked a few night shifts in my lifetime and I absolutely hated them.  I can sleep all day and still feel like a zombie at night.  As student nurses we had no choice, night shifts were part of our rotation.  If it was a quiet shift we struggled to stay awake and keep watch while our patients slept - a busy night was so much easier.  What I really dreaded was being sent to fetch blood packs from the deserted laboratory in the middle of the night, it was just so spooky.  Or walking past the morgue to get to the canteen for the plate of greasy egg and chips that was served up for night workers.


I am so grateful that I can now go to bed when I choose and sleep all night.  





19 February 2024

Safari

When Sarah moved out to her cottage I decided it was time to decorate her bedroom.  The wallpaper was quite a pretty ribbon stripe but was quite old and dated so it had to go but I really didn't have any ideas what to replace it with.

before

In the end I decided that the bed headboard would be the focal point of the room and was rather taken with a Safari printed fabric.  I bought two metres of fabric, got my sewing machine out, made a couple of seams and re-covered the headboard.  


It seemed to take days to scrape away the old wallpaper and wash the walls down but finally the walls were ready for two coats of Timeless white paint.  I trimmed the existing Roman blind with a thin strip of the Safari fabric.



The room looked fresh and the headboard was quite striking but the wall looked a bit bare.  I couldn't help myself when I found giraffe and zebra carved wooden 'heads' online, I just had to buy them.  They are wonderfully kitsch and fill the empty space perfectly!






17 February 2024

Saturday

 "You'd better take Rick out before the rain gets here" I told Paul after breakfast.

"It's not going to rain, the man on the forecast has just said it's going to be fine all day."

"The local forecast on my computer says it's going to rain."

"The weather forecaster has just said it's going to be dry."

As it was going to be dry and not too cold I made the decision to dust off my road bike and ride outside instead of riding with Bernie the Bot in the gym.  Paul volunteered to come with me.

It was colder than I expected.  After a few kilometres a fine mist started to fall.  Then it started to rain.  We cycled 17 kms in the freezing rain.  My goggles were steamed up and rain was dripping off my helmet and nose.  I should have listened to my own counsel.

It's Saturday evening.  TV dinner and wine.  Rick has his Kong (pet toy with treats). We used to watch Gladiators when the children were young, they loved it.  A new series has just begun.  Contenders ready?  Gladiators ready?  Rick loves it.  That travelator gets them every time.  Now for the Netflix film and another glass of wine.  I love Saturdays.





14 February 2024

Boring Old Farts

 

Today is the monthly lunch gathering at the community hall of our neighbouring village where you can get a home cooked two course meal for £6.00 each. A lot of our friends go every month and when I mooted the idea of going with Paul we decided that, no, it wasn't our thing. “Surely it's for old people?”. That's the problem, we are old but in our minds we're still youngsters. We missed out on jam roly-poly today.

Instead we had tomato and chorizo pasta with a glass of wine and watched Bargain Hunt.

A couple of weeks ago we had tickets to see ABBA The Voyage at the London Arena, it was a birthday treat for me. We tried to pre-book train tickets to London but nothing was available. It soon became apparent that the strikes were going to be on during this period, mainline and underground. We didn't fancy driving there or travelling by coach so eventually we said “Let's call the whole thing off.” We managed to sell the tickets and get most of our money back. We really are just a couple of boring old farts,

I spent my birthday with Sarah and Paul at her cottage where Paul cooked up a splendid meal (Chicken Liver Pate, Duck Breast with Redcurrant Sauce, a selection of cheeses including Lincolnshire Poacher and vintage port and the odd glass or two of wine.) I just enjoy the simple pleasures of life – feed me and I'm happy!

Rick with all his toys that he gathers on his sheepskin rug


12 February 2024

Spring and the Great Flood

There is an abundance of snowdrops in the village this year, swathes of pretty white flowers in gardens and growing wild along the grassy banks.  Early daffodils are in flower along Seggimore Beck bringing a real hint of Spring.  



Paul did some work in the garden yesterday, he met this shy little chap in the compost heap.

compost mouse

Last night I watched a documentary about the Great Flood of 1953.  At the end of January a terrible storm hit the British Isles, the Netherlands and Belgium.  One of the first casualties was a ferry, the MV Princess Victoria, that sunk just east of Belfast; 135 passengers drowned.  Many fishing trawlers also sunk. The storm then travelled down the North Sea creating a massive tidal surge hitting the east coast of England - Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.  On Canvey Island in Essex many people were living in post war prefabs - flimsy wooden bungalows.  The storm surge hit them at night,  they had no warning and many lives were lost as the sea swept in.  Even if they managed to climb onto the roof of their homes many succumbed to exposure before they could be rescued.  In total 307 people died on the east coast, 1,836 in the Netherlands.

This storm happened just three years before I was born but I had no knowledge of this terrible event until I saw the documentary.  The footage was both chilling and poignant as survivors and witnesses to this flood recounted their experiences.


10 February 2024

Should Have Listened to Mum

 

Sarah, encouraged by her sister and dad, started cycling when she returned to the UK and is now passionate about the sport. Her new partner, Andrew, is also a keen cyclist and they spend a lot of time mountain biking and road biking together.


One warm summer's evening last year she told me they were going out for a ride.  I suggested that it might be nicer to spend the evening in her garden with a cool beer but she was determined to go out.  Cycling is not without risk and unfortunately Sarah came a cropper that evening when she fell heavily on the road after hitting some loose gravel. As well as grazing her legs she sustained a nasty cut to her elbow. Andrew cleaned her up and put a dressing on her elbow but I told her to call in on her way to work the next morning so that I could clean it up thoroughly and put some steri-strips on it.



The following morning I carefully removed the dressing from her elbow and immediately thought “I can't do this”. It was a messy cut, and clearly needed irrigating to remove any remnants of gravel. I didn't really have the kit to do this but also, it was going to hurt and I just couldn't bring myself to cause discomfort to my own daughter. In my defence she was going to need a tetanus injection anyway so Paul took her off to the A&E department at our local hospital.



She had to wait a few hours at the hospital because they wanted to x-ray her elbow to check there wasn't a fracture but they cleaned the wound, steri-stripped it and did the tetanus injection. It healed without any complications although she has a scar.
I'm still surprised that I felt so queasy when I saw her injury. I must be going soft in my old age.


8 February 2024

Thursday

 
I went back to bed after breakfast this morning. It was snowing outside, not pretty snow but wet, slushy stuff. It is very rare for me to do this but I crept back under the quilt and read my book for half an hour or so. Although I have been retired for 18 years I still feel guilty about having a lie in. I'm usually up just after six, eager for my bowl of porridge and cup of tea in readiness for the day ahead.

Daughter Kat is driving back home from Cosford in Shropshire to Odiham today after a week's course. They are finishing early due to the snow forecast, I shall worry about her until I know she's home safe.
I eventually got up, showered and dressed, did some ironing and made a beef ragu for tomorrow's dinner. The snow has got heavier but still not settling. We had salad for lunch, cheese toasties would have been nicer but we try to eat healthy.

Paul was gallant this afternoon and took Rick out for his walk in the blizzard (I usually do the afternoon walk). Poor boy, he was very wet and cold when he got back so I rubbed him down by the fire. Rick, not Paul.










Kat has arrived home safe and sound. Now I can relax.





7 February 2024

Garden Room

 


The garden room has always been my favourite room with its vaulted ceiling and light, south facing aspect. In summer I like to sit with the large patio windows wide open and enjoy the sounds and scents wafting in from the garden. We haven't done anything to the room during the five years we have been here, I liked the Laura Ashley birds of paradise wallpaper but the wall lights were a bit old fashioned and Paul said the pine panelled ceiling was very dark and dated. Eventually I decided it was time to redecorate but I did warn Paul that the room would look very different!


orangey pine ceiling and old fashioned lights


First thing was to get the electrician in to remove the wall lights. Then we arranged for Colin the Decorator to come and paint and paper the room. Paul has always done the work himself before now but the vaulted ceiling was a step too far. It was the right decision because the ceiling took no less than four coats of white paint to cover the orangey pine.


work in progress


Mural?” Colin said, “I've never done one of those before!” Well, there's always a first time. I had decided that I wanted a flavour of an Edwardian orangery so I had found a classic botanical mural for the length of one wall. The ceiling would be painted white with one cross beam left unpainted and clad to resemble solid oak. I had sleepless nights wondering what the heck this was going to look like!



garden room mural - no trace of Laura Ashley



Well I am delighted with the result. Paul did an excellent job with the 'oak beam'. Colin said he really enjoyed putting the mural up (especially after four days of painting a white ceiling).


a shame about the air con unit fixed to the wall but it's essential in hot weather

The sofas are perhaps not ideal for the room but they are so comfortable I am never getting rid of them. It's still my favourite room.


the mural looks even better in the evening with the lamps on


5 February 2024

Gold Leaf

 





The large mirror in the garden room was left behind by the previous owners of the bungalow. I was never particularly keen on the dark green, marbled frame so when we re-decorated last month I decided it was time for a bit of bling. I had seen a few You Tube demonstrations of people using gold leaf so how hard could it actually be?

I protected half of my kitchen island worktop with a cloth and placed the mirror flat. I covered a section of the frame with special glue and then waited for twenty minutes or so until it had gone tacky. Now for the gold leaf. The first piece I tried to handle disintegrated in my fingers. The second sheet floated down onto the glue but not in the place I wanted it to be. The third sheet was going well, I was holding my breath and then....I breathed! It skittered across the worktop onto the floor. This was tricky stuff. And it kept sticking to my fingers. Aaagh.



Two days later I had finished the mirror and was fairly expert at picking up the sheets and positioning them. The gold leaf certainly needs very delicate handling. (Even though I thought I had sufficiently protected the worktop, small particles of gold leaf had floated to the uncovered area. I now have a gold flecked work top!)



Fortunately I wanted a slightly distressed look for the mirror so the crackled look was fine by me. It's not a great finish, the gold is a bit shiny and blingy but I think it looks okay. I've got quite a lot of gold leaf left over. I wonder what I could use it for.










3 February 2024

Stars and Angels







What was Paul doing sitting in a deck chair in the middle of Carlisle Cathedral? Having a quick snooze? Admiring the scenery? In actual fact he was admiring the magnificently decorated ceiling of the choir. Several deck chairs are lined up next to the pews for this very purpose. It might be the second smallest cathedral in the country but Carlisle does boast some beautiful features. The cathedral was first built in the 12th century but this roof structure dates back to 1400 when it was restored after a fire and re-painted with the stars and angels in 1853. 




We only stayed in Carlisle for a brief time but the cathedral was well worth a quick visit.