Friday, 27 December 2013

Tis the Season

'Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

Hey!  I said not even a mouseA critter behind the wall is disturbing my Christmas Eve tradition of present wrapping whilst guzzling sipping wine. The creature is making so much noise I am fearful we will soon have no insulation left. This may be the season of goodwill to all men but that does not include mice and if they think my sofas are on their Christmas menu, think again. Meanwhile The LGB is wallowing in the long awaited bath complete with bubble bath, candles and wine whilst morphing into a prune. (Yes, we have a functioning bathroom and even builders can be in touch with their feminine side! I could be in big trouble now.)  I hope he is out by Boxing Day because we are spending the day with Old Bones on Bikes.  The rain is lashing at the window pane and the wind is howling a gale.
Bah Humbug!

We have a table and chairs set up in the upstairs makeshift living room. Christmas morning I headed upstairs with our traditional breakfast of Buck’s Fizz and scrambled eggs with smoked salmon on toast. I'm no Nigella, but I make a mean scrambled eggs.  These however looked watery. I had poured hot water on the plates to warm them and forgot to pour it off before serving up! Scrambled eggs on soggy toast!  
Bah Humbug!

Where else would you want to spend Christmas?
After a luxuriant shower (did I mention we have a bathroom now?) we made a little effort and dressed up in something other than work clothes. On Christmas day traditionally we go for a long walk but the pouring rain scuppered our promenade this year.  More Buck’s Fizz it is then.
Bah Humbug!

The starter was king prawn and lobster cocktail. I bought frozen lobster. I could not have dealt with the demise of a live one on Christmas day (but that bloody mouse better stay out of my way). I've never cooked lobster but there was no problem there, plonked it in hot water and hey presto.  The LGB then took a hammer to it. He asked if I wanted to dress it. What! I'd managed to pick out a few smart clothes for myself, the least dusty ensemble I could find but I certainly wasn't going to start thinking about dressing a lobster.  Apart from assuming they would look good in a contrasting shade of orange or green for a chrismassy look I really wouldn't know where to start.
Bah Humbug!

The next stumbling block was how I would cook a sumptuous meal for two on a one ring camping gas burner, a gas oven with no temperature control and one saucepan. The gas burner is fed by a hairspray size canister which unfortunately has a habit of catching fire.  Subsequently I have to stay within view with my pompier hat on, ready to flick the safety switch off before the thing explodes and ruins all the LGB's hard work. Watching a saucepan of potatoes cooking is neither convenient nor stimulating.  Everyone knows a watched kettle never boils. The gas oven is a one heat setting burns cooks all.  The control knob just turns round and round. The LGB says if it’s brown it’s cooked and if it’s black it’s ******! You get the picture.
Bah Humbug!

All mod cons here
Self combusting gas ring

The LGB decided to throw another spanner in the works and make my task a little more difficult by doing a little plumbing on the only day of the year we are meant to do no work and placed a step ladder in the middle of our makeshift kitchen! With my lonesome saucepan and the limited cooking facilities and a little jig around the ladder I did manage to produce an edible spread fit for human consumption. The LGB thoroughly enjoyed his festive feast.
Ah big hug!

The beautifully decorated shop fronts.

Strasbourg Markets

Before Christmas we enjoyed a few days in Strasbourg with friends.  It was well worth the nine hour plus drive to get there.  It has been a crowd puller for hundreds of years.  We stayed in Maison Rouge a great hotel situated in the heart of the city. We were a stone’s throw from the main square Place Kleber that housed the biggest Christmas tree I have ever seen and an amazing light and music show across the fa├žade of a building.

The historic centre is an island circled by the river which was our circuit for the first day.  La Petite France was my favourite area. It was full of fairytale character and teeming with old higgledy piggledy timber framed buildings.  Artists sat in the streets peddling their wares whilst painting.  The LGB bought me a very pretty watercolour from a lovely man. The second day we wended our way up and down every street possible and viewed the beautiful Gothic Cathedral. The third day we took a train to nearby Colmar another wonderfully historic town with more fabulous Christmas markets. We came across more artisan stalls there with beautiful handmade pieces. Well worth the visit.

The evenings were magical when the stalls were illuminated. The smell of mulled wine, gingerbread men and bretzels wafted through the chill air. Many of the shop fronts are elaborately decorated with huge efforts made to outdo one another. I have never taken so many photos in one place.  It was a great kick start to Christmas.  

Building update
Family bathroom up and running. Tiling to finish.
Plumbing for bathrooms completed.
Unit for family bathroom sanded and painted.
Kitchen ceiling plastered.
Angouleme stone to finish fireplace ordered and collected.
Logs stacked.
More details to follow.

By now Christmas will be over, but I hope you have all had a wonderful time. I wish you health and happiness and all that your little hearts desire for 2014. Thank you for popping by the blog and for your comments on the blog, facebook or by email. Each one is much appreciated. xx

Did I mention we have a bathroom now?

Thursday, 5 December 2013

It's Rained, He's Plastered and I'm Annie Sloaned.

Summer arrived!  There was no forewarning.  Spring didn’t stroll along with us, holding our hands and lead us sedately into summer.  There were no little teasers for the heat to come. There was no mellow preamble, just wham bam here I am. The heat was intense with no let up.  However, those sizzling days of summer now seem a distant memory.  The cranes are departing to warmer climes shouting their goodbyes as they fly overhead.  Since the last post basically it has rained every day which meant the LGB couldn't do what he planned to do so he's plastered every day.  Let me rephrase that because that doesn't show the LGB in a very good light. The LGB has plastered every day, not the LGB is plastered every day, although I am sure he would not turn down the opportunity to get plastered any time soon.

A couple of boring little photos of plastering in progress.

He was coming along swimmingly with the fireplace and chimney in the kitchen/family room when Sod’s Law came a-calling.  No sooner had he opened up the roof and begun building the chimney than the rain arrived and he had to cover it all up.  Do you know the Charente is meant to be the second sunniest department in France?  Well someone tell the Big Man because you could have fooled me.  I have hardly been further than the post box for days.  It is during these days of relentless rain I miss having a shopping mall close by just to escape the weather and enjoy a mooch in the dry.  Then to rub salt into the wound we had a flurry of snow …….in November!

A tasty tease of the fireplace coming along nicely or so the photo would have you believe.  We are out of the picture having a domestic about how we are going to get the heavy lintel into position. More about the fireplace to follow.

But every cloud has a silver lining and the rain has meant we have just knuckled down to working indoors.  The bathroom floor has had a fourth coat of varnish.  The LGB has worked like a Trojan from morning until late and has now plastered every ceiling and wall upstairs.  What a difference it makes!  My next job is to paint the rooms.  White to start, until I decide on colours or wallpaper!  Sales of paint brushes will go through the roof.  I’m still not washing the brushes!

Whilst the LGB has worked his little socks off my days are much easier. I have been varnishing doors and I have spent many hours sanding down a unit for the family bathroom. It would have been easier to head to everybody’s favourite Swedish shop for a new one. Why do I do it? I seem to be under the delusion that I was put on this earth to rescue things that other people have made redundant and save them from the scrapheap. One person’s junk is my piece of well-made furniture at a fraction of the cost of a new piece (unless you go to the Swedish shop).  This one has dovetail and mortice and tenon joints. (I wrote that like I really know what I'm talking about, didn't I?) Other bits I have bought have place names and surnames pencilled on them, maybe the maker or the client’s name? I do wonder at the history of my bits of junk, who owned them, where they were housed. Hence the garage is full of pieces of furniture waiting to be spruced up.

Doors mid varnish

Bathroom unit before I started work on it

When I was back in the UK I partook of an Annie Sloan furniture painting afternoon at Marilyn & Melrose in Alnwick, Northumberland. Annie Sloan developed paint that you can use on almost anything even fabric covered furniture and shoes!! If you don't believe me have a look wriggle test here! The afternoon was enjoyable if a little pricey at £65, but we did get a delicious slice of cake and coffee.  The LGB says if he stands still too long he is fearful of being Annie Sloaned!  That could become a bit of cockney rhyming slang ‘Cor blimey, he was Annie Sloaned last night!’

Now we are enjoying a little break in Strasbourg at the Christmas Markets. Hopefully some time in the not too distant future I will post about it.