Thursday, 25 September 2014

A final hint of purple

It's been a tad quiet on the blog of late. Living in chaos and the onset of Autumn seems to have pushed me deep into the folds of the sofa, eating copious amounts of chocolate and wasting hours flicking through pinterest, instagram, twitter, blogs, websites - a visual overload - anything to procrastinate from the 'do' and from completing my current book. To restore productivity, I've quietly turned to my crochet project from two years ago - it took a couple of false starts, some unravelling, YouTube films and guidance, but I've finally got the hang of it. I thought it would put strain on my poorly wrist, but it's been fine. I'm down to my last few balls and it is definitely more handkerchief than blanket in size, but goodness - it's great to be making again.

These blooms are the final purple hooray in the garden - despite being trampled on, covered in all types of dust and grot, they have quietly persevered. The scabious were grown from seed and have flowered despite the neglect on my part. The chives were a sad shop bought pot past its best that were stuck outside 18 months ago and have thrived. And the sweet peas survived the storms and aphids, continuing to bloom despite me forgetting to keep up the cut and come again method.

The final picking

Mr M's tomatoes have been marvellous this year. With just fourteen plants, they've kept us going all summer. My favourite were the tumbling tigress - crisp, full of flavour and so darn pretty with their stripes. The winner for colour was a rogue plant amongst the seedlings my father gave us, with a watermelon pastel blush - type unknown. With the temperature dropping recently, the plants had begun to droop. Laden with green tomatoes, we decided to harvest them in the hope that they'll keep until the oven is ready to be used (everything crossed for this weekend) and can be turned into chutney by Mr M.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The warmth of wood

We had always known that we would have wooden worktops. The cottage and its piccolo size meant that granite would have felt too grandiose and would have weighed it down somehow. Mr M's love of wood, and our general draw to oak elsewhere in the cottage meant that it was a simple decision. Our worktops are simple hunks of oak. Ridiculously heavy, the team painstakingly measured and templated, and measured again. Choices were made on which side should be used for the best knots and twirls. Taking inspiration from Curlew Cottage we asked for drainage lines to be routed, more for aesthetics than anything else. With the upstands now in, Mr M has begun his wood worshipping - sanding the work surfaces down each night and applying Danish oil. A process that will take 10 days.  The kitchen is still out of bounds apart for the washing machine and sink. Washing up has taken a paranoid twist - every drip or splash is wiped off immediately for fear that it will sink in. Who knew one could be quite so precious about wood. Woe betide the person who spills red wine or tomato sauce or turmeric. In fact, I think turmeric will be banned. Or the kitchen dust sheeted before the small spice jar of orange permanence is opened. Perhaps, we'll only eat white food and drink white wine.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Persephone, pictures, paving and paint

It's all go over here - I've finally joined Instagram (@thedomesticnovice), my first Persephone parcel* arrived, the paths have been laid, our wall rebuilt and the gate hung, the kitchen floor and units are in and I now have two delectable weeks at home. The worktop arrives tomorrow and then it's just the final touches - electrician, lights, paintwork, appliances and a jolly good clean up. I say final touches…another two weeks worth. There's a lot of painting on the cards. The exterior of the extension needs to be done, the kitchen walls need another coat to get rid of grubby knocks and finally our front door is getting some TLC.  The pale lemon posset colour is the current hue - and the underneath of the letterbox is clearly the original. Which I'm rather pleased about because we've gone for Babouche from Farrow & Ball. I'm amused that it's named after a heelless slipper, but it does sound wonderfully exotic and if you google the paint, there's almost a cult following. The door will certainly liven up the road. And it might find its way onto a chair. You never know.

Now I must dash - I have an afternoon of tea supping, scone scoffing and Madame Laski ahead of me.

*I was a very lucky birthday girl back in the Summer when Mr & Mrs M Senior organised a 12 month subscription. Took forever to get my list down to 12, but I finally managed it - mostly fiction, with a smattering of cookery. And for those Persephone lovers - they've got a competition - more here.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Early morning

The change in season has been particularly noticeable this past week. Grey, overcast skies, heavy with moisture one day, crisp, blue skies and dragon's breath the next. The lawn is covered with a thick dew regardless. Drops cling to the blades like pearls, soaking my boots as soon as I step foot onto the luscious green. I am not a morning person, but the rhythm of the build has certainly, in the main, seen me stirring earlier, with the builders on site by 7:30 each morning. Autumn though makes me burrow back under the covers, Miss P takes to her warm dormouse bed, less keen to go outside for the dawn chorus. I hanker for freshly brewed tea and marmite toast for breakfast. Commuters shuffle, hopping from one foot to the other to keep warm, space is reduced as layers of wool suiting increases, eyes look blearier. The wrench of leaving the warm nest, of shuffling with the swathes of travellers clad in shades of black and grey is forgotten for the exhilarating moment of crossing the Hungerford Bridge before 8am as the reviving river breeze blows the cobwebs away.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Hidden marks

In the tiniest bit of concrete laid for the tiniest bit of wall, two sets of footprints will remain for as long as the wall stands. It might be 20, 50 or 100 years - who knows. I've always placed my sentimentality in a childhood surrounded by antiques and the love of nostalgia. I can't explain the excitement I feel when I unearth something fabulous in a charity shop - whether it's a knitting pattern from 1937, coffee cups from the 1970s or an original penguin classic. When our chimney came down last year, the builders came across an empty packet of cigarettes tucked away with a date of 1926 inscribed on its side. The older the building, the more hidden the treasure.

My late grandparents lived in a Tudor cottage on the river - I was convinced they had priest holes and more tucked away. It was a house that creaked with mystery and legend. One summer I excavated a patch of their garden - driven by an unsolved murder my grandfather told me about. Needless to say, Nancy Drew and the Famous Five featured heavily on my reading list. No bodies were unearthed, but I did come across beautiful broken crockery, discarded smoking pipes and an intricately decorated toilet which was most odd. 

Our footprint will be left in the changing shape of the house, and the bits that we pop in our front wall. As odd as that sounds, our existing wall is a hodge podgy of wine bottles and doorknobs, bricks, tiles and anything else that the original owner could lay his hands on. My parents have kindly donated a couple of items which the builders are going to incorporate. I do like the notion of legacy, however small. 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

We have windows

Beautiful, handmade, double glazed windows. And if you look closely, the latches are the original ones that we managed to salvage (more about them here). We're so pleased with them. The oddest thing was having them sat in our conservatory for a couple of days before they went in. Whilst ridiculous to say, I'd not considered what a window unit might look like out of context. Odd, frankly. Like the little black wooden fire guard I used to pretend was a shop as a child. The sills are deep and will be perfect for our herbs and radio and other random things that will no doubt find their way onto them.

It feels as though the build has sped up - this shot was taken a week or so ago. It's now been plastered and the paint goes on tomorrow. Flooring and dishwasher/washing machine arrive on Thursday. All other appliances and kitchen cabinets arrive on Friday. Today was spent clearing the conservatory - I managed to squeeze the conservatory sofa into the bedroom, the lovely chair has been moved in front of Mr M's wardrobe (so neither of us can open our wardrobes for the next two weeks), dining chairs were stacked, tables winkled into cupboards, items popped in the skip. The drive has been laid. The path is a work in progress (the curve was plotted by Mr M yesterday). The oven and washing machine become defunct tomorrow - I need to organise a collection for them, and fathom out where our local laundrette is.

Most calming of all - Miss P has returned. There has been a lot of meowing, purrs and lap time. And her 2am shouting session at her kitten and rugby ball was a joy. It's as though she's never been away.