Monday, September 28, 2009

Nyom, nyom, nyom

I forgot to say in my last post - Keith has decided that the first step towards his new role as domestic god is to start baking the family bread every week.

This is the very first loaf created by his fair hands and quite frankly, the picture doesn't so it justice.
This loaf is so large, it doesn't fit into an oversized bread bin ... or at least it was until we dispatched almost half of it yesterday.
And it is so very tasty, that when I took my tupperware out this morning to gobble a slice for breakfast, the bloke sitting behind my desk commented on how great it smelled.
My only slight concern is that with this new found talent will come a rush of blood to the head and the family Batsford will be subjected to Letitia Cropley style flavour combinations of, say, chocolate mixed with cod roe.
This is one situation in which one hopes the posibilities are NOT endless!!

A trip to the Pod

Over the weekend, we were invited by our lovely friends Abi and Andrew to take up some of their valuable racers tickets in order to go and chill with them, and to introduce the bump to the tickle of a V8 on idle and a Fuel Altered on full song. I had put up with several jokes about the noise making the baby come early but frankly, this being our son, I was expecting a “HELL YEAH!!” kick at most.

I haven’t been to the Pod in a while, but it was like coming home as soon as we drove through the gates. Even the weather was keeping us guessing as always although we had been promised 20o and sunny, clearly by a weather girl on happy pills.

The VWDRC (my old race club) were in the fire up lane when we arrived, so we parked up and picking up a much needed cuppa en route made our way down the pit lane.

Can I just say at this juncture, I know it’s been there a while, but a coffee bar at the Pod, selling latte, WRONG. When I go to the Pod I want teeth curling tea, ideally with a nice hairy cup to add to the manliness, not a latte with a light dusting of cocoa.

Anyway, tea in one hand, camera in the other, Keefy finally made it past the stalls and to the viewing area. Not that I’m saying he’s a magpie.We tried to blag our way into the grandstand on our way, but they were charging for tickets and clearly the grandstand gnome wasn't in the mood to be flexible. I'm sure they made all of a tenner from ticket sales so I can see why it was a resource worth protecting.

The idea was just to watch the ‘DRC and then go back to spend some time with our friends. That was at 10am, we made it back to the pits in time to wave them off for their next run at 1pm.The good news for all you crazy kids though is that Keith spent the intervening hours taking some outstanding shots all of which are now uploaded here

One of the best reasons to stay away from the Pod, and racing generally, is that when you next visit there are some knee trembling ‘new’ cars for you to drool over. This Pop in particular is an absolute work of freaking art, seriously, if I thought I could get more than the price of a pint, I’d sell the dogs and the old man to get my grubby little mitts on it. Only joking darling, dogs, I’m serious about you.

There were some awesome burnouts, and a brilliant range of classes represented this weekend, which is a real testament to the hairy mug tea drinking nature of racers, because if you were the betting type you really wouldn’t have put money on this being a total dream of a weekend weather wise.

One of the best aspects of the pits was the return of the ‘show and tell’ table. Way back when I first started going to the Pod, the top teams often put up pasting tables at the front of the pit when they were stripping down the engine between runs. I remember staring wide eyed at pistons the size of my head, and spark plugs that had done one run and looked like they had been used as a chew toy, plugs you could buy if you had a few quid to spare.

I’m not sure quite when, but that tradition seemed to fall slightly by the wayside and it wasn’t until yesterday that I saw the return of the pasting table and once again stood their goggle eyed – well just about eyed actually, but I blame an unnecessarily large amount of nitric acid that seemed to get funnelled right into my eyes while we were watching the quals.

And for all of that, the best bit for me was the chance to sit in the pits with some excellent friends for a few hours and shoot the breeze. Especially since Abi qualified first in VW Sportsman AND it turns out nobody has taken my old race number while I’ve been away …

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Finish Line is in Sight

When you’re doing a rapid fire set of updates on line, it is difficult not to run out of words as things come to a close, the photos often do all the talking you need.

What I do want to tell you about on this post however is the unbelievable Cheshire Cat smile that has been fixed to the face of my beloved these past few days since he was allowed to take his first shower.

There was a minor hiccough as he mastered the finer controls, but about 5 seconds after stepping under the dinner plate sized deluge head all was forgotten, including I would guess any sense of time or place.

From my perspective, the bathroom stood between me and being ready for a home birth, and now that obstacle has been removed, I really feel like I can settle back and relax into these final weeks knowing we’re ready when Alfie is.

I’m also going to be a little cruel after this post because we still have some painting and finishing to do before the bathroom is 100% there and I’m not going to post any more photos until it is all complete.


Monday, September 21, 2009

I’ll be eating my words then

Having made the point last post that the floor would be unveiled with much aplomb and that you wouldn't be able to see the under floor heating, what should happen, but the poor builder biting off more than he could chew and finally calling it a day at about 7pm on Friday leaving the floor half finished and the under floor heating visible.

Clearly by that reasoning, the statement I should be making today is that he'll never get the bathroom finished by the time he goes home.

Anyway, the floor, looks absolutely amazing being black, brick shaped (to match the wall tiles) and very, very highly polished. Believe it or not, highly polished isn't a trait most people go for in a bathroom floor and I can't imagine why. It's not like a highly polished floor turns into a skating rink when so much as looked at in the wrong way is it?

I maintain that the problem lies in the wax that the tiles were coated with my some well meaning porcelain worker. We were warned about this wax when we bought the tiles and I will be attacking them with window cleaner as soon as humanly possible. I'm not massively concerned about concussion potential at this point, if needs be, we'll implement Keith's suggestion and have a bath mat permanently installed to prevent anyone wandering sleepy eyed into the black run at Lillehammer.

What we weren't warned about – and to be fair this does fall under the category of "bleeding obvious" – is that these highly polished tiles of ours would take it upon themselves to form a kind of impromptu mirror, and actually, an amazingly effective one for all that. For anyone with an even slightly low body image, may I recommend not looking down when using our bathroom because an ant's eye view is something of a shock. For the rest of you, please confine yourselves to 5 minutes of curiosity, we only have one bathroom y'know.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The straw that broke the builders back.

I feel really, genuinely sorry for our bathroom fitter. If ever there was a man who has earned every penny of his fee it is this one, for putting up with clients who feed him dog milk and then mess him around mercilessly.

The list of fail on our part is growing ever longer and frankly, I can only blame my current state for the lack of planning.

I will spare my own blushes and refer only to the most serious of our transgressions which came to light yesterday – we forgot to ask for an extractor fan.

I should perhaps say that Keith has been entirely unwilling to compromise on the bathroom (it being “his” room apparently) and one of the things he hates beyond all comprehension is the towels smelling musty (see previous post for my own personal thoughts on the matter).

Since the widow in the bathroom doesn’t open, we were left with the prospect of fitting an extractor fan. And since the baby has eaten my brain, the poor bathroom fitter was yesterday presented with the prospect of having to channel a cable and create an opening in a newly skimmed wall for said extractor fan.

I felt very bad, especially as the walls did look so very lovely and smooth, which is exactly why I delegated the job of telling the builder to Keith. Genius.

So here is the result of our gallant builder’s efforts some 8 hours later. A perfectly formed hole which I am reliably informed will be used to house a humidity triggered fan supreme. I roll my eyes at the entire episode and turn instead to my new favourite bit of the room.

The tiles I had picked for the bathroom are in fact the ones I picked out some long time ago as kitchen tiles for my old flat and then rejected in favour of a cheap and nasty “paint ‘em black” approach when it became clear I wasn’t going to be there for very long. I now see that what was really happening was that these tiles were in fact being saved by karma for a truly deserving room, a room of sheer magnificence and splendour. A room not dissimilar from our bathroom.

These might look like plain white brick shaped tiles to you, but they are in fact more than that. These are bevelled white brick shaped tiles which look amazing in a Victorian terrace and fit perfectly with the design intention of the bathroom which was traditional, with some key nods to the modern. For some reason they put in mind of Sherlock Holmes, which I think is perhaps a clear sign that l’il baby chile has not only eaten my brain, but is pooping out insanity to replace it.

They also go perfectly with the floor tiles, which I have so far hidden from you as they are worthy of a very grand unveiling when they are finished, not least because of the under floor heating which my beloved husband fought long and hard to have included in our bathroom plans, and which of course you’ll be able to see in the photos, if you have been blessed with x-ray vision.

Anyway the tiles aren’t down yet, that’s my point (Chile, you had better be giving me my brain back!!) and it turns out there is more than enough heat matt for the bathroom floor so we may well end up with under shower heating, if for no other reason than the poor bathroom fitter has to use all the matt. It wasn’t an original part of the design brief, but I’m sure it will have its advantages.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Breathe In

Why is it I'm always tempted to assume a northern accent and say "Day x at the Big Brother House" when I make these updates? I hate Big Brother, I never watch it, and yet after 10 years, it has somehow invaded my consciousness.

Right, bathroom progress. As you can see there has been rapid progress, with the pipes being boxed in and the major appliances offered up to their final resting places. I am still in shock that it all physically fits although the toilet does now pose an interesting conundrum.

Say for instance, you are alone in the house and are taken by a call of nature and decide not to bother closing the door. While you're busy catching up on the latest edition of Classic Bike magazine (or a publication of your choice) you are surprised by your other half arriving back home. What do you do? Close the door perhaps?


It turns out that in my scramble to save space in the width department I have slightly overlooked the depth aspect of the dimensional dance.

If you are sitting on the toilet with the door open, there is no earthly way that you can later close the door, not unless you are one of those Chinese acrobats who can fold themselves into an origami crane while still smiling broadly.

Something to consider in the event you're at ours answering a call of nature.

And in other news, here is the first of the Autumn Cakes for the year:

It is an old recipe scanned and mailed over by my mum some time ago, and since I can't find a similar recipe online, I feel it is my duty to share it with you so you too can chomp down on a slice of moist, apply, cinnamony heaven.

And I ought to say thank you to Mrs R Pugh of Monkhampton, Shropshire who originally submitted this recipe to a publication lost long ago in the mists of time.

Autumn Apple Cake

2-3 Cooking Apples
150g/5oz margarine
150g/5oz brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
225g/8oz self raising flour
100g/4oz chopped nuts of whatever kind you especially like. Pumpkin seeds work very well, as do walnuts.
Grated lemon rind

Prepare and cook the apples with a little water and mash or sieve. You should end up with 100-175g/ 4-6oz pulp (dontcha love the waftiness of the measurements, this is my kinda baking!!).

Allow to cool

Cream margarine and sugar, add eggs. Add the cinnamon and four. Add nuts and lastly stir in the pulped apples and grated lemon rind to taste.

Put into a greased cake tin and sprinkle with castor sugar (if you like that sort of thing, personally I think it is the devil's own work).

Cook in a moderate over (180oc) for 45-55 minutes.

The final note from Mrs Pugh is that this cake keeps very moist and she wasn't kidding!! If you make one of these you can tuck into chunks of fruity mellow cakiness for days afterwards that give you a bonus burst of mellow apple every now and then.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Who knew walls could be so flat???

I have always seen FTC as a haven from the world, in common with a lot of Englishers who indulge in a bit of the home-as-castle mentality, but rarely have I ever driven the last mile or so through Arlesey with such a degree of anticipation as I am this week.

Latest report from the bathroom is that we now have smooth walls, as you can (finally) see. Honestly, I had forgotten that bathroom walls were supposed to look this way!! I now need to make the difficult decision of what colour to have the walls and while I fully expect the answer to be “the same colour as every other room” I do still like to play this little game with myself, just on the off chance that one day the answer might be different.

Now that the basics are slowly falling into place, I am now allowing myself the indulgence of starting to look at that section of the retail world entitled Finishing Touches. Toilet roll holders, soap dispensers, mirrors ... in fact anything the slightest bit shiny has me entranced at the moment. Also towels, which are a personal bugbear of Keith’s.

Apparently the new towels need to be the size of a football pitch, interesting to look at, and soft. They also need to not smell like damp brickwork which my husband stubbornly believes is caused by any number of things, other than the obvious one that he keeps leaving his towels in the bathroom which, until yesterday, was running a fine line in damp brickwork.

I have some potential candidates picked out for the new towels, although I have to admit I am really struggling to persuade myself that they are worth the money. I know they are, and I know both Keith and I will love using them for many years to come, but £32 per towel is difficult to get your head round.

I may fashion a toilet roll holder from left over pipe to compensate.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What a Weekend!!

Sitting here today, I’m glad I have a desk in front of me, if for no other reason than it stops me slumping over my keyboard and ending up with QWERTY stamped on my forehead. Since typing with your teeth isn’t a very efficient use of what energy I have left, I am relying on this sturdy piece of chipboard to prop me up long enough to report on the activities of this weekend.

Firstly the bathroom. Despite my numerous requests, I don’t have any photos of the other parts of the room to show you at the moment, despite the fact that the walls are now smooth for the first time in a very long time. It looks really rather odd, although I’m sure I will get used to it in much more quickly than I got used to the bare brick.

Being honest all I want in life is for the rest of the house to stop developing a layer of plaster dust every time I turn my back. I know exercise if good for me and Alfie but frankly I’m getting bored of brandishing a polishing cloth.

Progress is being made though, we now have a shower tray plumbed and boxed in. Had it not been for the weekend we would have had a full shower by now. Since the shower requires the toilet be moved slightly - in fact, everything has to move down a bit in a shuffle comparable to a fat relative arriving late to a wedding and demanding space be created for them on an already full pew - the builder refused to leave us without a toilet for the weekend, even if it did mean the shower stayed unfinished, much to Keith’s chagrin.

In order to take his mind off the shower, Keith decided to prepare for winter by creating a proper log store for us. What he in fact did was take the pallet that our lounge tiles had been delivered in, and clad it in corrugated sheeting that the farmers had left up at the workshop. Perhaps it isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I love, love, LOVE it!! It has been created complete with bags of character than normally take years to develop, and even better, when the rain falls, we will have the joy of hearing the water bounce off the tin roof, which frankly is just one of the best sounds going, especially if you are tucked up out of the rain at the time.

I’ve made him promise to make me a twin for the other side of the back door to house wellies and recycling out of the other pallets we have kicking about. That way it’ll be tin roof stereo come the rainy season!!

You might have noticed that this year we have been slightly quiet on the foraging front. Well in truth we have had a few other things on our minds and it has rather fallen by the wayside. Until this weekend that is, when we started the Great Autumn Fruit Pick with an afternoon wander up at the farm taking in the abandoned orchard and the hedgerow. I was on Sloe duty, which wasn’t bad although I had forgotten how excruciating Sloe thorns can be if handled with anything but the greatest of care. Keith was on blackberry duty and the less said about that the better. Red was on getting himself covered in burrs duty, which I think you’ll agree he accomplished admirably.

Finally we cut back up to the orchard where Keith thought it would be amusing to take photos of me shaking branches and then getting pelted by huge great yummy apples. We collected a bag FULL of them once I had used my powers of persuasive language to get Keith to put down the camera and come and help me. The prospect of having to peel, core and stew all those apples did occur to me at the time, but there is a kind of gluttonous madness that comes over me when faced with unlimited free food and it was more the prospect of having to find room in the freezer, and the lack of a second carrier bag than eventually slowed the frenzy.

Yesterday I made an early start on the apple processing and was actually surprised at how efficiently a bag of fruit can be reduced to neat little tubs of yum. This little stash was crow barred into the freezer and one kept back in the fridge for me to create an Autumn cake. Well that was the intention anyway, the reality was me falling asleep for the afternoon in front of the Grand Prix instead. Oops!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Bathroom Has Begun!!!

Oh yes indeed it has, and were I still able to do a little jig I would be doing one right now. Instead I'm just going to bore you to death with updates instead.

But first I will tell you of the pure naughtiness that is the hound Harry. We have our milk delivered to the back door and today's delivery was especially welcome because we'd run out of milk, and life cannot begin until I have had my morning cup of Earl Grey. Feeling generous, I chucked the boys outside as soon as I got up to create some more burn patches on our lawn while I emptied the dishwasher and put the kettle on.

When I looked outside I could see Red sitting by the back door looking really nervous, which is not unusual for him, but it was very early in the day for him to have done something he felt guilty for (I swear he was a Catholic in a former life!!).

I felt a bit sorry for depriving him of his bed so I opened the door to let him back in, and to see where Harry was - you'll probably guess where this is going – to see Harry, having carefully removed the lid from the milkbottle and his tongue shoved inside it, slurping for all he was worth.

6am is very early in the day to be turning the air as blue as I did, and I developed a mild eye twitch when Keith started chortling from the bedroom upstairs. Depriving me of my morning cuppa is a hangable offence, finding it funny that I've been deprived of my morning cuppa is on a par with murder. I never claimed to be reasonable or rational about these things.

In a bid to restore marital harmony, Keith took himself off to the shop (still chuckling) to get more milk and the half empty bottle was relegated to the side in the kitchen to be given to the dogs as a treat in the unlikely event that one of them actually did anything to deserve it.

This tale isn't just thrown in to demonstrate how grumpy I am, or how evil that cute little basset can be, it will become important later on.

For now though, back to the bathroom …

Having been let down for months, we finally got another fitter at short notice (Friday to be exact) who was due to start this morning. Bizarrely, he actually started this morning which is a departure from the no-show, no-call approach of the last bloke.

He's a fantastic bloke to boot, working non stop and coming up with all manner of solutions as to how to crowbar all our luxury fittings into a room the size of a postage stamp.

He requires one thing, and one thing only to keep him going, and that is regular cups of teeth curling builders tea. So nice a bloke is he that he won't even hear of me making him those cuppas, insisting that I stay on the sofa instead.

Cometh midday, cometh the lunch hour and I got up and wandered into the kitchen to throw some simple pasta creation together and waiting for the kettle to boil I glanced over at the side to see …….. a much emptier bottle of milk than the one I left this morning.

Dear Lord above, what kind of evil woman am I?!? I have fed our lovely builder dog milk!!! Even worse than that, I now have to sit by and watch as he drinks even MORE dog milk because what else can I do? How can I explain to him that he's been using the wrong milk without having to explain why?!?

I'm glad that miserable mutt is off with Keith today because I think I might well have done him a mischief for this little stunt.

And what has our builder done in return for this cruel and unusual treatment?

Well so far he has demolished the airing cupboard and channelled the wall for the shower controls with such a degree of accuracy, he has removed the brick and left the plaster in the lounge unblemished. THAT is how tight the measurements are for this blinking shower, this behemoth that the skinniest bloke in the world insists is vital to his future cleanliness.