DIY Pimms No 1™ (like drink)

Many years ago, I came across a recipe in a magazine to make a very similar drink to Pimms No 1. I cut it out and took it with us when we stayed in a cottage for a week in Dorset. I remember the week. Sort of. It was sunny, blurry and a very happy time was had by all. I now have a sixteen year old and was regaling the story to him and his friends (they enjoy said drink). Could I make it again? They would like to try it.

I knew it involved gin and orange curacąo and had a faint recollection of vermouth. I had the first two drinks in the cupbard so trekked off to the supermarket for the third. This is where I went wrong. I purchased white vermouth – should have purchased red, but the taste is not dissimilar. The normal bits – cucumber, mint, strawberries and apples were also gathered together.

Gathering the ingredients together for potion making

So to the recipe, which I luckily found trawling the internet. I do not know how I lived without it. I am an information junkie.

DIY Pimms No 1™ (like drink)

1 measure of gin
1 measure of red vermouth
1/2 measure of orange curacąo

Mix in a jug, add cloudy lemonade and there you go – DIY Pimms

A word of warning – this mix is significantly stronger than the standard stuff you buy in the bottle. Either just have one glass or add more lemonade. I didn’t heed my warning and found mYself tyyyyping lik LES dawson uSEd to pLay THE pianooooooo.

It may amuse you to know that I purchased white vermouth. The Teen willing assisted in making up the potion, but bemoaned the fact we were going to end up with a translucent drink. In a typical brainwave of his, he suggested red food colouring. A strike of genius ………………. except we only had blue. So that’s what we had, and very good it was too. Cheers!

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Is a House Project ever finished?

And now, the end is near, and I must face ……… weekends of decorating.

I’m finding it hard to believe, but we have nearly got to the end of the project. Some before and after shots of the outside remind me exactly how far we have come. More house, a new roof, new larger porch, weatherboard cladding to the upstairs and render to the ground floor outside.

Front of the Property - June 2012

Rear of the Property - June 2012

Front of the House - September 2011

Rear of House - September 2011

The OH has been away for a couple of weeks on business and the builders have used this time to tidy up, address the short snagging list, remove the Camp Bastion style fencing from the front, and erect new wooden fencing around the back of the property to prevent the hound from touring the neighbourhood. We still have some little jobs left, and a mountain of decorating, but they will come in time. The two outstanding jobs outside are to extend the driveway and install decking at the back of the property. Both items are likely to need to wait a bit while we re-group the finances and live on baked beans for six months.

The dead chestnut tree was removed in a morning, which was quite an achievement, and I am only sorry that I wasn’t here to see it taken down. The neighbours said it was quite a feat of tree surgery – we have been left with lots of mulch, and a space to plant something slightly more appropriate, bearing in mind the vicinity to the house. I favour a sorbus aria but will probably wait until the autumn for planting, although if this weather keeps up, it might be ideal to plant it now.

One of things I’ve enjoyed most in this project is having a free rein on the lighting. This has a huge impact in the way a room looks, but is something I’ve never had the opportunity to play with before.

The electricians have installed ‘daylight’ spotlights in the hall, stairs and landing giving us ‘natural’ light all the time. I think I’ve mentioned my bathroom uplight before, running along the back of my wine glass shelf in the master en suite. This is pure decadence, I know.

The Bathroom Wine Glass Shelf is a must....

Prior to this project, we were planning to buy another house and I broke my golden rule and bought a light for it before we exchanged. Needless to say, it has sat in its original box since that moment. It was intended for a hallway, but wouldn’t suit the hallway or landing in this house so we have hung it in our bedroom instead. It’s a little over the top for my normal style but I quite like that, and I secretly bought it for its name …. it is called Lila Sputnik.

The Lovely Sputnik

The original plans for the house, which we inherited, included a huge kitchen, and it seemed perfect for us, as it tends to be the hub of our house. I may regret it when cleaning the floor, but the space is magnificent and, as my friends have pointed out during the build, is definitely a ‘party kitchen’. I have gone completely over the top with the lighting here, and it boasts a few too many light switches. I’m still trying to learn them all. As we had decided on a combined kitchen/dining room, it seemed important to be able to change the lighting from task to mood, and we have attempted to achieve this with a suspended light platform over the island.

The end result is

So as I said at the start, we are very, very close to the finish and would I do it again? ABSOLUTELY!

I am currently writing a survival blog for others who are about to embark on a big project. There are some things we got right, and a few I wish I had thought of earlier but, on the whole, this has been a huge amount of fun and I am definitely hooked on property renovation. Just need to meet Kevin McCloud now…..

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We are so nearly there….

Well, it has been some time since I blogged about the house. I keep meaning to start a new blog, and as the next major thing is round the corner, delay it. Oh, and there is always the factor of time.

The weatherboard cladding is now across the whole front of the house and the scaffolding has been removed here. It felt a little odd not having scaffolding – like the house had suddenly become nude, but we are very pleased with the finished look.

View of the front

The long awaited kitchen is in progress. The units are in, save for a few doors that need replacing, the granite has been templated, painting the kitchen is in progress and the tiles have been delivered. I’ve had some fun in the kitchen with colours. Having chosen very plain units (biscuit colour), I am putting white and a sludgy green on the walls and adding some very busy wallpaper.

The wallpaper chosen for the kitchen

The wallpaper is being used sparingly. La Petite feels it should be coloured in but have mentioned that if she goes anywhere near it with her felt pens, she is for the high jump. I have promised her some offcuts of her own to colour in.

And the kitchen has got to here…..

Kitchen progress

The other room I have had some fun with has been the en suite to the master bedroom. The family bathroom is a small, odd shaped room so we decided to cut our losses and install a large walk in shower, rather than squeeze in a shorter than average bath. Because of that, we have done the opposite in our ensuite and put in a luxurious bath. The electricians humoured me and installed a diffused uplight at the back of my wine glass shelf next to the bath. I’m in heaven!

My wine glass shelf, complete with back lighting

A weird thing happened this weekend. I was working in the study at the front of the house and two guys appeared in front of the window. I opened the door to speak to them to find they were the partners of the daughters who used to live here. They were checking to see if there had been any post for them, but it was fascinating to catch up with two people who knew the house of old. One of them admitted to having stumbled across this blog, which took me completely by surprise. They gave me contact details and went on their way, but I offered their other halves the chance to come and see the finished house. I may not have mentioned this before, but the plans we implemented had already been devised by the girls’ father before he died, and I guess it would be completing the circle for them to see his vision finished. I hope they feel they are welcome to come and see.

How I would have managed this project without internet shopping, I will never know. The wallpaper site has been a real godsend. Once you select the paper you are interested in, it is displayed in several room scenarios, which is really useful to try and see how a pattern looks over a larger area. The best bit it that once you have been supplied with some samples through the post, it appears to always be accompanied by a 10% off voucher too! Three other internet site I have found brilliant is, and All sites (with the exception of appliancecity obviously) will send samples through swiftly, price very competitively, and all have been terrifically helpful. I would add that this is not a sponsored post. These companies have just been great to deal with.

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Herman the German Friendship Cake

Earlier this year, I was the lucky recipient of a Herman. ‘A what?’ You ask. I did the same. It may be that I am the last to know on this but, if you haven’t heard of it either, it’s a lovely concept and, better still, involves CAKE.

Herman turns out to be a container of uncooked sourdough, accompanied by a sheet of simple instructions.

Day 1: put me in a large mixing bowl and cover loosely with a tea towel or cling film,
Day 2: stir well,
Day 3: stir well etc, and so it went on.

In a simplest form, a cake mix, but on a wider scale, this is a lovely opportunity to create something with the children and share the mixture on with some friends. A great activity for the Easter holidays too.

After following the instructions for a period of time, the sourdough needs to be split into four, three sets of dough given away to friends, and the fourth kept to be cooked. An edible chain letter with added benefits – cake!

Right then. Keen to get started?

Well you will need the initial start up instructions to make the ‘mother’ sourdough, which you will be able to share with friends from Day 9.


• One pack of active dry yeast
• 60 ml of warm water
• 460g of plain flour
• 230g of castor sugar
• 500ml of warm milk

• Stir the dry yeast into the warm water until dissolved

• Gradually add flour and sugar until mix thoroughly, then add the milk

• Cover the bowl loosely with tea towel or cling film and leave for 24 hours

Once this stage has been completed, you are ready to start with the main instructions (which is the bit you pass onto your friends with their sourdough)

It goes like this…..

Hello, my name is Herman.

I am a sourdough cake. I’m supposed to sit on your worktop for 10 days. You CANNOT put me in the fridge or I will die. If I stop bubbling, I am dead.

Day1: Put me in a large mixing bowl and cover loosely with a tea towel or clingfilm

Day 2: Stir well

Day 3: Stir well

Day 4: Herman is hungry. Add 300g of plain flour, 225g of castor sugar and 240ml milk. Stir well.

Day 5: Stir well

Day 6: Stir well

Day 7: Stir well

Day 8: Stir well

Day 9: Add the same as Day 4 and stir well. Divide into 4 equal portions and give away to friends with a copy of these instructions. Keep the fourth portion.

Day 10: Now you are ready to make the cake. Stir well and add the following:

• 150g of castor sugar
• 150g of self raising flour
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 160ml of cooking oil
• 3 medium eggs beated
• 2 tsp vanilla essence
• 2 cooking apples cut into chunks
• 200g of raisins
• 2 heaped tsp cinnamon
• 2 heaped tsp baking powder

Put the mixture in a lined baking tin in the oven at 180C for about an hour, or until cooked.

This is where I have to come clean and admit we never actually did the last stage … cook the cake. That’s why I haven’t got a photo for you, but I did get to eat ‘offspring of our sourdough’ cake at a friend’s house and it was delicious. I don’t have an oven at the moment and have had to manage with a microwave for a few months during house refurbishments, but next week, all with change.

Try it and let me know how you get on.

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The secret Center Parcs …. that I am willing to share

I have been meaning to put fingers to the keyboard for sometime on this topic.  It will not make me popular with those already in the know, but it seems unkind not to share it. This is not a sponsored post – simply a my family to your family insider tip!

By now, it is probably common knowledge the Center Parcs in Europe are cheaper than those in the UK, but we have found one that seems to offer just that little bit more – a ski dome.  It’s not a small either, with 5500m2 of real snow, and there are always some moguls and a few jumps of varying sizes for those feeling brave.

Montana Ski Dome offers three levels of tuition in either skiing or snowboarding for all those six and over, and there is also a snow acclimatisation session for those aged four and five, where they play in the snow and generally mess about.  In addition, daily passes can be purchased for free skiing for those not needing lessons.

I have visited the Center Parcs website today to provide some up-to-date costs, and the price for a package of three x one hour midweek sessions is 68 Euros for an adult and 57.50 Euros for a child, which includes the cost of ski and boot hire.  It is also possible to hire ski wear too but we have always taken our own.

We decided that it was a very inexpensive way of finding out whether skiing suited our family, without committing to an expensive week somewhere in Europe.  If the children hadn’t enjoyed it, there were plenty of other things to do at the Parc.  However, it wasn’t a problem for us! They both loved it.

Both children have learnt to ski in Holland, and my son is also a fairly capable snowboarder thanks to them.  Their first ski holidays in The Alps caused much mirth as the ski instructor said he had never come across children who had learnt to ski in Holland, that well known mountainous country!  He also said that people who learn to ski on dry ski slopes are considered complete beginners by the ski resorts whereas those who have been on real snow in a ski dome are not.

We have now been to this Center Parcs on four occasions, a couple of times with the cousins as the kids love messing about together at the snow dome and in the pool complex.  It is an easy nip across via Eurotunnel (about £100 return if you book ahead), and a three hour journey up to De Kempervennen.  Even with the crossing and petrol, we are quids in on the cost of a Center Parcs UK holiday during school holidays.  We even spent Christmas there this year as we had just moved into our building site and needed a little respite.  The villa was decorated for us before we arrived.

The Christmas Decorations

There are lots of other benefits of this particular Center Parcs.  They have some newer accommodation, Eden lodges, which are very smart, spacious and as good as being at home.  La Petite particularly enjoyed the spa bath.

The Spa Bath

Oh, and I should just mention that the Dutch are the nicest, most family friendly people to be on holiday with.  The absence of howling children and stressed parents is always very evident in Holland.  So if this appeals to you, the place you need to book is an Eden villa at De Kempervennen in Holland

And, although the Dutch speak excellent English, we love the language…..

Whipped cream ...... apparently!

Lowly Worm by any other name

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I Can Smell The Finish Line

I’ve been meaning to blog about progress for a while but life has a way of taking over, so here we are now.

The windows are in, we have had plumbing and electric first fix and our bedroom, our bathroom and the Teen’s bedroom and en suite have been plastered and the bathroom fittings have arrived. It has been an interesting time, and probably the hardest two weeks so far. To explain, I only have to tell you the plasterers started on Monday. I guess it’s like having a baby, you forget how awful it is until the next time. Plaster dust everywhere. Even the dog managed to leave a sleeping basset shaped CSI type crime print, after dozing on her bed for a couple of hours, and then getting up.

In addition, the porch brickwork has been completed for some time but it still wants for a roof. This hasn’t caused us too much of a problem, save when it rains as there is nowhere for the water to go. On Monday, it was exacerbated by the plasterers needing water from the leaking outside tap, which is currently inside the porch. The resolution? A natty breeze block stepping stone arrangement over our new water feature. All we need are some goldfish ….

The assault course into the house

As the plasterers arrived, we had to vacate our temporary room. We had started with an outside wall, which was then replaced with the plasterboard wall (to enable the builders to knock the outside wall down), and then the newly formed Teen’s bedroom. I have no photo of the wall.

Stage Two - temporary plasterboard wall with breeze block feature

Stage 3 - The newly formed room (complete with hound)

Sadly, and this is where I am going to have to admit I have become a home improvement junkie, I was terribly excited when the Cedral Weatherboard arrived. It is the first time the builder has used the product too, so he and his team were equally keen to see how it looked. While he manages the work being done, he is not on site every day but made a special visit to see how the first dormer looked, once completed. The material is cement moulded to look like wood, and available in a range of thirty colours. Choosing was the hard bit. It is ideal for providing a weatherboard look without all the maintenance of wood.  The intention is to continue with this around the first floor of the house. I’m really pleased with the result.

A before and after style shot of the two dormer windows

We spent a lovely day today sorting out the leaves and acorns from the trees which have amassed over the last couple of years, before we owned the house. Twelve garden rubbish sacks later, we appeared to have cleared the ground enough to scatter some grass seed down next weekend. Rosie was keen to help but we were worried about her and the road as she has little road sense. The annoying fencing came in useful today as it acted as a large doggy playpen. She was close to us but not in danger.

Rosie in her outdoor playpen

The kitchen has now been ordered, I am halfway through organising tiles for the bathrooms and kitchen and negotiating on a light fitting which is still under discussion with the OH (he doesn’t like it) ….. Watch this space.

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The House Takes Shape

The windows arrive tomorrow! Probably a little after they were needed as we managed a balmy 3 Degrees today, compared to the freezing temperatures of last week. I could tell the builders were grateful for a break in the weather. They were noisy today, probably a little more energy for larking around after using it all for keeping warm recently. One of the roofers said the summer was worse than winter. Then the slates are too hot to handle. Certainly not a problem last week.

Latest view of the front

Having marked out the layout for the bedroom and two bathrooms in the upstairs of the extension, I was invited to check it out. I did wonder if the invitation was to see if I had enough backbone to climb their ladders and traverse the scaffolding, but as a daughter of a Trinity House pilot, I am ace at negotiating ladders, and these are easier than the ones from my childhood, no encrusted barnacles or green river slime to avoid. And great views from our temporary scaffolding balcony.

View from the top

And at last a decision on the kitchen. We have chosen a kitchen from Wickes but I just didn’t feel right about it. The builder mentioned that after living in his house for six years, he had just discovered his neighbour manufactured kitchens and would be happy to quote. A couple of brochures later, a two hour discussion in his showroom, and the kitchen has now been agreed.

First fix of the electricals and plumbing is just being completed, and the plasterers are in on Monday so our house is turning into a home….

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