Archive for June, 2012|Monthly archive page

Getting nowhere fast

In Uncategorized on June 21, 2012 at 9:52 am

It’s been a week, but nothing has happened in Operation Kitchen Refurb, other than I’ve covered all the walls in varying shades of purple splodges of paint. This morning, Adam left the house with the words ‘Maybe we should stick to the duck-egg blue’ and left a picture of a white and duck-egg kitchen beside the bed.

The boiler’s being fitted tomorrow, the electrics being sorted this weekend and we even have a date for the plastering, so it’s looking feasible that we can be done by the end of July… IF we can just agree on a damn colour.



Purple Reign

In home, shopping, Uncategorized on June 15, 2012 at 10:14 am

Hurrah! I’m getting excited now, turns out the best way to get me on board with the outrageous and unplanned expense of a kitchen refit was to allow me to paint part of it purple.

Now that the boy’s agreed*, I am far more inclined to show support and measure walls for cupboards and choose oven hoods.

I’ve now unleashed my inner interior designer and am planning the finished look, which is what I need to do to keep me going through the next few weeks of rewiring, plastering, floor fitting, banging and swearing.

Thanks to the support of my fellow purple passionistas Eve and Liz I’ve now identified tons of purple accessories and appliances, but none of them have excited me as much as this aubergine DeLonghi coffee machine. I may only have one latte a day, but what a stylish way to have it.

Of course, I’ll have to have the kettle and toaster to match.

I’ve also been forced to accept that the Catherine Colebrook picture I’d planned on having simply won’t go with the new colourway, so I’ve set my decided on striking black and white pop-art for impact. Personally, I have set my heart on this shot of Audrey, but as this will be about my fifth attempt to bring her into a room in the house, I have to tread carefully.

But I have a plan – while I see Audrey presiding over the kitchen from the main dining wall, I think I can convince Adam to go for it with the diversionary tactic of suggesting that this guy gets to take centre stage on another.

Not just a hat stand. Oh no.

*in principle, it could all be off by Sunday

Bright idea

In decorating, home, Uncategorized on June 14, 2012 at 10:56 am

Much to my surprise, my proposal to scrap the caramel kitchen colour scheme in favour of a more regal deep purple was not met with utter horror last night. In fact, we’re actually going to pick out a few tester shades to get an idea of the finished effect.

It’s made me wonder if I can push things a bit further. I’m all for the recessed ceiling spotlights we’ve agreed on, but wouldn’t THIS be amazing over the dining table?

I realise there’s the risk that dinner guests will smash their heads in, but really, isn’t that their look out?

The Colour Purple

In decorating, home, Uncategorized on June 13, 2012 at 11:28 am

I’ve had a bit of a change of heart on the kitchen front. I am taking a new ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ approach to the whole project and instead of grumbling about the spectacular failure to stick to my initial plan, I am going to suggest a few changes to my original decor idea.

Essentially, I shall be putting forward the – I think – perfectly reasonable suggestion that instead of carrying through a lighter version of the colour scheme from our sitting room, and opting for duck eggs and caramels to match the new white cabinets, we rip off the offending wood panelling that I’ve already painted (as per Adam’s original desire, clever eh?) and opt for smooth plastered walls, but choose a more striking colour combination.

I am thinking, naturally, of purple. I see no reason why it needs to be confined to my wardrobe, and while I’m not going to hedge my bets and ask if we can get glossy aubergine cabinets (but I would like that, I would), I think a statement aubergine wall will have a fantastic effect with the white units.

It also means I can buy all manner of striking statement accessories as a souvenir of this traumatic time, such as THIS one:

Say no more.

Memo to self: say nothing in future

In decorating, home on June 12, 2012 at 2:19 pm

As I predicted, the whole ‘let me up-cycle the kitchen as a fun weekend project’ idea has been well and truly hijacked and has now escalated to such a point that I am considering just moving out and living on my own free from brick dust and interference.

Despite my having painted the cabinets and the wood panels, replaced all the handles and having bought paint and paper for the walls, my painstakingly painted cupboards have now been removed from the walls (along with the tiles, with not a thought that we hadn’t even started looking for replacements) and – joy – a wall has been demolished so that the alcove is no more. This is to make room for the enormous American style fridge freezer that we’re now having instead of recessed painted shelving to store and showcase all of my cocktail glasses and Rosanna Bowles J’adore les shoes crockery as previously discussed.

From this:                                                                                To this: 

Beautiful crockery that deserves to be seen…

Massive metal box.











Because as we all know, nothing fits in with a vintage style kitchen like a massive metal ice maker, does it?



Gone potty

In Florida, Holiday, theme park, Travel on June 8, 2012 at 10:45 am

It’s taken three months to find the time to post about my long-awaited trip to Florida to visit the  Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Mainly because whenever I try to write about it, I am consumed with misery that I’m not racing around in the Florida sunshine any longer.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that for someone in their 30s, my passion for Potter is borderline peculiar, but luckily for me, Adam’s just as much of a geek and was every bit as keen to head Stateside to see what they’d made of the phenomenon.

Naturally, my expectations were too high, but as I was reminded, there’s only a certain amount of space available to create this magical world, and the team at Islands of Adventure, where WWOHP is located, have really thrown themselves into the project to create a jaw-dropping experience.

As we’d booked with Virgin Holidays, we were awarded early entrance to the WWOHP on our first day, and as such, we were the first car parked in the epic multi-storey network that plays host to the Universal and IOA parks’ guests every day. At 8am, we joined the other privileged guests to race through Islands of Adventure to get access to the corner of the park dedicated to Potter and pals. On strolling through the arch, beneath the Hogsmeade sign, we entered a whole new world.

With Hedwig’s Theme playing in the background as the glistening snow-capped crooked shop-lined street beckoned, we were greeted by the sight of the gleaming scarlet Hogwarts Express, before wandering past Zonko’s, packed with quirky treats and japes, Honeydukes, home to hundreds of sweet and unusual confections, the Three Broomsticks and the Hog’s Head before finally arriving in the shadow of Hogwarts castle itself to ride the signature Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride – one of the most popular in all of the state’s theme parks.

Entering Hogsmeade

The Hogwarts Express

Cauldron shopping…


I’m not going to spoil the ride, it’s surely best to experience something like this with no idea what to expect. But what did impress me is the effort that the creators have gone to to make the waiting time less of a chore. Queues for the ride can reach two hours in peak season, but that’s possibly the only way you’d get to experience all of the wonderful surprises… mandrakes in the greenhouses, a greeting from Dumbledore, an argument between the talking portraits and a pre-ride warning from the Sorting Hat. We rode the Forbidden Journey around six times during our holiday and every time we seemed to spot something new.

The other rides at the attraction are the Dragon Challenge – spiralling and looping Hungarian Horntail and the Chinese Fireball dragon coasters, and the Flight of the Hippogriff, for younger riders. But fantastic as the rides are, it’s Hogsmeade itself that proves such a draw for visitors…

Honeydukes is a colourful, swirling shop packed with Fizzing Whizzbees, Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans (Adam has since eaten an entire packet and confirms that alongside the cherry, cinnamon and apple you will unfortunately stumble across earwax, dirt, pepper and, I kid you not, vomit), all in perfect packaging. The queues are long but browsing is an endless joy. Zonko’s sees visitors stocking up on extendable ears and pygmy puffs while at Dervish and Bangs and Filch’s Emporium you’ll find entire school uniforms, house robes and scarves, as well as a range of T shirts and tri-wizard championship shirts.

The longest queue by far is for Ollivander’s wand-shop, a tiny little store which only holds around 20 people at a time, all of whom watch as Ollivander invites a would-be witch or wizard forward to allow their wand to choose them – crashes, bang, music and lights make the experience really enjoyable and I met one little girl who queued four times before she was finally called forward to find her wand. To be clear – I was a bit narked in my geek way, because as we all know, Ollivander’s isn’t in Hogsmeade, it’s in Diagon Alley.

Every Flavour Beans

Talk of sweet treats brings us, of course, to Butterbeer; the drink of choice for young wizards. WWOHP does a roaring trade in Butterbeer, both in the Three Broomsticks and the Hog’s Head, as well as on olde worlde style carts in the street. The flavour is as sickly sweet as you can imagine – think Cream Soda that coats your teeth, with a whipped topping, but everywhere you turn, someone’s sipping a flagon of it. Possibly because JK Rowling put the kibosh on the ‘land’ selling Coke, Pepsi or other fizzy drinks. That said, there is also a frozen variety, which tastes like melted vanilla ice-cream and is infinitely preferable, apart from the brain-freeze.

The food served in the pub isn’t too bad at all – massive sharing platters or English style meals of pasties, salad and chips and fish and chips, all served at wooden tables in the cool, darkened interior as a welcome escape from the sun.

The Three Broomsticks

The Hog’s Head


While I could easily have advised on acres and acres of attractions based on the series of novels, I managed to keep my expectations in check and marvelled at some of the attention to detail. Amongst the other details at the theme park are the performances by the Hogwarts choir – accompanied by their over-sized animatronic frogs – the graceful ladies of Beaxbatons Academy and the young men at Durmstrang. With various photo opportunities with them, as well as chances to have your picture taken with Sirius Black’s ‘Wanted’ poster and the Hogwarts Express conductor, it’s a veritable holiday album in itself.

The piece de resistance for me though was finding out, when I went to the bathroom, that the creativity team haven’t missed a trick and that Moaning Myrtle’s gurgling babble keeps you company throughout – something I’d hoped they’d think of. I was saddened that they hadn’t incorporated more of the series, and it seems mad not to have lookalikes not strolling the street for photo opps – elsewhere in IOA you can have your snap taken with the Green Goblin or Spiderman after all, but I guess the main masked characters are Death Eaters, so it might be a little too much for younger visitors.

I wonder how many years it’ll be before the conventions start here as the Star Wars ones have at Disney, and fans descend every year for the chance to have their snaps taken with cast members and everyone from Fang and Buckbeak to Crabbe and Goyle – if only that actor hadn’t taken it upon himself to start smoking pot and get involved in the riots; he might just have been made for life…

I’ve also seen that plans are afoot to expand the world, but this time, in the neighbouring Universal Studios park – with concept drawings showing a plan to replace jaws with Gringotts Bank and other attractions. Perhaps Diagon Alley will be based in US and Hogsmeade will remain in IOA.

That’s sure to take several more years, so there may be more theme park holidays in the offing. Either way, my tickets are booked for next February, with the whole family in tow this time. I just hope they can keep up.

The Sorting hat sees you off…

High time for High Tea

In food, Hotels on June 7, 2012 at 10:46 am

I’ve been a bit over-wrought in recent weeks due to illness, work and bad payers, so it was something of an unexpected treat to be invited to the recently opened Hotel La Tour in Birmingham city centre last week to indulge in high tea.

My gorgeous friend Sarah invited me along for a long-overdue catch up over cocktails, sandwiches and scones, and, well, who am I to say no?

The hotel is perfectly located for anyone seeking beautiful surroundings for a city shopping break, with fabulous décor and friendly, helpful staff. Within seconds of settling into our comfy chairs, the discreet background music washed over us and we instantly felt more relaxed and ready for a few hours’ indulgence.



And indulge we did, choosing a pot of white pomegranate tea, which I must confess was sidelined somewhat by the stupendous earl grey bellinis we sipped as the team brought over a floor-standing feast of mouth-watering treats.

Image A fondue of cheese with dipping toast soldiers, finger sandwiches of fine smoked salmon, wafer thin ham and delicately spiced chicken nestled alongside delicious cucumber sandwiches, each tastier than the last.

I swear we took tiny, ladylike bites to savour the flavours but in no time at all, the top tier had gone…


Our second course of light and fluffy scones, naturally served with strawberry jam and clotted cream, was enough to make us start looking at properties in Cornwall, if only for an excuse to tuck into them every day, and with two sumptuous courses gone, and the delectable-looking dessert plate left, we agreed we had to have a short break.

Our host brought us the hotel’s speciality cocktail, the 1889 (named for the year that Birmingham achieved city status) to cleanse our palates before the final tier. A frothy, perfumed confection of Bombay Sapphire, apple juice, grated ginger and whipped egg-whites, the tiny drink was light yet rich, almost a mini syllabub to prepare for the amazing four mini desserts that followed.


A quick game of eeny-meeny-miney-mo later, I chose the first of my four sumptuous sweets – a bite-sized Eton Mess that melted in the mouth. Tastebuds exploding, I found it hard to choose what to have next – it’s a big decision after all, the food was so exquisite that I wanted to ensure that the last thing I ate was my favourite. The Walnut Whip (not your shop-bought version but a stylish cone of wafer, chocolate and walnuts), the Jaffa Cake (again, a blend of chocolate, orange and sponge but nothing like the McVities variety) and the individual treacle tart, served with a smear of rich clotted cream, were all magnificent.

It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a wonderfully decadent afternoon tea – the most memorable being those served in Harrods and in the Pump Rooms at Bath – but this one was simply amazing, and right on the doorstep. It may be too extravagant to indulge every day – or even every week – but next time I need a pick me up to help me forget my troubles, I know where to head…

How to have your project hijacked: do it over a bank holiday

In Uncategorized on June 6, 2012 at 10:25 am

So, I thought it was too good to be true. Four days off, and so much progress made on my revamped kitchen project… all of the cabinet doors have been hand-painted and been given new handles, while all of the nasty wood panelling and the boiler cupboard has been revitalised in caramel paint.


ImageI’d got Adam to agree that we’d fit shelves in the alcoves for our cookbooks and my Le Crueset casseroles, and we’d agreed that we’d replace the floor with vintage smoked elm boards. I could actually see it all in my mind’s eye.

But then, Adam decided to chisel all the tiles from the walls.


This is what happens when you let someone else get involved

Don’t get me wrong, they were ugly, but they were a million times better with the new white cupboards as opposed to the wooden ones. But, as I knew it would, this new development led to the following scenario

A: ‘That looks so much better, doesn’t it?’

F: ‘It’s bare plaster with chunks missing.’

A: ‘We’ll have to get it skimmed and then we’ll put new tiles up.’

F: ‘You’ve wrecked the cooker.’

A: ‘Well we’ll get a new cooker too.’

Five minutes later:

A: ‘We could get all of the walls skimmed.’

Two hours later:

A: ‘We could just buy new cupboards?’

So, my project has transformed from upcycling the kitchen with paint and accessories to us spending thousands on new electricals, plastering, tiling and, I expect, new cupboards, meaning that all the money, not to mention the three full days, I spent preparing and painting the cabinets was a complete waste of time.


My end result of phase one – but was it all in vain?

Sad face.

Loving Lily’s work

In Uncategorized on June 3, 2012 at 11:03 am

Much as I’m enjoying making headway with the big kitchen DIY project, the fun part of revamping rooms, obviously, is the accessorising and shopping part, much more exciting than the wallpapering and painting.  Earlier this week I went to a vintage afternoon tea in aid of St Mary’s Hospice and as well as scoffing cakes and champagne and buying raffle tickets, I did a little browsing for new stuff to bring my new look kitchen to life.

While I’m pretty pleased with the canvas memo-board I bought to replace the boring old cork one, my real find of the day were Lily Flame candles

As well as being super-cute in their little labelled tins, the scents of these candles, made in Somerset, are just to die for. I bought three – Parma Violets, which instantly transported me back to being six, Coffee Galore, which is so strong, and so delicious that your tastebuds instantly start craving caffeine, and lavender and lime, which I think is heavenly, and the boy dismissed as ‘smelling like soap.’

 Image Image

So while I may be jumping the gun a bit, at least I know that once the painting is finished, I have just the thing to chase the smell away…

Crazy for Catherine Colebrook

In Uncategorized on June 1, 2012 at 8:47 am

Last birthday, I was bought a card with a twist on the whole Keep Calm… ethos that we’ve been deluged with. The Catherine Colebrook Save Water, Drink Champagne card made me laugh, so I was quite chuffed to see it’s available as a canvas at

I’m quite convinced it’s the perfect way to set off my new look kitchen, when it’s finished.


I’d expected the boy to veto the idea – bright pink artwork? In the kitchen? But to my surprise, he’s actually said that I can have it, and that he’ll choose another to complement it – this is quite a breakthrough as that’s three suggestions in a row I’ve made that he’s agreed to.

I may get the purple kettle past him yet, but don’t count on it.