Archive for the ‘Home’ Category

Early morning family conversations. What a blessing to have a beautiful family that chat to each other every day on our WhatsApp group. Today our son started off a conversation about Welsh Eisteddfodd’s because he has just realised that they are Welsh in origin (he now lives in Wales) and we used to participate in them every year in South Africa….and so conversations go, that it meandered to ancestors who are Welsh.

Violet Beck

This beautiful picture is of my hubby’s great grandmother Violet who married his great grandfather Max Emanuel Stollreither, daughter of John and Emma Beck.

So we have a son who has moved back to a country where his great great grandmother is from.

How wonderful to have photos of the family from the 1800s to look back on and remember our past.

Who else has old photos they love to pull out every now and again?

#familyhistory #familyancestry #familyphotographs #1800sphotographs #welshfamilyancestry

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Bee awareness.

I love our honeybees, I could go so far as to say I absolutely adore our bees, but they are not the only pollinators so we shouldn’t just concentrate on saving them.

These little ladies with the remarkable ability to cut so precisely may be in your garden.

Have you ever noticed little semicircles or circles cut out of your leaves? Then you possibly have Leafcutter bees.

Until we moved into Hesketh House, which is a wildlife magnet, I had never even heard of them – but apparently they are 10 times better pollinators than honeybees which is why they’re so important.

They are one of dozens of species of solitary bees meaning they live on their own and make little individual nests. As their name suggests, they cut out leaves and roll them up into tubes inside a tiny tunnel burrowed into wood – and in our case, an old beer barrel hoist on the front of the house with an extremely well used timber beam (seen above to the left of the front door).

They’ve come back for the last three years which is a huge thrill for us.

This is my new wisteria planted very recently to grow up the front of the house and is providing them with an easy source of nesting material – they obviously like it even more than the roses.

The sacrifice of a few holes in the leaves is well worth it for these industrious little pollinators, and I hope they continue to use our house for many years to come.

In fact, our roofer completed his restoration and had the scaffolding removed just as the Leafcutter’s returned for their new season…..a good thing too, because one of those posts was right against the wooden section they use!

#heskethhouseapiary #heskethhouse #BackyardBeekeeping #saveourpollinators #savetheleafcutterbee #leafcutterbees #solitarybees

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It is a relaxing Monday evening in Hesketh House and hubby and I are chatting over a lovely cup of tea after work.  As with so many of our chats they start with anything interesting we may have heard or seen recently and like a greyhound out of the starters gate, take off at high-speed all over the place….you never know where these conversations will find you and what they will pick up along the way.

Today we started out with the simple topic of the Persimmon, or Kaki, an apple size fruit with a lovely shiny yellow skin – we bought one at the store to give it a try.  Not simply being happy that we now knew its other names and varieties found all over the world e.g. Sharon fruit is a variety from Israel, we also learned of its many health benefits, drinks uses, timber used etc, etc.  However, like most things, the over consumption can have some negative effects as well.  In the case of the humble Persimmon, you can apparently, if rarely, get a Bezoar (sounds like bee-zore); a build up of various indigestible substances that create an almost stone-like ball in the stomach – yuck!

For anyone with long hair a few years ago, you may have been told by someone older and apparently wiser than you, that if you chew your hair it would create a hard ball in your stomach which could kill you.  Well my 10-year-old self may have occasionally played with my hair in such a manner (again – yuck), but thought ‘oh, how ridiculous, an adult trying to scare me – again’.  WELL, who knew that this supposed old wives tale has an edge of truth to it because Bezoars can be formed from hair too.


Since medieval times, it was believed that Bezoars could cure you of almost any deadly poisons as it was meant to absorb the poison from your body and therefore cure you.  This was disproved by  a ‘scientist’ who fed one to a chef that was given poison as his sentence for theft.  Sadly he died a very long and painful death – I am sure that his original sentence of death by strangulation would have been preferable.

Bezoars are sometimes carved and buffed to a high shine for jewellery – yuck, yuck, yuck! Go online if you don’t believe me and see some images for yourself.

Naturally leading on from stones in the stomach hubby wondered if the nice smelly stuff in a whales stomach was also a form of Bezoar.  Alas no, this is ambergris or grey amber, a substance produced to protect the whales stomach from the hard and sharp beaks of squid.  Ambigris can be burned or used in perfume.  It is almost as valuable as gold.  Occasionally someone makes their fortune finding it in a whale carcass, but I presume much is found as part of the madness that is whale hunting.

If you’re expecting to find a dead whale on the beach with a few kilograms of ambergris, you may want to consider another pension option, as this happens very rarely and fights have broken out amongst Ambigris hunters for less.

By now, the time has been steadily ticking by and from starting our tea at 5.30pm, we realise that it is 7.30pm and the dinner is waiting downstairs.

I could tell you that chasing stories and information down a rabbit hole is a rare thing for our family, but that would be a vast exaggeration because we all spend many happy hours hunting, investigating and churning up weird and wonderful facts and information of no particular use other than to broaden our general knowledge.

Therefore, the question that I always posed to our children as they were growing up was “Do you want the long or the short answer?”  If they wanted a quick succinct answer they came to me; if they wanted the thesis and the rabbit hole, then they went to Daddy.

Nothing has changed to this day – and that is how you get from Persimmons to Ambergris.

Happy trails everyone!



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We had a dilemma – how to fix or disguise a number of unsightly problems in the corner of the Assembly rooms….  1. A missing piece of wooden panelling.  2.  An electrical socket in the lower wall.  3. Heating and water pipes coming from upstairs to the downstairs bathroom. 4. Another electrical socket near the ceiling (once used in the pub for a television mounted in the corner) and 5. The network cable box that had been dangling from the wall since it was installed a few years ago.

All of the above made for a bit of an eye-sore in an otherwise nearly fully refurbished room.  If we had addressed each of the problems individually, it would have taken a lot of time and expense, and rather than doing that I had an idea to cover all of them up in once fell swoop using a corner unit.  I would have loved a nice big, old oak corner unit, but that wasn’t happening on our non existent budget; instead we ‘bought’ this ugly 1980s horror….


Apparently these are as common as muck – as I found on my trawl through an online auction site – people can’t ‘give’ them away because the last time I was in the charity furniture store there were at least 6 of these looking for a new home – unsuccessfully!

I landed up with this one for the princely sum of  £3.75 – the seller declined the 99 pence I had won it for!  I didn’t want them to go totally unrewarded so the £3.75 was the cost of 1 easter egg and a small bunch of flowers for them instead.

Getting it home, it seemed even uglier than I remembered and in a house full of lovely oak antiques it stood out like a boil in the middle of your forehead!  I did wonder at this point whether the finished repurpose/upclycle would in any way match the ideal in my head.

Armed with the plans (I.e. My imagination), a sheet of MDF and a couple of strips of recycled moulding, we set to work cutting, screwing and generally changing the corner unit to fit its new location.  Most of the mouldings on the unit were removed and replaced to wrap around the extended side sections; these ensured the unit was big enough to cover all of the problems we were trying to hide – like these pipes and sockets near the ceiling…..


After day one we had the shell completed and all the screw holes and corners were filled and caulked to give nice clean lines when it was painted.


Day two started off with sanding all the filler and getting the inside of the cupboard painted.  I chose to use because it can be painted directly onto most furniture and surfaces without needing any sanding or stripping.

The inside was painted the very bold Emperor’s Red…..

I didn’t waste time masking off the windows because it is so much easier just scraping off the paint on the glass once it is dry.  Here I used a utility knife blade…it would have been quicker and easier with my glass scraper, but as usual when you need a tool you hardly every use, it was missing!

Before scraping…..


and after…..IMG_5869IMG_5868

Next we tackled the exterior in Old White; a good match to the rest of the whites in the room and gives the appearance of a little age…..


It did take a few coats to cover up that horrid mahogany veneer on the front of the original unit, but once that was done all the hardware was reinstalled and we were done…..


In the top (this was extended from the top of the original cabinet to the ceiling) is a little hatch which is clipped into place.  Inside is a set of speakers linked to the hifi unit in the base.  The holes allow enough sound through and is nicely hidden away so no technology is visible in the room.  I am now on the hunt for a matching colour fabric to cover the hatch and also create a frame on the lower door in the same moulding and fabric – for continuity.

It is a hot topic of debate about whether the natural wood moulding at the ceiling should be left as it is, or painted white like the rest.  I felt it tied the unit into the beams rather nicely, but so far I am in the minority so who knows if it will stay or go.

I think this was a rather successful project and definitely fulfilled its brief of disguising or hiding all the horrid problems in the corner of the room.

You’d never know that it had started out as such an ugly unit.  A great upcyle and repurpose of a piece of furniture that would definitely have found its way to the rubbish dump if we hadn’t rescued it.


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Today we are stuck at home without a car,  so no regular Friday swimming for Ouma and Granddaughter. Instead we have to think of other ways to occupy a very active little lady!  She helped with this when she found a paintbrush in the sewing room. I added a cup with water and pointed her to a wall in the passage…..she needed no encouragement and happily painted the white wall. 

I realised that her art showed up much better on a piece of backing paper on a torn section of wallpaper (we are in the middle of a restoration so there’s plenty of torn wallpaper in the house). This gave me the idea of using brown paper; I stuck a sheet of brown paper to the wall and I can tell you it was a roaring success because an hour later she is still busy painting and as it dries she can repaint over the previous drawings.   

Another way to keep the kids occupied without having mess in the house – and anyway who cares if she spills a bit of water on that really old pub carpet! Win-win 😄

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I had a lovely man come in and install a beautiful upcycled oak floorboard shelf in the kitchen today. 

 Two very old oak floorboards joined and sanded….not too much because we want to pay homage to its previous life as well….and then a light coat of wax to seal it. 

The brackets are so lovely and are just what I wanted. 

The only change to be made is to replace the modern cup hooks with the hand forged ones arriving next week. 

I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. 

 Thank you hubby. 😘

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It has been very quiet on the blogging front – not just here, but on my other blogs as well.

The reason? The Treehouse Project.

This years ambitious pre-Christmas project was meant to be the panelling in the Assembly room, but when I realised that the 5 grand-kiddies were all going to be here for the Christmas holidays, I wanted to make sure they had a cosy space to sleep and play.  Up to now they have basically been in a makeshift room with a half partition wall and no internal windows – a shell really.


Inspiration to start (and finish) the project was largely as a result of a set of windows.  No, really!  I was trying to find a set of stained glass windows in the correct size and budget for the three tall, narrow windows in the room.  My hunt lead me down a rabbit warren in which I got lost, dazed and confused….and found nothing in the correct size, and definitely not in the practically non-existent budget.

However, my search led me to the most amazingly talented glass artist – Debs Godsall or twitter.  I immediately fell in love with her designs and not wanting to get my hopes up, I fired off an email enquiry asking how much three 80cm x 25cm glass windows would cost.  I was over the moon when she responded with a price that I could justify, and I jumped in feet first and sent off a list of things that we love, colour preferences, location and what we would like to see incorporated into the design – for the rest, we let this amazingly talented lady create whatever inspired her – we had seen plenty of pictures of her work and loved it all – and we were not disappointed!  More details on this in a later post.

I wanted to fit as many sleeping spaces as possible into the one room – not brilliant for long sleeps and late lie-ins, but ideal to save space and have a proper bed for everyone when they visit.  My idea had always been to create a room with a forest theme and lovely wall murals, so this is what got the ball rolling.

I made a few very crude sketches on a scrap of paper and hubby headed off to buy the lumber for the project….


With nothing but the scraps of paper and the “plans” in my head, we got cracking.  By the way, hubby loves everything planned and drawn to within an inch of its life, so this fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of project of mine really is totally out of his comfort zone.  Firstly the hardest bit – the steps.  We opted for space-saver steps rather than a ladder so that smaller children could also use it but it wouldn’t protrude too much into the room.  We couldn’t afford to buy and so this was another thing sucked out of my brain and – well, just made on the fly…



Next was the bed base.  A simple frame construction to hang from three walls and high up with access via the new steps.

Phew, they fit…..


We used a french cleat to attach the stairs and allow them to be removed when necessary.  Hubby did a great job routing out the sides and the ends of the treehouse to give a board effect.  A bit of paint inside the treehouse before the sides are installed because otherwise we may not be able to reach later on.  Two tree pods in the treehouse – pumpkin pod and plum pod.  Below is the meadow on the left and the forest on the right…..


Here we have a couple of rather impatient tree dwellers who can’t wait for it to be completed….




With the lights installed we are ready for the front panels…the trees, so I got cracking doing some drawing and trying to keep it simple enough to cut out with a jigsaw….

After a back breaking few hours hubby has finished off the cutting out and I have sanded the edges round.  Here he is fitting them to our rather bowed ceiling!  Crazy house were nothing is straight….

Daughter2 and I spent the next few days painting the trees ready for the installation.  While they dried, we got onto the job of installing the windows. This was by FAR the most stressful part of the entire process.  I was terrified that a nail would clip the edge of the glass and crack it or when the nails were being countersunk a hammer would smash them.

Hubby had previously ripped down some very old oak floorboards to make some frames for the windows;  I had then waxed and polished them a few times.  These were nailed into place on one side for the glass to rest against….


I was SO relieved when it all went without a hitch and they were finally safe in their new location. I am over the moon with how gorgeous they look – thank you Debs…


The panels are dry and can be installed.  First though, we had to attach the curtain rod and curtains because of the tight space it was best carried out before installation.


Ta Da!  We are done…..

Some fairy light across the bottom of the treehouse….


I made a matching Roman blind and pelmet out of the same fabric as the treehouse….IMG_5089

The oak door I built out of the same reclaimed oak floorboards is re-hung and is now home to a cute frog….IMG_5090

A set of steps to match the overall decor with stencil designs for a bit of extra fun; (excuse the unfinished wall – there was no time to install the skirting boards!)….IMG_5056

Underneath the treehouse is space for a full size bed and a cot for the littlest ones.  Each end of the treehouse has an oak beam which we bought as part of a job lot from a 500-year-old barn that was demolished – more decorative than supportive, but the idea will be that a crook is built up from them towards the stem of the cut-out tree to look like the main tree trunk…..IMG_5098

The desk and chair are ready for use.  I painted the chalk board frame to match – we inherited it when we bought the old pub; it was used as the specials board and has sentimental value…..IMG_5092

The reading corner is beautifully set off with a hand painted African animal alphabet wallhanging from the wonderful people over at Hidarl.co.uk.  Their home products are truly special and all ethically sourced from Africa – so worth having a look…..IMG_5105

And of course, what treehouse would be complete without a swing/hanging seat….IMG_5104

A few stencils on the steps laying down some of the ground rules….Feet Here; No Shoes; No Running; Hold Tight; No Pet Dragons – after all, we wouldn’t want to set the treehouse alight if they sneeze……


Speaking of dragons – here is the one that guards the forest the treehouse is in.  He is a friendly dragon….as long as you’re nice – and good!IMG_5069

A few things need to be finished off in the New Year, but for the most part we are done.

What a week, but it was worth every minute when we saw the looks of sheer delight on their faces when they arrived for the unveiling.

Now, where do you suppose we could find a few monkeys to come live in the treehouse?  Oh, I know….we have 5 already.






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Step 1

To clean off all this….

…you need all this…


Collect all the tools you will need.  I have industrial strength paint stripper, methylated spirits, an assortment of brushes and scrapers, gloves, cloths, newspaper and a chair to sit at the right height because my wheelchair is too high.  Now the work can begin.

My challenge is to try to get the wood panelling stripped back to bare wood – one section each sitting. I think this is going to be a bit of a stretch, but nothing was ever gained by the feint-hearted and half-hearted efforts!

Step 2…

Paint on the stripper and wait…it will bubble and then you can begin working on it….

Step 3…

Using your multitude of tools, scrape off the first layers of paint and varnish to reveal more layers…

Step 4…



And what we have now appears to be the 1970s!  The era when it was perfectly acceptable to take real wood panelling and paint it to look like fake wood panelling!

Step 5…

Repeat the stripper and scraper process followed by steel wool dipped into methylated spirits and rubbed vigorously over the surface. This removes the reside of soft paint and stripper that remains on the surface leaving you with a nearly naked wood panel – like this…


Once you’ve stripped, scraped and then steel-woolled the entire section it is easy to see where more work is required…

From a distance it looks pretty good, but close up you will notice lots of paint still in the beaded sections…

These are now easier to concentrate on with more stripper and finer tools. Repeat the steel wood treatment.

Step 6…

Clean the panelling with warm soapy water and this is gives you and idea of what the Edwardian panelling should look like after it is all waxed…


One beautiful panel in-between a LOT of thorns…


I have calculated that if I do just 1 panel per week this will take me 17 weeks to complete! Gulp!  On the bright side, I only have half the room to do because we did the other half of the room more than a year ago – before my injury took me out of the restoration game.


My newest and favourite tool for restoring antique panelling? A discarded swab holder from an operating theatre – to hold the steel wool and really scrub between those grooves…


Every little bit of help counts when there is this much work involved.

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Part 2…

I make wine…lots of wine!  Did I mention previously that I am tea-total?  Well, I am, but that doesn’t stop me from making hundreds of bottles each year.  I rely heavily on the ‘kindness’ of friends and family for the testing and drinking phases, and surprisingly I am never short of volunteers – go figure!

Being a winemaker and a beekeeper means that at some point you HAVE to make mead…and I did.  Until last week, a beautiful demijohn was sitting ageing very nicely in the cellar.  It is a year old and I managed to get it bottled last week.  The labels had been previously designed and it was a really simple operation to glue them on using the fabulous new gummed paper I found after months of trawling the internet for something suitable and reasonably priced.

I must say that I was rather nervous about bottling it because this lot here seem to think that the minute it arrives in a bottle and moves into the cellar wine racks, it must be ready to consume….WRONG!!  Get you grubby mitts off my mead until at least 2016.


The bottle on the right is a little cloudy because I bumped the demijohn whilst filling the final bottle.  A little time in the cellar and it will settle back to the bottom of the bottle.




The bottling process consists of a lot of clean bottles, a floor standing corking device and racking canes to transfer the wine from the large Carboy or Demijohn into the bottles…..

IMG_3875 IMG_0993

While I had my bottle washing volunteers a couple of weeks ago, we managed to clean and sterilise enough bottles to also bottle a few other wines.  I was desperate to get some of them out of the cellar where they had been bulk ageing because I had run out of empty carboys and demijohns to move the currently fermenting batches.  All in all, it was a very successful weekend of cleaning, bottling, corking, capping and labelling.

IMG_0997 IMG_0995 IMG_0994


This lot are now all safely ensconced in the cellar until I give the go-ahead that they are ready to drink….the hardest part of my job as a winemaker is keeping everyone at bay until I think the wine is mature enough.  I’m not giving them a chance to leave negative feedback because they couldn’t leave it alone for a couple of years; after all, I don’t have a problem waiting – oh, but then again, I don’t drink 🙂


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I was just heading downstairs and as I came round the corner there was an obstruction in my path – this is what I was faced with…..



….mmmm; not the usual thing having a sword protruding from your wall!

I think perhaps it is a good indication that we need to do some restoration in this part of the house; so thank you to our youngest granddaughter – Baby Boudica – for pointing this out to us 🙂


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