Board games

Not a successful day today at the auction (I bought absolutely nothing), however, I did manage to add to my collection of board games.

The Little Grange has a large built in bookshelf on the landing of the first floor and my idea is to fill it with books and board games for guests to enjoy. Today was just fantastic because after finding an original London Monopoly game last week, I found the Paris version with all of its contents! Perfect for French guests (instructions are in French) or visitors wanting an entirely authentic experience.

I have found that charity shops are amazing places to buy used board games – you never know what you might find but you can be guaranteed that there will be a dedicated shelf providing a choice. I have paid between 50p and £2.50 for the games I have found so far and will only buy them in mint condition with full contents:

– Backgammon

– Traditional playing cards (four packs)

– The Really Nasty Horseracing Game

– Monopoly (London, UK edition)

– Monopoly (Paris, France edition)


Board games for guests

Other board games I am looking for include Chess, Draughts, Cluedo, Scrabble, Dominoes, Yahtzee. Have I missed any?! SCH

Busy sewing bee

I joined a dressmaking course last month to help me tackle some of the sewing and upholstery projects I have lined up. I will generally have a go at most things but sometimes feel I am missing the basics and would like some formal instruction. By joining the class I hope to perfect different types of seams, get a better understanding of what my sewing machine can do, learn new techniques for making projects look more professional and generally learn the tips of the trade.


Sample course work: concealed zip

Each week we are covering different seams and basic sewing skills. So far we have sewn a straight seam, French seam, jean seam, corner seam, facing, round and pointed collars, and put in a dart using tailor’s tacks. We have also looked at general machine use, measuring and cutting out fabric, seam allowances, pressing out seams and troubleshooting. During this week’s class we went through the process of adding a zip to a skirt – using both machine and hand tacking, a close top stitch and a ‘quick unpicker’ to reveal the concealed zip.

I have already taken on board this zip technique because over the weekend I needed to make my nine year old nephew a maths-inspired cushion for his bedroom. Before assembling the zip-linked panels I cut out a series of number templates based on images I found on the internet and used a wide zig-zag stitch to fix them to the front panel using the same colour cotton thread.


Attaching numbers

A cushion, it seems, is no more tricky than a skirt; you just have to remember to open the zip before you sew the remaining three sides!

Now that’s done it’s time to tackle the padded cushions for the outside wooden chair – I keep putting this project off because I need to find an implement to cut through foam. Apparently an electric carving knife (used for cutting the Christmas turkey) works well. I will report back soon on that particular success (or failure)! SCH

Time to take stock

Time is ticking away. It’s almost six months since I left the Middle East and panic is finally setting in!

The contract on the house in France is due to be signed at the end of November with completion following shortly afterwards. However, until the house is officially mine it isn’t really possible to start the real business of seeking the relevant permissions for the B&B or developing marketing materials. I have researched long and hard and know what needs to be done but can’t actually put any of the theory into practice until the keys are firmly in my hands.

As the days draw in and we approach the end of October, I continue to sew, bake, garden, renovate and bargain hunt – important skills that need perfecting in advance of next year’s grand opening.

I have on my ‘to do’ list a few personal sewing projects that I put on hold over the summer because of the good weather; piped cushions for Mum’s outside Adirondack chair; a blue cushion with assorted numbers for my maths-mad nephew; and renovation of an old wooden stool that sat in Mum’s garage for thirty years until it was nominated ‘guinea pig’ for my recent upholstery course.

But right now I am sitting at another auction buying more items for The Little Grange. This particular auction is in a village hall, it is not very well known and only occurs once a month so everything is super cheap and items rarely achieve double figures!

So far I have bought a large cloth folding screen (£22), vintage ‘Covent Garden’ wooden fruit tray (£10), an ornate gold mirror (£10), and a box of assorted tools including chisels that will be useful for upholstery projects (£20). The buyer’s premium is 18% so my total bill will be £73.16. SCH

IMG_2351 IMG_2319 IMG_2352 IMG_2317

Upholstery course: day one

Given my penchant for auction bargains, I have been really keen to learn the skills involved in furniture upholstery. I often see tired looking sofas, chairs, stools, etc. that have lovely forms but have seen better days; wishing I had the confidence to buy them and transform them into something incredible.

On Saturday I was given that chance at a local one day workshop. I was asked to take along a small project so chose a small stool with Queen Anne legs and a sprung seat. The fabric was long gone and the stool looked a sorry state so most of the day was spent removing tacks, mending the woodwork and bandaging the wood so it was ready to take more staples and tacks. Here are some photos from the day… there’s still a lot to do including seven more layers until the stool resembles the original. The final fabric seems to be incidental!

image  IMG_2218  image  IMG_2255  image  IMG_2261  image  IMG_2273

I now hope to attend a multi-week course so I can finish the stool and move onto other projects that may benefit The Little Grange. SCH

Lavender update: four months on

Well, I’ve had mixed success with the lavender cuttings! Partly because I took cuttings too early (I’ve since learnt that early autumn would probably be better) and partly because we had such a warm summer and I’ve struggled to know how much water to give them (read: I have over watered them)!

Nevertheless, out of the original 36 cuttings, 24 rooted well and put on good growth and I have been able to replace any weaker cuttings with the autumn new growth from the master plant.

I have also regularly ‘pinched out’ the top shoots so they bush out and form more foilage at the bottom rather than grow leggy stems. I will only water the cuttings very occasionally now that the weather has turned cooler and will keep them in the greenhouse out of harm’s way until next spring when they can be planted out at The Little Grange. SCH


Lavender cuttings 17 Oct 2013

Fresh eggs for breakfast

After a couple of weeks away from the auction it was great to get back there today.

Despite a cold chill in the air there were still a few items in the outside section. Gone are the summer parasols and tables and chairs… household bricks, lawn mowers, wheelbarrows and chicken wire are more the seasonal order of the day.

Now speaking of chicken wire, I had my eye on a group of five galvanised chicken feeders and, despite a lot of interest, I managed to get them! A helpful friend explained how the large hanging feeder worked and declared it a simple yet effective feat of engineering to keep away the rats; he also fixed the water dispenser together and talked about the 120 odd chickens and pigs he used to keep. A local farmer came over for a chat with his dog Alfie to find it was his lot we were discussing and that it had made £30. He then mentioned he had about 30 pig feeders scattered around his fields that were too heavy to lift… I suspect they will make their way to auction in time.

I bought the chicken feeders because I am keen to keep chickens at The Little Grange; a new enterprise has started up in St. Gervais which means chicks and feed are now readily available. I plan to provide guests with fresh eggs for breakfast. This time next year…!  SCH


Galvanised steel chicken feeders