Sunday, November 13, 2011

Refectory Renovation - Complete!

This is our beautiful Refectory (a place where the monks gathered to eat)…..It was beautiful before, but now that it is practically in domestic use even ,better.

We started renovating this just over two months ago starting with sandblasting the walls, which was a mammouth task and extremley dusty..Although we covered every window and doorway and sealed every crook and cranny we thought exisited the dust still found its way through the house leaving behind its gritty residue…and this with 3 days to spare before our September guests arrived for their Art holiday…..PANIC!!!!!!

After our guests left we then had to deal with the Refectory floor. Although it already had a covering of concrete on it (done by the previous owner) it needed to be levelled ready to have the pipe system laid ontop  in preparation for the Heat Exchanger system.  (A machine that takes the heat from the air – like a fridge in reverse) Which heats up water which is then pumped through the pipes on the floor.   This took about three days to dry and then the workforce arrived to lay the pipes.  As you can see this was quite an intricate job but the boys seemed to know what they were doing…A few days after this the top layer of concrete was piped through a large tube and levelled out and then the Refectory was sealed for just over a week, when it was then firm enough to walk on but now had to be ventilated after the curing process.

We are now at the point that the Heat exhange machine has been connected to the outside of the Refectory (and at a later stage will have a wooden box covering it, so its more pleasing for the artists to paint) and a huge water tank has been installed in the “little room” ready to pump the warm water around the system.  We are hoping that the pipes and the system will extend as far as our living room as we have left space under the floor to implement this technology.  So we are nearly there.  This room will act as our “warm den” for the winter months and as a communal area for our guest throughout the summer months.  So watch this space to see how we tile it in the next few weeks and then furnish it too…..Oh what fun! 

13th November and the thermometer says 20 degrees...madness, but oh so lovely.  The colours of our changing trees are glorious and the light is wonderful for taking lots of photos - like this little fairy village of toadstools...aren't they wonderful and there are even more poking their heads through the ground ready to erupt in colour.....


These are a couple of things that I have been doing in this last week. 

Hanging Basket
Zentangle was something that I discovered at the beginning of the year and got hooked on and have signed up with for regular pattern updates and ideas.  Although it looks complicated it is in actual fact very relaxing and has helped a lot with my drawing too. You too can create your own unique Zentangle design by just looking around you as repeat patterns appear everywhere...Look closer and see! Well worth a go!  
Fish Dinner

The fish I saw in a supermarket promotion ad and couldn’t resist giving them a go.  Started with watercolour and finished off with pastels which helped highlight the spots on the skin and I used salt in the background.  Great fun!

This little picture was done for the Paint my Photo November Challenge and it comes from an amazing photograph called Buttermouse from Pixelbloke who is a member...I just had to try it and test some of my theories and experiment a bit too...and I love the outcome. 

For copyright free photos to paint from visit  This site is run by Roy Simmons (who is an amazing artist using cheap materials (ordinary emulsion brushes etc) and paints in a wonderful loose style too) and has just launched his ebook - details can be found here. Take time to navigate the site for more of his paintings.

Enough for now and I will be back here again in a couple of weeks.  Have fun!


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I can never resist taking pictures of our lovely sunrises here at Bandouille!

A week has lapsed since I wrote last and apologies for that, but with this crazy October/November weather could not really be kept indoors infront of the computer writing for the blog…Oh the irony!  I intended starting this blog because of the winter months and the cold weather and hey presto we have had between 18-21 degrees this last week…Madness!
But we made really good use of it!

Finally got our bonfires going…that to me is always a sign of the oncoming winter and burning the leaves.  We also managed to catch this little chap unwittingly in our coypu trap…Of course we let him go and he was really camera shy!  This is the third one we have caught this way, with a bit of apple to tempt him….not the usual hedgehog diet – me thinks!  Disappeared quickly enough though!  Ahh!  And the neglected veg patch that was started and will be finished. It will, it will.....  But that digging is so hard!

With this lovely bit of late sunshine my figs are getting bigger and more ripe and I was blessed by the lovely Brian with a nice bunch of rhubarb and my brain began to whirrrrrrrrrr!  Fig, Rhubarb and Ginger jam I thought – and did! Seriously yum!

So based on this recipe but reducing the sugar by 200gr so 1kg of each of figs, rhubarb and sugar and I added a good thumb of grated fresh ginger and instead of four lemons used two and two oranges, zest and juice.

The sugar I used was a JAM SUGAR or PRESERVING SUGAR which is really useful and worth the extra pence.

That this sugar not only contains citric acid (therefore reducing the need of too many fresh lemons) but also pectin too to help thicken the jam.  Check the contents to make sure this is the case on all Jam Sugars…

Note dented lid - since replaced!
This online reciped also comes with an amazing pectin stock recipe made from the waste of peeling apples.  (Wish I had know that when making all that chutney!). Check it out on the link above!

Finally cooked and jarred up (7 jars) and set to cool and couldn’t wait to taste….properly that is!  And taste I did…but was in such a rush to get the jar opened, that I dropped it and it landed on a strange angle on my toe and judging by the pain and the colour of toe, reckon I broke it….so beware  Fig, Rhubarb and ginger jam should come with a warning label!!!!!

Oh boy it does tasted good though and I reckon this could become a new favourite with scones or even drop scones! Let me know what you think and what you eat it with!

Also this week managed to paint a couple of pictures.  Two that I have wanted to do for a while.  The first was a pic from a magazine that to me showed a lovely French scene and I love the inclusion of the French flag.  The reason why I chose this was mainly to get my head around perspective, but something clicked and I used a few techniques that I knew (but didn’t often put into practice) and hey presto….I was happy with the outcome..So more buildings are going to be practised now without a doubt.

The second is (as you can see) a portrait….I really want to do portraits of my children (grownups now of course) and one of Drew’s neice too, but felt I had to practice and followed some portrait tips and techniques first before going into family images.  I chose this picture as I liked the strong contrast in the photo but unfortunately the photo was zoomed in on and I lost facial characteristics but had what I needed to work from and I like the result.  So by measuring distances between the eyes eyes to nose, nose to mouth etc placed everything proportionally where it should be and it worked…Why am I always surprised!….Lots learnt and rules followed and now feel happier to move forward with my portrait work  too.  So watch this space.

Useful tip!♠ 
In the meantime a friend of mine (Roena from sent me this little tip via email.  So for all of you fans of corn on the cob and not enough pan space to cook them for a corn feast take note!

Cooking corn in a cool box – it works…..!!!!!

A cool box is retrieved from where it normally lives in your abode.  Is then wiped clean,  filled with the cobs of corn. Next, two kettles-full of boiling water are poured over the corn (or enough to cover) and the top closed.

Then nothing.

30 minutes later and open it, and the corn was is perfectly cooked.  I'm told that the corn will remain at the perfect level of doneness for a couple of hours.

Great tip Ro and I am sure that it will be used everywhere….what a great idea and not only space saving on the stove but also energy saving too…..

So with all this said and done…enjoy the weather (if you have weather to enjoy) and the autumn colours and pop by and see what else is in store at Bandouille.

Next time will have more information on how our Refectory is coming on to make it into a warm place to be over the winter and this will double up in the summer as a great communal area for our guests too.

See you next time!