Where have I been? Why no blog for five weeks? Busy times people, busy times…
I’ve taken some much needed time out in 2018 to renovate my own home and it’s been a great opportunity to tackle all the jobs I’ve wanted to do for years. We’re a couple of weeks away from having the kitchen of our dreams and I can’t wait to reveal all the details when I’ve finished building it. It’s the main reason I’ve been so quiet on my blog recently as I’m literally spending almost every day working at home and not doing a lot else! I sadly had to withdraw from cycling Ride London with a back injury too – lots of lugging appliances and new worktops. Our kitchen was always the heart of the home for us but now I’ve doubled its size and it’s looking so good. We’ve moved the piano into our kitchen (above) and have created a bar above it too. Our nine and six year old daughters are both learning the piano and my wife Sarah plays a bit too so I’ve decided it’s time for me to learn as well.
I think the bar gives away my former life as a nightclub barman a bit! Most of the top shelf spirits, I use regularly in my baking – cherry brandy, elderflower liquor, hazelnut liquor, cassis, Bailey’s, Disaronno, Grand Marnier, Malibu, Kahlua (well, baking is my excuse for having so many). I wanted the shelves to be really sturdy but appear ‘floating’ so I attached four spur shelving uprights to the brick wall behind then built the shelves as boxes made of pine and MDF (medium density fibreboard) to slide onto and affix to the brackets. I painted the shelves in situ in acrylic eggshell and had already done the electrics to attach warm white LED strips to the back of each shelf to light up. Mine turn on with a switch under the bottom shelf but if you wanted to do something similar and don’t want to worry about the electrics, you could use battery-powered lights as an alternative and hide the wiring behind the mirrors. For the mirrors, I sent the dimensions to my usual glass suppliers, who cut all three to size. I used heavy-duty Velcro to attach the mirrors to the spur shelf uprights directly, which means I can remove these easily if they get damaged or I ever need to work on the electrics behind. You just need a pair of suction lifters to put them in place and remove them if necessary.
Another finishing touch to put in my new kitchen are my framed Great British Bake Off prints by Tom Hovey, the show’s illustrator. Sarah bought me the full set of 20 drawings – all my signature and showstopper bakes – as a Christmas present to commemorate my Bake Off experience. We’ve framed them in pairs to represent each of my ten weeks on the show. If you fancy getting your hands on one yourself, Tom sells them on his website here. To nose through all 20 of my bakes, check out the Instagram Story pinned to my page here. My kids were too young to remember me being on the show at the time, as it’s been four years now. Having gone through these pictures yesterday they watched some of the episodes on Netflix corresponding to their favourite drawings and it’s quite fun to experience the show through their eyes.
The other big news from me is something I’m very excited by. Not long before I went on the Bake Off, I’d just completed a BSc in Biodiversity & Conservation. I studied for it at Birkbeck College, University of London, which allows you to take degree courses part-time through evening lectures. Having dropped out of university the first time around, I really threw myself at this opportunity and it was genuinely a life-changing experience for me. I’ve wanted to study for a Master’s degree for a long time now, but it’s taken a while to find the right course. This week, I have an interview at the Weald & Downland Living Museum, pictured above, to (hopefully!) start on their MSc in Building Conservation this autumn. It’ll take two years of part-time study and for me, it marries together 20+ years of experience in the building trade with my previous study of environmental conservation. Wish me luck! It may mean I have less time to blog so I’ll try to make sure when I do, I share plenty of new recipes. I have a few cakes to make this week so there’s still lots of baking going on in the new kitchen. Until next time, Happy Baking!