Back to work for us – still enjoying our superb office

Today has been a great day for autumn colour enthusiasts.  Here’s hoping the wind keeps away for a few more weeks so that we can enjoy this spectacle for as long as possible.  Today I needed to drive to one of the builders merchants that we frequent, but there was no contest: on a sunny day, the drive to Blaenau Ffestiniog is awe-inspiring, and the journey back even lovelier.  So obviously I will include a reference shot of the forest so you can check the progress of the season.

Our view is getting more appealing every day
Our view is getting more appealing every day


You may well be wondering what we have been doing.  Today has been almost like a return to the earlier days, except with a steady stream of visitors to the cafe to chat with!   Mike and Adrian erected the scaffold tower in bedroom 8 to put a plasterboard patch into the ceiling that fell down a few months ago.  Meanwhile, I primed a whole new variety of wooden components near the front door, then painted stabilising solution on the new render, and then started top-coating the black sections of the front door.  the photo below obviously doesn’t do my hard work justice…


Front door, still mid-refurbishing
Front door, still mid-refurbishing

as I left it rather late in the day to take the snap, so the light isn’t with me.

Jane very kindly took some photos earlier in the day as we modelled our new work trousers.  These were purchased by our (grown-up) children as anniversary presents, so we include the photo below as evidence that (a) they arrived in the post (b) they fit and (c) that we are very impressed with them as presents and will be working in them from now on:

An attempt at a moody shot, which didn't quite work
An attempt at a moody shot, which didn’t quite work


so we took this detail photo to show the details
so we took this photo to remove a lot of the distraction, and highlight the details


But of course, this was all too much for Mike.  Never a man to do things by half, or be sensible for longer than is absolutely necessary, he then decided as we had the clothes, the forest, and a photographer, we should take that catalogue shot to make us stars as we stared moodily into the distance

yes, well....least said...
yes, well….least said… shall we not give up the day job?

Excitingly, I have now started unpacking some of the boxes we have yet to manage to unpack from our move – ridiculously in a property this size, we just need to find somewhere to put the contents.  I have also booked onto another course, so this week as well as lesson 5 ‘yn Gymraeg’, I will also be taking a masterclass in social media use!  Oh goodie, goodie, that’s what I say…. I’ll tell you more about it later this week if you are really lucky…

Tickets for our folk night are selling like Jane’s cakes!

Over the last few days we have managed to return to Mike’s first love of tweaking the building.  Whilst I have (largely) been finalising our accounts or helping Jane in the restaurant, Mike has been re-rendering the area around the front door.

Front door after we moved it to its new location
Before: the front door after it was re-located earlier this year


and after: door now undercoated, and surrounding rendered
and after: door now re-glazed, undercoated, and the surrounding has had its first coat of render

He has had to learn a new technique to match the render style, but we think once the second coat has been applied, dried and been painted, we won’t be able to tell the difference.  I think Jane has been enjoying herself though: Mike has commented that when he is working so close to the kitchen, he can smell the delicious aroma of baking and/or cooking all day and is struggling to stick to his work rather than come and sit in the warm and eat.  On the other hand, as he is working just outside the entrance, he does get to stop and chat on a fairly regular basis anyway.

Today we took delivery of our level 5 hygiene sticker so will put this up as soon as we have specially buffed the glass door onto which it will be stuck.

On the domestic front, on Sunday I went to Ty Mawr Wybrnant for an open air service during which a lesson was read in Welsh from a very old edition of the bible.  If I understood correctly, Ty Mawr is a typical stone built upland 16th Century farmhouse in which Bishop William Morgan used to live – and he is the man who first translated the bible into Welsh, so the reading from one of his old bibles felt particularly special (even if I understood very few words).  On Monday I attended a meeting  of the Betws y Coed Tourism Association.  So tell me, honestly, which would you rather do – attend a few meetings, of find yourself doing the activity below:


Anyone would think we didn't have a workmate to use for support....
Anyone would think we didn’t have a work horse to use for support….

And autumn is still strutting its beautiful stuff for us – I just hope the reproduction is good enough for you to enjoy the changing colours




Oh yes, and finally, I must let you know that tickets for the Mouton folk evening on Saturday November 26th are selling really well.  Almost all the tickets have been sold or reserved, leaving us with only a very few for anyone who has yet to declare an interest.  We hope that  this bodes well for a fun evening.



Everything in the garden . . . mae’n fendigedig

To continue my theme of approaching autumn, I am happy to announce that Mike and I have started double glazing the manor windows with plastic sheeting again.  This proved invaluable last year to reduce the roaring draughts that howl round the sash windows and, I presume, through other orifices leaving us quivering in front of the wood burner.  We are still holding off on lighting the central heating given the recent rise in oil prices, but we have broken out the thermals and are just about managing to remain frost-free to date.

We are also still preparing for the next phase, as we continue to await the detailed drawings for the new stairwell.  So this week has seen us sort through all the tools we used on the last phase and move them into position ready for the starter’s gun to sound, but has also seen me reorganising the many boxes as yet unpacked from our move here.  Shhh – don’t tell the children, but when they arrive (we hope!) for the Christmas holidays, they might find a new game on the schedule: ‘Whose box is this?’, quickly followed by a round of ‘if you really want it, why not take it with you?’.   Only if they want to play, of course.   Oh, that reminds me, I should probably order in a skip for the last week in December….

Meanwhile, Mike has been preparing the external area around the front door for rendering, and also to box in the various structural elements which really are not the prettiest features of the premises.  As he does this, he can occasionally glance to his left and see the orange tints in the trees gently upping their game….

Scenery, at it appeared on Wednesday 19th
Scenery, at it appeared on Wednesday 19th

If that seems a pretty light load for this week, I should say that we have also been playing mein host and chef roles.  Oh, and thanks to yesterday’s Welsh class I can now say ‘Bore da’ more correctly, and have even learned how to say the weather is awful, should I need to which for all interested parties is “Mae’n ofnadwy”.  But all in all, things are still shaping up wonderfully.  Bendigegid.

And now autumn approaches

The last few days have been very interesting in the cafe/restaurant.  Customer numbers had been creeping up during the week, but the external temperature has been steadily falling, so Mike focused on installing the radiators on Wednesday through to Friday – so that when the oil has arrived we can turn on the central heating.  We have been lighting the stove each morning, which has worked well to keep the chill off, but realise that this will not be sufficiently powerful to keep the room cosy soon.

On Friday, we installed the chip fryer and so can now serve the burger and chips / sausage, egg and chips / bowl of chips variations that are already proving very popular.  It may be this, or it may be the extra signs that Mike has put up, but Saturday was really rather busy.  Sadly, I was attending a treasurers’ training course in Caernarfon at the time so was not able to help Mike and Jane,  neither could any of us attend the local village Fun Day.  And today the work was also tightly packed around lunchtime, but at least we now have experience of working in this venue when everyone arrives together, so we can plan on how to minimise the problems for next time.

The other thing to share is how fantastic the area is looking at this time of year.  I am not sure that this photo will fully show the beauty, but the tree colours are just beginning to change.  The yellows and oranges are beginning to intensify in the leaves, so I plan to take regular photos to show you the view from just outside the restaurant and how it changes this autumn.

The leaves are just beginning to turn, photographed on October 15th
The canopy colour as recorded on a slight cloudy October 15th

Great news…

So little news – and yet so much!

In summary, I have moved a lot of plants from the area we placed them in last January as we now have a vague idea of where we will be planting them.  Since many were propagated from plants growing in our Norfolk garden, we recognise some may expire with shock at the rainfall here, but thought it worth the chance.  So I have moved them, partly to acclimatise them to their final location, but mostly because it gave me sufficient space to sort them by type, so I can see what we have and work out what to do with them.

Mike has fitted a radiator into the restaurant along with some display shelves for our lovely tea collection; made (with considerable assistance from our daughters) some posters to advertise the Mouton night; and put the drip rail on the kitchen door.

But this is all trivial compared to our big news.  On Monday, which was Jane’s day off of course, Mike and I were cooking and serving in the restaurant respectively when the Environmental Health Inspector arrived.  Cue slight panic, since we had expected Jane would be here and able to answer questions about her routine when he came.  We managed to explain as best we could, and are delighted to report that we will shortly be receiving our hygiene rating of 5.  Its not that this came as a shock – clearly we designed and built the kitchen, and created our working practises, with a target of 5 in mind; but it is such a relief that we can now begin to write the next chapter as Plas moves from a grading of 1 under the old management to a 5 with our new team.

Shortly (i.e. when the postie brings it) one of these will belong at Plas!
Shortly (i.e. when the postie brings it) one of these will belong at Plas!

I’m not bragging, but can I tell you about our first honey…

News regarding building maintenance:

For the last few days, I have continued to work on painting the front door.  The two-colour (black and white) undercoat is now complete (although its elegance is slightly marred by drips) but I don’t plan to top coat until after Mike has rendered the adjacent wall.

Mike has been working hard to make and fill a couple of raised beds for me so, on my next day off, I suspect I will be doing a lot of planting up!  He has also built some new furniture to improve the layout of the kitchen; and has begun the mammoth task of cutting firewood from the trees felled this summer.  Yes, we know we should leave it longer to dry, but needs must…  In addition, we have had a very productive chat with a couple of local labyrinth enthusiasts, and hope to move this project forward shortly.

On Saturday Mike had a day off, which happened to be a sunny and relatively still day.  This gave him an ideal opportunity to visit his bees to check how they have settled in and specifically whether they are prepared for winter.  To his delight, one hive has created sufficient honey that he felt able to remove one frame, so on Sunday we tasted our first ever Welsh home-made honey on toast.  Yum yum!

Our first honeycomb harvest
Our first honeycomb harvest

News regarding the restaurant:

We are pleased to report that we continue to be visited by both locals and visitors.  Many from each camp comment very favourably on Jane’s delicious baking, and today I am happy to report that Mike’s Hungarian mushroom soup was also highly commended by all who tried it – including Mike, which is saying something as he won’t normally touch mushroom soup!  Clearly the secret ingredients worked their magic.

Over the coming week, we will be mostly focusing on the restaurant, to ensure we make best use of the revised layout of the kitchen, with Mike continuing to chip away at his list of jobs and me continuing to work on the End of Year financial papers.

News regarding Welsh classes:

Oh my, I felt my age on Friday!  The classes run 9.30am – 1pm.  We revised last weeks’ work, and introduced this weeks topic of asking what people would like to drink (Be’ dach chi isio i yfed?) and understanding their response.  I felt I was hanging in there just fine until about 12.30pm, when I suddenly hit the wall and everything I thought I had learned in the lesson flew (embarrassingly) out of my head…  But I am delighted to report something must have stuck: it was lovely today to overhear two people discussing what they would like in Welsh – and  finding I could understand them before they translated for me.

And did I tell you about our lovely honey?  Just in case you missed the previous photo:

See how yummy our honey looks!
See how yummy our honey looks!  Isn’t nature wonderful

News about Mouton:

I can now confirm some details for November 26th: the evening will start with doors opening at 7.30pm; jacket potato and chilli (with vegetarian option) will be served around 8ish; and Mouton will play their Gaelic folk set around 9ish.  Tickets will cost £8 per head: please book early as seats are limited.


Get ready . . . Mouton are coming!

Since I last wrote,  the weather has been kind to us.  We have had some super sunny days along with, it must be said, some cold nights.  We had a busy Sunday, for which the highlight was a group of 8 walkers who arrived 5 minutes before closing.  By the sound of it, they had walked rather longer than intended and were tired, hungry and thirsty when they got to us.  A few pots of tea later, and we were all enjoying moments of calm reflection on a fine sunny October evening.

It has been rather quiet since then: perhaps all the walkers go home once October comes, but we have still met some lovely people.  On Monday we celebrated our wedding anniversary by taking ourselves off to a local eatery for a slap up meal where we met again a couple who had eaten their lunch in our restaurant!  What are the chances.  Yesterday I had my day off so got to play with my plants whilst Mike mended the lawn mower and mowed the lawn before fitting the grill to the kitchen extractor.  Today Mike made some raised beds whilst I spent the morning priming the front door, and the afternoon reviewing our written procedures, to ensure we are doing what we say we will be doing in the kitchen.  See – we know how to have fun.

The big news though is that we have made arrangements to host our first gig with a band featuring one of our near neighbours.  On Saturday 26th November, local band Mouton will be playing a set in the late evening.  Further details of the evening will be posted as soon as we work them out, but you can see further details about the band on Facebook at @MoutonNorthWales, or hear them playing at .  Don’t forget to put the date in your diary!

For your delight and delectation, Mouton will soon be appearing at Plas Penaeldroch Manor (on 26th November, to be precise).
For your delight and delectation, Mouton will soon be appearing at Plas Penaeldroch Manor (on 26th November, to be precise).