Posts Tagged ‘cleaning’

More Little Luxuries for Guest Bedrooms

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Last year I wrote about little luxuries for guest bedrooms. Almost the moment I published the blog I thought of more touches that I could have included, so I am finally getting round to documenting them.

Internet Like it or not, we are in the twenty first century and your guests will probably want to check their emails at some point. Make sure your Wi-Fi works in your guest room – particularly important for foreign guests whose mobile phones won’t be able to download on their data network without charging them a bomb!

BonbonsBonbons As I said in the first post about luxury touches, a chocolate on the pillow is naff and makes a private house look like a hotel, however a few discrete bonbons or the like in a neat jar for your guests to sneakily enjoy never fails to go down well. This jar from is perfect for the task

Bedding Good quality sheets, pillows and duvets will obviously make for a comfortable night’s sleep. If budget allows, add a topper to the mattress (with fitted/flat sheet on top) to make your guest feel like they are sleeping on a cloud. My beds have this luxury topper from The White Company, which is also where I buy my sheets

VaseA flower A single flower in a neat vase can put a smile on any guest’s face… as long as you know they aren’t allergic to pollen! A big vase of flowers will not only make the room smell too much; but it also takes up valuable space and guests will want space, more than anything else

Loo rollLoo roll Whilst there are some households I have worked for who believe that loo roll folds are the height of good taste, I hope my guests know me better than to know that I am doing them ironically. The picture shows one I have learned recently. It’s an immediate talking point for you and your guest when they come out from unpacking!


The Mouse and the Mousse

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

It’s been quite a week for me. I enjoy being busy but we do all have limits, and I think I may have come close to reaching my own. The first two days of last week were busy but manageable: you may have seen the announcement about The Household Academy? I spent my Monday and Tuesday orchestrating some PR for that, as well as liaising with logo designers and web developers. In the midst of all this, my iron decided to break! Last Sunday I was suddenly aware of a brown sappy liquid oozing out of the steam holes. I decided to de-scale the iron, but this did not fix the problem when I went to iron once more the day after. Thankfully, I had ironed pretty much everything that I needed to iron and so I wasn’t left with a huge pile of creased clothes, napkins and tea towels.

In preparation for guests on Wednesday I made a blackberry and almond tart on Tuesday afternoon. It’s one of my favourite puddings, and quite simple to make. You do a basic shortcrust pastry, then spread a layer of blackberry jam on top, then mix together ground almonds, eggs, sugar, butter and then pour on top of the jam layer/pastry; dot some whole blackberries on top and bake. The result is delicious – especially when served warm with ice cream. (Please note, I had a bit of an accident with the pastry, so that wasn’t as perfect as I’d like it – so this tart had a rustic feel.)

Blackberry and Almond Tart

Because I had two sets of houseguests this week, the first set were staying on Wednesday night, the second were staying on Friday, this left a 24-hour period to turnaround the guest bedroom and bathroom. I only have one set of sheets for downstairs at the moment so after the first couple of guests departed on Thursday morning, I was washing and ironing the linen in readiness for the next set of guests. Of course, I realized early on Wednesday morning that I’d have to do this and didn’t have a working iron in the flat. I moved one or two appointments around and rushed off to John Lewis to buy a new one. This is where my week started to get frantic. Having bought the new iron I then went off to lunch with a friend (having made a bolognaise sauce for a lasagna), and then into a meeting about a potential project (don’t get too excited – it’ll be a long way off yet). I then collected one of the guests from the train station and we came back to the flat, where I finished off the lasagna ready to cook later.

My guests loved both the lasagna and the tart, which was good. We all enjoyed seeing each other – there’s nothing I love more than entertaining people… (and one day, who knows, I may meet some entertaining people… – old joke!). After the guests left on Thursday morning I then stripped the downstairs bedroom and started to wash the sheets. As these were in the machine I shot off to the BBC to speak to Radio Manchester about table manners and dining etiquette, and then came back to begin ironing the sheets to then pause to speak to a journalist for a website called ‘Working Mums’.

Having ironed the sheets, I then had to make the bed downstairs and then get ready for a photoshoot I was having at the flat. It was just as well the shoot was going to be focused around domesticity as I had the ironing board out, towels on airers, and all sorts going on in the flat.

By Thursday evening I had no energy at all. People always laugh when I say that photoshoots can be very tiring!

Friday morning I was up early to clean the guest bathroom. I love clean bathrooms – and I hate dirty ones. There’s nothing worse than a dirty bathroom, I feel. It’s so unpleasant to see grimy surfaces and scum that has built up behind taps, etc. I am shivering just thinking about it.

I then went to meet my second houseguests at their new house in south Manchester (they were moving some of their stuff in a few weeks early before they move-in properly). Well. I may not be visiting them much. We walked into the house before one friend screamed, “mouse!” and then we both ran out onto the street flapping and wailing. It caused the builders opposite much merriment. The house, which they are renting, is not in the best of conditions… I mean, there’s a mouse! That sums it up, really. But as Imogen and I walked around the house (having run up the stairs so that we weren’t on the same floor as the creature) she said, ‘Oh, William, I don’t think they’ve finished cleaning it’. To which I replied, tartly, ‘I don’t think they’ve started’.

We then returned to my rodent-free flat (if I ever did get a mouse I’d sell) for dinner – I cooked tuna and two-cheese pasta (the two cheeses being cottage cheese and cheddar), and then served up chocolate mousse. They left me on Saturday afternoon and I was very glad to have the flat back to myself. I love having guests and it’s a lovely feeling when they arrive… but it’s a nicer feeling when they all leave!!

Brideshead Revitalised: Simon Callow, Key Lime Pie, and Student Dirt

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

Last week’s blog came from my sick bed. I am pleased to report that this week’s comes from my balcony – it’s a balmy day here in Manchester: not particularly sunny, but humid and with little breeze. Lots of people that I have seen are in shorts; men are drinking out of cans; women have their bra straps on show. It’s that sort of a day.

But what sort of a week have I had? It started early on Monday (5.30am to be precise) when I woke up to get ready for my day-trip to Oxford. The first port of call at the most famous of University cities was a business school in the centre where I had been booked to teach two hours of interpersonal skills and business protocol. The audience was all girls of around 19-22, all with hopes of becoming Personal Assistants or secretaries – they were a receptive and willing audience (which is half the battle) and asked lots of questions – their Principal said to me at the end ‘it’s interesting to see which girls asked questions: you managed to get questions from girls I haven’t heard speak all year’.

After this, I taxied to BBC Oxford to record series 2 of my mini etiquette guides for their morning show. What happened with the first series was each day for a week I answered questions that the Oxford public had asked about a different area of etiquette. In series 1 we covered: social etiquette, business protocol, dining etiquette, letter writing, and finally international etiquette. For the new batch, which will transmit in the summer sometime (I’ll let you know), we have covered (not in this order): money/tipping etiquette, royal protocol, dining etiquette (again, as there is so much to say), social networking etiquette, and dress & appearance. It was huge fun recording these with my friends Louisa (@louhannan) and Henry. After we went round the corner to have a drink and some focaccia (Italian bread). Lou found it very funny that I pronounced it (incorrectly – I always struggle with that word) ‘foc-aysha’. Although she hardly has a leg to stand on when she once pronounced it as ‘foch-ach-ee-a’! Lou, Henry and I all had a good old gossip about lots of different things – the things I learned on Monday – scandalous some of them!

I then went to kill some time taking tea at The Randolph Hotel, and ended up with the highly respected actor Simon Callow sitting on the table next to me. He kept clearing his throat in a loud and thespian fashion, which did make me wonder whether he wanted to be noticed.

Tea at The Randolph

Afternoon tea at The Randolph, Oxford

The following day Louisa had Mr Callow on her show as a guest (he was in Oxford to perform in a touring play) and she commented to him that I had seen him in the hotel the following day, to which the actor replied ‘oh yes, the gentleman in the navy suit and purple tie’. Well, smugness levels soared when this was reported back to me. I’m easily pleased.

Wednesday saw the rather unpleasant task of helping two friends clean their student house. Their other housemates had deserted them, and the landlord had said they would lose their deposit if it wasn’t clean at the hand-back. Now, if only students would clean throughout the year and not leave it for an entire 9 months before thinking about wiping skirting boards, putting bleach down the loo, dusting the tops of surfaces, that sort of thing. I won’t go on about what I found (the fridge was a particular low point) but let’s just say I felt really sick by the end of the day… Although gathered myself in order to cook them dinner at my flat… not sure how I got that deal – they seemed to do remarkably well throughout all of that. Heigh ho. I did a Caesar salad (with home-made croutons!) and blueberry friands.

What else happened on Wednesday? Erm… Oh yes! The England football match. How could I forget that? I for one couldn’t wait for it to begin… I was straight in my car to the supermarket, which was nearly empty. I spent some quality time in the aisles, which was sheer bliss.

Thursday evening I was guesting on the Footie-Free Zone on BBC Radio 5 Live – which is a slot they’ve got running during this ghastly world cup where any talk of football is banned – well, with me booked there was no danger of me bringing up sport of any kind.

The highlight of Friday was seeing Matt at BBC Manchester (@mattyfwhite) to record my monthly slot on his show. June’s topic was gym etiquette. We also recorded July’s piece on social networking etiquette as I am away from the wonderful city of Manchester for the entire month. Boo hoo. Matt found a noise I made imitating gym-posers to be highly amusing and clipped it and played it several times over a song. I have uploaded the audio and you can hear it by clicking here. It made me laugh. I sound ridiculous.

My domesticity has returned – I felt it departed me over the last two weeks for various reasons. I also made this week my first key lime pie – never made one before, and I think for a first attempt I did very well. Maybe it could be a bit more limey – when I make it again I shall add one more lime.

Key lime pie

My attempt at Key Lime Pie

It’s the weekend now, and I can smell the flat below warming up their barbecue, which is annoying me as I associate barbecues with people enjoying themselves in the sun (which is something I dislike as people get very sloppy and silly when the sun comes out in Britain). I think I’ll retire inside after posting this.