The gardens at Le Manoir

The Raymond Blanc Cookery School at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons with Kenwood Chef Sense

Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to Raymond Blanc’s beautiful Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire.  I’ve wanted to visit for ages, so I was beside myself with excitement.  As I drove up, I dithered outside the front gate in my car, not really knowing what to do, and instantly, a friendly gentleman in an immaculate suit rushed out to help, escorting me to the reception and driving my car off to park it for me.  First impressions?  Pretty darned good.

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No 2 Pound Street Deli Platter

Wine tasting and deli platters at No 2 Pound Street

When Mr English is home, one of our favourite things to do is pop to No 2 Pound Street in Wendover.  It’s a lovely little place – part wine shop/part deli.  They sell an amazing selection of cheese and other lovely bits, and an equally fab selection of wines.  They concentrate on the slightly more unusual, organic, small-producer type wines, so you’ll always find something a bit different in there.  They usually have four or five different wines on offer by the glass, so we pop in for a glass or two and one of their delicious deli platters:

No 2 Pound Street Deli Platter

No 2 Pound Street Deli Platter

I was in the mood for a glass of white, so lovely Howie, knowing that I like a more rounded white wine, recommended the Sybille Kuntz Riesling (and yes, there was a bit of sniggering. Sorry Sybille).  It’s dry to slightly off-dry I’d say, and tastes delicious – peachy, with hints of honey and quite floral. I loved it (not my finest picture, sorry):

Sybille Kuntz Riesling

Sybille Kuntz Riesling

Howie’s second recommendation was this gorgeous Delheim Chenin Blanc.  Peachy and soft balanced with some nice lemony acidity. Two out of two for me.

Delheim Chenin Blanc

Delheim Chenin Blanc

Mr English went for something completely different.  This Dominio de Tares Cepas Viejas red is made from Mencia grapes.  It’s strong, spicy and very unusual, but not unpleasantly so, it reminded me of some sort of cherry liqueur but without the sweetness.  It would be perfect for Christmas too.

Cepas Viejas

Cepas Viejas

And as we were leaving, we treated ourselves to this little beauty. I’ll let you know what it tastes like when we open it!

Sonoma Zinfandel Seghesio

Sonoma Zinfandel Seghesio

Chip and Dale

Video: fabulous Disney dining and the free dining offer – just one week left!

So if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I headed over to Orlando last month to check out the fantastic dining options at Walt Disney World.  Here’s my video report from my trip.  Remember, you’ve only got one week left to book your 2015 holiday and take advantage of the free dining offer.  Read all about it here!

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Do-Ahead Christmas

James Ramsden’s Do-Ahead Christmas

I’ve been aware of James Ramsden for a while – I’ve heard about his uber cool supper club, the Secret Larder and I’ve read and liked stuff he’s written in the Guardian, but he didn’t really come into his own, in my eyes until I started following him on Twitter (@JTERamsden). His tweets about the Great British Bake Off were wickedly witty, and through that, I discovered his Instagram feed and discovered that he’s also a dog lover.  BONUS!

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The beautiful garden at our dream house

My week in food: doughnuts, chocolate pudding and dhal

Happy Sunday!  I hope you’re having a lovely chill-out day wherever you are.  I’ve had a such a lovely week this week, with some AMAZING career news (that sadly I can’t tell you about yet – I know, I hate it when people do that too), and a visit from Sam, home from university for a couple of days (he’s loving it, by the way – London/uni life really seems to suit him). I also had an incredible time at Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons – more of this later on in the week.  We’ve also put an offer in on the HOUSE OF OUR DREAMS, but I’m really trying not to get too excited as it’s very early days and we’re still waiting on a mortgage too (but check out the garden – above – how pretty is that?).

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Paul Hollywood's British Baking

Paul Hollywood’s British Baking in the Telegraph

Is everyone else in mourning now the Great British Bake Off is finished?  What on earth are we going to watch now?!  I’ve got to be honest, I prefer the early stages when the baking is more like something you might make at home, rather than the big, lavish showstopper thingies.

Happily, if you’re eager to get your Paul Hollywood fix, I happen to know that the Telegraph have just teamed up with the ol’ silver fox to bring you more than 40 brilliant British recipes this weekend!

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The signature warm chocolate-banana torte at Citricos

Free dining with 2015 Walt Disney World holidays!

Our lovely visit to Walt Disney World in Orlando seems such a long time ago now.  I’m already pining for the sunshine, for Anna and Elsa, and, more importantly, all that amazing food.

Once upon a time (see what I did there?) I think most people thought that all you could probably eat while you were at Walt Disney World parks and resorts was junk food, or maybe Mickey-shaped ice creams.  Now, people are starting to realise that Walt Disney World features some of the best dining in the world, whether you’re after a snack, quick-service, grab and go option, or proper fine dining with table service.

So what can you expect?

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Babybel packed lunch

Interesting stuff about cheese

Last week I was invited to talk with Bel UK about cheese.  You’ve probably heard of them, not just for Babybel (a staple in most fridges and lunchboxes) but also Boursin, The Laughing Cow,  Leerdammer and other cheesy treats.  The Nutrition Advisory Board meets every so often to discuss everything cheese related.  There are nutrition experts, public relations experts, executives from Bel UK, and, erm… me.  I think I’m there as the token ‘normal’ person.  I’ve done this a couple of times now and it’s really, really interesting (and not just because I really, really like cheese).

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Flapjack and builders' tea

The house update. And flapjacks.

So since our original offer on the House of Bodily Fluids back in July, we really haven’t heard very much.  We didn’t really chase it as I guess we’re not in a massive hurry, but all of a sudden it kind of dawned on us that we hadn’t had any paperwork, and started to chase a bit harder.  Our solicitors, worryingly, had heard nothing at all from their solicitors.  I drove past the house and they hadn’t even STARTED clearing it, and you can imagine what a job that’s going to be.  Then we started to hear rumour that the probate wasn’t going smoothly and there were issues with the man’s business that had to be sorted before the house could be sold… Ugh.

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Brewing up our Pact coffee

Coffee tasting with Pact Coffee (and try your first bag for just £1)

We’re a bit divided on coffee in this house: Charlie and Mr English are hard-core coffee NUTS.  As far as they’re concerned coffee should be strong and black (and preferably served on demand throughout the day).  This contrasts completely with Sam and I, who like milky lattes.   I’ve even been known to add in a bit of cinnamon sugar for good measure.  In coffee shops, the hard-core boys will go for Americano with an extra shot and I’ll ask for a latte with just half a shot of coffee, which makes them roll their eyes, so we’re proper chalk and cheese.

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Kin by John Lewis Bronte distressed leather tote bag in silver

Smartening up: my autumn fashion wishlist

Now as I’ve told you before, I’m a jeans and jumpers girl (shorts and t-shirts in the summer).  I’ve got a few lovely events coming up, though, that are going to require poshing up a bit, so whilst lusting after all the new snuggly autumn stuff, I’ve got my eye out for a few smart bits and bobs too.  John Lewis have just launched their autumn fashion magazine too – so here’s the top five things on my wishlist (when I’ve finally started stocking the EU pasta mountain and buying things like Oyster Cards for Sam):

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English Heritage - Stonehenge

Giveaway: win one of two English Heritage family memberships *closed*

What have you got planned this autumn?  It’s the perfect time to get out and about, I always think – crunching through piles of golden leaves and wrapping up, getting out and discovering new places, all looking beautiful in their glowy autumn colours.  To give you a bit of inspiration, I’ve teamed up with English Heritage to give two lucky winners a fabulous 12 month English Heritage family membership.

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Boden Johnnie B

Happy Friday! 20% off code at Boden plus free delivery and returns

You know I’m a HUGE Boden fan right?  I love their great quality basics, I’m more than a little taken with their beautiful leather handbags and shoes, plus their dresses are lush.  So, yeah, just obsessed really.  If you’re already a convert, then this code will fill you with a happy, Friday feeling.  And if you’re not?  Pop over and have a look – what better time to experiment than when there’s 20% off and free delivery AND returns?

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Frozen cupcake topper

How to make Disney Frozen cupcakes – a masterclass with Chef Jeff

One of my absolute favourite adventures while we were in Walt Disney World was a special, money can’t buy visit to Chef Jeff, Executive Chef at Disney’s beautiful Contemporary Resort, one of my top five Walt Disney World resort hotels.  Chef Jeff and his team are responsible for all the patisserie for the resort, from gorgeous special occasion cakes, to the wonderful cupcakes available in the café.

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Brotherly love

For Sam. Sniggering, silly voices and new beginnings

So this is our last week living as a proper family unit I suppose (although let’s face it, with Mr English’s weird job, we’re only ever a family unit two weeks out of four).  Sam’s off to university next week and we’ll miss him loads.  This became apparent as we watched the NFL tonight and sniggered, en famille, when the commentator said ‘bush’, and then a bit more when he said something about ‘coming in from behind’.

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The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

The incredible Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

So as I mentioned recently, I’ve been in Orlando for a few days with my friend Laura, experiencing the fabulous food (plus the odd ride, parade, and other lovely things) available throughout Walt Disney World.

One of the highlights of Walt Disney World for me is Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  I adore the showbiz theming – it feels like a real movie set, with all the main areas seamlessly blending into each other.

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20140909_145118_Android

Say hello to the Best Cruise Blogger 2014 (hint: it’s me)

So after all the begging and pleading, yesterday I finally got to slip on my new favourite LBD (thank you, Mint Velvet) and my gorgeous sparkly new necklace from Alice’s Wonders, lash a load of concealer over my hideous jetlaggy eye bags, and head off to London for the Cruise International Cruise Awards 2014.

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Arriving home to Heathrow

APH airport parking

One of the huge perks of my job is all the travel.  I get to visit some wonderful places and cruise on amazing ships.  I’m always pinching myself at how lucky I am.  One of the bits that I enjoy the least, though, is getting to the airport.  We actually only live about half an hour from Heathrow, but depending on how things are on the M25, that half hour can magically change into an hour or even longer.

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Pool area at Wilderness Lodge resort

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort

So as you’re reading this, I’m out in Orlando at Walt Disney World, catching up on the latest in food and wine (and tackling the odd ride, obviously).  During my last trip to Walt Disney World, I was lucky enough to stay in Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort.  I love the theming of the Disney resorts and this is one of my favourites.  Based on the old American Northwest, the hotel sits on the shores of Bay Lake, nestled within beautiful forests.  The interior is like a big old log cabin, with wonderful outdoor areas and access to the Magic Kingdom via the lovely boat service (or of course the free Disney coach service) that takes you to Seven Seas Lagoon (click on the gallery to see my pictures):
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