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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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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Fig leaf and cassis diffuser

Scented summer evenings

We’ve been enjoying the very last of the summer evenings here at English Towers, knowing that it’s the final summer we’ll spend in this house before moving on to our new house (which requires total refurbishment – eek!).  One of the things I’m really looking forward to in our new house, though, is using the lovely wood burner which is there.  I’m picturing a fireplace dotted with scented candles, filling the house with gorgeous scents.

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Squidgy chocolate brownie cake

A squishy chocolate brownie cake for exam success (mostly)

So it’s been a little frantic here at English Towers.  First we had A level results, and then within a week it was GCSE results. Honestly, I really should have planned my children a little better.

Still, it was all good.  I used the hashtag #noexamswerefailedonthisday on Instagram but in truth, one exam WAS failed.  But hey, it didn’t matter.  Sam got what he needed to head out into the big wide world of university, and Charlie’s off to sixth form.

If there’s one thing I always insist upon, it’s a celebration when someone’s done something brilliant.  As parents, we spend plenty of time enforcing rules, cajoling, counselling (okay, and occasionally moaning), so when something amazing happens,  I always think it redresses the balance a bit to celebrate.  Everyone loves a pat on the back when they do something great, don’t they?

So obviously all this exam success called just such a celebration, and what better celebration is there than a whopping great warm, chocolatey, squishy brownie cake smothered in lashings of chocolate ganache?  None, that’s what…

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Sharing platter in Prezzo

Prezzo’s new summer sharing specials

I’ve written before about how gorgeous our local Prezzo is.  The staff are lovely, the atmosphere in the place is amazing (helped by an open kitchen featuring a massive pizza oven) and the food is consistently good.  Last week we popped in to try the new summer sharing specials.

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Quantum of the Seas

The Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas – the world’s first ‘smartship’

So on Monday, Royal Caribbean hosted a live reveal of some of the pretty incredible technology you’re going to encounter if you’re lucky enough to sail on their newest Quantum Class vessels: Quantum of the Seas, rolling out first, and then Anthem of the Seas.

These days, everyone has a smartphone, so Royal Caribbean have ramped up their latest ships into, well, smartships. Here’s what to expect:

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Charlie in the Bahamas

5 reasons why you should take your teenagers on a Caribbean cruise

Every parent of teenagers knows that feeling when you start to wonder exactly how long your children will keep wanting to come on holiday with you.  As they grow up, they naturally develop their own tastes, likes and dislikes (and even more naturally, these will tend to be the exact opposite to yours), so agreeing on a holiday destination (and indeed, persuading them to dump their mates and come on holiday with you) is never easy.

Enter, the Caribbean cruise.  Here’s why:

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Hush autumn winter 2014

NEW autumn/winter 2014 from Hush Homewear

So this morning, I trudged around the field with the dog in the rain wearing a fleece, a waterproof jacket, and a hat.  What on earth happened to the summer?  Usually,  I resist even looking at anything remotely knitted or warm until at least September, but the emails are starting to arrive, and I have to say, I’m loving what I’m seeing.  The new autumn/winter preview from Hush Homewear definitely got my attention, with loads of gorgeous autumnal casual wear really catching my eye (I tend to live in jeans and jumpers):

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Penguin selfie!

Kidnapping Red Pandas. A day out with the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom

As a family, we’re pretty divided when it comes to phones.  Mr English is a sworn iPhone devotee.  The rest of us are mad on Samsung.  At the moment, Charlie and Sam both have a Galaxy S4, and I’ve got an S3 (I did have an S4 too, but then Sam dropped his in the sea on a Biology field trip and he was so gutted I gave him mine – motherly love eh?).

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Jam doughnut muffins

Sugar dusted jam doughnut muffins

You love doughnuts, right? Everyone loves doughnuts.  But wait, you love muffins don’t you?  Soft, fluffy and perfect breakfast fodder.  So why not put them together?  I’ve been fiddling about with this recipe for ages, and the boys are pretty sure that I’ve perfected the whole doughnut/muffin scenario, but the jammy bit had beaten me.

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The Honda Civic Tourer

On test: the Honda Civic Tourer 1.8i-VTEC SR

We’ve tested a few cars in the past, most notably the Honda CR-V that we drove around France, and really love doing it (basically, a lovely man appears on your doorstep with a brand new car and gives you the keys, leaving the car with you for a week – what’s not to love?).  This time, Honda asked if we’d like to try their new Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR manual and, being a big car loving family, we jumped at the chance…

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Chilli chicken noodles

Chilli chicken noodle soup

Yesterday, we were wondering what to have for dinner – it never seems right to have a roast on a hot day – when Sam mentioned that we used to have chicken noodle soup all the time, but we hadn’t had it for ages.

Just so happens that I had a chilli, a lime, and some ginger (I keep the ginger in the freezer anyway) and half a pack of noodles, and it seemed the perfect, fresh alternative to full on Sunday dinner, so it was game on.

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Bicester Village

A splash of orange at Bicester Village

This week, Mr English and I decided to head to Bicester Village for a spot of shopping.  I like Bicester – we have a bit of lunch or a coffee in Pret or in the little Jamie Oliver place, then pootle around around looking for bargains.  There were still plenty of summer brights available in the sales and I discovered that I’m still totally in love with everything orange.

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