“Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?” Christmas is around the corner; the time to compile your naughty and nice lists and start your shopping, pronto! Much of the festive period centres on a bustling kitchen, and Christmas is an occasion to celebrate the spirit of sharing by exchanging Christmas gifts with loved ones.
Originating in the US – named after the shopping carnage seen in Philadelphia the day after Thanksgiving – Black Friday has now established itself in the UK. The discount deals available rival the New Year’s sales and provide the perfect opportunity to get some bargain Christmas presents. However, with just 24 hours to snap up the deals it is worth getting prepared. This guide is designed to equip you with all the knowledge you need to make the most out of this year’s Black Friday.
Like most of your home and kitchen appliances, once your fridge is installed and working correctly, you barely even notice that it’s there. Even if it’s an enormous, plastic-looking white fridge from the ‘90s, it’s likely been a fixture of your kitchen for so long that the way it looks doesn’t bother you. You probably hardly even notice the smell when you open it any more. And when the energy bills come in, you likely pay it without thinking about how much it’s costing you – that’s just how much they cost to run, right?
Happy half term! We’ve been really busy planning a trip to Florida next week (it’s Mr English’s 50th while we’re over there too), and I spent the weekend in London with my friend Erica (more of this very soon). There’s also been more work on The Secret Special Thing that Cannot be Mentioned. All will be revealed soon, I promise.
It’s no secret that I love my wine. And although I’m no expert, I’ve got to the stage where I’m interested enough to start recording my thoughts about wine that we’ve tried and liked, and want to know what other people think about wines.
There’s something extra lovely about a pre-Christmas day out at a beautiful, wintery venue. This year, Taste of Christmas has been renamed Taste of London Winter and will be taking over gorgeous Tobacco Dock in East London from 20th – 23rd November 2014.
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.
Birthdays, celebrations, special events, parties, even the ‘C word’ (it’s okay, I didn’t say it)… there are so many occasions to uncork a bottle or two. But before you can begin to pour, you have to choose your poison – an onerous task if you are venturing into unknown territory.
We’ve all been there at the airport: screaming, crying and throwing all our toys out of the pram…not to mention what the kids are up to. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. You can plan for a much smoother operation whether it’s chilling out on the beach or pottering around the countryside together, all with your kids on side. Here’s a round-up of tips and essentials for family fun away from home.
Has anyone noticed how all of a sudden it seems like summer is over? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? For Sunday lunch, we had slow braised brisket and dumplings, for goodness’ sake. It’s all wrong!
I love this. Lucky Pants Bingo have joined forces with Starlight Children’s Foundation, a charity for seriously and terminally ill children, to raise money and increase awareness of this lovely charity, in a really fab way.
It’s lovely to have a few perfect recipes that you can trust to work time and time again, and this is definitely one of those.
Once you’ve got the hang of shortbread, you can do so many different things with it – it’s perfect for cooking with kids (Mothers’ Day is on the way!) or it can be served as part of a dessert, say, with chocolate mousse or lemon creams.
You know me. I love, love, love to travel. Whether it’s a gorgeous English country hotel like The Grove, a city break, or a Caribbean cruise – I love them all. Being somewhat overenthusiastic about it, though, has its downsides – mostly financial. Here’s how a keep a lid on my holiday spending, before I’ve even walked up the steps of the plane:
So yesterday, I went into hospital to have some surgery (just something small – don’t send flowers). My long-suffering mum had to drive me a considerable distance at ridiculous o’clock in the morning, drive back to my house, get the kids to school, then later drive back to pick me up, bless her.
She got her own back when I showed her my fetching surgical stockings and commented, in a loud voice for all to hear: ‘WELL, YOU ARE 43!!’.
I bloody love the NHS. The hospital was spotlessly clean and the staff were amazing – full of fun, very caring and a good laugh too. Much amusement was had by me declining the standard pre-surgery pregnancy check. The conversation went something like this:
Nurse: ‘now we’ll need a sample for a pregnancy test’
Me: ‘oh that won’t be necessary’
Nurse: ‘well, it is standard procedure but you’re welcome to decline’
Me (whispered): ‘my husband’s had the snip you see’
Nurse (shouting against background noise): ‘sorry? I missed that’
Me : ‘MY HUSBAND’S HAD THE SNIP!’
Sadly, this coincided with someone in the corridor turning off their floor cleaning machine and was delivered to background silence. All eyes slowly swivelled and landed on me. Awkward.
Anyhoo, I was well looked after, was awake by the early afternoon and, best of all, it’s all FREE! When I got home, I had, interestingly, received an email from medical negligence lawyers First4Lawyers sending me a copy of a survey they’d conducted that found over 29% of people had experienced poor treatment by NHS staff. I’m pretty gobsmacked by that (and saddened, frankly). I do think a lot of it has to do with how hard they’re worked (in fact, in the same survey nearly half of those people agreed with my feelings that complaints are often due to the staff being overworked). My lovely nurses were running around like headless chickens and doing it all with a smile. It’s also been reported in the media that the total paid out by London NHS trusts last year as a result of medical negligence claims was over £172 million. 172 million! Depressing reading don’t you think? Would you sue if things went wrong?
Happily, none of this affected me and I’m now sitting in bed, still in the surgical stockings, being looked after very well by the boys who made dinner last night and even cleared up.
It’s a miracle.
Plus I have to get well quickly because the pupster is arriving on Friday morning! EEK!
Are you searching for a different type of holiday experience for your family without straying too far from home this year? Believe it or not, there are a number of British Isles cruises on offer from some of the top operators, and you and the kids may be surprised to discover just how many different cities and types of landscape you can visit!
Many companies operate 12 or 13 night cruises of the British Isles and Ireland, with a popular first port of call at the beautiful Scottish capital Edinburgh. Ships then continue north to visit the Highlands and Loch Ness plus the islands of Orkney and Skye, which are famed for Bonnie Prince Charlie’s exploits. Children will love Edinburgh’s Camera Obscura, located beside the castle, where a special camera projects an image of the city onto a table (pretty cool) and there are several floors of great interactive illusions. Look out for the singing cats, before visiting Nessie in the Highlands and learning about local island life. The beauty of a cruise means that it’s easy to visit remote places without driving for miles or worrying about public transport.
Moving on you can visit the capitals of Ireland and Northern Ireland – historic Dublin and Belfast – and the scenic Welsh island of Anglesey, where it’s possible to glimpse a rich and ancient history. Belfast has a famed shipping heritage but if you’ve had enough messing about in boats you should go to the Giant’s Causeway, an awe-inspiring site that will have your kids fascinated with geology and big rock formations! Fresh Irish air and the beautiful countryside will soon have you feeling rejuvenated too.
Another popular stop for many cruises is the palm-lined seaside town of Torquay, which can feel almost tropical compared with Scottish shores. Spend some time playing with buckets and spades on the beach to give yourselves a well-earned break. The kids can work off their energy by exploring rock pools, or paddling in the sea, and for something a little different why not discover the network of caves at Kents Cavern?
A number of British Isles cruises incorporate parts of France, either at the beginning or the end, for example the port of Le Havre in Normandy, or beautiful Paris. You could choose to extend your stay with a couple of nights in the city, picking up ice cream from street vendors, walking the winding Parisian streets and visiting the Cites de Enfants – a museum dedicated to children (although buy tickets in advance as it can be busy at peak times).
Taking a cruise is one way of experiencing an action-packed, hassle-free holiday guaranteed to keep the kids entertained since each port of call offers something unique. Cruising the British Isles ensures that you don’t have to travel too far before getting on the boat, you don’t have screaming children in the car for two weeks, and you can learn about the different cultures contained within the countries of the United Kingdom as a family. What’s more, most ships will have on-board entertainment for the evenings! So what’s stopping you? Get searching for 2014 cruises right now!
- Planning the perfect picnic June 24, 2017
- Weekend wishlist: the M&S Summer Beauty Box June 22, 2017
- In which I finally get to visit Celebration, Florida June 20, 2017
- A culinary trip to the Far East June 19, 2017
- Weekend wishlist: why Ultrasun should be in your beach bag June 17, 2017