Happy New Year! I hope you had a lovely evening with your friends and family (or indeed a quiet one at home). We had family round and did a huge Middle Eastern feast, with slow roasted Mechoui lamb, minted yogurt, harissa and sweet chilli jam, all stuffed into warmed pittas with red cabbage and salad. So yummy and a great way to feed a crowd.
So my lovely friend KJL did this awesome end of year roundup thing on Facebook, and it was so interesting to read, I thought I’d ask if I could do something similar. And because she is a very lovely friend, of course she said yes. So here, just for you, are the winners of 2014…
My children love our weird dinners (not). The other night, we were testing Marks and Spencer’s new range of party food. Their dinner was entirely made up of canapés, which although seems very posh, is actually quite strange. The good news is, though, that the party food is REALLY good, so we didn’t mind at all. And we thought it would be even better if you actually used it all as intended, y’know, for parties…
I couldn’t finish off my gift guides without giving a little nod to our furry friends. It’s been a bit sad at English Towers since little Ninja passed away. I miss being attacked on the stairs, and slowly but surely the random white hairs are appearing less and less on everything I iron. Soon I won’t be cursing as I pick them off every item of clothing – and what will I do then?
So another thing that I’ve been thinking a lot about on the house front is having a fire. At the moment we have rather an ugly ten year old gas fire. It’s not pretty, it smells a bit funny and it’s a long way from the crackling log fire that I dream about. The question is, what to do with it? Our first plan was just to rip it out, give us a bit more room in the lounge and be done with it, but then we started looking at fireplaces and stoves and it seems we do have some options.
As a mum (and I speak from experience here), there’s nothing nicer than opening a pressie containing lovely pampering stuff that you might think twice about splashing out on yourself.
In this Big Christmas Gift Guide, I’ve brought together a few lovely treats that will make you, your mum/your wife/your sister feel fabulous, because, hey, they deserve it.
So things on the house front have moved on AGAIN. After the third house purchase fell through, I’ve got to be honest, we were pretty despondent. I’ve never heard of it happening before, but the last one got right to survey and then the survey came in 20k under budget. Anyone else had any experience of that?
Anyhoo, it’s all change again, because we think we’ve found the perfect house – the one we’re already in! We’ve got some lovely plans to do the place up – with a spacious kitchen diner instead of our poky kitchen and separate dining room (more of this later, but my Pinterest page is burgeoning) and new floors and even bathrooms when funds permit.
Ageing’s a weird thing. It kind of creeps up on you and then BAM! suddenly there’s a wrinkle you never saw before, or you start to notice your neck looking weird in photos if your head’s not quite at the right level, or you have to hold the book a little far away to get the letters in focus (obviously none of these have actually happened to me. Cough). Mr E is older than me so we always had a bit of banter about him being the old and crinkly one, but recently, I’ve been noticing a few of these little tell-tale signs, and although I won’t be rushing off to get Botox or Spanx or anything, I want to take care of myself as much as I can.
So last time I told you all about the exciting #UKdoesMacys project, and about our first visit to the store at the Mall at Millenia in Orlando.
Here are my top five things to do and places to stay in Orlando. And, well, I think you can guess the first one…
So you might be one of those people that LOVES cooking for people at Christmas (like me) or you might be one who dreads it every year. Either way, the best way to get through that dinner is to cheat as much as possible. Here are my top five Christmas dinner hacks to give you more time with your family and friends, and less time at the oven and sink on the big day.
I think teenagers are some of the most difficult people to buy pressies for (difficult all round, but that’s for another day haha). Thinking creatively about their presents, aside from the never ending list of PS4/Xbox related things occupies quite a lot of my time before Christmas, so I thought I’d share a couple of lovely present ideas with you.
There’s something delightfully festive about a Harrods Hamper. Seeing as we’re all getting into the Christmas spirit here at English Towers, I was very excited when Harrods offered us the chance to try one out. We chose ‘The Sloane‘, and it arrived (you can track your order online, and it arrives within 3-5 working days) well protected and carefully packaged. The hamper, a glossy square dark brown cane basket with a faux leather embossed lid is huge – rather over huge, if I’m honest, for its contents, which I’d probably describe as all the ingredients for the poshest afternoon tea you’ve had in your entire existence.
I’m no wine expert, but we’re starting to know what we like and what we don’t. Here are a few things we’ve tried recently, plus a couple of recommendations for the festive season. Cheers!
So next on our wonderful trip to Florida, we hopped back into our amazing Mustang and headed down to Sarasota, to the brand new Mall at University Town Centre (UTC for short). The brand new Macy’s there is utterly fantastic, and very state of the art. We joined store manager Kerry Yelle for a tour of the store. She’s understandably pretty proud of the place and pointed out several really cool features that are unique to this ‘smart store’. The lighting, for example, has been designed to be sustainable and the lamps don’t need replacing, plus the changing rooms have lights that only come on when you enter, to save energy.
If you want to go out for dinner, or stay in a hotel, there are loads of different websites with tons of reviews, so you can see whether the staff were friendly, or whether the food was good. This approach is starting to take hold in other industries too. I recently found a new hairdresser by searching online and was able to read reviews of local hairdressers and even pick the particular stylist that I thought would best suit me.
“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.
I love flowers – adore them. Mr English spent the whole summer buying me sunflowers from our local market, but now it’s moving into Christmas time, I’m all for red roses, fragrant pine and silvery eucalyptus. I was delighted, then, when the lovely chaps at Appleyard London sent me some of their beautiful Christmas flowers, the gorgeous ‘mulled wine’ arrangement – a mix of velvety red grand prix roses, pine cones, berries and seasonal foliage. The arrangement scented the whole house and made us all feel really Christmassy. I can imagine it taking pride of place in the centre of the Christmas table.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
- My top five fluffy American pancake ideas January 7, 2015
- The UK does Macy’s: my top five things to do in Sarasota January 5, 2015
- Ooooh I’m on the telly! The new Sainsbury’s ‘Love Your Freezer’ campaign January 3, 2015
- New year, new plans January 2, 2015
- English Mum’s Great Big End of Year Awards December 30, 2014