11 March, 2018

New book "Leaving London" available for purchase

Finally, my new book is available for purchase!

It's called Leaving London and you can buy it on Amazon.

Here's the blurb:

For Lucille Glencross, career is everything and relationships are nothing. Having experienced a fractured childhood, she is convinced that the only route to happiness involves standing on her own two feet and trusting no one. In this way, she protects herself from further hurt.

But when her best friend invites her to be a bridesmaid in Italy, Lucille’s orderly world is turned upside down. Whilst meeting new people and observing different customs, Lucille begins to wonder whether she’s got it all wrong. Could there be another, happier way to live her life?

Bella Napoli

My husband and I enjoyed a lovely evening out with friends yesterday at local Abingdon restaurant Bella Napoli.

I have been to Bella Napoli a few times recently and rate it highly. It is based in a lovely old building in the centre of Abingdon, festooned by creepers in summer, and inside has lots of dark polished wood and white linen table cloths. It is relaxed and frequented by an older crowd, which lends a very pleasant and easygoing dining experience.

The food is good and fresh -- pasta, pizza and Italian meat and fish mains; the house wine is surprisingly mellow and tasty; and the prices are pretty reasonable too.

The staff are friendly and attentive, whilst remaining low key.

If you're looking for good food in a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere and don't want to spend the earth, Bella Napoli comes highly recommended.

20 January, 2018

Willow's Shake Shop

We had lunch out today at Abingdon's newest cafe -- Willow's Shake Shop. We've been meaning to go here for a while, but haven't had a free Saturday until now.

Anyway, it was worth the wait. This is a lovely little place -- not only is it a cafe; it also sells vintage and shabby chic furniture and ornaments.

As the name suggests, Willow's serves milkshakes (and smoothies) in a whole array of flavours. Our daughters chose the Crunchie and the Reese's peanut butter flavours, which were both delicious. We also had panini, a scone, and a toasted tea cake, all of which were very tasty and clearly homemade.

This is a very pleasant environment in which to sit. It is beautifully decorated with lots of pretty things and pieces of furniture -- the vintage items that are for sale, in fact! There were several things that caught our eye and in the end we decided to buy a little framed picture that had been made by one of the owners of the cafe.

We will definitely be back. Lovely food, a beautiful shop and very competitive pricing, too -- we would highly recommend Willow's Shake Shop!

09 January, 2018

Back to reality...

We went back to work after the Christmas break last week, but this week it is definitely back to reality, with the kids back at school, my oldest sitting her mock GCSEs, and my husband preparing for a business trip to Australia.

I've therefore been reflecting on the some of the lovely things that we did over the holidays:

  • spending new year's eve watching the Creation Theatre's production of "A Christmas Carol" (great fun!) followed by dinner at our local Wildwood Restaurant (very tasty!)
  • having a lovely, family evening out at the cinema seeing "Pitch Perfect 3" (just as funny as the first two!)
  • meeting friends for a walk up Boar's Hill followed by afternoon tea (great company and delicious homemade Christmas cake)
  • enjoying lots of family time watching films, playing Scrabble and eating German Christmas biscuits.
We've also got some lovely things to look forward to. We've just booked our family summer holiday (11 nights in Montenegro, which looks beautiful), we'll be watching our oldest daughter playing Juliet in the school production of "Romeo and Juliet", we're booked in to see the play "Blood Brothers" in February, and much more.

That should be enough to get us through this dull and cold January!

18 December, 2017

Festive weekend

We have had a lovely, festive time this weekend.

On Saturday, we all (us, our children and their grandparents) met at the National Theatre to see Pinocchio. There had been some concern when the tickets were first booked that the show might be too young for our teenagers, but as it turned out, not a bit of it. The acting was superb, the set ingenious, and there was plenty tucked in for older viewers -- morality, darkness, sophisticated jokes, etc. We enjoyed the whole show, but we thought that the actress who played the cricket (Pinocchio's conscience) was particularly outstanding.

Prior to watching the play, we ate dinner together in House, the National Theatre's restaurant. We were a little concerned that there were few vegetarian dishes available and that the menu wasn't very teenager-friendly. However, I had a pasta dish with mushrooms and spinach, which really was very tasty, Even though the restaurant was very busy, the service was friendly and responsive.

On Sunday, we focused on Christmas at home. We bought our tree from Peachcroft Farm, as we always do, and then spent the rest of the morning decorating the house. In the afternoon, we celebrated the third Sunday of Advent enjoying German Christmas biscuits in front of our advent circle.

Lovely! We are now all feeling a lot more Christmassy!

12 December, 2017

The run up to Christmas

We are having a very busy run up to Christmas this year. We have had so much on -- both festive and otherwise -- that it feels a bit like we might hit Christmas somewhat unprepared!

The weekend before last we enjoyed our annual Christmas shopping trip to London. This involves traipsing along Oxford Street, admiring the lights, and spending inordinate amounts of time browsing the John Lewis food hall for Christmas stocking gifts. We also had a lovely lunch in Cafe Rouge Kingsway. This was a good find because, while relatively close to central London shopping, it is located in Holborn, which, at the weekend, is nice and quiet. Perfect for a hassle-free meal with family.

We're off to London again this Saturday to see Pinocchio at the National Theatre with my parents-in-law. We're all a bit old for it now -- the kids included -- but it should be great fun! Sunday will be dedicated to buying the Christmas tree from our local Peachcroft Farm and dressing the house ready for our celebrations.

This week I have two -- yes, two! -- Christmas lunches at work. One with my immediate team and one with my 50-strong department. The first will be a curry at a local curry house and the second will be a full-blown, three-course lunch at St. Hilda's College. Both should be delicious.

On the less exciting front, we have been organising the replacement of our leaking hot water tank (two days this week without heating or hot water in the freezing cold!), having the drains under our house cleaned, sorting out Duke of Edinburgh volunteering and braces for our youngest, supporting our eldest as she revises for her mocks. The list goes on...

Only two more weeks of work and then we'll be there! I'm really looking forward to the break and to enjoying our traditional German celebrations with family on Christmas Eve!

07 November, 2017

Busy weekend

We had a packed -- and fun -- weekend last week.

First off, my husband returned home from a business trip to the US. Even after all these years together, it's still lovely when he comes home! We celebrated his return (and attempted to stave off his jet lag) by eating lunch out at Abingdon's newest cafe --  Annie's at the Boathouse. We enjoyed brie and cranberry sandwiches and coffee and walnut cake. It will be particularly pleasant here in the summer, when you can sit out at a table overlooking the Thames.

In the evening, we marked the 5th of November by attending the firework display at the Baldons. We attended this event a couple of years ago and enjoyed it both times -- we particularly like the huge bonfire, which is quite unusual at public events these days, and a really good addition to the fireworks.

On Sunday, we visited Abingdon's annual craft fair. This takes place in the Medieval abbey buildings and is a great opportunity to find unusual Christmas presents in a beautiful setting. Later on, we went to see "Murder on the Orient Express" at Cineworld in Didcot. I've been looking forward to this film coming out and we all thought it was very entertaining -- dramatic with good cinematography. We know the story well, so weren't surprised by the ending -- but you can't have everything!