Glorious Crete.

The family and I have just returned from two stunning weeks in Crete.  To begin with my expectations were average as I imagined Crete to be living in the shadows of Santorini and others.  I was completely blown away and smitten and have got severe withdrawal symptoms from my latest love.  Crete is a perfect holiday destination, from its picture perfect coastline with clear waters, to its beautiful beaches coupled with an abundance of things to see and do.  Being six of us this year including my two teenage nephews we opted for the Sensatori resort which is all- inclusive.  To be frank, this may not be my preferred way of board option, but with teenagers it’s a great way of having plenty of options and all times of day.  If the little cherubs go clubbing for example and miss breakfast, it’s no skin off my nose if they go grab a snack to keep the going till Lunch.  Alternatively, if the darlings spill a cocktail/ milkshake or ice-cream, the can just get another.  If they want endless passion fruit Martinis, then not a issue.  Being on campus however gets a little tedious after one has unwinded the first three days, so we do always ensure that we go out for dinner, day trips and Lunch at local places to provide the needed balance to our holiday.  This all said, I am a fan of the Sensatori brand and enjoyed an amazing time at their Side property last year.  I’d like to visit them all actually, plus Rhodes and Croatia are joining  the portfolio in the next year or so.  My highlights of the holiday included Elounda, Agios Nikolaos and namely the journey between the two resorts.  Sissi bay was beautiful although a little more touristy.  We hired a car and explored, and also took the buses which were intact coaches with much needed air-conditioning.  Water sports were in abundance for the children to enjoy, and for semi- tame clubbing, Hersonissos was ideal.  Hersonissos, I adored, especially the Old town, and I’ve found an amazing restaurant called Cavos of which was serene at lunchtime and packed out at dinner.  Fishing boats would arrive during dinner to offload the gorgeous fresh Red Mullet to the waters edge where we sat on whitewashed chairs sipping the local vino.  All in all, I’m feeling much refreshed and the teens had a great time too.  Highly recommended.

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Who needs New York when one resides in Newbury?

To be honest, one has been feeling a tad glum of late.  Things have not been going too well for me work wise, however I’m all about positive thinking and looking at the bright side of life.  I’m also into reading positive quotes and  poetry of which I can identify with and generally doing everything I can to keep my pecker up.  I’ve taken to writing a journal, and am having a bit of therapy to get any negativity out of my mind and must say this really helps.  Whilst maintaining a positive stance, I decided to seek the positives in the home town that I reside in,  as all too often we can become consumed with gloom.  I hope that this will be useful for any one visiting or just a general reminder to my neighbours!

Here we go then, in no particular order.

1- The Racecourse.  I’m no expert on racecourses, but I believe it to be a decent course.  I certainly have a jolly good time whenever I go.  I tend to go racing maybe three or four times a year.  I’ve got a good mate who invites me to her box, and I get very merry on the endless champers.  I love a day at the races, never win anything but it’s a good craic.

2-The Corn Exchange. I love this little theatre, I prefer going to the cinema here too, it’s much more intimate, and you can take a glass of vino in with you.  I’ve been to many a production here, and the Pantomimes are hysterical at Christmas.

3-Highclere Castle.  It’s stunning and full of Downtown Abbey charm.  Events happen here all the time.  Its wonderful for the odd tour, also it’s a fabulous Wedding venue.

4-The Vineyard Hotel.  I of course have to mention this place.  The hubster runs it, one of the most special places to dine, with the most amazing wine list.  The bedrooms are luxurious, service is sublime.  If they don’t get a michelin star this year, then I’ll be well miffed. The afternoon tea is awesome too.

5-The Woodspeen. Another lovely place to eat.  Michelin starred, but very relaxed whilst being high end at the same time.  One of the best steaks I’ve eaten demolished by moi recently.  Really like this place, plus there is a cookery school too.

6-The Walks.  There are plenty of local country walks, from The Chase at Woolten hill, to Snelsmore Common, to The Ridgeway. Great for the canine babies.

7-Golf.  We seem to have an abundance of Golf courses.  Donnington Valley is one of the best, but seriously there are loads to suit all budgets.

8-Spas. Again The Vineyard hotel and Donnington Valley both have lovely Spas where one can chill and luxuriate one.

9-Shopping.  Well, this is a tricky one, as our Town centre is a bit of a patchwork.  There are a few nice shops and chain restaurants, but also a few dire ones.  It’s probably best if you’re going to venture into Town to park at The Parkway end.  We have the usual favourites plus some goodish coffee shops.  Waterstones has been revamped and worth a little pop into for a coffee and a flick through some pages.

  • 10-Must say I’m struggling now! But Angelica’s Terrace in Camp Hopson, Newbury’s main department store is worth a little jaunt to.  It’s recently been refurbished and sells coffee, teas, Proscecco and Artisan products amongst other things. The furnishings are very glam, it’s quite lovely and you can sit Al fresco on the terrace and look across lovely Newbury!

Langlands Brasserie, Langlands Bay.  

I just feel that I need to share this glorious place.  We stumbled upon this gorgeous fishy led Brasserie last October when we visited offspring number one at Swansea university.  My thoughtful hubby booked this place for Sunday lunch and I couldn’t wait to go back.  Booking is necessary as it’s really busy and easy to see why.  We opted yesterday for the really reasonably priced Sunday Lunch.  The weather was not too stunning, but that didn’t stop the enjoyment of being inside the buzzy gorgeousness that Langlands Brasserie is.  I opted for juicy plump Mussels as I always do when they’re in offer, braised to perfection in a creamy, white wine and Thyme jus.  Then I savoured the Roast Beef, which was cooked to perfection and served with all the trimmings.  The vino was a mega gluggable Merlot which warmed the cockles on a nippy day.  No space sadly for pud but went on a hilly and glorious walk instead.  This place is so adorable, it’s vibrant, lively and the staff look like they’re having fun.  We’ll be back really soon.

Fuzzy feeling recognition.

We all love to be recognised.  It’s fact of life, it makes us feel proud, stand tall and harbour feelings that transport us back into our school days.  Recognition manifests itself in three main forms.  Workplace, academic based and customer based.  Too often these days we are victims of arduous work deadlines that force fake recognition which is used to show up our colleagues who have not delivered. This naming and shaming really gets me down but this culture  is becoming far too much the norm.  

Genuine recognition is lacking as Austerity is prevalent,  cutthroat tactics bed in, people are trampling over one another to be heard, kept in work, get ahead and be be promoted.
It’s a crying shame that we don’t always support, build up and champion one another. In the long term this behaviour has a detrimental impact on business.  I am a firm believer in employees needing to be in love with its organisation for clients to fall in love with it too.  We need to dedicate more time to being human and kind in the workplace.  This in turn will have positive impact in the long run and flourish the business.

Happy workforce promotes genuine and excellent service.  An example being good old Marks and spencer.  A company rigid and unwavering in its core values.  This company for me will not dilute its brand and for me this is hugely admirable.  I used to run restaurants and operated by the same ethos, despite hitting a recession and battling cut throat competitors that could deliver cheaper offers with cheaper paid staff.  I stayed however true to myself till the bitter end, and bitter it was….

Since then, my values have remained the same.  I operate with high amounts of intergrity and honesty.  I adore my staff and build them up and develop them. I am a fighter of inclusion, diversity and have a thriving and tolerant team.  It goes unnoticed as higher managers are more concerned with bottom line profit and retaining business.  I of course get all of this, but vehemently persist that people are the core.

Going back to Marks and Spencer, in my local store, there is a woman named Jenny who works on the same till both Saturday and Sunday.  Shopping in M&S is always a pleasant experience.  Quality goods and service.  Jenny is service excellence in a nutshell.  I am sure she serves hundreds of customers but she still remembers me, who I am, and asks after the family she’s not met.

I  regularly regard the empty self- scanners and Jenny’s knee deep queue and for me this says it all.

As good old Richard Branson says, “Respect is how you treat everyone, not just those you want to impress.”

Quite Possibly the tastiest Little patties.

2017 has kicked off and one is really trying to be healthier this year.  I am power walking, Swimming and Dog walking which is blowing away the cobwebs and having an über positive impact.   I’m chuffed to report back in week one I’ve lost three and a half pounds. I decided to make some super healthy burgers and chips for Supper last night.  I have to say the Burgers were the best I’ve tasted. I gave them a Middle Eastern twist and served them with a lovely lemony and olive oil dressed salad, potato wedges Yoghurt , Garlic, cucumber and mint dip, Hummus and whole meal Pitta.  

In a bowl I combined 200 gms of minced lamb and 200 gms of mincedbeef.  I added in one really finely chopped onion, one egg, a teaspoon of Sumac, a chopped handful of Coriander, the juice and grated zest of one lime and sea flakes and black pepper.  I mixed this thoroughly with my hands, formed a large mound of meatiness and broke off 10 equal balls rolled them and flattened them.  I then grabbed a large non-stick frying pan, heated some Olive oil and pan fried my patties for around 3 minutes on each side. I gave them a good squeeze of lemon, sprinkled more coriander and Hey presto.  The wedges take around 35 minutes to cook on 180 degrees centigrade so had poppped them in 20 minutes earlier. To keep up the lightness of the dish, I popped the cork on a delightful Gavi from Waitrose priced at £11.99 and worth every penny.

Sunday leftover Roast chicken and Chestnut mushroom Risotto.

Some think that Risottos are scary and problematic.  For me, I’ve always been able to knock out a good one.  Maybe it’s my knack, I feel I can inject passion into risottos and pastas, so potentially my calling.  On Monday, I endured as many do a pretty arduous day at work.  Things are not particularly great work wise at the moment.  Think it’s Brexit waves that are causing unease in my particular case.  I arrived home however in a good mood, this is due to the fact that I have now taken up swimming every morning before work in the intention that I will be less stressed and moody.  This has been working well until I pulled up in front of my house.  I glanced up at my bedroom window, the light was on so knew the husband was home and probably watching TV.  I don’t have a problem with the husband watching his favourite shows.  I do have a rule though that whoever is first home should make a little effort on the aesthetics of the domestic dwelling.  I sadly wasn’t feeling the domestic vibe, as the way the curtains and blinds were arranged was a dead give away of what was to come.  I looked at Jenny’s house next door, spotless curtain arrangement as always, and walked slowly to my front door.  It didn’t get any better.  The washing up was still there from the previous evening, plus extra.  The dog had displayed his affection in the liquid form despite the french doors being open so he may come and go as he pleases to the garden.  I decided a little vino would be appropriate at this point, the husband popped his head into the kitchen and asked why I was drinking.  I noticed he had a funny hat and glasses on and wondered if I’d missed something or was this a vague attempt to cheer me up or was this now his new look.

I told him to leave me alone to get back control of the kitchen and my inner peace, tidied up whilst mumbling and cracked on with supper.

  • I grabbed a large pan, glugged a generous amount of olive oil into it, chopped a large onion finely, two garlic cloves and fried gently for 2 minutes.  I added 3 teacups of Arborio rice and coated it so it reached the translucent stage.  I then added in half a punnet of chestnut mushrooms, a glass of dry white wine and a pint of chicken stock.  The next 18 minutes of your life is crucial to your Risotto’s success.  I like a wet risotto with a bit of Al dentiness, so took to my stirring a nurturing. This is the stress reliever bit, and does wonders for me.  After 13 ish minutes I added my chopped leftover chicken ( around a breast and a half), stirred for a further 3 minutes, then finished with some chopped Tarragon, a good knob of butter, lashings of Parmesan and some black pepper.  I was ready to be nice, so called the hubby from wherever he had scurried off to….

Swansea weekend.

Swansea has never featured on my bucket list of places to explore. My daughter however had Swansea as her first choice for Uni so this weekend we paid our first extended visit.  Firstly on collecting a starving child we checked in to the Marriott.  Probably not my choice next time to stay there as quite tired, coupled with a large Wedding party who seemed to have monopolised the place.  Kudos to their stamina though, dancing from 5pm until Lordy knows when!  We dropped our belongings off and had a wander.  Location fabulous, as you leave the back of the hotel, stunning beaches to wander for ever on.  We were recommended two great eateries by Michelle on guest relations, the first,  we had dinner at Bouchon de Rossi which was just a ten minute stroll away from the Hotel.  I loved the ambience and the menu and chose Langoustine Thermidor and a Fillet au poivre. Both my dishes were cooked to perfection, tasty and hit the spot.  Service was a little intimidating and not as fluffy as I would have liked however Wine was lovely – a sublime example of a buttery and elegant Viognier.  I slept not too badly considering the Wedding guests were still knocking around at 4.30am, then I guess the empty booze bottles had to be emptied somewhere, sadly for us it happened way too early on a Sunday morning and directly under our bedroom.  Untederred, we had breakfast before wandering off to the Mumbles for a bracing walk.  Wow, what a spectacular place, absolutely stunning coastline and sandy beaches coupled with fish and chip air, rows of beach huts where families were taking in one of the last sunny days before Winter.  We opted for lunch at Langlands Brasserie.  What a tremendously busy and fabulous place.  Now sitting firmly as one of my favourite dining spots.  The Sunday Lunch menu was extremely well executed and priced, service was really excellent considering the volume of people to serve.  My Moules, Bouillabaisse washed down with a good ol Gavi were just the ticket.  I cannot wait to return to pick up the daughter for Christmas, just need to find a good local Boutique Guesthouse to frequent for the next four years sporadically.   The Langland Cove B&B looks promising……..