Friday, May 25, 2012

The weather is officially glorious! Had a lovely Me day today, took the dog for a walk in the beautiful morning sunshine then took myself off for a mani/pedi before getting ready for lunch treats with Saf! We went over to Bluebells in sunningdale (I know I have blogged about that place before) and we had a delish lunch and catch up in the sun, was fabulous and a great way to start the weekend, as usual my booze bill was more than the food though and I only had 2 small proseccos and a glass of Sauvignon!

My starter, Eggs Benedict, delish

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I am having a crap week - too much going on and I rather feel as though I am running to catch up with myself at the moment.  Sigh. I did however have a lovely time at my Big Girl's class assembly this morning, they did a production of Robin Hood, complete with rendition of 'Everything I do, I do it for you' !  She was a Narrator and delivered her lines beautifully, I was very proud.  I also spoke with my Sis and Andrew on Skype and guess what Droo can point at a photo of him with his cousin and say 'Androoo and ZACH!!!!'  It is THE cutest thing to hear, he is just getting better and better each day and I am so proud of him and Rigs and Andrea for all of their hard work.  I can't imagine how tough it has been for Rigs not having her baby talk to her for all this time.. well, now he is and is coming on leaps and bounds, just got to get my Italian up to scratch now! 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ah sunshine, how we have missed you!  I have to say that England looks beautifully green due to the constant rain that we have had, but I am not sad to see the back of it and am ready to embrace the sunshine, well almost.. I need a pedicure, and I need to get my white self in to some sun, for a good amount of time.  I have made some great summer purchases recently though so will share them with you now. 

Firstly these Tory Burch flip flops, £29 from Biscester the other week;

This cute H&M sundress only £7 as I had a £5 gift card

This H&M dress £18 using a discount code that I found online

Woohoo, I do love a good thrifty find or two, and not bad seeing as I am not meant to be buying summer clothes hahaha!  I do however need to lose a few lbs in order to do justice to some old and beautiful summer items, so operation Summer Body has started.  I have been running - much easier and more enjoyable with the sunshine, and am cutting back on the wine.  I can't do a diet as such, just eat smaller portions of everything and exercise more, it is a no brainer really. 

Talking of sun, I am all booked to stay at San Gregorio at La Casella for the whole time that I am in Italy in August, here is my apartment and this is a shot of the pool taken last year

.. I really really cannot wait.  My darling Andrew was taken in to hospital over the weekend with some horrid flu type infection, poor darling was running a hugely high temperature and swollen glands and they were really worried about him.  Happily he seems to be on the mend but at times like these I really wish I was there to just nip over and help out... one day...

Oven update - the Smeg engineer finally came and fixed my oven on Friday, but I had to pay him - to be fair he was really nice and agreed that the element should not have gone after 14 months, so I am going to write to them and complain, if an oven can't get hot then WTF is the point in having one?!?!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Today I am going to have a quick moan - as most of you know I am a Customer Service Consultant, and, unsurprisingly, I take customer service very seriously.  I also like to buy, where possible/ sensible, quality items that will serve me well and last.  So, imagine my horror when (thankfully at the end of lunch!) I went to cook some additional Yorkshire puddings and found that the control on my oven wouldn't work - the 15 month old, very expensive SMEG oven!  So, I phoned the helpline only to be told that it was out of warranty and would cost me £125 for a call out and to have it replaced.  Not happy.  So I phoned customer services and complained that this was not acceptable and the oven was not fit for use.  The operator has fobbed me off with free parts and promise of call from an engineer to discuss the costs for fixing it.  Quite frankly I think that it is terrible service for a reputable company, I had expected better and will be sitting down to pen a letter of complaint shortly.  Grrr.

On Friday we joined our family in Hampton in Arden for Grandad's funeral.  It was so wonderful to have everyone there to send off Jim Walter Greenwood MBE in style - just as a quick aside, my Granddad and his bomb squad colleagues saved Harrods from obliteration in the late 70's, how cool is that?! - the service was very moving, the vicar was lovely, my cousin read a great reading and Dad delivered the eulogy with grace and love.  It was all very poignant and dignified and my lovely Nana was really touched by the love and support that she received. 

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

We had the most amazing day on Friday - I couldn't wait to get back here and write it all up so that I can't forget a moment of it - but it has been a really busy weekend, just by way of a change.

I leapt out of bed on Friday morning (not something I do very often!) went down to the yard to feed Bug for Mum, before heading out to school to meet our new caretaker and do a premises walk with him - ANYWAY - I was all done by 9.30 so came home and got ready for the day.  In my great excitement I decided to tweet the lovely Raymond to let him know that we were so so looking forward to our visit, much to the great amusement of our friends who just teased me mercilessly... UNTIL he re tweeted me!  I was over the moon to get a reply, and those wicked friends of mine were very jealous, so all good!! Hubs took Zach off to Granny's and we were all set to leave at 10.  We zipped up the motorway to have an hours' child free shopping at Biscester before heading over to Le Manoir.  I got some fab Tory Burch flip flops (sadly they only had my coveted Reva pumps in sludge green or glittery gold, hmm, that's the trouble with outlets!) but I shall talk about them another time.

We set off for the beautiful village of Great Milton, which is a joy in itself quite honestly, and turned in to the sweeping drive at Le Manoir at exactly 1.15pm.  We were shown to the very comfortable and pristine lounge where we enjoyed a glass of champagne and canapes whilst we chose our lunch.  The somellier came over and recommended a bottle of Domaine Henry Pelle Menetou-Salon Morogues (Sauvignon Blanc) from the Loire Valley, France.  Next we were shown in to the conservatory to our table and were introduced to our wonderful server James who then looked after us amazingly for the entire meal. It was just fabulous, the flavours, freshness and textures, just heavenly. Cliched maybe, but it was perfection on a plate. This is what we ate;

I was pleasantly surprised to find a beautifully wrapped present on my place setting, and just assumed this might be something that was customary - until James explained that those who tweet and are re tweeted by M. Blanc, receive a gift!  Just more delight!  Here is my pressie - seriously my face hurt from all of the smiling that I did that afternoon.

 At the end of our meal we enjoyed a glass of the Bellbird Sauvignon Blanc with our pudding, and loved the fact that we were one of the last tables in the dining room.  James came to have a chat with us and ask how everything went, I was dying to walk around the gardens but the weather was a bit too rubbish (and I felt that my Louboutins would have made for some unwanted lawn aeration) so we decided against that, but James gave us a map of them and then asked whether we might like a tour of the kitchens instead..  WOW a full on kitchen tour, yes please!  So, drinks finished we were lead to the kitchen by another one of his delightful colleagues and were given an in depth insight in to the back office at Le Manoir.  Just immense, the kitchens are vast and so immaculate it was so fascinating to see it all live and in action - and I particularly loved the fact that there is a bust of RB above the door as the servers leave with the dishes, he is always watching over them, even if he isn't there ;) Sadly he wasn't there, but it was so lovely to meet his Head Chef and everyone else, such genuinely lovely people, utmost professionals and a joy to be around. 

Sigh, can you tell that we had an incredible day?  We came home buzzing and ready to book again. One of the main things about the whole day was that it was, for us, a full experience and a very special day for us, just us and no distractions, a chance to relax, talk, laugh and just be us for a while, no outside world to worry about - a precious little bubble, even for a shortwhile.  Yes, I looked away when signing the bill but hey, I have worked hard to take us there and for us it was worth every penny.  We are hoping to go back with Saf and Ram in the summer, so it is back off to put our names down on the waiting list, and to putting those pennies aside.  Thank you Le Manoir, for such an incredible and uplifting day, truly sensational food, service and surroundings, we can't wait to be back with you.

OOh and what I wore?  Crap pic but;

Black 7/8ths - Zara
Silk printed dress - Mango
Black Blazer - Zara
Alex monroe necklace
Oversized pearl earrings
Gold watch by Michael Kors
Faithful Blue Louboutins
Marc Jacobs Elise Handbag

Thursday, May 03, 2012

We are off to Le Manoir!  I can't actually contain my excitement anymore, my working week is almost done, and I am counting down the hours..  Tomorrow at 1.15pm we have a table booked at Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons - a table that I booked for us in February, yep that's right, a 3 month waiting list!  Still, we have wanted to go for ages, and were going to do it for our 10 year wedding anniversary last year but never did, so I decided to book and treat us.  The 3 month wait meant that I could save up too!  We aren't staying sadly (would need more than 3 months to save for that) but are very much looking forward to the 5 course lunch and leisurely afternoon in the beautiful surroundings.  I shall report the whole thing back, including what I wore, tomorrow. 

Tonight we have the lovely Jay and Jude coming over for catch up and a takeaway which will be great as it feels like ages since we saw them.  I am thrilled to report that Steve's operation to remove the filter in his main blood vessel went well yesterday, it sounded like a truly horrendous procedure involving him being awake and the doctors going in through his jugular (!) but he is OK and has left hospital again. 

All the plans are underway for Granddad's funeral next week, my Dad has been such a star, so stoical and organised.  I really am dreading it, seeing my poor Nana upset and confused, that is going to break my heart. But, at least we can be there and offer our love and support for all that is to come.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

There are few things in life more therapeutic than making risotto! I love the calmness of the preparation, the continuous stirring and nurturing of it and the steaming fragrant plate that you end up devouring, hot and tasty and using only a fork.  Last night I made asparagus, pea and Parmesan risotto and I'm happy to report that it was highly satisfying and delish;

Asparagus, Pea and Parmesan Risotto

30g butter
70ml white wine
1/2 onion or 3 shallots
300g arborio rice
100g asparagus
50g petits pois
700ml chicken/ veg stock (I use Marigold Swiss Bouillon)
50g Parmesan
Salt & Pepper


Melt the butter over a medium heat and sautee the onions until soft.  Add the rice and stir for about a minute, until it dries out.  Season and stir.  Add the wine and stir in, add the stock ladle at a time and keep stirring, don't stop until its done!  After about 15 minutes add the asparagus, keep stirring, add more stock, after 5 more minutes add the peas and keep stirring/ adding stock until the rice has fully absorbed the liquid and the asparagus has a little bite.  Cooking time is 30-40 mins.
Once the risotto is finished stir in the Parmesan and serve with extra freshly grated Parmesan.
Enjoy with a nice cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc :)

I also spoke with Rigs over skype last night, planning the finer details of our trip to Italy in the summer - so exciting, but even better was the Andrew was forming proper words and was trying to say 'Auntie Katy' - I could definately hear it, which was just fantastic!  So so lovely to hear him saying real words, he said 'ciao, ciao' as we said goodbye too, was so lovely to hear, he is doing so very well and I can't wait to see him when they come home in July for Em's wedding.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Another weekend flies past..  On Saturday we had a good catch up and Supper with Steve before heading over to Woking to cheer Rehan on in the production of The King and I at the New Victoria Theatre.  It was a brilliant show, the set and cast were fabulous and Rehan was the consummate professional, it was a super evening, and we definitely have a star in the making - watch this space!

On Sunday the house filled full of our friends and their kids for Zach's 3rd birthday party.  I had hired a Thomas train track and kids rollercoaster for the day anticipating the sunshine at the the end of April.. No such luck, it thrashed down all day so we had to rearrange the living room to accommodate everything, it went really well though and they all loved it.  In true Neill fashion we didn't say goodbye to the last of our guests until late in the evening but we all had a great time with much fun and laughter from adults and kids alike.  Zach wanted a diesel 10 cake (not just plain old Thomas!) so I commissioned this fab fondant topper from loveableleanne on ebay and made the cake and iced it myself.  It took forever to do the no 3 as the metal tin needed to be lined and greased, it was a complete mission, especially as I am not the world's best or most patient baker!  But he was thrilled with it, and was over the moon, so that made it all worthwhile.

April 30th 2012, the day my Grandad passed away.  The cancer was just too aggressive and he couldn't fight it anymore.  One thing that we can all take comfort in is the fact that he went quietly in his sleep, the dignified end that he felt he could only hope for.  Rest in peace Grandad, you will be missed by us all.