Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Prison Break

A few days before Christmas the husband and I took Mum and Dad for a night in a prison cell in Oxford....No, they hadn't midbehaved, far from it, but a night in the Malmaison was their christmas present from us.

If you have never been you really must. The prison was still being run up until 1996 when it was all converted into the sumptuous hotel and surrounding restaurents and shop complex that it is now.
The original landings and stairs are still in tact, and all of the original cell doors remain. Each bedroom and bathroom suite is made up of three old cells, with arched ceilings and high windows with bars up and shuttered windows.

The bedrooms are beautiful inside and come complete with chaise longue, mini bar and the most amazing room service menu. Not that we needed that as we had a fabulous meal in the restaurant in the cellar!
Me stealing toiletries from the bathroom. In the vain hope they may bang me up for longer...?!

Another reason we decided to stay in Oxford is that Mum and Dads Christmas present to us was a trip to lake Como in Italy for Christmas. Oxford being halfway between home and Heathrow seemed like the perfect start for our Christmas holiday.

We had five days in a beautifully elegant hotel right on the Lake, with breathtaking views and scenery.

On the first day we went to a traditional Christmas market in Como itself, which was very interesting. Pigs trotters, anyone?!

The sunsets were amazing....

And the villas were spectacular- this was my favourite!

Obviously we had to do lots of work related research, so plenty of cappuccinos were consumed!

Below is Bellagio, the most beautiful village. We caught a boat outside our hotel and went over to Bellagio a couple of times. On Boxing Day the village was full of Italians, meeting for coffee, socialising, walking by the Lake. Everyone we came across was dressed BEAUTIFULLY. Fur coats hats and boots galore!

This was our hotel, taken first thing in the morning from our balcony. The colours changed throughout the day, the light was amazing.

It was just what the doctor ordered, being away for Christmas. Away from work and home and bad memories of a rubbish year. A great big Thank You to my very fabulous parents for an extremely generous present. We appreciate it far more than you realise.
I hope you all had a fabulous Christmas, have managed to banish the sniffles sneezes and flu from your homes and raise a glass of Limoncello to 2009. (god, have you tried that stuff? 30% alcohol-evil but fabulous!)

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Bakey Cake-iness

Blimey, I'm really getting back into this blogging lark, am I not?!

Well today has been a bakey kind of day. In fact, all week has been a mass baking fest in the No.9 kitchen. With a few angels thrown in for good measure.

As many of you are aware by now, I am a massive fan of recipe books. Really cannot get enough of 'em. There is nothing I enjoy more than sitting down next to one of my teetering piles of recipe books and having a flick through, finding things I haven't baked before. So today, I baked these.....

Please note the fact that I got through a cup a tea, a cappuccino and a glass of water whilst creating! I have no idea what the scissors were for though...

I have never made a carrot cake before. Can you believe that? I think it's mainly because I'm not a huge fan of carrot cake. I would always go for chocolate cake, or fruit cake over carrot, but I am obviously not going to be eating this one myself! It has lemony cream cheese icing. Yum. Maybe I could be persuaded to sample a teeny slice...just for research...

The strudel cups are dee-licious. Seriously good. I made up a lot of the recipe, but basically it consists of filo pastry, half a jar of mince meat, ground almonds, lemon zest, chopped nuts, a sprinkle of cinnamon and some sultanas and sugar.

This is my trusty Bara Brith (Welsh tea loaf)...sells VERY well and lots of people come back for more. Oh dear, I don't mean to brag, it's just such an easy cake to make and very popular. It basically consists of fruit soaked in strong tea overnight and then flour eggs and sugar added. It freezes really well and tastes fabulous with a little butter spreaded on.

We have been selling these hearts and stockings for one of the girls who runs the crochet and knitting classes for us. They're made from recycled jumpers and blankets and filled with lavender. Clever eh?! (Not as nice as the ones over at the Ragged Roses house though- these ones are a bit scratchy!!)

These are my favourites, our stained glass Christmas decorations. We have hung them in the front window of the cafe and when the sun shines they twinkle beautifully. Several people have made purchases already (including one of the girls who works for us- we paid her her wages and then she gave us most of it back again!)

Despite all of this I am still not feeling Christmassy!

We have had some really exciting news today...two official looking chaps came into the cafe this afternoon and said that we has been nominated for a Business of The Year award. Apparently the winner is going to be announced next week. I don't expect for a minute that we will win, but one of the guys said that he is amazed, given how long we have been open, that we have been nominated at all. I have been beaming ever since. Yay!

Well maybe I am feeling a little bit festive....

Monday, 8 December 2008


Well good afternoon folks. It's taken me a while to keep up with the rest of the blogging world and do my list- kindly passed on by the lovely Alison AGES ago. Sorry about that, but I got there in the end. Really must work on my list of Celebrities I admire. I am not great with celebrities, it must be said. Anyway, here goes,

7 Things I plan to do before I die:
1. Have a family
2. Visit my brother in Canada
3. Buy a VW camper van and use it as our family car. Whilst wearing love beads, obviously.
4. Learn to dance so I can impress people at weddings (as well as get invited to more weddings)
5. Open a huge cafe with a florists in one corner, book shop in the other and a deli/gift shop/crafty section thrown in for good measure.
6. Learn to sew more than a button on.
7. Live by the sea

7 Things I do now:
1. Make a lot of soup
2. Sleep whenever I can
3. Cut out recipes and tips from magazines. There are piles everywhere.
4. Have too many baths.
5. Drink pink wine on Saturday nights
6. Chat to my customers
7. Smile a lot. Even when I don't want to!

7 Things I can't do:
1. Run further than the end of the road
2. Diet successfully. I give up, life's too short
3. Stop going on about something when it's in my head.
4. Walk past a bookshop without going inside
5. Smell/touch/eat Tuna. Bleurgh.
6. Bring myself to buy a pair of crocs. I just can't do it.
7. Stop buying knickers.

7 Things that attract me to the Opposite Sex
1. Someone who is smiley
2. Sarcasm-but good sarcasm, not nasty sarcasm
3. Smelling nice!
4. Good Manners
5. A good sense of humour
6. Honesty
7. Glasses

7 Things that I say most often:
1. Morning!
2. What can I get you?
3. Really?
4. Have a good weekend
5. What shall we have for dinner?
6. Rubbish
7. How Lovely!

7 Celebrities that I admire:
1. David Mitchell- he makes me laugh hysterically. I love his sense of humour
2. Gordon Ramsey. Grr. Hmm, I think I may have changed 'admire' to 'fancy' for a second there...oh well.
3. Victoria Wood
4. Ummm
5. Hmmm
6. Errrrr
7. ?

7 Favourite Foods:
1. Marmite on toast (you knew it was coming Kim!)
2. Rob's Risotto
3. Strawberry Pavlova
4. Roast Vegetable soup
5. Toasted teacakes
6. Lobster
7. Scallops

I have been particularly rubbish at using my camera of late, so apologies for no piccies. Slapped wrist. I shall put it in my bag now.
I am not yet feeling remotely festive. Is it just me?