Category Archives: Everything Else

500 days of Summer

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Well, perhaps not quite 500.

This weekend promises something quite rare for myself – I will not only be able to spend the whole weekend waking up in my own bed, but I don’t have anything planned for the first time in ages. Yes, I’ve deliberately turned down some things to make it so, but it was from looking at my diary that I came to the realisation that since Mid-June, I’ve only had 3 weekends where I didn’t have something planned or more specifically, meant I had to go away. Yes, I know this is very much a First World Problem, but I was thinking that being so busy should also mean that there *must* be something I could post about, right?

In the space of 3 months, a lot has happened – I had a bit of a scare regarding a lump discovered in one breast which turned out to have been lumps (plural) and affecting both breasts (!!). After a tense few weeks of being prodded and poked for investigation and seeing sights which no woman should ever see, I am relieved to say that I’m OK and have been discharged from the hospital. Being discharged meant that I could commit to a change in job roles and start on a 2 year project which will hopefully result in even bigger and better things for me. Obviously during those weeks, I couldn’t really consider if I had a future, let alone what I should/want to be doing in it, but once I knew it was OK to do so, I started planning my future with a new invigorated sense of trying to achieve more.

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There have been trips to Copenhagen – Two in fact, but the second one was very much a last-minute thing and I’ll write about that in another post. The first trip included a meal at the always-brilliant Relæ, loving Mirabelle so much that we went back the following day for (what turned out to be) the same dishes – Which we didn’t mind one bit, a great experience at Ante (RIP) and most of all, a trip to The Amazing Pig Out at Amass (oh, and going there for Amass Fried Chicken in the garden of Amass the day before). Again, more about this another time…

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A fair amount of beer was consumed – Not only from a trip to the magnificent Birmingham Beer Bash which has established itself as a firm annual favourite in my calendar, but with the opening and discovery of some new tap rooms and bars, especially the (IMO) very brilliant Clink Beer in the Custard Factory. What impresses me the most about Clink Beer is that it was borne out of the desire to have somewhere reasonably central (especially in the Digbeth area) where you can get some really decent and interesting craft beers without having to pay inflated prices as you may for something in the City Centre or travel across the other side of the City (If like me, you don’t live that side of Brum). I’m very biased in that the location of Clink Beer is on my bus route home, therefore making it VERY easy for me to go for a few drinks and still be able to stagger to the bus home, but I genuinely love this place and hope they do really well (I know I will do my bit).

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Founders released their KBS 2016 and expectations were almost impossibly high given how KBS 2015 was one of my favourite beers EVER. Yet Founders managed to pull it out of the bag again – KBS 2016 was somehow even better than 2015 with deeper coffee and vanilla notes. The bar was already set sky-high, but it could well be stratospheric for KBS 2017. Other highlights included being able to finally try Founders’ Mango Magnifico (at the Birmingham Beer Bash), and it was delicious – Even with the poke at the end! Another beer highlight was the latest BQE offering from the always reliably brilliant Brooklyn Brewery which could well be my favourite EVER. Named The Discreet Charm of the Framboise, it’s based on their very delicious Bel-Air Sour beer (which I got to gorge on during the London Beer Mansion earlier in the year), aged in Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrels with a whole load of raspberries chucked in – All elements which individually I love so it was bound to be a winner in my books when you combined them all (and it’s every bit as delicious as I thought/hoped it would be).

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Food-wise, there were some highly enjoyable visits to Aulis at at Claridges and The Sportsman and I also got the chance to sample the talents and deliciousness from Alex Nietosvuori during his stint at Carousel before he moved on to Santiago, Chile on his next food adventures. Whatever Alex does next, I’m sure he’ll be a great success and I greatly look forward to tasting his food again. There was also a whirlwind visit to Silo in Brighton, but that visit is very much worthy of its own post.

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From my own part, there was a rediscovery of my own love of cooking when I got to cook for a load of friends (and family) in M & B’s new kitchen (photos) which also meant I not only got to play with, but covet various bits of kitchen equipment and design in their lovely home. There was (as you would expect in cooking meal for 14 people) a fair bit of work to be done, but M&B were such fantastic hosts and so generous in letting me wreck and mess up their sumptuous kitchen (I mean, they actually made us breakfast pastries and personalised fortune cookies). But there was a moment at the beginning of the meal when the entire table were drinking their soup (pork fillet, mustard greens and salted duck eggs) and other than the odd guttural murmur, the only sound you could hear was of everyone happily slurping their soup. I was busy preparing the duck at the time to take a picture or video at the time, but I paused to take in that moment and a massive smile appeared on my face. So whilst I got a lot of thank you’s for cooking the small feast, I have to say a massive THANK YOU to M & B for not only letting me play in their kitchen, but also to everyone else that came along that day for helping me to rediscover the joy I get from not only cooking, but seeing people enjoying the food I’ve cooked.

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There has been a lot of reflection over the summer – My health scare at the beginning of the summer made me a lot more contemplative than usual, but the Olympics also made me think of the last Olympics in London – And how I can finally look back at that time more objectively. I mean, I remember posting about the Olympics on here and how I kept bursting into tears – During the National Anthem, whenever some athlete was crying.. I can look back on it all now and realise that at that time 4 years ago, I was deep in the throes of grief, but it hasn’t diminished my appetite for watching the Olympics. I mean, after being able to gorge myself in sport around the clock, I felt a bit bereft when the Olympics ended. (Although, as a side note, YAY for the Paralympics coverage!).

However, the main event was for me, the wedding of M & G. It may have been towards the end of the summer and in the middle of a *really* hectic few weeks, but more than anything, it reinforced how close my family all are – And how fortunate I am to have such a loving and utterly brilliant family. Whilst there were no tears from watching the Olympics, there was much laughter, some tears and some moments of tension between and from each of us at some point over the weekend. Naturally, all of us at some point turned our thoughts to our late parents and how they would have both *loved* to have been there. However, I know that I’m not alone in thinking that seeing the beaming smiles and howls of laughter across everyone’s faces – Along with the very evident joy and happiness on M and G’s faces as they got married – made us all feel fortunate to be able to share and join in these new happy memories for all. And whilst it’s a very old cliché, we all know that our parents were with us in spirit.

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So what now? I’ve already mentioned how I should (need) post about a few places, but after such a hectic summer, I think it’s time to step back a little and take things slightly easier – Not only will my body thank me for it, my bank balance will too! After all, I need to save up for bigger adventures 😉

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The 40 Project part 4 – CPH (AKA: I *heart* CPH)

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Given how often I go to Copenhagen, I couldn’t really have a 40 list without including something from CPH really. The thing with CPH was that because I had been so many times before, there were a lot of things which could qualify for the list which I had already done (if at all possible, I tried to do new things for the 40 list). That said, some things are too good to miss out so that’s where I started to change (bend) the rules somewhat in my approach to the whole 40 Project.

First up will be the Danish hot dogs (and Frikkadeller) [33]. I mean, even if you ignore the stand in the hall on your way to baggage reclaim at Kastrup Airport, there’s another kiosk right by the baggage carousels. What’s more, they’re both packed most of the time with Danes wanting a quick hot dog fix or presumably, a taste of home after some time abroad. In my case, it’s partly a reminder of my childhood when one of my cousins used travel to Denmark quite often as the guy she was dating lived in Denmark and she would subsequently bring over boxes of “Danish Sausages” (as we called them in my house), much to all my family’s delight. But it’s also a reminder of how much nicer hot dogs are than what we’d get over here. There is the important “snap” of the casing and the contents of the sausage may well be meat of indeterminate origin, but they’re damn tasty – Especially if like me, you got for the whole gamut of finely diced raw and deep fried onions, ketchup, remoulade and pickles all delicately encased within a hot dog roll lightly toasted and not big enough to encase the whole sausage resulting in both ends protruding out. I completely understand why the returning Danes make it one of their first stops upon landing back in CPH – I often make sure it’s one of the first things I eat upon landing at Kastrup and I look forward to it every time. I love the fact that your choice of drinks range from bottled water to soda fountains, or why not have a beer, Gammel Dansk or (my fave) a Jägermeister. So, whilst it’s not something new I did for the 40 Project, I couldn’t really have a CPH post and *not* include hotdogs in some way.

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Smørrebrød, or (Danish) Open Faced Sandwiches were the first thing I remember making in Home Economics class in school (many aeons ago). Being a Brit, I just thought it was curious why you wouldn’t have the 2nd slice of bread on top – That’s the whole point of a sandwich, isn’t it?!. That said, my trips to CPH have since taught me that the singular, solitary slice of bread on the base of a smørrebrød isn’t just any bread, it’s a slice of deliciously rugged and wholesome Danish rye bread – The sort where you believe that it’s actually doing you good by the act of eating it alone and well, you don’t need a 2nd slice to top the sandwich. Furthermore, the toppings are not of the ham and cheese (or coleslaw) variety my classmates and I had to eat in Home Economics all those years back. Rather, it’s some of the most delicately smoked eel either with scrambled eggs or some other accoutrements, it could be topped with another Scandinavian favourite – Pickled Herring, or you could top it with some organic local Danish roast pork… The variations are both broad and all very tasty. So it came to be that on one occasion in my 40th year, I didn’t just manage to eat Smørrebrød at Slotskælderen hos Gitte Kik in CPH, but I also managed to drink some Danish snaps and a local CPH beer [34] whilst there. This wasn’t the first time I had smørrebrød in CPH and I thought the first occasion was OK, but this visit to Slotskælderen hos Gitte Kik was brilliant – From the friendly service, to the guy with the red face at the front finishing most of the plates in front of you and I suspect that the snaps and beer may have added to the whole experience, but whilst the roast pork may not have looked like much, it was some of the best roast pork (and crackling) I’ve ever eaten and was worth the food coma it sent us into afterwards.

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An unexpected treat was a trip to the oldest bakery in Central CPH, Conditori La Glace. I loved how the window display of all the cakes drew you in and it’s very old Copenhagen inside, but the cakes are fantastic – They even had a sugar-free cake which I loved. However, I did manage to eat a Sportskage [35] which is the cake that La Glace is best known for and added another tick to the 40 list.

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With my growing interest in (Craft) Beer, it would be remiss of me to travel to CPH and NOT at least drink something local and well, the Daddy of CPH brewers is Mikkeller with their collaborations and experimental beers. So it was on the way to Relæ for another brilliant dinner that I got to drink a (Mikkeller) beer at Mikkeller and Friends [36]. It has quickly established itself as one of my favourite places to drink in CPH – With its minimalist look of walls painted in a soft, light blue (Turks and Caicos blue, I believe it is) combined with fixtures, fittings and furniture in a bare wood (lightly coloured) – The kind of Scandinavian minimalist design that you (well I) covet over for your own home until you realise that you’re too much of a hoarder to even begin to contemplate the ideal of minimalism. It’s the kind of bar design that is quite common in CPH and much as places in the UK imitate or offer something similar in design and setup, there is a certain (minimalist) swagger and well, vibe that makes it work so well in CPH which is missing in other places. Actually, whilst I’m here, I should really mention how CPH (despite the high price for alcohol) is a great place for craft beer – There are some really great tap rooms throughout the city with really varied and interesting selections. I mean, even the local corner shop near a hotel I was staying at had an entire aisle of bottled craft beers (which meant I could cheekily have one of my favourites, Brooklyn Brown Ale, with a snackette back in the hotel room). It was also in CPH that I discovered Christmas Ale (Beer) or Julebryg – And truly, my life has never been the same since..

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Relæ has an extra special place in my heart because it was my first experience of New Nordic Cuisine 4 years ago and I was completely blown away by it all – The cooking, the room, the soundtrack, how you got your cutlery from a drawer in the table. Added to this how Christian Puglisi and Kim Rosen are 2 of the nicest (and coolest) guys around, it pleases me to see how their little empire has expanded and transformed Nørrebro. So it was with complete surprise when YKL phoned me letting me know of an email that she had received from Christian saying that he knew it was short notice (4 weeks) and well, YKL and I had only literally just returned from a weekend in CPH, but that it was the 5th anniversary of Relæ opening and to celebrate it, they were having a bit of a party in the local park. Sounds good, right? Then we read this:

“The plan is that our amazing friends Rosio Sanchez and Renè Redzepi will be dishing out tacos, Magnus Nilsson cooks up hotdogs, Matt Orlando fries chicken, Mehmet Guhrs braises lamb, Kobe Desmeraults makes us Croquettes-de-crevettes and Chad Robertson will spread butter on delicious bread – all for you, friends and family to taste.”

Literally, my jaw dropped. Had we really been invited to this? Even though we had just got back from CPH, we were scrambling our diaries looking at plane tickets and accommodation. To cut a *very* long story short: It was every bit as brilliant as I hoped. There was a laid back feeling of joy in the air and it very much felt like a coming together of like-minded people in celebration of how Relæ has evolved in 5 years and with it, helped to make Nørrebro a go to destination within CPH. In fact, the whole weekend was centred on the (aforementioned) empire of restaurants and bars that Christian and Kim have built up: Bæst, Manfreds, Mirabelle and of course, Relæ. But what could I add from this for the 40 list? I could have added eating the beef tartare at Manfreds (Truly, if you’re ever in CPH and go to Manfreds, have the beef tartare – It’s one of the best you’ll ever eat). However, I wanted to convey how it felt extra special that in the year I turned 40, it was also the year that Relæ turned 5 and they put on such a massive spectacle which YKL and I were so very lucky to experience. So whilst I have eaten at Relæ many times and will continue going back as much as I can. For me, being able to eat a reinterpretation of the original menu at Relæ [37] made it onto the list. However, I do need to mention the generosity of Kim and Christian because when the bill arrived for that meal which was one of the best we’d ever had there, it appeared to be wrong (and any subsequent demands to speak to Kim and Christian were laughed at by the staff..

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Similarly, I have another special place in my heart for Bror; quite often our meal at Bror will contain the best tasting dishes of the whole CPH trip which is saying something how we generally go for the Big Hitters. Sam Nutter was still at Noma the first time I ate there and he was the one whom gave us our kitchen tour afterwards. When he and Victor Wagman left Noma to open Bror, I remember Rene Redzèpi saying how they both may not have any investors backing, but they had “huge talent and balls”. That only added to the amusement of how a signature dish at Bror became the Bull’s balls – They even have T-shirts saying “Poached, Sliced, Breaded, Fried” (how it’s cooked). So whilst I could say that eating Bulls balls at Bror[38] is on the list, I should also mention how during one of my trips to CPH in my 40th year, I also got to eat at Café LilleBror (RIP) where not content with feeding me balls at Bror, I also got to eat crispy dicks at Café LilleBror. [added to 38] As a side note, I can’t believe I’ve just made that public and now worry how this post is going to come up for certain internet searches…

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I started this post by saying how I couldn’t really leave out writing about Copenhagen given how often I have been there. Therefore I can’t leave out one of (if not) the main reasons for going to Copenhagen in first place – To eat at Noma. Yes, I am very biased when it comes to Noma – But that’s because I’ve never had a bad experience when at Noma. Sure, there have been some dishes where they didn’t *quite* hit the mark, but when you talk about an overall dining experience to encompass the setting, service, wine pairing and food – The whole shebang – you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere better in the world than Noma. Every time I’ve been to Noma, it’s been special and for different reasons every time.  I always spend hours recollecting various parts of the meal with YKL with a permagrin on my face – be it certain dishes, interaction with the staff, recounting conversations… The fact that I got to eat at Noma not just once, but twice to mark my 40th year with friends [39] added to the how special my 40th year was.

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I know this won’t be my last post about CPH, but it very much was part of my 40 Project and whilst some things weren’t within the original remit of eating something local to that region or a speciality of a restaurant/bar for the first time, it felt right that I tweaked some of the qualifying criteria just so I could share some of the happy memories I have from my trips to CPH.

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Fare thee well…

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It’s my last day of being 40 today. I must admit that it feels slightly odd because so much time, money, dedication and effort was put into 2015 – The Year I turned 40 – and my 40 Project that so far in 2016 – The last 4 months I spent being 40, I haven’t really done anything. That’s not to say I’ve done nothing, but I am quite conscious of how I haven’t actually finished writing up about the 40 Project (if I ever had a list of things to do, it’s permanently on the top of that fictional list).

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That said, I’ve had an absolute blast and have loved it all – in some ways I feel a bit lost this year because I don’t have a project to keep me occupied throughout the year. Well, other than normality where I have to live life as a grown-up, that is.

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So, a very brief post – But a chance to share some pics with you all of a selection of highlights from 2015 before I say goodbye to being 40.

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The 40 Project part 2 – UK edition

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Given I got to travel to so many places over my 40th Birthday year, it meant that I didn’t get to do quite as much as I hoped or wanted to within these shores.  That said, it’s given me a list of places I hope to visit when I’m more mobile.  But for this year, I also got to pick and choose from things I’ve done to add to the 40 list.  I’ve already previously posted about eating proper faggots made by a Black Country butcher [14] so that was a nice start to the year.  Similarly, I’ve also posted about eating native oysters in Whitstable [15] and that trip to Whitstable also involved getting to eat the Lobster Lasagne at Wheelers [16].

That said, the Whitstable trip (rather amazingly), was a bit of a pre-cursor to our Lyon trip so in a bit of a whirlwind, we literally spent a few days in Whitstable, came home to unpack and clean some clothes, then headed off to Lyon for a few days.  I say amazingly because just a few years ago, it was an effort to do one of these trips, let along two in quick succession. However, the Whitstable trip was an excuse to fit in another trip to The Sportsman. I mean, it would be rude to not go given we were that part of the world..

I have a real soft spot for The Sportsman – Beautiful scenery, friendly, attentive staff and service, Fantastic food – Amongst the best in the Country (IMO). The food is not only very simple (in a good way), it’s also bloody delicious too. There are so many delicious things to recall, but I guess the signature dish for The Sportsman would be the Grilled Slip Sole (in seaweed butter) [17]. A prepared Slip Sole (skinned and head, outer bones removed) is grilled to perfection with some seaweed butter – And when I say it’s grilled to perfection, I mean it’s literally *just* cooked. Silence descends on the entire table as everyone tucks in enthusiastically and are too busy eating to talk – The only noise heard (other than the sound of cutlery scraping on the plates) are the occasional guttural approving noises and I swear, you can actually hear the sound of people smiling and grinning as they turn feral and end up sucking the fish bones to ensure no bit of flesh is missed out. Back to that fantasy list of dishes to eat before you die? This would be on there, no doubt. My gripe with this dish? One slip sole is never enough and you end up wanting more.. (Yes, I know that this is a First World Problem).

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For my actual Birthday itself, I spent a great weekend eating at some of my favourite places and with some of my favourite people. I managed to get afternoon tea at Claridges [18] which was an eye opener in terms of seeing Old Money versus New Money. Still, some lovely sandwiches and tea (which is surprisingly filling). I also want to shoehorn in how later in the year, I would find myself returning to Claridges for some drinks in the bar where I got to drink their signature cocktail, The Flapper. Anyway, back to my Birthday weekend – Come midnight, I found myself in MEATLiquor eating their fantastic burgers and fries and drinking their quite awesome grog, but given I’ve done that many, many times before, I didn’t add it to the list. However, we did all get drunk enough to pack into the photobooth and well, there really wasn’t a finer bunch of girls I would have rather seen in my 40th Birthday with.

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The following morning, there was only one place I really wanted to go for breakfast – E Pellicci on the Bethnal Green Road. I had previously tried to go there but unfortunately, it was during August when they’re closed for their annual family holiday. So, given I was in London on a weekday, it seemed rude to not go. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. When we got there, we were not disappointed at all – There’s a slight art deco feel to the interior with the tiles and insignia on the floor, but this is an old fashioned caff that I grew up going to – The kind where the staff may be loud, but they’re ultra friendly. YKL wanted to get a tea and an espresso (separately) because she needed the caffeine hit from the espresso, but prefers a tea to drink and the response was “What? together?! Nah… I can’t let you do that I’m afraid..” Or, when someone asked if they used skimmed milk, the response was “No love, we don’t serve that filth in here.. Only the fullest pure stuff here!.” Upon hearing it was my Birthday, Pots and pans were banged on and the whole place was made to sing Happy Birthday to me – led, quite boisterously, by the staff. However, it wasn’t tacky like you may get from a chain restaurant (you all know what I mean). We may have gotten a few odd looks and comments when ordering things like the vegetarian special with sausage or black pudding (as in B’s case), but we wanted the famed bubble and squeak for breakfast and truly, it was magnificent. Actually, when the staff discovered that it was my 40th Birthday, the whole place was made to sing Happy Birthday to me again (this time, with more feeling). It was made more special because it was my Birthday, but the fact that I got to have a breakfast at E Pellicci[19] anyway is another one on the 40 list.

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Other items which got onto the list were things like eating a salt beef beigel from the legendary Beigel Bake on Brick Lane [19]. There are plenty of opinions as to which one is better or more authentic but in my eye, it’s all about Beigel Bake and the fact it’s part of my 40 list makes me very happy. Similarly, the fact that I could add both the Roast Marrow Bone and Parsley salad and also devilled kidneys on toast from St John [20] is something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time. Yes, roast bone marrow is very popular these days but St John has been serving this dish for years – Long before it was fashionable – And it’s the old adage of a simple dish executed very well is truly a thing to behold.

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Also, there was a trip up to Bolster Moor Farm shop in some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever layed my eyes on where I got to eat a few of their award-winning Pork Pies [21].

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There is one item left on the list, but I’m going to save that one for a separate post by itself…

Good times

Helloes!

So I’ve just got back from a pretty EPIC holiday for the best part of 3 weeks and whilst I’m still trying to mentally process everything that has happened, along with recounting the plethora of new good times and memories made (Oh, and trying to sort out the many THOUSANDS of pictures taken), I thought I would drop a short post of things I’ve learned in this trip. After all, they say travel broadens the mind:

  • I have an awesome family – I mean, it’s not as if I’ve never mentioned it before, but every time we all get together in whatever numbers, I can honestly say that I come away feeling more love for them all and realise just how fortunate I am to be able to call them my family.  In this trip, there were also extended family members; in-laws, etc. which added to the fun and frivolity
  • It really is cold when you reach a mountain summit – One of the things I did was ride on the White Pass and Yukon Route train to White Pass Summit.  Some of the scenery was beautiful and it was such a treat to be on some very lovely reconditioned old-fashioned trains.  Thank goodness I had my thermal scarf, hat and gloves because it was COLD!
  • Alaska is Beautiful – I’ve always wanted to do a cruise to Alaska but nothing really prepared me for the beauty of Alaska.  Some of the scenery was truly breathtaking and I would love to go back again.
  • It is (surprisingly) cold when you are by a glacier.  I know, it sounds stupid and obvious, but I hadn’t prepared myself mentally for *how* cold it would be!  Similar to the point above about the Mountain summit, I was thankful for warm clothing.
  • I really should stop trying to be the cool kid and not get involved with crowds – In my reluctance to see what the fuss was about, I missed seeing a bear (in the wild as compared to in captivity) about 20ft away across the stream.  I never got another chance to see a bear throughout the whole trip.  I did however see lots of Bald Eagles in the wild which was a treat.
  • I have pretty much nailed the art of taking selfies on my phone – Seriously, my phone camera roll was predominantly of food pics prior to this trip, but there are now a *lot* of selfies…
  • I like the sun and warmth, but much prefer the cold – One of the reasons I loved Alaska so much was because it was so cold and meant I could layer up with warm clothing.  Whilst I liked the sun and heat of California afterwards, it was a bit too hot at times for me (although I do like being tanned)
  • Siri and Location Services work a lot better in the US – This means nothing android or Windows phone users, but I’m an iPhone user and I’ve noticed that not only are location services a lot more accurate in the US (as compared to within 20ft here in the UK, especially when using Uber), but Siri is subsequently a lot more useful as the results are more accurate when trying to get directions to and from places.
  • GO TEAM 12! – My family and I are able to create havoc wherever we go.  By the end of the 2nd night of the cruise, we had established a reputation by having a bit of fun in one of the quizzes.  Of course, we were never going to win the quiz as some teams took it seriously, but we had the funniest (and rudest) answers and well, it certainly made us memorable and the hosts of the quiz enjoyed it.
  • If you ever book a brewery tour and tasting at Anchor Brewery, make sure you eat something first – They don’t skimp on the measures during the tasting part of the session!  I had a BRILLIANT time there and suspect that the amount of alcohol drunk (we tried 7 different beers and nothing less than a quart) had a direct correlation with the amount of money spent in the gift shop afterwards.
  • For long haul flights, I *really* shouldn’t be sat next to the window – I mean, aside from the slightly claustrophobic tendencies I have, it really is awkward waking up 2 complete strangers every so often because you want a pee or need to stretch your legs.  Am pretty sure that my flight would have been a lot more relaxing and enjoyable if I was sat in an aisle seat
  • The level of service and friendliness from the cabin crew really does vary from airline to airline – Sad to say, but not once did any of the cabin crew actually break into a smile throughout my whole trip.  Will have to reconsider travelling with them again
  • Sometimes, a little pain and inconvenience is worth it – It may have been a pain having to go through passport control again with the liquid restrictions, etc when changing planes so that I land back in BHX rather than getting a direct flight to Heathrow or Manchester, but the fact that even with a stop at the chippy for some fish and chips and a stop to get some milk for a cup of tea, it was brilliant to be in my home, on my sofa within an hour of landing.
  • Sometimes, you just need to go with the flow – I may not have done everything I wanted to on my #40list this trip as planned, but there were some unexpected new items on there which more than made up for it.

Right, I have 5000+ photos to sort and a lot to write about….

M and W

Once upon a time, across the other side of the world. 2 teenage sisters – M and W – came from a poor family and it was decided that they should leave their beloved Mother and younger brother and sisters behind and go to the other side of the world to a place full of promise and a chance to better themselves in a land called the United Kingdom. Some say it was because their parents wanted a better life for them than could be offered if they stayed, some say it was because their Uncle wanted some help in a local business he was running.. Whatever the reason, it can’t have been easy for them.

Fast forward 50 years and both M and W have made a great success in their lives – Both have loving, successful children and are enjoying their retirement. Whatever the reason was that led to the decision to send M and W over to the UK, they were the first of my family to come over and I sometimes wonder how different my life would be if they didn’t come to the UK. We all got together recently and although our parents are no longer with us, I know they would have been so proud and thrilled at all of us getting together and celebrating in the best way – With good food, laughter and much love with your family.

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