Tuesday, 22 November 2016

DIY Gifts - Sleep Masks!

So last summer I (note: when I say "I", I mean with a lot of help from my Mother!) decided to make some sleep masks as handmade gifts for my friend's Hen do!  With these cold, dark days it seems like forever ago now, but I thought it would be fun to share what I made as I think they would make fun DIY Christmas gifts as well.  I picked coral and turquoise fabric from the shop, but for this time of year you could have fun picking some really festive fabrics!   

Not sure I recommend making 11 of them as it took me forever, but they'd be great for a couple of stocking fillers!

Here they are all ready to go to Spain where I was expecting they would come in handy after a few late nights! 

I'm not usually much of a crafter and haven't sewn much since my Prom dress in '98 but I got really into it!  After the hen do we moved house so the sewing stuff is still packed away, but I hope it's not long before I can make some more cool gifts, especially some tea themed ones! :-)

Monday, 14 November 2016

Afternoon Tea - Le Manoir Aux Quat'Saisons

I love it when a friend reports back to me about a special tea or tea experience they've encountered.  In this case, a friend went on a romantic weekend to Oxfordshire and stayed in a lovely looking hotel called 'Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat'Saisons'.  

Photo from the Hotel's Website

Looking on their website, I found an 'About' page:

"Created by celebrated chef Raymond Blanc OBE, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons is renowned for offering one of Britain's finest gastronomic experiences.
Situated in the picturesque Oxfordshire village of Great Milton, it is also one of the country's most cherished manor house hotels, with 32 individually designed guest rooms and suites.
The hotel received two Michelin stars in 1984, the first year of its opening, and, remarkably, has held them ever since.
Surrounded by lawns, flower borders and orchards, the luxury hotel enjoys an idyllic, typically English setting. But beyond the eye-catching displays are vegetable and herb gardens that provide the kitchen—and the acclaimed Raymond Blanc Cookery School—with ultra-fresh, organic produce, ensuring the Michelin-star restaurant remains at the cutting edge of culinary excellence."

I saw her Afternoon Tea piccies on Facebook and asked how she found it:

"Beautiful!! The teas were lovely ! And some really unusual ones! The scones were the best I've EVER had and the jam was home made!
The sandwiches were lovely, as were the cakes! And there was LOADS!! 8 quarter sandwiches .. a large scone each and 4 cakes.. EACH! All at Top quality x 
Pricey, but would recommend for a special occasion x"

Here are some pages taken from the Afternoon Tea menu.  As you can see, they offer a wide range of highly specialized teas and offer the sort of info about them that isn't always on offer, showing us that this hotel really means business.  I can see they offer Britain's own Tregnothnan tea from Cornwall, which is lovely to see, and many tea choices by 'Mariage Freres', which is a French gourmet tea company, based in Paris, founded in 1854 by brothers Henri and Edouard Mariage.  

This looks like an amazing hotel, and as my friend suggested, perfect for a special occasion.  I may need to save up somewhat before being able to enjoy it myself, but if the Tripadvisor reviews are anything to go by, it will be money well-spent!

Friday, 28 October 2016

New Forest Cream Tea

Hi everyone!  It feels like I haven't written on this blog for an eternity, all due to the chaos of life like moving house etc. etc!  However, after a while I realised I needed to take some time out and so my Husband and I decided to stop off for a cream tea in the New Forest on the way to visiting our family there.  We decided to stop at a tea rooms we know well; The Old Station Tea Rooms in Homsley, Burley as it's on a good route for us.

Image found at: http://www.stationhouseholmsley.com/

There's lots of history to these tea rooms and they've kept a lot of this historic charm by keeping an old train station look and theme.  Their website has a good history page for more info and tells us:

"June 1st 1847 saw the opening of the station at Holmsley. It was located where the line met the A35, the main route from Christchurch to Southampton, and referred to (until 1894) as Christchurch Road."

I love being able to sit outside at Cafes and a hot cup of black tea was plenty to keep warm on this lovely Autumn day.  They do have a nice indoor tea rooms as well, but I like the relaxed atmosphere outside with dog walkers stopping by.

I  was thrilled to see that I could order a gluten-free scone and choose soya milk with my tea, due to my intolerances.  I always feel a bit picky with all these dietary requests but I also hate it when I enjoy nice food, only to feel ropey afterwards!

I actually ended up eating two scones in the end as they were quite a bit smaller than the standard non-gluten free scones.  Oh well, it's good to treat yourself!

On the way back from our visit, we stopped at Mudeford Quay to see a glimpse of the water and a lovely sunset.  We grew up in the New Forest and do miss the forest and the Solent sometimes, but luckily it's not too far away to enjoy trips like this :-)

Monday, 1 August 2016

Letters of Note

I took advantage of a relaxing Sunday yesterday as I have a busy week/month ahead.  This 'coffee table' hardback book 'Letters of Note: Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience' has been out for about three years now, but there's tonnes of content and something I pick up every so often and take my time reading.  

"Letters of Note is a collection of over one hundred of the world's most entertaining, inspiring and unusual letters, based on the seismically popular website of the same name - an online museum of correspondence visited by over 70 million people.

From Virginia Woolf's heart-breaking suicide letter, to Queen Elizabeth II's recipe for drop scones sent to President Eisenhower; from the first recorded use of the expression 'OMG' in a letter to Winston Churchill, to Gandhi's appeal for calm to Hitler; and from Iggy Pop's beautiful letter of advice to a troubled young fan, to Leonardo da Vinci's remarkable job application letter, Letters of Note is a celebration of the power of written correspondence which captures the humour, seriousness, sadness and brilliance that make up all of our lives..."

Perfect read for enjoying a brew.
This moving 500 year old love letter was found buried with the Mummy of Eung Tae Lee written by the pregnant Wife he left behind. 

There's copies of the actual letters in the book, which I love because seeing someone's handwriting really brings it to life and it hits home that these letters are written by real people.  Some of them are so poignant that they say much more about life that a lot of fiction could.  As you can see, some letters aren't in English, or are very old and not particularly legible and therefore the author has typed those ones up along with a short introduction, which puts each of the letters into context.

I was rudely interrupted for playtime!

'Letters of Note' can be bought on Amazon, currently at £20.40 for a big hardback and there's also a new one out this year called 'More Letters of Note' for the same price.  You can also buy them on Kindle, which is a bit cheaper, but I don't know how well the pictures will come out.  There's also a 'Letters of Note' website.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Chateau Rouge Tea Series - Breakfast Blend No.27

Hi all!  As you may remember i'm reviewing a trio of teas by Chateau Rouge and the last of this installment is their English Breakfast Blend No.27

I apologise that this post has taken a while for me to publish, but since this is an English Breakfast tea and English people like to talk about the weather, I don't mind saying that i've been distracted with summer and the summer heat!  Actually, i'm not really allowed to say this, but it actually got a bit too hot for me, especially for hot tea!  A bit cooler this week, so here we go..

Chateau Rouge describe this tea as "a traditional English Breakfast Tea that is smooth, full-bodied and exceptionally refreshing".  I quite like the No.27 name too, very Chanel No.5 don't you think?  This is a 100% organic loose leaf black tea, from a blend of single estates in Assam, Sri Lanka and Rwanda (Rwanda as opposed to Kenya, which a lot of brands use).  They say not to infuse too long on the first go and this is because it can go a touch bitter this way.  I tried mine with milk, which makes a change for me, but it was suggested that way on the signature black tin.

I enjoyed this tea and found it a gently malty, zesty and refreshing, which is nice in summer.  Chateau Rouge may describe it as full-bodied but I didn't find overly rich like some breakfast teas and I think it was just as nice with a biscuit or cake later on as it would be at breakfast-time with marmite on toast.  Chateau Rouge received a 2015 'Great Taste Award' for this tea and I can see why. 

Lovely full leaves

The 100g tin as you see displayed is priced at £8.50 at the time of publishing this post.  There's also biodegradable tea bags for £7.50 if you prefer the convenience. 

Amazon also sell this tea for £9.50

Wednesday, 1 June 2016


Hi Everyone!  Long time no tea!

This is the second installment of my Chateau Rouge tea series and this time i've been brewing 'Butterfly Lovers Organic Green Tea'.  This is Chateau Rouge's signature house green tea blend, with leaves selected from China, Sri Lanka and Nepal and flavoured with Seville oranges and wildflowers.

The pretty yellow wildflowers were a lovely surprise when I opened the tin (I tend to dive in first and read the info later!) and straight away I felt this green tea was different to others around, as the aroma coming off the leaves was extremely pleasant.  It's obvious that this is a perfect choice for the Spring and Summer months with its grassy and citrusy notes.

I brewed this for 3-4 minutes at quite a high temperature as instructed, and found it too weak when I tried to drink it before the time was up! I really enjoyed this organic green tea; it was perfectly rounded, with hints of peach and a refreshing tangy and zesty quality.  Having the Seville orange flavour with the green tea reminded me of the pairing of bergamot with black tea to make Earl Grey.  So if you like a proper Earl Grey and similar pairings, this could be worth adding to your tea cupboard (don't be embarrassed, we all have one).   

As with most quality loose teas, this refreshing green tea will make at least two cups with the same leaves.  I found it had some similarities to black tea as there wasn't any of that bitter fishy taste you can sometimes get with green teas (especially if you over-brew) and therefore I really recommend it, even for people who usually prefer black tea.

At the point of writing this blog post, this 100% Organic Green tea is priced on Chateau Rouge's website at £9.50 for 80g of loose tea in their signature black tin and if you can't get enough of it, the large refill pack is £32.95 for a whopping 400g.  

Similarly, it's on Amazon through my affiliate link:

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Chateau Rouge Tea Series - WildHarvest Honeybush

Today is the first of three blog posts about Chateau Rouge tea!

Chateau Rouge is an independent gourmet food company, set-up in 2005.  They are named after a legendary Parisian residence and inspired by the era of lavish banquets.  They have a range of speciality loose-leaf teas, blended and packed in England and I've enjoyed and blogged about Chateau Rouge's teas before.  Today i'm excited to try their Organic Wildharvest Honeybush herbal tea!  

According to Chateau Rouge's website, each of their products has "its own heritage, authenticity and story of adventure and discovery."  The Honeybush, also known as 'Cyclopia' is native to South Africa, and this tea is exclusively and sustainably handpicked for Chateau Rouge from wild bushes on steep, south-facing mountain slopes in the scenic Langkloof, Eastern Cape. 

The Honeybush is then "dried naturally in the sun and special course cut for a full flavour".  After all that hard work, its final destination?  My house.

Great first impressions. This tea trio arrived individually wrapped in pink tissue paper and inside; Chateau Rouge's signature black tin.  Last year, we actually bought one of Chateau Rouge's teas as a gift for a male friend as we like the modern, unisex design that appeals to all.

Once you tear the seal on the recyclable tin, you see loose Honeybush tea as shown below without any extra plastic packaging, which is great. 

It's brewed for 3-5 minutes, but won't go bitter if it's left longer since this is tannin-free.  I've used my glass teaware so I can appreciate the warm amber colour of this warming herbal tea. Being herbal, this is a caffeine-free infusion and the WildHarvest Honeybush is also high in antioxidants and minerals.  Being organic this also means you consume the full-benefits without worrying about any pesky chemicals (woohoo!).

Unlike some teas and tisanes, the flavour of this Honeybush is actually just like the aroma coming off it.  It's called Honeybush as it has a naturally sweet honey flavour and is quite similar to Rooibos herbal tea.  However, I feel that there's more body to this compared to Rooibos and strangely enough, it reminds me of some Earl Greys I've tried because it has quite a malty base.  Quite a clever little herb considering there's no added ingredients like bergamot.  I think there's a smokey wood flavour too, and I wondered if this was because the look of it reminds me of tiny wood chippings, but I closed my eyes and it still tasted the same! There's also a peppery and peach taste to it and all these little flavours make slurping this tea an interesting, mindful experience...  How do you taste yours?

The 100g black tin is priced at £8.50 with large 500g refill pouches at just under £30.  Visit Chateau Rouge's website for more info!  Alternatively, I can link to this tea on Amazon, which is £8.95 with free delivery:

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Chateau Rouge Series

Hi!  Or should it be 'Bonjour' for this post? 

Chateau Rouge have recently sent me this lovely looking tea trio, which i'm very excited about!  You may remember one of my more popular blog posts a few years ago where I reviewed some of Chateau Rouge's lovely rooibos tisanes?  
You can click here for a recap!   

This time i'll do a three-part review, starting with the WildHarvest Honeybush so please keep your eyes peeled for this next post..!

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Afternoon Tea at Lainston House, Winchester

On Good Friday the sun was shining and we ventured to Lainston House for Afternoon Tea.  Lainston House is a 17th Century Country House and exclusive hotel, near Winchester in Hampshire, deep in the countryside.

Quite the  entrance!  I noticed they do Weddings here and I couldn't help but think of the amazing photos you could capture.

We were seated in what would probably have been a smoking lounge in the days of old, with wooden decor, bookshelves and a cigar bar.  Afternoon tea can seem a bit girly sometimes, so I think this was quite nice, especially with men present!

There was a good selection of teas and we chose a Taiwan High Oolong tea and the leaves were massive!  Since we all had the same we shared a pot, but I have to admit it was a little heavy to pour sat down and I embarrassed myself by pouring it over the table (again as the same happened at Fortnums, oops!).

This was called a soup on the menu but it more like a sorbet/palette cleanser and very cute!

There were lovely finger sandwiches that had plenty of ingredients and tasted great, scones and delicate patisserie cakes.  I've usually seen scones on the second tier with cakes on the top as a sort of pudding but it's OK to live on the edge once in a while ;-) 

This is a gluten-free Afternoon Tea below.  The scones were tasty but weren't as tall as usual scones and we weren't offered any cream and jam to start off with.  Once I asked, the staff were very happy to bring some and we experimented by breaking them up a little differently.  Over the course of the afternoon tea we had to ask for a couple of things but I did find the waiting staff very help and friendly.

The Oolong tea was a lovely amber colour and being only semi-oxidized was very light and refreshing. 

So this is weird.  But I took a photo in the bathroom, as Lainston House has lovely decor and I was really into the wallpaper!

Then I saw Darjeeling handwash and lotion...

After our relaxing tea, we then went on for a nosy around the lovely country house and gardens.

There were originally people sat out here but it got a little chilly once the sun started to go down.

 We had a lovely time having afternoon tea at Lainston House and as usual the time flew by (get it?).  It was Good Friday as well as a family celebration so it seemed like a fitting way to kick off Easter weekend.  The food and drink was lovely and the grounds were spectacular with great views from our lounge. The Afternoon Tea is currently priced between £29.50 pp and £41.00.

I'd also like to come back to explore further and use the accommodation, especially once Spring is well under way.  

For reviews, pictures and prices, see Tripadvisor here.

For more reviews, pictures and prices, see Booking.com here.