It's Better to Travel than Arrive?

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive"

Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881.

"Robert Louis Stevenson speaks utter tosh and has

obviously never flown long haul economy class"

Kristy, first ever blog post, 2011.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Rose & Crown Hotel, Snettisham, Norfolk, UK

My lovely husband and I were honoured to be asked to be Godparents to our dear friends gorgeous baby, Alexander, in Norfolk.  We didn't know the area at all, and we need an overnight stay, so we asked our friends and checked and they both came up with The Rose and Crown Hotel in Snettisham, the next village over from where we needed to be.

We arrived late, after dinner with friends, and were the last arrivals for the day, but the bar and restaurant were still humming.  We were greeted by name and shown to our room, Beach Hut, on the ground floor near the garden.  It had been freshly decorated and had a large King sized bed and a big bathroom (I think it's also the disabled room).  The bed was very comfortable and the shower the next morning was a dream, great volume and piping hot - bliss.  

On check-in we were asked if we'd like a newspaper the next morning, and when we arrived for breakfast (included in our room rate) our table was reserved with a "Beach Hut" sign and our paper was there waiting for us.

There was a breakfast buffet and a hot menu and we enjoyed both.  Staff were lovely and friendly and helpful.  I had poached eggs on white toast and it was lovely, hubby had the full breakfast and it looked great.  Good coffee too.

Unfortunately we weren't there for an evening meal, as the pub has won many awards for its food, we will just have to visit again!

And just a super duper quick note, I firmly believe that WIFI should be free when you're staying at a hotel, and it's really getting on my nerves that there are a lot of expensive hotels still charging HUGE amounts for it.  You'll be very happy to know that the Rose & Crown provides FREE wifi for guests.  I'm now going cover free or chargeable on each hotel review as I'm sick of the cheeky posh hotels wanting to charge upwards of 20 euros a day to look at your emails.  Yay for the Rose and Crown!

The awards

Norfolk Dining Pub of the Year 2012 - The Good Pub Guide
East of England pub of the Year 2012 - The Good Pub Guide
Finalist Great British Pub Food Awards 2010
Family Friendly Pub of the Year 2007 - The Publican Awards
40 Top UK Hotels, January 2007 - Sunday Telegraph
Young Chef of the Year 2007 - PubChef Food Awards
Pub Restaurant of the Year Award 2006 - Eastern Daily Press
Norfolk Dining Pub of the Year 2004 - Good Pub Guide

The Rose & Crown
Old Church Road
Norfolk  PE31 7LX
Phone:- +44 1485 541382

Monday, December 17, 2012

Annual Flight Count

After a great weekend to catch up with friends in London, and become godparents to gorgeous little Alexander in Norfolk, we notched up two more flights, bringing the running annual total to 35.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Great Silk Furnishings at Jim Thompson Factory Outlet, Bangkok, Thailand

After spending the last 12 years living in 8 different rental houses that you can't really alter, I've become a dab hand at decorating with cushions and fabrics.  You can really brighten up a plain room by using cheery cushions, and one of my favourite places to get gorgeous (and affordable) Thai silk and cotton cushions is Jim Thompson in Bangkok.

You can find Jim Thompson stores in all the upmarket malls and a lot of the hotels, but I think the best place is their outlet store on Soi 93.  The outlet runs over 5 floors and has a huge range of interior soft furnishings and 2-3 floors of fabrics that you can buy by the metre.  There's even a cafe on the top floor if you need to take a load off your feet and rest your shopping bags down.

I've always taken a taxi along Sukhumvit Road for less than 100bht, but there's also a Skytrain (BTS) stop that's very close, jump off at Bang Chak and walk back a few blocks and then down Soi 93.

Jim Thompson
153 Sukhumvit Soi 93
Prakanong, Bangkok, 10260

Monday, December 10, 2012

Great Thai Food at Suda, Bangkok, Thailand

Ah, Suda, I'm always so thrilled each time I visit Bangkok to find that you're still exactly the same.  I would eat there every day if I could (and sometimes I do!).  I was introduced to Suda by a local when we lived in Bangkok and it's pretty much the first place I go each time I arrive back in Bangkok - when I'm sitting in Suda I really know I've arrived back "home".

Suda has fantastic, cheap, safe Thai food.  It's one step up from street food (the little stalls you see on the side of the road), but it's certainly not fancy restaurant food.  It's a place for locals and it's another place that you won't find in the guidebooks.

It's semi open air dining, down Soi 14 off Sukhumvit Road (closest Skytrain/BTS stop is Asok) and it looks a bit basic and grotty.  Let's be honest, it is a bit basic and grotty, but it's FANTASTIC!

I almost always order Khao Phad Gai with Prik Nam Pla (Thai fried rice with a little bowl of chilli and fish sauce) and a can of Diet Coke for the princely sum of 80 baht (€2).  It's absolutely scrumptious and I leave a tip of 20 baht.  They have a big menu and everything I've ordered has been great.  If you've got room, try their mango and sticky rice for dessert - swoon!

My lunch at Suda - cheap, cheerful and so tasty

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fantastic Nails at KaeKai, Bangok, Thailand

Bangkok is busy 24/7 and it's constantly changing, so it's always fantastic to go back to a favourite place and find that it's still there, and the staff are the same.  KaeKai is one of those places.  It was recommended to me over 10 years ago by a friend, and it's still doing what it does and doing it well.

KaeKai is a nail/hair salon.  It's cheap, cheerful and local.  You can have your hair done on the ground floor, and manicures or pedicures on the first floor.  You don't need to make an appointment.  I've never had my hair done there, though it's very popular, but I go for pedicures and they do a fantastic job.

A standard pedicure is 170 baht (less than €5!) and nail art (hand drawn art on each nail - you choose from huge binders full of designs) starts from 10 baht/per nail.  Essentially, you can walk out with two perfectly pedicured tootsies for 270 baht.  But please factor in a tip, these girls live off their tips and they do a great job - about 50 baht for your pedicurist and 50 baht for the nail art girl (if you have that done).

KaeKai is another one of those places that's quite hard to find unless you know it's there.  It's down Soi 39, off of Sukhumvit Road (closest Skytrain/BTS stop is Phrom Pong) and there's not much signage.  Basically, turn off Sukhumvit Road into Soi 39 and walk down about 200-300 metres - it's on your right and there's plants and things on the verandah - and usually a few staff members too!

Nails are done upstairs and you need to thread your way through all the hairdressers and clients, heading to the back of the salon, through the door and up the stairs.  Leave your shoes at the top of the first flight of stairs and go on up the second flight barefoot, through the sliding glass doors and into the room full of arm chairs.  Someone will tell you where to sit, and then you can choose a colour from the huge selection of polishes and make yourself comfortable.

Because they don't take appointments, you can be waiting for a while, but it's cool up there and I take a book along with me to kill some time.

Please bear in mind that this is a place for locals, it's not shiny and glitzy and you won't find it in guidebooks, but it's been there for at least 10 years and they do a great job.  I go there at least once every visit, though their pedicures last for about 4 weeks.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Great Handbags at Pharaoh, Bangkok, Thailand

Pharaoh - Best Bag Shop in BKK!

Along with cowboy boots, handbags are my other weakness - and Bangkok has enough handbags to make even the most hard core shopper happy.

When we lived in Bangkok I had a favourite place for bags, Penny's, in the basement of a local mall, but that mall has now been demolished to build a newer and better mall.  One thing you'll notice about Bangkok is that it just oozes malls.  There are malls and shopping strips everywhere.  Even if you're not  crazy about shopping, you'll find you gravitate to the malls purely because of the air-conditioning - it's cool inside!

After I discovered that Penny's was no more, I asked around our friends who still lived in Bangkok to find out where they went for bags and they all recommended Pharaoh in MBK - and that's where I've been going ever since.

Bangkok is a mecca for copy/faux goods.  You can see faux Lacoste, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger clothes everywhere.  You can see faux Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Mulberry and Hermes bags everywhere - but Pharaoh does the best copies.  They seem to favour Mulberry, Hermes and Todd bags in good leather that are well made - they don't do Louis Vuitton or Gucci.  Their bags are not dirt cheap like you can get at the markets on the sides of the road, but their bags don't look like copy bags - they look like the real thing.  The copies you buy on the side of the road LOOK like they're copies.

MBK is a huge, vast, giant, enormous (big, it's really, really big) multi storey shopping mall - not as fancy as some of the new ones, but it's a fantastic place to explore.  Pharaoh might be a bit hard to find as MBK can be a bit confronting on your first visit, so here's how to find it ...

  • Catch the Skytrain (BTS) to National Stadium stop
  • After you exit through the ticket barrier, enter MBK through Tokyu department store, direct from the Skytrain platform - there is no need to go to street level
  • Walk straight ahead until you hit the escalators
  • Turn left and exit Tokyu through the doors opposite Bata shoe store
  • Turn right and keep walking past the autobanks
  • Keep to the right of the mall and keep walking
  • You will walk past a bunch of handbag shops and you can stop if you see something you like and see what their price is, but don't buy until you've been to Pharaoh - if Pharaoh don't have what you want, go back to the other place
  • You might think you've walked too far, as Pharaoh is a fair way down, but you'll get there, and once you do you'll find a store so crammed with handbags and purses that you have to shimmy along to get inside and see what's what
  • If you can't reach what you're looking for  in Pharaoh, just ask, the staff are really friendly and helpful
  • The initial price they give you (which they will probably type into a calculator and show you) can be bargained down, but, as with everything in Thailand, do it politely and with a smile
  • If you buy more than one thing, you can negotiate the prices down again
  • If you're the first purchaser of the day, they might take your cash (cash only, no cards please) and touch it onto a lot of other goods in the store to bring them good luck - this is normal

Bangkok Skytrain (BTS) Map - get off at National Stadium!

Now you've got your bags, go and explore MBK - it's fantastic!  If you're hungry, head up to the 6th floor food hall for a meal, it's so yummy (and clean, safe and cheap).  One tip for the food hall - the stall owners don't take cash, you have to buy vouchers at the voucher stall at the entry of the food hall first.  Any vouchers you don't use can be taken back to the voucher stall and they will give you your money back on the same day.

Pharaoh's business card with all the info - they don't have a website

Monday, November 26, 2012

Annual Flight Count Update

A wonderful trip to Bangkok and Phuket with my fantastic hubby saw the flight count leap up to 33.  Keep an eye out for a bunch of Thai blog tips coming up!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Scottevest Trench Coat

I know I wrote about these Scottevest jackets last year, but I finally got my hands on one and I used it for the first time on this last short trip to the UK.

I flew to London Stansted on Ryanair and managed to get a return flight for the brilliant price of €55.  I think Ryanair is great - they're cheap and they run on time - but they do fly from odd places and if you want to check luggage in, reserve a seat, buy a snack, or get onto the plane first - you're going to pay through the nose.  That's why I only ever fly them with carry-on luggage (definitely one piece only, 10kg maximum weight and very strict bag measurements).  And make sure you check in online and print out your boarding pass before you go to the airport - if you don't you'll be hit with a €60 fee.  Really.

Ryanair was pretty much the reason I bought this Scottevest jacket, so I could take a lot more with me, wedged into the capacious pockets of the jacket - and it works!

On this trip over I packed the following into my jacket pockets, and I still had loads of empty pockets (it has 18!):-

  • 6 x 100ml tubes of mustard (yes, really)
  • 1 x 100ml tube of foundation
  • 1 x box of Lindt chocolates
  • 1 x bottle of painkillers
  • 1 x magazine
  • 1 x paperback book
  • 1 x purse
  • 1 x sunnies
  • 1 x Oyster card holder
  • 1 x set of keys
  • 1 x Ziplock of local currency
  • 1 x stack of UK Entry cards
  • 1 x iPhone

And, yes, it was a bit heavy, but it sat well and I didn't look like the Michelin woman (provided I didn't do it up and belt it - then I looked a bit odd).  I think it's well worth it (I got mine on special offer) and it will pay for itself in only one more cheap Ryanair flight.  I got the foggy grey one, but I think red would be more fun.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

M&S & John Lewis Shipping to Germany!

Now, here's some welcome news for us expats living in Germany!  Just in time for Christmas, as of today, M&S (aka Marks & Spencer, or Marks & Sparks - if you're classy) and John Lewis are now SHIPPING TO GERMANY - yippee!

At this stage M&S are shipping Women, Lingerie, Mens, Kids & Home Furnishings.  John Lewis are shipping Christmas, Home & Garden, Electricals, Women, Men, Beauty, Baby & Child, Toys, Sports & Leisure, Gifts and Special Offers.

One thing to note with John Lewis - make sure you check for "eligible to ship for international delivery" next to the item you want, or you're out of luck.  No mention with John Lewis of any free delivery deals.

I registered a week or so ago with M&S and received a discount code of WELCOME12 that gets you 20% discount off your first online order - and it specifically says to share the discount code around - so use WELCOME12 at M&S and get shopping!  They are also offering free shipping if you spend over €35 - not hard to do.

If you sign up for the M&S newsletter (here) you get your own 20% off discount code.

What are you waiting for?  Go shopping!

Oh, and unless you're mentally prepared, don't Google "delivery image" (like I did to get the cute little guy above), unless you want to see graphic images of women giving birth.  NOT the kind of delivery I was looking for ...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Restaurant Review : Barbecoa, London, England

Jim had eaten several times at Jamie Oliver's new restaurant, Barbecoa, in London and had only good things to say.  You know I love BBQ, so I was a very willing accomplice to try it again.

Barbecoa is in the new shopping development in the City, 1 New Change, overlooking St Paul's Cathedral.  We snagged an early booking before heading to the movies (we saw "Ruby Sparks", not even worth a review) and the large restaurant was already groaning with people.  It's across the hall from Gordon Ramsay's new "Bread Street" restaurant, which is equally huge and looked pretty empty.

Barbecoa is all about the meat.  They use Texas pit smokers, tandoors, robata grills, fire pits and wood fired ovens.  We saw HUGE steaks on the grill of the glass windowed kitchen, they were so big they looked like dinosaur steaks - something Fred Flintstone would have tucked into.

We started with the bread (oh, the bread), three generous hunks of warm bread impaled on a stick served with home made butter - swoon.  We then shared the Burrata and San Daniele Proscuitto which is served with fresh figs and almonds.  We both ordered the pulled pork shoulder which is served with a waffle and spicy coleslaw - the meat was fantastic, so tender that it fell apart.  We also shared a side of duck fat chips - yum!  There is also a dessert menu and it looked amazing, but there was no way we could fit anything more in.

The prices aren't mad for a celebrity chef restaurant and the food is good.  The restaurant was as busy when we left as when we arrived, and Gordon Ramsay's looked slightly busier than it had when we arrived.  The last time we had eaten at a Jamie Oliver restaurant was at Jamie's Italian in Manchester and it was AWFUL, so he's redeemed himself here.

Oh, and he also offers butchery classes and courses - they really are all about the MEAT!

20 New Change Passage
London  EC4M 9AG
Phone:- +44 020 3005 8555

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Annual Flight Count Update

After a lovely long weekend in London to see a dear friends daughter perform on stage in Her Majesty's Theatre in Covent Garden, the flight count has bumped up again - to my lucky number, 29.  Had a fab time with Jim too, so keep your eyes peeled for a review on Jamie Oliver's new restaurant, Barbecoa.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hotel Review : The Tremont, Chicago, USA

We found The Tremont on and many of the reviews are a bit negative.  I think that people expect certain things of an SPG hotel and this one doesn't quite cut it - yet.  One thing to keep in mind is that it's significantly cheaper than the other SPG hotels in Chicago, so you can't expect everything to be brand new and perfect.

As I understand it, The Tremont has recently come into the group, and it's being slowly done up.  Ceiling fans were being installed the morning that we left and there always seemed to be workmen around, though we weren't bothered by any noise at all.

The lobby is small and of an older style, though the lounge attached to it has been done up and looks very smart.  The restaurant, Ditkas, looks popular though we didn't eat there in the evenings.  We had breakfast (which was included in our room rate) there one morning and it was okay - nothing warm though, and no glasses, just disposable plastic cups.

The only guest lift is very slow, but there is a service lift a little further towards the back of the hotel to the left that seems to be much quicker.

Our room was fine, on an SPG floor, with a king size bed and a decent sized bathroom.  Rather odd controls/taps in the shower, but we worked it out.  The windows opened for fresh air (always a plus) and the bed was very comfortable.  The only real bug-bear was the bed pillows which were incredibly high and hard - I couldn't sleep on them, though my husband was okay.  I asked in the lobby if any different pillows were available, but no luck.  I ended up putting the decorative sofa pillow in my pillow case and using that.  I think I mustn't have been the first, as house keeping didn't change it back!

The location of the hotel is fantastic - right off Michigan Avenue (aka The Magnificent Mile) - and there is a Starbucks over the road if you're after better coffee than the breakfast "buffet" provides.

The Tremont
100 East Chestnut
Chicago  IL  60611
Phone:- +1 888 627 8281

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Jewish Coffee Cake Recipe

This is another yummy recipe I pulled from Pinterest.  The weather has started to cool here in Germany, and I'm getting back into baking, so I thought I'd give this a try and it's really good.  As usual, my comments in italics.  Here we go ...

Jewish Coffee Cake

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar (I used brown sugar.  I know, I'm such a rebel!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup sour cream (I didn't have enough, so I used some Greek yoghurt with honey that I had in the fridge)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (I didn't have enough walnuts, but I had a tin of honey macadamias and I used those as well.  They are, however, much harder to chop and some fell onto the floor and then the dog ate them.  Sigh.)
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

  1. Preheat oven to 350f/175c.
  2. Grease and flour a 9x9 inch pan (I used my bundt pan, I love my bundt pan!)
  3. In medium bowl combine flour, baking soda and baking powder
  4. Cream sugar, butter and eggs until smooth
  5. Add flour mixture and beat until smooth
  6. Stir in sour cream and vanilla
  7. In separate bowl combine nuts, icing sugar and cinnamon
  8. Spread half the batter into the baking pan
  9. Sprinkle layer of nut mixture on top
  10. Spread remaining batter and then top with remaining nut mixture
  11. Drizzle the melted butter over the top
  12. Bake for one hour in preheated oven, until cake springs back to the touch

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hotel Review : Sheraton Detroit Novi, Michigan, USA

This was my second stay at the Sheraton Detroit Novi, accompanying my hubby who stays there for business, and this really is a business hotel.

The reception staff were really friendly and helpful (particularly the morning the freeway was closed and two people helped me find another way to where I needed to go, printing me maps and really helping) and remembered us by name - asking after my husband when I checked in.

We had a very comfortable room on the SPG floor with a lovely king sized bed.  No complaints about the room at all, it was a good size with a decent bathroom.  The SPG "lounge" was a few doors down and, let's be honest, it's not all that.  It's about the size of two guest rooms knocked together and is often very crowded (especially at breakfast).  There's a waffle machine in there at breakfast, but no other hot food.  There is a good selection of cold food and a new coffee machine (which decided it didn't want to work for me), there is also brewed Starbucks coffee in big thermos flasks.

We ate downstairs one night in the restaurant and it was fine, no complaints.  Breakfast was included in our room rate and I had breakfast in the restaurant one morning - lots of selection and friendly staff.  There was a children's ice hockey team staying and they went through the buffet like a plague of locusts, but it was constantly replenished.

There's an On The Border and a Chilli's restaurant within walking distance across the hotel car park, and parking at the hotel is free.  There's a gym and an indoor pool, which I didn't use, but I did use the pool last time (in the heat of summer) and it was FREEZING, so I'm guessing they only heat it in winter.

Sheraton Detroit Novi
21111 Haggerty Road
Novi  MI  48375
Phone:- +1 248 349 4000

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Restaurant Review : Shaw's Crab House, Chicago, USA

As we flew out to the US on my husbands birthday, we didn't really get to celebrate on the actual day.  I thought it'd be nice to go out to somewhere fab in Chicago and celebrate when we got there.  I had a good poke around and decided on Shaw's Crab House, as we had both tried Alaskan King Crab in Florida a few years ago, and we loved it.  Alaskan King Crab is Shaw's speciality - yum!

I booked online via their website, which throws you straight away to, and shows you what's available and you book through them.  You get the chance to make a note on the booking, and I said that it was for hubby's birthday, so that they knew it was a bit special.

We lobbed in there about 15 minutes early and discovered that a booking basically essential.  If you don't book, you get your name taken and given a beeper with at least an hour to wait.  Half of the restaurant had been booked for a private function for the Ryder Cup - it's pretty popular!

We were shown to our table by the friendly staff and then our waiter introduced himself and took our drinks orders, taking our food orders when he came back with the drinks.

I started with the Maryland Style Crab Cake with Mustard Mayonnaise and it was gorgeous and not huge, just a perfect size.  For main I had a pound of Alaskan King Crab Legs which arrived with a claw cracker and a bib, so I could look extra classy whilst I shovelled it in.  And shovel it I did, it was so yummy.

Their wine list is good and varied, we chose a bottle of Two Hands red from South Australia.  I know, I know, "Red wine with seafood, are they mad?", but you'll just have to trust me when I say it was just right.

Our lovely waiter then appeared with a wodge of chocolate cake with Happy Birthday written on the plate in chocolate and a sparkler stuck in the top - how lovely!  Whilst chocolate cake is good at any time, I'd heard great things about their Key Lime Pie and we asked for the chocolate cake to be boxed up and to try the Pie, hubby's favourite, which was glorious.

All in all, it was a great restaurant with friendly staff, bustling atmosphere and well worth the money - perfect for a celebration.

Shaw's Crab House
21 East Hubbard Street
Chicago  IL  60611
Phone:- +1 312 527 2722

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Purple Pig, Chicago, USA

I did a bit of homework on before we left for the US, as I'd never been to Chicago before, and I'd heard it was a real place for foodies.  One restaurant that kept getting consistent reviews was The Purple Pig, whose claim to fame is "Cheese, Swine & Wine" - sounds like our kind of place!

We lobbed into Chicago on a Thursday afternoon, checked into our hotel, and headed out down Michigan Avenue (aka The Magnificent Mile) to have a bit of an explore.  We actually ended up walking past The Purple Pig as we were ambling along and it was absolutely jammed with people (at about 5.30pm).  They don't really take bookings - though you could put your name down and wait.  We thought it'd probably empty out after an hour or so, so we kept on walking and headed back around 7pm.  Mistake.  It didn't empty out, it just got busier!

We decided we'd put our name down and were told it'd be about 45-60 minutes.  The Purple Pig have the whole "put your name down and wait" thing sorted out like champions.  You can wait outside, in a big area with plants and seats and they have staff out there taking drinks orders!  We ordered some drinks and perched on some chairs that were vacated by a table that was called, and watched the world go by.  We only had to wait about 30 minutes and we were called to a table that was outside, but undercover and near some of those patio heaters - perfect.

The Pig offers tapas style dining, with a choice of Antipasti, Smears, Fried Items, Panini, Cured Meats, Cheese, Salad, A La Plancha & Desserts - and the prices aren't bonkers.  They also have a large and interesting wine list.

We had the following, and it was all outstanding:-

  • Pork fried almonds, rosemary and garlic
  • Charred cauliflower, toasted breadcrumbs, cornichons and parsley
  • Salt roasted beets, whipped goats cheese and pistachio vinaigrette
  • Chorizo stuffed olives
  • Melrose peppers with sea salt and garlic chips
  • Petit Basque cheese with membrillo
  • Milk braised pork shoulder with mashed potatoes

There was also a great looking dessert menu, but we were absolutely stuffed and couldn't fit anything else in.  There are loads of staff, all going flat out all the time.  There are loads of customers, all eating flat out all the time.  It's a fantastic, buzzy kind of place.  Go and get Piggy!

The Purple Pig
500 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago  IL  60611
Phone:- 312 464 1 744

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Vinsetta Garage, Detroit, USA

We had a fabulous meal at Vinsetta Garage with our friends Rebecca and Rick when we were back in Detroit.  Vinsetta Garage used to be a car repair garage and workshop, which is very obvious when you walk in.  It's run by the same people who run the Union in Clarkston that I blogged about back in August, so you know the food is going to be great - and it was!

There's no shortage of staff and there's a lunch and a dinner menu.  Food and drinks came out smartly and we really enjoyed it.  This place has got a huge following after only opening up in mid-summer this year.  They don't take bookings and the line runs down the street at lunch and dinner, so we headed in at 3.30pm for a late lunch/early dinner and we got a table without any trouble.  The menu changes from lunch to dinner at 4pm.

I had the duck burger (Maple Leaf Farms duck patty, cherry compote, caramelised onions, gruyere and arugula) with a side of Mac & Cheese.  My choice was really yummy and the sizes aren't crazy - I managed to eat it all, which is unheard of for me in America.  That said, Rebecca ordered the Mac & Cheese as her main meal and it could have fed a hungry family of four.  Luckily they're happy to box up anything you can't manage so you can take it home.

Burgers and pizzas (called pies) seem to be their thing, and they do it well.  Give Vinsetta Garage a try!

Vinsetta Garage
27799 Woodward Avenue
Berkley  MI  48072
Phone:- 248 548 7711

I Hope You'll Dance

Monday, October 8, 2012

Annual Flight Count Update

After a great trip to Detroit and my first visit to Chicago,
the flight counter has bumped up again.

Keep tuned in for some USA posts!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Apple Yoghurt Cake Recipe

Another yummy recipe pulled from Pinterest.  I was a bit dubious as to whether it'd turn out or not - but it did, and according to my panel of taste testers (neighbours, friends at the barn and the posse at hubby's office), it's great!  As always, my comments in italics.  Let's cook!

Apple Yoghurt Cake

  • 1 1/3 cups (150 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) granulated sugar
  • 7/8 cup (200 grams) unsalted softened butter plus a little for greasing the pan (I never have unsalted butter, so all of my recipes are with salted butter.  Rebel!)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) yoghurt (I used plain Greek full fat yoghurt.)
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (I used my mandolin to slice them.)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup (75 grams) granulated sugar for the topping (I used that vanilla sugar I bought in Paris that I told you about in another recipe.)

  1. Preheat oven to 350f/180c
  2. Butter 8 inch round pan (I discovered that I don't have any round pans, it's an outrage!  So I used a loaf pan.)
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon and salt
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (I don't have a paddle attachment), beat 1/2 cup of sugar and softened butter until it has lightened
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed.
  6. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture alternately with the yoghurt, beginning and ending with the flour mixture
  7. Stir in the sliced apples and the lemon zest
  8. Pour batter into prepared pan (It doesn't pour very well, it's more of a "scrape".)
  9. Sprinkle the 1/3 cup of sugar evenly over the top of the cake
  10. Bake for around 45 minutes in preheated oven, or until a skewer (I now own skewers, yay!) inserted comes out clean

Gifts & International Postage

I'm pretty sure that everyone loves giving and receiving presents.  I know that I get so much joy from trying to find the perfect present that someone will love, and I'm always thrilled when someone gives me a gift.

We've lived away from our family and friends now for about 7 years, so most of the presents that we give are posted or ordered online for delivery to the recipient.  There's lots of presents that you can organise online - flowers, magazine subscriptions, gift vouchers - even groceries.  But often you see the "perfect" present for someone in real life, not online - and then you've got to post it off.  Depending on the size and weight of the present, postage can often be crippling.  It can sometimes cost more than the lovely present you're sending.

Here in Germany, international postage is actually quite reasonable.  Early last year it seemed that they almost halved their international postage rates, much to my delight!  One of the big problems with posting presents to people who live within Germany (from anywhere outside of the EU) is their very low free-tariff customs rate - anything declared to cost over about $50 will attract attention from customs.  Then I get a note in my letterbox instructing me to go to the customs office in the next big town and start the negotiation process with a customs officer of how much I have to pay to get hold of the present that's been sent to me.  Yes, I have to pay to get a present.

It really depends on who's behind the counter at the Zoll (customs) as to how much you've got to pay, but you're pretty much always going to have to pay.  And they want to unwrap it all and have a look at it to make sure you're not telling them stories.  That kind of takes away from the lovely surprise aspect of the gift!

I know that international postage from a lot of other counties can be incredibly expensive, so I've been poking around to see what's a good option for Christmas this year - and I think and are a great idea.

I've been using since we moved to Germany and I think they're great.  They have cheap books, DVDs, computer games, CDs, downloads, clothing, toys etc.  And the best bit is that they deliver all over Europe and the UK for free.

The amazing sell cheap books and offer free world wide delivery to over 100 countries.  With you can order from anywhere in the world and have it delivered to anywhere in the world - I tried it by ordering a book from here in Germany (and paying on a German credit card) and having it delivered to Mum in Australia.  It worked without any problems at all.

Once you've registered with, they offer a free "Wish List" option where you can add the books you'd like, and make the wish list available to be seen by any of your friends and family so they can pick books off the list for you.  And who doesn't love books?

So, give it a try if you want to send some lovely books as presents and don't want to have to worry about getting to a post office, paying for postage, dealing with the grumpy Frauen behind the counter (maybe that's just me?), and filling out customs forms.