Friday, 10 February 2017

ms-havachat's thoughts on closing

I shared on ms-havachat's Facebook page a while ago (you really should visit and LIKE it, then follow it and join in the chats there) that after nearly 2 years, I had finally managed to have the mypublisher software accept my album and payment for a holiday we did in Copenhagen. When the accept option worked and the album started uploading without a glitch, and the payment was accepted, and the confirmation email arrived I was delighted!

This album is a symbol of my stubbornness. G told me on numerous occasions when I asked him for IT help to delete the software and find a new provider. He even suggested at one point to not make albums - can you imagine??????????? What on earth is the point of taking photos if NOT to make albums?

With constant software glitches and 385 photos being downloaded from my MacBookAir photo software in no apparent order into mypublisher, I spent untold HOURS creating a spreadsheet of photo, ID and description including the all important date (who wants a holiday album that's out of chronological order????????????)

The help desk was no help. Their explanation was that their software wasn't compatible with MacBook Air. WT??????????? On too many occasions G would just shake his head and say 'find another program' snd still, I persisted in creating an album. HOURS upon HOURS of frustration creating the album pages, realising I'd missed a few photos, adding a page in .... then realising the flow of pages wasn't working, so having to back track in order to go forward.

THEN, searching online for the name of the Palace, or the museum etc so that the journalling alongside the photos meant something. The album is a pictorial emotional reminder of a fantastic weekend with our best friends from Sydney, doing things together we never thought we would.

When the hours of frustration got too much, I did search online for a replacement software, but none  came anywhere close to mypublisher. I would sign in to create an account, download the software, upload the photos, start to create the album but the layout options were never quite right, or the process of creating the pages and journalling didn't flow as well.

The biggest negative in changing companies was that no one else was offering the LAY FLAT PAGES option. This is a huge USP for the company, and its makes so much sense. That's one reason (IMHO) Creative Memories was  hit. Their albums worked on a flat-open spine which meant the pages opened flat and not all rounded in towards the spine. They last longer and the photos, especially double page spreads look amazing!

Lay Flat Pages are a must for all books as
it saves the wear and tear on the spine
and allows you to see right into the centre of the page
without that annoying roll.

Using mypublisher brought back fond memories of my days in magazines and newspapers when layout and design of pages was something I not only enjoyed doing, but was good at. Creative opportunities, flat open layout of pages, quality paper etc are all very important when creating a photo album of memories that you expect to last long after you're gone.

You can only imagine my response when one of my lovely FB followers informed me a few days ago that she received an email from mypublishers' GM saying they were closing mypublisher in May, having sold or merged with Shutterfly.



Today I received the email she mentioned, from Juiena Rahman, General Manager, explaining that on May 8, 2016, after 23 years, the business is closing. After that date, we are asked to please use Shutterfly.

Shutterfly is the American organisation that partners Ellen and gives away $US10,000 to very deserving people. In a fit of 'this software sux' I did suss out Shutterfly but didn't like it.

Shutterfly's logo along with several others, including mypublisher appear on the home page, so I'm hoping that this merge/acquisition means that they'll take the best of both online offerings and the customer will have an even broader choice.

So, now I will delete mypublisher from my laptop, and sign up with Shutterfly and create my first album with them.

Anyhow, if you want to email the GM of mypublisher and thank him for 23 years of great online photo albums, you can tell him ms-havacaht suggested it. I wonder if anyone at the company will read this?

Here's the email,

Here's a copy of my email:

Dear Juiena

Thank you for your email explaining the situation with mypublisher.

I just wanted to say THANK YOU and your team for the past 10 years of fun, creating online albums using your incredible software. I spent many years in print advertising, and loved the creative layout and design options as I felt my skills were put to great use creating ever lasting photographic memories for my family, especially our daughter.

You see, we are expats, and have called several countries home these past 10 years. Our photo albums are vitally important to us for so many reasons.

So, thank you for the memories,

Best wishes creating new ones,

Thursday, 9 February 2017

ms-havachat explores Ripley, Surrey

The buildings on the High Street are charming
Ripley, Surrey.

Half way between MrsG and I to meet for lunch. For those of you in London, it's about a 40 minute drive - so not difficult at all! Make time to get out of the city for a day.

The village goes back as far as Norman times (10th and 11th century England). There's a date stamp on the church, St Mary Magdalen of circa 1160 (don't you LOVE history! Considering Australia wasn't even discovered til 1770, these dates always blow my mind) The Churches a Grade II listed building (the second highest of the three categories) and is amongst more than 20 listed buildings and cottages in village.

It's really delightful!

We met at Pinnocks' Cafe (one of the listed buildings) and had tea, and enjoyed the atmosphere so much we stayed for lunch (plus it was really cold outside)

Sweet, authentic Pinnocks Cafe

The service was friendly and you could tell it was frequented by regulars as well as out oft owners (like us). It was so warm and cosy inside, that when we walked in our glasses fogged up! There are several communal tables and a few tables for smaller groups. We were very happy tucked in by the window on a communal table.

Loved the tea cups a saucers, the menu was absolutely home-made foods, and the cakes were delicious. RUSSELL'S MUMS FRUIT CAKE made me smile.

The streets are a photographers delight! 

The streetscape is picturesque, ready for a local artist to come along and interpret. As well as Pinnocks Cafe, the Ship Inn and Ye Old Sweet Shoppe, Clock House are among other Listed Buildings. Each one has been meticulously cared for.

Ceders House Gallery, bottom left, is another listed building.

While eating lunch, several groups of professional looking country-walkers came inside for a bit to eat and a hot drink. Ripley Green is apparently the largest in England is 65 acres! Fortunately for the area, it's protected as 'open space' which is fantastic!

While we didn't get there this time, Dunsbourough Park is famous, dating back to 1539 looks amazing. 

There's also the River Wey to be enjoyed on a summers day (too cold for me at the moment). Check out information about the Way Navigation here. 

There's even a LAKE to SAIL on! Papercourt, is a lake of about 44 acres, on 50 acres of land and is where you'll find Papercourt Sailing Club (!)

This gorgeous village is also famous for cycling - with the Olympic Road Race going thru in July 2012.

For more information about this truly beautiful part of Surrey, please go to the website.

I am so glad MrsG suggested we met here for lunch!

You must let me know if you have been to Ripley or if you go ......... 

With friendship

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

ms-havachat eats out in Surrey - Misogu Japanese, Windsor

You should know by now we love our food, we enjoy eating out and we especially love Japanese food.

What's difficult with enjoying a cuisine as much as we do, is that, having lived in Japan and eaten the food there (which funnily enough is simply called food), we're spoilt. Seldom does sushi or sashimi or udon or tempura meet our expectations, so when we do find a restaurant that comes close, we're very happy ... when we find one that equals our expectations we're delighted!

My physio very tentatively recommended Misugo in Windsor, as she knew we'd lived in Japan and thought we might like it. She loves it. She wasn't too sure we would and was nervous in doing so, but I was happy to accept her recommendation, make a reservation and try it - we've eaten some pretty horrible, expensive Japanese meals so figured we had nothing to loose.

Our photo's say it all ........ 3 very happy little Vegemites.

I thoroughly enjoy and recommend starting
with awarm Sake

This is the 'second' order of the night.
Too busy eating the first few dishes to take photos.
Sushi, soft shell crab, Katsu, gyoza and tempura prawn in nori wrap.

The hotate (scallop) were plump and juicy and delicious.

The unagi (eel) was BBQ'd to perfection and served warm (missed the sauce tho)

The ikura (salmon balls wrapped in nori and rice) are tweens' favourite, and these were big, slippery delicious balls of yumminess.

The mature (tuna) and sake (salmon) were de-lic-ious.

As we were celebrating tween's first term report, her very pleasing first term exam results, G's birthday, and our anniversary we were thrilled to have found a local Japanese restaurant to have dinner.

I phoned my physio and said THANK YOU .... she was delighted and relived!

Misugo offers dining in and take away service.

The restaurant is small, so I'd advise booking.

It's reasonably priced, but Japanese does tend to be 'expensive', but for the quality of the food, the presentation and flavours, it's worth every yen, I mean cent. Tho if you don't over indulge like us, you might get out of it cheaper than we did. We really need to learn to pace ourselves.

For more information, please go to their website 
(Don't email them your booking - call! They don't read their emails LOL)

Friday, 20 January 2017

ms-havachat eating out at The Dog and Partridge, Sunninghill, Ascot.

Check out the blue sky!!!!!!!!!!!!!

When you're new to an area, you know where you need to go and how to get there and that's about it. If you're going somewhere new, you're in the hands of the Sat Nav Gods and could end up where you need to be (which is always great) or somewhere else (which is frustrating)

When you're new to an area, you soon learn to make getting lost fun, unless you've an appointment then it's so-not-fun.

You see, you discover things you wouldn't normally see when you're lost.

You're in new territory that you might not otherwise have ever needed, bothered to go.

Yesterday, MrsH and I weren't so much lost as in ended up at the 'wrong' pub, which as it turns out was great!

We discovered the Dog and Partridge in Sunninghill.  Parking's bit of a nightmare, but we managed to find one down a side street. I would suggest, if you're there on a Friday or Saturday night, to taxi there'n'back or be prepared to walk.

The fire was lit, which for once I was very grateful for as the air has a real cut-thru-ice chill to it lately.  We were offered a seat in two very differently designed areas - and chose the more traditional as it was closer to the fire.

The more traditional dining are

The funky dining area towards the front of the pub

Our lovely fireplace with an eclectic wall above.

The service was friendly and efficient. We ordered drinks and food and sat and chatted. MrsH and I haven't seen each other in person for about 3 years, so there was lots to talk about.

The wine list is very broad, the food menu had lots of yummy sounding pub-food choices. MrsH ordered salmon on onion tart and I had my all time fav fish, monkfish and swapped mash for salad (aren't I a good girl).

Just before we left, we wandered outside to find a very clever UK oriented beer garden (that's an Aussie term for outdoor drinking/dining area). When you first walk out of the building there's a covered area with bright coloured cushions ...... then the perimeter of the area is also covered, with seating and tables. The centre is open to the elements.

Outdoor dining (aka beer garden)

If you're lunching midweek, stroll thru Sunninghill Village shopping centre. There's lovely bespoke boutiques to mooch around. A short drive, and you're at Windsor Park, Savill Gardens, Ascot, Windsor. Everything is this area is a short drive thru woodland lines roads.

It's a very beautiful part of the world.

The Dog and Partridge was a very lovely find.

For more information please click here for their website.

With friendship

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

ms-havachat Eats Out in Hampshire - The Mill House, Hook

Saturday night dinner out. Tween was on a sleep over, and we met friends for dinner in Hook as it was half way for all of us (our friends drove from Winchester). Love meeting half way. Gives us an opportunity to discover somewhere new. MrsE suggested The Mill House in Hook, and I'm so glad she did! She was introduced to it by a friend-with-a-puppy, as they met here for walkies in the warmer months.

Think it's our new favourite setting for a pub! Maybe it's the Aussie in us, but we love a good outdoor setting (aka beer garden), family friendly atmosphere and good food. We didn't see it, but we did wonder if they might BBQ in summer!

What a delightful setting, even in the pitch black of winter. My photo's of the building lit up didn't turn out, so I've borrowed a few from Google Images to share with you (and obviously they are not night photos)

From the car park, you walk under this pretty canopy, along the
edge of the pond, thru the garden into the pub.

The back of the pub

The pond, with swans! This place would be glorious
in spring/summer.

As soon as you step inside The Mill House, you're stepping back intimate. This place has a fantastic history, stretching back to the 14th Century (don't you just love the UK for this kind of thing!) For those of you who enjoy history, it was mentioned in the Doomesday Book (one of 8 mills in Odiham). 

My quick photo of the ancient mill wheel and flowing water,
restored and set behind glass for all to enjoy.

Sections of the building date from the 17th century. Mr John Hooker is the first known miller to operate the mill in 1615, and it was last used as a corn mill in 1895 by Sydney Loader.

In the early 20th century it became a residential property (even today, you can image it as a grand private home, or a posh boutique hotel). It became the Mill House restaurant in 1990, and the mill wheel was restored in 1995. For more history, please click here

The building is magical at night. The Mill Barn was lit up like a fairy house for a wedding reception. We couldn't help but take a quick peek through the windows. The room was stunning. 

The barman greeted us as we walked in and we quickly had drinks. Then we were escorted to our table, upstairs. WOW! The room was a small, medieval banquet hall. Dark timber beams. High ceiling. HUGE bay windows. Ancient artwork. Fireplace. Chandelier. You can't help but smile!

Bar area

Lovely table for two upstairs, overlooking the downstairs area

One of several dining areas.

We had Korean chicken wings with kimchi, scallops with carrot puree and ham fritters (which were more potato than ham, and probably not needed with the delicious scallop) and spiced butternut and squash soup for starters (I was leaving room for dessert)

Our entrees.

Main courses were delicious, but I didn't take any photos! I had steak, G had venison sausages with mash and gravy, MrsE had cauliflower, chickpea, chilli and almond tangine (which looked as good as it smelled) and MrE had fish'n'chips. Very generous servings! 

Dessert, sticky toffee pudding, cheese board and ice cream. Coffee. 

nom nom nom

The service was friendly and professional (tho I hadn't finished my main course when the other 3 plates were being taken away which is always annoying, so I stopped eating and gave up my plate)

I can't wait to go back for a meal. We're looking forward to warmer weather and enjoying the outdoors dining experience by the pond with friends. I can imagine the family atmosphere on the weekends. 

It's also a nice place for mid-week lunch as it's close to Surrey and Hampshire. 

Check out their website for more details:

Tell them ms-havachat recommended you, even tho they don't know me, it's nice for them to hear my name :-)

'Til  next time, 
With friendship

Friday, 13 January 2017

ms-havachat discovers Eton and Eton Stationers

We've lived in Surrey for about 18 months now, and today was my first visit to Eton. It's not even half an hours drive, but for some reason, I've never been and now I have, I can't wait to go back and explore it properly. The architecture is amazing, the High Street has lovely bespoke shops, and of course, there's Eton College.

Today I went as I had a meeting with the delightful people at Eton Stationers regarding our stationery supplies for school, and I'm really glad I did otherwise I might never have made it to this quaint village.

First, a little chat about Eton.

The village lies on the banks of the Thames, opposite Windsor. Royal processions from Westminster to Windsor would pass through the village. Of course, today the village is synonymous with Eton College, one of the most prestigious private boys schools in the world. Established in 1440 by King Henry VI it was originally established to provide quality education to 70 underprivileged boys who would go onto Kings College, Cambridge which he founded the following year.

The school has about 1,300 students from all over the world. They live in one of 25 Eton Houses, and walk to/from school through the village streets. As I was leaving I saw one senior students crossing the road in his black tail coat and thought how delightful and odd at the same time. Young men (aged 13-18), preparing for 21st century jobs, in a school that's over 570 years old, carrying an iPad, wearing a black tail coat and tie. If only those walls and desks could talk! IMAGINE what secrets and observations they might share.

The BBC did a documentary a few years ago, following three new students at Eton, how the settled in, what life in their House was like, what a school day was like. If you get a chance to see it, please do. It was very interesting.

Commissioned work produced as notepads and
cards. Each one depicting an Eaton House. 

Thanks Google and for this terrific
photo of Eton students in their uniform.

Eton Stationers started as a the local post office, and about 30 years ago, the school invited the  current owners uncle to consider providing all stationery needs to the school and the students. Expanding into stationery was a huge undertaking. Learning the suppliers, researching the products, meeting the high quality expected by the College was a very steep and enjoyable experience.

The current owner, a qualified chartered accountant, offered to help his Uncle for a few months with systems and procedures and grew to enjoy the business so much, he stayed.

When he talks about the business and the College he speaks passionately and with enthusiasm. I got so excited just listening to him I went into interview mode and asked him if he'd mind if I blogged about it.

Serving a school like Eton take superior customer service, a can-do attitude and above all, discretion. Having worked in advertising sales, and various people-oriented jobs over the years, I absolutely respect businesses whose customer service goes above-and-beyond what's expected. Without sounding too pompous, I've prided myself on the customer service skills I've learned over the years and I was absolutely impressed by what I heard today.

I've also been a customer. Eton Stationery supplies our kids 'stationery kits'. It's a great service offered by school and is a blessing when you're moving from one country to another,  you've not arrived and when you do you're in a hotel until you find a home, have no idea where the shops are, and the kids are starting school! Ordering online and having the box delivered to school is a total WOW.

The shop is huge. It's a paradise for those of us who love stationery! From the every-day items like pens and pencils (but what a selection) to unique parchment writing papers and specialist art supplies. If what you need isn't there, just ask and the staff will do their utmost to source it.

It's here that you'll also find the Eton Gift Shop. Quality memorabilia items for those associated with the College but also for visitors to this well known and much loved English village.

If you decide to visit Eton, remember it's not that far from Great Windsor Park, you could walk the Long Walk to Windsor Castle and spend a few hours exploring the Castle. A stroll along the banks of the Thames in fine weather would be great.

I'm all about shopping local and supporting small business. Eton Stationery supplies those of us who are fortunate to live locally, as well as businesses and schools.

Eton Stationers website:

Please tell them ms-havachat enjoyed meeting you so much, she's happy to recommend you.

With friendship

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

ms-havachat dinning at Coworth Park, Surrey

Coworth Park from my car, taken on my phone.

Living a little bit of a high flying expat social life a few weeks ago, I was fortunate to share an early Christmas Luncheon with friends at the stunning Coworth Park in Ascot, part of the Dorchester Hotel Group.

Driving into the estate in the middle of winter is dramatic - naked trees spreading their huge, thick branches inviting you to imagine them covered in foliage. The 240 acres of parkland offers walkers and runners beautiful natural surroundings to immerse themselves in, there's horse riding and/or polo amongst other outdoor activities. All I could think of was how perfect a picnic under the huge trees, or afternoon tea served on the patio would be.

You're only 45 minutes from London, but feel a million miles from anywhere! That's a priceless feeling in this hustle and bustle world, don't you think.

The Spa is on your left as you drive up the private road
The front of the property in understated but
the welcome from the Staff is far from it.
The Reception area blends into the
surrounding lounge area
The fireplace and lounge area behind reception allows
guests to quietly wait while their car or taxi is arriving.
The interior designers should be commended for their
artistic talents with the Christmas decorations though out
Coworth Park.

The restaurant where we had lunch was perfect for a private function.
I loved the ceiling feature, and it's reflection in the mirror
at the end of the room was spectacular.

The Ceiling feature - unique and stunning.

Table setting; Soup for starters which was delicious.
Main course and desert.

Our Luncheon started with a champagne reception, followed by a three course lunch. The lounge area where we sipped on champagne and chatted was decorated for Christmas, and several of us appreciated the artwork on the walls.

The service was 5 star all the way. Each table had 5 waiters serve to the 10 people. It was orchestrated beautifully and was a pleasure to watch. The wait staff would position themselves between guests, and with a nod from the head waiter, in unison plates were served. The staff would return to the kitchen in single file ready to serve the next table.

The soup starter was delicious. The presentation with the softly toasted bread was so pretty. However, the presentation of the main course was disappointing. (Is that rude to say?)  Appreciating they were catering for 74 people at once, the plate was less than appealing to the eye. It's the photo on the left, above - what do you think? 

The layers upon layers of food, the pool of watery gravy (I noticed I was not the only one to hold my fork over the plate allowing the drops of gravy to drip before eating,  the huge carrots looked out of place atop 3 thick slices of turkey. It was delicious to taste, but could have been presented with more finese. Individual or group gravy servers would have been a good start, even a vegetable bowl per two people to self serve rather than having it all piled the plate. Have I been watching too many cooking shows on TV? 

When you compare the presentation of the soup and the desert, one wonders what happened to the kitchen pass for main course. 

Three hours later, we were sipping on coffee and noshing on Christmas cookies ... a great lunch! I thoroughly enjoyed not having to rush off to pick up the tween from school early as she had a late finish that day. As the room cleared of guests, the few remaining moved seats, sipped on coffee and chatted until it was time to go. 

Friends have recommended afternoon tea at Coworth Park (will keep it in mind for a birthday celebration or when we have guests visiting from overseas); and The Barn for family friendly meals. 
The Spa sounds devine too!

Stock photo from Dorchester Collection of The Barn at Coworth Park

All in all, my first experience at Coworth Park was really lovely and I am looking forward to going back with my family in the New Year and dining at The Barn, and sharing an Afternoon Tea with friends at some point in 2017. 

Have you been?
What did you think?

With friendship