Monday, 12 June 2017

ms-havachat's blogging is back - HELLLOOOOOOOOO!

Hello Dear Friend,

Hope you are well! It's been ages since we chatted. How's things?

WOW, time flies right?

I would like to apologise for the long and unexplained absence these past few months. Nothings wrong. The words just didn't flow. ms-havacaht on Facebook has filled the void as it's been somehow easier to type out a '30 second sound bite' than write an essay.

Do you follow me on Facebook, or just here at the blog?

Why not do both? Love your company. Here's the link. Look forward to seeing you there.

So, what have you been up to these past couple of months (I know, MONTHS!) Our last chat was back in early April! But as we're friends, you know that we'll simply pick up where we left off and it'll be like yesterday when we sat and chatted.

Are you curious about what I've been doing that's stopped the flow of words from my head thru my fingers onto the laptop? Hope so, cos here it comes, in no apparent order:

  • Nominated interim president of the expat women's club
    • Steep and fast learning curve about the club, the policies and procedures in order to run board meetings, host general meetings, prepare for AGM, answer questions, and be available to 14 board members.
    • Honoured to be voted in as President for the new year, and the learning curve got even steeper if that's possible. 
    • Been on a few lovely guided walks in London boroughs (not called suburbs), enjoyed a couple of delicious lunches. 
  • Tween has had a few tween issues with friends. Boy did that take a lot of hugs and chats. So proud of tween in how she's handled things. Hopefully it's all behind them now.
  • Hubby's been away for business a lot! But we're ok with it. Monday - Friday are full, afternoons are busy and sometimes cheese on toast for dinner and a glass of wine, followed by binge watching TV is all a girl needs.
    • Talking of bing watching
      • Big Little Lies! WOW! Have you seen it? What did you think? If you haven't you absolutely must!
      • Tween and I started to watch Gilmore Girls from the very beginning. At times Laurali and Rory and the parents are so frustrating, but it's great tween/mum time on a rainy afternoon.
      • 13 Reasons Why. It's not really something you'd rush to watch, but it is worth watching. From a parents perspective is frightening! It's a great piece for opening conversations with mid-late teens. Social media, and how we treat people is so easily abused by younger generations. Some kids know exactly what they are doing while others innocently do what other's are doing; they don't think about consequences. MrsJ watched it and I was shocked (Based on nothing more than what i'd heard about it) She suggested I watch it - how relatable it was on so many levels, how easy it is for things to get out of hand, be misunderstood, for someone to be hurting and keep it quiet. 
      • There's been Formula 1 racing with Hubby on weekends to watch.
      • And the news! OMG. The news. As you know, I'm a news junkie but I find myself pulling away, not wanting to know anymore (you the same?)
  • We've been in a sort of expat Limboland these past few months waiting on the announcement for the tender Hubby's involved with - we figured in our minds, if they lost, we'd be gone (along with others); if they won then there's a better chance of staying one more year pending re-negotiations of contract which expire in November. FUN and GAMES.
    • That got me started thinking about 'the move' even tho there wasn't one confirmed.
    • Started purging; researched boot sales (they don't do garage or yard sales in the UK, at least not here); 
    • popped a few things online for sale (a few went, most didn't)
    • Started making The List of Things To Do pre-move (for a move that is not happening)
  • Took full advantage of lovely mornings and went for walks with friends. Did one on my own - same route, seemed to take f-o-r-e-v-e-r without company. Podcast kept dropping out as the wifi kept dropping.
  • Read a few books.
  • Started using our English Heritage membership on a Sunday and went for long drives to walk around grand mansions or fabulous ruins followed by a pub lunch. Highly recommend it. Gets everyone off their electronic devices!
  • Invested time in researching online photo album sites to no avail. I love and miss  more than I can bare - so much so, I'm years behind which is making the search even more frustrating. 
  • Love my mornings at home with a cup of coffee, Skyping for hours with a friend. It can so easily reach lunchtime and all I've done is chat and sip. I highly recommend it! Makes friends feel not so far away - you'd be chatting and sipping in a cafe or at home anyways, so doing it online is (nearly) the same. We so often solve world problems and help each other too, as well as catch up with family life and 'stuff'.
  • Bought a walking machine from a friend. It's in the garage. I use if when it's yucky weather and can't walk outside. I really bought it for Hubby so he can get 15 mins of movement in a day - he's walked on it once. Not sure I'll keep it much longer. 
  • Have had lots of home-alone days which in the beginning were frustrating but I have to admit, I've grown to enjoy them. There's something naughty and indulgent about being home. When the house is clean, the washings done, ironings away etc it's very lovely to relax amongst it all. 
  • There are times over the past few months when I've felt maybe the Monster from Winchester was returning, teasing me when it felt it could get a swipe in. I'm taking care of myself and feel confident I know the signs. 
  • OH! I also finished on the school parents board. The person replacing me is going to be terrific! 
So all that's been stopping me blogging is me :) 

If I said 'writers block' would that sound more official, more acceptable? Maybe I should delete all of the above and simply say 'writers block'.

The next hurdle is 'this time of year' aka farewell season as friends get ready to leave for new adventures or repatriation. Maybe it's the annual routine. Maybe it's the fact we know what it's like to be the ones' leaving AND staying, and sometimes leaving is so much more fun as in it's exciting to be heading off on a new adventure vs one-more-year.

Staying means a long summer, kind-of; it means saying hello to a lot of newbies, getting to know them, making a couple of new friends, thinking you've a friend when you don't, missing hanging out with friends who have moved on and are settling in so communication isn't as frequent; waiting out the year til it's your turn to be the one leaving.

There's much to be said about living in the family home for 20+ years!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

While writing this I realise that maybe there's more to my writers block ......... 10 years an expat and you come to accept so much is repetitive while so much is unknown. Maybe I'm ready to just settle? Maybe I'm over moving and starting over. Maybe there's not much more to be said and if I just blog about personal stuff it's more like a diary and I'm sharing way too much and the reason for the blog in the first place is lost in self indulgence.

I could simply go back thru the archives and rehash, maybe update the 'pre summer' blog themes, cos really they don't change - people moving on, people arriving, making friends, sharing summer holiday ideas and tips, maybe even a few photos of what we get up to. The first day of school chats, orientation, suggestions on getting involved, making friends, girl-dating etc.

Groundhogs day for expats.

How's your summer shaping up?
What plans do you have?
If it's winter where you are, how are you coping?

Promise to chat with you here more often, and I hope you'll join us over on Facebook.

With friendship

Saturday, 1 April 2017

ms-havachat discovers Pizza East in Shoreditch, London and street art

Another opportunity to stroll an area of London and learn about it's history and place in modern London. There's seriously so much to see and do and learn in this city.

We started with a fascinating history about the area, saw famous street art (even a Banksy  behind glass), the original Stik People and then had a yummy lunch. So what started out as a quick review about Pizza East (which I love), the chat morphed into a bit of a review about the whole day.

Shoreditch has to be one of the most interesting, eclectic areas of London I've explored so far. Sadly the weather was awful - it was cold and wet, which meant looking UP at artwork on buildings wasn't easy with umbrellas, so another visit on a dry day will be organised.

It's probably easier if you simply click here for a brief history as you know me, I love it when I hear it, would love to remember IT ALL to share it with you but ......... apparently I'm not the only one (thank goodness) as several friends on the tour said the same thing. They go back to do their photos on Facebook and think what was that? where were we? what did our guide say?

Walking from the station, we passed Boxpark but didnt' go in. In fact, with this guide, we tend not to go in anywhere! When there's 15+ ladies, it would be a nightmare getting everyone out and keeping on schedule. So we see the exterior of places and make mental notes to return.

The architecture was very mixed, with really interesting history of different nationalities moving in and out of the area of the decades, and with them the food, music and art of their homeland. Some areas were very poor indeed, and as Shoreditch was 'just' outside the walls of London in days gone by, artists and musicians, and the poorer groups of society lived happily here, doing their own thing, away from the rules of within London City. While it's now very much as suburb of London you can feel there's still a bit of that mischief in the air.

With close proximity to London CBD, the area is transforming again into quite a trendy area, expensive housing, fashion, restaurants, galleries and more. If we were empty nesters, and hubby was based in London I think it would be somewhere we'd consider living (if we could afford it)

ROA's work is amazing! This is from Google images, and
when we saw it last week, another artist had
added nomadic native hunters in and around the legs of the animal,
creating a hide'n'seek scenario about hunting and gathering. 
Romeo and Juliet ..... the pub has been left standing in the middle of
an excavation site, ready for redevelopment. The history of the pub,
and the symbolism of this street art ensured it's preservation.
The first performance of Rome and Juliet took place at a theatre close by
(there's two theatres, and each claim this event as their own)

Add caption

One of the areas' most famous artists, and works STIK.
It was wonderful to see this work up close.


This This entire area is amazing! You really should make the time to visit - a whole day infact. 

You must remember to LOOK all around you, in every direction as sometimes what you need to see isn't always apparent (there's several brightly coloured mushrooms on top of buildings for example, and some street signs have been reworked into art)

You can always do a guided street art tour. 

It's yet another place I'd enjoy going back to as we only scratched the surface and the weather wasn't great.

For Pizza East go to

The walking tour we did was with a private guide, however, if you simply Google Search for "Shoreditch Street Art Tours' you'll find several to choose from.

With friendship

Sunday, 19 March 2017

ms-havachat eating out in Oxford - Vault Garden Cafe

Gorgeous Entrance
Whenever I go to Oxford, I take the train via Reading. Parking can be a nightmare in/around Oxford, even at the park'n'ride. I don't mind catching trains. I enjoy watching the changing countryside and people watching, or I listen to a podcast on my phone. Oxfords a 'walking city' tho a lot of locals cycle between colleges, and of course there are LOTS of tourists to dodge.

Once away from the hustle and bustle of the High Street, as you walk between colleges, along cobblestone streets and laneways, you are walking in a by-gone era. It's fabulous!

This visit, I was meeting a friend for lunch at the Vault Cafe. We'd not caught up for ages and all we really wanted to do was drink coffee, enjoy lunch and chat. My last visit I did the same, tho at the MacDonald Hotel (and it was also a lovely day)

The Vault Garden Cafe is a delightful alternative to any High Street Cafe simply because of it's unique location, set in Oxford University's Old Congregation House, dating back to 1320.

Did you see that date?

Imagine the bazillions of people that have walked on the same cobble stones as me in this area!

MIND BOGGLING and somehow rather calming.

It helps you realise that no matter what, the world keeps turning ....... life goes on. It might be different, but it goes on.

Between the train station and the Vault Cafe, I stopped to notice the doors ...... so many charming, old doors. I'm still collecting photos for my DOORS AND WINDOWS OF EUROPE coffee table album, and while I've numerous similar ones, these grabbed my attention.

I arrived at the cafe a wee bit earlier than my friend, so I walked around the square. The sun was shining.  The sky was blue. It was a tad chilly out of the sunshine, but it was a glorious day and I fell in love with Oxford just a little bit more.

We sipped (a rather good coffee) in the garden of the Vault Cafe, looking at the blue sky and watching people going in and out of the Sheldonian Theatre.

Check out that blue English sky!

The Sheldonian Theatre was built over five years, from 1664 and is one of the universities main buildings. Today it's a ceremonial hall, where students are admitted to the University, receive their degrees as well as being used as the Universities Parliament. It's open to the public when not being used for official business (which it was while we were there, so another reason to go back)

The grounds of the Church where the Vault Garden Cafe is, is very pleasant. The spring flowers were in bloom, the tables and chairs were a hotchpotch of styles.

Once inside, the vaulted ceiling takes your breath away. Again, the age of this place is incredible and yet, here you can sit sipping coffee and eating delicious food while goodness knows what generations have done before.

Besides the history and atmosphere of the place, it's location is perfect. The food being served looked and smelled delicious, for a number of reasons I didn't eat, but my friend did and she said it was one of the most delicious lunches she's had in ages.

As I love Oxford and there's still so much to discover, I know I'll be back to the Vault.

For more information:

With friendship

Sunday, 5 March 2017

ms-havachat eats out in Ascot - AYA Court in Ascot

If you've been following ms-havacaht for a while, you'll know a few things about my little family.

We enjoy eating out and we LOVE Asian food.

We've driven past Aya Court on the way to/from Ascot for the past 18 months and today was the first time we ate there, but it won't be the last.

Looks can be deceiving - the restaurant is light and airy and big!

To the left of the entrance, there's an intimate dining area with a bench seat, and today there were 3 tables set up and if I recall, you could sit 6 people, maybe 7 along the bench and the same opposite; plus two smaller tables for two.

To the right of the entrance, is the larger dining area, with lots of natural light and a door leading onto the outdoor yard (bottom right photo) area with a fountain (it was empty, but I'm guessing that's cos it's winter, and in spring/summer it would be very nice to enjoy a pre-dinner drink out here.

Past the bar, there's another smaller dining area (the centre left photo) remember this was once a house, so the flow of smaller rooms makes sense. The smaller dining areas are intimate but you don't feel separate (maybe the one in the front).

There's two more surprises left!

One is an outdoor dining area (centre right photo), and the other is a second floor of tables! Perfect for a private function (photo below). Today it was set up for 45, but you could probably fit a few more in. There's a small bar there too, so it really would be a fun party.

On arrival, we were given delicious Chinese donuts, cut in half and for some odd reason, small pieces of flat bread.  The rest for the spoon and chopsticks was contemporary in design and a nice touch for people who rely on cutlery. The jasmine tea was served in a traditional tea pot and the wait staff were very attentive in pouring it for us and replacing the entire tea pot, not merely topping it up with hot water as some restaurants do.

Today, it was just the 3 of us, and we ate very good dim sum. We got a wee shock when the bill came £98 but we ate well (no alcohol)

It's after 6pm, we're still pleasantly full.

We feel like we're settling in well to the area .... found our local Japanese (Misugo) and now, Chinese.

For more information, please click here for Aya Court website.

Tell them ms-havachat recommended you (not that they know me, but they might after this)

With friendship

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)