Tuesday, 20 February 2018

mshavachat discovers a traditional fruit and veggie stall

Open for business

A week or so ago, someone posted on a Facebook community page 'just back from fresh fruit and veggie stall at Hilliers' with a photo. The first thing I noticed was the majority of the produce was loose, ie: no plastic wrapping.

For the past few months, the media and online chatter has been elevated, educating us about the amount of single-use plastic taking it's toll on  environment and encouraging alternatives.

When you see images like this, you know we
have to do something!

As a result, I've been paying more attention to the amount of plastic and other unnecessary packaging we discard each time we arrive home after the supermarket, or other shopping (and we don't do that much shopping). Businesses have pledged to stop offering single-use-plastic straws, supermarkets are no longer offering free plastic shopping bags and charge for them while offering canvass or recycled plastic shopping bags (I am very proud of my collection of bags from each place we've lived).

The UK supermarkets wrap practically EVERY piece of fruit and vegetable in some form of plastic - from placing them on trays and sealing in plastic, to shrink wrapping cucumber and lettuce. As there's only 3 of us in our household, each with their preference to certain fruits and veggies, it's difficult to buy small amounts of anything, so we either do without or waste things.

With heightening awareness, we were filling the rubbish bin at home with plastic wrapping and trays each time we returned from the supermarket. I started to notice the amount of single-use-plastic bottles we have in the house - shampoo, condition, deodorant, soap, dishwashing liquid, laundry liquid, various sauces in the pantry, milk, pretty much all my cosmetics - the list goes on.

Are you feeling helpless yet?
Are you looking around your house, noticing maybe for the first time the amount of single-use-plastic there is?
Does it bother you?
What alternatives are there?

One thing I can instantly regain control over, is less plastic simply by shopping with Martin Lamb and his family at their Traditional Fruit and Veg Stall at Hilliers Garden Centre on the A30 in Windlesham! It reminded me of my local fruit shop we went to practically daily as a kid.

I was SO EXCITED to find a 'real' fruit and veggie stall/shop, that I introduced myself, explained I blog, and asked if I could write about them. I felt the overwhelming need to share and spread the word.

Martin Lamb started house to house deliveries of fruit and veggies in 1976, and established his first retail outlet in 1987 as a result of his professional relationship with growers and wholesalers at Covent Gardens markets. At the same time, their wholesale business supplying hotels, restaurants, pubs etc continued to grow and they knew that with the right mix, they'd be able to continue their own business as well as support the local growers who had come to depend on them.

Martin Lamb (left) and son

Like most small, independently owned small-medium business the world over, the rise of the supermarket quickly over took them, and in 1994 the retail business closed. With a healthy wholesale business, they were able to keep going ........ and reinvented themselves. In 1994, they started holding a mobile stall at Hilliers Garden Centre on Wednesday and Saturdays, and at Odeum (Fleet/Farnborough) on Fridays.

The produce is sourced from local farmers (which is super important these days) in the area and at Covent Gardens markets. I love the buy local shop local mantra in action and am very happy to support it.

The fact that most of the produce is sold loose, means that no matter how many or how few you need to feed, you can buy the exact amount you want! I'm finding the little and often mantra is paying off already - no wastage!

Check out the produce! 

When was the last time you saw this?
Mushrooms last longer in paper bags.

A real cash register!
And scales!
Memories of childhood.

One of the customers, MrsP from West End said, she loves shopping here because ' the friendliness and service is second to none. The quality of produce too' and I couldn't agree more!

So of you're in the area, drop by and tell them ms-havachat sent you, and take cash (no credit/debit card facilities)

With friendship

ms-havachat has news

This blogging business is tricky, and time consuming, and rewarding and challenging and from time to time I have a dream that ms-havachat has a HUGE following of expats from all over the world, chatting and sharing daily, creating an online community of people who like to pay-if-forward and share kindness, thoughtfulness and support with a lot of giggles.

So, while I don't blog daily, and I'm not going to start podcasting, I do feel like it's time to branch out and attract a few more chatters to the fun. I'll also return to more regular blogs here ..... I'm working on two series and enjoying the research.

mshavachat on facebook is so much fun! I love sharing posts from my favourite bloggers or what friends share ....... and adding my own photo's and observations is fun too. In some ways, the instant contact with you via Facebook overshadows this - the BLOG - the longer chats, where we have time to dig a bit deeper and share more and for that I apologise.

I've been thinking about adding ms-havachat to Instagram ...... using the same # and attracting a wider audience, who might enjoy my vignettes and follow the chats on Instagram, then LIKE the Facebook page and who knows, subscribe here.

After numerous mistakes, there's several empty ms-havachats on Instagram but thanks to my clever teen, ms-havachatuk is up and running on Instagram!

The ability to be out'n'about and snap a photo and pop it onto Instagram and Facebook is really attractive, however I also enjoy sitting quietly in our home office, music in the background, typing out a longer, more thoughtful blog.

Please accept this invitation to join me on Instagram, and share with friends as often as you like.

The more the merrier,

With friendship

Saturday, 9 December 2017

ms-havachat goes back to Winchester Christmas Markets

Thanks Google Images

Trying to get a group of friends to visit Winchester Christmas Markets on a Friday night wasn't easy, but four of us managed to get the kids sorted, hubbies to commit to being home at a reasonably early time so we could head off down the M3 for a night of giggles and Christmas shopping.

It was the perfect, crisp, clear COLD December night to go to Winchester Christmas Markets. The forecast was for super cold weather (it snowed every so lightly around 10am) but we still braved it. Four mums out on a Friday night. Two had never been to the Markets here, one had (but many years ago), and one had never been to Winchester at all!

One was dressed in thermal, long sleeve t-shirt, with a polo neck jumper, Christmas themed cardigan, winter coat, gloves, scarf AND bought a gorgeous winter hat. The rest of us had coats, hats and gloves over every-day tops LOL. And it was cold!

So cold in fact, that there was hardly anyone there when we arrived around 6.30pm. The mulled wine on arrival hit the spot!

Note to self: arrive earlier next year. For some reason (maybe the cold weather, maybe because they start trading at 10am) the markets shut at 7.30pm on-the-dot. We walked into one shop ready to buy, only to be told, "sorry, we're closing" and that was that.

I've been several times, and love it. Didn't take any photo's cos I needed my hands in my gloves. Hubby was pleased it was so cold as I didn't take too much money out of my wallet LOL.

The Cathedral Close is probably one of the best locations for a Christmas Market as they nestle peacefully under the strong, towering walls of the Cathedral. The soft, emotive lighting of the exterior of the Cathedral is so tastefully done. The Chalets are the usual wooden huts, some set up for customers to walk into and browse, while others present their goods to you from behind a display counter.

What I really enjoy about Winchester Markets, and my friends commented on too, was the number of local artisans and craftspeople offering high quality, unique items at reasonable prices.  Two of our group have been to markets in Europe and said this was as good, if not a little bit better! As a past resident of Winchester, I was rather pleased to hear that.

In November, The Daily Telegraph listed Winchester Christmas Markets as one of the Top Markets in the UK. 

We all purchased gifts, and a few things for ourselves. If only we'd had longer (and it wasn't so cold)

Next year, we'll plan better AND book a restaurant for dinner (took several attempts before we found one that could seat us. I forget how popular dining out in Winchester is).

The walk back to the car was delightful - past the Guildhall all lit up, the Old Wooden Mill with the Itchen River flowing very fast under the bridge, past Bishop on the Bridge, The Black Bottle, No 5 Bridge Street and the Chesil Restaurant.

For  more information about the markets, click here. 

With friendship

Monday, 4 December 2017

ms-havachat has lunch at The Rose and Olive Branch, Virginia Waters

I've driven past this quaint pub so many times, but never thought to check it out until today when a friend made a group booking for lunch.

The Rose and Olive Branch, on Callow Hill is like stepping back in time into a quintessential local pub, frequented by the same old timers, at the same time every day for years. Even the carpet oozes old-world charm!

Who knew this small, quaint local pub, on a backroad in Virginia Waters had such an incredible history?!?!?!?!?

"Once an old beer and cider house , this Inn is between 200-250 years old and stand on what used to the the Crossroads at the foot of a hill in Windsor Great Park. This hill was known then as Gallow Hill on top of which stood at Gibbet, which was seldom inhabited those days, bot over the years has been corrupted to Callow Hill.

Like all old houses, during the Civil War in the 17th century, the Royalist and Cromwellian  forces met here to sign a Treaty, upon completion of which the leader of hte Roundheads presented the elder of the Cavaliers with an Olive Branch as a symbol of peace, and received in return a Red Rose. It was from this event that this Inn derived its name and it's believed to be the only of one of this name in England.

In our sign can be seen the Roundhead presenting the Cavlier with the Olive Branch and receiving in return the Red Rose. Whilst in the background  the rival forces are signing the treaty outside the Inn at the Crossroads."

An historic story told in a simple pub sign

The pub has a reputation is for serving 'great pies' and from the looks of them coming from the kitchen, and the smiling faces on friends, we'll be back to try them! I really enjoyed my baked salmon fillet and chips (real ol' fashion, pub chips), while the BLT, mushroom and chicken filo and other meals looked and smelled delicious. Interesting to note there is a gluten free menu.

Food and Food related signage

Ol' world charm interior

We had a lovely lunch and a good chat over good, simple food.

For more information, check out their website www.theroseandolivebranch.com

Friday, 24 November 2017

ms-havachat discovers Inspirations in Sunninghill

Inspirations gorgeous shopfront
54 High Street, Sunninghill Ascot, SL5 9NF

This morning I met a friend for a coffee before art class. With time to spare before class, I decided to stroll the High Street in Sunninghill and discovered INSPIRATIONS, a truly delightful gift shop.

The strange thing about where we live, indeed for most of us these days, independently owned boutique retailers are few and far between, thanks to the multi-national global branded retailers. `Just walk down any major High Street, or visit a shopping mall (ie: centre) and you'll see the same retail outlets, varying only based on the socio-demographics of the area. Trying to find a privately owned, one-off, independent retail outlet isn't easy these days.

Bricks'n'mortar shopping is struggling to compete with online retailers so things like customer service, product differentiation, product knowledge are what's able to set them apart. The gaps can be huge if bricks'n'mortar retailers invest in their staff, their physical shops and products. I throughly enjoyed training my retail staff, and the interaction with our customers, the rapport and trust that developed all of which resulted in increased sales.

Inspirations is a text-book independently owned shop. Owner/manager of 18 years, Judy and best friend Janet are warm and friendly and know their stock intimately. They take pride in sourcing the best of British made products as often as possible,  and love finding British designers whose products will sit well in the shop. Their suggestions for gift ideas was most appreciated!

Judy on the right, with Janet. 

What a little treasure trove of loveliness. Fashion accessories like hats, gloves, scarves and bags are displayed creatively amongst ornaments and photo frames, while the jewellery is set to one side. 

There's a lot of stock in a small shop, and it's lovely!

Everything is well displayed and easy to see.

There's a bespoke toy section too  that offers high quality
brands and a selection across young ages.

Janet loves stocking Sea Witch candles that are made in a small village in Cornwell, while Sam Wilson, from The Cotswolds is another very popular British range.

There's a great selection of cards and wrapping paper AND they gift wrap!

Very true!

You won't find Inspirations online. They believe in 'word of mouth' recommendation from their client base, many of whom have been with them for 'years'. They smiled when the explained how happy it makes them knowing they are serving generations of customers, from near and far. 

I'm so pleased I discovered Inspirations this morning and was 'inspired' to take a few photo's and have a chat, so I can share it with you.

If you're in the area, do pop in and say ms-havachat recommended you.

With Friendship

Saturday, 18 November 2017

ms-havachat loves Huffkins

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If you're ever in the Cotswolds area of the UK (and I strongly recommend you make time to do so), you must visit Stow on the Wold (the most picturesque story book village in the area) and you must have a tea (or coffee) and eat at the famous Huffkins Tea Rooms.

Started in 1890, the business has only had 3, yes, THREE families own/manage/run the business.  Topsie and Faith are sisters and have been the proud owners for 18 years.

I was lucky enough to meet Topsie when we popped in for morning tea. There was a sign on the counter top that read ' We Supply our Handmade Fruit Cakes to the Royal Palaces' and I asked 'how does a small business in the Cotswolds achieve this honour?' which started a delightful conversation with a very lovely lady - just look at that smile!

A very proud Topsie showing off their status
as provider of Fruit Cakes to the
Royal Palaces

Turns out, you just rock on up to Buckingham Palace on designated tasting days, when Palace officials are sourcing new providers and wait in a long line with others doing the same thing.

About 18 months ago, Faith took a few fruit cakes to Buckingham Palace on such a day and the cakes were tasted and very much enjoyed. They submitted ingredients and other paperwork and voila! Huffkins provides the Royal Palaces with Fruit Cakes.

They also provide fruitcake to Fortnum and Mason and several other London stores, as well as their own tea rooms throughout the Cotswolds and even Japan! 

In 5 years, they will be eligible to receive the Royal Seal which will be simply another well earned recognition in the businesses esteemed history. 

The Royal Warrant is a fascinating English tradition dating back to 1840. It started because there was such fierce competition from local business and farmers to do business with the King, that a criteria was established and only those who could at the minimum meet them were considered. 

There are around 800 Royal Warrants today. Click here for the full list

Huffkins is in incredible company, and deservedly so. We absolutely enjoyed our delicious lunch, the coffee was great, and the cakes DIVINE as you can see in the photo's below. 

We look forward to following Huffkins (and returning one day for another visit) as they bide their time over the next few years, waiting for their Royal Warrant. 

If you see Topsie or Faith, please say ms-havachat from Sydney says hi.

With friendship

Sunday, 8 October 2017

ms-havachat discovers Burlington House and More

Fabulous exhibition, and doors, and building

Henri Matisse is one of my favourite artists and I've been fortunate to see a few exhibitions showcasing his work. Matisse in the Studio is currently showing at the Royal Academy of Arts in Burlington House is really special and there's so many pieces I've not seen before.

The audio guide was very interesting too, tho of course, several days later, I can't recall a thing LOL.

What my companion and I always find fascinating about Matisse is he can still be considered relatively modern (1869-1954) though for some reason, most of us think he's from a different generation of artists altogether.

After an hour or so enjoying the exhibition, we started our exploration of Piccadilly by walking across the road to the iconic Fortum & Mason. The store started way back in 1707 and soon became the most fashionable place to shop in London, even being good enough for the Royal Family.
Simple, stylish unassuming entrance to the store

Today, the food hall is one of the most popular places in London to visit, and like a Harrods shopping bag, a tin of Fortum & Mason tea or shortbread biscuits is a London-must-do thing. Recommend buying an extra one for you to have on your way home. They are delicious. The cake and chocolate counters on the ground floor are works of edible art!

Cakes and chocolate like no where else

The Fortum & Mason tea tin.
Too pretty to be thrown away.

Famous Fortnum and Mason Christmas Hampers.
Sales people were busy preparing and wrapping
bespoke orders for destinations
near and far.
It's too early for Christmas decorations and hampers but
here they are

We were VERY surprised to find that not one Christmas decoration had a Fortum and Mason logo on it - not even a stamp underneath the £40 tree decorations. We might have bought one or two as gifts had they had the famous logo somewhere on them (note to Fortnum and Mason's Christmas marketing department for next year maybe)

Harrods has it's Bear, and the Bag, and some Christmas decorations have Harrods on them; my cloth Winchester Cathedral is obvious, as are other decorations. Just think they've missed something here.

Anyhow, we enjoyed our look-see, and by now were a little thirsty and peckish so we indulged ourselves with morning tea at Fortnum and Mason.

Tea, Apple and Cucumber sorbet, avocado on toast.

Did you watch the TV Series, Selfridges? I think that's why I have an fascination with these old established retailers in the UK. To think they've been selling pretty much the same thing for hundreds of years is impressive. That ladies were employed in some of the first salaried jobs, that cosmetics made their debut on the ground floor, is a bit nostalgic.

Feeling refreshed, we walked across the road to the Burlington Arcade for a stroll. Reminded me very much of the Strand Arcade in Sydney (tho not as pretty) and many arcades in Melbourne. The Burlington Arcade was built in 1818/19 at the request of Lord George Cavendish, later the Earl of Burlington for his wife, so she and her friends could shop in peace and quiet (London was rowdy and a tad dirty back then).

The Burlington Arcade is 'destination jewellery' of all types. From diamonds to pearls, all types of watches (upper end of the brand scale only) and a few silver shops. The lalique shop borough back a flood of memories!  There was even a Manolo Blanik shop! It was an interesting stroll, and fun to have a photo with the Beadle. However, the retailers on the OTHER side of the Arcade were something else. It reminded me of walking along Ginza or 5th Avenue, just different architecture.

Every exclusive brand is represented with a stand alone store

There were security guards on all shop doors, and some doors were unlocked to welcome customers, but remained locked otherwise. The window displays were elegant, there were no price tags on show (hehehehehe), and in most cases, we observed there were more staff than customers (several shops were empty except for staff)

We throughly enjoyed our day in and around Piccadilly and Mayfair . I wouldn't necessarily put it on the bucket list of things to do when in London, but it's easy walking and helps fill a couple of hours.

I'm sure there's much more to these iconic areas of London, and I wish you well exploring them.

Wish friendship