Sainsbury’s Get Involved in this Mince Pie War to End all Mince Pie Wars (It’ll be over by Christmas)

I hereby present Sainsbury’s with the award for best looking pie. Very dainty details. Good job everyone involved.

As for the taste? Not that memorable. But not as bad as Marks and Sparks. Obviously.


How do M&S fare in the battle of mince pies?

These Marks and Sparks mince pies are a bit of a let down to be honest. They say all-butter on them, but that isn’t very evident from the taste. The recommended time they have to put them in the oven is too long, so the mincemeat was too hot. They look alright, with a simple incision in the top to give that old-school look, but I think that’s what leads them to let all the heat in an burn my tongue. Sibyl said too much mincemeat too. Oh dear Marks and Sparks.

Sibyl’s Travelblog – Issue 11

Christmas and New Year in Vietnam.


December was lovely with the lead up to Christmas in school. I got to sings lots of carols and songs with the kids although I got a bit sick of  by Christmas. They made me start singing them at the end of November! However, I could never get bored of my little 5 year olds dances to those songs.

I also made Christmas cards with the kids, the pins I brought over with me came in handy for making jointed Santa’s (their arms and legs could move!) Emily and I also got to watch a National English singing competition held at our school, in which lots of small children sang very cute songs. They had a massive Christmas finale with children dressed as Reindeer, Father Christmas, Trees and even a Chicken (my personal favourite).

I loved teaching so much. It was so difficult at the start, but by the end I couldn’t really believe that I could just do it and enjoy it. It has given me so much confidence. I was worried about university and having to get up in front of people to do presentations but now I can never really be nervous about any such thing.

The kids could make you feel like a celebrity when you walked into class, such a great feeling when a class of 30 kids cheer, shout and scream when you walk in the door (even though they were only like that because I played games with them). They would get so excited in class. They are so competitive also! My favourite class always fought to name their team Team Sibyl. Their constant shouting to get my attention did get frustrating though. Even after I finished teaching when I walked passed school (which I did on a regular basis as I lived opposite) they would run up and jump on me! I loved all my classes so it was very difficult to say goodbye.

Christmas Eve was lovely; we got the evening off work and went for dinner with everyone. Craig’s family was over, some of Glenn’s family friends as well as Georgie’s family. It was lovely to be around families. After dinner we went to a carols by candle light service held by both the international churches in Hanoi. They did interpretations of all the characters in the story of the birth of Jesus, by making up monologues. I thought it was unnecessary as what they did was read the bible passage and then re-interpret it. But it was lovely to sing carols and hear a sermon about Jesus and what Christmas should be about.

We did not have to teach on Christmas day which was lovely. When we asked for the time off we chucked a present at our teacher so she couldn’t really refuse! Emily, Honor and I woke up to Georgie jumping on us (bearing gifts) and we all had a morning dance to Christmas songs. I had done stockings for Emily, Georgie, Honor, Craig and Glenn so the girls got to open those in the morning, we all did other presents as well because we weren’t patient enough to wait for the guys (we reverted back to childhood.) Did you know that Aussies do not get citrus fruit in their stockings? Is that English? Or just a Cooke Steed tradition? (Stockings are meant to be filled with five gifts designed to stimulate each of the five senses.  A typical stocking would be filled with: Something to eat — fruit, or candy, A toy or toys that make noise, An item that is visually pleasing like jewelry, cuff links, or a coloring book, An item with a good scent such as cologne or perfume, Something soft like modeling clay or a soft toy – Ed)

We had such a chilled out day after that – we met all the gappers at a cafe called Puku for big cooked breakfast which was sooo yummy. After that we met Glenn, Craig and his family as well as Georgie’s family at Mocha Café; we exchanged gifts and drank tea. Such a lovely Christmas day. I got such lovely gifts. Everyone made such an effort – I think because it was our first Christmas away from family and home.

I got a massive pot of marmite from Craig which has been so great for traveling although me and Lucy are getting through it very fast! I am constantly getting it out to have with toast! It had actually got really cold in Hanoi for Christmas and New years – what I was used to at Christmas. It was nice wrapping up warm but the Australians found it very strange as Christmas is always hot for them.

We went to a restaurant called Little Hanoi for dinner with everyone. Probably the only time I will ever eat Vietnamese food at Christmas. Ended up going back home earlyish with Honor and watching The Holiday – of course we had to watch a Christmassy movie as I was really missing Christmas TV, I could not find The Snowman.

The weekend after Christmas all the gappers went to Song Cong to exchange secret Santa gifts that we had done with everyone. Phoebe and Bridget (also gappers) live there – it’s about two hours out of Hanoi. We all stayed over and had a lovely Christmassy time. They even got a Christmas tree and decorated everything with lights!

The bus back into Hanoi was crazily busy. Emily and Glenn had to stand in the door for about an hour. I managed to get a seat on a box with three other Vietnamese people. I ended up making friends with the little girl sat next to me though who was learning English with the ‘Let’s go’ text books that I taught so we sang all the songs and I basically ended up giving her personal tutoring for an hour. I also got lovely cuddles from her 2 year old sister – it made me miss Indigo and Logan so much.

New Year

We had a lovely New Year and we only had to teach for an hour and half in the evening rather than the full 3 hours because our school was hosting a concert. We ended up a Le Pub (our local English place) for the new years count down. They had the Big Ben sound effects as it turned mid night which I got really excited about and that none of the Aussies understood.

We stayed out very late and made friends with the then new door guy at our hotel Mr. Sinh, we ended up sitting by the lake until 5 in the morning (!) talking and eating cheese sandwiches. We had the most people stay in mine and Emily’s room that night – I think it was 7 squished into a double and single bed! It was a lot of fun though and the start of friendship (finally!) with the people that ran our hotel.