MTT Travel: The Town Hall Hotel, Bethnal Green

The Town Hall Hotel review

On occasion I’m one of those people who gets smug about no longer living in London. I noticed it when I went for lunch with my Sister-in-Law recently; I started waxing lyrical about the low crime rates, big houses, affordable living costs and good schools out here. And it’s only 30 minutes into Euston!!! Amazing!!!!

I do adore living out here, it’s true. I have a house with a big garden for less than my old Shoreditch studio flat, I can afford a car and a gym membership and live within a 10 minute drive of one of the best schools in the county (that I didn’t have to fight to get my children into). The train service into the city is quick, regular and as long as you’re not travelling in peak times, relatively inexpensive.

But I still have to live with the fact I reside in Milton Keynes ;) It’s not the sexiest town in the country, that’s for sure. I can’t pop to Columbia Road flower market for my peonies at the weekend, our most exotic restaurant is probably Yo! Sushi and I don’t think we’ll see cold press coffee until 2020. Swings and roundabouts, swings and roundabouts.

Because I save all that money by living outside of the big smoke I like to think I’m able to splurge on a hotel for the times I do need to travel in and stay. And we know how much I like a nice hotel, am I right? So when my blog pal Alice offered me a spontaneous ticket to see Blur at Hyde Park a couple of weeks ago I thought  it’s hotel time! and jumped on HotelTonight (a fab app for last minute hotel booking fans like me) to see what I could find.

The Town Hall Hotel review

The Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green was available, a place I’ve wanted to try for a while. I swiftly booked it for £128 (rates on their website start at around £217) and checked in at the allotted time of 3pm. That is, after a really quick diversion to Spitalfields Anthropologie and Office to buy jeans and trainers, having packed only dresses and heels for Britmums the day before that were most definitely not suitable for Blur-watching.

The Town Hall Hotel review

I was offered an upgrade to one of their apartments upon arrival and if you know me at all you’ll know that ‘upgrade’ is one of my most favoured words. THANK YOU!

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My room was lovely – on the ground floor it consisted of an entrance hall with wardrobe, a kitchen, living space, bedroom and wet room/loo. It was packed to the rafters with beautiful features; huge windows, fireplaces (x 2), antique furniture and a beautiful muted colour scheme.

IMG_0658 copyI sat down, made myself an espresso and got comfortable reading about the history of the beautiful Town Hall. Which I won’t ruin, you’ll just have to go and discover it for yourself ;) Basically it originally opened in 1910 and has been through many iterations (including a famous film locations) before being saved from ruin and becoming the gorgeous hotel it is today.

The kitchen had absolutely everything you might need (and lots of things you probably won’t) so for those who stay for an extended period of time on business it is perfect to rustle up a bit of dinner or breakfast if you get tired of restaurant or room service dining.

The Town Hall Hotel reviewThe lounge area was lovely with a huge L-shaped sofa and big television. I obvs made good use of this and blasted out Kisstory while I was getting ready for Blur that evening.

On to the bathroom – it featured L’Occitane products (+1 point) and one of those dinner plate shower heads that releases so much water it makes you feel like you’re drowning. The glass loo and shower room were separated from the bathroom only by a white curtain so you’d have to make sure you knew whoever you were sharing with pretty darn well. Luckily me myself and I are pretty well-acquainted so we were happy.

The in-room facilities were good; I’m always disappointed by hotel hairdryers but this one did the job well. There were your standard bits and bobs – safe, umbrella, phone etc etc. Everything you might need.

The location is a bit out of the way but it’s a four minute walk to Bethnal Green tube station and from there you can get the Central Line straight into town. Bethnal Green has so much to do and see, too – it’s a real up-and-coming area for restaurants and bars, two of which are in the hotel itself.

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And Blur, how were they? I hear you ask.

AMAZING. Damon Albarn does not get older, only better, and Song 2 will go down in history as a gig-going highlight for me. It rained the whole time and my £10 hotel umbrella was confiscated but it was SO worth it. My night ended in a gay club in Stoke Newington with my hairdresser (who isn’t gay). As you do.

The Town Hall Hotel, Patriot Square, London E2 9NF

www.townhallhotel.com

 

 

Going Balls To The Wall, Learning How To Fail and Other Life Lessons From Thailand

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I’m going to start this story with another story, which is surely how all the best stories begin.

When I went to Thailand a couple of months ago I had the absolute pleasure of crossing paths with Laura, someone I’d known on Twitter for yonks and yonks. We’d be in Bangkok for 24 hours at the same time and had never managed to meet up in London so we agreed to hang out on the other side of the world. Casual.

Now, Laura’s blog is one of a few that I love. She lays bare her heart and her head in stories of raw, true human emotional experience and emotion. Some of it resonates and ALL of it prompts me to think and for that I adore her words. So I was looking forward to meeting her, sharing the life experiences I know we’d had in common and getting to know each other better.

I’m sure Laura won’t mind that I describe her as a force of nature. She is HERE, she is PROUD, she know what she wants and she ain’t afraid to get it. As soon as I met Laura we got into one of those conversations that is just so intensely interesting that I remember wishing more than once that I had a pen and paper to write down the golden nuggets of truth she was telling me (over pints of £1 Thai beers, natch).

In the last year I’ve had a personal motto, and that is JFDI. Just fucking do it. Because if you want to do something you should – life is too short and uncertain not to. Laura embodies this motto, she goes where her heart takes her, falls in love with abandon, tries new things, puts herself in uncertain situations… because what is life about if not that?

I walked away from my 5 hours with Laura feeling indestructible (and more than a little pissed, it has to be said). I’m so sure of what I want out of life but I have to admit that I’m still a little wobbly on how to get there, but Laura made me focus on what I want: cut the crap, balls to the wall, just fucking do it.

I want to travel, I want to meet new people, I want to write, I want to make people happy with my cooking, I want to be the healthiest I can be, I want to train, I want to work hard, I want security for my family. That’s what I want, and I will always love Laura for giving me the courage to  be proud of that. In the hours I spent with Laura she allowed me to summarise and process the changes I went through experiencing rural N.E. Thailand and converted that into ways I could live my life moving forward.

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On to the story part of my story.

Six weeks ago I was offered a promotion that was so very unexpected. I’d been working freelance as an Account Director at a Marketing agency and they asked me to come on permanently to take on their Head of Marketing role. I was stoked. I’d have a team, lots of great clients, autonomy, fiscal responsibility… it was a huge deal. I basked in the glory of my new job for a while – I’d worked so hard for the last few years, why not? – and got on with the job in hand.

Full-on is not the word. This was the challenge of all challenges. The Marketing team at the agency had gone through many recent personnel changes, there were difficult and time-consuming situations that needed resolving and I was leading projects that I had little experience in. Having worked in digital almost since I designed my first website 15 years ago it was odd to look at physical flyers with print lead times, traditional marketing plans, campaigns that didn’t have websites or Twitter or Facebook at their core. I felt out of my depth which is something I haven’t experienced in years. I was working my arse off, 70 hours a week at one point, but the job was never done. When I worked for myself I was always confident that I’d done the best job possible but working in a business when you’re responsible not only for your own actions but those of a team was hard – I was answerable for everyone’s work, not just my own.

I really loved the job. It was challenging, exciting, all-encompassing. But tough, TOUGH. I started feeling more stressed than I think I ever have, didn’t sleep well, was unconsciously grinding my teeth, developed palpitations. I was rushing around from pillar to post, neglecting my friends and becoming snappy with the children. Our house was a state because I just didn’t have time to clean and one week I ate cucumber for breakfast four days in a row because I hadn’t visited a supermarket in weeks. I was so tired that I became reliant on an afternoon pickup from those tubs of M&S Caramel Crispy Bites (I don’t do coffee). I’d be at work all day, pick up the children, put them to bed then get back to work until bedtime. It was relentless. Enjoyable but relentless.

And so I had one moment last Wednesday at about 11.30pm when I received an email I didn’t really want to receive and I burst into tears. My first thought was, “I really don’t want to do this anymore” and then my second thought was “so don’t do it anymore, idiot”.

Doh.

I’ll admit my pride was a bit hurt at the thought I’d tried really bloody hard at this job and just didn’t have the mental, emotional or physical capacity to see it through but in the end logic won. It would have been easier to keep trucking on with my lovely big reliable salary and impressive job title as I slowly descended into a pool of my own stress-related mentalness but I thought back to my time with Laura and realised this is not what I want. This is not something that makes me want to go balls to the wall. I want to do what I’m good at, be in charge of my own destiny, work in an area I feel real passion and a connection for (that’s you, internet).

Plus, come on. I’m a single mother of a 3 and 4 year old, it’s hardly realistic to be working 70 hours a week now, is it?

So this is me stepping outside the box, apologising for following my head and not my heart, for choosing money and security over what I truly love. I feel like I’m back in control of my own destiny and making that decision on my own feels really wonderful.

And I share this story because I want to say thank-you. Thank-you to Laura who puts her own self out there to help other people see they can do it (and you can read her own personal story about why it’s OK to quit here). Thank-you to the Universe for the series of events that led me to feel empowered enough to make this decision (that’s the biggest fucking hippie sentence I’ve ever written, right there). Thank-you to my mum who has held my own personal fort down and looked after my children while I’ve been living the stressed-out corporate dream. Thank-you to my friends who haven’t forgotten about me while I’ve drifted off into this period of craziness.

I also share this because I think it’s important to realise we don’t have to do what others expect us to do. We can take the road less travelled and discover that path is much happier. As Laura says, go balls to the wall… it’s a great way to take steps towards finding your happiness.

Internet, I am back. And by god have I missed you.

Bed Wetting: The School Age Taboo

This post brought to you by DryNites®. The content and opinions expressed below are that of More Than Toast.

IMG_0190 I’ve noticed as a mum there are still some topics that are taboo, even within circles of friends. We discuss so much with other mothers – education, health, relationships, POO – but there are some things that really still don’t get discussed. One of these things I’ve noticed is the subject of bedwetting. I have one particular friend who I talk about this with and we always comment that it’s really unusual to hear other mums discuss where they are at with this stage of their children growing up. I’m not sure if it’s seen as shameful or embarrassing but I very rarely get roped into conversation about it. I’ve asked my own mum about it and apparently I was incredibly advanced and was dry at night at something like three months old. Not really. IMG_3039 But in all seriousness according to her it happened from something like 20 months onwards, which despite me already knowing I was an incredibly advanced child ;) has made me wonder if I’m doing anything wrong with my children. Is it OK that, at the age of nearly-5, Elfie is not consistently dry at night? Of course it is! I’ve recently been doing some research and have learnt that 10% of all 4-15 year olds wet the bed at some point, with most cases occurring in children after 8. So you’re definitely not alone. Normally just a developmental stage, it’s worth bearing in mind that night time dryness is usually something that feels like it takes ages to be mastered. One could argue that this isn’t a situation limited to children under five. I’ve been reading the comedian Rob Delaney’s autobiography recently and he wet the bed up til the age of 21… IMG_3046 Interestingly boys are slightly more prone to bedwetting than girls, with boys making up 60% of bedwetting cases in the younger age groups. Some studies suggest that girls tend to develop bladder control before boys. I went through a stage of thinking Elfie ‘should’ be dry at night by this point. But after a couple of upsetting nights for her I thought: really? Does it matter? Bed wetting is a part of growing up – she would like to be dry at night because I know it’s not a situation she enjoys but it’s really not the end of the world. IMG_3036 For the time being we use DryNites®(and always have for their lovely character illustrations and their age-appropriateness). I want Elfie (and Hux!) to feel confident when they go to bed at night and I think this really helps them. They feel slightly more grown up and it brings that little element of fun to our post-bath bedtime routine. We get our kicks where we can ;) The DryNites Confident Kids 24/7 campaign aims to provide parents with helpful tools and advice to boost their child’s confidence and overcome challenges such as bedwetting.

IMG_3047 What I’m trying to say is that you needn’t not worry if your children are still wetting the bed at this age. It’s so very normal (almost 600,000 children are affected by this every year) and I bet if you started a conversation with your friends about it they’d have more experiences and stories about it than you might think. 4690-DryNites-POME-Content If you’re worried do take a quick look at the DryNites® website where there’s stacks of information to help you navigate through this particular motherhood minefield. You’re not alone!

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Blogging Is Weird (But We Love It)

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The blogging world is a weird one.

It’s like school. It’s a bit cliquey sometimes, we all have the groups that we seem to slot in to and if you’re a new arrival it might take you a while to fit in. Sometime there are fallings out – you say something that upsets a friend, or a friend of a friend of a friend, and things get a bit odd (which to be honest is how I have felt after writing this). There are the bloggers who have been there for a long time – they’re the ones on the back seat of the bus who you go to when you need to ask an advanced question about WordPress (who am I kidding? Most of these back-seat-bus bloggers are on SquareSpace now). There are also the cool bloggers, the smoking behind the bike shed bloggers.

Sometimes I don’t know where I fit in.

I have been blogging for a loooooong 15 years and have never seen such a saturated blogging community as we have now. Sometimes it feels like we’re all in a crowded room at a party, trying to shout, make our voices heard above the rest. It sometimes feels difficult to find your space, find your voice.

I’ve always said that the main reason I blog is because I enjoy it and I never want to forget that – I want to stay true to why I began; to record my family’s life and to give myself a voice. Not for the money or the notoriety or the freebies. For the love. And sometimes the shouting gets tiring. I shout enough at home.

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Having not blogged for the last few weeks has been weird; I’ve truly missed it, missed you, the people who read my blog, missed everything about it. I’ll be back soon to tell you the story of how I’m becoming the next Sheryl Sandberg in the time I used to use for blogging (if SS was a Single Mother Marketing Director from Milton Keynes innit) but in the meantime I’m still here – figuring out my place, working like an animal, mothering like Maria Von Trapp.

I’m off to BritMums with the lovely Boots lot tomorrow and I’m excited to feel inspired again, see some of my favourites in this lovely shouty blogging world who will give me the kick up the bum to remember why I love it so much.

See you on the other side!

Modern Mexico In London: SelfridgesXMexico

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A little while ago I was invited to visit Mexico. Well, kind of.

I love Mexican food. The one terrible thing about living out here in Milton Keynes is that there’s literally no decent Mexican food to be had anywhere. We have a Las Iguanas, true, but if a ‘Latin’ restaurant doesn’t even make fresh guacamole as part of their offering then I don’t want to know.

A Wahaca would be the dream, but I’ll just keep dreaming. God, I love Wahaca.

So when Selfridges asked me along to sample their Taste of Mexico evening I almost bit their guacamole-flavoured hand off. 2015 is The Year of Mexico at Selfridges and along with the Mexican Tourist Board they have provided a veritable feast for the senses throughout the foodie parts of the store.

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I went the whole hog; had a lunchtime cut and blow dry with my absolute favourite Sam at Ena (I have never left that salon feeling less than a million dollars), invited my dad along for the evening and enjoyed pre-Mexican champs at the Dean Street Townhouse. V decadent for a Thursday (I’m worth it… yeah?).

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Our meal was held in the beautifully appointed Corner Champagne Bar at Selfridges which is now my new favourite place – the house Champagne is lovely and there’s nothing like raiding DVF and Roland Mouret when you’re half cut, am I right? Me and daddy-o were the first arrivals and used the opportunity to sit back and watch the sun set over Oxford Street.

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Our evening began with a sample of a Mexican IPA which was paired with the amuse bouche: a taste of avocado, salsa, crab and paprika on toast. This was lovely – the IPA was light and hoppy (just as I like it!) and the crab zingy with layers of flavour through the salsa and avocado. No sign of pre-made guacamole here, I’m pleased to report.

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Does anything make you happier than a table full of tasting glasses? No, it does not.

IMG_0261Our starter was a beautifully light dish of lobster with mole verde paired with a Mexican Sauvignon Blanc, which I would have said in a blind taste test could have come from Chile. It was beautifully fresh and complimented the flavours of the seafood to perfection. I always think mole verde is a weird one and not to everyone’s palate but this was gorgeous – not too heavy and bursting with the taste of the herbs, or Oaxaca’s ‘seven moles’.

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Next up was my favourite wine of the evening – a chilled red (I might have asked for seconds). I believe I’m right in saying that each wine this evening came from the Baja California region of Mexico which is apparently ‘the next Napa’ – watch out for this red one in particular, it’s a corker. It accompanied our main course of pork served Manzanilla style.

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This came on a bed of pureed beans (think refried beans but a million times tastier) and a garnish of pickeld veg. I’m not ashamed to admit that I tried to send my pork back for being undercooked before I was told this is ‘the mexican way’ – it was delicious. Different to what we’re used to but delicious.

IMG_0266 IMG_0269Pudding was the absolute pièce de résistance. A deconstructed rice pud pannacotta which was made by the traditional method of making rice pudding but with the liquid drained off and used to form the pannacotta. This was garnished with dried mango and ‘nitro churro’ – tiny little raisin flavoured balls of delight that popped in your mouth. In.Cred.I.Ble.

IMG_0241The talented chefs who’d joined us from Mexico for the evening happily circulated and answered our many slightly drunken questions about how they’d come to the menu and the cooking methods they’d used. For two foodies (and wine-os) my dad and I were in heaven, it really was a treat of an evening.

Having eaten a fair bit of Mexican food in London I was delighted to sample something a bit different. This truly is ‘modern Mexican’ cooking: a beautifully fresh and interesting approach. It’s sparked an interest in Mexico in me that I didn’t have before and I can’t wait to visit the Baja California region to discover more (and hunt down that gorgeous wine).

Thanks to Selfridges for sponsoring MTT and for inviting me along to such a wonderful event. 

 

 

 

 

Now You Are Three.

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It’s an odd thing, your baby’s birthdays. Elfie’s are one thing; as the eldest she’s the birthday trailblazer, demanding parties in village halls or Pizza Express and spending hours wondering if she’s going to dress up as Anna or Elsa.

Hux is different. He still doesn’t ‘get’ birthdays so mama makes the decisions (as well as the cakes). Feeling slightly bittersweet this year as I scrolled through pictures of him as a wrinkly newborn, I savoured every last moment of planning my little baby boy’s (“I NOT A BABY, MUMMY, I A BIG BOY”) special day.

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Last year was a slightly chilly garden picnic, this year we went for a dinosaur-themed day of fun with stacks of pressies, playtime outside, a trip to the trampoline park and a small family meal. Despite me feeling ruined now after a weekend of birthday-related activities, we had a blast 

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So, Hux. Now you are three.

You are very different to your sister. She’s Miss Independent, Miss ‘I don’t need your help mummy’. You like me to carry you down the stairs, to give you a hand lugging your favourite toys round Waitrose or IKEA (it’s a good thing Buzz Lightyear likes the inside of my handbag) and to give you a cuddle at the end of every day.

You really love your mum and the amount of smackers (that’s kisses, not punches ;) you give on the regular makes me happy. These big, sloppy, often snotty kisses that you plant on me – if I go for the lips you stick your hands on my ears, twist my head round and shower my cheek with them. They’re sticky but lovely. Never stop. Your affection and ‘I love yooooo’s are just the highlights of my days.

11267612_847722575319817_775364792_n 11282823_827968037272772_196288906_nYou love not only your mum but your sister fiercely. You two share a room which I think is so good for you both; it’s turned you into best friends and co-conspirators, giggling into the night as your mum sits downstairs and pretends to be cross. You argue like cats and dogs (or brother and sister…) but always make up with a kiss and a cuddle and a ‘love you, Elfie’.

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You have your favourite toys and it’s generally the biggest, loudest, most plastic flashing piece of licensed tat you can find. Awesome. You take your toy of the day everywhere with you and I’m forever turning up glow-in-the-dark balls, Spiderman figurines and Woody dolls in my car. Today I drove to work to the soundtrack of a talking helicopter in the back seat; I couldn’t hear the news but I wouldn’t have it any other way (and when I say news I obviously mean Taylor Swift on Radio 1). You have the most vivid imagination though, and it’s a pleasure to watch you make-believe. Today you pretended for half an hour that you had a cat living on your shoulder called tiger and kept making me kiss it. I obviously obliged over and over again.

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You used to have this trick of sneaking into my bed in the middle of the night, sometimes so stealthily that it wouldn’t wake me up until 6am when it was time to get up for school. But, probably sensibly, I decided you should probably spend more nights sleeping in your own bed and now that is what you do. Cos if I ever get a boyfriend it might be awkward when you’re 15 and still spending your nights snuggled up to your favourite woman.

I miss you every night, though!

IMG_2258 IMG_2261One thing we argue about is food. You have your favourite foods (pasta, peas, cucumber, sausages, CAKE!) but you’re really not fussed about eating anything else. Which obviously isn’t entirely helpful on the days I spend hours slaving over a roast dinner, only to have you pick at a pea before asking for milk. I try not to let it worry me – you’ll eat when you’re hungry and I don’t want to stress you out over food – but goddamn it’s annoying. We had a breakthrough last week when you ate a lasagne so that’s what I’ll be cooking for the forseeable future.

We have a lovely time, you and me and Elfie. I hope you are always as happy as you appear.

Happy third birthday, darling buddy.

PS: Hux turns one / Hux turns two