24 Hours In London: The Cavendish London

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Even though I no longer live in London I would definitely say it is my spiritual home. Something about the place is so energising: the atmosphere, the culture, the food, the tourists, the traffic. I love it all and every time I make the thirty minute train journey into the city I feel excited at the prospect of spending a few hours in my favourite place.

But a few hours never seems to be enough; luckily I have a good few friends who let me crash in their beds when I’m in town on a girl’s night, and you can always get a good value hotel room via Hotel Tonight (I love The Threadneedles) or at The Hoxton. And a couple of weeks ago I added a new hotel to my list of favourite places in London to lay my head: The Cavendish London.

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The Cavendish London is a 4 star boutique hotel in on of the most gorgeous areas of London, St James, just off Piccadilly. I visited on one of the first super sunny days of the year and it was just glorious; the sun was bouncing off the stone buildings, the sky was blue and though it was still pretty chilly there were bare arms and smiley faces every way you turned. I’d just indulged in one of my favourite activities, a hair cut with the ever-amazing Sam at Ena Salon (he knows how to make you feel spoiled, ladies), and strolling through such a beautiful London meant I was walking on air by the time I got to my hotel. You’ll find it easily as I did tucked in on a little side street just behind Fortnum’s: such a fantastic spot for anyone wanting to explore the finer parts of London.

I checked in and made my way up to my room. Just check out the view I was greeted with! I don’t mean the view of myself in the mirror, I’m talking that breathtaking London vista up there. Totally stunning.

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I never know what to do when I find myself in a hotel room. A place where you are ALONE, with a TV, a huge bed for SLEEP, magazines that you can READ. The potential for alone-time fun is incredible. So I did what I always seem to do which is order a Caesar salad and bowl of chips on room service, don my bathrobe and eat my lunch snuggled into the big fluffy hotel pillows. Blissful.

Caesar salad and chips is always my go-to room service choice and this one was top-notch. The chicken was perfectly chargrilled and though I don’t normally go for chunky chips these ones were wonderful. And anchovies, mmm, anchovies.

Bed at The Cavendish London

Desk at The Cavendish, London

Room Service at The Cavendish, LondonNot wanting to be totally lazy and explore the local area (and OK, cos I’d left my contact lens solution at home), I took a wander up Piccadilly to Piccadilly Circus. Up here you’ll find some shops and a LOT of tourists (and also a huge store dedicated to Nespresso? Who knew). I picked up a little bottle of wine from Whole Foods (fave supermarket in the whole world, sorry Waitrose) with plans to enjoy it in the bath later and just took an hour to walk aimlessly. This part of London is so different to what I’m used to, it’s a feast for the senses with its bright lights, smells wafting over from Chinatown and busy streets. It was fun but I was happy to retreat to the sanctuary of my room at The Cavendish London.

Sunrise from The Cavendish, London

There are rarely many things I find more satisfying than a nap in a hotel bed, so nap I did followed by a happy half hour gazing out of my window at the view with my Whole Foods glass of wine in hand. Soul food, that was. Then it was time for dinner after a long soak in a bath. This day… it just gets better and better, right?

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I’d invited my gorgeous friend Caoimhe to dine with me and was so excited to catch up with her. We began our evening with cocktails in the bar and gossip about boys before moving on to the restaurant. IMG_1342The food was one of the things I was most looking forward to at The Cavendish; their in-house restaurant Petrichor has 2 AA rosettes and after checking out their menu online I was really excited to dine there. It’s one floor up in the hotel so you get a really unique birds-eye view of the streets below which I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a quiet, luxurious restaurant that would be suited to a romantic date or anniversary dinner. Or a catch up with one of your favourite Irish babes :)

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I plumped for the Scottish Scallop started which came with breaded frogs legs and was every bit as delicious as it looked. The scallops were cooked to perfection and though I’ve only had frogs legs once before these really hit the spot. Delicious.

Caoimhe went for the Trio of Quail: breast, egg and confit leg croquette. Just YUM. 

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Next up were the mains and though I chose well with  my Suffolk Chicken Roulade (the pan-fried lettuce was to die for and I loved the earthy taste of the king oyster mushroom and truffle hollandaise) I have to admit, I had total food envy. Caoimhe’s plate was a work of art; her beef fillet came with smoked potato puree, ox cheek croquette, duck liver pate and a potato ring. WOW.

IMG_1351 IMG_1349Puddings were up next and again these were big old plates of loveliness. My star anise creme brulee was a lovely end to a beautiful meal and Caoimhe’s Chocolate brownie could have been eaten three times over.

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With stuffed bellies we headed off round the corner to Quaglino’s for a little sip of Prosecco and an old-fashioned flirt with some bartenders. We must have done something right because they kept appearing at our table with shots of delicious alcohol: this one below was rhubarb pavlova and coming with a teeny tiny meringue it literally tasted like pudding in a glass. We were impressed. And slightly drunk. See: LEGS. My mother will be horrified.

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When we ran out of gossip I wobbled back round the corner to my bed at The Cavendish, excited about the TEN HOURS sleep I was about to have. There’s always time for a mirror selfie in a lift full of reflections, though…

IMG_5675The next morning I woke up feeling refreshed and energised hungover and starving. Luckily on my return to the hotel I’d had the wherewithal to crazily scribble a room service breakfast order and leave it on my door for morning. So I had a slug of water, took a picture of the London sunrise and waited for my feast to arrive at 8.30.

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Yep, apparently when I’m a bit tiddly I want ALL THE BACON. The breakfast was divine and tasted just as good as it looked, especially when enjoyed in bed with a massive cup of tea and Sunday morning breakfast TV. If you decide to brave leaving your room for breakfast though it’s worth noting you can until 12pm: it winds me up no end when you wake up at 10.15am on a Sunday morning in a hotel and realise you’ve missed breakfast and I wish more hotels were flexible with their times like this.

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A little post-breakkie snooze and I was ready to start the day. I had to be back home for the kids fairly early so after I checked out of my St James’s bolthole I took a little browse through Fortnum and Mason and hopped on the tube home.

All in all, a thoroughly wonderful way to spend 24 hours in the capital. I may not have gone sightseeing, taken in any museums or visited any great monuments… but I returned home feeling like I’d spent a whole day pampering and pleasing no-one but myself and that was worth its weight in gold. The memories of that wonderful alone time will last and last :)

The Cavendish London: I’ll be back!

I was a guest of The Cavendish London – thank you so much for having me! 

 

 

 

 

Happy Freaking Mother’s Day

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Mother’s Day has become one of THOSE times. Like Christmas and my Wedding Anniversary, it’s a day that doesn’t make me regret the twists and turns in my life but instead wonder, how did that happen? How did I end up here?

Sometimes I still feel like I am living a dream. The single life, though a year old, it is really quite new. There is still novelty to be found in the dating, in the independence of being in charge of every aspect of my and my kid’s lives. But this is not what I expected at this time in my life and that part of it is still difficult to comprehend. I’m happy this way but it still feels weird, foreign.

Mother’s day used to mean a day of treats. A lie-in and a cup of tea, flowers, breakfast in bed and a lazy shower (ALONE). Lunch out, gifts, a time to bask in the glory of raising such a delightful little family. Time with my own mum, maybe a take-away in the evening following a glass of wine while someone else deals with the cacophony that is bath and bed time.

But now it’s just an ordinary day with added crafts. Elfie has made me two Mother’s Day cards at pre-school, the first has a hand-drawn octopus on the front and was given to me on Friday and the second we hid under her bed together ready for her to give to me in the morning. I’m hoping Hux will treat me by not removing his pants and nappy and peeing on his bed before I get to him. It’s good to aim high, right?

Luckily I have a friend whose fiance is working away this weekend (though I’m sure it wasn’t that lucky for him when she found out) so we’re going out for a big breakfast with the kids and being lone mothers together. I plan on throwing caution to the paleo-based wind and having a huge feast of American waffles and bacon See? Not even going to miss the breakfast in bed thing at all… screw you, Marmite on toast.

I hope this isn’t coming across as all woe is me – I promise that’s not how I feel (much…). I’m just annoyed that the one person whose job it is to make my children feel thankful for such a brilliant mum (that’s me ;) isn’t around to praise me to the ends of the earth and lets face it, I’m going to miss the gifts.

So to all my single mothers out there: Isra, Charlotte, DawnCoralie… this one’s for you. I see you getting up early, dealing with sick kids on your own, managing the process that is feeding, bathing and then putting a toddler into bed. I know how hard you all work to keep tummies full and roofs overhead, juggling finances and pulling ridiculous hours to make a one salary (or part-time salary) work. I also see how happy and loved your children are, how they want for nothing, and how all this hard work is worth it.

You (we) are rocking it, and even though our kids aren’t old enough to understand Mother’s Day yet, they know we’re rocking it too. I will toast to you all with an extra big glass of wine after yet another messy bath time and I will think, who needs men anyway?

Last Chance To Melf Yourself

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock these last couple of weeks you may have noticed I’ve been working on a very special little project: THE MELFIE.

The melfie is a movement coined by my friends over at Lifecake and is a way for us all to get mums ‘back in the picture’. We spend most of our time behind the camera, not in front of it, so pictures of us with our children are few and far between. Lifecake and me, we want to CHANGE THAT and give mums some more of the screentime we deserve.

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We’ve seen some fantastic melfies this fortnight on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and there’s still a bit more time to get yours in before Mother’s Day, which is when we’ll choose our favourite with Katie from Mummy Daddy and Me Makes Three to win Lifecake goodies worth £60. I’ve had a great time snapping as many pics of myself with the kids as I can; it’s great to look back and see my face in my photos too.

I even got a melfie in with my own mum!

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Go on – Melf Yourself over the next time in the next 24 hours (don’t forget to tag #melfie and @lifecake) and show me how great you look :)

On Sometimes Not Liking Your Children (But Obviously Still Loving The Crap Out Of Them)

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After the week I’ve had (and it’s only Wednesday! Give me strength) I have to put this out there: sometimes when we’re having a really tough week, though I love them ‘to the moon and back’, I struggle to like my children.

I love them more than any amount I can put into words and this is a feeling that only mothers know: I would go to the ends of the earth to ensure their happiness, I’d walk over hot coals to make sure they were safe, I would (and do) sit in a hot stinking soft play for hours to keep them happy. But there is the odd occasion I struggle with how I feel at the consequences of their actions and behaviour.

Let me explain. I am experiencing the effects of three nights of sub-four hour sleeps. The first night Hux wouldn’t settle and wanted to be in bed with his mummy, which sounds lovely (and it really is gorgeous to cuddle up to that little munchbag) but when it’s 3am and you haven’t been to sleep yet thanks to the feet tap dancing up and down your back you start to yearn for your own space again.

Elfie has woken up three mornings in a row at 5.45am. FIVE FORTY FIVE. The first thing she does is pad into my room to wake me up and I immediately tell her it’s far too early to get up and that she needs to go back to her own bed. She usually reacts to this news with a high pitched whine and stomp back to her bedroom which then of course wakes her brother up. Who promptly removes his pyjamas and nappy, natch.

This morning I thought I’d invite her into my bed to see if she’d go back to sleep after a cuddle. She thanked me by wee’ing on my clean sheets (“oh, don’t worry mummy, it was just an accident”). All this after a night of unrest thanks to a bad dream about soft play: “I’m sad because they won’t let me in the door *sob sob*”. I therefore spent the early portion of the morning muttering under my breath as I shoved sheets in the washing machine.

Of course, the result of these massively early mornings are that, come 3pm, Elfie’s absolutely knackered. Hux still has a nap (long may this continue) but she doesn’t anymore so she’s taken to falling asleep on the floor doing a jigsaw, or on the sofa. I wake her up as soon as possible because I don’t want her getting into a routine of napping and then she is a horror for the rest of the afternoon. Her tantrums are few and far between but she likes to whine, and whine she does. And if she’s not whining she’s bursting into unreasonable tears because Hux looked at her or because I won’t let her have a snack 10 minutes before dinner time. The negotiations at this time are intricate and plentiful.

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While all this is happening I’m struggling on myself; if there’s one thing I’m bad at it’s coping on a small amount of sleep. Maybe for one day, yes, but not for three days on the trot. My cold and sore throat just won’t shift, I assume because I’m unable to get any sort of decent rest in, my skin is in a bad shape and I am craving carbs. Not sleeping as much as your body needs really buggers you up and I am feeling it keenly right now.

I’ve never had this much work on – and don’t get me wrong I’m loving it – but I wish I felt a bit more switched on to cope with it all. I swear my brain is working about 40% below capacity and eating cupcakes is not helping. Tiredness makes everything that bit harder; the house is messier, the washing basket is full, there’s no patience with slow movers in the supermarket and my patience is ridiculously tested. I find the arguments like “mummy, Hux isn’t doing the space rocket pancake race properly with my dollies” really hard to referee which leads to yet more wailing (from the kids AND me, turns out) and when an unnamed three year old coloured in my carpet yesterday (“oh don’t worry mummy, it was only an accident”) I had to take myself to the naughty step for a five minute time out. With wine.

These times, they are so testing. I usually have such a high tolerance for strops, arguments, work woes and sniffles but the added tiredness means I’m so much closer to cracking point. And yes, because this is a direct result of my children and their behaviour, I find myself not liking them very much at the moment.

If it makes you feel any better, this feeling leads to me not liking myself that much very much either! I don’t want to blame anything on my children, to bring every single bad feeling in my life back to the fact I’m a single mum now, but god I miss having someone to hand the children over to at 6pm so I can go and sit in a hot bath and stew until sanity returns and I am a happy mummy once more. Self-pity doesn’t help anyone, but at times like this I allow myself to feel that yeah, life is unfair right now. I didn’t ask to do this on my own and would never have chosen to, and having to be everything to everyone is bloody hard. Impossible, at times.

But this morning one of my friends remarked what a happy and well-behaved little boy Hux was. “That’s all you, you know” she said, and you know what? I burst with pride when I heard this because it’s true. When Elfie singlehandedly wrote her own name on Monday? I almost spontaneously combusted. The hours of drawing dots for her to practice her writing were all so worth it.

These two perfect little people are a reflection of a life of love and happiness that I give them and that makes me prouder than anything. There will be weeks when their behaviour and sleep habits drive me to distraction but we’ll get over them. We’ll emerge out the other end a stronger little threesome because of them and we’ll grow up to be so proud of each other. We might be tired, grumpy and have short tempers, but our house is full of love and that never changes, no matter how many sleepless nights we have.

Now, if I can just work out how to stop all the ‘accidents’…

Writing My Oscar’s Acceptance Speech

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Because you all know there’ll be as many selfies at The MADs (Mum and Dad Blogging Awards) than the Oscars.

On Sunday night I was pootling around on the internet – erm, I mean working hard – when I saw a tweet saying the finalists for the MAD Awards were out. I clicked over to have a look and see if any of my favourite bloggers had been included in the line-up.

I wasn’t really truly expecting to see myself there, though if I had made the cut I thought it would be in the ‘Best Blog Writer’ category (hi ego, nice to meet you), but I didn’t feel disappointed not to see my blog on the list.

Until. UNTIL!

I scrolled further down the page and realised I’d only gone and made the final 5 in the ‘Most Entertaining’ category!

I have been gobsmacked, I mean, totally gobsmacked, ever since I found out. Writing is my passion, it’s what I love to do, but to receive validation that people are finding my writing entertaining has just been the biggest pat on the back. Blogging can be a bit of a lonely game – your quarterly performance review is only ever carried out with yourself and let me tell you, I’m pretty hard on myself sometimes. So to have my readers and peers say they enjoy my writing, possibly as much as I enjoy it, is the best compliment I could ever have hoped for.

I’m wiping the tears away right now, Gwyneth Paltrow style.

But what happens next? It’s not just a one way street to the Oscars from here. I need to ask for your votes once more in picking me as the winner out of the five finalists in the ‘Most Entertaining’, so please hop on over here and select ‘More Than Toast’ (that’s me obvs) on the final drop-down menu. You can vote in as many or as few categories as you like, so don’t worry about leaving blank spaces. And if you drop me a line to let me know you’ve voted I’ll be sure to remember you in my Oscars speech. In between snotty sobs.

If your voting finger needs a bit more of a workout then I’d be delighted to receive your support in the BritMums Brilliant In Blogging Awards, too! By way of a thank-you please have this picture of puppies. Dressed in babygros. Hanging from a washing line. Don’t ever try to tell me I don’t know what my readers want…

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I feel like I should be saying ‘Mwah, darlings’ a lot more now. Don’t worry mum, I won’t let my new-found fame go to my head.

 

 

Manning Up In The Bedroom

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It’s still weird for me to consider that before I moved to this house I’d never lived on my own. There was my room at my University halls of residence but that doesn’t count because when your single mattress is covered in a thin layer of plastic and your carpet smells like horses… it doesn’t make one feel particularly house proud, that’s for sure. Every other place I’ve lived in was shared with a man, meaning I had to take things like their opinions into account when I was decorating. Ugh. Such a drag. IMG_1437

So when I first became single I was like a woman possessed, interiors-wise. I wanted ALL THE PINK, ALL THE FLORAL STUFF, ALL THE FAIRY LIGHTS. I wanted anyone visiting the house to know, hey, no boys live here (apart from Hux, who spends most of his time these days asking for hair clips to be put in his hair). My house, it kind of looked like a fairy princess had visited and vomited all her girlyness all over it.

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We’ve lived in my new place for nearly six months (holy hell how did that happen?) and as the days went on I found myself getting more and more antsy at the amount of pink stuff that was in my house. Yes, I liked the fact that I’d been showing that side of my personality through the medium of interior design but really? It just didn’t feel like me. Let’s be honest, a woman who uses the word ‘vomit’ as much as I do in her everyday lexicon (see paragraph above) probably should not have flowers plastered all over her bedroom. Plus it might be nice to have a man around here at some point in the future and I don’t want them or Hux feeling like this is a boy-free twinkly flower-filled zone.

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And so I’ve spent the last couple of weeks making subtle tweaks to the house. Starting with the bedroom! I’ve got rid of the overly feminine rose-print sheets; I wanted to take things back to basics and get some plain white bedlinen. This set was the dream – the black piping is so chic – but £100 for sheets right now? Not gonna happen. So I went for a happy medium, IKEA bed linen from the slightly pricier range, and I love them. It’s amazing how much calmer I find the bedroom now I’ve switched the sheets out.

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I also added a black and white blanket (IKEA once again) to the foot of the bed to toughen it up a bit; there’s no way I’m parting with my bedknobs and broomsticks-esque bed no matter how girly it is.

I wanted the decor to remain plain with some colour pops so I added in these Horses Kissing pillowcases from Urban Outfitters which I adore (and were in the sale!): they’re the only horsey thing in this house though, lets be clear… no whiffy carpets.

I brought my shelves upstairs from the laundry cupboard: these are used to store paperwork, magazines and shoes. The stool was moved from the other side of the bed (Freecycle bargain) and my awesome orange lamp switched with my white one to bring yet more colour to the room. My old bedside table is now carrying out the completely useless purpose of holding all my perfumes, a candle and an orchid. What? I might not want to be super girly any more but I’m still human.

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The only thing I’m not sure about are the curtains. I’m considering switching them out for a blind so they’re not so, you know, lacy…but I kind of enjoy the light these curtains let in. I still dream about the windows in the house I grew up in – if you’ve ever gone to sleep with the sound of rain on a VELUX® window you’ll know what I mean – it’s what white noise is to a grumbling newborn. Blissful, and with none of the worries that come with deciding which curtains look best. Remote control blinds are where it’s at: you heard it here first.

IMG_1469I love my bedroom now. Love love love it. It’s just the right size for me and all my bits, the walk-in wardrobe still thrills me each and every day and barring the few times I am hungover I wake up happy every single day here. It’s a sanctuary, a calming place for me to come to drink chamomile tea and watch three episodes of Desperate Housewives. Because what more do you want out of life?

QUESTION TIME: the pictures in this post are making me think I should iron my pillowcases. The one time I ironed my pillowcases I got neck ache because I was worried about sleeping on them too hard and creasing them up. Is pillowcase ironing A Thing I should be getting on board with? 

Thank-you to VELUX for partnering with More Than Toast and making my needless interior upgrades possible :)