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This weekends coffee and cake stop was the beautiful Bradley Gardens . This destination lays 4.7 miles from my mum and dads home where I lived for 30 years but it was so well hidden behind an 18th century walled garden that I have only fell upon it one other time but that was only in 2015.

The current owners, Mr Crichton-Jones and Mr Robinson have done a fabulous job of bringing the establishment back to life and in turn giving a je ne sais quoi that seems to be ever growing, just like the garden. 

As I mentioned this is my second visit to Bradley Gardens as I fell in love with it the first time round. My daughter and I were on the hunt for a new place for our mummy and daughter dates when I saw signs for Bradley Gardens and I followed them without any understanding of what we would find. Emily even rolled her eyes when I said we were visiting a garden.  ‘Boring’ was her reply.

You enter the gardens via the car park and are greeted with a nursery and a very cute shed like shop. The path then leads further towards three boutiques which unless you are nosey like me could be missed. The first is the small but perfectly formed Bradley Cook-shop, then there is the Garden Room a jewellery and gift store. When you come back out turn left and enter the next building a most gorgeously inspiring interior design boutique named the Bridgewater Home-store. This was flourished in Neptune bespoke furniture .

Next came the restaurant aptly called ‘Glass House’. We were very pleasantly surprised.

The restaurant was bustling with a great atmosphere but after selecting our goodies we actually sat outside and enjoyed the weather.

Whilst watching my little girl frolic in the grassed area next to our table, collecting dropped apples from the apple tree a smile then a little tear welled. The tear was because I could see that this would make an excellent wedding reception venue. Relaxed but not too relaxed, pretty but not too pretty. formal but not too formal. I asked there and then if it was possible but alas at this point no private hiring is on the cards. Maybe one day?

garden1

Fast forward to visit two, Mother’s day. Since becoming a mother myself and of course having a partner who is close to their mother, Mother’s Day has become a little stressful ensuring everyone is left happy including myself. My morning was spent with my daughter and the afternoon with my mum.

I asked Emily where I should take Momar for the afternoon she whispered in my ear so daddy didn’t hear, “You can take her to our special date place mummy, don’t mind”. This is quite a big deal for her as she likes to keep our secret places ‘secret’.

I collected mum and whisked her off. I hadn’t booked a table, this could have been an epic fail as the Glass House was heaving with many parties of mummies with their families. All of the vacant tables had reserved signs, oh no (especially when mum suggested going to the Metro Centre instead)! The lovely staff came to the rescue and found us a table that was available for the next 90 minutes which is the perfect amount of time for coffee and cake.

Bradley Gardens

As a creature of habit I chose the coffee and walnut cake which I shared with Emily on my first visit and it was moist and yummy and neither flavour outweighed the other. Mum aka Maureen chose a cheese scone which she had warmed with lashings of butter and home made chutney. Both of us had a huge glass of water and two lattes. There was a special Mother’s Day menu alongside the traditional menu and everything that was being brought to the tables was received in delight.

Tummy’s were sated and shopping bug satisfied this is a definite place to revisit but I can’t bring daddy, that’s an order.

You can find Bradley Gardens on Facebook , Twitter  and Instagram. 

I’m looking forward to visiting for a restaurant evening very soon and I’m sure I will tell you about that too.

Love from Suzanne x

We love London town. Today we are heading to The Cavendish an establishment whose heritage dates back to the 1830’s.

Along the road from The Cavendish is the infamous Fortnum and Mason, how big were our smiles. Piccadilly is such a great London location.

What drew us to the hotel is its greenness. The greenness is subtle to the untrained eye but to us it hit us like a sledge hammer. It has several achievements under its belt including ‘Gold’ in Sustainable Tourism Business awards and a Gold Award in Green Tourism for London, and they are extensively committed to the environment.

The restaurant also has three star accreditation by the Sustainable Restaurant Association. This list really does go on.

Here’s what we thought?

Location: 81 Jermyn Street, St James’s, London, SW1Y6JF. The Cavendish is bang in the centre of London minutes from Piccadilly and seconds from Fortnum and Mason, another British institution – it’s been in the same location since 1707!

From arrival to departure everything was seamless. The car was valet parked and stayed in place until we left (parking is not complimentary so please don’t get caught out).

Check-in: professional, quick and informative. There had been an error in our booking which was rectified without a blink of an eye by David. Two nights bed and breakfast with an evening meal to enjoy.

The room: Our room was on the 15th floor and had everything you could possibly need for a short stay. I opened the window covering to be greeted with a fantastic panoramic view of London and stood and looked at it for ages. Nicola on the other hand loved it but didn’t want to get too close due to a slight height phobia!

The wardrobe had ample space and the tea/coffee tray met our approval being fair-trade, British or organic. The bathroom, albeit small had everything we needed, the only downside was the shower head which was fitted so high on the wall that it was no good for me at 5ft 4”.

There was a secondary shower head attached for rinsing of hair whilst in the bath which was good. The bed was very comfy and conducive to a good sleep, however, there was an underlying noise which we couldn’t put our finger on, sorry Cavendish we should have brought this to your attention.

Petrichor Restaurant:
Dinner – we didn’t get into London until around 19:00 so decided to have dinner in the restaurant. Recently awarded an AA Rosette, the restaurant’s seasonal British menu marries traditional favourites with a contemporary twist. The service was excellent.

Nicola and I have a habit of sitting and chatting for ages before consulting the menu (another reason why our blog name is apt) and this was the case here too but it was never an issue with Carlos the waiter who was looking after us. We had a glass of wine each and three courses and they were all lovely.

Breakfast: a breakfast banquet rather then a buffet and the selection was amazing. There was also a made-to-order selection and we partook in some rather yummy and cooked-to-perfection poached eggs.

The lobby bar: Small and intimate, equally easy to drop in after work as well as lovely for the guests. The staff were friendly and knowledgeable (which we had come to expect).

Along with the restaurant championing local food the bar supports local drinks providers too. Two examples are Meantime beers which are brewed in Greenwich, a district of south London. The beer travels under eight miles from its inception to the Lobby Bar, so the carbon footprint is greatly reduced.

The second provider is Sipsmith, with their Gin, Vodka & Sloegin. Sam and Fairfax are the founders of this small distillery based in Hammersmith, London. 5 out of 5 – the whole dining experience was fabulous.

Overall opinion
Well trained staff made this stay a truly terrific experience. Impeccable was the word we used repeatedly to describe our stay. We simply cannot recommend it enough. Thanks to all of the staff who looked after us so well.

Top Tip: It’s definitely worth following The Cavendish on facebook and twitter as they have lots of lovely exclusive offers for you to enjoy over and above the ones that already appear on their website. (We’ll definitely be taking up one of their great offers to stay there again).

Winter break rates are from £189 per room per night including VAT and Full English Breakfast from 14th December till 20th March 2016.

Keep an eye out for more offers coming soon.

Dans le Noir - Dining in the Dark

We’ve recently head about a fabulous event that’s been arranged for 50 of Centrepoint‘s vulnerable 16 to 25 year olds.

Dan’s le Noir? whose concept is to dine in total darkness, while guided and served by blind people is a truly unique experience which, fingers crossed will change your view of the world by reversing your perspective.

The concept have teamed up with Centrepoint and have arranged a Gastronomic Dinner with Michelin Star Chef Julien Machet. The dinner will be held for 50 of Centrepoint’s vulnerable 16-25 year-olds to celebrate Dans le Noirs 10th Anniversary and decade of successful charitable ventures.

50 homeless young people will experience heightened flavours by enjoying a gastro dinner in the dark. The menu at Dans le Noir? has evolved over the past 10 years and in November 2015, Michelin star chef, Julien Machet, was hired to consult and help John Houel, the London Head Chef, create the four eclectic menus. Chef Julien will be present to assist with the creation of this spectacular dinner.

Dans le Noir? and Centrepoint support those furthest from the jobline to help them get into work. The two companies are joining forces to maximise awareness of the difficulties that blind, and homeless young people, face when trying to get into employment.

A statistic by gov.uk estimate that 16 percent of working age adults are disabled. Recent statistics show that only 46.3 percent of disabled people are in employment compared to 76.4 percent of non-disabled people, making it a significant social issue.

Edouard de Broglie, who founded Dans le Noir? in Paris in 2004, says

50 percent of our staff have a high disability, yet we still operate an efficient and profitable company. We have an incredibly low staff turnover which shows the dedication of our long-standing team. We want to show big companies that those with disabilities shouldn’t be limited to performing only menial jobs. Our guides are incredibly skilled and challenge the perception that blind or visually impaired can serve in a restaurant. Who could have said that 10 years ago?.

Sadie Odeogberin, Head of Skills and Employment, at Centrepoint, says:

The number of young people rough sleeping in London has more than doubled in the last four years, but providing a safe place to stay isn’t enough to solve the youth homelessness crisis. That’s why Centrepoint supports each young person staying with us to find a job or a route into education or training. Like Dans Le Noir?, we’re committed to helping those furthest from the world of work achieve their ambitions. It’s not an easy journey for a homeless young person to make and thanks to the generosity of Dans Le Noir?, we can reward them an experience they will never have had before. Homeless young people are every bit as talented as their peers and with the right support and hard work they can fulfil their potential.

We hope everyone has a fabulous evening!

Suzanne x

 

St. Mary's Inn

It was going to be a long and busy week and the thought of a Friday night away just the two of us was what was keeping Richard and myself going.

The rural getaway was at St. Mary’s Inn the little sister to the renowned Jesmond Dene House. St. Mary’s Inn is in the village of Stannington north of Newcastle and just a hop, skip and a jump from the town of Morpeth.

Dinner, bed breakfast and fingers crossed a lie in; here we come.

The journey

Stannington is really well signposted off the A1 and there are signs for St. Mary’s Inn and even more poignantly St. Mary’s Hospital which are easy to follow. I knew my way to the Inn from memory but the winding road may benefit from a couple more signs.

Arrival

We arrived at 5:00pm and were welcomed by Zoe who showed us to our room we decided we quite fancied a nap before dinner.

Our bedroom – Greenlee Lough

When we opened the door we were greeted with an expanse of space and beds so high they were reminiscent of ‘Princes and The Pea’ – yay and I know a certain daughter of mine would have loved to bounce on them.

I’m a stickler for white bed linen and I was not to be disappointed. I love a chunky pillow or two and we got four, plenty to go around. The duvet was heavy but not too heavy. Simple quality. Of course “Mr. I sleep on the thinnest pillow in the world” didn’t like the pillows but he could cope for one night.

There was not one, but two sitting areas, one right next to the TV and the other with a lovely table to sit and read or work at.

bedroom

Having worked with Marlish Water in the past I was happy their water was on the tea tray alongside another local brand, Ringtons. I’m sure fresh milk would have been available if I had requested it too.

I crossed my fingers before I entered the bathroom. I so wanted a bath, we moved house in Feb 2015 and we have a double shower instead of a bath (this seriously needs to be rectified) and hotel stays are the only time I get to take a dip and luxuriate in some bubbles.

The bathroom was great. I loved the velux window in the ceiling, the sumptuous towels and I was looking forward to trying the products supplied as I hadn’t tried them before.

Relaxing time before dinner

I love the fact that Richard had packed us a cheeky bottle of prosecco, a perfect accompaniment to a bath filled with lovely bubbles (which H2B ran without prompting). I truly relaxed. We lay on the bed and drank and chatted before dinner (the TV wasn’t working). It was lovely. Even though we live together it seemed like an age since we’d had a chat that wasn’t interjected by, ‘mummy or daddy’ or the sound of our baby boy.

Thank you St. Mary’s Inn for the peace and quiet.

Dinner

Although tempting to stay in our lovely room, we were hungry so headed over the outdoor courtyard and downstairs to the bar admiring the frequently changing artwork on the way.

Before dinner, Richard opted for a pint of Peroni whilst I chose  St. Mary’s Ale made by the wonderful Wylam Brewery as my tipple. I knew from first sip that I’d be drinking it for the rest of the night unless of course I got the taste for gin!

At 7:30pm we decided to head along to the restaurant and I loved all of the areas and the relaxed feeling throughout. It was akin to a warren, people all chatting away with quite a few dogs (both real and wire sculptures) looking happily at home.

We were greeted by Phil the Duty Manager and chatted about the menu. He was genuinely enthusiastic about both the menu and St. Mary’s Inn. I appreciated the fact that many of the items on the menu were sourced locally, so locally in some cases that the chef could reach out of the window and place the veg onto the ‘Entremetier’ station.

The short and simple menu featured many starters and main courses that we wanted to try. To start, Richard opted for Lamb Koftas and I chose Smoked Haddock and Clam Chowder with Whisky and Bacon. Both were really tasty, but I wouldn’t have chosen to have mussels as part of the chowder.

starters and mains

For main H2B had the Aberdeen Angus Beef Burger which came with cheese, mayonnaise, tomato ketchup, pickles, coleslaw and home made fries, he’d sworn he was off bread but couldn’t resist.

I chose the steak and went for the bone marrow and parsley fries. The steak was cooked to my liking medium rare and the fries were good but I had chip envy and loved the look of the chunky ones on a nearby table.

Richard swore he didn’t want desert but there were two that I fancied so gluttony prevailed and I ordered both.

DESSERT

To satisfy my sweet tooth I opted for the custard tart with honeycomb and vanilla ice cream and for my savoury love was the selection of British cheeses with rye crackers and preserves. This was my absolute favourite course and Richard did help me (I promise). The custard tart was amongst the best I have ever tasted and instead of the typically dense consistency this was delicate and the bitterness of the honeycomb cut through the sweetness.  The selection of cheeses was just enough to end the meal.

Phil tried to lure us into coffees but we were embracing the no child night and the calling for bed was so loud.
We made our way to our room but we were waylaid by the bar as I did fancy a gin and I was happy that they stocked Fentimans tonic. Richard’s eyes were heavy so I selected a book from the shelves in one of the snug areas and we headed to bed.

Sleepytime

Our tummies were completely fit to burst so up the dancers we went. We crawled into bed at 10:30 and he was asleep within 10 minutes. I lay and read for a while which was an absolute luxury.

Alas I woke up a few times in the night as it was so warm (thermostat set to 71 degrees Fahrenheit, I have no idea what that is in metric) I’m also used to being awoken several times in the night and thirdly I thought I’d lost my other half, turns out that the bed is sooo big we could easily fit our family of four in the bed with room to spare.

Breakfast

This can be an absolute deal maker or breaker for me.

Zoe showed us to our table, she assured us she had been home as she was still serving at the bar when we went to bed.

This was the room we could see from our bedroom. It was light and bright and there was just us (well for a few minutes until many faces that we saw during dinner the night before).

continental and full English

Our toast and drinks order was taken and then we got to peruse the continental breakfast and gluttony raised its head again. Smoked salmon and meats donned our plates and the quality was fantastic.

We both ordered full English breakfast no beans for me, we both ate the lot, oink, oink. We drank copious amounts of coffee we have definitely missed our breakfast dates.

Full English

Before checkout I had little nosey in all of the nooks and crannies and decided that I really did like this place and would love a local like this.

Overall opinion

Although it’s known as Jesmond Dene House little sister I think St. Mart’s Inn has  everything it needs to have a stand alone reputation. It isn’t trying to be something that it is not. It is by definition a house providing accommodation, food, and drink, especially for travellers and this was done to perfection. I even forgot that it is unmanned overnight so the guests are left to their own devices, well sort of, we couldn’t have our very own lock in.

Having the right staff is so important and I think the brilliance of the staff shone through with their friendly and knowledgeable demeanour and nothing was too much trouble even bringing up an iron and ironing board before dinner.

We had a fabulous time and with a few tweaks it would be perfect. Before I left I was already recommending the Inn to a friend who was coincidentally staying at Jesmond Dene House as a surprise anniversary treat from her husband: major brownie points.

Incase you fancy a visit St. Mary’s Inn is open 8am to 11pm each day with dining until 9:30pm. Remember to book your table don’t just turn up and expect to be served.

Our stay would have been £140 for dinner, bed and breakfast and personally I think that it was most definitely worth that.

Now for the unexpected personal bit which I chose not to place at the beginning of the review.
There was a distinct reason that I wanted to stay and it wasn’t until we were offered a meal at the Inn that I looked into the history and I felt like an idiot when I put two and two together. I actually got a knot in my stomach and a tear in my eye.

As you may have already read St. Mary’s Inn is situated in what was the administration building of St. Mary’s Hospital, the old Gateshead Borough mental institution. We were originally supposed to just head there for dinner but when I read the history of the site I asked if we could stay. A member of my family had spent quite a lot of time at St. Mary’s hospital and visited him often and unfortunately he didn’t have a pleasant stay there. I hoped a visit would air some demons. I haven’t taken the turn off for Stannington since 1995 and I was on auto pilot driving and the hospital signs were still in situ and threw me. What the heck was I doing when potentially I was unearthing a bad memory of a location.

I am glad I came as even though the admin building is clearly recognisable there were very few other points of reference and thinking of my uncle made me smile.

You can keep up to date with St. Mary’s in via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Thank you Phil and Nicky for having us and we hope to visit again when we are in the area.

Suzanne pregnant Jan 2010

Where was I? Oh yes, Emily was born with Erbs Palsy and I was feeling guilty. Because everything was my fault. 

I did what I thought I should and attended the baby groups as it was the right thing for my daughter. Apparently, there’s always the need to have bonds with other mummy’s and I agree with this if they are people you’d want to spend time with outside of mummyhood. I didn’t attend national childbirth trust (N.C.T) or have any friends who had recently had babies so I was swimming alone. And I only have a 25m badge at the best of times!

People who know me, know that I don’t sugar coat anything. I am black and white with no shades of grey. And mostly, I believe what people say, why would they lie? These baby groups had me on my knees, I felt useless! Perfect feeding, perfect routines, perfectly polished! Me on the other hand rarely slept (it’s currently 02:57 – history isn’t repeating itself but because I’m so emotionally involved in this post I have to keep stopping to catch my breath and have a cuppa and compose), my diet was poor, I saw myself as a bad mother.

I seemingly hid this so well from not only my family but myself (but not my best friend). The post natal depression questionnaire presented to me by my health visitor asks;

  • During the past month, have you often been bothered by feeling down, depressed or hopeless?
  • During the past month, have you often taken little or no pleasure in doing things that normally make you happy?

I answered ‘no’ with tears welling in my eyes but the health visitor didn’t push me on it, it seemed a form filling exercise. Now I realise that by admitting I had PND was akin to admitting failure and who wants to embrace failure? I kick myself now for not being brave enough to put my hand up and say, please can I have some help. But then, how could I ask? I couldn’t even fill the form in.

The words  were three words that existed in other people’s lives, not mine. I was a strong woman, a woman who would give up my life for anyone, a woman who hated to be labelled. However, throughout my past, when things got tough, I always hid away and throughout 2010 and 2011, I did this a lot.

I muddled through the first year in a haze of pea soup and escaping wherever I could. I went back to work as a H&S officer when Emily was 10 months old and before that, I often put work and blogging first before my family. It was the place I escaped to when I couldn’t face the real world. The world I created.

I started to see light around Emily’s first birthday, then BOOM one of the shining lights of my world my Uncle Bill died (24.03.2011). He was such a non-judgemental person, but I hadn’t even shared my pain with him as he had suffered a stroke and was trying to mend himself. Another year of fuzz and a redundancy, I simply didn’t feel like me and hid behind a broken smile.

The feeling of uselessness only seemed to get greater but then one day, and for no real reason, the fog seemed to lift and I saw light.

Still I certainly wasn’t ready for baby two. What if it happened again? Potentially losing another two years or even more to PND? When we became pregnant, I told EVERY health professional that would listen about my undiagnosed episode.

What I do find strange is, even through I readily passed this information on and told my current health visitor the PND form was useless, I have received absolutely NO monitoring at all. In fact, I’ve just realised the severity of this; I actually think in this regard that as a health trust they have failed me.

Thankfully, even though Luke came at 35 weeks I don’t believe I have PND this time. (Nothing is easy; my waters broke, I suffered a prolapsed umbilical cord, was rushed from home to hospital for an emergency c section and 59 minutes later, Luke arrived!).

My life revolves around this new tiny creature and instead of being scared,  he is teaching me how to be a better mummy to both him and his big sister. I don’t put my computer on and create posts if he wants me I am his 100 percent. Hmm, sometimes around 95 percent, as I may tweet whilst he’s in my arms.!

I am giving him the mother that Emily deserved but didn’t get (I was a good mum to Emily but I think part of me blamed her for my lady bits NEVER being the same again, even though I know she was absolutely not to blame).

Whilst I have been writing this, I have fed Luke and also been shouted for by Emily who needed the toilet. When I held her hand and guided her back to bed, she asked me to stay with her and stroke her hand and watch her sleep. At that moment I felt so very, very lucky and privileged.

Now it’s time to sleep.

Hold up! The reason I wrote these posts was to say that 2015 was going to be the year of me. Now, it’s going to be 2016. So there! Project 4.1 (stands for my 41st year) starts now. No sports car, but a wedding and a trip to NYC are on the cards. I’m looking at health, fitness, sleep, mental health and finance.

Project 4.1 – 42lb to go!

Suzanne x mummy of two and master of me.

If you’d like to be part of Project 4.1 please pop your details below.