A Residence Blog

Travel and adventure taking, memory and home making, parenting and play shaking, never faking, tales of family life.

A Residence Blog

Travel and adventure taking, memory and home making, parenting and play shaking, never faking, tales of family life.

Postcards from London – with the London Pass

city cruises in london

 

The first weekend of the holidays we set off to London to review the London Pass. I wrote a detailed post about how that pass works here. In a nutshell the advantages are you can save money if you visit at least 3 attractions in a day, you can also be a VIP and skip the queues as there is no need to buy tickets on the day. If you like you can add travel to your pass.

We stayed at The Cavendish Hotel, which was a short walk from so many sights. We decided to walk from the hotel on Jermyn Street, behind Picaddilly Circus, via Trafalgar Square, to pick up our first attraction: City Cruises.

These air conditioned boats are a perfect way to see the city with children, it was a scorching day so we really appreciated skipping the queue with our passes. We saw so many amazing landmarks while sipping a cool drink in the lounge. We watched the bridges sail above our heads, discovered which one was London Bridge, and much to the kids relief could see that it wasn’t falling down.

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We learnt many interesting facts from the commentary, including that women in the second world war built Waterloo Bridge. Our next stop, the Tower of London soon came into sight.

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My kids at 5 and 7 loved the idea that the jewels were hidden in the tower, that really captured their imagination. My son was so busy plotting and scheming dramatic plans to steal them that he barely registered the queue. There is a lot to explore, more than we had time for before lunch!

steal the crown jewels

We crossed Tower bridge, but you could take in the exhibition which the pass covers. We were too hungry so we had lunch at Strada before taking in HMS Belfast. I will admit I wasn’t keen on this beforehand, but it was fascinating and a great opportunity to talk about war and peace with the kids. Here my daughter waves a finger at the waxwork postmaster for making her jump!

hms belfast

 

Then it was time to take our City Cruise back to Westminster. But not before we got to see Tower Bridge open. It was wonderful to be on an air conditioned boat and this time to watch the South bank, which was full of neon colour and festivities swing past.

city cruises london

Is the London Pass worthwhile? It really depends what you want to visit and over how long. Not all attractions are covered, but the main ones are.

I am not sure we saved much money on our one day pass, but we did avoid queues, and with the heat and summer crowds that was good. It was a very hot day and my kids are 5 and 7, so we left sightseeing to return to the hotel at 4pm, adults would have probably fitted more in!

A two day pass for an adult is £68, for a child it is £49. So £234 for a family of four for the weekend. You could easily get your money back, by taking a river tour, visiting the Tower, bobbing into Westminster Abbey on day one and chilling out at London Zoo on day two. You would benefit from the lack of queuing and ticket buying on the days too.

I think the savings would really come into their own with a 3 day London Pass (£81/£56) or 6 day pass, (£108/£76).

 

Champagne Afternoon Tea Offer

The Cavendish Hotel was a great base after a busy day sightseeing, do read more about the decor in the lounge and the experience of staying as a family. A Residence readers can book champagne afternoon tea in the amazing lounge for only £20, normally £30. A perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of shopping around Picadilly Circus, or to enjoy a break from sightseeing this summer. Just quote A Residence on booking, call 0207 930 2111 or tweet @Cavendish_Hotel and @AResidence.

Days Go By and still I think of you

greek mezze

Corfu, a place Mr A and I visited before kids, and somewhere we have fond memories of. For a long time, a screen saver of the sunset of a beautiful bar we scooted to, overlooking the sea and surrounded by olive trees, was what kept me smiling through tough days as a teacher. Since then I have met a handful of other people who also know of this incredible place and I always vowed to go back.

 A new survey carried by ICE found that majority of people choose their holiday purely based on the food available at the destination. I don’t know about you, but I am with them.

It was there I most remember eating the best Greek salad. Dirty Vegas, Days Go By was playing…I think you need it as a soundtrack to reading this post:

You are still a whisper on my lips 
A feeling at my fingertips 
That’s pulling at my skin

I feasted on Greek salad every day in Corfu, and I could still eat it every day. I love its freshness –  the saltiness of the olives and the creaminess of the feta, mixed with the sweetness of tomatoes and the crispness of cucumber and green pepper. A sprinkle of oregano, a drizzle of olive oil and a splash of vinegar. It really is the perfect taste and texture combo. I leave the red onions out, but traditionally they are there.

I love the easiness of Greek food, I was going to give you a recipe, but you don’t need one, really, just throw it all together. I love a Greek mezze too, pitta, hummus, tzaki, proper picky food, perfect for a hot day.

greek salad

You We swam through the Channel of Love in Sidari , which legend has it, will ensure you stay in love forever. We just celebrated 16 years together.

‘Days Go By and still I think of you.’

Right now I am feeling pretty harassed, I have post festival blues, the house is a sea of half unpacked cases after our trips to London and Camp Bestival. However, the cases are shortly to be repacked and we will be heading off to Corfu for a week. It seemed an apt place to take the kids to see.

‘Days when I couldn’t live my live without you’.

Corfu, my family, Greek salad and mezze. Bring it on! This one I made for me and my Dad and the kids after a morning’s gardening.

a greek feast

We have some Greek influences in our home, including this Alexander bust, and these jugs found in a charity shop. I am planning some more, do check out my Pinterest board.

Follow Penny’s board Greek Style Ideas on Pinterest.

My Entry in the ICS blogger challenge.

Summer picks – in need of inspiration?

nectar summer picks

How lovely are these summer fun ideas? I especially love the sunset walk. I don’t know about you, but I have a Nectar card I gain points from petrol and from food shopping, but I often to forget to check on the points on it. Now could be a great time to do just that, especially if you or your wallet are struggling this summer holiday.

To help parents keep the kids entertained this summer and save them money in the process, Nectar has launched the Nectar Summer Picks website, a brand new resource designed to help families make the very most of the holidays. The aim is to get families away from screens and gadgets and into the great British summer, it’s packed with creative activity ideas and days out that won’t cost the earth.  Nectar Summer Picks has the summer sorted – whatever the weather.

Don’t forget that, between the 23rd July and the 12th of August 2014, your Nectar points could be worth double, triple or more when exchanged for Double Up & More vouchers to spend on fun-filled days out this summer.

What are you waiting for? Do visit the Nectar Summer Picks website and let me know how you get on, I hope you save some money and get some inspiration.

Collaborative post.

From track to sofa, our retired greyhound

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Max, our retired greyhound, is too big to sleep on our bed, but he tries. He’s allowed to jump on in the morning for a snuggle and if Mr A is away for a night he doesn’t think twice about nicking his place.

He’s been with us since November and has slipped into a happy daytime routine, after a quick walk he spends his days moving from sofa to sofa, I pop down from my office to find him on a different sofa each time. Often, he lies on my office floor, his gentle mumblings a sign that he is dreaming.

I often wonder what he is dreaming about. From time to time we are reminded he is was a top class athlete. He likes to chase tennis balls and the speed at which he accelerates after them is incredible. We don’t let him off the lead much, greyhounds are trained to chase and can reach 40mph, so you need to be sure they won’t knock anyone flying or go after a squirrel. But, we are beginning to let him run on an enclosed space near by, and its a joy to see his ‘zoomies’.

Max has been with us over six months now and he feels like part of the family. I didn’t really click at the time, but he came into our lives as my youngest went to school. Apparently its a common phenomenon. Perhaps that is why sometimes my youngest has to be reminded not to annoy him, although he’s learning rapidly about pet ownership and Max is endlessly patient with the kids. You can tell Max loves the fuss and having the kids lie next to him, and being a kid himself too.

Max won 20 of his 60 races as a racing greyhound, when I Google him by his name as a racing hound it’s fascinating, and to me it is important that I understand his background. Last night we walked past a cheering crowd at a sports tournament and immediately his ears pricked up and his whole body became excited and alert, did the sound take him back?

We were also warned to be careful when opening the boot, in case he mistook it for the trap opening, but he’s not made a run for it yet. He’s also mastered stairs, it took a bit of persuading him to slow down, to stop him skidding, but he draws a complete blank at stiles still.

My thoughts on greyhound racing have developed too, I’ve chatted to many people on both sides of the fence. I’ve heard amazing stories of the lengths owners and trainers go to, to look after their dogs. I’ve had some wonderful advice and support from trainers in forums. I imagine Max has been trained and cared for incredibly well, his behaviour is brilliant, he is healthy with a glossy coat, and has made having my first dog quite literally a walk in the park.

Of course, any sport that is dependent on gambling is open to abuse, our dog sitter showed us a photo of the state her now beautiful greyhound was in when she adopted him when he didn’t take to racing. There is also the issue of what happens after racing. There are an awful lot of dogs in the care of Lincolnshire Greyhound Trust where we met Max, who have finished their racing career and are looking for homes. As well trained pedigrees, well known for being gentle and obedient, retired Greyhounds make truly excellent pets.

retired greyhound

Why Camp Bestival is like a fine wine

Knackered Mother's Wine Club at Camp Bestival

We’re back from reviewing our third incredible Camp Bestival. Previously at Camp Bestival I have enjoyed a beer or two in a paper cup while watching acts at the main stage, or a Pimms in the Bollywood cocktail bar. Unlike the festivals of my youth, where alcohol featured high on the agenda, camping, kids and fun packed days mean that a drink is a one or two off indulgence to top a great day. So, if I am going to drink, I would like it to be a really special one.

I think Camp Bestival made some great additions on that front this year, in fact the whole festival is like a great wine, it gets better with age – so many wonderful new things on all fronts as I will cover in other posts.  Camp Bestival is so much more than bands and kids activities, and there is stuff for grown ups too, like a spa, massage tents, a literary institute with inspiring speakers and amazing food. Today I thought I would focus on drink.

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Just because you are in a field, doesn’t mean you can’t have a really good glass of wine, or a really inspiring cocktail. The jam jar bar, with its caravans serving wine and cocktails was a beautiful space.

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I was also lucky enough to go along to Helen’s Knackered Mother’s Wine Club Wine Tasting, while Mr A took the kids to the Lego tent. Helen is a great presenter, full of fun and of course very knowledgeable about wine. Earlier in the day she had spoken in The Guardian Literary institute tent, alongside other authors, DJs and journalists.

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Her book Knackered Mother’s Wine Club in the words of India Knight ‘doesn’t just simplify wine, it simplifies life.’ And India loves it, and I have just ordered it.

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We got cracking with tasting Prosecco, Helen taught us to smell and taste wine properly, suddenly my mouth was flooded with flavours and I was desperately rooting round my brain to put a name on whatever it was my nostrils were experiencing, pomegranate, passion fruit, cucumber?  I guess if you don’t exercise those thought processes very much they are a little slow.

The audience had lots a great questions, including Annie from Mannkesjur - just in case you don’t recognise her under the greasepaint – the theme this year was Circus, in case you were wondering…

The conversation started to flow and opinions started to form, here is Louise from My Gorgeous Boys and Mari.

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I learnt early on I prefer Prosecco to Champagne, it’s lighter. Brilliant news for my pocket! Helen had some great tips on where to find the best of both, look out for Asda’s Prosecco which is often on special offer, and the champagne we tasted was made by the same vineyard who make very well known champagnes, but at a much lower price. So Helen’s book is going to save you money too.

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It was lovely to spy some old blogging friends under the table, literally, not alcoholically speaking. Mummy Barrow (I know, she is a little disguised here) was in her element, with a jam jar cocktail AND a fine rose. Rose is not for me, but it went down well with rose drinkers.

It was wonderful to see Vanessa from HPMCQ so at ease in a field camping – she’s vowed to go again too! Vanessa is probably also looking so happy because she is drinking what I think was the best wine of the tasting, I shall reveal all shortly.

Mari’s ears pricked up at the sound of Italian wine.

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Helen dealt beautifully with an increasingly chatty crowd, including her biggest heckler, her mum, who you can see in the white dress here.

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She took a ‘break’ from serving 50 mums to photobomb my picture of Mari and Louise.

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I made a new friend, Lisa has a lovely creative business, called Compass Creativity, she makes personalised wall art using maps and jigsaw pieces, lovely idea for a present, especially for special occasions and anniversaries. Speaking of which, Mr A and I celebrated 16 years together on Friday, at our favourite anniversary place, Camp Bestival! In case you are wondering, the yellow scarf is the finger knitting I did in the knitting tent.

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I think we were tasting Old Bush Vine Grenache here, a bit potent for me, who is not a huge fan of red, but Lisa enjoyed it.

But I was really surprised by this red, it is a fortified dessert wine and Helen served it to us with a square of dark chocolate. It was like eating the most sublime cherry chocolate pudding, in fact I would happily forgo chocolate cake to eat and drink this combo instead! It would be great to wow guests after dinner.

seriously plummy grand reserve maury dessert wine

My overall favourite, the one I will always go for, a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. My nose clearly thought so too and immediately flooded with the names for all I could smell, grass, bonfire, flint, earth – maybe being in a field next to the food tent helped.

Sauvignon is a popular wine, there are lots of poor imitations, so perhaps why it can be so hit and miss. I am going to look out for this one.

While I was being a knackered mother, my husband and children enjoyed the Lego tent. The kids played happily into the evening at a table in the jam jar bar with their Lego, while Mr A and I sampled the wares from the feast collective food tent, where Helen’s choice of wines were also available to buy – more on that incredible foodie paradise coming very soon – Helen did warn us wine wakes up the taste buds!

Kids Activities

I’ve just shared 20 things my kids loved and learned over on parentshaped, do go over and find out more about the amazing kids’ activities.

Vita Coco for Alcohol free refreshment

My kids enjoyed the Vita Coco Kids Beach at Camp Bestival. Vita Coco, as you would imagine, is made with coconut, which makes it lower sugar than juice. Its also full of protein and incredibly refreshing. I was pleased to discover my kids really loved it. It’s also for grown ups, Mocha was my favourite, a real summer pick me up!

Tickets for 2015

Early Bird tickets for Camp Bestival 2015 go on sale Friday 8th August 2014, and there is a payment plan, so catch them while you can! I will leave you with some video evidence of all the fun from 2012, why we first fell in love with Camp Bestival in 2012, what we loved in 2013 and a packing list.

I may have to treat myself to some new wine glasses now I am home, I am loving these ones, by Sagaform at Wayfair.

Disclosure – we were given tickets to the festival in return for preview and review and live coverage – in other words, I worked hard to party hard.

Through the Keyhole – The art of collecting

Through the keyhole

 

I don’t know about you but I love to look around people’s homes. The lovely thing about being a blogger is making new friends online, but you don’t always get to meet or do the simple things like pop over for coffee.

Through the Keyhole gives you a chance to do just that, have a sneaky peak inside someone else’s home. Last week we snooped round Kate at Wit Wit Woo’s Home, it was stylish with a good sense of humour.

This week’s resident spends a lot of time of Pinterest and is very creative, I challenge you not to nab at least one of her ideas for your own home. I will take you though the keyhole to her blog later if you can’t guess, or if you’re curious, which I am sure after reading this you will be.

 

My £5 bike from the charity shop is hung on a wall in my garden so that I can see it from the kitchen. Biking is my newfound hobby. I have decorated the bike with the children’s finger knitting, yarn-bombing the wheel.

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Wind Chimes are made from the kiddies old xylophone piano and E.T. was ordered especially off of Ebay for the basket.

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A pallet shelf in the garden for knick knacks. Cemented Lego men and bits of broken crockery. Funky Lino backing from a friend’s skip during their bathroom renovations.

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Baby Doll Amelia peeking through the skylight in the kitchen. I saw something similar on Pinterest and had to try it. There are always children spilling out of our home, but thankfully we’ve not had anyone on the roof. Yet.

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In our kitchen, I have a canvas print of a detail from my Grandpa’s cooker. I loved her kitchen which was original to the house. I knew that it wouldn’t be there long and so made a point to try to capture the details. I like having a bit of her kitchen in mine.

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Our next door neighbour liked to collect interesting things too, but since he passed, his wife has been trying to clear some space in the house. We have tried to be sensible and not take in too much, but this Port box was from him and holds our games quite nicely. We also have a couple of plastic crates that are great for sitting next to the campfire and an old Barber’s sign from our village which now hangs in our garden. I think that he had a good eye for interesting things.

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On a visit to see our family, the kids mentioned to my aunt that they liked Archie comics, but that they were somewhat hard to find. I think that she must have gotten every available issue for them.  They are still reading them now, over and over again.

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Just a random image typical of our life at home. Clothes and shoes are discarded throughout the house and garden on a daily basis and need rounding up at the end of each day.

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My Grandma and Aunt are quilters. The children and I made their patchwork quilts over a few years.

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Melted Crayon Art. It surprises me how many people come round and admire these. I guess not everybody spends as much time on Pinterest as I have done, and haven’t seen all of the craft fads of the past few years.  I keep thinking of taking it down, or melting them with the hairdryer some more, just for fun.

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In the boys room, I covered some textured floral wallpaper left by the previous owners with our collection of maps. The boys like to trace their fingers and cars around New York City and beyond when they are supposed to be sleeping.

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Fridge art gallery. One of many galleries in our home. I love art.

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Shelf in the bathroom with random tidbits. Pottery from the Tye River Pottery in Virgina, our wedding cake topper made from clay by a friend, with the intention of representing us, cheesy illuminative Landscape picture from the charity shop, old windmill picture from a market in Belgium (I think) I have had with me for ages. Little boy statue used to be my husband’s when he was little, hand decorated jewellery box given to me by a friend, and earrings that I rarely wear. (I am a hoops or stud type of woman)

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I was given this air horn on my last birthday. It was MUCH louder than I had expected and I’m not sure how much air Honk I’ve got, so I am rationing myself. It’s kept up here, out of reach of the kiddies.

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Our kitchen table is a happy place, usually full of things being made, that get pushed to the side for meals. Sometimes, oftentimes,  it’s so full of projects that we resort to eating on our laps.

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My office is in the cupboard on the landing. The idea was that when things get too messy, as they often do, I can just shut the door so that we don’t have to see it. Trouble is, I am always on here, and paperwork spills out onto the landing. It’s cozy though, and I like it. It’s next to the kid’s room though so I can do some work while policing the boy’s bed time sillyness.

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The happy hour record station in the kitchen. I been enjoying collecting records from charity shops and listening to them while cooking and discovering new, old music. The record player was from Aldi. A great find after my old one broke a good few years ago now.

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I have fallen in love with today’s Through the Keyhole, I want to go and visit although I don’t think my eyes would be able to stop looking at all the magical treasures. Perhaps you can guess whose house this is, or are you ready to go through the keyhole and find out more?

Okay, time to put you out of your misery, *puts on best Loyd Grossman voice* Who would live in a house like this? Let’s go through the keyhole …just click it.

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To take part in Blogger Through the Keyhole, please contact me using the links in the sidebar or in my About Me page.

As regular readers will know A Residence is now part of Wayfair, the homes and interiors online store, for more home inspiration, check them out.

Keyhole picture credit

5 reasons to stay at The Cavendish Hotel, London

Cavendish Hotel family stay

Yesterday I shared a house fantasy, inspired by the lounge at The Cavendish Hotel, today I thought I would review our thoughts on staying at The Cavendish.

This hotel was a perfect base for us in many ways

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Mr A outside Daks, Jermyn Street where he bought his wedding suit, lots happens in nine years

1. Nine years ago Mr A and I went shopping for Mr A’s wedding suit along the same street as the hotel. Jermyn Street is just off Picadilly Circus, but it is like stepping back in time, the street has beautiful shopfronts, cafes, bookshops, Fortnum and Mason, delis, which supply the hotel, but Jermyn Street is perhaps best known for supplying menswear, specifically shirts.

Cavendish hotel, a short walk to Buckingham palace

Playing head high fives on the short walk to Buckingham Palace

2. The Cavendish Hotel is perfectly located for so many tourist attractions, which meant we made the most of our London Pass without ever having to take the underground, which in Summer, with kids, is perfect. We walked across St James Park to the Hard Rock cafe on Friday night, and to see Buckingham palace on the Sunday – both just a 15-20 minute stroll.

On the way there are so many distractions and art galleries, we stopped to admire a picture of Venice and remember another travel adventure in Christie’s window. On Saturday we walked, via Trafalgar Square and Big Ben to Westminster Pier to catch a boat with City Cruises along the Thames.

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Just a ten minute stroll from the hotel, the excitement of visiting Buckingham Palace begins!

3. The Cavendish Hotel was the the perfect place to unwind after a day’s sightseeing. We had two adjourning rooms, both with the most comfortable beds, air conditioning and piles of fluffly pillows. We worked hard at the sightseeing and packed a lot in, but knowing we had this to come home to gave us the energy to do more. The kids’ bed, below, was about half the size of ours, in fact we probably all four could have slept in it.

Family Room Cavendish Hotel London

Adjourning rooms meant everyone got to relax without being under each other’s feet. City breaks are exciting and stimulating, so I really appreciated having a really clean, comfortable, spacious and luxurious base that allowed us all a few hours to really embrace relaxing each morning and evening.

4. The hotel feels like an oasis in the city; the Hotel Manager took the time to comment on this post about the lounge decor, to tell me this was their exact intention. Our surroundings meant we made time to escape into the things we wouldn’t always find time for at home, chatting into the night with the kids, a long luxurious bubble bath with the complimentary copy of Marie Clare, newspapers and a very long lie in on Sunday. Mr A and I agreed, it felt like two holidays, the London bit and the hotel bit!  We couldn’t believe how much fun and relaxation we had crammed into a weekend.

5. Breakfast really set us up for the day, as you would expect there was the perfect something for everyone. The kids loved having hot chocolate, pancakes, French toast, piles of fruit and boiled eggs. Mr A tried a full English on Saturday and Eggs Benedict on Sunday, while I went for omelette and vegetarian sausages. Delicious.

Cavendish hotel breakfast

The staff are friendly and attentive, the welcome warm and nothing was too much trouble.

Escape, relax, unwind is the perfect motto for this hotel.

More on what we did in London with our London Pass to come. For the best rates follow The Cavendish Hotel on Twitter and Facebook, I just spotted their Summer Break Rate:

Champagne Afternoon Tea Offer

The Cavendish Hotel was a great base after a busy day sightseeing in London, do read more about the decor in the lounge too. A Residence readers can book champagne afternoon tea in the amazing lounge for only £20, normally £30. A perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of shopping around Picadilly Circus, or to enjoy a break from sightseeing this summer. Just quote A Residence on booking, call 0207 930 2111 or tweet @Cavendish_Hotel and @AResidence.

House Fantasy: Cavendish Hotel Style

House Fantasy Cavendish Hotel Lounge

We’ve just returned from an amazing trip to London as a family, while I sift through my photos and form some posts about all that I thought a house fantasy would be fun. Regular readers will know I like to pretend I live in other places. I am really pleased with how the photos turned out here, as you could quite easily imagine us living here in the lounge of the Cavendish Hotel in central London, I think, Miss L made herself very at home.

There was lots to like here and lots of great ideas to borrow. Being a hotel the inspiration was travel and, judging from the pictures and Budda sculpture, I am thinking India.

The staff at the hotel are so attentive, and General Manager Neil Braude, apart from sending us a welcome card, also left a lovely comment below explaining the design inspiration which I am quoting here:

The inspiration behind our interiors is travel and really a generic take from many countries that represent calm. The Lounge is used by many as an extension of their rooms, although we serve Afternoon Tea to many in this area it is equally used for rest, relaxing, catching up with friends, informal meetings and so on. So the calm open space is airy, light and calm to suit all occasions.

The colours are very important to us, we like to reflect the reds, yellow, browns of nature enhanced by the floral and foliage in our artwork. As our hotel is located right next to Piccadilly this is to bring a feeling of escape from the busy and bustling streets of London with it’s honking horns and frenetic crowds. Our restaurant is called Petrichor, which you may have noticed, and the name describes the scent of the earth after rain has just fallen – another reference to bringing a calm and natural feeling into the hotel.

I love the way the lounge is a big open plan space, but it uses shelves filled with vases and statues to create dividers. I have always wanted to do this in our house, knock down as many walls as possible in our Victorian home and create a gigantic open plan space.

I love the rich colours here too, warm browns and deep plummy reds, lifted by yellow, by light and by flowers.  I love the crackled silver upholstery on these chairs and the single yellow flower mirroring the flowers in the art work.

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I couldn’t take my eyes off the glass table lamps, or Miss L the stunning chandelier. I liked the arrangement of these pictures and the use of colour and shape to create an impact without being too distracting.

I love the idea of our home reflecting our travels, it is something I have been working on, especially since we cruised the Med taking in Greece, Turkey and Italy. I’ve yet to visit Morocco, but it really inspired this room.

Here’s some ideas I picked out from Wayfair to complement this lounge look:

House Fantasy Cavendish Wayfair

The pendant light is from Dar Lighting, the Carlotta armchair is by Andreu World. The Budda and African vase are both great value, as is the Budda wall art. The table lamp borrows from the glass lamp and colour scheme, but there were also some more industrial brick lights if you prefer something less dainty. I think though, the Indian Hub reclaimed bookcase is my favourite find today at Wayfair.

The Cavendish Hotel is a really lovely four star hotel, ideally located, just behind Fortnum and Mason, on the stylish side street Jermyn Street.

Champagne Afternoon Tea Offer

The Cavendish Hotel was a great base after a busy day sightseeing, do read more about our experience of staying as a family. A Residence readers can book champagne afternoon tea in the amazing lounge for only £20, normally £30. A perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of shopping around Picadilly Circus, or to enjoy a break from sightseeing this summer. Just quote A Residence on booking, call 0207 930 2111 or tweet @Cavendish_Hotel and @AResidence.

Favourite Cookbook Shelfie

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I am finding myself inspired to cook lots more again, which is a real joy as amid the chaos of daily life, cooking and I fell out of love. I need some help here though, and I find the best way to do it is to ask for inspiration. Please will you tell me about your favourite cook books?

I have been vegetarian since I was ten, so my kids were raised vegetarian. When they started school they began to eat meat and fish. It wasn’t an easy decision, but given my husband eats meat I felt they should be able to choose. I don’t cook any meat, but do the bulk of the cooking, so we look for easy, fail proof cook books that give us both great results, whether meat or veggie.

Some are veggie, some are a mix, hope you like them and I look forward to hearing yours! This is a linky, so do feel free to join up your favourite cookbook shelfie below, I’ve tagged some folks, but please don’t wait to be tagged.

The Bridge Street Vegetarian Cookbook a ringbinder of veggie recipes made for me when I left home, by my Mum, probably my most used cook book to date. Spag bol, chilli, birthday cake, plus how to boil an egg from my Food Scientist Dad, how to make pancakes from my brother, flapjacks from my Aunt, Greek honey cakes from my Greek Aunt and my Grandma’s treacle toffee and pikelets.

Delia’s Vegetarian collection – a bit fiddly, and lots of ingredients, but if you have the time or a special occasion, worth every minute. The cakes are also amazing. Roast veggies, marinaded in a bag is the recipe I go back to every Christmas and for Winter Sunday lunches. The Goats Cheese topped Lentil Shepherd’s Pie is incredible too.

How to be a Domestic Goddess – Mr A bought me this when we first moved in together in Brighton. I assumed it was a joke then, but it really has brought me lots of happy times. I love baking and I love reading Nigella’s books. There’s so much love, of food, friends and family in them. Its grown with me, from making pies for when our friends came over to making nostalgic cupcakes for my kids.

Innocent’s Hungry? – This was bought for Mr A, now that the kids eat meat and fish it is down to him to cook for them when they do. There are some great veggie recipes in here though, which are simple and easy and packed with taste. They really are family friendly recipes.

National Trust Tea Time Treats – I have a penchant for Scones. They are so easy to bake and so satisfying, what more is there to say.

Vegetarian Step by Step – I haven’t used this much, but I think given it is so visual, with images of each step, it would be a great one to work with with kids. I trying to wean mine off baking and onto cooking.

The Soup Bible – Dad bought me this one and it is often found in discount stores, it is an amazing book to have. It is a brilliant way to use up whatever veg we have leftover, or to make use of seasonal veg in new ways.

Sainsburys Vegetarian Cookery – Sarah Brown – This is a bit dated now, Mum bought it in the 80s, but some recipes, like the Nut Roast have stood the test of time. Sarah Brown is an  amazing vegetarian cook.

Jaime Oliver (this one is not as veggie friendly but the first one was better!) – Great for a mixed meat and vegetarian household, Mr A uses his fail proof recipes for meat dishes and I love the veggie side dishes and mezze dishes.

The Wharf Street Vegetarian Cook Book – I think the cafe was in Leeds, its a real wholefood, old school vegetarian cook book, but I love it. Lentil Dahl is a fave.

River Cafe Cook Book Easy – Dad bought us this and it really is a great intro to making simple ingredients taste amazing both for veggies and non veggies.  River Cafe Cook Book Green is perfect for cooking veggies seasonally.

How to Eat – Nigella again! I just love to read this, with sections on everything from dinner parties to weaning and cutting back and dieting, its a great resource.

I would love to see your recipe book shelfie, so I am tagging Emily from A Mummy Too, Becky from A Beautiful Space, Amanda from The Ana Mum Diary, Jen from Love Chic Living, Helen from Actually Mummy, Katie from Mummy and Daddy and Me Makes Three, Alison from Not Another Mummy Blog, Rebecca from Amuse Your Bouche, Annie from Manneskjur and Tanya from Mummy Barrow. Plus anyone else who fancies it!

How to join in

Non bloggers – Please share your #cookbookshelfie with me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and I will share them in a post here, (I am @AResidence)

Bloggers – Please link your shelfie up here so we can all get inspired and here, if you fancy is the code for a badge for your post, please tag some more people and let them know they can link them up here:

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How to make S’mores, on the fire pit

how to make s'mores

British sustainable fire wood supplier Certainly Wood sent me a fire starter kit and challenged me to learn how to make S’mores. I have to admit, I am a bit rubbish and always let Mr A build fires, but I love campfire treats, so I figured it was about time I became the fire starter in the family.

I also had had my eye on this Harlin fire pit from Wayfair, I like the idea we could both cook and keep warm with it. I delegated the building though, I can totally do flatpack, but Miss L wanted to bake marble chocolate and lemon cakes and that was more appealing. So the boys put it together, it was an easy job.

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Certainly Wood sent me a special kit, with logs and kindling which are dried in a solar powered kiln, and natural firelighters, plus the ingredients for S’mores. It couldn’t be easier to do. Flamers natural firelighters are untreated, wax dipped fine wood shavings. I loved them because they are natural, odourless, easy to light and burn for a longer time.

fire starter kit

I followed the instructions, but I am not sure this is quite what was meant. Mr A promised to remain tight lipped on his fire building secrets as I wanted to do this myself. I should have watched Certainly Wood’s how to light a fire video.

how to make a fire

In the end, with some twiddling I got there, a raging fire. I had some real campfire cooking successes, so I will do another post on what is in the tinfoil and just say that the corn on the cob should have been too – I will know next time!

firepit from wayfair

While the fire pit cooked our main course they played in the garden and I drank cocktails I watched over it. Although, actually, the beauty of fire pit cooking is you can just leave it to get on with it, rather than all the hassle of a BBQ. More on that next post, pudding first!

I love this fire pit, the lid makes it a stylish and safer than an open fire. The removable grill means it is essentially just an outdoor cooker. Its going to be a wonderful way to live outdoors and to elongate the summer!

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S’mores

Rumour has it these were invented by Girl Guides and s’mores is an abbreviation of ‘some more’, because they are so moreish! S’mores are a US/Canadian tradition and August 10th is National S’mores Day in the US!

Ingredients – Biscuits, chocolate, (or chocolate biscuits are a great shortcut) marshmallows (You can get veggie marshmallows these days too).

S’mores are best made when the fire has died back and the embers are still hot. Its so easy, just toast a marshmallow ’til its really gooey, which is why you want the fire to have died back.

Then sandwich the marshmallow between two choccie biccies or between two biscuits and some squares of chocolate, like a big sandwich.

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Enjoy! We certainly did.

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You can add fruit, like banana, raspberry or strawberry or peanut butter or cinnamon, the s’more is your oyster!

Why not build a S’mores station, with a pot of marshmallows on sticks, a tray of biscuits and fruit?

So there you have it, how to make s’mores! Savoury recipes to follow. What do you like to cook on a campfire?

More info

Certainly Wood makes sure the firewood they source is sustainable, British wood. They fell only the weakest trees in their forests, meaning the other trees can grow stronger and they are constantly replanting trees that then absorb carbon dioxide. All of their electricity is produced using solar panels and biomass, so all of their processing equipment is powered using renewable energy and they burn all their wood waste to create heat to dry the logs. Burning firewood is one way of ensuring we look after the environment. Not only is it carbon-neutral, but all the wood they produce comes from forests within a 100 mile radius.

Firepits come in all shapes and sizes and even include gel fire pits. Wayfair have dining, cocktail and coffee sized tables with fire pits as well as a simple free standing fire bowl.

The one above is the Wayfair Harlin Small Firepit £149.99. See the full range of fire pits here.

Disclosure – This blog is part of Wayfair, the fire pit and fire kit were supplied for review, all opinions my own.

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