Tag Archives: books

Tea at The Ritz

ritz“Things to do in my 40s” Bucket List number 4 – BIG FAT DONE!!!

I thought it was high time I started ticking off some more on my bucket list, so I decided I would treat myself for afternoon tea at The Ritz.  And what better day to go than my birthday 😉

I was very purple. I decided on a lovely frock – blue grey with big purple flowers topped off with a purple shrug (which I had worn for SC’s christening), my purple handbag and a pair of flat ballerina pumps (I did take my heels, but in the end felt more comfortable in flats)

I dropped SC off at school and then hot-footed it up into the big smoke – I’d booked afternoon tea for 11.30, which I suppose technically makes it morning tea 😉 so I had plenty of time to get back for school pick-up.

I was there super early, but got to sit in the foyer soaking up the ambience. It was truly lovely.

Eventually 11:30 arrived and I was shown to my table (for 1) – handily wedged in a corner, so I could sit and watch the world go by whilst I supped tea and read my book (which you could say was my date).ritz1

Oh my gosh! The choice of tea is vast, at least 20 varieties. I was tempted by the Orange Pekoe, but seeing as I haven’t partaken in caffeinated tea for a while I didn’t want to run the risk of getting the caffeine shakes in the middle of one of the poshest hotels in London, so I stuck to my herbal and veered away from Chamomile to Lemon Verbena. It was refreshing on the old palate and made a lovely change.

And don’t you just love it when you get a proper china cup and saucer? Makes the tea taste better I find!

The tea turned up in a silver teapot, with an extra silver jug filled with hot water and a tea strainer – although with the Lemon Verbena there were not many tea leaves, so I couldn’t read my leaves at the end!!!

ritz2Then they brought a cake stand with a plate of sandwiches – the daintiest things. I would love to know how they do them. How come their bread doesn’t squish down when they cut it like mine does when I make SC his packed lunch in the mornings?? There was smoked salmon (scrummy), cucumber (of course), hummus (I got the veggie option), tomato and cheese. And the top of the stand had 5 lovely looking cakes.

So armed with tea, sandwiches, cake and a good book I settled down to enjoy the atmosphere. Then the man started playing the grand piano – a medley of old musical tunes – truly lovely, brought a tear to my eye.

I was so engrossed with my book and enjoying my tea that I scarcely noticed that an hour had gone by and the waiter came to replenish my teapot and offer scones.

To be honest, I didn’t eat everything. There was a lot. I was a very good girl and didn’t eat the cakes, but I couldn’t resist the teeny tiny scones – especially as they came hot from the oven with clotted cream and jam.

And I made sure I eked out every single second. As it’s so popular you get an hour and three-quarters and I was not going to leave until 1:15!!! So I made darn sure I made that last cup of tea last 😉

I had a lovely time, I’m glad I can tick it off my list and I would definitely go again. Maybe next time I’ll get to go with a real-live human being instead of a book – but heck, if not I’ll take another book 😉

 

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Forget those 3 little words – it’s 6 words that tell a story!

I’m a big fan of the writer Paul Coelho (The Alchemist, Veronika Decides to Die, 11 Minutes, etc). Haven’t got all his books, but have read quite a few. I’ve just finished re-reading “The Alchemist”, digging out Manual of the Warrior Light next to re-read. (Best pop some more on my birthday wish list)

Anyway, he wrote that it only takes 6 words to tell a story. So here are a couple of mine:

  • Waiting, always waiting. That’s my problem.
  • I have faith & hope, nothing else!
  • The past is in the past.
  • Nice girls lose out … always!
  • Sassy single mum. Proud of it!
  • Don’t give up climbing the tree.
  • Knock me down, I bounce back!
  • I love cuddles and my PJs.
  • Life’s a rollercoaster. Enjoy the ride!
  • I trust you. Don’t disappoint me.
  • I’m thankful and grateful every day.

Your turn 😉

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What are the best ‘self-help’ books you have read?

I know, I know. People who read so-called ‘self-help’ books are the people who want to do something, but never get round to actually doing it.

But I did 😉

However, I don’t there is just 1 ‘self-help’ guide out there to fix all the problems – after much research, reading and soul searching the answer lies with us.  But as a complete book geekette I find that books help put things into perspective, if I’m feeling something but don’t know why, if I can find an answer in a book I can generally then try identify what I’ve read with my own feelings and work things out (if that makes any sense whatsoever?)

And like I said, there’s more than 1 book out there, and over the last couple of years, I’ve read loads.  There are some that have struck more chords than others, and some that I picked up and immediately put back down again!

These are probably my Top 3:

3.  The Chimp Paradox by Dr Mike Peters

I wrote a blog about this book way back in 2013 (“Me & My Chimp” – just re-published it) and since writing the post ‘Charlie’ and I have in general sorted out our differences.  Sometimes he raises his naughty little head and starts whispering negative thoughts into my brain, but these day I just try to ignore him.

The book, without going into too much detail – after all it’s all in the previous post – details how those annoying little self-doubt voices you hear in your head are just akin to a chimp lodging in your brain. And if you take notice of them, you feed them and they become bigger and stronger until they pretty much rule your life.

So, as the signs at the zoo keep reminding us “Do Not Feed the Chimps!”

2.  The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success by Dr Kevin Dutton & Andy McNab

… or “How to use your inner psychopath to get the most out of life.”  And no, that doesn’t mean you have to turn into Hannibal Lecter or Norman Bates!

Effectively, the gist of the book is that everyone has psychopathic qualities, such as fearlessness, empathy, and decisiveness, etc., and if we think of them as dials on a radio they get turned up and down as we need them to get the best out of any situation. (Note, a bad psychopath has the dials turned up to maximum permanently!)  They explain that top lawyers and surgeons have these ‘good’ psychopathic tendencies to do the job they need to do with the least emotion possible – and having experienced the legal system, I’d have been a terrible lawyer, I am way too emotional!

But what the man in the street needs to do is tune in to these dials and alter the frequency as and when they need to help them out.  There is a sequel which actually takes all the qualities and shows you how to put them to use in every day situations – “Sorted – The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Bossing Your Life”

And my Number 1 is a book I randomly picked off the shelf in the library (really must buy my own copy) called “Flip It” by Michael Heppell.

It’s basic premise is to pretty much take every situation and just flip it from the negative to the positive to energise your actions and ensure you get the best out of any situation.

It’s full of tips and exercises and is truly eye-opening.

So my new mantra for anything I encounter these days that gives me a headache is to either flip it or f**k it (which incidentally is the name of another self-help book 😉 )

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CHILDREN’S BOOK REVIEW: Winterling Series by Sarah Prineas

winterling

  • Stars: If I could give a million I would
  • Would I recommend it: In a heart beat
  • Age range: 8-12

 

Wow! Wow! and WOW!

Oh my goodness, SC and I have read some fab books but these would most definitely be in the top 3. Possibly even number 1!!

I bought “Winterling” for him a few years ago – as is my normal book buying method I just thought the cover looked interesting – and one night I had to go out so Grandpa was in charge of night-time reading. When I got home I asked my dad whether SC had enjoyed the beginnings of the book to be met with a grunt and “Didn’t make any b****y sense! He didn’t think much either.”

Hmm! I was a little bit surprised as I thought he would like it.

Flash forward to September last year and after ransacking the library over the holidays and devouring pretty much their entire back catalogue, I said we would read “Winterling”. “But Mummy,” came the responding whine, “I didn’t like it before.”

So, I suggested maybe we should give it another go, with me reading this time and if he really didn’t like it then we would read something else the following night.

45 minutes later he was hooked 😉

I won’t give any of the plot away, because that’s not fair, but it’s full of magic, adventure, mystical lands and at the heart actually lies a story about being true.

It’s perfectly written for children (and adults – I’m hooked too)

The best part is you actually start to care about the characters and what happens to them.

Well, we finished Winterling and then found out there were 2 more books in the series – Summerkin and Moonkind. So at Christmas I bought them for SC.

We couldn’t read them straight away as we had a backlog of library books again, but we started them as soon as we could.

And we were not disappointed – you know how sometimes sequels can be a bit of a damp squib? Not these books.

Action-packed and full of magic.

Well, we finished the final book – with both of us blubbing and cries of “But Mummy, I need to know what happens next!” – that’s how much we care about the characters.

Thankfully, one quick email to the lovely author I was told that there was a final book, because so many readers had asked the same question. It is only available as an e-book, so I had to download to my mum’s Kindle (I prefer holding a book!).

And yes, this resolved all the questions and they all lived happily ever after 😉

These were the most amazing children’s books we have read, to date, and I cannot recommend them enough.

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CHILDREN’S BOOK REVIEW: “The Apothecary” by Maile Meloy

  • The ApothecaryStars: 5
  • Would I recommend it: YES
  • Age range: 8-12 (although for younger readers you can skip the soppy stuff!! and maybe the ocassional “bl**dy”)

I picked up this book in the library to read with SC. The cover looked pretty and the blurb on the back had me thinking it could be quite a good page-turner of a book.

“Janie Scott has just moved to London from sunny LA, and she’s finding it forbidding, dreary and cold. That is until she meets Benjamin Burrows who dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin’s father – a mysterious apothecary – is kidnapped, he entrusts Janie and Benjamin with a powerful book, full of ancient spells and magical potions.

But there are others who seek the book’s secrets – spies in possession of nuclear weapons that could destroy the world …”

Oh my goodness!

We were not disappointed – and I will try not to give away any spoilers.

This book is a fabulous story.  It has it all love, adventure, excitement, magic, history and above all the idea of keeping your mind open to the possibility that anything is possible!

It created quite a bit of discussion in this house, and me having to hark back to school and remembering my History classes about the aftermath of World War 2. I had to explain about the McCarthy Witch Hunts that took place in the States, what the Cold War was, why there was a theoretical “iron curtain” hanging down the middle of Europe and the fact you couldn’t cross over it and even nuclear weapons and how they worked in theory – my goodness my brain got quite a workout – although I think I may have to do a bit of reading up on nuclear physics (it was never my strongest subject at school)

So, on top of all that background history going on throughout the story, there was an exciting adventure and a race against time, intertwined with alchemy, magic and herbal lore.

When you reach the end of the book it does leave a few questions unanswered, but thankfully having look up on the internet there are 2 more books that are sequels to this one – so thankfully we will be able to read on and see what happens 😉

So that’s a quick run-down on what the book has inside without mentioning anything specific about the plot.

There’s just one quote from the book that struck a chord with me:

“… we should not stop at our desire to protect our own children in their immediate world. we want the streets they walk to be safe, and the walls around them to be sound, and we want to be able to put food in their bellies. These are natural desires.

But if we truly want them to be safe and well, we must make the greater world a different place. As it stands, we are all threatened, at every moment, and nothing we do to lock our own doors and earn our pay and tuck our children in bed will make the slightest difference.”

As a parent, you want nothing more than to protect your child from harm. You will move heaven and earth to keep them safe. Sometimes, our best endeavours are not enough and the unimaginable becomes reality. I cannot comprehend how that must feel and I can only imagine that such an awful reality must leave a huge hole in a parent’s life that can never heal.

But I think the above quote cuts deeper than just that of being a parent, and that is being a human being.

This story is about the Cold War, nuclear weapons and the power of fear. However relevant the quote is for that period in time, it is also extremely relevant in today’s world.

There may not be an Iron Curtain, and the Cold War may well have thawed somewhat over the years, but nowadays the threats come from other sources – so how can we protect our children and each other?

It has been said that in order to change the world, we must start with ourselves and become the embodiment of what we want the world to be.

If we fight hate with hate, hate wins. But can we fight hate with love? And if so, how?

So let’s all try to make the greater world a different place – maybe all it takes to start is a smile – it can’t hurt, right?

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Mid-January Update…

Well, it’s the middle of the first month of the new year – how’s it going so far?

Of my “10 things to do in 2014” list, I am going great guns with exercising every day.

I am doing the 10 minute exercise DVD – one for my abs and one for my legs and bum – I have done them religiously every day. I’m also doing a 30-day arm challenge designed to tone up my arms (no bingo wings or muffin tops here!)

And yes, sometimes it is hard to motivate myself to do them. Any form of regular exercise, be it going to the gym or doing stuff at home, does require motivation and an inner discipline to get on and do it even though your chimp part of your brain wants to take the easy option and slouch on the couch in your pyjamas.

But, my discipline is, if I can take a 20 minute coffee break during the day, I’ve got time to do 20 minutes of exercising.

So, for the past 17 days I have exercised – abs, legs and bum, and arms.

And guess what?

I’m beginning to notice a difference.

Any form of exercise is going to take a while to see any change – and I think that’s where some people can get disheartened as they may expect to see instantaneous results after 100 crunches – I believe that it takes 2 weeks for you to begin to see a difference and 4 weeks for other people to start noticing.

So you have to keep going if you want to see results.

And aside from the obvious toning up aspect, the other advantage to exercising is the release of happy hormones 😉

I’ve also started reading Tolstoy’s “War & Peace”.

I downloaded it onto the kindle as it’s the kind of thing I can pick up and read a little bit of whilst waiting for SC at any one of his various after-school things.

I’m 8% in, so far.

To be honest, I have had to force myself to read it.

Up until 6% I was thinking it was possible the dullest book in the history of books, but the action seems to have picked up a bit now.

Drunken debauchery resulting in a bear being tied to a policeman and both being thrown in a river – the offenders being sent home in disgrace, some Count has died whilst people were squabbling over his will, literally over his death-bed, and there are letters which give the merest hint of forbidden love between women in 19th century Russia…who knew it was a forerunner of 50 Shades of rubbish!

Maybe when I’ve finished this, I’ll settle down with “Gone with the Wind” – just as long a book and film!

 

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Life of Pi – Is it worth watching?

You see, I read the book, long before the movie ever came out and I just didn’t enjoy it.lifeofpi

I read it, but by the end I just thought “Oh, is that it?” – to me it just seemed to fizzle out.

And when the film came out and I said that I didn’t fancy watching it because the book had not inspired me to see it, people said “oh, but the film is amazing, you have to watch it just for the special effects!”

My dilemma is that the local film society are showing it this week – and I’m quite tempted to go, just to see if it is as spectacular as everyone says it is, despite me actually being bored by the book!

What would you do?

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