22 January 2015

Paper and Cup - Cafe review

If you happen to be poking around Shoreditch and fancy a quiet hideaway then Paper and Cup is the perfect answer. I came across it after visiting Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium on the weekend. Already full of tea and scones from Lady Dinah's, I still couldn’t resist the call of coffee.

It’s a cute little place just off Shoreditch High Street. Its fronted by large windows, bright blue and white signage and a couple of tables and chairs out front (best for the warmer months I think!). Inside is a small but cosy space filled with the smell of Union coffee. There is a  large coffee bar with all sorts of tempting treats, a bookshelf lining the wall on the left with a couple of tables in front of it, bar seating at the windows, and, tucked away towards the back is a small room suited for a larger group. Naturally I made straight for the coffee then perched on a bar stool at the large windows for a bit of a read.

Being off the high street, the cafe is quiet and overlooks church grounds which is a nice change from the usual bricks and mortar. The vibe is chilled, the staff don’t rush you and there are water bottles and glasses on the tables which I think is a really nice touch. Even better, if you forget to bring a book, you can buy one for a pound from their bookshelf! Why other coffee shops don’t do that, I'll never know!

Actually, the best bit, as I found out later, is that Paper and Cup is a not-for-profit café created by the Spitalfields Crypt Trust, which means all proceeds go to a good cause. The café helps...

"Provide a supportive training ground for those in the later stages of recovery and rehabilitation… trainees learn how to become baristas, serve customers, work in a team and manage a small cafe.

So you can have your coffee and a treat and feel good that your money is going to help people get back on their feet. Brilliant!

The only drawback as far as I could see is that if there are more than two of you, you might not easily find a spot to sit. But that wasn’t really an issue for me.

So, if you do find yourself in the area, definitely stop by and check it out.

Have you stumbled across a cool not-for-profit store?

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19 January 2015

Kitties and cake

Late Friday night at work I found myself looking at an empty Saturday - not that I mind that. But somehow, from a forgotten to do list subconscious, I found my fingers tapping away and finding an empty afternoon tea spot for one at Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium.

Petra asleep, Artemis looking disdainfully at a guest keen to brush her and Carbonelle, also asleep

Petra now has my heart. So do all the other cats at  Lady Dinah's cat cafe. I whiled away an hour and a half with watching self propelling furballs (aka cats) sleep and play while drinking tea and eating scones.

Petra eyeing a bit of string off camera

Petra asleep in  the window

I have been wanting to visit Lady Dinah's cat cafe from when she was still trying to find a suitable location and getting all the necessary permits. I wasn't the only one, when the cafe was finally opened, it was booked out for MONTHS! It still gets booked out, but its not so bad if you are on your own or with a friend or two.

1)Wookie's tail (he's also in the very first photo at the top) 2) Didn't get this little ones name 3) Biscuit

Before being shown my table, I was asked to wash my hands and informed of the house rules. They are not as strict as the cat cafe in Tokyo, but essentially, the welfare of the cats was of the utmost importance. As it should be really.

1) Romeo and Donnie 2) Biscuit and Romeo 3) Donnie, Mue (also known as 'Mamma' coz shes the mum to 7 of these cats)

My seat was downstairs but I was free to wander round, make friends and play with the cats that were awake and take lots of photos. The cats were snoozing in their perches or wandering around making sure everything was in order. The youngest kittens were very affectionate and would pick someone to sit next to and befriend to the utter delight of the chosen person.

Downstairs at Lady Dinah's

This little kitten surprised this guest with a cuddle.

The staff were lovely, friendly and happy to talk about the cats and tell you about their personalities, their preferred pats and how they liked to play.

Romeo fast asleep in his hammock.

I really cant think of anything more relaxing that chilling out in a cafe filled with warm, sometimes playful, sometimes snoozing, fuzzy things.

Would you visit a cat cafe?

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12 January 2015

Airport reflections

Airports always make me reflective. When I'm not travelling, that is. I was seeing a friend of mine off over the weekend, and after they left, so many thoughts flooded into my mind.

Why can't I travel more often? Am I in the right job? What can I do to get me travelling more often? I'm sure I'm not the only one who wishes they could travel more, right?

I wander to the departure boards filled with destinations. I'd love to be able to simply pick a destination and hop on a plane that goes there. Who wouldn't? The people milling around me will be touching down in all of these places in mere hours.

And what are these people's stories? Where are they going? Why are they going? Do they look at these boards wishing they were going somewhere else? Are they really excited about the holiday they are going on? Or do they want to stay where they are and not have to travel at all?

I see people say goodbye before going through the gates. Some cry, their face splotchy and red, others cling to each other in an unending hug, hoping to suspend time. Some are excitedly talking to each other, they can't wait to go, they're talking snacks and logistics and can't wait to be on their trip already. Their pace is faster, the excitement shining on their faces.

So many departures, so many reasons, so many emotions. Ive been there. Some are better than others. But this year, this year is off to a good start. Ive already been given the OK at work for my Las Fallas trip! Woot! I should probably get booking now before prices sky rocket!

How do airports make you feel?

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08 January 2015

Christmas Afternoon Tea at the Conrad Hotel St James - #LDNBloggersTea

There is photographic evidence floating about the interwebs of a savage, brutal decapitation of a poor harmless snowman. The perpetrator? Yours truly. I didn't want to do it, they made me. "They" who had already chopped their snowmen to bits and devoured them, red gummy scarf and all. The snowmen didn't stand a chance. The scene of the crime was littered with bits of meringue and tiny chocolate chip eyes. Or mouths. Or buttons. But oh were they delicious!

I was a last minute addition to the September #LDNBloggersTea last year (talk about an overdue blog post!) thanks to Emma mentioning it over a coffee. On entering the Conrad Hotel, I was greeted by a smiling hostess and shown to the room reserved for all the bloggers. Id never met a single one of them before, though I've read their posts, commented and tweeted them. It was one of those times when I tried my best to put myself out there and not shy away. It was worth it. I met so many lovely bloggers and had a lovely time. I'll admit, having a luxurious room to while away the afternoon in while scoffing sampling the afternoon tea and being serenaded by a harpist helped too.

The Conrad Hotel was showing off their Christmas afternoon tea for the upcoming season (hence all the snowmen). It was a creative Christmassy twist on the usual favourites and a few surprises. Can I just say that I'm a huge scone lover (clotted cream first, then jam) and they had an amazing blackberry curd which I wanted to lick right from the bowl. Their entire afternoon tea was brilliant, great flavours and attention to detail. Some of the savouries on offer I wasn't sure about, like the brussel sprout shot but, believe it or not, it was actually quite delicious and a lot of other bloggers thought so too!

The pièce de résistance, however, was the white Christmas scene at the end. I'd never seen anything like it. EVERYTHING was edible. And gluten free - not one for nut allergy sufferers. The Christmas tree, the macrons, popping candy, battenburg. And of course, the snowmen. Totally adorable and too cute to eat. But I did. Under protest.

Unfortunately the Christmas afternoon tea is no longer available but I'm sure their regular afternoon tea will be just as well thought out. Or maybe they'll do something special for Valentines day or Easter? Worth keeping an eye on them I think.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon in London wouldn't you say?

Have you had a themed afternoon tea?

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05 January 2015

What a year!

I made it! I made it! *happy dance* 2014 you tricky, nasty, crazy year you. You had some highlights, no doubt about that, but you stressed me out so much I almost gave up on London and you challenged me right down to the last few months! But I got through your roller coaster and now I've high hopes for 2015! I feel settled and sorted and that means that hopefully this year will less 'Arrrgh!' and more 'Wheeee!'

Travel plans
I'm already day dreaming of holidays and planning trips for the year ahead. First up will be a trip to Valencia for Las Fallas in March, if I can convince work to give me the week off. Has anyone been? Any tips? Then Amsterdam in May to finally visit the Anne Frank museum and check out the very cool flower festival Keukenhof. I'm also hopping over to the south of France in July to fulfil bridesmaid duties! Berlin and Budapest are still on my list so need to squeeze them in somewhere plus I'm way overdue for a trip to southeast Asia - Vietnam maybe?

Secret plans
...And I've a bit of a project I'm secretly working on which I'll be announcing when the terror of announcing it to the unidentified masses dies down to only occasional night terrors of ridicule and mockery instead of nightly.

Blogging plans
I hope that this year I wont fall off the blogging waggon and I'll be able to catch up with all the lovely bloggers I've had the pleasure of meeting. I also hope to write a bit more about the process of moving to London, so that anyone out there dreaming of making the move, can find some useful advice and tips here that will help them take another step towards making their dream a reality.

What are your travel or personal hopes for this year?

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23 December 2014

Seasons Greetings

Only two more days till Christmas and just over a week till the New Year. As you have no doubt noticed, I have fallen off the blogging bandwagon. What happened was just life really. Pesky thing keeps getting in the way of my blogging!

Moving into my new home went well although the lack of furniture left me living out of boxes for a couple of weeks. Then came the food poisoning – can I just say, if you even want to be put off a food type, get food poisoning from it, after knocking me out for about a week, I went off fish – shame it wasn’t chocolate or glazed Krispy Kremes which keep popping up in my office. Around the same time, I had work deadlines which mean late nights at work and not a lot of time for much else. And then a head cold reared its ugly…head, just to round things off nicely.
But it hasn’t been all bad though! I mean come on, how can it be? I had a wonderful trip to Lisbon and tried the best Pasteis de Natas, caught up with my lovely Aussie mate A- (who lived in London before I did!), went to my first ever Panto and other theatre trips, as well as helping plan my work Christmas Pub Crawl/Scavenger hunt which was loads of fun – there gaudy plastic green sun glasses, 'bah-humbug' Santa hats, and sparkly reindeer headbands, really what more could you ask for? The pub crawl may have involved a punchy Shaun the sheep getting a taken down. There were witnesses. And photos. And how can I forget the recent treasure hunt around Covent Garden where I saw a snowman lick a bin, get advice on how to be a proper snowman (in case you're wondering, the advice given was that he should not have arms and fly) and have a scuffle with a penguin? You know you want to hear that story ;)
So, over the nice chunk of public holidays and weekends coming up, I'll be pulling myself up by my boot straps and preparing a whole host of blog posts for your reading pleasure in the New Year. What are you up to over Christmas and New Year?

Till then, whether you are away or at home, have a wonderful Christmas and New Year,

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13 October 2014

Why all the boxes??

Moving. All those boxes, the packing, the lifting, the not knowing which box you put that item in (unless you're organised and you accurately label the boxes), the leaving of the known into the unknown.

I moved, on Saturday, to my new home. One where I hope to be a long time. This new home comes with a couple  of flatmates, one English girl, C, who I have been getting to know over the past couple of days and one who, on Sunday morning was so excited to see a new person in the house, she peed on the carpet, sending me into a fit of laughter and C into mortification. I'm talking about a dog of course. A 6 month old jack russell  pup. She is such a cutie!

Last week was manic, between working late, trying to organize the move and getting eye-strain (all day and night in front of a screen, at work, at home, on my mobile, will do that apparently), left me no time for blogging.

I still need to unpack properly, my stuff is in boxes on the floor, and buy a few things. But, I hope that as I settle in to my new home, to catch up. I've so much to tell you! And I can't wait to get stuck into reading all my fav blogs again. Virtual hug people!

What have you been up to lately? Do you have a packing/unpacking ritual?
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