Tuesday, 23 May 2017

A few of my favourite things: Waterstones Cafe, Southampton



In the first of a new series (you can find out my method behind my favourite things here) it isn't anywhere fancy or high-end, but a coffee shop on the ground floor of a bookshop in West Quay shopping centre, Southampton.

I've always had a love of bookshops so adding in coffee and cake couldn't really go wrong. What I love about this little cafe is that while it is advertised on the windows for people passing by the first floor as well as being visible from the new and very shiny Watermark eating area, it still remains a place to escape the madness of the shopping centre, surround yourself with books and breathe. 

Nic nacs in the cafe area

There is a very obvious seating area right by the cafe area itself as well as seating outdoors (blankets are provided for chilly days) and by the children's books area making it perfect for everything from 15 minutes by yourself, coffee with friends or a sit down while the 4 year old looks at the books and plays on the little climbing area. There's even the most amazing bright red leather sofa at the far end by the windows that you can melt into despite the sofa clearly having seen better days! The cafe area is bright and airy thanks to the floor to ceiling windows and despite people entering into the bookshop a few meters away, you don't feel like you're sat in a walkway.

Now the food and drink! Jammie dodger cupcakes, carrot cake, massive cookies the size of your child's head and cappuccino cake are just a few of the sweet treats we've tried. There's even gluten free and vegan offerings usually available.



Hummus, sourdough and falafel, or banana and peanut butter toasties (along with lots of other things on toast available) provide welcome and bloody tasty fuel to continue your slog round the shops or in our case just to make it home sometimes. The joy of shopping with a 4 year old.

Drinks wise they do a very decent cappuccino plus the usual selection of cold drinks (Diet Coke, fentimens, fruit smoothies for the kids, etc) and a fantastic selection of teas, which they used to offer by the pot or by the mug but only seem to do pots now. Shame as the mugs used to be just the right size! 

Prices are on par with what you'd pay outside, maybe a little cheaper particularly with the drinks, but the atmosphere is much nicer. Staff always chatty and helpful when stuck on cake selection, as well as understanding when 4 year old knocks over water. For the second time.

While I know you'd love it there, a bit of me wants to keep this little coffee shop to myself, but that would be selfish.... just promise to leave me a slice of cake and that sofa free would you? X

Monday, 22 May 2017

A few of my favourite things

If I lived by one saying, it would be this

I've been doing lots of behind the scenes blog work trying to get myself into a proper schedule and setting time aside each week to write. One of the things that helps is having topic headings that I can add to as and when I have something to say so "A few of my favourite things" was born. The title works because if you remove all the swearing, sarcasm and dark humour I'm practically Julie Andrews anyway!

A few of my favourite things does just what it says on the tin. It could be a coffee shop, a park, a bar (less likely - what's a night out again?) or anything that takes my fancy. It is less likely to be raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. The only criteria is that unlike all the Costa Coffees and Nando's of the world which I still frequent (and love), these things are a bit different and a bit special.

I'm always up for finding new favourites so if you know anywhere, do let me know!

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Separation: Staying strong for International Women's Day



When I knew my marriage was over, I started the grieving process. I'd lost something that was a huge part of my life and one day it wasn't there anymore. What was and remains the hardest part to process was that I wasn't just grieving for my marriage and the way all the good memories from the past were now tainted by how horrible the end was, but I was grieving for my family. I was grieving for what my daughter had lost. In one fell swoop she lost the normality of two parents, she lost her dad as a constant in her life and I lost my back up.

I'd always wanted to "do things properly" so marriage, kids, buying a house together, holidays arguing in caravans in Cornwall and whose turn it was to do the dishes. That was gone. I couldn't at the time imagine a way it was going to work just the two of us. I cried reading stories when the daddy comes home - Tiger who Came to Tea was particularly hard. My phone drowned in tears thanks to Adele, Coldplay and Spotify's break up list - yep that actually exists! 

Then last weekend, I found myself sat in our local Bill's with my little girl having a cocktail (lemonade for her!) to celebrate one year of surviving each other. It wasn't sad and I didn't think about what could have been, I celebrated what we had achieved. Sometimes I'm her best friend, sometimes she doesn't like me and she doesn't want to talk to me. Either way I stick around because at the end of the day, she's a bloody great reason to celebrate life, not commiserate. 

For International Women's Day I pledge to create a positive female role model for my daughter by being a single mum working hard to provide the best she can. This blog hopefully goes some way to showing my daughter that women can be strong, but still show emotions; tired, but still fighting; and thoughtful, but still fun.

Happy International Women's Day to all the amazing women, mums, daughters, sisters and aunties just trying their best.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

One year on: being a single mum


Today marks a day I've dreaded for the last couple of weeks and as it's got closer and closer, I've wished it would just disappear. Today is the day our three became a two. I still remember getting that text message saying it was over and due to it also being my first day in a new job, having to keep calm and carry on. It hasn't been the easiest year but here's what I have learnt.

  1. I'm not perfect. This has been a hard one to learn as I want my daughter to have the best, but sometimes I can't do that. I have low days, high days, stressed day, happy days and in between days just like everyone else and while I have to function, I am not a cBeebies presenter that always operates at full speed.
  2. Mum guilt. I've really struggled with this one especially while working full time. I'd throw myself into weekends and want to have days of just the two of us, but would forget to have days for me, which would leave me cranky and tired. For the next 12 months I am going to try and claim a bit of me time back and make sure I'm looking out for me too. In order to be a good mum I need to feel able to be a good mum and getting stressed and anxious won't do anything to help that.
  3. It's lonely sometimes. Christmas, New Year, birthdays, Friday night.... Wednesday night! Despite number two saying I don't get me time, it's amazing how you can still feel quite lonely. I've got friends and family I can turn to, but we also have to function on our own and sometimes I find myself sat in the living room in the evening and just feeling so alone. There's no one else to help with the tantrums, late night wake ups, mountain of washing or messy dining table. It's just me. If I'm poorly and feeling ill... it's just me. Learning to deal with the silence has been quite a learning curve.
  4. I'm stronger than I knew. There's been some serious ups and downs but we've come out the other end the right way up. The bills get paid, the lunch boxes get made and clothes get washed. What more can you ask for?
  5. Laughing and hugs solve everything. Sure my kid may have just screamed down debenhams because she wasn't allowed a £20 Easter egg and I've turned a funny shade of horrified, but she's said sorry and given me a hug. Add a few laughs in and all is forgotten.

Being a single mum isn't what I signed up for, but it's what I've got. So time to look at the positives - more hugs, only one person to argue with not two and the chance to give my little girl a really positive female role model who works, cooks, cleans, plays, laughs, cries and most importantly is the best mum she can be*



*warning hangry is really a thing. She will learn arguing with mum when mum is hungry = no win!