The Middle Sister

The wonderings, ponderings and other 'ings' of me. Lifestyle, review, news and opinion posts. Chic with a hint of sarcasm... hopefully!

Friday 8 June 2018


The Middle sister is going on Hiatus.  
I may be back, I may start something afresh, I don't really know yet.  

You can catch my inane ramblings on Twitter or  pretty pictures on Instagram:

Catch ya later alligator. 


Thursday 17 May 2018

Mental Health Awareness Week - My phsical and mental health dealing with LBP

That feeling of normality… when your mind is at peace and your body well is, I believe, the most underrated feeling in the world.  Something you only really crave, or even appreciate when it’s no longer there.  Having not felt in tip top condition over the past few months I think I’m more than qualified to say this.  Feeling sick SUCKS!

I’ve been advised I have low blood pressure and so what you may say, that’s a good thing isn’t it? And yes to some extent it is. But if your blood pressure is so low that you feel nauseous and lightheaded (like when you hit an air pocket in a plane and it drops 50 ft) and even faint then it’s not a good thing, it’s a very bad thing.  You see this occurs when your heart isn't pushing blood to your organs or brain properly which, you know, is kind of required to deal with the basic functions of being alive.  At the risk of stating the bloody obvious this has meant my physical health is having a strong influence on my mental health which is something I need to keep an eye on as I have been prone to a little anxiety in the past.

The thing is once you know you have low blood pressure, you are hyper aware of any and all symptoms that might be a sign its dropping.  The notion that at any minute (because you really don’t get much warning) a plan can be derailed and an evening, weekend or week ruined is quite debilitating.  Am I going to be sick or well today? Am I going to be sick but then fine a few minutes later? Am I going to be fine then faint on my sister and the maitre’d of the poshest restaurant in Cambridge again*?  Questions Questions!  

It makes you not want to go out and resist making plans and I really feel for those dealing with chronic and long term diseases. I mean I’ve been a sulky mess for a few months but this IS completely manageable.  How much harder would it be if this had been going on for years or if the doctors didn’t understand what was happening to me!? How depressing? How confusing? What anxiety inducing cycle of despair would that have put me in?

But like I said, for me this is handle-able and I’m finding the silver lining in this fucker.  My diet and hydration are key so I’m paying more attention to this. I’m listening to myself when I’m feeling unsure. I’m meditating more (using Calm which I’m finding extremely helpful!) I’m changing my exercise routine and looking at the bigger picture.  

On an immediate level, I’ve got a blood pressure monitor so if I have made plans to go out for an evening or am feeling unwell I can quickly find out if I need to take action to up my blood pressure, putting the power back in my hands! And that feels good.  So good that I’ve now had 2 two whole days with minimal symptoms, which is something I am making a point to think about and be grateful for.

What about you, what are you doing to look after your mental & physical well being?

*Yes that actually happened!


Saturday 14 April 2018

Charming Chamonix: or Another Skiing Holiday!

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post and while more change is afoot and a couple of family things have sprung up, one of the delays is due to a particularly privileged pastime. Yes dear reader I have been on ANOTHER skiing holiday*

This time Chamonix! We were in the extremely fortunate position of being able to rent an apartment at mate’s rates in the heart of the town**. A cute little place directly opposite a couple of bars that turned out to be our favourite hangouts. Monkey did a mean brunch as well as tacos, burgers and cocktails while the owner of Big Horn Bistro and Bakery became quite familiar with our faces by the end of the week. Their atmosphere, decor of animal hides and comfy leather chairs as well as the considerable gin collection made for very acceptable evenings. In short it was the perfect location.

Chamonix has much to offer and is a popular resort familiar to most western middle class people that like to ski. From here you can get to both Italy and Switzerland on the slidey things attached to your feet if you’re good enough. We weren’t but no matter, from the charming, helpful people to the abundance of English speakers - my laziness truly knows no bounds - we did feel particularly welcome and managed to have all sorts of fun on the piste.

However come March the altitude being only around 1,000 metres does mean it’s not the usual walking around in a snowy mountain town I had come to expect.* With only black runs down to the centre you need to be advanced or a strong intermediate skier to get home without taking the bubble of shame (a cable car which transports you back down the mountain and is a real no-no in any of the higher resorts I’ve frequented).

That said being a ‘real town’ Chamonix is great for the non-skier as well. The landscape, food and, importantly for moi, coffee being some of the most pleasing aspects.  I love skiing as much as the next person, unless the next person is my husband who would ski all-day-every-day for the entirety of the season if he were able.  I’m more of a few hours playing in the mountains then off to see what other adventures I can find snow bunny.  Luckily my interest in photography meant I had a lot to play with night shots being particularly entertaining.   

Real ale drinkers might like to know Chamonix has its own brewery Big Mountain. Run by 2 brits it was small and charmingly shambolic when we popped in during a brew.  While obviously busy the guys were so chatty and chilled happy to explain the process and generally be lovely.  While I'm not an ale drinker I am advised their beer was the best in town.

My home town of Cambridge has had more coffee shops open in the past few years then I’ve had ski holidays. I’ve not see the same dedication to the bean in the mountains, however it is starting to filter*** its way through.  I LOVE a good coffee shop as my rather lovely husband knows so he sourced the best place for a morning brew. Moody Coffee Roasters, run by 2 brits**** is everything you'd want it to be, friendly staff, great cakes and wonderfully aromatic and tasty coffee. We sampled this most mornings and I was very happy with this ritual.
If you’re invited on a ski holiday I would recommend Chamonix, whether you go for the pistes or the views alone is up to you but I think you’ll enjoy it. I certainly did though have visited France with alarming regularity this year  and  have a trip to Champagne on the way later next month.  So I suppose I’d better stop being so bloody lazy and learn the language eh!

See you at the top?

*excuse me while I wipe away a crumb of privilege from my pampered cheek!
**without getting all mean girls about it you can’t use it. You need to know Mrs M. or own a time machine, go back to 1990 and make friends with her at school, then stay in touch. Or make friends with her now. Whichever is easiest.
*** pun TOTALLY Intended!
**** sensing a trend here?

Saturday 17 March 2018

Review: The Ivy Brasserie

Some morning are perfect and last Wednesday was one of those mornings. I happily battled my way through the Cambridge rush hour traffic as even that couldn’t dampen my spirits. Maybe because the first few days of spring announced themselves in a parade of yellow trumpeted blooms and I could feel the sun warm my shoulders. Of course it might have been that I was making my way to The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie for their opening week Blogger Breakfast as well. 

Entering The Ivy for the first time you are greeted by a strong and wildly colourful décor by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio*.  I’m a less is more women in general, but these bright colours and in-your-face design really works as it’s paired with a 1920’s sophistication, so you’re left attracted to the HUGE swan murals and sharp-angled art that covers the walls.  The bar begs to be sat at by elegantly dressed persons and reminds me a little of the famous Overlook Hotel** while the deep velvet of the moss green chairs invite you to take a load off.

You might be thinking ‘breakfast at The Ivy you say? No problem, I’ll just take out a second mortgage/sell a kidney and be right with you’. The thing is when you eat here in part at least, you’re paying to have your experience in a prestigious institution. But don’t think that means they are simply dinning off*** the London reputation, in either service or sustenance.  Yes the drinks were over £3 each though as a Cambridge resident for many years I’d say the prices aren’t too far from the average eatery.  Head Chef Stuart Conibear has worked at Downing College and was chef to Prince Charles for over 3 years so if it’s good enough for our future king its good enough for me.

 As stated this was a blogger breakfast which meant there was much image taking of instagramable dishes as we tucked into still warm pastries and coffee.  I indulged in tangy, seeded avocado on a toast with (deeply yellow and perfectly poached) hen’s eggs. We also got a tour to see the private dining area and walk around the restaurant fully and I could happily have spent a few hours here either for a brunch or at cocktail hour.

One side point that gives me just a little pause is when asked how the food is sourced and if fair trade/ethical/organic concepts are taken into consideration, the brasserie responded by saying “As with any responsible restaurant group, we take the time and effort to make sure we work with the best suppliers.” Not the most convincing of replies so this is something I will keeping an eye on and I’d love to know what you think as well. 

All things considered I’m looking forward to going back.  Yes dear reader, it looks like Cambridge culinary lovers have yet another place to think of when deciding where to go for a dinner date.  Will I see you there?

* Am advised this was ‘consulted on by’ so not entirely sure how much of a hand they had in this design.  It’s really rather good either way.
** That gorgeous bar in The Shining, pre the Jack Nicholson crazed homicidal maniac murder spree of course!
*** pun FULLY intended


Saturday 10 March 2018

Review: Urban Larder

When I was a full time freelancer one of the places I loved to go for inspiration was Mill Road, Cambridge’s most multicultural street it holds a special place in the heart of many a local resident.  It also just so happens to house one of the cutest coffee shops we have, Urban Larder.  Set up just over 3 years ago (they had their toddler birthday the other week) this cosy corner has instagram worthy dark wood tables, a counter full of the most glorious pastries and a cheese toasty menu to salivate over.  Here’s the Cool the Quirks and the Que of this particular coffee house:

The Cool
Urban Larder was one of the first places I regularly frequented and I’ve had a soft spot for it ever since, evidently many people feel the same. There’s generally a happy chatter going on between staff and customers and the owner, Duncan, is possibly the friendliest person in town. At least every third customer seems to know him personally and he has time for all of them as well. 

The coffee itself is constantly evolving, from espresso to lattes to pour overs.  Duncan serves it any way you want it, always intense but never burnt he and his merry band of worker bees truly know how to brew. But let’s circle back to those toasties shall we? At one time they had the dubious honour of having my best cheese toasty trophy though now I have to admit there is another equally pleasing contender. Not that Urban Larder have slacked off in their quality, it’s just that The Locker arrived and now matches them for colour, taste and stodgy, gooey goodness!  Lucky Us TWO places to get a cheese toasty fit for a goddess! 

The Quirks
For such a popular place it is extremely small. So much so that on any given Saturday if you are not there before 10am you will struggle to find a seat.  Its also pretty popular with young families so there is quite a bit of noise when the kids (and sometimes the adults) start playing with the Lego boxes on all tables. Not the place to go for a little piece & quiet or to work. It also has one of the tiniest public bathrooms I’ve ever visited. You can barely turn around to get some paper without knocking your elbow on the wall. Not ideal.  

The Que?
Some oddities I’m still trying to work out is why they don’t seem to like loyalty cards? While I have it on good authority they do use them when I approached Urban Larder to chat about these fabulous free coffee cards for a Barista Magazine article, I was met with unease and reluctance and I’m still not sure why.  

Another question I had is with so many Cambridge roasters like Silver Oak Coffee and Hot Numbers why they go to Butterworth & Son, a Suffolk roaster, for their coffee beans? However the lovely larder people (Duncan I'm assuming!) were only too happy to answer this saying on Twitter "Just wanted to distinguish ourselves". He goes on "Butterworths are from where I grew up and they're blooming lovely people on top of all that.... oh and their coffee tastes pretty good too! 😊".

Typically friendly chat eh?

So it’s tiny but it’s lovely. It’s noisy but its friendly and above all it sells a damn fine cup of coffee!

Have you been to Urban Larder yet? 

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