Monday, 29 August 2016

Learn to Dance with Strictly St Cuthberts

Do you ever sit on the sofa watching Strictly Come Dancing and wishing that you could join in? I do, and I've been known to get up and have a secret little dance round the living room when I think that no one is watching. I don't think I'd be a very good contestant but that hasn't stopped me wanting to cover myself in sequins and feathers to strut my stuff round the dance floor.

For any other secret living room dancers out there I have something pretty exciting to share with you!

St Cuthbert's Hospice in Durham are looking for ten couples to sign up for Strictly St Cuthberts where you'll get the opportunity to learn how to dance before performing in front of a live audience at the Rainton Meadows Arena on 18 March 2017.

Each couple will receive 8 dance lessons starting in January 2017 taking place at the Dudman Academy Dance Studios in Heaton or the Zazz Studio in Houghton le Spring where they will learn a variety of steps focussing on a style of dance best suited to them before learning a short routine to perform at the Arena in March.

It costs £30 per person to take part and you'll need to be able to fully commit to 8 weeks training. Each couple will need to be able to sell a minimum of 10 tickets to the show in March and raise at least £200 in sponsorship.

Last year's event was a huge success with a great variety of dances performed on the night. So if you've ever fancied learning how to jive, waltz or tango now's your chance to give it a go and support a fantastic local charity.  To apply or for more information contact Sheela Joy on 0191 374 6194 or

St Cuthberts Hospice provides specialist palliative and end of life care to those affected by life limiting illness and offers invaluable support to patients and their families.  The Hospice receives a grant from the NHS but has to raise an additional £1.3 million in funds each year to keep running. They really do rely on local people and business to keep them running.

If dancing isn't really your thing but you'd still like to support St Cuthberts then my lovely friend Katie is running this year's Great North Run for St Cuthberts and would love your support. Katie only started running late last year with a dream of running the Great North Run and wow is she smashing it!  You can sponsor Katie here and to keep up with her progress and training check out Katie Jane Online.

Friday, 26 August 2016

The best Seaside Adventures in the North East

Please tell me that I'm not the only one who has failed with my Summer Bucket List, looking back through mine I've ticked off the grand total of two things! With the August Bank Holiday looming there's one thing I'm determined to do before the Summer is over and that's to feel the sand between my toes.

Us Brits love escaping to the beach and come rain or shine I'm sure loads of us will be spending as much time as we can on the coast this Bank Holiday. We're very lucky in the North East to have miles of coastline boasting some of the best beaches in the UK but when there's so much choice how do you decide where to go and what to do?

Here's my little guide to the best seaside adventures in the North East.

Climb St Mary's Lighthouse

Any opportunity to climb somewhere for great views and I'm there like a shot. St Mary's Lighthouse in Whitley Bay costs £3.15 per adult to climb which is a complete bargain. The 137 steps to the top give you a great mini seaside workout and your reward is the most gorgeous view of the North East coast.

Eat Fish and Chips at Longsands Fish Kitchen

I'd heard a lot about Longsands Fish Kitchen in Tynemouth before we finally adventured there and let me tell you the rumours are true, their fish and chips are out of this world! We ordered from the takeaway one Summer's evening and were completely blown away by the experience, so much more than your average tea from the chippie - we're talking huge portions and homemade mushy peas.

Picnic on an award winning bench at Bamburgh

If anyone has yet mastered the skill of eating sandwiches on the beach without getting sand in your mouth, please do share. I like to keep my picnic away from the danger zone and the award winning bench at Bamburgh is a lovely little spot with pretty views of Bamburgh Castle and the beach below.

Walk the Coastal Path from Whitley Bay to Seaton Sluice

A walk by the sea is one of my favourite things to do at the coast. The coastal path walk from Whitley Bay to Seaton Sluice offers perfect views of St Mary's Lighthouse, plenty of bird watching opportunities and a great reward for all that walking, a pub overlooking the sea.

Enjoy ice-cream at Beaches and Cream

One of our favourite seaside adventures is the walk from Tynemouth to Whitley Bay with an essential stop at Beaches and Cream in Cullercoats along the way. Beaches and Cream is one of our favourite places in the North East for ice-cream as they do massive sundaes made with Beckleberrys ice-cream. It can be quite a challenge to get a table indoors but on a sunny day it's quite nice to sit outside and people watch.

Play Crazy Golf at Seahouses

We're big kids and love a bit of crazy golf at the seaside. Beaches Crazy Golf course at Seahouses is one of our favourites, it's nothing overly fancy but that's exactly why we love it. At only £3.50 for adults the 18 hole course is themed around local landmarks in Northumberland and offers great views of the coast as you play.

Walk the Coastal Path from South Shields to Sunderland

The South Shields to Sunderland coastal walk is a little longer than our average seaside plod at over 8 miles but is completely worth the effort with some beautiful views along the coast and the chance to stop and rest at the gorgeous Souter Lighthouse.

Eat Cake at Roker

Roker is one of my favourite foodie places at the seaside with Let There Be Crumbs being one of the best places in the region to visit if you're a lover of cake. The service isn't always brilliant but the huge menu of cakes, desserts and puddings more than makes up for it which is what keeps us returning. A huge slab of cake after a walk in the sea air is just what the Doctor ordered!

Enjoy the famous kippers at Craster

Craster is the most beautiful fishing village on the Northumbrian coast and home to the famous Craster Kippers. You can buy fresh fish to take home from the smokehouse but my favourite way to enjoy the kippers is by finding myself a sea view table at The Jolly Fisherman and ordering the Jolly Fish Board. Heaven!

What are your favourite seaside adventures?

If you've missed my previous guides to the North East then make sure you check out The Best Cocktail Bars in Newcastle, my Guide to Adventuring in the North East without a carThe Most Romantic Dates in the North East and Best Afternoon Teas in Newcastle.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

NE1 Restaurant Week at the Forth

I had to be a little sensible during this month's Newcastle Restaurant Week, unfortunately a bride to be can't really be out on the Toon eating in multiple restaurants (especially when she has a dress fitting booked in!). So when it came to choosing just one restaurant from the huge list I knew I had to try hard to pick something amazing.

Usually when I choose a restaurant for NE1 Restaurant Week I tend to favour restaurants I've never been and then study each menu carefully to see which places offer the best selection of dishes and the best deal. I have to admit sometimes restaurants don't offer amazingly varied menus during Restaurant Week.

The menu at The Forth on Pink Lane looked amazing with plenty of choices for each course. It's been on my restaurant list for the longest time so I decided to book in for Restaurant Week with my lovely friend Katie.

I've often walked past the Forth and felt quite jealous of the people inside, with it being such a small pub I've always presumed that it'd be hard to find a seat. Wrong! The Forth is like a real life tardis with so much room inside, I was shocked by the amount of tables!

A warm, cosy and well loved pub the exposed brick work, dark corners and twinkly fairy lights made me crave Winter. I bet the Forth is beautiful at Christmas, I can imagine myself snuggled up by the fire drinking hot chocolate.

The Restaurant Week Menu at the Forth was easily the best value deal of Restaurant Week with three courses for £10 and plenty of dishes to choose from.

We both ordered the same for our Starter, the Homemade Scotch Egg, hardly a surprise as we often talk about how much we love them. Cutting into my egg I was so happy to find a runny yolk and the tangy HP sauce was a delicious accompaniment.  A great start to our meal.

For my main course I chose the Ham, Egg and Chips, a proper pub classic. The ham was so thick and the two slices were almost too much for me to handle. The chips were lovely with plenty of crisp and a generous portion. The eggs weren't quite as runny as I would have liked, although we can possibly blame that on me taking too long to photograph my food.

The final part of the night was unfortunately a bit of a let down. I ordered the Salted Caramel Profiteroles that came in an annoying glass that made eating them a little tricky, not helped by being given a soup spoon to eat with. Try eating ice-cream from the bottom of a glass with a soup spoon, and let me know how you get on it's not easy! The ice-cream was frozen solid in places and the profiteroles were nothing special, I was a little disappointed.

I love NE1 Restaurant Week for encouraging me to try new places and it was great to finally explore the Forth.

Did you discover any new favourites restaurants during Restaurant Week?

Monday, 22 August 2016

Wedding Chat: How to plan a stress free wedding

It is now less than 5 weeks until our wedding but to look at me you'd never believe it. I'm a stress free bride who is so relaxed about my big day I'm practically lying down. Having seen friends and family go through months of stress planning their wedding days I decided right from the start that I wasn't going to let that happen to me.

You only get married once and I've been determined to enjoy every moment.

Having managed to pull off a very calm lead up to my wedding I thought it might be nice to share my tips on how to play a stress free wedding.

Booking a Honeymoon

This might not seem terribly high priority when you're planning your big day but knowing that you have a happy honeymoon destination to enjoy after the wedding plays a huge part in keeping your stress levels down. We have a minimoon booked straight after the wedding and I'm already looking forward to spending time away with my new husband.

A venue that cares

We LOVE our wedding venue because they genuinely care about giving us the best day and working with us rather than against us. You soon realise when you look at wedding venues that so many have hidden extra costs and less than ideal facilities. Is that rural barn really worth it if you have to hire in your own tables and lighting? Hunting round for a venue that gives you everything that you need is key to keeping you stress free. You'll be relying on your venue for a lot, make sure they are willing to look after you!

Use your Support Team

Picking your bridesmaids is about so much more than hanging out with your best friends drinking Prosecco and you'll learn this very quickly. These friends will become your rock when things get hard. The role of the bridesmaid is an important one, make sure your maids are fully aware of your wedding plans and how they can help and when they offer to do things to ease the burden on you make sure you say yes!

Leave the Crafts alone

When it comes to putting together your wedding don't take on unnecessary tasks that will take up too much of your time. It might seem like a lovely idea to create your own centrepieces, craft your own invites and bake favours for all your guests, but believe me future you will be cursing you the day before the wedding! No one needs the extra stress of cutting and sticking the night before.

Don't spend money you don't have

It can be so easy to get carried away when planning a wedding and after a few hours exploring Pinterest you can find yourself suddenly "needing" things to make your wedding picture perfect. The best tip I can give you is to keep your feet firmly on the ground, extra decorations aren't going to make your day any better and you don't want to be spending the first 6 months of married life desperately paying for a wedding that you couldn't afford.

Keep a great filing system

As soon as I started planning my wedding I set up a very simple filing system to store all of my e-mails and invoices from suppliers. Whether you prefer to make notes in a book or carefully file your e-mails keeping a good record of what you've booked and planned is essential. Don't forget to make notes of when final invoices are due to be paid!

Use the down time 

If you have over a year to plan your wedding you'll book all of your important suppliers early on and then will inevitably left with a few months of "down time" when you can't really move things along. I was very careful to utilise my down time to prevent stress later on. I bought the presents for the bridal party, booked in my pre-wedding beauty treatments and started thinking about a playlist for the DJ.

Make sure someone else plans your Hen!

Why on earth would you plan your own Hen? I'm one of life's greatest planners but I managed to hand the reigns over to my sister who planned me a hen weekend that I loved. She had the hassle of booking accommodation, chasing friends for money and organising the logistics - leaving me free to carry on planning the wedding day. Believe me, even Super Woman can't organise the perfect hen weekend and a wedding without help.

Choose your suppliers wisely

My suppliers have played a huge part in keeping me stress free in the run up to the wedding and I am so glad that I took the time to choose them wisely. Having picked a great venue and photographer I've really trusted their judgement and booked a lot of suppliers that they have recommended. It's also a great idea to talk to friends and read local wedding blogs. Picking great suppliers who understand your vision and wont let you down are essential to a stress free wedding.

Grit your teeth and smile

I hate to say it but people will annoy you in the run up to the wedding. There'll probably be family dramas, uncooperative members of the wedding party and nightmares with the table plan. If things start to feel like too much take a step back, smile and find a bridesmaid to vent to.

I'd love to know if you have any tips yourself on how to keep wedding prep stress free.

This post is in collaboration with Cheapflights

Friday, 19 August 2016

Laneway & Co, Independent Coffee Shop in Newcastle

Most mornings I'm in such a rush that I don't have time for breakfast and just make do with downing a mug of badly made instant coffee before speeding out of the door. Not the greatest start to the day!

So when I heard that new independent coffee shop, Laneway & Co had opened in the centre of Newcastle and that it was on my morning route to work, I was very keen to get myself there for a nose around and, of course, try out some coffee.

The independent coffee scene in Newcastle is growing and with Pink Lane Coffee and Flat Caps both hugely popular with coffee lovers in the Toon there's definitely room for somewhere new for those of us that prefer to keep away from the coffee chains if we can.

Tucked away on the cobbles of High Bridge just down from the Motel One, Laneway is perfectly positioned between the shops of Monument and the famous Quayside. Very convenient for those of us that spend our days madly dashing around Newcastle and appreciate great coffee to go.

If, however, you have a little more time on your hands Laneway provides such a beautiful place to relax with a cup of coffee and a leisurely peruse of the morning's papers. Simply decorated in white and light wood it's a great place to escape the busy bustle of life or catch up with friends.

Sitting down to enjoy a deliciously sweet cup of coffee I had a little chat with owner Nick Briss about his inspiration for Newcastle's newest coffee shop. Nick's story is pretty inspirational (and, I warn you now, it'll make you want to book a holiday!). Moving to Australia for work, Nick found himself falling in love with the coffee culture in Melbourne where drinking coffee in independent cafes is the way of life.  When Nick returned to the North East at the end of last year he knew he wanted to bring the buzz of the Melbourne coffee shops to Newcastle and Laneway & Co was born.

Talking to Nick about coffee it's hard not to get swept up by his infectious enthusiasm. He is so knowledgeable and passionate about coffee and I learnt loads from the hour that I spent in the shop. If you are keen to learn more about coffee and try out some different blends then head over to Laneway.

I was interested to hear about the coffee that Laneway & Co are serving and they are currently showcasing Allpress Redchurch and Square Mile. Of course I also couldn't resist a nose at the food on the counter. The delicious looking baked egg tarts looked like the perfect breakfast and the cakes which Nick fell in love with during a trip to London definitely need to be tried.

If coffee really isn't your thing then Laneway & Co also serve a great selection of tea and my friend Sarah hasn't stopped talking about how amazing the hot chocolate is.

Something tells me I'm going to become a bit of a regular!

I was invited to Laneway & Co to sample their coffee, all opinions are my own. All photographs in this post were taken by OPR.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Flannels opens in the MetroCentre

Shopping at the Intu Metrocentre has just got a whole lot fancier with the arrival of Flannels in the Platinum Mall.

Flannels has brought designer to Gateshead and I couldn't be happier!

I was invited along to the VIP opening for a little snoop round the shelves and with some exciting opening offers on shoes, bags, clothes and accessories I was in shoppers paradise (and in risk of blitzing the wedding credit card!)

Welcomed in with mini bottles of champagne and tasty treats from the Botanist, Flannels was a "who's who" of the North East showbiz world with footballers from Sunderland and Newcastle putting their rivalry aside for the night and James from Geordie Shore making an appearance.

The store is a welcome addition to the Metrocentre and sells a great range of designers to suit every taste. I was really happy to spot loads of favourite like Michael Kors, Vivienne Westwood and Ugg and loved that a lot of the price tags were at the affordable end of designer.

The magpie in me immediately spotted the glittering Jimmy Choos and yes for a split second I considered buying a pair for the wedding. They have to be the most stunning shoe for a bride.

It was, however, the Valentino Rockstuds that truly stole my heart and I spent a lot of my night stroking them and wondering if Simon would notice if I strolled in to the house wearing a pair. They are stunning and as soon as the wedding is over I'm going to be saving my pennies hard so I can afford a pair.

My other highlight of the Flannels in the Metrocentre has to be Self-Portrait who make the most beautiful dresses that are perfect for a special occasion. With a wedding to attend at the end of the year I know exactly where I'll be heading to buy myself a new frock.

With a whole heap of wedding bills to pay over the next month I was forced to leave the shop empty handed but I had an amazing time window shopping and will definitely be returning as soon as I become a Mrs.

If a little slice of luxury in Gateshead still isn't enough for you then Flannels have also opened a new store in Sunderland which you can read all about over at Plain Sarah Jayne.  If you are a lover of high end fashion its definitely worth checking out both stores as you'll find different designers in each store.

Let me know if you make it along and if you buy anything - go on, make me jealous!

Monday, 15 August 2016

Jamie's Italian, Newcastle - Evening Favourites

I've been meaning to try out Jamie's Italian in Newcastle ever since it opened. I'm not sure what's taken me so long but we can probably blame my never ending list of restaurants and my inability to ever get through them all.

A dinner date with fellow bride Kelly (believe me when you're getting married, chatting to friends who are also getting married is amazing) gave me the perfect excuse to finally book a table and a great opportunity to chat dresses, flowers and cakes without annoying anyone not in the 2016 bride club!

Jamies has a great menu that's perfect for an after work treat, the Evening Favourites is available Monday to Thursday from 6:00 pm and offers three courses for £18.95 (and if you're feeling very fancy you can even treat yourself to a glass of Prosecco for £5).

With plenty of delicious sounding dishes to choose between for each course I had a little bit of decision making to do (and we all know I'm not the best at choosing what to order because I really do love all food).

Having spent a lot of my day enthusiastically studying every inch of the menu I decided on the Mushroom Fritti for my Starter - King oyster and Paris brown mushrooms coated in herby breadcrumbs served with garlic mayo. I was so impressed with the generous size of the dish and it was beautiful.

Kelly went for Jamie's Favourite Antipasti Board which looked so good. Quite often when I'm in restaurants I want to order a platter but usually they're designed to feed an army so it's great that Jamies offers a smaller version. Kelly's board was covered in fennel salami, pistachio mortadella, prosciutto and chicken-liver crostini with mini buffalo mozzarella, pecornio & chilli jam and a selection of pickles and olives. I had massive food envy.

By the time we'd finished our Starters the restaurant was beginning to get a little busy and service did become a little slow. We really didn't mind as we were having such a lovely time gossiping but I could imagine that those not wanting such a leisurely dinner may have been feeling a little frustrated.

When it came to our Mains we both ordered Jamie's Italian Burger. New to the menu, the juicy prime British beef burger is stuffed with smoky pancetta, balsamic onions, Westcome Cheddar, tomato and homemade mostarda mayo.

One thing to watch if you do fancy the Jamie's Italian Burger, it doesn't come with fries! To me a Burger without fries is just wrong. We decided to order a portion of fries to share which we had with a delicious homemade mayonnaise.

I've become somewhat of a burger expert recently and am seriously fighting Simon for his crown. Nothing makes me happier than a slightly pink burger stuffed with a generous amount of fillings. I was really impressed with the offering at Jamies, especially the homemade mostarda mayo which really made the burger for me. Juicy, messy and ended up all over my face - a definite winner!

We were both feeling pretty full by this point but we were determined to get through all three courses so turned our attention to the dessert menu.

Kelly went for the ice-cream which came in a choice of flavours and with two toppings. There was a lot to choose from but she was pretty quick to make her decision - salted caramel with smashed honeycomb. Doesn't that just sound like the best flavour combination?

As always my greedy eyes were immediately drawn to the naughtiest sounding dessert on the menu and I ordered the Baked White Chocolate Cheesecake. The crunchy biscuit base was covered in white chocolate mascarpone, fresh raspberries and smashed amaretti. I really loved the almond flavour of the cheesecake, the extra kick of sweetness was so good with the tangy raspberries. It seriously was one of the best cheesecakes that I've had in a long while.

We had a really lovely evening at Jamie's Italian and I will definitely be returning for a date night with Simon.

What are your favourite dishes at Jamie's? Let me know what I should order next time.