Wednesday, 31 August 2016

His n Hers Office

We've been in our house for a year now and I've been meaning to take you on a tour for many months but life (aka the wedding) has kind of got in the way! So to make up for it I've decided to give you a little glimpse into our favourite room in the house and hopefully give you a bit of inspiration if you currently have a spare room that's looking a bit unloved.

Going from a flat to a three bedroom house was the most amazing feeling although at times we felt a little lost. Spending hours surfing around for inspiration from staircase ideas to kitchen storage solutions, suddenly having so much more room was a bit overwhelming.

We knew that we wanted to turn the smallest of the three bedrooms into a space that we could both enjoy together and in the end decided to use the space as a "his n hers office", somewhere we could relax in the evenings together but still enjoy our individual hobbies. Although our spare room is pretty small we've managed to fit a desk on either side of the room meaning we each have our own space to make our own.



The office is more or less split directly down the middle so that Simon has a side and I have a side. It's the only room in our house where we've let ourselves go a little crazy and decorate it however we like to make it our corner our own.

For my side of the room I decided to create myself a comfortable little hideaway for blogging. I spent many hours looking at Pinterest for office ideas and found so much inspiration and furniture hacks to utilise my space. In our rented flat I used to have blog with my laptop balanced on my knees which really wasn't ideal so I loved finally being able to have a desk of my own.

Simon wanted his space as somewhere he could study as well as a relaxing room for gaming. Simon loves his tech so was very happy to have the extra desk space to fit two monitors.



Simon's side of the room is dedicated to his love of all things geeky so he has a collection of figures from games, TV and movies decorating his shelves.

Simon and I spent ages in the home office department of Ikea where there was a huge range of desks and furniture to choose from. We wanted to make sure that the room didn't cost too much to furnish and had a pretty strict budget to stick to.

I went for the Hemnes desk which has plenty of room for my Mac and screen as well as having drawers and a cupboard for additional storage space. We also fitted a shelf to run above the desk which I have decorated in prints from My Little Box, fairy lights from Primark and hanging instant photos.  Simon struggled to find a desk that he loved so took advantage of the mix and match table tops and legs to create his own.



Even though we wanted to both put our own stamp on our side of the room I was keen to make sure that furniture matched so we each have a Kallax shelving unit which we've customised using the wide range of coloured box inserts (perfect for storage and hiding large amounts of junk!). I've gone for pretty pinks and whites and Simon has used grey with the top of his shelf being dedicated to his love for Pop figures and models.



To help keep my area organised I've invested in a white board for my "to do list", a couple of magazine racks and a desk organiser.

We love our new space and it's become our favourite house in the room. We love that we have somewhere to relax together in the evenings despite our different hobbies.

With only one room in the house left to decorate I'm taking a break and going back to obsessively looking at www.uk.fontanotshop.com for staircase ideas (I really love the idea of fitting a spiral staircase one day!)

Let me know if you have your own home office and how you've decorated it.


August Days

I can't believe that the Summer is almost over and that tomorrow it'll officially be the month of my wedding (pinch me!). Despite having my head buried in wedding planning I've still found plenty of time to get out and about this month, here are just a few highlights of the photos and stories that didn't quite make the blog.

These Girls Can Run

As someone who used to be obese I have to be very careful to ensure that I'm getting a regular amount of exercise. Since getting to my goal weight running has been my exercise of choice and although it makes me feel happy and I love being fit and healthy, it's not always easy to find the incentive to actually get out there and do it. This month I've made it my mission to try and learn to enjoy running. I've joined These Girls Can Run so I finally have some ladies to go out running with and I've also invested in a Garmin which really appeals to my geeky side. I love being able to see how fast I've run.  My first morning out wearing it and I managed to smash my personal best 5k! Since taking this photo I've actually beat it again and my PB is currently 5k in 28:48 which I did during a particularly enthusiastic Park Run on Saturday.

These Girls Can Run have done wonders for my confidence and for the first time in my life I actually feel like a runner! If you are based in the North East and want to begin your running journey make sure you check them out.



New PJs

Getting married can be a bit of an excuse to treat yourself to things that you don't really need. When I spotted these PJs on the Victoria's Secret website it was lust at first sight and I decided I needed them for my bridal prep the morning of the wedding. Unfortunately getting my hands on them proved a little tricky and resulted in a friend of a friend having to order them to her address in the States. After 4 months of waiting I finally got them in my hands. I love them so much, although things have now changed and after all that effort I won't actually be wearing them the morning of my wedding!



Feeling Fancy

With so many hen dos happening this month I've got to throw on a fancy frock on more than one occasion. I don't often get a chance to dress up so I've really been in my element. This photo was taken in the back of a taxi on the way to Buxton on my hen weekend in the Peak District (I have a blog post all about my hen weekend coming very soon!) Do you like my fancy clutch? I got it from Accessorise a few years ago and it always comes out on very special occasions.




A Cheeky Nandos

Please feel free to point and laugh at my strange confession. Until this month Simon and I had never been to Nandos. together Sure we'd both been separately, but many many years ago and at the time neither of us really got it. It's a little hard to escape how popular Nandos is and I've lost count of the amount of friends enjoying a #cheekynandos so this month we finally decided to see what the fuss was about. I ordered the Butterfly Chicken Breast Burger and I have to admit it was pretty good. I need your recommendations though, what food makes your trip to Nandos complete?





Beckleberrys ice-cream at our door

We are very lucky to have an ice-cream van that not only comes round our housing estate but also stops right outside our front door. For ages we managed to resist his tempting tune until this month when we finally gave in and wow were we in for a surprise. Our ice-cream van stocks Beckleberrys! We were expecting some standard Mr Whippy but were completely amazed when we realised that one of our favourite North East ice-creams was available to buy right outside our front door. So if you happen to see Paul Scott driving past in his van make sure you flag him down!


Designer Primark 

Wedding bills have kept me away from the shops this month, but I did manage to sneak into Primark for a cheeky purchase. Although I own a rather silly amount of coats I couldn't resist this Burberry dupe which is the perfect light jacket for chillier evenings now that the Autumn is approaching. I'm obsessed!



Magazine geek

Nothing makes me happier than spotting a good pile of help yourself local magazines in a coffee shop. We have so many great North East magazines packed full of recommendations of where to go and the best places to eat. I always keep them as they make such a good reference guide when I'm looking for somewhere new to explore and I've built up quite the library of them now. My favourites are the Living North guides and Appetite Magazine. Perfect lunchtime reading.



Tidying up

My side of the bedroom has been due a good clear out for a long time now so I decided to finally make a start this month with my dressing table. I had makeup all over the place which meant that I wasn't fully using the bits that I had. After my clear out and tidy I now have everything at my finger tips and it makes life so much easier. It's amazing how happy a great sort out can make you.



For more adventures from New Girl in Toon (including lots of sneaky looks at my upcoming wedding) make sure you follow me on Instagram - I post a new picture every day.

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 sheela.joy@stcuthbertshospice.com



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.