Monday 26 August 2013

Monday Smiles

I have always said that weekends should be three days long .. a day for having fun, a day for chilling out, putting your feet up and catching up on TV and magazines and then a day for boring chores - sounds like a perfect idea to me.   SO HURRAH THAT IT'S BANK HOLIDAY MONDAY  :) 

That said, we haven't really followed my perfect three day weekend formulae at all and as with most our weekends we've been running about like loons trying to do everything at once.

On Saturday we went to York to meet up with our friends, on Sunday one of my good friends was up in the North East visiting family so I introduced him to the best tapas in Newcastle, El Coto and then today we're off to the cinema for a double bill ...where has the weekend gone?

This week is going to be a bit of a shock to our systems, we go on holiday in two weeks and are both in desperate need of a detox to prepare us.  Whilst I have managed to keep my weight in check since moving to Newcastle, I did quit the gym a month after I arrived as I found it too hard to fit my exercise routine into my new life.   This means that whilst my weight has been maintained by power walking to and from work every day, my belly and upper arms are definitely not as trim as they were three months ago.  There's nothing like the thought of squeezing yourself into a swimming costume to give you a bit of a boot up the bum.  I also want to shed a few lbs so I don't have to work quite so hard to lose any holiday weight I'm inevitably going to gain.  So I went on my first run in what felt like forever this morning, I headed out with Simon on a route that he runs pretty regularly and it was bloomin hard work (he kept making me run up hills!), that said I did so much better than I thought I would and am feeling better for it.  We have stashed up on fruit to keep on our desks at work in the hope that we'll reach for apples and clementines rather than the office cakes.  Please wish us luck!

Anyone else become completely obsessed with boots recently?  Am loving all of the A/W things appearing in the shops and I seem to find myself drawn to the shoe department every time I go into a clothes shop.  I've fallen in love with a pair in New Look that I will be buying on pay day and since finding them I've also tried on several other pairs in different shops ... decisions, decisions!

The other big news of the week which I'm pretty excited about is that I've booked myself in for my first ever spray tan the day before my holiday!  EEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!


Saturday 24 August 2013

Visiting York

I feel so lucky living in Newcastle as not only is it a beautiful city it also has a great train network to get me to other beautiful cities very easily.

York is somewhere that's very special to us.  It was an ideal place for our second date with Simon being able to get there in only an hour by train from Newcastle and me being able to get there very easily from London.  It was the perfect setting for a romantic date and we were so taken by it we were back again a few months later for our first weekend away.

We made a return visit today to meet some friends and loved being swept away by memories of the first few months of our relationship. 

York is so beautiful, what's not to love about gorgeous cobbled streets full of quirky shops and adorable tea rooms.  There is so much to see and do.

On this trip we spent some time in our favourite Park, the Museum Gardens.  I definitely recommend you check it out, especially if you arrive in York by train as it's so close to the station.  It has the most beautiful flowers which looked extra special today when the sun came out after a particularly heavy rain shower.  It's a perfect place for running about with your camera capturing all of the lovely colours and dancing squirrels.

Having tried a couple of different tea rooms in York this time we decided to follow the throng of tourists and give the famous Bettys a try.  Usually there are lines of people circling the building but we were lucky enough to time it right and only had a 15 minute wait.   We are usually complete suckers for afternoon tea but after seeing the very hefty £18.00 price tag and glancing at some of our fellow diners afternoon teas we decided against it.  It just didn't look like the amount of food on the cake stand justified the hefty price so we opted for sandwiches and refreshing raspberry lemonade.  I will admit we were left a little disappointed, the food was lovely but really wasn't filling and next time we will definitely return to our method of exploring little side streets and finding somewhere nice for ourselves. 

The weather was a bit temperamental today and I found it very hard to chose an outfit.   Anyone else have this problem?  What on earth do you wear when it's a wet Summer's day?  I ended up pulling out my grey skinny jeans for the first time in months and teaming it up with a black t-shirt and leather jacket.  I was thankful of my choice later in the day when the rain came, but will admit I was a tad toasty when the sun came out.    As my outfit was a little dark I decided to add a pop of colour and painted my nails neon green to match my statement necklace, slightly wacky compared to what I'd usually put on my nails but sometimes after a week in the office sticking to sensible colours it's nice to be a bit different.


Thursday 22 August 2013

Primark Princess

My hairdressers is very close to Primark so whenever I'm due for a mop chop it's pretty inevitable that I will end up in my favourite bargain store on the hunt for something amazing.  This weekend was no different.  I was on the hunt for some shorts for holiday but as I was dashing about the store trying to look at everything very quickly before Simon realised I'd gone missing, this gorgeous £8.00 dress caught my eye.

I LOVE the colours, the blue and purple looks so good together and are beautiful for Autumn.   Whilst it might seem a bit early to be talking about Autumn, A/W 2013 has arrived in the shops and  I can't help but feel a little bit excited about Autumnal walks in the leaves.   This dress goes perfectly with the hat I bought from H&M last year, I have actually only worn it out once as I am always a little nervous about it getting wet, but now that I have this lovely dress I may have to take it out for a walk very soon.

I'm looking forward to having a proper look round Primark again as soon as I get some more time (and money!), they have a pretty amazing collection of boots that I really need to turn my attention to.


Tuesday 20 August 2013

Monday Smiles

Where on earth did the weekend go?  I can't believe it's Monday again!

The new Starbucks at the Mal opened this week, although there are quite a few lovely looking independent coffee shops in Newcastle I haven't got round to trying many of them yet and I will admit that having worked in London for years I do sometimes miss having a Costa or Starbucks on every street corner.  So I was pretty excited to know that we were getting a Starbucks so close to my office.  The day before opening they decided to let the locals on the Quayside have a little bit of a sneaky peak and some free coffee.  The staff are really lovely, and the shop looks really good.   I'm not yet sure how I'll be able to handle being that close to eggnog lattes when Christmas comes round.

Simon's Mum came to visit this weekend and unfortunately the weather wasn't very kind so we did most of our entertaining in Eldon Square, taking her round the shops and showing off the gorgeous Garden Kitchen at lunchtime.  I decided to indulge in a lunchtime cocktail and treated myself to a strawberry blonde mojito.

I also finally managed to get my hands on a "Chloe" coke bottle.  I will admit that I have gone slightly crazy since the "share with friends" promotion began and have been known to tear a few displays apart in the supermarkets looking for my name.  I could pretend that my hunt paid off, but I'm rather ashamed to admit that I actually stood in line at Tesco in Gateshead to get my name put on a bottle.  I think Simon is probably pretty chuffed I have one at last as he's had his Simon for many months now and I wouldn't let him drink it until I found a Chloe!

Can feel myself wanting to blitz the clothes shops again soon, A/W 2013 has hit many of the shops and I'm itching to have a proper look.  I already have my eye on some lovely boots in New Look that I'm planning on purchasing on pay day and I picked up a gorgeous dress in Primark at the weekend which I will be blogging about later in the week.


Friday 16 August 2013

Beaches and Cream

It's so miserable and wet today I thought it'd be a good day to talk about ice-cream just to cheer everyone up.

We stumbled across Beaches and Cream a few months ago as we were ambling along the seafront from Whitley Bay to Tynemouth.  We'd decided that we'd treat ourselves to ice-cream as soon as we found somewhere that looked nice and we  discovered a little piece of heaven when we found Beaches and Cream ice-cream parlour in Cullercoats.  That day we had takeaway cones, but we were so impressed with the quality of the ice-cream that we made a mental note to return when we had more time for a proper sit down treat.

So  when our friends came to visit recently it seemed an ideal time to return and impress them  with the perfect goodies to follow an enthusiastic round of crazy golf.

Beaches and Cream is a delight, the outside is decorated with cute bunting with plenty of outside seating for those wanting to partake in some people watching - personally I'm not sure I could ever bring myself to sit there and miss out on the experience of eating in the gorgeous surroundings of the cafe itself.  Everything about it made me want to dance about with my camera in delight - the gorgeous little armchairs, quirky decorations and chandeliers are almost enough to distract you from the menu itself. 

I say almost because the ice-cream menu is fantastic.  It's not often you find somewhere that serves up interesting flavoured ice-creams packed with extra chocolatey goodies and fresh fruit.  I was lucky enough to be eating with three other people so got to sample four different sundaes and I can say that each one was divine.  I chose the banana spilt which was made extra special with the banana and ginger ice-cream that it came with.  I think Simon won best dessert of the day with his sundae of ice-cream with toffee, dime bar and mars bar .. wow!

Ice-cream isn't all that Beaches and Cream have to offer, they also have a lovely selection of cakes and tempting drinks and I couldn't help but dribble slightly over the afternoon tea that the folks next to us were tucking into.  Next time I will definitely be sampling some of that myself.

Unfortunately Beaches and Cream doesn't seem to have a website, or much in the way of a Facebook page, which is a shame because I'd love for you all to be able to have a little look at everything it has to offer.  I guess you'll just have to take my word for it and head down that way yourself ... enjoy


Tuesday 13 August 2013

Monday Smiles

I have a lot to smile about on this lovely  Monday morning :)   On Saturday I went to my second bloggers event, this time organised by the lovely Hannah at Raspberry Kitsch (a blog I've religiously read since discovering  Newcastle) and held in the Malmaison.   Despite working very close to the Mal and walking past it every day I hadn't been in for a snoop round so I was very excited that the event was held there.  I was stupidly nervous before, to the point where Simon walked down to the Quayside with me just to calm my nerves.  But I was brave and made my way up to the 7th floor of the hotel where I spent a really lovely afternoon talking to lots of new people, drinking champagne and eating exploding chocolates.   Anyone who has ever relocated knows how difficult it can be to feel settled in a new home, and as much as I love my new city and my new life with my boyfriend it has been very hard leaving behind my friends and family so I am so thankful to the blogging community in the North East who have made the transition a little bit easier for me.  It's such a nice feeling to feel a part of something and to spend an afternoon chatting to interesting and passionate people.   So huge thanks to Hannah for organising and to all the lovely people that I met who made me feel so welcome.

I left the event with not only a big smile but also two gorgeous goodie bags full of beautiful products and some lovely vouchers.   The Starbucks at the Mal opens on Wednesday and I'm chuffed I now have a voucher for free coffee :) 

I was also ridiculously lucky and won a prize in the raffle.  I  had my eye on all of the Mal prizes and had fingers and toes crossed that I would win one and was absolutely delighted to win brunch for two at the Mal, an absolutely perfect prize for me as brunch at the Mal is something that's been on my list of things to do for a while.  So excited about a return visit, and am thinking of booking myself in for some pre-holiday treatments at the spa next month too.

Next weekend Simon's Mum is visiting us, it will be her first trip to the North East so am looking forward to planning a fun day for her.  If anyone has any suggestions please let me know, at the moment  I'm thinking Garden Kitchen for lunch and maybe a little jaunt on the tour bus.


Saturday 10 August 2013

Restaurant Week

The last year I spent in London, my head and heart were very much in the North East and I watched with jealousy as Newcastle enjoyed two Restaurant Weeks without me.  Planning out our lives so far in advance due to needing cheap train tickets I missed both weeks and it was very sad!   So, as you can imagine, since moving I have been stupidly excited about finally getting to enjoy Restaurant Week, it's been a long time coming.

For those who don't know, Restaurant Week is a promotion run by NE1 twice a year, with the loveliest restaurants around the city offering special menus at a bargain price (usually 2 courses for £10 or 3 courses for £15).  The idea is to try somewhere new.  For me this wasn't hard, having only just moved to the city my list of places I want to try is pretty long.   My only problem was trying to decide which two restaurants to head to, I would have happily dined out every night of the week, but with our holiday only a month away I was worried too many meals out might leave me struggling to fit into my swimsuit. 

Our first choice was Popolo on Tuesday.  Popolo is a lovely little bar and restaurant on Pilgrim Street which has a bit of an American feel to it but offers a nice variety of food.  On arrival I enjoyed a cocktail for only £3.95 as part of their happy hour promotion and then we moved into the restaurant to sample the two courses for £10 Restaurant Week menu.  The food all sounded delicious but we finally managed to make a choice, I had Goat’s Cheese Carasau followed by Crab Ravioli  which was unfortunately a bit too spicy for me so I cheekily swapped with Simon and stole his Paella-style ‘Risotto’ which was gorgeous.   Popolo is definitely somewhere we will head back to again, we've already decided that we need to sample some more of the cocktail menu. 

Yesterday we opted for Blackfriars which is somewhere I have been wanting to try for such a long time and it did not disappoint.  How would it be possible to not enjoy an award winning restaurant housed in a Dominican friary dating back to 1239?  The building was even more beautiful than I imagined, I wanted to photograph everything from the stone floor  to the gorgeous wooden chairs and this was before the food had even arrived.   

The Restaurant Week offer was 3 courses for £15 and I spent quite a large part of my week studying it and trying to decide what to have.  In the end I decided on ham hock terrine with homemade piccalilli as my first course.  Amazingly for me I managed to hold onto my fresh bread from the bread basket and it was the perfect accompaniment to a delicious starter.   I followed this with battered North Sea fish and hand cut chips which was served with the most amazing peas I have ever had.  It may sound a little daft to get excited about peas, but I actually had to stop myself from dancing around the restaurant telling everyone about how tasty the peas were.  WOW!  For me the dessert was an easy choice, being obsessed with cherries and almonds the cherry bakewell cheesecake with liquid almond icing had my name all over it and it did not disappoint.  I have to say Blackfriars deserves all of its awards, it was the nicest food I have ever had and the thought of another visit makes me giddy.   The food is all locally sourced and the tablemats are maps of North England showing the best places for walks, pubs and food.  It's so interesting to see all the areas Blackfriars get their food from and it really shows how much the North has to offer. 

I hear whispers that some of the Restaurant Week offers have been extended to next week so make sure you join the party before it's late.  Full details can be found here.


Wednesday 7 August 2013

Durham Day Trip

Durham appeared on my radar when I made my very first trip to Newcastle to see Simon.  All it takes is a quick glance from the train window as you pull into the station to fall in love, I immediately thought to myself how beautiful it looked and knew that we'd have to organise a trip there as soon as possible.

I knew it would be a perfect place to take my friend Lauren when she came up to visit at the weekend so we headed out early for a nice sunny stroll to the station and then did the very short 15 minute train ride to Durham.

Durham impresses the minute you step off the train, the station is at the top of a hill so you get a glorious view of the Cathedral as you stroll down the road and make your way towards the city.   The best route takes you along the river so we had a beautiful walk with some fantastic views and had a lovely time watching the rowing boats move up and down the water before making our way across the bridge and up to the Cathedral.

The city has so many lovely looking cafes we knew we'd find somewhere good for lunch and we were very pleased to find Flat White down a hidden little alley, a cute little coffee shop with a lovely outside seating area.  The sandwich menu was very varied and with so many temptations it took me forever to pick but I went for a toasted tuna with sweet chilli and it was delicious.  We will definitely have to head back next time we visit as they also do some lovely hot chocolates and I know that Simon has his eye on the chocolate orange.   Make sure you check out their website.

We spent the rest of the afternoon pottering around the shops.  The best thing about the shops in Durham is that they are in absolutely beautiful buildings, which makes the experience even more enjoyable. 

There are frequent trains running to Durham from Newcastle and the most trains on the East Coast line from London Kings Cross stop at Durham. 

PS .. how gorgeous is Lauren's shirt?  She picked it up in the Top Shop sale.


Tuesday 6 August 2013

Monday Smiles

This weekend has been amazing, one of my best friends from London came to visit and I've been looking forward to it for a long time.  Anyone else who is an expert in buying train tickets knows what a complicated mission it is to get the cheap seats so this has been something we've had planned ever since I moved ... it's been  a very long 12 week wait!

When showing a friend the very best of the North East in only a short weekend where do you even begin?   I opted for a quick drink in Jalou on Friday (I've been wanting to try the cookie monster cocktail ever since I moved), a trip to beautiful Durham on Saturday and a little night out on  Saturday at The Living Room and Big Mussel.   Unfortunately the weekend went far too fast, there was a bit of a tearful goodbye at Central Station yesterday but one thing I will say is that the North East has a new fan  :)
This week I am mostly looking forward to Restaurant Week.  We have two restaurants booked and I'm sure I'll be telling you all about it in a future post. 

Happy Monday!

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