Wednesday 27 November 2013

Festive Foliage

Anyone else ever been to a Christmas party with a shopping basket?  Intrigued?  Stay with me and I'll explain all a little later on.

Today it is 4 weeks to Christmas, so I think I'm officially allowed to go crazy with the Christmas posts correct?

After picking up our large tree from Tescos last night ready to put up at the weekend, we found ourselves back there again tonight (here's where I admit that I've been to Tescos four times in the last five days) to pick up some groceries and a few more  Christmas goodies that we've had our eye on for a while.

I spent quite a large part of my evening in the plant section, and if you haven't been for a little look yet I suggest you get yourself there immediately.  They have the loveliest selection of Festive foliage that I found impossible to resist.

There's something for everyone, no matter what your taste in decorations and if you don't fancy having a large tree in your front room this Christmas, how about going for one of these guys.

The smallest trees are only £3.00, we've picked one up in a lovely red pot and we're hoping that the 8 week guarantee means that even with our limited knowledge of plants we can keep it alive.  These are beautiful, simple little trees with just a touch of sparkle.  Perfect for the mantelpiece.

The next stage up, and I was also quite tempted by these but managed to resist, are the £10 trees which come ready decorated with baubles and lights.  They're so adorable.

I was also rather taken with the Christmas holly but unfortunately as our flat is only small I figured buying too many plants would just turn it into a jungle.

Now I believe at the beginning of my post I promised a story about a Christmas party.  Well, on our way into the Tesco Extra in Gateshead this evening we were pounced on by a lovely young man with a handful of leaflets and ushered into a hidden room to enjoy a party complete with champagne, Christmas music and free food to sample.  It was a complete surprise and we spent a few minutes wandering around the room feeling slightly bemused with our shopping basket.  Of course we never turn down food so we tucked into a few bits and pieces from the buffet table of Tesco Finest goodies and I have to say they were all really lovely and we're thinking we may actually get ourselves some for our quiet New Years Eve night in.  Big thumbs up for the Applewood Cheddar, mini mince pies and canap├ęs. 

As we were leaving we were handed a goodie bag complete with a mini bottle of Baileys and a box of mince pies which surprisingly we'd actually gone into the store for.

We've added the mini Baileys to our collection and we now have an entire family!

Thanks Tescos!  Who knew an evening in the supermarket could be so fun!


Tuesday 26 November 2013

Monday Smiles

This time next week it's going to be December ... yay!   I love that as soon as it gets to the 1st it's completely acceptable to put up the tree, wear your festive woollies and maybe even start on some Christmas food.  In preparation I bought the first items for our Christmas food stash and have purchased some Christmas decorations ready for when we buy our first tree together tomorrow.

Simon and I celebrated our 18 month anniversary this week and he arrived home from work with a lovely bunch of flowers for me which was such a wonderful surprise.  I really love the beautiful purple and yellow colours mixed in with the pink.

Although the weather has been a little wet and dreary this week I had a gorgeous walk to work one morning with some lovely pink skies.  I became a little obsessed with finding beautiful reflections in the puddles.  I'm sure the passing motorists thought the girl taking photos of puddles was a little bonkers.

If you asked Simon what the highlight of the week was he'd probably tell you it was X Box One launch day.  As I was heading to bed on Thursday night he was dashing out of the door in his warmest clothes to pick up his X Box One from Game.  He returned shortly before 1:00 am feeling very excited and giddy ... something tells me I won't be getting much of a go on the TV for a while.

This weekend my lovely buddy from Essex, Lauren came to visit.  This is her second visit to the North East since I moved and I love how much she's embraced my new city.  This time round I decided to take her on a trip on the Metro to visit Tynemouth.   We had a quick stroll round the flea market then popped into Razzberry Bazaar which is an Aladdin's Cave of treasures, I've never been into a shop like it, there are so many things to see and buy.  We decided to skip lunch and instead walk down to Cullercoats for coffee and cake at my favourite, Beaches and Cream.  I had an absolutely gorgeous lemon drizzle cake and a latte.  I'm dying to go back soon for the afternoon tea.  There's something so lovely and peaceful about the seaside in the Winter, the tourists are all gone, the scenery is beautiful and it's so nice to take a brisk walk in the cool sea air to blow away the cobwebs.

I'm hoping this week goes fast as on Friday we have another visitor, one of my sister's is coming to Toon for the first time and I'm so excited!  If anyone has any recommendations of good Chinese restaurants that deliver in the Gateshead area I'd really appreciate it, I'm a bit clueless!


Wednesday 20 November 2013

Sunday Comforts

There are several things that as a kid you presume you'll be able to do when you become an adult.  One of these is cook a Sunday Roast.  Well I'm afraid I don't have a clue!  My housemate and I used to make "Fake Roasts" some Sundays which basically consisted of us using our very limited skills to throw together something that you could almost describe as Sunday Dinner but in reality it was pre-prepared food we heated up in the oven.

We took Simon's Mum to the P&P for Sunday lunch a few weeks ago and this week Simon's cousin was in Toon for a gig so finding somewhere for good Sunday grub seemed like a great plan.

This time we decided on the Living Room, somewhere I've popped into for drinks but was yet to try the menu.

The Living Room has only ten restaurants in the UK which I think makes it pretty special.  There isn't one in my previous home cities of Norwich or London so it's not really somewhere I've ever been that familiar with.

The restaurant in Newcastle has a really cosy and sophisticated bar area with a larger bar downstairs complete with gorgeous white leather booths whilst the restaurant is huge with chandeliers and velvety red curtains. 

The best thing about having a roast in the Living Room is that you get to indulge in the Sunday Comforts menu which offers you a set menu of 2 courses for £14.95 or 3 courses for £17.95.

As I don't eat anywhere near enough red meat at home I opted for the roast beef served with horseradish onions, yorkshire pudding and carrots.  It was so lovely, and I was enjoying myself so much I was even brave enough to slap some horseradish on my meat, something I've never been very keen on.  It worked really well and I'm glad my taste buds are maturing.  My only slight issue with the meal was that the food wasn't hot enough, I think probably as it was served on such a huge surface.  It was a shame, but delicious nonetheless.

For dessert I opted for a proper Winter warmer - sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream ice cream.  It was absolute perfection.

I will definitely be heading to the Living Room again, I have my eye on their afternoon tea and an evening of live music and cocktails also sounds right up my street.


Tuesday 19 November 2013

Monday Smiles

Monday again eh?  There is however good news, I think the closer we get to Christmas the easier they'll become.  I actually say this with a certain amount of smugness as I've just booked my remaining holiday days for the year and as I had some spare days I've decided to take two Mondays in December off.   I'm planning on spending them Christmas shopping, wrapping up gifts and generally absorbing myself in festiveness.

I am one of these people who LOVE Christmas!  Especially the build up .. the Christmas Adverts (if you're wondering I'm not really that fussed by the John Lewis ad and my favourite is the M&S), festive sandwiches, pretty lights and Christmas Markets.

One of the best parts about Christmas is the promotions they have in rival coffee chains Costa and Starbucks.  Now usually I'm a Costa girl but this year I think Starbucks have triumphed.  I was already a huge fan of their eggnog latte (to the point where I have to limit myself to one a week or I'd happily have one every day) but this year they also have the tastiest mince pies with gorgeous thick sweet pastry mmmmmmmmmm, a chocolate orange mocha that put's the Costa version to shame and the gorgeous signature hot chocolate with caramel.   I now have to walk past these temptations every day with the newly opened Starbucks on the Quayside.

It's my first year seeing the Christmas build up in Newcastle and I was so excited on my walk to work last week when I spotted the Christmas tree had gone up outside the Baltic.  I think the lights should be going up on Thursday and then the walk home after work really will be magical.

It's beginning to get so cold as well, our little flat is pretty chilly in the evenings so my Yankee Candle which has been hibernating in unpacked boxes since I moved has come out - it makes the living room feel much cosier when it's lit.   When I checked the weather forecast earlier I was a little shocked to see it's going to get down to minus 2 degrees this week. 

You'll be pleased to hear that I actually managed to make a proper start on my Christmas shopping this weekend, although it was mostly things for Simon.  I absolutely love shopping for him, I'd happily spend an entire day wandering around the men's departments picking out clothes for him. 

Love that this post has mostly been about Christmas ... damn right to!


Saturday 16 November 2013

Primark Haul

Last weekend I got up very early to head to the Metro Centre, hoping to find some Christmas present inspiration.  Unfortunately for my friends and family it resulted in me returning home with a nice big paper bag full of goodies for myself from Primark.  Argh!

There are so many lovely clothes in Primark at the moment, in all honesty I could have tried on even more but I had to exercise some kind of control so as not to spend my Christmas budget.

I shall be returning to the shops again this weekend to give it another go.  I'm sure Santa doesn't have this problem!

See if you can spot the common theme running through this haul .. I seem to have a new obsession.

Now that the cold nights have kicked in I quickly realised that I needed some new warmer PJs.  I was surviving on the one pair and having to sleep in Summer PJs.  I loved these so much I bought my Mum a very similar pair for Christmas ... do I get points for actually managing to do a little bit of my Christmas shopping?

A good find in Primark is always great, but when it's in the sale it's even better.   These shorts were reduced to £5.00 and I love them.  This is going to be a very different look for me, I've never worn shorts out in the evening before but I'm looking forward to trying these out with some nice thick tights and black heels.  

I fell in love very quickly with my next purchase, a gorgeous grey jacket with tartan detail.  It was slightly on the pricey side for Primark at £23.00 but there was no way I could leave it behind.  I absolutely love it and I'm very excited to wear it out.

The next thing to catch my eye was this skirt.  I've been looking for the perfect tartan skirt for a little while and haven't been able to find one.  Primark really is triumphing at the moment.  This skirt is just perfect, I love it.  It was exactly what I was looking for.

It's been so cold in the office recently and all the work suitable skirts I have just haven't been keeping me warm at all which means I've been stuck wearing trousers.  I loved this skirt as soon as I spotted it, I don't often wear long skirts but something made me take this to the changing room and it's such a lovely fit.  I love the leather effect waistband and it covers my knees and keeps me nice and snug.  I wore it to work for the first time a few days after buying it and was really happy that a few people complimented me on it. 

Lastly is a dress that has been EVERYWHERE!  Holly Willoughby wore it on Celeb Juice and it popped up on TOWIE earlier this week too.   It's easily the nicest tartan dress I've seen in the shops and it's such a bargain at £15.00.  It comes in three different patterns but this was my favourite.  One thing to mention I tried on my usual size and it was really snug around the arms and bust so I had to go a size up - not sure if anyone else has had this problem with it.   Going the next size up means I'm quite tempted to wear it on Christmas Day, tartan has quite a festive feel to it and the little bit of extra room means extra chocolate for me.

Clothes sizes can be so bizarre, I walked out of Primark with two size 10s, two size 12s and a size 14!  I always think it's important to buy something that fits nicely though, no point in squeezing yourself into a smaller size if it's going to look too tight and feel uncomfortable.  This was a big problem I had when I was larger, I was so embarrassed about being a size 20 I was trying to squeeze myself into size 18s and it was so uncomfortable.  I've now learnt to embrace my body and all it's blobs and bumps and I shop for things that make me feel amazing, look great and most importantly fit comfortably.


Wednesday 13 November 2013

Date Night

When you're in a long distance relationship and spending most of your time either travelling up and down the East Coast line or chatting on Skype you dream of the day you can be together and how perfect it will be.  We were so excited about my big move to Newcastle and fantasised frequently about how we would meet up after work and go for cocktails and dinner on the Quayside.

Of course the reality is that unless you are the Beckhams date night has to be a bit of a treat or you'd end up with no pennies in your purse.

Amazingly we've managed to have three date night Tuesdays in a row with a trip to Lane 7, the fireworks and this week we decided to go out for dinner at Browns.   Despite having lived in London for 5 years I'd never actually been to Browns before and it wasn't on my radar until I saw it's location on the beautiful Grey Street in Newcastle and decided I'd quite like to try it.

I recently signed up to be a "friend of Browns" and when they sent me an e-mail for 2 courses for £10.00 it seemed an ideal time to give it a go.

Before I go on, I would just like to say that what I'm about to say is my own personal opinion.  I want my blog to be an honest account of my life in Toon and therefore I like to share my experiences, whether good or bad.

Unfortunately we were less than impressed.  I think as you get older your taste in restaurants does change and you do become a little more particular about eating really nice quality food when you're out.  It doesn't necessarily have to come with a hefty price tag and I wouldn't even say that I'm snobby about eating in chain restaurants - but I do expect my food to taste delicious when I've paid money for it.

I was expecting Browns to be the nicer end of chain restaurant food and was really looking forward to trying it, maybe that's why I felt let down when it fell short.

We both ordered a lemonade which was absolutely delicious and looked really good, but was so full of ice that within 5 minutes we were drinking weak lemony water.  Such a shame.

For my main course I chose the chicken, leek and bacon pie.  The overall presentation of the food was great, my eyes almost popped out when I saw the size of the pie.  But then I got my hands on it and realised the pie was built round a bowl, then when I cut into the pastry it was so thin and flaky it all but vanished.  The cream, white wine and mint sauce was tasty though so that was a relief.

Dessert, my favourite course, and being a huge fan of cherries I went for the peach and cherry crumble.  It came in a little metal dish, which unfortunately meant that the fruit tasted like metal - as well as being a bit burnt.

I was also rather shocked when I had a look at the menu to see how much my meal  would have cost had we not had a voucher.  My pie and dessert totalled £17.50!   I'm thankful I only paid £10.00.

So all in all a bit of a let down and it was such a shame because I'd really been looking forward to giving it a try. 

I'd be interested to know if anyone else has had a bad experience, or maybe we were just unlucky on the night?


Sunday 10 November 2013

A Dawdle in the Dene

When I first started visiting Newcastle and discovered all of the things that it had to offer I very rapidly made a list of all the places I wanted to visit.   Before I fell in love with the North East the plan had been for Simon to move to London so I had a notebook full of things that I wanted to do and a short amount of time to get them done.   Luckily it took me only a few visits to realise that my heart very much belonged in Newcastle and since then "the list" has been something we've dipped into every now and again when we're wanting to try something new.

A walk in Jesmond Dene was one of the first things that I made a note of and with the promise of a sunny Sunday it seemed an ideal place for an Autumn walk.

We caught the Metro, Starbucks red cups in hand, to Ilford Road to stroll down to the Dene.  I'm pretty amazed by our self control as we managed to walk past Jesmond Dene House without popping in for a coffee. 

A short walk away we found an entrance to the Dene (there are several to choose from) and had a very pleasant amble through the leaves.  Jesmond Dene is a gorgeous place to enjoy the colours of the season, there were so many leaves and although it was slightly muddy underfoot we had a great time kicking them about.

I love places where you can have a good forage, and the good thing about this walk was there was loads of bridges to cross, waterfalls to enjoy, picturesque ruins and nooks and crannies to explore and what's not to love about a walk that finishes with alpacas?  

At the far end of the Dene is Pet's Corner, designed with kids in mind but hey we're big kids so why not?  I was very excited to discover they had Zebra Finches, I loved them from an early age and pestered my Dad for a little while to get me one - they're so cute with their bright orange beaks and the little honking noise they make is adorable.

By the end of our walk we were a little cold, despite it being a beautiful sunny day we were pretty shaded by trees most of the afternoon so we stumbled across Millfield House for a sit down in the warm.  Unfortunately it was a little disappointing - watery hot chocolate in a dirty mug and a very messy eating area but I was thankful for the drink to warm my  hands.  I think next time we'll make sure we hike back to Jesmond Dene House for one of their lovely lattes in the lounge.

You may notice something new to the blog today .... say hello to Simon   :)  He's a huge part of my life and it seemed a little mean to keep telling him to get out of the way when taking blog photos. 

I'd also like to say that this is DAY 11 of me not using heat on my hair.  I've worn my hair in its natural style for almost 2 weeks now and I'm rather proud of myself.   I much prefer my hair being straight, but I've found after so many years of using hair straighteners it's very dry and damaged and in desperate need of a break.  So I'm being a big brave grownup and letting it do it's thing as much as possible.  

What did you get up to on sunny Sunday?



 Skirt: Next; Jumper: H&M; Boots: New Look; Necklace: Primark; Coat: Miss Selfridge

Tuesday 5 November 2013


One of the best things about being British is that on 5th November each year we get to stand about in the freezing cold celebrating a failed terrorist plot.  We really are a bonkers nation but what a great tradition it is.

This year was my first ever fireworks night in Newcastle and I wanted to make sure that we celebrated properly so we went off into the night on a 40 minute hike in wellies to Saltwell Park in Gateshead.

Wearing three tops, two pairs of socks, a huge coat, a hat and wellie boots I was perfectly snuggly for an evening of watching beautiful fireworks and it was so much fun.  It was the first time Simon and I have ever watched fireworks together, and despite being in a very over crowded park it felt kinda romantic ... who doesn't love a relationship first!

Annoyingly after looking forward to yummy bonfire food ALL DAY I was rather let down by my choice.  I had been craving a hot dog yet the hog roast stand swayed me towards a hot pork bun and although the first few bites were delicious, half way through I realised my mouth was full of fat ... bleurgh!   So next year remind me to stick to the hot dogs.

Hope you all had great firework celebrations.  Anyone manage to get any good firework shots?  It's almost impossible without a super snazzy camera.

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