Tuesday 28 January 2014

The Herb Garden

If you have a little look at the weather forecast in Newcastle at the moment it's pretty nasty.  I'm talking heavy rain, dark clouds and chilly temperatures.   However this week we simply just don't care, chuck what you like at us Mother Nature because it's Restaurant Week in Geordie town which means we are all skipping off to work in the morning with the promise of lovely food at bargain prices to follow.

NE1's Restaurant Week takes place twice a year and this week sees its 7th run.  Starting today and running through to the end of the week many of the best restaurants in Toon are offering fixed price menus for only £10 or £15 per person.  Encouraging people to try new restaurants and get out and about for some January fun.  Shockingly  I STILL haven't been paid since before Christmas but I knew I had to find some money for Restaurant Week, it's one of my favourite weeks of the year.

We decided to kick off the week by visiting a new restaurant that opened in Newcastle a short while ago, The Herb Garden.  The pizza kitchen first came to my attention when a colleague informed me she'd seen a roller skating horse on Westgate Road on her drive into work.   I was a little worried she was seeing things to start with but a week or so later saw it for myself, yes the Herb Garden really does have a roller skating horse!

The horse isn't the only amazing thing about the Herb Garden.  Step inside the restaurant and it's a feast for the eyes.   The ceiling is covered in beautiful lanterns that make the restaurant very bright (perfect if you love taking photos of your food), the eating area is built in a railway arch (you can even hear the trains rattling above you) and one wall of the restaurant is full of glass hydroponics growing the restaurant's herbs on the premises without soil .. amazing!


The Restaurant Week offer was two courses for £10.  I had the spinach and egg pizza whilst Simon went for the happy ham and wild mushroom.  The pizzas were huge and served on gorgeous wooden slabs.  The food was very well presented although unfortunately the wooden slabs weren't too practical as they were slightly wobbly to eat off.  The base was perfectly cooked and the toppings were delicious, I was particularly impressed with my egg which was runny, just as I like it.

The desserts were something very special, they were fun to look at and tasted so good.   Simon's tiramisu (which I admit I more than helped him out with) was served in a flower pot!  I'm sure soil never tasted that good when I used to eat it as a kid.  I opted for the chocolate pot which was a thick rich moose served with fresh fruit.

We've added the Herb Garden to our list of favourites and can't wait to re-visit the new kid in Toon again to sample some more delicious pizzas.

To read more about Restaurant Week please visit NE1 here or to read about last Summer's Restaurant Week please see my review here.

Friday 24 January 2014

An Oasis Wish List

As promised, here's the second part of my window shopping trip last weekend.

The real reason for the trip was to pop in to Oasis to try on a parka that I'd fallen in love with after seeing it on RuBee's blog.  It's my birthday in March and I decided to ask my parents for it but thought I'd best try it on and tell my Mum about it as I'm sure by the Spring it will have vanished.   I have a similar coat that I got from H&M a few years ago but I've worn it to death and it's not looking too good, this is the perfect replacement.  It comes with a detachable fur lining and it feels so snuggly.  It took me a while to decide which colour to go for but I've gone for khaki.  It's £88.00 so not exactly cheap but it has great reviews so I'm hoping it's worth the pennies.

Obviously whilst in store I ended up having a look at other things that I really couldn't afford and then yet again found myself in the changing room.

I love this stripe top and it's a lovely lose fit, giving me lots of breathing room (aka room to eat cake) yet still looks flattering.  It's £18.00

This would be perfect for an Autumn wedding as it has some gorgeous orange colours in it (the picture makes the colours appear much duller than they are).  It's £55.00

Luckily this dress didn't have my size in store, it's currently in the sale at £18.99 and has also sold out of most sizes online.  I love the colour and leopard print detail. 

This bag caught my eye, I really love it but it's so unpractical for me.  Whilst I'm always drawn to small day bags the reality is I just can't fit my junk in them.  I'm someone who likes to carry a lot with them and I really struggle with anything too small which is a shame.  This one is currently reduced to £25.00


Wednesday 22 January 2014

A New Look Wish List

Why is it that whenever you have no money and are desperately trying to save there seems to be so much in the shops that needs to be in your wardrobe?   Last weekend  I went for a little mooch around New Look in Eldon Square .. bit of a mistake because I then ended up in the changing room, a dangerous place to be when you are on a spending ban.

So for now I have to amuse myself by compiling a wish list in the hope that it's just as fun as purchasing all of the pretty clothes!

This tartan swing dress is the first thing that caught my eye as I walked into the store.  I love swing dresses, they are perfect for my figure as they hide my tummy and are a very flattering fit.  This one is £17.99 and I love it.

I don't really need to explain this coat to anyone as we all know how pastel pink oversized coats are everywhere at the moment.   This one is £54.99 and despite visiting it on the rails three times whilst in the shop I didn't dare try it on in case it was love.  I did not want to be left with a broken heart!

I'm pretty sure if I came home with yet another blazer Simon would probably think I was mad.  One of the wardrobes in our bedroom is currently stuffed full of them but I love each and every one and the collection never seems to be complete.  They are perfect for the Spring and especially great for weddings where I always like to wear a pretty dress but inevitably end up feeling very cold in a marquee.  This one is £17.99 and would be great for a wedding!  We are going to a wedding in June and I will be needing something to match a dress that I'm planning on wearing so I'm looking forward to being able to hunt for something perfect then ... but shoooosh don't tell Simon!

Before I get all carried away talking about Summer weddings, we are in the middle of January and therefore mostly my head is still stuck in the Winter and practical warm clothing.  I've recently decided I'd quite like a black hat to match the coat I got for Christmas.   This one is great, and although only £3 in the sale, I still managed to resist.

And those were the things I spotted before I forced myself out of the shop!   Coming later in the week  ... an Oasis wish list! 

Sunday 19 January 2014

Go, a Taste of Japan

I recently compiled a list of all of the places in the area that I'd like to visit either for brunch, cake, lunch or dinner.   It currently totals 49 and is growing every day as I discover more places that I'd like to try and amazing looking places open.  The North East is a food lover's haven.

Today I found myself with no plans, with Simon working all weekend I was a little tempted to sit indoors all day watching some trashy TV but instead decided to venture into Newcastle to try one of the places on my list for lunch.

It was a typical Winter's day (miserable and wet) so naturally I felt a little fed up and was starving hungry so there was only one thing that could satisfy me.  A burger.

Now, as I'm sure many of you appreciate, it's January and therefore I'm trying to be careful about what  I eat whilst trying to shift the extra Christmas lbs - a burger is probably the last thing I should be putting into my body right?

Step forward Go, a new fast food restaurant in Newcastle which puts health, quality and good customer service above all else.

Now I don't know about all of you, but on the odd occasion that I find myself in a fast food restaurant indulging in a burger I'm often left feeling rather greasy, bloated and then half an hour later I'm hungry again.

This is not the case with Go who offer a very tasty alternative Japanese burger.    The first of its kind in the UK, they serve up burgers in steamed buns filled with lots of salad and tasty chunky fillings which are grilled rather than fried.  I opted for the chicken teriyaki burger which was smothered in homemade Japanese mayonnaise, a deliciously smoky sauce.   All of the ingredients are imported from Japan which makes for a truly authentic experience.  I was also satisfied for the rest of the afternoon, my tummy was full and very happy.

My burger cost £4.90 but the menu also offers meal deals with a choice of miso soup or salad and a drink for a small extra cost. 

In a perfect city centre location the restaurant lights up the street on a rainy day with it's lime green colour scheme.  Inside it's bright and airy and the staff are all attentive.  During my meal I was asked how my food was which I thought was really lovely and not something you'd ever get in other fast food restaurants.

I can't recommend Go highly enough so next time you're in Toon and fancy a bite to eat after a morning shopping then head to Gallowgate and visit Go!   For more information please visit their Facebook page here


Wednesday 15 January 2014

House of the Rising Bun

Over the weekend we decided to make a start on one of my New Year's Resolutions.  You may remember that one of them was to start baking.   We decided to ease ourselves in by cheating a little and making our first batch of cupcakes using some cake mix ... however, before you all run away in horror let me tell you a little bit about the mix that we used. 

We made raspberry and vanilla cupcakes created by House of the Rising Bun and it's a bit more special than the normal cake mix you'd find in your local supermarket.  All of their cake mixes are 100% natural, that means no additives or preservatives and high quality flour mixed with real vanilla and fruit.  It's good to find a mix that allows you to bake quickly without losing any of the flavour.

The instructions were easy to use, even for complete beginners like us and made 12 cupcakes.  If you want to have a go yourself, take a look at the other flavours they stock in their shop , they only cost £4.99 each.

As we poured the mixture into the bowl we could see the chunks of raspberry dropping in so we knew we were on to something good.

Now neither Simon or myself are great bakers but we did a pretty good job thanks to the cake mix.  The cakes smelt delicious when they came out of the oven and, amazingly for me, nothing was burnt.

Half the battle with baking however is decorating and this is something that we definitely need to work on.   There was a raspberry icing mix included so we mixed up some of that for half of the cupcakes and the other half we iced with Dr Oetker "cupcake icing in a can".

Now, here's when I began to really appreciate how special House of the Rising Bun is.  Their icing was created with real raspberry pieces and tasted really delicious, however Dr Oteker tasted so synthetic.    So we've learnt our lesson there, it's natural all the way for us from now on.

We finished our cupcakes off by displaying them on the beautiful cake stand that Simon's Mum bought us for Christmas.   Knowing how much we enjoy our afternoon teas she got us the stand as well as an afternoon tea baking book - who knows maybe by the end of the year we'll be able to make our own afternoon teas. 

The fun part of baking is of course the taste test.  I may be a little biased but they were actually really scrummy and I'm very impressed with the House of the Rising Bun mix.  The cakes tasted lovely and fruity and the icing was delicious.  We devoured our cakes using the little afternoon tea forks that my sister got me for Christmas.

So all in all a great success and I'd recommend anyone who is a complete beginner at cupcakes to check out the website.  Let me know how you get on!


Saturday 11 January 2014

Sand Dancer

This Winter is all about saving the pennies.  This year we need to concentrate as much as we can on not spending too much so we can start thinking about buying our own house.  January and February is always an ideal time to stash as much cash as possible as the cold weather makes it the perfect time to hide away.  We've spent the last few weekends utilising our Unlimited cards in Cineworld but as the forecast for today was sunshine it seemed like a bit of a waste to sit indoors so we ventured out to the coastal town of South Shields.

I love Winter beach strolls when the tourists are all long gone and the only people out and about are locals and dog walkers.   Seeing miles and miles of open sands and wrapping up in your Winter coat for a brisk walk along the seafront is so good for the soul.

The weather was lovely with beautiful sunshine and clear blue skies.  Unfortunately that also meant that it was rather arctic and my outfit choice of a wool mini skirt was perhaps a little daft.  We had an enjoyably walk from the town centre down to the sea front and along the promenade to Trow Rocks where we had a short climb for some lovely views across the sea to Tynemouth. 

Unfortunately by this point our faces were frozen and my jaw was beginning to ache (possibly from the cold or maybe from too much talking ... you decide!)  So we cut our walk short and headed off to find some warmth. 

The first place we came across was the Sand Dancer Beach Bar which was warm and cosy with lovely window tables looking out to the sea.  We were very lucky to get ourselves some comfortable chairs by the fire and had milky hot chocolates whilst admiring all of the many dogs that were in the bar.   I think we may need to return soon to try out the food.

I leave you with a North  East fact that I've been taught today.  Everyone knows that the lovely folk of Newcastle are Geordies but since living here I've also discovered that those in Sunderland are named Mackems and today I was told the origins of the name of the beach bar.   People that come from South Shields are known as "Sand Dancers" ... so there we go!   Every day I'm learning more and more about my new home.


Tuesday 7 January 2014

A Nails Inc Obsession

New Year is such a fantastic time to have a bit of a tidy, especially when you're trying to stay indoors to save some cash. 

I'm still yet to start on the wardrobe clear out (much to Simon's disappointment) but I did make a small effort over the weekend by having a sort through my nail polish.

This leads me to a bit of a confession ... my name is Chloe and I'm addicted to Nails Inc.

I really love it and as a result have managed to build up quite a collection.  Most of my friends know about my obsession, but by the look on Simon's face as I tipped all of the various colours out onto the kitchen table he didn't!   Admittedly it is perhaps a little excessive considering  I only have 10 fingers and 10 toes.  

Many things appealed to me when I first discovered Nails Inc -  the cute little bottles, the huge range of beautiful colours and the fun London related names of the varnishes.   They are also fantastic at doing promotions and offers which has what has allowed my collection to grow so fast.   The varnish is of such good quality and is long lasting which is really important, especially when you work in an office using your hands all day.

For any other nail colour enthusiasts out there, the Nails Inc website is a good place to start.   They run a VIP loyalty scheme which costs £5 to join for a year and gives you a free nail varnish on joining, 10% discount on your shopping, reward points (which unlike other reward schemes mount up pretty quickly) and a birthday gift.

The website also offers some lovely little extras.   Want to try a colour before you buy?  Just click on "try it on" and you can pick your skin tone and try a few colours out to see what they might look like.   They also offer a couture service which I love as it's perfect for gifts.  You can bottle up your own varnish picking the colour, giving your lid a bit of bling and then creating your very own name. 

Individually the varnishes cost £11.00 a bottle but if you "pick and mix" there's an offer of 3 for £22, 4 for £28, 5 for £33 or if there are too many shades you love you can get 10 for £65.  They also have a great variety of themed sets which save you pennies.  I currently have my eye on the £25 "In The Nude" collection which contains 4 perfect colours for every day wear.

Nails Inc offer a range of manicure and pedicure services and you can often find them in Debenhams, House of Fraser, Selfridges and Fenwicks.  I've not actually tried any of these out for myself yet but it's been on my to do list for quite a while now so hopefully I'll get round to booking an appointment in 2014.

Something I have tried is some of Nails Inc other products and I can tell you that their Kensington Caviar Hand Cream smells absolutely amazing.

Like every great collection part of the fun is getting my hands on special promotional bottles and Nails Inc quite often collaborate with other companies to offer great deals, over the years I've got new shades from buying bottles of Diet Coke from Boots, free with magazines and by eating lots of Dairy Milk (what a chore that was!). 

Some of my favourite special editions have included colours to celebrate the launch of musicals in the West End and the launch of the MTV show the Hills in the UK.

Yes I really do have every colour in the rainbow, including yellow!  I don't think I've ever actually worn that particular colour, but who knows maybe I'll be brave this Summer and give it a go.

It was really fun sorting through my collection and picking out my favourite colours, although it has also made me realise that most of these are so well loved they're actually practically empty and need to be retired.

Here's my picks of favourite colours - from left to right:

Brompton Place - a beautiful pastel pink colour, it's so good for days when you're feeling extra girlie

Victoria & Albert - the perfect shade of red and always feels very "London" to me - think London buses and traditional phone boxes

Portobello Market - a slightly different colour to one I'd usually pick out but I love wearing this one on holiday, it really makes my skin look more tanned.    You can see how well loved it is, and I'm a little upset as it's actually now run out.

Piccadilly Circus - this is probably my favourite of all the Nails Inc colours, it's a beautiful bright pinky purple with a hint of red

Leicester Square - I like to wear this one on a night out, which is why I love that it has a beautiful crystal cap.  It's a lovely deep purple colour

Jermyn Street - one of my absolute favourites for every day wear, it's perfect for a well polished office look

All of these colours (apart from Leicester Square) are Nails Inc classics and are available on their website.


Wednesday 1 January 2014

Memories and Resolutions

I don't always like to make resolutions as you only get annoyed with yourself when you break them but this year I have been making a bit of a mental note in my head of a few things I'd like to do and before I knew it I had resolutions!

Here goes:

1. Try and write more regular messages to friends I don't get to see so often now that I've moved to the North - friends are so important and should never be taken for granted.

2. Start opening up the lovely cookbooks that we have been given over the years and start some cooking and baking. 

3. Take better control of our money so we can start thinking about buying our own house, even if it does mean having to say no to the things that we love.

4. Eat healthier and get my ass back to the gym!

5. Sort out my wardrobe and have a good tidy up - poor Simon has barely anywhere to put his clothes.

6. Start reading my way through the massive stacks on my bookshelf.

As the New Year begins I always like to have a little think about all that's happened, here are a just a few of my favourite memories from 2013:

I turned 32 in March and Simon bought me my beautiful Michael Kors which is the loveliest present I've ever been given.  We celebrated back in Norwich with my friends and family and went to my favourite Mexican, Pedros for birthday enchaladas.   The birthday will always stick in my memory as returning back to London on the Sunday I was greeted by a letter from my landlord giving me 2 months notice on my house in London which meant my move to the North East was suddenly happening much earlier than expected.

In May my cousin Tim got married at a beautiful service in Chichester Cathedral so Simon and I got to attend our very first family wedding together.   It was a really beautiful sunny day and we all got a bit silly with the homebrew wine.

May was also the month that I said goodbye to my life in London.  I had called the capital my home for five years and really enjoyed my time living amongst all of the wonderful theatres, shops and restaurants.  It was never my intention to live there forever, I had moved there from Norwich as a single girl in her 20s - I was worryingly obese, unhappy and desperate to change my life.  I was so sad to leave London and all of my friends but it was also a very happy time as I was leaving a changed girl starting a new adventure in a brand new city.  My leaving drinks were held in the city near my office and I had a wonderful turn out.

My move to Newcastle timed perfectly with mine and Simon's first anniversary and I surprised him with an overnight stay at Jesmond Dene House which was absolutely perfect.  We got upgraded to a suite and I'm pretty sure I'll never stay in a hotel as beautiful and comfortable.

I was very fortunate to have some of my friends come up to visit and I really enjoyed showing off my new home to them.  It was also lovely to suddenly be much closer to my friend Kate who lives in Leeds.  We've been friends for 12 years and this is the closest we've ever lived to each other. 

In September Simon and I went our first holiday together and we had a beautiful week in the hot sunshine sinking lots of cocktails.  I also got a tan for the first time in my life (yes I cheated) and I really enjoyed having a bit of healthy colour for once.
I was very fortunate that my first Summer in Newcastle was, like the rest of the country, sunny and warm.   It's been so great to finally be living in my favourite city and experiencing all of the things that I used to miss out on. 
In October my Grandma celebrated her 90th birthday, the whole family got together for the first time in over a decade for a lunch in Norwich.  She looks absolutely amazing and it's so great to see her doing so well.  
and that more or less brings us up to date with today!
I'm excited about what 2014 might bring, although I know that it will be challenging for us as we have to balance the need to save money for our future whilst still enjoying ourselves.
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