Monday 30 June 2014

South Lakes Wild Animal Park

When Chloe asked me to do a guest post focusing on something in my local area I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. I live in the beautiful county of Cumbria which borders Northumberland, is home to The Lake District and attracts over 15.8 million visitors a year. Despite the stunning landscapes and impressive scenery my favourite attraction is the South Lakes Wild Animal Park.

I love getting up close and personal with animals and at this zoo you can get a lot closer than at most.

Located at the Southern tip of the Lake District the zoo houses over 1,000 animals including rare and endangered species. Privately owned by David Gill the park has a big focus on conservation. Working with The Wildlife Protection Foundation and The Sumatran Tiger Trust the team at South Lakes Wild Animal Park work all over the world doing everything from building water wells to rehabilitating animal and releasing them back into the wild.

My favourite thing about the park is the fact that you can interact with the animals. You can hand feed penguins, giraffes and lemurs and walk among
 monkeys, wallabies, kangaroos, penguins, emus and more!


 Just remember to keep an eye on your belongings while you're around the free roaming animals. I put my handbag down to take a photo of a lemur and a little squirrel monkey sneaked up and had a look to see if there was anything he fancied inside. Luckily I noticed before he managed to grab anything although he did have one hand in it and was rummaging around!

The park is open every day and a day ticket is £15 for adults, £9 for children and £11 for senior citizens although if you're intending to go more than once a year it would make more sense to opt for the 365 day ticket which is just twice the price.

Meet the Writer: Lindsay writes Scottish Outlander, a lifestyle blog bursting with great adventures, beautiful scenery, cute animals and of course yummy food! 

Saturday 28 June 2014

Summer Staycation

Just a little note to say I'm off on my holidays!

As much as I wish I'd packed a suitcase full of shorts and cute Summer dresses to head off to a hot Greek Island, the case that's currently sitting on my bedroom floor is full of jeans, jumpers, waterproofs and a very hopeful bottle of factor 30.  Yep, this year we're on "Staycation".  In a bid to save ourselves money to put in our "buying a house" fund we're heading to Norfolk to stay with my parents for a week of catching up with friends and family and dragging Simon off to all the places I used to love visiting as a kid.

Whilst I'm away I shall not be blogging, but I leave you in the capable hands of three of my favourite bloggers who will be guest posting for me.  Lindsay will be taking you on a trip to see some animals, Michelle will be chatting about what it's like to leave London behind and set up a new life in the countryside and Kel will be talking about cake (because obviously it wouldn't be right for New Girl to go a week with no cake posts).

I hope you enjoy the posts, and please support the girls by heading over to their blogs for a gander, they all write really fun lifestyle blogs.

Make sure you all keep your fingers crossed that I get "bootiful" weather in Norfolk and I shall see you all in a week!


Friday 27 June 2014

The Scran Social

When Lauren from North East food blog Scran on the Tyne e-mailed me to invite me to the Scran Social, I was more than a little excited.  An event especially for Newcastle's food bloggers at Gusto on the Quayside?  Hanging out with likeminded food fans? Sampling lovely food?  Yes please!

When the day arrived the sun was out in full force so some rather hot and bothered bloggers met over huge jugs of refreshing iced water.  There was a fantastic attendance and it was lovely to see so many familiar faces as well as a few new ones.   I love foodie events as there's always such a great mixture of bloggers and we get to spend a whole afternoon appreciating food and taking as many photos of our plates as we like.

Gusto is a very short walk from my office so it's somewhere I've been a few times before.  Unfortunately I've never really taken the time to appreciate it properly, as grabbing a quick lunch in an hour before heading back to work tends to mean ordering quickly and hoovering it all up before you get a chance to really taste it.   So I was really looking forward to spending some proper quality time at the restaurant.

Gusto is an Italian, and although it's a chain with 8 other restaurants across the country the interior of the restaurant, knowledgeable staff and flavourful food make it a league above the competition.

We began our afternoon with a spot of wine tasting hosted by Jonny which was really interesting.  I'm not going to claim that I'm any kind of wine expert and although I love my food and eating out I don't usually take a great deal of care in what wine I'm ordering. 

Jonny had a white, red and dessert wine for us to try and gave a quick introduction to how wine can compliment food.  He soon had us holding our glasses up to study the colour, dunking our noses in for a good whiff and taking sips whilst sucking air in through our mouths to fully appreciate the flavour (easier said than done!).   Seems that the North East food bloggers are great lovers of wine as there was very little spitting and instead there were joyful choruses of "cheers" round the room whilst we all drained every drop from our glasses.

I really enjoyed each wine we tasted and was especially surprised with the dessert wine as it's something I've never really considered ordering before.  It was so sweet and fruity and as a huge lover of dessert it's certainly something I may think about having in the future.

After we'd drank our glasses dry the food arrived so we spent an enjoyable afternoon sitting at little tables eating far too much food and gossiping in between getting up to the "help yourself" station for seconds and thirds.

I found myself on a table with some of my favourite North East bloggers PaulAshlie and Cate as well as Emily whose blog I'd been reading for ages but had never met.   We had a great afternoon, mostly chatting about our favourite subject, food!

We enjoyed a sharing board full of breads and meats. Unfortunately we didn't have any cheese on ours and were too busy chatting to get up and pinch some from another table.

The idea behind the event was to sample food from Gusto's new Summer menu.   So the selection from the Mains included pizzas, pastas and salads as well as a big bowl of saffron risotto served with white crab salad. 

The dishes were all gorgeous, and I left completely rethinking my opinions on ordering salad in a restaurant.  You'd never catch me ordering a bowl of leaves when I'm out for a meal but the Summer salads we tried were refreshing and delicious - full of wonderful colours and flavours.  I especially loved the poached egg and asparagus topped salad - Summer in a bowl!

Of course we all know that dessert is always my favourite course so I was very enthusiastic when I saw some really eye catching treats arrive on the table in the form of bombolini (mini donuts) with chocolate sauce and cream for dipping (or dunking if you're me!) and Italian Mess (blueberry meringue with cream and strawberries)

As you can see I grabbed as much as I could and made a wonderful gooey mess on my plate which tasted just as good as it looked.  Too often dessert menus in Italian restaurants aren't anything to sing about but I loved the offerings from Gusto and will definitely make sure I leave room for dessert next time I'm there.

All too soon it was time to say goodbye but we all had a fantastic time and I will definitely be returning as soon as possible to try some more of the Summer menu and to perch myself out on the sunny terrace.

Thanks so much to Lauren for organising and Jonny and Jess at Gusto for letting a pack of hungry bloggers invade the restaurant. 

All food and drink was provided free of charge so we could sample the Summer menu but as always opinions are my own and I am a definite fan of Gusto!


Wednesday 25 June 2014

Candy Rocks

I LOVE statement necklaces, they're the perfect addition to an outfit when you're feeling lazy and can transform a boring t-shirt into something far more special.  However finding a statement necklace that looks good and is easy on my purse can sometimes prove to be tricky.  Primark have some great bargains from time to time but they seem to sell out so quickly.  My favourites tend to be found in Zara and Accessorize but they can come with a hefty price tag so I can't really justify buying them for myself.

So I'm very excited to introduce you to Candy Rocks.

Candy Rocks is a new business venture by my good blogging buddy Lisa and her friend Andrea.  Inspired by the beauties dazzling round the necks of the TOWIE girls (come on, you have to admit those girls can do colourful bling!), Lisa and Andrea have put together a collection of amazing statement necklaces at really reasonable prices.  The jewellery is an absolute dream - it's big, bold, colourful, sparkly and so so pretty!   We're all going a little crazy for it up here and every time Lisa is at a blog event she usually ends up taking quite a few orders from fellow bloggers.

As soon as pay day rolled around and I had a little bit of spare cash I decided it was about time I ordered myself some Candy Rocks.

The selection suits every taste with lots of different styles and colours to choose from.  I was struggling to pick out just one, so like any sensible girl, I chose three.

My first pick was the "Apple Bon Bon" which is pastel green and covered in sparkles.  I'm completely in love with this colour at the moment but was struggling to find any statement jewellery that I liked in the right shade.  This ticked every box.

I love how this looks with my normally boring grey t-shirt.

Secondly I went for probably the largest and most colourful necklace I've ever owned, the "Tutti Frutti".  With the amount of beautiful bold colours in this piece I'm so excited to think about all of the different outfits I could wear this with.

Lastly I bought the "Lemonade Gem" which is a really happy and vibrant yellow, perfect for Summer.

It looks so fantastic with my breton stripe t-shirt and white blazer. 

Make sure you check out Candy Rocks and take a look at the "In Stock" album to see which of the necklaces are available at the moment.

Roll on pay day, I already have my eye on some more!

Monday 23 June 2014

Delicious Decadence

I'm sure you all remember me waffling away last month about my love for Living Social (if not, shame on you, where have you been?!).

Being a bit of a Living Social addict, my deal vouchers have started to stack up so on Saturday I thought it was about time I have a little look through what I have stashed away and make a plan.

With the sun making a bit of an appearance it seemed like the perfect day for a stroll to Delicious Decadence, a gorgeous little coffee shop and bakery in Newcastle's trendy suburb, Jesmond.  

The beauty of Living Social is getting to try places you've never heard of or been before and I'm so happy that we've now discovered such a lovely little place for treats.  

The shop only has 4 or 5 tables so is comfortably cosy and looks so cute with its tea and cake inspired mottos displayed on the walls.

Our deal gave us a brunch fit for foodies.  We both had a plate of pancakes served with warm maple syrup and streaky bacon.  It was absolutely delicious, I just wish every day could be started with such an indulgent breakfast.

I was pretty surprised to hear that it was the first time Simon had ever tried pancakes served the traditional American way, it makes me look forward to the day when we can finally visit America together.   Needless to say he wolfed his down and is now a bit of a fan. 

Despite being pretty full there was a second load of food to come as part of our deal with a toasted teacake each served with butter and jam.  I love nothing more than spreading a thick layer of butter on a hot teacake so I was very much in my element. 

It smelt and tasted absolutely amazing, I just wish I could have stopped myself eating it so quickly because I really wanted the moment to last.

Whilst there we had a good look at the menu which is full of yummy breakfast treats, freshly made sandwiches and light bites.  Of course no visit to somewhere so cute would be complete without the obligatory perusal of the cake display and it did not disappoint.   There was a great selection of homemade cakes and it absolutely pained me walking away without trying any of them.  We will most definitely be back - I need cake!
As well as delivering up beautiful food in a cute shop, Delicious Decadence also do catering, make wedding cakes and, the thing I'm most excited about, they also put on Cupcake Parties, teaching you how to make and decorate cupcakes.  I've been wanting to learn how to bake for ages so now I just need to find a group of people wanting to play with me.

Delicious Decadence can be found on Newlands Road in Jesmond, close to Ilford Road Metro Station .. I suggest you get yourselves there as soon as possible!

Friday 20 June 2014

Anya Hindmarch - What Planet Are You On?

I love clothes as much as the next girl but when it comes to designer labels I'm not really that well educated, probably because I could never dream of being able to afford them.  My encounters with designers is pretty much limited to the odd visit to Fenwick's handbag department to look longingly at my favourite Mulberry Bayswater.

Therefore when my friend Kayleigh asked me if I'd like to go along to an Anya Hindmarch event at Newcastle's luxury shop Cruise I wasn't sure what to expect.

I popped along to the store after work with Kayleigh, Lisa and Emma and had a lovely time browsing the rails of designer goodies and falling in love with a few shoes and handbags whilst sipping some rather lovely fruity fizz.

We eventually made it to the back of the store where we found the Anya Hindmarch handbags along with a rather interesting looking machine.

The concept of the new Spring Summer 2014 collection is "out of this world", inspired by natural, weightless materials, an influence that the brand has likened to space.  

After having a little look at the bags, we had a great time discovering "What Planet Are You On?", we entered our names and date of births into the machine and each received a little space capsule letting us know what our ruling planet is along with some very interesting facts and a lollipop of our planet.

The long roll of paper inside my tube provided much entertainment as I read through it. 

Here's a few fun facts I discovered about myself:

My Ruling Planet is Jupiter, which is the largest planet in the Solar System

My lucky number is 1, my lucky day is Monday (really?!!) and my lucky date is 17th

The Eurovision Song  Contest Winner the year I was born was Bucks Fizz representing the UK.

I was conceived on 26 June 1980, or thereabouts (what?!! ewwww .. I did not need to know that!)

As of 5 June 2014 I was 1,733 weeks old and I'd been alive for 12,132 days.

I was born under a full moon

My birth flower is the daffodil (loved that fact, as daffodils are my favourite flower)

If you want to have a go and find out some fun facts about yourself just head here.

Unfortunately we left the store empty handed, as none of us had bank balances large enough to cope with an Anya Hindmarch handbag purchase.  To make ourselves feel better we had a quick group trip to Primark where we could afford to buy things before going our separate ways.

Thanks to the ladies and gents at Cruise and Anya Hindmarch for inviting us.

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Afternoon Tea at the Sage

Another weekend, another afternoon tea!   This time at the Sage in Gateshead.

The Sage sits on the banks of the Tyne, with its stunning sloping glass roof it's an instantly recognisable feature of the Quayside.   It's best known as being a music venue that caters for all tastes -  hosting concerts by world famous pop artists, jazz musicians and folk singers as well as being a centre for the teaching of music and singing and hosting jazz, folk and classical festivals.

It's an exceptional place to sit and chill out.  I often find myself a nice comfy seat and settle down to some people watching.  It's a very inspiring, fun environment to be in and is always full of happy chatter and talented people making gorgeous music.

Despite having spent many hours sitting in the Sage enjoying my surroundings, I'd never been to the Brasserie for food so as soon as I saw a leaflet advertising their afternoon tea I knew it was time I booked a table.

I was really happy when we arrived and a pianist was playing some tunes from the musicals, afternoon tea with live music is my absolute favourite thing but it's not something you can find too often in the North East.   I love the dramatics of sipping on a cuppa whilst singing along to "Music of the Night".

The Brasserie is tucked away in a corner of the Sage, which unfortunately makes it a rather dark place to eat in comparison to the rest of the building which is bathed in beautiful light from the glass ceiling.  Whilst having afternoon tea in a dark room isn't ideal I should imagine it's a really lovely place to eat an evening meal as it's so cosy and intimate.  

Our table was next to a huge mirror which amused us, it felt a bit like Simon and Chloe were on a double date with Mirror Simon and Mirror Chloe (yes we are very silly).

Before I carry on, can we take a moment to appreciate Simon's (and Mirror Simon's) new glasses?   I love them! 

The Sage offers three afternoon teas.  Firstly the Gentlemen's Afternoon Tea which is a wonderful alternative to the usual spread with food including scotch egg, pork pie, bread and dripping along with the usual sandwiches and cakes.  Secondly there's the Dudes & Dolls' Afternoon Tea, a tea specifically for the kids with a mini cake selection, scone and jam served with a milkshake (for a moment I considered saying I was under 18 just to get my hands on the milkshake  ... to humour me let's just all pretend that I could have got away with that).

We went for the third option, the Traditional Afternoon Tea which was £15.95 and I had a cheeky glass of Prosecco for an additional £4.00.  Prosecco is something that I've recently started getting into (probably since attending blogging events), it's a great drink to mingle with, a welcome addition to lunch and I'm now loving it as an accompaniment to my afternoon tea sandwiches, leaving me with the pot of tea for my scones and cakes.  I can see this becoming my thing!

There was a lovely selection of sandwiches on a list that we had to pick from.  This did mean that we had to pick three fillings (so make sure you go with someone you can agree with!)   After a small debate we settled on Northumberland cheese which came filled with a delicious green onion and grape chutney, honey glazed ham, mustard mayo and salad which was literally the nicest ham sandwich I've ever had and smoked salmon, cream cheese and rocket. 

We were equally impressed with the scones, which were described on the menu as "mini" but were anything but.  We got one fruit scone each and it was huge and perfectly formed.  It came with our favourite little jars of Tiptree jam and a huge pot of cream which I absolutely slathered all over my scone - I might have overdone it?

Big thumbs up for the bottomless tea (we all know how annoyed I've been recently at afternoon teas that don't let you have refills!).  We started with individual pots but when we asked for a refill were given a teapot so huge we struggled to pick it up and pour ourselves a cup (although I'm sure Simon will blame his shaking arms on the amount of hard work he'd done in the gym a few hours before)

The top tier gave us three miniature cakes each, a little square of Victoria sponge, meringue and strawberries and a chocolate roll filled with coconut.   They were all really lovely, and a perfect bite size.  I think if the cakes had been any larger we would have really struggled to finish.

We were so full when we finished but managed to struggle our way up the stairs to a higher level of the Sage to take a look at the beautiful views of the Bridges from the glass roof before we began the very hard and slow walk back home. 

Looks like we have yet another fantastic afternoon tea in the North East to add to our ever growing list. 

Monday 16 June 2014

Quayside Seaside

I love nothing more than spending a lovely warm afternoon sitting on a deck chair with my feet snuggled deep into the sand.  Sometimes I'll take a bit of a nana nap, just opening my eyes every now and again to admire the tropical palm trees or glance up at the clear blue sky.

Where am I?   LA?  Miami?  Nope, the Quayside in Newcastle!   What do you mean the Tyne Bridge in the background gave it away?!

This might not be LA but we do have our own version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame with the recent installation of our "Local Heroes" spread across the pavement of the Quayside.  The plaques are much smaller than the ones you'll find on Hollywood Boulevard but if you keep your eyes to the ground you'll easily spot tributes to Alan Shearer, Sting and Ant & Dec along with many others (although I am a little miffed that my favourite famous Geordie Cheryl is nowhere to be seen).
Every Summer a small area of the Quayside is transformed into the Quayside Seaside, a little bit of staycation heaven in the city centre.

Overnight 260 tonnes of sand is delivered and a fully functioning beach complete with deckchairs, buckets and spades, palm trees and a volleyball net appears alongside the Tyne.

Simon showed me the pop up beach when I first visited Newcastle and it is one of the many things that I love about the city.  It's such a fantastic idea and hugely popular with locals and tourists alike. 

During the week you'll find the sand covered in kids enjoying a school outing, people relaxing on their lunch hour or local businesses partaking in some competitive volleyball.  The weekend sees families and friends spending hours relaxing in the sunshine, I've even see a few brave people lying on the beach in their bikinis.

People seem to think that it's always miserable and cold in the North but this is my third Summer enjoying the Quayside Seaside, and my second as a resident of Newcastle and I've loved spending many hours sitting in the hot sunshine on a deckchair.  

With so many fantastic local businesses on the Quayside, my favourite thing to do is get a huge slab of cake from the Great British Cupcakery and take it to the seaside (obviously being very careful not to get it covered in sand) for a bit of deckchair lounging!   Even better if you visit on Sunday Market day you'll have your pick of the food stalls and can enjoy a hot dog, an ice-cream or a tray of donuts.

The  Quayside Seaside will be in Toon until the end of September so make sure you get yourselves down there to enjoy the Summer sunshine.

Friday 13 June 2014

Primark Haul

I've been in Primark again .... and I've found THEEEEEEEEE most amazing Little Mermaid goodies!



Wednesday 11 June 2014

My Top 5 Afternoon Teas

It's a well known fact that Simon and I are very partial to a spot of afternoon tea, so much so that at a recent wedding we attended one of his friends commented that he didn't recognise him without a cake in front of him!

So I was really thrilled when Rosie from Scobberlotch asked me if I'd like to do a guest post all about afternoon tea in Newcastle.  There are some wonderful food blogs written in the North East and Scobberlotch is one of my favourite so I was really excited to get the chance to share my knowledge on all things tea and cake.

This is my first ever guest post so I'd love it if you could all head here for a little read and show your support to Scobberlotch.
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