Wednesday 30 July 2014

Primark Haul

Having been a very good girl for quite a few weeks now, Primark was calling out to me so I stuck my foot in the door quickly and before I knew it I was sailing in and out of the changing rooms.   Enjoy!


Monday 28 July 2014

Sloppy Joe's Deli and Sandwich Bar

I have a confession!  When it comes to picking somewhere to grab a sandwich in Newcastle at lunchtime I can be a little lazy.  Quite often I'll find myself heading to the nearest boring sandwich chain to pick up something, even though it's food I've had a billion times before.

We have so many wonderful independent sandwich shops, delis, bakeries and coffee shops in Newcastle it's an absolute crime not to venture into them more often.

The newest kid on the block is Sloppy Joe's who you will find in Grainger Market.   Sloppies (as I'm now affectionately allowing myself to call them) are a sandwich and deli bar serving up delicious local produce in bread freshly baked by their Granger Market neighbours, the French Oven.  

You will find everything you could possibly want for your lunch from their classic paninis, baguettes and salads to "build your own" sandwiches.  The counter has a huge range of fillings to choose from including chorizo, pastrami, shredded beef, tuna, BBQ pork and chicken.

If breakfast is more your thing you will find a really reasonably priced and delicious breakfast menu serving up Thick Wedge Eggy Bread and a variety of breakfast muffins along with hot drinks, coolies and smoothies.

Being a bit of a lover of food I was really happy when Sloppies invited me to their launch night on Friday to sample some of their delicious offerings for myself.  After an amusing time trying to "break in" to the Grainger Market to attend the after hours event which resulted in Simon and I having to squeeze our way through a tiny gap in a gate, we were starving and ready for some food.

There was a variety of things for us to try so we really enjoyed getting stuck in.

The baguettes were gorgeous, the combination of fillings were spot on and the bread had a lovely crust and a soft middle, just the way I like it!    We were particularly fond of the hot fillings that are served in the speciality "Joey Bap".  We sampled the Beef Sloppy Joe - slow cooked mince with onions, tomatoes and peppers and the Chicken Sloppy Joe - Cajun chicken breast marinated in spices before being served with either Cajun-slaw or salad and homemade sauce.   I will admit we visited the hot fillings a few times.

Sloppy Joe's is locally produced street food at its finest, I will definitely be heading into Grainger Market to see them again next time I need some lunch ... see you all there!

Friday 25 July 2014

Scout's Honour

I'm a huge fan of Dawn O'Porter's TV show "This Old Thing", which is currently showing on Channel 4 on Wednesday evenings.  When I met Dawn back in April (see here) she was so enthusiastic about her love for vintage fashion I couldn't help but be completely intrigued by the concept of dressing in pre-owned clothes.  

Dawn is on a mission to introduce vintage fashion into people's lives.  Fabulously dressed in the most amazing outfits that she's discovered buried in shops, Dawn promotes the idea of loving the story behind old clothes and buying good quality timeless pieces that make you stand out from the crowd.

So, for quite a while now, I've been wanting to have a good rummage for some old treasures myself, but being a complete virgin to vintage clothes shops the idea was a little daunting.  I'm very happy and confident on the high street, I know which shops I love, what clothes and sizes I look good in and what the latest trends are but shopping vintage is a whole new world.  Shopping in a vintage store encourages you to trust your inner fashionista, think outside the box and take brave bold decisions.  It's not for the fainthearted and a girl's first time can be a little overwhelming.

So I was very happy when my lovely friend and local blogger Kayleigh announced that she was teaming up with Scout , a vintage clothing store in Sunderland, to put on an event for bloggers.  I was finally going to be able to try out some shopping with a nice large group of blogging girlies for moral support.

Scout is a real cave of wonders and from the second you walk down the steps and into the store you are met with bright colours and friendly smiles.  If you're a newbie to vintage shopping and living in the North East, Scout is a great shop to make your debut.

I was a bit nervous about starting my hunt through the rails of clothes, and so spent a little while psyching myself up with some cupcakes that had been made for us by Scout's neighbour, Serendipity, a lovely little tea room a few doors down.

That was soon followed by some sparkling wine, strawberries and cream and a few handfuls of popcorn.

Once the sugar had kicked in I felt ready to dive in.   I found some amazing patterns and colours but they were a little too much for a beginner like me so after marvelling at some of the beautiful cuts and shapes of the dresses and reminiscing about the time when my Mum's wardrobe was full of shoulder pads I moved to the next rail.

I found a gorgeous little cropped denim jacket that I really could have seen myself wearing but as I already have one quite similar (although nowhere near as nice!) I decided to move on, feeling a little more confident that I could find something to suit my style.

In the end I found a rail that had some real potential, the skirts.   Vintage skirts aren't quite as daunting as the dresses and I quickly found two that I really loved.  A cute mint green and white striped skirt (bang on trend pastel) and a very vibrant skirt covered in beautiful bold colours (great for Summer).

Unfortunately both skirts were too small and I eat far too much cake to ever fit into anything teeny but I was so happy that I found some things I really loved to try on and it's definitely given me the confidence to give it another go.

Whilst I was dancing around in the changing room trying to squeeze myself into my small skirts some of the other girls were having their makeup done by the talented Tamzin Cummings and vintage hairstyles were being created by The Black Door Hairdressing.     My favourite style of the night was Kloe's Beehive which looked absolutely incredible.

As the shop began to fill with happy bloggers things soon began to get a little toasty in the Summer heat so I decided to grab an iced latte from Holmeside Coffee who had popped down with some refreshments to cool us all down. 

It was then I noticed that the Blondie and Bee Gees tunes I'd been grooving away to in my head (I just about resisted the urge to launch into a full on dance routine in the middle of the shop) were being played on an old record player.   Absolutely amazing and it made my night even more perfect, fantastic old tunes on vinyl in a store full of wonderful old clothes.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first taste of vintage shopping and something tells me that this could be the beginning of a wonderful new hobby.

Thank you so much to Kayleigh for organising and Angela for letting us take over her lovely store and all the local businesses who provided us with refreshments, pampered us with hair and makeup and filled our bags with goodies.


Wednesday 23 July 2014

Waiting for Giraffes

Earlier this month a very exciting thing happened in Newcastle when a Giraffe restaurant finally opened in the North East.  This is something I'd been wanting to happen ever since I arrived in Newcastle, you see Giraffe and I go way, way back - we are very old buddies and settling into my new home without a Giraffe did feel kind of wrong.

Giraffe is a restaurant that celebrates food by picking out some favourite dishes from across the globe and putting them in a bumper menu full of tasty food.   Add in some chilled music with a relaxed atmosphere and you have yourself a rather fantastic place to enjoy a meal.

As I've mentioned before, Giraffes are my favourite animals so when I stumbled across Giraffe the Restaurant many years ago back in London I just had to go in, based on its name.  That first visit I ordered brunch and it was so delicious it became my favourite place in the Capital to breakfast at the weekends.  Back then Giraffe wasn't the mammoth restaurant chain that it's become today, it had just a few restaurants dotted across London.  At the end of my meal I picked up a restaurant location booklet and made it my mission to adventure to different areas of London to pay a visit to each Giraffe and eat brunch.  I can't remember making it to all of them but I definitely ticked a fair few off the list and it was great to discover some new areas of London. 

Fast forward ten years or so and Giraffes are popping up all over the UK with 46 restaurants currently open.  The newest of these you'll find at Kingston Park, positioned right near the Metro Station, a few stops away from Newcastle Airport and conveniently located right next door to the largest Tesco Extra I have ever been in.

Simon and I hopped on the Metro earlier this week and made the short journey from the centre of Toon to Giraffe for some much anticipated dinner.

The first thing I noticed as soon as we walked in was how big the restaurant is.   There are plenty of tables and they are really pleasantly positioned to ensure you're not eating on top of your neighbour.   The restaurant also gets a huge amount of light thanks to the massive window at the front which makes it a  lovely bright open space.

Whilst looking at the menu it only seemed right to have a cocktail and we were so pleased at the amount we had to choose from.   I decided on a Mango Lime Daiquiri and Simon had a Pina Colada Deluxe.  

They were really refreshing, and as silly as it sounds, very fruity.   Too often cocktails taste a little watery as they are packed out with ice however in Giraffe the cocktails are very smooth.  I was amazed at how well I could taste the Mango above everything else.   Absolutely delicious.

If you need an added incentive to give cocktails at Giraffe a go then make sure you head there on a Sunday to Friday evenings when the "Bar Buddies" offer gives you 50% off selected cocktails, beers and wines (including whole bottles!)

It's not often we indulge in a three course meal but we decided to really go for it this time and have a good taste of what Giraffe has to offer.

The Starters Menu consists of small plates, appetizers and sharing dishes with plenty for everyone.  As someone who suffers from a nut allergy I was really impressed to see that the menu was very clearly labelled with vegetarian, nut and gluten free symbols. 

We both chose from the appetizer section.  I went for the Crunchy Shrimp which was served with a wedge of lime and a really generous pot of sweet chilli sauce for dipping.   I was enjoying the dipping so much I did think about maybe swiping the remainder of the pot to mix in with my main course.

Simon opted for the Orange BBQ Duck Tostada.  Served on a crispy corn tortilla the duck was lovely and sticky with a generous helping of salad on top.  

If we thought the Starter Menu was large we hadn't seen anything yet.   The Main Menu displayed pages of delicious food, with offerings of burgers, grills, pastas and salads as well as some old favourites.  

I decided on a pasta dish and chose the Chorizo Sausage Carbonara.  It was a perfectly sized portion and really lovely and creamy.  Although the Chorizo did have a bit of a kick to it (I'm the biggest wuss with even slightly spicy food) I had my Daiquiri on hand to cool my mouth.

Simon is a bit of a burger monster so chose the Mexican Chicken Burger.  It was stuffed full with yummy flavours and I had an amusing few minutes trying to watch him tackle it.   It definitely wouldn't be a dish to pick on a first date, he had his roasted corn dropping out all over the place.  It was worth the mission though, he very happily tucked his way through it and was especially impressed with his chips.

Now for my favourite part of any meal - dessert!  I will admit I'd been looking forward to dessert all day!   The Dessert Menu at Giraffe is a dream, I couldn't get over how many things I wanted, picking just one was so difficult.   In the end I chose the Chocolate Pie which was served with cherry ripple ice-cream.   It was very rich so definitely the dish to pick if you're a chocolate fan, it was perfectly complimented by the cherries.  

Simon had the Banana Waffle Split which I just about managed to have a few spoons of in between stuffing myself with Chocolate Pie.  We loved how the banana on top of the waffle was roasted and that it was served with ice-cream, chocolate and butterscotch sauce.

By the time we'd finished we were completely and utterly full to bursting but had rather huge grins plastered across our faces.   The food at Giraffe was even better than I remembered and I can't wait to go back again.   

It's always worth checking the Promotions section of the Giraffe website as they have lots of deals to enjoy including "Lunch for Less", "Burger Tuesdays", "Kids Meal Deal" and "Feel Good Dinner".  Also if you fancy taking the whole family down to the new Kingston restaurant Kids Dine for Free until Friday 15 August with any Adult Main purchased.

Before I go I'm going to leave you with a very exciting little bit of gossip, Giraffe is going to be opening another restaurant in Newcastle next Spring when it opens in Eldon Square as part of the new Restaurant Quarter.   You know what they say - Giraffes are like buses, you wait forever for one to turn up and then loads arrive at once.

Welcome to Newcastle Giraffe!    It was worth the wait!

Our meals and drinks were provided to us free of charge for review purposes.  I am however a very long time fan of Giraffe and I only speak the truth. 

Thanks so much to the team at Kingston Park for being so welcoming and especially to our lovely waiter Sam who was so helpful, happy and friendly.

Monday 21 July 2014

The North East Blogger Awards

The blogging community here in the North East had some pretty exciting news last week with the launch of the "North East Bloggers Awards", organised by Creative PR Agency, "O PR", it will be the first time our region has ever had an Awards for bloggers. 

As you all know I am very passionate about my new home here in the North East and really love writing this little blog about my adventures in the region.  If you enjoy reading my ramblings I would really love it if you could nominate me under the category of "Best NE Lifestyle" by clicking the link here and completing the form. 

I'm not fussed at all about most other blogging awards, but to be nominated for one celebrating local bloggers in the region that I love would mean the world to me. 

Thank you  :)


Friday 18 July 2014

Pleased To Meet You

Last Summer saw a new addition to Newcastle's collection of bars with the opening of Pleased to Meet You.  Shame on me because it's taken me a full year to get myself there.  In my defence in recent months I have strolled down to the bar's home on High Bridge for a post shopping drink but it's so popular it's always been too busy to find a table.

So last Friday when I had the afternoon off work and my friend Kate was visiting from Leeds I knew it would be an ideal time to get ourselves through the door of PTMY for some food and drink.   My clever plan paid off and although the bar was surprisingly busy for that time on a Friday afternoon we had pick of a few tables and got to choose a rather lovely location by the large open windows, a prime spot for people watching.

PTMY is a gin bar and if you love gin it is the best place to be.   The gin menu is fantastic and offers you the chance to make your very own G&T picking from a selection of Gins, Tonics and Garnishes.  Choosing your own drink combinations is so much fun, but being a bit of a novice when it comes to Gin I decided to go for a combination recommended at the top of the menu - Hoxton Pink Grapefruit and Coconut Gin with Fentimans Tonic and garnished with a slice of Pink Grapefruit.

I absolutely loved it, it was so fruity and refreshing and a great introduction to Gin.  Maybe next time  I'll be a bit braver and try making up my own drink.

Kate was a little more adventurous than me and poured over the menu with great delight before choosing Edinburgh Elderberry Gin, Schweppes Slimline Tonic and Rose Petals to garnish.  Her drink looked beautiful, resulting in poor Kate losing her glass for a good 5 minutes whilst I attempted to photograph it.

Over the last year I've heard fantastic things about the food at PTMY so was looking forward to getting some delicious scran into my rumbling tummy.

The menu is small but stuffed full of absolutely lovely sounding food.  It took me a while to decide what to have before settling on the Steamed  Mussels in white wine and garlic served with fries and locally baked bread.

It was definitely the right choice, I was brought a huge pot of mussels that tasted amazing and the little accompanying board of bread and chips was pretty much my idea of heaven.  A really generous portion of food and great value for money.

I will definitely be returning I can't wait to introduce Simon to the  G & T menu and I've heard so many fantastic things about PTMY's Sunday lunch that I know we'll definitely have to try that some time soon.

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Back to Norwich

Our last day in Norfolk ended up being the hottest day of the year so far.  We woke to find bright blue skies and glorious sunshine.   In hindsight maybe a trip to a city wasn't the best plan but there was no way I could leave Norfolk without a trip to Norwich.

Norwich is the place where I was born, the first city I visited solo on the bus aged just 11 and the city where I got my first office job.  There are so many cities in the UK that I love but Norwich will always be very special to me.

Although not huge, Norwich is a beautiful city to spend a day in and I'd urge you all to make sure you plan a visit at some point as there is so much to see and do.  

By the time we arrived it was a rather roasting 28 degrees and being rather unsuitably dressed I decided the weather would be a perfect excuse to shop for a new dress so I headed into New Look to see if anything would catch my eye.  I ended up purchasing this lovely dress, which was ideal for the hot weather.

Deciding I'd like to introduce Simon to a little bit of Norwich culture we headed into Cathedral Close.  I was very lucky when I worked in Norfolk as my office was in Cathedral Close and I got to admire the Cathedral out of the office window every day.  It is a stunning building and looks so beautiful in the sunshine.

There was a service taking place when we arrived so we couldn't go inside but instead had a stroll round the Cloisters which show off the very best views of the building.

After all the walking we'd worked up a bit of an appetite so headed to Bills for brunch.  I've really loved Bills ever since I discovered it when I lived in London and as there are yet to be any branches opened in the North, I was so happy to see that one had opened in Norwich only a few weeks earlier.
As it was so hot I decided against my usual choice (full breakfast or eggs benedict) and instead opted for the blueberry pancakes served with banana and strawberries washed down with French pink soda.  It was so tasty and I'm keeping everything crossed that we get one open in the North East soon.

Having cooled down in the air conditioning we headed back outside for a look round the market.  Norwich boasts the largest permanent market in the UK and at 900 years old it is very much part of the city's history.  I've been visiting the stalls since I was small, first as a child with my Grandma to buy her raisins and then when I was a teenager buying chips for lunch.

I also took Simon for a little stroll down historic Elm Hill, the prettiest cobbled street in Norwich full of Tudor houses.

Needing to cool off again I knew exactly where I wanted to take Simon for some liquid refreshment.  You may remember that a few weeks ago he was on a Stag Do in Belgium and as he loved trying all of the different beers I decided to introduce him to the Belgian Monk which serves a huge variety of Belgian Beers.

Norwich has changed so much since I left, or maybe I just notice more now that I'm older, but it seems in recent years more and more beautiful looking independent cafes, restaurants and bars have popped up. I could have spent hours wandering around the Lanes marvelling at all of the great places that never used to exist.  More than once I found myself feeling rather jealous of friends who still live there and get to try out all these gorgeous looking places. 

After a quick stroll round Norwich's very own department store, Jarrolds it was time for cake.  I really struggled to pick where to go as so many tea rooms seem to have appeared since I left Norwich.  In the end we picked Café 33, having heard that they serve the best cake in the city.

We were not disappointed, snuggled away on Exchange Street, right under my old hairdressers, we found the café with a huge display of cakes on the counter.  Each cake sounded amazing, although looked a little sorry in the blazing heat.

It wasn't the best place to go for food in such boiling temperatures, the little café was like a green house and I felt so sorry for the poor girls working there.  However they had huge smiles on their faces and the cakes were protected from the heat as much as they could be in such difficult temperatures.

There was no way we could face tea on such a hot day so we opted for homemade traditional lemonade which ended up being a bit of a blogger's dream to photograph.  Little jars and stripy straws ahoy!

I chose a slice of bakewell sponge, being very obsessed with almonds and cherries my eyes almost popped out of my head when I spotted it.  It tasted absolutely gorgeous and my slice was very very generous!  

Unable to walk about any more in the heat we said goodbye to the city and headed back to my parent's house to pack our suitcases in preparation for our return to the North East.

It was so wonderful to spend a whole week in Norfolk and hopefully we'll be heading back down to the East Coast soon.

Monday 14 July 2014

Banham Zoo

"We're going to the Zoo, zoo, zoo, how about you, you, you" .... I'm pretty sure it's impossible to go to the Zoo without having that little sing song on the way.

When planning what we were going to do with our week in Norfolk I knew that Banham Zoo had to feature.  It was somewhere I visited a lot in my childhood, from weekend outings with my family to trips with school and the Brownies yet I hadn't been for years.

Simon was a little less enthusiastic at the thought of spending our day looking at animals.  Out of all of our planned activities this was probably the one he was least looking forward to. 

There was some sun on the forecast, so being proper holidaymakers we threw on our shorts and headed out for an adventure.

Banham Zoo first opened in 1986 and in the last year has become a Charity under the Zoological Society of East Anglia (ZSEA), advancing the zoo in wildlife and animal conservation, animal welfare and education.  No one likes to see animals put into cramped cages and poorly treated but at Banham the enclosures are absolutely huge and the animals are well looked after.

The Zoo is small and very manageable which we really loved because it meant we got to go round it all and picked out which animals to go and see twice.  It also has plenty to keep the whole family entertained with a road train running round the Zoo and an aerial obstacle course as well as animal feeding and talks scheduled throughout the day.

I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned this before but I love giraffes, they're my favourite animal and I always love the opportunity to go and see them.  The giraffes arrived at Banham Zoo in 2008 (the year I left Norfolk and moved to London ... typical!) so this trip was the first time that I'd seen them.  The enclosure is fantastic with a high board walk on one side giving visitors a fantastic view of the giraffes.  For £7.50 you can hand feed them which looked amazing but having fed giraffes before I decided to give it a miss this time.

It wasn't too long before Simon started to really enjoy his day.  He fell in love with the Red Pandas and spent the rest of our trip telling me how much he loved them and I even caught him checking out the red panda cuddly toys in the gift shop. 

Banham has some wonderful big cats which I always love looking at.  They're so huge and majestic and also a little terrifying.  We saw Snow Leopards, Tigers, Cheetahs and Leopards and were very lucky to get some great photos.

My favourite part of our day had to be the Lemur Encounters.  Twice a day the Lemurs are let out into an open walk through area which allows you to get up close with the animals. 

You're not really supposed to touch them but the Lemurs are so friendly they tend to approach you and stick out their paws to say hello.  I could have spent hours and hours there, they were so cute.

I'm beyond happy that Simon has now decided that he enjoys zoos as I can now secretly plot a trip to Edinburgh to see the Pandas.   Watch this space!
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