Thursday 31 December 2015

December Days

I'm sure it comes as no surprise that my Instagram was looking more than a little festive this month.  Christmas is definitely my favourite time of the year and I've had such a great time this month celebrating with friends and family.

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

Our first Christmas in our new home and I was so excited to get our tree up.  We still have the same tree we had in our flat last year but I have to say it fits so much better in our new place.  I love its snug little corner by the window and returning home in the evening to see it's twinkling lights made me one very happy bunny.

Wipe your Feet

Simon's Mum bought us this awesome festive mat when she came to visit us recently. I don't think she quite expected the over enthusiastic reaction she got from me!  I absolutely love it and am already sad at the thought of having to put it away now Christmas has gone.

Car Selfies

Does anyone else love taking selfies in the car?  I'm sure Simon must think I'm a little mad when he's trying to drive and I'm sat next to him snapping away like some kind of selfie obsessed teen.  This one was taken on our journey to Norfolk to see my family for a pre-Christmas celebration. It's a 5 hour drive from Newcastle to Norwich so I have to do something to amuse myself!

Christmas Shopping ... for myself!

I had a day off this month to get my Christmas shop finished.  Don't ask me how but I somehow ended up browsing around Kiko for makeup and looking at the clothes in New Look.  It's pretty obvious I wasn't going to find presents for Simon in either of those stores, but I did find myself this gorgeous denim dress that I had to buy.  Check out the gold buttons, I'm obsessed!  In my defence I haven't bought any clothes for ages and I have been looking for the perfect denim dress for months now!

Finding my Appetite

I'm a little obsessed with local foodie mag Appetite. Its published 8 times a year and is available at local independent restaurants, cafes and delis.  Some issues can be particularly hard to track down and you can quite often find me frantically running about the North East trying to find the latest copy.  This month I was over the moon to find one only a few days after it came out at Quilliam Brothers Tea House where I enjoyed a festive pot of "A Stollen Moment" and the most delicious brunch.

Christmas Movies

Every year I find all of my Christmas DVDs and put them into a huge pile next to the TV ready to watch.  They usually then sit there for the entire month with me barely making a dent in my collection.  This year I added a sneaky guilty pleasure to the pile (Chalet Girl) which made me even more determined to get through them.

Christmas Jumper Day

Isn't it funny that a few years ago the only place you could buy Christmas jumpers was online (I know this because I spent years looking!), now they're everywhere.  I have to stop myself buying too many because unfortunately it's just not practical to have a wardrobe full of festive knits. I was so happy to pull out one of my favourites for Christmas Jumper Day.  I bought this a few years ago now and it always makes me smile.

Pink Skies on Northumberland Street

Despite the high winds and days of rain we've had some beautiful mornings this month. Getting up early for work and walking through the city before the shops are even open is definitely worth it when you get to see beautiful skies like this. This gorgeous pink morning happened on Northumberland Street, Newcastle's busiest shopping street.

A Sneaky Peak

Anyone already following me on Instagram will have noticed I posted a little sneaky peak at our wedding stationery.  I'm keeping the location top secret but I couldn't resist sharing our gorgeous Save the Dates when they arrived just before Christmas. It definitely gives a little hint to the theme of our wedding.  Less than 9 months to go!

Christmas Chillin'

I caught an awful cold a few days before Christmas and felt pretty horrendous for a few days. A definite sign that my body was telling me to stop I think.  Luckily I'm off work now until 4 January so there's plenty of time to recharge my batters whilst lounging about in my Primark Christmas leggings and eating too many chocolates.  You can read more about our Christmas here.

Little Miss Blogger

One Christmas present I just have to share with you is my brand new mug for the office. Simon got me this really cute "Little Miss Blogger" mug and I now insist on having it by my side when I'm blogging.  It's the little things!  If you want one of your own just head to Truffle Shuffle, or if you're not Little Miss Blogger, you can also get Little Miss Brunch, Little Miss Selfie, Little Miss Social Media and Little Miss Hungover.  Love it!

Wow, that was a busy month, and that's just a little snippet!  For more adventures from New Girl in Toon make sure you're following me on Instagram!

Monday 28 December 2015

Christmas, Just the Two of Us

For years my Christmas Day was always the same, spending time at home in Norfolk with my Mum, Dad, two sisters and Grandma.  We always ate Coco Pops for breakfast, Dad wore a Santa hat and told rude jokes and Mum would make the most delicious Christmas lunch.

Then I met Simon and moved to Newcastle and suddenly Christmas became about splitting our time between two families living on opposite sides of the country. With my lot down in Norfolk and Simon's family up in Manchester it's easy to spend a lot of the festive period driving up and down the motorway with a boot full of presents and a head full of road rage.

Christmas as an adult can get a little frantic!

So this year Simon and I decided to take the stress out of Christmas and spend Christmas just the two of us in our brand new house up here in the North East. I was so excited to start some brand new traditions, although perhaps a little worried that Christmas with two people might feel a little strange.

We decided to spend Christmas Eve cosying up in the lounge with some hot chocolate watching Christmas films.  Elf and Love Actually are my favourite festive movies and definitely got us in the mood.

As a little surprise I organised a Christmas Eve box for Simon, he's a big kid at heart and I knew he'd love getting a few treats before the big day.  The box was made by Hugs and Hearts and I'm so happy with it. I filled it with a new pair of snuggly Winter PJs, a pot of Whittards hot chocolate and Gremlins, another festive film to add to our pile.

Being a couple of children we were up pretty early on Christmas Day ready to tear into our stockings. I've always had a stocking at Christmas so was pretty quick to introduce Simon to the idea.  I love shopping for little bits to put in it and he was very happy with his collection of chocolates, toys and a few silly jokey things.

Dress code on Christmas Day is something that seems to differ from family to family.  I've always enjoyed wearing fancy clothes to celebrate but this year we decided that comfort was the best plan so we agreed that Christmas jumpers would definitely be the way forward.

No Coco Pops at our Christmas breakfast, instead we decided on smoked salmon with scrambled eggs, we know how to treat ourselves!  I will admit our Festive breakfast actually ended up being a little more stressful than preparing the turkey for lunch. We currently own a very limited number of pots and pans which meant attempting to make scrambled egg in a saucepan (not easy!)

Moving on to the main event and Santa had been pretty kind to us this year with lots of colourful packages under the tree.  Simon bought me the most beautiful rose gold Monica Vinader personalised necklace that I'm obsessed with as well as my very first Jo Malone scent in Blackberry & Bay.

I'm afraid I'm not much of a chef so Simon volunteered to make Christmas Lunch, and as it was his first time he was a little nervous. You hear so many horror stories about preparing turkey for Christmas but with plenty of hits and tips from my Mum, Simon made us the most fantastic feast.  We were both a little shocked by how tasty all of the food was, especially the turkey which was absolute heaven!

So, how did we find Christmas just the two of us? The biggest struggle was buying food to only serve two people. We had to shop around for a small turkey crown and trying to find a dessert that wasn't built for an army of 12 was a little difficult. The day itself was absolutely perfect, shutting out the world and enjoying some quality time together in our new house was just what we needed after a hectic year.

Next Christmas we'll be Mr and Mrs and I'm guessing Christmas will become even more special.

I hope you all had a great Christmas with your families and that you're all having a nice rest over the festive period.  Let me know what you got up to!


Wednesday 23 December 2015

My North East Story: Underland to Wonderland

If you love your North East blogs with plenty of stunning photographs and adventures then Underland to Wonderland is an absolute beauty of a blog.  Danielle is a really talented photographer and is so passionate about her little corner of the North East.   Get ready for a truly heart warming North East love story.

1. What is your North East Story

Well once upon a time a Newcastle native man moved away from the city of Newcastle to the furthest North town in England, also known as the last town in Northumberland before the Scottish Border, and met a local lady. Then after love and marriage the baby in the golden carriage arrived, born in Ashington in 1990. Me!

I have lived in the same town, Berwick Upon Tweed, for the majority of my life, moving to Heaton for my time at college and then back home again. In 2011 after some difficult personal circumstances I decided I had to get away again and so moved in with family in New York (for non ­Newcastle folk it is actually a place near North Shields, not the 'concrete jungle where dreams are made of').

A few months later my now partner and I moved into our first flat together in Blyth but due to the lack of jobs there decided to head nearer the city, where we ended up in may of heard of it and I have to say, for us at least, it most certainly lived up to it's reputation. We moved again to be nearer our new jobs at Kingston Park and there stayed in Fawdon until our final big move back up to the beautiful Berwick in July of 2014.  I think this is where we will stay for good.

2. Why do you love living in the North East?

Multiple reasons! I personally believe that Northumberland in particular has some of the most stunning landscapes within the UK as well as having an amazing history. There is always somewhere to go and explore, there are so many amazing species of birds and wildlife to watch and photograph and with having amazing cities like Newcastle as well as small towns like Berwick and little villages like Seahouses we have the best of both worlds.

3. Where's your favourite place in the North East to relax?

How am I supposed to answer that?! :P Let's see... hmmm. Well when we lived in Blyth a favourite spot of ours for a walk and photo session was Holywell Dene which is located on the Whitley Bay side of Seaton Deleval. I think it's unknown enough that you can adventure though it without bumping into too many people (if any) unlike similar places like Jesmond Dene.

I also adore Beamish for a day out without the dog because I feel like it's set in the time period that I actually belong haha and seeing as I have always lived in coastal towns, I feel the need to also include a beach so for a beautifully clean, usually quiet, beach with views for miles head to Cheswick.

Oh and how could I forget! The best place for a relaxing holiday, Keilder!

4. Recommend some yummy food places

I am the worlds fussiest eater so am not a huge ones for restaurants and the like, however I am a self confessed ice cream addict. The best ice cream in the North of Northumberland is Doddington Dairy, located near to Wooler. As for further south, Di­Meos Delaval Ices in Whitley Bay cannot be beat for unique flavours done perfectly.
5. Describe your perfect day in the North East

To be honest this question has multiple possible answers because if you haven't realized by now I adore the majority of my home county. So as not to bore you with incoherent excitement about a possible future day out I'll settle on the following scenario...

Starting nice and early in my hometown we'd take Baker for a nice walk in our usual secret spot, then load up the car and head south, stopping off in Whitley Bay to grab some of Di­Meos ice cream and Cullercoats for a little visit to the beach where we actually trained Baker as a puppy.

Then on to the brilliant Beamish (dogs are allowed you know!) for an afternoon in yesteryear, picnic in tow, spending our time doing what we enjoy most ­ photo taking and video making.

... and that's the very last My North East Story of the year!  I've loved taking this journey with you all this year and hope you've enjoyed discovering some more blogs in the North East.  Who knows, maybe My North East Story will return next year!

Saturday 19 December 2015

A Christmas Tale at Alnwick Gardens

A spell has been cast on Alnwick Garden this Christmas time.  The Winter Sorcerer has been up to mischief and Alnwick Garden's beautiful Autumn spirit has fallen asleep, leaving an enchanted forest to grow and Christmas forgotten.

Welcome to A Christmas Tale, a magical night time journey through Alnwick Garden that gives you an opportunity to unlock the story of the Winter Sorcerer and see magic comes to life before your eyes in the form of light shows, projections, performances and music.

This magic adventure has been created by award winning artists  Ross Ashton and Karen Monid, the team behind Durham Lumiere, Illuminating York and the Queen's Jubilee along with Robin Morley, producer and developer of Saltwells Enchanted Park.

Simon and I are both big kids so as soon as we heard about this great new Christmas event we decided to hop into our little rental car and take the journey up the A1 to see what's been going on at Alnwick Garden since our last visit back in the Summer.

I am a huge fan of Enchanted Park that is held in Saltwell Park in Gateshead each yet but unfortunately this year we missed out so we were very eager to see how Alnwick Garden's A Christmas Tale would compare.

We've been having a very mild Winter so far up here in the North East but I still couldn't resist snuggling up ready for our night time tour of the gardens.

Our evening began in a bit of confusion when we somehow managed to miss the guides at the beginning and ended up doing everything backwards.  So if you are planning a trip make sure you ask which way you should go if you get lost like us. There is a story line and it definitely works best if you do it in order. There are guides and signs along the way, so don't ask me how we managed to miss them!

The adventure began in the Sorcerer's laboratory where he had been busy casing evil spells upon the garden, leaving an enchanted forest behind.

The scene was set with the most beautiful light and water displays and the garden was very atmospheric with dark corners, billowing smoke and haunting sounds round every corner.  It wasn't long before we were completely immersed in the story!

I don't want to give too much away but look out for the enchanting birds that magically allow you to talk to the birds.

Disorientated by the twisting paths and colourful trees in the Enchanted  Forest we stumbled into a clearing where we found the very sad looking Frog Prince sitting all alone on a bench.  He explained to us that he'd been trapped by the Sorcerer's curse.  Unfortunately Simon decided that his kiss wouldn't be magic enough to break the curse so we had to find another way to free the Frog Prince and rescue Christmas!

It wasn't long before we found the Sorceror and, I'm not going to lie, I was a little scared!   The only way for us to break the curse was to knock on the door and wake him up.  After a lot of encouragement from Simon I crept towards him quiet as a mouse and tentatively knocked on the door.

Talking to the Sorcerer was fantastic and  I know its something that kids would love (I'm sure they're far braver than me!).   I can't tell you what secrets he told us, you'll have to go and find out for yourselves.

Our trip through the Enchanted Forest ended at the most beautiful Christmas Tree I've ever seen.  Snuggled between the trees of the forest and decorated in endless twinkly lights,  I could have happily sat underneath it and just waited for Christmas.

Our final mission of the evening was to write down our Christmas Wishes and tie them to the branches of the Christmas Spell Tree.

I can't tell you what I wrote as I'm sure if I do the spell wont work and the wish won't come true, but I'm sure you can guess it was something soppy and wedding related!

We had the most fantastic evening at Alnwick Garden and it's a definite "must" to add to your Festive Fun list if you find yourself with a spare evening.  Kids will absolutely love it, and if you're a grown up with a young heart like me and my Mr, it's a gorgeous place for a Christmas date night.

A Christmas Tale continues until Wednesday 23 December and costs £12.00 for adults and £7.00 for children.  Tours run from 4:30 pm - 8:30 pm.  See here for more information and tickets.


Thursday 17 December 2015

The Newcastle Festive Fizz Trail

If you'd told me a year ago that Simon and I would be walking the streets of the Toon on the Newcastle Festive Fizz Trail I would have probably pulled a face. I've never really liked Prosecco or Champagne and only ever had the occasional glass at weddings.

The last 12 months it's been all change at New Girl in Toon HQ, maybe it's all the weddings I've been to this year or maybe it's those bottles of champagne Simon and I were given to celebrate our house purchase and engagement, but suddenly I'm quite a fan of sipping fizz out of a fancy flute.

So, as a Christmas treat, Simon and I decided to spend a Saturday afternoon drinking Festive Fizz and set ourselves the challenge of finding the very best champagne bars in Newcastle.

If you're after a drink on a Saturday in December I'd always recommend heading towards the Quayside where you're far away from the Christmas shoppers and the bars tend to be quieter during the day. 

Our first stop was the Glasshouse, Newcastle's only dedicated champagne bar and somewhere we haven't been since its launch night earlier in the year.  The tiled floor and opulent gold detailing gives Glasshouse a wonderful Gatsby feel and as we chose a table we were feeling pretty glamorous, even at 2:00 pm on a Saturday afternoon.

The drink menu at the Glasshouse is a rather epic book full of vintage bottles and fizz based cocktails. Not being much of an expert I didn't really know where to start so decided to play it safe and order a glass of house fizz.  The Champagne de Malherbe NV promised a soft well rounded champagne and a hint of vanilla and biscuits on the finish.  It went down a treat!

If champagne is your thing the Glasshouse has some great little extras on offer, Champagne Tastings from £39.95, a Moet and Chandon Experience from £45.95 and even a champagne afternoon tea.  If cocktails are more your thing make sure you head to the bar before 7:00 pm for Club 247.

Deciding to take the party down the hill towards the Quayside we thought it would be nice to try somewhere we hadn't been before for our second bar so headed to Tiger Hornbsy.  The bar is a cosy little den of squishy chairs and dark corners softly lit by the roof covered in fairy lights, very appropriate for the season.

We found ourselves a comfy sofa and relaxed with a delicious Belini which came served with a bowl of popcorn which was soon empty.  It was at this point that the fizz began to make me feel truly festive and there began an afternoon of trying to persuade Simon to put the Christmas tree up the second we got home.  He found me pretty hard to ignore as soon as I decided to ask everyone on Twitter to help me convince him.

A short stroll across the road lead us to our next destination, Churchills, a bar that not many know about as it's hidden beneath the Vermont Aparthotel.  It's an absolute hidden gem and a great place to head if you're wanting somewhere warm with loads of comfortable seats, just don't tell too many people about it as you'll ruin my secret little hiding place.

Churchills is a fantastic place for a glass of fizz with someone special. It's so peaceful and has a lovely calming atmosphere, just what you need to escape the Christmas madness.  

We settled down in front of the fire with a glass of Prosecco and I was beginning to think maybe the Newcastle Fizz Trail should be our new Saturday thing!

We decided to visit one last bar before going home and strolling back up the picturesque Grey Street we decided to make The Living Room the final stop of the afternoon.

The Living Room in somewhere we visited quite a bit when I first arrived in Newcastle.  It's a great place to head for a drink on a Saturday afternoon, far enough from the shops to not be too busy but still with plenty of atmosphere.  Feeling a little cheeky we sneaked our way down to the Basement Bar, which was, strictly speaking, supposed to be closed.

The cocktails aren't the cheapest in the Toon,with this stop being the most expensive bar on our Fizz Trail but it was great to finish the afternoon in style

Walking hand in hand back into the centre of Newcastle I will admit we were feeling a little giddy and high on life and fizz.

As for the Christmas Tree?  We put it up as soon as we got home!

For more Champagne Bar inspiration, check out my latest article for Wow 247


Tuesday 15 December 2015

Say Happy Christmas with Goldsmiths

With only a handful of shopping days left until the big day arrives I'm sure there are plenty of people out there still frantically hunting the high street for the perfect gifts to complete their Christmas shopping.

Not wanting to be too smug but I'm finished and wrapped!  Which means that I have plenty of time to appreciate the wonderful atmosphere whilst indulging in a spot of Christmas window shopping ... with a glass of fizz of course!

Last week I was invited to my favourite jewellery shop in Newcastle, Northern Goldsmiths on Blackett Street with the solemn promise to Simon that my visit wouldn't cost him loads of money like my last visit did.  You may remember that my last event at Goldsmiths ended in a proposal.

Simon probably would have a heart attack if he'd seen me heading straight to a particularly sparkly counter in the middle of the store to try on a £50,000 diamond ring.  What a beauty! This would be the perfect gift to find under the tree on Christmas Day but unfortunately, after admiring it on my finger for a little while I had to reluctantly return it. I have a wedding to pay for!

Next on my very indulgent wish list was this stunning sapphire bracelet which was the most beautiful piece of jewellery I've ever tried on.

I hope Santa knows how good I've been this year!

I love browsing the glass cabinets in store, and saying Happy Christmas with Goldsmiths really is an enjoyable experience. If you are looking for the perfect gift for someone special I'd definitely recommend the store without hesitation, they looked after Simon brilliantly when he was picking out my engagement ring and everyone is so down to earth and friendly.

Of course, most of us can't afford £50,000 diamonds and sapphire bracelets so it's lucky that anyone can get the Goldsmiths experience as they have a beautiful collection of jewellery to suite any budget.

I can't wait to return after Christmas to pick out our wedding rings.

Let me know if you have any Goldsmiths pieces in your collection.

Friday 11 December 2015

Wedding Chat: The North East Wedding Show

Planning your wedding can be a little overwhelming, especially when you first get engaged.  With so many photographers, florists and cake makers across the North East where do you even begin with your research?

One piece of advice I was glad I listened to was to head to a Wedding Fair.  Simon and I went to one when we first started planning our wedding and actually ended up finding our perfect photographer while we were there.  With plenty of people to chat to, samples to look at and inspiration round every corner,  I definitely recommend it as a great starting point to planning your wedding.

Early next year the North East Wedding Show returns to Newcastle's Metro Radio Arena.  With over 100 of the region's best suppliers showcasing their beautiful gowns, sparkling accessories and romantic honeymoons, the show gives you the opportunity to try, buy and book everything you could possibly need to create your dream wedding.

If you're yet to find your perfect dress the catwalk shows will give you plenty of inspiration for your gown and there are also runways dedicated to menswear, bridesmaids and the all important Mother of the Bride.

And when it all gets too much and you need a sit down Pop Idol finalist Aaron Bayley will be there with his band to entertain you whilst you have a little rummage through your free goodie bag.

The show is on 16th - 17th January and tickets cost £5.00 if you book in advance.  But if you fancy going along for free then you're in luck as I have 5 pairs of tickets to give away!  All you need to do is enter the Rafflecopter Competition below.  The competition closes on Tuesday 22 December and please note that tickets wont be sent out to winners until after Christmas.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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