Monday 30 March 2015

Healthy Snaking with Nakd

Sensible snacking is something that I will always promote.  If you are wanting to lose weight or make smart food choices I can't emphasise enough how important it is to be prepared and always have a small treat stashed somewhere when you know temptation will hit. A well stocked handbag or desk drawer does wonders for keeping your nose out of the vending machine!

Simon and I are both careful to monitor what we eat Monday to Friday.  Simon in particular is very into having a sweet yet sensible treat in the afternoon.   So when Natural Balance Food got in touch to ask if I'd like to test out some Nakd bars I knew he'd be the perfect person to try them out.

We were sent a case of 18 bars in a range of really yummy sounding flavours including Cocoa Orange, Gingerbread, Rhubarb & Custard, Cocoa Mint and Pecan Pie.

The Nakd bars tick so many boxes - they are made with 100% natural ingredients, many of them count towards your "5 a day" and they're gluten and dairy free.  Sounds too good to be true right?

Simon is pretty fussy when it comes to his treats so I was interested to see if a healthier snack would mean a compromise on taste.

I knew exactly what Simon would reach for first, Cocoa Orange! He is OBSESSED with anything that involves chocolate and orange.  Unlike his usual chocolate orange treats though the Nakd Bars contain lovely rich cocoa.  I'm very pleased that he enjoyed it just as much as his usual chocolate bar!

Simon was pretty surprised at the consistency of the bars, he's used to very light cereal bars and the Nakd bars consist of raw fruit and nuts packed tightly together - making them far more satisfying than a lot of his previous office snacks.

Next up was the Rhubarb & Custard, swiftly followed by the Berry Delight - he declared both absolutely delicious.

The Cocoa Mint came out on a day trip and Simon proudly pulled it out of his "man bag" when he got a little peckish mid morning.  It's great that Nakd bars appeal to both men and women and I love that these little bars satisfy even the hungriest of men!

Gingerbread came with us when we were away for a weekend and Simon enjoyed tucking in to it with a cup of tea in our hotel room.  It's always a good idea to be prepared with snacks when you're staying away from home, there was certainly nothing healthy to be found near our hotel. 

The Caffe Mocha bar was a good substitution for the milky latte that Simon is often tempted by and he found himself easily distracted from the temptation with his delicious Nakd alternative.

The verdict from my man is a definite thumbs up! He's already been eyeing up what other Nakd bars are available and is keen to replace his stash.

Have you gone Nakd yet?

The Nakd bars were sent to us for review purposes .. but all thoughts are our own!  They are yummy!

Friday 27 March 2015

Afternoon Tea at the Running Fox, Felton

As much as I love afternoon tea, it's not often you'd find me lugging off to Northumberland on a bus for one! But that's exactly what we found ourselves doing on my birthday last week after hearing nothing but amazing things about the fabulous food at the Running Fox.

The Running Fox is in Felton,  24 miles north of Newcastle, in the Northumberland countryside. It takes just under an hour to get there by bus which is actually a rather enjoyable trip along country lanes and through the pretty town of Morpeth.

Felton is small but so cute with pretty stone houses and a picture perfect river running through the middle of the village.

We were a little early so went for a walk down to the water to say hello to the ducks.  It's easy to get down to the river from the village and it's so relaxing watching the passing wildlife.

Afternoon tea was booked for 3:00 pm and as we approached the Running Fox we were instantly charmed by the outside seating area. A few brave souls were sat outside enjoying the March sunshine but I bet in Summer time there's fights for tables.

If we loved the outside we hadn't seen anything yet! Pushing open the door and entering the café we were greeted by friendly faces and the most delicious looking cakes. Our first job was to take a good look at what was on offer as we'd be making some pretty serious cake decisions later!

We were shown to a table by the window and took some time to admire the beautiful furnishings. The window sill was adorned with plants, the walls displayed kitsch signs and we loved the massive clock above the fireplace. 

Afternoon tea for 2 at the Running Fox costs £20.00, an amazing bargain when you consider how much food is on offer.  Sandwiches, slices of homemade pie and quiche, scones and freshly baked cake.

This is no ordinary afternoon tea!  At the Running Fox you are in control of what food you get, so we were faced with a few difficult decisions! I'm not the best with food choices, I tend to be one of those people who ask to order last in a restaurant to optimise decision making time.  We were given a menu full of sandwich fillings, a blackboard of pies and quiches and a counter of cakes to choose from.

Once we'd perfected our choices it was a short wait for our cake stand to appear in front of us.


I've seen a fair few cake stands in my time but nothing like this one. It was packed full of mouth watering homemade goodies and we couldn't wait to delve in.

First up we attacked the sandwiches which were so huge they were like a meal in themselves. Simon chose the Local Sausage, Cheddar and Onion Chutney sandwich on granary bread. He let me have a bite (it was so lovely!) but he was pretty quick to whip it away from me.

I chose Running Fox Ham, Cheddar and Pickle on white bread. The bread was freshly cut and was filled with doorstep slabs of cheese, locally sourced ham and chutney. If only all afternoon teas had sandwiches like these - absolutely delicious!

The Running Fox is the perfect afternoon tea if you love savoury as much as sweet. As well as sandwiches we picked a slice of pie and a slice of quiche. 

We had a bit of a debate when it came to pie choices. Simon was keen on the steak and ale but I played the "Birthday girl" card and got to order my favourite, corned beef.  Warm from the oven the pie had a generous crust and a lovely meaty filling. Simon had to admit I'd made a great choice.

Choosing our quiche was easier, we both agreed on the Brie and Bacon. I'm such a fan of homemade quiche (I just wish I could make my own!)

We had a choice of cheese or plain scones. Our lust for cream and jam made that decision easy. The scones were huge and came fully loaded. They were the largest scones I've ever seen on an afternoon tea and they completely defeated us! We were gutted we couldn't finish them.

Choosing a slice of cake each was a very tough choice, there were lots of my classic favourites on display and I changed my mind a few times. After some very serious thought I went for a slice of Victoria Sponge and Simon had the Bakewell Tart. The cake arrived in huge wedges and there was no way we were going to manage to fit them in after all that food so they were boxed up for us to enjoy at home.

We loved our afternoon tea at the Running Fox, the staff were so friendly and attentive, our tea pots were constantly filled and the food was beautiful. 

I couldn't have picked anywhere better to celebrate my special day and we're so happy to have found such a high quality afternoon tea to add to our list of favourites. 

Thursday 26 March 2015

Let your True Colours Shine with Intu Metrocentre

Last night I was invited to a VIB (Very Important Bloggers) event at the Intu Metrocentre in Gateshead for the launch of Fashion Live 15.

I was joined on "the frow" by my friends Lisa and Rachel along with lots of other North East Bloggers.   Forgive us being complete geeks but we had to take a selfie!   This was probably our only chance to ever be on the frow.

After munching on mini cupcakes and macarons, just about resisting the Krispy Kremes and downing a few cocktails we eagerly took our seats for some fashion fun!

We got a little sneaky preview at what will be taking place in the Metrocentre this weekend with a catwalk from some of the Mall's best stores.

My favourite of the night were these gorgeous prints from French Connection.  Perfect splashes of colour for spring, and I really want the trousers!   This collection is called "Isla Ripple" and is inspired by the ocean.

Intu Metrocentre are celebrating colour with catwalks showcasing retailers across the Mall this weekend, you can catch fashion shows throughout the day tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday.

There is also the chance to win £500 to spend in the Mall with a selfie competition (I hope yours is better than my awful attempt!) and a Clothes Drop in aid of Centrepoint, a charity set up to help young homeless people.

I've never been scared of colour but I know a lot of people hide behind their safety blanket of black clothes.  Intu Metrocentre are encouraging their customers to embrace colour - whether it be a bold and bright outfit or some colourful accessorising.

The Fashion Shows are the perfect chance to have a little look at the new colourful looks for S/S15 and if you're still feeling a little nervous about playing with colour you can always book some time with one of the Metro Style Team.  For £15.00 an hour they will take you round the Mall to help resolve any fashion crisis. 

I found the fashion show really inspiring and, showcasing a wide spectrum of stores in the Metrocentre, it was all affordable, wearable and fun fashion.

Make sure you head to the Metrocentre this weekend to let your true colours shine!

Wednesday 25 March 2015

The Birthday Girl

Last week I celebrated my birthday - a day that, no matter how old I get, I always count down to weeks in advance like an over excited child.

It began, as all my birthdays do, with a carefully selected outfit for my special day. I always dress up on my birthday, it's a great excuse to wear something new. This year I picked out this pretty floral print dress. It was bought during a spending ban but Simon loved it on me so I got away with it.  

A large part of my birthday is always the food, starting from the moment I get up with breakfast. This year I decided to have not one but two almond croissants, hot from the oven, then smothered in Cadburys Chocolate Spread and washed down with some caramel coffee. A far cry from my usual week day porridge.

Once I'd eaten my daily intake of calories in one sitting it was time to unwrap the lovely pile of gifts from Simon and my family. 

There was definitely a rose gold theme with my stunning new GHDs and beautiful Zoeva makeup brushes

I've been using the same very old and tired GHDs for years and years so these new ones are a bit of a treat. I'm looking forward to attempting some curls (any tips?!) 

Knowing that I've recently been playing with makeup, I got some lovely new makeup to try including some Scandaleyes Shadow Stick pencils, Sleek blushes in "Flamingo" and "Life's a Peach", a Maybelline Colour Tattoo in Pink Gold and Loreal's La Palette Nude in Rose. 

The present I'm itching to try out the most is my Fuji Instax Mini camera. It'll be really fun for the weddings I'm going to this year. 

I love having my birthday in Spring and this year it was made extra special by the appearance of some beautiful sunshine.  For the first time this year I was able to wear my mac and sunglasses - the best birthday present!

As it was such a beautiful day we walked into Newcastle for my appointment at the bank. Going to the bank on your birthday may seem like a rather odd thing to do but it was our first very small step to becoming house owners so it was actually really lovely. 

We spent some time afterwards drinking coffee in the brand new Cafe Nero and happily discussing our future house plans.  Getting older is great when it involves exciting new adventures. 

The sun was pouring through the window of the coffee shop and it was so lovely to throw off our layers and soak up the beautiful warmth. 

I could have spent all day sitting there but we had a bus to catch! 

I always like to have an afternoon tea on my birthday and after last years disaster we wanted to make sure it was a good one. We decided to do an hour bus trip to Felton in Northumberland to visit the Running Fox.

wasn't sure how much fun a birthday bus trip would be but the warm weather made it a very enjoyable ride.  Gazing out of the window at the lush green fields, full of skipping lambs made the journey fly. 

The afternoon tea was amazingly good so, forgive my teasing, but you'll have to pop back on Friday for a full review. I promise you epic sandwiches, homemade pie, massive scones and slabs of freshly baked cake. 
By the time we arrived back into Newcastle we were a little full so it was a bit of an effort to waddle down to the Malmaison on the Quayside but I really wanted a birthday cocktail (and show Simon how great the hotel's refurbishment is). 

You may remember I visited the new look Chez Mal recently and I've been wanting to head back to try out the bar in the evening. 

We loved how great the bar looked at night time and Simon was pretty quick to declare it our new local (fine by me!). We snuggled into a comfy booth and ordered a Zephyr (gorgeous fruity cocktail made up of vodka, fresh pink grapefruit, lemon juice, orgeat and tonic) and a Gentleman Jack. 

By the time we got back to our little flat we were shattered but not wanting the day to end we just about managed to keep our eyes open enough to watch one of my new DVDs. 

Old age has definitely set in, I was in bed by 10:00 pm, cosy in my duvet and happily thinking about what a lovely day I had 

Only 360 days until my birthday!

Monday 23 March 2015

Spring Wish List: F&F

Whenever a new season approaches I find myself lusting over the fresh stash of clothes that hit the rails on the high street. Spring is always one of my favourite seasons as I can suddenly think about leaving my coat at home and inject a little colour back into my wardrobe.

This year I've attempted to keep my feet and purse firmly out of the shops so I wouldn't experience the inevitable new season lusting. Saving for a house deposit means restocking your wardrobe is pretty low priority. 
I thought I was playing things pretty safe until I happened to innocently stroll round F&F during a weekly Tesco shop. Oooops! 

Spring has arrived at F&F and now my head is full of floral prints, 70s styling and brightly coloured shoes. Send help!

The first item that caught my eye were these gorgeous "Floral Sateen Trousers".  I bought two similar style pairs last year and they are such a great fit.  When I spotted these I knew I wouldn't be able to resist.  I grabbed a pair and charged round Tesco to find Simon and put them in our trolley, telling him he could buy me them for my birthday.  A little cheeky, but I really couldn't leave them behind!   They are so perfect for early Spring - beautiful colours yet warm enough to protect me from the chilly wind.

Unfortunately that is the only purchase I've made, everything else is very much on my large F&F Spring wish list.  I've got into a silly habit of visiting all the clothes I want every time we're in the supermarket to do the weekly shop.

Keeping with the floral theme, F&F have an amazing amount of gorgeous dresses on their website.   I daren't look properly as the temptation will be too much!

A dress that I spotted in store and loved is this Daisy Print Dress

Of course no Spring outfit would be complete without some colourful shoes, and I can't help but love these purple "Patent High Heels" - if there's ever a time to get away with some bold bright shoes it's definitely Spring!

As I'm always a little chilly I'm very fond of cardigans in the Spring time and this "Lace Back Cardigan" caught my eye immediately.  It's a gorgeous daffodil shade and has a lace back which I adore.

Brace yourselves, I'm saving my biggest lust item for last!

F&F has a great "70s Revival" section on their website, and whilst I'm not completely embracing the look I will admit I've found myself drawn to flares and paisley print.

I was lead astray by the temptation of the "Indigo Wash Flared Jeans" and found myself with them in the changing rooms.

They were the most flattering jeans I have ever tried on.  They are such a gorgeous fit and are made of super soft material that is so lovely to wear.

It absolutely pained me to have put them back on the rail and if you aren't sure about being able to pull off flares I urge you to head to F&F and give these a try!

I could have actually sat here for hours telling you about all the things I'd love to buy from F&F, the list does go on!  But I'd best leave it there!

Please do let me know if you bag yourself any Spring time bargains from F&F .. come on!  Make me jealous!

Friday 20 March 2015

PopaBall - Bubble Tea Bar, Fenwick

Local lady Jules Quinn is somewhat of an inspiration.  Brains behind the hugely successful Teashed, Jules has recently turned her creative mind to something a little different by opening up "PopaBall", a Bubble Tea Bar in Fenwick's Food Hall.

For those that may not know, Bubble Tea is a drink with some added "bubbles" that you suck up through a chunky straw and burst in your mouth to add a sudden explosion of flavour.  Originating from Asia, in recent years the idea has begun to travel the world and thanks to Jules has now landed in Newcastle in a splash of fruit and colour.

Traditionally Bubble Tea is made using tapioca bubbles but PopaBall have created bubbles filled with delicious fruity flavours.  There are five to choose from that you can buy from the online shop or in store at Fenwick  - blueberry, green apple, lychee, strawberry and passion fruit.  They are especially delicious in Prosecco or cocktails and you can even add them to ice-cream or yoghurt.

The Bubble Tea Bar has arrived in Fenwick in a flurry of paper pom poms, pink flamingos and sparkling lights.  It is the perfect place to head for a "pick me up" after a busy day in the city.

Jules and her team serve up a variety of drinks  including Bubble Teas, fruity bubble drinks and Poptails if you find yourself needing a reward after a busy day shopping.  There's even a small seating area if you need to rest your weary feet.

I visited last Saturday to grab myself some bubbles after a very busy day.  I was parched and in desperate need of something refreshing so chose the Pink Lemonade with Strawberry and Lychee bubbles.

The bubbles are made from seaweed extract so pop really easily in your mouth, one moment I was drinking fizzy lemonade, the next my mouth was full of sweet strawberry and lychee.  It was so delicious and great fun.

In the time I was there PopaBall had a lot of customers, it seems people can't get enough of these fun and fruity drinks!

Make sure you head to Fenwick yourself to try them out!  PopaBall will only be in Fenwick until mid April and is open Thursdays to Saturdays from 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Makeup for a Newbie

I hope the title of this post hasn't panicked you - don't worry, I haven't suddenly turned into a beauty blogger overnight (even the thought of me attempting to do makeup tutorials makes me laugh!).

Today I thought I'd write a little post for anyone who, like me, is clueless when it comes to what to put on their face and how to apply it.

I didn't start wearing makeup until I was well into my 20s and then it was just a little bit of eye shadow with loads of dark eye liner.  In all honesty the way I do my makeup has changed very little over the years and in my 30s I've found myself just as clueless.

It wasn't until I became a blogger and started reading a few beauty blogs that I realised exactly how awful I was at applying makeup.  Blending and contouring were alien concepts and I had no idea you were supposed to apply makeup with brushes, not your fingers.

So one of my resolutions for 2015 was to try to learn how to do my makeup like a proper adult, using beauty blogs and YouTube tutorials as my guide.  I've read and watched a lot over the last month or so but my absolute favourite ladies are the hugely popular Lily Pebbles and Vivianna Does Makeup.  So much so that Lily pretty much comes to bed with us each night and Simon probably also now knows how to apply makeup like a pro.

I thought it would be fun to share the knowledge that I've gained and show you the few staple products that I've found simple to use and at the end we can see if I've suddenly become capable of applying full make up without looking like a clown.

The world of beauty is full of luxurious brands for the pro beauty queen. However, for a beginner it's probably best to avoid leaping straight to the Nars or Mac counter and start on the high street. 

I watched a few videos recommending great drug store makeup which I used as a starting point for my beginners collection.


Makeup brushes were completely new to me and yes I was guilty of using the applicator that comes with eye palettes, a big "no-no" in the world of beauty. 

It soon became obvious that "Real Techniques" are the brush of choice for most and being readily available on the high street they're also purse friendly. 

I chose to get the Core Collection (hurray for Boots advantage points).  It contains a pointed foundation brush, detailer brush, buffing brush and contour brush.

For eye brushes I went for something a little different and chose the No 7 brushes, I got a few Eye Colour brushes and an Eye Contour Brush

So, how did I get on?

Pretty well!  I can see why Real Techniques are popular, the brushes are so soft and I found them easy to use.  It's my birthday next week and I'm hoping to get some Rose Gold Zoeva brushes, so it's fair to say I've really learnt to love makeup brushes.

What did I learn?

That applying makeup with brushes really does create a far better finish than poking at your face with your fingers.


Whenever I dabbled with foundation in the past I found it a complete nightmare. I have very dry skin and any type I tried made my skin flaky.  I also found that it made my face feel dirty and uncomfortable all day. I gave up and then discovered BB cream which I've been applying ever since. 

One foundation that was mentioned time and time again as being perfect for my dry skin was Bourjois Healthy Mix which I bought in the shade Light Vanilla.

So how did I get on?

I was so excited to see if this would work on my dry skin and after tentatively applying it and making sure it was properly blended with my buffer brush I was thrilled to find that it didn't dry out my face at all.  I found the application effortless and I LOVE this foundation. 

What did I learn?

That when you find the right foundation it's a life changer.  The colour and coverage was perfect for me, it was so light it didn't feel like I was wearing makeup.  It covered up the redness that I usually have on my skin and looked really natural.  I loved the way my skin looked with it on and each time I saw myself in the mirror on day one I did a little double take at how good my skin looked.


I'd never considered using a concealer before. I don't get too many spots but I definitely have dark circles under my eyes and the odd patches of red. 

A lot of beauty bloggers favour the more high end concealer and it seems that budget brands don't make the best concealers. 

In the end I opted for Rimmel's Wake Me Up in the shade Ivory.

So how did I get on?

It was easy to use and apply and I could definitely see the benefits of using it.  Unfortunately it did cling a little to dry patches so I'm still on the hunt for a good concealer. 

What did I learn?

That covering spots and erasing dark shadows is easier than I thought!


Using powder as a way to set your makeup! Who knew?!  I thought I'd struggle to find a powder that wouldn't make my skin very dry.   My little sister knows the problems of having dry skin and recommended that I try the Maybelline Super Stay 24 Hour Powder which I got in Ivory.

So how did I get on?

Very well!  I  was careful not to apply too much, just a light dusting over my face and I was good to go.  It didn't leave my face feeling dry at all - yay!

What did I learn?

That powder isn't just used to reduce shine, it's also a great way to set your makeup.


Being a pale red head I'd never considered bronzer before but many tutorials featured it so I thought I'd give it a whirl.  I bought Soap & Glory's Solar Powder which I apply under my cheek bones, chin and then up on to my forehead.   It's a great bronzer for a beginner as it's quite subtle.

Blusher is something that has scared me in the past. It looks amazing on others but I worry about looking like Aunt Sally from Worzel Gummidge.  This was the only product where I splashed some cash and bought something high end.  I've heard nothing but good things about the Nars blushers so bought one in the shade Deep Throat which I love.

So how did I get on?

I was surprised how much I loved the Soap & Glory bronzer, it left me with a very natural healthy glow and I found it easy to apply. 

I struggled a little with blusher. I was so paranoid about over doing it that the first few days I barely tickled my cheeks with my brush. It took an intervention from one of the girls at work to encourage me to be a bit braver and apply a little more. 

What did I learn?

That with a little bit of practice, using bronzer and blush can completely transform your face giving it definition and making you look and feel alive.


When it came to eyes I decided to really concentrate on learning how to apply eye shadow as this is something I was very clueless about.  In the past I've only applied one colour to my lids in one quick sweep.   I really wanted to learn how to blend different colours and maybe eventually create a smoky eye.

I already have a few small palettes so concentrated on buying myself a few products that could be used on their own.  Firstly the Maybelline Color Tattoo in On and On Bronze and more recently I've bought the newly released Bourjois Colorband Eyeshadow sticks in three colours.

So how did I get on?

Argh!  The YouTube tutorials make it look easy but to a beginner it definitely isn't.  On my first attempt I applied a light colour to my lids then tried a different bolder colour in the crease.  After bumbling around for a bit and then doing a bit of blending I ended up looking like I had been punched in the eye.

So for the moment I've stuck to my single colour and have been concentrating on applying those, building up the colour and blending them out.

What did I learn?

That applying your eye colour correctly and blending it like a pro creates something beautiful.  Unfortunately I'm quite a way off perfecting it!


I've had the most amazing time learning how to apply makeup and now really enjoy researching new products and wandering the beauty aisles in Boots.  I'm a changed woman!

I'm still on the look out for a high street concealer that's great for dry skin, a good primer and some expert advice on how to apply eye shadow so if you have any tips please do let me know!

Is anyone else out there clueless about how to do their makeup?!   Please tell me I wasn't alone!
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