Thursday 30 November 2017

My November Days

Anyone else stupidly excited that we're almost in December? After desperately trying not to get too carried away with festive feelings in November I'm more than ready to cover my face in chocolate and throw myself head first into a box of tinsel.  Here's what we got up to in November that didn't make the blog!

These Boots Are Made For Walking

I have been wanting some over the knee boots for years!  Every time Autumn rolls round I spend hours researching them before talking myself out of getting any.  I have always been worried about finding a pair to fit over my legs and thought that I wouldn't have the confidence to wear them. I am so glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone this month and bought these beauties from New Look, I am obsessed!  Never hold yourself back out of fear, if you want something just go and get it!

Paddington arrives at Fenwick

The highlight of any Geordie's festive calendar is always the great unveiling of the Fenwick's Christmas window.  People queue for hours, we all lose our minds trying to guess the theme and you can guarantee that every conversation you have in the following days will start with "have you seen the window yet?"  This year's window is celebrating the wonderful world of Paddington Bear and with the adorable Paddington themed Christmas department and pop up Marmalade Jar cafe to match it's safe to say we're all a little Paddington obsessed in Newcastle this Christmas.

New Girl in Toon November Days - Fenwicks Christmas Window Newcastle

Ladies Brunch at Hinnies

Is there anything more indulgent that a lazy Sunday brunch? This month I enjoyed a return to the delicious Hinnies on the Whitley Bay seafront with some of my favourite ladies. We gossiped and giggled and shared stories that should probably never leave the privacy of our table. I indulged in a perfect pile of salmon and avocado sitting on top of toasted muffins and finished off with some perfect runny eggs.  If you've not visited yet you need to make a plan!

New Girl in Toon November Days - Hinnies Whitley Bay

The Battle of the Festive Drinks

The battle of the Festive drinks has well and truly began in our house. With all of the coffee chains beginning their Christmas campaigns we've found ourselves overwhelmed by festive treats and decorative cups, I think we'd be pigging out every day to get through all the menus! Our current favourite?  The Billionaires Latte at Costa - layers of chocolate, caramel sauce, milky coffee and lashings of cream, it's your entire calorie allowance for the day but wow is it good!  It takes a complete pro to enjoy it properly, something we were only to happy to share on Instagram stories.

New Girl in Toon November Days - Festive Drinks

Discovering Wynyard Hall 

I have a new North East obsession and I will not rest until I've truly indulged! I had a brief taster of Wynyard Hall this month when I popped along to their Festive Fayre. I found it hard to concentrate on the Christmas displays and stalls as I was completely distracted by the stunning Wynyard Hall. I couldn't resist picking up a brochure and I'm now desperate to enjoy a luxury staycation, enjoy some spa time and feast on one of their afternoon teas. Has anyone been?  I need to hear all about it!

New Girl in Toon November Days - Wynyard Hall

Christmas at Pet Lamb

Is it a monthly roundup on New Girl in Toon without a little Pet Lamb update? I feel like it's my duty to report on what those clever lasses have been up to in their adorable kitchen and things are beginning to get very festive in their Grainger Market shop. Simon surprised me by bringing me home this adorable gingerbread man cupcake, and once I'd got over my initial anger that he'd gone into the store without me, I thoroughly enjoyed my festive treat.

New Girl in Toon November Days - Pet Lamb

One Present For You, Two for Me

I realise this makes me sound pretty terrible but I've really struggled with Christmas shopping this month because I keep buying things for myself (oh the shame!) Please tell me I'm not the only person that does this? My favourite discovery? This gorgeous Accessorize necklace (which goes perfectly with my new Primark jumper I think you'll agree?) - in my defence I was going to ask Santa for it but it wasn't available online and I didn't think Santa would fancy struggling his way through Eldon Square!

New Girl in Toon November Days

Newcastle Christmas Market 

You know it's Christmas time when the International Market arrives in Newcastle! I love to wander the aisles breathing in the delicious smells of festive treats and although we haven't visited yet I've had a stroll by most days to plan what I will be indulging in when we do finally get there.  A date is in the diaries for the weekend and I can't wait to eat all of the festive things! The Christmas Market is looking particularly special this year with the addition of some rather lovely light displays that are popping up all over Instagram!

New Girl in Toon November Days - Newcastle Christmas Market

Instagram MADE ME Buy It!

Being on Instagram is a little like going shopping with an army of friends who follow you around encouraging you to buy something that you'd talked yourself out of getting. I tried on this gorgeous red velvet wrap dress in New Look and although I did love it I managed to convince myself that I really didn't need it.  Then I shared a photograph and everyone immediately demanded that I went back to buy it and we all know you should never ignore your Instagram followers!  So I rushed back a few days later to purchase and I think it might be the Christmas dress of my dreams, I'm obsessed with velvet this year and this is going to look so lovely on Christmas Day

New Girl in Toon November Days - New Look

Hiking Hadrian's Wall 

Another thing ticked off my 40 Before 40 List, we finally made it to Hadrian's Wall this month!  It was only a short way to visit Sycamore Gap (although the steep climb made it feel like miles) but I'm so glad we've finally done it.  We took loads of beautiful photographs so I will be sharing our day with you but as it probably won't be until after Christmas I couldn't resist showing you this one from instagram.

For more adventures from New Girl in Toon make sure you follow me on Instagram, I post a new photo every day.

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Guilt Free Kitchen, South Shields - Guilt Free Takeaways and Healthy Meal Plans

Anyone else spend quite a lot of their time with serious food guilt? Last weekend I actually found myself hanging my head in shame at the fact that the bin men were going to see two pizza takeaway boxes and a Maccy D bag in one collection! Our takeaway habit had definitely got a little out of hand!

So when a lovely e-mail about guilt free takeaways lovingly prepared by the folks at Guilt Free Kitchen in South Shields appeared in my inbox, I have to say I was very thankful that these healthy meal planning angels had come along to save the day. When they asked if I wanted to give one of their six day meal plans a go, it took me all of two seconds to fire back a quick 'HELL YES!"

Guilt Free Takeaways - Healthy Meal Plans from Guilt Free Kitchen, South Shields I'm sure most of you know that a while ago I made a huge lifestyle change and lost 9 stone (you can read my weight loss story here). I've managed to stay at my goal weight for over five years now but believe me the struggle is real.  Every day it's a mission to keep myself happy and full whilst the little devil on my shoulder whispers naughty things about cake and chocolate in my ear.

More than anything I've worked very hard over the years to have a healthy and happy relationship with food. I try desperately hard not to calorie count, to not get obsessed with the numbers and instead to lead a life that's balanced - giving my body the proper food it needs to function. Whilst my Instagram is full of delicious photographs of afternoon teas and burgers, 80% of the time I like to try and fuel my body sensibly.

Guilt Free Takeaways - Healthy Meal Plans Guilt Free Kitchen, South Shields

But I am stuck in a rut! I've fallen into the habit of eating the same meals and people in my office actually laugh at the salads I take in every day. I've been eating the exact same lunch at my desk for 5 years!  It's boring, it doesn't make me very happy and I've stopped enjoying my food!

So Guilt Free Kitchen came along at the right time! With arms full of fresh produce, a kitchen packed with delicious treats and some amazing recipes they put me together a 6 day plan to get me excited about eating healthily again and I couldn't be more grateful!

Guilt Free Kitchen prepare all of their food without any gluten or wheat products, using ingredients in their purest form with minimal processing and all their dishes are cooked with the finest grade coconut oil.

My 6 day food plan arrived at my door in two deliveries - three days worth of food arriving on Sunday evening, with the second delivery appearing on Wednesday.  Perfect for keeping my food lovely and fresh in the fridge.  Everything was neatly packed in brown paper bags and unpacking everything to see what I had was a little like Christmas, I couldn't wait to get started!


I always like to try and give myself a good kick up the bum on a Monday and am usually in need of a huge dose of fruit and veg so I started my week off with a Refreshing Greens juice - Cucumber, Pear, Apple, Spinach and Lime. It was a delicious zingy way of getting plenty of nutrients into my body and I have to say it woke me up in a much better way than my usual sugary coffee!

Guilt Free Takeaways - Guilt Free Kitchen, South Shields Juice

For lunch I enjoyed Chicken Kebab Skewers with a generous selection of chicken, red peppers, onion and tomato served with a huge side salad. A welcome change from the usual boring salads I take into work and when someone brought the birthday cakes out for once I wasn't even tempted as I was so full!

My evening meal was the delicious Spicy Italian Meatballs.  Just a quick 5 minute blast in the microwave and they were ready to enjoy, even on day one I was realising how I should be varying my diet more - as I was washing the dishes up after dinner I was already day dreaming about tomorrow's food!

Guilt Free Takeaways - Guilt Free Kitchen, South Shields - Meatballs


For the first time ever I had a hot lunch at work and I really enjoyed it.  My Guilt Free Kitchen Lasange was easy to transport and was ready to eat in a matter of minutes after a quick zap in the office microwave.  I definitely made my colleagues jealous with the delicious smell and it was so lovely to have a nice warm tummy on a miserable day.

After my indulgent lunch I felt like something a bit lighter in the evening so decided to enjoy the Stuffed Peppers - two peppers stuffed with Bolognese, topped with feta and served with a side salad.


Eating lovely hot food in my lunch hour is definitely something I could get in to! Wednesday was 
Shepherds Pie day and the mountain of delicious sweet potato mash kept me full for the entire afternoon. Eating Guilt Free definitely made me realise that my usual lunch time portions are far too small - it's no wonder I end up in the biscuit tin!

My day ended with a delicious King Prawn Green Thai Curry which I enjoyed slobbed out on the sofa with my favourite candle and full control of the TV remotes. Far superior to the nasty takeouts I usually get on TV nights, this dish was one of my favourites from the week and I will definitely be ordering it again next time I fancy a treat night.

Guilt Free Takeaways - Guilt Free Kitchen, South Shields - King Prawn Green Thai Curry


Thursday is usually the day that temptation starts to get the better of me and I start craving something naughty. It's a real struggle not to sit at my desk all day eating chocolate and cake.  Luckily I had my tasty Guilt Free Bolognese Chicken Meatza to look forward to which definitely helped me kick the sugar monster into check. Yet again my colleagues were asking me where I'd got all of my food from, they're really not used to me making such delicious smells in our kitchen.

Guilt Free Takeaways - Guilt Free Kitchen, South Shields - Lunch

Dinner I decided to indulge in a spot of Italian with the Spicy Italian Chicken - slices of tender chicken cooked in a rich spicy tomato and garlic sauce. Definitely no kisses from hubby that evening but with a very happy tummy I wasn't too bothered!


I finished my working week with some seriously delicious Turkey Burgers served with rice noodles and spinach.  I have to say I was feeling pretty smug after eating my healthy lunch and then going for an hour long power walk.  I'd definitely earned my weekend treats!

Dinner on a Friday is when we often end up feeling too lazy to cook and end up getting something naughty. So I was really happy that were some brilliant takeaway style replacements in my delivery from Guilt Free Kitchen. I enjoyed a huge pot of Singapore Chicken Fried Rice, the portion was huge so I ended up sharing it with Simon who declared it a huge takeaway success.

Of course, treats on a Friday in front of the TV are a must and luckily there are some guilt free desserts available from Guilt Free Kitchen too. Unfortunately I couldn't tuck into the cheesecake (damn my nut allergy) but I gave Simon my slab and then had to watch him eating it all while I had a boring digestive biscuit. Not fair!

Guilt Free Takeaways - Guilt Free Kitchen, South Shields - Cheesecake


We spend most Saturdays rushing about trying to get too much done in a day. We like to get up early to do the dreaded "big shop" and quite often it's a struggle to find the time to eat. Being the kind person that I am I let Simon enjoy one of my Guilt Free Kitchen goodies for his lunch so it was a delicious Chilli for me and Chicken Masala Curry for him, very indulgent compared to our usual Saturday lunches but weekends are all about treating yourself.  My meal was delicious but after stealing a few spoons of Simon's his was the definite winner, the flavour of his dish was so good.

Guilt Free Takeaways - Guilt Free Kitchen, South Shields - Chicken Masala Curry

The Verdict

I will admit I was a little worried that I wouldn't enjoy my Guilt Free Takeaways when I agreed to test them out.  Being very set in my ways I wasn't sure that I'd appreciate a change in my routine but I can honestly say that trialling the Guilt Free Kitchen Meal Plan opened my eyes to how boring my eating habits have become.

The Guilt Free Kitchen Meal Plan is ideal for a busy week (and far better for you than those nasty microwave meals you buy in the supermarkets!) and a great way to kickstart a healthier lifestyle.  Although it's probably something you wouldn't do week after week I can definitely see myself doing another meal plan if I find myself flying solo for the week (whenever Simon is away with work I can't be bothered to cook), or maybe as a good healthy start to the New Year after the Christmas binge out.

Meal Plans start from £20.00 for 6 Guilt Free Lunchtime dishes, right up to the full package which gets you 12 juices or smoothies  plus any 12 dishes from the Guilt Free Lunch menu. Of course, if it's just a Friday night takeaway you want all of the dishes are available to order individually for around £6.00 - £7.00 (so much cheaper than a Dominoes!)

Delivery services are currently unavailable but you can order your food online and then pick up from their store in South Shields.

Guilt Free Takeaways - Guilt Free Kitchen, South Shields

Find Guilt Free Kitchen at:

Westoe Crown, Sea Winnings Way, South Shields, NE33 3NS

Guilt Free Kitchen treated me to a free meal plan in exchange for an honest review.  I can honestly say that I was blown away by how amazing their food is!  I'm going to be completely lost next week when I have to go back to cooking for myself!

For more health inspiration check out My Guide to Healthy Eating and Fitness in the North East, How I Maintain my Weight Loss, and Learning to Run

Monday 27 November 2017

The Newcastle Christmas Night Market at Grainger Market

As we start to edge closer to December my diary is beginning to fill up with Christmas markets, they are my favourite way to get that special festive feeling. Whilst there are a fair few happening in Newcastle the one that I'd urge you all to go to is the Christmas Night Market which is back for its second year at the Grainger Market this Friday, 1 December.

The Newcastle Christmas Night Market at Grainger Market

A Christmas market with a difference, it's an evening of supporting local businesses, celebrating our wonderful Geordie history and getting into the Christmas mood by eating your way round some of the best street food in the Toon and, if you're a bit partial to a good ol' seasonal sing-along, then you're in luck!

This year at the Christmas Night Market you can take part in a huge sing-along of the classic Fairytale of New York!

Yes, at 8:00 pm we'll be raising the roof (and hopefully not shattering any windows!) with a very enthusiastic festive sing song and I really hope you'll all be coming along to show your support, I don't know about you but nothing gets me in the mood more than some festive singing.

Newcastle Christmas Night Market at Grainger Market

Offering the perfect chance to get your Christmas shopping finished (or, in my case, get started!) you can get everything on your Christmas "to do" list ticked off in one evening.

I've already made myself a little list of things to get done at the Grainger Market Christmas Night  including:

Visiting the lovely lasses at Pet Lamb to try some of their festive cupcakes. They honestly do make THE best cakes in the Toon and we love going in for a little gossip and to try out their latest creations - I highly recommend their gingerbread men cupcakes.

Newcastle Christmas Night Market at Grainger Market Pet Lamb Patisserie

Putting together a Christmas cheeseboard with Matthew's Cheese.  I always love to have a good nose at the counter whenever I wander past, there's so much choice and I wouldn't dream of getting my cheeseboard from anywhere else - they have all of my favourite cheeses so I always make sure that I'm the one in charge of the cheeseboard!

Buying the little ones in our family some beautiful gifts at The Simply Small Co. With no kids of our own buying for the smallest members of our family isn't easy so going to the shop in Grainger Market gives us a great personal shopping experience, perfect for the confused Christmas shopper (they're also offering adult face painting after 7:00 pm on the night - just try and stop me!)

Gathering plenty of stocking fillers at Ellen's Cosmetics and Scented Melts. Grainger Market is my favourite place to pick up all the little bits and bobs to fill my sisters' stockings. I always leave with enough presents to fill about twenty stockings!

Getting our cupboards fully stocked for Christmas Day with a huge range of fresh local produce - meat, fish, nuts and fruit, we'll be getting it all at the Market. Oooh don't let me forget the wine!

Newcastle Christmas Night Market

The Grainger Market Christmas Night Market takes place this Friday, 1 December between 5:00 pm and 10:00 pm - entry is free or, if you're feeling extra fancy, you can bag yourself a special VIP ticket which includes some delicious freebies, offers and a chance to access parts of the market most never get to see!  For more information about the evening and how to get your VIP tickets check out the Facebook page and I look forward to seeing you all there!

For plenty more festive fun from New Girl in Toon be sure to follow along on Instagram and Facebook.

Wednesday 22 November 2017

A Romantic Weekend at Matfen Hall, Northumberland - Dinner, Breakfast and Spa

It's been a very busy few weeks in our house and we've been in desperate need of some time out. Runny noses, crazy diaries and cross country road trips have left us both feeling more than a little frazzled. So when an opportunity arrived to indulge in a romantic stay at Matfen Hall we were quick to clear our schedule for the weekend.

Set in 300 acres of stunning countryside, Matfen Hall in Northumberland is one of the region's loveliest country hotels and the perfect spot to indulge in some time out from your busy life. Escape reality and hide away in a stunning stately home that'll have you feeling relaxed in no time.

An easy drive from our home in Newcastle, Simon and I arrived at Matfen Hall on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and eagerly parked up and raced each other to the front door. We couldn't wait to throw down our bags and climb into our comfies, an afternoon of pampering was just what the doctor ordered.

A Romantic Weekend at Matfen Hall, Northumberland - Dinner, Breakfast and Spa

Our visit began with an afternoon at Aqua Vitae. We'd been curious to try Matfen Hall's spa for a while. We like to think of ourselves as quite the spa experts these days having visited some of the best in the region and we're slowly working our way round them all.

Arriving at the spa a few hours before we could check into the hotel, there was some initial confusion about where to get our robes, followed by some problems locating towels and finishing with a bit of a battle to find a locker that we were able to use. We were a little disappointed on arrival that there was no tour of the facilities or guidance on the locker system, it left us slightly frustrated, but once we'd got over that we were keen to start our afternoon of pampering.

Romantic Weekend at Matfen Hall, Northumberland - Dinner, Breakfast and Spa

The Aqua Vitae spa at Matfen Hall is pretty small and we were a little underwhelmed but it does offer a nice range of facilities for the space including a 16 metre swimming pool (definitely its best feature) and a small number of rooms for different sensory experiences. We enjoyed shutting ourselves away in the steam room and sauna before Simon retired to a chair by the pool for a little shut eye and I headed to the treatment rooms for an indulgent massage.

The treatment rooms are really where Aqua Vitae becomes something special. I was booked in for a full body massage and after filling out my forms was lead to a quiet treatment room by my therapist who was so lovely and really listened when I told her about my concerns (sore neck and back from lugging around far too much in my handbag!)

My massage was heavenly, one of the best I have ever had and although it was a relaxing massage with gentle pressure my therapist was happy to change the pressure slightly around my knotted shoulder muscles which made them feel instantly better.

Matfen Hall, Northumberland - Dinner, Breakfast and Spa

I was so relaxed I'm pretty sure I had a little snooze because it was all over before I knew it. I felt so lovely afterwards and enjoyed a nice bit of husband free time in the Relaxation Room where I lay down with a trashy mag and truly switched off.  How often do you get to do that?

I stayed there probably longer than I should have done but really didn't need to feel too guilty as when I found Simon by the pool he was having a snooze.  Turns out he couldn't be bothered to swim and had spent a good hour enjoying some peace and quiet, listening to some music and having a sleep.  Heaven!

As the clock rolled round to 3:00 pm we realised it was check in time and so couldn't resist quickly getting showered and making our way into the hotel reception to get the keys to our room.  Our home for the night was a "Principal Room" in the original part of Matfen Hall and as we swung open the door our jaws hit the floor.

Matfen Hall, Northumberland - Four Poster Bed

Our room was stunning!  Easily the most beautiful room we have ever stayed in, we had to pinch ourselves as we dumped our bags and began to explore - it was the kind of room we'd only ever seen in the movies.

Absolutely huge with high ceilings, comfortable lounge area and a four poster bed (another tick for the bucket list!),  our room also boasted a picture perfect view of the stunning golf course with huge dramatic floor to ceiling windows - I was smitten!

I think you'd struggle to find a bedroom as beautiful as this one in the whole of the North East - perfect for a romantic weekend away, it came as no surprise when I discovered that a lot of Matfen Hall's bride and grooms use this room.

Matfen Hall, Northumberland - Luxury Bedroom

We wasted no time in snuggling into our very fancy Matfen dressing gowns and Simon was quick to raid the complimentary chocolates, Ringtons biscuits (that man can sniff food out a mile away!) and settle down with the romote control whilst I lovingly examined all of the toiletries in the huge bathroom.

If we could design our dream bathroom at home it would pretty much look like this. A massive walk in shower, his and hers sinks and a huge tub made me squeal with joy and it took all of my will power not to run myself a hot bubble bath.

Matfen Hall, Northumberland
I will admit we were very tempted to spend the rest of our afternoon in our uber fancy bedroom but, unfortunately, I had a blog deadline that meant finding a nice corner of the hotel to do some work on my laptop without annoying my husband.  We reluctantly left our room and went on a little explore to find our perfect location.

It wasn't long before we stumbled across the Conservatory, a beautiful bistro overlooking the golf course, with a delicious light bites menu, speedy wifi and plenty of seats. We ordered ourselves a couple of coffees and couldn't resist some muffins to go with them, after all it's impossible to enjoy a hot drink without cake when you're in such beautiful surroundings!

Matfen Hall, Northumberland - The Conservatory
I got so much work done in the Conservatory, much more than I ever do at home which makes me think that maybe I should just move into Matfen Hall?  I was so engrossed in my work that I didn't even notice that late afternoon had turned into early evening and suddenly we were ordering G&Ts from the gin menu.

The Conservatory was one of the nicest places I've visited in a long time and as we left to make our way back up to our room to get changed for dinner I promised the staff that we'd return another time for afternoon tea.

Our dinner for the evening was booked in Matfen Hall's 2 AA rosette Library Restaurant at 7:00 pm and we turned up promptly and were shown to a cosy table by the window.  The restaurant was busy but there was a lovely atmosphere with a huge variety of people sitting down for dinner. A large group of ladies dressed in their best party clothes were at the centre of the restaurant, plenty of couples were enjoying romantic meals and groups of friends were gossiping about their absent other halves.

Matfen Hall, Northumberland - The Library

We studied the menu whilst tucking into a nice selection of bread. Anyone who knows me will know how the bread basket is my absolute weakness - it's the only time I ever let myself fully indulge in bread and butter so I like to make the most of it.  I was slightly disappointed that the butter was solid and tore holes in my lovely fresh bread but I just about managed to slather on greedy amounts.

For my main course I opted for the Roast Saddle of Venison (£24.95) - despite the earlier treats in the Conservatory my belly was growling and when my food appeared I was quick to tuck in. It was beautiful! Perfectly prepared meat, so tender and pink served with caramelised onions and pear puree sitting on Thyme Crumpets.

Matfen Hall, Northumberland - Venison
Simon opted for the ultimate date night treat, Steak! He chose the Locally Sourced Rib Eye Steak (£23.95) which came served with the largest chips I've ever seen, a roast plum tomato, mushroom, crispy shallot rings and a very generous jug of peppercorn sauce. Lucky for me he got full pretty quickly (so full that he didn't even touch the healthier parts of his plate!) so I managed to pinch a couple of giant chips which I dipped in the sauce - delicious.

Matfen Hall, Northumberland - Rib Eye Steak

Of course, we're never to full for dessert and having skipped starters (we will always pick a pudding over an entree!) we were keen to satisfy our sugar craving.

I went for the most indulgent dish on the menu, the Baked Chocolate Cheesecake (£7.25) served with white chocolate and lavender cause and caramelised white chocolate. It was a very generous portion and so deliciously rich, even a food expert like me struggled a little to finish it.

Matfen Hall, Northumberland - Cheesecake

Simon went for Homemade Ice Cream served in a tuille basket with chocolate fudge sauce (£6.25) which I just couldn't get excited about. I love ice-cream as much as the next person but have to admit I'd never order it in a restaurant when there are so many other tasty treats on offer.

Matfen Hall, Northumberland - ice cream

We were very impressed by our evening meal and both agreed that the Library at Matfen Hall is definitely a destination restaurant. We'd think nothing of climbing into the car and driving there just for dinner and it's something that we'll certainly do in the future.

With our meals finished we were so full it felt like we were bursting out of our clothes so we sleepily climbed the stairs to our beautiful room and crashed out on the four poster bed within minutes. We had meant to snuggle up and watch some TV but that was never going to happen.  The combination of delicious food and my earlier massage had me fast asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow.

Matfen Hall, Northumberland - Romantic Weekend

We woke the next morning and both agreed that we'd had an amazing night's sleep, so good in fact that time was ticking on and the end of breakfast time was fast approaching. We are definitely the kind of people that like to make it down to breakfast as early as possible to avoid the rush so the fact that it was gone 9:00 am by the time we hit the restaurant shows what a restful nights sleep we had.

We arrived at breakfast about 45 minutes before the end of serving time along with, it appeared, everyone else.  The restaurant was full to the brim with bleary eyed people eating much needed breakfast dishes.  Luckily we didn't have to wait long at all for a table and quickly busied ourselves at the impressive continental selection which was displayed in the middle of the room like a rather fancy breakfast centrepiece.

Matfen Hall, Northumberland - Breakfast Menu

It's always so hard not to overindulge at a buffet and between us we ended up with cereal, pastries and plenty of toast thickly spread with butter and marmalade. Unfortunately our over indulgence wasn't helped by the wait we had to put in our hot food order.  The restaurant was busy but things seemed to get a little chaotic with wrong coffee orders appearing and people who had arrived quite a while after us placing their order first.  Not exactly a big deal but it definitely did lead us to grabbing more pastries than we should have had!

Orders finally placed we jealously watched all the tables around us tucking in before ours turned up and it was time for the taste test.

I opted for the Northumbrian Breakfast - the local sausage and caramelised apple and black pudding were delicious but I wasn't too keen on the eggy bread which was a little too greasy for my liking.  Simon's homemade crepes looked far better and I was quite annoyed at myself for not having ordered the same.

Matfen Hall, Northumberland - Breakfast

It was a shame that our experience at breakfast wasn't as wonderful as our dinner the night before but it was soon forgotten about when we went for a little stroll round the Matfen Hall grounds before check out.  The sun was shining and although it was cold the sky was that perfect shade of Winter blue that makes you love life. 

I can see why so many people choose to get married at Matfen Hall, the outside is breathtaking and I spent quite a while embarrassing myself by prancing up and down the gravel paths pretending to be lady of the manor.

Matfen Hall and Spa Northumberland

We felt quite sad climbing into our car and saying goodbye to Matfen Hall and although there were a few parts that left us slightly disappointed, it was a really lovely stay and we will most certainly be returning for an evening meal very soon and I quite fancy afternoon tea in the beautiful Conservatory.  I'm also wondering if I should maybe take up golf .. but that's probably something to think about at another time!

Matfen Hall - Northumberland

Find Matfen Hall at:

Matfen Village, Northumberland, NE20 0RH

We were invited to stay at Matfen Hall and received complimentary use of the spa, massage, dinner, bed and breakfast in exchange for an honest review.  Over indulgence in The Conservatory was paid for ourselves!

Let me know if you've ever stayed at Matfen Hall and what you love most about it!


Friday 17 November 2017

Date Night at the Newcastle Eagles Basketball Game, Sport Central

When it comes to planning a date night Simon and I are very much stuck in a rut. We put in little effort organising our evenings out and you'll usually find us stuffing our faces in a restaurant or tucked away in the cinema watching the latest Blockbuster.  Last Friday however, Northern Print Solutions invited us to be their guests at a Newcastle Eagles basketball match and we found ourselves on a date night with a difference.

Before I share our evening with you I should point out that I know nothing about basketball! Other than what I've seen in cheesy American high school movies and the little I picked up in PE, I'm pretty much clueless when it comes to the sport, so I was interested to see if I'd enjoy watching the Newcastle Eagles and if I'd be able to follow what was happening.

Date Night at the Newcastle Eagles Basketball Game, Sport Central

The Newcastle Eagles play at Sport Central at Northumbria University, a short walk away from the centre of Newcastle. I'm not sure what I was expecting but as we turned the corner and found Sport Central I was surprised at the amount of people queuing outside waiting for the doors to open.  There were kids running about with basketballs, families kitted out in Eagles merchandise and die hard fans discussing their favourite players. Who knew basketball in Newcastle was such a big thing!

We joined the crowds heading through the doors and collected our tickets before quickly finding the hot dogs, we were starving and every great date night has to start with food, am I right? We were expecting the hot dogs to be a little on the expensive side so were pleasantly surprised to discover that we could get a hot dog and a soft drink for £4.50 each.  I smothered mine in ketchup and mustard and carefully climbed up the stairs with it to find our seats, hoping not to have a hot dog related accident!

Newcastle Eagles Basketball Game - Hot Dog

Our seats were in the Balcony with a great view over the court, although I'd say that every seat in Sport Central offers a good view and no matter where you sit you'll be fully involved with the game.  We happily tucked into our food whilst we waited for the 7:30 pm tip off (that's basketball lingo for the start of the game don't you know!)

We were there to see the Eagles take on the Surry Scorchers in the BBL Championships!  The Newcastle Eagles are the most successful British Basketball team of all time! Pretty impressive right? Definitely a reason to check out a game if you've never seen one before.

The game started with each player individually being called out onto the court, with everyone in the crowd cheering for their favourite. We instantly decided that Nimley would be our favourite, smaller than the other Eagles players, he was super fast!  We later realised, after a little look at the Newcastle Eagles website that he's actually 5 ft 8, he just looked small compared to the others.

Newcastle Eagles Basketball Game

The match started in a flurry of mad excitement and we were 10 points ahead within the first few minutes with a very fast and thrilling start to the game. Despite not really understanding what was happening at the beginning I quickly got into my role of cheering on the Eagles and before we knew it we were fully engrossed in the action.

Helpfully Northern Print Solutions had left a handy guide to the rules of basketball on each seat, perfect for beginners like us.  Simon appreciated being able to wave the rules at me each time I tried to ask him a question.  He was fully engrossed in the action and wasn't taking any interruptions from me!

Newcastle Eagles Basketball Game  - Northern Print Solutions

The atmosphere at Sport Central was electric with a very enthusiastic fan banging his drum during the most thrilling parts, choruses of "Let's Go Eagles" filling the stands and plenty of stamping feet and cheers. Simon and I aren't huge fans of football, mainly because we hate how aggressive the sport has become, there was such a great friendly atmosphere at the basketball - no swearing, no boos just plenty of good humour and handshakes.  It was a joy to watch and even as complete newbies we felt very comfortable and welcome.

The game is played in four 10 minute quarters, perfect for people like me with short attention spans!  We loved the fun games and challenges every time there was a break including the Eaglettes cheerleaders, a kid's mini basketball game, a Mexican hat game and the much loved "Chuck a Duck" competition where kids flung little plastic ducks into the court to try and hit a target.

Date Night at Newcastle Eagles Basketball Game, Sport Central

Despite the Scorchers pulling back a few times the Eagles fought hard to secure a victory and as the time ticked down we began to realise that we might get over 100 points.  We were thrilled when the scores shot over the century and the final score was Newcastle Eagles 103, Surry Scorchers 80.  What a victory!

We both absolutely loved our evening at Sport Central and are very keen to return. A date night at the Newcastle Eagles offered us a really fresh and different way to spend our evening and I could even see us getting season tickets in the future we loved it that much.

Newcastle Eagles Basketball Game - Ticket

To find out more about the Newcastle Eagles and book your tickets, check out their website at - tickets cost £18.00 per adult and £10.00 per children and don't forget to check out Northern Print Solutions for high quality printing services right here in the North East!

We were lucky guests of Northern Print Solutions and got complimentary tickets to the game in exchange for this honest review. 

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Christmas Date Night at Enchanted Parks, Saltwell Park - WIN TICKETS to the Inventor's Ball

I love Christmas.  It gives us the perfect excuse to fill our diaries with date nights. We love nothing more than bundling up in our Winter warmers and exploring the best that the North East has to offer during the festive season.

The highlight of our Christmas diary is always Enchanted Parks at Saltwell Park, I put the on sale date in my calendar every year so I don't miss out. For me Christmas just isn't Christmas without our annual date night at Enchanted Parks.

Christmas Date Night at Enchanted Parks - Your Invitation to the Inventor's Ball

Enchanted Parks takes place at Saltwell Park in Gateshead ever year, offering a very special touch of magic to the festive season.  The best thing? It's not just for kids and families, it's the perfect after dark stroll with your love and we have our very own little traditions to make our evening special.

We bundle up in our biggest coats and always wear matching wooly hats and chunky scarves. We carefully navigate the dark paths hand in hand, and before we leave we order the biggest hot chocolates we can find and sit in a quiet corner of the park and discuss our Christmas plans.

Christmas for us truly does begin with Enchanted Parks.

Christmas Date Night Enchanted Parks, Saltwell Park

Saltwell Park has played a rather huge part in our relationship. On one of our first dates we took a swan out on the lake, we completed our first ever 5k run together during parkrun and we even had our engagement photos taken in the park.

I'm sure we're not the only couple in Newcastle Gateshead who have endless stories of our adventures at Saltwell Park. But believe me, you haven't truly seen the park until you've seen it lit up at night. We love that Enchanted Parks give us the chance to see a different side to Saltwell Park - with amazing light displays, jaw dropping artwork and a special kind of magic, it never fails to impress.

This year Enchanted Parks promises to be bigger and better than ever with more tickets on sale and an app that you can download that will allow you to unlock content about all of the artwork and artists, see a map of the park and discover facts about previous incredible inventions from the North East.

Making the magic happen this year are a newly appointed creative team, Lorna Fulton as creative producer and Susan Mulholland as creative writer who will be joined by a team of Enchanted Park veterans who have been making magic for us at Saltwell Park for many years.

Christmas Date Night Enchanted Parks, Saltwell Park - Inventors Ball

This year Enchanted Parks is sharing the magical tale of The Inventor's Ball. Little is known about the story! In fact, it was a mysterious blogger who unearthed the legend of Ursula Wailes and shared it here - I get the feeling this blogger has plenty more to reveal so make sure you keep an eye on that link!

Ursula Wailes, heiress to the Saltwell Towers Estate, gave Saltwell Park to the people of Gateshead and gifted them with a park full of incredible inventions, wonderful creatures and exotic plants but her magical donation was cruelly thrown back in her face and in a rage she locked the gates to Saltwell Park where they have remained shut ever since.

Enchanted Parks, Saltwell Park - Inventors Ball

Until now!

Recently the residents of Gateshead have reported strange noises coming from Saltwell Park and houses nearby have received a very mysterious invitation asking them to The Inventor's Ball at Saltwell Park, signed simply "UW".

Rumour has it, Ursula has unlocked the gates and is ready to share the magic of Saltwell Park with us once again and I can't wait.  I've heard many whispers of what may lie behind those gates, but I've actually got a bit of an exclusive for you.

Ursula has unleashed 7 foot bunnies into Saltwell Park!

Enchanted Parks, Saltwell Park - Inventors Ball - Bunnies
The impressive inflatable bunnies appear as part of "Intrude", Amanda Parer's artwork of contradictions - representing the fluffy fairytale animals from our childhood, their huge size references "the elephant in the room" - like our environmental impact, big but easily ignored.

Enchanted Parks - The Inventor's Ball takes place in Saltwell Park, Gateshead for 6 nights from Tuesday 5 December to Sunday 10 December between 4:15 pm and 8:30 pm.  Tickets cost £3.00 for children and £8.00 for adults and, the good news is, there are still tickets available this year. For more information and to book your tickets head to 

Fancy winning two tickets to this year's Enchanted Parks?  I'm giving away a pair of tickets to Enchanted Parks - enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance of winning and best of luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I'd love to hear your memories of Enchanted Parks?  What's been your favourite year?
© New Girl in Toon | All rights reserved.
Blog Layout Created by pipdig