Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Sunday Lunch and an Overnight Stay at the Northumberland Arms, Felton

* This is a collaboration with the Northumberland Arms

Although Simon and I love going out for Sunday lunch, it's definitely something that we don't really indulge in too often. The list of places in the North East that we'd like to try is now so long that I'm seriously considering making "go out for more roasts" a New Years Resolution in January (sounds better than joining the gym doesn't it?). Somewhere we've been meaning to try for ages is the Northumberland Arms in Felton and last week we finally ticked their Sunday Lunch off the list.

Sunday Lunch and an Overnight Stay at the Northumberland Arms, Felton


As we drove into the pretty Northumbrian village of Felton we realised that it had actually been over three years since our last visit when we went on a bus trip from the centre of Newcastle to enjoy afternoon tea at the Running Fox. Don't ask me how we managed to get ourselves out there by bus but haven't been back since having a car, it's pretty bonkers really isnt it?

If you've not been to Felton before it's a must visit for the next time you find yourself pottering in Northumberland. A picture perfect village a short drive from Morpeth, its stone buildings, cute little bridge and lustworthy cottages make it the perfect place for a lazy Sunday afternoon especially when its local is The Northumberland Arms.

The Northumberland Arms is the kind of pub that makes Simon and I instantly go into daydream mode of "wouldn't it be nice to live somewhere with a pub like this" - it's everything I love about pubs in the countryside. Warm, friendly, really cosy and with a wonderful atmosphere that makes you want to stay for the entire afternoon. I knew we were going to be in for a treat as soon as we stepped through the door.

Overnight Stay at the Northumberland Arms, FeltonSunday Lunch at the Northumberland Arms is served from 11:30 am and with our table booked for 3:00 pm I was a little worried there'd be no meat left! Simon and I are the kind of people that usually book ourselves in for lunch on the stroke of midday so late lunch dining feels a little strange to us. Luckily I had nothing to worry about and we were presented with a full menu on arrival - phew!

Following our server through the never ending restaurant (the Northumberland Arms has a labyrinth of beautiful dining rooms and every table was busy!) we were shown to a lovely little corner by the window - perfect for people watching and for Simon to indulge in his new hobby - watching people trying to get a spot in the pub's carpark across the road.  I honestly thought I was going to have to draw the curtains so I could have his full attention!

Sunday Lunch - the Northumberland Arms, Felton


With starters, mains and desserts to work through Simon took the lead and decided that a full three courses were in order as this was "our only meal of the day", I obviously didn't take too much convincing and turned my attention to the first course menu.

I opted for Locally Foraged Mushrooms on Toast with Truffle Hollandaise (£6.50). Packed full of flavour, it was the perfect way to start off my meal and a great promise of what was to come. This wasn't going to be your average Sunday Lunch!

Sunday Lunch at the Northumberland Arms, Felton
Despite warning Simon that whenever he orders fish cake as a starter he ends up stuffed before we get to our main course, he chose to ignore me and ordered Smoked Haddock and Salmon Fishcake with Wilted Spinach and Lemon Mayo (£6.95). The portion was huge with two fish cakes put down in front of him and, as they were "the best fish cakes I've ever had" he ate the whole lot!

Sunday Lunch Northumberland Arms, Felton


If you're a fan of Sunday Lunch then you really do need to get yourself to The Northumberland Arms as their main course offering really is something to write home about. With the full selection of meats, a traditional nut roast and some delicious sounding local alternatives there is something for everyone on the menu.

I was secretly fuming when Simon managed to get his order in first (he loves to do that as he knows I'll never order the same) - Roast Topside of Beef (£12.95). Roast Beef is my absolute favourite Sunday Lunch dish if it's done well, and with the starters being such a huge success I knew their Topside of Beef would be spot on, and I was right. Simon allowed me a little slither and it was so pink and tender.

Sunday Roast Northumberland Arms, Felton


I went for a meat that I'd never usually order - Slow Cooked Lamb (£12.95). Whenever we go out for Sunday Lunch I will always automatically order chicken or beef without even really properly looking at the menu so it was lovely to go for a different meat and my slow cooked lamb was so delicious. It's made me realise I should really order different dishes more often.

Each roast at The Northumberland Arms comes fully loaded with with duck fat roast potatoes, swede mash, braised red cabbage, seasonal veg and a yorkshire pudding. If you're feeling particularly hungry you can also boost your roast for £3.00 which will give you extra meat, roasties and yorkshire (believe me you'd need a big appetite to do that because the standard roasts are huge enough!) We also loved that despite our plates swimming in delicious thick gravy we were also presented with a jug of gravy on the side, there was no way we were running out!

The Sunday Lunch at the Northumberland Arms was so good, it was the kind of roast lunch where you want to rush into the kitchen to ask the chef for all the secrets. How did the roast potatoes get so fluffy, what was the secret ingredient that made the cabbage so delicious and how on earth do you serve up meat that tender?

Northumberland Arms, Felton Sunday Roast
As you can imagine, after eating all of that we were so full but still couldn't resist dessert and so sneakily undid our top buttons before taking a good look at the sweet offering. I don't know about you but if somewhere has a really good menu I can't resist a pudding no matter how full I am, and The Northumberland Arms had some very tempting treats.

I really love hot puddings in the Winter months so couldn't resist the Bramley Apple Crumble with Orange Creme Anglaise and Vanilla Ice-Cream (£5.95). Having creme anglaise and ice-cream on your sweet is the ultimate Sunday treat and I drowned my crumble in both before tucking in. It was so delicious but the generous portion well and truly defeated me and I couldn't quite make it to the end.

Northumberland Arms, Apple Crumble

Simon opted for the Brownie Sundae served with Vanilla Ice-Cream (£5.95), his idea of heaven, you can always rely on Simon to go for any dessert served in a tall glass with layers upon layers of treats. It was huge and although I was too far gone in my crumble to pay much attention to him he definitely enjoyed it although, like me, couldn't quite finish it off.

After all that food we were feeling incredibly sleepy and not really in the mood to drive back to Newcastle so we felt very lucky to have a room booked at The Northumberland Arms for an overnight stay. I feel like this is definitely the way forward when eating a big lunch, taking a short journey upstairs to lie down is an absolute dream.

There are six rooms above the pub at The Northumberland Arms, and our home for the night was Bockenfield Market, a Superior Ensuite with a Super King size bed, White Company toiletries, a massive bath tub and a tray of cakes to have with our teas and coffees.

We crashed out on that bed as soon as we got upstairs and barely moved for hours. After flicking through some of the local magazines in our room I felt myself nodding off and by 9:30 pm I was fast asleep.

Northumberland Arms Felton


I had the best night's sleep I've had in months. I hate being woken up by an alarm clock during the week so having an early night in such a comfortable bed and getting to wake up naturally at daylight was an absolute dream. I slept for 10 hours which is unheard of for me but I am so thankful for having a proper rest, I think I'll be talking about it for a while to come!

Breakfast at the Northumberland Arms is served in the beautiful River Room with plenty of food to help yourself to including cereals and pastries, we managed not to go too crazy and saved ourselves for the main event - our Northumbrian cooked breakfasts.

Northumberland Arms Felton Breakfast


After such a huge lunch the day before neither of us could face a full on English Breakfast so decided to go for slight more sensible options. Simon ordered the Smashed Avocado on Toast served with a Poached Egg and I opted for the Smoked Salmon Omelette, a three egg omelette topped with smoked salmon.

My omelette was delicious and I wolfed it down in minutes before I managed to pinch a pretty sizeable portion of avocado off Simon's plate - with such a generous mountain I don't think he missed it too much.

The Northumberland Arms Felton Breakfast


Our stay at The Northumberland Arms was really lovely and the perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon in Northumberland. I honestly can't think of a better way to end a busy week.  We can't wait to go back!

Find The Northumberland Arms at:

The Peth
Felton
Morpeth
NE65 9EE

01670 787 370

northumberlandarms-felton.co.uk/

We were treated to a complimentary Sunday lunch, overnight stay and breakfast for two in exchange for this honest review. 
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Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Where to find the Best Hot Chocolate in the North East

The nights are getting darker, the air is feeling cool and once again I've dug my jumpers out from the back of my wardrobe. Winter time is definitely approaching and to me, that can only mean one thing - it's officially hot chocolate season! For a rather long time now I've been wanting to take on the challenge of discovering where to find the best hot chocolate in the North East so this year I decided to finally go for it and have spent the last three months charging my way round a lot of places sampling mugs of chocolate.

You may think that finding the best hot chocolate is easy but let me tell you, it really isn't. When I think about the perfect hot chocolate it needs to be thick and indulgent, creamy and really chocolatey - of course if it comes completely covered in ridiculous toppings that's a bonus!

So here we finally are, my guide to where to find the best hot chocolate in the North East, and yes I sampled every single one of these beautiful treats myself!

Proven Goods Co, Newcastle

As soon as we tried the hot chocolate from Proven Goods Co in Hoult's Yard (£3.80) I almost decided there and then to call the search off. They are incredible! Topped with homemade freshly toasted marshmallow fluff and proper chocolate shavings - battling through the delicious gooey marshmallow to get to the rich hot chocolate underneath is a moment to truly be savoured. Of course you also have to have a doughnut on the side so make sure you turn up hungry!

Best Hot Chocolate North East - Proven Goods Co


Love Lily, Sunderland

Perhaps the most perfect location in the North East for a hot chocolate, Love Lily is the cutest little tea room opposite Roker Beach in Sunderland. A brisk Winter's walk along the seafront followed by a hot cup of chocolate is the best way to spend an afternoon! They have an impressive hot chocolate menu with lots of flavours to choose from and each cup is made with liquid chocolate and lovingly created to perfection to ensure a really smooth drink. The Black Forest (£4.20) uses Dark Hot Chocolate with Cherry Syrup, Cream and Chocolate Sauce that's so generous it oozes down the handle and ends up all over your hands - delicious!

Best Hot Chocolate North East - Love Lily


Hotel Chocolat, Teesside and Sunderland

There are two Hotel Chocolat stores in the North East where you can enjoy their special hot chocolates - a sit down cafe at Teesside Park and a takeout counter at The Bridges in Sunderland. No syrups, no powder just pure chocolte - the hot chocolate comes 50% milky, 70% dark, 85% dark or 100% dark or, if you prefer salted caramel, hazelnut, chilli, mint or vanilla white. Personally I love the salted caramel (£3.50) and if you order the Cacao Whip and Supermilk Shard on the side for an extra 50p you're really onto a winner.

Best Hot Chocolate North East - Hotel Chocolat


Cake Stories, Jesmond

This was the hot chocolate that had all eyes on me as it made its way over to my table and who can blame them - that is one impressively large mountain of cream going on there! The Extra Special Hot Chocolate (£3.60) at Cake Stories in Jesmond is made with real melted milk chocolate drops steamed with milk and comes topped with vanilla whipped cream and salted caramel sauce. The real challenge for me was not to order half of the cake counter to go with it!

Best Hot Chocolate North East - Cake Stories


Maddisons, Consett   

Consett is a bit of a drive from our house but the hot chocolates at Maddisons are enough to make us jump in the car and travel down to County Durham for our fix. The daily home blended hot chocolate is created using delicious Belgian Chocolate and the Hot Chocolate With Everything (£3.50) comes with a very generous helping of freshly whipped Vanilla Cream with the most incredible homemade marshamallow on the side. Easily one of the best hot chocolates in the North East - you need to try this bad boy!

Best Hot Chocolate North East - Maddisons


The Boatyard, Cullercoats

Out of all the hot chocolates I shared on my Instagram during my mission to find the best hot chocolate in the North East, this one at The Boatyard got the most likes and it's easy to see why, it's an absolute beauty! The Bounty (£3.75) is what I like to describe as a big hot mess - Hot Chocolate flavoured with a sweet coconut syrup and topped with cream, sticky sauce with a cheeky little Bounty on the side.  It's a real sugar kick and the one to go for if you have a sweet tooth. It's also worth noting that after our visit a lot of people contacted me to say that they also do an awesome vegan Hot Chocolate!

Best Hot Chocolate North East - The Boatyard


Staithes Cafe, Gateshead

If you're going for an alfresco hot chocolate this Autumn then I highly recommend an outside table overlooking the Tyne at the Staithes Cafe. Their Hot Chocolate of the Month (£2.60) offers something different each time. Forever dreaming up new ideas, the October special featured this rather handy marshmallow kebab, ideal for dunking and stirring. Just make sure you get there early if you're visiting at the weekend, the queues for a table are pretty epic!

Best Hot Chocolate North East - Staithes Cafe


Yolo Coffee, Newcastle

Anywhere that serves me hot chocolate with some added cake is going to win its way into my heart pretty easily. The Red Velvet Hot Chocolate (£2.95) at Yolo Coffee in Stack is just one of the special twists that they do on a classic hot chocolate. White Hot Chocolate served with a secret extra something, a huge mountain of cream and a chunk of red velvet cake is the ultimate indulgent treat. There's limited seating inside so this one is the treat to grab and go!

Best Hot Chocolate North East - Yolo Coffee


Cafe 1901 Deli, Gosforth 

The Deluxe Hot Chocolate (£3.50) at Cafe 1901 in Gosforth is topped with a candy covered mountain of cream and once you dig your spoon in you realise that it just keeps going and going until you eventually hit the pile of marshmallows that have begun to melt into the liquid chocolate below. So good!  The hot chocolate is made using Dark Single Origin 70% and is absolutely delicious and perfect as a Winter treat.

Best Hot Chocolate North East - Cafe 1901


Cafe W, Newcastle

This was the hot chocolate that came with a beautiful view and no spoon (yes, I had to face dunk into my cream despite the fact I was sat next to a stranger!) A few people told me that the Hot Chocolate (£3.00) at Cafe W in Waterstones was worth a try. I had it fully loaded with cream and marshmallows and I have to say it was one of the loveliest I had mostly due to the peaceful surroundings and gorgeous views of the city.

Best Hot Chocolate North East - Cafe W Waterstones



I soon realised when I was researching this blog post that there are a lot of places in the North East that do amazing hot chocolates. My list of places to try is still pretty long but, I thought that I'd best publish this now otherwise we'll hit the Summer and I'll still be going!

After all of that you're probably wondering which was my favourite and where to find THE best hot chocolate in the North East. The answer was actually discovered right at the very beginning, Proven Goods Co in Hoult's Yard in Newcastle have attracted an army of very loyal hot chocolate fans who have all gone crazy for their marshmallow fluff topped drinks and believe me it is worth the hype! They are definitely the best hot chocolate in the North East.

Best Hot Chocolate North East - Proven Doughnuts


Maybe next Winter I'll do a part two because believe me I have enough places I still want to try. In the meantime make sure you let me know your favourite hot chocolate discoveries and where you think I should try next!
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Thursday, 8 November 2018

Exploring The Rabbit Hole, Durham's New Speakeasy, Jazz Bar and Supper Club

This is a collaboration with The Rabbit Hole

Take a stroll down Hallgarth Street in Durham and you might notice an unassuming antique shop, after a quick glance through the window the chances are you'll carry on your day without giving it another thought, unaware of the amazing secrets that lie inside.  You see if you were to just stop for a moment and take a short stroll up the side of the building you may have noticed a door with a bell and if you'd only dared to push it, you would have tumbled into a whole new world.  Welcome to The Rabbit Hole, Durham's curious new 1920s Shanghai inspired speakeasy, jazz bar and supper club.

The Rabbit Hole, Durham's New Speakeasy, Jazz Bar and Supper Club


Simon and I visited the Rabbit Hole to experience their Sunday afternoon supper club (the one day a week that they open during the day) to bring a little special something to the end of our weekend.  Feeling slightly nervous about the Rabbit Hole's house rules (there's a dress code and some very refreshing etiquette rules about using your mobile phone at the table) we made our way down the alleyway in our fancy clothes, rang the doorbell and waited for an answer.

Within seconds the door was pushed open and we were welcomed inside.  The door shut behind us and we confirmed our reservation before being escorted through the bar into the restaurant.  When you first make your way into The Rabbit Hole it's a wonderful shock for the senses. The dimly lit corridors felt very dark compared to the harsh light outside and it took a while for our eyes to adjust.  As we followed our waitress through the bar, our noses filled with the most delicious smells that made our tummies growl and the soothing sounds of jazz instantly gave us the most wonderful Sunday afternoon vibes.

The Rabbit Hole, Durham's Speakeasy, Jazz Bar and Supper Club


As we got used to our dark surroundings I began to notice the decadent interior of the Rabbit Hole.  Velvet curtains and ornate mirrors dressed the exposed brick walls, with stunning chandeliers hanging above the tables and leopard print cushions scattered around the plush seating areas .. hang on a minute - did I really just walk past a giant giraffe?!

There are two levels at the Rabbit Hole with a drinking den on the ground floor featuring a long bar lined with tasselled bar stools and cosy booths.  The ultimate spot for a night out with friends, the bar hosts live jazz nights and serves up cocktails served in the most beautiful glasses.

The Rabbit Hole, Durham Speakeasy, Jazz Bar and Supper Club


The restaurant is on the second floor although you soon realise that the maze of corridors leads to hidden tables that are so easily missed at first glance.  We were lead to the back of the restaurant to a cosy booth for two dimly lit by a small light above the table and partially hidden behind a beautifully dramatic curtain.

The Rabbit Hole, Durham, Jazz Bar and Supper Club



Resisting the temptation to draw them and hide ourselves away for the afternoon we settled ourselves down with the menu, wondering how on earth we were going to be able to read it in the dark!

The Rabbit Hole, Durham, Jazz Bar Supper Club
We got quite the shock when we opened the menus to discover that they lit up and after opening them and closing them a few times just for our own amusement we started to look through the huge variety of dishes on offer.  Part oriental, part grill, the menu at The Rabbit Hole is a fantastic feast for the eyes and we struggled with decisions as we carefully read through what was on offer.

Dining at The Rabbit Hole, Durham, Jazz Bar Supper Club


Appetisers first and Simon opted for the Duck Pancake (£12.50) which came served on a massive plate that almost took over our entire table.  He was feeling very smug about his choice as he created his own pancakes stuffed full of tender sliced and spiced duck, spring onions the most delicious sticky hoi sin sauce.

I would have had a large amount of food envy if my dish hadn't been just as good!

Rabbit Hole, Durham, Jazz Bar Supper Club


I decided to order the Crispy Pancake Rolls (£8.00) which were so deliciously crispy I decided to take advantage of the fact that no one could see me in the dark, pick them up and dunk them straight into the accompanying Sweet Chilli Tangerine Dip.

Filled with soft noodle, beansprouts and shiitake mushrooms they were, without doubt, the best crispy pancakes I have ever had!

Rabbit Hole, Durham, Jazz Bar Supper Club - Starters


After a brief pause it was time for the main event!

I decided to order the Weeping Tiger (£25.00) from the "Off The Live Fire" menu - served with steamed rice and Thai dipping sauce, my dry aged sirloin stake was marinated in tamarind and garlic with a delicious hint of palm sugar. It tasted completely different to any steak dish I've ever had before, although a popular Thai dish it's not something I've ever had the chance to order and I really loved the oriental twist.

Simon had Cantonese Fillet of Beef (£17.50) with spiced onions and classic hoi sin sauce which he ordered with a side of Jasmine Steamed Rice (£4.50) His portion was absolutely huge and the massive dish of rice seemed to be never ending. Despite having a very large appetite he couldn't quite manage to finish it all (despite me doing my best to help out!)

Rabbit Hole, Durham, Jazz Bar Supper Club - Main Dishes


Whilst certainly not the cheapest night out in the North East, dining at the Rabbit Hole in Durham is worth every penny for the truly opulent affair and we both agreed it was one of the best meals out we've ever had. We wouldn't hesitate to go back and this time we quite fancy the idea of booking an overnight stay in Durham and making a real evening of it.

Rabbit Hole, Durham, Jazz Bar Supper Club


Find The Rabbit Hole at

17 Hallgarth Street
Durham
DH1 3AT

0191 386 5556

therabbitholedurham.co.uk/

We received a complimentary meal for two in exchange for this honest review.
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Tuesday, 6 November 2018

A Style Makeover with North East Personal Stylist Helenlee Loves

* This is a collaboration with Helenlee Loves 

I have a funny relationship with my personal style. Growing up overweight I spent my entire childhood, teen years and twenties encouraged to hide in huge baggy clothes - it's no surprise that I grew up hating clothes shopping. Now I've grown up, I really love clothes but when it comes to dressing myself I'm not ashamed to admit that I often find myself struggling with what to wear.  With an overcrowded wardrobe but no clothes to wear, I needed help so booked a style makeover with North East personal stylist, Helenlee Loves.

Here are just some of the looks that Helenlee put together using clothes she found in my wardrobe, all created to suit my colouring, body shape and lifestyle, I honestly can't get over how different these outfits make me look.

Welcome to my style makeover with Helenlee Loves!

A Style Makeover with North East Personal Stylist Helenlee Loves


I've always been quite curious about the idea of having a session with a personal stylist but have perhaps always been a little embarrassed about the idea of booking one - admitting your body hangups and wardrobe dilemmas to a stranger can make you feel a little bit vulnerable. So I felt pretty brave when I agreed to a personal style appointment with Helenlee Loves.

Helenlee appeared on my doorstep with a huge smile, warm hug and the kind of aura that immediately put me at ease. As soon as we had settled down at the kitchen table with our cups of coffee I knew I was definitely in safe hands. Helenlee is the kind of person you can share your wardrobe horror stories with - she makes no judgement and within minutes it felt like we were going to be great friends.

Helenlee's style mission is simple and effective, she's not interested in the latest fashion trends and throw away pieces and concentrates instead on helping her clients to find their own style that suits their figure, colour, lifestyle and taste which I think you'll agree, leads to a wardrobe that is perfectly created to be minimal, functional and make you feel fabulous.

The Style Code

All of Helenlee's style services start with the all important Style Code where she sits down with you in the comfort of your own home to develop a personalised Style Code to create the perfect wardrobe to suit your needs.

There are three elements to the Style Code:

Colour

To work out what colours suit me best Helenlee looked at my skin tone, hair and eye colour. Hair colour is the most dominant part of the colour analysis and as I'm auburn with very fair strawberry blonde highlights warm dominants work best for me.

Style Makeover with North East Personal Stylist Helenlee Loves


Colours that have warm undertones, particularly warm Autumn colours work best for me. So I should be looking for beautiful burnt oranges, corals and apricots, warm browns and pine greens. This means steering clear of bold and cool colours like black. I realise that for a lot of people black is a safety colour and although I've never been afraid to wear colour, there were a few black items in my wardrobe. Using my new colour palette I can switch these up for new base colours like navy blue or beige and if I really feel the need to wear something very dark I can opt for a charcoal grey.

The biggest challenge for me with my colours is definitely going to be attempting to steer clear of white which does nothing for me. I wear quite a lot of white in the Summer months but now know that I need to swap these for creams and off whites.

I was surprised to learn that most people can wear any colour, it's more the depth and shade of the colour that matters. We found these two pretty similar colours in my wardrobe, the dress on the left is warm and perfect for me whilst the plum coloured skirt on the right is too cool for me.

Style Makeover with Personal Stylist Helenlee Loves


Body Shape

Next we determined my body shape. After a fun guessing game where I got it all completely wrong Helenelee point out that my shoulders and hips are in perfect proportion and my smallest part is my clearly defined waist which makes me a neat hour glass. Well, that was quite a shock let me tell you, I'd always thought I was a pear.

Women come in all shapes and sizes and knowing what you are can make a huge difference to the clothes that you buy and the way that you wear them. The clothes that you wear plays a huge part in your confidence and it's got nothing to do with how "fashionable" you are or spending loads of money to keep up with the latest trends, it's about wearing clothes that suit you and fit with your style code.

Knowing your body shape is essential to wearing the type of clothes that make you feel and look great. As a neat hour glass if I wear clothes that are too baggy it can make me look a dress size bigger. By wearing styles that nip me in at the waist or using a belt, outfits can be changed to suit my figure.

Style Makeover Personal Stylist Helenlee Loves


Style Personality

Discovering my style personality was the part of Helenelee's style code that I was particularly impressed with. As a very practical dresser it's no good having an amazing wardrobe that isn't functional for my every day life. I work in an office, do a fair amount of walking and like to feel really comfortable when I'm out and about.

Using a style personality questionnaire we determined that I'm a "natural classic" meaning I prefer a laid back comfortable and casual style with a simple and timeless wardrobe.  I'll admit that I've always felt like I should walk around apologising for the way that I dress just because I want to wear flats and be comfortable but discovering my Style Code made me realise how ridiculous that is! Everyone has a different personality and lifestyle and it's important that your wardrobe fits in with that.

The Wardrobe Detox

I met Helenlee again a week later when she came over on a Saturday afternoon to help me clear out my wardrobe. Although I'm a little embarrassed to show you the state of my wardrobe before our detox I thought I'd best show it to you so you can really get a feel for what we were dealing with.

A clothes rail full of hangers with so many clothes squeezed in that I struggled every morning to find anything to wear. My wardrobe definitely had no order and everything was in a big mess, I could never easily lay my hands on anything. The top shelf was stuffed full with old jewellery boxes, crates full of beauty products and an endless tangle of hair styling instruments. The less said about the bottom drawer the better, my handbag storage had become a huge knot of bag straps, belts and scarves and I barely opened it because it would take me so long to pull anything out.

What a mess!

Style Makeover Personal Stylist Helenlee Loves - Wardrobe Detox



Using my style code we did a very thorough (and eye opening) wardrobe detox. Working from left to right we took each item out in turn and discussed whether I'd worn it recently, if we thought it suited my style code and if it looked old and tired.  Forming three piles "donate" "keep" and "maybe" some clothes fell easily into the donate pile but others took a bit more investigating.

Helenlee advised me on each part of clothing that she pulled out but I never felt under any pressure to get rid of anything. Obviously we all have those sentimental pieces in our wardrobe we couldn't bare to part with and some items of clothing I am attached to even though they don't fit perfectly into my style code. Helenlee completely understood that, however I did find myself very open to getting rid of most the items she advised didn't really suit me, I was more than ready for a fresh clean wardrobe!

Style Makeover Personal Stylist Helenlee Loves - Wardrobe


Something I was keen to discuss was my work wardrobe and when we got to that part of my wardrobe we pulled out my swing dress, something that I've been wearing every week to the office. Putting it on Helenlee pointed out a number of ways it was going against my style code - its shape was all wrong for my neat hourglass and the dark black colour doesn't suit me. One for the donate pile!

Slightly alarmed that I would have nothing to wear for work we carried on our hunt until I hit a part of my wardrobe that I've never worn before! Please tell me I'm not the only person who holds onto clothes that still have the tags on? Hiding away in my wardrobe we found a pair of trousers that fit perfectly into my style code, paired with this top I hadn't worn in years we suddenly had an outfit fit for the office that looks far better than what what I was wearing before and it was an absolute joy to rediscover clothes I'd long forgotten or finally find a use for things I'd never worn before.

Style Makeover Personal Stylist North East


Helenlee explained the importance of streamlining my wardrobe to make it far easier to manage so we picked out items that I wanted to keep that were more appropriate for Summer and put them in a separate pile to stash away for the warmer months. I have to agree with her, what on earth is the point in cluttering up your space with clothes you're not going to wear until July?

Another amazing tip Helenlee gave me was that t-shirts and jumpers shouldn't be hiding away in drawers where I'll never wear them but hung up in my wardrobe with the rest of my collection so that I can see everything that I have in one place. I never would have had room in my wardrobe to hang anything like that before but now with so much space I can easily fit all of my clothes into the wardrobe.

As we worked our way through my wardrobe we soon noticed a pattern, most of my clothes were far too big for me. As I'd been wearing my trousers and skirts on my tummy rather than on my waist I'd bought everything a size too big which meant most of my clothes were really ill fitting and unflattering. We spent most of the afternoon having to use clothes pegs to peg me into clothes so I could get an idea of how things should be sitting. Anything that was too big or too short (tall girl problems!) went straight into the charity shop bag.

Style Makeover Personal Stylist Newcastle


After a while I began to notice that all of my clothes were beginning to create the most beautiful capsule wardrobe with loads of complimenting colours and it suddenly became a lot easier to understand my colours as they were beginning to form the basis of my wardrobe.

I was amazed by the amount of clothes I already had in my wardrobe that could fit into my style code and Helenlee gave me some great tips on how to wear them in a different way. This denim dress has always been one of my favourites, which is no surprise as its shape suits my figure. By rolling up the sleeves attention is drawn to my small waist. Amazing!

Style Makeover Personal Stylist Newcastle - Helenlee Loves


Perhaps the most important thing I learnt during my wardrobe detox was how much I'd been using the space as a dumping ground. The huge basket at the bottom of my wardrobe had become a place for me to chuck bags, scarves, belts and hats where they'd become lost in a huge tangled mess never to be found again. The top shelf of my wardrobe was littered with forgotten beauty products, empty jewellery boxes and hairdryers and a lot of the time opening the doors was a bit of a health risk (I've lost count of the amount of times a hair dryer has fallen on my foot!) Once we'd been through all of my clothes Helenlee gave me the task of clearing out the rest of my wardrobe to make it clutter free - beauty products should live in the bathroom, not in my wardrobe!

I think you'll agree the end result is very impressive and this is only a progression picture, there is more change to come!

Style Makeover Personal Stylist Newcastle - Helenlee Loves Style Code


Skype Styling my Accessories 

Sorting through my stash is quite a mammoth task so we arranged another shorter session to specifically go through my shoe and bag collection and this time decided to do it via Skype.

Helenlee often uses Skype to chat to clients that don't live in the North East or to fit in with people's lifestyles and commitments. I have to admit I did wonder how well a style appointment would work using our laptops but I had an absolutely brilliant evening going through my accessories collection using my webcam.

I hadn't realised how huge my shoe collection was until I started discovering boxes and boxes of shoes all over my bedroom. On top of the wardrobe and under chest of drawers I found endless shoe boxes, thick with dust containing shoes that I had completely forgotten about - it was like Christmas had come early!

Helenlee Loves Style Code


We both agreed that hoarding shoes in boxes was a little daft as I was never going to wear them so everything was unpackaged then we sorted out a sensible shoe collection perfect for my needs and to fit in with my new look wardrobe. Helenlee was really understanding when I announced that I wanted to keep a ridiculous pair of glittery killer heels that I never wear. Despite them having not been on my feet for years they are so special to me as I wore them during a the photo shoot that Simon and I did for Weight Watchers when we first met.  She suggested that as I'm probably not going to wear them, maybe I should display them on a shelf in my bedroom rather than hiding them away in a box.

Sorting through my bag collection we got rid of a lot of very unpractical bags that I'd been clinging on to for no apparent reason and managed to pull together a really great collection of bags to perfectly cater for my needs. It made me realise how little I use some of my bags. Simon bought me a beautiful Kate Spade bag as a wedding present which sits in a dust bag and I never use, as part of my wardrobe detox it's now much easier for me to grab and start using!


Helenlee Loves Style Code - Shoes


Living with my Style Code

So how have I been getting on with the Style Code in my every day life? Well it's been a few weeks now and I have to say for the first time in my life it's an absolute joy to open up my wardrobe every day and only having a collection of clothes that I know I look good in. It makes getting dressed in the morning so much easier. I also packed for a weekend away a few days after we detoxed my wardrobe and I couldn't believe how much easier it was deciding what to take with me.

I love that I've started to take more care with my clothes and I really take the time to hang everything up properly and neatly now rather than chucking things into an uncontrollable pile. It's also really given me the tidying bug and I've since sorted out my bathroom cabinets and chucked out loads of unused or out of date products.

Although the first time I stepped back into a clothes shop a few days after my style makeover I found it all a little overwhelming, I had my own personal stylist tucked away in my phone to guide me. Helenlee sent me my own personal Style Code profile to save in my phone as well as a 7 day private Whatsapp group where we could chat all things style code for the first week to help me out with any problems.

I've started to have a really good think about how I want to pull my wardrobe together and a few bits and bobs that I now need to buy to make it complete. I've really enjoyed picking out a few signature colours to help create my wardrobe and I'm currently obsessed with rusty oranges and leopard print for the Autumn months!

Helenlee Stylist Loves Style Code

I've strolled around the shops a few times since meeting Helenlee and have definitely found myself being a lot more mindful in clothes stores. I'm really taking the time to look at clothes properly and have already noticed myself picking out pieces that compliment my colours and style. From now on I'll only be buying clothes that I look really good in and that I'll get wear out of. I have a Zara package arriving in the next few days with some new things that should hopefully slot into my new look wardrobe perfectly.

Having spent so many years hiding in oversized clothes and then battling the last 7 years with a touch of body dysmorphia trying to get used to my new shape and size, meeting Helenlee has been life changing and I am so thankful to her for helping me to feel confident in the way that I look.

This is just the start of my restyle journey, I still have an entire pile of jackets, coats and jumpers to sort through, a fair few drawers to tidy and, fingers crossed, will soon be turning my spare room into a dressing room. If you're interested in seeing my progress make sure you follow me on Instagram for updates.

If you want to discover more about Helenlee's personal style services and find out how she can help you to create your own style code, you can find all the details here

Helenlee Loves treated me to a complimentary style makeover in exchange for this honest review. 
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Friday, 2 November 2018

Breakfast at Olives at The Station, Whitley Bay

* This is a collaboration with Olives at The Station 

I have rushed my way through Whitley Bay Metro Station so many times, never really sure why I'm in a hurry but that's just the way life seems to always be. Our seaside adventures always happen at weekends when we have all the time in the world yet we seem to live the day on fast forward. I'll admit that in my haste to get down to the seafront I have strode past Olives at The Station so many times without giving it a second glance. So when we last visited Whitley Bay we decided to truly live in the moment and began our adventure on the platform of the Metro Station at Olives.

Breakfast at Olives at The Station, Whitley Bay
Olives at The Station is the loveliest place to begin your day at Whitley Bay - station bar, family friendly restaurant and hosts of some of the best events you'll find in North Tyneside, Olives is family run, community focussed and probably the friendliest place you'll discover this year.

Olives at The Station, Whitley Bay
Their home is in the charming original waiting rooms of the station with beautiful brick fireplaces and the most stunning high ceilings - a true piece of our wonderful history just a few steps away from the Metro platform.

When we walked in I honestly couldn't believe how huge the place was and was left wondering on how on earth we'd managed to walk past so many times without giving it a second glance (shame on us!) With loads of space and plenty of seats, it's a beautiful light restaurant with wooden tables, lovely furnishings and a great place to get warm after a brisk walk along the seafront.

Olives at The Station, Whitley Bay Metro

With no menu to study in advance, it's not often I head into places completely blind and I honestly had no idea what to expect from the breakfast menu at Olives, but one thing I did know, I was hungry and therefore very ready for it. Breakfast at Olives is served until 11:45 am and the menu is far larger than I expected with a little something for everyone. Classic cooked breakfasts, an impressive selection of egg benedicts, pancake stacks, bagels and brekkie sandwiches.  With so much choice I managed to sink an entire latte before I finally reached a decision.

Olives at The Station, Whitley Bay Metro - Latte


I decided to go big and ordered The Full English (£7.00) - Bacon, Sausage, Hash Brown, Black Pudding, Mushroom, Tomato, Baked Beans, Fried Egg and Toast. It's not that often I'll go for a cooked breakfast but having spotted the dish on our neighbouring table it looked too good to resist. I had to have it!

When my breakfast turned up it looked absolutely beautiful! Perfectly presented on a long plate it was served piping hot (I was so happy that it was still hot after I'd messed around for a good while getting those all important photographs for Instagram!) The sausages were generously chunky, the bacon was crispy, the egg was runny and I was over the moon that the plate included baked beans (so often overlooked on breakfast menus!)

Olives at The Station, Whitley Bay Metro - Breakfast
Once I polished off that lot I then got to wipe my plate completely clean with the very generous chunk of toast that came with my breakfast. I love proper doorstep toast and it was heaven slathered in butter. By the time I finished that lot I kinda wanted to settle myself down for a little nap in the corner.

Simon opted for the Sausage Sandwich, something he decided might be a bit risk as it was only £3.25 and so was possibly going to end up being a bit small and pathetic. Erm, think again! When the sandwich turned up it looked just as good as my breakfast! Thick doorstep bread with the most beautiful crust stuffed full with four fat sausages. I just can't believe how cheap it was! Simon squeezed himself a huge splodge of sauce to finish his breakfast sandwich off and wolfed it down before I'd even got to ask for a bite!

Olives at The Station, Whitley Bay Metro - Sausage Sandwich


I honestly can't believe what a hidden gem Olives at the Station is and I don't think we'll ever stride past it again. We will most definitely be returning to try out some more of the menu and it's safe to say that I will be telling everyone I meet over the next few weeks about this lovely little place we've discovered.

Olives at The Station, Whitley Bay Metro - Bar


Olives at the Station is open Monday to Saturday between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm serving breakfasts, lunches, coffees and snacks as well as hosting a variety of events including Murder Mystery Nights, Gin Festivals and even Breakfast with Santa (you can take a look at their upcoming events here)

Find Olives at the Station at:

Whitley Bay Station
Whitley Bay
NE26 2QT

0191 447 1313

olivesatthestation.com/

We were invited to Olives at the Station for a complimentary breakfast for two in exchange for this honest review.
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