Thursday 4 June 2020

A New 3 Course Takeaway Menu - Hinnies at Home

This is an advertisement feature with Hinnies at Home

Anyone else missing date nights? As we enter another month of lockdown, we're finding ourselves really beginning to miss dining out in our favourite restaurants.  Nothing beats perusing a menu, ordering a glass of wine and having a gossip over something delicious. We can't wait to be able to enjoy eating out again.  But until that time comes we have discovered the next best thing, Hinnies at Whitley Bay have created a takeaway experience with a difference, a really special 3 course dine at home menu.

It's a challenging time for our local restaurants which has seen them having to suddenly come up with new ways to serve their food. With more and more takeaway and collection services available, I love that Hinnies have taken the time to really get together a fantastic idea which truly gives customers a proper restaurant quality meal at home.

A New 3 Course Takeaway Menu - Hinnies at Home
Hinnies at Home is a lockdown takeaway with a difference, with freshly prepared meals collected cold so you can follow the heating instructions at home to ensure comforting hot dishes, the way that they are supposed to be enjoyed. Simply pick out your menu choices, place your order and collect from the restaurant for a date night with a difference.

Fed up of the same old boring dishes every weekend (it's getting very boring), Simon and I were keen to give Hinnies at Home a go.  With a choice of three starters, four mains and two desserts we decided to go all out and order a full three course meal, we have really missed enjoying a lovely long meal together and the thought of being able to tuck into a starter and dessert as well as our main course had us giddy in anticipation.

3 Course Takeaway Menu - Hinnies at Home

With our order placed we were able to choose our weekend collection slot and decided to go for Friday at 5:00 pm so we'd have plenty of time to prep our table as soon as we got the food home.  Having not been brave enough to go into any takeaways yet and having barely left our estate since lockdown began we were feeling pretty nervous as we made our way to Whitley Bay to collect our order.

Of course, there had been nothing to worry about, we easily found somewhere to park and I was happy to discover a sign on the Hinnies door with the reassuring instructions that only one person at a time could go inside to pick up their order. Tentatively looking through the window I could see no one else was there so made my way inside to the friendliest greeting.

Honestly, there was something so warm and comforting to be somewhere so familiar to me, and despite the empty restaurant I felt at home. I had no idea exactly how much I'd been missing restaurants until I was inside one.  My collection was ready within minutes and before I knew it I was back in the car and heading home with my paper bag of treats sat by my side. In a way we felt kind of daft to have been so worried about everything but these are unnerving times and every slight change to our routines leaves us feeling anxious. I am so thankful that Hinnies ensured our first food collection experience felt so safe.

Takeaway Menu - Hinnies at Home

Setting the oven to preheat we unpackaged all of our containers, happy they were all labelled along with some clear instructions on how to prepare our food.  Both our dishes required the same settings and cooking time so we simply popped them into the oven whilst we tucked into our starters which were both served cold with no prep time. Our main courses both took 25 - 30 minutes to cook, the perfect amount of time to crack open a bottle of wine and get to work.

Un-doing our containers we couldn't believe how beautifully presented the food was. I have never seen a takeaway box as perfect as the Hinnies offering. I was desperate to get it transferred perfectly on to the plate, and whilst I don't think Hinnies will be hiring me to plate up any time soon I'm pretty impressed with our efforts.

Takeaway - Hinnies at Home

Our meal began with Smoked Ham Terrine, Pease Pudding & Pickles for Simon and Smoked Mackerel Pate & Dill Pickled Cucumber for me. Having not enjoyed sitting down for a starter for so long it felt like a real treat having such a wonderful slow start to our meal.  I'll admit we've had far too many "TV dinners" on lap trays recently so Hinnies at Home felt extra special.

Simon, who has never understood pease pudding, was quick to offer me a forkful after announcing that the Hinnies offering could easily change his mind. My Smoked Mackerel Pate was delicious and I really enjoyed the Dill Pickled Cucumbers as the perfect accompaniment. We spent most of our starters toasting to a wonderfully fancy evening in our kitchen (we couldn't quite get over how lovely it all was!)

Hinnies at Home
It wasn't long before it was time to take our main courses out of the oven.  Cooked in the packaging, we carefully lifted our food on to the plates, again giving ourselves top marks for presentation. Hinnies really do make it so easy to serve yourself incredible looking dishes with minimal effort.  In fact if you are seriously wanting to impress the person you are "stuck indoors" with you won't beat this. Banish them to another room, serve up a surprise three course meal from Hinnies and I promise you they will think you are the best housemate and forgive you anything that you may have done (or not done) over the last few months.

My North Sea Fish and Seafood Pie was fantastic, a really generous portion, it completely covered my plate. Buried beneath my pile of perfectly fluffy mash I discovered deliciously flaky salmon and whole pieces of beautiful pink prawns. I know you shouldn't really play with your food but I couldn't resist.

Hinnies at Home - Takeaway Menu

However, it was Simon's Braised Beef Casserole, Horseradish Mash and Roast Carrots that really stole the show. The meat was so tender that I watched in envy as his fork pulled it apart. We spent most of our main courses saying nothing other than "Wow, this is so good!"

We both finished our dining at home experience with Sticky Toffee Pudding & Salted Caramel Sauce.  It took only a couple of minutes to heat in the microwave and was even quicker to devour. It tends to be our dessert of choice whenever we're in a restaurant so it was such a treat to enjoy a restaurant quality pudding at home.

Hinnies at Home - 3 Course Takeaway Menu
We were completely blown away by our Hinnies at Home dining experience.  The idea has been so well thought out and everything from the collection of our dishes to the preparation and serving of our food was spot on.  I never would have thought it would be possible to have such a high quality meal like this in the comfort of our own home, serving up dishes that not only tasted incredible but also looked beautiful on our plates was really something else.

If you're looking to celebrate a special occasion during lockdown or just fancy treating yourselves to a really lovely date night then I highly recommend trying Hinnies at Home.

3 Course Takeaway Hinnies at Home

What You Need to Know:
  • Enjoy 2 courses for £16.00 or 3 courses for £19.00
  • You can order Hinnies at Home by calling 0191 447 0500 between 12:00 pm and 7:00 pm Thursday and Friday, 10:00 am - 7:00 pm on Saturday or 10:00 - 2:00 pm on Sunday. 
  • Staggered collection slots are between 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm Thursday to Saturdays and 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm on Sundays.   
  • Food collection is from just inside the door of Hinnies.  Please observe social distancing instructions on the door when collecting.
  • Orders must be made in advance.  Payment is cashless 
  • Sunday Roasts are also available (served hot) as well as takeout brunch and teas & coffees. 
Find Hinnies at:

East Parade
Whitley Bay
NE26 1AP

We were treated to a complimentary three course meal for two in exchange for a review. 

Sunday 31 May 2020

My May Days

This blog includes advertisement features with Nourish Bud and Cocoa Grace

In some ways I feel like these weeks in lockdown are flying by, yet if I stop and think back to the last time I was sat in a coffee shop or in the office it feels like a lifetime ago. This month has been a challenging one for me and I'll admit I've struggled a little over the last couple of weeks, mostly thanks to our Government whose actions, mixed messages and total disregard for their own rules has left me feeling pretty hopeless. Despite another four weeks of staying close to home our days have been filled with sweet treats and fun discoveries.  Here's what we've been up to in May.

Cakes, Classes and Cutters

Giving up on the never ending mission to find flour on the supermarket shelves I finally got to rustle up some cakes in my kitchen thanks to Cakes, Classes and Cutters.  Based just outside Gosforth this lovely little cake shop have produced their own cupcake making kits and diving into mine has been my favourite lockdown activity so far. The kits are perfect for kids (or adults who never grew up) and include everything you need to make picture perfect cupcakes.  There are loads of different themes to choose from including Dinosaurs, Super Heroes and Flamingos, I couldn't resist ordering the Mermaid kit and despite my questionable icing skills (I attempted to use the piping bag provided but I definitely need a lesson) I am really impressed with my efforts. The cakes tasted so good and had me strolling about my house claiming I'm a baker! The kits cost £15.00 with free local delivery or pick up from Coppers in Gosforth.

My May Days  - Cakes Classes and Cutters

Bees on my PJs

With Simon's side of the family all proud Mancunians it's no surprise I've fallen hard for the city and love to see it as my (other) adopted home. So as soon as I see anything with bees on I immediately think of Manchester and want to make it mine.  My house is slowly filling with beautiful bee prints and after spotting this cute PJ set on the Tu Clothing site I just couldn't resist. With the hot weather we've been having I was in desperate need of some Summer sets and these are the perfect addition to my nightwear collection.

My May Days  -  Bee PJs

Healthy Lunches from Nourish Bud

We've been ordering a lot of sweet treats in lockdown and who can blame us. In a world where every day begins to feel like the last, food deliveries have become the highlight of our week, and we were so pleased to discover a healthier option thanks to Nourish Bud. Their plant based delivery service provides freshly cooked dishes in and around Newcastle and they are perfect "working from home" lunches.  If you order by 9:00 pm they arrive at your door the next day between 10:00 am and 12:00 pm and are perfect for eating at your desk. I went for the Nourish Bud'dha Bowl (£5.95) and Mediterranean Salad (£5.95)) - a great way to kick start a healthier week.

My May Days  -  Nourish Bud

I Wore Real Clothes

I knew eventually something would happen to convince me to ditch the loungewear.  All it took was the arrival of the hottest May we've had in decades to make me forget all about my tracksuits and reach for my Summer wardrobe. Admittedly throwing on a lovely floaty dress is even less of an effort than putting on a tracksuit but it's felt nice to feel a little bit more put together.  My extra large sunglasses and hat have been the perfect way to cover up the state of my hair and face. At this point in lockdown I don't think anything could ever convince me to start using makeup again!

My May Days

Cocoa Grace Cupcakes 

I hope no one is keeping count of how many sweet treats I've had during lockdown - it's hard to resist when doorstep deliveries look this good. These mouthwatering cupcakes arrived from Cocoa Grace with a box of Chocolate Caramel, Oreo, Coffee and Red Velvet which were demolished in one weekend. If you're looking for some lovely homemade treats and live in the South Gosforth area then you can order yourself a box of cakes to collect and enjoy at home. Prices start from £8.00 for 6 cupcakes and they are seriously good!

My May Days - Cocoa Grace Cupcakes

Afternoon Baths 

I got this bath caddy at Christmas but it's taken lockdown for me to start using it regularly and now I can't imagine having a bath without it. It's been lovely to have so much time for long leisurely baths in the afternoon and suddenly sinking into some bubbles whilst sipping on a glass of wine at 3:00 pm on a Tuesday feels completely acceptable. I love diving into my bathroom cabinet, pulling out loads of products and taking a soak by candlelight - I'm sure water, wine, an open flame and a book are a recipe for disaster but so far, so good.

My May Days - Bath Caddy

The Cairns of Whitley Bay

Simon and I have decided to very cautiously start travelling out and about a little more, albeit on our own terms. We're not keen to go anywhere that's busy so for the moment our trips out will be early in the morning or later in the evening.  We started with a late evening visit to Whitley Bay, stepping out of the car we were really nervous but as soon as we got to the sand our worries just vanished - it felt incredible to be back in our favourite place and the sea air really does do wonders. We finally got to see the cairns that have been built since lockdown began and I couldn't get over how many there were - the most incredible symbols of community spirit and hope decorating the shores.  We'll be heading back soon to build our own.

My May Days - The Cairns of Whitley Bay

Pimms O'Clock

In years to come when we look back at this time and all the things we achieved in lockdown, my proudest accomplishment will be perfecting my Pimms technique.  With my Pimms jug fully loaded with mint, strawberries and cucumber, the trick is to freeze pieces of fruit into giant ice-cubes to have in your glass - it makes for a picture perfect cup and keeps you cool in the blazing hot sun. I'm not going to tell you how many of these I have got through.

My May Days - Pimms

Although I am pretty quiet across social media and my blog at the moment my addiction to Instagram continues so you will find a new photo every day on my grid.  You can find me here.

Thursday 28 May 2020

Luxury Afternoon Tea Delivered in Newcastle with After-toon Tea

This is an advertisement feature with After-toon Tea

When the reality of lockdown life began to sink in and I realised that we would probably be spending a lot of 2020 shut away in our house one of my first worries (after the state of the world, my sanity and my eyebrows of course) was afternoon tea. As an afternoon tea obsessive the thought of not being able to tuck into delicate sandwiches whilst sipping on a glass of fizz made me feel sad - we celebrate most special occasions with an afternoon tea. So I'm very happy to be able to share my new lockdown treat discovery - luxury afternoon tea delivered in Newcastle by After-toon Tea.

Luxury Afternoon Tea Delivered in Newcastle with After-toon Tea
Although there are a few afternoon tea delivery services operating in Newcastle during the lockdown, After-toon Tea have created something a little different and are offering a more luxurious experience with a quality afternoon tea that you'd usually only find in the city's finest hotels. Created and prepared by Cal Byerley (best known for his time as Head Pastry Chef at Michelin-starred Forest Side in Cumbria), After-toon Tea is the perfect afternoon treat if you fancy something a little special whilst you're stuck at home.

In life before lockdown (remember that?) I loved the whole experience of treating myself to a luxurious afternoon and would use it as an excuse to put on a dress and spend a lovely afternoon in the beautiful lounge of one of my favourite hotels.  Of course afternoon tea at home is a little different but in some ways even more enjoyable.  The freedom to be able to dine in your best pyjamas from the comfort of your own home has to be one of the perks of this messy situation. 

Afternoon Tea Delivered in Newcastle with After-toon Tea

I considered perhaps taking my tea on the coffee table in my lounge, outside on my garden furniture or maybe even in bed before deciding on the kitchen (it has become one of my favourite rooms since we started spending so much time indoors.) With no cakestand to hand I decided to get a little creative with my set up and muddle together a stand for my cakes using things from my kitchen cupboard.  As someone who isn't great at arts and crafts I'm pretty impressed with my efforts - who knew a wooden chopping board balanced on two empty coffee jars would make such a lovely stand.

Afternoon Tea Delivered Newcastle with After-toon Tea

My afternoon tea had been delivered to my front door the day before, conveniently boxed up and ready to pop into the fridge for up to three days, it gave me the freedom to enjoy it whenever I wanted over the weekend.  In all honesty if I'd been feeling lazy I could have just devoured the lot straight out of the boxes, but after the success of my makeshift cakestand I decided to rummage about my kitchen cupboards pulling out any decorative plate I could find to lay out my afternoon tea. If you want an excuse to use your finest china, mismatched plates or untouched wedding gifts this is it.

All set up and ready to go I tucked into my plate of delicately prepared finger sandwiches - Smoked Salmon & Cucumber, Egg Mayonnaise and Coronation Chicken, all afternoon tea classics and the perfect way to start off my experience, especially washed down with a glass of fizz.

Afternoon Tea Delivered Newcastle

I love when an afternoon tea has something extra as a savoury offering and my After-toon Tea also included a slice of Quiche Lorraine which was easily one of the loveliest slices of quiche I have every had.  It was so creamy and I found myself running about the house with a forkful eagerly looking for my husband just to make him try a bit.  So good!

After-toon Tea - Afternoon Tea Delivery in Newcastle

After sandwiches comes scones and I had two to tuck into. I started with the Dale End Cheddar Cheese Scone which I was very happy to see on the menu. Perhaps not a popular thing to say, but I am such a fan of cheese scones I'd choose them over a traditional cream tea!  Unfortunately the afternoon tea didn't arrive with butter for the scone which was a shame because I love proper butter on a cheese scone and my low calorie margarine from my fridge didn't quite hit the spot. Still, it was a beautiful cheesy treat.

Feeling sorry for Simon that he was missing out on this experience I decided to let him tuck into the other scone - the Sultana Fruit Scone was served with Rodda's Clotted Cream and Strawberry Jam which he slathered on with great enthusiasm.  Anyone who's ever read one of my afternoon tea reviews before will know that my husband likes to really pack on his jam and cream! Gone in a matter of seconds I managed to get a quick bite and it was truly delicious.

After-toon Tea - Afternoon Tea Delivery
Saving the best for last and the After-toon Tea cakes were the real star of the show with an impressive display of sweet treats.  Looking at them all laid out in front of me it was hard to believe that these had been delivered on my door step in a box, they were absolutely beautiful and the type of cakes you only ever see in the loveliest of hotels.

I started off with the Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Tart, deliciously sharp against the bitter chocolate, I was off to a great start and didn't really think it would get any better than that, until I slid my fork into the Glazed Lemon Mousse, the perfect hit of sweetness to follow the raspberries.

After-toon Tea Delivery Newcastle

Having checked in advance about my nut allergy I was so excited to discover that the Layered Carrot Cake with Mascarpone Frosting was safe for me to eat.  I am the biggest fan of carrot cake but can't have it very often as it always seems to contain nuts. It's been years since I've last been able to enjoy one so I enjoyed every forkful of this beauty.

After-toon Tea Newcastle

I'm sure we can all agree that the most eye catching treat of this afternoon tea is that stunning apple. Since posting a sneaky look on my Instagram I've been inundated with people asking about it. Would you believe that this perfectly crafted cake is actually a White Chocolate and Madagascan Vanilla Cheesecake? I really can't get over how beautiful it is, imagine being able to create something as perfect as that.  It was incredible and tasted just as good as it looked.

After-toon Tea Newcastle Delivery

I am so thankful that local businesses like After-toon Tea have given us all a reason to get up in the morning and with every day beginning to feel a little like Groundhog Day it's lovely to organise something like this to give yourself something to look forward to.  

If you fancy ordering your own After-toon Tea to enjoy from the comfort of your house then you can order here.

What you need to know:
  • Afternoon Tea costs £20.00 per person
  • Afternoon Tea with a 200ml bottle of Prosecco costs £25.00 per person
  • The menu is set, however can be amended to cater for vegetarians and pescatarians.  If you have any allergies or dietary requirements please enquire in advance.  
  • Afternoon Tea is delivered every Friday and Saturday to NE1 - NE6 postcodes from 10:00 am.  NE13, NE15, NE18, NE20 and NE39-NE46 can also be included.  If your postcode is not mentioned please e-mail to enquire
Find After-toon Tea at:

I was treated to complimentary afternoon tea for one by After-toon Tea

Thursday 30 April 2020

My April Days

I can't believe it's been a month since I last put together a blog post. Next month this site will be seven years old and in all that time I've never gone so long without writing a little something to share with you. When I signed off last month I couldn't imagine being able to bring you a monthly update in April. How on earth would I find anything inspiring to write about or have new photographs to share?

I was wrong!

This past four weeks I have learnt so much. Things I thought I knew about myself were proved to be completely untrue , I've discovered that I quite like spending time at home and that it's possible to be blissfully happy living the simple life. I was furloughed from my job on 1 April and having a lot of time to myself has lead me down a path of self discovery, allowed me to appreciate my home and local area and my house has never looked so clean.

Here's what we've been up to in the weirdest month of our lives so far.

Love Where We Live!

As someone who lives life at full speed I've always kept my diary full - heading out on adventures and cramming as much as we can into our weekends. So being forced to stay at home has truly made us take a step back and appreciate where we live  We head out for a walk around our housing estate every day and have discovered so much in our local area. From the heron who visits every day to the pretty country lanes and open fields. I hope this has taught me to enjoy what I have and stop wanting to always be somewhere else.

My April Days - Newcastle upon Tyne

Afternoon Tea at Home with Cafe 1901

I'd love to claim that I have spent this time baking up loads of goodies but other than the two Banana Breads that I managed to just about pull off I have been relying on Cafe 1901 to satisfy my afternoon tea craving.  As soon as I discovered that one of my favourite coffee shops in Jesmond were rustling up afternoon teas delivered to home I organised one to enjoy on a Saturday afternoon. Banishing my husband upstairs I set it all out on our kitchen table, put on some lovely classical music and surprised him with an afternoon tea to remember.  We couldn't believe how many treats were included in our tea - huge doorstep sandwiches, scones with jam and cream and so many cakes we were still eating them the following day.

If you fancy ordering your own afternoon tea you'll find all the details here (they are also doing breakfasts, Sunday lunches and even have essential groceries)

April Days - Afternoon Tea at Cafe 1901

Pastries from Pink Lane Bakery

We've not ventured into many shops during lockdown but my morning trip to Pink Lane Bakery in Gosforth will definitely be one to remember - it was the furthest I have ever walked for croissants but it was worth every step. It was my first visit to the new store and certainly wont be the last. With a counter full of croissants, danish pastries, bread and sausage rolls I returned home with paper bags full of treats and we breakfasted like royalty.

Pink Lane Bakery offer a really great social distancing shopping experience or you can order their bakery box here.

April Days - Pink Lane Bakery

Cake Stories on our Sofa

The highlight of our lockdown so far? Discovering that Cake Stories are offering cake delivery - allowing me the luxury of sitting about in my PJs whilst cake arrives at my door.  It's good to look for the silver lining in this crazy situation and having some of my favourite treats in Newcastle available for doorstep delivery is something I never thought would happen - living quite a way out of the city centre we've never been able to get much delivered out to us before so this has been really lovely.  We enjoyed very generous chunks of Caramel Chocolate Smash to start our Easter weekend off the right way.

Discover how to enjoy doorstep delivery from Cake Stories here

April Days - Cake Stories

Love Will Get Us Through

My inability to draw has meant no beautiful handcrafted rainbows displayed at our windows, instead we have proudly put up this stunner from Love of The North who are selling an inspiring collection of "Love Will Get Us Through" prints that are perfect for your window.  25% of all sales go to Northumbria NHS Trust's Bright Charity.  We are so happy with our Whitley Bay picture I'm now tempted to complete the set.

Take a look at the collection and order yours here

April Days - Love of the North

We Are Cookie Freaks!

Lockdown has turned me into a Cookie Freaks fanatic! Having talked ourselves out of trying their cookies so many times at Tynemouth Market (we're usually already full from scranning our way along the North Tyneside coast) we are now fully fledged members of the Cookie Freaks fan club having introduced their treats into our lockdown diet. The Cookie Pies are incredible served warm with a big scoop of ice-cream.  A quick look at my Instagram reveals that we are already on our second cookie delivery of the month!

Want to become a Cookie Freak? Find out how to order some here

April Days - Cookie Freaks

Pin Perfection

I have spent a large amount of my furlough so far cleaning my house but when I've found myself wanting a change of scene I've really enjoyed dedicating time to things I've been wanting to do for ages but never seem to have time. The loveliest of those jobs was definitely finding a home for my Pin Club pins which have been sitting in a bedroom drawer for a while now.  With a worrying denim jacket obsession (I have far more than I care to admit it) I can now justify my full collection by customising each with my northern inspired pins. I had a lovely afternoon pinning and really love how they look on my jackets.

Buy yourself some Pin Club Pins here 

April Days - Pin Club

Loungewear Life

Anyone else living in loungewear? Having never really understood tracksuits before I am now finding myself in them most days and am wondering how I'll ever return to normal life. Will it be acceptable for me to go back to work in a tracksuit? I climbed out of one to try on this beautiful new Summer dress from H&M but then was back in my glorious elasticated waistband and baggy hoodie within minutes.  I don't want to wear regular clothes ever again.

April Days -  Loungewear

Backyard Burgers Delivered with Grab

A quick scroll through my Instagram would probably lead you to believe that all I've been doing in lockdown is eating (I think you'd probably be right). I've been justifying it by telling myself how much I want to support local business and this is the perfect excuse to fill our days with local treats. A weekend takeaway from Backyard Burgers was on the cards as soon as I saw them on the Grab app. Grab is a new lockdown service offered by Blueline Taxis who are whizzing their way across the city delivering everything from takeaways and groceries to alcohol and skincare.  It's such a brilliant idea and meant that we could get delicious burgers delivered to our door.  I went for "The Jesmond" a fully loaded burger with Feta, Avo, Apple Chutney and Lettuce.

Fancy grabbing a takeaway? Check out Grab North East here.

April Days -  Backyard Burger


I thought I'd finish today's monthly round up with a bit of a giggle at my own expense. Thank you so much to my husband for taking this sneaky photo of me playing Animal Crossing whilst catching some rays in the back garden - allowing the world to see that I have become so lazy with my dressing that I have started wearing socks with sandals because I can't be bothered to put sunblock on my feet.  Thanks for that Simon!

April Days

Although I'm pretty quiet across social media and on my blog at the moment I am doing daily stories on my Instagram offering some inspiration of how to structure your day if you're a furloughed worker as well as sharing a new photo every day on my grid.  You can find me here.

Tuesday 31 March 2020

My March Days

This blog includes an advertisement feature with Calendar Club and Davenports Chocolates

I really don't know where to start with my March highlights, the start of the month definitely began in a very different way to how it has ended and it's hard to believe that only a few weeks ago we were all skipping about the countryside completely unaware of how much life was going to dramatically change. I don't think any of us can guess how long it will be before things return to how they were, and in some ways I wonder if they ever truly will. So with that in mind, this will be the last monthly update I'll be doing for a while. 

Here's what happened this month before everything changed.

Calendar Club Challenge at Durham Cathedral

This month's Calendar Club challenge took us on an adventure to Durham Cathedral, somewhere we hadn't visited for many years. We had the best time exploring and I had no idea the cathedral had such an impressive collection of stain glass windows. If you were to ask Simon his favourite part of the day he would definitely say the huge lego replica of the cathedral but for me it had to be the 325 stair tower climb which rewarded us with views so incredible we could see as far as Penshaw Monument. Understandably the Calendar Club Challenge has now been put on hold until the Summer when hopefully we'll be able to get back out and carry on exploring.

My March Days - Calendar Club

Exploring the Northumberland Coast

I'm not sure what inspired me to plan a Winter coat photo shoot on the Northumberland Coast in March but when I headed to Embleton Bay with the lovely Laura from Laura Beasley Photography we certainly had all of the elements. With blazing hot sunshine one moment and a snow storm the next we had the beautiful beaches to ourselves as we captured some beautiful shots in the sand dunes. It may have been the start of Spring but I was definitely glad to be wrapped up in something snuggly. I can't wait to share some more photos from this shoot on my Instagram soon.

My March Days - Northumberland Coast

Easter Eggs from Davenports

Is it too soon to talk about Easter Eggs?  With supermarkets rapidly running low on supplies I'm sure it's only a matter of time before the seasonal aisle starts to empty so if you fancy getting ahead and supporting local business can I point you in the direction of Davenports Chocolates who create incredibly beautiful eggs which you can get delivered to your door. I'm very excited about tucking into their Gin and Tonic egg which is made with Northumbrian Hepple Gin and if you don't fancy one of those they also have Spring Salt, Hazelnut Praline and Strawberries & Champagne available. If you fancy ordering one you can find all the information you need here.

My March Days - Easter Eggs from Davenports

Breakfast at Fox & Finch

I'm so glad that one of our last meals out before social isolation began was an incredible breakfast at Fox & Finch in Whitley Bay. We'd been meaning to pop by for ages after seeing endless mouthwatering photographs appear on Instagram and I'm very pleased that we made it. If there's one thing that the current situation has taught me it's to live in the moment and never leave things for tomorrow. I feasted on the most incredible Shakshuka and urge you all to visit as soon as we are able to freely wander out of our homes again.

My March Days - Fox and Finch

A Social Distancing Birthday

Although I am sad that we decided to cancel my birthday trip to Edinburgh following the Government advice to socially distance ourselves, looking back now I realise how lucky I was that my birthday fell before "lock down" happened which meant one last jolly in Northumberland. Despite not being able to venture into coffee shops or tea rooms we had an incredible time exploring parts of Bamburgh that we'd never seen before. Needing to keep ourselves away from others we headed to the dunes and stumbled across this view of the castle that we never would have discovered for ourselves. A lovely reminder that light can be found in the darkest times.

My March Days - Bamburgh Castle

Treats from The Travelling Spoon 

As we begin to adjust to life within the walls of our home we have been so moved by everyones efforts to help out local businesses and although it's getting increasingly difficult to support the cafes and restaurants that we love as many begin to close their delivery offerings we've been doing what we can to help the local community. Wanting to retain some level of normality we've stocked our freezer with delicious sweet treats for the weekends thanks to The Travelling Spoon who delivered some very tasty Mini Egg and Cookie Dough Brownies to enable us to play "tea room" in our kitchen.

My March Days - Travelling Spoon

Although it may well be a while before we are able to share our adventures with you on the blog, make sure you follow New Girl in Toon on Instagram where we will still be posting daily updates (even if they are pictures taken months before!)

Wednesday 11 March 2020

Discovering The Biscuit Factory in Newcastle

Sometimes I get myself into quite a funk.  I'm the kind of person that, even on a weekend, needs some kind of plan or structure to my day to stop myself falling into a negative frame of mind, whilst most people love to spend a Sunday lounging about in their dressing gown watching rubbish on TV it tends to leave me feeling very low. Despite knowing this about myself sometimes I make the mistake of not getting showered and dressed as soon as I get up and that is where I found myself recently  - sitting under a blanket on the sofa, close to tears for no apparent reason.  I had brunch plans with my friends but had got myself into such a bad place that I felt like I wanted to cancel on them.

If you're like me and find yourself getting into moods like this the number one piece of advice I can give you is to get up off the sofa (as much as you don't want to!), get showered and dressed and head out for a solo adventure somewhere that you find really calming and relaxing.

Discovering The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle

Whilst I usually head off to the coast to chill out, I decided to try something a little bit different this time and instead went off in the direction of Ouseburn (one of my favourite parts of Newcastle for a mooch) and to the Biscuit Factory, the UK's largest independent commercial art gallery. Now I realise that I may have lost some of you at "art gallery" and believe me, I get you!  I'm definitely not the kind of person that spends their free time wandering about looking at art - I'm no expert and if I'm being completely honest a lot of art just leaves me feeling a little baffled and confused.  The Biscuit Factory, however, is unlike any other art gallery I have ever visited and if you're looking for somewhere really peaceful to unwind I highly recommend giving it a try.

Discovering The Biscuit Factory Newcastle

Although I perhaps don't always understand art, I do love a great building and The Biscuit Factory is housed in the most beautiful Victorian warehouse and is the loveliest place for a wander. With stunning red brick walls, huge windows and wooden beams it is a light space with some really lovely contrasting features and I could happily spend hours just wandering about admiring the architecture.  Even if art isn't your thing as soon as you walk through the door I'm pretty sure this will become your new happy place too because it's impossible not to smile as soon as you enter the building.

The Biscuit Factory Newcastle

Unlike a lot of other art galleries The Biscuit Factory has a really small collection of art which is perfect for the beginner like me and there really is something for everyone displayed on their walls. If you love the North East and are passionate about the beauty of our coastline and countryside you will definitely find something to admire in the gallery. There are always some truly beautiful paintings and drawings on display and during my visit I admired some lovely displays of paintings of Newcastle and the Northumberland coast, each one I could happily imagine would look rather lovely in my living room.

The Biscuit Factory - Newcastle

My visit perhaps wasn't best timed as the gallery were busy setting up their Spring launch. With the displays changing every season some of the walls were a little bare ready for new pieces but I guess that just gives me a great excuse to go back really soon.

As champions of original and handmade pieces there are some really inspiring things to look at with a lot of the work being very affordable - I much prefer a gallery that showcases art that's attainable rather than looking at things that are way out of my price range.  When we do eventually get round to buying some forever pieces for our home I will definitely be heading to The Biscuit Factory to start our collection.

My favourite part of the gallery on my visit were the incredible framed pictures by "Light up North", originally featured in the Winter exhibition, you can find them tucked away round a hidden corner in a dimly lit room. The paintings all feature neon slogans and they really are fantastic and well worth checking out. The illuminated art is created in Saltburn and I love how eye catching and cheeky their pieces are.

The Biscuit Factory Newcastle - Light up North

However long you plan to spend mooching around the art it's easy to make a bit of a day trip out of a visit to the Biscuit Factory thanks to fantastic extra offerings. Bookworms will love the addition of "Forum Books", a small yet perfectly formed bookshop which makes for lovely browsing and foodies will definitely want to make their way to the Factory Kitchen.

Even if you have no interest at all in art you really must plan a trip to Biscuit Factory if only to check out their food offering, the beautiful little café creates delicious dishes and has a very good menu filled with lunches, afternoon tea and the kind of cake counter that makes your mouth water. They have some great offerings for special dietary requirements with some delicious vegetarian and vegan options as well as gluten free.

After enjoying a lovely solo stroll round the gallery I met the girls at Factory Kitchen for a late brunch, served all day it's a great weekend treat with a menu so tempting I spent ages trying to pick between four dishes. In the end I went for the Sauteed Mushrooms on Toasted Sourdough (£7.50) and added a poached egg and merguez sausage for an extra £3.75 . If you have the option to leave the car at home it's worth knowing that they also have some incredible sounding brunch cocktails available.

Factory Kitchen - The Biscuit Factory Newcastle

Factory Kitchen is quite the hidden gem in Newcastle and if you're looking for somewhere a little different for a catch up with friends it's a great option. With plenty of seats, the café is really light and decked out in loads of foliage which gives it the loveliest relaxed vibe. I am very keen to go back in the Summer and enjoy an afternoon tea on their sunny roof terrace and the afternoon teas that were being delivered to the tables around us looked really good.

I am so thankful to The Biscuit Factory for pulling me out of my bad mood and giving me somewhere new to call a happy place - they truly make art accessible to everyone and I don't think anyone could leave without a massive smile on their faces.  I can't wait to go back!

The Biscuit Factory Newcastle - Factory Kitchen

Find The Biscuit Factory at:

16 Stoddart Street

0191 261 1103


Wednesday 4 March 2020

RNS Nights Out at the Sage Gateshead - Music from the Movies

This is an advertisement feature with The Sage Gateshead 

As someone who was forced to listen to Classic FM in the tea room I worked in as a teenager (I used to change the radio station whenever my boss left the room), I can't say that an evening at the Sage in Gateshead has ever been something that I've considered when arranging date night.  I have always presumed that the Sage was a venue for people with a real understanding of classical music and certainly not for someone like me.

So I'm very excited to be able to share our first ever musical experience at the Sage Gateshead and to let you know that not only was I very wrong in my judgements, but I have also found a new shared passion that I can enjoy with my husband - I'm really not exaggerating when I say that our evening at the Sage opened our eyes and quite possibly changed our world!

Although Saturday was our first ever experience of a concert at the Sage, I'm certainly no stranger to the building itself and have enjoyed many an afternoon there admiring the incredible views of the river and Tyne Bridge whilst indulging in a slice of cake and a cup of coffee. I've always loved spending time there, and if you're yet to venture inside the Sage then you are definitely missing out. The Sage is a really community focussed part of our city and even if you don't have tickets for an event you can pop in for some food and, if you're lucky, enjoy some free entertainment.

RNS Nights Out at The Sage Gateshead - Music from the Movies

Unlike a lot of other music venues, the experience of enjoying live music at the Sage Gateshead makes for a really wonderful, relaxing evening from the moment you arrive. We loved that we could easily park at the venue with plenty of spaces available. It cost us £4.80 to park our car for the evening, and the machine in the carpark allowed us to pre pay to save queuing at the end of the night. Once through the doors we couldn't believe the amount of space we had as we waited for doors to open - with themed cocktails at the bar and delicious food available before the show it made the experience that little bit more special and I think next time we'd plan to arrive a little earlier just to give us time for cake.

For our first experience at the Sage we had tickets for an "RNS Night Out" - a regular series of shows that focuses on music from film and the world of pop. If you are yet to experience a night at the Sage and are curious to perhaps give something different a go, this really is a fantastic way to dip your toe in.  The nights all feature Royal Northern Sinfonia ("RNS"), the full-time orchestra at the Sage who were founded in 1958 and have gained themselves a lot of fans through their beautiful performances. The RNS Night Out series have seen some really fantastic nights of entertainment including a Star Wars spectacular, ET in concert and Beatlemania.  For our evening we were going to be immersed in the magic of the movies with "Hollywood Heroes".

My husband has to be the biggest fan of film soundtracks, I'm not talking about "Mamma Mia" style sing alongs here, he's all about the big dramatic movie scores and if you were to take a look at his Spotify playlist you'd find it full of his favourite composers like Hans Zimmer and John Williams. He can tell you what film a piece of music is from within one bar and whilst most people run on the treadmill to dance music, Simon sets his pace to the Batman soundtrack (maybe he's training to be a superhero).  To say he was excited about the Hollywood Heroes night would be an understatement.

RNS Nights Out The Sage Gateshead - Music from the Movies

Taking our seats in Sage One for the first time was a pretty special experience, the auditorium was very different to any arena or theatre I have ever been in and I spent a lot of time just gazing around at how incredible it all looked. We were very lucky to find ourselves only a few rows back from the stage and as the orchestra entered and took their seats I was having the greatest time looking at all of the different instruments and the beautiful outfits each of the musicians were wearing. I had no idea exactly how big the Royal Northern Sinfonia would be with over 60 people on stage playing everything from Violin and Cello to Flute, Oboe, Trombone, Harp and Bass Guitar.

Our evening began with conductor Stephen Bell taking to the stage and kicking off the night with John Williams' "Summon the Heroes", a piece of music written for the 1996 Summer Olympics and very fitting for the night ahead. Having never seen a live orchestra before I was fascinated watching all of the musicians and the first thing that struck me was how beautiful the violinists looked, their bows moving in perfect sequence across the strings.

Turning to glance at my husband as the sounds of Hans Zimmer's "Gladiator" filled the room I couldn't believe how huge the smile was on his face. Hearing one of his favourite composers performed live was quite a moment for him and he was on the edge of his seat eagerly listening to every note. I have honestly never seen him so happy at a concert before.

RNS Nights Out The Sage Gateshead

For people like me who are perhaps not quite so familiar with movie soundtracks there were some great crowd pleasers within the set including Alan Silvestri's "The Avengers" and an extract from John Williams score from "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (instantly recognisable!). With plenty of families in the audience these were definitely both moments that the children appreciated too and if you are keen to introduce the younger members of your family to a fantastic live music experience the RNS Nights Out series are a great way to do that.

We were enjoying ourselves so much that the first half passed in what felt like minutes and before we knew it we were heading out of the Auditorium for interval drinks and a very special chance to meet a couple of members of the RNS orchestra.  We had the loveliest chat with violinist, Alanna Tonetti-Tieppo who happily answered all of my "newbie" questions that had left me feeling curious in the first half. I was keen to know more about the role of the conductor and what all of those confusing looking hand signals mean and it was great to have a little bit of insight into life in the RNS. If you are interested in learning more about the RNS then The Sage have recently launched RNS Inside Story sharing all things chamber orchestra and focuses on learning more about the music, musicians and experience including recommended playlists, short reads and Q&As.

Back into Sage One for the second part and Simon's moment of the night arrived with Danny Elfman's "Batman Suite" and John Williams "Superman Love Theme", he was having a real "pinch me" moment at how incredible his favourite pieces of music sounded with a full orchestra. My moment of the show came at the very end listening to the most beautifully haunting music composed by John Williams for "Schindler's List" - with an incredible violin solo performed by Kyra Humphreys which almost moved me to tears. I had goosebumps all over my body and for those few minutes I honestly felt like the only person in the room. It was such an incredible experience.

RNS Nights Out at The Sage Gateshead

Of course you can't be ending a show on a sombre note and the whole audience were delighted with the final piece of music from the set - Michael Giacchno ar. McEwan "The Incredibles". An absolutely incredible moment which seemed to include every instrument on the stage in a giant sound of tuneful chaos which, if you've seen the movie, you know is perfectly fitting.

The whole show was a couple of hours but passed in a flash, we were both so sad when it was over and would have happily sat there for days listening to the incredible RNS orchestra.  We have well and truly caught the bug and now consider ourselves new fans of the RNS. We can't wait to go back and are both keen to try one of the main series of concerts next with the more intimate shows in Sage Two and the live performances at Wylam Brewery looking particularly special.

If you fancy experiencing a RNS Night Out at Sage Gateshead for yourself then the next in the series will take place on Saturday 28 March at 7:30 pm and will celebrate the work of Elton John. "The Music of Elton John: 50 Years of "Your Song"" will see the RNS joined by four stars of the West End in a tribute to one of the greatest songwriters which will include all of his best hits.  Tickets cost from £16.50 and can be purchased here.

We will see you there!

Find The Sage at:

St Mary's Square

0191 443 4666

We received complimentary tickets to the Hollywood Heroes Night at The Sage. 
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