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!)
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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
Shieldfield
NE2 1AN

0191 261 1103

https://www.thebiscuitfactory.com/

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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
Gateshead
NE8 2JR

0191 443 4666

https://sagegateshead.com/

We received complimentary tickets to the Hollywood Heroes Night at The Sage. 
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Saturday, 29 February 2020

My February Days

This blog includes an advertisement feature with Calendar Club

I've grown quite fond of February over the last few years, the sudden appearance of the snowdrops always coincides nicely with the lighter days and before we know it we're all chatting about Spring wardrobes, sunny holiday plans and everything seems far more manageable. It's been a busy month for us and I can't believe how much we've crammed in.  Here's what I haven't already shared!

Penshaw Monument

We were quick off the mark with the Calendar Club challenge this month and found ourselves heading out on our adventure the day we turned the calendar over. Our February challenge sent us on a jaunt over the river to Penshaw Monument, somewhere I hadn't visited for many years. Not much had changed other than the beautiful ginger cows sitting at the bottom of the hill and my level of fitness (I do not remember the climb to the top being that hard on my legs). As the Calendar Club Challenge involves sharing a creative photo from the calendar location I spent much of my afternoon leaping about trying to get a jump shot - the outtakes are really something! Don't forget if you want to join in you just need to visit the location pictured in your travel calendar for the month and then share with #calendardclubchallenge for the chance to win a prize. We combined the visit with a sunny stroll round Herrington Country Park (it offers beautiful views of Penshaw Monument so is a must if you're doing the trip) and a visit to the Bakery at Penshaw Farm Shop which deserves an entire paragraph to itself ...

My February Days - Calendar Club Challenge


Cakes for Giants!

Where do I even start with the cakes at the Penshaw Bakery? You'll find the adorable little shop just next to the Penshaw Tearoom and its like a real life Aladdin's Cave if you love cakes as much as me. The counter is completely stacked with delicious homemade cakes and if you order a slice they are cut into very generous wedges that will fill you up for the rest of the day.  Sitting alongside the sponges you'll find a massive selection of biscuits, cream buns, scones and cupcakes all so huge it's like being in a bakery for giants.  Next time you're at Penshaw you really must go!

My February Days - Penshaw Bakery


Afternoon Tea at Jesmond Dene House

We have had the afternoon tea at Jesmond Dene House more than any other in the region but when we heard that it had had a bit of a makeover we couldn't resist booking ourselves a table in the Garden Room for an afternoon of tea and cake. The tea has changed a lot over the years and the recent refurbishment of the restaurant in the hotel has made the experience feel even more beautiful and although the price has leapt up to £29.50 per person it honestly is worth every penny for the impeccable service and beautiful food. Our favourite parts of the new look afternoon tea included an Isle of Mulll Cheese Scone served with Whipped Butter and Red Onion Marmalade and the Granny Smith Apple and Madagascan Vanilla Cheesecake (shaped like an apple!)

My February Days - Jesmond Dene House


Knife Angel Visits Gateshead

The most incredible sculpture arrived in Gateshead this month.  The Knife Angel is made from 100,00 knives surrendered to the police across the country and has been created as a thought provoking piece encouraging discussion and education around the topic of knife crime. During its visit Gateshead committed to deputising 10,000 young people in becoming anti-violence champions and educating our youth on the negative impact that aggression and violence has on our community. We popped by to see it during a busy lunchtime and couldn't believe how quiet it was at the feet of the angel despite the visiting crowds.

My February Days - Knife Angel


Sunday Brunch at The Mal

Anyone fancy an epic Sunday Brunch at Malmaison? Served every week, the menu offers all you can eat Appetisers from the Chef's Table followed by a Main Brunch Plate for £19.95 with dessert added for an additional £3.50 and unlimited Prosecco for £15.00.  After filling our boots with meats, fish, salad and fresh bread we tucked into Eggs California and a Mal Burger followed by the most incredible Sticky Toffee Pudding we have ever had (ordered by Simon but I definitely enjoyed a fair chunk of it!) Such a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

My February Days - Sunday Brunch at The Mal


Model for the Day

I got to play model for the afternoon this month when stylist Helenlee Loves asked me to help out at her talk at the Grammers Event held at Ramside. Demonstrating her inspiring Style Code to a room of fashion loving ladies I got to strut about in the most incredible suit from Baukjen which really made me think I need to give smarter dressing a go. With makeup by Amanda Bell and a beautiful new hair do from the ladies at Reef Salons my taste of the limelight was so much fun, even if a lot of my evening was spent getting changed in a dining room and trying to hide from passing waiters.

My February Days - Grammers


The Treehouse Suite at Ramside

Whilst at Ramside I got to enjoy a sneaky look round the brand new treehouse suites which have recently opened. The incredible rooms really are something else and different to anything else we have in the North East. Beautifully luxurious suites in the trees, the rooms have massive beds, outdoor hot tubs and the all important instagrammable copper bath tub. I have obviously been heavily hinting to Simon about booking a stay .... this place screams wedding anniversary treat right?

My February Days - Ramside Treehouse


Dining at Leila Lily's

After declaring Leila Lilys our new favourite bar in Newcastle following our cocktail crawl a few months ago I had been keen to return to try the food. This month I finally made a plan thanks to a too good to ignore 50% off dining deal and popped along one evening after work. I had been a little worried that the flamboyant styling of the restaurant (if you love pink neon lights and eye catching interiors then this is the place for you) would perhaps overshadow the food but was really impressed with their offering and now I'm desperate to return to try out their afternoon tea.

My February Days - Dining at Leila Lilys


Woods Coffee at Tynemouth

With so many amazing coffee shops along the North Tyneside coast I'm sure you can forgive us for taking so long to get ourselves to Woods Coffee, although now we have made our first visit we will most definitely be returning. What a beautiful place - we loved the industrial vibes, incredible looking cakes (I can't believe we didn't actually try one) and come Summer you will definitely find me lounging about in their courtyard, it's quite a sun trap!

My February Days - Woods Coffee


For more adventures from New Girl in Toon make sure you follow me on Instagram.  I post a new photo every day and you will find vlogs from my favourite northern adventures on my highlights.
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Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Spa Day and Afternoon Tea at Slaley Hall

This is an advertisement feature with Slaley Hall

Driving through the stunning Northumberland countryside in the sunshine, singing (pretty badly) along to my favourite tunes as I made my way to Slaley Hall for a Spa Day and Afternoon Tea, I honestly couldn't have been happier. Precious moments like these can be far and few between during the Winter months but when they happen wow do you feel happy to be alive!

If any of you have done the drive to Slaley Hall near Hexham you will know exactly what I'm talking about, the journey to the four star country hotel in Northumberland is spectacular with miles of rolling hills and beautiful countryside to admire as you make your way to the luxury hall. It had only been a month since my last visit for Festive Afternoon Tea but I was more than ready to get better acquainted and experience my first ever spa day there.

Spa Day and Afternoon Tea at Slaley Hall


The Spa at Slaley Hall 

Wanting a full day of relaxation we arrived at Slaley Hall at 10:30 am keen to indulge in a Sunday of wellbeing. Welcomed at the spa reception by the loveliest ladies we were given our forms to fill in and shown to the Relaxation Room.

Wow! I have been to a lot of these rooms in spas across the North East but this one was definitely up there with the very best. Walking in from the cold, the Relaxation Room was a bit like receiving a lovely warm and comforting hug. Decked out in squishy sofas and chairs with plenty of magazines to flick through, the room made me wish that my lounge at home could look like that. I could have quite happily spent my entire day in there if the thought of poolside lounging hadn't been tempting me out.

Spa Day at Slaley Hall
I'm not always great at carrying cash (just call me the Queen!) so when I'd realised that I hadn't got the required £1.00 for the locker in the changing room reception were happy to loan me a coin and then gave us a bundle of fluffy extras to ensure the perfect spa experience. Cosy dressing gowns, slippers and towels at the ready we did a quick change into our cozzies and made our way into the spa.

Priorities first, we decided to visit the Spa Café to get ourselves a drink to enjoy. The small kiosk offers a variety of light snacks, drinks and even tubs of Ben & Jerry's for the very best kind of poolside lounging. As well as loungers round the pool there are also plenty of tables and chairs by the café which is a great idea - working our way through a pot of tea whilst sitting at a table in our swimming costumes gave us all of the holiday vibes.

Spa at Slaley Hall


Once we'd finished gossiping over a cuppa it was time to explore the spa, starting off with a visit to the Sauna and Steam Room before taking a refreshing dip in the pool. We absolutely loved the design of the Spa at Slaley Hall, the rocks and foliage made it all seem pretty tropical and, perhaps the best part, there's a slide!

Yes the spa at Slaley Hall has a slide!

Spa Day Northumberland - Slaley Hall


Afternoon Tea at Slaley Hall 

Despite having over three hours to chill out in the spa the time seemed to vanish and before we knew it it was time for Afternoon Tea. We had the option of heading back to the changing rooms to put our clothes back on or dining in our dressing gowns and of course we went for the second option. There's something so lovely and cosy about eating Afternoon Tea in your dressing gown - it's the ultimate Sunday treat.

In the past I have been known to jump straight out of the pool dripping in water and then wrap myself up in my dressing gown but if you are planning on treating yourself to food in your gown I highly recommend attempting to keep it dry as you will be so thankful later.  I had been very careful to ensure that my dressing gown and spa slippers had been kept completely dry (a skill it's taken me years to acquire!) so all we had to do was change into dry swimsuits and we were good to go.

Slaley Hall - Afternoon Tea


There are three restaurants at Slaley Hall but if you are dining as part of a spa day your food will be served in Mr Kennedy's Brasserie which offers amazing views across the terrace (on the two occasions I've enjoyed Afternoon Tea there I've had some great squirrel spots). There were a few other tables dining in their gowns which meant we didn't feel awkward at all - it was a great touch ensuring that all of the spa guests were dining in the same area together. 

The presentation of Afternoon Tea at Slaley Hall is fantastic with a few different variations on offer. The gentleman's style Afternoon Tea has been renamed "The Bookcase" and comes presented on its own little shelf crammed with treats including Mini Steak & Ale Pie, Cheese Scones and Doughnuts & Dips.   If your appetite is a little smaller then "The Basket" is a perfect alternative, costing £10.50 per person it includes Warm Plain and Fruit Scones with Cream and Preserve with freshly made Madeleines.

We opted for the Traditional Afternoon Tea which is served in a beautiful chrome birdcage, costing £19.50 per person it was absolutely beautiful and laden with treats, deciding to add a tipple on the side we both enjoyed a glass of Prosecco for an extra £5.00 each, the perfect way to ensure our Afternoon Tea was extra special.

Slaley Hall - Afternoon Tea Cakestand
Starting off at the bottom we made our way through the sandwiches - Duck's Egg & Watercress Mayonnaise, Smoked Salmon & Prawn with Dill and Rocket "Salad Cream", English Salted Cucumber with Apple Crème Fraiche (it took us a while to work out what that one was!) and Poached Chicken with Lime & Coriander. Served on really lovely fresh bread they were absolutely delicious.

Moving on up it was time for the scones and we were thrilled to discover that they  had been served warm and we had a plain and fruit scone each. They were served with proper Cornish clotted cream and red berry preserve which I spread across each so generously I ended up with jam all over my hands!

Of course my favourite part of any Afternoon Tea is always the sweet tier and the cakes at Slaley Hall really hit the mark. Beautifully presented and delicious we were treated to Chocolate & Caramel Opera Cake with Crisp Brandy Snap Tuille, Macarons and Lemon & Poppy Seed Cake with Lemon Curd Cream. I'm still not sure how we managed to polish all of those off.

Slaley Hall - Afternoon Tea Cake


Treatments at Slaley Hall

As I'm always wanting a nap after afternoon tea I was more than ready to make my way from the brasserie back to the spa for a treatment.

There are nine beautiful treatment rooms at Slaley Hall and a huge variety of therapies to choose from with plenty of body treatments, signature spa rituals, nail treatments and facials. As partners of Elemis you are guaranteed the most luxurious experience if you book a treatment at the spa and as a huge fan of the skincare brand it was this collaboration that made me so excited to try Slaley Hall spa for the first time.

There's one treatment I can never resist - a hot stones massage. I've had it at multiple spas across the region, and if you've never tried one before please make it your 2020 resolution to book yourself in for one as they are honestly incredible.  The Hot Stones Massage at Slaley Hall costs £79.00 for a 50 minute full body massage using aromatherapy oils and and warm volcanic stones.

The Hot Stones Massage at Slaley Hall was absolutely beautiful, I felt so relaxed I easily could have drifted off and then spent the rest of the afternoon just dozing on the bed - it was just what I needed to beat the January blues. If you're looking for a way to treat yourself this Winter then I highly recommend booking yourself in for a treatment.

If you fancy experiencing a spa day at Slaley Hall yourself then there are some really fantastic packages to choose from, making Slaley one of the most affordable spas in the region. Some of my favourite offers include:

Elemis Experience with Afternoon Tea (Mon to Thurs £75.00 / Fri and Sun £85.00) - 1 x 50 minute Signature Spa Ritual with Afternoon Tea and a glass of fizz

Twilight Spa (Weds and Thurs from 6:00 pm £42.00) - Spa Access with a 3 course meal and a glass of bubbly

Spa with Me Experience (Mon to Thurs £134.00 for two / Fri and Sun £154.00 for two) - 1 x 50 minute Signature Spa Ritual each with Light Lunch

Click here to see the full list of Spa Day Packages available

I really loved my first ever spa experience at Slaley Hall and will definitely be returning next time I'm need of a pamper day.

Slaley Hall Northumberland


Find Slaley Hall at:

Hexham
Northumberland
NE47 0BX

01434 673 350

slaleyhallhotel.com/

We received a complimentary spa day for two including massages and afternoon tea in exchange for this honest review. 
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Wednesday, 5 February 2020

10 of The Best Valentines Ideas in the North East

Includes advertisement features with Wild Northumbria, Ramside Hall, Walwick Hall, Malmaison and Crab Manor 

I think many of us probably don't celebrate Valentines Day - overpriced chocolates, crowded restaurants and huge teddy bears don't really do it for us and I know most of you will agree. However, I do love an excuse to spend time with my husband so couldn't resist sharing the best Valentines ideas in the North East - not necessarily for February 14th, you can enjoy these with your love at any time!

10 of The Best Valentines Ideas in the North East


Snuggle on the Sofa at the Everyman Cinema

The Everyman Cinema in Newcastle has become our date night cinema of choice since it arrived in the Toon last year. Although not the cheapest place to catch the latest blockbuster it is definitely worth the extra pennies for a special occasion and ticks all of the boxes when it comes to the snuggle factor. The comfy sofas and cushions make it just as comfortable as your own home and the at seat waiter service means you can enjoy a very luxurious cinema experience. Be warned, once you've seen a film at Everyman it's very hard not to want to go every weekend!

Go Off Grid at Wild Northumbrian

I'm sure we can't be the only couple who sometimes ignore each other in favour of mindlessly scrolling on our phones. I dash out of work each night to get to Haymarket, just so I can meet my husband and we can sit together on the bus and ignore each other whilst playing on our phones. So perhaps the very best gift you can give yourselves this Valetnines is a chance to go off grid. Wild Northumbrian is the ultimate glamping escape in the wilds of Northumberland where you can shack up in a romantic yurt for two. With no phone signal and plenty of peace and quiet - cuddle up and enjoy an endless sky of stars as you cook out on the camp fire and spend time together with no distractions.

Read about our experience at Wild Northumbrian here.

Valentines Ideas in the North East - Wild Northumbrian


Dip in the Ramside Hall Private Infinity Pool

I am more than a little obsessed with Ramside Hall at the moment so when it came to sharing the best Valentines Ideas in the North East I just had to include them. Although the luxury hotel has so many options to make the perfect Valentines (have you seen their brand new Treehouse Suites?) it's the Private Infinity Pool at Ramside Spa that has me weak at the knees. Available to private hire you can enjoy uninterrupted chill time in your very own pool offering great views across the Ramside Hall estate. Available from only £30.00 for the two of you, if you're feeling extra fancy you can arrange to have yourself some nibbles from Fusion and a cheeky glass of Prosecco to enjoy poolside.

Indulge in Afternoon Tea at Walwick Hall

My husband had never had an afternoon tea until he met me and now he's quite the connoisseur of cake stands and it is one of our favourite things to do together. If you want some really lovely quality time with your other half, afternoon tea is one of the very best ways to spend an afternoon. We always have our best conversations whilst tucking into scones and sharing a teapot. One of the loveliest afternoon teas in the North East is at Walwick Hall - enjoy your cakestand in a beautiful lounge with views across Northumberland and the most incredible treats you'll ever experience. I promise the setting at Walwick Hall really does provide the most romantic afternoon tea for you and your love.

Read about our experience of afternoon tea at Walwick Hall here

Valentines Ideas in the North East - Walwick Hall




Enjoy a Bar Crawl round the Toon

With so many incredible new bars in Newcastle sometimes the simplest Valentines ideas are the best. If you're yet to discover some of the newest watering holes in the Toon surely a big booze up with your Valentines is the excuse you've been waiting for? We have ice-bars and gin emporiums, flower walls and swing seats and don't forget the old favourites. Nothing beats a jaunt around Newcastle indulging in some day drinking and with Dry January a distant memory it's time to discover a new favourite for Valentines.

Read about our latest bar crawl round Newcastle here

Go on a Llama Trek 

Taking a llama for a walk probably isn't the first thing that springs to mind when you're coming up with the best Valentines ideas but this is honestly one of the best things that Simon and I have ever done together and you really don't know romance until you've dashed up a hill with a llama. Once upon a Llama do organised treks up Catbells which offers the most incredible views across Derwent Water - very romantic! Although climbing up hills in the Lake District isn't the most relaxing of walks, you will definitely be united in your adventure and if you are feeling extra romantic you can share a llama with your love.

Read about our experience of Llama Trekking here

Valentines Ideas in the North East - Llama Trek




Hire Bikes at Wallington

If you're more of an adventurous couple then how about spending a Valentines inspired date cycling your way round the Dragon Cycle Trail at the National Trust estate at Wallington? Bike hire is available on site or you can take your own.  Spend your afternoon whizzing up and down the Northumberland hills, speeding your way through woodlands and admiring the beautiful views. For an extra bit of romance pack a picnic and make a day of it!

Read about our experience of the cycle trail at Wallington here

Splash out at Leila Lilys

I think we all have a list of fancier restaurants that we've been wanting to try for ages but have been putting off, I love that Valentines presents the perfect excuse to splash out and finally book a table somewhere lovely. My current obsession is Leila Lilys and since trying the food for the first time recently I have not stopped dreaming about a return visit. Perfectly presented dishes of delicious food in the most romantic setting, I can't think of anywhere better to celebrate Valentines.

Valentines Ideas in the North East - Leila Lilys


Escape to The Crab & Lobster

A lovely hotel stay is our favourite way to spend time together and with so many beautiful places in the region to spend the night it can be tough to choose where to head. One of our favourite discoveries of last year was The Crab & Lobster in Yorkshire who have the most beautiful suites with private hot tubs if you really want to treat yourselves. With great decor, an incredible restaurant and a hidden bar tap (yes it really does exist!) Crab Manor is one of the most beautiful places to spend time away with your partner this Valentines.

Read about our experience of the Crab & Lobster here

Have Brunch at Malmaison

If you're a couple who have a shared passion for food then I need to point you in the direction of Sunday Brunch at The Malmaison on the Newcastle Quayside. Enjoy a "help yourself" feast at the Chef's Table with mouth watering appetisers including fresh salads, platters of seafood and charcuterie boards before settling down for a brunch dish, main or Sunday Roast. Share spoons and enjoy the incredible Sticky Toffee Pudding or treat yourself to bottomless Prosecco.

Valentines Ideas in the North East - Brunch at Malmaison


I hope this has inspired you to plan something a little different for Valentines this year and acts as a reminder that spending time with your loved one isn't just something for 14 February.

This blog includes past collaborations with restaurants and we enjoyed complimentary overnight breaks with Wild Northumbria and Crab Manor, a spa day at Ramside Hall and brunch at Malmaison.  
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Friday, 31 January 2020

My January Days

This blog includes an advertisement feature with Calendar Club

We are finally here.  The last day of January! This month has definitely felt at least 75 days long and the wait for pay day has been pretty painful but we have made it and with February just round the corner I am living for the arrival of Spring. Whilst it may still feel a way off yet I have already spotted some greenery poking up from the ground and it wont be long until the flowers are in full bloom.

Here's what didn't make the blog this month.

Winter Walking at Hadrian's Wall

If you truly want to blow away the cobwebs in the Winter months may I recommend a visit to Hadrian's Wall, perhaps the coldest part of Northumberland but I promise you won't even care once you see the incredible views. We ventured to Walltown Crags where, despite the sunshine, it was so cold we had tears rolling down our cheeks.  This section of Hadrian's Wall is really well preserved and with dramatic scenery as far as the eye can see, some say it is the most spectacular part of the Wall.  I think I'd have to agree.

January Days - Walltown Craggs


Breakfast at Cake Stories

Who knew Cake Stories do more than cakes? This month was the first time I'd ever been and not just automatically gone straight to the cake counter. Who can blame me when the cakes looks so good but next time you visit make sure you take a glance at their breakfast menu - it is definitely worth a look.  I went for the "Posh Beans on Toast" covered in cheese - talk about the ultimate Winter comfort food.





The Calendar Club Challenge 

We've kicked off our year by taking on a new challenge.  This year I'm collaborating with Calendar Club on their Calendar Club Challenge and I'd love if you all joined me.  I will be visiting the location pictured in my travel calendar each month and I'm so excited to embrace the challenge and hopefully discover some new places in the region. Our calendar is the North East Calendar (you can buy it here for £3.59 if you fancy visiting the same places) and the January challenge started with a visit to Prudhoe Castle, somewhere we'd never been before. Unfortunately it was closed for Winter but we can't wait to return when it reopens in a few months time. Calendar Club are offering a prize every month to the person with the most creative photo taken at their calendar location so if you want to join in make sure you share your photo on Instagram or Facebook and use the hashtag #calendarclubchallenge.

January Days - Calendar Club Challenge


Seaside Favourites at Fisherman's Bay

This month I finally tried Whitley Bay's newest "chippy". You'll find Fisherman's Bay on East Parade overlooking the sea and with takeout at the front and a lovely little restaurant at the back it's a great spot to indulge in a seaside favourite.  You'll find all of the classics on the menu as well as flame grilled burgers and a "little fishermen" kids menu. I tucked into some damn good cod and chips (with bread and butter of course) and can't wait to go back and try more soon.  We really are spoilt for choice at the coast now.



My Micro Lottie

I am more than a little obsessed with Aspinal of London and had my eyes on this beauty for quite a while. I knew the Micro Lottie in Mustard Quilted Velvet would be the perfect addition to my wardrobe so as soon as I spotted it had gone down in the January sales by almost £200.00 I couldn't resist. I got to take it out on its first outing within days as it perfectly matched my jumpsuit for a family wedding. I love when patience pays off.

January Days - Aspinal of London


Lunch at The Sill

After months and months of talking about it we finally visited The Sill on Hadrian's Wall. The National Landscape Discovery Centre features exhibits about the Northumberland National Park and Hadrian's Wall, has a shop specialising in local crafts and produce and offers probably the best cafe views you will find in Northumberland.  Maybe I'm biased but lunch is so much better Northumbrian style.  We enjoyed these massive Northumberland Cheese Focaccias with views of Hadrian's Wall at Once Brewed, the cafe at the Sill and it was the loveliest experience. Once we'd finished we headed off on a walk, assisted by the lovely people at The Sill who gave us loads of advice and maps to point us in the direction of the type of walk we were after. If you're new to walking the Wall I highly recommend popping in to The Sill before your walk for some advice on the best spots to go, they really were so helpful.

January Days - The Sill


For more adventures from New Girl in Toon make sure you follow me on Instagram. I post a new photo every day and you will find vlogs from my favourite northern adventures on my highlights.
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Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Cash for Old Clothes! Creating a more Sustainable Wardrobe with Enviroclothes

This is an advertisement feature with Enviroclothes

What is it about New Year that has me reaching for the feather duster and desperately burying my head into cupboards and drawers? There's something about January that always makes me want to have a huge clear out and having spent the majority of New Year's Day tidying the kitchen I knew that next on my hit list had to be the disaster area that is my bedroom wardrobe. So when Enviroclothes got in touch to ask if I fancied a clear out, I decided to challenge myself to create a more sustainable wardrobe (with the added incentive of getting cash for old clothes) it was my perfect opportunity to get started on a major January tidy.

Cash for Old Clothes!  Creating a more Sustainable Wardrobe with Enviroclothes
Over the last year or so I have learnt a lot about my personal style and how to maintain a more streamlined wardrobe which has seen me buying far less clothes and working hard to choose outfits that compliment my figure and lifestyle. That said, I have still made mistakes and when it came to my yearly clear out I had a few things that desperately needed a new home.

With capsule wardrobes becoming more and more popular it's perhaps no surprise that 350,000 tonnes of clothes find their way into landfill each year - a statistic that I'm sure we can all agree is pretty horrifying. Like many others, I am becoming more and more aware of the effects of my actions so when it comes to clearing out my wardrobe I want to ensure that I am getting rid of clothes in a sustainable way.

Cash for Old Clothes! Sustainable Wardrobe with Enviroclothes


So I was very happy to discover Enviroclothes, a local company who believe that unwanted clothes deserve a second chance at life. Offering the chance for your preloved items to be reloved, Enviroclothes have made getting rid of your clothes environmentally friendly with just a few simple steps. With an added cash incentive to finally tackle the clear out, there really is no excuse not to have a huge tidy.

Step One

Perhaps the most fun part of a clear out is pulling everything out of your wardrobe to discover what you actually have in there. Although it's messy I recommend getting every item off the rail so you can see all of your clothes properly.  It's incredible how many clothes you will find that you'd completed forgotten about. I've now got myself some great new outfits for work, made up entirely of things from my wardrobe that I didn't know I had.

When deciding which items to keep in my closet I made sure that everything I own creates a variety of different outfits, suits my personal style and compliments my lifestyle and then sorted my rail into something a little more manageable with jeans, work outfits, shirts, skirts and tops all sorted together to make life a bit easier.

It is definitely worth taking the time to properly organise your clothes as it is so much easier to get ready in the morning when you can just grab and go. Taking forgotten items like t-shirts out of drawers and into your wardrobe instead means you're more likely to see them and wear them and I try to put as much as I can into my closet rather than my drawers so that I can really see what I'm working with.

Creating a sustainable wardrobe is all about maximising the clothes that you have, taking good care of them to make sure that they last and ensuring that every single item you own you are wearing. Having a good sort out is definitely a great first step in ensuring your wardrobe is working for you and is sustainable.

Sustainable Wardrobe with Enviroclothes


Step Two

Once I'd sorted out everything that I wanted to keep and it was back in my wardrobe I had a good pile of things to pass to Enviroclothes. They accept good quality adult clothes, children's clothes, baby clothes, swimwear, bras, shoes, accessories and stuffed toys. Items that are worn out, damaged or dirty won't be accepted so I made sure that once I'd decided to get rid of somethingI gave it a quick inspection to ask myself if the quality of the item was good enough for someone else to reuse.

Before you get carried away diving into every drawer in your house, it's worth knowing that school uniforms, branded work or sports team uniforms, household textiles and underwear aren't accepted by Enviroclothes.

Step Three

With my pile of unwanted items ready all I needed to do was bag them up.  We had decided to visit the drop off point in Cramlington but they also have points at Team Valley and Durham if those are closer to you.  If you decide to take your bags to one of the drop off points there's no need to book an appointment, just turn up during their opening hours.

If you aren't near a collection point or don't have the time or means to travel you can also book a collection online here.  Simply type in your collection address and then select a pick up date, a 2 hour time slot and an Enviroclothes van will pop round to weigh your bags give you some cash and relieve you of your unwanted items.

Sustainable Wardrobe - Enviroclothes


Step Four

Simon and I had both been through our wardrobes and ended up pulling together two pretty large bags full of unwanted clothes - whether they were too small, no longer practical for our wardrobes or had perhaps never really suited us in the first place, they were all bagged up and we drove them the short way to Cramlington where we parked in one of the handy parking spots right outside the Enviroclothes drop off point.

The Enviroclothes kiosk was really welcoming and the ladies serving us were lovely - we had a good natter about some of the clothes that we had brought with us (I suddenly spotted that Simon had included a shirt that he'd worn on our first date so that was quite a talking point!) Everything was really tidy, clean and well organised so the whole process only took a few minutes.

Capsule Wardrobe - Enviroclothes


All of our items were checked before being placed into a large container on the scales. In a matter of minutes everything had been weighed and sorted and we were being handed over our cash. Enviroclothes buy your clothes for 40p per kg and pay you on the spot for your items. We were really chuffed to be going home £6.90 richer and with a much more manageable wardrobe.

As well as earning yourself a little extra cash there is also the option to donate all or part of your money to local charity North East Hearts With Goals who place life saving defibrillators into schools, colleges and sports clubs across the region.

Enviroclothes North East
Going into the New Year with a tidy wardrobe really is the best feeling, getting ready in the morning without having to hunt through a pile of unwanted clothes makes everything far easier and it's incredible how having a tidy space can make so many other areas of your life seem so much more manageable.

If you're planning your own clear out and want even more pence for your kg, Enviroclothes are offering New Girl in Toon readers a special promotion - quote "NEWGIRLINTOON50" to receive 50p per kg up to 11 February 2020.

I'm going into 2020 with just the clothes that I love and I LOVE that!

Enviroclothes North East Clothes Dontation


Find Enviroclothes at:

Durham: Arnison Retail Park (next to KFC), DH1 5GB
Gateshead: Retail World, Team Valley (Outside Next) NE11 0BD
Cramlington: Manor Walks (outside Gala Bingo), Forum Way, NE23 6UY

All units are open Monday to Saturday 9:00 am - 5:00 pm and on Sundays 10:00 am - 4:00 pm.

To get 50p per kg for your clothes quote "NEWGIRLINTOON50"

enviroclothes.co.uk/

0191 265 5551

This is a sponsored feature with Enviroclothes. 
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