Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Surprise Baby Shower at Santana's Whickham.

I don’t know about you, but any excuse to eat cake and I’m there. At the weekend we planned a surprise baby shower for my cousin Danni who’s expecting a baby boy. (In a matter of weeks really) Just the initial going to Next and looking at all of the cute baby clothes we could get her was enough to make me giddy.

We booked Santana’s in Whickham which is a pizzeria and specialises in all things Italian. It’s nestled right on the high street among the classical shops and businesses nearby. The d├ęcor inside was minimalist, with flashes of black and red dotted on the tables.

A spot was secured right next to the window which was ideal as we were making demands for extra space and tables as soon as we arrived to prep everything. The staff were more than happy to oblige, so if you’re on the lookout for restaurant space for a special occasion try them.

Everything was blue, blue and then some more blue. Balloons and banners were popping out from everywhere (well within the vicinity of our ever expanding corner.) We set up a table nearby with all of the extras. Everyone had a baby bottle filled with sweets. There were cakes with babies faces on them. Goody bags were made by Do is a Favour which everyone loved. They had little baby soaps and sweets and some good old fashioned sashes with nicknames on them. They were a nice touch. I may be biased as they're made by my brother's girlfriend Lorii, but check them out for yourself.

My mam made a little flower box filled with blue and white roses. Just something different, but it really brought everything together. She's just started a business specialising in artificial flower arrangments. (Anytyne Flowers) With a Facebook page coming very soon. I promise this isn't a post just trying to get you all to buy things. It was just a right old family affair with everyone getting involved. Plus people have exciting projects developing and I wanted to tell the World. (Or the few of you that read this)

I was in charge of games. Having never been to a baby shower before I wasn't sure what to do. After a few hours on Pinterest it was like I was the special chosen one. This role was made for me and I couldn't wait for everyone to have some fun.

We made babies out of playdoh and got the waitress, (who by this point was probably sick of us) to pick a winner. I say babies, but there was one that looked like a turtle, piglet, an old man and even some questionable looking private parts. (I'll say no more.)

Next on the agenda was 'Guess the Baby Food'. Yes it really was as disgusting as it sounds. I tried one and that was more than enough for me. Just smelling them in the pots brought back so many memories though.

Last but not least was 'Preggers or Porn' as you can imagine this one went down a storm. Everyone wrote down their answers, thankfully. I mean it's a family business. It was hilarious non the less though. Definite hit for any of you out there wanting to plan a shower.

Food wise, we all went for the lunchtime special which was three courses for £3.95. It was such a bargain. I had potato skins for starters and then half pizza (cheese and mushroom) half pasta (tomato tagliatelle) which tasted amazing. I'm pleased I opted for a bit of both as there's no way I could have eaten a full pizza to myself. Everyone else had the same idea too.

It's a set menu, but you can order some other things for an extra £3 which is nothing really. I got a couple of lemonades and my meal didn't even come to a tenner. 

The food was great, the company even more so. It was such a beautiful little afternoon just chatting with the other ladies (we try to be) and having a laugh being silly and playing games. If this is what I've been missing out on then boy I need to go to another baby shower sharpish.

P.S. Sorry I've been gone for a while. I thought I might be done with blogging, but it seems I can't let go just yet. I have so many posts up my sleeve so keep an eye out. 

Friday, 13 May 2016

A Day Spent in Corbridge, Northumberland.

Corbridge has been on my list of places to visit for as long as I can remember. There is just something about the quaint village that speaks to me. Maybe it's the beautiful 17th-century Corbridge Bridge, the River Tyne seamlessly flowing beneath it. Plus I’ve heard that the legendary curry train is coming back too. That’s definitely worth a try at some point.

Myself and my buddy Nic jumped on a train from Newcastle and set on the 30 minute (or so) picturesque journey. We passed many places on the way that looked oh so gorgeous from the carriage windows. 

It's not a very big place. (At least the part we were exploring didn't seem so anyways.) There was a nice chilled, relaxed atmosphere. You could easily have a good wander around and not feel bombarded. I could imagine the place to be heaving on a sunny weekend. 

I immediately picked up on the gorgeous little houses, each with their own muted toned door and window boxes brimming with flowers. There were cottage-style gardens and grand looking buildings.

We pottered around for a bit just getting our bearings and looking around before stopping for lunch. There were a few tea rooms, we went to a place called Tea and Tipple.

Inside was cosy and inviting. They had amazing old fashioned wooden seats and a map on one wall. I got a nice big mug of hot chocolate. To eat, we both went for a mozzarella and sun-dried tomato with pesto open sandwich.

It was so tasty. The salad alone with the balsamic vinegar dressing was top notch. It has to be up there with one of the best sarnies I've ever had. We followed it with two big slabs of cake, blueberry and lemon and good old fashioned carrot cake. 

You know sometimes you can be out somewhere, order cake and it tastes a little stale? Well not in this case. They were both moist and spongy and just bursting with flavour. I've never had blueberry and lemon together before and not to quote Peter Kay but it was a 'taste sensation'.

The carrot cake was just as nice, the strong cinnamon taste coming though, pistachio nuts resting on the cream cheese frosting. Just thinking about it makes me hungry. We definitely couldn't finish them both, but we had a good try. 

It was £10 each for one of the best sandwich/cakey/hot chocolate combos I've ever had. Such a bargain.

After lunch we decided to do a proper bit of exploring. We went into St. Andrews Church. We had the place to ourselves. I love looking inside churches ad cathedrals, they are just so calming and magnificent. There's always amazing tapestries and architecture.

Pretty impressive stained glass windows adorned the walls. On a sunny day (like when we went) the light catches them at just the right angle, making them come alive.

Shopping was next on the agenda. If you like a spot of it yourself, there are an abundance of quirky shops. Lots of galleries and crafty type places too. A few I loved were Corbridge Garden Room and Acanthus which had lots of chic trinkets and premium beauty products among other things. Alex Clark @Corbridge  was a shop come gallery featuring cute designs of animals. I couldn't leave without getting something. It's a cow card that's currently hanging on my noticeboard.

The gardens of Corbridge Parish Hall are not to be missed. On a lovely spring day it would be rude not to pay a visit. We sat on one of the nearby benches and admired the flowers.

They were designed for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and are part of the work by the Corbridge in Bloom group.

No trip to Corbridge is complete without a stroll along the river bank. After grabbing some ice creams from Il Piccolo we headed straight over to enjoy the rest of the sun before returning home.

The place is a feast for the senses. There's a real sense of community and village life. There's shopping and sights and nature thrown in too. You definitely won't get bored that's for sure.

Have any of you been to Corbridge, what would you recommend doing?

Thursday, 12 May 2016

High Force Waterfall in the Heart of the Durham Dales.

On a bank holiday Monday, (really, that’s how long it’s taking me to put this post up. I’ve had such shoddy internet connection lately, I’ve all but given up.) there’s no better place to be then somewhere dosed in nature. Well that, or a beer garden. I jumped in the car with the fam (I’m getting too cool for my own good these days) and we headed on the hour and a bit drive to High Force Waterfall.

High Force is the biggest waterfall in England, located at Forest-in-Teesdale right in the Durham Dales. The River Tees is at the heart of the waterfall and you can see it gather before falling 21ft below. There are lush countryside surrounding the falls (Upper Teesdale) and it is also situated in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Beauty. Which basically means it's a sight to behold. It won a certificate of excellence from Trip Advisor last year, so you can bet its a big deal.

Think meandering little paths and bridges going through little forested areas, thundering waves crashing along on one side, high cliff edges filled with different coloured trees and foliage. Rock formations and carved names on the other.

When we got there the weather was quite cloudy and overcast. (you know what that can do to the precious blogging pictures) after a while though the sun started to make an appearance and everything was illuminated. It made the falls seem more magical and lustrous.

We walked along the footpath, you could stop at various points to get the perfect snapshot. When you first turn the corner and see the glimpse of the falling water its quite spectacular. I really was like a little giddy kid the closer we got. 

You can go down some questionable steps (A bit too narrow and steep for my liking) and go right into the heart of it all. I’m not talking Niagra Falls, little boat through them, but right down next to them. You can feel the spray hitting you in the face. I felt connected with all of the other keen nature goers. Lots had dogs and walking boots on, It’s probably like the moment a man with a really great beard passes another man with a rocking face fuzz. They just connect.

We sat on the rocks for a moment and just felt at one. Well I tried to anyways. I kept getting distracted by all of the pretty sights around, my phone going click click click.

There were also stairs leading to the top of the waterfalls. One side of me was screaming to go up and explore, the other, scared crap-less of heights was a bit more reserved. Unfortunately the gate was locked. Some brave individuals went up anyways, but we aren’t rule breakers. (I so want to be though.)

We headed back through the forest and onto another section of the tour. Those steps leading down were even steeper than the other ones. The route took you through fields beside a little flowing river, up over a bridge and then it was time to start the accent up into the cliffs. (You know those ones from earlier.) Well we may not have been able to access the waterfalls from above at the other side, but that’s exactly where this path was leading. After a 15/20 minute walk or so the breath-taking falls came back into view. 

You could go right onto the edge and see them so clearly, strong and poignant. I didn’t even give my fears a chance to settle in. I wasn’t going to come all of this way without going up and getting a proper look. If I thought they looked good from down below, it was just truly amazing seeing them from way up high.

We carried on walking until we were practically on top of the falls. You could see the little people below, getting spray in their faces no doubt.

After all of the excitement and walking, we headed back to the car with heavy legs and hungry bellies. The only way back is following the same route. It may take a little while, but it's definitely worth it.

It was such a great experience. I love nature as you’ve probably already guessed, but there’s just something else about water. Stick me beside a lake or a little trickling stream and I could sit there all day just listening to the sounds, watching it glisten. I don’t know if it’s because I’m curious as to what’s under the surface, but it just seems so mythical almost .

As you've probably gathered there's quite a bit of walking to do, so make sure you wear comfy footwear. We only explored a small part of the beautiful forest, so you could spend a good day here or longer.

There's a car park which is £2 per car. There's lots of picnic tables about, toilets and a gift shop. So you could definitely have a little rest stop. The High Force Hotel nearby could also be worth a look.

The falls are £1.50 to see per adult, which isn't bad considering how much land there is to explore. At the moment they are open 10am - 5pm (last entry half an hour before closing)

It's one for the bucket list that's for sure, and now I can tick it off. Will you be joining me?

Have any of you explored the beauty of High Force?

Friday, 6 May 2016

Brown's Salt House Cullercoats.

When I found myself in the Cullercoats area with a hungry belly and a sky threatening rain, I was in need of food and shelter. Luckily I stumbled upon Brown's Salt House. I've passed it on a couple of occasions but never really knew what lay beyond it's doors. Right on the sea front with a sign making me feel all kinds of curious, I just had to pop in with my pal Nic to see for myself.

Inside it's like a pub come cosy little hub. One side is filled with the usual tables and chairs and the other side houses comfy sofas and armchairs. It's a mixture of shabby and modern with just a hint of groovy sixties vibe from their stylish brown and white patterned wallpaper. 

The warm neutral tones and different coloured wood harmonises with the soft lighting fixtures and the various bits and pieces placed throughout. One thing I loved in particular was a giant whale floating on one of the back walls. It felt very seaside-like but subtle, if that makes sense.

They had a few menus and a specials board. We both went for sweet potato burgers. I wasn't too keen on mine, I think I've just become a bit too accustomed to vegetarian type burgers and now they don't seem so special to me. It was the first time Nic had tried one and she loved it. So maybe it was just me. (I also forgot to take pictures, which is very unlike me.)

They did have so many vegetarian things on their menu which I was really impressed with. Some of the paninis like Somerset brie with portobello mushroom and pesto and melting mozarella with pesto infused vegetables sounded amazing, and I wish I had of went for one of those instead. 

There was lots of different touristy type leaflets about and magazines like Living North and The Crack. It was great just sitting for a while and having a little read as the rain came pouring down outside.

I've been very into planning little adventures and places to go, as has Nic, so this was the perfect opportunity to do so, and I loved it. We now have plenty of wishlists and runaway thoughts to focus on.

We got cake for dessert. I mean it would be rude not to. They had a cabinet filled with a variety of cakey treats. Nic went for carrot (good choice) and I went for a coconut and raspberry slice. (THE BEST CHOICE) 

Oh My! It tasted just beyond words if I'm being honest. I'm biased because even a sniff of coconut anywhere and I'm sold. It was just so sweet and delicious and I could have went straight back up and asked for another slice.

The bill came to around about £30 including drinks and things. Our burgers were nearly £10 alone. Like I say I wasn't very impressed with mine. It just seemed a bit dry and nothing special if I'm being honest. Next time I'll try a panini for nearly half the price.

 The cake was purely amazing and redeemed the whole thing for me though. Brown's Salt House had a lovely atmosphere. It was nice and quiet too. The staff were lovely and attentive and I mean you get free magazines to read too. What's not to love? We had a seat right at the window and you could see the sea from where we were sitting (minus the cold harsh winds and spray)

I'd definitely return, and it's worth checking out if you haven't done so already.

What's your favourite dish from Brown's Salt House?