The Vintage Powder Room – Afternoon Tea

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When I saw Chloe’s (New Girl in Toon) tweet asking if any bloggers were interested in an afternoon tea meet-up, obviously I replied with YES! The meet-up was on Sunday and there were 6 of us in total at The Vintage Powder Room and Tea Shop (which is on Park View, Whitley Bay). I’d heard of this place from a friend who’d visited, but I hadn’t yet had the chance to visit.

I’ll admit I was a bit nervous/excited as I hadn’t met any other NE bloggers – turns out I needn’t have worried as everyone was so lovely and I had such a great time chatting (and eating cake/drinking tea). I’ve been tweeting Chloe for a bit now but hadn’t spoken to anyone else, I’d just been getting on with my little blogventures without even thinking about looking for other NE bloggers. Thank goodness that changed & thanks to Chloe for organising a great meet-up.

The Vintage Powder Room opened in October 2013, they offer hair and beauty treatments and are also a tea room with a great menu. Afternoon Tea was £12 per person and well worth every penny. Lou and Michael were busy setting up our table when I arrived and a few of the girls were in the powder room having some beauty treatments. Chloe was getting her hair curled and Kayleigh was having her nails painted. We moved through to the tea room after the treatments were done and the table just looked amazing. Anyone who has been with me on a blogventure will know how long it takes me to photograph everything before letting anyone touch their food…. well imagine 6 bloggers at an afternoon tea :) I LOVED THIS. We had finger sandwiches, scones, cream meringues, victoria sponge cake, pink lemonade (my favourite), tea and coffee. The time just flew by and Lou & Michael were pottering away in the background, bringing us more tea and hot water. The food was delicious and beautifully displayed. The Victoria Sponge was most definitely the highlight – you’ll see what I mean soon. I can’t believe I had to leave a big wedge of it. Poor show from me. Photo time!

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From left to right, Rachel, Kayleigh, Emma, Me, Lisa, Chloe.

I’d love to know if you’ve visited The Vintage Powder Room, or if after this post you plan to! I already have a 2nd visit pencilled in… and it’s soon!

Half a day in Harrogate

I think I’ve mentioned a few times that we went on some day trips last week as we were both off work and my mother-in-law is visiting from India. On Monday we decided to go to Harrogate and York for the day, with both of our mums! Having not been to either, I was very excited. York will be featured in a post of its own.

Our first stop was Mother Shipton’s, in Knaresborough. I’d never heard of this place, but it’s somewhere Ankush had heard about from his parents as they’d visited 20 years ago. Mother Shipton was a Yorkshire witch who prophesied about the future (including the end of the world… cheery). Within the park there are two wells, the Petrifying Well and the Wishing Well. The Petrifying Well turns objects placed in it, to stone – there are lots of stony teddy bears hanging there, some socks, underpants and a bicycle. There is also a tiny Wishing Well, within a cave… Of course I made a wish, but I won’t be telling anyone what it was ;)  The park is lovely, it was a leisurely walk to the Wells with lots of benches along the way if you fancied a break. It was £6 each to get in and £2 for all day parking. We were there for about 2 hours, not sure we could have stayed much longer – unless we’d brought a picnic! There was an adventure playground for kids, a tea room and a small museum and gift shop. Small is quite generous, it was tiny (but there was a Zoltar Fortune Teller Machine, so it’s ok). Opposite the park is a pub called the End of The World pub – so named because one of Mother Shipton’s prophecies was that the end of the world would come when that building fell to the ground for the 3rd time. It has collapsed twice. YIKES. Thanks to my friend Clare for that story – she spent lots of time here as a kid visiting Knaresborough.

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Next stop was Bettys in Harrogate for lunch. Obviously everyone has already been here, or heard of it at least! We were really ready for lunch by the time we got there, and luckily the queue wasn’t too long. We got a parking space right outside and only had to wait for 15 minutes before we were seated. We got a table by the fireplace (it wasn’t fired up, of course) in the Veranda Cafe. I ordered the English Breakfast – I will just show you photos of the rest of the orders. With it being lunchtime, there wasn’t a spare table for more than 2 minutes. Despite this the service was quick, friendly and helpful. There were so many people working, they made it look easy.

After our mains, of course we had to have tea and cake! I ordered the Strawberry Paris-Brest and the tea room blend. My mum doesn’t drink tea (yet I can’t live without it), she had coffee and said it was delicious. We couldn’t leave without buying a box of teabags for the house. The queue in the shop was huge, clearly everyone else wanted to buy teabags too… or cakes.

Photo time? I hope you’re not hungry!

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Have you been to Harrogate? I need to go back to look around properly, because we literally parked, ate and left to get to York in good time to see everything there.

Cook House – Ouseburn

Cook House

When I read that Anna (NE food blogger The Grazer) was opening up her own kitchen in Ouseburn I knew I would have to make a trip down there ASAP.

Cook House is situated on Ouse St and opened its pretty doors to the public on Wednesday 6th August. As I had this week off it was the perfect time to visit. Open weekdays for breakfast and lunch from 8:30 until 15:30, the menu changes daily with tasty, local, seasonal food on offer. When we arrived at 9:30 there were other diners enjoying the sunshine sat out front and also at the back where there’s a lovely decking area and garden.

Mum and I both ordered toast – I knew I wanted honey on mine, made by the Ouseburn bees (I KNOW!), mum had hers with homemade strawberry jam and both of us ordered pour over coffee (coffee is from Ouseburn Coffee Company – my favourite). Delicious!

This venture is being executed entirely by Anna and from the little chat I had with her it’s obvious that she is so passionate about it. I can’t believe she’s doing this on her own without looking remotely flustered. Impressive to say the least. Anna was preparing for the lunchtime crowd and told me she liked to be ready for about 11am. With a small yet deliciously varied menu, I love how many veggie options are on offer – everything sounds so tempting. On today’s lunch menu there was:

Salt Beef Sandwich with Homemade Sweet Cucumber Pickle and Mustard
Roast Cauliflower Salad with Almonds, Celery & Pomegranate
Feta, Courgette, Pine nut and Lambs Leaf Salad
Sweet Potato Salad with Ginger, Pecans and Herbs

Erm, can we say YUM? If I was popping back for lunch I’d go with the sweet potato salad. Mum was very interested in the roast cauliflower salad. The prices are very reasonable in my opinion too, our breakfast came to £8. For lunch, it’s £5 for the salt beef sandwich, and the salads are £4 or £6 depending on if you fancy a smaller/bigger portion. I’m always happy to pay a bit more for good local produce and I don’t think these prices are high enough (which I told Anna too!).

Cook House is an experience not to miss, built from 2 converted shipping containers (amazing) and located right on the Ouseburn River (near The Toffee Factory), there are fresh flowers on each table, with bowls of fruit and little framed pictures all over the walls. There’s so much to look at and the colour scheme just happens to be my favourite.

Having had a nose on the website: cookhouse.org, there’ll be a series of supperclubs from The Grazer and other chefs & there’s also going to be a Food School programme if you’re interested (I am!) with the first being a demonstration from Charlotte’s Butchery. Keep an eye on the website for ticket info.

I took so many photos while we were there, it’s too photogenic not to, but don’t worry, I won’t subject you to all of them… (I love the space invaders painted by Anna – during The Late Shows the containers were turned into a video game arcade – gutted I missed this!)

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For a bite of something tasty to eat and somewhere super cool to hang out, pop down to Cook House. If you decide to visit I’d love to hear your thoughts. I LOVE it and will definitely be back to sample the lunch menu, perhaps followed by a slice of cake for dessert…

As always, thanks for reading!

Day Trip to Durham

I’ve got this week off work, so does my husband… also, my lovely mother-in-law is visiting from India. What better reason is there for going on some little day trips? I’ll post each trip separately, otherwise this will be at least 10 million pages long.

Saturday’s thunderstorm got in the way of our trip to Corbridge, the rain was ridiculous so I didn’t take my camera out (we’ll just have to go back another day) but did manage to buy some cute bits ‘n’ bobs from a cook-shop.

On Sunday we went to Durham, saw the Cathedral, sauntered leisurely around the pretty streets and drank coffee at Flat White Durham. There was a food market with lots of vendors set up – the smell of food was too tempting and we had to have a sausage sandwich. (HAD TO. Ha ha). We also met the fluffiest (and happiest) 3 year old dog called Paddy. (Love you Paddy). We used to come to Durham every few months, but hadn’t been for over a year so it was lovely to be back.

Flat White’s was recommended to me by the barista at Harvest (read my post about Harvest here). As they serve Ouseburn Coffee, I knew I’d have a nice time, I had no idea just how lovely this place was going to be! Tucked away off the street, it’s quiet, quaint and oozes character. The customer service was brilliant, really friendly but still sincere (oh and service with a sense of humour is my FAVOURITE).

Ready for some photos? The Dragon Noodle man asked me to take his photo, FYI.

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and now for some photos of Flat White!

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Where are your favourite places to go in Durham?

Why I write a blog…

This week my credibility came under fire from someone online, asking why I was conversing with a company I planned to feature on my blog… Without knowing anything about the situation, this person jumped to the conclusion that I was blogging about places with the intention of receiving no bill at the end of a meal or for better customer service. Normally, I turn up, take photos, ask a few questions and write my blog. This has been the case for every single blog post I’ve written. In this situation, I was meant to attend the opening night of a venue and hadn’t been able to go, so had publicly tweeted asking if an email had been received, and so it began…

I’d like to set the record straight. I do not blog for free meal tickets. Since I started this in April, I have paid for everything featured on my blog (with the exception of the Paint Work Shop at Penny Pieces, which I disclosed, and the opening of Harwood Health & Spa which I was invited to). I blog because I love writing, I love photography and I LOVE finding new places to eat/drink coffee/spend time with friends. I’d been thinking about it for a long time, but having received the camera of my dreams (Nikon D3200), it felt like the right time to start.

None of the bloggers I have spoken to are in it for ‘free stuff’ so I felt quite offended that someone would think this of me. I would always disclose if I’d received something for free, or if a company had asked me to feature them… but it’s always been the other way around. I’ve spent a lot of money and time (which I am not complaining about btw, I’ve done it because I wanted to) and I’m very proud of my blog, so it felt extremely personal when it was implied that I was being dishonest.

I’ve always loved photography and the first blog I ever read was “I Keep a Diary” – a photo diary of Brian Battjer’s life. I started my blog in April 2014 and really wanted to focus on the photography – which is why I took a 6 week digital photography course in June. I can clearly see how my photography skills have improved since I started blogging, how my writing is flowing better than ever and on top of all that I really look forward to discovering new places or just writing about places I already love. I also love the connections you make with other bloggers, I’m going to my first meet-up in a few weeks time which I am super duper excited about!

The moral of this story – even though it’s almost impossible… don’t take what someone says to you on the internet, to heart. What matters to me is that my friends (IRL and online), family and blog followers know that I’m an honest, credible blogger.

Have you had to encounter anything like this? I’d love to hear about it and how you dealt with it. :)

(I can’t believe there are no photos in this post…)

A Weekend in Windermere

A month or so ago, Ankush and I went to one of our favourite places for the weekend. The Lake District is only 1.5 hours away from our house so it’s silly we don’t visit more often.

As it was the weekend of the Great North Swim, most places were already fully booked but we managed to get a room in a guest house in Windermere. Oakthwaite is a relatively new guest house (I actually can’t remember how long it’s been open – I didn’t write it down) and is just stunning. The guest house has two double bedrooms – which I didn’t realise at the time of booking – so is perfect if you’re going away with another couple/friends/family as you literally have the place to yourselves. Breakfast was continental style and the location was so tranquil, the view of the the large garden from our bedroom was beautiful too. Deborah was very accommodating and friendly, I’d love to go back and stay again! I’m keeping this post as short as possible because I realise I go on and on sometimes… (BTW, just came back to proofread and the post is still majorly massive, mostly with photographs though).

Here are some photos of Oakthwaite, Windermere, boat trip to Ambleside and the drive to Grasmere/Keswick, oh and food. OBVIOUSLY.

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and obviously this blog wouldn’t be complete without some food pics… I’m fasting today (5:2er) and haven’t had dinner yet and these pics definitely aren’t helping matters!
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I’ll finish off with a comedy selfie of Ankush and I … Not entirely sure why we pulled these faces, but we did! Where do you stay when you go to the Lakes?
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A Weekend in Barcelona

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Last weekend I travelled to Barcelona for my best friend’s hen weekend. I won’t go into too much detail about the shenanigans that took place, after all… what happens on a hen weekend in Barcelona STAYS in Barcelona (or so the overused saying goes…ha ha).

I travelled with a friend from Newcastle – the other 10 hens were flying in from London… We stayed at Hotel Omm which is in the centre of Paseo de Gracia. It’s a 5 Star Hotel which has been open since 2003 and if I’m honest I’d been super excited about getting there after checking out their website and Trip Advisor reviews. I’ve been disappointed in the past when website pictures don’t really match up to reality, but with Hotel Omm I can definitely say this wasn’t the case. I was in room 607, sharing with the bride-to-be (who wasn’t arriving until late Friday evening). The double room was lovely, twin beds, with a little balcony and a gorgeous shower/dressing area. The complimentary toiletries were full size re-fillable bottles, none of those tiny fiddly plastic bottles – much easier and also better for the environment. The design was so minimalist which is exactly what I like in hotel rooms – oh and we had a Parlux hairdryer, not one of those tiny hairdryers that look like a hoover extension. I’ve been wanting to buy a Parlux for ages (I’m definitely getting one now because this wonder machine dried my hair really quickly without leaving a disappointing halo of frizz). The only thing I found a bit odd about the room design was that the toilet was separated from the bathroom, and there wasn’t a sink in there (but there was a bidet), so after you’ve been to the loo you have to come out of the toilet, walk through the room and to the bathroom. It’s only a minor thing and it wouldn’t stop me from staying there again, still worth mentioning though. The hotel has a beautiful rooftop bar and pool with lots of comfy seats and sun shades for lounging (which is exactly what we did all day on Sunday, it was a bit like a departure lounge as hens began leaving mid-afternoon to make their way to the airport). There’s also a gorgeous spa, which we didn’t really take advantage of – except for freshening up right before our taxi arrived to take us to the airport. The hotel staff were really helpful, accommodating and professional. They get 10/10 from me.

Time for some hotel photos I think – stupidly, the only picture I took showing the beds was taken on my iPhone so it’s not great. SOZ.

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On Saturday morning, some of the hens embarked on a Barcelona Architecture Walk. We did BAW2: Antoni Gaudi. BAW is run by a group of architects, one of whom will lead your walk…this year they’ve won a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence – fancy! The Gaudi walk lasts approx 3 hours, here’s what the website says about it…

The BAW.2 is the portrait of this sinuous dream that took Gaudí from his interest in the social, through which he envisioned Barcelona in full metropolitan expansion at one Barcelona, until his absorption in the divine, seeing Monumentality as the final synthesis of the architectonic and becoming “the last cathedral’s builder”.

The early start (meeting at 10am in the lobby of the hotel) wasn’t too appealing initially (after going to bed at 3.30am – late night chats with the bride-to-be) but I am so pleased I went on this walk. The weather was gorgeous, we learnt a lot about Gaudi and his architectural masterpieces but it was also an opportunity to chat. I enjoy chatting. Ricard – the architect leading our walk – was so knowledgeable and passionate about Gaudi’s architecture that you couldn’t help but listen. The time flew by! Here are some photos for you. I should point out that there are some non-Gaudi related photos below.

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Saturday night we spent a few hours making very strong (and in my case, not delicious) cocktails at Cafe Rembrandt with Raoul the cocktail master, then on to dinner at Cafe Kafka for some delicious food… the night was finished off at a club by the beach called Shoko. Another late night, although when I got back to the hotel I still managed to hot cloth cleanse and pack my case so I could take full advantage of the 12pm check-out on Sunday. Actually stayed in bed until almost 11… Lazy you say? You’re probably right.

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A photo of Ritu and I before we headed off to the club!

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Would there even be any point to this blog if there were no photos of food/drinks? Last set of photos, I promise! The first picture is a gin & tonic in a glass the size of a fish bowl. Yep.

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Obviously there were other fun events, e.g. shopping (SEPHORA) but this is quite clearly far too long already, so we can chat about Sephora another time.

Have you been to Barcelona? Where did you stay? I’d love to hear about your trip!