There was a little kitten who needed a home and a little girl and boy who were ready to show their love. The brother and sister waited patiently for days and days. The little girl, Emily hoped she didn’t have to wait as long as she did for her little brother, Luke aka Mr. Fox or Mr. Moo Moo to arrive. The kitten’s sleeping basket was prepared, nothing was too good for this new addition.

After school one night Emily asked her mummy,

Has my, I mean our, kitten arrived yet?

And the mummy replied,

It has and we’ve been waiting all day to share her with you.

The glee on the little girls face melted her mummy’s heart. Instant love appeared as Emily nuzzled her cheek to little kitten and the little kitten purred in a much louder voice then expected.

Mummy can we call her Snowy?

Of course Emily that’s a lovely name.

Welcome Snowy, our newly adopted Little Live Pets Kitten.

Snowy was aptly named as she’s white and soft and it’s the lead up to Christmas was sent for us to review. A lovely little bundle of fun without the need to feed or clean up after. Snowy has been tried and tested by my seven year old and also secretly tried out by my two year old (I know this is below the recommended age but I was with him when he was loving the kitten).

Snowy loves to be handled and is robust enough to be thrown around by a toddler (and carried around by her neck). Snowy cuddles into the cheek and responds quickly to changes in position and depth of touch. She likes her tummy tickled and I’m so envious as to how quickly she can fall asleep too.

Overall, Snowy has six different play modes and 20 kitten sounds, plenty to keep the little ones entertained but, for how long?

I’m so glad you can’t overfeed this kitten as both children are a little eager to provide food and water (Luke can often be found sharing his snacks). It comes with a little bowl but don’t worry if it goes a miss as it’s the positioning of the kitten that makes the lapping sound rather than any connectivity between bowl and cat.

I’ve found both Emily and Luke sitting cuddling Snowy without her being turned on and it’s so nice to see. Also Mr. Fox is calmed down during the night by stroking Snowy previously he’d often want our dwarf hamsters out and with a sleep deprived mummy and a lively but sleepy toddler this wasn’t a great combo.

Would I buy this toy? Prior to the review the price would have put me off but because of the opportunity and living with the kitten I would buy it, sorry adopt a Little Live Pets Cuddles My Dream Kitten for my niece and nephew to share.

Pros of the toy:
Easy to fall in love with, children can play with it independently.

Great for allergy sufferers.

Lots of variety.

Cons of the toy:

The price may be restrictive to some.

This cat moults lots.

The mechanism is very loud indeed which the two year old didn’t mind but annoyed the seven year old a little.

Little Live Pets My Dream Kitten Cuddles is available from many toy shops including Smyths Toys. RRP £54.99

 

We visited Northern Stage in Newcastle to watch the ballet production of Rumpelstiltskin by balletLORENT and here’s our review story…..

A time upon once, is where this story starts, Rumpelstiltskin, Rumpelstiltskin, Rumpelstiltskin a name like no other, this once Grimm tale has been rewritten by another.

A golden Queen and a handsome King spend a lot of time caressing and kissing. Watching over their beautiful flock in a rural world of balletLORENT.

Frolicking and free from babies to grannies this idyllic world is one in which you would want to be.

Alas tragedy occurs at the birth of their son. The sun goes down and the golden love has gone. The King is now an angry man, denying the child, his only one. A raging man who blames his son for the loss of his wife, a boy desperate for love but shunned from the King’s life. Little lambs and mummy sheep playfully watch and keep a smile on our faces when the King’s actions are a disgrace.

Left to roam among the countryside the boy becomes one with nature; a little feral and wild. The children are kind beckoning him to play and a shepherd’s daughter brightens his day.

As the mourning continues the villagers embark to make the King happy and have a lark, but alas the King was now mean and dark; far from the passionate bright light that we saw at the start. The only thing that kept him going was the thought of gold which sets the scene for a story retold.

A shepherd not a miller be the boasting father of a little she. For the man gave up his daughter, a lie could lead his sheep to slaughter. As of course it can’t be true, to weave straw to gold…can you?

Three rooms filled with straw and a challenge with each one and Rumpelstiltskin was the hero elevating him from a position of zero. The gift of changing anything to gold was given by his mother; a gift like this can’t be squandered nor smothered. With each challenge, he won a prize. The Shepherd’s daughter had nothing to lose yet and agreed to a ring, a kiss and her first baby (she lies).

The marriage was quick and so was the baby as nine months later she was in labour. The gift of her baby was now long forgotten but Rumpelstiltskin still wanted the offering.

The distress that this caused to the Shepherd’s daughter, made him think of the past the games and laughter she’d taught him. Three days were given to find this youths name otherwise who knows what would be the baby’s demise?

The whole kingdom searched for the name but none were found true. But the shepherd didn’t give up and did all he could do. He heard a youth in a clearing dancing around a fire and suddenly heard the name of desire. The shepherd rushed back to his daughter and told of his news now a game with Rumpelstiltskin did infuse.

Upon finding his name memories of fondness came flooding back – this youth was boy she had loved in the past. The King saw it too and the hate turned to love and he was released from his life to be with his queen above.

Rumpelstiltskin and the shepherd’s daughter now became a happily ever after.

The venue:  Northern Stage Newcastle – big enough for impact and small enough for intimacy.
My plus 1:  Daughter aged 7 who has been connected with Northern Stage since she was a bump in the 40 year anniversary ’40 babies’.
The cast:  Aged 4 to 79 both professional and from local schools, care homes, day centres, community groups (including some people from a knit and natter group). Anne Mead (see the video I shared on Sofa Stories Facebook page), reminded me of my gran and that made me smile.
Rehearsal director: Caroline Reece sat directly behind us during the performance and it was lovely to speak to her during the interval about the performance.
The audience:  A truly eclectic mix spanning generations. Bring everyone you know!
Advice:  If you are taking children do stick to the seven plus guideline as there are some dark parts that may cause younger people a little distress although these scenes didn’t seem to bother the younger cast members).
In show highlight: There were so many moments for me and I found my breath taken away as Rumpelstiltskin is a beloved dark fairytale in our household the added parts and adaptions of the story worked. When the little childhood versions of Shepherd’s daughter and Rumpelstiltskin appear on the
edge of a scene with the adults my heart was ablaze as childhood memories of friendship always seem to be the most special.
Interval highlight:  An avid fan of Ben Crompton was gushing over him and wanting to nab my pen to get an autograph in her programme whilst I was still using it (I was completing the feedback form).
Unexpected:  The level of emotion felt by both myself and my daughter. balletLORENT you brought me to the edge of emotion, made my heart pound and my eyes weep. And I thank you for that.
Warning:  Moral dilemmas of abandonment of a child. Violence towards a child (no one was hurt in the performance – it was very strongly implied). Verbal and threatening abuse of a girl and her father and his livelihood.
Quirkiest moment:  The dancing sheep, mmmmmmm it lightened it a little too far for me but I’m sure it will be loved by most.
At the ballet:  The thought of ballet can often turn people off or bring connotations of a non-inclusive club with membership only given to the truly gifted and well off. balletLORENT are far from this. They are a company so progressive and all-encompassing and embracing that it may drive  many of us to try and partake in ballet again (Dance City here I come) or at least in a knit an natter group and hope that in years to come the production comes around again and I too could be one of those grannies.

Overall:  I simply adore watching my daughter being drawn in and absorbed in a story, searching for my hand and putting my arm around her to hold her closer in the darker parts. Her naivety is a breathe of fresh air and she pointed out the kissing and the naked top half of Rumpelstiltskin. Emily loved it and clapped until the last person left the stage. She underlined her love by popping her gold coin in the heart bestowed emoji feedback cup to prove it.

Dates:  Rumpelstiltskin productions run at Northern Stage Newcastle until 28 October. Tickets are available from £10 so be part of the next well deserved standing ovation.

Disclaimer: We received complimentary tickets for the production but all content and thoughts our own.

Images included are by Khara Pringle and Bill Cooper.

MPW loves PA

On a warm Thursday evening in the centre of Newcastle a plethora of ‘food-a-holics’ got together and sampled the wares of a very talented chef named  Paul Amer at his home in Marco Pierre White – Fenkle Street, NE1.

Being made suitably dizzy from parking on floor eight of Grainger Town Car Park* it was just a five minute walk to the destination for the evening .

MPW had a happy atmosphere, staff and diners happily taking and finding out about about each others days. A semi private area (behind a curtain rather than a door) is where the story unfolds and we 12 diners sit and gorge. Sitting down with a glass of Chardonnay new and old faces alike up and share stories.

It was now time for the main character to appear and for us to find out more. Paul an animated character ran through his menu and fielded lots of our questions and he was calm and unfazed. His passion for food was apparent and good presentation is something he’d love to feature even more in the menus. Dipolmacy is a good trait witnessed in this resturant’s main man.

Before the food even arrived the tables were adorned with baskets of bread and olives. With bread as a downfall it’s best to atleast TRY to stay clear of the bread but my will was weak. For the olives no holding back was required, they are greatly loved and healthyish.

The food on the evening was plentiful.

Course one features both field and sea in the formation of Rillette of smoked mackarel with lightly pickled vegetables.

STARTER

Pleasing on the eye the course was full of flavour and was extremely well balanced. The mackerel was rich and needed something to lift it and Paul thought of something that has never adorned a savoury dish when I’m cooking…a blackberry. Who knew they go so well with fish? This is definitely banked and to be used in future.

Slow roasted tomato soup with basil pesto was on offer for course two.  Mr. Amer please don’t judge but when reading this menu the wonder of of how you would to top the ’57 Varieties’ sprung to mind. You took the gauntlet without realising it and won by a landslide majority. The soup was utterly delicious, creamy, smooth and thick in texture. Mopping in resturants may be considered a little uncouth but the hunk of bread called out to be dunked.

SOUP

LIGHTLY CURRIEDCourse three was a lightly curried smoked haddock risotto.

If this course was deconstructed into curry, haddock and risotto a definate appeal would be there but married together alas didn’t work for me.

The word ‘lightly’ definitely needs to be removed unless the person who made tonight’s offering was a little heavy handed.

Also is there really enough space on a tasting menu for two fish dishes?

 

Move over fish and hello meat.

 

 

 

 

Course four featured slow cooked belly pork, vale of Mowbray black pudding, pommes puree and roasted cauliflower puree. An excellent coupling of flavour and textures. The asparagus was a nice surprise. The crackling was a little well done but nice and crispy. Paul could this be one of the dishes that requires a presentation upgrade?

MAIN MPW

Desert time come with Course five in the form of Raspberry & Passion Fruit Panna Cotta with mini meringue, raspberry sorbet

Wow! I DON’T as a general rule ‘do’ dessert but my heart did a little leap. Panna Cotta can be done so badly but not today, the texture was perfect and the balance with the sorbet worked so well. The meringue was nice but a little bit of a gooey centre never hurt anyone. Overall this was the star of the menu.

Yummy!

Footnote 1: Thank you to Emma Wright (Sales & events co-ordinator) and Rachel Kershaw (MPW Newcastle Ambassador) for the invitation and I’m glad to be back. Having turned down every food review invite since Nov 2016 my welcome back to food blogging was definitely selected well.

Footnote 2: I’m not sure if it’s because I’m over forty, suffered from gallstones or because I usually have a small child in tow but I always like to check out the ladies. These ones get a thumbs up especially when Elemis is their hand wash and hand cream of choice, I’m a sucker for a British Brand.

* There is limited parking at the restaurant and on Fenkle Street. The restaurant is also only five minutes from the nearest train/metro station. Grainger Town car park is part of the Alive after Five scheme  which equals free parking after 5pm Monday – Saturday

I was invited by MPW to review the Paul Amer menu. All thoughts are my own.

The Lowry Bedroom

A little reminisce…..

Where do you go to spend some time with your partner before baby is born or infact whenever the fancy takes you? A five star hotel that’s where.

When I put my cast out for a localish babymoon to mark our last date night before baby two arrived several hotels got in touch (how lucky am I?). Since our last visit to a ‘Leading Hotels of The World’ in 2013 in the form of The Landmark London we’d been craving to stay somewhere else from the prestigious selection so when The Lowry Manchester got in touch we accepted their kind invitation.

So the date was set for Friday 24 July (31 days before due date) and Tiffany Rose the gorgeous maternity and nursing brand were sending my dresses of choice, well a woman has to look good no matter what stage we are in our lives.

We were so excited bags were packed in advance (a first for me). We wanted to make use of every minute so even the school run had been sorted so I didn’t have to get up and rush to get me plus one ready (being 34 and a bit weeks pregnant was depleting my energy lots).

So the 24 of July arrived and so did my little baby boy! (another story). H2B contacted the hotel and spoke to the concierge and explained that alas we wouldn’t be reviewing that evening. My hospital bag was my overnight hotel bag so check me out on the hospital ward with a slinky nightie (yes I was heavily pregnant but I looked fab so slinky and hotel worked but slinky and hospital post C Section, not so much).

Fast forward a few months and we finally made it to The Lowry!

After a car journey from Durham to Manchester we were ready for a lovely evening. The sat nav kept wanting to take us to the rear of the hotel where there is no parking so I’d advise you take a quick look at google to navigate where you need to be. One side of the hotel is classed as Salford and the other Manchester and it’s a hop skip and a jump from Spinningfields where I’d pre signed us up for one of their yellow discount cards.

I must admit that the exterior of the hotel didn’t do it for me in terms of grandeur but I was looking forward to going over the threshold.

Check in: This was seemless. Five star hotels are no longer stuffy and pompous like they were in the past, we definitely agree with the Lowry’s tag line of ‘Where things happen for the modern luxury generation’. The Lowry Hotel went through a full refurbishment in 2015 and was looking good!

The room: We checked into our superior deluxe corner room.  As we entered the room there was a walk in wardrobe on the left and a bathroom on the right. One step further and there was an orange chaise longue in front of floor to ceiling windows (of which I tweeted about immediately).

The bed was massive and conducive to having a little cat nap. The pillow and duvet were just right.

The mini bar: I was a bit peckish so H2B popped to the local supermarket to buy some supplies as we saw the five star prices of the contents. It is really well stocked but be mindful of the potential midnight feast.

The bathroom: If you are a lover of gigantic bathrooms then this isn’t the place for you ‘compact and bijou’ is what you will find. There was a good selection of toiletries by Aromatherapy and I loved the squishy bathrobes.

Breakfast: In the morning we headed to the River bar and grill for breakfast. A hotel stay can be completely ruined if this isn’t good. A fabulous selection of buffet and a la carte was available.

The buffet was adorned with cereals, breads, pastries, cheeses and some of the best smoked salmon I’ve had in a long time alongside the traditional ingredients of a full English breakfast.  My H2B bumped into someone whilst at the buffet and I heard him say, ‘after you Mr. Bridges’, yes the magnificent Kevin Bridges was at breakfast along with Romesh Ranganathan. H2B loves a bit of celeb spotting alas I of course had to trump him. As he was telling me about Mr. Bridges I lifted my head only to see the legend that is Ian Wright on the opposite table sporting a fabulous pair of moccasin slippers. H2B was beside himself and the appearance of one of the Neville brothers made his day.

The art: Around the hotel were some fabulous artwork and this gallery changes on a frequent basis.

Super touch: The Lowry staff knew that we had a baby and thought we’d be bringing him along for the weekend too so a cotbed with teddy had been placed in the room. It was so lovely but I must admit we got housekeeping to remove it. Teddy made his way into our suitcase though and sits on Luke’s drawers.

Thank you for a lovely stay with celebrity spotting included.

 

Rosebery Hotel

It’s birthday time again and whenever our birthday falls on a week night we always choose to stay within an hour of home. Some may find this a little odd but we both love the North East. For just one night we relinquish the title of mummy and daddy and embrace being Suzanne and Richard.

SO was it daddy or chips (Durham of Newcastle)? We opted for chips and headed into one of our favourite suburbs – Jesmond. We are well versed in this area with still having a flat in the area (which we moved out of to become ‘serious adults’ back in 2010.)

Jesmond has a plethora of hotels from the tatty and dilapidated to the sleek and for our choice this evening ‘unique’. The Rosebery Hotel  has been receiving guests for around one hundred years and has been within the current owners, Janet Stansfield’s family for the last 40 years.

First impression – so then it’s not every day you see a bed in a garden but right from the start The Rosebery was out to make an impression. Whether you think it’s a good idea is simply down to taste but I truly embraced the ‘flower bed’ shocking pink and very in your face.

Flower bed

Parking – was a doddle with no permits or time constraints in place which is VERY unusual in Jesmond. We gave Janet a tinkle and we were welcomed by the lovely lady in a rather ta da way which we loved.

Her indoors –  Janet had had a busy day as she is well underway a whole hotel revamp and renovation of the hotel and she’s doing a mighty fine job (if you are a purist and want traditional Victorian interiors then this is NOT the hotel for you).

JS has an acute eye for the antiquities, curios and upcycling genius. She is a self confessed skip lover as am I (remember people always ask before you take)  and she let us into some places she sourced from but a lady has to have some secrets so I wont be telling you all here. Her design prowess doesn’t stay in her establishment but she’s been let loose on our tv screens too in Your Home In Their Hands – watch an episode with Janet in here .

The tour – We had a tour of as many of the available rooms as possible and we were even shown some that were occupied (the guests didn’t seem to mind). Each of the rooms had a different slant, some we liked, some we loved and some we weren’t so sure of. Janet let us in on her future room ideas and they are suitably luxurious.

A little tipple and an olive or two – a great touch is a drink on check in. With a lovely drinks trolley who wouldn’t say no to a G&T? This was teamed with a copious amount of lovely green olives.

Our room – room 18 – This room is a twin room and HUGE replete with two double beds so for us it was a happy bed and huffy bed (thankfully we didn’t need the huffy bed), en suite and a dining area too.

fabric-and-wallpaper

Our beds were ballooned filled with confetti too. Chocolates and perry to we really were spoilt, ‘Happy birthday Richard’.

Room 18 was most definitely cluttered but not in a bad way. Like many of the rooms they start with an inspirational wallpaper this one is Birdcage Walk by Nina Campbell.

The en suite was so pretty to look at. The turned wood on the footings of the bath was a simply work of art and sourced locally too. The mirrored, tiles, pale blue background and bathroom unit adorned with perfume bottles was perfectly curated. The only thing missing was a shower and I’d maybe strip back the toiletries.

bathroom

Our evening – I wanted to stay locally in Jesmond or in my new favourite restaurant in Sandyford, Harissa   but as it was Richard’s birthday it was his choice and he wanted to head into Newcastle city centre so we jumped in a cab and in 10 mins we were on Grey Street enjoying an evening as a couple. We couldn’t stay out too late as it was a school night though. Back to the ranch we headed at 11 bells.

Sleepytimes – we’d already chosen the ornate blue bed to sleep in but we had to heat the room as it was a little chilly but it soon warmed up. The bed was so comfortable that I was off to sleep very quickly and knowing I wouldn’t be awoken during the night was such a treat we’ve only had one other night away since Luke was born and that was at The Lowry in Manchester when he was three months old.

Richard didn’t sleep as well as I as he was worried about not waking up in time and the fridge was a little loud too.

Breakfast: This was an in room affair with a lovely selection of carb tastic treats (some of local supplier French Oven so we are told). I was a little surprised at the conserves not being local too this would be a welcomed accompaniment  but understand it’s not easy to do everything.

Breakfast

The croissant warmer did what it said on the tin and the juice kept nice and cold in the fridge. We got though a pot of tea and coffee and really wished we had more time to savour the comfortable silence that 10 years of coupledom affords you.

Time for work: When the devil did the road that leads from the Coast road to Jesmond Dene House close? It was definitely open when I was pregnant….. we had to do a detour to get to my work, thank goodness for sat nav!

A couple of things about the hotel.

1.      It’s dog friendly but doesn’t smell of dog and they can supply you with the cutest of dog beds.

Little dog bed

2.     Janet often has long term residents at the hotel. Some just like it others have it as their bolt hole whilst their loved one has treatment at the Freeman hospital. Some patients even come to the hotel to get away from the hospital and visit their beloved in nicer surroundings.

A little Q&A from myself to Janet

Q.        How does the old management feel about the (fantastic) changes?

A.        The old management love the new changes and pleased to see the building remain as a hotel, with it’s 100 year history of being a hotel    continue, rather than being converted into flats and loosing it’s aesthetic and charm.

Q.        Have long term guests welcomed the changes?

A.        Long term guests love the changes, as prices have not significantly increased, only slightly, so actually offer better value for guests money in a more stylish and unique environment.  Guests appreciate all the care and love that goes into the rooms, common parts and exterior and do get the humour behind the quirkiness.

Q.        What is your favorite room?

A.        My favourite room is room 5, as it’s vast, very light, quiet, has a beautiful      restful ambiance about it and you can see into Jesmond Dene, plus it has amazing wallpaper in Wisteria by Jocelyn Warner.

Q.        Does your furniture sourcing dictate the room theme or does theme come first.

A.        Depends what size, light, features are in the room and of course, what I can source for nearly next to nothing. Room 18, where you slept, the   fabulous oversized statement bed, I spotted at a vintage fair and it was horrible. But after a bit of TLC and imagination, guests have a fabulous, sumptuous king size bed to relax and get cosy in 🙂

We had a wonderful stay and a top tip is ‘BOOK DIRECT’ as Janet adds 30 percent to cover costs when booking through third parties.

Rates start from £40 and full rate prices can be found here

Thank you Janet for a fabulous stay.

*Accommodation was provided by the Rosebery Hotel, 2 Rosebery Crescent, Jesmond, Newcastle NE2 1ET in exchange for a fair and balanced review. All opinions are my own (and H2B’s when I let him have input).