It’s official I’ve hit burnout mode. You know the one you seem to work all of the time with limited sleep and even more limited exercise.

November is my birthday month and traditionally I go away with H2B for it but this year myself and my wonderfully fabulous best friend Nicola are spending some much needed quality time together. You see despite being best friends it’s a rarity that we actually see each other. It’s often fleeting moments and we always say we need to make the time but the time does just disappear.

Something that came up in my Facebook feed was entitled ‘Dear Friend, I’m sorry for being so rubbish’ and it resonates a lot and apart from the reference of the cat I could have written this.

Dear Friend Nicola),

I am sorry for being so bloody rubbish.

But you see, life moves really – REALLY – fast.

From the minute I open my eyes there are two small people, several big people and even some animals (hamsters) who are relying on me for many different reasons. Some of them involve eating and basic survival.

I am spinning plates and dropping plenty. You, my dear friend are one of those plates.

But I love you very much.

I wish that every text message I wrote to you in my head made it into the virtual space and into your phone to let you know you’re in my heart and on my mind.

I wish I could carry through with all the plans we make, knowing we never will. I go there in my mind – it’s loads of fun.

When I drop, frazzled, into bed at night, I remember I haven’t rung you, again.

Then I remember I haven’t locked the back door or brought the cat in and just like that, it’s happened again and I have forgotten, again.

I am very hopeful that one day life will be easier and we will be blessed with plenty of time for laughing, drinking and sharing.

Stick with me,

I promise I will be worth it – when we are old and grey and you need someone to laugh with in the nursing home.

I’m there.

Yours Loyally,

Your bloody rubbish friend

(Written by Donna Ashworth and shared on Facebook via Ladies Pass It On

I simply can’t wait to recharge my batteries and get to spend time, drinking, eating, sleeping and being me, with a lady who doesn’t judge me and will always be their for me come what may.

Thank goodness for friendship, loyalty and love and while it may forever be tested the 18 years of threads we’ve woven together are strong.

 

Alas we couldn’t make the preview night of Newcastle’s latest pizza offering, Pizza Punks but we received an open invitation to pop in when next in Newcastle, so we booked a table to see what the fuss was about.

Pizza Punks has opened up on Grey Street, which is already awash with an array of foodie offerings, so what would make me want to spend my hard earned pound here?

We walked into the restaurant at around 13:00 on a Saturday and I was surprised by how quiet it was although the inclement weather may have put people off venturing into Newcastle. We were shown to our table situated in the window, which is always my favourite spot as I do like a good people watch.

The little one’s took the comfy seats and Emily and Luke were instantly engaged with Andrew (assistant GM) when he gave them their menus saying ‘that’s yours’ whilst quickly and politely removing the pizza cutter from Luke’s hand saying, ‘that’s mine’.

The décor of the previous inhabitant is completely gone and what is left is a fresh and vibrant open plan eating area with an open kitchen too. Neon is a highlight of the restaurant and where it can be placed it has been but not too overboard.

Let’s talk toilets. Like most establishments on Grey Street the toilets are situated downstairs. The neon pink continues and feature vanity mirrors surrounded by bulbs along with a tattooed Marylin Monroe with her boobs out. There is also an accessible toilet come baby change room on the restaurant floor too.

The whole concept of the restaurant is great and inspired by the owners love of proper pizza and motivated by their drive to do something different, something unique. All adult pizzas are £10 no matter how many toppings you choose.

We perused the drinks menu first which included a vast array of ales and some cocktails I’d never heard of. As it was an afternoon with the children I opted for a small glass of wine, H2b had Pepsi, and we had a jug of water for the table.

Time to order the food. We went straight to the main event and didn’t try out the sides. After reading some other reviews, it sounds that I have really missed out here as the selection albeit small sound epic.

I love choice but I’m not great at decision making so I opted for a preselected version and as breakfast is my all time FAVORITE meal The Full English is what I chose, this consists of red sauce, mozzarella, egg, bacon, tuscan sausage, black pudding, hash browns and HP sauce. Cue my little girl and H2b looking a little disgusted at my selection. H2b had sourdough base, red sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, nduja  chorizo, red onion and sun-dried tomatoes. The children had ham and pepperoni children’s sized pizza.

Whilst waiting for food both Luke and Emily enjoyed the colouring in sheets but Luke was even happier when he found a toy mini car that someone else left behind.

The pizzas came in a timely manner and looked great. The amount of sauce on mine though was a tad excessive but I was happy to dab it off. Tom, our waiter realised that I was a little overwhelmed and offered to change the pizza but I didn’t want to make a fuss so I chose to eat on rather then change. Andrew then came over and insisted I did get a fresh pizza. I genuinely think this change would have happened whether I was reviewing or not. At this point I did a pizza swap. My second pizza included  candied bacon, caramelised red onion, goats cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and basil – I was tempted to go ‘rogue’ but decided to stick to what I knew.

There was quite a delay in receiving the replacement pizza. The restaurant had filled up since we first arrived and there were people queuing to come in so this would explain the difference from order to arrival time.

Dessert, the adults were stuffed but the children made room. Luke just opted for two scoops of vanilla ice cream with a splattering of marshmallows whereas Emily chose to have every topping which included chocolate chips, marshmallows, cookie crumbs and then topped it off with chocolate sauce. They were both more then happy but want to try the Freak Shakes next time (so far I’ve managed to swerved this culinary phenomenon).

I would have loved a coffee to finish my meal but alas Pizza Punks don’t serve it.

All in all we all really enjoyed it and we are already planning a return visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Andrew, Tom and Rachel for taking care of us.

Pizza Punks
34-40 Grey Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE1 8AE
Disclosure: We were guests of Pizza Punks. All views are my own.

 

Move over The Greatest Showman now it’s back to The Great Yorkshire Show.

This iconic show is celebrating it’s 160th year on the lead up to this epic show is the tour of a magnificent galvanised steel sculpture of the Craven Heifer .

Show organisers the Yorkshire Agricultural Society commissioned renowned Whitby-based sculptor Emma Stothard to recreate the Craven Heifer who became a national phenomenon in the 1800s. People would pay to see the heifer who was put on show on her way to Smithfield Market, London, and remains the largest heifer ever shown in England and lived in the same era as the first show.

Weighing more than half a tonne and standing at 6 ft tall, the GYSheifer sculpture left for its tour from the Craven Heifer’s birthplace at the Bolton Abbey Estate.

The GYSheifer has travelled nearly 50 miles aboard a specially designed truck to Fulford, York where she was met by police motorcyclists and escorted into Imphal Barracks, adjacent to where the very first Great Yorkshire Show was held in the Barrack Yard of the 5th Dragoons in 1838.

Charles Mills, Show Director, said

The Craven Heifer was an iconic animal born and bred in the same era as the first Great Yorkshire Show and was the wonder of farmers across England. We want to take the GYSheifer on tour, just as the Craven Heifer did, come and see her yourself at the Great Yorkshire Show where she will be put in prime position on the President’s Lawn.”

The sculpture project has been months in the planning and involved research with experts at Bolton Abbey Estate and the Great Yorkshire’s Chief Cattle Steward Margaret Chapman, whose family have been part of the show for more than 100 years, to ensure the sculpture’s authenticity.

Emma Stothard, sculptor, said: “This has been one of my most ambitious projects to date, requiring hours of research with the help of Margaret Chapman – an expert in cattle. We’ve poured over many paintings and different documents charting the Craven Heifer’s size. We wanted the GYSheifer to be as lifelike as possible and it’s been exciting to bring the Craven Heifer back to life for everyone to get an idea of how big she really was.”

The GYSheifer popped up at locations across Yorkshire to promote England’s biggest and best agricultural show before taking up position at the Great Yorkshire Showground ready for the event. The public are encouraged to post their selfies with #GYSheifer  but remember to #Yorkshire on Twitter too.

Enjoy your visit and I look forward to seeing your tweets.

St. Mary's Inn

When I heard in that St. Mary’s Inn was closing I was a little sad. Fast forward to 2018 and the lovely place has reopened; with their rooms available from Monday June 4 I thought I’d re share my review.

It was going to be a long and busy week and the thought of a Friday night away just the two of us was what was keeping Richard and myself going.

The rural getaway was at St. Mary’s Inn the little sister to the renowned Jesmond Dene House. St. Mary’s Inn is in the village of Stannington north of Newcastle and just a hop, skip and a jump from the town of Morpeth.

Dinner, bed breakfast and fingers crossed a lie in; here we come.

The journey

Stannington is really well signposted off the A1 and there are signs for St. Mary’s Inn and even more poignantly St. Mary’s Hospital which are easy to follow. I knew my way to the Inn from memory but the winding road may benefit from a couple more signs.

Arrival

We arrived at 5:00pm and were welcomed by Zoe who showed us to our room we decided we quite fancied a nap before dinner.

Our bedroom – Greenlee Lough

When we opened the door we were greeted with an expanse of space and beds so high they were reminiscent of ‘Princes and The Pea’ – yay and I know a certain daughter of mine would have loved to bounce on them.

I’m a stickler for white bed linen and I was not to be disappointed. I love a chunky pillow or two and we got four, plenty to go around. The duvet was heavy but not too heavy. Simple quality. Of course “Mr. I sleep on the thinnest pillow in the world” didn’t like the pillows but he could cope for one night.

There was not one, but two sitting areas, one right next to the TV and the other with a lovely table to sit and read or work at.

bedroom

Having worked with Marlish Water in the past I was happy their water was on the tea tray alongside another local brand, Ringtons. I’m sure fresh milk would have been available if I had requested it too.

I crossed my fingers before I entered the bathroom. I so wanted a bath, we moved house in Feb 2015 and we have a double shower instead of a bath (this seriously needs to be rectified) and hotel stays are the only time I get to take a dip and luxuriate in some bubbles.

The bathroom was great. I loved the velux window in the ceiling, the sumptuous towels and I was looking forward to trying the products supplied as I hadn’t tried them before.

Relaxing time before dinner

I love the fact that Richard had packed us a cheeky bottle of prosecco, a perfect accompaniment to a bath filled with lovely bubbles (which H2B ran without prompting). I truly relaxed. We lay on the bed and drank and chatted before dinner (the TV wasn’t working). It was lovely. Even though we live together it seemed like an age since we’d had a chat that wasn’t interjected by, ‘mummy or daddy’ or the sound of our baby boy.

Thank you St. Mary’s Inn for the peace and quiet.

Dinner

Although tempting to stay in our lovely room, we were hungry so headed over the outdoor courtyard and downstairs to the bar admiring the frequently changing artwork on the way.

Before dinner, Richard opted for a pint of Peroni whilst I chose  St. Mary’s Ale made by the wonderful Wylam Brewery as my tipple. I knew from first sip that I’d be drinking it for the rest of the night unless of course I got the taste for gin!

At 7:30pm we decided to head along to the restaurant and I loved all of the areas and the relaxed feeling throughout. It was akin to a warren, people all chatting away with quite a few dogs (both real and wire sculptures) looking happily at home.

We were greeted by Phil the Duty Manager and chatted about the menu. He was genuinely enthusiastic about both the menu and St. Mary’s Inn. I appreciated the fact that many of the items on the menu were sourced locally, so locally in some cases that the chef could reach out of the window and place the veg onto the ‘Entremetier’ station.

The short and simple menu featured many starters and main courses that we wanted to try. To start, Richard opted for Lamb Koftas and I chose Smoked Haddock and Clam Chowder with Whisky and Bacon. Both were really tasty, but I wouldn’t have chosen to have mussels as part of the chowder.

starters and mains

For main H2B had the Aberdeen Angus Beef Burger which came with cheese, mayonnaise, tomato ketchup, pickles, coleslaw and home made fries, he’d sworn he was off bread but couldn’t resist.

I chose the steak and went for the bone marrow and parsley fries. The steak was cooked to my liking medium rare and the fries were good but I had chip envy and loved the look of the chunky ones on a nearby table.

Richard swore he didn’t want desert but there were two that I fancied so gluttony prevailed and I ordered both.

DESSERT

To satisfy my sweet tooth I opted for the custard tart with honeycomb and vanilla ice cream and for my savoury love was the selection of British cheeses with rye crackers and preserves. This was my absolute favourite course and Richard did help me (I promise). The custard tart was amongst the best I have ever tasted and instead of the typically dense consistency this was delicate and the bitterness of the honeycomb cut through the sweetness.  The selection of cheeses was just enough to end the meal.

Phil tried to lure us into coffees but we were embracing the no child night and the calling for bed was so loud.

We made our way to our room but we were waylaid by the bar as I did fancy a gin and I was happy that they stocked Fentimans tonic. Richard’s eyes were heavy so I selected a book from the shelves in one of the snug areas and we headed to bed.

Sleepytime

Our tummies were completely fit to burst so up the dancers we went. We crawled into bed at 10:30 and he was asleep within 10 minutes. I lay and read for a while which was an absolute luxury.

Alas I woke up a few times in the night as it was so warm (thermostat set to 71 degrees Fahrenheit, I have no idea what that is in metric) I’m also used to being awoken several times in the night and thirdly I thought I’d lost my other half, turns out that the bed is sooo big we could easily fit our family of four in the bed with room to spare.

Breakfast

This can be an absolute deal maker or breaker for me.

Zoe showed us to our table, she assured us she had been home as she was still serving at the bar when we went to bed.

This was the room we could see from our bedroom. It was light and bright and there was just us (well for a few minutes until many faces that we saw during dinner the night before).

continental and full English

Our toast and drinks order was taken and then we got to peruse the continental breakfast and gluttony raised its head again. Smoked salmon and meats donned our plates and the quality was fantastic.

We both ordered full English breakfast no beans for me, we both ate the lot, oink, oink. We drank copious amounts of coffee we have definitely missed our breakfast dates.

Full English

Before checkout I had little nosey in all of the nooks and crannies and decided that I really did like this place and would love a local like this.

Overall opinion

Although it’s known as Jesmond Dene House little sister I think St. Mart’s Inn has  everything it needs to have a stand alone reputation. It isn’t trying to be something that it is not. It is by definition a house providing accommodation, food, and drink, especially for travellers and this was done to perfection. I even forgot that it is unmanned overnight so the guests are left to their own devices, well sort of, we couldn’t have our very own lock in.

Having the right staff is so important and I think the brilliance of the staff shone through with their friendly and knowledgeable demeanour and nothing was too much trouble even bringing up an iron and ironing board before dinner.

We had a fabulous time and with a few tweaks it would be perfect. Before I left I was already recommending the Inn to a friend who was coincidentally staying at Jesmond Dene House as a surprise anniversary treat from her husband: major brownie points.

Incase you fancy a visit St. Mary’s Inn is open 8am to 11pm each day with dining until 9:30pm. Remember to book your table don’t just turn up and expect to be served.

Our stay would have been £140 for dinner, bed and breakfast and personally I think that it was most definitely worth that.

Now for the unexpected personal bit which I chose not to place at the beginning of the review.
There was a distinct reason that I wanted to stay and it wasn’t until we were offered a meal at the Inn that I looked into the history and I felt like an idiot when I put two and two together. I actually got a knot in my stomach and a tear in my eye.

As you may have already read St. Mary’s Inn is situated in what was the administration building of St. Mary’s Hospital, the old Gateshead Borough mental institution. We were originally supposed to just head there for dinner but when I read the history of the site I asked if we could stay. A member of my family had spent quite a lot of time at St. Mary’s hospital and visited him often and unfortunately he didn’t have a pleasant stay there. I hoped a visit would air some demons. I haven’t taken the turn off for Stannington since 1995 and I was on auto pilot driving and the hospital signs were still in situ and threw me. What the heck was I doing when potentially I was unearthing a bad memory of a location.

I am glad I came as even though the admin building is clearly recognisable there were very few other points of reference and thinking of my uncle made me smile.

You can keep up to date with St. Mary’s in via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Thank you Phil and Nicky for having us and we hope to visit again when we are in the area.

First published: 15 Feb 2016

The trend for unicorn love doesn’t appear to be diminishing at all. Every shop appears to at least a nod to this mythical creature.

Unicorns first made an appearance in our household back in 2015 where Emily’s big sister pressie was the biggest unicorn you can imagine which lays proudly in Emily’s bed and is named Una (you can see Una on a Little Live Pets review)

Now it’s time for something a little more manageable and this comes in the form of  My Fairy ‘Unicorn’ Garden.

The Unicorn Garden is what it says on the box. A garden fit for a fairy, her unicorn and a magical wishing well.

Included: bunting, wishing well, arbor (garden arch), flowers, mouse, unicorn, fairy princess, multi-coloured stones, grass seed and bowl.

Excluded: One of the items not supplied is compost, we had a massive bag that we’d bought from Aldi for a plant potting exercise.

Assembly: Only the arbor and bunting need assembling. The arbor was simple, the bunting was a little fiddly but manageable.

Now to begin. Get the bowl (I tried to get Emily to use one of our pretty bowls but she was having none of it and opted for the one supplied) and fill with soil to just over half.

Emily decided she wanted it EXACTLY the way it was on the box and she placed the arbor and wishing well at opposite ends and started to lay the path which was made from brightly coloured stones.

Next for the sprinkling of the seeds. This doesn’t need to be accurate or even just make sure there is a good coverage and the seeds are watered. Within two days the seeds seemed to shoot away and this continued. I wish the grass in my garden grew as well.

Overview

Time to put together: 60 minutes (we didn’t rush and spent the time talking about the growing process)

Played with as a garden: only a couple of times

Played with in general: Emily plays with the unicorn, mouse and fairy often within other imaginary play games rather then the garden.

Maintenance: It requires watering and cutting, if this isn’t done it  will die off.

Would I buy it?: Yes but it does fall into the ‘considered purchase’ category as on average it is over £20, however I have seen it for as low as £14.99

Top tip: Once established move this outside and create a perfect outdoor toy that can’t really be ruined unless there is torrential rain.

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: This item was provided for review purposes only. All opinions are mine or my family's own.