Need a Little Help: Half MoonIt’s week two of the Easter holidays for one half of the Sofa Stories team and the other half has a lovely birthday coming up. Here’s how I’m spending my week.

Monday: Pirates and Princesses: Crook Hall & Gardens, Frankland Lane, Sidegate, Durham, DH1 5SZ

Visitors are invited to follow a quest for treasure around the gardens and join in swashbuckling activities led by the Crook Hall Pirate. There will be treasure hunts, pirate games and pirate ship designing.

Tuesday: Need A Little Help: Northern Stage,  Barras Bridge, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear, NE1 7RH *

Joe and Ella are a great team – they make each other laugh, help each other out and tackle all the chores their busy lives throw at them. But one morning things begin to change when Joe gets all tangled up and Ella has to do things alone. What will Ella do now? Will she be able to continue as before, or will it all get too much? If only she had a little help.

Wednesday: Surprise date with Momar Red for Emily and work hat for mummy (yes I’ve returned from maternity leave and yes I hate it!!!!)

Thursday: Hall Hill FarmLanchester, Durham, DH7 0TA

We have an annual pass for Hall Hill farm which was £106. It’s a great way to spend the day, petting animals, tractor rides, donkey rides, indoor play barn, crazy gold and bouncy castle too.

WWT

Friday: Washington Wetland Centre , Pattinson, Washington, Tyne and Wear, NE38 8LE

We are going to head to the WWC to take a look at The LEGO® brick animal trail. The awesome models include a gigantic otter, super-sized crane and humongous goose and will form a fun trail for children (and big kids!) to take part in; inspiring them to build a better future for nature.

Discover just how many LEGO bricks have been used to make the massive creatures and enter a competition to win your very own LEGO kit.

Saturday: Miss Nicola Little’s birthday celebrations possibly at Wheelbirks or just at her delightful love filled home!

Sunday: No plans yet.

Suz x

*Reviewing for Northern Stage Newcastle

Image: Kit Haigh
Date day with daughter we headed to the theatre for a production of ‘Snow White’.

Rewind to 2010 and Emily and I were involved with Northern Stage’s anniversary project #40babies where a living book was created and captured from bump to three years old so Northern Stage Newcastle always holds fond memories.

Fast forward to 2016, When I asked Emily if she’d like to go and see a ballet and that it was Snow White she bounced around the room shouting, ‘yes please mummy’.

Image: Bill Cooper

The production is by balletLORENT a leading UK contemporary dance company based in Newcastle upon Tyne, which regularly tours the UK. This version of was very far removed from the Disney version Emily is used to and akin to the darker side of the tale by Brothers Grimm which I’ve always preferred. So it was familiar to one of us but completely foreign to the other which led to lots of questions.

The set was simply beautiful and yet simplistic and was so adaptable throughout the whole production and was moved this way and that with what seemed like ease. The words by ‘Poet Laureate’ Carol Ann Duffy and a score by Murray Gold accompanied by balletLorent dancers and children from local primary schools took us to a magical place throughout the show. The score moved me lots and really hooked the emotion and the narration was fitting, dark in some parts and light and funny in others.

Here’s a snapshot of the story;

The Queen (Caroline Reece) creates a doll and she wanted to make a child in it’s likeness and the King was happy to oblige and baby Snow White is born (first divination from Disney as the Queen in Snow White’s Disney is ‘Evil Stepmother’ rather then Snow Whites mother). Children and adults alike come and greet the child. Alas soon after the King dies. The beautifully vain Queen is deeply saddened as well as the rest of the kingdom.

As the child turns from a baby (depicted by a doll) into a little girl (we loved how this was shown in the set but don’t want to give it away) then into a young woman (Natalie Trewinnard) the Queen shows her daughter the good things in life until she starts to see that the beauty of her daughter is now over taking her own. The modern dialogue mentioning hair dye and facelift made Emily and I laugh lots.

Here enters the magic mirror depicted by an exceptionally flexible dancer (Gwen Berwick) mirroring every move and told the Queen that her daughter was more beautiful. Her vanity could not cope with this at all and even though she had brought her daughter up in love she now could not bare for her to be on the planet.

The huntsman was sent to kill Snow White, the Queen is shown to eat what she thought to be heart of Snow White was a little intense.

No dwarfs but seven ‘stunted’ miners who like the dwarfs where in play and disliked the presence of Snow White at first but grew to love her.   With many more twists and turns along the way this is definitely a story worth telling.

Caroline Reece had me captivated and conveyed the part of a withering beauty with aplomb where as Emily loved Natalie (Snow White) although she was less than impressed that she ended up with the Huntsman and not, ‘a handsome prince’, whoops maybe I shouldn’t have said that?

The main actors where perfect but my eyes were continually drawn to one of the female dancers named Giulia Coti Zelati and the young girl partnered with her, their connection was lovely and it reminded me of Emily and I which made me smile on the inside.

We really enjoyed our our time and can’t wait to see what is next in store with  balletLORENT and Northern Stage.

Over the years we have seen many fabulous productions and can’t wait to see many more in the future too, infact our next visit is on Tuesday 5 April to see ‘Need A Little Help’.

 

 

 

 

Menu
This weekends coffee and cake stop was the beautiful Bradley Gardens . This destination lays 4.7 miles from my mum and dads home where I lived for 30 years but it was so well hidden behind an 18th century walled garden that I have only fell upon it one other time but that was only in 2015.

The current owners, Mr Crichton-Jones and Mr Robinson have done a fabulous job of bringing the establishment back to life and in turn giving a je ne sais quoi that seems to be ever growing, just like the garden. 

As I mentioned this is my second visit to Bradley Gardens as I fell in love with it the first time round. My daughter and I were on the hunt for a new place for our mummy and daughter dates when I saw signs for Bradley Gardens and I followed them without any understanding of what we would find. Emily even rolled her eyes when I said we were visiting a garden.  ‘Boring’ was her reply.

You enter the gardens via the car park and are greeted with a nursery and a very cute shed like shop. The path then leads further towards three boutiques which unless you are nosey like me could be missed. The first is the small but perfectly formed Bradley Cook-shop, then there is the Garden Room a jewellery and gift store. When you come back out turn left and enter the next building a most gorgeously inspiring interior design boutique named the Bridgewater Home-store. This was flourished in Neptune bespoke furniture .

Next came the restaurant aptly called ‘Glass House’. We were very pleasantly surprised.

The restaurant was bustling with a great atmosphere but after selecting our goodies we actually sat outside and enjoyed the weather.

Whilst watching my little girl frolic in the grassed area next to our table, collecting dropped apples from the apple tree a smile then a little tear welled. The tear was because I could see that this would make an excellent wedding reception venue. Relaxed but not too relaxed, pretty but not too pretty. formal but not too formal. I asked there and then if it was possible but alas at this point no private hiring is on the cards. Maybe one day?

garden1

Fast forward to visit two, Mother’s day. Since becoming a mother myself and of course having a partner who is close to their mother, Mother’s Day has become a little stressful ensuring everyone is left happy including myself. My morning was spent with my daughter and the afternoon with my mum.

I asked Emily where I should take Momar for the afternoon she whispered in my ear so daddy didn’t hear, “You can take her to our special date place mummy, don’t mind”. This is quite a big deal for her as she likes to keep our secret places ‘secret’.

I collected mum and whisked her off. I hadn’t booked a table, this could have been an epic fail as the Glass House was heaving with many parties of mummies with their families. All of the vacant tables had reserved signs, oh no (especially when mum suggested going to the Metro Centre instead)! The lovely staff came to the rescue and found us a table that was available for the next 90 minutes which is the perfect amount of time for coffee and cake.

Bradley Gardens

As a creature of habit I chose the coffee and walnut cake which I shared with Emily on my first visit and it was moist and yummy and neither flavour outweighed the other. Mum aka Maureen chose a cheese scone which she had warmed with lashings of butter and home made chutney. Both of us had a huge glass of water and two lattes. There was a special Mother’s Day menu alongside the traditional menu and everything that was being brought to the tables was received in delight.

Tummy’s were sated and shopping bug satisfied this is a definite place to revisit but I can’t bring daddy, that’s an order.

You can find Bradley Gardens on Facebook , Twitter  and Instagram. 

I’m looking forward to visiting for a restaurant evening very soon and I’m sure I will tell you about that too.

Love from Suzanne x

We love London town. Today we are heading to The Cavendish an establishment whose heritage dates back to the 1830’s.

Along the road from The Cavendish is the infamous Fortnum and Mason, how big were our smiles. Piccadilly is such a great London location.

What drew us to the hotel is its greenness. The greenness is subtle to the untrained eye but to us it hit us like a sledge hammer. It has several achievements under its belt including ‘Gold’ in Sustainable Tourism Business awards and a Gold Award in Green Tourism for London, and they are extensively committed to the environment.

The restaurant also has three star accreditation by the Sustainable Restaurant Association. This list really does go on.

Here’s what we thought?

Location: 81 Jermyn Street, St James’s, London, SW1Y6JF. The Cavendish is bang in the centre of London minutes from Piccadilly and seconds from Fortnum and Mason, another British institution – it’s been in the same location since 1707!

From arrival to departure everything was seamless. The car was valet parked and stayed in place until we left (parking is not complimentary so please don’t get caught out).

Check-in: professional, quick and informative. There had been an error in our booking which was rectified without a blink of an eye by David. Two nights bed and breakfast with an evening meal to enjoy.

The room: Our room was on the 15th floor and had everything you could possibly need for a short stay. I opened the window covering to be greeted with a fantastic panoramic view of London and stood and looked at it for ages. Nicola on the other hand loved it but didn’t want to get too close due to a slight height phobia!

The wardrobe had ample space and the tea/coffee tray met our approval being fair-trade, British or organic. The bathroom, albeit small had everything we needed, the only downside was the shower head which was fitted so high on the wall that it was no good for me at 5ft 4”.

There was a secondary shower head attached for rinsing of hair whilst in the bath which was good. The bed was very comfy and conducive to a good sleep, however, there was an underlying noise which we couldn’t put our finger on, sorry Cavendish we should have brought this to your attention.

Petrichor Restaurant:
Dinner – we didn’t get into London until around 19:00 so decided to have dinner in the restaurant. Recently awarded an AA Rosette, the restaurant’s seasonal British menu marries traditional favourites with a contemporary twist. The service was excellent.

Nicola and I have a habit of sitting and chatting for ages before consulting the menu (another reason why our blog name is apt) and this was the case here too but it was never an issue with Carlos the waiter who was looking after us. We had a glass of wine each and three courses and they were all lovely.

Breakfast: a breakfast banquet rather then a buffet and the selection was amazing. There was also a made-to-order selection and we partook in some rather yummy and cooked-to-perfection poached eggs.

The lobby bar: Small and intimate, equally easy to drop in after work as well as lovely for the guests. The staff were friendly and knowledgeable (which we had come to expect).

Along with the restaurant championing local food the bar supports local drinks providers too. Two examples are Meantime beers which are brewed in Greenwich, a district of south London. The beer travels under eight miles from its inception to the Lobby Bar, so the carbon footprint is greatly reduced.

The second provider is Sipsmith, with their Gin, Vodka & Sloegin. Sam and Fairfax are the founders of this small distillery based in Hammersmith, London. 5 out of 5 – the whole dining experience was fabulous.

Overall opinion
Well trained staff made this stay a truly terrific experience. Impeccable was the word we used repeatedly to describe our stay. We simply cannot recommend it enough. Thanks to all of the staff who looked after us so well.

Top Tip: It’s definitely worth following The Cavendish on facebook and twitter as they have lots of lovely exclusive offers for you to enjoy over and above the ones that already appear on their website. (We’ll definitely be taking up one of their great offers to stay there again).

Winter break rates are from £189 per room per night including VAT and Full English Breakfast from 14th December till 20th March 2016.

Keep an eye out for more offers coming soon.

Dans le Noir - Dining in the Dark

We’ve recently head about a fabulous event that’s been arranged for 50 of Centrepoint‘s vulnerable 16 to 25 year olds.

Dan’s le Noir? whose concept is to dine in total darkness, while guided and served by blind people is a truly unique experience which, fingers crossed will change your view of the world by reversing your perspective.

The concept have teamed up with Centrepoint and have arranged a Gastronomic Dinner with Michelin Star Chef Julien Machet. The dinner will be held for 50 of Centrepoint’s vulnerable 16-25 year-olds to celebrate Dans le Noirs 10th Anniversary and decade of successful charitable ventures.

50 homeless young people will experience heightened flavours by enjoying a gastro dinner in the dark. The menu at Dans le Noir? has evolved over the past 10 years and in November 2015, Michelin star chef, Julien Machet, was hired to consult and help John Houel, the London Head Chef, create the four eclectic menus. Chef Julien will be present to assist with the creation of this spectacular dinner.

Dans le Noir? and Centrepoint support those furthest from the jobline to help them get into work. The two companies are joining forces to maximise awareness of the difficulties that blind, and homeless young people, face when trying to get into employment.

A statistic by gov.uk estimate that 16 percent of working age adults are disabled. Recent statistics show that only 46.3 percent of disabled people are in employment compared to 76.4 percent of non-disabled people, making it a significant social issue.

Edouard de Broglie, who founded Dans le Noir? in Paris in 2004, says

50 percent of our staff have a high disability, yet we still operate an efficient and profitable company. We have an incredibly low staff turnover which shows the dedication of our long-standing team. We want to show big companies that those with disabilities shouldn’t be limited to performing only menial jobs. Our guides are incredibly skilled and challenge the perception that blind or visually impaired can serve in a restaurant. Who could have said that 10 years ago?.

Sadie Odeogberin, Head of Skills and Employment, at Centrepoint, says:

The number of young people rough sleeping in London has more than doubled in the last four years, but providing a safe place to stay isn’t enough to solve the youth homelessness crisis. That’s why Centrepoint supports each young person staying with us to find a job or a route into education or training. Like Dans Le Noir?, we’re committed to helping those furthest from the world of work achieve their ambitions. It’s not an easy journey for a homeless young person to make and thanks to the generosity of Dans Le Noir?, we can reward them an experience they will never have had before. Homeless young people are every bit as talented as their peers and with the right support and hard work they can fulfil their potential.

We hope everyone has a fabulous evening!

Suzanne x