The Carriage HouseEmbracing the peace and tranquillity of rural Northumberland in a property situated close to Morpeth in the village of Ulgham, The Carriage House is five star rated for self-catering accommodation and it proved to be a delightful home away from home, the perfect base to walk, cycle and explore.

On arrival, our host Dawn showed us into the large kitchen, dining and living space. With plenty of homemade fruit cake, tea, coffee, wine and fresh flowers on the bench, we knew we’d picked a great place to stay!

Dawn made sure we knew everything there was to know about the cottage and the appliances; we’ve reviewed many a place to stay over the last seven years, but can count the personal introductions on one hand. It makes a huge difference, no guessing how everything works and knowledge that there’s someone close by if you need anything at all.

Checking out the remainder of the cottage, we found two lovely bedrooms, both ample in size and both en-suite.

Carriage house bedroom

The master bedroom has a king size sleigh bed, ample hanging space and a spacious en-suite bathroom donning a lovely jacuzzi corner bath and a shower. Bedroom two can be either a twin or super king size bed which is handy depending who your travel companions are.

With leather sofas in the living room, TV, DVD player and digital satellite, there was plenty of space for two couples to settle down to entertain themselves in front of the lovely open log fire.

CArriage House lounge

Outside, there’s plenty of space to sit on a fine day and the fabulous hot tub is a unique addition – although during our stay it was a little too cold but maybe we aren’t as adventurous these days.

Everything you could possibly need is supplied in the accommodation, just pack your bags!

The Carriage House is the perfect base to explore the Northumberland beaches (read our walk along Druridge Bay to Amble), the Cheviot Hills, the market towns of Morpeth and Alnwick, and dozens of stately homes and castles.

We’d definitely recommend Barter Books in Alnwick, an old converted railway station and second hand bookshop. The village of Ulgham itself is small, but you’re on the coast within a five minute drive.

And if it’s lively you’re after, the cottage is around a 30 minute drive from Newcastle, the capital of the North East with extensive shopping, restaurants & nightlife.

Europe’s largest shopping centre, Intu Metrocentre is close by in Gateshead and drive a little further south to explore Durham with its’ simply magnificent cathedral.

Prices, availability and more information can be found here.

Nic x

 

Turtle Bay, Newcastle

As eating experiences go, this was a hot one! Turtle Bay, the Caribbean restaurant opened its doors in Newcastle with the same pizazz and panache as on their menu. When you think Caribbean, what comes to mind? I’ve never been before, but my imagination conjurers up balmy weather, white beaches, sunshine, cocktails and lots of coconuts! This new eatery had a lot to live up to.

As soon as we walked through the door, the well rehearsed staff greeted us personally, shaking our hands and introducing themselves. Nice touch. Immediately offered a cocktail, we were onto a winner.

So let’s start with those cocktails. Wow! They pack some punch (pardon the pun). With plenty to choose from, and some including a 63 percent proof white rum, you definitely need to leave the car at home when you’re having a night out in the Caribbean.

As a bone-fide rum lover, I was in absolute heaven as the rum stocked bar offers a choice of over 40 varieties.

Wandering around, there was a great atmosphere, busy, eclectic, colourful. I was already looking forward to trying the food. Having never eaten in a Caribbean restaurant, I didn’t have any expectations. But if you love all things spicy, I imagine you’ll want to move in.

Turtle Bay Cutters

To the food. The sheer volume we got to sample was staggering (thank you Turtle Bay Newcastle for looking after us so well). Deliciously spicy, the ‘Cutters’ (starters) are inspired by Beach Shacks & Street Hawkers across the Caribbean Islands… Jerk Pit Prawns, Duck Rolls, Jerk Chicken Wings, Pulled Pork Salads, Flat Breads, there are any amount of choices to nibble at and washed down with a soothing Banana and Peanut Butter smoothie, this first course was a real hit on our table.

(I wasn’t sure if that smoothie would work, but we couldn’t get enough of them. Like a pudding in a glass it tempered the spices).

The main courses kept on coming, ‘One Pots’ rich, slowly simmered & uniquely Caribbean of Goat Curry and the scrumptious coco-nutty Run Down; my personal favourite, creamy, flavoursome with just the right amount of kick. A variety of salads and Jerk Pit BBQ food, there’s enough on this menu to satiate any appetite.

Run Down

Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay to sample the sweets, but we left with brownies packed in a cute little brown boxes so we were happy ladies.

Nicola and Suzanne

As you’d expect, the staff were lovely, informative and friendly. We really did appreciated the time everyone took to greet us personally and shake our hands. Great customer service always makes the difference when dining out, and this service was great.

Unapologetic Caribbean really works. The décor is great, the eclectic mix of colours and murals represent the food; loud and made to be seen. This restaurant, like the food is not shy or retiring. Fun and frolics, a place to enjoy with friends and go cocktail-tastic.

This taste of the Caribbean in Newcastle has made me want to book my plane ticket to the real place. But in the meantime, I’ll be back to sample the other 39 or so varieties of rum.

Nic  x

 

 

Suzanne pregnant Jan 2010

Where was I? Oh yes, Emily was born with Erbs Palsy and I was feeling guilty. Because everything was my fault. 

I did what I thought I should and attended the baby groups as it was the right thing for my daughter. Apparently, there’s always the need to have bonds with other mummy’s and I agree with this if they are people you’d want to spend time with outside of mummyhood. I didn’t attend national childbirth trust (N.C.T) or have any friends who had recently had babies so I was swimming alone. And I only have a 25m badge at the best of times!

People who know me, know that I don’t sugar coat anything. I am black and white with no shades of grey. And mostly, I believe what people say, why would they lie? These baby groups had me on my knees, I felt useless! Perfect feeding, perfect routines, perfectly polished! Me on the other hand rarely slept (it’s currently 02:57 – history isn’t repeating itself but because I’m so emotionally involved in this post I have to keep stopping to catch my breath and have a cuppa and compose), my diet was poor, I saw myself as a bad mother.

I seemingly hid this so well from not only my family but myself (but not my best friend). The post natal depression questionnaire presented to me by my health visitor asks;

  • During the past month, have you often been bothered by feeling down, depressed or hopeless?
  • During the past month, have you often taken little or no pleasure in doing things that normally make you happy?

I answered ‘no’ with tears welling in my eyes but the health visitor didn’t push me on it, it seemed a form filling exercise. Now I realise that by admitting I had PND was akin to admitting failure and who wants to embrace failure? I kick myself now for not being brave enough to put my hand up and say, please can I have some help. But then, how could I ask? I couldn’t even fill the form in.

The words  were three words that existed in other people’s lives, not mine. I was a strong woman, a woman who would give up my life for anyone, a woman who hated to be labelled. However, throughout my past, when things got tough, I always hid away and throughout 2010 and 2011, I did this a lot.

I muddled through the first year in a haze of pea soup and escaping wherever I could. I went back to work as a H&S officer when Emily was 10 months old and before that, I often put work and blogging first before my family. It was the place I escaped to when I couldn’t face the real world. The world I created.

I started to see light around Emily’s first birthday, then BOOM one of the shining lights of my world my Uncle Bill died (24.03.2011). He was such a non-judgemental person, but I hadn’t even shared my pain with him as he had suffered a stroke and was trying to mend himself. Another year of fuzz and a redundancy, I simply didn’t feel like me and hid behind a broken smile.

The feeling of uselessness only seemed to get greater but then one day, and for no real reason, the fog seemed to lift and I saw light.

Still I certainly wasn’t ready for baby two. What if it happened again? Potentially losing another two years or even more to PND? When we became pregnant, I told EVERY health professional that would listen about my undiagnosed episode.

What I do find strange is, even through I readily passed this information on and told my current health visitor the PND form was useless, I have received absolutely NO monitoring at all. In fact, I’ve just realised the severity of this; I actually think in this regard that as a health trust they have failed me.

Thankfully, even though Luke came at 35 weeks I don’t believe I have PND this time. (Nothing is easy; my waters broke, I suffered a prolapsed umbilical cord, was rushed from home to hospital for an emergency c section and 59 minutes later, Luke arrived!).

My life revolves around this new tiny creature and instead of being scared,  he is teaching me how to be a better mummy to both him and his big sister. I don’t put my computer on and create posts if he wants me I am his 100 percent. Hmm, sometimes around 95 percent, as I may tweet whilst he’s in my arms.!

I am giving him the mother that Emily deserved but didn’t get (I was a good mum to Emily but I think part of me blamed her for my lady bits NEVER being the same again, even though I know she was absolutely not to blame).

Whilst I have been writing this, I have fed Luke and also been shouted for by Emily who needed the toilet. When I held her hand and guided her back to bed, she asked me to stay with her and stroke her hand and watch her sleep. At that moment I felt so very, very lucky and privileged.

Now it’s time to sleep.

Hold up! The reason I wrote these posts was to say that 2015 was going to be the year of me. Now, it’s going to be 2016. So there! Project 4.1 (stands for my 41st year) starts now. No sports car, but a wedding and a trip to NYC are on the cards. I’m looking at health, fitness, sleep, mental health and finance.

Project 4.1 – 42lb to go!

Suzanne x mummy of two and master of me.

If you’d like to be part of Project 4.1 please pop your details below. [contact-form]

This drawer now functions as it should. And days are much calmer. At home, I’m not known for my exemplary tidying skills.  I’ve read that creative people have a tendency towards clutter, which as excuses go is OK but my whole life has been spent searching for that THING I need. I was yearning for a solution to get tidy.

Enter Marie Kondo. She didn’t literally come to my home (although I’d love her to), no, it was enough to read an article all about ‘The Goddess of Folded Things’ in Red Magazine. The article shared Marie’s desire to calm the world starting with folded jumpers. An award winning author, Marie has just published Spark Joy, An Illustrated Master Class On The Art Of Organizing And Tidying Up.

Really? Marie is flying around the world demonstrating how to fold clothes and tidy up! And she is loved!

With my usual lack of patience, I set about watching one of Marie’s YouTube videos, wondered if this was another ridiculous way of wasting time and then stared at my underwear in dismay. A dark, winter morning never starts well when rifling through an underwear drawer only to keep finding ‘summer size’ pants. I needed a system where I could easily find what I was looking for and not be reminded that I needed to lose a pound or twelve.

Determined, I tipped everything out onto the bed, and sorted everything into sizes and colours. Sitting on the bed, it took about 30 minutes to fold everything out of the three drawers and replace them in an orderly style.

Here’s the thing; repetitively folding pants, is just so calming, your mind just switches off! And the difference was incredible – I fitted the contents of three drawers into one!

Because I created so much space, everything that had been piling up under the bed, now fit into the drawers. A small tidy realisation went off in my head and I spent the next two hours on a mission. The wardrobe was cleared out and returned all colour blocked, belts and bags are in my Grandad’s old suitcase, scarves have their own basket, towels are stored, the drawers in the office are sorted and I even folded all my tights! My tights!

I started the Tidy-Up-Myself project on 13 January and amazingly, two weeks later, the drawers are still as neat as in the photos above. Every morning starts with a sense of peace because my things are easily accessible. Today, I stood ironing pillow cases and sheets for the bed. This has never happened in all my life. Something has changed. The fold-and-stay-calm revolution is quietly seeping into my brain. And it is very welcome.

Nic x

 

 

 

Sunset over the River Tyne Sept 2015The most often repeated phrase in my family this month has been “the nights are starting to get lighter”. Which of course they are by about 15 minutes a week depending on where you live.

This one fact cheers everyone in my family up. The chatter is focussed on getting back to our caravan when the site opens again. Walking up hills. Springtime. Things to look forward to.

But surely there has to be something good about January ?!

To try and stop living waiting for it to be April, I’ve been writing down everything that gives me pleasure right now.

  • Positive resolutions
  • Flowers in the kitchen
  • Doing crosswords each night
  • Fresh sheets on the bed
  • Making time to eat tea together
  • A really nice coffee on a morning
  • The view of the river Tyne at work
  • A tidy office
  • Getting excited about going to London to see family

And of course, the days getting longer!

Nic x