I have embraced turning 40. It’s been a cracking year. Highlights include: me faux pants

1. I’m happiest than I’ve ever been. The rest of this list exists because of this one, undisputable fact. Sharing life with so many wonderful people in it, makes me a very lucky lady.
2. I work harder than I ever had. And am more focused than I have ever been.
3. I will always, if possible, work for myself.
4. I am acutely aware of time passing. And making sure moments count.
5. I’m passionate about helping other women in business to feel confident in their own abilities and embrace all that digital technology can offer.
6. At some point in the day I always acknowledge how lucky I am.
7. I like speaking to big groups of people.
8. I stick up for what I think is right.
9. I acknowledge what I am good at and am happy to say it out loud.
10. I know what I am rubbish at and am happy to ask for help.
11. I care far less about what people think of me. I happily acknowledge I am not everyone’s cup of tea.
12. I spend my hard-earned on things made to last rather than loads of cheap stuff. I value quality.
13. I own two white pairs of jeans. For 2 decades I wouldn’t put my backside in them.
14. I own faux leather trousers. They were my best buy in 2015.
15. I freely indulge my shoe obsession.
16. Travel has become a really important part of my life.
17. I love digital technology and want to be part of it rather than left behind.
18. I’m not fit enough.
19. I own a bona fide pair of Ray Bans.
20. I often work from the bath.

If you’re reading this and you’re approaching 40, don’t worry about it in the slightest. And if you’re already there, what would you add to this list?

Nicola x

South Causey Inn

Sometimes it’s the non-planned days out that are the best. After some debate about where to eat lunch (somewhere without the queues of frenzied-shoppers), Mike and I ended up at the South Causey Inn, somewhere I’d never been to before.

South Causey Inn is an independent hotel that has it all. The setting is beautiful, it’s situated in 100 acres of land in the beautiful Beamish Valley, close to the world famous museum.  It’s a hotel, restaurant and splendid event venue, including weddings.

But we just wanted a spot of lunch. And what a lunch it was.

As you can see from the photo, the portions are substantial, my “Slider” is considered a lighter bite! The honey BBQ pulled pork mini sandwiches (three of them!) were absolutely gorgeous, the meat was well-cooked and really tasty. The homemade red cabbage slaw set it off a treat, but the sweet potato fries were a little undercooked for me. £10.95

Mike’s cheeseburger was handmade (no packet burgers here) and came with onion rings, slaw, he upgraded to chunky chips (which were substantial and fabulous) and a really tangy homemade relish.

The staff were absolutely lovely, the venue is out of this world (if you like beams, fireplaces, and comfy couches) and we happily whiled away a couple of hours.

At £10.95 each, the meals were good value and I particularly love the amount of local produce used.

Nicola x

View of Grey's Monument and Christmas markets from the Botanist

The setting; The Botanist. The occasion; Suzanne’s 40th birthday.

We were celebrating like we were 10 years younger. We’d left the house at lunch time after a hairdressing pamper session. We’d hit the Quayside, not so much like it used to be in the “glory going out days” but a more sophisticated affair (those of us over a certain age will no doubt remember ‘The Boat’ moored on the Gateshead Quayside?).

We enjoyed lots of merriment and drinking and by three ish food was absolutely the only option. Where oh where should we head? To ‘The Botanist’ that’s where. The Botanist is in Newcastle city centre, a beautiful bar and restaurant, where we could watch the Christmas lights being switch on and discuss the benefits of buying a windmill or three for our gardens.

From walking through the door, to leaving several hours later, the staff looked after us wonderfully. You can’t help but be impressed whilst inside The Botanist.  That enormous tree in the middle of the bar is always an attention-grabber, as is the sparkling dome.

botanist lights_edited-1

A bottle of house red got us started, and eventually we made a decision to share a starter, have a main meal each and share a sweet.

To begin Smoked Haddock Fishcake – this was packed with flavour and had plenty of fish which was lovely as so many fishcakes are packed with potato to bulk it up. As always Suzanne was hungrier than me so ate more than her share!

The Botanist cheese burgerI opted for a burger with fries covered in delicious garlic salt (lush) and after long deliberations and recommendations from our knowledgeable waiter, Suzanne chose the 9 oz ribeye with garlic butter and mash.

Suzanne loved everything about her medium rare steak (she assured me it was cooked to perfection) the little squishing out of blood doesn’t appeal to me but apparently it’s nice. And the mash was creamy and lumpless, always a bonus!

David, the restaurant manager, popped over to see us and have a chat whilst we were waiting for dessert. We got the impression that he really did love his job and treated us to some birthday cocktails.

I chose ‘The Botanist’ a concoction of Ketel One vodka, Bacardi Carta Blanca rum, elderflower liqueur, red amaranth, mint, jasmine syrup, lime juice topped with lemonade.

Suzanne opted for ‘The Chocolate Rose’ creamy loveliness filled with Ketel One vodka, rose liqueur, rose syrup, liquid chocolate, milk, cream – think Fry’s Turkish Delight in a glass.

Botanist KebabFor desert we shared the strawberry and marshmallow kebab with Sailor Jerry chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. This was heaven we both adored it – not one bit was left.

Suzanne’s overall opinion: “Lots of steps to the main floor but it was good to see the numbers as you walked up (there is a lift though!). I loved the experienced staff who informed us that they have to try the menu themselves so they can talk about with knowledge. The food was good and wholesome (but not to die for). the birthday cocktails were a fabulous treat, the Botanist is a lovely place to meet friends.”

My overall opinion: I loved it. I really like the decor and the feeling of space, the staff were wonderful and the food was delicious. The view is cracking, there aren’t many restaurants in Newcastle that can boast such an amazing vantage point over Newcastle.

We’ll definitely be back.

Nicola x

 

self catering cottage

Most of us don’t know what delights we have on our own doorstep and that certainly was the case with Ryehill Farm.

And it’s amazing that even one night away, just a short drive from your front door, can feel like a real break.

If you like the thought of staying on a real working farm, look no further Ryehill Farm, Northumberland. No matter your taste for accommodation, Ryehill has something for everyone; the option of bed and breakfast, self catering cottage and a small camping and caravan field (weather permitting). Self-catering for me, is the best of both worlds. You stay dry in the wet with comfy beds, but complete privacy to come and go as you please.

The self catering cottage at Ryehill sleeps up to seven people. This is a traditionally styled cottage, if you’re looking for designer furniture that you’re scared to sit on, Ryehill isn’t for you!

The amply spacious lounge and kitchen has plenty of seating area for all and a large family dining table perfect for hosting your own parties. It’s stocked with everything you could possibly need for your stay, an immense amount of cutlery, crockery and drinking vessels along with a dishwasher to clean them all.

The space is comfortable and everything you’d imagine a working farm cottage to be like; heavy pine table and chairs, and stone tiled flooring. There is no worry about spillages or muddy boots in this space. Simply sweep up and clean away.

There’s a gas fire (pretending to be a real log fire) in the lounge which, should you need it, adds extra warmth, but the heating is set to keep away all chills. The patio doors open to a private seating area which faces onto the barns which currently house the horses and the lambs that need to be hand reared in the Spring. Children are welcome to explore, but don’t forget, this is a working farm.

One of the major plus point of this self-catering cottage is that it’s been designed to be totally inclusive. The doors are extra wide – perfect for wheelchairs, the tiled floor makes access downstairs easy for all and the ground floor bedroom (with two single beds and cracking view) has ample space and a walk / wheel in shower.

Ryehill Farm self catering cottage bedroomUpstairs, there are two more double rooms, one with a further single bed and both are well-appointed with their own en-suite shower and bath.

As we had a choice of rooms, we chose the smaller but more cosy of the two. White linen was beautifully crisp and the bed was comfy. A television was available in the room we chose and drinks facility were provided in all three rooms.

The cottage is adjoined to the B&B accommodation, so if you are a very large party, there is scope for the other six rooms to be filled at the same time.

Ryehill Farm gardenYou’re welcome to explore the farm itself, sit in any of the many benches provided, check out the small allotment area (where Elizabeth grows most of the food for her guests) and the kids will love Skittle Alley, the dedicated children’s barn.

The nearest village, Slayley, is about a mile away and there are three pubs within walking distance (one if you’re an experienced walker!). The pretty Roman villages of Corbridge and Hexham are both within a 15 minute drive.

If you love meandering around towns and cities, Newcastle and Durham can all be reached within 30 to 40 minutes drive on a good day. And if it’s shopping on a LARGE scale you’re after, you can get lost within the Metrocentre on your first visit.

There is so much to explore in Northumberland, I’d not even know where to begin, but Hadrian’s Wall, the Cheviot Hills or the stunning Northumberland coast line would be good places to start.

We’re very lucky, we have all of this on our doorsteps. We’d encourage you to visit and find out more for yourselves.

And many thanks to Elizabeth for her home-made bread, flap jack and banana bread, all lovely additions to our party food.

For more information and prices go to the Ryehill Farm website and follow Ryehill Farm on Twitter and Facebook too.

Nicola x 

charlotte tilsbury make up

Charlotte Tilbury has worked hard to produce a make up range that women will love.

As a makeup artist immersed in the fashion and beauty industry for over 20 years she is always determined to look her best. And boy does she have some competition! Working in fashion must place an extra pressure to look great all the time.

Ladies, we all know the power of make-up. A late night, little sleep or stress can play havoc with our complexion, but the right make up can make up can still make us feel like super stars.

You only turn 40 once, and me and Suzanne have always loved the ‘getting ready’ bit of a night out as much as the actual event itself (who doesn’t love sitting with their best friend, chatting and sipping on a glass of fizz or two?).

We’d lusted over the Charlottle Tilbury range for many a month, so trialling these fab four items was the perfect start to Suzanne’s very special birthday.

Here’s what we thought.

Suzanne and Nicola x

Luxury Palette the Vintage Vamp

Colour-Coded Eyeshadows, £38.00

The blurb: “The Vintage Vamp, dresses for yourself but can’t help intoxicating others with just a glance. Your palette is deep and intense and you adore the richest, most beguiling colours from captivating crimsons to sumptuous rose golds. A veritable modern day Lauren Bacall, Louisa Brooks or Daisy Buchanan, with an obsession for all things antique gold and vintage treasures.

Each eyeshadow palette contains four harmonious colour ways that offer a complete ‘desk to disco’ eye colour wardrobe and an easy to use application ritual that is fail-safe to follow.”

What we thought:

Suz – Fabulously packaged. Needed some advice on how to get the desired look so  we used the online video tutorial . Lasted all day and night. Great staying power.

K.I.S.S.I.N.G Bitch Perfect

Fallen From The Lipstick Tree, £23.00

The blurb: “Enriched with a breakthrough, secret ingredient, the Lipstick Tree, an anti-oxidant that naturally protects lips from UV damage and external pollution leaving them cashmere soft and irresistible. Blended with special waxes and clever light-diffusing pigments for pert, full-bodied, ultra-brilliant lips that ensure you leave a lasting impression.

Paraben free, The Lip Stick Tree protects lips from UV damage and fighting oxidative stress and contains light-diffusing pigments that give lips a brilliant, luminous, multi-dimensional finish. The blend of waxes means this lipstick glides over the contours of your lips.”

What we thought:

Nic – I loved it so much, I bought another one so we didn’t have to share. That says it all!

Suz- You know that moment when you take your lipstick bullet out of your bag and hope that the woman next to you notices and wonders what that thing of beauty is? This lipstick has all the allure, of a luxury brand, glides on well and lasts.

Magic Foundation, shade 3

Flawless, Poreless, Long-Lasting Coverage, SPF15 £29.50

The blurb: “Magic Foundation is a miracle in a bottle that transforms skin for all ages, skin tones and skin types. It has a  “hyper-intelligent” formula that gives full-coverage yet feels completely weightless, with all the anti-ageing and protective benefits of a luxury skin cream. It conceals imperfections, glides on like a dream, and literally feels like a second skin. Whether your skin needs just a bit of perfecting, or you struggle with a frustrating issue like acne, melasma or rosacea, the Magic Foundation will give you a perfect looking skin day, every day!”

What we thought:

Suz- I used the online foundation finder  tool to establish my correct shading. Shade three is a neutral beige meant for light skin tones with cool undertones, and my shade of choice as it describes me accurately. It’s recommended that the foundation is applied with the ‘Magic Complexion Brush’ but it has a price tag of £45 so on this occasion it was finger tips.

Sofa Stories wearing Charlotte Tilsbury

Rock ‘n’ Kohl Bedroom Black

Iconic Liquid Eyeliner Pencil, £19.00

The blurb: “A revolutionary, no-nonsense liquid-eye pencil: it has the silky smooth glide of a liquid liner with the soft, sooty, pigment-rich result of a kohl. ROCK ‘N’ KOHL melts onto your skin for an easy, 1-slick line that blends then sets. It stays put for 14 hours, is waterproof, paraben and preservative free and contains crushed pearl powder, known to stimulate collagen production.”

What we thought…

Nic – Honestly, this is simply one of the best eyeliners, if not THE best, that I have ever used. It went on so easily that it actually freaked me out. After 25 years of warming kohl eyeliners up (normally by breathing on them) I couldn’t get used to how easy this was to use. And it’s so black! It’s definitely a night out eyeliner, I couldn’t rock it for work.

There’s no doubt that this product is now my go-to eyeliner. It is worth every penny and I’m on a mission to get the rest of the range. Fabulous.

Suz – I am a relative novice when it comes to eyeliner application as I’ve always been put off by Nicola breathing onto liners to make their application easier! When I saw how easy the application was I gave it a go. The shade is a little too black for me for everyday use, but it complimented the black and brooding leather look we were both rocking for our girlie birthday day.

What we can we say? We’re Charlotte Tilbury converts and now, loyal fans.