Luke tucking in at Keepers cafeWe’ve been meaning to visit Keeper’s Cafe in Dipton for ages and finally made some time to go! A family run business, Lisa and the rest of the lovely team, go out of their way to make you feel welcome and spoil you with their GORGEOUS food and treats.

The cakes are awesome, so if you simply wanted to sit in a comfy chair and chill with your friend or partner, that’s just fine. But if you have little ones, as you can see Suzanne brought Luke for his lunch, the children’s room at the back of the cafe is absolutely perfect.

It’s not just about the homemade food, the ladies love to support other local, small businesses and there is an enticing range of gifts and keepsakes to treat yourself or someone special to.

Suzanne and I managed to get a bit of chat time whilst Luke was asleep and the setting was perfect. We sat in the front room on two very comfy chairs, relaxing with a couple of hot drinks. When Luke woke up, we moved to the children’s area.

Panini at Keepers cafeFor lunch I had the amazing cheese board which had great portion sizes, enough crackers and pickle and lots of varieties of hand picked, local cheeses. Suzanne opted for a mozzarella and tomato panini which came with coleslaw, crisps and salad. Luke had a children’s platter with ham, salad, bread and other bits and bobs, which he promptly demolished. The food was delicious and there’s a good selection of lunch time favourites all made on-site.

We weren’t chased or hurried up, the older children played together and there is plenty to keep them entertained. The prices are reasonable, the atmosphere is lovely, and there are lots of monthly events hosted at the cafe so it’s well worth checking their website out or their Facebook page.

Joan Collins Timeless Beauty

I still remember receiving my very first make up palates from my Aunty Chris. I think I was 14 and I got three perfectly beautiful pallets from Marks & Spencer. They were mine all mine and I coveted them as though they were the crown jewels. If I look hard enough in my old bedroom which is back to being the storage room I’m sure I would find these empty golden gifts.

Receiving that makeup made me feel so grown up, no more stealing mams (that didn’t last long of course). Fast forward almost three decades and I still feel special when I get new makeup. So whilst mooching around in Marks & Spencer’s beauty hall, which is an absolute must I must say as there are so many testers but there aren’t any of those assistants to turn your huge effort that you went to this morning seemingly pale to insignificance with their perfectly applied makeup.

There are 36 brands in place at M&S and I selected one of them to try; Joan Collins an icon if ever there was one. Strangely the year I got my first makeup was the last year Dynasty was produced but Joan seems not to have aged and Alexis Colby, will forever be etched in my memory.

The range by Dame Joan Collins who is 83 is named Joan Collins Timeless Beauty. Oh lordy if I look like her at 63 I’d be very happy. I tried out the foundation, concealer and a lip and powder compact. The packaging screams Hollywood glamour but will the contents live up to the look?

Fade to perfect concealer; Currently I suffer from puffy dark eyes so it was good to read that this concealer is to aid the reduction of dark circles, soothe irritation and calm puffiness around the eyes. This indeed worked to a point but I by no means expect miracles. This concealer comes in three shades; fair, medium and dark and I tried out fair which worked for me. I use concealer before and after foundation so I do go through quite a lot so will need to consider a repeat purchase as it is £18.

First base foundation; I go between powder and cream foundation for day and night. Cream is most definitely my go to evening foundation. First Base is said to be youth promoting skincare and a foundation in one. The finish is lovely, quite natural and breathable but the tingle I get from what I presume is the hyaluronic acid is a little disconcerting. Despite the tingle first base has never left my skin reddened and the tingles do die down. This comes in eight shades and is £25 it would be difficult to choose between this and Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Foundation.

I liked the coverage and the dewiness on my skin on my dry skin days though it did stick to the pores so more exfoliation needed for me.

Lipstick and powder compact duo; This is one of those products I like to flash as it looks so good. The opulent packaging is distinctive. Top tip: project it in your makeup bag as it does scratch easily.

I chose Katrina which is quite a deep brown shade. The lippy glides onto the lips and leave them instantly moisturised. I do wish I’d picked a lighter shade as this is one for an evening but the formula is so lovely I want to use it all of the time.

Katrina is combined with pressed powder and a mirror both of which have become a god send as recently the tip of my nose seems always to be red and the powder helps to combat it. I love the fact that you can marry any of the 16 shades of lipsticks with the compact. I think Marilyn will be my next choice and the lip stick retails at £18.

I’ve already chosen to try out Rosie for Autograph on my next Marks & Spencer visit. .

 

 

 

Joan Collins Timeless Beauty items were gifted for review purposes but all opinions are our own.

Victoria Sponge

We love baking in our house and when I saw ‘Children’s Book of Baking (Usborne Cookbooks)‘ sitting on the shelves of our local charity shop I simply had to buy it and got a little excited to try out some recipes. Since it’s Valentine’s we thought we make a Victoria sponge, well who doesn’t love cake?

Apron donned and hands washed let the cooking commence….

Here’s what you will need if you’d like to join in;

Cake

2 x 20cm cake tins

4 medium eggs

225 g softened butter

225g caster sugar

225g self raising flour

Filling

100g softened unsalted butter

225g icing sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

4 tablespoons of strawberry jam

Victoria Sponge making

Method

Heat the oven to 180 degrees C / gas mark 4.

Wipe the insides of the tins with cooking oil. Place parchment paper in the bottom of each tin.

Break the eggs into a bowl and beat together with a fork.

Put the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat them until they are pale and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time and if the mixture curdles pop in a little bit of flour.

Sift the flour over the mixture and gently fold in with a metal spoon.

Divide the mixture equally between the tins.

Smooth the top (Emily and I find this really tricky).

Bake the cake in the oven for 25 minutes. Pop on some oven gloves and carefully remove the tins from the oven.

Press the cakes to check they are cooked.

Leave the cakes in the tins for five minutes to cool. Then run a knife around the edges and turn them out onto a wire rack.

For the filling

Put the jam in a bowl and beat it. Spread it over the top of the bottom cake.

Make the butter cream by mixing the icing sugar and butter together until they reach a delightful texture then spread that over the bottom of then top cake (we ignored this and tried to pop it on top of the jam but this didn’t leave a nice clean typical Victoria sponge white and red line but more of a gorgeous pink marriage).

Sandwich both cakes together and gently press together.

Scatter some caster sugar on top. We decorated our cake with strawberries but this is optional.


TYummy cakeotal Time
: 70 mins Taste: Fabulous (if we do say so ourselves).

Check out Emily on Instagram.

Be our Valentine

Love from Sofa Stories x x

A plethora of eyebrow makeupIf someone took the time out to explain HD brows to me I still wouldn’t get them. There are going to be many girls who’ll look back at photos of their HD eyebrows in a few years time and ask why nobody stopped them.

Still, there’s nothing quite as ageing as narrow, patchy eyebrows that have suffered years of plucking. I can vividly remember advice from an old work colleague when I was in my 20’s and she was in her 40’s, imploring me not to over-pluck as “they just don’t grow back”.

My collection of eyebrow-enhancers seems to be growing at a fierce pace so I thought I’d share my positive and negatives for each product.

    1. Clear mascara. If you have enough eyebrow to shape, clear mascara is enough to keep them groomed all day. This Rimmel tube is available everywhere and is inexpensive, easy to use and effective. My most used eyebrow product.
    2. Eyebrow pencil. Cheap and easy to use. Fills in the spaces. The original eyebrow makeup. I find it a bit of a struggle getting the colour and tone to match and it does wear off (on me?) more quickly but I’ll admit to having eyebrow pencils in most of my bags for the ultimate quick touch up. Remember your sharpener.
    3. Kiko Eyebrow coloured mascara. Easy to use (short outward strokes) fills the gaps and shapes your brow at the same time. I’ve bought two separate shades but one is too red and the other not-quite-right. And I’ve been a little over zealous on a couple of occasions and needed some swift action with a cotton bud to sort out the mess!
    4. Benefit brows. Certainly the most expensive of the products in the image. But is has lasted an absolute age (the packing is completely different now). With a separate powder and wax, 2 little brushes and tweezers in a mirrored case this product is the closest in match to my eyebrow colour, and really does fill and shape. The wax is used after the powder to help it stay put. If you’re investing in something like this, visit the counter first and get someone to show you how.
    5. Stila All Day Waterproof Brow Colour. This is my new favourite. I was tempted to try it because it’s ‘waterproof’ and lasts ‘all day.’ As it’s a brush tip, the end result is natural and not overdone. I find it really easy to use and it does last without the need for top ups.

Stila waterproof brow colour

Dad and daughterFor his 70th birthday, my dad announced that he wanted to cycle from London to Paris. And so he did with my brother and fella to keep him company. When I mentioned that I wanted to support Willow Burn Hospice near Lanchester, County Durham, by doing the Great North Run, he decided he’d do it with me. He’s 72 now. “It’s on the bucket list” says he. “Ok” says I.

And that was that. His Christmas present was sorted; entry to the Great North Run.

For many years, when I was small, my family positioned ourselves at the bottom of my gran and granddad’s street in South Shields to watch the Great North runners, specifically my Uncle Alan, run past.

If you’ve never watched 10s of 1000s of people run past the end of your street it’s a real spectacle. People of all shapes and sizes and fitness levels doing a mammoth half marathon for whatever reason they have.

And this year, the Little Dad and Daughter team will be running (well not exactly running) on behalf of the magnificent Willow Burn Hospice which provides care for people with palliative and end of life needs.

Just to be clear, Dad and I are NOT runners. This will hurt. And neither of us have ever, ever run half a marathon. To start at the age of 42 and 72 respectively is daunting to say the least. But Willow Burn is an amazing place which really cares for their patients and families and well worth some considerable effort from us to help them.

We’ll be tracking our preparations, my attempt to stay fit for longer than a few months and how much money we raise too.

Nic x

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