Saturday 23 May 2015

Afternoon Tea at The Vermont Hotel, Newcastle

As you may have read from my previous post, last weekend I spent celebrating my 30th birthday. On Sunday we drove up to Newcastle and spent a few nights there (mainly to see Take That). My boyfriend, knowing my love for afternoon tea, booked us in at The Vermont Hotel.

When we arrived, as soon as I saw all the flags at the entrance of the hotel I knew that I was in for something good (why is it that only the grand hotels have the flags outside?!). Walking up the steps and through the doors we were immediately greeted and shown through to the lounge. I was hoping to be situated in the area that consisted of pretty swish looking grey studded chairs, however we walked straight through this room into another room that had a collection of low sofas as well as tables with old vintage looking leather chairs. We were seated right beside a roaring fire (which at first was a little concerning for me because I automatically thought with it being May I was going to get too hot, however it was fine).

We were given a choice of what type of afternoon tea we wanted to go for (i.e. traditional, cocktail, champagne etc) however because I'm not a huge drinker, we just went for traditional.

We were presented with the tea first, and although I was a little disappointed that the teapots were basic plain white (I like a bit of vintage in my afternoon tea!) it was nice tea nonetheless.

Shortly afterwards we were presented with our stand of afternoon tea which consisted of the standard sandwiches (i.e. egg mayo, beef & mustard, salmon etc). The fillings tasted really good quality and they didn't scrimp on the quantity of them either.

We had 2 scones each and was provided with ample amount of clotted cream as well as cute miniature jam jars of a variety of flavours.

All the cakes were gorgeous and the selection was perfect. Eclairs, macaroons, chocolate sponge, a mini (what I believed to be) shortbread cake as well as some form of cream passion fruit desert, which came with an edible chocolate spoon! (I was mightily impressed by this!).

The atmosphere in the lounge was perfect - a grand piano was fairly near to our table and within 20 minutes of us arriving a guy sat behind it and began playing. Most of the songs were remixes of 'modern day' songs from Coldplay etc (he even played 'You've got a friend in me' from Toy Story which I was happy with!). Wit the piano playing softly in the background, the fire roaring and our tummies slowly being filled with good food, I was certainly one happy birthday girl!

I have since looked on their website and the different areas of the hotel look amazing. I'm particularly drawn to the Sky lounge (rooftop bar) as well as Bar Livello (please see photos below - credit - google images), not to mention their swanky hotel rooms.. next time, maybe.. next time! I certainly wouldn't hesitate in returning here again. I've had a fair few afternoon teas in the past 2 years and I can safely say this experience is up there with some of my favourites.

image - google

Have you ever visited The Vermont?

Wednesday 20 May 2015

My 30th Birthday, Surprises & Take That Concert

So these last 4 days I've spent celebrating my 30th birthday. Its gone that fast that I haven't had chance to sit down and let the realization kick in that I'm in fact not only another year older, but I've hit another decade mark. It's strange because when other people tell me they're 30, I don't see myself as the same age as them, and my automatic thought is 'wow, you're getting old..' however luckily not only do I not act 30 (for the most part!) but I'm grateful enough to not look it either (lets not beat around the bush here...).

Celebrating a birthday that was a little more special than the others, I was extremely spoilt by my boyfriend, Mike. On the morning of my birthday I opened some lovely gifts from him, and he even managed to get me my favourite new toy, a GoPro Hero 4 - I cannot wait to play around with this beauty - I need some practice in ready for Florida! Mid morning, a special flower delivery arrived and I was presented with a huge bunch of gorgeous flowers that are now sitting proudly in my living room. After opening lots of presents,  he presented me with my last gift which I knew straight away was a CD. However, I can't say I'm massive on CD's or music in general so this was a little strange. I opened it and was presented with the new Take That album. Perfect for my car. I placed it down and he then said 'aren't you going to open the CD, there might be something else inside'. I did as I was told and out dropped a pair of Take That concert tickets to go see them... in Newcastle... in 2 days time! He proceeded to tell me that we were leaving the very next day and we're staying for 2 nights, and that he's also booked afternoon tea in a swanky hotel. Excited much?!

At lunch time that same day, he took me for afternoon tea at a local golf course hotel. I was under the impression it was just the 2 of us, however unfortunately a member of staff let the surprise slip before I was presented with it - Basically Mike had arranged for all of my friends to surprise me there, however the member of staff asked Mike if it was a table for 7. It was, but he had to act all confused, and tell a little white lie to her. This led to the member of staff looking confused and in the end Mike told her she'd spoilt the surprise, haha. So although it was a bit of an anti climax (and probably a poor reaction for my friends!) it was still nice to see my friends faces, even though a few couldn't make it. Mike left us all to be girls and headed back home. We managed to catch up over Afternoon Tea, and although I'd had better (afternoon tea's, that is!) it still made a refreshing change. I opened more cards and presents here and received some lovely gifts.

That night was a chilled one - we visited my mum and went for a quiet drink before heading back home to pack our bags for the next few days!

Sunday arrived and we left for Newcastle about 11ish. We were in for a fairly long drive so back went the passenger seat so I could catch some Zzz. After arriving in our hotel, we freshened up and headed to The Vermont Hotel to devour more Afternoon Tea. The setting was gorgeous, our table overlooked a roaring fire (which I can imagine to be extra cosy in the winter!). A pianist began playing half way through, and most of the songs I knew (Coldplay etc) so it was a really nice touch (review coming soon!). After this we headed back to our hotel room and had a chilled night.

Monday arrived and we drove to The Metro Centre and did some shopping, stopping off at Pizza Hut for some lunch. We had a quick freshen up back at the hotel before jumping in a taxi and heading to the Metro Arena. I don't know what happened but after showing our tickets to numerous staff in order to ensure we were heading in the right direction for our seats, we continued to be directed towards the front of the arena. We were then given some wrist bands (which has never happened before!) and were then led into a standing area which was right at the front of the stage! I panicked at this point because I was worried my feet wouldn't be able to hack being stood for so long (damn you arches!). I then spotted a small space beside one of the runways of the stage that I could use as a leaning post. We soon realized that we'd probably got one of the best spots in the stadium - when each member of Take That came down the right runway, we were probably 2 metres apart, with no other people between us.. absolutely perfect. This made the ideal spot for picture taking and on several occasions all members made direct eye contact with me... *swoon* (We think the website Mike ordered the tickets from may have sent us the wrong ones because Mike promised me he had booked to be seated).

As the concert started the space we were stood us made us feel like VIP's! - on a few songs, a huge white sheet went over the area in which we were in, and we were curtained off from the rest of the arena so no one could see in. At one point it almost felt like we were backstage because they did a shadow performance to the whole arena, however because we were behind the curtain, we could see how it was being performed! We were in the perfect spot for the confetti and smoke, at one point we were all knee deep in the stuff.... it really was incredible. You weren't back-to-back with other people, it just felt really laid back and... nice. Take That's displays are one of a kind and one I definitely would recommend going to watch.

After the concert had finished we jumped in a taxi and headed to the hotel. I was so tired and hungry for my bed. The next day we were slow to rise. We didn't leave the hotel till checkout time, and then headed into the city centre for a little more shopping and some lunch at Frankie & Benny's before our drive home.

It's been such a whirlwind of a birthday, I feel like I haven't stopped. I've been well and truly spoilt and want to thank everyone that was a part of it.

The only negative is that its back to work for me tomorrow after having a week off... I hate it when you look forward to something for so long, and within the blink of an eye its over. Next on my travel list? London next month!

Thursday 14 May 2015

Conforming to Society & Falling Pregnant

With the new arrival of a princess it prompted me to a do a blog post relating to pregnancy and conformity.

So in 2 days time I turn another milestone. 30 years old. The good thing is, I don't feel 30 in my head, and I'm glad to say I don't look it either if I do say so myself! (thanks to my genes!).

One question that has been popping up in more and more conversations with family, friends, and acquaintances is babies. Am I thinking about starting a family any time soon? Do I think I'll ever have kids?' Do you know you start developing complications when you get into your 30's? etc etc...

Out of all my close friends, I am the only one without children, and I have been for a few years now. But guess what, I'm ok with that. I have my own life, my own interests, and certainly my own mind, and I haven't followed the crowd. That in itself is debateable because starting a family in your twenties is very common, so I guess its not really 'following the crowd' but sometimes its just something that happens, however I feel people feel societies pressures almost subconsciously forced them into starting a family, even though they may not realize. Others are admittedly planned, and its something that they've wanted for a long time.

I have been with my partner over 7 years now, so I can see why its becoming a common question to ask, but I just want to emphasise to any younger readers out there, don't feel like you have to follow your friends and do what's 'common' in society at that time, in order to fit in. You may fit in for a short while, but at the end of the day when that door closes at night, its you that will be left to cope with everything. I feel sorry for teenage mums, just because they haven't lived their own lives enough, to then have to grow up overnight and take on the responsibility of another life. Sometimes I still have the odd tantrum and sulk, so becoming a mother 10+ yrs ago I really don't think I would have coped!

I moved out of my mums house 4 years ago and got a mortgage with my boyfriend. For the past 4 years, I've been adapting to being a 'proper' grown up, living with a guy (and his ways!) and also finding new passions that I might not have had before. Due to owning my own house I've developed a massive love for home interior. I've found myself becoming a lot more creative in general and wanting to give more and more things a go. When I moved from my mums I felt like I had a new lease of independence, and life became exciting all over again. (I had lived at uni previously for 5 years but being a student, that was a little different because I was there for different reasons). Due to us both working full time we have had the ability to have some fantastic holidays, and visit places that some only dream of. I have just generally been enjoying time as a couple, and I know as soon as a baby comes along, this kind of time becomes precious and very rare. I feel like I had a lot of things to get out of my system before I even thought about planning for a baby, and I know that the fancy holidays we've encountered and my other hobbies probably wouldn't have happened if a baby was present.

Some women are just naturally maternal from an early age and plan to start a family early on, and their heart is 100% in it and they're not bothered about 'missing out' on lives other luxuries, and good on them for thinking that way. However I think because I have a few regrets in life from a few years ago, I'm trying to play catch up now.

I once had a conversation with a friend who was (in so many words) telling me she had done it (having children) the 'correct' way  because by the time she's 45, both children will be able to see to themselves and be left to their own devices and she will have her life back. However my argument is that I'd rather have my life now, whilst I'm young and fit and be able to do the things I want to do rather than when I'm 45, when all the aches and pains start, and maybe the things that you wanted to do when you were in your twenties but couldn't (because of the children) you can no longer do any way because of your age/health! (I'm not saying everyone who is 45 is unfit and unhealthy!).

However I will say I am now coming to a time in my life where I feel that there is a gap to fill. I'm feeling a little lonely - not because I don't feel that I fit in with all my other friends (because I've honestly never felt that way... unless they all decide to have a conversation revolving around their children at the dinner table!) but more so because of my partners work patterns. 50% of his working pattern is nights, and unless he changes jobs, it'll be like this till he retires. It's nights (and sometimes days) were I sometimes get lonely. I am a very independent person, but there's only so much time you can spend on your own before it drives you crazy. I am beginning to feel like there is definitely a void growing in there somewhere and I am slowly approaching that stage in my life where I am becoming ready to start a family.

So for those that are reading, please don't jump into starting a family to 'fit in' with society/your friends, because although you may fit in, that is only a temporary thing, whereas a baby is 'not just for christmas', they're for life. You'll know when it feels right in your heart of hearts...


Sunday 10 May 2015

Lets go to the beach, each...

Its that time when people start booking summer holidays and jetting off to warmer climates. My holiday to Florida is in less than 4 months time now and I've pretty much got my itinerary down to a tee, however I'm still not quite sure if we're going to take a trip down to the coast yet, but either way today I'm showing you what my beach essentials are.

Untitled #43

I'm not really a huge beach worshipper who can sit and lounge on a beach all day in the sun. After an hour and I'm done. I feel like I'm wasting time just laid in the sun and would much rather make use of my time! I am however rather partial to a sunset walk on the beach with the waves lapping at my ankles as I listen to the ocean. Therefore, this list will be basic for some as for me, the beach is just a quick pit-stop rather than a day out!

My beach essentials:

A huge soft beach towel is a must - I'm all about bright beach towels when it comes to holidays, so I'm not overly fond of this mermaid one, however I thought it fitted in quite well with the colour scheme!

Something else that I'll be donning if we take a trip to the beach is a swimming costume... this white one is right up my street! Its from River Island and they have such a cute selection of swimwear this year!

I think a kimono or throw over is perfect at the beach for several reasons:
1. If you burn (like me) it's great to throw over those hot shoulders to prevent it happening, and because of the light weight material it wont be too heavy.
2. If you're generally body conscious, a cover-up tends to make you feel a little more comfortable.
3. Once you've come out the sea you tend to feel the ocean breeze a little more, especially if its nearing the evening, so a cover up is perfect to keep those draughts away (preferably something a little heavier than this though..)

Flip Flops are the perfect shoe to visit the beach in. You don't want no faffy straps or buckles to do up - You need something quick to slip your feet into and your away. The worst thing is when you're leaving the beach and you're trying to get all the sand out your shoes, to then put your shoes back on, put your feet down, and BAM, you're back to square one (we've all been there!). Something practical, flat and quick is always a winner.

A beach bag, to carry all your essentials in, of course! Don't try taking your designer handbag that you take to work with you every day, because I can guarantee no matter how careful you are, by the end of the day you'll definitely find a few grains of sand at the bottom, and its such a pain trying to get it all out! Buy a bag dedicated for the beach and the beach only. Make sure its big enough because you'll have to fit at least 1 huge beach towel in there!

Water! We all know that its important to keep hydrated in the sun. It helps us to avoid headaches, sunstroke and is also great for our skin! Our body loses so much water in the heat, so its important to put that water back in!

Sun lotion. This is such an obvious one but its surprising how many people don't fetch this to the beach because they 'applied it before they left the hotel'. Try go for a high SPF water resistant one. I find spray pumps easier to apply - they allow you to get to hard to reach areas on your body - perfect if you don't feel comfortable asking who you're with to rub the lotion in for you! Also a lot of people think that because you're in the water and are cool (temperature wise), you're not going to get burnt. Wrong. You are more likely to get burnt in water than on land because of the cooling effect the water will give you, therefore burning skin is often not felt!

I love to bring a book to the beach if I know I'm going for a few hours. A lot of people bring their kindles now, but I still love a good ol' book. I tend to read summer related stories whilst on holiday.

A sun hat - Due to being a natural redhead, my skin is prone to burning more than the average person, and that goes for my scalp too, so a hat for me is a must. Luckily I can pull off most hats pretty well. I'm loving the over-sized floppy hats although I'm always so scared they'll get squashed in my suitcase on the way out so I've never bought one yet!

If you're off to the beach you've gotta take your camera! I take my camera wherever I go on holiday so this is standard to me, but its all about the memories!

A hair tie of some sort - Beaches can often be very windy places so the last thing you want is your hair flapping about in your face. I love this bright hair tie which will inject some colour into my black and white outfit!

My lips always get sore. Not dry or flaky, just sore, so with the hot sun and sea, I think lip balm is essential. This is the one I'm currently using (Pixi in Raspberry Ripe). I love it and need to repurchase it because I'm almost out!

What do you bring to the beach that's not on my list?

Thursday 7 May 2015

Review: April's 'International' Degustabox

It's one of my favourite times in terms of deliveries.. my Degustabox arriving!

This month was a themed month which showcased various foods from around the world (but which you can purchase in your local supermarket). I love this concept, it probably has something to do with the fact that I love to travel and try out new things, but I think it helps others to try foods out too that tend to get stuck in a rut and are so quick to decide they won't like something, even before trialing.

From L - R

I'm yet to try this (I think I'm going to take it work with me tomorrow!), however the flavor sounds intriguing!

"Wonjo Hibiscus, a refreshing soft drink bursting with exotic flavour, made from
100% natural ingredients by Chosan, an independent producer of healthy and
exotic drinks. Our drinks are inspired by traditional recipes from West Africa and
use ingredients with many associated health benefits to support a balanced
IDRINKQ  (£1.49)
This is an 'enhancement' drink which apparently helps us to think smarter. It sounds very similar to an energy drink, but more focused on the mind. It states that 'things that were challenging become simplier and everything seems clearer and more in focus. It is great for idea generation and creativity' - I find this hard to believe if I'm brutally honest. I'm not great with energy style drinks - they don't tend to agree with my heart, so my partner tried one instead. The flavor is... unique. It was a cross between an iced tea and iced coffee. I think I was sitting on the fence with the taste. As for the concept behind the drink, who knows if it works... who knows.
Scheckters 100% natural Organic energy drinks (£1.35)
My partner has been working nights all weekend (boo!) so I settled down on Saturday night with this in my hand. Again, I dislike energy drinks because they seem to dislike me, however due to this being 100 natural, it didn't send my heart racing, and although it had a unique taste, it was rather nice on the palette.
Kingfisher Beer (£2)
I instantly recognized this because each time me and my boyfriend go to a certain Indian Restaurant he always orders this (probably because they do very little English beer!). I'm no beer lover so he drank this earlier today. He orders it on a frequent basis so it must be ok!
Barry's Tea (£1.75)
This Irish tea has apparently been around since 1901. I will admit the packaging looks a bit.. cheap, but as we all know, never judge a book by its cover! These arrived at the perfect time as I'm in need of some more teabags, so I'll be giving these a go shortly.

Nando's Groove Cut Crisps (69p each)
I do love a good bag of crisps, and had never tried Nando's crisps before so was excited by these flavours. Peri-salted was my least favourite, however I'd be quite happy to purchase the remaining 2 flavours. Very flavoursome.

Cirio (£1.69/£1.20)
This was my least favourite product from this months box. Probably because it was the least exciting food item and something that isn't really that unique. Tomato concentrate is something I cook with on a fairly regular basis when I'm cooking slimming world meals, so this will definitely come in handy.
Veetee Rice (£1.49 each)
Peri Peri rice and Spicy Mexican Style - these flavours sound right up my street. We eat rice on a regular basis in our household (especially my partner, he often has rice as a snack too) so these will definitely get eaten up pretty quickly.
Schwartz Korma/Balti Recipe Mix (£1.08 each)
Good ol' Schwartz make it into the box once again. These flavours are definitely ones that want to make me use them rather than ones I've received previously. I love both these curries so I'll definitely be making a curry this week with these!

Debeukelaer Cookies Bakery (£2)
I love the vintage twist on this packaging - it reminded me both of NY (not that I've ever been... ) along with having fish n' chips in newspaper. Either way, I like it. It helps to keep the cookies fresh too.
I received the creamy cookie flavor which I shared with my partner. The cookie's texture didn't do great things for me, however I loved the filling.. very hazelnut-y - My favourite!

Kinder Chocolate (with cereals/choco bons) (£1.55 each)
Although both of these were gorgeous, I preferred the choco bons a little more over the cereal bars (although they were still pretty tasty as well). These reminded me of airports abroad, I always see this kind of thing in duty-free so it brought back good memories. They were both really moreish and were gone in just 24hrs. Oops.

Please note - Degustabox offer 2 types of boxes, one that includes an alcohol product and an alcohol-free one. On this occasion I am reviewing the Degustabox therefore I have received all products from both boxes.
Have you thought about subscribing to Degustabox? Each month you will receive 9-14 products which works out a lot less than if you were to buy them in the shops!
Degustabox is £12.99 (inc P&P) however I have a discount code for £3 off for you to use at checkout, which means you'll receive your first box for a mere £9.99! Code - AWDG4


Friday 1 May 2015

Holiday Essentials: Swimwear

Not everyone likes to show their body off, and unfortunately some of us aren't blessed with perfect curves and bronzed toned areas, I for one am certainly not. However in 4 months time I will be on day 1 of my holiday in Florida. I went 2 years ago and I was so sad and frustrated with myself because I never stepped foot in a water park, and I only managed 10 minutes in our private pool before a thunderstorm arrived before I had to get out. However the main reason that prevented me going near any water was my self confidence.

Long gone are the days were swimsuits were classed as frumpy and 'mumsy', and were only available in either black or navy blue and ones that you'd only find in the sports section. There are tonnes of cute patterns and designs out there now which will help you to feel a little more comfortable and yet still trendy round the pool.

Untitled #42

I'm absolutely loving River Islands range at the minute, and I'm in love with the purple and yellow one, however the sweetheart neckline doesn't tend to do my bust area any justice so I probably wont be getting that one... its unfortunate that the majority appear to be this style! I'm loving the whole high waisted knicker effect though.. very Bridget Bardot!

Which one is your favourite?
I'll be creating a few of these style boards over the next few weeks in order to give me ideas for my holiday shopping list - I hope it gives you some inspiration too!
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