Thursday, 25 June 2015

Eating in the NE - Garden Kitchen

Today is payday, and I celebrated with cake and coffee at the Garden Kitchen in Eldon Square. I'm wild, I know.

With me a) loving cake and b) eating a lot of cake, it really is a crime that I have lived in Newcastle for almost two years and never been to the Garden Kitchen. Seriously.

You could almost be forgiven for forgetting that you are in the middle of a shopping centre that resembles the home of Satan on a Saturday, as, tucked away in Eldon Garden, with relaxing music and surrounded by greenery, it really is the loveliest place to replenish your energy levels (shopping is hard work, ok).

One of my favourite things to do is go out for coffee and cake - it's just one of those little things that make me happy and Garden Kitchen didn't disappoint me in the slightest.

You can choose whether to sit in the bistro or cafe, depending on what you're after, whether it be breakfast or lunch, or just a quick coffee and slice of heaven cake. From a range of 6 types of sweet treats, I opted for a piece of flapjack which had a gorgeous vanilla icing and pieces of cranberry dotted on the top. I also had a latte, because obviously, and yes coffee lovers, you will not be disappointed.

The decor is just lovely - a mixture of garden benches and comfy sofas, with fresh flowers in small little watering cans as decoration. I was served by a lovely girl who was chatty and super helpful and I always think that makes such a difference.

If you are looking for somewhere a little different, with good quality food and drink but away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, I would highly recommend heading to the Garden Kitchen.

Where have you been to eat recently?

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

read and reviewed #12

I keep buying books and it's becoming a little bit of a problem because I can't actually read them as fast as they seem to be accumulating on my shelf but hey, there are worse things to be addicted too...

We need to talk about Kevin | Lionel Shriver
This is a strange one, I'm not going to lie. It's a tough read but it's one that I feel that is really worth it. We need to talk about Kevin is narrated by a mother, in a series of letters to her estranged husband, after her son, shortly before turning sixteen, goes into his school and shoots dead nine people. The mother, Eva, writes to her husband, about Kevin's upbringing, their relationship and how it ended up the way it has. It's a harrowing read, very tense but most of all, it really does make you think. About the influence a parent has on your life, whether people who commit crimes like Kevin did, are born with that type of mind or are deeply affected by things that occur in their life and about the degree to which a parent can be blamed for that kind of crime. I can't say I loved this book, but I don't think anyone could with the subject matter, but I have found myself thinking about it since finishing it and in my opinion, that's the sign of a fantastically written novel.

Always the bridesmaid | Lindsey Kelk
Lindsey Kelk is just fabulous. She is the queen of chick lit and I refuse to believe anything otherwise. My absolute favourite series of hers is with the character Tess, and the new book is out in November - I am so so excited! Anyway. Always the bridesmaid is just hilarious, as we are taken on quite a crazy journey with Maddie, and her two best friends, Lauren(who is getting married) and Sarah(who is getting divorced). An interesting combo... What I love about Lindsey Kelk's books, is that you aren't taken on a perfect journey of a perfect person who falls in love with the perfect guy. Instead, it's real life, with characters that you can genuinely relate too(which sometimes isn't the best thing). A funny, easy to read novel, which would be perfect to keep you company on the beach this summer.

Nineteen minutes | Jodi Picoult
Nineteen minutes is, similarly to We need to talk about Kevin, a book surrounding the actions of a boy who went into his own school and shot dead ten people. Contrastingly though, the perspective is from a  range of different characters, including the daughter of the Judge of the case, who despite not remembering what happened, has the answers which unlock the mystery of what happened on that dramatic day. The main difference from We need to talk about Kevin, in my opinion, is the mother of the killer this time, who is very very different and really got me thinking about how when a tragedy like this unfortunately occurs, the media are very quick to blame the parents, and how at times, this is very unfair. Nineteen minutes explores a very sensitive topic, but Jodi Picoult really does write superbly. Thought provoking, sad but completely impossible to put down.

Reading both We need to talk about Kevin and Nineteen minutes shortly before the tragedy that occurred in South Carolina last week really made me think just how close these novels were to real life. I will never understand the gun law in America, and I hope that one day in the future, hopefully sooner rather than later, the laws are changed so these tragedies don't continue to happen, on such an awfully frequent basis.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Products That Saved My Skin

If there's something we can all agree on in life, it is that your skin when you're a teenager, is not your friend.

I never had horrendously bad skin when I was younger, and if I'm completely honest, my main issue was probably my diet (ahem, a Magnum a day doesn't keep the spots away..) and the fact I probably drank enough water to barely keep a sparrow hydrated, never mind a growing human being.

As I grew up, I gradually began to not eat everything in sight, became friends with that thing called a cleanser and basically looked after my skin the way it should be, albeit on a budget. Despite this, I really, really struggled to find products that my skin didn't react to, and had a real issue with those little bumps and skin coloured spots which couldn't particularly be hidden. From Boots own brand, to Soap and Glory, Garnier to Liz Earle, nothing would clear them up, and if anything, it contributed even more to redness under the skin.

I have never felt super self conscious of my skin, although granted, I have worn makeup from the age of 14, and yes, I did go through the blue/hot pink eyeshadow stage. Yep, I went there and frankly, I'm very upset that teenagers nowadays go from young child to makeup as flawless as Kim K - the injustice of it.

Anyway, off track.

Fast forward a few years, blah blah, horrendous makeup mistakes, blah blah, skin not clearing up despite spending £17million on skincare products and we reach September 2014.

Having worked full time over the summer last year, I was at liberty to treat myself a little more often and so decided - it was time - to invest in my skin and go high end.

I'm aware high end doesn't always mean high quality (I'm looking at you YSL mascaras, I pay £25 for WHAT?) but with skincare, I was willing to take that risk and so after a little blog related research, I hedged my bets on the sensitive skin range from Clarins. 

Hit the jackpot, didn't I.

Clarin's Gentle Foaming Cleanser is designed specifically for sensitive and dry skin. With the consistency thick, rick and buttery, it moisturises as well as cleanses your face, leaving your skin soft, velvety and soothed. With the cleanser pretty much resembling a cream, it really does live up to its name of being gentle, and within a few days of using it, my skin was visibly clearer and less red. Fast forward nine months and, hormonal outbreaks aside(girl problems), and it's my saviour. I'll go as far even, to use my least favourite phrase in the world, and call it one of my 'holy grail' products. Smells fabulous too.

It's only over the last few years that I've realised just how important using a toner actually is. It's the moment where, after cleansing your face, thinking your skin is super clean and free of all makeup and dirt, you wipe over your skin with a toner and there's STILL all this foundation seeping out of your pores, like where does it come from???

Toners do scare me though. I find a lot I've tried, are really quite harsh and strip my skin, leaving it irritated and dry. The Extra Comfort Toning lotion is basically everything I need - it's gentle, cleans any remaining makeup from my face and is quick to use, bingo! 

Each time that I repurchase the cleanser and toner (twice since September - toner lasts longer), I have 'qualified' for free gifts and each time, I get the Gentle Eye Makeup remover because it's just so good. I know this seems pretty strange for some brands but people don't actually enjoy eye makeup removers that BURN YOUR RETINAS and finally, I've found one that doesn't! I love getting this little bottle too because it's so perfect for travelling around with. 

I'm currently testing out the two exfoliants, although I'm g-r-a-d-u-a-l-l-y falling in love with the face one - what skincare dreams are made of people. 

Basically what I'm trying to say is, if you have gentle, easily irritable skin, get yourself to Clarins. Pronto.

Friday, 19 June 2015

The 2015 Newcastle Writing Conference: Do it Yourself

Writing can be personal yet public, controversial yet ignored, meaningful yet forgotten- basically, it can be anything you damn want it to be. But despite the lack of boundaries and rules, we all still need a little help and guidance along the way and that’s exactly what the 2015 Newcastle Writing Conference was about. Not telling you what to do and when to do it, but offering advice to make the most out of the ideas and the talent that we ourselves have.

After filling our boots with hot drinks and biscuits(because obviously), we were welcomed by New Writing North chief executive, Claire Malcolm, who then passed onto acclaimed novelist, Meg Rosoff. Speaking about the trials and tribulations of her life so far, she took us on her imperfect journey of what adulthood is actually like. From working in jobs that she hated – and being fired from most, if not all of them – to moving to London where she met her husband, to finally, at the age of 45, sitting down and writing her first ever novel, Meg was fantastic. One of the main things I just loved about her talk, was that she didnt sugar coat anything. One of my favourite things she said was:

"When I was younger I thought being an adult meant you went from a job, to an even better job, lived in a house, and then moved into an even better house, had a crappy boyfriend, and then found the love of your life, had kids and settled down. Yeah no, that's not how adulthood quite is."

We all have an idea in our head about the moment that you 'become' an adult, and immediately have your shit together. I'm waiting for that to happen right about now but funnily enough, nope, looking around, shit still everywhere...

Witty and truthful, Meg's speech was one of my favourite parts of the day, inspiring us all to just forget what we think we ‘should’ be doing, and just write what we want to.

We then moved onto the How to Stand Out in a Digital Age panel event, which featured Ben Willis, head of digital publicity at Transworld; Costa-shortlisted author and social media expert Nikesh Shukla; vlogger and Hotkey Books digital coordinator Sanne Vliegenthart, whose YouTube book vlog, Books and Quills, has over 124,000 subscribers; and blogger Simon Savidge, who runs the influential book blog, Savidge Reads. Talking about the influence social media and blogging now has on the book buying public, as well as their views on the publishing industry in the technologically engaged 21st century; it was so interesting to hear their views, exploring how the digital age has transformed the industry.

It kind of scared me just how centred around social media the talk was though. I have a kindle, I love social media but if ever the moment comes when books are no longer printed, I want to LEAVE THIS PLANET because that is simply not ok. OK.

There were a number of workshops, with each person choosing two to attend. As someone who has blogged for a while now and who uses social media far too much than is healthy, I chose to go along to ‘Websites and blogging’ and ‘Develop your online presence’. I really feel that the writing and the content you produce is, obviously, the most important thing however it was really great to explore how powerful social media can be in engaging your own audience. In an informal and relaxed manner, both sessions were fantastic in explaining to those both starting out in the world of social media and blogging, and those more experienced, the dos and don’ts of all things digital.

Now, I think the final session of the day might just have pipped Meg Rosoff to the post, for my favourite part of the event. It was a close call(because Meg is just awesome!) but the ‘What’s Hot and What’s Not’ panel was just so good. The panel consisted of experts within the publishing industry, including Francesca Main, editorial director of Picador ( who recently edited the best-selling The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton!), Rachael Kerr, the editor-at-large at Unbound; Anna James, book news and media editor of publishing industry bible The Bookseller and books editor of Elle magazine; and Jo Unwin, literary agent whose clients include Nina Stibbe and Jenny Colgan. I really did love listening to them talk about the industry, about books they’ve loved and those they think we will love over the next year or so.

I have already ordered two of the books that Anna James in particular, raved about – The Bees by Laline Paull and How to be both by Ali Harris which I am currently reading and loving. I have a list as long as my arm now of ALL THE BOOKS I am going to read this year, and I cannot even begin to explain the self restraint I'm having to endure to not find myself in Waterstones buying every single one of them right this very second.

The 2015 Newcastle Writing Conference’s theme this year was ‘Do It Yourself’ and, after attending this event, I feel inspired and motivated to do just that.

This post was originally published on Cuckoo Review.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Top 10 | Pet peeves

So, picture this.

I'm on the train, and obviously, I always choose to reserve a seat in the quiet coach because, people. So, I'm sat there reading How to be both by Ali Harris(strange but good so far) and two women get on at the next stop and I swear to god, they spoke so incessantly for the entirety of the train journey that the only thing that stopped me from flicking them both on the forehead really really hard, was writing a list of things that really irritate me about people. I mean seriously, they even had wine, crisps and a CHEESE PLATTER.

Anyway, here are 10 things that really do grind. my. gears:

1. People who reserve and buy tickets in the quiet coach of a train and then insist on talking obnoxiously loudly through the entire journey.

2. People who are listening to music with their headphones so loudly that I can hear ever word of the song. Mate, just take your headphones out and let us all listen to it properly, we can hear it anyway, my god.

3. People who talk to you when they're in another room, so you quite obviously cannot hear them, and then they get annoyed when you say you can't hear them. (I'm looking at you, mum - stop this)

4. People who eat so loudly you can hear the food SQUELCH in their mouth. Vom.

5. People who have bonfires in their garden on a beautiful sunny day, so unless you dig the smokey aroma, you have to stay inside with your windows firmly closed. (Yes, I could leave the house and do something with my day but I don't want too, ok)

6. People who say 'I don't bitch about anyone'. Yes you do, everyone does.

7. People who walk really slowly but then speed up when you go to overtake them.


9. People who are still desperate to be in the 'popular group' years and years after leaving school.

10. People who post semi naked selfies on social media saying, 'omg I look so fat and ugly and horrific and spotty and pale.' We all know you wouldn't have posted it if you thought that, stop digging for compliments and instead, embrace that you like the photo of yourself.

This is for sure a cheaper form of therapy. I feel so free and alive.

ALSO, (just to try and maybe convince you that I'm not an entirely awful person), my sister has just started her own blog about student life, her travels etc and she has written a fabulous post on Caitlyn Jenner - please go and take a look!

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Eating in the NE - Pleased to meet you

Another day, another restaurant review and this time, I'm talking about Pleased To Meet You, in Newcastle city centre.

You could be forgiven for never having come across this gin and draft bar, tucked away down a small side street within the centre. With it always being somewhere I wanted to try, on an evening where my friend and I were aimlessly walking, seeing which restaurant took our fancy this time, we took the opportunity to try it out.

The menu is modern, with a traditional twist. From fancy burgers to pub favourites, you'd have to be pretty lucky to narrow your possible options to even three - so much amazing choice! I couldn't take the heat personally, so decided on getting a platter of fabulous treats, from fish sticks and prawns, to gourmet sausage pastries and simply the best scotch egg I have ever tried. I was very jealous of the mini burgers my friend decided to get but obviously it just means that I'll have to visit again, to sample them for myself... These platters are actually called 'Sharing boards' but when it comes to food, sharing is simply not in my vocabulary so let's move on...swiftly!

The cocktail menu is very very very good and I would say it is a 'go to' place for all your alcohol needs. We decided on a bottle of Rose because, well, wine makes me happy but even the nice little touch of serving the bottle in a bucket of ice was just lovely. Our waitress was attentive and super speedy, without being too much and making you feel rushed and unwanted. 

With a chilled out atmosphere, great quality food and really nice decor, Pleased To Meet You lived up to all of my expectations, and more.

Where have you eaten recently?

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Eating in the NE: Cafe Royal

 Yep, another cafe review.. What can I say? I love eating out!

So, this time I headed for Cafe Royal to celebrate a friend's birthday. Breakfast was on the cards to get her day off to a flier and we decided to treat ourselves, with a trip to Cafe Royal in the heart of Newcastle city centre.

Despite arriving at just before 10am, the cafe was buzzing with activity - a tell tale sign of somewhere that is pretty damn good. We found a lovely little table tucked away near the window, with gorgeous flowers stood on the sill right next to us - I love the decor in this place, simple yet chic.

After chattering away, we got down to the difficult business of choosing what to order and I'm not exaggerating when I say this took possibly over 20mins. So. much. choice. It's actually quite unfair that it's seen as common practise to only order one dish - when did this become a rule and who made it up because I would like to have a very stern word with them???

Don't worry though, I did manage to finally pluck up the courage to decide what I wanted and, whilst drooling over the incredible cakes at the till area, I willingly gave over my debit card and placed my order. 

Seeing as I've become one of those people that just cannot function in the morning without a tea or coffee, my beverage of choice was a latte and yep, it hit the spot and got my day off to a pretty sweet start.

Obviously, the eggs benedict that was served pretty swiftly afterwards went down rather well too! It was quite possibly the best I've tried ever and hell, I have tried a lot, trust me.

As good as mine was, it didn't stop me getting food envy when my friend's orders came too because the pancakes in particular, looked heavenly! It also confirmed the fact that I would definitely be coming again, and again, and again, until I've sampled the entire menu. 

I love food, what can I say!

Friendly staff, great service and amazing food - I can't think of much else you would want, can you?

Where have you eaten recently? Let me know!

Friday, 5 June 2015

Old Trews?

It’s not a secret that I used to love Russell Brand and his companion, ‘The Trews’. Unlike some people, I don’t go back on my word just because something doesn’t work out, so yes, I loved it and him and I’m glad I did.


As I sat and watched him try to explain himself, whining that ‘he got carried away in the moment’after backing Miliband to win the election just days before Labour's biggest loss ever, he completely undid all the work from the past year he had managed to do. There was no need to come out and explain. Labour, and Ed Miliband lost, and yes it might PAIN ME, to say that, but it happened and we get over it and life goes on. Some might say it takes a pretty big ego to think it was solely down to him that Labour lost but that’s not my biggest problem. His arrogance is part of his act, part of who he is and what he does. No, my problem is his ability to so easily go back on his word.

Unlike the Russ haters’ pre-election, I didn’t have a huge issue with him changing his mind on voting. Not a big deal for me as his stance on not voting was something I never agreed with and he’s a member of the public, he can vote, not vote – he can do as he pleases. My issue is what he’s done after the election.

Because you see, Russ had something good going. Something really good. And yet, a lot like his marriage to the babe of all babes, Katy Perry, he ruined it. Quickly. I feel like we were in the honeymoon stage in our relationship, and now, well now I’ve got to the stage where I want to boot him in the shins, shout at him and tell him to get out of my face.

He’s becoming increasingly similar to a child who, due to the arrival of a new baby brother or sister, begins to stomp their feet harder and scream louder, and at every opportunity, purely to get the attention back on him.

It’s a real shame because he had the potential to make a huge difference. He spoke sense, he spoke well, he spoke to the disenfranchised and made them engage once again. He actually became quite feared within the political landscape, as although he would rather marry Ed Miliband and put a high tax rate on big businesses than admit it, David Cameron became genuinely fearful that people were listening to someone saying that change is possible.

 But that’s past tense now. Since the election he seems to be desperately attempting to distance himself from the establishment and politics, turning increasingly to radical change and revolution. But actually, he’s becoming more and more of a joke. It’s actually like he’s almost lost his mind a little bit, with some of his suggestions - particularly regarding the Royal Family, being completely outrageous and stupidly ridiculous.

I won’t hear of people saying he’s always been ridiculous, because he has done a lot of good, a prime example being the New Era Estate. When he’s engaging in issues like that, he’s influential and it’s positive and people actually stood back and thought, hey, this guy is doing a really good job.

But not anymore. He’s undone all of that hard work, and whilst his youtube subscribers may continue to rise, his respect and credibility most certainly will not.

Russell, you’ve blown it.


Monday, 1 June 2015

News with a twist #2


I hope everyone is enjoying the start to their week and aren't having too much of a miserable Monday!

Here is this week's super important, super factual news:

Daily Mail fail again
The Daily Mail seem to think, in their warped little minds, that people will be more outraged that ‘bloody migrants’ are disrupting British holidaymakers having a pint on the beach in Kos, than the fact that these ‘bloody migrants’ are having to take such desperate, life threatening measures to flee from death, starvation and war.

Boys threatened as girls included in video game
There have been some absolute lads on twitter crying about Fifa 16 including female football teams. Comments have poured into the EASportFifa account on Twitter because sport obviously isn’t for girls, no no no, it’s for ‘the lads’ with their beer and shit. Bless their little threatened socks.

Hateful Hopkins continues to think being nasty is cool
Katie Hopkins continues to be given a voice in British media The Sun, even though 99.9% of the population couldn’t give a teeny tiny little damn what she thinks. This time, she’s desperately attempting to troll journalists who have had the confidence to write articles about how body confident they are. How very dare them.

Bruce Jenner lives his own life
There has been much uproar regarding Bruce Jenner bravely stating that he is to make changes to become a woman, instead of, you know, letting people be who they want to be and getting on with their own lives.

Talent shows runs out of talent
Simon Cowell has still not given up and continues to flog a dead horse, with the Britain’s Got Talent live finals filling up ITV’s prime time slot this week. Everyone’s bored, everyone’s over it – Si, it’s time to stop.
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