Nights at Happy Organic

Being right on the doorstep, we often visit Happy Organic in Cleadon Village for the delicious healthy food, the matcha lattes and the pistachio cannoli.  Imagine our excitement when we found out we can now visit one of our favourite local cafes on an evening too! That’s right, Happy Organic is now open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening for cocktails and tapas.  For ages we have been looking for somewhere on the doorstep we can go on an evening that isn’t a pub and this is perfect.

We decided to go along tonight after work to see what was on offer.  They close up at 4pm to get ready for the evening and then open again at 5.30pm.  Being Thursday, it was quite quiet but the staff told us it usually picks up later in the evening and is usually busier on a Friday and Saturday.  We sat at the table in the window and ordered some drinks from a very extensive menu.  They have everything from cocktails to hot drinks to smoothies, ideal for us as I love a good cocktail and Grant is more partial to a nice coffee.  I decided to try a Matcha Martini and Grant went for the Matcha latte (a firm favourite).  I must say, I am a little bit in love with the Martini, it was delicious and so refreshing.  If it wasn’t a school night I would have gone back for more.

The food menu is a selection of tasty snacks or sharing boards, perfect for grazing while you enjoy  drink or two and very reasonably priced.  We decided to share the meat board which included a selection of deli meats, Cumberland sausages with chutney, spiced nuts, olives, bread sticks, chorizo bruschetta, sauerkraut and fruit.  It was a great selection and a perfect amount for two to share.  They also offer a cheese board and a vegetarian board for sharing,  I’ll definitely be back to try those.

When we were talking to the staff they also told us that they do acoustic nights on a Friday and Saturday from about 7.30pm.  This is great news as we love live music and we’re really looking forward to seeing what acts they have on.  This place has everything for us; cocktails, prosecco, coffee, delicious food, music and a relaxed atmosphere.  I think the village location is perfect, as sometimes it’s nice to go somewhere quieter than the city centre. What’s great for us is that it’s within walking distance from our house but even if you don’t live in the area I would highly recommend paying them a visit.  Cleadon and the surrounding areas have a number of great coffee shops and restaurants and we are only five minutes from the beach if you want a nice day out.  I think places that offer evenings like this are so refreshing and it’s a great change from just going to the pub.

 

Our Wedding – The Old Barn at South Causey Inn

Well, we did it! After all the prepping and planning and counting down we are finally husband and wife.  Firstly, a huge thank you to the staff at South Causey Inn for their amazing service and support throughout the entire planning process. Their attention to detail was just superb and we are so pleased we decided to have our big day there.  If you haven’t seen the Old Barn yet, you really need to pay them a visit and have a look around.  It is stunning and all of our guests commented on what a fantastic venue it is. Our whole experience from start to finish was simply perfect!

The Night Before

I arrived at the Inn the evening before the wedding and was shown to my suite.  I love the rooms at South Causey, they are so cosy and traditional. My suite had a lovely little garden area complete with hot tub.  Some of our guests, including my family, were staying at the Inn the night before the wedding too which was lovely as everyone was buzzing with excitement for the big day.  Once we had settled into our rooms my little sister and I took advantage of the manicure/pedicure and massage for two, which is included in the Infinity wedding package.  It was lovely to just relax and have a bit of pampering after all of the last minute jobs that had to be done.

Once we were feeling relaxed and our nails were looking beautiful we met up with the rest of the family for food and a few drinks in the main restaurant.  The food at South Causey is always spectacular and the portions are always huge! I decided that with a wedding dress to fit into the next day I would keep it light and went for a beautiful fish dish with mashed potatoes.  It was yummy! My sister, Angela, braved the bubble and squeak with giant Yorkshire pudding and boy was it giant.  It was so lovely to sit with everyone and have a drink and a catch up and relax before what was going to be a very busy day.

My sister and her boyfriend were lucky enough to be staying in the London Bus for the two nights, so obviously we all had to have the grand tour! If you get a chance to stay here take it.  It was so quirky and cool and beautifully finished, I could live in it!  It is totally private, with a pretty little garden and, of course, a hot tub.

Upon returning to my suite, which I was sharing with my Mam, we were greeted by two members of staff who gave us a picnic basket full of delicious treats and a chilled bottle of bubbly.  In the basket we found fresh bread, fruits, cheese, sandwiches, Eton mess and chocolate brownies! I was still quite full from our dinner but I couldn’t resist.  I did invite some of my family round to help me out with all the food, it was such a lovely way to spend my last evening as a Miss.

The Big Day

The morning of the wedding day was actually really chilled out and relaxed.  Carli, who was doing my hair and make up, arrived early and started working her magic for me and my three bridesmaids. It was wonderful to be able to spend the morning being pampered with the girls.

Once again, the staff arrived with another picnic basket, this time full of various breakfast treats.  There were pastries, fruit, yogurts and cereals along with two plates full English breakfast! These guys don’t mess around when it comes to food.

At about 10am my amazing photographer and videographer arrived and started capturing all the excitement of the final preparations and the florist, Jan Watters of Cleadon, arrived with the most stunning bouquets, I couldn’t have asked for better! By this point my niece and nephews had arrived in their flower girl/page boy outfits and they just looked adorable.  They loved grabbing the attention of the videographer and posing for photos.

The last hour or so before the ceremony seemed to fly by, and when I heard someone say they had seen Grant arriving I got so excited and just wanted to go and see him and get the show on the road.  Before I knew it, everyone else was ready and my Mam and sisters were helping me into my dress.  The feeling of getting ready on your wedding day is just wonderful.  I looked in the mirror and saw the whole look coming together and just loved it.  I couldn’t wait for Grant to see me in my dress.

Soon our wedding coordinator arrived and started leading the wedding party out to the car to take them round to the barn.  All of a sudden there was just me and my Mam left in the room and that’s when the emotion and the nerves started to kick in.  We were standing at the door waiting for the car to come back round for us and I could see my Mam starting to well up and it took so much effort not to burst into happy tears! As we were waiting, some of the hotel and restaurant guests spotted us and came to have a look, I felt like a celebrity, which made me even more nervous!

The trip to the barn was a bit of a blur and I didn’t even notice the photographer standing outside getting very candid photos of me trying to hold my dress off the floor as I walked up the steps to the main entrance.

We were introduced to the registrar, who, although lovely, probably didn’t have my full attention as he went through the ceremony process.  At this point all I wanted to do was get into the ceremony room and see my husband-to-be.

We were taken to the door of the ceremony room and we got into a line.  The flower girl and page boys would go down the aisle first,  followed by my bridesmaids and then finally I would walk down the aisle with my Mam.  At this point I got the ultimate dry mouth and had to quickly demand a glass of water (this was my one and only diva moment, so not too bad really) before anyone could go anywhere!

Once we were all in the line the music started and the doors opened.  We decided I would walk down the aisle to ‘The Book of Love’ by Peter Gabrielle.  It is such a beautiful and fitting song and every time my Mam hears it it makes her cry, so you can imagine how emotional we were both feeling at this point.  The walk down the aisle was a total blur, I just remember being so happy to see Grant standing there waiting for me.  When I got to the end of the aisle I was so nervous I couldn’t stop my legs from shaking.  I’m sure all of our guests could see me trying to stand in a comfortable position where I didn’t feel like I was going to fall over!

I soon felt at ease, however, and soon it was time for the readings.  We chose two of our ushers and my sister, Angela, to do the slightly different, non-traditional readings and I absolutely loved them.  Angela did a beautiful reading from my favourite book as a child, The Velveteen Rabbit. Naill, one of Grant’s ushers, did a very cute reading called ‘The Lovely Dinosaur’ and Ollie, another usher, read out a Bruce Springsteen song called ‘If I Should Fall Behind’.  It was lovely to break away from tradition and have readings that meant something to both of us.  By this point we were both quite relaxed, which meant that saying our vows was not as scary as we had anticipated.

The ceremony (which I’m told was about 30 minutes long) went by in a blink and soon we were walking back down the aisle as husband and wife to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’ll Work For Your Love’.  There may have been a bit of a Bruce Springsteen theme to our wedding day, but what would you expect from a couple who named their dog Springsteen?

Our drinks reception was fantastic, it was so nice to see all of our guests and reflect on the ceremony with a glass of bubbly.  It was raining outside but that didn’t matter.  Everyone was quite content in the cosy bar area of the barn while we got some family photos.   I was even impressed by the private bridal dressing room in the barn, where I could go to freshen up throughout the day.

Soon it was time to go for our wedding breakfast.  Grant and I were able to get a sneak peak of the room before our guests came though.  IT. WAS. STUNNING.  The attention to detail was just fantastic.  The centrepieces were beautiful and the florist had created the most beautiful rustic arrangements for the top table.  It was breathtaking.

We had the speeches before the meals so that everyone could relax and enjoy their food without any nerves.  Obviously, the speeches were very emotional and made us laugh and cry.  I was very surprised by Grant, who usually doesn’t do ‘soppy’ in front of anyone but me. His speech was lovely and he told the story of how he had told his friend Ollie that I was the girl he would marry after our second date!

The dinner was, as always, delicious. Our guests all commented on how great the food was.  What I love about the wedding package we chose was that each of our guests had their choice of four starters, four main courses and four desserts, so there was something for everybody.  I also loved the South Causey Rip Gin favours, which were also included in the Infinity package price and tasted delicious, even if they were very, very strong!

After dinner the rain had stopped, so we took the opportunity to get outside and take some photos in the private garden.  It was great to at least get a few photos of the beautiful views. We were then taken to the wedding suite for 20 minutes of peace and quiet to reflect on the day so far while our guests mingled in the barn.  We were staying in the French Boudoir room which was just beautiful, with a huge bath big enough for two, a walk-in shower and a beautiful bedroom and living room space.  I love the themed rooms, they are all so charming in their own individual way.

We arrived back at the barn and had a chance to once again mingle with our guests before the evening reception started.  I couldn’t believe how quickly the day was going, we were having too much fun!  Before we knew it the DJ was starting and the dance floor was ready.  Our guests could treat themselves to goodies from the sweet cart, which is included as part of the wedding package, as well as a dessert bar which we created ourselves with tasty treats from various suppliers around the region.

Our Cake was just amazing, I couldn’t believe what a good job our cake supplier and florist had done between them.  We broke from tradition and opted for 3 sponge cakes rather than fruit.  I myself am partial to fruit cake but Grant doesn’t like it and we knew sponge cake would be popular with our guests.  We had a layer of white chocolate and raspberry cake, a layer of carrot cake and a layer of lemon and white chocolate sponge.  Delicious!!

After cutting the cake it was time for our first dance.  You guessed it, Bruce Springsteen!  We danced to a song called ‘Tougher Than the Rest’ which was very meaningful for us and I loved that it wasn’t a song we had ever heard at a wedding before.  The giant ‘LOVE’ letters (also part of the wedding package) made a beautiful back drop for our first dance as husband and wife and looked fantastic in our photos.

The evening food was a hog roast.  My one regret of the day is that I was so busy talking to guests that I didn’t even get a chance to see it.  I was still so full from dinner I couldn’t eat any more food, but our guests all commented on how impressive and delicious it was.  I was also really impressed by the bar staff, who created some amazing alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails for our guests.

The rest of the night was spent dancing to a playlist of our favourite songs.  Everyone commented on how good the playlist was, which was mainly a mixture of old school and classic rock and a lot of cheese! Everyone was up on the dance floor air grabbing and singing their hearts out.  It was very ‘us’.   Guests also took advantage of the Black Jack table which again came as part of the package and the winner got a free night stay at the Inn.

I have to say, to anyone considering having their wedding at South Causey, go for it! You are in really good hands.  The staff are absolute pros and make sure everything is perfect down to the last detail.  We can’t thank them enough for making our big day everything we had hoped for and more.  Another added bonus to the Infinity package is that you get to go back for an anniversary stay, something we are both very much looking forward to!

Dress: Ettia by Maggie Sottero

Groom’s attire: Master Debonair

Florist: Jan Watters 

Cake: Fondant and Apron Strings

Photographer – Little Miss Boyco

Arch 2 Brewpub & Kitchen

I’ve always been a huge fan of Dil and the Bear in Tynemouth.  When we lived in Newcastle we would quite often go there for lunch or the delicious cakes and because it was dog friendly, we could take Springsteen, our westie, along with us.  So when I heard that they were teaming up with Newcastle Brewing Ltd to create Arch2 Brewpub and Kitchen on Stepney Bank in Ouseburn, I couldn’t wait to go along and try it.

I love the clever use of space, under an arch of the Byker Bridge, which is perfectly sheltered from the elements, with an urban chic vibe, which blends well with the surrounding areas.  There is also a good amount of indoor and outdoor space, which is great in this very popular area of the city.  The festoon lighting hanging over the long benches in the outdoor area make this a cosy social spot for all seasons.

There is something for everyone here, with a good selection of beers and lagers, coffees and cakes.  There is also a food menu coming soon once the kitchen is complete which, if Dil and the Bear is anything to go by, is very exciting! The opening hours are 9am until 11pm which is great news for us.  My husband, Grant, isn’t really a big drinker and would much rather go out for a coffee while I enjoy a drink or two but it’s so hard to find somewhere that serves good coffee that doesn’t close at 5pm! This is a perfect location which caters for both of us.

We popped by for a morning coffee today and couldn’t resist treating ourselves to the cake truffles (an old favourite of mine from Dil and the Bear, the red velvet is amazing).   Grant is extremely picky when it comes to coffee, he is definitely a coffee snob, but this place got two thumbs up from him for the Americano.  It’s very rare we find a place where we both enjoy the coffee but I thoroughly enjoyed the Flat White I had so it was a win win!

We will definitely be going back for some food and a beer or two as soon as we can.  This place is sure to be a huge hit with all it has to offer and fits in nicely with the other local gems in the Ouseburn area.  Whether you visit during the day or make it part of your alternative night out away from the busy city centre, it certainly won’t disappoint.

ARCH2

Brocksbushes Farm – Pick Your Own

I love the idea of growing my own fruit and veg.  I remember my parents used to have a patch at the bottom of the garden where they would grow various vegetables and rhubarb.  While we do have space in the garden to grow some of our own, our space is obviously limited.  However, if you like the sound of being able to pick your own fruit and veg straight from the ground, there are a few places you can go to do just that!

We have visited Brocksbushes Farm on a number of occasions now and it is an absolutely fantastic day out in the summer months.  They have fields full of raspberries, strawberries,  blackberries, plums and more that you can pick straight from the ground.  It is also a bargain day out for the whole family, at only £1 per person for entry and a £1 deposit for each basket.  You can fill your basket with as much fruit as you like, I piled mine high as I was looking for yummy berries to add to a homemade pavlova (as you can see below), and you’ll be surprised how little it costs.

As well as the fruit fields they also have a lovely little farm shop which sells a wide selection of fresh produce (you’ll want to try it all) and a tea room which sells delicious cakes and lunches.  They even have a licence to sell beer and wines, so you can treat yourself to a well earned drink after an afternoon of fruit picking!

This place is perfect for both adults and children.  My niece and nephew loved spending the day picking strawberries and I think it made them enjoy eating them all the more because they had picked them themselves.

If you haven’t been to a PYO farm yet, I would highly recommend taking a trip to one while the weather is warm and sunny.  It’s a perfect day outdoors.

Other PYO Farms to try

Brockwell Farm – Lanchester

FW Elgey – Darlington

Oxford Farm Shop and Tea Room – Berwick

Harewood Bridge Pick Your Own – Harewood, Leeds

The Balloon Tree Farm Shop & Cafe – Helmsley, York

Hutton Bonville Fruit Farm – Northallerton

Bluebell Farm PYO – Askham Bryan, York

 

Challenge 500 at The Vermont Hotel

For the first time ever, the Vermont Hotel is opening it’s exclusive Sky Lounge in support of The Percy Hedley Foundation in Challenge 500.

The Challenge is to get 500 people over 5 nights to pay £5 per person to raise 5 times the amount of money for the foundation.

​The challenge is running from Sunday 18th June  to Thursday 22nd June and the Sky Lounge will be open from 6pm-8pm each night.
​Price is £5 per person limited to 100 people per night.


​Their mission is to raise £2500 for the Charity and you can help do this by buying a ticket and going along to take in the stunning views and enjoy a drink or two.

We booked up for tonight (Monday) and the atmosphere was fantastic.  Make sure you turn up for 6pm or you may struggle to get a seat.

The location was perfect for a warm summer evening.  What could be better than sitting on the roof terrace sipping a glass of bubbly to help a worthy cause?


There are still tickets left the remaining nights, so why not book up?  The weather is perfect for it!

Please follow the link to purchase tickets.  Please note, the full ticket price must be paid when booking:

https://www.fatsoma.com/the-vermont-hotel/hyo1498u/sky-lounge-challenge-500-supporting-the-percy-hedley-foundation

Orange & Almond Polenta Cake

During our honeymoon, I noticed a lot of places serving various dishes containing polenta.  For anyone who has never tried it, Polenta is a dish of boiled cornmeal and is associated with Northern and Central Italy.  It is very versatile and can be served in a variety of different ways and included in banking.  I have tried polenta cake before and really enjoyed it but trying it when we were in Croatia really inspired me to try my own recipe.

I kind of used a mix of some of my tried and trusted recipes along with flavours I thought would work well together and it actually turned out better than I had expected.  The result was a light, moist and yummy cake that even Grant enjoyed (he claims he doesn’t like cake).   I served it up at my Mam’s house when my sister and nephew’s were there and they all loved it! It didn’t last very long.

225g unsalted butter

225g caster sugar

3 free-range eggs

225g ground almonds

120g polenta

1 tsp baking powder

2 oranges, zest and juice only

1tsp almond essence

For the Glaze

1 orange, juice only

3 tbsp caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3. Grease and line a 25cm/10in cake tin with parchment paper.

Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with a whisk until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking all the time. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the ground almonds, then fold in the polenta, baking powder, orange zest, juice and almond essence until fully combined.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes, until the cake is golden brown.

Meanwhile, to make the glaze, put the orange juice and sugar into a bowl and mix well until the sugar is almost dissolved. When the cake is cooked, prick the surface and pour over the orange mixture. Let the cake cool completely before removing it from the tin.

This cake is perfect served with a dollop of fresh clotted cream or some creme fraiche mixed with vanilla and scattered with fresh raspberries.