31 March 2016

North East | The Great British Cupcakery - Newcastle

I only heard about The Great British Cupcakery recently so when my best friend Miss B was home last week (she lives abroad) we wanted to go somewhere local but somewhere new, so this was the perfect place for us. 

We parked up at the quayside car park and walked the short distance to the cafe but we got distracted before we got there and ended up doing a mini photoshoot with my new camera (Olympus Pen PL7) outside the law courts. It was such a great spot with views of the Tyne Bridge, Sage and Gateshead Millennium bridge but then it started to rain so we headed to The Great British Cupcakery for some lunch. 

Tucked away under the Tyne bridge is a lovely green cafe with a very instagram-able interior. We were overwhelmed by the volume of cakes on the counter when we walked into the store. We had our eye on all of them...

By this time it was 2pm so we needed something savoury too. We couldn't select afternoon tea as you had to pre order 1 day in advance, but this was OK as I am not sure we could eat everything on it when we saw what you got. However, I will be back as it looked amazing.

We decided to share a sandwich so there would be more room for cake.  

But... we were then blinded by some exciting milkshakes called 'Geet big shakes' I chose the Mint Choc and B had a white and milk chocolate mix. Well that was the end of our cake dreams. 

The shake finished us off... they are really good value priced at £5, you got alot for your money with a mix of shake, ice cream and a cookie etc - But after leaving room, we had a sugar overload and couldn't face eating any cakes :-(

More excuses to head back another time.

You order at the counter and then your food / drinks were then brought over to you, service was good considering it was super busy with a lovely atmosphere. It wasn't just young girls in there either. There was a mix of families, couples, young lads in their 20's having a shake and a catch up just like me and B. 

It was reasonably priced, we paid approx £15 for everything we had and it was a super place to spend our afternoon catching up and talking about B's up coming wedding in June.

Here are a couple of pics from our walk to the cafe.

Thank you for reading. Let me know of any hidden gem cafe's I am always looking for somewhere new.

Love MISS K xx
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25 March 2016

North East | Date night at Dacantus - Newcastle

Last week I attend the wedding evening of my beautiful friend Miss W and to make the night of it, Mr P and I decided to go out early for a dinner date. 

P choose and booked the table for us at one of his favourite spots to go with work friends but I hadn't been before.

We went to Dacantus on Grey Street, Newcastle - which was heaving when we arrived at 5.30pm on a Saturday as you might expect.. we made our way through the bar, I said, is there an upstairs? Where do you eat? ...he assured me they will have a table reserved for us...with ALL tables full and barely room to move... I was thinking oh no... 
(insert Monkey covering eyes emoji)!

We finally reached the bar and the drinks menu was huge with over 5 pages of different gin's to try. I have to be honest I was a bit overwhelmed so P picked for me, it was perfect I think I will let pick my drinks more often. 

By the time our drinks were made our table was available and we could read through the food menu. The gin glasses were massive as standard but I wasn't complaining!

We were provided with a small portion of chicken tapas while we decided on our food and there were some interesting choices. The menu wasn't huge but I am more than sure that there something for everyone on there.

I went for the Chicken stuffed with nuts & dates, in a mushroom cream sauce served with new potatoes and mediterranean vegetables and P had sea bass cooked in a chorizo sauce served with tagliatelle and some vegetables.

The chicken was so delicious and with the dates it added a sweet something to the dish. I will have to try making this at home, it's not a combination I had thought go before. I think my parents would enjoy eating this.

It was continuously busy in the bar, so I think this has put me off returning again at the same time, as it was hard to have a conversation as we ended up having other people resting their drinks on our table which was so little distracting. Such a shame as the food is fabulous and it's great the bar is busy, just seemed a bad combination and a bit awkward at times. 

I am sure this wouldn't have happened if there had been 4 of us at the table eating but I would go back but arrange to go at a quieter time or for lunch. 

We still had some time, so we decided to have another G&T with dessert.

I choose the creme brûlée and P had the chocolate orange mousse, I tried both and we weren't disappointed.

After our meal we were joined by my friend Deb and her husband they are such a lovely couple so it was lovely to meet up for a drink before we made the short walk to the Vermont Hotel where we found the beautiful new Mr & Mrs Grant.

Dacantus is a lovely bar, with a good buzzing city atmosphere, yummy food and fabulous drinks, I am looking forward to my next visit!

Love MISS K xx
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18 March 2016

Food | Best brunch ever for under £12 from Lidl

Last week I was reunited with one of my closest friends who is currently living in Singapore. It's been over a year since we last met but it was just like yesterday as soon as I see her. 

Our friendship goes back over 7 years where we have so many memories but we still have plenty more to make. 

With time precious with Miss Steph I decided to do my favourite thing and throw the perfect brunch.

I popped to Lidl for all the ingredients before collecting Steph on the way back. 

I am obsessed with Lidl, it has everything I need without too much choice, plus I love the fresh bakery, prices and the weekly specials.

I spent £12 at Lidl and I picked up the following:
2 Jars of jam (raspberry is amazing!)
Grapes, Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Banana's and a pineapple.
Big drum of greek yogurt, litre of milk and fresh orange juice.
2 fresh croissants and 2 pain au chocolat 
6 free range eggs

I also made Jamie Oliver's American pancakes with the milk, eggs and plain flour, they are perfect for brunch. You could leave out the croissants from the table and just create a delicious stack of pancakes instead but I always like to give my guests a selection. (Did you see my previous post on stress free entertaining?)

I poured orange juice into wine glasses to make it feel special and we sat at the table with the feast. 

I am posting this up today, because I won't have time tomorrow, as I will be catering this for another special friend who is coming to stay for the weekend. 

It is becoming standard practice for yummy Lidl brunch for my house guests!

Expect to see a post on Instagram over the weekend.

Perfect combo, fresh fruit, american homemade pancakes and greek yogurt!

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16 March 2016

Tech | LuMee iPhone case

I love a selfie and this is the perfect accessory called LuMee and it is an iPhone case. Discovered by watching the Ellen show on You Tube, Kourtney Kardashian was a guest on the show, and they linked to sister Khloe via FaceTime and she was demonstrating that she is 'boring' without her LuMee light on... her skin looked amazing and Ellen even commented how good she looked.

How does it work?
It is a light up iPhone case with separate charging system (comes with plug charger) and it has lights around the circumference giving you a warm even glow. 

One of my friends Mrs H was way ahead of the times in October with a detachable light to pop on the top of your phone, so I had to tell her about the LuMee and now she has one too...eeek next month when we go out.   

@KimKardashian is also using and endorsing LuMee
With LuMee vs Without 
The case is pretty large and clunky so it does make your iPhone double the size but you don't have on everyday, just for nights out and when you want to take the perfect selfie!

You can buy LuMee's iPhone cases direct for £45 but I found mine on amazon.co.uk for around £25 but I know you can buy for around £18 on eBay. 

Happy Wednesday :-)

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14 March 2016

Life | Tips for planning a stress free event

There is nothing I like more than to entertain for my friends and family. Since we moved from our tiny flat (didn't feel small at the time, just lack of storage) into a house last summer I have been able to have people over more frequently to take seats at our new dinner table.

I bought an extending table for up to 8 people but I only bought 6 matching chairs then if I need to seat 8 then I have 2 foldable chairs for occasional use. 

In the flat we had one of those space saving Ikea tables that didn't let me entertain the way I really wanted. So when we moved, I was so pleased to be able to get rid of the mini table and now i look forward to planning the table and making yummy food to feed my guests.

I was inspired by Eventbrite to find out my top tips to planning an event / party - I thought this the perfect opportunity for me to share my dining table home decor with you, plus give you some tips you could apply to any occasion. 

If you're looking to plan an event, visit Eventbrite's event management tools.

I am usually the person to suggest an event or offer to entertain because I enjoy it, and thats really important. If you don't enjoy it, then you will not want to set the time aside to organise, invite and plan for the day.

I have organised work events, hen parties, birthday parties and my parents 40th anniversary celebrations and I always apply the same rules. 

1) Define the event - is it homemade or do you need to book some space? This will also depend volume of attendee's so points 1, 2 and 3 may have to be done simultaneously. 

2) Set the date - this is sometimes hard, as you want the maximum amount of attendee's to be able to make it but if its a birthday you can't move that so you can be flexible to a point. If some of the people are unable to attend, then thats ok. They are missing out on your event so don't feel bad. 

3) Write the guest list - decide on how many people you could invite for the space you have, no one wants to be a sardine. But is it just a girlie night or do you want to invite partners? This is sometimes driven by the time of year, as festive or bank holiday events sometimes everyone is on holiday and may want to only attend events together. But think about the full guest list, how is everyone going to feel if there are 5 couples and 3 singles, its sometimes hard to manage but something to think about, you want the balance. Remember its your event you get to decide. 

How do you invite? Facebook events or email are popular, but there is nothing I like more than to receive a paper invite (plus its a keepsake). However if its a small meal with family or friends, a simple text or phone call will do. 

3) Plan and set the budget - if you are on a set budget buffet food or a big one pot dish is always a good option. If you want to splurge plan a 3 course meal you enjoy making, you know will be a a crowd pleaser. 

I had a dinner party for 4 people and made a 3 course meal for £50 plus a couple of bottles of fizz. Whereas I invited 10 people for housewarming party last year on a sunday afternoon for a buffet and spent £50 and I received 12 RSVP's  from friends but only 5 turned up on the day. 

Yes its upsetting but this is why you set a budget, you decide what the event is worth, most food can be saved for the next day in most instances, but you don't want to spend alot of money as food is not the full experience. 

4) Buy the food  - Try to plan ahead and buy the items you don't need fresh the weekend before the event, less stress for you later in the week, then go back for the fresh items max 2 days before, but if you need bread, go same day.

I try to make as much homemade food as possible makes it feel more personal plus its cheaper. For example Lasagne always goes down well and tastes better next day so this is the perfect dish for a family meal.  

5) Drinks / cocktails - selection of alcohol and soft options.  As the host you are already  spending so much time on prep and money on food and drink its always amazing if guests bring a contribution to the drinks as you want everyone to have as much or as little as they want. But remember some may not so you will need to cater for this. 
At dinner parties I would have a couple of options of wine (unless you know what everyone's usual is). Volume of drink sometimes might out way the amount of food you should buy. 

Here is a couple of examples from my experience - A Summer BBQ starting at 3pm til late - means more drinks are going to be consumed, you might decide to splurge on the booze and just get meat, salad and bread items in which may not cost more than £20. 

Another time Booze may be more important that food is maybe at a cheese and wine party. This is actually my favourite type of do, there is nothing I like more than an amazing cheese board (previous post) and the snack tray to come out. This is actually the best option for a starter too. 

6) Setting the table - if it is a sit down meal, I always like to have the table set before everyone arrives, it's one less thing to worry about and something for everyone to see when they come through your door. My table essentials are, candles, cutlery of course, selection of glasses, flowers and a jazzy napkin. 

7) Entertainment - we have all seen it the people who provide entertainment at 'come dine with me' usually get higher points than those who spend the whole night in the kitchen and don't socialise with their guests.

At my last dinner party, it was a girlie night so I decided to order a 2nd hand copy of the 80's game Dream Phone. It was a great laugh and something fun to do after food and before dessert.  You don't have to do a board game, but I am not a huge fan of twister or karaoke so this looked like a good option.

8) Your event is over.. take 5 minutes the next day to evaluate the night, what would you do better next time, did you forget anything? what was the final cost? Did your guests enjoy the night? 

Hope my top tips will help you plan your next event.

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Disclaimer - All my opinions are my own, this is not a paid advertisement.

7 March 2016

Food - Rick Stein restaurant - Sandbanks, Dorset

Last week I was down in Dorset for work (350 miles south from North East where I am based) so I took the opportunity to have a mid week date night with one of my besties who lives there. We had a few celebrations to have as we hadn't seen each other since early December so we wanted to go somewhere special.

This restaurant choice to my friends and family is probably a little strange as I pretty much refuse to have anything to do with fish.

But I am in my early 30's and it's time to try some new foods. I am not a huge meat eater and will probably have chicken once a week, so now I feel I am going to have to start to hit my fear of fish bones and eyeballs head on.

Last week we decided to go to the newly (late summer 2015) opened Rick Stein restaurant. With branches mostly around the Cornwall area, I haven't had the opportunity to dine at one before. 

This one has opened up on the famous Sandbanks beach area so the theme of the restaurant fits the area perfectly.

AJ had been before when it first opened, but had sat in the more relaxed dining area near the entrance,  so this was a first experience for us both in the main restaurant.  

We were greeted at the front door by 2 members of staff who were very welcoming and offered to take our coats while they organised to take us to our table which we had pre booked online. 

By this point I was already distracted by a fish mural on the floor which was beautiful and looked like it was individually crafted for the space. The detail of the sea theme carried on throughout with oars and shell features.

We were shown to our table upstairs in the main a la carte dining area. You could see into the kitchen but you couldn't see much, I always like to see chef's at work creating amazing food.

The restaurant was pretty empty when we arrived at 7.15pm so we asked if we could change our table so we could sit together in a corner area and look out onto the restaurant instead of one of us looking at a wall and they were happy to accommodate. This was a super table and really added to the experience. 

I think if I was to go again it would be lovely to go during the day for lunch or maybe when the evenings become lighter as there were tables by the windows to admire the view over the water but it was a good job it was dark as AJ and I had loads to catch up on so we just wanted to soak up the atmosphere as we tried some yummy food. 

As a new to fish person.. I knew what items I definitely was staying clear of that I hadn't enjoyed previously which are the usual items most would choose like salmon and prawns. I do love a fishcake but I didn't see any on the menu.

I selected a couple of things I liked the sound of and asked the lady taking our order for more detail so I could make a final decision. I think the example she gave provided me with enough detail to make a decision but it wasn't too detailed and I wasn't convinced she had tried either of the ones I had asked about.

For my starter I chose the SEARED SCALLOP SUCCOTASH which consisted of 3 Scallops with crab meat, mussels, serrano ham, sweetcorn and chives in a creamy sauce.

This was a large portion for my starter, but good value for money. My first experience of scallops and they were very delicious and good presentation.

AJ had SASHIMI OF SCALLOPS, SALMON, TUNA AND BASS with wasabi, soy, daikon, shiso leaves and soy dipping sauce. This was beautifully presented and AJ really enjoyed what she had, I did try some Tuna, which tasted nice but I much preferred my choice as it was hot. 

By the time we finished our starter the restaurant had started to fill up and I would say it was a mix of ages and there was a lovely buzz of conversation, I can't remember if there was music. 

The decor was spot on, we felt we had enough space, the service was tentative with check backs on all courses and checking if we needed more drinks. There was up-selling on items but nothing too forceful but we were happy with our choices. 

The blue leather seating was beautiful... however there were some crazy choices of art on the walls and a few naked ladies. I felt these were a strange choice when the others were so lovely and in keeping with the sea theme. If I had been seated opposite a large portrait of a naked lady for my meal, this review would have probably taken a different turn about now.

AJ and I were looking at other couple's food selections turning up and were getting excited for our main course.

I chose the FILLET OF HAKE with beer, bacon and Savoy cabbage, served with new potatoes and as an extra I ordered some long stem broccoli. This was a fabulous choice, the fish was so soft and flakey, it tasted lovely with the sauce and cabbage. I think this was a perfect fish for me to start with as it was really light and fluffy so I could really taste everything on my plate. 

AJ chose the GRILLED MISO SALMON with rice noodles, spring onions and beansprouts plus a side order of Kale.

We were happy full by this point but being greedy and we were not ready to go home yet we decided to share a pudding.. but then we couldn't choose so ordered one each and had a nibble of both. 

I ordered the PASSION FRUIT BRÛLÉE  and AJ chose the PANNA COTTA with poached plums. 

Both were exceptional. The creme brûlée was so delicious and fruity and as expected the crunch of the top was perfect. This was both of our favourites of the two and the portion was large so you can imagine how full we were by the end of our meal.

So I know what you are thinking.. how much did all this amazing food cost?

We weren't drinking so this reduced the bill, we were driving plus it was mid week.

For 3 courses and 2 bottles of fizzy water plus optional tip it worked out as £45 a head. I think this is really reasonable, I have paid similar for hotel food before and this was way ahead of this on experience and taste.

The full visit was something to remember, and I would certainly want to return or try another branch.

If I could change anything about the experience I would say - fishcake to be on the menu, lose the naked art and please leave a wine list or cocktail menu on the table in case we change our mind.

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5 March 2016

Beauty - New Lipsticks and lip cheat from Charlotte Tilbury

My obsession with Charlotte Tilbury continues, but I may now have to move onto different products after trying the Lip Cheat and Wonder Glow this week and absolutely loving them. 

My latest purchases are 'Bitch Perfect' in full size as the mini charm has run out.
Lip Cheat pencil in 'Pillowtalk' and a limited edition online exclusive lipstick 'Between the sheets'.

Whenever I shop at Charlotte Tilbury and ask for my chosen lipstick they always ask which Lip Cheat I need to go with that, and I always decline. But last week when in Leeds, I got talking to one of the representatives on the counter and she explained to me more in detail about why I should use a lip liner, so I let her know which lipsticks I had so I wanted one that would go with as many as possible.  

She said 'Pillowtalk' would be my best choice as it would go really well with 'Nude Kate' and 'Hepburn Honey' as well as my other favourites 'Penelope Pink' and 'Bitch Perfect'

I love watching Charlotte Tilbury tutorials on You Tube they are the perfect go to if you need some makeup tips. 

Bitch Perfect and Pillowtalk Lip Cheat

Trying out the Lip Cheat with Bitch Perfect Lipstick

Last year Charlotte asked instagram followers to name a lipstick and she loved so many of them that she brought out 2 limited edition lip colours, I prefer the matte colours so I opted for the 'Between the sheets' which is a rose pink shade. Lovely for everyday as an alternative to my usual coral and nude shades.

Plus about buying online from Charlotte is that you get 2 free samples per order so I was able to try out Wonder Glow and Magic Eye Rescue cream. 

I absolutely love the Wonder Glow so I have put that on my wish list for next month.

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