Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Getting crafty at the Make and Mend Festival

I've always thought of myself as quite a creative person; trying to find the best solution to a problem or making something look pretty. Although I wasn't really into crafts when I was younger, as I've grown up and got my own space, I'm always keen to do a bit of D.I.Y. Last month, I was invited to go along to the first-ever Make and Mend Festival, set up by two lovely ladies with a passion for creativity and mindfulness.

Held at Preston Hall Museum, the event brought together craft lovers from across the Tees Valley to take part in a number of workshops where we created some gorgeous and hand-crafted goodies. We were down on the morning to take advantage of the three different workshops we'd been booked on to. First up was glass engraving held in a classroom down the Victorian Street.

Make and Mend Festival Preston Park Hall Museum Craft Teesside Stockton
Make and Mend Festival Preston Park Hall Museum Craft Teesside Stockton
Make and Mend Festival Preston Park Hall Museum Craft Teesside Stockton Glass Etching
Make and Mend Festival Preston Park Hall Museum Craft Teesside Stockton Glass Etching

Led by Bloom in Art, the class allowed each participant to make either a pendant or a key ring. We each had to think of something that meant a lot to us, or that we want to be reminded of on a daily basis. I chose to etch 'Explore', as I love to travel and I want to do it a lot more. The process involved adding sticker stencils to you piece of glass, covering it in an acid paste and leaving it for around 15 minutes until the glass around your stencil had gone cloudy and your words remain clear and smooth. Once the acid was washed off, it revealed your design and we followed this up by drilling out a hole to then attach to our chosen fixing.

It was a very creative class which involved mediums I'd never used and methods I had never done. Although it was great to create my key ring, I don't think I'll be breaking in glass etching anytime soon. 

After this, we had some lunch from The Sitting Room in Guisborough's pop-up stall. They offered a number of gorgeous salads to be accompanied by meat or halloumi. I chose the tabbouleh with bulgar wheat, tomato, onion, parsley and mint, and the spicy tomato, onion and chickpea salad with a side of grilled halloumi and a dollop of mint yoghurt. It was so delicious and filling. I followed this up with a cheeky brownie but I ate this too quick to snap a picture.

Make and Mend Festival Preston Park Hall Museum Craft Teesside Stockton The Sitting Room Guisborough

After our lunch, we had a little bit of time before our next session which we used to wander around and have a nosy at what everyone else was doing. A few of the classes we spotted were brush lettering, floral painting and papercutting which all looked very interesting. Our second class of the day was embroidery which was led by Make and Mend's own Rachel. We all had the chance to embroider our own hoop which was pre-marked out with the words 'choose happy'. Rooting through Rachel's box of threads, all of our hoops came out very different due to the varied colours we chose. As I'd already done a bit of embroidery, this was familiar to me but it was great to be able to do more and practise the stitches I'd already learnt.

Make and Mend Festival Preston Park Hall Museum Craft Teesside Stockton Embroidery

The final class of the day took place in the conservatory which was unfortunately like a sauna as it was an extremely hot day. Nevertheless, we got stuck into making terrariums with Hoes & Ditches. As I'm not very green-fingered, it was great to have the chance to put together my terrarium adding stones, soil, picking the plants I wanted and then adding the finishing touches with pebbles and moss. I was really proud of my final effort which wasn't as hard to put together as I first thought.

Make and Mend Festival Preston Park Hall Museum Craft Teesside Stockton terrarium
Make and Mend Festival Preston Park Hall Museum Craft Teesside Stockton terrarium

I was extremely pleased to have been invited along to Make and Mend festival to try out all the exciting classes. There was a great turnout of advanced crafters and beginners, all wanting to learn new skills. Holding this in Preston Hall Museum was a fantastic idea and the venue worked wonderfully for what they needed. This was the first event that Make and Mend had run, and I'm hopeful they will organise others so I can try more crafts. If you want to keep up to date with Make and Mend, see if they decide to run further events or purchase one of their craft kits, follow them on Facebook or keep an eye on their website.

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Friday, 23 March 2018

Eating around the World with The Butterfly Quarter | Middlesbrough

One of my favourite things to do is go out and try new restaurants. I'm sure I may have said that once, or twice... This week one of Middlesbrough's healthy restaurants decided it was time to change up and become a cocktail and tapas venue. I have to say, I'm very happy about that. My friend Rachel and I love tapas, antipasto and charcuterie boards and we're pretty much on a mission to try all of them in Teesside. We've already been to Alchemy & Co., Lost Property and No.34, but we're always looking for something new so we were very excited to try The Butterfly Quarter.

The Butterfly Quarter - Middlesbrough - Tapas Review
The Butterfly Quarter - Middlesbrough - Tapas ReviewThe Butterfly Quarter - Middlesbrough - Tapas ReviewThe Butterfly Quarter - Middlesbrough - Tapas Review

The Butterfly Quarter is a quaint and striking space with an industrial edge. When we sat down we were given two menus each, one full of cocktails and the other laden with tapas options. We were in heaven. On the tapas menu, there was a deal which gave you three plates and a glass of wine for £15. We instantly knew this was the one for us and got to selecting six options for us to share. We chose Bruschetta Di Pomodori (Italy), Croquetas De Jamon (Spain), Arancini (Italy), Patatas Bravas (Spain), Funghi All'aglio (Italy), Mozzarella In Crosta (Italy) and as another extra we chose bread with three dips; Moroccan hummus, red pepper romesco and aubergine mutabai. As we'd chosen the special deal, our three choices each came on a wooden board with our bread as a cheeky little extra.

Each of the dishes were super delicious. My favourite was the Croquetas, followed closely by the Patatas Bravas and the Bruschetta. Oh, and the Mozzarella sticks and their dip was delicious too. We tried our best to clear our boards and did a pretty good job but we maybe aimed too high when we ordered the bread too.

Whilst we were there, they had an acoustic artist who really added a lovely vibe to the night without overpowering conversation. The staff at The Butterfly Quarter were friendly and very accommodating considering they were just getting used to the new elements as well.

There are quite a few local places coming around to the idea of tapas, but I think The Butterfly Quarter have really set a high standard and I would definitely be back again. If not to eat tapas, to definitely work through their cocktail menu.
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Saturday, 10 March 2018

Taking a bite out of Sunderland Restaurant Week | Saturday 17th to Sunday 25th March

When I received an email through inviting me to another Safari Supper in Sunderland, I jumped at the chance. The last two I've attended have been fantastic and shown me some great restaurants that reside in Sunderland. From tapas Indian to large slabs of cake, this city has so much more to offer than I'd first anticipated. To show off the foodie scene, Sunderland BID is hosting Restaurant Week from Saturday 17th March to Sunday 25th, which will provide fantastic discounts allowing visitors to try out as many as places as possible without breaking the bank.

The 'Safari Supper' allowed us to have each course in a different restaurant. First, we started with drinks and canapes in El Nido, which is a small Mexican restaurant hidden away on Frederick Street. It's an extremely cosy little space with an authentic atmosphere serving food with heat. Even the drinks have an edge to them as we found out with one of the cocktails containing jalapenos! 

We were provided with a number of small plates showing the variety of options they have on the menu. There were dishes with spicy beef, fruity chicken and exotic jackfruit which gave us all an opportunity to find a favourite. For Restaurant Week you can get a starter and a burrito, or two tacos for £10, and add a dessert/side/cocktail for £15.

Sunderland Restaurant Week 2018 - El Nido Cocktails
Sunderland Restaurant Week 2018 - El Nido Cocktails and Food

From El Nido, we trekked across to 2 Church Lane for our starter. I didn't expect much when we walked into the venue. It was across the road from the Sunderland Empire Theatre and was a typical pub atmosphere. When the food started to come out, I could see that the team behind this place were up-to-date with what people want and had definitely delivered. Our large table started to be filled with plates of halloumi fries, meat-filled burgers, chips doused in chilli and cheese as well as a whole host of vegan options.

It was clear that a lot of thought has gone into the food that is being served at 2 Church Lane with the specially baked bread buns, the seriously delicious chips and many options for the growing vegan movement. With an offer of a burger and fries for £5, the addition of another course for £10 and three courses for £15, it is definitely a place to consider during Restaurant Week.

Sunderland Restaurant Week 2018 - 2 Church Lane Vegan Burger
Sunderland Restaurant Week 2018 - 2 Church Lane Onion Rings Halloumi Fries

After our stop at 2 Church Lane, we walked over the road to the Engine Room. When a group of bloggers walk into a restaurant as photo-worthy as this, a repurposed fire station, you know there will be a million photos before you've even sat down. This place is just stunning, they've done a fantastic job of keeping all the authentic elements of the fire station, whilst making it into a modern restaurant.

Here we were to have our main meal and were overwhelmed with lots of dishes of food. After already filling ourselves in the last venue, we knew we'd made a grave mistake. Fish and chips, vegan curry and burgers were just some of the meals we had the opportunity to try. 

The Engine Room is collaborating with Sundaes, which have a shop on Yarm high street, to create some cocktail-inspired ice cream flavours for the Summer. We had the opportunity to try the pornstar martini flavour as well as a scoop of their standard ice cream flavours. For a hearty meal with a couple of drinks, this venue is a great stop and during Restaurant Week, you can get three courses for £15.

Sunderland Restaurant Week 2018 - The Engine Room Vegan Curry
Sunderland Restaurant Week 2018 - The Engine Room
Sunderland Restaurant Week 2018 - The Engine Room Burger and Fries
Sunderland Restaurant Week 2018 - The Engine Room Sundaes Ice Cream

When we had just about as much savoury as we could handle, it was time to cross over the road to The Peacock, which is owned by the same group that runs The Engine Room, for our dessert. We were served up three dishes to try which included carrot cake cheesecake, a brownie with jaffa cake ice cream and cherry bakewell sponge with custard. Although I wasn't a fan of the cheesecake, you had to roll me home after devouring the brownie with the amazing ice cream and the comforting sponge with custard. As with The Engine Room, The Peacock will be doing three courses for £15 which includes these fabulous desserts.

Sunderland Restaurant Week 2018 - The Peacock Desserts

After our adventure around these restaurants, I have to say I'm really impressed with the restaurant options in Sunderland. There are some really reasonably-priced venues serving quality food which can cater to a variety of visitors. If you are considering taking the trip to Sunderland, make sure to go during Restaurant Week and make the most of the brilliant discounted offers available which are all are listed on Sunderland BID's website.
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Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Lunching at Five Houses, Crathorne



I’ve been a bit of a stranger to the food scene here in Teesside. Christmas really takes a toll on the number of times you’re able to go out for food in the New Year with a lack of funds and an overstretched waistline. Also, January was the first attempt at Veganuary for me, so we didn’t venture out much for food. When February rolled in, we were eager to get out.

I’m a lover of shopping local and getting package-free wherever possible. I pop to Stokesley every Saturday to get my fruit and vegetables from the friendly greengrocers all without plastic. So whenever I hear about a new farmers market or farm shop, I want to visit. 

One that’s been around for a few months now that I haven’t yet been able to visit is Five Houses in Crathorne. Opened by the brains behind Kitson and Sons Butchers, Five Houses hosts a shop filled with fruit and vegetables, fresh pies and plenty of quality meat. On top of all this, they have a wonderful cafe where they use all their produce to make some delicious meals.

I wanted to write this post after my first visit with Matt, but a week on and I still hadn’t put fingers to keys... and then I went again. This time with my Mum, Sister and Nephew. If anything, I think this means I have more of a solid view on this local cafe.





Each time I visited was on a Saturday and on both occasions it was pleasantly busy. We were found a seat in quick time as the turnover of visitors was pretty speedy. To place an order, rather than having people to take your order at the table, you have to go up to the counter which is filled with attractive, tempting cakes. The menu has some classic English favourites, changing specials and numerous alternative dishes for meat eaters and veggies to enjoy.

On my first visit, I chose the steak pie which was the best decision. Although we were waiting 40 minutes for our food on this occasion, which was a disappointment, the pie made up for it and made me forget all about our wait. The meat was just perfect and the pasty was wonderfully crispy.

Matt chose the steak sandwich which I then had on my second trip. The meat again was lovely and tender, and there was a lot of it. The only downside of this sandwich for me is the caramelised onions made it a little too sweet for me but the salty chips and salad were a good compliment to this.

The staff were very accommodating to other requests such as change of sides and making special sandwiches for toddlers. The cafe is very relaxed and at no point do you feel rushed to let other guests in. It's a lovely place to go for a meal with your family as well as a great venue for a catch up with friends for breakfast or lunch.

I really enjoyed visiting Five Houses and would go back in a flash. If you are going there, I recommend getting a pie. Even if you take one away, you have to have one! I've now had three in two weeks, let's not talk about it, shall we. I will refrain from going back this weekend...
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Tuesday, 23 January 2018

New Orleans - The Big Easy


It’s been three months since we left New Orleans, and its essence and energy continues to play on my mind and make me want to return. When we first decided on our two week-three destination trip to America, New Orleans wasn’t on the list. 

In fact, it was Houston that was going to be our second location of choice. Deciding that the Houston Texans weren’t enough of a draw for three days, I chose New Orleans as another Southern spot to visit. Although I still very much would like to drop in on Houston, I’m really glad we picked NOLA as our second choice.

When we first arrived in New Orleans after our late flight, we were a bit overwhelmed - this party Mecca certainly lived up to its reputation. As soon as we saw the city in the daylight, our worries disappeared as we discovered as much as there is a party atmosphere, there is also a laid back chilled side to the city.

We spent our days exploring by foot, going up and down the French Quarter’s streets, taking in all of the fantastic colourful houses. We walked Bourbon Street and picked up some alcoholic drinks to walk with (its totally allowed here and felt extremely weird), saw St. Louis Cathedral taking pride of place in the Jackson Square and experienced some authentic jazz on Frenchman Street.


New Orleans is such a fun and vibrant place to visit, that I believe we just scratched the surface in what we managed to do. There were definitely some best bits of this part of our trip which include food, excursions and nightlife.

Beignets
You can’t come to New Orleans without trying a beignet, I mean are you insane? These are small parcels of pastry deep-fried like doughnuts. They’re then COVERED in icing sugar. They’re definitely one to try when you’re in NOLA, but I have to admit, they weren’t my favourite. P.S our guide told us that these are the same all over town, so you don’t have to squeeze into the seating at CafĂ© Du Monde, unless you want to.


This was a restaurant recommended to us by our tour guide, Bob, for our last night in to New Orleans. It was seriously the Bees Knees and we wished we could have told Bob how much we loved it. We visited the restaurant in the French Market which was colourful, quirky and full of delicious Mexican food. As New Orleans is known for its seafood we decided to share a portion of fish tacos and also get a portion of brisket tacos accompanied by nachos and tableside guacamole. It was all amazing and we couldn’t get enough. I washed mine down with various margaritas and it was the most delicious meal.


This is one that I’d seen on Helen Anderson’s vlog and that we decided would be a good brunch spot. It is very busy at Ruby Slipper but they are super-efficient with their table system. They sign you up at the door and offer you the drinks menu whilst you wait. Our table took no more than ten minutes and we were soon seated perusing the menu. They have a great variety of choices and our meals were really good.



New Orleans is famous for being on the Mississippi river, so we couldn't visit and not take a trip. We chose to go on New Orlean's only steamboat, Steamboat Natchez, for an evening excursion and a fancy meal. A Jazz band was already playing by the time we boarded, so we picked up a drink and had a wander around the decks. It is such a cool boat with various decks offering a restaurant, bar, shop and the opportunity to see the engine room. The dinner was served in a buffet format with lots of delicious options. It was so nice to sail down the river seeing the twinkly lights of New Orleans whilst hearing the rush of water from the paddlewheel and the sweet sound of jazz.


Super City Tour
Late into our stay in New Orleans, and after wandering the streets of the French Quarter, we decided it would be a good idea to join a tour and learn some more about this fantastic city. Swayed by our hotel, who I'm sure will get commission, we chose Grayline's Super City Tour. On this we were taken around the streets we'd already walked, learning more about the buildings and their history. We were also taken further out seeing some suburban houses and stopping at a cemetery and City Park. It was such a fascinating tour and our tour guide was a right laugh. We wished we'd gone on sooner!


This is such a quirky spot that I'm glad we spent some time in. When we reached Lafitte's we'd only had one drink, but their famous Hurricane pushed us over the edge in the high New Orleans heat. It was fantastic to sit in and enjoy the history of what is said to be one of the oldest bars in America.


Bourbon Street & Frenchman Street

When you hear about New Orleans, you are sure to hear of Bourbon Street, this is very loud, lairy and full of bars and places to dance the night away. "It's like Disneyland for drunks", is what a lot of locals would say. You definitely want to take some time to visit it as it is bucket list material. 

However if you find Bourbon is not your style and you want something more authentic and laid back, you have to go to Frenchman Street. Again this is something we only ventured out to later on in our trip and we wished we'd gone sooner. There are bars with live singers and bands blasting out all kinds of brilliant music. Not only this, when we walked down, there were performers on the street getting crowds of people dancing, stopping cars in the process. This is definitely what we imagined New Orleans to be like.


If there was anytime to visit New Orleans, it would be this year. They're celebrating their 300th birthday, I know, who knew it was so young! If you're looking for a hotel, I'd recommend the Wyndham New Orleans French Quarter as it was perfectly located with huge rooms and lots of storage.

Let me know if you're planning a trip as I'd love to live vicariously though you!
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