North East Family Fun

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Thursday, 1 September 2016

Has the Great British Bake Off inspired you to get baking?


I love GBBO. It is definitely one of my TV highlights of the year. I love Paul & Mary and how they truly are two of the best in their field, I adore comedy duo Mel & Sue (where did you get the orange juice from? - LOL) and of course the baking. The contestants are all amateurs and sometimes their bakes will amaze me but other times they inspire me and I think yes - I can do that! I swear this time of year is the only time I ever bake and that's all down to the GBBO. So this week I have been re-reading my favourite cookbooks browsing sites such as www.lionshome.co.uk to find inspiration for my next bake.


My Baking Essentials


I have been baking for as long as I can remember and it's something I was always encouraged to do as I was growing up with my both my mum and grandparents. My children are certainly in for a treat when they return to school as I'll be baking a different cake every week and popping a cheeky slice in their lunch box. I have bought every baking fad under the sun but these are my essentials that I really couldn't live without:-

1 - Bero Book

The classic Bero book is the only baking book our family owned as I was growing up and I would bake something from this cookbook every weekend. They now have an online version which I often consult and although their recipes are usually simple, they always give good results. 

2 - Springform pans

After years of battling with regular baking tins, I tried Springform pans a few years ago and have never looked back. They really are the easiest way to release your cake from the tin without fuss or mishaps. The idea is simple and it works. 



3 - Digital scales

Baking cakes will usually require accuracy and traditional scales often don't provide this (especially if you don't have 20/20 vision). You can pick digital scales up pretty cheaply now and they are worth every penny as remove the chance of inaccurate weighing which results in better cakes.


4 - Silicone pastry brush

For years I used a traditional pastry brush and it was a real pain to clean - I could never remove every last drop of egg wash and the bristles would end up hard. Boooo! This was until I received a free silicone pastry brush in my regular Sainsburys magazine and it was a real game changer - so much easier to clean and use.

5 - Mason Cash mixing bowl

I don't know if they are the best but they are all my family have ever used and it's a family tradition of ours. My grandad's mixing bowl must be at least 50 years old but is still going strong. Wikepedia tells me that the design has remained the same for the past 100 years. Why change something that works so well I guess? 


I'm going to try and share my baking recipes over here or over on Life As Mrs R in the next few months. I've already baked my classic sausage rolls and next week it will be the turn of my famous lemon drizzle cake

Let me know what your baking essentials are and if the Great British Bake Off inspires you to get your bake on. 

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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

5 ways to save money during maternity leave


They say there is never the right time to have children and that was certainly the case with us. Harry was a planned baby and I was in a secure job at the time so things worked out ok. With Heidi though I was half way through a university degree and money was very tight.

5 ways to save money during maternity leave
Three kids under the age of 4! YIKES! 

I couldn't believe it the following year when I found out we were pregnant again. We lived in a 2 bed upstairs flat at the time, I had just been made redundant from my job and the thought of three kids under 5 scared me A LOT. I believe everything happens for a reason though and do you know what, we managed just fine. It can be hard to imagine how you will cope financially when a new baby comes along but the simple answer is - you just do. I've put together 5 tips which should help you make the most of your maternity leave: 


1 - Are you entitled to any benefits or government help?

You never know until you check. Websites such as the Money Advice Service have been set up by the government to provide free and impartial money advice and should be your first port of call. You can also use entitledto.co.uk to check if you are entitled to any benefits and don't forget to see if you are eligible to claim a Sure Start Maternity grant too.

5 ways to save money during maternity leave

2 - Babyled weaning could be for you

Obviously check with a health visitor first but baby led weaning worked really well for us. Jars of ready made baby food usually cost upwards of 85p per jar. This works out at £17.85 per week or £928 per year. YIKES! With baby led weaning, you just give your little one some food from your plate and they just eat whatever you eat which really helps to keep the costs down. 

5 ways to save money during maternity leave

3 - Look out for FREE baby classes

Specialist baby classes can cost anything from £4 - £10 per class. By the time you include baby swimming lessons, baby yoga and messy play, the costs can really mount up. Sure Start centres and councils will often run free baby classes and local libraries and museums often plan a programme of term-time events that are low-cost/free of charge too. Ask your mum-friends, pop into your local SureStart or check out sites such as Netmums for listings.

5 ways to save money during maternity leave

4 - Store your baby items & clothing for future babies

You may think you don't want any more children but I say, never say never! Store all of your baby equipment away until you are definitely sure and then you won't have to pay out for prams. highchairs and cots twice. 

5 ways to save money during maternity leave

5 - Travel with your baby

Now this tip may be a little more unconventional but you will thank me for it once your babies start school and you are restricted by school holiday prices. Under 2's usually travel for free and when else will you get the chance to take a 4 week holiday abroad? Off-peak accommodation can work out very cheaply and if travel's your thing, I say go for it and save money on holidays whilst you still can.

5 ways to save money during maternity leave

I'd love to hear how you saved money during your maternity leave. 

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Cafe 32 | Linskill Centre, North Shields - A review


Cafe 32 | Linskill Centre, North Shields - A review - interior

Cafe 32 in the Linskill Centre, North Shields is a community cafe serving home-made food, indulgent treats, light bits and healthy options at bargain prices. The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming and there is FREE parking. We were invited along to sample their children's menu and afternoon tea.

Cafe 32 | Linskill Centre, North Shields - A review - coffee

The decor is modern and fresh with booth-style seating and wooden tables. There is also free wifi and if I lived closer it's certainly the type of place I could take my laptop and get some work done whilst enjoying one of their specialist hot drinks.

Cafe 32 | Linskill Centre, North Shields - A review - tea

Afternoon tea is priced at just £13 for two people - this is their regular price! What a bargain. Everything is homemade and VERY filling. In fact we were provided with a box to take home our leftovers for supper. For £13 you will receive your choice of tea or coffee, a choice of sandwiches (we went for goats cheese and beetroot plus cheese and pickle), 2 HUGE scones with jam and cream, 2 slices of homemade quiche and a cake/tart of the day. Honestly, it is such a bargain. Whilst it may not have been the best afternoon tea I have ever been served (JDH holds this claim), it was definitely the best value.

Cafe 32 | Linskill Centre, North Shields - A review - homemade afternoon tea

Cafe 32 | Linskill Centre, North Shields - A review - homemade afternoon tea

I love that Cafe 32 really feels as though it is in the heart of the community and has a real community feel to it - they run a lovely little pay it back scheme where customers can donate a drink to one of the Linskill centre's volunteers - what a lovely gesture.

Cafe 32 | Linskill Centre, North Shields - A review - homemade afternoon tea

Cafe 32 | Linskill Centre, North Shields - A review - homemade afternoon tea

Cafe 32 | Linskill Centre, North Shields - A review - homemade afternoon tea

Cafe 32 | Linskill Centre, North Shields - A review - homemade afternoon tea

Although we were naughty and sampled afternoon tea, Cafe 32 prides itself on their healthy options. There are fresh salads (£3.95), homemade lean chilli (£3.95), bagels and homemade soups. There are options pointed out for those following the weight watchers diet too.

Children's Menu


Cafe 32 | Linskill Centre, North Shields - A review - children's menu - lunchbox £2.50

Where I really think Cafe 32 has a unique selling point though is their children's menu. WOW it is a mega bargain. Jack went for the children's lunch box - just £2.50 for a sandwich of their choice, fruit shoot, a piece of fruit, chocolate bar and babybel. You normally pay £4-£6 for these so £2.50 is an awesome price.

Cafe 32 | Linskill Centre, North Shields - A review - children's menu - lunchbox £2.50

Heidi went for the 'make your own' tortilla pizza. Also a bargain at £2.95 which included up to two toppings plus cheese and a carton of juice.

Cafe 32 | Linskill Centre, North Shields - A review - children's menu - make your own tortilla pizza

Cafe 32 | Linskill Centre, North Shields - A review - children's menu - make your own tortilla pizza

A quick word about the staff - they are a real credit to Cafe 32 and nothing was too much trouble. They were friendly, took the time to chat with our children and made us and all of the cafe's other customers feel very welcome.

Cafe 32 | Linskill Centre, North Shields - A review - children's menu - make your own wrap

Harry ordered the 'create your own wrap' - you can choose up to 2 fillings and are provided with a side salad and juice drink too. All for the bargain price of £2.95.

Cafe 32 | Linskill Centre, North Shields - A review - children's menu - make your own wrap

Our total bill would have been £21.40 for the five of us including drinks. I have yet to find a homemade lunch that is as much of a bargain as this is! It really is a tremendous deal.

Northumberland Park is just along the street and across the road from the Linskill Centre and as it was such a lovely day we decided to head over for an hour or so after lunch. The walk through the woods would have helped to burn some of those scone calories I am sure.

Cafe 32 | Linskill Centre, North Shields - A review - Northumberland park

Cafe 32 | Linskill Centre, North Shields - A review - Northumberland park

Cafe 32 | Linskill Centre, North Shields - A review - Northumberland park play area


Need to Know


  • Cafe 32 is open Monday-Thursday 8am-7pm  |  Friday 8am - 5pm  |  Saturday & Sunday 8:30am - 3pm
  • Afternoon tea should be booked in advance - call 0191 257 8000
  • The cafe serves breakfast, lunch, sandwiches, salads and light bites alongside drinks and homemade treats
  • Find Cafe 32 in the Linksill Centre, North Shields (NE30 2AY). Turn right as soon at reception as you enter the building
  • View the Cafe 32 menu here (opens PDF)
  • There is FREE parking at the Linkskill centre itself and surrounding streets
  • Follow Cafe 32 on Facebook here

Disclosure: We were provided with a complimentary family meal in return for an honest review. 


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Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Laneway & Co - An Independent Coffee Shop in Newcastle serving FREE Babyccinos


Laneway & Co - An Independent Coffee Shop in Newcastle serving FREE Babyccinos

Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman have been working very hard this summer. Fighting crime and catching villains is hard work you know. So when we found out that newly opened Laneway and Co served FREE kids babyccinos (warm frothy milk with a sprinkle of chocolate) with any grown up purchase, we thought it would be the perfect place to stop and catch our breath.

Laneway & Co - An Independent Coffee Shop in Newcastle serving FREE Babyccinos

Steve and I immediately fell in love with Laneway and Co. Located between the Bigg Market and Grey Street on High Bridge Street (next to Motel One and The Stand Comedy Club), Laneway & Co is nice and central for any superheroes (or regular humans) visiting Newcastle. The decor is bright and minimal but that's not really why you visit - you visit for the coffee.

Laneway & Co - An Independent Coffee Shop in Newcastle serving FREE Babyccinos

Laneway & Co serve a good selection of coffee from select suppliers. Steve and I are purists and I honestly can't ever imagine drinking coffee with milk in it so we started with an espresso. Laneway's tagline is 'specialist espresso' and they certainly live up to their name. Genuinely probably the best we've ever had.

Laneway & Co - An Independent Coffee Shop in Newcastle serving FREE Babyccinos

Next up, we had a quick demo of an aeropress machine. At home we have a stove top Italian-style espresso maker plus a cafetiere but after chatting to co-owner Nick, we are going to invest in an aeropress for our next camping trip (easy for travel as it's much easier to clean than a cafetiere). It's always a pleasure chatting to people who are genuinely passionate about what they do and Nick is certainly that.

Laneway & Co - An Independent Coffee Shop in Newcastle serving FREE Babyccinos

Laneway & Co - An Independent Coffee Shop in Newcastle serving FREE Babyccinos

Laneway & Co also serve up proper hot chocolate (we'll definitely be popping back in the colder months to sample) and a nice selection of teas alongside a couple of soft drinks options.

Laneway & Co - An Independent Coffee Shop in Newcastle serving FREE Babyccinos

Back to our superheroes though - kids receive a complimentary babyccino when their grown ups buy a drink. This is a mega deal - where else can you enjoy a decent coffee and keep the kids happy for a couple of quid in the centre of town?

Laneway & Co - An Independent Coffee Shop in Newcastle serving FREE Babyccinos

Laneway & Co - An Independent Coffee Shop in Newcastle serving FREE Babyccinos

Laneway & Co - An Independent Coffee Shop in Newcastle serving FREE Babyccinos

Alongside their artisan coffee, Laneway & Co serve up some fantastic lunch time specials - a fresh sourdough sandwich and coffee for just £5.50. I can't wait to try! There's also a mini cake counter which I know will keep New Girl in Toon happy.

Laneway & Co - An Independent Coffee Shop in Newcastle serving FREE Babyccinos

Laneway & Co - An Independent Coffee Shop in Newcastle serving FREE Babyccinos

Laneway & Co - An Independent Coffee Shop in Newcastle serving FREE Babyccinos

If you're looking for somewhere in Newcastle to stop for coffee or lunch (with or without the kids in tow), I beg you to PLEASE give Laneway & Co a try before heading to Starbucks or Costa. Laneway is far superior in my opinion, costs less and you'll be supporting an independent business which we all need to do more of.

Need to Know


  • Find Laneway & Co on Facebook here
  • Laneway & Co opening hours | 7:30am - 6pm Mon-Fri | 10am - 4pm Sat & Sun
  • Takeaway coffee and loyalty cards are available
  • The Laneway & Co lunch deal is available daily | A sourdough sandwich or toastie plus any coffee for £5.50 to sit in or take out
  • Babyccinos are free with any purchase - just ask :-) 

We were invited along to Laneway & Co to sample a few coffees on the house but were not obliged to write this post. As always, we just wanted to share the love of somewhere we genuinely think is a bit of a gem. 
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Monday, 29 August 2016

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn


Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay

I remember visiting the Tall Ships as a child when they visited Newcastle Quayside. It was a real sense of occasion and something that really sticks in my mind today, so when I found out the Tall Ships would be visiting Blyth which is just a few miles from my home, I couldn't wait to re-live these memories.

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn

The maritime celebration is now in it's 60th year. 30 impressive ships would be visiting the port of Blyth and there was to be a full weekend of celebrations. I headed over with Chloe on a sunny Saturday evening. We decided to travel via public transport and have to say there were no queues or problems - everything ran very smoothly.

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn

We walked along Blyth Quayside admiring the ships and taking in the festival atmosphere. There were bands playing, street performers entertaining the crowds, fairground rides and lots of festival food stalls including two of my favourites, Fat Hippo and Zapatista. I love how the festival involved lots of local suppliers like this.

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn

Ridley Park was a hive of activity with lots of local pop up stalls and activities for kids. You could easily spend a good few hours here.

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn

I decided not to take the kids with me as I don't like taking them to busy places when it's just me. I live in fear of losing one of them. We will hopefully pop down on Monday though to watch the ships leave. I had been invited to watch the ships from a private suite by the Commissioners Quay where we had access to a complimentary bar (lucky us). Complimentary drinks and solo parenting definitely do not mix and to be honest it was lovely to let my hair down for a few hours - after 5 weeks of being at home with the kids, I was more than ready for a bit of adult conversation.

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - entrance

The Commissioners Quay Inn is a brand new inn that stands right on the Blyth Quayside. Some of the rooms (like ours) feature large balconies and the views of the harbour, quayside and coast are pretty spectacular. The inn offers 40 en-suite bedrooms, homemade food, drinks and a very warm welcome. I loved the simple but classic decor which felt modern yet homely. There is free wifi and free on site parking too and I can't wait to return with the kids after our next trip to Ridley park.

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - vip badge

Our host Jackie really looked after us. We started with the most delicious afternoon tea and a couple of glasses of wine whilst we got to know the other guests. I always love the chance to chat to new people and it was a pleasure to share our suite with Chloe, Claire from Impact PR, a very brave soldier who survived an attack in Afghanistan and his wife plus two lifeguards from Blyth beach. Such a diverse group of people and it was lovely to share stories over a few glasses of Prosecco.

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - afternoon tea

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - afternoon tea

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - scone

The views from our balcony were wonderful and obviously Chloe and I couldn't resist taking a few snaps.

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - view from balcony room/suite

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - view from balcony room/suite

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - view from balcony room/suite

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - view from balcony room/suite

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - view from balcony room/suite

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - view from balcony room/suite

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - view from balcony room/suite

The saying time flies when you're having fun couldn't be more true - before we knew it, 3 hours had passed. It was a HUGE privilege to be invited up to the Commissioner Quay's rooftop alongside the official event photographers in time to watch the 9pm fireworks. Just WOW! It is times like this that I am so grateful for blogging. What an experience.

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - Quayside fireworks from roof top

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - Quayside fireworks from roof top

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - Quayside fireworks from roof top

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - Quayside fireworks from roof top

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - Quayside fireworks from roof top

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - Quayside fireworks from roof top

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - Quayside fireworks from roof top

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - Quayside fireworks from roof top

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - Quayside fireworks from roof top

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - Quayside fireworks from roof top

The fireworks were just outstanding and genuinely took my breath away. It was really special being able to share the experience with friends old and new. After 20 minutes of fireworks we headed back down to our suite for bacon butties and another glass of Prosecco. The perfect way to end our evening.

Tall Ships Regatta | Blyth 2016 | Commissioners Quay Inn - Bacon Sandwich and Prosecco

A huge thank you to the Commissioner's Quay for inviting us along to share this unique experience. All of the staff we encountered from the marketing team to the bar staff, door staff and even handymen were all genuine, friendly people who really made us feel welcome. The Commissioner's Quay Inn is somewhere I would recommend to anyone visiting the North East - it is super handy for business travellers, wedding guests or just as a base to use for exploring the gorgeous Northumbrian Coastline.

The Tall Ships Regatta is a HUGE event and I think it was extremely well organised. It a real a privilege to have such a massive FREE event for us to enjoy on our doorstep. What a fantastic weekend for Blyth, Northumberland and the North East. It was lovely to see us shine.

There is still time to catch the Tall Ships before they leave Blyth and race towards Sweden. Pop down for around 12:45pm on Monday to watch their farewell parade. Check the Tall Ships website for parking/public transport/park and ride details.
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