Weekend Reading (September 2021)

25 September 

Hello and welcome to another edition of weekend reading. My regular chatty post about this and that. 

This week we celebrated Harry's 15th birthday. It is crazy to me that I was around this age when I first met Steve! We enjoyed a few family meals to celebrate including a wonderful Indian banquet at Asmara.

We also booked Spanish City on Friday night which we usually love. Sadly, the service wasn't the best and it didn't really feel like a special occasion because of this. They did take some £ off the bill to apologise though and as I always say, mistakes happen it's how places deal with them that matters. So I will visit again and just chalk that night down to one of those things. 

How good is TV at the moment? I can't keep up with new Bake Off, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Jamie Oliver, Taskmaster, Strictly, Googlebox and Sex Education. Alongside trying to keep up with MAFS and Handmaids Tale (which we still haven't finished), it's almost a full time job keeping up with it all. We decided to have a cocktail night during the Strictly launch last week just using up random stuff on our drinks trolley and how nice is Chambord with Prosecco! So good. 

It's not just Harry who is growing up fast, this week I applied for a Secondary School place for Jack. Wow! It doesn't seem like two minutes ago that I was juggling three kids under 5 on a school run and look at them now. I will feel so sad when the day comes and we finally say goodbye to our Primary forever. I think I will have been going there for around 12 years and I was a School Governor for 8 of those years too. I am one of those people who adores our Primary, it's like a little family. 

Talking of school, the GCSE years are another level when it comes to cost. We are not even at the end of September and I have already paid for a new chromebook through the school scheme (it's around £14 a month for 2 years), GCSE revision cards, 3 x GCSE revision books and a theatre trip as part of GCSE Drama.

All of these things just appear on your parent account with a little mention from Harry that I should buy them. I used to moan about 50p here and there in Primary but honestly, Secondary is another level. Get saving now! 

So this week, I finally switched bank accounts. Well I didn't switch, I just opened an additional account. I am with NatWest and every time I shop online, I now need to authorise transactions in my phone app which isn't always convenient. The app doesn't open automatically and I have to switch between apps and it can be annoying when I am shopping on the computer downstairs and my phone is on charge upstairs.

I get the extra security might be necessary but what I don't understand is why, when I use the exact same bank card for my online food shop twice a week, I need to authorise it with the app each time. Surely they know it's me after 100+ similar transactions with the same card? There have been a few other niggles too but I will bore myself nevermind you if I go into them all. 

So I opened a Monzo account for my everyday spending and so far, so good. I really like the different 'pots' of money and how easy it is to move money between accounts. However, OMG I still need to authorise every online payment in the app!!! Please tell me I'm not alone in having to do this. I am starting to wonder if it is just my browser that's the issue? At least with Monzo, the authorisation is just a little pop up and you don't physically need to switch between apps. 

Bless Steve on his day off this week, he spent most of the day building our new wardrobe for our coats / shoes in the conservatory. Sliding doors are not the easiest of things to hang! We got there though and it looks so much better, I love having loads of storage to hide everything away. I love the colour scheme in my conservatory but I do need some accessories I think so will be on the lookout over the next few weeks.

 The before photo is with the stuff from our old wardrobes on the table. I promise it's not usually this messy! 

Our favourite four-legged friend, Ollie, turned one this week. We started looking after him one day a week at the start of Spring and it is crazy to see how much he has grown since then. He has brought so much love and joy into our lives and I am so thankful we joined up to the Borrow-My-Doggy scheme and met him. We will be celebrating at the weekend with a nice trip to the coast I think. 

When I planned my new work schedule for when the kids went back to school, I included an hour's walk at 2:30pm. It was my big plan to grab some fresh air and listen to podcasts for an hour alone. However, it turns out I am just too lazy to do this after 5 hours at my desk and I just end up working through my exercise time. I do think that is one of the reasons I want a dog of our own, as I will be motivated to go out because well, I'd have to. 

Anyway, in the meantime I have re-signed up to Fiit which is an app with instructor led classes you can play via Sky, your phone/iPad/computer. When I am in the zone, I love Fiit and it works perfectly for me as I can do it first thing in the comfort of my own home with nobody looking at me. During one of the lockdowns, I used to workout with Fiit everyday and was really motivated. It does feel good when I do workout first thing so fingers crossed I keep it up. There are 1000s of classes to choose from with various exercise types and intensity levels. 

I have been on a bit of a booking spree this week, I booked festive brunch with the girls for December at  Revolucion de Cuba. It was £30 for a dish and unlimited selected drinks for 90 minutes (including strawberry daiquiris) which I think is a pretty good deal. I also booked tickets for Six the Musical at Theatre Royal in Jan. I have wanted to see this in forever and managed to find 2 x £15 tickets so just went for it. Something to look forward to after Christmas.

And finally, I booked our Christmas Day lunch at The Angler's Arms. We like eating out on Christmas Day as it means Steve isn't stuck in the kitchen and there's no washing up. We do make a Christmas Dinner at home but do this on one Sunday in December instead when there isn't anything else going on and there's no pressure. The Angler's Arms makes a delicious Sunday lunch so I am sure Christmas there will be brilliant. Plus it's nice to support a local pub. 

Next week Steve has the week off work and I will be working for just 1-2 hours per day. I have struggled to book something if I'm honest. We did fancy Northumberland 250 but decided it was too much of a faff to keep coming home each day so we're saving that for another time, I do fancy the Kielder Forest Drive but our car is due its first MOT next month and although there is nothing wrong with our car and it is less than 3 years old, I am kind of worried about the chance of it breaking down in the middle of the forest with no phone signal so would rather wait until after our MOT.

Then I tried to book a spa day but all the good ones seem to be booked up months in advance and I even had the little seafood trailer on Bamburgh Beach on my list but they will be closed as self isolating. Agh! So we are heading into the week with no real plans and will just see where the days take us I guess. 

I feel like I've been busy this week, here's a little catch up with blog posts you may have missed: 

What's On at the Weekend

Mog on the Tyne Cat Cafe Review 
Asmara Blyth Review 
Our October Half Term Plans 

Firework Displays in Newcastle 2021 
15 Ideas for a Child-Free day out in Newcastle 

North East Dogs on Camera | Ralphie the Cockapoo 

18 September 

Hello and welcome to another week of weekend reading - a bit of a catch up post and chat about the week. 

This week feels like it has been my first proper week of full work in ages and it feels great! I have stuck to my schedule and although it is intense, especially trying to grow two new blogs alongside this one, it has been manageable and I do plan a day off on a Friday / don't generally work in the evenings so I'm not going to complain that I work too hard. 

Steve has been back at the office for two days this week. It's not going to be a regular thing, it was just a one off catch up but it felt so strange being the only person in the house after goodness how long. It feels a little weird to me that this used to be my norm. Steve might actually end up going back to the office. His work are really good and have put forward a range of flexible options. He hasn't decided which one is right for him yet so we will see what happens with that. 

I am actually typing this on Thursday afternoon. Steve has Friday off too this week and we are going to sort our back garden out a bit (a lot of my plants are dying now) and clear some space in our conservatory. Our conservatory has been switched around and used a million different ways over the years. We just can't turn it into a functional space. It is old (I think it was built in the 70s or 80s), damp and the roof leaks. We do need to knock it down and start again but sadly don't have an extra £15k knocking around. 

Anyway, one of the ways we use the space is as storage and we keep our coats and shoes in there. The wardrobes we did have in there are all warped with the damp and we had to get rid of one last year and now the other is on its last legs. So I have ordered another wardrobe to replace them. This one is huge and takes up the whole length of a wall. It is getting delivered on Saturday and I can't wait. I am hoping it will see us another 5 years or so and by that stage, we *may* be ready to looking into upgrading the conservatory. I have looked at the new roofs you can get now which would dramatically improve the space for us but even those are at least £2k and we are saving for a new kitchen first. There is always something isn't there! 

What is going on with Matfen Hall this week! Talk about a PR disaster. For those who missed the news, they cancelled weddings of anyone who was spending less than £20k. Some of these weddings are less than 9 months away and the Bride and Grooms were told in same cases by email that they could keep their date, but they would now need to spend a minimum of £20k. Wow! 

I mean I know the industry has been hard-hit but this comes across as so greedy. I haven't heard of any other venue not honouring contracts like this. The thing is, in the wedding industry, word of mouth is everything and I am certain Matfen Hall will be feeling the consequences of this for many years to come. I mean if I was a bride, there is no way I would consider them now. 

So after a lot of media attention, they back tracked. But I have a feeling it may be too little, too late. 

I worked with Matfen Hall a few times under their old ownership and I know how important providing excellent customer service and repeat business was to them. It feels like this has been lost now which is sad. 

Strictly is back this weekend. I was very late to the party with this one and only started watching in 2019 (thanks to Chris Ramsey being a contestant) but I absolutely love it now. I am 100% team Sara and can't wait to see who she is teamed with. We are going to have a cocktail night whilst watching. This week's theme is Prosecco themed cocktails. No doubt I will share on Instagram stories what we end up making but we are going to attempt our own Pornstar Martinis I think. 

Work has been good this week, I am in the process of setting up an interactive map with all of my blog reviews pinned. You just click on a pin on the map and my review link will pop up. I should be finished in a month or so. I have a lot of blog posts!! But once it's done, I will share it in some of my blog posts and will email a link to anyone who wants one - something to look out for. 

I have also been busy promoting and sharing various Christmas and Halloween events. It's all go now! Bonfire night will be next so let me know if you've spotted any displays taking place.

In the past few years, I have noticed a growing trend of families only wanting to take their children to see Santa once at one of the bigger, more established events, but still book in other festive activities where a visit to Father Christmas is not included. Honestly, if I was an event organiser, I would be trying to plan more events without Santa than with Santa as that seems to be what people are looking for. 

New posts this week: 

What's On for Kids in North East England this Weekend 

30+ Places to take your Dog (tried and tested by readers)

Halloween Events in Newcastle 2021 

Blackfriars Newcastle Set Lunch Menu Review 

CJ's Funhouse Soft Play Review 

Northumberland Country Zoo Review 

You may also like:

20+ Halloween Events for Kids Across North East England

20+ Christmas Events for Kids Across North East England 

It's Harry's 15th birthday on Monday. We have an array of family meals and celebrations planned which I am looking forward to. On his actual birthday he is ditching us and going out for Nandos with his friends after school. How times change. 

11 September 


Hello and welcome to another installment of weekend reading - a little bit of a catch up / chatty post. 

Last weekend we enjoyed a lovely walk around Gibside with Ollie. We absolutely love taking him out and this week, we put our name on a waiting list for a dog of our own at the start of next year. We have wanted our own dog in forever but I really didn't want to rush things. I am so happy we are finally putting plans in place though. 

The kids have all gone back to school now (finally) and settled in and it is so much nice having a routine back in our lives. All three now like to see their friends after school now so I have had to set a rule that everyone must be back for dinner at 6:30pm. I feel like we are at the life stage where we see our kids the least amount of time now. I'm not complaining though, I am happy they have good social lives.

Steve found out this week that his hours are changing at work next month. Previously, he often worked until 8pm but now his department is closing at 6pm so late shifts will soon be a thing of the past. I am so happy about this as it means I will no longer be on tea making duties and we should be able to get out more in the evenings without the restriction of needing to check shifts or book time off first. 

Let's talk Halloween - have you booked anywhere yet? I am under strict instructions that we need to stay at home for Halloween night so the kids can go out with their friends. I am planning on booking Pumpkin Picking at Spilman's Farm early in October again as we loved it last year. I also really fancy Hallowtween at York Maze which I think will be ideal for the kids. I am worried it may be too scary for me though as I hate mazes but we will see how I feel when the tickets are released. I am also finally going to try the Ford & Etal Scarecrow Trail too. 

I do have a 3 day trip planned in October Half Term too but I won't tell you about that for a few weeks as I need to tell the kids first and I am waiting for Harry's birthday. 

This weekend we are finally going to pay 11 Arches Park a visit (ad-we have press tickets). This weekend is the last show of the season but I will write a review and share some tips if you are thinking of booking for next year. We are also taking the kids ice skating which is something we really missed over the festive season last year and something they enjoy doing - we have booked a private lesson at Whitley Bay Ice Rink. Again, I will share more on that soon. 

I am still hooked on MAFS (I really hope Tayah and her husband last) and we are around half way through Handmaid's Tale. Wow it's a hard watch though! Especially as sometimes it feels a little too close to home. 

This week for some reason, a lot of the articles I have been reading have been related to trains! 

I love travelling by train and I am so pleased to see that a new Newcastle - Edinburgh service will now stop at Cramlington. I mean imagine just being able to get on a train in your hometown all the way to Edinburgh! The new service stops at Berwick too. I am sure we will be testing it out next year. Find out more about the new route here. 

Secondly, a new budget service has been announced between London, Newcastle and Edinburgh. Lumo has been called the 'Easyjet of trains' and will be in direct competition with LNER. You can't use your railcards on Lumo but fares are super cheap and 60% of fares will be available for £30 or less. Exciting! This service will also stop at Morpeth which I actually think might be more convenient for me than Newcastle. Read more about Lumo here. 

New posts this week: 

Oh I almost forgot, this week I brought on two new freelance team members to North East Family Fun. Jennifer & Bethanie are both experience writers with younger children and habe agreed to write some posts for us featuring reviews of days out for children under 7. I am so excited about this expansion! 

Popular posts this week: 

I now have a big spreadsheet which organises my workload with different tasks broken into hourly segments. It has worked really well this week and I have been super productive. Long may it continue! 

4 September 2021 

AD - the Amazon links in this section of the post are affiliate links

Hi everyone,

I used to write a weekly catch up diary-type post and enjoyed writing them but for some reason stopped. I guess life got in the way! Anyway, I am going to bring them back and publish every Saturday morning. Well I say every Saturday, I may skip a few on particularly busy weeks! 

These posts will just be a bit of a catch up / informal chat about everything and anything. Let's jump into this week. 

First of all, I cannot believe how many kids are back at school, it still feels like we have forever! My three aren't fully back until Wednesday. We have no real plans before back to school now, we are just taking this time to rest and recuperate. I am definitely craving routine now though and after a good summer, I am looking forward to getting back to work properly and have lots of plans in place which I am keen to get started on. 

I am so happy that Married at First Sight UK is back this week. Is anyone else watching? I am pleased the format is more like the Australian version now. I never watch Love Island but I am obsessed with MAFS. I have even got Steve into it this year and cuddling up to watch on a weeknight at 9pm is something I look forward to during the day. 

Now that the kids are older, I feel able to leave them at home for a few hours here and there now. Steve was working all Bank Holiday Weekend so on Monday night after work we popped out to Lobo Rojo for a little date night. OMG it was so good! I have been meaning to go for ages and it did not disappoint. Find them on North Shields Fish Quay (in the old Irvin's Brasserie building).

They serve the freshest tacos and the best margaritas. Ah so good! Prices were decent too. We are guilty of using pre-made kits when making fajitas at home but our meal out convinced us we need to make more of an effort to create our own at home as they are so much nicer. Nothing beats fresh salsa! So much nicer than out of a jar. Check out my TikTok from our visit (and give me a follow) here (or search NEFamilyFun)

I have been getting back into listening to podcasts this week and hope this will continue once the kids go back to school. My brother got me into the Redhanded Podcast and we listened to it when driving home from Sheffield. It is a fascinating True Crime Podcast by two women (Hannah and Suruthi) and seems to delve into the issues raised a little further than other similar podcasts I have listened to. 

I listened to the episode 208 about Pedro Rodigues Filho - a man who has killed over 200 people yet now runs a successful YouTube channel. Fascinating! This was closely followed by episode 209 about Shamima Begum and ISIS. It sounds heavy but it's not at all and I actually learned loads. I am looking forward to catching up on old and new episodes in the coming months. 

I also listened to a slightly older episode (from July) of Fearne Cotton's Happy Place. This one was with Caitlin Moran (who I love) and all about how you think you have life sorted when you are 35 but actually, middle age is where things really get tricky. Obviously lots of humour in this one too but I also really clicked with the subject matter. I was prompted to download Caitlin Moran's new book (More than a Woman) which delves into the subject a little deeper. 

On the subject of books, I FINALLY ordered myself a Kindle this week. I usually read on a very old iPad but it is a bit clunky and after a summer of working hard, I decided to treat myself rather than waiting until Christmas. I know some people aren't fans but I absolutely love reading on an e-reader rather than a physical book and I love that every book I ever read will be there. 

This week Ollie (who we look after sometimes) had his first sleepover at our house which was a real highlight. Ah he is just the loveliest dog, so snuggly and loving but also full of character. He was as good as gold on his sleepover and the urge for us to get our own dog is real! Watch this space next year is all I can say. 

The weather hasn't been great this week has it? We re-watched Cruella and loved it just as much second time around. Love the outfits and music in that film. You can catch it on Disney+ now. I also started planning mine and Steve's week off at the end of the month.

We did originally want to complete the Northumberland 250 but after looking at it, I don't think the logistics will work this time with us needing to be back for the kids from school and not being able to stay over. We have decided to save it for when we can do it properly and stay over at different places as we travel. Might be a good one to try in Feb or May Half Term I think. 

So now we have a full week to fill. We are definitely planning a day in Newcastle sampling some of the new bars which have popped up. You can see lots of recommendations on my Facebook page here. I also want to book a spa day but can't decide where at the moment. It is a toss up between Rockliffe Hall and Center Parcs at the moment. We are staying at Center Parcs after Christmas though so I do think we may save their spa until then. I love their spa! 

I also really want to complete the Kielder Forest Drive and it has been on my list for years so hoping to tick that off along with somewhere nice for lunch. 

If you have any other ideas for day trips during our week off, please let me know. 

I have been moderately busy with work this week. I have already received messages / emails asking where my Christmas posts are but they won't be ready until the kids go back to school - sorry. I have published my Halloween What's On Guide though which has proven to be very popular. 

Other new posts this week (incase you missed them) include: 

*A guide to what's on at the weekend 

*10 reasons to visit Teesside Park 

*South Shields Museum & Gallery Review 

*10 of the best days out for wheelchair users 

Weekend reading: 

Popular posts this week 

Thanks for reading - hopefully I will be back with another catch up next week. I do enjoy writing these kinds of posts. 


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