Friday 3 June 2016

The Parlour at Blagdon, Heavenly Afternoon

As you may have guessed from most of my posts, our social lives are mainly geared around the children. Whether it be swimming/dance/kick boxing lessons or driving about to friends parties and after school activities, it doesn't leave a great deal of time (or money) for adult enjoyment!

I decided to put that right recently and set about organising an afternoon tea for my family and friends.  I like to do something a little different and I had spotted a girl singing group on Facebook that I LOVED the look of.  I am absolutely positive I was born to be in a different era, I love anything vintage and adore all the era's of the past. History has always been my passion and I saw a perfect opportunity here.

The Doo Wop Dollies are a vintage female singing group based here in the north east, I knew there and then that I needed them at my event.  

The venue I found was just perfect.  I wanted somewhere intimate and also somewhere we could have a delicious tea in a lovely surrounding.  I found The Parlour at Blagdon online and after a bit of research I decided that was the place for me.   

The Parlour is just outside Cramlington near Northumberlandia and is just quite simply beautiful.  From the moment I made my initial enquiry I knew we were in safe hands as the customer service I received from Martin was wonderful and nothing was too much hassle.

I gathered a group of lovely ladies (and 1 man) together and set a date. That was that.  Everything was taken care of by The Doo Wop Dollies and The Parlour and I was both extremely grateful and impressed.

Upon arrival I was blown away by the place.  I had never been before and it was just so lovely,  Tucked away not too far from the Holiday Inn at Seaton Burn this truly is a hidden gem.  The tearoom was bustling with people and it had a lovely quaint feel to it.

We had been allocated the Willow Room for our function and it was delightful.  Light, airy and with that serene vintage theme, I loved it.

A glass of chilled prosecco was waiting for us upon arrival and immediately all was right with the world!

The lovely ladies from The Doo Wop Dollies were already there and starting to unpack for their set. They were fabulous and extremely flexible, just happy to work around us and our cake! 

Once everyone had arrived, our fantastic waitress started to bring in our food.  I have to admit at this point we were a bit of a pain moving tables and chairs about but nothing fazed her and she just worked around us.

My goodness, the afternoon tea was superb.  There were tons of dainty sandwiches, freshly baked scones with jam and cream and gorgeous desserts, including panna cotta which is my ultimate favourite dessert.

The the girls began to sing.  I had chosen the Land Girls package which was perfect.  It was a 45 minute set featuring songs from the 1920's, 30's and 40's.  They were fabulous and it was a perfect setting.  The songs were all well known songs so we were able to have a good old sing a long, I particularly like The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, brilliant!

All too soon the performance ended but not before they had brought a lot of us to tears with their gorgeous rendition of White Cliffs of Dover.  The girls were happy to spend some time getting many, many photographs with us before departing and leaving us to finish up our afternoon with a few more (bottles of) prosecco.

I had an absolute ball at our Vintage Afternoon Tea. I was so pleased with the setting, the food was amazing and the Doo Wop Dollies were perfect.  It was just a wonderful afternoon and I am looking forward to putting the event together again next year.  This time I think I am going for their 'Through the Decades' set list which even includes the Spice Girls! What more could a girl want?

Thank you again to all at the Parlour and the Dollies, as well as my wonderful friends and family for making it an afternoon to truly never forget.

Monday 24 August 2015

Mr Stink was Awesome

Having been up to Alnwick Garden earlier in the summer to see a wonderful production of The Secret Garden, my daughter and I were very keen to check out more of these events.  As we were leaving The Garden, we spotted a huge banner advertising Mr Stink, a play based on the novel by David Walliams.

Immediately we decided we must see it and we booked our tickets.  Now, we don't know anything about Mr Stink having not read the book, but to be honest this was really nice as we could watch the tale unfold without knowing what happens.

Mr Stink was performed by Heartbreak Productions which is a national touring theatre company and they have been up in the North East a few times this summer with various productions including Emma and Love's Labour's Lost.  Mr Stink is actually at Guisborough Forest on the 26th August if you get the chance to go along. This is an absolutely beautiful venue, we spent a great day there with the Gruffalo last summer.

There was quite a large crowd gathered but we managed to weedle our way through the picnic blankets and bagged a spot right at the front.  I was impressed to see various games set up as part of the setting for the show and some of the characters were helping the kids join in.  

The show was set at Annabelle's Birthday party, and we follow the story by listening to Chloe read her diary that she kept after a suggestion by Mr Stink.  That is all I will say on the plot as I don't want to spoil it for those yet to see or read it.

We absolutely loved it. The cast were wonderful, I particularly loved Mrs Crooomb, she was fantastic and really funny, there was also a lot of interaction with the crowd and it was all kept in character and full of fun.  Eva loved Mr Stink and Annabelle (and Mr Stink's dog Duchess!).

I think what I loved most was the message that the story was trying to convey.  Bullying and nastiness are terrible traits to have, be kind and true to yourself and you will be happy. 

I think we have found our new favourite pastime. Picnic Outdoor Theatre shows are the way forward, although it was very windy last night, the sun shone on and we wrapped up and had a blast.

I will be keeping an eye out on Heartbreak Productions show announcements for next year as we will definitely be going to see them again.

We have ordered the Mr Stink book to read and will be getting more of David Walliams novels.  I love him as a comedian and it seems I am going to feel the same about him as an author.

Thanks Mr Stink, we think you are awesome!

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Go Medieval at Belsay Hall

We have been to Belsay Hall a few times now, I went a few times with my mam for the Christmas Fayre and we took the children a couple of years ago when they put on a really good Halloween event.  In all the times I have been , I have never been over to the castle.  We just stayed around the hall and gardens (and tea room, yum!).

We were up at gorgeous Bolam Lake today for a lovely red squirrel event and on a whim decided that we would pop into Belsay on the way home.

The car park was fairly busy as the amazing Chapterhouse Productions are there tonight with a Midsummer Nights Dream (it is on the list for next summer) but we managed to find a spot.

As with most of the school holidays, there was a time travelling event on for the children.  The Hands on History Crew were Going Medieval and we decided to give it a go.  We are already Historic Scotland members which gets us free admission into English Heritage properties so this additional event was only £1 per child to enter.

We got a history trail in which we had to locate 8 of England's most famous kings and queens throughout the grounds and at the end the kids had to guess the word and they would get a certificate.  We were also told there was some activities at the end of the trail at the castle so we started off on our journey. 

My kids LOVE a treasure trail and this one was really fun as there were facts to read and Eva loved finding out about our countries past monarchs.

The trail took us through the Hall gardens and we had to head over to the Castle.  The walk over to the castle was in short, stunning.  We went through a  door which according to the kids was the door to the Secret Garden.  This only added to the mystery of the place and we had a wonderful time exploring.  What a truly beautiful and unique place.  There were rock formations, tons of fabulous plants and trees to look at, we went through more secret doors and under arches, it was wonderful.  I urge you all to go have a wander through, you will love it!

It probably took us about half an hour to walk through as we stopped many times to admire different flowers and trees.  At the other side we came out into the castle grounds and spotted the History tent.  We were just in time for the activities to start and we took part in dancing and dressing up, we did sword skills, coloured in dragons and shields and also heard tales of King Arthur and dragons.  The two members of staff, Lewis and Katie, were superb.  They really got stuck in and brought the era to life, the kids loved the sword skills and storytime.  I was really impressed.

We didn't have time to properly explore the castle and we will absolutely be back very soon for more adventures.  There is still time to visit the History Crew as the events are on until 28th August.  Thank you Belsay Hall and Castle, we had the most wonderful day.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Footprints Festival go Wild in the Woods

Childhood is such a wondrous time, it should be filled with magic and mystery, with fairies, goblins and pixies.  It should be brimful of imagination and wonder and the sky should never be the limit.  It is one of the things I love about my kids.  Their imaginations are fantastic, they are full of stories and questions and I love to listen to them playing together whilst making up so many different things in their gorgeous little minds.  We have fairies in our garden and all our toys do come to life at night.  I know that as they grow, the loss of the childhood magic is one of the things I will be most sad about.  I want to keep them aged 6 and 4 forever, I never want them to stop believing in Santa and the tooth fairy but I know all too soon it will happen.

Whilst researching my 'to-do' blogs for the holidays I came across the Northumberlandia website.  I am fairly ashamed to admit, that despite it being on our doorstep, we have only actually visited this remarkable spot once since it opened.  I was very pleased to see so many things going on,  Northumberland Wildlife Trust is heavily involved with Northumberlandia and put on lots of really good events for the entire family throughout the year.  A lot of them are free and if not, very low cost, this is a great way to introduce the kids to wildlife and nature and support our environment around us.

A new name jumped out at me,  Footprints on the Moon.  I instantly loved the name and was intrigued so I delved more.  I  discovered that here was something that was right up our street!  Footprints on the Moon is a Community Interest Company which means that they exist purely for the  benefit of the community.  They are not a profit making company which to me is extra special as it proves this is done from the heart and for our kids.  It was set up by Annie and Sarah and their current base is the beautiful woods surrounding Northumberlandia.  They are however expanding and will be branching out into other areas hopefully in the near future.  I believe they are truly unique, in our area anyway, as the whole point is to be outdoors, explore nature, play outside, have fun, be kids.  They run their sessions in all weathers, rain or shine, as Billy Connolly once said, there is no such thing as bad weather - only the wrong clothes!.

On Saturday they held their first ever festival in the woods and we were invited along to see what they are all about.  Immediately upon arrival I loved it.  There is just something magical about the woods, I think I maybe read too many Enid Blyton books as a child but I just love the trees, the peace and tranquillity that you find there. The kids had already gone in with my mam as for some reason there was horrendous traffic on the A19.

Spread out amongst the ferns and trees were lots of fabulous activities.  By the time I got there, they had already made bug houses - bottles filled with leaves/twigs and flowers to encourage little critters in and also bird feeders. These were empty toilet roll holders, on string and the kids put peanut butter all over them and stuck seeds on them. Ingenious! such a simple thought and if you know my kids, you will know how much they enjoyed these activities.  They now have pride of place outside their playhouse.

We moved on to making headdresses, using leaves and twigs and of course glitter. 

Next up was some painting, fairy wings to be precise, or in Luca's case Buzz Lightyear wings.

All the volunteers helping out were superb, tons of patience and really kind and helpful.  It was a lovely atmosphere, the kids just ran about freely, no worries of cars and roads. Lots of fallen logs to explore and flowers to look at, we all absolutely loved it.

There was so much to do, we had story telling, that was great, we have actually seen this lady a few times when we have attended Little Sparklers sessions at various libraries. She was really good getting the kids involved in telling the story.

We painted pictures, made fairy wands, hid in dens and ran amongst the trees.  We enjoyed some gorgeous hot donuts with chocolate and salted caramel, mmmmmm!

We even made S'mores around the campfire, perfect end to a perfect day.


If you have youngsters who love getting out and about in the fresh air, check out Footprints on the Moon and have a go, they run Wild Tots sessions for pre-schoolers through the week. Annie and Sarah are running a private event for us and our friends in September and we cannot wait! Thank you all for a lovely day, looking forward to more adventures with you.