Finding Calm Amongst the Chaos…

We’re almost one weekend down into “Lockdown 2” as I write this. It’s been one of those beautiful but biting cold November days and now, not quite gone 5pm, it’s pitch black outside. With a long, lonely lockdown nights ahead this winter, how do we keep our spirits up?

If you’re anything like me, you like to keep busy but after a busy week, sometimes it’s hard to find the brainpower to do anything too taxing… What to do?

In the chaos of lockdown life, finding time for self care can be challenging. We are so busy with work, studying, family or, for some, just getting through the day. Luckily we stumbled upon a solution to finding calm amongst the chaos.

Enter Chill Out Boxes.

A subscription box might be something you avidly collect and wait for the postman to pop it through the letterbox every month, or you might be totally new to the concept.

What are they?

Subscription boxes are one of the best ways to shop in our opinion. Why? They offer customers unique experiences curated around products and themes, introducing new brands and products to you – from puzzles to beauty to pets.

I like the idea of buying myself, or someone I love a surprise. Something curated that arrives through my door without too much effort from me at all. In today’s strange world I think we need small pockets of magic and surprise in our days.

Set up in 2004, Chilli Studios is a registered charity in the North East that delivers art and wellbeing services to those who are, or are at risk of experiencing diagnosed mental health problems. They also work closely with those who experience other forms of social exclusion, meaning no one is left behind. Mental health is very, very close to my heart after the rollercoaster journey I’ve been on personally as a carer for my younger brother who was diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder 3 years ago so it’s right up my street.

I ordered the Chill Out nature nurtures box and the Chill & Create watercolours box to keep me busy during lockdown.

If you follow us on Instagram, you’ll have seen the “pay it forward” giveaway I shared earlier today. As a small business owner myself, I understand first hand how devastating and difficult lockdowns are on our livelihoods. It’s easy to say this, but actions speak louder than words.

We’re living through tough times, so I’d like to “pay it forward” and buy someone a Chill Out Box of their choosing. Head to @chill_out_box on Instagram, and leave a ❤️ on their December Hygge post and I’ll choose someone at random from the comments to win on Monday 9th November 2020.

If you, or someone in your life could do with a wellbeing or quirky creative boost, we highly recommend ordering them a jam-packed Chill Out Box – better still you’d be supporting a small business that needs our support now more than ever.

To find out more about Chill Out Boxes and Chilli Studios visit: https://www.chillistudios.co.uk

Christmas with a difference…

It’s a stormy October night as I sit here, hot chocolate in hand at my kitchen table, mulling over the months ahead. Your thoughts too may already be turning to Christmas and what this year’s festivities will look like as we continue to live in the COVID-19 pandemic.

For many of us there’ll still be…

The obligatory Christmas tree – check
Advent calendars (the boozier the better) – check
Nights spent in front of the fire – check
Wintry walks – check
Christmas food coma – check


At first glance, Christmas doesn’t seem to be that different from the norm. Except, this year might be the strangest Christmas of all if we can’t spend it with those we love most. For families and friends scattered across the world, living in various tiers of lockdown, there’s a chance our most beloved of Christmas traditions can’t legally go ahead this year.

What to do?

It’s easy (and feels weirdly well-deserved) to sit and complain about the state of the world and all that is wrong within it right now. Or, we could try and take a more curious outlook to Christmas 2020. A very different year, why not mix things up and do something different?

You would do well to book a Christmas, New Year or “twixmas” (the days between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve) break at Ninebanks. Five star reviews are standard for this independent family run hostel, which is part of the YHA network. Officially 4-star rated, Ninebanks has been recently renovated and extended to create a series of self-contained, covid friendly accommodation.

What could be more festive than staying in a snow-topped 18th century cottage in a stunning rural location?

If, like us, you’re sick of the same 4 walls but COVID has had a real impact on your income then a short break somewhere like Ninebanks (where a 3 night stay for two is under £200) could be the answer.

Pack your walking boots or wellies, fill the fridge with the trimmings for your own Christmas dinner and settle in front of the fire with a good book or favourite film. Pauline and Ian, the family team behind Ninebanks have been working hard behind the scenes with local tradesmen to create two new self-contained ‘wings’ within Ninebanks. They can now safely accommodate groups of 6 (in line with ‘Rule of Six’ restrictions) as well as provide ample space for different households to enjoy Ninebanks without ever sharing the same space.

The beauty of the new wings means they can segment the hostel safely during lockdown, and open it back up to larger groups when restrictions allow. Guests can also book a self contained room in the chalet next door.

Close to the North Pennines and Hadrian’s Wall, we have little doubt Ninebanks will capture your heart whether you’re based here in the North or coming from further afield for the first time…. and think of those magical dark skies!

To find out more about Ninebanks and Christmas (or 2021 availability) head to http://www.ninebanks.org.uk/ and let’s support local businesses this festive season. 🎄

Rummaging inside the Craftbox

Walks on the beach gathering special shells that catch your eye, picking up pieces of roaming driftwood or enjoying the sea air… it’s time for a little escapism.

Whether due to self-isolation or social distancing rules, a walk on the beach might not be possible in real life, but that’s ok. We’re bringing the beach to you! Our next Coronavirus Pop Up Shop post is dedicated to a small business of the beachy variety, and we think you’ll love them…

 

Enter Casey’s Craftbox.

An artist using driftwood and reclaimed wood to make the most charming, delicate seaside scenes; we fell in love with Jayne Casey’s designs instantly after spotting them online last week.

From charming pastel coloured beach huts, to lighthouses and quaint seaside villages, Casey’s Craftbox is a real treasure trove. We love her ingenuity at turning “trash” from the beach into miniature treasures that evoke memories of a place, time or someone close to you.

Quite simply, her work is charming and a cheery delight to have in your home, office, or give as a gift. We bought ourselves a pink beach hut and have the perfect spot on our windowsill for it to sit when Jayne’s local Post Office reopens and she can resume sending out orders. Until then, we thought it would be rude of us not to share one of Etsy’s best kept secrets for all of our followers who would love a small piece of coastal art (made from the heart).

Be sure to check out Jayne’s other handmade designs, plaques, wreaths and signs too!

(click to enlarge images) 

 

Business Profile:

Who: Jayne Casey, artist behind Casey’s Craftbox.
What: Handmade coastal art, wreaths and home accessories
Where: Online – via Facebook, Etsy and NuMonday.com

Though currently unable to post any orders, you can view Casey’s Craftbox items for sale at etsy.com/uk/shop/CaseysCraftbox.

Gee that’s nice!

Today’s Coronavirus “Pop Up Shop” post is one I know many of our readers will love…

When we first met North East based wildlife artist and illustrator “Gee Gee Designs” many years ago, we knew instantly it would have to be her who painted the eventual logo for a new business idea. The bumblebee and french lavender logo that adorns Bumble and Bloom Media is always greatly admired when handing out a business card and it is our pleasure here at Prosecco and Pie to dedicate today’s post to Jina Gelder, its creator.

From pet portraits and miniatures, to silk scares and home accessories; Jina’s distinct painterly style is loved far beyond the North East. A regular at fairs across the country, hard-working mother Jina is constantly sketching and producing new art and hosts workshops for budding artists and total beginners to try painting their gold-leaf bumble bee or Mad March Hare.

Coronavirus poses a threat to millions of self-employed workers and that includes artists too, whose incomes rely on face to face interaction at fairs, markets, galleries and people being able to visit shops to buy their products. If someone you love has a birthday coming up, or you’d like to treat yourself to something cheery in these difficult times, we know how much Jina and her young family would appreciate your support.

A few of our favourite Gee Gee Designs pieces…

Jina’s art cushions are designed to bring a bit of the countryside into your home. Featuring several of our original ink and watercolour paintings they are made from high quality cotton and backed with a pale natural cream/brown. Finished off with two wooden buttons they are a lovely addition to any living room.

Hedgehogs are a favourite subject of Jina’s after rescuing a trio of hoglets in 2016 (the video of which is still on her instagram, you must watch it!) Hedgehogs also happen to be our favourite animal too! This original miniature is perfect for filling a tiny space or popping on a shelf if you lack the wall space.

Even for those shopping on a budget, we love Jina’s coasters at just £7. Made from tempered jade glass with little rubber feet to protect your surfaces and the image. Mr Pheasant is surely a perfect addition to your desk or coffee table for when you’re working from home and miss weekend walks in the countryside.

Whether you’d like to try your hand at painting a stately stag, playful mouse or wise old owl – or know someone who would – here is a link to Jina’s future workshops which we are sure will provide welcome relief to those who have been self-isolating.

Business Profile: 

Who: Jina Gelder, North East based wildlife artist and illustrator
What: Original paintings, prints, home accessories and gifts
Where: Available to buy online at geegeedesigns.co.uk

Staying social whilst isolating

Our second Coronavirus “Pop Up Shop” post is dedicated to a team passionate about networking and keeping our minds well watered with hot topics and interesting areas for discussion.

Arguably an essential service (from the safety of home of course!) during a time like this, we’re delighted to throw our support behind BrumPod, the UK small business podcast…

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We’re big fans of a podcast here at Prosecco and Pie, and with so many of our readers interested in growing a business, finding new customers or perhaps starting something new, it is our pleasure to give this new one a listen.

Don’t be put off by the Brummie association if you’re not local, co-founder Richard Heathcote tells us their burgeoning podcast is something people all over the UK will find useful as most of the topics they discuss are small business centric. The idea to start their own podcast is something some readers might have toyed with in the past. It spawned from three professionals who ran Brummies Networking, a free business networking group in the Midlands. The events run once a month and attract 70 people.

(Team image credit: Jas Sansi)

Although coronavirus hasn’t hit Brummies Networking financially since they don’t charge anything for it, their main challenge is to ensure they stay relevant and remain active online so they’re at the forefront of people’s minds, for when they can resume their much-loved in-person networking events.

BrumPod was their way of continuing to offer value outside of their free events, letting people know about things they might find useful, whether that’s tools/tech/marketing trends that are happening, or getting guests on regularly to discuss what they do, and ensure there’s plenty of useful takeaways for listeners.

If you’re in search of a new podcast, or fancy something to keep you feeling entertained and inspired over the coming weeks give BrumPod a listen. The podcast is available on all good podcast hosting apps and sites.

Business Profile: 
Who: BrumPod: the creation from all-rounder video producer and voiceover artist Richard Heathcote, former lawyer turned business coach Iwan Thomas and regional manager Jason Jones.

What: Podcast for small businesses, by small businesses; discussing the topics that matter to you (because they matter to us); including marketing, networking, generating business awareness, business growth, as well as covering various business tools & technology.

Where: Based in Birmingham, but attracts listeners from across the country.

Self care in self isolation

Arguably, the best time to book yourself in for a soothing aromatherapy back, neck and shoulders massage is a time of great personal and global crisis. An hour for us to slip away from the world and the constant stream of news in favour of a warm cocoon of towels, deep breaths filled with essential oils and a pair of expert hands easing the knots in our shoulders…

Small, local businesses like Sammy Anne’s’ Holistic Therapies made the difficult decision to close indefinitely during the current COVID-19 outbreak to keep both staff and customers safe and well. A necessary and important decision as we all (well, most of us!) stay at home and hunker down for the forseeable.

We’re lucky to know firsthand how excellent and soothing Sammy Anne and her teams’ treatments are and count ourselves as regular customers. With the doors to their treatment rooms firmly shut, how can we support this small business and encourage self care in a time of self isolation?

We closed last week before gov announced it as it didn’t feel right anymore to put anyone at risk staff & clients.

Business owner Sammy understands that for some customers, massage is “essential”  for them both physically and emotionally. Closing their doors and stopping this much-loved service is incredibly hard for the whole team.

 

How can you support Sammy Anne’s Holistic Therapies during the Coronavirus outbreak?

Sammy and her team are currently promoting a special offer for NHS workers which asks customers to purhcase a £35 “goodwill” gift voucher which Sammy Anne’s will top up to make it a one hour treatment. (Treatments start from £40-£55).

You could also buy yourself, or a loved one a massage to use in future. This injection of cash, no matter how small, will help Sammy Anne’s retain their staff and keep this much-loved small business up and running until they can unlock the doors of their soothing treatment rooms again and start working their magic on the tension in all of our shoulders.

Business Profile:

Who: Sammy Anne’s Holistic Therapies
What: Luxury facials, massage, holistic therapies, beauty treatments and reflexology. 
Where: Spa treatments in Whitley Bay, Newcastle.
Website: www.sammyannes.co.uk

 

Salvage Yards – Trash or Treasure?

When we posted this photo on social media earlier this week, the response it received was unprecedented.

Where is this place?
Where are you?!


It turns out our impromptu trip to O’Brien’s Salvage Yard in Boldon (South Tyneside) shed light on a hidden gem here in the region that Prosecco & Pie is only too happy to share.

As the new owner of a Victorian Terrace, we’ve been looking for treasures and quirky pieces of furniture to decorate it with. Counting Tynemouth Market, TK Maxx and Not On The High Street as some of our favourites for inspiration, we’d long been wishing for an excuse to visit the region’s salvage yards.

Take a look at some of the treasures we found…

 

 

Stepping out of the car you’re immediately greeted by a large open yard filled with bricks, timber, garden furniture, old Butcher’s sinks, abandoned enamel baths and an assortment of ornaments and bric a brac. Total heaven.

Despite the cold, grey, January weather we got stuck in.

Making a note of everything we liked (and mentally totting up how much we’d spent), we headed indoors to their interiors showroom. Pianos, chairs, tables, fireplaces, old radiators, lamps, mirrors, wall art and everything in between is piled on top of each other here and it’s a real pleasure to spend half an hour nosing around. Staff were happy to let me browse and good-naturedly asked the manager if this was his “best price”.

In the end, we left £275 lighter, but with a car boot full of loot (thank goodness for 4x4s). An almost floor-to-ceiling mirror which we plan on putting outside and possibly draping with fairylights, and a cream director’s chair.

You might also like to visit… 

 

This post is in no way sponsored, we simply couldn’t resist telling the world about O’Briens given how few seem to know about it. Plus, there’s more than enough treasures inside to go around. 

 

A Flair for Food

 

Spring has sprung, the snow has melted and the world is waking up to an exciting new season… of blogging.

We found ourselves in receipt of a very special invite this month – would we like to review The Northumberland Arms’ new Masterchef Special created by former Masterchef Quarter Finalist (2016) and Executive Head Chef at the Northumberland Arms Matei Baran?

 

 

 

If you’ve read our previous posts about The Northumberland Arms and their sister venue  The Percy Arms, you’ll appreciate why we headed here with high expectations and accepted without reservation.

Describing itself as an “elegant British restaurant with rooms by the river Coquet […] offering gourmet food”, you’ll discover the perfect blend of country pub and contemporary eatery at The Northumberland Arms.

Hitting the nail on the head with the quality of their food and decor, the venue appeals to a wide range of customers from across the region.

Its cosy, comfortable dining-cum-bar area doesn’t feel dingy, while the light and airy conservatory and dining area makes it a popular spot for everything from Sunday lunch (my Nanna is a regular, so special mention to Norah who I know will be reading this!) but also lends itself well to date night or dinner with the girls.

Bringing one of my best friends Laura along for the ride on a sunny Wednesday evening, we practically skipped out of town very much looking forward to finding out what the mysterious Masterchef special was all about.

The Main Event:

 

I should warn you that trying to decide what to order at The Northumberland Arms is no easy task, with star performers such as poached sea trout, smoked haddock scotch egg and venison loin on the menu, alongside classics like the Brown Ale Beer Battered Fish and hand-raised pie of the day with hand cut chips or sautéed greens.

I was almost glad of the choice being taken away as I opted straight for the highly anticipated Masterchef Special.

Available from 6pm – 9pm, the Masterchef Special is a set menu of artisanal design. The creation of former Masterchef Quarter Finalist (2016) and Executive Head Chef at the Northumberland Arms Matei Baran, the Masterchef Special changes weekly, paying special attention to locally sourced ingredients and homegrown herbs.

Think of it as a “blink and you’ll miss it” opportunity to be wowed, my meal started with king scallops, spring onions, chicken dashi and pui lentils served with chicken wafers. First impressions? The dish ticked all of the right boxes looks-wise, but more importantly this dish certainly didn’t fail in the style vs. substance stakes.

 

 

The chicken “wafers” were akin to the most delicious, moreish roast chicken crisps you’ve ever eaten – satisfyingly salty and crunchy. Portion-wise, the three king scallops and chicken wafers were enough to whet your appetite without spoiling the main course – another work of art in itself.

While Laura received a giant portion of beer battered fish and chips, I was presented with my second course: hickory smoked pork fillet served alongside a charred rack, glazed liver, charred corn, potato wedges and barbecue jus. Miniature apples stewed to fall apart in your mouth completed the dish and I promptly dug in.

 

 

Working my way through the dish though it were an ornamental garden, stopping to admire the colours, scent and flavours, before picking my way through the gloriously crisp Cajun wedges, succulent pork, sweet miniature apple and juicy corn; I honestly can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a meal this much.

Completing the trio of dishes on the Masterchef Special was an Amaretto and chocolate delice served with soured cherry sorbet and pickled cherries. The creamy chocolate delice melted in your mouth leaving a buttery almond flavoured biscuit base behind to enjoy afterwards.

As with the two previous courses, the Masterchef Special isn’t just a one-time taste sensation; it’s a firework display of flavour. Just when you think you’ve got the gist of it, a smoky barbecue tang drifts into the mix.

 

 

For research purposes I had to have a taste of Laura’s Eton Mess and can confirm it was heavenly: intensely creamy with pieces of meringue and popping candy scattered throughout.

It’s a rare thing, isn’t it, to leave a meal feeling well fed and fulfilled (not just full), so it’s a real pleasure to say that the Masterchef Special did just that for us.

Befitting his place on the TV series, Matei’s Masterchef Special was food theatre at its finest. No gimmicks, no pretence, no dodgy kitchen artefacts passed off as plates to disguise below-par food. The special was full of interesting and long-lasting flavours, culinary creativity and a real pleasure to eat.

Thank you to the Matei and The Northumberland Arms for bringing us out of blogging hibernation and our taste buds back to life.
A Note To Readers:
If you’re a regular reader of Prosecco and Pie you’ll notice there’s been quite the hiatus since our last post, we have been in blogging hibernation for the past few months.

The reason? I’m very fortunate to be kept busy running my business Bumble and Bloom Media, but also personally. Since becoming a carer for a loved one, there’s been little time for fun and foodie adventures while we navigate the murky world of mental health. So when an email popped into our inbox inviting us to review The Northumberland Arms’ new Masterchef Special we decided this one was too good to miss and poked our heads out of blogging hibernation to drive 30 minutes up north to the village of Felton (just past Morpeth) curious to see what was in store.

We kindly received a free meal in return for an honest review on Prosecco and Pie. For readers’ benefit our meal would have cost: 

Scallops starts – £8.95
Hickory pork main – £17.95
Delice – £6.95

A Quick Pip Stop…

There’s only one way to brighten up a boring old Wednesday, and that dear readers is a delivery of wine. Yes. wine delivered directly to your door.

 

 

Take a seat (or should that be a sip?) and sit back as we introduce you to two very different, delicious world class wines from local business The Pip Stop.

Hallelujah I hear you cry?!

Housed in a charming former 1950s garage whose exposed brickwork walls are filled with well-stocked shelves of wines, ciders, beers and spirits – the aptly named Pip Stop strive to fuel our curiosity for the perfect drinks-with-the-girls pinot grigio, date night drinks or something to squirrel away for Christmas.

 

This lovely local business host a series of wine tasting events throughout the year and P&P was invited to one of their recent events. Unfortunately we were unable to attend, but to our sheer joy the company offered to put together our very own personalised wine tasting kit to enjoy at home!

It would have been too easy to send us a bottle of prosecco, so we particularly enjoyed the team taking their time to personalise our wine tasting kit with something new for us to try.

 

Wine 1: La Vue
In our initial email, we mentioned we liked to indulge in a Provençal rosé (a multi-award winning Côtes de Provence wine made from the Grenache and Cinsault grapes – which tends to be pale in colour and dry) when on holiday in the South of France. In response, The Pip Stop sent us a beautiful bottle of La Vue Grenache produced by an Australian company McPherson Wine. The pastel pink colour was a sure-fire indicator of the delicate nature of this wine.

So how did it taste?
This little beauty certainly lived up to expectations! Light and crisp with a slight fizz, I’d like to say we enjoyed this wine with something equally light and civilised but I’d be lying. The truth is slightly more down to earth – but just as enjoyable – crisps and dips and a good old catch up the with best friend.

According to our guide, prepared for us by The Pip Stop, La Vue is produced in Victoria, Australia in less than 6 weeks hence its light and fresh taste. Produced by McPherson’s Chief Winemaker (er hello, how do we get that job?) and busy mum of four Jo Nash – this wine is definitely a keeper and we can’t wait to try a chilled bottle with fresh seafood in the summer.

La Vue is rated a “2” on The Pip Stop’s scale (1 being very dry, 9 being the sweetest) which explains why we liked this one. Dry wine all the way for us!


Wine 2: Unruly Red Zin
Our second wine was a bit of a wildcard – almost black in colour, this incredibly dark, fruity wine comes from the Delicato Family Vineyards in California we’re told. Beautifully depicted with “thunderous bursts of blackberries and spice” I couldn’t have put it better myself.

How did it taste?
Heralding from the Zinfandel grape (according to my guide) this was quite a heavy red, with a deep spicy aftertaste. Tasting almost like Christmas spice, we enjoyed Unruly Red Zin with homemade steak and ale pie served with buttery veg, mashed potato and homemade pastry. A perfect Sunday afternoon drink with family or friends, sat preferably in an armchair by the fire (dog by your feet!?) – it’s a real scene setting wine that’s good for the soul.

Sharing this bottle with my mother, for whom red wine has been her go-to tipple for as long as I can remember, we both enjoyed our first glass savouring the intense flavours but I’m not sure I could have polished off a full bottle given its spice and intensity. According to The Pip Stop’s guide, this wine is rated a “D” which on a scale of A-E (A being the lightest, E the most full bodied and powerful) I think I’d like to try a B or C.

It’s been a real pleasure to sample some new wines and receive an education about what we’re actually drinking and why we like what we do. I can see myself getting lost on The Pip Stop’s website in future, looking for something nice to be delivered to my door.

Fancy trying something new? 
Sign up to The Pip Stop’s email newsletters to receive 10% off your first order and discover something new this Christmas/New Year! Ben – I’m sure the team at The Pip Stop would be more than happy to give you a recommendation – it’s seriously good grown up fun this wine tasting business.

Even better, take a 360 degree tour of The Pip Stop from the comfort of your seat…