Thursday, 31 July 2014

Ropner Park - Stockton-on-Tees

Alone at last

Signs in Ropner Park
I have to admit, sometimes being alone in life is better than being surrounded by a million others. Of course, living in solitude on a day to day basis is not something we should strive for. But having some “me” or “myself” time every so often does in my opinion make life just slightly more colorful and interesting.

At the Lake

And for me, that essentially involves a walk in the local park.

The beauty of mother nature.

Ropner Park isn’t the biggest park I’ve ever been and certainly not the most glamorous (if you’re ever in Hong Kong, do visit the Botanical Gardens; it’s fab!). As a quick summary, it’s essentially made up of a lake, pavilion and playground, with lots of walking paths and greenery in between. What to me makes it utterly perfect for a day out alone is its peacefulness and daintiness. I don’t think that there was a second where I wanted to swap listening to the sounds of children giggling and ducks quacking with my iphone music whilst I was there. I think I managed to spend nearly two hours walking from each location to another.

The Pavillion

And my are there a lot of ducks.

If you’re a keen photographer, then there’s plenty to take. From flowers to trees, and from ducks to sculptures, Ropner Park offers a wealth of picture-perfect moments and locations, perfect for any professional or even the lone amateur like moi. Words essentially fail me when trying to describe just exactly how truly gorgeous this place is. Give it sometime and you’ll definitely be able to see, for yourself, its true beauty.

The Daisy Trio.

What I think tops it off is the little metal information signs that have been strategically positioned in certain significant areas of the park. It’s great that it offers an opportunity to rejuvenate as well as educating oneself about its history and that of the local area.

The lonely but tranquil pathway - my kind of bliss.

P.S. Don’t forget your camera.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Home-made potato crumpets

An indulgent breakfast/ special treat

I think the key to ANY meal, be it for a boyfriend, parent or even yourself, is to be proactive. Good food comes with time and preparation, so it’s vital that you plan ahead. This time it was breakfast that I was preparing in advance for. After reminding myself that it would be best not to wake my significant other up early so that I could start cooking, I decided to make a part of the dish just the night before.

Home-made potato crumpets it was then.

The recipe was yet again from the genius chef, Rachel Khoo (2014). Only this time it came from her latest TV series, Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook, which was about her latest cooking adventures that were inspired by her hometown, London. I just thought well, if it only takes around an hour to make something THAT special for breakfast, then it’s definitely worth a shot. The only issue was getting the potato flour. I’d never bought it before so I guess it was really lucky that my local health food shop stocked it!

If you have a circular ring for cooking, be sure to use it or else you won’t get the nice crumpet shape that I guess any keen cook (or perfectionist) would be aiming to achieve. Following Khoo’s instructions, I topped my crumpets with a circular, sunny-side up egg, yet again using the circular mold. And adding some freshly roasted sliced red and yellow capsicum (or pepper) and fried mushrooms will definitely help you earn a couple of extra smiles (or kisses) from those you’re cooking for.

My ending point to this blog post is that although it was great that I made the crumpets the night before, thus meaning I was well-ahead of my schedule, it really is best to eat it straight away so that you essentially bite into a hot and fluffy cloud rather than a slightly hard fried good that we did. Still, I was happy that I’d planned it out (otherwise we would have had boring old toast for breakfast).

Ultimately though, it was delectable.

Khoo, R (2014) “Potato Crumpets with Maple Gammon, Tomatoes and Egg” Recipes. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 29 July 2014]

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Review - Avenue Q

Monday night - Sunderland Empire

At the Theatre
I think one of the best things about living in the North East is that despite being far from the capital of musicals in England (i.e. London), there are still opportunities to watch top-class performances in one of the local theatres. On this occasion (Monday 14th July at 7:30pm to be more precise), we (i.e. myself and my significant other) decided to go for the comedy/ musical, Avenue Q, at majestic and extravagant, Sunderland Empire Theatre.

Normally, I opt for shows that are more, shall we say, glitzy and more dazzling in terms of special effects. I also wasn’t sure if I was super keen on the puppet and human mix that made up that characters of the show. Plus I have a thing for songs that evoke Disney and other musical numbers that are slightly more geared for a younger audience. So in truth, I was a bit sceptical about the play at first.

What can I say? I’m still (and ALWAYS will be) a child at heart.

Despite my scepticism, I decided to give the show a go because I hadn’t seen it before (plus my significant other said he’d drive me home and buy me dinner << now who can resist that?).

And honestly, I couldn’t have made a better decision.

I don’t think there was a single moment during the performance that I wasn’t blown away by some aspect of it. I know that most theatre reviews commonly start with summarizing the main plot of the play. But I for one would like to begin by giving praise to the actors themselves. There weren’t many of them, so I thought that their ability to portray so many different characters, both human and puppet, and in so many different voices was truly incredible. The story itself was also admirable – with the theme of adulthood thoroughly reiterated throughout the play, Avenue Q provided the audience with a performance that addressed the many issues and troubles faced by individuals entering this period. A highly realistic show, it was simultaneously tied together by a stream of jokes and sarcasm, overall indicating that despite the hardship, there’s still hope and time for laughter at any stage in life.

Oh and did I mention that we got upgraded to better seats? Totally worth it.

Sensational and memorable – if Avenue Q is ever on tour in your town, be sure to watch it.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Spinach Tortelloni in a Chopped Tomato Sauce topped with Sliced Soft Mozzarella

Speedy but scrumptious

I think it’s fair enough to say that at the end of a long and tiring day, the last thing that ANY of us wants to do is to spend hours cooking up a meal that may in fact turn out to be, quite simply, a disaster. And let’s not forget about the washing up – definitely not my cup of tea. In any case, we need food to function, so here’s a quick and simple recipe I came up with for one of my all-time favorite comfort foods – pasta.

Spinach Tortelloni in a Chopped Tomato Sauce topped with Sliced Soft Mozzarella to be more precise.


  • Spinach Tortelloni (as much as you want to eat; I used half a 250g bag, so 125g)
  • 1 x 125g mozzarella ball (don’t worry if you don’t use it up; just cut as many slices you want to top the pasta with)
  • 1 x box of chopped tomatoes with juice (390g; I used the whole box but use as much as you want)
  • Mixed dried herbs (optional)

Recipe (7-10 minutes)

  1. In a pot of hot water, boil the pasta for 3-4 minutes.
  2. Drain the pasta using a sieve; set aside for the moment.
  3. Using the same pot (and hence less washing to do!), pour in the chopped tomatoes and juice; heat for 1 minute.
  4. Mix the pasta with the chopped tomato sauce for 2 minutes.
  5. Pour the pasta and sauce into a bowl.
  6. Slice the mozzarella ball into as many slices as you want.
  7. Place the mozzarella slices on top of the pasta.
  8. Garnish with mixed dried herbs.
  9. Eat.

Fruit and Nut Muesli Surprise dotted with Fresh Blueberries

Starting the day off healthily

No I’m not going on a diet. I’m simply choosing to eat (slightly) more healthily than I did before. The best part about it was that I made an entire week’s plan of what I wanted to eat – no need to worry about what the next meal should be AND I've already stocked up on everything that I need.

Today, I start with muesli (or granola). It’s basically dried oats that have been stuck together, nothing fancy really. Well, that is, until you opt for the nut and fruit surprise packet. Crunchy, chewy and jam-packed with important nutrients (not that I could tell you what they are precisely), I personally have to say that it’s both a nourishing meal and an exercising session for our molars! And to make it just a bit more decadent, I topped mine with fresh blueberries.


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Tynemouth and Whitley Bay

“Cause you’re hot then you’re cold…”

I think it’s more than just a cliché to say that the weather in England is totally somewhat unpredictable. One minute it’s super sunny, the next there’s a herd of thunderstorms overtaking the country (don’t believe me? Check the weather report for this weekend). And the temperature? Well, let’s just say that the starting line in the chorus of Katy Perry’s Hot n Cold says it all.

The traveler's luggage

It’s rather frustrating all the time at times.

So when the nice weather man/woman tells you that the day’s forecasted to be super sunny and warm, the first thing that definitely comes to mind is a trip to the beach (at least in my head anyway). I’m sure everyone’s got their favorite seaside town to resort to when the weather’s phenomenal. But for me, I like to be a little bit more adventurous and try out somewhere new, especially if it involves a long trip on the train.

Front seat on the Metro
First stop, Whitley Bay (via Newcastle).

Whitley Bay

Whitley Bay Station
On the majority of occasions, my travels are sparked by the desire to visit a monumental treasure of some sort (generally historic ones that are simultaneously crumbling to pieces!). But there are times when I wander into the land of the unknown simply to de-stress. And that’s something that Whitley Bay offered me.

Cute cakes
First snapshots of the day at Whitley Bay

Anything to get me away from reality - that's all I really wanted.

Although I’m a city girl at heart, and hence I like to be constantly active and entertained by the latest events and gadgets, I do think that simplicity is perfection. Strolling down the breath-taking coastline and taking pictures of anything that caught my attention (which tended to be the noisy birds) was my idea of perfection. 

Taking flight
The fab five and the outlier
And let’s not forget the occasional chat to the locals and quick stop-over for ice cream (chocolate of course).

Simple but mentally gratifying – a summary of my afternoon at Whitley Bay…


Arriving on the platform

They say that first impressions are important for a long lasting relationship. And that’s something I can DEFINITELY say is applicable to Tynemouth. I think what I was most impressed by was the design of the town centre itself. With a couple cobbles, an open park, and multiple cafes, the town was somewhat different to the typical seaside town you’d expect with an overwhelming amount of fish and chip shops.

The shelf of treasures - Three Wishes

I guess the best way to describe it is to say that it was unique.

Seaside goodies - Three Wishes
Even though I'm always trying to squeeze about 50 different things to see and do on my travels, I always make time for a good lunch. I wouldn't be able to say which diner was the best in Tynemouth, but Rene's is definitely on the top of my list.

And next time, I MUST try their cakes and ice-cream -- needless to say, I have a bit of a sweet-tooth.

Whether it was the beautiful beach and pier, the stunning castle and priory (a must-see for ANY visitor), the quirky shops and cafes or simply the friendliness of the locals, there was just something about Tynemouth that made and will forever make it incredibly memorable for myself and, I daresay, any tourist that goes there.

Tynemouth Priory and Castle

And let's not forget about our fellow furry companions - definitely a suitable town for them to visit too!!
So cute!!

All good things must come to an end. I look forward to my next trip to Tynemouth to relive my happy memories.

A happy ending to a very happy day

Friday, 11 July 2014

Bishop Auckland

Auckland Castle

I think the title basically summarizes the main point of my journey. Usually I’m the one who recommends places to all my fellow readers. But on this occasion, this trip was based on a recommendation from a close colleague of mine at work. She’d mentioned it a while ago but I’d never gotten the time to go…until now of course.

On its official web, you’ll find its brief description as the, I quote, “Palace of the Prince Bishops for Over 900 years” (Auckland Castle Trust, 2014). Upon my arrival, the castle itself looked to me like most of the other historical buildings I’d seen before; majestic and profound. It didn’t strike me as particularly outstanding (probably because I'm a harsh critic/ castle-fanatic). However, it was only when I went in that I quickly understood why it was definitely admirable.

I mean seriously, just LOOK at the pictures

Why hello there...

I felt that the chapel was the most impressive part of it, especially the colorful and gloriously decorated ceiling.

In the chapel #castletour
The magnificent ceiling
And let's not forget about the food.

Time for a spot of tea (and cake <-- of course!)

And…Deer House

This title is slightly misleading because there are no deer living there anymore (or perhaps they were hiding from me :( – there used to be though! In fact, I found it home to a large herd of sheep! 

Stop baaaathering us :P
This was the only deer I found
Nevertheless, the house itself is certainly an architectural masterpiece, don’t you think?
The deer house
I think the most delightful part of my day was simply being able to sit for hours (well, about 1.5 to be precise) in the park that the deer house was located in and draw. Being among such lovely greenery was seriously the most relaxing thing ever after a long a stressful week.

In company of mother nature

So if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed by work or just in need of a break from reality, give Bishop Auckland a try.

Seriously, you won’t regret it.

Auckland Castle Trust (2014) “Auckland Castle” Home page. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 11 July 2014]