My top photo’s of 2016

Well in to 2017 that we now are, I decided to have a look back through what happened in 2016. There were so many lovely moments that sometimes only a phone can capture. Precious memories, facial expressions that make you smile, and ones that make you remember the good points that the year gone buy held.

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Proud Owner of a TEENAGER


I don’t remember my 13th birthday all that clearly but what I do know is that there was never as much fuss made as there is these days about turning in to and becoming a TEENAGER.

I had only been back from Sweden for just over six months and was still finding my feet in a new school. Memories of the day are sketchy, but I remember cards that said teenager and I remember a shopping trip to Darlington in the days to follow.

These days however it would seem we make more of a fuss.


It is very scary to think I am now officially the maker and owner of a teenager. He has gone from a little dot too a teenager in no time. Of course I am very proud of the young man that he is becoming, but the hormonal changes are kicking in and my little boy is rapidly turning in to a stereotypical teenage boy…..via that lovely hormonal rollercoaster we all have to ride.


To celebrate Regan’s birthday, as we do every year, we had a party. It means he gets to see his family and friends the day before his birthday, and it has become a welcomed tradition. This year he chose a trampoline park.

Regan was staying at his Dad’s the night before, and where we usually ship his friends to Aycliffe too one of there entertainment centres, I didn’t feel comfortable driving lots of teenagers that I didn’t know that far without the Birthday Boy. So to Regan’s delight we decided that Infinite Air was the place to go.


We all had a lovely time, with the exception of Penny (my only criticism is that there is nothing for the under 6’s to do, last year we went to ROF59 in Aycliffe and they have a similar, yet smaller, set up. They have a generous play area for those not old enough to bounce. that kept her more than entertained. Infinite Air would benefit from a toy corner) and with food from Pizza Hut and a cake from Sweet Tooth Delivery they all had a belly full of food.


When Caitlin turned 10 we had a day with her on her own up at Intu MetroCentre and Regan (along with Libby and Liam) asked if they could do the same for their birthdays. We of course obliged.

Regan was over the moon with the presents and money he got for his birthday and was very eager to go on a spending mission.


I have to say, something I have learned over the years, that going shopping on a weekend 6 weeks before Christmas is never the best idea, and the car park at Intu MetroCentre proved that, but we did get parked and headed straight over to Bella Italia for our Lunch.


We are massive Italian fans and having never been to Bella Italia before we were quite excited by the prospect.

We arrived and were guided to a booth that had been decorated with balloons and banners. It was a lovely touch that was very much appreciated (the balloons are still floating around the living room now).


Our waiter was fantastic and took our drinks orders straight away, he had a remarkable resemblance to a famous person but I am yet to put my finger on who it is…

Anyway, I digress, we had a good look over the Menu and decided on our starters and main courses.

While waiting for our food Mark went on a wander, I would describe the restaurant as modernly authentic. It has plenty of memorabilia, retro tables and the Italian flag colours run throughout. (It seems everywhere we go at the minute Mark is taking inspiration for how to decorate our living room and kitchen, and Bella Italia was no different. We are having green to go with our current Red or so I am told)

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Our starters arrived…..

Mark had….



Marzanini and plum tomatoes, rocket, red onion, garlic, basil and olive oil on ciabatta

“Fresh, light, lovely way to start a meal”

Regan had…



Pork & beef meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce with melted mozzarella and served with ciabatta

“Nicest and most tasty meatballs I have ever had”

and I had….

Insalata Caprese


Buffalo Bocconcini mozzarella, Marzanini tomatoes, rocket, fresh basil and olive oil

“Light, typically Italian Starter, very tasty and a perfect way to start a meal”

Not a complaint to be had. At this point our waiter moved on to other tables and we were introduced to our waitress, who was equally attentive. The wait for the main meals was not long and very soon we were tucking in…

Mark had…..

Paccheri Calabrese


Pasta tubes in a fiery tomato sauce, spicy ‘nduja sausage and pepperoni from Calabria, chicken, Luganica sausage, roasted red onion and green chilli, with cooling mascarpone

“Deliciously filling dish with a nice warming spice heat, that wasn’t overpowering”

Regan had……

Create your own pizza


Margherita with your choice of two toppings (Chicken and Pepperoni)

“I love a pizza, especially one I can pick the toppings on, this one was lovely”

And me….

Luganica Rosmarino


Luganica sausage, Spianata salami, roasted red onion, mozzarella, Pecorino cheese and rosemary

“Mmmmmmm, pizza, a perfect marriage of toppings, perfectly thin and served beautifully”

At this point Regan started to get a tad apprehensive. Traditionally if someone is going to do grand gestures it is done over dessert. He was very nervous of what was planned, if anything, and took himself to the toilet.

Our lovely waitress came over to let me know that what ever he chose for pudding would have candles on it and “Happy Birthday” written on the plate. Perfect for the occasion!

When he returned we chose our desserts and awaited their arrival….

I had….

Shot Glass Desserts

A selection of favourite mini desserts

Salted Caramel Chocolate

Chocolate mousse with a salted caramel topping on a Bourbon biscuit crumb base


Creamy pannacotta with morello cherry sauce

Limoncello Tart

Layers of fluffy lemon mousse with shortbread pearls, topped with limoncello lemon curd and whipped cream

And Regan chose…..

Cookie Dough Lava Cake

Chocolate chip cookie cake with a melting chocolate middle, served warm with vanilla gelato and caramel sauce

Regan breathed a sigh of relief and filled up on dessert. We agreed to share and so we did.

OMG, I love a pudding and these did not fail to impress.

Bella Italia, like I said, is somewhere I have never visited before and I really have no idea why, especially when we have one on our doorsteps here in Durham. We will be returning in the future as we could not fault the dishes, flavours, staff or the environment. Perfect place to eat especially with family.


We said our goodbyes and wandered on for Regan’s spending spree. We visited so many shops and seemed to spend in each one. GAME for games and headset, LEGO for erm….LEGO, Hawkins Bazaar, Disney, Argos and Sports shops……

Closing time meant a stop to the shopping, (which continued the next day) but we had a good day and that is the most important thing. Creating memories and I can’t thank Bella Italia for being a part of that.


To learn more about Bella Italia you can visit the website or their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

LionMouth Rural Centre Tea Rooms

This is a post I have wanted to make for a while but due to one thing and another we got delayed in paying them a visit. However, when we did we were not disappointed.

We had heard many good things about the LionMouth Centre and when one of the local bridges shut, they lost a lot of business, as the road you would use to access it became one way, we were even more determined to visit.


The LionMouth Centre is located just off the B6302, after Ushaw Moor and before Esh Winning. They are a Community Interest Company and offer support to people across the area with Mental Health problems, Learning Difficulties and other conditions.

Upon Arriving we had a look round the Garden Centre section. There are some lovely little plants to be bought and it is all the more satisfying looking at what they have to offer as you are aware you are helping a community project. The Centre is buzzing with people all at work and taking great satisfaction in what they are doing.

Penny was admiring the chickens as one of the gentleman was feeding them. He offered to let her have a go but she went shy and said no thank you.

Then we went in the tea rooms. First, we went in the wrong door and walked in on a lunch making session (may I add the smell was amazing) with some of their workers but they were fantastic and pointed us in the right direction.

The tea room itself is quaint, pretty and very easy on the eye. The girls said it was like going to your own tea party with all the things that were on the wall and around the room.


We were welcomed and invited to take a seat. The girls were fascinated.

The Menu is small but more than big enough.

Libby was very keen to have a Children’s Afternoon Tea, and as that is what Libby wanted then Penny had to have the same. They were given a choice of what sandwich they would like (Cheese, Ham or Jam), a choice of Jelly or Yoghurt and a choice of Orange or Blackcurrant Juice.

Mark and I both ordered a Panini. He had Coffee (which might I add he was over the moon with as it was Coffee, not fancy Italian varieties) and I had juice.

So this is what the girls were presented with …..


Along with this the juice they had chosen came in a teapot each for them and also an ornate cup and saucer.

They were in their element, especially Libby who was loving that she got to pour her own “Tea”.

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On the stand they had a sandwich cut in to four triangles, a box of raisins, a jelly, a cupcake, crisps and a bag of Haribo. More than worth the £3.50 price tag.


I didn’t manage to get any pictures of out Paninis but they were very generous in portion size. Mark had Cheese and Ham and I had Brie and Bacon. Both came with a side salad and a choice of crisps.

The total bill was £16.00, which I am sure you will agree is incredibly reasonable for what we had.

All the cakes and bakes are baked on site, very little from what I could see was shipped in. The smell of home baking when you walked in was immense.

The homely feel, the sense of family and the friendly staff and community workers, even the Springer Spaniel that was wandering around outside, all make the Centre very welcoming and I would urge anybody to pay them a visit.

Thank you for having us….we wil be back 🙂


P.S. I have read with interest that Ghostly Locations are going to be holding a Ghost Hunt in the Centre on the 26th of August 2016, for more information please have a look a Ghostly Locations, Paranormal Investigations.

Should you wish to learn more or visit LionMouth Rural Centre you can learn more here:


Facebook: LionMouth Rural Centre

Facebook: LionMouth Rural Centre Tea Rooms