A Spotlight on…… Daniella from Madame Gourmand

Hello Lovelies, 

It’s Friday and that means one this… it’s this weeks Spotlight feature!

Today I would like to introduce you to a fantastic blogger who crops up every now and then on my site. The ever rocking Daniella from Madame Gourmand

Madame Gourmand aka Daniella not only runs her mouth wateringly informative and tantalising food blog – www.madamegourmand.co.uk, she also has a lifestyle blog, Madame G’s lifestyle over at her .com address too as well as making awesome kitsch jewellery (more about that to come soon!), a mother AND a full time student!! 

Not only is she a kick ass blogger, Daniella has become a very dear friend inside and outside of blogging as we are always on the same wave length, have pretty similar style and when sharing an afternoon tea.. she eats the sandwiches I don’t like!! Chances are, if you find me wandering round Newcastle or at a press event, I’m usually there with Daniella. A blogging partnership in crime!

Without further ado, I would like to introduce you to Madame Gourmand….

Q : Tell us a little bit about your blog(s) and why you started it /them 

I write two blogs my first is Madame G’s Lifestyle which is a mix of beauty, fashion and general life, I’ve written many similar blogs over the years but got bored of them in the past, I now treat the blog in the same way I would treat a friend which may sound strange to some people but it means I am free to discuss all issues with honesty. My second blog is Madame Gourmand which is all about my own personal food journey, I post reviews, recipes and general food and drink chit chat.

Q : What is your favourite part of blogging?

I don’t have any one favourite part of blogging, I’ve met some great people who I would never had met without my blog. I never used to read blogs before I started to write my own and I find that not only does it cause me to spend more money on products but it actually saves me money on items that I would have previously bought but now don’t if many of the blog reviews are bad.

Q : What is your least favourite part? 

My timekeeping has probably got to be my least favourite part of blogging, I start off with good intentions and life often gets in the way meaning that although I have lots of things to blog about I don’t actually have the time to write about them. My readers have been very understanding thankfully.

Q : If you could go back to the time you started your blog, what would you do differently?

If I could go back in time I would probably have kept my original blogs and learnt from them rather than starting a fresh one each time over the years.

Q : What advice could you give to new bloggers just starting their blogging adventure?

Read other blogs, engage with other bloggers, don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Use social media, it’s a fantastic tool. Try and find a niche, a lot of blogging sectors are oversubscribed and it’s very difficult to find new readership in these sectors.

Q : What’s your shopping style – Budgeted, splurge or frugal? Do you ever shop solely with your blog in mind?
I was a high end splurge spender with a bit of high street splurging thrown in for good measure. Now that I’m a full time student I don’t have as much expendable cash to throw around so with the help from some friends I’m changing my spending habits and budgeting more. I never shop for my blog, I shop for myself, if it fits in with my blog that’s great.

Q : What are your favourite brands and why?

My favourite brands are Makeup: Chanel (I love the packaging and product quality) MAC (The colours are fantastic and it’s cheap) Illamasqua (The colours and packaging draw me in, I can’t go past the beauty stand without making a purchase) Clothing: All Saints (I love the graphic tops and scarves) Urban Outfitters (Great for cheap staples) Topshop (Great for cheap Tops, scarves, shoes and underwear)

Q : Do you take inspiration from the media or do you go it alone and rock your own style?

I prefer to dress in my own style, I take inspiration from people rather than magazines. I still love the rock chick look with skinny jeans and graphic tops for daytime and like to take a Hollywood glamour approach with classic or vintage style dresses for an evening.

Q : What would you say your ‘signature look’ is, whether that’s make up or fashion?

I don’t think I have a signature look (I’m sure my friends will disagree) **I disagree with this – Katie ** in my make up or fashion style, I change my look to suit my surroundings.

Right… now on to the more interesting questions – The personal ones. These are the ones I always wonder about bloggers!

Q : How old are you?

I’m 32 so compared to some bloggers I’m really old!

Q : What do you do? Student? Work? Profession?

I’m a full time student and mother which is a job in itself!

Q : What do you like to do when you aren’t blogging?

When I’m not blogging I like to cook, socialise with friends, read books, watch films, go shopping and my guilty pleasure is playing computer games.

Q : What kind of music do you like?

I have a very eclectic taste in music I like everything from Swing to Thrash Metal, if someone found my ipod they would probably be quite shocked at some of the bands I listen to.

Q : Happy to be seen bare faced or do you always wear make up?
I always wear makeup even to bed thanks to the Bare Minerals night treatment powder.

Q : What do you love most about beauty and fashion?

I love how diverse the beauty and fashion world is, blogging has alerted me to so many amazing brands that I would never have heard of before starting my blog.

Q : What do you hate most about beauty and fashion?

My greatest hate is the sizing of fashion garments, I yo-yo between a size 12-14 and 18 meaning at my heaviest I can’t buy items from my favourite shops because they don’t make my size, sometimes when I’m a size 14 I need to buy a 16-18 in some stores due to the bad sizing, it’s a problem that needs to be addressed. My greatest beauty hate is the fact a number of brands don’t let you try before you buy, I have eczema and sensitive skin and I don’t like paying £25+ for a product that may not work on my skin, having a product tried on my skin at a counter is not enough as it often takes a couple of days for my skin to react.

And finally… the biggy…..
Q : If you had to invest in 1 designer piece… money no object…. would it be a pair of shoes, a handbag or a dress? I want to see pictures!!!

Alexander Mcqueen is my favourite designer and although I own a number of pieces I really need the Serpent Skull Karung Knuckle box clutch which costs a whopping £1150 

So, this week you all met Madame G, my hard rocking amigo, so please go follow both of her blogs!!

As ever, if you would like to take part, please feel free to get in touch with me via the Contact tab at the top of the page.


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Linden Hall Golf & Country Club Hotel Review

Hello Lovelies,

Bit of a different kind of post today but I know I love reading this type on other peoples so I hope you enjoy my review too or even book a stay at this gorgeous hotel!

Recently, I was kindly invited along to the Linden Hall hotel in Morpeth, near where I live, to experience their hotel and the services they offer.

View from the lawn

Linden Hall Golf & Country Club is part of the Macdonald chain of hotels and it’s home to one of our favourite hotels, the Holyrood in Edinburgh. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I worked away from home for almost a year and stayed in some pretty great 4 & 5* hotels so my own personal standards of hotels is pretty high. This was my first visit to Linden Hall but Mr Tramp has been several times before for corporate events.

Located 25 miles outside of the city centre of Newcastle in the countryside, Linden Hall boasts a more than impressive sweeping tree lined entrance brings you right outside of the façade of the hotel, built in 1812 with it’s Doric columns and 450 acre estate behind. Parking doesn’t blight the impressive views as we are guided to the left of the hotel and tucked away behind some trees.

On entering the hotel you are met with a juxtaposition of the modern reception dominating a grand, stone flagged entrace hall with it’s rip roaring fire place, squishy sofas and sweeping central staircase, bathed in natural light from the atrium above.

Glass dome

Check in was simple and we made our way up to our room. We were told were on the 2nd floor so off we trundled to the lift as I had a wheeled case and husband had laptop case and briefcase as he’d come straight from work. As it transpires, our room was actually on the 1st floor and we were just at the top of the grand staircase. The stairs are shallow and sweeping enough to make it easy to get your luggage up the stairs.

Mr Tramp & the sweeping staircase

Our suite was large, luxurious, full of features, and directly above the reception hall in the front of the building looking out on to trees and lawns. The suite had 3 large sash windows which let us soak up the last rays of late afternoon soon as we unwound and unpacked. I had booked myself in at the spa for a treatment so Mr Tramp made full use of the sofa, complimentary chocolates and fruit and enjoyed some peace and quiet while I was away (I talk… a LOT).

What a view to wake up to on a morning

As I made my way down the grand staircase (I felt so posh!) and in to the spa, I was greeted by the leisure receptionist and shown in to the relaxation room. A great mix of drinks and snacks (mm muffins) were on offer as I filled in my forms and chose my treatment and browsed the Decleor point of sale. I must admit, the relaxtion room was very unrelaxing. The chairs, though plentiful, were reminiscent of a teachers staff room and the dimmed, subdued lighting was totally wasted due to the door to reception being propped open allowing the light and clatter to stream in. It didn’t seem to bother the other spa go-ers who were happily taking up residence in their robes with magazines. I was more expecting to see comfortable loungers or day beds for proper relaxtion after treatments. I know other spa facilities in Macdonald hotels are more modern and luxe but when you are working in a historic, period building like this rather than a custom designed spa, you have to work with what you have. I also found the toilet facilities to be a bit dirty & grubby at the time I visited.

Summer, my therapist came to collect me and showed back through the candle lit corridor (would look FANTASTIC in winter when its darker outside!) and in to my treatment room. The rooms are laid out in a very odd paired formation, having to walk through the first room to get in to the 2nd. Summer explained they time treatments and treatment types to minimize any disruption but as I passed the St Tropez tan booth, I’d be a little put off standing in my paper knicks knowing someone could walk through at any point.

Once in the warm, tranquil room, I hopped up on to the comfy, towel laden bed and settled down for a beauty first… my first facial! Yes readers, I have never had a facial before. Summer was a dream and asked me about any skin care concerns and what I was expecting to get out of the facial so this was a great time to discuss my fears about hypersensitivity. With my mind put at ease, Summer began my treatment, a Decleor Aroma Expert Soothe Facial with professionalism and care. Chatting when I wanted to chat, leaving me quiet when I wanted to drift off and enjoy the massage. Decleor products aimed at sensitive skins were used throughout and I’m very pleased to say I had no reactions at all. I shall be back for another!! After my treatment Summer left me to dress in my own time and meet her back at reception. I was given a glass of water to refresh myself and a run down list of products used as well as a few samples of the products so that I can be sure they don’t aggrevate my allergies. I loved this touch as often I’ve had treatments and never really known what massage oil or product that was used.

At this point, I’d have liked to have been in a robe and in a heavenly relaxation room chilling out before dressing but this wasn’t mentioned or offered. As I was staying at the hotel it was no issue. I skipped back up to my room and relaxed on the bed while Mr Tramp treated himself to a pre dinner apperatif (read : half bottle of white wine!)

This is how rock & roll I am, Lemonade!

Our dinner reservation was a highlight for us, as foodies, the food in Macdonald hotels is always fantastic and this was no exception. Exemplory service by the staff soon saw us tucking in to our amuse bouche then 3 courses of delicious, well made, high quality food in sumptuous settings, with a view of the golf course. We both remarked how nice it was that every single server from the wine server to the food waitress, all addressed us by our full names. No sir or madam but Mr & Mrs Tramp. In a full restaurant it was a pleasant and appreciated touch and I think other guests felt the same way.

Butternut squash amuse bouche with curried parsnip foam | Wild mushroom risotto with wilted spinach poached egg and parmesan foam | 12hr stewed shin of beef

The following morning, after a work out in the gym and a swim in the pool, the restaurant was our destination again as we tucked in to a hearty breakfast. All the usual fixings were on offer from fruit salads and cereals, to continental cheeses and meats as well as a more traditional selection of hot food such as a ‘fry up’, kippers or porridge.

After our breakfast we burnt some of those calories off by going on a lovely brisk walk through the hotel grounds on the sign posted walks then indulging in a little golf to finish our stay.

Check out was as effortless as check in as we were sad to leave the luxury of Linden Hall behind. All in all, Mr Tramp and I thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the hotel and couldn’t fault the service or facilities on offer. We didn’t get a chance to visit the onsite pub, the Linden Tree which serves pub food and alcohol.

If you are looking for a great weekend away with spa time, leisure facilities, exquisite food and some golf to entertain your man, you can’t go wrong with Linden Hall. I also fully recommend booking a treatment with Summer. She was so lovely!

I will definitely be booking up again for a close to home getaway for us. With rooms ranging from £96 per night it is a great alternative to going further afield.

Have you ever stayed in a Macdonald Hotel, visit Linden Hall or had a Decleor Facial? Let me know!

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Slimming World Syn Free Tortilla Doritos!

Hello lovelies,I did a shout out on Twitter earlier this evening on whether anyone would be interested in a recipe for Syn Free Slimming World Tortilla style Doritos.

I follow the Extra Easy plan so this is totally free.You can vary this recipe for italian style, indian, mexican or plain.

What you will need :

Dried lasagne sheets (each sheet makes 6 crisps so judge how many you want to use)
Fry Light misting spray
Seasoning of choice.

Pre heat your oven to 200 degrees.

In a large saucepan, boil the full lasagne sheets until they are cooked, soft and floppy.

Drain and rinse with cold water until cool enough to handle. Make sure as much water is removed as possible.
Sprinkle each side of the boiled pasta with salt lightly and then your flavouring of choice. For italian, use garlic salts and herbs, for indian, use curry powder and for a mexican twist I like to use the Nando’s Peri Peri. It’s about £1.99 for a 90g shaker.

I cut each sheet in to 3, and then turn each of those 3 in to triangle dorito shapes.

Place on a non stick over tray and spray finely and lightly with Fry Light. 

Bake for 10-15 minutes, turning half way through.


Depending on your brand of pasta, you can play around with timings and whether you use Fry Light or not. It’s entirely down to you.

I have a recipe for Syn Free garlic battered mushrooms and garlic dip next if anyone is interested in that?

Fit not Fat 2012 Challenge

Hello Lovelies, 
As some of you may remember, I embarked on a healthy living plan last year called Fit not Fat… I even coined that name myself!

Well I did quite well on it, making healthy choices and increasing my activity. Sadly over the winter months my work load drastically increased with both the day job, the business and finding time to write lovely little blog posts for all you lovelies! Add to that the dark nights, cold weather and well you can guess the rest… the care and attention slipped slightly.

As a bit of a back story, I lost over 6 stone when I got married and did it in about 6-10 month (I did some maintaining!) and now I’m back on the diet bandwagon. Previously I had lots of success with Weight Watchers but the plan just doesn’t fit with mine and my husbands lifestyle at the moment so we have moved on to something new.

We don’t gorge on takeaways and convenience food, we do eat pretty healthy, lots of veg and fruit and make all our meals from scratch but obviously not healthy enough eh!

On Twitter, I was recently speaking to the most beautiful Kellie (@bigfashionista – go check her blog out, it’s all kind of awesome) and we were comparing our coping methods for getting through the tough weeks. Kellie said she felt better by chatting about her weight loss journey on her blog and I said I quite felt the opposite. I feel it’s easier to deal with those tough days when you NEED to have 2 packets of crisps if no one knows you’re dieting to give you crap.

This got me thinking over night and I thought I’d give it a try, talking about my diet journey here on my website.
I am following the Slimming World Extra Easy plan as I find it fits my lifestyle perfectly.
In my first week I have lost 7lb. I realise this isn’t going to be attainable every week but I would like to aim for 4lb a week as I have a LOOOOT to lose!

Other than good health I have picked 2 motivation points to spur me on on my journey. I don’t have a set weight I want to be as I think it’s just figures and numbers but I do have a dress size in mind and I’ll stop once I reach it.

Motivation point #1 : Husband has promised to get his first tattoo when I lose 5 stone (a fair target, and a long story)

Motivation point #2 : I’m going to New York in October and I plan on being a lot skinnier so I can fill 2 suitcases with new clothes (Don’t tell the husband please ok?)

Motivation point #3 : If I reach my personal goal, I’m going to buy myself a new Mulberry handbag. I could buy one now but it will be more rewarding to challenge myself right?

My weigh in days are Thursdays so I shall try to remember to keep you all posted

Are you following a New Year Diet? Have you done Slimming World before? Want to be motivation buddies to keep each other going?

Follow Me, everything is alright!

To steal lyrics from the Uncle Kracker song, did you know there’s lots of ways to follow me, my ramblings and my blog?

Not only can you follow me via GFC, but you can also use Twitter, Facebook, Bloglovin or RSS feed too.

In fact, there’s a Follow Me tab at the top of every page so that you can find all the tools you need.

As a treat to my lovely loyal followers, I have 2 upcoming give aways! A Philip Kingsley goody pack and a tube of the much talked about Nanoblur!!

Make sure you’re following to be in with a chance once they go live!!