A Birthday Ode to ‘My Friend Carrie’

‘At every stage of my career I have had interesting and cordial colleagues, some of whom have become very close friends’ – Daniel Nathans

One of the benefits of being an army brat and moving country every 3 years for most of my childhood means I’ve always been pretty good at making friends. I have a core solid group of friends from high school but have also picked up and collected amazing friends from every job I’ve ever had and friends of friends who have also become good friends


‘My friend Carrie’ is one of my newest, but quickly becoming one of my closest friends. We met at work and despite her having probably worse (self-confessed) resting bitch face of anyone I’ve ever seen, I quickly won her over with some creme egg brownies and a mutual love for early 00s hip hop.


‘My friend Carrie’ is undoubtedly one of my biggest fans when it comes to the blog and we were discussing recently how many mentions she needs to have before she graduates from ‘my friend Carrie’ to simply; Carrie. In same conversation I asked her what she wanted for her 30th birthday this year and she jokingly said ‘a blog post about how wonderful I am’.  Problem with me is I tend to take things a little too literally sometimes, not to mention it made me instantly regret splashing out on that bottle of premium rum.


They say be careful what you wish for.

So in honour of one of my best besties joining the 30 club. Here are, in no particular order, 10 things that make her so wonderful:

She has a depth of 90s pop culture knowledge which is rivalled only by me. I can drop some 90s or early 00s quotes like ‘Steps ain’t no square dance’ or ‘who loves orange soda?’ And she will know exactly what I’m talking about.


Had I not seen it with my own eyes I wouldn’t have believed it but Carrie can Irish dance really, really well, like B*Witched standard well. And because she’s not a wallflower like me (ahem), she’s not averse to throwing some Irish shapes on the dance floor on a night out. Which leaves me as impressed as it does jealous.


They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and when it comes to fashion; my style is straight out of the Cosgrove look book. She introduced me to the concept of the skinny jean/bomber jacket combo, and a scarf as a statement necklace and my life was forever changed. She also brings me black clothes from America (where she goes quarterly) and picks up jumpers in GAP for me she knows I’ll like. She’s a keeper for sure.


On the subject of statement necklaces, Carrie has more jewellery than Goldsmiths and is very generous in lending it out. A staple is this H&M number which goes with absolutely everything and everyone who knows Carrie has probably worn it at some point in time.necklacecollage

When I ran the Great North Run last year, her, Emma and Jayne stood at the top of John Reid Road to cheer me on. Due to Carrie’s afore mentioned resting bitch face, when I did see them I was expecting a sarcastic remark about what took me so long or that I looked like shit (both of which would be valid points). However she was quite possibly the most excited I’ve ever seen her. Which means that although I may be met with a barrage of daily insults and her own unique brand of tough love, she shows up for you when it really counts.


Who needs Susie Dent when you have wor Cazza around? She was clearly a lexicographer in a previous, as well as kind of in her current life. If ever I’m stuck for an analogy or synonym she’s the first person I contact, which, despite the fact that she (wrongly) loves an oxford comma, comes in very handy when your side hustle revolves solely around writing.



One thing I’ve learnt over my adulthood is that you have different friends for different reasons. If I’m having a pathetic stress about something trivial like dying my hair rose gold I will go to different people depending on what I want to hear. If I want to be pampered and told that I’m amazing I’ll go to Ang and Emma, if I want someone to actually solve my problem for me with some straight talking, no nonsense advice. I’ll go to Carrie. And she. Is. Always. Right. Curses.



Believe me, as far as I can remember Carrie has never been a big fat fatty but she decided she was one day a few years ago and decided to do something about it. 2 years and 3 stone later she’s gone from regular fittie to super slim world class megababe. And as someone who has always struggled with her weight and is always on a diet, I have the utmost respect for her for sticking with it. I mean just look….


She knows me annoyingly well. She notices things and remembers minute details about me and my psyche all the time which, although can blindside me that she knows me so well after such a short time, makes me feel like she’s super invested. She knows when I’m starting to stress about ridiculous things it’s because I’m massively PMS-ing, she knows that one innocuous comment from someone random will make me overthink myself into oblivion and she knows that if I get my hair dyed rose gold I will end up hating it and getting it corrected almost instantly. I mean, on this one I’m very likely to ignore her, but she will be right.



She has a confidence and self belief that I wish I had. She is sure of herself and her abilities and apart from occasional smugness about being right all the time, she’s not a dick about. To quote the great Will Smith ‘she’s not conceited, she’s as good as she says she is’

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I think it’s safe to say after an entire blog post written in her honour she will no longer be referred to as ‘My friend Carrie’ on the blog any more. Possibly because she will never speak to me again after she reads this.

But hopefully she will continue to be mentioned as she joins me on more drunken adventures, documented or otherwise. Or at the very least she now knows how much her friendship means to me and fabulous I truly thinks she is….


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Partners in Wine do Karaoke at Cosy Joes

‘I love karaoke and totally hog the mic when I go out and do it with my friends’ – Charli XCX

Being an army brat and travelling around a lot when I was younger means it’s never been particularly difficult for me to make friends and I’m lucky that I’ve picked up friends and kept them from every job I’ve had in my adult life. There’s something intrinsically special though, when you get together with your school friends. They’re the one’s who’ve known you the longest, who talked you out of bright red parachute pants and were the first on the phone when you got dumped by your high school boyfriend over MSN messenger group chat.


Me and my 3 best friends from school Ang, Janine and Steph don’t see each other nearly as often as we’d like but when we d get together, I think we laugh consistently from start to finish. We were looking for something a little bit different for our most recent catch up and since every time we go on road trips together we end up belting out hits of the 80s in the car. Karaoke seemed the obvious solution!

Other than in a few chinese restauarnts in China Town the place to do karaoke in Newcastle is Cosy Joes slap bang in the middle of the bigg market. Despite what I like to think, Beyonce I ain’t so although you can do old fashioned karaoke in front of a baying crowd of drunk geordies, the safe option (for me and everyone else’s ears) is their private party pods which can be booked from between 4 to 20 people and they are. so. much. fun!

At a weekend it costs you £5 each for your first hour and £2.50 for each subsequent hour; we went for two hours as one didn’t feel like enough to really get warmed up and it was the perfect amount of time. The pods are dimly lit so have a really cool nightclub type vibe which really adds to the night out feel you’re looking for when you’re out with your mates. They have large plasma screens where the words are displayed, a small unit mounted on the wall where you pick your songs, large sofa to relax on while your mates are taking centre stage and two microphones (i’m sure the larger pods probably have more). There’s also a call button on the wall to press and a member of staff will come to your pod to take your drinks order  – that’s service!

The computer you pick your songs from is really easy to use; you can search my artist or song title, or alternatively everything is listed alphabetically if you just want to scroll through and see what takes your fancy. You can play songs immediately or add them to a playlist so can line them up and create your very own setlist. You’ll also be hard pushed to want to sing a song that’s not available, in our two hour wailfest we sang everything from Bowling for Soup, Backstreet Boys and Alanis Morissette to Pantera and Megadeth.

If you were looking to push the boat out a little ore they offer different pre paid packages included drinks, mixers and food if there’s a big gang of you. We absolutely loved our night at Cosy Joes and will definitely be going back to get a fix before Christmas. It’s the perfect way to hang out and be silly with your mates will singing all your favourite songs from your angsty teen years or would be the ideal venue for your work Christmas party!


Groat Market, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 1UQ
Tel: info@cosyjoes.co.uk
Web: www.cosyjoes.co.uk


Chris Montague Photography

‘In photography everything is so ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the extraordinary’ – David Bailey

One of the best things about writing a blog, aside from it feeding my narcissistic need to be liked, is when you get to join forces with your mates when your individual passions collide.

Steph is one of my oldest friends from school (and by that I mean I’ve known her the longest). She met the lovely Chris in 2012, they married in 2016 and since then the Montague’s as a brand have become two of our best friends. It’s always a relief when your better halves get along however it’s amazing (and very rare) that they get along so well that you sometimes forgot how or where the original links began. We’ve all welcomed each other into our own individual friendship groups and as such spend a lot of time in the pub together!


Despite Chris being hugely successful in his day job (building clouds – actual clouds I like to believe, there’s big business for them in the north east) he’s also a keen photographer and has recently started going semi pro. I’d been wanting for a while to get some more professional pictures on my blog as the random instagram selfies of my wonky duck face weren’t cutting the mustard anymore. So I asked Chris is he would mind taking a few natural pics of me to make me look a bit more polished. As soon as I suggested meeting one Saturday afternoon in a pub with a large bay window he was there setting up his tripod before you could say David Bailey. After all pictures always look more realistic when the subject is in their natural habitat.

Despite it all feeling a bit awkward to start with, not that I’ve ever been shy around a camera of course but when you know someone’s taking your picture it’s hard not to pose or look straight at them, I’ve watched enough ANTM to know how to smize and find my light. But as the wine flowed and Steph and I got right into gossipland I forgot he was there and he ended up taking loads of pics as we all chatted away.

I concede that he didn’t have the easiest of subjects, an oil painting i’m not however I was really pleased with what he took, they were so natural and unposed and even after he kindy touched up a few of my faves, the touch ups were very subtle so I don’t feel like I’ve been airbrushed to within an inch of my life. I still look like me. Like picking the most flattering instagram filter!

Here are my 3 favourites:

Looks like I was born with that glass of wine in my hand doesn’t it?

If you’re interested in working with Chris for your wedding, family shoot or even some headshots of your own you find find out more about him and his work here!

How different do you look after 3 glasses of wine?

‘Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy’ – Benjamin Franklin

One of my favourite quotes is that alcohol is what makes the good times better and the bad times bearable. If I knew who first said it I would have it at the leading quote to all my wine related posts because I think it’s so true. And I’ve never been shy in admitting that I love a bottle of wine or two.

When I was idly trawling through Stumbleupon one Sunday afternoon (probably hungover from the previous nights wine) I came across an article about Brazilian photographer Marcos Alberti who did a series of photos of his friends after they’d drank 1, 2 and 3 glasses of wine and the results were fascinating.

I mean, there was an element of ‘people look more relaxed after a couple of glasses of wine’ shocker. However what I did find fascinating was the really subtle differences in some of the subjects faces. Some people were noticeably more relaxed, they tied their hair back or removed items of clothing. There was definitely caution to the wind being thrown. However what amazing was the people who were so obviously trying not to look any different, yet their faces told a completely different story. In the first picture, where people were fatigued and stressed by the end of the working day, there was a vulnerability and dare I say sadness in some of the peoples eyes. Yet after a couple of glasses of wine the smile was reaching their eyes again and they looked 100% more relaxed.


Some being me, I thought I would completely steal this idea, take my Samsung Galaxy S6 and see how different me and all my friends look after 3 glasses of wine. I’m unclear as to whether Marcos’ subjects knew what the purpose of the photo session was for, however my lasses knew from the start. It would have been weird making them pose up against my living room wall without telling them what was going on, so I’m not sure if that’s skewed the results slightly. There were a few ground rules to this experiment though; we all drank the same drinks, and we used Prosecco instead of wine (carefully measured out into 125ml glasses).

Whilst the results may not be surprising, they are bloody funny!











All we seem to hear these days is how bad alcohol is for you, and yes of course if we all lived macrobiotic, wheat free, gluten free, sugar free, taste free, fun free diets I’m sure we’d all be very virtuous and live to 150 but where would the fun in that be? While this experiment probably won’t win me any Nobel prizes (mainly because I didn’t think of it) it was still great fun to do and a brilliant excuse to get the lasses round, drink a shed load of wine and dance around my living room to boyband videos after a long working week – like we needed an excuse!

Oh, and the outtakes are pretty funny too:



Elliott’s Kitchen, Wylam

‘I like to be able to sit in a cafe and watch the world go by and observe people’ – Sophia Myles

There’s a lot of negativity on the world at the moment. Even on Facebook and instagram there’s people eye rolling at their so called friends who are at the gym or posting their slimming world meals. There doesn’t seem to be much bigging each other up anymore.

So let me buck the trend and take a moment to gush about our amazing friends Jill and Phil Elliott who after what feels like years of near misses have finally fulfilled their dream of owning their own cafe. And what a cafe it is.

Jill and I have been close friends for over 15 years when we worked as barmaids together at our local pub in Cramlington (she taught me everything I know about alcohol). She married professional chef (and all round lovely bloke) Phil is 2009 and they’ve been great friends to us ever since.


Elliotts Kitchen on Main Street in Wylam is everything you’d want in a cafe and more. In fact to just call it a cafe is doing the a disservice. Phil has honed all his years in the professional catering industry to create a fantastic gastro cafe serving not only your regular coffees and traybakes but ever changing lunchtime specials like quiches and runny scotch eggs. All freshly made on the premises with local produce.

We visited at about 2.15pm on a Saturday and it was just nicely busy after the lunchtime rush, enough people in to create an atmosphere but even free tables to get a good seat. The decor inside is minimalist but classy, big windows letting the sun stream in and light wooden furniture and fittings.

We only went for coffee and cake; a latte (made with Italian coffee) and slice of rocky road for me and a pot of Earl Grey and a date scone for Dave. Both treats were a decent size (there’s nowt more frustrating that a small scone) the rocky road was stuffed with fluffy marshmallows and not to over powering with sickly chocolate, so you don’t have to worry about your kids bouncing off the walls after a slice. Two drinks and two sweets came to around £8, which isn’t unreasonable, particularly for Wylam.

We didn’t stay for lunch, although judging by the smells from the kitchen perhaps we should have! Their manu changes regularly if not daily and an example of some things they’ve had on recently are spiced parsnip soup, aberdeen angus shepherds pie topped with swede & potato mash, beef onepot served with onion bread & parsley dumpling and stilton and mushroom tarlets. Not to mention sandwiches and a different cake of the day.

Of course it’s easy for me to be bias, they’re my mates after all, however to be honest I think that just means I’d be more brutally honest if i didn’t think they were quite up to scratch (or at the very least just not say anything at all!) but I honestly honestly am super impressed and proud, not only in the hard work and sacrifice Jill and Phil have made but in the genuine quality of the food and the menu.

If you want a boring croque monsieur then go to Cafe Rouge. If you want quality, locally produced homemade food with a quirky twist. Go to Eilliott’s Kitchen!

Address: Main Road, Wylam, Northumberland NE41 8AQ
Phone: 01661 852422
Facebook: Elliott’s Kitchen
Twitter: @foodmatters07


Monkey Feet’s Highs and Lows of 2016…

When Helen asked me to write this post my heart sank! 2016 has been a tough year at Monkeyfeeet HQ, heck most of us would agree its been a year full of shockers world wide right?

I’ve thought a lot about our year and we are genuinely very blessed in many many ways, I have an amazing little family and  we have a lovely house in a lovely location. This year we have had 3 great holidays and my husband and I have spent two evenings away without children which is unheard of! Because of this it seems silly to complain about anything making us sad, we really are very lucky.


Crazy holiday selfies


even crazier ‘parents night off’ selfies

We have had some struggles though the largest of which being the passing of my lovely Mother In Law, the kids lush Nana. Her death came suddenly and the shock and grief have honestly infiltrated every bit of our family life and so I’ve felt like we have been at times washed out to sea, struggling to stay afloat. We are strong though and whilst the light may be a small chink there it is at the end of the tunnel and I feel we will get there together.

Another low is how poorly we have all been following a bout of Norovirus on our October Holiday we seem to have spent all of November catching and passing around one bug after another!

Personal highlights for me have included having two articles published in The Huffington post, earning a small wage from my little corner of cyber space and  working with some amazing companies. I’ve also been involved in the creation of a new local Womens Institute and I’m proud to be the Secretary but more so be part of a group of women so eager to support one another and make a difference in  our community, we have collected food for our food bank and donated around 40 bags filled with treats and necessities for vulnerable and homeless women across the region.


My WI committee sisters!

I’m also proud of my Facebook pals, in November I asked for donations for

  • The Womens Refuge
  • Children who would have little or nothing at Christmas
  • Handbags for the Homeless Appeal
  • Gifts for the Church Christmas lunch for lonely and homeless folk….


Not even half of the collection!

We were over run, overwhelmed and over joyed with the response! Two car loads of toys clothes and toiletries to the Refuge, one car load of gifts, clothes and toiletries to our young peoples projects and church lunch, bags of food to the food bank, a car full of toys and books to families with nothing this Christmas  and 2 massive cars full to the Homeless Women NE charity! My spirit was truly restored at the generosity of others and I will definitely be co-coordinating more charity help this coming year.


My Son squeezed into a car full of Handbags for the Homeless with not an inch of space left over!

In balance I can’t bring myself to say we have had a great year because it feels disloyal to the memory of our lovely Mam BUT we are blessed every day, we have found a smile every single day and the family may have struggled but we did it together.

Karen writes at blog.monkey-feet.com and can be found on facebook and twitter

Do Long Distance Relationships Work?

‘Obviously, a long-distance relationship is hard. But, like anything worth having, you make it work’ – Leona Lewis

Growing up on an Army base means that the majority of my friendships as a child were fleeting; we all moved around every 3 years or so, so if they didn’t bugger off to another country halfway through our friendship, I did. A few I became pen pals with and have since reconnected with on Facebook but for the most part, no real solid friendships were made.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a charmed childhood; great weather, 10 week long summer holidays, average class sizes of around 10 but I get green with envy when I hear people talk about someone they’ve known since they were kids. I also feel we missed out with loads of family time as I only ever saw my grandparents, cousins, aunties and uncles once a year if that. All of our relationships, apart from the four of us, were long distance.

Helen & Meagan


I met Meagan when I was 15, on the internet in a Backstreet Boys chat room. It seemed my allocated hour of internet usage on a Sunday morning coincided with her allocated hour on a Saturday night and we quickly became close. We then became email pen pals, in contact almost on a daily basis and in 2001 we finally met in London when she was over in the UK studying in Oxford (after spending what felt like 6 months convincing my parents it was ok to let their 19 year old daughter travel to London to meet someone off the internet!)

Since then we’ve grabbed every opportunity to see each other wherever we may be. I visited her in college in 2002 in Nebraska, she was studying in Spain in 2004 and flew to see me in Cramlington. In 2006 Dave and I were on holiday in Orlando and she flew down to spend a few days together and loads of other times since then. Most importantly, she flew to England for what was essentially a long weekend to come to my wedding in 2013. I love how we’ve integrated into each other lives even though we’re miles apart; her friends and family have become my friends and family and vice versa. I love how her and my dad banter about baseball and politics over twitter or how she will wish my friends happy birthday over Facebook, because any friend of mine is also a friend of hers.

Of course it gets difficult sometimes. There’s days when I may be struggling with something or see a piece of super exciting boyband news and I want to go to the pub with her to have a full debrief of the situation but I can’t. Whatsapp and Facebook have made things loads easier but it’s not the same as being in the same room as someone. I know she’s always at the other end of the phone or email though if i ever need her. It sucks we don’t get to do normal friends things like go to the pictures together or meet after work for a drink; but we do get to have amazing adventures together instead which is a happy compromise.

Sam & Jo


My best friend Jo who I met when I started middle school at age 10 has lived apart from me since we were 18 when she left Cramlington to start uni in York (she now lives in Manchester). It is mad to think that now we are 32 we have spent more years apart than together but between the ages of 10-18 we forged a super strong bond that I think is unbreakable.

We don’t chat on the phone/on Facebook as Jo is super busy with a demanding job and I am busy at home with three kids and work and we only see each other two-four times a year (we always make the effort to spend the day together around Christmas time and at some other point through the year) but when we do that bond is instantly back and we just pick up our conversation where we left off. We can tell each other anything even if it has been 12 months since our last meet up and I think that’s pretty special.

Holli & Laura

We met back in 2009 on our first day at Teesside University, where we were allocated the same grubby little student house along with eight other girls. As student life goes, we ended up getting drunk together for two weeks straight during Fresher’s after which we felt like we’d known each other our whole lives. 

In 2012 when we graduated and it was time for us to move back home and get ‘proper’ jobs, Laura headed home to Lytham St Anne’s in the North West whereas I decided to make a go of it in Newcastle in the North East with my boyfriend who I’d also met at university. Since then, we’ve relied on WhatsApp, Snapchat or speaking on Facebook Chat to keep in touch. As is a best friend’s duty, we’re still on hand to give each other fashion advice, albeit not from the changing rooms, but we’ll Snapchat each other photos of outfits we’re considering to get the other’s honest opinion. When there’s something really big we need to talk about (like Laura’s recent engagement eeeek) we’ll have a phone call where minutes seem to turn into hours without us realising.

Of course, like any long distance friendship, life can sometimes get in the way and you feel like you’ve drifted apart, but the great thing about my friendship with Laura is, no matter how many days, weeks or months its been since we’ve spoke, as soon as we pick up that phone to have a catch up it feels like we’ve never been apart. We’ve sort of got this unspoken understanding that no matter how long its been, we’ll be there for each other as soon as we’re needed. It doesn’t matter if we don’t speak every day, because we know that when we do we’ll have loads to catch up on.

Fast forward to 2016 and we’ve even started a blog together (https://shesaidshesaid.co.uk/) as a way to keep in touch and share what we’ve been up to! We’ll write about our own little adventures and send drafts to each other to edit. Who’d have thought we’d find a hobby we can share together whilst 150 miles apart!