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


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 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 ( 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!


Celebrating National Best Friend Day

‘My best friend is the man who in wishing me well wishes it for my sake’ – Aristotle

27th May is National Grape Ice Lolly Day. Did you know that? I’m not entirely sure I would even know where to purchase a grape ice lolly let alone put aside a whole day to celebrate it’s existence. It sound amazing though, grape Kool-Aid and grape Jolly Ranchers were always my favourite.

Anyway my point is there’s a ‘day’ for everything these days and thanks to National Day Calendar I will now never ever again miss national Heimlich Maneuver day (1st June in case you were wondering). One that I was alerted to on the calanedar though was today, 8th June and National Best Friends Day.

The term ‘best friend’ is a funny one, I’ve had lots of best friends in my life, I’m an army brat, I never stayed in one place for more that 3 years and at one point i’m pretty sure my best friend was my big brother. How tragic. The position of ‘best friend’ was very much a revolving door in my childhood and It’s taken me until I was in 30’s to realise who my best friends really are:



I met Ang when we were 16 and both hated out A Level Geography class. She made me laugh when working on a project about CDP and as I was talking about Bombay (as it was then – that’s how old we are) she started singing ‘Hooray for Bollywood’ and I thought she was just SO funny! We pretty much bonded over our hatred of high school and the people within it and the fact neither of us felt the need to go to University. We’ve been besties ever since. She’s the only friend I’ve ever been on holiday with, she’s the second person (after my parents) i texted when I got engaged and she held my hair and rubbed my back when I vomited up pancakes a in a plane ride over the Grand Canyon.



J9 is my oldest best friend (in that I’ve known her the longest). When I moved to the North East from Belgium and was treated pretty much like a museum exhibit, Janine was the only person who actually showed any interest in being my friend rather than firing a million questions at me about why i spoke English when I came from Belgium. Our first conversation went a bit like this:

Janine: Do you like horses?
Me: I love them!
Janine: I have 3! Let’s be friends!

And since then we have bonded over our mutual love of Michael Jackson, fancy dress, dancing and more recently hot tubs and Prosecco!



Remember when you were 12 and you had that penpal in Devon that you found on the kids teletext pages?t That’s kind of how me and Meg met other than we were 14 not 12, it was a Backstreet Boys chat room rather than teletext. We were lucky that despite her living in America our allocated 1 hour a day dial up Internet usage (this was the 90’s after all) always seemed to synch up and we struck up a great friendship. We met for the first time when she was studying in Oxford (because she’s a smartypants) and I got the train to London for the day to meet her. That trip was so important, not only did I find out she wasn’t a crazy Internet child molester but it was the day we became proper best friends and we’ve been lucky enough to travel all over the UK and USA to see each other.



It’s funny how you pick up people along the way in life. Patricia and I met in our early 20s when she was a newly qualified radiographer and we worked in the same department at a hospital in Newcastle. I was watching my first ever Angiogram and she leaned over and pointed out you could see the patient’s fillings on the x-ray. Then i got scolded by one of the nurses for laughing. I knew then we were going to get along. We very quickly became drinking buddies and soon after that holiday buddies when we took an amazing trip to New York together. She’s the best person to go to for advice, she kicks my bum when I need it (which is a lot) but always does it in a way that makes me laugh. She’s also the first of my friends to have a baby so seeing her in a new role as a mum has been a pleasure, because no matter how much changes or busy our lives get we still always manage to find time for a glass of wine or 5!



Although Steph and I were in the same year at school together we weren’t friends. We weren’t not friends but we just didn’t really have much to do with each other (she was much prettier and cooler than me for a start!). So it was kind of weird that we found ourselves working in the same office at our local Hospital in 2008. I was nervous when I found out wed be working together, I was pretty much bottom of the social totem pole at school and now I was working I’d moved on and didn’t want any reminders of Cramlington High School. Thankfully we worked in what was official the busiest office in the world* which gave us lots of time to catch up and we quickly became very close. I still like to say I’ve known Steph since school because factually it’s correct and I also can’t remember or imagine a life where we’re not friends. I love how every single one of our shopping trips ends up in the pub and every single time we pretend to ourselves how shocked we are that’s happened. Our respective better halves have also become very good friends, so if the theory that you are the company you keep is true, that’s further confirmation that Steph’s a keeper.

Also honourable mentions have to go to Carrie, Cheryl, Emma and John who make going to work fun

*This is a lie