Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Bohemian Pinterest-Worthy Weddings

There's nothing more grown up than receiving a wedding invitation through the post. This September, I had my very first experiences of that, as two close friends of mine tied the knot at two magical weddings.

     D'Mello - Pearson Wedding

     Ward - Tizzard Wedding

The last time I was at a wedding, I was a gawky monobrowed teenage bridesmaid at the Greek wedding of one of my cousins.  Now if you've never experienced a Greek wedding, you're missing out. Packed full of tradition, it's definitely a service you won't forget. Now with my Dad being one of 8 siblings, I've been to my fare share of Greek Weddings. My Aunt's on my Mum's side was the only British wedding I've experienced, and as a 7 year-old flower girl, I don't remember much. 

So when I received my invitations, I had no idea what to expect from the weddings of my generation. We see on a daily basis the weddings of the rich and famous, and eventually, they all start to blur into one dramatic, empty display of wealth rather than love. Who needs a Venetian boat convoy for God sake? 

However, you only need to go on Pinterest wedding boards to see that the wedding generation of today are leading a bohemian revolution. Now that sounds like I'm categorizing these weddings into one group, but that's the beauty of the word bohemian - it's the complete opposite of that.

Both the Pearsons and the Tizzards are stunning on the inside and out, and value the relationships they have with their friends and family more than anyone else I know. Of course I'm biased here, but my point is, these weddings showed me what it takes to make them one's you won't ever forget. Both of these weddings brought the love of the couple as well as the love they have for their guests to the forefront through personality and character. 

The D'Mello - Pearson Wedding

Set in the rural heritage site of Bromham Mill, nature was allowed to do it's magic on this gorgeous day. As me and the boyfriend walked through an arch in the ground's hedges, we were faced with an enormous Tipi. The surrounding area consisted of a photo booth and face-painting stations for the children which was such a nice touch. It's lovely as a guest at a wedding to feel like you can get involved in the memory making process. 

This was a wedding full of unique touches that made you go wow at every step. The groom's brother had designed a little branded logo for the wedding that featured on the invitations, order of service, bar and favours, whilst the bridal party, relatives and friends had all pulled together to make lampshade lighting displays and floral tokens that hung from the branches of the majestic tree underneath which the head table was placed. 

University friends worked the bar which was made out of a huge wooden crate, serving cocktails in jam jars, whilst dozens of relatives served up their homemade food in a marquee. 

Of course it's not just about the visuals when it comes to a wedding, but having a good time. With gorgeous rural surroundings, during the day we got to walk around the grounds and take in the scenery, but it was at night time when the fun really started. Speeches done, the tree lit up the grassy dance floor, and an acoustic band got everyone up with their own rendition of Clean Bandit's 'Rather Be. ' 

The night was rounded  off with a 'sparkling' farewell, as the bride and groom ran through an arch of sparklers held up by all the guests. 

The Ward - Tizzard Wedding

This was another rural wedding, set in the picturesque village of Elham in Kent. Driving through, it's literally like being in the Peak District.

 I would describe my friend Becca as a bohemian princess, so the style of her wedding wasn't much of a surprise to me, it was more the atmosphere that had everyone beaming from ear to ear. 

Again, everyone pulled together to create decorations in Becca's favourite colours - orange and purple - from the bride's bouquet to the detailing on the wedding cake. 

The view from the grounds of Elham Village hall was like something out of a Wordsworth poem and was a perfect natural setting for pictures with friends and family. It was just so lovely to see that whilst the bride and groom were having their pictures taken, all the guests were catching up and getting to know one another in the midst of this fairy tale setting. 

When it was time to eat, this atmosphere continued, with the food being on a bring and share basis. It gave everyone an opportunity to be involved in the wedding in some shape or form, whether you brought brownies or a salad, you were contributing, and that was such a good feeling to have. 

The tables were in long horizontal rows, which is a simple but really effective touch for a wedding with a lot of guests. There was such a huge community vibe, and with so many people making friends, the day was full of conversation and laughter. 

Again, the favors were really cute. As you can see from board in the picture above, they were little vials of sand from the beach where Jonny (groom) proposed, with a tag featuring a very apt Bible quote. 

When I think about what weddings are really about, I'm so grateful that my first grown-up wedding experiences were these two. It made me realise that wedding's aren't about pomp and circumstance, but getting everyone you invite to feel the love you're celebrating by being as involved in the celebration as possible, whether that means getting hands-on or by making it their own personal, memorable experience. 

Congratulations Gabrielle and Matt Pearson and Rebecca and Jonny Tizzard, you beautiful people. 


Monday, 29 September 2014

Belated Birthday Boast - Gift Ideas.

'Is she really writing a post boasting about what she got for her birthday?' I hear you ask. Well, kinda. 

As you can tell from the name of this post, it's been quite a while since my birthday, however I have friends and family up and down the country, and didn't want to leave any presents out of this post because in all honesty, they're amazing present givers. 

The aim of this post isn't really to boast about how awesome my birthday was (even though it was AWESOME), it's actually to inspire you for any gift giving you may have to do soon. As much as I hate how early Xmas is being shoved down our throats. it's not a bad idea to get thinking about unique and original gift ideas for your loved ones. Failing that you may have some birthdays coming up, or may just want to spontaneously surprise someone close with a gift. 

There's nothing better than gifts that have an element of sentiment and personality behind them, and that show that person really knows what you love and who you are. 

My lovely boyfriend took me shopping in Cambridge or my birthday and let me pick out an outfit of my choice. The moment I saw this playsuit I had to have it. Who could possible resist these colours? So summery and soooooo comfortable to wear. 

I think everyone that knows me is now fully aware of my Pug/ French Bulldog obsession, even my grandparents. I have many squishy nosed pup paraphernalia scattered throughout my room, but this cushion is my fave. SO SQUIDGY!!

Just like my pup obsession, everyone knows how much I love baking. Something like this stamp makes a cute little addition to any avid baker's baking kit. My Aunty Annie bought me a huge bundle of goodies that are all featured here, and this is the first of many. Stay tuned for this lil stamp's debut appearance in one of my baking posts.
 (I couldn;t find this particular stamp, but have linked to one very similar.) 

As a blogger and a freelance fashion writer there's always so much stuff I need to write down. Post-its just don't cut it as far as I'm concerned. I'm also a HUGE stationary horder. If I won the lottery I would buy all of Paperchase. And Staples. Seriously. So for me, there's no such thing as too many notepads. This is a really cute addition to my collection, and if you know anyone who's a bit of a stationary freak like me, you can never go wrong with something nice to write in. 

Any baker fanatic will agree that once you start baking, fancy aprons become your collectors item. All colours, shapes, and patterns; the more the merrier. Cath Kidston have some really kitsch designs at the moment, especially for home and kitchenware. This is the kind of kit you want on display for everyone to see. It's so pretty I'm scared to get it dirty. 

6. Marks and Spencers Caramel Coulis Truffles
I couldn't find these online, but you know that when it comes to M&S and sweet treats, you're in safe hands. The box itself is very pretty, and the chocolates are to die for. These would make for a lovely little present, and with M&S there's so much variety. 

7. The Fudge Tree Co Chocolates
I am a sucker for old school vintage sweets, and they are becoming so popular recently. There's nothing more fun than a huge jar of retro sweets that remind you of your childhood. These giant white chocolate snowies are the big brothers of my favourite sweets when I was a kid, and I get a wave of nostalgia every time I eat them. 

8. Nikon Camera Equipment
Sometimes the best presents are things you really need - something practical.  The boyfriend earned himself some major BF points when he bought me these, mainly because now I have them, I don't know what I'd do without them. The first is a Macro Fisheye Lens, the second is a spare battery, and the third is a wireless DSLR remote. For blogging and anyone into photography, these are lifesavers. 

Since starting this blog I've only really just started taking care of my nails. I've bitten them for as long as I can remember, but since exploring the world of beauty and building up my nail varnish collection, I've realised it's well worth looking after my nails. Cute nail files in a variety of designs will appeal to any beauty fanatic, or even someone who just takes pride in having a well manicured set of talons. They're a really reasonable yet quirky addition to any gift. 

I love it when I receive gifts that are used to conceal other gifts. It appeals to the excited child in me. My lovely friend Gabbie used this gorgeous hippie style purse to hide a necklace and miniature bottle of hand cleanser (which smells like chewits: AMAZING).  I honestly never have enough of accessories like these. They make for really handy make-up bags or somewhere to store all your hair clips and hair bands. When I'm not using it, it looks really pretty just left out on my shelf as decoration. I've added a link to similar bags on Etsy.

Cosmetics of any sort always make for a brilliant present, but travel miniatures are a god send. I'm always travelling between my home here in Bedford, London and Essex where my boyfriend lives. I'd always much rather prioritize room in my suitcase for clothes than cosmetics, but if they're cute and miniature then they're definitely coming along, and I don't feel like I've compromised on my attempt at travelling light. Based in Brighton, Pecksniffs is a great cosmetic brand to check out simply for the fact you'll be supporting a British brand, which I for one think is very important. 

This is the epitome of a gift full of personality and character. Thanks to the likes of Etsy and other craft websites, you can get a quote on practically anything. It's so simple, but has so much impact when you open it to find a quote that sums up who you are as a person. Not only am I a huge literature manic, but writing and editing is what I spend most of my days doing, so I can't think of a more appropriate quote. I've added a link to this particular necklace, but you can find a variety of quote necklaces on Etsy here

When it comes to clothes and jewellery, finding something one-of-a-kind and unique is so hard these days, and the only way to do it is to go down the antique / vintage road. An antique piece of jewellery makes for such a lovely present, and it doesn't have to cost you the earth either. I love owning things that I know have their own piece of history and sentiment attached to them, as well as adding my own. Whilst in Cambridge the boyfriend and I stumbled across this tiny shop on the King's Parade. The only way to describe it is an 'Aladdin's Cove.' Jam packed with bohemian jewels from all over Asia, as well as textiles and home furnishings, I was spoilt for choice. You can go antique jewellery hunting no matter where you live. Look out for auction houses or antique showrooms. Flea markets and boot sales also host some hidden gems. 

I won't go into too much detail because I want to do a separate post on these later, but a little selection of nail varnishes always go down well as a present. Topshop have some stunning new Autumn/Winter shades at the moment too. 

Not only is this book a bit of a giggle, but it appeals to the literary and mixologists alike. The literary twists on cocktail names make for entertaining reading alone, even if you have no intention of making a cocktail. This is one of those really quirky presents that you want to tell everyone about. If you love entertaining and having dinner parties, or even just a couple of girls over to watch Xfactor, why not replace the wine with a cheeky cocktail inspired by your favourite book. 

You can never go wrong with chocolate as a gift, but why not get inventive. Montezuma are another British based brand, with flagship stores in Brighton and Spitalfields market. Husband and Wife chocolatiers Helen and Simon come up with some pretty unique flavours, like this Lime and Sea Salt bar, or just behind it, White Chocolate, Lemon and Sour Cherry. 

If you know anyone with a creative flair, get them this. My darling friend Becca has saved me from creative chaos in getting me this. It's basically like Wreck This Journal, but with more productive and proactive results. It encourages you to organise your creativity, but also develop it. From collages and finance spread sheets to listing 4 reasons why you're awesome, this is the best motivational tool you can own. 

Vouchers are a pretty good present, but the best ones are those that have variety, so that whoever you get them for has a choice as to what they spend them on. Love2Shop vouchers are a perfect example of this, or these Leisure Vouchers. These can be spent on anything from theme parks to restaurants. So many places take these, so it's a perfect excuse to organise a day out for yourself and whoever the vouchers are for. Even better, if you know someone who's been bogged down with work or stress, these would make a lovely pressie. 


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Great Blogger Bake Off: Week 6 - Sachertorte

I'm not sure about the rest of the bloggers taking part in this Blogger Bake Off, but when they announced this week would be European cakes, my mind went blank. All I could think of was Tiramisu, which I made in week 4, and Croque en Bouche (way too technical for me). I've been doing so much research this past week as to what I could bake, and on my way I've come across some amazing looking cakes I never knew existed (my cake has a slightly more complicated pastry brother called the Fachertorte. It looks so scrummy!) However some of them looked extremely complicated, and as much as I would love to have given them a go, I really would have needed more practice. 

It was one evening that I had an epiphany and remembered last year's Bake Off contestants having the grueling task of making Mary Berry's Sachertorte with a very vague recipe, for the technical challenge. I remember thinking that it looked so glamorous and actually not too complicated once you have the full recipe, so I decide to give it a go. 

I found Mary Berry's recipe to be very simple and easy to follow, however I did have a bit of trouble with the piping. I've always veered away from piping because it terrifies me. I take it to heart when I try and get all creative with baking and it turns out looking poop, so this is the first time I've really donned my piping bag (I actually used a sandwich bag), closed my eyes and gone for it. I'm really pleased with how it turned out, but it would have been a disaster if I'd piped straight away. The best advice I can give to anyone with similar piping fears is PRACTICE. Just have a little squiggle on some kitchen roll just so you get the hang of handling the bag. 

I'd like to think if I was on the show tomorrow, Mary Berry would be happy with my shiny chocolate and piping skills. 


For the topping and the icing


1) Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease a deep 23cm round cake tin then line the base with greaseproof paper.

2) Break the chocolate into pieces, melt gently in a bowl set over a pan of hot water, stirring occasionally, then cool slightly. Beat the butter in a bowl until really soft, then gradually beat in the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the cool chocolate and the vanilla extract and beat again. Add the egg yolks, then fold in the ground almonds and sieved flour. The mixture will be quite thick at this stage.


3) In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Add about one third to the chocolate mixture and stir in vigorously. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface. 

4) Bake in the oven for about 45-50 minutes, or until well risen at the top and the cake springs back when lightly pressed with a finger. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out, peel off the paper and finish cooling on a wire rack.

5) To make the topping, heat the apricot jam in a small pan and then brush evenly over the top and sides of the cold cake to build up a layer. Allow to set

6) Make the icing by breaking the plain chocolate into pieces. Heat the cream until piping hot, remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted, then cool till a coating consistency. Then pour the icing on to the centre of the cake. Spread it gently over the top and down the sides, and leave to set. 

7) For the 'icing' writing, break the milk chocolate into pieces then melt gently in a bowl set over a pan of hot water. Spoon into a small paper icing bag or a sandwich bag if you don't have one and snip off the corner. Before piping onto the cake have a little practice on some kitchen role, just to make sure the consistency is right.  Pipe 'Sacher' across the top and leave to set. 


Friday, 29 August 2014

Y SPA at Wyboston Lakes - A Girly Retreat

So yesterday I had my first ever spa experience. At 22, I'm probably a bit behind on experiencing the fluffy towels and complimentary slippers, but I was like a little kid at Christmas. 

A girl at work is leaving, and had organised a spa day for a few of us.We managed to get a group deal that meant if we went in pairs, we only had to pay £27 each instead of £44. This included afternoon tea as well as free reign of the spa (treatments were extra). 

Having never gone to a spa before, I wasn't sure whether this was a bargain or a rip off, and I guess all spas differ as to what deals they offer, but this was most definitely a bargain. 

We started the day off with our afternoon tea. Now afternoon tea has become a major food trend recently, so you don't have to venture to some pretentious tea rooms in London for the 'ladies that lunch' experience. But there's nothing worse than a bad afternoon tea, so I was intrigued as to how nice this one was going to be. I was actually really surprised. Sandwiches are sandwiches at the end of the day, and if you get them wrong you're a bit of a numpty. It's the cakes that are the real test. This afternoon tea came with the classic scones, jam and cream, which were gooey and really filling, Victoria Sponge squares and a strawberry mousse cheesecake which was so yummy. It all looked really pretty and was so filling that I felt I was going to sink when I got in the pool. One of the girls that was with us was gluten and soya intolerant, and the restaurant staff really went out of their way to accommodate her, with her own sandwich selection and some gorgeous looking desserts in cute jars. 

After our tea, we heaved our full tummies over to the changing rooms to adorn ourselves head to toe in fluffiness. The changing rooms themselves were of a boutique design, with individual vanity booths which included a hairdryers that were free to use. 

The spa area itself was quite small, with a salty steam room, a soft steam room, a sauna, and showers dotted around for cooling down. I'm such a wimp when it comes to heat that I could only manage 5 minutes max in each room. The pool area was my favourite though. Again it wasn't very big, but we were lucky that it wasn't very busy either. It was stationed outside and consisted of a hydrotherapy pool, a jacuzzi, a chilled decking area with cozy sofas and a fireplace, and a 'Some Like It Hot' steam room that reaches 85 degrees (I stayed well away from this). The pool was lovely and warm so it didn't matter if it got a bit overcast. Once we were as wrinkled as prunes we had a cheeky glass of wine each by the fire and a lovely catch up. 

I'd say this is a perfect day out for a group of girls, or even couples, and if you're one of those people who can spend a good few hours doing nothing, you'll definitely get your money's worth. Due to size however I can imagine during weekends it will be a lot busier, and it will be harder for you to make the most of it, so if you can weekdays are best. 

Everyone needs a bit of time to relax, and when there's something like this on your doorstep, I say milk it for all its worth!