Blog Archives

Kathie Fitzgerald’s Indispensable Guide To Crafting a Business

For an incredibly long time, I have wanted nothing more than to start my own business selling handcrafted products. Over the years I’ve dabbled in a number of crafts which I’ve enjoyed, holding on to the belief that one day, I’d be able to make a living from my passion.

Courtesy of ArtsyBee at pixabay.com

Sadly that day never arrived!

I’ve made products which were sold in the family business, and I’ve made things to give as gifts – which were always very gladly received, I’m pleased to say – but I’ve never taken that leap of faith into the great unknown and set up on my own.

Courtesy of pexels at pixabay.com

I’ve now decided, however, that now is the time. There’s absolutely nothing to stop me from giving it a go… Although it would help if I could make up my mind as to what I want to create and which craft I’d like to get more involved with.

Courtesy of Skyangel at pixabay.com

But while I may be fairly confident in my abilities as a crafter, it’s the business side of things that scares me a little. My dad and sister are the ones known for their business acumen in the family – me, not so much… Although I have despaired at some of the ridiculous antics of the candidates on The Apprentice!

However I’ve stumbled across a really useful book that I think is indispensable for anyone who wishes to start a craft-based business. It’s called Crafting a Business: Make Money Doing What You Love by Kathie Fitzgerald.

It’s not a new book but out of all the books that I’ve read that explains how to start a craft-based business, Crafting a Business, I find, is the most helpful and inspiring. The book is divided into two parts. The first part contains profiles for various female business owners as they outline how they got into their particular craft, started their business, built their brand etc. The fact that many of these talented women are self-taught, never attended a course, or had to overcome life’s trials and obstacles in order to get to where they are now, is nothing short of inspirational.

The second part of the book is what is called the Business Crafting Workshop which gives instructions as to how to structure a business plan, finance your business, develop and market your product etc. For those of us who don’t have  much practical business knowledge or experience, it’s a great starting point to help you get your business off the ground.

OK, I’m done with part one, now time to tackle part two!

Wish me luck!

Advertisements

Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea

 

 

Here in Britain, we celebrated Mothering Sunday back in March, but tomorrow people in the rest of the world will be celebrating motherhood and honouring the very special women in their lives: mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, stepmothers, mothers-in-law, godmothers and even aunties. So what could be a more special way to spoil the extraordinary women in our lives then by treating them to a decadent afternoon tea – which if you ask me, is an occasion made for mums!

 

In case you didn’t know by now, I really love the idea of a themed afternoon tea (come to think of it, I love the idea of a themed anything!) and when it comes to a Mother’s Day afternoon tea party, vintage is the only way to go, with mismatched, floral, china teacups, an elaborate cake stand, bird cages, and decorations in the form of pearls and lace. Mothers are obviously all different, so you’ll cater your tea party to your mum’s tastes but inspiration for my ideas have come my own mother who’s pretty big on tradition.  Chocolate and flowers also feature quite heavily as they tend to be gifts we traditionally give our mothers on their special day. Colours for this event could be in the traditional pink and lilac, or any pastel hue, or maybe even cream and gold for a classic vintage feel. With the weather getting warmer, there’s a good chance that you could hold your tea party outdoors.

 

When thinking about the menu, I went for old-school English classics, real ‘like mother used to make’ stuff, with an added touch of elegance and luxury. After all you can’t get more English than afternoon tea, so English classics it is!  The list below gives food ideas of what you can include as part of your afternoon tea party menu:

SANDWICHES

  • Egg and cress
  • Cucumber and cream cheese
  • Crab
  • Ham and English mustard
  • Smoked salmon and cream cheese
  • Rare roast beef and horseradish
  • Rose petals with honey
  • Prawn mayonnaise

SAVOURIES

 

  • Smoked salmon soufflés
  • Mini sausage rolls
  • Blinis with smoked salmon
  • Mini Cornish pasties
  • Parmesan thins
  • Roast beef-filled Yorkshire puddings
  • Goats’ cheese rarebit
  • Spinach and parmesan muffins
  • Cheese straws
  • Potted shrimp on melba toast
  • Trout pate on melba toast
  • Mini chicken and asparagus pie

SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS

 

  • Crumpets
  • Tea loaf
  • Tea cakes
  • Brioche
  • English muffins
  • Scones with clotted cream and rose petal jam

CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:

 

  • Victoria sponge cake
  • Apple pie with cinnamon cream
  • Chocolate fudge cake
  • Lemon drizzle cake
  • Cherry Cake
  • Jam tartlets
  • Battenburg cake
  • Rose and raspberry  or chocolate macaroons
  • Fruit cake
  • Mini Bakewell tarts
  • Chocolate mousse with sugared violets in shot glasses
  • Mini English trifles
  • Pink and lilac iced buns
  • Lavender shortbread
  • Chocolate éclairs
  • Strawberry shortcake
  • Custard slices
  • Florentines

DRINKS:

 

  • Tea!
  • Frozen strawberry daiquiris
  • Mixed berry tea
  • White chocolate mocha
  • Jasmine tea
  • Pink lemonade
  • Chilled Chrysanthemum tea
  • Raspberry bellini
  • Cava with nasturtiums
  • Pomegranate Martini
  • Chamomile tea
  • Champagne with hibiscus
  • Chocolate flavoured cocktails

Don’t forget the extras you need to serve such as butter, clotted cream, honey and a selection of jams to go with the toasted breads and scones. And for the savouries, you may need to provide a variety of chutneys, sauces and pickles.

Here’s a recipe for the unusual but delightful sounding rose petal sandwiches which is taken from The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree

ROSE PETAL SANDWICHES

 

Makes 24

INGREDIENTS:

60 dried organic rose petals

Few drops of rose essence

25g (1oz) butter, at room temperature

12 slices of soft white bread

6 tsp lavender honey

METHOD:

1. Soak the dried rose petals in a bowl of cold water with the rose essence for 20mins.

2. Drain and set aside.

3. Butter the bread.

4. Spread honey over 6 of the slices.

5. Divide the petals between 6 slices of honeyed bread.

6. Top with remaining slices.

7. Cut off crusts.

8. Cut each sandwich diagonally into four.

9. Serve immediately.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!!

 

 

 

Things I Got From My Mother – And Other Stories!

 

Here in the UK, Mother’s Day was way back in March. But the rest of the world -including Mr. D. – will be honouring their beloved mums on Sunday. But whether we’ll be celebrating or not, we’ll definitely be keeping our mums in mind.

Everyone says I’m my mother’s double. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve actually been mistaken for her. No it’s not that I look so old (well at least I hope not!) but Mum looks so young. She really could pass for my (slightly older!) sister. But I always felt that our looks are where our similarities begin and end as personality-wise we couldn’t be more different. I’m definitely more outgoing whereas Mum’s a bit reserved. Our style in dressing is very different: I probably dress a little too young for my age (why not? I can get away with it. I think!) whereas Mum dresses in a way that makes the Queen look like Avril Lavigne (which always frustrates me!) I like a good drink and can really put those cocktails away but Mum’s a teetotaller  who just has to look at a glass of wine and her head starts to spin. I like my music loud and angry while Mum’s the queen of the easy listening classics. We couldn’t be more different – or so I thought…

I was in bookshop this afternoon, perusing the cook books and wondering what to add to my already ever-increasing stack of cook books when it dawned on me where I got my addiction from – Mum! As a kid Mum had a whole load of cookery books (and I do mean a whole load of books) which I used to pore over, looking at the pics, while Mum would be putting the recipes to good use. All these years later, I’m doing the same (all I now need is the little girl to sit on the kitchen worktop and pore over the books…)

It got me thinking about other ways in which I’m a lot like my mother. I’m often so busy focusing on the differences that I don’t think about things that we have in common. It’s the same with the majority of my friends – they love their mums to bits but don’t think that they’re anything alike. Maybe one day they’ll also discover that they’re more alike than they think.

1. MUM AND I ARE BOTH FEEDERS!

4063_1_296

This is where the cook books come into effect. When you come to our homes, you’d better be coming with an empty stomach. Just don’t think you’ll be leaving with one. In fact you may need a crane to carry you out because we’re in danger of overstuffing you! Nothing makes us happier than cooking for other people and having people around our table (something we both get from Mum’s mum and my lovely grandma) and we feel really humbled by the appreciative comments we get.

2. WE WATCHED ALL THE SOAPS RELIGIOUSLY… BUT DON’T NOW!

 

I got my love of soaps from my mum who used to watch them all: Coronation Street, Crossroads, Dynasty, Dallas, Emmerdale Farm… and naturally I’d watch these too and became something of a soap addict myself, especially with the advent of EastEnders, Neighbours, and Home And Away. It was amazing because I couldn’t remember my six times table but I could remember what caused Sue Ellen to slap JR six episodes ago!

However over the years our love of soaps dwindled. In Mum’s case it’s because she’s too busy to keep up with what’s happening in Weatherfield or Albert Square, and in my case it’s because I just don’t watch TV as much as I used to, and on the odd occasion when I do tune in, I’d much rather watch something other than soaps (which in my opinion aren’t as good as they used to be anyway!)

3. WE’RE GREAT WHEN IT COMES TO THE OLD HOSPITALITY!

 

I only invite people into my home if I really like them, so it’s very important to me that everyone who does come to our home, whether it’s for a quick visit or to stay for a while, is made to feel very welcome and know that we are happy to have them over. So we go out of our way to make sure they’re happy, comfy and that they treat the place like their second home  (even though all of the above meant that Mr.D. and I once had to sleep on the sofa. Not good but hey – it was for our friends!)

And looking after guests is something I learned from Mum. However I think most people prefer to go to Mum’s than mine because she’s a much better cook than I am!

4. SPORT IS NOT OUR THING.

 

Just about everyone in our family is into a sport of some kind. And just about everyone supports a particular football team.

All except Mum and me. I’ve tried to get sporty in the past but it just wasn’t happening. Mum didn’t even try! It’s a good job I don’t live in California or I really would be in trouble.

We do however tune in to watch the World Cup especially when England’s playing. That’s as sporty as we get!

5. AND NEITHER IS DRIVING!

Mum never learnt to drive and nor has she ever wanted to. I once asked her why and she said that if she learnt to drive then that would be one less thing that Dad did – and he doesn’t do much as it is!

I did get my licence but sadly I’m a real hazard on the road so I tend to leave the driving to those who are less of a calamity.

6. WE’RE NOT ONES TO COMPLAIN

 

OK maybe not strictly speaking true as we have been known to have the odd grumble. But compared to a lot of people we know, we hardly ever complain. If life’s getting us down, something seems unfair, or we’re just having a bad day, we just suck it up and get on with it.

And on the rare occasions when we do complain, it’s only because it’s absolutely necessary. I guess you could say that we know how to pick our battles.

7. OUR BODIES ARE MADE UP OF NINETY SEVEN PER CENT SUGAR!

 

It’s not just my looks I got from my Mum but my incredible sweet tooth. Thanks to her, I’m a real sucker for sugar and it’s virtually unheard of for me to go to a restaurant and not end a meal with a dessert. And if I’m too stuffed for dessert, I at least take a peak at the dessert menu to see what I’m missing out on!

8. WE’RE USELESS WITH TECHNOLOGY

Oh my goodness, where do I begin with this? At least with Mum, she was born way before technology took hold of us the way that it has. She didn’t grow up in an era where people stopped breathing if they were clinically detached from their iPhones. I however, have no excuse especially as I’m a blogger as well. I’m not as bad as I’m making out as given a certain amount of time, I can usually figure things out. That said, I’m still far from good!

9. ADVICE IS OUR MIDDLE NAME

 

For as long as I can remember, people having been calling on my mum whenever they had a problem of some kind – and they still do. Perhaps it’s because Mum’s very understanding, a good listener, gives good advice, and tries to help out in any way that she can.

Well it’s a good job I’ve been trained by the best because at I’ve had all sorts of people – friends, family, colleagues, clients, random people on the bus – confiding in me about their problems.

I guess I just have one of those faces!

10. WE’RE REAL HOME BIRDS

 

Mum was always a home bird. I don’t think she even went to the pub as a teenager. I, on the other hand, was a real night owl, and once I got a taste of London night life there was no stopping me.

However now that I’m older, those wild nights out are pretty much a thing of the past – although nothing comes between me and my rock gigs! I’d much rather stay at home and cook for friends. and believe it or not, we still manage to have a great time!

Hope all the mums out there enjoy their special day!

 

My Secretly Enjoyable Guilty Pleasures

imagesCAAMXIQQ Jennifer Aniston has admitted that watching The Bachelor is her guilty pleasure.  I watched one series back in 2012 where Courtney Robertson waltzed off into the sunset with her bachelor Ben Flajnik. I found the show to be over the top, contrived, and appeared to be scripted. It was something that people watched when they didn’t want to engage in anything too intellectually taxing… but oh my goodness it was so addictive! I hated myself for not doing something more productive with my time but once I started watching I had to continue in order to find out who Ben would choose. But I made sure that it was to be the last series I watched!

We all have our guilty pleasures in life. We all enjoy something which we feel a little bad for liking. And we shouldn’t feel bad – after all no one is ever harmed while we pursue our guilty pleasures – but we can’t help feeling a little bit naughty all the same.

It got me thinking about my own guilty pleasures – and I had a lot more than I thought. Naughty Mrs. D!

1. Romance novels

imagesGDW804Q1

 

I wish I could say that I love rolling with the classics and I have a copy of War And Peace on my bedside table but that just wouldn’t be true! I’m a sucker for romance novels and it’s one of my ambitions to increase my collection of Danielle Steel and Mills and Boon novels. I’m lucky to be married to such a romantic man so there’s no shortage of romance in this household but these novels do help to reaffirm my belief in love and romance (as if I need reaffirmation!)

I’m sure I’ll get around to War And Peace one day!

2. Puddings

c22bf7b45c460be365672c6fdcc6810d I have a ridiculously sweet tooth. My parents are big sugar fans so I reckon I inherited my sweet tooth from them – and my dad in particular loves puddings. And if there’s lashings of custard, so much the better! I always stop off at M&S every Friday to ensure that I have enough yummy desserts and puddings to last until Sunday. During the cold winter months, there’s nothing I enjoy more than to curl up with something sweet. Unfortunately it means that I go back on the promise that I made to myself to be healthier.

Oh well – at least I’m sensible from Monday to Thursday!

3. Magazines

images96769AX1 I’ve loved magazines pretty much from the time I’ve been able to read. When I was a kid, my aunts and uncles used to spoil me with comics and kids magazines. As I was growing up, I’d sneak a peak at women’s magazines that my mum and aunts used to buy before I graduated to pop music and teen mags. At one point, I used to buy pretty much every magazine that was out there (or so it seemed!) which looking back was a ridiculous waste of money.

These days I limit myself to just two magazines a week which isn’t too bad and provides me with something to read on my way to and from work. The only problem is that our home is permanently strewn with magazines and pages that I’ve ripped out from them. So far Mr. D hasn’t complained…

4. Bargains

LBD I get such a buzz from buying things I really want that have been reduced to a fantastically great price. Books, clothes, shoes – you name it; if the price is low enough, I’m snapping it up! I don’t mind admitting that I’m a great bargain hunter and I try very hard not to pay full price if I can avoid it which often means waiting until it’s on sale. Whether this is a good thing or not is debateable but at least I can honestly say that say that I’ve never annoyed a retailer – or embarrassed myself – by haggling in my quest for a good bargain.

5. Reading in the bath

THE%20ADULTERY%20CLUB%20Macmillan%20UK%202013%20(backlist)

 

Reading in the bath is all very good if you live by yourself. But when you live with others, you run the risk of irritating them when you hog the bathroom while you indulge in a bubble-filled bath with a little light reading material. Whether it’s a magazine or one of those romance novels, it’s perfect ‘me’ time – especially when I throw a little chocolate into the mix!

6. Salon pampering

beauty-extraction-products_304_304_c OK so there’s a lot of beauty treatments I pay for at professional salons which I could actually do myself at home thus saving money. But I’m often short of time (OK, a little lazy!) and I like being pampered. Grooming often feels like a chore when I have to do it myself.

And  it doesn’t help that there is a salon right down the road from me…

 

7. Celebrity gossip

mclh   I don’t like gossip. I don’t like people who gossip. I’m careful not to gossip or repeat things that I’ve heard especially if it sounds dubious. So why is it that I’m addicted to the celebrity gossip pages of a particular national newspaper? It’s not only me but one of my closest friends as well who can’t get enough of the same gossip column, and we can often be found at work discussing in great depth what we’ve just read about Angelina, Jordan and co.

Mr. D is not impressed by any form of gossip and I have to admit I’m not too proud of myself either – but I try to convince myself that we’re not gossiping about real people!

8. Take aways/Eating Out

valentines-day-dinner When I cook at home I save money, I know what’s going in my food, and it’s healthier. But there are some days when we just can’t be bothered to enter the kitchen – especially when we’re having a lazy weekend, in which case we’ll phone to get something delivered. And if we happen to be in town, we’ll stop off at one of our favourite restaurants. The food’s always delicious but I can’t pretend I don’t feel guilty afterwards.

9. The Internet

computer-image4

Ever since I discovered the benefits of being connected to the world wide web, it’s totally taken over my life. I do use it constructively – most of the time – but then there are times I’m just aimlessly surfing and I can spend hours wasting time looking at sites with animals wearing silly hats  and people doing funny dances! I’m not sure what’s so addictive about the internet that it causes me to waste time when I actually do have things to do like sleep for example – but it’s one of those things that can’t be explained.

10. Bed

child-sleeping

I may enjoy lounging around in the bath tub but I absolutely love my bed and no matter how much time I spend in my lovely comfy bed it’s never enough time. It’s where I sleep; read my magazines and romance novels; indulge in puddings; surf the net;  eat my take always; shop for bargains on the internet, and of course snuggle up to my gorgeous hubby.

But I think I need to get out more! imagesCAHZOS9O

My Anti-Bucket List

imagesCAAMXIQQ

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Kick the Bucket.”

In the last few years, the world has gone bucket list mad – including me! There’s tons of things we all hope to do before we ‘kick the bucket’.

I’ve always been a bit of a bucket list girl and I’ve already managed to tick quite a few things off my list including being front row at a concert; visiting certain countries; going to a New Kids On The Block concert; finding my dream job, and marrying the love of my life.

But there’s still plenty of things that I haven’t done and am still waiting to tick more off my list, such as spending NYE in Time’s Square; writing a book; becoming a really good baker and confectioner; reading the entire Bible, and becoming fluent in another language… and many, many more! In fact I don’t think I’ll ever have a completely crossed-off list as I keep adding to it.

But the thought of an anti-bucket list had never occurred to me until I saw The Daily Post’s writing prompt, and it got me thinking about things I would never in a million years want to do, want to have, or want to go to!

So here’s my selection of twenty (that’s right, twenty) things – in no particular order – that complete my anti- bucket list!

1. LEARN TO MAKE QUICHE

image from bbcfood.com

image from bbcfood.com

I absolutely hate quiche with a passion. If you came to my house for lunch, you can be sure that you won’t be served with this vile savoury tart/flan/whatever you want to call it. Why the rest of the world is quiche crazy, I’ll never know. Even though I want to hone my baking skills, this is one area of baking I don’t feel I need to even bother trying to learn let alone improve upon.

2. BECOME A BIGOT

Obviously no one goes through life intent on becoming a bigot. And even when most people do have an extreme intolerance towards others, they naturally won’t admit to it or even realise how offensive their views are- though you will get a few who don’t feel that there’s anything wrong with having such prejudicial views and will defend these views to the hilt. What they don’t seem to understand is how ignorant they sound.

Going through life with an open mind is so important on many different levels and for so many reasons- at the very least it makes the world a far better place.

3. APPEAR ON THE APPRENTICE

 

Don’t get me wrong – I love watching The Apprentice and tune in every year to find out who will be Lord Sugar’s new business partner. It’s addictive, and as someone who’s keen to go into business, it is of great interest to me.

There are times I think, fleetingly, about applying to go on the show but I know I never would. The other contestants show way too much arrogance, ruthlessness and attitude, and many of them are nowhere near as good as they claim to be. I really don’t think I could handle so many huge egos under one roof.

I’ll still continue to watch the show though!

4. VOTE UKIP

UKIP

The media would have you believe that the whole country is full of UKIP supporters even though I know that that’s not necessarily the case. I can see why a lot of people have fallen under the spell of Farage and co. but those who can look at things objectively can see that they clearly lack credibility, so whether they are the flavour of the month or not, I will not be jumping on the bandwagon and be voting UKIP.

And is it just me, or does their logo resemble something similar to a budget supermarket chain?

5. READ FIFTY SHADES OF GREY

fsg

It’s meant to have enhanced activity in the boudoir and had women buying the E.L. James novel in droves. Nothing wrong with that of course. However, unlike Christian Grey, I am a hearts and flowers kind of person, so this isn’t a book that will be gracing my bookshelf, and I prefer old-fashioned though slightly corny romance rather than raunchy in your face erotica. Give me Mills and Boon any day!

6. WATCH WHAT’S SUPPOSED TO BE HOT ON  BRITISH TV RIGHT NOW

 

The Only Way Is Essex, Made In Chelsea, Big Brother, The X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing, I’m A Celebrity… these might constitute compulsive viewing at the moment but quite frankly I find it all quite boring.  I used to watch shows like these a long time ago but then it started to lose a bit of its gloss and I just gave up. However, I can’t escape these shows entirely because the ‘stars’ are always in the media. Even though I can’t profess to be a National Geographic kind of girl, this sort of telly really isn’t for me either.

7. BABYSIT A SPOILT CHILD

I like children as much as the next person but when it comes to children who lack discipline, don’t know the meaning of the word no, and think that all adults should do as they’re told (by them)… forget it! I once had the misfortune of babysitting a child (and not just any child, but a relative!)  who was a complete and utter nightmare but clearly thought that his behaviour was cute. And when his mum was told about his behaviour, she clearly couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

I think it takes a special kind of person to be able to handle a spoilt child. I’m obviously not one of them.

8. BECOME ADDICTED TO TECHNOLOGY

There’s no denying that we’re in the digital age and we all use technology to some degree. But to become addicted to gadgets to the point where it overrides common sense and courtesy is unacceptable. I really don’t wish to be that kind of person.

9. APPEAR ON MASTERCHEF USA

mast

Once again, Masterchef USA is a show Mr. D and I tune into religiously every year, and we’ve actually picked up a few tips from this cooking competition. However, I would never want to be a contestant on this show, even if I did live in The States, because Gordon Ramsay and Joe Bastianich could very easily reduce me to tears and turn me into a nervous wreck. No thank you!

10. ATTEMPT TIGHTROPE WALKING

 

 

There are a lot of adrenaline junkies out there but I’m not one of them and heights are not my thing, so you won’t see me on a tightrope anytime soon.

11. SWIM IN SHARK INFESTED WATERS

 

As I’ve said I’m not an adrenaline junkie and clearly do not have a sense of adventure, so once again not for me.

12. RETURN TO WORKING IN RETAIL

 

Before anyone accuses me of putting down people who work in the retail sector, let me explain. I spent more years than I care to think about working in retail, so I have a lot of respect for those who work in retail because I know how tough it can be – especially at this time of the year.

In theory, it should all go swimmingly. After all it’s not the worst job in the world; you get to meet people every day; and there are some exceptionally enjoyable tasks i.e.- going to trade shows, generous staff discounts etc.

However in practice I’ve found it incredibly draining. Dealing with the general public is not easy. Dealing with those in head office is even harder. Sometimes your colleagues don’t understand the importance of working as part of a team. And let’s not forget with more and more stores open for longer hours and seven days a week, it leaves you with little time for yourself, family and friends. I still like the idea of owning a shop of some kind but I doubt I’ll ever do it as I found it incredibly draining.

13. WORK FOR A NATIONAL NEWSPAPER

 

It was my childhood ambition – until a careers officer said after a consultation that I lacked the ruthlessness and forceful character to be a journo. That and the fact that I didn’t like to pry into other people’s business!

Yep, I think I’m better suited to teaching English!

14. HAVE BOTOX

 

I know I’m getting older and I can see the signs. I don’t look or feel twenty one any more. However, I don’t believe that Botox is the answer – why would I want to inject poison into myself? I don’t believe in putting anything into my body that really shouldn’t be there, so I will fight aging with happy and healthy living.

15. BUY SUPER EXPENSIVE CLOTHES

 

When I was a teenager I was into labels and brand names as most of my peers were. That didn’t always mean I’d get them though and fast forward several years, I’m very grateful that my parents didn’t give into my every whim. I still love clothes and probably have more than I need but I don’t spend a fortune on each item and love spotting a bargain. I’d hate to spend a grand on a coat and then feel I’d need to wear it for the rest of my natural life and then be buried in it just to get my money’s worth!

16. BECOME A POLITICIAN

 

Where do I begin???

17. BE PART OF THE IN-CROWD

images8ROZ21TP

During the course of my life, I’ve met some exceptionally interesting people who seemed to have it all. They said all the right things, had all the right things, looked the right way, surrounded themselves with all the right people and were seen in all the right places. In a nutshell, they were the in-crowd.

The only thing is that their hearts weren’t often in the right place and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised what’s important.

18. TO WATCH ANY MOVIE THAT’S BOUND TO LEAVE ME TRAUMATIZED

twelve

Twelve Years A Slave and The Passion Of The Christ are out as interesting and as fascinating as they are. When I watch a film, I want to be entertained not left feeling depressed.

19. OWN A FLASHY CAR

We’d all like a flashy car parked on our drive but I can’t help thinking what a waste of money it is. Unlike houses, the value of a car generally tends to go down not up. So I think I’ll invest my money in bricks and mortar, thank you.

20. RIDE A BIKE AROUND LONDON

visitlondon.com

visitlondon.com

I am most definitely not hot on two wheels at the best of times but riding around London with its super busy streets which I don’t believe is really ideal for cyclists… I’ll give it a miss. I’ve heard a great deal about accidents on our roads and even been at the scene of one, and my heart really goes out to those who have been hurt or worse. And I take my hat of to those who are far braver than me and are willing to have a go.

What’s on your anti-bucket list?

imagesCAHZOS9O

The Vintage Tea Party Book: A Must For Tea Party Fanatics

 

new-years-clip-art-12

I bought a book today which is absolutely, fantastically, smack-you-in-the-face awesome! It’s called The Vintage Tea Party Book and it’s by – I just love her name – Angel Adoree.

I’m a huge fan of books about tea parties, dinner parties and home entertaining because it’s based on something I love to do – have a house full of people eating, drinking and having a bloody good time! Angel says in her book that her parents ‘ have always been motivated by feeding people’s souls with food laughter and cocktails,’ – and that pretty much sums up the story of my life! And like Angel, I think my own parents played a big part in my love of home entertaining as it wasn’t unusual for them to have dinner parties and gatherings at home when I was growing up. I was allowed to join in even though I should have been tucked up in bed. But I grew up with memories  of Dad’s awful jokes; raucous laughter; happy people, and empty dishes as everyone loved Mum’s cooking. So it’s no surprise that when I grew up I had an overwhelming desire to recreate those fabulous evenings.

Angel Adoree

Angel Adoree

The first thing you notice about the cover of The Vintage Tea Party Book is the shades of red, white and blue, and the images of top hats, monocles, pocket watches, Union Jacks, pipes, a cake stand, china teacups and teapots, pearls, butterflies and rose buds. What you get is a cross between a quintessential British vibe with full-on vintage glamour – two themes which feature heavily in this book. This suits The Vintage Tea Party Book down to a, well, tea!

The cover also explains that The Vintage Tea Party Book is ‘a complete guide to hosting the perfect tea party,’ but in reality it is so much more than that. What you essentially get is Angel Adoree between a hardback cover. We get a glimpse into the author’s life with pictures of her family, friends, and some childhood snaps. There are also quite a few pics of the present day Angel; a buxom lady with cherry red lips, and hair the exact same colour worn in a victory roll.

We hear about her childhood, work, entrance into the world of business, appearance on BBC’s Dragon’s Den, and her business venture, The Vintage Patisserie. And as if her appearance wasn’t enough of an indicator, the reader also learns about Angel’s lifelong love affair with all things vintage.

The Vintage Tea Party Book

The Vintage Tea Party Book

 

The Vintage Tea Party Book contains more than just recipes for a good tea party. There are ideas about how to host a party; helpful hints about sourcing vintage items; fashion and beauty advice for those who want to look 1940s; grooming advice for men; a little about the history of the Union Jack, and suggestions for games to play. There’s also arts and crafts with instructions for sewing aprons; drying edible flowers; making a butterfly display, and more. And let’s not forget templates for invitation and thank you cards. All this before we even get to the recipes.

And you won’t be disappointed with the recipes. They’re divided into three parts: brunch, afternoon tea, and evening tea.

The usual tea time treats are still there but they’ve been elevated to a more sophisticated level. So instead of your usual cucumber finger sandwiches, you’ve got cream cheese and cucumber heart-shaped, open sandwiches, and there are lemon scones with lavender cream instead of your usual run-of-the-mill (but nonetheless delicious) scones with clotted cream. There are some really unusual and delicious sounding treats such as hot baked grapefruit; chilled raspberry soup; crab choux, and pork and lemon quail scotch eggs. I especially liked the sound of the romantic sounding rose panna cotta, and the very unusual rose petal sandwich. There are also recipes for a selection of drinks including iced teas, smoothies, cocktails and hot drinks. I particularly want to try the white chocolate mocha and the bourbon slush.

Cream cheese and cucumber hearts

Cream cheese and cucumber hearts

The Vintage Tea Party Book is most definitely going to be one of the most inspiring books I own, and I can’t wait to try out the recipes and put the other suggestions to good use.

And just to give you a hint of how awesome this book is, I’ve posted Angel’s  recipe for the divine sounding cherry and dark chocolate trifle shots. Yum!

Angel Adoree, we adore thee!

CHERRY AND DARK CHOCOLATE TRIFLE SHOTS

INGREDIENTS:

6 sponge fingers, broken into small pieces

100ml cherry brandy or chocolate liqueur

50g dark chocolate, grated

1 pack of dark cherry jelly, made up according to instructions, then chopped up

jar of morello cherries

100ml custard

100ml whipped cream

METHOD:

  1. Arrange sponge finger pieces at the bottom of 6 shot glasses.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of chosen liqueur to each one.
  3. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon chocolate.
  4. Once the sponge fingers have absorbed the liqueur, add a heaped tablespoon of prepared jelly to each shot.
  5. Top with a few cherries and more grated chocolate.
  6. To serve, top each shot with a heaped tablespoon of custard, and a tablespoon of whipped cream.
  7. Finish with decorative sprinkle of grated chocolate.

The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree

Mitchell Beazley

imagesCAHZOS9O

The Adultery Club by Tess Stimson

 

images

The title gave away that this novel was going to be one of those sizzling page turners that you wouldn’t be able to put down – and this proved to be true. I had to desperately resist the temptation to sneakily continue reading while teaching my class! Yes, it was that good.

A cheating husband who just happens to be a top divorce lawyer; a devoted yet wronged wife and mother; a seductive mistress who doesn’t care who gets hurt as long as it isn’t her… and as if that’s not enough, the ex-fiancé of the cheated wife resurfaces after many years to settle some unfinished business. This Tess Stimson novel has all the ingredients of a fabulous read.

$_35

Dependable, happily married family man, Nicholas Lyon is the last person anyone would suspect of infidelity. His strong morals are further reinforced by the destruction caused by divorce which Nicholas witnesses every day as part of his job. Married to a successful chef and cookery writer, the exotically named Malinche – Mal – for several years, it was instant attraction when they first met, and according to Mal, it was fate that brought them together. A decade later, they’re the couple who have it all: two rewarding careers; a chaotic though happy home and family life; three beautiful daughters, and most importantly a fulfilling marriage and strong bond. Mal and the girls mean everything to Nicholas and he’d never do anything to risk losing them – especially not for a quick and meaningless fling.

However Nicholas’s  morals go out the window the day he meets the captivating Sara Kaplan, the young and beautiful new lawyer hired by his firm. The attraction is mutual though Nicholas tries hard to resist Sara’s charms. Sara, on the other hand, see Nicholas as something of a challenge and pursues the much older, married lawyer with a vengeance. A game of wits soon begins with both players refusing to give up or give in.

 

THE%20ADULTERY%20CLUB%20Macmillan%20UK%202013%20(backlist)

But then a bomb explosion changes everything. In the midst of fear and confusion and realising how short life is, Nicholas gives in to temptation… and what should have been a one-off soon develops into an affair – with Nicholas becoming a fully fledged member of the adultery club he loathes. And problems escalate further when Sara realises that she wants more than just a bit of fun and clandestine meetings; she wants a life with Nicholas and sets her sights on prising him away from his homely, mousy ditz of a wife.

Mal however is not as homely or as ditzy as Sara would like to believe. She’s bohemian, arty, and a little bit quirky – I don’t know many women who wear their eight year old daughter’s underwear (?) – and she is very successful in her professional life, working hard to juggle her career with the demands of being a wife and mother. The other great love of her life  is her best friend Kit who is something of an honorary brother to Mal and brings a lot of colour into the Lyon household. Mal’s life is anything but humdrum!

n217129

As blissful as her life is, Mal is actually hiding a secret heartache involving her ex-fiancé, the gorgeous yet oddly named Trace Pitt. A misunderstanding many years ago led to a terrible tragedy which tore the couple apart forever. Now Trace returns and offers Mal a job at his restaurant – but are Mal’s culinary skills all he’s interested in?

Much of the humour in the novel is provided by Kit and Evie, one of Nicholas and Mal’s daughters, whose comments and insights are worth reading this book for alone. It’s touching to see Kit’s role within the Lyon household. Despite his strained relationship with Nicholas, it’s obvious that Kit is more than just a friend to the Lyon’s – he’s like another family member who loves Mal and her daughters. What’s heart-wrenching is the turmoil of the Lyon’s eldest child, Sophie, who is – out of the three girls – the most aware of what is happening to her family and of her mother’s anguish. A stark reminder of the suffering of children caught up in the middle of a bitter divorce.

Trace also comes across as something of a tragic character. For all his devastating good looks; charm; wealth and success, what Trace really wants is a life with his lost love Mal – a life that was unfairly taken away from him. Despite never being short of female attention, Trace never found anyone who came close to Mal. Once Sara and Nicholas’ s affair becomes common knowledge, Trace seizes his chance to win back Mal – but will he be successful?

Tess Stimson

Tess Stimson

This was the very first time  I’d read a novel by Tess Stimson – and I wasn’t disappointed. I enjoyed seeing how the story unfolded, and as the novel is told from the points of view of Mal, Sara and Nicholas, it was interesting to get an insight into each of the major characters’ thoughts. The novel’s tagline reads: whose side will you be on: the husband, wife or the mistress? Well as someone who thinks that cheaters are lower than pond scum, it was a no-brainer – and by the end of the novel, my opinion hadn’t changed. I thought that Nicholas was weak; Sara still a bitch – although she did soften a little towards the end – and I was still Team Mal! I was also impressed by Mal’s strength and dignity when she discovers her husband’s affair – I think most wives would have been reaching for the shotgun!

I wasn’t quite sure how the novel would end as there were quite a few twists and turns along the way – including the trump card Sara plays when she thinks she’s losing Nicholas. I have to say as enthralling as the novel was, I was a little let down by the ending. It was a happy ending, full of love and second chances for more than two of the characters, but it wasn’t the happy ending I would have chosen (sorry Tess!) and I couldn’t help but feel more than a little broken-hearted for one of the characters who I felt was worthy of a little happiness. Alas it was not to be. Still a really good read and a great introduction into the works of Tess Stimson. Can’t wait to get stuck into more of her novels.

imagesCAHZOS9O

 

 

 

Pear Shaped By Stella Newman

 

They say you should never judge a book by its cover but I have to say that it was the cover of Pear Shaped that caught by eye: pretty and dainty in light blue with splashes of bold colour including amethyst and hot pink (my favourite colour combination) featuring a girl carrying a scrummy looking dessert. It screamed girly heaven and I believed that this read was going to be all sweetness and light. Little did I know that there was an element of darkness lurking between these pages…

In Stella Newman’s debut novel, we meet Sophie Klein, a confident, sassy independent thirty-something with great friends, a good social life and the best job in the world – pudding developer for a company called Fletchers. She gets to come up with ideas for new desserts; think up packaging  and best of all, she gets to taste-test them – an aspect of the job Sophie absolutely loves.

 

But Sophie’s life isn’t all rosy in the garden. She is getting over a broken relationship; her mother and brother live thousands of miles away in America; there’s her annoying neighbour Amber and the boss she can’t stand, Devron, and her beloved elderly grandmother who can no longer care for herself. Sophie, being the ever resourceful girl that she is, just takes these things in her stride. Unfortunately life’s about to throw a curveball she won’t be able to manage…

On a night out, Sophie meets the charming and charismatic business owner James. Although he is not conventionally good-looking and a fair bit older, Sophie takes a shine to him. They soon start dating and James makes grand gestures in order to really sweep Sophie off her feet. It isn’t long before the attraction she feels for him soon turns to love.

However, after a while Sophie starts to feel quite insecure in the relationship. James doesn’t seem ready to commit, and then there are his frequent absences as he goes away on business and his erratic texts and phone calls. The fact that his ex-girlfriend is a model also doesn’t help. Sophie begins to wonder if James is too good to be true – and it isn’t long before his true colours begin to show. During a heart- to- heart, James reveals that he’s never been out with anyone like her, referring to her size. James doesn’t seem to realise that although this is a woman who tests puddings for a living, Sophie isn’t fat but he’s obviously comparing her to the skinny model exes.

So  it all goes down hill from here as a pattern develops in this book: Sophie gets close to James; James pulls away; Sophie tries to move on; James reels her back in. As irritating as Amber and Devron might be (they do incidentally provide some of the comic moments in the novel) James is by far the most unlikable character in this book. Shallow, arrogant, selfish, insincere, and a man who befriends cheats and liars,  it’s quite obvious that he doesn’t care for Sophie, constantly putting her down, but at the same time he can’t quite let her go.

I could relate to this story and Sophie’s pain as she desperately tries to move on and get her life back on track, as we’ve all had the misfortune of knowing a James at some point in our lives. We’ve either dated him ourselves or our friends and sisters have. We’ve either been yelled at by worried friends and relatives who insist we leave the relationship, or we’ve been the ones doing the yelling. Despite feeling saddened by Sophie’s plight and seeing her sink into depression for which she eventually needed medical attention, there were times, I just wanted to reach into the book and shake her. This is a young lady who has everything going for her, who could easily find a man who treats her better – if only she could shake off that horrible James. The Jameses of the world are not easy to spot because they are charmers and schmoozers who know how to say and do all the right things to get you sucked in, causing you to ignore all the warning signs, as Sophie soon found out.

Despite being light-hearted and comical at times, there is a deeper, darker element to this novel. Stella Newman explores the sinister side of relationships: infidelity, emotional abuse, the need to control and the devastating effect it can have on the person on receiving end of it. Sophie’s lack of self-respect and insecurities are a sharp contrast to the feistier elements of her character  which shows the effect this unhealthy relationship is having on her. Without wanting to give too much away, there is a somewhat semi-happy ending but I did find the climax to be a little disappointing as I felt that such a dramatic and thought-provoking story needed a stronger conclusion.

However, I do think that Newman is a brilliant and witty writer. I loved her lengthy descriptions of the puddings (food porn for us dessert-aholics!) and another thing I liked about this book is that the author lists the places she likes in London and New York (both cities feature in this book) plus restaurant reviews and recipe sources. Perhaps the only real love affair in this novel is between a woman and her sweet-tooth! But I just couldn’t get away from the fact that this was a novel about an abusive relationship and it was brave of Newman to tackle such a taboo subject for a chick-lit novel. There has been criticism that the novel reflected badly on women but I disagree. This is a novel about one woman’s heartbreak and her attempts to rebuild her life – with the help of lots of sugar!

 

Dinner At Mine By Chris Smyth

Journalist Chris Smyth’s debut novel Dinner At Mine is the reading book which has accompanied me on my way to work for a week – and it definitely made the bus trip seem a lot shorter which must mean that I enjoyed this book immensely!

One of the reasons why I picked up this book was because it’s loosely based on the concept of TV’s Come Dine With Me; a show of which I’m a massive fan. To be honest, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Come Dine With Me and many countries actually have their own version of the show – some of which I’ve seen and enjoyed. Even though the show has been around since 2005 (nearly ten years. My goodness!) it’s still as popular as ever with viewers despite slight changes to the format and for a while the nation went Come Dine With Me crazy, hosting their own dinner party events with friends.

 

And that is basically the concept for this book: a group of friends get together and compete to see who can hold the best dinner party. Even though they got the idea from the TV show, there are some fundamental differences:

  • Dinner parties are hosted in pairs rather than by four or five individual hosts.
  • Dinners are hosted once a week over a four week period rather than on consecutive nights.
  • There is no cash prize – they’re competing purely for glory!
  • Sadly, there is no voiceover from Dave Lamb. Shame!

The couples hosting dinners are: happily-marrieds Rosie and Stephen, proud parents of baby Jonathan; career couple, secretly-yearning-to-be wed Sarah and her ultra-competitive boyfriend Marcus; socially conscious vegetarian Justin and his beautiful,  American, artist girlfriend, Barbara, and reluctant singletons, Charlotte and Matthew who are thrown together by Rosie  in the hope that dinner won’t be the only thing cooking between the two of them!

 

The competition is Rosie’s idea and she is the one responsible for selecting this eclectic group of people, some of whom are good friends, while others are acquaintances and some are meeting the others for the first time. What should be simple and straight-forward proves to be anything but. Despite Marcus being the most competitive, determined to find fault with the other teams, friendship counts for nothing as everyone wants to be the best and win despite there not being any prizes – and they will go to any lengths to achieve their moment of glory.

 

The actual dinner party events are secondary to the tensions and problems in the lives of the competitors which is further exacerbated by the competition causing jealousies, insecurities and hostilities to come to the fore thus creating friendships and relationships to collapse faster than a cheese soufflé. There is tension between best friends Matthew and Stephen regarding lawyer Matthew’s former relationship with Rosie while the three friends were at university; Sarah is questioning her career and relationship choices;  Barbara’s career is in decline and she’s having trouble renewing her visa, both of which impact heavily on her relationship with Justin, and trouble-making loudmouth Charlotte can’t help stirring the pot every opportunity she gets.

 

I found this book to be a real page-turner; I couldn’t wait to get to the end. I really liked how the novel was divided into four parts, where each part focused on a different party which gives the reader a real sense of where they are in the story. The characters decide the best way to deliver votes is by email and I thoroughly enjoyed reading their overly frank comments and ridiculous reasons for why points were being deducted (tactical scoring of course!) And there were a few twists in the tale too – some of which really surprised me.

 

Smyth tells a great tale of what happens when an element of competition is introduced within a circle of friends. It could even be a metaphor for modern day society in which manners; honesty, and consideration towards others count for nothing as it’s every man for himself, and indeed many of the characters do exactly as they please and take what they want at the expense of the others. All the characters are flawed in one way or another but I have to say that  by the end of the novel, I really couldn’t stand most of them. Gossipy, bitchy, uptight, highly-strung, back-stabbing… all thanks to a three-course meal! It also seemed quite obvious to me that one character had an alcohol problem while another seemed to be suffering from a mild form of depression but neither of these issues were touched upon. I was also quite disappointed that the endings to some of the sub-plots were not neatly tied-up but were just left hanging.

However, I really did enjoy reading Dinner At Mine. It was thoroughly entertaining. I’m sure many of my fellow commuters thought I was a bit of a lunatic, grinning away to myself, but there were also moments were I felt quite sorry for some of the characters, and believe me, if I could have climbed into this book and given some of the characters a good slap – I would have!

A great book published by Simon and Schuster in 2012. I can’t wait to read Smyth’s next novel.

 

Gym And Slimline By Emma Burstall

 

I’ve had a lot more time to indulge in my favourite pastime lately – reading! And I’ve just finished reading Emma Burstall’s fantastic Gym and Slimline.

I don’t normally opt for books with a sporty theme – not being so sporty myself – but I do enjoying reading books with an evident friendship theme which emanates from close-knit groups and that’s exactly what you’ll find in Gym and Slimline: a group of very different women who meet at the south-west London gym where they are members and soon forge a long-lasting bond.

 

The health and fitness element is actually secondary to the trials and tribulations experienced by the female characters in the novel: hard-to-pronounce Persephone is distraught to realise that her marriage is on the rocks, leading to a not-so-harmless flirtation and a secret addiction; former ballerina Carmen is desperate to become a mum especially as she’s pushing forty – but is her commitment phobic boyfriend really father material? Stunning Patrice is eager to add to her family but hasn’t been intimate with her controlling husband, Jonty, for years. The only lucky one is career woman Suzanne who manages to juggle motherhood with a high-powered job and she’s managed to bag a sexy, young husband – but is her wonderful life all it seems…

I enjoyed reading this book from beginning to end and was so sorry when I finished it (if only I’d read it slower!) There were moments where you laughed out loud; felt anxious for the characters, and felt the tugging of heartstrings. As well as friendships, relationships, and health and fitness, there was also a theme of forgiveness that runs throughout the novel.  A very dramatic and life-changing episode occurs in the middle of the novel which puts a huge strain on the women’s friendships: it divides two of the women drastically and pulls the other two in different directions. The ‘shock twist’ which creates the tension amongst the group isn’t really much of a shock as the preceding chapters had in fact been leading up to it but when the secret is revealed and the people involved exposed it still hits you like a roller-coaster. It was an original idea and very cleverly written.

But going back to the friendship theme, I love the strength of the women’s friendship that was illustrated in the novel – in fact you almost feel as if they’re your friends and feel quite protective of them. I hated the way Carmen’s ex, Simon, tried to worm his way back into her life when it suited him, and how Jonty controlled Patrice’s every move. Personally, I would have dumped him just for being called Jonty! But worst of all was Persephone’s – or Percy as she is known – predicament. A sweet, dependable lady who’s always trying to help other people, she cannot solve her own issues and you really feel for Percy when she becomes deeply entangled in her addiction. In fact there were times I wanted to scream at her to stop – but I would have attracted a lot of odd looks on the bus!

Gym And Slimline was the debut novel by author and journalist Burstall published in 2008 by Preface Publishing. A fantastic read – which I think might also make a great TV series.

 

The Godly Chic Diaries

Smiling • Writing • Dreaming

Tea Leaves and Tweed

Tea, beauty, life, and whatnot

cookinandshootin

"It's so beautifully arranged on the the plate - you know someone's fingers have been all over it." - Julia Child

Clean, Cheat, Repeat

Eating clean or having a cheat?

Coconut craze

I'm obsessed with coconuts!

taste of colours

everything has got taste

Foood Post

My journal of foood musings and eating memoirs

Life of Bonnie

All the little things that make up my life!

Linda Creation

Food, in the end, in our own tradition, is something holy. It's about sharing, honesty & identity.

Recipes, Recipes, Recipes

My blog about recipes and cooking, topped off with a cup of coffee or tea!

Thistles and Kiwis

A blog about a Scottish woman, who lived in Denmark, and moved to New Zealand

Natalie Breuer

Natalie. Writer. Photographer. Etc.

Suitcases and Lattès

Cape Town based Travel, Lifestyle and Wellness Blog

Chocolate'n'Waffles

Tea, waffles, and lots of books

%d bloggers like this: