I was recently inspired to enjoy some of the simpler things in life (who takes much inspiring to do that anyway?!) after buying "The Simple Things" magazine whilst shopping in Sainsbury's on my way home from a lovely weekend away in Norfolk. This is a gorgeous magazine, full of recipes, home inspiration, travel ideas and beautiful photography, I just love curling up under a fluffy blanket with a cup of tea (and smothering my feet in Vicks Vaporub whilst trying to get over my sniffles) whilst I flick through this magazine - I may have to subscribe sometime soon to make this a semi-regular occurrence! After enjoying the magazine, I headed to their equally stunning website for a nosey and spotted their emergency Xmas gift draw guide... I realised I've been chatting to so many people recently and have seen some stunning gifts & ideas for my own shopping list, I thought I'd share a few of my own ideas with you, my lovely readers! Obviously, it goes without saying, you could purchase this lovely magazine at any time of the year as a little "extra" gift for a friend or family member if they love the prettier things in life - or subscribe them to the mag from as little as £11 - bargain! My gorgeous friend, Alison Appleton designs the most stunning ceramics and as she recently showcased her newest designs at The BBC Good Food Show, I couldn't not mention her. It's no secret that I drink a lot of tea and coffee from various designs by Alison and her range is so beautiful, every household should own at least one set to drink from... Gift prices from £10. Why not treat your foodie gift-receiver to a bespoke trip to Cambridge's own FoodPark at the Northpole? FoodPark is a superb street food collective organised by Heidi White and a whole selection of local food talent. You could create your own gift voucher to include a nosh around the whole site (you might need to set aside quite the hunger!) or why not head down here over the festive period for a more unique al fresco Xmas "meal" combined with some ice skating to burn off a few calories?! Best Xmas celebration/party idea ever for any food lover! With food from as little as £2.50 per dish, there's something for small budgets. How about some Gin tasting at The Ginstitute in London or a bottle of the hard stuff from Portobello Road Gin (£23.95)? The perfect accompaniment to a tonic water & elderflower - ahem! I recently bought this beautiful "Powder" design knitted scarf (£25) from Jarrolds in Norwich, a great department store for something a little more unique. I just adore their kitchen floor - I could spend hours in here! Did you know that Hotpoint actually make small domestic appliances?... Yes, you can tell I've been working with these guys for a bit now, but as fun as the project has been with them at the BBC Good Food Show this past month, I've seen their gadgets in action and they are pretty darn good! You could buy a kettle, toaster, coffee machine, even a food blender to whizz up some Xmassy cocktails?... Perfect. Godiva Chocolates in London are fantastic for handmade chocolates and afternoon tea treats, perfect solution if you fancied putting together a hamper or a one-off treat for your recipient. For the girl in your life (or guy!) who might want an inspiring business book this Xmas, why not purchase #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso? She's a girl who made a name for herself at a young age through her fashion label and I personally really like her story - great blog too! I'm a big fan of Jo Malone scents now that Ive got a whiff for it.... if you want to be a little flashier with the cash, their products are beautifully presented and will be sure to impress! What's in your emergency gift draw this Christmas? Or do you have a generic draw full of spare gifts all year round? Do leave a comment below and share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you! Or get in touch via social media through Facebook, Instagram & Twitter for a natter about the simpler things in life!
Wednesday, 10 December 2014
Wednesday, 3 December 2014
This is not my usual offering when it comes to Miss Sue Flay and nor will it usually be - I promise, once it's out of my system, we can go back to hotels, spas and delicious afternoon teas! I never thought, in the past 11 years of my life that I'd be writing a blog post on how to get over a breakup. When first editing this post back in the summer, I was typing through tears & snotty tissues the day after my breakup and although I was upset (naturally), I wasn't expecting what happened next to help me so easily or quickly. I can only laugh today, but it wasn't funny at the time. Thank goodness for awesome friends. At times like these, you start to learn who you're real friends are, as we all know. The people who have appeared in my life over the last few years have come and gone, some have stuck around, new friends will appears the future. If it wasn't for my blog, my alter ego, even my business, then my confidence wouldn't have helped me to meet such amazing people or to get through such a blow to my confidence. I'll spare the gory details, but I wasn't expecting to come home one Friday night to send my long term partner packing. End of story, it doesn't deserve the attention. Plans had already been made for the next day for me to head down to London, meet some blogging friends for drinks & blogging-themed shenanigans, before heading to an invitation-only bloggers event in an exclusive venue within the city. It felt like the very last place I wanted to be, opting for my bed and texting my friends to explain I wouldn't be there that morning. What happened, however, is that I woke up the next day and couldn't breathe through tears & mugs of Luke warm tea, realising I had two choices. One. Sit there in my pyjamas and continue to sob
into a full glass of gin onto my poor dog, who looked so worried for me he didn't leave my side for one moment (bless his heart!) OR... Two. Get dressed. Pull myself together and not let this douche pants ruin one more minute of my life. I opted for two... albeit through awkward bursts of silent tears & a wobbling bottom lip on a packed train, making the man sat next to me look too freaked out to know what to do to help me - haha amusing thinking back and sorry whoever you were! I met up with the gorgeous Cassy Fry and Lisa Haigh as originally planned, we hugged, took silly selfies, drank coffee, meandered around the South Bank practising our photography and lazily made our way through the City to the stylish venue for an afternoon of good food, networking and free cocktails. It was the best pick-me-up in the world, I'm so pleased that I went, even if every bone in my body wanted to stay home to mope. Looking back, I cannot thank these two ladies enough, they listened to my rants and tears, told me I'd find somebody a million times better one day (even if I thought they were being ridiculous at the time) and helped me through how to look after myself short term - as petrified as I was at the thought of being an independent woman (don't shoot me for saying that, it's true!) within an exciting world that I've paved for myself. I spent the day talking through what I wanted from my own life and how I was going to achieve it. This isn't something I've ever considered in complete truth, I've simply coasted and gone with the flow. Making a positive plan in my head, nobody in it but myself, I can honestly state that this was the BEST day of my life - not that it felt like it at the time. I was gearing up to be the happiest, strongest, most positive version of myself I've ever been and I can truthfully say today, blurting out this blog post, that I am all of those and much more besides. It took a little time to put my plan into action, but I managed with the support of my family & friends. I originally penned this post on the teary train journey home after the bloggers' event and it had a very different spin on how to get over a breakup haha. My best advice for anybody dealing with something similar? Cry, shout, get it all out. Do it fast. Then just get on with it. It sounds like the easiest thing in the world and I'm telling you now, it's not. It's really bloody hard, but it's the best thing you can do if you're really hurting or leaving a long term relationship. These girls back in London were more than right, no matter how hard it was to listen at the time, taking that first step to jump on the train and carry on with my plans that day made me the STRONGEST I've ever ever been. This post should be about the event itself, however if I'm completely honest, it was a total blur for me. I do know that Scarlett was just such a gorgeous & welcoming host, the beauty & fashion bloggers in that stunning room were much more welcoming to a food lover like myself than I initially thought they would be, the view was one of London I've never enjoyed so much before and the freebies were simply fabulous - I'm still using my Lee Stafford styling brush & hair oils today! Cassy also won a makeover that day and she looked STUNNING, so it was fantastic to watch her being made to feel confident in her new clothes as we tucked into Sweet Pizza pieces (Brownie "pizza" slices with salted caramel sauce... erm yum)! The venue was in fact the Paramount events space at Centre Point, which features a wrap around bar and 360 degree views of our Capital, it's a very modern venue with a great space for an event of any size. It's on level 33 of this central venue, so it takes you sky high to escape the bustle of the streets below, just amazing and I'm glad to have attended just to experience the wonderful view. What really stands out for me from this event was just how terrible I felt in myself, I was in shock from the previous days' events, functioning on zero calories, continuing to do so for many days after. But, if I hadn't taken that quick step, I know I would have stayed home feeling sorry for myself for weeks, perhaps even months. What's happened since that event? Well, what HASN'T happened?! I've rediscovered the things that I love, rather than a collective "we", I've reviewed some stunning venues such as a spa in St Tropez or a Penthouse Suite in Leeds. I've attended a special afternoon tea event with Bettys of Harrogate, visited press events in London for even more afternoon tea geekery and I even signed a contract with Hotpoint (and had the time of my life delivering the service!) at the BBC Good Food show most recently. I got to meet some talented chefs, working alongside them in the Hotpoint demo kitchens and got stuck into some very exciting client plans over at Stir Up Media as a result. But, most importantly, I've made amazing new contacts & friends, reconnected with existing and old friends, got back into my fitness routine with my amazing personal trainer and have even put myself out there on the dating scene (first time since my early 20's, gulp!) and I've even met somebody new who treats me amazingly & who I really quite like.. perhaps that's an understatement, we shall see how it goes ; ) Thank you hugely to ReeRee Rockette for your advice on how to get my head around the minefield of being single in your 30's haha. I also treated myself recently to a dose of "Radical Self Love" emails from Gala Darling to perk me up every day and give me an email to look forward to waking up to every day. And a massive thank you to Scarlett for inviting me to this event, it did more for me than you'll EVER know! If it wasn't for the world of blogging, my world would be really very dull indeed. Here, I'd like to provide you, my lovely readers, with a few links to just some of the inspiring people I met at the #BloggersFestival this summer, where I'm sure their blog roundups of the event will do it much more justice than I can on reflection: http://www.cassyfry.com/2014/09/bloggers-festival-2014.html http://intothesnuggery.wordpress.com/2014/08 http://www.sweetpizzas.co.uk/sweet-pizzas-at-the-bloggers-festival-in-london http://www.emsypickle.co.uk/2014/09/instalife-wc-31st-august-2014.html http://www.chocolateandlipstick.com/2014/09/bloggers-festival-2014.html http://www.brittonloves.blogspot.co.uk http://captaincharghley.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/bloggersfestival.html Here's to a very exciting 2015, I am so thankful to everyone who has inspired and supported me throughout 2014. I have HUGE blogging plans for next year, so I'm hoping that I'll be able to help restore some awesomeness through these new adventures... Watch this space, follow me on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter and hopefully you can get involved too! If you'd like to know more about my new blogging events or get involved somehow, do drop me a line to chat further, I'd love to hear from you!
Tuesday, 2 December 2014
Back in April I received a very exciting invitation from my lovely friend and creator of The Clandestine Cake Club, Lynn Hill. She was asking if I was free to simply pop up to Leeds for the day, bake a cake and join her and some fellow cake-loving comrades at a top secret location for some fun with a television crew. This wasn't just any crew either, as lovely as they all were, they were actually following the legendary chef, Nigel Slater around the UK in search of facts, history and stories based around our favourite topic; cake. Nigel Slater was making a new BBC 4 TV documentary, in a similar format to his previous features on is favourite childhood sweets and the nations' favourite biscuits. He was on a road trip to find out why we love cake so much with the UK and what has been on offer to us over the years. The Clandestine Cake Club were asked to meet at Just Grand vintage tearoom in Leeds one windy afternoon and a handful of us met up earlier than planned for a cuppa and some "oohing" over each other's creations for Nigel to try - yes, we really are that geeky. I made a classic Victoria Sponge with homemade raspberry jam, with my more modern twist on the buttercream with some spirals (truly hoping that Nigel wasn't too much of a traditionalist when it came to a wedge of classic sponge cake!) in the middle. Whilst preparing to dust my cake, I also decided to write the title of the show ("Icing on The Cake") on top of the cake with template letters before dusting over it. The crew loved it and Nigel appreciated it too, so I was thrilled it went down as well as it did. My cake was by far one of the most traditional as Lynn had made a beautiful coffee & meringue cake which was divine and we had the queen of Bundt Cakes (Rachel at Dolly Bakes) to provide the table with one of her trademark Bundts using a shaped tin from Nordic Ware. The event itself was a very special version of a classic Clandestine Cake Club meet (if you haven't got a clue what this actually involves, why ever not?!) with Nigel joining us all at each table to chat on camera about why we love cake and what it can bring to the nations' lives. Whilst he was sat with myself and my lovely friends at my table, we discussed how baking brought back happy memories of baking with our families and how groups such as the CCC brings people together socially. It was a fantastic day, Nigel and his team stayed with us for the best part of 3 hours that afternoon, chatting and eating cake on (and off!) screen and Nigel had even made us all a coffee & walnut cake to tuck into - what a gem he was, it was lovely, of course! Lynn works very hard to create a platform for people to host a club to meet new people and bring them together over tea & cake. I see the hard work it takes, so to have Nigel Slater joining as an honorary member (especially when he enters into the spirit and bakes a cake following the CCC rules!) is well deserved. I'm proud to be a part of this cake club myself, having founded and organised the Cambridge CCC for years until very recently. We were the second CCC to open after Leeds back in the day and with almost 200 clubs worldwide currently, I'm super proud to have been a part of this cakey history. Even though I no longer run the Cambridge club, I still frequent others across the country on my travels when I can and I've made some super friends as a result - some of us even met up in Leeds a few months back for a special afternoon tea with Bettys of Harrogate. I adore the CCC and everyone connected to it, it's such a friendly community. The documentary itself aired on BBC4 last Thursday and I make a very brief appearance myself towards the very start of the show...as well as my cake too. You can watch this show back on BBC Iplayer by clicking here. The Clandestine Cake Club is also looking for advertisers and sponsors for their website, so take a look around and contact Lynn if you'd like to get involved somehow - this brand has exciting plans for 2015 and beyond, including a second cookbook, so you'll want to be a part of it if your business fits the brand!
Thursday, 13 November 2014
You may or may not have read by now that I have recently been taken on by Hotpoint as their passionate food blogger and roving social media reporter for their Kitchen Experience stand at the BBC Good Food Show 2014. This is one very exciting partnership and I'm thrilled skinny to be involved - I'll be taking to the floor and casting an eye on the latest food trends, gadget testings and Celebrity demos throughout both the London & Birmingham events throughout November. The events start this coming weekend with #GFSLondon, where you will find me joining forces with the superb Hotpoint team as well as some very familiar faces throughout this busy few days. We will be showcasing cooking and recipe demonstrations in London from the hosts of the stand; Lisa Faulkner and Shelina Parmalloo, as well as guest chef's such as Aldo Zilli, Tim Anderson, Marcus Bean, Suzy Pelta, Theo Randall, Nadia Sawalha. The event will run from Friday 14th through to Sunday 16th November 2014 and I will be there to help with the Hotpoint UK social media coverage throughout the event, as well as collecting information on thoughts for some creative blog content after the event - it's such a fantastic project to be working on, I cannot wait to get stuck in and meet such an inspiring group of personalities. The BBC Good Food Show Winter (#GFSWinter) will also be running from Thursday 27th through to Sunday 30th November 2014 at Birmigham NEC with many more guest chef's appearing on our stand. You can expect to meet the likes of Jo Wheatley, Glynn Purnell, Suzy Pelta, Anjali Pathak, John Whaite, Michael Caines and many more again - it's going to be a fantastic stand to visit if you are headed to these events throughout November. They are also offering discounts on their stand on products purchased at the show, so do take advantage, there are some real kitchen bargains to be had, with up to 50% off Hotpoint goods or a free hand blender on all purchases over £50 - it's a good one too! The stand will be showcasing not only the larger kitchen appliances, but the smaller domestic goods too. Their small goods include kettles, toasters, juice extractors, blenders, food mixers, microwaves, irons and even steam mops & vacuum cleaners - they don't just sell fridges and dishwashers, they own they own the kitchen! Illy espresso machines are also new to the Hotpoint range and there will be an Illy coffee experience within the BBC Good Food stand, where visitors will see their trained baristas in action and they can same the great quality coffee and see the sleek machines in action - some of them even mount on the wall to save space in your kitchen, they are fantastic little machines. I am stupidly excited about these events and if you are headed to London or Birmingham over the next few days or weeks, please do hunt me down and say hello... there is even going to be a Hotpoint Selfie competition through social media to encourage visitors to share the ultimate selfie from their visit - so follow my trail with Hotpoint through these platforms: Twitter Facebook Instagram Google + You Tube Pinterest And of course, if I get the chance, I will also be sharing my own experiences through my social media channels too - if I can find the time of course hehe! I'll be mainly sharing through Facebook, Twitter & Instagram, as always - be sure to follow me at all of the above and drop me a line if you see anything you like. In fact, you can even drop me a line through the Hotpoint social media channels to engage in real-time Q&A sessions with the celebrity chefs, so if you have a burning question for anyone, ask away and we may will include you in the conversation - you can see the full lineup here. www.hotpoint.co.uk/bbc-good-food And just in case you can't quite figure out how to spot me... I'll be most likely wearing funky Converse shoes and looking like this (minus the sparkly ears!) haha.
Wednesday, 5 November 2014
[caption id="attachment_3720" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Image: Cereal Killer Cafe[/caption] This is a story that hit the news and spread like wildfire just yesterday throughout the world wide web... London's first cereal cafe. Yes, these two trendy new cafe owners will be simply serving bowls of Captain Crunch, Honey Nut Loops and Shreddies amongst 100 other brands of our favourite type of breakfast, it's a novel idea and personally, I think it'll work very well. As a business owner myself, I truly hope it works for them anyway! There have been many people moaning that this is a silly idea (yes it is, but I adore silly ideas!) and it seems to be a total ripoff for a bowl of cereal drowned in your choice of milk. [caption id="attachment_3719" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Image: Cereal Killer Cafe[/caption] Maybe. But then, you can walk into a coffee shop or deli and be charged up to £10 for a cup of coffee and a slice of mediocre cake, so I would actually argue the toss and agree that it sounds like a heck of a lot of fun and I'll be sure to head down there to try it out myself for something a little different - I like a quirky idea, if you hadn't heard by now. This cafe (called Cereal Killer Cafe - yes, the "Dexter" fan in me likes it already!) will be on two floors and is due to open in December (10th), located in Brick Lane, Shoreditch - a part of London I've enjoyed exploring this year and intend to revisit very soon. [caption id="attachment_3721" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Image: Cereal Killer Cafe[/caption] Owned by identical twin brothers Alan & Gary Keery, they'll be showing off a nostalgic mix of breakfast cereal memorabilia and playing hangover-inspired retro cartoons for their punters whilst they tuck into different varieties of pop tarts & bowls of colourful, exotic and traditional cereals with topping options to baffle and inspire in equal measures... Oreo O's covered from South Korea covered in chocolate or Almond milk anyone? These guys are already getting quite interactive with their social media followers and will be taking comments and suggestions on board to make this a place people want to hang out in, I can only imagine the social elements that will be associated with this new breakfast place. Count me in! [caption id="attachment_3722" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Image: Cereal Killer Cafe[/caption] www.cerealkillercafe.co.uk How do YOU feel about the Cereal Killer Cafe? Will you be there early doors or are you a hater? Leave a comment below to join in the conversation!
Thursday, 16 October 2014
So far in my experience of reviewing some amazing spas and country retreats, I haven't yet bathed in the Mediterranean sunlight whilst I'm retreating. That is, until now. Setting The Scene: I recently enjoyed my first holiday in 7 years, I haven't had a stamp in my passport since then and it was about time I enjoyed a week away, completely away from distraction, namely the technology that surrounds me. Going "cold turkey" wasn't as tough as I thought it might be and switching off for 8 days showed just how tired I was, mentally as well as physically - I slept... a lot! Whilst enjoying a visit to Sainte-Maxime and Sainte-Tropez whilst in this area, I stumbled upon a very secretive spa called "Spa Serome", nestled within a holiday resort on the beaches of Port Grimaud, just a few miles away from these stunning locations along the French Riviera. This was no ordinary spa, with (fish pedicure tanks) nestled within the cool, relaxed reception area and outdoor facilities to enjoy some pampering in the glorious coastal sunshine, this was like no spa I've enjoyed before. Somehow, I managed to pick a quiet Thursday, being the only person within the spa, I got to indulge selfishly in my own company, even better. The Welcome: My first spa experience was twenty minutes in the heated jacuzzi, where I could choose to take a bubbling seat under a shaded canopy or out in the open to bask in the warm afternoon sun - I chose the latter. The staff here were so warm and friendly and they tried to speak English to me, most likely out of pity of my terrible broken French attempts. This was heavenly, I truly didn't want to leave it, even spotting a little gecko darting across the wooden boardwalk before I scurried up to the top of a palm tree, this was, hands down, the most exotic spa I've found so far. I was then given the choice of twenty minutes in the sauna or the Hammam, a large steam room with an impressive mosaic wall and floor. I went for the steam, as mixed with the warmth already glaring down on me, I didn't feel I'd cope well in the drier heat on this particular visit. Perhaps if chilly outside this would be the perfect warmer from the short walk between here and the jacuzzi. The Spa: Each spa experience area was shaded and covered by tiki-style wooden flooring and walls, with gaps between to see out and enjoy the scenic beach view. However, having walked past this spa several times before visiting, it took me a while to realise what was inside and you can't see in from the beach or boardwalks around it, it's a very clever design indeed. It almost looks like a little fort with spiky turrets, it's a very relaxed place and I couldn't stop wishing I could come here more regularly already... After a quick spray down with cold water with the shower inside the Hammam, I wrapped myself in my towel, walked over a boardwalk, taking in the glistening sea view as I disappeared into the next spa area...the private pool. This is a small pool with seating on one edge, but as I was the only one here, I swam up and down and stretched out my back - I'm petrified of swimming in the sea, so I got to look at this whilst I swam in a refreshing plunge pool, perfect! I put my feet up, layer back on the comfiest, cushioned lounger I've ever sat on, enjoying the sea breeze fanning me through the wooden slats of this outdoor room and watched the world go by. I think the staff may have forgotten I was there for a while, as I nodded off a couple of times and had to drop back into the pool for a quick dip to revive me. There's something very special about enjoying a spa visit outdoors in the sunshine, you dry off quickly, you feel relaxed and this would be a very romantic place as a couple or relaxed for a group of friends to chill out together. Follow up your spa stay with a relaxing massage in their small outdoor pod for a private rub down, leaving your flip flops outside the door to make other spa-goers aware of your need for peace & quiet. The changing rooms were at reception and was one large room, of which I'm guessing you would need to take turns to use, as I believe there's only one female and one male room. This had a large cabinet with wicker drawers, of which my beach bag "just" fit into. I'm used to lockers and keys, so felt ever so slightly nervous about leaving my possessions unlocked and that far away from me. Other than that, it's clean, modern and I'm heading back there as soon as I get the chance! The Little Extras: There was no need to time my spa experiences, a member of team popped by every twenty minutes to help me out of each room and show me how to use and make the most of the next, it allowed me to switch off entirely. After a good twenty five minutes of swimming, I took a seat on the poolside loungers and helped myself to a cup of warm mint tea which had been thoughtfully provided for me to enjoy from a swish looking thermos. This was a really nice touch, as I've learnt by now that you do need to keep hydrated whilst spa-ing, especially in the South of France... For the English speaking around me, the staff here speak a little English, however they were so friendly that I felt relaxed enough to practice my Française.. And they didn't laugh at me, we actually conversed and they taught me some words as we went, they were adorable. The Little Niggles: A visit to this day spa simply consists of 1 hour, 20 minutes within 3 different spa areas and I didn't feel this was long enough to relax. At €17 (approx £12?) this wasn't a great deal of money, but a little longer, or at least the option would have been nice. I can't complain however, as I was the only in there, the team allowed me to stay in there a little longer than usual and snooze on the outdoor loungers. No towels, slippers or a shower to wash off afterwards were provided, so I had very messy hair of which I had to tie back into a clip for the rest of the day - my fellow frizzy-haired friends will agree that this isn't the most glamorous look for beers on the beach at sunset afterwards! I had to use my beach towel, of which was sopping wet following my visit, making it unavailable for sitting on at the beach later that afternoon. Final Thoughts: This is a spa worth visiting if you are in the area, it's bound to be the perfect shaded retreat whilst sunbathing on the adjacent beach in the hottest months and I could imagine would be quite cosy on the chillier days too. To view my full photo album of this stay, simply click here. www.en.spabysarome.com You can also read about Miss Sue Flay's "Around The World In 80 Stays Challenge" and other Secret Stays & Reviews here. Please Note - I paid my own way at this venue and I am in no means obliged to blog or write about this location, but I simply choose to share their offerings with my readers, should I enjoy the experience. Any questions or to discuss an independent review or"Secret Stay", please do email: email@example.com All images © 2014 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.