Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Brain Melt After The Blogcademy London

The Blogcademy London Miss Sue Flay By Of Girl Sign Shoreditch

It's been one FULL on weekend, full of inspiration when it comes to blogging & social media as well as an exciting opportunity to meet 30 passionate bloggers and I've made plenty of new friendships over the last 3 or 4 days - it's been an amazing experience.

I can't recount everything I've learnt right now, there is so much to take in, I've actually had to take a day out just to breath and gather my thoughts - it's been more overwhelming that I had imagined it might be. Instagram also got a hammering, I don't think I've used it so much in a while, I've become addicted once again - oh dear!

The Blogcademy London Miss Sue Flay

That's no bad thing, I must say - I've got huge plans and very itchy feet now that I'm a free woman... I'm my own boss and I have dreams and thoughts about travelling all over the place, I have a need and it must be fulfilled.

Now to just figure out how to do this and start seeing some of the world... I need to leave my little "Cambridge Bubble" and experience a new lifestyle. In the meantime, I leave you with some pictures of a fantastic weekend at The Blogcademy in London! 

Where to first?!...

The Blogcademy London Miss Sue Flay

Miss Sue Flay Logo


Friday, 18 July 2014

What's Happened To Miss Sue Flay?! (An Honest Update)

Miss Sue Flay Stir Up MediaOk... I'm blogging "freestyle" here, no plans, no rules, no worries, just me and my thoughts to fill you all in on why I've been so quiet of late. So, firstly, I've been busy starting up a new business... Stir Up Media was born a few months ago from my love of media, social media and of course blogging & writing. I've built my brand as "Miss Sue Flay over these years through these platforms and I'm now offering my personal services to help other brands or businesses to do the same. If I can help you in any way, please do drop me a line, I would love to help you out with my business-to-business services or perhaps some training and workshops. I'm about to join a very exciting collaborative workspace on a farm in the Cambridgeshire countryside and we have plans ahoy, so if you're interested in the same passions as me, or want to learn from me, then head over to Stir Up Media, sign up to my mailing list, read my blog and enjoy following my social media channels through this new offering. Thank you in advance for your support on this one! I know a few people have recently wondered what I'm up to, so I feel a quick update could be handy for the readers who might be interested. In fact, this weekend is monumental for me... for several reasons. Miss Sue Flay Stir Up MediaIt's a very emotional/bizarre day for me today... As of 6pm this Friday evening, I will be officially self-employed 100%! I've been working as a nanny/household manager for the last 19 months (since my redundancy from - not many people know this is where I started my Twitter infatuation whilst juggling work & my Miss Sue Flay persona!) and today I'm leaving the part-time role I have with this family to focus on Stir Up Media 100%. This means I can take on even more clients and projects and plan a very exciting future, it's a little daunting, but it's the right time. I've had SO much fun looking after these two guys and I'm going to miss them so much, but it's time to focus and look to a future of self sufficiency - I certainly won't miss that school run every weekday! "Miss Sue Flay" is still here, still enjoying food & drink, hotels & spas and of course, her afternoon tea... it's my passion, my hobby and this blog is going nowhere. I'm planning a few new reviews in the near future and I'm headed to a very exciting and top secret afternoon tea next week - so you'll have to keep an eye on my Twitter & Facebook to find out where I'm off to if you can't wait for the blogs! Cat Miss Sue Flay Stir Up MediaAnother reason being that I am headed to London with the gorgeous Cat of The Teatime Treatery (a great cake friend of mine) where we will be joining Kat Williams, Gala Darling & Shauna Haider at Blogcademy in a trendy venue in Shoreditch. This is a very exciting 2 day workshop, all based around the world of blogging and these ladies make it seriously fun... I've lusted over a spot on this course for years and I've finally decided to take the plunge to help me get my blogging mojo back! I've been blogging lots of business advice and freelancing inspiration through Stir Up Media and I think I've been so focussed on this side of things that Miss Sue Flay has been neglected a little - I know, I know, just terrible, but all is not lost - I have plans galore!  I have no real idea what to expect, all I know is that I am going to learn a heck of a lot and meet some pretty awesome people over the next few days... I'm nervous, excited, a little scared and very intrigued to see where the course content will take my overactive imagination...! So, watch this space... and my social media activity over the next few days (and weeks!) - It'll no doubt be filled with new blogging inspiration and some very pretty pictures. Cat Miss Sue Flay Stir Up MediaCat and I also have plotted a few food pitstops whilst we are visiting the capital, naturally! So excited! Here's to a very exciting weekend/week ahead/future!!! Wish me luck...eek! Miss Sue Flay

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Vintage Patisserie: Hospitality Academy 

I'm always in my element when I find somebody else who's as passionate as I can be about the finest geekery around afternoon tea. When I meet people who also can't think of anything better than drinking a loose leaf tea from the finest china teacups and creating afternoon tea tables to please an entire crowd, I know that I'm in the PERFECT company. Vintage Patisserie Hospitality Academy It's taken me a little while to write this event up as I wanted to do it justice and I've been focussing on all things "social media" with the launch of my latest project. So it's time to reminisce over a cup of Earl grey as I tell you all about one of my highlights of 2013. Naturally, I'm the proud owner of most afternoon tea themed books and recipe books, including those of the gorgeous Angel Adoree of The Vintage Patisserie in London. This young lady you may recognise from appearing on the BBC business programme "Dragons' Den", where she managed to impress not one, but two of the dragons who offered her a favourable deal to help with her business. What I love about Angel is that she declined this offer in the end and went at it a different way, creating a hugely successful brand and business that afternoon tea egos such as myself have looked up to ever since - she's one heck of an inspiring woman! Vintage Patisserie Hospitality Academy Background Story: Angel has a fascinating past, where she states in her book that it's her life's work to make people smile and offer a little escapism by transforming them to a moment in time where life was simpler, yet stood side by side with a little excitement and decadence thrown in for good measure. Angel, originally named Angela, grew up in East London and smiles at memories of supper time bringing her family together around the table. She would wash the dishes afterwards, earning 25p a day for her services which earned her enough to purchase her first faux-fur jacket at the age of 6. [caption id="attachment_3339" align="alignnone" width="225"]Vintage Patisserie Hospitality Academy Vintage Patisserie Hospitality Academy[/caption] During her teenage years she found a fascination with local car-boot sales and this is where her vintage fascination started to take shape. If she liked it, she bought it - everything from clothes, jewellery, bags, china and shoes, absolutely anything. She started to consider various business options around buying and selling vintage items and soon became hooked on learning everything she could about business. She was so keen to know more that she studied to be a chartered accountant and found herself working for an accountancy firm by the time she was 21! Her problem was that she had funky pink hair and piercings, sticking out against most of her colleagues of which soon became an apparent problem - so she left and went alone as a freelancer. From this bold move, she took on accounts for various companies, including a model agency and some fashion labels. Vintage Patisserie Hospitality Academy She soon started up an event called "Angel-A Vintage Experience" in her own flat where she pampered her guests, fed them and sent them home with vintage goodies. She ended giving people a shopping experience with the hospitality to match and in 2007 The Vintage Patisserie was born. The Vintage Patisserie was created as a sanctuary to enjoy a luxurious vintage event, I with delicious food & drink to match any theme or requirement. They've catered for corporate events, even a "Mad Men" tea party and a private event for the likes of Paul Smith and has been featured in Grazia, Company, The Independent and Style magazine. Needless to say, she's one awesome afternoon tea hostess and the perfect mentor to learn a thing or two from! Vintage Patisserie Hospitality Academy Vintage Hospitality Academy: Queue a chilly Thursday back in November and I finally had myself booked on Angels' Hospitality Academy, meeting her and my fellow students at an agreed spot on the edge of Spitalfields Antique Market for a cuppa and a chance to get to know each other. It was cold to say the least, but my fellow students were glamourously dressed (some wearing fur coats and heels!) putting my all black outfit to shame and some traveling from overseas to join this monthly workshop. The mix of emotion was something that made this event so special, as it was the last hospitality workshop planned for the foreseeable future - Angel was heavily pregnant with her second baby and was getting ready for new plans with her family in France for 2014 and beyond. Due to that fact, this day was very special for all involved and I was relieved to have finally booked my spot (after lusting after this workshop for some time!), having not known this until we nattered over coffee. Vintage Patisserie Hospitality Academy The Hospitality Academy was created to help everyone elevate their hosting skills, with Angel and her small professional team on hand to share their tricks and wisdom throughout. We started in Spitalfields Market, having told Angel what we would be looking out for - in my case, cake tongs or silver cutlery - and she pointed us in the right directions, teaching us how to barter and introducing us to traders of whom she had fantastic relationships with from hitting the market herself for years. It was a fantastic experience and a real eye opener in learning what to look out for and when to duck out of a deal, she knows her stuff! After an hour at the market, we were whisked away to Hackney in cabs to join Angels' team at The Vintage Patisserie - It still feels like yesterday that I was here! There had been a power cut on arrival, so it was a little dark on heading upstairs to the attic parlour, but it was still homely in this instance. We were met with freshly brewed loose leaf teas and toast with jam to tuck into as we chatted about how to set the afternoon tea table, how to create the perfect event and Angel imparted her hosting wisdom on us, with her own twist on etiquette to boot. Vintage Patisserie Hospitality Academy One piece of advice that Angel gave us and that I use to this day when talking to anyone about hosting an event is to put yourself in the shoes of your guest when hosting any size/ style of event. Walk up to the front door and see what your guest will see as they ring the doorbell, where you will put their coat, when they'll receive a drink, if they can hear the background music, what they should expect from the evening, where they head to if they need something...every little detail to ensure that your event flows faultlessly. It's the perfect advice and Angel saw us all making reams of notes as she regaled stories of her events, both eventful for the good and bad. The parlour was filled with props, china and books, clothes and had individual glass-top tables for us to create our very own table decoration to be photographed and judged by Angel, following her simple "pyramid" approach to laying any table. We got to raid the props room and nosey through absolutely everything, included all props used in the Vintage Tea a party books - geekery at its very best! She advised us that every table setting should be 3D, so that no matter where a guest is sat at the table, they have something to cast their eye on within the centrepiece. Not satisfied with a simple flower arrangement to cast eyes on, Angel taught us to tell a story with our decor, showing off a brass giraffe "eating" from the flowers in the middle of the table for example. She showed us that a centrepiece for a table doesn't have to be simply one item, it should be fun to look at as soon as your guests are seated. Vintage Patisserie Hospitality Academy We had so much fun creating these centrepieces that we ran into lunchtime very quickly, having been shown Angels' perfect way to set the table, we sat down to a freshly prepared afternoon tea with more tea and fantastic conversation. We enjoyed finger sandwiches with traditional fillings such as ham & mustard or egg mayonnaise, as well as a honey & rose petals, one of Angels' trademark sandwiches. After the initial worry of how this might taste, I can confirm that this was one of the BEST sandwich fillings I've ever tried, it was beautiful, didn't overwhelm and I'll be serving this myself one day soon! Angel had also made her soft home baked scones topped with pink sugar crystals and served with strawberry jam and clotted cream, we were seriously full to the rafters after this feast! Afternoon Tea Vintage Patisserie Hospitality Academy We were served by Angels' very own "washing up fairy" in the form of her gorgeous partner, Dick Strawbridge. He pootled around the kitchen in his pinny with his iPod plugged in and my other half was seriously jealous of my meeting & chatting with him, as he was a big fan of his when he presented "Robot Wars" many years ago - simple things hehe! I loved that her friends & family got stuck in and help out, this is very similar to how my own events ran over the years and I know just how thankful I was to have that support. It also makes it feel friendlier and homelier as a result, I loved this. Vintage Patisserie Hospitality Academy Towards the end of the day we got crafty and had a basic lesson in taxidermy, learning a few tips on how to dry and use butterflies within this fascinating craft. We were provided with a box frame each, six stunning butterflies and vintage magazines & newspapers to create a work of art to take home as a keepsake - this was a lovely touch, so thank you to Angel for letting us do this! The buzz of the day had simmered down as we all sat there (tongues out in concentration!) focusing on our mini craft projects, hilarious! Vintage Patisserie Hospitality Academy Between all this, Angel also gave us a crash course in cocktails and we sipped on two concoctions as we crafted as well as having out hair done by one of the team, where she created victory curls and up dos for us all as a final farewell. This final touch really made for a fun photo shoot at the end of the day, we had a blast! This was a momentous day for everyone, Angel and her team included - this was a little bit of Vintage Patisserie history, the last Hospitality Academy in Hackney, sob! Some of us headed back into central London after our final goodbyes and I headed off to "Sketch" to continue with some cocktails, it was a very memorable (and tipsy) day and one that I'll remember for a very, very long time to come. Vintage Patisserie Hospitality Academy Angel has very exciting plans for 2014 and beyond, whilst balancing a new family (she's a multi-talented gal!) so watch her closely for developments, she certainly won't disappoint!   Miss Sue Flay     

Monday, 30 June 2014

The Lost Art Of Etiquette - Cycling Etiquette

Cambridge Tour De France Cyclist EtiquetteAs a Cambridge girl myself, I'm both an occasional cyclist as well as a motorist in our fair City and I've gathered many thoughts on this topic over the last year or two. With Le Tour De France about to race on through Cambridge City centre and the surrounding villages en route, I've been thinking more and more about cyclist etiquette. In my own personal experiences, everybody seems to have road rage...and I mean EVERYONE. Cyclists, dogs, motorists, pedestrians, absolutely everyone - in fact, we all need to calm the heck down, chill out and put our manners into practice every which way. Cyclists like to blame motorists for bad behaviour, motorists like to shout about cyclists and dogs like to do whatever they want... Come on guys, let's all follow some simple rules whilst out and about and keep the peace whilst wheeling! Here's my guide to cycling etiquette...     Cyclists:  First rule of thumb, please don't expect that just because you have one light on at dusk that everyone can see you whilst cycling in dark clothing, even if it is still technically light outside - we don't always see you! Reflective and colourful gear makes it easy to spot you as motorists pass, dark clothes make it tricky to see you right away. Both front & rear lights need to be prominent, no bags hanging over your rear light please, it's simple sense. Do acknowledge it when a car gives way to you, especially if they have right of way at that time. Be nice to each other share the road, there's far too much agro between cyclists and motorist, which in turn leads to more accidents, so please be nice to motorists and help to keep the calm if they allow you some space. Cambridge Tour De France Cyclist EtiquetteThis also goes for vehicles who give you a wide birth when driving past you, I know personally that there's nothing more scary than a motorist who almost clips your handlebars. So, please, acknowledge and show your thanks when a driver gives you plenty of space, a simple nod and/or hand risen in thanks shows your appreciation of their gesture. Don't be a road hog, stay as close to the lines as you can where possible, motorists can find it highly irritating to have to pass a wobbly cyclist in the middle of the road when there's a designated cycle path right next to you. And please don't double/triple up on group rides, especially on city roads. The amount of cyclists I see chatting away to each other as they swerve around side-by-side is very high up on my personal pet peeves! Get off your phone whilst cycling. No further explanation needed, surely? If it's dangerous for motorists to be doing at the wheel, it's most certainly equally so whilst cycling. It's a scarily high volume in my own experiences on the road, cyclists making AND taking calls whilst wobbling around in the road... Please stop to take your call and save us all the potential dangers and hazards! DON'T jump red lights - ever. There's no excuse, getting somewhere a minute quicker isn't going to change your life. As cyclists we are as responsible for our actions as car/lorry drivers are for theirs. I've personally seen accidents where a car has hit a cyclist in town, who decided to jump a red light on a cross roads, it's scary just HOW many people I see doing this - why would you do this?!?!?! If cycling through a highly populated pedestrian area, please dismount and show some patience if required. As required of motorists, watch the road ahead and gauge any potential hazards before approaching. I've personally experienced passing fellow pedestrians in Cambridge where somebody has literally pushed me off the pavement and into the road - a cyclist nearly hit me and stopped to scream, swear and spit at me. It was as unexpected for me as it was for him, but he didn't care to show me some patience, even with an apology from me regardless - road rage doesn't just occur from motorists!   Cambridge Tour De France Cyclist EtiquetteCycling Groups: Come prepared when cycling in a group, bring plenty of water and follow the right nutrition for your ride, make sure that your tyres are at the right pressure and that you have the relevant emergency supplies in case of a puncture or other such incident. Slowing down a group die to poor planning is bad etiquette and won't go down well with the other cyclists, so show consideration and be prepared. Always point out the road conditions when riding in a group - if somebody is riding fourth wheel, then the chances are they won't see a danger up ahead, such as a pothole, so help each other out and signal accordingly. Never criticise someone's riding style or their bike and don't leave them behind, make sure you stay as a group for everybody's safety, including the motorists you may encounter.   Motorists: As listed above, please give cyclists a wide birth when passing where possible, especially in tougher weather, as there's nothing more terrifying than a fast-moving vehicle almost brushing you as they pass. Please be patient and don't get aggressive because you may to be able to pass right away, it's intimidating to square up, so do bare this in mind. Cyclists WILL wobble, perhaps because of a large pothole or because they're sipping water as they steam ahead, so a bit of space is a safe precaution. Cambridge Tour De France Cyclist Etiquette Fitzbillies If you hit a cyclist it will hurt them far more than you, but it will AFFECT you. It may just be the insurance claim, it may well be the blood on your hands. THINK. There's no excuse, getting somewhere a minute quicker isn't going to change your life as much as an accident could. Please do not drive OR park in designated cycle lanes, even if you are "just going to be a minute" - this is infuriating for any cyclist and makes it dangerous should they need to swerve around your vehicle into the road, not to mention, I'm pretty sure this is illegal as well as darn right irritating. Look at the road as well as the cyclist. If you're approaching a junction, don't over take a cyclist and cut them up by turning left. Is there a pinch point coming up? Yes, well, stay back and hold off overtaking until it's 100% safe ahead.   Le Tour De France comes through Cambridgeshire on Monday 7th July 2014, will you be joining in with the festivities? What are your pet peeves when it comes to this topic? I'd love to hear from you below! Cambridge Tour De France Cyclist Etiquette Fitzbillies Miss Sue Flay   With special thanks to those who helped with advice on this subject: Dan - @Moosola Dave Jackson - @CambridgeAroma    

Monday, 23 June 2014

What's The First Thing You Do When You Check Into A Hotel Room?

Ravenwood Hall Hotel Secret Stays I've stayed in my fair share of luxury hotels and spas over the last year or so and I must say that I'm enjoying my chance to review such beautiful and grand venues, I'm always excited when checking into a new temporary home-from-home. However, I've become a creature of habit and have formed some "quirky" traits when checking into a new hotel room for the evening, one or two that frustrate the heck out of my traveling companions, but are 100% essential when reviewing a new boudoir for the night. It got me thinking, are these new hotel traditions normal behaviour? Great John Street Secret Stays HotelDoes everybody have their quirks when it comes to sampling a new spin on the mini bar or checking out the bathtub before heading out to nosey around the neighborhood? I recently read an article based on a survey carried out by Marriott, which stated that 32% of hotel guests check out the view outside their window before they do anything else. I have to say, this is in fact one of the very last things I will do when checking in, it's never top of my priorities whilst snooping. SO what is the first thing I do when checking into a hotel with my "Secret Stays"? Here's my top (and most annoying!) activities when running around "oohing & ahhing" over the boutique venue facilities on offer to me for a short while. Get Snap Happy Yep, you guessed it, before ANYTHING (luggage AND companions included) Hanbury Manor Hotel Secret Stayscan enter the room behind me, I have to run around and get snap happy - ensuring that everything is photographed prior to using it. There's nothing worse than unmaking a beautifully made bed, as however much you try, you can never make it back up to the standard it was when you found it on arrival. I adore a freshly made bed and I equally love to photograph it before I jump onto (or into) it, so the first thing I must do is to take photos of absolutely everything, all whilst my luggage and companion may be sat in the doorway for fifteen minutes before they can follow me inside. This is a mild annoyance that any traveling companion of mine must endure if they wish to tag along - no apologies on that score I'm afraid! Congham Hall Hotel Secret Stays Snoop At The Toiletries  I've been met with every bottle shape and size imaginable, sewing kits, shower caps, ear buds, flannels, fluffy towels, bath robes, slippers, soap bars, toilet roll folded into intricate origami and massage oils to add to the bath or rub into your skin after a hot shower. These can make or break a bathroom and (after photographing them, naturally!) I love to open them up and smell them, plot a long and rare soak in a copper bathtub and plan a relaxing lounge wrapped up in a robe with a good book. I'll consider a hair mask and conditioning session after a swim if the right hair products are placed in front of me - the toiletries will shape my stay, as geeky as that may sound ; ) Henlow Grange Spa Secret Stays My Inner Housekeeping Nerd Will Kick In I will sweep my finger across door frames, check showers for cobwebs (oh so many I've found on my journeys!) and peek behind headboards to find all kinds of bizarre trinkets and the like. I once found a toy soldier under the bed in one hotel and a bag of dog mess on the patio of another... The hotel inspector in me comes out before I've unpacked my suitcase, I want to know that the room I'm sleeping in is clean and tidy before I start making myself at home... I'm yet to find a "perfectly" spotless boudoir, I'm sad to report, no matter the quality of the venue I've stayed in, nowhere has yet been entirely faultless or spotless! Congham Hall Hotel Secret Stays Unpack.... And I mean UNPACK! I'm quite anal when it comes to staying away, I'm very much as I am at home... everything must have its place. Even if I'm staying away for just one night, I have to unpack absolutely everything before I can leave my room and explore. My toothbrush has to go in the holder at the bathroom sink, underwear in a drawer, makeup and hair straighteners at the dressing table (or, a desk in most cases) and my iphone charger has to be plugged in at the wall. I'm an odd creature I fear, but I can't leave until I have an empty bag, carefully & neatly tucked away in the wardrobe with my coat, jacket, rain-proofs and shoes... yep, I'm a nerd, I warned you! Goats at Ravenwood Hall Hotel Secret Stays Take Some More Pictures Once I'm happy with my room, the view and I've unpacked, I wander around the venue and get even more snap happy. I love the tiny details dotted around a well thought out hotel. The walking boots lined up against the entrance hallway wall, the silver ornaments on a fireplace, the ornate chandeliers dropping from the ceiling and the furry friends that occupy a country retreat - I can't help it, I have a problem. Hotel-anonymous may well be needed in a short while! Congham Hall Hotel Secret Stays What Else Is There To Do, But....? Well, once I'm settled, I've taken a million photos & I've Instagrammed / Tweeted / Facebooked my share of awesome shots and checked out the food & drink and the spa facilities, I'm ready to head back to my room and suss out the bed! Who doesn't love to flop onto a nicely made bed, to test the bounce, cuddle up to feel the thickness of the duvet and see just how fast those goose feathered pillows deflate under the weight of your head?!.... If they do this quickly, then a call to reception to request more pillows has been known on many an occasion! The Angel Hotel Secret Stays What do you do on checking into a hotel yourself? Do you head for similar traits or do you just dump your luggage and run for the nearest tourist attraction/pub/etc?     I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!   Miss Sue Flay   Boots at Congham Hall Hotel Secret Stays

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Ask Miss Sue Flay: Where Is The Best Afternoon Tea In Cambridge?

Over the last five years, I've been reviewing and sampling many, many afternoon tea tiers - it's truly a tough job, but somebody has to do it, right?! Afternoon Tea At Hotel Felix Hehe. This is a common question and I get asked it so regularly that I felt I needed to update my previous recommendations and share some thoughts on the best afternoon tea in Cambridge. When it comes to our favourite British pastime, I am very, very particular and I can be extremely fussy at this point in my afternoon tea-based career. If it isn't loose leaf tea in my teapot, then I can get very stroppy and start to judge a venue very quickly from there. Afternoon tea has a huge following and people want quantity not only when it comes to their food, but with their tea as well, myself included. There's nothing more disappointing than a stewed "cash & carry" tea bag in place of a pretty leaf and please don't get me started on cold, curled, pre-prepared finger sandwiches - you'd be surprised as to how many places offering afternoon tea get these little touches so wrong. I must say, I'm always torn when I answer this question, as it really depends on your needs. A venue that might be perfect for a relaxed afternoon tea for two may not be suitable for a large family celebration, so it's really tricky to answer without getting personal on why you would want it. Hopefully this might help you to make a decision when looking for somewhere for your afternoon tea cravings in Cambridge. One thing I would say is this, I've had some TERRIBLE afternoon teas in Cambridge City centre and I wouldn't recommend many at all. In fact, there's currently only two I would rate within Cambridge itself- I'm yet to find another one to highly rate, so I'm open to suggestions if anybody finds one worthy of a mention. Hotel Felix  With such a modern and relaxed vibe, this hotel on the outskirts of town is perfect for a booking of any size. The seasonal treats and friendly service make this the perfect venue for a celebration of most needs, at just £ . its worthy of a mention. John Lewis This was surprising even to myself, but in the John Lewis Brasserie in Cambridge, they have a dedicated pastry chef preparing delicious & seasonal treats for the many different tiers on offer for afternoon tea. You can enjoy a full on afternoon tea, or just the cakes, or just the finger sandwiches, depending on your fancy. Did I mention the architectural views of Cambridge from their floor to ceiling window seats, no?! Congham Hall Spa Hotel Or why not go for something a little different?! Sometimes you might just be looking for a venue that offers a great wedge of cake, a quality cup of coffee and a chilled atmosphere. These might not be "afternoon tea venues" as such, but are places I love to visit once in a while to put together my own treat menu. Afternoon Tease  Open Tuesday to Sunday, this recently new opening on King Street is the perfect venue for a slice of homemade cake and a cup of "Caravan" coffee served in vintage teacups. This is a quirky coffee shop (check out their bathroom for some fun reading material!), also open for brunch over the weekend...I'm plotting to try their "eggy bread-style" crumpets with streaky bacon & maple syrup - heaven on a plate! Gog Magog Farm Shop These guys do scotch eggs & sausage rolls very well indeed, this is my "go to" venue when I'm out walking with the dog as he's welcome to basque in the sun outside over a lazy lunch within the grounds. The scotch eggs are soft boiled eggs wrapped in a crunchy and meaty coat with a choice of a traditional or honey & mustard seasoning, both are irresistible. Two Little Cats Bakery Based in my own village of Cambourne, Two Little Cats bakery produce large and highly addictive cupcake creations. From an Elvis-inspired toffee and popcorn cupcake through to chocolate orange and lemon meringue pie concoctions, this cupcake sorcery can now be sampled at the new street food event, #FoodPark near to Cambridge railway station. Warming Your Cockles This cute little coffee van can be found doing the rounds about town, with pit stops including Fridays at Clerk Maxwell Road and along the riverside behind Newmarket Road. They serve the most divine gluten free salted caramel brownies and one of the best flat white coffees I've ever sampled, hunt them down next time you need a quality caffeine fix! Or better still, get out of town for a while! Afternoon Tea Etiquette I'm a country girl and I also love to visit new places, so if you're looking for a fantastic afternoon tea that can be recommended to you personally, these are some of my favourite venues from around and about - try them out, I don't think you will be disappointed (I hope)! Teacake Of Shepreth Ok, not technically an afternoon tea venue when simply calling in for a delicious homemade scone or ginger tiffin with a cup of tea within this chocolate box thatched cottage. This tearoom is a destination venue for cycling groups at weekends, complete with a picturesque tea garden for an al fresco cuppa if pooch is in tow. However, for larger bookings, you can secure an afternoon tea tier with a selection of tasty delights by simply calling ahead to book. I highly suggest you do... And tell Christine & Morris that Miss Sue Flay sent you, they're my favourite couple working within the afternoon tea scene, they are just fantastic and can't do enough to make you feel at home whilst visiting. Paddocks House This stunning hotel near to Newmarket is part of The House Collection (the brand behind Poets House in Ely) and has a very grand feel to proceedings. Complete with butler service, you can spend a romantic afternoon there as a couple or book out their private lounge for a larger and more secluded afternoon tea event. I took my family here for my 30th birthday celebrations and the food kept coming, even satisfying my cousin who required a gluten free option on booking. My four year old nephew was also catered for, with a hot chocolate, selection of finger sandwiches and a warm chocolate brownie with ice cream, he slipped in a kip on the sofa under the windows to finish off. Congham Hall This hotel & spa is situated in Norfolk and is very close to Sandringham House to make for a memorable day trip. Afternoon tea can be enjoyed in the stunning garden or in the library, which is covered, floor to ceiling, with books and atlases to keep any book work happy for days! The fresh finger sandwiches are so more-ish, using locally sourced ingredients and herbs fresh from the grounds. Not only warm scones and a cake selection to pass out to, you're also provided with a chilled lemon posset with berry compote to tuck into. This is an indulgent afternoon tea and well worth the journey. Afternoon Tea Ely Rosey Lea  This is more of a coffee shop to me, as it's been a while since I enjoyed a chunk of their classic Victoria Sponge and a cup of Darjeeling. This place, for me, is where you go for a naughty Sunday morning brunch... The "Elvis" American pancake stack filled high with fresh banana, peanut butter, streaky bacon and maple syrup, yes this is one unhealthy option, but it's oh so worth the drive to Bishop Stortford to sample, take my word! Bedford Lodge Hotel This spa hotel is within Newmarket, very close to the racecourse and offers one of the best afternoon teas I've ever had the pleasure of sampling. Everything arrives individually, so freshly prepared finger sandwiches, with a refill should you so desire, followed by warm scones (both fruit and plain) and then a large tray of stunning cakes and tarts to finish. This is perfect for a relaxed family retreat or a civilised hen party, of which I've seen happening here. It's done very well and there's so much food on offer that a doggy bag had to be taken for a second wind later on, it would have been rude not to!   Where is your favourite afternoon tea venue in Cambridge? Or do you venture further out for your high tea fix? I'd love to hear from you below with your own experiences & recommendations. Miss Sue Flay

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Weightloss Motivation: The Simple Pleasures

I've been very vocal over the last few months about my weight loss and you've probably all been shouting at the "virtual" me asking me to pipe down – I'm not sorry (haha), as Sarah at Primal Performance has truly helped to change my life for the better. Primal Performance Weight Loss However. I've recently encountered an old issue that has stopped me (very literally) in my tracks. About 8 years ago, no thanks to my little pup at the time (yes, he's still in the dog house over this one!) dripped water from his beard all over the place and I slipped in grand style, landing in the "splits" position on the kitchen floor. Ouch + a few swear words! The doctors & hospital fobbed me off, popped me on some highly addictive medication and told me to "learn to love the pain" after a series of physio sessions didn't help me. Simple things guilty pleasures Skip forward to last week and whilst training in the sunshine with Sarah, something clicked and my back went "ping", resulting in her needing to peel me off the floor as I winced in agony. Since I've started training, deadlifting, running, cycling and so on, my back has twinged on and off and there's been a lot of ceasing up, building up to this nasty pain that has stopped me from exercising full stop. I'm able to walk around (just about) and do some stretches several times a day, but it's pretty bad and in turn, so stupidly frustrating. I just want to go out for a jog and I NEVER thought I would hear myself say that! The Simple Pleasures So, whilst I work with the miraculous Soraya at the Saffron Walden Osteopath Clinic (she's a back saver and is helping me through it) I have decided to focus on the things that make me happy, keep me focused and relaxed and enjoy some relaxation to help me in my recovery. The Simple Pleasures I've been enjoying reading some magazines and books that I've been meaning to catch up on, painting my nails a rainbow of different colours, playing with the puppy, brainstorming creative ideas, enjoying the odd cocktail & roast dinner, lazy brunches with good friends, heading to local food festivals & new food openings, planning overseas travel, walking through Cambridge market and buying myself beautiful flowers, taking a relaxing trip to the coast & eating ice cream or to see my "must see" films at the cinema with some popcorn, enjoying a loose leaf cuppa with a DVD, eating cake healthy (and seasonal) food to keep me on track and even enjoying a guilty pleasure or two in the form of episodes of "Storage Hunters". The Simple Pleasures Storage Hunters If you haven't seen this programme, it's basically a load of bargain hunters bidding for unclaimed storage lockers full of crap for a lucky dip of findings within them, I adore this show, I am well and truly addicted! I also asked my social media followers what they like to do when they are having a crappy day or time and I'd love to share with you just a few of the responses I received, they are fantastic ideas, so thank you to all who joined in with this conversation... The Simple Pleasures @BridgesCamb - Have some really nutritious tasty food, avoid those sugar highs and lows. Rae Snape - A walk in the woods. Nature: birds, drizzly rain, look up at the trees and breathe in deep. Really deep. You'll feel reconnected with everything. @Miss_Informed86 - If I can just push myself out of the door and go running I always feel great. Other days however you can't beat choccy biccies! The Simple Pleasures Anna McConnell - Watch a film, usually a Cary Grant film if I am trying to cheer myself up. @MrNeilB - Favourite songs. You know the ones that send a tingle down your spine. Yeah those. Extra loud. The Simple Pleasures Kathy Salaman - Watch an episode or two of The Simpsons. Love Homer! @SchoolDinners – I do something for someone else, bake a cake, smile at a friend, take someone a coffee. Don't navel gaze. Emma Furness - I knit : ) The Simple Pleasures Sunday Roast @nortonofmorton - I find walking helps in the rare situation that I'm in an utterly foul mood. That and throwing things. Aggie Redpath - DON"T go and start chomping your way through the fridge, we have ALL done that, not a good move, and one we ALL regret!! @CambridgeAroma - I like to sit in front of one of my hives and watch my bees. The Simple Pleasures Southwold Julie York - Was feeling low today so spent an hour on my veggie plot digging away with my 7yr old grandson...feel great now! @Paper_Obsessed - Write in my journal is my go to activity when feeling in a mood. Let's me rant, offload and start working through solutions. Pete Robbins - For me it was spending yesterday really getting to grips with an old friend called the drum kit, I am am happier and more motivated for it. Nothing quite lifts my spirit than spending time playing the instrument I love. The Simple Pleasures Stir Up Media @cakeswithfaces - You can't underestimate the healing properties of a shower! Washing your face & combing your hair will do for minor bad moods. Fiona McDuff - I eat chocolate (guilt free). I restrain myself the rest of the time so that I can indulge when I need it most! @GentlemanBaker - Tea and Cake. Tea and cake is like a little five minute holiday in ones day. The Simple Pleasures Aoife Maxwell - Swim in Jesus green outdoor pool - never fails to cheer me up. Followed by wine and nice dinner - preferably cooked by someone else! Here's to a speedy recovery and a potential training plan for a 10k run in October… gulp! The Simple Pleasures Southwold Sue Flay How do you deal with a crappy day? Do you eat good (or bad food!)? Do you exercise (if you can!)? Or do you try something a little different in your approach? I'd love to hear from you below…   Miss Sue Flay   The Simple Pleasures Cambridge Punts