Saturday, 31 December 2011

Unwanted Xmas Gift Swap Tea Party - Book Now!

I am guessing you are all aware of the concept of Secret Santa?

Well, the VERY first Secluded Tea Party of 2012 will indeed be kicking off with a twist on this very British Christmas tradition...

On Sunday 29th January 2012 at 2pm, we will be celebrating the anniversary of the very first Secluded Tea Party, which was held this time last year at Cambridge Cookery School with 12 strangers around the table. Some of whom I must say, have become very good friends of Miss Sue Flay and TSTP. It's been a fantastic first year, and 2012 is shaping up to be even better with the plans we have in store for our Afternoon Tea guests.

Guests are invited to the first Secluded Tea Party event of the year to rid themselves of any naffrubbishunwanted or just plain crap Xmas gifts they may have received over this upcoming festive season!



Wrap up that hideous orange bottle of bath foam from your colleague - that you cant even use because you havent ever owned a bath, the pants Chick Flick or Christmas CD that your mum bought you after much thought (In the wrong direction!) or that itchy knitted cardigan that your auntie made for you & that you gritted your teeth and smiled at when she gave it to you.

Book your ticket to The Secluded Tea Party to come along and enjoy the fun alongside copious amounts of tea as well as lots of tasty afternoon tea treats such as finger sandwiches, cakes and scones all homemade by Miss Sue Flay.

Bring Your UNWANTED gift with you, simply labelled: "To ? , From Santa"

Queue hilarious fun, whilst opening a gift or two each after a fun swap around the table... 

And if you receive more than one unrequired gift this Xmas, why not bring more along, there is no limit and no rules - within reason! 
And if you don't receive any, just grab a fun or useless novelty item in the sales to bring along instead hehe.

So hopefully see you at the Tea Party table in the New Year for the Crap & Unwanted Xmas Gift Swap, but more importantly 
I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a very happy New Year!

Lots of Love,
Miss Sue Flay

Friday, 30 December 2011

Review: Orange Blossom Water with Baking Mad

If you haven't heard of Baking Mad before, then I can honestly say that is one of the most inspiring websites for baking and cooking ideas and inspiration, they even have the lovely Cake Boy AKA Eric Lanlard on board offering his recipes of the week amongst other features... what more could a baking lady need to convince her?! Hehe

I recently got the offer of a trial bottle of Nielsen Massey Orange Blossom Water which sounded really intriguing to me as its not a flavouring I have personally come across before and I fancied a little bit of a baking challenge, so I agreed to receive a bottle and I started planning and plotting some recipe ideas right away. The Great British Bake Off had well and truly inspired me to bake away and try making up my own recipe for a change, instead of stealing somebody elses hehe.

I settled on Mini Choux Buns filled with An Orange Blossom Cream, topped with a gorgeous dark Chocolate Ganache which just made this dessert perfect in every way. Sometimes you just crave something bitter and sweet and this was just the ticket.
Think Terry's Dark Chocolate Orange.... In profiteroles!

The flavouring smells lovely straight from the bottle, after a quick sniff as soon as it arrived with the lovely postman (Apprently it can be spritzed from an atomiser should you desire), and although it smells fairly strong, it doesn't actually taste too strong, and it did need a fair few splashes to get the taste in the cream filling. It is quite an unassuming flavour and the Chocolate Ganache may have darkened this a little, but it doesn't matter. Noted for the next time.

The Recipe *

  • 100g butter 
  • 125g plain flour, sifted
  • 4 eggs (free range if possible)
  • 250ml double cream
  • 1 - 2 tsp orange blossom essence (to your taste) 
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar

(Optional Ganache Topping) 

  • 100g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
  • 3 - 4 tbsp double cream

Preheat the oven to 200*C

Place the butter into a pan with 300ml/½pt water and heat gently until the butter has melted

Add the flour and beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture looks like roughly mashed potato

Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring well to combine each egg before adding the next, until the mixture becomes smooth and glossy

Spoon equal portions of the mixture (about one tablespoonful) onto baking trays lined with slightly damp baking parchment (or silicone sheet placed on a baking tray if you have one) and place into the oven to bake for 20 minutes, or until golden-brown and puffed up

Remove from oven, make an incision into the side of each profiterole to allow the steam to escape, then return to the oven for 1-2 minutes to let the profiteroles dry out and then place onto a wire rack to cool

For the filling, whip together the cream and orange blossom water until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed, then gently fold in the caster sugar. When the profiteroles are completely cold, pipe the cream into each profiterole with a piping bag and medium pointed nozzle, through the incision, and arrange on a serving dish or pretty plate

If you go for the Chocolate Ganache, place the chocolate & cream into a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Do not allow the bowl to touch the water. When the chocolate has melted, stir the sauce and pour gently all over the pile of profiteroles on the dish/plate and serve immediately

Miss Sue Flay x

* Recipe adapted from my most favourite Nigella Lawson Profiterole Recipe found here

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Curiosity Project

Another twitter adventure has arisen recently, in the form of The Curiosity Project, thanks to one of my fellow tweeters taking part in a exciting and new blog idea that's been taken by storm and it has been dreamt up by the lovely Tiffany Grant-Riley, a Wedding planner and stylist who has a hunger for getting people to get crafty and/or thoughtful and send a box of goodies to a complete stranger for the sheer fun of it. 

What's not to love about that idea?!

It's a bit like Secret Santa, but you post a box of random gifts up to the value of £20 to your recipient, with no idea of what they might like to receive.... It's a little nerve wracking trying to decide what to put in that box, but so addictive getting involved.

If you love surprises or enjoy pampering other people with presents "Just because..." 
then this blog is just the ticket for you.

You can sign up every couple of months, completing a form with your name and contact details and await further instruction.
The whole idea behind it is very British and traditional by taking the simple concept of chain letters that I think most of us attempted back in primary school and making this a little bigger and better than just a letter this time around. 
 Using the postman to deliver a parcel... by hand... I think most of you will agree, there is nothing more exciting than having the postman ring the doorbell with a parcel for you!

All that is asked of you is to put some thought into your curiosity box - Make your gifts, write a note or a poem, find a curious charity shop item or an antique, share a recipe, tell a story, decorate the box however you like and make it personal.

Remember, you will be getting one in return, so make it as you would want to receive it, it's so easy to get engrossed once you get started. Very addictive indeed.

Tiffany offers a few guidelines and even postage advice before you sign up, so you can check it all out before you commit to The Curiosity Project. It's very helpful and just irons out any queries you may have before getting involved, although its such a simple idea, why would you not want to?!

I am in the middle of preparing my first recipients' Curiosity Box as I type, however, I actually received my own curiosity box this weekend and it was stupidly exciting receiving it.
I hadn't expected it to arrive, so it was an added bonus when I saw it sitting in the hallway just waiting patiently to be opened when I got home from work. The box was small & delicately handmade with a pretty button and pattern on the top with very cute cake related sayings on the sides - MORE than appropriate for me hehe!

My Curiosity Project partner had sent me a beautifully handmade tea cosy and pretty mug warmer which both match in material. They had also put a couple of labels in there telling me that they were made by their own fair hands, which automatically made me jealous of their skills, as they are just stunning and I needed a new tea cosy for my afternoon tea parties, so it was an extremely welcome gift.

They had also found such a gorgeous miniature teapot with 2 matching teeny cups and saucers which would almost be small enough to put inside a dolls house.... So lovely and the set will be placed proudly alongside my antique tea set in my lounge at The Secluded Tea Party HQ.

Thank you so much, whoever you are, I love all of my gifts : )  
- Mine is soon to be on it's way to my very own secret recipient, eek! 

Such a thoughtful Curiosity Box.... And it makes it even better when somebody makes you a gift or two with such charm and warmth. It makes me realise just how great the world wide web is and what adventures there are for people to get involved in.

Why not get stuck into the next Curiosity Project yourself?.... 
DO leave a comment below if you have been involved, or indeed plan to in the future... 

Miss Sue Flay

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The High Tea Cast - Podcast Review

Podcasting is something fairly new to me as a concept really. It came up a lot in conversation throughout the Secluded Tea Party's Blogfest back in November, with some guests having already delved into the world of podcasting, one or two of whom had already been doing it for sometime now, such as the lovely Anne Bramley at EatFeed.

Two other lovely ladies who have also jumped into this exciting and interactive way to get your voice heard (Quite literally) alongside their blog, are fellow Brits Leanne Rice and Sam Sparrow from The High Tea Cast.

These clever young ladies have all sat down and put a heck of a lot of thought and planning into each and every word that they broadcast, and as well as Anne, The High Tea Cast ladies do this in a very real approach, one that I can most certainly relate to myself.

These beautiful fashionistas don't pretend to be women they are not, they speak to you on the podcast as they would speak to their best friends down the pub. And that's what I like about them, they aren't scared to speak their own mind, try new things and occasionally admit when they have made fools out of themselves. Come on, we all do it, but how many admit it?!

And what tea and cake-based podcast wouldn't be complete without talk of, well, tea and cake?!
They review the best afternoon tea hotspots in London and tell you all about them each month.
They also enjoy a cheeky cocktail or two (who doesn't?!) and they are happy to share their favourite finds each time they broadcast. From independent tea shops to more civilised hotels and bars, there is a real mix and this makes for superb listening. 

Not forgetting the humorous Simon Button, who's blog is Simply Simon, where he moans and groans about life and topics of the hour in what can only be suggested as a 1930's style radio voice. I sit there and imagine him to have slicked back hair, wearing a smart suit and sipping on a G&T whilst twiddling his perfectly shaped mustache between his thumb and forefinger. 
I love him. 

Discussion topics so far have been subjects close to us all such as fashion faux pas, rainy festival experiences, embarrassing ourselves in front of celebrities, body confidence, the London Underground, and so much more beyond. They also natter to interesting people with a story to tell and they give them the time they deserve to talk passionately about their projects.
 It's been inspiring in just 4 episodes so far, from chat such as short girls packing a punch to making low budget films to name a few topics. 

These ladies have helped me through some very dull day job-related tasks over the last few weeks and I am so glad to have crossed their paths and poured them into my lives, it makes the world seem fun again.... And it makes me want to go out and have cake-based fun too. 
(Oh wait just a minute ... : ) 

I defy anybody to give them a listen, male or female, it's an education in many different ways and it will bring a smile to your face. 

An added bonus is also to find out that these lovely ladies are going to be speaking at Cybher in May 2012, of which myself and fellow blogger, Feisty Tapas have bagged ourselves early birds to make sure we get our bums down to the big smoke for some blog inspiration - So excited! 

I have fallen in and out and back in love with the idea of having a go at my very own podcast, and this has spurred me to finally start moving in the right direction... The microphone has been purchased this weekend and my ideas are jotted down... Now to make this into a real life project.

 Ladies, I thank you for being such an inspiration and helping me to stop toying with an idea and just bloomin' well do it!

Listen to them now!

You can even hear them talking about Miss Sue Flay on Episode 6 (Approx 10 minutes from the end) talking about The Secluded Tea Party... Awww thank you so much lovely ladies! xxx

Miss Sue Flay 

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

All I want For Xmas - My Christmas Wish List

It’s that time of the year again my friends.... It’s the time when my friends and family keep asking me what I might like for Christmas, my mum tells me to write a Xmas List, My dad asks me what I would like, my man friend snaps a camera phone furiously behind me on my window shopping expedition and sends himself reminders of all the useless items I say I would love but can’t afford hehe.

And so goes the annual tradition of making that ridiculously long list for santa...I even wrote a letter to Father Christmas last year to see if he might write back, in order to check the story of him replying wasn’t just a myth. It’s true. The old boy really does write back, and I even got a personalised response hurrah : ) 

So this year, I am doing the same thing, but as technology has seemingly advanced slightly over the last 12 months, and social media is starting to work for me lately, I am writing my list to Santa Claus on my blog and hoping that he catches it whilst checking out my latest tea parties!... I am convinced Father Christmas is an Afternoon tea consumer! 

Hi Santa, if you are reading this then this year I would like all of the following, although I wouldn’t want to come across as too greedy, so just some of the the below will be fine... Hehe... A Girl can dream eh?!

A pretty new cake stand to replace one of the 3 I threw up the stairs as I tripped last weekend and broke into tiny pieces - Oops! 
BBC Good Food Magazine subscription, seeing as I keep forgetting to buy it every month!
A quirky teapot to add to my Secluded Tea Party table
And a cute Tea Cosy to keep it warm...
A Cooking Gorgeous HandTowel so that I can hang it on my oven and dry it quickly... what a brilliant invention, I must own one!
An easel for my cookbooks whilst baking... such a simple idea, yet I still struggle to balance a recipe book against my kitchen wall whilst baking ; ) 
A Spa break would be ideal, or a massage at the very least to help me unwind. Ragdale Hall  would be great, but I won’t be too picky ; ) 
Afternoon Tier Necklace from Punky Allsorts 
(I can't believe I do not own this beauty yet!) 

A Chocoshells truffle selection... I can’t get those unusual Bayleaf Truffles out of my head, they were amazing. I want to try them all now hehe. 
A new 2012 diary to start adding next years events... It’s that time of year!.. Something quirky like the Alice In Wonderland or Owl Design ones from the Cotton-Lily from the Made It fair would be awesome 
To go with that, a new notebook and pen would be ideal for jotting down all my ideas... there are too many to keep in my head atm, so this could be very very handy!
Some new large round silicon cake moulds from Lakeland for making even more of my fabulous layer cakes!
A new experience too, if you could give me the opportunity to drive a VW Camper for a bit, or perhaps to be thrown down the hill in a zorbing ball... something to get the heart racing with excitement would be fab. 
A Cupcake in a Jar... the original bad boy!... I am desperate to try one of their Christmas Fruitcake or Strawbubbly cupcakes!

Dolce & Gabbana Perfume - The One.
A tea Party Hostess has to sometimes smell of something other than of baked goods! 
A Kitchenaid. Enough said ; ) 
Belle De Sucre Sugar Cubes... the list would be endless, but I am in love with the long thin coloured sugar cubes. They are beautiful and a must have for me I am afraid. 
A selection of Macarons from the lovely Dr Kinnaird at Macarons & More... what can I say? - I am a sucker for the rose macarons, and don’t get me started on those Salted Caramel babies.  

I would also love to be the proud owner of some Dupenny Housewives design plates. Eating cake from these beauties would turn a bad day upside down, so much fun!
The Butch Bakery Book... I want to make more manly cakes and feel this may be my new needed cake bible!
If you are still feeling generous after this lot, then an Ipad would not go amiss. It’s my new guilty desire and now I can’t get it out of my head. Yes I am officially a Mac-head and I can’t do without one to add to my collection. Surely? 

Tea at The Ritz please. The Holy Grail of Afternoon Tea... 
How about a French Patisserie class? If I can’t have a real french experience, then at least with a trained patissier here in Blighty.... A french god/(dess) offering me their baking skills is a dream I feel I need to ask for this year... If you don’t ask you don’t get eh? ; ) 

And of course, what Tea Party Hosts' book shelf wouldn't be complete without some books such as Ladurée: Sucré: The Recipes, Tea with Bea, Baked: New Frontiers In Baking, Tea & Cake London, Tea & Fortnum & Mason, Afternoon Tea Parties, Domestic Sluttery: Cheat your Way to the Perfect Lifestyle

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. The best film with Patrick Swayze and Wesley snipes EVER. I love this one and would love to add to my collection!

The Zombie lover in me would very much like the first series of The Walking Dead on DVD. Naturally. 

And of course, this is all for fun! I am just putting my dream list together in the vain hope that one or two of those items may appear in my stocking this Christmas. If you don't ask, then you may never get... A girl can but dream hehe!

Why not leave a comment below with your very own wishlist to help inspire others who have no idea what they may like for Xmas?...

Miss Sue Flay 

Monday, 21 November 2011

The Secluded Tea Party Presents...Blogfest!

On Saturday 19th November 2011, a secluded (and very secret) Cambridgeshire location, hosted an afternoon tea with a blogging event alongside it. This was an unusual event in Cambridge where guests stumbled upon breakfast muffins, Oreo Layer Cakes, Carrot cakes, Homemade Fruit & Spice Scones as well as tea and coffee in an informal conference style. 

The Cambridge-based Golf & Leisure Club that we used was taken over for a few hours by 28 lovely bloggers who had all joined myself and my 4 guest speakers to get inspired and meet others with the same interests whilst eating cake and using the wifi to blog, tweet and facebook their inspiration as they gained it. 

The guest speakers consisted of Mel Hollidge, ReeRee Rockette, Liz Fraser & Sian Townsend, happily answering any questions as they came up from my guests as they discussed their thoughts and ideas. 
Each of these wonderful ladies spoke honestly and passionately about their favourite topics to help bloggers move forward in many different ways, depending on their blog style or topic. They also helpfully suggested their own favourite blogs, some of which we had never heard of, so it was helpful to jot down for a visit later on after the Blogfest. 

Mel taught us a lot in the form of using Social Media to promote your blog and helped us through the basics of Twitter, Facebook and even using Google Analytics to monitor who is reading our blog and where in the world they might be amongst other facts and figures we can gain from this tool. 
"Photos and pictures without Alt Text are no good!" - A great tip to note!
We also learnt that Wordpress has a high ranking on Google, so this may be a good blog format to go with if you are unsure, however there are different sites, such as Blogger of course. 

Liz discussed her experiences as a mum, a journalist and a writer and inspired some of my guests to completely change their way of thinking when it comes to blogging, much to their own amazement. She really got us thinking about honesty (We promised not to quote her on her honesty, but it was greatly appreciated!) as well as life beyond blogging, telling us that yes, blogging is fun, it's great to escape with, but it is not your life - "Take a break, Switch off in the evening!"

ReeRee advised that you need to be good at one thing & do it really well. She has had over 100,000 hits on her blog post on how to tie a bandana and she is now an expert when it comes to this topic. She also suggests that you find a niche and use it. Admitting to not planning her blog posts, she sometimes posts up to 4 times a day and is happy with the way she blogs for her readers. This isn't for everybody of course, but she spoke for herself and gave us her personal advice on Twitter and Facebook from her own social experiences. "People will sit and read your blog all afternoon if it is easy and simple to follow"- Great advice. 

Sian offered her ideas on how to write a great blog review, thanks to her experience as a journalist she is able to offer some very constructive feedback on what makes a good or bad review. She say's not to rush a blog post, and perhaps ask somebody else to read it to get their feedback before posting, getting the best out of your post that you possibly can. "Don't use words you need to look up, if you don't know what it means, don't write it". On the flip side, if your reader has to go and look up a word, they might not consider finishing the blog post and may well leave your blog.... so do consider this when using fancy words. She also asked us to consider writing just 100 words on what our blog was about, keeping it simple and to the point - A difficult task for some, myself included as a waffler!

I thoroughly enjoyed planning and plotting every element of this event, including the planning of each table within the room and naming them after my favourite places in Cambridge for Tea & Cake. These included By Jove, Peacocks Tearoom in Ely, Fitzbillies in Cambridge, Jocalatte and Hot Numbers. They were all worthy of a mention and helped to educate my guests in the best cake and afternoon tea in Cambridge. 

The next Secluded Blogfest will be coming in 2012, so if you are keen to join us, please do email Miss Sue Flay at: to be put on the waiting list. More info to follow in the new year. 

You can view blog posts from some of my lovely guests since this event, as follows: 

Miss Sue Flay