Tuesday, 27 November 2012

What Is #CambsHour?

I am a Twitter fiend, in fact, I love Twitter more than Facebook (But shhh, I don’t want to hurt Facebooks’ feelings!)...

As many of you will have found me through Twitter (@thesecludedtea), a booming Social Media site, you will know just how much I like to Tweet about my Afternoon Tea and baking exploits, I Tweet about my events (mostly based around tea and cake), my latest blog posts and about my various Columns for local publication, TheCambridgeshire Journal Magazine.

I do use Twitter mainly to document what I am saying and doing and it is a very helpful tool in recruiting new fans and guests to my events whilst I am at it. Twitter has been so much fun, making me brand new (And physical!) friends who I meet for a cuppa and a catch up and it has provided tables full of guests at my Secluded Tea Party tables.

A month or so ago, a fellow networker and Tweeter, the lovely Ann Hawkins of The Inspired Group, invited me through Twitter to join a Hashtag (#) conversation on a rainy Wednesday evening after a monumental weigh in on my weight loss journey. So I joined, relieved myself of my excitement for the weight loss and chatted about *Healthy* recipes with local Cambridge-based food lovers and did an hours’ worth of networking without even thinking about it.

I made a new contact in the form of a mobile cocktail bar (Useful for upcoming events) and I caught up with some old Twitter friends who I hadn’t spoken to in a while and it was great to find out what they had been up to and have a bit of banter with them.

If you don’t use Twitter, you must get on there, you are missing out!

#CambsHour is the brainchild of local business woman, Helen Reinson, a Marketing and Technical Sales Consultant for IT Hummingbird.
With this Hashtag, she has managed to reach over 57,000 people/Twitter accounts and has been featured in local press due to the quick success of this new form of connecting/networking - It's only been running since October!

The beauty of this way of networking is that you can sit at home in your PJs after a busy day in the office, not needing to get dolled up, buy loads of business cards to dish out at a physical networking meeting and you can pick who you want to talk to without any awkwardness. You can look at peoples’ Twitter account and connect to their website right away to have a nosey at what they do and you can follow up afterwards with ease.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of networking in the physical nature too, having been to many of the ever-growing number of local and national networking meets, I do like a good face to face chat with new and interesting people, if not just for the one reason of it allowing me to become more confident in talking to strangers in business.

However, when I can, I like to join #CambsHour because it’s just that, an hour (between 8pm-9pm, Wednesday Evenings). I can sit and watch the dinner cooking after a busy day and connect with one or two new people on my favourite Social Media site, through my iphone, whilst dancing around the house in my slippers. It’s a fantastic idea and one that will be sticking around I’m sure.

Please do visit Helens’ website below for more information, stats and even a video on this (of which prompted me to write about it) so that you can see for yourself how it works for business people all over Twitter. I was even pleasantly surprised to hear my name mentioned in the Video, I’m very excited to be a part of this mini online world.

Miss Sue Flay

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Filming With BBC One's "Escape To The Country"

Earlier this year, back in June in fact, I was contacted through Facebook from a lovely gent called Mark who was claiming to be the Director of the BBC One Show "Escape to the Country" and he was looking to ask my advice on Afternoon Tea Etiquette specialists in the UK after hearing about my (then, upcoming) Etiquette of Afternoon Tea workshop. 

So, as requested, I arranged a quick chat with him on the phone in my lunch hour and we ended up nattering for a good half an hour about all things afternoon tea related and I had assumed by the time he had hung up that I had bored him to death with my geekery and put him in touch with some of the contacts in my little black book (of which are all in my head!)

Well, it turns out that by my nattering on about the history of the Victoria Sponge and our more locally rumoured cakey concoction, the Giggle Cake, he had been impressed by my enthusiasm for the subject and told me that he wanted to book me for the show instead of the contacts that I had provided him with. I wasn't sure that he understood the fact that I wasn't an *Expert* in afternoon tea, however he assured me that he just wanted a passionate geek to stand in front of his camera for a while and waffle about Afternoon Tea. I got rather excited.

This wasn't just any location either... It was to be filmed at Woburn Abbey, the holy grail of afternoon tea. I was nervously sold by the idea of not only getting a very exclusive tour of The Duchess of Bedfordshire's old digs, but getting to cook in the kitchens... What an honour. 

I booked a prompt days' holiday due to it being just 4 days away (eek! And thank you Nick!) and I took my sister with me for moral support and had pre-baked a Victoria Sponge with jam made by my lovely jam lady as well as the lesser known Giggle Cake, which always seems to over cook and look a little unappetising from the outside, but this beauty packs a gorgeous buttery and fruity punch, trust me. These were to sit behind us with some other treats during the feature, whilst I showed the gorgeous presenter, Alistair Appleton, how to make traditional cucumber finger sandwiches fit for a tea party in the kitchen. 

I was in my element. 

When I was introduced to Alistair, having never met him before and now knowing if he even had a diva-like reputation, I was suddenly very nervous and worried that I would forget everything they wanted to know, but he made me feel at ease right away.
He came over and shook my hand with the warmest smile I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing, he was just lovely. After our introductions all round, to my sister and to their equally friendly camera and production team, Alistair asked me more about The Secluded Tea Party and how I came to find my love for baking. His eye contact was very soothing ; )

We were then led into the kitchens of the Duchess' Tea Room situated next door to the Abbey itself. With the camera set up, Alistair and I literally got chopping cucumbers for our perfect cucumber sandwiches, buttering slices of bread and literally just put the world to rights. We talked about the upcoming Olympics and the spa that had cucumbers dangling from the ceiling for its guests' eyes and chatted about the travels he had been on with the show and about his home in London. All whilst being filmed, purely just for the shots of us in the background.
For all I know, as you watch this feature, we are actually talking about Hackney Cabs and dog walks whilst they are zooming in on us... That's quite amusing. 

Mark filmed us chatting, chopping, then a little structured filming on the history of the finger sandwiches, the cakes on offer and preparing the tier to be taken over to the lovely Beryl Peters, Etiquette Expert, who would be filming a feature on the Etiquette of Afternoon Tea later on in the Blue Drawing Room where The Duchess of Bedford would have stuffed her face to fill that gap. The true honour there was the fact that Beryl was allowed to sit on the original furniture, usually closed off by a rope to the general public. We were, of course, followed by the PR Team at Woburn Abbey to ensure that we didn't do any damage to anything and they were equally as friendly and accommodating. 

This is my first experience of filming a feature like this and watching it back on "Escape to the Country" yesterday was very odd indeed, as it was cut right down, as it would be and seeing myself on camera was very weird indeed. Not only because since this feature was filmed, I have lost 2 stone, but the camera work is just fantastic on it. I'm easily pleased ; ) 
But the camera was a couple of feet from us in the kitchen, but it looks like they were at the polar opposite side of the room, very clever indeed. It's why I was so nervous in here, as it was literally in my face and very hard to not look into the lens (as instructed not to!) but Alistair really did help to calm my nerves, he is a true British gent. 

After myself and Beryl had finished shooting our separate parts for the feature, we all joined the film crew and our families for lunch in the Tea Room to dig into my cakes and enjoy a pot of tea of two with a good old chat about our favourite subject. It was so much fun and it was so nice to finally visit Woburn Abbey in such special circumstances, I'm one very lucky girly. 

Alistair did have a very tiny nibble on the Giggle Cake, as did the rest of the crew after such hype (which I think lived up to that with them : ) as he was on a healthy diet and was tucking into a potato and salad whilst we were all much naughtier. 

I learnt a heck of a lot from Beryl on the Etiquette of Afternoon Tea, of which I was able to impart some of onto my lovely friend, William Hanson at our own Etiquette event a few weeks back. She is a very talented lady and is author to various books on the subject, so do look her up. 
The tips and history that I learnt will be blogged at a later date, as it's a blog post in itself. 

And thank you very much to Mark and Amy for inviting me along to join Alistair and allowing me to not bore you all (too much ; ) 

If you missed the feature on Afternoon Tea at Woburn Abbey, you can catch it on the BBC iPlayer for a few more days, Series 13, *Bedfordshire* - 36 minutes in approx. And I will also be gaining a copy to upload onto my website very shortly, so I can watch myself back as much as I psychotically want to ; ) 

Miss Sue Flay 

If interested, full photo album from the day of the filming here, where you can also *Like* my page. 

My TV appearance on BBC One's Escape to the Country... Should you have missed it ; )   

Friday, 23 November 2012

Vintage Glamour Make Up Workshop

Last night was host to a very wet and windy evening, but luckily for me, 37 lovely ladies and even 1 gorgeous gent (Foxy Roxy, we love you!) were cosied up drinking cocktails and eating cake whilst learning how to create vintage inspired faces at my very first “Vintage Glamour” Makeup Workshop. It sold out quickly, which was just amazing, I wasn’t sure initially if the idea would attract a big crowd, but I was very wrong indeed – Hurrah, we filled my chosen venue and enjoyed entertaining this full house hugely : )

We were joined by the fabulous Michelle Bullivant and her team of Retro lovelies, Sharon and Suzanne, who split our guests into smaller groups and gave them hands on tuition on how to do their faces in various fashions and styles, answering questions as they went, as well as showing off their skills with demos and hairstyling tips to match.

Each guest was given a little tray and mirror and some amazing makeup for them to play with, including eyeshadows, eyeliner, lip liner, mascara, blusher, lipgloss and lots more. Guests were in their element, it was just fantastic to have access to so much at the same time. Michelle and her team also helped to match their Mineral Powder foundation for them to match their skin tones.

With the Vintage Makeup Workshop guests learnt how to re-create the glamorous looks from the Hollywood Movies and Wartime eras, of which Michelle is extremely passionate about, having helped with makeup for TV adverts and even some film, she is just fabulous!

Some guests worried about whether to wear makeup prior to the event or not, but there was no need to come without their usual makeup on as they were starting off with some basic cleansing and moisturising tips and guests were even given a hand and lip treatment too for a little pampering!

Guests were also provided with their own little form for them to jot down any notes and colours they liked as they went along, so that when they next go and buy some makeup it would help them to know what suits them best - Such a great idea.

Guests were provided with catalogues for the beautiful Mary Kay range used on the evening and they could buy their favourite make up and skin care products after having being able to try them out and a few gift sets were also available to buy for Xmas gifts too, which looked beautiful in their packaging... Some very lucky people are in for a treat on Xmas day : )

Greens Coffee & Co in Cambourne was the chosen venue, perfectly picked to provide us with stunning drinks including a WooWoo on arrival and for later on in the evening, one of the lovely Carla’s concoctions...called a Finnegans Fancy – with  gin, elderflower, fresh lime juice, cucumber, mint, soda water and cava - it's pretty to look at and tastes so refreshing and summery, it was the perfect match to go with the cakes for this evening version of The Secluded Tea Party.

Cakes were baked by my lovely friends, Sherie & Julie at The China & Cakes Company based in Cambridge, as I was working in my day job throughout the day, it was time to support a local cake maker that I could trust would do us proud. And boy did they do just that, with the most delicious and larger than individual sized Bakewell Tarts with raspberry jam, freshly baked a few hours prior to the event and colourful vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream to give the tables a bright and attention grabbing view to my guests who were sat on the comfy seats offered by the superb venue.

#vintageglam was the hastag for Twitter (With me being @thesecludedtea if you don't already follow ; ) and many guests used this before, throughout and after the event, so do check it out if you are a fellow Tweeter.

Alternatively, you can see the full set of photos (coming very shortly ; ) and guest comments on our Facebook Page.

Will we be hosting another Vintage Glamour event?.... Watch this space!

Miss Sue Flay


Thursday, 22 November 2012

Review: Hotel Du Vin - Cambridge Autumnal Menu

 I have been rather busy of late and neglecting to eat a full meal some evenings when I'm racing between meetings, etc, so I gladly accepted an invitation from a friend to join her for dinner in town on a very chilly and wet November evening.
We met at the fabulous Hotel Du Vin on Trumpington Street and it was a refreshing change to be able to sit and enjoy being pampered solely for my pleasure and relaxation and not worry about my fellow guests at an event and if they were enjoying themselves (although, of course they always do hehe)

The Hotel Du Vin in Cambridge, as most of you will know by now is one of my fave venues in town for Afternoon Tea, as well as being the host to my first Afternoon Tea Etiquette Workshop with the delightful William Hanson a month or so ago. I love them and wanted to try the proper menu for a change. 

We were greeted with such a warm welcome, as always, a choice of seating which is welcome for the picky restaurant goer that I can be. We chose to slink into the darkness of a beautifully romantic candlelit corner and enjoy the peace and quiet that the table offered. You aren't sat on top of each other here, so private conversation and gossip can be perfected ; )

We were given a wine menu and some freshly baked bread and butter to nibble on whilst we decided what to drink. Well, it would have been rude not to, it was warm and smelt irresistible. Bread and butter is my weakness, this truly doesn't disappoint. And this was just the entree.

The menu is affordable, which we were both surprised at. It's not a pretentious venue, in fact I've been to some sniffy places in Cambridge that are way beneath what they were actually offering, but Hotel Du Vin offers much more, in manners, decor and in quality of their food, but not with as hefty price tag of some of these others. I was more than pleasantly surprised that I could in fact afford a starter, main and a dessert, a huge bonus for such a stressful day which was just asking for some comfort food! Starters are between £6 and £9 depending on what you go for, mains between £14 and £30 if you go for some of their delicious sounding steaks and around £6 for a dessert or warm winters pudding.
You can also choose from a "Prix Fixe" menu which changes seasonally as well as on a daily basis, allowing you to order 2 courses for £15.50 or 3 courses for just £19.50, which is actually, I believe, across ALL Hotel Du Vin Bistros. And it truly doesn't feel like you ordering from a terrible set menu that you get in some restaurants, it's very good value for money and cooked in front of you in their open fronted  kitchen.

The staff give you plenty of time to choose and were knowledgeable on everything I asked of them. There is never a choice of 3 or 4 dishes for the fussy eater in me, but I was genuinely torn on what to go for this time. So the grilling I gave our waiter was needed and he helped me to decide on a Rabbit Terrine with Melba Toast and a selection of Pickles to start. It was gorgeous, but very rich, you certainly didn't need much of this, even if you like your food as much as I do.

For our mains, we both went for the Monkfish Grand Mere, which was a melt in the mouth piece of fish, served on a large potato rosti and garnished with pearl onions, pancetta and wild mushrooms. It was the best fish I think I've ever eaten, I could eat this again and I'm dribbling ever so slightly just writing about it haha. I chose a side of green beans to go with this and the crisp to these was just as I like my vegetables.

Dessert, as naturally, there was room for dessert, was a difficult choice to make as there was a large selection to decide from. I had been fancying the Bread & Butter Pudding with Sauce Anglaise and it didn’t let me down, it was filling, so I annoyingly didn’t eat it all as was too filling even for me, but it was very nice indeed. My food loving accomplice ordered the Strawberry and Cream Parfait, which wasn’t how I imagined it being, she let me taste a slither and it was like eating that American marshmallow Fluff, but ten times tastier. It was light, fluffy and served with fresh strawberries and a drizzle of White Chocolate to top it off, it was literally the most gorgeous sweet I’ve ever tasted and I am one fussy beggar!

As we were both driving, we asked to look at their non-alcoholic cocktail menu, but the drinks waiter actually asked us what our preferred flavours were and we both agreed that we fancied something with an apple base. He went away and came back with two very different "mocktails". My friend had a a strawberry and apple drink with a papaya flavour running through, it was gorgeous. I had an apple and kiwi drink which hit my sweet tooth perfectly.
The water flowed naturally too, as we were gabbing so much, we kept running out without noticing. Luckily, our attentive, but non intrusive waiter kept swapping our bottles over without me even really noticing. I'm just thinking back now and he did this without us having to really ask, I'm impressed!

For the money, we got a lot for it and I felt as though I had been spoilt rotten, I will be expecting a romantic meal there next time, a girl can at least hope somebody might offer her that ; )

Miss Sue Flay 

Please Note - I'm not paid or bribed to say these things, I visit of my own accord, because I'm simply THAT geeky about tea and cake and all things in between. I pay for my own food and drink, I don't tell the establishment what I'm doing, unless I enjoy it so much that I want to blog about it. I then simply ask their permission to do so and I chat to them about my experience to make them aware that I (and others) have enjoyed it : )

If you would like an independent review or blog write up on any fitting subject or service from Miss Sue Flay, please do email: cake@secludedteaparty.com for a chat.