Monday, 31 December 2012

The Secluded Tea Party's 2012

2012 has been an awesome year for myself and the little cake fairies at The Secluded Tea party this year, with lots of good happenings throughout. I can assure you that Miss Sue Flay will be trooping on into 2013 with her head full of many more exciting and new Afternoon Tea-based plans and schemes in the way of cake-based fun and frolics, so watch this space!

This may seem a little cheesy, but I have made so many new friends and acquaintances again this year through my Afternoon tea journey, had so much fun it's unreal and I want to tip my hat to a few of those people and to the experiences that come with them here on the blog to let you (and them!) know that I am thankful that they are in my life and that their enthusiasm for tea and cake has been noted and helped to make for some very fun days, weeks and months throughout this last year.  

I am still baking (soon to be teaching you all to bake too with my own Baking School - eek!) as well as visiting Afternoon Tea venues to enjoy and review, even though I have lost 2 stone since the summer (and still counting ; ) and I am still annoying the mister with my incessant photo snapping at every piece of cake I nibble on... yes, it's my hobby, get over it - pffffft...  

I have added links, where the words are coloured, with links back to all the fun things I've been up to, so if you have some time to kill, do have a nosy and leave comments. 

So... to the highs of 2012:

  • Started with a relaxing trip to Southwold after Xmas, including Afternoon Tea at Tilly's Tea Room in a thunder storm and a rant about *I Saw You Coming* shops ; )
  • I met the lovely Jen, Zoe & the generous Team at Food Cycle Cambridge and got chance to volunteer in their kitchens to help prepare food for the beneficiaries. 
  • My new website was launched, courtesy of the lovely Mark at SPUOC -  I LOVE IT! 
  • Secluded Tea Party guests enjoyed swapping their bad Xmas Gifts at my Crap Christmas Present swap, it was great fun and got me featured in the The Express on Sunday & Real People Magazine... very exciting : ) 

  • I was contacted by the lovely ladies at Cath Kidston in Cambridge and asked if I fancied providing cake for their monthly craft nights, including a very special event in conjunction with "Country Living" Magazine, it was an honor and a blast.
  • I was stood in the ice cold with the lovely Debbie Wallwork & some lovely friends taking part in a Romantic Afternoon Tea Engagement Idea/Photo Shoot. An hour after we wrapped up the photo shoot, we couldn't feel our toes, noses or ears and it snowed!!
  •  I was then off to snowy Cambridge the very next day to deliver a very special package for a gorgeous lady called Aylin, who was having an Alice in Wonderland inspired party.
  • I met a lovely lady called Anna from Jersey, who asked for my advice on starting up her own Pop up tea Parties on her home island, she even gave me some Jersey Butter : )
  • I imparted some of my Twitter wisdom and helped some wannabe Tweeters get started on this fab Social media site - Cake was of course involved!  
  • A very exciting invitation was passed to me from Lynn at the Clandestine Cake Club, asking hosts to go down to the BBC One Show studio for a live cake club meet... Chris Evans loved my cake, he prodded it loads in rehearsals hehe. See me in action here ; )
  •  Lindsey popped over, a lady who had been following me on Facebook and had requested Chocolate Brownies and a Layer cake for a special Birthday treat. It's where my "Heart" shaped obsession started, making her brownies into hearts : ) 
  • Other birthday treats, didn't stop there, as after my "Tuck Shop" cake debut, everybody wanted a piece of the action and I was a busy bee making them to order!
  •  I "Met" a gorgeous family through Twitter who ran a Camper Van Rental company in Essex, we met up for Tea & Cake and I fell in love with their chef-named vehicles!
  • My friend, Lynn Hill from the Clandestine Cake Club joined our Cambridge meet at La Tasca in town. She stayed the night & we planned and plotted over dinner at Fitzbillies. It was so fantastic to see the CCC reaching nearly 150 clubs worldwide - wow! 
  • I decided to throw myself an Alice in Wonderland Inspired "Unbirthday Party" with friends and family joining me, dressed up in creepy Alice inspired costumes to join me at my Mad Hatters Tea Party table. We had a raffle to raise money for Food Cycle, which passed the £300 mark, such a generous group of friends I have, I can't thank them enough. And a huge thank you to my lovely friend Jamie & his fab Team at Apocalypse Paintball for hosting it for me. A birthday party to remember for sure : )
  • The mister tool me to London the weekend after for a further Birthday treat. We wandered and relaxed, stopping for pie & mash in Greenwich (yum!), Tea at Fortnum & Mason and a Movie Night with Bea's of Bloomsbury, which was just awesome.  
  • Not only was April full of Baby Showers... (I love an Easter birthday!) I also had a Chocolate Masterclass with the fabulous Cat at Cakes by Cat, which made me never fear the microwave for melting chocolate again. 
  •  I also got to enjoy an Afternoon Tea Baking Masterclass with Guiliana Orme, the loveliest lady I have ever had the pleasure of meeting in London. And with the class, I was co-students with the equally lovely Takami, a day to remember for sure. 
  • "A Calendar of Bakes" at Cambridge Folk Museum proved to be a very popular Afternoon Tea event and we learnt a thing or two about cake, it was a brilliant day. 

  • Emma came to me with a Hen Party query to die for, to help them throw a surprise party for her gorgeous sister in their own home. Their home was stunning and it was one of my most favorite Secluded Tea Parties to date, it was stunning and so much fun. 
  • I perfected my cucumber sandwiches. You can now learn to make the perfect 'wich
  • After a visit to my home from my lovely Tea ladies at Kandula Tea, I had been chuckling at the lessons I had learnt on the tea in my kitchen cupboard at that time, they were more than educating and I wanted to help impart this new found tea wisdom onto the rest of the world... Queue our Tea Tasting Tea Party - Get their tea into your life! 
  •  I took a visit to a Pop up tea Room ran as an "Art Installation" by Hunt & Darton.. we made naughty things with Battenburg and flicked Teacake wrappers at each others' heads. All behaviour was encouraged by our waiter, I promise you! 
  • Jubilee celebrations ended up with beer and burgers on a local street corner, as well as playing host to a fantastic Royal Hen Party for a fab group of civilised hens! 
  • I got bored with my bedroom, so after said beers, I went at my walls with blue paint... I got the ceiling too and still keep meaning to touch it up. Oops. 
  •  My TV fame continued (ahem : ) with a trip to Woburn Abbey with my home baked cakes in tow, to film a piece on Afternoon tea with BBC One's "Escape to the Country" with the yummy Alistair Appleton. He was just so nice, made me feel at ease right away.
  • We expected "The Unexpected" as our theme for the Cambridge Clandestine Cake Club, hosted at a sunny Abantu in Bourn. It was a beautiful evening, great company.  
  • The mister and I were pleasantly surprised to enjoy Afternoon Tea.... At John Lewis! 
  • After seeing the photos of myself at Woburn Abbey for the filming of my first Afternoon tea TV appearance, I didn't want to look back and regret being the cake-filled lass that I was, so I joined Weight Watchers, made some amazing new friends and have stuck to it to this day. 2 Stone down, plenty more Afternoon Tea tiers to go ; ) 
  • The Rise of the Pop Up Afternoon Tea feature on Jordan's Cereals national website included yours truly, how exciting! 
  • I played host to the Afternoon Tea to Remember! - One to toast health and love to for 2013 if ever there was more need for a reason.  
  • Cambridge played home to a new and exciting breed of WI Women... I missed membership as was on holiday, but plan to join the next chance I get to indulge the old woman inside me who secretly wants to learn to knit and craft...
  • Cycling became my new summertime hobby, come rain or shine. I cycled Grafham Water and Surrounding villages to kick start this new exercise routine, then built it up to Rutland Water in the Sweltering heat and even enjoyed the peninsular, what a ride! 
  • A treat in Norwich saw me join my friend Cat and the ladies at the *Historical Sauces* for a lesson in Vintage Hair Styling... My hair was a little too short, but we got there in the end! What a hoot, these ladies know their stuff and I will be back soon.  

  • I met the flamboyant Jenny at Betty Marshmallow, Ely's BEST cakey hotspot.. get there for her yummy cupcakes, like, erm... now! 
  • We surprised ourselves & enjoyed a muddy bike ride on the trails at Thetford Forest!
  •  I joined the lovely Deepa at Lazy Giraffe Jewellery and we did a Bread Making course together in Cambourne with Ruth at The Bread Bin. We learnt pasta, breadsticks and pitta recipes, it was brilliant and gave us skills we still use now - Ruth is a must visit!
  • Even though it was sweaty and sticky, one Saturday in mid-August, I ventured over to join Ely Clandestine Cake Club with my Sweet Sushi inspired Green Tea Cake : )
  • This month was kick started with a BANG in a weekend break away at Lodestar festival in Lode, it was local, but oh my, it was brilliant! We saw the lovely Grace-Sarah playing live, as performed recently at a Secluded Tea Party as well as Sir Bob Geldoff and the amazing girl band Katzenjammer, who I was infatuated with thanks to my dayjob and the random music I get to listen to. I was hooked & saw them again at the Junction later on in the year!
  • William Hanson was also educated in just how unladylike I am at Afternoon Tea, with our very first collaboration for our Afternoon Tea Etiquette Workshops. He even treated me to lunch beforehand, where he taught me to eat my soup like a lady.. poor guy ; )  In fact there are more plans to co-host events next year, so book now to grab a place!
  • Teacake in Shepreth was subject to my very first 4 page review in the Cambridgeshire Journal, rather than my normal small review column, it was very exciting indeed! With the photo shoot conducted by Tom & Lina Liquid Photo - Their photos are amazing!
  • We were disappointed by The Cake & Bake Show, but happy to see some Cakey friends there all the same : )  Followed by meeting a random man and his parrot in Covent Garden later that day who had us chuckling and chatting about our fair City. We also stumbled upon Byron Burgers in Hoxton which was just delicious - Bonus! 
  • Not forgetting the very first CCC AOG in Leeds, where over 80 Cake Club leaders met in the same room for tea, lunch and of course, cake - It was great to meet everybody! 
  • Headed straight to the Peak District after the AOG and spent the first week of October cosied up in a cute cottage (Called The Old Bakery - it was fate!), with bikes in the back of the car ready to tackle old railways and dams, it was a fantastic getaway and helped me to finally get to Fancie Cupcakes in Sheffield, a lifelong cakey dream which didn't disappoint! 
  • It was the misters birthday and we have both become HOOKED on Breaking Bad (An American TV Show) that had me so geeky, that I created an entire tea party around this fantastic show. It's basically about a Chemistry teacher who finds out he has Lung Cancer and decides to make Crystal meth and become a drug lord to leave good money for his family when he dies... it's AMAZING!... I made edible Meth an' all!.. Blog post to come on this, it's a good one, trust me ; )  
  • I also joined the Beg Bicycles Joy Ride for a jolly good time and enjoyed an autumnal meal at the Hotel Du Vin in Cambridge on a blustery weekday evening, a real treat! 
  • A lovely gent called Adam invited me to join him for Afternoon Tea at the Holy Grail of Afternoon Tea... well, one of the holy grails... Betty's of Harrogate. It was to record a feature on the History of Afternoon tea and the Etiquette behind it for a documentary to be aired on BBC Radio 4 next year - What a hoot!  
  • My treats also featured in a wedding photo shoot with Debbie Wallwork at Madingley Hall, a very prestigious venue in Cambridge. The photos are amazing, a real privilege.  

  • I hosted yet another Clandestine Cake Club meet, but in Greens Coffee & Co in Cambourne this time, joined by 15 lovely members and the lovely Leanne from Cambridge Evening News, who ran a feature on us, including my new co-host, Deepa.
  • Mr Neil B, a local fresh Fruit & Veg man did a cake swap with me in a car park one sunny morning... I made my yummy Oreo Layer cake for his wedding anniversary as a treat for his gorgeous wife, for a fruit and veg box swapsie - It was the best swap ever! 
  • Went to see The Hairy Bikers at Cambridge Corn Exchange... it was bizarre! They cooked just 2 meals and spent the entire show dressing up in drag and showing clips of the TV show we have already seen. Worst £40 I've ever spent. Probably!   
  • In between the last of the cycling for the year (frozen toes, two hot water bottles, lots of tears after our last ride owch!) we started playing squash between Tea Room visits
  • Greens Coffee & Co in Cambourne hosted my first Vintage Glamour Make Up Workshop, which was a sell out and involved cakes and cocktails... it was brilliant.  

  • Cambridge brought a brand new Underground Supperclub which was well worth visiting, for a 7 course meal in the lovely Alexa's home, I will be back again in New Year!
  • My Baking Workshops began, in the form of Test Sessions with some willing subjects... they were baking as well as I could and it's about to launch in 2013! Exciting times : )  
  • I said goodbye to a very good friend. 
  • A Xmas Tea Party was hosted, with the most amazing Buche De Noel you've ever seen!
  • We rode the Santa Express at Nene Valley Railway... Pigs in Blankets and booze included in our private carriage, it was festive and helped us to get in the spirit!
  • Had a quiet Xmas with family and entertained friends as they called in, plenty of cake and coffee on the go, naturally. I also got engaged, the mister did good bless him, with a ring designed by a good friend-Who knows what 2013 will have in store for us now?! 


See you on the other side! 

Miss Sue Flay

Sunday, 30 December 2012

A Very Special Friend Called Shelley

Shelley is one very special friend, a person I trust with my worldly secrets and plans, many of which were chatted about with her over the past few years over a good strong cuppa and a slice of cake. Cake was always a must with Shelley around, she's always been a girl after my own heart. 

Scribble scribble scribble... Anyone fancy making a busy ceremony writer a cup of tea? I'm gasping over here...
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    It's in fact been an extremely hard and very upsetting end to 2012 with the dreadful news that my good friend has been taken away from us earlier than she should have been, at just 30 years of age, Shelley passed away in a car accident just before Xmas and left so many broken hearts I couldn't even dream to think how many. She was a kind, generous and extremely loving friend and she is going to be stupidly missed moving forward. 

    I spent my Xmas feeling not only extremely sad by the news, but also very lucky to be alive and healthy, not wanting to sound morbid, as if I sit around feeling sorry for myself she would be having serious words with me for doing so. She helped you to pick yourself up quickly, whether you intended that to be the case or not. 

    Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I felt I wanted to say my goodbyes to Shelley with a blog post dedicated to her and to thank her for her support and friendship not only from day one with The Secluded Tea Party, but with my own personal life too. 

    Shelley would probably tell me off for giving her so much love in this blog post, telling me she hadn't done much and be as modest as she always was, but she more than deserves to be remembered and read about in days/months/years to come and for her own work to be enjoyed as we have enjoyed reading and hearing about it over the last few years as her friends and family. Her blog was her love and her work had a smile in everything she did. 

    I feel weird talking about her in the past or in the present, not wanting her to be lost in my thoughts at all, although I feel that will never happen, she simply couldn't be lost. 

    I have such lovely memories of Shelley, as she had of many other events herself, they are all memories and photographs that I will treasure for the rest of my own life and smile every time I think of her and her advice and smiley attitude towards any crap that came our way. She was always the voice of reason, always knew how to make you feel better on a down day  and damn it, she was always right. Always. 
    Such a wise girl!

    Shelley Prowse-Davis, fondly known as @indycelebrant or @LifeCircle_SPD more recently through Twitter. She always did like a good re-vamp, either helping me in depth over a good strong cup of tea after work, curled up inside away from the cold and dark, she was a fantastic brainstorming partner in crime. She would often Tweet me and ask me how things were going, if it was a particularly bad day or an indecisive day both in business or in my home life, she was there at the end of the phone or email to help me out with her straight forward way of thinking things out. 

    Actually, you know what? Forget the wine - a cup of tea is just what I need.
    Shelley helped me with proof reading and blog posts, both in style as well as spelling, etc. She actually helped my website to read how it reads to this day. I am currently re-writing parts of it and she isn't here to tell me what works and what doesn't and it really upsets me knowing she won't be there and we won't be able to be there for her in return. It makes me realise how much we can take each other for granted in that way and makes me never want to reschedule a catch up with a good friend again, we had planned to reschedule our last cuppa back in October and I can't tell her how much I regret that we didn't arrange it sooner. 

    I first met Shelley when she came to my first Secluded Tea Party, hosted at Cambridge Cookery School.
    Shelley had been following me on Twitter and had decided that I was right up her street to fulfil her love of afternoon tea , bringing the lovely Maria (aka Feisty Tapas) with her for a jolly good afternoon out. 
    From there, Maria and Shelley both became part of my life on a regular basis, having them visit my tea party table regularly, together and separately as well as coming to mine for a brew from time to time. 

    Astounded by the Dr on the BBC this morning. Coeliac is more than just a 'wheat intolerance'!
    Shelley always loved the idea of bringing her lovely partner, Leah, along but as she had Gluten Free needs, she hadn't brought her along until I insisted that she did. Queue the most stressful week of prep for the lovely Leah hehe, making sure I didn't make her unwell from wheat products was a silly worry of mine, but one that meant that Shelley could share her love of tea with her. I wouldn't have had it any other way and as a result, I got to meet Leah on several occasions and not leaving her out of our passions, it was what I admired most about Shelley. She never let Leah be forgotten, even when cake was involved : )

    Shelley would visit afternoon tea venues with me when I was reviewing for my blog or for my recommendation column. One hilarious afternoon we spent together was at Hotel Felix in Cambridge, where we had decided a chat about future collaboration plans in their garden would be a superb idea for afternoon tea. In THEORY it was a great idea as it was mid summer 2011, however the reality of wasps dive bombing our jam and clotted cream proved too stressful and we agreed to take it inside and sweat buckets in their conservatory whilst we chuckled to ourselves. In fact, it's a venue that never made my good books due to the afternoon tea not being that great on the day, of which Shelley would nod in disappointed agreement to today reading this. What made it an extremely memorable day to this day was that she shared the tier with me and helped me troop on regardless (always a hard job eating afternoon tea haha ; ) with her eating the things I didn't fancy and vice versa. We were a reviewing team match made in afternoon tea heaven! 

    She was great fun, not only over a silly hour or two such as this, but a girl with ideas and ambition to admire. She was becoming very successful in her new calling when I first met her, as a non religious celebrant, she was always beaming from ear to ear about the latest happy couple she had met and agreed to help with their ceremony. 

    Shelley had a knack of making anybody with an unusual request when it came to their wedding ceremony feel as though they were the most important people in the world, even being involved in a Doctor Who wedding, she loved the bizarre and unique side to marriage and it shone through. It got us chatting one day about teaming up to offer Afternoon Tea Catering alongside her more civilised ceremonies, but alas, it hadn't quite reached the finishing stages, which is a real shame as I know we would have had a ball working alongside each other to make her clients have the day of their dreams. 

    In fact, I recently got engaged myself, over Xmas to be precise and Shelley would have been amongst the first people to tell the exciting news to. It will be a low key affair, close friends and family only, a very unique and fun day, one to make her proud. She would have been my saving grace when it comes to plotting the day itself and she would have been the perfect advisor when it comes to making it our own. I will miss her for this alone and she will be a part of the day when it comes, no matter where or what the day may be. 
    Her blog advice will be read and re-read to keep me sane as I get closer to my big day. 

    Radio today with  ! 

    She was there for my live Radio Tea Party with BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, getting into the spirit of it before, during and after the event, she helped that event to be so much fun and she stayed and helped me clear away afterwards, against my wishes, as always. She was a bugger for that, but it was always an argument I would lose, so took her help as we nattered and caught up over dirty teacups and folding table linen. 

    Shelley was also very much into listening to food podcasts and had been listening to the lovely Anne at Eat feed for years. Anne was a new friend to me at the time of my first ever Blogfest (A blogging event that will be returning, I promise) and Shelley had Tweeted about her being star struck that her favourite American podcaster was here... in the SAME ROOM as us... How could this happen?! She was so stupidly excited, it was like as if David Bowie was in the room with ME... it was the same excitement and genuine eagerness to meet her podcasting idol in the flesh. Anne has become a very good friend to me since this too and she has moved to the UK in the last few weeks, Shelley would have been so thrilled to have joined us for more tea and cake eating, she really would. 
    She had even started to podcast for her wedding blogs in the last few months, one of which she recorded with me at the end of this summer. I am truly gutted that I will never hear the finished result, as we had such a great time chatting about afternoon tea and weddings. 

    Oh yes! the EatFeed lady is here! 
     That podcast is making me tearful. (your turn to make me cry!)

    Shelley was also an avid reader and writer and had a fountain of knowledge when it came to self-publishing and gaining confidence through writing. She was a lifesaver last year when asked to help a friend of mine, Ruthie at The Art Salon in Cambridge when she was let down by a speaker at her Writer's Retreat. Shelley joined the lovely Tim Hayward, both of them as a favour to me, where they both spoke to us all at the retreat individually on their experiences and thoughts towards writing. I think this was her first experience of public speaking on her passions for this subject and she was in her element, helping to inspire everybody in that room, she was a natural speaker and educator, I have pages of notes from that day, which I still use for inspiration today. 

    Morning all! Got asked last night to give a talk to a group of writers about the alternative ways to get your work out there.So Excited!

    Needless to say, Shelley, you are going to be sorely missed. 
    I didn't expect this post to be so long, I've just written about my memories and want to make it known how much I will miss your company. But I promise, I will be staying in touch with Miss Feisty Tapas and the lovely Leah, if it wasn't for you, I wouldn't have met these other wonderful ladies and my life would have been just that little less exciting as a result. Life really is too short, scarily so and I don't want any more regrets, although I'm sure there will always be a few I can't do anything about, I will try to not let it happen. 

    Just some of Shelley's fantastic blog posts that you may enjoy reading too: