Friday, 25 February 2011

Wedding cake practice

It's my hubby-to-be's birthday this weekend, and as is tradition I've baked him some cupcakes. But, I thought I'd use the baking session as a chance to refine my skills for the wedding cakes.

And I think I did ok! I managed to suss out how to get them flat rather than looking like mini volcanoes, which was a good start. (turned out my oven was hotter than the sun on the setting recommended by the recipe, I just needed a little less ferocity on my delicate little cupcakes.)

look! no strange peaks, over-hangs or nipples!

Having finally mastered the art of flatness, I set about decorating, which was the fun bit. Two packs of icing sugar and several green stained fingers later (food colouring!) this was the result!

There are a few wonky bits but hopefully on the day no-one will look too closely. And if they do, they'll be too drunk to see where I've slipped with the piping bag. (which incidentally is very therapeutic to's just so squidgy!)

I hope my fiance doesn't mind his birthday cakes being a bit girlie - hopefully he'll understand that the bows and delicate pinks are all in the name of vital weddding research.

Happy Birthday Paul x

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

A nice mother daughter moment.

Mom's bedroom. All that's missing is the till.

After a few months of avoiding lard and saying no to wine (I'm gasping) I decided I should try my wedding dress on again, just to see if the monotony of calorie counting had actually made any difference.

So while up in 'Shire this weekend, I slipped it on. To my utter delight, being a complete weight-loss bore had paid off and the dress fit beautifully. Losing a bit of blubber off my hips and tum and helped make it hang better, and even the bodice felt more comfy. I realised I can't really lose much more though or it will be hanging off. And it won't be funny if the dress slips down and reveals my underwear on the day will it?

It was nice to let Mom see me in it for the first time too, and she thought it was perfect. We then started thinking about accessories.

Now, Mom's dressing room (yes she has a dressing room!) is an absolute Aladdin's cave of jewellery, beads, necklaces, earrings, lipgloss, perfume, handbags and pretty much all things girlie. It's like a giant branch of Accessorize (but without the listless, gum-chewing sales assistant breathing down your neck.)

So we had a great time mooching through her vast collection trying out ideas for my jewellery. And then we stumbled upon the perfect necklace for me. I won’t give anything away in case my hubby-to-be reads, but I will say it’s a vintage piece and it's perfect for my frock.
I love the fact that it belongs to Mom too, it’s a nice touch to wear something of hers on the day. I'm also wearing Nanna's favourite cameo ring so that she can be with us on the day too and the necklace complements it perfectly.

Enjoying myself, I then made Mom try her outfit on too - she found it in a unique boutique in Much Wenlock, and had it altered so that it fit perfectly. She looked amazing - it's so very Mom. And then of course, we needed to think about her accessories.

I had to laugh, she just kept opening drawers and boxes and unwrapping tissue to reveal more and more sparkly, shiny things - I can see where my magpie tendencies come from now. At one point we had about three necklaces and four pairs of earrings that we couldn't decide between.

Then she said, "I might just buy something new." Brilliant!

It's all in the detail

I mentioned recently about a finishing touch for my handmade napkins.

And here it is!

Is it normal to be this excited about a little label on a napkin??

...and here's a label in situ!

If anyone wants to copy, here's where I got the little labels
And the material was from Diane Smith Fabric

The laid back vicar - part 2

The Domesday book. Probably used by Reverend Patterson as a large coffee cup coaster.

With The Big Day hurtling ever closer, (squeal) we decided we better cover off a minor detail like making sure the wedding ceremony is actually legal. So we popped up to the 'Shire to see the very laid back Reverend Patterson

We attended his sunday service, and we were quite surprised when, as we walked in, everyone in the congregation seemed to know who we were. We'd barely had a foot in the door when an elderly gentlemen roared, "Ah you're the couple that are getting married aren't you!"

It was a little disconcerting because we'd never seen him before in our lives. Then he peered at me and said "Has anyone ever told you you like exactly like Posh Spice??"

Again, a little disconcerting. Especially when his friend then pointed at my tummy and asked if it was a girl. (Posh Spice is currently preggers you see.) I still don't know who they are or how they know us.

So, feeling like everyone was looking at us, we sat down for the service. It was nice actually - although we had to do our best not snigger at the two little old ladies behind us who seemed to be taking the mick out of the reverend's singing.

Afterwards, the Rev sat down with us for a chat. Once again he had a carrier bag full of paper work which he promptly dropped and scattered all over the floor. Turns out they were the important forms that would make it legal for us to be married in the parish. I decided I wouldn't worry about his seemingly slapdash approach to our marriage legalities - you've just got to go with the flow haven't you?

So after scrabbling around under pews to retrieve the forms, he gave us a pen, told us to fill them in and handed us a very old looking book. He said "you can lean on this if you like. It’s just a ledger that dates back to 1526, it's a record of all the christenings, weddings and funerals that have happened in this church."

Lean on it?? I daren’t breathe on it! It was ancient! I should have probably been wearing gloves and using tweezers to look through it, and it's quite possible it should only have been looked at in a dimly lit, temperature controlled, secure room. Yet here the Rev was, wanging it around like it was a copy of last year's Beano Annual. He probably uses the Bayeaux Tapestry as a teatowel.

We decided not to lean on it - we used a hymn book instead - and filled in the forms to say we lived in Acton Round (I wish!)

Paperwork done, we then asked him about hymns. We'd gone in armed with a few suggestions, thinking we'd get brownie points if we actually had a little knowledge rather than looking like part-time Christians. So we'd chosen hymns cos they represented our families ("that’s mums favourite") or because they were symbolic of us ("that’s all about countryside and trees and how wonderful the creation of the world is, and we like trees and countryside.")

But the reverend looked at our list and as he casually wrapped an elastic band around his 400 year old, historic artefact, said “Listen, people get very bored at church services, so just pick some up-beat hymns that everyone knows the words to.”

So All Things Bright and Beautiful it is then.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Wedding arts and crafts

I'm absolutely loving thinking up ideas for little handmade creative touches for our wedding.

And here's my latest project - dangly love-hearts!

They're the same colours as the invites, and I plan to strategically dangle them around the marquee. Maybe hook them over the backs of chairs or hang them from branches in the garden if it's not chucking it down with rain.

My next creative project is napkin making - turns out it's much cheaper than buying them. I've found some gorgeous flowery material and Rachel, my Art Director partner of 11 years (sniffle!) gave me a good idea for a sweet finishing touch...all will be revealed, watch this space!

Can't believe how excited I am over flowery fabric!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Spare knickers

This is how we eneded up at Jen's hen, so I dread to think what's in store for me.

So I received my hen do invite in the post the other day, lovingly put together by my Best Girls.

It was plastered in deeply unflattering photos of myself which didn't bode well. And it couldn't reveal too much, as there is more plotting, scheming and secrecy than an episode of Spooks. But it did give me a very basic outline of the weekend including a list of things I may need.

And what a truly bizarre list. Amongst the items I apparently require are:

A red or yellow t-shirt.
Face wipes.
A boot with a heel or trainers.
Swimming costume.
Two pairs of pants.
A mars bar.

I mean what kind of list is that? Why have they requested I bring two pairs of pants? Will I be soiling one of them? And a swimming costume? Does that mean I have to do my bikini line?!? And what's really throwing me is the 'boot with a heel or trainers' request. As footwear go, they couldn't be further apart. What possible activity is there on this planet that can be undertaken in either a heel or a pair of Asics?!?

I am genuinely confused. And every time I speak to one of the hens they cryptically tell me that they are doing 'hen chores'. It's as if they are all physically building a venue.

And why why WHY do I need a mars bar!??!?!

Friday, 11 February 2011

Cupcake catastrophe

My cupcakes - note how the icing is precariously balanced on a bizarre peak...that's not right is it??

So yesterday, an account handler here at work asked me if I wouldn't mind baking a few cup cakes for a client, to celebrate our first year's anniversary of working with them.

And they asked me because I once put a picture of my cupcakes on facebook, and the angle of the shot and the moody lighting made them look almost semi-professional, and then another colleague here saw that picture and recommended my services to the aformentioned account handler. Bloody social networking sites.

So this was my first ever real 'commission.' And it was a bit scary. I mean it's all very well baking for friends and family. A wonky bit of icing or a cupcake that's more 'mug' than 'cup' can be excused or overlooked amongst loved ones.

But when you're serving cakes in a slightly professional capacity, well the pressure is on isn't it? Which is why I panicked further because I'd already decided (without thinking it through) to make fairy cakes for our wedding. Mainly cos we didn't want a 'wedding' wedding cake (hubby-to-be still wants a three tiered pork pie actually) and also to help keep costs down.

So again, without thinking it through, I readily agreed to make these cakes for the client. Then remembered that my cakes are often a bit odd looking. Like I have catapulted the mixture into the baking trays, as my fiance so delightfully describes it.

So I decided to look open this as practice for the wedding cakes and if it goes wrong I'll make a mad dash to M&S in the morning and buy some real ones.

And after an hour or three of baking and icing last night, I realise a little more practice is definitely in order. My attempts were barely fit for Toby let alone a client. (Though he did enjoy his free sample.)

I need to practice getting the shape right for a start. For some reason which I just cannot fathom out, they never come out with a nice flat top. They always have some sort of giant nipple proudly protruding skywards. Or sometimes the teat will lean slightly, or even just flop over the edge of the cupcake case. All of which makes it completely impractical when it comes to icing the damn things. I could slice the protrusions off I suppose, make them nice and even rather than looking like a cheap boob-job. But really, is that what Jane sodding Asher does with her fairy cakes?? Does she have to decapitate her creations before she can decorate them? I doubt it.

I better get my pinny on and get cracking eh?

Potty about teapots

As you know we're trying to add our own little creative touches to our wedding, and I had an idea for the table centre-pieces. In-keeping with the informal garden party theme, I thought it would be nice to have chintzy, flowery teapots and jugs to put flowers in. Y'know instead of vases or weird over-the-top, over-designed displays you sometimes see at weddings.

The idea is that it's all sort of a bit vintage, a bit afternoon tea, a bit country kitchen. And they'll look cute with the pretty bunting we plan to hang in the marquee.

I have become mildly obsessed with second hand teapots. I must have in the region of 25 now. Which is a bit daft when we only have five tables.

But I can't stop now I've started. I love teapots anyway, but once I started looking at them in charity shops and on eBay I have became fascinated by just how many different types there are. And they are all so pretty!

It turns out I'm not the only one getting my knickers in a twist about teapots. Some of them go for hundreds of pounds on eBay. And I've learned to spot which ones will spark a frenzy of frantic bidding. The ones with 'Prince Albert Roses' in the title are worth a small fortune and anything 'Sadler' always ends in an impossible to win bidding war. It's been a real eye opener I can tell you.

Hilariously, I told my big brother in passing about the teapot idea. Now, my big brother is a proper blokey bloke. He likes beer. He likes his Girls Aloud calendar. He likes breaking wind. He likes dirty jokes. He likes carving up forests on his mountain bike. So imagine my surprise when I'm sitting at work one day and a large box arrives from him in the post. I open it to find it's crammed full of chintzy teapots! Obviously some are more 'on brief' than others, but bless him for walking into the charity shops and buying girlie crockery in the first place. And he didn't stop there - he came to visit me last weekend and again arrived with a big bag. "Here you go Sis, more teapots! 'ave you got enough now??"

The thing is I probably had enough when I had five. But I just can't stop looking out for them. And I know it's going to be hard to choose which teapots in my collection will take centre stage on the day. So if you're a guest at our wedding, don't be surprised if you see the excess teapots dotted around the garden, complete with flowers and greenery popping out the spout...

Thursday, 10 February 2011

A bit of a moment

My husband to be picked up his wedding suit and shoes at the weekend.

And after much debate about whether it was unlucky for me to see it, and deciding that no it wasn't, last night he tried it on.

It fit perfectly, those posh blokes on Jermyn Street certainly knew what they were doing. He looked amazing and I think it's fair to say that I had a bit of a moment. I sort of filled up a little bit.

You see, as we creep ever closer to the big day, it's all starting to become more and more real. Before Christmas, it didn't really feel 'real'. Weddings and marriage are a huge part of life and so much time is spent searching for 'the one' and wondering who on earth you'll be spending the rest of your life with. And when it finally happens, it's almost hard to believe that it has.

But now, as plans are slowly coming together, I think I am starting to believe it. And even though I am also starting to feel a little nervous, I am also really excited. It's the start of a new adventure of us - but it also feels completely natural and normal and just a continuation of our journey so far. The next chapter if you like.

So that's why, once I saw my fiance all suited and booted, it bought a tear to my eye. I could actually picture him standing in church. And it started sinking in that I am going to be a wife, I am going to have a husband and I am going to be Mrs Shipley.

I also thought to myself that I hope he likes my dress as much as I like his suit.

And I hope he doesn't drop his pork bap down his waistcoat.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The 'big hair' experiment

Luckily my my mother-in-law to be, Pauline, used to be a hairdresser. So I've roped her in to help me with my hair on the day. She's also very kindly trimming my ends as I grow it down for the big day, which is saving me a small fortune. And this weekend we decided to practice some wedding day styling ideas.

Now the problem with my hair is that it's incredibly fine and wispy - sort of like a cross between kitten hair and cobwebs. Oh and it's also blessed with loads of weird kinks and bends, and sort of wants to curl, but only in a half-hearted way. As a kid I wished for long, thick tumbling tresses, and tried all sorts of tricks to make it feel big and lustrous, from sleeping in plaits to crimping the life out of it. Both experiments left me looking a more like a second hand scarecrow. For years I have put up with hairdressers disappointingly picking up strands of my hair between thumb and forefinger, and mumble that it's not ideal but a good blunt cut might help. Sigh.

So I have been nervous about how my hair will perform on the day. It's kitten-like softness means that hair clips, grips and pins all just slide out and any of my own attempts at styling turn instantly to frizz at the merest whiff of dampness. I can create the sleekest, bounciest hair do and feel as though I have finally achieved that sodding Cheryl Cole 'because you're worth it' hair-smugness, but I only have to stand next to a running tap and the whole 'do' instantly wilts, droops then gradually bends in random directions until I resemble Russell Brand on a bad day. What I need is some sort of hair viagra for my flaccid follicles.

So. With this knowledge in mind, me and my MIL-to-be trundled off to a very large branch of Boots and armed ourselves with a mountain of velcro rollers, extra firm hold mousse, a bucket of Elnett, everything we could see that said Big Volume and various pins, clips and hair scaffolding equipment. By god we were on a mission.

Back at the salon (her kitchen) she trimmed the ends and set about smothering my hair in mousse and winding in the rollers. I quickly realised this is a skill in itself. My previous attempts have been somewhat kack-handed - I'd have probably done a better job if I'd just stuck my head in a pile of rollers, rolled around and hoped some of them stick.

So after blasting my head with heat and allowing everything to cool, (and after I'd ponced about in the mirror pretending I was in a 1950's photoshoot and doing impressions of Hilda Ogden) we whipped them out.

And oh my word it was like a miracle had occurred.

My hair was enormous. I looked like Bonnie Tyler in a wind tunnel. In a good way though. Suddenly we had something to play with. Suddenly there was hope that a clip would go in - and stay there. Suddenly I felt like had real hair instead of bumblebee fluff.

But panic not. I don't intend to be one of these brides who turns up with a completely different and slightly dated hair-do that looks like it would be better suited on an extra in Dynasty. No, I just want a bit of oomph to ensure that my 'up-do' looks like an effortless, but rather sophisticated gathering of tousled tresses rather than a brown swimming cap. And that's exactly what we achieved. What a relief. Thank you Pauline.

If I wasn't on a sodding wedding diet I'd have a celebratory glass of wine, really I would.