Wednesday, 27 August 2014

A secret forest patisserie

I'm not a girl with many weaknesses; I can easily go without most foods, I'm not addicted to anything, shoes or handbags don't make me weak at the knees. I think my only weakness might be luxury. You know the luxury that makes Marie Antoinette the scrumptious film that it is? I just love the care and attention and artistry poured into luxury products (although I wish I didn't, my goodness my bank account has taken a hit this Summer!). That is why I am showing you this amazing etsy shop. A Secret Forest Patisserie is absolutely everything I adore. Every single product is absolutely stunning in its creation, its art directing and the sheer amount of time and energy spent on it. When I was putting together this post I thought, hmm can I really share ten pictures in one blog post? I can and I am. They're too beautiful not to.
If you love the look of Vanessa's creations you really need to pop over to her shop and check out the flavours, it would seem these babies don't only look good! Black cherry, Violet Champagne, Cinnamon, Chocolate and almond. My goodness I'm in love!
Heart lollipops, Raspberry lollipops, Swan lollipops, Grand Budapest lollipops, Marie Antoinette lollipops, Love letter lollipops, Kiss lollipops, Sugar Skull lollipops, Bee lollipops, Fetish lollipops.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Inspiring pinterest...

Hey folks, just thought I'd add in a beautiful photo and a continuity announcement. This summer has been all about soul searching for me. I've had a big case of sitting down and thinking "now, is this what I really want?" and one of the things which came under scrutiny was my business. My ukuleles were selling amazingly, getting great publicity and good reviews and it was looking like it was time to expand. Except I really didn't want to. I knew that if I expanded the business then it was heading the way of being a proper job which could maybe support me after uni, but that just wasn't what I wanted to be doing. I thought it was easier to shut it down now and start something I loved. So I have. It was great while it lasted but it wasn't stretching me creatively. And so I found a few things that did. The first of which is coming next week. How exciting!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

My experience with the Master Cleanse

At the beginning of the summer holidays I decided to do the Master cleanse, also known as the lemonade diet. For those of you who don't know this involves only drinking a concoction of purified water, cayenne pepper, maple syrup and lemon juice for 10 days. No food, nothing else. It became famous as a crazy fad diet when Beyonce used it to drop a tonne of weight but it has been around since the 1940s. Before I embarked on this insane mission I read a tonne of stuff on the internet and it was incredibly mixed so I wanted to add my two cents.

First of all my reasons. I'd just come back from a stressful year of uni and I felt all over the place emotions-wise. I had been advised, and subsequently read, that fasting can be a great reset button; I didn't know how true this was but I was really curious and thought that 10 days of something not-too-incredibly-drastic couldn't hurt too much. To be honest after months of feeling very out of control it felt pretty good to be micro-managing an area of my life and so I think that was incredibly healing. I didn't really know how beneficial detoxing would end up being on my mind but I was eager to see. I didn't really go into it with the intention of losing weight. Although I did end up losing weight and do have a few pounds to lose I thought it would be silly to aspire to this as I didn't really intend to cut down my diet that much afterwards. I love my food, it makes me happy.

So here is my advice and what I put myself through.

I think this is the main thing that gives this diet a terrible rep. People go into it without properly reading around the subject and so manage to hurt themselves by not doing it properly. I actually found reading about the diet incredibly motivating and reading forums of people getting it wrong gave me a wonderful dose of snugness to keep going (one woman proudly announced that she had done the 10 day fast perfectly, bar a cheat packet of cheez-its each evening. Siiiiiigh). I totally encourage you to read around yourself if you intend to take the diet but my main points (that people often neglected) would be;

  • Use purified water. I used my Brita filter. 
  • Use freshly squeezed lemons not bought lemon juice.
  • Don't mix all of your drink at once! The cayenne pepper will get spicier throughout the day.
  • Use grade B maple syrup, not just stuff from Tescos. You can buy it from Amazon. 

When I was on the diet I was so humbled by checking out the mastercleanse hashtag and seeing other people's journeys. People were doing this crazy, exhausting thing while having to prepare meals for their family or working around food. I really don't know how they did that. I made sure I didn't have anything to do for 10 days and bought loads and loads of books and watched tonnes of America's Next Top Model. The summer holidays was an absolutely perfect time to do it.

I think this might be the most important thing. Before your diet you need to prepare your body to not have food and this takes four days. On day one you just eat your regular diet but cleaned up a bit; a bit less meat and nothing processed. Also no caffeine! On day two just fruits and veg; smoothies and salads and soups (oh my!). On days three you're allowed sugar free fruit juices and vegetable broth; this is your first liquid day. On day four you're allowed orange juice only and lots of water. When you ease out you do the same thing backwards.

The ease in
This was totally fine. I was a little bit hungry on the liquid day but apart from that I pretty much took it in my stride. I was really impatient to start the actual diet. The orange juice day was by far the worst; much worse than most of the diet in fact and I was really craving something warm.

Days 1-4
I was pretty much fine! I think this was almost totally due to doing the ease in because my system wasn't very shocked. The first thing I noticed was that my tongue turned white, after much googling I saw that this was normal for fasting and meant that the toxins were coming out of my body, so a good sign! I didn't really feel very hungry which was strange but I felt very jealous of other people being able to eat. It really made me think about just how much time I dedicate every day to thinking about and preparing food.

The thing that was pretty rubbish about this diet was I hated the taste of the juice. It was all fine until I added the cayenne pepper and then oh my gosh I wanted to throw it all down the sink. But according to instagram and twitter some people loved the taste so don't let me put you off.

Hardcore advocates of the master cleanse recommend you do a salt water flush, this is where you down a huge glass of lukewarm salt water and let it come out the other side bringing loads of toxins with it. I decided against this for some strange reason. Instead I chose to use smoothmove tea, this is a must to stop stomach pain when on the diet. Basically if you're not eating then your digestive system will try and retain everything and you'll feel awful; but if you're taking something that keeps your system moving then you remain a normal functioning human being. The only bad point was on night 4 where I awoke feeling the worst I have ever felt, oh my goodness it was intense. All days after that I felt great though.

Days 5-7
These days were also fine, wow I'm making it interesting here. Again I wasn't really hungry and was really feeling lighter and more clear headed. One evening I was laying in bed trying to analyse how I felt and decided that it felt like I'd eaten about 5 hours ago; that feeling where you've been full and you're not full any more and you'll probably be hungry soon but not yet. I basically had that the whole diet. I didn't really ever feel like giving up on the diet, I don't really give up on things like this as a rule. My main motivation throughout was the fact that if I did suddenly give up I would still have to go through the 4 day ease out and so it wouldn't be much of a freedom splurge. I'd read a lot of things where people broke the fast suddenly and went to get a big greasy burger and were really really ill and so it just didn't seem worth it.

Days 8-10
I was just mega bored. I wanted to eat and chop vegetables and use utensils! A lot of people report around this sot of time they get a real energy spurt; this is your cave man inside you giving you a bit of get up and go so you go and catch a rabbit or something. I didn't have this but I didn't particularly feel low on energy. I was just majorly bored. Oh and hating the drink. I got sooooo good at downing drinks on this diet purely because it was making me gag.

The ease-out
So this was by far the worst time of the whole diet. You can eat but not eat everything, it was hell! The day I was only allowed vegetable broth was particularly trying. Oh my goodness I just wanted to eat all of the cheese. I also tried to stay off eating meat for as long as possible because this is pretty hard to digest.
So how did I do? This is what everyone searching for Master Cleanse advice wants to know. So I did lose weight; I lost 16 pounds which is obviously amazing and I've managed to keep off 14. I also managed to lose 1-2 inches all over which made a surprising amount of difference and made me feel really good about myself. I also managed to completely kick my caffeine habit which I'm really happy about.

My main difference was that I felt really good about myself. I felt a lot more emotionally clear and bright and generally a lot happier. I don't think it was just that I was proud that I had accomplished something, but that sure did help. My skin is also a lot brighter now, although it's never really been spotty. I was really worried about my hair falling out while on the diet because I know that fasting isn't wonderful for hair but I was happy to see there wasn't any real difference there. My palette is also a lot more refined, I had some dark chocolate and it was heaven and then I had some cheap chocolate and something tasted really off; I think bodies are actually pretty great at recognising crap if we let them. Oh also the mere smell of cayenne pepper makes me gag now.

I think the main thing I've taken from my cleanse is that I am a lot happier and also I understand the implications of what I eat more. I know how good I feel at my base level of eating fresh and good and not much and I can measure my current state against that. Sure, I've had greasy take always since (and loved them!) but I know not to stray too far from that healthy norm.

In short I totally recommend doing the master cleanse in a healthy and informed way. Personally I will be doing it again for sure but will be subbing out that cayenne pepper in exchange for cayenne pepper pills.

here are some links which might be helpful to those of you who would like to try. Please remember these are just a starting point, read as much as you can from as many different sources. 
pdf of the book
the official website is so helpful. Lot of information and support.
I bought my maple syrup here. It can be quite hard to find and very expensive elsewhere.
this video is a pretty good introduction to the diet and what to expect on each day. Worth a watch.

Apart from that search the hashtags (#lemonadediet #mastercleanse) on instagram as there are always a lot of people on it. Although I noticed there are a lot of day1 pictures but not a lot of day10 pictures! Forums are great for support so just google master cleanse and see what pops up. It is worth noting that there is a lot of bad press out there which you will (and should) read. A lot of people really do not advocate this diet but personally I thought it was really good for me. I think as long as you're not doing anything too drastic it's ok to try out and see if it's right for you.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

George's birthday

NO! That isn't a photo from Pinterest! That is a photo from my real life LIFE! I COULDN'T BE PROUDER! This summer for George's birthday we decided to host a big dinner party for eleven friends. It was the first proper dinner we'd ever cooked for more than the two of us so I was a bit nervous. But hey, biting off more than I can chew has always worked for me! However I do have some tips for hosting your first big dinner party and some things I learnt.

-Lists are your friends! We had a list for food prep, a list for decoration, a list for odd jobs, a timed plan of when everything needed to be in the oven. It was great! In the day we could tick everything off as we did it and clearly see what else we had to do and then in the evening we weren't flapping around because we knew exactly when everything had to be done. Perfect!

-Plan your menu conservatively. We knew we wanted to do a big homely meal with lots of courses but we also knew lots of courses meant lots of cooking and we didn't want to be in the kitchen the whole night. We made sure our starter was really easy (French onion soup), our second course didn't need cooking (pate and amazing bread from our local baker), our main was the big old cook off (roast dinner with absolutely every possible trimming!). Everything else was just plating up cheese and desserts (cheese, cake, macarons). The only time we spent in the kitchen was before the party and adding the finishing touches to our main.

-Use your cooking time wisely. We had three slow cookers whirring away! One cooking the meat for our main and two cooking our French Onion soup for our starter. It was great to put those on in the morning and know that was taken care of.
 As for a decoration goes we did most of it during the day in between prepping the food. We decided it was best to focus on a few major things so we covered the gazebo frames in fairy lights and ivy and let that do the talking. I also wanted to the table to look really snazzy so made those little menus to go around the napkins. I think they really made the table. 
Because there were so many people, glasses, plates and bottles on the table there wasn't really room to do anything fancy in the middle. It really made me think that those table settings you see with huuuuge floral displays in the middle must be sooo wide! We instead opted to just have nice baskets running down the middle with our bread in and blackboards for the pate and cheese. I think that gave a good garden party vibe and didn't make it too feminine.

The thing which totally saved the day was hiring all the plates. We just didn't have that many matching anything, let alone fancy matching anything so we were pretty sure we would have to hire plates and glasses. After ringing around loads of places I was sooo surprised at the price! For place settings for 13 people we paid just over £12. And that was a plate for every course, two wine glasses and a champagne flute each! It is definitely worth ringing around because some places were a little more but that was a general price with a lot of the places I phoned. I would definitely recommend hiring!
In the end we had a great time and managed not too get too bogged down with hosting. Happy Birthday George!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

My Top 5 Disney Art Books- The Art of the Disney Princess

 Are you ready for some more Disney wonderful-ness? Of course you are!
So here is my second selection (you can see my first post here); The Art of The Disney Princess. This is another book that I spotted in the parks but didn't have the opportunity to leaf through. It looked really interesting though so I stuck it on my wishlist and hoped father Christmas had good taste.
This book is entirely different from the others and I think if I had looked through it in the parks I would not have bought it. I was expecting it to be full of character studies and information about the different Disney princesses and their development into the characters in the films. It's not this at all! It is more like a scrapbook of different artworks which pay homage to the princesses.
 When I first looked through the book I was a little put out. Some of the artists have certainly not recognised the princesses in 'Classic Disney' style! There's one of Belle as a sort of cyborg war hero which particularly had me raising an eyebrow. I suppose it's just the purist in me. Having said that though, this book has totally grown on me. Although there are a few out there pieces, there is plenty to please the average Disney fan and loads of fun excepts from the artists explaining why particular Princesses appealed to them.
Basically this book is a collection of really amazing fanfiction. Though it doesn't feel like a book made by Disney I think it's really good at showing just how influential Disney has been on art and design over the years. It's a little bit different, but it's well worth the browse.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

5 Ways to Give Tickets as Gifts

This weekend it was George's birthday and for his main birthday present I bought him tickets to go and see the Book of Mormon. However after I had bought them I quickly realised that I had to collect them at the door on the day and so I had nothing to actually give him. I mocked some theatre tickets up on photoshop, printed them out and then got thinking on how to snazz up the whole 'make a representative bit of paper a good gift' thing.
 #1. The Leave-It-Somewhere-Noticeable.
I love the idea of leaving some tickets on a noticeboard or a shelf which you know your loved one looks at regularly. This is a good idea for a just-because present because there's no big presentation and they will just discover them when they discover them. Just imagine that priceless double take when they realise!
 #2 The Cheeky Joke Gift.
I presented my tickets in a book of Mormon. It got a little chuckle.
 #3 The "Oh Wait! There's More!!!"
You know when you got a present when you were a kid and you'd look inside the wrapping paper to check if there was a little extra present in there? This appeals to that part of everyone. Pack it at the bottom of a box, under another present and wait for the discovery.
 #4 The OMG It's In A Balloon!
I love clear balloons because you can put stuff in them. Pure and simple. For this one I wouldn't recommend using actual tickets as you have to scrumple them up a bit so make sure you are using a scanned copy.
#5 The Pocket Gift.
I like the pocket gift. Basically you give a bag or a purse or a jacket or something with a pocket and just wait for them to discover their second present. This one may benefit from some hinting "So....what're the pockets like? Roomy?" But it's another fun reveal.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

New Covent Garden Flower Market

 A couple of weeks ago I was looking for things to do in my holidays and googled 'London flower market'. The first result was a place called New Covent Garden which seemed to be a wholesaler and basically looked like the dream; a huge warehouse, crammed with flowers which are sold for super duper cheap prices. I was sold! I read that it was open from 4am and to come early to get the good stuff so a couple of days ago we set our alarm clocks nice and early, lined our cars with bin bags and buckets of water and set off, yawning.
 It was completely overwhelming! There were vases big enough for me to hide in, amazing props, beautiful cake stands, tissue paper, ribbons, basically anything anyone would ever need for a floral display and then some.
AND THE FLOWERS! My goodness, they were amazing! Right here was a room full of the most amazing flowers I had ever seen and they were cheaper than garage flowers. We bought a huge bunch of thirty white roses (and each one was bigger than my fist!) for thirteen pounds!!!! I couldn't believe it. I wanted to spend all of my student loan right there and then.
Although I had been wanting to go to this market for weeks and weeks, in the end our reason for going was a little sombre. My Granny died last week and so we needed funeral flowers. Although a death in the family is naturally going to impact anyone, I must say I feel so at ease with her death; my Granny was a very strong, fiery woman and I think it was distressing for everyone- including her- to see her fading physically and mentally. It feels good now that we can remember her for her strength without being confronted with her distressed weakness. That may be selfish, I don't know, its true. So like I said, the actual death didn't affect me hugely, what did was the absolute trust from my parents. I was utterly honoured that they would allow me to do the funeral flowers when I had no floristry experience. I was so touched to be able to do something for them on a day which was incredibly challenging for everyone.
I chose a mixture of whites and creamy-whites and then contrasting bold and delicate foliage. It was so amazing to put them all in buckets and just have them in our living room. I went between thinking it looked like I owned a florist to thinking Mr Gatsby had visited. As the funeral was in the morning I worked on the flowers at night time under the watchful eye of Tomcat- florist extraordinaire.
I think I did her proud.