Month: April 2016

It’s only Seed Cake but I like it…

The funny thing is, I think I first heard of Seed Cake when I was reading The Hobbit many years ago. When Bilbo Baggins’ house is invaded by lots of visitors at the beginning of the story one of them asks if he has any Seed Cake. It’s a very old British recipe, can be traced back at least as far as the 15th century and was very popular in Victorian times.imageThe idea intrigued me and I looked up some recipes. When I found out that the seed involved was caraway seed I wasn’t sure – I couldn’t envisage it working as a flavour in a cake. Caraway seeds have a slightly minty smell, neither sweet nor savoury and quite musky, with a strong aroma.
imageI used a Nigel Slater recipe (http://theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/may/02/nigel-slater-classic-recipe-seed-cake) he says just to use a teaspoon of seeds, enough to gently perfume the cake – other recipes I looked at suggested more and I think I’m going with Nigel on this one.

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The cake reminds me a lot of Madeira cake – both recipes have ground almonds in them, although seed cake lacks the lemon you get with a Madeira and it doesn’t rise as much. The seeds do give the cake a gentle perfumed flavour which is actually very appealing. It has a nice texture due to the ground almonds, a golden crust and the smatter of caraway seeds add a tiny crunch. I’m not sure it’ll replace Madeira cake, which has become a favourite of ours, but the Seed cake is a quirky addition to my repertoire – nice for a vintage picnic maybe? I can see why Bilbo and his mates packed it for their long quest…

It is with a plan for a picnic I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only Gingham but I like it…

I’ve had an obsession with gingham since I had some little gingham shoes from Mothercare when I was a toddler. Despite loving the stuff, I can’t remember the last time I had any clothing made from this cutesy check.

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As usual,  http://www.collectif.co.uk have come up with the goods and I’ve been dreaming of this mint check dress all week. Oh how I adore that colour!

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Of course blue gingham is Ultimately desirable and the little daisy details on this make it even more perfect… Collectif again! image

Even my feet can get involved! These are Collectif too and they’re on sale right now. Really feeling I must make a purchase soon – my summer is not going to be complete without a mint gingham dress to flounce around in!

It is with a pastel-hued summer in mind, I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only The Wool House but I like it…

Not long after I first started visiting the Dr (my husband) in Southampton, back in the early days of our courtship, we spent a lot of time exploring the city. Despite having lived less than an hour away from Southampton for several years I had only ever really visited the theatre and the city centre. The Dr lived down by the docks and we set out one day for a walk. I spied an odd little old building near the ferry terminal. We wandered in and I swear there was something odd occurring there… A display of ‘genuine’ fairy skeletons downstairs and some kind of folk ukulele group playing upstairs. At this point in time it was functioning as a community arts space.

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Fast forward a year or two and the Wool House no longer houses fairy skeletons and has been transformed into a fantastic pub and restaurant. Paul and I had popped in a few times and loved the ale there – The Dancing Man Brewery is an award winning micro brewery and it took on the Wool House as it’s second venue after successfully running The Platform Tavern for almost 20 years. The Platform Tavern is known in the area for its ale, it’s live music and its tasty pies. We had dinner there for the Dr’s birthday a few years back and the food and drink were both excellent.

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The building itself is beautiful and has such character. Built in 1338 it has been a wool storage space, a prison, boat building warehouse and many other things. It has beautiful high ceilings, beams made of Spanish cedar and is currently decorated with heaps of fairy lights, work by local artists and 3 large windows over looking the harbour.

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As soon as we started looking for wedding venues we knew the Wool House was the only choice for us. It is unpretentious, rustic and just a little bit different. Plus the fact it’s just a few minutes walk from the register office! All rather perfect I think you’ll agree! Our first meeting with Mandy, the events manager (and the fact we’ve always found the staff to be friendly and helpful), only cemented our decision –  when she said “Tell us what you want and we’ll tell you if we can do it!” we knew we were in the right place.

These photos from our photographer Flo Westbrook show just how atmospheric it was there on our special day:

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It has a stunning spiral staircase taking you upstairs that had been decorated with trailing flowers and tea lights.

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We began our day by pulling the first pint – look carefully and you’ll see a photo of us on the pump – our beer was called ‘Amazing Grace’. It was such a lovely touch and a great photo opportunity!

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The table had been decorated beautifully with lots of little touches that I had delivered to Mandy, the events manager, the day before.

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The lighting is beautiful – very soft and twinkly, and Flo has captured the atmosphere perfectly here.

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Such a stunning space with those high beams and stone walls!

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Look at all those twinkly lights! Such a lovely backdrop for our photos!

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All in all, we’re so pleased with our choice of venue and everyone loved the food – we had a range of pies, with vegetables and golden roast potatoes, lovely flavours and great quality – one guest insisted there must have been half a chicken in her pie! The staff were attentive and polite, totally understanding of the needs of our party all the way down to our youngest guest who was just 4!

It is with a new career as a barmaid I say:

It’s only vintage but i like it!

It’s only Collectif but I like it…

It’s no secret that I’m a Collectif fan. I’ve blogged about their clothes herehere and here just to name a few posts.

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I should probably shut up about them, but they keep bringing out amazing new prints and designs.

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I’m a sucker for a nice print and I love fruity designs – so fun and retro!

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I particularly love this playsuit – I’m too curvy and too old to wear it, but oh, the cuteness!

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There’s a pretty top too, if dresses and playsuits are not your bag.

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Such a great print for summer – I know we’re not quite there but the sight raise in temperature gives me hope!

It is with plans for a summer wardrobe I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only ‘Bubble and Squeak’ but I like it…

I know it’s not glamorous, or trendy or even expensive but I find there to be something incredibly comforting in a simple bowl of bubble and squeak.

For the uninitiated – maybe you were raised by wolves? – bubble and squeak is basically leftover potatoes and vegetables, mashed up and gently fried until crispy and golden. It is often served after a roast dinner – using up remaining vegetables, and is a staple at Christmas time in the days following Christmas, when it is delicious served alongside all those cold meats that hang around for weeks!

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It was served a lot during World War Two when rationing meant families had to work hard to make small amount of food last across several meals and very little went in the bin. I find that kind of thinking very appealing and hate to throw any foodstuffs away – I’m always looking for recipes that used the leftover, the dogeared and the slightly stale.

I love my bubble and squeak with a big dollop of brown sauce and veggie sausages. How do you take yours?

It is with a thought for the wolf-raised I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only a Bridesmaid but I like it…

Back in June I asked three ladies to do me the honour of being my bridesmaids. I did this, for some reason, in the style of Lily Allen:

I chose my little cousin Molly, my sister Jess and one of my best and most long standing friends Iso.

Due to the different ages and heights of my bridesmaids I decided to go with a fairly plain and classic dress that I knew would suit all of hem and would be quite comfortable on the day. A quick look at Lindy Bop ‘s website left in me in no doubt that Audrey would be the right lady for the vintage look I was trying to achieve!

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I initially though about having all my bridesmaids in polka dots but in the end I decide just to put Molly in spots and let my two senior bridesmaid rock a classic colour. I teamed the dresses up with this lovely royal blue petticoat:

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I decided to leave the finer details of footwear to the Brideys to organise and made my final job to buy them white pashmina each and a Tatty Devine name necklace!

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As usual lovely Flo Westbrook has done us proud with some images!

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I’m very happy with the quality of the dresses and petticoats. I ironed my sister’s dress and the cotton was a nice thick material that held a pressing well. They looked lovely with petticoats under them and I didn’t hear any complaints from the girls about the petticoats although I know they can take a bit of getting used to! The two blue dresses were purchased in the January sale and only cost about eighteen pounds each. All in all the Audrey was a thrifty and gorgeous choice and I think my ladies looked fab in them!

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I can’t imagine having spent my day with any other ladies!

It is with a finger on my chin I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only a post-Wedding mantelpiece but I like it…

The day after our wedding we woke up in our boutique hotel room, had nice showers in L’Occitane smellies and then, feeling rather tired, headed for home, after picking up cards and gifts left at our venue.

We made a pot of tea and sat down to open all these lovely messages and then tried to make room for as many things as possible on our mantelpiece. We had said that we didn’t need gifts but many of our friends and family gave us money or things they knew we’d love anyway and we felt totally overwhelmed by their generosity.

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Our lovely P&P has pride of place and a selection of cards shows just a little of the love we received. That’s my bouquet on the right – lovely gypsophilia and freesia and little pearls!

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We were grateful to receive these little instruction manuals too. They’re very informative.

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With the support of Ladybird books I’m sure this will be a long and fruitful Union! Must say we loved leafing through these and giggling – what a fab sense of humour the people at Ladybird have!

It is with a short shopping list I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only a Wedding Dress but I like it!

I have a little announcement to make!

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I’m married! (Although you may have picked that up!)

The Dr and I tied the knot on the 31st of March and had a blissful day. I have lots of things to tell you about the day but I’m going to spread it out over a few blog posts, starting today with the most important thing: my outfit!

I tried on various dresses. I tried, I really did. After a distressing experience in a bridal shop a few years back I vowed I would not set foot in one again. On said occasion I was a bridesmaid and the assistant in the shop insisted on dropping dresses over my head that were several sizes too small (‘just to see’), shoved her hands up my skirt to help my into the dress and then paraded me around in front of the shop window with half my back hanging out of the dress. Or at least that’s how it felt to me. I was much bigger back then, had zero body confidence and didn’t own any dresses…

Luckily, 2016 finds me several sizes smaller and much more in tune with my feminine side. I didn’t visit any bridal boutiques, I met with Gilly from Gilly-Leigh’s Vintage and PreLoved Wedding Gowns and tried on a few of her vintage gowns but, as is the nature of vintage, she just didn’t have anything that was quite right at the time. She was lovely though and has an ever expanding range of dresses, so give her a look if that’s your bag.

I’ve been following Vivien of Holloway for some time now on Facebook and loved their bridal range. I sent for and tried on both the Grace and Duchess dresses.

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Vivien of Holloway Duchess
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Vivien of Holloway Grace

After some deliberation (and sending my mum selfies in both dresses) I decided Grace, with her snug waistline, wrap detailing and partial sleeves was a more ‘grown up’ look. I also thought Grace would show off the fact that, with a bit of help, I can have a tiny waist!

I should admit at this point that before I even bought a dress I had purchased these delicate beauties from Irregular Choice.

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I later relented, admitted I couldn’t really walk in them and they might make me just fractionally taller than the Dr, and bought the same style of shoes in a kitten heel.

My next idea I cherry-picked from blogger Georgina Horne as she looked so lovely on her big day.

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I fell in love with George’s petticoat and decided to add a splash of colour to my outfit in the same way. Luckily the fabric in my Irregular Choice shoes perfectly matched the teal petticoat I bought from Vivien of Holloway.

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The dress and petticoat covered my ‘Something new’ and ‘Something blue’ and I figured a simple string of pearls might be a good look, so the vintage pearls that the Dr’s Mum gave me covered my ‘Something old’.

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I borrowed a ring from my sister and completed the quartet.

The next question was what shape wear would give me the smooth lines I desired. I’ve lost lots of weight, but still have some jelly rolls on my tummy which get in the way of lots of clothing choices.

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This Waspie Glamour Nouveau from What Katie Did did a perfect job and was relatively comfortable. By the end of the night I was feeling the need to remove it, I will admit, but it’s shape wear – it needs to be snug and it did make me look very smooth.

So here’s the overall look! More on hair and make up to come!

I’ve only had a few finished images from lovely photographer Flora Westbrook but they look amazing and they show off my outfit very well! I’ll be sharing more, have no doubt!

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It is with something old, new, borrowed and blue I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only a Wedding Cake but I like it…

Inspiration for my cake is probably down to one lady : Nikki McWilliams. I’ve loved Nikki’s biscuity goodies since I found her on Folksy several years ago. Since then she’s gone pro with the biscuit empire and her range of goodies has increased, tempting me each time.

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I love her range because it takes me back to a time when a custard cream could solve most any problem. Grazed knee? I prescribe a Bourbon biscuit. Wasp sting? Jammie Dodger. And so on.

People pay crazy money for wedding cakes, so as a keen baker I pretty soon began trying to figure out if I was up to making my own. Mother in Law Barbara – who’s an amazing baker – was knocking up a three tiered beauty for her neighbour’s daughter when we were up North at Christmas and she assured me I could definitely make my own. She lent me a cake tin, gave me an icing smoothing tool and talked me through the finer points of buttercream.

I found this recipe on BBC Good Food and it had lots of good ratings and tips on how to make it. I felt confident I could make and ice three cakes – but what about the decoration?

Then comes my friend Becca, who bought me these British biscuit cutters for Christmas because they “Screamed Polly at me!”

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The minute I saw them I knew my design was ready to go!

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I think I found the cake the most stressful part of the wedding! It had to be left until close to the day and I am not a last minute person. The bottom tier chocolate cake was an enormous mixture and climbed out of the tin, the middle lemon layer did not rise anywhere near enough to be sliced into three and the little top layer fruit cake seemed a bit stodgy despite extra time in the oven. Then I had to ice all three layers and hope I didn’t mess it up too much.

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The cookie cutters were great and the detailing was perfect. I used Renshaw’s icing for the bourbons and it had a lovely rich chocolatey taste.

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The design in my head was very simple, just a layer of biscuit shapes around the bottom of each tier and a specially customised cushion from Nikki McWilliams on the top.

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That bottom layer of chocolate cake was so dense that those two tiers alone weighed a tonne! I had to enlist help to carry it to the car…

I delivered it to the venue, explained how to fit it together and handed over my special topper.

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Here it is, beautifully captured by Flora Westbrook!  That one wonky Bourbon upsets me – it wasn’t wonky when it left my house, it’s a good job I’m not a perfectionist! I finished my top tier with little hearts and a gold bourbon. I love Nikki’s cushion – it sets it off perfectly and brings in our new surname perfectly!

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We chopped it up and it was served as dessert – I was determined it was going to get eaten given all the headaches it had caused me! Wedding cake is so expensive and seems so often to go to waste. I had good reviews and the fruit cake in particular had a beautiful flavour. I’m proud of it and for a first attempt at anything like that I think it went pretty well.

It is with a grateful nod to the cake Gods I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only a Wet Set but I like it…

In honour of my Hen Do I decided to have another go at a Wet Set. For the uninitiated, a wet set is a method of curling your hair using rollers. You know in old films you see housewives with their hair in curlers, wrapped in a headscarf? That’s a wet set in progress. Wives would have their hair in curlers all day and whip them out and style their hair quickly just before their husbands came home from work. I’m not sure why they bothered as, if 1940s husbands were anything like the Dr (my fella), they probably wouldn’t have noticed if their wives had a scooped out pineapple on their head!

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I did have a go at a wet set when my hair was a bit shorter here but not for any event, just for fun.

I had some help from bloggers By Gum By Golly and Retro Chick and I grabbed all the equipment I needed from Superdrug and Boots. I’m still learning but I love the effects and I think I might try and do a few more over the next couple of months and see if I can perfect a technique that works for my hair.

I decided to add some curls as part of my Hen Do prep. I had the house to myself so I had a nice long bath, opened a bottle of Babycham, washed and conditioned my hair and then put my hair up in curlers with a spritz of Setting lotion.

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I used sponge rollers and then put my hair up in a cotton scarf. I don’t mind sleeping in curlers actually – some people find it very disruptive. I found them less annoying than the Dr’s snoring!!

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The next morning they were all still there – I have been known to tear unruly rollers out in my sleep!

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This is the point at which I got very excited, cos: CURLS!

I combed the curls through gently with my fingers and teased through a smudge of Boots Curl Creme. I added a beautiful spray of orchids from Uptown Curls and I was good to go!

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I was very happy. And I definitely prefer it to a scooped out pineapple. The Dr has yet to comment on it…

It is with a curly top I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!