22 December 2011

Merry Christmas, from Leaff x

This is our very last post of 2011, and we wanted to send out a big, warm thank you to all of our readers, clients, and friends, for all of your support throughout the year.

As most of you will know, we are looking forward to launching Leaff's shop in the New Year. If you haven't already done so, please pop on over to our shop page, to register your interest, for a friendly nudge when the shop goes live.

Finally, a special thank you to all of you who have registered so far, and congratulations again to all of our 15 winners of our Christmas give-away (as pictured above).

As we mentioned to those of you who were not so lucky, we wished that we could have given all of you
a gift, but we will be looking to treat our customers as often as possible, and there will be more give-aways to come in the future.

We are now closing Leaff for the Christmas break, and will be re-opening on Tuesday 3rd January 2012.

Wishing each and every one of you a warm and magical Christmas....

Kate x

21 December 2011

Wedding #7 - Our Honeymoon

A very happy Wedding Wednesday to you all, on what is the very last in our series of wedding posts.

If you have missed the rest - or any at all - of our past posts, you can catch up here:
The Venue, Attire, Beauty, Flowers & Decor, Cake & Favours, Our Big Day.

Meeru Island, Maldives

It was day 3 of being a married couple, and we were all set to jet away to our dream location for honeymoon - the Maldives. I had fantasised for as long as I can remember, about visiting the islands.
My Grampy had told a me all about the time that he had spent there while at war, when I was just a child, and since we lost Grampy soon after, it had always felt like a place that I was destined to go. So, you can imagine my elation when we found a package within budget - utter surprise and delight!

We flew with Emirates, and our flight was over two legs - the first from Birmingham to Dubai, and the second from Dubai to Male. The Emirates planes were the biggest that we had been on - or even seen, and we were unsure of exactly how we were going to take off! Once in Male, we set aboard a speed boat, for an hours journey to our island of Meeru - that was great for getting to see the other islands dotted around the ocean, as we sped by.

After a welcome cocktail, we checked in to our jacuzzi beach villa, and it was just fantastic. As you can see from the pictures, the room was very modern, and our favourite bit - the bathroom - was out of this world. It was half covered, half uncovered to the outdoors, so you could shower under the stars. Our garden came complete with sun-beds in both the shade and full sun, and of course, a jacuzzi.

Despite being extremely jet-lagged, we were up at the crack of dawn on our very first day, to explore the island at sunrise, and we were certainly very glad we did!

It took us a total of 35 minutes to walk all the way around the island, which was uncanny. We breathed in the fresh, tropical air; we lay and took stock, in awe of the beauty and of just how lucky we were; and we interacted, transfixed, with the wildlife that we had only ever seen on television before.

The sea was teaming with wildlife in the shallows at that time of day. As you can see above, there were manta rays, sharks, sting rays and random purple jellyfish (which we later found out were very poisonous), all floating around, just waiting to be seen. We were stood ankle deep when we took these shots, so you can see just how shallow they came.

The little crab that I am holding was one of millions that littered the beach. There were also transparent crabs, which were really hard to see, until they began sprinting from under your feet, so you had to be so careful not to tread on them. We loved the crabs, they were so funny, and so sweet.

The last photo shows the local workers that cleared the beach of washed up seaweed an coral every morning, and every evening. Their dedication to keeping the island looking at its best was really inspiring. They didn't just do it because it was part of their job, but because they loved their island, and cared about it deeply. This is something that we noticed about every single worker on the island.

Most days were spent enjoying the array of delicious foods and drinks, getting lost in book after book, bathing in the gentle rays of the afternoon sun, and exploring the island. Late afternoon usually called for a cocktail in the jacuzzi, while watching the fruit bats fly over head and settle in the palm tree that hung over our garden. We were mesmerised by the bats.

We had a few days of rain, but since we love any kind of extreme weather, we were happy to enjoy the experience - any rain in the Maldives is torrential, and therefore exciting!

In the evenings, we enjoyed interesting drinks at the many different bars dotted around the island - each of them very intimately lit. To give you some perspective, we were given a torch to help us to get about at night.

Half way through the holiday, we opted to go on a 2 day cruise around the ocean, to a couple of fellow islands. The first was a tiny, deserted island, which took about 2 minutes to walk across (first photo, second row). From here, we were kitted up with snorkelling gear, and were taken out along the reefs with our instructor. What we saw was out of this world. It was so deep that it felt as close to flying that we could ever imagine. We saw the most magical reefs, of the most vibrant colours imaginable. We have all seen it on the television, but honestly, being there is entirely different. The fish - the species that we saw - were magnificent, and it was an experience that we will never forget.

That evening, after what was a surprisingly exhausting day of snorkelling, we headed back to the boat
for a sunset party. The crew popped open the champagne, and set everyone up to fish off the side of the boat. As anyone who knows me would expect, I was sat high up on deck, with my hands over my eyes, politely declining to get involved. I'm not too sure that the crew ever did understand what I meant when
I said that I felt unable to kill a fish. It is what they do in order to eat, on a daily basis. Luckily my lovely husband was feeling much the same, so we sat back and enjoyed the sunset with our champagne.

Our cabin on the boat was amazing - complete with en-suite bathroom, and an amazing window out to sea. It was so great to stay in - such an experience - but on the last night, our nerves were tested as we set anchor amidst a storm. It seemed to be passing at first, and the crew were so upset at the prospect of us not enjoying the boat, that they took us to visit another local island, which tourists rarely got to see. It was a working island, so it was very run down, and the people who lived on there were only the workers themselves. That evening, the locals got together and played for us at their local community centre. When their not working, they enjoy playing a variety of instruments together, and so they just started jamming for us. They were really very good, and took it ever so seriously. When we got up to dance,
it encouraged them to relax and they began to lose themselves in the music. It was a great experience. Unfortunately for us, the storm returned with a vengeance later that night, and we genuinely feared for
our lives! I remember lying there, white knuckled, next to Jay, as we slid up and down the bed with the motion of the boat, as it violently swayed, and got lifted feet off the surface and dropped again by the monstrous waves, and thinking, 'if we survive, this is going to be a great story'.

Needless to say, when we woke the next morning, we felt both relieved and liberated by our experience. To top off what was an unexpected and extraordinary trip, we were joined on our journey home by the biggest group of wild dolphins I could have ever hoped for. There was around 50 of them, surrounding
the boat - some flinging themselves out of the water, putting on quite a display, and some swimming
right alongside us, in reach. I was so elated that I had an almighty urge to fling myself over board. Dolphins have always been my very favourite of animals, for as long as I can remember, and although I
have seen wild ones before, it was always the odd one at a fair distance, and nothing like this. Among all of the amazing and magical things that we had seen and experienced on that trip, it was the dolphins that brought me to my knees.

Back to Meeru, and after the whirlwind adventures of the cruise, we were in need of a little comfort.
There were two spas on the island, but the over-water-spa, was the superior, and where we were lucky enough to indulge. We had already had a free welcome massage on arrival, but being a massive spa fan, I wanted more that those 15 minutes.

So, during our final week at Meeru, I indulged in an aloe body cocoon treatment. This began with a foot treatment, on the private deck of my treatment hut, where I could see nothing but endless ocean ahead of me. I was then led to lay on a traditional spa bed, which had a floor window directly below where my face poked through, so I could watch the sea life as the mighty strong therapist did her magic. My entire body was massaged with the most beautiful oil, smothered in cool aloe vera, and wrapped up tight in blankets. I then enjoyed a warm oil head massage, and a luxury shower, before being finished off with
a layer of tropical lotion. The aim of the treatment was to nurture the skin after sun exposure, so this felt like a perfect way to end the holiday.

Before the treatment began, I was given a gorgeous lemon water, which tasted like the best lemonade I had ever had, and to end was a spicy ginger tea, which we both fell in love with.

As we left the spa that evening, we were surprised by an army of crabs, that were gathered, bathing in the warm evening shallows. It was an amazing sight!

Sunset on Meeru island was perhaps the most breath taking part of our days. The pastel colours that it began to cast; finishing with the sky ablaze with fiery vibrancy. It was hard to believe that what we were seeing was real, as we strolled along the beach and bathed in the glory.

Among the beauty that filled my head on our honeymoon, Leaff wasn't far behind. I allowed myself to reflect on our achievements so far, and to dream about my aspirations for the future. I must say, as I looked out, humbled by the enormity of the beauty and wonder, I felt certain that they were all accomplishable.

I hope you have enjoyed my wedding posts over the last 7 weeks, and I hope you feel inspired by what
I have ended them with.

Our honeymoon package was booked through Thomas Cook Signature. You can read more about Meeru Island here.

14 December 2011

Wedding #6 - Our Big Day

Well it is finally here - the post that many of you have been eagerly awaiting, and the post that I have been most anxious about - the big reveal. A very happy Wedding Wednesday to you all....

Photographer: Richard Barley
Venue: The Swan Hotel (Bibury, Gloucestershire)
Florist: Jayne Pugh (David Austin Roses used)
Make-up: We Are Make-up Artists (MAC make-up used)
Hair: Laura Leigh (hair roses from Jayne Pugh)
Chair Covers: The Chair Tailor (and Brides Mum)
Candelabra & Plinths (hired): Jayne Pugh
Brides Dress: Just For You Bridal
Bridesmaids Dresses: Elderberry Bridesmaids (included bags)
Grooms/Groomsman Suits: Slaters (full outfits)
Brides Shrug: House of Fraser
Brides Jewellery: Debenhams

Just a couple of things to say....

A few of the photographs above were by wedding guests, but the vast majority are the professional shots by Richard Barley.

There are some things that I could not find pictures of - like our amazing pianist, Steve Christie. He played me down the aisle, throughout the ceremony, and throughout the breakfast, and he was unbelievable. The best non-famous pianist (who really should be) that I have ever come across - you can take that from someone who used to play herself. Highly, highly recommended, so please go and visit his site and have a listen.

I have tried to cover everything here, but if anyone has any questions, please fire away and I will do my best to help.

Lastly, for those of you who perhaps missed our previous wedding posts, you can check them out here: The Venue, Attire, BeautyFlowers & Decor, and Cake & Favours.

Next week will be our last Wedding Wednesday post, which will cover Our Honeymoon. Complete with breath-taking pictures, and destination details.

12 December 2011

Xmas Give Away (Spreading the Xmas Cheer!)

As some of you may have already heard through our tweets and Facebook posts, we have been hard at work the last month, on some Christmas treats...

Some beautiful, letterpressed Christmas cards, and beautiful they are too. Designed by Leaff, and letterpressed by the lovely Martin at Tilley Print

Not wanting to give too much of the design away just yet, we have specifically only shown the creation of the cards, and some glimpses, here.

The treats were designed as 'teasers', ahead of the launch of our shop in the New Year. They were handed out in person to local businesses, and posted out to a selection of inspirational companies, to show our support and spread the Christmas cheer.

We did however make a few extra, in order to offer our lovely audience the chance to win a pack of their very own. There are no questions to answer, no pressure to follow us on Twitter and no insistence to like us on Facebook; all you have to do, is head over to our Shop and give us just a few details. If you are lucky enough to be one of the first 15 people to do so, then a Christmas treat will surely be on it's way to you!

Good luck!

07 December 2011

Wedding #5 - Cake & Favours

It is week 5 of Wedding Wednesday already? Where has the time gone! This week I am covering
Cake & Favours, which includes beautiful cake designs and an array of favour ideas.

If you missed one or more of our last 4 wedding posts, fear not, you can easily catch up with them
here: The Venue, Attire, Beauty and Flowers & Decor.

The following mood boards were created as a personal project during the planning of our wedding, 
and therefore, I was predominantly screen grabbing any images that I found inspiring. I have done 
my absolute best to go back through and locate their sources, but where sources, designers, stylists, artists or photographers are unknown to me (and if you find your work on here) please contact me 
and I will add a credit immediately.

Unfortunately, just like last week's post, I was unable to find the exact locations of where any of the following images were found. I can confirm again that a lot of them would have come from Style Me Pretty, but I cannot account for which ones exactly, and where the others were found. Forgive me!

Cake Designs

Since we already had our eyes on a local baker for our cake, we didn't need to do any shopping around for a supplier.

Laura Elizabeth Cakes are an amazing little company, based in the heart of Worcester. They create
a huge array of cake designs and styles, from traditional tiered wedding cakes, to less of the traditional shapes and sizes. They also do an impressive range of flavours - again, some traditional and some intriguing (certain conversation-starters!). As if this isn't already enough to have you rubbing your hands together, they also have some very inspiring designs in their portfolio, which quite literally had me squealing.

So, after an amazing cake tasting session at Laura Elizabeth, and a whole load of research for inspiration, we managed to get a design together that was just right, and left them to make the magic happen. They really didn't disappoint - it was literally the most perfect wedding cake we could have ever hoped for; it was out of my dreams.

We opted for a combination of flavours for our cake. We had settled on having a single tiered light fruit cake with marzipan, with a mixture of lemon cupcakes and apple & cinnamon cupcakes. Combined with our breakfast, the food followed an autumnal theme, which was perfect for our October wedding, where
all of the flavours complimented each other. They were all absolutely delicious.

Needless to say, we really couldn't recommend Laura Elizabeth enough, so do pop on over to their website and read more about them.

Favour Ideas

If you are anything like us, we were after less of the usual and more of the fun and unique for our favours, and as you can see from these visuals, there is a lot that you can do. From seeds and plants
to homemade jams and sweet bars, it is certainly possible to let your imagination run wild.

For our own favours, we wanted to give our guests something unexpected and something that would excite them. We loved the idea of homemade jam, as we had actually recently made a batch as Xmas gifts for family, and really enjoyed it, but with a million other things to do and such little time on our hands, it just wasn't possible for us. At any rate, we weren't sure that jam would be as interactive as
we wanted. So, in the end, we decided to do a little sweet bar of our own.

Each guest had a little note on their name placing, to thank them and tell them to go and fill up a bag
of sweets for themselves, to enjoy. We didn't have any children at the wedding, but it was a mixture of friends and older family, so the idea was to loosen people up, by giving them the common feeling of reliving their childhood; carefree, and able to enjoy the small pleasure of devouring a pick 'n' mix. It was certainly a conversation starter for everyone, as they reminisced about the sweets that they loved to buy when they were small. It created a really happy and excitable atmosphere.

There are lots of sweet bars that you can hire out, but they are a couple of hundred pounds. We decided to save some money and enjoy putting our own together, and all in all it came in at around £50 - although there was only a total of 35 of us, as it was a very intimate wedding. That was for 3 glass vase bowls and 2 glass bowls from IKEA, a sweet scoop and tongs from Amazon, sweet bags from eBay (plain and ready to decorate), a mixture of 5 different sweet combinations from local sweet shop Zendels, and ribbon, card & string to decorate.

The 5 different bowls held 5 different mixes of sweets; Fruit Jelly Mix, Sour Jelly Mix, Hard Boiled Mix, Retro Mix and Chocolate Mix, so there was something for everyone. As for those with dietary requirements, we had 2 diabetics at our wedding, and it was no problem at all, as we did a special sweet bag for each of them, using special diabetic chocolates from Thorntons, and they loved them!

Well, I think that I have just about exhausted the subject of Cake & Favours, and I really hope that you have gained lots of inspiration from this post. If you have any questions, or ideas of your own, please share them in the comments box, so that everyone can benefit from them.

As I am sure you are well aware, next week is the big reveal - I can't believe how quickly it has come around! So, I will be sharing our photo's from our big day itself, with details of all of our wonderful suppliers. Eeek! Should I be this nervous?!

Until next week, we wish you a very happy and inspirational Wedding Wednesday!

06 December 2011

Your Valued Feedback...

Just a quick nudge in the direction of our facebook page, where we have just posted a very important question.

We would be eternally grateful if you could all (yes, each and every one of you) spare us just a few seconds to pop on over and leave us your extremely valued feedback. It will help us to improve our
blog, which will in turn provide you with more reading pleasure, so it is a win-win situation!


I know that a lot of you are shy about getting involved, but we would love to hear from all of you - sincerely - no matter who you are or where you are from.

Thank you all again for following us, and we hope that with your feedback, we can provide you with
more and more of the things that you love most.


05 December 2011

Malvern Theatres: As you read it...

A few weeks ago, one Thursday evening, we went over to Malvern Theatre for a free event, called As you read it. It was a bit of an experiment on their behalf, as they seized the opportunity to get more use from the theatre by staging budding, unpublished writers and their short stories.

They asked writers aged 16 and over to submit a short story, which a panel of judges then selected 8 winners from, to perform to the audience at Malvern Theatre. As a lover of writing and words myself, I was intrigued.

We went along with no expectations, but just to have a nice evening out, and everything ended up being a bit of a surprise. It was fantastic! Every story was a pleasure to hear, and we sat transfixed the whole time.

Our favourite of all the stories, were Whisper In The Wind, by Fay Wentworth, Get Me To The Church On Time, by John Jinks and The Revelation, by Tana Durham, although all of them were fantastic.

Fay told of a tale where a young girl, bereaved by the loss of her Grandfather, visits her local church, which transforms before her and takes her to a place much like heaven, where she learns that his soul lives among the things that surround her. It was a charming, heart warming story, enhanced completely by the authors soft, delicate voice - it was beautiful.

John told us of another bereavement - this time an elderly man who had lost his wife. It was uplifting and humorous as he portrayed the different relationships between each witty character, and the endearing relationship between the grieving husband, and his much loved, deceased wife. Again, it was heart warming, and told brilliantly by an utterly charming author.

Lastly, Tana, who took us on an entirely different journey, into the world of a well-to-do married couple, who were rekindling their love through discovery of their daring side, at a time in their lives where things had perhaps grown tired. It was a magical story of the power of adventure, and how the littlest things we do can make such a difference. To be bold every once in a while, try something new, and feel alive.

We really hope that there are going to be more of these performances to come, as we enjoyed it so much, and judging by the turn out, it drew quite a crowd that seemed to enjoy it as much as we did.

We will be keeping an eager eye out for the next one, and you can too, at www.malvern-theatres.co.uk.

01 December 2011

Welcome, Winter...

As some of you may notice, Leaff has undergone a transformation over-night. We have bloomed from Autumn yellow to Winter red, in celebration of the new season.

Winter 2010 - Fond memories of the magical winter that we had last year.

And, as if it were planned to coincide, today is the very special day that marks the beginning of Worcester's magical Christmas Fair...

Christmas Fair, Worcester, image from Visit Worcester.

If you haven't been before, you are certainly missing out; inspiring crafty stalls, intriguing foods, traditional roast chestnuts, festive hot mulled wine...even a carousel ride! So, make sure you get
down to show your support - local businesses will too, be joining in the fun.

The fair is running from today (1st December) until Sunday 4th December.
Download the leaflet from Visit Worcester here, or the full programme here.

Hope to see you there!

29 November 2011

Wedding #4 - Flowers & Decor

It is Wedding Wednesday yet again, and today, I am bringing you the visual feast that is Flowers 
& Decor, covering beautiful bouquets, buttonholes, arrangements, and room dress ideas.

If you are new to our blog, these wedding posts have been running for the last 3 weeks also, and they have covered The Venue, Attire and Beauty - why not take a look?

The following mood boards were created as a personal project during the planning of our wedding, 
and therefore, I was predominantly screen grabbing any images that I found inspiring. I have done my absolute best to go back through and locate their sources, but where sources, designers, stylists, artists or photographers are unknown to me (and if you find your work on here) please contact me and I will add a credit immediately.

Unlike my (mostly successful) previous attempts at image sourcing, I was unable to find the exact locations of where any of the following images were found. I can confirm that a lot of them would have come from Style Me Pretty, but I simply cannot account for which ones exactly, and where the others were found. My sincere apologies.

Bouquets & Buttonholes

When considering and researching my bouquet, the maid's bouquets, and the buttonholes, we were instantly drawn to pastel shades, big, blousy, romantic arrangements, and lots and lots of roses. 
It wasn't just the flowers and colours that we wanted to get right, but the binding of the flowers as 
well - details really mattered.

As you can see above, there are many ways to tie a bouquet, rather than just the normal bind of organza. Why not a big bow using fabric ribbon? Why not a special tie using satin? I for one didn't want to settle for what was the usual thing to do - I wanted to have something out of my dreams.


As a bit of an interior design fanatic, I was in my element when piecing together our room arrangements and dress. There are so many things that you can do with flowers - and as this is what we wanted to 
be the main focus in the room, we had lots to explore. From pretty vases, to vintage tin jugs, the containment itself is a big topic, and then there is the use of flowers - along the aisle, as table centrepieces, in tall vases, cascading down softly lit candelabra, or intertwined in tree branches 
- you can really get lost in the details, which put me right in my element!

To some florists, my vision may have been a challenge, but we were extremely lucky to come across what must be the best florist in the world! We met Jayne Pugh very early on in the planning of the wedding, and straight away she was aware of the level of detail I was dreaming of. Jayne is so full of passion for her work, and loves nothing more than helping brides to accomplish their vision for their big day. From flower arrangements, through to special details that she was able to hire out to us, she took 
it all on, and at a price that was extremely reasonable. Visit her website here - she comes very highly recommended by us.

Room Dress

Lighting, signage, table layout, coverings and ceiling details - you could get lost in this world! There really is so much that you could do, and it certainly is the little details that really make your theme work. 

The biggest challenge for us I think, was the chair covers. We were completely put off by the over-use 
of chair covers with big organza bows, and wanted something far more individual for ourselves 
- our vision just wasn't going to work without it. Alas, there does not seem to be anywhere on this 
planet that offers any other choice, so we ended up putting pen to paper and coming up with our own design (which luckily, we could rely on my dab-handed mum to create). This of course made for such 
a personal feel to the decor. I guess what I am trying to say is, don't be put off or deterred if you can't 
find something that matches your vision - if you can't find it, make it.

The sheer amount of details can seem quite daunting, and I was very nervous about forgetting something. This is why it takes so long to research things - the more inspiration you look at, the 
more ideas you see, and by the end of it, there is no stone left unturned, so you cannot possibly 
forget anything!

When we began our journey of planning our wedding, I desperately wanted to create the vision in 
my head, but I was grounded in the belief that none of it really mattered, because the day was about marrying Jay. However, it is very easy to get caught up in the details and the expectations. You see 
all of the possibilities and think, I could do that, and any time that thought crosses my mind, that is 
it, I am like a dog with a bone.

The year spent planning our wedding was definitely the most stressful and yet the most inspirational year of my life. I discovered so much creativity, I learnt more than I thought I would, and I ran myself into the ground in the attempt to make the day look just how I wanted. Who ever said dreams were easy to reach? I must remind you though, that I was of course running Leaff at the same time, so this certainly didn't help with the stress, or the amount of time I had to do things, but I do think it enriched my creative productivity within Leaff.

On the day itself, I woke up satisfied that we had done everything that we possibly could, to make everything just how we wanted, and it was time to refocus on the most important thing - marrying Jay. It is true what they say - with all the stress that you go through planning your wedding, you really couldn't care less about the details on the day, for your eyes are no where but on your new husband.

I hope that this lot has inspired you - both the rich visuals and what I have had to say on the subject. 
As ever, I would love to hear your thoughts on this post, so don't be shy, leave us a comment.

Next week is the last post on the planning, before the great reveal of our day in week 6. The next post focuses on 'Cake & Favours', and includes cake design ideas, a huge array of favour ideas and visuals, along with the details of our very own baker. Hope to see you here then!

25 November 2011

A tin of curious chocolates and a little festivity...

I really wanted to share a very special moment with you, involving a box of incredibly curious chocolates, and a beautifully festive evening.

We got the chocolates from our lovely German friend for our wedding, and after sitting by the sofa looking at us for a good few weeks, we decided that we could wait no longer; we had to see inside.

You see, the entire packaging is in German, so we had no idea what was inside. I could make out a
few words - marzipan, possibly hazelnut, pistachio and praline, but I wasn't even sure. The tin itself is stunningly beautiful, decorated in striking, rich red and gold, giving both a strong royal and festive feel.
A picture of Mozart sits on the lid and around the sides, with the title Mozart Kugeln and logo of the German master chocolatier, Reber.

So, with our wood stove crackling away, and the mulled wine warming up on top, we settled down for
the great unveiling.

We opened the lid to find the inside to be just as beautiful as the outside, with delicately embossed patterns, and the protective wrapping inside - substantial, and adorned in gold print. As we carefully removed it, both the size of the beautifully wrapped chocolates and the strong aromatic smell of rich chocolate, with a distinct note of liqueur, hit us all at once. They were honestly the most beautifully packaged chocolates we had ever seen - they oozed expense and quality.

We exitedly unwrapped the chocolates, despite the fact that I was supposed to be approaching with caution seeing as a have a little allergy to hazelnuts (mild as it is, it is still uncomfortable) but honestly,
I couldn't of cared less, I was on it like a robin on a fat ball!

We carefully unwrapped a chocolate each (they are so beautiful that they make you want to handle
them extra carefully) and sunk our teeth into them. The taste was unlike anything that we had ever experienced before - like the best chocolate I have ever eaten. To describe the taste is difficult,
and in fact, I am just going to have to eat one right now and describe as I go....

Ok, unwrapped and ready. Is it too early for chocolate?...Oh I don't care, I'm going for it...

Smooth, silky dark chocolate, thick and crisp on the outside, and as I bite in...soft, buttery textured, marzipan - the flavour is there; creamy and not too strong, with a kick of some kind of liqueur, a nutty flavour, and a secret cocoa centre. Intriguing.

There is no urge to gorge them all at once, because they are so rich and flavoursome that just one
at a time is enough. In my opinion, true chocolate quality.

You can find out more about these amazing chocolates at the manufacturers website, here, where you can also follow the link to the shop and purchase some of your own (highly recommended for Xmas).

Having now read a bit about them myself, I can confirm that they do contain hazelnuts, pistachio nuts and almonds, though I personally am lucky enough not to have reacted to these in this instance.
It is a good job, because I would be enduring a puffer face all Christmas otherwise. From reading the other ingredients online, they do not seem to usually contain alcohol, but ours definitely do, having translated it from the ingredients on the tin. So, allergy sufferers be safe, and check out the ingredients before you try and buy - do not rely on my experience, because as I said, my allergy is very mild in comparison to others.

Do let us know if any of you do purchase some, and what you think. We would be really interested to know!

23 November 2011

Wedding #3 - Beauty

Happy Wedding Wednesday! This week it is all about 'Beauty', covering hair and make-up, the veil / tiara / hair accessory situation, and details of what worked for me with my own beauty regime, leading up to our big day.

If you missed my first post on 'The Venue', you can catch it here, and if you missed my last post on 'Attire', you can also catch up on that, here.

I am sorry to bore most of you with this again, but I must do my bit for the people who brought us the visuals that you are about to see: The following mood boards were created as a personal project during the planning of our wedding, and therefore, I was predominantly screen grabbing any images that I found inspiring. I have done my absolute best to go back through and locate their sources, but where sources, designers, stylists, artists or photographers are unknown to me (and if you find your work on here) please contact me and I will add a credit immediately.

Hairstyle Board

I am having real trouble remembering where I found these pictures. I think a lot of them must have been from Style Me Pretty, but I can't be sure so I have put 'unknown' for the most part. From top to bottom, left to right:

1  Image source - unknown (stylist / photographer unknown)
2  Image source - unknown (stylist / photographer unknown)
3  Image source - unknown (stylist / photographer unknown)
4  Image source - unknown (stylist / photographer unknown)
5  Image source - unknown (stylist / photographer unknown
6  Agnes Obel - 'Just So' music video still (stylist unknown)
7  Image source - unknown (stylist / photographer unknown)

When researching what hairstyle I wanted, 90% of my focus went on curls - the right kind of curls. I didn't want tight, 'sausage shaped curls' as one hair dresser put it, but big, natural curls, that were soft and feminine. I hoarded picture after picture of curls that had that look and that volume, some of which I have shared above. The other 10% of my search was on style. I knew that I wanted something simple, and above all, 'me'.

My search for a hairstylist that I could both afford and that I thought could give me what I wanted, was extremely difficult. Towards the end of my seemingly hopeless search, I headed out and got some heated rollers to try out, to create the look myself. After numerous watches of You Tube's 'How to..' videos, I was all set, and me and my maids tried them out at my hen celebration...it didn't exactly go to plan, seeing as our hair was poker straight within an hour. So, the search was back on and I finally, finally found someone two weeks before my wedding, who so kindly agreed to save the day! Her name was Laura, and you can find her salon here.

Yes it was tight, no I didn't have time for a trial, and yes I was nervous. However, at that stage, I was utterly exhausted from worrying about every single little detail, that I think I just threw in the towel and decided to not worry. Fate would determine what I would turn out like on the day, and all that mattered to me was that I was marrying Jay.

Make-up Board

Again, I am having real trouble remembering where I found these pictures. I think a lot of them must have been from Style Me Pretty as well, but again I can't be sure so I have put 'unknown' for the most part. From top to bottom, left to right:

1  Image source - unknown (make-up artist / photographer unknown)
2  Image source - unknown (make-up artist / photographer unknown)
3  Image source - Wedding Dream (make-up artist / photographer unknown)
4  Image source - unknown (make-up artist / photographer unknown)

My make-up was a lot more straight forward, as I found a brilliant make-up artist pretty much immediately, who I was really happy with. She was local, a professional, trained by MAC, and was very reasonably priced - she ticked every box. Her name was Vanessa, and you can find her here - she comes highly recommended, and you will hopefully see why in week 6 of these posts.

I wanted a very natural look, as I don't usually wear too much make-up, so I was looking to enhance my features only. I had a vision of pale, luminous foundation that left my skin dewy; delicate pink blusher adding a flush of feminine colour; framed soft eyes that were subtle and smokey; and supple shimmery lips with a whisper of colour.

I had a colour palette in mind to match both mine and the maids dresses, which you can see above. The dark brown is representative of the mascara that I wanted used - I never wear black as it is really too harsh on my fair complexion.

The Veil / Tiara / Hair Accessory Situation

I think that I have done a little better on these picture sources, though the first two and last but one are an issue - possibly Style Me Pretty again. From top to bottom, left to right:

1  Image source - unknown (stylist / photographer unknown)
2  Image source - unknown (stylist / photographer unknown)
3  Image source - Wedding Splendor (stylist / photographer unknown)
4  Image source - WedImpression (stylist / photographer unknown)
5  Image source -  unknown (stylist / photographer unknown)
6  Image source - Wedding Hairstyles (stylist / photographer unknown)

Sweeping full length veils that pooled on the floor; glittering crown tiaras that oozed that royal feel; staggeringly beautiful flowers, that intertwined in the hair... how could I choose?

In actual fact, all I had to do was just look at my dress. It told me everything that I needed to know, and I immediately set to work on researching how I could incorporate my flowers into my hair. Having said that, how beautiful the veil and tiara are above.

My Beauty Regime

Firstly, I want to start with something that I really wanted to cover here, because I feel really strongly about it - and that is skin colour. With a family of olive skinned sun-lovers, I have always felt like I have had to fight my fair skin tone. However, when I met Jay 5 years ago, who loved my skin tone just the way it was, I soon realised that what I had been feeling was pretty silly.

When it came to my wedding, with my skin not having seen a sun holiday in 4 years, I was probably at my fairest. Therefore, a lot of people presumed that I would be getting a spray tan or hitting the sun beds - not because they were being rude, but because that seems to be the done thing. I think I actually shocked a few people when I stated that I would be embracing my colour, and going for a full on 'english rose' look. I was having an english-country-garden themed wedding after all!

I wanted to share my thoughts on this, because I am betting I am not the only one with fair skin, who faced the pressure to change it. I hope that my photos, when revealed in week 6, will prove that it does not look wrong or unattractive to embrace your pale skin, as our culture seems to think... at least I don't think so.

So, it was full steam ahead with the tlc when it came to my beauty regime. Being as busy as I have become with owning Leaff, I didn't actually have a huge amount of time to do this, so it was a case of fitting it in where I could....

Through the summer months, Jay and I skipped in our back garden 3 times a week to keep fit - no I'm not talking about girl skipping, I am talking about boxer skipping. It took some time to learn but I got there and it was such a great work out.

As the cooler months drew in, I switched to my pilates/yoga routine indoors, which I still do now. This is such a great form of exercise for toning and strengthening your body, and simultaneously calming your mind. I have always done yoga on and off, but I invested in a really good DVD some years ago, which mixes pilates and yoga with dance, and I love it. It means that I can fit it into my day, and it saves me money on classes too. Find the DVD here.

Food / Drink
Obviously, the key is lots of water and a balanced diet - as we all know. However, we have always eaten a lot of fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, so there was no change in diet needed, we just carried on as we were. I must confess however, that towards the end of the planning, I began to crave cake in a really bad way, but we won't say any more about that.

Drink-wise, aside from wonderful water, I found green tea to be great at cleansing the system and helping to keep my skin clear - as is good old fashioned lemon in hot water if you can't bear the taste. It was recommended to me by a friend who had gotten married just a few months before, along with A Moment of Calm (camomile & spearmint infusion), which I found extremely good at doing what it says on the box. I drank it before bed, and sometimes during the day if I felt my stress levels rising. You can pick a box up from most supermarkets.

Body Care
I have always looked after my body well, but being as busy as I am nowadays, there has been some neglect in recent years. So, for the duration of the year planning the wedding, I had allowed myself a set routine of a pamper night on a Wednesday and Sunday. Regular body brushing, exfoliation and soaking in essential oils; full facials & pedicures, and a lot of moisturisation, ensured that I felt healthy and glowing on my big day.

Top recommended products:

• Anything by Liz Earle
  (I used a lot of the face care products)

• Essential oils range from Neals Yard 
  (I used Clary Sage oil, mixed with Lavender oil and a base oil, 
  see one of my previous posts on recipes for relaxation, here)

Well I think I will stop there, but if there is anything that I have just touched on that you want further information about, just let me know and I will endeavour to help.

Next week, it is all about 'Flowers & Decor', which I have to say, took a lot of my attention and I really enjoyed, so be prepared for some seriously beautiful mood boards. The post will cover bouquets, buttonholes, arrangements and room dress. Furthermore, because next week will be week 4 of Wedding Wednesday, we are just two posts away from the big reveal in week 6. Eeek!

16 November 2011

Wedding #2 - Attire

Welcome to the second of my 7 posts, sharing with you our journey of planning our wedding. If you missed our first (which focussed on our venue) you can catch up here.

This week I am sharing with you our mood boards for 'Attire'. This pretty enormous post covers bridal dresses, suits, bridesmaids dresses, shoes & accessories, and a brief summary of my thoughts and ideas.

Before I get started, I want to make clear that these following mood boards were created as a personal project during the planning of our wedding, and therefore, I was predominantly screen grabbing any images that I found inspiring. I have done my absolute best to go back through and locate their sources, but where sources, designers or photographers are unknown to me (and if you find your work on here) please contact me and I will add a credit immediately.

Bridal Dress Board

All of these pictures were found at Style Me Pretty. From top to bottom, left to right:
1 Image source - the 'inspiration boards' (designer & photographer unknown)
2 Image source - the 'inspiration boards' (designer & photographer unknown)
3 Image source - the 'fashion look book', designer J.Crew
4 Image source - the 'fashion look book', designer Saja
5 Image source - the 'fashion look book', designer Saja
6 Image source - the 'fashion look book', designer Saja

After getting an eyeful of these beauties on the fantastic American wedding inspiration site, Style Me Pretty, I had a sureness that I was going to find my dress quickly. I was very taken with both the big, full, romantic dresses, and the elegant, understated gowns - disappointingly, neither of which I could find anything remotely like on the high street, as the majority of shops seemed to stock mostly a-line shaped dresses.

It was on our second shopping trip that I found my dress (6 shops later), in a shop that was packed to the rafters with dresses (and funnily enough, where I least expected to find it). But there it was - I saw it from across the room, and my heart skipped. It was as if someone had made it just for me, and when I put it on, I had the first proper reaction from my mum, as she whispered through tears that it was 'the one'. When I looked in the mirror, I saw myself - not me in a dress that would've suited someone else better, or one that wasn't quite what I had in mind, but me. All me.

So what was it I hear you cry? A full, romantic dress, or a delicate, romantic gown? I shall let you speculate for now.

Suit Board

All of these pictures were found on Google image searches, but I have done my best to locate their sources. 
From left to right:
1 Image source - Robert Ellis
2 Image source - a wedding chat forum (designer unknown)
3 Image source - Tango's Dress Hire
4 Image source - Sandys Menswear

I really wanted Jay to choose a suit that he felt a million dollars in before we began nailing down the exact colour scheme, and all the other bits. Most people thought this was odd, because a lot of ladies like to let the bridesmaids dresses lead, but I think it is the Groom's day as much as it is the Brides, so I thought that he should feel as good as I felt in my dress. And of course, he agreed.

So with that in mind, we went off to search for suits, initially liking the idea of chocolate brown and gold. Chocolate brown because it was luxurious, rich and warm, and gold for the same reason, but also because we wanted to follow the colour of our rings.

After trying the chocolate (along with every other possible colour option, in order for Jay to figure out which he felt most special in) it was navy with gold that we both fell in love with. We were astonished. Not on your nelly would we have thought of picking navy, but as soon as he put the suit on, a transformation occurred, and it was just like it was meant for him - just like my dress was meant for me, and most importantly, he felt very special in it.

Now that my dress and the suits were sorted, we were beginning to piece together the colour palette.

Colour Palette

My dress was a funny colour; called 'pale gold', and when you put it next to gold or yellow, that is exactly the colour it looked, but when you put it next to ivory or let it stand alone, it had this warm, peach blush to it. The most stunning colour I think I have ever seen.

The top, far left colour is not too far off from the colour of my dress, and then you've got the navy and gold from the suits. 

I really didn't like the colour gold for the bridesmaids dresses - it is so rich, I think it needs to be paired with the exact right skin tone to work, and I was after a far softer look. Not wanting to mismatch the groomsmen and the maids however, we decided that a warm, buttery yellow was the way to go, and settled on 'Maize'. It was pale, soft, pretty, and maintained a very close match to the gold.

The colour palette for the attire was as strong as we had hoped it would be, and all that was left to decide then, were the other colours that I wanted to bring in with the room detail, to give the scheme some depth. I had a clear vision of a soft, feminine, romantic look, and my dress inspired me to look at peach, which is also one of my very favourite colours. With the flowers in mind as well, we also decided to add a very soft pink to the palette, which completed it for us, giving us lots to work with.

Bridesmaids Dresses

From left to right:
1 Image source -  Bari Jay
2 Image source - the 'inspiration boards' at Style Me Pretty (designer & photographer unknown)
3 Image source - Elderberry Bridesmaids
4 Image source - The Dessy Group

From my dress, the suits, and the soft, romantic theme that I so desperately wanted to create, I knew just what style I wanted for the maids. Elegant and pretty.

We had two maids, (one of them had not long given birth) and it was important to me that we got dresses that they would feel confident and princess-like in, like they deserved. The above images are some very inspiring dresses that helped me to pinpoint just what was going to work, and allowed us to make our final decision.

What that decision was, you will find out soon enough.

Shoes & Accessories

From top to bottom, left to right:
Image source - Rainbow Club
2 Image source - the 'inspiration boards' at Style Me Pretty (designer & photographer unknown)
3 Image source - Monsoon
4 Image source - Rainbow Club

As Jay is around the 6 foot mark, and I am around the, erm, 5 foot mark, I had an understandably strict aim to get as high a heeled shoes as I could cope with. The shoe hunt was a bit of a nightmare. If they weren't too low, they were just so uncomfortable, and I really struggled.

Rainbow Club had an enormous range of the most beautiful shoes that I could find, but unfortunately there was only one local stockist and I had to order them in each time just to try them. I actually blogged about Rainbow Club on discovery of their treasures, which you can read here if you missed it - really worth a look, they are extremely beautiful.

Eventually, I sank my feet into a beautiful pair that I thought I might be able to bear. This may of had something to do with the sheer amount of love that I had for them, but it worked for me.

Most of these pictures were found on Google image searches, but I have done my best to locate their sources. 
From top to bottom, left to right:
1 Image source - the 'inspiration boards' at Style Me Pretty (designer & photographer unknown)
2 Image source - the 'inspiration boards' at Style Me Pretty (designer & photographer unknown)
3 Image source - the 'inspiration boards' at Style Me Pretty (designer & photographer unknown)
4 Image source -  Liberty In Love
5 Image source - Marc Jacobs
6 Image source - Charnos
7 Image source - Bridal Shapewear
8 Image source -  Precious Bags
9 Image source - Monsoon
10 Image source - Mary Norton

From special details like handkerchieves, garters and underwear, to the finishing touches, like jewellery, handbags and perfume, I explored it all. Unsurprisingly, a lot of what I found was extremely lovely but extremely expensive, and so as any thrifty lady would do, I either found a cheaper match, or took on the help of my dab handed mum to make me things, and I think we did pretty well with that.

All of these pictures were found on Google image searches, but I have done my best to locate their sources.
From top to bottom, left to right:
1 Image source - Deals Coast
2 Image source - unknown; unable to connect to originators website (designer unknown)
3 Image source - Berketex Bride
4 Image source - Ali Express
5 Image source - Magic Wedding Dress
6 Image source - Bridal Gowns Plaza
7 Image source - Alibaba.com

As we were having an October wedding, I had to turn my attention to the possible weather situation if I was to stick out our drinks reception in the beautiful gardens of The Swan, which was a real must for us.

I dreamed of an ivory cape that pooled on the ground at the back - I could be snow white for the day. But realistically, most were in excess of £200, and that would be on a whim that it would actually be that cold. With our mild Autumns in mind, I was looking for something that would provide me with a bit of warmth should I need it, that was reasonably priced considering I'd hardly wear it, but that I would feel really special in if I did.

As you can see there were lots of options to look at - and very beautiful ones at that. Deciding wasn't that difficult in the end, as I was led by my dress on what would work best, and my sensible budget too.

So, I think that pretty much sums up the subject of 'Attire'. I hope that it has given you lots of inspiration if you are planning your own wedding, or indeed, lots of pretties to admire if you just fancied a peep anyway.

Next week, I will be posting about 'Beauty'. This will cover hair and make-up ideas, and also the veil / tiara / head accessory situation, along with details of what worked for me with my own beauty regime leading up to my big day.

Lastly, I wanted to pop a mention in of a wedding planning site that I discovered quite far into the planning of our wedding, called The Wedding Community. They offer lots of wedding planning tools, ideas and advice, and have lists of suppliers from all over the UK, so you are sure to find some near you.
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