27 June 2011

Our Wedding Invitations

Well, here we are. After months of hard work, we can finally unveil our very own wedding invitations.

As we are to be married in a beautiful sleepy cotswold village - which we discovered 4 and a half years ago, instantly fell in love with, and vowed right there and then that one day we would marry there - the venue really is centre stage for our theme.

An old, homely, country house hotel, blanketed in ivy that is simply majestic in the autumn, and surrounded by picturesque gardens with a river running through - brimming with wildlife and warmth - it manages to capture everything that we love most. Our invitations illustrate this beautiful venue, and incorporate lots of subtle detail that is personal to us.

We used a heavy-weight, lightly textured, uncoated ivory board for the invitations, which was substantial, warm and natural. The maps made use of a contrasting light-weight stock, giving a more delicate feel. Everything was litho printed in pretty apricot shades, depicting autumn, and in keeping with the colour of the small details in our venue dress.

The maps were folded playfully, and slipped underneath the flap that is the RSVP, which was designed to be cut off and sent back as a postcard. Each invitation was carefully wrapped in ivory tissue, and secured with a gold wax seal, in the initial of the name that I will inherit. Gently encased in matching envelopes that carry the design through, the invitations took on the feeling of being a gift in themselves.

We really love the tactile nature of using different materials together - some strong and robust, others delicate and detailed. It was a lot of hard work, but very rewarding, and we couldn't be happier with the results.

Our stationery will be up on our website's wedding gallery shortly, with further images to see, so keep an eye out... www.leaffdesign.co.uk

24 June 2011

Essential Oils | A Guide to Relaxation

I have always been very interested in essential oils and natural ways of looking after myself, and now that I am approaching my wedding - with the sheer amount of things to organise and the fact that I want to actually enjoy myself in the process - more than ever I am delving into information to find help and supplies.

So, whether you are a bride to be in need of some help with relaxation, or are over working yourself in your job (or your own business!), I aim to share my knowledge with you here.

Survival Kit
Basil Oil
Rosemary Oil
Lavender Oil
Clary Sage Oil
Jasmine Oil
Rose Oil
Carrier Oil
Dead Sea Salts

You can buy these oils from a number of online shops, but be careful as some are less pure than others. A good, respected place to try is Neal's Yard.

If you are feeling mentally overwhelmed and anxious, then basil and rosemary oil could be just the thing for you. With that stack of wedding planning or work to sort through, you need to be clear headed and able to concentrate. By popping about three drops each of basil and rosemary oil into a burner, this mixture can help you to combat mental fatigue, by stimulating and uplifting the mind.

Lavender, as many of you will already know, is the queen of calm. It is known for soothing emotional distress, instilling peacefulness and bringing feelings of nervous panic under control. It ensures a good night's sleep, being excellent for insomnia, caused by stress. Add a few drops into a burner and relax as the stress ebbs away.

So this is extreme, but I could have done with this a few times, so for those really stressful days, where you just cannot shut down, then this is where you can turn to. Clary sage oil is such a powerful sedative that it is recommended not to operate machinery or drive after use. It is an outstanding 'knock out' bath oil. For a deeply sedative bath, to encourage deep sleep, mix 4 drops of clary sage and 3 drops of lavender oil with a carrier oil, and add to a filled bath. Agitate well, and soak for at least 10 minutes immediately before bed.

This is certainly one for the morning of your wedding, or ahead of any event where you might be feeling unsettled, nervous and emotional. Rose oil is a luxurious and sensual oil, that stills mental fears, providing emotional comfort. It enlivens the heart and calms unsettled feelings, inducing peace and happiness. Jasmine oil strengthens the mind, and has a sedative affect on nerves. It is a confidence booster that liberates imagination and inspires strength. For a soothing bath, blend 2 cups of dead sea salts with 3 drops of jasmine oil, 3 drops of rose oil, and a carrier oil, and add the mixture to the bath.

Essential oils can be quite expensive, but they do last a long time, and the affects are fantastic. Neal's Yard also does blended oils, to achieve various states, like 'Focus' and 'De-Stress', so if you are short on cash, you could always opt for these more cost effective alternatives. Combined with a healthy, balanced diet, and plenty of exercise, you will be on the path to a calmer you in no time. Here is a little extra info on the diet and exercise front, that I find works well...

Extra Info
Drinking water is a particularly great aid to concentration, I find, and bananas and milk are great at sleep inducing, so give them a go too. I tend to find that reading or listening to relaxing music before bed is far more helpful than watching TV, which is too stimulating that close to sleep.

If you are stressed, your immunity will be lowered, so fruit and veg are very important to keep your vitamin and mineral intake at a decent level, to avoid picking up colds and bugs. Check out this book by Innocent, which is like a bible in our kitchen: 'Innocent Smoothie Recipe Book: 57 and a Half Recipes From Our Kitchen to Yours'. The recipes are so delicious and we never have any left overs at the end of the week - it makes eating a good amount of fruit and veg so easy!

Lastly, I must remind you that I am not an expert on essential oils, but this information is just what I have gleaned from professionals over the years, and that I find useful, personally. If you have any recommendations of mixtures or products that have worked well for you, please share in comments to this post so that we can all benefit together.

With thanks to Neal's Yard and Innocent for bringing such great products to the world!

17 June 2011

Why Design Matters

Statistics show that only 15% of small to medium businesses recognise the role that design plays in their company; a statistic that make us just want to educate, educate, and you've guessed it, educate.

While everyone knows how tough it is when you are first starting up with a mini budget, getting a strong brand should be a priority, for two main reasons among many:

To effectively communicate who you are
To stand out against competition

Let me give you an example of why these are important. Lets say, ladies, you decide to treat yourselves to a bit of a pamper, and as you take off down the street, you come across two beauty salons. This is what they look like:

Which one would you go to? If it isn't the right one then you clearly need to go to Specsavers (got to love their adverts!). Now, this does not by any means, mean that the right salon is better than the left in any way, but we make judgements that it is going to be more reliable, warmer and more luxurious, and with much more experienced staff - all based on it's appearance.

Let us try again, but this time for the men. So men, you decide to treat yourselves to a hair cut. You take off down the street and you come across these two Barbers:

Which one are you going to trust with your hair?

Again, for all we know, the Barbers on the left could be far more experienced than those on the right, but that is not what they communicate with their image, and is not how we see it, as the audience.

A lot of businesses make the mistake of thinking that a brand is just about a logo, but in reality, it is the whole look of your business and who it is. It is the character, the voice, the personality. A brand enables you to communicate your business consistently on many levels.

As you can see from the above right pictures, it is not just about the signage, but the entire look and feel of the salon as a whole. It is the details like the plants, the curtains, the soft lighting. It is the colour palette and the interior decor.

We hope that this has given some food for thought anyway. We would also like to end with the fact that these images were all randomly grabbed off google, and we are by no means indicating that any one of these businesses is better than the other; we are merely stating what their image says to us. Perhaps this will be good market research if one of these is your business.

14 June 2011

Hen Party Ideas (with a difference)

While sifting through the papers this morning, I came across a string of events organised by local charity, St. Richard's Hospice. They certainly have a lot going on, and it gave me a few ideas for hen party celebrations.

If you are anything like me, then you will be avoiding anything typical for your hen celebrations, at all costs. The thought of a drunken night out in indecent costume, topped with a whole bucket load of bad behaviour, has me running for the hills! It couldn't be less 'me' and I have personally been looking for a more relaxed, and erm... dignified, celebration.

Like many other people, I am sure, I have found planning my wedding to be quite emotional, as it naturally stirs up memories of growing up, and loved ones who are no longer here to share our big day. This combined with the fact that I enjoy giving to charity, has made me think just how great an idea it could be to combine this with hen celebrations.

The array of events that St Richard's hospice has lined up, make for ample opportunity to get together with your friends, and celebrate whilst raising money for a worthy cause. Here are the events that jumped straight out to me:

This is an event that you can have in the comfort of your own home. Make the most of the summer, and put on afternoon tea in the garden with an intimate gathering. You can get creative, making a picturesque country garden look, and perhaps dress up in vintage costume.

If you fancy something a little less hands-on, why not glam up and indulge in midsummer drinks at Bredon Manor. Canapes, music and drinks will be available for you to enjoy beneath the sunset, within the picturesque surroundings.

Midnight Walk
The hospice are also running 5 and a 10 mile midnight walks around Worcester, in fancy dress. A very different idea, and what is more, at the same time as enjoying yourself, you are toning up for your big day.

You can find out about St. Richard's Hospice, all of these activities, and much, much more, on their website, here.

If you don't see anything you fancy; were after a bit more flexibility on what you do, or you just don't live in Worcestershire, then why not find a charity that means something to you personally, and raise money for it with whatever kind of celebration you intend to do.

If you have any further ideas like this, please feel free to put them in comments to this post, for other brides to read.

09 June 2011

'Water Ink' - World Water Day

Solidarities International is a charitable organisation, which carries out humanitarian programmes in emergency situations, all over the world. Particularly committed to fighting water-borne diseases (the most frequent cause of death worldwide), they recently carried out a 'World Water Day Campaign', on March 22nd 2011.

Together with BDDP Unlimited, they created an absolutely amazing TV ad (or 'spot'), with the help of Hush (who produced it) and Clement Beauvais (who both illustrated and directed it).

This is just one of those pieces of design that brings folk like us to our knees, in absolute admiration. Everyone should see this advert - both for the awareness that it was made to achieve on such a serious topic, and for the power that this great design delivers.

P.S. I must add, that I did feel a teensy bit defensive of water when watching. After all, it is not the water itself that does such harm, but the filth and pollutants within it. But no less, a great ad!

06 June 2011

The Power of Painting

I have recently stumbled upon some pretty amazing painters, who I really cannot help but shout about. Their techniques are masterful. Here are some of their work that I really love.

Conrad Roset is a freelance illustrator living in Barcelona. Visit his website here.
Caitlin McGauley is a watercolour artist living in New York. Visit her website here.
Alison Fennel is an illustrator living in South Wales. Visit her shop here.

I love the vibrant colours in Conrad's paintings, and the majestic feel that it gives to the animals; the softness of Caitlin's paintings, which have such charm about them; and the character of Alison's paintings, where she seems to capture the personality perfectly, of each individual animal.

What a wonderful display of talent this is - three very individual artists that are very unique and really amazing in each of their own ways. Thank you to all three of you for the joy and inspiration that your work has brought to us, and that I am sure is bringing to many others too.

02 June 2011

Food Inspiration

To sum up what this post is about, I will have to make reference to the film 'Eat, Pray, Love'.
Julia Roberts' character asks a friend, 'What did you have for lunch today?', to which her
friend glumly responds 'Salad'. 'Exactly!' Julia shouts, 'I used to really enjoy food'.

We are so busy nowadays, and so consumed with meticulous calorie counting, that we forget
to have fun with food. We forget that you can eat an 'enjoyable' balanced diet of nutritious
food, cooked in wonderful ways. I love watching Nigel Slater cook, because he really cooks
for fun - some of his dishes aren't even a meal, but rather a snack, but he is enjoying the
experimentation with flavour. I find it so inspiring. We have his book, 'Real Fast Food' in
our kitchen, and whenever I am feeling a bit bored of food, I know I can just open the book
to shake things up, and I am never disappointed.

I was having a wander around some blogs a month or so ago, and came across a wonderful
post about breakfast. I wish I could remember which blog it was now, but for the life of me,
I cannot. They were saying how they were really into breakfast at that moment in time, and
they shared the most delicious recipe for pancakes with a rhubarb, strawberry, orange &
maple compote (if the owner is reading this, please feel free to tell us who you are and claim
the glory!). I practically fell over myself printing out the recipe, and was waiting for the
perfect lazy weekend morning to try it, and well, last Saturday was it.

The pancakes are spongy and light, and utterly divine. The compote is perfectly sweet, with
a lovely tart edge to it. All in all, a great recipe to cheer your appetite up with, and one to get
the day off to a cracking start - especially on a summers day. So why not treat yourself to
some food fun this coming Saturday morning? With temperatures set to reach 25 degrees,
I would say there couldn't be a better time.

Compote Recipe


3 tablespoons butter

2 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1/2" cubes

2 cups strawberries, capped & quartered

1/2 cup orange juice

zest from one orange

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons orange liqueur eg. Cointreau / Grand Marnier 
(this is optional - we left it out, but we must try it with at some point)


Melt the butter in a saute pan over a medium - low heat.
(or in a saucepan if that is all you have).

Add the rhubarb and strawberries. Stir and cook for another 3 - 4 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients.

Cook the mixture for about 20 - 25 minutes, stirring occasionally until the rhubarb breaks 
down and the sauce thickens up, and is no longer watery. Bear in mind that it does firm up 
a bit as it cools.

Pancake Recipe


4 eggs, whites and yolks separated

2 cups plain flour

2 cups whole milk
(we used our usual semi skimmed to save pennies, and it was fine)

2 tablespoons melted butter

2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt if desired


Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, except the egg whites, and mix well.

Beat the egg whites separately until very foamy.

Fold the egg whites into the mixture, until fairly well incorporated - work the foam in.

Ladle into a well-buttered pan on a medium - low heat.

When air bubbles stay in the middle and the edges are golden, flip.

Cook for another minute or two until golden brown on both sides.

Keep warm in a 200 degree oven, covered with foil, while preparing the remaining cakes.

Top with compote or roll up as pictured, and serve immediately.

This lot serves around 6 pancakes, and I would say perhaps enough compote to satisfy 6 
people. I shall admit that my partner and I alone cleared the lot - it was that good! Needless 
to say, it ended up being brunch! It is also perhaps worth suggesting that you could have this 
as a dessert as well as a breakfast, what with the option of adding alcohol (maybe not in the 
same day though).

Whatever you chose to do with it, do it you must. Enjoy!

01 June 2011

The Magic of Paper Art

I have such a fascination with paper art, and have come across some amazing artists 
along the way, who I really wanted to share with you.

Here is a selection of work by some incredible artists, who I hope you will appreciate 
as much as we do. These really go to show just how much versatility paper has, in the 
right hands - something that never ceases to amaze me.

Paper Graphics & Art by Yulia Brodskaya

'You're in my Head' & 'I Miss Being a Small Girl' by Rob Ryan

'Beauties Woodland Cottage' & 'Mother and Child' by Helen Musselwhite
'Half Way Through' & 'Distant Wish' by Peter Callesen

Lastly, a big thank you to all of these artists, who play such a huge part in our daily 
fix of inspiration.

The New Season | Summer is upon us...

As some of you will notice, Leaff has just changed to 'summer', which means a change of
colour and a change of mood. Today officially marks the new season, and after watching the
weather for this week, I must say it couldn't be more in keeping, with temperatures set to soar
into the mid 20's. What bliss that will be.

I have missed the full sun - the way it feels on my skin, the way it scents the air, even the
sounds that it brings to the day. The above picture is one that I dug out, of a very happy and
warm summer day that we had a couple of years back. It brings back a lot of memories of a
lazy day in the countryside, among nature, and the wildlife that joined us. I am looking forward
to many more of these.
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