Wedding - One Week Later!

Sunday, 30 April 2017

This time last week I was getting ready for my wedding! My Other Half proposed to me last May on a holiday to Rome, and my desire to get married on his next birthday (our anniversary sadly fell on a week day) meant that we had just under a year to plan and arrange everything (and save up for it).

We decided to get married at the Great Dunmow Maltings as it was a nice small venue (we only had 40 people we wanted to invite), very affordable, and they were very flexible about what we could do for catering. Plus we could have the ceremony and the reception in the same venue, which was an added bonus since we had guests with small children who wouldn't want to shuffle them in to car seats for a short drive somewhere else.

My Mum suggested that we have an afternoon tea for the reception. Me and Jon aren't big party/dance people (and I don't drink) so having a long evening dinner and dancing thing really wasn't something we wanted to go with. Plus we have quite a few family members and friends with dietary requirements (gluten free and dairy free being the two main ones), so being able to let them pick and choose what they wanted to eat was the easiest way to ensure that they felt welcome, and wouldn't feel that they had to say "no thank you" to our invitation. My Mum did an amazing job sorting out all the food, including spending weeks testing different gluten-free scone recipes (my Dad is now a bit sick of the sight of scones), and baking them and cakes in the run-up to the event. My in-laws sourced all the drinks, and did a great job as everyone managed to find something they wanted, from a nice glass of bubbly through to a selection of soft drinks for the non-drinkers.

The afternoon tea thing also gave us the opportunity to spend a lot of time sourcing vintage china. Between both families we've been through charity shops, junk shops and eBay collecting all manner of pieces. My mother-in-law even found a lovely teapot (not vintage but still gorgeous) with a lavender pattern while she and my father-in-law were on holiday in Canada! She managed to get it home in her suitcase without damaging it, and it's now sitting happily on my kitchen shelf.

We also wanted to source some handmade items where our budget allowed. In the end the four things we managed to get were our wedding rings (mine from Nikki Stark Jewellery and Jon's from Grow With The Grain), the boutonnieres from Alana Phoenix & Co, and our dried confetti flowers from Shelsley Herbs & Flowers, who was brilliant and posted them by special delivery when we bought them a bit too close to our wedding date! Being a former Etsy seller myself, it was great to be able to get a few things from small creative businesses, and every shop was lovely to deal with.

Our lovely photographer was Maria Carrington, who was great to work with as she's seen lots of weddings and was a very calming presence. I don't have the photos from her yet, so she'll get her own little post in a few weeks once we've seen the shots and picked a few to show on here!

We generally had an absolutely fantastic day. It was lovely to have so many people we loved be able to share it with us, despite some of the distances there were to travel! We'd recommend every single business that I've linked to on here, as they all helped make our special day one to remember!

Mortgage Overpayment - March 2017

Monday, 17 April 2017

Given that we're now well in to April this post is a little late. But that's not because it's bad news! Actually March was very good for overpaying, in total we managed to throw an extra £129.50 at the mortgage!

A big chunk of this was from Quidco as I got a hefty cashback payout from taking out my breakdown cover with the AA through them. Not being particularly technically minded I find it quite reassuring to know that if I lose a tyre then I just have to make one phonecall and competent help will be on the way. The money was actually meant to be confirmed in February but ended up being delayed, so it was nice to get it in March instead.

Another sizable donation was from my work expenses. My OP in April is already going to be be quite large thanks to extra expenses, but in March I had to buy a very large box of teabags as well as a lot of milk, I tend to be the first person getting through the door in the morning so I generally need milk for my tea before anyone else.

I'm already collecting together the figures for April, and let's just say that if the months continues as it started then I'll be very happy with the overpayment at the end of it!

Review: Jack's Gelato in Cambridge

Friday, 14 April 2017

Last year I made a terrible mistake. Despite my colleague telling me how good they were, I never bought anything from “6” ice cream shop on Bene’t Street in Cambridge. Then they closed down, and winter was spent passing by an empty shop, wishing I’d got round to trying it.

Lovely simple design for the cups
So it was wonderful to walk past the same building at lunch time on Tuesday and find that a new ice cream business has taken over the space! Jack’s Gelato is well-known around Cambridge, he’s normally found serving ice cream through portable freezers around the streets of the city, as well as at festivals and fairs. Now he’s got a new shop, and it’s officially opened, complete with an actual ice cream machine at the counter so in the future you can watch it being made!

Since I was passing by I decided to have a look at the sign outside. Different flavours are on offer each day (you can see a list each day on his Twitter account), and I had to stop when my eyes caught sight of the words “Mint Choc Chip”, “Burnt Sugar and Salt”, and…”Chocolate Orange Sorbet”!

The problem I normally have with chocolate ice cream is that while it’s delicious, it generally makes me feel a bit sick about halfway through the first scoop. Great for making sure you don’t overindulge, but it generally means I have to steer clear of chocolate, otherwise I feel like I’m wasting my money. On last year’s trip to Rome I stuck firmly with hazelnut ice cream and lemon sorbet, rather than risk feeling ill while I was trying to stare at tourist attractions.

However the sound of chocolate orange sorbet was just far too tempting for me to give it a miss, so I got a small pot. The guy behind the counter (who wasn’t Jack) was very chatty and friendly, and happy to answer my questions about the new shop. I was warned that the sorbet was still very soft as it had only recently been made, but sorbet is a bit softer than ice cream anyway, and it wasn’t dreadfully hot so I knew it would last.
So delicious I could eat it all day!

Chocolate orange tends to be a bit of a marmite flavour, people either love it or hate. I’ll happily eat a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, but my other half wouldn’t (he’s the same with chocolate mint though). I think it’s because it’s very easy to get the orange side of it wrong, either it doesn’t taste of orange at all, or there’s too much and it overpowers the chocolate.

In this case though the balance was perfect. The chocolate looked dark and tasted very chocolatey, but had none of the bitterness of very dark chocolate. Likewise the orange was a lovely note within the chocolate, it was noticeable but not excessive, and because the orange was adding the extra sweetness to the sorbet it wasn’t overly sugary, so I didn’t feel sick after eating it! In fact I couldn’t eat it fast enough, I overloaded my tiny spoon a few times and felt highly disappointed when I reached the end of the pot. I'd give this six stars out of five, were I operating a star rating on this blog.

If you’ve never been to the kind of live event that Jack has been catering to before now, then you MUST get down to his new shop. Take a big spoon with you, you’re going to need it!

Recipe - Chicken and Parma Ham Pasta

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Following on from the success of my chicken and chorizo pasta recipe, I tried another new recipe that my Mum sent me! This time it's chicken and Parma ham pasta sauce, deliciously creamy and fantastic with tagliatelle, I instantly wanted to cook up a second batch! 

The only problem with it is that, unlike the chorizo recipe, this won't really freeze well, so isn't suitable for batch cooking. However it is quite quick to put together on a weekday evening.

Chicken breast - One per person, cut in to smallish pieces.
Small pack of parma ham, it's quite salty so you won't need it all!
Small pot double cream.
Tarragon (dried or fresh is fine)
A lemon (or a quarter of one if that's all you've got lurking in the fridge)
1/4 to 1/2 a pint of chicken stock (1/4 is suitable for 2 people, 1/2 would be better if you're cooking for a larger audience)
Butter and olive oil

Cook cook cook
1. Melt some butter in a frying pan, and cook the chicken in it.
2. Remove from the chicken from the pan and set to one side.
3. Add a drop of olive oil to the pan, and tear the Parma ham into strips straight in to the pan (or cut it in to pieces while the chicken is cooking). Stir around until lightly crispy. 
4. Add the chicken to the pan with the Parma ham, and pour in the chicken stock and a few generous pinches of tarragon (depending on your taste)
5. Simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Pour in some double cream and a squeeze of lemon juice, and stir until it's all mixed in with the stock. The sauce should be a lovely dark cream colour.
7. Taste it and add more cream or stock if you need it or need a bit more sauce, or some extra tarragon if you're not getting the flavour.
8. Serve with linguine or spaghetti, pastas which go well with nice creamy sauces.

The first time I cooked this it took me a little longer than expected. I think that second time round I'd be able to get it done in less than 30 minutes, great for a quick mid-week dinner!