Social Reform – Marrying in a Place with Conscience

Readers, you may have noticed I steer away from mention of husband-to-be… He’s a bit online shy and would prefer an anonymous role, so apart from the odd picture of him BBQ-ing in atrocious weather, I respect that choice.

My, er, anonymous other half, enjoying the Scottish summer and pontificating on the subject of wedding venues

I did, however, ask if there was anything he thought I should blog about. In the interests of democracy of course, slightly because my imagination had run dry and in an attempt to make myself look marginally less self-obsessed. I mentioned everything I had blogged about previously – in the fine tradition of blogging it’s all been about ME, ME, totally fascinating ME – which was why the obvious writing course to him was the venue as I hadn’t written about that previously.

So – we are getting married at this amazing place called the New Lanark Mill Hotel. New Lanark is a fascinating place. Many moons ago, there was an industrial revolution, where Britain moved from farming and small-scale production (I simplify this hugely) to huge-scale manufacturing.

[Think mills, think mining, think ship-building, think dreadful conditions and slavery for workers etc.]

Anyway, a Welsh social reformer called Robert Owen moved to New Lanark in 1799, taking over the management of the mills from his father-in-law and established fantastic conditions for his workers*. They got a day off! Young children couldn’t work in the mills! People were allowed and encouraged to socialise and do cultural things!

Fast forward 160 years or so and Robert Owen’s mills went to wrack and ruin in the 1960s once they went out of use. Step in the conservation people and by the 21st century, it has been made a World Heritage Site. It’s also a great day out –  museums, exhibitions, restored cottages, Robert Owen’s house, a walk by the Falls of the Clyde etc. The big mill has been turned into a hotel and it is there where we’ll wed (if Mother Nature spares us and neither of us change our minds in the next nine months).

In a ‘doing VisitScotland’s job for them’ kind of way, I’d urge you to visit if you ever get the chance. It’s a fab place – history and nature combined. And flip, the food is fantastic**…

 

 

*From a 21st century viewpoint, they were still sh*t – one day off a week, so you could go to church, find out how to read and do your washing (without electricity, washing was a really rubbish job).

** Just one wee quibble from my intended. He’s rather narked at the price of a pint of beer at this otherwise faultless establishment.

 

 

 

Call Myself a Gourmand?

Let’s talk wedding menus.

A bride (oh, and groom of course) should surely eat exactly what she wants on the day of her nuptials, would you agree? Given that the typical bride has probably spent several weeks, if not months beforehand in the land of culinary denial (the tyrannical kingdom which bans the deep-fried and interesting, exiles the cocoa and sugar gorgeous goodies and absolutely forbids what the French so prettily call le fromage), the wedding breakfast* should surely be absolute indulgence?**

For all my pretensions to gourmet sophistication, possibly my idea of heaven would be this:

  • Starter – salt and vinegar Kettle Chips with home-made cheese and chive dip
  • Main course – Beer-battered fish and chips with mushy peas and bread & butter
  • Pudding – Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut and/or Morrison’s butterscotch chocolate.

Yum! As most diets these days hold back on the carbs, naturally let loose from the strict reins of wedding weight watch, the bride guzzles potatoes, bread and chocolate by the pound load, accompanied by a goodly serving of saturated fat.

Do I redeem my gourmand credentials by serving this refined selection with the finest Prosecco and a good brandy to match the choccie?

But seriously… Seriously, we’re not yet at the stage of dictating our wedding menu choice to the hotel so the serious wedding breakfast menu is a blog for another day…

 

 

*Why oh why is it called ‘wedding breakfast’? Given that there aren’t many weddings I’ve ever been to where you eat this meal before 1pm?

**My proposed photographer tells me you’d be surprised how many about-to-be brides he snaps on the morning of their wedding getting stuck into a Gregg’s sausage roll…

Eat Out; Be Happy Together

On the Twitter-sphere a few months ago was a post about the five things you need to say to maintain a happy relationship – Can I Help You? I Love You. I’m Sorry. You Look Great and Let’s Eat Out*.

Simple but true? You must explore it all for yourself and work it out, but commenting on the last one – why definitely! As one half of a couple and so speaking for myself, I LOVE food. For example:

  • I plan meals and menus all the time
  • I find cooking incredibly soothing and relaxing
  • I get a kick out of writing the weekly shopping list (no, really)
  • our TV finds itself tuned into Channel 260 a LOT (the Good Food Channel through Virgin Media)
  • I buy food magazines a lot
  • I read cookery books in bed.

As a two-some, eating out is a big part of our life. I find myself pitying celebrities – so many of them are on such restrictive diets that the joy of regular eating out is a no-no. I’d say 75% of our relationship is made up of food – the talking about, the sharing, the cooking for each other and the eating out.

And we eat in a lot too – yes, I know well of course we eat in regularly really, but it’s such a joy to make it a special occasion. You plan a special meal, buy the ingredients (even if it involves trekking out the way of your usual food shop of choice) get dressed up and light candles. I’m also my mother’s daughter – she had a horror of TV dinners and I too would rather eat at a table (though we switch on the TV to watch in the background, sorry mum!).

I’ve been lucky enough to eat out a lot in the four years I’ve been with my partner. It’s not a luxury available to all so I so know how fortunate I am. We’ve had some brilliant experiences (Charcoals, New Lanark Mill Hotel, Fifteen Cornwall, the Ashoka Ashton Lane, Tulloch Castle… I could go on) and some not so brilliant – I won’t list them here, as it’s better karma to write nice, not nasty things. I always feel very cheated though, if I order food that I could have made myself in a much better way.

Yup, the way to a man’s heart – sticky toffee pudding and red wine…

And when eating in, some of my cooking experiments have worked incredibly well (Good Housekeeping, BBC Good Food and Delicious magazines all do fab, almost fool-proof recipes, as does darling Delia Smith). Some though – and they tended to be the ones where I thought, “only one tsp that’s a bit mean” and started wandering off ingredient-list – weren’t so great. But y’know tomorrow is another recipe!

 

Day 2 and Big Brother Summons Emma to the Diary Room

So, no diet coke in bid to improve health and skin pre wedding and, more importantly, save money.

It’s too early to notice anything (apart from more change in my purse at the end of today), but to stiffen my resolve I’ve been reading Patrick Holford’s Low GL Bible. Low GL – glucose load – is a way of eating where you combine high quality protein, such as plain yoghurt, fish, chicken, eggs, lentils or beans with slow-release carbs. Oh, and you eat tonnes of veg and some fruit too.

(Adding in a link to lovely fruit and veg here…)

Anyway, Mr Holford is very scathing on the subject of caffeinated drinks and fizzy caffeinated drinks in particular. I always knew I was drinking a crap product, but it’s useful to have that belief reinforced. Aspartame, phosphoric acid, caramel and caffeine… yum yum. According to the low GL guru, diet coke acts as a stimulant which means it plays havoc with your body and blood sugar levels which makes it a no-no for those seeking good health.

I’ve treated myself to some supplements as recommended by Mr H – 5HTP, chromium and a Vitamin C 1,000mg (and er… I think my no diet coke money instead for shoes fund was seriously compromised) so here’s hoping for a pain-free and long-lasting diet coke free existence!

 

 

D-Day Fast Approaches…

D-day? Deserting diet coke day; yes it’s time to Stop Talking and Start Doing.

I’ve nursed an addiction to diet coke for almost 20 years, spending – well, without having ever added it up I imagine I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that I probably could pay for my wedding two times over with the money I have spent financing the Coke corporation.

For shame!

Is diet coke more addictive than other fizzy drinks? Again, without basing this on any kind of scientific study, a lot of the forums I have seen mention diet coke a lot. My two litre a day habit doesn’t seem abnormal or excessive on these discussion boards. (MsMorphosis is particularly good.)

There are plenty of interesting theories around about addiction and the exercise of free will – in other words, we imagine the physical hold addiction has on us and invent all kinds of powers for the substance that we abuse.

I have given up diet coke numerous times in the past and it’s always been a lot less traumatic than I imagined. I just have to work out what it is I’m trying to incorrectly replace diet coke with. When you use anything incorrectly in this way (for example, if you eat when you’re miserable) it ain’t going to work.

So, theories for success. Firstly, I’m going to give my fiance the money I would have spent on diet coke. This will add up to roughly £25 a week. Our wedding is 36 weeks away, so that would add up to… NO, flippin’ heck £900. Have I calculated that correctly? I have, so a pair of fabulous shoes then.

Secondly, I’m on holiday next week. Not being office-bound will probably make the whole exercise a lot easier. Thirdly, I’m going to try Emotional Freedom Technique. Whatever else it does, tapping through the sequence is pretty relaxing.

And finally, as getting rid of caffeine, chemicals and corrosive sweeteners shall surely have skin benefits so I ought to treat myself to some skincare* to make the most of this absence!

To finish, I like to say thanks to those who have liked my posts. So, a talented lady called Rona Black has been reading my posts. Rona is a very clever photographer. As is perfectly obvious from the pictures I upload, a talent for composition, framing a shot – hell, getting it in focus even – is NOT something I possess. Go check her out…

*To be honest, it doesn’t take much for me to think I deserve to buy skincare. So, treating myself to the Revitalift Laser Renew cream from L’Oreal…

Seeking Something Special for the Big Day

And my wedding WILL be uniquely special!

Do you think there is a bride-to-be out there who doesn’t want her wedding to be individual?

I ask because as a budget bride, can the wish for individuality and a special wedding that people talk about for years to come, be a possibility? Many moons ago, being able to invite a lot of guests to your wedding probably made it stand out so this need for individuality and specialness seems a little bit late 20th century/early 21st century spoiled and egotistical.

Nonetheless, I do want special touches for my own wedding. All those years of feminist principles do not seem to be able to bear the might of the pink, frothy tide of foolishness that surrounds the bridal industry and sucks up every Mrs in waiting. Perhaps I read too many fairy stories as a child, but it seems I’m powerless to resist the wish to be a princess for the day!

So, I want to make my own cake, defy convention and make a speech myself and my mum will be walking me down the metaphorical aisle (necessity as my beloved pops died two years ago) – but is there anything else that’ll make my wedding that wee bittie unusual? Answers on a postcard please…

(I’m drawing the line at birds of prey delivering the rings – they’d poo on the guests, surely? And in all honesty, an unusual, outdoor venue is far too adventurous for a Scottish wedding, given the vagaries of our weather.)

Meanwhile, this is an excellent site for brides (OffBeat Bride – altar your thinking geddit??) who don’t favour the conventional approach, and there’s some nice ideas for wedding (eco) warriors through GreenUnion. Finally ehow, as always, throws up lots of ways for you to break with tradition and make the wedding your very own.

Finally, Avive and Colin are in the finals of their local radio station’s win a wedding competition. As a budget bride, I thoroughly approve! You can visit West Sound Radio and find out more… (And er, voting for them would be really kind.)

 

 

 

A Terribly Fascinating Post*

A mannequin somewhere is missing its head

I began to worry my blog was beginning to bore with my twin obsessions around food and diet & exercise so thought I’d explore other topics one might associate – in a Family Fortunes** kind of way – with weddings.

Apt then to pick the topic ‘fascinator’… I went old school and looked up ‘fascinator’ in the dictionary***. It says: “a women’s light, decorative headpiece consisting of feathers, flowers, beads, etc, attached to a comb or hairclip”. (Thank you Ms Oxford.)

So, of late there was a backlash against fascinators possibly triggered by the Ascot rules for this year which dictated size of such head attire. (These rules, btw, also applied themselves to hem length and what was going on with shoulders – bare or not. Shame they didn’t apply themselves to what depth of colour you decided with your fake tan.)

Now, fascinators are the absolutely obvious solution. You don’t want the over formality of a hat, but you want to mark the formality of the occasion. So, a pretend hat (and I do not denigrate the fascinator in any way by calling it ‘pretend’) is an absolute must.

The other point with fascinators is of course they are kinder to hairstyles; hats flatten and frizz your carefully coiffed tresses. Fascinators merely slot in to whatever way you’ve chosen to wear your hair (and back here to the handy online tutorials how to straighten your hair and not damage it) and are a lot easier to match to your, say, earrings.

On that note, you’ll like how I’ve done this piece of subtle marketing, my sister-in-law makes fascinators! Mm-hhm she so does. The one pictured in this post was made by her and if you’re after a fascinator, you’ll see more pictures on this site.

 

*That, dear reader, could be debatable

**Y’know, “We asked 100 people what they thought ladies might wear at a wedding and they said”, fill in the blanks.

***It also means fascinating person.

The Taming of the Shoulder

Ladies, when we wed, it’s likely our shoulders will be on show…

So, what to do to create great shoulders? Watching the Olympics recently I have been admiring many examples of fabulous shoulders. It’s that little line thing that makes shoulders look like epaulettes which I aspire to. (The wee links here are all to pics of splendid shoulders, go look as it’s so worth it – one, two and three.)

Encouragingly, shoulders are a cinch to sculpt (unlike bloomin’ stomachs) and I’ve been surfing to find out the best shoulder workouts based on what I think works. I can’t pretend expertise in the exercise arena, but I’ve been working out since I was a teenager (sadly that’s more than a few years away now) and I read extensively about exercise and fitness.

Old school press ups – yup, they so do work. And you can find out how to do it properly on this site. Adding in lateral raises with light-ish dumbbells is also good and the fab ex Navy Seal Stew Smith has plenty of adviceon his website. If you work out on a Power Plate, using the hideously difficult cables also moulds the shoulder.

There’s a great saying though, that you can’t out-train a bad diet. (Sadly). So, sensible, healthy eating which strips back the body fat so your muscles can happily shine through is a very important part of the whole equation.

Happy shoulder shaping!

Cinderella Missing a Glass Slipper?

 

Katie Holmes can now wear heels this height

Does anyone else build their outfit from the shoes up? With a wedding dress, in most cases this might seem pointless as the shoes won’t be visible under acreages of tulle and satin sinking to the floor.

But as any shoe freak will agree – that really isn’t the point. When you’re wearing kickass shoes, you move and stand differently (as any chiropractor will warn against). In an interview, Sarah Jessica Parker once said she put heels on for head and shoulder shots and that snippet of info has stayed with me for years.

Oh – and when you’re 5ft 2” marrying someone who’s a foot taller than you, a four-inch heel is going to help place you higher than your partner’s stomach in pics.

My photographer friend tells me there has been an increase over the last few years of brides getting the photographer to take shots of their heels. Naturally, these babies ain’t from the Primark end of the market – they tend to be Manolo Blahnik’s with the label prominently on display. Ooh, a girl can dream…

Anyway, I’ve attached a pic of my favourite shoes (I talk to them occasionally) and some sites where you can find cut-price designer shoes:

http://www.piperlime.com/products/discount-designer-shoes.jsp

http://www.bluefly.com/Contemporary-Shoes/_/N-8kqi/list.fly

http://www.buymyheels.com/

http://www.stylesequel.com/shop/shoes

Let Them Eat (and enjoy) Cake

This isn’t the world’s lightest example of cake

For a recent birthday – in traditional lady fashion I’ll be coy about its numerical value – my sister presented me with a cheesecake.

Not the soft cheese mixed with lavish amounts of cream and sugar version, but a concoction of actual cheeses layered up three-stack and decorated with trails of grapes and bay leaves. It was a thing of beauty and the top tier vanished in precisely 10 minutes (smoked cheddar – the gods of cheese production’s finest hour).

I’d like to replicate this for my wedding day (estimated cost £40), but say I were also to follow the dictates of convention and get a proper wedding cake. What does the budget bride who sadly can’t afford Choccywoccydoodah* do? Obviously, you either make your own [and there are some spectacular examples of cake-making genius here] or find a talented friend who can do it. In the meanwhile, I adapted a Good Housekeeping chocolate brownies** recipe recently and I think that may well be a wedding cake contender, once I spend time practising cake decorating via some online cake decorating tutorials. Dontcha just love the world wide web?

 

*Amazing, amazing chocolate cake shop in Brighton and London where very talented people do spectacular thing with chocolate and appear on TV showcasing their talents.

**Plain chocolate (85% cocoa solids – now I’m showing off), butter, eggs, sugar, flour, chopped toasted nuts and topped with fudge icing. Yum…