Saturday, 28 February 2009

T minus 3 and a half months (or 105 days to go...)

In November I posted my to-do-list. Three and a half months on, with exactly three and a half months to go, it thankfully looks a bit more manageable. Which is a good job since wedding planning is not the only thing on my mind...

*Make and send the invitations including calligraphy maps and RSVP card inserts.

*Choose readings and the people to read them

*Finalise music to be played during the signing of the register and ensure accompanist is happy.

*Finalise order of service and have printed.

*Collect my dress from the alterations lady. Make accessories & veil.

*Make bridesmaid's jewellery (components ordered & have arrived). Finish diy projects/presents/etc.

*Finish collecting crockery including tea trays and vases.

*Send colour sample to ribbon supplier and finalise order. Make labels for the napkins. Make seating chart. Assemble table decorations from peacock feathers (ordered) and wine bottles (collected). Order match boxes.

*Taste cheese for the cake. Finish cake toppers.

*Fill in details in guestbook and arrange for someone to ensure people sign it. Make photo display

*Collect material from family and friends and make into bunting to decorate marquee.

*Book transport for guests between church and reception.

*Taste and choose wine, champagne and beer. Sort out glasses.

*Ensure groom purchases clothes for him and ushers and BestMan

*Flowers and buttonholes

*Pay balance on honeymoon, book extras.

*Design poster to advertise band and DJ. Ensure logistics for PA system and equipment are in place.

*Purchase presents for wedding party.

*Choose and purchase wedding bands

My Boy Writes: Food Glorious Food

See EAD for the original...

"To my mind food, drink and music are the three most important structural aspects of a party; the framework for the more ethereal connections between people and their ideas and emotions. This week we will look at food.

I think food is particularly important at family celebrations. Feasting at family events is a tradition that crosses cultures and has very deep roots in our collective cultural history. For myself and Rachel preparing food with our families is very much a part of our culinary heritage and it was important for us and our families to be closely involved in the selection and preparation for our wedding meal, as we would not be on the day. Thus, we decided on a hog roast (the ultimate feasting food) and we opted for a buffet rather than table service to capture the spirit of a family celebration rather than an event. It was important to us to bond over food with our caterer and we found just the man.

Shaun from Piglet Cottage has exceeded all our expectations. First off, the name is fabulous. It is inspired to use such a cute name for something as medieval as spit roasting meat. Shaun is a true enthusiast and a pleasure to chat to about food. He bakes his own bread and is desperate to provide some wonderful sounding canapés including smoked squirrel and a sort of andouillette thing which he proposes to make from the meat off a pig’s head. Most important of all he is local and all his food will be too.

Shaun is an effortless salesman, he imbues you with such confidence in his abilities that you are keen to leave as much as possible to him. He has a local cheese source which we will now use for our cake (of cheese) and he seemed horrified that we might think he would provide anything but leaf tea and fresh coffee, again he will use a local merchant. Our aim from the start was to involve as few people as possible (outside our guests) in the wedding. In Shaun, we have someone who will take full responsibility for all things food related and will be happy to flex in order to make the day work. We won’t even need any waiting staff! Shaun also makes his own cider (primarily for pig basting) and he is happy to provide a barrel to our specifications (dry/sweet, sparkling/flat) to make it a proper Devon wedding.

So, we will be having a hog roast with a choice of four seasonal salads (a potato salad and a huge pile of asparagus are certainties and a couple of others to be confirmed) and home-baked bread preceded (probably) by some off the wall but delicious locally sourced canapés. We love the canapés Shaun is offering (Smoked Squirrel, andouillette, smoked salmon, in fact smoked anything) but we are struggling slightly to slip it into the budget.

We knew we would find it hard to trust someone to handle food, drink and music. A great old friend (now a budding DJ) is taking care of the music, I can handle the wine and it feels like we have made a new friend in Shaun who will handle the food.

Next week, the deep deliberations of a wine merchant. What do you serve at your own wedding?"

Friday, 27 February 2009

Our Wedding Vendors: Guest Book

At the reception we hope to have a table to keep our guests entertained if the weather is inclement (and let's face it, it is England in June, rain is highly likely*) and the drinks reception on arrival has to be held inside the marquee on the dance floor.

We are going to have a long table which at one end will hold the cake(s) (more on that later) and the other shall hold our guest book surrounded by a photo display, which I am hoping will include photos of M and I throughout our lives and also wedding photographs of our parents and grandparents and other family members. After all, it is a family celebration, a joining of two families, and I think important that they are all featured even if they can no longer be with us physically.

The guestbook was causing me some concern as I wanted something in which guests could write messages and we could stick our engagement cards and messages and our wedding cards. Yet in order to fit our ethos it needed to not be new. I also didn't want anything too saccharine or twee. And then, browsing on Etsy the other day, I came across a vintage 1970s wedding guest book which funnily enough sort of matches my baby book. There are places to write down all the wedding party details and then pages for the guests to sign and then a sort of photo album part as well. And yes, it is twee, but it is 1970s, so it is a bit kitsch, a bit retro, a bit of a tongue-in-cheek poke a little fun at twee guest books. So, it is, in theory, perfect. And being vintage, it already existed, yet being blank, we are able to use it. Now, just waiting for it to arrive and hoping it looks as good in reality as it translated in my mind from the photos!

{Image by Buttons'N Such}



*Highly likely rather than guaranteed as it is neither the Glastonbury weekend nor Wimbledon week...

The name debate continues...

Following on from the post I wrote earlier in the week, I decided to poll some of my friends as to whether they used Miss or Ms and whether they would change it on marriage to Mrs, and what they thought of being addressed as Mrs Husband'sFirstName Husband'sSurname.

In my friendship group, which arguably you could say is not the widest demographic, but I spoke to friends from different places (i.e. not just people I went to university with), different countries and different parts of the UK. All of them chose to use Miss as their title except for the one that is married who used to use Miss and now uses Mrs. Now, you could say that my friends are just all middle-class and slightly conservative (with a lower case c) and like tradition. Fine. We probably are, but I just wanted to make the point that not everyone wants to use Ms and sees Miss/Mrs as regressive.

Interestingly however, it was some of the men I spoke to who thought women should not be defined by their marital status (although he was happy enough to be Mr and Mrs) and that he believed I was wrong to think that it didn't matter. I found this viewpoint rather interesting and to my mind theoretically simply another form of oppression towards women. So instead of the woman railing against belonging to her husband, she accepts the situation, content and secure in her own position within the relationship, yet the man then turns round and says "but you are wrong to be content, you should be unhappy at this situation".

I think it really comes down to tradition. There are those people who accept tradition, even favour tradition. For those people they do not see being addressed as Mr and Mrs Husband'sFirstName Husband'sSurname as indicating a power dynamic within their relationship, or as oppressive, or that they in some way belong to their husband like chattel, they simply see it as a traditional form of address and not something that they are bothered about. I, and all my female friends that I spoke to, fall into this category. And then there are those who dislike tradition and all that they perceive it stands for. Those are the people that would contest the use of Mrs and favour Ms.

I certainly think that there is room for both of these viewpoints within the world. Indeed, it could be argued that it would be rather dull if we all agreed about everything. I just personally can't understand this desire, which is particularly true of women, to make someone else's choice out to be a bad choice. We can't seem to just accept that we have differing opinions, we somehow need to vilify people for their choice. We seem to often mistake "I do not agree" for "I do not understand therefore I think you are wrong... and these are the reasons why". It would be really nice to see women supporting each other's viewpoints - unless they are of course morally unacceptable or illegal (I am not suggesting we start supporting the decision to kill people) - and standing by our right as women to choice. And that includes *both* options.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Elizabeth Anne Designs: Head wear, hair & make-up

{Images top row L-R: Birdcage veil from Style Me Pretty;
photo by Leigh Miller, headpiece by Sweetsnlo, Kate Triano;
Images bottom row L-R: Headpiece by Boring Sydney,
photo by Jennifer Behr, hat by Emily-London,
birdcage veil via Style Me Pretty; Image centre: Portobello}


Click here to read my full article on Elizabeth Anne Designs. And stay tuned for M's post about our food and the caterer tomorrow.

Wedding Dress Fitting II

M, if you're reading, stop now!
The alterations are being carried out by Tanya Dimitrova and this photograph was taken at her studio. Please excuse my lack of make-up and unsightly bra. My next task regarding the dress is to go and find a strapless bra...
Here you can see the basic shape of the top of the dress, as plain as can be. The lumpy pins are taking it in around the bust area so that it doesn't fall down. If I turned around, you would see two matching lines of pins marching down my lower back, pulling it in there as well, so it will hold up. Hopefully once these changes have been made and the bra straps have been removed I shall be able to get on with the accessories.

dress fitting, originally uploaded by rachel-catherine.

{Image from Author's personal collection}

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

What's in a name...

Two weeks ago I hadn't given what I would be called when I am married any thought beyond whether to bother creating a double-barrelled name from M and my own. I had always assumed that I would become Mrs M's Surname and had never considered any other option.

I suppose I am quite a traditional sort of girl, both in values, expectations and activities that I pursue. I am an active member of my local Women's Institute group, I enjoy baking & sewing & making things. I value family life and my friends above a career, although interestingly because I have to have a job I have ended up/chosen to enter a male dominated profession. I believe in marriage for eternity. I also believe in equal rights for everyone to marry/enter civil partnerships. Yet I also believe men and women are different. I have no issues being female rather than male. I celebrate being female, yet do not feel threatened by men. I do not believe we are judged by our gender rather valued for our differences. I am not a feminist and I do not believe we are judged by our honorifics, which is why I had not given my title a second thought before now.

I am also driven by etiquette. I like to know the correct ways to address people and I still send hand-written thank you letters to anyone who invites us to stay with them, addressed as per correct form, unless I know specifically they choose another form of address (although thinking about it, I don't think I do know anyone that doesn't). I send e-mail thank you messages after suppers, parties etc but those never involve titles, so don't count. On a form I always tick Miss, as I do not consider myself to Mrs (yet) or Ms. To me, Ms is used by divorced women and single women hiding their marital status and I am neither. I stress that is to *me* because it is a personal viewpoint of an arbitrary word, not a slight on divorced or single women.

I then read this post by A Practical Wedding and then Cate's post on Project Subrosa and realised that to some women my age, whether they are known by Mrs or Ms is something they have given a great deal of thought. I understand that there are women to whom it is important that they are not recognised for their marital status, that they believe as Mr does not identify anything particular about a man, other than he is a man, so therefore women should have a suitable title to identify them as female but say nothing further. They choose to use Ms in this instance.

Reading all these viewpoints didn't change my mind rather actually clarified for me that I will choose to use the title Mrs when we are married. I do not see Mrs as indicating that I belong to my husband, as if I am chattel. He knows and I know that we belong to each other and our collective family name of Mr and Mrs HisSurname will indicate that to each other and everyone else. If anything I look forward to being a family unit with a shared surname rather than two individuals who happen to live in the same building. In the same light, I look forward to being Mrs HisFirstName HisSurname as I am confident being my own person yet proud of being his wife. It is also traditional and I enjoy following tradition.

Indeed, that is how we shall be addressing our wedding invitations, to Mr and Mrs John Smith. Unless I know that a female friend has a preference for Ms, I shall be addressing couples who are not married on separate lines as Miss Jane Brown and Mr John Smith or the other way round if we know the man better (I think that is the only deviation from traditional etiquette we shall use). The invitations will also come from Mr and Mrs MyFather'sFirstName TheirSurname despite the fact that my father is a Dr as this is a social occasion and therefore academic titles are not appropriate. Apart from the Chaplain. We shall address him as The Reverend FirstName Surname.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Small steps

As I am sure you will have gathered from my posts, there is a lot going on at the moment. A couple of weeks ago I felt very very very stressed about everything and wondered how on earth I was going to fit in organising our wedding, organising my hen party, finding a new job, having an operation and potentially moving house (depends on the job situation) into the next three and a half months. I felt very low, I had terrible skin, terrible headaches, backache and M and I were bickering constantly about even the tiniest things.

I am not really sure what is different this week, to be honest, but I feel more in control again. My skin has started to clear up. I have been drinking a lot of water recently (M thought this would help me) and I haven't smoked now for almost 4 months. We have de-cluttered some of the house - 4 bags of old clothes to the charity shop, a few bits and pieces on freecycle - and we have been away for a wonderfully nostalgic weekend in our old university town. Plus, the sun has shone on at least 2 occasions in the last week. That must have helped.

Wedding wise, I have been to see an alterations specialist who has pinned the dress to fit properly and it is currently being altered (photos to follow, perhaps, if anyone is interested). We have decided no to the chapel flowers, I have bought the peacock feathers for the reception and I have made a start on the bridesmaids' presents. I will take some photos of the projects I am working on for the bridesmaids but given that they read this albeit occasionally that post will come once the wedding is over. Oh, I have also bought 15 tablecloths from e-bay which are ex-rental but professionally cleaned (cheaper than hiring but still environmentally friendly, and perfect for the tea-party-for-120 we are going to be able to hold after the wedding with all the crockery).

So, apologies for when my posting is sporadic but I will be back...

Monday, 23 February 2009

My Boy writes: An Introduction

{Image from Author's Personal collection}
See his orginal post here on Elizabeth Anne Designs

"When I first met Rachel I wasn’t ready to fall in love. Now we
are seven years on and I can’t imagine it any other way. I still sometimes feel
like that single guy, happy keeping my own company but I now think
relationships free you not bind you.

Often the first night means nothing, for us it was crucial.
I was lazy and comfortable being so and Rachel was in denial, she was still
pretending that she wanted to be with her school sweetheart. That night changed
everything, we gently found our way together. We are still very much as we first
were, we still bear our own burdens we just lean on each other too.


I have been thinking about proposing to Rachel for 4 years,
I can pinpoint it actually, we were in her place in London Bridge and I envied
the life that her flatmates had. I thought marriage might solve that. Oddly I
wasn’t looking to fill a void, I just thought I should want to fill that void.
I’m actually incredibly self-sufficient but now less so every day,
happily.


I wanted to propose somewhere that meant something to us. It
had to be Cornwall on a beach. I’m not much for set pieces and wanted everything
to be as organic as possible and Perranporth enabled that perfectly. I picked a
load of perfect spots which Rachel unwittingly steered away from. We seemed to
spend all our time in the bar on the beach. I finally managed to corner her with
champagne and fish n chips and the obligatory newspaper to mark the day, The
Times tragically.

Proposing was incredibly pure and huge, much more than I
ever expected. I’m not usually short of words but I was then. She said yes and
we rung everyone!

We were pretty swift to get things moving, spring or summer
2009 seemed to fit and we started looking at venues. We had decided that we were
happy to part from convention and get hitched somewhere that meant something to
us. After much discussion, our old university town started to make lots of
sense. Suddenly it was right and we went with it. We found our venue and never
looked back.

Rach and I love a good party and we want to firmly imprint
ourselves on this one. It’s all in the detail and I will elaborate on each part
weekly from now on.
And so here we are, less than 4 months away. I can’t wait!"

Friday, 20 February 2009

Peacock Feather Head Dress


1_24_09wedding-00157, originally uploaded by Sunshinewondergirl.

A close-up of the head dress. I was considering both feathers and a white feather but had rejected black netting in favour of white (and thinking black would look too funereal). Yet somehow it works.

I think it is a little on the large side for me though, as despite being tall, I have a very fine/small boned surprisingly tiny face/head. Strong cheekbones and a pointy nose and chin but not enough to carry something like this off I don't think.

Paula: A fellow peacock feathered bride


1_24_09wedding-00193, originally uploaded by Sunshinewondergirl.

A bride after my own heart: peacock feathers, blue shoes, white flowers. Her dress is slightly more interesting than the one I am planning. Doesn't she look fab.

I can't believe people said her dress looked "different". Hello people, fabulous might have been a better word.

Courtesy of Offbeat Bride & Flickr.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Going to the chapel (III)

A sneak preview of my upcoming post on Elizabeth Anne Designs:
{Images from Author's Personal Collection}
Top Row: View from the back of the chapel towards the altar; view from the chapel steps; the altar.
Middle Row: Pews & window; painted wooden ceiling; grand piano & pews.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Going to the chapel (II)

{Image from Author's personal collection}
Apologies for the poor quality

This is the view of the chapel from the altar steps looking back towards the entrance with the organ up at the top. After 4 visits out of term time when the chapel was closed, we finally visited on a day that it was open. And not just open, we went to a service. We listened to our Chaplain introduce the Bishop who led the service and we listened to a (much depleted) choir, whose voices soared up into the sunbeams stretching across the chapel, filling the entire building with a glorious sound.

The day before we went through the marriage service with the Chaplain and he explained the meaning behind the vows, which really brought home the reasons why we are choosing to get married and how after we are married everything will have changed, even if nothing really has. It was quite moving. He also approved our hymn choices and we met the Director of Chapel Music to discuss the options involving the organ and the choir.

We now need to finalise a few things and then we can get the orders of service approved and printed. And once that has happened I might be able to show them to you...


Friday, 13 February 2009

Inspiration Board: T minus 4 months

{Image credits:
Top row - Venue (from Author's personal collection), shoes from Rupert Sanderson website, petals from Real Flower Company, marquee by Really Good Marquees;
Second Row - Photo by Robyn Kessler, crockery by The English Tea Party;
Third Row - Photo by Jose Villa, venue (from Author's personal collection), photo from US Vogue June 2008;
Bottom Row: Car by Damian Hall Photography, peacock from Stylemepretty.com, flowers by Love Life Images}

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Sshhh... can you keep a secret?


Ever wanted to hear about wedding planning from both sides?


Intrigued as to what M has to say for himself?


Want to know what he really thinks about some of the wedding planning?


Stayed tuned to Elizabeth Anne Designs and you might just have some of your questions answered...

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Wedding Bands

My engagement ring
{Image from Duttsons Rocks}

I have posted this photograph before but it now time to make some decisions about our wedding bands. I have mentioned a little bit about my engagement ring which was designed by my Boy in conjunction with Neil Duttson of Duttson Rocks. Neil helped my Boy choose the stones that he wanted and they worked together on the setting. Neil then took my Boy to Hatton Gardens and a local craftsman made up the ring. So M paid Neil for the stones and the craftsman for his work.

We now have to decide about wedding bands. We propose to each have one and we are going to meet the craftsman in a couple of weeks to discuss the options. I know that my band has to be made from the same metal as the band of the engagement ring, so that they do not wear each other out sitting next to each other on my finger. M too will have a band of the same metal, much the same as mine, only thicker. We will also have to make sure that M's band works with the ring he wears on the little finger of his other hand, as he will not be removing it.

I am really excited about going to meet the man who made my engagement ring, which I love so much. I am also really pleased that we are getting rings made by the same person who will personally profit from his work, rather than paying vast sums to a chain shop or jeweller.

Once they are made we have to decide how to convey the rings to the ceremony. Shall the best man keep them in a box, or on a cushion?! We do not have any small people coming to our day so we have no flower girl or page boy to carry them. One of M's cousin's married recently and she had one of her bridesmaid's carry her dog with the rings tied to her collar. We have been telling people that Lily (M's parent's dog who is a collie/dalmation/something else cross and utterly adorable) will be released to pelt down the aisle with them for us...

Monday, 9 February 2009

Wedding Music & Readings

This weekend M and I head to our old university town for what could be our last visit before the wedding, although I hope it won't be. We have a meeting with our Chaplain and then we are spending the evening with an old friend and our DJ choosing the music for the wedding.

In light of the upcoming meeting with our Chaplain we have had to compile the text for a draft order of service. This morning I sent it to A3, who is a graphic designer, to turn it into a fabulous order of service. Although I am not going to reveal the actual choices yet, these are the reasons behind them:

Processional music: This is the music to which my mother and her mother also walked down the aisle. We listened to it last night on a crackly cassette tape recording which is 30 years old and I cried. It is the perfect choice as I did not want something too trumpet-y and fan-fare-ish and I certainly did not want to arrive to a comparison with the Queen of Sheba.

Hymn 1: We wanted to have one hymn from each of our parents' weddings. Turns out that M's parents only had one hymn, which was also the first hymn at my parents' wedding. So, we have chosen that for our first hymn as well.

Hymn 2: Undecided. Probably depends on what the Chaplain has to say and when the hymn comes during the service. Perhaps to be sung as plainsong by a choir?

Hymn 3: A favourite of both of us. It may well sound like a school Assembly or a rugby match but everyone knows it and it will be a rousing chorus to end the service. I'm sure you know to which hymn I refer!

Reading 1: Biblical. To be read by my Godmother.

Reading 2: A passage from a novel. To be read by someone of M's choosing, possibly a godparent or his Father.

Prayers: To be compiled and lead by our Mothers.

Music to be played whilst signing the register: To be played by my dear friend on her cello, possibly accompanied by my godfather on the piano in one piece. (If she allows me, I shall link to her, otherwise she shall remain anonymous for now!) Once we have found out how long we need to allocate to this we can start finalising our choices from her suggestions.

Recessional: Probably Mendelssohn's wedding march. Cliched maybe, but it is a wedding.

Reception: Some of our friends have formed a band and another is the DJ. The DJ shall play our first song and then the band will play 8 or 10 of our favourite songs including some Led Zeppelin, Queen, David Bowie, Nick Drake, Eric Clapton and others. The DJ will then take over and play a combination of our choice of music for the rest of the evening but we shall leave the order to him.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Wedding Dress Fitting I

The first fitting took place last night and the good news is that the dress should be able to be altered to fit me and so it shouldn't fall down. T pinned it in several places and it started to look a lot better. The dress claims to be a dress size bigger than I am, but it can't be, as it fits in some places but not others. Perhaps that is why it was for sale in Oxfam, not the original shop. Anyhow, it is on the way to fitting me.

We also started work on decisions regarding veils and hairstyles. I would have taken some photos but a dry cough from skiing has turned into a full blown cold and stress has left me with more spots than a teenager across my left cheek and chin and all the way down my spine. Very odd, most annoying and I certainly wasn't taking photographic evidence for posterity.

First make-up trial to come the week after next and then I need to get to a hairdresser to have some highlights done.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

A whisper...

The space afforded by the skiing holiday is contracting, like the tide coming in. In the Alps my brain was so busy trying to not fall over or persuade my tired legs into yet another blo0dy snow plough that all thoughts of the wedding/job/house situation were relegated to the far corner. Now thoughts creep back like small waves, the expanse of clear sand shrinking gradually. But the defences I built whilst on the chair lifts high above the pistes hold fast, for now.

We return to my parents house this weekend for the leaving do of another family member: this time it is one of my cousins who departs, to travel round the world, to post interesting photographs of him posing in countries whose currencies I do not know to his facebook account. To return older and wiser some time later in the year in time for university.

The following weekend we travel to the wedding venue, to meet the Chaplain, the DJ and possibly some other vendors. The invitations lie unblemished in their boxes, the stamp and calligraphy pen and inks in peacock and metallic colours lie untouched on my desk. I see them when I enter the house and they look at me, reproachful. I turn my back, pretending that I haven't seen.

My wedding dress hangs in it's bag on the back of the bedroom door, pressed up against my boy's potential suit. The veil material lies discarded on an arm chair, watched by a white board which indicates clearly, 'wedding: to do'. Only we haven't. Not yet.

While snow lies over London, summer seems so far away. Yet my wedding counter boldly states 4 months, 10 days. Time is ticking. My single life slides away. I make chocolate cake and joke with my boy about practising my wifely duties. We see friends and watch American television shows, huddling together under a blanket, a borrowed cat sat on our laps.

Into the silence afforded by our holiday a whispering has begun, soon perhaps it will be a shout. A triumphant proclamation that we are getting married. But not yet, so we enjoy winter and our rest a little longer...

Monday, 2 February 2009

'January' Food Challenge: Chocolate Cake

So, back at the start of January, Jenna laid down some monthly challenges: food, lifestyle & photography. Somehow I managed to not sign up for the photography one, to complete the lifestyle one by default and go skiing without doing the cooking challenge. Some start to 2009.

Luckily Jenna agreed to overlook the fact it is technically February and allow me to submit my chocolate cake to the January Food Challenge. Without further ado then I present to you my cake: Nigella's Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake.

{Image by the Author}

And here's how to make it:

FOR THE CAKE:
200g plain flour
200g caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
40g best-quality cocoa
175g soft unsalted butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
150ml sour cream

FOR THE ICING:
75g unsalted butter
175g best quality dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
300g icing sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
125ml sour cream
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

METHOD {My additions to the recipe}


1. Take everything out of the fridge so that all the ingredients can come to room temperature.
2. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C and line and butter two 20cm sandwich tins with removable bases {I used one round cake tin with a removable base and then sliced the cake in two horizontally after cooling}.
3. Now all you have to do is put all the cake ingredients – flour, sugar, baking powder and bicarb, cocoa, butter, eggs, vanilla and sour cream – into a food processor

and process until you have a smooth, thick batter. If you want to go the long way around, just mix the flour, sugar and leavening agents in a large bowl and beat in the soft butter until you have a combined and creamy mixture. Now whisk together the cocoa, sour cream, vanilla and eggs and beat this into your bowl of mixture.
4. Divide this batter, using a rubber spatula to help you scrape and spread, into the prepared tins and bake until a cake tester, or a thin skewer, comes out clean, which should be about 35 minutes, but it is wise to start checking at 25. Also, it might make sense to switch the two cakes around in the oven halfway through cooking time.{As I only used one tin I just dumped all the mixture into one tin and put it on the top shelf of the oven. It also took about another 15 minutes longer to cook than Nigella suggests but that might just be our oven.}
5. Remove the cakes, in their tins, to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before turning out of their tins. Don't worry about any cracks as they will easily be covered by the icing later.
6. To make this icing, melt the butter and chocolate in a good-sized bowl either in the microwave or suspended over a pan of simmering water. Go slowly either way: you don't want any burning or seizing.
7. While the chocolate and butter are cooling a little, sieve the icing sugar into another bowl. Or, easier still, put the icing sugar into the food processor and blitz. This is by far and away the least tedious way of removing lumps.
8. Add the golden syrup to the cooled chocolate mixture, followed by the sour cream and vanilla and then when all this is combined whisk in the sieved icing sugar. Or just pour this mixture down the funnel of the food processor on to the icing sugar, with the motor running.
9. When you've done, you may need to add a little boiling water – say a teaspoon or so – or indeed some more icing sugar: it depends on whether you need the icing to be runnier or thicker; or indeed it may be right as it is. It should be liquid enough to coat easily, but thick enough not to drip off. {I had to add extra sugar to make it stiff enough to use as icing.}
10. Choose your cake stand or plate and cut out four strips of baking parchment to form a square outline on it (this stops the icing running on to the plate). Then sit one of the cakes, uppermost (i.e. slightly domed) side down.
11. Spoon about a third of the icing on to the centre of the cake half and spread with a knife or spatula until you cover the top of it evenly. Sit the other cake on top, normal way up, pressing gently to sandwich the two together.
12. Spoon another third of the icing on to the top of the cake and spread it in a swirly, textured way (though you can go for a smooth finish if you prefer, and have the patience). Spread the sides of the cake with the remaining icing and leave a few minutes till set, then carefully pull away the paper strips.

PS. American readers - if you need any explanations of ingredients or weights/measures please leave me a comment and I shall endeavour to find the translation.

From one snow scene to another

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Returned to London over the weekend, swapping the snow scenes of the alps for the ones of London. Except the light in London was rather less bright...

{Image Author's own and not to used without explicit permission}
Sunset over Montgenevre
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Oh, and in the Alps everything works no matter how much snow there seems to be. In London, no buses were running, no trains, all tubes were severely delayed and it took me an hour and a half to do a 30 minute journey to work. Still, at least I made it. No-one else did.



{Image Author's own and not to used without explicit permission}
Montgenevre
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Spent the morning doing odd jobs and tasks and trying not to notice the continuous snowfall outside my window. Am posting this at lunchtime and then I shall finish off and head home before the snow gets any worse and I am stranded in central London. I know I could walk home in about the same time as it took me to get here, but it is cold. Plus, I want to make chocolate cake.



{Image Author's own and not to used without explicit permission}
Lincoln's Inn Fields

I wonder what the situation will be like tomorrow? One noticeable thing about the snow is that it is so quiet. Without the buses and with the snow muffling all sound, it is actually peaceful.


{Image Author's own and not to used without explicit permission}
Lincoln's Inn

Proper wedding posts to resume again shortly when things are back to normal. Still trying to catch up on a week's worth of blog reading and e-mails...

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