Hello Nancy

Summer Berry Meringue

It feels as though Summer is starting to wind down here in London so in order to help hold on to the season I wanted to make something synonymous with sunny days. Meringues are so easy to make and are an instant crowd pleaser, I have trouble digesting wheat but this naturally gluten free recipe make meringues a perfect sweet treat for anyone.


I was kindly sent the 3 in 1 blender by Savisto to review and I used the electric whisk and food processor attachments to make this recipe. I've wanted a food processor for the longest time and it's been great finally having such a useful piece of kit in the kitchen.

Ingredients

4 large organic egg whites
115g caster sugar
315g icing sugar
1 tbl Strawberry Jam
Raspberries
Strawberries
Blueberries
Double cream

How to make the meringues

Preheat the oven to fan 100C/ conventional 110C/gas 1⁄4. Line 2 baking sheets with non-stick liner or parchment paper as meringues can stick to foil.

Pour the 4 large egg whites into a large clean mixing bowl, make sure your bowl is very very clean and don't use a plastic one as this can stop the meringues from getting fluffy. Beat them on medium speed with an electric whisk until the mixture resembles a fluffy cloud and stands up in stiff peaks when the blades are lifted.

Turn the speed up and start to add 115g caster sugar, a dessert spoonful at a time. Continue beating for 3-4 seconds between each addition, don't over beat! It’s important to add the sugar slowly at this stage as it helps prevent the meringue from weeping later. When ready, the mixture should be thick and glossy.

Sift one third of the 115g icing sugar over the mixture, then gently fold it in with a big metal spoon or rubber spatula. Continue to sift and fold in the remaining icing sugar a third at a time. Again, don’t over-mix. The mixture should now look smooth and billowy, almost like a snow drift. I almost wanted to dive in! 

Scoop up a heaped dessertspoonful of the mixture. Using another dessertspoon, ease it on to the baking sheet to make an oval shape. Or make one larger meringue if you prefer, I did both!. Bake for 1 1⁄2-1 3⁄4 hours in a fan oven until the meringues sound crisp when tapped underneath and are a pale coffee colour. Leave to cool on the trays or a cooling rack.


While you are waiting for your meringues to cool you can make the strawberry sauce. Place a handful of halved strawberries, the remaining icing sugar and the strawberry jam in a food processor and pulse until blended together. You should have a sauce that can be easily drizzled over the meringues.

Whip the cream until it's at spooning consistency and assemble your meringues with the cream, strawberry sauce and then top with fruit. 


Adding the topping is where you can have a lot of fun, why not have some friends over for dinner and serve the meringues, cream and sauce separately so everyone can make their perfect dessert? I took some mini ones round to a friend's house to watch the first episode of the Great British Bake Off (if anyone else watching?) and we all added our own toppings.

Thanks so much to Savisto for giving me the opportunity to try out one of their kitchen gadgets My friends were very appreciative! Mini meringues all round!


Wedding Inspiration No.2

So a lot has happened since my last Wedding Inspiration post. I've chosen my dress and my shoes which you can read all about right here (lots of dress shopping tips in that post) we have also chosen our florist, photographer, cake designer and we have our venue sorted. The venue is the most special puzzle piece as Simon and I will be getting married in my sister's 17th Century tower house in Scotland. I still can't believe we get to have our day at such a beautiful and personal place. Ever since I was little it was my my dream to get married in a Scottish castle and it's actually happening!

Now a few more things have been planned I'm starting to feel more relaxed and I've been taking a step back to simply enjoy the whole process. The next big thing is the bridesmaid dress shopping, whoooo! Here are a few wedding ideas that I've been collecting recently...


Cute and Simple Bridesmaid's Dresses by Jenny Yoo


Magical Fireplace Display via Cedarwood Weddings


Pretty Decorative Ribbons via Belovely


Forest Photography by Green Wedding Shoes


Huge Green Floral Displays via Once Wed


Simple Save the Date Cards by Smitten on Paper


Fruit Cake Decoration by Le Dolci


1920's Style Shoes by Pura Lopez


Adorable Flower Girl Dresses by Nelly Stella

Party Table Decorating Tips

Who doesn't love a good party? As Summer will be over in a few months I wanted to share my favorite tips to creating a perfect party table so you can throw one last hurrah for the season. This tablescape design is also perfect for a feminine birthday shindig, tea party, Easter or even a Hen / Bachelorette party. Keep reading to find out all my styling secrets.


I simply used items I already had lying around the house as well as a few beautiful decorations from Talking Tables . Decorating a room for a party really doesn't need to cost a fortune, you only need a few key decorative elements to add real impact. Talking Tables have so many options and I've listed everything I used below in case you want to pick something out yourself.

Make a Backdrop

I began with a long strip of beautiful floral bunting which I attached to the wall with decorative washi tape. I then bunched the three cream honeycomb balls together and hung them right in the middle of the wall above the table. To disguise the boring white wall I then made up the floral and pink round paper lanterns and lay them right at the back of the table to cover as much of the wall as possible. You could also hang tissue paper garlands or strips of crepe paper streamers like I did for my craft party photoshoot.


Lay Down a Base

I started with my dining table and a plain white tablecloth as my first layer. Whatever your party theme is it's a good idea to start with a neutral or plain cloth and add on the pops of colour and pattern from there. I also laid down some linen napkins flat on the table so that the rustic stoneware plates would stand out from the pale tablecloth.



Place Settings

For the individual places around the table I first lay down a charger plate then a smaller dinner plate on top using my Mid Century stoneware. If you're hosting a larger sit down party you may want to buy or make your own place settings. On top of the plates I popped a cute kraft paper goodie bag which I sealed with a gold bulldog clip, the places were finished off simply with a few bay leaves. To make things even prettier and more fragrant you could make up some mini bouquets for each place using rosemary and lavender to complement the bay leaves. I'm sure your guests would love to take home a little sprig of herbs and flowers.

I used some pink ombre and metallic gold cups at each place setting (saves on the washing up) and draped some rustic ribbon across the table as a slightly more sophisticated alternative to party poppers and streamers.


Finishing Touches

I gathered up everything I had in my kitchen that matched the feminine botanical theme of the party and dotted around a few stoneware jugs, carafes for water as well as a lovely mint green milk glass tumbler and Mid Century style mini vase. These various vessels held the chalk board signs ready to be calligraphed with the food and drink options as well as a selection of green and gold paper straws.

I filled a handmade wire basket with a bunch of pink flowers for the centre of the table, a nice change from a floral arrangement in a vase. I think this idea helped add a more relaxed look to the table too. The last thing I did was scatter a few branches of foliage on the corners of the table.

Party table decor done!

The products I used from Talking Tables, Accordion Lanterns £10 per pack, Cream Honeycomb Balls £6.50 per pack, Blossom and Brogues Garland £7, Blossom and Brogues Chalk Signs £7, Gold Ribbon Spool £7.50, We Heart Pink Paper Cups £3.50, Kraft Spot Bags £3, Gold Straws £3

Let me know if you found my tips and explanation helpful and I hope that you can see that decorating for a party doesn't need to be stressful or difficult. Happy partying!

Top Tips to Find your Perfect Wedding Dress

Wow what a week of wedding planning I've had! Last night I got back to my London flat after visiting my family back home in Newcastle for some much needed family time and wedding chats with my mum. I'm happy to say that we got a lot ticked off my to do list but the best day we had together was our visit to the stunning Kathryn Trueman bridal store.

I really didn't expect to find my wedding dress so quickly but when I tried it on it me like a thunderbolt, it's true when they say "you'll know when it's the one". I hadn't been bridal shopping before and I still can't believe that I found my dress so easily with the minimal amount of fuss. I wanted to share my top wedding dress shopping tips to make your experience simple too. So, if you're looking for your own perfect gown keep reading...


Be Flexible and Open Minded

My mum booked me an appointment with Karen, who was so so lovely and helpful, I couldn't have asked for a nicer lady to help me find my dream dress. The whole team were fantastic but it was Karen and the owner Kathryn who really made me feel so welcome. They suggested that I walk around the whole store and pick out anything that caught my eye, I loved having the freedom to pick out whatever I wanted and I was completely blown away by all the gorgeous dresses on display.

It's important to have a style in mind that you love, I bought a few bridal magazines and searched Pinterest for dresses that jumped out at me. During my research the dresses I picked were all quite similar but I also knew it was important to bear in mind that I might have to be flexible and try on pieces that deviated slightly from my initial "perfect" dress. I picked out around 6-8 dresses most of which fitted my ideas but a few were total wild cards that caught my eye too.


Take People to Your Fitting that You Respect

Along with my mum, my honorary Aunty and an old family friend came along too. The three of them have been close for years and they've watched me grow up so it was lovely having them all there. The four of us all had slightly different tastes but ultimately they respected my decisions, together we all picked out dresses that we loved. It was hilarious hearing them get all excited whilst I was in the changing room, I could tell they were rushing around the shop picking out new dresses for me to try.

Wedding dress shopping is something you should do with your nearest and dearest but it's also important to remember that it is your wedding day and the ultimate choice is yours to make. I'm a very decisive person so it was easy for me to ignore them if I didn't agree!


Have a Budget in Mind

I picked out a variety of dresses in a range of prices but I knew what my ideal price would be, luckily I actually fell in love with the cheapest dress, which is very unlike me. I imagine it would be pretty heartbreaking and frustrating to try on and adore a dress that is out of your budget, it's so important not to go overboard and stick to what you're comfortable with.

Remember that you will probably also need to buy wedding shoes, a veil, jewellery and other accessories so keep some of that budget aside for those pieces too. The stunning shoes above are what I opted for and I absolutely adore them, when I got home I kept taking them out of the box to have a dance around my bedroom. They remind me of something Ginger Rogers would have worn. In case you're wondering they're by Emmy and they're called the Ella Gold.



Don't Try On Too Many Dresses

I took around 8 dresses into the changing room with me, it's very tempting to grab lots of options just for fun but you may end up feeling overwhelmed. When I walked into Kathryn Trueman I was greeted my rails and rails of stunning gowns. I wanted to try them all on but I knew I that I only had a limited time with my appointment so I made sure to select the few that really jumped out at me.

If you're not completely sure what you're looking for don't be shy to ask for help. It may be useful to know your size and wear underwear and shoes that are wedding dress appropriate, this will ensure that you maximise your time and also ensure that the dresses actually fit properly. Once I chose my dress and paid for it we had another look around the store at even more beautiful gowns. This second browse was so fun, there was no pressure compared to my first look round as I had already found my dream dress.



Find out What Suits You

If you're unsure about what colours or silhouettes suit you don't be afraid to ask for advice. The shop assistants want to help you find your perfect dress so if you get a little stuck just ask them! As a start there are so many types of white, diamond white and light, medium, and dark ivory not to mention all the other colour options. I opted for a medium ivory as it complemented my dark hair, eyes and olive skin tone.

I also knew that I wanted a gentle a-line or mermaid fit and I definitely wanted sleeves of some description as I'm getting married in a Scottish castle which can be quite chilly. Take cues from your venue, the season and the time of day you're getting married to help narrow down your dress style. I opted for a Edwardian / 1920's silhouette that also has touches of traditional elements which I think really suits the venue and of course my personal style.



Start Searching Early

I have been constantly surprised at how early things have to be planned, of course there are exceptions to this but as I'm having a relatively traditional wedding things get booked up super fast. I wasn't anticipating finding my dress so early or quickly but I've found it's really helped set the tone for the rest of the day. When I tried my dress on I turned and said to my mum that nothing else matters now that I'm marrying Simon in a dress that I feel beautiful in. I know that sounds really soppy but I honestly feel so more relaxed about the wedding now I have both my man and my dress.

Typically you should begin looking for your dress around the 9 months to go mark, this gives lots of time for multiple shop visits and fittings. 




Think About Accessories

You will need to arrive to your fitting with suitable underwear, I wore a nude strapless bra and seamless nude knickers. I also wore a pair of white shoes which are the perfect height for me. I'm quite tall and I knew I didn't want really high shoes, I also want to be able to dance all night! Karen also provided me with a pair of stunning Emmy shoes to try on with my dresses which were so comfortable and pretty I ended up buying them.
One the veil was added I completely lost it, I'm getting all choked up thinking about it again now (I'm an emotional wreck these days) the veil was the perfect finishing touch and I really felt like a bride. Veils aren't for everyone but I would suggest trying one just to see how you feel. Simon and I are actually going to have two weddings, one in London and one in Scotland. For London I'm going to go for a completely different outfit, a white suit à la Bianca Jagger with a bird cage veil. What can I say, I love veils. 


If you live in the North East I would highly recommend a visit to Kathryn Trueman, I think everyone would struggle to not fall in love with one of their dresses! Best of luck with your shopping.


How to Style and Shoot Photos Perfectly

I absolutely love styling and the process of taking photos for my blog and my homeware shop is one of my favourite creative processes. I work as a freelance stylist for various magazines and I have become more and more interested in styling over the past few years. I take great pride in decorating my little North London home by sourcing vintage and unusual pieces and I equally love styling the photos I take for my blog.  I thought it would be a great idea to share what I've learnt and show you what goes into a perfectly styled photo.

Inspiration

First up is inspiration. Hop over to Pinterest and your favourite blogs and see what other people are doing with regards to styling. Here are some images I recently collected, keep reading to find out why I think these photos work...



The above image is a fantastic example of how three simple elements can create a beautiful and inspirational image. A print, a chair and a plant. They're all beautiful pieces that add a sense of warmth and homeliness to the photo. The stacked blankets are a perfect way to style textiles too. 


Image via Meadows & Byrne

Not everyone has a beautiful home prepped for a photo shoot but as this image shows all it takes is a roll of light coloured paper tapped to a wall to make a neutral backdrop. I regularly use a roll of inexpensive lining paper used to prep bare walls before wallpapering. You can then layer other coloured paper like the light blue used here and some wood effect contact paper as the "floor". Boom you have an expensive looking background ready for your props.



This photo shows how a few simple props are all that's needed to show off a product or DIY project. The key is to stick to neutral and un-branded props so that the focus remains on the main object you're trying to sell. The peg board in this image is the main feature but it's been enhanced by styling small and pretty props on the shelves. 

If you need more inspiration take a look at my my Styling Pinterest board for lots more photos.


Equipment

The Canon 100D is a great camera for what I need to do, which is take some really nice shots and HD film without having to lug around a massive camera body. I have always used Canons and I can't really fault them. The first DSLR camera I used was the 1000D, which, in my opinion is the perfect entry level camera if you are just starting to get into photography. I know that DSLRs are expensive but if you want to begin taking good photos they are invaluable. A cheap digital camera or phone probably won't do the job if you're looking to take professional looking shots.

Now as for the lens, I like to use a Canon EF 50 mm 1.8 STM because this lens has the ability to create shallow depth of field effects. This gives photographs a lovely focus on key elements of what you're shooting while the rest of the shot is blurred. I also use the Tamron AF 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di LD Macro 1:2 which is a great inexpensive all round lens that can take detailed macro shots too.

I always use natural lighting and I shoot on a relatively bright but cloudy day so that the sunlight isn't too harsh.

Backgrounds

There are so many options with regards to backgrounds, I switch between using my white painted wooden table in front of my living room window, marble contact paper and one of my sheets of textured paper.


A popular option is marble, which could be the real thing if you have it or alternatively you can buy very inexpensive rolls of marble effect contact paper. Natural or stripped wood boards also look lovely in most photos. 


For a cooler or more industrial look you could opt for OSB (chipboard) or plywood which are both very trendy at the moment. Tiles are a great option if you are shooting bathroom or kitchen products, you can tile a relatively small piece of MDF which you can then lay on the floor or lean against a wall ready to shoot.


I also sometimes use my white sheepskin rug as a neutral alternative to my white table, it's particularly great for more wintery themed photos. I love white washed wood, it's a really diverse background and adds in a homey atmosphere to photos.

Below are a few examples of various backgrounds I've used in styled photoshoots...


I used a wooden chopping board for my gluten free cupcakes blog post.


For my perfect gift wrapping guide I chose a pretty wrapping paper as the background.


I used a cheap marble effect contact paper from Wilkinson's as the background for my Peanut Butter and Caramel Oreo Ice Cream recipe.


And I have also used my white sheepskin rug for my recent Paper Home book review post.

Props

Props are a vital part of any styled photoshoot. The first step is to look at what you'll be shooting and really have a think about what props would compliment them. You'll be surprised at how many things you could use that are lying around your house. I haven't spent one penny on props, I simply had everything in my flat already.

Things to look out for are unbranded, plain or vintage items. Objects that have a timeless quality to them that don't look dated or tacky. I tend to reach for the same few props which include plain notebooks, 1960's homeware items, nice coloured pencils, fancy beauty products and vintage children's books. If you need some inspiration I've created a Pinterest board to have a look at.

Below are some photos I took of the products that I make and sell on my homeware website. Take a look at the props I've used and you'll notice they're all pretty basic. 


 A vintage orange coffee pot and a few stoneware pieces to complement my "Our Sky at Night" Print.


I used a trio of Mid Century style homeware items and a vintage movie poster to style my Escher tablecloth


To add to the stationery theme I used some coloured pencils and gold safety pins along with a cute mini polar bear to style my Brown Bear notebook


To convey the correct size of my toiletry bags I use common products like razors and watches but I also try to make sure they look quite neutral.

I really hope you found this post useful. My last tip is to keep things simple, there is nothing worse than an over styled photograph! 

My Relaxing Morning Routine

Since going freelance my morning has become increasingly important to me. When I used to have to get up and out of the house to get to work I had limited time to get ready and I didn't treat my morning with much importance. Now I have time to take it a little easier as I don't have to factor in a commute to work, these days I try to spend at least an hour on myself and my mornings have become my favourite part of the day. I was recently sent the new All Bright range by Botanics to try in my relaxing morning routine.


After waking up I make myself a cuppa, either green tea or earl grey depending on my mood and I whip up a green smoothie, during the week I always have a healthy breakfast so that I can treat myself at the weekend. Whilst sipping my smoothie I watch some trashy tv like Project Runway and then I pop my gym clothes on for a workout. I love the Fitness Blender workout programmes and I usually do around 30 mins of HIIT cardio or kickboxing.

After a shower it's onto treating my face to a mini pamper session. I always wash my face with a very gentle cleanser and the one I love at the minute is the Centella Skin-Calming Facial Cleanser by Kiehl's (what a mouthful) after rinsing my face I popped on a thin layer of the Botanics All Bright Purifying Face Scrub where I needed it. My skin needs a bit of exfoliation around my nose, chin and cheeks, I'm very lucky and I don't often get spots but those areas seem to get the most congested.


The scrub contains walnut shell and apricot seeds for a physical polish and well as natural AHAs that smooth the skin for a brighter completion.


After that scrubbing my skin needs a good moisturiser and the Botanics All Bright Hydrating Day Cream also contains SPF15 to help protect your skin from the sun. I always use Boots sun screen as I believe that they offer up the best protection from the sun, it's great to see that their Botanics range also include 5 star protection from UVA and UVB rays.


The star of the show has to be the Botanics All Bright Radiance Balm which adds a subtle glow. I love this product for any no make up days to make my skin look a little more healthy and lit from within. I don't wear foundation (because I'm lazy) and adding a few dots to the tops of my cheekbones makes me look a little more put together.



You can mix a little of the Radiance Balm to your moisturiser to add a glow to your whole face or concentrate it to the high points like cheekbones, brow bone and cupids bow.


I used to use Botanics a lot whilst I was a student as the products are so affordable but as their range has been expanding and new exciting products are being added  it was great to have to opportunity to try Botanics products again. I love the fact that Botanics use active plant extracts approved by Kew Royal Botanic Gardens (one of my favourite things to do in London btw) whilst still remaining affordable.

Other important points to mention is that all the products are made without parabens, they're also not tested on animals and the packaging is is made using a minimum of 25% recycled materials.

The products I used are Botanics All Bright Purifying Face Scrub £3.99,  Botanics All Bright Hydrating Day Cream SPF15 £4.99 and the Botanics All Bright Radiance Balm £6.99.

Thank you to Boots Botanics for sending me these products to review.