Thursday, 27 October 2011

Home from Holibobs: Santorini

After Istanbul and Athens with Mr G, my mum and my aunt, we flew on to Santorini to meet up with my dad, my uncle and my cousin Jo.
Santorini was featured in my book of Unforgettable Places to See Before You Die and I spent a long while convincing the rest of the party that we should visit it. As soon as I mentioned the words “Greek island” to my parents they immediately thought of Malia, Kavos and Faliraki and all the other hideous places I visited in my teens and early twenties. Showing them the hotel prices however, convinced them that I wasn’t dragging them to a Greek alternative to Magaluf, and actually to a beautiful, cultural, and sophisticated place.
It didn’t disappoint.
Landing in Santorini was like walking in to a travel advert, that had been so heavily photoshopped it didn’t seem real. The blues were so blue. The whites were so white. The buildings looked exactly like the photographs. The sunsets were so beautiful and the food was delicious. The local wine left something to be desired, but you can’t have everything, can you?
The top of the cliff stairs

where we saw many a wedding!
a boat that lost its way

wedding musicians, as viewed form my sunlounger

the view from my bedroom balcony...
...and the view from my bed!

We stayed at the Mirabo villas in Firastefani and oh my, it’s not often you arrive at a hotel that looks EXACTLY like the pictures you’ve seen on the website.
The accommodation consists of three self-catering villas, that can be let individually or as a group, so it worked perfectly for us as an extended family group and we took all three. The catering facilities were basic, but to be honest, I don’t cook at home so I certainly never intended to cook on holiday, so this didn’t bother me. But if you intend to cook up some feasts in your apartment then they’re probably not for you.
The location was breathtaking, situated at the top of a cliff staircase with uninterrupted views of the caldera, seconds from the cafes and restaurants at the top of the cliff and maybe a 15 minute walk from the main bustly, winding, picturesque streets that the island is famous for, but far enough to maintain the peace and quiet. If I’m honest, the stairs were hard, and in the heat of the day they really took it out of me, so I can understand why some of the older holidaymakers staying at villas further down the cliff grumbled about them. If you got to the bottom, or top, and realised you’d forgotten something, you would seriously consider how much you needed it before making your way back! But in my opinion, because the stairs took you all the way to the bottom,  winding through various hotels and villas, as you trooped up the pathway the camaraderie with the other residents was fantastic, cheering others on as they walked past your terrace, or stopping for a chat to catch your breath. For me, it added to the overall atmosphere of the location, and also removed a lot of the guilt about all the baklava I consumed!

probably on the way down as i'm smiling and not sweaty!

having a rest halfway up (matched my outfit to the surroundings!)
The staff couldn’t have done more for us, and went out of their way to assist us both prior to our arrival, arranging transfers, finding the advance party somewhere to snooze while they prepared the rooms (having flown through the night and landed at 6am!), recommending restaurants and best of all, sourcing us a deal whereby we could use the pool and sunloungers at a nearby hotel and have a buffet breakfast at another.
We did have a small jacuzzi/plunge pool on our terrace which was great for a dip to cool off but for lengths, and some hardcore sunbathing we needed a bit more space. This we found at the Dana Villas at the bottom of the cliff stairway, and it was the perfect solution. We used their beds and pool so long as we bought all our drinks and food from them and then we would retreat to our terrace for bubbly and chilling whilst watching the sunset.
Oh the sunsets. They were amazing. People will tell you that the sunset in Oia is one of the best in the world. We didn’t feel the need to take the 15-minute bus or taxi ride there, and battle the tourist crowds for a spot on the wall to see it, as the one we saw from the comfort of our own villa was spectacular. So spectacular, that the best ones of the week were even met with a round of applause that echoed around the caldera.

some sunsets!
I get goosebumps just thinking about it!
Our daily ritual consisted of breakfast at the Cliffside Suites or a brunch at our favourite cafĂ© Mylos (both less than a ten second walk!) we’d spend the day either exploring or chilling on our loungers/in the Jacuzzi/hot tub/pool/poolside bar before heading back to the villas for prosecco and sunset chats and cheering, and coaching fellow holidaymakers up the cliff path, and then we’d walk the winding cliff road to the main town of Fira where even more restaurants, bars, cafes, shops and hotels can be found. I’m not normally hot on walking, but this walk was beautiful and offered stunning views of the main town all lit up and twinkly as you came around the cliff. Definately worth it, so long as you were in flat, non-spli shoes (mother bear take note)! We ate together most nights, every so often taking ourselves off in our little pairs (or trio where my aunt, uncle and cousin were concerned) for more romantic nights, later meeting up at Mylos for nightcaps! Which must get a special mention for its innovative glasswear. I attempted to work my way through the cocktail list, just to see what it would be served in next. They quickly started to recognise us as regulars (seeing as we sometimes went in three times a day, I suppose they had no choice) and so the little extras we got with our drinks made the drink prices worth it. I now can’t contemplate a bellini without a little plate of frozen strawberries!

some Mylos glasswear!!
I can’t remember many of the restaurant names, but most restaurants offered the same menu, but the prices would differ depending on the views, as you can imagine, the closer to the caldera view, the higher the premium on the food. It’s not a cheap place to eat and drink, in fact far from it. But it is possible to eat for reasonable prices, so long as you choose your location well and stick to local dishes and drinks.

After a while I found myself a bit de-sensitised to the inflated prices. Drinking in London regularly I didn’t baulk at €15 for a cocktail, but it was only towards the end of the week I snapped to attention at the €8 for a fresh orange juice and €3.50 for a tea.
On holiday, money becomes a bit like Monopoly money to me. I work hard, I save up, I have a wallet full of foreign cash, and I still have the mentality I did as a child which goes like this
“how much is in my purse? Right… what can I spend it on? I can’t go home with holiday money. I must spend it?”
So I pay little attention to things like prices, until the money starts to run out towards the end, or when I’ve drawn my daily limit at the cash machine and can’t draw more for 24 hours.
It was at that stage that I thought that it was actually a very pricey destination, but on the flip side, I didn’t see a single pair of union jack shorts (sorry for the clichĂ©!) I didn’t encounter a single food outlet offering a “full English all day” and I certainly saw no bars offering free shots before midnight. So in my mind it was worth paying that extra few quid, ok the extra tenner, for everything to have a more refined holiday!
The shopping is quite clearly aimed at the daily cruise ship arrivals, stocking every high-end label you can imagine, so I didn’t go near the shops. Mainly because every time one of the females went near a window, they were hastily retrieved by one of the guys. They were like human sheepdogs, herding us away from glittering jewellery shops and in to restaurants! I think the only purchases made were by Joanna, well, by Joanna’s dad, in a cute shoe shop. But, to be honest, she did need that pair of slingbacks.
All in all I thought it was a magical destination, the villas were amazing, the locals were incredibly friendly and the local food was delicious, if not to everyone’s taste, but there was something for everyone from freshly made sushi to authentic Italian pizzas if traditional Greek tavernas aren’t for you!
As soon as I’ve saved enough money and done some cardio training, I’m going straight back!
Team photo, but Jo and I are missing our Bros!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Home from Holibobs: Athens

So, to follow on from Istanbul, we flew on to Athens after four days, using Aegean Airlines, which we were incredibly impressed with. I would definitely recommend them! Brand spanking new planes, the super-duper-more-leg-room-than-you-could-ask-for seats were available for us on all legs of the trip, they played films that weren't yet released in the cinema (Midnight in Paris in case you ask. I wasn't wow-ed but it was cute, great to look at and fun for history buffs, despite its predictability), the food wasn't bad at all and the cabin crew were really friendly. I think I'd give them an 8.5 out of ten!
The view from our pool terrace. Amaze!
Flag at the top of the Acropolis - now I know why their flag is blue and white!
First of all I loved our hotel. We stayed at the Fresh Hotel which is part of the Design Hotels group and it was perfectly located to walk down in to the main squares for restaurants, shops, cafes and bars. We walked to all the main sights and to and from dinner each night. Some of the reports on trip advisor made mention of it being in a seedy area. I thought no such thing. It was just off a main road and I felt perfectly safe walking to and from the hotel at all times of the day and night. The design, styling, layout and facilities were great. The rooms were clean and as spacious as you’re ever going to get in a city centre hotel. The staff literally fell over themselves to be helpful and the breakfast was amazing. Pride of place at breakfast was the orange juice “Squisher” which they love so much they even make mention of it on their website. The rooftop pool is big enough for a dip and a length or two, but it's not there for exercise. It's there for posing with a cocktail and a Kindle! The pool is on a compact sun deck, with a few moveable sunloungers, fixed sunbeds and a cushioned sofa area next to a bar and restaurant, all of which had a direct view of the Acropolis, which was especially lovely at all times of the day – soaking up the afternoon sunshine with a daiquiri after a morning of culture vultureing, at sunset with a champagne cocktail before heading out for dinner or late at night with the Parthenon all lit up and a nightcap. Speaking of nightcaps, champagne cocktails and afternoon daiquiris - the cocktail list was extensive and full of the classics as well as some house mixology and despite making it my mission to have one from each "sub section" of the menu, I didn't even get close. I gave it a good go though!

I would most definitely recommend this hotel, for its location, facilities, staff and design but beware – the colour schemes aren’t for the faint hearted!

Hello breakfast table at the Fresh Hotel
Hello roof terrace!

So anyway – enough about the hotel. The City!!!!

I’d heard conflicting reports on Athens, but most people I’d spoken to hadn’t enjoyed Athens, so I went without any great expectations.
As it happened I loved it. Rome is one of my fave cities in the world. The mixture of old and new really gets my jaw to the floor, and that is what Athens delivered. But I think in a grittier way. People I’d spoken to had complained of urban decay and a dirty city. However, I saw a beautifully urban backdrop for some of the most amazing antiquities in history. In my mind it would be a photographer’s dream! Every time I turned a corner I thought of the amazing Trash the Dress pictures you could get!
Little bit of antiquity on a sunny afternoon
We spent the first day up at the Acropolis, of course. I was so excited to get up there and see the temple built in homage to the goddess that gave the city its name: Athena (also known as goddess of posters and of muscly men holding cute Greek-Cypriot babies!) and the defining silhouette of Athens: the Parthenon. It was amazing. I love a bit of antiquity I do, and this didn’t disappoint!
Afterwards we spent some time wandering in Plaka, perusing antique bookshops, flea markets and olive stalls before a late dinner – Athenians eat late!
The next day we spent some time at the Acropolis Museum which has recently re-opened. The set-up is really clever. You walk around the re-furbished marbles and with the light and space the museum has created you get a real sense of how they must have looked in situ. The best is saved until last though. When you reach the top floor, the reclaimed marbles are arranged in order, in a scale version of the Parthenon with narrative identifying each piece or why the piece is missing and where it is now housed (yes Elgin, we’re looking at you!). What makes it so clever is that the walls are fitted with floor to ceiling windows and you look straight out on to the Acropolis, enabling you to picture how they might have looked thousands of years ago. I wasn’t so keen on the glass floors, not just because of my fear of heights, but because you really can see straight up the skirts of the ladies on the floor above. Hmmmm.
Once I’d ticked that off I was happy to chill out, but we still managed to fill our time with more wandering in Plaka, learning about the birth of democracy in the Ancient Agora and watching the changing of the (very tall) guards in Syntagma Square. We even managed to fit in some shopping. Obvs!

I suppose it depends what you like from your cities, but I like them to feel like cities. I want history, atmosphere and culture all around me. I want all these things but I also want to be able to get my hands on a good cocktail at the end of the day. Athens gave me all of those things. The overall feeling was like being on a beach holiday but with the added bonus of having the city vibe. restaurants, bars, cafes, cute little shops, flea markets crowds of people eating, drinking, sitting, shopping, chilling, commuting, even a few striking on the Saturday, just for the authentic Greek flavour! I loved wandering and soaking it all up.
I will most definitely be going back... hint hint, Mr G...!

One of my fave photos, I managed to snap a Travel Bug!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Home from Holibobs: Istanbul

So a month or so ago I got back from a big family holiday, so it’s way past time that I post some kind of story about it…
I started off in Istanbul with Mr G, The Mothership and my aunt Diana (my mum’s sister), with a four night stay (Diana flew on ahead of us for an extra day) we then flew to Athens for three nights, before flying on to Santorini, where we met up with my Daddy Bear, my uncle James (Diana’s husband) and my cousin Jo (their daughter). We spent a week there and caught separate flights back to Athens where we jumped on the same flight home.
There were no logistical mishaps – which was a MASSIVE surprise to me, as I organised the majority of the trip and spent a lot of the time on edge worrying that I’d missed someone out on the flights or booked someone in with the wrong name. There were numerous suggestions for a toast to the organisation at various points, but being the superstitious wally that I am, I wouldn’t allow it until we were all safely home and I knew everything had worked out as planned, with no mishaps.  So I finally allowed myself to accept a “well done” from the group in baggage collection at Heathrow. And thus we encountered a problem with our meet and greet and got home much later than planned. The moral of the story? Never tempt The Fates, especially not when you’re so close to their front door.  They can hear you so much more clearly!
Anyway…  the first of three parts is below, with two more (Athens and Santorini) to follow!
Mr G, my mum and I flew in on a BA flight at the civilised hour of 11ish on the Saturday morning so we got there in time for a spot of unpacking, catching up on the Roof terrace of our hotel and planning where to head for dinner. Diana, having been there for a day already had sussed out the area so had some tips for us on places to eat and getting around.
the view from our rooftop
We stayed at the Klas Hotel  in the old town, about a two minute walk to the Laleli tram stop. It was about a 20 minute gentle walk to the Grand Bazaar where there were lots of little shops, cafes and bars. From there we quite often jumped on a tram over to to the new town area where there is some more mainstream shopping (think Zara, Swarovski etc) and more cafes, bars and restaurants. For us, the hotel was well located, but for some it might have been just a little bit too far from all that “action”. If you’re happy to walk a little way or to jump on and off the tram, it’s perfect!
The hotel itself was clean, tidy and reasonably modern. It wasn’t high-design by any means, but the roof terrace with tables, sunbeds, cushioned lounging area (complete with fake grass for that Big Brother Garden feel), cute little pool and a bar was perfect for a little bit of chill out time after pounding the streets of the city. The staff were friendly and helpful, the breakfast was fine (so long as you stayed away from the orange concentrate) and there was free WiFi on each floor, which is always nice.
We spent some time at the main attractions on the first day, starting with The Blue Mosque which was pretty amazing, as were the other mosques (and they were plentiful), but the Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) was breathtaking, and with such an interesting history we spend a good hour or so just walking, looking, lingering and taking it all in.
The following day we spent some time exploring the little back streets of the new town by following a walk from the Lonely Planet guide. It started in Taksim Square through a modern shopping area, where we enjoyed an impromptu feast of mezzes, then on to some small backstreet areas full of cute bars, cafes and antique shops, ending up down at the Galata Tower.

coffee in the back streets

The next day we spent some time on the Bosphorus taking in the views of the city on both the European and Asian sides. The Bosphorus Bridge, which allows you to cross from Europe in to Asia, was pretty awesome. Sailing up and down on the river with a rather good audio guide and my little book made me realise quite how important this city was, and still is, in history.

After all that culture and history and architecture I decided I needed to shop. So the next day we wandered down to the Grand Bazaar which, if I’m honest was a little bit disappointing. I was suspecting something like Khan el Khalili in Cairo, which was really like stepping back in time, or on to the set of Aladdin! In reality the Grand Bazaar was a little bit like a slightly old fashioned Lakeside.

We wandered and looked, but didn’t bother to purchase anything and so didn’t spend too long there. We pressed on to the Spice Bazaar, which was a bit more like it, but still a bit of a let down. My mum, Nick and Diana got a little tutorial in purchasing saffron, and I spent some time sampling the most amazing Turkish delight I’ve ever tasted: pomegranate with pistachio. Amazeballs! I intended to bring some samples home but it didn’t last the day, let alone the two weeks.

Some Turkish Delights!
One thing the guidebooks really gloss over is the Basilica Cisterns. They really were a hidden treasure and I’m so glad we found them. They were the water vaults for the buildings above the ground, for storing water in case of siege (or so I read) and generally to service the city. The columns that hold up the ceilings are all mismatched as they were taken from various temples from across the empire and so each one tells a story… except the Medusa one – you don’t hang around to hear her story!

the fantastic reflections at the Cisterns
All in all I really, really liked Istanbul. I don’t think it makes it in to my list of ‘Top Five Fave Cities’, but to be fair I think we only briefly scratched the surface. One of highlights for me was the little tea lounge we found behind the Grand Bazaar where we got in amongst it with the locals, drinking tea, lassi and persuading them that I did in fact enjoy the Turkish coffee (we discovered that most locals don’t go near it). In fact we bumped in to a waiter from the previous night and managed to marry my cousin off.  When he asked for Facebook details we realised he probably wasn’t joking as much as we were, but he was about to jet off to New York to start an MA, so you know, he had some good prospects… and I’d never say no to a free trip to the Big Apple, Joanna… ? It was also good for Nick to have someone male to talk to for an hour or so, get some football chat in, talk about things other than shoes, the anti-age component of sunscreen and blisters from inappropriate walking footwear!
Two things will stay with me forever though. Number one - the views of the city. One of the most memorable views was from the bridge across from the old to the new town. Looking ahead to the old town, with all the fishermen lined up in front of you and the trams rushing by, you can see what looks like a line of seven massive mosques along the skyline. You don’t feel like the New Town is particularly “new” until you look at the old and realise that when “new” means 500-600 years old, “Old” means positively ancient!
Number two, and for me the embodiment of the city, was the sounds and smells. Sitting on a roof top bar wrapped in a blanket, with the wind off the river stirring our hair, amidst the sweet smell and smoke of the shisa pipes, sipping a cosmopolitan as the final call to prayer went out, it was very atmospheric indeed.

History and modernity all mashed up, pretty good for getting the goosebumps going, I’d say.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Judge me

"ahhh, Louboutin, how I love thee"

Some people might think I’m shallow*, they may call me superficial, they might think my interests are flippant, silly and unimportant. But hey, at least I’m loyal to my cause, consistent in my views and easy to please when gifts are required? Put a designer name on it, put high-end store vouchers in my card, make it twinkly and expensive and I’ll be truly excited and grateful about it. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. I reckon that’s the only reason Nick married me – he knew birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries and Valentine’s Day** would be reasonably stress-free so long as he threw enough money at them.
I read fashion and beauty magazines, not current affairs ones (sorry Diana, but at least they’re not gossip ones). I lust after shoes, handbags and jewellery not letters after my name. I seek out conversations on makeup and skincare rather than political issues. I get excited about meeting people that can pass on a staff discount at Selfridges and MAC, rather than grant me access to the upper echelons of my company for a promotion.
And I have NEVER been ashamed of that. Ever. Those are my interests. I have knowledge and experience of, can talk authoritatively on most things related to and a genuine passion for all areas of fashion and beauty.
Today, however, I reached new heights, or in fact new lows, and I feel a little sheepish about it!
This morning, whilst eating my breakfast (kiddie cereal – another thing I’m not ashamed to admit I love) in my pyjamas (cute penguin print ones from Primark, so proud) on the sofa (when I should have been doing household chores, naughty). I should have been experiencing all kinds of shame. But I was quite content. Until I discovered the programme Love/Lust on Sky Atlantic HD.
Normally I would have been catching up on something trashy like X Factor, Strictly, TOWIE (see, no shame here, I’m totes blush-free), but this morning I had nothing to watch as I’d watched it all last night. So I spent some time flicking through the channels looking for something suitable to veg in front of. Now that I’m nearly 30, I mean something like Something For The Weekend rather than the Hollyoaks Omnibus, but not quite as grown up as that thing on BBC1 where they talk about politics and religion.
So anyway, I found this programme on Sky Atlantic that was looking at the history and social story of the bikini. So I watched it for a while. There was a question in my A Level General Studies paper about the history of the bikini, so, you know, it’s not too low-brow. Maybe…
I flicked through the listings in the ad break and there were two more in the run. One on shoes, and one on makeup.
I love both of these things more than I love bikinis. Obvs. So that’s me sorted for the morning: Rice Crispies, Primark Penguin Pyjamas, a kitchen full of washing up and three hours of “documentary-style” telly whereby an overly-dramatic, male, American voice makes bold statements about the obvious (“the high heel started as a unisex shoe in Europe” GASP! “the bikini was once socially taboo” NO WAY? “at the beginning of the century makeup created a generation gap between mothers and daughters” OH MY DAYS), looking at the history of the bikini, the high heel and makeup.
And then I thought about what I’d tell my parents/colleagues/anyone when they asked what I got up to at the weekend and I thought that perhaps I should lie. And buy a copy of the Economist en route to work.
I really think I’ve reached new depths in my shallow-ness, and so what better way to hide it than to write about it on my blog.
Feel free to judge me.

* Mainly my family!
**although apparently there was some hidden clause in my marriage vows that says we now no longer celebrate Valentine’s Day or any anniversary other than our wedding day. Hmph.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Fancy that

October was the month of the 30ths. Three of them to be precise. We started the month with Kim’s 30th cocktail house party. Neil’s followed the next weekend with a D-themed old school bar crawl through Chelmsford. I went as Daisy Duke, which was easy to do, as (maybe shamefully?) I own all the relevant items! I also thought about a dancer (tutu and my old pointe shoes - not ideal for a whole night out), Dannii Minogue (cocktail dress, super-high quiff and red lippie - basically a normal outfit then. Hmph.) and Dita von Teese (uh, far too cold for that kind of outfit – but had it been warm… well…). Mr G went as Dennis the Menace - such a suitable character for him. He’s always such a menace anyway that this gave him free reign to be naughty all night. I gave up after a while. I was screeching his name like an owner screeches at a cheeky puppy they’re trying to stop widdling on the carpet.
Me and my Menace!
Then last weekend Katie W had a K-themed London quiz and tour. For that I spent about two weeks sewing together a Katy Perry outfit. I didn’t go for the obvious choices of clouds, cream buns or cans of squirty scream (see my reasons above for Dita von Teese) coupled with wigs in primary colours, but instead decided to get creative and make a replica of the outfit she wore to the Smurfs movie premiere – on the blue carpet.
I could TOTES be a movie star. Yah?
I then added my own little spin with a little hair band consisting of a mushroom (the kind that Smurfs live in – obvs) and a mini Papa Smurf… well I wanted to be a little bit original!
The making of Miss Smurfette
After a couple of false starts, I finally drew the outline on to some pieces of white, blue and yellow felt, cut out the shapes and then sewed silver, blue and gold sparkly material to each individual piece before sewing them all together on one main piece of felt. I then replicated the black outlines, cartoon style, with a strip of black sequins. I sewed her pretty features on her face with double thickness wool and a darning needle, and then filled in her eyes with white sequins. After that I cut her out and sewed her on to a corset top I’d purchased on eBay. I thought it’d be more of a dress, but when it arrived I realised it was more of a fetish outfit (anyone want the white, adjustable, polyester thong that came with the corset and skirt, which technically isn’t a skirt, when you actually look at it… yucky), and I’m now being bombarded with “you might also like...” emails from similar shops. Not cool!
err, there's something in your hair...
The hair band I purchased from HobbyCraft, and I made the mushroom by chopping up sponges, covering them with the scraps of left over felt and sewing them all together. Papa Smurf, as you may have guessed was a toy from a McDonalds Happy Meal. The shame of finding one of those in your flat, eh?
I think Mrs Brand would have been proud of me…
I was pretty proud of me. I’m not normally famed for my domesticity! In fact, I'm not ever famed for my domesticity.
The only problem with the outfit (well, aside from the fact that had I not worn shorts underneath I would have been arrested) was that shortly after the end of Katie’s event I had to dash across London in the early evening, dressed like a Tube Crazy (we’ve all seen them!), to attend my cousin Jo’s 21st birthday.
I’m not sure what my family, and Jo’s friends thought when I turned up, slightly tipsy, dressed like, well, dressed like god knows what, clutching some cake pops and a champagne fountain. But to be honest, they all know me well enough, or had been pre-briefed, so to be honest, had I turned up without any drama, they would wonder what was wrong!
I promptly wiggled out of my KP outfit, managed to get my hair up, my drag queen-style make up off and put on a more appropriate, grown up party dress (teal, low V back with gold stud buttons, three quarter length sleeves and knee-length skirt from Zara. Tres gorge) only to ruin the effect with a giant sombrero after too many tequila slammers and margaritas.
I could be a super hero with this many ridiculously themed outfit changes…  
Later that evening in my pretty and grown up Zara dress...

My next foray in to fancy dress is next week for a hen weekend in Bath. The theme is excellent – so wait and see what we all come up with.

But don't "bug" me about it.....

Friday, 7 October 2011


Last week was Kim's 30th birthday - an occasion requiring cake, and lots of it. We had dinner on Wednesday (her un-birthday!) and, as Kim is nursing her baby boy and he's intolerant to all the yummy stuff in cakes, as a treat I had gluten-free and dairy-free personalised cupcakes made by a local bakery.

Awww, sweet.

Nope, they were anything but. They were the. Most. Disgusting. Cupcakes. Ever.


That's Kim, that is. And she's holding the evil cakes. Ick.
They were an insult to the word cupcakes. Thank god for the jam that held the soap-flavoured "icing" to the cardboard-flavoured "sponge". That was the only bit that actually tasted edible.

I'm sure the lady that made them did her best within the parameters I set, but really, she should have just declined the business!

Thankfully on Saturday at the main party (more on this later, I suspect) we were allowed to have cake with all the nasty (i.e. tasty) stuff in it. You will also be pleased to hear that I didn't make said tasty cake. I purchased a lovely white, plain-iced chocolate cake from the lovely people at Waitrose. It was yum. It made me wonder why I spent so much flipping money on my wedding cake - but that's not a discussion for now. I spent a little while looking at it, drawing stuff on it with edible felt tips, freaking out about making spelling mistakes on it, and flinging edible glitter and silver sugar balls at it in an artistic manner... well... a manner.

I also lost my mind a bit and thought it would be a good idea to make Cake Pops. As if I didn't have enough to do to prepare for the party, I thought it would be a good idea to start crumbling up red velvet cakes, rolling them in to balls and then covering the kitchen in coloured candy melts and assorted sprinkles as I decorated them until 2am...and I tell you what... they actually turned out ok, if I do say so myself. So here are a few pictures.

The recipe was from the Love Bakery cupcake book. This book also contains "Cuptails", cupcakes based on classic cocktails and containing alcohol. One word: Amaze.

Finally, here's me looking all chuffed with my handiwork at Kim's parents' house (I made the letters, decorated the cakes and made the cake pops) before getting ready for the party.

Me and Cake. Cake that's not evil, but pretty and nice.
Yay me!