Money saving Wedding tips

Weddings are blooming expensive. I had this magical idea that I was going to be different, I was going to get the wedding I wanted but without financially crippling my parents. I was deluded. I haven’t gone as far as to bankrupt my parents but I failed to realise if you want the wedding of your dreams, you’re are going to have to pay. I have, however, learnt there are some areas where you can cut the corners and save yourselves a reasonable chunk.

Get your quotes in early

Vendors prices are always going up. Without the initial intention of booking, email potential vendors and get a quote. When you have made a decision and decide to book someone, they can sometimes tell you their prices have now increased. If they’re a reasonable enough company/person, you can show them the original quote and they should honour that.

Haggle

Not necessarily a given, but don’t always accept the first offer. As soon as you mention the word ‘Wedding’, it seems it automatically entitles companies to add a couple of zeros on the end. Every wedding has a budget and vendors should know this. Being able to cater for each wedding should be a given. I’m not saying you should start bartering with the vicar, but explain your budget and see if they are willing to do you a deal.

Friends with benefits

Not in the rude way, please! As I said weddings are expensive so it always helps if you happen to know someone who can help out with particular aspects. It’s a great way to get a friend or family member involved, sometimes you get offered their services as a wedding gift.

Get married on a weekday

Bit of an obvious one, but has to be said getting married on a weekday can save you a lot of money. Sundays can be cheaper, but if they’re followed by a bank holiday, they’ll often be bumped up to a Saturday price. A weekday wedding can save at least a £1000, try to arrange it within a school holiday, that way children are off school, giving parents one less thing to worry about.

Seasonal flowers

Flowers help bring together the colour scheme of the wedding, they are a must. Like a lot of things, choosing flowers that aren’t in season is going to cause additional costs. Also keep in mind that sometimes you just can’t get particular flowers, I liked the idea of peonies but that was never going to happen in April.

There are obviously a lot more ways to save some pennies, but evidently the ‘big day’ is going to put a hold on you buying that new winter coat (boo). In the end your friends and family are there to celebrate you getting married and only you worry about the finer details, so try not to blow all your budget on the place names!

A proper introduction to Sushi

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There is definitely a trend on my blog at the moment and it seems to circle around food. I’m either sharing a meal I’ve had out or having a go at making something myself. I’d like to say that this post is going to break the trend but it’s not. I’m going to talk about sushi.

The only experience of sushi that I have is from the little packs you get in M&S or Tesco, and visiting the popular chain, Yo!Sushi. Now, I’m no expert but I don’t think this stuff could be regarded as the highest quality sushi and so I may be lying to myself when I say I love it. I had to put this to the test and check out KibouSushi in Cheltenham.

Tucked away along Regent Street in the centre of town, KibouSushi opened it’s door in 2013 and has been a hit with locals ever since. Priding themselves on cooking authentic Japanese food to a high standard, Alan and I finally went to see what all the fuss was about.

We went on a Saturday lunchtime, having just beaten the rush and bagging the last table as we watched countless people having to be turned away. If that’s not a good sign, I don’t know what is!

Having not been to a Japanese restaurant before the menu felt a little intimidating at first glance, however the staff were really friendly and more than happy to talk us through it.

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We picked out a number of dishes to share, so we could try a little bit of everything.

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And I mean everything, it just kept coming.

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The food was beautifully presented and so fresh. A great variety of food, I now feel I can say I have eaten authentic Sushi.

I think many locals had been waiting for something new and different to hit the town, Yo!Sushi didn’t really do that but KibouSushi did!

Cheltenham Literature Festival: Chilli Notes

I love a good book. My commute on the train from Cheltenham to Bristol Monday to Friday has helped me get some valuable reading time done without any distractions. I’m currently reading ‘The Goldfinch’, I know, I know I’m totally behind what’s trending but if you haven’t read it, I’d definitely recommend.

This week Cheltenham welcomed the likes of John Cleese, Dame Judi Dench and Heston Blumenthal, among others to this years Literature Festival. There are always plenty of events, speakers, book signings to suit all tastes; as well as treats for foodies – a fact I only learnt this year.

As I said, I do enjoy a good book, however I probably enjoy a nice meal more. I can’t convince my fiance to wear a full-on tweed suit on our wedding day but I can convince him to come to the Literature Festival with me when there is food involved. Alan and I decided to book up one of the events that included a scrumptious three-course meal. The meal was with MasterChef winner, Thomasina Miers, who showcased dishes from her new cookbook. If I’d known the Literature Festival did these kind of things, I would have made the effort to go a lot sooner.

The Imperial Gardens (aka Beer Gardens, as more familiarly known by Cheltonians) and Montpellier Gardens are packed full of large tents housing all the different events going on. The festival brings so many people to Cheltenham, it can make for awful evening traffic but the town really comes alive and there is a great, buzzing atmosphere.

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Our three course meal was in the Spiegeltent, a gorgeous venue with soft lighting and cosy red velvet booths.

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We were seated with two other couples, one of them actually being someone I catch the train with everyday. It was a lot more sociable than just being seated together and great to have different opinions about the food. Having said that, the opinions were pretty unanimous, we all loved it.

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We sipped on our glasses of wine, got to know our fellow booth sharers and waited for the food to appear in front of us. With a stroke of luck, we were seated at the table that got the food first.

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The starter and main dishes were a dream. The starter was really fresh with smooth avocado and crunchy pancakes topped with perfectly cooked prawns. The mains had the perfect amount of chilli. The beef melted in your mouth, with the rich gravy bringing it all together.

Between the main and the pudding, Thomasina was interviewed by celebrity MasterChef winner, Emma Kennedy. Giving us an insight into how she got into food and the opening of her restaurant chain, Wahaca.

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The meal was finished off with one of my favourites puds, a slice of treacle tart. Lovely, although my mum’s is better.

We left feeling satisfyingly full, with a new fondness for mexican food and a promise to make sure we went to more Literature Festival events next year.

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Portraits of Cheltenham: The Newborn

I haven’t done one of these posts in a while. I could come up with a million excuses like wedding planning, working etc but the main reason is probably not always having the confidence to approach random people. I was put to the test with my next portrait. Luckily he was feeling generous with his time and allowed me a snap-shot.

Meet Oscar.

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My oldest friend Emma gave birth to this little guy just over 3 weeks ago. He’s a teeny-tiny bundle of cuteness that kept us both entertained whilst out for lunch. It’s impossible to not get a little broody, just look at that face.

Unique finds

As part of my campaign with HomeSense I was tasked with visiting the new Cheltenham store to source some of their unique items and share my findings with you guys.

This was not a particularly hard task as all their items are unique. It’s perfect if you want your home to look different and offer some originality. I found some amazing gems that I’m keen to purchase for mine and Alan’s ‘bottom draw’.

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I love some of the vintage pieces like the vinyl player, such a great statement item or the skull bookends. So many items that can help show off your indiviual style. Some of the more classic items look like you’ve spent a fortune when in fact you’ve got a bargain.

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This whole campaign with HomeSense has given me itchy feet, I can’t wait to fill a home with unique little trinkets that don’t cost a fortune. If only I could say the same about house prices…

Where to go for Tea and Cake in Cheltenham

Or coffee and sandwiches, whatever floats your boat. I always forget the different places on offer when picking a place to go for lunch. We’ve got the Costa’s, the Starbucks and the Soho Coffee’s but I usually find cakes taste better if they haven’t been in transit for several days.

This post is essentially to jog my memory of some of my favourite places to go for a daytime catch up with friends or the fiance.

1. Morans, Bath Road

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A well known and popular location for meet-ups in Cheltenham, family run and family bakers. You’ll find some top notch homemade cakes in Morans that are impossible to resist as well as Tapas and sandwiches to suit the more savoury fans. Not somewhere you can just go for lunch, but they have a lovely restaurant too.

2. Moka cafe, Suffolk Parade

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Moka Cafe another family run independent cafe, hidden away in Suffolk Parade. It’s very relaxed inside, with a couple of seats outside to do some people watching. They offer a wide range of hot drinks and some superb carrot cake that Alan and I devoured in seconds.

3. Boston Tea Party, Clarence Street

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Not having been open very long in Cheltenham, BTP is already very popular. Saturdays can often be quite hectic and you have to keep an eye out for a table but it’s worth the wait. I often enjoy a salad or one of their burgers, that come with the best fries, but have also indulged in their cakes. Their scones are beautiful.

4. Curious Cafe, Bath Road

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Curious Cafe can also be found along the Bath Road, well known for their amazing cooked breakfasts. A wide range of lunch treats and cakes are also on offer. You can enjoy your food inside or head towards the back and go to sit in their secret garden.

I’m always on the look-out for lunch spots so if you guys know of any others, feel free to leave a suggestion.

Autumn Recipes: Apple and Forest Fruits Crumble

After a late summer holiday I feel I’ve made the most of the sunshine and am now fully ready to embrace Autumn. I’ve already bought a new pair of boots and can’t wait to get into thick woolly jumpers, cosy up on the sofa with a blanket and fully explore all of what Netflix has to offer.

Another plus to Autumn is the food. Plenty of comforting, hearty meals that warm you up from the inside. Although I’m struggling to comprehend the fact it will be October next week, but with the nights getting colder, I’ve already cooked up one of my favourite Autumn puds – Crumble. My mum makes the best crumbles so I felt a little pressure to get it right.

If the crumble didn’t turn out right it was at least going to look good. I bought a lovely ceramic oven dish from HomeSense, that I’ll be making full use of. I was pretty impressed at the wide range of cookware in HomeSense, I kept imagining other dishes I could create.

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I loved the Jamie Oliver collection, especially this pie dish. I’d definitely be eyeing up the ‘greedy guts’ portion.

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Anyway, onto the Crumble.

You will need:

120g plain flour
60g caster sugar
60g desiccated coconut
60g unsalted butter
300g sliced apples
115g forest fruits
30g demerara sugar

1. Preheat the oven 190C/170C fan oven/Gas 5. Tip the flour, caster sugar, coconut and butter into a bowl and rub together using your fingers to create breadcrumbs.

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2. My mum collects apples from the garden, peels them and then freezes them to use for things such as crumbles. The forest fruits were also frozen so I placed them all in a bowl and defrosted them in the microwave. Once they’d defrosted, I added the demerara sugar then heated them up in the microwave until they’d soften.

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3. Give them a little taste to check the apples are sweet enough. Empty into your oven dish and cover evenly with your crumble.

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4. Heat in the oven for 30 minutes, letting the crumble darken and the fruit bubble.

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Serve with ice cream, or in my case lashings of double cream – and enjoy on the sofa, with a blanket, in a woolly jumper.