Friday, 16 February 2018

Celtic Manor Resort - The Mulberry Bar review

The Celtic Manor is a five star luxury travel destination which is just a short drive from my house. Obama stayed there during the NATO summit hosted in the UK a few years ago (super fancy) and I have visited the resort previously for an afternoon tea and a spa treatment. 

Last Thursday I was lucky enough to attend the launch of The Mulberry Bar which is the latest  addition to the Celtic Manor Resort in Wales. The Celtic Manor hope the new bar will be an exclusive stop off for a pre-dinner cocktail, the perfect spot for an evening hideaway, or the ideal excuse for a glass of champagne for those staying at the resort. 

The bar is hidden away from the main atrium of the hotel and has a plush décor, subtle lighting and comfy corners to settle into and enjoy a tipple or two.  When we arrived my friend and I were greeted by friendly and knowledgable staff who proceeded to explain the variety of drinks on offer from Champagne and gin to creative cocktails, made the bar's mixology experts. 

The drinks we enjoyed were not your high street pre-mixed affair, these cocktails all had an element of performance and drama. 


The first drink we tried was the house special - a Mulberry Spritz. The drink contained vodka infused mulberries, mulberry jam, Blackberry Pimm’s, a hint of elderflower and wine which was added to the mix by being poured through the ice cuvée. This was delicious and light and I could easily have had three. 

I loved the spritz but the champagne cocktail, the Candy Floss Royal was equally as tasty. It came served with a fluffy cloud of pink candy floss in a martini glass, which melts when you pour over the dessert wine and champagne mix revealing strawberries underneath. I was worried this drink would be too sweet but it was just right. 

One drink I would love to return to try is the Tom Collins which comes served with laughing gas!









I was really impressed with the extensive list of spirits available at the bar including Welsh and Japanese whiskey but as a gin lover the sight of the well stocked gin cart made me very excited indeed. They had a selection of gins from all over the world which included my all time favourite Rock Rose gin from the Scottish highlands. 

The staff took the time to explain all the different gins to us and were able to recommend the perfect gin and tonic combinations based on our tastes and I tried the really unique Gabriel Boudier Saffron Gin. This French gin is handcrafted in small batches only being made from the finest botanicals including saffron, one of the most expensive botanicals on the planet. The amber colour of the gin was really eye catching and the main taste was still juniper and I'm glad the saffron was a more subtle taste and scent and wasn't too overbearing. This would be perfect paired with a classic Indian tonic water and orange peel. 


I really enjoyed my evening at the new Mulberry Bar and would definitely return for a special occasion. A visit wouldn't be a regular occurrence as these cocktails are certainly not 2 for £10 but I wouldn't mind splashing out and treating myself to delicious drinks, in relaxed surroundings all whilst being accompanied by a pianist that formerly performed at the Dorchester.


*Our drinks were complimentary in return for an honest review. All words and thought are my own. 
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Gemma
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Sunday, 4 February 2018

Our Cardiff Wedding - The Reception

picture of a three tier wedding cake, white with one gold glitter layer and pink ribbon

I had originally wanted an outdoorsy, forest or seaside wedding but anything coastal seemed to come at a premium and getting all my friends and family to a rural location would have been a logistical nightmare. Options closer to home seemed to consist of barns or conference rooms in hotels and neither of those really appealed to me. I started to be come frustrated with the process of finding venues but when I discovered you could have a Sunday ceremony in the National Museum Cardiff my mind focussed on a city wedding with a laid back feel.  (Notice there are a lot of I's there? Martyn is extremely relaxed and let me get on with planning but looked after the transport and liaising with some of the vendors)

We were so lucky to find Chapel 1877 for our wedding reception venue. It is a converted former chapel which is now a restaurant and bar in the heart of Cardiff.  It was an ideal location as it was only 5 minutes away from our ceremony venue and close to hotels for guests that were staying in the city after the reception. Nothing was too much trouble for the staff at Chapel 1877. The team did flowers for the tables, place settings and decorated everything for us. They added extra vegan and vegetarian options to the menu and offered a great value package as we got married outside the peak wedding season and on a Sunday. 

picture of a sweet table at a wedding, glass jars with pink and white sweets

a picture of a cheese tower dressed with figs and grapes


picture of an acrylic wedding talk plan with white chalk text





picture of my first dance at chapel 1877




I was originally going to bake my own cake but decided against it as I didn’t want any last minute stress. I went a little mad and opted for a glittery extravaganza with layers of salted caramel, lemon drizzle and chocolate marble.  I also had a cheese tower cake featuring lots of cheeses from Wales and the south West. I also had a selection of vegan cupcakes and doughnuts. So much for a home baked naked sponge... 

I hit a wedding decoration jackpot in TK Maxx. I found a huge selection of decorations from brands like Ginger Ray in my colour scheme and bought the lot including paper fans and table confetti. As the venue was so ornate I kept decorations simple which meant no last minute DIY decoration stress. I was going to attempt to make my own seating plan but my handwriting is a messy scrawl and I'm not particularly crafty so Lumi event designs were called in at the last minute to create a modern acrylic seating plan which I thought complimented the surroundings.  

After an emotional wedding ceremony, panic about the traffic and a drawn out build up to a 5pm ceremony I had a bit of a crash at the reception. Martyn and I had our meal in a booth on our own and I really valued this time together. I felt incredibly drained and tired during the meal and like I was being pulled in all directions with my mad nan trying to take photos of me once we headed to the bar area after the meal. A quick five minutes alone outside to cool down, have an espresso martini and compose myself made the world of difference and I was able to relax and get into the party mood. 

Our first dance was to The Ramones - Baby, I love you, which we listened to on our long drives to Austria for our holidays and reminded us of our trip to The Ramones museum during our trip to Berlin.

By the time the meal was over, we had cut the cake and had our first dance it was nearly 9.30pm. The whole evening passed by in a flash and is a blur of espresso martinis, cake, a GLC singalong and dancing. I feel truly lucky that Martyn and I were able to have such a perfect day with all of our favourite people. It's a bit of a cliche but the whole day went far too quickly, I barely had time to speak to all the guests and it was exhausting but thoroughly enjoyable.



Suppliers

Venue - Chapel 1877 | Cake - Cardiff Cakery | Cheese - Cheese Pantry
Table Plan - Lumi Event Design | Sweet jars - Home Bargains | Sweet bags - eBay
Vegan cupcakes & doughnuts - Blanche Bakery | Magic Mirror and Love lights - iDoo 

My other wedding posts





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Gemma
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Sunday, 28 January 2018

How to customise your jeans: distressed denim

Having a mix of dresses, skirts and tops is perfect if you’re someone who likes variety and a fresh look every day. But what else can you do to keep your wardrobe looking current and on-trend? Distressed denim is huge right now — and even better, it’s so easy to create yourself at home! Check out this simple style guide and make the perfect pair of on-point distressed jeans or even a denim jacket like I've done.

Get your best pair of jeans prepared

Firstly, get together: 
Jeans. 
Scissors. 
Sandpaper. 
Chalk. 
Piece of cardboard or a thick magazine. 
Safety pin. 
Tweezers. 
Patches/material (optional). 

Once you have these, check that your chosen jeans are clean and dry. Then, pull them on and use a full-length mirror to decide where you want to tear and cut. Pockets, knees and the bum are popular parts to modify, as they are the areas of the jeans that naturally wear and tear. Use chalk to mark out where you want to distress.

Start tearing and ripping

How you customise your jeans is up to you, but we advise that you don’t cut through the front and back — instead, only cut one side of your jeans. To do this, stuff the area you intend on cutting with a chunky magazine or thick piece of cardboard and aim to make a diamond-shape cuts of varying lengths. This will help ensure your tears are natural-looking. Next, it’s time for fraying to get that true distressed quality. Along the edge of each cut, gently tease the horizontal white threads using a safety pin — be careful not to break them. Then, using tweezers, pluck out the vertical threads to leave just the white horizontal threads. Repeat this for each cut.



Time to distress

At this point, your jeans should look pretty distressed, but you’re not finished yet. Now, it’s time for sandpaper. Rub a medium-sized piece of sandpaper across the denim to create a natural-looking colour fade and stop when you’ve reached the worn shade you like.


Add patches for the perfect finishing touch 

Now, you can either step back and admire your distressing handiwork, or take it a step further by adding patches to your customised jeans. Bright floral motifs are in vogue and practically leap off distressed denim to give you an eye-catching contrast of grunge and chic. If you want a subtle embellishment, why not go with lace? This is a classic feminine fabric that will dress up your modern distressed denim with retro charm for the ideal smart-casual look.

 I've added a touch of personality to my denim jacket with a selection of my favourite pins. I change these on a regular basis because I've got a huge collection of fun pins and badges that need their 15 minutes if fame. I get most of mine from Punky Pins, La La Land and etsy sellers like my Gilmore Girls one from Copper Boom Studio Shop.




And that’s it — DIY distressed denim. Rock these with an oversized sweatshirt or graphic tee, or create a casual-chic look with an off-the-shoulder boho blouse and pumps.

*Post created in collaboration with Quiz
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Gemma
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Sunday, 14 January 2018

North Coast 500 honeymoon roadtrip - Sango Bay, Durness, Smoo Cave

I hope you're not bored of reading about my Scottish honeymoon because there are two posts left in the series and a lot of photos of blue skies and white sand beaches to share with you. 

Drumbeg loop



After setting off from Ullapool early in the morning we headed to Durness via Clachtoll and Drumbeg. This was another spectacular section of the North coast 500 route with amazing views but we actually found this section a bit hair raising. The 24-mile-long single track loop that follows the coast was narrow, twisting and steep but don't be put off because it is incredibly scenic. There's lots to see on the way to Durness including Stoer lighthouse and the Old Man of Stoer which is an impressive 60ft high sea stack. 

The drive was difficult with a lot of steep climbs and poor visibility all on narrow, single track roads. I did feel for Martyn who did all the driving on the trip as this section was gruelling, I held onto the seat and our dog Coco for the duration of the journey, lots of pit stops and beach walks broke up the journey and allowed us to enjoy this section.

Clachtoll Beach is a popular beach close to a campsite (and a free car park and toilets) with some rugged terrain. The water was turquoise and the sand so white and clean. We were the only people on the beach in the middle of the day and enjoyed stunning mountain views for miles around before it started to rain so we headed back to the camper van for a cup of tea and lunch before hitting the road again. 


We stopped off at a few beautiful beaches on the way to let Coco stretch his legs and get some exercise. He loved digging up sand and running away from the cold water as the waves came in. We met a lovely lady on the beach who told us all about the local Viking history, the Gaelic school system in the area and the affects that the NC500 fame is having on the area. Whilst many people in the area encourage tourism and enjoy the benefits I get the feeling things are getting a little tense Some tourists are not being respectful of the landscape, don't allow locals to pass at passing points on the single track roads and are becoming a nuisance. The infrastructure hasn't quite caught up with the demand and people are not deviating from the North Coast 500 route and exploring other areas meaning that not all businesses are benefiting from the current surge in popularity that this route is experiencing. 

*Preaching time* If you're thinking of visiting the north of Scotland please make sure you support local businesses and don't just stock up in the the major towns and big supermarkets, read this driving guide and leave the land as you found it so others can experience unspoilt landscapes. 


This is a picture of Handa Island taken from the drum beg viewpoint
The village of Drumbeg lies on the north coast of Assynt, looking out across Eddrachillis Bay to Handa Island and the mountains of Sutherland. There is a viewpoint with a car park where you can admire the magnificent seascapes.




Sango Bay & Smoo Cave


After a stressful drive we arrived in the perfectly located Sango Sands Oasis campsite. Sango Sands is a peaceful, ten-acre site overlooking the beautiful Blue Flag Sango Bay beach. The site has basic facilities much like most in the north of Scotland but has everything you need including an on site bar/restaurant, electric hook ups and laundry facilities. It was around £9 per person plus £4 for hook up. Very reasonable in comparison to sites in Loch Lomond which were £35+ a night plus extra for dogs. 


Sango Bay offers panoramic views of the North Minch the channel between the mainland and the Hebrides. With golden sands and dramatic rock formations Sango Sands is breathtaking. The spot we parked up in at the campsite had views over the bay and I would never get bored of waking up to this. 
this is a picture of santo bay in scotland




this is a picture of sango bay beach in durness


A short distance to the east of the Sango Bay is the famous Smoo Cave. The largest cave in Scotland, it was formed by both the sea and a river. The cave can be explored on foot or by boat in peak season. 
The cave boasts a 50ft high opening and is floodlit inside to reveal its depths. The cave name is thought to originate from the Norse 'smjugg' or 'smuga' meaning a hole or hiding-place. 

The caves are said to be haunted and legends and myths say that the devil once hid in these caves. You can read more about the interesting and dark history of the caves here.


this is a picture of the outer chamber of smoo cave


This is a picture of an inner cavern in smoo cave




This is a picture of the north coast of Scotland


That's it for the North coast of Scotland. We headed to Thurso the next day and drove along the beautiful east coast to Inverness and then across to the West coast because we are a bit mad and thought a full day of driving would be a good idea. The scenery changed completely, much less dramatic, rural and remote and it became flatter, more populated but still full of interest in the form of castles and distilleries. 

My final post about our honeymoon road trip will feature a stunning castle and an marvel of industrial engineering. Pop back next week to read more!


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Gemma
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