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Sunday 23 January 2011

Winter Wonderland Cake

Cake is a very important part of my life, not a single week goes by without me eating cake and on days I'm not eating it, I'm thinking about it.

 I've been pondering how to describe my wedding in my blog and have finally decided that rather than going into all the details of the year long planning process, just to feature some of the highlights; starting with the cake!
Is it 4'o'clock yet?
Choosing my wedding cake was therefore a very special thing. I'm going to refer to it as 'my wedding cake' because I don't think Matt would have noticed if there had been a wedding cake or not. Some men just do not appreciate cake, it's wasted on them and as such, he didn't get involved in it. And so back to my cake......rather than looking at recipes I googled cake images, that's when you really discover the possibilities (as well as watching various cake reality shows that crop up on my cable channels...and there's at least three set in US bakehouses where they create huge themed masterpieces like zombie graveyards and a stage of male strippers modelled from sugarpaste...just one of the many episodes I witnessed!)
My sister Jolekha, the domestic goddess of the family who bakes all our cakes said early on I should buy one, making one wasn't worth the risk. 
Move over Nigella, my sister means business!
I disagreed, the last thing I wanted was a tier of three sponges from Waitrose, and quite frankly I couldn't stomach the idea of wasting so much money on something that's on show just for a few photos and hardly gets eaten by going to a wedding cake maker.
Talking to a couple of cake loving friends (one who likes pimping sponge mixes and one who's more of a visual decorator) I fell in love with the concept of having a snowscene cake that looked like a winter wonderland. Neither of us had any idea how it would work or look but once the vision was in my head that was that!
The starting point was a trip to Party Party, an amazing store in Hackney, East London. the downstairs floor is made up of party essentials and fancy dress costumes while upstairs it's a baker's paradise with tins, trays, boards and cake cakes in every shape and size imaginable, edible glitter, sprinkles, toppers, flowers, paints, pens...basically everything you need to make and decorate an amazing cake. I even picked up evergreen trees and plastic holly springs.
These were transported back to Janine's house where we spent a Sunday afternoon experimenting. The sponge was chosen by Laura - Angel Food cake, an amazing, light fat free cake you can only buy in the US! (Luckily she was jetting off there a few weeks before the Big Day where she filled her suitcase with packet mixes and huge edible confetti which when placed inside, gives it a speckled rainbow effect. For our testing day she managed to buy a pack online from an American food store.)
We tested different types of icing for coverage (it needed to be thick and white, but not royal icing.) Sponges were baked in different sizes and cut up to create a bumpy mountain setting.

I also purchased a set of snowflake shaped icing cutters and we tested making snowflakes from blue icing, which were detailed with irridescent glitter and edible marker pens. We over did it a bit with the blue sprinkles:

Overall, it kind of worked, but with so much else for me to get organising I left in in their hands.
On the morning of the wedding as I was getting glammed up, Janine and Laura set to work on creating my dream cake:
Janine applying frosty icing

Laura and Janine sprinkling the bling

Toned down snowflakes!

Positioning the couple

I didn't see the final design until I walked up the aisle where it was waiting to be cut, after the ceremony. It looked absolutely amazing! 
Every single aspect was special from the 'alternative' couple at the top, made from Christmas decorations to all the wonderful animals. 

Coming it at under £100 ingredients and decorations included(for over 150 guests) it was also great value. 
I recommend you consider attempting a homemade wedding cake, it feels really good knowing it's a one off, never ever to be created again! Also you feel the love of the making of it so much more than asking a stranger to do it. You don't need to be good at cake making....the sponges here were made from packet mixes, where you just add water and the decorating, like most crafting has NO RULES! Simply go with the flow. No guest will turn their nose up at your cake because it's homemade and if they did, then they shouldn't be invited...it's your day so make sure you get the cake you want!...........and yes it tasted very good (though a little sweet) too!

Monday 10 January 2011

The BEST EVER wedding gifts!

After hosting our dream wedding we couldn't believe the best part was still to come - opening our incredible wedding presents - all of which are handmade!
We spent months deciding what to put on our wedding list yet couldn't bare the thought of going to a high street department store and ending up with the same bland, over priced housey things that wedding lists normally contain. We considered vouchers (but couldn't agree on a shop), money (it seemed too impersonal), honeymoon (but then we'd have nothing to physically remind us of who gave us the gift) and then we thought about the wedding itself and the fact we wanted it to be as special and personal as possible...and that's when it hit us, asking our friends to make us a wedding present.
Of course we didn't want to scare anyone and it was an optional gesture. Not everyone has the time to craft ...which is why when we came back from honeymoon and  found our living room flooded with piles of presents, we were totally overwhelmed. The gifts exceeded every expectation we ever had and we love them all. 

In fact they are so special, I have to share them with the world...

Depictions of the happy couple:
Matt Welsh
 Matt's best man (also called Matt!) intricately painted this adorable family of Matryoshka dolls. What's so fantastic about them is that I've always wanted a set of Russian dolls and now I don't just have any old type, but the coolest in the world! How he managed to capture the expression on the tiniest penguin is beyond me, he's certainly proved he's a dab hand with a paint brush as well as a witty speaker. 
(Backdrop courtesy of Matt's dad - keep reading to find out more!)
Dada and Stephen
He, he, he! This one really made us laugh! As avid tea drinkers and monkey appreciators, these pimped PJ Tips knitted buddies have been styled to look like their owners. I particularly like the details that have gone into them like my nose stud and Matt's uber stylish handstitched jacket.
Natalie Barrass
Ahead of the Big Day, Nat enquired about what colour my hair would be and now we know why! This dinky tea set shows us as a snow pair, the ideal reminder of our winter wonderland wedding. It also came with  scrummy oatey orange biccies, most of which were gobbled up by Matt!
Ed Thomas
I've always wanted a portrait..perhaps this one won't immortalise us in the National Portrait Gallery but it's a real moment in time, capturing us when we attended Ed's party last year. All done in pencil too, incredible!
Craig Nichol
Made from actual Harris Tweed, Craig got this soft, woolly cushion embroidered with this exceptionally cute illustration. We feel super proud to own it as we recently visited him in The Outer Hebredes, on the Island of Stornaway where we saw Harris Tweed being woven so it's a real pleasure to own some.
Julie Begum
Using our wedding invitation as a base, Julie captured our creative and colourful personalities with a blingtastic collage embellished with shiny ribbons and huge sparkling sequins.
Work posse
Finally I'm a cover girl! This mock magazine cover was made by my work colleagues. (When I'm not crafting I'm a Feature Writer at Asiana and Asiana Wedding magazines.) I love the personalised coverlines in reference to different aspects of us and our day.

Here's the cover of the current issue (Winter 2010) so you can compare cover stars...  
My nieces love drawing pictures for me and my fridge is already covered in them, but it's only recently that the younger one who was three when she drew this, has started picking up on features. She certainly got Matt's spikey hair right!
This one by her sister who is five captures our sense of style perfectly, me with my blue mop and Matt with his colourful shirts!

Bene Middleton
This amusing photo was taken and framed by Matt's aunt Bene - amusing as now I'm blue, I forget I used to have red hair! Lucky Matt has several blue shirts to continue to co-ordinate with me!

Nasreen and Sharmeen Khan
Any ideas what these mugs say? Momtaz and Matt of course (In Bengali!)! It's obvious who's who, since one of us has a shorter name, mine on the other hand wraps right around the mug. Painted by two of my oldest family friends, they have already taken pride of place on our mug tree.

Matt and Sally
It's great to get something that's doubly crafty! Sally made remarkable use of ceramic markers to imitate a cross stitch effect to spell out our names on either side of this very 'Alice in Wonderland' looking tea pot filled will lovehearts and chocolate coins - yum!

Lucy Bodenham
This duo is a team effort from Lucy and her sister - a dainty spice pot and grinder, perfect for blending the delicious spices we picked up on our Sri Lankan honeymoon.

Richard Dixon
A  retired school  teacher, Richard has recently built a kiln and studio at the bottom of his garden where he makes beautiful handmade ceramics. The photo doesn't do this pot justice, the colours in real life are amazing - vivid blues and greens with a hint of gold and brown.
Janine Marsh
This plate was the inspiration for my peacock themed outfit. Janine and I work together as craft teachers and over Easter we ran a ceramic painting workshop. Janine was inspired by tudor feasts and I gained a fascination with peacocks...seeing the plate again put a huge smile on my face!

Tasty treats
Prada and Jag Kooner
Wow! A lot of love went into this remarkable hamper of homemade treats. Including chocolate bombs, truffles, cheese straws, chutney,  saffronated almonds and dove shaped orange cookies,  which we tucked into on return from our honeymoon. I especially loved the pearly cellophane wrapped around all the goodies which together make up a romantic spread, perfect for summer picnics. 
Alex and Grace

The stuff of Christmas fairs, this was a tin of individually wrapped 'special recipe' chocolate brownies. They looked exquisite...it's a shame they are all gone as writing about them makes me want to eat one now!

Staying on the chocolate tip our lovely friend Liz Brown also made us a scrummy chocolate brownie dessert (it's a dish she's made before and we were so blown away by it she made us a wedding version.) There's no photo of it because it was served up as part of our dessert  table.

Benji and Naomi
A tasty home brew made from their own sloe berries which are like tiny plums and are found on blackthorn bushes. We've even been offered an anniversary bottle if we pre-order in November when the sloes are at their best.

Emma and Tom
In winter I have a particular obsession with toast while Matt lives on porridge so these yummy jars of lemon curd and blackberry and apple jam homegrown and homemade are the perfect condiment for both.

Sam and Mark
Shame these are edible, they would be just as delicious used on the body or as a room spray. The first is a scrumptious jar of lavender sugar which smells divine and the second is a spice mix. 

Jo Newbery
Jo must be psychic as since tying the knot I have been feeling more domestic and have already baked twice! And now that we have two new teapots, a tea cosy is just what we need to make a brew to accompany the cake.

Nanette Daniels
A whole blinged up range of kitchen utensils like this would be fabulous! We've decided to use this one as a milk jug as it's far more fun than using is as a vase and sticking flowers in it. 

Maroon cushions 

As if by magic, the colour scheme for our living room has been decided! We received six handmade cushions all in this shade!
Matt and Katie
I love the collagey feel of this cushion and the fact they have embroidered their names onto the edge.  
Naresh and John
At last I've become a Bollywood babe - my mug is hidden somewhere amongst all these retro divas!
Anna and Shelagh
I've never seen tartan done in such a clever way, super impressed with the woven ribbons and sequin trims by Matt's aunt and her partner! 
Annaliese Buntrock
Hmmm, a beautiful, soft woolly cushion that I am tempted to steal away from the sofa and use at my desk.
David and Cathy
These cushion covers are made from old Bolivian textiles. One used to be a poncho and the other a carrying cloth handwoven by Aymara Indians and then hand sewn together by Cathy into these remarkable artefacts. They are even more special because the fabric was bought by the couple over 20 years ago. We feel so honoured to own such heirlooms. The creative duo run a knitwear business specialising in chunky knitwear, perfect for the current wintery climate, check it out if you're feeling cold!

Traditional crafts 
Lynne Reeves
Pretty and traditional, I like how this mini embroidery hoop doubles up as frame, an idea I may re-use in my own crafting soon.
Helen Roberts
This tapestry panel skillfully stitched by Helen has lots of uses so we haven't decided what to do with it yet, but it feels better to see it in person so you can appreciate the texture rather than hiding it in frame.
Olive Watley
Fabulous 'His and Her's' crocheted hangers  and a sweet knitted character that could have been a star on Harry Hill.

Geoff Heyes
Speechless is what came to mind when we opened this 'Matt and Momtaz's Where Next? Board'. It captures everything that you could possibly give as a personal gift. Full of hopes, inspiration and dreams, it's one of those things you could look at for hours...

Our first adventure as Mr and Mrs is marked on - our honeymoon destination. We've displayed it in our bedroom to fuel our fantasties about where we're going to jet off to next...

Joe and Zoe Smythe
Sticking with the travel theme we also received this very thoughtful book in which to record the details of our expeditions.

Sections have even been separated with places we've already been to. 

Ed Dearnley
Matt's second best man wrote and published this fascinating book himself. It's a guide to commuting between London and Brighton and all the fascinating things that line the route. This was the third copy that was ever published. We read it on honeymoon and it was fun, engaging, a little nerdy but very unique! Fancy a travel book with a difference? Get a copy on Amazon!

Marlene Newman
Hidden behind this fabulous scrapbook is a pair of cushions - huge floor ones! The wedding scrapbook has been themed by pages with a section on swapping rings, toasting etc... I can't wait to print off my photos and put them inside. She also gave us a keepsake box, now brimming full of all our cards.

Dave Ponting
The backdrop to many of these shots is actually a table, handmade by Matt's dad who went to woodworking classes especially to make us a gift. 

The workmanship is outstanding. It's quite a complex table with lost of panels which all match up and measure perfectly.

A lot of love has gone into the design but what I like most is it's 'his and her's' theme. The woodwork element is very manly yet just for me, he's added my signature love for bling - pretty pink sequins! We've already started using is as a coffee table but later in the year I'm hoping it will become a table for the pet hedgehog we are planning to adopt.

Gallery pictures

Sascha and Katherine Fromeyer

This pair of fishy portraits have been displayed outside our kitchen. They are slightly peculiar yet humorous with messages we haven't completely deciphered, but that's part of their beauty.
Jeanette Langi
Jeanette moved to Kenya the day after our wedding but we're so pleased she stayed for it, especially after the lengths she went to make this batik fabric wall hanging. The hard work can't be seen in this shot, it's the wooden frame on the back she made that was the tough bit  judging by the emails she sent me while she was putting it together, it was no easy task! 
The result is superb.
Aiyaz Ahmed
An insight into his travels, Aiyaz captured this sweet moment of a little boy in a field when he was volunteering in Bangladesh. We saw it when we went to see one of his photography exhibition and fell in love with it, which he remembered, so gave us a framed print.
Bhavin Patel
Bhavin was one of our friends who witnessed the moment we got engaged (during my Hawaiian themed 29th birthday) and captured the moment on his camera...
Benedita and Jaysen
As did Benedita and Jaysen who made this artistic canvas collage. I have no idea how they did the frame, but it has a fabulous 3D texture.
Steve and Ann Wickham
This was the first gift we opened and it set the standards high! It's a framed photo of Ann and Steve's Capri set against a stunning winter sunset. It's no ordinary car...

It's featured in a a film called Telstar which they  gave us on DVD  and appeared in the April/May 2010 issue of Classic Capri Review.
Johnathan Richardson
An avid photographer, Johnathan wondered the streets of Greenwich and captured all my favourite local hotspots like my gym, favourite cafes and quirky market shops, then made them into this wonderful montage. 
Sadly we have no idea who gave us this gift - if it's you, please let us know! It seems to be photos of some crafty looking fabrics/flowers, it's very pretty...thank you, if it's your handiwork!

Michelle and Matt

Our lovely neighbours gave us some CDs - Matt is a musician and presented with a CD of his genius guitar playing while Michelle who works for the BBC World Service gave us recordings of some of her fascinating shows. 

Rachael Stevens
And finally Rachael wrote this incredible poem about us in beautiful red calligraphy:

Thank you a million and more to all our amazing friends and family who spent time making us  presents. We will treasure them all forever : )