Friday, 7 January 2011

Food Glorious Food, why the most expensive isn’t always the best and why first impressions count…

I love food.  Compo loves food.  We spend our lives cooking, eating and drinking and I am always thinking about my next meal (chicken pie).  Whenever I am at a market or a second hand bookshop, it’s always the cookery section I head for.  If I’m feeling down I’ll either head off and buy myself a cookbook or set to with a bake-athon. Every year when I have to recycle my books to make way for new ones, the cookbooks stay where they are, and woe betide Compo if he were to even think about chucking them out.  So when it came to getting married, we knew that food was going to be important.

After we’d booked the venue and registrar, the first thing I sorted was the cake.  After extensively trawling the internet for wedding cake suppliers in the region, I had a shortlist, and set off for the big wedding fair at Newcastle Arena ready for a spot of tasting! 

Long Suffering Best Woman Sarah and I sampled a fair few cakes that day.  Some stands looked very glamorous with swishy (technical term) drapes and beautiful albums with images of equally beautiful looking cakes.

The problem was that they just didn’t taste it.  Some of them were really dry; some barely had any filling, some were just plain tasteless.  I understand that after a while, dry cake is unavoidable when supplying large quantities of small samples, but I was there at the start of the event and we’d done the whole thing within an hour!

I’m not big on labels or names and I never feel compelled to buy something because it’s well known, has a flashy website or because it’s the latest product to be endorsed by Chavyl Cole.  I am drawn to things that are of good quality, are well constructed and, (very importantly) from a supplier that will give me excellent customer service.  It doesn’t matter what it is, I simply won’t take my business somewhere if I get bad customer service.

I was just a few weeks into being engaged and not having been to a wedding fair, this was all new to me, so I had a lot of questions.  I was put off at least three suppliers due to huffy staff or because they simply weren’t prepared to spend the time answering my questions.  I’m sorry, but if you don’t have the time for me, then I’m not going to spend my hard earned money on your product or service.

I’ve mentioned before that I got let down by my original cake lady (the one told me she was winding up her business and continues to trade), and after tweeting I had several local suppliers shortlisted.  I emailed several and narrowed it down to two.  How did I choose?  Quite simply, the one who emailed back stating “we’ll be at this market on this day; if you want to try some samples come along” lost out to the lovely Shona Morland of the Little Town Bakery who mailed back to say “Thanks so much for considering us.  I’d love to drop round some samples to you.  When is convenient for you?  Not only did Shona drop round some of the most fabulous cakes I’ve ever tasted in my life, but when I told her some of the flavours we were thinking of, and that we were going to have friends round to do some wine tasting to pick the wines for the big day she brought some more, all free of charge!

The result is, needless to say, that Little Town Bakery is supplying Compo and I with our wedding cake, and Shona has earned herself future business as cake maker for Compo’s 40th and my dad’s 70th, all this year and within weeks of the wedding (oops, she doesn’t know this yet… Shona, you’re going to be a busy lady this summer!).

Good old fashioned customer service costs nothing, and for me, will always be as important as the product or service itself.  

Some of the Little Town Bakery's fabulous cakes

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The Power of Twitter (with thanks to Love My Dress Blog’s 1st birthday posting for getting me back into it)*

I started off full of good intentions to blog on a regular basis, but the best laid plans…  What can I say?  I get paid to sit at a computer screen for a living, it’s usually the last thing I feel like doing after I get home at night.

So whilst I haven’t been blogging, what I have been doing is tweeting like mad.  I’ve become a bit obsessed with it.  Bill Bailey was on telly the other day talking about Twitter and I think he summed it up quite nicely: “You blog some unbelievable inanity like “having a sandwich” and 19 people respond with “ooh, what filling?””.  That is most definitely true, but I have also met some unbelievably creative and talented people who have given me some fantastic ideas, support and suggestions as I plan my big day.

I got let down by my cake lady and tweeted about it.  34 (I double checked; I'd originally said "around 25") retweets later, I found the wonderful Little Town Baker.  I think she’s a Sunderland fan, but nobody’s perfect.  I would never have known about her had I not been a tweeter (twit?).  I’ve still got my perfect cakes and I am supporting a local business.

I went through a horrible time earlier this year when my parents broke up shortly after I got engaged in January.  Though, I’m very pleased to say, they are now working things out and are getting on better than they have done in years, for eight months things were just plain awful, and the short (140 characters only!) and kind messages of support from people I’ve never even met ( @MrsPandP, @Tattybojangles) were so much appreciated during a really dark time.  It really did help.

The other side of that is the amusing conversations I’ve had with people, finding myself chatting to people with similar interests: Tattybojangles (a mutual love of The Cure), @Cloggins (we both work in arts and culture), MrsPandP (chocolate cake is most definitely the answer), GiddyKipperUK (what’s with the Take That obsession? STILL).  Strictly Come Dancing is so much more fun when tweeting with people at the same time about why Ann Widdicombe should go and Pamela should win**. 

Through Twitter I have found blogs, suppliers and websites that I wouldn’t otherwise be aware of.  Just recently I have discovered Fifties Wedding and the lovely Charlie, who has blogged about a whole host of ideas I hope to incorporate into my big day.  I have also discovered another North East supplier, ByGinaEvents, who, as soon as I get round to mailing her, I hope to chat with regarding some form of headgearage. Or whatever it’s called.  I keep in touch with my wonderful dressmaker, Linda Davey, of Dresses at No9, and marvel at her wonderful creations, so excited am I that she agreed to make my dress.

So thank you, Twitter friends, for your friendship, follows and inspiration.  It makes my wedding planning so much more fun and exciting and I’m delighted to share it with you.  I raise my mid morning peppermint tea and snack sized bag of Baked Mini Cheddars to you. 

* Read it here.
**Also, Matt Baker, guyliner looks HOT on you.  Please wear it like that every week. 

Tuesday, 17 August 2010


That's the intention, anyway.

New to this blogging malarky...

I can't think for one minute that anyone will be interested in what I have to say on a subject I know very little about, but what the hell, I'll give it a go....

I am passionate about the North East.  I moved to the region in September 2001 with full intentions to leave after the end of a year long course at Newcastle University, but here I am, nine years later still in Newcastle, and getting married to Northumberland's finest, Compo, in June 2011. 

So why am I blogging about weddings?  Surely there can't be any more to say than has already been said, mostly by people far more eloquent and informed than I? Can there? Well, having pretty much organised my wedding except a few minor details, I am doing this because on my quest for suppliers of varying descriptions, I have struggled to find any kind of one stop shop for all things weddings in the North East, and sometimes struggled to find suppliers full stop.  I thought it might be nice to start collating information to help other future North East brides along the way. 

I don't claim to know anything about wedding planning other than what I've done for my own (though I am very VERY organised and pretty good at planning), and I don't claim to pass comment on the reliability of suppliers or the quality of their services, merely I will try and collate information so that people can do their own research and make decisions from there.  There are some great wedding blogs out there already (Love My Dress, Rock n Roll Bride to name just a couple) and I'm certainly not trying to compete, merely that I wanted something that was for us girls in the North East, for people looking for local suppliers.

I'm a pretty boring and conventional girl, but I do love anything slightly quirky and a bit different to the norm.  My wedding is at a lovely country house in Northumberland, we are having a sit-down meal and doubtless Uncle Jack will be dancing like, well, Uncle Jack, to Uptown Girl or Walk Like An Egyptian after too many Wylam Gold Tankards (fab local ale - I will blog about this in the future), but I also intend to inject elements of my own personality to the big day and hope to find suppliers in the region who offer something ever so slightly different.  If there is anyone out there actually reading this please feel free to make suggestions....