It's A Blog Hop Baby...

This time last year, I had the absolute joy of attending one of Emily Quinton's Makelight Workshops. I learned so much it felt like my head would explode and I came away so inspired about photography that it's just become part of my every-day. One of the very best things about the day was the company. Spending blissful hours with a group of exceptional women made me so happy and it makes me happier still to say we're still all in touch. Sat at the corner of the table on that Saturday last September was the brilliant Alyssa Aldersley of Agnes & Miller (well, Agnes & Miller was just the twinkle in her creative eye then but you get what I mean). I love Alyssa's blog - her photography is brilliant, the way she shares her adventures is brilliant and her recipes are oh-my-heaven brilliant. So, when Alyssa asked if she could tag me in a blog hop post, I couldn't have been happier.

Admittedly, it's taken me a while to get around to writing this. I'll not descend into one of those 'the summer holidays were so hard' posts but hey, if I said I wasn't just a little bit happy when the school bell rang last Thursday morning, I'd be a huge liar. Now I've got my schedule back under control, I'm very happy to write this little piece about, well, my writing.

It's only during the last few months that my head has made the switch and I would now define myself as 'a writer'. I write for a living, I write every day and I write because I might just go off pop if I didn't. Writing cheers me up and calms me down. It helps me order my thoughts and explore new ideas. It is a part of me and I love it.

Question - why do I write? - Why wouldn't I? I've written ever since I was a kid. I know we all have and I'm not claiming special writing powers here but it's just always been a huge part of who I am. I guess it stems from reading like a demon when I was young and becoming full to the brim with words, plots, people and places that just had to flood out. So, I wrote stories for myself, I wrote for a national children's newspaper and got a big kick from seeing my words in print. University rather slapped the love of writing and reading out of me - the relentless pressure to plough through so many books every week, to pull them apart and critique every flipping sentence just ruined the magic of it for me. It took a while to get back into reading and it was only when I was planning weddings and writing for wedding magazines that the words and I rekindled our passion. I always wanted to write a book so approached a literary agent with a pitch and ta-dah, my first book was published just before my 30th birthday. Another has since followed and, if I have my way, there'll be another soon too.

I now write for a living and I have to say that writing about weddings for blogs such as Love My Dress is a huge honour. I write for other clients too and I still write for myself.

I write because I love words. I write because I love stories.

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Question - what am I working on? - Happily, I've got a list of features to write that stretches over two pages in my notebook and when one is delivered, another inevitably arrives. I love this rolling writing rota and I feel pleased that I don't get overwhelmed by the long list of pieces that need writing. To me, this feels like a huge step forward and that I'm now able to 'turn on writing mode' when I sit at my desk has probably contributed to my recent mental shift.

Aside from all of my wedding features, I'm planning a chunkier piece of wedding goodness and in my free time, I'm writing some historical fiction. I fell out of love with fiction for a long time having been supremely irritated by lots of books I read. Historical non-fiction got me through that patch and everything I absorbed then is certainly coming in handy now. I'm a history geek and the stories of women in world war two float my literary boat so it's not too tough to guess what I'm writing about hey?

Question - how does it differ from others in its genre? Looking at the wedding words first, I guess it differs because of my experience. I came to write about weddings have worked in and on weddings for years. I've been there, done that and got the blisters on wedding days to prove it so, when I write about suppliers, gowns, venues or boutiques, I hope a little of that knowledge and understanding comes through. It's my perspective on things that makes it unique and it's the way that I interpret and convey facts and thoughts that make my writing different.

As for the historical writing, I hope what makes it different is the understanding of the period and the factual knowledge that I have. I am truly the person who complained to a jigsaw manufacturer that you can't possibly have a plane with D-Day markings in a Battle of Britain picture (for goodness sake!) and I tut at the tv every time a wartime inaccuracy pops up. To make it real, it needs to be real and I'm really happy with the people that are coming to life in my story. They're not cliched caricatures because, let's face it, we're all a little bit more complicated than that.

Question - how does my writing process work? - Wedding-wise, I always want to find the story because that's what's interesting. Suppliers submit their information and I read through their answers to questions and look to find the stand-out feature. It might be how they got into their line of business, it might be one phrase that really strikes me, it might be that they take their dog to every wedding or it might be something else entirely but there's always something unique in there and it's my job to find it, amplify it and convey it to anyone reading. It's those details that appeal and can make readers feel they have something in common with a supplier or business. Telling our own stories can be really hard, all those years of training ourselves not to show off have a lot to answer for. Yet when someone else looks at your story with fresh eyes, they can find the best bits to talk about. When I see e-mails from people I've written about saying they got quite emotional when they read my words, I can admit to feeling pretty chuffed with myself.

Quite often, I like to write longhand in notebooks before starting to write 'properly' at my desk so wherever I go, there'll always be pens and paper in my bag. I think reading definitely helps the writing and so my office bookshelves are pretty much sagging under the weight of the ever-increasing stacks and rows. I like my office to be neat, warm and light and there's usually a mug of tea to hand as well. My dog is inevitably by my side and I know when it's time to take a break as she'll nose-nudge my leg to sweetly ask for a walk or a game. Like she is now.

So that's pretty much it for this blog hop. I'll pass the baton onto the lovely Emma of Coco Wedding Venues and the oh-so happy Helen of The Wedding Bazaar. Enjoy ladies - I can't wait to see how you write and I'll add your links to this piece when you've published them too.

Alyssa, thank you so much for prodding me into action with this game of blogging 'it'. And now, I leave you. I've got words to write...

**10th September Update - So Helen has picked up the blog hop baton and sprinted away with it as her post has just been published. Nip over to The Wedding Bazaar to have a read...**

A Wedding-less Feature...

So this post might be a little off-piste but as the song goes, I'm so excited and I just can't hide it. However, I'm not about to lose control which should be a relief to all. What I am going to do is blow my own trumpet about a personal milestone so forgive the indulgence if you can.

My first published history feature! Thank you so much  Pretty Nostalgic .

My first published history feature! Thank you so much Pretty Nostalgic.

I am history geek and the stories of women during World War II are those that particularly push my buttons. From housewives to code breakers, land-girls to ATA girls, my bookshelves are laden with volumes of everyday heroism and outstanding bravery. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to lay my excited hands on copy of 'A Daughter's Tale', the wartime memories of Winston & Clementine Churchill's youngest child Mary. In these pages, I first found out about the gunner girls of the ATS who manned the anti-aircraft batteries during the Blitz and the flying bomb raids. And that was it, I was hooked and my research began.

The book that started it all...

The book that started it all...

Since then, I have read voraciously, I have tracked down old copies of books and memoirs, I have delved into archives and written pages and pages of notes. These women were amazing. In fact, amazing is too small a word to describe them. In a society that still wanted women to be decorative and sweetly feminine, these trailblazing women lived with the men, worked with the men and died with the men. They manned their guns on cliff tops and city centres, they shot down planes and rockets and were themselves injured, insulted and initially seen as objects of curiosity. But they won over the most battle-hardened soldiers and they played a real part in a war that liked to keep women well away from any action. Mary Churchill, as she was then, followed troops into Europe in the days after D-Day and was also one of the observers sent to the notorious Bergen-Belsen concentration camp just days after it had been liberated. All of the women of the ATS were proud to wear the uniform, proud to do their job and play  an active role. No more passivity for the girls behind the guns. 

There is one photo, from all of those that I have seen whilst researching this fascinating topic that sticks in my mind (and you can see it in the top right of my feature's banner). The alarm has sounded, the girls are running to man their guns, running into who knows what danger and they are smiling. Smiling.


So seeing this piece in print was a big moment. My first published history feature and I'm so chuffed to see it looking so beautiful in such a great magazine. The Goodwood Revival special edition of Pretty Nostalgic is packed with wonderful pieces - from an imaginary tea with another literary heroine of mine, Agatha Christie and craft and up cycling ideas to vintage fashion and beauty pieces. All in all, it's a fabulous read and I'm just so thrilled to be a part of it.

Earlier this year, I set my goals for 2014. One of them was about writing. It's going pretty well, I can tell you now...

A Summer With Shades Of Coco...

I am beyond happy that I get to work with the amazing Emma Hla of Coco Wedding Venues. Coco, if you've been somewhere with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears, is the most deliciously designed website. Every style of venue can be found here, including some that you just won't find anywhere else. It's beautiful, it's stylish and it's making a splash for all the right reasons. Despite only launching earlier this year, Emma & Coco Wedding Venues made the shortlist in the prestigious 'Best Designed Blog' category in Wedding magazine's blog awards. Whoop and whoop again.

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However, Emma's super stylish eye extends beyond the screen and she collaborates with the equally lovely Katrina Otter to produce beautiful shoots the brim over with detail and pretty aplenty. Earlier this year, the duo directed a shoot at Narborough Hall that's already featured on Rock My Wedding and in Wedding Flowers & Accessories magazine. I also happen to know that there's more of this shoot coming up in other excellent magazines soon so keep watching.

The Coco Wedding Venues/Katrina Otter shoot features in Wedding Flowers & Accessories magazine...

The Coco Wedding Venues/Katrina Otter shoot features in Wedding Flowers & Accessories magazine...

In August, I was thrilled to be able to go behind the scenes at Emma & Katrina's latest shoot at the beyond stunning Iscoyd Park. This delectably house, nestled on the English/Welsh border played host to some tip-top talent and I am almost having to sit on my hands now to make sure I don't spill any of the secrets of the shoot before it's published. However, I can promise you that you're going to love it.

The very talented Rebecca Goddard capturing something beautiful...

The very talented Rebecca Goddard capturing something beautiful...

How To Ride Your Elephant

I have spent the last day or two thinking about how best to ride my elephant. Now, I understand that this probably isn't the opening you were ever expecting to read but since Mr Apple has been reading 'Switch' by Chip & Dan Heath and sharing the salient points with me, my elephant riding skills have been rather on my mind.

Perhaps I should explain. 'Switch' is all about how we deal with change and, most importantly, how to change things when change is hard. And it all comes down to how you motivate your elephant...

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via  Pinterest

Your elephant is your emotional brain and the rider is your rational bride. See the almost daily stand-off between this pair when your alarm clock shrills every morning. The rider knows the right thing to do is to bound out of bed, eat the healthy breakfast and get a jump start on your day. Your elephant however has other plans and hits snooze and retreats under the duvet again. Once in a while, the rider will win these battles when you use big doses of willpower to take control of the elephant but it doesn't happen often.

You see, the elephant is big and powerful and it wants instant gratification. The rider sits in a precarious position and sometimes, despite its noble aims for long-term improvements, it can't always direct the elephant in the 'right' way. Despite this, the elephant isn't bad - the elephant is the source of passion and all those wonderful emotions that quite often lie behind our greatest achievements. The rider isn't perfect either - in its quest for perfection and its need to 'do the right thing', it can over-think and over-analyze and render itself immobile.

So, to really change things, to really head with power and energy in a new direction, you need to harness both elephant and rider. You need to appeal to the emotions to galvanise movement in the right direction and you need specific details to appeal to the rider.

A wishy-washy aim, however impressive it might sound and however genuine it might be, of 'I want to get some more clients soon' isn't going to work. Some isn't a number and soon isn't a date. The rider doesn't know where it's heading and the elephant doesn't see what's important. So nothing changes.

Inspiring presentations don't consist of endless powerpoint slides decorated with graphs and charts and a speaker who sounds flat and boring and reading motivational quotes doesn't guarantee you momentum. You need power, energy and a specific goal. You need to ride your elephant down a clear path - you can't drag it by the nose along an indistinct walkway. Change is hard when you use all your energy in just getting the elephant moving - you're often just mentally exhausted, not lazy. Willpower is finite and however much you want something, once your willpower is gone, you've lost the battle and your elephant will clump happily back to its original starting point, despite the fact the rider is begging, cajoling and sobbing for it not to.

You've got admirable goals, you know where you want to go, you just need to fire up your elephant.

Now Is The Time For New Things...

I would never classify myself as a runner. Endurance walker, badminton player, lover of the sit-up and the tricep-dip - yes. Runner - no.

But now, you see, I need to be a runner. Well, I need to be enough of a runner to keep up to RAF requirements after I pressed submit on my application to join the RAF Reserves earlier this year. So, despite the voice in my head that told me THIS IS NOT WHAT I DO and the initial huffing and puffing on the pavements (for which, people of Reading, I apologise), it was time for new things...

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Sometimes, we need a real push to encourage us to branch out. When all in your world is happy and trotting along nicely, why would you need to start floundering around with something new? Oh, the awkwardness, the time spent feeling odd and strange and the unavoidable sense that you could be so much more profitably employed doing the things you're good at. 

But you see, it's whilst we struggle with the new things that we learn a little bit more about ourselves. Whether you learn that you're tougher than you thought, more capable than you thought or just a whole lot more stubborn than you thought, it's been worth it because who knows when you'll need that knowledge. When you glide through days without a challenge or without a little hurdle to climb, it gets dull, it gets boring and that safety net that's held you so comfortably for so long starts to kill you with kindness.

So, what else do you need to be? What else would you like to be and, most importantly, what else could you be? Granted, I'm never going to be out front at the London marathon but I am packing in the miles in a way I never thought I would and that makes me ridiculously proud. Proud that I tried something new, proud that I didn't hold myself back and proud that I wanted something enough to, pardon the pun, literally work my arse off for it.

If you picked one new thing to try, what difference would it make to you or your business? Where might it lead? What might you learn and how would that make you feel? If you ever look around at other people doing things that you'd like to be doing, stop wondering how they got to be doing them and just do them yourself. Read a book, sign up for a class, attend a workshop and just try. Try something different and something that, even if it doesn't go to plan, you can always say 'well, I gave it a go' and that one sentence is always something to be proud of.

The longer you leave it, the harder it gets. The harder it gets, the longer you'll leave it and the days, weeks and months dance onward in their own time, not yours. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain and the joy you'll feel at trying something different or doing something you've never done before will far outstrip the difficulties you'll encounter.

So don't wait, don't linger and don't just flick through your diary promising to start at some unspecified point in the future. Now is the time for new things...

Start Before You're Ready

Maybe it's the feeling of my own increasing decrepitude that another imminent birthday brings. Or maybe it's the fact that my 'little boy' is now playing cricket for the under-13 team. Either way, this week, I'm determined to recapture my youth.

Before you panic/despair/call my Mum, I'm not going to be hiding under the duvet reading 'Forever' by torchlight, playing football with the boys in the playground or even holding hands with that unsuitable but irresistible school sports hero under the desk during chemistry. Oh no, I'm just going to do stuff. Right now. This moment. Before I'm ready...

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Remember when we were kids, we never waited for 'the right moment' or carefully weighed up the pros and cons before even thinking of taking the smallest step forward. Oh no, we rushed, headlong and happy into new things, screaming with delight and whooping joyfully at our own bravery and daring. Sometimes stuff worked out and sometimes it didn't but we tried, we learned and we didn't hold ourselves back.

But now, we wait. We procrastinate. We plan, we research, we discuss, we schedule and we diarise. I'm not saying these things aren't useful but they are not, they cannot ever be, more useful than actually doing stuff. All the preparation in the world doesn't guarantee success. That can only come with action.

I have learned that my stubborn streak, that part of me that relentlessly says 'go on, I dare you' in my ear when I consider something new is actually my best helper. Without it, I never would have completed marathons, written books, launched businesses and done all the other things that scared me witless at the time. Was I always utterly ready? No. Was I determined to do my best and see what I could push myself to? Absolutely.

You see, the problem with waiting for that far off perfect moment, that time in the future when the stars align, the angels sing and the moment becomes absolutely perfect, is that while you're waiting, like the demure kid sitting quietly at the front of the class, someone else is out there doing it, living it, being it and making it.

If you have even an inkling of an idea or a dream or a thought, stop delaying. Don't put it off to an unspecified ideal moment in the future when you think you'll be ready. Run at it. Chase it down and make the right moment right now.

Be a child again. If you want something, get on with it. You'll never be more ready than you are now.

And, if what you want is worth it, what on earth are you doing waiting?

Candid Apple on Love My Dress

Just a really quick update to ask - did you see me on Love My Dress? I'm lucky enough to work with the fabulous Annabel and when she couldn't make the press launch of the Wedding Dress exhibition at the V&A in London, she asked me to attend on her behalf and then write a review for the multi-award winning wedding blog that is Love My Dress.

Anyway, do hop over and have a read and thank you so much to Annabel for inviting me along...

And That Was February Speeding By...

Ok, I admit to being totally freaked out by the fact that I'm writing another monthly review post so soon. It was just Christmas right? How can we be into March already? I feel like I'm living with a mild case of time-induced whiplash.

When I thought I'd better sit down and write this, I imagined I'd be struggling to fill the page without having to resort to  telling you about the month's more mundane lowlights and typing out my daily timesheets to make it prove that stuff actually happened. As it turns, out, it's been quite a busy 28 days and, should you care to spend a few minutes scrolling on downwards, I hope you'll agree that 2014 is continuing in a full-on fashion.

So as is my habit, and in the manner of an easy-reader with big pictures and few words for adults who might also be suffering with brain overload, here is my February...

Mr Apple and I cheekily headed off for a little break at the gorgeous Wellington Arms. Not far away but a hundred miles from the every day. It was a dream and I thoroughly recommend it.

I got completely hooked on the Winter Olympics and admit to getting the kids to pretend they're in the curling final when I want them to sweep the kitchen floor.

I also developed a new obsession - Agatha Christie. I've devoured two Marples already and am onto murder number 3.

Planning continues apace for our April trip to Normandy, using my Grandad's log-books to trace where we should go. Am continually talking Mr Apple down from letting the kids watch the first ten minutes of 'Saving Private Ryan' as holiday prep.

I got over-excited with my camera and new lens. Can't wait for Emily Quinton's Makelight 2 in a few weeks time to learn more.

I wrote over ten thousand words of client copy in February for brochures, websites, articles and more. Can't wait for you to share everything when it's all polished & looking beautiful.

February was a sporty month. Son and I played badminton A LOT, I added another hundred or so miles to my walking log and son became Captain of his school hockey team. Proud.

I survived half-term.

A few very interesting meetings were in the diary for February and a couple of very interesting projects have kicked off. Love the buzz of new things.

I had my recruit interview day for the RAF Reserves and all went really well. Next stop, medical and fitness test and, if all goes to plan, I'll be working with the Media Operations squadron. So excited about this amazing opportunity.

We celebrated the first anniversary of the arrival into our home of our beautiful Labrador.

I made and sent some Valentine's cards to some of my favourite people, just to tell them that I love that they love what they do. How can you fail to be inspired by being around such passionate, creative and committed professionals?

I wrote a couple of blog posts that absolutely seemed to hit the spot - one that was basically a kick in the pants to everyone and one explaining why you shouldn't work in the wedding industry.

I spent time with friends, I baked a lot and kept on with my diary and aims for 2014. Hurrah!

I did not get blown away in the wind or swept away in the floods.. Neither did our fences/trees/house so I am much luckier than thousands of people and I know it.

It was my adored son's 12th birthday. I made cake and indulged my penchant for craft and making all the pretty...

We all got into the party spirit with the photobooth (thanks to Perfect Wedding magazine for the printable prop downloads!)...

I baked more cake (pops) and crafted a bit more (very masculine) pretty...

And the birthday boy loved it!

Why You Shouldn't Work In The Wedding Industry

It makes me feel positively ancient to admit it but it's almost a decade since I ran my first workshop for wannabe wedding planners and, in one way or another, I've been coaching, helping and working with start-ups and established businesses ever since.

There are so many reasons why the wedding industry (I actually hate that phrase but that's another post for another time) continues to be such a career draw for people and this niche market is home to some of the most talented, individual, unique and caring professionals out there. There is not a day that goes by when I do not say 'I'm proud to be a part of this'. In short, the UK wedding industry totally rocks. It's vibrant, creative, passionate and friendly. It is, without doubt, bloody brilliant.

However for every reason why people want to work in this sector, there are reasons why they shouldn't. And these aren't little reasons either. They are huge, gargantuan reasons, the proverbial elephant in the room of reasons but still they manage to get ignored, whether by accident or because people have their eyes screwed shut so they can't see them. But my friends, fear not, because I will unleash my inner slab faced realist and outline them all here for you so you can, never again, plead ignorance.

So, you shouldn't work in the wedding industry if...

  1. ... you want to be creative all the time -  every creative still has to file tax returns, deal with expenses and invoices, keep up to date with admin and make time for the mundane, especially at the start when it's unlikely you'll be able to afford other people to do this for you. Ask anyone how long they spend working on their businesses as opposed to in it and you'll see the actual time spent in creative abandon is limited.
  2. ... you want to work on your own - a wedding is a team effort. If you can't handle trusting the other professionals, if you want to control everything yourself or if you can't grasp the fact that you're not amazing at everything, then step away from the wedding job. The most amazing things I've ever been a part of if when I'm a tiny cog in a much bigger wheel - your Mastermind specialist subject isn't the entire industry, it's a little part of it. In short, you'll be more of a team player than you ever have been before.
  3. ... you desperately need a steady, full-time salary - if you're used to money appearing in your bank account on a nice, regular monthly basis without having to really stop and think where it's coming from then give yourself a slap now and repeat the words 'it's down to me to earn my money' over and over until you're saying it in your sleep. Then remember that lots of wedding professionals are amazing whilst also holding down another job because it takes a long time to build up momentum, a long time to earn back all those start-up costs and a long time to be able to pay yourself that nice regular salary. It takes a bride a long time to plan a wedding, it takes a wedding business a long time to see a regular turnover.
  4. ... you don't cope well with rejection - the fact is that you're going to be knocked back. Potential clients will choose someone else, potential collaborations won't pan out, promised coverage won't come off, ideas will be rejected and you're not going to be universally loved. You need to hold onto your idea in your way and be true to you and you will build up a network of like-minded wedding pals and you'll appeal to brides who think you're just the best. But it takes time, tenacity and the ability to bounce on back like a boomerang. Again. And again.
  5. ... you love your weekends - if every weekend is about lay-ins, long walks, late nights on the lash and happy carefree days sans responsibility then don't quit the day job. Weddings are usually at weekends, clients don't often work weekends so want to meet you then, wedding fairs/fayres/showcases/open days are at weekends and you'll have to be there. Saturdays are the new Monday.
  6. ... you don't have a great support network - you're going to need someone to pick you up or talk you down from crazy flights of fantasy and remind you that this is a business not a dream. You're going to need someone who can run the house/look after the kids/not go mad through loneliness when you're out doing you're thing. You're also going to need someone who doesn't go ballistic when it's 9pm on a Wednesday and you're addicted to #weddinghour on twitter. In short, you need people around you who get you and who get why this is so important to you and want nothing more than to see you fly.
  7. ... you want a super glam life - or, alternatively, realise that Instragram lies. For every photo posted of an award ceremony, a dinner, a cake tasting or a glam photoshoot, there are hundreds of untaken snaps of dull days at desks, crazed faces after late nights in front of a laptop or blistered feet after a long wedding day. Who wants to see pics of business plans, financial forecasts or that cup of coffee that's gone cold after a long, slightly ill-timed phone call? Yes, there are many, many great moments but, as the bride wears the unattractive underwear to hold it all together under the designer gown, wedding professionals work sodding hard to look relaxed.
  8. ... you're all about spontaneity - when you get into weddings, you're going to get booked up months & years in advance. Weddings require long term commitment, not just from the people taking the vows but from all those beavering away behind the scenes. 
  9. ... you just love the romance of weddings - it is undeniably wonderful to spend your time at  weddings. However, you're working now, you're not a guest and you're certainly not the bride or the centre of attention. If you've got unresolved issues about your own wedding/marriage/divorce/dress/flowers, get professional help - don't try to become the professional help that others turn to for their own big day.
  10. ... you think you're done with learning - if you can't keep your mind open, if you don't want to improve yourself, stretch yourself, challenge yourself and constantly constantly better yourself and help those around you to get better too then think again my friend. Whether you're reading a blog post full of stuff you didn't know, attending workshops or just meeting new people who open your eyes to new possibilities, you're going to be learning every single day. 

Feeling a bit down? A bit bruised and battered? Loathing me for sucking the life out of this amazing industry? That's ok because if this is the blog equivalent of those excruciating biology lessons where your teachers told you all about sex in a way that made you never ever want to take your clothes off, let along

do it

, Monday's post will be more like a gossipy session with your friends when everything seemed like much more fun...

Lessons From The Winter Olympics

via Pinterest
I have been in sport heaven over the last few days. The background to my working day has been half-pipes, hog lines, triple toe loops and power-plays. I have been quite the winter Olympics addict.

For me, as someone who regularly takes on crazy endurance walking challenges (100 km in 20 hours - who's with me?), I always see lots of parallels between sport and business. Indeed Mr Apple's brother uses the skills he's developed in coaching some amazing triathletes to also work with businesses and board members. It's all about challenge, perspective, improvement, practice and feedback.

Anyway, the sport that has swept me away this year is curling (see what I did there?). And no,  I'm not just talking about the oh-my merits of the 'Men of Curling' calendar or the visual excitement of the Norwegian men's team trousers. Oh no, there's lots to learn with curling even if, like me, the mere prospect of slithering out on the ice and trying to vaguely remain upright is something you know to be well beyond you.

So, as a little homage to the men and women, here's my take on the lessons that curling can teach us...

  • Feedback is best when you get it at the time - each player gets a review of their stone straight away so they can adjust what they're doing straight away. There's no point waiting until after the game and then saying 'oh, you could have done that differently'. The same is true at work - keep checking in with people, get the feedback, adjust if necessary and get better. Ignorance might be bliss but not for long.
  • Plan to adapt - yes, yes, you need a plan. You need to know what, all things being equal, you'd like to happen. However, things are very rarely equal and that's when you need to adapt and respond. Having to change your plan when you're mid way through it isn't a disaster, sticking to the plan regardless of what's going on around you is. 
  • Bounce like Tigger - bad stuff happens, bad days happen but you still have to bounce back. I don't mean that you need to become some kind of emotionless automaton but you need to find away to brush the disappointment aside and get on with it. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, other people just have a better day than you. Look at what happened, learn what you can and move on.
  • Communicate - I love the way the curlers communicate with each other but please don't feel you need to slide on your knee along the office floor shouting 'haaaaaaarrrrrdddddd' at your team for them to understand what it is you want. But you do need to communicate clearly, with feeling and with passion. Don't keep you head down, doing your own thing in the hope that everyone around you has been blessed with psychic skills. Look up and communicate.
  • Practice, practice, practice - the majority of these curlers are full-time professionals. They're in the gym, they're on the ice, they work with nutritionists and psychologists and all of this work makes them better. They take what they do seriously and they know you get better by working at it. Medals, awards, wins and plaudits don't come to you by divine right. They come after months and years of slog. There are no shortcuts to fabulousness.
  • Support crews - the British curlers have a great support team (including someone who's been there, done that in terms of winning a gold medal) to encourage, advise and keep them relaxed and happy. They also have their families and friends in the crowd and support is key. Losses are easier to take and victories are all the sweeter when you have people around you to share them with.
  • You're in this for the long-haul - this is a long game, with ups and downs, twists and turns and good moments and bad. But you need to keep your eye on the prize, work, work work and never, ever give up because all it needs is a tiny little thing to change everything.

Derrière, Meet Chaussure

There are times when I despair. Proper, full-on despair. The kind that sees me slump across my desk in the manner of a swooning maiden, head resting on my outstretched arms, my groans somewhat muffled by the notebook, magazine or laptop that's taken the brunt of the impact.

You see, I have an amazing step-daughter. A beautiful, clever, loving, funny, kind, and super-talented step-daughter who could change the world, make countless lives better and, I'm sure, totally transform the lives of those lucky enough to get close to her.

But, I despair. I despair because she is happy to coast along, like the proverbial pebble in the stream, tumbling onward but not controlling anything. She's waiting for things to happen to her, for things to be arranged for her or for others to make decisions for her. Instead of taking life by the scruff of the neck, she's giving it the gentlest of placatory pats on the head. There, there life, don't be worried by me.

Yes, yes, I know she's a teenager and I should be grateful that she actually speaks and doesn't just grunt, that she loves to help me in the kitchen rather than staying in her room listening to girl band music and only emerging to row with us and exit again to the sound of slamming doors. And I am grateful - grateful, glad and happy that the daughter-I-didn't-think-I'd-have actually seems to be negotiating her teens without losing it.

However, time is tick-tick-ticking along and she's slip-sliding through a life that could be extraordinary. I hear her making excuses for not doing things, not trying things and not making the most of things and it breaks my heart. So I slump deskwards again, wondering when she'll wake up.

About now, I imagine that you're thinking you've stumbled onto one of those vaguely tedious whining posts where the writer bares their soul in the hope of being flung some scraps of comfort. That's not what this is.

You see, as much as I despair about the beautiful girl in my life, I know she's only a teenager, and a teenager who has had some pretty shitty things happen to her in her life so I can make allowances for her and hope that by example and by encouragement, she can take baby steps towards being the whole person and my despair will turn to pride. And, she's fifteen, she's got time to get it right.

How about you? How much time have you got? Do the opportunities and moments where you could jump forwards, away from the crowd, pass? Is playing it safe from the sidelines better than getting stuck in? What are those things that you really really want? You know, those things that you can barely even own up to because they're so longed for and so personal and there's the feeling that if you acknowledge them and they don't work out, that you'll be pretty crushed. And that deep desire can be almost crippling - the worry of trying, the worry of the work, the effort, the worry of what you might do if actually those dreams work out and the worry, just the worry all the time.

And yet, in that petrified, frozen state, you're not really living. You're not out there, doing, changing, experiencing, experimenting, trying and achieving. You're sleepwalking and allowing the days to pass.

So, this is the post where you get that kick in the pants I'm afraid. As the nasty doctor said when he gave you the yukky medicine to swallow "it's for your own good I'm afraid". Do something, anything, because nothing will change if you don't. It's scary and terrifying yes, but a life that's lifeless should be the nightmare. So, get on with it - whatever the 'it' might be for you. Don't just talk about it, be about it.

As for Emily, she'll be fine, she'll be more than fine. She'll live a life in the light because she's too bright for the shadows.

And she's not the only one is she?

And That Was January Speeding By...

I'm feeling pretty guilty that it's the evening of Friday 31st January as I type and this little jumble of words is the first blog post of the year that I've managed to put together for me. A shockingly bad state of affairs I think you'll agree but I am a wicked woman and I promise to hang my head in shame, shame I tell you, for at least a few moments.

But, perhaps you'll allow me off of the naughty step when you've read this post because I think that this year has got off to a bit of a flying start. No coughing and spluttering on the drive like an old banger for 2014. Oh no, we've gone flat out, straight into the fast last (or "lane three Tamryn, the limit's the same everywhere" as my ex-cop Dad would no doubt tell me).

So, let's get on with the little review of my month. Ladies and Gentlemen, with the aid of words and pictures, I give you... January...

It rained. It rained a lot. This pleased my dog who liked to divide her time between launching herself into puddles and then huddling under my desk by the radiator drying out. Both of these things made me smile.

Thanks to the dog walking, I'm 10% through my 2014 goal of walking 1,250 miles this year. Go me.

We've booked a week in France for the Easter Holidays - bring on the Normandy Beaches, the food and the wine.

I stuck to my 'friends and family' time resolution. A football match on New Years Day (a last minute equaliser for Reading saved a depressive drive home), bowling, dinners out and after school trips here, there and everywhere. We crammed a lot in.

I have been tinkering with my camera and this shot got a mention in Emily Quinton's Floral Friday. Chuffed does not even begin to cover it.

I was invited to The Wedding Industry Awards and got to hang out with some of my favourite people (above from the left, Victoria Stanton from Fetcham Park, Emma Woodhouse aka The Wedding Reporter/Cloggins, the super talented Eddie Judd and the beautiful Laura Caudery from Fetcham Park.) 

I also treated myself to a night in London after the awards so got some me time wandering around and taking photos of some of the beautiful memorials that mean a lot to me. This one above is, for reasons I'll mention later in the post, very meaningful right now.

This is the powerful Bomber Command Memorial. I'm so pleased I got to see it and was very touched by the tiny poppy that someone had tucked into the back of the airman's boot which you can just make out in this photo.

My beautiful dog continues to be my shadow. She has been the perfect office assistant this month as I've had so much to do - she makes me take a break and I'm all the better for it.

Mr Apple, like the crazy fool he is, has signed up to The Jurassic Coast Marathon in March. I meanwhile, have booked The Hut to stay in whilst he labours up and down the coast path for three days. I think I've won here.

A lovely friend bought me a fabulous gluten-free cook book for Christmas and, miracle of miracles, the pastry recipe is a) easy and b) pretty flipping good. This pecan pie was nothing short of a revelation.

The lovely Eddie Judd (you've met her already in this post) blogged our family photo shoot. Cue more smiles.

Actually, it didn't rain all the time, even if it's felt like it. On a couple of mornings, it was worth getting up super early to at least catch the frost and blue skies before the clouds rolled on in.

Last January I didn't have this beautiful girl. This January, I can't imagine my life without her.

I have written in my 'One Line A Day' diary every day this month. Rain has featured frequently but so have lots of other good bits. I like to be fair.

This is what January should be like. I don't believe I ordered the rain however, I have got through January without a cold, blocked nose or sniffles. Result.

My gluten-free Jam Duffins (doughnut muffin hybrids, keep up) were rather splendid. I love baking and singing badly in the kitchen whilst I do so. Obviously, I save this activity until there's no-one home.

The view from my bedroom window was, on a few occasions this month, spectacular.

Mr Apple and I went to see comedian Miles Jupp at a little venue in Reading. He was great and we laughed a lot. Mr Apple is still repeating some of the lines now but he's not going to be on Mock The Week anytime soon.

I have read A LOT this month. Partly because I love reading and partly because I am loving my historical research at the moment. My subject - the women gun crews of WWII and if you don't know much about these amazing, wonderful, courageous, trailblazing women then you might like to buy an upcoming issue of Pretty Nostalgic where I'll be telling you all about them...

I have also bought my first Agatha Christie novel having developed a slightly worrying addiction to Miss Marple on TV. I have also bought myself Paper To Petal and can't wait for this to arrive either.

And among all this, work has been going pretty damn well too...

So, What's In Store For Two-Oh-One-Four?

It's New Year's Eve and I'm sat, as my previous post hinted I might be, by the radiator with my dog by my side, indulging in a few minutes of peace.

I'm not one for resolutions. They don't work for me and they don't float my boat. But, if I am the archetypal donkey, goals set are my absolute favourite type of carrot. They keep me trotting in the right direction and their tempting allure guarantees my own kind of perpetual movement.

So, in a personal post, here's what's in store for my two-oh-one-four...

Walking - I achieved my goal of this year to walk 1,000 miles and next year, I'm aiming for 1,250. I also plan on hot-stepping my way around the Isle of Wight Challenge

Writing - Book number three is starting to tumble from my fingertips and even if it doesn't see the light of day, it will be researched and written by this time next year.

Cooking - I will be expanding my repertoire of recipes and will cook four new dishes every month. They may or may not be universally acclaimed but I'll keep going....

Snapping - After the amazing experience of Emily Quinton's MakeLight Workshop, my love of photography continues. I want to document the year, improve my skills and use my DSLR more regularly.

Eating - I love food and as Mr Apple presented me a copy of the Michelin Guide for Christmas, I now have a list of 12 places to visit this year and visit them I shall.

Reading - I should now perhaps admit my lazy streak and own up to the fact that I can re-read my favourite books over and over. Rather like comfort eating for the brain, I turn to these trusty titles too much. So, in 2014, I will read at least 12 new books.

and, finally, possibly the most important goal of all...

Living - More time with those I love, more breaks and experiences, more fun and maybe a little more time for me.

So, that's what's in store so come on two-oh-one-four, I'm ready and waiting...

Christmas Comes But Once A Year?

Well, it's that time of year again - today I flick on the out-of-office and head down the slope towards Christmas Day.

I love Christmas and for that, I blame my Mum who made it magical every year when I was a little girl. Now, I love Christmas because it still sprinkles magic, albeit of a different kind, over my life on an annual basis.

No, I don't lay awake on Christmas Eve with my eyes squeezed tight shut in case by being awake, I stop Santa from delivering to me. And no, I don't wiggle down my bed in the morning to prod at my stocking with my foot to check it rustles and crackles with the goodies inside.

Instead, the pleasures Christmas now brings are of the grown up variety - guilt-free time with family and friends, time to indulge my passions of reading and cooking and time itself. Time to slow down, to even grind to a halt for a day or two if I choose and time to breathe, relax, recharge and slip away from the noise and craziness for even just a few moments every day and sit, as I am now, against the radiator in my bedroom with my dog at my side, and just be still.

You see, Christmas Day is, in many ways, like a wedding - we plan frantically, we rush around, we arrange pre-event parties and get togethers and we spend an inordinate amount of time preparing for just one day. Then, just like a wedding, the day itself flashes by in the blink of an eye, a whirl of wrapping paper, presents, glitter and food.

And, just like a wedding, sometimes you can feel a bit down, a bit flat and a bit blue after Christmas. But my friends, the real secret to Christmas, as with weddings, is to not look backwards. Don't try to cling on to what has past and what can never be again. Don't yearn for the 'one day' and everything that came with it, as fabulous as those things might have been.

Oh no, look forwards and look ahead - there will be surprises around every corner, more moments of happiness, joy and extraordinary emotion than you can imagine because these aren't limited to one day a year or even once in a lifetime.

They are out there, every day, like year-round Christmas presents, just waiting to be unwrapped. 

Feeling Thankful?

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As my American friends get ready for their Thanksgiving celebrations tomorrow, it does seem like a good moment to, well, do nothing for a minute.

You see, this time of year is a crazy, busy, exciting and ever so slightly manic season. Clients getting ready for the new year, me getting ready to take a few weeks off over the holiday period, children in concerts, plays and sports matches, Christmas shopping, visiting family, hosting friends and let's not forget all the everyday stuff that still needs doing.

No wonder the days fly by and the weeks whiz past in a technicolour blur that borders on the downright scary.

So, this quote, sent to me by a friend in the US today, has really hit home. At a time when we're all pushing ourselves to get more done than is humanly possible in the waking/working hours we have, there are things that get missed.

Whilst I know I'm at risk of disappearing in a smog of schmaltz right now, it never does any harm to just stop for a moment and count the good things rather than always dwelling on the less than perfect. I know I'm not one to lecture righteously here as I'm as guilty as the next person for sometimes forgetting how bloomin' lucky I am but it is our ability to recognise the good things, to note the achievements and to give ourselves a pat on the back for the things we've done that keep us moving forward. If we can take heart from what we've already done, we can energise ourselves for the future and be more content with the present. Who wouldn't want that?

I'm off the put the kettle on, take five with a cuppa, give the dog a cuddle and eat a biscuit. It'll be good for me and I'm grateful for everything I have right now.

Especially the biscuit.

A Chunk Of Change...

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 When I get an e-mail from the amazing Emma Woodhouse of The Wedding Reporter with just the word...


... followed by a blog post, then I know this is something I want to read. And Emma wasn't wrong to recommend this great post by Seth Godin.

 I absolutely love the sentiment in this post and agree wholeheartedly with the idea that something we should all be doing is giving others confidence to change - whether it's inspiring them to follow their passions or just helping them to try a little new thing. The unknown can be scary and the untried can be terrifying but with someone on your side, someone to emulate or someone to take heart from, anything is possible.

Over the last few weeks, and at the risk of sounding like a complete lovey, I've been changed, inspired and spurred on by others who overflow with passion and encouraged by their confidence. Those huge things I thought I wouldn't do or couldn't do suddenly become smaller things I'm keen to try when a fraction of their confidence finds its way to me. Conversely, I've had conversation with clients and potential clients in the last week where I hope some of my certainty has been transferred to them and given them the belief and conviction to move ahead with plans or to take a chance on ideas.

Nothing is supposed to stay the same, change is necessary, inevitable and nothing to be scared of. Change should be embraced.

And if you've got someone at your side to give you a little hug and to deliver that injection of support to get you through it, so much the better. Who knows how we might all be able to help each other?

Decisions, decisions...

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Something I never fail to appreciate about working for yourself, and working with people who more often than not work for themselves, is relative simplicity of making decisions.

Yes, yes, I know that sometimes we are all crippled with indecision, we slump helplessly over our laptops, not sure what to do or how to do it and sometimes we can keep ourselves awake into the wee small hours biting our nails and tearing our hair out trying to decide what to do.

But, all of those (minor) inconveniences aside, once we'd made the decision, we're able to get things going and my goodness, this is something to thank your lucky stars about every day.

This ability to make a decision and just get on with it is, in my humble opinion, one of the things that makes the wedding industry so special. It allows us to be creative, to get things moving, to strike up the band and dance to our own tune. We can set the pace and set the agenda. It's a huge privilege and it allows us to get things moving in a light-on-our-feet, speedy-minded way that is really rather special.

This was bought home to me so many times last week. Firstly, I had a lovely trip down to Bristol for the launch of Little Wedding Space. This pop-up, powered by Kirsten of Little Wedding Helper and photographer Ruth Garner is the perfect illustration of my point. Kirsten & Ruth had the idea for a wedding pop-up to showcase the work of a fabulous group of wedding suppliers and they just got on with it. From first tiny thought to opening night in the blink of an eye. No papers to present to the board, no endless e-mail trails between endless departments with everyone adding their two penceworth whether or not they understand what they're talking about and no interminable meetings full of bluster and other things beginning with b.

Maybe this is why some traditional businesses feel threatened by us agile little up-starts, maybe its something to do with the fact that we can speak our minds or that we don't have the 'rules' of big business to work around. Yes, sometimes being the accounts department, the marketing department, the receptionist, the officer manager and the cleaner can be tough but flipping heck, the benefits of being able to call the shots are huge and please please please never forget them.

We make the decisions, we get things moving, we can work with people we want to work with in ways that suit us. We get to hang out with wonderful people, we get to try new things and turn seemingly impossible plans into real things in the blink of an eye. We are professional but human at the same time. We haven't lost ourselves behind corporate facades and we can be silly, funny, kind and caring whilst still knocking out top-notch, amazing work.

The hours can be long, the annual leave allowance can be non-existent, there are no dress-down Fridays or bake-sales in reception. There's no safe salary or Christmas bonus but we have something far more valuable.

We have the ability to make our own decisions and go in our own direction. And my goodness, you can't put a price on that.

Corkscrew Thinkers & Brides The Show

Miss Bush at Brides The Show
Now, this post might start with a little bit of an indulgence as I ramble momentarily about military history but stay with me. I promise it's relevant.

Back in World War II when the intelligence war was at its peak, men (including Ian Fleming of James Bond fame) sat in the Admiralty trying to come up with a plan to fool Hitler into thinking that the Allies would attack Greece and Sardinia and not, as was actually planned, Sicily. What they came up with was the macabre but effective and brilliant plan of 'Operation Mincemeat' when the body of a dead vagrant was dressed as a Marine officer and floated ashore in Spain carrying apparently genuine documents tipping the Germans off about the landings. It worked like a dream.

But it worked because Churchill had given these men the courage to try something new by prizing 'corkscrew thinkers'. He didn't want ordinary, middle of the road plans that do what was expected in a predictable and formulaic way. He wanted creativity, a willingness to try new things and he wanted to take risks. Calculated, well planned and well thought out risks but risks nonetheless.

And, on Friday night at Brides The Show, there were corkscrew thinkers aplenty.

Those of you that follow me on twitter will have seen me trumpeting the jaw-droppingly gorgeous 'Boudicca' shoot that Miss Bush Bridal had put together for the show and their stand, next to the catwalk, was an extension of that. With hooded capes, striped bustles, stunning floristry from Bloomin'gayles and even specially commissioned scented candles all adding to the wow-factor.

There's no doubt that going hard on the warrior queen theme was a risk. It didn't play safe, it didn't go along with the cute bridal stereotypes but my goodness it paid off. The stand was packed, the brides loved it and the buzz and the feedback was amazing.

But the corkscrew thinking here worked for the same reason Operation Mincemeat worked all those years ago. It created a compelling story that you couldn't ignore. It was so brave, so ballsy and so bold that there was no way you could look away.

And there was similar daring on display right around the show and I was so proud to be there. Proud to be part of an industry that's pushing itself and trying new things. Proud that we're no longer all pandering to the lowest common denominator and imagining  that brides all want to play it safe with identikit weddings.

Whether we're all getting more sophisticated, I don't know. I'm absolutely sure the blogs, Pinterest and social media are all playing a part in giving confidence and I know that brides, grooms and guests are becoming more used to seeing weddings that don't follow the church/buffet/disco pattern of old.

So, as brides are changing, suppliers have to change too. Doing what you've always done isn't going to cut the mustard any more and hoo-flipping-rah for that. Trying new things, spurring yourself on to be better and pushing the boundaries are why so many of us love the wedding industry. Creativity is to be embraced and routine shunned.

'Creativity' isn't using a different shade of pink. It comes with doing something that scares you and is actually a bit of a risk.

Because, as Churchill knew, great things can't happen when you just think in safe, straight lines.

Corkscrew thinking is the way to go.

p.s. if you've not watched the 'Boudicca' shoot behind-the-scenes video on Love My Dress - watch it now!

Goals & Your Fingertips...

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So yesterday, I spent the morning at my son's prospective senior school. He loved it, I loved it, it was such a hit even my step-daughter is now considering moving there for 'A' levels.

Aside from the location, the staff, the students and all the quirky fabulousness of this school by the river with more than a hint of Hogwarts about it, the Headmaster just rocks.

I know, I know, an odd thing to say about a head of school but his speech that opened the morning was really rather good. So good in fact that I found myself nodding along like a groupie at a cult meeting.

But, frankly, if you're going to worship at the altar of thoughts and ideas, you might as well make them good ones and these were gold. So gleamingly, gorgeously gold that I'm going to re-hash them here...

The first thing that really struck home was this Head's comment of "if you didn't feel a buzz about the place when you drove up the drive, then we're probably not for you." A bit of a ballsy comment but I loved it and the same is true of true of wedding businesses and clients. Like over-protective parents who visit endless numbers of schools in the hope of finding the perfect place for their dear darling off-spring, brides and grooms spend substantial amounts of time visiting venues, meeting suppliers and hunting for that perfect partnership. We know what this head knows - sometimes, you just don't click and do you know what? That's fine. We're not supposed to get on with everyone, we're not supposed to change ourselves, our pricing our offering or our style just to fit in with every client. If they don't 'get' us, that's ok.

Secondly, this Head doesn't just want to do a job, he wants to make a difference. He shared a story of a high achiever who got great grades in his GCSEs but was more than a little miffed not to be offered a place for 'A' levels. Why not I hear you cry? Because the school had tried to connect with him, tried to engage with him and nothing. So they didn't feel they were making a difference to this pupil and sent him off into the world to find another place that might. And we want this from our wedding clients too. We want to leave at the end of the day having made a difference. Who wants to slide through an average life adding nothing but average value? No, we want to make a difference and if we don't think we are or if we don't think we can, we should step away.

There was also talk of pushing yourself, of trying new things, of embracing new ideas and keeping your eye on the end game. Do you want to make more money, attract more clients, attract different clients, be more creative, diversify, expand or grow and sell? What is it that you want and does what you do help you take steps to get there?

But the thing that stuck in my head, the words that made my ears prick up in happiness and my soul sing a little with the beauty of the expression was the phrase...

"Your goals should be the ones you can just get hold of with the very tips of your fingers."

The visions in my head instantly had me reaching upwards to the shelf that's always just out of reach. You know, the shelf where the treats and the good stuff are always hidden. My fingertips can just touch something and I know it's great, I know I want it but it's just out of reach. All I have to do is figure out how to get there and what I need to do to just lever myself up that little bit more, to rise up and take it. No, I can't grab it straight away, I need to work a bit, strive a bit, try a bit and push myself more than a little bit. And then I'm there.

Because when you know what you're working for is worth it, and it's something you want above the average stuff on the shelf below, then reach up as far as you can and just get your fingertips on something wonderful.

Then don't let go.

A Love Letter...

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To you,

I just wanted to write you this letter to let you know that I love you. Not just a little bit either. I find myself smiling when I think of you and without sounding incredibly dramatic, I can't imagine my life without you.

This week, you've taken me to some wonderful places. The Perfect Wedding Awards on Monday were fabulous - much fun with great people and seeing Laura Caudery, Annabel Beeforth, Lucy Ledger, Emma Case, Naomi Neoh among others pick up their well-deserved awards was a real treat. I can't thank you enough.

Over the last few weeks, thanks to you, I've been part of some great projects, taken trips to almost every county in the south of England and have pages full in my diary from here until past Christmas. There's always lots to look forward to with you around - life is never quiet, never dull and certainly never the same.

I'll be honest, sometimes you're tricky to manage. You demand a lot of my time and, when I love you so much, it can be hard to leave you be for a little while. But, as the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder and, after a weekend without you, I'm yearning to get back to you on a Monday morning.

But, all that said, I know I'm so lucky to have you. You allow me to be creative, responsible, decisive and independent. Because of you, I can be myself and I don't have to play games, pretend to agree when I don't or go along with things that just don't make me happy. You allow me time for the school run, you don't care what I wear when I'm sat behind my laptop but you love me to get dressed up and have some fun. With you, I can feel that I'm making a difference, however small, and that my efforts aren't unappreciated. Not many people have one like you. My goodness, you're good to me.

So, I just wanted to tell you that I love you. You're more than a job. You're part of me.

Lots of love,
Me xx

p.s. You might like to see this pic of Laura, Annabel & I at the Perfect Wedding Awards - I hope you love it as much as I do...