Branded Christmas, bar stops and decorative twinkle

It's that time of year again, when I get to design something festive and fun whilst watching Elf/Love Actually. For my Christmas cards I decided to use the Kraft card material my printer offers for inspiration - using big type, vintage deers and a homemade print that sat inside the cards and as the pattern for my wrapping paper (yes, this year I got over-excited and made matching wrapping paper too). It's been a busy few months but it's good to take time out to do something indulgently creative, I hope the recipients appreciate the festive-icon pattern before they rip through the paper to get to the goodies... (who can blame them really). 

Alongside this I've been doing the usual torturous journey through Cheltenham to get presents in bulk. We had a pit-stop at the new bar/restaurant, Aqua Vitae, which was needed. A drink was had in the beautifully decorated bar that sat around a small kitchen (for snack food only I think...), and we ordered a couple of said snacks. They were delicious, and better than expected for somewhere that had only just opened. Pizza slices, beef skewers...perfect, easy pick-me-up food.

I've also been keeping my apartment festively decorated (mostly with lights - no tree), and have loved my advent calendar gift. I'm actually more excited about this than daily chocolate (and that says a lot). 

Merry Christmas one and all...

Let's run away to the Giffords circus, buy jam and eat pie

You're never too old to go to the circus, as me and my friends discovered. Especially if you tie it in with lunch.

I recently saw the vintage inspired Giffords circus tents on one of my commutes from Cirencester, surrounded by wooden branded trailers and retro sign posts. After a bit of investigation I decided I had to go, and saw that it's last stop was in Stroud. After some excited persuasion, two of my friends agreed to the trip and we decided to stop on the way to eat lunch at a favourite Stroud eatery, The Lavender Bakehouse. I may be slightly biased as I often do brand and marketing for them through and during our visit was pleased to see some of our jar packaging and leaflets. But biased feelings aside, booking a table is recommended as it's often busy. WIth items like poached eggs with spiced butter, spinach and yoghurt on toast (a Turkish inspiration) and chocolate beetroot cake for afters - you can see why.

Giffords Circus was a great treat, after initially feeling that we may be too old for the humour, or have an obligatory child in tow - we relaxed and laughed along with the five year olds (they laughed a lot). The music was brilliant, jazzy, silly and perfectly timed. With humour and conversation not disimilar to The Minions - the ringmaster, clown Tweedy and acrobats left us in giddy admiration. The weather was also pretty good which made it a bit hot and sticky in the tent - but still a pretty good way to spend the last moments of Summer. 

I've since thrown myself into the weather change with some pie-making and ale drinking. Sort of. The ale drinking was at the new bar/pub/restaurant - The Wild Beer Co in Cheltenham. Where we were persuaded by the idea of an ale/champagne concuction...Goodbye Summer, hello Winter. 

The Lavender Bakehouse, Chalford, Stroud

Turkey and Leek Pie, my abode

A weekend in the Gower filled with BBQs & waterfalls (come rain or shine)

This sunny/rainy bank holiday weekend was spent camping in the Gower, Wales. Often frequenting North Devon on the bank holiday, this felt like a good change. Our stay was spent at Nicholaston Farm - chosen because of it's location right on the dog-friendly beach between Oxwich and Three Cliffs Bay. 

With a boyfriend whose preference was to 'stay in a B&B', we drove down as speedily as we could to get the tent up before the rain started. Suffice to say, no rain came, and there were plenty of free spaces on our allocated field to create our 'camping village'. Friend's arrived, gazebos were erected and we started our first barbeque. 

The next morning began with an early start due to the fact Lola (whose preference would also be to stay in a B&B I'm sure), wanted to visit the beach. The sun was out and the sea was visible from the campsite so I didn't mind the early walk. The walk from the campsite is easy (and pretty lovely), taking you through woods and over sand dunes. Luckilly, the sun was out all day so we spent it on the beach playing cricket and Molke, eating spare ribs and lazing around our 'mini camping village'. This was followed by wine, beer and cheer on the campsite listening to my now pretty-battered radio.

Unfortunately the next day wasn't as bright (read - torrential rain for 24 hours) so we went to Mumbles for a walk along the old pier and some icecream at Joe's. 

I will skip over the bit where we had to order Indian takeaway as the pubs were full, the rain didn't stop and Lola spent most of her time cuddled up in Megan's blanket. On our way home we drove around the Brecon Beacons instead and made an impromptu visit to Melincourt waterfall (beautiful!) and to the Penderyn Whisky Distillery (beautifully branded). Both lovely stops. Then we found a welsh pub for a bit of lunch before heading home. We felt like we needed a holiday to get over this one but due to the company and sunny beach day had a blooming good time. 

Sweets, treats and Cheltenham dine time

It is time for another food update. Quite a contrast to my previous post about being 'motivated' and doing some exercise with the #thisgirlcan campaign. Unfortunately, like the 29-going-on-80 year old I am, my back problems have put a hold on this. So instead...I shall eat!

Since living in Cheltenham I have found some favourite lunchtime spots, perfect dinner date locations and places to treat myself when the sweet tooth kicks in.

Bills in Cheltenham is great for some pre-shopping lunch. It's varied menu combines great breakfasts (things on toast) with quirky sides and starters (mac and cheese, fried halloumi, duck salad...). Preferring usually to opt for the latter I like to combine a few of their smaller dishes to make the ultimate dish. The mac and cheese in particular is delicious, and easier to forgive yourself for when you combine with a starter-sized avocado and bacon salad.

For dinner I re-visted an old favourite, Hot Pepper Jelly. The restaurant itself is beautifully decorated with fairy lights, shabby chic furniture and Paris-inspired art. The dinner menu isn't huge but has some deliciously drool-inducing options (also French-inspired). I opted for the Pork Belly for main (that also came with a pork spare rib, bacon cabbage and mash with a side of apple sauce) and White Chocolate cheesecake for dessert. Both delicious options that had me (and my companions) making noises not dissimilar to Meg Ryan. 

For other sweet treats, Wholefoods is a good spot. Cheap it is not, but beautifully packaged, independant products make up for this. It is a treat after all. I rounded off my weekend with chocolate mint brownie tablet, rose lemonade and Doisy + Dam chocolate.

This also seems like a good opportunity to share with you a cafe I discovered in Dublin, purely for its stand out branding. Kitsch pink and gingham print...right up my street.

A London foodie adventure

This weekend saw the reunion with my former colleague, Jen, in her new hometown - London! Not being a big city girl (I always feel like 'Babe Pig in the City'), I usually feel a bit apprehensive. However, not only did I figure out the tube (ok someone too pity and figured it out for me), but we went to lots of inspirational food/design places... 

On Friday night we ventured up to Madison restaurant for cocktails overlooking St Pauls Cathedral. This was followed closely by dinner of Chicken Poussin with truffle frites and half a lobster with fries, and for dessert chocolate brownie and eton mess (lots of 'nom noms').

On Saturday we went to Spitalfields market, where I could indulge my new jewellery obsession (especially as everything was such good value) and buy a crocheted elephant for my soon-to-be godson, Barnaby. We had breakfast at Leon, which was delicious and packaged beautifully.

We then took full advantage of the tube and headed over to Borough market which was busy (but for good reason). There were so many amazing 'ready-to-eat' stalls - from paella, to cheese pastries or gourmet burgers. As you ventured in there were whole sections dedicated to wine and olive stalls, colourful fruit and vegetables...and cakes, brownies and cookie stalls (where I purchased a cheesecake brownie - a combination of perfection). The energetic stall holders and the beautiful branding of the market itself - made for an inspirational spot. 

We then walked off the cheesecake brownie along Southbank. I loved the busy atmosphere and all the places Jen took me to. The girl did good :-) 

Sweet branding inspiration for Cakes & Coffee

I'm a designer with a sweet tooth - so this branding for 'Cakes & Coffee' really hit the mark with me. Designed by Empatia - this slick and elegant branding showcases both sides of the business with a simple complimentary colour switch (pink and beige). I love the images of the cakes too. It's easy with a business like this to make the branding sickly sweet, but I think they keep the brand in check. 

Sweeeet ice-cream packaging design.

I came across this packaging for an ice cream shop called 'Stellina' based in New York. The girl in me loves the truly indulgent pink but also the typography that pays homage to the retro 'trailer cafes' from the mid 90's.

I really have a love for some retail design from over the pond. I don't know if I have an eye for it now but I keep seeing beautiful cafe fronts, cupcake packaging, restaurant interiors - usually based in San Francisco or New York.

A designer will usually be able to answer that indulgent question 'What would your dream project be?' with something. Whilst I'm sure a majority of answers would be big brands such as 'Nike', 'Coca Cola', 'Apple', mine would simply be - a cute cafe/cakeshop/icecream shop in need of a rebrand...