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...

Berlin eats, sleeps and musical treats

To bring in another birthday with a bang, we ventured to Berlin to see Alt-J in concert. They were good. Particularly as they were in a converted warehouse-arena, which was the perfect setting for their light effects and music.

Berlin itself was interesting, if you look past the grey and the graffiti there are pockets of coolness. Like Dude's Delikatessen on the way to the arena, amazing burgers with (huge) gherkins served in double quick time. They were also big on nicely-branded bottles of Vodka/Gin/Rum...

Whilst we're on food, we also had breakfast at Silo Coffee which was nice (coffee-infused maple bacon!?) but expensive in a town that was often very reasonably priced.

Our apartment was a first step into the world of Airbnb, the apartment was beautiful (see it in full here). And was a great price for a whole apartment that had dachsund prints on the walls and a bed that was 'like sleeping on a cloud'.

Being in Berlin, the obvious choice was to visit the big landmarks and the Berlin wall memorial, personal stories covered every aspect and it made for a worthwhile (few) hours (I eventually 'hit a wall'). Definetly recommend doing this if you visit Berlin as you understand a lot of what the city's about. It's also useful if your companion is a history buff and can give you the full low-down on the walk there.

Overall it was a good trip. But with people walking the streets drinking and the lack of beauty as you walk around, I'm not sure if I'd recommend this as the top place for couples. I'm glad I did it though...walls an' all...

Devonshire thirty birthday jollies

What already feels like weeks ago, was my thirtieth birthday or #dirtythirty as I liked to call it. My original plan of sitting in a dark room weeping was thrown out of the window when my man took me for a surprise weekend away to North Devon. We stayed in the Northcote Manor House where we ate posh food, before venturing off the next day to Lynton & Lynmouth. Villages joined by a steep cliff and 'clifftop railway'. Powered by water don't you know. Looking more terrifying than it actually was, we ate scones and travelled back via cliff. 

Followed by a coastal drive through Exmoor National Park, lots of stops are now on my list to British-holiday-it-up next year. 

My thirtieth actually turned out to be my best birthday to date, with birthday cocktails (less said about this the better), dinner at Morans, girly nights with presents and nibbles...#dirtythirtyone doesn't look too bad.

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

My Top Winter Pinterest pins (from fashion to decor to cake)

I love sticking a pin on my imaginary pin board. Whilst occasionally detrimental to my wallet (I need a jumper that shows off my new gingham shirt collar), Pinterest knows no bounds in inspiring creativity, hunger and imagination. As a new season approaches it also means I can learn what fashion, decor and wedding trends are big and what comfort foods should be added to my imaginary cook book (I never get round to actually cooking them - I just dream about eating them). And so, I thought I would share some of my top winter pins to show what's inspiring me and...making me hungry. Follow me on Pinterest to see my other boards and these image credentials...

Fashion (see all)
I need a trench coat (again).

Food (see all)
Winter salad bowls followed by sweet smore brownies.

Decor (see all)
My geometric print obsession continues.

Wedding & Design (see all wedding / see all design)
Autumn flora inspired.

Dog-friendly pubs, service stations (yes really) and local festival finds.

On my occasional commute from Cirencester I had noticed this place bathed in sunshine, painted a beautiful shade of baby pink with a large ink-like logo painted on the building. So on our way back from a weekend jolly, we stopped at The Bathurst Arms for a spot of Sunday lunch. I had pre-emptively taken a look at their website before too, and it is truly a thing of beauty. Not always the case for an independant pub. With animated deers, wax stamps (on a website yes...) and strong graphics - this website makes you want to eat here and take part in their 'photograph your dog' competition. Did the experience live up to the brand? Sort of. The only food on was their BBQ, though lovely - it would have been nice to have a choice. Was our photo of Lola the clear winner of the doggy competition? Absolutely. 

Another foodie stop was to the new Gloucester Services on a rainy Sunday. Yes, we went to a service station on a rainy day. There really was little else to do has a farmshop. The services are stocked by their local farm so everything is fresh and substantial. What really stood out to me though, were the beautiful illustrations everywhere. Designed by Stephanie Cole they fitted in perfectly with the family/local/real environment. 

We also managed to squeeze in a day trip to the Livestock Festival near Tewkesbury, with headliners like Toploader and Scouting for Girls, this small festival had hit up some pretty big acts. The best bits though, were the smaller acts on the 'coffee session stage', the comedy bus and the copious amounts of hay bales that you could laze against. A potential visit could be on the cards next year but this festival could do with growing in size and food choice. 

It's been a good summer-filled two weeks, follow my instagram to see more.

Gloucester Brewery's 'Tank', the perfect choice for Beer/Cheese lovers

An impromptu 'jolly' to Gloucester Docks gave the perfect opportunity to visit Tank, the new offering from the Gloucester Brewery. This is an experience for ale lovers to taste a variety of beers in 1/3 pint sizes, delivered in a mini wooden crate. 

Whilst we sat outside to make the most of the sunshine in what is a very nice spot, ordering at the bar meant I could take in the industrial decor (oh I love a bit of 'industrial' decor...). Hanging light bulbs, exposed brickwork and rough wood inside meant it's appealing night or day. 

Feeling a bit peckish, we ordered the 'Five Meats' and 'Five Cheese' Charcuterie boards. £8 for each board seemed quite good, especially as you could choose from a nice variety of options. The 'choosing' didn't stop there, with our five 1/3 beers for £6. This also seemed quite reasonable and the menu made it easy with recommendations with what ales suited your food choices. 

And of course, the branding - spot on. The circular logo looked pretty great on the windows, though I'm unsure of the random blue signage. The dark decor and the primarily black website works better to showcase the white logo and strong 'TANK' typeface. They haven't scrimped on the important pieces like the wooden menu holders either, which work perfectly alongside the mini wooden crates.

All in all, a tasty attribute to the ever-growing Gloucester Docks. 

Breezy bike rides and Cheese Champagne combos

Summer is here! It really is...and with that excitement comes a bunch of other changes for myself. This weekend I move into my own little abode, which shall be filled with aztec cushions, elaborate candles, Kardashian-inspired bathroom decor, and old fashioned nautical prints. Not getting the theme yet? Me neither. It will work though, trust me. I will share the finished results to prove the doubters wrong in due course...

Alongside the move I've been getting a summer spring into my step with a food-fuelled visit to London, and bike rides into Cheltenham town to sample more Boston Tea Party breakfasts (perfect for a hangover), equally as good is the Brew & Bake Sunday brunch... yes the bike rides are needed. Does this blog post sound familiar? What can I say, I find a good spot and I tend to become a regular. During my London visit though I was able to be more adventurous though - in the form of Champagne and Cheese dinners (Brixton Village) and 'Ghetto Grillz' New York sandwiches (Camden Lock)...

For some much needed exercise after all this food, Lola, Buddy and my now no-longer-pregnant-friend Bryony took a 'stroll' up Cleeve Hill (a 2 hour long stroll). The view was pretty great though, and is highly recommended for a dog walk.

Alongside all of this 'gallavanting' I have also been working away on Winter-themed wedding invites, and website designs for a local engineering company through my sister company desigbytic - how do I fit it all in...? With motivation sourced from my 'Wonder Woman' sticker. Thanks Jen.

From Cheltenham lunch at Brew & Bake to London Bearded Beauties

Living and working in Cheltenham means the discovery of more good places to eat. Luckilly a new place called 'Brew and Bake' has just opened up down the Bath Road. Locally sourced ingredients contribute to some delicious salted beef bagels, gooey chocolate brownies and New York Deli sandwiches. All in what was, a cramped un-inspired space. Using industrial looking tables and chairs, retro light fightings and coffee-bean bag covered cushions they've transformed it into a space that locals and Lola like to visit.

Another good lunchtime spot, when I'm that end of town, are the Wholefoods salads. Packaged in cardboard tubs with copious amounts of toppings - you can make a healthy salad that looks beautiful. Cheap no. Colourfully healthy, yes.

Whilst my back has been giving me no end of jip, I have tried to squeeze in some dog walks. A pit-stop on our way back from Malmsbury the other day gave Lola the opportunity to jump in for a swim. The spot was lovely, with water, rolling green fields, woods... it made me briefly miss Cotswold living.

In contrast to this, we took a trip to London this weekend to visit some exhibitions and galleries. The beard exhibition at Somerset House by Mr Elbank was jam-packed of fellow bearded beauties. In aid of a good cause, the project started with the one pictured here - and continued with a range of different bearded men (and women!) driven to promote skin cancer awareness. This was followed by a vintage carboot at Southbank (with some beautiful old-school games) then the Tate Modern. After a few 'is it really art' jibes I stumbled across an engine covered in glitter. Sometimes you don't care. It just looks cool.


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 :-) 

A Cotswolds to Cheltenham menu

Life has changed somewhat recently with a move to Cheltenham and the purchase of a new bike (you may see me whizzing through town on my bike, with a basket full of food and ringing my bell...). Living within the town centre is definetly very different to living in the Cotswolds, but with a new housemate and copious amounts of wine and chocolate I already feel reasonably settled. 

The thing that seems to tie this altogether is food. And drink. And not just any drink but Dark Chocolate milkshakes from Boston Tea Party and ice cold gin and tonics using our local gin supplier, Sibling Gin. Food wise it has varied from the healthy - avocado and pine nut salads to BBQ burgers with beef tomatoes and Burger Star coupled with pink champagne. All of which I have collected through the medium of Instagram. Enjoy. Drool away...

A South Devon mini break - complete with quaint cottage

This bank holiday was the perfect opportunity for us to get away after a busy few weeks at work. I had booked a cottage in Aveton Gifford that looked particularly quaint with it's thatched roof and old-fashioned decor - and we were going with our usual holiday acquaintances, Becky and Marc.

On arrival we were pleasantly surprised, the house was actually nicer than the pictures on the website (take a peek here). After running around the garden excitedly with Lola and a few rounds on the swing (I love a good swing), we explored the house to find some local produce thoughtfully left to us by the owners and a list of places to visit (including the best beaches and pubs in south devon).

After making the most of the cottage with a lovely home cooked dinner courtesy of my man, we drunk a few too many rounds of gin (in my new retro cups which are perfect for such a concoction) and played a few too many rounds of cards.

The next few days saw us taking adventures around Banthum Beach (my new favourite beach due to the estuary, clear waters and rock pools perfect in depth for a sausage dog), Burgh Island and Salcombe.

Burgh Island was particularly exciting at least for the journey to get to it. When the water was at high tide it was only accessible by Sea Tractor. Yes, such things exist. Once there we sat outside of a particularly traditional pub, The Pilchard Inn, and tucked into wine and cheese and pickle sandwiches (a great combination). After a walk to the top, we made the decision to stay a big longer and wait for the tide to go out so we could walk back across the beach, thus saving our fare and spending it on wine instead...

Salcombe was a must-see spot, and another fun journey was made to the beaches on the other side via ferry. It was also the perfect place for dinner in the evening, with us settling on the restaurant, No.55. I had an amazing bowl of mussells, with a side of frites and chocolate fondant dessert. 

I apologise for the long-winded post but in four days I feel like we saw a lot. There were a few anti-climaxes in the form of Noss Mayo and Hope Cove (though pretty there wasn't a lot to do), so hope my review of South Devon helps any future visitors. Enjoy...

The bright lights of Hogmanay

This New Years Eve was spent somewhere quite special, the home of New Year itself - Edinburgh. I went with my friend, Nicola, who started the trip with a grand prix inspired Champagne explosion in the train carriage. This was not the end of the alcoholic explosions. 

When we arrived to our cosy B&B, we got dressed for the night ahead (bobble hats, thick jumpers and coats, not quite my NYE outfit of choice) and headed off to find some dinner and explore. After some pub grub at an atmospheric Scottish pub, we walked around the labyrinth clutching our plastic bottles filled to the brim with G&T. In the dark the things which stood out were the brightly lit buildings, christmas lights and fairground rides, which is what I ended up photographing the most. This was, until my phone got covered in said G&T (thanks to an explosion in my handbag), and stopped working. During this time (unfortunetly, un-documented), we danced to the music at the stages, met random travellers and Scots and finished the night with some incredible fireworks and rather expensive nachos. And thanks to some 'touch wood' superstition the rain held off all night.

After some time in a cup of rice on the radiator, my phone was soon restored to it's former glory and managed to capture Edinburgh in light on New Years Day. From the obligatory Scot with bagpipes to Nicola on the ferris wheel. That evening we then ate at another Scottish inspired place, drinking (at a more relaxed rate) whisky cocktails and burgers in whisky sauce at none other than, The Whiski Rooms. 

An unforgettable New Year and highly recommended. Next year...Sydney? New York...? Touch wood.

Hot chocolate, pine cones and prints

The cold weather has definetly given me that festive feeling. This weekend I visited Daylesford for a lovely hot chocolate and browsed the christmas decorations wondering if it's too early to start putting them up (is it too early for the tree?). As a small compromise I decided to design a Christmas print. My 'Christmas colours' this year are paper brown, retro red and minty green so I used these with some elaborate type to create a vintage-inspired look. It reminds me of old christmas films and now sits in my lounge waiting for the tree to add the finishing touch (see the picture below and spot the Lola curled up on the sofa). I feel like I'm branding christmas - stay tuned for matching cards, gift tags and wrapping...

I also sent to print a design I'd been working on a few months ago. Inspired by a quote heard on Mad Men 'Ante Bellum. Everything as it was.' This peace-inducing print now sits in my study, accompanied by some pine cones... 

The best kind of photo shoot is the one that involves cupcakes...

A treat of an opportunity recently fell onto our plates with Cupcakes & Bakes. After creating the logo, stationery and packaging - the next step was to design a website (which is currently in the works!) - and for that we needed some photography to show off the cupcake creations.

So last weekend we baked, iced, prepped the studio and clicked away to get as many shots as was acceptable before eating the 'stars of the show'. Below are some of the results for you to enjoy, keep tuned to see them showcased on their very own website...!

Ola Barcelona!

I have to be honest, it's taken me a few days to recover from my weekend break to Barcelona (a sure sign that I'm getting old). But it was worth it for the sights, food and Sangria!

My lovely friend Megan organised the trip, whilst my job was to navigate us around (I feel like I may have got the better end of the deal). In all honesty, I had high hopes of bumping into Javier Bardem but when this didn't happen I distracted myself with the view of the Sagrada Familia.

Megan and I are on the same wavelength when we'd prefer to sit down with a pint of Sangria over sightseeing, but you really can't avoid it in this place. And Gaudi's work is amazing. Instagram was obviously there to capture every moment and hopefully I managed to take some photos that do it justice. The La Pederena showed some of Gaudi's inspiration for these projects like animal bones, pine cones and tree branches, which you really start to notice after a while. It personally reminded me of the fantastical buildings you see in Tim Burton films like 'Corpse Bride' - intentionally sque-wiff.

After the obligatory sightseeing we strolled the streets in the aim to find the perfect place to eat or drink. I'm really particular/obsessive about where I eat (Megan was very patient with me), with anything from 'food pictures' or the chairs putting me off. But I have the opinion that you don't get many meals when you're abroad and every one should be perfect - otherwise it's too late you can't go and have another meal! Ok well you can but you'll be short of a few euros. In all though, I think we ate at some pretty lovely places. Tapas and Paella being the top of the list for menu choices.

The bars were also pretty cool - and yes I'm pretty particular about this too. If the place is busy then it's usually a good sign though. We had cocktails, Sangria and icecream in courtyard cafes, retro Hawaiian bars and meat filled deli bars. The perfect end to a Barcelona-filled day. To see more pictures, follow @TheInkCloset on Instagram.

The reason behind the bustling atmosphere at the Lavender Bakehouse

Though we now live about 45 minutes from the Lavender Bakehouse in Chalford, we still make an effort to go. Not only to see my Auntie (who owns the coffee shop) but also for my man to get his fix of their banana cake and espresso. My regular order of chocolate beetroot cake or meringue that arrives on beautiful vintage cutlery also makes it well worth the visit.

Yes, I may sound biased as she is my Auntie, but knowing how hard she’s worked and how successful she’s been with it not only makes me burst with pride but glad that everyone enjoys it as much as I do. Coming from the background of working in the headquarters of Delice de France, and the owner of millions of cooking books  - she had a good starting point. But her towers of home-made cakes, in-keeping lavender chairs and friendly staff are what makes it so popular with locals and the like. 

Being based in the artistic setting of Stroud (and with artistic locals like Damien Hirst and Lily Allen), it seemed only right utilise the upstairs space for a gallery/gift shop. The gift shop is home to beautiful scarfs and bags by Shruti and the gallery makes use of its arched ceiling and exposed beams to showcase some stunning local artwork.

I feel that good cake is always worth travelling for. And you can tell from the bustling atmosphere that many others feel the same.

20 London Road, Chalford, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL6 8NW