2013 has been a roller coaster of a year for myself but, with lots of fantastically fun shenanigans throughout, I can tell you!
In fact, life really has changed within the last 12 months, starting with a redundancy in my day job (I was working in Customer Service & Social Media Marketing for a well known online retailer throughout 2011 & 2012), which actually led me to finally being my own boss in 2013 (Hurrah!) through to radio & television appearances and the meeting of some truly amazing people along the way.
I can assure you that I will be trooping on into 2014 with my head held high, full of MANY more plans, including an “Afternoon Tea & Hosting Course” for individuals wanting to be a perfect “domestic goddess” and for tearooms and organisations within the hospitality industry too, so watch this space or email me for more info...
I do love this time of year, it’s a time to reflect on everything we have achieved and done with our lives, so why not leave me a comment below with the fun & interesting things YOU (my lovely readers) have got up to during 2013 too!? – I’d love to hear from you : )
So… to my highs of 2013:
After seeing the New Year in with friends and a triple layer chocolate mousse, January started with a funeral & a few weeks later, a sombre cuppa at Wimpole hall with the partner of a dear friend of whom we sadly lost at the end of 2012, it was a very sad start to the year and not a week goes past without thinking about Shelley, she was a truly lovely young lady and she was a monumental part of my new website, helping me to write the content, of which was getting ready to be launched (from “The Secluded Tea Party” to “Miss Sue Flay”).
I was made redundant straight after Xmas, we knew it was coming & my backup plan was ready and waiting… I was to become “Miss Sue Flay” on a more full time basis – gulp!
Baking lessons had commenced in my student’s own homes and I tried out a group of “test students” including Mark, Maria, Emma, Lauren & the lovely Leah-Ann – I can’t thank them enough for their help in ironing out the creases ready to unleash me on the rest of the Shire!
I was encouraged to put a recipe forward for ” The Clandestine Cake Club” book and my “Tuck Shop Cake” was picked (Page 210) and the book launched on Valentine’s day – exciting!
It was “National Baked Alaska” day & I got creative & made a mocha flavoured creation as well as giving an American-insired “Snickers Pie” recipe a good go – yum!
I went wine tasting with my lovely friend Alexa (of Clandestine Gourmet Supperclub), I tried my very first “Steak & Honour” burger at their “Fitzbillies” pop-up & got hooked, I visited Betty’s of Harrogate to record a piece on Afternoon Tea Etiquette for BBC Radio 4 and gained my confidence (& blogged about my eating disorder issues) during a makeover & photo shoot for the Cambridge Evening News – Making friends with the stunning Dorothy from John Lewis as a result.
“D’Licious” coffee bar in Histon kept me in coffee & cake during a stressful redundancy experience – gosh, I miss those guys & their white hot chocolate!
I offered my local expertise and showed the gorgeous Jen from “Great Cake Places” the best Cambridgeshire hotspots for tea & cake, most of which have made it to the 2014 book!
My inner geek came out and LOVED hosting a Quentin Tarantino-inspired tea party for some of my lovely guests… “Tearantino” – Not for the faint-hearted!
This was a very exciting month, including a book launch party at Waterstones in Cambridge for the CCC book (mentioned above), I started a part time “Household Management” job for a Cambridgeshire family & ended up preparing a fun birthday party spread for one of the boys, I even got to jump on a bouncy castle for a bit teehee.
William Hanson popped down to co-host my own take on a formal dining event, “Dine Like Downton” of which I planned for months in advance, but thoroughly enjoyed through to the next morning where we enjoyed a civilised fireside breakfast at a local luxury B&B. Dine Like Downton attracted many different guests, including a Baroness from The Netherlands and we made it to the “Financial Times” food section thanks to Tim Hayward, a superb guest he was too.
I appeared on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire with Mark rumble to do his “music of my life” slot and I headed to the David Bowie exhibition, followed by William curley’s “Japanese Rituals” afternoon tea at The Halkin.
Following a Weightwatchers competition, I won a one-to-one lunch with BBC “Masterchef”‘s Gregg Wallace at his place in Putney. The food was fabulous, the company was…ERM… An education ; )
Blog posts included how to make the perfect egg & cress finger sandwich, a guest post from Redbush tea and my guide on how to host a “Breaking Bad” themed tea party… I got addicted (quite literally!) to this show, it’s truly awesome! Even Charles Baker aka Skinny Pete got Tweeting with me about their wrap parties – eek!
I agreed to host a very special guest in my home for a private baking lesson and afternoon tea etiquette workshop, Japan’s equivalent to Britney Spears, a pop star named Mai Kuraki. What a fantastic experience and a beautiful and polite young lady, what an honour!
William Hanson hopped back down to Cambridge to co-host another large afternoon tea etiquette workshop at Hotel Du Vin on my birthday weekend, I always love our events, such fun as always – followed by a surprise dinner at “Hole In the Wall” where owner, Alex Rushmer brought out my pudding with candles in, he’s a gem!
I joined Gerla at Cambridge Food Tours for a day of food and drink by foot, gave up supermarkets and chain shopping for a little while, reviewed Hot Numbers coffee shop on Gwydir street, sold off my afternoon tea props to focus on my workshops and got involved in the Cambridge Bake Off as a judge.
Household Management turned nerdy for me when I headed to Cheshire to join a 3 day course with “The English Manner” where I learnt how to run a large home perfectly.
The Angel Hotel in Bury came to me to request my company at a bloggers event for the opening of their newly opened Wingspan bar and I enjoyed a fabulous stay and afternoon tea the very next day to boot.
My new website, Misssueflay.com launched and a new logo was designed alongside it, revamping to a more demure look for my alter ego! I celebrated 3 years since I started my “Secluded Tea Party/Miss Sue Flay” journey.
My very first burlesque night saw me dressing up and schmoozing with the eclectic Cambridge crowd, bumping into some friendly faces and guests of my own past events at the Midnight ball at Anstey Hall. Thanks to Jamie & Magz for inviting me, I had a ball (literally!)
John Lewis in Cambridge agreed to let me use their super afternoon tea for my smaller afternoon tea etiquette workshops and the lovely Dorothy from the fashion department and Katy, a Twitter friend joined me to dry run the workshop, completely glitch free. JL also hosted a charity event for The Papworth Trust, where I was asked me to help judge a “Masterchef” style event.
The first round of the Cambridge Bake Off commenced and we munched our way through over 75 chocolate cakes and I then went off that same afternoon to teach a baby shower baking party, where I taught 8 ladies to make… A chocolate cake!
My readers could ask me anything. Anything at all.
I hosted Blogfest 2013 with guest speakers including Lynn Hill, ReeRee Rockette & Liquid Photo for a day of blog inspiration…we even had cake from world- famous Mr Cake!
Poets House in Ely opened and I was invited to enjoy their stunning afternoon tea with Leah Jenson, Executive Chef for a wonderful rainy afternoon curled up on their trendy sofa.
I was invited to the very exclusive “Ice House Festival” by the lovely Emma and had a ball sipping on local drafts and camping in the middle of their Cambridgeshire fields ; )
Cara treated her best friend to a baking lesson in her Ely-based flat whilst she was visiting from South Africa, I had a blast teaching these ladies!
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire started coming to me for etiquette advice… Blimey!
Working alone really doesn’t feel like working alone and I blogged as to why.
After a chat via (good old!) Twitter, I found myself at an old workplace, Star Radio, for a food & drink show interview with the charismatic Mark Peters, messing about as we did back in the day! I also helped a friend of mine as she created & hosted her very first Indian-inspired afternoon tea Popup.
I Helped an old friend from my previous job to write his film script, of which is now about to be made – watch out for a new slasher movie filmed in New York… If only I could fly out there and be part of it during the coming months, gutted truly that I can’t afford to do so!
I reviewed Balzano’s Deli and also joined forces with “Cambridge Bathrooms & Kitchens” on Mill Road for a baking lesson for Independent Retail month, it was beyond hot in the kitchen, with the temperature outside being 33*c – oof!
Ravenwood Hall was made home for a couple of days – to say it was a hot week would be an understatement, but an outdoor pool and an old oak bedroom was just the ticket for a relaxing mini break. This kick-started my “Secret Stays & Reviews” webpage.
A photo shoot at Teacake of Shepreth took place with the talented Debbie Wallwork, who helped me to piece together an afternoon tea etiquette (the do’s & dont’s of) shoot for an upcoming presentation.
“The Secret Garden Party”, a local music festival enabled me to enjoy my first visit and I partied for 4 whole days, as well as it inspiring me to talk about a piece on “Festival etiquette” with BBC Radio Cambs (becoming quite the contributor haha, nerd that I am!).
I started a semi-regular slot with BBC Radio Cambs on the “Story of the week” piece with Mark Rumble, with some tongue in cheek newspaper stories to waffle about together, great fun!
Shropshire was calling for me to join the ladies (& gents) at the “Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club” for. Presentation (gulp) to 100 members on the etiquette of afternoon tea – what a great crowd!
Bedford Lodge Hotel in Newmarket invited me and two young male companions to enjoy their afternoon tea, it certainly was a show stopping spread.
After some frustrating conversations with friends who own and work in coffee shops and Tearooms (nationwide, not just in Cambridge!) I wrote a piece on coffee shop etiquette…worth a read if you work from coffee shops yourself – even I learnt a thing or two! This led to a new page on my website – The Lost Art Of Etiquette, of which I intend to add to over the coming months…
Local Secrets, an online “what’s on” guide asked me to write a piece on how to host a garden party, following this, I was asked to become an Independent reviewer and writer for them and so, a new writing project started for me follows the end of “The Cambridgeshire Journal Magazine”… Sad, but new times!
This month was welcomed (or not so…!) with a set of broken fingers and an afternoon in A&E thanks to my accident prone nature – I slammed them in my car boot, oof!
I was asked to help Lynn Hill on the CCC stand at the “Cake & Bake Show”, finally enabling me to catch up with one of the other CCC hosts, the Gawjus Andrew. We got to meet loads of baking celebs including Ed Kimber, Dan Lepard, Paul A Young, Ms. Cupcake and my baking idol, the stunning Charlotte from Restoration Cake.
The Vintage & Alternative Wedding fair asked me to do a talk to newly engaged couples about afternoon tea at your wedding. I joined forces with Lina of Liquid Photo and we nattered about the negatives more than the positives haha…I fear we may have scared some couples into reality, but the feedback was encouraging and I think it helped – hurrah.
Talking about a book idea with publishers, we shall see what comes of the plans in 2014!
Baking lessons were enjoyed with Sarah (a runner up from the Cambridge Bake Off), Jane and her fabulous family and Tania & Daisy for a birthday party baking lesson.
My “Secret Stays & Reviews” took me to Hanbury Manor in Herts (twice!) & to Norfolk for a stay in a luxury spa room at The Pigs B&B, an afternoon tea retreat at Congham Hall Hotel & Spa and a visit to Sandringham House to indulge my housekeeping geekery. I also stumbled upon The funky Mackerel Cafe in Sheringham, where I learnt a very valuable lesson in snobbery.
I hosted a private afternoon tea etiquette workshop with Kath, who’s brother had treated her and a friend to for her birthday, they were both great fun to dine with.
Cake International in Birmingham beckoned, where I visited on the press day with Lynn as a catch up day, of which we used to gossip, plot, scheme and we even met up with the lovely gent behind “NordicWare UK” who specialise in making Bundt tins.
The Geographer in Histon went under my review after the owners took on a property I had personally considered (but wasn’t ready financially) to take on as a pretty village tearoom.
My bespoke housekeeping services were offered through my website.
I wrote a piece on trick or treating etiquette for a chuckle.
Kenwood delivered a very exciting package for me to review and get baking with
The Alan Titchmarsh Show invited me head down to the ITV studios for a tv appearance on “Biscuit Dunking” (Alan was as lovely as I had hoped he would be and I shared a table with Pudsey the dog amongst other names haha) .. I’m a dunker, but I was happy to go along with the evil etiquette opinions hehe ; )
I visited the “Cambridge Alternative Network” at the Royal Cambridge Hotel, thanks to Antonia at MAGPAS for inviting me and there, I met Sarah at Primal Performance… I was soon to find out just how life changing she was going to be for me!
A family wedding took me to Somerset to a stunning country retreat.
I drove down to London to visit the World Travel Market, inspiring is an understatement! I can’t thank Vanessa enough for her support in this new area of my life, 2014 will see plans for more travel, hopefully working alongside this mystery lady ; )
Angel Adoree hosted her very last “Hospitality Academy” at her Vintage Patisserie in Hackney. I joined 7 other ladies on this one day course and we celebrated in style as we wished her good luck in her new ventures, what a girl!
Sketch in London invited me for cocktails and a very exciting meeting…plans afoot!
Regus, a serviced office and conferencing organisation offered me a prize through a social media competition, I won a “Business Lounge Pass” for a year and intend to use it on my travels.
I finished a 6 week personal training session with Sarah at Primal Performance and managed to lose a stone & a half before Xmas! Plenty more work to put into practice for the new year, but a pretty good start… I even tried out Hot Yoga, even if it wasn’t for me ; )
Santa was waiting for me not he Audley End Christmas Train – What a treat!
My modern manners advent calendar got a few conversations going on Twitter!
Christmas cake was prepared using my new Kenwood Titanium and we went against tradition, using 43, a vanilla flavoured liqueur to flavour the fruit, it was delicious!
Xmas Eve saw us headed to the cinema to see the second round of “The Hobbit” with some friends. It was a great way to spend the night before Christmas and I’m tempted to chill out that way again next year.
Santa brought me even more nerd-taste fuel in the form of a napkin folding book, so I wrote a piece on starching your napkins, might you find this useful!
January 2014 – TBC!
HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone, I really hope that you had a fabulous Christmas and that Santa brought you everything you deserve (even if it might be a lump of coal ; )
I’d also LOVE to know what 2013 brought to your life… do leave a comment below and share your stories, tips and exciting adventures, it would be FANTASTIC to hear from you too!
What are your New Year’s Resolutions? What ideas, dreams, plans or schemes do you have the New Year?
See you on the other side…