This Easter, I spent time down in Saundersfoot with my family and our dog Betsi. Our family life has definitely changed for the better since she joined us and it was lovely to see so many families on the beach, enjoying playing with their pooches.
Cardiff-based jewellery designer Lou Gray increased the size of her family with the addition of Marley, an almost 2 yr old Australian Labradoodle. As it is National Pet Month, I asked Lou to tell us a bit about how she has found dog ownership to be.
When did you first get Marley?
She came home to us when she was 10 weeks old from a local breeder.
How has she fitted in to family life?
Marley is definitely one of the family! She wants to be involved with everything that’s going on in the house - we include her in as many outings and trips as we can as she loves nothing more than being out and about with us all.
What are their favourite foods?
She’s super fussy, but will never turn her nose up at a bit of chicken or peanut butter stuffed toy!
What's been the biggest challenge?
Her extreme bounciness. I’m sure she has some kangaroo genes...
What is naughtiest/most embarrassing thing your pet has done? This list for Betsi is very long......
See above 🙈. I’m developing a thicker skin!!
Any advice for anyone looking to get a pet?
She’s changed my life for the better and I can’t imagine not living with a dog now. Obviously do plenty of research...and don’t underestimate the time and financial commitment.
As part of Lou's beautiful jewellery collection, Lou creates print jewellery so that you can keep your loved ones close to your heart and she tells me that she can do this from paw prints as well as human prints! So if you fancy getting a totally unique piece of jewellery that reminds you of your special furry friend, please get in touch with Lou.
It is indicative of the high standard of stalls at Little Otter Markets that many of our makers are also exhibiting their work at the renowned exhibition of contemporary craft Made by Hand held in City Hall, Cardiff this coming weekend - including poet and print maker Francesca Kay.
I love seeing Francesca Kay at our events. She has a fabulous personality and is such a lovely fun person to chat to. Her range consists of poems in seed packets and on postcards, lots of words made into letterpress prints, handmade books and badges - in fact, everything to do with the joy of words and ideas.
I asked Francesca to tell us how she spends her Christmas...
Come and meet Francesca Kay at Penarth's Handmade Market on Sunday 18th November 2018, 11-4pm in the Paget Rooms, Penarth.
I've been a big fan of the work of Nicky Barter of The Catkin Boutique ever since she joined us for the first ever Rhiwbina's Handmade Market way back in 2013.
Nicky designs and makes jewellery and prints from original animal illustrations. She loves to make items that are cute, quirky and that have a sense of fun. She designs and makes jewellery, totes and scarves from original illustrations, taking her inspiration from nature especially animals.
I asked Nicky how she spends Christmas and what she is looking forward to this festive season...
Nicky will be joining us at both our Christmas events this November:
Penarth's Handmade Market on Sunday 18th November at the Paget Rooms, Penarth and
Rhiwbina's Handmade Market on Sunday 25th November in the Memorial Hall, Rhiwbina.
Both events are open 11-4pm, £1.50 entry fee adults, kids free entry.
Since I started Little Otter Events, I have met so many talented makers and I love following them on social media and seeing their latest work.
Last year, Cardiff based Elena Floarea came along to our Rhiwbina and Penarth events selling her range of beautiful French macarons. Elena is an amazing baker and creates some truly stunning cakes. Recently I met up with Elena to find out where this talent came from and if she has always enjoyed baking....Introducing Elena...
When did you start baking?
I started when I was 16. I went to a culinary college and at the end of the course I won a french patisserie contest. The prize was an apprenticeship in France with one of the best French pastry chefs there was that year.
That’s when I fell in love with baking and creating delicious cakes and macarons.
Who was your biggest influence?
My mum always encouraged me to reach as high as I can. I went to France to complete the apprenticeship I’ve won because she encouraged and supported me. I was only 18 so she was my rock, helping me increase my confidence.
Where did you study?
I studied for my Culinary diploma at a college in Bucharest. Then in France I’ve received a french patisserie diploma for completing my apprenticeship and also been offered a 1.5 year contract with a popular french patisserie in France.
When did you start your own business?
I set up Lolo’s Cake Away in 2015.
Where do you get your creative ideas from?
I use a lot Pinterest for inspiration! I’m also part of many cake and wedding groups on Facebook where I can follow trends and see what people like most. Then combined with my knowledge and experience acquired over the last 12 years I try to get something different to ensure our customers like the suggested design.
What is the inspiration behind Lolo's Cake Away?
‘Lolo’ comes from Lawrence which is my partner and our gorgeous son Lawson (Lo-Lo). I was in my second year of uni studying Business Management at Cardiff Uni when my partner said he would help me set up the business and follow my dream. It was one of the best days ever and I went for it! Three years later Lolo’s Cake Away is a recognisable brand in Cardiff.
I’m also trying to make Majestic Macarons the best macaron business in Wales. We’re growing every day and maybe one day we will have a shop where we can combine cakes by Lolo’s Cake Away and delicious macarons by Majestic Macarons.
Do you have a favourite flavour cake/macaron?
I have quite a few favourites. However, Ferrero Rocher macarons are my no. 1 favourite ! I’ve mistakenly ate some from my order and realised I had to make some more
And my second favourite is pistachios macarons. It always reminds me of my trips to the Parisian patisseries in France.
As you can see I find it difficult to choose one favourite only! Guess I really love my job!
What is the longest time you have ever spent creating a cake?
One week was the longest time I’ve spent on making and creating a cake. It was for a four tier wedding cake with cascading roses in pink and yellow.
I loved the end result and the hard work definitely paid off! Sugar Flowers are very time consuming but when they’re finished they look so amazing it is worth all the time in the world.
The bride and groom were over the moon and I’ve receive so many compliments on design and skill.
Thanks so much Elena!
Elena's creations are absolutely amazing - she is on social media and regularly posts up photos of her latest work.
She is very kindly offering friends of Little Otter Events a 20% discount - so if you have a birthday, wedding or special occasion coming up, get in touch with Elena to discuss your ideas.
What an amazing maker! I want to get married all over again just so Elena can make me a cake!
If you have been along to a Little Otter Events market in the past five years, you will have no doubt discovered the work of Whitchurch based maker Lydia Niziblian. Lydia's work is always popular at our events and it is easy to see why - she creates such beautiful unique pieces and is continuously coming up with new ranges, and learning new techniques to expand her knowledge as a maker.
She has recently added stunning jewellery made with a technique called Keum-boo. I asked Lydia to write a guestblog to explain the ancient technique and to introduce us to her new range.....over to you Lyd...
One of my favourite things about making jewellery is its therapeutic qualities. I often find myself making according to my mood. At one end there is hammering and forming heavy jewellery which can really release some tension! At the other end of the scale there are some very delicate, almost Zen like practices. My favourite of these is keum-boo. Keum-boo (pronounced kum boo) is an ancient gilding technique originating in Korea. I first started using the process a little over 5 years ago, and it’s become a firm favourite.
Keum-boo (meaning ͞attached gold͟) is the application of thin 24ct gold foil to the surface of metal; in this case silver. Sterling silver must be prepared by repeatedly heating the silver, quenching it, and soaking it in jewellers’ pickle. Pickle covers a variety of available mild acid solutions, although a mix of distilled vinegar and salt work as well! Some people like to brush it with a brass brush in soapy water between repetitions. After numerous soakings, the silver takes on a white appearance. This means a layer of fine silver has been brought to the surface. Now you can apply the gold foil using a combination of heat and pressure. I prefer the piece of jewellery to be pretty much finished; all soldering finished and settings in place.
Some folk use a hot plate; I prefer a butane torch as I find I get a little more control. Using a steel or agate burnisher, you tack and rub the foil into place. How the piece is finished can vary tremendously; I like to either brush the piece with a brass brush, or oxidise or patinate it for contrast.
You can treat yourself (or a lucky friend!) by using code LITTLEOTTER at checkout in my shop to get 25% off any of my ready-made jewellery until June 1st*
*offer excludes made to order items and gift vouchers
I am still smiling when thinking about the Royal Wedding last Saturday between Prince Harry and Megan Markle. Wasn't it a beautiful day! So inclusive and joyful. And having watched Prince Harry at his Mother's funeral all those years ago, I felt so happy to see him look so happy.
More details have emerged from The Royal Wedding reception at Frogmore House where the guests were served amongst other sweet treats, champagne and pistachio macarons. If you are planning a wedding, macarons are definitely a popular choice as they are available in so many flavours and colours and can fit around any theme.
I asked Elena Floarea of Cardiff-based Majestic Macarons what the most popular colours are this year...
Elena explained, "The most popular colour this year so far has been the white and blush pink macarons and also the rose gold macarons . 90% of orders that are placed are for wedding favours and the other 10% of orders are for macaron towers."
As well as being given as favours, there are so many beautiful ways that macarons can be incorporated in to a wedding cake design too. Here are some recent examples of Elena's work....
So pretty......with a selection of macarons nestled amongst the gypsophila and roses.
Classic and simple....the macarons matched the colour of the brides floral bouquet.
Calling all brides! Elena is offering friends of Little Otter Events a 20% discount as well so get in touch with her asap if you'd like to take up this offer.
Royal wedding fever has hit the UK this week ahead of the wedding of Prince Harry to Megan Markle this Saturday 19th May. Even if you aren’t a royalist, this weekend provides the perfect excuse to get together with family and friends to join in the celebrations.
There has been lots of speculation as to what food will be served at the Windsor Castle reception this weekend. We know that Megan and Harry will be having a lemon and elderflower cake decorated with edible flowers - so chic. But I wonder if the very stylish MM will have chosen to feature the popular choice of many modern brides - macaron favours.
I caught up with Elena Floarea of Cardiff-based Majestic Macarons to find out more about the macaron and its history - it turns out that it was originally created for a royal wedding!
Elena explained, “Created for a royal wedding back in the 16th century in Italy, a macaron is a sweet meringue-based confection made with egg white, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond powder or ground almond, and food colouring.
“The macaron was introduced by the chef of Catherine de Medicis in 1533 at the time of her marriage to the Duc d'Orleans. Catherine de' Medici, daughter of Lorenzo II de' Medici and of Madeleine de La Tour d'Auvergne, was an Italian noblewoman who was queen of France from 1547 until 1559, by marriage to King Henry II."
“The term "macaron" has the same origin as that the word "macaroni" -- both mean "fine dough". And originally the macaron was like a cookie in size. But only at the beginning of the 20th century did the macaron become a “double-decker” affair.”
Ladurée, the famous Parisian pastry shop could very well be most associated with the modern-style macarons today. The shop was founded in 1862, but it was not until the early twentieth century that Pierre Desfontaines, grandson of Louis Ernest Ladurée, had the idea of piping ganache on a shell and topping it with another. So the modern day macaron was born presented with a ganache, buttercream or jam filling sandwiched between two such cookies.
Over the last fifteen years, the popularity of the macaron has travelled across the Channel. In 2005, Laduree opened a store in London’s Harrods, and positioned the macaron as a luxury confectionery.
Today macarons have become a popular sweet to appear on afternoon tea menus across the UK and they are very popular at wedding receptions and other parties. But what is it about this little sweet treat that appeals to so many people?
Elena explained, “With such an amazing range of colours and flavours available, the macaron can be perfectly tailored to suit any wedding colour scheme or favourite flavour of the recipient. Apparently Megan is a big fan of green so will we be seeing any green pistachio macarons on the table this weekend?”
I can’t wait to find out and will be watching from the sofa this weekend. I might even put the bunting out!
** If you are planning a wedding or party and want to include macarons, Elena Floarea of Majestic Macarons is offering Little Otter Friends 20% discount. Visit Elena's directory page to get in touch. **
April Liddell. Founder of Little Otter Markets. Lives a crafty life. Loves going for walks with her dog Betsi, listening to music, and eating chelsea buns.