Sunday, June 30, 2013

321 Days: Riverdale Barn, Aghagallon

Last Monday Jim and I finally visited Riverdale together.  My brothers kindly agreed to drive us there and take some snaps of the venue and grounds while we chatted with Oonagh. There were quite a few pictures so I’ve selected some of my favourites.
NB. some of the pictures are panoramic and this has made things look a bit curvy!

Riverdale has two barns which sit side by side. We were keen to have our ceremony and reception in the same place to minimise travel time and give us and our guests more time to have fun - so will have our wedding in the smaller barn with the gorgeous porthole windows, and our food and dancing in the other.  In the evening our guests can relax and chat in the smaller barn while the music carries-on across the courtyard.

Smaller Barn - I had a bit of a practice at walking up the imaginary aisle here. :)
They've added a covered walkway between the barns which will allow seamless and dry movement between both barns (and the bar) regardless of the weather - very useful considering Northern Ireland's tendancy to rain or possibly snow in all the wrong seasons!! Since my last visit they've changed the flooring in the smaller barn and added some doors in the archways which still allow lots of light in.  They've also added a gorgeous wood burner but I hope we don't need to use it.

We've decided to have a sitdown meal for our wedding reception, which will be held in the larger barn.  The venue will be at capacity with our guest numbers (around 140 people) but there will still be plenty of space to move around.  Guests will be seated at long banquet tables which we hope will encourage more conversations, allowing our guests to get to know one another and make great memories.
Larger Barn where we will eat and dance
There are lots of great places for photographs and if the weather is nice our guests will be able to explore the grounds. If the weather is not so nice there are lots of covered areas for photographs and the gorgeous stone walls are a perfect indoor backdrop too.

It was also great to see Riverdale in spring/summer which is when our wedding will be.  When I first visited it was autumn, so it was great to see it full of life.
We also had a wander round the grounds. I LOVE the stepping stones across the water (below) but as the clumsiest person alive, I have horrible visions of me falling in.

In the evening Riverdale is a vision of lights and candles, and hopefully, under a clear night sky full of stars our friends and family can enjoy drinking and dining al fresco, possibly with Riverdale's great outdoor BBQ.

We can’t wait ‘til next May to see Riverdale full of our family and friends.

Riverdale Facebook Page


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Vegan Cupcake Bake-Off - Chocolate Avocado Frosting

The first proper cupcake I tasted was in New York in 2006 on our last family holiday.  I had dragged my brother, Richard, on the Sex and the City tour and as part of the tour they took us to Carrie’s stoop which is close the very famous Magnolia Bakery.  We had a classic vanilla cupcake in a park close to the bakery and I was hooked! I’d baked fairy cakes and ‘lost cherry’ buns with my Grandma when I was little, decorating them with lots of multi coloured icing (the water & icing sugar kind). They were great but these cupcakes tasted different; light and fluffy with the perfect amount of gorgeous buttercream frosting! Since then I’ve been a little bit cupcake crazy and am constantly on the hunt for cupcakes that taste as good as that very first vanilla cupcake.
Cupcakes & Cava Birthday Party '10
There was never any doubt in my mind about cupcakes for our wedding and the so the hunt began for a vegan cupcake recipe.  I was doubtful I’d find a recipe that would match up to a non-vegan cupcake, as I’m a big fan of both buttercream and cream cheese frosting but the challenge was set.

First up is a vegan frosting suggestion from Fiona (Jim's sister).  She’d recommended trying avocado in the icing. I was a bit skeptical   We love avocados as guacamole but I wasn't sure how this frosting would taste but I  found some great recipes on some of my favourite websites and gave it a go last night.

Click below to see how I go on.

Monday, June 10, 2013

341 Days : My Bridesmaids

Celebrating with friends and family has been top of our wedding check list since Jim proposed.  We are both very lucky to be close to our families and to have some really amazing groups of friends. So when it came to choosing bridesmaids I had a task on my hands! I realised having a whole squad of bridesmaids was going to prove quite expensive so I decided that I wanted to have just family.  Jim has two sisters and I always knew I wanted to have them as my bridesmaids.  I don't have sisters of my own but having known them both for nearly eleven years they feel more like my sisters now, which I love!!

Fiona is just a couple of years younger than me and we used to go to lots of gigs together when we both lived at home.  When I moved to Belfast for Uni she'd sometimes come up to stay for the weekend, when we'd drink cider and blackcurrant and go to gigs in The Front Page (with the lovely Miss Baxter). In my second year of Uni, Fee and I shared a house with Charlotte & Siobhan - which became the infamous '40 Dunluce Avenue'. We had a lot of fun in that house!! Fiona had a gorgeous baby girl in January who we're very excited to have as our flower girl!

Jenny was quite young when Jim and I first met so I didn't get to know her as quickly, but I always saw her when I visited Jim at home and she came to visit Fiona and I a few times in Belfast .  Like Fiona, Jenny has always made me feel so welcome. She has a vast and enviable wardrobe (quite possibly only beaten in size by our niece) which she has often opened up, without question, to dress me for weddings and nights out!
I have very hilarious memories spanning a decade (!!) of the three of us: in Dublin causing havoc on an ice rink (unintentionally of course); various birthday parties in beach caves or in fancy dress nights! lol.  I also have a rather interesting collection of pictures from over the years. Like Jim, they are both great cooks.  Fiona arranged the food for our engagement party last year and Jenny baked amazing cupcakes. They got lots of compliments!  They are always there to listen to whatever I've got going on, they make me laugh, they are generous to a fault, and I know that we'd all look out for each other.  If I could have chosen sisters, I reckon I would have chosen them!

We're going to have so much fun arranging bits and pieces for the wedding.  So far they've been been great and very supportive with any dress ideas I've sent their way.  They both know how to organise a great party so I'm looking forward to whatever they organise for my Hen Party (with only slight worry - they've been told Strictly NO Strippers!!) 

You only get one chance to plan your dream wedding day and I'm so glad Fiona and Jenny will be beside me on the day as my new sisters but that's not neglecting how important my bestfriends are to me.

Some have been my best friends since school - they patiently let me bark orders at talent show rehearsals, they shared my stationery obsession, they joined me on extremely long Sunday afternoon walks and youth club trips, we shared H7 moments, they holidayed with me and my family.  These girls have known me for such a long time, and I love that we've grown up together and that they know me so well. I can always turn to them when I miss home, or have a problem.  When I was in hospital recently there wasn't a moment that went by when one of them wasn't Whats App-ing me to see how I was doing, or sending me THE CUTEST videos ever of their adorable kids to cheer me up!! I miss them dreadfully while I'm here in England, but the moment I get home for a visit it's like we've never been apart.

Other friends I met when I started uni.  It's as if Queen's Uni knew we'd all get on when they squeezed us into Chestnut Crescent, because nine years later the Camden Crew is still going strong.  We had some very fun times in 'Camden' - with Eason's bags, sunbathing in the garden, BBQs, paralyser, nights out in Newry, Red Bull fuelled 'study' sessions, Wednesday night dinners, girlie nights all squished in a single bed, LOTS of Dominos pizza, and most recently attending our first Camden wedding when our tallest member married his beautiful fiance. Having lived with me for two years this lot have seen me at my best and at my worst

Having these solid, loving friendships around me makes me feel invincible. I love all these guys with all my heart for so many reasons.  Having their smiling, supportive faces there as I walk up the aisle to marry Jim will be a crucial part of our dream Wedding day, just as they've played an integral part in my life since the day I was fortunate enough to meet them.