Living the Cream….a new beginning (sort of)

I haven’t posted a blog for a while as I have found it quite difficult to pen to paper….well fingers to keys but you know what I mean. Writers block and all that…

After I losing my father to cancer nearly 2 years ago my wife and I agreed that we should relocate the business to the East Midlands so that we could be nearer to her elderly parents. It made sense as I no longer had any real connection to Somerset any more. I was born and bred in Somerset however my parents moved to Lincolnshire when I was 8 years old. My father was a long distance lorry driver, he’d lost his license after a bad road accident where someone lost their life. They wanted to make new start so became publicans and ran a pub in Billingborough, The George and Dragon.

My father had been a lorry driver all of his life…it was in his blood. He loved to travel and visit new places, we’d also never be short of produce that used to “fall off the back of the lorry”. I used to spend all my school holidays accompanying him on a lot of his journeys, a bit of it rubbed off on me too. He returned to the haulage industry once he’d got his license back leaving my mother to run the pub by herself…unfortunately the stress of running the pub by herself and the fact he’d gone back to driving ended up in them getting a divorce when I was just 12. He returned to Somerset and I remained with my mother in Lincolnshire.

In 2001, after I’d split from my girlfriend at the time, I decided to make a new start and return to my roots in Somerset and also to be nearer to my father. We’d always been close but had sort of lost touch in my teenage years and 20’s. I’d always had great memories of Somerset, it’s where I remember my parents “being together”. Samantha, the girlfriend from Lincolnshire who’d I’d parted company from, decided that she could no longer live without me and also relocated to Somerton, Somerset to make a fresh start. We married 2 years ago, 2 weeks before my father my passed away.

So as you can see I’ve bounced backwards and forwards between Somerset and Lincolnshire all my life, I’ll admit I wasn’t looking forward to returning. I’d always blamed the move to Lincolnshire as the reason why my parents divorced……

A custom ice cream tricycle for any occasion

I’m always thinking of ideas of how to add value to my service. I’ve designed a few custom panels that can be fitted to the outside of the freezer so that a customer can choose which colour scheme they would like. After testing a few on social media these are the three that I finally arrived with. I’ve tried to give them a vintage/retro feel and chose colours which I think would be appealing. A suitable coloured parasol will also be attached to the ice cream tricycle.

panel_apanel_dside_panel_c

For a bit of fun, I’ve also created a Game of Thrones style design too. I’m hoping someone in the near future may decide on a themed wedding or event.

Game of Thrones

Game of Cones, Mint Choc is coming

 

How much Pimms do I need for my DIY Wedding?

Because I dry hire out my Pimms bike I often get asked how many bottles of Pimms/Lemonade would the customer need to buy for a certain number of guests.

I had a peep online and found this guideline which is quite helpful and should also give you a rough idea of cost. Pimms is usually mixed on a 3 to 1 ratio. Also remember that by the time you’ve added fruit and ice it will stretch a bit further too.

Based on 100 guests having 1 serving of Pimms in 70ml glasses here’s what you would need:

2 x 1 litre bottles of Pimms approx £15 a bottle £30
6 x litres of lemonade approx 50p per litre £3
Strawberries, Orange, Cucumber, Mint and ice to garnish
33p per per serving*

Based on 100 guests having 1 serving of Pimms in 340ml hi-ball glasses here’s what you would need:

9 x 1 litre bottles of Pimms approx £15 per bottle £135
27 x litres of lemonade approx 50 per litre £13.50
Strawberries, Orange, Cucumber, Mint and ice to garnish
£1.49 per serving*

A novel idea is to serve your Pimms in jam jars with a straw.
Based on 100 guests having 1 serving of Pimms in 200ml jam jar here’s what you would need:

5 x 1 litre bottles of Pimms approx £15 per bottle £75
15 x litres of lemonade approx 50 per litre £7.50
Strawberries, Orange, Cucumber, Mint and ice to garnish
83p per serving*

I hope this helps

Download our Pimms Calculator

*Prices as of April 2014, based on buying from Tesco

pimms

 

One for the scrap book…..

Around May last year I got a phone call from an events company who were hosting a “corporate picnic” near Bristol. I submitted a quotation which they duly accepted and said they would be in touch nearer the time to confirm details.

Two weeks before the event I dropped the company email to find out where and when I would be required. The location was Hanham Court near Bristol, a Sunday in June. I did what I usually would do and googled the venue and followed them on twitter. I sent them a tweet telling them how much I was looking forward to visiting their lovely house for the corporate picnic. They responded with thanks and said it was a bit more than just a picnic and I may recognise some of the guests…..I was intrigued.

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The following day I called the events company and asked them out straight who the function was for as I had an inclination that it could be a high brow event. It turns out that it was for Hamish Bowles’s 50th birthday party, the International Editor at Large for non other than Vogue.

Later that day I was emailed a production booklet for the day which listed some of the other suppliers that were going to be key to the day. Kitty Arden, florist to the Queen, chef Margot Henderson and celebrity photographer Merry Brownfield were a few names on the list.

Production Booklet download

To say I was nervous and quite excited was an understatement and immediately went into panic mode. Was my current set up going to be suitable enough? What was I going to wear etc, etc.

My side table of treats was my first priority, I couldn’t present my sauces and sprinkles in plastic containers as I had previously. I nipped into Somerton to do a spot of shopping and found just what I wanted in the first shop, stacking, glass sauces bottles and some sundae dishes and spoons which would be perfect for my sprinkles.image

The big day arrived, I arrived at Hanham Court and was shown my spot in the garden. I must have got there a couple of hours earlier than I should as it was a hot day and didn’t want to rush to set up.

I had been wondering who some of the guests might be, the first chap I spotted was Gordon from the TV program Four Rooms. Gradually more people arrived, I must admit I didn’t recognise many of them but I could tell they must be big in the fashion world. John Taylor from Duran, Duran was the only person I spotted, he was quite partial to Rhubarb and Custard ice cream.

I later discovered that shoe designers Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, Bruno Frisoni, and Nicholas Kirkwood were there as well as fashion photographer Mario Testino. Here’s a link to an article on the Vogue website which describes the day and also has a few images. Me and my tricycle appear in a few of them, I never imagined I would ever appear in Vogue.

http://www.vogue.com/parties/three-parties-to-fete-hamish-bowles-50th-birthday-in-the-english-countryside/

Hamish-Birthday-Sunday-H-80-21_18560564828.jpg_carousel_partiesHamish-Birthday-Sunday-H-62-21_185604229733.jpg_carousel_parties

 

Living the Cream meets Off Their Rockers

Last year I was approached by a TV production company who were filming for a new series of “Off their rockers”. It’s a hidden camera show based around OAP’s who try and catch out unsuspecting members of the general public. They were filming a sketch in Newquay and required an ice cream tricycle. I don’t want to tell what the sketch involved but here’s a picture of the main character, Seb, stood next to my trike.

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It was very interesting to see how the program is made. Cameras were concealed inside prams, I had to wear a hidden ear piece and microphone and took directions from the producer. They finally got some footage after 3 failed attempts, many of the victims recognised Seb from last years series however a couple of lads fell foul. The new series starts tonight, Sunday, at 7.30pm tonight. Keep those eyes peeled.

10 reasons to serve ice cream at your wedding

I was once asked why ice cream is suitable for weddings. I thought about it for a while wondering what would be the best way to present the information and how I could make it effective. So here’s what I arrived with, a list.

Ice Cream at Weddings

Ice Cream at Weddings

10 reasons to serve ice cream at your wedding, in no particular order:

1. It’s Fun (No explanation required)
2. It’s Memorable (Can you remember what you had for dessert at the last wedding you attended?)
3. Kids love it (Put something fancy in front of their noses and they don’t want to know)
4. It’s cool (Like Fonzy, if unsure ask your parents)
5. No washing up (Either eat the cone or throw the tub in the bin, result)
6. Variety of flavours (Lemon meringue, Rhubarb & Custard, Turkish Delight and safe old Vanilla. There’s something to suit everyone)
7. It’s cold (Different to cool, ideal on a hot day)
8. The accompaniments (Colourful plastic spoons, cardboard tubs, flakes, sauces etc.)
9. Cost effective (Wedding catering can cost between £25 – £50 per head, ice cream’s less than £2.50)
10. No preparation (No cooking required, just scoop and you’re away)

So there you go, I did think of a couple more reasons but I wanted to stick to 10. I’d love to hear your suggestions too.

How to cook the perfect chestnut

My previous experience of cooking chestnuts had always been very hit and miss, they’d either be burnt to a crisp or raw. Here’s my method which produces pretty good results. Like all jobs that are done properly, it’s all in the preparation and selecting the right produce. Chestnuts can be prepared up to 3 days in advance and then refrigerated until to you need to roast them.

What you’re going to need:
Chinese chestnuts
Salt
A Pan of hot water
A small serrated knife (I use a steak knife)
Gas powered griddle, BBQ, wood burning stove, fire or an oven.
Tongs (So you don’t burn your fingers)
A chestnut pan (If using a wood burning stove or fire)

1. If you going to buy chestnuts then go for the Chinese variety. They tend to be better quality and large in size.

2. Before cooking the chestnuts you need to cut the shells. There are 2 reasons for this; 1) to stop them exploding when they are roasting 2) It will make them easier to peel once roasted. Take a small serrated knife, I use a steak knife, and cut the shells on the curved side from front to back. Not too deep, just enough to cut or score the outside of the shell.

3. Pop your nuts into a pan of salty water and bring to the boil. Take the pan off the boil and leave for 10 minutes before draining. Boiling them first more or less guarantees that the flesh will be soft inside and not raw.

4. Let the nuts cool and then refrigerate for later use or cook them straight away.

5. There are several ways that you can roast your nuts. I cook them over a gas-powered griddle, you could use a BBQ, wood burning stove, an open fire or alternatively pop them in the oven. When cooking over gas place the nuts with the cut side facing down for around 5 mins minutes, turn over and cook for a further 5 mins. Don’t worry if the shells start to burn as this adds a nice smokey flavour to the chestnuts, not only that but it also makes them easier to peel. If using an oven, place the chestnuts on a baking tray and cook and cook for 10-15 minutes at around 200 degrees C until the shells split open.

6. Let the nuts rest for 5 mins, either pop them in a paper bag or a tea towel. They will then steam under their own heat and make then easier to peel,they will be also be cooler and you won’t burn your fingers.

7. Eat your chestnuts, add salt to taste if required. Enjoy.

The worthy winners of my vintage ice cream experience

Back in August I set a competition so that a lucky couple could win a vintage style ice cream experience for their special day. The couple with the most heart warming and interesting story would win the coveted prize. Here is Tara and Matt’s amazing story, I’m sure you will agree they are rightful winners.

“My name is Tara Donoghue and the name of my fiance is Matthew Oliver and we are getting married in August 2013 at Stonewall Manor, Frome.

So let’s start at the beginning… Matt and I first met in 2004 when I got my first job after university working in London as a runner on Strictly Come Dancing and Matt was my boss (oo-er). Our first conversation was Matt explaining in great detail exactly what kitchen towel holders he wanted and sending me out a fair few times before I got the right ones. It would be fair to say that I wasn’t overly impressed at the time but over those few stressful months filled with glitter, fancy footwork and an awful lot of real work, a firm friendship was formed and we eventually become best buddies. While it was a few years before we actually got together, we feel many of our friends would agree that it was inevitable and was, in fact, our density!
Since getting together in August in 2008, we’ve had a pretty amazing few years making up for lost time which have included learning how to skiing Slovenia (and even more amazingly, me managing not to break anything on the slopes), yearly trips to Glastonbury music festival with lots of bad dancing in our wellies drinking hot spiced cider and most excitingly a month-long road trip down the east coast of America driving from Boston to Miami via a few random landmarks.Life at this point seemed pretty great. We decided to buy a flat together and I had been accepted onto a teaching course and waste-training as a primary school teacher with Matt supporting me.

Unfortunately at this point, I suddenly became quite ill. In 2006, I had a kidney transplant with a kidney donated from my Dad but in 2011, it started to fail. This made life quite hard as my health deteriorated but Matt was brilliant and supported me all the way as I completed my teacher-training despite being very poorly and having to frequently be admitted into hospital. Eventually I had to start 5 hour dialysis sessions 3 times a week at the same time as getting my first teaching job. But despite all the support I was getting from Matt, my school and my doctors, my health was getting worse and I desperately needed a new kidney.

Luckily my amazing younger sister Ami put herself forward to give me a new kidney At her first appointment, the doctors said that genetically,she was a perfect match but that in order for her to be able to donate she would have to lose 3 stone. Without any hesitation or fuss that’s exactly what she did and she set herself the challenge of running a 10k race in order to help her lose weight. Both Ami and Matt (who ran the race with her) managed to raise £1,872.45 for the national kidney federation. On the 19th of December 2012, we were both admitted to Guy’s Hospital (me with a broken arm – I’m quite clumsy) and Ami successfully donated her kidney to me. I can’t stress enough quite how brilliant Ami is or even begin to express how grateful I am to have such a fantastic sister, family and partner who have supported me throughout my illness.

While I was in recovery after Christmas, Matt sort of proposed by accident. He claims he was planning this big romantic proposal but instead he sort of got carried away and blurted it out! It wasn’t exactly what you’d call a classic proposal. I was cleaning and Matt was swearing at an essay he was writing. I then managed to drop a box on my head (don’t ask) so sat down to have a whimper and Matt tended my poorly bonce. Then Matt said ‘Oh do you know that Westminster Registry Office is closing down in August?’ – At this point I apparently looked really sad and said ‘Oh, that’s a shame as I always wanted to get married there as that’s where my Nan and granddad got married’ … Matt then blurted out – well shall we get married then?!After several ‘Are you serious?’ and ‘Was that really a proposal??’ I said yes and here we are.

We had to move fairly quickly due to the registry office closing down pretty soon, but we both wanted to have a larger celebration in the country with our family and friends and so we have booked Stonewall Manor, a wonderful Tudor Manor house in Frome for what we see as our actual wedding as the registry office will only be with immediate family.We’re planning a ‘mini festival’ type wedding with lots of fun,games, dancing and general merriment and hopefully, some ice cream served by your smartly dressed attendant ;-) I’m having my sister and her two daughters aged 7 and 3 as my bridesmaids as I wanted to be able to thank them for everything that they’ve done for me. We both want this gathering to mark the end of what’s been a tough couple of years and celebrate the beginning of the rest of our lives together. “

Get your hands on my nuts

I knew at the end of September that my ice cream bookings were going to slow down, so had to think of something else to keep me going over the winter months.

I wanted to use the equipment I already owned and adapt it to suit. After much deliberation I decided that Hot Chestnuts were the way forward, after all it sort of fitted in with my traditional theme.

So I went for it, I visited my local grocer to find out whether he could get chestnuts in bulk and asked him whether he’d had any experience. I’d struck gold as he’d sold roasted chestnuts before. He gave me a rough idea of what I might need to do the job so I went home and scribbled a rough plan on a piece of paper.

I took a trip up the local industrial area and asked a friend of my father whether he could make one. It wasn’t his sort of thing but pointed me in the direction of a fabricator just round the corner. I’d struck gold again, the chap I went to see was the partner of a lady who’d I worked with previously and got on really well with. I had taken their son to his prom in Arthur my VW camper-van a couple of years previously.

So I now have my roaster and an extraordinary amount of work for it; Christmas markets, late night shopping, Dickensian evenings, race meetings the list goes on.

The story so far….

Last year I decided to quit my predictable and safe job as both my mother and father were both diagnosed with different forms of cancer. I’d always wanted to have a go at running my own business so here was my opportunity.

After a bad day at work I thought that there must be more to life than printer cartridges, laptops and PC’s and I was right. There was a whole new exciting world that revolved around ice cream and the wedding industry that I knew absolutely nothing about…..and still don’t.

It’s been an interesting year to say the least. I’ve even rubbed shoulders with TV celebrities such as Tim the Chef and the Three Hungry Boys from River Cottage. Oh yeah, I hear you say in a disbelieving voice, here’s a rather fetching image of Tim with his eyes closed.

Tim the Chef

Tim the Chef

I’ve visited strange and far away places such as Tiverton, Holsworthy and Malmesbury. I’ve taken my trike to all manner of events; Weddings, Car Shows, Sports days, Open days, Music Festivals and carehomes to name a few. I’ve even made some great friends along the way, many of them virtual ones.

I’d like to think that I’ve made some sort of impact, I may not be the best ice cream tricycle service on the market but I’d like to think that I’m one of the interesting and memorable ones.

Got any feedback? I’d love to hear what you think, I won’t be offended……much.

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