The Woman Behind The Blog

This blog is chock a block with pictures of the food that I enjoy, however today I thought I would (mostly) put aside the culinary porn and give you all an insight into the person behind the blog.

I have been reading blogs since I started University in 2010 and have watched as the blogosphere has morphed from the personal musings of a few, to the mass commercial platform that it is now today.

I started reading blogs because I enjoyed hearing about others peoples lives, I liked seeing the world from different perspectives and being exposed to different lifestyles, cultures and even countries.

I think this interest in other experiences is actually what drove me to study History! I love reading biographies and autobiographies, especially of people who have led completely different lives to mine.

In this new age of blogging, I wonder if we haven't sacrificed the personality of blogging for the opportunity to profit from it. I'm getting kind of sick of reading about purely about products instead of people and their experiences of products.

After having this little rant, I felt is was highly hypocritical of myself not to attempt to personalise this post and show you guys some little snippets from my life.

I hope you enjoy!

Business

Photography by Mark Woodward

The biggest thing in my life at the moment has to be my business,

Vincent's Coffee

.

I started the company shortly after graduating in 2013 with the idea of building a coffee brand which people could trust to offer the best possible coffee, produced with a conscience.

I'm extremely proud of the products we have developed and the team that I have.

When running your own business, every day is different and the highs and lows can be particularly emotionally demanding. However I'm so glad I stuck with it, as the future is looking pretty damn exciting.

Dramatic Hair Changes

The last year has been pretty dramatic in hair terms. 

The left hand picture is me in the summer of 2013, sporting a glorious, if not rather hard to upkeep, blond mop. Unfortunately due to my dark roots and extremely unruly hair, having my platinum hair long became pretty untenable, especially due to general breakage and frazzlement!

Mid 2014 I decided to go for the chop, and ended up with a short blonde pixie cut (yup I am standing outside the Louvre - just had to throw that pic in there.)

However alas, the blonde was not to stay. In October 2014 I decided to go back to my roots and went for the full cropped cut. As you can see from the first picture in this post, this is now slowly getting darker and growing out!

Nancy Puss (NP)

Nancy is a very new addition to our household, we actually adopted her last month from the local RSPCA centre!

She's a pretty special puss, as she is quite old and pretty much totally blind.

Her blindness this does not stop her from being an extremely affectionate and playful thing! Her current favourite game is "treat drop" which involves following the sound of treats falling on the floor.

Apparently it's quite hard  to rehome cats like NP due to their disabilities, however it's an extremely rewarding thing to do if you have the space and patience for a slightly unique cat!

As I write this post, she is currently curled up on the sofa with me (she has 2/3, I have a 1/3 - thats the right human to cat sofa ratio right?!)

Food Food Food

Even beyond the remit of blogging, food plays an extremely important role in my life!

I love to cook and am extremely lucky in the fact that I also have a partner who is a dab hand in the kitchen. We eat home cooked meals, made from scratch, pretty much most nights of the week.

Of course we do go out and get takeaways - I'm only human after all! But I'm extremely passionate about knowing how my food is prepared and where it comes from.

Cooking myself means that I can choose the ingredients I like and control how much extra salt/sugar/preservatives goes into each dish.

Living in York also means I am extremely lucky when it comes to eating out, literally a 5 minute cycle away there is a plethora of great restaurants, bistros, cafes and pubs.

And finally... the most important thing about me has to be my bang on trend style choices.

I hear ears are in right now.

Thank you for indulging me in this brief exploration into my life beyond blogging! 

I promise the next post is going to be a doozy - think fine dining and lots of deliciously tempting photos.

Bethan

Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to quickly say that I hope you all are having a wonderful day, ideally filled with lots and lots of delicious food!

We had a pretty decadent roast goose feast and I am now well and truly stuffed.... we haven't even had the Christmas pudding yet (thank god for pudding stomachs eh.)


Honest lessons I have learnt whilst setting up a business


Fresh out of university in 2013 I decided to start my own business, Vincent's Coffee
I wanted to build a company that was responsible, ethical and rooted in offering quality products.

The past year has been a mix of ups and downs (a lot of downs if I am honest.) However here I am, still going, ready to launch new products this weekend and putting in place exciting plans for 2015.

The past year has without a doubt been one of the hardest of my life. Sacrifice is a key word any small business owner will undoubtedly recognise and one that I am now intimately familiar with. I have had to take on extra jobs, cut back all expenditure to the bare minimum and put my all into an idea which, despite all effort and intention, might not work out.

1. Estimate how long you think things will take - multiply this result by at least 10 (I'm really not joking here...)

I'm the kind of person who likes quick results - maybe that's why I love cooking, as you get to taste the fruits of your labour on small timescales.

Business may be portrayed as a fast paced world in the media, however in reality you need to be prepared for the fact that all businesses rely on people, and people are not 24 hour machines. Things take time, often a lot of time.

You need to account for extra time in everything, getting orders, people paying invoices, deliveries, even your own ability to complete tasks. At times things can seem stagnant and you can feel like no progress is being made. In my experience, this is often not the case - progress is always being made, even if it seems imperceptible.

2. Sometimes using your friends in a professional capacity is a bad idea (unless you define the professional boundary) 

In the early stages I was really screwed over by a couple of people who I felt were good friends. They charged me a lot of money for some extremely shoddy and frankly unusable work. At the time I felt unable to challenge them due to our friendship and the fact that from the beginning the work had not been discussed in a professional context.

I would urge anyone using a friend in a professional capacity to define what this relationship will look like whilst you are effectively a client. Sit down and have a chat, formalise timescales, payments and what you expect from them, write this down and agree on it. It may seem drastic, however if both of you are clear on expectations, this means that disagreements can be avoided later on.

3. You can't do it on your own

Remember the somewhat cliched line "No man is a island"? For a long time I felt like I could be a all-encompassing-one-woman band, taking on everything and without the need for advice and guidance.

Oh how wrong I was.

We need to interact and collaborate with others, human society is built upon this. Not only did I burn myself out with trying to do and be everything, I also felt extremely isolated and lonely.

The entrepreneur is often portrayed as the lone wolf, someone who strives out on their own, ahead of all others. This may be true for some, however my overwhelming feeling is that you need a strong support network if you are to embark on your own business venture. Things will get tough and then they will get tougher, you will need someone - I spent a whole week crying almost constantly on my also exhausted partner.

Build a strong support network for yourself (I would advise against leaning on just one person, they might need a break!) - speak to friends, family, partners, even consider getting a professional mentor if you think you need more guidance!

My last and biggest piece of advice would be to keep on going - it will be hard, you will feel shit and it might not work out. However you will learn so much along the way and this will enrich your life both professionally and personally. It's worth it, even if you fail at the end.

For more information on what I actually do - Vincents Coffee - See our website here

For lots more, find AoF on Twitter and follow on Bloglovin


Wanderlust: Paris, July 2014, Part 2


This is my second post showcasing some of the places I visited during my summer trip to Paris (Part 1 can be found here.)

Autumn is probably my favourite time of year, the season's earthy palette seems so vibrant in the low autumn light. Part of me still craves the heat of the sun and I find myself wishing to return to Paris and the glorious weather we had. Next year perhaps!

During our July trip, we packed rather a lot into the six days we were there. One of my favourite hidden gems that we stumbled upon was the Cite de l'architecture et du patrimoine, the City of Architecture and Heritage. This architecture museum comprises of both permanent and temporary exhibitions, which covers a large chronological span of buildings, from ancient to modern. 

Much of the permanent exhibition is taken up with full size plaster replicas of building facades, columns and rooms. My favourite section comprised of replicas of early church interiors which were used as exhibit spaces for modern sculpture and furniture. As you can see in the picture below, the modern forms looked pretty alien in their ancient environments!



ecclesiastical architectural details.
During one of my wanders I stumbled across the beautiful window of Faucon. Apologies for the reflection in the image, I think I was just mesmerized by the chocolates and macarons. Somehow  all food in Paris, even in small bakeries, looks both wildly decadent and enticing!


As we were staying in Montmartre, it would have been inexcusable not to visit the Musee Montmartre, which is also surrounded by the Renoir Gardens. The permanent collection is composed of paintings, posters and drawings by some of Montmartre's leading artists, including Toulouse-Lautrec, Modigliani, Kupka, Steinlen, Valadon, and Utrillo. 

Just below the gardens is the only surviving vineyard in the city, which has existed since the medieval period.

 On the swing in the Renoir Gardens

More idyllic garden space

The musee d'orsay has to be on every tourist's list when visiting Paris, the museum collection mainly comprises of 19th century and early 20th century French art. 

During my visit, I was particularly bowled over by the temporary Van Gogh exhibition, "Van Gogh / Artaud. The Man Suicided by Society" Based on an essay by Artaud, an artist in his own right, the exhibition explores Van Goghs place in a society which rejected his work - 

"Challenging the thesis of alienation, Artaud was determined to show how van Gogh’s exceptional lucidity made lesser minds uncomfortable.  Wishing to prevent him from uttering certain "intolerable truths", those who were disturbed by his painting drove him to suicide. "


The Pompidou Centre is another mecca for art lovers visiting the city, the modern art museum boasts a unique building and the views from the top are particularly spectacular, as you can see below!

During my visit there were two stand out exhibitions, the first being on the work of the architect Bernard Tschumi, who drew inspiration for his designs from many other mixed media sources, including the movement of actors on film. Tschumi was particularly interested in movement and movement within spaces.

The second temporary exhibit which blew me away was the video installation "The Clock" by Christian Marclay. The Clock is a 24 hour montage of thousands of time related film excerpts which are edited to be correspondent with the time during the film. (e.g the 3:10 to Yuma scene which talks about the 3:10 to Yuma, is shown at 3:10 exactly.)

View from the Pompidou looking to the hill of Montmartre and Sacre Couer

View looking towards the eiffel Tower.
Our good friend Kathryn said that we could not go to Paris without visiting Sainte-Chapelle, the medieval gothic chapel situated at the heart of the city on the Île de la Cité.

The chapel is considered to represent the pinnacle of gothic architecture and was commissioned by King Louis IX of France to house his collection of Passion Relics, including Christ's Crown of Thorns. It was completed in 1248 and is literally awash with stained glass and beautifully ornate detail. 

We visited at the weekend, therefore the chapel was very busy and we had to queue for around half an hour. It may therefore be worth going during a quieter weekday morning! However the building is an absolute jewel, the colours inside as the sun hits the windows are dazzling. Therefore it is and an absolute must, just be aware that there are building works currently taking place and currently the rose window is obscured.




Finally, a little bit of street art for you

I wonder where the top of the stairs lead.... where is the man going with his briefcase?