a beautiful Polish wedding

bart and basia wedding 26.06 (12)

While working the bar at a wakeboarding and waterskiing lake in the UK last summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet a group of awesome temporary staff from around the world. They had travelled to work there for the season and learn from the world-class coaches in return. ¬†I got to hang out with people from Australia, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden, Austria and America for three months and had a LOT of fun ūüôā

Two of my great friends from that time are a Polish couple who are outgoing, funny, very sweet and completely in love.  They were engaged when I met them, and twelve months later I had the privilege of being invited to their wedding so last weekend I travelled to Poland to attend their marriage ceremony.

Before I left the miserable drizzle of the UK’s attempt at summer weather firmly behind me and boarded the plane, I was slightly unsure of what to expect. ¬†Most of the advice I had received was that the Polish REALLY know how to party and that a lot of vodka would be involved. ¬†Internet research had yielded very little in terms of appropriate dress code, wedding gifts or traditions and I was fairly worried about unwittingly offending someone by somehow being inappropriate without realising it!

I shouldn’t ¬†have worried though – the whole experience was an honour to be a part of and I was treated as family from the moment I touched down at the airport. ¬†I thought it might be an idea to write about my experience in case anyone else out there is in the same position I was and fancies a little heads up as to what to anticipate! ¬†Obviously I am no expert on Polish culture and no two weddings are the same so this is in no way a definitive guide or an attempt at one!

bart and basia wedding 26.06.13 1 (5)

  • Bartering for the Bride

This takes place on the morning of the wedding. ¬†The Groom goes to the bride’s family home and calls her father outside. ¬†Then ensues banter and bartering regarding the quantity of vodka appropriate to give the father in exchange for his daughter. ¬†It’s all very light hearted and comedic – the Father Of The Bride sent out the Best Man dressed as his daughter at one point but then finally agreed (after accepting more bottles of the proffered vodka) to send his daughter out. ¬†This is usually attended by close family only although I was privileged enough to be included and accepted as this throughout the day so got to experience a lot more than as a simple guest.

  • Prayers in the house

The Bride and Groom kneel in the house and their parents and grandparents pray over them or offer them blessings (or both – to be honest I’m not quite sure which it was as it was all in Polish but the priest was there! ¬†A helpful family member translated a few things spoken which appeared to be advice and good wishes!)

  • Best Man and Maid of Honour

There is a Best Man, whose duties include helping collect the Groom’s presents (explained a bit further down), making sure there is enough vodka at the reception and – for this wedding at least – dressing up as a woman for the bartering for the Bride! ¬†The Best Man does not do a speech or dress similarly to the Groom. ¬†There are no Bridesmaids but the Bride did have a Maid Of Honour, whose duties were pretty similar to those of the Best Man.

  • Dress code

I had read varying information about dress code but the advice I found most true to form was for the women to dress as if going to a classy nightclub in the UK. ¬†There were no hats or fascinators, no maxi dresses and certainly no women in trousers, playsuits or posh shorts. ¬†Pretty much all of the women wore heels (I didn’t – bad things happen when I attempt to walk in anything other than flats and the pavements were pretty uneven so I decided to avoid impending doom and keep my heels as close to the ground as possible!). ¬†All of the men all wore suits.

  • The Marriage service

The ceremony took place in a Catholic church, which I understand to be the traditional venue.  A little like a crematorium in the UK, the church was pretty much a revolving door Рas the previous wedding left through a side exit we entered through the main entrance.  Although the Bride and Groom arrive together, once everyone is seated the Bride is walked down the aisle to meet the Groom at the front of the church.  I am unable to explain most of the service as it was all conducted in Polish, however I can tell you that it lasted around an hour.  There was a lot of standing up, sitting down, kneeling (although not everyone kneeled so I refrained), sung responses to what the priest said and singing in general.  On two occasions the congregation was invited to file towards the front, which I later found out was to enable them to give offerings to the church the first time and to receive the Holy Communion (or Mass) the second time.  Not everyone went up so I stayed in my seat as I had no idea at the time what I would be walking to the front to do!  A Polish friend I met in  the summer season last year who attended the wedding informed me that the church service varies in different parts of the country and he had not attended a service where the congregation goes to the front to give their offerings.  The vows and exchanging of the rings took place in a similar manner to that experienced in weddings in the UK.  The interior of the church was beautifully decorated with murals on all available wallspace and the ceiling, which were beautiful to look at.  After the service the congregation filed out and waited outside for the Bride and Groom to exit.

  • After the wedding

As the Bride and Groom exit the church it is traditional to throw small change in the same way that other cultures throw confetti.  The newly-weds then picked up all of the coins together, which is believed to bring them good luck!

  • Breaking glass

Upon arrival at the reception everyone had a glass of champagne and toasted the Bride and Groom.  Once this had been drunk (pretty speedily I might add), the Bride and Groom smashed a glass on the floor, then proceeded to sweep it up together with a dustpan and brush.  Performing this task well is a sign that they will have great teamwork in their marriage.

  • Wedding gifts

All of the guests then formed a queue in front of the Bride and Groom. As each person was greeted by the couple they gave three kisses and a bunch of flowers to the Bride (which were then passed to the Maid Of Honour) and money in sealed brown envelopes to the Groom (collected by the Best Man).  The Bride at the wedding I attended had told close friends and family that she would much rather have wine than flowers so she received a fair amount instead of the traditional bouquets and the couple also received wrapped presents from a few guests.

  • Speeches

The parents of the married couple then made short speeches totalling about 10 minutes.  As this was in Polish I have no idea what was said but everyone seemed to chuckle quite a bit so I assume it was fairly light hearted!

  • First meal and First Dance

Everyone then sat down to a full three course meal. ¬†I had been pre-warned that there would be a ridiculous amount of food on offer throughout the reception so luckily heeded this advice and didn’t go crazy – more on the food to come! ¬†After the first meal the Bride and Groom performed the First Dance which is a ballroom-style number with set choreography that is learnt beforehand.

  • Bowties and bouquets

The Groom sat on a chair and the unmarried men surrounded him.  The Bride then had to try to get to him and extract his tie.  Once this was achieved it was thrown at the group of unmarried men and the person who caught it is then considered to be very desirable.

The Bride was then surrounded by her unmarried female friends.  She threw the bouquet and whoever caught it will marry next (pretty much like the British tradition).

  • The Reception / Party

At some point the wedding photos were taken and then the rest of the reception consisted of eating, drinking and dancing (explained below). ¬†The Bride’s father pays for everything so it’s an open bar. ¬†The party continues until whenever the guests and married couple decide to leave – at about 5am at the one I attended! ¬†Many of those my age and the younger generation are able to speak some form of English ( a lot speak it very fluently) and they were very friendly and happy to make conversation!

  • Food

I cannot express how much food appears throughout the evening.  Picture each table heaving with food and in addition imagine having enough for everyone to have a full meal brought out about every hour or so.  Each set of food is different from the one before so if you want to try it all pace yourself and only have a few mouthfuls of each dish!  At midnight the Bride and Groom cut the wedding cake and it was shared out to all of the guests.

  • Vodka

Ah. ¬†The vodka. ¬†I think the fact that everyone introduced it to us as ‘Polish wine’ pretty much sums it up! ¬†On the tables each place was laid with a wine glass, a water glass and a shot glass. ¬†There were two 1 litre bottles of vodka on each table of ten at the reception I attended. ¬†When one person has a shot of vodka everyone on the table is offered (and should accept) one too. ¬†If the bottle looks like it’s getting empty is replaced. ¬†There was also wine on the tables and soft drinks, although traditionally the only alcohol is vodka.

  • Dancing

Dancing is as essential to a wedding reception as the vodka.  And by dancing I mean proper partner ballroom style dancing.  The live band played Polish songs and the men ask the women to dance.  People do not stick with one partner when dancing and change after each song.  Everyone was so friendly and inclusive so I was involved in a LOT of dancing Рluckily they seemed to have about as much of an idea of actual ballroom dances as I did so it was great fun!  After the midnight cake the music became a lot more modern with a few tracks in English thrown in.

  • And the party just keeps on going!

It is not unusual for the wedding to last a couple of days.  Unfortunately I had to fly home the next morning but all of the guests and the married couple were going to have a late breakfast together and then continue the party!

In case you can’t tell I had an absolutely amazing time in Poland – it is such a beautiful country with warm hearted people and it was a complete honour to be accepted as family and experience the wedding – I will definitely be going back to visit the newly-weds and explore more of the culture!

If you fancy checking out another post on Polish weddings, this blogger’s¬†Polish wedding survival guide¬†contained the most helpful information I found ūüôā

big love

gollygoshgirl xx

homebaked healthy almond butter cookies with dark chocolate chips

Photo 28-06-2013 19 15 12

Homebaked Healthy Almond Butter Cookies with Dark Chocolate Chips

Well as you may have realised, my¬†quest for healthy goodness¬†had led me to approach food a little differently. ¬†It has not, however, cured my very sweet tooth. ¬†I know there are a hundred things you are advised to do which will curb your cravings (brush your teeth, eat an apple, distract yourself with a different activity etc etc) BUT sometimes; a girl just. ¬†needs. ¬†chocolate. ¬†And cookies. ¬†And these really hit the spot! These are my second foray into cookies healthy-style and you know what? I much prefer them to the chocolate chip ones I posted a week ago. ¬†Yum ūüôā ¬†I found the original recipe on Facebook but there was no source given (apologies if it’s yours – let me know and I’ll give you the credit you deserve!) however as usual I gave it a few tweaks! ¬†Below is my version…

Ingredients

Makes 8 cookies or 16 bitesize cookies

  • 1 1/4 cups canned chickpeas (I just used the whole 400g tin, which is 260g when drained)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbspns (165g) natural almond butter
  • 1/4 cup (80g) agave nectar or honey
  • 1 tspn baking powder (I use gluten free)
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (70% cocoa solids)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180¬ļC/350¬ļF/gas 4
  2. Line your baking trays with greaseproof paper
  3. Drain the chickpeas, rinse them well then make sure there is as little excess water as possible one them. ¬†(It is suggested you pat them dry with a piece of kitchen paper but to be honest I didn’t bother).
  4. Put the chickpeas in a food processor and process until smooth (looking kind of a little bit like moist ground almonds)
  5. Mix all of the ingredients together except the chocolate chips
  6. Add the chocolate chips
  7. The mixture should be pretty sticky.  Using wet hands, form the cookies or cookie bites and place onto the lined baking trays.
  8. Bake in the oven for 10-13 minutes.
  9. Let the cookies cool on the baking trays for a few minutes before cooling on a wire rack.  When they first come out of the oven they are very soft but firm up as they cool.

Enjoy!

big love

gollygoshgirl

xx

homebaked afternoon tea

549892_10151558472484714_1707712958_n (1)

 

On my best friend’s birthday we usually go out for afternoon tea but this year I wanted to switch it up a little bit and decided to attempt to bake it instead.¬†

Above is the result;

  • Sandwiches (egg and cress, cheese, cucumber, ham)
  • Scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam
  • Macaroons with summer fruits filling (recipe¬†here)
  • Chocolate brownie bites (recipe¬†here)
  • Banana loaves with toffee topping and white chocolate curls (recipe¬†here)
  • White chocolate and raspberry cheesecakes (recipe¬†here)
  • Classic Victoria sponge cake with vanilla cream and fresh strawberries (recipe¬†here)
  • Fresh fruit (blueberries, blackberries and grapes)
  • Pink champagne
  • Earl grey tea

Enjoy!

big love

gollygoshgirl xx

 

598629_10151070352259714_479249075_n

the power of kindness

598629_10151070352259714_479249075_n

Unfortunately I need to start with an apology; I’ve got you reading this under false pretences. ¬†You see, the title I really wanted to use for this post is ‘the power of love’ and that’s (hopefully) what you will actually be reading about – if you decide to stick with it despite the big reveal over the subject matter that is!

You see, the problem with calling this ‘the power of love’ is mainly because I immediately get the early 90’s ballad with same title by Dune reverberating round my head (sorry – you probably do too now. ¬†If you don’t – or haven’t heard it – YouTube it. ¬†Then you’ll understand). ¬†Secondly; I didn’t want anyone thinking I was attempting a romance novel (I won’t inflict that on you – promise!).

Anyway; I digress.  Back to the topic!

“The challenge is to live an ordinary life extraordinarily”

Pete Grieg (The Vision and The Vow)

I think we all want to make our mark on the world. ¬†That means different things to everyone but I reckon it’s universal that we want to know we matter.

I am very blessed to have lovely friends, awesome housemates¬†and a great (read ‘slightly crazy but very entertaining’) family. ¬†I love my job, love to dance and when I find the time I love my social life (I hate that term but its a pretty universal way to get the point across so I’ll deal with it). ¬†But sometimes it doesn’t feel enough. ¬†Sometimes I get all deep and meaningful and look at my life wondering what (if anything) I’ve actually achieved. ¬†To those of you now clamouring to ring my doorbell and convert me to some sort of religion that will bring meaning to my life; I’ve already found Jesus and you’re missing the point. ¬†Let me explain.

When I finished my A-levels I moved out and started working. Literally every single one of my friends except one went to university or off travelling. ¬†Cue tales of great adventures, stories of discoveries, revelations of new experiences and album upon album of Facebook photos. ¬†Pretty exciting stuff. ¬†Follow that a couple of years later with friends relocating to exotic destinations, starting real ‘grown up’ jobs (actual careers) with benefits like bonuses and pensions, studying further or continuing their exploration of foreign lands. ¬†Then there was me; working the same job, living in the same house and leading the same life as when we left school. Catching up with friends I’d hear about all the changes in their lives and mine would feel pretty ordinary in comparison. ¬†You see; while their lives were evolving on a massive scale, mine was (and still is) operating on a much smaller one. ¬†They were making their mark on the world in thick black permanent marker and mine felt like a faint pencil line. ¬†I felt so…ordinary.

During that time I read ¬†‘The Vision and The Vow’ by Pete Grieg. ¬†There are so many quotes I could wax lyrical about from that book (and there’s a high probability I’ll do just that in posts to come) but the one that stuck out to me most was the challenge above ; to live an ordinary life in an extraordinary way.

You see; the way we live our life¬†matters. ¬†Whatever we’re doing – and whatever we’re scale we’re doing it on – has the potential to impact the world around us. ¬†There are so many stories (and many more untold) of how even one small act by one ordinary person can change a life.

And there’s power in that. ¬†We have the power to effect others and the world around us, and, if we choose; just going about our ordinary lives can make an extraordinary difference.

So what does it look like?

Buying Fairtrade means people we’ve never met get a fair wage. ¬†Sending a text of appreciation to a colleague could make their day. Saying hello to that homeless person in the street could be the most human interaction they’ve had all week. Mailing a photo to a friend reminds them they’re appreciated. ¬†Baking for family or a neighbour shows you care. ¬†Signing a petition helps get causes heard in Parliament. ¬†Spending quality time with people tells them they are valued. ¬†Want more ideas? ¬†Check¬†Random Acts of Kindness,¬†Give Mondays¬†or¬†little gestures of appreciation.

The power of love.

What does it look like?

you.

big love

gollygoshgirl

xx

homebaked strawberries and cream macaroons

Photo 15-06-2013 01 14 03

Homebaked Strawberries & Cream Macaroons

My dad is awesome. ¬†He wears socks with sandals every day (literally. ¬†all ¬†year ¬†round), loves dressing up as Santa at Christmas, tells jokes so rubbish they’re good, recycles everything, invents his own abbreviations for texting (which are usually completely undecipherable) and ‘assumes the position’ every Sunday after lunch (sleeps in the armchair). ¬†There are a lot of other reasons he’s pretty cool but I think you get the picture! ¬†Anyway; as today is Father’s Day I asked him if he wanted any edible treats – and he requested macaroons. ¬†Which leads us nicely into the rest of this post!

I always use this¬†recipe¬†and it works perfectly every time (hooray!) but I wanted to try something slightly different; so I decided to add a little twist and change the flavours up a little. ¬†I followed my¬†homebaked macaroons recipe¬†but added 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract to the macaroon mixture and didn’t use any food colouring. ¬†I added 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and finely grated white chocolate to the filling. ¬†I then separated it into 6 parts, using a different food colouring to dye each one. ¬†When I sandwiched the macaroons together I added finely sliced strawberries to the middle. ¬†To complete the rainbow aesthetic started with the different coloured fillings; I dyed white fondant the same 6 colours as the fillings and used a star cutter to make the little toppers, attaching them with a very small amount of edible glue.

Hopefully they’ll taste yummy – I’ll be taking them over in a few hours! ¬†Happy Father’s Day Dadsy ūüėÄ

Photo 15-06-2013 18 03 00

big love

gollygoshgirl

xx

To see more of my homebaking click¬†here¬†or check out my¬†instagram¬†ūüôā

healthy homebaked chocolate chip cookies (yep; you heard right!)

Photo 14-06-2013 23 45 47

Healthy Homebaked Chocolate Chip Cookies

To cut a long story short; I’ve been throwing myself a pity party for the past week. ¬†I was told I can’t eat gluten, dairy, eggs or yeast for the foreseeable future – possibly forever. ¬†My favourite foods flashed around a conveyor belt in my mind (desserts featuring pretty highly), quickly followed by the realisation that I needed to find some good substitutions as speedily as possible! ¬†All recipes I could find for cookies and cakes seemed to want me to grind nuts (not gunna happen considering that my trusty ¬£5 electric whisk from Argos is my only real equipment) or require a massive amount of substitute ingredients which aren’t readily available or affordable. ¬†I stumbled across the original recipe on pinterest and emailed it to myself but ¬†I cannot for the life of me find the source (if anyone knows it please get at me!). ¬†As usual, I have ¬†made a few little changes – my version is below! ¬†These come out pretty rich but you know what? They also taste surprisingly good!

Ingredients

Makes 16 cookies

  • 1 small Avocado
  • 3/4 cup Honey (for vegans substitute honey for 1/2 cup agave nectar, 2 tbsps soya milk and 1 mashed banana)
  • 1/2 cup Soft light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 2 cups Rice flour
  • 1/2 cup Cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp Cornflour (UK) or cornstarch (US)
  • 2 tbsps Soya milk
  • 1 and 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips (70% cocoa solids)

Method

  1. Slice, pit and mash the avocado.
  2. Place the avocado into a mixing bowl and combine it with the honey.
  3. Add the sugar, soya milk and vanilla extract, mixing until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl sift together flour, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, salt, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and cornflour.
  5. Slowly mix in the wet ingredients a little at a time.
  6. Chill in the fridge for 2-36 hours.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180¬ļC/350¬ļF/gas 4
  8. Line your baking trays with greaseproof paper
  9. Roll the mixture into mounds the size of a heaped tablespoon and place onto the baking trays lined with greaseproof paper.
  10. Flatten the mounds of mixture slightly, creating discs.
  11. Bake in the oven for 10-13 minutes.
  12. Let the cookies cool on the baking trays for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!

big love

gollygoshgirl

xx

baked red peppers stuffed with goodness

Photo 12-06-2013 21 29 37

Baked Red Peppers Stuffed With Goodness

These. ¬†Are. ¬†Yummy.¬†Fact. ¬†AND they’re super full of nutrients to make your body smile from the inside out!

Since¬†embarking on a quest for healthy goodness¬†at the beginning of April one major thing I’ve noticed (probably very belatedly compared to everyone else) is how many cheeky little unhelpful added extras there are to food that I had thought was pretty good for me! ¬†I’ve certainly discovered the value (and reaped the results) of cooking from scratch using only the good stuff! ¬†It took a fair amount of scouring food labels at the start but I’ve started to work out what is literally what it says on the tin and what is actually a chemically or sugar enhanced flavour. ¬†And my tastebuds can now certainly¬†notice the difference!

The problem is, you don’t want to sacrifice flavour (I wouldn’t have the willpower to anyway!) in pursuit of nutrition or it will make you miserable and simply crave the taste of sugar and fat. ¬†So I started to experiment a little bit with foods I know are full to the brim of nutrients and other goodness, and to come up with meals that taste yummy, are within my price range and that I can prepare in bulk to freeze in my trusty tupperware.

These are my current favourite (recipe below) but my meal prep also includes yummy, filling and crazy healthy stir frys and super food salads amongst others for lunches to take to work.

Ingredients

  • 6-8 Red bell peppers
  • 800g Lean turkey mince or lentils
  • 100g Quinoa
  • 400ml Carton of passata
  • 400ml Can of mixed pulses
  • 175g Can of sweetcorn
  • 2 Sweet potatoes
  • 150g Butternut squash (optional)
  • 2 Cloves garlic
  • 1 Onion
  • Oregano (fresh or dried)
  • 50g Kale, Spinach or a mixture of the two
  • Lemon juice

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180¬įC
  2. Put the quinoa into a pan of boiling water for 15-18 minutes until cooked, then drain the water.
  3. Chop the sweet potatoes (and butternut squash if you have it) into small chunks (about 1cm big) then place them onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. ¬†You don’t need any oil – promise! ¬†Don’t put them in the oven just yet – that comes a little later.
  4. De-seed and halve the red bell peppers (if using for meal prep you need to halve them to fit into tupperware – if you’d prefer them whole like in the picture then go for it – the recipe is the same!) and place them on a baking tray with the inside facing upwards. ¬†Again, no oil needed.
  5. Chop the onion and garlic, then pop them into a frying pan on a medium-high heat with about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice for a couple of minutes
  6. If you are using meat add in the turkey and stir until cooked
  7. Add in the oregano
  8. Add the passata, mixed pulses, sweetcorn (and lentils if using) and stir for a few minutes
  9. Finally add the cooked quinoa and kale/spinach for a few minutes and stir well
  10. Spoon the cooked mix into the prepared bell peppers
  11. Place the baking trays with the bell peppers into the oven along with the baking tray of sweet potato and butternut squash.
  12. Cook for 30-35 minutes.
  13. Leave everything on the baking trays to cool for a couple of minutes then transfer the bell peppers to plates or tupperware.
  14. Add the baked sweet potato and butternut squash.

Enjoy!

big love,

gollygoshgirl

xx