10 months since my last blog

10 months since my last blog

I’m slightly ashamed to admit, it’s been 10 months since my last blog post.

When I decided to start a blog on my website, I went to blog school (it was fab, fun and I learned some cool stuff). We were taught some nifty tricks to make our blog more successful, one of them ensuring we mastered the art of catchy titles to try and get our audience to read what we had written……10 reasons…..7 mistakes……. 5 lessons (you get the idea).

10 Months since my last blog doesn’t really cut it in algorithm-sexiness, but I just thought I needed to start again and it’s the truth. I haven’t written my blog for 10 months because life got in the way. I have still been working hard in my business delivering my workshops and meeting lots of lovely people, but I stopped writing.

Why did I stop?

Maybe it requires a different energy? Perhaps as you are sitting on the laptop trying to create a mood, or impart some knowledge or enthusiasm you need to be in a certain mindset. 

I could come up with excuses:

  • After a bit of time, I got out of the habit.
  • Even though I gathered things to blog about, I had no enthusiasm to turn them into a post.
  • My creativity seemed to dry up.
  • I lost my writing voice.
  • Others needed more of my time.
  • Sad things happened, and I felt too sad to write anything.

When I meet you at my workshops, I am already in host mode and focused on giving you the best time I can (with lots of chocolate to help). That comes naturally to me, it’s important that I deliver to the best of my ability, you are in the room and there is nowhere to hide.  Here’s a link to ‘a day in my chocolate shoes‘.

What made me start again?

In all honesty, I’m not sure. My energy has changed. Sad things are still around, but they are often around for many of us and it can be about finding a way to navigate life with all the sadness that comes as part of the package. 

Maybe we just need time.

I have the luxury of being my own boss, so there is no one forcing me to do any of these things. I do love to share and enthuse about all the things I’m passionate about, and I feel a sense of duty to serve, support, and encourage you with things I might be able to help you with.  Here’s a blog from the archive about how to get great results with your chocolate creations.


I could have embraced AI and created blogs that would have filled the gaps over the past months. That’s not me. It’s from my heart/hand or it’s not written.

After such a gap, I could have just decided to remove the blog and never return to writing. The good people at Penguin, share some tips for writers block here. My blog contains plenty of chocolate knowledge, that I love to share with other enthusiasts, life and business lessons and I feel I’ve put a lot of effort and energy into my blog and business, so it’s worth me just dusting myself off and getting back on the blog train. In all honesty, we can all often know the right thing to do, and be great and giving good advice to others that we should be giving to ourselves!

It’s good to be back

I’ve got some lovely foodie trips and travels to share over the coming weeks.

After a mad Easter week at Standalone Farm (where I delivered workshops for 200 little ones and their parents/carers), there were some fabulous lessons learned in prepping for such a lot of events that I would love to pass on. I wrote about this before and I will have some updates to add.

In chocolate news, we are seeing prices continue to rise and I would like to share a bit more about what’s going on in the chocolate world and how I have been trying to manage increasing costs within my business.

Anything, in particular, you would like me to cover (that’s in my scope of knowledge)? Please feel free to pop over to my Facebook page and say and I will do my best to accommodate.

Thank you for your patience. It was very welcome.

A Day in My Chocolate Shoes

A Day in My Chocolate Shoes

Molten chocolate and spoon

I was intending to call this blog ‘A Day in the Life of a Chocolatier’ having previously penned ‘A Day in the Life of a Blacksmith’ about my hubby. That doesn’t really cut it for what I do. I am a chocolatier (how fab it feels to say that) but I don’t make chocolates to sell, I offer workshops and create experiences in chocolate.

So, instead, here’s a day in my chocolate shoes……

Daily Rituals

As a business owner, you need to have daily disciplines! Every morning, over coffee, I’ll go over emails and messages and get back to people. 

I might be processing bookings (yippee), which I do for blacksmithing and chocolate, or answering questions and queries. A bit of marketing, writing, and/or social media, and any admin that needs seeing to will also be on the agenda.  

I check back in throughout the day (except when I’m delivering a workshop) to ensure I maintain rapid responses. If someone has decided they are interested in what we have to offer, I try and get back to them as soon as possible, no one wants to be left hanging when they have decided on something exciting that they are interested in doing! It’s common sense of course, but the amount of time we have won business because I got back to people quicker than the competition has been mentioned many times to me. Why would anyone want to leave business on the table?

Planning, planning, planning

The chocolate tanks take a couple of days to really come up to temperature. This involves melting a few kilos of chocolate callets to a certain point so it’s ready for me to temper ahead of a workshop.  

I need to keep a constant eye on the stock to ensure I have all the relevant ingredients and materials and order as necessary. Aprons need to be laundered and the summerhouse, mats, and utensils cleaned and ready for guests.

Everything has to be done and planned in advance, I quite like this element of my business, and find it fairly straightforward, if you are someone that struggles to stay on top you may need to find some tools to help and plot reminders to your calendar.

Prepping for a workshop

People will come along and enjoy a couple of hours of chocolate fun, but as mentioned above, a lot goes into the planning and preparation before you arrive.

 Experience has taught me to do as much prep as you can do beforehand, this will lead to a smooth and seamless workshop! This process is now down to a fine art! I actually enjoy counting out all the goodies you are going to dip into the chocolate and ensuring everything is ready and on hand for your magical chocolate time. Prep is always done the day before a group arrives, I prefer to go to bed knowing I’m ready for you all. If something else crops up, then I know I have my workshop all ready to receive my guests, whatever else I might be called to do.

Half an hour before my group arrives, I will head to the summerhouse and start tempering the chocolate.

Delivering a workshop

This is the bit I love the most – meeting you and having fun with chocolate together. All sorts of people walk through my door and it’s an honour and privilege to work with you and enjoy your company for a couple of hours. 

Instead of going through each element of what we get up to at a workshop, you can pop and see for yourself.

A group of people at a hen party

Have you identified your own superpower yet? What you are known for, what comes easily and naturally that you are really good at? 

Well, without I hope, sounding big-headed, hosting is my superpower. I love it, whether it’s for chocolate fun at my workshops or a dinner party with friends and family, it’s my thing. Feeding, encouraging, teaching, demonstrating, sharing, and enjoying your company. It’s a sweet experience!

Clean & Re-set

When you’ve all left the cleaning begins, I pop on the music and get the job done. Usually, there is another workshop coming in, so I will clean and then prep for the next event so I’m ahead of the game!  

Summerhouse in the sunshine

The summerhouse is a special space for me. It’s calming and relaxing, down the end of my garden, like a little chocolate oasis. 

An escape from home, but at home at the same time, heaven.

And Finally

When I return to the house, I’ll carry on with some business admin, walk the dog, play tennis, get the dinner ready (I’m always the cook in our family) go out or chill in front of the TV.

Events vary, while most are workshops at the end of my garden, I also cater for corporates and schools so I might be designing new events, or prepping for something bespoke, huge, or both.  

Research might take me to a new chocolate shop, attend a chocolate event, or try some new products – the research for this job is pretty tough, but someone has to do it!

Being my own boss and in particular working with you and chocolate has been the best move I ever made

If you are inspired by a world of chocolate, you might like to read my free e-book ‘7 Big Benefits of Running a Chocolate Business’ Please follow the link to grab your copy.

I’m off to slip off those chocolate shoes for now, see you at the chocolate tanks very soon!

What makes the best hen party experience?

What makes the best hen party experience?

The hens are coming…..you may think it’s time for rah, rah, rah, noise, and full-on energy. Remember, not all hens are created equal!

A group of people at a hen party

After many years of welcoming hens to my workshops, here’s what I think makes the best hen party experience:

Chief Organiser

You have been put in charge of the hen party celebrations. It may be that you know the whole group, and what they like and it’s all pretty straightforward. Possibly, you don’t know everyone, and you are catering for different ages, people you don’t know at all, and trying to come up with something to please everyone. 

Maybe you are somewhere in between? 

Whatever the scenario, you feel responsible to ensure that arrangements go smoothly and the whole group has a good time. That’s quite an undertaking!  

Here ‘s a list of hen parties hates compiled by Hitched (so you know what to avoid).

When choosing or booking an event with a company, you really need to trust that they will look after you all properly.

Here to Help

One thing I preach to anyone going into business is the importance of customer service.  

It’s not just what you do when you have people in front of you, it’s the whole customer journey that’s so important.

Imagine how much pressure the organiser feels to get this right, their reputation is on the line. Demonstrate to them that you have really thought about what they might be going through. Reassure them that you will do your utmost to look after everyone and give them a good time to the best of your ability.  

Communicate clearly and in a timely fashion. Always do what you say you will, even if something goes awry, keep in touch and let them know what’s going on.  

It’s time to hand over any worries and concerns and leave them with me.

Why a chocolate workshop?

You may think that’s a silly question. Usually, you are onto a winner if you are adding chocolate to an event, however, it’s the inclusivity of the workshop that makes it ideal for mixed ages and abilities.  

It’s not a drink-fest (although you can byo for break-time if you like a little fizz with your chocolate) and that makes it ideal for younger participants or those that don’t like that sort of thing.

If you are a group that likes to party on into the early hours and don your dancing shoes, that is something you can arrange for after the workshop. Nan, mum, and/or auntie can come along and join you all later, or head home for an early night!

Everyone gets to be creative, make and taste delicious treats and go home with bags of goodies that they have made. A shared experience is something that remains in the memory banks for many years to come.

It’s the perfect way for everyone to get to know each other better ahead of the big day.

At the chocolate tanks

You’ve all arrived and it’s my turn to make your visit as memorable as possible. What sort of group are you?  

How chocolate makes you feel

A group is usually an interesting mixture of personalities. There will be louder ones, who really spark up proceedings and are game on for anything. That’s great, but how does it feel for the quieter ones? They matter too, so it’s my job to balance the group dynamics and ensure that the quiet ones feel just as comfortable in the group and don’t get swamped.

Some groups find the whole ‘hen party’ vibe a bit too much, and just wish to quietly create some chocolates together and have a nice time. Other groups are up for the full monty! Everyone is welcome to be what is best for them.

The Lollipops

hen party chocolates

If I want to gauge how a chocolate hen party is going to play out, then the lollipops that each creates would give it all away. Each attendee designs and pipes their own lollipop onto a stick using a piping bag of molten chocolate. Hearts and flowers are popular and, yes, you’ve guessed it, lots of ruder versions too! 

I always like to tell everyone that they can’t shock me, I’ve seen it all (and I think I have)!

One of the best creations was made by a former hen party attendee, who did the bride-to-be!

Get Ahead

Diaries get busy for everyone attending and the person delivering the experience especially if it’s hen party season.  

Make contact as soon as possible – you can always hold a date provisionally while you check with the group.

Action creates momentum. 

If you have been discussing options for ages, but not coming up with a consensus, making a booking with something you think will appeal to everyone will galvanise the decision process.

Hope to see you at the chocolate tanks soon. Stags and Stens are very welcome too.

Fire Up February

Fire Up February

We’ve made it, the long dark days of January are behind us and we can look forward to lighter days.

I mentioned ditching the resolutions in January, it’s too long and dark, and difficult. Instead, I encouraged you to adopt a word for the New Year instead of resolutions. Mine was BALANCE (and I’ve found it a great help already).

However, I did mention a rather good idea I saw of adopting new practices from 1st February (instead of 1st January) if you did wish to focus on some positive changes for the year ahead.

What will you Fire up February with?

Take Stock

In business, we are encouraged to review the year just gone and review it in great detail. What went well, what needs more focus, what did we learn, and what goals do we want to achieve for the year ahead? If you are a small business owner, someone I recommend following for this sort of insight is Gemma Gilbert. She’s a brilliant coach and mentor and has transformed her business offering over the past year. She share’s her journey and learnings each year. You can read about it here.

What about personally though?

January is such a bad month to start something new, try and get on top of healthy eating, drinking, and exercising habits and we can often be left feeling like a failure. Let’s put all that behind us. Let’s instead Fire Up February and see what we can achieve (a much shorter, brighter month that seems so much easier to commit to).

What went well for you last year?

Take a moment to really think about the highlights of 2022. Perhaps write them down. It can be the smallest thing that can make a positive difference and it’s easy to forget the little things.

How did you manage to achieve positive results in 2022?

Do you want more of that in 2023? Are there steps you can take to make sure the good stuff happens again?

What was difficult for you last year?

Is there anything you can do to mitigate circumstances to avoid it happening again?  

What did you learn from the things that didn’t go so well?

How did you react to any difficulties?

It’s a continuing tough time for many people at the moment. Worry and anxiety can become overwhelming in the face of personal and world challenges. 

Try and allow some time to think about your worries, concerns, and what didn’t go so well. It will allow you time to reflect, process and hopefully take steps to improve your situation.

Do you have some goals that you would like to achieve in 2023?

It is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, especially in the current climate. Simple survival feels like the best option at times.  

Thinking about personal/life goals is a way of focusing on the future, getting excited about prospects and opportunities, and working towards a goal.

What do you want to achieve/do/be in 2023?

How will you tackle your goals?

Dare you include a big hairy goal and really push that comfort zone?

Lady holding a mug that says like a boss

One of the biggest changes I ever made was to become my own boss. There was so much I wasn’t expecting about embarking on this journey, in a really good, personal growth sort of way. If you want a big hairy goal for 2023, considering starting your own business (and even possibly running a chocolate business) is highly recommended.

I’m determined to make the most of my chocolate business this year (and hopefully for many more to come). I want to welcome as many as possible to the chocolate tanks in 2023 and give you the best experience possible. In between, I want to spend quality time with my family, enjoy holidays and improve my tennis!  

Please come and share your wins/goals and ideas and inspiration that will help us all Fire Up February.

Just One Word

Just One Word

2023 written with lights and bubbles surrounding the numbers

I suspect many New Year’s resolutions are already on the wane.  

If I could encourage you to do something really simple and easy this January, how about thinking up just one word that you would like to live by this year?

Just one word. What would yours be?

Resolutions Don’t Work

Only about 16% of people are able to stick to their New Year resolutions according to research. So often a resolution is about what you think you should do, and not necessarily what you want to do.

Let’s face it, we traditionally set our resolutions at the beginning of a New Year. In the heart of winter, in one of the longest, gloomiest months of the year. We’ve usually eaten and drunk too much over the festive season, and we are feeling guilty and a bit pigged out.  

I wonder if you decided on a resolution just for the month of February, it would be easier to stick to? 

The month is shorter, and as the month progresses, there is more light with the days drawing out and spring is around the corner. Just a thought.

However, this blog is not about setting any resolutions, it’s about choosing a word for the year.

What’s this all about?

The concept behind choosing a word for you and your year is that it will act as a gentle reminder about your priorities. The simple act of choosing just one word will help you refocus and remind you what your intentions were/are: a driving factor, but not a goal.

Let one word replace New Year’s resolutions. Allow your word to permeate your life, and notice how it might change your reactions to others or how you care for yourself.

Word of the Year (WOTY) became a German tradition in 1971. Since 1990 the American Dialect Society has been designating a word of the year. See the full list here.

Which word?

At a dinner party recently, we went around the table and asked everyone what their word for 2023 would be. These were our choices:









If you would like some help choosing your word, then this blog post from Dawn of Wild Simply Joy may provide some good inspiration.  

Let a word bubble up and become just right for you.  

Once chosen, Dawn advocates that we should be able to see our word every day. Pop on your screensaver, or stick it to your pc or diary.

chocolate brownies

Here’s a word chocolate – now that conquers up some lovely images while you ponder your word for the year. 

I’ve linked it to one of my favourite recipes in case you need to mull some more with a cuppa and something tasty.

Please let us know about your word to live by.

Happy New Year.

5 Reasons an Experience Makes a Better Gift

5 Reasons an Experience Makes a Better Gift

It’s the season to pull your hair out trying to think of a suitable gift for all the people you buy pressies for. If you want to get ahead on this front, then you may find my previous blog useful – 7 tips to make Christmas a Cracker!

Two ladies sitting with chocolate cocktails at the table
Chocolate cocktail anyone?

What about going one step better and considering an experience as a gift this year?

Here are 5 reasons an experience makes a better gift:

It’s more memorable

Buy a gift and it’s opened, used, eaten, and forgotten about by early Jan. An experience is something that needs to be booked up, planned, looked forward to, and then enjoyed. It stays with the recipient far longer and memories are created.

Most experiences are creative – they will likely be learning a new skill, such as cooking or cocktail-making, or making something from scratch to bring home and cherish. They physically get involved in the process and hopefully enjoy doing so. It’s so much more engaging and energising doing something fun/creative/different than just unwrapping a gift.

It’s uniquely yours

Imagine the connection they have to the object they made by hand, rather than receiving the something made by someone else.  

They achieved that – however rustic it may look, their time, effort and newfound skills went into making the item and that’s something for them to be proud of.

The experience could be for you but benefit others. As you know I offer chocolate workshop experiences. Imagine handing round chocolates this Christmas made by you. People who attend my workshops really appreciate the time and effort that goes into hand-dipping and decorating delicious creations. It’s not from the factory, you poured some love and energy into those. It makes all the difference. The making process is fun and therapeutic and giving gifts made by you is totally satisfying.  

It costs more than a box of chocolates because it’s so much more than a box (or several bags) of chocolates!

Spend quality time and make connections

When they take part in their experience they will likely meet new people and make new connections. Spend some quality time with the tutor and/or other attendees and enjoy a shared experience.  

It may be that the friend or family member (you) that purchased the experience has decided to join in too. 

This enables you both to spend some real quality time together, creating lasting memories, laughs, and hopefully something to take away and treasure.

Maybe they are learning an ancient craft or skill and also feel connected to all those that honed that craft in the past.

Escape from real life

An experience enables the person some time away from commitments. It creates some proper me-time away from everything, engaging in the activity, and the chance to forget those worries and woes for a bit of time at least.

My hubby offers experiences for budding blacksmiths. No previous experience is necessary, turn up to the forge and he will teach some blacksmithing basics. Everyone will come away with something wonderful made from scratch.  

Surely, there is nothing like hammering hot metal on the anvil to de-stress from the trials of life.

Boost your confidence

Learning a new skill is good for the brain. It excites and stimulates and we need this to stop us from becoming stale and stuck.

I found this quote in a toilet wallpaper in Shoreditch, London: “Your comfort zone will kill you.”

We all like a little comfort and familiarity but if we never challenge ourselves or try new things, it all becomes a little stale and boring.  Maybe you never use your hands at work, and you really would love the chance to get creative again.

Doing an experience will give you a buzz and in turn, be great for your confidence.

Maybe there is someone you know who would really benefit from a little confidence boost this Christmas?


Hopefully, the above five reasons have made you decide to ignore all the things you can buy and concentrate on buying experiences for loved ones instead.

bag of chocolates

Craftspeople are often small business owners, who love what they do and would love to share some of that love with others. Supporting small businesses makes the world of difference to them and I believe is a satisfying feeling for the purchaser too (I hope).

If you fancy purchasing a chocolate experience for a loved one, my gift vouchers last for six months (post-dated to Christmas). You can book for one person or organise a private group, or join in with others and come as a pair. Please drop me a line and let me know what you would like, I will forward all the purchase details and that’s another gift sorted.

Toasting fork in the forge fire

For the budding blacksmith, my hubby’s gift vouchers last for one year from purchase (also post-dated to Christmas), and for more information on these, please visit his website.

Other experiences are of course available. We’ve found The Indytute have some good options to choose from with lots of different price points!

I hope you are the lucky recipient of an experience this Christmas – enjoy and have fun!

Foodie Hacks to help the Budget

Foodie Hacks to help the Budget

I’m very lucky to be able to grow things in my garden, have a car to drive to discount stores as well as access to a nice kitchen and oven to cook things in. At the time of writing, I’m also still able to pay my energy bills!  

For many, it’s so much harder than that.  

I still hope it might prove helpful to share some of my foodie hacks that help the budget go just a little bit further.

Cook from scratch

I try and do this as much as I can and have ditched ready-made food items where possible. We rarely have takeaways these days and try and save eating out and/or takeaways for special occasions.

It always takes more time and effort to cook from scratch, so you will need to factor this into your meal plans.

There were some cheats I used to buy, such as bean burgers, as they were relatively inexpensive. I now make these myself too, and it’s much cheaper (and hopefully healthier also) to do so.

Bean Burgers

Bean burger in a seeded bun on a plate on the table

Take a can of mixed beans, drain, rinse and throw these in your mixer (or use a hand-blender or masher), add whatever you like to zing up the mixture. I add things like tomato puree, chilli, lemon, herbs, garlic, onion, spices such as cumin, coriander, and fennel; and blend/mash together. I sometimes blend with an egg, but often just add a little oil and breadcrumbs (see below).

One can usually make three large or four medium bean burgers. Form into a patty shape and chill for at least a couple of hours in the fridge.


If I don’t have any stale bread, I will leave a slice or two of bread out to go stale. A quick whizz-up and hey-presto they are done. If I make too many, I pop the rest in the freezer.

Plan ahead – if you need breadcrumbs for a recipe you need to factor in time to make them.


Jar of basil pesto

We love a bit of pesto in our house and always make our own. We use cheaper ingredients but still get great results.

The oil – we use a mixture, usually rapeseed with a little olive oil (keeping the more expensive oil to a minimum).

Use salted peanuts instead of pine nuts. They work well and are much cheaper to buy. You need to keep an eye on the salt content and adjust to taste as you are adding salt with the nuts.

Instead of Parmesan, we buy Grana Padano.


Lentils are such a tasty, versatile, and well-priced ingredient, I’ve already written a blog on them.


To be honest, they are rarely much in the way of leftovers in my house, but when there are, I will always try and get creative and turn them into something else or use them as part of another meal.

What do you do with yours? 

Please come and share your top tips with the rest of us.

Store Cupboard supper

In the past, I’ve often thought I don’t have anything in for a meal and will pop to the shops to top up. 

Now I try and avoid that until the next bigger shop and make something from what’s in the store cupboard.

It might be something really simple such as potato or egg-based. I might whip up a sauce for pasta with a tin of tomatoes as a starting point. 

Create something stir-fried to go with rice, or rustle up a curry from what’s left in the veg compartment in the fridge, or use tins/packets of beans and pulses.

BBC Good Food is a great website to add in your main ingredient and see what recipe inspiration comes up.

Time to get creative with that store cupboard stock.  

Own Brand 

Some of the discount supermarkets own brand products I’ve found to be very good:

  • Tomato sauce
  • Marmite
  • Peanut butter (the good stuff that has no added palm oil)
  • Tonic water

These are much cheaper than the branded versions I’ve bought in the past, and in our opinion, taste just as good.

Would you have anything to add to this list? Please share.

Eat more veg

As a family, we try and eat veggie meals around 75% of the time (100% for our veggie members of course!)

A pile of pumpklins

We spend more on the meat we do buy as we prefer to buy it from the farm shop, so we buy it less often.

Soup is often on the menu, sounds a bit sparing as a dinner, so I will often make it extra thick for an evening meal, maybe add coconut milk to make it more decadent then eat it with a lovely loaf.

It’s pumpkin time, don’t just carve them, why not make soups and curries and pies from your pumpkins!

I recently made a veggie stew with cheesy dumplings from the Good Food magazine for a big family gathering – rather than follow exactly the recipe, I used up all the veg I had in my fridge and bulked out with sweet potato and squash. Thankfully, it was a bit hit!

We have to mention Chocolate!

Supermarket own brands again are very good for chocolate for all tastes.

Look out for sales and short-dated stock – chocolate has a good long shelf-like and often if it’s near its sell-by date will still taste just as good!

Buy in bulk – if you trust yourself not to eat it all! Speak to me if you want to order some bulk chocolate and I can add yours to my order (and let you know the price).

Make your own desserts and treats.

Find out more

The Grocer magazine recently covered the best budget food bloggers and influencers to follow right now if you would like a more detailed and comprehensive guide on stretching your food budget.

Be a Blacksmith for the Day

Be a Blacksmith for the Day

My hubby, Jo Fry, runs beginner blacksmith courses at Standalone Farm in Letchworth Garden City.

Jo Fry (centre) with budding blacksmiths

He started the courses on the back of my chocolate workshop experiences. Previously all his work had been commissions, such as gates and railings. 

Someone asked him when he was going to start offering people the chance to come and play at the forge. Many years on, he now does courses only and this takes up all his time.

Here’s what he had to say about those that sign up to Be a Blacksmith for a Day.

It’s all in the Preparation

If you run events, you will know that so much of the hard work goes into the planning and preparation.

Before anyone arrives, I will do the necessary housekeeping (the forge gets quite grubby!), chop kindling, clean out the forge, and get all the equipment and materials ready.

Then it’s time for a sneaky coffee before lighting the forge, about 10 mins before my budding blacksmiths are due.

At the required time, I pop off to the car park to collect my guests.

The Briefing

As you can imagine, the health and safety element at the outset of the day is most important when you are teaching people how to use the forge, working on an open fire with hot metal.

I teach everyone this – the order of importance:

  1. Look after yourself
  2. Look after your materials
  3. Technique

The Generation Game

For those of a certain age, you will know what I mean. The demonstration by a seasoned pro makes everything look easy, and then you hand over and let each person have a go 😊

For each method or technique that we use I will demonstrate how it’s done, then encourage the participants to get going. I always try and leave each person to find their own way. Although I’ve been a blacksmith since leaving school (a rather long time ago), I show them the way I would do things and say they are welcome to follow me or experiment a little if they want to.

Patience is really important, and rather than butt in I like to let people try and if necessary, fail, as that is the best way they are going to learn.

The Toasting Fork

Toasting fork handle in the forge

Everyone makes a toasting fork at the outset. It enables me to teach different techniques and assess skills (many go on to make other items on the day). It is also something useful to take home and enjoy – ideal for your marshmallows over the bonfire or for poking a loved one into action!

Firstly, they create a round taper on a round bar using only the hammer and anvil (we keep to traditional methods for the whole course).

Next, they form the hoop (handle) and wrap the taper around the shaft of the fork.

Then they make the prongs at the other end, starting by taking the round material and making this into a rectangle.

They split this rectangular section down the middle to form individual prongs.

The prongs are then opened out and each is formed into a square taper, finally, they use the scrolling tongs to shape each prong.

Listing out the method like this sounds rather quick and easy, however, managing the forge, and learning to work with the hammer and anvil will take each person a few hours. Some spend all day working on their toasting fork, others are quicker and go on to make other items.  

It now takes me 15 mins to make a toasting fork, with just over 40 years of practice!

The rewards

Although I repeat this process with all my new attendees, it is always a pleasure to welcome each and every budding blacksmith to the forge and see them get stuck in.

Candle holder and toasting fork on the table (made by a budding blacksmith)
Items made by a previous attendee

It’s always interesting to meet people, work with different personalities and learn their stories. Each individual takes a different approach to the task and it’s always fascinating for me to watch this. I might learn from them too.

To take a complete novice (usually, this is not something they have done before), and see them make something with their very own hands is my reward each time. Many believe they will not be able to succeed. I’ve never had anyone fail yet.

I give people the space to find their way, I make observations of course, but most importantly I want them to be happy with what they are producing and proud to have used their own hands to have created something they can keep and treasure.

Everyone can be a blacksmith for a day! Hope to see you at the forge very soon. Jo

Scilly Times

Scilly Times

Imagine a place in the UK that takes longer to get to than most of your standard foreign holidays, costs more than travelling to somewhere sunny in Europe, and has many restrictions and difficulties due to its size and location.  

Yes, it’s the Scilly Isles. 

Not the main island of St Mary’s – that’s got roads, cars, shops, and restaurants! We are talking about one of the off islands. So remote, so beautiful and so worth the effort.

Here’s a little account of our recent Scilly Times.

The Journey

This is a UK holiday, how can it take longer than going abroad?

We live in the Southeast and we need to travel to Penzance in Cornwall to get the ferry over to St Marys.  That’s about a 5 – 6 hour drive, depending on the traffic (sometimes much longer).  

View from our overnight stay to St Michael’s Mount

The ferry, The Scillonian, leaves for St Mary’s around 9am and check-in is approx an hour beforehand. 

If you are camping, you need to deliver your camping equipment to the harbour about an hour before check-in, around 7am.

It’s not much fun travelling through the night, so we booked into Scilly Parking for an overnight stay. 

It’s still an early start, but so much better than being up all night!

The ferry takes approximately three hours to St Mary’s. Once there, all of your luggage is loaded onto the relevant off-island boat. Each boat comes alongside The Scillonian and they slide your luggage down a hatch and manually load up each boat.

Once this is completed, your off-island boat will head to the quay and pick up the foot passengers.

Next a 20- 30 min boat ride over to your chosen island.

Luggage is handed up the quay onto the waiting tractor and is transported to the campsite. The passengers walk!

Journey time: approx. 28 hours (with overnight stop and pub dinner en route!)

St Agnes

St Agnes is on the most south-westerly edge of the Isles of Scilly. It measures just a mile or so across, and its closest neighbour is Gugh. Gugh is joined by a sand bar at low tide. The island has about 85 residents, no proper roads and no cars (the odd car is sometimes used by a local for transportation, but there are not cars in the way we are used to on the mainland).  

There is one pub, one café, and one post office with stores as well as one gift shop. The campsite is housed on the farm and does have a small shop selling produce and some camping essentials.  

St Agnes is the only island on the Scillies not to have a hotel, although there are some self-catering options. Forget these in high season, as they are repeatedly booked by the same families year after year. If you are able to travel out of high season, you might get lucky.

If not, you will need to try your hand at camping!

The Campsite

Troytown Farm, home of St Agnes campsite, is the southernmost settlement in the United Kingdom! 

It is the most incredible setting with stunning views across to the island of Annet, the Western Rocks, and out to Bishop Rock and the Lighthouse. The view is constantly changing along with the tides. It’s very exposed – next stop USA – and the storms regularly blow in.  

View from our tent

The facilities are basic but good. Water is always in short supply, so there are timed tokens for the showers, and everyone is very conscious of water conservation. No electrical hookups are available, and a limited number of dogs are allowed.

The farm produces its own milk, yoghurt, meat and incredible ice cream – there is always an amazing choice of flavours on offer.

Night skies are truly amazing – you have never seen the stars like this before as there is no light pollution.

The Sunsets

Sunsets need their own special mention. They are truly incredible if the weather is kind, and you can see the magical event unfold. 

I think it best to let the pictures speak for themselves.

St Agnes sunsets

The swimming

I’m a keen wild swimmer. 

I much prefer a lake or the sea to a pool, so the swimming on St Agnes is especially good.  

You will often have a beach to yourself, or only be sharing with a couple of others. Crystal clear waters and bright white sand – you can forget you are in the UK and imagine you are on a Caribbean island! The water is fairly fresh, many swim in a wetsuit. Pick your time to swim as the tide turns and comes over the warm sand and it’s almost barmy (promise).

A Day on St Agnes

Pop to the campsite shop for some milk, eggs, yoghurt, top up your ice blocks and get the coffee on back at the tent.

4 pints of beer on a table with a view of the sea at The Turks Head, St Agnes

A slow start, a shower, and a walk around the island with the dog. The scenery, the terrain, the wildlife never fail to amaze each and every day. Usually, lunch back at the tent, or perhaps pop to the café for a crab roll as a treat.

Nip to the Post Office and pick up some food and wine for the evening (the supplies boat arrives around lunchtime so stocks are always better later in the day).

A read and relax and head off to the beach for a swim. A stop at the pub on the way back for a pint with a view. In fact, a pint with the best view ever!

Back to the campsite shop before it closes for some ice cubes and a cheeky gin and tonic while preparing dinner. Eat and watch the sun go down. Maybe light a fire on the beach and chat with some fellow campers.

Some days, you might be stuck in the tent for a while listening to the rain.

The competition

Chat to anyone you meet on St Agnes and they will ask you if you’ve been before.  

Many will tell you how many years they have been coming to the island. Most start enjoying holidays on St Agnes and fail to do anything else. 

It’s that sort of place.

What’s quite funny is the assumption that they have been coming longer than you! My hubby, who would never boast about such things, has been returning to St Agnes for 53 years and counting. We’ve had some years away, but recently returned after an 11-year gap. Too long, the magic starts seeping in as soon as you step off the boat onto the jetty…….

My other travel blogs include the Isle of Mull and eating/drinking our way around a little bit of Spain and Portugal.

As the summer draws to a close and you return to work after a break, maybe it’s time to start plotting the next adventure.

It’s time to simplify

It’s time to simplify

I’ve been making some changes to how I intend to work going forward. This is my chance to say a huge thank you to those that have joined me on various projects and adventures along the way and how/where you can find me going forward!

Here’s why it’s time to simplify

Juggling too many balls means I drop them, or don’t give time and attention to my projects in the way that feels right.

Chocolate is my first love and I want time to focus on this more. Since I have been able to welcome people in person again, bookings have been brilliant.  

As well as this, I’ve been doing lots more schoolwork lately. Careers fairs, enrichment activities, and enterprise days. This is such rewarding work and something I’d like the chance to develop.

My business in a chocolate box opportunity has seen a revival. This is where I train someone to run a version of The Melting Pot (under their own banner). This is a much bigger commitment of my time, involving training and then ongoing support for the first months of trading. 

It’s totally exciting that people are wanting to create their own chocolate workshop businesses where they live!

If I create space and I have a clear focus on what I want the future to hold, it is more likely to be successful than holding on to everything in fear of letting things go.

What I’m saying goodbye to

New Dawn Business Start-up Training

Building Confidence Programme

Creating Magic Challenge

Thank you to everyone who took part in these, it was a privilege to see you start to fly with your new business ventures, boost your confidence to tackle obstacles, and see what magic you wanted to explore.

Facebook pages/groups/membership sites have been closed. If you need any information from me or have a question or query, please get in touch.

Newsletter – see below on where to find out more

Where you can find me

At the chocolate tanksbook a workshop, come along and have some fun on your own or with a group.

On my blog – I have decided not to continue with a newsletter and focus on my blog instead ‘From Chocolate with Love’. We cover all things chocolate of course, as well as business and lifestyle – anything from camping to relationships and more!

Please keep an eye on the website for offers or special events.

Supporting local mental health charity Tilehouse Counselling (for just a few hours each week). The work they do is very close to my heart and so vital in our community. A shameless plug – you can support them each week by buying a community lottery ticket.  50% of each ticket sold is donated to Tilehouse.

The future

To think I actually considered selling the chocolate side of my business a couple of years ago to focus on the other areas I was developing! Now I’m doing the opposite.  

This has come about from listening to myself, really tuning into what I enjoy the most, and going with what flows with ease.

Change is always a little nerve-racking and I sincerely hope that creating space to pursue a simplified and more chocolatey future is the right decision. I’m excited to find out! 

Only time will tell. 

Do please pop back here to find out more!

If you have any stories or tips for simplifying life, please come and share on my Facebook page.