100 Ways to Unwind!

100 Ways to Unwind!

A list of 100 ways to unwind – because it’s all about YOU

A landscape at dusk
  1. Breathe – sit quietly, notice your breath in and out, breathe deeply
  2. Walk barefoot on the grass
  3. Sign up for a yoga class
  4. Have a PJ day
  5. Light a smelly candle and let the smell calm your senses
  6. Take a long, hot soak in the bath
  7. Meditate – as little as 5 mins a day can be beneficial, set a timer, get quiet and let thoughts flow, you can download guided meditations if that is helpful for you
  8. Visit the woods – hear the rustle of the leaves, the snap of a twig, notice the light filtering through the canopy, the majesty and strength of the trees
  9. Start the day with some yoga poses (use youtube to find out how to do them properly)
  10. Visit the sea, listen to the sound of the waves
  11. Watch the sunrise, notice the potential in a new day
  12. Watch the sunset, notice the beauty at the end of the day, and be thankful for at least one good thing in your life right now
  13. Celebrate a full moon, stand and wonder at the bright moon in a vast sky
  14. Sign up for a Pilates class
  15. Take a walk in nature – notice your surroundings, the sounds, the fields, the trees, the sunshine, the rain, the sky, the clouds
  16. Read a book
  17. Journal your feelings – find a lovely notebook and write regularly
  18. Go for a swim
  19. Visit the mountains, take in the view
  20. Drink lots of water
  21. Enjoy some peace and quiet and some alone time
  22. Go for a jog or run – studies have recently shown and even a short run each week is beneficial
  23. Sit by the bank of a river and watch the water flow, imagine your worries flowing by
  24. Get baking or cooking and notice the lovely smells permeating the home
  25. Have a cuppa
  26. Talk to a good friend
  27. Visit a museum
  28. Buy a colouring book and some decent pens – do some colouring
  29. Watch your diet, enjoy eating healthy foods and avoid too many sugary snacks
  30. Can you break down what you are worried about?  Set aside sometime each day to worry – instead of allowing worries to undermine you all the time, say to yourself, you will worry about that at ‘worry time’ and sit and think about all those things that are worrying you in detail.  Some you may be able to fix, some you will not.  Acknowledge each thing you are worried about and then move on until the next worry time.
  31. Go to a fitness class
  32. Stick on your favourite tune and dance around the kitchen
  33. Watch something easy and light on TV
  34. Listen to your favourite podcast
  35. Read/watch or listen to someone inspirational – Ted Talks have lots of wonderful options to choose from
  36. Book yourself a massage or other beauty/relaxation treatment
  37. Eat a little dark chocolate
  38. Declutter a cupboard, a room, or a space such as your desk
  39. Do a crossword/quiz or sudoku
  40. Have a laugh; listen to comedy, joke around with friends, watch a comedy show
  41. Draw or paint something
  42. Do your favourite sporting activity
  43. Take up a new sporting activity
  44. Spend time with animals – visit the zoo or a farm
  45. Take the dog for a walk or spend time with your pet(s), join in with a friend on a dog walk if you don’t have a dog yourself
  46. Play an instrument
  47. Hug a tree
  48. Watch children playing
  49. Do some retail therapy – maybe just some window shopping will be enough
  50. Create time in the day to think or daydream
  51. Go for a cycle ride or a spin class
  52. Go fishing or sit watching someone else fishing
  53. Climb a hill (or mountain) and enjoy the view from the top
  54. Visit an art gallery
  55. Watch a film at the cinema
  56. Go to the ballet/theatre
  57. Buy yourself some flowers
  58. Work in the garden, allotment or help someone else with their garden/allotment (even a planter or window box will suffice)
  59. Be grateful for what you have
  60. Try essential oils and aromatherapy
  61. Visit a comedy club
  62. Go to a festival/music gig
  63. Think about your next holiday, do some research and book something to look forward to
  64. Get organised, make action plans and lists and tick things off as you go
  65. Visit a coffee shop, buy your favourite drink and sit and watch the world go by
  66. Knit or crochet
  67. Learn to play a new instrument
  68. Do something mindless – some housework, clean the car, organise a drawer
  69. Smell the roses – notice the aroma from your favourite blooms
  70. Write something – a blog or some fiction
  71. Buy yourself a little treat
  72. Take a power nap
  73. Look at some inspiring photos
  74. Visit a spa
  75. Organise your emails and sort your inbox
  76. Write a letter to a loved one
  77. Visit a church or cathedral and wonder at the amazing architecture and history
  78. Visit a beautiful garden
  79. Get an early night
  80. Visit the library
  81. Take up a new hobby/learn a new skill
  82. Get up earlier and finish your ‘jobs/tasks’ earlier to create more free time
  83. Visit a food market and marvel at the delicious wares on sale
  84. Enjoy the sunshine on your face
  85. Change your bedding and notice the lovely smell of fresh sheets
  86. Skim stones across the water
  87. Visit a beautiful lake and marvel and the view
  88. Have a lie in or a duvet day
  89. Go and watch your team play a sport
  90. Plant a tree
  91. Talk to someone – a problem is better shared
  92. Ask for help, delegate something, you don’t have to own everything
  93. Remind yourself that perfection is overrated – good is good enough
  94. Put on a facemask, or an eye mask
  95. Watch a tearjerker film and have a good cry
  96. Ask for a hug
  97. Support someone in need
  98. Light some incense. Scents like Sandalwood and Sage can help calm anxieties and aid relaxation.
  99. Avoid negativity – don’t judge others but try and separate your identity and emotions from it.
  100. BE YOU! 
The Easter Bunny recommends…

The Easter Bunny recommends…

Whether it’s the best eggs to buy, running the best egg hunt, enjoying a special lunch, or munching on a delicious hot cross bun with a cuppa, read on for some Easter inspiration.

Easter Bunny sitting on a tablecloth with spring flowers

The Easter Bunny recommends….

The Best Easter Eggs

Good Housekeeping has done all the Easter Egg research for you this year.

Chocolate Easter egg sitting on a bed of smarties

Chocolatiers and supermarkets submitted their recommendations to the Good Housekeeping Institute. They actually tested 135 eggs (are you now thinking you need a new job?). Hot Cross Bun Egg anyone?

These are the categories they cover:

  • Milk chocolate Easter eggs
  • White and blonde chocolate Easter eggs
  • Dark chocolate Easter eggs
  • Kids Easter eggs
  • Vegan Easter eggs

The Best Easter Egg Hunt

Colourful eggs and a basket on the grass

If you want to try some alternative ideas for your hunt this year, Country Living Magazine has come up with 27 creative hunt ideas for indoors and out and including online options.

The Best Hot Cross Buns

I love a hot cross bun. 

I’ve tried making them, they are a lot of work and mine were a bit of a disaster. Hot Cross Rocks would have been the better description! There are so many varieties to choose from these days.

Here’s a list of good supermarket buys from Olive magazine. Alternative options include dark chocolate and ginger and a white chocolate and lemon version mmm.

The Best Easter Lunch

The BBC Good Food team has come up with the ultimate Easter lunch menu. It does sound rather tasty:

  • Pea, mint & spring onion soup with parmesan biscuits to start
  • Roast lamb studded with rosemary & garlic (they also give plenty of veggie alternatives), served with dauphinoise potatoes, spring vegetables, and lemon & thyme baby carrots
  • Chocolate egg baked tart

I’m very pleased to see they ended the meal with chocolate. If you want more chocolate pud inspiration, try these.

Whether you celebrate Easter or not, I do hope you are able to enjoy some downtime with family and friends and of course add lots of chocolate into the mix too.

Happy Easter

Why I started my business

Why I started my business

 I usually tell everyone about my love of chocolate and people, I just put the two together and created The Melting Pot.

Of course, my reasons for starting run far deeper than that.  

Dawn Fry

Here’s why I really started my business:

I took a job to fit around the needs of the family and it was driving me mad. It was something beneath my skill set for the part-time element and often left me unfulfilled and bored. Trying hard to turn it into something else wasn’t working, which just added to my frustration.

Life’s too short

My Dad became ill with serious cancer, followed by my husband in the same year. The next months were a blur of sitting by hospital beds and supporting them both. It was a tough time, with both seriously ill at the same time and three young children to support too. Driving around the M25 day after day, spending hours at a bedside, sitting watching loved ones suffer, and getting home and trying to be something for the kids. It took its toll.

Eventually, I went back to work but being in that environment was the final straw for me. How could I continue to work in something that didn’t serve me when life was so short and precarious?  

The only way is up

After a gruelling time and against the odds, we received good news, both my dad and hubby survived and are still well to this day, touch wood.

However, I now found myself teary and upset a lot of the time. The past had taken its toll. Not only did I not want to be in my job, but I was also not coping that well at all. It was hard to believe that everyone was going to be OK, even though the news was good, and I certainly didn’t feel OK myself.

One day there was a passing comment made in the office. It typified everything about what was not going to happen for me in my current role. 

I found myself in the toilet crying and knew something had to change.

The lightbulb moment

It was getting to that really low point, that kicked in some form of survival instinct and finally got me to tune into my need to reinvent myself. Time to start my own business, be my own boss, set my own agenda…..but what could I do?

I did literally have a lightbulb moment – I knew my business had to be with people and some sort of food and one day I just went, “chocolate, that’s it”. Running chocolate workshops felt right; I had created my new business idea, now to make it happen.

Redundancy Cheer

Redundancy is no joke; I’m not trying to make light of how awful it feels for some to know that they are going to lose their job and security. For me, it was a cheery and fearful moment. I was called into the office to be told that my job was being made redundant (it was the height of a recession in 2009). My response was ‘hurrah’ as it meant I could focus on my dream. I’d not been there long enough to qualify for redundancy pay, but it did give me the opportunity to start creating a chocolate workshop business as there was no job to full back on. This was the catalyst I really needed to make it a reality.

I left the job in June 2009 and launched The Melting Pot in September 2009.  

Why stop at workshops

After many years since I took the plunge, I still offer chocolate workshops and now so much more….

Hot Chocolate Team Day

So many courses and bespoke events have been created for clients – I say yes, then work out how I’m going to make it work.  

My hubby was inspired too, and for some years has been offering ‘be a blacksmith for a day’ experiences from his forge. We’ve even collaborated and created ‘hot chocolate’ team days.

I’ve documented everything I did to create a ‘business in a chocolate box’ and sell this to others wishing to run chocolate workshops where they live.  

New Dawn start-up business training came out of mentoring and supporting those starting a chocolate workshop business. Not everyone wants to work with chocolate – can you believe that?

Lack of confidence seemed to stop the people I met from starting something, they didn’t believe they could do it. If I could surely others could too? A free creating magic challenge and building confidence course were born.

Who knows what might be next…..

What I’d like to pass on

  1. Don’t stay working in something that makes you unhappy. You can and deserve to be happier at work. If you find yourself having a cry in the toilet, please make a change.
  2. Be brave – stretching your comfort zone will feel uncomfortable at first but the rewards are enormous.
  3. Choose love – firstly learn to love yourself properly, this is so important if you want to support all those that are so important to you too. There is nothing like working for yourself to really explore you and your capabilities.

There it is, why I started my own business. I love being my own boss, flexible, challenging, interesting and you will be so surprised at what you will learn about yourself.

Why All Relationships Matter

Why All Relationships Matter

We are talking business relationships here, but it’s personal too.

The most obvious relationships are those we have with our customers. The customer is king in every business. However, there are so many more to consider for a successful business to survive and indeed thrive, including the one you have with yourself.

Let’s explore why all relationships matter:

What relationships?

Meeting at a desk, with notebooks, drinks and laptops (you can't see their faces, just there arms writing in their books)

Sometimes we focus so much on the obvious (our customers) we overlook other opportunities.

Who do you have relationships with?

Customers, employees, contractors, suppliers, competitors, family, friends – are all key relationships within your business.

Another thing to consider is your potential relationship with someone where you are simply making an enquiry.

Maybe you are looking at a business opportunity?

How you behave will reflect on how you are perceived by the vendor.

Do you ask, realise it’s not for you (right now) and then ignore all the follow-ups? What if you later change your mind. If you didn’t go back to them explaining not right now, have you burnt your bridges for a potential transaction in different circumstances?

Send a simple reply explaining it’s not for you and why, and come across as professional and considered.

Supplying the Goods

Think about the importance of getting your supplies for example.  

Cacao beans

You are spending money with your suppliers and may think that you need do no more than hand over your hard-earned cash. What about a shortage in supplies (something that we are often facing in these difficult times).  Your supplier may have to choose which customer to send limited supplies to.  

What if you need a rush job and will need a supplier to go the extra mile for you?

Might your supplier recommend your services/goods to another customer if you are great to do business with?

A good relationship can reap unexpected benefits.

Money Matters

How do you pay for your supplies?  

Pink piggy bank

Cash flow can be an issue at times, so you may leave certain suppliers waiting for payment.  

Is this something you accept personally?  

Are you willing and able to wait for payment from a service or goods you have delivered?

What are your terms, and do you act with the same integrity with everyone else you do business with?

If you do hit on difficult times and you need to speak to your suppliers about extending credit for a limited time, your payment history will come into play. Have you built credibility with your supplier to afford you some leeway when it might be most be needed?

The Competition

Hide your head in the sand, feel threatened and defensive, or completely oblivious – what is your attitude to the competition?

Competition can be a good thing. If more people are offering what you do, there must be a demand for it. Always check out the competition and keep an eye on what they are doing. Is there an opportunity to work together, to collaborate?  

No one can do things the way that you do them. You are what makes your business unique.  

Make friends with the competition where appropriate and explore ways of potentially working together. 

The team

If you employ people or use contractors, then they are representing you and your business.

Do they clearly understand and operate by your values? Have you adequately trained and equipped them to achieve their tasks properly?

If there is one big lesson I’ve taken from running my own business, it’s all my fault. If an employee/contractor makes a mistake, then the buck will stop with me. Choose good people (we need to part ways with those that are not the right fit) and train them well.

Build good strong relationships with all members of your team and it will reap rewards.

Customers are King

Without customers, we don’t have a business.  

Building strong relationships with your customers and providing the best possible service matters. I like to create sticky customers (ones I cover in chocolate, but also stick around for more). Working with chocolate is a good hook for building rapport, but you don’t need to work with it to use it to your advantage! Here are 100 ways to make your customers go WOW.  

You

Nothing will test you like running your own business. It is the best personal development programme you will ever encounter. You will experience highs and lows, but the benefits of being your own boss far outweigh the difficult bits!  

Be YOU. People buy authentic, tell your story, be yourself. 

If you do not it will be exhausting and not something that you can sustain long term.

Set boundaries for yourself and stick to them. Respect yourself and others will follow suit. Treat everyone in the way you expect to be treated yourself.

The relationship with yourself will be tested and you need to know who you are and what you stand for.

All relationships matter.

Secret confessions of a chocolatier

Secret confessions of a chocolatier

I’m saving my biggest confession for a bit later. Please read on to the end of the blog where all will be revealed…..

I’m not sure how secret my confessions are, but here goes:

Dawn Fry

Sexy Job Title

For years I worked in offices, I might have had a bit of a fancy title like General Manager at a Professional Body. No one really knew what you did though, unless you bored them with lots of detail.

Asked my profession now and I answer ‘chocolatier’, it feels exciting, a bit different, certainly tasty, and definitely a talking point.   

Confession No 1:
I love it when someone asks what I do.

Tales from the Tanks

Two tanks of chocolate

The title of this blog implied I would be giving away my secret confessions, in reality, I think you do more of that than me. In my workshops, there are a group of people leaning over a vat of molten chocolate. 

The air is thick with the aroma of chocolate.

People are dropping fillings into the tank, retrieving them, and then moving their forks up and down rhythmically, removing the excess chocolate. They start to talk and share their stories. As much as we have fun and a laugh together, we also share some difficult times. It’s a real privilege to be a part of that with my groups.  

Confession No 2:
Chocolate therapy is the way forward.

The wonderful world of chocolate

Working with chocolate is a wonderful way to earn a living, but the actual world of chocolate is amazing.

The fascinating history, the way it’s grown and manufactured. Many artisan producers play with flavours and create new and exciting pairings. Creativity, tastings, competitions, cakes, puddings, bars, truffles, and everything in-between. It’s great to be part of something so innovative and varied.

Confession No 3:
Since working with chocolate, I’ve gone properly over to the dark side, I love something really strong and bitter.

The downside

Cleaning up is the worst bit of the job. Chocolate really does get everywhere. On the upside, you can nibble a bit of chocolate while you work and I do reflect on the fact that someone could be telling me what to do. Even when I’m cleaning I love being my own boss.

Confession No 4:
I save up all my chocolate mats to wash in one go, I can’t face them otherwise. You need loud music and lots of tea towels.

People are the spice of life

A group of people at a hen party

From the outset, I never stood on my own making chocolates to sell. Workshops and experiences were my intentions and one I’m happy to have stuck with. It was a little tricky in lockdown, but thankfully we are back together again. I’ve never been so busy, so you must be up for experiences in person again too.

Confession No 5:
I love the people as much as I love the chocolate (sometimes even a little bit more). That’s my biggest secret. You make chocolate so much more fun, and it just wouldn’t be the same without you.

The not-so-secret confessions of a chocolatier!

What’s the plan, Stan?

What’s the plan, Stan?

I’m not a great fan of New Year resolutions. They tend to be a bit flash in the pan. However, now is a great time of year to reflect and work out something more meaningful and relevant for the following months and beyond.

Let’s hope there are not too many more weeks of restrictions and compromise to come. At the time of writing this, it seems that we have a bit to go yet. 

This is the moment between Christmas and New Year. Usually the calm between two busy periods. For us, Christmas had to be cancelled, so it’s been exceptionally quiet for a time. The perfect opportunity to work on what’s the plan, Stan!

Dawn Fry

Why make a plan?

You may feel the need to make some changes in your life, these are more achievable if you think about what needs to be different and attempt to tackle them at some agreed point.

Perhaps, pandemic permitting, you would simply like to travel or see friends and family further afield. While these last two years have taught us that plans can’t be set in stone, it’s great to think about how & when you might do such things and plot them in the diary.

What do you want?

We are so often on the treadmill of doing stuff, getting through each day, and not thinking much beyond the daily grind. There’s nothing wrong with that but now and again it’s good to check in and make sure we are doing some of the good stuff too.

So rarely do most of us sit down with a pen and paper and work out what matters to us most. 

Let’s break it down

Take a moment to think about each of the following areas of your life.

Work

Home
Family
Friends
Health
Fitness
Leisure/fun

Describe the absolute best-case scenario for each of those categories.

What does work look like if you are doing the dream job for example? Perhaps you have always dreamed of being your own boss? Is it time to explore making this a reality, you might consider turning a hobby into something more serious?

Here are some of the reasons I chose to work with chocolate!

Now go over each area again and describe where you are now. Be honest with yourself, it’s your life, and time is ticking on.

Mind the gap

What/where are the gaps from the dream scenario to what you are actually doing now.

Do you need to focus more on your health and fitness to achieve some of your dreams?

Is it time to factor in more fun as you have not had time/energy to focus on this area of your life and you feel a little stale/bored?

Maybe you feel lacking in confidence and need to work on this first?

Identifying what’s holding you back, or feeling a little fearful is important. You are giving it air time and yourself the opportunity to work through issues.

Once you have identified the gaps – this will form the basis of your plan.

Write up the headlines and put some dates against when you wish to achieve them. It does not have to be done overnight. Some things will be longer-term.

What is most exciting on that list to you?

Do something towards that first.

Come back to your list throughout the year, or at agreed intervals (every quarter, six months, annually) and rinse and repeat.

You can change a plan – nothing is set in stone.

Come and tell us your plan Stan and inspire us all over on Facebook.

Do you have the KIT for business?

Do you have the KIT for business?

There have been some perfect examples of where the right KIT has resulted in sales this week.

In one case without the KIT a sale would have fallen through.

Do you have this in your business?

Dawn Fry

What’s KIT? 

KIT is simply ‘Keeping In Touch’ – do this properly and it will help your business no end. Let’s explore if you have the KIT for business

Firstly, I want to tell you a little story…….

How my KIT resulted in extra sales

A customer had been in touch regarding purchasing a gift voucher. They had lots of specific questions, which I answered but it had gone quiet. 

After a few days, I sent another email, asking if I had answered all the questions they had and could I help any further. For some reason, the original email had ended up in the junk folder and had not been read. 

From the customer’s perspective, it looked like I had not bothered. A follow-up and the customer was completely apologetic about not seeing my original response. The result – gift voucher purchased. Very gratefully received and all because I bothered to go back and check-in.

KIT for business

There are a few simple things you can do to keep in touch with your customers, build good relationships, and hopefully help to boost sales.

Rapid Response

If someone sends you an enquiry, get back to them as quickly as possible. When you are in the mood to buy something, you want to achieve your goal. 

Go back to a customer quickly while they are in buying mode. Leave it too long and they may have gone to someone else or changed their mind.

The number of times I hear ‘thanks for coming back to me so quickly’ backed up by the booking – it’s worth a rapid response.

Keep it Simple

How easy it is for someone to get in touch with you? Is it obvious and simple for someone to hit a button, drop you a line, DM, email or call whether it’s your website or social media?  

Sometimes we overlook the absolute obvious. Check your customer’s journey and ensure they can easily make contact if they wish to enquire or buy from you.

Make a Note

Who has been in touch, and have they bought from you yet? If not, have you gone back to them to help further? Can you send them something relevant and useful that will help build your reputation with them and encourage them to purchase in the future?

Whether you keep a database, have a sophisticated system, or simply put a note in your diary – keep a note to touch base.  

Newsletter

A great way to keep in touch is to drop existing and potential customers a line with all your news, or relevant information that they would find interesting. A newsletter is a fab way to do this.  

Be mindful of data protection and do things properly. If you subscribe to a proper newsletter service, there will be an opt-in and unsubscribe service in-built. There are some free services for this too, such as Mailchimp. Act professionally and respectively at all times, but do tell people about what you do regularly. It’s not their business to remember, it’s your business to remind.

NO often means not now, it’s not the right time. Keep in touch and you will be around when the time is YES.

KIT Opportunities

What other opportunities are there in your business to keep in touch?

Mum’s book children’s parties with me. I offer pre-printed invitations, which I send to mum on booking. That ensures that all the mums/dads or carers of the attendees have my details. When their little one comes home full of chocolate and asks if they can have a chocolate party – it’s easy to get in touch and book.

Recipe cards are another keep in touch tool I give out at my adult parties.

If you wish to up the ante a little, here’s how you can work in some WOW.

Daily Disciplines

It takes effort and energy to run your business, and you need to set yourself some daily disciplines to ensure you make keeping in touch a priority.

Explain to your potential customers when you are around, and when you might be taking a moment for family, leisure, or pleasure.  

It’s your rules and you can run your business how you wish, as long as you communicate clearly and act exactly how you say you will.

What would you add to the KIT – do come and share any extra tips with us over on my Facebook page.

If this has made you want to run your own business, here are some potential ideas for you. You might even consider working with chocolate!

What I’ve learnt from running events

What I’ve learnt from running events

Whether you run your own business or not, you will come up against running an ‘event’ at some point. The Christmas lunch, a party, or something work-related – you can’t escape!

A group of people at a hen party

I’ve been running chocolate workshops for over 12 years, and I love working with chocolate and people. 

A workshop, dinner party, or having a table-full at Christmas, the same principles apply to whatever event you might be planning.

Here’s what I’ve learnt from running events

Who’s it for

Who’s your audience?  

My events span primary and secondary schools to team building – so the audience is very diverse. 

Put yourself in the shoes of the attendees. What will make it interesting and relevant for them? If you are working with small children, there can be no gaps (have some colouring up your sleeve to keep them occupied for example).

Here are some specific tips on running successful school events.

What are the expected outcomes?

If you are being hired to deliver an event, this may be easier to achieve. Ask! It’s best to request a phone call or a face-to-face meeting if possible as you can drill down into expectations and ask specific questions. This allows you to manage expectations too.

Even if it’s a family gathering, take a moment to reflect on the guests and what would be suitable for all, bearing in mind there could be different ages and abilities.

How can you achieve expected outcomes?

Have an open mind. Sometimes a request can seem almost impossible. 

I can't written on a piece of paper.  Someone is cutting off the 't so it reads I can

Hold that thought for a while and think to yourself I would like a solution to this. See what comes up.

Trust yourself and your previous experiences, don’t be afraid to put your own stamp on something.

Think about yourself and your needs too. Don’t promise something that is at such a high cost to you it will go wrong, cause you too much stress or make you feel resentful.

What’s plan B?

This is not always possible but having a backup plan is a great strategy. It might just be for elements of the event, where you think there could be stumbling blocks. If a crisis happens on the day, you will find a way through. As long as no one is in actual danger, own up, explain, agree to move on – whatever it takes to get things back on track.

Run it through

This is the best way to ensure your event is a success. Imagine the moment the first person arrives, to the moment the last person leaves, what will be happening and when. Then go through exactly what will be required for each element of their time with you. 

Make a list as you go.

Prep within an inch of your life

Someone laying the table

Once you’ve run it through you will know what needs to be prepped beforehand. Do as much as possible. You can’t be too prepared as once your event is underway your attention is required, and time disappears.

Know your limits. Think about what others can bring to the party if you need to have someone on hand to help. Play to your strengths.  

Act like a pro 

This is not meant to be confusing – you need to be authentic and yourself, but you do need to be the best version of yourself you can be. This does take some energy and it may not feel totally comfortable at first.

Sometimes you have to fake it a little until you make it. This is not being dishonest or inauthentic, it’s acting a little more confident than you feel. It’s about NOT over-sharing how nervous you are or all the things you are worried about that might go wrong. Act like it’s all fine, and if it doesn’t feel fine just yet, keep the faith that it will.

It’s your event, you are responsible for creating some atmosphere, be engaging and interesting, and put lots of energy into making it a success. You can only do so much though, and sometimes your best is not good enough for everyone. We don’t always know their story and will need to chalk it up to experience.

Gain valuable feedback

Find out how your event was received. A corporate-style event makes this a little easier as you can supply feedback forms. 

Talk to people, make a call, go over elements of the event with them, especially if you felt it could have gone better at certain points. Listen. 

You will pick up little nuggets at the event itself if you are open to hearing how people are experiencing their time with you.  

Review and improve

Go over the event in fine detail. Think about those things that worked well, do more of them. For the things that didn’t work quite as well, or you gained insight from feedback, tweak. Keep honing as we can always improve.

squares of white and dark chocolate in a pile

Seriously, if you really want to know what I’ve learnt from running events, add chocolate! You don’t have to be a chocolatier, you could just throw in a tasting for fun, everyone will love it.

Every event is hard work as it will take effort and energy to make it work well. Hosting a great event is such a buzz, one that you will learn and grow from too.

Be confident in your event and others will follow suit. Enjoy and don’t forget to come and tell us all about it.

Top of the Christmas Chocs

Top of the Christmas Chocs

I previously shared my ‘top of the chocs’ – five favourite chocolate recipes you can make at home.

It’s time for a festive update and a focus on lovely chocolate creations ideal for Christmas.

Here are my five top of the Christmas Chocs:

Christmas cake with chocolate icing and sprinkles topped with holly

Chocolate Christmas Cake 

Maybe you are not a fan of the rich fruity traditional Christmas cake and you’d like an alternative? 

This is an Italian version – full of nuts and chocolate. I found it in my Delia Christmas cookbook, but she credits the wonderful Anna del Conte for its origin). Chocolate and nuts, what’s not to love about this Christmas cake!  

It will keep for two weeks and can be frozen. No weeks of feeding beforehand.

Yule Log

Chocolate yule log

No Christmas would be complete without a chocolate log or Bûche de Noël.

I’ve shared a Mary Berry recipe here with thanks to BBC Good Food. The only amendment I would make is to use a higher cocoa content chocolate in the ganache. Mary is fond of using Bournville or similar, but I prefer more chocolate kick for my bark! 

There are some good shop-bought options available. Here’s a list of the best shop buys from Good Housekeeping.

Cheats Chocolate Trifle 

We all need a little cheat over Christmas, especially one that looks and tastes fabs but requires minimum effort.  

If you have time, you can cheat a little less by making your brownies. Shop bought will work fine here though.  

Method:

Break up your brownies and pop in the bottom of your trifle bowl.  

Spoon over some booze of your choice (Baileys works well and is suitably festive).  

Add a layer of something extra here – crushed Oreo biscuits, Maltesers or some boozy cherries for example.

Take a pot of posh custard (one with real vanilla) and add 100g of dark chocolate in button form, or broken into small pieces. Gently heat to melt the chocolate pour. Allow to cool (you can pop some clingfilm on the top to stop a skin from forming). Pour this over the brownies – cool.

The final layer is some boozy cream. Add the same booze you used to soak the brownies – around 100ml booze to 500ml double cream. Sift in 25g of icing sugar and whisk to soft peaks.

Spoon on a generous layer of cream and decorate with chocolate sprinkles of your choice (more Maltesers if you have already used them)

Enjoy mmmmmm.

Chocolate Salami 

Chocolate salami

This is a kid-friendly version of chocolate salami, which they can make – a rocky road sausage. It requires a couple of hours for the shaping element. Choose a festive film to go with the making process! With thanks to Claire Burnet of Chococo.  

Method:

Cover a baking tray with two layers of clingfilm

Melt 225g dark/milk chocolate to taste

Smash 100g of digestives and add these with 100g mixed dried fruits of your choice to the melted chocolate mixture, and 50g mini marshmallows – mix well

Leave to cool for 10 mins then pour onto your baking tray

Bring up the clingfilm and fold over the chocolate mixture, roll to form a sausage shape

Pop in the fridge, take out every 10 – 15 mins, and roll again to return to a sausage shape. It takes about approx. 2 hours to properly firm up

10 mins before you want to serve your sausage, take it out of the fridge. Roll in icing sugar for an authentic salami look, slice, and serve

There is a rather grown-up fruity salami sold by Chococo’s. It won a Great Taste award and is vegan-friendly.   

Truffles 

The perfect little homemade pressie, or to serve as a treat after a festive meal. Don’t forget you can flavour your ganache mixture with some booze or decorate in different coatings such as icing sugar or nuts.

three truffles with different chocolate finishes
Method:

250g dark chocolate

250g double cream

100g light muscovado sugar

Break the chocolate into small pieces and pop in a bowl.  

Place the cream and sugar in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer for one minute.

Turn off the heat and allow the cream to cool for one minute. (If you pour boiling cream onto your chocolate, it will cause the chocolate to split – time the minute, don’t guess!)

Pour the cream/sugar onto the chocolate and mix well until smooth and very glossy – you can add a splash of booze at this stage. It may look like it is going to split but keep whisking and it will come back to a smooth mixture.

Allow to cool at room temperature, then place in the fridge, covered, for at least two hours or until fully set.

To roll, remove from the fridge and use a teaspoon to scoop even-sized pieces and place them on parchment paper. Powder your hands with cocoa powder and roll the ganache into even-sized spheres.    

(Take care not to handle for too long or the ganache will begin to melt).

Bloody Mary cocktail with lime and celery stick
Bloody Mary made with chocolate vodka!

If you want to go to town, you could then dip your ganache into tempered chocolate and create a lovely crunchy shell.

Not sure what’s the best chocolate to work with read this first!

Now after all that cooking you may need a restorative hot chocolate, or perhaps something a little stronger – chocolate vodka anyone?

The best hot chocolate?

The best hot chocolate?

The leaves are turning, the nights are drawing in – it’s officially hot chocolate season once again. 

Chocolate milk with cream on top with autumn leaves scattered around the plate

I’m going to give you my simple tips for the best hot chocolate (in my opinion). Including a bit of history, I’ve shared a recipe for Aztec-style hot chocolate too.

Read on for a review of a new hot chocolate outfit that is a must-visit next time you are up North.

What do you consider the best hot chocolate? Here are my tips:

A simple recipe

Ditch the pre-made chocolate drinks.

Take some of your favourite chocolate, add milk, and heat for the best results.

Hot chocolate in tall glass with cream and sprinkles with a separate pot of mini marshmallows on the side

25g – 30g of chocolate in button form or chop into smallish chunks.  

Measure milk of your choice in the mug you will be serving it in.

Add the cold milk to the chocolate and gently warm in a pan, or in short bursts in the microwave.

Stir frequently, preferably using a whisk.

Serve with adornments of your choice (cream, mallows, grated chocolate, cacao nibs) or leave and drink straight.

Use 50/50 milk/water if you prefer something lighter.

It’s all about the chocolate

squares of white and dark chocolate in a pile

I prefer a good quality dark chocolate for the best hot chocolate. 70% or more in strength would be my preference. Remember the quality of the chocolate is not always reflected in the percentage of cocoa. It may be that you like chocolate that has a good hit of flavour, but has a lower cocoa content.

Remember the milk will sweeten the mixture, so try and go a little darker in your chocolate choice for more chocolate flavour.  

Mix chocolates. If you are not a fan of dark chocolate, then use milk and add a little dark to mix. It will enhance the flavour and add more depth to your delicious hot chocolate drink.

If you want to try something different, strong, and spicey, then try this……..

Aztec-style Hot Chocolate

This is a water-based hot chocolate recipe with lots of added spices.

100g dark chocolate (in button form, or broken into small pieces)

 25g brown sugar

 20g cocoa powder

Spices of your choice – I tend to add lots, including chilli, ginger, cardamom, clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

Heat 500ml of water, add the sugar and the cocoa powder, and bring to a simmer, stirring, for three to four minutes. Remove from the heat and leave for one minute. 

Add your chocolate and spices and whisk vigorously. Return to the heat bring back to the simmer for a further two to three minutes – it’s then ready to serve.

For some, this is an acquired taste, but I love the depth and spiciness of this drink. Your kitchen will smell wonderful with a heady aroma of chocolate and spice!

Cocoa Joe’s

Cocoa Joe’s, a small independent company is currently based in York and Patetley Bridge only. On a recent visit to Pateley Bridge, a local recommended I try out their hot chocolate. It was a fab experience.

There was a chocolate menu. 

Hot chocolate drink in white cup and saucer

You chose your hot chocolate drink based on the chocolate it would contain. An outfit after my own heart!  

The server was really helpful and let me taste various options before I decided on the strength I wished to go for. From white, ruby, milk, and many dark varieties of chocolate up to a 100% option. 

There were chocolates from various regions, single-origin chocolate and the server was knowledgeable about all the chocolates on offer.

Chocolate chosen, the buttons were melted into hot, frothy milk, some grated chocolate added to the top and that was it. Silky, full chocolate taste and completely satisfying and delicious. It’s up there as one of my best hot chocolates.

How do you take yours?

Please come and share your top tips and photos on my Facebook page!

What a fab idea for a new business!