Lately life seems to be moving along at a rapid pace, but then again that’s what happens when one is planning a wedding. Considering we got engaged in February and are set to be married autumn of this year, we didn’t really give ourselves a whole lot of time!

But that’s okay. We’re not having a big wedding; in fact, we’re having 32 guests total – about half from my side, half from Mountaineering Man’s side. It’ll be our immediate family members, and a few close friends. Despite the small size it will be a real wedding, not a courthouse affair but rather a late afternoon ceremony and evening reception at a private Villa in the Chianti region of Tuscany.

I was never one of those girls who dreamt of her wedding day from a young age; as a kid I put a pillowcase on my head so I could pretend to be a nun, not a bride [and no, I had no designs to be a woman of the cloth – I was merely impersonating my teachers at school!]. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that this wedding is a dream, albeit one that was never fully formed before I met MM. To be married to this man amidst the rolling hills of Italy, celebrating with close family and friends while feasting on traditional Tuscan fare and drinking wine from the Villa’s own vineyard…I’m pinching myself just thinking about it!


Even the part I was dreading the most – finding a wedding dress – surprisingly turned out to be a pleasurable experience. You see I had no idea that in Ireland, you have to have an appointment to even browse in a bridal shop; in fact, I found this out the night before I had planned to have my first browse around a few Dublin shops. I rang one of them that very morning, and they slotted me in for an early afternoon appointment. I grumbled through my salad as I lunched with my friend Sinead, who’d met me in town for a quick visit. “I do NOT want shop girls fawning all over me, why can’t I just look without making a big deal out of it?” I moaned.

I was still dragging my feet as we walked into Berketex Bride in the Jervis Centre and probably down-right cranky when the girl asked me to fill out a form. I reluctantly did so and then had a quick look around the store. “There’s nothing here I like,” I told Sinead. I was just about to leave when Claire, a store employee, approached me and asked a few questions about what I wanted. “I’ve dressed hundreds of brides,” she said, waving one of her perfectly-toned arms in a big sweeping gesture. She was sassy and funny and immediately made me feel comfortable. She breezed through the shop and in one, fell swoop selected three dresses for me to try on. The first was actually not bad at all – better than I’d thought, but not great. The second fit well, but was a bit too toga-esque. I waved the third away – “Not for me,” I said.

Dress bottom

On her way back from putting the third one away, Claire grabbed another dress and showed it to me. Looks beautiful, I thought, but will definitely NOT look good on me. Claire ignored my hesitation and helped me get into it, and when I turned and looked in the mirror, I knew it was the one. To be honest, I was completely gobsmacked; I’d have never chosen the dress for myself as I assumed it wouldn’t suit me. Sinead loved it as well, and her reaction just cemented the deal. Claire put in the order, I paid for it (it was incredibly reasonable in price) and walked out of the shop with a big ol’ grin on my face – a mere 40 minutes after I’d forced myself to go in.

Though we’d already booked the venue, our flights and the band, the dress really made the whole dream a reality. All I can say is that I can’t wait until September!

Light Cheese Tart

Light Cheesecake Tart with Fresh Berries

While I’m very  happy with the dress, I will be that much happier when I meet my target weight (I know, such a cliche – the dieting bride!). I just want to feel confident and fabulous on my wedding day, so I’m cutting back on the portions and upping the exercise. For Easter, I wanted to make dessert to bring down to MM’s parents’ house, but not one that would sabotage my healthy eating plan. So I made a lighter version of a no-bake cheesecake, which turned out really well.

250 grams of your favourite low-cal biscuit, or Ryvita fruit crackers (works great!)

2 tablespoons of low-fat butter or margarine, melted

2 teaspoons of gelatin powder

1 cup boiling water

3/4 cup agave nectar

600 grams Marks & Spencer reduced-fat soft cheese (or you can use Philly Light!)

1/2 cup natural Greek yogurt

Juice of one lemon

1 teaspoon vanilla

Fresh berries of your choice (I used strawberries and blueberries)

Fruit jam of your choice

Using a food processor (or a large ziplock bag and a rolling pin!), crush the biscuits until crumbly. Drizzle in the  melted butter/margarine until the crumbs are coated, and then immediately press crumbs into an 8 or 9-inch tart pan using the bottom of a pint glass. Place in the refrigerator.

In a small boil, combine the gelatin and boiling water and stir. Add in the agave nectar and whisk until the gelatin is totally dissolved – about 4-5 minutes. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat together the soft cheese, yogurt, lemon and vanilla with an electric beater. Now add in the water/gelatin/agave mixture and continue to beat until smooth. The mixture will be very liquidy but don’t worry! Pour into the tart crust and place in the refrigerator for about two hours. At this stage, put whatever fruit you’d like on top – it’s best to do this when the tart is not fully set so that the fruit sticks to the cheesecake. Put back in the fridge after you are done decorating with fruit for at least another hour. Once the tart is completely set, I melt a bit of jam over low heat and then brush that liquid over the fruit, just to give it a shiny, sweet gloss!

Enjoy! Keeps for 3 days in the refrigerator.