What does ‘fashion’ mean to you?

Who Made Your Pants?

Is it just ‘clothes’ or is it something with seasons, that changes? Are there rules you need to follow? What does that mean if you love a bootleg when skinny is in? Do you care? Mind? Notice? Do you get excited about what’s coming next, look back at old pictures wondering why the hell you wore *that* or do you wear the same kinds of things over and over? We’d love to know – please tell us!*

We’re musing on this at the moment. Musing, too, over the idea that it so often seems that there’s a view that what we wear is *for* someone else. I remember some man telling me – telling me – that I must have wanted men to look at my breasts as I was wearing a vest top. Now I’ve been above a C cup since I was 14 and there’s nothing I can do about…

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My 1st Prize Cupcakes!

1st place cupcakes

I am just coming down from my high of winning the IroncupcakeLeeds competition yesterday!  When she announced first place as “Lisa’s Life’s a Beach” it took me a second to realise that it was actually me who had won!  I’d tried something completely different for these cupcakes whilst still trying to keep to a flavour that everyone would like.  This entailed making the ice cream that went into the cupcakes – as I mentioned in my earlier blog, my first attempt at making ice cream, but it felt wrong to put a ready made one into the cupcakes.

Here is the recipe I used –

Life’s a Beach Cupcakes

Toffee Cake Batter Ice cream

2 cups/500ml Thick cream
397g tin of Condensed milk
1 cup/250g cake batter mix (I used Wrights Baking “Toffee Cake Mix”)

• Place deep baking dish or a 2 litre freezer safe container in the freezer to chill.
• Whisk the cream until stiff peaks form.
• In another bowl, mix the condensed milk with the cake batter.
• Fold the cream into the condensed milk until combined.
• Pour into container and leave to chill for 45 mins until sides start to freeze
• Remove from freezer and beat vigorously to break down ice crystals.
• Return to freezer and repeat beating every thirty mins for 3-6 hours until ice cream is frozen and creamy.

Ice-cream bread cupcakes

1.5 ltr Toffee Cake Batter Ice Cream
2 cups/300g Self Raising Flour

• Pre-heat oven to Gas mark 5
• Remove ice cream from the freezer to soften for 10-15 mins.
• Combine flour and ice cream thoroughly
• Fill cupcake cases or ice cream cones to approx 2/3 full (they rise a lot!)
• Bake for 18-22 minutes

Vanilla Buttercream

250g Icing sugar
80g Butter
25ml milk
1 tsp vanilla essence

• Whisk/Beat butter and sugar until fully combined
• Add milk and vanilla, continue to whisk until light and fluffy (5-10 mins)

Butterscotch Sauce

25g butter
50g soft brown sugar
2 tbsp syrup
100ml cream

• Melt butter and sugar
• Add cream and syrup and cook to a very slight simmer

To finish

Inject butterscotch sauce into the centre of cupcakes (I used a piping bag to do this)
Top cupcakes with buttercream in desired pattern.

When do we stop wanting more?

In my current state of limbo waiting for my new job to begin I have had the opportunity to do a lot of reading.  Most recently I have read the two books from Julie Powell, initially made famous from writing the blog “Julie/Julia Project” which was made into the 2009 film Julie & Julia.  I re-watched this a couple of weeks ago which is what has provoked me reading her books.

For those of you who don’t know the story, much like myself Julie Powell found herself approaching her thirtieth birthday and wanted to give her life some direction and purpose.  So she took on the challenge of cooking all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s recipe book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in 365 days.  The film is quite an enjoyable watch and the book was also enjoyable.  You find out more about Julie in the book, things like the fact her and her husband Eric are “High School Sweethearts” and have been together since they were about 18, and that she chased him until he would go out with her!  Essentially, she is incredibly driven and goes after what she wants, however as you begin her second book “Cleaving” it appears she always wants more.

Now you’ll have to forgive me here as I usually read fiction, so to read a book that was heavily based on someone’s actual life was quite a new thing for me.  By the end of the Julie & Julia project, Julie Powell has become “known” as it were in some circles and at times can even be recognised on the street.  I found I related to her, however unfortunately not in the most positive of ways.  She throws incredible hissy fits and her calm loving husband Eric is always there to talk her down off the ceiling.  I do this, I’m aware that this is one of my not so attractive traits, however my point here is that she has the calm loving husband who doesn’t flinch when these fits happen….So you can imagine my surprise when the next book “Cleaving” begins by telling us that in the two years since “Julie & Julia” she has been having an affair with a man named “D”.

This is what I mean about the “wanting more”.  I’m not innocent of this, especially when I was younger, I very much suffered from the “grass is greener” complex.  In fact I would probably say I’ve only begun to grow out of it within the last year.  That feeling of not being satisfied by what I’ve got.  I think my first taste of contentment came sitting atop of a mountain at around 2500m, gazing out at mountains as far as I could see.  Skiing by this point in the season (about mid-March) had become a bit tame, I’d got as far as I could with the skills I had and couldn’t go any further without (expensive) tuition for off-piste or park tricks so I had taken to spending a lot of my ski time contemplating beautiful views!  So you see, even there I wasn’t completely satisfied!


In “Cleaving”  Julie has given herself the challenge of being a butchers apprentice.  She goes into great detail of her learnings (sometimes a little too much detail!) however her mind is always distracted by thoughts of the man who has actually just ended an affair with her.  He stops contact and she continues to bombard him with texts, emails and calls.  Its almost a case of wanting what you can’t have, somehow tinged with not being able to get what you want from what you do have.

I’ve spoken with friends and colleagues a lot recently about the feeling of not having achieved what we had expected to by this age, be that in jobs and or relationships.  I remember when I was about 17 my dance teacher at the time turning 30 and one of the girls in the class saying, “Oh but Miss Louise  aren’t you worried about being 30?” (all dance teachers are referred to as “Miss” this never seemed odd to me at the time!)  Her response was “Not at all, I have achieved everything I wanted to by this age, I own a successful dance school, I’m engaged to a wonderful man, I have a beautiful baby daughter and I own my own house.” I can see why she felt accomplished, a few years later after having her second child she sold her dance school and as far as I know became a stay at home mum.  Sadly, not something that many people can hope to do these days, or for that matter choose to.  I know I don’t have the same contentment that “Miss Louise” had at this age.

Within “Cleaving” Julie visits the Ukraine.  She talks to her tour guide about her affair and the girl responds quite simply “I think its more of a problem in America….. Infidelity.  And confusion like this.  In Ukraine, people get married, stay married.  We don’t expect so much, maybe.  Or we’re happier because we know what we want.”  But is it that we don’t know what we want, or is that we know what we want, its just that we want more of it, or we want variety of what we have just to be sure we’re not missing something?

When you’re in a relationship what makes what you feel like you have enough?  How high are your expectations?  If all areas of your life are fulfilled I find it can make being content with the person you’re with a little easier, (as long as they are the right person for you) as you aren’t asking them to be the one to “complete” you.

In terms of career, how long will my new job which I expect to challenge me in so many ways keep me satisfied?  I know I want to continue learning, this September I am starting The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Diploma in Marketing, a degree equivalent qualification which I can do alongside work.  I am constantly striving to test myself creatively, this week I made my first pair of trousers, yesterday I made ice cream for the first time (DELICIOUS!) and today I am going to try using “Tylo Powder” to make models of a wind-breaker and a deck chair for my competition entry beach scene cupcakes!

I think my conclusion is that I can find contentment as long as I still challenge myself on a regular basis, if at the end of a day or week, I can look back and think “I did that well, what’s next?“.

My First Psychic Evening

When my mum asked if I wanted to go to a psychic evening I didn’t really know what to expect.  I went to a clairvoyant/tarot reading evening a few years ago that a friend organised, apart from about one thing which could have been a lucky guess I was left rather disenchanted but this was a slightly different experience.  The psychic holding the evening was Stephen Holbrook who we discovered tours around the UK doing these evenings about 25 nights a month, nine months of the year.  He refers to himself as a “Clairaudient” meaning that he hears voices or if the spirit is stood next to him he can hear them whispering in his ear.

As one of my mums clients knows Stephen personally we were introduced to him before the evening began and on first impressions he was a very down to earth friendly person.  I’ll be completely honest, I was still sceptical, having never attending one of these evenings before I decided that I would go with an open mind and see what happened.

What I was not expecting was to be blown away by the energy in the room when he started “channelling”.  He begins his evenings by explaining about himself and how he realised he had his talent.  His first memory of speaking with spirits is when as a young boy he awoke at 4am to find his Granddad sat at the bottom of his bed, his Granddad explained that he had just popped in to say goodbye, not to be scared and to go back to sleep.  He says that he wasn’t scared but did feel immensely sad, when he awoke the following morning a phone call confirmed that his Granddad had passed away during the night, time of death confirmed as 3.55am…

He explained that when he shouted out information he needed people in the room to shout out “yes” if they felt that they could relate to the snippet he had just given, for example “Peter, 25th October” or “Emily, 7th June”.  He started speaking to a woman who had lost her husband, one of the first things he said to her was “he likes your new hair style”, which of course seemed very sweet!  This woman had worn black for the evening and he said to her “He likes you in black doesn’t he?  You’ve worn that deliberately because you hoped he’d be here, haven’t you?” to which she agreed.  He spoke to about six or seven people throughout the evening, noting things that he couldn’t just have “guessed” or researched on the internet before the night began to make it seem real.  (Also as I mentioned, he does these evenings all over the country, the time he would have to take to research just wouldn’t be worth it!)

The most memorable part of the evening for both my mum and I was when he was speaking to a woman who had only lost her husband six weeks earlier.  He said that he was being told something about a pillow, the woman told the room that she had turned her pillow sideways in attempt to make her feel like there was still someone in the bed with her.  He said he was being told to tell her by her husband that “its not me! I’m still with her, I don’t want to leave her, she’s my best friend!”.  Stephen struggled to speak this last part as he was obviously choked by it and I have to confess, mum and I sat with tears streaming down our faces.

I can understand that people would be sceptical and like I said I was when I entered the room.  However, there was no denying the energy in the room and the messages that the people got making the difference to their lives going forward.  One woman was told by the spirit of her husband to “stop fretting about me and look after yourself, I’m fine now and I want you to be happy!”  To which she burst into tears.

I was left with a feeling that it really couldn’t be made up and after the evening had ended we had a chat with Stephen who filled us in on a few more details that he couldn’t mention in front of the audience as it was just too much information to be giving out to a room of 100 strangers.  Stephen had a certain kindness to the people he spoke to that showed he did really care, this made a very large difference to the evening.

I am still sceptical, as well who knows whats really out there, however this was an incredible thing to witness.  I’d be intrigued to know if someone could go along and experience that and not leave with some slight belief

Sticking to a diet/life style choice

I LOVE my food, I have a terribly bad sweet tooth but I’m also crazy about a lot of savoury food too, although I’m also a huge food snob!

My mum is a natural nutritionist and is always trying out new things to see how her health (and often ours) benefits.  As I am currently living at home I get the benefit of a healthy home cooked meal every evening and if I’m home during the day a carrot juice for breakfast and a freshly prepared salad for lunch.  I know when I eat the food my mum prepares I look and feel healthier and fitter.  I also know that as soon as I move out I’ll not stick to the healthy yet strict diet she lives on!  I like my “treats” and I am not very good at controlling how much of them I eat!  This is something I know I need to grow out of!

My mum’s latest introduction to the family diet is the 5:2 diet.  This entails eating 500 calories a day two days a week.  The rest of the week you eat as normal.  I’ve now been doing this diet for four weeks, according to my way in this morning I’ve lost around 8lbs in weight in that time.  Which obviously proves that it works!

There are other benefits to the diet, studies show that it reduces risk of heart disease, reduces the risk of cancer and slows the possibility of Alzheimers, improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol levels (this was also noted by our neighbour who said it was the only thing which reduced his cholesterol levels after trying many other things).  There have been a couple of books written about it, the creators of http://thefastdiet.co.uk/why-fast/ being one of them giving all the facts, figures and research about it.

The benefits I have noticed are that it overall reduces my appetite which stops me from the snacking I’m prone to do and of course the weight loss.  I have often tried to avoid eating carbs into the evening as I always notice that my stomach is flatter when I wake up the following morning if I haven’t and two days of not eating carbs certainly makes me feel trim!

However, the first couple of weeks I REALLY struggled, especially as we have been doing the diet on two consecutive days, if I’ve had a particularly long shift I’ve been incredibly hungry and barely managed to keep up with it!  A couple of spoonfuls of soya yoghurt have helped keep me going, that and copious amounts of water to stop me thinking I’m hungry!  This week however I didn’t really notice it, I will find out next week whether or not that was related to the fact I have a horrid cold!

People have asked how I manage to find things to eat that keep me under 500 calories.  I mentioned before the carrot juice on a morning which according to the “myfitnesspal” app is only 90 calories for an 8oz serving. then a salad with a basic protein like tuna or egg for lunch (of course without any mayonnaise or dressings!) and evening meal consisting of a lentil stew or steamed veg with white fish seem to work quite well.  It does take planning of course!


An example of a low cal meal – Lentil and Veg stew, yummier than it looks!

So, if you are looking for a diet that is particularly intense for two days a week but allows you to return to your usual 1500-2000 calories for the rest of the week I would recommend it.  I will have to see however how much I manage to keep it up during the month my parents are in France and I am (fingers crossed) starting a full time job!

Conquering big decisions and realising goals

I have now remembered why I am so terribly bad at blogging, life somewhat takes over!  I had planned to have a stock of blog posts ready in advance of posting…but that hasn’t happened! (there are a few drafts on here that I’ve got waiting…but they need to be finished!) When I last came to post on here I had some excuse about being ill (I had a REALLY bad chest infection for about a month) but that was in April!

My idea with starting this blog was to establish some kind of direction in my life as this felt like it should be a rather important year, I’m sure those of you who have already reached thirty will say “Oh its nothing” but it feels bloody huge to me right now!!  Although its more that I want to feel like I’ve achieved something before I reach the big Three-Oh.  After four years of feeling like my jobs, relationships and living arrangements have been temporary, I wanted to make some plans that had some permanence to them and enter my thirtieth year feeling like I had accomplished something.

Those of you who know me will know that just over a month ago I was offered the role of Cabin Crew for  BA’s Gatwick Fleet  (aka the “beach fleet”) Dream job material right?  I was bouncing about this for quite a while!  I applied to BA a couple of years ago and didn’t get in, I was incredibly nervous at interview which resulted in me completely fluffing a few questions!  So, when the opportunity arose to reapply I figured “why not?” I was part way through my winter season and figured it would be a decent next step.  By the time the invite to interview eventually came through I had actually forgotten I’d applied and still had a month to wait until the interview.  Long story short, I left my nerves at the door this time and showed them the real Lisa, it would seem this worked.

This was however the only service industry role I had applied for, every other job I’d applied for was in fundraising.  The day after I had received news that I’d got the cabin crew role I had an interview for a very well established Northern charity.  I had already done extensive research on the charity beforehand and was feeling extra confident due to my recent good news.

It was one of the most enjoyable interviews I’d ever had.  I felt I really clicked with the interviewers and finding more out about the charity made me see how easily I could be passionate about fundraising for them, therefore making answers flow that little bit more easily off the tongue.  Thinking back, although I was confident I didn’t for a second think I’d be offered the job and had simply gone along for the experience knowing I had the BA job behind me (I’m never all that confident really!).

Two days later I had a voicemail from the interviewer asking me to call him back, when I returned his call he’d left for the day but had left his mobile number with reception so that I could call him on that instead.  I suddenly realised that the interview had gone better than I had thought!  It was a bit of an odd one, he said he couldn’t offer me the job straight away, but I was the strongest candidate and he’d wanted to let me know that he would be in touch as soon as he could about the job if I was still interested.

To say I was blown away was an understatement!  I’d gone from no job and slogging away what felt like endlessly at applications for over two months (and overall over three years) to essentially two fantastic job offers in a week!  As I mentioned before, nearly four years of temp jobs somewhat takes its toll on ones confidence.  I had got to the point where I found it very hard to believe in myself and my abilities – much to the annoyance of family and friends constantly trying to buoy me up!

Anyway, I had a holiday planned (more of that at a later date) so I decided to shelve any thoughts/worries/decision making for the time being and enjoy myself, as I hadn’t technically been on holiday in well over two years!  I did exactly that and had a fabulous two weeks at my parents house in Brittany.

Garden of French house in sunshine

On Monday last week I received a call from the charity confirming that they would indeed like to offer me the post.  I asked for a couple of days to think about it.  At first thinking that I would most likely turn it down, but the reality of the job vs the cabin crew role began to dawn on me.  I had wanted to return to fundraising for some time, I didn’t overly want to “serve” people any more, on the ground or in the sky, I also wanted the guarantee of a permanent role with career prospects – and I found this list that I made about two years ago before I did my first winter season, all the things I wanted from a job once I was ready to return from the mountains.

Goals list

It’s funny because it seems like quite a frivolous list but after spending a while searching for a job and ticking off the things I did and didn’t like this was what I wanted from a job.  The first point about pretty dresses may seem silly but it came from the fact I was wearing a uniform for the job I was doing at the time, I like to feel individual, I also like making my own clothes!

As soon as I got up on Wednesday morning I called back the charity and accepted the job.  I now sit impatiently waiting my offer letter and official start date!

Clearing Out the Old for a Car Boot Sale

I have moved around a lot over the last few years, each time I’ve moved I’ve cleared out at least a large bin bag full of clothes for charity plus a couple more bags of rubbish.  However, I still seem to have a whole load of “stuff”, anyone else seem to have this problem?  I’m not sure how I’ve accumulated it all, I mean last year I did a five month ski season, I came back with an extra bag full of stuff, and I don’t mean a tesco’s carrier, I mean like a full on sports bag weighing about 18kgs!!  My mum had sent me out a couple of extra kilos of clothes but how I managed to have that much more stuff I have NO idea!

Anyway, before I started moving around for work, seasons etc I put a fair amount of my stuff into storage.  I have pretty much everything you need to kit out a kitchen, bar the kitchen sink and then a HUGE collection of books which I’ve clearly not been too bothered about since getting a kindle  over two years ago, a couple of random pieces of furniture and oh, a brand new dog kennel. (that’s another very sad story, we wont go there!  (However if you would like to buy a flat pack XL dog kennel, please let me know!)

I have just had to move this stuff to a new storage area so I decided to sort through it and put as much of it as possible that I can bear to part with on a boot fair.  To my surprise (probably due to recently having been charged extortionate fees on eBay to sell things) its only £10 for a stall at our local boot fair.  I do unfortunately have to be there at 6am on Wednesday morning but still its hopefully going to make me a little bit of money and a lot more space!

I’m even selling a few pairs of my shoes and boots which were bought for very specific outfits at the time but I am never gonna wear again.  (I’m also not going to think about how much they cost me at the time!!)

I’m definitely one for believing that having a good clear out leaves you open to new opportunities and that is what this year is about.  (I once got rid of a load of stuff when I was 16 and then my Granddad gave me a stereo!) So here goes, my first boot fair, Wednesday morning, the guy told us to “bring our rubbish” as others will probably buy it!  Bring it on!

Entering a Cupcake Competition Part 2


Just to get any suspense out of the way, I didn’t win the competition!  However, I had fun taking part and had I known the way it worked I probably would have gone for a much “safer” option on flavour.

Let me explain why, although other bakers in the competition praised my choice and the flavour, the “eaters” were clearly looking for something a bit more “normal”.  I also have to take into account that there might be a higher proportion of people who don’t like aniseed than I’d originally thought!  The winners were lemon sherbet, rhubarb and custard and an amazing rainbow cake based on rainbow dust.  Its made me realise that for next time I need to do something more “mainstream” just do it really really well!

Anyway, it was fun and there were lots of lovely eager cupcake eaters there.  It was really great to see an event so busy more than anything, the room was literally heaving!  £5 for just over an hour of cake tasting fun!

I promised the recipe, so here it is below.  (The original recipe I adapted came from Martha Stewart’s Cupcake book)

Boozy Black Jack Cupcakes

For the cupcake (makes 24)

3 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sugar
2/3 cup molasses
2 large eggs
1 cup (225g/8oz) butter melted
1/3 cup hot water
3 large apples peeled and finely grated
2 teaspoons ground fennel seeds

Fennel Syrup

2 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup water


5 egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 pound (400g) butter
1 bottle miniature sambuca

For the cupcake

  • Preheat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4
  • blend together molasses, eggs and sugar until creamy
  • add butter and hot water, continue to mix until all combined
  • carefully fold in flour, bicarb, salt and fennel seeds.
  • finally add the apple and stir until combined.
  • divide into cupcake cases and bake for 20-25 mins or until cake skewer comes out clean.
  • Whilst the cupcakes are baking make your fennel syrup – put all ingredients in a pan and cook on a low heat until bubbling lightly.  Strain fennel seeds and pour a spoonful on top of each of the awaiting cupcakes.
  • Cupcakes will keep for 24 hours at room temperature or 2 months in the freezer.

For the Buttercream

  • Place egg whites and sugar in a bowl above a pan of simmering water.
  • Whisk continuously by hand until the sugar has melted and you have a completely smooth liquid.
  • Remove from heat, continue to whisk (by hand or with electric beaters) until mixture has completely cooled and forms soft peaks.
  • Add the butter a tablespoon at a time, continually beating, don’t worry if it curdles a little, keep beating and it will combine again.
  • Once all butter is combined add sambuca and mix well again.
  • I then added most of a pot of black icing colour gel which created an effective grey “black jack” colour.
  • Its then recommended that you put this in the fridge until it sets, then remove from the fridge, beat again and then pipe.  You can however use straight away if you like.
  • Frosting will keep for a few days in the fridge, or one month in the freezer.

Entering a Cupcake Competition

For the last couple of years there has been a competition running in Leeds called “Iron Cupcake Leeds”, I have always wanted to take part but never had the time, been available etc, this month I thought “Why not?”.  The theme is Penny Sweets.  For those of you who don’t know me, penny sweets are not something which featured much in my life, my mum was very strict with “treats” when my sister and I were little and when we did get them they wouldn’t usually be what normal kids thought of as a treat!  (for example, I love Halva, a sesame based sweet meat, not your usual kids sweet snack!)

However, when I turned 15 I started working for the newsagents in the village and I discovered that a lot of children did get penny sweets as “treats” and suddenly it was my job to count them out!  The only penny sweets I do recall eating were Fruit Salads and Black Jacks, I’ve asked my mum why this might be and she said “They were the only ones I liked, all the others were disgusting!”.  So that explains it, my tastes were dictated by my mum’s!

With this in mind, I have created a “Boozy Black Jack” cupcakes (booze amusingly being another thing my nutritionist mum disapproves of!) The competition is tomorrow and I’m hoping that I’ve created something that is chewy and aniseed-y enough!  This is what they are currently looking like –

Boozy Black Jack Cupcakes 1

Tomorrow I will let you know the results of the competition, show photos of the completed product and type up the recipe for those of you who are interested!