Sunday, 18 September 2011

Creative Pact 3: Painting

I'm feeling really glad I posted all kinds of excuses on my initial Creative Pact entry. Turns out that I really have trouble finding time every day to work on any sort of creative project that doesn't have a strict deadline! However, that's all for the good - it makes me feel better about a. doing a painting in a month and b. actually getting to grips with the Big Blank Sheet of Paper, regardless of how sporadic the activity is.

Here is my progress so far. I am liking it. I think it's going to come out well. I also discovered today that when I have an idea for a project, I should really check what materials I have before I start. This picture is now going to be made out of a combination of acrylics, satin gloss emulsion and poster paint, because I don't have all the colours I want in emulsion. Ah well, I'm sure none of you will hold it against me.

Look out for the next exciting installment of "The same painting, but with a bit more coloured in" - coming your way soon.

Detail of Maneki Neko
Actual Maneki Neko

Plum and Blackberry "Afters"

 Another Sunday is here and the urge to put off doing useful things by spending my time doing a spot of extreme baking has over come me yet again. Today we had a leftover selection of plums that needed cooking down since The Boy picked up a carrier bag full for 50p earlier this week (God Bless Leicester Market). And so Plum and Blackberry 'Afters' was born. It's not quite a cake and it's not quite a pudding, but it does taste nice and that's what counts.


200g self raising flour
150g caster sugar
125g butter
2 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
Few drops of vanilla extract
8 ripe plums, stoned and quartered
100g blackberries
Sugar and cinnamon for dusting


Preheat your oven to 180'C.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, cinnamon and vanilla extract and beat together until smooth.

Gently mix the flour into the batter and mix until you achieve a smooth consistency.

Pour the batter into a greased ovenproof dish.

 Press the plums and blackberries into the top of the batter. I used blackberries from a picking session a couple of weeks ago straight from the freezer and it worked fine. Put in the oven.

Realise you wanted a flavoursome, crunchy top and take it back out of the oven. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over the top of the dessert. Put back in the oven and this time leave it.

Takes 40 mins to an hour to bake, depending on how thick your mixture is. I used quite a large flan dish it only took 40 minutes.
 Leave to cool slightly to help it set and enjoy!

The Boy has proclaimed this dessert 'A Good Thing'. It has a nice combination of textures - the crunchy sugar top, a very light sponge and the sweet and sharp of the fruit. It is quite wet inside, which is why I wouldn't describe it as a cake, but it really shows of the flavour of the plums and is all round a bit nommy - even if I do say so myself!!


Saturday, 17 September 2011

Zaggora HotPants: The Photoshoot!

HotPants Ambassadors
 Those lovely girls at Zaggora HotPants invited down for a photoshoot in The London last week. We went to SNAP studios and were all treated very nicely indeed!

HotPants had done some research and found that instead of wanting a celebrity to promote their brand, their customers would all prefer real, actual live women to be the Face of HotPants, so that is what we will be!

Photographer Chris Scott
We had a fridge full of goodies and a lot of waiting to do, but it was a lovely day. Our make up was done by celebrity make up artist, Beth Alderson. There were mixed reactions to the make up if I am honest. I think as mine was done last, it was a bit of a rush job - mine taking 5 minutes and everyone else's taking about 20!! However, I was relatively pleased with the results. I found it a bit weird that she didn't take off the eye makeup that I had already had on when I arrived, but I suppose it is a complement to how great my choice and application of eyeshadow, liner and mascara is! I did hear murmered talk of 'Japanese hookers' at one point, which made me laugh heartily - and I think I got off lightly. I was assured that the neon lipgloss that had been applied to me would 'read well on the camera' and I'm quite happy to bow to professional knowledge, however in the real world it has reassured me that perhaps not using lip colour is the best option for me all round.

Artists at work
Once our makeup had been applied, our 'modelling' session began. We were photographed by Chris Scott, glossy magazine photographer and all round nice guy. For each person's shoot, Chris and his team introduced themselves and explained in detail how many shots they would be taking, the sort of thing they were looking for and how we should try to pose.

A very patient husband
 I think there were some nerves all round, but many of the Ambassadors took to their moment of glory in front of the camera like ducks to water. There were some excellent poses, some fabulous pouts and I'm sure that overall, HotPants will have some beautiful pictures for their website and social media.

And then at last, it was my turn. I was pretty nervous by this point as I am hardly the most photogenic person in the world. However, following on from my determination to seize every opportunity that life throws in my direction,  I had decided to come along to the photoshoot in the hope that I would finally come out of it with a photo of me that I actually like.

My moment on camera
So, when I was asked to try and look natural, but essentially throw my hands around like a rambler being attacked by bees, I did everything I could to put my insecurities aside, throw caution to the wind and get into the spirit of the occasion as best I could.

 I'll let you judge for yourselves the results of the shoot, below. The coolest thing was that they were happy for The Boy to come in on a few shots at the end, and of course we have been sent a CD of the photos from the day to keep, which is very nice to have and means I have a few decent pictures to pass on to family when the need arises.

And for those of you interested in how the whole HotPants/training thing is going, over 6 weeks in, the answer is very well. Since my Two Week Trial I haven't been wearing the HotPants as much, but that has made my laundry regime a lot less stressful. My waist is now 26.5" - 3.5" smaller than when I first started. I have had 3 sessions with my Personal Trainer, a lovely prize that I won through the HotPants Facebook page. 

It's all in the eyebrows
I had a great start this week in the gym, on Monday I ran 1.5km, then cycled 4km, then did a Tone class. On Tuesday I ran 5.25km and then on Wednesday I had my personal training session. And that's where it went a bit arse over tit to be honest. I'm not sure exactly what he did to me, but Thursday and Friday I was pretty much unable to walk, the front of my legs were so sore!! So having recouperated from that, we went for a longish walk today (about 5 miles) with a pub lunch in the middle, when I realised that now my legs have nearly recovered, I have also had a slightly strained glute! Yes, my friends, I have an achey right ass cheek. It's a terrible turn of events.

And it is there that I will leave my tale of photography, modelling and broken bums. It's been a funny old week, but that was a lovely experience and I'm glad I did it. I think overall it has only confirmed to me that my face is just a bit weird and I look better if I actually shy away from smiling wherever possible. That's no bad thing though, just means I get to retain the rights to my own uniqueness and ain't no-one going to copy me! I shall continue to enjoy the toning, softening qualities of my HotPants, to be thankful to Zaggora for providing me with the epic opportunity of a Personal Trainer and best of all, I shall always remember the day that I asked myself " what else can you do with your own hands?" whilst trying to think of new and exciting ways to look daft in front of a camera.

I'll always look my best next to The Boy

Nail Art: Colour Blocking

Nails Inc
 I wanted a quick and easy nail fix for going out the other night, so I decided to have a go at a bit of this season's favourite trend - colour blocking.

This made my life very easy, as all I needed to do was create a base and then add a broad swish of a bright and contrasting colour!

For the base I used 2 coats of Nails Inc 'Charlotte Street' - a really lovely, shiny pale grey shade that goes on really smoothly and has an excellent flat finish.


Once this had dried, I added a hefty dollop of LCN Concept Nail Polish in 'Classic Cold Red' which is a nice thick and bright coat. I used a heavily loaded brush, so this went on well in one coat.

The overall effect lasted for well over a week. Using the contrasting colours made this simple design very eyecatching and I smugly received some very nice compliments from colleagues etc.! 

Saturday, 3 September 2011

CreativePact 2: Early Stages

 I've made a start and I no longer have a blank piece of paper! Hooray! I'm not sure that these photos will be easily viewable though, since I'm only working with a faint pencil outline at the moment!

If you're really desperate to have a look, I'd probably click on an image to see an enlarged version. The outline is all complete, me, The Boy and the three furry babies.

I've put the background in using tester pots of satin finish acrylic emulsion from Wilkinsons. I've had these pots for years - they go a long way when you're not painting walls with them! In fact I've had it for so long I have no idea if Wilkos still even do tester pots. Has that gone out of fashion now? It's a shame if it has, it's a very cost effective way of getting some decent acrylic finishes.

That's enough for today. Hopefully there will be time to do a smidge more painting tomorrow evening...

It already has a wet kitty footprint on it...

Creative Pact 1: Building an idea

Big Scary Blank Piece of Paper
 I'm gonna have a bash at Creative Pact this year. I've not done so well so far, due to being pretty busy with work and various bits and bobs over the last two days. The idea is to make something creative and record it every day in September.

The Frame

I think it's probably more aimed at musicians but I'm not very good at all that programming or producing and whatnot, so instead I've decided that I'm going to take on The Big Scary Piece of Paper.

We've had this frame hanging around for a while. The print that's in it is nice enough, but we haven't got round to putting it up in the bedroom so I reckon we don't like it that much. To this end I got some big paper to do an artwork to go in it, but haven't got round to doing anything yet. So CreativePact seems like a good focus for my energy, regardless of whether I fit into their criteria exactly or not. It's the same principle as NaNoWriMo for me really, try to find something you can be part of to help inspire you to action.

I was originally going to do a detailed biro drawing. I used to do loads of pictures in this style but I'm not sure I'm quite ready to take on something of this size in this media. So I'll stick to paint, and have a go at something lighthearted. The perfect subject for me would be a self portrait of my family. I've been really inspired by some of the art work I've seen at the Orange Tree recently, especially the really bright cartoon-style paintings, so this is the way I'm going to go. Again, cartoons are new, so I've used to create some mangaesque portraits of The Boy and me, I'm going to use these for inspiration and I am using the guidance that I found online here to start developing the cats... Wish me luck!
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