Unless you hadn’t noticed, I’m a bit of a retro chick. My style, whilst my own, encompasses elements from the 1920s through to the 1970s. I tend to focus more on the 1950s, but it would be remiss of me to say that I am just a fifties chick.
There are several things you probably know about me, like the fact I’m a baker, a pin-up chick and a retro gal, but there are probably some things you don’t know about me… Things like the fact I’m obsessed with RuPaul’s Drag Race, that I wanted to be a pop star growing up (and I still kind of do!) and that I’m basically an old lady in a 35-year-old’s body. By this I mean I love all things crafty. Not only do I bake - which I think used to be construed as something only your grandmother or eccentric old aunt did - but I also knit. I’m learning pyrography, lino printing and Tony is (trying to) teaching me origami. I still love colouring in, and I draw. The other thing I’ve been recently turning my hand to is sewing and dressmaking. As a retro girl, whilst there are a lot of companies out there now who provide reproduction vintage clothes - I shop a lot in Collectif and Lindy Bop and also buy things from Vivien of Holloway and the like - there is something in me that would much rather have clothes exactly like the ones that were worn in the 50’s. It’s easy enough to buy vintage patterns, though sizes have changed over the years, so sometimes getting the fit right is the tough part. Enter Sew La Di Da Vintage. They create patterns based on vintage clothes but for today’s fit. Epic. I’ve been aware of them for a little while but hadn’t actually bought any patterns. I was lucky enough to attend the Great British Sewing Bee Live show earlier this year, and happened upon Sew La Di Da’s stall and got chatting with their owner, Caroline Smith. Both Tony and I are quite crafty and Tony is actually an amazing dressmaker and tailor - if you watched him on MasterChef and marvelled at his 1920s oxford bag style trousers and wondered where he got them from, he actually made them - so it was great to chat about dressmaking with an actual dressmaker.
An arduous decision ensued as to what patterns to buy, but eventually, I settled on Margo, Rose and Betty-Jean
Inside you get the pattern and some great photos to give you inspiration
I am so looking forward to trawling the haberdashery for the perfect material and finally creating my own tailormade "vintage" outfit. I will post the finished article(s) as soon as I can. But in the meantime, ensure to check out Sew La Di Da Vintage's website, Twitter and Instagram feeds and be sure to buy your own patterns!
Stay Hep, Cats!
If you follow me on Twitter and Instagram, you will already have experienced my excitement surrounding my first published article. For those who don’t, you will get to experience it right here, right now!
Apart from wanting to be a pop star, the one thing I always wanted to be when I grew up was a writer. I’ve always had a creative streak (although it is probably a little more than a streak!) and used to write short stories, poems and even songs! As I’ve got older, I’ve blogged and started many-a-novel, but despite trying to get an agent and trying to get published, I never have. It got to a point where I thought that dream would never come true. It wouldn’t have stopped me writing, as it is something I am so often just compelled to do, but of course, one always wants a level of validation when it comes to something we feel we are good at or are incredibly passionate about.
When I started Pin Up Pantry, I never thought about how it would change my life in the ways it has. I wanted to bake delicious gluten free cakes for everyone. I wanted to share the knowledge I had accumulated through my gluten free journey and I wanted to ensure that EVERYONE could share the same cake whether gluten free or not. I didn’t think I would get the chance to become a demonstrator at food festivals, nor did I think I would get to realise my dream of being a published writer, but this is exactly what has happened.
I’ve been an avid reader of Vintage Life magazine for many years and in the back of my head I always wanted to be a contributor, but I never thought I would have anything of any merit to share with them or their readers. I had the idea of creating vintage recipes using different types of gluten free flour in order to educate people on what there is out there and how these flours can be used in dfifferent ways. I contacted Vintage Life on the off chance this was something they would be interested in and it was. My first article was published on 31st August in issue 82.
It was both a joy and a mildly terrifying experience putting the article together, especially for a publication as close to my heart as Vintage Life is.
I have been lucky enough to be commissioned to write a few more articles for them, the next should be in issue 83 then another in issue 85. With any luck there should be a few more to come.
I want to thank Vintage Life from the bottom of my heart for taking a chance on me and for allowing me to have creative freedom over my article. It is an honour and a privilege to be part of such a wonderful publication and I hope it's a relationship that continues on.
Stay Hep, Cats!
I can only apologise for not having written much recently, but things have been manic!
I’ve managed to catch my breath for all of two minutes and have started feeling rather melancholy over the fact that the Foodies Festival season is over. Not only are they the most amazing fun (although incredibly hard work) but they are an opportunity to meet new people, learn new things, and hang out with your mates.
I started thinking this morning how much my life has changed in such a short space of time. If I think about it too much I start feeling overwhelmed and my anxiety kicks in, but if I step back and look at it without any sort of agenda, I can’t believe how much I have achieved.
I set up my business earlier this year. Having baked for a lot of my life, gluten free baking came much later and as we learn more about gluten free flours etc., the more I am learning about baking with them. I’ve had some brilliant commissions from people and have more in the pipeline, have repeat customers and have been given the opportunity to demonstrate and write about what I love. It’s frustrating not being able to eat ‘normally’ and cake is something that everybody should be able to enjoy and that was why I wanted to create The Pin Up Pantry.
I have to thank Charlotte White - (restorationcake.com) who is truly one of my best friends - for taking a chance on basically a rank amateur when it came to demonstrating. Despite being a seasoned performer, baking live on stage is quite unusual and certainly not something I ever thought I would get the opportunity to do.
If you’ve never been to a Foodies Festival, you must take the time to visit next year when the season starts again. For what is essentially a very small fee, you get to watch some of your favourite chefs and bakers up close and personal, creating delicious dishes in front of your very eyes (which you can sample in the cakes and desserts theatre). There is live music, a drinks theatre where you can learn all about beer and wine, a healthy living area, a kids theatre and an inordinate amount of food and drink stalls where you can try and buy to your hearts content (or until your wallet starts sweating).
I've been so lucky to meet some amazing people through being a part of Foodies Festival, including Candice Brown, Saira Hamilton, Michael Bremner, Adam Simmonds, John Holland, Suzy Pelta, Katy Beskow, Juanita Hennessey, Mark Tilling, Brodie Williams, Lorna Robertson and so many more. Many of whom I can now consider friends. I've learned so much and hopefully I will be invited back next year, but if not, I will always look back on this year fondly and know I did myself proud.
Thanks again to Charlotte and Foodies Festival for taking a chance on me - I hope I did you guys proud too!
Photo credits go to Helen from Leewood Roots
Stay Hep, Cats
Two weekends ago saw Foodies Festival in Blackheath. This was a Foodies I was really looking forward to as it is my local festival - I live no more than 20 minutes walk from the site, I had friends and family galore attending and my boy was hosting the chef's theatre.
As ever, I made my gluten free Victoria Sponge for my demonstrations which seems to be a hit with everyone who tries it. If you haven't tried it yet, you can find the recipe here. I've also posted a tutorial on how you can make the crystallised rose petals which I find are a simple but gorgeous and elegant way to finish a cake (find that here).
It was so nice to meet so many people who were not only interested in what I'm doing with Pin-Up Pantry, but who were so complimentary about my hosting and demonstrating skills. It is always a relief to know you're fulfilling the brief! I also had quite a lot of people asking about my outfits over the weekend and I have to say these are some of my favourite dresses so I'm thrilled you loved them as much as I do. I am also hyper aware I have stolen Imelda May's hairstyle, but she isn't using it anymore so I didn't think she would mind!
On top of all the fun, our friends B & Liam made the most phenomenal vlog about their day at Foodies, please follow them here - they are both incredibly talented people and I felt really privileged they came to watch my demos.
You can catch Tony compering at Foodies Festival in Edinburgh on August 4th, 5th and 6th and you'll be able to catch up with the both of us at Alexandra Palace on 28th August and in Oxford on 2nd September. Tickets for all the events are available here
Stay Hep, Cats
Whilst I know that social media has been proven to exacerbate mental health issues and I purposefully no longer have a Facebook account for this exact reason, I can’t help but find myself with a slight addiction to both Twitter and Instagram. I have met a lot of amazing people through social media and it really came in handy for me last night.
I had a meltdown. It happens more often than I would like, but let’s be honest, we’ve all been there.
I was working on icing a cake and it wasn’t going as well as I had anticipated. I struggle a lot with perfection, in that I have a vision of something in my head and when the reality doesn’t meet that vision I want to throw in the towel. My ever-loving and long-suffering boyfriend did what he could to talk me round, but like those who suffer with anger issues, the ‘perfection mist’ had risen and there was nothing he could do (except feed me which definitely helped). I finished icing the cake and popped it in the fridge, washed up and sat down. At this point I started looking through Instagram and came across a post by the lovely Made by Margie (www.madebymargie ; Instagram.com/madebymargie ; twitter.com/madebymargie) which gave me the social media equivalent of a lovely hug.
I realised that I couldn’t give up at the first hurdle. If I want to make my business work I’m going to have to grow a tougher skin and realise that there are going to be times when things go wrong; where I’ll have to scrap a cake and start again or remake sugar paste flowers or I’ll be clumsy and drop something on the floor and ruin it. What I also realised is that there are so many wonderful people out there who are so very supportive. Obviously I have those close to home; my boyfriend (who I’m surprised puts up with me but who I love with my entire being), my family (who definitely support my cake business as it means they are never without something sweet!). Friends and colleagues like Charlotte White (who is constant source of love and inspiration) and those wondrous folks on my social media feeds who are always giving me a cheeky thumbs up or buoying my confidence in one way or another. I am very lucky.
I think the lesson here is that life is too short not to try and not to simply give up just because something doesn’t go exactly as you expect. Sometimes the most beautiful things are created from disaster.
Keep smiling and as always, happy baking!
Stay Hep, Cats